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Globalization of Traditions: The Roma People



Globalization of Traditions:
The Roma People


I.  Argument .............

II.  Instead of Motto ..............

III.  Introduction ............

IV.  The Roma History ...........

V.  The Romani Language ..........

VI.  Religion, Traditions and Customs..

VII. Beliefs and Practices ..........

VIII. The Romani Music .........

IX.  Fictional and Artistic Representations of

the Roma ............

X.  What is Discrimination? .......

XI.  Persecutions of the Roma ........

XII. The British Roma ............

XIII. Conclusions ..............

XIV. Bibliography .............

XV. Appendices ............






Society is constantly changing nowadays or, as some might put it, developing. As in every process, there are both advantages and disadvantages, depending on the perspective. What worries me, nonetheless, is the careless "sit back and let it happen" approach that is becoming more and more frequent among most teenagers. Taking a very good look around and acting according to one's principles, does not require -in my opinion- more than a strong will power.

For it is enough to look around every once in a while, to notice a very brutal discrimination, regardless of place and time, context or reason. Particularly in Romania (but also in most South-Eastern European countries) the Roma (gypsies) are to some extent deprived of their legal and moral rights and also persecuted owing to prejudices. Rarely, if ever, are they socially integrated or provided with equal chances to education, employment opportunities or adequate health care.

The reason for which I have chosen this subject is the increasing emphasis of globalization, a matter concerning every nation, including the Roma. The following paper on Roma Rights examines matters related to a dual dynamic: on the one hand, abusive practices perpetrated on Roma by Roma in the name of 'traditional culture' and the general abandonment by the state of the victims to the perpetrators; on the other hand, a tendency by state officials to treat social problems in the Romani community with draconian and disproportionate measures. Roma in Europe do not exercise political rights on an equal basis with other citizens. The exclusion of Roma from public life is a factor which aggravates the belated and generally the problematic process of developing and implementing policies on Roma in today's Europe.

In recent years, in response to the disturbing return of explicit racism to the European public space, European authorities have responded by considerably elaborating the ban on racial discrimination law in Europe, both within the framework of European Union law and therefore in the member states of the European Union, as well as in the Council of Europe system.

A brief overview suggests that a minimum of matters are implicated in the prohibition of discrimination for the purposes of the legal systems of Europe, as well as under other International law binding European states. These include indirect discrimination, failure to realize the rights included in the International Covenant 939c218j on economic, social and cultural rights, harassment, instructions to discrimination against persons on grounds of racial or ethnic origin and any adverse treatment or consequences as a reaction to a complaint aimed at enforcing compliance with the principle of equal treatment.

For much of their history, taking everything into account, the Roma have been forced migrants -many of them real and all of them potential. Roma are a persecuted people with no mainstream media to cover their tortured journeys, no safe haven across any border, and no military alliances to interfere in their defense. Louis Armstrong once sang: 'It's a wonderful world!', and it is, but I would like to add that it's everybody's world, regardless of nationality, sex or religion. Everyone belongs to this world and this world is ours; therefore, no-one should be discriminated against, because 'All men are equal'.


*see Appendices 1 , 2 & 15


Yet are they here the same unbroken knot

Of human beings, in the self-same spot!

Men, women, children yea the frame

Of the whole spectacle the same!

Only their fire seems bolder, yielding the light;

Now deep and red, the coloring of night;

That on their Gipsy-faces falls.

Their bed of straw and blanket-walls.

--Twelve hours, twelve bounteous hours are gone, while I

Have been a traveler under the open sky,

Much witnessing of change and cheer,

Yet as I left, I find them here!

The weary Sun betook himself to rest;--

Then issued Vesper from the fulgent west,

Outshining like a visible God

The glorious path in which he trod.

And now, ascending, after one dark hour

And one night's diminution of her power,

Behold the mighty Moon! this way

She looks as if at them-but they

Regard not her:--oh better wrong and strife

(By nature transient) than this torpid life;

Life which the very stars reprove

As on their silent tasks they move!

Yet, witness all that stirs in Heaven or Earth!

In scorn I speak not;--they are what their birth

And breeding suffer them to be;

Wild outcasts of society!

William Wordsworth

"Gipsies" 1807


A Romanian poet, Alexandru Macedonski, once said: 'The Gypsies walk unceasingly; they themselves don't know when they set off. But they keep on going driven by an eternal calling. Gypsies all around the world have always given birth and died. But they have kept going towards their unfulfilled dream: "the Gypsies walk unceasingly".' The Roma are a troubled people, constantly walking an endless road of hopes lit by the powerful torch of tradition: 'they themselves don't know when they set off'.

The following presentation aims to give you an objective view and information with regard to the Roma condition throughout Europe, as well as to emphasize the importance of fully and successfully integrating this specific minority into a global social structure.

For much of their history, the Roma have been forced migrants: many of them actual and all of them potential migrants. This is one of the main reasons for which Europe excluded and marginalized this ethnic group. Significant segments of Romani community live in poverty and sub-standard living conditions. Adequate health-care and adequate schooling are frequently unavailable and when these are available, Roma are often racially segregated.

Unfortunately, such problems rarely receive response from high-level government authorities. Even when officials are genuinely committed to helping Roma, they are often not given sufficient resources or authority to do so.

Important advances in anti-discrimination law have provided marginalized groups with chances for redress when fundamental rights are violated. However, without strengthening the regime of social and economic rights, these advances will be only partial and may have pernicious side-effects such as aggravated social tensions and resentment against Gypsies who receive a special treatment.

Currently, the home countries of the majority of Roma are beginning to join the E.U. and as a result, the situation of Roma is gaining political attention. For the time being, however Roma in Europe do not exercise political rights on an equal basis with other citizens. Roma are under-represented in political life and otherwise frequently excluded from participation in public affairs. In these circumstances, it is high time for the Roma to find ways to effectively represent themselves at a national and international level, to protect their interests and identity and to ensure that they are recognized within a united Europe.

