Because Roma and others outside nation-state organisation are scattered through so many countries of the world, and are often in need of legal representation because they are seeking asylum, we are including information about them under our Special Issues section of the web.
Resource Person: Helen Carr BA (hons), MPhil (Oxon), Cert. TEFL, Dip; DPhil (Oxon)
Email: helen [dot] carranthro [dot] ox [dot] ac [dot] uk
Helen Carr is prepared to field questions from legal advisers on cases about which you may be needing advice. She welcomes enquiries regarding peoples outside nation state organisation, such as those of Czigany/Roma heritage, as well as refugees of Palestine and Kurds. Speakers of Beas & Lovari, Kirmanji & Surani of particular interest. Her special interests, experience and expertise extend from the Czigany/Roma to other groups on the periphery of, and/or outside nation state organisation, such as Kurds and refugees of Palestine. Based in Budapest immediately following the withdrawl of Soviet troops, she examined the development of the ethnic catgroy ‘Roma’ in the post-Soviet era, the ‘end product’ being an ‘inventory of peoples’ designed for census appropriate to the new democratic realpolitic. She also considers cross border relationships and connections between so called ‘Gypsy’ groups worldwide, including the Zot of Gaza and the Near East. She has worked with street homelessness and migrant workers, with the aim of differentiating between the categories of nomadic lifestyle/urban homelessness, contributing to reports evaluating the impact and implementation of minority rights laws. Helen Carr is also a qualified Psychodynamic Counsellor, with seven years clinical experience with the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, using her overseas experience, therapy training and anthropological knowledge to treat clients and defend Medico-Legal Opinions as an Expert Witness.
Groups marginalized by nation state organisation - historically on the basis of mobility and/or being outside religious, sexual or social more – are often subject to accusations of witchcraft, human sacrifice, or even terrorism and a range of criminalised offences in between such as prostitution, trafficking, and petty theft.
The term ‘Roma’ is not new, but it’s current usage as a generic is being reconstructed for a variety of reasons, by a variety of groups and institutions, the most powerful and influential currently being the European Union. Roma, however, is not interchangeable with the translation ‘Gypsy’ in an international context, since it refers to, and is known only by, groups largely within the confines of the western territories of the former Ottoman Empire and is used in a variety of ways, tending, but not exclusively, to describe a cornucopia of behaviours. Rom/Roma is derived from Romaic: used to describe the populations and kin of the Eastern Empire and in particular, to describe the vernacular of Greek that some inhabitants of Ancient Rome used. The term Cigany, however, is more widely used and is also known throughout Turkey, Central Asia and the Balkans.
Terms such as Cigany, Czigany, Tsiganes and Roma are used in official governmental documents, literature and public debate and are all translated into British English as Gypsy. Confusingly, all terms are interchangeably adopted, although all are considered pejorative in some way by those ascribing to these labels due to the existence of a variety of groups differing in language, behaviour and cultural features. Groups found in other geographical regions, such as the Yezedi and Csango of the former Ottoman sphere, the Zot, China’s Hakka, and Western African Gadawankura are all largely ignored in current debate.
In ignoring self-evaluation, political groups and States demonstrate agendas – sometimes they are donor-lead (‘follow the money’). For example, more recent movements (since 1999) in Transylvania, Romania, and now further east, in former Soviet Moldova, are encouraging the spelling of Roma as Rroma. This change appears to be an attempt to differentiate between Roma, Romany and Romanian and might be initiated by States to dissociate from Roma because their existence, increasingly understood internationally as a persecuted group, proves at best an embarrassment, at worst, hindrance to membership of the European Union. However, there might be some advantage to the groups themselves being categorised as a ‘racial’ or ‘religious’ group as opposed to a ‘social’ groups in terms of rights and funding – certainly this trend can be noted in the very recent abandonment by some of the ‘Irish’ from ‘Travellers.’
The alleged geographical mobility of groups such as the Roma, or Cigany et al is not unique. The recorded history of peoples is the history of migration. Yet this behaviour is considered unique to some and not others and cited as reason for resistance to assimilation and maintenance of identity, as well as in support of their perceived lack of identity in the face of successful integration
The modern, western discourse around ethnicity and identity, in contrast to Soviet concepts of ethnicity which differ, as with Soviet understanding of ‘nationality’, seems to be constructing and adjusting, rather than describing a reality. European Unionised definitions of ethnicity and identity are replacing earlier meanings concerned with class, religion and social hierarchy, influencing those subject to, as well as described by, the paradigm.
The terms ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’ are symptoms and sometimes victims of this shift and ambiguity. Publications and further resources on request.
Dr Adrian R. Marsh
Tel: +90 533 232 3973
Email: romanistudiesmac [dot] com
Turkey, the Middle East and the Balkans: Roma rights, Romani children's rights
Dr Marsh gained his PhD in Romani Studies from Greenwich University (London), his MA (South East European Studies) from SOAS/SSEES and completed his BA Hons (1st) in East European History at SSEES, London. He has also been a Gypsy/Traveller Education Support Teacher in London. He teaches courses on Romani history and culture, trans-national forced migration, refugee studies and human rights and children's rights in Turkey, Sweden, the UK, Albania, Kosovo, Rumania, Cyprus and Egypt. He is a frequent and accredited expert for the European Commission, Council of Europe and the European Parliament and has published widely on the issues of Roma rights and Romani children's rights, Romani history, language and cultures. He has also been a consultant for a number of major NGO's (European Roma Rights Centre, Save the Children, Helsinki Citizens' Assembly) and has produced many research reports in both capacities. He has also acted as an expert witness in a number of refugee cases involving Romani and Gypsy people from Turkey, the Balkans and Egypt seeking asylum in the UK. He is of English Romany-Traveller origins himself.