Roma News March 2021
Roma News March 2021
Here are some stories regarding Roma human rights from the Czech Republic from late November and December. All the stories are taken from romea.cz/en
Romani organizations write to Czech Industry and Trade Minister: Roma must be part of the National Plan for Renewal
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 1st March that representatives of Romani civil society had sent an open letter to Czech Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlíček. The letter asked the minister to provide information about its National Plan for Renewal and how the Romani representatives could most effectively join its preparations.
It was further reported that the letter-writers were concerned by the fact that the Government had never called on representatives of Romani civil society or the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs to collaborate on drafting the National Plan for Renewal. It was said that was meant to become the most extensive stimulus package of financial support in history to ever be implemented in the Czech Republic as aid in coping with the novel coronavirus crisis.
It was further noted that among the areas to be financially supported are education and the labour market; research, development and innovation; digital transformation; and the health and immunity of the population. It was said that representatives of Romani civil society were asking that the issue of including Romani people be taken into account by the National Plan of Renewal, because according to data from the local level, it was being demonstrated that the novel coronavirus pandemic had strongly impacted the lives of many Romani people and intensified their social exclusion.
This year marks the 76th anniversary of the Nazi murder of Romani people in a detention camp in Slovakia
It was noted by Romea.cz/en on 2nd March that this year marks the sad anniversary of a tragic event that transpired toward the very end of the Second World War in Dubnica nad Váhom, Slovakia. It was noted that on 23 February 1945, 26 prisoners in the "Detention Camp for Cikáni" had been murdered there.
It was further noted that, given the inhumane conditions that predominated in the camp, an epidemic of spotted typhus broke out there and that the Germans had taken over its management and decided to "solve the problem" in a radical way.
It was reported that under the pretext of transporting the sick to hospital, the Germans had loaded them into a truck and brought them to the grounds of the local armoury, where they had brutally murdered them; of the 26 corpses discovered in the mass grave there, it was said that 18 had suffered gunshot wounds, but not all of them were fatal.
It was noted that together with the rest of the victims, those people had been buried alive beneath shovelfuls of earth and suffocated to death and that the victims had included 20 men, one of them a boy between the ages of 15 and 16, and six women, one of whom was in the seventh month of pregnancy.
Popular Romani singer Bertík Girga posts emotional video from Czech hospital telling people COVID-19 is real
On 2nd March, it was noted by Romea.cz/en that the popular singer Bertík Girga from the Romani community in the Czech Republic had contracted the novel coronavirus and had had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital. He had posted the information through a live broadcast on social media.
"I am not doing this broadcast so people will feel sorry for me. Believe me, this could happen to you," he warns in the video.
"There are still know-it-alls around who will claim there is no virus here or that it's being exaggerated," Girga says in the emotional video. "Friends, pals, be careful. This is no joke, you can't imagine what it's like. My entire body aches and I can't breathe," he said with difficulty.
"Don't listen to those know-it-alls demonstrating against facemasks ... You won't believe what this is like until you have it, but by then it will be too late," the singer said in the video.
It was reported that several famous figures from the Romani community had contracted the novel coronavirus during the pandemic, but some Romani people continued to share disinformation through social media and are downplaying the devastating effects of the virus. In October the famous Romani blogger Jozef Kmeťo had died of COVID-19, the famous Romani journalist Jarmila Balážová had also gone through it, singer Igor Kmeťo had also been hospitalized with it, and singer Monika Bagárová had fortunately had just a light course of the disease.
Online Romanes-language video calls on Roma to declare Romani nationality during the Czech census
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 3rd March that a new video was calling on Romani people to proudly declare their Romani nationality during the upcoming census in the Czech Republic. It was said that the ARA ART organization had produced the video to inform Romani people of the opportunity to declare their Romani nationality.
It was noted that the video begins with, "I am proud to be Romani. I am not ashamed to be Romani. I am not ashamed of my parents or my language. For that reason, I will be declaring my Romani nationality during the census."
Czech doctor explains how the COVID-19 vaccines were developed so quickly for ROMEA TV
It was noted by Romea.cz/en on 4th March that a video had been made with Romea.cz, in which a Czech doctor explains how the Covid-19 vaccines were developed so quickly. It was also noted that the willingness of people in the Czech Republic to allow themselves to be vaccinated against COVID-19 had grown slightly since the end of 2020 and at the start of January, 54 % of adults in the country had been interested in being vaccinated free of charge.
Brand-new Czech Chief Public Health Officer has a history of anti-Romani racism in her previous public communications about COVID-19
On 5th March it was reported by Romea.cz/en that the Czech News Agency had reported that the new Chief Public Health Officer for the Czech Republic would be the current director of the Moravian-Silesian Regional Public Health Department, Pavla Svrčinová, but its brief announcement of that news had failed to mention that in October, Svrčinová had shared a racist joke on her Facebook profile in association with the Government's measures to fight COVID-19. It was further noted that, “whether anti-Romani racism is meant to be the new style of communications to induce the public in the Czech Republic to comply with the Government's measures against the pandemic, some of which have previously only remained in effect for a few hours, is probably a question for its main PR guru, Marek Prchal.”
Incoming Czech Chief Public Health Officer apologizes to Romani people for racist joke
On the following day, 6th March Romea.cz/en followed up this story by reporting that Pavla Svrčinová, who had been tapped to take up the role of Chief Public Health Officer in the Czech Republic, had apologized to Romani people for sharing a racist joke featuring Romani stereotypes on her Facebook profile. It was noted that she had been contacted by Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková with a request for an explanation after the news broke.
It was further noted that, “according to Válková, the two had a telephone conversation during which Svrčinová apologized for the entire matter and asked the Human Rights Commissioner to convey her apology to all members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs. "I would like to hereby assure you that the placement of that post on my Facebook page was not intentional and decidedly was not meant to discredit the Romani minority, and through you I would like to apologize to them for this unpleasantness," Svrčinová wrote in an e-mail to the members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, which news server Romea.cz has seen.”
Czech ombudsman attacks ROMEA organization for criticizing racist joke by incoming Chief Public Health Officer
Ina further development on the same day, Romea.cz/en reported that Czech Public Defender of Rights (ombudsman) Stanislav Křeček had attacked the ROMEA organization yesterday for having criticized incoming Chief Public Health Officer Pavla Svrčinová for sharing a racist joke on her Facebook profile in October 2020.
Another Romani musician in a Czech hospital sends social media message to COVID-19 deniers: This is real and the hospitals are running out of room
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 8th March that on 4 March the famous musician and Romani community member Vladimír Dirda had announced that he had had contracted the novel coronavirus and was in hospital. It was further noted that he had posted the information to social media and had called on the Romani community not to believe the disinformation and various fake news items circulating on the Internet about the disease.
Marcel Courthiade, linguist who dedicated himself to the emancipation of Roma and their language, has passed away
On 9th March Romea.cz/en reported the sad news that Marcel Courthiade had passed away unexpectedly on 4 March 2021 in Tirana at the age of 67 and that with his passing, the Rroma had lost an exceptional resource. It was also noted that his work would remain a treasure that several generations would be able to use for the benefit of the emancipation of the Rroms.
It was further reported that, “born on 2 August 1953, on the ninth anniversary of the liquidation of the Zigeunerfamilienlager in Auschwitz-Birkenau, it is as if he had been destined to live for the renaissance of this people who had suffered so much. This probably explains why, after an exemplary school career, he abandoned his medical studies in the fifth year to devote himself to the study of languages. He managed to master countless numbers of them, but he especially chose to place Rromani at the centre of his interest. He dedicated his life to its defence and development, and through the Rromani language, to the defence of the identity and rights of the Rroma.”
