Phiren Amenca

Challenging stereotypes and antigypsyism in state institutions


photo credit : Thorsten Futh/Redux/laif for the Open Society Foundations

Phiren Amenca participated in the first international symposium “The Role of State Institutions in Overcoming Anti-Gypsyism in Europe – Potentials in Civiv Education and Awareness-Rising” which was held on December 1, 2015 in the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin and co-hosted by the Open Society Foundations, the Schwarzkopf Stiftung Young Europe and the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma.


photo credit : Thorsten Futh/Redux/laif for the Open Society Foundations

MEP Soraya Post highlighted in her introductory speech in the panel discussion, that Europe is a xenophobic continent, which has not dealt with its history, a statement illustrated well by the experiences of Ruus Dijksterhuis, executive director of ERGO Network. Anna Mirga mentioned the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative as a powerful example both for learning from the history and for achieving change on political level. This year the European Parliament declared August 2 as Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, a step, which still needs to be followed by most national governments. Soraya Post called for a change of perspective, considering racism and discrimination a violation of rights and therefore a problem of society as a whole. Her assessment is that the governments are failing and called for the concrete and explicit recognition of antigypsyism as a first step to stop it. Soraya Post highlighted the role of institutions, saying that antigypsyism is often institutionalized, which means that people often act in an antigypsyist way without being aware. Therefore, awareness is a first step to tackle antigypsyism. Finally, she concluded that governments also fail when putting too much pressure on NGOs and civil society, but also called us to approach her and make use of her position in order to make a change together.


The panel discussion in the evening showed, that there are still different perceptions of what or how much state institutions can do. But we appreciate this meeting as a good first step for creating a dialogue between state institutions and civil society. Another positive step has been made this week: Dr. Ethel Brooks, who has talked about school curricula on the Roma Holocaust at the symposium, was nominated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council by Barack Obama.

watch the video at this link: