Guest post by Pink Prosecco
Estimates for the number of Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust vary widely. Some put the figure as ‘low’ as 220,000 (roughly the population of Norwich) whereas others believe over a million were killed. This online exhibition focuses on some of the Roma and Sinti children who became victims, or survivors, of the Holocaust.
Recently a memorial to the Roma, designed by the Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan, has been unveiled in Berlin. This project has been subject to many delays, and involved several complex and sensitive decisions:
‘Another of Karavan’s proposals – to use Avraham Shlonsky’s poem “The Vow” – was also rejected, to Karavan’s disgruntlement. “This is a poem that vows to remember – and to forget nothing,” he says. He relates that when Romani Rose heard it for the first time, “His hair stood on edge.” However, when he discovered, two weeks after that, that the poem was already quoted at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the idea was abandoned.
The alternative proposed by the gypsies was a poem by a young poet from the community, Santino Spinelli. However, the poem was about Auschwitz specifically, and Karavan was concerned the memorial would become identified with the death camp and not with the gypsy genocide. The compromise was that the poem would be inscribed on a the floor of the pool, without the word Auschwitz, and with the remark: “Dedicated to [remembering] all the camps where gypsies were murdered.”’
Given the rhetoric and violence against the Roma in some European countries, one would hope that greater awareness of their experiences in the Holocaust – or ‘Porrajmos’ – might encourage people to think twice before demonizing a whole group. But the example of David Ward – who seems to think it’s ‘the Jews’ who needed to take lessons from the Holocaust – demonstrates that a fluent knowledge of historical facts doesn’t always go hand in hand with self-reflection.
Guest post by Pink Prosecco
Economic instability is feeding extremism, leading to persecution of society’s scapegoats.
The rise of Greece’s fascist Golden Dawn party has gone hand in hand with violent attacks against immigrants. The police have been rounding up immigrants on a regular basis, and complaints have been made about both brutality and racial profiling. Also disturbing are the responses of various officials to attempts to house undocumented migrants in unused army camps. The mayor of Corinth threatened to cut off a camp’s water supply and rubbish collection if the migrants weren’t taken away.
In Sweden, a leading member of a party with representation in parliament, Sweden Democrats, has called for Islam to be banned and Muslims to be deported.
Pär Norling’s outrageous suggestion has been greeted with squeals of delight from the blogosphere’s bigots.
The Roma have long been subjected to discrimination in Europe. Hungary, which saw huge numbers of Roma murdered in the Holocaust, is undergoing a marked revival of anti-Roma feeling. The far right Jobbik party is particularly vocal on this issue:
“”We need to roll back these hundreds of thousands of Roma outlaws. We must show zero tolerance towards Roma crime and parasitism,” Jobbik chairman Gabor Vona told a rally of several hundred people in Heroes’ Square in central Budapest.”
For him too, the backup solution is deportation – even though the Roma have lived in Europe for centuries.
Antisemitism is another perennial problem. It’s one thing putting on a racist play as a curiosity, recognizing that times have moved on. But even though István Csurka’s play ‘The Sixth Coffin’, recently staged in Hungary, indulges in antisemitic conspiracy-mongering its director seems unconcerned; Eve Balogh writes about it here:
“What is truly frightening is the reaction of the play’s director, Zsolt Pozsgay. To him “Csurka only used a historical event in its historical reality.” As for its antisemitism, to Pozsgay “there are no antisemitic thoughts in the play. There are only historical facts.””
In Britain, such views are much less mainstream. However here too there are problems. To take just one example, disability hate crime is on the rise, with over 65,000 incidents reported last year. This crime, like racism, is aggravated by economic uncertainty and fuelled by irresponsible media reporting of benefit fraud. As Nicky Clarke points out in the Independent:
“These many articles fail to appreciate the fact that fraudulent benefit claims make up for less than 1% of the welfare bill. More is lost by the DWP annually in administrative error, yet hundreds of articles lay the blame for the welfare bill at the feet of disabled “scroungers” People don’t appreciate nuance as Peter Greener discovered. His neighbour saw genuine disability and automatically thought “scrounger”. The message is getting distorted and it’s disabled people who are paying the price.”
The government is not of course actively provoking such crimes, but it needs to reflect on the way its rhetoric may be helping to fan the flames of hatred and intolerance.
Roma around the world celebrate this day in tribute of the first World Roma Congress held in Orphington, near London in 1971.
Since 1971, decisions of the World Roma Congress largely shaped our struggle for dignity. Ever since, a moral high ground enshrined in those decisions elevates our determination to the cause. They present a transnational political code for future generations of the Roma people.
With these words in our hearts and minds, Roma world-wide could celebrate International Roma Day together in unity under the motto: United in Peace, Prosperity and Solidarity!
On Sunday 8th of April 2012, at 12:00 noon all the Roma around the world can unite through the flow of the rivers, seas and oceans. Let us gather at noon to cast flowers into our nearest river, sea, ocean. Let the spirit of the International Roma Day unite us!
A large group of Roma activists in Budapest will gather and cast flowers into the Danube. We call on all Roma to organize celebrations, cast flowers and share this information with others in order to initiate the unity of Roma in the world.
Organizing Committee, Budapest 8th of April
The Romani Diaspora began 1000 years ago from what is now Northern India. There are at least 12 million Roma scattered throughout the world. In Europe, Roma people are the largest minority population and have been living in primarily Eastern countries since the Romani Diaspora.
By James Bloodworth. Cross-posted from Obliged to Offend
I don’t know about you, but before I tuned into the Channel Four show I had no idea what a big fat gypsy wedding was. I assumed it must be something to do with gypsies and weddings, obviously, but I failed to grasp why such a program would ever make it on to television. Lots of people get married, I reasoned, so why should a gypsy wedding be more deserving of airtime than anything else.
So I did it. I tuned in. And now everything has become a little clearer. Despite the assurances of Channel Four that the program is about combating the negative tabloid portrayal of gypsies, the whole thing stuck to the script more comprehensively than a Daily Mail editorial. Smashing stereotypes? Hardly. More like hammering them home with a sledgehammer and a stick of dynamite.
While I am arguably too young to delve deep into the archives of television history (I am 29), I struggle to recall a time when so much of the weekly schedule was filled with programmes designed to allow us, the public, to look down with disdain on other, more marginal groups; and usually under a pseudo-progressive guise of empathising with those on the receiving end of our spiteful laughter.
I do not wish to single out Channel Four here. They are, after all, only commissioning programs they believe (and correctly, in the case of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings) will be popular. Look elsewhere if you prefer. Turn on the Jeremy Kyle show; watch one of Ricky Gervais’s recent offerings; listen to a Frankie Boyle joke; dig out the Little Britain DVDs. Wherever you look this type of “entertainment” has gradually taken over our television screens, pumping up the self-esteem of the middle classes by giving a sly kick to those clinging on to the lower rungs of the social ladder.
Oh it’s just a joke, I can hear you say. Lighten up. You’re taking things too seriously.
So why the pretence of empathy then? Why not simply make television that unapologetically mocks the poor, the deformed, the degenerate and the non-conformist?
For one thing that would require an admission that under all the politically correct plumage, we are perhaps not the welcoming and tolerant a society we smugly and repeatedly profess to be. There are political implications, too. Is popular support for David Cameron’s welfare reforms really about fair play and “common sense”, or have we become so used to viewing those less fortunate than ourselves as the equivalent of another species that we no longer even care what happens to them? The London riots? “Sheer criminality”; the teenagers on Jeremy Kyle? “Chavs”. Travellers? “Gypos”. Simple, comforting, and most importantly perhaps, a way to feel better about ourselves in an era where fatalism has replaced the idea that a better world is possible.
