Czech Police say assault on Muslim women in Prague by aggressive woman was a misdemeanor

The case of an attack on two Muslim women as they were on their way to the Divoká Šárka aquapark in Prague has been assessed by police as a misdemeanor. The Muslim women were chaperoning 13 children on a trip when they were photographed by a woman who then assaulted one of them both physically and verbally when they asked her to stop taking their picture.

“I believe there should be more intensive investigation of the motivation for that attack,” said Klára Kalibová, a lawyer and director of the In IUSTITIA organization, when asked by Czech Television what she made of the police’s conclusion. Verbally abusing others in public because of their assumed race or religion meets the definition of a crime, according to the relevant statute.

Tomáš Hulan, spokesperson for the Prague Police, told Czech Television that officers assessed the matter in full and came to the conclusion that the behavior described met the definition of a misdemeanor. The police are not, however, ruling out the option for the qualification of the incident to be changed.

bau, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

Czech Police reconstruct murder of Romani man, shooter faces 20 years in prison if convicted

Czech Police performed a reconstruction during the night of Friday 11 August of the May murder of a Romani man at a housing estate in the town of Chomutov. The re-enactment involved the 37-year-old man who has been accused of the murder, supervising State Prosecutor Vladimír Jan told the Czech News Agency.

Police chose to do the reconstruction at night in order to recreate the conditions of the incident as closely as possible. If convicted, the man faces between 12 and 20 years in prison.

On 25 May around 3 AM, police say the man who has now been charged with the killing heard noise from the street, looked out the window, and saw a van crashing into parked cars. The driver then attempted to drive away, heading the van in the direction of his relatives standing in front of the building on the sidewalk, the people with whom he had been having an argument.

The man watching from the window immediately grabbed his licensed firearm, ran out in front of the building, and began to shoot at the van as it drove past, hitting the driver several times and causing him serious injuries from which he died at the scene. The shooter then waited for the police to arrive.

On 11 August, just after 2 AM, police officers began to arrive at the location of the May crime scene and closed off the connecting streets around the building in front of which the shooting happened. Besides detectives there were also police dogs and riot units.

An investigative attempt at reconstructing the events proceeded. Police re-enacted the shooting victim driving past the building in his van.

“The aim of this investigative attempt is to verify certain facts,” Jan said. “The purpose of the reconstruction is to re-enact the entire course of the incident.”

“The reconstruction involved the cooperation of the accused, without whom it would not have been possible,” the supervising state prosecutor added. The accused demonstrated to detectives how he recalls the incident unfolding.

Detectives chose to re-enact what happened at almost the same time of day that the shooting took place. “That was for the purpose of recreating the conditions that prevailed at the time to the greatest possible extent,” Jan said.

The detectives’ work ended at about 5 AM. The legal qualification of the case remains unchanged.

The accused has been charged with murder under the second paragraph of the Criminal Code, and if convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison. He has been in custody since the end of May, where he was remanded because the court was convinced he would influence eyewitnesses if at liberty.

ČTK, voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

Petra Gelbart: I don’t study the Roma, I study the gadje

Dr. Petra Gelbart was born in Ústí nad Labem and considers Prague her home. At the age of 10, her parents moved the family to the USA. She studied musicology, specializing in ethnomusicology and education. During the school year she lives with her husband and two children in New York, in the predominantly Hispanic/Indian neighborhood of Jackson Heights. She lectures on Romani cultures at colleges and for the general public. Her lectures often feature accordion playing and singing.

The following interview was first published in the magazine Romano voďi. In it she discusses how she went from being a student at Harvard to becoming a lecturer at the State University of New York, the necessity of being both a Romani activist and a Romani scholar, and how she still enjoys teaching children most of all.

Q:  You have begun teaching at university – what will you lecture in there?