It was argued that his work had always demonstrated a very high level of scientific expertise, exceptional humility and accessibility, and an especially unfailing devotion to the Rroma cause and that he had been the architect of the development of a real linguistic policy, with the principles of the unification of the Rromani language adopted in 1990 in Warsaw by the 4th Congress of the International Rromani Union, then chaired by Rajko Đurić, another recently deceased great personality of the international Rroma movement of the time. It was said that it was on the basis of these principles that Rromani is taught at the universities of Paris and Bucharest and also that on this basis that he had coordinated the drafting of the first European dictionary of the Rromani language, aptly titled "From our elders, to our daughters and to our sons."
Romani youth including actor from "The Painted Bird" want to fundraise for Czech hospital treating serious COVID-19 cases
Romea.cz/en reported on 10th March that the regional daily paper Českobudějovický deník had reported on 5 March that a group calling itself Držme Spolu Za Jeden Provaz ("Let's All Pull Together") had wanted to aid those who are fighting for their lives against the novel coronavirus. It was said that the group had been set up by local Romani youth including Petr Kotlár, the actor who starred in the Czech film "The Painted Bird", and others living in the towns of Český Krumlov, Větřní, Černá v Pošumaví and Květušína.
It was further noted that the group was planning to contribute to the hospital in Český Krumlov so it could acquire ventilators and that they were planning to raise the money through charity fundraising performances. Romani community members Pavel Cina, who is blind, Katka Knihová, who leads a group of young dancers, musicians and singers, and Robert Kotlár were said to be behind the idea.
LIVE BROADCAST TODAY AND TOMORROW: Two-day conference on hate speech against Roma and Sinti in the media and how to fight it
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 10th March that on 10-11th March there would be a two-day conference on the subject of hate speech in the media.
It was further noted that hate speech is a global phenomenon and that the Roma and Sinti people all over Europe and the rest of the world are among those targeted for attack by such speech. It was further reported that both in the traditional media and online, especially on social media, Sinti and Roma people are victimized by discriminatory and hateful speech, disinformation, misrepresentation, and fake news, all of which can be considered displays of anti-Romani racism.
It was noted that , “for that reason, the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC), in collaboration with the Council of Europe's Roma and Travellers Team and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, is holding a two-day conference on this subject RIGHT NOW. The entire conference is taking place in English and is being broadcast live on Facebook.”
Czech MPs support bill to compensate illegally sterilized women
Romea.cz/en noted on 10th March that the bill to compensate women who had been sterilized unlawfully had been supported during its first reading by members of the Czech lower house that day. and would now move into committee.
It was further noted that MPs from the governing ANO and Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) parties had submitted the bill along with opposition members from the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and TOP 09. It was also said that Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková, who is also an MP for ANO, had asked that the bill be given a preferential reading today.
It was reported that the bill had also been supported by Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights, Monika Šimůnková, who had previously called on MPs to adopt it, as she thought that it was the only opportunity for the women who have been harmed in this way to access justice, as bringing their cases to court would not be likely to result in compensation awards.
Mayor of Czech town apologizes after bureaucrat recommends application to use the town logo be rejected because she believed the applicant to be Romani
On 11th March, it was reported by Romea.cz/en that news server Romea.cz had obtained a copy of unpublished minutes from a meeting of the Šumperk Town Council from March of 2020 that revealed that a bureaucrat had rejected a request from an applicant to use the logo of the town just because she believed he was Romani. Bureaucrat Helena Miterkova was said to have said, he looks like a member of the Romani community. We decidedly do not recommend authorizing this," It was also noted that after holding a department head post she had then gone on to hold the office of secretary of the town council last August.
Czech MP protesting measures to stem COVID-19 pandemic is a trafficker in poverty with a history of anti-Romani racism
Romea.cz/en re[ported on 12th March that a Czech MP Lubomír Volný who had been protesting measures to stem COVID-19 pandemic is a trafficker in poverty with a history of anti-Romani racism. It was also noted that he had verbally attacked Roma while making money off of them and advocated "container housing" for Roma and been responsible for social media attacks against the Romani Democratic Party and its representatives.
