Roma News September 2021
Czech mayors regret abolition of housing benefit-free zones, one alleges the move will "cause extremism"
On 1st September Romea.cz/en reported that elected representatives of local authorities regretted the fact that the Czech Constitutional Court has abolished part of the law on aid to those in material distress that facilitated the establishment of "housing benefit-free zones" and said that they considered such zones to be one of just a few opportunities for preventing influxes of what they term "problematic" people onto their territories. It was said that ome mayors believed there would now be enormous pressure placed on the Chamber of Deputies to draft a similar law that would not contravene the Constitutional Court finding, according to the Czech News Agency (ČTK).
It was noted that Deputy Mayor of Liberec Ivan Langr (Mayors for the Liberec Region), who is responsible for social affairs there, had said that he believed communities were now losing the only repressive tool they had to solve the situation in areas with "problematic" housing. "It was an extreme solution, although it had its drawbacks - for example, it just applied to new tenants, not existing ones," he was reported as telling ČTK.
Czech President Zeman visits school with Romani pupils as 2021/2022 school year begins
On 2nd September, Romea.cz/en reported that Czech President Miloš Zeman had decided to mark the beginning of the school year the previous day at Brno's Nursery and Primary School on Merhautova Street, where first-graders and their parents had welcomed him in the school gym. It was noted that the Czech News Agency had reported school staffers saying roughly 550 pupils attend there.
It was also noted that about half of the students had been said to have been recommended for enrolment there after being assessed by a centre for special needs education and approximately 30 assistants work at the school as part of programmes for inclusion into mainstream education.
It was further reported that some of the children there come from Romani families and in his remarks to the children and their parents, Zeman had said that he had heard that two children attending the school had previously collapsed there due to starvation.
Jaroslav Miko: Czech President shows his arrogance and lack of basic social empathy on the first day of school
On 2nd SEptember Romea.cz/en reported that Jaroslav Miko had responded to the Presiden’ts comments about hingry children at hisa school visit the previous day: “On the first day of the new school year, the millionaire Miloš Zeman has managed to perfectly show off his arrogance and lack of basic social empathy. He took advantage of taxpayer money to travel in comfort on a special military aircraft to Brno so he could tell the parents of the children who attend a school that is known to serve the most impoverished children from socially excluded localities that they should be giving their children more food.
Based on his performance, I find it necessary to ask: What was the point of this costly journey? Instead of humiliating words addressed to the local parents, I would expect our highest constitutional officer to give a speech about the fact that our society has to do all it can to make sure our children don't have to live in extreme poverty, about how it is necessary, despite social difficulties, to arrange for the most equal possible access to education for all children, irrespective of background, because economic inequality cannot be allowed to become a barrier to children accessing the quality education to which they are all entitled.
What else, though, could we have expected from this person, who has long incited hatred against the Czech Roma, and not just through his lying remark that 90 % of Czech Roma don't work, right? I would really like to have a president of the Czech Republic who will not be lacking in social feeling and who will be able, through natural authority, to aid with the solutions to these enormous social and societal problems instead of intensifying them.”
International Romani Union seeks urgent humanitarian aid for Afghanistan's Romani population
On 2nd September,Romea.cz/en reported that the International Romani Union (IRU) was concerned for the fate of Afhganistan's Romani population, who were living without any protection at this difficult time and in great fear for their lives and IRU President Zoran Dimov was reported as saying that Roma people must not become victims of the new ruling powers there. The IRU was calling on the United Nations, the US Government, and the European Union to arrange for immediate humanitarian protection for Afghanistan's Romani residents.
It was noted that during August, almost all countries with citizens in Afghanistan urgently evacuated them. "The IRU is asking that people continue to be evacuated from the country after the month of August," Dimov said.
Mayor and police in Czech town correct the record about assault incident to make clear Romani people were not involved as first alleged
On 6th September, Romea.cz/en reported that during the late night hours of 10 August and early morning hours of 11 August, people had been assaulted at the bus station in Jihlava, Czech Republic, and one of the alleged victims had told the media that the men who had committed the attack had been Romani - but that was not actually the case. It was noted that Mayor of Jihlava Karolina Koubová had corrected the record to the press and regional police spokesperson Dana Čírtková had also confirmed it.
