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Prejudice in life, indifference in death

The drowning of two Roma girls in Italy uncovers a people under siege

Alongside a sepia portrait of the revered Capuchin friar, Padre Pio, stand blurry digital prints of 13-year-old Cristina and 11-year-old Violetta Djeordsevic – two Roma sisters whose sudden deaths in the shallow waters of a public beach on Italy’s Amalfi Coast encapsulated the threat of racism in modern Europe. It was a tragedy that, for a time, focused international attention on the ragged edge of Italy’s most chaotic city. The teenagers’ youth and beauty in the photographs, strangely, comes as a shock. Up until now, like most of the world, we had only seen their prostrate bodies, covered by short beach towels, with just their feet left exposed, on the scruffy beach at Torregaveta, a decrepit seaside suburb on the outer edge of the Bay of Naples. It was an image that shocked the Europe: two young Gypsy children lie dead for three hours on an Italian beach while, feet away, a carefree couple enjoy a leisurely picnic. The indifference, picked up by newspapers and TV stations across the world, was seen by the country’s liberal elite to be the final straw. The most senior Catholic in Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, was the quickest to point out the coarsening of human sentiment which the behaviour in Torregaveta represented: “Cristina and Violetta,” he told the Italian media, “had faced nothing but prejudice in life and indifference in death; an unforgivable truth.”

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From victim to vigilante

A group of Bosnian rape victims are making a stand against their attackers, and, amidst growing frustration, hunting them down

THE atmosphere inside the bitterly cold office in the rundown urban outskirts of Sarajevo is awkward and brittle. At first nobody utters a word and then the thick black coffee and cheap Russian cigarettes arrive and the women become manic and talkative.

“This is the database,” says Bakira Plesic, pointing to the clumsily assembled rows of shelves behind her; stacks upon stacks of sky-blue books and folders. Inside the files, she says, are tens of thousands of testimonies of women and girls raped during the war in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995.

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