Madonna jeered after expressing sympathy for the Roma
Madonna has exposed the deeply-held prejudice against the Roma still rampant in Eastern Europe after a concert audience in Bucharest booed the star when she expressed her sympathy for their plight.
Cheered at the beginning of her two-hour show, the Romanian audience became angry when the pop icon said the treatment of the Romany people on the Continent made her sad.
“I’ve been paying attention to news reports and it has been brought to my attention, that there is a lot of discrimination against Romanies and Gypsies in general in Eastern Europe – it made me feel very sad.”
“We don’t believe in discrimination, we believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone,” she said.
The singer, who has employed a group of Romany musicians for her Sticky and Sweet tour and was accompanied by them at the Bucharest concert, went on to speak out in support of minorities.
“Gypsies, homosexuals, people who are different – everyone is equal and should be treated with respect, OK? Let’s not forget that,” she said.
She was greeted by another round of jeers, but recovered to launch into a rendition of You Must Love Me, the song she sang in the 1996 film Evita about the Argentine first lady Eva Duarte de Peron who was loved and hated in equal measure.
The singer’s spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg, said Madonna felt she needed to speak out and had told her she heard cheers as well as booing.
“Madonna has been touring with a phenomenal troupe of Roma musicians who made her aware of the discrimination toward them in several countries so she felt compelled to make a brief statement,” she added.
Official figures put the country’s Romany population at 500,000 but other estimates say there are as many as 2 million in Romania.
Discrimination against the Roma remains rampant throughout Eastern Europe. Described as “forgotten citizens” by a 2008 European Commission report, it was found that 77 per cent of Europeans agreed that being Roma was a disadvantage on a par with being disabled.
In 2007, Romania’s president Traian Basescu was recorded calling a Roma journalist a “stinky Gypsy” during a conversation with his wife. He later apologised.
The Romany people left northwest India in the first millennium AD, spreading to most of Europe by the 16th century. They have been victims of repetitive persecutions since, with as many as 500,000 killed during the Holocaust.
From The Times.