Romani people in Kosovo

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Romani people
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Romani girl in Prizren
Refugee camp of Kosovar Romani in southern Central Serbia, close to Kosovo
Romani in Kosovo according to the estimation of the UN-mission in 2005

Romani people in Kosovo living usually in "Mahalas" (segregated settlement) are part of the biggest minority in Europe. Important to mention is that although Ashkali and Egyptians have very similar culture, tradition, non distinguishing physical appearance, most of them do not want to be put together as one minority but as minorities. Mainly there are historical differences claimed. Roma speak Roma language in most cases, but also the languages that surround them, such as Serbian and Albanian. Many Romani were targeted by Kosovo Albanians (Kosovo Liberation Army) with the Serbs during the Kosovo War as being considered to be allied with Serbs and Serbian national interests.

Romani in Kosovo are much depleted from their former numbers, and have been in both stationary and nomadic residence there since the 15th century.

Kosovo Liberation Army (Kosovo Albanians) expelled 50,000 Romani from Kosovo, forcing them to take refuge in central Serbia,[1] but many of them returned to Kosovo. In 2011 there were 36,694 Romani, Ashkali and Egyptians living in Kosovo,or around 2% of the population.

Subgroups[edit]

As in other parts of the Balkans, the denomination of Romani has always been subject to outside pressure. In the official census, the labels Romani and (Kosovo) Egyptians were used.

After the war and encouraged by the international community, the label Romani, Ashkali and Kosovo Egyptians and its abbreviation RAE became more common. Whereas the Ashkali and Kosovo Egyptians assert their distinct origin, this is sometimes contested by Kosovo Romani who claim that all three groups are actually Romani subgroups.

Culture[edit]

While all the three groups claim ethnic differences between them, they frequently intermarry. Romani weddings to non-Romani (Gadje, outsiders) is extremely rare. Egyptians, Romani and Ashkalija however do not classify one another as Gadje.

Discrimination[edit]

Following the cessation of the Kosovo war in June 1999 and the subsequent return of ethnic Albanians from abroad, approximately four fifths of Kosovo's pre-1999 RAE population had been expelled from their homes.[2] During the implementation by the Milosevic regime of “Operation Horseshoe” in Kosovo in the early months of 1999, Roma and others regarded as Gypsies were regarded as complicit in siding with the Serbs. The facts are not disputed: Roma assisted the Serbian police in plundering Albanian homes and shops to supply the military action, and in burying the Albanian dead. However, there is no common ground on the interpretation of these facts. Roma say that the forces of the state coerced them into assisting the military operation and that there was no space for resistance.[3] Many Romanis were also recruited into the Yugoslav army to "help terrorise Albanians" and Roma homes were marked with an "R" on their doors to distinguish them from Albanian houses when the Serbian paramilitaries arrived to plunder.[4]

Albanians regarded these acts as further evidence that Roma had allied themselves with the enemies of the Albanian nation, and thus many Roma were targeted by the returning Albanians.[3][5] The departure of the Yugoslav army and police was followed by a series of "retaliatory attacks". By June 1999 The Romani mahala of Mitrovica was burned down and the inhabitants fled. Around 3,500 Roma took shelter in a school in Kosovo Polje following threats and the Roma community of Djakovica were warned to leave their homes. The Romany quarter of Brekoc in Djakovica and Dusanova in Prizren were also burned down.[6] German KFOR troops also discovered 15 severely beaten Roma, accused of taking part in looting and collaborating with the Serbs, in a police office in Prizren that was being used by the KLA as a prison.[3][7] 5,000 displaced Roma gathered in a KFOR built camp in Obilic where they were subject to insults and attacks by the Albanians.[3]

Romani in Kosovo, today live in constant fear of further ethnic unrest. Romani unhoused in North Kosovo are today housed in lead-infested camps in North Kosovska Mitrovca.[8] There is ongoing campaign for rehousing and proper health provisions for the families affected, and a fatality estimate ranges from 27 to 81.

Today, persecution of members of these Roma communities continues, manifested in their systematic exclusion from access to fundamental human rights. Racial discrimination against RAE communities in Kosovo is pervasive, depriving tens of thousands of their dignity. Anti-Gypsy sentiment among the ethnic Albanian majority is widespread. Today, RAE and others considered Gypsies in Kosovo live in a state of pervasive fear, fostered by routine intimidation, verbal harassment, and periodic racist assaults.[3]

— German Law Journal analysis on the status of the Roma


Education[edit]

Formal education is of a poor standard, especially among women, due both to native beliefs that formal education is unnecessary, and to discrimination in education in the formal schools who are ill-equipped for the needs of Romani children.

Serbianising and Albanizing tendencies have also lead to the Romani sliding from the educational mainstream.

Third level education is not attained by the majority of Rom, and of those who do, they are mostly only half Romani, with there being Serb, Turk or Albanian heritage too.

Kosovska Mitrovica camps[edit]

Returning IDPs were housed by NATO / UNMIK in North Kosovska Mitrovica in a lead mine site, and 27 died of lead poisoning. They were helped by NGO the KRRF, led by Paul Polansky.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]