A new CNN report highlighted the latest anti-Roma violence in Gabrovo, Bulgaria. Once known as a positive example of Roma integration, Bulgaria is now facing ethnic violence between the Roma community and ethnic Bulgarians.
Since 10 April, the streets of Gabrovo have been crowded by anti-Roma protests and racist violence. The protests were sparked by online surveillance footage showing Roma men allegedly initiating a fight. Only a few months earlier, a fight had broken out between Roma men and an ethnic Bulgarian soldier, and led to similar anti-Roma protests.
The Roma community are increasingly used as scapegoats by the country’s politicians, media and the general population for the social and economic problems in Bulgaria. The European Commission warned that “anti-gypsyism” was on the rise, and criticized extreme speeches, the spread of hate speech and fake news, especially from politicians. Alexey Pamporov, associate professor at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, who has researched hate speech against Roma, warned that ‘racist, inflammatory statements against the Roma community have gradually become normalized’.
Important political and civil society actors have expressed their concern, and confirmed that the situation seems aggravated and fragile as the latest incidents have led to backsliding in the integration of the Roma community.