"You're lucky you are at home" - Testimony by Romani prostitutes in Hajdúhadház, eastern Hungary

07 November 1997

On September 20 and 21, the ERRC conducted interviews with prostitutes in the eastern Hungarian town of Hajdúhadház in Hajdú Bihar County, near the city of Debrecen. The ERRC investigation was prompted by serious allegations, on the part of the Hungarian non-governmental organisation Foundation for Roma Civil Rights (RPA), that officers of the Hajdúhadház police department regularly abuse their authority when dealing with Roma. The following are excerpts from some of the inter views conducted by the ERRC, with Romani prostitutes who work on Highway 4, between Debrecen and Hajdúhadház. RPA held a press conference on the subject and is presently attempting to engage a lawyer for the victims. The initials of the prostitutes have been changed.

L.D. (APPROXIMATELY 20 YEARS OLD)

I have worked on Highway 4 for three years. The first time I was beaten by the police, I wasn't a prostitute yet. That was in May 1994. I was hitchhiking from Bocskai-kert because I missed my bus. A car stopped, and I was getting into it when the police arrived in a police car. Officers B.V., S.N. and two other people — I don't know their names — got out of the police car. Suddenly the policemen grabbed me and said: "Here you are, you dirty Gypsy bitch! Damn your bitch mother!" They said some other things like that. They took me to the police station and beat me. They tore my clothes and said really bad words to me. Finally, they let me go. As I was leaving the police station I was on the stairs and one of them kicked me hard and I almost fell down. Later I got a letter from them, in which there was a fine for 5,000 Forints. I paid it. I didn't like what had happened and I wanted to report them. I went to the mayor and complained about the beating but he said: "I don't care about your case, go to the police station!" I went to the captain and tried to tell him what had happened, but he said, "I don't believe you, my people never do things like that." I never went back because I think there is nothing I can do.

Since then, [May 1994] they have beaten me many times. The worst policemen are named B.V., S.Sz., S.N., LM. and another person who every body calls "Thomas". I don't know his real name. They beat us constantly. When these people catch me they always beat me. It happens like this: when I work sometimes I go out with my sister-in-law L.L. or with my cousin. If we have any money they take it all from us: we tuck away the money in our bras or in our underwear or in our shoes. One time they made us take off all of our clothes — blouse, underwear, bra, everything — because we said we didn't have any money. If we have money, they take it away. If we don't have money, they take us to the police station. They beat us with truncheons and they ask us things like: "How much money do you charge for one session?" If they find money after I have told them I don't have any, they beat me because I didn't give it to them when they first demanded it. If they don't find any money on me, they take me to the police station and beat me there. Then they fine me 5000 to 35,000 Forints. I already have 300,000 Forints in outstanding fines.

One time, they forced us to eat condoms. I don't know exactly when it happened. I was with L.L. That day we hadn't had any customers so we didn't have any money. They chased us and we ran into the woods. They caught us there. They made us undress. They were looking for money and condoms. The policemen didn't found any money. We only had some condoms. They beat us hard. Then they gave us the condoms and said: "Put these condoms in your mouth!" We did as we were told. We had to. Then they told us to swallow them. They were demanding that we do it and they beat us. It was impossible though — we couldn't swallow them. Then they kicked us a few times.

Another time I was out with my sister-in-law L.L. and with T.A. when one policeman came up to us. It was Thomas and he was alone. He said: "If you give me half your money every day I will leave you alone. I won't beat you."

Three or four months ago I gave an interview to a journalist. After that, a policeman came to my house and told me that if I talk to any more journalists or complain to anyone it will be a dog's life for me. Since then haven't been out on Highway 4.

L.L. (APPROXIMATELY 19 YEARS OLD)

One time, I was out with L.D. when the police arrived. We tried to run away but they caught us in the wood. They searched us, and they found an eyeliner brush in my purse, and one of them painted my clothes with it. Then they took us to the police station. They used very bad words that I don't want to tell you. One policeman wrote something on a typewriter. They didn't ask me any questions. When he finished I had to sign it. I read it but it wasn't true. The paper said: "Every day I go to Highway 4 to whore myself for 1000 Forints and I make 7000-8000 Forints per day." I told them I didn't want to sign it, so one of the policemen started to beat me with his truncheon until I signed it.

If we have money they take it away from us, but they don't give us any receipt. If we don't have money, they take us to the police station, beat us, write statements and later we get a fine in the mail. Sometimes they come three or four times per day and I have to give them my money each time and they beat me each time too. Sometimes nothing happens for a month.

