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Jenő Setét on Orbán’s speech about asylum seekers

Hungarian roma activist, Jeno Setet on the demonstration against Viktor Orban, Budapest, 13 September 2015. Video by Ádám Csillag.

Good afternoon. A hearty welcome to you all!

My name is Jenő Setét.
I am Jenő Setét. I am Hungarian. I am Romani. And I am free.

In Hungary today, in these last few years, many people have been talking in many different ways about the Roma.
I’ve brought this compilation along to give you an idea of how the government in power, their staff and advisers talk about their compatriots, the Hungarian Roma.

Géza Jeszenszky, former Fidesz ambassador, wrote in an academic note: “The reason why so many Roma are mentally maladjusted is that Romani culture allows marriage between siblings and cousins, and even to partake in intercourse without it.”
I’m telling Géza Jeszenszky, he’d better be ashamed of himself today for what he had written years ago.
Zoltán Balogh minister of human capacities brought himself to say last year, on the 70th anniversary of the Roma Holocaust, that “Roma were never deported from Hungary.”

Péter Boross, former PM and present government adviser, made the following statement in recent weeks: “The third generation of immigrants now living in Western Europe should have been culturally integrated into their host nations by now, and not having done so indicates that they are clearly ill-suited for the job. Regrettably if this same process has been similarly unsuccessful with the Roma minority living with us for hundreds of years, there is little chance of success with the Muslim crowd now crossing the open border.”

Finally, the Prime Minister of Hungary himself said a few days ago, “Hungary is not asking for the distribution of Hungarian Gypsies to the countries of Europe.” As if he could just offer up the Hungarian Gypsy community for redistribution. My message from here is, shame on him.

Shame on him.

Shame on him, because I, Jenő Setét, a Hungarian, am not a slave to be sold. I am not a stamp collection or a pebble to be given away, or chucked across any European border.

Yes, we belong here. Do take note of the fact that the worst form of exclusion, the one leading to all further forms of exclusion, is exclusion from the nation! The worst crime is trampling basic human rights! The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not read “whites only”!

We Roma people, Roma activists and Roma communities are fed up with how in every single European political debate, the Roma are used as political leverage against us. We are fed up being used as an alibi to deny refugees the most basic assistance.
Hungarian politics keeps harping on about the burden of 800 thousand Gypsies living here, which is why we can’t accommodate the refugees. But this is not true. There isn’t a single thing the refugees have taken away from me. You see, I never want to walk five thousand kilometers. I never want to sleep rough with my kids. I don’t want to have to wait while someone doles out bread and water for me.

There is however something the refugees and Hungarian Gypsies do have in common. That is the mistreatment of both groups. I am here to refute those words from Viktor Orbán and all the other Hungarian politicians, when they use us as ammunition to shoot at Europe.

Because let’s just turn these statements around.
We’re not asking for the distribution of Hungarian pensioners to the countries of Europe. We’re not asking for Jasz and Cuman minority to be distributed to the countries of Europe. I am a man of principle, so I won’t ask for Viktor Orbán’s distribution to the countries of Europe, either.

I would call all of your attention, Romani and non-Romani, to the fact that we can’t give up on each other. We cannot trade off our Hungarian citizenship, our belonging together, our patriotism. We are all Hungarians. And we Gypsies will not take any more, we’ve had it with these political statements over the years. We won’t stand being treated like we’d just arrived to the Hungarian borders! We’ve lived here 600 years. We consider ourselves Hungarians. It is no grace of Viktor Orbán’s to decide if we’re Hungarian or not. If we stay here or not. I have just as much right to stay, and stay I will. And to consider myself Hungarian, for this is the language of my dreams and thoughts, the same as Viktor Orbán. No less, and no more.

Everyone is guilty of a crime when they try separating the parts of the Hungarian nation. For me, it isn’t so much the words of separation and national exclusion that matter, as much as that prodigiously famous Gypsy called Menyhért Lakatos, noted author of the novel Füstös képek (Smoky Pictures), who said “we are part of the nation, as the outermost tree is part of the forest.”
There was power that meant only to rule over people, and considered them objects. Then people vested themselves with civil rights. It is with a motto of this movement that I take my leave from you: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!”

translated by Dani Dányi

 

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