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Discrimination against the Roma population in Bulgaria

by hitchhiker Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 05:18:27 AM EST

The Roma people are the second biggest minority in Bulgaria after the Turks. There are 370 908 Roma in Bulgaria according to the latest census in 2001. However, this number may not be entirely correct because, as a Bulgarian journalist points out, many of them,especially those who speak Turkish and follow Islam, consider themselves Turks. According to official data, prepared by the MAR Project, the Roma population "is spread out evenly across the territory of Bulgaria, without any region of high density". Generally, they live in the villages or the outskirts of cities. So, the Roma in Bulgaria occupy a marginal position, but not only physically...

Promoted by Colman


According to the MAR Project, the Roma arrived in Bulgaria during the Ottoman rule and they were mainly used as servants until the country gained its independence in the 19th century. However, most of the Bulgarian people still treat them badly, so the traces of this status of inferiority are not blurred. Rather, many international bodies and organizations, such as the European Union and the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, would judge Bulgaria to be discriminatory against the Roma population.

. The discrimination against the Roma in Bulgaria is observed in almost every aspect - economic, social, cultural, civic and political. The Roma rarely find jobs since most of them are poorly qualified due to the lack of education. According to a journal of Central and East European politics, society and culture, around 80% of the Roma in Bulgaria have only primary education or are illiterate. Moreover, only 1% of them have higher education, while 16% of them are totally illiterate. As a result, according to the same journal, the unemployment among the Roma exceeds 90% in some areas. From a political point of view, the Roma in Bulgaria face no fewer difficulties. The data, collected by the MAR Project, suggest that although they are represented at most levels, they are present in low numbers and occupy inferior positions in the state apparatus, the army and the police. Furthermore, the Roma live in poor sanitary conditions and signs of discrimination are observed even regarding social services as housing and medical care. So, the Roma in Bulgaria occupy a marginal position, but not only physically...

Until this summer, I did not know what it was to be discriminated against. I could not imagine what it meant to live on the fringe of society, to occupy a marginal position. However, I had an unfortunate experience, which opened my eyes and heart to the suffering of all the Roma in Bulgaria. I was walking with a friend of mine along one of the most expensive and famous streets in Sofia - "Vitosha Street". We were not looking for anything particular. However, we entered most of the shops. But when we decided to enter the "Sisley" shop, there was a problem. No! No, it was not closed! We went inside but as soon as we did so, one of the salesgirls approached us, looked at us with a scornful expression,almost a disgust, which I will never forget, and just said: "Leave the shop immediately". Our first reaction was one of a great surprise - I thought they were closing the shop,but no... There were a lot of people, all of them oblivious of what was happening around them. All of them were busy, trying on clothes, buying them or just looking at the shelves. No! The shop was not closing. Since we were rather shocked by her words, we did not leave the shop immediately. So, she repeated the order. Interestingly enough, it was not the words that hurt me most, it was the expression on her face, an expression of pure hatred that I will never forget. Probably here is the place where I should mention that both my friend and I have dark complexion... but we are not Roma. We were clad properly, we were nice, but just because our skin was darker than hers, just because she thought we were 'Gypsies', we were driven away like animals.

I wonder will I ever forget the humiliation, I wonder will I ever be able to enter this shop with dignity? I doubt it. But what if I was a Roma, what if this happened to me every day, what if I had to face all the hatred and prejudices just because I was different? I had just one unpleasant experience and it was enough to leave a permanent trace in my memory. It left the feeling of being inferior... How should the Roma people feel when they face this attitude on a daily basis?There are nicely dressed Roma who are polite enough, they know how to behave among other people, they are educated, but still they are called "Gypsies". Bulgarians point a finger at them and that is it - they will never be accepted, they will never be part of our so-called "civilized and superior" society. However, this society lacks a basic understanding; it lacks morality and tolerance. This society is deprived of human affection and emotion; it is a machine for discrimination. It imposes superficial distinctions between the races, it judges on the basis of appearance and conduct. In the words of a Bulgarian journalist "the basic prejudice is clear from the fact that an honest man from the Roma minority is regarded as exceptional: "He is not like other Roma", people say". So, the Roma in Bulgaria occupy a marginal position, but not only physically...