The Roma History

It is said that the Gypsies lived in Egypt from the year 200 B.C. and that they were Pharaoh's slaves. The Gypsies were and some still are very good traditional craftsmen and during the days of the Pharaoh made shields, swords and knives for the soldiers. As slaves, they also had to row the big war ships. The Gipsies were nomads in those days and travelled by means of wagons drawn by oxen from place to place across large areas in many parts of the world. They were housed in tents like most of the people of those days and it is also said that they worked like today's circus people: they could swallow swords and fire or were fortune-tellers for Pharaoh's women.

Some of the places the Gypsies visited during their migration which started from around the year 710 are:

*the year 710 in Kolunba;

*the year 730 in Panim Gua;

*the year 735 in Bombay;

*the year 786 in Ahmada Bad;

*the year 800 in Bisons;

*the year 1000 in Balkan;

*the year 1312 -researchers say that the first Gypsies were found on

the island of Crete (Greece). Many researchers

believe that they originate from India.

*the year 1346 in Korfu;

*the year 1396 in Napillia;

*the year 1426 in Spain;

*the year 1430 in England.

In the 14th century the Gypsies called themselves *'Dom' which means

'human being' in the Indian language. The Gipsies changed the letter'd' to a 'r'. *'Rom' means in Romani 'Gipsy man'. The word human being is 'Manosch' in Romani.

All over the world, the Gipsies were deported, tortured and called discriminating names.

*see "The Columbian Encyclopedia", Sixth Edition, 2001, page 241

Little is known about the early history of the Roma and it is not clear whether they lived on the periphery of Indian civilization, were members of one or more Hindu castes, or represented a number of different social classes and tribal groups.

They apparently left their original homeland in northern India in several waves, beginning as early as the 6th century.

The most important migrations began in the 10th century following Muslim invasions of India. Their route to Europe can be traced by vocabulary borrowings found in modern European Romani dialects, all of which contain words from such languages as Persian, Kurdish and Greek. The Roma initially travelled westward across Iran into Asia Minor and from there on, the majority proceeded into Europe by way of Greece during the early 14th century. After about 100 years in Greece, the Roma spread through Europe and by the early 16th century had reached most areas of the continent, including Russia, Scandinavia, Spain and the British Isles.

The Roma were generally well received in Europe at first, but their unfamiliar customs and closed society soon aroused antagonism. In Spain, the Roma enjoyed freedom under Muslim rule, but their situation changed after the Christian re-conquest of that country in 1492. Between 1499 and 1783, the Spanish government enacted at least a dozen laws prohibiting Romani dress, language and customs. In France, the first official repression of Roma occurred in 1539, when they were expelled from Paris. In 1563, the Roma were commanded to leave England under the threat of death. Beginning in the 15th century, Hungarian and Romanian nobles, who needed labourers for their large estates, forced many Roma into slavery. In Romania, the enslavement of Roma did not end until 1855.

Nonetheless, the Roma were not treated as harshly everywhere in Europe. In tsarist Russia, for instance, their circumstances differed little from those other impoverished peasants. In Balkans, during almost 500 years of Ottoman rule, many Roma enjoyed special privileges by converting to Islam.

However, discrimination against Roma persisted in most part of Europe and in the 20th century, persecutions reached their height during World War II (1939-1945), when as many as 500,000 Roma perished in Nazi concentration camps. In the Communist countries of post-war Eastern Europe, the Roma were subjected to government-sponsored forced assimilation programs. Designed to integrate the Roma into the dominant national cultures of the region, these programs had the effect of depriving the Roma of their distinctive language and culture. Since the fall of Communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Eastern Europe has seen a revival of more violent anti-Roma sentiment. Romani people in Western Europe are also under pressure to abandon their traditional nomadic way of life. In France, for example, their access to campsites has long been restricted.

Yet, the Roma have been increasingly active in political and cultural movements to establish their rights and preserve their heritage. In 1979, the United Nations (U.N.) recognized the Roma as a distinct ethnic group. The International Romani Union, a non-governmental organization, represents the world's Roma at the U.N. Other organizations, such as the Union Romani of Spain or Phralipe of Hungary, campaign for civil rights in specific countries or religions.

In North America, the Roma first appeared during the colonial period. A significant number of Roma from Russia and the Balkans came to the United States and Canada in the late 19th century. In the United States, Roma traveled about in rural areas until the Great Depression of the 1930s, when most settled in large cities on both coasts.

The Romani Language

Because the Roma are widely dispersed, their culture and social organization vary considerably. However, an important characteristic everywhere is a strong sense of group identity. Romani culture stresses the sacredness of its own traditions in opposition to those of the outside world. Contact with non-Roma is regarded as potentially polluting; a belief probably derived from the religious beliefs of the Roma's Hindu ancestors and another unifying force is their language-Romani, which consists of a number of dialects belonging to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. Most speak some form of Romani, while others speak dialects of local languages with extensive borrowings from Romani. Romani is primarily a spoken rather than a written language. Until recent years most Roma were illiterate, and illiteracy rates remain high in most Roma communities.