Internet connects Holocaust remembrance sites to commemorate deaths of Theresienstadt "Family Camp" inmates at Auschwitz-Birkenau
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 13th March that o\n 8 March a commemorative ceremony had marked the anniversary of the murder of prisoners in the Theresienstadt "Family Camp" at Auschwitz-Birkenau, honouring the memory of those who had been murdered at that time through musical performances in an online remembrance event. A virtual connection had been established between the Bubny train station in Prague, the Czernin Palace in Prague (long home to the Czech Foreign Ministry) and the site of the former extermination camp.
It was further reported that during the first phase of the closing of the Theresienstadt "Family Camp", on the night of 8 March and morning of 9 March 1944, the Nazis had murdered 3 792 Jewish children, men and women in an event which was the biggest mass murder of Czechoslovak citizens during the Second World War.
It was also noted that most of the victims had first been transported to Theresienstadt from the Bubny train station and a performance prerecorded at the Bubny train station by Edita Adlerová, mezzosoprano, of the composition "Lullaby" by Ilse Weberová, had been played at the beginning of the remembrance event.
Romani MP in Spain proposes improving Roma access to education and adding anti-Romani bias to the Criminal Code
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 14th March that the Reuters news agency had reported that roughly a million Romani people live in Spain today, where they are known as Gitanos. It was further noted that for centuries they had been subject to persecution and to deeply-rooted ostracism and prejudices against them in society.
It was argued that as a consequence of their unequal position in society, members of this group today were grappling with high unemployment, poverty, and bad housing conditions, but that.things may be looking up now, as a proposal aimed at tackling the deep-rooted inequality suffered by Spain’s Roma people won cross-party parliamentary backing at the end of last year.
It was also reported that the new proposal sought a state pact to combat discrimination against Romani people and proposed measures such as improved Romani access to education, an end to shanty towns, and for "antigitanismo" (antigypsyism) as a kind of motivation to be added to the country’s Criminal Code. It was said that the Government must respond to the proposal within six months, according to Ismael Cortes, one of three Romani representatives in Parliament -- the highest-ever number.
Czech mayor gets Romani resident to endorse segregated "container housing", others still oppose it, including Architects without Borders
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 15th March that the City of Most had held its first discussion of a controversial new modular housing project for the Chanov housing estate on the city outskirts that is inhabited mostly by members of the Romani community. It was noted that the original plan for the announcement of the project had been to discuss the issue with the public in attendance, but because of the ongoing pandemic and the need to remain socially distanced, just a few city assembly members and two Chanov residents had met at city hall to discuss the project instead.
The plan was to establish segregated ‘container housing project for Chanov. It was noted that nine of the units would have three rooms with a kitchen nook and just over 60 square meters of floor space, while the rest would have two rooms and a kitchen nook and 44 square meters of floor space. Construction costs, including the foundations, utility hookups and equipment, were estimated at around CZK 25 million [EUR 955 000]
The mayor had been able to get one Romani resident to endorse the plan. However, the building of the modular housing was criticized by others including the Architects without Borders (Architekti bez hranic) association, which had assessed the documentation for its construction and zoning proceedings. It was said that in their view, a building made of such containers was not appropriate for long-term housing or for use on the city periphery, which is problematic.
Czech nurse expresses frustration with those denying COVID-19 and spreading disinformation: People are dying of this here!
On 16th March Romea.cz/en reported that Lucie Rašková, a nurse at a hospital in Sokolov, Czech Republic that was being overwhelmed, had expressed her frustration with those who were denying the existence of COVID-19 to the Czech News Agency (ČTK). "I'd like to give them all a slap," she was reported as telling the wire service.
It was noted that every day Rašková had to witness the suffering the COVID-19 disease causes and that she found the delusions she had seen people posting through social media profoundly irritating.
It was further reported that Dr Alice Novotná, her colleague, also could not understand those who were denying the existence of the virus and she told ČTK that the consequences of such allegations were deadly.
