Analysis and comments on the implementation of the Program “Roma under Stability Pact” chapter 2, with possibilities for linking and synthesize with a new project “Roma use your ballots wisely”
By Rubin Zemon, President of
When my organization and myself were invite in a meeting for implementation of the Program “Roma under Stability Pact” in Bucharest in April 2001, and when I saw the description for chapter 2, where was explained the aim and the task of that chapter, I was confused and very angry. In the description were mentioned some terms that even now are not acceptable for the Egyptians, and I think, for other communities like Ashkalies, Rudara etc. neither: “Roma related groups”. For me as ethnologist this term does not mean anything and it is unclean. If we can say “related” than we must explain what, where and how is the relation between these groups. As I was reading the implementation plan of the project, it saw written “sometimes competing communities commonly identified as Roma or as Gypsies./ Tsigani- such as Ashkali, Egyptians and Beisai”. From this text we can make the conclusion that the team for preparation of the project had as a starting point the racial prejudices and stereotypes of the majority population, not only in SEE countries but also all over Europe. But, we can not identify the communities according to the racial prejudices of other populations. From this point of view the cooperation in this project for the Balkan Egyptians is not acceptable. The second term that is used in the project description is Roma and/or Roma –like-groups. Again a term that makes enormous confrontations and misunderstandings. With this term all the efforts of the particular communities within their states to find their “place under the sun”, different from Roma, will be destroyed. The mission of the majority of the organizations of these communities is to present the diversity of their groups/community from the Roma community, because in every-days life, in the society, in the relation with their states and among international community, these communities and groups are always mixed and amalgamated with the Roma. These social and racial prejudices of the majority population to these communities (Egyptians, Rudara, Millet etc.) had as a consequence a reaction to them to feel a kind of reserve and distance in relation and cooperation with Roma, even and hate toward Roma community. So, bearing in mind these conditions the project’s aim to starting of dialogue between Roma, Ashkalie, Egyptians, Beias, etc. on supra national level with a view to establish a Balkan task force or working group on the issues of common interest as the instance human rights issues (including combating discrimination), for me was a very dangerous activity, and even an adventurous and very risked experiment.
from other side, I was aware that this project is the first, and until now the
only one, where Roma and Egyptians, as well as other groups can work together,
make joint projects and activities with the aim to improve their common
problems, such as the refugees’ problem, social and racial discrimination etc.
These are very big problems and challenges that some day we must deal with. We
must start working against the racial prejudices and stereotypes. If we are
always postponing the beginning of this fight, the problem will increase, as
this was the case in Kosovo after entering of international administration and
forces. The problems with Roma and Egyptians grow then bigger. Because of the
bad political managing with crisis among these communities, they became the
biggest victims of the Kosovo crisis. Actually, some Roma and Egyptians
representatives were included in the Serbian delegation during the “negotiation
for peaceful solution”. With entering of international administration, Roma and
Egyptians were the target of ethnic cleansing. In Kosovo appeared a new
identity “Ashkalies”, one local appellation, but at the beginning used as a
protect substitution identity. The international administration started to use
new term RAE communities. With this term we may see again the racial
prejudices. They are “respecting” the identities of the people, because they
must, according to the “rule of law”, but they can’t win the stereotypes and
prejudices and they are putting again Roma, Ashkalies and Egyptians in one
context. From other side and the refugees of these communities from Kosovo
started to be treated as one “RAE refugees”, “RAE refugee camps” etc.
this project, in chapter 1 I saw that will be a lot of activities for the
refugees and IDPs. I saw that we might connect the two chapters for one task.
Those were the reasons, why our organization agrees to contribute and to be
part of this project. Kjo mendoj se nuk është e nevojshme për publikimin në
internet, sepse është diçka teknike.
Union of Balkans Egyptians made some activities in the framework of the project in Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Serbia and Monte Negro. In some cases we had opposite ways of thinking and hard conversations, by the Roma or by the Egyptians, Rudara etc., that these communities are distinct, they have nothing in common with their origin or culture, so they don’t have to work together; this project is only a means of manipulation whose aim is to make the presentation that all these communities are Roma etc. But, from other side, we also had enough people and organizations that accepted to work in this project, according to the aims of chapter 2.
We tried and I think we had a small success, between the Egyptians, Ashkalie and Rudara to throw out the fear and to admit that there is no danger to work together with Roma for common problems, and if we worked on joint projects with the Roma the consequence is not assimilation with the Roma. From other side, between some Roma we succeed to make the tolerance and respect the identity of other people/groups that have the common stereotypes from the majority population, and commonly are identified as Gypsies or Tsigani. As the result of cooperation in this project Union of Balkans Egyptians and Human Right Project from Bulgaria, where mainly are the Roma, started to make new projects for continuation of activities and the processes that were initiated by Roma Stability Pact Project, chapter 2. (a common project proposal: Education and training for stabilization and integration of REMARO communities in social, public and political life in states of SEE). The similar project proposal initiated by “Roma under stability pact” program is with Rudara community in Varna, Bulgaria.
