Dikh he na bister (Look and don’t forget), Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative
This example highlights participation through a specific youth event as well as exploring participation through a network. The network is an example of how the right to participation can be promoted and put into practice – from international networking onto the local level. The network also provides the space for participation in the development of an online platform. The highlighted youth event is an example of young people being given the opportunity to participate, both as participants of the event and as organisers. The event also gives a strong focus to the importance of support, with the young people entering a learning experience and being motivated to turn this into participation back home. Lastly, the nature of the subject links participation to both human rights education and to the recognition of Roma identity.
Keywords for participation: Right / Opportunity / Support / Human Rights / Identity
ternYpe – International
ternYpe (International Roma Youth Network) is an International Roma Youth Network founded in 2010 that unites Roma youth organisations from Albania, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. The organisation’s mission is to create space for young people to become active citizens through mobilisation, self-organisation and participation, promoting mutual respect and co-operation between the Roma and non-Roma young people. The work is based on grassroots groups made up of Roma and non-Roma, but strengthening / maintaining Roma leadership at all levels.
The organisation’s vision is based on “education for remembrance” in order to develop solidarity among Roma and non-Roma youth. This is done through analysis and interpretation of the past as a means to critically evaluate and act in contemporary societies. Recognition of the Roma Genocide, for ternYpe, is an important step in the restoration of dignity and justice for Roma, and human rights in Europe.
ternYpe’s action plan includes the coaching / mentoring of local groups and capacity building for youth workers. Another part of the plan is the ongoing building of partnerships; these include the European Youth Forum, the Council of Europe, the European Union of Jewish Students, and Youth of European Nationalities. As such, the organisation has looked to move out of the project-orientated field and away from being a Roma-focused service-provision organisation, to becoming a network and voice of young people in the youth field. ternYpe has participated in a number of major European youth events, making ternYpe and Roma youth issues visible.
Lack of Recognition
The foundation of the moral dimension of the work of ternYpe is the lack of recognition of the Roma Genocide (sometimes referred to as ‘Porrajmos’ or ‘Samudaripen’). The organisation seeks to demonstrate that the failure to acknowledge fully this historical tragedy has an impact on current society, declaring: “We need to shed light on the forgotten Roma Genocide, its more than 500,000 victims, on social exclusion, on antigypsyism, and on hate speech against Roma today, which is a consequence of predominant, widespread ignorance and lack of recognition of the Roma Genocide.”
The organisation believes there is a need to acknowledge and address the stereotyping of Roma and growing antigypsyism as mechanisms of exclusion, hate speech and hate crime. ternYpe also works to counter widespread denials of the Roma Genocide across contemporary Europe.
Dikh he na Bister – International Youth Event
Seventy years after the Nazi Genocide of Roma, with very few living witnesses to provide testimonies of the past horrors, ternYpe worked with young Roma to ask:
- What is the role of Roma youth with regard to the memories and lessons for the future?
- Why is remembrance relevant for young Roma identity and sense of self-dignity?
With 2014 being the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust, ternYpe organised a youth event that offered a unique learning opportunity for participants. Young people organised over 40 workshops and lectures that were facilitated by experts and activists in the field of the Roma Genocide, Holocaust, human rights education and youth activism. The workshops all took place at the Pedagogical University of Kraków. Aside from the workshops, the programme included meetings with survivors (or witnesses), remembrance ceremonies, and the exploration of current issues relating to antigypsyism and extremism. Organisers wanted to create a bridge between the historic experience of the Roma Genocide and present concerns relating to far-right / neo-Nazi movements and tendencies in societies across Europe.
The main act of remembrance was a commemoration at Auschwitz, which was attended by more than 1,000 people. ternYpe invited a range of institutions and organisations: amongst others, representatives attended from the European Commission, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the United Nations. Media coverage encompassed 15 to 20 countries, and press releases were disseminated internationally in an effort to reach and inform governmental institutions worldwide.
Participation in Action
The participation of young people in the youth event Dikh he na Bister was a long five-year process. Participation here was not just about bringing a group of young people to the event in 2014, but about being involved through many difficulties and frustrations. The young people were leading the decision making, the organising, the responsibilities, and the lobbying of authorities. The process required the young people to engage in advocacy and partnership building with local authorities and international institutions – such as the European Union and the Council of Europe. The process attracted literally hundreds of young people, either to become involved in the organising or wanting to attend the event.
Starting in 2010 and occurring annually, ternYpe organised youth seminars in Kraków on 2 August – the Memorial Day for the Roma Holocaust. Although primarily aimed at young people, the events were intergenerational and were for Roma and non-Roma. The original concept was to facilitate the role of young people in the process of constructing tolerant and inclusive societies, working with them to understand the history of Roma persecution better, its causes and consequences. ternYpe wanted the youth remembrance approach to promote human rights education. The facts and consequences of the Roma Genocide are highlighted through youth-led local and national awareness-raising events, including acts of commemoration.
Young people and their organisations began organising follow-up events and youth exchanges as a direct result of the seminars. In 2012, ternYpe concluded that, with interest growing in what they were doing, they wanted to explore further the relationship between the forgotten or ignored history and the current rise in antigypsyism.
In March 2013 they invited 50 organisations from 20 countries to Germany to discuss common interests related to the topics of recognition of the Roma Holocaust and the date of 2 August. In September of that year, ternYpe organised a study session through the European Youth Centre in Budapest to explore in more details the issues and the options for further developments and actions. A series of meetings followed in 2013 and 2014 in various countries with numerous young people, organisations and institutions.
The participatory organising concept was to open spaces for young people to take responsibility on many levels, from building a social media team, to coordinating and preparing workshops. It became an example of youth participation and cooperation between different young people and youth organisations from different countries across Europe. Almost all the young people involved did so on a voluntary basis. It was not a smooth process and many mistakes were made, but it was young people-led, and the mistakes and problems were resolved by the young people. Young people got engaged in different groups, often at an informal level, many of which were not always structured or continuous. At times the process lacked professional co-ordination and resulted in many breaks and interruptions.
Over 1,000 young Roma and non-Roma from over 25 countries and more than 70 organisations took part in the event. Each young person and partner organisation managed their own finances; they developed their own local activities, and funded their international travel costs to Poland for the event. Many organised media to travel with them so that their experience and their achievements would be brought to public attention in their own country. For example, the group from Barcelona held several high-profile events and exhibitions. Through their work, lobbying and generated publicity, the local government made a resolution to officially recognise 2 August.
Participation in this event gave young people from different backgrounds chances to be able to share experiences and perspectives, so learning from each other. Roma youth participating and engaging in this event showed themselves to be active citizens and the agents of change. It was an opportunity for both social and professional networking activities. Besides the educational dimension, the networking of Roma youth resulted in the mobilisation of youth groups, and the starting of new initiatives at a local level.
An interactive online platform http://2august.eu is being developed to promote web-based youth participation and activism through the use of social media and online activities such as the ‘Thunderclap action to remember the Roma Genocide’, the Twitter account ‘For a Better World’ and ‘pickabadge’ for profile photos. This online platform will be linked to the No Hate Speech Movement campaign of the Council of Europe.