The thing which seems to provoke the heartiest laughter and the greatest mirth of all, I am gradually discovering, is any attempt by the disenfranchised to emulate those more fortunate than themselves. The mock-celebrity names the council estate Mothers give to their children; the scantily clad gypsy girls copying the provocative dance moves of their favourite pop stars; the transsexuals expressing outwardly what they feel inside; the overweight people trying desperately to look how they’ve been told they are supposed to look. How dare they? we collectively seem to ask. Don’t they know their station?
Laughing in the face of the vulnerable seems to have caught on at about the time we finally lost all control over what happens at the other end of society. The global rich no longer listen to us, so instead we spend our time looking downwards and sneering at easier targets. Perhaps we recognise something of ourselves in the powerless, and giving them a good kicking is a sort of masochistic exercise, not unlike electing politicians such Boris Johnson and David Cameron. Whatever the reason, it seems the television equivalent of the freak show is here to stay.
The riots of August 2011 should have put paid to the idea that we could go on laughing at the underclass forever. It didn’t though; and if you want a picture of the future, you could do worse than imagine a Vicky Pollard-type figure being hurt and humiliated publicly – forever.
Posted on October 19, 2011 by dalefarmsupport
The Dale Farm community have put out a desperate plea for land on the eve of the eviction.
Basildon Council has repeatedly refused an offer of free land by the Homes and Communities Agency to rehouse the Dale Farm community. 
In the Court of Appeal on Monday, the barrister for the Dale Farm residents stated “there will be a number of families on the roadside if your lordship rules against us today”. The forced eviction, which has been condemned by the United Nations and Amnesty International, threatens 83 families with homelessness. 
Dale Farm resident Kathleen McCarthy said:
“We are staying until we are forced from our land because we have nowhere else to go. Everyone we know is here on Dale Farm, all our families and friends. Who else is there to turn to? Why did Basildon Council turn down the offer of land for alternative sites for people of Dale Farm? They are tearing apart our community, leaving us to bring up our kids on the roadside.”
Dale Farm supporter Lily Hayes said:
“Irish Travellers are a recognised ethnic group, and their culture and communities depend on maintaining their lifestyle, living in caravans as extended families who care for their children and elderly. They have a right to continue their way of life, yet it is being criminalised. They’re stuck between a rock and hard place, as they are being told that they can’t travel, but neither can they stay on the land that they own. The Dale Farm residents and their supporters are standing together today to resist this injustice.”
Background to Dale Farm
Traveller and Gypsy communities have been increasingly marginalised by changing laws over the last two decades. In 1994, the Conservative government repealed the Caravan Sites Act, reducing the obligation for local councils to provide sites. At least 5000 families were left without any legal home.
The Gypsies and Travellers were told that they should look for their own sites and buy their own land and that councils would give them planning permission. This is what the Dale Farm community did, with most of them moving to the site in 2000. However, 90% of Travellers planning applications are turned down, compared with 20% for the settled community. Families have been forced to either go into housing or apply for planning permission retrospectively.
There has been a national failure of local councils to provide pitches. Councils have a duty to accommodate Travellers as part of Regional Spatial Strategies, yet nationally councils are 20,000 pitches short of their legal duties . This figure leaves out pitches for the estimated 50% of the Traveller, Roma and Gypsy population who are living against their will in bricks and mortar accommodation . 18 per cent of Gypsies and Travellers were homeless in 2003 compared to 0.6 per cent of the population. The Conservative government are now attempting to abolish the Regional Spatial Strategies.
 In August 2011 the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik appealed to the UK government to cease the evictions at Dale Farm, warning the government that without appropriate alternative sites, the eviction breaches international Human Rights legislation to which the UK government is committed. Also in August, 2011, Amnesty International launched a call out to its massive international membership imploring campaigners to condemn forced evictions at Dale Farm if these are instigated without alternative provisions being made available to families.
 It is important to note that Romani Gypsies and Irish Travellers have been held to be ‘ethnic’ groups for the purpose of the Race Relations Act (RRA) 1976. In CRE v Dutton,1 the Court of Appeal found that Romani Gypsies were a minority with a long, shared history, a common geographical origin and a cultural tradition of their own.
