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There is a Roma Nation, and I won't be silenced!

In response to the unfounded accusations leveled against the World Roma Federation (WRF), alleging our involvement in criminal activities such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, manipulating illiterate members of our community, exploiting the Romani Holocaust for financial gain, and other baseless claims, I feel compelled to address these ridiculous lies. As the representative of the WRF, it is my duty to set the record straight and provide clarity on the matter, ensuring that the truth about our organization's mission and activities is known.

As an organization, we are committed to transparency and ethical conduct in all our endeavors. We invite everyone, including law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to verify the facts and conduct their own investigations if necessary. Our doors are open to scrutiny because we have nothing to hide. The allegations against us are not only unfounded but also detract from our genuine efforts to advocate for and uplift the Romani community. We remain steadfast in our mission and will continue to work tirelessly for the rights and recognition of the Romani people, despite these baseless accusations.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Deny Dobobrov, born to an immigrant family that fled the former Yugoslavia to escape persecution, discrimination, poverty, and lack of opportunity. My family sought a better life in the USA, where I was born and raised. Growing up, I experienced racism and discrimination firsthand, both in the USA and Europe, where I witnessed the impoverished living conditions of Roma in Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

My journey led me to a career dedicated to advocating for the rights of the Romani people. I have worked tirelessly to engage both domestic and foreign governments and leaders to bring positive change for the Romani community. Despite these efforts, recent accusations have attempted to tarnish my reputation and that of the World Roma Federation (WRF). We have been unfairly compared to a misogynistic Christian organization and labeled as racists. These accusations are baseless and damaging to our ongoing work to uplift the Romani community.

The WRF and its members, including myself, have been advocating for the recognition of the Romani people as a Stateless Nation. This recognition is not only a matter of cultural identity but also a fundamental human right. As we seek to exercise our right to self-determination, we are met with unfounded accusations and attempts to undermine our efforts.

It is crucial to understand the context in which these attacks are occurring, as they highlight the ongoing struggles of the Romani people and the importance of our advocacy.

I want to set the record straight. I have been criticized for being a Christian, accused of being a misogynist, and compared to a Zionist. I have friends and colleagues in various movements, including Black Lives Matter, LGBT, and the feminist movement. My best friend growing up was a Muslim, highlighting my respect and acceptance of diverse backgrounds and beliefs.

The WRF held a historic event at the UN Plaza, gathering diplomats, scholars, journalists, and civil society under one roof, where we launched our Mobile Roma Holocaust Exhibit. Before the doors opened, it was just our team there, so I made a statement and said a prayer. This was recorded and broadcast live. My prayer was for the non-Roma to understand our struggles and open their minds and hearts toward helping those struggling in their countries. It was my prayer, and I did not force anyone to pray with me nor did I try to force my religion on anyone.

The WRF has achieved several milestones recently. We were featured on Fox News Chicago, advocated at ECOSOC and HLPF, responded to a controversial police publication which made the news, organized a historic diplomatic gathering at UN Plaza, united with the Global Romani Coalition, celebrated International Roma Day with a flag-raising ceremony in Chicago, made an oral statement at the UN, launched the ROM-ESCO Mentorship program in Ukraine, entered into an affiliation agreement, and hosted a global webinar for human rights defenders.

In the United States, we have fostered a special relationship with the Special Envoy/Representative of the State Department for Racial Justice and Equality, collaborating on issues facing the Roma community. Our efforts have yielded tangible results. We contributed and assisted in lobbying for the modification and passing of S.Res 124, a bill recognizing Romani Americans, our history, heritage, and the Holocaust, achieved on December 8th, 2022. Our Chicago branch played a pivotal role in this success, with Deny Dobobrov leading lobbying efforts that resulted in a proclamation from the Governor containing similar wording to the original text of S.Res 124. Additionally, on April 8th, 2023, our Chicago branch made history by raising the Roma flag for the first time in United States history at Daily Center in Chicago, attended by the Cook County Human Rights Commission, who delivered a keynote speech. This event marked the first occasion where the Roma flag was raised and flown on government property in an official ceremonial manner.

Currently, we are lobbying for the establishment of a congressional caucus on Roma issues. At the United Nations, we have made significant strides in advocating for Romani rights. We have delivered oral and written statements at the Human Rights Council sessions, highlighting the challenges faced by the Roma community and calling for action to address them. Our participation in the SDG Partnership Forum and the submission of parallel reports for the European Union's Voluntary National Review demonstrate our commitment to advancing the rights and recognition of the Romani people on the international stage.

"Activists" and other "Romani Organizations" are accusing us of cashing in on the Holocaust. We self-funded the event, have proof of this, and never applied for any grant related to the event. We were accused of "stealing" funds that were "intended to help Romani," or getting funded through grants or other methods of NGO funding, and using the funds for our personal gain. There are clear ways to verify our financial integrity.

In the US, the IRS makes our taxes public, allowing anyone with common sense to find our financials. In the EU, the European Funding Transparency Portal shows that we never received any EU grants. Additionally, the Belgian Authorities can be contacted, and they too have a freedom of information act, enabling anyone to search up our organization online to see our VAT filings.

This opposition from both traditional communities and rival organizations leaves the reader to ponder why such attacks would occur against an organization that has been making significant strides in the movement. Could it be that these organizations and activists, who are quick to point fingers, are actually the ones motivated by personal gain? Are they trying to deflect attention from their own questionable practices by blaming those who are genuinely working for positive change? These are questions worth considering, as they shed light on the complexities of advocacy work and the challenges faced by those striving for justice and equality.

