The DNA of Roma people, who predominantly dwell in northern Europe, is being misused by “radical” anti-Roma activists, European scientists say.
The scientists pointed to the example of a campaign in Hungary to teach children that Roma people share a negative character with gorillas, as evidence of the widespread effects of prejudice and prejudice, and called for a crackdown against it.
“Perhaps the greatest injustice to Roma people in the world is the lack of recognition for the rich cultural heritage of Roma life,” said the paper co-authored by 18 prominent scientists and called “Roma at the Crossroads: The Invisible Human Genome.” “Roma genealogical complex/ethnicity is viewed in certain countries as a biogeographic marker and development platform for ‘scientifically accurate’ schemes of racial and ethnic classification.”
Faced with a growing number of prosecutions for hate speech in Hungary, the scientists were especially concerned. During last year’s populist Orban government, 19 individuals and two entities were charged with violating human rights with anti-Roma propaganda. The government has made it a crime to use antigay language or promote Roma stereotypes.
“I have considerable concerns about the extent of anti-Roma campaigning in Hungary, where the Environment Ministry, with the support of local municipalities, has been enforcing the government’s witch hunt of ‘Roma hooligans’ and their ‘street attacks,’ ” said co-author Judy Kohner of Harvard University, a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“Although we know little about Roma DNA, even occasional people is enough to be identified as a ‘genetic risk,’ thereby opening the way for prosecution,” Kohner said. “We are witnessing an increasingly illiberal, reactionary and small-minded Hungarian political and legal environment that shows no signs of improvement. … We need a global mobilization of support for Roma rights that reaches beyond their immediate home countries.”
The scientific findings are based on analysis of genetic evidence from about 4,000 Roma people from Europe, Asia and Africa. In the United States, researchers did similar research to determine the genetic make-up of African-Americans but did not address the question of whether Roma people share a common ancestor.
“Contrary to popular opinion, the dating back of Roma people to Africa is biologically plausible,” said one of the authors, Valerie Carbonell of the Medical University of Vienna, who is researching the genetics of high-risk genes.
“‘Hindus’ and ‘Jews’ have shared a common ancient common ancestor, but for Roma there has been a significant divergence between their indigenous European descent and their presumed ‘Africa,’” said another author, Bezha Oshdai of the Center for Genomics and Multicultural Education at Arizona State University.
Since 1993, scientists have studied the DNA of more than 100,000 Native Americans in a quest to “define and define regions of their family tree.” Until recently, scientists feared misusing DNA as a basis for discrimination.
In 2000, researchers gained a partial answer to the problem when they noticed that the mutations linked to a more limited range of diseases were typical in the more than 900,000 Europeans who shared the same ancestors as the researchers’ Native American sample.
Similar DNA studies concluded that the likelihood of a Roma person sharing a genetic disorder was 1 in 10 billion.
But the latest study on Roma genealogy found that the probability is actually between 1 in 24 and 1 in 270.