Last summer, I was pregnant. I went out to the highway with L.D. When the police came, L.D. ran away but I couldn't and they caught me in the wood. They wanted me to undress but I didn't want to. They tore off my clothes. I think they were looking for money and condoms. They found money I was hiding and when they found it, one of them said to me: "Get out of here you Gypsy bitch!" He didn't beat me that time because I think he knew I was pregnant.

Sometimes they arrest us and take us to a doctor. The doctor examines us and writes a paper saying we are not hurt. When the doctor finishes the examination, they take us to the police station and they beat us there. Once a policeman kicked me hard in the crotch and I started to bleed. I quickly took out my paper handkerchief but the policeman pulled it out of my hand and threw it away. Nowadays sometimes a policewoman searches us.

M.O. (24 YEARS OLD)

This happened yesterday: I was alone on the highway. The policeman named B.V. came and asked me what I was doing there. I told him about the situation of my family. I haven't got a father and my mother died a few months ago. He said everything was all right and he told me to just go home. I started to go, but when I didn't see him anymore I went back. When I got back to the spot where I usually stand, a car stopped. I got in, and we drove off in direction of Böszörményi road. We drove out into the woods and parked and we started to take off out clothes. Suddenly Officer B.V. knocked on the window. Me and my john got out of the car. He gave the man a fine of about 4000 Forints and he took all my money — 2000 Forints — but he didn't give me any paper for the fine. Then he sent my john away. He kept me with him though. He broke a branch off a tree and he started to beat me with it. When he started to beat me, I shouted for him to please not do it anymore because I was pregnant. It's not true that I'm pregnant, I just wanted to stop him. He stopped beating me, but he made a last kick with his font on my arm, and now I can't move it. I wanted to go to the doctor but Officer B.V. told me that 1 had better not go to a doctor, but go straight home. He checked me later to see if I was at home. He came by out house and he told me: "You're lucky you are at home."

The police have beaten me many times. I don't know exactly how many. If I don't give money to a policeman when he demands it, he grabs my hair, wraps it around his wrist and throws me to the ground. Three months ago one policeman took me to the police station. First he gave money to the captain, but only 4,000 Forints of it — I saw him because the door was open. Then he came into the room. There were just the two of us in the room: nobody saw it. On top of the cabinet there was a broken chair leg. He took down this chair leg and he beat me with it until I blacked out. When I came to, I was under the tap in the sink. Before they let me go, they made me sign a paper. They didn't read me what was written on it. I can't write or read. I made three Xs on it. A few days later I got a fine for 30,000 Forints in the mail. I already have 200,000 Forints in outstanding fines.

A.L. (APPROXIMATELY 33 YEARS OLD)

I have worked on the road for only four months. I started on December 31 1996 - New Years Eve. As soon as I started standing around, the police officer Thomas arrived with a friend. His friend was driving. Officer Thomas was in civilian clothes. He stopped and started asking about my sister, T. By then T. was already in prison. She used to go off with him until she got locked up. Thomas asked me, "Don't you want to come with me on business?" I asked him how much he would pay. He said 2000. I agreed and we went off together. When we were finished he said he would only give me 1000. He said he would give me 2000 Forints if I gave him a blow-job, but I did not agree to this. Right then a police car was driving by, and he asked me to put my head down, so they wouldn't see me.

During these four months, Officer B.V. never once caught me, only some other policemen did, and they gave me a fine of 7000 Forints because they found condoms that I had on me. They took me to the police station, but didn't beat me. They wrote something up, I don't know what it was because I can't write or read. Later I received a letter from the police. This is when I found out I had received a fine.

O.V (17 YEARS OLD)

I have worked on this highway for two years. During these two years the police have attacked me many times, but they have only beaten me once. Usually they take my money and take me to the police station. I have a regular john. His name is S. I don't know his family name but I know his telephone number. One time, he came to visit and we went into the wood near of the Böszörményi road with his car. When we arrived, we started to take off out clothes when a police car came and turned on its siren. There were two people in the car: Officer B.V. and Officer S.N. Officer B.V. shouted at me: "Come out, you, dirty, Gypsy bitch! Give me your money and condoms!" When 1 came out, he kicked me once hard. My john saw everything. He had to pay a fine of 4000 Forints to the other policeman. After that the policemen - B.V. and S.N. - beat me. While they were beating me, one of my shoes fell off. One of them picked it up and threw it away. I had to go home without my shoe. I didn't have any condoms, but I gave them my money: 1500 Forints. I don't know anything about S.'s fine, but I got fifteen little pieces of paper that looked like stamps.

I'm afraid of them and I don't want to get any more beatings from them. One beating was enough for me. If they demand money from me I will give it to them. I'm afraid because I'm supposed to be living in an orphanage, but I tan away because I don't like it there. I live with my boyfriend's mother and I like it. I have to go back though, because I'm 17.

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