The same journalist argues that nowadays, according to the newspapers, all the Roma are drunks, rapists, and murderers. They appear most often on the pages called "Crimi", "Blue light" or "13 fatal", which report only crimes. Therefore, in his words, it is really hard "to escape suggestions concerning the whole Roma population when there are five crime stories daily with the word "gypsy" in the headline". Bulgarian journalists put all the Roma people under a common denominator, thus the newspapers create a dark image of them. So, a vicious circle is formed - people read what they want to hear.

Is there a way out of this vicious circle? And who needs to change first, Roma or Bulgarians? Moreover, how will this change be encouraged when neither the Roma, nor the Bulgarians want to change their beliefs and attitudes towards one another. As the journalist, to which I referred several times, suggests, the education and training of journalists and the public may be a feasible option. Another way out is to strive for a better public understanding of and more tolerance towards people who are different. But until then, the Roma in Bulgaria will occupy a marginal position, but not only physically....

Display:
I am sorry for what happened to you and your friend. This indeed speaks an awful lot about the civility of our manners, and the "traditional" tolerance we, Bulgarians, in my opinion, boast too much about.

I think both Bulgarians and gypsies share the fault. I admit that I am prejudiced against most of the Roma people, who wander on the streets, and who stole my purse with all my money, and my documents exactly near the "Sisley" shop in Sofia you're talking about. But I would never behave rude to a Roma if he/she hasn't been rude to me first (and of course, this applies not to Roma only, but to everybody:)). And it is also the government's failure to provide equal opportunities for the Roma minority.

I also have a friend, who is Roma, and he is a very well-educated and good-mannered person.

The problem is that we stereotype too much. We are incredibly intolerant to those who we consider "different". Terribly wrong, and takes a lot of time to get a rid of that habit.

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde

by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 03:48:31 PM EST
Thank you Little L for your support. Actually, I hesitated a lot, before I decided to share this with all the members of the community because I felt really depressed and ashamed probably.

I agree with you that both the Roma and the Bulgarians should be more tolerant and should at least try to accept the other group with all its defects. However, I do not think that we are currently going in the right direction... Bulgarians do not want to communicate with the Roma people because they see them as dirty and illiterate criminals who do not deserve to be taken care of or represented in the government. The Roma feel discriminated against and this is enough for them not to show understanding toward the Bulgarians. So, as I mentioned in my diary, it is a vicious circle...
by hitchhiker on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 04:25:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is a vicious circle. I admit I really do think most of the Roma are dirty illiterates and I don't like the fact that they steal from elderly people, and I also do think that if they weren't so lazy, they would be better off.

But it is also probably our own fault that they are like that, and I would embrace any attempt done by the government to change the situation. And I'd readily turn my back to my own prejudices, which I am not afraid to share, although I am a bit ashamed of them.

Did you by the way know that we are in the Decade of Roma Inclusion, an initiative started by the Open Society Foundation?

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde

by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 04:38:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I am aware of that, but so far I have not seen any results,at least visible... There are certain efforts made by the Bulgarian government, regarding housing and other social improvements, but we will see the outcome

In my opinion, the attitude of the groups towards one another is the most essential thing that should be radically changed
by hitchhiker on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 04:51:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I also do think that if they weren't so lazy, they would be better off.

Who do you think were first to be fired after the end of total employment with the end of 'communism'?

Who were the last to be taken if multiple people applied for a job?

Would you call yourself lazy if you'd given up even trying after a few years?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 05:31:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course you are right and I realize that my statement was probably a touch too strong. But I've also heard stories of Roma people, who declare that they prefer not to work, because they don't want to work for little money. Is little money better than no money at all? Not to me:). Or when they get hired to do construction work they leave after their first day, because they say the work is too much for them to handle.

And please- the last thing on my mind was to generalize! I'm just pointing out examples.

I am personally very much into Roma stories right now, because together with a colleague of mine we're shooting a short documentary about the Decade of Roma Inclusion.

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde

by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 06:25:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I admit that I am prejudiced against most of the Roma people, who wander on the streets, and who stole my purse with all my money, and my documents exactly near the "Sisley" shop in Sofia you're talking about.
...
The problem is that we stereotype too much.

Well indeed :-) How many wandering Roma steal purses, and are you even sure it was Roma who stole it?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 05:14:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because he was wearing a red jersey and humming "Lazio! Lazio!".

