Gozsdu Udvar denies Roma women entry to popular Budapest nightlife area

February 6, 2017

Photo: Index.hu

Two young Roma women were reportedly prohibited from crossing through a popular Budapest nightlife area late Saturday night unless accompanied by a security escort. According to a post on one of the women’s Facebook page, the two tried to cross through Gozsdu Udvar (Gozsdu Passage) in the city centre but were approached by security guards who told them they could not proceed unless they would consent to being accompanied by guards as they crossed through a short section of the passage on their way to another nightlife spot.

One of the women reported that at first she believed they were escorted because some filming was taking place. Only after they’d arrived at their destination at Madách square did they decide to return and ask the guards whether they had been accompanied because of their Roma origins. The guards consulted their supervisor, who himself was Roma, and he informed the women that he had been instructed not to allow Roma people to move across the passage without an escort.

One of the women has made a complaint to the Equal Treatment Authority, writing: “I would like to draw attention to their unlawful acts so that they won’t do this to anyone else. Live and let live!!!”

Gozsdu Udvar released a statement on its Facebook page Monday denying the women’s allegations and questioning their credibility, and asserting that such an event could not have occurred since Gozsdu regularly accommodates foreigners.

“We were surprised to hear of the story mentioned in articles in the media, which absolutely does not match with what has been experienced at Gozsdu Udvar until now,” reads the statement, addressed to media editors. “The sources of information, we believe, should be handled with great reservations concerning the contents of what was described.”

The statement calls the allegations “nonsense” since “Gozsdu Udvar is one of the city’s most diverse areas” which daily accepts guests from all parts of the world. As proof that no such discrimination took place, the statement declares that the private security firm that employs the security guards denies the allegations, and that the presence of a Roma guard on the staff “is proof itself that Gozsdu Udvar in no way differentiates between people based on their origins.” The statement calls media reports of the incident “sensationalist,” and claims that the reports unjustly and negatively depict Gozsdu Udvar, “against which we hereby protest!”

Campaigns have already begun calling for a boycott of what is one of Budapest’s liveliest night-time areas.

Below is a translation of the statement of one of the affected women posted on Facebook just after the alleged events.

Firstly, my story and my question goes to [Prime Minister] Viktor Orbán and anyone else who thinks that I am worth less and more dangerous than anyone! Based on a true story! tweet

Setting: 2017.02.05 Saturday night, not long after midnight. Walking up from Holló street, arriving at the Gozsdu Udvar shortcut to Madách square. I’m going along with a girlfriend and a friend of mine in the drizzle from one place to the other, a little Saturday night get-together for some casual drinking, since my girlfriend will be going back abroad in a couple days and I won’t see her again for a long time. We’re laughing, talking, hurrying, since the weather wasn’t so good and it was raining. tweet

We arrived at Gozsdu Udvar from Holló street when a security guard walked up to us and said we can’t go across here. The scene around us was like this: a typical Saturday night, everyone is coming and going, full of people who want to have fun hurrying around and going to wherever they feel like. It’s possible it’s closed because of some film or advertising or other kind of shooting. That’s how the first question arose in my mind, from curiosity and automatic reaction: what’s happening that we can’t go across since opposite us and from our direction people are constantly flowing across!!?? tweet

As a first answer I got “The passage is closed,” but then came the next, “…but I’ll accompany you.” As you know, it’s raining and we’re in a hurry and I don’t understand, but there’s no time to think and we go, accompanied by the young guy through the passage, then after barely 3 meters he stepped away, gesturing to us and telling to his two colleagues standing there that he had accompanied us. We hurried on our way, reaching one of the places at Madách square. I laughed out loud how funny it was that I’d gotten an escort, nothing like that ever happened to me in the past ten years even though I travel that way often since I’ve lived in Budapest. I asked our guard why it was happening and he would only say that he was in a bad mood that he has to do this in the cold rain. I acknowledged that I believed it, I wasn’t jealous. I left it at that and he didn’t go any further either. tweet

Only when we came into a place did I discover the expression on my girlfriend and friend’s faces of what that was and what exactly happened. Only in that moment when my girlfriend, totally appalled and upset, said the first sentence of what actually happened did it hit me, it was seriously because of that?!! I had to make sure that the problem was really with her and with me, and we went back to re-cross this public area to find out why the two of us are so privileged. tweet

Once again, one of the two young guys told us he would accompany us across, and we asked why this is even happening?? tweet

The answer: because they were directed not to let GYPSIES across!!!! I said that it was at least enough for him to say that, for us to get an answer like that for our privileged situation. Imagine our situation now, we are two 30-year-olds, childless working women, we don’t receive any kind of assistance, we pay taxes too, we work and we conduct ourselves like anyone else. We speak Hungarian and our clothes aren’t striking or different than anyone else’s. One thing about us is different. Our pigment behaves differently, so my skin is browner than the guard standing in front of me. So I’m A GYPSY. Which means that I am dangerous to that three meters of public space and to the people who are there. tweet

My story is shameful, outrageous and I could dwell on it but I won’t because an unexpected thing happened. We requested the guards’ supervisor so we could discuss it, because we would like an explanation of the reason for their actions. He showed up within two minutes and no one would believe it, you should have seen my face when I saw this man who was at least four shades browner than me, he was GYPSY too. He spoke normally, he was like any other person, just like us, his first sentence was that this situation is really unpleasant because he is GYPSY too but they received an order, and we could go across without an escort but that we should leave because he didn’t have the nerves to listen to our outrage. tweet

This is my story! tweet

Everyone has a right to think and do what they want in this country if they observe the laws, respect other people’s physical integrity and property. I ask dear Viktor Orbán, how many shades browner is your skin than mine? Because as I’ve seen it, even if we haven’t met in person, we’re mostly the same kind of people and even our pigment behaves similarly. If his daughter had been in this situation, because she has similar pigment to mine, what would he have done?? Because I would like to know what I am supposed to do!!!!??!!! tweet