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

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

SORRY, ARE YOU A TRAVELLER?

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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