Ok, bad joke.

by Alex in Toulouse on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 05:25:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I am sure, because I saw them...too late obviously. And I've seen them do it to other people too. It is a tradition in some Roma families to educate their young daughters how to become professional pickpockets, because this is a family business. They even cut the girl's thumb off so that she can insert her fingers easier in one's pocket. This is a cruel and barbarian procedure, and they still do it!

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde
by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 05:26:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Really? I mean, do they really cut the girls' thumbs off just because it will be more convenient for stealing? I have never heard this... and I have not seen such a girl either. But since you say it, probably it is true!
by hitchhiker on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 08:24:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it's true, and they're doing it when the girls are very young. Then the young pickpockets undergo training. And then, when the time comes for them to get married, the bride that gets the highest price is the one who has proven to have the best pickpocket skills. You know probably that in some clans they still have the tradition of selling women, or actually 12-14 year old girls, to Roma men to marry.

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde
by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 01:30:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, I know there is that tradition in one clan - but not in most. And OK, you saw those robbing you - but that may not suffice as statistical evidence.

Myself, I was pickpocketed once, but then no Gypsy was nearby - and in another instance, undercover police caught a pickpocket right in front of me on the tramway, and that guy looked like a middle-class (white) university student. While, in Hungary too, the stereotype is that (all) pickpockets are Gypsies.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 11:10:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary, hitchhiker!

You are touching here a very sensitive issue to Bulgarians.

I think most of the Bulgarians are prejudices to a certain extent to Roma minority. Probably everybody that lived or just spent some time in the capital experiences a robbery...To me it happened twice...and I will never forget those moments. The first time was especially unpleasant. I was in my first year in high school (15-16 yrs old). I don't live in the capital so I also needed time to get used to the "big city life". When my purse was stolen in one of the buses, I felt so helpless, so miserable... I was just walking on the streets sobbing and I knew nobody can help me find my purse. Thank God I had some money in my pocket and could buy a ticket for the train back home. And from then on, I am always keeping an eye on all my stuff when I see a Rome passing by. I know it is discriminatory but I can't help it.

And sure, this is not the case with all the Romas. I think this is a practise in the bigger cities mainly. I can talk about my town (that is about 6-7 thousand people in all),for example. We have never (so far) experienced robbery or theft that was proved to be made by a Roma. Those people have mingled with the rest of the citizens. I must admit that they do not occupy high positions in the town administration or something like that but there are jobs for most of them and their kids graduate at least primary school. So, basically, there is mutual respect and understanding between Romas and Bulgarians. I hope this can be projected to the whole country soon!

Thank you for bringing up the issue. I am really looking forward for the comments of the rest.

 

by Denny on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 05:00:00 PM EST
I am really sorry for what has happened to you and your unpleasant experience in the bus. I must admit, that what you have experienced yourself, is not a phenomenon in the capital. Sadly, it has happened to a lot of people and in most of the cases, the blame has been put on the Roma. Bulgarians have the tendency to blame the Roma whenever something bad happens - in some case they are right, but in others... they are not.

The problem is that the prejudices of Bulgarians, regarding the Roma population, are deeply rooted and they cannot open their eyes and try to distinguish between Roma and Roma. While, some Roma steal, do not even try to find a job and rely on begging to make their living, there are certainly Roma who try really hard to integrate into the society, but they meet a rigid resistance on the side of Bulgarians and they are constantly denied access to our so-called "superior" society. So, I really think we should make an effort to accept each other with all our weaknesses and defects because none of us is perfect!
by hitchhiker on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 08:39:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry if I am shifting the topic a little bit but it just crossed my mind- can we make a parallel between Bulgarians attitude towards Romas and white Americans towards black Americans?

Do you think the attitude and the stereotyping are comparable? I know black Americans generally live quite better than our Romas, occupy high positions in society, and are basically well integrated...but I mean do you think white people see them as "inferior"?  

by Denny on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 11:37:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I am not that familiar with the status of black people in America, so I would not dare to make any claims or suggestions. However, my personal opinion is that even if they are discriminated against, they are better off than most of the Roma people in Bulgaria. Basically, I guess they have found their own niche and now among them are the best sportsmen and hip-hop singers, which certainly is achievement. One may argue, that some of the Roma are not less talented, since they are also good at dancing and singing, but the problem is that they are not that popular. Thus, we come to the same issue of discrimination and its effect upon the Roma population. One interesting fact, I want to mention, is that some years ago the mayor of New York was actually a black man. And this certainly is a great achievement. I am not sure when exactly his mandate was, but as far as I remember, it was around the year of 2000.
by hitchhiker on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 06:42:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you!:)
by Denny on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 03:00:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary!

