So keres, Europa?! (So what, Europe?!)
Cluj-Napoca, Romania – Conference Day #5
The day started early for the participants and organisers of the “So keres, Europa” conference as they all were taken to Pata Rat by bus. The local community warmly welcomed the young activists to join them in their march from Pata Rat to Costaei Street.
Costaei Street is in the heart of Cluj-Napaco and used to be the home to the Roma community of Pata Rat before they were forcibly evicted from their social housing on 17th December 2010 and resettled in a slum on the outskirts of the city. The living conditions of Pata Rat are unhealthy and unbearable as the houses are poorly built and do not have proper heating and electricity.
In an unprecedented demonstration of solidarity with the disadvantaged and marginalised Roma community the participants, organisers, volunteers of “So keres, Europa” along with the residents Pata Rat marched to the centre of Cluj-Napoca to remind the city of their presence and to show their willingness to stand up for their rights.The more than 300 marchers called for “Solidaritate” with the community of Pata Rat and for an end to their segregation from the other citizens of Cluj -Napoca.
A woman of the Pata Rat community, who experienced the evictions herself, addressed the crowd and asked for help and support in their fight for their rights. She described the miserable conditions she and her family were forced to live in and how they posed a threat to their health and personal well-being for much too long.
The protest demonstration was also attended by the president of the County Council of Cluj, Mihai Seplecan, who also spoke to the protestors:
“I know your problems. I have become president just a month ago, but when the evictions occurred I was in school and could not do anything but want to help you as I always try to be with you in community.”
“I eat with you, drink with you and even I dance with you,” said Mr Seplecan but was heckled by one of the protestors who shouted: “We don’t want to dance with you, we rather want you to solve our problems!”
Faced with a now rather hostile crowd Mr Seplecan closed his speech and said: “I don’t want to make promises I cannot keep as I am not like the politicians who don’t honour their promises”After the speech Miss Sheeba Khan, representative of Global Minorities Alliance at the event, had chance to talk with Mr Seplecan. He explained that while he feels sympathy for the community of Pata Rat, his legal capacity to help is very limited as Pata Rat does not fall into the jurisdiction of the County Council of Cluj. He said: “I cannot break the law and take action as the responsibility is with the City Hall. It is up to them to take action in favour of the Roma people.”
Some participants of “So keres, Europa” also took the opportunity to address the demonstrators and demanded an end to the on-going human rights breaches and called for justice for the Roma people. The solidarity march then ended with a commonly shared lunch in Costaei Street before the conference delegates once more dispersed into their workshop groups to continue their work on the 48-hour-actions.
Sheeba Kiran currently reports from Cluj-Napaco, Romania. She is the Law graduate from Strathclyde University, Glasgow. She is also Global Minorities Alliance’s Director of Women Empowerment. She can be reached on Twitter @sheebakiran7