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Antiziganism (Template:Pron-en) or Anti-Romanyism is hostility, prejudice or racism directed at the Romani people, also known as Gypsies.

As an endogamous culture with a tendency to practise self-segregation, the Romanis have generally resisted assimilation with the indigenous communities of whichever countries they have moved to; they have thus successfully preserved their distinctive and unique culture.

The price of this cultural longevity however, has been a degree of isolation from the surrounding population that has, along with a statistical tendency towards higher crime rates[1], made them vulnerable to being stereotyped as thieves, tramps, con men and fortune tellers. Due in part to this same cultural segregation, the Romanis have been subject to various forms of discrimination throughout history and in nearly all the countries in which they have settled.


The root zigan (Template:IPA-hu) is the basis of the word for the Romani people in many European languages.

History of Antiziganism

In the Middle Ages

File:Enfant enlevee par des nomades.JPG

West European propaganda

In the early 13th century Byzantine records, the Atsínganoi are mentioned as "wizards... who are inspired satanically and pretend to predict the unknown."[2] By the 16th century, many Romanies in Eastern and Central Europe worked as musicians, metal craftsmen, and soldiers.[3] As the Ottoman Turks expanded into the territory of modern Bulgaria, they relegated Romanies, seen as having "no visible permanent professional affiliation", to the lowest rung of the social ladder.[4]

In Royal Hungary (present-day West-Slovakia, West-Hungary and West-Croatia), strong anti-Romani policies emerged since they were increasingly seen as Turkish spies or as a fifth column. In this atmosphere, they were expelled from many locations and increasingly adopted a nomadic way of life.[5]

The first anti-Romani legislation was issued in Moravia in 1538, and three years later, Ferdinand I ordered that Romanies in his realm be expelled after a series of fires in Prague. Seven years later, the Diet of Augsburg declared that "whosoever kills a Gypsy, will be guilty of no murder."[6] In 1556, the government stepped in to "forbid the drowning of Romani women and children."[7]

In England, the Egyptians Act 1530 banned Romanies from entering the country and required those living in the country to leave within 16 days. Failure to do so could result in confiscation of property, imprisonment and deportation. The act was amended with the Egyptians Act 1554, which directed that they abandon their "naughty, idle and ungodly life and company" and adopt a settled lifestyle. However, for those who failed to adhere to a sedentary existence the Privy council interpreted the act to permit execution of non-complying Romanies 'as a warning to others'.[8]

18th century

In 1710, Joseph I issued an edict against the Romanies, ordering "that all adult males were to be hanged without trial, whereas women and young males were to be flogged and banished forever." In addition, they were to have their right ears cut off in the kingdom of Bohemia, in the country of Mähren (Moravia), the left ear. In other parts of Austria they would be branded on the back with a branding iron, representing the gallows. These mutilations enabled authorities to identify them as Romanies on their second arrest. The edict encouraged local officials to hunt down Romanies in their areas by levying a fine of 100 Reichsthaler for those failing to do so. Anyone who helped Romanies was to be punished by doing a half-year's forced labor. The result was "mass killings" of Romanis. In 1721, Charles VI amended the decree to include the execution of adult female Romani, while children were "to be put in hospitals for education."[9]

In 1774, Maria Theresa of Austria issued an edict forbidding marriages between Romanies. When a Romani woman married a non-Romani, she had to produce proof of "industrious household service and familiarity with Catholic tenets", a male Rom "had to prove ability to support a wife and children", and "Gypsy children over the age of five were to be taken away and brought up in non-Gypsy families."[10]

A panel was established in 2007 by the Romanian government to study the 18th and 19th century use of Romanis as slaves for Princes, local landowners, and monasteries. Slavery of the Romanis was outlawed in Romania around 1856.[11]


Persecution of Romani people reached a peak during World War II in the Porajmos, the Nazi genocide of Romanis during the Holocaust. Because the Romani communities of Eastern Europe were less organized than the Jewish communities, it is more difficult to assess the actual number of victims though the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Research Institute in Washington puts the number of Romani lives lost by 1945 at between 500,000 and 1.5 million. Former ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill has argued that the Romani population suffered proportionally more genocide than the Jewish population of Europe and that their plight has largely been sidelined by scholars and the media.[12]

The extermination of Romanies in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was so thorough that the Bohemian Romani language became a dead language. The policy of the Nazis varied across countries they conquered: they killed almost all the Romanis in the Baltic countries, yet they did not attempt to eliminate the Romanis in Denmark or Greece.