I add some more points about how these things work. Regarding the Roma and crime: in Hungary, some sociologists conducted a study (one, surprise surprise, no one has done before) of police statistics, and found that

  1. the general level of registered crimes in regions with high percentage of Gypsies is actually lower than elsewhere,
  2. but the ratio of 'solved' crimes is significantly higher!

What this means? Guess it from this real-world example.

In some rural town, there were break-ins using some technology. Police looked through their files, and found that they imprisoned a Gypsy guy for similar crimes a few years back, who was rleased since. So they arrested this guy. There was not a shred of evidence linking him to the new crimes, what's more, he had two alibis for the time of two break-ins. But, the first alibi: he was at a wedding of relatives, was dismissed because his entire family can't be trusted as witness... and his second alibi, his (non-Gypsy) neighbour remembering that he came over to borrow some tool while she was watching a film on TV, was dismissed because she wasn't entirely sure it was that day... apparently, not even the state attorney thought of checking a fucking TV programme!...

And thus without a single evidence, after a flimsy dismissal of his alibis, he was sentenced. Another five solved crimes for the statistics.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 05:26:46 PM EST
Sounds a little like the final scene in Casablanca where the corrupt Captain Renault says:

"Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects."

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 06:03:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In this case, reality isn't emulating fantasy, but fantasy portrayed what was and is all too common occurence in reality.

But the same people who think all policemen and judges are crooks when they ran up against them, will suddenly believe that all of them are 100% committed upkeepers of order and justice when they rounded up some usual suspects. (OK, this is less true in Germany, which has one of the best police forces of the world.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 10:48:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess it wasn't a particularly deep comment on my part, but that was what spontaneously came to my mind in response to your story.

You're right, any criminal justice system, if unchecked, will tend to put away the easiest suspect over the right one, and the usual suspects are always easy targets.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 11:02:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, have you seen the film The Usual Suspects? One of the best films coming out of Hollywood in the nineties.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 11:12:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, unfortunately I missed it (another one for my DVD rental list).

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 11:55:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dear DoDo, I completely understand your point. This is often the case in Bulgaria. Whenever something bad happens, people blame the Roma. Bulgarians have this tendency of constantly seeking the fault in others, instead in themselves. Why? Well, because it is easier and besides, it is more convenient. But, however, it is not right. And such behaviour should not be tolerated, but this is also a responsibility of the Bulgarian government, which apparently is not very efficient in this sphere.

In my diary, I have given the link to an interesting article by a Bulgarian journalist, where he comments on a specific case, regarding Roma people, from 1997. If you have not looked at it yet, you may do it when you have time! I think, you will find it interesting.
by hitchhiker on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 08:57:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the hint, now I read it - that case is truly hideous. In such cases, the newspapers should be sued.

I don't even know if it was ever so bad in the Hungarian press, because I don't read rainbow press and right-wing press. But I give another example of racist judges.

This happened maybe five years ago. Two Gypsies were charged with murder, kept under arrest for the (long) duration of the trial, and sentenced on first instance. Then engaged civil rights activists exposed the evidence as faked by police, and the sentence as full of gross errors that ignored counterevidence or assumed contradictory stuff (and IIRC the real culprits were caught, too). Then they sued on behalf of the two freed guys for compensation.

The judge presiding over this case reduced the awarded sum greatly all on his own. With the argument (written down in the verdict) that the two guys are mentally retarded, thus incapable of fully contemplating the injustice done to them!...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 11:00:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, this sounds exactly like a police routine action.

Nobody mentioned that the same thing happens to people without dark complexion as well - it's enough to have a criminal record as well as a profile, depicting your criminal style.

No matter whether you are white or black, the police baton hurts equally bad.