In O’Leary v Allied Domecq,2 HHJ Goldstein reached a similar decision in respect of Irish Travellers. Although a county court judgment, it should be noted that, in Northern Ireland, Irish Travellers are explicitly protected from discrimination under Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 article 5, and this makes it highly unlikely that their status as members of a separate ethnic group could be open to challenge again in the United Kingdom.
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From Dale Farm solidarity:
UPDATE: Look around Dale Farm today you will find a community of increasingly stressed and sleepless but undefeated residents: grandparents, parents, children, and babies living close together, supporting each other, and welcoming into their midst supporters of all ages and backgrounds: altogether so many thoughtful, considerate, and inspiring people who are part of many different humanitarian, political, religious, and mutually supportive communities and groups who don’t want to stand by while hundreds of Travellers are brutally and senselessly evicted from their homes.
Government inspectors say that Basildon has a “dire shortage” of Gypsy and Traveller sites, and have placed pressure on the Council to provide 62 pitches. So when Basildon council repeats the statement that they are simply upholding the law, they are masking a huge injustice. The Travellers from Dale Farm have nowhere to go, but the council would rather throw them out on the roadside than find appropriate land for Travellers to live on. Planning Inspector Mark Dakeyne has stated that: “There is a clear and immediate need for more sites in the district.”
Bishops have offered their services to help mediate between the council and the Dale Farm community to avoid the costly forced eviction. The residents of Dale Farm gratefully accepted the offer – they have always made it clear that although they don’t want to be uprooted they are willing to move on from the site peacefully, if an alternative viable site is found. After visiting Dale Farm on Tuesday, Bishop Thomas McMahon and Bishop Stephen Cottrell of the Diocese of Chelmsford said in a statement, ‘if elderly and infirm people were shown on TV being forced out of their homes, we wouldn’t think we were watching something happening in England, but that is what will happen here.’ So far, Basildon Council has not responded to the Bishops offer of mediation. Dale Farm Solidarity calls on Tony Ball, the leader of Basildon Council, to accept this offer and avoid the spectre of forced eviction.
The UN have released a statement condemning the eviction of families from Dale Farm, when no alternative land has been found for the families to live on and so that the community will be made homeless. “We call on the Government to suspend the planned eviction, which would disproportionately affect the lives of the Gypsy and Traveller families, particularly women, children and older people,” the Committee members said. “We urge the authorities to find a peaceful and appropriate solution, including identifying culturally appropriate accommodation, with full respect for the rights of the families involved…Travellers and Gypsies already face considerable discrimination and hostility in wider society and the Committee is deeply concerned that this could be worsened by actions taken by authorities in the current situation and by some media reporting of the issues,” the Committee added.
Dale Farm Solidarity is standing with the Dale Farm community and calling out for support. Since the deadline has passed for the eviction notice period, families are increasingly stressed and in need of strong physical presence on site to feel some safety. A Dale Farm mother came to the gates early yesterday morning, in tears asking us to collect timber, to help strengthen barricades to keep out the bailiffs, and to keep her family safe, saying she couldn’t sleep for fear. She has nowhere to go and is living in fear of eviction and homelessness. The situation is desperate for the families and community at Dale Farm who have nowhere to go and families to look after, including many sick relatives and young children.
The council is imposing a blockade on the roads around Dale Farm, leaving the residents feeling trapped, penned in, scared, and persecuted. This is how rural England does ethnic cleansing and it has to be stopped. So, there’s loads to do…
- Come to Dale Farm – see here for a little clip of life on Dale Farm and at Camp Constant. Directions to the site are here.
- On Sunday, Sept 4th at 12 noon [note time change]: join the Jewish Solidarity visit to Dale Farm — it’s important that cultures with a shared history of oppression support each other when our fundamental human rights face being breached. That is why this Sunday, Jewish rabbis, citizens and activists will be on site for a special blockade in support of residents at Dale Farm.
