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The European Court of Human Rights just rendered a judgment on the issue of stereotyped images of Roma in government-funded publications in Turkey. In the case of Aksu v. Turkey the applicant, mr Aksu, is of Roma origin. He complained about two publications a book and a dictionary that included harmful images of Roma, like the suggestion that Roma are stingy, fraudulent and aggressive. In his view, he had been discriminated against on account of his ethnic identity and he felt that these publications harmed his dignity.
The Court treats his complaint under art. Publication no. The only thing that needs to be done is to focus on this issue with patience and determination. As the dissent notes, in this context it is irrelevant whether the author intended his stereotypical remarks to be insulting.
It is irrelevant on two counts. First, intent is not a defining characteristic of stereotyping. The crucial point in our use of stereotypes is that they are often unconsciously triggered, a lot of psychological research has established that.
Why did the majority not apply D. Why did they not recognize the harm of these stereotypes to Roma? The conclusion of the book in question is surely not sufficient to dispel the impression these stereotypical remarks leave behind: the conclusion is both negative and patronizing of Roma in tone, and affirms the idea that Roma are not valuable citizens of Turkey at the moment.
Certain entries in the dictionary are highly offensive to Roma, such as:. The applicant asked for these entries to be removed, but the Turkish courts did not grant his request. To start I am puzzled by the use of historical prejudice as an excuse for present prejudice. Why this reification of historical discrimination? I would argue the other way round; the fact that the Roma are an especially vulnerable group due to past discrimination means that their position in society needs to be protected.