Romanies were also persecuted by the Ustashe in Croatia, who were allied to the Nazis. There were hardly any Romanies left in Croatia after the war.

Contemporary antiziganism

File:Tiganca imputita.JPG

Romani woman demonstrating in Bucharest against an Antiziganistic remark of the Romanian president Traian Băsescu against a journalist who bothered him in May 2007.[13] The text on the shirt is Ţigancă împuţită! ("Stinking gypsy!")

Antiziganism has continued in the 2000s, particularly in Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia,[14][not in citation given] Hungary,[15] Slovenia[16] and Kosovo.[17] Romanis often live[citation needed] in low-class ghettos, are subject to discrimination in jobs and schools, and are often subject to police brutality. In Bulgaria, professor Ognian Saparev has written articles stating that 'Gypsies' should be confined to ghettos because they do not assimilate, are culturally inclined towards theft, have no desire to work, and use their minority status to 'blackmail' the majority.[18]

In the Czech Republic the majority of the Czech people do not want to have Romanies as neighbours (almost 90%, more than any other group[19]) seeing them as thieves and social parasites. In spite of long waiting time for a child adoption, Romani children from orphanages are almost never adopted by Czech couples.[20] After the Velvet Revolution in 1989 the jobs traditionally employing Romanis either disappeared or were taken over by workers from Ukraine and the stereotypes about Romanis further reduced their employability.[citation needed] European Union officials censured both the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 2007 for forcibly segregating Romani children from normal schools.[21]

As of 2006, many Romanies who had previously lived in Kosovo, lived in displaced refugee communities in Montenegro and Serbia. Those who remain often fear attacks from ethnic Albanians who see them as "Serb Collaborators". In February 2007, three Romani women in Slovakia received compensation after suing a hospital for sterilizing them while they were underage and without their consent. While the sterilizations occurred in 1999 and 2002, and the women had been repeatedly appealing to prosecutors since then, they were up until this time ignored.[22]

In July 2008, a high court in Italy overthrew the conviction of defendants who had publicly demanded the expulsion of Romanis from Verona in 2001 and reportedly ruled that "it is acceptable to discriminate against Roma on the grounds that they are thieves."[23] One of those freed was Flavio Tosi, Verona's mayor and an official of the anti-immigrant Lega Nord.[23] The decision came during a "nationwide clampdown" on Romanis by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The previous week, Berlusconi's interior minister Roberto Maroni declared that all Romanis in Italy, including children, would be fingerprinted.[23]

Opposition party member, Gianclaudio Bressa, responded by insisting that these measures "increasingly resemble those of an authoritarian regime".[23] In response to the fingerprinting plan, three United Nations experts testified that "by exclusively targeting the Roma minority, this proposal can be unambiguously classified as discriminatory."[24] The European Parliament denounced the plan as "a clear act of racial discrimination" and asked the Italian government not to continue.[24]

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg has been an outspoken critic of Antiziganism, both in reports and periodic Viewpoints. In August 2008, Hammarberg noting that "today's rhetoric against the Roma is very similar to the one used by Nazis and fascists before the mass killings started in the thirties and forties. Once more, it is argued that the Roma are a threat to safety and public health. No distinction is made between a few criminals and the overwhelming majority of the Roma population. This is shameful and dangerous."[25]

According to the latest Human Rights First Hate Crime Survey, Romanies routinely suffer assaults in city streets and other public places as they travel to and from homes, workplaces, and markets. In a number of serious cases of violence against Romani people, attackers have also sought out whole families in their homes, or whole communities in settlements predominantly housing Romanis. These widespread patterns of violence are sometimes directed both at causing immediate harm to Romanis, without distinction between adults, the elderly, and small children and physically eradicating the presence of Romani people in towns and cities in several European countries.[26]

