NEWS - Archive for August - November 2001
August - November 2001 Headlines
Headlines November 30, 2001
Headlines November 23, 2001
Headlines November 16, 2001
Headlines November 9 , 2001
Headlines November 2, 2001
Headlines October 25, 2001
Headlines October 19, 2001
Headlines October 10, 2001
Headlines October 1, 2001
Headlines Media special on PrepCom 3, Geneva july 30-august 10 2001
MILBURN TO TACKLE NHS RACISM(uk)
The Commission for Racial Equality has been asked to investigate whether doctors working in the NHS are racially discriminated against. Health Secretary Alan Milburn has responded by promising to take action. The Liberal Democrat's health spokesman Dr Evan Harris has written to the CRE asking it to examine whether ethnic minority doctors working in socalled middle grade posts are being treated unfairly. Dr Harris wants the CRE to look specifically at the plight of doctors working in nonconsultant career grade (NCCG) posts, where over 60% are from ethnic minorities. Under existing training rules, many doctors from outside the European Union are unable to obtain a Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training a prerequisite for being employed as a consultant. The Lib Dems suggest that this may contravene race discrimination legislation. Dr Harris has also asked the CRE to investigate claims that these doctors are being paid less than their colleagues for carrying out the same type and level of work. The party also believes that allowing these doctors to become consultants could help the government to achieve its target of recruiting an extra 7,500 consultants. Dr Harris told BBC News Online: "I want the CRE to look specifically at the treatment of NCCGs. "There are many doctors in NCCG posts who are quite senior but who are not allowed to apply for consultant posts because they do not have the certificate. "It is my belief that it happens to be more than coincidence that the majority of these doctors are from ethnic minority backgrounds and because the current system does not allow any way back for these doctors regardless of their ability or skill we believe this is discriminatory. It is also wasting a lot of talent in the NHS."
'Policy is discriminatory'
Dr Mohib Kahn, chairman of the BMA's NCCG subcommittee, welcomed the move. "I fully support this. The NHS needs sorting out. The current policy is discriminatory. It has resulted in a large number of doctors, many from ethnic minorities, in low grade and low paid jobs. It is quite a serious problem. They are not given any training credit for the job they are doing and cannot progress to consultant level. "We believe that more than 10,000 doctors mainly from ethnic minorities are trapped in this situation." Mr Milburn told the BBC said he would look carefully at the Liberal Democrat charge. "We are actually looking at ways of changing the law so that more overseas qualifications can count towards completion of UK training for doctors. That would be a sensible step. "Just as there is racism in some parts of British society, we think that there is probably racism in some parts of the NHS. "We treat that very, very seriously indeed, and we have made it very clear to employers in the NHS that they have got to take action on this issue, and ensure that the staff they employ are more representative of the communities that local health services serve."
Fact of life
The Lib Dem move follows a report by the independent thinktank the Kings Fund which suggested in July that racism is "a daily fact of life" for doctors from ethnic minorities or those who were trained abroad. The report also suggested that these doctors are sidelined within British medicine and lose out on the best jobs. A spokesman for the Kings Fund suggested any investigation should also examine the role played by medical bodies. "We do know from the study we carried out earlier this year that there are major problems in the NHS and that urgent action is needed," he told BBC News Online. "We would say however that responsibilities does not just lie with the NHS but with the medical bodies as well. The NHS does not control who becomes senior doctors and who doesn't." The British Medical Association welcomed government plans to widen access to the specialist register. Dr Peter Hawker, chairman of the BMA's consultants committee, said: "This is a big step forward and something that the BMA has been lobbying for."
MASS GRAVES FOUND AT NAZI POLISH DEATH CAMP
Polish archaeologists excavating the Nazi death camp in Sobibor said on Friday they had found mass graves at the site, which was evacuated by German occupying forces in October 1943 after a prisoner uprising. The excavations were the first since World War Two at the former camp, which was subsequently forested over. They could provide valuable new evidence on the number of victims, mainly Jews, who died in the Sobibor gas chambers. According to official Polish accounts, 250,000 people were killed in Sobibor, which was opened in May 1942 and lies close to the eastern border with Ukraine. ''We uncovered seven mass graves with an average depth of five metres (yards). In them there were charred human remains and under them remains in a state of decay. That means that in the final stage the victims were burned,'' archaeologist Andrzej Kola was quoted by the Polish PAP news agency telling a news conference. He said the largest grave measured 70 metres by 25 metres, the others 20 by 25 metres. ''We also found a hospital barracks. The people there were probably shot, as we found over 1,800 machine gun cartridges,'' Kola said. ''In the woods we found remnants of barbed wire, which enabled us to reconstruct the boundary of the camp.'' Few prisoners survived Sobibor among them some of the 300 who broke out of the camp on October 14, 1943. Eighty were caught soon after escaping, but some survived the war.
Refuting Holocaust deniers
Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, head of the Council for Remembrance of Struggle and Martyrdom and a former Polish foreign minister, said it was vital to gather evidence to refute the claims of revisionists seeking to deny the Holocaust. ''Only 52 prisoners from the Sobibor concentration camp survived World War Two. Now there are even fewer left maybe none at all. In Sobibor around 250,000 people were murdered, most of them Jewish,'' he said. ''...The work will continue. We have to confirm scientifically that this camp existed. There are crazy voices trying to deny the events of those years,'' added Bartoszewski, who as a young man helped protect Jews in occupied Poland. Franz Stangl, who later commanded the notorious Treblinka death camp and was found guilty of helping slaughter 900,000 people there, mentioned the Sobibor camp in Gitta Sereny's seminal 1974 biography ''Into That Darkness.'' Sereny, who interviewed Stangl extensively for the book, wrote that 100,000 people died there during the two months after the camp opened, when Stangl was posted there. The gas chamber equipment then broke down and did not resume work until October. Camps like Sobibor were set up after Nazi Einsatzcommando units active behind the eastern front faced logistical problems in their bid to round up and wipe out local Jewish populations in the field. But Sobibor's gas chambers were primitive: They used motor exhaust fumes and could take between 15 and 20 minutes to kill. The SS introduced Zyklon B gas, which speeded the killing process, later on in the war. Most of the Nazi death camp machine was on Polish soil. Six million Jews are estimated to have died in the Holocaust. A 1965 memorial at Sobibor reads: ''In this place from May 1942 until October 1943 there existed a Hitler extermination camp. At this camp 250,000 Russian, Polish, Jewish and Gypsy prisoners were murdered.'' It appears likely, however, that Jews were the largest group of victims. That could trigger a renewed debate in Poland over whether the memorial wording is accurate soon after a similar controversy over a July 1941 pogrom in the village of Jedwabne. Earlier this year, after new evidence that many Jews in the eastern Polish village were killed by fellow villagers that July, the text of a memorial there was changed.
SLAVERY MEMORIAL DERAILED BY FEUD(uk)
Race adviser resigns after UK rejects apology and reparations to Africa
Plans for a permanent memorial to the legacy of slavery are in tatters following a bitter feud over the Government's refusal to apologise for Britain's role in the trade. The memorial idea had been intended as a personal gesture of solidarity by Tony Blair towards Britain's black community. A government adviser this weekend slammed the project as a 'monumental waste of time' after Ministers ruled out paying reparations to African countries for the suffering caused by the slave trade. Lee Jasper, the race adviser to London Mayor Ken Livingstone, resigned in protest this weekend from the Home Office group appointed to set up the memorial, leaving the project in chaos. 'What is the point of having a memorial if there is no commitment to an apology or reparations?' he asked. The Prime Minister announced in March that he favoured a memorial after he was asked to back a campaign by the black newspaper New Nation. But Jasper told The Observer that he believed the Government was 'playing public relations games' with a highly sensitive subject for the West Indian and African communities in Britain. He added that the Home Office had tried to mollify the advisory group on slavery with 'jaunts' around the country, including a trip to the museum in Hull dedicated to the antislavery campaigner William Wilberforce. 'I have better things to do,' Jasper said. 'It is just a monumental waste of everyone's time.' Problems about the memorial emerged after September's United Nations conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, where Britain and other European countries refused demands for an official apology. The conference 'acknowledged and profoundly regretted the massive suffering... caused by slavery' and called on former slaver countries to express 'regret, remorse or apologise'. But countries responsible for the colonial exploitation of Africa refused to provide aid or debt relief as reparations
Slavers seized 10 to 28 million people from Africa from 1450 to 1850. By the end of the eighteenth century, Britain was estimated to be transporting more than 300,000 slaves a year from Africa to work on the plantations of the West Indies. Up to one in 10 of these people died on the journey. Slavery was finally abolished in Britain in 1833. The Home Office was forced to delay the official launch of the slavery memorial, originally set for later this month, after the advisory group failed to agree on whether the memorial should go ahead without an apology. The group was asked for a range of options. One government source confirmed there were serious concerns that African states would issue a string of legal actions against them if they apologised officially. The source added: 'Why should a Labour government in the twentyfirst century take responsibility for the actions of an absolute monarch in the eighteenth century? It doesn't make sense.'
RACE SPLIT IN BRITAIN EXPOSED BY SURVEY
A third of all British adults think police forces target nonwhites
More than a third of British adults believe that the police are racist, while a fifth think schools also discriminate against nonwhites, according to an exclusive Observer survey. The poll carried out for our Race In 2001 supplement published this week paints a picture of a nation unhappy with its multicultural heritage, with depressing signs that a surface tolerance is masking deepseated social unease and mistrust. The results of the survey showed that not only do people wildly overestimate the percentage of the population that is from an ethnic minority but that nine out of 10 individuals see the rise in multiculturalism as being linked with negative issues such as rising crime and increased social tension. Two in 10 do not want a member of their family to marry someone of a different race, while 22 per cent believe that mixed marriages are more likely to fail. Both white and nonwhite Britons were interviewed for the survey, which revealed, unsurprisingly, that perceptions of racism were far higher among ethnic minorities than among whites. Nonwhites are more than twice as likely to believe they are discriminated against than whites, and 60 per cent believe they have less chance of getting a job. Despite that, 31 per cent agree with the statement that nonwhites get more assistance than whites in the workplace, and a quarter think ethnic minorities have a better chance of gaining decent housing than whites. But there were signals that people perhaps say what they think that they should, even if it is not always true. For instance, nearly 60 per cent said that they had close friends from a different ethnic background. That would equate to about 23.5 million people. There are, however, only about 2.5m people from an ethnic minority aged over 18 in the country simply not enough for the claim to be true. In addition, the perception of numbers of nonwhites in this country was well out of line with reality. When asked what percentage of the UK population was part of an ethnic minority, the median answer was 24 per cent vastly higher than the true figure of 7.1 per cent. By contrast, 72 per cent of those asked could not name three Britons from an ethnic minority whom they admired, and 55 per cent could not name a single one. Of those who could, newscaster Trevor MacDonald was the most popular figure named, and second was the Olympic sprint champion Linford Christie
Chris Myant of the Commission for Racial Equality said the Observer poll's findings illustrated perfectly the current flux in society's attitudes. 'The reason for the discrepancies in perceptions of race are twofold,' Myant said. 'On the one hand we have sections of the rightwing media prattling on about vast hordes and floods of immigrants, while on the other when people do actually see a black face on TV, they remember it in a disproportionate way, because it is unusual. 'There is no question that there are deepseated patterns of inequality, but if you look back 50 years to the position we were once in, it seems we are making a transition from an allwhite, homogenous society into a diverse multicultural one not altogether unsuccessfully.'
DANES' NEW LEADER SHUNS NATIONALISTS
Anti-Immigration Party Is Rebuffed
Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday formed a rightist government with the Conservatives and promised sweeping reforms, including restrictions on immigrants. Mr. Fogh Rasmussen, leader of the Liberals party, which eclipsed the Social Democrats of outgoing Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen in elections Nov. 20, excluded an anti-immigrant party from a role in the coalition. "We have set ourselves a comprehensive, ambitious program," Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said at his first news conference after officially becoming prime minister. "We intend to get things done." The new minority coalition will be dependent on parliamentary support from either the Social Democrats or the far-right, nationalist Danish People's Party, which almost doubled its representation in Parliament to 22 seats.
Danish voters' big swing to the right stirred general unease that the new Liberals-led government would become a hostage to the fiercely anti-immigration party. Mr. Fogh Rasmussen trimmed his administration to 18 ministries from 21 in the outgoing government, describing the mergers as the biggest reform of the country's ministerial structure since 1953. The changes included a new post, minister for Europe, as Denmark will assume the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2002. The post was given to Bertel Haarder, a former education minister, who was also appointed to head a new ministry for refugees, immigrants and integration. A Liberal, he represents Denmark in the European Parliament.
During the election campaign, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen consistently ruled out giving any cabinet seats to the Danish People's Party in order to distance himself from criticism of the far-right party's anti-foreigner stance. But the new prime minister on Tuesday reiterated his government's firm attitude toward the thorny issue of newcomers. "It is necessary to reduce the influx of foreigners to Denmark and focus on ensuring that those who are here get work," he said. Along with tightening immigration laws, the new government's program calls for a cut in developmental aid, an income tax freeze, improvements to hospital services and social welfare including a onger paternity leave and tougher law and order provisions. Mr. Fogh Rasmussen also pledged to continue the prudent economic policy of the outgoing government, which reduced unemployment to a 25-year low, secured healthy public surpluses and promised to cut public debt.
©International Herald Tribune
PROTEST FEARS OVER WAR CRIMES EXHIBITION(Germany)
A controversial exhibition is reopening in Berlin, dealing with the role of German servicemen in war crimes during World War II. The original Wehrmacht exhibition opened in Hamburg in March 1995. It shocked many visitors as it challenged the long-held belief in Germany that the army, unlike the SS, were not responsible for Nazi atrocities, particularly on the eastern front. The exhibition was engulfed in a series of rows over its accuracy and was eventually withdrawn. Members of Germany's far-right National Democratic Party are expected to repeat their demonstrations against the exhibition at the weekend. The Wehrmacht exhibition shocked the German public. Never had such a convincing argument been presented appearing to prove that ordinary soldiers, and not just Hitler's elite SS, were responsible for Nazi atrocities. But protests from conservative and extreme right-wing parties in 1997 raised questions about the allegations, and eventually historians joined the critics.
It emerged that some of the photos appearing to show victims of the German army actually showed Soviet atrocities. A panel of historians eventually backed the critics, describing the exhibition as unprofessional, and it was closed down. Jan Philipp Reemtsma, the tobacco magnate and head of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research behind the project, says those hoping the new exhibition would restore the reputation of the armed forces will find the second more painful than the first. He said there was no change in the thesis, but that the new exhibition would rely less on photographs and more on documentation. The new multi-media exhibition is twice the size of the old. The extreme right-wing NPD has already called a protest march against the exhibition on Saturday. Angry counter-demonstrations are expected.
MEXICO ADMITS TORTURE AND DETENTIONS IN '70s
The Mexican government was responsible for illegally detaining and torturing hundreds of men and women who have been missing since the 1970s, according to a government report. The report, issued Tuesday by the National Human Rights Commission, is based largely on information from top-secret intelligence archives and files on more than 500 people reported missing by human rights groups and relatives. The report confirms that at least 275 of those missing had been arrested by state and federal security forces. The victims - los desaparecidos, the disappeared - were often taken from their homes under the cover of night, according to the report, which is 3,000 pages long. The commission found that all of the prisoners had been tortured in government installations.
The illegal detentions occurred during a decade in which the Mexican government was embroiled in a struggle against several guerrilla forces, the most important of which was called the Communist League of September 23. Some detainees, the report said, were affiliated with the subversive group, which was responsible for a few high-profile kidnappings, bombings and assaults that killed soldiers and police officers. But many other victims were students, laborers, peasant farmers or teachers. The release of the report, in a ceremony at the National Archives, is the first time that the Mexican government has acknowledged a role in the disappearances of hundreds of leftists and paints a harrowing account of a government fighting terrorism with terror. To the dismay of relatives who have sought justice for years, the report does not give the names of 74 or so former government officials who the right commission believes may have ordered or participated in the disappearances.
Human rights groups said the trail of guilt could lead from army thugs to former Mexican presidents, including Luis Echeverria and Jose Lopez Portillo, both of whom have repeatedly denied involvement in the disappearances. Jose Luis Soberanes, the president of the National Human Rights Commission, opened the presentation of the report by reading the testimony of a woman identified only as T-300, for witness number 300, who said she had been stripped and subjected to electric shocks in front of her husband. Her 1-year-old daughter was also tortured. Her husband, who was also stripped and tortured with electric shocks, later disappeared. The mystery of the desaparecidos' fate had become the focus of national and international human rights protests and a stain on the credibility of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled the government for 71 years until Vicente Fox was elected president last year. Mr. Fox promised to establish a truth commission. But members of his cabinet and leaders of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, whose power in Congress is crucial to Mr. Fox's initiatives, rejected the idea. Mr. Fox released the files that led to the preparation of the report but had not set up a truth commission. Then in recent weeks, after the assassination of a prominent human rights lawyer, the calls for a thorough investigation into the past grew louder. In response, Mr. Fox announced Tuesday that he would name a new special prosecutor to investigate the disappearances as well as other alleged incidents of abuse, including massacres in the conflict-ravaged states of Chiapas and Guerrero. The new office would prosecute those responsible for the abuses and arrange for reparations to the victims.
©International Herald Tribune
RACIST FANS WORRY SPARTA(Czechia)
After steep UEFA fine, officials seek way to control the taunting
Before Sparta Praha met Real Madrid in a marquee Champions' League match in Prague, four men made an extraordinary televised plea. Appearing on an evening news program Nov. 20, Sparta general manager Vlastimil Kostal, head coach Jaroslav Hrebik, and players Jiri Novotny and Martin Hasek, urged fans to stop the racist baiting that had already cost the team a heavy fine from UEFA, European soccer's governing body. "We certainly need the support of fans to succeed, but taunting opposing players doesn't help us at all," said Novotny, the team captain. The 11th-hour appeal seemed to bring rambunctious fans to heel -- at least temporarily. When Sparta played Real on Nov. 21 at the city's Letna stadium, a game the home team lost 3-2, the crowd of 20,000 was supportive but never rowdy. It watched admiringly, often in stunned silence, as Real's two black starters, Brazilian international defender Roberto Carlos and Congolese striker Claude Makelele, displayed their world-class skills. The Real game was Sparta's first Champions' League match at Letna since UEFA levied a 55,000 Swiss franc ($33,400/12.7 million Kc) fine on the team for racist abuses during an Oct. 10 match against Spartak Moscow, which Sparta won 2-0. During that contest, Sparta fans repeatedly made chimpanzee noises and shouted ethnic slurs at Robson da Silva, a black Brazilian who plays for the Moscow club. UEFA, which has been seeking to curb racism throughout Europe, moved hard against Sparta. In addition to the fine, the stiffest ever leveled on a European club for racial slurs, UEFA warned it would not hesitate to "undertake new measures" against what it called "the racist attitude" of Sparta fans. If the fans didn't restrain themselves, UEFA said in a statement, "Sparta Prague runs the risk of playing a UEFA competition behind closed doors." "Once again, there has been evidence of behavior that smears the name of football," said UEFA's Chief Executive Gerhard Aigner.
For most club teams, the annual Champions' League competition represents a lucrative bounty. The October-to-May tournament pits Europe's top clubs against one another in a group playoff system that generates huge crowds, large-scale media exposure and lavish television revenues. Champions' League income is vital for small-market, Central European teams like Sparta, making the prospect of "closed-door" games -- played in neutral venues with fans barred -- a nightmarish possibility. "The warning we received from UEFA was quite serious," general manager Kostal acknowledged. Yet officials here also say that racist slurs have been a part of the soccer landscape for years. Sparta, traditionally this country's most successful team, is backed by dozens of local fan clubs. These clubs, sometimes informally and occasionally through design, "assign" their more rowdy members to heckle and grunt at opposing players. In 1995, during a UEFA Cup game between Sparta and Italy's AC Milan, fans booed Liberian striker George Weah on every touch. It hardly mattered that Weah was then considered among the world's best players. In September 1998, when Sparta city rival Slavia hosted Switzerland's FC Luzern in the UEFA Cup, the referee warned Slavia officials he would stop the match unless fans stopped insulting Luzern's black players. Jean Bertin Akue, who played for FK Teplice of the Gambrinus liga during the 1997-98 season, said he was unable to cope with blatant fan racism he faced on and off the field. He moved on to play in the French second division. In the same season Akue faced problems, Zimbabwe's Kennedy Chihuri, a midfielder with Viktoria Zizkov, had fruit and beer tossed down on him from the stands by Sparta fans. "It was unpleasant," Chihuri said, "but I didn't get annoyed -- I've come to know what to expect from Sparta fans." Chihuri, who says fans have improved in recent years, considers the taunting less racially motivated than a tool of fan intimidation. The debate over racist taunting in soccer is often a heated one, with some fans asserting that racial taunts are no different from any other kind of stadium baiting -- intended only to unsettle and discourage opposing players. Sports psychologist Pavel Slepicka reflects this debate when he explains that animal taunts are racist, but "only to a certain extent." "Fans are driven by an effort to intimidate the adversary," he said. "Because [Czech] society is not a very multiracial one, dark-skinned players stand out as an easy target." Privately, however, European Union and soccer officials have expressed fears that European stadiums are becoming an acceptable venue for extreme rightists and skinheads to publicly express racial and religious bias. Institutional sports organizations such as UEFA and the Czech Soccer Association (CMFS), aware of this concern, are increasingly intolerant of racist abuses. UEFA has slapped other teams with fines over racist behavior, including Portugal's Boavista. Boavista's fans jeered Liverpool's Emile Heskey during an Oct. 24 match, producing a 22,000 Swiss franc fine. National federations in Britain and France have funded awareness campaigns as their leagues embraced hundreds of players of Asian, African, Arab and Caribbean descent. In Italy, a hotbed of fan racism, local teams have been matched against Third World nation clubs in goodwill tournaments. In June, white members of the third-division club Treviso walked on the field with their faces painted black in solidarity with a new Nigerian teammate. Here, the CMFS has been hiking its fines for racism. Like psychologist Slepicka, CMFS spokesman Jaroslav Kolar believes that Czech fans simply do not understand or respect the basic tenets of a multiracial society. Many have not yet accepted social and cultural changes that have brought dozens of African and South American players into elite European leagues during the last two decades. "We need to be uncompromising in fighting racism in the stands," Kolar said. "Blacks are among the game's best players, and those who don't want to respect that and appreciate that aren't real soccer fans anyway. We need to force them out of the stands." Fans entering Letna for the Nov. 21 Real game received anti-racism leaflets signed by the club president and the team captain. The stakes are high for Sparta. The Real Madrid game was sold out. So are Sparta's next two home games in the competition, against FC Porto of Portugal and Greek team Panathinaikos of Athens. Both matches will be played next spring, after the Champions' League takes its traditional winter break. Tickets that ran from 650-950 Kc were snatched up within three hours of going on sale in early November. If UEFA declared Letna off-limits to fans, Sparta would be forced to refund millions of crowns. The club would also lose untold amounts of guaranteed television revenu, which UEFA splits among member clubs. "[Sparta] needs to condemn [racist] behavior as strongly as possible and make sure it doesn't occur in the stands, even by the barring the violators," said UEFA communications director Mike Lee. "Otherwise, Sparta may soon be forced to play behind closed doors."
©The Prague Post
HEIDER-SCENARIO IS LOOMING(Hungary)
In forecasting accurately the present Government coalition resulting from the 1998 Parliamentary election two years earlier in 1996, RtL said that Hungarian extremism could no longer be directly opposed by verbal attack. Extremism, by that time, had become consolidated. It could not be eased by rhetoric. Such rhetorical opposition served only to strengthen it. Our recent study clarifies this early viewpoint. A social psychological study by RtL, a foundation advocating open information exchange in the public sector, is completing an examination of the impact of the Cold War on Hungarian society. Democratization requires not just changes in economics and ideology, but changes in people themselves. Using formal interviews and sociological and anthropological methods, we focused on the health and education sectors and their interactions with politics. RtL found much of the public sectors of health and education to be influenced by "basic assumptions", as is the body politic itself. A technical term defining "off-task" behavior, it is important to differentiate "basic assumptions" from mere "chaos". It is cynical to say, for example, that the health system is chaotic. Such a term leads to no solutions. That confusion affects any new democracy is to be expected. The primary value of the concept of basic assumptions, taken from General Systems Theory, differentiating it from "chaos", is that it leads to a formal diagnosis of institutional and social functions which do yield solutions. In our mission for open information exchange, we want to be useful to bi-partisan policy-makers while also providing pragmatic solutions to basic assumptions in education and health.
Basic assumptions that emphasize differences between Hungarians, not just of religious, but of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, is diagnostically defined as an attitude of fight-flight. The key party embodying fight-flight is the far-right MIÉP (Hungarian Justice and Life Party). But the Prime Minister's wedding with the extreme right of MIÉP may become likely for a right-wing majority coalition. In politics, four factors contribute to a healthy, but also unhealthy, divisive nationalism.
- 1. Feelings, and stereotype, still define political choice and motive, as opposed to economic motives, in more mature democracies. The strongest "feeling" is disenchantment with politics.
- 2. Rapid accession to the EU, experienced as a definition of nationhood from the West, motivates a "looking inward and backward" for Hungarians to define who they, themselves, are, by what they "were".
- 3. The new right-wing coalitions allowed for and encouraged an examination of experiences of "survivors" of the Cold War, not just of the Holocaust, and an examination of the national identity that emerged from experiences during the revolution of 1956.
- 4. The natural quest for national identity naturally turned towards a heritage that was largely Christian in origin. But religion has been partly politicized.
RtL maintains that institutional functioning, as well as political functioning, are defined by the people who partake in them, not by simple economics.
Aside from ideological and economic changes since 1989, attitudinal changes still seem essential. The clearest examples come from the area of health; from haggard staff where a head nurse may earn more than an attending physician, where "gratuity" is expected currency that impacts on quality care and where a lack of clear information between professionals and patients prohibits accountability - all reflect attitudes and policies still affecting a health delivery system inherited from the Cold War. The Cold War uprooted homes, derailed careers defined by autocrats and cost millions of lives. It rivaled the horror of the Second World War, leaving basic trust in question and grieving incomplete for many. Aside from its findings concerning basic assumptions, RtL found that much social functioning is discolored by abnormal grieving due to ongoing trauma during the Cold War. The natural four-part process of grieving has become arrested in early phases of denial or rage. This results in general personality styles in voters that reflects in triangulated communications (believing "pletyka" or gossip, especially from the media) and a concreteness in cognitive functions tending to see politics and social interactions in black or white.
In the Swab Village of Pilis, where in 1948 people were given a few hours' notice to vacate their homes with a few kilos of belongings, such concreteness reflected in a question asked to us by a Swab local; "Is there any difference between a family tree being burned and one that is pulled up and thrown away?" RtL sees a great change manifesting itself in present-day Hungary as the revolution of 1956 is remembered more openly. It reflects in the ties of friendship and new businesses that reach across the Trianon borders. It reflects in a new "Magyar Renaissance" able to take root with a healthy nationalism that comes from other Hungarian regions. A family tree burnt cannot take new roots as this. So, in the asking, the Pilis resident hinted at some ill will. This ill will was tied to politics. According to opinion from outside Budapest, the Premier will win the next election in some form of coalition. Victory will be due largely to the healthy nationalism just mentioned. Any political ill is due only in part to its "control" of the three major TV networks available nationwide. It is only partly due to the Premier's paradoxical efforts to woo voters from the extreme right by speaking to some of their policies. To any governing party from any side, such "dirty politics" are part of basic assumptions and hardly unique to Hungary. But the Cold War is a unique reality from Hungary's past, defining politics today. It has created a "basic assumption" as in the questioner from Pilis. Abnormal grieving reflects in divisive nationalism. It impacts also on attitudes in everyday life. Political attitudes are naturally based on opposition. They tend to "split" - to paint issues black against white. But this is only a small part of the problem. The "splitting" - underlying the question asked by the Pilis resident, as much of politics today - falls along religious lines. It impacts on those who need the church and temple as a sole place for what Mária Kópp, the well-known social psychiatrist, calls "társadalmi tôke", a basic sense of belonging. According to her research, this sense of belonging, which has dwindled since 1989, correlates with growing psychological and physical ills. So when clerics increasingly politicize the sanctity of Christ (as the synagogue does Judaism) in service of political gain, they discolor the "belonging" gained for parishioners. To belong, unfortunately, often requires also to oppose, as when one priest said during Mass, "To slap down Jews."
We conclude that a Heider-like scenario is likely in Hungary due to social basic assumptions of fight-flight. This is partly due to the strong financial influence of the American-Hungarian conservative lobby. Many in this lobby fled in 1956 or the Cold War. They, too, suffered. They have grievances from distant shores. Their difficulty in grieving expresses also in stereotype, or basic assumptions, of the far right. But unlike the nationalism of Heider, which gave way discretely within Austria (with outside EU economic pressure), the situation in Hungary is more complex. That financial influence for MIÉP's leader, István Csurka, comes from the outside, and creates a "semi-autonomy". This will make it harder for Csurka to "fade away" as Heider did, whatever the vast majority of Hungarians may desire. We do not agree with the analysis that a right-wing victory will polarize the nation economically. A totally new attitude is apparent in the countryside. "Bless the rich that they give me work," said a worker from Nagymaros. A totally new attitude indeed - one that undermines the bedrock of Socialist votes, the poor and bereft! Economic polarization is not likely, but a MIÉP coalition will polarize Hungary emotionally. Hungary, "in the heart of Europe", can add solutions to a troubled world. But in the next election it may miss the chance to appease a global stereotype of "the West against the rest". As a gateway to Eastern, less-developed neighbors, it may delay a historic mandate of bringing "greater civilization" east.
©The Budapest Sun
MARY ROBINSON: HUMAN RIGHTS CHAMPION
Mary Robinson could not have known the global upheaval that lay ahead when she reversed her decision to quit as UN human rights commissioner in March. But the events of 11 September and their aftermath have done nothing to divert the direct approach for which she has become famous. Flying in the face of the so-called coalition against terrorism, she made a vocal plea for a pause in the US bombing of Afghanistan to allow in more food aid. She also stated bluntly that Afghans who abuse the rights of captured Taleban forces should be barred from any future administration. If she has annoyed anyone with her latest comments, they can join a long line of some the world's most powerful people who have earned her uncompromising brand of criticism.
One more year
The international community was taken by surprise in March when the former Irish president announced she would not be seeking a second term. Appointed in 1997, she was only the second High Commissioner for Human Rights - the post was created in 1994 - but had turned the office into one of the most high profile departments within the UN. She has acknowledged that her outspoken views on civil liberties have made her an "outsider" and an "awkward voice". Mrs Robinson, now 57, had visited 60 countries, ruffling feathers not only in China, Moscow and Israel, but also among Western powers by questioning the legality of the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia. But the pressures of the opposition she encountered from UN member states, as well as limitations on funding seemed to have taken their toll. She said she believed she could achieve more for human rights "outside of the constraints that a multilateral organisation inevitably imposes". Two weeks later, however, she reversed her decision to go after an appeal from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Instead, she asked for a one-year extension of her then current term to September 2002. True to form, the going since then has been anything but smooth.
September's UN conference against racism was widely viewed as a disaster after it descended into a bitter row between Israel and Middle Eastern countries. Held in South Africa, the conference nearly collapsed after the US and Israeli delegations announced their withdrawal, complaining that the meeting had been taken over by Islamic extremists. But Mrs Robinson was characteristically defiant, and stated firmly in her closing speech that breakthroughs had been made. And then there was 11 September. As Washington gathered friends and former foes alike into its coalition against terrorism, Mrs Robinson was one of the few figures of any international standing to warn of the impact on Afghanistan's civilians. She jousted once again with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, cautioning China not to use the war against terrorism as a pretext to suppress ethnic minority groups. Mr Jiang, who has courted international support for Beijing's campaigns against Muslim separatists and Tibetan supporters of the Dalai Lama, was unimpressed. But given her career experience, such rebuffs have been a matter of course.
At 25, Mary Robinson became Ireland's youngest professor of law on her appointment to Trinity College in 1969. That same year she became a member of the Irish Senate - a seat she occupied for two decades. As a Labour candidate she fought two unsuccessful elections to enter the lower house of parliament. She became known in Ireland as a strong supporter of women's rights - campaigning for the liberalisation of laws prohibiting divorce and abortion. Outside the country, she gained a reputation as a prominent human rights lawyer. After her 1990 inauguration as the seventh president of Ireland, Mrs Robinson used the office to draw attention to global crises. She became the first head of state to visit famine-stricken Somalia in 1992, and the first to go to Rwanda after the genocide. On the 12 September 1997 she took up the top human rights post at the UN, which she has described as one of "the most demanding positions ever created by the international community".
EU CONSIDERS PLANS TO OUTLAW RACISM
Racism and xenophobia would become serious crimes in Britain for the first time, carrying a prison sentence of two years or more, under new proposals put forward by Brussels yesterday. Holocaust denial or "trivialisation" of Nazi atrocities would be banned, along with and participation in any group that promotes race hate. The plans, drafted by the European Commission, define racism and xenophobia as aversion to individuals based on "race, colour, descent, religion or belief, national or ethnic origin". Ordinary crimes would carry heavier penalities if they are motivated in any way by racism or xenophobia or if the culprit is carrying out "professional activity", such as a police officer. Some of the crimes listed are, broadly speaking, offences under British law already, such as public incitement to violence. But the list also a covers a wide range of activities that sometimes fall into the sphere of protected political speech, such as "public insults" of minority groups, "public condoning of war crimes", and "public dissemination of tracts, pictures, or other material containing expressions of racism of xenophobia" - including material posted on far-Right internet websites. It was not clear yesterday how the law would affect radical Islamic groups that openly promote anti-Semitic and anti-Christian views. Nor was it clear how it would apply to political parties opposed to mass immigration, such as Austria's Freedom Party, Belgium's Vlaams Blok, and the Danish People's Party, all of which have become serious political forces. The law could potentially cover many stand-up comedians, and even Anne Robinson, who, during an appearance on BBC television this year, described the Welsh as "irritating". The proposals, which will require the unanimous backing of all 15 states, are aimed at ending the patchwork of different laws across the European Union and establishing a common definition that can be used by all judges. The commission appears have adopted the most restrictive code - Germany's - as the basis for the rest of the EU. Leonello Gabrici, the Commission's judicial spokesman, denied that there was any intention of curbing political expression. "This totally respects free speech. It will be up to judges to decide where the balance lies" he said. The United Kingdom Independence Party said yesterday that it could be targeted by the new rules, noting that the Oxford English Dictionary definition of xenophobia is "a morbid fear of foreigners or foreign countries". Nigel Farage MEP, the party's chairman, said: "I'm morbidly xenophobic about this new country called the European Union, so if that is covered by this law then I'm most certainly xenophobic and I could be extradited anywhere. So I'm going to make sure my overnight bag is packed and ready."