"Those were not Romani people, the police will confirm that to you," the mayor was reported as saying, according to the local Jihlavské listy news server. The regional police spokesperson was said to have told news server Romea.cz that "I can confirm Madame Mayor's words", and went on to say that just three men had committed the assault instead of eight as first reported.
It was noted that one of the alleged victims had told the media in mid-August that "It was a group of about seven or eight Roma, they wanted us to give them our bags, whatever we had on us." It was reported that his allegations had sparked a wave of hatred on social media against all Roma, using the principle of collective guilt.
15th BARUVAS meeting in the Czech Republic for Romani students features theatre performance about Romani history
On 8th September, Romea.cz/en reported that the 15th BARUVAS Romani student meeting came to an end on Friday, 27 August. It was said that the meeting had been held in the picturesque environment of the Moravian-Silesian Region near Praděd.
It was reported that during the meeting, students had been made familiar with the techniques of argument and discussion by journalist Jarmila Balážová and created their own skits based on a lecture about the history of Romani people by historian Renata Berkyová, as well as enjoying a lot of fun during a hiking trip along the Bílá Opava waterfall. It was noted that at the close of the week-long meeting the students had competed with each other in the "BARUVAS Has Talent" contest, which had demonstrated that they were not just abounding in knowledge, but in many talents, and there had certainly been no shortage of talent to behold.
It was reported that students had arrived on Sunday afternoon at the Hotel Soliter in Karlov pod Pradědem. IT was noted that some had not seen each other in person for an entire year, so it was plain to see how glad they were to be able to meet again.
Romani associations distance themselves from community member who apparently expressed desire to attack Czech politician
On 8th September, Romea.cz/en reported that Czech MP Tomio Okamura had been playing the "Roma card" in the runup to next month's elections to the lower house, and now he was taking advantage of video footage of a Romani community member from the Liberec Region that had been posted online to do so. The footage, from a restaurant in Nový Bor, captured remarks made by Ladislav Mártha, an employee and member of the Coalition of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region, in which he threatened to stab the politician.
It was noted that Mártha had apologized through social media for his remarks and police are investigating the incident. It was also noted that other Romani community members using social media have condemned Mártha's behaviour and the Coalition of Romani Representatives of the Liberec Region had also distanced themselves from him.
Albanian comedy shows feature blackface, prejudice and stereotypes about Romani people
On 13th September, Romea.cz/en reported Xhenon Cela as saying that, "the Albanian anti-Romani comedy shows broadcast by television stations nationally portray Romani people as unappealing, alien and untrustworthy persons." Xhenon Cela was said to be talking about two television programmes inciting hatred of Romani people in particular, the Portokalli program on Top-Channel and Al Pazar on the Vision Plus channel. The programs mock Romani people's character as well as their accented Albanian and are followed by the general public, which makes no secret of how amusing they find the content, at which they frequently laugh uproariously.
It was noted that the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) had published an article on its website drawing attention to this phenomenon. "While elsewhere in Europe, white actors in blackface for the purpose of entertainment is unacceptable, in these Albanian shows all of the Romani characters are played by white actors with their faces painted dark brown, which I consider unacceptable," Cela was said to emphasize, also expressing the conviction that these Albanian television shows, especially their comedy programmes, have to change their approach to entertainment.
Czech Deputy Public Defender of Rights discusses compensation procedure for forced sterilizations in interview for ROMEA TV
It was reported by Romea.cz/en on 14th Se[ptember that victims of illegal sterilizations in the Czech Republic had achieved their goal. It was noted that a law on providing one-off financial compensation to them had been adopted by both chambers of Parliament and signed by Czech President Miloš Zeman.
It was said that the process would begin as of 1 January 2022 and that the years-long battle by individuals and nonprofit organizations had been won.
It was also noted that ROMEA TV had interviewed Monika Šimůnková, the Deputy Public Defender of Rights, about what happens now. It was reported that in the interview, which was subtitled into English, she discussed what will happen between now and January 2022, who could apply for compensation and how, and who will be assisting the victims of unlawful sterilizations with securing the necessary documentation.
