Archivio Marzo 2007

Czech, romany activist insists on illegality of eviction

31 Marzo 2007 Commenti chiusi

The statement by ombusdman Otakar Motejl that the demolition of a house inhabited by Romanies and their removal to a new one was legal is incorrect, Czech Romany activist Jan Rac told CTK today.

A few days ago, Rac sent a comprehensive report on the course of the Romanies’ eviction from the dilapidated house to Motejl. Rac says that the houses in the Vsetin neighbourhood Poschla, to which some families have been removed, are going mildewy and are not consistent with sanitary regulations. Rac had also a detailed study on the eviction of unadapted families in Vsetin drafted.

“I have sent it to the ombudsman. We will certainly change his mind. The eviction from the dilapidated house also related to the families that regularly paid the rent. This amounts to violation of human rights. No one has the right to do this,” Rac told CTK. Rac said that it was not true that the houses to which the Romanies had been moved fulfilled the conditions of the construction law.

According to the paper Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD), Motejl said that the relocation was consistent with the construction law. Rac said that the flats were going mildewy. The Vsetin town hall started the demolition of the ramshackle house last October. It ejected the local rent-defaulters, mostly of Romany origin, to other houses, some of them outside the town.

At that time, the town hall was led by current Christian Democrat leader Jiri Cunek. Thirteen criminal complaints have been lodged against Cunek over the case.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Slovakia, stop singling out Roma for birth control, ERTF says

31 Marzo 2007 Commenti chiusi

On the occasion of the organisation by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) of an international conference called ?Sharing best practices and tools in addressing the sexual and reproductive rights of the Roma? in Bratislava, the president of the European Roma and Travellers Forum, Rudko Kawczynski expressed concerns about the Federation?s plans and motives.

?I am utmost disgusted that IPPF had to choose Slovakia for the implementation of one of their pilot projects and as a place for today?s venue,? Rudko Kawczynski said reminding that Slovakia had just been under attacks over alleged forced sterilisations of Romani women and that the cases have still not been sufficiently clarified.

?Choosing Slovakia as a place for this conference and not even mentioning the irremediable damage done to Romani women and communities comes as an implicit approval of these policies,? Kawczynski said. While specifying that he was not opposed to sexual education and family planning the president of the European Roma and Travellers Forum said that this should take place in the context of mainstreaming such as information about contraceptives being provided at schools.

?The racist character of this initiative becomes immediately apparent if you replace the word ?Roma? by ?Jews? or any other group. A programme aimed towards improving the access to contraceptives for the Hungarian minority in Slovakia would immediately provoke an outcry. If the same is done for Romani people almost everyone agrees that something needs to be done about their ?uncontrolled? growth,? Kawczynski said.

The aim of the conference was described by the organisers as ?to define mechanisms, share experiences and best practices from different initiatives which could provide a basis for policymakers and civil society to address the needs and to promote the rights of Roma people.?

More specifically, the organisers wanted to share the experiences of two pilot projects carried out in Slovakia and Hungary in the context of IPPF ?Roma project? aimed ?at providing accessible and high quality sexual and reproductive health services and sexuality education for Roma and other marginalized groups.?

The projects seem to receive funding from the European Commission. The International Planned Parenthood Federation has been criticised for its close ties with the international eugenic movement. In 1939, the founder of the organisation, Margaret Sanger launched two ?demonstration programs? in America?s south aimed to promote family planning among the black population.

Sanger described the aims of the ?Negro project? as follows: ?We believe birth control knowledge brought to this group, is the most direct, constructive aid that can be given them to improve their immediate situation.? (Margaret Sanger, July 1939)

Spoloènos pre plánované rodièovstvo, the Slovak partner of IPPF and implementing agency of the project, describes its rational as follows: ?The so-called Roma problem in Slovakia has a historical, cultural and social background extending beyond territorial boundaries of Slovakia. ? According to the analyses made at the meetings mentioned above, the high natality is one of the reasons why the existing situation is deteriorated.

The high birthrate and multiparity result in children not being provided with health care, not obtaining adequate education and later in their lives, they are not able to acquit themselves well on the increasingly demanding labour market. A vicious circle arises, which continues to expand and brings about growing tension in the society.? In the same way as the ?Negro project?, IPPF?s Roma projects rely on the active support of so-called community leaders.

Kawcynski called on the EU Commission not to finance projects which single out Roma for birth control. ?It is an irony that at a time where everyone is concerned about Europe?s declining population, Roma are singled out for programmes of population control. Instead of eliminating poverty these programmes seek to eliminate the poor, in particular, Roma.?