Be careful! Is it classified?

by darin (dkaloyanov[at]gmail.com) on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 07:21:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eliminating prejudice requires first of all to acknowledge that it exists.

ie. whenever I find myself being systematically prejudiced against a box of people, I try my best to overcome by accepting that I am prejudiced.

As long as you don't do that, as long as you refute that you are, and just say things like "but I'm not prejudiced, it's true that our jails are full of Romas, I'm just stating the facts", you won't be able to do anything about it.

by Alex in Toulouse on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 05:29:16 PM EST
Of course I don't mean "you", hitchhiker, I meant it in the sense of "someone".

A good diary btw.

by Alex in Toulouse on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 05:30:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...most of them are poorly qualified due to the lack of education. According to a journal of Central and East European politics, society and culture, around 80% of the Roma in Bulgaria have only primary education or are illiterate. Moreover, only 1% of them have higher education, while 16% of them are totally illiterate.

A further aspect of Gypsy discrimination, but I say this in general as I don't know if the situation holds in Bulgaria too, is inoffficial segregation in education. Gypsy children are put into a separate class in larger schools, or even shoved off to the classes for the mentally challenged, there even have been cases of separate dining. So the education issue itself is partially a result of the problems, not just cause.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 05:37:16 PM EST
From the United Nations Development Programme:


* Official census data (2001 census results, available on the Internet at http://www.nsi.bg/Census/Census to i.htm).
** Based on expert estimates of the size of Roma population.

Doing the numbers for robbery: Roma/Bulgarian rates = (38.1 / 9.0) / (55.2 / 83.6) = 6.41
The ratio for misdemeanors (eg, shoplifting) is apparently greater.

Perhaps the shopkeeper was reacting to a real statistical risk, underlined by repeated experience, resulting in a defensive response overlaid with an understandable emotion? As the diarist says, this is (part of) a vicious circle.

I'm concerned about the tendency of progressives to attempt to fight the unfair, damaging, misery-perpetuating effects of sterotypes by preaching to people that their experience isn't real and that their responses therefore are driven by purely irrational hatred. The result, I think, is chiefly to suggest that the preachers aren't reality based.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Wed Apr 12th, 2006 at 06:12:00 PM EST
Thank you so much about that table, technopolitical! I was just searching for one.:)
by Denny on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 02:16:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And what is the risk that a random Roma will commit a theft? 6 times higher than an ethnic Bulgarian, but still quite small I imagine. You still can't just pick on Roma because some of them are criminals.

Want to redo that table by age or income instead of ethnicity? I'm betting you'd end up banning 14 to 24 year olds from all shops, not to mention all poor people.

Under Irish law you'd get sued into oblivion for that carry on.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 05:23:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This table addresses robbery, and from what I understand from other sources, the ratio for shoplifting is likely to be higher. Yes, the shopkeeper's response is presumably unfair to most Roma, and it would be interesting to see a similar table by age or income. I am sure that keepers of upscale shops are very wary of young teens and poor-looking people, too -- though without the added heat of racism.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 02:43:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't believe what I am reading above.

So you think that if 1 in 100 Bulgarians would steal, and 6 in 100 Roma would steal, that would be sufficient rational economic reason to send all 100 Roma out of your shop?

And even if that ratio would be true and you think so, may it not be that economic situation is a better marker of your likelyhood to steal - and a well-clad Gypsy is no more likely to steal than a Bulgarian?

And it is one thing you ignore what I wrote about the reality behind these stats (that judges sentence a Gypsy much easier for a crime, even with zero evidence), it is another that I can't believe you haven't read anything on the parallel situation in the USA, say the death sentences handed out for the same crime if you are white or black.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 10:41:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you think that if 1 in 100 Bulgarians would steal, and 6 in 100 Roma would steal, that would be sufficient rational economic reason to send all 100 Roma out of your shop?

Please re-read my post. I said nothing of ths sort. I am not the shopkeeper, I am only suggesting that if you want to reach the shopkeeper with a message, it would be wise to understand the audience.

you ignore what I wrote about the reality behind these stats (that judges sentence a Gypsy much easier for a crime, even with zero evidence)...

How would this omission be relevant to what I said? My aim was not to summarize the diary.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 02:41:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, I did not read into what I have rated. The 4 was for the table. And I don't accept the reasoning below it.

