Roma Civil Rights movement

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Romania (abstract)

Ciprian Necula and Valentin Negoi

Abstract

The first documentary evidence of the Roma in Wallachia and Moldavia dates back to 13851, in a royal edict by the Wallachian ruler, Dan I Voivode (1383 to 1386), confirming transfer of ‘40 families of Tsigans from the St Anthony monastery at Voditza to the monastery of the Virgin Mary, Tismana.2 The abolition of Roma slavery took place under the rule of Grigore Ghica in Moldavia (1855) and Barbu Știrbei in Wallachia (1856).3 After the abolition of Roma slavery, most Roma tried to forge a new path, many through emigration.4

During the Second World War (1939-1945), mass extermination by the government of Mareșal Ion Antonescu, meant some 90,000 Roma5 were deported to Transnistria, about half of whom died on the road, from hunger or from typhus and malnutrition.6 In 1945, land reform initiated by the Groza Government, meant 20,000 ethnically Roma people became land owners, as partisans during the war.7 Nomadic Roma became subject to several measures restricting free movement.8 The Roma didn’t exist officially, being associated with an inferior social status; many fell under the provisions of Decree no 153/1970, defining ‘social parasitism’, ‘anarchism’ and any other ‘deviant behaviour’, punished with imprisonment and forced labour.

The immediate period after the fall of Communism, represented a crucial moment for the birth of political and social rights applicable to Rumanian citizens. For the first time in the history of modern Romania, Roma gained the right to direct political representation in 1990 and to be recognized as a national minority9, the opportunity to articulate their historical demands, to fight discrimination, to organize communities, to claim ethnic protections and to demand socio-economic measures reducing the poverty gap with others in the population.