Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Romani Flag

Here is the story of the official Romani flag, as explained by the National Romani Anti-Discrimination Organization, a group which monitors discrimination against the Romani people socially and in the media, and provides accurate information and resources to raise awareness about the Roma internationally.

It was adopted at the First World Romani Congress in London in 1971. The Romani chakra wheel at the center is actually a link to the Roma's Indian origins (the 24-spoked Ashok Chakra is in the center of the national flag of India, the *Tiranga*) and represents movement and the original Creation but the wheel on our flag is the 16 spoke wheel which in India represented the 16 spokes of Gandhi's economic liberation and independence movement. The blue and green are the traditional colors with the red wheel in the center. Blue is the blue sky represents the heavens. Green is the land, organic and growing. The blue symbolizes eternal spiritual values; the green earthly values. The wheel in the center for (the Roma), symbolizes movement and progress and it is red is to honor the blood of those of us who have fallen.

Romani flag

The flag was carried to the United Nations in New York in 1978. Yul Brynner, Professor Ian Hancock, Ronald Lee and John Tene were in attendance and were active in the International Romani Union. . .

(The flag) was voted as our official flag by Romani representatives in Britain, France, Spain, West Germany, the Netherlands, and other non-communist countries of western Europe in the 1960s. It was at the 1971 conference that Romani leaders in Europe decided to create the Petition to the UN requesting some kind of status in the UN for Roma. This was granted in 1979 after (the Romani representatives) carried the flag and the petition to New York in 1978.

Since the collapse of communism. The flag is used by Romani organizations in central-eastern Europe and now in Australia.


[This post originally appeared on Tereza Bottman's Advocacy Project blog.]

Friday, May 28, 2010

Human Rights Journalists Needed Desperately in Central Europe

I just came across a fascinating blog post by award-winning reporter and journalism professor Michael J. Jordan, currently based in Slovakia. His lengthy list of accomplishments includes developing trainings for European Roma journalists.

From his long-term experience in journalism and his discussions with reporters in Central and Eastern Europe, Jordan concludes that the need for human rights journalism is pressing. In his recent meeting with the representatives from Slovak media, Jordan observed:

The assembled reporters... described how tough it can be to make the case to editors for why to approach stories with greater sensitivity, or also pursue positive Roma stories, or report more critically about far-right demonstrations. Or even why the majority should care about the state of its Roma minority – as a “litmus test” for Slovak democracy, values and respect for human rights.

Jordan wonders "out loud" what "fair and balanced" reporting on the Roma issues should look like. The local human rights journalists present explain:

The hatred has been planted so deep, there’s no space for high-minded, Western-liberal, even-handedness in broadcasting. The Roma are so beaten down by society’s perception of them, many have themselves developed low esteem for their own identity and peoplehood.

The information that follows is golden for me and others working with community-based Roma media advocacy groups. Jordan explains that human rights journalism is needed primarily for "the Roma themselves: to remind them of their humanity."

Additionally, he explains, "the second target audience was equally striking: the ordinary (majority citizens) genuinely curious about Roma culture, and those who in fact have some warm feelings for the Roma – or, at least for their Roma neighbor or colleague, past or present."

My AP fellowship's goals match just that. In my work I aim to deliver positive portrayals of the Roma to correct the deeply entrenched, damaging stereotypes so prevalent in European societies. Jordan's piece helps shed more light on yet another aspect of why this type of reporting is needed. This work is needed to boost the Roma community's self-image and morale, which will in turn strengthen the Roma emancipation movement. Pro-Roma press coverage may also help attract more allies from the majority community to advocate for social change. Profound stuff.

[Originally posted on Tereza Bottman's Advocacy Project blog].

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In the News Today

Amnesty International UK published a report today condemning the human rights situation of the Roma throughout the EU. Note the recent ruling in Italy, potentially enabling vigilantism against Roma.

As the EU Observer states:

Segregation of Roma continues to be a serious problem in central and eastern Europe, but also in Italy, where "unlawful forced evictions" drive them further into poverty. Italy also passed new legislation enabling local authorities to authorise associations of unarmed civilians not belonging to state or local police forces to patrol the territory of a municipality, a measure which "may result in discrimination and vigilantism", especially against Roma. Slovakia stands out particularly for Romani children segregation, with the Roma Education Fund reporting that almost 60 percent of them are put in special classes for mentally disabled, although they were not diagnosed as such. Local authorities are criticised for engaging in forced evictions and even erecting walls to separate Roma settlements from the rest of the community. Bratislava is also suspected of turning a blind eye to sterlisation of Romani women.

[Originally published on Tereza Bottman's Advocacy Project blog.]

Who Are the Roma?

From the Roma Rights Network, an organization whose mission is to "bring attention to plight of the Roma" and "raise awareness of the Roma and the issues affecting them. . . through providing a crucial supplement to the mainstream commercial media representations of the Roma:"

["Seeking: Future. Every day the Roma are victims of racism. That's not the solution. Think about it and stop racism."]

Roma and Sinti, who make up the largest minority in Europe today with some 10 to 12 million members, share with the Jews the terrible experience of disfranchisement, persecution and systematic extermination in Nazi-occupied Europe. Half a million members fell victim to the Holocaust, an experience that is burned deep in the collective memory of the Roma and Sinti minorities, but which is still barely acknowledged by the majority in their countries of nationality. As a consequence of the Holocaust, the international political system is extremely sensitive to the various forms of anti-Semitism, whose rise we have observed with great concern in recent years. In contrast to this, there is neither an awareness of the historical dimension of the crimes of genocide committed against our minority nor of the present-day racism that Roma and Sinti are subjected to in many countries.

In the minds of many people, Roma and Sinti are still associated with homeless “nomads”. This contrasts with the historical fact that members of this minority group have been integrated in and are citizens of their respective countries of nationality for many centuries, particularly in Europe. Therefore, most of the European Governments have recognized Roma and Sinti as national minorities who, in addition to the national culture of the majority, also cultivate their own cultural identity, including their traditional language, Romany.

. . . Since the end of the cold war and the opening up of central and eastern European countries in 1990, the living conditions of the Roma and Sinti minority have drastically deteriorated as a result of nascent racism. However, racist-motivated violence and discrimination against Roma and Sinti have significantly increased in a large number of countries in western Europe. As The New York Times correctly observed in a commentary in March 1996, members of the minority are today subjected to marginalization and racism to an extent that corresponds to the situation of African-Americans in the United States up until the mid-1950s.

More here.

[Originally posted on Tereza Bottman's Advocacy Project blog.]