Pope Francis meets Romani people at Košice's Luník IX housing estate in Slovakia
On 14th September Romea.cz/en reported that Pope Francis had been visiting Slovakia since the previous Sunday and that his programme on 14th September included meeting with Romani people, with youth, and celebrating the liturgy.
It was noted that that day's events would be held in the east of the country after the head of the Catholic Church had spent the previous day at different meetings in Bratislava, the capital. It was noted that on that morning the Pope ha dcelebrated the Byzantine Divine Liturgy outdoors for the public in Prešov.
It was said that at 16:00 he was scheduled to visit Košice, the second-largest city in the country, to meet at the Luník IX housing estate with Romani residents there and that “ he is known for advocating the ideas of aid to the impoverished and of solidarity. In the past, Luník IX has drawn media attention because the large population of Romani residents there experience social problems.”
It was further reported that housing estate residents had been preparing for the visit since the early morning hours and the auxiliary programme had already been underway then, with holy mass being held on the occasion of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Jaroslav Miko: Romani voters must cast their ballots for a democratic coalition, otherwise anti-Romani extremists may get into government
On 15th September, Romea.cz/en reported that Radek Vondráček, Speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies and a member of the governing ANO movement, had told CNN Prima News during a discussion programme that the ANO movement was not opposed to possibly forming a governing coalition with the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement of Tomio Okamura.
It was noted that current Prime Minister Babiš would want to put the next government together with whomever would have him. Why was that alarming?
It wa sfurther noted that the latest polls revealed that such an outcome was actually possible, that ANO and SPD could put together more than 100 seats in the lower house, which would give them a majority in Parliament. It was argued that that kind of governing coalition, including the SPD, was the worst option for the Czech Republic and its future direction.
It was further argued that Romani voters must cast their ballots for a democratic coalition, otherwise anti-Romani extremists may get into government
Vojtěch Lavička: Czech law on housing benefit-free zones was an attack on human dignity
On 16th September Romea.cz/en reported that, the Czech Constitutional Court had abolished part of the law on aid to those in material distress that facilitated the establishment of local zones where housing benefits would not be disbursed to residents.It was noted that after long four years of waiting, the court had finally agreed with the motion submitted in this matter by 17 senators.
It was saIid that housing benefit-free zones, or "bad" addresses where new tenants had been unable to draw housing benefits, had been frequently presented by both the Czech media and politicians as an effective instrument against "trafficking in poverty", but that it was absolutely impossible to agree with that claim.
It was noted that the number of socially excluded localities, according to qualified estimates, had decidedly not declined as a result of this measure - on the contrary, new ones were being created as the larger localities "crumble" into several smaller ones. It was argued that the business of exploiting the impoverished had actively flourished and continued to do so.
Pope's words at Romani housing estate in Slovakia gave hope to those attending
On 17th September Romea.cz/en reported that three days previously Pope Francis had visited Košice's Luník IX housing estate to meet with the Romani community in Slovakia
It was noted that Pope Francis had urged the approximately 1 000 attendees of his appearance in Košice at Luník IX, the biggest housing estate inhabited by Romani people in Slovakia, to abandon prejudices and stereotypes and to integrate the Romani minority, who number at least 400 000 strong in the country of five million, and his words had sparked hope among those attending the gathering. "These were unforgettable moments that - I am convinced - will have a direct impact on the future of many Romani children from this housing estate and from all over Slovakia," Slovak MEP Peter Pollák, himself a Romani community member representing the strongest governing movement in the country, Ordinary People and Independent Figures (OlaNO), was reported as telling the press.
"During my first personal meeting with Pope Francis at the International Pilgrimage of Roma in 2015 his words at the Vatican moved me when he said that Romani people were at the center of the church's attention. Today he fulfilled those words," the MEP was reported as saying, adding that Luník IX's Romani community is frequently condemned by outsiders.
It was reported that, according to the MEP, the Pope had come to spread a message of love, reconciliation and understanding. "He brings hope to impoverished Romani children, who deserve not just the attention of the church, but of all of society," the MEP was reported as saying.
"He is a Pope who does not divide people, but who brings them together. His visit is also a bequest to all believers, proof that God does not differentiate, that God loves everybody, including the poor," the MEP was reported to have added.