?Common wisdom teaches us that there is a close link between the material situation of a family and the number of children they have. If people increase their material well-being they tend to have fewer children. Roma are not any different from this,? the president of the European Roma and Travellers Forum said urging policy-makers to take resolute action to improve the living conditions of Roma.

The European Roma and Travellers Forum is the international Romani interest representation which gathers Europe?s main international Roma organisations and more than 1,500 member organisations from most of the Council of Europe member states. In December 2004, the Forum signed a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe which provides for special relations between both organisations.

© European Roma and Travellers Forum

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Italy, one race: human race

29 Marzo 2007 Commenti chiusi

We introduce the first part of the relation ?the race between science and myth? proposed on 21 March, world-wide day against racism, from Diego Saccani, Daiana and Manuel Gabrieli that carry out the year of Civil Service to the Nomadic Moral Agency Work Section of Mantova.

The day of studies promoted from Sucar Drom, from the Institute of Sinta Culture and sponsored from the Province of Mantova, has answered to the appeal of United Against Racism and has seen the participation of Nando Sigona, investigator of the University of Oxford and founder of OsservAzione.

The relation is opened with a citation of Ashley Montagu, had the scope to show as the idea of race is near the myth and far to science, than the human race is a single one and that the race concept is a recent invention connected with the exploitation of the slavery.

Moreover it is demonstrated like the Rom languages and Sinte for their characteristic of speech language, have suffered the difference from a language standard to which in the modern states corresponded also onenation.

Part One
One race: Human race

The idea of race is one of the most dangerous and most tragic myth of our time. The myths are much more effective and dangerous as we don?t know their true nature. Many people are pride to think that are the primitive people to believe in myths, while we think that we are completely free from them.

We can be convinced that the myth is a wrong explanation that leads to the disappointment and the social error, but usually we do not realize that we share with all the men of every time and place the faculty to create myths , than everyone has its myth supply, derived from the traditional patrimony of the society in which we live.

In the past times we believed in the magic, in the obsession, in the exorcisms, the good or bad supernatural forces, and still in recent times we believed in the witchcraft. Today many people believe in the race. The race is the witchcraft of our time; the way with which we exorcise the demons. It is the myth of today; the most dangerous myth of the man.
Ashley Montagu (1966)

The human genome is the much less variable one than that one of the greater part of the species on which we have genetic information. In human beings only two bases on thousands is various from an individual to the other. Genetically the human beings are similar to 99.9%.

This implies minimal difference regarding the standard of the other species. This lack of variation is not found not even between our next relatives: chimpanzee, gorilla and orang-utan have approximately an equal variability to 3,2 and 3,5 times regarding ours.

With the analysis of the mitochondrial DNA and of the chromosome Y it is clearly because the human beings are similar. Our common ancestors lived in the most recent times: approximately 150000 years ago.

An insufficient time because the mutations can introduce substantial variations. One unexpected discovery was that the meager existing genetic variation in our species is not correlated if not in minimal part to the race.

The event of the study of Cann and Wilson on the migration of the human beings from Africa, assert that it has happened in a very recent times, while before it was given for sure the isolation of the human groups.

On the base of the model of Pualing-Zuckerlandl, which says that the entity of the genetic divergence between populations is function to the time of isolation, the extended isolation would have allowed the accumulation of consisting genetic differences.

o the light of the studies of Cann and Wilson , our common ancestors are very recent, it is clearly that it is not elapsed enough time because it could generate meaningful divergences.

Therefore, although some genetic differences, as the colour of the skin is manifest in the various groups, those of the race stretch to being limited. The greater part of our meager genetic variation in reality is distributed in uniform way in all the populations: there is the same probability to find one particular varying form in one African and one European.

The genetic variation was aroused before the modern human beings migrate from the African Continent. It was already present in the groups that later colonized the rest of the world.

The researches conduct on the genome plan have established that only 2% of our DNA codify the genes and that indicates that at least 98% of the human variation resides in regions of the genome in which do not have function.

Since the natural selection is effective to eliminate mutations that interest the functional parts of the genome (the genes) the variations stretch to accumulate in not codifying regions (trash DNA).

Not only the genetic difference between humans is small: the real differences that derive are still more insignificant. The greater part of consisting differences that are observed between human groups, like the colour of the skin, is probably fruit of the natural relation.

With the loss of the body hair, the pigment begin necessary in order to protect the coetaneous cells from the ultraviolet solar rays. The pigment cell reduces the damage from UV. The natural selection has favourite the acquisition of the dark skin in order to avoid the cancer, the burns and the infection that derive from the exposure to the beams of the sun .

The population that live to high latitudes has lost the pigment cell, because of the D3 vitamin . When our ancestors exited from Africa moving itself in atmospheres characterize from an emphasized meteorological variability, the natural selection could have favourite the individuals of clear skin.


