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Headlines 24 October, 2014

Headlines 17 October, 2014

Headlines 10 October, 2014

Headlines 3 October, 2014

GERMAN & UK NEWS

Headlines 24 October, 2014

United against Salafism, right-wing scene surges in Germany

Violent hooligans, backed by right-wing extremists, have teamed up against a new enemy: Salafists. For months now, they have lashed out online - and now they're taking to the streets.

18/10/2014- It began on Facebook, where anti-Islam soccer fans have been venting their anger in online forums for months now. But lately, in German cities, like Essen, Nuremberg, Mannheim, Frankfurt and Dortmund, hostile and extremely violent hooligans, usually at odds with each other, have united against a new enemy: Salafists - a radical and militant branch of Islam. Their initiative, currently known as Ho.Ge.Sa. - "Hooligans gegen Salafisten" ("Hooligans against Salafists") - has seen its profile repeatedly blocked by Facebook, but it always reappears under another name. It's here that the group is stoking the flames against the hard-line Salafist movement. Next stop: a demonstration planned for October 26 in front of the Cologne Cathedral.

The current mood and the protests organized by Kurds across Europe are giving hooligans and right-wing sympathizers the chance to "apparently demonstrate against the Salafists, but really only to express their own Islamophobia," Olaf Sundermeyer, a journalist and author, told DW . "We are 'hooligans against Salafixxxx.' Together, we are strong," reads the group's Facebook page. They see themselves as "a movement that has brought together hooligans, ultras, soccer fans and ordinary citizens in a common fight against the worldwide 'Islamic State' terror campaign and the nationwide Salafist movement." In Facebook posts and on banners at their demonstrations, they call their group the "resistance" against "the true enemies of our shared homeland." The latest protest in Dortmund drew around 400 people. "On 26.10.2014 in Cologne, we will significantly increase this number of participants," a moderator recently announced on the site. "Peaceful, unmasked and without rioting."

'Salafists are the greater evil'
These slogans have actually served to bring together opposing hostile fan bases, who usually meet up before and after sports events to fight each other. Gunter A. Pilz, an expert on fan behavior from the Sport University in Hanover, calls this phenomenon "a temporary fighting alliance." However, he said that this coalition will only last as long as the common enemy: the Salafists. Sundermeyer, who points out that anti-Islam attitudes are widespread in the soccer fan scene, said there's a risk that extreme right-wing groups will be tolerated because the brutality of "Islamic State" militants in Syria and Iraq is proof to many that Salafists are the greater evil. In an interview with German public radio Deutschlandfunk, Sundermeyer said that "Hooligans against Salafists" is still a relatively small group, but stressed that it could attract more followers - even those with less radical viewpoints. Soccer, he said, is the ideal environment to radicallize and recruit young people to the extreme right-wing cause. Officially, though, the league has distanced itself from the right-wing extremist movement.

Mobilizing apolitical hooligans and soccer fans
But there's an obvious overlap with the neo-Nazi scene: Ho.Ge.Sa. is backed by Dominik Roeseler, a member of the right-wing Pro NRW party who sits on the Mönchengladbach city council. He plans to be at the demonstration in Cologne. Roeseler is considered to be quite extreme and is, like all right-wing party members, under observation by German security officials. And there are further connections: At the protest in Dortmund, many shirts, jackets and banners were adorned with neo-Nazi symbols. The next day, a post on the Facebook group backtracked, saying that "unfortunately, we have found out that many neo-Nazis came to this event. We want to once again make it clear that we are not political."

There doesn't even seem to be a consensus over Dominik Roeseler among the Ho.Ge.Sa. members. A few days ago, they announced that they had parted ways with him. But one thing is certain: the Cologne demonstration is being organized by right-wing political officials. Is Ho.Ge.Sa., therefore, an attempt by right-wing extre-mists to drum up new members from within the ranks of hooligans and extremist soccer fans? At the most recent count, the number of Ho.Ge.Sa. fans had risen to more than 16,000. "We continue to grow, the media can hound us all it wants. This time, you will not be able to stop us," wrote a follower on the site. Until recently, soccer associations, clubs and other fans had been able to keep the hooligans in check, said Sundermeyer. Now, however, faced with the threat posed by the Salafists, the cause of the right-wing extremists is seeing increasing support.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Video shows Spain police beating, expelling migrant

18/10/2014- A video of Spanish police beating an African migrant with a truncheon and carrying him apparently unconscious back across the border to Morocco caused outrage in Spain on Friday. The man was one of about 100 migrants who tried to climb from Moroccan soil over a six-metre (20-foot) fence into the Spanish territory of Melilla on Wednesday. The local humanitarian group Prodein which filmed the video identified the man as a 23-year-old Cameroonian named Danny. In the video, an officer of the Spanish Civil Guard police force is seen hitting the man with a truncheon as the migrant hung barefoot from the fence on the Spanish side. Danny is then seen dropping from the fence into the hands of a group of Spanish officers and lying on the ground. Spanish officers later carry him by the arms and legs as he lies limp, through a gate in the fence and back to the Moroccan side of the border.

Jose Palazon, the leader of Prodein who made the video, accused officers of "a high level of violence". He said the migrant "should have had medical assistance but did not get it". "The whole thing was absolutely illegal. It is a monument of contempt for the law, morality and ethics," Palazon told AFP on Friday. Rights groups accuse the Spanish police of illegal "on-the-spot deportations" of migrants who have stormed the border fence in groups of hundreds over recent months. A spokeswoman for the Spanish government delegation in Melilla, Irene Flores, said the migrant on Wednesday was not injured and had offered "passive resistance". Spain's government denies that migrants who climb the fence should be considered as having reached Spanish territory and says it has the right to return those intercepted while perched there. "The Civil Guard acted in scrupulous fulfilment of the law," Flores told AFP. "We do not consider these to be cases of deporting people on the spot, but of turning them away at the border."

On February 6 about 15 migrants drowned in Moroccan waters while trying to swim from a beach in Morocco to Ceuta, the other of Spain's two north African territories. Witnesses accused Spanish security forces of firing rubber bullets at the migrants in the water. The government admitted using rubber bullets but denied its forces had targeted the migrants directly. The conservative Popular Party government drew fire over Wednesday's video, with opposition parties accusing it of lacking clear protocol for border guards. "This is one more example of absolutely intolerable behaviour by members of the security forces and inhuman treatment of people," said the parliamentary spokesman for the United Left party, Joan Coscubiela.
© AFP

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Russian social network hosts Miss Hitler 2014 contest

Competition being hosted on the Adolf Hitler group page of the popular VKontakte Russian language web-site.

18/10/2014- An anti-Semitic beauty contest is currently underway on the Russian social networking website VKontakte, the local equivalent of Facebook. Called Miss Ostland 2014 (Ostland was the name Nazi Germany gave to the occupied Baltic states and eastern Poland), the contest is hosted on the site's Adolf Hitler group page, which has more than 7,000 followers, according to the vocative website. Women interested in participating in the competition are asked to send in sexy photographs of themselves, as well as to write about their love for Hitler. The candidate who receives the most likes will be declared the winner.

Leading the competition right now is Katya Shkredova from Belarus, who “adores Adolf” for his philosophy on the “ideal society,” according to the report. The thing she loves most about him is his will to “experiment on people.” Shkredova’s picture has 37 likes so far. Just behind her is Irina Nagrebetskaya from Ukraine, who wrote “Don’t forget! Adolf is his name, he’s our eternal race, he has been given eternal life.” Similar sentiments were expressed by Ekaterina Matveeva of St. Petersburg, who believes that “Adolf Hitler’s position is genius and true, that races are different not only in appearance, but also in intelligence.”

The contestants
First prize in the competition is a piece of jewelry from a company called “Magic Workshop,” featuring one of the Nordic runes that were so beloved of Heinrich Himmler and the SS. Second prize is a pendant combining the classic German Iron Cross and Third Reich heraldry. The creators of the Miss Hitler pageant are not the only ones allowed to express their intense anti-Semitism on VKontakte. There are several other pro-Hitler communities with thousands of followers on the Russian social media site, vocative reports.
© Haaretz

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Russian football still in denial over racism

Manchester City return to Moscow a year after Yaya Touré was abused by CSKA fans and the problem is still not solved

18/10/2014- When Manchester City travel to Moscow to face CSKA in the Champions League on Tuesday there will inevitably be memories of the same fixture last year, when Yaya Touré was racially abused from the stands. The incident highlighted the problem of racism in Russia, which is to host the World Cup less than four years from now, and Touré even suggested that, if such incidents were to continue, African players should simply not attend the 2018 tournament. It is a fairly safe bet that Tuesday’s match will not see a repeat of the racist abuse. This, however, is not because the club’s fans have cleaned up their act so much in the past 12 months but because the game is being played behind closed doors, after CSKA were handed a Uefa punishment for violent clashes between their fans and police at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome last month. There were also accusations that the fans had unfurled racist banners and the Uefa punishment is the third time the club has been sanctioned in the past year.

Last season Touré said he had heard racist chants from the stands and, although CSKA vehemently denied any such thing had happened, Uefa confirmed the reports and penalised the club with a partial stadium closure. The blanket denials from CSKA did not help calm matters. Sergei Aksyonov, the club’s spokesman, still maintains the incident was blown out of proportion while also claiming that he heard racist chants from City fans at the return fixture three weeks later. “We are absolutely certain that there was nothing there,” Aksyonov says. “Maybe one or two people were shouting things but it was nothing big. And why do they pick on us? During the return match in Manchester we heard similar things against one of our black players, we told the officials and they refused to do anything about it.”

The club have appealed against Uefa’s punishment after the Rome violence and Aksyonov said it was the responsibility of the Italians to ensure adequate policing, adding that one of the Russian fans had been attacked by Italians with a knife before the match. He also denied that the banners unfurled were racist: “We think there should be a presumption of innocence, and instead we often find there is a presumption of guilt.” Stanislav, 26 and a CSKA fan who attends most home games, says there is a problem among “a small minority” of fans but he believes that the punishments are far too harsh. “Yes, there is a problem but there is no need to draw so much attention to it,” he says. “You don’t want to believe it but, if I’m honest, it looks like it’s all a political response given the current anti-Russian feeling in the world. It’s not a big enough issue to justify these punishments.”

For the rest of the world, though, as the countdown to Russia’s World Cup begins in earnest, the issue of racism is a vitally important one. “There are huge challenges with Russia,” Fifa’s vice-president Jeffrey Webb said earlier this month, highlighting that more needs to be done at the top level in Russia to address the issue. “It must start with education and really it must come from the top down that diversity is good, that integration is good and there’s nothing to fear,” said Webb. But for a long time it has seemed as though Russian officials are part of the problem rather than the solution. The issue of racism in the stands was taken as nothing more than banter or simply denied altogether. When Lokomotiv Moscow fans unfurled a banner with a banana on it, and the words “Thanks West Brom”, after the English side bought their Nigerian winger Peter Odemwingie in 2010, the head of Russia’s World Cup bid committee denied it was racist. Instead he claimed dubiously, “to get a banana” is a slang term meaning to fail a test.

Even when bananas started raining down from the stands at black players, there was denial among officials. The Brazilian Roberto Carlos, who had bananas thrown at him on more than one occasion when playing for Anzhi Makhachkala, said he was so upset by the incidents they made him consider retiring. The response from officials was hardly reassuring. “It’s true that they give out bananas to the players and to the match delegates and to the referees,” said Alexander Meitin, the official responsi-ble for fan behaviour, two years ago. “Bananas are a nutritious fruit and a yellow fruit, which always makes you happy.” Now, it seems, perhaps with the help of international threats, Russian officials are somewhat more on message. Nobody from the Russian Football Union was available to speak to The Observer but Meitin’s recent public statements have struck a somewhat different tone, though it still sounds as though fear of international punishment rather than a belief that racism is actually wrong is what is driving the agenda: “These incidents will bring serious punishments for clubs, because Fifa and Uefa are following all these incidents, and there is even more attention on Russia ahead of the World Cup. Everyone is looking at us and it does not show our clubs in a good light.”

The incidents continue. Just this month Zenit St Petersburg’s Brazilian striker Hulk reported abuse from away fans when Spartak Moscow came to St Petersburg. “During the game racist abuse was directed toward me from the Spartak section of the ground,” Hulk told Russia’s Sport Express newspaper. “In the first half I clearly heard monkey chants shouted in my direction and this was not only on one occasion. It was coming from a large group of people … I take this as a personal insult for me and my club.” The Russian football union confirmed Hulk’s accusations and banned Spartak fans from attending their next away match. Given the game was against Ural Yekaterinburg, a 24-hour train journey from Moscow, it is unlikely that many fans missed out.

In the past Zenit fans have been some of the worst offenders, with the club’s largest fan group even issuing a manifesto demanding that the club sign no black players. “Nationalism has been a part of football fan culture since it took on its current form in the late 1960s in Britain,” says Vladimir Frolov, author of a book on Russian fan culture. “In Russia sometimes it crosses the line and becomes racism but most of the time it doesn’t. Overall the situation in Russia isn’t all that different from other European countries.” Indeed, at a Serie A match between Milan and Juventus at San Siro last month, a large group of away fans made repeated and coordinated monkey noises every time one of Milan’s black players committed a foul. The chants, which were clearly audible in the away end, were completely ignored by stewards, suggesting they are a regular occurrence.

As with Russia the problem is not just in the stands: the Italian FA president, Carlo Tavecchio, was banned for six months by Uefa earlier this month for making a banana reference when talking about foreign players. Many Russians feel aggrieved that the problem receives so much attention in Russia but not in Italy or Spain. “I don’t really see it as such a big problem as the Western media is trying to show it,” says Artur Petrosyan, editor in chief of Russia’s Sport Express website. He says the majority of fans are not racist and that racist incidents happen much more rarely than before. But he concedes that part of the problem lies in the way that the issue is dealt with. “There are hooligans and racists in every country; the difference is how you handle them,” he says. “Russia still has visible difficulties in doing so. That’s why rare incidents with monkey taunts or similar things still happen.”

When it comes to many issues of race, gender or sexuality, Russia can often resemble the Britain of two or three decades ago, and the problem of racism on the foot-ball terraces can hardly be seen in isolation from the rest of society. Casual racism is rife in Russia, even sometimes within government. A youth group with tacit Kremlin support beamed laser images of Barack Obama eating a banana on to the wall of the US embassy in Moscow earlier this year, on the US president’s birthday. Last year Irina Rodnina, a former champion Olympic figure skater and now an MP with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, tweeted a doctored photograph of Obama last September. The image, which showed him chewing while in the foreground a banana was waved at him, caused uproar internationally.

When the US ambassador accused her of “outrageous behaviour”, the MP simply said it was her right to tweet it as it constituted “freedom of speech”. She was later selected to be one of the flag bearers at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. One of Russia’s top television hosts said the international reaction to the photo-graph was ridiculous and was the sort of wrong-headed political correctness that would lead to people having to order “an African-American coffee, not a black coffee”. With such attitudes in government, it is hardly surprising that some football fans still find it hard to see the problem with racist abuse, seeing it as part and parcel of stadium banter. “It’s natural that you try to unsettle opposing players in any way you can,” says Artyom, 29 and a CSKA fan. “Monkey noises are just a way of putting black players off their game. I never do it but I don’t see how it’s any different from any other kind of abuse.”
© The Guardian

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Headlines 17 October, 2014

Web retailers accused of selling Nazi-related paraphernalia

B’nai B’rith says Etsy, Ebay, Amazon, Sears and Yahoo! guilty of allowing users to sell offensive items

17/10/2014- International Jewish organization B’nai B’rith demanded several online retail outlets Wednesday to enforce policies against users selling “hateful parapher-nalia,” The Times of Israel reported Thursday. According to B’nai B’rith web retailer Etsy had “456 swastika-themed items...available for sale, as were 479 Hitler-themed items, 13 Ku Klux Klan-themed items, and one racist, Jewish caricature candlestick listed specifically under the topic ‘anti-Semitic.’” B’nai B’rith said Ebay, Amazon, Sears Marketplace and Yahoo!, were also guilty of allowing users to sell offensive items on their sites. Sears then removed a swastika ring from the roster of items offered for sale, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. The item description quoted in the report read "this Gothic jewelry item in particular features a Swastika ring that’s made of .925 Thai silver.” It then featured the following curious disclaimer: “Not for Neo Nazi or any Nazi implication. These jewelry items are going to make you look beautiful at your next dinner date.”

According to JTA, the item also was for sale on Amazon.com, though it is listed currently as unavailable. Sears issued an apology in a statement and on Twitter:
“Like many who have connected with our company, we are outraged that more than one of our independent third-party sellers posted offensive items on Sears Market-place,” the company said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize that these items were posted to our site and want you to know that the ring was not posted by Sears, but by independent third-party vendors.”
© i24 News

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Swedish far-right leader takes sick leave

17/10/2014- The leader of a far-right party that made strong gains in Sweden's election last month is going on sick leave, saying he's burned-out from battling the country's political and media establishment. Jimmie Akesson's announcement was unexpected even though the 35-year-old had looked tired following the Sept. 14 election in which his anti-immigration Sweden Democrats more than doubled their support to 13 percent, becoming the third-biggest party in Parliament. The surge of the Sweden Democrats, a party with right-wing extremist roots, has unnerved many Swedes and tarnished the country's reputation as a bastion of tolerance. The party is alone in Swedish politics in criticizing the country's liberal immigration laws.

Despite Akesson's efforts to soften the party's image and expel openly racist members, other parties, from left to right, have refused to work with the Sweden Democrats in Parliament. Wherever they campaigned, Akesson and his colleagues were met by protesters booing, turning their backs or yelling anti-racist slogans. Last year a left-wing activist smashed a pie in Akesson's face. Meanwhile, Swedish media have closely scrutinized the party, exposing members with racist views or neo-Nazi sympathies. In a statement published on the party's website, Akesson said his workload and frequent travels had sapped his energy. But he also said he felt drained by the mental and physical stress of constantly being a target of criticism and abuse.

"Our opponents' persistent attempts to stop our successes, the media's often sickening campaign journalism and the immoderate hatred of extremists are some examples," he said. Other political leaders expressed sympathy for Akesson, while some celebrities and commentators quipped on social media that being a "racist" was emotionally draining. It wasn't immediately clear how long Akesson would remain on sick leave. The Sweden Democrats said Mattias Karlsson, a senior party official, would stand in for him.
© The Associated Press

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Belgian government under fire in its first week

In his first week as prime minister of Belgium, Charles Michel has had to condemn collaboration with the Nazis in World War II following controversy over two of his cabinet members.

16/10/2014- Jan Jambon, minister of security and home affairs for the pro-devolution Flemish party N-VA, was heavily criticised for a recent interview in which he was asked about his presence at a meeting of former collaborators in 2001. Although Jambon first said that he never defended collaboration with Nazi Germany and called it “a mistake”, he then went on to say: “The people who collaborated with the Germans had their reasons. I did not live in that period.” Another N-VA member of Michel's new cabinet, Theo Francken, also came under fire. Francken is deputy minister responsible for asylum and migration. In a social media message in 2011, he questioned “the economic added value” of “Moroccan, Congolese and Algerian” immigrants. Francken was also present at a controversial birthday party on Saturday (11 October). Together with fellow N-VA politician, a minister in the Flemish government, he visited the 90th birthday of Bob Maes, who founded the Order of Flemish Militants in 1949, which in the 1980s became a paramilitary group targeting immigrants.

Maes had also been a member of the Flemish National Union, a political party that collaborated with the Nazis after they invaded Belgium in 1940. The largest opposi-tion party, the French socialist party, is demanding that Michel ask Francken and Jambon to step down. “These persons are not worthy of carrying the large responsi-bility you have given them”, said French socialist member of parliament Laurette Onkelinx. She said “the sound of boots” is present in the government, a reference to [neo-] Nazism. Onkelinx also criticised an old e-mail from Francken in which he made a “homophobic” remark, which Francken had said was a joke. MEPs have also entered the fray.

Gianni Pittella, head of the centre-left S&D group, said the fact that Francken and Jambon, "who openly frequent former Nazi collaborators and their associates", have government positions is “worrying”. Michel defended his centre-right government, which consists of his French liberal party and three Flemish parties, including the N-VA. “My two grandfathers both lived through the Second World War. One of them emerged ill from the camps and died shortly afterwards”, Michel said during a debate in parliament on Wednesday (15 October). “I can tell you without ambiguity that I and the whole government with me condemn the collaboration.” During the debate, which lasted 21 hours until 7am local time on Thursday, opposition parties also fiercely criticized government plans for spending cuts.
© The EUobserver

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Eurosceptic MEP group collapses

A Eurosceptic group in the European Parliament (EP) that includes Britain's UKIP and Italy's Five Star Movement has collapsed after an MEP withdrew.

16/10/2014- The development means a loss of funds and less influence for the parties in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group. The EFDD accused EP President Martin Schulz of engineering Latvian MEP Iveta Grigule's exit from the group. Speaking to BBC News, Mr Schulz's office denied any wrongdoing. The office said that after meeting Mr Schulz on Wednesday, Ms Grigule had brought her letter of resignation from the group to his office on Thursday morning. Consequently, leaders of the European Parliament decided that the EFDD had to be dissolved, the office told the BBC. To qualify as a group, parties must represent at least seven countries and Ms Grigule's departure had reduced the EFDD to six.

'Massive blow'
Ms Grigule, an MEP for the Latvian Farmers' Union, has applied to Mr Schulz to become an independent MEP. According to one source in the European Parliament, the EFDD group was due to get just over 4m euros (£3.2m; $5m) in funding in 2015 - more than 80,000 euros per MEP in the group. For UKIP, with 24 MEPs, that's more than 2m euros of revenue hanging in the balance. Half of it usually goes to the communications budget - a valuable resource in an election year. If Mr Farage is no longer the leader of a group, he will also get less speaking time in the parliament, and fewer opportunities to make speeches on big set-piece occasions. UKIP alleges that the Latvian MEP who has left the group was bullied into submission by parliamentary leaders but she is so far unavailable for comment. A UKIP statement accused the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, of acting like he was running the parliament of a "banana republic". But without a formal political group, UKIP will be a less powerful voice in Brussels. Nigel Farage said his party had been the victim of a back-room stitch-up and he accused Martin Schulz of "effectively blackmailing" Ms Grigule by offering her the leadership of an overseas delegation.