A: It’s SUNY – the State University of New York. I also work at another university with a similar name, New York University, which is private and headquartered in the center of town, but SUNY is less expensive for students and has campuses all over the state. At their campus in Purchase I will teach about Indian, Indonesian, Romani and popular music in general. I have 70 students enrolled in two courses there this semester and they will all be regularly graded, so I won’t be bored. At New York University I am supervising the independent studies of two postgraduate students and I also lead a university music group called Raklorom together with a young expert in “gypsy jazz”.

Q:  You are also negotiating the establishment of a Romani Music Institute at this prestigious New York University. How is that going and what can we expect?

A:  It won’t be an Institute. The head of the music department originally wanted it to be one, but the university leadership thought that idea was too ambitious. We are therefore remaining the Initiative for Romani Music. Right now we are in the phase of holding conferences, seminars and other activities through which we raise awareness about the Romani ethnicity in the academy and in general. The next step is to get a grant for this work, because otherwise it is predominantly done by volunteers. In the future we would also like to attract a larger number of students, including Romani ones, to devote themselves to studying Romani cultures and issues of inter-ethnic coexistence at NYU.

Q:  You have gone in for Romani studies and you are Romani yourself. What are the advantages and disadvantages to being an insider in the community you are actually researching?

A:  What I do really isn’t Romani studies. In my academic work, I practice what I call “gadjology” (the study of the gadje). To a certain degree, I am an insider among both non-Romani and Romani people, so I do my best to get others to stop comparing Romani people to the gadje (to what degree we have adapted gadje ways, or on the other hand, to what degree we are exotic) and to also compare the gadje to Romani people – and mainly, to compare the gadje to one another. That means that when we discuss “gypsy crime”, as if it were something extra-specific, we should also discuss gadje crime, because in the Czech Republic that has even more specific features than, for example, Romani theft does. That is just one example of many.

I consider the greatest advantage of being involved in Romani studies to be the fact that I have gotten to know Romani people from very diverse subgroups, and I never assume that one or or another feature of these groups belongs to some sort of general “Romani culture”. The disadvantage, besides the fact that I am only Romani on my mother’s side and I have never personally experienced some realities, is that I am constantly engaged as an activist. Sometimes it is then difficult to find the objectivity needed for research. I believe “the truth will set us free” and that there is no point in manipulating facts, because if we paint situations as rosier than they are, no one will ever believe us and, as Romani people, we will then only ever be able to communicate with one another, not with the rest of the world.

Q:  What were your studies like? You attended primary school in the Czech Republic, and then where did you go?

A:  I completed primary school in the USA. Then I went to high school, which in America isn’t much of a dividing line, because almost everyone attends their local high school, whether they graduate or not. I studied music at UC Berkeley, but in a rather theoretical area. After a year-long break, during which I was a volunteer with Romani asylum seekers in London, I started my postgraduate studies in musicology at Harvard and after some years got my doctorate.

Q:  Which of those universities suited you best?

A:  I have nice memories of St. Mary’s College in Maryland where I spent my freshman year of college. After that I moved back to Prague for a year, and then I transferred to Berkeley. Berkeley is incomparably larger, so one gets a bit lost there, but I found a couple of professors who advised me well. I was afraid of Harvard, I thought it would be snobbish. However, it wasn’t – at least it wasn’t for postgraduate studies. There was an excellent group of students there and the opportunities for research were brilliant. In retrospect, some of the lectures seem to have been exaggeratedly leftist, but what else can you expect from idealistic professors, right? I’m an idealist myself, so I understand that.

Q: Financially it is extremely demanding to attend college in the USA – how did you handle it?

A:  Partly through loans, partly through stipends, and I worked full-time almost every summer. I didn’t pay anything for the doctorate – on the contrary, the university paid me, first just for showing up, and then for teaching students in Bachelor’s programs.

Q:  I presume your parents have always supported you in studying. Were they both college graduates also?

A:  My father yes, my mother just went to an academic high school with college extension courses. It’s a shame she never attended college, because there is no doubt she has what it takes. Even without it, though, she got pretty far in the academic world – in Maryland she taught the Czech language at a university run by the US Department of Agriculture. A Romani woman teaching Czech in America! Now she is studying operatic singing at a conservatory, which I think is fabulous, except she has somehow forgotten how to sing in Romanes.