Cann R.L., Stoneking M., e Wilson A.C., 1987, Mitochondrial DNA and human evolution, Nature, pag.31?36.

Montagu Ashley, (1966) La razza. Analisi di un mito, Torino, Einaudi, pag.21. [ed. or. Man?s most dangerous Myth. The Fallacy of Race, New York 1952]

Zuckerkandl E. & Pauling L. (1962). Molecular disease, evolution and genetic heterogeneity. In Horizons in Biochemisty (B., M. & Pullman, B., eds.) :189-225. Academic Press, London.

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Project boosts Czech self-rules cooperation with Ngos and Romanies

28 Marzo 2007 Commenti chiusi

The Romany Integration Programme, a four-year international project prepared by the Partners Czechs NGO, has helped establish cooperation between self-rule bodies, NGOs and local Romanies in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, the organisers said at the close of the project today.

In some places the programme also helped improve the coexistence between Romanies and the majority population, the organisers told CTK. In the Czech Republic, it focused on the towns Chomutov, north Bohemia, Bruntal, north Moravia, and Pardubice, east Bohemia.

Seminars and training sessions were also attended by representatives of Romanies, authorities, and NGOs from other areas of the Czech Republic. “It cannot be said that everything has improved everywhere. However, initiative has been launched. People started to solve their problems using their own forces,” Partners Czech director Dana Rabinakova told CTK.

She said some NGOs started field work in Romany ghettos. The programme’s coordinator Tomas Habart said that arbitration councils have been established. People now know how to settle discords, which has markedly lowered tension, said Rabinakova.

The programme also included a campaign against prejudices. A spot in which a tram passenger unjustly accuses a Romany of stealing his wallet has been broadcast by TV and screened in cinemas.

A group of Romanies who wish to work in the media have completed a special training including study stays in television, newspaper and radio offices. The whole programme was covered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which spent more than 60 million crowns on it in the three countries.

The Czech organisers received 13.9 million they used to finance 29 projects implemented by 19 organisations in the three towns. Experts estimate that up to 80,000 in the 10 million Czech Republic live in underprivileged blocks of flats and neighbourhoods of which there are more than 300 in the country.

Most of their inhabitants are Romanies. Adult inhabitants of the “ghettos” are usually unemployed and the families live on social benefits. Children usually end up in special schools for less talented pupils. Activists say the local self-rule bodies are often unable to cope with the problem and try to resettle the Romanies on towns’ outskirts

© Prague Daily Monitor

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U.N. Committee criticises Czech Rep. for approach to Romanies

28 Marzo 2007 Commenti chiusi

The Czech Republic should take measures to prevent the re-location of Romanies from towns and villages and placing Romany children in special schools as well as staging neo-Nazi concerts, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended to Czech authorities after a debate on its annual report on the Czech Republic.

The conclusions have been released on the Internet. The committee also criticised the Czech stance on the cases of forced sterilisation of Romany women and reiterated that the Czech Republic should adopt the anti-discrimination law as soon as possible and establish an institution to monitor its observance and help victims of discrimination.

The committee expressed a serious concern about the prevailing negative approach of Czech society to Romanies and prejudices about them. The committee criticised the relocation of Czech Romanies against their will and their segregation and said that the Czech Republic has not taken any measures to prevent it and that it does not support the construction of social housing either.

The committee calls on the Czech Republic to secure equal access to housing without discrimination. Jiri Cunek, Mayor of Vsetin, north Moravia, and current deputy PM, faces criticism for having relocated Romanies, allegedly rent-defaulters, from a dilapidated house in the town centre to a new house made of tin container-like houses on the town’s outskirts last autumn.

Further Romany families were sent away from Vsetin and resettled elsewhere in Moravia. The U.N. committee also mentioned the “racial segregation” of Romany pupils, citing a high number of them in special schools for problem children.

The committee recommended that the state prepare efficient education programmes for Romany children with respect for their culture background. The committee pointed out that a number of Romany children are taken from their families and end up in institutional care.

The committee also focused on forced sterilisations of Romany women. It appreciated that the Czech ombudsman dealt with the cases, but reproached the Czech authorities for not having recognised responsibility for them and secured compensation for possible victims.

The committee called on the Czech Republic to set up clear rules for patients’ consent with surgery after being sufficiently informed about its course and consequences. The committee pointed out that there is no independent body in the Czech Republic to investigate the police work. While Czech Romanies complain about policemen’s discriminatory treatment, the Interior Minister’s Inspection, investigating crimes committed by police, did not register a single case of policemen’s racially motivated acts last year, the U.N. report adds.

The committee said that the Czech police fail to recruit more Romanies. The committee also pointed to a rising number of neo-Nazi concerts in the Czech Republic. The staging of such concerts and participation in them should be prosecuted and punished.

