Europe stands at a crucial juncture; as the pandemic enters its third year without an obvious end in sight, the far-right draws ever closer to the centres of power across the continent, and the very existence of the European Union as we know it faces renewed threats from both East and West of the bloc. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to threaten new emergency measures, lockdowns, and school closures in countries across Europe. The impact of these measures would be keenly felt by a vulnerable Romani population, already beleaguered by police violence, illegal quarantines, and distance learning which denies their children an education. The threat from the far-right, however – already steadily growing over the last decade within European politics – will have several opportunities to move even closer to the hallways of power this year, with potentially dire consequences for the continent’s largest and most marginalised ethnic minority group. In the midst of what could prove to be a tumultuous year for European politics, Europe’s 12 million strong population of Romani people stand to lose out more than most if the political pendulum swings the wrong way.
The most important intergovernmental organisation of the last year, the World Health Organisation, defines violence as:
the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.
The media in this country have used the terms ‘violence’ and ‘violent’ to categorise the recent civil disruption surrounding the Kill The Bill protests. Norwich’s recent protests couldn’t be called ‘violent’ by any stretch of the imagination, but there have still been reactionary responses attempting to write off their importance, including from the EDP. However in the case of places like Bristol, the word ‘violence’ has been openly used against protestors by the media and influential reactionary figures.
by Yali Banton-Heath
While Archant published clickbait headlines in the EDP and Norwich Evening News that chose to spotlight the pink chalk ‘vandalism’ of a war memorial, Saturday’s Kill the Bill protest in Norwich city centre was in fact a peaceful display of solidarity, and an empowering antidote to the violence that protesters elsewhere in the country have been subjected to. In Bristol, boards reading ‘People Over Property‘ now surround the former plinth of the Edward Colston statue, and act as a visual reminder of both the police and the media establishment’s skewed priorities when it comes to covering protests. Chalk gets washed away with a spell of wet weather. Authoritarian bills don’t.
by Sarah Edgcumbe
In early May 2020, Mustafa al-Kadhimi was appointed as Iraq’s new Prime Minister against the context of ongoing protests and popular discontent resulting from widespread government corruption. This corruption has contributed massively towards increasing poverty, reduction in public services and rising unemployment. Since the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq, social cohesion has fractured perhaps (but hopefully not) irrevocably, with politics and society becoming increasingly sectarian.
The effects of the sectarian conflict in Iraq have been widely reported on, but the media has remained largely silent on the dire situation of the Iraqi Roma. This lack of attention by the media is reflective of the neglect of the Roma of Iraq by the government, humanitarian and human rights organizations and largely speaking, civic society in general. The complete lack of information produced by the Iraqi government on the Iraqi Roma is symptomatic of the de facto policies of ostracization and othering which have persisted since the formation of the Iraqi state in the 1920s. The number of Roma residents in Iraq, including the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI), is unknown, but best estimates place the figure at nearly 200,000 – translating to roughly 0.5% of the Iraqi population. Continue Reading
by Jonathan Lee
A political party in the UK is defined by its members and its representatives. Regardless of the leader, the real character of a party is found in the policies it puts forward, and the things that its cabinet members, MPs, and local councillors do and say. In the Labour Party, the about turn the party took from being the neoliberal centre-right party of Tony Blair, to the democratic socialist party of Jeremy Corbyn was brought about by the will of its members. The elected politicians of the Labour Party do not always see eye-to-eye with their leader, but if you look at the collective things they say and do, and the policies they propose, there is a broad consensus on certain values which tell you the nature of the party as a whole. The same can be said of the Conservative Party. You can read more here if you want a ten year history of Conservative hate speech against Romani and Traveller people.
The following is a summary of Conservative policies which have affected Gypsies, Roma, & Travellers during the time the Conservatives have been in power.Continue Reading
By Jonathan Lee
Meet Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire, Andrew Selous.
Andrew recently took a break from opposing gay marriage, overseeing prison cuts, calling for benefits cuts for non-english speakers, and claiming disabled people work hard because they’re grateful just to have a job, and turned his attention to Romani Gypsies and Travellers.
On 13th November, he proposed a bill in the Commons to convert existing sites for Gypsies and Travellers into settled accommodation, remove any obligation on local authorities to build more permanent sites, and make unauthorised encampments a criminal offence.
He also added a bit about making provision for the education of Gypsy & Traveller children, which is nice.Continue Reading
by Jonathan Lee
A new project to count the number of Romani Gypsies and Irish Travellers in London was recently launched by London Gypsies & Travellers and Mapping for Change. Their goal is to provide an accurate estimate of the numbers and distribution of GRT (Gypsy, Roma and Traveller) people across the city.
Official census statistics on Romani and Traveller people in the UK are famously inaccurate (only 58,000 in the 2011 census). This is partly because neither group are traditionally very fond of official registers, particularly those which record ethnicity.
And why should we be?Continue Reading
by Jonathan Lee
Content warning: article mentions antigypsyism and racism
“The Gypsy and Traveller community complain that they don’t get enough media attention, but crime watch is on TV every week.”
This was the name of a team at a pub quiz I attended in Oxford recently. When it was read aloud, half the pub laughed and jeered. The other half remained silent, either through complicity or complete indifference. No one challenged the offending team, no one called out, no one made a disapproving noise. When the woman behind the bar saw my apparent discomfort, she asked:
“Sorry, are you a Traveller?”
Unsure whether she was apologising for the hate speech coming through the pub’s speaker system, or for the actual ethnicity itself, I answered:
“Yes I am.”Continue Reading