Czech man sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for one year, for assaulting Romani boy, but racial motivation is ignored
On 18th September Romea.cz/en Romea.cz/en reported that the district court in the Czech Republic had ordered the sentencing of 47-year-old man who assaulted a hearing-impaired Romani boy to three months in prison. It was said that the serving of the sentence had been conditionally suspended for a trial period of one year.
It was noted that the perpetrator had not contested the decision, which had taken effect.
It was further reported that the argument had been overhead by a 47-year-old man with a criminal record who happened to be at the same facility with his family on their own summertime trip. It was said that he had approached the boy, shouted at him to stop yelling, and called him "black trash".
Romanian town must finally compensate some members of a forcibly evicted Romani community
On 19th September Romea.cz/en reported that an appeals court had upheld a decision by a first-instance court in Constanța, Romania ordering the Mayor of Eforie to pay compensation to families of Romani origin who had been evicted from their homes in 2013. It was said that the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) had reported the news in a press release.
It was noted that the case concerns 12 Romani men and women forcibly evicted from Agricola Street, each of whom is meant to be paid roughly EUR 36 000 and on top of that, the local authority must arrange social housing for each family.
It was further reported that the lawsuit had been brought by the ERRC and the nonprofit organization RomaJust in Romania. “This is a great achievement for this Romani community, and an important message to send to those who forcibly evict other Roma in Romania and across Europe,” ERRC President Đorđe Jovanović was reported as saying.
Fire in Czech town destroys building where bereaved relatives of Stanislav Tomáš, the Romani man who died in police custody in June, were living
On 21st September, Romea.cz/en reported that in Bílina, Czech Republic, a building caught fire on 14 September 2021 where Simona Tomášová had been among the residents; she is the sister of Stanislav Tomáš, who died in June 2021 after police intervened against him.
It was furrther reported that nine firefighting units had to respond last week to combat a blaze at an apartment building in Bílina, Czech Republic; the sister of the late Stanislav Tomáš, who had died on Saturday, 19 June after police had intervened against him, wass among the residents affected. Firefighters were said to have evacuated 23 individuals from the building, eight of whom had been transferred into the care of the Emergency Medical Services due to minor injuries or smoke inhalation.
Zeljko Jovanovic: Low COVID-19 immunization rate among the European Roma is the result of decades of government neglect
On 22nd September, Romea.cz/en reported that the low level of immunization against the COVID-19 disease among Europe's Roma was a result of decades of government neglect and ill-treatment by public health authorities according to Zeljko Jovanovic, director of the Open Society Roma Initiatives Office in Berlin, Germany, who had discussed the current situation with the Slovak wire service TASR. "Romani people have experienced decades of collective neglect," the director said as to why Romani people are hesitant when authorities call on them to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 disease.
"Entire communities do not have their basic needs met for infrastructure, they have no proper access to education or the labor market," he noted. Many Romani people, moreover, have had bad experiences with health care institutions, according to Jovanovic.
"In the Czech Republic and Slovakia there is a 60-year history of the forced sterilizations of [Romani] women," he reminded the wire service. Other reasons, in his view, include the genocide of the Roma committed by the Nazis during the Second World War, the place that history occupies in the collective memory of Romani communities, as well as contemporary examples of police brutality.
"All of this, the history of brutality against Romani people, the history of our experience in health care institutions and our experience of neglect, contributes to the distrust we face now. This, in combination with disinformation on the Internet, leads to Romani people not wanting to be vaccinated," he was reported to have summarized.
Czech Police charge two men over video in which one threatens to stab politician
On 23rd September Romea.cz/en reported that Czech Police had charged two men from northern Bohemia over a video in which one threatens to stab the politician Tomio Okamura. It was said that the other man had filmed and broadcast the video live through social media.
It was said that should the men be convicted, they face up to three years behind bars and Liberec Regional Police spokesperson Vladimíra Šrýtrová had informed public broadcaster Czech Television of the charges.
