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A racist Moldova?

 

By Nichita Gurcov, Amnesty International Moldova
Fleeing the civil war in his native Sierra Leone 13 years ago, John Onoje hoped for a better lot in his newly-adopted home - Moldova.

Last Sunday John Onoje was beaten up in a toilet in an underpass in the country’s capital Chisinau.

He tried to call the police, but the three who bundled him into the toilet just grinned at him: “Don’t bother, we are the police.”

The day before Moldova’s ex-President Vladimir Voronin told his supporters who had gathered for a rally in the centre of the capital: “They [the ruling parties] brought here a Negro, who’d just climbed down from a tree, and now he’s doing politics for them.”

Voronin was referring to John, who was protesting in the very same plaza, just a few yards off. It looks as if someone had picked up Voronin’s remarks as an appeal for action.

John is not at all a newbie to protesting. It took him twelve years to get his citizenship, although Moldova is far from being a honey trap for refugees let alone immigrants.

While fighting to become a fully-fledged Moldovan, John learnt the language and became a well-known face at the Chisinau open market, where he sells newspapers.

Last year he even signed up to run for President, probably thinking he is the only one who can set Moldova free from the political impasse it has been in for the past two and half years.

Maybe he just wanted to test public opinion about race. You wouldn’t want to see what many of his fellow Moldovans wrote on social networks and blogs though.

Those posts are virtual pebbles for John. Unfortunately, he knows what real stones feel like: last year he felt them on his back and head on his way home in one of Chisinau’s remote districts.

The man who hurled them at him could not explain why he did it.

This time John was beaten in the centre of Chisinau in a passage near a shopping centre on Sunday in broad daylight. Strangely, there’s only one witness. Dozens of people must have seen those three thugs hustling John into the toilet. Nobody intervened.

Vladimir Voronin enjoys immunity from any prosecution, unless his colleagues at the Parliament strip him of it. His lawyer told Moldovan TV that his boss’ remarks were ‘political’, not racial. The police deny any involvement of their staff in the Sunday incident.

Amnesty International has been wagging a finger at Moldova for police torture and their impunity, and, as of late, for wide-spread homophobia, including among political high-flyers.

Now racism must be added to this shame list – racism that cost John his dignity and his health.

By Nichita Gurcov, Amnesty International Moldova
Fleeing the civil war in his native Sierra Leone 13 years ago, John Onoje hoped for a better lot in his newly-adopted home - Moldova.

Last Sunday John Onoje was beaten up in a toilet in an underpass in the country’s capital Chisinau.

He tried to call the police, but the three who bundled him into the toilet just grinned at him: “Don’t bother, we are the police.”

The day before Moldova’s ex-President Vladimir Voronin told his supporters who had gathered for a rally in the centre of the capital: “They [the ruling parties] brought here a Negro, who’d just climbed down from a tree, and now he’s doing politics for them.”

Voronin was referring to John, who was protesting in the very same plaza, just a few yards off. It looks as if someone had picked up Voronin’s remarks as an appeal for action.

John is not at all a newbie to protesting. It took him twelve years to get his citizenship, although Moldova is far from being a honey trap for refugees let alone immigrants.

While fighting to become a fully-fledged Moldovan, John learnt the language and became a well-known face at the Chisinau open market, where he sells newspapers.

Last year he even signed up to run for President, probably thinking he is the only one who can set Moldova free from the political impasse it has been in for the past two and half years.

Maybe he just wanted to test public opinion about race. You wouldn’t want to see what many of his fellow Moldovans wrote on social networks and blogs though.

Those posts are virtual pebbles for John. Unfortunately, he knows what real stones feel like: last year he felt them on his back and head on his way home in one of Chisinau’s remote districts.

The man who hurled them at him could not explain why he did it.

This time John was beaten in the centre of Chisinau in a passage near a shopping centre on Sunday in broad daylight. Strangely, there’s only one witness. Dozens of people must have seen those three thugs hustling John into the toilet. Nobody intervened.

Vladimir Voronin enjoys immunity from any prosecution, unless his colleagues at the Parliament strip him of it. His lawyer told Moldovan TV that his boss’ remarks were ‘political’, not racial. The police deny any involvement of their staff in the Sunday incident.

Amnesty International has been wagging a finger at Moldova for police torture and their impunity, and, as of late, for wide-spread homophobia, including among political high-flyers.

Now racism must be added to this shame list – racism that cost John his dignity and his health.