Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

A “Vilnius Model” for Roma Integration?



OPINION  |  ROMA RIGHTS   |  HUMAN RIGHTS

by Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

In April of 2016, the Vilnius City Municipality announced the launching of its Roma Integration Program, or “Vilnius (Kirtimai) Roma Tabor Community Social Integration Program for 2016-2019.” The municipality’s plans were widely discussed in the media, which in its own turn, came up with sensational headlines like “Program of Roma Integration and Tabor Eradication To Be Approved.” A curious fact: Roma representatives did not take part in the negotiation process for this major 700,000 euro project. They were not invited to even observe a single meeting. As ever, Roma are being “integrated” behind their own backs.

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Neo-Nazis Given Central Vilnius Again on March 11th Independence Day



PRO-NAZI MARCHES  |  VILNIUS MARCHES  |  HUMAN RIGHTS  |  RACISM   |  OPINION

by Vilma Fiokla Kiurė  (with additional input and photos by Evaldas Balčiūnas, Milan Chersonski, and Julius Norwilla)

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PHOTO: EVALDAS BALCIUNAS FOR DH

Once again, on our national holiday of March 11th, at 4 PM in the afternoon, neo-Nazis chanting “Lietuva Lietuviams” (Lithuania for Lithuanians) marched from the Cathedral up our capital city’s central boulevard, Gedimino, to the Seimas (parliament) at its far end. During each of the nine marches (they started in 2008), none of the country’s leaders spoke out to condemn the march. On the contrary there are many signs of both tolerance and support from very high places, including the permits to march granted by the municipality (no comment from the mayor?) and other relevant authorities.

Yet again, the Union of Nationalist Youth was able to boast that it occupies the center of the capital on the nation’s independence day: “Without any obstacles, we received from the municipality an official permit to march [this day] on the main boulevard of Vilnius.” The official march was concluded several hours earlier and the heads of state apparently rested quietly as the neo-Nazis proceeded to take over the city center, from Cathedral to Parliament, a route rich in symbolic power.

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Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Bold Citizens Speak Out, Celebrations of Fascism, Christian-Jewish Issues, EU, Events, Genocide Center (Vilnius), Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, Neo-Nazi & Fascist Marches, News & Views, Opinion, Vilma Fiokla Kiurė, Vilnius Jewish Life (from 2016), Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius, Vilnius Neo-Nazi Marches | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Neo-Nazis Given Central Vilnius Again on March 11th Independence Day

When Both Law Enforcement and Politicians Cover Up Racism



HUMAN RIGHTS  |  RACISM  |  ROMA  |  OPINION

by Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

A Nigerian citizen was attacked with a knife and injured in Kaunas, Lithuania, earlier this month. Trying hard to avoid describing the assault as a racially motivated hate crime, law enforcement officials and the mainstream media alike explained that the incident was purely part of a private dispute. Strange to tell, reading through official statistics you would rapidly come to the conclusion that racist and xenopohobic crimes in Lithuania stand at about zero. And, that neo-Nazi minded youth are “just patriotic.” 

It is no great secret in this part of the world that law enforcement officials and some politicians like to beautify the statistics, or to terminate or redefine proceedings brought in respect of racial or xenophobic hatred. One example comes to mind from 2011, when MPs J. Narkevičius and E. Zingeris appealed to the General Prosecutor’s Office to do something about  the neo-Nazi ideology espoused in the song “Diktatūra” by the group “Šalčininkų rajonas” (Šalčininkai District). 

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Roma in Lithuania: But What Does the Government Need To Do?



R O M A   /   H U M A N   R I G H T S    /    O P I N I O N

by Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

“Which social group in the EU is most generally evicted from housing?” This was the question cheerfully posed by the host of the Good Morning Lithuania show on our national television. The viewer who called in said “Roma” and won a prize.

It can be pleasant to drink morning coffee while tuned to a TV quiz, but this time it was quite something else. The program’s entertaining format and the host’s frequent jokes are not very funny at all when such painful social issues are the subject of entertainment. But the episode well illustrates the public attitude towards the Roma here. Many Roma are still deemed to be distant, exotic and mysterious people, an object rather than a living community. Maybe because there is a lack of empathy and understanding in dealing with Roma integration problems and there are various language issues too.

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Impressions of the Conference on “Antisemitism, Radicalization and Violent Extremism”



H U M A N   R I G H T S    /    E V E N T S    /    O P I N I O N

by Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

Vilma Fiokle Kiure

Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

A few days before the international conference on “Antisemitism, Radicalization and Violent Extremism” [DH report here], held at the Novotel on Vilnius’s central boulevard Gedimino on 30 September 2015, a friend’s acquaintance came from the United States to look for her ancestors’ Litvak heritage:  the house in which they lived, the street on which they walked.

She said she did not find anything because the relevant archives in Kaunas no longer existed. Instead, she showed us pictures on her iphone of a pavement made out of crushed Jewish gravestones.

Looking at the photo of the continued use of the crushed gravestones, she said “This is very much an instance of antisemitism,” something she repeated more than once during our discussion.

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What is the “Program for Roma Integration” in Lithuania?



H U M A N   R I G H T S    /    R O M A   I S S U E S    /    O P I N I O N

by Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

Fiokla Kiure by B Janusevicius

Vilma Fiokla Kiurė. Photo: Benediktas Januševičius.

Here in Lithuania, the words “Roma” and “discrimination” are regarded as inseparable. It seems that even the Roma community is reconciled with that. The situation, however, is worsening and what is currently happening in Kirtimai, a village on the outskirts of Vilnius, the capital city’s home to its most prominent tabor, or Roma settlement, and often referred to just as Kirtimai Tabor. What is happening is something larger than just “discrimination against Roma.”

For starters, the water has been disconnected in upper Kirtimai. There had never been a proper water supply but there was a water “column” used by some three hundred people. But it has been blocked off. Looking at the sight of baby carriages used for carrying urns of water is a sight unbelievable for the beautiful capital city of a European Union member state.

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Roma: Presumption of Guilt



O P I N I O N

by Vilma Fiokla Kiurė

Vilma Fiokla Kiurė (photo: Benediktas Januševičius)

The first international congress of Roma was held on April 8, 1971 in Oprington, England. In 1990, the date was designated International Roma Day.

On this day Roma celebrate and hold concerts, but also remember the most tragic eras in the history of the Roma: persecution by the Nazis and their collaborators in World War II and the resulting genocide of the Roma people. On this day the Vilnius Roma community floats wreaths of flowers on the Neris River in remembrance of their compatriots.

Roma who survived the Second World War, ethnic cleansing and genocide remember that the Nazi soldiers and their local police collaborators used simple external recognition to persecute the Roma. At that time the Roma were still wanderers, and it was a rare member of the community who had identification documents. Few had relationships with sedentary residents, making physical resemblance to the typical Roma the main indicator of ethnicity, in many cases guaranteeing death.

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