Europe (European Union)

The practice of placing Romani students in segregated schools or classes remains widespread in countries across Central and Eastern Europe.[27] In Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, many Romani children have been channeled into all-Romani schools that offer inferior quality education and are sometimes in poor physical condition, or into segregated all-Romani or predominantly Romani classes within mixed schools.[28] In Hungary, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, many Romani children are sent to classes for pupils with learning disabilities, regardless of whether such classes are appropriate for the children in question or not. In Bulgaria, they are also sent to so-called "delinquent schools", where a variety of human rights abuses take place.[28]


Roma settlement Luník IX near Košice, Eastern Slovakia

Romanies in European population centers are often accused of crimes such as pickpocketing. This is a regular justification for persecution of Romanies. In 1899, the Nachrichtendienst in Bezug auf die Zigeuner ("Intelligence Service Regarding the Gypsies") was set up in Munich under the direction of Alfred Dillmann, cataloguing data on all Romani individuals throughout the German lands. It did not officially close down until 1970. The results were published in 1905 in Dillmann’s Zigeuner-Buch,[29] that was used in the following years as justification for the Porajmos. It described the Romani people as a "plague" and a "menace", but almost exclusively presented as Gypsy crime trespassing and the theft of food.[29]

A UN study[30] found that Romanis in Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria are arrested for robbery at a much higher rate than other groups. Amnesty International[31] and Romanis groups such as the Union Romani blame widespread police and government racism and persecution.[32] In July 2008, a Business Week feature found the region's Romani population to be a "missed economic opportunity."[33] Hundreds of people from Ostravice in the Beskydy mountains signed a petition against a plan to move Romani families from Ostrava city to their home town, fearing the Romani invasion as well as their schools not being able to cope with the influx of Romani children.[34]

In 2009, the U.N.'s anti-racism panel charged that "Gypsies suffer widespread racism in European Union." that 'Racially motivated crime is an everyday experience' for Roma people, says EU's Fundamental Rights Agency.'.[35]


Despite the low birth rate in the country, Bulgaria's Health Ministry was considering a law aimed at lowering the birth rate of certain minority groups, particularly the Romanis, owing to the high mortality rate among Romani families, which are typically large. This was later abandoned because of conflict with EU law and the Bulgarian constitution.[36]

Attaka have also been accused of fueling of antiziganist feeling.


Hungary has seen escalating violence against the Romani people. On 23 February 2009, a Romani man and his five-year old son were shot dead in Tatárszentgyörgy village southeast of Budapest as they were fleeing their burning house which was set alight by a petrol bomb. The dead man's two other children suffered serious burns. A member of the Hungarian government admitted that a dozen attacks with Molotov cocktails and weapons against Romanies over the past 12 months had taken place, but none of the perpetrators have been found. An opposition politician stated that she had been informed by the family of the reluctance of the police to treat the above incident as murder.[37]

Another commentator feels that Hungary is on the brink of a race war with the ethnic Hungarian paramilitary Magyar Garda in confrontation with the Romani Garda.[38]

Czech Republic

In January 2010, Amnesty International launched a report titled Injustice Renamed: Discrimination in Education of Roma persists in the Czech Republic.[39] According to the BBC, it was Amnesty's view that while cosmetic changes had been introduced by the authorities, little genuine improvement in addressing discrimination against Romani children has occurred over recent years.[40]

In 2010, two young Romani boys attacked a 13-old Czech boy near Duchcov. They first explained to the white boy, that they will show him "the treatment the gypsies underwent in the concentration camps". Afterwards they beat him, rape him, took his property (i.e. mobile phone) and when he fell unconscious they left him severely wounded on a railway track. While one of the Romani perpetrators couldn't be prosecuted due to his age, the other one was found guilty of sexual abuse, blackmailing, rape, robbery and racially motivated attempted murder. The 16 year old Romani perpetrator was punished with sentence of 10 years in prison, the maximum a minor may obtain in the Czech Republic.[41] This attack further increased the unpopularity of the Romani people in the Czech public.[42]