The real key of the Roma origin is their language. The scientific study of that language began in the middle of the 19th century with the work of Pott, and was brought to a higher state of perfection by Miklosich. From that time on, monographs have multiplied and minute researchers have been carried on in many parts of the world, all tending to elucidate the true origin of the Romani language. It must remain for the time being an open question whether the Roma were originally a pure race. Many a strange element has contributed to swell their ranks and to introduce discordant elements into their vocabulary. Ruediger (1782), Grellmannn ( 1783) and Marsden (1783) almost simultaneously and independently one of another came to the same conclusion, that the language of the Roma, until then considered a thieves jargon, was, in reality, a language close allied with some Indian speech. Since then, the two principal problems to be solved have been: firstly, to which of the languages of India the original Roma speech was most closely allied; and secondly, by which route the people speaking that language had reached Europe and then spread westwards. Despite the rapid increase in our knowledge of Indian languages, no solution has yet been found to the first problem, and neither is it likely to be found. For the language of the Roma, as shown by recent studies of the Armenian Roma , has undergone such a profound change and involved so many difficulties that it is impossible to compare the modern Romani with any modern Indian dialect owning to the inner developments which the Romani language has undergone in the course of centuries. Moreover, all that is known of the Romani language and all that rests on reliable texts is quite modern, scarcely earlier than the middle of the 19th century. Followed up in the various dialects into which that language has split, it shows such a thorough change from dialect to dialect, that except as regards general outlines and principles of inflexion, nothing would be more misleading than to draw conclusions from apparent similarities between Romani, or any Romani dialect and Indian language; especially as the Roma must have been separated from the Indian races for a much longer period than has elapsed since their arrival in Europe and since the formation of their European dialects. In addition, it must be borne in mind that the Indian languages have also undergone profound changes of their own, under influences totally different from those to which the Roma languages has been subjected. The problem would stand differently if by any chance an ancient vocabulary were discovered representing the oldest form of the common stock from which the European dialects have sprung; for there can be no doubt of the unity of the language of the European Roma. The question whether Romani stands close to Sanskrit or Prakrit, or shows forms more akin to Hindi dialects, especially those of the north-west frontier is affected by the fact established by Flink that the dialect of the Armenian Roma shows much closer resemblance to Prakrit than the language of the European Roma and that the dialects of Roma spoken throughout Syria and Asia Minor differ profoundly in every respect from the European Roma, taken as a whole spoken. The only explanation possible is that the European Roma represent the first wave of the westward movement of an Indian tribe or caste which, dislocated at a certain period by political disturbances, had traveled through Persia, making a very short stay there, thence to Armenia, staying there a little longer , and then possibly to the Byzantine Empire at an indefinite period between 1100 and 1200; and that another clan had followed in their wake, passing through Persia, settling in Armenia and then going farther down to Syria, Egypt and North Africa. These two tribes, though of a common remote Indian origin, must however be kept strictly apart from one another in such investigations, for they stand to each other in the same relation as they stand to the various dialects in India. The linguistic proof of origin can therefore now not go further than to establish the fact that the Romani language is in its very essence an originally Indian dialect, enriched in its vocabulary from the languages of the people among whom the Roma had sojourned, whilst in its grammatical inflexion it has slowly been modified, to such an extent that in some cases, like the English or the Serbian, barely a skeleton has remained.

Notwithstanding the statements to the contrary, a Roma from Greece or Romania could no longer understand a Roma of England or Germany, so profound is the difference. But the words which have entered in the Romani language borrowed as they were form the Greeks, Hungarians, Romanians, etc, are not only a indication of the route taken and this is the only use that has hitherto been made of the vocabulary; but they are of the highest importance for fixing the time when the Roma had come in contact with these languages. If the Roma had lived in Greece, as some contend, from very ancient times, some at least of the very old Greek words would be found in their language and similarly, the Slavonic would be of an archaic character , whilst on the contrary we find medieval Byzantine forms ,or modern Greek forms , among the Romani vocabulary collected from Roma in Germany, Italy or France; a proof positive that they could not have been in Europe much earlier that the approximate date given above the 11th or 12th century. Then, from a grammatical point of view, the same deterioration, among the English or Spanish Roma as has been noticed in the Romani dialect of Armenia. It is no longer Romani, but a corrupt English or Spanish adapted to some remnants of Romani inflexions. The purest form has been preserved among the Greek Roma and, to a certain extent, among the Romanian. The Welsh dialect, known by few has retained, through its isolation, some of the ancient forms.

Notably through *Miklosich's research and comparative studies, it is possible to follow the slow change step by step and to prove, at any rate, as far as Europe is concerned, the language of these Roma was one and the same, and that it was slowly split up into a number of dialects which shade off to one another, and which by their traditional forms mark the way in which the Roma have traveled, as also proved by historical evidence.

*see Acton,Thomas and Gary Mundy ,E.D.S. "Romani Culture and Identity",University of Hertfordshire Press, 1997, pages 36,37,38,39.

Religion, Traditions and Customs

Those who have lived among the Roma will readily testify that their religious views are a strange medley of the local faith, which they everywhere embrace, and some old-world superstitions which they have in common with many nations. Among the Greeks, they belong to the Greek Church, among the Mohammedans they are Mohammedans, in Romania they belong to the National Orthodox Church; in Hungary they are mostly Catholics, according to the faith of the inhabitants of that country. Nevertheless, they have no ethical principles and do not recognize the obligations of the Ten Commandments. There is extreme moral laxity in the relation of the two sexes, and on the whole, they take life easily and are complete fatalists. At the same time, they are great cowards, and they play the role of the fool or the jester in the popular anecdotes of Eastern Europe. There, the poltroon is always a Roma, but he is good-humored and not as malicious as those Roma who had endured the hardships of outlawry in the west of Europe.

There is nothing specifically of an Oriental origin in their religious vocabulary, and the words of Devla (God), Bang (Devil) or Trusizul (Cross) in spite of some remote similarity, must be taken as later adaptations, and not as remnants of an old Sky worship or Serpent worship. In general, their beliefs, customs, tales, etc, belong to the common stock of general folklore, and many of their symbolical expressions find their exact counterparts in Romanian and Modern Greek, and are often read as if they were direct translations from these languages.

Although they love their children, it sometimes happens that a Roma mother will hold her child by the legs and beat the father with it. In Romania and Turkey, among the settled Roma, a good number are carriers and bricklayers; and the women take their full share in every kind of work, no matter how hard it may be. The nomadic Roma carry on the ancient craft of coppersmiths, or workers in metal; they also make sieves and traps, but in the East, they are seldom farmers or horse-dealers.

They are far-famed for their music in which art they are unsurpassed. The Roma musicians belong mostly to the class who originally were serfs. They were retained at the courts of the Boyars for their special talent in reciting old ballads and their deftness in playing, notably in recital or heroic ballads and epic songs; the later for dances and other amusements. They were the troubadours and minstrels of Eastern Europe, the largest collection of Romanian popular ballads and songs was gathered by G. Dem Teodorescu from a Roma minstrel: Petre Sholkan.; and not a few of the songs of the pulsars among the Serbians and other Slavonic nations in the Balkans come also from the Roma. They have also retained the ancient tunes and airs, from the dreamy doina of the Romanian to the fiery czardas of the Hungarian or the stately hoar of the Bulgarian. Liszt went so far as to ascribe to the Roma the origin of the Hungarian national music. This is an exaggeration as seen by comparison with the Roma music in other parts of south-eastern Europe, but they have undoubtedly given the most faithful expression to the national temperament.

