International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance unveils working definition of antigypsyism

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) announced on October 12 the adoption of an internationally accepted non-legally binding working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination, emphasising the importance of remembering the genocide of Roma, and acknowledging that the neglect of this genocide has contributed to the prejudice and discrimination that many Roma communities experience today.

As anti-Roma sentiment has surged during the coronavirus pandemic, IHRA member countries recognise that urgent action is crucial, the alliance said in a media statement.

Therefore, this definition, adopted by consensus by all of the IHRA’s 34 member countries, is the first ever IHRA decision taken outside its biannual plenary meetings, the statement said.

“All IHRA decisions represent a shared understanding on key issues and this non-legally binding working definition will guide the IHRA in its work in advancing education, remembrance and research on the genocide of Roma. It also serves as an educational tool that will raise awareness and enhance understanding of the continued discrimination Roma are forced to face every day.”

IHRA member countries consulted with Roma communities during the drafting and negotiation process, resulting in many suggested amendments which were incorporated into the final agreed definition.

“The IHRA’s adoption of this working definition is well timed, as in January this year, ministers and high-ranking government representatives from 35 countries gathered in Brussels to adopt the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration to ensure the world remembers the Holocaust and works to contribute to a world without genocide.”

The working definition is an important contribution to the implementation of Article 4 of the Ministerial Declaration, in which member countries pledged to “remember the genocide of the Roma. We acknowledge with concern that the neglect of this genocide has contributed to the prejudice and discrimination that many Roma communities still experience today.”

The adoption of a working definition on antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination has always been a priority of the German Presidency of IHRA. The country assumed the leadership role in March 2020.

Ambassador Michaela Küchler, the IHRA President said: “All IHRA member countries are concerned that incidents of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination are on the rise.

“The current coronavirus pandemic has only fanned the flames of anti-Roma sentiment. Against this backdrop, the need to adopt a working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination has never been more urgent,” Küchler said.

“I am delighted that we have taken collective action today to confront this evil. Our working definition will provide us with an important tool to address the rising tide of anti-Roma sentiment and safeguard the historical record of the crimes committed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators”.

The working definition reads:

Acknowledging with concern that the neglect of the genocide of the Roma has contributed to the prejudice and discrimination that many Roma** communities still experience today, and accepting our responsibility to counter such forms of racism and discrimination (Articles 4 and 7 of the IHRA 2020 Ministerial Declaration, article 3 of the Stockholm Declaration), the IHRA adopts the following working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination:

Antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination is a manifestation of individual expressions and acts as well as institutional policies and practices of marginalization, exclusion, physical violence, devaluation of Roma cultures and lifestyles, and hate speech directed at Roma as well as other individuals and groups perceived, stigmatized, or persecuted during the Nazi era, and still today, as “Gypsies.” This leads to the treatment of Roma as an alleged alien group and associates them with a series of pejorative stereotypes and distorted images that represent a specific form of racism.

To guide the IHRA in its work, the following is being recognized:

Antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination has existed for centuries. It was an essential element in the persecution and annihilation policies against Roma as perpetrated by Nazi Germany, and those fascist and extreme nationalist partners and other collaborators who participated in these crimes.

Antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination did not start with or end after the Nazi era but continues to be a central element in crimes perpetrated against Roma. In spite of the important work done by the United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other international bodies, the stereotypes and prejudices about Roma have not been delegitimized or discredited vigorously enough so that they continue to persist and can be deployed largely unchallenged.

Antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination is a multi-faceted phenomenon that has widespread social and political acceptance. It is a critical obstacle to the inclusion of Roma in broader society, and it acts to prevent Roma from enjoying equal rights, opportunities, and gainful social-economic participation.

Many examples may be given to illustrate antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination. Contemporary manifestations of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Distorting or denying persecution of Roma or the genocide of the Roma.
  • Glorifying the genocide of the Roma.
  • Inciting, justifying, and perpetrating violence against Roma communities, their property, and individual Roma.
  • Forced and coercive sterilizations as well as other physically and psychologically abusive treatment of Roma.
  • Perpetuating and affirming discriminatory stereotypes of and against Roma.
  • Blaming Roma, using hate speech, for real or perceived social, political, cultural, economic and public health problems.
  • Stereotyping Roma as persons who engage in criminal behavior.
  • Using the term “Gypsy” as a slur.
  • Approving or encouraging exclusionary mechanisms directed against Roma on the basis of racially discriminatory assumptions, such as the exclusion from regular schools and institutional procedures or policies that lead to the segregation of Roma communities.
  • Enacting policies without legal basis or establishing the conditions that allow for the arbitrary or discriminatory displacement of Roma communities and individuals.
  • Holding Roma collectively responsible for the real or perceived actions of individual members of Roma communities.
  • Spreading hate speech against Roma communities in whatever form, for example in media, including on the internet and on social networks.

* The use of the national equivalent of the term is recommended, Canada and the United States use the term anti-Roma racism.

** The word ‘Roma’ is used as an umbrella term which includes different related groups, whether sedentary or not, such as Roma, Travellers, Gens du voyage, Resandefolket/De resande, Sinti, Camminanti, Manouches, Kalés, Romanichels, Boyash/Rudari, Ashkalis, Égyptiens, Yéniches, Doms, Loms and Abdal that may be diverse in culture and lifestyles. The present is an explanatory footnote, not a definition of Roma.

(Photo: Rich Goatly/

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