That, he said, was how the British got treated in Brussels. The EFDD's collapse has also forced MEPs to postpone a decision on the winner of the Sakharov Prize for 2014 until next Tuesday, for administrative reasons. UKIP's 24 members made up half of the 48-strong EFDD group. They were followed by Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement which had 17 MEPs. Other members included the Sweden Democrats, one French independent, and MEPs from the Czech Republic and Lithuania. Eurosceptics made major advances at the European elections in May, with the EFDD gaining an extra 17 seats. News of the EFDD's fall was welcomed by the largest group in the parliament, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), which tweeted: "First defeat for Eurosceptics! EFDD group disappears with departure of Latvian Iveta Grigule." The leader of the UK Labour Party at the European Parliament, Glenis Willmott MEP, said Nigel Farage had suffered a "massive blow". Mr Farage has predicted UKIP could hold the balance of power in the UK following the general election next year after his party gained its first elected MP last month and narrowly failed to take a seat from Labour at a by-election. 

Why being in a group is better
@ Non-attached MEPs - collectively called "NI" in the parliament - cannot be heads or deputy heads of EP committees or delegations
@ Groups have more power than NI members to draft legislation and steer it through parliament
@ NI members cannot table group amendments or motions for resolutions at full EP sessions
@ MEPs in groups have more staff than NI members, who are excluded from the total 59.8m euro (£48m; $76m) pot allocated to groups to cover their administrative expenses
@ Average budget for NI members is 43,000 euros each.
© BBC News

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After Zara's 'Holocaust tee,' Mango shirt deemed 'Nazi chic'

Twitter users say lightning-like pattern on clothing giant's new top resembles SS insignia.

16/10/2014- A new shirt marketed by the Spanish fashion chain Mango has sparked derision online over what social media users have describe as a striking resemblance between its lightning symbol and the insignia of Nazi SS units. The shirt is advertised as a white shirt for women with a lightning-like symbol, under a label heralding it as “the total look," but Twitter users think it is more in the line of "Nazi chic." Consumers who noticed the likeness have been flooding Twitter and Facebook with their protests in recent days. The German politician and satirist Martin Sonnenborn, who heads The Party, posted a photo of the shirt on his Facebook page, asking, “Why does Mango market this shirt only to women? There are also male Nazis.”

Others called it “The SS shirt” or the “Eva Braun Collection”. According to the magazine Bild, some consumers have pointed out that the new shirt's promotional tagline, "I want a total look," also carries an unflattering association to Nazi bigwig Joseph Goebbels, who famously called out in a 1943 speech: "Do you want a total war?" to a cheering crowd. Last August there was an uproar on social media when the Zara chain sold a children’s shirt that looked like the uniform worn by concentration camp inmates, including a yellow star that looked like the yellow badge on these uniforms. Zara removed the shirt and apologized.
© Haaretz

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USA: Sears apologizes, removes swastika ring from Marketplace website

13/10/2014- Sears has apologized and removed a men’s swastika ring that was briefly for sale on its Marketplace website. The “.925 Thai silver Swastika ring” was listed under the “men’s punk rock style” jewelry category. “Not for Neo Nazi or any Nazi implication. These jewelry items are going to make you look beautiful at your next dinner date,” description read, Haaretz reported. Sears tweeted personalized responses to dozens of outraged customers, apologizing for the mistake and explaining that sometimes third-party vendors slip through the cracks. “We certainly understand the upset and regret this occurred. The vendor is being reviewed and the item remo-ved,” Sears tweeted. “This item is a 3rd party Sears Marketplace product that does not abide with our guidelines and is being removed,” the company said. The item was also briefly for sale on Amazon.com, though it is listed currently as unavailable, Haaretz reported. The Jewish parenting website Kveller posted an image of the Sears page with the swastika ring before it was removed.
© The Washington Times

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Slovak Plan To Give Gypsies Free Flights To UK

16/10/2014- A group of local Slovak politicians who wear cowboy hats and call themselves the magnificent seven are campaigning on a promise to solve crime and clean up the area by putting gypsies on flights to the rest of Europe, and sterilising those that remain. Vladimir Guertler, 41, who is head of the Magnificent Seven Party that promises to restore law and order by getting rid of the gypsies with one-way tickets abroad, has backed up his plan with TV spots interviewing gypsies admitting they would welcome the chance of a free ticket out of the country. Those that remain, he said, would be eligible for free sterilisation operations for which they would get incentives, including the advantage that with fewer children they would have more money for other things. Before the region split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, Czechoslovakia routinely sterilised Roma women to curb the birthrate of people regarded as "undesirables" but it was thought to have ceased after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

It was later found out however that doctors had continued the practice not just for months but for years. And now the subject has been raised again in Slovakia together with the idea of encouraging Roma to go to other places in Europe with free one-way tickets. The "7 statocnych" party, which means the magnificent seven, is campaigning in the city of Kosice in the impoverished east of Slovakia, a region split by ethnic tension. Guertler, who is a lawyer, has already put up posters promising the sterilisations and the tickets if he is elected to the local council in the upcoming elections on November 15. And he has rejected critics who called his campaign "amoral" and "racist". He said: "My campaign is deeply moral and there are no marks of racism. It is human to Romas and also to major population of Slovakia. "All points of my election program are based on my knowledge of the situation following several visits to the borough of Lunik IX in Kosice and discussions with its residents."

Guertler claimed his plan of free flight tickets would be viable, saying: "Free movement of persons in EU countries is guaranteed. And every European citizen has right to live, work, study or to run business there." He said the Roma he had spoken to did not say which country they would want to go to but that the UK would for sure be one of those offered. And with regards to the sterilisation he said: "Roma women who live in poverty don’t have the possibilities to protect themselves and to control the number of children they have, what with a lack of money for contraception and generally their partners’ unwillingness to use it. "My plan is to financially support women of a certain age with a certain number of children who decide to undergo the sterilisation voluntarily. "The financial support would give a better life for her and for her children." Posters stuck up around the city show him wearing a white shirt and white western hat and repeat his claims made in local newspapers and on television of flights and sterilisations for Roma.

The billboards contain sentences as "Lunik IX to Brussels. Flight tickets for free" or "Voluntary sterilisation for Roma women". Lunik IX is a borough in the city of Kosice which houses Slovakia's largest Romani community. Although originally built for 2500 inhabitants, there are now at least three times that number living there. Most basic amenities have been cut off because of the failure of those using them to pay. Guertler wrote on the website of the political party: "I have spoken to Romas from Lunik IX about the possibility of leaving Slovakia. That’s why I want free flight tickets for them." The candidate made a short video in the borough and asked Romas if they would like to leave Slovakia. One of the Lunik IX residents Jozef Conka, 39, said: "Yes, I would like to leave right now." Guertler offered to organise a public money collection for the flight or bus ticket for Conka. Another resident of Lunik IX Miroslav Horvath, 26, was not very impressed by Vladimir Guertler's plan. He said: "You care about those who want to leave. But what about people who want to stay here? Why don’t you try to solve the problem with housing here."

Meanwhile local police have confirmed they have had a complaint and are investigating whether the billboards can be regarded as racist. Police spokesman Alexander Szabo said: "Kosice police has registered a complaint. We will investigate the case and pass on a report to prosecutors." Meanwhile some of the billboards have been defaced by people who have pasted on Ku Klux Klan images, a move which Guertler condemned as an attack by "human-rights extremists". Activist Laco Oravec from the Milan Simecka Foundation that is fighting to get a better situation for Roma people said: "This campaign benefits from the appalling situation of Roma in the country who are forced to live in a really primitive way. "The idea of moving people who are not convenient for us may be welcomed by voters, but it is totally amoral. The problems have to be solved and not to be moved elsewhere. This candidate is clearly a racist."
© The Croatian Times

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Far-right extremists plan Upper Austrian meeting

A gathering of the far-right group Arbeitsgemeinschaft für demokratische Politik (AFP) is due to take place in the Wels-Land district of Upper Austria from Friday to Sunday - but several of the speakers may be stopped from making an appearance.

16/10/2014- The organisers say that they want to "present a clear, alternative model to the EU capitalist corporations", with speakers from across Europe “standing up for freedom and sovereignty" and attendees gathering in the evenings to sing “folk and freedom songs". The Austrian Press Agency reports that representatives from Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party are expected to attend, as well as from Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, and the right wing publicists Pierre Krebs and Richard Melisch. The planned gathering, entitled ‘Europe - Rebirth or Demise’, is scheduled to take place at the Gasthof Lauber in Offenhausen. Upper Austrian police said that the meeting was “on their radar” but that they would not be banning it. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is looking into the background of all the speakers and will not allow them to make an appearance if there are any criminal proceedings pending against them. Austria’s Mauthausen Committee (MKÖ) and the Upper Austrian Antifa anti-fascist network have called for the AFP to be banned.

Golden Dawn is "a neo-Nazi party, whose head has been formally charged with belonging to a criminal organization,” said MKÖ chairman Willi Mernyi. "Given the known facts, it is incomprehensible that security agencies and the judiciary are happy to sit back and watch the machinations of the AFP," criticized Antifa spokesman Robert Eiter. The AFP was founded in 1963, as the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Politik, and was connected to Manfred Roeder, a prominent German Holocaust denier and convicted extreme-right activist, who died in July. Its publications often carry items about neo-Nazi and revisionist agitation and one of its main aims is to fight Austria’s National Socialist Prohibition Law. Constitutional expert Heinz Mayer has stated that the AFP continues to "overtly and covertly glorify Nazi ideas and actions, cynically denies any Nazi violence, and uses hateful language with a clearly aggressive tone towards foreigners, Jews, and ‘strangers’”. The AFP has few defenders but is connected to members of the far-right both in Austria and abroad. It supports the right-wing FPÖ party at elections.
© The Local - Austria

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Greek Prosecutor Seeks Trial for 70 Far Rightists

16/10/2014- A prosecutor heading a yearlong investigation into Greece's extreme right Golden Dawn party recommended Thursday that its leader, 17 other lawmakers, and dozens of party officials and supporters stand trial on a range of charges, including running a criminal organization and murder. In a 700-page report, seen by the Associated Press, prosecutor Isidoros Doyiakos describes Golden Dawn as a staunchly hierarchical organization that aimed "to propagate and impose its political beliefs and theories through violence." The party, founded in the mid-1980s as a fringe Neo-Nazi group, saw a huge increase in support since the start of Greece's financial crisis five years ago and won 18 seats in the 300-member parliament in 2012 elections. Doyiakos wrote that Golden Dawn's ideology was of "no criminal interest" but argued that it organized assault squads "armed with bats iron bars, brass knuckles, and knives" to carry out frequent attacks against immigrants and left-wing activists.

The report, based largely on testimony from a protected witnesses and material from computer hard drives seized in multiple police raids, is the most damaging to the party since a crackdown was launched by judicial authorities last year. The investigation was launched after an alleged Golden Dawn volunteer was arrested for the murder of a left-wing rap singer, Pavlos Fyssas, in a knife attack. Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and eight other lawmakers are currently in jailed for pre-trial detention, while the others regularly attend parliamentary sessions. A panel of judges is expected to issue final indictments next month. If it upholds Doyiakos' recommendations, the lawmakers face a maximum 20-year prison sentence if convicted. Speaking from prison in Athens late Thursday, party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris described the report as "laughable" and politically motivated by the conservative government seeking to regain votes lost to the far right. "There are 700 pages and not one with any real evidence," he said. "Obviously the government is panicking."
© The Associated Press

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Attacks on Albanian Shops in Serbia Condemned

A wave of attacks on Albanian businesses in Serbia has occurred in the wake of the disastrous Serbia-Albania football match earlier this week.

17/10/2014- Serbian police have arrested one person, following a series of attacks on Albanian-owned shops in Serbia that came after a football match raised tensions to boiling point in the country. An 18-year-old man was arrested on Friday on suspicion of having taken part in attacks on two bakeries in the town of Banovci owned by ethnic Albanians. Attacks on Albanian-owned businesses in the northern province of Vojvodina started after a football match between Albania and Serbia on October 14 ended in chaos and fighting on the pitch. The UK referee called off the match. A day later, two shops in the towns of Stara Pazova and Sombor were set on fire while another in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad was stoned. The attacks continued on October 15. During the night a bakery in Novi Sad was burned, while hooligans damaged five more shops in Novi Sad and Vrsac.

Bajram Temaj, the owner of Novi Sad bakery that was torched on Thursday night, said police turned down his request for protection, which he had made after attacks started a day earlier. He said the police had answered that they did not have enough patrol vehicles or the capacity to respond to his request. Serbia’s Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, condemned the attacks and stated that all citizens and their properties were entitled to protection. “These are our citizens who work and pay taxes regularly and we will guarantee them full security,” he said. “These are criminal acts and the government will respond by protecting its citizens,” Vucic added.

Aleksandar Nikolic, State Secretary of the Interior Ministry, said Serbia would not tolerate the spread of religious and ethnic hatred, and that all those who destroyed property in this fashion would be punished. “The ministry is working intensively to identify the individuals who have attacked facilities owned by our citizens of Albanian nationality,” Nikolic said. He also stated that the police would guarantee the security of all the country’s citizens. “We are doing everything in our power to prevented these and similar attacks, despite the brutal provocation at the football match”. The “provocation” referred to was a drone that flew over the stadium in Belgrade bearing a map of Greater Albania. Fighting then erupted on the pitch and some Albanian players were assaulted by Serbian fans who had invaded the field.
© Balkan Insight

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Serbia: Belgrade chaos fed off centuries of rivalry between Serbia and Albania

Abandonment of European qualifier is the latest chapter in a long history of grudges and conflict in the Balkans

15/10/2014- In the Balkans, more than anywhere else, football is the continuation of war by other means. There is a long history of violence underlying the chaos in the Belgrade stadium – this is just the first time it has taken the very 21st-century form of a drone conflict. Every scene on Tuesday night was freighted with centuries-old grudges and rivalries that last erupted into armed conflict in the 1998-9 war between Serbia and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, which left 10,000 people dead and was halted only by a Nato bombing campaign. The map suspended from the drone showed a map of a “Greater Albania” including Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. On either side were portraits of two heroes from Albania’s war of independence against the Ottoman Empire. The country that the Albanians thought they were going to get after the collapse of the Ottomans was cut in half at an international conference in London in 1912-13, and the Albanians have never forgotten.

Similarly, the Serbs have not forgotten, or accepted, the loss of Kosovo. Serbia, and its Russian allies, have not recognised Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. Serb nationalists regard Kosovo as the birthplace of their culture, and the most important date in the Serb nationalist calendar commemorates the loss of a 1389 battle to the Ottomans in Kosovo, seen as the beginning of the end for greater Serbia. The notorious Serb hooligan who led the pitch invasion on Tuesday night, Ivan Bogdanov, is not just part of the hardcore Red Star Belgrade fans, the Ultra Boys. He is also part of Movement 1389, a far-right nationalist group which has been involved in rioting against Kosovo Albanians and their western backers.

In that sense, Bogdanov is continuing a tradition of mingling football hooliganism with ultra-nationalist politics. The first really violent incident leading up to the bloody wars of the 90s was a 1990 clash between Zagreb and Belgrade fans in the Croatian capital. The most violent paramilitary leader of the Croatian and Bosnian wars, Zeljko Raznatovic, known universally as Arkan, was the leader of the most violent Red Star fans, the delije, who he recruited to form the core of his paramilitary group, the Tigers, who murdered and pillaged their way across the wreckage of Yugoslavia, before Arkan was assassinated in Belgrade in 2000. Bogdanov is sometimes described as Arkan’s heir apparent, ideologically if not militarily.

It was left to the respective team captains to remind people that it was supposed to have been a football match rather than the latest skirmish in the Serbian-Albanian territorial struggle. The Albanian captain, Lorik Cana, went out of his way to thank his Serbian counterpart, Branislav Ivanovic, for protecting his team on the field. Ivanovic said after the game: “What’s most important to us is that we stood by the Albanian representation as a team and supported them. We regret that football was presented as a secondary issue here.”
© The Guardian

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Ukraine far right battles police in Kiev

Ukrainian nationalists have hurled smoke canisters and stones at riot police during clashes outside the parliament in Kiev.

14/10/2014- Violence erupted when the protesters demanded that MPs pass a law to recognise a World War Two nationalist group which opposed Soviet forces. Fifteen policemen were injured and at least 50 protesters had been arrested, the Ukrainian interior ministry said. Meanwhile, shelling in east Ukraine reportedly killed seven people. Seventeen people were also injured when shells hit a funeral in the village of Sartana, near the disputed port city of Mariupol in Donetsk region, local officials said. Pro-Russian separatist forces are active near Mariupol, which is under government control. A fragile ceasefire has been in place since early September between government forces and the separatists, who control large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Election tensions
MPs did not vote to recognise the wartime Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Most of the crowd has now dispersed. Police used batons in the clashes and linked arms to protect the parliament. At least one petrol bomb was thrown at the parliament building in the unrest and there are unconfirmed reports that some bullets were fired. Reporting the injuries and arrests, interior ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook that "the clashes at the Supreme Rada [parliament] have just ended" and "the police used a degree of force allowed by law". Among the many Ukrainian flags in the crowd there were also flags of the far-right Svoboda and Right Sector groups. Both groups later denied that their supporters had been involved in the violence.

UPA members fought for Ukrainian independence in the war, but recognising their role is highly controversial, the BBC's David Stern reports from Kiev. At times they were allied with the Nazis and are said to have carried out atrocities against civilians. In Kharkiv, Ukraine's largely Russian-speaking second city, nationalists held a torch-lit rally on the main square on Tuesday evening, under far-right banners. The event was meant to commemorate Ukrainian soldiers killed fighting the rebels in the east. Tensions are mounting in Ukraine ahead of elections scheduled for 26 October. There are some doubts whether Svoboda will pass the 5% threshold necessary to get parliamentary seats.
© BBC News

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Bulgaria: Levski fined for mocking UEFA's anti-racism campaign

15/10/2014- Levski Sofia have been fined 19,000 levs ($12,419) after fans mocked one of the anti-racism campaigns launched by European soccer's governing body UEFA in a Bulgarian league match last month. The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) imposed the relatively small fine on Wednesday after several Levski supporters held up a banner stating "Say yes to racism" and doctored UEFA logo during their 3-2 league win over champions Ludogorets. The ugly incident caused outrage in the Black Sea state. Bulgarian soccer authorities have long been criticised by anti-racism campaigners, local media and fans for not cracking down hard enough on discrimination in sport. Levski, 26-times Bulgarian champions and one of the country's two most popular clubs along with bitter city rivals CSKA, have a history of racism at their matches. The BFU fined the club 37,500 levs after their supporters displayed a banner showing a swastika and another one marking what would have been Adolf Hitler's birthday during their game at Litex Lovech in April 2013. In 2012, Levski were fined 30,000 euros ($38,328) by UEFA for racist behaviour by fans during a Europa League match against Bosnia & Herzegovina's Sarajevo.
(1 US dollar = 1.5299 Bulgarian lev)
© Reuters

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Kyrgyz MPs pass 'anti-gay' law in first reading, ignore U.S. criticism

15/10/2014- Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to pass a bill on first reading that bans "gay propaganda," ignoring a call by the United States opposing the discriminatory changes to the Central Asian state's legislation. The bill, condemned by human rights bodies as homophobic and allowing police to take arbitrary action against sexual minorities, was passed by a 79-7 vote. It has to be approved on three readings and be signed by the president to become a law. "We supported this bill, because it reflects the hopes and expectations of our voters willing to protect the traditional family," Kurmanbek Dykanbayev, one of the initiators of the bill, told Reuters. "And from now on, there will be no possibility to arrange gay clubs, gay cafes or to hold gay rallies." The draft law proposes imposing fines or prison terms of up to one year on those "forming a positive attitude to untraditional sexual relations" among minors or in mass media. Dykanbayev said that penalties might toughened in the following readings.

Critics say the bill resembles a law banning "gay propaganda" that Russia's parliament passed in June last year. Russia, a close ally that provides Kyrgyzstan with financial assistance and keeps a military airbase in the country, came under a barrage of Western criticism after it adopted that law. The U.S. embassy in Kyrgzystan has criticized the new bill, saying that people should not be silenced or jailed because of who they are or who they love. It said that laws discriminating against one group threaten the fundamental rights of all people. The parliament retorted with a statement that said the new bill was in line with the country's constitution and its international commitments. It said the rights of those practicing "untraditional sexual ties" would not be violated. "This draft law aims not to trample on someone's rights, but to protect and defend traditional family, human, moral and historic values of society, taking into account the mentality of the people of Kyrgyzstan," it said.

Kyrgyzstan is a mainly Muslim nation of 5.5 million which borders China. It is struggling to build the first parliamentary democracy in authoritarian Central Asia, but popular revolts have toppled its two presidents since 2005 and it struggles with widespread poverty and regional and ethnic divisions.
© Reuters

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UK: Social media should not descend into a tool for far-right (opinion)

These days social media allows strangers and their opinions into our homes at all times of the day or night – but only if we allow it to
By Jade Wright

17/10/2014- It’s not every morning that I’m described as a fascist and ‘a silly young hack who resorts to insults at the first provocation’. Not before before I’ve finished my toast, anyway. Admittedly I am quite strict about separating my vegetarian fry up from my boyfriend’s carnivorous version, but most mornings are fairly peaceful in our house – until either of us picks up our phones and looks at Twitter. This week I spotted a message from a bloke (at least I think it’s a bloke, but there was no picture), which read: “Just read your June article in the Echo about Britain First. You are the reason people re-post their stuff. Wake up!” That one story, which I wrote in response to people sharing Britain First’s D-Day posts on Facebook, is still the best-read column I’ve ever written. I don’t know why, but it still gets re-posted and read every week, and I still get plenty of abuse from far-right supporters about it, as well as some nice comments too.

This bloke had clearly taken exception to me pointing out that Britain First are a right-wing political party and street defence organisation who encourage people to share their posts to spread their message. He didn't like me warning people against re-posting things without checking what they are. He said: “The issue is that people like YOU are wilfully ignoring why people like me turn to the far right. Only they give us a voice... We agree with your multicultural hogwash or you dismiss us as fascists. YOU are the fascist.” I laughed so hard I almost spat my tea out. Boyfriend looked crossly across the table, briefly distracted from his plate full of sausages and bacon. We try not to spend our rare time at home together arguing with strangers on Twitter. We have a no-phones-at-mealtimes rule.