Q:  Your husband also lectures at university? What school do your children attend, what grades are they in?

A:  My husband lectures in music history, which doesn’t just mean the history of “dead white men”, but also of jazz or popular music. My children attend schools where the classes are not numbered according to age – instead, each child is in the group that he or she needs most to be in. The children love their school, for which I am immeasurably grateful.

Q:  You established a project in the Czech Republic a few years ago called “Our Romani Child” (Naše romské dítě). How did it go? Is it continuing?

A: I didn’t establish it, that was the work of Mgr. Martina Vančáková and I was just hanging around. She always organizes everything excellently, she gives lectures on foster care and on Romani-ness, and also – fortunately! – she is constantly seeking other Romani lecturers besides me. Whenever I am in the Czech Republic, which is seven or eight weeks in the year, I always get involved as a volunteer and do programs for adoptive or foster families with Romani children, whether as part of the “Our Romani Child” project or with another association of foster parents. That’s my favorite work.

Q:  You are a member of other movements and projects, e.g., “Roma Woman” or nebo “Hlasohled”. You also blog. Do you have any energy for anything else?

A:  I’d say I am a rather unused member of several organizations, for example, the California-Kosovo association Voice of Roma, but I am always up to something as an activist. I basically have the need to constantly educate people, its probably a deformation stemming from my character rather than from my profession. The blog bothers me because I would like to write regularly and unfortunately I don’t get around to it. It is much more difficult for me to write a text that is more or less correct in Czech than it is in English. As I already indicated, I prefer teaching, and teaching children most of all. If no other opportunity is on the horizon, I go to my daughter’s or son’s school and the poor children have to listen to what I have invented for them this time. Last time we made candy apples with my son’s class and the children learned the connection between the English word “lollipop” and the Romani words “loliphab” or “phabaj”, which means “red apple”. Romani people used to make candy apples and sell them at fairs in Britain.

Q:  What about your band?

A:  It’s called Via Romen and its been working for many years, both with me and without me, even though I co-founded it with Vadim Kolpakov (Editors’ Note:  see our interview with him here). Since the members of the current lineup live in three different states, it’s a touring band, and as the mother of small children, that doesn’t suit me. I prefer to play and sing occasionally, mainly when an audience wants to learn something more about Romani people than that we are allegedly hot-blooded and therefore socially impossible and that our clothes are ablaze with color.

Q:  Did you and your family spend the summer in the Czech Republic this year as usual? What are the differences between life here and life in the USA?

A:  Yes, we had a crazy summer with the foster families and it was great, the children enjoyed it. This year we didn’t have to deal with any open manifestations of racism. Otherwise we’ve had rather bad luck in that regard, and my children from an early age have very well understood the difference between life in America, where no one objects to us, and a visit to the Czech Republic, where they are considered “gypsy” brats even when they behave like angels. Naturally there are other differences, for example, in social security, which is incomparably higher in the Czech Republic, or in health care, but that’s a long story.

Q:  You are co-organizing a conference and festival at NYU for next spring. What is its central topic?

A:  We want to open a dialogue between non-Romani and Romani people about how Romani people present themselves compared to how non-Romani people present them, such as music companies or the organizers of festivals. Sometimes non-Romani music producers present highly educated Romani musicians as fools who know nothing, who “only feel” and produce uncontrollable passion for the admiration of others. I don’t have anything against passion, but there is also a need to educate the public and show them what Romani people have in their heads, what they are communicating through their music, what their other aesthetic goals are besides passion.

