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Online Romanes-language video calls on Roma to declare Romani nationality during the Czech census

3.3.2021 9:26
The organization ARA ART has released a video calling on Romani people to declare their Romani nationality during the Czech census next month. The image reads
The organization ARA ART has released a video calling on Romani people to declare their Romani nationality during the Czech census next month. The image reads "I am not ashamed to be Romani. I am not ashamed of my parents or my language." (PHOTO: ARA ART)

A new video is calling on Romani people to proudly declare their Romani nationality during the upcoming census in the Czech Republic. The ARA ART organization produced the video to inform Romani people of the opportunity to declare their Romani nationality.

"I am proud to be Romani," begins the video, which has a voiceover in Romanes and is subtitled in Czech. "I am not ashamed to be Romani. I am not ashamed of my parents or my language. For that reason, I will be declaring my Romani nationality during the census."

ARA ART director David Tišer, who released the video on social media, told news server Romea.cz that "For me personally it is important to declare Romani nationality because I feel that I am a Romani man. We produced the video chiefly so Romani people would learn they have an opportunity to declare their Romani nationality, because some are absolutely unaware of that," adding that he hopes the outcome of this year's census will exponentially exceed the number of Romani people who declared Romani nationality during the 2011 census.

A decade ago, just 13 150 Romani people declared Romani nationality, of whom 5 199 listed it as their only nationality. The remaining 7 951 listed it combination with another nationality, for example, Czech nationality and Romani nationality, or Moravian nationality and Romani nationality, etc.

VIDEO

According to estimates, about 240 000 Romani people actually live on Czech territory. This year's census will be held online for the first time ever.

From 27 March to 9 April, Romani people will have an opportunity to declare their nationality as part of the online census. Emphasis is being put on preserving people's anonymity and on data security.

The census form will also be newly available in Romanes in addition to Czech. Experts say so few Romani people have declared their nationality in the past because the fear of persecution on the basis of being Romani is still deeply rooted in the community, which experienced genocide during the Second World War.

According to experts, when the Communist Party took power in Czechoslovakia and instituted a totalitarian regime of its own, Romani ethnicity or nationality was suppressed by the party, and that lived experience has also significantly influenced whether Romani people want to declare their Romani nationality to the state today. Confusion over the difference between citizenship and nationality quite frequently plays a role as well.

NATIONALITY vs. CITIZENSHIP AND JURISDICTION

Citizenship or jurisdiction mean that a person is a citizen of and falls under the jurisdiction of a certain state. The difference between citizenship and nationality is that one can choose one's nationality, unlike citizenship, which is awarded by the state. For example, a citizen can declare both Romani nationality and Czech citizenship. States may award citizenship, for example, based on place of birth, but nationality is "optional" and is based on an individual's family history and personal feelings.

Erroneous arguments are made quite frequently on Czech social media that confuse the concepts of citizenship and nationality - people often post reasoning such as the following: "My identification says I am from the Czech Republic, so I am Czech. Romani people do not have their own country, so why would they declare Romani nationality?"

Nationality is something a person chooses to identify with, though, so one can hold Czech citizenship and also declare Romani nationality. It is anticipated that this year the number of Romani people declaring nationality will be far higher than it was 10 years ago, chiefly thanks to the census being held online.

All households that do not participate online will receive paper census forms directly from census commissioners. People will have time to participate in the census on paper from 17 April to 11 May of this year.

The importance of declaring nationality is also explained by materials released by the Czech Statistical Office. The law on municipalities, for example, says that municipalities where at least 10 % of the residents declare a nationality other than Czech shall proceed to set up its own local Committee for National Minorities.

It is also possible to set up a local Committee for National Minorities above and beyond the framework of those legal regulations. A whole series of opportunities for enjoying the rights of national minorities is associated with such committees.

The right to be educated in the language of a national minority, the right to have place names and signs posted in more than one language, including the language of the national minority, and the right to use the national minority language during elections and referendums are just some of those rights. It is also possible to take advantage of the right to produce and broadcast radio and television programs related to national minorities, to allocate subsidies and other support with the aim of developing Romani culture, etc.

ryz, hor, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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ARA ART, národnostní menšina, Roma Pride, sčítání obyvatel



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