But this was too funny for me not to respond. The man, who said he was part of the far right, was using fascism as an insult. That’s like me accusing someone of being a ‘lefty’ as a bad thing. He didn’t seem to realise that fascism is a form of authoritarian nationalism – the very thing he claims to support. Presumably he thought it was just a catch-all insult for anyone whose opinions he disagreed with. My response was probably a bit mean, looking back. I made fun of his insult and his poor use of grammar. I told him to come back and debate when he’d read his history books. This prompted the “just a silly young hack who resorts to insults at the first provoca-tion” tweet.

He’s not that far wrong – I am silly and I quite liked being described as young – but then I came to my senses, put down my phone and picked up my knife and fork. Time was when I had to leave the house to be insulted by a stranger (rather than insulted by someone I know, which happens all the time). These days social media allows strangers and their opinions into our homes at all times of the day or night – but only if we allow it to. I’m putting down my phone.
© The Liverpool Echo

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UK: Hundreds hold ‘kiss-in’ at Brighton Sainsburys after ‘disgusting’ lesbians asked to leave

Hundreds have taken part in a gay ‘kiss-in’ at a Brighton branch of supermarket chain Sainsburys, after a lesbian couple were told the sight of them kissing was “disgusting”, and could harm children.

16/10/2014- University of Sussex student Annabelle Paige said she gave her girlfriend a light kiss while the store last week, when a security guard approached and told them to either stop kissing or leave. Paige said the security guard told her they were sorry to have said it, but that a customer had complained that they were concerned about the welfare of their children, and thought it was “disgusting” to see two women kiss. Around 200 people gathered at the store, before kissing one another, and holding up banners supporting LGBT rights.

Couples same and opposite sex were welcomed at the kiss-in
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson later pointed out that the guard had been employed through a third party, and said: “This should never have happened – it is clear that Miss Paige and her partner were not behaving inappropriately and we are very sorry that they were treated in this way.” The supermarket chain added: “We have called Miss Paige to apologise and will be making a [£100] donation to a charity of her choice.”
© Pink News

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UK: Goldsmiths University Row As Holocaust Motion Voted Down Over 'Colonial' Fears

16/10/2014- A row has erupted between students at a London university after a proposal to commemorate the Holocaust was voted down, with students expressing concerns over "colonialism" and "Eurocentric" links. Students at Goldsmiths University refused to back the motion on Wednesday, which suggested organising commemora-tive events for students on Holocaust Memorial Day, as well as other genocide remembrance days. Former UKIP member and Goldsmiths student Colin Cortbus proposed the motion, which asked the student union to "organise commemorative events for students and members of the public on Holocaust Memorial Day, on the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, on the Holodomor Genocide Memorial Day Act and on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day".

On the same day the proposal was defeated, Sarah El-alfy, education officer at Goldsmiths, tweeted a message congratulating students for rejecting the "Eurocentric" motion: Wonderful support from Goldsmiths' students on preventing Eurocentric motion going through.

Defy cisnormativity @drcab1e
One student present at the debate makes clear their opposition against the motion: This is a colonialist motion. Vote it down. #gsuassembly
Defy cisnormativity @drcab1e
White people should not be proposing motions condemning genocides without a lot of thought. This does not have that thought. #gsuassembly

The row emerged following an article Cortbus co-wrote for his student website The Tab on the issue, which has been criticised for misgendering and factual inaccura-cies. According to the union, student officer Sarah El-alfy offered to help Cortbus redraft the motion and bring it to the next student assembly. However Cortbus still insists the motion was wholly rejected, telling HuffPost UK: "To see a students' union reject this tolerant, inclusive motion for remembrance on the basis of spurious arguments.. is very sad for democracy." Goldsmiths president Howard Littler assured HuffPost UK the student union had previously held commemorative events on Holocaust Memorial Day and would do so in future. The news follows the voting down of a proposal to condemn Islamic State, over fears the motion was "Islamophobic".
© The Huffington Post - UK

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UK: NUS refuses to condemn IS over fears of 'Islamophobia'

15/10/2014- The National Union of Students has refused to condemn brutal Islamic State terrorists over claims of 'Islamophobia'. A motion calling for the union's National Executive Council was rejected amid claims it would represent a "justification for war". Students backing the motion denied it was racist and hit out at "identity politics" in universities. Muslim groups from around the world have condemned Isis and denounced it as "un-Islamic" using the hashtag #notinmyname. The motion, tabled at London's Derbyshire House in September, vowed to "condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention". But a group of students blocked it, claiming that "condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamaphobia". Daniel Cooper, who tabled the original motion, hit out at the rebels who blocked it. "I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism," he said. "There is a stranglehold of "identity politics" on the student movement."

The NUS said in a statement: "At our most recent NEC meeting, a motion on this issue was presented and voted on by all members. "Some committee members felt that the wording of the motion being presented would unfairly demonise all Muslims rather than solely the group of people it set out to rightfully condemn. "NUS does not support ISIS and a new motion will be taken to the next NUS National Executive Committee meeting, which will specifically condemn the politics and methods of ISIS and offer solidarity for the Kurdish people."
© The London Evening Standard.

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UK: David Cameron in race row after posing with blacked-up Morris dancers

David Cameron has courted controversy by posing with a group of blacked-up Morris dancers at a folk festival in Banbury.

13/10/2014- The Prime Minister was on a day out with his family when a group of Morris dancers asked him to pose for a picture with them. The image was immediately shared on Twitter, with the Prime Minister drawing widespread criticism. One tweet described his decision as “crass and insensitive.” Another read: “If you're a Morris dancer and you want to black up, ask yourself if it's really appropriate. If the answer is yes, you're wrong.” Another suggested: “Maybe Cameron could organise an im-promptu photo shoot with Morris dancer to show Putin who is real man.” Martin de Vine, founder and Squire of the Foxs Morris dancers, said: "David Cameron was having a coffee and we saw him and just asked if he would have a picture taken," The Telegraph reported.

"They blacked their faces with soot because it was illegal to beg and they didn't want to be recognised. It was a disguise, in the same way that the leader of the troupe wears a top hat and is called the squire to take the mickey out of the local squire. "It's not racist and offence is never taken. People from other cultural backgrounds don't see it as that at all. We have had an Arab person dancing with us in the past - it's not seen as racist." It is not the first time such an image has provoked criticism. In April, a Labour Parliamentary candidate defended a photo he shared online which showed him with a pair of Morris dancers with their faces painted black. Will Straw, the son of former Home Secretary Jack Straw, was criticised by anti-racism campaigners who said that so-called "blacking-up" was "out of date" and "unaccep-table in modern day Britain".

Mr Straw said at the time: "Accusers [should] mug up on their history before making false accusations. The dance, which marks the return of spring, is believed to trace its roots to Moorish pirates who settled in Cornwall and became employed in local mining. "As more mines and quarries opened in Lancashire in the 18th and 19th centuries, a few Cornishmen are said to have headed to the area, taking with them mining expertise and the costume of red and white kilts, breeches, bonnets and blackened faces." To many people, a blacked-up face evokes a racist music hall tradition in which white performers pretended to be black. In the 1960s, one of the most popular shows on British television was the Black and White Minstrel Show.

Morris dancers who black up their faces claim that there is no racial connotation at all. They say they are reviving a tradition associated with Border Morris dancing, in which Welsh Morris dancers on the English border used black cork to disguise themselves as they went begging in the streets.
© The Independent

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UK: Criminals' money hands anti-racism charity a £10k cash boost

Show Racism the Red Card has received £9,250 from the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent’s Partnership Fund

13/10/2014- Show Racism the Red Card has been awarded a share of cash seized from criminals in Gwent. The charity was awarded funding of £9,250 from the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent’s Partnership Fund, which is funded by the proceeds of crime awarded to the police and from the sale of unclaimed found property. The Commissioner’s Partnership Fund was made available in May 2014 for charities, voluntary organisations and community groups in Gwent involved in activities that have a positive impact on their communities. Following a rigorous process of assessing each bid on its merits, a total of 40 organisations or groups have been notified that their bid has been successful. Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston said: “Show Racism the Red Card do a fantastic job in Wales and play an essential role in stemming the tide of racism. “It’s taking the messages into schools and using role models in the world of sport to spread the word and highlight that racism is poisonous and needs to be eradicated.”

Sunil Patel, from Show Racism the Red Card, added: “We are pleased to have been selected as one of the recipients of the award and look forward to visiting pupils across the area. “Former footballer Steve Jenkins and Christian Roberts will be part of the Education team delivering workshops to over 1,000 pupils in the coming months.” The projects funded contribute to delivering the Commissioner’s priorities for Gwent which include reducing and preventing crime; taking more effective action to reduce anti-social behaviour and protecting people from serious harm. A total of £157,000 was awarded to projects from Mr Johnston’s Partnership Fund earlier this month. The Commissioner has also decided to refer a number of projects which submitted applications – amounting to nearly £100,000 in total – for consideration.
© Wales Online

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PS MP of Finland ready to patrol streets and take law into his own hands

Remember what people said when the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* won their historic election victory in 2011? ”Nothing is going to happen you’ll see…they’ll soon implode like the Rural Party did in the 1970s…” some said playing down the whole matter. After almost four years, the PS continues to polarize society by instilling fear and fueling racism but has now opened a new terrifying chapter in its strategy to gain power: mob rule.

PS MP Tom Packalén, who falsely claimed on a blog entry that only migrant youth gangs in East Helsinki attack white Finns, has unleashed the darkest and most racist side of Finland. Not only are MP Pakclaén’s claims false, they have been disproven by the police. "And let’s not forget the publication, Uusi Suomi, where MP Packalén’s blog entry and many others by the PS have been published. They are just as responsible as the PS for spreading racism in Finland". In this latest bout of xenophobia in Finland, it’s the silence of the political parties and the media that doesn’t surprises us once again.

Making racist claims and victimizing migrants and minorities has become such a “normal” activity in this country that not even the PS leadership cares what some of their members say or will do. The aim of parties like the PS and far-right associations like Suomen Sisu is to keep Finland white like the graffiti that reads “white power.” Suomen Sisu is a far-right association chaired by PS MP Olli Immonen whose aim is to keep Finland white. In a statement, Immonen warned that “if officials don’t have the will or resources to protect the security of its citizens,” Suomen Sisu will take matters into its hands. Yes, no translation mistake since what you read is correct. A PS MP, a lawmaker, of a far-right association is ready to patrol Helsinki’s streets against real or imagined youth gangs.

While the PS has always shown its ugly and hostile side to migrants and minorities, the suggestion by one of its MPs to patrol streets with others like neo-Nazi Kansallinen Vastarinta and other PS members, which MP Packalén’s blog entry has encouraged, is totally unacceptable in a democracy such as Finland and should be condemned. The blog entry by MP Packalén shows the desperate state of the party, which needs a big boost to come close to their 2011 election victory since the last three elections have been disappointing. "Finland needs the PS, the silence of other parties and a media that is blind because it is white like a hole in the head. The lack of leadership that we are witnessing today in the face of such racism and hostility is shameful".

Far-right and nationalistic parties in Finland, as is Europe, have become a grave threat to democracy and to the right of minorities to live in peace. It’s clear that matters will get worse as these parties, like the PS, get more power since the scapegoating won’t stop but get worse. Such intolerance has the danger of destroying our society. We must do everything to stop the menace that is placing Finland in harm’s way and that danger is the PS and our shameful silence. Leadership is needed more than ever now.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.Thank you Pia Grochowski for the heads up!
© Migrant Tales

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France: Marine Le Pen plan to change Front National name angers father

Front National confirms questionnaire will be sent to party members, despite founder Jean-Marie Le Pen calling name change idea "completely moronic, scandalous, indecent"

14/10/2014- Marine Le Pen is considering changing the Front National's name, in a move designed to move the far-Right party away from its xenophobic roots which is likely to prompt a new clash with her father Jean-Marie. According to her party's number two, Florian Philippot, Miss Le Pen may include the matter in a questionnaire that will be sent before the end of the year to the party's 75,000 members, The move, just weeks after Miss Le Pen's cat was reportedly mauled by her father's Dober-man, is expected to shown new divisions within the family at the helm of the Front National. Jean-Marie Le Pen has previously described as "completely moronic, scandalous, indecent". Miss Le Pen herself was more guarded when asked about the plan, saying only: "The idea of sending a questionnaire has been agreed upon but its content has not been decided."

But she said late last year that the question of a name change was "not taboo" and that if the question arose "it would be thrown open to party members to see what they think". That comment drew a furious response from her father. Miss Le Pen took over the official leadership from her firebrand father in 2011 and since then has sought to sanitise the far-Right group as she prepares to run for the French presidency in 2017. Her strategy appears to be working. After strong showings in municipal and European elections, the Front last month won its first ever seats in the French Senate, and a recent opinion poll said she would win the French presidency in a run-off election against the incumbent Socialist François Hollande. There was no indication of what any new name might be, but for parliamentary elections in 2012 Front National candidates ran on a Rassemblement Bleu Marine (Marine Blue Rally) ticket.

The Le Pen family usually presents a united front, but there are signs that the 48-year-old daughter is increasingly seeing her 86-year-old father, who is the party's honorary president, as a liability. In June Miss Le Pen described as a "political mistake" a joke made by her father, who has several convictions for racism and anti-Semitism, that appeared to be mocking the Holocaust. He angrily hit back, saying "the real political fault" was to turn the Front National into a "bizarre", insipid, and conformist party like any other. Earlier this month it was reported that Miss Le Pen had moved out of the opulent chateau estate she shared with her father after one of his Doberman dogs savagely killed one of her Bengal cats. Her party declined to comment on the report that Miss Le Pen had taken her remaining cats and fled the Montretout domain to move to a new residence nearby.
© The Telegraph

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The EU-sponsored man hunt “Mos Maiorum” is discriminatory and costly

A two-week EU-wide police operation, dubbed ‘Mos Maiorum’, was launched on 13 October to detect, detain and possibly deport irregular migrants. This massive control operation is extremely worrying both in terms of discriminatory stop and search practices and protecting the basic rights of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

16/10/2014- The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) condemns this ‘Fortress Europe’ approach to migration and the disastrous consequences it has for migrants, as well as ethnic and religious minorities as a whole, across Europe. This operation is leading to hundreds of random identity checks at train and bus stations, on highways and in public spaces, and anyone looking ‘foreign’ is being targeted. The use of racial, ethnic, national, or religious characteristics as a way of singling out people for identity or security checks - racial profiling - is discriminatory. This adds to existing racial profiling practices, confirmed by research showing that Black people are 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people in England & Wales and 6 times more in Paris.

This operation is also fuelling xenophobia in Europe, as it is reinforcing the myth of a criminal invasion to Europe, further stigmatising and criminalising migrants. In reality, most undocumented migrants in Europe are fleeing war-torn countries including Syria. During a similar police operation last year, 36 percent of the 10,459 migrants intercepted were Syrians, and the second and third-largest groups were Eritrean and Afghan nationals, according to an EU document.

In times of austerity, we are also concerned by the significant amounts of financial and human resources mobilised for such poor EU-wide results. The populist rationale of such operations is highlighted by the fact that the official communication around them does not take into account their real impact on European economies: for two weeks, thousands of migrants do not go to work for fear of being controlled and have even less access to health support, further impeding on their ability to sustain themselves and their families. All this has a cost for European economies, which is not compensated by any of these security measures. It’s a lose-lose approach, heavy on the tax-payer’s money.

“Instead of favouring a security agenda at all costs, the EU should focus on respecting the human rights of migrants and refrain from fuelling xenophobic sentiments”, said Sarah Isal, ENAR Chair. “The results of the European elections have shown the dangers of tacitly encouraging negative discourses about migrants. We call on the European Commission to undertake an in-depth fundamental rights and cost-benefit impact assessment of this operation.”
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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Police launch EU-wide crackdown on migrants

14/10/2014- A two-week massive EU-wide border control and police crackdown on irregular migrants was launched on Monday (13 October) by the Italian EU presiden-cy. Thousands of police officers from the 26 countries in the EU’s Schengen border-free zone will be dispatched to border crossings, railway stations, bus depots, and elsewhere in a joint-police operation called Mos Maiorum. The Schengen zone includes 22 member states as well as Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland. But one unnamed Schengen country has refused to participate. Latin for "laws of the elders", Mos Maiorum’s objective is to seize and possibly deport people without proper documents in an intelligence gathering exercise which the EU presidency says is necessary to “identify, prosecute and disrupt organised crime groups.”

Police will be required to fill out colour-coded forms of those intercepted. A red form is for people caught at the external borders and a blue form for those intercepted inside the Schengen states. Details such as age, nationality, date of birth, place and time of interception, means of transport, migrant routes and asylum applications, if any, will be included. Fake documents will be seized. Police will also try to obtain information on how much money a migrant has paid to enter the EU, their final point of destination, and the names of people who may have helped them along the way. The operation was revealed when an internal EU document was leaked to press.

It follows statements made last week by Angelino Alfano, Italy’s minister of interior, when he announced an imminent end to the Italian-led naval search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum. Mare Nostrum is credited with saving over 100,000 boat migrants since the start of the year. But a separate and much smaller EU-led operation Triton will take over with a primary mandate to carry out border surveillance. The new Mos Maiorum police crackdown is co-ordinated by the central directorate for immigration and border police of the Italian ministry of interior along with the EU’s border agency Frontex. Frontex itself was quick to distance itself.

In a carefully worded statement, Frontex executive director Gil Arias Fernandez said the agency “would like to stress that it has not had any role either in the planning or in implementation of this operation.” Fernandez noted it only provides the Italians with statistics and data analysis of migratory flows. “Its [Mos Maiorum] goals and way of execution is of ‘intra-Schengen’ and ‘police co-operation’ nature, which are not within the mandate of Frontex,” he said.

Estimates suggest there is anywhere from 150,000 to 450,000 people without proper documents are in the EU. Thousands are likely to be people and families that have fled war-torn Syria and oppressive countries like Eritrea. “Only a minority come with a visa valid for entry to the European Union,” said German Green MEP Ska Keller.
Mos Maiorum’s final results will be discussed by the "Working Party on Frontiers", a special committee in the Council – representing member states – on 11 December.
© The EUobserver

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Germany: Anti-Semitism was limited to Nazi period, judge says

Statement in lawsuit brought by Green Party founder against far-right journalist triggers outrage.

17/10/2014- A regional judge in Munich is embroiled in a highly charged dispute over her statement in a civil case that German anti-Semitism was limited to the Nazi period of 1933-1945, suggesting that post-Holocaust anti-Semitism is not a factor in Jew-hatred. The Munich regional judge, Petra Grönke-Müller, sparked outrage on October 8 with her courtroom assertion during a civil case that “a fiery anti-Semite is someone in Germany who talks, with conviction, in an anti-Semitic way and, with conviction, does not condemn the Third Reich and cannot view the period 1933-1945 as separate from the background of history.” The case, which goes to the heart of a modern understanding of anti-Semitism in Germany, pits a co-founder of the German Green Party, Jutta Ditfurth, against an extreme nationalistic journalist, Jürgen Elsässer. During a 3Sat television interview in April, Ditfurth called Elsässer a “fiery anti-Semite.”

In response, Elsässer wrote that she had “defamed“ him and engaged in “character assassination,” and filed a lawsuit against her. He further claimed that her accusa-tion threatened his livelihood as a journalist. In a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Ditfurth said she had called Elsässer a “fiery anti-Semite” because he worked together with anti-Semites and traffics in anti-Semitic demonstrations and organizations. She also claimed he used “many forms of disguised anti-Semitism.” She said Elsässer worked with Ken Jebsen, a former radio host who wrote: “I know who invented the Holocaust as PR.” Jebsen’s station, RBB, fired him over the criticism leveled against him for denying the Holocaust. Efforts to reach Elsässer at his publishing address in Leipzig were not successful.

German journalists and legal experts on anti-Semitism quickly weighed in on the judge’s comment. Speaking to the Post on Thursday, Nathan Gelbart, a leading Berlin attorney, said Grönke-Müller lacked an understanding about anti-Semitism, calling this “very dangerous.” He said the comment meant that “other forms of Jew-hatred” cannot be considered anti-Semitism. A telling example, he said, is when Muslims at anti-Israel demonstrations over the summer yelled “Gas the Jews.” Gelbart, who won a legal case in which a judge attempted to strictly limit the definition of anti-Semitism, said Grönke- Müller’s definition ignored anti-Semitism before and after the 12 years of National Socialism. Henryk M. Broder, a Die Welt columnist and leading German expert on anti-Semitism who testified on modern expressions of Jew-hatred at a hearing in the Bundestag, wrote in his column on Wednesday that the judge was attempting to legally restrict anti-Semitism to the Third Reich period. “That is as logical as if one would only accept a gangbang as rape,” he stated.

Uwe Habereder, a spokesman for Grönke-Müller, told the Post on Thursday that he could not comment on the matter because the case was still being heard. He said the judge’s decision will likely be issued on November 19. In 2009, Elsässer defended the annual Al-Quds Day rally in Germany, which calls each year for the destruction of Israel and attracts Hezbollah activists, supporters of the Iranian regime and neo-Nazis. Prior to the rally he wrote in his blog – with the headline “Demonstration of Islamic groups against imperialism and Zionism” – that he could not find anything anti-Semitic about the event. This year, Green Party lawmaker Volker Beck termed the rally “a hate event” that denies Israel’s existence. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency lists the Al-Quds Day event under the section of “Islamism/Islamic terror-ism.” Elsässer’s attorney, Michael Hubertus von Sprenger, did not immediately respond to email and telephone queries from the Post. Ditfurth, who is also a sociologist and known for her anti-fascism work, has posted a notice on her website seeking donations to cover her mounting legal costs.
© The Jerusalem Post

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Germany: 'Neo-Nazi' magistrate quits Bavarian post

A magistrate in Bavaria resigned on Tuesday after police discovered that he was a former singer in a neo-Nazi band and had long standing links to the far-right scene.

15/10/2014- The young lawyer, who was working in a court in Lichtenfels, Upper Franconia, met the president of the higher state court in Bamberg on Tuesday and resigned. After studying in Brandenburg, the lawyer was named as a magistrate on a provisional basis by the Bavarian judiciary in November 2013. While a student, he had been under observation by the Brandenburg security services between 2003 and 2013 due to his alter ego as “Hassgesang” (“hate song”), his neo-Nazi one-man music project. Although the Brandenburg security services informed their colleagues in Bavaria of the man's change of address, they neglected to mention that he was a lawyer interested in entering public service. But a police officer noticed that his name matched that of the reported extremist when he reported a minor crime.

Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann and justice minister Winfried Bausback told a state cabinet meeting on Tuesday that they now aim to introduce rules calling for a mandatory check on new magistrates, judges, prosecutors and police officers by security services in Bavaria. The plans echo the former “radical decree”, which saw all applicants for public-sector jobs investigated by until 1991. Many people were prevented from taking up jobs by the rules, which were directed at preventing Communist infiltration of the West German state. “The question is, don't we need this tool for applicants to especially security-relevant state activities, such as when someone wants to become a judge?” Bausback asked.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Bavarian court employs far-right magistrate

A magistrate in Upper Franconia is proving an embarrassment for the Bavarian justice system after it emerged he sang in several far-right bands while a student.

14/10/2014- One of the bands the man, named only as Maik B., sang in was called “Hassgesang” - or “song of hate” - a one-man project whose lyrics included praise of Adolf Hitler. “There is no place for right-wing extremism in Bavaria or in the Bavarian justice system,” state justice minister Winfried Bausback said following the revelations. Like every would-be magistrate, Maik B. would have been asked if he was a member of any anti-constitutional organisation when he was appointed, Bausback added. If he concealed a far-right background then it would be grounds for dismissal, Bausback said. Police in Bayreuth said that they had looked into B.'s background before informing the state justice and interior ministries and there was almost no doubt that he and the singer of “Hassgesang” were one and the same.

B.'s far-right past was only spotted after he reported to police that his locker had been broken into. A sharp-eyed policeman remembered that intelligence services in the state of Brandenburg had notified their colleagues in Bavaria of an extremist of the same name changing his address to the town of Lichtenfels, Bavaria, in February. Bavarian state security services had investigated B. when he moved from one state to the other, but found that he was no longer active in the right-wing scene – and completely overlooked his taking up of a public office. The Bavarian justice system and security services have been under intense scrutiny due to their failure to properly investigate murders committed by the National Socialist Underground (NSU) far-right group. A surviving NSU member remains on trial in Munich.
© The Local - Germany

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Xenophobia drops in Europe: Swedish study

A new Swedish study has found that xenophobia is decreasing around Europe, despite a rise in support for anti-immigrant political parties.

14/10/2014- The nationalist Sweden Democrats more than doubled their support in September's election, winning 12.9 percent of the country's vote. Despite this, and the fact that similar parties around Europe have enjoyed comparable successes, researchers from Umeå University say that talk of increasing xenophobia around Europe is a "misinterpretation". In a paper published on Monday, sociologists Andrea Bohman and Mikael Hjerm found that there were a variety of other factors that contributed to rising success at the polls - such as the parties being more organized and better at delivering their messages in ways that make people more comfortable voting for them. "In theory you'd expect that the presence of radical right parties would bring out anti-immigrant attitudes, but they haven't - and this was surprising," Hjerm told The Local.  He added that the pair studied statistics measuring people's attitudes to immigrants, especially at the time of elections, and measuring the effect that the far-right parties had on the public.

How the Sweden Democrats went mainstream
The researchers looked at 16 European countries and various survey results from between the years of 2002 and 2012. They determined that there is no correlation between an anti-immigrant sentiment and the appearance of far-right parties on the political stage. "Our studies led us to the conclusion that political parties on the radical right don't automatically influence people's attitudes towards immigration," the researchers wrote in an article in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper on Monday. They added that such parties are just getting better at attracting voters who already sympathize with their policies. Hjerm told The Local that Swedes tended to be more tolerant than their European neighbours. "The level of anti-immigrant attitudes was much lower in Sweden than in other countries, but that's nothing new, we've known that for a long time, and we weren't interested in specific countries," he said.

As for what's likely to happen in Europe in the future:
"That's the million-dollar question," he responded. "Tolerance towards immigrants has been increasing in the 20th century and we've seen it flatline somewhat in the 21st century. But for these parties, there are more people to convince and they can definitely grow. "But they haven't been able to convince people who don't support such politics. They can only grow (at the moment) if they get a larger proportion of those with aversive attitudes to vote for them."
© The Local - Sweden

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Hungarian far-right party tells Roma to conform or leave

The far-right Jobbik party took control of an industrial town in northeastern Hungary after an election campaign in which it promised to issue an ultimatum to the Roma minority - follow our rules or leave town.

13/10/2014- The town of Ozd, with 35,000 people, is the biggest prize won by Jobbik in a nationwide round of municipal elections on Sunday in which it increased the numbers of City Halls it controls from three to fourteen. The party is accused by critics of being anti-Semitic and racist. Though still a long way behind the ruling centre-right Fidesz party, in Sunday's elections it overtook the Socialists to become the second biggest opposition force. The new mayor of Ozd, 27-year-old David Janiczak, on Monday morning took a walk around the main square, receiving congratulatory handshakes from townspeople. He said he would crack down on crime and poverty on behalf of all residents, whatever their ethnic background.

Yet the programme on which Janiczak ran in the election is explicit in singling out the Roma community. The manifesto, posted on the Jobbik Internet site next to a photograph of Janiczak, states: "We think there are two ways to solve the Gypsy question...The first one is based on peaceful consent, the second on radical exclusion." "Our party wishes to offer one last chance to the destructive minority that lives here, so first it will consider peaceful consent. If that agreement fails, then and only then the radical solution can follow." The programme threatens to "chase off people who are unable to conform".

Measured Language
Jobbik has denied that it is racist or anti-Semitic. One of its members of parliament caused a storm of outrage when he proposed drawing up lists of Jews, but he later apologised and said he had been misunderstood. The municipal elections give clues as to what Jobbik would actually do if it ever took power nationwide. Interviewed on Monday outside his new office in City Hall, the mayor-elect of Ozd used much more measured language about the Roma than his election manifesto. "Conditions are horrid on the outskirts of town where most Roma live," Janiczak told Reuters. "This is not only the Roma's fault but the leaders who wanted nothing from them but their vote - locally as well as nationally." "We need to create jobs and enforce order for Roma and Hungarians alike. The voters trust we will do that."

He said he would revamp public safety using civilian law enforcement volunteers and jump start the local economy through projects including animal husbandry and growing crops in greenhouses on land around the city. In Ozd, unemployment is endemic. Around a quarter of the city's population are Roma, and most of them live in dire poverty, receive state welfare payments, and have frequent run-ins with the police. Conditions are so bad that for the Roma community, fear about the persecution Jobbik might bring is mixed with hope that a radical new party might finally do something to improve their lot where all others have failed. "Like most Roma we are afraid what might happen to us, because the news was always that some people wanted us dead and they would ship us off in trains like Hitler did with the Jews," one local woman, Szilvia Orosz, told Reuters.

She was speaking in the centre of one of the town's toughest Roma slums, which has no water or sewer system. "But if this kid Janiczak can act the way he talks about work, honour and peace, and gives us long-term employment, then there won't be racial discrimination." However, many of the people who voted for a Jobbik mayor said they did so at least in part because Jobbik had promised to tackle what the party describes as "Gypsy crime". Mihaly Balo, a 70-year-old pensioner, said he did not believe Jobbik would persecute the Roma community. But he said: "In the 1970's I walked from one end of the city to the other at midnight, no problem. I wouldn't dare do that today... The problem is with not all Gypsies, but some of them."
© The Irish Independent

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Hungary's Fidesz widely dominates voting

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party has been declared the clear winner in nationwide municipal elections.

13/10/2014- The party's candidates won the mayor's post in the capital, Budapest, and in 20 of Hungary's 23 largest cities. Speaking to supporters after preliminary results were announced on Sunday, Orban vowed to "make Hungary great" and boasted of winning elections for the third time this year, after victories in the national elections and for the European Parliament. The far-right Jobbik, trying to distance itself from earlier anti-Roma and racist statements, finished mostly far behind Fidesz but ahead of the left-wing opposition in most rural areas. Jobbik won in nine smaller cities, up from three in 2010. The splintered left-wing opposition, led by the Socialist Party, was projected to win five of Budapest's 23 districts, at least two more than four years ago. With 83 per cent of the votes counted, turnout was about 42 per cent, 4 percentage points less than in 2010.

Orban won re-election in April when Fidesz secured a new two-thirds parliamentary majority. A July speech expressing his desire to turn Hungary into an "illiberal state" sparked international criticism. Western nations are alarmed at the way Orban has been trying to consolidate power, including cracking down on rights groups. However, he has defended his stance against a range of causes, from women's and gay rights to media freedom and anti-corruption campaigns. In his July speech, he called them "paid political activists attempting to assert foreign interests".
© The Australian

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Netherlands: Government opposes special refugee ruling for army interpreters

15/10/2014- The cabinet has decided there is to be no new ruling to protect foreigners who act as interpreters for the Dutch army on foreign missions, despite opposition calls for action. MPs on Tuesday night debate the safety of interpreters in light of the case of Abdul Ghafoor Ahmadzai. He worked for the Dutch army in Uruzgan and first fled to Norway in 2010 after his brother was murdered. He came to the Netherlands when his asylum claim there was rejected. Junior justice minister Fred Teeven had planned to deport Ahmazai to Norway, where he faced being returned to Afghanistan but has now relented and told the immigration services to investigate his case.

Abandoned
Opposition MPs had called on the government to come up with proper rules to cover interpreters but Labour MPs said this is unnecessary. Defence minister Jeanine Hennis told MPs during the debate interpreters and other locals who work for Dutch missions are not abandoned. ‘They deserve full support,’ she said. There are, she said, sufficient options to protect interpreters. Military chiefs can request protection – which may lead to refugee status – and interpreters can request it themselves, although many are not aware of this option. Around 120 locals worked for the Dutch as interpreters in Uruzgan between 2006 and 2010.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: CoE- End 'legal limbo' for immigrants who can't go home

14/10/2014- Illegal immigrants in the Netherlands are in a legal limbo and urgent action needs to be taken to end the impasse, the Council of Europe’s high commissio-ner for human rights said on Tuesday. Nils Muiznieks said in a new report by the Strasburg-based body that if it is impossible or extremely difficult for people to return to their country of origin, they must be allowed to remain in the Netherlands. A large number of undocumented immigrants live in poverty on the streets or in camps without access to emergency provisions. ‘This situation must be dealt with urgently, because anyone, regardless of the residence status, has the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing and shelter,’ Muiznieks said. Several hundred failed asylum seekers are currently squatting and living in temporary accommodation in Amsterdam.

Children
‘The Netherlands has a solid human rights protection system, but in practice there are shortcomings that need to be addressed, in particular in the case of migrants and children,’ the commissioner said. The commissioner said he welcomed moves to give residency rights to people who cannot return to their country of origin and the amnesty for child refugees, introduced for youngsters who have put down roots in the Netherlands. Nevertheless ‘a humane and human-rights compliant approach is needed,’ he said. ‘Where return is impossible or particularly difficult, the relevant person should be authorised to stay in the Netherlands.’

Roof
The council’s social rights committee said last year the Netherlands must continue to provide failed asylum seekers with food, clothing and a roof over their heads. The Netherlands has a policy of evicting failed asylum seekers from refugee centres if they refuse to cooperate with their deportation. Refugee organisation Vluchtelingen-werk estimates some 5,000 would-be refugees are put on the street every year.
© The Dutch News

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Dutch abandon 'black Pete' Saint Nicholas tradition over racism row

16/10/2014- Black Pete, the jolly sidekick of the Dutch Saint Nicholas, is finally getting a facelift after years of bitter debate including death threats against those calling for change. An Amsterdam court's ruling in July that Pete - traditionally dressed in a gaudy medieval costume with a blackened face, red lips and an afro wig - is a 'negative stereotype' encouraged many to try to change the deeply rooted custom. 'It's the beginning of change, it will continue for years to come because more and more people agree it should change but it's going to take a long time,' said historian Gabor Kozijn, author of a study on Black Pete for the Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage. With less than two months before Dutch kids' favourite day, December 5, when Saint Nicholas and Pete hand out presents, the debate has reached fever pitch, with Black Pete's defenders refusing to admit there is anything racist about the playful character.

In Gouda, where Saint Nicholas and dozens of Petes will 'arrive' on November 15 with a gift-filled boat from Spain in a national event broadcast live on television, the mayor on Tuesday decided to introduce some new colours. Besides a number of Black Petes, there will also be 'Cheese Petes' with yellow faces and 'Stroopwafel Petes' with striped, light brown faces resembling the traditional Dutch syrup biscuit of the same name. 'There is no simple way to find a solution that everyone can identify with,' said Gouda Mayor Milo Schoenmaker. Gouda's Black Petes 'changed several years ago to dark brown without stereotypical big red lips and earrings,' the city hall added. Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan has said that a 'substantial' number of this year's Petes will not be black but will have some 'soot marks' on their faces, ostensibly from climbing down the chimney. And a White Pete will for the first time be present during a daily televised 'news bulletin' on Saint Nicholas's activities.

Dutch shops will have fewer Black Petes this year, although discount retail chain Hema in August denied rumours that it planned to remove him entirely by next year. Customers at supermarket Albert Heijn will have different coloured Petes to choose from, including black: 'Saint Nicholas is for everyone,' the chain said in a state-ment. Despite compromising on Black Pete, the two chains are being threatened with boycotts. Many people in The Netherlands do not want to see the national tradition changed because what they consider a minority of people see it as racist. Last year's debate about Pete's skin colour was particularly heated amid a UN rights probe of the matter. The UN working group released its findings in July, concluding that Black Pete is indeed a racist figure and that many Dutch did not recognise him as a throwback to colonial times and slavery.

This year, Dutch celebrities who called on Facebook for a 'Pete makeover' have received death threats. After investigative journalist Peter R. de Vries entered the debate on Facebook he received an email saying: 'If I meet you you'll get a bullet through your head.' A 'Pietitie' (Pete-ition) on Facebook calling for action against changing Black Pete's face has more than two million likes, in a country of 17 million. Populist Geert Wilders, who heads the anti-immigration PVV party, tweeted: 'Black Pete must stay black!' 'What children want is presents. Whether the person who hands them out is Black or White Pete, a woman, yellow or bald is of no importance,' actor and presenter Paul de Leeuw said on Facebook. 'It's a popular family event, celebrated by millions of people who want their kids to experience what they experienced as children: it's more of an emotional than a rational debate,' historian Kozijn told AFP. Even if it is the beginning of the end for Black Pete, Kozijn said the character will be around for a while yet. 'If the average life expectancy of children who now know Black Pete is 80, then he will in any case remain a figure that people know,' he said.
© The Daily Mail.

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Netherlands: Albert Heijn supermarkets hit back at Zwarte Piet row with poem

13/10/2014- Supermarket chain Albert Heijn published a poem in all the main national newspapers on Monday in response to the row about its decision to phase out the use of ‘black face’ Zwarte Piet characters. Last week, the Dutch market leader said Zwarte Piet, played by white people in blackface make-up, will not be used in advertising either in the media or in the stores themselves in the run up to the Sinterklaas celebrations. ‘We have customers from all walks of life and are taking every sentiment into account,’ a spokesman told broadcaster Nos. ‘Sinterklaas is a fun celebration for everyone and we are taking that into account.’

Boycott
The news prompted calls for a boycott of the company and analysts said there would be a knock-on effect on sales. In the six-line poem, Albert Heijn says that reports that Piet has been banned from its stores are ‘absolutely not true’ and that Piet will ‘be on the shelves like every year’. ‘We think you are fabulous in black and other colours, but let everyone in the Netherlands make their own choice’, the poem concludes. Poems poking fun at people or scoring points are a traditional part of the Sinterklaas festivities.
© The Dutch News

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Russia: Moscow Tear Gas Attack Shows Rise of Anti-Semitism in Putin Era

Rosh Hashanah Battle Points to Disturbing Trend.
By David E. Fishman


12/10/2014- On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, a group of five or six men disrupted a Jewish concert in the Great Hall of Moscow’s International Music House with a tear gas attack. A half-hour into the program, the men, who were seated in the first row, began shouting menacing insults at rock star Andrey Makarevich, the featured performer of the evening, and hurled canisters of pepper gas into the hall, forcing the audience of 400 to evacuate the building teary-eyed and coughing. To the Russian Jewish Congress, a major national Jewish organization, this was a clear anti-Semitic attack. In a statement after the onslaught, the group condemned the incident as a desecration of the Jewish holiday, which many members of Russia’s largely nonreligious Jewish population celebrate through cultural rather than religious observance. The use of gas against Jews was especially hurtful, the RJC said, conjuring up painful memories of the Holocaust.

But state-controlled Russian TV networks presented things otherwise. NTV, for example, described the attack as a legitimate expression of outrage at Makarevich “for his friendship and support of the fascist junta in Ukraine,” where pro-Russian rebels, with Russian military aid, are battling government forces. Television and the mainstream Russian press coverage have made no mention of the Jewish nature of the occasion (Rosh Hashanah), the concert program (“Yiddish Jazz”) or the makeup of the audience. In the media’s reading, the incident had nothing to do with anti-Semitism; it was all about Makarevich’s politics.

The truth lies somewhere in between, but closer to the RJC position than to that of NTV. Over the past year or two, Makarevich, lead singer of the iconic Russian rock band Time Machine (Mashina Vremeny), has been on two journeys. One has been an exploration of his Jewish roots: His mother is Jewish and reportedly lives in Israel, while his father is Belarusian. That journey took him to the American Yiddish swing music of the 1920s and ’30s, to songs such as “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn,” made famous in America by the Barry Sisters. He produced a CD of “Yiddish Jazz,” which brought Yiddish music (sung mainly in English and Russian translation) into the mainstream of Russian popular culture.

The other journey has been Makarevich’s increasingly vociferous condemnation of the Putin regime and of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He has marched in protest rallies in Moscow and traveled to Ukraine to perform, and his latest song is called “My Country Has Gone Insane.” (“My country has gone insane, / and there’s nothing I can do to help. / What should you do, how should you live, / if everything is topsy-turvy? / You don’t have to grow the wings of an angel; / just don’t be a shit. I’m sure of one thing: / it’s time to choose. / I’ve decided not to be a shit / and to live and die with a clear conscience.”)

Makarevich hasn’t connected his Jewish and dissident journeys, other than to say that he wants to be a more open person. But the xenophobic Russian extreme right, which the authorities have elevated to a legitimate position on the political spectrum, has connected the dots. For them, Makarevich represents an age-old paradigm: the treacherous kike. At a protest demonstration in the spring, a right-wing heckler shouted out at him, “Look at Andrey, the zhid has sold himself to Bandera.” That was a reference to Stepan Bandera, leader of the ultra-nationist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists during World War II.

A group called the National Bolshevik Party took credit for the attack on his Rosh Hashanah concert. The assailants — who called out “Makarevich is a traitor of the homeland” in deep menacing voices for a full minute before hurling their tear gas canisters — didn’t shout anti-Semitic slogans. But the National Bolsheviks have a long-documented history of anti-Semitism. And ethnically Russian performers have not been vilified, nor have they had their concerts disrupted. Makarevich is not alone; there are several activists of Jewish heritage in the Anti-War/Anti-Putin Movement, which attracted 30,000 to a protest march in September. Several were targeted in the recent propaganda film “The Junta’s Thirteen Friends,” which aired on NTV. At least five of those featured were Jewish in a country where Jews constitute an estimated 0.25% of the population. The film is a classic Soviet hatchet job, a genre now making a revival in Russia. In it, ominous background music accompanies secretly filmed videos and unrelenting character assassination. Among the Jews accused of treason, fascism and acting as paid agents of the Ukrainian junta were Makarevich, journalist Viktor Shenderovich, author Dmitryi Bykov and economist Stanislav Belkovsky.

But when the film came to activist Mark Galperin, who has helped organize several recent protests in downtown Moscow, it went out of its way to point out his Jewishness. Galperin himself has shown no particular interest in Jewish affairs or his Jewish identity, but he did write a Facebook post a year and a half ago, calling upon Jews not to work for the Putin regime or to receive honors from it. The film lashed out at him for his “unpatriotic” appeal. It then quoted a non-Jewish “expert” commentator: “Galperin is a disgrace to the Jewish people. We’ve seen many times in history how provocateurs like Galperin have been the catalysts and stimulators of the terrible phenomenon of anti-Semitism.” So here we are again: Jews are “the catalysts and stimulators” of anti-Semitism. The charge was a not-so veiled warning by the state-controlled propaganda machine: Jews should be quiet and not join the protests, or they will face an anti-Semitic backlash.

The emotional statement issued by the Russian Jewish Congress after the Makarevich concert suggests the organization is worried that the backlash has begun, and that it will grow if it isn’t nipped in the bud. Meanwhile, the other major Jewish umbrella organization, the Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, known by the Russian acronym, FEOR, did not react to the tear gas attack. The federation has been a loyal ally of the Putin regime and presumably didn’t want to appear to be defending a Jewish “Fascist and Banderist,” even against a tear gas attack while playing apolitical Yiddish music. In other words, FEOR decided to heed the propaganda film’s advice. (A third major group, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, issued a condemnation of the attack, without the RJC’s rhetorical flourishes.)

In September I tried to console a colleague of mine in St. Petersburg who complained in a Skype conversation about the “difficult moral and psychological conditions” under which he and other intellectuals are living: “Come on,” I said to him. “You lived through Soviet times, you should be used to this kind of stuff.” He replied: “This time it’s much more aggressive. And it’s not just talk.” The next day, an unknown assailant splattered a bucket of green disinfectant on Galperin, when he left his home on his way to a demonstration. Galperin attended the protest covered in green gook from head to toe. The police have not apprehended Galperin’s or Makarevich’s assailants. Don’t hold your breath.