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government -- Edward Abbey
by serik berik (serik[dot]berik on Gmail) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 10:49:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please say more. I thought that I was describing a natural but socially destructive response of a (presumably) victimized shopkeeper, and why this pattern poses a problem for fights against discrimination, making some common forms of rhetoric relatively unproductive. Where do you see a problem with this reasoning?

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 02:41:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Again, trying to make myself clear. I put the disclaimer out for people not to think that by giving the "4" in the rating I approve of the logic you described in your comment. I don't. But at the same time I do not believe you share this kind of reasoning (or I hope you don't). I did not intend to be taken as addressing you personally, technopolitical.

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government -- Edward Abbey
by serik berik (serik[dot]berik on Gmail) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 04:19:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent article, thank you very much! Whether I am factually accurate or not, I have long felt that if you discriminate and marginalize any people for long enough, they will learn to make a living in ways left to them. Maybe that's crime, or that's in the arts, or in some other way. I have a friend who left home at 17 and lived with Gypsy's in Spain for two years, where she learned their fantastic style of Flamenco dancing (which she is excellent at). I also recently saw a great film about a French guy who went to Bulgaria to record Roma music, "Gatcho Dilo", which had great music and dance, but also showed a lot of aspects of their lives that are pretty intense, including the conditions they live in and the prejudice they face (assuming it was reasonably accurate).

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 04:00:44 AM EST
I agree with you that the more the Bulgarians deprive the Roma people from opportunities for development and deny them the chance to achieve something, the more inferior they feel and the more aggressive they become. So, eventually they end up as beggars on the streets or criminals, just because they cannot find their own niche. And this will repeat again and again, because it is a vicious circle...
by hitchhiker on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 09:19:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A very informative diary.

I see this as a variation on the larger European theme of the exclusion of minorities from the national mainstream culture. The difference here is (merely) that the Roma are a native ethnicity with a fairly even geographic distribution - instead of a migrant population concentrated in urban centers, as in e.g. Germany, France and NL.

To say that it is up to both sides to overcome the antipathies between the two groups is true as far as it goes; unfortunately, it fails to account for a whole range of issues. In Germany and France, the experience of exclusion has caused "parallel societies" to form, which prove a barrier to integration/assmilation measures. I would imagine that that is also the case in Bulgaria.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 06:23:40 AM EST
What happened to you in Sofia is very unfortunate. What happens every day to the people you were confused with is simply outrageous.

I know how it feels. I am a Kazakh from Kazakhstan, and I was myself once discriminated against ... in my own country ... by my own people. What's worse, on the basis of my ethnicity. Really.

The issue here was also in my complexion and overall physical appearance. In the begining. Then my origin became the problem.

I was then in Almaty, a city in the south of Kazakhstan (ex-capital), where the Kazakhs are the overwhelming majority. They are usually very dark-skinned, eyes - typical Asian cut, language used - a horrid dialect of Kazakh.

I speak Russian most of the time since that's the language most people understand well in the part of Kazakhstan I am from. I also happen not to look like a typical Kazakh. Even my hair is curly - unusual for KZ. :)

Anyway, I was prohibited from entering a cafe, because those #$%*@#s thought I was Russian. After I told them what I personally thought about people of their kind - in perfect Kazakh - they did not apologize! Exactly because the Kazakh I spoke was too perfect for the region. I was called a name, which they happily give the northerners like me and was shooed off the premises.

Human idiotism sometimes seems to be limitless.

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government -- Edward Abbey

by serik berik (serik[dot]berik on Gmail) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 10:45:37 AM EST
Huh... sad to hear, didn't expect such.

A relative of mine trekked through Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrghyzia) with friends a few years ago, and he said people were extremely friendly everywhere they went, they were spontaneously invited to weddings and such. The lingua franca they could use was Russian.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 10:52:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am sure my case is exceptional. Becuase the Kazakhs are, in general, very hospitable and friendly people. Invitation to weddings is the best way to treat a foreigner in Kazakhstan - both for the Kazakhs and non-Kazakhs (Slavic and Asian communities).

