21 July, 2014

Hate crime against minorities – the flip side of Modern Europe

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Category: European Action Day, hate crime
Gubaz Koberidze
3 pm

Neringa 1 Written by: Neringa Tumenaite

‘16 year Old Kidnapped, Beaten And Left For Dead In A Shopping Trolley By Paris Vigilantes’

This was one of the many headlines about a teenager who was lynched by a mob of about a dozen people on June 13, 2014, because he had allegedly committed petty burglaries. It was reported that the boy was kidnapped from his home in a Roma camp near Paris by the group which after the brutal attack left Darius unconscious on the side of the rode, in a supermarket cart.

The attack was soon condemned by country’s top officials; for example, the president François Hollande referred to it as “unspeakable and unjustifiable … and against all the principles on which our republic is founded”, and rightly so. However, it is not enough to only speak out when a child is beaten to coma. So far, such public announcements chose to address the incident independently from the permanent underprivileged position, in which the roma community have been for decades. As Human Rights Watch researcher Izza Leghtas has put it, there “hasn’t been any official acknowledgment of the poverty and discrimination Roma face on a daily basis <…> or of the negative rhetoric aimed at them by politicians from  all sides”. Which is important, because the crime mob delivering street justice and lynching a romani teenager is not only unfortunate, it is also symbolically representative.

The story of Darius exemplifies the most blatant example of hate crime, and yet beneath there are wider range of problems which the Romani people are facing in Europe. According to the report of Fundamental Rights Agency, 90% of Europe’s Roma are living in poverty, which often entail  under-resourced schools, segregated housing, limited access to basic sanitation and, depending on the country, threats of being evicted; To make matters worse, right-wing extremists attacks on villages, firebombings of Roma houses, and serial killings are not uncommon, while there have been reports (this time in Hungary) of leaflets sent to Romani families, warning that they would be burned and sent to gas chambers. Unfortunately, this is not an extract from a WWII ethnic cleansing description, but the reality some people are facing in modern Europe.

What is astonishing is that according to the data collected by FRA, violence and hate crimes motivated by a person’s race, religious belief, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity are not necessarily carried out by so-called ‘extremist’ groups but rather by ‘common citizens’, fueled by intense hostility against certain minorities. Such opinions are often influenced and connected to the alarming phenomenon of increasing instances of hate speech among European Politicians, who by continuously defining certain groups as anti-social, inferior and in need of adaptation, are legitimizing the divisive narrative of Us versus Them.

Neringa 2

For example, rummaging through European media discourse, some astonishing high-profile political announcements can be found. The Roma community have been defined as “criminal gypsies”, “animals”,  ““not fit to live among human beings” and “human garbage”. The question is, at which point do such dehumanizing rhetorics cease their shock value and become the norm, subsequently having an effect on the numbers of hate crime attacks. Although direct impact is not easy to measure, it is clear is that bias media reporting and racist and xenophobic political speech are incredibly dangerous public condemnation by the officials or those in power adds legitimacy to claims which otherwise might sound too shameful and encourage and at times inflame hate crime when the lynching mobs feel they are acting in favor of the society which, to their mind, benefits from their actions.

That’s why sporadically denouncing hate crime as well as sharing one-time acknowledgements and condolences sent to the victims only after brutal incidents are not enough. It is a widespread problem which desperately need public acknowledgement and attention. There are many ways to act towards it, and one of them is by commemorating the past, so we could learn from it in the future this is why I support the need of an International Day for the Victims of Hate crime.

Sign the petition to make 22 July the European Day for Victims of Hate Crime.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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