SWEDISH HATE CRIMES BILL INCLUDES GAYS
Sweden proposed Wednesday extending a law criminalising incitment to hatred of ethnic and religious minorities to cover gays. The Swedish government hopes to extend the penal code to offer protection to individuals or groups targeted for their sexual orientation, covering homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals, the justice ministry said. The left-wing coalition government is also proposing heavy prison sentences of between six months to four years for serious cases of incitement to racial, religious or sexual hatred. The main aim behind the heavier penalties is to address racist material hich has become increasingly prevalent in recent years thanks to the Internet, which is used by neo-Nazi groups to send out racist propaganda. The majority of Sweden's parliamentary political parties support proposals, excepting the conservatives, justice ministry advisor Martin Engman said. If adopted as law, the proposal will not be implemented until January 2003 in order to allow for modifications to the constitution.
SAN FRANCISCO, CITY OF TOLERANCE, MAY HIDE ITS RACISM
San Francisco has long been known as a city that tolerates -- indeed, celebrates -- racial, cultural and sexual diversity. But a new survey of the city's voters --conducted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington -- suggests that many in the city's most liberal communities hide their true feelings toward immigrants.
Despite San Francisco's reputation as one of the most tolerant cities in the country, surprising numbers of residents here appear to view immigrants with mistrust, according to a new voter survey taken earlier this month. The survey, commissioned by the Chinese American Voters Education Committee (CAVEC) and conducted by David Binder Research, found that while voters appreciate the role immigrants play in building America, almost 30 percent would hesitate to elect a foreign-born person as mayor. The unease came from across the political spectrum. The key phrase in the survey seems to be "foreign-born." Over 90 percent of respondents said they had no problem voting for an Asian American or a Latino mayoral candidate. And despite the post-Sept. 11 anti-Arab sentiments afflicting much of the country, an Arab American mayor was not an issue for over 80 percent of those surveyed. Does the ethnic neutrality of the phrase "foreign born" allow many of the city's residents to express views on race they would not admit to if racial or ethnic backgrounds were stated more explicitly? Would people have been more comfortable if they knew how long the foreign-born candidate had been in the country? David Lee, executive director of CAVEC, is unsure. "You have to be aware that this is an incredibly smart and stiflingly politically correct population. They will work really hard not to appear racist," Lee says. Clearly, almost 70 percent of those polled had no problem with the idea of a foreign-born mayor. But Lee is interested in the 30 percent who are uncomfortable with the notion. One might assume this wariness would come from white, conservative Republicans, who have crafted or supported many anti-immigrant measures in the state. But a cross-tabulation of the results found that white Republicans and Democrats were only 6 percentage points apart on the issue. The unease came from the traditional bastions of liberal politics in the city, such as the gay community and renters. Those uncomfortable with electing a foreign-born mayor include:
Almost 40 percent of gay renters
58 percent of African American voters 39 percent of those who would vote for lesbian politician Carol Migden for mayor.
26 percent of gay supervisor Tom Ammiano's supporters, considered the core of the city's liberal voters
Lee contrasts Ammiano's supporters with those who said they would vote for comparatively conservative supervisor Barbara Kaufman: only 16 percent of Kaufman supporters said they were uncomfortable voting for the foreign-born. And more people who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender were uncomfortable electing an immigrant than those who identified as heterosexual.
©Pacific News Service
EUROPE MOVING TOWARD BAN ON INTERNET HATE SPEECH
The 43-nation Council of Europe is trying to ban racist and hate speech from the Internet by adding a protocol, or side agreement, to its cybercrime convention, which was stamped for ratification on Thursday. The convention is scheduled to be formally ratified at a meeting in Budapest Nov. 23. The main text of the convention defines as cybercrimes activities like online child pornography, online fraud and electronic vandalism or hacking, and it sets rules for signatory nations on how the Internet should be policed. The protocol would add racist Web page content and hate speech over computer networks to the list of cybercrimes, the Council of Europe, a club of European democracies that aims to protect human rights, said. The United States, which is a signatory to the convention, resisted European moves to include the issue of racist Web sites in the main agreement, because doing so would conflict with the free-speech protections in the First Amendment. To keep the disagreement from holding up ratification of the cybercrime convention, the council decided to cover the issue in a side agreement, which the United States and others could choose not to sign, said Angus Macdonald, a spokesman for the council. While the side agreement obliges only the nations that sign it to ban racist Web content and online hate speech, Mr. Macdonald said, the council hopes that all signatories of the main convention, including the United States, will respect the protocol, and will agree to remove such material if it originates within their borders and is aimed at an audience in another country. Ivar Tallo, an Estonian member of the council, gave the example of a French racist organization establishing a Web site aimed at influencing a French audience, and situating it in the United States solely to take refuge behind the First Amendment. His example is reminiscent of a real case decided in a federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday. Yahoo (news/quote), the Web portal, asked the court to refuse to enforce a ruling by a French court in November 2000 ordering Yahoo to remove all Nazi memorabilia from its auction Web site. The court in California agreed with Yahoo. "Although France has the sovereign right to regulate what speech is permissible in France, this court may not enforce a foreign order that violates the protections of the United States Constitution by chilling protected speech that occurs simultaneously within our borders," Judge Jeremy Fogel wrote. Mr. Macdonald said the side agreement would not have applied in the Nazi memorabilia case because it refers only to messages aimed at a foreign audience. France is thought to be one of the countries that pressed hardest for action by the council on racist content and hate speech. But one executive of an Internet company said the protocol would have little effect. "It is very unlikely the United States would cooperate in the way the Council of Europe would want it to by removing Web content classified as racist by another country's courts," the executive said. "The Justice Department fought hard to have the racist bits pulled from the cybercrime convention itself. I can't imagine they will let freedom of speech be curtailed via the backdoor in this way."
©New York Times
JAPAN TO JOIN BATTLE AGAINST CYBERCRIME
Japan will sign a treaty aimed at reducing Internet-related crimes at an international conference on cyber crime Friday in Budapest, the government said Tuesday. Following the signing of the Convention on Cyber Crime, the government will begin taking steps to revise laws so it can work with other countries to deal more effectively with cross-border violations involving use of the Internet, government officials said. The convention is the product of four years of work by European Council experts and will come into force after its ratification by five nations. Japan was involved in drafting the pact. The treaty deals with infringements of copyright, computer-related fraud, child pornography and violations of network security. Signatory countries could launch joint investigations into cross-border Internet crimes and jointly establish cases against suspects or groups acting in more than one country. The convention specifically asks member countries to make it a crime to manufacture or possess computer viruses and to manufacture or distribute child pornography on the Web. It will be supplemented by additional protocols making any publication of "racist and xenophobic propaganda" via computer networks a criminal offense.
©The Japan Times
DURBAN OUTCOME REMAINS A MYSTERY
The outcome of the bitter U.N. racism conference in South Africa remains a virtual secret two months after the conclusion of the meeting. The reason: Some African governments still are trying to link development assistance to slavery. Although compromise language expressing remorse for the trans-Atlantic slavery was hastily reached at the Durban conference, the placement of those new paragraphs in the two official conference documents still is not accepted. African diplomats want to see them placed in the forward-looking program of action, which could have the appearance of linking aid to an admission of guilt. Western diplomats say they can accept the language, but want it included in the more neutral conference declaration. Until that issue is resolved, neither document can be distributed to the public or submitted to the General Assembly, said U.N. human rights officials who also decline to provide copies of the compromise language. The racism conference was nearly derailed by disagreements over how former colonial powers should atone for the slave trade. Many African leaders, but not all, demanded reparations. The West refused to link assistance with the past. "There is an attempt to reopen the Durban agreement, and that's where we are digging our heels in," said one Western European diplomat. "We've gone to the limit of what we can accept." Durban's other contentious issue — whether Israel is, by definition and deed, packing on the third day of the conference. However, that disagreement has nothing to do with the delay of the documents. "You are all aware of the problem with the documentation of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance," Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said at a General Assembly meeting Tuesday morning. "This disagreement does not relate to their [compromise paragraph´s] substance, only where they should be placed. But until this matter is settled, we are severely limited in our ability to promote the anti-discrimination agenda." The meeting of the Human Rights Committee already had been postponed once because of the disagreement. Mrs. Robinson, who has devoted most of her energy to the conference for the past year, warned delegates that concrete anti-discrimination initiatives could be put on hold for lack of funds if they could not present the program of action to the United Nations. The issues of slavery and Zionism were so contentious that they crowded nearly every other aspect of racism and discrimination off the public agenda. Failure to circulate the Durban declarations and then formally accept them will compromise both the intention of the conference and the funding for efforts that would grow out of it. The Mexican representative said Tuesday that she was concerned the latest diplomatic scuffle would compromise the proposed permanent office to promote the rights of indigenous people. The Moroccan representative asked Mrs. Robinson what she was doing to overcome these difficulties. She responded by saying that her role was to be a bridge among the various parties, but "lately I feel as though it were something of a suspension bridge."
©The Washington Post
POGROMS RETURN TO RUSSIA
On the eve of Vladimir Putin's upcoming visit to the United States, there is a troubling new phenomenon developing in the Russian capital. A series of mass skinhead attacks against Muslims, attacks the Russian press are openly calling "pogroms," has disturbed the city in the past two weeks, claiming three lives and prompting more than 300 arrests. The incidents are among the most serious threats to social order to hit the capital during Putin's reign, and also may tarnish the reputation of America's ally in the Afghan war--particularly as some of the attacks were directed specifically at Afghans. The worst of the pogroms occurred on October 30, in Moscow's southern Tsaritsino region, where a crowd of more than 300 shaven-headed teenagers--apparently fans of the soccer team Lokomotiv--attacked dark-skinned people outside a street market. When police intervened, part of the crowd dispersed and traveled by subway to the nearby Kakhovskaya region, where they descended upon the hotel Sevastopol and attacked some two dozen Afghan residents, among others, as they came in and out of the building.
There is a small Afghan population in Moscow, mainly ethnic Afghans who were born and raised in ex-Soviet territories bordering Afghanistan: Kirgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan. Some are immigrants from the days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Many are migrant shuttle-traders who live in hotels, and as such share in the unpopularity experienced by other non-Russian preyezhiye (arrivals) who inhabit Russia's street markets. Imposing crowds of teenage soccer fans are nothing new in Moscow. In the past few years a curious synthesis of the soccer hooligan and skinhead movements has been observed steadily gaining strength in the city. It's no longer uncommon in Moscow to see crowds of 300-400 soccer fans--dressed in the black bomber jackets and black boots popularized by German skinheads--loitering on the streets in the city's outer regions, and not always on the same nights as soccer matches. In the most celebrated incident prior to the recent pogroms, fans of the Spartak and Torpedo soccer teams rioted outside the US Embassy in the spring of 1999, apparently in protest against the attack on Kosovo
But these recent incidents are something new. For one thing, the scale and intensity of the violence is unprecedented, as is the fact that the attacks were apparently organized and premeditated. In the October 30 incident, police determined that the 300-plus crowd of teenagers had first gathered in a wooded area of the Tsaritsino region and held an orderly meeting there before heading to the market. One police spokesman, Sergei Shevtsov of the city police press office, even went so far as to say that investigators had determined that the original targets of the attacks were antiglobalist protesters in the city center, where the last day of the Davos economic conference meetings were being held. Only when "advance scouts" determined that there were no antiglobalist protesters there at that time, Shevtsov told Izvestia, did the crowd settle on the dark-skinned workers at the market as a target Many people who followed the news, particularly those in the Muslim soccer violence. "These were clearly organized and carefully planned, and not some spontaneous outburst by a group of teenagers," said Geidar Jamal, leader of the Islamic Committee of Russia. "The behavior was both more ferocious than usual, and more controlled."
Official estimates of Russia's Muslim population range between 12 million and 13 million, while Islamic organizations claim that the number is closer to 20 million. There are several powerful semi-autonomous Islamic regions, including Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, and the Putin government has taken pains to assure Russia's Muslims that its support for the US bombings in Afghanistan is not an anti-Muslim campaign Also startling has been the sheer quantity of attacks and arrests in the past two weeks--conspicuously high even for a city as violent and crime-ridden as Moscow. A lengthy series of attacks followed the October 30 incident, in regions all over the capital. On October 31 a Dagestani man was shot outside the McDonald's on Bolshaya Dorogomilovskaya Street, across from the Radisson Slaviyanskaya hotel; witnesses said the shooters were young men with shaved heads. On November 1, on Bolshaya Naberezhnaya Street in the northwest region of the city, about 100 skinheads rioted, causing minor injuries to bystanders both Slavic and Caucasian Two days later, on the evening of November 3, about 150 teenagers, mostly soccer fans/skinheads, were arrested in five or six different violent incidents all across the city. According to Moscow chief of police Vladimir Pronin, minor riots broke out outside four Metro stations- Timyaryzevskaya, Petrovsko-Razumovskaya, Altufyevo and Domodedovskaya, as well as in the southern region of Orekhovo-Borisovo Yuzhnoye. The riots broke out in three separate geographical areas: north, southwest and south. "There were no serious 'excesses,' " Pronin told the Ekho Moskvy radio station, adding that he believed the incidents were organized and "definitely" connected to the October 30 pogrom. Last but not least, there was a curious incident on October 29, the day before the Tsaritsino pogrom. According to Sergei Dorenko, an anchorman for the TV-Tsentr network who is perhaps the country's best-known and also most hated media personality, eight teenage skinheads raided his office and attacked his staff while he was taping his show during the afternoon. Dorenko told Ekho Moskvy that one of his female co-workers suffered a concussion during the attacks, which inspired the amazing spectacle of an entire production crew barricading itself inside the studio while they frantically dialed for help on their cell phones. All eight attackers managed to escape the studio without being detained, the station later reported
Who's behind the attacks? And why are they happening now? There are several popular theories being floated in Moscow political circles, and all of them speak to a dark future both for the Putin administration and for US-Russian relations. For the most part, talk has focused around three different scenarios. The first is that the attacks were organized and carried out entirely on the initiative of some small extremist right-wing party. The group most commonly named in this scenario is the neo-Nazi RNE, or Russian National Unity, headed by notorious arm-band-wearing fascist Alexander Barkashov. RNE armbands were allegedly seen on some of the attackers in the October 30 incident. Other popular suspects include groups like the RNP, the Russian National Party, and Russkaya Tsel' (Russian Goal), which is headed by a skinhead named Sergei Tokmakov, who gained fame in 1998 for beating up a black US Embassy employee. The other two popular theories both hold that the attacks were organized by small extremist groups who themselves were manipulated by larger government forces. One of these theories holds that the groups are being used as part of a new terror policy actively being instigated by the Putin administration; according to the other theory, groups within the government who oppose Putin are orchestrating the attacks in order to sabotage the president's new pro-Western policies by tarnishing Putin's reputation in the West. The Islamic leader Jamal ascribes to the former theory. He believes that the attacks were organized by Russian secret services, perhaps by the FSB, the successor to the KGB, as part of a new method for ridding the capital of "persons of Caucasian nationality." "Something on this scale could not have been done without the secret services," he said. "The object is clearly to incite the population against 'guests of the capital.'" "Sergei Mitrokhin, a Duma deputy for the liberal Yabloko party, agrees that he, too, cannot exclude the possibility that the skinheads are being used by the government "to undertake unusual political objectives." He sees disturbing historical precedents for exactly these kinds of tactics "It is very convenient for an authoritarian government to have at its disposal these crowds of willing, young violent youths who will do just about anything you tell them to do," he said. "The same kinds of people were used for similar political ends in Germany in the 1930s." Mitrokhin, however, is more inclined to believe the last theory, that the attacks were evidence of an attempt to discredit Putin at a time when he will be very much under the microscope in the West "Obviously, the fact that the pogroms took place on the last day of the Davos conference suggests that there was an attempt to make some kind of statement to the international community," he said. "And Putin is about to travel to the United States to meet with Bush in a critical and highly publicized meeting. It would seem significant that the attacks would be intensified exactly at this moment." Regardless of who was actually behind the attacks, the rise of the skinheads does appear to represent a disturbing trend in the larger population. After two years of an unusually bloody war in Chechnya, and now in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks, resentment toward Caucasian peoples--who, owing to their reputation as marketplace racketeers, were never popular in this city, even in the best of times--appears to be at an all-time high. Last week, the television show Catastrophes of the Week on the TV-6 network, in conjunction with the news program on the TV-Center network, conducted an informal call-in poll which found that 87 percent of Muscovites supported the actions of the pogrom participants. Only 7 percent of callers said they would have attempted to stop the attacks if they had been there. The support for the skins doesn't stop at the general population. One of the main reasons they have risen to such prominence is the fact that the police are at best indifferent to them and, at worst, actively sympathize "Groups like the RNP, Russian Goal and the RNE have their roots in cells that were formed way back in the days of perestroika," Mitrokhin said. "To date, not one of them has ever really been the focus of any serious campaign by the police. That's because the police tend to sympathize with their goals, which was aptly demonstrated on the night of the October 30 pogrom "pogrom." when a mass of 300 armed teenagers, not exactly a stealthy gang, was allowed to wander the city committing mayhem. There is no love lost between the police and the Caucasians." Russia would appear to be a prime candidate to drift into fascism. It has an impoverished native population that feels itself to be victimized by Caucasians who dominate their street businesses; by Jews who are prominent in government and banking; and by the influence of the West and in particular the United States, whose commercialistic values are a dominant factor in daily economic life and in pop culture. It has a popular nationalist leader who does not hide his great-power ambitions. Whichever side of the emerging movement Vladimir Putin is actually on, he may soon find himself forced to explain the behavior of his countrymen to the world--perhaps even beginning this week, to President Bush
©The DAWN Group of Newspapers
DENMARK'S SHIFT TO THE RIGHT
The new Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was greeted with rapturous applause from colleagues as the scale of his election victory became clear. Not only did the right-wing in Parliament - a coalition of his Venstre (Liberal) Party, and the Conservatives - gain power after nine years in opposition, but Venstre is now also the biggest party Denmark. The right's triumph appears to have built on a mixture of two key elements. Firstly, it seems the electorate was ready for change after nine years of Social Democrat-led government, presided over by the European Union's longest-serving Prime Minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen. Secondly - and perhaps more importantly - the opposition campaign successfully tapped into public concerns over immigration, which increased dramatically in the wake of the 11 September attacks, but which had already been dominating political debate. In the end, the campaign focused almost entirely on immigration. Mr Fogh Rasmussen, who was behind in the polls when the snap election was called three weeks ago, has now pledged to run a broad-based administration. "Uniting the Danish people is a great challenge. The necessary reforms must be carried out with support from a broad spectrum of political parties," he said. But he will probably not find much co-operation from the left wing parties in parliament. The Social Democrats had a disastrous election, losing 11 out of 63 seats in parliament. Social Democrats have already begun analysing the reasons for their defeat. "The Danes had a wish for change - for new faces - after nine years with the same people in power," the Minister of Tax Affairs, Frode Sorensen, said. Analysts also point to the fact that the party spent more energy during the campaign attacking the opposition, than actually explaining their own policies. As soon as the disappointing result was known, speculation began on whether defeated Prime Minister Rasmussen would resign as party leader. But Mr Rasmussen, visibly moved, refused. "I will not run away with my tail between my legs. The party will raise itself again," he declared, before striking up an old labour battle song. The election was historical in a number of ways. Eighty-seven per cent of Danes participated in the polls, which is almost as many as the biggest turnout ever in 1943, during the German occupation. The election's other great winner was the extreme right wing party, Dansk Folkeparti. It gained nine new seats, taking its total in parliament to 22 of the 179 seats. Even though the MPs will not be invited to be part of the government, their support will be heavily relied on by Mr Fogh Rasmussen. "We are in charge now," Dansk Folkeparties leader Pia Kjaersgaard declared, and promised to work hard for stricter policy towards immigration and refugees. This underlines what many commentators predicted before the elections - that xenophobia has had a great impact on how the Danes chose to vote. "It is obvious to compare the situation with the one in Austria, even though Dansk Folkeparti will not take part in the government as Joerg Haider did," says Professor Ole Borre, of Aarhus University. "There is a hypnotic concern with immigration issues in Denmark, which we haven't seen anywhere else, except from Austria." At the same time, the election was the first-ever for a Dane with an immigrant background to enter the Danish parliament. Thirty-eight-year-old Naser Khader, who has a Syrian background, said: "It is a great victory for me and for the integration policy in Denmark. It sends a signal, that Denmark not solely xenophobic."
S.AFRICA COURT WATCHES VIDEO OF POLICE DOG ATTACKS
Three black Mozambican immigrants wept in a South African court on Wednesday as they watched a video of white policemen ordering dogs to attack them in what one officer called a training exercise. Four of the six South African policemen accused of setting the dogs on the immigrants pleaded guilty to assault charges on Monday. The video forms part of the evidence to be reviewed by the court before sentencing. Chief prosecutor John Welch said sentencing was likely to be on Monday after the court had heard arguments from the policemen's lawyers. They could face up to 15 years in jail, he told Reuters. The other two accused, Nicolaas Loubser, 27, and Dino Guitto, 27, pleaded not guilty to charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, attempting to defeat the ends of justice and corruption. They go on trial on June 3 next year. All six were given bail of 2,000 rand ($200) each. The video showed Robert Henzen, 32, Eugene Truter, 28, Jacobus Smith, 31, and Lodewyk Koch, 32, laughing and shouting orders in Afrikaans as their German Shepherds mauled the three men who screamed and pleaded for mercy. "That's the order you give when you tell your dog to attack," the policemen's commanding officer Egbertus van Zyl told Judge Willem van der Merwe as he went through the video, pointing out the policemen who were in court. The four men said in court papers that the attack in January 1998 was an "exercise" aimed mainly at curing the reluctance of Guitto's dog to bite people. Henzen put his head down and cried as the other three policemen stared straight ahead, refusing to look at the video. But there was no escaping the soundtrack, with the snarls of dogs and the screams of the victims filling the courtroom for almost an hour.
Trembled and sobbed
Alexandre Timane, 23, his brother Gabriel, 24, and their friend Sebastiao Cossa, 25, sat in the front of the court. Alexandre trembled and sobbed, while the other two lowered their heads as they listened to the translator. The three Mozambicans are in a police protection program, their lawyer Jose Nascimento told Reuters. He said the three men would bring a civil action against the policemen. "This wave of xenophobia in the country is just not on. Especially when you take into account the historical ties between Mozambique and South Africa," he said. A small group of protesters watched by police waved placards and a Mozambican flag outside the court. One of the posters read: "Mr. Judge don't fine them. Send them to jail." "South Africans are racist toward foreigners. We are here to protest against the police who release dogs on our brothers," said George Nyambi, a Mozambican who has been arrested three times and deported to Mozambique once. The video-taped torture shocked South Africa when it was aired last year by public broadcaster SABC, which had obtained a copy of the tape. It triggered a national debate about the nature of post-apartheid change. The tape was reported to have been shown at police parties.
TEAR GAS USED TO STOP REFUGEES BRAWLING AT CALAIS(France)
New fighting between refugee groups broke out at the Sangatte camp near Calais yesterday, forcing about 50 of France's CRS riot police to intervene with truncheons and tear gas. The rioting left 29 people injured. Officials said clashes started on Tuesday night when an Afghan jumped the queue for a water tap, sparking a violent struggle with a Kurd who was behind him. It rapidly degenerating into a brawl involving some 300 Afghans and 200 Kurds. Many of the Kurds subsequently spent the night outside, lighting campfires to keep warm, said a spokesman for the Red Cross, which runs the crowded centre just over a mile from the entrance to the Channel tunnel. When further fighting and stone-throwing between the rival groups erupted early yesterday the riot police moved in, the spokesman said, adding that the trouble had been brought under control by mid day. Two people were seriously injured. The camp, in a vast disused hangar, was originally intended to house 700 refugees from Kosovo but is now home to a floating population of between 1,000 and 1,600 people, mainly Afghans, Iranians and Iraqi and Turkish Kurds. Fights frequently break out between different ethnic groups, with the Kurds in particular accused of profiteering and extortion by demanding several hundred dollars to help other refugees through the barbed wire and past the security guards on to freight trains bound for Britain. Almost all the refugees at the Sangatte centre make repeated attempts, sometimes in groups of 200 or more, to break into the Channel tunnel compound and smuggle themselves into Britain to claim asylum. French officials claim that London's relatively liberal policy on asylum acts as a magnet, drawing them to the northern French coast. The Channel tunnel operator, Eurotunnel, has launched legal proceedings to get the Red Cross centre closed. It has spent some Ł3m beefing up security around its terminal and has succeeded in dramatically reducing the number of migrants using the route. During the first half of this year, it estimated it stopped 18,500 illegal migrants from reaching Britain. The presence of the refugee centre so close to the tunnel entrance has been a big bone of contention between the French and British governments for months.
COUNCIL'S GAY DISCO CRITISED(uk)
A council that plans to hold a disco for gay teenagers aged between 14 and 19 has been criticised for 'putting vulnerable youngsters at risk'. The youth service of Portsmouth city council has billed the U4ria event as "a dance night for lesbian, gay, bisexual and sexually unsure young people" The organisers said Sunday's disco would help like-minded teenagers to meet in safety, but critics called for it to be scrapped. Robert Pettigrew, a local Tory councillor, said: "The support given by the council will worry and anger a lot of parents and taxpayers." A council spokesman said the disco would provide a secure meeting place for this group of people. "This is one way in which the council follows its aspiration of combatting inequality."
ACTIVISTS ARRESTED AFTER ROMA EVICTION(Hungary)
Sixteen activists from the Roma Civil Rights Foundation were arrested and detained by police as city council authorities moved in to evict a Roma family which had been squatting in a District VII flat. The activists were accompanied to the district police station by Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) MP Tibor Szanyi and Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) MP Gábor Iványi. The parliamentary immunity applying to MPs prevented their arrest along with the others. Roma Civil Rights Foundation President Aladár Horváth, who visited the flat on Garay utca to represent the evicted family to the press and authorities, said the family was too ashamed of their situation to publicly reveal their identities. "They will likely move to a new home this week," he told reporters, adding the foundation intended to start legal proceedings against the District VII council and send documentation related to the eviction to Minority Protection Ombudsman Jenô Kaltenbach to determine whether an inquiry into actions of the council or police was warranted. District VII Mayor Zoltán Szabó defended the action, saying that evictions in the district would have to continue as any other course of action who be a signal to squatters that they would no longer be punished. Szabó added that no evictions would result in any children being left homeless. Horváth said, "Szabó and his colleagues have made serious legal and social blunders in managing the situation of this family. The district municipality statement is a feeble excuse and and only serves to generate more friction and unrest among the poor." Ferenc Kôszeg, President of the human rights monitoring association the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, wrote a letter of objection to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. "Whatever happened on November 12 is very scary and resembles the old times," the letter read. "It was probably the first time since 1990 that the police have used force against human rights representatives and prominent public figures who offered no physical resistance, but were only present to demonstrate against the eviction of a Roma family with two children." The letter went on to remind Orbán that on the 30th anniversary of the execution of former Prime Minister Imre Nagy on June 16, 1988, Orbán and his associates were led away in handcuffs by police. Budapest Mayor Gábor Demszky appealed to the city's district councils to suspend evictions and instead offer support to those in financial difficulties. "The city council is this year again ready to financially support all families with transitional housing difficulties," he said. Following the eviction, Zoltán Pokorni, President of the governing Fidesz party, said a Roma Integration Office should be established after the 2002 elections.
©The Budapest Sun
WOMEN IN TURKEY WIN RIGHTS
Parliament formally recognized Turkish men and women as equals Thursday under a series of revisions to the civil code. The changes, which will take effect Jan. 1, came after a month of debate on 1,030 new articles. The old code, virtually unchanged since it was introduced in 1926, designated the husband as head of the family and gave the wife no say in decisions concerning home or children. The new code gives men and women equal roles in family matters. Previously, in a divorce women were entitled only to property legally registered under their names. Now, property and assets are to be divided equally. The new code also makes it clear that a wife does not need her husband's consent to get a job.
©International Herald Tribune
LESS HOSTILITY TOWARD FOREIGNERS
More than a third of young adults in Greece, Italy and Belgium think there are too many foreigners in their countries, according to a European Commission survey released Thursday. "Generally speaking, it appears that it is in the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Spain that young people appear to be less hostile towards foreigners," the summary of the poll's findings said. "The opposite seems to be true in Greece," where 44 percent of young adults said they agreed with the statement that "there are too many" foreigners in their country, according to the survey. Throughout the EU, 27 percent believed there were a lot of foreigners "but not too many" in their countries, according to the survey conducted in April and May for a European Commission policy paper on youth.
©International Herald Tribune
HATE GROUPS USE SEPT.11 ATTACKS TO RECRUIT MEMBERS(usa)
White-supremacist groups based in the Midwest are using the Sept. 11 suicide plane attacks to recruit new members, according to a study by an anti-racism group. The Center for New Community, a six-year-old faith-based organization in suburban Oak Park, counts 338 "white nationalist" groups in 10 Midwestern states. Some of them are using images of the burning World Trade Center towers to advocate closing America's borders, the group says in a report titled "State of Hate: White Nationalism in the Midwest 2000-2001." "These organizations have been responsible for several rallies, public events, distribution of literature and even a few crimes in recent months," said Devin Burghart, who directs the center's Building Democracy Initiative. "They're trying to use anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment in the wake of Sept. 11." The Center for New Community cites white supremacist groups in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio. The group's study found that in the last year 33 percent of white nationalist groups in the Midwest were actively recruiting young people. That compares to 10 percent in 1998-99, the last time the center studied the region. The Neo Nazi National Alliance has distributed fliers in the Chicago area that feature the attacks on the World Trade Center and the phrase "Close our Borders!" and National Alliance members have handed out leaflets blaming the attacks on the Jews, Burghart said. Members of the World Church of the Creator, based in East Peoria, attended demonstrations in suburban Bridgeview, where hundreds marched on a mosque. "World Church of the Creator members were out amongst the crowd looking for recruits, handing out literature," Burghart said.
REPARATIONS AND OUR RENDEZVOUZ WITH HISTORY
By Manning Marable
The twenty-first century truly began-politically, socially, and psychologically-with two epochal events: the World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa this summer, and the terrorist attacks of September 11 which destroyed the World Trade Center towers and part of the Pentagon. These events were directly linked. At Durban, the Third World, led primarily by African Americans and African people, attempted to renegotiate their historically unequal and subordinate relationships with western imperialism and globalized capitalism. Black delegates at Durban saw "Reparations" as a necessary precondition for the socioeconomic development of a black community in the U.S., as well as for African and Caribbean nation-states. September 11th was a violent statement by fundamentalist Muslims demanding an end to American imperialism's economic and political subordinate relationships throughout the Arab world. Both events symbolized a challenge to the U.S.'s uncritical support for Israel, and were to some extent expressions of solidarity with the Palestinians. The aftermath of both events left the U.S. government more politically isolated from the African and Islamic worlds than ever before.
Although the traumatic events of September 11 have pushed the black reparations issue temporarily into the background, the reality is that U.S. and Western European
imperialism ultimately will be forced to acknowledge the legitimacy and necessity of at least a limited reparations agreement. U.S. policy makers will attempt to solidify their shaky relationships with African countries, to separate them from any possible coalition with radial Islamic states. The price for their diplomatic support may be debt forgiveness and some kind of financial aid package to assist in development projects. If African countries are successful in renegotiating their debt payments, based in part on the history of colonial exploitation and slavery, black reparations in the U.S. becomes more likely. The most difficult challenge in winning the public relations debate over black reparations inside the United States is that of persuading African Americans to believe that reparations can be won. Black people, in a racist society, must constantly struggle to free themselves from cultural domination and psychological dependency, in order to acquire the belief in their own capacity to create social change. The quest for power begins first in one's mind. You cannot become free, unless you begin to think like a free woman or man.
Indeed, this was Malcolm X's greatest insight and gift to future generations of African-American people: he changed the way black people thought about themselves. Malcolm moved us from being the footnotes in someone else's history, to becoming the key actors in the making of new history. Instead of singing someone else's song, we discovered the beauty of our own voices. Reparations thus become a way for us to challenge and to subvert the master narrative of white capitalist America, and to testify to the truth of our own history.
During colonialism, slavery and segregation, people of African descent were diverted forcibly into the history of another people. To reclaim our birthright, we must emotionally and historically return to the sites of the original crimes, and to speak behalf of the victims who perished so long ago. Can we empower ourselves to bear witness on their behalf, to "speak truth to power," to tell their untold stories embedded in fractured, fragmented memories long past? History is more than a simple record of the past; it is the prologue to the future. When we return to the source of our own history, we unlock new doors to finding our own identity. We can begin to imagine ourselves in new and exciting ways, as architects and builders of a new history, the tellers of stories not yet written, of great accomplishments and discoveries still distant from our view. I think Malcolm X really understood this. This partially explains the fierce loyalty and intense identification that African Americans still feel about Malcolm. One of my students several years ago explained the difference between how many black folk perceive Martin vs. Malcolm in this way:
"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., belongs to the entire world, but Malcolm X belongs to us."
Black reparations "belongs to us" in a similar way. "Reparations" means "to repair," to "make whole again." The "double consciousness" of Americans of African descent first described by W.E.B. Du Bois, the age-old chasm between our identification with this country and our cultural affinity towards the black Diaspora and Africa, cannot be bridged until there is a final rendezvous with our own history. This is why, ultimately, that the demand for black reparations is not fundamentally about the money. The rape victim does not press charges, and go to court, simply to receive financial compensation. The rape victim desires and demands that the truth should be told about the crime. The Jewish survivors and their descendants of the Holocaust in Europe during World War II, and the Armenian people who experienced mass genocide under the Turkish Ottoman Empire in World War I, are
not motivated primarily by financial restitution. Victims want the public record to reflect what actually happened.