It was noted that the man who had made the remarks had apologized through social media and Liberec-based organizations of Romani people had distanced themselves from their fellow community member. "In association with this case we have used an accelerated preliminary procedure to communicate the charge of the suspected commission of felony violence against a group of inhabitants or against individuals to a 52-year-old man from Liberec who currently faces a possible prison sentence ranging from six months to three years," the spokesperson was reported as saying according to Czech Television, referencing the paragraph in the law according to which it is also possible to punish a death threat motivated by political convictions. according to Czech Television, referencing the paragraph in the law according to which it is also possible to punish a death threat motivated by political convictions.
Norway Grants to fund two advisors on Romani issues in Czech town - one Czech, the other Romani
On 24th September Romea.cz/en reported that the town hall in Tábor, Czech Republic would be hiring two advisors on Romani issues to concentrate on possible problems in coexistence among local residents. It was noted that relationships between the majority society and the Romani minority were an example of what they will work on.
It was said that each of the advisors would represent a different ethnicity, so representatives of the town leadership informed journalists of the decision on 17 September.
It was stated that an advisor on Romani issues is an institution used elsewhere in South Bohemia, for example, in České Budějovice and that the Regional Authority of South Bohemia is establishing the position of a Romani Coordinator as well.
It was noted that for now, the minimum time it is assumed the project will last is until April 2024 and will cost approximately CZK 2.5 million [EUR 98 500] and 85 % of it will be covered by Norway Grants.
It was said that both advisors would be employees of the local authority and would work in the mayor's office and that the project guarantees sustainability until 2026.
Jury of "Czechia Slovakia Has Talent" TV contest brought to tears by performance of Romani children from the Luník IX housing estate
On 25th September, Romea.cz/en reported that jurors on the "Czechia Slovakia Has Talent" (Česko Slovensko má talent) competition television show had had tears in their eyes after a performance by a choir, Devjatkakare čhave ("The Children of Luník IX"), the members of which all hail from the housing estate in Košice, Slovakia called Luník IX that had been recently visited by the Pope, and the fifth episode of the program had demonstrated that the contest can have a much deeper impact after the jurors unanimously expressed their appreciation for the Romani children's choir as the winners, sending them on to the next round. The choir, which had been created just two years ago, was doing its best to break down biases and show people that the children who live at Luník IX are not "bad", but that exactly the opposite is true.
"Our children are bringing honor to Luník IX," the choir director was reported as saying. It was noted that their performance in Bratislava's Expo Arena had received a long standing ovation and the jurors had difficulty holding back tears.
"It's amazing that you all spend your this time in this way, learning something, making friends for life and until death," juror Marta Jandová, a Czech musician who was obviously moved was reported as saying. Another enthusiastic juror, the Slovak record producer Jaro Slávik, was reported as telling the choir that "What you all are doing is more important than how you are doing it."
"That's because we are still living in a country where social mobility and the breaking of glass ceilings are taboo," Slávik was reported as saying, adding that while it was clear from the performance that the choir is just two years old, their message was the more essential part of what they do. "There is hatred, there is fear, we don't encounter people who have been excluded somehow, just because they were not born in Bratislava and have darker skin," the producer was reported a ssaying.
The moderator of the programme, Jasmina Alagič, who was said to be married to the Romani rapper Rytmus, was moved by the impression the celebrating children made on her and said at the close of the show: "It is not until now that I have come to know the real essence of Talent, I believed we were just talent scouting, but now I have understood that it can have a much deeper legacy."
Czech Bar Association reprimands attorney for approving of "joke" calling for the gassing of non-white first-graders, he appeals
On 26th September, Romea.cz/en reported that Czech attorney Michael Mann and the 2017 first-grade class at a school in Teplice against which death threats in the form of a "joke" had been made because of their non-white appearance by a social media user whom Mann represented; the author of the death threats was eventually convicted.
It wa sreported that the Czech Bar Association (Česká advokátní komora - ČAK) had officially reprimanded the attorney Michael Mann for remarks he made verbally and in writing in association with the scandal of hateful social media comments posted in response to a first-grade class photograph from a primary school in Teplice. Iva Chaloupková, the ČAK spokesperson, was reported as revealing the decision in response to a request from the Czech News Agency (ČTK) for information about the disciplinary proceeding brought against Mann.
It was notd that the decision had yet to take effect because Mann had appealed. He had been retained to defend the person who, in 2017, posted the "joke" in the comments section beneath the photograph of pupils in the first grade of the primary school on Plynárenská, or "Gasworks", Street in Teplice, most of whom are of Arab or Romani origin and do not look "white".