"We are hearing from these COVID deniers that this is all a marketing campaign, that COVID-19 does not exist, or that it does exist but is not deadly, and all the while you're seeing young guys and women fighting for their lives here," said Rašková, who had been working at the hospital in Sokolov for 17 years. She has never before experienced anything like what happened at the beginning of the year, when the British mutation of the novel coronavirus had fully impacted the Sokolov area.
Czech TV finds MP is still a landlord trafficking in poverty, overcharging Romani tenants for squalid properties who have nowhere else to go
Romesa.cz/en reported on 17th March that Czech MP Lubomír Volný was continuing to make money out of the most impoverished Romani residents of the excluded locality in Ostrava-Přívoz where he owns two buildings that he is neglecting at present. Currently he had been drawing attention to himself by refusing to follow the rules in place during the pandemic and had become a star among those opposed to wearing facemasks - and paradoxically, many Romani men and women were praising him for that on social media.
It was reported that reporter Martin Mikule on the Czech Television program "168 Hours" (168 hodin).had asked the MP repeatedly whether he was ashamed to rent housing that is absolutely substandard to these tenants. "If you, as a public broadcasting reporter, ask me one more time whether I'm ashamed because they have been destroying the housing, I won't extend their rental contracts and it will be your fault," the MP had said on camera, to which the reporter had responded that Volný had been using the tenants as a "human shield".
Synodal Council of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren calls on ombudsman to apologize for anti-Romani remarks
On 18th March, Romea.cz/en reported that the Synodal Council of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren had published a declaration calling on ombudsman Stanislav Křeček to apologize for his anti-Romani remarks. Following a similar challenge posed to the ombudsman by NGOs last month, this was noted as being yet another civil society organization expressing disagreement with Křeček's behavior in the office of the Public Defender of Rights.
It was also noted that instead of apologizing, the ombudsman had attacked the ROMEA organization. The Synodal Council's statement was reported as saying: "We are concerned by the remarks of the Public Defender of Rights, JUDr. Stanislav Křeček, about minorities and about our fellow citizens who are disadvantaged and discriminated against."
"We call on Mr Křeček to apologize for his remarks supporting negative stereotypes about the Romani minority and to refrain from such remarks in future. The Public Defender of Rights should not cast doubt on his mission, prescribed by law, to 'aid all without distinction' by making such statements," the declaration of the religious organization said.
Czech hospital refuses to examine young Romani man - by the time doctors agreed to see him, he died
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 18th March that Czech Police were investigating the death of a 23-year-old Romani man, Viktor M., at a hospital in Chomutov. According to the young man's family, neither the emergency room nor the internal medicine clinic would initially take him as a patient.
It was further reported that after each part of the hospital had tried to send Viktor M. somewhere else, the internal medicine clinic had finally begun to examine him, at which point he collapsed. It was noted that according to Lukáš M., brother to the deceased ViktorM., several paramedics had told Viktor M. that he was faking his symptoms.
It was also noted that the family had insisted that police investigate the death after Viktor M. had experienced difficulty breathing, chest pain, and tingling in one arm on Monday, 15 March.
Czech Prosecutor General appeals case to Supreme Court, says antisemitic death threats are a crime, not a misdemeanour
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 19tyh March, that Czech Prosecutor General Pavel Zeman had said that he disagreed with a case of antisemitic death threats addressed to the Jewish Community in Prague being ruled a misdemeanour. It was noted that he had appealed a recent such ruling and believed that the author of the threats committed a felony.
It was further noted that the Czech Supreme Court would now decide the appeal, the text of which has been published online by the Prosecutor General. It was said that the message at issue, full of hatred, vulgarities and grammatical errors, had been posted by the author in 2018 through an online contact form on the website of the Jewish Community.
It was reported that the Jewish Community had contacted the police and the woman was charged with committing violence against a group and its individual members and that the District Court for Prague 1 had found her guilty, but because she had simultaneously been convicted in a different case, had not sentenced her.