Addressing the recent accusations, I want to clarify my stance on Romani Collective Rights. I believe that Romani constitute a "people" under the principles of self-determination. The Romani should be recognized as a non-territorial people, a stateless nation, with the right to internal self-determination. This recognition is not only a matter of cultural or ethnic identity but also a matter of human rights.

It is puzzling to witness certain organizations shying away from supporting our right to self-determination. This right is not a mere abstract concept but is firmly enshrined in numerous international laws, treaties, and instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The reluctance of some organizations to embrace this fundamental right raises questions about their true motives. Could it be that the Romani issues have become an industry in Europe, with vested interests at play? Such considerations compel us to critically examine the agendas driving certain narratives and actions against the Romani people's legitimate aspirations.

I have become aware of statements made about me, and while everyone is entitled to their opinions, it is evident that there may be misunderstandings. Despite my efforts to reach out and engage in dialogue, including an email sent in September 2023, I have not received a response. I provided examples of my work, such as submissions to the UN Human Rights Council, written and oral statements at the UN, and more, in an attempt to foster constructive communication. However, the lack of response raises questions about the willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue and address the challenges faced by the Romani community.

Rather than making assumptions, I encourage direct contact to clarify any misunderstandings. I have always maintained professionalism and will continue to do so. It is important to engage in open dialogue to discuss Romani Collective Rights and my vision for a democratic, diverse, and inclusive Romani self-governing body, along with an International Organization to represent us externally. I conclude by affirming that there is indeed a Romani Nation, we have our own language, and we deserve recognition.

The rest of you may be asking how? The first step is recognition! This recognition would elevate the Romani people's status on the global stage, enabling them to advocate for their rights and interests with greater authority and impact. Additionally, an international organization (NOT AN NGO!) could provide a structured framework for coordinating efforts, fostering collaboration among various stakeholders, and ensuring that resources are effectively utilized to address the specific needs of the Romani community.

In seeking recognition for the Romani people as a Stateless Nation, various international laws, treaties, and instruments are relevant. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) sets the foundation, affirming the right to self-determination for all peoples. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) further reinforce this right, emphasizing the importance of respecting and promoting the cultural, social, and political rights of all individuals and groups. Additionally, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) provides a framework for recognizing and protecting the rights of indigenous and stateless peoples, including their right to self-determination, cultural identity, and non-discrimination. These international instruments, along with the principles outlined in the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, provide a legal basis for the Romani community's pursuit of recognition as a non-territorial, stateless nation.

However, achieving this recognition is hindered by a lack of full control over their organizational structures and a pervasive belief among Romani that such recognition is unattainable. This belief, often reinforced by external factors, contributes to a focus on grassroots advocacy efforts rather than pursuing formal recognition as a stateless nation.

The efforts to sabotage our work and create barriers to hinder our progress are deeply rooted in systemic issues and entrenched interests. There are those who benefit from the marginalization and exploitation of the Romani community, whether through political gains, economic advantages, or the perpetuation of discriminatory ideologies. These individuals and groups may seek to maintain their power and control by suppressing movements that challenge the status quo.

Additionally, there may be a lack of political will or moral courage among decision-makers to address the longstanding injustices faced by the Romani people. This reluctance to act is often fueled by ignorance, prejudice, or a disregard for human rights. As a result, the Romani continue to face systemic barriers and discrimination, hindering their efforts to gain recognition and achieve equality.

The divide and conquer tactics used to undermine the Romani community's efforts for recognition as a stateless nation are evident. These tactics aim to exploit existing divisions within the community, preventing unity and collective action. By fostering internal discord, those opposed to Romani empowerment can maintain control and suppress any movement towards self-determination. This strategy not only hinders progress towards recognition but also perpetuates the marginalization and exploitation of the Romani people.

It is essential for the Romani community to recognize and resist these tactics, focusing instead on solidarity and cooperation to overcome the challenges they face. Unity is paramount for the Romani people. Without unity, there is no Romani Nation. We are stronger together, standing in solidarity to advocate for our rights and recognition. It's crucial to emphasize that our goal is not separatism from our respective countries, but rather the establishment of a non-violent, democratic, and inclusive framework for self-governance and representation.

Despite this clear and peaceful vision, one might question why experts and organizations dedicated to human rights and self-determination are not fully supporting our cause. This raises important questions about their true motives and commitment to the principles they espouse.

As a Romani myself, I prefer to call us all Ethnic Romani, emphasizing our shared DNA, history, culture, and language. This term reflects the rich diversity within our community while acknowledging our common heritage. It's important to distinguish this term from the Council of Europe's Umbrella Term, "Roma," which may not fully capture the nuances of our identity and includes groups not genetically related to us such as the Irish Travellers.

In conclusion, I challenge anyone accusing the WRF or its members of wrongdoing to provide evidence to support their claims. We take these accusations seriously and will address them through proper legal channels. Furthermore, I call on all individuals making violent threats to cease their actions immediately. Such behavior is unacceptable and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We are sharing this publication with the EU Institutions, UN, US, and all relevant intelligence agencies. We have nothing to hide! Let us strive for justice and equality through peaceful and respectful means.

Opre Roma!

Opre Roma!

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