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Асоциация Интегро



February 03
15:20 2022

Coincidentally or not, the January 27 conference of the Integro Association on the Peer Education to Counter Antigypsyist Online Hate Speech (PECAO) project coincided with the International Day of Remembrance for  victims of the Holocaust. On this day in 1945, the few survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp were released. On this day today, we bow our heads in memory of the approximately 6 million people who died in the Nazi death camps. About 500,000 of them are Roma.

On this memorable day, an online conference was held, which brought together about 40 representatives of non-governmental organizations, human rights activists, representatives of the Roma intellectuals, media and government agencies. I had not participated in such a meeting for a long time. This meeting was different. At least because government officials were involved.

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The event was attended by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ana Dzhumalieva – Chair of the Commission for Protection against Discrimination, Ms. Rositsa Ivanova – Secretary of the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues (NCCEII) at the Council of Ministers, as well as representatives of the US and Irish Embassies in Bulgaria. About 50 media outlets were also invited. Only the Bulgarian National Radio responded and covered the event – Radio Sofia, Horizont, Hristo Botev Program and the Marginalia website of Yuliana Metodieva, who also participated in the conference.

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After the introductory and welcoming words of the director of Integro, Ms. Lilia Makaveeva and the methodology they worked on, presented by Diyan Dankov, the results of the monitoring were presented to us by Alexandra Raykova, who is also the author of the report. In addition to the professionally presented report, I was impressed by the interns who observed, collected and reported on articles related to the Roma topic in online media and social networks. And on the basis of whose work the report itself was prepared. They have all taken the work to heart and this is evident in the report. Regarding the motivation of young people, one of them – the lawyer Zdravko Andonov wrote – “It motivates me that it is madness in the 21st century to talk about the interdependence between ethnicity and criminal tendency. Such retrograde understandings destroy the development of civilization and take us back to ancient times, when humanity did not yet know human rights as a phenomenon. As a lawyer, I think that the project gave room for expression and opportunity, the right to bring reason to society in the country. And this tool is my professional temptation. ” Adding the fact that these six interns have trained and harnessed 270 more of their peers from all over the country to participate in the project shows the significant public benefit role of the project. And not only to the public, but also to the participants themselves, who have learned how to recognize hate speech, where and how to report publications of this kind, and last but not least, how to assert their rights. Each of them shared about the experience gained and the benefits for them from participating in the monitoring.

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At the conference itself, I was impressed by the desire of many of the participants to speak. Everyone wanted to share their opinions, views and impressions. And it is natural when for a long time there was no chance for this type of gathering. And the topic is painful and affects each of us – and individually, and as a community and as a society. Because the opinion in the media is that the Roma are to blame for all the troubles in the country. And this is not the case at all. And in order to stop this imposition, we are obliged to respond to each of us by reporting this type of material, both to their publishers and to the relevant authorities.

The conference also discussed the new Strategy for Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma and taking measures to overcome anti-Roma racism in it. The good thing is that during the meeting it was decided that the proposals made to improve it would be discussed at a higher political level in a very short time.

In the end, I want to appeal to all of us – people who have a strong citizenship, people who want to change our country for a better tomorrow – let us continue to be more active and do what we did about 10 years ago. Everyone in their field, everyone with accumulated experience and knowledge. Like the young participants in the conference – highly educated, enthusiastic, have already taken a starting position to benefit society. These are them – the next generation that is gaining experience and waiting for us to reach out and support it. So as not to repeat the mistakes of our generation and the previous and previous ones. So that there will never be another Holocaust. Because he, the Holocaust, O Poraymos, did not start with murders, but with words. Words of hatred, words of division, words of denial, words driven like nails into souls, words crippling and killing. Let us cooperate and help, individually and as organizations. And let’s go together with our friends from all ethnic groups in the country. Because only when we are together are we strong. And then we can change. To better. For all of us!

You can see the report at the following link:

Valery Lekov, journalist





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