Oppressed people live their lives in a kind of state-imposed traumatic existence, when the criminality and violence hurled against us is rarely acknowledged. We are presented to the world by our racist oppressors as being a people outside of history, devoid of a past of any consequence. To heal the effects of trauma, our stories must be told and retold. The oppressed thus perceive themselves in a new and liberating way. They can now, at long last, become actors and exercise agency at the vanguard of a new history. The divided double consciousness becomes a greater, critical and truer consciousness, creating the capacity to speak with clarity and confidence about oneself and the totality of society. As Du Bois wrote in 1903: "the history of the American Negro is the history of this strife-this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self."
At the recent United Nations World Conference Against Racism, these same points were made, in different ways, by many representatives from the Third World. The brilliant international attorney and former Foreign Minister of Jamaica, the Honorable Dudley Thompson, explained to hundreds attending the reparations plenary session:
"Reparations is not about asking for money. You can't pay me for your raping my grandmother. You cannot compensate me for lynching my father. What we demand is the restitution of our human dignity, the restoration of full equality, politically, socially and economically, between the oppressors and the oppressed." Harvard University law professor Charles Ogletree, a key theorist and organizer in the United States on behalf of black reparations also made clear the linkage between the past and the present at the Durban Conference. Ogletree reminded delegates that there were "millions of Africans today languishing in unmarked graves at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, and for whom reparations is a final vindication." Ogletree also predicted: "This is a movement that cannot be stopped. There are no plaintiffs that will not be considered. I promise that we will see reparations in our lifetime."
At the Durban Conference, the official U.S. position was that the enslavement of millions of African people was not "a crime against humanity." Around the same time as the conference, President Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice stated to the press that "in order for us to get along" in America's diverse society today, that some of us "will have to forget" about what happened in the past. Should Condoleeza Rice, an African-American woman who was raised in Birmingham, Alabama, who was brought up when four little black girls were murdered by the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in September 1963-forget? We dishonor those who died, and disgrace ourselves, by distancing ourselves from the victims of past racist atrocities. They perished in our behalf, to realize the deferred dream of freedom. Can we deny their voices to history and to our collective memory? There's a memorable line from "The Godfather" that's used several times in the film: "It's not personal, it's strictly business." By the end of the film, however, we learn that the business of life and death is always profoundly personal. So when I speak about my great-grandfather, Morris Marable, who was sold on an auction block in West Point, Georgia in 1854, for the sum of five hundred dollars, I say that this may have been a legal business transaction at that time, but I take it personal. When my grandfather was denied his Constitutional right to vote on Election Day in the Jim Crow state of Alabama for decades, I take it personal. When my son Joshua is racially profiled by police officers, stopped and frisked when he leaves downtown shops and suburban malls, I take it personal.
Reparations help us to understand the long-term effects of racial deficits, the historically constructed accumulated disadvantages that restrict and retard black advancement today. The business of the U.S. state for centuries was to preserve, protect and defend white supremacy as the central organizing principle determining access to political participation and power. It was for white racists at that time "strictly business," but the black reparations struggle makes it "personal" for all of us. The future beckons ahead as "an undiscovered country." History and culture are the essential navigator's tools in charting our sojourn from the present toward that
undiscovered country lying just beyond our imaginations. And in the words of the famous song from the 1960 Freedom Movement, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn us around."
Dr. Manning Marable is Professor of History and Political Science, and the Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, Columbia University. "Along the Color Line" is distributed free of charge to over 350 publications throughout the U.S. and internationally. Dr. Marable's column is also available on the Internet at www.manningmarable.net
©The Black World Today
APPEAL OF THE YOUTH HELSINKI CITIZENS' ASSEMBLY OF MOLDOVA
The world has been changed after the tragic events of September in the USA. Extremism became the most dangerous threat for the humanity. In that situation there is not more important human task than to keep our main values and condition of modern civilization – democracy, rule of law, tolerance and respect of all human beings irrespective of their ethnicity, race or political opinions.
Unfortunately, in our country there are people, who try to use world instability to solve their own interests. Persons with ethnic backgrounds, which are different of that of the majority, become their first victims. Eastern Europe, especially its poor countries, is a blessed ground for the manipulation of opinion of the citizens. Today we witness attempts of some political leaders to raise xenophobia and to use it to enhance their political capital as well as to marginalize their political opponents.
Parliamentary inquiries by a group of extreme right-wing Moldovan MPs about the alleged existence of "terrorists" among the students of Arabic origin in the International Independent University in Moldova is an example of this. Another is a campaign unleashed by the Moldovan Authorities against the former honorary consul of Lebanon, Mr. Mahmoud Hamoud, stripping him of his official position as well as of Moldovan citizenship by a Presidential decree, without this person having ever been given any possibility to defend himself against the accusations. Moldovan Citizenship Law was changed just on the eve of this decision and ostensibly with this aim in mind, given the President the right to strip of citizenship without proper court proceedings.
As of now no proofs of guilt were presented to the public, and Mr. Hamoud was forced to leave the country having no possibility of legal defense. Unfortunately, many Moldovan media representatives, including governmental newspapers, distribute official information without bothering to check it independently.
On the eve of 9th November, the International Day against Fascism and anti-Semitism, we would like to draw the attention of the politicians to the danger of using ethnic factor in political struggle (directly or indirectly) and of instigating different forms of "phobias" as a method of political fighting. This irresponsible behavior can ultimately lead to negative consequences even for those who started it.
The Youth Helsinki Citizens' Assembly of Moldova (YHCA of Moldova) is a non-government national non-profit citizens' association, which has as its purpose the building of civil society in Moldova. The YHCA of Moldova have been founded in 17.09.98 and officially registered in 19.11.98. The YHCA of Moldova craves for promotion of the European democratic ideas and values in the country. The main purpose of the YHCA of Moldova is the promotion of human rights in the country with the involvement of youth. The organisation devotes itself to the realisation of ideas and principles laid down in the OSCE Helsinki Final Act (1975) and Prague Appeal of Helsinki Citizens' Assembly (1990) among youth and by means of youth.
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
UNCOVERED FILES DETAIL CRIMES OF CROATION FASCISTS
Washington officials of the U.S. Holocaust Museum say that they have discovered and preserved a cache of decaying documents and artifacts from one of the lesser-known but most brutal concentration camps of World War II. The camp, known as Jasenovac, was operated in Croatia by the Ustasha, the Nazi puppet government. The artifacts were found deteriorating in a building in Banja Luka in the Serbian part of Bosnia last year, officials said Tuesday. Peter Black, the museum's chief historian, told reporters Tuesday that Jasenovac was crude in comparison with the industrialized Nazi extermination camps like Auschwitz. Mr. Black said there were no gas chambers or crematories, so prisoners were murdered one by one with axes, guns, knives or prolonged torture. Bodies were buried or thrown into the adjacent Sava River. Jasenovac, actually a complex of five camps about 95 kilometers (60 miles) from the Croatian capital, Zagreb, has been little studied in the West, but the history has long resonated in the modern Balkans, where analysts and historians have debated about how much of the region's violence may be traced to historic ethnic enmities. Mr. Black estimated that nearly 100,000 people had been killed in Jasenovac, the largest number being Serbs, followed by Jews and Gypsies. The camp was established by the Republic of Croatia to eliminate anyone who was not an ethnic Croatian. Mr. Black said that a combination of factors, including the reluctance of officials to agree on what happened, had led to its history's remaining largely hidden from scholars. The collection includes 2,000 photographs, many of atrocities; tens of thousands of papers and thousands of artifacts, like inmate crafts. Sara Bloomfield, director of the Holocaust Museum, said that the project to save the documents and artifacts was especially significant because of the cooperation of the government of Croatia, whose history is cast in a poor light, as well as the governments of Serbia and Bosnia. Ms. Bloomfield said that the governments had cooperated despite "the continuing sensitivity of all sides to this collection." Copies of the collection have been made and will be maintained at the Holocaust Museum and in Israel, officials said. The original collection will be returned to a museum in Croatia, where it will be put on display at the site of the Jasenovac complex, officials said.
©International Herald Tribune
HUNGARY:NEVER SAY NEVER
Hungarian PM's remarks that a coalition with the extreme right cannot be ‘ruled out' have caused alarm in Budapest and the West.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 10 November refused to retract statements made during a controversial interview in which he said he would not rule out forming a coalition with the extreme right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP). In an interview with Magyar ATV television, Orban reiterated comments he made during a 3 November interview with the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, saying that he aimed to cooperate in all matters and that it was not necessary for him to distance himself from other parties in order to express his views. He did, however, repeat that he did "not wish" to govern together with either the ex-communists or the radical right after the general elections next year.
Existing worries within Hungary and around Western Europe about Orban's willingness to accept an extreme right-wing party in the government were amplified by Orban's interview with the Munich paper. When asked if the possibility of a coalition with MIEP could be ruled out, Orban answered, "I have neither ruled out nor will rule out anything. Besides, the moderate right--the Christian Democrats, the National Conservatives, and [senior governing party] Fidesz--will gain more than 50 percent of the mandates. There won't have to be a coalition with either the radical right or the ex-communists. In Hungary, human dignity will be respected in the future as well, and no one will either suffer or benefit because of his or her descent." He also refused to reject that the right represented anti-Semitic views, saying, "We represent our own views." "It's a part of Hungarian political lore that the left declares everyone who is non-left to be anti-Semitic," Orban added.
MIEP is strongly anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, and anti-left. The party is now officially part of the opposition but supports the government on key votes. In exchange, it has been offered concessions, especially in the media. MIEP supporters were offered key positions in news broadcasting in government-controlled public-service radio and television. Pro-government members of the National Radio & Television Board (ORTT) allowed MIEP's Pannon Radio to win a local frequency; ironically, ORTT itself later had to condemn and fine Pannon Radio for programming that the board said incited hatred, primarily against Jews.
The London-based Economist Intelligence Unit said in its summary on East-Central Europe's investment perspectives, released on 8 November, that such a coalition would represent a serious political risk. On the same day, an editorial in the Vienna daily Der Standard criticized Orban's willingness to consider a party with views it regards as "utterly racist." Generating still more concern, Joerg Haider's Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) journal Zur Zeit invited MIEP leader Istvan Csurka to its conference on 10-11 November in Kranichberg, Austria, calling him a figure "who may soon join the government."
In an interview with the Hungarian weekly HVG on 10 November, former German Economic Minister Otto Graf Lambsdorff, one of Europe's most respected veteran politicians, judged the chances of whether MIEP would join the Orban government next spring or just give it outside support as "equal." The inclusion of the party in the government "would jeopardize the country's EU accession," Lambsdorff warned. High-level politicians in both the European Commission and EU member states--including EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen--have previously emphasized that if Hungary were to take the extreme right into the government, it would lose much more than neighboring Austria did when Haider's FPO joined the cabinet in 1999. European politicians have said both formally and informally that standards are not the same for EU members and applicant countries.
Orban's comments were interpreted as a friendly gesture to MIEP both at the MIEP headquarters and within the Hungarian Jewish community. "Orban adhered to the golden rule of politics: ‘Never say never,'" MIEP Deputy Chair Zoltan Fenyvessy told the daily Nepszabadsag on 6 November. On the same day, Hungarian Jewish community leader Peter Tordai told the daily Nepszava that "Orban did not think over his statements," adding, "Hungarian Jewry feels bad because what we are witnessing is that the prime minister is encouraging anti-Semites rather than distancing himself from them." Meanwhile, in a 10 November interview with Nepszabadsag, Zoltan Pokorni, the chair of Fidesz, flatly excluded the possibility of a coalition with MIEP. "Just as we haven't so far wanted to collaborate with radical parties--including MIEP, which represents right-wing radicalism--I don't see either the possibility or the necessity [of such a collaboration] in the future," he said. Sueddeutsche Zeitung interviewed Orban because he was to be awarded the Franz Josef Strauss Prize of the Hanns Seidel Foundation in Munich on 3 November. Previous recipients of the prestigious prize for conservative statesmen include former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former U.S. President George Bush, and current Spanish Prime Minister José-María Aznar. In August, the Hungarian prime minister was awarded a similar prize in Prague, the Pollack Prize, previously given to--among others--former Polish President Lech Walesa, former Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, and Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda.
SOUTH AFRICA GETS LEFT WITH THE BILL FOR WCAR
The anti-racism conference has cost South Afrika about 90 million rand. The International community has paid only 11,4 million rand, according to the South African newspaper The Citizen. Only Australia, New Zealand and European countries have contributed. Up till now not a single Arab or African government has shared in the costs of the UN-racismconference, held in Durban last September.
At first it looked like the conference would be a total failure, due to long and harsh discussions about the Israeli occupation of Palestine territories and the slave trade during the past centuries. However, the participants did manage a compromise in the nick of time, so the conference was concluded with a final declaration.
NUREMBERG REVISITS NAZI ERA(Germany)
A permanent exhibition on the Nazi era has opened in the German city of Nuremberg, at the site where infamous rallies glorifying Adolf Hitler were held. President Johannes Rau called on Germans to re-examine the darker elements of their history as he opened the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände museum in the Bavarian city. "This should not be out of a sense of guilt and responsibility, but because we wish to reaffirm our basic values," he said at the inauguration ceremony. "Because of these basic values we must also combat terrorism worldwide with determination."
The museum includes a permanent exhibition entitled "Fascination and Violence," which attempts to explain the powerful hold the Nazi party held over its people. It also looks at the use of propaganda in spreading the Nazi message and its role in the Holocaust against the Jews. It is held in a three-storey, purpose-built structure that cuts a swathe through an unfinished congress hall called the Reichsparteitag, an old, unfinished rallying ground in the heart of Nuremberg. Adolf Hitler had intended to use the gigantic 45-metre-high hall, designed by then chief state architect Albert Speer, for rallies attended by as many as 50,000 people. But Austrian architect Guenther Domenig, who won the design contest for the new project, said he attempted to contrast his work with that of Speer. "I had the immediate flash: I will do exactly the opposite," he said. Hence, in contrast to Speer's granite and concrete structure, Mr Domenig has inserted a glassy, three-storey construction, more light and airy than its counterpart.
Nuremberg was the site of many anti-Jewish rallies. It was also the place where, in 1935, the infamous "race laws" were announced. In 1945, American soldiers held a victory parade in Nuremberg and blew up the enormous swastika on top of the grandstand. The city's mayor, Ludwig Scholz, said that the exhibition was a more concerted attempt to acknowledge Nuremberg's part in the Nazi regime. "We cannot and will not throw out the past," he said. However, he acknowledged that there had been "bafflement" in the city over what to do with all the monuments. The citizens of Nuremberg have been invited to donate their family mementos of Nazi rallies to the museum, where they will be displayed. Others will be kept in the centre's immense archives for posterity.
RESEARCHER QUITS MILITARY AFTER RACIST REMARKS(Norway)
A researcher known as an international expert in his field has resigned from his post at a Norwegian military think tank after he was revealed to have made repeated remarks considered to be racist. Norway's defense minister is shocked over the incident.
Jarle Synnevĺg said he quit his post at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment at his own initiative, "because I value my freedom of speech more highly than a job." Newspaper Aftenposten revealed over the weekend that Synnevĺg was an active participant in debate forums and so-called "news groups" over the Internet. He wrote hundreds of contributions that were distinctly anti-Arab in nature, and that many interpreted as clearly racist. He wrote, for example, that Arabs are best off when they are "six feet under" (in a grave) and that "people who have a terrorist, hostage taker, torturer, rapist and child abuser (Mohammed) as their mentor deserve not only to be riduculed but to be bullied, threatened and made completely a leper." Legal expert Kyrre Eggen said there is little doubt such remarks would be considered racist and in violation of Norwegian laws forbidding racism. Synnevĺg, who also wrote unflattering commentaries about Norway's new Crown Princess Mette Marit, has shown no regret for his remarks and claims he kept his personal feelings separate from his work as a top defense department researcher. On several occasions, however, he identified himself as a top military expert and cited his position. Defense Minister Bjřrn Tore Godal said he was "shocked" over Synnevĺg's remarks, calling them "terrible" and "absolutely in defiance of defense ministry policy."
NORWEGIANS BORN IN NAZI BABY FARMS GO TO COURT
A court in Norway yesterday began hearing the claims of people "sired" at Nazi baby farms
during the Second World War, who grew up in their liberated land as second class citizens. They are now seeking millions of pounds in compensation and are reckoning with history which they claim modern day Norway is unwilling to give them. The claimants were all offspring of Norwegian women and German men, most of them born into the "Fountain of Life" scheme set up by Hitler's chief genetics mastermind, the SS leader Heinrich Himmler. The Lebensborn Foundation was the Nazi quest to create an Aryan race to rule Europe and Russia. Hundreds of thousands of children were born to SS studs in these baby farms across Europe. Some 50,000 Norwegian women are estimated to have been in the programme or to have had affairs with occupying German soldiers resulting in 12,000 babies being born to them. Himmler saw in the blond, blue-eyed Norwegians acceptable Nordic traits that made them eligible for inclusion in the German super race planned to govern the continent. But the court near Oslo yesterday heard how a liberated Norway treated the offspring of the Lebensborn programme with utter contempt and callousness. eople claimed they were shut away in mental homes, that they were beaten and tortured because, in the words of one man, "we were regarded as the rubbish that the Germans left behind."
Paul Hansen was born on 7 April, 1944 and dumped into a Lebensborn home after birth where
SS nurses were to indoctrinate him in Nazi ideology. The war ended 13 months later and with it, he said, any chance of a normal life. In one of the 150 specimen cases being brought before the court near Oslo, he said: "The Norwegian government sent me to a home for the mentally ill because of my origin. "I lived in a variety of mental homes, attended special schools and had no contact with normal children even though there was nothing wrong with me. "First they took my childhood then my youth. "Now as a man I demand an apology and compensation for what I suffered."
Harriet von Nickel, born to a German father and Norwegian woman in Oslo, was not created at one of the baby farms, but that did not save her from the wrath of brutal foster parents who "took every opportunity to beat the German out of me". She added: "I was an outcast. Drunken fishermen grabbed me when I was little and carved a swastika on my forehead with a rusty nail. I was regarded as fair game."
Randi Hagen Spydevold, a lawyer for some of the claimants, said: "The matter of concern is
making the public know what happened to them and to get an apology from the government. "I remember when I was a child all we learned in school was how bravely the resistance fought against the Nazis. But what we were not allowed to get to know was how we treated our own children."
Tor Brandacher, spokesman for many of the claimants said: "We needed somebody to hate after 1945 and the women and their children were the ideal target." Mr Brandacher himself, the son of an Austrian soldier, was shut away as a child and repeatedly sexually abused in a government home.
Many damning documents will be presented to the court. Dr Johan Riis - who toed the government line after 1945 that these children represented a rogue gene in the body of Norway - turned the entire concept of the racial programme on its head when he wrote in 1945 on an
official document "nobody should think that these genetically inferior children will become valuable citizens". "One could as well hope that the rats in the cellar were turning into guinea pigs," Dr Riis wrote.
The previous governments have wanted to hear nothing about apologies saying that the attitudes of previous governments do not reflect modern day thinking. Mr Brandacher said an apology must be made, adding: "No society can live with such a past in peace. "We want a full reckoning with that past in court."
DISCRIMINATED PAKISTANI SUES UNITED AIRLINES(usa)
In a clear-cut case of racial discrimination, Ahsan Baig, a Pakistani national, is suing United Airlines for denying him board on a September 22 flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia. Baig, an U.S. resident, passed through all of San Francisco International Airport's newly enhanced security checkpoints. But when boarding was announced he was turned away. A United crewmember claimed to have seen Baig engage in "suspicious communications," which the airline could neither explain nor prove. "This is exactly the kind civil rights violation that we feared would occur in the wake of the September 11 attack," said Daniel Feder, Baig's attorney. "It is outrageous and it is indefensible. It represents racism in its ugliest, most despicable form. It must be condemned, and it must be stopped."
Where & When
The complaint, M. Ahsan Baig v. United Airlines, was filed today in San Francisco Superior Court, San Francisco, California. Baig, who continues to suffer shock, humiliation, embarrassment, grief, fright and enduring emotional distress, has filed a claim for punitive damages in an unspecified amount against United Airlines, under the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The law prohibits the denial of equal accommodation based on race, color, religion, ancestry and national origin.
Facts & Background
Baig, a Pakistani of Asian descent with a wife and two small children, has been living in the U.S. since 1991. He is the director of technical support at a global technology company based in Mill Valley, California. He has collected over 500,000 frequent flyer miles over the last ten years, and has never had a problem boarding a plane. On September 22, after clearing all of SFO's security checkpoints, Baig approached the United boarding counter and he was told that the round-trip ticket he'd purchased online could not be honored. Baig spent an hour on the phone with the vendor to clear up the problem, at which point United issued him a boarding pass and a paper ticket for his return flight. But when boarding was announced, Baig was turned away. A United representative explained to Baig that a crew member had seen him engage in "suspicious communications" with another passenger and that the captain would not allow him on the plane. Baig was shocked and dumbfounded. He politely explained to the gate agent that he had spoken to no passengers, and that the only communications he had engaged in were via telephone. The first was to the online ticket vendor; the second was to his wife, to tell her that he would, in fact, be on United flight 288 to Philadelphia following the resolution of the ticketing foul-up. In a tacit admission that it had no evidence of wrongdoing--and that Baig posed no threat of any kind--United pledged to "put him on the next flight out." In less than five minutes, an airline representative walked Baig to the boarding counter and arranged for him to take another flight to Philadelphia via Los Angeles. Then, the airline compounded the damage it had already inflicted by publicly humiliating him. "To board the LA-bound flight, I was escorted down the full length of the plane to my seat," says Baig. "Everyone on board stared at me, wondering what in the world was going on. The message it sent was that I was a suspect. I can't even begin to describe how frightening and utterly embarrassing this was."
Effect on Baig
He has since been mentally and emotionally impaired as a result of this degrading and unfortunate incident, and has had difficulty working, sleeping, concentrating and relating to others. Mr. Baig, whose brother worked in the World Trade Center, was originally scheduled to travel on September 14. But after the attack, which his brother survived, Baig chose to reschedule the trip so that any available flights could go to those who were stranded on September 11. Shocked and saddened by the injuries and loss of life resulting from that day's events, he prayed at a local mosque, and was afterward questioned by a reporter about a possible backlash against Muslims due to terrorist activities. "Deranged individuals I can imagine," said Baig. "What I never envisioned was an attack on my own rights and own liberties by the likes of a major corporation with which I have done business for years."
Under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits the denial of equal accommodation based on race, color, religion, ancestry and national origin, Baig's complaint alleges that United Airlines willfully and maliciously violated his rights, and seeks punitive damages. The complaint also alleges that United engaged in unfair business practices, intentionally inflicted emotional stress, defamed Baig and breached its implied of contract of service.
UEFA WARNS CLUBS TO STAMP OUT RACISM
Uefa has handed out a strong warning to clubs to stamp out racism and to players to start behaving themselves. Making unusually strong opening remarks before the draw for the second phase of the Champions League, Uefa's chief executive Gerhard Aigner said: "Once again there has been evidence of behaviour that smears the name of football. "In particular, the racist behaviour of some spectators. This cannot be tolerated. We urge all clubs to take steps to stamp this out and "I remind you that we have now changed Uefa statutes to enable us to punish persistent behaviour of this nature by playing matches behind closed doors." Last week Uefa said they would decide what action to take against Boavista after some of their fans aimed racial abuse at Emile Heskey when Liverpool visited Portugal for a Champions League game on October 24. Aigner also appealed to players and coaches to behave themselves on the pitch and to set a better example to youngsters. He also warned them against doping abuse after a number of high level cases in Europe this year. "As top class professionals you have the role in supporting fair-play by showing honest behaviour and showing the right examples for future generations," he said. "Players are also in the end responsible for their own bodies and for what they put into them and this a reference to certain cases we have had earlier this year." He also thanked those clubs who had shown support for Uefa following the attacks on the U.S. on September 11. "The events of September 11 have overshadowed everything else," he said. "Of course the international security situation remains a concern to us all and we must remain vigilant. But we must also make sure that the life of this great game goes on even in the changed environment after September 11."
FRENCH COURT: ISPs NOT LIABLE FOR BLOCKING RACIST SITES
A French judge on Tuesday refused to order Internet service providers in France to block access to an American portal that is accused of carrying racist websites and other offensive material. Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez said it would be up to the ISPs to "freely determine" what measures they would take in order to resolve the complaints surrounding the portal. Based on a French law that bars the display or sale of racist material, seven groups had filed a lawsuit seeking to make the portal, identified in court as "front14.org," inaccessible from France. The groups say the portal is used to spread Holocaust denial, racism and anti-Semitism on the Internet. A spokesman for one of the groups, J'Accuse, expressed disappointment over the ruling. "The ball is in the court of the FAI (providers)," said Marc Knobel, president of J'Accuse. "This is a solution that, maybe, will make people who find themselves in a dilemma feel responsible and maybe do something." Marie-Helene Tonnelier, lawyer for the Association of Internet Service Providers, hailed the judge's decision. "The judge recognises that we do not have the obligation to ban access to a site. This is a victory in the sense that he admitted that providers have not done anything wrong," she said. Gomez was the French judge who, in a landmark ruling last year that affected legally uncharted Internet territory, ordered the US-based portal Yahoo! to block websurfers in France from an auction where Nazi memorabilia is sold.
FOUR GAY-RIGHTS AMENDMENTS PASS(usa)
Gay-rights supporters went four-for-five at the ballot box Tuesday on amendments dealing with gay discrimination and benefits for same-sex partners. The loss came in Houston, where voters approved amending the city charter to prohibit the nation's fourth-largest city from offering benefits to gay domestic partners. In Michigan, voters in Traverse City and Kalamazoo rejected amendments that would have prevented their cities from enacting policies protecting gays from discrimination. In Huntington Woods, voters upheld a city ordinance banning anti-gay discrimination. In Miami Beach, Fla., voters said the city should provide employee benefits to domestic partners. With all precincts reporting in Traverse City, 58% of voters opposed amending the city's charter to prohibit measures that would grant gays, lesbians or bisexuals "protected" status. Forty-two% favored the change. A similar city charter amendment in Kalamazoo failed with 54% opposed and 46% in favor. The proposed amendment in Traverse City was spurred by a backlash to a city commission resolution opposing discrimination on a number of grounds, including sexual orientation. The failed amendment would have nullified that resolution and blocked future gay rights policies in Traverse City. Both cities' amendments were based on a 1993 Cincinnati amendment that has been upheld by the courts. In Huntington Woods, a Detroit suburb, 69% voted to uphold an ordinance approved by the city commission earlier this year banning anti-gay discrimination; 31% opposed it. In Miami Beach, 65.7% of voters approved offering health care coverage to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian city employees, while 34.3% opposed it. In Houston, 51.5% of voters favored prohibiting the city from offering benefits to domestic partners, while 48.5% opposed it.
ASYLUM VOUCHERS 'TO BE SCRAPPED' (uk)
The controversial voucher system for asylum seekers is expected to be scrapped by the government in wide-ranging changes to the asylum laws. Home Secretary David Blunkett may also end the much-criticised policy of dispersing refugees around the country. The shake-up has already been welcomed by the Conservatives and the TGWU union - one of the fiercest critics of the voucher scheme, which it called demeaning. The home secretary is due to deliver the results of his review of the asylum and immigration system in a statement to the House of Commons. The plans are also believed to include new reception centres and the possible introduction of American-style 'green card' work permits. It was Mr Blunkett's predecessor Jack Straw who introduced the voucher system for asylum seekers buying food, clothes and other essentials.
Critics, including a number of Labour MPs, were unhappy with practical aspects of the scheme and said it stigmatised those forced to use it. Although the Home Office has refused to discuss what changes will be proposed, the government is also believed to be planning to create more than 10,000 places at reception centres to house asylum seekers. Newspaper reports have suggested that Mr Blunkett wants to house refugees in disused military bases and holiday camps to prevent a recurrence of problems that arose from the dispersal system. Such a move could also speed up asylum applications by focusing legal assistance and other support services in one location, it was suggested. The government decided on a review of the dispersal system following the death of a Turkish refugee in Glasgow, a knife attack on an asylum seeker in Hull and protests over detention conditions in Cardiff. Unlike the existing secure camp at Oakington, Cambridgeshire, the centres were expected to be open.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme ahead of Mr Blunkett's statement, his Tory shadow Oliver Letwin said if the revamped asylum system worked as a whole he would be pleased to see the end of the voucher scheme. "We all recognise that it tends to stigmatise and we all recognise that there have been some practical problems with it. "I suppose Jack Straw introduced it because he couldn't think of anything better. We spent a lot of time in the last parliament suggesting something better - it sounds as if David Blunkett is now producing something roughly along the lines we had in mind." Mr Letwin said a crucial need was for reception centres - or their equivalents - to have lawyers, immigration officials and magistrates in place to ensure asylum seekers were dealt with swiftly. Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes has already urged ministers to replace detention centres with open reception centres. But earlier this month at the Court of Appeal the government successfully overturned a High Court ruling that had said four asylum seekers had been unlawfully detained at the Oakington centre while their applications were considered.
There are currently more than 40,000 asylum seekers awaiting rulings on their cases, which take an average of seven months to be completed. Mr Hughes said: "Abolishing vouchers is not just right in principle, it is cheaper in practice." The TGWU's Bill Morris said he would welcome the scrapping of both the voucher scheme and the dispersal system. "It is an acknowledgement that the present policy is ill-judged and has failed, serving neither the citizen nor the asylum-seeker and resulting in severe divisions in our communities." "The new approach must be underpinned by respect for legitimate human rights and needs, as well as effectiveness," he said.
US CIVIL RIGHTS BUS UNDER HAMMER
The bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man in a landmark 1955 US civil rights protest has been sold to a museum for $492,000 at an internet auction. Steve Hamp, president of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, described the 1948-model bus as "the most important artefact in the history of the civil rights movement" - although it is not certain whether this was the actual vehicle on which Rosa Parks was arrested. Mr Hamp said the Ford museum in Dearborn planned to restore the bus and eventually put it on permanent display. The Ford collection already includes the limousine in which President John Kennedy was travelling when he was assassinated in Dallas on 22 November 1963.
Ms Parks, now 88 and in poor health, was employed as a seamstress at a department store in the Alabama capital of Montgomery. On her way home from work on 5 December 1955, she refused to give up her seat to a white man, when the bus became crowded, thus breaking the law. Ms Parks was arrested and fined, sparking a year-long boycott of Montgomery's buses. At the time, black passengers in Montgomery were required to pay their fare at the front door of the bus, then enter by the back door. Besides having to give up their seats to white passengers, they were not allowed to sit across the aisle from them. The incident led to a US Supreme Court decision that forced the city to desegregate its bus system and helped to fire the civil rights movement.
However, no bus number was written down on police records when Ms Parks was arrested, and there have been questions over the years as to whether it would be possible to identify the vehicle. The Ford Museum said experts had determined that the bus was the one on which Rosa Parks made her protest. But other historians have questioned whether it can be proved that the bus is the right one. There were 45 bids for the bus in the auction, including one from the city of Denver, which had hoped to make it the centrepiece of the city's African-American research library. "The whole civil rights struggle came from this. That's what's so unique about this item," Denver Mayor Wellington Webb said.
SHOCKED SOROS ‘HURT'(Hungary)
George Soros, the American financier and philanthropist, sharply criticized Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán last week, accusing him of endorsing far-right political programs broadcast by State-owned media. Speaking at a press conference in Budapest, Soros stressed that he viewed Hungary as a democratic state, but that he was "shocked and disturbed" by the increase of anti-Semitic opinions in the media and public life. "I do not think Viktor Orbán or other Fidesz leaders are far right politicians, but the fact is Mr Orbán willingly gives interviews to Vasárnapi Újsag. ‘This is an explicitly anti-Semitic program. Someone has to say it, this is totally unacceptable," he said. Soros's rebuke comes as Socialist and even centre right politicians are increasingly criticizing Orbán for pandering to the far right in an attempt to win Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP) voters. Vasárnapi Újsag is a Sunday radio program much criticized by the opposition in the past three years for airing the views of MIÉP, the far-right party parliamentary party led by István Csurka. Asked about evidence for his accusations, Soros held up a book entitled Anti-Semitic discourse in Hungary in 2000, which cites press articles and transcripts of broadcasts by the electronic State media last year. Soros, who was born in Hungary and survived the Nazi era only by adoption in a non-Jewish Hungarian family, said he was also "deeply hurt" by the mounting personal criticism in Hungary. "They say the Malaysian president hates me. Malaysia is one thing, but I have helped Hungary, and Hungarians, with a good few million dollars [for education, culture and health] since the 1980s," he said. However, Soros insisted he held no resentment to Orbán or any other Fidesz leaders who benefited from his funding in their student days. "People have to make their own minds up. They do not need to agree with me," he said. A Prime Ministerial spokesperson declined to comment on Soros's allegations. Soros said his charitable foundation in Hungary would devote more resources to encourage political awareness among the public. Asked if this meant he was telling people not to vote for MIÉP, he said, "No, not at all. But people who vote for the far right should know what they are voting for."
©The Budapest Sun
GAY MARRIAGE NOT LIKELY IN CZECH REPUBLIC
On Thursday the Czech lower parliamentary chamber dismissed the third motion to pass a draft law that grants equal rights to same sex partnerships. The proposed law, if it had been passed, would have granted same sex partners the same rights available to heterosexual marriages. If passed it would have legalize homosexual partnerships, allowed same sex marriages and cleared the way for surviving partner inheritance, tax allowances and the right to find out information about the condition of their partner when in hospital The parliamentary deputies who opposed the law claimed it would have weakened traditional family values in the Czech Republic. Supporters of the law claim it is unfair that part of the population has fewer rights simply because of their sexual orientation. The proposed law was dismissed largely due to efforts by the Christian Democrats - the country's only religious political party - who bitterly opposed legalisation of same-sex marriage on moral grounds. However, the Social democrats -the party who originally proposed the bill- were not unified in Thursday's parliamentary session and 46 of the 50 members voted to dismiss the bill. It is most likely, that the bill will no longer resurface since there will be no time to make amendments before upcoming elections- next year.
Radio Prague's Nicole Klement spoke with Petr Necas from the the Civic Democrat Party, about his parties views on the bill.....
