Over 12 Million Sinti and Roma live in Europe - An enormous number, regarding how little they are present in the public discourse or in current politics. Especially in Southern European countries, they face discrimination, prejudices and structural poverty.
Social scientist Klaus-Michael Bogdal studied the European history of Sinti and Roma, especially focussed on their public image: Why do they seem like a threat to most people? It seems like a reflex, wherever Sinti or Roma are around, people receive them with resentments. Mr. Bogdal answers, because they seem to define „the other“, our stereotypes are exactly the opposite of civilized and western values. Therefore the image of „savages“, driven by his freedoms and instincts - And this imagination makes it easier, to deny them their rights and treat them like stray animals.
The stories, which were told in the play, really did shock me: There was an English girl, who belongs to a Traveller group, which family was under constant attack by their village, because they talked about discrimination openly and were reporting antiziganism to the local authorities. Two Austrian sister, who constantly deny their family’s origin to be accepted. A Rumanian guy who struggles enormously to find a job and a decent life due to his last names sound. But, what was fascinating in the play, was that they don't want to play the role of victims: Even though they face discrimination, structural poverty and social exclusion everywhere in Europe, they refuse being seem as powerless victims to their fate as an excluded minority - But want to take action, with their Roma Army. Maybe this was the most important lesson I learned, that sometimes, we need to claim our rights, to unify and take action instead of politely asking for them.
The resentments and the exclusion are rooted back in the long, common history: At the beginning, religion played a big role. They were suspected of being spies, unbelievers, pagans or even emissaries of the antichrist. Later in time, beginning with the Middle Age, the focus turned on social aspects instead, the image of stealing beggars was created. In the early modern times, with the installation of European national states, they got between the fronts: Being a traveling minorities, there was no foreseen place within the rigid rule of consolidating nations.
This explains as well, why there is no national or European representation: Roma and Sinti consist of very different and individual groups, and there was never a successful attempt of a reunification of Roma/Sinti people, even though there was a discourse in the 1970s. Here are several reasons: In many south-eastern European country prevalence weak civil and democratic structures, which makes it even harder for minorities to claim their rights. But also a lack of education and a overall hopelessness to engage in politics.
But especially concerning the worsening, current situation in many European countries (and the unbearable situation since centuries), there has to be a political answer: The emerging organizations and initiatives by Roma and Sinti have to be taken seriously and have to be included in local, national but also European politics. All crimes agains Sinti and Roma have to be acknowledged, processed and discussed, such as the massive murder of Sinti and Roma under the Nazi regime in Germany. And all the people, who are seeking asylum within Europe because of life threats and heavy discrimination in their home countries, have to be helped ( for example in the case of Kosovo) - The European Union has the means to pressure member states and to end the inhumane life conditions of many Sinti and Roma.
»The community of European peoples went to pieces when – and because – it allowed its weakest member to be excluded and persecuted.« Hannah Arendt
A trailer of the play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UDJDLZJ8Uc