Doing for us without us, it is doing against usIn Paris, Rroma bring one Mandela’s lesson to a Human Rights League event
On December 12, 2013, the Human Rights League organized, with the support of the PROGRESS program, a colloquium on Roma, at the House of Europe in Paris. Announced since October, the initial title of this colloquium was “Acting for and with Roma, it is possible”.
The interest of the Human Rights Leagu has a long tradition. At the beginning of the 20th century, at least two members of the League, Marc Reville and Fernand Dubief, were also members of French Parliament. In their book “Les tsiganes en France, un sort à part 1939-1945” the historians Emmanuel Filhol and Marie-Christine Hubert say that these politicians were very active in the legislative processes that led in 1912 to the establishment of the nomad’s anthropometric ID, which made easier the internment of Roma in France from 1939 to 1946, one year after the end of the war. Fernand Dubief was, from 1906 to 1910, the president of the Commission on repression of vagabondage and begging, where the most of the work was done. This special law and registration by the police continues still today, since the “gens du voyage” in France are still subject to discriminatory laws and special IDs.
Back to nowadays, no Roma were participating in the panels of the colloquium “Acting for and with Roma, it is possible” that was scheduled to 12 December. As a consequence, La voix des Rroms wrote to the Human Rights League to explain that this looked like a misleading advertisement and that the title should be changed. A few days later, La voix des Rroms asked to ERGO Network to intervene and on this occasion, it learned that Gabriela Hrabanova had been invited to speak about the initiatives on European level. And in the meantime the Human Rights League changed the title of the event to “Roma have rights, acting is possible”. At this stage, the misleading advertisement was somehow avoided.
The colloquium started with the opening speech of Mrs. Catherine Lalumière, president of “La Maison de l’Europe” that hosted the event. As “House of Europe”, this civil society body aim is to bring closer EU institutions to citizens, so that they know better EU policies. In her opening speech, Mrs. Lalumière firmly asserted that the difficulties of Romani population in Europe were due to mafia networks which misuse the money made available by EU institutions. Mentioning several times in her speech these mafias, Mrs. Lalumière did not specify however who they are, what could maybe leave the impression that these might well be Roma themselves, or at least some of them. One could not suspect Mrs. Lalumière to have such ideas, but given the systematic association between Roma and mafia in the media speech, this could have been an effect her speech had in the audience’s mind.
Mr. Pierre Tartakowsky, president of the Human Rights’ League France insisted on the feasibility of acting with and for Roma, coming in this way back to the old title of the colloquium. Mr. Martin Olivera, anthropologist, concluded his presentation by saying that the “Roma issue” has nothing to do with Rroms, who are a people very diverse sociologically speaking. Mr. Philippe Gossens, representative of the European Association of Human Rights, made a very comprehensive presentation on the current repression policies and all kinds of violation on Roma.
The end of the first panel was marked by the intervention of Gabriela Hrabanova, on behalf of ERGO Network, who pointed out the fact that she was the only Rromani person invited to speak in this event and that even in the audience, there were only four people of Romani origin out of about 200. She had also to specify the name of her organization, as the word “Roma” had disappeared and became “European Grassroots Organisation” in the agenda. She pointed out the racism that has penetrated into the mainstream political parties in many European countries, including France. Mrs. Hrabanova criticized the “integration villages” in France, in which she was forbidden the access during her visit with the Regional representative of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. She knew such situations of poverty, exclusion and repression in Central or Eastern European countries but was surprised to meet them also in France, especially because Romani people kept in the camps in France did not know a second of their future as they were facing forced evictions.
Mrs. Hrabanova mentioned also some good practices such as in Ivry sur Seine and regretted that on the contrary of the bad and inefficient projects such as the “villages d’insertion”, such initiatives are not supported by authorities. “The realization of Human Rights is not a question of speech and advocacy, but of concrete action”, Hrabanova said, adding that advocacy can be of use in a healthy political environment only, what unfortunately is not the case in the current economic, but also political and moral crisis. A few, among whom Rromani organizations, are acting together, beyond the speeches of those who still refuse to do so. In the current period, acting means also, as in Ivry, helping those excluded European citizens to register so that they can vote in the forthcoming European elections.
by Mirabela Margelu