Romani Experts Discussed Hate Speech and Antigypsyism in the Media
It was noted by Romea.cz/en on 19th March that the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC) had held an international conference titled “Hate Speech and Antigypsysm in the Media” from 10-11 March 2021 in cooperation with the Council of Europe Roma and Travellers Team and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma.
It was reported that Romani Rose, a Romani activist from Heildelberg, Germany who had been among the first to address the conference had said that, “we are living in times in which nationalism, antigypsysm and anti-Semitism are on the rise again throughout Europe; people are being attacked and even murdered because of their origin, skin colour or religion.”
It was also reported that Rose, who had lost 13 relatives in the Holocaust, believed that journalists, photographers and filmmakers bore a huge responsibility because they shaped the image of the Roma, the largest minority in Europe and often that image wAs influenced by clichés handed down over centuries that remained deeply rooted in the minds of media consumers today.
Roma children electrocuted while playing in a Belgrade settlement
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 20th March that six Roma children who had been playing near a rubbish dump in an informal settlement in Belgrade, Serbia, had been electrocuted. It was reported that one of them, a 14-year-old boy, had died on Thursday, 18 March, while all of them had serious injuries, two of them suffering burns to over 80 % of their bodies. When the distraught family had called for an ambulance, it arrived all of 30 minutes later.
It was further noted that most of these families had moved to Belgrade from the southern Serbian regions seeking a better life, but had ended up living in dangerous conditions around waste dumps. This informal settlement was said to be one of more than 40 across Belgrade municipal territory where people live in improvised housing without any basic infrastructure – including no indoor plumbing - and in an insecure environment.
Slovak investigation into police beating of Romani children in quarantined settlement last year still ongoing
On 21st March Romea.cz/en reported that almost one year since a criminal investigation had been launched into the case of an alleged attack by a police officer on children from the Romani settlement in Krompachy, Slovakia in April 2020, a conclusion had yet to be reached in the matter. "The investigation of that case is still underway. The detective from the Office of the Inspection Service is conducting a felony prosecution of that matter on suspicion of commission of the crime of abuse of power by a public official," Petra Friese of the press department at the Interior Ministry of the Slovak Republic was reported to have told news server Romea.cz.
Czech footballer Ondřej Kúdela, centre-back for Slavia Prague, accused of racism in Glasgow
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 22nd March that after a number of unsportsmanlike intervention by the Glasgow Rangers, what had been already a tense match came to a head, with the Slavia centre-back Ondřej Kúdela, covering his mouth with one hand, then saying something to Glen Kamara of the Rangers, a mid-fielder who is of dark complexion.
"I was emotional after the two red cards and the many brutal interventions by our rivals, but I absolutely reject racism," the Slavia player had later said. Players for Rangers, led by Bongani Zungu, had immediately appealed to the referee after the verbal incident, saying Kúdela had castigated Kamara with the words "You fucking monkey".
Czech town commissions construction of controversial modular housing units for Romani area, council meeting described to ROMEA TV by local assembly member
I was reported on 23rd march that the Czech town of Most had announced its commission of the construction of a modular apartment building at the Chanov housing estate. The work on the construction site for a building with 18 units is meant to begin in May of this year.
It was further reported that the appropriateness of such "container" type housing for permanent residency had long been the subject of discussion in the Czech Republic and that according to architect Vojtěch Sigmund, such housing is inappropriate for regular use.
"These are building cells that are used on construction sites and are appropriate for short-term housing, but they decidedly are not appropriate for long-term housing," Sigmund was reported as saying in an interview for ROMEA TV, adding that the inhabitants who already live in such constructions report that they are damp and mold-infested because they are not designed to be ventilated. The planned construction had also been previously criticized by the former Czech Public Defender of Rights, Anna Šabatová.