Just a few weeks ago, I sent Jewish New Year greetings by email to another colleague in St. Petersburg. I wrote to him in Russian, but he responded in Hebrew — which surprised me, since we usually corresponded in Russian. But it dawned on me as I read on that his choice of language was intentional. The chances that the Russian security services would bother to scan Hebrew-language email messages were lower. “All my hopes for the future of my beloved country have been crushed,” he wrote. Then he quoted a poem by Chaim Nachman Bialik: “Now my well is like a wound; it only drips sometimes. And my heart smokes in secret, rolled in dust and blood.” That sums up the mood of many. There is a war going on in Ukraine. And Jews face difficulties there as well. But friends tell me that the line in front of the Israeli Consulate is much longer in Moscow than in Kiev.
David E. Fishman is professor of Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He directs JTS’s program in the former Soviet Union, Project Judaica.
© The Forward

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Italy: Rome Mayor Denounces 'Vulgar' Tribute to Nazi War Criminal Erich Priebke

source: JTA
Killer Died at 100 Exactly One Year Ago

12/10/2014- The mayor of Rome condemned a public commemoration in the city for the late Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke. Ignazio Marino called Saturday’s event downtown a “vulgar provocation” that “wounds the entire civic community and represents a real slap in the face to the city of Rome, which played a fundamental role in the Italian Resistance.” Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, thanked the mayor and called on all civic authorities to be vigilant against any similar episodes. At the commemoration, which was organized by Priebke’s lawyer to mark the first anniversary of Priebke’s death at the age of 100, an improvised Mass was celebrated at a makeshift altar made of flowers and placards set up against a lamppost on the Sant’Angelo Bridge. Posters reading “Ciao Captain” — Priebke was a Nazi SS captain — were plastered on some walls in Rome. Priebke died on Oct. 11, 2013 while serving a life sentence under house arrest for his role in the 1944 massacre of 335 Romans, about 75 of them Jews, in the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome.
© The Forward

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Italy's mayors go to the barricades to defend same-sex marriages

Italian cities are leading a rebellion against the state over its hard-line stance on gay marriage.

12/10/2014- The mayors of Rome, Milan, Bologna and Naples are openly defying an order by the coalition government's right-wing Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano, to remove from city registers any gay and lesbian unions performed abroad. Italy is the last major Western nation not to allow even civil partnerships for gays and lesbians. As a result, hundreds of same-sex couples have travelled to the US or other EU countries to tie the knot. Mr Alfano says that the inclusion of same-sex couples on marriage registers contravenes Italian law. The minister insists he is trying to protect the traditional family but the edict has sparked a major backlash as campaigners, centre-left politicians and even some on the centre-right say that Mr Alfano and the state are desperately out of touch with the rest of Europe.

Corriere Della Sera reported last week that, among centre-right voters, eight out of 10 now support the introduction of civil partnerships and Rome's mayor, Ignazio Marino, dismissed the diktat, saying he would continue to register same-sex couples. "Anyone looking today for conflict over love probably lives in the wrong century," Mr Marino told a gathering on Rome's Capitoline Hill. "I believe that a discussion of this type in 2014 on any civil union reflects the feelings and visions of the 1900s." Last Friday, Giuliano Pisapia, the left-wing mayor of Milan, in effect stuck two fingers up at the Interior Minister by declaring that he had just "personally signed, as an official of the civil state, the transcription of seven marriages of persons of the same sex who were married abroad". Such registrations, while largely symbolic, do allow gay couples equal access to municipal benefits.

Hours after Mr Pisapia's declaration, police arrived at Bologna's town hall to seize the city's register, which contains the names of four same-sex couples married abroad. But Bologna's mayor, Virginio Merola, was defiant. "I will not annul the registrations," he told reporters. "Italian cities, and in particular Bologna, wish to be part of Europe and not have first- and second-class citizens."
© The Independent

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ERTF reproaches Czech Republic for being too restrained in combating racism

The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) is reproaching several European states, the Czech Republic included, for their "restraint" in combating anti-Romani racism and improving everyday life for Romani people. Agence France-Presse reports that the ERTF named the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and four other countries in a report published yesterday as examples.

11/10/2014- "The situation of Romani people is no better today than it was 40 years ago. In some aspects it is even worse," says the organization, which is headquarter-ed in Strasbourg and has a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe. The ERTF is complaining that many recommendations about Roma issued by the Council of Europe to its member states have not been implemented. "What is even more serious is the restraint of certain member states when it comes to implementing legally binding judgments," issued, for example, by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the ERTF report complains. "There is a lack of political will - most countries do not consider the Romani issue a priority, or they say they don't have enough money to improve the situation," the ERTF says. The report points to persistently "high levels of intolerance" or even "racism" toward Romani people, whom politicians frequently use as "scapegoats".

The ERTF report says the situation is "problematic in each of the 47 Council of Europe countries". However, the group believes it is especially disturbing in six countries: the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania and Slovakia. Agence France-Presse reports that the ERTF is reproaching the Czech Republic for the "segregation" of Romani children in the schools. The report recalls that Prague was found responsible for the practice by the ECtHR in 2007, but says "nothing has changed since then." The ERTF says the same problem exists in Slovakia. Roma there are reportedly also treated unequally when it comes to housing conditions.
© Romea.

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Headlines 10 October, 2014

Italy: Arrest of ‘fake’ Hitler shows muddled Italian take on Fascism law

A man dressed as Charlie Chaplin’s parody of Adolf Hitler was detained, but neo-Nazis unchallenged by police in northern Italy.

10/10/2014- A man was arrested in the northern Italian city of Bergamo last Sunday for showing up at a protest dressed as Adenoid Hynkel, Charlie Chaplin’s parody of Adolf Hitler in the 1940 anti-Nazi movie “The Great Dictator.” His alleged crime was apologia del Fascismo (literally, “apology of Fascism”). However, on the very same day the openly neo-Fascist group Forza Nuova demonstrated in another northern city, Bologna, undisturbed by the authorities. Publicly expressing sympathies to Nazism and Fascism is explicitly prohibited by Italian law since the 1950s. But the application of such law is so arbitrary that it may well defy the purpose. “I find it quite puzzling that I got arrested while people from Forza Nuova and CasaPound can walk freely with all their Mussolini paraphernalia, and can even have authorized demonstrations,” said Giampietro Belotti, 29, referring to the country’s two largest far-right groups. Belotti, a self described “fervent anti-Fascist,” says all he wanted to do was use movie references in order to mock homophobes.

As the Italian parliament is discussing a new “anti-homophobia law” that sanctions discrimination based on sexual preferences, an umbrella of right-wing groups called the Sentinels organized protests against it in several towns. Belotti showed up to one of these demonstrations wearing the Hynkel costume (that resembles a Nazi uniform but has a fictional “double-cross” symbol instead of a swastika), holding a copy of “Mein Kampf” and the sign “Illinois Nazis support the Sentinels,” a reference to “The Blues Brothers.” Within 10 minutes he was taken to the police station and his “Illinois Nazis” sign confiscated as evidence. However, the police could not confiscate his copy of “Mein Kampf,” notes Belotti, since it is not a banned book (you can buy it online on numerous Italian websites). Belotti was held for three hours and then released. Charges against him were dropped by the examining magistrate on Wednesday.

Also Sunday, Forza Nuova – a far-right nationalist group founded in the 1990s from the ashes of two disbanded neo-Fascist parties – joined another protest against the “anti-homophobia law” in Bologna. Although Forza Nuova and the Sentinels have no official ties – FN has accused the Sentinels of being “too moderate,” while the Sentinels describe themselves as “nonpolitical” even though their founder belongs to the ultraconservative Catholic Alleanza Cattolica movement – they share the same anti-gay-rights agenda. No one was arrested in the Bologna protest, although police intervened when clashes erupted between Forza Nuova’s militants and left-wing activists leading a counterprotest. Forza Nuova has announced a new anti-gay-rights protest in Bologna on October 18. The city police say they do not rule out the possibility of prohibiting it, but only on security grounds. “Everyone is free to express his or her opinion, even if we do not agree with them,” said Vincenzo Stingone, head of the local police. Unless, perhaps, he’s dressed as a Charlie Chaplin character.
© Haaretz

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Netherlands: Defence ministry denies jihad recruitment claims at airbase

10/10/2014- A former soldier who converted to Islam has not been trying to recruit former colleagues at the Volkel airbase to take part in jihad, the defence ministry said on Friday afternoon. The Telegraaf said on Friday morning a former member of the armed forces had made threatening overtures to people serving at the base, and that the matter had been reported to the security services. The military security service MIVD investigated the claims and, according to the defence ministry, 'found no reason to assume this was about recruitment for violent jihad'. The MIVD said the man had 'normal contacts' with some of his former colleagues. The Netherlands has sent eight F-16 fighter jets, normally based in Volkel, to take part in the allied bombardment of Islamic State militia in Iraq.
© The Dutch News

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Dutch far-right populist Wilders could face racism charges: prosecutors

9/10/2014- Dutch authorities moved closer toward prosecuting far-right politician Geert Wilders on Thursday, naming him as a suspect and summoning him for interrogation over alleged racist remarks he made in March. Wilders will be questioned on suspicion of insulting a group on the basis of race and inciting discrimination and hatred, prosecutors said in a statement. If convicted, he could face up to a year in prison or a fine of up to 7,400 euros ($9,400). Wilders, whose controversial brand of anti-immigration, anti-Muslim populism has propelled his Freedom Party to second place in opinion polls, provoked widespread condemnation when he called for "fewer Moroccans" at a campaign rally in March. Interrogating a suspect is the final step in the process of bringing charges, prosecutors said. A spokeswoman stressed no decision had yet been taken about charging Wilders but said there was a "significant chance" he would end up in court.

"I'm furious ... that I am being investigated by prosecutors and will probably end up in court," Wilders told journalists in parliament after learning of the summons. Prosecutors received over 6,400 complaints and several of his party's most prominent lawmakers resigned from the party after Wilders asked supporters at a rally in The Hague if they wanted "more or fewer Moroccans in this city?" The crowd chanted: "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!" Wilders smiled and responded: "We'll take care of that." In a later interview with broadcaster RTL Z, he said "Moroccan scum" should leave the Netherlands. Moroccans were over-represented in crime statistics and in the number of people receiving social benefits, he argued. Wilders, who has lived for many years under 24-hour police protection after receiving death threats because of an anti-Islamic film he made, called the decision to interrogate him "incomprehensible". "I'm combative and angry. I said what millions of people feel," he told reporters. "It's a scandal that when the world is in flames, prosecutors choose to focus on a lawmaker who points out problems." Prosecutors should focus on the phenomenon of Dutch citizens going to fight in Syria, "more than three quarters of whom are Moroccans," he added.

Wilders has a history of statements that upset Muslims and Eastern European migrant workers. He was prosecuted for hate crimes and discrimination in 2007 for calling Islam a fascist ideology but acquitted four years later when a judge ruled that criticising a religion was not the same as racism. "This time the remarks were directly aimed at a certain population group - all Moroccans are put in the same box," said prosecution spokeswoman Nicolette Stoel. The Netherlands, which long prided itself on its liberalism, admitted millions of immigrant workers from Morocco and Turkey to fill jobs in an expanding economy after World War Two. But attitudes have hardened as growth has slowed and jobs have become scarce, propelling a string of anti-immigration politicians to the top of opinion polls over the past decade.
© Reuters

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Q&A: Wilders summoned as a suspect

9/10/2014- Press prosecutor Alexandra Oswald answers questions about the Geert Wilders case.

Geert Wilders has been invited for questioning by the Prosecution. Does this mean that you are planning to prosecute him?
It means that we want to question him as a suspect because we believe that he has made remarks which may constitute a criminal offence. The suspicion is such that prosecution stands to reason. At this time, the investigation has been concluded for the greater part and this interrogation is one of the last steps in the investigation. After that, the Prosecution will take the definitive decision whether or not to prosecute him.

What is Geert Wilders exactly suspected of?
Geert Wilders is suspected of insult based on race and of incitement to discrimination and hatred. This is based on remarks he made on 12 and 19 March 2014. First at a market in The Hague and after that on election night in a bar in The Hague. The Prosecution sees both similarities and differences between those remarks. At this time it is too early to go deeper into this matter.
How did the Prosecution come about this suspicion?

In total more than 6400 persons filed a police report and over 15,000 discrimination reports were filed as well. These were studied. In addition, an extensive legal analysis of the remarks was carried out, involving various experts. The resulting conclusion was that Geert Wilders’ remarks constitute a criminal offence. That is why we have decided to question him.

When do you expect to disclose whether or not Geert Wilders will be prosecuted?
The investigation is in its final stage. After the interrogation, it will be largely completed and the definitive decision concerning prosecution will be made. At this time I cannot give you an exact date.

Why is this case different from Samsom’s and Spekman’s case?
Geert Wilders’ remarks are directly related to a population group without a link to behaviour. So in that sense they differ from the remarks made by Diederik Samsom and Hans Spekman.
© The Public Prosecution Service

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Netherlands: Schools struggling to cope with rise in refugee children

6/10/2014- A number of Dutch schools are struggling to cope with the rise in the number of refugee children, Nos television said on Monday. A special work group set up to monitor education provision for refugee children is phoned by worried school heads and council officials on a daily basis, the broadcaster said. ‘Schools are not only struggling with paying for the rise in pupil numbers but with language issues,’ said spokeswoman Marieke Postma. ‘They want to know how to deal with traumatised children and how to make sure they have enough teaching staff.’

Syria
Children in refugee centres have the right to education within eight weeks of their arrival. There has been a surge in refugee numbers, particularly from Syria, in recent months. In the first six months of the year, the some 12,300 people have requested asylum in the Netherlands, double the 2013 figure. For example, 1,400 asylum seekers are soon to move into a holiday village in Drenthe and local school chiefs don’t know how many children to expect. ‘We’ve been told to base ourselves on a figure of 10% when it comes to the under-12s. That means we may have to find primary school places for 140 children alone,’ spokesman Jos van Kimmenaede told the broadcaster. By the beginning of September, there were some 21,600 people living in Dutch refugee centres, of whom around 20% were school age children.
© The Dutch News

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Contrasts: Estonia approves same-sex partnerships; Kyrgyzstan considers anti-gay legislation

Estonia on Thursday became the first former Soviet nation to legalize gay partnerships, while Kyrgyzstan - another ex-Soviet republic thousands of kilometers east - considers anti-gay legislation.

9/10/2014- The parallel moves reflect starkly divergent paths taken by the countries that once were parts of the Soviet empire. In Estonia, lawmakers voted 40-38 vote to approve a partnership act that recognizes the civil unions of all couples regardless of gender. Twenty-three lawmakers were absent or abstained in the third and final reading of the bill. The new law will gives those in civil unions - heterosexual or gay - almost the same rights as married couples, including financial, social and health benefits provided by the government and legal protection for children. It does not give adoption rights for couples in such unions but does allow one partner to adopt the biological child of the other. It comes into force in January 2016, after it has been signed by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves who supported the bill.

The Estonian Human Rights Center hailed the vote as "historic," saying it would send a strong message to neighboring Russia, which passed what it called "a draconian anti-gay law" last year. "Estonia (has) made a leap toward a society that is freer, more equal and values human rights for all," the group's director, Kari Kasper, said. The United States also wel-comed the new law. "The U.S. government supports equal treatment under the law for all groups and believes the new cohabitation bill extends important rights and protections to unmarried couples and their families," the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn said in a statement.

In contrast with Estonia, lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian nation about 3,500 kilometers (some 2,170 miles) east, on Thursday began considering a bill that would make gay "propaganda" punishable by a prison term of up to one year. Kyrgyz rights activists saw the bill as a copycat version of a Russian law adopted last year that prohibits vaguely defined propaganda to minors of "non-traditional sexual relations" and has provoked international outrage. Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished mostly Muslim Central Asian nation on China's mountainous western border, has cultivated close ties with Russia and aspired to become a member of a Moscow-led economic bloc. The bill's authors have described it as a necessary measure to support "traditional family values."

Estonia, which like Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union for almost five decades, is considered the most Western-oriented of the former republics, with a long history of cooperation with its liberal-minded Nordic neighbors. However, there has been little tolerance of gays in the small Baltic nation of 1.3 million, particularly among the sizeable ethnic-Russian minority and in rural areas where traditional values prevail. The law has been under preparation for years and stirred one of the fiercest public debates since the country regained independence in 1991.
© The Malta Independent

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Macedonia Court Throws out Abortion Challenge

Judges reject claim NGOs’ complaint about changes to abortion law, saying they merely regulate the procedures.

9/10/2014- Macedonia’s Constitutional Court has rejected a challenge to the changed law on terminations, adopted in September 2013, saying the changes do not prohibit abortion but only regulate the procedures. Several NGOs had submitted complaints to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the new requirements put undue physical, administrative and time-related pressure on pregnant women. The changes oblige women to file requests for abortions, attend counselling, inform “spouses” of their intention and meet a gynaecolo-gist. The change to the law further prohibits women from having a second abortion within a year. However, the court made clear its lack of sympathy with the NGOs’ complaints. Judge Sali Murati told the court on Thursday that he was “totally against abortion”, maintaining that it was “not an exclusive right of the mother. “It also concerns the father, the wider family and the society,” he said. “We should protect the unborn child, whose life begins when the embryo is formed,” he added. Noting that there were more terminations than births in Macedonia 30,000 as opposed to 24,000 - he added: “If this trend continues, the mankind will come to an end.”

Judge Natasha Gaber Damjanovska, on the other hand, criticized the changes made to the law, saying it placed new limits on the women’s right to choose. “This law discriminates against pregnant women,” she said. “They should not need to seek permission from committees on such a very intimate and sensitive question.” Her vote was not enough, how-ever. The majority of the judges in the court voted for the law to stay as it is, guided by article 42 of the constitution, which says the state has a duty to protect motherhood and children. NGOs opposing the law include the Association for Health Education, HERA, the think tank REACTOR – Research in Action, and the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.

On Thursday, at a joined press conference the NGOs said that they will not stop fighting against this law. Igor Jadrovski from HERA said they "will use every international mechanism in order to protect the women who want to terminate their pregnancy”. “The secondary commission formed by the Minister for health is the one that decides who can terminate the pregnancy. After the initial counseling, the women are asked not to kill their unborn children, they are judged and aggressively told to keep the baby. "All these procedures delay the abortion, and afterwards they do not have time to terminate the pregnancy”, says Jadrovski. In 2009, the government of Nikola Gruevski launched a media campaign against abortion, which was backed by the influential Macedonian Orthodox Church.
© Balkan Insight

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Latvian Archbishop: not anti-gay, but gays are destroying human identity

A Latvian Archbishop has claimed that homosexuality is destroying human identity – but denies being anti-gay.

8/10/2014- Catholic Archbishop Zbigòevs Stankeviès made the comments in an interview with American Christian news website LifeSiteNews. He claimed: “Homosexual relationships are destroying our identity. Not only our Christian identity, but also our human identity, the identity of man and the identity of woman. “We are not against homosexuals, we are for these persons. We are invited to disarm a lie and let in the truth in such ways.” Last year, Latvia was condemned by Amnesty International for lacking protection against homophobic and transphobic crime. The Catholic Church is currently holding a meeting of over 200 Catholic bishops, which is expected to reaffirm the church’s teachings on homosexuality. The ‘extraordinary synod’ follows up on a worldwide consultation earlier last year, which found the Church was out of touch with ordinary Catholics on issues involving sex and sexuality. However, bishops are expected to focus on small-scale reforms pertaining to contraception and divorce, rather than risk changing the Church’s policies on homosexuality.
© Pink News

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Greece: Clashes in Parliament as vote of confidence debate begins

8/10/2014- The debate leading up to Friday’s confidence vote got under way in Parliament on Wednesday, with New Democracy and SYRIZA attacking each other straight from the opening exchanges. “The opposition did not engage in constructive criticism over the past two years,” said Health Minister Makis Voridis, who opened the discussion due to Premier Antonis Samaras being at a European Union leaders’ summit. “I remind you of the swearing, the threats, the terrorizing and the nooses when the coalition MPs were trying to keep the country standing.” Voridis also accused SYRIZA of engaging in “hate speech,” which stoked political tension and, according to the minister, played a part in the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn member and the assassination of two members of the neo-Nazi party, Argyris Kapelonis and Giorgos Fountoulis. His comments prompted an immediate response from SYRIZA’s opening speaker, economic spokesman Yiannis Dragasakis.

“Isn’t Mr Samaras the architect of the theory of the two extremes?” he asked. “And who was it that was in contact with the criminal organization [Golden Dawn]?” he added in reference to the revelations earlier this year that the prime minister’s former aide Panayiotis Baltakos had a secret meeting with Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris. Dragasa-kis then accused the government of succumbing to pressure from businessmen to change laws. “Today it just takes a powerful businessman, a major publisher, sometimes even a medium-sized publisher, a shipowner, a friend of the prime minister to call up and have a law abolished or a fine scrapped,” said the SYRIZA lawmaker. State Minister Dimitris Stamatis challenged Dragasakis to provide some examples to back up his allegations. “Of course we will name names but I am not ready to do so now,” said the opposition MP. “I will decide when to do so. Until then, check the amendments that were made by Mr Baltakos and after that we can speak again.”

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos and another five extreme-right lawmakers who are in pretrial custody are to lodge appeals with the Greek judicial system and the European Court of Human Rights after a prosecutor rejected their requests to appear in Parliament ahead of Friday night’s vote of confidence in the government. Apart from Michaloliakos, requests were made by the party’s second-in-command Christos Pappas, spokesman Kasidiaris, the MPs Nikos Michos and Panagiotis Iliopoulos, as well as Stathis Boukouras, who quit the party in March and is now an independent lawmaker. In a statement released via his lawyer, Michaloliakos condemned the decision as “unprecedented” and “a blatant violation of the Constitution.” Of GD’s 16 MPs, nine are in custody pending trial on a series of criminal charges.
© Kathimerini

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Greece: jailed neo-nazi MPs will not vote for confidence

Prosecutor rejects their request to attend the proceedings 

8/10/2014- A prosecutor on Wednesday rejected a request by six jailed Golden Dawn MPs to attend ongoing parliamentary proceedings for a vote of confidence, as Kathimerini online reports. The request was made by party chief Nikos Michaloliakos, as well as Christos Papas, Ilias Kasidiaris, Yiannis Lagos, Giorgos Germenis, and Nikos Kouzilos who remain in custody pending trial of belonging to a criminal organization. The 3-day debate is set to conclude on Friday with a vote. The conservative-led coalition government holds a narrow majority of four seats and is expected to win the vote in the 300-seat Parliament.
© ANSAmed.

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Austria: Neo-Nazi Waves Knife Outside Vienna Synagogue

Biker shouts anti-Semitic curses while threatening with a knife outside the capital of Austria, birthplace of Hitler.

