WILL IRAQ’S NEW PRIME MINISTER RECOGNISE ROMA RIGHTS?

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

THE TORY RECORD ON GYPSIES, ROMA & TRAVELLERS MAKES FOR GRIM 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

RACIST FOOTBALL CHANTS ARE JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG IN BULGARIA

by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: sexual assault, racist slurs, violence

On Monday 14th October, a UEFA Euro Qualifiers match between Bulgaria and England was forced to stop on two occasions after racist abuse from Bulgarian fans was aimed at Black players on the England team. The match, which was already subject to a partial stadium ban for previous incidents of racism, saw black clad, nazi saluting, monkey-chanting skinheads hijack the proceedings and force the stadium to issue announcements and the refereee to halt the game.

The three step UEFA protocol (which reached the second step on Monday night, the third would have abandoned the match) has been criticised for being ineffective and too soft to counter discrimination. Whilst UEFA’s public reaction to the racism has been firm, calling for “football’s family” to “wage war on the racists”, whether or not neo-nazis should be given two free gos at abusing Black English players before they are punished is a valid point.Continue Reading

ANTIGYPSYISM WILL NOT BE CURED BY NEOLIBERAL WISHFUL THINKING

by Jonathan Lee

There is a mendacious yet persistent fantasy that Roma could be saved from the horrors of racism and discrimination if only they weren’t so poor. It is the conservative idea that the free market can cure racism, that racism is purely a product of economic disparity, and that if only Roma were more economically engaged, most of the nasty symptoms of antigypsyism would simply fall away. Continue Reading

IS IT FINALLY TIME FOR AN ANTIGYPSYISM INQUIRY IN THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY?

by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: hate speech, antigypsyism, inclusion of derogatory language.

After a Hope Not Hate survey revealed the not-so-shocking discovery that two thirds of Conservative Party Members are islamophobes, pressure has been mounting for the Tories to launch a party inquiry into Islamophobia. In a time when Jeremy Corbyn’s hummus eating habits spur fresh cries of antisemitism, it is encouraging to see that the ‘Nasty Party’ are not immune from scrutiny for the widespread racism amongst their members. Though the survey results were damning, the response from the media has been somewhat subdued. Can you imagine the backlash if a survey found that two thirds of Labour Party members believed antisemitic conspiracy theories? Or if 43% said they would prefer the UK was not led by a Jew (as Conservatives members indicated at the possibility of a Muslim Prime Minister)? The next Tory leader will inherit this scandal and may not be able to brush it off so easily.

Now that the lid has been blown off the rampant islamophobia within the Conservative Party, it’s high time other widely held racist beliefs in the party ranks were examined; not least, antigypsyism.Continue Reading

HOW IS A GYPSY SUPPOSED TO LOOK?

Jennifer Lee who is roma 1

by Jonathan Lee 

I am probably not the image most people have in their mind when they think of a Gypsy.

My mother is of mostly Irish-American stock – which gives me a few ginger wisps in my beard, and a smattering of freckles across my nose and cheeks. My hair is dark brown, not black. I don’t wear a lolo diklo (red scarf) around my neck, or a staddi kali (black trilby hat) on my head. Most of the time I wear jeans and t-shirt, I rarely ever dance on tables, and I have no piercings or tattoos. I live in an apartment in the centre of a European capital with a woman whom I am not married to, and I travel only about 20 minutes maximum by foot every day to go to work.

If I ask you to close your eyes and picture a Gypsy in your mind’s eye you probably see someone with bangles and gold hoop earrings, floral patterned clothing, long hair, and dark flashing eyes. They may or may not have a tambourine, and may or may not be wearing a turban with a little gem in the centre holding it up. Maybe you see a fortune teller, or a travelling metalsmith? Perhaps a musician? If you are European, more likely you also see a beggar, a thief, a criminal.Continue Reading

HOW THE NAZIS WIPED OUT THE ROMANI MIDDLE CLASS

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By Jonathan Lee

CW genocide, ethnic violence

Between 1936 and 1945 the Nazis wiped out over 50% of Europe’s Romani people.

Whether they were choked to death in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau, “exterminated through labour” climbing the stairs of death at Mauthausen, or shot in a mass grave dug by their own hands in Romania – the extermination of the Gypsies of Europe was carried out with deadly efficiency.

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SORRY ANDREW SELOUS MP, BUT GYPSIES & TRAVELLERS WILL NOT BE ASSIMILATED

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

EUROPEAN ROMA AND TRAVELLERS NEED OUR OWN ROSA PARKS

By Jonathan Lee

“‘No blacks, no Irish, no dogs’ signs disappeared long ago, but ‘No Travellers’ signs […] are still widespread,” said Human Rights Barrister, Marc Willers. In fact, ‘No Gypsies’ policies are quite commonplace pretty much everywhere, and Romani and Traveller people are frequently and willfully refused access to public places all over Europe.

