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The Romani

Homeless in Europe

Romani woman, photographed by Tomasz Tomaszewski

First of all "Romanian” and “Romani” are not the same so don't mistake them as synonyms and secondly the word “Gypsy” in relation to the Romani is a derogatory slur. However in many western colonies the term Gypsy came into popular use as a marketing ploy, a romantic notion and a description for those reluctant to conform although the origin remains a derogatory.

Origins

The Romani are Europe's largest minority group and it's generally accepted that they migrated from northwest India some 1,500 years ago. Over this period they have mixed with local populations and despite many tragedies and attempts at extermination, their numbers today are about 11 million.

Christopher Columbus took Romani slaves tot he new world and they along with many Irish were shipped as slaves over to America to work on the colonies as a solution to Europe’s “Gypsy Problem” during the colonial period. There have been countless of laws against Romani in America as well (some of them only got repealed in 1998). “Gypsy Taxes” were also a big thing in America where they taxed the Romani for simply existing who by law were also prohibited from settling in some states/cities, and in other places they had to pay fines if they wanted to settle and/or do any business. Anyone Romani who didn’t have a license had to pay a fine and could be thrown in jail for not showing their license whenever asked to and the law allowed the common people to seize all Romani property.

Many Europeans hate the Romani claiming that none have jobs or that they only live off welfare checks when it’s Europe’s fault for disinheriting the Roma of their basic rights to life and liberty which forces them to live in poverty. Over hundreds of years, the Roma have been systemically denied their rights to education & non-discrimination in primary education and are overwhelmingly segregated in “Roma-only” schools/classes. Even when Roma children get the chance to attend normal schools, non-Roma parents usually have to remove their children from those schools, resulting in the faculties becoming “Roma only” too because of the large scale non-Roma departures.

A lot of Romani children have also been purposely misdiagnosed with mental disabilities as a result of culturally-biased diagnostic tools and anti-Roma prejudice among psychology and pedagogic experts and send to special schools for children with “mild mental disabilities”, when there is no need for them to be there. As a result to that they are condemned to low-quality, segregated education and limited opportunities for further education and employment. Even though under national European and international law, discrimination in the field of education is prohibited, in practice it’s still happening and the authorities continue to let this discrimination slide which has far-reaching consequences for thousands of Roma children who remain segregated in inferior education that traps them in a cycle of poverty and marginalization including children taken away by the government, women forcibly sterilized and girls subjected to sex trafficking.

On top of that a lot of Roma cannot get jobs because of racism, traditional anti-Romani attitudes and a mixture of prejudice against Romani. It’s not for no reason that Romani are deemed “Europe’s Most Hated.” A lot of Romani literally have to look through trash and look for scrap metal and copper that they can resell for a little money to survive, not having any other choice because nobody will hire them. This is why a lot of Roma live trapped in the cycle of poverty and can’t get jobs.

As wild as Jasmine - As spicy as Cayenne
I think this describes Most Romani women and men
Like Water / Sar o Paj
A collection of poems by Romani women

Roma Genocide Remembrance Day

Today's romantic viewpoint

The Romani genocide/holocaust, also known as Samudaripen, was the planned and attempted effort, during World War II by the government of Nazi Germany and its allies to exterminate the Romani people of Europe alongside the Jews in places like Auschwitz.

The Roma were branded with hot irons, women had their ears cut off and made us wear a brown inverted triangle to distinguish them from the others. They were persecuted, deported to concentration camps, tortured, murdered, used us as human subjects for perverted experiments, thrown in specific “Gypsy Ghettos” because the Germans wanted “.. to toss in the Ghetto everything that is characteristically dirty, shabby, bizarre, of which one ought to be frightened, and which anyway has to be destroyed.” and much more.

The Nazis even implemented a Eugenics research program, which had the purpose of “proving” that Romani people were an “inferior race” which was why Nazi scientists travelled within Nazi occupied Europe documenting the Romani communities. Roma were forced to undergo DNA tests and something similar to the “one drop rule” was applied – even if you only had a rather small insignificant % of Romani blood you were still seen as Romani and persecuted.

No one knows how many Roma actually survived this horror, since no one ever bothered to list the victims or survivors. A lot of historians were (and still are) very biased against Romani people so it’s especially hard to get clear numbers. Some historians estimate that the number of Romani victims lies between 220,000 to 500,000 but the real death toll may exceed 2 million as up to 90% of Europe’s Romani population was exterminated by the Nazis.

The Romani Holocaust ended in 1945, yet it took until 1982 (37 years later) for it to be formally “recognized” that a genocide has been committed, and even then it was only recognized by Germany. An apology to the Romani has never been received. The German government paid war reparations to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust but not to the Romani. The Interior Ministry of Wuerttemberg argued that “Romanis were persecuted under the Nazis not for any racial reasons but because of an asocial and criminal record which is clearly not true and there are countless of articles proving this statement wrong.

The Roma who survived the Holocaust were regularly accused of lying about their experience and were denied any help or recognition. It was not until the 1990s that Romani who had suffered the concentration camps were entitled to apply for proper compensation. Roma have been killed because of the Nazi’s racism, traditional anti-Romani attitudes and a mixture of prejudice towards Romani people – we were defined “enemies of the race-based state”. Yet this is still continually erased from the history books or barely even worth a footnote.

European countries continue to make no or insufficient mention of the Roma victims in their official position regarding the Holocaust when they should put some effort into making the Roma genocide widely known and recognized to serve as a counter force to the increasingly violent rhetoric and action against Roma. In Hungary the 2nd of August was designated in 2005 by the Parliament as “Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day”, yet most European countries make no or insufficient mention of the Roma victims in their official position regarding the Holocaust.  Please also respect that this day is not about all Holocaust victims like 27th January. It’s specifically about the Romani Holocaust victims who continue to get excluded from the topic of the Holocaust/WWII even 72 years after this horror ended. The reason why 2nd August was picked as the date is also exclusively related to the Romani victims and has something to do with the Romani Day of Resistance.

Given the generations of discrimination and abuse that has prevented them from settling and fitting into society, the Roma have adapted to survive. They are artists and crafts people, fortune tellers, entertainers and healers driven by the need to survive in a hostile world. Few know their history or even care yet they like you and me, we are all human and deserve equal respect and opportunity.

Kon mangel te kerel tumendar r.oburen ‘ci 'soxa phenela tumen o 'ca'cimos
pa tumare perintonde,
He who wants to enslave you will never tell you the truth about your forefathers.

Links:
Live Science
Local bad girl and Romani activist

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