"I am absolutely sure that it is necessary to create a stable environment for our families. So, I don't think that it is necessary to create a framework that would give priviledges to "another" sort of relationship between two people. And this bill was about priviledge. I don't see any reason why we should talk only of the partnership between people of the same sex. I think that a suitable way to deal with this would be to create a legal framework between our civil codes where it would be possible to create a general framework for the co-operation of two people without any division of sex. This means the same framework would apply to same sex and heterosexual couples."
What would the reasons be that members of your party voted against the bill on same-sex partnership?
"It wasn't a vote against couples-absolutely not. It was a vote about families and the stability of families and whether it is suitable to create a priviledge for this kind of relationship. We don't see any reason to create a priviledge for specific kinds of relationships. As I have already said, I would like to see a general legal framework for all realtionships between two people. A framework for legal obligation, for duties between two people but without any priviledges only for couples of the same sex."
What type of solution would you suggest for same sex partners in the light of legal issues?
"As I have already said, the suitable way would be to create this general framework which would apply to parteners of the same sex."
What about when one partner is ill in the hospital and the other has no legal right to consent on their behalf?
"That is simply not true our current legal framework has created the possibility to obtain medical information and this issue relies on the behaviour of the doctor involved. Whether he is able to have a humane approach or not to have a humane approach."
And is it true that same sex partners here in the Czech Republic recieve the same sort of rights as as un-wed hereosexual couples?
"Practically yes. It is possible to say that all unmarried couples have the same rights."
ANTHRAX ATTACKS 'WORK OF NEO-NAZIS' (usa)
Neo-Nazi extremists within the US are behind the deadly wave of anthrax attacks against America, according to latest briefings from the security services and Justice Department. Experts on 'survivalist' groups and extreme-right 'Aryan' militants have been drafted into the investigation as the focus shifts away from possible links with the 11 September terrorists or even possible state backers such as Iraq. 'We've been zeroing in on a number of hate groups, especially one on the West Coast,' a source at the Justice Department told The Observer yesterday. 'We've certainly not discounted the possibility that they may be involved.' The anthrax crisis, which grew last week, had by Friday night spread to mailrooms at CIA headquarters, the Supreme Court and a hospital, and yesterday three traces were found in an office building serving the US Capitol. 'There are a number of strong leads, and some people we know well that we are looking at,' the Justice Department said. 'These are groups organised into militia and "survivalist" movements - which pull out of society and take to the hills to make war on the government, and who will support anyone else making war on the government.' Investigators are examining threatening letters sent to media organisations - some dated before the 11 September attacks - which did not contain anthrax but contained similar messages and handwriting style as those which later did. The theory is that the anthrax attacks were planned - and the killer germ was obtained and treated - long before the carnage of 11 September. Speaking to The Observer yesterday, the Justice Department official said: 'We have to see the right wing as much better coordinated than its apparent disorganisation suggests. And we have to presume that their opposition to government is just as virulent as that of the Islamic terrorists, if not as accomplished. 'But that is, in its way, one of the most compelling possible leads in the anthrax trail - that it is not really al-Qaeda's style, but rather that of others who sympathise with its war against the American government and media.' The official said the investigation had, in the past week, drafted in special teams from the Civil Rights division of the department to reinforce the international terrorism teams. The American neo-Nazi Right is motivated above all by its loathing of the federal government, which it believes is selling out the homeland to a 'New World Order' run by masons and Jews. Its insane politics have propelled numerous attacks and armed stand-offs over the past eight years, culminating in the carnage at Oklahoma. Now the anthrax investigation is zooming in on possible connections between these neo-Nazis and Arab extremists, united by their mutual anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel. Such alliances have been common among neo-Nazis in Europe, but have played a lesser role in the US. However, monitoring of the hate groups shows they are now embracing al-Qaeda's terrorism as commendable attacks on the federal government. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal centre in Los Angeles said that at a meeting in Lebanon this year, US neo-Nazis were represented alongside Islamic militants. 'There's a great solidarity with the point of view of the bin Ladens of the world,' said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which monitors the far right. 'These people wouldn't let their daughters near an Arab, but they are certainly making common cause on an ideological level. They see the same enemy: American culture and multiculturalism.'
Neo-Nazi websites, including the largest umbrella organisation, the National Alliance, show support for al-Qaeda. Billy Roper, the alliance's membership coordinator posted a message within hours of the 11 September attacks, reading: 'Anyone who is willing to drive a plane into a building to kill Jews is all right by me. I wish our members had half as much testicular fortitude.' Another group, Aryan Action, praised the attacks of 11 September, saying: 'Either you're fighting with the Jews against al-Qaeda or you support al-Qaeda fighting against the Jews.' Others outwardly support the anthrax mailing. One message, entitled 'No Sympathy for the Devil', was posted in several chat rooms by right-winger Grant Bruer, whose racist writings are circulated among supremacist groups. It reads: 'Is there not a single person who has received these anthrax letters that isn't an avowed enemy of the white race? Tom Brokaw, Tom Daschle and the gossip rag offices have all been 100 per cent legitimate targets. Who among us has the slightest bit of sympathy for these pukes?' Right-wing groups have had an interest in anthrax and other biological agents. A member of the Aryan Nation group once bragged he had a stash of anthrax from digging up a field where cows had died of the disease in the 1950s. Larry Wayne Harris was arrested after trying to obtain three vials of bubonic plague from a mail-order science company. The trail leading investigators to groups from the domestic ultra-right - rather than the al-Qaeda terror network - comes as a dramatic twist in the confused crisis. Last week, parallel evidence appeared to be linking the now rampant anthrax attacks to another trail: leading from Iraq and through the Czech Republic, with al-Qaeda militants as the likely couriers. The shift in the investigation echoes that which followed America's other infamous terrorist attack: the destruction of the federal government building in Oklahoma City in 1995. The bombing was initially thought to be the work of Arab extremists, but turned out to be the work of the Aryan supremacists.
U.S. DOORS INDEFINITELY CLOSED TO REFUGEES
As many as 20,000 refugees from across the world, cleared to come to the United States to escape persecution in their homelands, have had their arrival delayed indefinitely in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. What is in effect a temporary moratorium on refugee admissions has resulted from both concerns about security and the fact that a White House consumed by its fight against terrorism, in the United States and in Afghanistan, has not issued its annual refugee quota, administration officials said. For now, then, the nation's door remains closed to refugees who include women fleeing the Taliban, Iraqis fleeing the regime of Saddam Hussein, children escaping civil war in Sierra Leone and others. Refugee resettlement groups say that many of these people have been longtime residents of disease-prone, star-crossed refugee camps. And so, for many people involved in the refugee effort, the alarmingly large gaps in the government's ability to track who comes into the country that were made clear by the Sept. 11 hijackings have had the effect of making indirect casualties out of otherwise deserving refugees. State Department officials say that they regret the situation, but that the policy is justified given the heightened alert in the country. They say that what is effectively a ban on refugee entry will continue until the department completes a thorough review for all refugees seeking to come into the country. In addition, the White House, preoccupied by other concerns, has not yet issued its annual order enumerating how many refugees the nation will ultimately accept during the current fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1. A State Department official said in an interview last week that it was impossible to predict when the White House would act. "The security climate that we are in requires us to take every precaution that every person coming in is properly vetted," the State Department official said. As a consequence, refugee organizations say, about 40 Afghans who were scheduled to arrive at Kennedy International Airport from Pakistan on Sept. 29 never left. Razia Ahmed Gul had qualified for a visa under a refugee program for Afghan widows and expected to leave Quetta, Pakistan, with her five children last month. The family even sold its furniture to raise money for the trip. But they are now stuck and facing eviction from their apartment. Elsewhere, in a refugee camp in the African nation of Gambia, 17 refugees fleeing civil war in Sierra Leone, mostly women with children in tow, were supposed to leave for New York in mid-September. They remain in the camp. There is, too, a family of Armenian Christians from Iran, including a woman who is terminally ill, whose flight out of Vienna was canceled. A Jewish family from Ukraine, scheduled to fly out of Moscow last week, has been stuck in the Russian capital, waiting for word from Washington. All those who have been approved have undergone a medical review, a security check and an interview with an American official overseas. There are up to 20,000 refugees in similar situations worldwide; all had been approved for entry into the United States as refugees fleeing persecution in their homelands, according to Immigrant and Refugee Services of America-U.S. Committee for Refugees, an advocacy and resettlement organization in Washington. In another measure of the pullback on refugees, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which interviews potential refugees in such camps, has called back most of its field workers for security reasons. No potential refugees are being screened for entry except those who can make it to a handful of U.S. Embassies that are still conducting interviews.
©International Herald Tribune
WORK BEGINS ON BERLIN HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL
The first symbolic spadeful of earth has been removed from a huge site in central Berlin set aside to commemorate the six million Jews who died in the Nazi Holocaust. The memorial - a vast field of nearly 3,000 concrete columns - is to be built near the Brandenburg Gate and the site of Hitler's wartime bunker. The BBC Berlin correspondent says the memorial's location is as important as the design itself. Our correspondent says the $22m project is a huge gesture of German national remorse. The start of construction ends a decade of argument surrounding the size and style of a suitable holocaust tribute.
MOLDOVIAN GAY AND LESBIAN EMPOWERMENT
the largest gay and lesbian project in the post-Soviet territory
The opening of the project "Moldovan Gay and Lesbian Empowerment" took place on October 18, 2001 in Chisinau, Moldova. It is a twinning project between the Dutch lesbian and gay advocacy organisation COC Netherlands and Center GenderDoc-M (Moldova) and is the first initiative on protection of gay and lesbian rights at such a large scale in the post-Soviet territory. The financial support is given by the Royal Dutch Embassy in Ukraine and Moldova via the Good Governance and Human Rights Fund of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
At the reception were present the First Secretary of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Kiev Ms. Meie Kiel, Desk Officer of the Eastern European Division of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr. Rob Dekker, project coordinator on behalf of COC Netherlands Dennis van der Veur, and also representatives of national and international NGO's, embassies, funders, numerous Moldovan and Dutch journalists. In his speech to the guests director of Center "GenderDoc-M" Mr. Alexei Marcicov stated, that "the project, as litmus paper, will reveal the level of tolerance of Moldovan society and the willingness of authorities to continue democratic reforms". Ms. Meie Kiel stated, that she was "happy there are brave people in Moldova, who came forward with the initiative to fight for gay and lesbian rights". As project coordinator from Dutch partner organizations Dennis van der Veur declared, "the Netherlands give to the project not only financial, but both moral and political support".
Today the sexual minorities in Moldova are one of the most discriminated social groups. Violence, blackmailing, constant "visits" to the police stations, verbal abuse, firing from the job, hate propaganda from some of the newspapers, homophobic speeches by some members of the parliament - all these factors led to creation of culture of fear among homosexual community in Moldova. It is enough to recall the words of Moldovan parliamentarian and PACE member within Eurpean People's Party group Mr. Vlad Cubreacov, who declared recently in his interview to "Jurnal National": "To be a homosexual doesn't only mean you are no longer father or mother, it means you are no longer a human being. They are people, fallen before the face of God and the entire society". The overwhelming majority of gays and lesbians in Moldova has been and is discriminated against in one way or another. For more concrete information please refer to the report of COC Netherlands/ Dennis van der Veur "Homosexuals in the republic of Moldova: we need cleaner places than public toilets", published in Amsterdam in February 2001
The three-year project "Moldovan Gay and Lesbian Empowerment" includes four sub-projects: organizational development, awareness raising campaign, legal assistance and safe environment. Legal program provisions juridical consultations in cases of discrimination or violence, monitoring of Moldovan legislation, drafting an anti-discrimination law, seminars on human rights for gay and lesbian community. Safe environment includes psychological assistance and counseling, creation of support groups, individual counseling (implemented in cooperation with Schorer Foundation, Netherlands). Within the awareness raising campaign will continue the issue of gay and lesbian magazine "Mirror", educational seminars for different target groups, publication and distribution of brochures and booklets on gay/lesbian issues. Organizational development will build up the skills and capacities of GenderDoc-M to protect gay and lesbian rights, create functional structure, provide office and equipment. All these under supervision and constant communication / expertise from COC Netherlands.
After completion of the project GenderDoc-M is expected to be a sustainable gay and lesbian advocacy organization. Although realizing the changes cannot happen overnight, and not even in three years, our long term expectations are that the general situation of gays and lesbians will be improved in the country, and a new culture, culture of pride and tolerance, to replace the dominant culture of fear
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ANOTHER MASS BEATING OF CAUCASIAN IMMIGRANTS IN MOSCOW
Anticaucasian publications in the popular Moscow newspapers of "Moskovsky Komsomoletz", "Komsomolskaya Pravda" and "Moskovskaya Pravda" that came out one after another this summer, led to easily predictable results. On the evening of October 30 about 300 young men aged 13-16 armed with sticks and metal cudgels, attacked sellers of Caucasian descent working at a product market not far from "Tzaritzino" metro station. By the time the militia arrived the fighters had managed to beat to death one seller and to badly injure some others. Only after the militiamen began to shoot into the air the young people who were shouting nationalist slogans, returned to the metro. However they continued hitting passengers of non-Russian ethnicity at "Kakhovskaya" and "Kashirskaya" metro stations. These are far from being the only fascist youngsters' action in Moscow. For instance on October 26 in the evening just near the "Teatralnaya" metro station a group of skin-head teenagers attacked a young but already well-known pianist Hayk Arsenyan and his mother and beat them fiercely. They broke his arm and it is now unclear when he will be able to play again. It looks like these and other crimes will be left without legal prosecution. Moscow law-enforcement organs view these incidents as cases of little importance. It is very sad to admit that even the assassination of a young Chechen refugee in the broad daylight did not arouse any movement of protest in the Russian society. Answering the question of the Center for Interethnic Co-operation, why their newspaper kept publishing information that aroused hatred towards Caucasian and Asian descendents, vice editor of "Moskovsky Komsomoletz" said: "We reflect the real situation. If you do not like something, appeal to court". However it is worthless to appeal to court on such a matter. Let me add now that hatred towards Caucasian and Asian newcomers has spread on such a wide scale that members of law-enforcement organs do not attack and humiliating the arriving refugees less than the teenagers belonging to the fascist movement.
©Center for Interethnic Cooperation
THE ADVERSARY IS FUNDAMENTALIST NETWORKS, NOT ISLAM ITSELF...
By David Ignatius
Many thoughtful people worry, even if they don't say so out loud, that the savage suicide attacks of Sept. 11 marked the beginning of a "clash of civilizations," in Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington's phrase - a world war between Islam and the West. What the world confronts now, however, is not a religious war but something far more diffuse - a "netwar," to use a term coined by two innovative scholars from the Rand Corp. The "clash of civilizations" analysis is misleading because it treats the Islamic world as a monolith, a modern version of the implacable Ottoman armies marching toward the gates of Vienna. The Islamic world is far more cacophonous and disorganized than that. It is riven by sects and tribes, secularists and fundamentalists, mullahs and military officers. This fragmented world of Islam has produced some strange alliances. During the Cold War years the United States helped support Islamist forces as a bulwark against radical, secular regimes such as Iraq, Syria and Nasser's Egypt, which were allied with the Soviet Union. The culmination of that strategy was America's support for Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan, a move that helped win the Cold War but also created America's new enemies, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Israel played similar games in Lebanon during the late 1970s and early '80s, attempting to ally with Shiite and Druze Muslims against the secular leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization. To say that this strategy backfired is to put it mildly. It is a noteworthy fact, in this regard, that the first modern war to contain revolutionary Islam was fought not by the United States or Israel but by Iraq in the 1980s against Iran. The lesson is that nothing in this part of the world turns out quite the way you planned. That is why a clash of civilizations won't happen - the world of Islam is too complicated and shifting a landscape, with too many internal battles. What does seem likely is that we are seeing the first "netwar." That phrase is drawn from a fascinating paper that was posted on the Internet last week by David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla of Rand. (It can be found at www.firstmonday.org.)
The authors coined the term back in 1993 to describe what they saw as the future of warfare. The West's opponents would not be traditional armies or hierarchical political movements, or even organized guerrilla forces, but groups that operated like the discrete but interconnected nodes of an electronic network. "These protagonists are likely to consist of dispersed organizations, small groups and individuals who communicate, coordinate and conduct their campaigns in an internetted manner, often without a central command," Mr. Ronfeldt and Mr. Arquilla write in their new paper. Their cells would be everywhere and nowhere - like those of Osama bin Laden's Qaida network. The netwar authors make points that are highly relevant to the new war against terrorism. "Hierarchies have a difficult time fighting networks," they note. That is a telling point for war planners at the Pentagon, surely one of the most hierarchical organizations ever devised. "A particular challenge for the cumbersome American bureaucracy will be to encourage deep, all-channel networking among the military, law enforcement and intelligence elements whose collaboration is essential for achieving success," the authors warn. "It takes networks to fight networks," they insist. In other words, if America and its allies march off in formation into Afghanistan against a dispersed and devious enemy (one that will fly airplanes into buildings and spray biological weapons from crop dusters) they will lose. Here there is some reason to believe that U.S. planners realize they are fighting a netwar. According to a story by Joseph Fitchett in the International Herald Tribune last week, the battle plan in Afghanistan involves small special-operations units that will use 21st century sensors and communications technology. They will be as pervasive and invisible as their enemy, and presumably as lethal. "Simply put," write the netwar theorists, "the West must start to build its own networks and must learn to swarm the enemy, in order to keep it on the run or pinned down until it can be destroyed." By focusing so heavily on Mr. bin Laden, the United States may be misunderstanding a key aspect of netwar. The new enemy may prove to be "leaderless." Even if Mr. bin Laden is captured or killed, the network will remain. As soon as one cell is destroyed, another will become active. The war against terror promises to be long and deadly. That is why defense - the ability to maintain secure perimeters within which people can go about their ordinary lives - will be as important as offense.
©International Herald Tribune
WHERE ARE THE VOICES OF REASON?
By Molly Secours
"Where are the women, where are the women"? This was the chant reverberating throughout a stadium holding several thousand participants just two months ago. It was the NGO closing ceremonies at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa and Fidel Castro was the honored speaker. As five dark suited dignitaries--all males--took their seats at a table behind him, a lone voice shouted the question from the vast crowd. Within seconds the mantra rumbled through the masses with an intensity that crossed lines of race, gender and nationality. The entire stadium echoed the chorus "where are the women?" Little could anyone have predicted that less than a month later the United States would stage a war in which few voices of reason or sanity are audible. Let's face it, the feminine perspective--which does not necessarily have to come from women--has been scarce throughout this entire crisis; if not altogether absent. What is the feminine perspective? Generally it is the perspective that values life above all else and one that is most adept at negotiations and communication. A feminist perspective weighs humanitarian issues along side of the political--rather than in place of it. It is the feminine which experiences the excruciating pain and the rapturous joy of creating life. And historically, it is primarily the masculine who destroys human life through war, aggression and greed. This explains why women (and those with feminine perspective) are generally excluded from the discussion in matters of politics and war. It's not because they are not intelligent enough or not qualified to offer insight and perhaps a solution. In the current situation it is because the United States--and most of the world--views women as a detriment to social and political self-interest. Hence, women are generally overlooked in such heady matters If you are skeptical about the lack of feminine perspective or influence, pick up a daily newspaper or tune into the news. How many images feature women negotiating with world leaders or signing bills that violate civil rights or target immigrants for the greater good? This weekend's edition of the countries most widely read newspaper was jam-packed with authoritative voices espousing war-wisdom. Not one of them questioned the U. S. position on the bombing in Afghanistan or the devastation of innocent people. They were all written by men. These days voices of dissent are roundly criticized, discredited and dismissed. It takes a lot of courage (and maybe a death wish) to stand up and confront U.S. leadership about the current crisis--especially if you are black and a woman. In spite of all the intimidation, there is one woman who spoke out early on in this crisis. It was the Honorable Barbara Lee, the African American House representative from the Ninth District of California. Way back in September (before the war) Ms. Lee opposed the resolution giving the President free reign to spend a $40 billion budget on the military to retaliate against the terrorist attacks. In a vote of 420-to-1 she was the lone dissenting voice that said no, we should not go to war. Lee also proposed that a review of U.S. foreign policy is necessary in order to reverse the current war trend. As a result of speaking out Ms Lee was ostracized and rewarded with death threats that have required her to secure police protection. Like many Americans, Ms. Lee has the audacity to believe that the annihilation of civilian men, women and children abroad isn't an appropriate response to the terrorist attacks in the U.S. During an interview in September Ms. Lee said "We don't know the real nature of terrorism in the true sense of the word. We have not invested in combating terrorism the way we should have, which involves many issues. I am convinced that military action alone will not prevent further terrorist attacks."
This isn't ‘women's intuition'. It is a perspective based on a broader and more honest viewpoint of American foreign policy. It appears Ms. Lee was right. After weeks of bombing, the military strikes have produced few results while extinguishing numerous lives. And now our leaders inform us the war must expand rather than end. Why are we so afraid to talk about the contributing factors of this ugly war? Is it really so traitorous to discuss the fact that Osama Bin Laden is a creation of the U.S. intelligence forces or ponder the ramifications of our actions? Is it a betrayal to speak of the U.S. recruitment and arming of right wing Islamic fundamentalists during the Cold War in order to defeat the Soviet-backed democratic regime in Afghanistan? Or to question whether or not decimating a war torn country will do anything to make us safer or feel better about the loved ones who died on September 11th? Before the bombing even started, the Women's Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan (WAPHA) noted, "The tragedy that has hit the innocent American people is deeply felt by the suffering people of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan have been tortured, terrorized and massacred on a daily base by the international terrorists such as Osama Ben Laden, his followers, the Taliban, the Pakistani ISI, the Pakistani religious extremist groups and other foreign extremists." And now these very same people are being killed at the hands of Americans. There are numerous voices of reason absent from the mainstream current debate. Voices of dissent who are advocating for a political and a peaceful resolution. The voices of women (and men) who offer a social and political viewpoint based on historical accounts of American foreign policy. These are the voices of Howard Zinn, Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Cynthia McKinney, and of course, Barbara Lee. There are many voices of reason to shed light on this war. We just dont get to hear them.
Molly Secours is a writer, videographer and racial dialog facilitator in Nashville TN.
She can be reached at:
GAY CANDIDATE WINS VOTE FOR BERLIN MAYOR(Germany)
The Social Democratic Party of the German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, kept its hold on Berlin with a good showing in elections Sunday, but the successor party to the East German Communists did especially well, winning one of every two votes in East Berlin and laying its claim to share power in a new coalition for a united city. For the conservative Christian Democratic Union, it was the worst result in Berlin since 1948, and it may topple the party leader, Angela Merkel, whom no one expects to be able to beat Mr. Schroeder in federal elections a year from now. Pressure will increase on the Bavarian premier, Edmund Stoiber, to run for the chancellorship. The Social Democrats, behind Klaus Wowereit, Berlin's first openly gay mayor, will have a difficult choice. If reliable exit polls Sunday night hold up, the Social Democrats can choose to form a coalition either with the reformed communists - the Party of Democratic Socialism, led by Gregor Gysi - or with a combination of the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, which together won about 19 percent of the vote. A coalition with Mr. Gysi would be more stable, controlling more seats. But Mr. Gysi and his party are alone in opposing the American-led war in Afghanistan, a war that Mr. Wowereit's senior, Mr. Schroeder, supports with "unlimited solidarity." It will be a bold move for Mr. Wowereit if the Social Democrats ally in the German capital with a party that Mr. Schroeder will not even brief on the war because he fears leaks. The national leadership of the Social Democrats says the choice is Mr. Wowereit's, but many wonder. For his part, Mr. Wowereit, after the usual exultation over his victory, said: "In view of the difficult problems in the city, I don't want a shaky coalition," implying that he was leaning toward Mr. Gysi and the Communists. The difference may not be so significant. A "red-red" coalition with Mr. Gysi would give Mr. Wowereit about 72 seats out of the 130 in the Berlin legislature, compared to about 67 seats in a so-called "traffic light coalition" with the Greens and the Free Democrats, whose party color is yellow. In policy terms, however, the Social Democrats may be able to live better with the former Communists, even in a Berlin with more than $35 billion in debts, than with the Free Democrats, who are proposing the kinds of benefit cuts likely to outrage many voters in the East. And Mr. Wowereit may be tempted to try to heal the psychological wounds that Mr. Gysi has skillfully exploited among easterners, who feel that they are second-class citizens in the new Germany, patronized and paid less for the same work than western counterparts. He could do that by a coalition with Mr. Gysi, which would also domesticate the former Communists by forcing them to come to terms with the realities of governing in a period of financial crisis. It may be some days before Mr. Wowereit consults the various parties and chooses his coalition partners. For Mr. Gysi, an eloquent, voluble, 53-year-old lawyer, Sunday night was a triumph. His party increased its vote to 22.6 percent from 17.7 percent in the last elections, in October 1999. The party even won nearly 7 percent of the vote in West Berlin, helping the party earn credibility as a national player. "We received more votes than people thought," Mr. Gysi said happily. Perhaps in an ironic reference to the language of the past, he added, "We have fulfilled our planned quota." He said that a "red-red coalition is more likely than a traffic light," and asserted, "We have a clear mandate to participate in government." For the Greens, who were shocked by their loss of support recently in similar elections in the city-state of Hamburg, Sunday night was a relief, with their support slipping only slightly from 1999, from 9.4 percent to 9.1 percent. The Free Democrats, however, had a comparative triumph, winning 9.9 percent of the vote compared with 2.2 percent two years ago. The Christian Democratic vote, however, collapsed, from 40.8 percent in 1999 to 23.5 percent Sunday, only a percentage point ahead of the former Communists. The Christian Democrats governed ruled Berlin with the Social Democrats until June, when the government collapsed in a corruption scandal. The longtime mayor, Eberhard Diepgen, resigned, and Mr. Wowereit, a bland 48-year-old lawyer, became acting mayor only a week after he announced that he was gay - just days before a tabloid "outed" him. He became a celebrity overnight, and managed skillfully, during this campaign, to avoid blame for his party's part in the last governing coalition. The contrast between West and East Berlin was vivid Sunday night. The Social Democrats won 34.4 percent in the West, 23.5 percent in the East; the Christian Democrats won 30.6 percent in the West and 12.2 percent in the East. The Greens won 11 percent in the West and 5.8 percent in the East, and the Free Democrats won 12.9 percent in the West and 5 percent in the East. Mr. Gysi's party won 6.7 percent in the West and 48.2 percent in the East.
©International Herald Tribune
WORLD CRISIS PROMPTS FRANCE TO PUSH AHEAD WITH ISLAM REFORMS
Galvanised by the current world crisis, France is hastening a major reform of the nation's Islamic institutions, with the aim of setting up a single democratically-elected structure for the five million Muslims who live in the country. Consultations launched two years ago between the government and a dozen Islamic organisations were accelerated in the wake of the September 11 attacks, and the hope is to hold elections for a new "French Council for the Muslim Religion" within the coming months. The latest in a series of meetings to discuss the elections takes place on Wednesday between the ministry of the interior and the "consultative committee" of leading Muslims. An elected council would replicate the bodies that represent the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths in France, and replace the multiplicity of different groups -- many of them bound by loyalty and funding to foreign countries -- that currently speak for French Muslims. According to its supporters, it would be an important recognition of the status of Islam in France, and also give the authorities the advantage of having a single interlocutor at times of heightened tensions such as now. "The September 11 attacks have shown how important it is from a symbolic point of view to have a single representative body that can speak out on important issues," said Fouad Alaoui, secretary-general of the Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF). The government also hopes that an elected Islamic council with official links to the government will encourage the formation of a modernised and liberal "Islam a la francaise," though it recognises that may only be feasible in the much longer term. Most French Muslims condemned the terrorist attacks, and their main institutions have expressed guarded support for the US response. However the existence of a militant minority responsive to the appeal of anti-western agitators is well-attested. Many Muslims believe their religion has suffered from severe discrimination -- they cite constant difficulties in acquiring authorisation for building new mosques -- and hope a formal channel of communication with the government will improve their conditions of worship. However experts said the process of putting relations between Islam and the state on a more official level were fraught with difficulties. One reason is that French Muslims are extremely diverse. Most are immigrants or their descendants from North Africa, but there are also large communities from Turkey, Syria, Pakistan and other countries. Not only do they worship separately, but mosques and prayer halls -- and the imams who preach in them -- are intimately linked with the states that finance them. For example Algeria funds about 200 religious centres, and Saudi Arabia provided 90 percent of the money for the main mosque at Lyons. This foreign financing is necessary because of the strict laws on secularism in France, which prevent any intrusion by religion into public life. But it also means Muslim leaders in France often look outside the country for direction. One indication of the divisions within Muslim ranks came with the condemnation by the grand mufti of Marseilles, Soheib Bencheickh, of the inclusion in the consultation process of the UOIF -- which he says is dangerously close to fundamentalist groups such as the Muslim Brothers. Another major issue is the role of women. It is unlikely Muslim women will be able to vote for the new council, even though this is entirely at odds with France's democratic principles.
©The Tocqueville Connection
IMMIGRANTS SEEK SA POLICE PROTECTION
Hundreds of Zimbabweans are seeking refuge at a police station in Johannesburg after South Africans burnt and looted their shacks in a settlement near the city. The South African residents of the settlement decided on Sunday to expel the Zimbabweans and destroy their homes. They accuse the Zimbabweans of involvement in violent crime and taking the jobs of South Africans. "They have about 450 people looking for shelter at the police station and one of their leaders told me they have about another 500 people on their way to the station," police spokeswoman Terry-Anne Booyse told AFP news agency. She said more than 20 people have been arrested for public violence over the past two days and they would appear in court in Johannesburg on Wednesday. She said three police vans and 15 police officers were patrolling the area and more reinforcements were to be sent to the camp later. The Zandspruit squatter camp has about 15,000 shacks and some 50,000 residents living there. Jackson Sibanda, a migrant worker from Bulawayo, who has lived in the area since 1994, said he was too scared to go back to his burnt-out shack and salvage any possessions that might be left.
Eyewitnesses said six people were injured and more than 100 shacks destroyed during the clashes. Trouble had been brewing since the murders last month of two South Africans, both blamed on Zimbabweans. A South African television journalist, Mark Kluzner, witnessed the rioting. "What we saw were shacks that had been set alight, places had been completely trashed and looted," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. "There were mobs of youths running around the township trying to find Zimbabweans who they claim are criminals in the community," he added. Mr Kluzner also said the mob targeted Zimbabweans who were married to South Africans and had lived in the country for years.
BOAT SURVIVORS TELL OF ORDEAL(Indonesia)
Survivors were in the water for 30 hours
The 44 traumatized survivors from an Indonesian ship that sank on Friday, killing more than 350 asylum seekers on board, have been telling of their ordeal. Eighteen are currently being treated in hospital, many with broken limbs and coral cuts. The rest are being put up at a hotel in the city of Bogor, 60 km (40 miles) south of Jakarta, officials said. The migrants, mainly from Iraq, had spent more than 30 hours in the water before being rescued by Indonesian fishermen. The boat had been heading for Australia and officials there say it highlights the dangers that thousands of would-be immigrants face when they attempt to cross from Indonesia to Australia.
Family swept away
One teenage boy, who lost his mother, brother and sister-in-law, told the BBC the boat sank within minutes of the engine cutting out. He and his family found themselves in the water, clinging to a large piece of wood together. He said that with each large wave that came along one of his relatives was swept away, until only he was left. Another man, who had recently escaped from Afghanistan and who lost four brothers and three cousins, spoke of his anger towards the people-traffickers who controlled the boat. "All they wanted was our money, they didn't care about the deaths of hundreds of people," he said. Richard Danziger of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said that according to accounts from survivors there were 421 men, women and children on board the boat when it left Indonesia.
"The people are in very bad shape, they spent 30 hours in the water before being picked up. An eight-year-old child was the only survivor of a family of 21. It is horrific," said Mr Danziger. He said the passengers were mainly Iraqis, with some Iranians, Afghans, Palestinians and Algerians. The crew of the boat was thought to be Indonesian but this has not been confirmed. The ship was apparently packed with asylum seekers. According to Mr Danziger there was a high proportion of women and children, the youngest reported to have been just three months old. The boat was so overcrowded that shortly after setting off 21 passengers demanded to be put down on an island - where they are still believed to be.
Mr Danziger said the authorities had been expecting a tragedy of this scale for some time. "The way the people-smugglers pack these boats with far too many people, we've always been afraid that this sort of tragedy was going to happen," he said. A spokesman for the Indonesian navy said the passengers each paid $800-$1,900 for a place on the voyage to Australia's remote Christmas Island. Another boatload of about 220 asylum seekers, most of whom said they were from Afghanistan, arrived off Christmas Island at the weekend. Australia has been trying to deter the trade by imposing tough new immigration laws and not allowing asylum seekers onto Australian soil. Australia's Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock described the latest sinking as a terrible tragedy, but said it would not alter the government's policy of discouraging people-smuggling. "It is extremely hazardous, it is life-taking and it ought not to be encouraged or accommodated," he said.
Smugglers in court
Three Indonesians appeared in an Australian court on Tuesday accused of attempting to smuggle 434, mainly Afghan, asylum seekers onto Australian territory in late August. Bastian Disun, 32, Nordames , 31 and Aldo Benjamin, 21, were arrested after being rescued from their sinking boat by the Norwegian cargo ship the MV Tampa. All the asylum seeekers were later transferred to the Pacific island state of Nauru and New Zealand where their applications are being processed.
RUSSIA AND ISLAM
The Moscow mosque, the seat of Ravil Gaynutdin, mufti of European Russia, is located in the center of Moscow. But its familiar dome and short minaret are not that easy to notice. The old building is hidden in the shadow of the monumental Olympic complex, built in the times of the former Soviet Union for the memorable 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, boycotted by many countries around the world. The boycott resulted from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1978. In the Soviet era, all manifestations of faith were scrupulously removed from public life, so it's no wonder that the Moscow mosque is overshadowed by the Olympic buildings. The religious life of Moscow's Muslims was lived in the margins of public life back in those days. The same was true of followers of Islam in other parts of the Soviet Union. Few realized at the time that Muslims numbered almost 20 million in Russia alone. Russian regions such as Bashkiria-lately renamed Bashkortostan-Tatarstan, the Volga Region and the Northern Caucasus are inhabited by communities that have for centuries identified themselves with Islam.
