Roma activist and intellectual Nicolae Gheorghe has passed away
Today, at the age of 67, the Roma activist, humanist and intellectual Nicolae Gheorghe of Romania passed away.
Nicolae Gheorghe was born on 12 November 1946 in Rosiori de Vede, Romania. His parents came from Roma groups that had been linguistically assimilated in Romania for centuries.
When he was six the family moved to Bucharest. His father worked as a driver and was nicknamed Tigan ("Gypsy").
As a child his mother would not let him visit the neighborhoods near their home that were predominantly Roma. He became more and more integrated into Romanian society, attending a military academy outside of Bucharest against his parents' wishes.
He graduated from the academy in 1968 and earned his degree in philosophy and sociology in 1972 as one of the best students in his class. He then began to work at the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences in Bucharest.
In 1974, after attending the World Congress on Population in Bucharest, he began to work on Roma issues. He was part of the National Commission on Demography, which contributed to elaborating a program for including marginalized populations (Roma) into the Romanian Communist Party.
In 1978 he wrote a letter to Radio Free Europe describing the difficult situation of Roma in Romania. For that and other reasons he was subsequently investigated by the Romanian secret police, the Securitate.
In 1984, together with Ioan Mirescu, he organized a concert by Roma artists at the stadium in Timisoara that was attended by more than 30 000 people. Immediately after the events of December 1989 he became a minority expert in the new government and contributed to the creation of the Democratic Union of Roma in Romania and the Ethnic Federation of Roma.
His vision was to organize Roma into civic organizations, to defend the rights of the most vulnerable groups, and to advocate for their interests when implementing projects. "I think the relationship with Roma in each society should serve as a kind of 'barometer' measuring the state of democracy and the transition to democracy in various countries. The relationship of the public to the Roma issue should also serve as a way to verify whether democratic institutions, the rule of law, and a consolidated civic movement and civic associations are being built up. That applies in particular to the case of the newly established democracies in Central and Eastern Europe, where most of the world's Roma population lives," Nicolae Gheorghe said.
Roma people worldwide are expressing their condolences on social networking sites.
"Nicolae Gheorghe, rest in peace! He will remain in our thoughts as a brilliant, intelligent personality and a devoted advocate of defending Roma. He always radiated optimism and respect. He dedicated his entire life, until the very end, to Roma and society as a whole! For us, that is an example worth following," Valery Novoselsky of Roma Virtual Network posted on Facebook.
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