Deadly Racism in Italy

Human Wrongs Watch

By Paola Valeri*

Rome -“They expected that we were all dead, but we are still alive.” Silvano Sarti talks through a bullhorn to the people gathered in Dalmazia square, in Florence.

National demonstration against racism in Italy © Raluca Tudor |

The day before, Dec 13, an Italian man, member of the fascist group Casa Pond, shot dead Samb Modou and Diop Mor, two Senegalese pedlars who were selling their goods in a market. After the shooting, the murderer fled and committed suicide as police cornered him.

Silvano, 86 years old, was a partisan during the Second World War and he is now the president of the Florence section of ANPI (National Association of Italian Partisans).

In his speech, Silvano reminded the protesters that today’s fascists are the same as those he fought 60 years ago–criminals and racists. He also reaffirmed that the partisans are vigilant and ready to defend the Italian institutions born from the antifascist fight in the war.

In spite of what its name may suggest, ANPI is not an association of old people: during the last few years, new sections of the ANPI opened in many cities in Italy and also abroad–during the fourth and last Silvio Berlusconi’s government, democrats of all ages felt that ANPI was the last option left to show a genuine support to the institutions and celebrate the value of anti-fascism and democracy.

The Ghost of Fascism

After the tragic racist killing in Florence, the Italian civil society has been trying to understand what has happened. The ghost of fascism appears in a country that defeated it with a civil war, but clearly did not eradicated it–since the very beginning of the Italian democracy after the World War, there has been one or more extreme-right political parties keeping alive the fascist ideology.

What Italy discovers now is that it is not a phenomena limited to old nostalgic of the past– today fascists are young people who are openly racists, violent, full of hate and ready to kill, not only with words but also with bullets.

The crisis that affects all European countries is not only economic but mainly cultural, systemic—in fact, Italy entered such crisis more than two decades ago, when the judicial investigation known as Mani Pulite exposed the widespread political corruption.

No External Enemy to Blame

To face the falling values of democracy, many react by focusing on their own self-affirmation, some try to contribute by volunteering and opting for a more sustainable lifestyle. But others opt for the easy way: putting the blame out and find an enemy to fight.

Here is where fascist and racist ideology appears to be attractive for young (and not too young) people. Its aesthetic matches with war-games and fantasy-style heroes, it is against the official lip-service to democracy and, above all, provides fast-food-style-answers to many social and human issues: no work in times of economic crisis? It’s because immigrants take it all! No security? It’s because immigrants are criminals! Corruption in the institutions? It’s because Jew, Communists and Capitalists rule the world!

The Politicians’ Discriminatory Remarks

The last Italian government has a clear responsibility in the recrudescence of the racism in the country–Amnesty International denounced in several occasions that “discriminatory remarks by politicians against Roma, migrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people promoted a climate of rising intolerance” that led to violent homophobic and racist attacks.

The institutional criminalisation of immigrants was officialised with law 129/2011, which authorises the extension of the upper limit for the deprivation of liberty of irregular migrants in detention centres from six to 18 months.

Such law is not in line with the duty of Italy as member State of the UN Convention on Refugees and also incompatible with the right to liberty as recognised in the European Convention on Human Rights and in other international human rights instruments by which Italy is bound, Amnesty denounced.

Obama Is Not Black – He Is “Tanned”

The xenophobic and racist discourse went on for many years with declarations from all sort of authorities, from City Mayors up to Ministers and the same Berlusconi, who made fool of U.S.

president Barack Obama saying “he is tanned”.

In March 2011, Human Rights Watch published a 81 pages report proving that the government of Berlusconi and the main ally, the North League, lack any will to react to the raise of racist episodes and attacks against immigrants and ethnic minorities like Roma people.

Under Silvio Berlusconi’s the four governments, the antifascist values of the Italian Constitution and the respect for the institutions were put under attack in several ways, like the prime minister’s repeated refusal to attend the celebration of the National Liberation Day or his falling ostentatiously asleep during  a speach by the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano.

*Paola Valeri works for the publishing and editorial unit of a global human rights NGO and she is also a senior editorial writer for the magazine Civilización Global.

This article may be re-published, sourcing and linking to Human Wrongs Watch.  

Copyright © 2011 Human Wrongs Watch

3 Responses to “Deadly Racism in Italy”

  1. thank you for using my photo!! great work .



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