Is the Roma (Gypsy) population really the most hated ethnic minority in Central Europe? Here is the history, problems, and solutions.
oppressed in Central Europe, have been the object of hatred and violence for hundreds of years. Minority groups such as the Roma will continue to be the subject of violence, prejudice, and persecution by Romanian nationalists if they continue to resist integrating into the society.
A Long History of Difficulty IntegratingRomania is a nationalist country which has a long history of difficulty integrating minorities into their society. The goal of dominant ethnic groups living in Romania is to assimilate the Roma people. Ex-communist countries like Romania find difficulty in addressing ethno-politics as well as protecting minority rights, because they want to avoid encouraging nationalism in minorities, or risk the creation of new independant states. In the case of Romani, nationalism has became so ingrained into their society that it is now considered a cultural value. Electoral processes usually mark times of conflict in Romania. Nationalist organizations such as “Party of Romania National Unity” and the “Greater Romanian Party” speak of a homogenous Romanian country. They strive for a nation that is a melting pot of minorities. It was the extreme nationalist group, Valra Romaneasca (Romanian Hearth) that openly stated that they wanted a blood war against the Roma. All three of these organizations are xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Hungarian, anti-Gypsy. They focus on evoking hatred of dominant ehtnicities toward minority groups living in Romania. For exampl, President Io Iliescu, of Romania, shared a toast with extreme nationalists in 1991, in celebratin of Romania’s national .
Violence Towards the Roma People
There has been a long history of violence toward the Roma. Nationalist groups and even regular citizens living in Romania have been committing hate crimes toward the Roma for decades. During September 1993, about 750 Romanians and Hungarians entered a village in Transylvania where they killed four Roma people, reduced 17 of their dwellings to rubble, and forced 130 Roma to migrate elsewhere.
The Holocaust:During WWII the Nazi period was the most gruesome time in Roma history. Along with the Jews, Roma were sent to extermination camps. “The devouring,” a term used by Roma people to describe the Holocaust, was when approximately half a million Roma people from all over Europe were murdered.
Widespread violence toward the Roma has been occuring since the 15th century, when they were faced with enslavement. It was Romanian military leaders who brought Roma slaves back from other countries in Europe to Romania. Due to the fact that Roma people were good with skilled labours, laws were put in place to ensure that they stayed slaves. Many of these slaves lived harsh lives; some were tortured or even killed.
The Enlightenment and Assimilation:The enlightenment changed Romanian views and a large number of them freed their Roma slaves. However, the depression of 1929 marked an age of nationalism and oppression. Then from 1944 to 1947 minorities were given hope of improved rights and freedom. Stain’s goal was to use the “national minorities as a means for undermining anti-communism in Romania.” During the socialst period that followed, the government tried to put laws and policies in place to encourage assimilation. The traditional occupations of the Roma were made illegal. Their folk music was banned, and the use of Roma language was banned. Even the institution of law and justice, that is supposed to protect the people, persecuted them. As a means for survival many Roma turned to acts of crime, which gave the dominant groups in Romania an even greater reason to be hostile towards them. A number of polls in the 1990’s regarding public opinion revealed the Roma were the most hated ethnic minority in central Europe. People stated that the Roma should be treated poorly, as their behaviour is “provocative.”
Protection of the Roma PeopleDiscrimination is so bad in some European countries that national organizations have been set up to help protect the dispersed Roma populations. The most well-know is the “International Romani Union.” The Roma are of Asian decent, and originate from India and Pakistan. However, even amoung the Roma group there are apparent distinctions; everything from language to geographical background. Many of these Romani tribes can be further sub-divided. Some have managed to integrate in one or more respects, but other tribes have failed all together. I believe, It is in the Romani’s best Interest to band together.
MarginalizationEver since the Rome arrived in Central Europe, approximately 700 years ago, they have been marginalized. The goal of dominant ethnic groups living in Romania is to assimilate the Roma people. Until 1989, there was a policy of assimilation in Romania. Roma were given subsidized housing, medical care, employment and education. However, the cost of this was losing their culture and tradtions. Many Roma did not welcome the forced integration into society. Ten hour workdays and mandaory educations was foreign to them and conflicted with their way of life. With the end of Ceausecu’s life and the communist regime, the assimilation policy was cleared. However, many Romanian citizens have not changed their nationalist mindset. Due to the fact that most of the Roma do not want to assimilate in any regard, they are in a sense contributing to their own marginalization.
The Problem of Education and CrimeFor many Roma children being a part of a mainstream school is almost unbearable. Lessons are not taught in their language so they immediately fall behind. Sometimes they are placed into seperate classes or special education classes. Because of this, Roma and non-Roma children rarely mingle in the school yard. And so, they face discrimination by the other students and occasionally teachers. Due to inadequate education and a high level of unemployment, some Roma have turned to theft. In Central Europe, many citizens have a Roma story about how they were pick pocketed. Even though a large number of economic related crimes are associated with the Roma, they are normally non-violent.
The Road to a Brighter FutureOverall, the Roma people are spread out all over the world. They do not have their own nation or territory, and because of this they cannot successfully defend themselves. This is why dominant groups describe the Roma as being uncivilized. Policies should be created that involve Roma and non-Roma people so that a trust and understanding of each other can be developed. If the Roma strive to become more educated then they will have a greater chance of success with their career paths. There will also be more political representatives of the Roma people, who will be able to voice their interests to the public. Above all, the various Roma people and dominant ethnic groups must work as one if they want to have a brighter future in countries like Romania.