For the Roma Gypsies: Life under the Far-right

A commentary on Gypsies

A Roma child plays on a swing in a slum outside Ozd, an industrial town northeast of Budapest.

Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, which is accused of being anti-Semitic and racist, took control of the town after an election campaign in which it promised to issue an ultimatum to the Roma minority – follow our rules or leave town.

The town of Ozd, with a population of 35,000 people, is the biggest prize won by Jobbik in a nationwide round of municipal elections in which it increased the numbers of City Halls it controls from three to fourteen.

The town of Ozd, with a population of 35,000 people, is the biggest prize won by Jobbik in a nationwide round of municipal elections in which it increased the numbers of City Halls it controls from three to fourteen.

Though still a long way behind the ruling centre-right Fidesz party, in the elections it overtook the Socialists to become the second biggest opposition party.

OZD, HUNGARY. REUTERS/BERNADETT SZABO

 

 

Ozd’s new mayor, 27-year-old David Janiczak (left) took a walk around the main square, receiving congratulations from townspeople.

Ozd’s new mayor, 27-year-old David Janiczak (left) took a walk around the main square, receiving congratulations from townspeople.

He said he would crack down on crime and poverty on behalf of all residents, whatever their ethnic background. Yet the programme on which Janiczak ran in the election is explicit in singling out the Roma community.

The manifesto, posted on the Jobbik internet site next to a photograph of Janiczak, states: “We think there are two ways to solve the Gypsy question…The first one is based on peaceful consent, the second on radical exclusion.”

“Our party wishes to offer one last chance to the destructive minority that lives here, so first it will consider peaceful consent. If that agreement fails, then and only then the radical solution can follow.”

OZD, HUNGARY. REUTERS/BERNADETT SZABO

 

 

Interviewed on Monday outside his new office in City Hall, Janiczak used much more measured language about the Roma than his election manifesto.

Interviewed on Monday outside his new office in City Hall, Janiczak used much more measured language about the Roma than his election manifesto.

“Conditions are horrid on the outskirts of town where most Roma live,” Janiczak told Reuters.

“We need to create jobs and enforce order for Roma and Hungarians alike. The voters trust we will do that.”

OZD, HUNGARY. REUTERS/BERNADETT SZABO

 

 

In Ozd, unemployment is endemic. Around a quarter of the city's population are Roma, and most of them live in dire poverty, relying on state welfare payments.

In Ozd, unemployment is endemic. Around a quarter of the city’s population are Roma, and most of them live in dire poverty, relying on state welfare payments.

Conditions are so bad that for some in the Roma community, fear about the persecution Jobbik might bring is mixed with hope that a radical new party might do something to improve their lot where all others have failed.

OZD, HUNGARY. REUTERS/LASZLO BALOGH

 

 

"Like most Roma we are afraid what might happen to us, because the news was always that some people wanted us dead and they would ship us off in trains like Hitler did with the Jews," one local woman, Szilvia Orosz, told Reuters.

“Like most Roma we are afraid what might happen to us, because the news was always that some people wanted us dead and they would ship us off in trains like Hitler did with the Jews,” one local woman, Szilvia Orosz, told Reuters.

She was speaking in the centre of one of the town’s toughest Roma slums, which has no water or sewer system.

“But if this kid Janiczak can act the way he talks about work, honour and peace, and gives us long-term employment, then there won’t be racial discrimination.”

However, many of the people who voted for a Jobbik mayor said they did so at least in part because Jobbik had promised to tackle what the party describes as “Gypsy crime.”

OZD, HUNGARY. REUTERS/BERNADETT SZABO
 

Bernadett Szabo

 

PhotographerBernadett Szabo

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