New York, 24.10.2012 17:58, (Romano vod’i)

Mladi romski lideri: Znanje je najveće bogatstvo koje vam niko ne može oduzeti

Admira Biberović iz Tuzle ima 21 godinu i kaže da je za postizanje napretka u društvu potrebno da svatko prvo radi na sebi, i da svojim primjerom sredini pokaže kako su neke stvari moguće. Studira poslovnu psihologiju, članica je Komisije za ravnopravnost spolova pri Gradskom vijeću Tuzle, povjerenica Mjesne zajednice Mosnik, predsjednica Udruženja “Euro Rom” i članica lokalnog LYRA tima mladih romskih lidera za Tuzlu.

Sve što sam kroz školovanje, učešće u aktivnosti LYRA grupe kroz projekat “Save The Childrena” i već sada bogato iskustvo u radu želim koristiti na osnaživanje drugih mladih osoba koji će motivirati ostale mlade Rome da se pokrenu, da i mi mladi Romi konačno dokažemo da možemo nešto pokrenuti u društvu, kaže Admira koja je i članica redakcije “Udara”. Dodaje kako posebno želi uticati na mlade Romkinje da se uključe u rad u zajednici, uputiti ih kome se mogu obratiti, prijaviti diskriminaciju u društvu, reagirati:

– Želim im poručiti da se trebaju školovati, završiti srednju školu, fakultet, zaposliti se. Pokazujem im to i svojim primjerom, da nisam završila srednju školu ne bih došla u priliku da se zaposlim, sada imam mogućnost da studiram i uspjela sam se izboriti da budem predsjednica jednog udruženja. Kada završim fakultet i izgradim se kao ličnost, tada ću razmišljati i o udaji. Mnoge Romkinje nažalost misle da je dio tradicije da rade samo u kući, ali ne i da su aktivne u društvu ili da imaju posao, i na tome će se još dosta trebati raditi, priča Admira.

Dodaje kako je svjesna da put koji je sebi zacrtala neće biti lagan, spremna je na borbu sa predrasudama i stereotipima i zna da je mnogo prepreka s kojima će se susresti kako u okolini, tako i unutar same Romske zajednice.

“Bez obzira na sve ne mislim odustati. Napretka ima i on se primijeti i na nama je da tajnapredak ohrabrimo. Na primjer, sve je više djevojčica u školi, srednjoškolaca generalno iz godine u godinu imamo sve više, trenutno ih se preko Udruženja “Euro Rom” 72 stipendira i taj broj, bar kad je Tuzla u pitanju raste”.

Borba za ljudska prava u cjelini

Među aktivnim mladim koji žele aktivno uticati na svoju i budućnost zajednice je  Salmir Seferović iz Bijeljine koji kaže da mu je završena škola najveće bogatstvo koje ima, koje mu niko nemože oduzeti i koje namjerava povećavati:

Salmir Seferović, (Foto: Almir Panjeta)

– Ljudi ne znaju kako je kada žudiš za školovanjem, a nemaš priliku. Ta gomilica papira moje su stečeno bogatstvo i plan mi je da uskoro bude još veća. Nisam imao priliku na vrijeme ići u školu, onda sam preko ‘Otaharina’ uspio završiti vanredno osnovnu školu, a onda sam završio trogodišnju srednju za trgovca. Tada sam se počeo uključivati volonterski u aktivnosti ‘Otaharina’, kroz neformalno obrazovanje sam stekao brojne vještine kao i kroz angažman u LYRA projektu gdje sam se uključio kao član tima, priča Salmir koji je kroz program podrške zapošljavanju Roma zaposlen u Udruženju ‘Otaharin’ Bijeljina na mjesto projekt asistenta.

Mlade često ograniči kada imaju želju za nečim a neko im kaže ‘Ne možeš ti to’. Želim im svojim pozitivnim primjerom pokazati da mogu sve ako to jako žele, i ako se školuju i stiču znanje koje im u tome može pomoći. Djeci stalno govorim koliko je važno da završe školu jer će im se to kad-tad isplatiti, priča Salmir koji kaže kako se kroz svoj angažman želi boriti za prava svih kojima su ta prava ugrožena.

