Moldova is a small country geographically situated in the very heart of Europe, having Ukraine and Romania as neighbors. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and Moldova became an independent country, it was faced with new challenges. Due to economic and political problems, people started to leave the country in search of greener pastures. Russia, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Portugal became the top destinations for Moldova`s immigrants. This has had an impact on the population because out of about 3.5 million people, it is officially estimated that 1 million people live abroad.
At the same time there are people who despite these conditions have chosen Moldova as their second home. Unfortunately, even though Moldova is one of the most diversified European countries in terms of resident multinationals, there is little or no acknowledgment given to the African community. The Africans living in Moldova have had to deal with issues of acceptance and discrimination. As a matter of fact, it's as bad as there not being any official statistics of how many Africans live in Moldova. The story is however not the same with persons of Jewish, Ukrainian and Bulgaian descents. But the nongovernmental organization - FATIMA is determined to change this and below is a chat with Keita Abdramane, the NGO's Director.
I am originally from Mali. I came to Moldova more than 30 years ago for my studies in the Agrarian University from where I graduated in 1985. I also hold a Ph.D in the field of Agriculture. I founded FATIMA in 1999 along with some colleagues and our aim was to defend the rights of children born in mixed Afro-Moldavian families.
Unfortunately because of different reasons (both cultural and judicial) a number of African men were leaving their wives. The Moldavian women were afraid and shy to bring up their children alone because of their different skin color. Additionally, some women also left Moldova to find a job abroad and these children were left on the streets or in orphanages. We wanted to help them.
The name of our NGO was chosen by chance. At one of our first meetings, there was a little girl drawing a picture. Suddenly she said that she had drawn a house she called “Fatima” and wanted children from around the world to live there in harmony. That was the spark we needed and everyone present agreed that FATIMA will be a perfect name for the organization.
Speaking about racism in Moldova; if you were to take a walk with me for an hour through public places in Chisinau, I can assure you that you will hear at least one offensive comment regarding to my skin color. To further complicate matters, the Moldovan police is still reluctant to register cases of violence based on racism. Usually they do not pass on the request of the victim for proper attention. One striking example is the case of a native of Burkina Faso who was attacked on a public transport because of his skin color. The police refused to give him a copy of his complaint, and were not going to charge the culprits to court were it not for the persistence of the victim's lawyer. Sadly in most cases, hate crime in Moldova is qualified as "hooliganism". Verbal abuse based on our race is something we face every day in public spaces. There are a few people who have stood up against this but much more can certainly be done. That forms part of the reasons for why FATIMA is in existence, to amplify the voices of the neglected African community in Moldova.
Find out more about FATIMA and join in their incredible work by clicking here.
Text: Marina Shupac
Photo: Dorin Goian