News 2021

Exhibition of photographs of young Roma and Egyptians in the Polimski Museum

12. 03. 2021

The third destination of the exhibition “Human Rights through the Lens of Young Roma and Egyptians” is Berane where, thanks to the director of the Polimski Museum Violeta Folić, we have exhibited photos of nine young Roma and Egyptian high school students, from Berane and Podgorica.

While she was opening the exhibition, Ms. Folić emphasized that she was especially glad that the doors of this important cultural institution were opened in this way for the RE community, one of the most vulnerable groups in Montenegro, through the works of these young people who, by quality of their works and also by demonstrating the way on which they see the world around them through the lens of the camera, showed that the future lies before them.

“That is exactly why we are happy to open the doors of the Polimski Museum to these talented young people and we will do our best to keep them opened for all similar initiatives, which aim to promote Roma-Egyptian culture as a community that can offer its rich cultural and historical heritage”, stated Folić.

This exhibition is one of the activities implemented by Help together with our partners from the Roma Youth Organization “Walk with us – Phiren Amenca”, within the project “Civil society in action promoting and protecting Roma and Egyptian rights in Montenegro”, thanks to the EU financial support and their Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EDIHR).

This exhibition is not just a project activity, but it is rather very important to us, bearing in mind the fact that there is a very small number of activities carried out at the state level of Montenegro, which are related to the promotion of Roma rights through some kind of art, said the executive director of Roma Youth Organization “Walk with us – Phiren Amenca” Elvis Beriša.

“Berane is the third largest municipality in terms of Roma and Egyptian population, and we are all aware that the Roma community is among the most affected, and perhaps the most affected community of all with or without Covid 19, and that they do not have what other communities take for granted. We, at Phiren Amenca, believe that young Roma men and women are the greatest defenders of the human rights of the Roma community and therefore it is important to recognize and use this kind of resource, so that we can have better results as a society, in the inclusion of the Roma community. The new generation of educated Roma men and women is more than ready to take the opportunity to show how much they can and want to contribute to Montenegrin society, if you would just give us the right to do so. As you can see, this opportunity was well used by young people as an activity and so we are richer for one exhibition today. This exhibition is one of the innovative approaches of young Roma men and women who wanted to demonstrate through their lenses that we are different from how others see us ” said Beriša..

Aziz Alija, from the Berane Roma organization “Pružena ruka” has also emphasized that his countrymen were additionally affected in the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is therefore logical that the past year has made living conditions even more difficult in both Roma settlements in Berane – Riverside and Talum. You know that the living and working conditions are extremely difficult, especially if you do not have a permanent job which is usually the case when it comes to the RE community, and this is largely felt in our community, despite the occasional humanitarian aid we receive. So in these extraordinary circumstances – the right to live in decent conditions is certainly primary. However, despite these extraordinary circumstances Roma and Egyptians, especially we the Roma youth, have through various activities in the community and with the help of NGOs, worked on other segments of inclusion of Roma and Egyptians in society, through strengthening of the NGOs themselves, introduction of the human rights corpus but also the mechanisms through which we can achieve them”, emphasized Alija, who is especially proud of his fellow citizens who are among the authors of the exhibition.

As a citizen of Berane, I can say with particular pride that two of the nine authors of this exhibition – Erđan Beriša i Enis Zumberi (Gianni & Eni) within the project “NGOs in action to promote and protect the human rights of Roma and Egyptians” went a step further, and that they recorded the rap song “Who are you to judge me” which deals with the human rights of our community”.

Apart from Gianni and Eni, the authors of the exhibition are Besart Krasnić, Daut Đukatani, Elmedina Jašaraj,  Ersan Beriša, Jasmina Beriša, Muhamed Ahmetaj, Sadrija Krasnići. The selector of the exhibition is the renowned Montenegrin photographer Dejan Kalezić.