Continue Reading

ETHNIC KILLINGS CLAIMED FIFTEEN ROMA IN 2017/18

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By Jonathan Lee

Fifteen Romani men, women and children were murdered in 2017 and 2018 because of their ethnicity. From Bulgaria to France, Roma as young as 13 and as old as 64 were shot, stabbed or beaten to death by racist murderers from across Europe.

Continue Reading

STATELESS ROMA IN UKRAINE HAVE NOWHERE TO TURN TO

By Jonathan Lee
Content warning: this article contains mentions of violence (including police brutality), and structural discrimination.

According to a new report, up to 20% of Ukraine’s Romani population are stateless – that is, they are without identity documents such as birth certificates, passports, or identity cards which prove they are citizens. The lack of evidence to prove their nationality means these Roma are denied access to basic services such as healthcare, education, housing, and welfare, as well as to regular employment or for some, even something as simple as a mobile phone contract.

After a series of organised attacks on Roma by far-right organisations in the past year, most of the country’s Roma who regularly spend the summer working in the major cities have now returned to their home region of Zakarpattiya on the South Western border. Whilst reports of fresh attacks came in over the summer, Roma living in settlements in Beregovo and Uzhgorod began to look abroad for the vital work which they needed to survive; work they were being denied by the far-right militias whom had driven them out of the cities.Continue Reading

PRISONS BECOMING A DEATH-SENTENCE FOR ROMA

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by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: article contains strong language, ethnic slurs, and graphic descriptions of death, suicide, prison environments and torture.

On April 9th 2018, the day after International Roma Day, a crowd gathered outside the doors of the Murcia Regional Government building in Alicante, Spain. They were not there to celebrate, but to mourn and demonstrate about the unexplained death of twenty-eight-year-old Romani man, Manuel Fernández, on 22nd October 2017. His case is one of many unexplained deaths of Roma in prison.Continue Reading

HAPPY APRIL 8TH. LET’S HAVE A PROTEST

by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: article mentions antigypsyism, racism, discrimination and persecution 

Opre Roma, si bakht akana
Aven mansa sa lumnyake Roma.
Roma arise! The time is now.
Come with me, Roma from all the world.

These words were written in 1949 by Žarko Jovanović, a Romani Holocaust survivor, Yugoslav Partisan fighter, and activist. They were put to a traditional melody, and adopted as the Romani Anthem in 1971.

It bears none of the hallmarks of an anthem as conceived in the traditional sense by European nation-states. It is not a hymn or an opera. It’s melody is plaintive, unstructured, reckless even. It does not conceive of a homeland, real or imagined, nor does it call for the unification of a people in a national sense. Instead the lyrics speak of the freedom of the road, freedom from persecution, and the need for unity of Romani people across the world. Amongst many other things, it is fundamentally a protest song.Continue Reading

JOURNALIST SHOT DEAD. SLOVAKIA IN TURMOIL. CAN NOTHING TOUCH THE INDESTRUCTIBLE ROBERT FICO?

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by Jonathan Lee 

Content warning: article mentions racism, anti-Roma sentiments, and contains offensive and discriminatory language.

It’s been almost two weeks since Slovak investigative journalist, Ján Kuciak, and his partner Marina Kusnirova were found shot dead in their Velka Maca apartment. The couple were both murdered by single gunshots, with the crime bearing the hallmarks of a contract killing according to Slovak police.

Prior to his death, Kuciak had been investigating the theft of EU funds by businessmen linked to the Ndrangheta Calabrian Mafia, and to high-up ministers in Prime Minister Robert Fico’s office. In his final unfinished article, Kuciak names the Secretary of the State Security Council, and the Chief State Advisor to Fico, as being linked to the corruption. Both of whom have taken indefinite leaves of absence while the investigation continues, in an attempt to avoid their names being used against the Prime Minister they say.

The deaths have plunged Slovakia into turmoil. Not even during the communist regime was a journalist ever murdered in the country, and it has highlighted the already considerable concerns surrounding corruption in the Slovak government.Continue Reading

THE EU IS GIVING FASCISM ITS SIX MONTHS IN THE SUN

by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: articles mentions fascism, neo-Nazis, anti-Roma and anti-Gypsy sentiments, concentration camps and violence. Article contains strong language, derogatory language and includes descriptions of assault. Video includes scenes of violence.

The EU is led by gangsters, racists, and neo-Nazis.

I don’t mean that in a Ukippy way. I mean that until the 30th June 2018, the presidency of the Council of the European Union will be held by Bulgaria, and will prominently feature a colourful circus of hate mongers, criminals and outright fascists.

