Thursday, November 12, 2009
Roma Man Rises Up Against Discrimination
By Tom Fried
A Roma rights activist recently completed a one-week march from his small village in central Hungary to Budapest in order to draw attention to the latest verbal and physics attacks against their community and also to hand over signed petition to the president.
The latest attacks on the Roma community in Hungary included the murder of families in the middle of the night in villages where there is Roma majority by what appears to be a far right- Neo Nazi group; and racist remarks by a town mayor and member of parliament, which suggested that Roma woman harm their fetuses in order to get more money from social security. In response to these attacks on his community, Roma rights activist Laszlo Kallay, decided to walk from his village, Jaszladany, in central Hungary to Budapest, with the goal of arousing the Roma community and to get the attention of Hungarian people who opposed those attacks and anti-Roma discrimination in general.
After finishing the walk, escorted by four other men and his son, Kallay entered Hero’s Square in the center of Budapest while 500 hundred Roma and non-Roma people were waiting for him, cheering and supporting. Kallay and his men walked carrying the flags of Hungary and the EU together with the Roma flag. After giving speeches and interviews, Kallay led the crowd to the residence of the Hungarian president, Laszlo Soyolm, to hand him a petition which calls for the cancellation of integration in schools and work places.
"We want to cancel the integration, but we also want that the other side will understand why it is important to cancel the integration" with that saying, opened Kallay his speech in front of the crowd. He claims that schools in Hungary don't let Roma pupils to continue their studies in secondary school.
Kallay, a Roma man in his 40s, pointed also to the poverty among the Roma minority in Hungary. He was asked about the condition of the Roma economy in Hungary and what effect the crisis was having on it. "We are in crisis since we were born, economic crisis, but more important soul crisis, those kind of crisis, are not new thing to us, Roma people"
He said he believes that people who lost everything in the recent crisis should be strong and go forward. He also mentioned that the Roma people had survived the holocaust, and they will survive these recent attacks as well, pointing on the murdering of a Roma mother and the injury of her 13-years-old daughter in May and the massacre of a father and son in February of this year in a village 20 Km outside of Budapest. The attacks appear likely to derive from racial hatred. Four men who are recognizes to be part of a far right wing and Neo Nazi group active in East of Hungary, are under detention and being accused by the government of hate crimes.
Kallay is well known figure in the Roma community in Hungary that we could see on the afternoon he marched the Hero Square, holding flags of the EU, Hungary and the Gypsy official flag in one hand and his child with his second hand, back in 2006, few month only before the demonstration in Hungary, Kallay wrote an open letter to the Fidesz leader, Victor Orban after saying he can understand parents who don’t want to send their children to school with Roma pupils. Kallay claimed that poor Roma children are forced to attend separate class would lead to lower education among them.
"I got the idea of the Marching from Gandhi" Kallay says, and claiming that it was only small step in his battle against Roma discrimination in Hungary.
"We are in contact with other Roma civil rights organization abroad, especially in Slovakia" and this March and the petition are only small step but important one, our next step in the future is to march along Slovak Roma directly to Brussels"