As it was with the faithful of other religions, Russia's Muslims were subject to state mandated atheism in the Soviet era, and their religious life could only flourish underground, far from the prying eyes of KGB agents and hidden from the awareness of non-Islamic communities throughout the former Soviet Union. Perestroika, glasnost and finally the fall of communism-all led to a situation in which post-Soviet society underwent a gradual revival of religious faith. This applied to Islam as much as to Russia's Orthodox Church. In fact, Islam has grown the fastest of Russia's diverse patchwork of faiths. By the early 1990s, the courtyard of the Moscow mosque and its green-carpet-lined interior witnessed an increasingly intense level of religious and social life.
For Bashkirs, Tatars and peoples of the Caucasus living in Moscow, the mosque formed the center of the integration of their communities. The Russian authorities initially expressed an open attitude toward the revival of religious life, permitting the construction of a parish house that drew from the architectural traditions of the East. The house was the office of the mufti of European Russia. With time, the mufti's office began to gain more and more importance, and Gaynutdin often participated in important state ceremonies. However, before long, it turned out that the revival of Islamic religiousness alarmed both ordinary non-Muslim citizens and a large part of Russia's political elite. As long as Islam was only an ornament to the country's public life, everything was tolerated. But after Russia's Muslims began to vigorously rebuild their religious traditions and express the cultural traditions of their respective nations, they faced a wall of distrust from the rest of society.
In atheistic post-Soviet society, respecting the basic principles of Islam, such as refraining from eating pork or drinking alcohol, immediately generated accusations of promoting religious fundamentalism. Such accusations are only a step away from accusing someone of Islamic extremism and terrorism. Of course, the events in Chechnya and the whole of the Northern Caucasus were of key importance for the current situation of Muslims living in Russia. The national aspirations of the Caucasian communities and their attempts to overcome the domination of the Russian political and cultural model were interpreted by Russian society as spreading Islamic fundamentalism and a growing threat of terrorism.
Characteristically, since the mid-1990s, the Russian media and the country's political elite have largely been unable to differentiate between terrorism and Islam. With any act of terror in Russia, the blame immediately falls on Islamic terrorists. As Gaynutdin notes Europe doesn't talk about Christian terrorists from Ireland, while Russia is full of stories about Islamic terrorists. These accusations peaked in the fall of 1999, when two apartment buildings were blown up in Moscow, burying several hundred people in the debris. At the time, both the authorities and the media highlighted the activity of Islamic terrorists from Chechnya. The attacks triggered another Russian intervention in Chechnya-but no evidence has been presented to confirm that the tragedies had anything to do with Islam or the activities of Chechen fighters.
The tragic events of Sept. 11 in New York and Washington, D.C. only strengthened anti-Islamic sentiment in Russia. "From the very first minutes after that tragedy, an unprecedented campaign began in Russia against Muslims," said a Muslim lawyer in Moscow who wished to remain anonymous. His practice defends Muslims in Russia. In the courtyard of the Moscow mosque, many similar statements can be heard. Muslims working in state institutions complain about the growing hostility of their co-workers, and vendors with Caucasian and Tatar characteristics at Moscow's bazaars are terrified by brutal searches conducted by both uniformed and plainclothes security services. At the same time, ordinary citizens are growing paranoid: If terrorists from Afghanistan have attacked New York, terrorists from Chechnya will certainly attack Moscow. This belief is fueled by the Russian media, which is full of speculation about the suspected activities of Islamic terrorists in Russia. It seems that the American drama is becoming an excuse for Russia to stage another crackdown on Chechnya. It is an element of the game played by the Russian majority against the country's Islamic population. The Russian public, educated according to old Soviet ideological models, is being told that Muslims are a barbarous community whose only aim is to fight infidels.
In a contemporary textbook on religion, Russian students will find the following statements, "Muslims are wild people. They often ate the livers and hearts of their enemies killed in battle." Or, "Islam is the only religion in the world which does not accept the existence of any other religion. Those who follow Islam must always be ready to fight infidels." This is how Russian society is building a negative attitude toward Muslims, leading to a outbreak of "Islamophobia."
The fact that Russia, via its president, has decided to support the international coalition against terrorism, that it has agreed to make its airspace available to aircraft with humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, that it has expressed a readiness to share its intelligence materials on terrorist organizations, and, finally, that it has become reconciled to the fact that Central Asian countries will permit their military bases to be used for anti-terrorist operations planned by the United States and its allies-all this carries a price tag. Russia expects that the world will stop protesting against the Russian way of solving the Chechnya issue, and the Islamic fundamentalism issue in general. Muslims praying in the Moscow mosque are beginning to understand that they will have to pay the price. However, officials in Moscow should remember that Muslims in Russia account for almost 20 million of the Russian population, and that their community is characterized by a much higher rate of growth than ethnic Russians. Pitting such a large group of people against the rest of society may produce unpredictable consequences in the future.
©The Warsaw Voice
SHARP RISE IN ATTACKS ON ASIANS(uk)
SCOTLAND'S leading police forces have admitted that racist attacks against Asian shopkeepers and businessman have risen sharply in the wake of the terrorist attacks in America. Senior officers from Strathclyde and Lothian and Borders forces expressed concern for the welfare of thousands of Muslims across Scotland. In Glasgow, where Asian shopkeepers claim they are living in permanent fear of attack, Strathclyde Police have launched an intensive programme of community activities in a bid to calm rising racial tensions. And in Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Chief Constable Sir Roy Cameron told of his "disgust" at the increase in attacks on Muslims in the capital. Last night the first of many discussion forums in Glasgow involving Asian businessmen revealed that many Muslims had abandoned their traditional Friday prayers over fears of attacks at mosques - and that Asian shopkeepers had even experienced petrol bomb and arson attacks on their property. Strathclyde's Chief Constable Willie Rae said: "Asians, particularly shopkeepers, have been forced to suffer a rising tide of intimidation and violence since September 11. "It is a sad reflection of the way of life in Glasgow that they are suffering this kind of intolerable abuse. "The worst thing is the abuse has become like background noise for the victims because they have become so used to it. What we are saying is nobody living in the Strathclyde force area should feel frightened because of their ethnic origin. This police force will not tolerate racism." As the police made their promises, community leaders expressed fears that the true scale of the problem had not yet been realised. Maggie Chetty of the West of Scotland Racial Equality Council said: "There has been a serious increase in incidents in recent weeks but it's not just against Muslims, it's against all Asians. "It is also not just about verbal abuse. There has been physical violence, intimidation and widespread vandalism ." In Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders, Chief Constable Sir Roy Cameron expressed his "personal disgust" at the rise in racist incidents - after the latest figures revealed that 17 of 55 reported racial incidents in the city between 11 September and 10 October had been directly linked to the attacks on the US. He said: "It is a matter of personal and professional disgust to me as Chief Constable the way many members of our ethnic minority communities are treated. This force and other agencies are doing everything in our power to root out racism in any shape or form." On the Southside of Glasgow yesterday, businessman Syed Jaffri told how he was living in fear after a petrol bomb attack on one of his properties. He said: "The situation has become intolerable for me and my employees, we've always dealt with the graffiti and the verbal abuse but things are getting worse." "Since the attacks on America we have had windows smashed, my staff have been spat on and verbally threatened and I have had a crude petrol bomb thrown at my shop window. "Things got so bad last week that a gang set the shutters of my store on fire, almost burning the store down. It's getting to the point where I have to reassure my staff on a daily basis. "I lost one staff member recently and I know other shopkeepers who are struggling to find part-time staff. People want work but they can't put up with the intimidation and hatred they face in the shops."
NATO CHALLENGED OVER BELGRADE BOMBING
The European Court of Human Rights has been hearing arguments on whether Nato should face trial for bombing Belgrade's main TV station during the Kosovo conflict. Six people have brought a case on behalf of the station's employees, saying the attack, which killed 16 people, was in breach of Europe's human rights charter. They say the air strikes were illegal under the charter, which governs the right to life and freedom of expression. They are asking for compensation. The hearing is only the first step to determine if the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has the jurisdiction to hear the case. The lawyers for the 17 defendants - the European members of Nato - argued on Wednesday that the human rights court does not have the right to judge because the bombing took place in a country which is not a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights. Christopher Greenwood, a British government lawyer arguing for the defendants, also stressed that the two Nato members that played a central role in the Kosovo campaign - the United States and Canada - are not named in the suit. And he pleaded that "Nato countries made the decision all together. They all agreed to these operations." But plaintiff attorneys accused the 17 defendants of trying to hide under "the Nato umbrella," even though every Nato member state holds a veto over any major alliance action. One lawyer, Hurst Hannum, argued that the court had already set the precedent that member states can be held accountable for acts committed outside their territory.
On the night of 23 April 1999, Nato aircraft attacked the government-run studios of Radio Television Serbia (RTS) in Belgrade, in which those killed, most of them production workers, had been ordered to report for work. The attack was part of Nato's air campaign to force the Yugoslav Government of former President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw its forces from Kosovo. At the time, Nato defended the air strike by saying the TV station was a legitimate target because of its role in what Nato called Belgrade's campaign of propaganda. The court's 20 judges have now retired to decide on the case's admissability.
BRITISH BILL TO BOOST FEMALE LAWMAKERS
Affirmative action is needed to raise the number of women in Parliament to an acceptable level, the government said Wednesday, introducing legislation that would allow the use of women-only candidate shortlists in elections. ``Relying on improvements to be made without direct intervention has been tried before and it failed,'' local government secretary Stephen Byers told the House of Commons. Just 118 of the 659 Members of Parliament elected in June are women, two fewer than at the last election in 1997. The 1997 result was a record, and included 101 female legislators for the ruling Labor Party, which used all-female shortlists to select candidates in some constituencies. Labor was forced to drop the women-only lists after a legal challenge by male hopefuls. Byers said the new bill would prevent that happening again. But he said the law would not force political parties to use women-only lists. ``With this bill there will be the freedom within political parties to have a debate about the positive measures that should be taken,'' Byers said. Theresa May, the Conservative Party's local government spokeswoman, said her party would not oppose the bill. ``We support the aim and the principles that underlie this legislation — the aim to get more women into parliament and the principle that political parties should have the freedom to determine their own selection procedures.'' But the Tories' former home issues spokeswoman, Ann Widdecombe, said the bill constituted discrimination against men. ``We whine and whine and demand special treatment. If that isn't an insult to women, I don't know what is,'' Widdecombe said. The government hopes the bill will become law by next year.
RIGHTS GROUP CONDEMNS NIGERIA RULING
An international human rights group Tuesday condemned the decision of an Islamic court in Nigeria which sentenced a pregnant woman to death by stoning for having premarital sex. LaShawn Jefferson, an official with New York-based Human Rights Watch, called the ruling against Safiya Hussaini Tungar-Tudu a cruel infringement of women's ``basic right to control their sexual autonomy.'' The decision was imposed by an Islamic court in Gwadabawa, in northern Nigeria's Sokoto state. Tungar-Tudu, who according to court officials is pregnant, has until Nov. 8 to appeal. The court's ruling is to be reviewed by the state governor before a stoning date is set. Tungar-Tudu's alleged sex partner was acquitted by the same court. Human Rights Watch said the court decided it had insufficient evidence against the man. ``Women have a basic right to control their sexual autonomy,'' said Jefferson. ``When a woman is punished so severely for having premarital sex, her right to make free decisions regarding her body is violated.'' The ruling is believed to be the second time in Nigeria that an Islamic court has sentenced someone to death by stoning. The first case last month involved a 35 year-old-man accused of sodomizing a seven-year-old boy. The man has appealed the ruling and remains in custody. Last year, an Islamic court sentenced a teen-age girl to 180 lashes with a cane for premarital sex. The sentence was later reduced to 100 lashes, which were administered last January. Islamic courts have also ordered the amputation of hands of several convicted thieves. Thousands have been killed in religious fighting since a dozen predominantly Muslim northern states began imposing Shari'ah, or Islamic law, last year. Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, with 120 million people divided into an overwhelmingly Muslim north and mostly Christian south, frequently suffers violent religious, ethnic and regional disputes.
MOST OF THE REFUGEES CAN'T SWIM(Greece)
Afghans stop over in Greece on their way to West
They disappear into the shadows as soon as night falls. Some of them have stretched plastic sheeting between branches, others have constructed make-do bivouacs out of planks and cardboard boxes. Mohammed was lucky: he got hold of an old mattress before the men from the council could take it away. Most of these people sleep on tattered blankets, but some have found refuge in an abandoned new building on Alexandras Avenue. The days are still warm but they will soon turn cooler and the nights shorter. The first rains will soon fall, too. What are these people going to do? In the first half of the 19th century, Pedion tou Areos park in Athens was the training ground for Greek King Otto's cavalry. Today it is an expansive park, one of the few green oases in Athen's concrete landscape. During the day, pensioners doze on its benches in the mild autumnal sun, children play soccer, mothers promenade their babies and hawkers sell balloons. But when the sun goes down, the park belongs to the refugees. The blue flames of their gas cookers glimmer in the bushes, torches flash conspiratorially and candles flicker. Conversations are kept low to avoid detection. Mohammed has his camp here for two weeks. Originally from Afghanistan, he crossed the Aegeas with thirty compatriots in a rickety old trawler. They were arrested by the Greek Coast Guard off the east coast of the Peloponnese peninsula. After several days in custody, the harbour police in Piraeus let them all free - "temporarily" as the papers in Mohammed's possession make clear. He has applied for asylum: "I can't return to Afghanistan, there's no future there for me. It would mean certain death," says the 20-year-old. The flood of refugees making their way across the Aegeas does not look like abating. Until mid-year it was largely Iraqi Kurds making the journey; now Afghans make up the biggest group. More than 4,500 illegal immigrants have been arrested in Greece this year already; around 1,500 of them were from Afghanistan. The coast guard estimates that they catch just one out of every ten refugees moving through Greek territory. That suggests that 45,000 refugees, including 15,000 from Afghanistan, have already come to Greece this year. The Greek intelligence services says it has information that tens of thousands of Afghan refugees are massing in the Turkish ports of Izmir, Cesme and Bodrum, as well as on Turkey's Asian coast. waiting for an opportunity to cross the Aegean to Greece and thence to western Europe. Turkish intelligence agents believe that hundreds of thousands of displaced persons are already making their way via Iran to the West. "Everyone wants to go," says Mohammed. The Taliban kept him in prison for 13 months, he says, only because he is a Hazara. The Hazara minority, who practise a moderate form of Shia Islam, comprise 20 per cent of the population, while the Taliban are recruited primarily from the devout Pashtun, who make up an estimated 50 per cent of Afghanistan's peoples. Mohammed paid his smugglers 2,000 dollars to take him to Greece. It took six weeks, hidden on trucks and buses, to make the journey through Iran and Turkey. The sum he paid is almost unimaginable on Afghan wages. Economists estimate that per-capita annual income in the Afghan theocracy is a paltry 500 dollars. It took Mohammed two years to save the money. The small family home and his father's business was sold, he says, so that at least he and his 16-year-old brother Said could flee. They were to find work in the West and send money home. That is the plan anyway. Mohammed believes that there is a lot of money to be made in the West: "In one week you can earn as much as you can in a year in Afghanistan." The refugees use every method they can to get to Europe. Some try to cross the Aegeas in rubber dinghies, while others consign their lives to decrepit old rowing boats. Most of them put their trust in people smugglers in the Turkish ports who cram them on ageing, rusty tubs like proverbial sardines. A "trip" of this sort can cost 1,000 dollars or more. Then the smugglers steer a course for Greece, the islands of Kos, Kalimnos and Samos being particularly popular because of their proximity to the Turkish coasts. But some refugee boats head straight for the Greek mainland or the Peloponnese peninsula. To avoid arrest, the smugglers often leave the refugees to their own devices before their destination is reached. In sight of the Greek coast, they go over board, climb into speedboats and head off. The migrants are left to find a way on to dry land. How many make it and how many die is unknown. What is known is that very few Iraqis and Afghans can swim. "I had never even seen the sea before," says Mohammed. The coast guard have scored a number of successes this year, by arresting 90 smugglers: among them 35 Turks and 28 Greeks. Almost 70 boats were confiscated in the process. The coast guard and the Foreign Ministry in Athens are constantly looking at ways to co-operate with the Turkish authorities to staunch the flow of refugees. On the political plane, tenseness between the traditional rivals has softened in the last two years and Athens and Ankara have signed a number of accords on co-operation against illegal migration. "In practice, the Turks are still not doing enough to clamp down on smugglers," complains a Greek diplomat. But the Turks have their problems, too. What action can they take against Afghans who have travelled illegally through Iran? Iran will not take them back and there are no planes flying failed asylum-seekers back to Kabul. Mohammed hopes he will be granted asylum and find work. For most of his compatriots, Greece is merely a staging-post on their way to join friends and relatives in western Europe, above all Britain and Germany. Most of them are aged between 15 and 25 and only a few speak English. In contrast to Iraqi Kurds who often arrive in whole family groups, there are noticeably almost no women among the Afghan refugees. "They are not even allowed on the street," says Mohammed, "so where should they run to?"
GERMANY'S ULTRA RIGHT DISCOVERS ITS SOFT SPOT FOR MUSLIMS
NPD and other groups try to capitalise on the war
The first bombs had barely hit Kabul and already three dozen rightwing extremists were marching in the streets of Berlin. Chanting anti-imperialist slogans that often have a distinctly radical leftist ring, Germany's National Democratic Party (NPD) and other ultra-rightwing groups are currently attempting to make political capital out of the war. One rightwing extremist party, the Republikaner, is distancing itself from this trend, however, and has come out in support of the American air strikes in Afghanistan. The German ultra Right's conception of the world is on a roller-coaster ride. The xenophobic NPD, for instance, has just discovered its "solidarity with the Afghan people" and a newfound solidarity with Muslims living in Germany to boot. At present it seems their racism is in second place behind their anti-Americanism. According to Germany's extreme Right, the US military strikes constitute a "war of retribution against the Islamic world": "The participation of the German government is thereby also an open declaration of war against the some two million Muslims who live here." Just last week people at NPD rallies were shouting "long live national solidarity." At the beginning of this week it was "international solidarity" they were celebrating.
With slogans reminiscent of the radical Left, Che Guevara t-shirts and a protest march to the Axel Springer Press , the rightwing extremist scene is changing its line of attack under the influence of former Red Army Faction terrorist Horst Mahler and other activists with a radical leftist past. The far Right's responses to the war are making this development particularly conspicuous. Udo Voigt, the NPD's soldier-like leader, is now talking about placing his party at the fore of a new German peace movement and the entire anti-globalisation camp. The "Reps" plan to highlight their new focus on Saturday with a "demonstration for peace" in Flensburg. A critique of "US imperialism" belongs to the basic vocabulary of Germany's extreme Right. The relevant websites make it seem as if the groups' own ideology were heir to that of the student Left of the late 1960s. It seems odd that Horst Mahler would agree with police to march on what his page calls "a popular demonstration target from back then": the Axel Springer building. Then, in another passage, the rightwing extremists slam Germany's ruling Social Democrat-Green coalition as "1960s converts." The pro-Muslim slogans the neo-Nazis are peddling right now are rooted in good old-fashioned anti-Semitism. At a press conference this week, Horst Mahler railed against the alleged "Judaeo-American occupying power" in the Middle East. On the one hand, he credited the terrorist strikes in the US to the "fight against globalisation" - a fight he said he supported. On the other, he made vague references indicating that Mossad, the Israeli secret service, might have been behind the attacks. This crude mix of ideological cliches is not going down well with all quarters of the ultra-rightwing scene. The Republikaner are going their own way and have said they are "basically agreed" with the American military strikes. While extremists close to the NPD are shouting "no German soldiers for foreign interests", Republikaner boss Rolf Schlierer emphasises that "effectively fighting Islamic fundamentalist terror is in Germany's interest". Critical solidarity with the US is what is called for, he says. Schlierer's comments are marked by the familiar chauvinistic tone. The Taliban, he explained, are endangering Germany's domestic peace "by producing refugee waves and heroin". Schlierer further called the rising number of Afghans seeking political asylum in Germany "an alarming signal".
ROMANIAN TOWN PLANS 'GYPSY GHETTO'
The mayor of a town in northern Romania has sparked outrage with plans to build a special compound to house Roma, or gypsies, on a former chicken farm. Ion Rotaru, the mayor of Piatra Neamt, announced this week that he wanted to turn the farm into flats for around one quarter of the town's 2,000 gypsies. The compound will be surrounded by a high wall and be under police surveillance. Roma and human rights groups have denounced the mayor's plan, calling it a "ghetto".
Mr Rotaru said the housing scheme would be a "modern district, with a church, a school, a medical centre and a sports hall". The mayor reportedly claimed that the measure was necessary because the Roma had destroyed their social housing. Under the plan, Roma would have to work on a public works project, building a road through a forest to pay for their accommodation. Gheorghe Ivan, a government representative for Roma, denounced the proposal. "I am afraid Hitler's ghost is still walking around the city hall of Piatra Neamt," he said. "[This is] a typical Nazi measure aimed at segregating Roma in a ghetto," he added.
Vasile Dancu, the Minister of Public Information has said the plan is "unacceptable" and plans to travel to Piatra Neamt to discuss the issue with the authorities. Roma groups have called on Romania's ruling party to put pressure on the mayor - a party member - to scrap the plans. But observers say the policy is likely to be popular with the majority Romanian population. Two years ago, the Czech Republic was internationally condemned when authorities in the north Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem constructed a wall separating the Roma and Czech communities. The wall was eventually pulled down after pressure from central government and the EU. The respect for human rights and the integration of minorities are key criteria for eastern European countries hoping to join the European Union. In the EU's progress reports on the candidate countries, due out next month, Romania is expected to be criticised over the treatment of minorities. Mr Rotaru's proposals are not likely to help Romania improve its image in Brussels.
CIVILIZATION DEPENDS ON CIVIC DISCIPLINE AND HUMANE ELITES
Why do people kill their neighbors or stand aside while others kill them? Why did the Jews of Bulgaria survive World War II, even though Bulgaria's government was anti-Semitic and a wartime ally of Nazi Germany, while in the Netherlands, a German-occupied nation with very little prewar anti-Semitism, some 80 percent of Dutch Jews perished? So far as is known, not one Bulgarian Jew was handed over to the Germans. These questions have been the subject of a striking recent exchange in The New York Review of Books (Sept. 20), prompted by incidents in Poland during the war and by a new work on Bulgaria's conduct by Tzvetan Todorov, a Bulgarian-French writer. One answer, offered by an American scholar, Helen Fein, who has analyzed what happened in 22 states and regions occupied by or allied with Nazi Germany, is that church resistance was the most important single factor in blocking official state collaboration with Nazi Holocaust policies. Where both state and church refused to sanction discrimination, as in Denmark, internal resistance was highest. Where the state or native administrative bureaucracy began to cooperate, church resistance was critical in inhibiting obedience to authority, legitimating subversion and/or checking collaboration directly. The majority of Jews evaded deportation in every state occupied by or allied with Germany in which the head of the dominant church spoke out publicly against deportation before or as soon as it began. In countries where the church did not resist, and the apparatus of state administration was leaderless because the government had collapsed or had decided to go into exile, the officials left behind tended to obey Nazi orders. In the Netherlands, after the queen and government had gone to London, an unexpected consequence was a high level of civil service collaboration with Nazi demands, and even some improvements on Nazi methods for registering Jews. The dominant Protestant Church did protest against the deportation of Jews, but it did not take a vocal public stand. It deferred to a German request not to read its protest from pulpits. No resistance network to hide people on the run from the Nazis was formed until the spring of 1943, when the Germans began picking up Dutch gentiles for labor service. Only about 20 percent of the Netherlands' Jews survived the war. Istvan Deak, a Columbia University historian, argues that the crucial factor was whether all of the established social and political hierarchies in the occupied or German-allied countries stayed in place, and could maintain some degree of national sovereignty. In those cases they were likely to control, at least in part, what happened to the Jews in their countries. Thus in Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Finland, Vichy France and Denmark, governments bargained with the Germans over what was to happen to their Jews. It was in those countries that the greatest numbers of Jews survived. These countries did not all behave well, by a long shot. Jews were often put under onerous restrictions. Vichy France handed over to the Nazis the German, Austrian, Czech, Polish and Hungarian Jews who had taken refuge in France (some 60,000), but tried to hold the line concerning French Jews. The Italian army defended French Jews inside the Italian occupation zone of France, as well as creating obstacles to the deportation of Italy's Jews, most of whom survived the war. Robert Paxton, the historian of Vichy, has written that the fact that an Italian fascist police prefect felt it necessary to formally point out to French authorities that Italy respected the elementary principles of humanity is some measure of judgment on Vichy anti-Semitism. Some 6,000 French Jews were sent to the camps, about half of whom survived. In the utterly defeated countries, such as Norway and the Netherlands, both of whose governments went to London and fought on from there, Mr. Deak writes that local bureaucrats and policemen did just what the Nazis wanted them to do in carrying out the elimination of the Jews. In Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states, where the entire structure of civil society was destroyed by the double assault of Soviet and German conquests and occupation, including deliberate efforts to mur- der the intelligentsia, the brutalized population itself sometimes killed Jewish fellow citizens or gave them over to the Nazis. Nearly all of Poland's Jews died. The lesson is that civilized society rests on civic discipline and humane responsibility. Those are undermined when structures of religion and authority are destroyed. Civilization depends heavily on the conduct and leadership of its elites. Wars can destroy society itself.
©The Tocqueville Connection
CORRECTING THE WRONGS OF THE PAST
The Israeli-Palestinian stand-off and the unsavoury debates at the World Conference Against Racism over the equation of Racism and Zionism have been the most contentious at the current conference, however, it seems to be contending with or have replaced the age-old debates over the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Racism, killing of refugees and innocent people, Apartheid and what have you? What has received the biggest applause from the people and NGOs who attended the conference has been the condemnation of slavery and the call for reparations to the victims of slavery which is directly linked to the economies, politics and standard of living in many countries in the world today. In the same of demands from ‘victims' and the descendans of victims, is the demand for a formal apology from those who promoted and abetted slavery and that they show suitable remorse through all forms of reparations. These demands have mainly been made by African, South American and Caribbean countries, though other nations like Malaysia ignoring its own discriminatory policy of Bhumiputra - sons of the soil - against the ethnic Chinese and Indians). The allegations against Indians for crimes against humanity in other countries where they have migrated to and settled in. For example, delegates from South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Fiji, the Pacific, etc have many past and on-going examples of the Indian community conniving with the old colonial powers or the strongest ethnic or political groups in their respective countries. How to make the people or governments who the indigenous people and delegates lay allegations against is hard and more obstacles have been created in their way, at least if the evidence for the victims and offsprings of the victims of the Jewish holocaust by the Hitler government during the Second World War is considered.
Slavery was admittedly one of the biggest crimes against humanity in recorded history. Of all the examples of slavery given at the conference, politically correct language and the history of the world has made it imperative to classify ‘The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade' from Africa to the present United States of America, Canada, the Caribbean and as the most deadly and most profitable. Texts from European literature from the north to the south during and after the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade from Montaigne, Voltaire to Herman Melville and on Thomas Jefferson, to mention just a few, abound in our libraries. As one of the delegates from the United States noted, 100 million black Africans were shipped out of Africa into the Caribbean, the Americas and Europe under the most horrific conditions. Slave labor enriched countries like the US and the European colonies. Arabs also profited as they were the ones who controlled the trade, often doing the dirty business of capturing the slaves and negotiating their sale. When slavery was eventually abolished legally many slave-owners were compensated. Why weren't slaves compensated? It seems to be a question that has not been solved at the conference which we can expect to see in future discussion about ways to remedy the digital divide, the environment, poverty alleviation and developing countries debt issue. And it is at the heart of the reparations debate which has shown no signs of slowing down.
The trouble is not that those slaves are long dead, even though their descendants may be alive.
©Timi Onayemi Times Publications,
London Correspondent in The United Nations Office at Geneva and in Switzerland
PARIS MAYOR UNVEILS CONTROVERSIAL PLAQUE FOR ALGERIANS KILLED IN 1961
The Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, on Wednesday unveiled a controversial plaque commemorating Algerian demonstrators killed in the French capital in 1961. The plaque, placed along the guardrail of the Pont Saint-Michel, has been at the center of a heated debate in the left-dominated Paris city council which was bitterly divided over its wording. Members of the right-wing opposition and police unions have criticized the ceremony as inopportune in the current international situation, and say the events of October 17, 1961 have been taken out of context. On October 17 of that year thousands of supporters of Algeria's National Liberation Front (FLN) defied a curfew and were rounded up by French police. The next day an undetermined number of bodies were found in the river Seine, many of them near the Pont Saint-Michel a few yards away from the police headquarters. Figures on the number of people killed vary between 30 and 200. The unveiling of the ceremonial plaque comes at a time when France is beginning to examine with greater openness the events surrounding its eight-year colonial war in Algeria. A former French general is facing war crimes-related charges over admissions he made in a book about the torture of Algerian prisoners, and last month the country held its first national "harki" remembrance day to honour the tens of thousands of Algerians who fought on its side during the war. Historians believe at least 70,000 harkis -- and possibly as many as 150,000 -- were killed by the victorious FLN in the months following Algerian independence.
©The Tocqueville Connection
THREAT TO FREE SPEECH CITED IN BRITAIN
Plan to Protect Religious Minorities Could Shield Extremists, Critics Say
Muslims and other minority groups in Britain have welcomed a government proposal to make inciting religious hatred a crime, but others worry that the effort to prevent bias attacks could stifle free expression. Civil liberties groups say they fear that the plan to expand laws barring incitement to racial hatred to include religion could dampen free speech and even shield extremists from criticism. Supporters say the plan would help protect Muslims and other religious minorities who have been targeted by misguided revenge-seekers since the Sept. 11 terror attacks against the United States. "While laws cannot induce good behavior, they can put boundaries around bad behavior," said Indarjit Singh, editor of the quarterly Sikh Messenger magazine. Home Secretary David Blunkett laid out the proposal in the House of Commons on Monday, as part of a package of domestic anti-terrorism measures. Mr. Blunkett told legislators that Prime Minister Tony Blair's government wanted to stop bigots from exploiting the current global crisis to stir up hatred. "Fair comment is not at risk, only the incitement to hate," he said. The legislation has not been unveiled, and Mr. Blunkett offered few details other than saying he wanted to broaden the law against inciting racial violence to include religion and increase the maximum two-year penalty to seven years. But some are wary. "Because of the nature of religious belief, it can be so intense, it's hard to imagine laws coming into existence without people seeking to use them to prohibit legitimate opinion," said Andrew Puddephatt, executive director of Article 19, a free speech group. "If there's one thing about this conflict, it's very clear to us it can only be solved by a vigorous and broad expression of views on all sides," he added. "That's one of the strengths we've got in Europe and the United States," he said, "and it's something we should hang onto." Muslims say they have suffered increased harassment and violence since the attacks on the United States. A 28-year-old taxi driver from Afghanistan was paralyzed from the neck down in one attack in west London. Ahmed Sheikh Mohammed, vice president of the Muslim Association of Britain, said that violence had escalated dramatically. His group's office in north London received harassing phone calls and had its windows smashed after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, he said. Muslims on the street, especially women, whose head-coverings can make them stand out, "can be exploited, they can be harassed, and everything can be done to them," he said. The proposed law "will help enhance our rights in this country." Even Sikhs, most of whom have roots in the Indian subcontinent, have been targeted by people who assume they are Muslim because they often wear turbans and beards. Mr. Singh said he would like to see an even broader bill that outlaws discrimination in areas like employment and housing and extends the ban on incitement to violence to include categories like sexual orientation and gender. "Why do we have to have this sort of legislation in bits and pieces?" he asked. "The law should protect all groups." While many civil liberties groups would support new anti-discrimination laws - and most back the ban on incitement to racial hatred - they say they are nervous about the government getting involved in debates over religion. Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, which protects the rights of nonreligious people, said that Mr. Blunkett's proposed law could make Britons afraid to criticize religion at all, prompting self-censorship. And if the law stifles criticism of religion, Mr. Wood said, religious extremists could use it to deflect examination of their activities.
©International Herald Tribune
TORTURE: POLICE CHARGED IN ROMA DEATH(Slovakia)
Seven policemen have been charged with torture in the death of Roma Karol Sendrei, 50, and the beating of his two sons. The men were taken into pre-trial custody on October 11. Sendrei was pronounced dead July 6 after having spent 12 hours chained to a steel bar and being beaten at an eastern Slovakia police station in the village of Revúca. According to an investigation report released October 9, "the police beat their victims with batons and their fists. They also caused them wounds by kicking them. One of the police even jumped on the chest of Karol Sendrei Sr as he lay on the hallway floor." The police charged face a sentence of 8 to 15 years in prison if convicted. An autopsy carried out after the three Roma had spent the night of July 5-6 in police care stated that Sendrei had died from massive internal injuries including skull and jaw fractures, punctured lungs, broken ribs and a ruptured liver. The murder caused immediate international outrage. Western diplomats who had warned Slovakia in the past to improve its minority rights record said cases like that of Sendrei Sr had to be investigated promptly if the country hoped to be accepted to the European Union in 2004. Banská Bystrica regional investigator Ján Krankuš had initially maintained that the Roma sustained their injuries during an earlier fight with local citizens in the front yard of the mayor's house in the tiny village of Magnezitovce. However, after evidence from police witnesses and a reconstruction of the events, Krankuš changed his views. Interior Minister Ivan Šimko had also promised to have the case investigated within a month. Krankuš said October 9 he could not guess when the investigation might be complete, and said that no racial motive for the beatings had so far been identified. The torture charges stem from a 1975 UN Convention on the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Humiliating Conduct to which Slovakia is signatory, and whose terms the country has absorbed into its criminal code. Under the convention torture is defined as "any action which causes a person serious pain or physical or mental suffering with the aim of gaining from him... information about a crime he is suspected of having committed." It is only possible to lay torture charges in cases where the perpetrator commits the crime in the discharge of his function as a state official. The charges are the first laid under the torture paragraph in Slovakia's history. "I welcome these charges," said Ladislav Ďurkovič, head of the People Against Racism NGO. "The attitude of the police to the Roma is often hostile. I'm convinced there are more of these cases out there just waiting to come to light."
