Madonna was booed by thousands of fans at a concert in Romania after condemning discrimination against Gypsies.
The pop star was accompanied on stage at the Bucharest park by Roma musicians and a dancer who were initially welcomed with enthusiastic applause. But the crowd turned on the singer when she paused during the two-hour show on Wednesday night to speak out against prejudice suffered by Roma people.
“It has been brought to my attention…that there is a lot of discrimination against Romanies and Gypsies in general in eastern Europe” she said. “It made me feel very sad.”
Boos and jeers resounded from the 60,000 strong crowd. Some applauded when she added: “We don’t believe in discrimination … we believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone.” But there were more boos when she mentioned discrimination against gay people.
The singer ignored the hostile reception to her comments and continued with the concert. Her publicist, Liz Rosenberg, said there were cheers as well as jeers, according to Madonna.
“Madonna has been touring with a phenomenal troupe of Roma musicians who made her aware of the discrimination toward them in several countries so she felt compelled to make a brief statement,” said Rosenberg. “She will not be issuing a further statement.”
Romania has the largest number of Roma people in the region. Official data puts the figure at 500,000 but some believe the actual number is as high as 2 million.
Human rights advocates say the Roma, who live predominately in southern and eastern Europe, probably suffer more humiliation and endure more discrimination than any other group on the continent.
While many east Europeans are enthusiastic about Gypsy music and dance, one in two of Europe’s estimated 12 million Roma claim to have suffered an act of discrimination in the past year, according to an EU report.
In May 2007, Romania’s president, Traian Basescu, apologised after he was heard calling a Romanian journalist a “stinky Gypsy” during a conversation with his wife.
In neighbouring Hungary, six Roma have been killed and several wounded in a recent series of apparently racially motivated attacks.