Equally famous is the Roma woman for her knowledge of occult practices. She is the real witch; she knows charms to injure enemy or to help a friend. She can break the charm if made by others. But neither in one case, nor in the other, and in fact as little as in their songs, do they use the Roma language. It is either the local language of the natives as in the case of charms, or a slightly Romanized form of Greek, Romanian or Slavonic. The old Roma woman is also known for her skill in palmistry and fortune-telling by means of a special set of cards, the well-known Tarot of the Roma.

Moreover, they have a large stock of fairy-tales resembling in each country the local fairy tales: in Greece agreeing with the Greek, and in Romania with the Romanian fairy tales. It is doubtful, still, whether they have contributed to the dissemination of these tales throughout Europe, for a large number of Roma tales can be shown to have been known in Europe long before the appearance of the Roma; and others are so much like those of other nations, that the borrowing may be by the Roma from the Greeks, Slavs, and Romanians.

However, it is possible that playing cards might have been introduced to Europe through Roma. The oldest reference to cards is found in the Chronicle of Nicolaus of Cavellazo, who says that the cards were first brought into Viterbo in 1379 from the land of the Saracens, probably from Asia Minor or the Balkans. They spread very quickly, but no-one has been able as yet to trace definitely the source whence they were first brought. Without entering here in the history of playing cards and that of the different forms of the faces and of the symbolical meaning of the different designs, one may assume safely that the cards, before they were used for mere pastime or for gambling, may originally have had a mystical meaning and been used as sorts in various combinations. To this very day the oldest form is known by the hitherto unexplained name of 'tarot', played in Bologna at the beginning of the 15th century and retained by the French under the form of Tarot, connected direct with the Roma, "Le Tarot des Bohemians". It was noted above that the oldest chronicler (Presbyter) who describes the appearance of the Roma in 1416 in Germany knows them by their Italian name "cianos" so evidently he must have known of their existence in Italy previous to any date recorded hitherto anywhere, and it is therefore not impossible that coming from Italy they brought with them their book of divination.

It has been suggested that while still in India, the Roma people belonged to the Hindu religion , this theory being supported by the Romany word for "cross"-"trishul" , a word that describes Shiva's Trident (Trishul).Roma have usually adopted the dominant religion of the host country while often preserving their particular belief systems and indigenous religion and worship. Most Eastern European Roma are Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim. Those in Western Europe and the United States are mostly either Catholic, or Protestant. Most in Latin America kept their European religion, most of them being Orthodox. In Turkey, Egypt, and the southern Balkans, they are overwhelmingly Muslim. Roma religion has a highly developed sense of morality, taboos and the supernatural, though it is often denigrated by organized religions.

Since the Second World War, a growing number of Roma have embraced Evangelical movements. For the first time, Roma became ministers and created their own, autonomous churches and missionary organization. In some countries, the majority of the Roma now belong to Romani churches. The unexpected change has greatly contributed to a better image of Roma in society. The work they perform is seen as more legitimate, and they have begun to obtain legal permits for commercial activities.

Evangelical Romani churches exist today in every country where Roma are settled. The movement is particularly strong in France and Spain; there are more than one thousand churches (known as "Filadelfia") in Spain, with almost one hundred in Madrid alone. In Germany, the most numerous group is that of Polish Roma, having their main church in Manheim. Other important and numerous Romani assemblies exist in Los Angeles, Huston, Buenos Aires and Mexico. Some groups In Romania and Chile have joined the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. In the Balkans, the Roma have been particularly active in Islamic mystical brotherhoods (Sufism). Muslim Roma immigrants to Western Europe and America have brought these traditions with them.

Beliefs and Practices

Many centuries in the past, the Roma were some of the last Goddess-worshipers in Europe, Their Goddess, Kali, was viewed as a trinity. Her symbol was a triangle. A male Horned God also played a prominent role. The similarities between ancient Roma belief and that of Wicca are obvious. These beliefs have long been abandoned.

Today, there is not just one single Roma culture. Nor is there general agreement on who should qualify to be called a Roma. Romani groups around the world hold different traditions, customs and beliefs. Groups that have settled in one location generally absorb some of the gajikane (non-Roma) local culture. Most Roma have converted to the religions of their host countries, typically Christianity and Islam. Their formal religion affiliation is often supplemented by Roma traditional beliefs such as:

*the existence of Del (God);

*the existence of Beng (Satan);

*the existence of bibaxt (bad luck) and mulo (supernatural spirits or ghosts)

*the power of good luck charms, amulets and talismans;

*the power of curses;

*the power of healing rituals.

*Marime is a state of impurity brought on a person by the violation of a purity taboo. It also means 'sentence of expulsion imposed for violation of purity rules or any behaviour disruptive to the Roma community'. Some Roma consider the part of a woman's body below the waist to be dirty and polluted, because it is associated with menstruation. In many tribes, women wear long skirts, the bottoms of which must not touch a man other than her husband;

*A pregnant woman is considered unclean. She must not give birth in the family home because it would then become impure. Sometimes knots are ritually untied as the birth approaches. This is believed to assure the umbilical cord will not be tangled. After birth, anything that the new mother touches is later destroyed. This quarantine continues at least until the baptism of the baby.

*Newborns are baptized, usually in running water, when they are a few weeks old. Often, the infant is massaged with oil; this is believed to make it strong.

*A Roma typically has three names. The first is known only by the mother, given at the time of birth. Its purpose is to confuse evil spirits by keeping the real name of the child from them. The second name is conferred at the time of baptism, and is the commonly used name within the tribe. A third, different name may be given when the child is re-baptized in a Christian church. It has little importance, except when dealing with non-Roma.

