Roma News November 2020

Here are some stories regarding Roma human rights from the Czech Republic from late September and October. All the stories are taken from romea.cz/en

Pope supports registered partnership for same-sex couples, Romani community member in the Czech Republic calls it progress

For the first time in his role as the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has publicly supported laws that make it possible for same-sex couples to enter into a registered partnership. He made the statement in the documentary biopic "Francesco" by Evgeny Afineevsky, which was screened at a film festival in Rome on 23 October.  

No head of the Catholic Church has ever before made a statement in favor of civil union for same-sex couples. The Vatican did not immediately comment on the Pope's statement in the film after it was screened.  

David Tišer, a Romani LGBT activist in the Czech Republic who is the director of the ARA ART organization, called the Pope's remarks a positive step forward. The words the Pope used were as follows: "Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They are children of God and they have the right to a family. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered."

 

Czech Justice Minister and lawmakers clash over proposed changes to collections proceedings

2.11.2020 8:47

Czech Justice Minister Marie Benešová (ANO) does not like the changes to a bill on collections proceedings regulations that were suggested in September by the Constitutional Law Committee in the lower house. The Committee rejected the bill's proposal to introduce local jurisdictions for collections agents, and also rejected a proposal to enact an impartial method for consolidating debt so that a debtor would handle all such claims with one selected collections agent.  

Last week the lower house was scheduled to review the Committee's changes during a second reading of the bill. The final legislation could also include the idea of creditors making down payments on the cost of debt enforcement, or the idea of halting some collections proceedings that have long proved fruitless without creditors' consent, as well as ideas on how to settle older debts.

The Justice Minister is not convinced of the merit of the proposed changes and is considering withdrawing the entire bill if the amendments proposed to it become too extreme. Committee members recommended removing a crucial component of her draft legislation, and that is the principle of one debtor-one collections agent.  

 

Rajko Djurić, academic, author and former president of the International Romani Union, has passed away

3.11.2020 10:31

Journalist Orhan Galjus reported on Facebook yesterday that Mr Rajko Djurić, the eminent Romani academic, author, intellectual and a past president of the International Romani Union (IRU), has passed away at the age of 73. He was born on 3 October 1947 in the small village of Malo Orašje near Belgrade in what was then Yugoslavia.
 

 

Romani college graduate in Czech Republic plans to become an educator himself

7.11.2020 13:15

Jarmila Balážová has interviewed Romani community member Robert Olah, a 23-year-old student of

economics and management who is hopeful that he will become a high school teacher of accounting and economics once he has acquired the relevant certification. The interview was broadcast online as part of ROMEA TV's "Ten Minute Plus" talk show.

Olah and his four siblings were raised by their mother in a socially excluded locality, but that has not kept him from fulfilling his childhood dream. He loves both accounting and economics and believes a teacher should know how to motivate pupils and students, saying he himself has had the good luck to experience such educators.   

Those experiences are probably why he has longed to become a great teacher since childhood. "My plan is to earn the kind of degree that will enable me to teach at high school economics, that has basically been my dream since I was little, and I am slowly making it come true," he said in the interview.   

In his free time, Olah is dedicated to working in nonprofit organizations and motivating Romani student youth. He says he wants to give back the kind of aid he received from others during his own moments of need.

 

Romani celebrities in Czech Republic with COVID-19 use social media to warn others, but will they be believed?

11.11.2020 7:14

Celebrities in the Czech Republic who are of Romani origin have become some of the latest victims of the COVID-19 pandemic - the recent death of blogger Jozef Kmeťo shocked Romani social media users, while the popular singer Igor Kmeťo, Jr and the superstar vocalist Monika Bagárová have also become infected. Despite the fact that Kmeťo, Jr is young and in good shape, the course of the disease in his case was not the easiest. 

"I was in hospital for eight days and ran a temperature for 11 days," the singer said in a video posted to Instagram, where he also said he had questioned the reality of COVID-19 before falling ill. "The course of the illness was harder in my case, I felt very bad, everything hurt."  

