Berlin, June 27, 2018
About 80 participants met on Wednesday in front of the Embassy of Ukraine in Berlin to draw attention to the unsustainable situation of the Roma in Ukraine. Since the end of May, supporters of various right-wing extremist or nationalist groups have carried out at least five pogrom-like attacks on makeshift Roma settlements.
The most recent of these incidents, on 23 June, killed 24-year-old Dávid Papp, a native of Transcarpathia, by knife wounds. Four other people, including a 10-year-old child, also suffered stab wounds. The Ukrainian authorities are not in a position to guarantee the security of the Roma and to prevent the perpetrators of such massive acts of violence.
Representatives of numerous Berlin Roma and Sinti organisations took part in the rally, which was organised by the Berlin state association of the party DIE LINKE: RomaTrial e.V., IniRomnja, Roma Kultur Rad Berlin e.V., Rroma-Informations-Centrum e.V., Landesrat der Roma und Sinti in Berlin-Brandenburg e.V., Dikhen Amen!, European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture and from Vienna Romano SVATO.
The Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas, the Stiftung "Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft", the Freudenberg Stiftung, the Berlin branch of the Dokumentations- und Kulturzentrum Deutscher Sinti und Roma, the Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker e.V., the VVN and representatives of all three coalition parties of the Berlin state government were also represented.
Speakers included Hamze Bytyçi (RomaTrial e.V., DIE LINKE Berlin), Petra Pau (Vice-President of the German Bundestag, DIE LINKE), Susanna Kahlefeld (Member of the Berlin House of Representatives, Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen), Lars Düsterhöft (Member of the Berlin House of Representatives, SPD), Jasna Causevi (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker e.V.), a representative of the VVN, Dotschy Reinhardt (Landesrat der Roma und Sinti in Berlin-Brandenburg e.V.), Anna Mirga (ERIAC), Dominique Eberhard and Slobodan Slavi (Roma Kulturrad Berlin e.V.), Gabi Zekić (Romnja Archiv RomaniPhen), Sandra Selimovic (Romano SVATO) and Jana Mechelhoff-Herezi (Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), Christoph Leucht presented an audio message from the chairman of the ICO Roma women fund "Chiricli", Zola Kondur, from Kiev, who expressed her thanks for the solidarity and described the situation on the spot as very frightening.
All the speakers expressed their solidarity with the Roma in Ukraine. Many pointed out that Roma did not only in Ukraine live almost without rights and protection and without prospects for the future. Concern was also expressed for the neo-populist and nationalist parties that are strengthening throughout Europe. The German government has often been called upon to make the chain of violence against Roma and human rights violations against members of this and other minorities in general the subject of diplomatic and economic policy negotiations with the Ukrainian government. In view of the genocide of the Roma, the representative of VVN demanded an unrestricted right of residence for members of the minority in Germany. Hamze Bytyçi admonished the indivisibility of human rights, Petra Pau pointed out that the manifold violations of the human rights of Roma and Sinti - also in this country - contradict Article 1 of the Basic Law and are therefore unconstitutional. Jana Mechelhoff-Herezi questioned how serious Germany was about taking responsibility towards the Sinti and Roma if, on the one hand, it erected a symbolic monument, but on the other hand, the German government had been silent for weeks on the violent excesses against Roma in Ukraine. She was helpless and angry at the predictability of the recent dramatic development and the death of Dávid Papp. Katina Schubert moderated the rally.
Background of the rally
On 21 April, extremists near the Ukrainian capital committed violent pogrom-like attacks against Roma, driving 15 families, including small children, out of their makeshift settlement, throwing stones at them, threatening them with iron bars and pepper spray. They set the Roma's belongings on fire. The leader of the Ukrainian right-wing extremist group S14 bragged on Facebook with photos of the burning shelters. On the night of May 9-10, about 30 masked men burned down a Roma settlement near Lviv. On 22 May, 20 people, some of them minors, raided a Roma camp (seven adults and about 30 children) near Ternopil with firearms. On 7 June, members of the "National Citizens' Army" destroyed a Roma camp in Holosivskyi Park in Kiev. The crime was filmed and broadcast on Facebook. As far as is known, the police are investigating here as well as in the previous attacks for "gross mischief".
Already after the first attack on 21 April, Uwe Neumärker, Director of the Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas, and Hamze Bytyçi of the Berlin-based association RomaTrial e.V. wrote a letter to the Ukrainian ambassador and called on the Ukrainian government "not to tolerate such barbaric attacks and to do everything in its power to ensure that affected Roma and all other Roma in Ukraine feel safe". In his brief reply, the Ambassador assured that such incidents were unacceptable for Ukraine and that the actions had already been condemned by the Minister of the Interior. The Stiftung Denkmal sent another letter on 13 June in which it draws attention to the further attacks. The answer is still missing.
In the summer of 2015, Neumärker and Bytyçi founded the Alliance for Solidarity with Europe's Sinti and Roma. Hamze Bytyçi on the recent incident: "The attacks affect the most vulnerable in society. Roma are disadvantaged, marginalised and discriminated against on a daily basis in many European countries. This racism has now reached a new, incredible dimension. We protest strongly and appeal to the Ukrainian judiciary and law enforcement authorities to punish the pogrom and other acts of violence against Roma with all energy and the full severity of the law.
At the end of the rally, Bytyçi threw the open letter to the Ukrainian ambassador, which he had written together with Neumärker and which was signed by many of the participants of the solemn vigil, into the mailbox of the embassy.