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Roma Rights: Who are the Roma?

Accurately defining the term “Roma” is a challenging, almost formidable task. There is no universally accepted definition, and the term is often used interchangeably with “Rroma”, “Gypsy”, “Traveller”, “Romani”, “Sinti”, “Ashkali”, “Manouches”, “Kalé” and other titles. This is problematic for a number of reasons.

Firstly, incorrect usage creates and perpetuates harmful stereotypes in society. For example, the media have frequently used the term “gypsy” instead of “Gypsy” displaying ignorance of their cultural identity as a recognised ethnic group. Additionally, some Roma people object to the use of the term “Gypsy” altogether perceiving it as derogatory and inaccurately linked to “Egyptian” where it was once believed Roma people had originated from.

The next phase of our Roma Engage Project

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Since the Roma Trail Campaign last year, we have been busy with our Restless Beings Roma project researching and building links with the community in the UK, all in line for an exciting project to be revealed in 2013!

Over the coming months we’ll be publishing a series of articles explaining the various issues faced by the Roma in the UK in more detail, whilst describing and evaluating the various legal and social strategies designed to tackle them.

Rohingya Persecution Continues Despite Obama’s Visit; Fears of Sterilisation

This morning (November 26th) we have had reports that medical workers and security guards arrived at  the Rohingya village Sin-Gri-Daung of MinBya Township. Their unannounced arrival is suspected to be part of an attempt to set up the initial stages to carry out the widely reported scheme of sterilisation of Rohingya women under the age of 50, as ordered by President Thein Sein. Previously sterilisation had been seen as a key manner to restrict the Rohingya population from continuing to increase and to further expel them from their homes to countries elsewhere. The very real fear is that this is now being enacted. Moreover, violence continues as Rohingya youths are targeted, either being beaten by local police and military forces, being accused of crimes they haven’t committed (Tan-Seik village) and confiscating their fishing equipment which is vital to their trade (Tan-Ran-Daing village).

UN 'failed civilians of Sri Lanka'

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Sri Lanka has been engulfed by civil war, between their Government and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) for 40 long years. And yet hardly anyone knows about it. During the last stages of this war in 2009 the Sri Lankan army went on its final offensive; triggering a last brutal confrontation between the two sides. The government side, not surprisingly, prevailed aided by its size and technology as well as the world's indifference.

For the civilians caught in the crossfire (in the northern districts of the tiny Indian Ocean island) during these final months, their last shred of hope rested with the United Nations - established in 1945 to "maintain international peace and promote cooperation in solving international economic, social and humanitarian problems". However, the UN did anything but this during those final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war.

Smriti.

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A study reported last year noted that children, as young as 7 years old, make their earnings on the street only to get a total of 20-30 taka per day - not even enough to buy a packet of crisps in UK - with “…almost all of their income…usually spent for food with little or no savings”. Their situation dictates that they must make monetary contribute towards the income of their family, using whatever means possible, enivitably exposing them to an array of illnesses, dangerous and unhealthy conditions from a very young age.

But these are not just the findings of a study; the Restless Beings Bangladesh team have been keeping contact with the street children of Dhaka regularly; building and maintaining strong, healthy relationships. Collating the stories and journeys of the children we meet, we bring to you the tales of some of them.

Slavery: Unshackling Mauritania’s Secret

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With Black History Month ending last month the issue of slavery is still as important as it was in the 19th century when Parliament finally prohibited the carrying of slaves in any British ship and passed the The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807.  This was the turning point for the Abolitionists who still had to wait a further thirty years to achieve full emancipation throughout the British Empire. This movement to establish equality amongst man brought together a coalition of Christian abolitionists with different backgrounds and ideas for achieving their goals. Black and white, female and male, those pursuing political means, those advocating non-violent resistance, and those leading armed rebellion all came together as one. Remembering the achievements of diverse groups of actors who tirelessly worked to free men and women from the chains of slavery brings us to Mauritania: a country of where an estimated 10-20% of people remain enslaved today.

Shati.

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Since the 100 kids campaign Restless Beings has been working behind the scenes to kick-start the Restless Beings Village.

With the recent implementation of an already “…overly cumbersome and intrusive regulatory process…complicated by delays and hurdles, including non-transparency in authorization of registration by the Home Ministry, the police, or the National Security Intelligence…” – Bangladesh is not an easy country to work with in order to move things along, no matter the urgency.

Nevertheless, our Bangladesh team has maintained contact with the street children of the area regularly; building and maintaining strong, healthy relationships.

We will bring to you some of the stories and journeys of the children we meet.

Bride Kidnapping: Fighting to be free of Ala Kachuu

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Ala Kachuu is a complicated crime with ambiguous issues of unspoken cultural and social norms. This practice is not only a non-consensual abduction of a girl's right to choose her life partner but also an abduction of that girl's life, dreams and future. Bride kidnaping in Kyrgyzstan further raises concerns of underage marriage and forced sexual intercourse since many of the abducted brides are less than 18 years old, the minimum legal age for marriage.

The mother of a recent victim voiced her traumatic episode to our Partner Rehabilitation Centre, Sezmin. The real identity of the victim cannot be revealed due to confidentiality reasons, therefore for the purpose of this article we shall refer to the victim as Salamat

Burma: Steps to Democracy, Civil Unrest or Genocide?

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Burma, or Myanmar, has received great interest in recent years from international leaders across the world. Hundreds of political prisoners- having spent years campaigning for a free democracy- have been released, most famously Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy in November 2010. Further steps away from the vilified dictatorship to a free market democracy, appealing to foreign investors for capital and expertise, easing media censorship, passing labour laws allowing unions to be established have demonstrated a more reformist quasi civilian government taking office in March 2011, with Thein Sein as President.