Sebijan Fejzula

Sebijan Fejzula

Different theories argue that the notion of “religion” is not a cultural universal but rather developed under specific historical and political conditions. “Religion”, they say, is a social construction. Recently, during my work stay in Spain, in a Catholic –majority county, most of the Spanish Roma were discussing the role of the religion in their families or communities. Usually the first question was “How many times do you visit a Culto?” (An evangelic church which in the last decades is growing up among Spanish Roma), implying that I, as a Romani woman automatically should visit a Roma church. The negative surprise came when actually I answered that I do not go to the Culto, “I am a Romani Muslim woman”, I said. Frozen face expression! “That’s a problem”, one of them said. I was struggling with my thoughts and efforts to understand why for Roma that live in Spain is unknown the existence of Roma Muslim, until I understood that the identity, including the Roma identity, particularly the gender and religion construction is based on the created Western narratives about which religion “should be practiced” or which one is “better”, or what means to be a “real woman”. Although Dubuisson respects the study of beliefs and belief-systems as legitimate, he argues that the word “religion” is too tense with ideology and too Western in its associated meaning to be useful.

As a Romani Muslim woman and a feminist, in this paper I discuss the urgent need of addressing the intersectional experience of Romani women for being Roma, women and for practicing different religion than the dominated one, their experience inside and outside Romani and non-Romani communities. I also look upon Western construction of narratives about “saving oppressed” Muslim women and how actually those narratives not only have consequences on accepting the diversity with-in the Roma communities, but also increase the multiplied discrimination faced by Romani Muslim women. In other words, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Romani women are subordinated. As follows, in this paper, I also present literature opinions that establish the adjustment of broadly accepted understandings of the above mentioned concepts.

By many people and researchers the 20th century is called “century of genocide”, a genocide where under the Nazis, German attempts to rid the country of “racial inferiority” caused many people to be killed without any mercy. Because of the victim numbers, the Nazi genocide was a unique point in the human history. One of the least known aspects of that genocide is the Pharrajimos – The Roma Holocaust. According to Janos Barsony and Agnes Daroczi, Pharrajimos[1] means cutting up, fragmentation and devouring[2] in some dialects of the Romani language. The term Pharrajimos/Porrajmos was introduced for the first time by Ian Hancock[3] in the early 1990s. The same term in the international literature can be found as “Samudaripen” or Roma Holocaust. Surprisingly or not, there are still on-going debates about whether what have happened to Roma could be considered as part of the notion of Holocaust or not.

In this paper, I analyze the reasons for lacking an official recognition and representation of Pharrajimos in the history. Therefore, I look at Nazi’s ideology, the experience of Roma before, during and after the Holocaust. I demonstrate that Nazi German’s ideology was the same for Roma people as it was for the Jewish community - the idea of racial superiority, and I challenge the claim that is not because of their antisocial and criminal behaviour. Moreover, I indicate how participation in a globalized holocaust discourse could improve the visibility of the Roma. I conclude by highlighting the importance of deserving an official recognition of the Roma victims specifically by the United Nations, represented at all international conferences and the history.

"We do not see the importance of Roma women in political life"
Amdi Bajram, Roma member of Parliament and political leader

The above statement of a Roma politician and leader tells enough about the attitude and the treatment towards Romani women by Roma political parties. In the past twenty years, Romani women have made a significant contribution to the development and organization of Roma political parties and civil society. However it is dominant the impression that Romani women still do not receive rightful place in Roma political parties. Key factors for this situation are the political culture of the Roma leaders, legislation, the persistence of the women as well as the traditional position of Romani women.

  • Legislation – The legislation requires all political parties to include at least 30% women on candidate lists. Law on Election of Deputies (2002), the Local Government Act (2004) included a target of 30% participation of both sexes on the candidate list forthe election of MPsand councilors. Electoral Code is quite clear "... in every three places at least one should be of the less represented gender.”[1] Although political parties have completed with this statutory provision, still the number of women elected in the Parliament is still only 30.9%, which means meets the smallest quota. Until now, we have had only one Romani woman (Gjulistana Jumerovska-Markovska) as a representative in the Parliament. From all political Roma holders only 2 councilors are Romani women.