DO HUMAN RIGHTS EXPAND BEYOND POPULISM AND POLITICAL CAMPAIGNING?
It seems that at times like these social inclusion has become a prerequisite for a peaceful living in Europe which is becoming increasingly concerned with the influx of refugees and migrants. Adem Ademi from our Expert Pool, whose field of expertise includes social inclusion and Roma people raises some fair points on Antigypsism that we could all benefit from.
Equality,human rights and freedom of speech are terms we hear on a daily basis. But do these exist only in theories, speeches and campaigns or can they be found actually living among people?
This is questions that I often pose to myself.
Thinking fast, I start with the notion of that today many use the human rights terminology for business purposes in one hand and in populist speeches of politicians and representatives of intergovernmental organizations on the other hand.
Thinking slowly, in my experience, I see that real respect of human dignity, equality and human rights is present in societies where they are not mentioned much, where campaigns are not taking place but respect develops naturally between different groups of people who value living together. The formal system of education, professional work and services have to include such sessions in order to bring back the humanity and mutual understanding among people with different backgrounds.
Today, in the process of globalization, it is extremely difficult to find such “untouched” places where neighbors do beyond good morning.
You have plenty of experience in working on Antygypsism. Can you tell us a bit more about this particular filed of work,what does it refer to exactly?
We should start with the question “How much do Roma know about the rest of the society?” I assume the response will be “A lot, because in their respective countries children learn the history and everything about the majority society”. The follow-up question is “How much does the non-Roma know about Roma?” It is considered normal and expected that non-Roma know nothing or the very little they know comes from the stereotypes and media.
The two simple questions I examined are providing us three introduction aspects of this phenomenon.
- Not knowing the neighbor’s history, not knowing the schoolmates culture, not knowing the work colleagues background makes it very easy to create stereotypes and build prejudices. This is how we also later behave towards this community.
- The Romani language is not taught in schools, although the European Charter of Minority Languages and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights say minority children have the right to study in their mother tongue from the level of kindergarten. This is violation of the right to be taught in your mother tongue which is believed to be part of wider ideology of discrimination trough centuries.
- Not knowing the reality about a certain group implicitly creates subjective opinions at wider society, and most often justifies violation of rights, discrimination and even physical attacks.
There are many definitions about antigypsyism. It is considered as virulent and most violent form of social resentment towards the Roma. In the study sessions with youngsters we describe it as a form of racism, ideology founded on racial superiority nurtured by historical discrimination expressed by violence, stigmatization, hate speech and most blatant form of discrimination towards Roma. One should be aware that we are speaking about behavior toward everything considered as “Gypsy”.
There are two dangerous aspects, in my view: One is that it starts from the very first ages of children when mothers are using “Old Gypsy woman will come and take you if you don’t eat your soup” and continues to school desks; the second, and most dangerous aspect, is that this phenomenon is largely present in the professional work of institutions and public authorities. This is known as institutional antigypsyism.
Many organizations are speaking about this phenomenon, organizing different campaigns and fighting against it. The newly established European Roma Network SIMURGH supports this fight but we think that there is a critical need to do more! We should teach future generations of non-Roma professionals and academics about this phenomenon and raise awareness on how dangerous this is for the humanity as a whole.
Can human rights, and education on Antygypsism ever become a part of the standard curriculum in schools or will forever remain in the realm of NGOs and civil organizations?
There is no easy path-way towards a change in attitudes, behaviors and policies.
Attitude and behaviours are embedded into the fabric of daily life. Research outcomes are pointing that individuals register an immediate and automatic reaction of “good” or “bad” towards everything they encounter even before they are aware of having formed an attitude. Political campaigns, advertisements, YouTube videos, social media jokes and other persuasive media messages are all built on the premise that behaviour follows attitude, and attitude can be influenced with the right message delivered in the right way.
If one would like to introduce teaching Antigypsysim in schools, there must be a thorough process of development of program/sessions that will aim at raising awareness towards building a positive attitude or more precisely towards challenging the inappropriate, irrational behaviour based on false concepts and constructs. In that process materials from George Kelly, famous psychologist, can be applied, techniques of cognitive behaviour and many more.
So, there are preconditions in terms of materials and research outcomes, there is only need for development of sessions and political will. SIMURGH will commit to work on this in the upcoming years.
In the world always on the brink of a conflict where do you see the solution to turn the situation around and create more bridges between nationalities and nations?
Acceptance and building on diversities instead of conscious permission to development of hate and prejudices towards those differences. If we, as part of the society, work on institutionalisation or having formal processes in schools and institutions which will be focusing on valuing the diversities, I believe that this can be the beginning towards building more tolerant society.
There are number of Roma who contributed to the development of the society. What is important is that people recognized their skills and capabilities and did not focus on their ethnic background. The prominent Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek (term 1956-1961) was known as the father of modern Brazil, the famous actor Yul Brynner is known for his portrayals in the Ramses II, The King and I and many other movies. Very recently Tyson Furry became world boxing champion in heavyweight category. The mentioned individuals have Roma ancestry. So, in my opinion it’s all about acceptance and valuing differences.