The government in Sofia is currently propped up by a coalition of truly nasty bastards called the ‘United Patriots’, who are united mostly by their shared sense of aggressive racism. It is comprised of three parties: the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB), the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO), and ‘Ataka’ (simply, attack).Continue Reading

LIBERTÉ, EGALITÉ, EXPULSIONS FORCÉES

by Jonathan Lee

If you get off the metro at Porte de Clignancourt in Paris, a little over a kilometre north of the Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre, and follow the line of the disused 19th century Petite Ceinture railway for a couple of minutes from the busy intersection, you will soon come across rows of makeshift shacks lining the railway.

Similar shanty towns can be found tucked away under bridges, behind fences, and on ex-industrial plots across the city and throughout France. Along with a scattering of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, these slums are inhabited almost entirely by Roma.Continue Reading

WHY I WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO COLLECT DATA ABOUT MY ETHNICITY

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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

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ANTIGYPSYISM

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by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: article explores discrimination, racism, hate speech and antigypsyism and includes derogatory language.

Don’t say gypo or gypped.  Pikey or tinker. Don’t put up ‘No Travellers’ signs.

If you are not Romani, never wear Gypsy-themed costumes at Hallowe’en. And don’t call yourself Gypsy because you think you’re free spirited. Or because you’ve been to India, or believe in chakras, or live in a campervan or something. These things are racist towards Romani people and Irish Travellers. It’s called antigypsyism.

This is the specific form of racism directed against Roma, Sinti, Travellers, Manush, Balkan Egyptians, Ashkali, Yenish and others who are stigmatized as ‘gypsies’ in the public imagination.

Unfortunately, there is a lot more to it than a few nasty words and some garishly tacky costumes. In order to fight this phenomenon in our society, you need to understand how deep the rabbit hole really goes.Continue Reading

SEXY FILTHY GYPSIES: THE STRUGGLE FOR ROMANY IDENTITY THROUGH THE ARTS

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by Jonathan Lee 

In the post-imperialist Western world, liberal society is becoming ever more self-aware of social and cultural sensitivities, most evidently in the influence of the arts as a vehicle for perceptions of race, gender, sexuality and culture. Cultural appropriation is a topic hotly debated, and one where the divide between appropriation and appreciation can sometimes be uncertain. This ambiguity and subsequent argument is usually tied to power relationships, dichotomy in stereotypes (e.g. black hairstyles being perceived differently on white heads) and most often, the struggle for the appropriated culture to control its own identity.

The struggle for Roma to self-determine their own public identity — that being which is perceived by those outside of the Romany community — has historically been dominated by stereotypes of the ‘Gypsy other’. These myths, biases and often outright lies likely stem from the Middle Ages with arrival of the Roma in Europe. In an age of relative racial homogeneity, the Roma appeared as a foreign, outsider race whose dark countenance was associated with evil in a time of church hegemony and bigotry. The associations forged with the Roma during their early arrival were compounded by subsequent centuries of persecution and hatred, often based on conceptions of ‘the Gypsy other’ rather than interactions.Continue Reading

THE SHAME OF EUROPE’S FORGOTTEN SLAVES

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by Jonathan Lee

Kon mangel te kerel tumendar rroburen chi shoxa phenela tumen o chachimos pa tumare perintonde.
He who wants to enslave you will never tell you the truth about your forefathers.”

In the mid to late 19th century, Bucharest was a city typical of the reformist changes of the era. The influences of the Late Enlightenment and Romanticism in cultural arts were emerging in public administration, economics and politics. The growing call for egalitarianism across Europe had given birth to revolutionary movements and philosophies, out of which Marxism, Idealism and Existentialism, to name a few, began to take shape. Bucharest saw increasing civil mobility as anti-aristocratic sentiment spread, culminating in Prince Bibescu renouncing the throne. The increase of Liberalism across Europe was matched by feats of human endeavour and the creation of centres of intellectualism in the major cities of the continent.

In Bucharest, the Grand Theatre of Bucharest was constructed in 1852, a modern water supply network was put in place and the Cișmigiu public gardens were created. During the mid to late 19th century the city was transformed by gas street lighting, the creation of the University of Bucharest, a tram system and the establishment of the National Bank of Romania. The wave of modernity and reform which was sweeping the continent was becoming ever more present in the visible character of the city.

Continue Reading

ROMANY GYPSIES: MODERN APARTHEID IN WESTERN EUROPE

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by Jonathan Lee

Numbering around ten million, Romany gypsies constitute Europe’s single largest minority ethnic group and are almost certainly the continent’s most discriminated against. The Romany people uniquely bear both the intense scrutiny of outright persecution and the simultaneous off-hand dismissal of their very identity, allowing and even justifying racism to go unchallenged.Continue Reading