The country is home to about 150,000, who live mainly in squalid camps on the outskirts of major cities such as Rome, Milan and Naples. They amount to less than 0.3 per cent of the population, one of the lowest proportions in Europe. In general, the ethnic group lives apart and is often blamed for petty theft and burglaries.[43]

In 2007 and 2008, following the brutal murder of a woman in Rome at the hands of a young man from a local Romani encampment,[44] the Italian government started a crackdown on illegal Roma and Sinti campsites in the country.

In May 2008 Romani camps in Naples were attacked and set on fire by local residents.[45]


In the early 1990s, Germany deported tens of thousands of illegal immigrants to Eastern Europe. Sixty percent of some 100,000 Romanian nationals deported under a 1992 treaty were Romani.[citation needed]


In Denmark, there was much controversy when the city of Helsingør decided to put all Romani students in special classes in its public schools. The classes were later abandoned after it was determined that they were discriminatory and the Romanis were put back in regular classes.[46]

United Kingdom

In the UK, "travellers" (referring to Scottish Travellers, New Age Travellers as well as Romanichal, Roma and Irish Travellers) became a 2005 general election issue, with the leader of the Conservative Party Michael Howard promising to review the Human Rights Act 1998. This law, which absorbs the European Convention on Human Rights into UK primary legislation, is seen by some to permit the granting of retrospective planning permission. Severe population pressures and the paucity of greenfield sites have led to travellers purchasing land and setting up residential settlements very quickly, thus subverting the planning restrictions.[citation needed]

Travellers argued in response that thousands of retrospective planning permissions are granted in Britain in cases involving non-Romani applicants each year and that statistics showed that 90% of planning applications by Romanis and travellers were initially refused by local councils, compared with a national average of 20% for other applicants, disproving claims of preferential treatment favouring Romanis.[47] They also argued that the root of the problem was that many traditional stopping-places had been barricaded off and that legislation passed by the previous Conservative government had effectively criminalised their community, for example by removing local authorities’ responsibility to provide sites, thus leaving the travellers with no option but to purchase unregistered new sites themselves.[48]

Northern Ireland

In June 2009, having had their windows broken and deaths threats made against them, twenty Romanian Romani families were forced from their homes in the Lisburn Road, Belfast, in Northern Ireland. Up to 115 people, including women and children, were forced to seek refuge in a local church hall after being attacked. They were later moved by the authorities to a safer location.[49] An anti-racist rally in the city on 15 June to support Romani rights was attacked by youths chanting neo-Nazi slogans. The attacks were condemned by Amnesty International[50] and political leaders from both the Unionist and Nationalist traditions in Northern Ireland.[51][52]

Following the arrest of three local youths in relation to the attacks, the church where the Romanies had been given shelter was badly vandalised. Using 'emergency funds', Northern Ireland authorities assisted most of the victims to return to Romania.[53][54]


France has come under criticism for its treatment of Roma. In the summer of 2010 French authorities demolished at least 51 illegal Roma camps and began the process of repatriating their residents to their countries of origin.[55] The French government has been accused of perpetrating these actions to pursue its political agenda.[56]


The Slovak National Party has also been accused of being antiziganist.

Europe (non EU)


In Norway, many Romani people were forcibly sterilized by the state until 1977.[57][58]


In the aftermath of the Kosovo War, the Society for Threatened Peoples estimated that 80% of Kosovo's 150,000 Romanis were expelled by the Albanian population.[59] At UN internally-displaced persons' camps in Kosovo for Romanis, the refugees were exposed to lead poisoning.[60]

United States

Law enforcement agencies in the United States hold regular conferences[61] on the Romani people and similar nomadic groups. It is common to refer to the operators of certain types of travelling con artists[62] and fortune-telling[63] businesses as "gypsies," as the term in the United States has come to designate any peoples with a nomadic lifestyle rather than a specific ethnic group. Additionally, a common derogatory phrase in the US is to "be gypped," as in "I was gypped" or "he gypped me," meaning that someone executed a bad deal or took money that he was not entitled to take.

