Romani (Gypsy) culture and social issues.

Roma Awarded Human Rights Prize

The world's Roma (Gypsies) were awarded the 1997 Rafto Prize For Human Rights, October 8, to heighten awareness of this marginalized people and its suffering, the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights said. 

Ian Hancock, accepted the prize on behalf of the Roma, along with an award for 25,000 Norwegian kroner, on November 1, in Bergen, Norway.

The award is given annually in memory of Norwegian economic history professor and human rights activist Thorolf Rafto who died in 1986. 

"This award goes to the Gypsies, who have not obtained ordinary human rights for many hundreds of years in any country," stated Rafto Foundation chairman Arnljot Stroemme Svendsen.

There are more than 12 million Roma in Europe and the United States. Many Roma in central Europe are denied equal access to education and social services, the foundation said. In many countries, Roma are often subject to violent racist attacks. Recently, the Roma have attempted to leave the Czech Republic for Canada to escape discrimination and ethnic persecution. As many as 1.5 million Roma were murdered during the Holocaust in Europe.

Past recipients of the Rafto Prize for Human Rights have also been presented with the Nobel Prize for Peace.

In 1990, the Rafto Prize was awarded to Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991.

In 1993, the Rafto Prize was awarded to the people of East Timor, and was accepted by East Timorese independence activist Jose Ramos-Horta. Ramos-Horta and East Timorese Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1996.

Other past recipients include:

1996 - Palermo Anno Uno, Italy
1995 - The Soldiers' Mothers in Russia
1994 - Leyla Zana, Khurdistan
1993 - The People of East Timor, represented by Jose Ramos-Horta
1992 - Preah Maha Ghosananda, Cambodia
1991 - Jelena Bonner, Russia
1990 - Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma
1989 - Doina Cornea, Romania, and FIDESZ, Hungary
1988 - Trivimi Velliste, Estonia
1987 - Jiri Hajek, "Charter 77", Czechoslovakia

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