MINELRES: Fwd: Bulgaria Roma riots highlight discrimination-group

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Mon Aug 20 11:14:05 2007

Original sender: Roma Virtual Network <romale@zahav.net.il>

Bulgaria Roma riots highlight discrimination-group
Source: Reuters
SOFIA, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Recent riots in the capital by Bulgaria's Roma
gypsies were the result of discrimination, a human rights group said on
Thursday, but it played down the prospect of localised violence
spreading across the country.

Police were patrolling a Sofia district bordering a Roma ghetto, where
about 400 gypsies armed with knives, axes, sticks and spades went on the
rampage late on Tuesday after rumours surfaced they were about to be
attacked by skinheads. 

The unrest began on Sunday, when a Roma gypsy was reportedly beaten by
skinheads. A day later about 200 gypsies smashed a cafe and attacked
four people they said looked like skinheads. 

Human rights organisations said the incidents were symbolic of the
plight of gypsies in Bulgaria, many of whom have spent their lives in
poverty, are illiterate and have been marginalised by society. 

"There are many elements in it - ethnic tension, social problems, severe
discrimination against the gypsy ghettos," said Emil Koen of the human
rights watchdog Helsinki Committee. 

"The ghettos are like powder kegs which need just a small incident to
explode. I don't expect escalation of tension across the country...
Bulgarian gypsies lack the sense of solidarity which French rioters had
two years ago," he added. 

Police said the incidents did not indicate increasing ethnic tension and
also rejected comparisons drawn by Bulgarian newspapers with riots in
French suburbs in 2005 spurred by racism and discrimination against
ethnic minorities. 

Roma gypsies make up about 4.7 percent of Bulgaria's 7.8 million

Numerous initiatives have failed to address discrimination against them.
They are often treated with suspicion by Bulgarians, who tend to
stereotype Roma as dishonest and lazy. 

Some gypsy organisations have said this week's unrest was deliberately
provoked by political parties looking to win support ahead of October's
municipal elections. 

Police made no arrests on Tuesday, and local media quoted Interior
Ministry Chief Secretary Ilia Iliev as saying they were afraid of being
accused of discrimination had they done

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