Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gypsies.






There is an old Gypsy plea for redress: "Bury me standing when I die, 'cause I've been on my knees for my whole life." What a tragically beautiful, if not colossal understatement. For it seems every society, in every age has sought to subjugate the Gypsies. And yet the Gypsies have remained wild if not at times defiant....



All across Europe from the 1300's on, anti-gypsy laws sprung up. Many were meant to expel them from one sovereign country only to be enslaved by the next. Hitler's genocide of the Gypsies, an estimated 400,000 brutally murdered, the culmination of years of mistrust and prejudice against the Gypsies. There have even been state sanctioned sterilization programs aimed at the Gypsies as late as the 1960's.


Gypsies in Hitler's death camps. An estimated 400,000 men, woman and children murdered.


Though the Gypsies are found all over the world they are still a nation-less people, their history shrouded in romance and mystery. Some say they are Indians, forced from the North West Indian continent or wandered from there, artisans following military regimines. Others have said Persia or Turkey because of the linguistic syncretism. But call them Rroma, or Dom, or Sinti, or tigany, citani, or zigeuner or one of the many other usually derogatory names the fact remains, whether it is borne or forced into them, they are Gypsies and Gypsies are wanderers.



Today the great forests where the Gypsies roamed have been bulldozed, the sprawling steppes paved, and the wild-hearted wanderlust of the Gypsies is hemmed in on all sides, making them, once again an easy target for exploitation. The statistics on the number of Gypsy victims of trafficking is as hard to pin down as the Gypsies themselves. When so many gypsies still live in a citizenship limbo, when there is centuries of bad blood between them and authorities, when many in power would be glad to be rid of the "plague" of the Gypsies; it is easy to see why Gypsies wouldn't report the crimes, or when they do, not get the full cooperation of police. As always, the children suffer most....


Below, beautiful Gypsy children from Albania to Macedonia.


The trafficking of Gypsy children rarely makes the front pages unless it of such a scale that cannot be ignored. Roma gangs, and even some Roma parents were involved in this massive ring in the UK. And this story out of Scotland will make your blood boil. Though the children involved were not expressly called Gypsies, Bulgarian and Romanian Gypsy children are among some of the poorest and most susceptible to being trafficked and many indicators suggest that at least some of the children were.

Romania, and in particular Bucharest, is one of the key travel destinations in Europe for pedophiles. The street-children are frequently victims. It is estimated that five per cent of the homeless children in Romania are forced into sexual exploitation and many of these are orphaned Gypsies. The trafficking of children to Greece for begging and forced labour is no less alarming. There are 1000 mainly Albanian gypsy children in the city of Thessaloniki alone. They tell stories of violence and exploitation at the hands of their traffickers. Yet the Albanian Ministry of Public Order claims to have no evidence and the general public appear to be largely indifferent.

According to the Council of Europe, Gypsy children are smuggled into Italy from the former Yugoslavia to work as forced labourers in gangs where they are trained and then sold into crime rings in large cities. Similar phenomena occurs all over Europe where Gypsy children are trafficked and sold into organized crime rings and trained to pick pockets or worse. Public reaction has been tepid in the UK. It seems that many are more concerned with the rising crime rate attributed to the influx of these kids.

But our outrage, our response to the trafficking of children must always be the same, no matter if the children involved are from a transient group with an embroiled history, we must demand justice for them. We must act as if they are our kids. And if you're like me, and you suffer a bit from wanderlust yourself, and if you've ever been fond of the gypsies as I have, join the fight against the trafficking of humans. There is no greater cause.

From all of us at Conspiracy Of Hope. Thank you for everything you do to fight injustice.

9 comments:

  1. Great story, Mark. I had no idea. . .and I adore these people.

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  2. Shannon...I loooove the gypsies! Thank you for the kind words. We need to catch up. Only 10 more days!!!!!

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  3. May I offer advice, from an ethnic Romani, referring to us as "wild & defiant" is not only inaccurate, but paints us well, 'wild & defiant". This does not help us in any way. Exposing the issue of human trafficking is important, but this was written in a rather disrespectful way. The term "gypsy" is a pejorative one. It is actually a racial slur for the Romani people. The proper term to use is to refer to our entire ethnic population is Romani.
    Also, some of the pictures you have are not of Romani "gypsies". Some are of ethnic Indian people. While we trace our ancestry to India, we are not Indian & Indians are not Romani. The British, pardon my language, bastardized the word "gypsy" and used it to descripe other nomadic people who live in India. These nomads are not Romani, and thus, not "gypsy". The term "gypsy" arose to refer to, and only to, the Romani people. However, I cannot state this enough, but it indeed is a racial slur.
    Finally, pictures showing our children as dirty, unkempt, or exposing the middle finger also portrays us as the stereotype; dirty theives & beggars. The stereotype is far from the truth. Romani take very good care of their children and our culture consists of many purity laws that keep us extraordinarily clean.
    Please, if you would like to help Romani "gypsies", be cautious of what you state. People do use forums of any kind to justify violence against us in Europe, and we fear the recent portrayal of us in American media may lead to open discrimination and attacks here, as well.
    Sincerely, Lisa Ashley-Antolcic
    Romani Artist & Romani Rights Activist

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    1. Lisa,

      Thank you for such a deeply thoughtful and passionate rebuke. First, let me say, that what I personally have always found most enchanting about the "gypsies" is that vagabond spirit unconquered. I suppose that reveals my colossal ignorance of the Romani people but I assure you I meant no disrespect. My whole life I have been enamored of what I had understood to be "gypsies". They embodied, for me anyway, an unfettered freedom that I desired. Secondly, the word itself, "gypsy", from these lips and these fingers is one of infatuated endearment. It is a term I find deeply romantic and in as much never occurred to me that it was a pejorative. I can certainly see and concede your point (all your points) about perpetuating the stereotypical "gypsy" and from the bottom of my heart I apologize. My heart breaks for the Romani children. The news stories I read of their exploitation destroy my heart, BUT I have never been to any country they inhabit and I do understand that that means I am truly ignorant of Romani culture, custom, and history. As I have found in my time in India and my time here in Haiti, my understanding is deepened daily by living and breathing and eating with the people, especially the children of those nations. Again, I spoke in ignorance but I spoke with sincere passion. Please forgive me for my irresponsible journalism, I only want to help.

      With warmest regards and deepest regrets,
      Mark Langham

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    2. Gypsies (true definition of gypsies) came from India to other parts of the world and mixed with people and changed their culture. Some left to escape Muslims trying to convert them. I don't know about the term's origin. Today it refers to all travelers. Majority of the ancient travelers still live in India.

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    3. I regret to hear about your people's situation and I can hope that like them, you would be safe and alright.

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  4. what a joke of an article, trying to portray the gypsies as the poor victims where the trafficking is mostly done amongst themselves. act like a criminal cockroach get treated like a criminal cockroach, its as simple as that. fuck off with this victim BS they only have themselves to blame.

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  5. Why are rascists always anonymous?

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