"People, it's true, the virus is among us, the virus is out in the world and it may be even worse than you believe," the singer said in response to different social media status updates where various people allege the news reporting about the novel coronavirus is overblown. "Think about those who will have a harder course of this illness."

"Think about those who are older. Some people get over this in two or three days, but others will not," the singer said in the video.

"Don't take this lightly, wear facemasks," he exhorted his followers, adding that he had not been paid by anybody to make the video - responding to the fact that some Romani social media users have accused others who have posted about their COVID-19 experiences of doing so for money. The musician Gyulla Banga, for example, published about his experiences with COVID-19 on news server Romea.cz and was subsequently accused of lying and being paid to produce the article he authored. 

 

Czech archaeologists find remains of yet another WWII-era concentration camp for Roma

12.11.2020 6:59

Archaeologists have found the remains of yet another World War II-era concentration camp for Romani people, this one in the Czech city of Liberec; after the Romani prisoners were sent to their deaths in other camps, French prisoners of war were then imprisoned there as well. Petr Brestovanský, an archaeologist working at the site, told the Czech News Agency (ČTK) on 10 November that the brick floors and foundations of the building have been unearthed.

The camp existed in a location where the Liberec Regional Authority wants to build a new regional headquarters for emergency response services, at a bend in the intersection of Jablonecká and Kunratická Streets. From conserved documents it was known that the internment camp for Romani people had been located there, and the archaeological finding has now confirmed it.

In 2016, news server Romea.cz reported on the four concentration camps for Romani people that were located on the territory of Liberec during the war. "I have been discussing the construction of the emergency responders' headquarters with representatives of Romani initiatives for that reason. Currently human lives are being saved from that location, which is an interesting kind of symbolism. One component of the project will also be to commemorate the historic local tragedy associated with that place," reads a press release issued by the Liberec Regional Council Member in charge of culture, monument preservation and tourism, Květa Vinklátová (Mayors for the Liberec Region - Starostové pro Liberecký kraj).     

Romani people were imprisoned in the camp from 1941-1943. "There were more than 130 of them at least," Ivan Rous of the North Bohemian Museum in Liberec, who is an expert on the wartime history of the region, told ČTK on 10 November.

The Romani people who were held in the camp were forced to work on building the nearby housing estate of Králův Háj. "They usually stayed in the camp a year or two. They were here until they were sent to the big concentration camps, the women were sent to Ravensbrück and the men were sent to Buchenwald and to Auschwitz. They murdered them there, nobody survived," said Rous who, along with members of the Association of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region, installed seven crosses at the former concentration camp site several years ago.   

 

 

Marian Dancso: Socially excluded children are not participating in online instruction in the Czech Republic

13.11.2020 6:57

Pupils attending first and second grade during 2020 should be required to repeat those grades, at least in those places that have long failed to implement any relevant distance education through video conferencing, consultations, or other means of facilitation. Surveys show that more than 10 000 children have not been involved in distance education at all this year and several thousand more have just been minimally involved. 

What is crucial in this regard are socially excluded localities and areas with high degrees of unemployment where families simply do not have enough materials or technical equipment to implement online instruction. Just a small percentage of the families living on the edge of social exclusion are able to arrange an interactive connection for their children with instructors or their fellow pupils. 

It is not just a lack of technical backup that plays a role here, but families' limited knowledge and experience with using modern means of communications and computer technologies. For many larger families, this kind of instruction is absolutely inaccessible. 

I am of the opinion that for most children living in social exclusion, instruction has turned into just receiving and returning homework in the form of worksheets that very often end up not being completed because the pupils do not understand them. They are not finding any aid with understanding them within their families.  

It is a generally known fact that the level of education of people living in excluded localities is quite basic, and therefore even a very simple homework task can pose an unsolvable problem not just for children, but also for their parents. This fact demonstrates how big of an influence pupils' family environments have on their education, an influence that is projected into the level of education they achieve and then into how they apply themselves on the labor market as adults.