*In the past, people were typically married between the ages of 9 to 14. This tradition has changed in many tribes due to the influence of the surrounding culture. In 2003, one of the many self-styled Roma tribal-kings, Ilie Tortica, banned his subjects from entering their children into marriage until they have come of legal age. This ban is seen by some as being in direct conflict with traditional Roma family practices. A rival Roma patriarch, Florin Cioaba, ran afoul of Romanian authorities in late 2003, when he married off his youngest daughter, Ana-Maria (12), well below the legally marriageable age in Europe. Pre-marital sex is strongly forbidden. Marriages to outsiders are heavily discouraged. The wedding ceremony is usually simple. In some tribes, the bride and groom join hands front of the chief or an elder and promise to be true one to another. In ancient times, they used to be married by jumping over a broom stick in the presence of their families.

*When a person dies, relatives and friends gather around and ask for forgiveness for any bad deed that they have done to that person. They are concerned if such grievances are not settled, that the dead person might come back as an evil spirit and cause trouble. In the past, the widow might commit suicide when her husband died so that she could accompany him during the afterlife. Sometimes, the deceased nostrils are plugged with wax so that evil spirits cannot enter and occupy the body. Clothing, wools, eating utensils, jewelry, and money may be placed in the coffin in order to help the deceased in the next world. The deceased's possessions are burned, broken or sold to non-Roma.

*They believe that a person can be reincarnated as another human or animal. Alternately, they might appear as a mulo or living dead, seeking revenge on anyone who harmed him during his life on earth.

*Many Roma rules of behavior relate to the use of water. They normally wash in running water, as in a shower. Baths are not used. Women's and men's clothes are washed separately, because of the

impurities of a woman's body. Clothes of pregnant or menstruating women are washed furthest downstream from the camp, to avoid contamination.

*Women must not expose their legs. They wear long, multi-coloured skirts.

*Out of respect for the importance of the horse in assuring Roma mobility, the eating of horse meat is prohibited in some tribes.

*Many Roma women, called 'drabardi' practice fortune-telling, but fortunes are only read for non-Roma.

*Other women are 'drabarni' or 'drabengi' and practice natural healing techniques.

The Roma are family oriented, with the elderly occupying positions of respect and authority. By European or American standards, Roma tend to marry at a young age. Many Romani women marry at the age of 12 or 13. Marriages are usually arranged by the couple's parents and reflect a desire to create alliances between families or clans. A strict sexual morality prevails among most Roma. It is common for unmarried girls to be chaperoned in the presence of males who are not a part of their extended family. A number of groups maintain the institution of "bride-price", a payment made by the family of the groom to that of the bride. The payment compensates the bride's family for the loss of their daughter and guarantees that she will be well-treated by her new family.


*see Appendices 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

The Romani Music

The Roma have exerted a significant influence on the artistic history of Europe. Roma fortune -tellers, dancing bears, and caravans enliven European literature and folklore. Many Roma traditionally worked as musicians and entertainers, and Romani influence has been particularly strong in the field of music. Romani folk music has inspired many of Europe's greatest composers, including Hungarian composers Bela Bartok, Franz Liszt, Georges Bizet of France and Romanian composer George Enescu. The popular flamenco song and dance of Spain was originated by the Roma and still retains a distinctive Romani spirit. Romani musical traditions continue to flourish in many parts of Eastern Europe, especially in Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

The 'lautari', who perform at traditional Romanian weddings are virtually all Roma, although their music draws from a vast variety of ethnic traditions.- for example Romanian, Turkish, Jewish and Slavic- as well as Roma traditions. Probably the most internationally prominent performer in the lautari tradition is 'Taraful Haiducilor' (approximately 'The Outlaws' Band'). Many famous classical musicians, such as the Hungarian pianist Georges Cziffra are Roma, as are many prominent performers of "manele". Zdob si Zdub, one of the best rock bands in Moldova, although not Roma themselves, draw heavily on Roma music, as do Spitalul de Urgenta in Romania.

The distinctive sound of Roma music has also strongly influenced *bolero, jazz, and Cante Jondo in Europe. European-style Gipsy Jazz is still widely practised among the original creators (the Roma people).


*see Acton,Thomas and Gary Mundy ,E.D.S. "Romani Culture and Identity",University of Hertfordshire Press, 1997, pages 79,80,81.


*see Appendices 3 & 4

Fictional and Artistic Representations

of the Roma

Perhaps the most well-known representations of Roma in fiction occur in:

*Victor Hugo's novel 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame',

*Miguel de Cervantes' novel 'La Gitanilla',

*Georges Bizet's opera 'Carmen'.

Other literary treatments include:

* 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker features a group of Gipsies working for the Count, as the custom was; they attached themselves to Noble families, in this case Dracula's.

* 'The Lyre of Orpheus' by Robertson Davies features major characters who maintain Roma traditions, including the care and repair of musical instruments, in modern Canada.

* 'Fires in the Dark' by Louise Doughty is a fictionalized account of Roma experience in Central Europe during the Second World War.

*Heavily stereotyped Gypsies are frequent antagonists in the young adult fiction of Enid Blithe, such as 'The Famous Five', 'The Secret Seven', and 'The Adventure Series'.

*Stephen King's novel 'Thinner' includes the classic plot device of the gypsy's curse.

*Stephen (Barbara) Kyle's novel 'The Experiment' is about an American Roma who is the daughter of a victim of Nazi experimentation.

*Canadian contemporary fantasy author Charles de Lint's novel 'Mulengro' presents a portrayal of the Roma and their cultural myths. One of the members of this group, Borrible Jones, appears in his novel 'Spirits in the Wires'.

