A recent attack on a Roma settlement, which resulted in death of a local resident and injuries of the several others, has led to many discussions and disputes. The Roma issue emerged again in the thick of the country’s information environment. Opinion has found out why this is happening, how to counteract the attacks and manage the situation, and what is the conflict itself: the realities of the present or the cluster of stereotypes and myths that are still dominant in Ukrainian society.

Why is this happening?

The History Professor of Bard College the private liberal arts college of New York (USA) Hennadii Shkliarevskyi, in a commentary to Opinion, tried to highlight the general causes of discrimination and harassments of the Roma. In particular, the expert stresses, that one of the reasons may be the need to find an enemy, which is a consequence of the fear of the renewal of society and the emergence of new and more powerful forms of organization.

“My research in this area shows, that such persecutions and harassments are primarily connected with the need to find an enemy. The reason for this need lies, first of all, in the fear of the renewal of society and the emergence of new and more powerful forms of organization in it. Such new forms always cause fear, precisely because they are new and unknown.  The unknown always causes fear, and violence is a necessary companion of fear. People often do not realize, that they are the real source of a change. Instead of critically looking at themselves and understanding the true causes of their fear, they uncritically pin their fears on the others and see their causes in some external factor. Very often they see such reasons in those, whom they define as “different”.

Now Ukraine, like other countries in Central Eastern Europe, is experiencing a period of huge changes and jolts. Many people are afraid of these changes and since they do not understand their real reason, they usually pin it on the “different”. The Roma traditionally is the category of people, that is taken as something alien and different. This is the source of the policy of oppression and harassment of the Roma. Hence, specific actions also occur. This problem can be solved only if one understands the real reasons for fear and the need to find an “enemy”, Professor Hennadii Shkliarevskyi is convinced.

But, Dmytro Shkerebei, the head of the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, assured Opinion that the real reason of attacks is stereotypes, which still play the major part in our society.

“This all is the consequences of the stereotypes that still prevail in our society. This happens due to the fact that till now the evil is growing on the fertile soil and it is powered by the hatred. Instead of fighting corruption, that really interferes with the lives and development of Ukrainians, aggression is directed to a small group of people”, Dmytro Shkerebei said.

Yurii Shulipa, director of the Institute for National Policy, explained that the reason for the attacks on the Romani settlements might be inactivity of the police, in particular of the preventive work. According to Schulipa, the local authorities also should get involved.

“Attacks on the Roma settlements occur because of the lack of preventive work by the police. I want to remind you that the police is primarily obliged to prevent various crimes and violations. Police should take all possible measures to prevent a crime. After all, the primal function of the police is preventive, and only then, penal.

And if some representatives of the Roma settlement, according to local residents, were involved in the theft of their property and committed other crimes, then the police had to approach the situation. And the local authorities, in turn, also had to take a number of preventive measures to dismantle the illegally established Roma encampment within the city boundary”, said in the comments on Opinion.

Whether there is a real problem in Ukraine?

Dmytro Shkerebei, speaking on the attack on Roma settlement as a result of the stereotypes, stressed that the most important thing is to understand that these people just have a slightly different culture, but this does not mean that Ukrainian society should be considered as the better one.

“I talked a lot to the Roma, traveled with their settlements, have been to their encampment. In my opinion, these people should be left alone, we should give them the opportunity to live as they like. One should not think that Ukrainian culture and society are something fundamentally better. The Roma’s culture is simply different, they are accustomed to living freely and have lived in this freedom for 600 years. They love their children and value their families, their freedom. The Romas have paid dearly for their freedom and we have to appreciate the fact, that they are one of the last communities in the world, that can use its freedom”, the expert explained.

But according to Yurii Bondarenko, a member of the political movement  “Tradition and Order” movement, there are no problems with the Roma in Ukraine. In his opinion, the radicalization of society is more likely to lead to inactivity of law enforcement agencies in the fight against crime. Moreover, Yurii Bondarenko is convinced, that in order to protect themselves from the escalation of the conflict, the Roma themselves should stop tolerating the criminal actions of representatives of their communities.

“I think, that there are no problems with Romani in Ukraine. Romani, Jews, Armenians and Russians are those ethnos, that have long lived in Ukraine and have had a significant impact on Ukrainian culture. Moreover, if you analyze Ukrainian folklore, it will be difficult to find a dismissive or racist attitude to the Romani. The inaction of the law enforcement agencies in the fight against criminal ethnic groups just leads to the radicalization of society. At the same time, so-called “human rights” organizations benefit from adding fuel to the fire of the Romani issue to get new grants from the Western funds.