7/10/2014- The rampant anti-Semitism that has been ratcheting up worldwide spilled out in another incident targeting Jews this week, this time in the Austrian capital of Vienna. A neo-Nazi biker stopped in front of a synagogue where he began to shout out anti-Semitic epithets and curses while waving a knife, reports Kol Yisrael (Israel Radio) on Monday, in an incident shortly after Yom Kippur which occurred on Saturday. Police arrived to arrest the man, according to the report. It should be pointed out that the incident of neo-Nazism occurs in Austria, the birthplace of genocidal Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Austria has been the scene of shocking anti-Semitism, including one incident during Operation Protective Edge in late July when pro-Palestinian protesters physically attacked Israeli soccer players from the Maccabi Haifa team as they were playing a pre-season friendly match. The protesters, who were holding up Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) flags and were reportedly of Turkish origin, stormed the field as the game against the French soccer team Lille was going on. They proceeded to spit at, curse and kick the Israeli players. Some of the players retaliated, as a brawl erupted on the field - fortunately no one was injured in the clash. Anti-Semitism has been skyrocketing internationally in recent months, as evidenced in a recent survey that found incidents of anti-Semitism rose 383% worldwide in July compared to the previous year. In Europe, where Austria is located, that rise was even higher at 436%, with many arguing the climate of anti-Semitism has reached epidemic proportions.
© Arutz Sheva

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Roma ‘slums’ face demolition in Orban’s Hungary

Municipality says Miskolc, home to 168,000 people, should be made more ‘liveable’

10/10/2014- With bulldozers at their doorstep, beginning to tear down their homes, it is hard to imagine life could get worse for the Roma of Miskolc, Hungary’s impoverished third-largest city. But with the far-right Jobbik party possibly about to win the Miskolc mayorship in local elections on Sunday, it could. In May, the city council — which, like Hungary’s parliament, is run by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing Fidesz — voted to demolish 13 areas inhabited predominantly by Miskolc’s 20,000-strong Roma, or Gypsy, community. The wrecking machinery arrived in August. So far only around a dozen homes have been razed — but this is just the start. “We have nowhere to go, we will be left homeless,” Eva Molnar, a 50-year-old Roma whose respiratory problems mean she can’t work, told AFP as she clutched an eviction letter giving her until October 20 to vacate her home.

The area where she lives, squeezed between a derelict communist-era metalworks and a football stadium slated for an upgrade, is quiet, since many of her neighbours have already left. “They’ll not be happy until we’re all gone,” Molnar said. The municipality says Miskolc, home to 168,000 people, should be made more “liveable” and rid itself of slums that are “unsuitable for normal life”. One Fidesz official called the Roma areas “hotbeds of crime”. Many local residents support the move. “About time,” one shopper at a bus stop told AFP. “Slums have no place in Miskolc.” The mayor claims that 35,000 signatures have been collected in support of the demolitions. “The Roma have to leave Miskolc as around 70-80 percent of Hungarian society simply doesn’t not want to see them or have anything to do with them,” Mihaly Simon of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union rights group told AFP.

Four years after Orban was elected, and despite his promises to improve their misery, the European Union member state’s Roma trail in practically every indicator from living standards to health, as they do throughout eastern and central Europe. Under Orban, 51, who has been accused at home and abroad of eroding democracy, many Roma — who comprise eight to nine percent of Hungary’s 10 million population — have been forced into “workfare” schemes, doing menial work in order to continue receiving welfare payments. But not all of the properties in Miskolc are tumbledown shacks or Hungarian versions of the favelas of Brazil. Many are one-storey houses — lots of them crumbling, but some of them well-maintained. And where Miskolc’s Roma are supposed to go is unclear. Several nearby villages have warned they have no money to provide work or benefits to any newcomers, and are collecting petitions opposing the “export” of the poor.

“It’s barbaric, there were no impact studies for this, nobody spoke to the Gypsies,” Gabor Varadi, head of a local Roma political grouping, told AFP. “The council is spending billions of forints [millions of euros (dollars)]... on the new football stadium instead of social housing for poor people,” he said. A few of those being evicted in Miskolc — those with indefinite-term leases — are being offered money or flats elsewhere, but Jobbik’s candidate in Sunday’s election, Peter Jakab, says he will scrap even this if elected. Jobbik, which won 21 per cent of the vote in general elections in April, sparking alarm throughout Europe, says it will flatten the houses immediately and force the Roma to cover the demolition costs. “They knew when they signed the lease that it would expire one day, that the owner might kick them out,” Jakab told AFP.

Jobbik, which has sought to soften its image in recent years, still says it wants to stop “Gypsy crime”, create ghettos for Roma “deviants” and create a rural “gendarmerie” of the sort last seen in Hungary before Second World War. The local elections are expected to see Orban’s party remain firmly in control. But nationwide, Jobbik is forecast to more than double its control of municipalities, from 12 currently to around 30.
© AFP

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Hungary's far-right faces hard slog despite prospect of winning town halls

10/10/2014- Hungary's far-right Jobbik party is on track to take over dozens of city halls in a municipal election on Sunday, handing it new powers that, critics say, it will use to persecute ethnic minorities. Already the second biggest force in parliament, Jobbik is one of Europe's most influential far-right parties. Its rise has drawn international concern, notably when one of its lawmakers suggested that lists of Jews should be drawn up -- a comment for which he later apologized, saying he had been misunderstood. But the experience in one town where Jobbik is already in power is that even the most hardline agenda ends up running aground in the swamp of budget shortfalls, petty squabbles and failed schemes that make up local politics in Hungary.

Erik Fulop, the 32-year-old Jobbik activist who since 2010 has been mayor of Tiszavasvari, came to power on a promise to tackle "Gypsy crime" -- a rallying call for Jobbik supporters who resent Hungary's large and mainly poor Roma minority. But two years after he took office, the local militia he created to implement that promise -- made up of 10 men, two cars and an electric scooter -- had to abandon its patrols because he ran out of money to fund it. For the town's Roma, many of whom live in a slum of mud huts where half-naked children play in a trash-strewn ditch, the budget shortfall meant at least they did not have to add harassment by a far-right militia to their list of problems. "There's been no trouble so far, thank God... there's been nothing," Andras Rezmuves, a 40-year-old Roma man, said in the slum, known to locals as Narrow Street.

A think tank, Political Capital, forecasts that in Sunday's election Jobbik has a good chance of winning in 41 municipalities -- out of 3,200 in Hungary -- where it came a close second in this year's parliamentary election. Those places include Miskolc, Hungary's second-biggest city. Yet to date, Jobbik has been a party of opposition, with eye-catching and divisive policies, tough rhetoric, and little to show how it would behave if it won real power. It has insisted that Roma would not be persecuted on its watch, pledging in its election program a "color-blind" crackdown on crime and a nuanced approach toward minority issues.

Red Mud
Tiszavasvari, a town of 13,000 and by far the largest Jobbik-controlled municipality, is the nearest thing the party has to a track record. In the four years since Fulop took office, there has been little lasting improvement in the lives of the town's Roma. One initiative to help turned into a farce. Zsolt Raduly, a deputy principal at a local school, said the town authorities filled potholes in the slum neighborhoods with red brick dust from a nearby factory. "The first winter washed out all of it," said Raduly, who ran unsuccessfully against the Jobbik mayor. "The Roma called it the red mud disaster. Their shoes were all red, so were cars that passed through there. It was a slum stigma." Asked by Reuters about the Roma community, Fulop said he had an action plan to improve conditions for people living in the slums. "But we also demand that they conform to the minimal rules of coexistence," he said. "Improving the living standards for Gypsies is primarily a state function... Municipalities, mayors are just cogs in a machine - but of course we try to do the best we can."

Twin Towns
The mayor's record has been mixed on another part of his manifesto: bringing jobs and investment to Tiszavasvari, about 200 km (125 miles) east of Budapest. A list of European-funded projects on the town's web site shows Jobbik secured 170 million forints ($700,000) for education, 160 million forints for drains and about 100 million forints to fix up the municipal building. The mayor had pledged to invigorate the local economy through international business ties to countries like Iran, China and Turkey. All that has materialized so far on that front are a handful of symbolic twinning agreements with foreign towns, and a half-finished upgrade at a factory owned by a local businessmen that won new business from Iran and added a few dozen extra jobs.

Another mundane detail of local politics -- infighting -- grew so bad the Jobbik-led administration dissolved itself in 2012, though it won the subsequent election and so held on to power. Despite the missteps, the mayor is still popular. A straw poll Reuters conducted among residents suggests Fulop has a good chance of winning a new term in Sunday's vote. The Socialist opposition is so weak it has not fielded candidates in the town, and Jobbik strikes a chord with voters as the only party proposing to solve the "Roma issue", even if experience shows it is not that simple. "Erik may have a hard time bringing jobs to everyone but if he doesn't get support from the powers that be, he really cannot be blamed," Julianna Kiss, a 54 year-old hairdresser, said of the mayor. "I'll stick with Jobbik."
© Reuters

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Hungary: Far right holds secret congress

The atmosphere beneath the arches of Budapest South railway station was reminiscent of a 1980s, communist-era protest meeting rather than a far-right European get-together banned by the Hungarian government as a "racist conference".

6/10/2014- Older men with wispy beards, young men in black shirts sporting crew cuts, secret policemen in the shadows, uniformed policemen, and a small huddle of journalists, all wondering what was going to happen next. In true dissident style, small groups peeled away one by one to the secret meeting place nearby. But the world has changed. This was meant to be the European Congress of the National Policy Institute (NPI), based in the US state of Montana, a nationalist think-tank which billed the Budapest event as a "forum in which groups and individuals throughout Europe… can come together to compare notes, discuss ideas, and perhaps prepare the ground for collective action". Despite his nationalist reputation, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban ordered Saturday evening's event to be banned as "an attempt to breathe new life into Nazi and… fascist ideology".

Even Hungarian far-right party Jobbik which won over 20% in April's general election stayed away. Jobbik's rhetoric has softened this year, as it tries to court both conservative and former Socialist voters. Local elections take place next weekend. In a traditional Hungarian restaurant just around the corner, about 70 participants from a dozen countries gathered around long tables laden with meat and wine. The atmosphere was tense. NPI President Richard Spencer was taken away by police the previous evening from a Budapest bar. He had initially evaded a ban on the eight planned speakers entering the country by arriving by train from Vienna. Earlier in the week his colleague, William Regnery, was arrested on arrival at Budapest airport from London. After a night in detention, he was expelled the following morning.

Standing ovation
Jared Taylor, head of American Renaissance, a webzine which champions "racial difference", gave the main after-dinner speech. He congratulated those present for the commit-ment they had shown for reaching the meeting "despite the threats that we have received, despite the oppression". He called for "a world brotherhood of Europeans", of white people around the world, who regard Europe as their motherland, who should defend themselves from the "dilution" which immigration was causing in the European race. "And the greatest threat to Europe is this poisonous ideology of diversity that my country wants to force upon you," he added. "Men of Europe, my brothers, stand together and we will prevail," he concluded, his voice cracking with emotion. He was rewarded with a standing ovation.

The participants came from many countries of Europe, as well as the United States. Many were supporters of the "identitarian" movement, popular among radical right-wing circles in Europe. "Identitarian means to stand up for your own identity, against globalisation, against liberalism, and against multiculturalism," said Jens Derycke of the Flemish NSV student movement in Belgium. "I don't think we have anything in common with National Socialism. That was a modernist ideology of the 1930s based on racial supremacy, whereas we don't consider ourselves superior to other races. We just want to defend our own culture." Sitting at the same table, Robert from the Netherlands, a campaigner for an independent Flemish state, also dismissed the neo-Nazi label: "Today there are new, different dangers in Europe."

There were several dividing lines between participants. Much of the debate focused on Russia, and the figure of President Vladimir Putin. There is admiration in nationalist circles in Eastern and Western Europe for Mr Putin as a Russian nationalist and strongman, who has made his people proud to be Russian again. The lead speaker at the Budapest congress was due to be Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist thinker who has championed the annexation of Crimea and Russian intervention in Ukraine. He stayed away after allegedly being warned through police channels that he would not be allowed to enter Hungary. Originally billed as a speaker, Jobbik MP Marton Gyongyosi told the BBC he had pulled out because of other commitments, and because he disagreed with the views of the US hosts.

America was another point of contention. While Jared Taylor lambasted his own country as "a monstrous mix", allowing its whites to be outnumbered by Hispanic and black people, another speaker, Tomislav Sunic from Croatia, praised the United States for bringing the bloodshed in Bosnia to an end in 1995. All participants opposed widespread immigration, but some insisted on white supremacy, which others rejected. Apart from the waitresses rushing between the tables, I counted only four women present at a very male gathering. Beneath a display of traditional painted plates from rural Hungary, a young man with a guitar sang from a booklet of nationalist songs from across Europe, printed in Gothic script.
© BBC News

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Portugal: First gay Catholic congress to press pope for change

Gay and lesbian Catholic groups are holding an international congress in Portugal this week as they seek to make their voices heard by the Vatican.

5/10/2014- Opening on Monday in the southern resort of Portimao, the three-day event aims to formally federate some 30 associations representing homosexual Catholics from around the world. Together they intend to press for an "urgent change of attitude from Catholic authorities" towards gay parishioners, said Jose Leote whose group Rumos Novos (New Directions) is organising the event. Their congress coincides with an extraordinary synod which began at the Vatican on Sunday to review the Church's attitude to marriage, cohabitation and divorce. Fifteen to 20 delegates will meet in person in Portugal, with the same number joining in by videoconference, to draw up a statement to send to Pope Francis and the nearly 200 bishops meeting for two weeks in Rome. "Jesus began with 12, and look at what that has become," said Francis DeBernardo, head of the US-based "News Ways Ministry" which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics.

DeBernardo intends to act as a bridge between the congress and the synod that opened Sunday in Rome, where he will also be holding a seminar on the place of gays in the Church. The US group wrote to the pope a few months ago, thanking him for his openness to discussing LGBT issues and urging him to go further. "I think this will be a major question of the synod," said DeBernardo. "The topic of homosexuality is so widespread in so many societies and it affects so many people, not only those who are LGBT, but their families, friends, co-workers." The Catholic synod could potentially lead to change in attitudes to marriage, cohabitation and divorce. While the Roman Catholic Church is certainly not about to embrace gay marriage, it could send out a signal of compassion by making it clear priests should be ready to baptise the children of same-sex couples.
© Expatica - Portugal

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Russia Risks Spread of Extremist Islam, Prosecutor General's Office Warns

8/10/2014- With thousands of Russian Muslims pursuing religious education abroad, the country faces a proliferation of extremist Islamic ideology and increased ethnic tensions, the Prosecutor General's Office has warned. "If in the 1990s, this [the import of nontraditional forms of Islam] was carried out by foreign preachers, now more and more frequently it is done by our own youth who have gone overseas to receive a religious education," Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin warned in comments carried by the Interfax news agency. Grin referenced data made available by the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service. "Foreign Islamic educational institutions not only offer significant funds from charity donations, but also receive direct government support," Grin said, noting that Russia's own educational institutions must become more competitive in this sphere.

These religious study-abroad programs likewise contribute to ethnic tensions at home by importing social norms and behavior that are considered abnormal in Russia, Grin said. "Migrants' negligent attitudes toward local practices and traditions is frequently aggravating for the native [Russian] community, provoking a growth in ethnic friction," Grin was cited as saying. Many young people from Russia's predominantly Muslim republics Chechnya and Dagestan have studied Islam abroad, in the United Arab Emirates, Syria and Egypt. Likewise, Islamic clerics from these countries have visited Russia to offer workshops and lectures. Although Grin did not elaborate on what specific educational themes were thought to be worrisome, Dagestan has seen numerous radical Salafi preachers emerge in recent years advocating the implementation of sharia law.

Their growing popularity is believed to be a factor in fueling the militant insurgency in the region, a phenomenon that has made shootouts between police and extremists a regular occurrence. The expansion of the Salafi movement has also pitted hardline militants against the more moderate Sufi Muslims in the region, who have increasingly become targets in guerilla-style attacks by insurgents.
© The Moscow Times

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FIFA VP: 'Huge challenges' with racism in Russia

8/10/2014- FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb warned Wednesday that eradicating racism from Russian football ahead of the 2018 World Cup will be a major challenge. The latest episode of fans' racism has led to CSKA Moscow being ordered to play its next three UEFA competition matches in an empty stadium, following several incidents in domestic games where players have been abused. "There are huge challenges with Russia," Webb, who heads FIFA's anti-racism task force, said Wednesday. "It must start with education and really it must come from the top down that diversity is good, that integration is good and there's nothing to fear." Webb also dismissed calls to get the Women's World Cup in Canada to be played on grass instead of artificial turf, following legal action from players. "Artificial pitches are the future," said Webb, who heads the CONCACAF confederation that covers Canada. "They have been well regarded. If you have the best artificial pitches in the world I think that's much better than having bad grass." Webb was speaking at the Leaders' Sport Business Summit in London.
© The Associated Press

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Why Bulgaria and Uefa must act over ‘yes to racism’ banner

Last week Levski Sofia fans mocked the governing body with a banner saying ‘Say yes to racism’ but if the club, the Bulgarian FA and Uefa do not react then the problem will only get worse.

7/10/2014- Ten days after supporters of Serbian Partizan Belgrade displayed a banner “Only Jews and Pussies” in the Europa League game with Tottenham, another disgraceful incident occurred 400km further to the east. In the Bulgarian capital Sofia supporters of Levski held up a banner saying “Say yes to racism” during their team’s dramatic 3-2 win against Ludogorets, rivals of Liverpool in the Champions League group stage. Not only did they mock one of Uefa’s most famous anti-racism campaigns, but to make things worse they changed the logo of European football’s governing body. The map of the European continent was replaced by a pistol with the words “Uefa Mafia” around it.

The disciplinary body of the Bulgarian Football Union opened an investigation but a spokesman at Uefa told the Guardian on Friday that it was unaware of the incident. Possible sanctions from the Bulgarian federation vary from a fine of €19,000 to a couple of games behind closed doors. Levski’s next home game is on 25 October against rivals CSKA, which means that for the first time in its 66-year history Bulgaria’s best known football game could take place without any spectators there to witness it. Officials from Levski have so far not commented publicly on the incident and that not only fails to solve the problem but actually becomes part of it. And as time goes on it will only exacerbate the matter. The only official statement came from Levski Sofia National Fanclub whose members explained the incident as “idiotic behaviour from a few masked boys who don’t want to become part of our organisation”. Given the fact that some of the supporters are stewards during the home games and help police with the security issues their reaction towards the incident against Ludogorets could have been stronger.

This is not the first time Bulgarian football has been involved in such shameful scandals. Back in 2012 Levski played Bosnian FK Sarajevo in Sofia ,in the first leg of their Europa League second-round match, and supporters of The Blues displayed a banner “Ratko Mladic and Arkan have fucked you. Now it is our turn”. Uefa fined the Bulgarian club €30,000 and the incident almost led to a diplomatic scandal between the two countries. Playing with history is often like playing with fire – it is dangerous and somebody will almost certainly get hurt. And mixing the massacre of Srebrenica, one of the greatest tragedies in recent history, which was led by general Ratko Mladic in which 8,000 Bosnians lost their lives, with football is not merely a display of bad taste. It is sick and pathetic and the only appropriate punishment for such inappropriate behaviour is a lifetime ban from attending football games.

A few weeks back, Ludogorets were told by Uefa to close a section of their stadium as a punishment for racist behaviour during their game against Steaua Bucharest. “A group of Ludogorets fans chanted anti-Roma slogans targeting Steaua supporters,” fans’ discrimination monitoring group Fare said. Unfortunately, those kind of tough sanctions are yet to become a part of Bulgarian football. Part of the problem lies in the poor football infrastructure in the country. Although cameras are required by the regulations of the Bulgarian federation, some of the stadiums are still without them – making it impossible to identify the fans upon whom the sanctions should be imposed. Even the national stadium, Vasil Levski, one of Bulgaria’s most modern football venues, has not been free of this type of incident. This is where Bulgaria played Denmark in a World Cup qualifier in October 2012 and made headlines for the wrong reasons after the Danish defender Patrick Mtiliga was subject to racist abuse from Bulgarian fans during the game.

Every time the left-back touched the ball there were monkey chants from the stands. A month later Fifa ordered Bulgaria to play its next home game behind closed doors and that was the first time football’s world governing body made such a decision based on racist remarks. If it is true that a football match could reflect the problems in one society, then there is a long road in front of Bulgaria as a nation. A source at the Bulgarian FA said that the governing body held a meeting with representatives of the United orgnisation of football fanclubs in Bulgaria recently. The FA gave them handbooks from Fare in an attempt to educate fans and to avoid these incidents happening in the future.

The problem of racism is, however, not restricted to football. Two weeks before the unsavoury incident during the LevskivLudogorets game residents of a village near Sofia refused to let their sons and daughters go to school because 10 children of refugee families from Afghanistan and Somalia were due to attend the school. In the end the refugees were relocated to Sofia to start their education there. It is fair to conclude that the message these Bulgarian children received from the incident was … say yes to racism. It simply is not good enough and there is much still to be done to stamp out these sinister events in society and on the terraces of Bulgarian football.
© Talking Sport - Guardian Blog

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I Went on a Spa Date with One of Europe's Right-Wing Extremists (interview)

Driven by an agenda that's anti-corruption, anti-Zionist, anti-homosexuality, anti–European Union, and anti-Roma, Hungary's far-right Jobbik party won 20 percent of the vote in the country's April general elections. This coming weekend, Hungary is holding a municipal election and it looks as though Jobbik's popularity is likely to grow
By Pierre Sautreuil 

7/10/2014- Twenty-six-year-old Ferenc Almassy—his name has been changed at his request—has been living in Hungary for the past four years working as a liaison of sorts between Jobbik and French nationalists, who have similarly gained power in recent elections as part of what seems like a general rightward drift in Europe. Budapest has more than 100 thermal spas in its area, so I thought it'd be fitting to meet Ferenc in one and try to understand how he had come to work for such an extremist group.

VICE: Why did you leave France for Hungary?
Ferenc Almassy: Paris was driving me insane. In Hungary I found a healthier environment and, above all, a country that doesn't ask for qualifications to give me a chance at a job. Before I moved to Hungary, I used to visit a month every year. When I was 22, I fell in love with a girl here, and she persuaded me to move.

