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Jan Horvát: Romani people must take to the streets and defend themselves against humiliation, prejudice and violence

Prague, 12.6.2012 20:50, (ROMEA)
Romani commentator Jan Horvát.

Here in the Czech Republic we have recently been witnessing something never-before seen in this society: Cases of juveniles exploiting anti-Romani sentiment to falsely blame Romani citizens for supposedly committing various crimes. In the end, it turns out no Romani people were ever involved in these incidents, which were entirely faked. The guilty parties are either covering up their own guilt through this behavior or trying to hide their own failures and mistakes.

That is exactly what happened in the best-known case in recent weeks, in which a youth blamed Romani people for attacking him and beating him with such severity that he lost a kidney. In the end, under the weight of the evidence, he was forced to confess he had invented the entire incident, that he had falsely blamed Romani people for attacking him, and that he had groundlessly created panic both in Czech society and in Břeclav itself, where a march of local people and right-wing extremists was held in his support - aimed, naturally, against Romani people.

In my opinion, the youth should bear full responsibility for his behavior and be properly punished for it. At the very least he gave false testimony, slandered innocent people, and caused a statewide scandal. He deceived many people who wanted to help him financially, such as Michal David, who believed the boy and his mother up until the last minute. The boy accepted CZK 100 000 from David even though he knew he had lied. Nevertheless, I hope the young man recovers from his injuries.

Another unacceptable and unheard-of phenomenon is the shooting of Romani people, whether with crossbows or pistols. In one of my previous articles I described how aristocrats and wealthy nobles in the Middle Ages hunted Romani people as if they were wild animals and used crossbows to shoot them with impunity. Suddenly we have a case from the Middle Ages on our hands here. A Romani man was shot to death with a crossbow - in the head! Empress Maria Theresa banned that some time ago. It is unacceptable that such excesses repeat themselves! It is now necessary that we defend our right to life, the same right held by all other human beings.

One thing only has startled me. How is it possible that Romani people are remaining calm about these recent events?! How is it possible that Romani people are not demonstrating, protesting, rallying like the Workers' Party does? Some Romani people even manage to say "This has nothing to do with me" - or even, "I'm not interested"!

This is a matter for all of us, all Romani people. Unless we take an interest in our rights, all of us together, nothing will change for the better, only for the worse! We'll be preemptively lynched or shot dead on the street or in front of a store and the gadje will justify it by saying we wanted to ransack the store even though we were walking on the other side of the street entirely.

We must take to the streets and say, at rallies, that we are also human beings, that we have the same rights as everyone else, and that we will not be deprived of them. We will defend our families and our futures against humiliation, prejudice, and violence! What are the Romani political parties doing? Where are they? What is the Equal Opportunities Party doing? What is the Statewide Association of Romani People in the Czech Republic doing? Why aren't they working for our rights? Why aren't they holding rallies and at least giving people verbal support? With whom are they negotiating on these concrete matters? No one is anywhere to be seen.

Self-appointed people who call yourselves Romani representatives - where are you? What are you doing and how much are you being paid for it? Take action already, only you have the power to do so! Give us a place and a time. Ask Romani people what they need and want. All of this is important. If you convince me, you'll get my vote, but if you don't do anything, don't expect anything from me. Show your activity, your initiative. Otherwise you are useless here! The Romani nation needs strong patrons, leading personalities. Since the time when Dr Emil Ščuka was active, I have not seen such a personality here in anyone else.

I think someone has "forgotten" to tell Czech PM Nečas that his government is already over, that he should make a graceful exit and leave his botched political career behind him. As the recent demonstration of union members (reminiscent of the revolution) reiterated, this governing gang is unwanted. That includes Czech Finance Minister Kalousek, thanks to whom we all, when shopping in the stores, are disconcerted at how high prices are. When he talks about it, he arrogantly pretends to be offended by our concerns. He argues that we, the citizens, are basically to blame for having to tighten our own belts.

You politicians shouldn't forget who gave you your mandates - we, the citizens, we are your General Assembly! We can't even afford bread anymore, so what else do you want, guys? Resign and don't come back, you've spoiled things enough here.

Gwendolyn Albert, Jan Horvát, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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