- There is a workshop, on Sunday Sept. 4th, 2pm, at Dale Farm: Freedom of Movement and the Right to Stay! This is the rallying cry for Roma, Gypsies and Travellers and of migrants throughout the world. A common thread of persecution, of forbidden lands, eviction and deportation connect the struggles for migrant rights and the rights of Gypsies and Travellers. These realities have met dramatically in the crack-down and deportations of Roma people from France and Italy. Come to the Workshop organised by No One Is Illegal and London No Borders including a speaker who is an activist in Amnesty International’s campaign against the persecution of Roma in Europe.
- Check the webpage for stuff that’s needed on site that you could donate/bring along, see here.
- If you can’t get to us in person, and you are able, please donate – the residents want to be sure there is a strong and constant presence of supporters on site, and that means feeding and supporting people there.
- Demonstration Saturday 10th September, 1pm, Wickford Station – Stop Basildon Council Tories and the Home Office Wasting Millions Bulldozing Dale Farm. This is only a week away, and we need help spreading the word to make it as big as possible, on facebook (‘the dale farm demonstration’), twitter, email lists, in meetings. For more info see here. The demonstration will go from Wickford Station to Dale Farm, leaving Wickford at 1pm. If you can help with transport or need transport from your area, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
As the launch of Camp Constant on August 27th approaches, the authorities appear poised to blockade Dale Farm.
ROAD BLOCK WARNING: Notices have gone up along Oak Road, adjacent to Dale Farm, saying that the road will be closed to all but residents from Friday, Sept. 2nd. See http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/contact for details. Both ends of Oak Road will be blocked (blocking access via both Hardings Elm Road and Gardiners Lane North). Additionally, the lay by on the southern end of Oak Lane (leading on to the A127; by the white ‘Basildon onion’ water tower) will be blocked. There will be a no stop zone on the footpaths on the A127 between A176 at Billericay and A132 at Wickford. Residents are feeling under siege, with children asking how many more nights they are going to be able to sleep in their beds. Dale Farm is a big site, so it should be possible to find routes in, but be advised that after Sept. 1, it will be harder to get in, and likely impossible to get vehicles in.
WATER AND ELECTRICITY TO BE CUT: The Council have released information that they intend to cut water and electricity supplies from Dale Farm after the eviction notice period expires on midnight 31st August. This will leave sick, elderly, young, and pregnant residents without access to water or electricity. Amnesty International have condemned the removal of vital water and electricity in these circumstances, and asked their supporters to put pressure on the council to cease this action which represents a serious violation of human rights. An injunction has been sought in consideration of two residents who are dependent upon a constant electricity supply for nebulisers, without access to which their lives are placed in serious jeopardy. See Amnesty’s Kartick Raj speaking to BBC Essex this week.
CAMP CONSTANT: On Saturday, 27th August, we will launch CAMP CONSTANT a solidarity and resistance camp for supporters of the Dale Farm community. JOIN US.
See: http://dalefarm.wordpress.com/activity for more information, the weekend’s schedule of workshops, and a welcome pack.
DESPERATE PLEA TO UN: Richard Sheridan as president of the Gypsy Council has been involved in eleventh-hour negotiations with the UN Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva; the Special Raporteur has already entreated the UK Government to cease the evictions and to ensure the families at Dale Farm are offered viable culturally appropriate alternative sites. Lord Avebury will accompany Dale Farm residents to 10 Downing Street on Thursday, 25th August to present a petition to the PM calling for the eviction to be called off.
INDEPENDENT MEDIA: Any independent media people planning to come on to the site (with video, cameras, etc) please read this first and make contact…
DONATE: use this paypal link to donate some money to the camp.
LONDON INFO-EVENT & MEETING: 2pm, Thurs, 25th August, at the Haircut before the party, Whitechapel…see here for more info.