Environmental struggles

Environmental struggles within the group of people labeled the Gypsies or Roma people are very common. Because the Romani people experience various types of prejudice within the areas and countries that they live, they are more likely to be subjects of environmental injustices and environmental racism. The gypsies, because of their minority status are oftentimes pushed to the outskirts of towns and cities and receive fewer benefits and lesser levels of education. It is documented that

While the economic restructuring of a command economy into a western style market economy created hardships for most Hungarians, with the national unemployment rate heading toward 14 percent and per capita real income falling, the burdens imposed on Romas are disproportionately great.[64]

This group of people is a minority that is consistently cast out and denied opportunities that other Europeans have. Even the simple aspects of life that are the result of a job and income are not available to this group of people due to their inability to gain working positions. Ethnic prejudice is a prevalent issue among the Romani populations. It is difficult for all people of gypsy descent to obtain a working position, male or female. Being stuck in positions of helplessness can lead to many other issues. These issues are displayed overtly within the population of the Gypsy people as a result of being ostracized from community and respect by the other populations that inhabit European soil. One of these issues deals with the health risks involved in a subordinate, limited lifestyle. These people are often forced to live in areas without clean water, to live without jobs to pay for food, and are set apart from learning communities, making them more vulnerable to disease and environmental inequality. Environmental injustice refers to people who are:

Denied environmental benefits such as water, sewage treatment facilities, sanitation and access to natural resources, and suffer from exposure to environmental hazards due to their proximity to hazardous waste sites, incinerators, factories, and other sources of pollution[65]

This definition is applicable to the Romani people in several different ways. There is a very proliferate issue with access to water among the Romani people all over Europe. This is mostly due to their inconvenience of living locations and the distance in which they live away from wells. “While most of Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria, is connected to the public water and sewerage system, there is only one tap for every 200 families in Glavova “mahala”, an area in Sofia where Roma live.” This forces the women and children to receive the amount of water necessary for them to live off of by walking with heavy buckets to and from the well each day or as often as needed. Not only does this lack of irrigation affect the quality of water, it directly affects the health of those that drink the water. The lack of irrigation and sewage is also toxic because waste is never decontaminated and/or completely removed from the living quarters. Instead of being cleaned or taken away, the waste runs down tunnels that are dug by hand into a swamp nearby. This method of sewage presents many health risks to the Gypsy people that are forced to live in these conditions.

Water-borne diseases, such as diarrhoea and dysentery, are an almost constant feature of daily life, especially for children. Médecins Sans Frontières, which runs the only medical centre in Fakulteta, estimates infant mortality among Roma children to be six times higher than in the rest of the Bulgarian population.[65]

This unfortunate living condition is one that is simply a result of the economy and society. Krista Harper supports this in her statement:

We argue that in the case of Roma in CEE, spaces inhabited by low-income Roma have come to be “racialized” during the post-socialist era, intensifying patterns of environmental exclusion along ethnic lines.[66]

This excerpt materializes the ideas that not only are the Gypsy people subjects of environmental injustice, but they are also made vulnerable to racism due to their own practices and traditions. Oftentimes the gypsy people are viewed differently due to their habits and lifestyles. These lifestyles however are not personal choices, but rather ways of surviving within the conditions they have been placed. It is very common that the Roma population is located in areas that are unwanted by non-Roma populations. They are often sited amongst hazardous or dangerous facilities and left to live without the luxuries that have become common to the non-Roma, majority populations. Again Harper asks:

Is it an accident that Roma shantytowns are frequently located next to landfills, on contaminated land, or that they are regularly exposed to floods? Why do water pipelines end on the edges of their settlements, so that people have to walk miles every day just to collect potable water for cooking and drinking?[66]

