Beth Wofford

Elizabeth Wofford (Dzeno): Between 2009 and 2011 Beth studied at the University of Maryland – she graduated with with a Bachelor of Arts in Socio-Cultural Anthropology. In 2010, Beth studied in Prague, where where she first encountered discrimination against the Roma community. She spent the spring semester of 2011 interning at the Global Terrorism Database (a research project of the US Department of Homeland Security). Beth was also a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and the Sigma Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Fraternity. After her fellowship Beth wrote: “I am absolutely more confident. I know that I can work through tough issues and be able to make a product happen. I have more faith in myself and in other people to get things done that need to get done.”

Fear Mongering and Firebombs: The Extremist Violence Against Roma in the Czech Republic

16 Jul

In an event reminiscent of 2009’s attack in which a two year old girl suffered burns to over 80% of her body, a flaming torch was thrown through the window of a flat owned by a Roma family. Early Monday morning in the town of Bychorý, Kolín District, a device resembling a torch was thrown into the living room window of Eva Duchová and Milan Demeter. A friend who was staying the night was luckily awake watching TV and was able to put out the flames before any lasting damage occurred. (Source)

Eva Ducova and Milan Demeter, whose Bychory home was firebombed. Source:

Eva Ducova and Milan Demeter, whose Bychory home was firebombed. Source:

This incident is particularly disturbing as the same day, 11 July, the Interior disbanded their task force fighting extremism, instead choosing to focus on seminars and meetings. The move has been condemned by the Roma group Romea. Romea announced that it would no longer be cooperating with the government after this turn of events, and in turn the Interior Ministry fired back, responding that the need to be impartial in fighting extremism is their main priority. This is despite the evidence of the growing rate of extremist groups in the Czech Republic who often make Roma families their main target.

A horrific example of this is from a similar firebombing case in Vitkov in 2009. Several people were injured from a torch being thrown into a Roma family’s single family home, the most abhorrent of the injuries is that of a two year old girl who suffered burns to 80 percent of her body and has been in and out of the hospital. The perpetrators for the attack received lengthy prison sentences, between 20 and 22 years, and were ordered to pay a hefty fine of 17 million Czech crowns ($961,538) part of which is going to the young victims hospital costs, the other going to the family for damages experienced in the attack. (Source)

Pictured is Natalka before the attack and after receiving months of treatment. Source: CNN

Pictured is Natalka before the attack and after receiving months of treatment. Source: CNN

The rise of extremism in the Czech Republic is a particularly disturbing trend, the main groups being those on the far right belonging to neo-Nazi organizations. One would typically expect anti-Semitism to be a large issue in these groups, but instead Roma families and individuals have been dealt the hardest blow in terms of violence and defamation from these groups. According to the Ministry of the Interior’s “Strategy for Combating Extremism Report 2009” there were no serious anti-Semitic attacks in 2008.

Violence against Roma is a terrifying trend that Roma individuals have to live with everyday. (Look here for a timeline of extremist violence against the Roma until 2009) The discrimination and lack of job access is only one aspect of their struggle to be seen as equal citizens. Speaking with the women in Mimoň it is evident that they also feel unsafe.

“My son was threatened to be beat up in school because he is Roma,” said one of the women when we asked about the risk of violence.

Extremism is a danger not only to Roma people, but to the security of a society as a whole. When does free speech start becoming hate speech? What can be done to ensure that children are not afraid to go to school in the morning for risk of being beaten up? How can so called “normal” people of the Czech Republic sit and watch while their neighbors are being attacked and nearly killed simply for being of a different ethnic group?

Posted By Beth Wofford

Posted Jul 16th, 2011

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