Imre Furmann

Ashoka Fellow
Hungary,
Fellow Since 1997
National and Ethnic Minority Legal Counsel Office

Citation

This profile was prepared when Imre Furmann was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1997.
The New Idea
Imre Furmann has established the first civil rights litigation and advocacy organization in Hungary to secure a place for Roma (Gypsies) and other minorities in the post-communist democracy. Discrimination against minority groups, especially Roma, is widespread and openly practiced. Previous efforts to stamp out prejudice against Roma in Hungarian society have concentrated on forced assimilation. This policy manifests itself in several ways. The Roma were not recognized as an official minority group and therefore there were no Roma language schools or government-sponsored projects to preserve the Roma culture. This is quite different from the experience of, for example, the German minority in Hungary, which has German language schools and state-sponsored programs to preserve their culture in Hungary.

Imre and his organization believe that meaningful reform will not occur until the attitudes of mainstream Hungarian society change. He has assembled a team of dedicated professionals who are working to provide a safe place for the Roma community and to win their trust and assistance in documenting their experiences of discrimination. Imre and his staff then take the Roma story to the courts and the media. By engaging the legal system he demonstrates the absence of legal protection for the Roma and stimulates public discussion about civil rights. Through persistent litigation he is creating impetus and judicial discourse for the civil rights legislation he is determined to bring about in Hungary.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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