Czech census official tells ROMEA TV all identifying information will be removed from census forms to guarantee anonymity
It was reported on 24th March that the determination of an individual's ethnicity or nationality was a frequent subject of discussion in the Czech Republic, and that many were critical of the idea of the Government asking for such information, calling it the unjustified accumulation of sensitive data about individuals and alleging that there was a risk such data could be abused. It was noted however, that it was exactly such data that could be of practical significance.
It was noted that several rights that are anchored in specific laws, such as the right to establish a local Committee on National Minorities, or the right to have signage posted in multiple languages on the buildings of state bodies, municipal authorities and streets, or the right to be educated in the language of a national minority, all flow from the number of members of a national minority ascertained during the census. It was said that according to the Czech Statistical Office, the data individuals provided about their nationality or nationalities waqs anonymized according to a strict process, just like all other information acquired during the census.
"It is genuinely the case that only the Czech Statistical Office works with that data. It is used just for statistical purposes," the census press spokesperson was reported as explaining to ROMEA TV.
Czech actress accused by fellow Instagrammers of racism for her comments about Black people on an American beach
It was reported on 25th March that Czech actress Alice Bendová had made racist remarks on her Instagram account and that while some of her followers agreed with her, others accused her of being racist.
American author Paul Polansky has passed away
On 26th March, Romea.cz/en reported that Paul Polansky, the American activist defending the rights of Romani people in the Balkans and Eastern Europe who was an author and poet, had passed away after a difficult illness at the age of 79. It was noted that his death had been confirmed to news server Romea.cz by Argentina Gidzic, a Romani community member who knew him well.
Romea.cz/en further reported that in the year 1992, Mr Polansky had come across approximately 40 000 documents in archives in the Czech Republic about the WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku, which had been administered by the authorities of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. It was noted that the camp had been written about by historian Ctibor Nečas in the 1970s, but that it had been Mr Polansky who had publicized the fact of its existence, had called it a concentration camp, and had sparked a society-wide discussion about the fact that a pig farm had been built on the grounds during communism.
It was also reported that, “Mr Polansky took up residence in Prague for some time in order to continue his research into the subject. The result of his efforts and those of others were revelations about part of the sad history of Romani people during the Second World War on the territory of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and a broad debate that resulted in the unveiling of the first official memorial at Lety u Písku”.
Journalist and Romani community member Jarmila Balážová was reported as telling news server Romea.cz. "I am quite sorry to hear of his death, he played an immeasurably important role in the case of the pig farm at Lety u Písku, at a time when it was still a taboo to speak of Lety as a concentration camp. He contributed to opening that debate, he broke through the walls of silence surrounding that issue. In 1998 his book, Black Silence (Czech title Tíživé mlčení), about the fate of the Roma in the Holocaust, was published, and the testimonies in that book make for heavy reading. May his soul rest in peace in eternal light”.
Elena Gorolová and European Commission Vice-President Jourová open international conference on anti-Roma racism
Romea.cz/en reported on Saturday 27th march that on Monday, 29 March, the international launching conference for the "CHACHIPEN" project researching anti-Roma racism, also called antigypsyism, would begin at 9 AM. It was noted that the crucial aim of the project was to respond to historically rooted, systemic antigypsyism and to achieve justice, equality, non-discrimination and the full participation of Romani people in all activities of importance as equal citizens in Europe.
It was further reported by news server Romea.cz that they would broadcast the conference live and that the project would be making use an approach following the Truth and Reconciliation model to assess past cases of rights violations and the ongoing structural discrimination of Romani people in the EU.
It was also reported that the opening section would include Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency and Duna Mijatovic, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights. Romani community member Elena Gorolová of the Czech Republic would then discuss the forced sterilizations that had taken place in the former Czechoslovakia and present-day Czech Republic.
Romani organizations launch campaign about the census that "features" Czech President Zeman
On 28th March, Romea.cz/en reported that the RomanoNet umbrella organization of pro-Roma and Romani NGOs in the Czech Republic, in collaboration with other organizations, had launched an online campaign ahead of the census in the Czech Republic to reach out to Romani people and encourage them to declare their Romani nationality and to list their mother tongue as Romanes.