Another interesting thing is that when representatives of the Romani or the Caucasian peoples violate the current legislation, the left-wing media outrage that there is no need to focus on nationality. When the Ukrainians have just about enough patience and they go to ruin the Romani encampment, which is installed in the Kiev parks, then all as one runs to protect the national minorities. None of the Ukrainian patriotic organizations wants chaos in Ukraine, but if under the Constitution everyone is equal before the law, then why don’t we hear from the lawsuits about the Romani? In my opinion, in order to protect themselves from the escalation of the conflict, the Romani themselves should stop to tolerating the criminal actions of their representatives, and law enforcement agencies must investigate crimes, not to beat confessions out of the Romani “, –  Yurii Bondarenko said.

Yurii Shulipa confirmed the fact, that there was no problem between the Romani and Ukrainians. According to him, there is no xenophobia in Ukrainian society, and all attacks are only acts of the lynch-law of individual citizens.

“There is no ethnic conflict between the Romani and other peoples in Ukraine, and such a conflict never existed before. There is also no xenophobia in Ukrainian society. Therefore attacks on the Romani settlements are grounded as some acts of the lynch-law of local residents “, – Shulipa is assured.

How to settle this situation?

Despite the fact, that separate speakers emphasize the absence of specific conflict situations, the latter cases testify to the contrary. That is why the logical question arises: how can all this be solved to prevent new attacks on the Roma and new conflicts. According to Dmytro Shkerebei, today the Roma, first of all, need protection, because they need social care, education and understanding instead of kicks and night violence.

“There is such a Polish proverb about the right: for each person in a balaclava there is a man in a helmet. This issue should be solved at the state level, as attacks on the Roma are organized not only by “Good Samaritans,” but clearly organized by the groups, confident in their impunity, which is protected by the influential people. This is how the persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany began.

We just have to leave the Roma alone, give them the opportunity to organize their own schools, where the children will be taught in their own language, taking into account cultural characteristics. Of course, they have difficulties – the Roma children are taken away, their passports are deprived, they have no opportunity to get a job and live as they like. All this is the result of an unplanned policy, of ignoring the problems of this group, and as a result – full anarchy and lawlessness.

The Roma, first of all, need opportunities, not kicks, they need social protection, not night violence, they need education and understanding, not moral appraisals. They need help and need to be organized. But first of all – they need protection”, the head of the All-Ukrainian Network of people living with HIV / AIDS stressed.

But, Yurii Shulipa believes that representatives of the law enforcement agencies should play a major part in resolving the conflict and preventing the new one. It is possible, that the administrative legislation needs some changes.

“In order to prevent such attacks on the Roma settlements, and some separate representatives of the Roma settlements stop theft and other property crimes against local residents, the police is required to exercise effective administrative supervision of representatives of the Roma settlements.

For the effectiveness of such an administrative measure, it is necessary to make some changes in the administrative law. But most importantly, it is necessary to conduct a civilized dialogue between the Romani, local authorities and local residents”, director of the Institute of National Policy explained Opinion.

However, attacks on the Romani settlements are not even a sliver of the full scope, Oleksandr Verbitskii, a political consultant, is convinced. According to him, the situation can change only when the real terms for attempts on human health and citizen’s freedom will be condemned. And there is no difference who is the citizen.

“The state should open its eyes at internal problems that are here for more than one decade. These are not just the Roma, they are not even a sliver of the full scope. Just these days, there is no one to protect and help them. There is a gambling industry, prostitution, drug addiction, and nobody is even fighting against watering holes, because all this systematically vanishes. But it’s convenient to fight with the Roma  – you will not be pushed back. And note, this phenomenon is not defined as corruption. Therefore, it does not attract EU’s attention.

They have their own problems with drug addiction – they are forced to legalize soft drugs. This is used by our officials while earning their dirty money on human vices, and preparing combatants on the blood of the helpless people, and not necessarily of the Roma people. Until there is no real penalty for assaults on human health and citizen’s freedom – nothing will change. And it doesn’t matter, who is this citizen! Until the Constitution of Ukraine is not fulfilled, there is no way for improvements to come. For now, in our country there is a selective justice”, commented to Opinion.

Text: Dmytro Zhuravel

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