Monday, July 21, 2008

The Meaningless Dead

Remember all the bodies in New Orleans? Many wondered how such a horrible thing could happen - how can the dead be left on the streets, in the water, or sitting in wheel chairs among thousands of people?

The two Roma girls who drowned - were treated similarly - their bodies were left on the beach, partially covered with beach towels. People sunbathed nearby - as if the girl's bodies were invisible. Many Italians hate the Roma, and are not shocked by what happened. But some think the hatred and indifference have gone too far.

The picture that shames Italy

By Peter Popham in Rome
The London Independent
Tuesday, 22 July 2008

It's another balmy weekend on the beach in Naples. By the rocks, a couple soak up the southern Italian sun. A few metres away, their feet poking from under beach towels that cover their faces and bodies, lie two drowned Roma children.

The girls, Cristina, aged 16, and Violetta, 14, were buried last night as the fallout from the circumstances of their death reverberated throughout Italy.

It is an image that has crystallised the mounting disquiet in the country over the treatment of Roma, coming after camps have been burnt and the government has embarked on a bid to fingerprint every member of the minority. Two young Roma sisters had drowned at Torregaveta beach after taking a dip in treacherous waters. Their corpses were recovered from the sea – then left on the beach for hours while holidaymakers continued to sunbathe and picnic around them....

It was the sort of tragedy that could happen on any beach. But what happened next has stunned Italy. The bodies of the two girls were laid on the sand; their sister and cousin were taken away by the police to identify and contact the parents. Some pious soul donated a couple of towels to preserve the most basic decencies. Then beach life resumed.

The indifference was taken as shocking proof that many Italians no longer have human feelings for the Roma, even though the communities have lived side by side for generations.

"This was the other terrible thing," says Mr Esposito, "besides the fact of the girls drowning: the normality. The way people continued to sunbathe, for three hours, just metres away from the bodies. They could have gone to a different beach. It's not possible that you can watch two young people die then carry on as if nothing happened. It showed a terrible lack of sensitivity and respect...."

The Italians and the Roma

Roma have been living in Italy for seven centuries and the country is home to about 150,000, who live mainly in squalid conditions in one of around 700 encampments on the outskirts of major cities such as Rome, Milan and Naples. They amount to less than 0.3 per cent of the population, one of the lowest proportions in Europe. But their poverty and resistance to integration have made them far more conspicuous than other communities. And the influx of thousands more migrants from Romania in the past year has confirmed the view of many Italians that the Gypsies and their eyesore camps are the source of all their problems. The ethnic group is often blamed for petty theft and burglaries. According to a recent newspaper survey, more than two thirds of Italians want Gypsies expelled, whether they hold Italian passports or not.

for link to complete Independent article click here

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