The 1997 Rafto Prize was awarded to Professor Ian Hancock (1942), Romani scholar, linguist and human rights advocate.
He is director of the Program of Romani Studies and the Romani Archives and Documentation Center at the University of Texas at Austin, where he has been a professor of English, linguistics and Asian studies since 1972.
Professor Hancock has for decades used his unique position as a Romani-born, university-educated scholar, to speak and fight for Romani political and civil rights. He has represented the Romani people at the United Nations.
The Romani population, which has been persecuted throughout the centuries, has traditionally had no voice or representation. The Romani people have never obtained basic human rights. In recent years their situation has deteriorated in many countries. So the plight of the Romani people continues to demand serious attention and bold action from authorities around the world.