In Albania we had a very interest case. According to the project description it was organized a round table “Political participation of Egyptians and Roma in Albania”. The decision of the round table, where participated the representatives of NGOs and deputy candidates of the both communities, was that Egyptians and Roma have to find the common political interest in the elections but and in the political managing, so they started to prepare a common political platform, not only for the former parliamentary elections but and for the future elections. In January 2003, in Tirana was held the preparatory meeting and after that the meeting with representatives of the Government for adopting of Roma state strategy. The Albanian government is recognizing the Roma as linguistic minority, but is not willing to recognize the Egyptians as cultural or social minority. The representatives of the Egyptians used the opportunity of this meeting with the Government to present their protest why the state of Albania doesn’t want to recognize them as cultural minority. They made the request for organizing a similar meeting for the Egyptians minority in Albania, and made the memorandum for the status of the Egyptians minority in Albania, which was delivered in the meeting. The Roma representatives strongly supported this request of the Egyptians in Albania.
But, after that the report from the round table in Albania was published in the project’s Internet network, some of Roma activists from other states, made the strong protest and complain why the Egyptians are using the project “Roma under stability pact” and with the money that “is for Roma” to express and to affirm their identity and needs, without any will to be “integrated into the Roma” and to strength the “unity of Roma”. Of course, we expected this kind of reaction of some Roma activists because the prejudices that exist between the majority population also exist among Roma: “all Gypsies are Roma”, “Roma are experiencing a new genocide, because the “gadje” are dividing the ethnic substrate” etc.
Anyhow, these words are only the propaganda. The Roma who are very well recognized in the different states, who have the entering in the state and international institution, they never included other communities “with dark skin” that have the “common appellation Gypsy or Tsigane” in their integration processes. The access to the states and international institution for other “non Roma” but “Roma- like” groups some times are manipulated and usurped by the Roma. From other side the other communities “with dark skin” in some countries are better integrated that Roma. For example, at the moment in Kosovo, Egyptians are better integrated in the institution of the system that probably is a result of political managing of the political leaders. In Kosovo, we have the opposite feeling: Roma are thinking that the Egyptians are manipulating and usurping the Roma.
During the period of implementation of the program, the scientist and some leaders of the communities came to the idea for a common term for all groups/communities that have the common prejudice and stereotypes by the majority population as Gypsies, but they are not one ethnicity. That was the idea of the common term REMARO communities (Roma, Egyptians, Milet, Ashkalies, Rudara and other). We preferred to use REMARO, because of the respecting of identity and the ethnical conciseness between all these groups. If we want to build the confidence and to develop the common collaboration, we have to respect everyone’s identity, feelings and thinking, but in the same moment to find the common term for identification all of these groups, because for the majority population is very difficult to make the differences and to win the prejudices and stereotypes. That is the destiny of the minorities, they must accept the prejudices of the majority sometimes. Because Roma, Egyptians, Millet, Ashkali and Rudara, already have their organizations, like in Kosovo (RAE), the term REMARO is the lowest level for starting of collaboration, as are the objectives of the Roma under Stability Pact program.
For that reason we proposed to the manager team of Roma under stability Pact program to create a task force for REMARO community. Unfortunately, because of the deadline of the project which was very close, (only 2 month to the deadline), we could not make some activities under this program, as task force. The task force assistant made one trip in Kosovo and Montenegro, to identify the needs and the problems of the different groups.
But, during the period of ending of the previous project and starting of the new project, appeared a crisis in cross border point Medzitlija, in Macedonian-Greek border, with refugees from Kosovo. As among the refugees there are Roma, Egyptians and Askalies, we used the previous project- task force assistant for REMARO communities, as common point for helping the refugees to managing with the crisis. For that reason, according to the new project we create a Task Force for Crisis that is helping the refugees to overcome the crisis situation. With this Task Force for Crisis, we are communicating and collaborating with different Roma, Egyptians, Ashkalies and other NGOs and other organizations in Macedonia, Balkans and Europe, for logistical and other help to the refugees, to overcome the crisis.
As we mentioned above, the project “Roma under Stability Pact”, was the first project, where the Roma and Balkans Egyptians started to work on joint activities to improve and to solve some common problems. But, unfortunately, even though in the description of the new project “Roma use your ballets, wisely” are mentioned some activities that have to be done with Egyptians, Ashkalie, Rudara etc., the team that prepared the project proposal used again the term “Roma related groups”, that is against of some outcomes of the previous project. Of course, the term REMARO is not the solution neither, but it is a step forward, meanwhile the term “Roma related groups” is a step back.
For a definitive solution on the term that will be used in international institutions and conversation we need the other expert analysis and meetings, time, some joint meetings with the representatives of different “dark skin” communities…
The local, state’s solutions probably will have a big diversity, if the states want to solve the problems of “dark skin” minorities that are not Roma, to be integrated in their state systems, and to be democratic states.
Ohrid, 04. August, 2003 Union of Balkans Egyptians