July 22, 2008

The picture that shames Italy

Holidaymakers sunbathe, indifferent to the bodies
of two Roma girls that lie on this beach near Naples
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.

They had come to the beach on the outskirts of Naples on Saturday with another sister, Diana, nine, and a 16-year-old cousin, Manuela, to make a little money selling coloured magnets and other trinkets to sunbathers. But it was fiercely hot all day and, about 2pm, the girls surrendered to the temptation of a cooling dip – even though they apparently did not know how to swim.

"The sea was rough on Saturday," said Enzo Esposito, the national treasurer of Opera Nomadi, Italy's biggest Roma organisation. "Christina and Violetta went farther out than the other two, and a big wave came out of nowhere and dashed them on to the rocks. For a few moments, they disappeared; Manuela, who was in shallow water with Diana, came to the shore, helped out by people on the beach, and ran to try and get help."

Other reports said that lifeguards from nearby private beaches also tried to help, without success. "When Manuela and Diana came back," Esposito went on, "the bodies of her cousins had reappeared, and they were already dead."

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 attitudes of ordinary Italians towards the Roma, never warm, have been chilling for years, aggravated by sensational news coverage of crimes allegedly committed by Gypsies, and a widespread confusion of Roma with ordinary, non-Roma Romanians, who continue to arrive. The Berlusconi government has launched a high-profile campaign against the community, spearheaded by the programme announced by the Interior Minister, Roberto Marroni, to fingerprint the entire Roma population. The move has been condemned inside Italy and beyond as a return to the racial registers introduced by the Fascist regime in the 1930s. The fingerprinting of Roma in Naples began on 19 June.

The most senior Catholic in Naples, Cardinal Crescenzo Sepe, was quick to point out the coarsening of human sentiment which the behaviour on the beach represented. But the Mayor of Monte di Procida, the town on the outskirts of the city where Torregaveta beach is located, defended his citizens' behaviour.

When the Roma girls got into difficulties, he said: "There was a race among the bathers and the coastguard and the carabinieri to try and help them." He rejected the claim that the indifference of the bathers was due to the fact that the girls were Roma.

The two cousins were given a Christian Orthodox funeral service in the Roma camp in Naples, attended by 300 Roma and city and regional representatives.

In a speech yesterday, Mr Maroni proposed, "for humanitarian reasons", granting Italian citizenship to all Roma children in Italy abandoned by their parents.

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.



Anonymous said...

The nazification of Italy is absolutely sickening, as is the rise of islamophobia, white supremacism, anti-roma prejudice and antisemitism throughout the world.

LorMarie said...

In fairness, the vacationers may not have been aware of what race the ladies were. But no, I can't see how anyone can sit and enjoy themselves around dead bodies.

Anonymous said...

I sincerly wish a dramaticist as respected as Dario Fo would write both a stage and screenplay about the tragic events in Italy since the fascists returned to power in the government, including the beach drowning.

Don't suppose Dario or his agent read Lancaster Unity, sadly.

warningfromhistory said...

Fascism must always be nipped in the bud.

Italy is a warning for us all.

Give an inch and the BNP would take a bloody mile. And I mean bloody.

Anonymous said...

Has it not occurred to anybody that, apart from not knowing what race the unfortunate girls were, the 'sunbathers' are probably just nosey onlookers? And what better excuse for hanging around a beach and watching developments than bringing a towel and 'sunbathing'.

Not the most tactful way of finding out what's going on and why your local beach has 2 dead girls lying on it, but they are no different to the crowds of people who gather after a serious assault or queues of motorists 'rubber-necking' to see if they can spot any blood and guts on the motorway after a crash!

Or are you seriously suggesting that ALL Italians are sick Nazis because of ONE picture? Seems like hysterical stereotyping to me. Come on people!

Angry Antifash Italian Ex-Pat said...

There is a fascist coalition government in Italy, Burlesconi has made sick, evil racist statements approving of Roma ghettos being burnt down, including the homes where Italian citizen Roma have lived for several generations. A racist Neuremburg law has been introduced which discriminatingly fingerprints Roma people. Racist attacks are two a penny against Roma in Italy, especially in Rome where they are organised by far right football hooligans called ultras.

When the mayor of Rome was recently elected, he claimed he was the new Mussolini, and would ethnically cleanse Roma single handed from Italy if necesary. He described his (supposedly reformed) far right neo-nazi party as being "the new Phalange" (Phalange was Franco's fascist party in Spain).

Recently, a huge group of far right thugs violently ransacked Italy's Bangladeshi community beating up women and little children, pumped up with pure race hate.

The police have stood by while this happened, which is no surprise when there were recently fifteen policeman were jailed for beating up, threatening with rape, and forcing G8 environmental protestors in 2001 to sing fascist songs which included the pure evil lyrics "Death To The Jews", and pro-Mussuloni chants, and tributes to Pinochet.

Amazingly, Mussolini, the fascist dictator desponsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Italians including Roma and Jewish people.

This news story has featured all the way around the world including Fox News in the states, Mister Neo-Nazi Troll, so it's grossly unfair to criticise Lancaster Unity for hyperbole.

Anonymous said...

"I sincerly wish a dramaticist as respected as Dario Fo would write both a stage and screenplay about the tragic events in Italy since the fascists returned to power in the government, including the beach drowning.

Don't suppose Dario or his agent read Lancaster Unity, sadly."

Oh yes - thats just what we need - a fucking drama - that will rattle the fash to the core - NOT.

What fuckin planet do you middle class drama students live on.

Thats the cleanest them fuckin gypo's have ever been.

Antifascist said...

'Thats the cleanest them fuckin gypo's have ever been.'

I've had to delete dozens of filthy comments and, believe me, that's FAR from being the worst comment that's been made.

Anonymous said...

Thats the cleanest them fuckin gypo's have ever been.

The racist bastard scum who make the above statements are the same ones who tell us to be respectful over the death of violent BNP thug Luke Smith.

Crush The Scum said...

Reading absolute sickening extreme racist troll comments like this make me realise the battle won't be won until there are no British fascists operting in this country, BNP, BPP, or NF.

Thanks for keeping me motivated and willing to crush you nazis into the ground, you sick-in-the-head Hitler worshipper.

I just wander if the person who wrote this was Watmough?

It sounds like Watmough, as he prepares for a lengthy prison sentence in the nonce wing of Armley Jail.