This references the environmental injustices that the Gypsy people undergo. Because the Roma neighborhoods are most likely located in areas or dumping sites there are numerous issues with harmful substances like lead. In a specific case, men living in the Roma village of Heves found car batteries and began to disassemble them, exposing themselves and many others to the toxic lead that came from within. In similar cases lawsuits are held and activist groups are formed, but due to the lack of acceptance of the Romani people it is difficult to organize a group powerful enough to rise above the racism and inequalities that have already been established by non-Gypsy people. As people[who?] have begun to research the Roma people it becomes more evident the amount of racism that has existed.[citation needed] The segregation of the Gypsy people from the rest of the majority population was not a gradual process that happened due to decrease in income or long term prejudices. Instead the gypsies have been intentionally removed on several occasions, and allowed only to live in areas that were assigned to them by the non-Roma. An example of this occurred in Czechoslovakia after World War II. There are also cases in which the Gypsies are both removed and denied access to areas that are deemed unfit for them to inhabit.

Local councils have issued ordinances banning Roma from settlements.10 Roma are frequently evicted, and many observers have noted a trend to remove Roma from town centers and relocate them to inferior ghettoized housing on the periphery.[67]

Research done in these areas also began to show, specifically, the damage that has occurred in Romani villages and towns. After visiting and examining these areas it becomes evident the exact events of environmental injustice that take place. Kids run around without clothing due to lack of funds, mothers balance buckets on their heads, and elders sit in their own stench without bathing because water is so scarce. The sanitation in some areas of Gypsy neighborhoods is very minimal.Template:What

The four patterns of the unequal distribution of environmental benefits and harm identified in the research are: 1) exposure to hazardous waste and chemicals (settlements at contaminated sites); 2) vulnerability to floods; 3) differentiated access to potable water; and 4) discriminatory waste management practices. While the four identified patterns of environmental injustice may not (and probably they do not) represent all potential forms of environmental injustice, they summarize patterns identified in the field research.[66]

According to a study done by the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), one of few organizations that focus on the Gypsy people, the percentage of Roma people that have access to running water and sewage within Romania and the Czech Republic is well below the county average. This is a clear sign of both environmental racism and environmental injustice within these areas. Many diseases were reported in this study as well. There is a proliferation of skin diseases amongst the people of this area due to the lack of housing standards, including scabies, pediculosis, pyodermatitis, mycosis and askaridosis. There is also a recognition of respiratory health problems that occurs in the majority of the inhabitants of the areas. Other serious diseases that are rampant in majority gypsy populations are hepatitis and tuberculosis. Aside from these studies implemented by the UNDP, very few organizations spend time dealing with the dilemma that the Roma face. This is due to the type of issue that most people consider the Gypsy segregation to be. Carl Maida addresses this issue by saying:

There are one or two people-not one or two groups, but one or two people- who are working on Gypsy issues…other than that, I have not heard of any Roma environmentalism. When I asked environmentalists why their groups did not deal with the problems of Roma Communities, the most frequent response was that the main problems of the Roma were poverty and access to education and that these were “social” issues, not environmental issues.[68]

It is argued, however, that it is an environmental issue that is existent as a result of the social issues. Without the wars and ideals of the areas of great segregation, the Gypsy people would most likely be able to maintain life within the bounds of society. Again, “Roma civil rights activists and environmentalists alike pointed to poverty and the dire unemployment of Gypsies in their analysis.”.[68] It is highly argued that if it were not for the prejudice on the Gypsy people, issues of environmental racism and environmental justice would not have to be addressed.

Antiziganism in popular culture

The European Center for Antiziganism Research officially filed a complaint against Sacha Baron Cohen — who plays Borat in the eponymous mockumentary film Borat — for inciting violence and violating Germany's anti-discrimination laws.[69] One part of the satirical film, which purportedly portrays Borat's impoverished native village in Kazakhstan, actually shows a Romani village in Romania.

The Tintin book The Castafiore Emerald heavily criticises antiziganism, as the Romanis who move onto Captain Haddock's property are falsely accused of stealing Bianca Castafiore's priceless emerald, though they are innocent.[citation needed]

Claude Frollo, the antagonist of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was portrayed as having a strong, genocidal hatred of gypsies in Disney's animated adaptation of the story.[citation needed]


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