Roma,  Uncategorized

Violent attacks and horrific threats: anti-Roma bigotry in the Czech Republic

It is sometimes claimed that the problems faced by the Roma are ones of their own making.  Such debates are similar, in some respects, to those we’ve read following the riots, and I won’t rehearse them all again here, although I will link to a report in the Economist which seems to offer a pretty fair and balanced assessment.

And in any case, even readers who are perhaps not readily responsive to stories about anti-Roma bigotry, should (for different reasons) have no problem condemning the events behind these two stories from the Czech Republic.  The first is an account of a brutal and terrifying attack on a family in the village of Krty.

Until 10 August, when a Molotov cocktail attack was committed against one of the local Romani families, this little village was unknown to the media. The attack was the third on a Romani family in the country in the past month, two of which used arson. The Molotov cocktail landed on a cot in the bedroom where the family’s daughter, aged one year and six months, normally sleeps. On the night in question, she was fortunately sleeping with her parents in the adjoining bed. A total of 12 people, including children and a pregnant woman, were in the house at the time.

The local community has rallied to the support of the family, and helped pay for repairs to their house.

“Naturally we can’t know who did this, but I firmly believe police will investigate. We are all like family here, so I would rule out anyone local having done this.

The family who were attacked have lived here 20 years and there has never been any conflict with them,” said Vice-Mayor Jan Brda.

The other story is a report of an anonymous letter, containing brutal threats and fantasies of genocide, that was sent to the director of the Museum of Roma Culture, Jana Horváthová.  The full text can be read here. Many assert that prejudice against the Roma is purely cultural, not racial.  But this letter’s quite horrific threats and disgusting comments belie that claim, for Horváthová is a successful professional, who aims to build good relations between the different communities in her country

“We always say that it is important for people to come the first time and then visitors tend to return,” says Horváthová. “There are many people who hear about us and think that it is terrible here, that we are located in a slum. They are afraid of coming to a Romani neighborhood, so this type of prejudice deters many potential customers.”

“My wish,” Horváthová continues when asked about her vision for the future, “is for us, after so many years of effort, to be able to break the society-wide aversion toward the Roma.

and, in addition to her role as curator, also works to integrate Roma children into mainstream education.

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