*Author Jacqueline Carey's 'Kushiel's Legacy' trilogy features the Roma quite prominently. Calling them the 'Tsingani' , she depicts Roma culture and attitude towards the non-Roma with depth and realism. One of the main characters in the trilogy is Hyancinthe, a half-Roma grandson of the 'King of the Tsingani' who has the 'dromonde' or 'sight' . Clairvoyant abilities have long been associated with the Roma,

*Author Johanna Lindsay's 'Malory' romances feature a family of Regency aristocrats with Roma ancestry. Several of the characters have 'talents' which supposedly can be traced to the 'sight' which their half-Romani grandmother inherited from her grandmother and mother. 'The Present', the final novel in the series, describes Roma culture in some respects; the other five novels simply hint at the Roma heritage of the family.

Treatments of Roma in other media include:

*In the 1937, film classic 'Heidi' starring Shirley Temple, Roma appeared in the stereotypical villain role.

*Marlene Dietrich stars in 'Golden Earrings' (1947) as a Gipsy whose clan helps British agent Ray Millard to escape from the Nazis during the Second World War.

*Serbian director Emir Kusturica often used the Roma community as basis of his films.

*In the TV. series 'Buffy, the Vampire Slayer', Jenny Calendar, the techno pagan computer-science teacher, was a member of the Kalderash clan. The Kalderash clan also cursed the vampire character Angel by giving back his soul, as punishment for killing one of its favorite daughters.

*Marvel Comics' 'Doctor Doom' is a Gipsy; in DC Comics' 'Night Wing' is also Roma on his father's side.

*In TSR. Inc.'s fantasy role-playing universe Ravenloft, the Vistani people are clearly based on the Roma.

*In Tim Schafer's game 'Psychonauts', lead character Razputin and his family are Roma.

* 'Gadjo dilo', written and directed by Tony Gatlif, Stephane, a young Frenchman from Paris, travels to Romania. He is looking for the singer Nora Luca, he had heard on cassette and whom his father had heard all the time before his death. He finds much more.

*In the film 'Fullmetal Alchemist', Conqueror of Shambala, the character of Noa, a Romani fortune teller, plays a significant role.

*Johann Strauss Jr.'s operetta 'Der Zigeunerbaron' (The Gipsy Baron).

_____ _______ ______ _______


*see Appendices 5 , 8 & 11

What is Discrimination?

Discrimination on grounds of race, colour or ethnicity ('racial discrimination') is almost always a violation of human rights. In the words of the International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (I.C.E.R.D.), the primary law governing the ban on discrimination, '.the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descend, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise , or an equal footing of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political , economic, social , cultural or any other field of public life'. Fundamental to the principle of non-discrimination are the rights of members of racial, ethnic and cultural minorities to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law. International law bans racial discrimination in a range of fields including but not limited to education, health, housing, employment, and the provision of and access to public goods and services. States have a positive obligation to prevent, punish and remedy racial discrimination.

'Indirect discrimination' occurs 'when an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons of a racial or ethnic origin at a particular disadvantage compared to other persons, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.' For instance, a department store states that no person with long skirts may enter the store, or a government office which prohibits entry by persons with covered heads. These rules, though neutral on their face as to ethnicity, may in fact disproportionately disadvantage members of certain minority groups, who have a tendency to wear long skirts or head scarves.

On the other hand, there are a number of instruments developed to assist victims of racial discrimination, among which are:

*domestic anti-discrimination laws;

*other domestic laws not directly pertaining to discrimination, but which may be creatively applied in discrimination cases, such as tort laws protecting dignity of person;

*International laws, including:

-The International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (I.C.E.R.D.) in particular article 14 of the I.C.E.R.D., allowing the Committee of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to consider communications from individuals and groups concerning violations of the Convention;

-The European Convention of Human Rights (E.C.H.R.). Article 14 of the E.C.H.R. prohibits discrimination with respect to rights guaranteed under the Convention. Protocol No. 12 to the E.C.H.R. , which was opened for signature in 2000, will add a comprehensive ban on discrimination in the application of any right provided by law, following its ratification by 10 member states of the Council of Europe . Activists have an important role to play in bringing pressure on governments to ratify Protocol 12 without delay.

-The European Union Race Equality Directive. This Directive requires states to adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination laws and establish effective enforcements bodies. It forms part of the body of E.U. law which member states and candidate countries alike must comply with. Activists have a significant role to play in ensuring that states amend legislation to meet the requirements of this important instrument.

_____ _______ ______ ________


*see Appendices 6, 7 & 8

Persecutions of the Roma

Particularly in Europe, the Roma have suffered severe persecution throughout their history:

Rumors were spread in medieval times that the Roma were descended from a sexual encounter between a Roma woman and Satan. Christians believed that a conspiracy of blacksmiths, wizards and women had been organized to attack the Church. Since many Roma were blacksmiths, the conspiracy theory expanded to involve the Romani. Moreover, another belief was that Roma forged the nails used in Christ's crucifixion. They countered with the rumor that a Roma attempted to steal the nails so that Christ could not be crucified, but was only able to grab one.

The Christian genocide against Witches during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance was also directed against the Roma. The courts seized and imprisoned them in Witches' prisons, often without even bothering to record their names.

The Diet of Augsburg ruled that Christians could legally kill Roma. Meanwhile, the Courts were closed to the Roma who were injured by Christians.

In 1721, Emperor Karl VI of what is now Germany ordered total genocide of the Roma. 'Gipsy Hunts' were organized to track down and exterminate them.

Roma were rounded up and imprisoned in Spain during 1749. They were considered a danger to the society. A pardon was granted in 1763 and the Roma were released in 1765.

In 1792, 45 Roma were tortured and executed for the murder of some Hungarians, who were in fact alive and observed the executions.

It is believed that as much as half of the Roma in Europe were enslaved, from the 14th century until Romani slavery was abolished in the mid-19th century.

In the 1920s, during the Weimar Republic, the Roma were seriously oppressed. They were forbidden to use parks or public baths and were all registered with the police. Many were sent to work-camps "for reasons of public security". When the Nazis took power, the Roma were further persecuted under the 'Nuremberg Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor'. In 1937, Heinrich Himmler issued a decree 'The Struggle against the Gipsy Plague' which increased police monitoring of the Roma.

