Celebrating International Roma Day; Promoting Human Rights

Overcoming deep-rooted discrimination, racism, and intolerance directed against ethnic minorities is a monumental task. In Europe, the socio-economic exclusion of Romani individuals remains a human rights challenge. The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor leads the U.S. government's efforts to promote the inclusion of Europe's Romani population, which we believe will strengthen democracy and economic prosperity.

On the front lines of the struggle for Roma inclusion are a host of inspiring leaders whose dedication to the cause influences policy and drives change. I've had the good fortune of working alongside many of these figures, learning from them how the United States can best support their efforts to promote respect for fundamental human rights.

In commemoration of International Roma Day, April 8, I asked several of these leaders to reflect on what all of us, Roma and non-Roma, should celebrate and for what we should advocate:

“It is about celebrating unity but not uniformity… Europe faces its hardest challenges in decades [and we must] ally with those who want to protect Europe as we know it: democratic and liberal, open and secure, EU-led, devoted to human and minority rights, respecting diversity.” –Andrzej Mirga

Roma advocate, Andrzej Mirga. [Courtesy A. Miraga]

Andrzej Mirga, who was the first Romani student at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University in his native Poland, has been a tireless advocate for Roma across Europe. He served as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Senior Advisor for Roma and Sinti Issues from 2006 to 2013 and is currently the Chairman of the Board of the Roma Education Fund, which supports educational opportunities for Romani youth.

“I am celebrating the resilience of the Romani people across centuries, as we unite in activism and engagement in the United States and Europe to advance our rights in the face of multiple challenges —from discrimination and violence to segregation, evictions, and forced sterilization. I celebrate the long history of Romani people, our diversity and common identity, as well as the possibilities for our common future. I hope that we will work together to promote greater understanding and to create the political will to fight bigotry, xenophobia, and violence.”- Dr. Ethel Brooks

Dr. Ethel Brooks, professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Sociology at Rutgers University. [courtesy of E. Brooks]

Ethel Brooks is a professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, as well as Sociology, at Rutgers University. A Romani-American by background, Dr. Brooks is a leading voice on Romani Holocaust remembrance issues and in January 2016, President Obama named her to serve on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.  he will be the only current Romani American on the Council, which leads U.S. commemoration of the Holocaust and serves as the board of trustees of the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“We are celebrating our rich and valuable Romani culture and heritage, and we are also acknowledging the sacrifices and struggles of countless generations of Roma resisting past and present anti-Roma violence.  We should advocate for a Europe standing strong for its diversity, taking accountability for its historical injustices, and keeping its promise to ensure justice for all its citizens, including our Romani people.” – Damian Draghici, MEP

Damian Draghici, a Member of the European Parliament. [Courtesy of D. Draghici]

Damian Draghici, a Member of the European Parliament representing Romania, who is also a virtuoso jazz musician and a former Romanian Senator, is leading the way to ensure that the European Union fully recognizes and works to uphold the rights of its Romani citizens.

These leaders have dedicated themselves to a crucial cause, securing equal opportunities and treatment for all individuals. As Secretary Kerry said on the occasion of International Roma Day last year, “today and every day we renew our commitment to ensuring that all people -- regardless of ethnicity, nationality, or creed --are allowed to reach their full potential.” 

I’m proud the United States stands with Romani individuals working to achieve this shared goal. 

About the Author: David K. Meyer is a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor’s (DRL) Office of European Affairs.

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Patrick W.
Maryland, USA
April 9, 2016
This is an idea both parties raise minimum wage and give them poor people and rich people a little tax brake, then if businesses raise their employees wages, you give the owners or CEO more of a tax brake , because you will make more money off the taxes if people make more money . As for healthcare we should all pay a little money out of our checks that covers everything like in North America Canada, where no one dies because they can't afford healthcare. They don't leave their citizen to die on the streets like in America !
Deputy Chief of Mission Martina Strong helps Embassy Sofia celebrates Roma New Year. [ State Department Photo]
Members of Roma Community meet with officials at Embassy Prague. [State Department Photo]
Dancers Perform during Ambassador Schapiro's visit to Coexistence Village in Ostrava, Czech Republic. [State Department Photo]
Roma flag at the annual commemoration ceremony for the Romani victims of Nazism at the Lety Memorial, Czech Republic. [State Department Photo]
Posted by David Meyer
April 7, 2016


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