Arson attack on Romani house in Csolnok, Hungary

15 May 1998

The Roma Press Center reported that on the morning of March 13, 1998, an unknown motorcyclist drove through the village of Csolnok in Komárom-Esztergom County in northeastern Hungary and shouted at a Romani family called Dávid, „Stinking Gypsies, I will set your house on fire!" As their house had already been set on fire five years ago, during which one of their children was injured, the five-member family packed and left for a neighbouring village.

Mr Dezső Dávid returned at around 11 p.m. the same day and saw a fire inside the house. He also saw five people wearing hoods coming out of the house. Mr Dávid ran to a nearby foundry and asked the guard to call the police and the fire brigade, but by the time they arrived at the scene, most of the house had burnt down and the suspects had escaped. According to Chief of the Dorog Police Criminal Department Ferenc Meiszler, the fire brigade and the police established on March 13 that the fire was caused intentionally. An investigation, opened shortly after the incident, has yet to yield results. On June 8, Police Chief Meiszler told the ERRC that they had not identified anyone in connection with the crime.

Mr József Bérczes, mayor of Csolnok, transferred HUF 20,000 (approximately 200 German marks) emergency aid to the Dávid family, and ordered that one of the emergency apartments of the local government be fixed up and made available to the victims. The local government also gave clothes to the family. The mayor told the Roma Press Center that, as they had five years ago, the local government would help the family in restoring their damaged house.

Magyar Hírlap reported that anti-Roma harassment also took place in the Felnémet district of the northeastern city of Eger, where leaflets have been distributed since January demanding that Roma settled in the town should be moved back to „their places of origin".

Hungarian dailies have also recently reported instances of abuse of Roma by municipal authorities. The Hungarian daily Blikk published an article on April 2 which stated that Vera Pacs, mayor of the town of Isaszeg, slightly to the east of Budapest, had ordered the 18-member Romani family of György Szabó to leave the village. According to Mayor Pacs, there are two types of Roma: „the good-for-nothing type and the completely wretched type". According to Blikk, in December 1997, a Romani man stabbed an ethnic Hungarian in the town. Since then, according to Mayor Pacs, Isaszeg has been dominated by a strong anti-Romani atmosphere. Anti-Romani sentiment swelled further when another Romani family sold a house built in Isaszeg with welfare aid money in February. These were evidently the justifications for preventing the family of Mr Szabó from settling in the village. Typical of press reports in Hungary, Blikk quotes local Roma in support of anti-Romani sentiment. The Szabó family has since left the village.

(Blikk, Népszabadság, Roma Press Center)

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