We from Help are especially grateful to the director of the Polimski Museum for enabling us to set up the exhibition “Human Rights through the Lens of Young Roma and Egyptians” in this important cultural institution that transcends local character and collects and preserves historical artifacts, not only of Polimlje. but also of whole Montenegro since 1955 – that is, for more than 65 years.

The Montenegrin cultural heritage and the cultural heritage of all other communities living in this area are preserved in similar institutions, as a testimony to the duration and development throughout history. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the case of the Roma-Egyptian (RE) community, although our fellow citizens and compatriots have been sharing good and evil with us for a long time. We will not reveal anything new when we say that discrimination and ethnic distance are the main reasons why the RE community in this area does not have its own cultural institutions in which to collect, preserve and promote their historical heritage, which is not small but very rich and special.

We hope that this exhibition, as well as other activities and types of assistance which Help provides in more than 20 years of work with the Roma community in Montenegro, will one day through joint efforts of civil sector and state institutions result in a form of special place for RE community, for collection of cultural and historical heritage. But we want them to regularly, and not infrequently as on these occasions and such places, share their cultural heritage with other communities in Montenegro, where they are formally but still not essentially equal. This is, we would say, one of the good steps in that direction.

The exhibition was presented for the first time on December 10, on the Human Rights Day in the Parliament of Montenegro, and then on February 18 in Bijelo Polje in the public institution “Ratković’s Poetry Evenings”.

After the exhibition we held a round table at the same place to talk about the specific inclusion of RE in the local in Berane. We tried to gather the representatives of the Roma-Egyptian community here, but also, of course, representatives of the institutions of the system – the Municipality, educational and health institutions, the Center for Social Work and the Employment Bureau – all of which are crucial for supporting the RE community in this city regularly, and especially in the conditions of a pandemic that we have been living under for a year.

It was an opportunity for us all to consider what are the key problems we face when it comes to the inclusion of the RE community in Berane, what local institutions and services, such as social services, employment services, medical and educational institutions do to solve these problems. – and on the other hand, how the community itself views access to these services and institutions.

Presenting the achievements of the local strategy on behalf of the Municipality, Ljubinka Mijović emphasized that the long-term goal is to stop the ghettoization of the RE community in this city, and that for that purpose the Municipality of Berane has allocated 18 housing units for citizens of the RE population trough the social care program.

All responded to the invitation and, in intensive discussion and dialogue, concluded that problems in access to education are intensively and much better than before solved with the help of relevant institutions and the support of NGOs, through organized transportation of students, mentors and scholarships for primary and secondary school students. It was emphasized that the employment situation due to the coronavirus pandemic is especially challenging in Berane, as well as elsewhere in the past year.

A special challenge in this city, according to the representatives of the Center for Social Work, but also the representatives of the RE population, are the problems with unresolved status, mostly refugees and displaced persons from Kosovo, who have lived here for more than 20 years and have started families. The process of registering their children is particularly difficult, and thus the access, protection and exercise of some of the basic rights. Representatives of the RE community and the Center for Social Work themselves believe that large bureaucracy and often for this affected population, expensive and unattainable paperwork,is one of the key obstacles to regulating the legal status.

However, the unregulated legal status, according to Dr. Suzana Savović, is not an obstacle to providing basic medical care to Roma-Egyptian children in Berane. The problem with paperwork, as she said, arises when further treatments are necessary, but not for basic health care.

Dr. Savović especially emphasized that regular vaccinations were organized for all children in both RE settlements in Berane every year, and that they have never skipped anyone – until the last year, when due to the COVID-19 pandemic they could not organize vaccinations in the usual way by visiting Riverside and Talum.

Together, we have concluded that with this joint action, the institutions of the system and us from the civil sector could soon find a way to organize regular vaccination of RE children in Berane, while respecting all prescribed measures against coronavirus pandemic.

Both the exhibition and the round table were organized in compliance with the measures of the institutions for the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biljana Jovićević

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