Have you always been interested in politics?
I've never been affiliated with any French movement. Like any angry teenager, I was an anarchist for a while. Working on construction sites, I came face to face with corruption, to such an extent I never thought possible. It nourished in me a disgust for globalized capitalism. I spent a lot of time on the internet, and I've had my Islamophobic, xenophobic, and racist phases. Eventually, I took interest in racialism, the scientific study of human races. I think that's what got me to stop being a racist.

Why did you choose to affiliate yourself with Jobbik?
It's a unique movement in Europe. It opposes the liberal world, economically as well as politically and morally. There's nothing like that in France. As far as I know, no party in Europe has such an intelligent, ideologically strong, and—most importantly—realist position. In France, this kind of movement would only gather 20 or so suckers. Here, Jobbik is the second most powerful political force, while still speaking a discourse that would have Marine Le Pen [the head of France's far-right National Front party] crying in fear.

Can you describe what your role as a consultant to Jobbik entails?
I started last year as an interpreter, when a French guy came to visit Marton Gyöngyösi, Jobbik's number two. Gyöngyösi manages international affairs, and I gained his confidence, and he told me it would be interesting if a half-French, half-Hungarian guy “kept an eye” on what happened in France. I do press reviews in French when there is press on Jobbik, and I explain to them certain French social phenomena that are hard to understand from a Hungarian point of view.

And you're also looking for Francophone Hungarian nationalists to rally to your cause.
It's at the heart of my action. I'm using social networks, and I meet up with people each time I'm in France. Without trying to form official bonds, I'm closely following the French nationalist milieu, and I scout the talent. It's a small world; everyone knows each other. Besides, if a guy wants to spend a few days in Budapest, I host him, I tour the city with him, and I introduce him to the people he needs to know in Jobbik. I cannot give you names, but in total, I've hosted a good 50 or so people from the great French nationalist family.

With which French movements would Jobbik like to cooperate?
The problem with France is that the parties we're interested in don't want to associate with us. On the other hand, those who want to associate with us aren't serious enough partners. The National Front doesn't want anything to do with us since Marine Le Pen took charge. There are other groups, like the Bloc Identitaire, but we don't want to associate with them.

Why doesn't the National Front get along with Jobbik?
In Hungary, you can say things that in France you cannot. Here, we can proclaim ourselves openly anti-Zionist, against immigration, say that democracy is full of shit and that Hungary is a Christian country. The National Front is secular, they can't say they're anti-Zionists, and they're for regulated immigration. Jobbik is for re-migration, which is the return of immigrants and their descendants to their origin countries. Before Marine Le Pen took charge of the National Front, Jobbik was considered a young movement but appreciated by the party's old guard. Nowadays, [French nationalists] are conducting a type of de-demonization; they have to show they are clean, and that implies keeping Jobbik at a distance. It's understandable, but it's a pity.

How do you see the evolution of the nationalist movement in France?
Since the Dieudonné affair and the death of Clément Méric, there is not a single nationalist in France who doesn't think, It stinks for us here. The social stigma we face is harder and harder to bear, but it leads to us getting tougher. Still, there are many who want to stop the fight. Some have even gotten in touch with me to help them leave France and settle in Hungary.

Can you tell me more about it?
In the past four years, I've been nourishing this kind of crazy idea to create a community of French nationalists in Hungary. Four years ago, I was still told that it wouldn't work, but now people are starting to show interest—people who went through a grieving process over France and don't see any future there for them or their children. This organization's aim would be to help French nationalists move to Hungary. Hungary has really flexible politics toward communities. If it reaches 1,000 members, this community will be recognized as a French minority in Hungary.

What will that community look like?
I imagine villages whose economy is based on crafts, cooperative farming, and energy autonomy. Hungarian population numbers are down, with many villages starting to depopulate to the capital. It would be fantastic for French patriots to settle in those villages. Of course, Hungary is neither a paradise nor an El Dorado, but for these people, it will always be better than France. Eight people, including a young family, are settling in Hungary as part of this project. Some of them have already sold their house in France.
© The Vice

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France: Racism Alleged as Police Arrest Guinean Students for Using €500 Bill

8/10/2014- Authorities in northern France are facing accusations racial prejudice over a Kafkaesque case involving two Guinean students arrested for paying with an authentic banknote. The troubles began for the pair, a man and a woman in their 20s, as they handed a €500 bill to a cashier at a E. Leclerc supermarket in Douai district, off the Belgian border, to pay for purchases worth a total of €210 (£165). Suspecting the rare note could be a fake, the cashier alerted her boss, who in turn called police - all without previously checking the bill with one of the store's counterfeit detection devices. "We have some fake note detectors but they are not 100% reliable," a store manager later explained to local newspaper La Voix Du Nord. "There were some major doubts about this bill."

The two Guineans, who had recently arrived in the area to study law at the nearby Artois University, were subsequently arrested and taken to the local police station. There they were detained for more than 20 hours, until a bank eventually confirmed to police the note was indeed authentic. One of the two students told newspaper Nord Eclair she was "revolted" by police treatment. The woman claimed police gave them almost nothing to eat after they refused pork and asked them a series of questions unrelated to the case, including if they had Ebola. Douai procurator Eric Vaillant later apologised for the arrests, which he said came against the backdrop of an increase in fake notes in circulation in the area.

A spokesperson for Leclerc dismissed the incident as human error: "We were suspicious of the bill, not the clients". Anti-racism activists urged authorities to issue a stronger public apology. "They were humiliated," Aggeex Hutin, chairman of non-profit group CEDYFART-Africa International, told France Info. "We also feel insulted, because this assumes that any African who goes to a store with a €500 bill is suspected of using counterfeit money". €500 notes - the highest denomination in the Eurozone - are a rare sight in Europe and are infamously popular among criminals as they make it easier to smuggle a small package of high-value dirty money. In 2010 the bill was withdrawn from circulation in Britain after the Serious Organised Crime Agency found that the vast majority of such bills were handled by criminals.
© The International Business Times - UK

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France: Thousands expected in 'family values' demo

Tens of thousands were expected to take to the streets in Paris and Bordeaux on Sunday to demonstrate for what protesters see as "traditional family values".

5/10/2014- The demonstrations are organised by the "Manif pour Tous" ("Protest for Everyone") group that waged an ultimately unsuccessful grassroots movement against the adoption of same-sex marriage in France last year. Their target this time is medically assisted procreation techniques for lesbian couples and surrogacy, which must be "fought at all costs," according to the group's president Ludovine de la Rochère. The group says they are hoping for a "slightly better" turnout than for their last protest in February, which attracted around 100,000 people according to police. Seeking to calm passions ahead of the rally, Prime Minister Manuel Valls stressed that surrogacy "is and will remain banned in France."

Manif pour Tous mounted a vigorous campaign against same-sex marriage -- at one point claiming to have 1.4 million on the streets of Paris -- but President Francois Hollande defied the protests and in April last year, France became the 14th country worldwide to legalise same-sex marriage. An Ifop poll for the Atlantico website on Sunday showed that less than a third (31 percent) of French people were behind the values of the demonstration. And the "All Out" gay rights organisation has called for a counter-demonstration "for equality of all couples and families". They have launched an Internet petition that had attracted more than 200,000 signatures by Sunday morning.
© The Local - France

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Asylum-seeker sets fire to himself in France

A Chadian suffered serious burns after setting himself alight on Friday inside a French courthouse when his final chance at obtaining asylum was thrown out, the court said.

4/10/2014- The 38-year-old man, who was carrying a bottle, doused himself with petrol before setting himself on fire and suffered serious burns to his scalp and torso.
Pascale Girault, the secretary general of the National Court of Asylum, said the man's first demand for asylum was rejected by the Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People (OFPRA) a few months ago. "He filed an appeal which was rejected" by the court, Girault said. On Friday the man returned to the asylum court in the eastern Parisian suburb of Montreuil "for information on how his situation could be re-examined." When staff at the front desk explained the decision he "doused himself in fuel and set fire to his clothes," said Girault. Security guards used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames, said a police source.

In theory a request for asylum cannot be examined a second time unless the person furnishes new information, said a spokesman for OFPRA. A police source said the man had arrived in France via Syria. "He was two metres from the front desk, looked at the notice board and doused himself with a large bottle filled with a transpa-rent liquid," said Maya Lino, who witnessed the scene. "His eyes were glazed. He pulled out a lighter, tried a first time, it didn't work and everyone screamed," she added. "He tried again a second time and burst into flames all the way to his head. He began running." Every year some 40,000 asylum seekers appeal to the court after their cases are denied by OFPRA. If the court rejects an appeal, the asylum seeker is usually expelled from France.

"Often the decisions of the court are perceived as dramatic and I understand that because they can end someone's life plans," said Pierre Henry, director of an organisation which supports asylum seekers. "But this was a desperate act, which fortunately is an exception. We should put our feelings aside and not exploit this tragedy to challenge an entire process," he said. Of the 38,540 decisions taken by the court last year, 108 concerned Chadians. It found in favour of only 17 of these applicants.
© AFP

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Czech Republic: Neo-Nazis hack websites of human rights NGOs

8/10/2014- The website of the Czech Helsinki Committee (ÈHV) has been targeted for attack by "nationalist" hackers from the White Media group. The hackers publicly announced on their own website that they attacked the human rights organization as part of their annual "Week against Anti-Racism and Xenophilia", which began on 28 September. In addition to the ÈHV's website its Facebook profile was attacked, as was the personal Facebook profile of director Lucie Rybová and her personal email account. The Brno branch of Amnesty International in the Czech Republic was hacked as well.

"It's alarming how defenseless you are in such a situation," Rybová told news server Romea.cz. While negotiations with Facebook regarding the blocking of the profiles and creating new slogans took place fairly quickly, negotiations with the operator of her email account and the operator of the ÈHV website are remarkably problematic, according to Rybová. "The operator of the Czech Helsinki Committee's website, the Forpsi server, says it has never encountered such a situation. We reported the hacking to them and asked them to post a text on the site explaining why the pages are not available, but all that shows up there is the message "inoperative", thanks to which we seem unreliable. It looks like we haven't paid for the domain, and it is also harming us in other areas, including our clients - they can't access our contact information so they can't call the counseling center," Rybová said.

In addition to the organization not being able to fully focus on some of its activities because of its non-functioning website, ÈHV also cannot now report online about those activities, which is usually a frequent obligation with respect to projects. Addressing the situation with the stolen email account is even more complicated. The hackers have stolen Rybová's password to her personal email account on Seznam and have changed it. "I have to prove the email is actually mine, using the same online form as when you forget your password. I have done it three or four times and nothing happens. When I call the hotline they refer me back to the online form and are unable to connect me with anyone who can handle my situation or even temporarily block the account," she explained to Romea.cz.

While Seznam has taken a passive approach to the situation for several days already, the neo-Nazis have continued to enjoy unfettered access to Rybová's personal email account. ÈHV is considering filing a criminal report against the hackers. Even that, however, will not be easy, because while the racist and xenophobic content of the White Media website violates Czech law, its domain is registered with a web hosting company in California and is subject to the laws there. Those laws are much more benevolent when it comes to freedom of speech, including the dissemination of hate, than are laws in the Czech Republic.
© Romea.

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Czech Rep: Advocate says Roma want to be part of society

4/10/2014- Prague has hosted yet another Roma Pride parade. Along with Romani people, rather a lot of people from the majority part of society, migrants living in the Czech Republic and tourists enjoyed the event as well. Almost 300 people walked from the Old Town Square across the Charles Bridge to the Church of the Infant of Prague, where they prayed together for good coexistence and reconciliation. Romani people from many towns across the country attended, with the Brno contingent running a Roma Pride stand. The event began with a program on the Old Town Square where the main musical attraction was the Hradec Králové band Terne Èhave and an Indian temple dance. People clapped, danced and sang along to the rhythmic Romani music. The stage, decorated with flowers and signs reading "Hate is No Solution" and "Roma Pride", also was home to the reggae music of Michal Šepse. During the Terne Èhave concert more than 500 people were in attendance, but only around 300 participated in the march.

Ivanka Mariposa Èonková of the convening organization Konexe greeted the participants, as did Božena Fílová, the coordinator of Romani advisors in Prague, Margita Rácová from Brno, and Jožka Miker from Krupka. "We are here together, blacks, whites, and that's how it should be," the speeches between the musical performances emphasized. Romani representatives thanked those present for showing through their attendance they will not tolerate for any form of racism. "Until the pig farm erected on the site of the Romani Holocaust is removed there will be no tolerance in this country. First get rid of that pig farm and then you can talk about 'inadaptables'," Miker said in his remarks. The event focuses on Romani people sharing a feeling of pride in their identity and on being open to people from the majority society. It celebrates Romani culture and identity and does its best to draw the public's attention to topics such as the existence of the industrial pig farm on the site of the former concentration camp for Roma at Lety by Písek.

Roma Pride marches are taking place this weekend in 15 European countries. In Prague the parade was led by a horse-drawn wagon carrying musicians from Terne Èhave and singer Veronika Kaèová who sang Romani folk songs the whole time. Romani youth marching in the parade shouted slogans like "Black, White, Together We Fight" and "Stop Racism". Romani marchers also called out "Gadje, come with us!" to bystanders, some of whom actually did join the march, clapping and dancing to the Romani rhythms. People were carrying Romani flags and banners reading "Black, White, Together We Fight", "Strength in Unity", "Roma Pride", "Stop Ghettos", and "We Want Schools for All". According to Ivanka Mariposa Èonková, the main motto of Roma Pride is "Towns without Racism and Schools for All Children". She also said Romani people want to be part of Czech society. "All of Europe can see that antigypsyism in the Czech Republic is a problem. There is a need to stop segregating people," she said.

The activist believes it is necessary to work on getting the majority society to open up to Romani people. "We are proud Romani people who have our place in the Czech Repu-blic," she said. Saturday's program ended with with a workshop on traditional Romani dance and song and a discussion with Paul Polansky and his guests regarding the genocide at Lety. What was originally a disciplinary labor camp at Lety was transformed by the Nazi Protectorate administration into a "gypsy camp" in 1942, through which 1 308 Romani people had passed by May of the following year, 327 of whom perished there and more than 500 of whom were transported to Auschwitz, where most of them were murdered. Survivors of the camp and their relatives are insisting the pig farm be removed, and its existence has reportedly been criticized by the UN and other intergovernmental institutions. The Czech Government, however, claims to have no money to purchase and remove the agricultural campus.

This evening, at the Podnik club in the Bubenská quarter of Prague, traditional Romani music will be performed, the Romani dance ensembles Cikne Èhave and Gypsy Kubo will perform, and the young political hip hop and dance group De La Negra from Krupka will perform. At 22:30 a program called Romano Jam - Musicians of the World, Unite! will begin, culminating at midnight with an item called "Anyone Can DJ".
© Romea.

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Danish parties seek deal to block Eurosceptic party from policy

10/10/2014- Denmark's mainstream parties, ruling and in opposition, are rushing to conclude an agreement governing their policies towards the European Union before an election next year in which a far-right Eurosceptic party is expected to make strong gains. The Danish People's Party, which like others around Europe won strong support in May's elections to the European Parliament, said this week Denmark should hold a referendum on its EU membership if Britain went ahead with its own vote. British Prime Minister David Came-ron has promised his voters an in-out referendum on continued EU membership in 2017 if his ruling Conservative Party wins next year's UK election. In response to the Danish People's Party pledge, larger Danish parties have said they want to forge a formal written agreement on EU-related issues.

Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard from the Danish Social Liberal Party, a junior partner in the Social Democrat-led coalition government, said the Danish People's Party should be excluded from all decision-making on EU issues. "The government is very interested in a new EU political agreement as soon as possible to create stability in Denmark's EU politics, preferably a long-term agreement covering both this election period and the next," Lidegaard told Reuters. Earlier this week Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt called for a referendum on whether Denmark should adopt EU justice rules, from which Denmark - like Britain - has a legal "opt-out". Along with Britain, Denmark is also the only member of the 28-nation EU with a legal opt-out from having to adopt the euro currency. Danes voted resoundingly against joining the euro in a 2000 referendum and remain opposed today.

Liberal Party Silent
Lars Barfoed, spokesman on EU issues for the opposition Conservatives, said his party was also interested in joining the planned agreement. "Such an agreement should of course include a referendum to remove Danish reservations about defense and police cooperation (with the EU). The question of the euro has to wait," he said. However, the Danish People's Party may yet gain an influential voice at the table. Opinion polls show the main opposition centre-right Liberal Party with the highest support ahead of the 2015 election, ahead of the governing Social Democrats, but with only 24 percent. The Danish People's Party is now the third most popular party on 20 percent and the Liberals may yet need their support to form a new coalition government. The Liberals have declined to comment on whether they would join the EU policy agreement.

Mainstream political parties in Denmark, which joined the EU with Britain and Ireland in 1973, have had a decades-old tradition of striking cooperation agreements on EU policies. But Danish People's Party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl told Reuters the party would no longer toe the line. "It is obvious that if David Cameron succeeds with a referendum on leaving or changing EU membership in 2017, Denmark should also have a similar referendum," Thulesen Dahl said. Denmark's growing scepticism about the EU was on display in the European Parliament elections, when the Danish People's Party received the largest share of the vote with 26.6 percent, doubling their number of seats in the assembly to four. "We just can't ignore the fact that so many people gave us their vote because of our EU scepticism," Thulesen Dahl said.
© Reuters

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Is art the ultimate refuge of racism in Denmark? (opinion)

The controversial decision to sell and display Dan Park's art in Denmark is emblematic of Europe's history of dehumanising black people, the head of the European Network Against Racism argues.
By Sarah Isal, chairwoman of the European Network Against Racism

9/10/2014- This week sees the start of the latest in a series of trials against Swedish self-declared artist Dan Park, convicted in August of defamation and incitement to racial hatred. The controversial art pieces – banned by several galleries in Sweden following the indictment – are now on sale online in Denmark, where the Danish Free Press Society will also display the pictures at an art gallery in Copenhagen later this month. The society seems to pursue what looks increasingly like a tradition of swapping a responsible use of freedom of expression with some sort of ‘entitlement racism’, therefore claiming a ‘right’ to insult and bully ethnic minorities. Dan Park notably created and distributed posters with a picture of the human rights defender Jallow Momodou, Chair of the Pan African Movement for Justice (Afrosvenskarnas forum för rättvisa) and Vice-Chair of the European Network Against Racism, superimposed on the image of a naked slave in chains. Park's posters were distributed around Malmö and also included Momodou's name and contact details. Other pieces by the ‘artist’ include a picture of three black men hanged on a bridge, one of whom is Jallow Momodou and the other is a victim of racially motivated violence, with the caption ‘hang on Afrophobians’.

This questions the extent to which art can be used freely to offend minority groups, in this case the millions of people of African descent living in Europe, and in the most extreme cases, incite to racial hatred. Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy, in particular for artists and journalists. Extensive and vibrant case-law by the European Court of Human Rights shows that the balance between freedom of expression and other individual or collective rights is a matter of careful analysis. However, it is clear that when art or freedom of expression crosses the line into incitement to, or the promotion, of hatred, we need to set certain limits. The glorification of violence by the Swedish artist against identifiable individuals is clearly incompatible with fundamental rights. Hate speech can be perceived as an authorisation to take action and often does lead to violence. This case reveals a worrying underlying problem: the denigrating and dehumanising portrayal of black people. These representations are not isolated incidents and are the result of a long European history of negation of Africans’ and black people’s humanity, rooted in the legacy of slavery and colonialism.

Some 150 years after the abolition of the slave trade, black people continue to be perceived and constructed as second class citizens in European societies. The fact that our parents or grandparents might have visited human zoos, in which Africans were exhibited in cages, is but one indication of the bedrock of racism that underlies the mentality prevalent in European societies. Human zoos are still a reality today, albeit in a slightly more subtle format: an installation that replicates the ‘human zoo’ has been touring different European cities this year. Such representations of black people reinforce deeply ingrained negative stereotypes and perpetuate power structures within European societies, leading to high levels of discrimination. They also send the message that racist prejudices are socially and legally acceptable. It is therefore essential that everyone acts responsibly to redress these twisted representations, in particular through intelligent and sensitive art. In addition, European states must show political will to combat the specific form of racism that is Afrophobia. They must recognise the severe and ongoing impact of Europe’s history of hostility and violence towards blacks, and develop effective strategies to counter the structural and everyday racism that prevents the inclusion of many blacks in European society.
Sarah Isal is the chairwoman of the European Network Against Racism, a Brussels-based group that connects local and national anti-racist NGOs throughout Europe
© The Local - Denmark

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Danes cautioned about visiting Muslim countries

In a rare move, the Foreign Ministry has changed its travel recommendations to 28 countries with large Muslim populations.

4/10/2014- The Foreign Ministry has changed its travel recommendations to 28 Muslim countries in light of Denmark’s military campaign against Isis in northern Iraq. While the Foreign Ministry's citizen services department (Borgerservice) is not explicitly telling Danes to avoid travelling to the countries, it warns Danish travellers to use caution in the Muslim countries. Among the advice is to be aware of risky situations, and to avoid being either the only foreigner in a particular area or spending a lot of time in areas that have a high concentration of Westerners, such as airports. Borgerservice spokesman Ole Egberg Mikkelsen told Politiken that the sharpened travel guidelines are due both to Denmark’s participation in the coalition fighting Isis and the general security risks in the affected countries.

“This affects Muslim countries or countries with large Muslim populations. We are doing this because we have seen beheadings in some of the countries and we want to make people aware that that if they choose to travel there, there could be a specific terror risk and a focus on Danes,” Mikkelsen said. Mikkelsen said that although it is rare that Borgerservice changes its travel guidelines for so many countries at once, it has happened before. The affected countries are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Palestine, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
© The Local - Denmark

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Germany: 'I was at anti-Semitism rally. Now what?'

Berlin writer Donna Swarthout has been left frustrated by the lack of openness of Jewish groups in Berlin. September's landmark anti-Semitism rally in Berlin should have focused more on the positives of Jewish life in Germany, she argues.

10/10/2014- “It’s a fortress mentality,” said my friend as we sat outdoors over a glass of wine on a mild September evening after attending a back-to-school night at the John F. Kennedy School of Berlin. “Jewish organizations in Germany are closed, restrictive organizations that don’t seek volunteers and don’t have the transparency of Jewish groups in the States.” Punkt. “But I want to do something to address the rise in anti-Semitism and promote cross-cultural unity,” I said. Silence. A sympathetic nod. Time to move on, I thought. Less than a week earlier I had attended a rally against anti-Semitism organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany. About 6,000 people, a rather disappointing turnout, gathered around the slogan “Steh Auf – Nie Wieder Judenhass” (Stand up – Never again hatred of Jews). I had simmered with disgruntlement over this slogan in the days leading up to the rally. Why couldn’t they have chosen something more positive and inspirational? I’ve lived in Berlin for more than three years and never felt hated.

