Hindus and Jews laud Sweden for "white book" on Roma maltreatment and ask Europe to follow

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 01, 2011 12:20 hrs

Hindus and Jews have applauded Sweden for reportedly commissioning a "white book", listing the persecution, wrongdoings, ill-treatment, forced sterilizations, school denial, human rights violations, genocide, lack of voting rights, and more, suffered by Roma (Gypsies) during the Twentieth Century.istinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed; and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, prominent Jewish leader in Nevada and California in USA; in a statement in Nevada today, said that it was "a step in the right direction" and other countries of Europe should follow it. They stressed that a "truth commission" should be formed; Sweden should formally apologize for wrongdoings during the last five centuries and work towards compensating Swedish Roma for their suffering.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, and Rabbi Freirich commended Swedish Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag for publicly admitting that "Roma have throughout history been subjected to unacceptable ill-treatment, such as forced sterilization, and Roma children have also been denied schooling" and stressing that "it was necessary for the Swedish state to admit it had wronged the Roma".

According to Swedish Government's Human Rights Website, "The Roma still occupy a highly vulnerable position in Swedish society and are exposed to discrimination although this is prohibited by law. Generally speaking, many Roma encounter great difficulties in virtually all spheres of society. This applies to education, the labor market, housing and health care and to possibility of participating in the community on the same terms as the majority population."

Roma reportedly suffered maltreatment in Swedish history for long time. They were contemptuously referred to as tattare or Gypsies. Many were deported over the centuries to Finland. Various edicts during 17th century decreed that the Roma were to be driven out. During the 18th century, many were drafted into army while others were dispatched to forced labor or forced settlement. Romani immigration was banned from 1914 to 1954. During the period between two world wars, the tattare/Gypsy issue was the topic of a fierce debate with racist overtones and often drawing on racial biology. Abuse of Roma in the form of forced transportation, banishment, ban on owning businesses, forced assimilation, forced sterilizations, etc., has been a reality.

Despite extensive legislation against ethnic discrimination, additional funding for Roma related prejudice and discrimination issues with Ombudsman, the formation of various agencies to improve their living conditions, Roma still reportedly faced political, social, and economic exclusion. "Could not the nearly 9.2 million people of Sweden properly integrate and include their about 60,000 Roma brethren?" Rajan Zed and Rabbi Freirich asked.ed and Freirich argued that Roma had been living in Sweden since the Sixteenth century. "How many more centuries must they reside in Sweden to prove that they were 'real and equal' Swedes like any other?" they asked. It was Sweden's moral obligation to improve the plight of its Roma population and stop human rights violations suffered by them, who were reportedly the most disadvantaged.

Roma inclusion and integration programs needed to immediately get off the ground to provide them with better health and education, better economic opportunities, sources of empowerment and participation, Rajan Zed and Rabbi Freirich stressed.

Hindu and Jewish leaders further said that Church of Sweden, which was the national church, should also come out in support of the cause of this distinct ethnic and cultural group of Roma, because religion taught us to help the helpless and it was the duty of majority to protect its minority.

Zed and Rabbi Freirich pointed out that European Roma seemed to live under apartheid conditions and regularly faced a long list of abuses that no civilized society should impose on anyone. (ANI)