David Tišer, Roma candidate to the Czech lower house: My dream is fulfillment for all
An unusually high number of Romani people are running in this year's early elections compared to years past. The monthly Romano voďi, published by the ROMEA association, has done its best to interview all the candidates running for the lower house and will run those interviews in addition to publishing analytical material about the elections.
News server Romea.cz will be gradually publishing these interviews. We consider these elections to be important, key, and we hope to bring you the opinions of all those asking for your vote.
Today's interview introduces David Tišer, who is running for the Green Party (Strana zelených - SZ) in the Plzeň Region in third place on the candidate list.
Q: How long have you been a member of the SZ and why did you join that party in particular? Have you ever been a member of a different political group before this?
A: I have never been a member of any other political party. I am a Green Party voter because it is the only party that gives room to human rights topics that have long been important to me. It was a natural development to become a party member. When the offer to run for the Greens during the parliamentary elections was made, I accepted it without hesitation.
Q: The enumeration of your professional activities is extremely wide-ranging and sometimes even prompts confused reactions, so let's get it right now: Do you stand by the claim that you really are everything you mention in your biography, i.e., an actor, an activist, a filmmaker, etc.? How are we to understand this?
A: I think I can stand by all of my activities because I have achieved rather convincing results. In 2012 I established the AraArt civic association, which is the only one in the Czech Republic that advises Romani members of the LGBT minority. I also established the Crisis Committee (Krizový štáb), which is comprised of Romani college and high school graduates and students who express their views on crisis situations that seriously endanger Romani interests. We initiated a petition to preserve the Romani museum in Brno and thanks to our members' activities we got around 2 000 signatures. I believe this helped our museum retain its original sovereignty. I have been involved in the civic activist field in many areas, so probably the easiest thing is to "Google" me. I can humbly say that I also have experience with acting. In 2011 I played one of the title roles in the play "My Neighbor, My Enemy" (Můj soused, můj nepřítel) at the National Theater. I was nominated for the Alfréd Radok Prize in the category of Talent 2011 for that performance. Just yesterday I turned down an offer to perform in the television series "Gympl" (High School). As a filmmaker, it may be enough to say that I have made documentary films for Czech Television and that I wrote the screenplay for the docudrama "Roma Boys". That received three awards at the FAMU festival in 2008 and also won the "Best Czech Film" award at the Fresh Film Fest in 2010. I hope that clears up any confusion.
Q: You are also dedicated to the issues of the gay and lesbian community. Will this play a role in your electoral campaign, and if so, how?
A: I have always publicly espoused my particular sexual orientation but I don't need to make it a topic of the election campaign. I intend to discuss the current state of our country with the people I meet. My life's motto, which I am taking into the elections, is: "I dream of a society in which everyone can fulfill themselves." That's why I want social and societal changes that will benefit the most vulnerable members of our society - ethnic minorities, people living with disabilities, seniors, sexual minorities, single mothers, and young families.
Q: What chances do you believe the SZ has in the early elections in general and in your region in particular?
A: I don't believe in speculating during this year's election as to which political party will take possession of the field and with whom. For me, the meaning of this year's election is primarily to cleanse politics of corruption, of politicians' inability to communicate with citizens, or the professionalization of politicians. Change is necessary, there is a need for new faces. There is no doubt that the Green Party is a party that can contribute to that clean-up. Moreover, the Greens honor ethical and moral values in their campaigns, which means they will not lower themselves to engaging in hateful rhetoric against certain groups in society. That will be a pleasant change for all citizens.
Q: What do you say to the "alliance" with the Equal Opportunities Party (SRP) and the possibility for its members or nominees to run on the Green Party candidate list? How will voters understand this alliance?
A: I definitely support this. Any political party defined on an ethnic basis has a very low chance of succeeding in the parliamentary elections. I consider this decision to be rational on the part of both parties. Both political groups have something to offer one another.
Q: This year rather a lot of Romani people are running for various parties. What is your view of this? On the basis of your experience, do you believe all of the people running are aware of what awaits them in politics?
A: The interesting question is how the candidates for the Czech Social Democrats, the Civic Democrats, or TOP 09 would reply to that - are they aware of what awaits them in politics? I believe Romani people won't make worse MPs than their colleagues do.
Q: Should these candidates collaborate with one another even though they represent various parts of the political spectrum?
A: The candidates are already collaborating with one another and it is already working. Mr Tancoš of the Romani Democratic Party (Romská demokratická strana - RDS) has contacted me to let me know his party will not be seeking votes in the Plzeň Region, implicitly supporting my candidacy there. I appreciate that. Should we (Romani MPs) meet in Parliament I believe the situation will be one wherein we rise above the colors of our political parties to become the joint voice of Romani citizens in the Czech Republic.
Q: What does Romanipen mean to you?
A: I confess that I have not given much thought to Romanipen as a special category. I grew up Romani and I live as a Romani man. I have always been proud of my Romani nationality. I speak Romanes. That, for me, is the key demonstration and proof of the fact that Romani culture is still alive. Our language is developing and responding to the new communications situation of our times. At the same time our Romani identity is mirrored in our language.
Q: What does politics and your participation in it symbolize to you?
A: Politics, for me, symbolizes a space for implementing change. If I were to get into Parliament, I would do my best to actively participate in key decision-making processes, particularly in relation to Romani people. It has been 15 years since the last Romani representative was elected and the situation (social and societal) of Romani people is deteriorating. For example, it is estimated that the number of socially excluded localities predominantly inhabited by Romani people has doubled since 2006. Our children are still attending the "practical schools". A Czech School Inspectorate report from 2010 estimated that the number of children unjustifiably assigned to the "practical schools" was more than 3 000. This illegal state of affairs is quietly tolerated by the state, which was already found guilty of indirectly discriminating against Romani children in 2007 by a judgment from the European Court of Human Rights. The state is now obliged to adopt measures to prevent the discrimination of Romani children accessing education, and it also has the moral obligation to intervene on behalf of those 3 000 Romani children who have already been illegally enrolled in the "practical schools". Right-wing extremism and support for anti-Romani demonstrations by the majority society also represents a very serious societal threat here. I consider it unforgivable that politicians are taking such a lax approach to this and are unwilling to publicly take a stand against these hateful pogroms. I would do my best to change that in Parliament if elected. What bothers most Romani families, every single day, is the lack of job opportunities and their unsuitable housing. We can address the causes of this, and one cause that is very minimized by this society is discrimination against Romani people when they try to access the labor market. Many Romani people have the experience that even a high-quality education is no guarantee of employment for them in this country. Finding their way out of the ghetto is equivalent to a small miracle for those living there. I believe the problem with the government strategies in the fight against social exclusion and poverty consists, for example, in the fact that the ghettos are viewed as social laboratories, and if the intended results are not achieved by the government "experiments", then the mistake is always said to lie with their inhabitants, who are perceived as either unable or unwilling to adapt themselves to the "good" being offered them by the NGO sector or the state. As we can see, there are many problems, but no "silver bullet", simple solutions. This is why it is urgently necessary that we have our own representatives in Parliament.
These interviews will be published in the print edition of Romano voďi magazine, the October edition of which will feature edited versions of all of these interviews (in Czech only). You can order a copy of the October edition at email@example.com.
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