At the end of June, the media reported that a 30-year-old Roma woman was killed in western Ukraine, in Berehova, where a group of attackers slashed her throat, according to witnesses. The police announced that a woman with “wounds on her throat” was found in the streets of the city, and that they were not able to save her life. The police report did not include the name of the victim nor information about her ethnicity. If the perpetrator of the attack had been a Roma – it would certainly have been highlighted, but since the victim was a Roma they somehow forgot to mention it. This is all within the context in which there are more and more attacks on the Roma.
Namely, this attack occurred only one week after police arrested seven people in Lviv because of a fatal attack on a Roma settlement where a 24-year-old Roma was killed. He was attacked by a group of masked assailants, and a few people from the settlement were hospitalized for the serious injuries sustained in the attack.
Also, in Ukraine at the beginning of July members of the right-wing militia formed by veterans, National Druzhyna destroyed a Roma settlement in Holosiivskyi Park in Kiev. The militia also issued an ultimatum in the Facebook post for the Roma to clear out within 24 hours or be forced out by a “mob.” In less than two months there have been five major attacks on Roma settlements in the country.
In a joint letter to Ukraine authorities in Kiev, human rights organizations for protection of human rights, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, condemned the attacks and asked the Ukrainian authorities to urgently take steps in order to strongly condemn and effectively address such attacks. However, authorities have so far failed to respond to most incidents, which has “created an atmosphere of near total impunity that cannot but embolden these groups to commit more attacks”.
“While Ukrainian authorities have responded in a few instances to such attacks, the authorities have so far failed in recent months to respond to most incidents, which has created an atmosphere of near total impunity that cannot but embolden these groups to commit more attacks. It is no surprise that the number of violent attacks and threats by such groups is growing, as the inadequate response from the authorities sends a message that such acts are tolerated. We urge you to take effective action to prevent and stop acts that promote hatred and discrimination and hold those responsible to account“, the letter reads.
In Italy, these days, the new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, promised to order the census of the Roma and said he wanted to know “who, and how many” there were. He even “made a joke” saying “Unfortunately we will have to keep the Italian Roma because we can’t expel them”. Thousands of Roma live throughout Italy, mostly on the margins of larger cities.
In fact, the Roma census will hardly be implemented because it would be unconstitutional, and it would open Pandora’s Box of disgraceful fascist history – during Mussolini ethnic-racial statistics and blood counts were an important part of the legislation. There is a reason why Italy has distanced itself from such politics in recent decades.
But now there is Salvini, a right-wing clown, who is full of such and similar suggestions, though aware that it will be difficult to realize them. But realization is actually less important. It is important for Salvini to appear to the Italians as a safeguard – a safeguard from refugees and migrants, a safeguard from the Roma, a safeguard from the others and different. Throughout Europe, the Roma are seen as harmful, unproductive, regressive members of the society. As research shows, in most European countries, the Roma are seen negatively, and the most negative attitudes towards the Roma population prevail in Italy. Salvini is good in scoring cheap political points.
Although throughout Europe, the Roma are still exposed to systematic discrimination, and often to physical violence and persecution, the perception among the rest of the population is such that the Roma are those who are the problem, and probably, based on the principle of attribution – deserve what happens to them. In such perspective, Roma can only be perpetrators, assailants, offenders, by no means victims. Because if a Roma is a victim, who is then a criminal?