During the Nazi Holocaust, they were declared to be 'sub-humans'. In 1941-July, the Einsatzkommandos were instructed to 'kill all Jews, Gipsies and mental patients'. A few months later, Himmler ordered that all Roma be deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau for extermination. Sybil Milton, a former Senior Historian of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that 500,000 Roma and Sinti persons were exterminated. This number is supported by the Romas and Sinti Center in Heidelberg.

There are about 5,000 Roma survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. They did not share in the hundreds of millions dollars given to other survivors.

The hatred and physical attacks directed at the Roma within the formerly Communist governments of Eastern Europe have intensified in recent years. They are heavily discriminated against in matters of education, employment, health-care and social services. They are a prime target of neo-Nazis and skinheads. Often the governments have done little to guarantee them basic human rights.

The recent situation in Bulgaria is probably typical of the fate of the Roma in Eastern Europe. During the Communist era, Roma culture was suppressed by the government. Their Newspapers and clubs were closed; their language was outlawed. The situation has worsened since the overthrow of Communism and the unemployment rate among Roma is many times the national average. A poll of ethnic Bulgarian adults shows that discrimination and bigotry is widespread: 91 % believe that the Roma are predisposed to criminal behavior; 83% that they are 'lazy and irresponsible'; 59% would not live in the same locate as a Roma; 94% said they would never marry a Roma; 64% would not have a Roma as a friend. The latter two numbers have increased by 5% since 1992.

The situation is similar in Romania.

The situation in Serbia is particularly critical. During the 1990s, Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Muslim religious groups fueled racial and religious hatred as a means of promoting their own status. The Gypsies have no affinity with any of the political-religious groups, but were attacked by all. Since mid-1997, neo-Nazi skinhead street gangs have been active in the cities. Random beatings and killings of Roma men, women and children have become common. Dragan Stanovik, head of the Roma community in Belgrade said: 'The discrimination begins as soon as our children enter school. Gypsy kids are made to sit at the back rows or sent to special-education classes. Many are tossed out of school. They are frequently ostracized and insulted by other children and teachers. Our young people cannot find jobs and our complaints to the police are ignored. We have always lived as second-class citizens, but we are not willing now to die because we are second-class citizens!'

The Roma in Kosovo may be the most oppressed of all. They appear to be hated by both the Albanian/Muslim majority and the Serbian/Christian minority. A series of articles about the Roma in Kosovo has been published by an anti-cult site. This web site claims that the Roma totaled at least 10% of the population of Kosovo. Yet they have been essentially invisible and have not been included in population figures.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe describe the Roma as "the poorest, least healthy, least educated and most discriminated sector of.society".

In 1997 May, President Clinton decided not to reappoint a Roma representative to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. In effect, the many hundreds of thousands of Roma exterminated during the Holocaust have been killed twice: once by Nazis using poison gas; and a second time by subsequent generations in the West, who have allowed the memory of the victims to fade into oblivion.

About 12 million of Roma are believed to be scattered throughout the world. It is impossible to estimate the total population with accuracy since many governments do not record Roma in their census figures. Besides, many conceal their ethnic origin out of fear of discrimination.

The British Roma: the Condition of Roma

Throughout Great Britain

The 20th century brought a radical change for the Roma as well as other travelers. This, however, happened rather in the period after the Second World War; the first decades of the 20th century were marked by the continuation of trends rooted in the preceding century. Even though Romani genocide never took place in Great Britain, the war affected the Roma in this country as well.

Men were called up in the army, but delivery of call-up orders was complicated. Romani men were among the hero fighters, they excelled in Europe as well as in the near East, especially as scouts and snipers. On their return from war, some of the soldiers could not find their relatives; many of them lost their homes. Romani women were employed in the war industry because of the lack of work force. Some of the Roma had been warned before the planned German invasion into Britain about German plans to exterminate them, about lists of Roma being completed. Fortunately enough, Hitler did not enter Britain in the end.

After the war, provisional arrangements were installed in many spheres in Britain, which paradoxically led to the improvement of the situation of the local Roma. Suddenly, their mobile homes that started to replace the original caravans became less visible because there were many other people living alike. Reconstruction of the country damaged by the war offered employment opportunities for many of the Roma, the new Labour government introduced a more tolerant approach to minorities and travellers-related issues were again discussed in the Parliament after quite a time.

Nevertheless, the days of improvement did not last long. It was only in the 1960s that the attention of the British as well as the world public in general was turned once again to Romani issues. At this time, these were taken up by international organizations and the whole Europe witnessed the emancipation of the Romani nation. In the year 1971, the first World Romani Congress was held in London, the delegates of which agreed, among other things, on the official usage of the term "Rom". The Second World Romani Congress in 1978 resulted in the establishment of the International Romani Union that became in 1979 an advisor member of the U.N. E.C.O.S.O.C. committee.

Different Romani associations came into being in Great Britain as well; the first one was the 'Gipsy Council', established in 1966 by a journalist, Gratan Puxon. He can be credited for drawing up public attention to the problems of the travellers once again; his efforts gained public support and culminated in the famous 'Caravan Sites Act' draft.

The United Kingdom saw not only the birth of Romani emancipation, but also on research on the Romani Holocaust. It was in Great Britain and only in the late 1960s that the persecution of the Roma during the Second World War emerged as a subject of historical studies. Donald Kenrick, the first researcher in this particular field, states that all that was available for him in 1969 when he started this research were 2 pages on Romani genocide from 'The History of Jews' by Hilberg. In order to help Romani applicants for war reparation, Kenrick and one of his colleagues pieced together a short study from hundreds of sources and publications on the Second World War. This study later became the basis of 'The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies'. According to Keinrick, it was only this book that inspired other historians to research this subject.

