“An extreme tour around Tabor. Both a challenge and a dream that came true! This is the entertainment that took us quite a long time to prepare.” This is an excerpt from an ad by an extreme entertainment agency “Vaiduokliai” (“Ghosts”). On 5pm Thursday 29 September a minibus carrying those who signed in for an “extreme walk-around” at the Vilnius Roma Tabor left from Vilnius Town Hall Square. For the fee of 29.99 EUR participants were offered to hear stories about “Roma people, their origins, and their weird and interesting customs,” as well as “some shocking facts about the dark side of their life in Tabor.” And, as a measure of safety, during their tour the participants were offered an escort by the security service company ALFA.
This event caused indignation among the society, including civil activists and the Roma community.
The Head of the Lithuanian Roma Community Istvan Kvik told Locomotive.press that “people are invited to visit Tabor any time because Roma people are always very welcoming. They will always accept anyone who wishes to get to know their culture and learn about the conditions under which they are forced to reside. However it is simply uncomprehensible to go visit Tabor as if it was a safari. Even in safari one needs a permission, and our people were not even informed about this ‘event,’ not to mention that the organisers had no consent or permission from Roma people.” It is simply immoral, said Kvik, to capitalise on people’s poverty and turn them into show exhibits.
Mr. Kvik also told Locomotive.press about a current Roma Integration Program. However “in view of all this one looses all hope. What should children think while seeing all this?”, commented Kvik.
Currently the evaluation from Equal Rights Inspector is due regarding the discrimination of human rights. While commenting on this case, the Director of Lithuanian Center for Human Rights Birutė Sabatauskaitė noted that the organisers of this event seemed educated enough, therefore it is unlikely that we are dealing with a misunderstanding. Specific rhetorics and the thriller-style soundtrack in their YouTube ad seem to have been chosen intentionally with the aim of drawing attention. According to Sabatauskaitė, what surprised her most was the fact that after receiving an argumentative critique, the organisers did not call off the event, but replied instead, that they will wait for the evaluation from the Equal Rights Inspector, and that they will adjust the description if necessary – as if the problem was with the description, and not with the action itself.
The tour was also attended by media. The reports were submitted by the journalists from Alfa.lt and TV3.lt, including a journalist from Delfi.lt (column “Aktualijos”) Rūta Pukienė. While commenting on the media coverage of the event and particularly on the article in “Lietuvos rytas” (by Ana Daukševič), artist, human rights activist, and feminist Vilma Fiokla Kiure wrote in her Facebook post: “when I see these sadistic texts covering such an ‘entertainment’, when I encounter all these pictures and videos in our main media portals, and all those likes they are getting, I feel like we have reached the lowest of the low. This feels like some sort of a human program of self-destruction… I would say that all of those degenerates who organised it, paid for it, participated in it, reported it in the media, photographed and filmed it, including everyone who were putting likes under the Facebook posts promoting this event, are no different from those who organised Holocaust.”
Photo: The participants of the “Tour Around Tabor” (organised by the extreme entertainment agency “Vaiduokliai”) giving interview before departing from Vilnius Town Hall Square, 29 September 2016.