MRG publishes annual report on minority rights

Photo: Roma and non-Roma children perform a play in an Italian school about the history of Roma people. Photo credit: MRG International


UNITED network organisation Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has today published its flagship annual report on the situation faced by members of minority and marginalised groups around the world.

The State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2016 report outlines the threats to minority communities and cultures, highlighting the impact of land dispossession, forced assimilation and other forms of discrimination.

“The destruction wrought by ISIS in Palmyra in 2015 quite rightly drew massive worldwide condemnation,” says Carl Soderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications. “But too little has been said about the ongoing devastation facing numerous minority and indigenous cultures right around the world.”

The Europe section [pdf] of the report highlights the impact that extremist violence and Europe’s refugee crisis have had on attitudes to minority groups. It includes in-depth profiles on France, Georgia, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia. Discrimination and violence against Muslims, Jews and other relgious minorities are a common theme, while discrimination, persecution and high levels of social and economic exclusion against Europe’s Roma community appears to be a universal problem throughout the continent.

In profiling France, the report highlights growing levels of hostility towards the country’s Muslim community, and laws limiting the freedom of some Muslims to practice their faith, while it also shines a light on dangers faced by the country’s Jewish community, including extremist violence, which are leading growing numbers to emigrate from the country. The country’s Roma population is also under threat, and faces exclusion especially in the area of housing, with large numbers of evictions of Roma families, as well as widespread hostility to Roma people in French society.

On Georgia, the report points to evidence of high levels of emigration among the country’s minority communities, citing an increase in nationalistic and religious-motivated violence as a key cause. As well as highlighting discrimination faced by minorities within the state of Georgia, the report acknowledges the marginalisation of ethnic Georgian communities in the breakaway region of Abkhazia, with some families forced to move from the region.

Greece is singled out for the rise of far-right extremist groups such as Golden Dawn and Combat 18 Hellas, who not only threaten the many refugees arriving in the country by sea, but have also been guilty of hostile antisemitic rhetoric aimed at the country’s Jewish minority. The report also highlights the high levels of discrimination and social exclusion faced by Greece’s Roma community.

While there has been some progress in representation of minorities, including Armenians, Roma, Syriac and Yezidi, in Turkey, the report outlines, there still exists many barriers to the equality of minorities in the country, especially when it comes to education. Violence and oppression against the country’s sizeable Kurdish minority are highlighted, with a number of violent incidents profiled. Additionally, the report shines a light on the country’s Alevi religious minority, who despite some progress in recent years, continue to suffer intimidation and rights exclusion, along with other religious minorities, especially in terms of property rights. Turkey’s Roma, it is reported, also continue to suffer “deep-seated social exclusion” and persecution from state authorities, despite an increase in state funding for Roma inclusion programmes. Discrimination against the country’s massive refugee population also remains a big issue.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the report notes, has exacerbated many of the problems already faced by the country’s minorities, while also displacing hundreds of thousands of people in the country’s conflict zones. Meanwhile in Russian-annexed Crimea, the Crimean Tartar population has faced a growing struggle for recognition and rights, with authority crack-downs on gatherings, intimidation from militia groups and censorship of their media channels. The report does include one positive story on minority rights in Ukraine, though, with a party representing the Hungarian minority in the Transkarpatia region successfully contesting local elections and winning a substantial number of seats.

In Russia itself, increasing levels of hostility towards Tartars and other minorities is reported, as well as worryingly high levels of racist attacks aimed at Muslims, Jews and members of other minority groups. Migrants also face barriers to economic inclusion, while state authorities are reported to discriminate against persons of a “non-Slavic appearance”. The report also highlights the plight of Russia’s religious minorities and indigenous groups, as well as the state’s continued crack-down on civil society.

The report also highlights the important work that is being done to protect the interests of minority groups and help them to preserve their unique cultures and traditions. This includes a report on how culture is being used to break down stereotypes of Italy’s 180,000-strong Roma community as well as a case study on how Estonia’s indigenous Seto people were able to promote and celebrate their culture by hosting the Funno-Ugric Capital of Culture in the Estonian village of Obinitsa.


You can read the full State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2016 report, and access an online storypack on cultural heritage, here.