Museum of Romani Culture hosts the Carrets' exhibition of photographs from their visits with friends in Romani communities
On 27th September, Romea.cz/en reported that a daily journal of the lives of Romani families - their traditions, artisanry, holidays and everyday moments - was presented by the Museum of Romani Culture's exhibition "Impressions of Journeys to the Roma. The Photography of Claude and Marie-José Carret".
It was reported that a daily journal from the lives of Romani families - their traditions, artisanry, holidays and everyday moments - was on display in the exhibition at the Museum of Romani Culture called "Impressions of Journeys to the Roma. The Photography of Claude and Marie-José Carret". The museum was said to have prepared an auxiliary program to the exhibition during the month of September, including opportunities to meet the artists themselves and to attend workshops as part of "Bonjour Brno", the Festival of French Culture in the Czech Republic's second-largest city that ran from 22-26 September 2021.
"For 30 years the Carrets have been establishing relationships with Romani people all over Europe, especially in Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Ukraine, and thanks to those personal ties and friendships, these natural photographs of everyday life have been produced. Claude and Marie-José have been involved with photography for more than 40 years," spokesperson Bohdana Kuzmová Křepínská was reported as saying, in the museum's press release.
Czech town sees 6 000 people attend Romfest in runup to elections, Romani figures explained the importance of voting and warned against ultranationalists
On 28th September, Romea.xz/en reported that about 6 000 men and women, most of them Romani, had gathered on Sunday, 19 September for a Romani festival in the Czech town of Ústí nad Labem. In addition to musical performances on the stage of an outdoor movie theater, it was noted that Romani figures had taken turns reminding those present of the importance of next month's elections to the Chamber of Deputies, and attendees could also get vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Janssen vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.
It was said that the enormous interest in the festival surprised one of the main organizers of the event, Jaroslav Miko. "We were optimistic, but such a big turnout of more than 6 000 people we never anticipated," he was reported as saying, adding that he hoped people mainly came away from the event with information about the elections that they will spread further within their own families.
"We want Romani people to take their destiny into their own hands and to think about their future and go vote," Karel Karika, the chair of the Czechoslovak Romani Union, which organized the event, was reported as telling ROMEA TV. "We are not telling Romani people whom they should vote for, but we did tell them whom they decidedly should not cast a ballot for, and that is the SPD-Tomio Okamura," he was reported as adding, saying the main aim of the festival was to inform Romani men and women about the upcoming elections to the Chamber of Deputies and to thereby increase their participation.
Netherlands unveils memorial to Holocaust victims with names of 102 000 Jews, Roma and Sinti murdered by the Nazis
On 20th September, Romea.cz/en reported that in Amsterdam the National Holocaust Names Memorial had officially been unveiled on 19 September 2021.
It was reported that Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported that the National Holocaust Names Memorial (Nationaal Holocaust Namenmonument) had been officially unveiled in Amsterdam after the resolution of legal disputes that lasted several years. King Willem-Alexander attended the ceremonial unveiling in person.
It was noted that the memorial had been designed by Daniel Libeskind, a Polish-American architect, and it had been initiated by the Netherlands Auschwitz Committee (Nederlands Auschwitz Comité). It was said to be the first memorial to include the names of all 102 000 Jews, Roma and Sinti from the Netherlands who were murdered during the Second World War by the Nazis.
Six Romani men and women are running in Czech elections to the lower house, one for ANO and Levice, two for the Greens, two for ultranationalist party
On 30th September, Romea.cz/en reported that at least six Romani men and women were running this year in the elections to the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic; news server Romea.cz has reviewed the candidate lists for each political group published on www.volby.cz, the Czech Statistical Office's official website tracking elections, and identified the candidates who are known to be Romani there. One Romani man, Marcel Ščuka, is running for the currently-governing ANO movement, while two other Romani candidates, Anna Chválová and Emil Voráč, are running for the Green Party, and two Romani candidates are running for the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" movement of Tomio Okamura. One Romani man, Lukáš Mačo, is running for the Levice Party.
Collated by Peter Sagar, A Living Tradition CIC September 2021