• Campaigns

50,000 activists say “NO” to discrimination against Romani people in Italy

By Fernando Chironda
The Roma dance group Cheja Chelen performing in Piazza del Popolo, Rome, as part of Amnesty International’s campaign for Rights for Roma in Italy, 22 December 2012. © Amnesty International

This year, Amnesty International’s campaign for Romani people’s human rights in Italy started out stronger than ever.

Last month, we delivered almost 50,000 signatures from all over the world to the Italian Prime Minister. Each signature called for an end to forced evictions and segregation of Romani men, women and children in Italy (see p. 4-7 of WIRE September/October 2012). We packed two huge boxes full of postcards and petitions and sent them to the Prime Minister’s office wrapped as Christmas gifts, since the office had declined our request for a meeting. With these signatures, thousands of people affirmed their belief that a different world is possible and demanded an Italy without prejudice and discrimination!

We celebrated the delivery in the famous Piazza del Popolo, Rome, with theatre, music and dance performances, and Romani people, NGO representatives and passers-by taking part.

Among the comings and goings in the square, the actress Sara Aprile held us spellbound as she told the life stories of Roma who, due to their isolation in camps, are marginalized and invisible. We were warmed and cheered by other performances: the whole square was wrapped up in the colours and rhythms of Romani music by the girls of the Cheja Chelen dance group, who brought a smile to everyone’s face.

The Romani trio Taraf of Transylvania accompanied our preparations for the key event of the afternoon: the creation of a bright and majestic Roma flag around the centre of the square. We became part of the flag ourselves, holding hands in a huge circle. We photographed and filmed it from above, sealing this afternoon of solidarity and friendship, when we repeated our “NO” to racism and discrimination against Roma.

Finally, as it is typical during traditional Roma celebrations, the fun was completed by a moment of sharing: we were delighted by hot tea and delicious Balkan cake, the Baklava, kindly offered by participating organizations.

We would like to thank all those who contributed to making this initiative happen. Having the opportunity to imagine and share our vision of a different world, without discrimination, was wonderful. We hope our political leaders will get the message too!

There is still a lot to be done to stop forced evictions and segregation of Roma in camps and, more in general, to tackle the discrimination which contributes to their social exclusion, affecting all aspects of their lives.

This is one of our key goals this year, ahead of national elections on 24-25 February 2013.

Let’s keep working together, with the hope that 2013 will be the time when the human rights of Roma are at last fulfilled!