15 Apr Roma in Gabrovo, Collateral Damage Between Two Fires:
Roma Standing Conference has been in close contact with more than 100 families forced to leave their homes by organized mobs in Gabrovo. Today, in our visit to these families, we experienced unbearable sense of fear, terror, and intimidation, and the drama of their lives is becoming an enormous human tragedy. Without hope, knowing that their current difficulties are nearly impossible to surmount. Two of the most dispossessed families remained without homes as the mobs burnt them in the brutal attack. This situation is beneath human dignity and unacceptable for Europe in the 21st century. Despite all this, Roma families demonstrated incredible determination to go back to their homes and normal lives. They want their innocent children’s to go back to school and they want back to their workplaces.
At the same time, non-Roma peers in Gabrovo continued encouraging outrageous hatred and violence in their massive protest yesterday. The organizers are scapegoating Roma as privileged minority in Bulgaria that is responsible for Bulgarian miserable living conditions. Most of them are ignorant to accept the reality that Roma have nothing to do with the weak integrity and governance of the main public institutions, directly causing miserable living conditions for all Bulgarians, Roma included.
Roma Standing Conference made an immediate plan of support to these families, especially in supporting the two families without homes. Besides this, we should also help our non-Roma peers to not let themselves being manipulated by most sophisticated tools of some political actors aiming to score a bit more votes by encouraging interethnic tensions. This can have devastated consequences for both Roma and non-Roma peers.
As Roma Standing Conference, we are doing our best to take responsibility for resolving this situation that benefits all. In the last two years, we have been trying to create an institutional dialogue with the state. On housing, we have proposed six legislative measures, supported by tens of thousands of Roma, that would provide solutions for about 200,000 Roma and about 800,000 ethnic Bulgarians. Such solutions would benefit all and avoid such dangerous politically motivated provocations to violence. Our proposed measures, however, have been ignored.
This is why we want to thank thousands of Roma across Europe joining the Roma Standing Conference in these difficult times. We also want to thank the international community for taking the initiative to resolve this situation. A powerful lesson we learned in the Roma movement in the last couple of decades, is that change is never easy but always possible. If we grow in more courageous voices, doing it in such a way that it touches other to join the fight, the future is inevitably ours. This is what is happening today!