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government -- Edward Abbey
by serik berik (serik[dot]berik on Gmail) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 11:50:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am sorry for your unpleasant experience:( I really know what it feels and I guess you will also have problems forgetting it. I do hope that it will never happen again. Besides, you should not feel offended by people who do not know how to behave, by people who are interested only in mocking others, just because they do not feel satisfied with their own lives! You should keep your head up and do not pay attention to comments that are disrespectful and humiliating.
by hitchhiker on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 11:50:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interestinly enough, there are restaurants in Bulgaria, that are off-limits to Bulgarians, but are OK for Turks. You'd imagine it's a private club or something. I am sorry my friend hesitated and didn't call the police, when that happened to him,

Be careful! Is it classified?
by darin (dkaloyanov[at]gmail.com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 02:57:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All of us living in multiethnic societies have experienced some kind of a verbal or physical assault just because of our ethnicity.

 I don't really enjoy retelling my story very often because I still feel uneasy about it. Additionally, it might be interpreted by some people in wrong way.  Yet, I guess I won't be misunderstood here as being nationalistic so I will share it with you.

It happened during the ethnic conflict in Macedonia in 2001. One evening when I was returning from my University, which is located in predominantly Albanian populated area, I was attacked by a group of Albanian teenagers- the youngest probably was 9 years the oldest not more than 15-16. They started yelling insulting words at me for no reason and the mistake I made was that I told them to bugger off. That's what they only waited for and came with teargas spray on me and one of them pulled out a gun on my forehead.

I didn't know what was really going on as I didn't understand a word in Albanian, all I knew was that there is this 13 year old child holding a gun on my forehead, while I was crying because of the teargas they sprayed in my eyes. They started pushing around themselves arguing in Albanian language and at the end I was told that if I want to live in Macedonia I will have to learn Albanian. The sooner I learn the better for me, and I was let go, crying my eyes out because of what happen and because of the teargas spray.

Another even more embarrassing incident happen to a girl I knew from my university who was literally stripped off in a local bus and her underwear was waived as a flag out of the bus. Finally, she was kicked out of the bus naked with her clothing in her hands in downtown Skopje. This happened just because she got in a bus that was not for macedonians.

Thanks God this kind of things don't happen anymore. And, I've overcome the anger I carried inside me after this incident. As I knew that maybe there have been similar incidents happening to Albanians living in Macedonia.  I just couldn't hate the whole Albanian population living in Macedonia because I had so many colleagues at the university who became my friends and it was irrational to unleash my anger onto them just because they were Albanians.

by pavlovska (transbluency(at)mailcity.com) on Fri Apr 21st, 2006 at 10:56:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hitchhiker, an excellent diary entry! I decided to add a comment, as I was a but frustrated that you show just one side of the problem, but at some point I relised it would be too long to post here, so I entered it is a diary entry (Bulgarian Gypsies (Counter Argument)!). I tried to present the point of view of the majority, as welll as the current situation and the reasons for it, so I would be really interested in your comment!

Be careful! Is it classified?
by darin (dkaloyanov[at]gmail.com) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 02:55:02 PM EST
Dear Darin, thank you for representing the other side of the problem. I already posted a comment after your diary, but I will post it here as well, so that everybody who is interested, can follow our debate:)
by hitchhiker on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 04:36:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dear Darin, I am glad you are representing the other side of the problem. Although my diary focuses on the suffering of the Roma population, my view is not that restricted, so I certainly agree with most of the points you make.

As I recently replied to a comment, there are Roma and Roma. Some of them are dirty, illiterate, do not want to find jobs, steal, beg or even curse when you refuse to give them money. Actually, they start blessing you while you pass by them, but if you do not give them money, they begin cursing. So, I would surely not tolerate such behaviour and I cannot pity them. But, there are really nice Roma who are civilized enough, well-clad, educated and willing to come to friendly terms with the Bulgarians. But, the Bulgarians do not accept them. What I do not approve is our intolerance and lack of morality. Not all Bulgarians are perfect - some of them steal as well, do not study and are not more civilized than the Roma. But still.... I guess no Bulgarian would ever be asked to leave a shop as long as he/she has a fair complexion, right? Correct me if I am wrong!

I do not make any generalizations. As I already said, not all Roma are good and I approve neither their way of living, not their basic understanding of how they should make a living. I just say that probably part of the problem is rooted in our discriminatory behaviour and attitude towards them. At least it has started that way, and now it is a vicious circle, as I have stated in my diary.
by hitchhiker on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 04:39:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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