©The Slovak Spectator
GOVERNMENT WINS ASYLUM APPEAL(uk)
The government has won its appeal against a High Court ruling on the future of the government's fast-track immigration centre at Oakington in Cambridgeshire. The appeal ruling on Friday comes after a High Court judge last month said four asylum seekers were unlawfully detained there while their application to stay in the UK was considered. The Iraqi Kurds have been granted leave to take their case to the House of Lords. Failure to win the appeal could have forced the government to release all the asylum seekers at the Ł4.5m centre, designed to cut the backlog of more than 100,000 undecided asylum applications. That could have paved the way for the government having to pay out millions of pounds of compensation.
Last month Home Secretary David Blunkett said he was "deeply disturbed" at the landmark ruling that held that the men had had their human rights breached. Asylum seekers are held at the centre, which opened in March last year, for seven days while waiting for initial decisions on their applications. Mr Justice Collins ruled that the four men had not been lawfully detained as they were neither likely to abscond nor in the process of being deported. He held that to impose detention just to speed up the determination of claims breached human rights laws.
'Tough but fair'
Attorney General Lord Goldsmith QC, argued at the Court of Appeal earlier this month that human rights legislation did not affect the Government's attempt to operate "tough but fair" immigration controls. He told the appeal judges Master of the Rolls Lord Phillips and Lords Justices Schiemann and Waller that if detention was limited to those who may abscond, it would be "a serious matter of concern". He said that since Oakington opened, of the 7,747 applications decided 7,690 were refused. The four Iraqi Kurds involved are Dr Shayan Saadi, who arrived at Heathrow airport on December 30 2000 and immediately claimed asylum; Zhenar Maged, Dilshad Osman and Rizgan Mohammed all arrived at Dover in December 2000 hidden in the backs of lorries. Three of the men have since been granted refugee status on appeal. Two benefited from a technicality.
SMALL TOWN HAS BIG FEARS ABOUT REFUGEES(Hungary)
The local government of Kalocsa has protested against the National Security Cabinet's decision to use a vacated barracks building as a refugee detention centre. The mayor's office has asked the cabinet to revoke its decision and called on local residents to collect protest signatures.
Residents of Kalocsa demonstrated on Friday afternoon against the Government's recent decision to set up the detention centre. At the protest, mayor Andor Gusztáv Török told the rally that the former barracks was unsuitable for refugees because it was the site of a meningitis outbreak two years ago and it was too close to the Paks nuclear power plant. While he had nothing against refugees, Török said, "the decision to set up the centre was made without input from local residents or the local authority." He added that talks should be held on the issue and the establishment of the centre suspended in the meantime. Interior Ministry Chief of Staff László Valenta said the Government decision was final, because other detention camps were practically filled to capacity. But in an apparent step to appease certain fears in Kalocsa, Valenta said that refugees from the former war in Yugoslavia who were still living in Hungary, and not Afghans, would be moved there. The Director General of the Immigration Office, Zsuzsanna Végh, told reporters last week that the number of asylum seekers in Hungary had risen by 14% this year and that Afghan nationals continued to arrive in ever larger numbers. Hungarian authorities did not anticipate receiving a large wave of refugees, however, she said, adding that most Afghans leaving their country would be received in camps in Asia. This year a total of 2,749 Afghan nationals had applied for refugee status, from which proof of actual persecution was established in only 40 instances. While some 59 other applicants were given temporary protection and 574 were rejected outright, none will be expelled, as it is assumed that it the Afghans returned to their homeland they would be exposed to danger.
©The Budapest Sun
HATE SITES FLOURISH AFTER ATTACKS
ANTI-Semitic and anti-Islamic websites have blossomed in the wake of last month's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, spawning a whole new range of conspiracy theories. The Jewish anti-racist watch group, the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC), says hate-speech is flourishing in the age of the internet, with Australian sites among thousands attacking foreigners. The warning came as the NSW Community Relations Commission says it has received more than 300 calls reporting racist attacks, generally against Muslim Australians. The ADC has issued a public warning about several sites, including one developed by a Western Australian man that blames the so-called "New World Order" for the attacks, and denies the involvement of suspected mastermind Osama bin Laden. An emailed circular -- also originating in Australia -- claimed the attacks were orchestrated by a shadowy group that wanted to suppress freedoms, with the eventual aim of the "registration of every man, woman and child to report to his local post office with car keys, mortgage, bank book and cheque book". Countless cases have been reported to Hate Watch in the US, including anti Muslim chat room postings and emailed death threats to Islamic and Jewish organisations. "The internet has allowed individuals to reach a mass audience," ADC director of research and public affairs, Benseon Apple said. "In the past, they would have had to stand on a street corner, but now they can publish at the touch of a button." Mr Apple said, while the "globalisation of hate" was a disturbing new trend, the claims made by far-right ideologues dated back to Russian Tsarist times. He warned that Australian ISPs had to do more to control hate websites, given that many could be accessed by schools students who may not realise their political agenda. "It is a concern, especially for schools students doing research assignments," he said. "They may not know what the site is and they could be misled." Mr Apple said the ADC supported self-regulation over censorship, but was disappointed by the lack of response from ISPs. A 1998 attempt to introduce guidelines on racist content to the Internet Industry Association was not successful. "Self-regulation by the industry is the most effective way to go," he said. "The US ADC has developed a filter for families, but we believe that may obstruct people who are doing research." ISPs had reacted in some cases where "blatantly racist" sites were reported, he said, but often cases were complex and difficult to deal with. "There are several dozen hate websites in Australia and it's not easy to deal with them." IIA executive director Peter Coroneos said while ISPs were sympathetic towards the ADC, they were unable to act because an anti-racism code of practice had no legislative backing and would be unenforceable. Mr Coroneos said cases would be best taken to court. The only reported case of legal action against allegedly racist internet content was the Executive Council of Australian Jewry's (ECAJ) 2000 action against Adelaide Institute head Fredrick Toben. That action - which centres on the Adelaide Institute's denial of the Holocaust - is before the Federal Court for enforcement action. ECAJ executives have warned that a rise in online anti-Semitism reflected a rise in racism against other ethnic groups. National vice-president Jeremy Jones said the US attacks had also channelled hatred towards Muslims. "The Muslim community has received abusive email," he said. "Newsgroups are now getting lots of racial abuse." Mr Jones said racist email hoaxes were also doing the rounds, with even educated people forwarding claims that Jews working in the World Trade Centre had received advanced warning of the attack. "These hoaxes have spread really fast because they appear to come from credible sources," he said. But online liberty groups have warned the attacks on the US have offered an excuse to curtail fundamental freedoms.
HATE CRIME LAWS TO BE TIGHTENED(uk)
Ministers say genuine immigrants have nothing to fear
Measures to combat religious hate crimes and overhaul the asylum and immigration systems are being announced by Home Secretary David Blunkett. Mr Blunkett is telling the Labour Party conference on Wednesday that the laws on incitement will be extended to cover religious, as well as racial, hatred. The move comes amid concern about attacks on members of the UK's Muslim community following the terror attacks on the US on 11 September. An overhaul of the work permit system - similar to America's 'green card' system - will be put forward as a way of defusing the debate over asylum and immigration. Mr Blunkett is also expected to use his speech to try and ease union concern over the controversial asylum seekers' vouchers and dispersal schemes by promising to complete and announce the results of the long-running review by the end of the month. He denounced the asylum system at a conference fringe meeting earlier this week, saying: "The system doesn't work. It is a mess from beginning to end and I have every intention of doing something about it." Mr Blunkett's address is the last high profile speech before the Labour Party conference comes to an end at lunchtime on Wednesday. It was curtailed to allow another recall of Parliament on Thursday.
Tougher incitement laws
The home secretary is saying he is determined to ensure that religion is not used to divide and fragment communities. He intends to toughen up incitement laws so that the right of free speech can not be abused to stir up racial hatred. The new incitement offence will cover all religions, not just Islam. The home secretary also wants to look at introducing a new work permit system, with four key changes introduced. The first would be the introduction in January next year of a highly skilled migrant's permit, which would allow people with significant professional qualifications to enter the country without a job, in order to seek work, providing they have the means to support themselves. Overseas students who graduate in the UK will also be able to apply for a work permit without leaving the country. Discussion are planned with employers and unions about the potential for a system of quota-based permits for those parts of the economy handicapped by severe labour shortages. Finally, there would be temporary permits for seasonal workers.
Ahead of the speech, Mr Blunkett told BBC News he would be presenting a report to Parliament at the end of the month on "revising radically" nationality and asylum policy. At present, more than 70% of asylum claims failed because people were really economic migrants to the UK, which had substantial labour shortages in some sectors. "We need to say there is a legitimate reason for you to work, we want to welcome you on that basis. "But we do not want people trying to jump on trains coming through the Channel Tunnel, nor do we want people trying to claim asylum who don't have a refugee status." The work permits proposal was welcomed by Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, who said it would mean "managed migration" where asylum seekers could make a real economic contribution. Mr Morris told BBC News he was disappointed that the review of the voucher system he won a year ago was not yet complete, but he predicted that Mr Blunkett would say the scheme had failed to meet its objective. He told the conference just before Mr Blunkett's speech: "David, we do trust you but please remember that asylum seekers can not sit in the waiting room of the promise never-never land." He pledged to continue the campaign against vouchers until there was justice for asylum seekers and an end to the "demeaning" scheme. Earlier, Mr Blunkett himself said there was a "real difficulty" with the way vouchers were perceived but the issue had to be addressed as part of a broader package of measures.
NEO-NAZIS GATHER FOR BERLIN RALLY(Germany)
Neo-Nazi activity has been on the rise since reunification
Members of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) are to mark the anniversary of German reunification on Wednesday with a march down Berlin's main shopping street. Thousands of anti-racism demonstrators are expected to turn out to protest the parade down the city's Kurfuerstendamm, where many shops are planning to pull down shutters to display their distaste for the far-right group. Several groups hostile to the NPD wanted the march banned, but the city's regional government decided against such a move, believing it would simply be overturned by the local courts. Germany's constitutional court is currently considering an outright ban on the NPD, which is widely believed to be linked with a string of violent attacks on immigrants and minority groups.
The German government has made clear that it holds the party responsible for inciting racial violence, but outlawing the group has proved to be no simple matter. Cabinet and parliament agreed last year on a ban, but the constitutional court must be convinced that the NPD is a threat to democracy before it abolishes the party. Because it is little more than a fringe party, with just several thousand members, such a threat may be hard to establish. Some observers note that the status of the NPD - which wants an end to further immigration - could be enhanced if the court rules that the ban is unconstitutional. Others worry that banning such a group would simply push it underground, possibly producing an even more virulent form of racism. Only two political parties have been banned in post-war Germany. The successor of the Nazi Party was outlawed immediately after World War II, and the Communist Party was banned in West Germany in the 1950s.
The Reuters news agency reported that some 5,000 people are expected to join the counter-rally, which is being organised by the German Federation of Trade Unions. Choosing Kurfuerstendamm as the scene of a rally is seen as particularly symbolic, as Jews once owned many of the shops there before the Nazis took power in 1933. Many were forced to sell their property well below the going market rate as part of the Nazi "Ayrianisation" programme, before fleeing abroad or being sent to concentration camps.
ASYLUM DIVIDES STRASBOURG MPs
Members of the European Parliament are set to vote on new proposals to make laws on immigration and asylum the same across the European Union. Tuesday's debate saw MEPs split down party lines, with the left and the greens supporting the proposed common asylum policy. Conservatives, for their part, warned it would let a flood of migrants into the EU's 15 member states. Plans put forward by the European Commission include an EU-wide definition of a refugee, a single procedure for processing claims and common holding conditions while applications are decided. The vote comes as the Austrian Government agreed on a controversial new "immigration contract" which will introduce fingerprinting for all asylum seekers.
Under the contract foreigners - including new arrivals and their families, people without permanent residency and unemployed people from non-EU countries - will have to attend, and pass, "integration" courses in German language and citizenship. If they refuse, or fail, they will suffer either financial penalties or even the loss of their residency. The policy is the outcome of vocal lobbying on the part of the far-right Freedom Party formerly led by Joerg Haider - now part of Austria's governing coalition. Although it is expected to be passed in parliament it has faced strong opposition from the Social Democrats and Greens and is said to have put strain on the coalition.
Austria's proposals indicate the divergence of opinion across the EU on how asylum policy should proceed. UK Labour MEP Robert Evans proposed a resolution in Strasbourg to back the European Commission's blueprint for a common asylum policy. He said the plans would improve the distribution of asylum seekers across the EU. "In recent years it seems EU countries have perhaps been competing to become the least attractive to potential asylum seekers," he said in Tuesday's debate. But opponents argued the policy would lead to a flood of immigrants. "Ninety percent of asylum seekers are not really persecuted for political reasons," said German Christian Democrat Hartmut Nassauer. EU countries are committed to forming a common asylum policy by 2004 but the summer was marked by friction between France and the UK over immigration as hundreds of asylum seekers tried to cross the channel. The Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino said that the 11 September attacks on the United States had given the EU added impetus to push through new laws.
MOROCCAN LESSONS IN KEEPING RELIGION AND POLITICS APART
Kingdom is home to 5,000 Jews
It was during literature class, Marcel says, when two of his classmates put their heads together and began whispering excitedly. "I was curious to sneak a peek at their exercise books while they were scribbling furiously in them. What were they up to?" Marcel can't suppress a smile when he recalls his discovery: "They were teaching each other Arabic and Hebrew!" That was 60 years ago. The school which Marcel Bensimon attended in those days was one of the few mixed schools in Morocco. In his class were Moroccan, French, Muslim, Jewish and Christian boys and girls. Marcel is Jewish, the child of a Moroccan father and a French mother born and raised in Algeria, and holds both Moroccan and French citizenship. In the 1940s, the Jewish community of Morocco comprised around 250,000 members. The large-scale emigration of Jews following the first Arab-Israeli war in 1951 and the Six-Day War years later caused their numbers to shrink to 5,000 today.
But this small community is still party to a very active social life, especially in Casablanca, which is home to 80 per cent of Moroccan Jews. "There are 32 synagogues in the city, a Jewish cemetery, kosher restaurants, a youth sports club, an old people's home and even a rabbinical school," notes Serge Berdugo, the leader of Morocco's Jews. "We may have less rabbis than before, but three or four students still pass through the training every year." Berdugo considers this important, as many of the world's best-known rabbis are Moroccans, heading the communities of major cities such as Paris, London, Brussels and Caracas. Some time this year a museum of Moroccan Jewry will open in Casablanca, the first of its kind in the Arab World and an attempt to arouse interest among the Muslim population for a community that has been at home in Morocco for 2,000 years. Ever since the Arab conquest of North Africa and the Islamicisation of the Maghreb towards the close of the 7th century, the Jewish and Muslim story has been closely interwoven. Together, Jews and Muslims set off for Spain, where both groups helped define a glorious 800 years. Following the demise of Moorish Spain, Jews and Muslims alike were expelled during the Reconquista and returned to Morocco.
The events of the 20th century have also linked the fate of Morocco's Jews with those of its Muslim inhabitants. When the anti-Jewish laws were applied by the collaborationist regime in Vichy to its Moroccan protectorate - as it then was - the sultan, Mohammed V, sought to safeguard his Jewish citizens from the patch bearing the Star of David that the Nazis had prescribed in much of occupied Europe. But the French governor informed the sultan that henceforth the Jewish population must wear the Star of David on their clothing. Thereupon, relates Serge Berdugo, the sultan asked how many stars the authorities were thinking of producing for Morocco. When the governor answered 200,000, the sultan requested that 40 more be produced for his family. And so gratitude and trust strengthened the bond that still exists between the Jewish community and the royal court. To maintain this bond, both sides practise gestures of respect and tolerance. The government, for example, sent official representatives to the inauguration of a new synagogue in Casablanca at the start of the year.
On achieving independence, the Moroccan civil service opened its doors to Jews. Under Hassan II, Andre Azoulay, as royal adviser on foreign-trade affairs, occupied one of the highest posts that a Moroccan Jew had ever held. Serge Berdugo was himself minister of tourism from 1993 to 1995. In return, Morocco's Jews tend to go about their religious duties in an inconspicuous way. In any case, their religion only partly defines their identity. "In the first place, we are citizens of Morocco," notes Berdugo, "and a Moroccan can never lose his nationality. When Hassan II died two years ago, many Moroccan Jews who had emigrated to Israel went into mourning." It is a time-honoured custom among Moroccan Jews to offer prayers for the king's health in synagogue. But it is not all roses. The violent confrontations between Israelis and Palestininans have also cast their shadows over the Kingdom of Morocco. Yet it has consistently played arbiter in the peace process and maintained its diplomatic relations with Israel. In 1976, Hassan received Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and, ten years later, the then-premier and now foreign minister, Shimon Peres. Shortly before his death, Hassan II was planning a meeting with Ehud Barak, to be held in May 1999. But just one-and-a-half years later, in October 2000, around 300,000 Moroccans took to the streets of Rabat to demonstrate for their Arab brothers in Palestine. They burned Israeli flags and paraded pictures of killed intifada fighters through the capital. These events have forced the hand of the son of the late Hassan II, the young King Mohammed VI. Overnight, he closed the Israeli liaison office. The Jewish community subsequently published a declaration calling for peace in Israel. Endeavouring to take the middle course, it pronounced itself in favour of a united Jerusalem under dual sovereignty.
"The people don't have to love one another in order to live with one another," says Serge Berdugo, in complete accordance with what for the community is a matter of principle: Avoid all tricky questions. He refuses, for example, to be drawn on the problematics of the Temple Mount or the role of Orthodox Jews in forming settlement policies. Politics and religions are quite separate in his mind, he insists. Yet for all that, Berdugo fumes with anger when he recalls the demands made by the NGO forum at the UN's Conference against Racism in Durban to have Israel publicly declared a racist, apartheid state. This, he says, is completely opposed to the Moroccan government's position. True enough, in a recent interview, the king himself told France's Le Figaro of the deep roots of his country's Jewish culture and praised his country as a unique model of Judaeo-Muslim partnership. In contrast to this unity is the position of those 700,000 emigre North African Jews who now live in Israel. In the Promised Land, they are regarded as forming a hard core of right-wing voters. In the 1980s, these eastern Jews founded the Shas Party, which pursues a ruthless policy in regard to its Palestinian neighbours. Serge Berdugo, though, is putting all his efforts into keeping his community out of this conflict. "The word 'commonplace' is for us Moroccan Jews a wonderful word," he says of his reserve on the issue. "We want to live a 'commonplace', everyday life, just like everyone else."
MEANING OF 'JIHAD' DIVIDES MUSLIMS
Xanthi mufti tells the 'Athens News' that Bin Laden and his Al-Qa'edaorganisation 'are anarchists and have nothing to do with holy war'
WHILE the English language bequeathed to posterity the word "crusade" - fraught with potential misunderstanding such as has now famously been occasioned by US President George W Bush - Arabic is certainly not lagging far behind with its own contribution to recent news vocabulary: the emotionally charged word jihad.
Bush only days ago angered many Muslims when he appeared to equate his war against terrorism with the Christian crusades of old.
But while "crusade" has undergone a linguistically legitimate transformation from its original usage - connoting the mediaeval wars waged by Chistendom on the Muslims of the Holy Land - to what Bush now refers to as a "campaign", and one not necessarily targeting Muslims, jihad has become the victim of conflicting interpretations within the world of Islam itself.
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban clearly see themselves as the custodians of purist Islam, and would thus justify retaliating against any attack on them as jihad. And Noor Mohammed, a leader of a conservative Islamic party in Pakistan, was quoted on September 26 as saying: "It is a religious duty for anyone who calls himself a Muslim to join the jihad. If infidel forces unleash war on Muslims, the people in neighbouring countries are duty-bound to help in their defence."
Osama bin Laden's reported declaration that Pakistanis who died on September 22-23 during clashes with the Islamabad government were "firm on the road of jihad,... as the first martyrs of the battle of Islam of this age", was prominently splashed across the front pages of newspapers across the world - most of which translated the term as "holy war".
Does the Quran really exhort Muslims to kill "infidels"? Linking this query to the recent terror attacks against the United States, the Athens News put the question to the Mufti of Xanthi, Memet Emin Sinikoglou, who is Greece's foremost Islamic judicial authority (Islam does not have a priesthood as such). The mufti denied the very idea that the Quran sanctioned such acts.
"The Quran's view is quite unequivocal," he said, and cited Surah (chapter) 5, Al-Ma'ida (The Spread Table), and verse 32, which reads: "If anyone slew a person... it would be as if he slew the whole nation." Hence, said the mufti, acts of terrorism should be seen as condemned by God.
But what about jihad, or holy war? Research by Athens News staff involved consulting a concordance to the Quran - the ultimate authority for all aspects of Islamic teaching - which came up with several references. Surah 9, At-Tauba (Repentance) verse 20 defines jihad as "striving with might and main in Allah's cause". Expounding the thrust of this verse, the late renowned Abdullah Yusuf Ali had this to say in his definitive commentary:
"Here is a good description of jihad. It may require fighting in Allah's cause... but its essence consists in... earnest activity in the service of Allah. Mere brutal fighting is opposed to the whole spirit of jihad."
The Xanthi Mufti told the Athens News that bin Laden and his Al-Qa'eda organisation "are anarchists and have nothing to do with jihad".
"There is no jihad today," he added, and pointed out that "Muhammad did not even resort to jihad when he peacefully took control of Mecca" [in AD 630]. And, indeed, history confirms that the Prophet took the city without bloodshed, and that no resident was forced to become a Muslim.
Muslims were in two minds when approached in Athens and asked by the Athens News if they believed that the Quran sanctioned the violent response bin Laden and his associates are said to be preparing in the event of a Western attack on the Taliban. Muhammad S, a watch repairer from Egypt, said that "if America has proof bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington, then he will deserve all he gets".
Saudi national Mahmoud D - who like Muhammad S quoted above did not want to give his surname - claimed to be "a little out of touch with the news since I came to Greece on holiday. I can say for sure that Islam does not per mit aggression, but it does permit fighting in self-defence if you are attacked".
Pakistanis Iqbal K and Iqbal E, likewise insistent on anonymity apart from their given name ("a very popular name in Pakistan," they pointed out, laughing), had diametrically opposed views.
K told the Athens News that "the West has forgotten that in the 1980s bin Laden was trained and financed by America to fight the Soviets. Then the mujahideen were heroes". (The word mujahideen is derived from the same Arabic triliteral root as the Arabic jihad - eds). But his companion, E, was still so overwhelmed by television footage he had seen of the destruction of the World Trade Center that all he could say was "those wicked people must be punished".
Muslim clerics quoted by Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper expressed views similar to those of Greece's Mufti Sinikogou. At a September 17 press conference, Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi - the grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar - denounced the attacks on the US as "acts of terror directed against innocent people".
Abdel-Mo'tei Bayyoumi of Al-Azhar's Islamic Research Academy was quoted as saying that for jihad to be legitimate, it must meet several conditions. Among them: Muslims must not provoke aggression, and should only fight against those who fight against them, while women, children and the elderly should be spared. "There is no terrorism or a threat to civilians in jihad," he insisted.
While Bayyoumi unequivocally condemned the suicide bombings carried out in the US as "unjustified terrorist attacks" unacceptable to Islam, he added that assaults carried out by Palestinians against Israelis were acceptable "because Palestinians do not possess the sophisticated weapons that Israel has".
But other scholars quoted by Al-Ahram strongly oppose suicide bombings, even those carried out by Palestinians. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdel-Aziz Al-Sheikh, was quoted as saying that suicide operations are "strictly forbidden in Islam" and that "one who blows himself up in the midst of enemies is performing an act contrary to Islamic teachings".
With Russian President Vladimir Putin's newly announced support for the fight against terrorism winning him kudos in the West, and Vatican officials declaring that the United States had "a just right" to act in self-defence against global terrorism, the Taliban were further isolated on September 25 when Saudi Arabia severed all relations with the regime and gave Afghan diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.
This left only Pakistan maintaining diplomatic links with Kabul since the United Arab Emirates severed ties two days previously. Rulings as to what can legitimately be classed as jihad seem set to be a bone of contention even between Muslims themselves. But in the foreseeable future there hardly seems much likelihood of consensus as to where the dividing line comes between jihad and terrorism.
RESPECTING VICTIMS' DIGNITY
Right-wing violence forgotten as attention turns to external dangers
Who can afford to spare a though for right-wing extremism in trying times like these? When "domestic security" is on the agenda, international terrorism heads the list. And when Germany presents "perpetrators" to the public, they are bound to be those Islamist "sleepers" we've heard so much about. Yet caution is called for, as Interior Minister Otto Schily recently told the Berlin Bundestag (parliament): "We must not neglect other areas of crime." He's right, of course: right-wing extremism is growing apace, in many places quite openly. Foreigners, punk rockers, gays, left-wingers and the homeless know to steer a wide berth around many eastern German youth centres, bus shelters and railway stations. But still, a shocking number are caught, beaten and kicked to death by right-wing thugs. Such attacks almost never merit much media attention. All looking the other way, it seems, as interest focuses on the unimaginable threats posed by suicide hijackers. Sadly, against this backdrop, the victims of right-wing violence are left to pale into insignificance, now more than ever. A year ago, things were different. After years of looking the other way and avoiding the subject, suddenly German society was abuzz with disgust at the daily beatings and killings administered by violent-prone right-wingers. In a flash, even academics were being listened to. For years, they had identified a right-wing "mainstream" in sections of eastern German society: an adolescent subculture favouring hard, right-wing rock music and wearing familiar (and illegal) symbols on their T-shirts and jackets. It went so far that, on one of his tours of the east, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder felt obliged to mention the dangers of right-wing extremism every day. Later, in autumn 2000, this finally culminated in his call for an "uprising of the upstanding". Well, that is a long time ago now and the debate has all but fizzled out, without the situation improving. Right-wingers define the atmosphere in many places; members of fringe political groupings, such as the NPD, ensnare youngsters with offers of helping with homework and organising adventure sports, while too many civic leaders just look on. And still, murders continue. The figures are alarming, despite the many positive advances made in the last year. Numerous victim-counselling centres, anti-racist initiatives and mobile advice bureaux have been set up; hundreds of thousands have take to the streets to demonstrate; parliament has become involved; the state has stumped up funding; there are divers schemes to lure people away from the neo-Nazi scene and thus weaken the organisations; and the Constitutional Court is shortly due to debate the government's application to ban the NPD.
But a closer look reveals a divided society. Well-meaning people seek to convert other well-meaning converts with the dire warnings, while another section has come to loathe democracy and is receptive to the ideals of intolerance. The debate on right-wing extremism must be put back on the political agenda. Before that is done, however, the facts must be laid on the table. Because it is a fact that, since German unification in 1990, at least 97 people have been killed by right-wing radicals, probably many more. It is these people whom the Frankfurter Rundschau and Tagesspiegel newspapers seek to give a face and to tell their story. At issue after all is the victims' dignity, as well as the need to take the dangers seriously. But the number of deaths is not the only thing the German authorities continue to gloss over. When the two papers published their first terrible balance a year ago, the fight against right-wing extremists took on a tangible form. Later, the government made available an extra 50 million marks (23.4 million dollars) for victim support and prevention. Now it has seen fit to perform an about-turn and cut 40 million of that from the 2002 budget. Yet the battle is going to be a long one, a sentiment enunciated time and again by all leading figures in the political arena. The danger emanating from the centre of this society is in danger of being forgetten in the face of the threats from the unknown. With good reason: Politicians have been at pains in the past days to stress over and over that freedom and security are two sides of the same coin. How true - particularly as far as the right-wing extremist danger goes. There can never be any freedom in places where right-wing radicals, skinheads, neo-Nazis - call them what you will - gain control of whole neighbourhoods and establish "no-go areas" for minorities and others - and certainly no security. Germany must see to it that both concepts are redefined - by winning the battle against right-wing extremism. We owe this to both the victims and ourselves.
FASCIST RALLY BROKEN UP BY POLICE(Slovakia)
Six Roma youths were beaten by skinheads 24 hours after police broke up a neo-Nazi concert. A 20-year-old Roma, Marek Balá , suffered concussion and several broken fingers after he was attacked by a group of 20 skinheads in Prievidza September 30. Witnesses say the incident took place near the Billa supermarket and that local Nazi supporters were responsible. One man has since been arrested and charged with a racially motivated crime after he admitted to police he was a Nazi supporter. Miroslav B, 25, an unemployed man from Prievidza, told police: "I am a skinhead and I hate gypsies." Peter Hortulayni, spokesperson for Prievidza police, confirmed they were now pursuing the case and investigating the activities of 15 other men on the night of September 30. "I can confirm we are investigating a racially motivated crime and that those responsible will face the full force of the law," he said. On September 29, police stopped an illegal neo Nazi concert in Papradno (in the Pova ská Bystrica district) attended by around 500 skinheads from across Europe and the US. The police operation involved 150 officers and 89 skinheads were detained. The police used only handcuffs as a means of restraint, and those detained were released in the morning, while other skinheads in Papradno left at about 5:00. There were no injuries. Trenčín Regional Police spokesperson, Lenka Bušová, said: "We checked every person who was there. We brought 89 people in for questioning on suspicion of supporting movements suppressing human rights and freedoms. "All of them were released and so far no charges have been brought. However, considering the information we have gathered, that may change." During the operation, police recovered newspapers, magazines, posters and Nazi paraphernalia. A video camera with two cassettes and knives was also seized. Two bands from the US, another two from Slovakia and one Czech group were supposed to participate, but band members disappeared a short time before the raid. Nazi sympathisers from the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden, France, Slovenia and Germany are also believed to have attended the concert, which was held to commemorate the death of Ian Stuart Donaldson, founder of the Blood and Honour organisation and lead singer of Skrewdriver, a British racist rock group. Donaldson died in a car crash in the UK in September 1993. According to the L'udia Proti Rasizmu (People Against Racism - L'PR) NGO the concert was one of the biggest neo-Nazi events in central Europe, where the "elite of the elite" in the skinhead movement met. However, L'PR chairman Ladislav Ďurkovič said he now feared that revenge attacks would be targeted against Roma, other minorities and anti-racist activists. "The police poked a hornet's nest, which could lead to the radicalisation and strengthening of the neo-Nazi movement. We can now expect an increased number of skinhead attacks targeted against Roma people, other minority groups and third sector activists like us. The skinheads know it was us who tipped off the police," he warned. In response to the police raid, the neo-Nazis who attended the concert wrote on their internet web page: "The incident in Prievidza was not the last one, the more the better, let them see that no police intervention will stop us. "We didn't do anything that would be considered criminal in a free country, and still tens of us were brought in by the police." L'PR say Saturday's rally involved "the hardest core of global neo-Nazis".L'PR praised the police action but insisted they now expected law enforcement officers to pursue prosecutions and investigate skinhead movements in Slovakia. "After several neo-Nazi meetings earlier this year which were ignored by the police, we put all our efforts into changing the approach of the police towards these meetings and we succeeded," said Ďurkovič. "Participation alone in such an event is a crime involving the suppression of human rights and freedoms. "But we are disappointed that the police questioned only 235 suspects out of more than 500 neo-Nazis in attendance." Police spokesperson Bušová said that the people at the concert did not publicly claim to be neo-Nazis, and that the event had been organised under the guise of a dance party. Jozef Sitár, the spokesperson of the Interior Ministry, said the police plan to strengthen their fight against organised neo-Nazi groups, and claimed such a policy is already in use. "The proof of it was this action," he said.
©The Slovak Spectator
ATROCITY VICTIMS LEFT ON SIDELINES AT DURBAN RACISM CONFERENCE
Meeting torpedoed by attempt to indict Israel in final statement
Pretty much everyone got a word in, be it Indian dalits, who protested outside Durban's cricket stadium against the Indian caste system, or Japan's buraku, who denounced in broken English the marginalisation they say they suffer in their country. Then there were South American Indians from Brazil, who drew attention to themselves by singing and dancing in feather costumes, and South African street children who begged delegates from around the world for a few rand on the streets of Durban. Whether anyone heard them is another matter. South African police regularly rounded up street children and trucked them off to some hostel - or maybe just dumped them in some outer suburb of the city.
Dalits and buraku fought in vain for their causes to be included in the final conference document, and Irani Barbosa dos Santos somehow felt they might just as well have stayed at home. "Everyone here seems to have only one issue in mind," said the Brazilian Indian. "We're just stage-props here." That widely held opinion for once unites almost all races. The UN's World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) has been kidnapped, say US civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson, a European delegate and a spokesman for Australian aborigines. All they disagree on, if they disagree at all, is who was kidnapped and who the kidnappers are.
The judgment on the streets of Durban and the public statements by the majority of conference delegates is clear. "By leaving prematurely the Americans have broken up the conference," says Roland Pangowish, spokesman for Canada's Assembly for First Nations. "They're running away so as not to have to come to terms with racism in their own country," the Canadian Indian adds.
International human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch agree with governments such as that of the host, South Africa - at least publicly. The Americans do seem to have run away, so they are to blame for the failure of the historic conference.
Behind the scenes a different picture emerges. From the start the conference was controlled by hardliners from the Middle East, Western delegates say.
While the various interest groups had agreed at the preparatory conference in Geneva that the old tactic of trying to equate Zionism with racism was not to be warmed up yet again ("the subject is dead," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said), the Arab League had called for precisely that as the conference began. Beyond that, the Arab delegations insisted on Israel as the sole country to be singled out and condemned in the final report. In what some observers called "typical bazaar mentality," Arab delegates made maximum demands - and now they're surprised at the consequences of their negotiating strategy.
Western delegates saw as a poor omen what non-governmental organisations (NGO) agreed on as their final document on Saturday night. It pillories Israel as an "apartheid state" that is in the process of practising "genocide" among Palestinians. These formulas came as a shock to participants from the West.
When a majority of NGO delegates went on to delete from the declaration a paragraph condemning anti-Semitism, Jewish delegates' patience was exhausted. They too pulled out. The NGOs' declaration even prompted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, to comment. "I am outraged by the hate-filled language in the document," she said. Parts of the declaration were "offensive and absolutely unacceptable." But Ms. Robinson's statement came too late. By then the Israelis and the US delegation had already left.
Demonstrations in Durban last weekend testified to the strange wind that was blowing among NGO delegates and South African sympathisers with the Palestinians. Leaflets were distributed on which a picture of Adolf Hitler was captioned: "What would have happened if I had won?" The leaflet noted approvingly that "there would be no Israel and no Palestinian blood shed." On the downside, it said that "I would not have allowed the New Beetle to be built." The South African government has yet to respond to such incidents.