“Potrebno je da se borimo za ljudska prava u cjelini, za prava Roma i drugih marginaliziranih skupina, za prava LGBT osoba, i svih koje sredina po bilo kojem osnovu diskriminira.”

Sa školovanjem namjerava nastaviti kako bi povećao svoju “gomilicu papira”, svoje bogatstvo:

“Plan mi je da položim četvrtu godinu, pa se nadam nekoj stipendiji kako bih upisao fakultet i uz svoj rad nastavio školovanje, zanima me grafički dizajn i nadam se da će biti nešto u tom pravcu“.

Nemojte ga tjerati da prosi

Prateći projekat “Save The Childrena” kroz inspirativne priče aktivnih mladih koji se trude promijeniti sebe i svoju sredinu najbolje potpisnik ovih redova imao je priliku upoznati i Harisa Halilovića, koordinatora LYRA grupe za Mostar i čuti njegovu inspirativnu priču.

Završio sam ugostiteljstvo, ali nisam imao priliku raditi u struci jer kao Roma nitko nije htio da me zaposli. Prije nisam bio do kraja svjestan u kolikoj mjeri je to diskriminirajuće, a sada pomažem i drugima da to shvate. Radim na platformi PrijaviDiskriminaciju, ali i svoja znanja primjenjujem i direktno na ulici i u zajednici, zauzimajući se za Rome i sve druge čija se prava ugrožavaju, priča Haris. Kaže da ranije ni sam nije znao dovoljno o diskriminaciji, a da mu je danas jedan od glavnih ciljeva djelovanja upravo upoznavanje onih čija su prava ugrožena i koji su diskriminirani sa načinima na koje ta prava da zaštite i da se za njih izbore:

“Dešava se da neki ljudi dođu i da tjeraju Rome koji prose u Starom Gradu, i ako se tu nađem, zauzmem se za njih, uključim se i pitam odakle im pravo da nekoga tjeraju i određuju mu gdje smije, a gdje ne smije biti. Obično ustuknu jer na ta pitanja nemaju odgovor”.

Haris Halilović, (Foto: Almir Panjeta)

Haris kaže kako je imao priliku reagirati i u slučajevima nasilja u porodici:

“Branio sam dijete od fizičkog nasilja, tjerali su ga da prosi. Rekao sam roditeljima: ‘Ne smijete ga tući! I nemojte ga tjerati da prosi! Tjerajte ga da ide u školu ili u vrtić!’ Moramo promijeniti sliku o Romima i pokazati i pozitivne priče kojih ima!”, priča, dodajući kako kroz svoj aktivizam fokuz stavlja na informiranje diskriminiranih o njihovim pravima.

“Ljudi čija su prava ugrožena često ne žele sami da se uključe u borbu za ostvarivanje tih prava. Ne znaju koja prava imaju ni kome da se obrate, sistem ih zbunjuje, i onda nažalost često odustaju. Veliki broj ih ne ide u školu, uskraćuje im se pravo na školovanje što poslije dovodi da im se i druga prava ugrožavaju jer nemaju potrebno obrazovanje, i to je nešto na čemu trebamo posebno raditi.”

Poput Salmira i Haris kaže kako je obrazovanje najbitnije i nema namjeru odustati od školovanja i stalnog unapređivanja znanja i vještina:

“Plan mi je da položim još jedan razred i završim turistički smjer kako bih se zaposlio kao turistički vodić. Volio bih ići i na fakultet, pa ću pokušati da nađem neku stipendiju i da se dalje školujem. Promjena svijesti i obrazovanje su najbitniji, to je nešto što ti nemogu oduzeti”.

Da je informiranje diskriminiranih o njihovim pravima posebno bitno smatra i Jelena Jelić iz Banja Luke. Na masteru je međunarodnog privatnog prava, a posebno je zanima humanitarno pravo što je bio i jedan od razloga da se priključi lokalnom LYRA timu za Banja Luku.