It was also noted that RomanoNet director Michal Miko had told news server Romea.cz that, "we consider it important for Romani people to declare their nationality, because the data the census yields can influence how the inclusion of Romani people will be undertaken in the years to come in the Czech Republic".
Czech and Slovak youth have different attitudes toward minorities - Czechs are more LGBT-tolerant, Slovaks more tolerant of immigrants or Muslims
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 29th March that young people in the Czech Republic and Slovakia differed from each other when it came to their attitudes about ethnic, religious or sexual minorities. It was noted that Czechs were more tolerant with respect to the LGBT community and also have a more positive view of drinking alcohol, consuming marijuana, and casual sex.
It also noted that, on the other hand, the Slovaks surveyed, had fewer reservations than Czechs do toward alcoholics, immigrants, or Muslims. It was reported that those were the findings of the survey on Values among Youth undertaken at the beginning of last summer by the Czech Council of Children and Youth (ČRDM) and the Council of the Youth of Slovakia.
Czech court finally rules football fans' actions during attack on Black man should be considered misdemeanours, not felonies
On 30th March, Romea.cz/en reported that three fans of the Czech football club Sigma Olomouc who had been charged with committing racially-motivated violence had finally been acquitted of their alleged involvement in an attack on a Black man on a tram in Prague. It was noted that the charges had been reduced to misdemeanour offences and that the municipal authority would now deal with them.
It was also reported that it had taken almost three years for the Municipal Court in Prague to hand down a final verdict in the case and that the attorney for the injured party was considering filing a complaint with the Constitutional Court against the lower court decision.
Czech court sentences man who praised deadly terrorist attack on New Zealand mosques to six years in prison, the longest such sentence yet
Romea.cz/en reported on 30th march that news server iDNES.cz had reported that on Tuesday, 16 March the Brno Regional Court in the Czech Republic had sentenced a man who had praised the 2019 terrorist attack in New Zealand during an online discussion to six years in prison for promoting terrorism. It was noted that the verdict had yet to take effect and that the defendant was planning to appeal to the High Court in Olomouc, according to iDNES.cz.
It was further reported that the Czech courts had been dealing with many such cases involving people expressing approval online for the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, but before this verdict the defendants had all been given suspended sentences. It was also noted that in March 2019 a right-wing extremist from Australia shot dead more than 50 children, men and women during the attacks.
Romani students in the Czech Republic can apply to ROMEA for scholarships in June
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 31st March that last year the ROMEA organization had expanded its scholarship program to include support for Romani college students, and that during the 2021/2022 school year the program would support Romani students of secondary schools, higher vocational schools, colleges and universities. It was said that the application process would open at the beginning of June.
It was further reported that the programme had been launched in 2016 and had provided 214 Romani students with 365 scholarships so far and that several Romani scholarship recipients had been awarded funds repeatedly thanks to their academic results and their active involvement in the programme.
Czech parliamentary committee overwhelmingly supports bill to compensate forcibly sterilized women
On 31st March, Romea.cz/en reported that the Petition Committee of the Czech Chamber of Deputies had supported a bill that would make one-time payments of CZK 300 000 [EUR 11 500] to women who had been sterilized unlawfully. It was noted that the bill covers a period of almost 46 years, the time during which the "People's Health Care Act" was in force before it was replaced by new legal norms covering such medical interventions.
It was further reported that, “if the bill is adopted, women who were sterilized without their free and informed consent between 1 July 1966 and 31 March 2012 would become eligible to apply for compensation. According to the bill, their decisions to undergo sterilization during that time may not have been made freely, but on the basis of their being incentivized or even threatened with having their existing children institutionalized or their welfare benefits stopped unless they underwent the procedure.”
Collated by Peter Sagar, A Living Tradition CIC, April 2021