Matteo Salvini (PHOTO: Fabio Visconti, Wikimedia Commons)
Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has earned sharp criticism over a racist comment about a Romani woman from an encampment in north Milan which he posted on the eve of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day (2 August). The woman had commented online about a video published by the right-wing server Il Giorno by saying she hoped that Salvini would be „shot in the head“.
The minister responded by calling her a „dirty gypsy“. He also threatened to send bulldozers to destroy her home.
„Is it normal for a gypsy women from Milan to say: ‚Salvini should be shot in the head‘?“ he tweeted. „Stay calm, you dirty gypsy woman, stay calm, the bulldozers will soon be there.“
Salvini is famous for his racist attitude toward Romani people in Italy and wants, for example, to raze to the ground all of what he calls the „illegal“ camps inhabited by Romani people there and for all Romani people who are not „from Italy“ to be deported. The remarks that he made on Thursday, 1 August, however, were considered by some to cross the line, especially because they were posted on the eve of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.
Roberto Giachetti, an opposition politician from the Democratic Party, said of Salvini that he is absolutely „out of control“ and warned that people should begin fearing what he might do „now, before it’s too late“. „We are no longer in the realm of exaggeration and provocation,“ he said.
„I think Salvini is now out of control. He is unable to control himself, which for an Interior Minister is no small problem,“ Giahetti said.
„Maybe somebody should begin fearing [Salvini] now, before it’s too late,“ the opposition politician said. The Democratic Party also announced that in September it would attempt to remove Salvini from the Interior Minister job.
Corrado Formigli, an Italian journalist, expressed similar sentiments and asked whether a politician who uses „openly racist expressions“ should have the opportunity to represent such a high-ranking post as Interior Minister, for example. „The word zingaraccia [dirty gypsy woman], which has been ringing in Italian ears today, is abominable,“ Formigli said.
Representatives of Italian Jewish organizations also criticized the minister. „During these very hours we are recalling the Porrajmos, the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti in the Nazi death camps,“ Noemi Di Segni, president of the Italian Jewish Union, said on Friday, 2 August.
„We must remember those who were barbarously murdered and we still have a great deal to learn from those events. This open, permanent wound in the conscience of Europe also speaks to our present,“ she said, adding that such remembrance should also serve as a warning of the horrible consequences to which hateful words can lead.
„We are obliged to be vigilant so that such events are never repeated, and to loudly object to these dangerous new manifestations that are also appearing because of the irresponsibility of those who are stirring up hatred at the highest level of our institutions,“ she urged. The Italian Jewish newspaper Pagine Ebraiche also reported that Ruth Dureghello, president of the Jewish Society in Rome, declared that „This important chapter of our history should teach us the importance of words and their consequences.“
Salvini is defending himself against the criticism, however. „It’s crazy that a gypsy woman living in an illegal Romani camp who threatens the Interior Minister with death is not considered the problem,“ he tweeted.
„Instead, for some, the term ‚dirty gypsy‘ is the problem,“ he tweeted. „I will continue until the aim is achieved: No gypsy camps in Italy.“