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Hungarian Roma Fear Violence and Far Right

Local citizens sit on their chairs as Hungarian policemen secure the area after gunmen shot dead a Roma in Kisleta village, about 260 kms east from Budapest (File Photo)
Local citizens sit on their chairs as Hungarian policemen secure the area after gunmen shot dead a Roma in Kisleta village, about 260 kms east from Budapest (File Photo)

Organizations representing Hungary's gypsies, or Roma, have expressed concerns about a new wave of violence against the minority in the country and the entry of a far right party in parliament. Activists held a rare rally to express concern about these developments.

Hundreds of people braved heavy rain to attend a picnic at Budapest's City Park on Saturday for gypsies, also known as Roma, and non-Roma.

The gathering, which also included music from mainly Roma performers, was aimed at easing tensions between the two communities.

Organizers say they are very concerned about the recent rise of the far right elements in Hungary and violence against Roma.

They referred to the Movement for a Better Hungary, or Jobbik, which officially entered parliament this week as the country's third political force, after recent elections.

Jobbik has been criticized for verbal attacks against Roma. The party also supports the banned paramilitary group Magyar Garda, or Hungarian Guard, which marched through Roma villages.

The Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre says these and other groups are contributing to an atmosphere of hatred towards Hungary's up to 800,000 Roma.

The organization's Programmes Director Tara Bedard told VOA there have been fire bombings against Roma families in recent weeks. Nobody was injured but she said the violence resembled earlier deadly attacks.

"In the last two years nine people, nine Roma, have been murdered in Hungary," said Bedard. "The persons believed to be responsible for those attacks have been taken into police custody. And the trial of those individuals have not yet started. But since those individuals were taken into police custody, numerous attacks have taken place in the meanwhile. Most recently in March and April there were a number of attacks targeting Roma in two different locations in the country."

Activists say Roma, who often lack adequate housing and basic facilities, are suffering from attacks and discrimination across Europe.

Roma and non-Roma standing in line for traditional Hungarian Goulash soup, and bread, during Saturday's picnic in Budapest, told VOA they want to help end tensions.

The event's chief organizer Eszter Eva Nagy agrees.

"There is a lot of hidden tension, she said. "And if we can speak about those things, or if we can just spend one nice afternoon together with another, different person, I think it's something we want to reach."

Nagy says she was inspired to organize Saturday's rare picnic by her previous experiences in the United States, where she worked as a volunteer for the election campaign of President Barack Obama.

Just as Mr. Obama became the first U.S. African-American president, she hopes qualified Roma will one day be able to take a more prominent role in Hungary's political life and help create a more peaceful future for the country.