The host country's role in the Durban debacle is viewed with scant enthusiasm by Western delegates. Conference chairwoman South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Zuma-Dhlamini has since offered to salvage the conference, but South Africa sided too openly with the Palestinians from the start for it now to assume the role of a neutral pilot. The African countries had evidently been given an assurance by the Arab League that they could rely on support for all their demands if they backed the Palestinians. But the pact has backfired on Africa even though no African delegate has yet openly admitted the fact. With the Middle East dominating the conference, the most important agenda item for the Africans almost fell by the wayside. It was to have been an apology by the West and reparations for slavery.
Advocates stood a fair prospect of making headway on this new issue. The West is said to have been prepared to apologise for the horrors of the slave trade, delegates said. The African countries had previously signalled that they might be prepared in return to set aside their call for reparations payments. In the course of the conference they reneged on that concession.
Zimbabwe assumed the role of spokesman for countries that resurrected the call for compensation. Zimbabwe, the very country that is currently campaigning against white farmers by playing on racist resentment! Only last weekend Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe hit the headlines by pillorying the avarice of "Jewish factory owners" in his country. Strangely, Zimbabwe has so far played virtually no role on the agenda of the anti-racism conference in Durban.
In these circumstances it seems virtually out of the question that a final declaration will be agreed that is endorsed at least by the Europeans as the remaining representatives of the West. The only real question is whether the Europeans will leave early, as they did in 1978, or vote against the final declaration, as they did in 1983. If either happens, the WCAR would go down as the third historic failure to agree on a common language and a common programme of action against racism. "The only thing that makes me keep on trying" says a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda, "is that the world must know my story." Francois-Xavier Nsanzuwera, who lost his entire family in the unprecedented bloodbath that swept his country, is one of the victims of racism who report daily at midday to the conference on what happened to them. Not a day has passed on which those who tell their stories have not burst into tears or choked their tears back. They have included a child slave from Niger, a Bosnian woman from Prijedor who was raped by Serbs - or Nsanzuwera from Rwanda. But one thing's already sure - not a word of his report will be included in the final conference document.
KIRIBATI MAY TAKE ASYLUM SEEKERS
A second Pacific island nation, Kiribati, has offered to join neighboring Nauru as a processing center for asylum seekers refused entry to Australia, the government said Sunday. ``Kiribati has offered to provide one of its islands for processing,'' Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told Nine Network television. No final decision has been made, he said. Australia is refusing entry to asylum seekers arriving by boat — many on rickety vessels organized by illegal people smuggling gangs — at its island territories between the mainland and Indonesia. Last month, New Zealand offered to house and process the asylum applications of about 150 of 433 refugees plucked from a sinking ferry. Most are from Afghanistan. Nauru — the world's smallest republic — agreed to take the remaining 280 people, and then later agreed to house another group of 237. Australia is paying all costs and providing the struggling nation an extra $10 million in aid. With another 300 boat people stranded at the Cocos Islands and Ashmore Reef, Australia approached Kiribati. Like Nauru, Kiribati is a poor Pacific island nation near the equator between Australia and Hawaii heavily dependent on Australian aid.
EUROPE MUSLIMS SAY THINGS ARE TOUGH
HAMBURG, Germany — Women in flowing overcoats and head scarves walk along a street peppered with Muslim-owned shops. They ignore the saucy lingerie in other store windows and the heavily made-up women in skimpy clothes loitering outside seedy hotels. Muslims who have come to Europe for a better life, often to escape repressive regimes or to seek artistic freedoms, are faced with sights unthinkable back home in Egypt, Algeria and Sudan. But it's not just spiritual bankruptcy they see around them. From Paris to London, Stockholm to Madrid, many of Western Europe's 15 million Muslims complain that Westerners misunderstand them, confuse piety with extremism and cling to medieval images of Muslims as savages bent on killing and destruction. These images have been painfully renewed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States — and the knowledge that three Muslim Arabs who had lived in Hamburg are suspects in the terrorism. ``It is tough for us to remain good Muslims here,'' said Ismail Mohammed, a 33-year-old Algerian mechanic, who lived and worked in Spain for 10 years before moving to Frankfurt four months ago. Bearded — the mark of a devout Muslim — Mohammed spoke at a small Frankfurt mosque tucked away in a shoddy apartment building where he sat in a corner reading the Quran, Islam's holy book. ``None of us have been harmed, but I for one get so many dirty looks on the streets'' since the attacks, Mohammed said. Experts say that Muslims are never more conscious of what they see as the superiority of their faith and the moral erosion of the West than when they live as a minority surrounded by ``nonbelievers.'' It's a state of mind, experts say, that produces devout and law-abiding Muslims. But it also can yield extremists and even suicide bombers ready to kill and destroy in the name of Islam. The first wave of Muslim immigrants arrived in Western Europe as laborers in the 1950s. Their numbers increased significantly with Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war, the long-running Afghan conflict and strife in Iraq's Kurdish north. But militancy only began surfacing in the past decade under crackdowns by Middle Eastern governments on Muslim extremists, many of whom sought asylum in Europe. German security officials estimate that as many as 100 ``sleepers'' — like the three Arabs who lived quiet lives in Hamburg and are suspects in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington — may be in Germany waiting to strike. Germany, home to 3.5 million Muslims, reported 12 extremist Muslim Arab groups in the country last year with an estimated 3,100 members, according to the nation's security agency. Islamic militant groups in Britain, which has 2 million Muslims, openly call for the establishment of an Islamic state there and encourage young Muslims to train for jihad, or holy struggle, in camps abroad. In France, whose 5 million-strong Muslim community is Europe's largest, intelligence agents have over the years discreetly tracked many Islamic movements. They cracked down after a series of deadly bombings in 1995 by Algeria's radical Armed Islamic Group. Investigators discovered a web of related networks in France, with links to other networks in Italy, Belgium and elsewhere. Militancy among Europe's Muslims has in recent years played a defining role in relations between Muslim communities and their mainly secular and Christian hosts. Intensely publicized incidents like British Muslim's public burning of Salman Rushdie's novel ``Satanic Verses'' — condemned by many Muslims as blasphemous — in the 1980s created an image of a population that did not share British values of freedom of expression. In much the same way, the Hamburg connection has shocked Germans so much that it is likely to become the defining point in their relations with the country's Muslims. Perhaps in a sign of things to come, a law-and-order crusader surprised everyone by winning nearly 20 percent of the vote in Hamburg's local elections on Sunday. Ronald Schill, whose views are perceived by many as xenophobic, is now virtually certain of becoming the city-state's next interior minister responsible for state security. The terrorist links in Hamburg endanger years of bridge-building between Germans and Muslims. ``We've discovered to our shock that there are people living among us who hate us and plan bad things against us,'' said Andreas Rieck of the German Orient Institute, a Hamburg-based think tank. ``Their bottom line is that Islam must be the power of the world and America and the West must be humiliated,'' he said. ``Not every Muslim thinks like that but the difference between silent sympathizers and people who proceed to act is a fluid line.''
GERMAN BANK ACCUSED OF GENOCIDE
An African tribe says it is suing Germany's largest bank for allegedly being involved in the slaughter of tens of thousands of its people. The Herero tribe in Namibia claims Deutsche Bank was linked to a policy of genocide in the first few years of the 20th century. It says more than 100,000 of their people died at the hands of German colonial armies between 1904 and 1907. Many were killed by German soldiers. Others were poisoned or turned into slaves. Now they have filed a $2bn lawsuit against the German government in a court in the United States. Paramount tribal chief Kuaima Riruako told World Business Report that it was a question of justice: "I am suing legitimate governments and companies who happened to function in the colonial days," he said.
Chief Riruako says the lawsuit also seeks damages against Germany's largest bank, Deutsche Bank, which financed the German government and companies linked with its colonial rule in Southern Africa. The companies have two months to respond, although the Deutsche Bank's press office said it was not aware of receiving any formal notification of the law suit. In a statement to World Business Report, a spokesman said: "In our view the accusations are unfounded and furthermore, we consider the issue a political rather than a legal one." Earlier this year Germany pointed out that it is giving hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Namibia. And it said it was reluctant to target this money at a particular tribe or region because it was meant to be for the benefit of the people of Namibia as a whole.
Money for land
However, the Herero chief wants compensation to buy land from white farmers, which he then could give back to his people, he says. The Herero insist that they are seeking proper legal redress and have no intention of grabbing land by force - as has happened in Zimbabwe. They are also seeking a formal apology from the German government. As the case relates to events which happened nearly a century ago, experts say that chances are slim of it being settled now. Professor James Crawford, an expert in international law at Cambridge University, told the BBC's World Business Report that any conduct would be judged by reference to the international law of the time. Legal battles in the United States often take many years to resolve so there is little chance of this dispute being settled quickly. But even if it doesn't eventually lead to any money changing hands, it will no doubt attract a great deal of publicity to the Herero cause.
SIKHS 'TRAPPED' IN AFGHANISTAN
Most of the Sikh community in Afghanistan have taken refuge in gurudwaras (Sikh temples) as fears grow of possible military action against the Taleban, according to a voluntary organisation in the Indian capital, Delhi. The Afghan Hindu-Sikh Welfare Society says there are at least 1,500 Sikhs still living in different parts of Afghanistan, but they are unable to leave because they don't have travel documents. These Sikhs are amongst those who went to Afghanistan centuries ago as traders or businessmen. Until the invasion by Soviet forces and the start of conflict in the 1980s, a number of Sikh families in Afghanistan were prospering. But after the outbreak of war, these affluent members of the community fled back to India. However, this was all but impossible for the less privileged members of the Sikh community.
The Delhi office of the UNHCR says Sikh families are living in at least five Afghanistan cities - Ghazni, Kabul, Jalalabad, Ilmand and Kandahar. The Delhi president of the Afghan Hindu-Sikh welfare society, Sardar Manohar Singh - who himself returned from Afghanistan in 1979 - told the BBC that these Sikhs stayed either because they didn't have passports or because visas were no longer available. Ever since the Taleban took over in Afghanistan, India has not had any diplomatic mission there, making it impossible to obtain visas. Mr Singh also said that a few Sikh families went to Afghanistan a couple of years ago - despite the unsettled political atmosphere - because they had no other means of survival. They found jobs as unskilled labourers. The families of those Sikhs say they hardly if ever receive news about their relatives in Afghanistan.
FACING THE CHALLENGES OF RACISM AFTER DURBAN
©African Church Information Service
Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation LWF says the recent United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) was a unique opportunity and in several respects "a historic success," and expresses "little surprise" that such a meeting had provoked controversy. But Noko notes in a statement that the real success of the August 31 - September 8 conference in Durban, South Africa, would best be determined by the follow-up on commitments made. He urged governments, non-governmental organisations and civil society to recommit themselves to the ongoing daily struggle against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Referring to the churches' outspokenness in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa in the past, Noko challenged them to raise again a loud prophetic voice against racism, including rooting out the "racism that still exists" within and among churches themselves. The LWF general secretary, who participated in the Durban conference, said he regrets that the actions of a "few extremists inevitably coloured" the international community's reaction to the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian people. He observed that critical issues such as the situation of refugees and asylum seekers were not accorded the attention expected from such a conference. Dr Noko's statement said in part:
"The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa, August 31 - September 8 2001, was a unique opportunity for the over 160 states and many civil society organisations whose representatives gathered there to examine and address contemporary manifestations of racism and its related forms of discrimination and intolerance. "The conference challenged all its participants, including many church representatives, to listen to victims and search out the roots of racism
in our own communities and our attitudes. Some were ready to rise to the challenge; some were not. "During the days of the struggle against apartheid, many of us-nations, communities, churches and individuals-were able to externalise the problem in opposing institutionalised racism and discriminatory practices of South Africa's apartheid regime. "In Durban, we were asked to examine the dark corners of our own "houses" where racism lurks. It is in part due to guilty resistance to this challenge of self-examination that the World Conference generated so
much controversy. "Some have lamented over the level of confrontation that took place in
Durban. But when addressing the gross, continuing, entrenched attitudes and practices of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, confrontation is both inevitable and necessary. Such attitudes and practices must be confronted. "In confronting and redressing racism, however, "hate speech" and "reverse racism" sometimes emerge claiming anti-racist credentials. The World Conference was, unfortunately, not immune to this phenomenon. "In Durban, one or two groups were responsible for the spreading of anti-Semitic images and messages of the most objectionable and distressing kind. "The Lutheran World Federation categorically denounces the propagation and promotion of such attitudes, and deeply regrets that the actions of a few extremists inevitably coloured the international
community's reaction to the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian people. "The recent developments in my own country Zimbabwe, made public as the World Conference was drawing to a close, demonstrate that it is possible to address the present consequences of a racist past and counter trends towards reverse racism. "The agreement on the land question in Zimbabwe provided a positive counterpoint to the polarised discussion in Durban on reparations for
past injustices. The injustices of slavery and colonialism must be redeemed in a way that is meaningful to those who continue to live in their shadow. "A practical response to the issue of landlessness in many countries around the world is one of the keys to resolving these so-called "issues of the past" still prevalent to millions of people..."
Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media
HISTORIC STATEMENT BY COUNCIL OF EUROPE REGRETS DISCRIMINATION
On 21 September 2001 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe issued a statement regretting that discrimination and violence against homosexuals still occur in Europe, and acknowledging that progress in ending discrimination is still needed in member states' domestic law and practice. The Committee of Ministers is the executive arm of the Council of Europe. Its members consist of the Foreign Ministers of 43 European countries (or their deputies) with a combined population of more than 800 million. This was the first statement in support of lesbian, gay and bisexual rights in its fifty year history The statement came in response to a Recommendation on the situation of lesbians and gays in Europe by the Council's Parliamentary Assembly. This had called upon the Committee of Ministers to make 11 specific recommendations to member states, including the repeal of all discriminatory laws, an equal age of consent, anti-discrimination legislation, and registered partnership laws In their reply the Committee of Ministers advised their agreement to several of these recommendations, but did not state which. This lack of clarity almost certainly reflects disagreements between member states on certain of the recommendations, particularly those relating to the age of consent and registered partnership. However, the Committee chose to emphasise the need for measures in the areas of education and professional training "to combat homophobic attitudes in certain specific circles" The statement concluded that "Homosexuality can still give rise to powerful cultural reactions in some societies or sectors thereof, but this is not a valid reason for governments or parliaments to remain passive. On the contrary, this fact only underlines the need to promote greater tolerance in matters of sexual orientation" Nico Beger, ILGA-Europe co-delegate to the Council of Europe's NGO forum, commented: "Given the number of countries involved, and the fact that they are at widely differing stages in their acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights, this is a strong statement. For the 11 countries which still have discriminatory laws, agreeing to this statement amounted to an act of self-criticism before the international community. We call upon them to honour their undertakings by repealing these laws immediately." Her co-delegate, Nigel Warner, added: "Never before have so many governments joined in attacking homophobia. This is a great achievement by the parliamentarians from many countries who worked on this in the Parliamentary Assembly, supported by LGBT organisations and individuals from across Europe"
The text of the Recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the Situation of lesbians and gays in Council of Europe member states
The Reply from the Committee of Ministers
The International Lesbian and Gay Association
FORMER KKK CHIEF SERVES AS ACTIVIST FOR TORIES(uk)
Ex-deputy head of British Ku Klux Klan declares admiration for Conservative leader Duncan Smith
The former deputy leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Britain has joined the Conservative party and describes Iain Duncan Smith as a leader he admires. Bill Binding, 76, joined the Tories in May and was an activist for the party in Hackney, east London, at the general election. The revelation will renew fears that the Conservatives have drifted to the right and that the party is attractive to supporters with a history of neo-Nazism. Mr Binding became deputy leader of the British KKK in 1996, and stood as a parliamentary candidate for the British National party in Dagenham, east London, in 1997. He claims to have quit the klan four years ago after concluding that all races were genetically alike. He continues to be a member of the Swinton Circle, however, a hard right Tory group set up by devotees of Enoch Powell who backed his views on immigration. Mr Binding, a retired train driver, has admitted dressing in a klansman's white robe that was sent from the US for use in ceremonies. He told the Guardian that he was a staunch supporter of Mr Duncan Smith. "I think he's very good. A lot of people have got the wrong idea. There are not going to be any witch-hunts, [but] he will move against the racists in the party. "He will move towards the centre, so it is a centre right party." Mr Duncan Smith's leadership campaign was marred by the discovery that one of his prominent backers was a supporter of the BNP. Edgar Griffin, the father of the BNP leader Nick Griffin, was sacked as a vice-president of the Duncan Smith campaign in Wales after he admitted answering a BNP telephone inquiry line. The Ku Klux Klan earned notoriety in the southern states of the US, where racists dressed in white hoods to terrorise and murder black people. Despite reports of klan recruitment in the west Midlands and south Wales, it has always been considered a marginal force in the British far right. However, the klan's imagery of hoods and burning crosses is known to have been copied in racist incidents in Britain. At his home in Clapton, east London, Mr Binding said that when he was deputy leader there were only 18 members in the British KKK. "There were only six of us in London - and one was a copper's agent [informant]," he said. Mr Binding said he left the klan when he realised that all races were fundamentally alike. "There are three races; the Caucasoid, the Negroid and the Mongoloid," he said. "What really divides us is not so much race. Take these Jews at Stamford Hill [north London], they are 82% northern hemisphere neolithic. Presumably the rest is some Asian blood, but that's not enough to make a difference. What separates us is culture and religion." Once racism was taken out of the equation, the only ideology the far right had was a version of old style socialism, Mr Binding said. "What happens if you take racism out of it and take war-mongering out of it ? What you are left with is a very heavily controlled economy, a big slice of state ownership - rather similar to old Labour. This is not my way of thinking." V The former klansman said that he now believed in a multicultural society because the "Anglo-Saxons" were not threatened by the presence of other races in Britain. "The Anglo-Saxon culture is not being destroyed," he said. "We exist." A spokeswoman for the Conservative party refused to comment yesterday. The Tory leadership is thought to be satisfied that Mr Binding has severed his links with the far right group and no longer has racist views.
EUROPE'S MUSLIMS: A DIFFICULT DEBATE
Dutch Frankness on Immigrants Treads Where Many Nations Fear to Go
With a six-column banner headline on page one, a leading Dutch newspaper reported last week that as a result of the terrorist attacks on the United States more than 60 percent of the Dutch agreed with the idea that Muslim immigrants who supported the attack should be expelled from the Netherlands. In a European nation that's a historic beacon of tolerance, it was a jarring finding. A poll in the left-of-center De Volkskrant advanced a second harsh insight. It said 62 percent of the Dutch thought the attacks in New York and Washington damaged Muslims' integration process into Dutch society. A day later, still above the fold on page one, the newspaper looked at the evolving Dutch approach to its Muslim community - projections show this city having an Islamic population majority in two decades - and offered a conclusion under the headline, "Netherlands Shedding Political Correctness." Specifically, this means an end to the avoidance of talking openly about elements of conflict in Dutch life that have accompanied the presence of Muslim immigrants. If the newspaper's analysis is correct, the Dutch are treading these days in an area where most of Europe does not now want to go.
Normally complex and extremely sensitive, relations between European governments and their countries' Islamic immigrant groups, largely Arab, Turkish, or Pakistani, are regarded, in the wake of the attacks, as matters touching on national security. The circumstances are difficult. On one hand, there is a vast and sincere effort everywhere in Europe not to either turn Islam or Muslims into intrinsically suspect symbols of danger or divisiveness. With this in mind, statements distinguishing between the terrorists' murderous ideology and one of the world's great religions and its great mass of followers have become the mantra of most of the European political class. At the same time, there is also an obvious desire on the part of European authorities to avoid sharp public focus on the tensions and security concerns growing out of the presence of Muslim communities, often estimated (although with considerable variations) at 4.7 million in France, 3.2 million in Germany, and 2.4 million in Britain. There are also 700,000 Muslims in Italy and about 400,000 in Spain. Although polls of voters in many countries show high levels of nervousness about personal safety, apart from the humbling reassurances of seminars on brotherhood, the security problems of European states in relation to their Muslim populations is most often a no-go zone for confident discussion. This relative silence is frequently described, in current circumstances, as a wise dose of prudence and realism. Widespread arrests of terrorist suspects over the past weeks serve, it is said, as statement enough.
But the Netherlands is different in its frankness - perhaps as a result of its historical bond with tolerance, and its present-day credentials as an open and committed multicultural society. Last week, for example, as the Dutch reacted to reports of Muslim youths in the town of Ede cheering the attacks on America, the chief prosecutor for Amsterdam county, Leo de Wit, asked the government to consider using the armed forces to back up police in specific neighborhoods if rioting broke out as a result of eventual American counter-strikes. Mr. de Wit was criticized by the Amsterdam city council for his directness, but the Dutch government, unlike any other in Europe, has since acknowledged that troops could be used in such circumstances. A cabinet member, who spoke to the International Herald Tribune on the condition of anonymity, talked of an upgraded level of concern. He said, "We could call in the army. It's always had a hand in helping back up the police in certain situations. We've talked about what we should do when, or if, an American reaction comes. Which persons to look out for, and so on." In fact, the Dutch armed forces were unmistakably involved Thursday morning when roadway tunnels in Amsterdam and Rotterdam were ordered shut following an anonymous warning they would be attacked by terrorists. The air space north of Amsterdam was closed, and TV footage showed tanks and sharpshooters taking up positions near the tunnels. Herman Vuijsje, an Amsterdam University expert on racism and immigration, said he was not particularly concerned by the polls showing Dutch willingness to expel Muslims who supported the raids on the United States. He said, "They just indicate that we are beginning to divest ourselves of our naiveté." In an editorial commenting on its poll, De Volkskrant was more direct. "In other words," it wrote, "the Netherlands doesn't accept anti-Western fundamentalistic attitudes from Muslims. In the eyes of most Dutch people, integration means adapting to a humanistic tradition, to the separation between church and state, and taking distance from the norms and values of one's motherland." In another survey, broadcast by public television, 21 percent of the Netherlands' Moroccan immigrants, the largest Arab nationality in an Islamic population probably in excess of 600,000, supported a holy war against the United States. While trying to explain this and what he regarded as the limited character of anti-Western sentiment here, the cabinet-level official dropped the circumlocutions of an earlier time and pointed toward a central element of concern here. Essentially, he said, it involved Moroccan youths. "They don't have any real ties with society. Under the circumstances, it's unlikely they'd be very careful in expressing themselves," he said. The official said that cooperation within the European Union on integrating its Muslim communities barely existed, and that the EU was without working groups or any kind of common approach on an obviously important transnational issue. "It might be rather useful," he said.
Among the Netherlands' European partners, France, with the biggest Muslim population, and vast experience with the Arab world through its colonial domination of North Africa, has announced reinforced internal security measures. But the government has not offered details, and French newspapers and television, while brimming with reports from Pakistan or Washington, have provided sparse reporting from within the largely Arab suburbs adjoining cities like Marseille or Paris. Dalil Boubaker, rector of Paris's central mosque, has insisted that "Muslims want to integrate in France and they have to know that terrorists, in making it seem they act in the name of Islam, create both direct and indirect victims."
In Britain, The Times of London has accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of boldness abroad and "timidity against terror at home," saying he is open to the charge of "persisting with the refusal to curb in any way the offensive and dangerous activities of the supporters and recruiting sergeants of the terrorist networks which are active in Britain itself." The government has responded that 16 Islamist organizations with terrorist orientations have been banned in the past year. But it has exercised great caution against the background of battles between immigrants and police last spring, and attacks on mosques by vandals since the attacks on Sept. 11
More than in Britain or France, a change in tone is evident in Germany. There, officials identified 12 extremist Muslim Arab groups in the country last year with an estimated 3,100 members. In addition, officials have talked about the possible existence of 100 "sleepers," or under-cover operatives, who could by activated by an Islamic terrorist leadership. In response, Interior Minister Otto Schily, often described as the most dominant figure in the German government after Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, has signaled tightening the law governing religious associations to outlaw Koran schools and preachers who advocate violence. Most strikingly, open doubts were expressed by the leadership organization of the German Protestant church about its previous uncritical attitudes toward some Islamic groups. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that Bishop Rolf Koppe, who is in charge of ecumenical relations for the organization, said that "our church's representatives to Islam can no longer be so guileless. They have to make stronger use of the findings of the security agencies than before." According to the newspaper's account, Bishop Koppe expected Muslim groups in Germany to distance themselves from "the Taliban and the men behind the terrorists," while "imams in the mosques [must] say that violence-prone fundamentalists in Germany are violating their rights as guests." In the academic world, Andreas Rieck, a research fellow at the Deutsches Orient Institut in Hamburg, which studies aspects of overseas Muslim communities with funding from the German federal government and the city of Hamburg, regretted that basic issues involving Germany's Muslim community had not been discussed earlier because of "ideological and policy" barriers. Now, he said, "they will never again be hidden."
©International Herald Tribune
BERLUSCONI VAUNTS WEST'S 'SUPERIORITY'(Italy)
The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, in a briefing to journalists, praised Western civilization on Wednesday as superior to that of the Islamic world and urged Europe to "reconstitute itself on the basis of its Christian roots." Mr. Berlusconi, in Berlin for a surprise meeting to discuss international cooperation against terrorism President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, used language that was unconventional for politicians in describing aspects of Muslim society and, also, anti-globalization protesters. As it designs a strategy against terrorism, Mr. Berlusconi said, the West should trust in the supremacy of its values. "We should be confident of the superiority of our civilization, which consists of a value system that has given people widespread prosperity in those countries that embrace it and guarantees respect for human rights and religion," he said. "This respect certainly does not exist in Islamic countries." The West, given the superiority of its values, "is bound to occidentalize and conquer new people," Mr. Berlusconi said. "It has done it with the Communist world and part of the Islamic world, but unfortunately, a part of the Islamic world is 1,400 years behind. "From this point of view," he said, "we must be conscious of the strength and force of our civilization." Mr. Berlusconi, who has been criticized for the force that the Italian police used against anti-globalization protesters in Genoa in July, said he saw "a singular coincidence" between the protesters and the terrorists who attacked New York and Washington. The terrorists were trying "to stop the corrupting effect of Western civilization on the Islamic world," he said, while "the anti-globalization movement criticizes, from within Western civilization, the Western way of life, trying to make Western civilization feel guilty. "That's why I see a singular coincidence between this action and the anti-globalization movement." Mr. Berlusconi was speaking in an on-the-record briefing to Italian journalists who were covering his visit. They described him as speaking in full flow, grappling with sometimes conventional ideas in language that was unusual, at least, for politicians. Later, in a joint news conference with Mr. Schroeder, Mr. Berlusconi spoke highly of Mr. Putin and his cooperation on terrorism in solidarity with the United States. Like Mr. Schroeder on Tuesday, Mr. Berlusconi soft-pedaled criticism of Moscow's human rights abuses in rebellious Chechnya, which has been fighting for independence off and on since the middle of the 19th century. On Tuesday, Mr. Putin gave a well-received speech in German to the Bundestag, in which he asserted that the Chechen rebellion was also a prime example of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism and asked for a better understanding of Russia's dilemma there. New Western shyness about discussing human rights abuses in Chechnya appears to be the price of Russia's new alliance with Washington and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization against terrorism. Asked about Chechnya on Wednesday, Mr. Berlusconi, a conservative anti-Communist, was cautious. "In the light of recent events on Sept. 11, the Western community should have a different look at the behavior of various fundamentalists," Mr. Berlusconi said. "We'll probably have to judge things differently than we have done until now regarding Chechnya. But it does not mean forgetting about various rights such as human, civil and political rights - they must be respected." Mr. Schroeder, asked again Wednesday whether his views on Chechnya had changed, said: "You know that Chechnya is part of a region in which there is an elevated threat - which we have now experienced. The different aspects of Russian policy should be judged accordingly." Mr. Berlusconi maintained a certain wariness toward Moscow, nonetheless. "Europe must be convinced, as Putin outlined yesterday in his speech to the Bundestag, that Russia is a peaceful country, a peaceful European country," Mr. Berlusconi said. But "Europe must open itself up to Russia," he said. "Europe must reconstitute itself on the basis of its Christian roots."
©International Herald Tribune
NEO-NAZI PROPAGANDA FOUND IN HELSINKI BOOKSTORES(Finland)
Anti-Semitic leaflets put inside books on sale
A Helsinki high school student got an unpleasant surprise recently when he opened his German language textbook for the first time. Out popped a small illustrated flyer defaming the Jews and praising the Nazi ideology. The flyer also advertised a neo-Nazi web site in the United States. The story is a familiar one in many Helsinki bookstores. "Someone or some group has been spreading extremist right-wing propaganda in our stores for the past five years", says Leena Valpio, head of the Suomalainen kirjakauppa bookstore in the centre of Helsinki. Stig-Björn Nyberg, head of Helsinki's other big bookstore, Akateeminen kirjakauppa, confirms that there have been upsurges in this kind of leafleting in the spring and autumn. He also says that the content of the flyers changes a few times a year. In addition to anti-Semitic leaflets, there has been anti-immigrant and anti-Swedish propaganda placed inside the books. The managers of both bookstores say they are powerless. Although the stores are monitored with surveillance cameras and employ store detectives and security guards, nobody has been caught. The small pieces of paper are easy to slip into a book unnoticed. Nazi propaganda has been found inside everything from cookery books to dictionaries. "We have more than 100,000 books, and we do not have the resources to check them all", Nyberg says. Neither bookstore has filed a criminal complaint.
GLAD TO BE GAY IN SOUTH AFRICA
About 2,000 gay men and lesbians have taken to the streets of Johannesburg for South Africa's 12th annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. This year's parade celebrated a notable victory for gay rights, as well as mourning all those who have died of Aids. It came just after a court decision to allow gay couples to adopt children. But while the emphasis now may be on celebration rather than protest, homosexuals in South Africa still face a struggle to win popular support.
Celebrate the difference
Edwin Cameron, an acting Constitutional Court judge, told his fellow marchers that they represented the whole multi-racial nation of South Africa. "Gathered today, we have gay people of every colour and language and some are parents and some are children of gay parents," he said. "We represent the nation as a whole and we can be proud to be South African." Mr Cameron had a message of defiance for those who, like himself, suffered from Aids - about one in nine South Africans. "Do not be ashamed of living with Aids," he said. "Those who must be ashamed are those who try and stigmatise those of us with the virus." Without giving names, he also rounded on "people who seem to ignore (the) epidemic". President Thabo Mbeki has questioned the link between HIV and Aids in the past.
Beyond Saturday's sequins and pink carnival floats, the South African gay community still faces widespread hostility. Some South African gays afraid of being identified wore brown paper bags over their heads at the first march in 1990, when apartheid was still in force, the BBC's Barnaby Philips reports. Gay rights are now enshrined in the constitution and activists are confident that the court ruling on adoption will be confirmed by the Constitutional Court. "But gay couples in South Africa do not yet have the right to marry, and despite the country's liberal constitution, they encounter prejudice and hostility," the correspondent notes. "Homosexuality is not accepted within the majority black population."
AUSTRALIAN RIGHT-WINGER ATTACKS 'WITCH HUNT'
The leader of Australia's right-wing One Nation party has made a brief pre-trial appearance in court on fraud charges which carry up to a 10-year prison sentence. Mrs Hanson, who has pleaded innocent, told a crowd of supporters outside a Brisbane magistrates court the charges were part of a "political witch hunt to discredit me". She said, the aim was to damage her chances of winning a Senate seat in national elections expected to be called later this week for November. Under Australian law, anyone convicted of a crime with a penalty of 12 months or more is barred from parliament. However, Mrs Hanson said she was relieved the trial would not begin until 22 April, clearing the way for her candidacy.
"It's been very emotionally draining on me... it's something that does concern me but I'm trying to concentrate on the federal election," she said. Correspondents say One Nation is unlikely to win any seats in the lower house but may pick up one or two Senate seats. Mrs Hanson pleaded not guilty in July to charges alleging she illegally registered her party and subsequently accepted Aus $500,000 (US $250,000) in electoral funding. One Nation co-founder David Etteridge has also pleaded not guilty to one charge of fraud.
Mainstream political parties were shocked by the strength of support for One Nation, which had previously been largely dismissed as a fringe group of right-wing extremists. The party's opponents accuse it of promoting racist policies, in particular in its attitude towards Asian immigration. In parliamentary elections in 1998, One Nation polled 8.4% of the vote but Ms Hanson lost her seat and the party disintegrated amid political in-fighting and legal troubles. However, last February the party performed well in elections in Queensland and Western Australia states, polling up to 10% of votes.
BRITAIN SPEARHEADS FIGHT AGAINST SLAVE TRADE REPARATIONS
By Christopher Munnion in Johannesburg 22/05/2001
Britain is leading European opposition to African demands that the slave trade be declared a crime against humanity requiring substantial reparations by the former colonial powers. Almost two centuries after Parliament abolished slavery throughout the British Empire, African nations are pressing for the adoption of a wide-ranging resolution at a conference sponsored by the United Nations on racism to be held in South Africa later this year. Mary Robinson, the former Irish president who is the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, says she will endorse the tabling of the issue of reparations for slavery by European nations at the world conference against "racism, xenophobia and related intolerance" to be held in Durban in September. But the wording of the resolution on slavery has caused a major diplomatic and legal row between Africa and former European colonial powers such as Britain, France, Spain and Portugal, who see the resolution as a ploy to exact financial aid. A British official said: "We are not prepared to link the question of development aid with past history." The resolution asks the conference to "affirm that the slave trade is a unique tragedy in the story of humanity, particularly against Africans". It describes it as an unparalleled crime against humanity. Britain, on behalf of the EU, proposes a different wording, merely affirming "that slavery and the slave trade are an appalling tragedy in the history of humanity". Officials say the amended wording is not intended to devalue the enormity of what happened in previous centuries, but is based on legal opinion that slavery and slave trading were not against "customary international law" at the time. The American government has gone further by threatening to withdraw aid to African countries if the conference decides to debate the issue of reparation. American diplomats say they are prepared to recognise all slavery as a crime against humanity, but want any resolution to embrace the centuries-old traffic in human beings from east and central Africa by Arab slave traders. Legal sources said the inclusion of the term "crime against humanity" could have far-reaching implications in international law for any country once engaged in the slave trade. One authority in international law said: "For nations such as Britain and Portugal, for instance, to agree to a resolution with that wording would be like signing an admission-of-guilt affidavit that could and probably would be used against them in any action for reparations."
