Thursday, April 8, 2010

April 8: International Day of the Roma

Today is the International Day of the Roma. The Roma are the largest ethnic minority in the Czech Republic, and across Europe, there are an estimated 10 million Roma people.

The Roma face intense discrimination and continue their struggle for human rights all across the continent.

As the European Roma Rights Center states, "across Europe, the fundamental rights of Roma are still being violated on a regular basis. Repetitious cases of racist violence and hate speech targeting Roma are reported frequently. Roma are also subject to discrimination in accessing employment, education, health care, and public and social services."

The Czech Roma press agency explains that the International Day of the Roma was established in 1971 when the first-ever World Roma Congress took place near London. The nearly thirty delegates who attended the congress "also officially established the first international Romani organization, initially called the World Romani Union. They also officially approved the use of the term 'Rom' instead of 'Gypsy'. Two more IRU congresses followed, and during the fourth congress in Warsaw in 1990, the 8th of April was recognized as an international holiday."

Again from

The day was selected because it was the day on which international Roma cooperation was given the official seal of approval and the Romani movement achieved an international, sociopolitical dimension. On this day, celebrants are meant to remember their common cooperation, culture, language, origin, unity, and primarily, their Romipen.

Here is a beautiful and moving rendition of the international Romani anthem "Gelem, gelem":

The lyrics are as follows:

Gelem, gelem, lungone dromensa/I went, I went on long roads
Maladilem bakhtale Romensa/I met happy Roma
A Romale katar tumen aven,/O Roma where do you come from,
E tsarensa bahktale dromensa?/With tents on happy roads?

A Romale, A Chavale/O Roma, O brothers

Vi man sas ek bari familiya,/I once had a great family,
Murdadas la e kali legiya/The Black Legions murdered them
Aven mansa sa lumniake Roma,/Come with me Roma from all the world
Kai putaile e romane droma/For the Roma roads have opened
Ake vriama, usti Rom akana,/Now is the time, rise up Roma now,
Men khutasa misto kai kerasa/We will rise high if we act

A Romale, A Chavale/O Roma, O brothers

Even Hillary Clinton recorded today, on the occasion of The International Day of the Roma a video message advocating for Roma rights, in which she said:

"Despite important progress that has been made in the past decade, many Roma still live on the margins of society. They continue to experience racial profiling, violence, discrimination and other human rights abuses. Too often they lack identity documents or citizenship papers, which excludes them from voting, social services, education, and employment opportunities that would enable them to participate more fully in the countries in which they live. . . The United States is committed to protecting and promoting the human rights of Roma . . . I urge governments throughout Europe to continue their efforts to address the plight of Roma, end discrimination and ensure equality of opportunity in education and employment so that Roma can fulfill their greater promise of success and achievement."