 

 

Leading Romani activist and co-founder of Dikh TV, the musician Lajos "Paci" Balogh, has succumbed to COVID-19 at the age of 28

15.11.2020 7:59

At the beginning of this month Lajos "Paci" Balogh, an activist, musician and politician who dedicated his life to improving the situation of Romani people in Hungary, succumbed to COVID-19. Roos van Hennekelder, a journalist from the Netherlands living in Hungary, published an obituary about Mr Balogh in the daily newspaper Trouw on 9 November in which she described everything he has done for Romani people in Hungary.

At the time of his passing, Mr Balogh was 28 years old. According to van Hennekelder, he first began communicating with the world by playing music on a tin water jug.

In Hungarian, this type of container is called a Ceglédi kanna and such objects originally were used to carry water, but during the 1970s Romani musicians in Hungary began using them as musical instruments. Mr Balogh was a very talented musician of this kind.  

 

 

Czechs to protest COVID-19 measures on national holiday tomorrow - including neo-Nazis reviving antisemitic tropes

16.11.2020 9:25

News server Manipulátoři.cz has reported that among the demonstrators who will protest on 17 November against the Czech Government's measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic there will once again be a contingent of neo-Nazis. "It's time to take our country back. Citizens, tradesmen, doctors, lawyers, firefighters, students, senior citizens, let's stop this together!" announces a poster for the demonstration being circulated by a Facebook page called "Boj pokračuje" ("The Fight Continues"), which goes on to say that "The time for change is coming!!! [...] Together we fight against the totalitarian practices of this Government!!! Against lžidokracie!!! Let's stand up to this neo-Marxist Government of chaos and lies!!!"   

The antisemitic expression "lžidokracie" in Czech is a favorite among neo-Nazis. The word "lež" in Czech means "lie", while the word "Žid" means "Jew", so the term can roughly be translated as "rule by lying Jews". 

 

 

Czech protest against COVID-19 response brings together the far-right, those against the PM, those against the opposition, xenophobes - and punks

18.11.2020 6:55

Yesterday, on the Czech state holiday called "Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day", hundreds of people marched through Prague to protest the Government's restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some estimating that more than 1 000 attended, many of whom did not wear facemasks as required. The event was organized by a group calling itself "One Common Czech Heart for Freedom" (Jedno společné české srdce za svobodu) and was monitored by several dozen police officers and members of anticonflict teams. 

No interventions were necessary and the protest transpired without physical conflicts. Police officers detained just two individuals on suspicion of committing misdemeanors. 

The demonstration began around 16:00 on Wenceslas Square and was also attended by people who first attended a demonstration on the other side of the river. The demonstrators began dispersing before 18:00. 

Several speeches were made during the event. "Our state insignia has a lion, not a sheep, so let's behave accordingly," one speaker said.

 

 

Czech collections agents threatening to confiscate laptops from families whose children need them for distance learning during COVID-19

19.11.2020 11:38

Since the beginning of the pandemic in the Czech Republic more than 2 500 families and individuals have called a help line run by the People in Need organization that focuses on providing aid to people in association with their problems with income and indebtedness. Recently, more and more people have begun calling the help line because they are facing disproportionate pressure from collections agents. 

Apparently, some collections agents have decided to "take advantage" of the few weeks that remain before the planned adoption of a moratorium on confiscating movable property as part of collections proceedings in order in increase pressure on debtors to an enormous extent. The growth in such cases compared to the normal state of affairs is genuinely significant, typically involving request for aid in situations where the collections agent is demanding absurdly, disproportionately high payments from a debtor that they can only avoid by giving up items of property registered as collateral. 

 

 

Romani junior weightlifter wins three gold medals for the Czech Republic in youth championship held online because of COVID-19

20.11.2020 7:18