The state institutions and primarily the police should take active and resolute steps in this respect to prevent similar concerts as well as their promotion in the future, the U.N.committee noted in its report.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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U.K., young romnichals speak out

12 Marzo 2007 Commenti chiusi

When Tommy was younger the other school children wouldn’t let him play basketball with them because they were scared they would “get germs”. They called him names and left him feeling alone, hurt and angry, just because he was a Romnichals.

Now Tommy, 14, is one a group of young Scots Romnichals who have decided to speak out against the discrimination and exclusion they so often face. Working with charity Save the Children they have compiled a website, packed with information about their culture, which they hope will help break down the hurtful stereotypes.

Called Time Travellers, the site was part funded by Heritage Lottery money and was launched at Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth by the Princess Royal, Save the Children’s president. Donna Lawrie, youth development worker for the charity, explained: “We’re hopeful that this initiative will go some way to promoting a positive self-image for young gypsy travellers.

The young people have worked so hard putting this resource together to promote the history and cultural traditions of an ethnic group who have been discriminated against for centuries.” Their long history dates back the to the 12th Century.

Some believe they can trace their roots to pre-Celtic populations, others to the Roman slaves brought to Britain as armourers. Today the Scottish Executive estimates there are between 1,628 and 2,077 people but this excludes the thousands who live in houses for all or part of the year. Others do not want to identity their ethnic origin because they fear discrimination.

Culture and history
Consequently Romnichals themselves estimate their community to include about 15,000 people. The site – developed as part of an ongoing youth project – explores Romnichals life both past and present. One section looks at romnichals homes, from the bow tents and ornate wagons of the 19th Century to the modern caravans and permanent trailers in council-run sites where some travellers live today.

Traditional culture is also explored, from the origins of fortune telling and traditional fairs to romnichals superstitions, such as the belief that it’s unlucky to cut your hair or your nails on a Sunday.

Otherwise “there will be blood shed on Monday,” goes the saying. Some of the boys in the group have investigated traveller boxing traditions, and have uploaded footage of recent matches. There is an explanation of the Cant language, which many travellers use mixed with English, and a look at traditional occupations through the centuries including berry and daffodil picking, hawking, pearl fishing and collecting scrap metal and tin.

The young people have also confronted racism, still a reality of all too many of them. Tommy, who lives in a trailer in the summer and a house in winter, was inspired to “make a difference” to his own community by Rachel Hilton, a Scottish campaigner for Romnichals rights who died last May.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about gypsy travellers,” he said. “In Iraq there might be some people who want to bomb the country, but that doesn’t mean they are all bad. “That’s how it is with the gypsies too. One does a bad thing and then it seems like all of us get blamed for it.”

It was not just in playground basketball games that Tommy felt discriminated against. “The minute you tell people you’re a gypsy their attitude completely changes,” he said. “They start being really cheeky and don’t want to touch you or even go near you.” As a result Tommy left secondary school, attends a romnichals education project three days a week and goes out hawking with his dad on the other days.

Chantelle, 20, also faced racism at school. “That’s why the site is important,” she explained. “We don’t want people to judge us. There’s some bad travellers out there, and when people hear about things that they’ve done, they blame every other traveller. We get accused of stealing. They just think, well, you’re a traveller so you must steal.”

She left secondary school after just six months, and though she too went to a romnichals education project she does feel she was disadvantaged. “I did miss out on a lot of things the kids at the high school do,” she admits. “I didn’t get my standard grades so I’m hoping to go back to college and get qualifications.”

Brother and sister George, 14, and Justine, 16, who live on a council site in the Highlands, are happy with their schooling arrangements – one-to-one tuition at the local secondary school to help them catch up on what they missed when they were travelling. But they would still like people to see past the differences and accept them more readily.

Lack of knowledge
“My culture is important to me and it makes me different in some ways,” says Justine, who wants to be a journalist when she is older. “But in others I’m just like everyone else.” George, who speaks Cant and has a theory that it used to be widely spoken across Scotland, agrees.

“Most bad opinions of travellers are based on fears or a lack of knowledge. But if people know more than maybe they will change their opinion.” The site is also an attempt to give other young Scots the information about romnichals culture that will help them make up their own minds.

There are some aspects of Romnichals life that all the young people find hard – the lack of decent site facilities and chilly winter caravans feature amongst complaints. But most feel lucky to have been born into such a rich tradition which is still passed down the generations. As Tommy says: “Living in a trailer is good because you get to travel about a lot, you’re not tied down. “In fact, I think if people knew more about the gypsy traveller lifestyle they might even be a little bit jealous.”

© BBC News

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