US THREAT TO QUIT CONFERENCE ON RACISM
By Tim Butcher in Johannesburg 28/07/2001
The credibility of a global racism conference hung in the balance last night after America threatened to pull out and Britain said it was considering downgrading its delegation. At the heart of the row is the wording of a draft declaration for the World Conference Against Racism, which is to be held in Durban, South Africa, next month, that includes references to reparations being owed to victims of the 18th century slave trade. Britain and America want the conference to look at ways of stopping racism today, rather than dwelling on the past. Washington is also concerned at references equating Zionism with racism. These were inserted at a United Nations regional summit in Teheran which Iran's Islamic regime barred Israel from attending. The announcement from the US State Department that Washington might boycott the meeting came as a shock to organisers. Diplomats from Britain and America will meet next week in Geneva with colleagues from other UN member states for talks that represent the last chance to iron out differences over the conference. While Washington has been perceived as isolated on various international issues, such as the Kyoto climate agreement and missile defence, in the case of the race conference it is backed by Britain and other Western nations. Britain is worried that attempts to use the term "crime against humanity" to describe the transatlantic slave trade in the 1700s and 1800s will open up legal grounds for compensation claims. At present, Britain plans to send a delegation to the conference led by two junior ministers, Baroness Amos from the Foreign Office and Angela Eagle from the Home Office, but this could be altered. "We are not saying we will change the delegation but the final decision on who will represent Britain will be taken after the conclusion of talks on the wording of the document," a British diplomatic source said.
RACISM CONFERENCE HANGS IN THE BALANCE
July 30, 2001
Diplomats are meeting to draw up an agenda for next month's World Conference Against Racism against the threat of a U.S. boycott. The U.S. says it will stay away from the conference, which starts on August 31 in Durban, South Africa, if the agenda includes an Arab demand to pillory Israel. A draft declaration submitted by Arab and Asian nations describes the Israeli treatment of Palestinians as a "new kind of apartheid." Washington and some European countries have also expressed concern at an African demand for an apology and compensation from those countries that profited from colonialism and slavery. Monday's session, chaired by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, follows an intended final planning meeting in May, which ended in deadlock. The former Irish president is hoping for a successful outcome following negotiations behind closed doors in recent weeks, but has said the conference could still be derailed over Arab attempts to revive a 1975 U.N. General Assemby resolution describing Zionism as racist. In 1991 the United States and Israel pressured the U.N. to rescind the resolution against the movement that led to the re-establishment and support of a national homeland for Jews. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer has described the issue as a conference-wrecker. Robinson has insisted the conference should discuss the past, but that the emphasis should be on the future. No nation is above criticism, she told The Associated Press. "Civil society will be taking the opportunity in Durban to remind every country that it has problems." She also stresses that the conference offers an opportunity at the beginning of the century to define how people will relate to each other. "It's extremely important that we find a way to address the scourges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and racial intolerance," Robinson told AP.
©Cable News Network
ZIONISM ISSUE SIMMERS AHEAD OF RACISM TALKS
The Associated Press Tuesday, July 31, 2001
Under threat of a U.S. boycott, delegates from more than 100 nations began a final effort Monday to salvage the World Conference Against Racism after being warned by the United Nations' top human rights official that Arabs must abandon attempts to equate Zionism with racism. "The United Nations has already dealt with this issue at great length," said Mary Robinson, the UN high commissioner for human rights, at the opening of a two-week session trying to bridge divisions in the setup for the conference starting Aug. 31 in Durban, South Africa. She noted that a decade ago the UN General Assembly had repealed its 1975 resolution denouncing Zionism, the movement that led to the re-establishment and support of a Jewish homeland in biblical lands. "I believe that it is inappropriate to reopen this issue in any form here and that anyone who seeks to do so is putting the success of the Durban conference at risk," Mrs. Robinson said. Mrs. Robinson's boss, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said in Washington that preparations for the conference had "opened up deep fissures on a number of sensitive issues, such as the legacy of slavery and colonialism, and the situation in the Middle East." Israeli-Palestinian tensions led to the proposal from Arab countries and Iran to insert the anti-Zionism language in the draft of the conference's final document. The Bush administration said last Friday it would boycott the conference if the Zionism language remains. "If this conference is to succeed, there is an acute need for common ground," said Mr. Annan. "The conference must help heal old wounds without reopening them." Mrs. Robinson departed from her prepared speech to say she had great sympathy for the Palestinians. "I am acutely aware of the suffering of the Palestinian people and dismayed at the continuing toll of deaths and injuries on a daily basis," she said. Conference organizers have intended to be inclusive, but one of the first acts of the session Monday was to exclude the International Gay and Lesbian Association from the list of accredited non-governmental organizations. The vote was 43 to 43, with 27 abstentions. Under conference rules ties equal no votes.
©International Herald Tribune
NEGOTIATIONS DEADLOCK OVER WORDING IN U.N. DOCUMENT
August 1, 2001
Negotiations to remove contentious wording from a U.N. anti-racism document were making some progress Wednesday, but no crucial anti-Jewish phrase has been erased yet, the Israeli ambassador said. "On certain issues very close to our heart in Israel and to the Jewish people there's been no movement at all in a positive direction," said Ambassador Yaakov Levy. This includes the attempt to have the main declaration of the World Conference Against Racism revive a 1975 U.N. attack on Zionism, the movement behind the creation of the modern state of Israel. The conference is scheduled to start on August 31 in Durban, South Africa. The United States, which is taking part in the negotiations to draft the document, has threatened to boycott the Durban meeting unless the words equate Zionism with racism are removed. "Hopefully the text will be cleansed of any reference that brings back the memory of the infamous U.N. resolution equating Zionism with racism, which was rescinded later by the General Assembly in '91," Levy told The Associated Press. Unlike many U.N. battles where Israel's only ally is the United States, Levy said he has been "getting support from many other countries and I would hope sympathy and understanding from many others who for their own reasons might not say it publicly." Levy declined to say if the Israeli concerns were being linked to issues bothering other countries in the two-week negotiating session that began Monday. But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said last week that the United States also vehemently opposed including demands for compensation from countries that benefited in the past from slavery and colonialism. European countries are especially sensitive to the discussion of colonialism. "Many countries understand that we all want the conference to succeed and for that to happen issues on which opinions are divided like the current Middle East difficulties should be avoided," Levy said. Durban should be "a one-time, unique, universal conference, not dealing with any current difficulties in any region in the world," he said. Levy said he is also working to remove "improper mentioning of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism." Much of the wording opposed by Israel was inserted by a regional meeting of Iran and Arab countries. Israel maintains that the "Holocaust" should refer specifically to Nazi atrocities against the Jews, not genocide in general. One such disputed reference in the 30-page draft declaration says, "The holocausts/Holocaust and the ethnic cleansing of the Arab population in historic Palestine and in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo must never be forgotten."
©Cable News Network
S.AFRICA RIGHTS HEAD FEARS RACISM MEET MAY FAIL
August 2, 2001
South Africa's top human rights official cast doubt on Thursday on the ability of the forthcoming World Conference on Racism to successfully tackle the scourge of racism. Barney Pityana, head of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), said negotiations ahead of the United Nations meeting in Durban on August 31 had failed to come up with a concrete plan of action. "We will have words at this rate, but whether it will be words that mean anything, I have doubts," the South African Press Association (SAPA) quoted Pityana as saying. The U.N. race conference is mired in controversy after the United States objected to attempts by Arab states to equate Zionism and Israel's resettlement policy with racism. Washington, together with other developed countries also fearing possible litigation at home, has also balked at moves to make reparations for centuries of slavery and colonialism part of the debate in Durban. Negotiators are meeting in Geneva in a last-ditch attempt to agree on a declaration and plan of action for the conference, which the U.N. wants to make a turning point in the fight against racism. While acknowledging the seriousness of the Middle East conflict, the European Union told the special session in Geneva that Durban was not the forum to tackle the Palestinian issue. Drafting began about two years ago and should have been finalized in Geneva at the start of June. But negotiators were forced to schedule a final July 31 to August 10 session to overcome still wide divisions. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday he was not yet confident that the preparatory meeting could find language that would enable the United States to take part.
Ministers cool to Washington
South African cabinet ministers reacted coolly to U.S. reluctance to openly discuss preparations and the prospect that Washington would not send a senior team to Durban. "Nobody should be able to badger us into silence through threats of boycott and related silliness," said Education Minister Kader Asmal. Pityana said the pre-conference talks had failed to agree on specific program to deal with racism as mandated by the U.N. General Assembly. "So far I see nothing like that in the documents that we have ... I don't get the sense that we are making those advances that I think are necessary," Pityana said, complaining that the language of the draft was evasive and too broadly worded. His fellow human rights commissioner, Pansy Tlakula, said the language in the current documents would not "make sense to ordinary people." South Africa, still polarized on racial lines seven years after the end of apartheid, is keen to make the conference a success. President Thabo Mbeki has said the country's whites must acknowledge their racist actions if the infant democracy is to progress. South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said there was not enough time to agree on a document before the conference. "What is important is that at the end of the conference we arrive at some common ground and come up with a document," Dlamini-Zuma said. Former South African President Nelson Mandela said he would not, as planned, address the conference because of treatment for prostate cancer.
©Cable News Network
US IS SETTING A BAD EXAMPLE, SAYS DEPUTY PRESIDENT
Business Day (Johannesburg)August 2, 2001
Deputy President Jacob Zuma expressed his concern yesterday at the threats by the US to boycott the upcoming World Conference Against Racism if its agenda included talk of reparations for slavery and colonialism, or a measure which equated Zionism with racism. Zuma, who briefed opposition parties on the developments over preparations for the conference, which is to be held in Durban later this month, said the US was setting a bad example to other nations of the world by threatening to opt out of the conference because of its unhappiness over certain aspects of the agenda. "I believe the US must be urged to participate in this conference because these are very important issues," he said. On the threat of demonstrations by various lobby groups at the conference, Zuma said they would only be allowed if the protests were peaceful. "People have a right to demonstrate and that should be done in a peaceful manner. They should not cause chaos at the conference," he said. Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Zuma said the SA government would provide the venue, logistics, security and waive visa fees for international participants. Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance's (DA'S) request to form part of SA's official delegation to the conference was turned down, the preparatory committee for the conference said. "Delegations to the conference are not constituted as party political delegations. "All governments taking part will send their envoys as representatives of their countries," the committee said. "The same applies to our own country, with a government elected as the legitimate representative of the people," the committee said. Earlier this month the DA had asked to be included in the government delegation. In a letter to President Thabo Mbeki on behalf of DA leader Tony Leon, the party's chief whip, Douglas Gibson, said that as the conference was not a party-political event, the SA delegation should be non-partisan.
©AllAfrica Global Media
UN AGENDA ON RACISM IS CHALLENGED
Neil A. Lewis New York Times Service Thursday, August 2, 2001
U.S. Is Struggling to Omit Items on Zionism and Reparations for Slavery
State Department officials say that they have been engaged in a strenuous and complicated diplomatic effort to persuade other nations to omit two contentious issues from the agenda of a coming UN conference on racism: whether Zionism is racism and whether nations should pay reparations for slavery. The officials said Tuesday that the outcome of the negotiations would determine whether the Bush administration takes part in the conference, which is scheduled to open on Aug. 31 in Durban, South Africa. "We want to go," a State Department official said Tuesday. "But not at any cost." This week, a small corps of American diplomats is in Geneva to attend sessions with conference planners about the agenda. However, the real negotiations, one administration official said, are expected to occur behind closed doors during the next few days as these diplomats press their argument that the inclusion of these two agenda items would subvert the conference and impede progress. "It's our policy that we can't go to this conference unless we get these matters resolved somehow," a Bush administration official said Tuesday. The draft agenda, which has language calling for reparations and equating Zionism with racism, was drawn up at several regional conferences called to prepare for the Durban meeting. The part concerning Israel emerged from a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, held in Tehran, officials said. The question of whether the United States will send an official delegation - and, if it does, at what level - has engaged not only the State Department, but also several American civil rights groups, Jewish organizations and members of Congress. It has also revived a contentious debate about whether the notion that Zionism is racism can be a legitimate discussion topic or whether it is, as the United States has long contended, a rhetorical device for opponents of Israel to bludgeon that nation. In 1975, the United States first condemned the effort to equate Zionism with racism, even as the UN General Assembly approved a motion affirming that notion. The United Nations repealed that resolution in 1991. International conferences also often become forums for a variety of international and parochial political agendas and concerns. The United States did not attend U.N.-sponsored conferences on racism in 1978 and 1983 because it disagreed with the language of the agenda. This time, the debate over Zionism and reparations for slavery on the agenda has the potential to stir up several problems including exacerbating friction between black and Jewish groups. That seemed evident Tuesday at a congressional hearing over whether the United States should attend the UN session. Blacks, both in Congress and among those who testified at the hearing, said it was imperative that the United States participate in the conference to demonstrate its concern about racism. Jewish lawmakers and representatives of Jewish groups expressed deep concern over the inclusion of language in a draft agenda that characterizes Israel's settlements as "crimes against humanity" and describes Zionism "as a movement based on racial superiority." Representative Cynthia McKinney, a Georgia Democrat and a member of the House International Affairs Committee conducting the hearing, said that the Bush administration's reluctance to attend smacked of racism. "I have to wonder if the Bush administration's position on the world conference on racism is just politically dumb or if it is perhaps indicative some something more malignant," she said. "Is the Bush White House just full of latent racists?" Representative Tom Lantos, a California Democrat and another member of the committee, criticized Ms. McKinney's remarks about the Bush administration and outlined his own opposition to the conference. Mr. Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, said that the United States should not attend the conference unless the agenda was changed. "We have a group of countries hell-bent on hijacking a noble and worthwhile event into yet another forum for Israel-bashing and for the most extreme form of anti-Semitism to gain global notoriety," he said. On Monday, the House overwhelmingly passed a Lantos-sponsored non-binding resolution calling for the agenda to be changed before the United States agrees to attend. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, both Democrats from New York, among others, have written to the White House, urging that United States insist on having the language about Israel changed.
©International Herald Tribune
NO, TO A CINDERELLA CONFERENCE!
Congress of South African Trade Unions(Johannesburg) August 3, 2001
Press statement issued by the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
Joint statement by COSATU, SACP, and SANCO on the threat by the US government to boycott the world conference against racism and xenophobia
We have heard with great disgust the ongoing threats by George W. Bush's administration to boycott the forthcoming UN World Conference against Racism and Xenophobia, due to be held in Durban at the end of this month, August 2001. The attempt by the US to blackmail the World Conference arises from the ongoing problems related to globalisation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the emergence of a unipolar world dominated by the US. We have in the past raised the need to transform the United Nations and all institutions such as the UN's security council where the US has veto power. In a similar manner, we have called for the transformation of all other multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary fund, and the World Trade Organisation. Too often, the United States resorts to blockades and military acts to blackmail and bully wherever it does not find its way. Now, that this bully would not be able to use veto power in the conference, it is resorting to threats of boycott and blackmail. As predicted, Colin Powell and Koffi Annan, who themselves rank among the victims of racism, are trying to outdo each other in the service of their masters. To this we say, COSATU, SACP and SANCO are firmly behind the stance taken by the South African government that debates must take place on the issue of reparations for the victims of racism and the Palestine question as well as the broader Middle East. Instead of the US government threatening a boycott, they should show the same degree of enthusiasm as when the issue of reparations for the victims of Nazism was discussed. We are asking for consistency. Failure to be consistent on the matter of reparations seems to us to be a racist statement in itself. As the leadership and membership of COSATU, SANCO and the SACP, we call for a united front of all South Africans, black and white, who are opposed to racism to unite firmly against the US blackmail, dictatorship and racism. To this end, COSATU, SACP, and SANCO leadership will be staging a picket at the US embassy in Pretoria and the Consulate in Durban on the 16th August 2001 to protest against the attempt by the Bush Administration to hold the whole world to ransom. We further make a call to our structures in each and every province to make an effort to be part of the march in Durban on 1st September 2001. The time has come for the Bush Administration to be told that the conference is convened by the United Nations, inviting governments on the assumption that they are opposed to racism and xenophobia. If this is not palatable with the stance of the Bush Administration on this issue, then their participation will not be missed.
©AllAfrica Global Media
ISRAEL WORDING CUT FROM DRAFT
AP Friday, August 3, 2001
Negotiators attempted Thursday to remove other attacks on Israel after nearing agreement to eliminate anti-Zionist wording from draft UN documents being prepared for the World Conference Against Racism. Facing a boycott threat from the United States, virtually all Arab countries appeared ready to drop references to Zionism from the documents being drafted for the conference starting Aug. 31 in Durban, South Africa. But many other attacks on Israel appear in the 88 pages of draft text, and the State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said in Washington that the United States wants those removed as well.
©International Herald Tribune
ANC TAKES A STAND ON US THREAT
Business Day (Johannesburg) August 6, 2001
No country should be allowed to dictate to the world what may or may not be discussed at the upcoming World Conference Against Racism, the African National Congress (ANC) said yesterday. ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama, speaking after the party's national executive committee (NEC) meeting said a democratic process had to be followed in concluding the agenda. This followed threats by the US to pull out of the Durban conference if the agenda includes talk of reparations for slavery and colonialism, or a measure which equates Zionism with racism. Ngonyama said a country should be encouraged to express opinions, but could not dictate to other nations. "We are hoping that they will see the need to participate that it is their responsibility to participate because racism knows no boundary." The party's spokeswoman, Nomfanelo Kota, said it mandated the country's foreign affairs department to pursue dialogue with the US on the matter. "They have been told to do everything in their power to try to change their minds. But if that fails, the conference will go on. They are just one of many other countries in the world," she said.
©AllAfrica Global Media
BIG BOYS IN ON CONSPIRACY ON RACISM
New Vision (Kampala) EDITORIAL August 9, 2001
I had planned to write only two post cards on the UN-sponsored World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Genocide scheduled for the end of this month in Durban. The first was to be the week before, and the second the week after. Two related events have conspired to change that plan. One, less than three weeks to such a major global conference that has been planned for two years there is still no agreement on the agenda. Two, the escalation in the David-and-Goliath war between the divided children of Abraham (Jews and Palestinians). Israel continues to inflict death and destruction on key Palestinian defence and security infrastructure and leaders of the PLO that are engaged in the peace process. The Palestinian resistance continues to express itself through suicide bombings, stone throwing and defiant statements. You do not have to be a sympathiser of the Palestinian cause to conclude that the Israelis are using caterpillars to kill flies. Israel claims it is engaged in "active defence" and "the policy of pinpoint prevention" through missile attacks. What is the link between the two events and the world conference against racism? One of the reasons why there is a stalemate on the agenda of the conference is the mentioning of Zionism in the conference. Arab states backed by the majority of Latin American, Asian and African participants want Zionism to be put on the agenda as a racist policy. The other controversies (which I will comment on in subsequent Postcards) concern slavery, colonialism and the demands for reparations. The government of the USA, backed by its European cousins, has been threatening either boycott or low-level delegation (i.e. official snubbing) of the conference if these issues are part of the agenda. The US has been more forceful over Zionism arguing that placing it on the agenda will derail the conference into "unnecessary controversies". The Europeans are prepared for some "compromise wording" on slavery and colonialism that would not make reparation mandatory. By a conspiracy of guilty parties both European liberals and American conservatives are determined to make Durban another expensive business. If Zionism is not racism, what is it? For how long must Israel be allowed to get away with policies of extermination of a people whose land it is forcefully occupying and killing at will? So dominant is the Zionist lobby that it is getting away with daily impunity right in front of global multi media. If any other country pursues a policy of "active defence" that means the assassination of leaders of another country on suspicion that they are responsible for planning attacks on your country would the same Europeans and American governments not be threatening sanctions, contriving moral outrage and commanding the UN to act decisively? Why is nobody calling for a no-fly-zone for defenceless Palestinians? Why are there no sanctions against Israel for flouting every known rules of international human rights law? When the usually venerated Nelson Mandela recently compared Zionism and the state of Israel to apartheid the western media descended on him like tones of bricks. Were the situation different Ariel Sharon, the hawkish Prime Minister of Israel, along with many of his Cabinet ministers and Military commanders should have been hauled before a war crimes tribunal for crimes against humanity. But because they have big backers in the West but most especially the lone super power, the United States, their crimes can be made respectable, given different names and crowded in semantics and duplicitous diplomatic and political maneuvers. All these do not lessen the enormity of the atrocities. What Israel is doing in the occupied territories is wrong and that wrong remains a wrong whatever the powers that may be aiding and abetting it. A global conference even if it cannot do anything should at least express its moral outrage. The matter will not be decided in any conference room but fought out by successive generations of Israelis and Palestinians until there is a will for peace, with justice, on both sides. The effect of Ariel Sharon's bull in China shop diplomacy is to make the voice of moderation in Palestine irrelevant to the younger and impatient forces of Intifada. In the words of Marwan Barghouti, leader of the Al Fatah in the West Bank and member of the Palestinian legislative council, who recently escaped being assassinated: "With whom will Israel negotiate in the future? With whom will they sit down? Who will be their partners for peace if they kill everyone?" It is not just a question for Israel but for those powers that continue to guarantee its impunity. It will no longer be just racism but complete genocide. Is that the agenda from the same people who said: "Never again"?
©AllAfrica Global Media
TOLERANCE IS NOT SERVED BY BID TO HIJACK TALKS
Abraham H. Foxman Washington Post Thursday, August 9, 2001
The fall of the Soviet Empire had many positive results, most particularly ending fear of nuclear holocaust and the freeing of millions of people in Russia and the former Soviet republics and throughout Eastern Europe. Another positive outcome was the diminution of ideological politics throughout the world, including at the United Nations. During the Cold War, issues were determined through the prism of the Soviet-American conflict. A classic example of this was the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism, which Secretary-General Kofi Annan has characterized as the "low point" of the United Nations. This destructive resolution was a product of Soviet efforts to mobilize Arab countries and others against Israel and the United States. Since the end of the Cold War, the Zionism-equals-racism resolution has been rescinded, and the United Nations has been able to agree on issues such as the arrest of former President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia. These results point the way to constructive international action. Now, however, the world's nations face a critical test to determine whether they can, through cooperation, create a less hateful and more tolerant world or whether ideological politics, with all its destructive consequences, will rule the day. The opportunity and the challenge come in the form of the World Conference Against Racism, scheduled to begin Aug. 31 in Durban, South Africa. In a world that is increasingly interdependent, issues of racism and other kinds of intolerance are relevant to every society on earth. Practical programs, using the expertise and experience of governments and nongovernmental organizations, can be put to good use if the international community in Durban agrees on principles to support and implement such programs. In addition, at a time when conflict between developed and developing countries threatens to reappear in environmental and trade issues, among others, a successful conference on racism with agreed-upon principles could foster greater trust on other issues. These potential gains, however, are being put in jeopardy. Anti-American and anti-Israel forces have tried to hijack the conference. Undermining Israel and the United States seems more important to these parties than the real achievements meant to benefit all. Chief among such efforts has been the attempt to resurrect the charge that Zionism equals racism. In the draft document for the conference, phrases such as "racist practices of Zionism" and a description of Zionism as a movement "based upon elitism and racial superiority" are included. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1967, such language denies the Jewish people "the fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord to all other nations of the globe. It is discrimination against the Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short it is anti-Semitism." he effort against Israel and Jews even goes beyond the usual Zionism-is-racism charge. Arab states have proposed removing the word "Holocaust" as a specific example of racism taken to its most violent extreme and replacing it with the term "holocausts." This substitution not only eliminates the uniqueness of the Holocaust but also seems to be the latest manifestation of Arab propaganda to deny or diminish it. The conference can and must acknowledge all human tragedies related to racism, without minimizing or trivializing the Holocaust but rather focusing on lessons learned from it. Events such as the Cambodian genocide, the Rwandan genocide and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia have resulted in new universal principles that have advanced international humanitarian and human rights law. Member states must draw upon the lessons from these events to develop new means to address intolerance. Both as a matter of justice, and to ensure that the conference will not be tainted as have others in the past, Western democracies, especially Britain, Germany, France and the United States, must oppose the destructive propositions at the preparatory conference now taking place in Geneva. If these democratic countries exert their historic leadership role by sounding the alarm, the tide of support for this language can be turned.
The writer, U.S. director of the Anti-Defamation League, contributed this comment to The Washington Post.
©International Herald Tribune
HEAL OLD WOUNDS
By Mary Robinson, Thursday, August 9, 2001
Much of the attention given to the intensive negotiations here in preparation for the World Conference Against Racism has focused on the impact of the Middle East conflict. But this should not deflect us from the core question. Why is it vital to achieve a breakthrough at the conference? Racism, ethnic conflict, xenophobia and intolerance are pressing problems throughout the world. We need practical strategies to combat these scourges. But there is a more profound reason. At the conference, scheduled to begin Aug. 31 in Durban, South Africa, we have to find the beginnings of a conversation that will let us talk about the extraordinary pain we have inflicted on one another on this planet. In his path-breaking novel "The Invisible Man" the African-American writer Ralph Ellison wrote "I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me." His powerful suggestion of willful exclusion - of the decision we can all make to demote the humanity of other human beings - should be in our minds at Durban. Unless we can find a way to talk about the ragged edges of human hatred, unless we find a dialogue where the deep hurt of individuals, peoples and cultures at their invisibility and exclusion can find expression, then we will return to a silence that is itself damaging. One of the reasons the United Nations Women's Conference in Beijing in 1995 was so successful was that women could feel that their rights were not sectional or factional, but were human rights in the broadest sense. In the same way, if this conference can reassure those who have been injured and made invisible that their rights are central to all human rights, then we will have started on that conversation we all need to have. We cannot avoid beginning with the past. I have become increasingly aware of the extent of deep hurt felt in many parts of the world at the lack of recognition of the impact of mass slavery and also of the exploitation of colonialism. There is a sense that the deaths and sufferings that resulted from slavery have never been adequately marked, much less mourned. There is a sense, too, of lost generations and lost opportunities that have stunted the development of poorer countries, particularly in Africa. It can be hard to shape a new future if old wounds are still hurting. Language adopted by the global community that solemnly recognizes the hurts and exploitations of the past at the beginning of this new century could help to heal these wounds. It could also harness new energies in a revitalized campaign against racism, discrimination and intolerance. Solemn language would need to be underpinned by a commitment to solidarity in practical terms through a program of support. The tasks facing us are daunting. As Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned, "The months leading up to the conference have opened up deep fissures on a number of sensitive issues, such as the legacy of slavery and colonialism, and the situation in the Middle East. If this conference is to succeed, there is an acute need for common ground." This will be the first global anti-racism conference of the post-apartheid era. It has a very broad remit. It will address every manifestation of racism and discrimination in the modern world. It will confront traditional forms of racism and the plight of groups at particular risk: indigenous peoples, ethnic, religious and cultural minorities. There will be particular emphasis on the root causes of racism and discrimination and the linkages, for example, with extreme poverty. So how do we start that deeper conversation? During the recent Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Archbishop Desmond Tutu showed us the way: "We are all of equal worth, born equal in dignity and born free and for this reason deserving of respect whatever our external circumstances. We belong in a world whose very structure, whose essence, is diversity almost bewildering in extent and it is to live in a fool's paradise to ignore this basic fact." Archbishop Tutu's words sum up the goal of the Durban conference: a world where racism, intolerance and discrimination are spurned and differences and diversity are celebrated.
The writer, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and secretary-general of the World Conference Against Racism, contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.
©International Herald Tribune
RIFT OVER ISRAEL CASTS A SHADOW ON RACISM CONFERENCE
Friday, August 10, 2001
Negotiations to prepare for the world conference on racism this month have deadlocked over anti-Israel language, and unless the situation changes shortly, a leading U.S. negotiator said Thursday that he would urge a Bush administration boycott of the meeting. As talks moved toward their midnight deadline, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, called for more time to iron out differences plaguing the World Conference on Racism, scheduled to begin Aug. 31 in Durban, South Africa. The United States warned earlier that it might avoid the conference if language equating Zionism with racism and other anti-Israeli references remained in documents meant to show universal will to combat racism, intolerance and discrimination. Arab countries are insisting that conference texts include language referring to what they call Israel's "racist policies" that discriminate against Palestinians in the occupied territories. Israel and its allies argue that singling out one country is unjust and unfair when many, if not most, countries have problems with racism. "I don't think there is a single nation which comes to the conference with clean hands," said Congressman Tom Lantos, Democrat of California, a member of the U.S. negotiating team. "There clearly is an attempt by some to hijack the conference," he said. "They are trying to make the conference one to attack the state of Israel." Mr. Lantos said that unless that language was dropped, he would recommend to Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W. Bush that the government not participate in the conference. The Palestinian representative, Nabil Ramlawi, pausing outside the meeting room, insisted that the conference language had to refer to the "suffering of the Palestinian people due to Israeli racist practices." Ignoring those practices, he argued, would mean a conference "convened not to condemn racism, but to protect it." Negotiators had been more upbeat that a compromise could be reached until late Tuesday, when a group of Arab countries introduced alternative wording for the conference to "recognize with deep concern the increase in anti-Semitism in both its Jewish and Arab forms and hostile acts against Jews in various parts of the world, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas concerning the Jewish and Arab communities."The World Conference recognizes with deep concern the increase of racist practices of the occupying power, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas in various parts of the world," the seven-page proposal continued. But Jewish human rights representatives said that while references equating Zionism with racism had been dropped, other references to Arab anti-Semitism and the "Jewish Holocaust in Europe" muddled reality and diminished the historical record in unacceptable ways. While bitter divisions remained over references to Israel, human rights campaigners said progress had been made regarding a second acrimonious issue - compensation for slavery. African nations had agreed to drop contentious language on slavery but a compromise had yet to be reached on whether to include wording for a "formal apology" for slavery and whether slavery would be defined as a crime against humanity. The State Department is expected to announce its decision next week on whether it will attend the conference. Trying to keep the conference preparations on track, Mrs. Robinson said negotiators should take into account the "historical wounds of anti-Semitism and of the Holocaust, on the one hand," and "the accumulated wounds of displacement and military occupation on the other." However, she noted that the language involving the Middle East would "require careful handling right down to the conference itself." A Caribbean delegate emerging from the meeting room agreed. "We're just not ready to agree on some of the sticky issues. They may not be decided until we get to Durban."
©International Herald Tribune
U.S., ISRAEL LEAVE U.N. RACISM TALKS
Saturday, August 11, 2001
Preparatory meetings for the World Conference Against Racism ended yesterday with U.S. and Israeli representatives stalking away from discussions with an Islamic group that protested the plight of Palestinians under a "racist . . . occupying power." Those words, proposed for the conference agenda by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, constituted language that President Bush said would prompt him to boycott the gathering, scheduled to start Aug. 31 in Durban, South Africa. Israeli Ambassador Yaakov Levy told the Dow Jones News Service that his country "will have to reconsider its participation in the Durban conference." Mary
Robinson, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said delegates must continue to work to resolve their differences, even if they must do so in back rooms at the conference. "We're dealing with extraordinarily sensitive issues," Robinson said. She stressed that "progress has been made" during two weeks of preparatory meetings, and she specifically praised the United States for being "active and engaged." At the same time, Robinson acknowledged that tensions over the Middle East were corrosive. "In the previous two world conferences," she said, "this was the kind of issue that kept the conference from making a breakthrough." The Arab-Israeli feud overshadowed all else at the conference, including a compromise between African organizations and the United States, along with its European allies, over the request for reparations for slavery. In place of compensation, a thorough discussion of slavery will be complemented with an apology or a statement of profound regret. "We've managed to get to a situation where everyone understands that some sort of apology would be accepted," said Aziz Pahad, South Africa's deputy minister of foreign affairs. Other voices tried to break through. A Korean delegate called on Japan to compensate individual "comfort women," who were used as sex slaves during Japan's occupation of the Korean peninsula during World War II. China showed support for the conference for the first time, even as it was criticized for its treatment of Tibetan ethnic groups. Indigenous people in the Americas criticized the conference for nudging their plight from the limelight, even though Thursday was a U.N. day of global recognition of indigenous people. In the weeks before Durban, President Bush must decide whether Arab groups, who U.S. politicians said were trying to "hijack the conference," will silence his administration in South Africa. "Many countries are extremely uncomfortable" with attacks on Israel, Dow Jones quoted Michael Southwick, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, as saying. "The agenda in Durban should not single out one country and brand it as racist."
©The Washington Post
SLAVERY ROW DOGS RACISM CONFERENCE
Saturday, 11 August, 2001
Preparations for the forthcoming UN World Conference on Racism are being dogged not only by how the talks should deal with the Middle East problem, but by the stance it should adopt on reparations for the slave trade and colonialism. Some American NGOs who have been attending the talks in Geneva over the past two weeks are accusing the United States of using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a means of ducking the other major sticking point of negotiations. The US was "beating the issue of the Middle East as a diversion", said Adjoa Aiyetoro, the spokesperson for the African and African Descendants Caucus and the US legal consultant for the US National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations. Ms Ayietoro said that her understanding of the outcome of the talks was that the US still had serious problems with the idea of apologising for slavery and colonialism, and in agreeing on the wording of the summit agenda document. This was despite assurances from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, that there had been much progress in addressing the issues of the past. "We think their (the US) position is wrong," Ms Ayietoro said. "It's another aspect of the United States not wanting to take responsibility for its conduct in enslaving our ancestors and engaging in the tragic transatlantic slave trade. "Its a way of avoiding a full democratic discussion of the issues... and it violates the very diplomatic principles they say this country was founded on."
The United States objects to the calls from African nations to term the slave trade "a crime against humanity". It also shares the fears of Canada and the European Union that an apology with a compensation package could open the way to a flood of individual lawsuits. As preparatory talks ended in Geneva, Mary Robinson did, however, admit that no conclusive text had been drawn up. She said negotiations would have to continue in Durban to agree a firm agenda for discussion. So now the US has a big political decision to make. Does it boycott the conference from the outset, or should it risk attending Durban? If it does so, and there is no further satisfactory progress made on the issues of zionism and reparations for colonialism, it may be forced to leave once discussions have begun, and in the full glare of world media attention.