The Office of President Miloš Zeman has rejected a complaint by the
European Roma Rights Centre that the Czech head of state’s recent
statements about the work ethic of Romania people was racist and undermines
Zeman said last week that while he was no fan of communism, at least under that system “the Roma were forced to work”.
In response, thousands of Romani people have posted pictures of themselves at their jobs as part of a social media campaign initiated by community member Štefan Pongo and supported by the Romea organisation.
Zeman said on Friday that he was happy to have “received photos from some of the 10 percent of Roma who work”.
The police is investigating a case of vandalism at the memorial in Lety,
the site of a former concentration camp for Romanies during WWII.
Unknown perpetrators fixed plaques with hate messages on the memorial erected to the hundreds of Romanies who died there. One of the messages read that the memorial is in commemoration of “the last Romanies who ever worked on Czech territory”.
The web site Romea.cz which reported the vandalism claims it is the work of the nationalist grouping My proti vsem, which has been vocal in criticizing the amount of money that has been spent by the government to buy out a pig farm standing close to the site, so that the memorial would be in dignified surroundings.
Why do ethnic conflicts in some parts of the world flare up so easily and spread so fast? Is ethnic hate and intolerance contagious? Researchers from the Czech Republic and Slovakia joined forces to try to find the answers to some of those questions and arrived at some surprising conclusions. I spoke to Associate Professor Michal Bauer, an expert on experimental and behavioral economics at CERGE-EI, who is one of the authors of the study, and began by asking him what motivated the research in this field.
Konexe, which describes itself as a Czech-Romany association, has filed a
criminal complaint of Holocaust denial against Freedom and Direct Democracy
leader Tomio Okamura over statements he made about a WWII concentration
camp for Romanies at Lety, south Bohemia.
Mr. Okamura said in an interview last week that inmates could come and go from the camp, which for the most part had no guards. He has since apologised for saying it had no fence.
Over 300 prisoners were killed at Lety and hundreds more were sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The site now houses a pig farm and the Czech state has made various moves to buy it from the current owners.
Radio New Zealand National (RNZ) has reported that a Czech family – a
mother and three sons – was granted asylum in New Zealand after they
appealed. Only one of her children, aged nine, had been given refugee
status earlier, after the family had received death threats from Neo-Nazis
in their homeland Czech Republic.
The mother, Caucasian had been married to, but since separated from, her Roma partner, the broadcaster said.
Her eldest child was reportedly segregated in school in Czechia and attacked while her second son, who is adopted, was the only one to receive refugee status.
The tribunal hearing the case pointed to growing intolerance in the form of anti-Roma riots, marches and demonstrations in 2013 in the Czech Republic and racism and hate crimes it saw as becoming more and more normal, and ruled the whole family was at risk of persecution.
The European Commission has initiated infringement proceedings against the Czech state for systematic discrimination.
Deputy Trade Minister Karel Novotný from the Social Democratic Party has
apologized for an anti-Romany statement he posted on Facebook. The deputy
compared Romanies to jellyfish, saying they were troublesome and useless.
Trade Minister Jiří Havlíček promptly distanced himself from the statement, saying it was totally unacceptable. Havlíček is to lose his quarterly bonuses as a result of the incident.
Deputy Trade Minister Karel Novotný from the Social Democratic Party caused a stir by putting hate speech on Facebook. The deputy compared Romanies to jellyfish, saying they were troublesome and useless. Trade Minister Jiří Havlíček promptly distanced himself from the statement, saying it was totally unacceptable. The minister told the news site Aktualne.cz he would speak with his deputy in person before deciding on what course of action to take.
The Supreme Court has upheld a six-year sentence for an arson attack against a lodging house which was home to 18 Romany inhabitants, including 8 children. Two young men, who sympathised with the neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour, splashed the building with petrol and threw Molotov cocktails into the house. Luckily the inhabitants of the lodging house managed to put out the fire in time and no one was hurt in the incident. One of the youths convicted appealed the decision on the grounds that there were no injuries. The judge rejected the argument, stressing the gravity of what he said was a premeditated, racially-motivated attack.
In 2015 the government launched a two year project to help fight hate crime directed against Romanies and other minorities in the Czech Republic. With the migrant crisis, the project acquired a broader scope and greater urgency. In Iustitia, an NGO that helps victims of hate crime was involved in the undertaking. I spoke to its founder, lawyer Klára Kalibová, to find out more.
Two years ago there were international headlines about the Czech amateur soccer club that other teams were opting to forfeit three points to rather than play – because their players were members of the Roma minority. Staff from a number of Prague embassies formed a side to take on Roma Děčín in a friendly as a gesture of support. Now the club, and in particular two of its organisers, are the focus of the subtle, often amusing documentary FC Roma, which recently shared top prize at Jihlava. In the wake of that success, I asked the film’s co-director