The Travail of the Gypsies

A long-suffering people braces for more of the same.

Issue: Fall 1999

A recent U.S. State Department report on human rights around the world noted that Gypsies, often also called Romani or Roma, "suffer disproportionately from poverty, unemployment, interethnic violence, discrimination, illiteracy and disease." In Hungary, Gypsies number between half and one million, and they are routinely subjected to harassment and intimidation by skinheads and other extremist elements; many have been attacked physically. Romania has about 2.5 million Gypsies, and there, too, anti-Gypsy violence is rampant. According to a recent poll in the Czech Republic, almost one-third of its population is opposed to coexistence with the Gypsy minority, who number between two and three hundred thousand and constitute an impoverished underclass. Assaults on Gypsies by Serbian neo-Nazi gangs are frequent; in October 1997 a pregnant Gypsy woman was beaten to death in Belgrade.

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