50 years ago today, on April 8, 1971, the first World Roma Congress took place in Orpington, a small suburb of London. 23 Roma activists from 9 European countries decided to use the proper name “Roma” to ban discriminatory words like “Gipsy” or “Gypsy”. In addition, the Roma gave themselves a flag: the upper half “blue” for the sky, the lower half “green” for the country – in the middle a red Ashoka Chakra which should symbolize the origin of the Roma from India. The song “Jelem, Djelem” was adopted by Congress as the anthem of the civil rights movement.
The term “Roma”, adopted at the World Roma Congress, stands for very different groups such as Bashalde, Boyash, Churari, Gitanoes, Kalderash, Kalo, Lovari, Luri Romungro Manouches, Machavaya, Ungaritza, Romanichal, Rudari, Sinti, Travellers, Yenish, Xoraxai and others. Despite differences in language, culture, religion and history, they are united by a centuries-long history of oppression and exclusion that culminated in the extermination of hundreds of thousands of Roma by the Nazi regime. The holocaust against the Roma is called “Porajmos” in Romanes.
50 years after the founding congress, it can be stated that the diversity of Roma groups is at the same time a problem for strong organization and representation of interests. This also makes it easier for international organizations, the EU and national governments to fend off demands for equal rights. There is a clear lack of political will to implement equal rights for Roma.
In countries of Southeastern and Eastern Europe, Roma live on the margins of society, often cut off from humanitarian standards of living. “It is shameful that the nearly 12 million Sinti and Roma in Europe today still face exclusion, discrimination, apartheid and violence. And this, despite their centuries-old history, despite the Holocaust, in which 500,000 Sinti and Roma were murdered in Nazi-occupied Europe. In many countries, human rights have a high priority after the experiences of Nazi barbarism. But they still do not apply to all Sinti and Roma in Europe. Together, as a whole society, we must finally change this shameful state of affairs. We therefore appeal to the national governments to implement the strategic EU framework and finally perceive the Roma as an equal part of society,” states Romani Rose, Chairman of the Central Council Sinti and Roma. “Antiziganism must finally be outlawed and fought just as consistently as anti-Semitism” he adds in a video statement on the occasion of the holiday.
The city of Leipzig also continues to struggle in this regard. In 2016, the initiative “Leipzig Korrektiv”, together with numerous personalities, such as Küf Kaufmann, Sebastian Krumbiegel, Erik Wolf and Cornelia Ernst wrote a letter to the Lord Mayor Burkhard Jung to “set a strong sign by raising the Roma flag on April 8, at the New City Hall”.
A subsequent motion submitted in June 2019 by the Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen parliamentary group and the Linksfraktion found only partial approval of the City Council, the raising of the Roma flag did not find a majority. Even for the 50th anniversary, therefore, only the monument at the Swan Pond behind the Opera remains as the only symbolic place.
Today, on 08 April, the community is organizing at https://romanistan.com/ with a broad-based online congress to mark the holiday.
On April 14 at 6:30 p.m., there will be an online discussion titled “Exclusion. Roma and Sinti Hostility Yesterday and Today. What do we have to do about it?” will take place.