BBC News carried a piece today which raises a few new eyebrows at the ever-more-popular phenomenon of locking oneself within fortified walls and locking those unwelcome people out. Separation walls and barriers are obviously becoming ever-more fashionable these days and have trespassed their traditional role of separating warring communities.
This time, BBC News carried news from the eastern Slovak village of Ostrovany where new separation barrier was erected to keep out Roma gypsies and enclose them into downtrodden ghettos. Roma gypsies are simply "not welcome" claimed locals who accused the former of stealing their vegetables, fruit and even metal fence posts from their gardens.
"As a structure to keep a minority away from a majority, it has drawn parallels with an earlier wall between Roma and non-Roma in the Czech town of Usti nad Labem, and even with the Berlin Wall and Israel's separation barrier. But what is new in Ostrovany is that the Roma now form the majority - exactly two-thirds of the population" writes Nick Thorpe for BBC News.
The wall cost the local council a the relatively large sum of 13,000 Euros to separate the gypsies from the Slovaks triggering the old-new question of whether or not public money should be used to protect private money - a question that has been topic of debate from Medieval Islamdom to Enlightenment Europe and continues to be raised every day...
For Cyril Revak, Mayor of Ostrovany, "the only [acceptable] criticism [...] is that public money was used to protect private property. But public money is also used to help the Roma. We help some people one day, others the next."
In the BBC article, Nick Thorpe quotes a resident of the Roma ghetto, Petr Kaleja, whose shack the closest to the wall: "we just woke up one morning and saw them building it," he grumbles. "Why couldn't they use the money to build us a decent home instead?"
To me however, this new barrier recalls a whole new problem with a whole new dimension... It recalls the barriers built around South African and Egyptian "compounds" and "gated communities" - barriers erected to protect the more privileged few from the less fortunate locked out in the absence of social justice and active development projects. But then again, how much do I know about Eastern Slovakia?
The article was published by BBC News on Tuesday 9 March 2010.
Related to this, and might be of interest to those of you who found this interesting is another posting I made in September 2009 featuring "Islands of Security", an episode of BBC World Service's "Global Perspectives". The radio programme discusses the rising phenomenon of gated communities and their relation to the need for security in South Africa.
Fouad GM is a social scientist, and researcher in Middle Eastern affairs. His writings have appeared on several websites, blogs, newspapers and publications by think tanks and research centres. Follow him on Twitter