Community tensions in Romania

02 April 1998

According to the newspaper 22 Review, Pro N news reported on September 30, 1997, that police had conducted operations in the villages of Iveşti and Toflea in Galaţi county, both with large Romani populations. Several dozen gendarmes with dogs evidently took part in the actions, the stated aim of which were to check the book-keeping of the 2000 firms operating in the localities. One of the reporters allegedly stated on the news program that, „Gypsies burn their book-keeping and refuse access to the fiscal authorities”, and that „they don’t want to see any policeman in their commune”. The checks reportedly resulted in fines for approximately eighty firms.

On November 24, 1997, the Romanian daily Monitorul reported a separate large-scale incident conducted in a Romani community, this one involving taxi drivers in a village near the northeastern city of Iaşi. The incident took place at approximately 10 p.m. on Friday, November 21, when around forty taxi drivers armed with sticks and crowbars entered the village of Zanea, inhabited almost exclusively by Roma. Earlier in the evening, three Romani youths had asked a taxi driver working for the company Class to drive them from the town of Tătăraşi to Zanea, where they allegedly stole his car, his coat and Romanian Lei worth approximately 65 German Marks. Forty cars from three local taxi companies stormed the area around two hours later. The stolen car was returned after the intervention of a local Romani leader, but the perpetrators were not identified, so taxi drivers threatened to return the following day. A police barricade was set up the next morning. The taxi drivers involved declared that they would not accept Roma clientele in the future.

The national daily România liberă speculated on January 20 that the village of Petreasa in Bihor County could become the site of ethnic conflict due to tensions between Roma and local ethnic Romanians. The three hundred non-Romani villagers have reportedly resolved to expel the thirty Romani families comprising 83 persons who live in the village. The Roma evidently illegally occupy part of a communal pasture located on the edge of the village, although they have been on the site for forty-five years. The article claims that the villagers have become upset because some of the families are building houses on the land. At a meeting called to resolve the conflict, villagers reportedly demanded that the local administration pull down the houses and also complained that the Roma live by stealing and begging.

Communal conflicts have led to violence and death in Romania in the past and the legal system has been notoriously slow where Roma have been victims; in the so-called „Hădăreni case”, a mob of ethnic Romanians killed three Romani men in 1993, but legal proceedings stalled shortly after the episode and only began once again last year. The case is presently at trial in Tirgu-Mureş. Five persons are charged with murder and arson and another six with arson.

Finally, a survey published by the Sociology Department of the Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj reports that 80% of news items about Roma reported on the channels TVR1 and Pro TV, the stations with the largest audiences, are biased against Roma. The survey, carried out over a four month period, reviewed thirty news items on Pro N and thirty-four news items on NR 1. Themes most often touched upon by the news programmes when reporting on Roma were criminality, disease and poverty.

(22 Review, ERRC, Monitorul)


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