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Czech Romanies stage exhibition to mark Roma Day

Prague, 8.4.2008 20:18, (ROMEA/CTK)

Czech Romany activists opened an exhibition paying homage to the victims of racially-motivated crime in Prague on the occasion of the International Roma Day today.

They lit candles near the exhibit panels with the names of 27 Romanies who have been killed by violent perpetrators in the Czech Republic since 1990 over the colour of their skin or their different views.

The panels feature, among others, the names and information about the cases of Tibor Daniel, Tibor Berki or Filip Venclik.

Romany Tibor Berki died from injuries he received when he was attacked by four skinheads.

Eighteen members of the skinhead movement were charged with the murder of Romany Tibor Daniel but only two of them have been convicted and they only received suspended sentences.

Anarchist Filip Venclik was killed by an attacker at a metro station.

"The question is who will be the next. We want to believe in a better future," activist Gabina Hrabanova said.

According to representatives of the Romany Dzeno group, anti-Gypsy tendencies have strengthened in the Czech Republic in the past period.

The Association of Romany Regional Representatives shares this view.

The exhibition was organised by Dzeno. According to its head Ivan Vesely, the organisers did not want to mark this year's Roma Day by dance or song events as usual. On the contrary, they wanted to pay tribute to the victims of racially-motivated violence and point to the situation of Romanies in the Czech Republic and the European Union.

Romanies are the largest minority in the EU. According to estimates, up to 12 million Romanies live in Europe.

Some 11,700 people declared themselves Romanies in the latest national census in the Czech Republic. However, according to estimates, some 250,000 Romanies live in the country.

An analysis has shown that one-third of them live in ghettos in which almost all adults are jobless and families are dependent on welfare benefits. Romany children are placed in schools for children with learning difficulties which closes a path for them to a higher education.

Romanies resent when Czech and European officials describe them as a "social problem," Vesely said.

He told CTK that Romanies would like to participate in the improvement of their situation and want to make decisions concerning them by themselves.

Last year Dzeno addressed an open letter to President Vaclav Klaus calling on him to contribute to the observance of human rights and the improvement of Romany situation in the Czech Republic.

The International Roma Day has been celebrated since 1990 to mark the first meeting of Romany representatives held near London on April 8, 1971.

In the following days, the first world Roma congress took place in Britain at which the International Roma Union was established.

Participants from 14 countries, including the former Czechoslovakia, approved the Roma anthem and the Roma flag at the congress.

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