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.
by Bernard Rorke
CW: child mistreatment, state violence, abuse
Back in May 2018, both Vladimir Putin and former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions hit the headlines in the same week by threatening to take children away from their families. In the New Yorker, Masha Gessen called this a form of state terror: “Hostage-taking is an instrument of terror. Capturing family members, especially children, is a tried-and-true instrument of totalitarian terror.”
This form of ‘state terror’ is all too familiar to Europe’s Roma. While for centuries, racist folktales warned children not to wander into the woods lest they get ‘snatched by Gypsies’, the historical reality is quite the reverse. It is Romani children who have been kidnapped by the authorities and separated from their parents; kidnapped by authorities bent on forced assimilation, or in the case of the Nazis and their allies, gruesome experimentation and annihilation. In the democratic 21st Century, where anti-Roma racism has been routinized, disproportionate numbers of Romani children are removed from their biological families and placed in institutional state care.
In a small apartment in the Sancaktepe-Emek neighbourhood of Istanbul, 12-year-old Miray sits at home, trying to get her 9-month-old brother to sleep. Her other younger brother, only 3-years-old, plays on the floor. It is just past midday on a Tuesday – a school day – but Miray is at home, looking after her siblings while her mother is at work; unable to attend classes because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and unable to join her classmates remotely because of her family’s precarious financial situation.
Miray and her family belong to Europe’s largest and most discriminated ethnic minority group – the Roma – who because of centuries of persecution and exclusion often exist on the margins of society, where they are subjected to racism and poverty.
by Bernard Rorke
On the Wednesday evening of the 2nd of September, in a narrow street in Budapest’s eighth district, a large crowd gathered in solidarity with the students who have staged an occupation of Hungary’s University of Theatre and Film Arts (SZFE). The students had sealed the entrances to the building with red and white tape in protest against the latest power grab by the far-right government of Victor Orbán.
From the first-floor balconies, students stood silently in yellow face masks with clenched fists, while below, leading figures from Hungary’s cultural and literary scene recited apposite verses from the country’s rich reserve of defiant, liberty-loving poetry. The students closed the event with a folk song and the crowd joined in defiant chants of ‘Szabad Ország, Szabad Egyetem! (Free Country, Free University!)’.
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
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
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
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.
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
“‘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.