MAKING THE CONNECTIONS: Workshop, Sunday Sept. 4th, 2pm, Camp Constant, Dale Farm. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Stay! This is the rallying cry for Roma, Gypsies and Travellers and of migrants throughout the world. A common thread of persecution, of forbidden lands, eviction and deportation connect the struggles for migrant rights and the rights of Gypsies and Travellers. These realities have met dramatically in the crack-down and deportations of Roma people from France and Italy. Come to the Workshop organised by No One Is Illegal and London No Borders including speaker who is an activist in Amnesty International’s campaign against the persecution of Roma in Europe.
RISE UP!: We cannot stand by and do nothing while the UKs largest Travellers site, home to hundreds of families, including many children, elderly and sick residents, is brutally evicted. Travellers should not have to live in constant fear of eviction with their lives and communities under constant threat. They should not have to be forced out of their homes and off their land by bulldozers and police. This constant hounding, marginalisation, and lack of provision is how rural England does ethnic cleansing. It is time for a resurgence of support for Gypsy and Traveller communities. Time to stand against the extreme racial discrimination faced by Gypsies and Travellers. Time to defend the right of Gypsies and Travellers to land, life, respect, and dignity.
From Ozzy (United Left email list):
If anyone fancies a trip to Cambridge on Monday 22nd August, we have a meeting planned to discuss solidarity with the travellers under threat of eviction from Dale Farm in Essex:
7.30 pm: ‘Dale Farm’ – a short film
8.00 pm: Kathleen O’Brien; an Irish traveller family living in Dale Farm will discuss the impact of repeated evictions and police questionings
8.45 pm: Dale Farm Solidarity; local supporters will talk about traveller history and about how the solidarity movement is working to support the Dale Farm community.
Dale Farm, in Basildon, Essex, just 50 miles from Cambridge, and Europe’s largest Traveller site, faces imminent demolition. Although repeatedly described by Basildon council as green-belt land, Dale Farm was a concreted scrap yard when it was bought by Travellers more than 30 years ago and there is documentary evidence proving this. Since then, Dale farm has become a vibrant community of Irish Travellers. But from midnight on August 31st 2011, half the site, including around 90 families, more than 100 children and many seriously ill older residents, will be liable to forced evictions. Basildon Council is set to spend £18 million on an avoidable eviction at a time of cuts and widespread social unrest. This action is indefensible. It is a huge waste of public money that should be spent on supporting, not destroying, communities. It is also an act of ethnic cleanising which will result in huindreds of Travellers being made homeless, being pushed out of the area, severed from family and friends, from schools and vital health care services.
Dale Farm families have offered to leave peacefully given an appropriate alternative place to live, but the council has refused to fulfil itsobligation to provide more Traveller pitches. in August 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, and Amnesty International have spoken out in condemnation of Basildon Council’s proposed forced evacuations at Dale Farm.
Come to the Cambridge info-night on 22nd August to find out more: The Old School Meeting Room, rear of St Barnabus Church, Mill Road, Cambridge.
Press contact: Jessica 07747778811
Eviction notices have been served to 51 traveller families on the Dale Farm
site in Essex, sparking a call for activists to help defend their homes.
Basildon Council has served the notices which give them until the end
of August to leave Dale Farm, which was first occupied in 2001.
Travellers at the site, thought to be the largest “illegal” encampment in Europe and home to
around 400 people, have offered to leave peacefully if alternative plots are
provided for them.
The cost of enforcing the eviction has been put at more
than £10 million, with finance coming from the Home Office, Essex Police,
Basildon Council and the Department for Communities and Local Government and
Instead of persecuting a minority community, they could spend the
money protecting jobs and services, and help integrate the travelling community
into society instead of demonising them as scroungers and criminals.
Activists are being urged to join a resistance activity weekend on
Saturday July 9, which will include sessions on legal observer training,
discussions with residents and other resistance activity workshops.
A call-out has also been made for supporters to join Camp Constant on Friday July 29
To find out more about Dale Farm and how you can help visit http://dalefarm.wordpress.com or search on Facebook for Dale
H/t: William Lodge