Nepoznavanje prava škodi, i zato one koji su diskriminirani i čija se prava krše treba što više upoznavati sa pravima i načinima kako da ta prava ostvare i ko im ta prava štiti. Zbog toga sam, između ostalog i članica ove grupe u kojoj kroz svoj angažman i osobni primjer želim raditi na razvoju svijesti o pravima među djecom, mladima i svim ostalima na koje mogu uticati, kaže Jelena koja svoja znanja ima priliku primijeniti i kroz rad na platformi PrijaviDiskriminaciju gdje je angažirana kao administratorica.

Svi mladi s kojima smo razgovarali u svojoj sredini pokušavaju direktno uticati na vršnjake i kroz razgovor ili online djelovanje ih potaknuti na to da uzmu aktivnije učešće u zajednici, da se informišu i bore za svoja prava. Gazmend  Junuzi iz Sarajeva uz sve to je i član mobilnog tima Centra za socijalni rad KS, a kroz Dnevni centar za djecu koja obavljaju rad na ulici koji je pokrenuo “Save The Children”.

Kroz posao se svakodnevno susrećem s ljudima kojima su prava na neki način ugrožena, i bitno je da im osim podrške kroz posao mogu ponuditi i korisne informacije o tome gdje da se za određeni problem obrate, da im ukažem ako su im prava ugrožena, da ih upoznam s tim kako da prepoznaju i na koji način da reagiraju na diskriminaciju, priča Gazmend. Kaže da kroz rad ima priliku komunicirati direktno s roditeljima i djecom na terenu, posredovati između njih i škole ili institucija na koje ih upućuje.

Gazmend Junuzi, (Foto: Almir Panjeta)

Govorim im da trebaju školovati djecu, jer kroz školovanje će naći svoju budućnost. Mnogi kažu ‘kakva je korist od škole’, ja im onda pokažem svojim primjerom da se školovanje isplati, jer da nisam završio školu ne bih mogao dobiti posao. Zato je bitno da mladi vide kako kad si školovan i znaš svoja prava lakše možeš da se boriš protiv diskriminacije i da je svojim znanjem pobijediš, kaže nam Gazmend.

Svako znanje je od koristi. Meni u poslu pomaže i to što govorim još albanski i romski jezik, tako da kada s mobilnim timom dođem u zajednicu, na početku je odmah lakše kad ljudi vide nekoga s kim se mogu identificirati, i kada im se obratim na jeziku koji oni poznaju i na kojem lakše mogu iznijeti svoj problem, dodaje Gazmend.


Medijatori kao spona između institucija i romske zajednice

U sklopu projekta “Za aktivnu inkluziju i prava Romkinja na Zapadnom Balkanu” koji se implementira uz podršku CARE International Balkans, zaposlena su dva romska medijatora i jedna medijatorica, koji će u Tuzli, Sarajevu, Vukosavlju i Prnjavoru raditi na povezivanju Roma i lokalne vlasti, te raditi na rješavanju problema sa kojima se ova nacionalna manjna svakodnevno susreće.

Medijator su od velike važnosti u romskim zajednicama jer su oni ti koji ulaze direktno u zajednice i razgovaraju o problemima sa kojima se susreću Romi i Romkinje i rade na rješenju tih problema. Oni su spona između institucija i romske zajednice – rekao je jedan od romskih medijatora, Mišo Mirković.

Osnovna ideja projekat je da jača samopouzdanje Romkinja. One će kroz ovaj projekat biti osnažene da ostvare svoje pravo na zdravstvo, obrazovanje i život bez nasilja. Plan je da se Romske ženske organizacije i Romkinje umreže, kako na regionalnom tako i na evropskom nivou, što predstavlja mogućnost zajedničkog učenja i rješavanja višegodišnjih problema.

Projekat se realizuje u partnerstvu sa Udruženjem žena Romkinja Bolja budućnost iz Tuzle, Ženskim romskim centrom „Bibija“ iz Srbije i Centrom za romske incijative Nikšić iz Crne Gore.