At the same time, on the other hand, nomadism in Britain reached a crisis, having been substantially restricted until there stayed only 3 caravan sites on the whole area of England and Wales. The 'Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act' from 1960, made the creation of private caravan sites more difficult, introducing the condition to have a license for the placement of caravans and a planning permission. The Act was also directed against those who allowed the Travellers to stop at their estate. In reaction to this situation, travelers as well as non-travelers became highly engaged in the improvement of the conditions of the Travelers and the revocation of the process of eliminating nomadism. As a result of their efforts, the already mentioned 'Caravan Sites Act' was drafted in 1968. When it came into force in 1970, travellers and their supporters celebrated it as a great victory. The Act obliged the local authorities to provide accommodation for travellers currently staying in their district in the form of caravan sites; made the department of environment responsible for the enforcement of the Act; allowed the creation of specific areas where the establishment of caravan sites can be prohibited; and defined the term 'gipsy' as including all travellers, regardless of their ethnic origin who travel to earn their living. However, the local authorities were often disrespectful of this new legal norm, and continued to act upon the Act from 1960.

About one half of the Roma currently living in Great Britain lead a sedentary way of life, others continue with their nomadic or semi-nomadic life-style. Several factors lie at the root of the increasing number of sedentarized Roma: first and foremost, the lack of available caravan sites; better employment opportunities and the effort to ensure peaceful life for the old and better education and health care for the young (the average state of health of a Roma living in Britain is on the level of the developing countries.).Even though the local authorities are obliged, according to the Act on Homeless People , to provide housing for every Roma who takes such an interests and does not own a plot, in practice though, this legal norm is often disrespected. On the contrary, the authorities try to prevent the Roma from settling down in the particular district, which is reflected for instance in the growing number of decrees hat make it more difficult to obtain certain permissions and licenses (e.g. to park in one's land). This is also the reason why some of the settled Roma reenter the road after a short time.

Alongside with the restriction of nomadism, British travellers face the problem of education of their children; education has previously been administrated by the particular districts and in some of them, the access of these children to education was quite restricted. Responsible authorities have been solving the since the 1960s; their efforts have however turned no results still in 1990. The Mary Delaney case from 1977, which was not registered in school because she stayed at an illegal site, was reflected in the 1980 Educational Act. The right of all Traveler children to school attendance was explicitly encoded in 1981 by a circular letter issued by the Ministry of Education and Science and reconfirmed by the 1988 Education Reform Act.

Racism cannot certainly be said to be non-existent in the United Kingdom- for example the number of racially motivated crimes is higher in the U.K. than in the C.R., but on the other hand, much smaller number of such crimes result in death of he victim. British media continues to present negative stereotypes of the Roma as well as other Travelers, the numbers of structural discrimination increase, sedentary citizens organize many demonstrations and draft petitions against caravan sites in their localities, sometimes, they use violence to force out the Travelers; there are cases of Roma being refused to enter public space.

However, Great Britain also ranks among those countries that have officially admitted the existence of institutional racism they have been trying to fight, alongside with discrimination, more effectively since the 1970s. Some of the methods applied in the fights against racism and discrimination have had rather negative effects, the row of anti-discrimination laws from the 1970's in particular is however an important achievement. These included the "Race Relations Acts" from 1965, 1968, and 1976. The last one in this row that has replaced the former legal norms was amended in 2000. The Act now prohibits racial discrimination and the promotion of racism and replaces the former Race Relations Board with the Commission for Racial Equality. The Commission is responsible for the investigation of possible breaches and for the promotion of equal opportunities, The Act was drafted by members of the Labor party who were however rather cautious not to take a too liberal stance vis-เ-vis these issues.

The situation of the British travellers has rapidly deteriorated since the 1980s. The pre-election rhetoric of the Conservatives in 1987 included the issue of replacements of caravan sites and restriction of nomadism. The government created in 1987 did not touch upon these issues in practice. The so-called New Age Travelers however became a highly discussed theme for the government formed in 1991. This government introduced new legislature that restricts nomadism quite substantially. The circular letter issued by the Ministry of Environment in 1994 has made it even more difficult to obtain license for private site. The so-called Criminal Justice and Public Order Act repealed the Caravan Sites Act in 1994. Apart from these, quite a number of other measures were enforced that make the situation of Travellers even worse-for example, the order allowing only 2 families to use one site at the same time. The Roma in Great Britain are becoming increasingly dependent on state social benefits and there are voices claiming that the British Traveler have definitely lost their freedom.


Given the failure of previous and existing policies to remove or reduce discrimination against Roma, and to promote their social inclusion, the E.U. must take the lead in targeting these groups within existing and new policies. It is recommended that the European Commission should establish a coordination structure on Roma issues to ensure the improved coherence and efficacy of its policies. The E.U. should continue to provide guidance to member states on the collection of data on aspects on race and ethnicity of relevance to social inclusion. The European Commission, which is financing research into data collection practices elsewhere in the world, has established a Working Group on ethnic data collection and will finance a conference on the issue.

The European Commission should continue its efforts to monitor the transposition of the Race Equality Directive and the Framework Employment Directive into Member State laws, and take action against any state not complying with this request within a reasonable time period. The social inclusion of Roma should be a focus of policy of the E.U., which should guide Member States in the specification of Roma, in National Action Plans covering social inclusion, life-long learning and employment, and provide guidance on the definition of appropriate social inclusion indicators. Financing instruments, including the European Social Fund, the European Regional Development Fund and Community Action Programmes in public health, employment and social affairs, should give explicit recognition of the situation of Roma in their application guidelines. Moreover, guidelines should be presented in a way that encourages the involvement of Roma N.G.O.'s and where appropriate a proportion of funding might be made available for strengthening of Roma organizations wishing to participate in calls for proposals.

The E.U. should approach the improvement of the situation of Roma through both specific measures and financial allocations, ensure that it involves Roma representatives in policy formulation and monitoring, strengthen its human rights monitoring and publicize the anti-Romani racism. Finally, it should recognize that the situation of Roma within the E.U. is related to their situation in the neighboring states, and that the E.U. should finance external relations programmes in the applicant countries, the Western Balkans and the former Soviet Union concerning issues of discrimination and persecution against Roma.


*Acton, Thomas and Gary Mundy , EDS. Romani Culture and Identity, University of Hertfordshire Press, 1997.

*Cahn Claude Roma Rights: Race, Justice and Strategies for Equality, I.D.E.A. Press, 2002.

* The Internet:















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