Yes, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, but let’s rally for a more just society for Jews, Muslims, and other minorities. Our freedom is intertwined with every legiti-mate group that encounters hatred. The rallying cry “Nie wieder Judenhass” was the cry of a persecuted minority, one whose dark history is never far from mind. But the last seven decades have brought significant changes to Germany, not the least of which is a thriving Jewish population. How can our response to present acts of hatred and intolerance be informed by the past and yet account for the different circumstances of today? Anti-Semitism remains a stubborn stain on German society, but consider “the Pew Foundation 2014 Global Attitudes survey which suggests that in Europe unfavourable attitudes towards Roma and Muslims are more prevalent than those toward Jews.” In the months prior to the rally and during a summer of street demonstrations in Berlin over the Gaza conflict, I had been looking for a way to get involved in interfaith or cross-cultural awareness programs.

I searched the web and sent numerous emails, but I found little to no information about social action and volunteer opportunities in Berlin’s Jewish community. My hopes were raised when I met with a prominent Jewish leader who welcomed my offer of help but has since not answered any of my messages. I’m used to being bombarded with online invitations to join campaigns, contribute resources, and help make a difference. This is not the case with regard to the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Jewish community of Berlin. Perhaps I’ve missed something, but I cannot determine how the Jewish leadership in Germany would like me to help build a society that is free of hatred and intolerance towards Jews. Standing up to rally against hatred should be just the starting point.

Germany has become one of the world’s most democratic nations. Most observers praise the German government’s efforts to memorialize Holocaust victims and provide accurate education about the past. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet have taken a firm stance against anti-Semitism. Jewish life and culture is on display in many parts of Germany, lending affirmation to Merkel’s statement at the rally that Jewish life belongs in Germany and “is part of our identity.” It’s time for Germany’s Jewish organizations to shed some of their protective layers and show more leadership in community action for social justice. These organizations already provide valuable religious, cultural and social services to Germany’s growing Jewish population. Their websites list many great programs and resources and I hope to soon see some new outreach and education initiatives as well. In the meantime, I’ve just agreed to work with two Berlin churches to form an interfaith youth group. Perhaps I’ll be able to convince the Jewish community to participate.
Donna Swarthout is a freelance writer in Berlin, Germany.
© The Local - Germany

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Muslims in Germany fear fellow Germans' wrath

German Muslims are horrified by the "Islamic State" extremists, but by the same token, they also fear the potential effects of a new wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in Germany.

4/10/2014- A young woman wearing a headscarf sits behind the counter of her decoration shop surrounded by ribbons, bows and piles of colored paper in the western German city of Cologne. The scent of oriental perfume fills the air, and the sound of traffic creeps in through the open door. "We see something coming," Meral Sahin said. "And it's not for the first time." The advance of "Islamic State" militants in northern Iraq and Syria, the brutal expulsion of Christians, Yazidis and Muslims and the savage slaughter of human beings has shocked her to the core. "Islamic State has nothing to do with religion," she told DW. "They are terrorists who misuse Allah's name." To what extent can Germans differentiate between vast majority peace-loving Muslims and the tiny minority that comprises the barbaric radical Islamists? Meral said she hopes they can disentangle the two, but admitted to being afraid of what she described as "another round of alienation."

Just four months ago, Sahin, who is also chairwoman of Cologne's Keupstrasse community interest group, walked down the street with German President Joachim Gauck. It was the 10th anniversary of a nail bomb attack carried out by the far-right National Socialist Underground group (NSU), and the German president's presence was seen as a symbol of multi-cultural understanding. At the time of the attack, the police initially suspected it to be the work of a foreign group. Many living in the district where it happened were Turkish, and there was a general sentiment that they had been unfairly placed under suspicion. Ten years on, 70,000 Cologne residents took part in a major cultural festival bearing the slogan, "Birlikte," which is Turkish for "standing together."

Preventing conflict
The festival was a major success for Maria Fichte. As a community manager, she co-ordinates the activities of various organizations, associations and religious groups. Part of her remit is to ensure that the multi-cultural district is a place of harmony. "There are a lot of Turkish residents here, as well as Germans and people from Africa," she told DW. "We try to prevent problems from arising." Ahmet Erdogan's mosque shares a courtyard with a Turkish food shop. Sitting cross-legged on the carpet of the prayer room, he said he doesn't believe the majority of Germans will paint Muslims and terrorists with the same brush - despite a rash of polarizing media reports'. But he does have other concerns. As a father, he is worried about the fate of younger Muslims who are being radicalized. "We should be worried," he explained, with a tremor in his voice, "it can happen in any family."

He said those who spread hatred know exactly where and how to find children susceptible to their false promises. "They seem to give them a feeling of friendship, a feeling of 'we're in it together', a feeling of being strong," he said. But all of that, Erdogan said, is followed by the ideology, by the growing of the beard, and by the asking of certain questions. Erdogan has his own questions, and is not afraid to put them to himself. "Are we doing something wrong? Are families doing something wrong? Is everyone doing something wrong?" he asked, his voice filled with lament. "We have already lost a lot of children, and I feel compelled to do something about it."

"Murderers not Muslims"
While many pedestrians in the neighborhood don't want to speak openly about politics, others are glad for a chance to make their views known. One woman, who describes herself as a "Turkishified German," a Muslim with Turkish roots and a German passport, said fear is widespread. "We are afraid of being put in the same category as the terrorists, and we worry that people don't look to see that these terrorists are not Muslims, but terrorists and murderers," she said. She added that all they want is power and money, not God's peace and blessings. "I am sure that we Muslims will have to start justifying ourselves again," she said. For her part, Meral Sahin said she likes to think back to June and the success of the Birlikte festival that brought so many people together. But now she, like many others, is now left wondering what happens next.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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A men-only UN conference on gender equality? If only it was a joke (opinion)

Has feminism advanced so far that women’s voices no longer need to be heard? The decision not to invite any female speakers to a forthcoming meeting in Iceland smacked of missing the point
By Erica Buist

6/10/2014- How do you feel about the fact that Iceland planned to hold a conference on gender equality, feminism and sexual violence – without a single female invitee? “It will be the first time at the United Nations that we bring together only men leaders to discuss gender equality,” Iceland’s foreign minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, announced to the UN last week. The organisers later backtracked and said women would be involved, although it seems they will be barred from some sessions. It might sound somewhat counter-intuitive that, so soon after feminism became cool enough for Beyoncé to silhouette herself against the word “feminist” at the MTV Video Music awards, women should be ushered out of the room to let the men talk. My gut says this is, overall, a terrible idea. But has my gut considered the potential pros?

Traditionally (read: stereotypically), feminism was something about which women talked and men rolled their eyes. If male leaders are planning to talk about it among themselves, perhaps the discussion is no longer something women are expected to teach, explain and drag men into. As the journalist Robyn Pennacchia puts it: “The tendency many well-intentioned men have of derailing conversations with easily Google-able questions and then asking: ‘Well, how can I learn feminism if you won’t teach me?’, tends to be frustrating for many of us.” The writer Leigh Alexander points out the uniquely frustrating issue that stalks online comment boards beneath reports of women experiencing online harassment in a blog entitled, “But what can be done: dos and don’ts to combat online sexism”. Women experiencing online harassment often also have to contend with the question: “But what solutions would you recommend?” She describes this as being “akin to walking up to a person who is on fire and asking them to bring you a bucket of water so that you can ‘help’”.

Perhaps this conference is an encouraging step towards male leaders joining the fight, and well-intentioned men working out where they can source buckets of water as needed. While in many ways men benefit from a world that values them over women, one of the strongest recent messages in the feminist movement is that misogyny adversely affects men, too. If a dislike, distrust and disgust of the feminine weren’t baked right into the culture, it wouldn’t be shameful to do things deemed “girly” such as talking about emotions and problems before they spiral into the horrifically high rate of male suicide. If it weren’t shameful to be unmanly, the country with the greatest number of gun deaths wouldn’t market guns as a way to demonstrate manliness.

What’s your gut saying so far? Wrong as it often is, mine isn’t fully convinced that removing either gender from a discussion on gender equality is a smart move. First, it assumes that women are feminists by default, even though some have enough internalised patriarchal teachings to say things such as, “I’m a woman so I can’t drive as well as my husband” without a trace of irony. Second, Emma Watson only just managed to convince many people that men should be involved in the fight for equality before this was quickly followed by the suggestion that men should be the only ones in the room. There would be no doubt that a conference on racism with only white invitees would be inappropriate, unhelpful and more than a little gross, so why are we stroking our chins over whether a conference on gender equality with no female voices is a good idea?

It has taken until 2014 to even get the argument that there is no position between sexist and feminist into mainstream discussion, just as there’s no position between racist and not-racist. Doesn’t an all-male conference on gender equality smack of “We’ll take it from here, sweetheart”?
• This article was amended on 8 October 2014 to include the information that the organisers later said some women would be involved in the conference.
© The Guardian - Women's Blog

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Ireland: Migrant women experience high level of domestic violence

One in three new Women’s Aid clients were migrants, agency says

8/10/2014- Migrant women experiencing domestic violence continue to feature significantly in calls made to Women’s Aid, director Margaret Martin has said. “One-third of the new clients Women’s Aid saw last year were migrant women.” The issue of domestic violence in migrant communities is “no different” from in native communities, she said, “but some-times more recently arrived women are living at significant risk because they are very isolated.” Women’s Aid’s Telephone Interpretation Service guarantees that a caller can speak to someone in their own language within a minute. “You need to be able to say, or to get someone to say, what language you speak, you are put on hold and we ring an interpretation service based outside the State. They will be on the line within 60 seconds.” Following contact via the helpline, a women will be seen by her key worker with an interpreter if she so wishes.

In 2013, 67 per cent of callers who used the Women’s Aid telephone service spoke a range of EU languages including Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Slovak. Polish speakers were the biggest group. They are also the largest minority in the Irish State at 2.7 per cent of the population. The non-EU languages included Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Dari, Farsi, Georgian, Kurdish, Mandarin, Russian, Somali, Thai and Yoruba. “The language issue is huge,” Ms Martin said. “We were looking to get the service up and running for a long time. It’s about breaking down barriers. You need to be able to talk to a woman directly in a language she understands, is comfortable with and can make herself understood. It reduces confusion and means we can treat every woman as an individual.”

Women’s Aid were surprised by the range of languages they encountered, said Ms Martin. “We were told we needed five or six languages, so we made sure we had access to them, then our first call was in Albanian, and we didn’t have it,” added Ms Martin, who believes all languages are now catered for. Ms Martin points out that domestic violence is not culturally specific. “It cuts across cultures and it is not the case that any particular sector is more likely to experience domestic violence.” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) research found that in Ireland in 2012, 14 per cent of women have experienced physical violence by a partner (current or ex); 6 per cent of women have experienced sexual violence by a partner (current or ex) and 31 per cent of women have experienced psychological violence by a partner (current or ex).

Some newly arrived women are encouraged to find there are legal protections here to which they are entitled. Difficulties arise, however, when a woman flees her country of origin to escape partner violence and her partner follows her here, Ms Martin said. “Women who don’t meet the conditions of Habitual Residency may go to a refuge, but that refuge will not be entitled to any payment for her, so she can’t remain there.”
Women’s Aid Telephone Interpretation Service can be accessed via the National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 from 10am - 10pm, seven days a week. It is a confidential service and is free.
© The Irish Times.

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Nigel Farage: Ban HIV positive migrants from entering the UK

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been accused of “a new level of ignorance”, after proposing a blanket ban on people with HIV entering the UK.

10/10/2014- Farage made the comments in a Newsweek interview, and when asked which kinds of people should be allowed to enter the UK, he said: “People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start. And people with a skill.” When challenged by Newsweek interviewer Robert Chalmers on the issue, he said: “There are 190 countries in the world that operate like that. That is what Britain should do. I have never said that we should not take refugees. We have a proud record of accepting refugees.” Then, on the Today Programme on Radio 4, Farage suggested that a similar ban was in effect in the US and Australia, and said those with “life threatening diseases” should not be allowed to migrate to the UK because the NHS would have to treat them. He said: “We should do what America does, what Australia does, what every country in the world does. We want people who have trade and skills. But we do not want people with criminal records and we cannot afford to have people with life threatening diseases, “We have leading cancer experts in Britain saying the burden now of treating overseas people is leading to huge shortages in the system. I do not think those (immigrants) with life threatening diseases should be treated by NHS”.

There was previously a blanket ban on people living with HIV entering the US, which operated between 1987 and 2009. Farage said he would also ban those with murder convic-tions from entering the UK, as well as that he would like to be appointed as minister for Europe at next year’s general election. He said he would like to be remembered as the man who secured independence from the EU for Britain. Dr Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, condemned Farage for bracketing people who had tested positive for HIV with murderers. She said: “The idea that having HIV should be used as a black mark against someone’s name is ridiculous and shows an outrageous lack of understanding of the issue. “It is to the UK’s credit that for more than three decades successive governments, no matter their political stamp, have refused to put in place border controls against people living with HIV. “Major international organisations, including the United Nations, agree that such draconian measures would have no impact on the epidemic. “In bracketing those living with the condition with murderers, and suggesting there is no place for them in his vision of Britain, Mr Farage has stooped to a new level of ignorance. He should be truly ashamed.”

The comments by Farage came as Douglas Carswell, who defected to UKIP earlier this year, won at the Clacton by-election last night. :Labour’s candidate in the Heywood and Middleton by-election only beat UKIP by just over 600 votes.
© Pink News

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UK: Salman Rushdie condemns 'hate-filled rhetoric' of Islamic fanaticism

Salman Rushdie says all religions have their extremists but "the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam"

9/10/2014- Accusations of 'Islamophobia' are being levelled at anyone who dares to speak out against the "hate-filled rhetoric" of Islamic fanaticism, Salman Rushdie has claimed in a speech condemning Isil and "this new age of religious mayhem". Rushdie voiced his fears that the language of "jihadi-cool" is seducing young British Muslims, many via Twitter and YouTube, into joining the "decapitating barbarianism" of Isil, the group also referred to as Islamic State or Isis. In his PEN/Pinter Prize Lecture, the author said all religions have their extremists but "the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam". Last week, Isil beheaded taxi driver and charity worker Alan Henning, the latest Western hostage to die at their hands. The so-called "jihadi-cool" image romanticises Isil, using rap videos and social networking to recruit followers - posing with AK-47s and bragging about their "five star jihad" in videos showing fighters lounging around in luxury villas as they urged the destruction of the West.

Rushdie defined "jihadi-cool" as "the deformed medievalist language of fanaticism, backed up by modern weaponry", saying: "It's hard not to conclude that this hate-filled religious rhetoric, pouring from the mouths of ruthless fanatics into the ears of angry young men, has become the most dangerous new weapon in the world today". He said: "A word I dislike greatly, 'Islamophobia', has been coined to discredit those who point at these excesses, by labelling them as bigots. But in the first place, if I don't like your ideas, it must be acceptable for me to say so, just as it is acceptable for you to say that you don't like mine. Ideas cannot be ring-fenced just because they claim to have this or that fictional sky god on their side. "And in the second place, it's important to remember that most of those who suffer under the yoke of the new Islamic fanaticism are other Muslims...

"It is right to feel phobia towards such matters. As several commentators have said, what is being killed in Iraq is not just human beings, but a whole culture. To feel aversion towards such a force is not bigotry. It is the only possible response to the horror of events. "I can't, as a citizen, avoid speaking of the horror of the world in this new age of religious mayhem, and of the language that conjures it up and justifies it, so that young men, including young Britons, led towards acts of extreme bestiality, believe themselves to be fighting a just war." The author said members of other religions have distorted language, but to a much lesser degree. "It's fair to say that more than one religion deserves scrutiny. Christian extremists in the United States today attack women's liberties and gay rights in language they claim comes from God. Hindu extremists in India today are launching an assault on free expression and trying, literally, to rewrite history, proposing the alteration of school textbooks to serve their narrow saffron dogmatism.

"But the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam, and much of it has its roots in the ideological language of blood and war emanating from the Salafist movement within Islam, globally backed by Saudi Arabia." For these ideologues, "modernity itself is the enemy, modernity with its language of liberty, for women as well as men, with its insistence of legitimacy in government rather than tyranny, and with its stroninclination towards secularism and away from religion." We live in a time when we are "too frightened of religion in general, and one religion in particular - religion redefined as the capacity of religionists to commit earthly violence in the name of their unearthly sky god... in which the narrow pseudo-explications of religion, couched in the new - or actually very old - vocabulary of blasphemy and offence, have increasingly begun to set the agenda".

Rushdie's publication of The Satanic Verses in 1989 led to him being placed under a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, who deemed it to be blasphemous. The author spent years in hiding under police protection. In his speech, delivered at the British Library, he said of the reaction to his novel: "People are entitled to judge a book as kindly or as harshly as they choose, but when they respond to it with violence or the threat of violence, the subject changes, and the question becomes: how do we face down such threats? We have all been wrestling with the answer to that question on many fronts ever since." Rushdie was speaking as he accepted the PEN Pinter Prize, established by the writers' charity English PEN in 2009 in memory of the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter. The prize is awarded annual to a British or British-based writer who "exemplifies the spirit of Harold Pinter through his or her engagement with the times". Each year the winner shares the prize with an international writer who has risked their own safety in the name of free speech. Rushdie chose Mazen Darwish, a Syrian journalist and lawyer who is currently in prison.
© The Telegraph

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British ISIS-Supporter Expresses Support for Hitler

Prominent British Islamist and founder of 'Sharia Patrols' says rise of ISIS marks 'the end of Zionism' in anti-Semitic lecture.

9/10/2014- The anti-Semitic lecture was delivered by Muslim convert Abu Rumaysah, also known as Refi Shafi, who focused significantly on the 19th century anti-Semitic forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and encouraged listeners to look to it as proof of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy - as well as a justification for the Nazi Holocaust. Rumaysah is a close confidante of infamous British Islamist cleric Anjem Choudary, and a founder of vigilante "Sharia Patrols" phenomenon, in which Islamist thugs attempt to impose Islamic law (sharia) in neighborhoods with Muslim populations. The phenomenon has since spread to other European countries, most recently Germany. Ironically, while attacking Jews and Zionists for "trying to take over the world", Abu Rumaysah expressed his support for ISIS's objective for Muslim world domination, and ended his address by expressing confidence that Islam will soon take over the world.

Other ironic snippets include a claim by Rumaysah - a vocal supporter of Al Qaeda and ISIS - that "Zionists" have "no regard for human life", bizarrely citing as proof the prominence of Jews in the medical profession, which in his words includes some drugs which have "adverse side-effects". He also claimed that the founder of Shia Islam - which Sunni Islamists such as himself consider as heretics - was a Jew. Anti-Semitism in the UK has seen an alarming rise in recent months, fueled largely by incitement from Muslim extremists, on the heels of Israel's 50-day war with Islamist terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
© Arutz Sheva

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UK: New powers for victims of hate crime and anti-social behaviour

Victims of hate crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB) have new powers to trigger case reviews if they feel the authorities are not taking them seriously.

8/10/2014- From this week, anyone who feels that a hate crime or ASB incident is badly handled can use the ‘community trigger’ to spark a review of the case. All agencies involved must then report back within 10 working days. Marc Turczanski, hate crime officer for Hastings Voluntary Action, welcomed the changes, but said it was too early to say how effective the community trigger would be. “It’s not a bad thing to make more accountability, but a lot depends on how well it is communicated and managed,” he said. “We won’t know how successful this measure is till further down the line.” Reports of hate crimes in Hastings have nearly doubled in the past year, with 56 offences being reported compared to 37 the year before. Police say this jump is not a concern, as new initiatives have lead to more victims speaking out: “we believe that these crimes were being vastly under-reported in the past,” said chief inspector Paul Phelps, Hastings District policing commander.

Hastings Borough Councillors (HBC) voted unanimously to adopt the new measure in a cabinet meeting on Monday (October 6). National legislation - the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime, and Policing Act 2014 - says community triggers must be adopted by all local authorities by October 20. Anyone can use the trigger, but there is a threshold. An individual must have made three complaints about ASB or hate crime within a six month period before a review can begin. These complaints can be to any relevant agency - police, clinical commissioning group, or local authority, for example. Paris Nolan, a committee member of the Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance and co-leader of that organisation’s Trans Sub-Group, was surprised by the three-complaint threshold, saying that any one serious incident should be enough to spark a review if necessary.

Speaking more broadly about hate crime in Hastings, Paris said: “In the trans group we experience it more than our gay group now. We stand out more. And Hastings has quite a lot of transient people on holiday who may have been drinking. You do get abuse but to be honest it’s not too bad. It’s unpleasant when it happens, but is usually dealt with well by the police.” Chief inspector Phelps said: “Anti-social behaviour isn’t a major problem in Hastings and this is in no small way down to the way it is dealt by a number of agencies who meet weekly to tackle the issue. “Not everyone is comfortable reporting hate crime to the police for a variety of reasons. We are working hard to increase trust and confidence of victims and to make it easier for them to report directly to us.”
© The Hastings Observer

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Muslims ‘fearful’ amid row over UK hate-crime stats

5/10/2014- Like many victims of hate crimes against British Muslims, Asma Sheikh never reported what happened to her to the police. It was the summer of 2013, and anti-Muslim sentiment was at a high following the violent killing of British Army soldier Lee Rigby, who was stabbed to death in a London street by two Islamic extremists. The murder saw dozens of apparent reprisals against innocent UK Muslims, including acts of vandalism and women having their veils ripped off. In the week following the killing, there were seven Islamophobic offences recorded per day in London, compared with the average of one a day. Sheikh, 35, was one of the victims. Shortly after Rigby’s murder, she was walking to her car when she noticed that all four tires had been slashed.

“It was no coincidence. There was a note on the windscreen saying ‘go back home’,” said the mother-of-two from northwest London. “There was a lot of hate going on at that time, a lot of name-calling.” Sheikh, whose mother runs a shop in Kilburn selling traditional Islamic dress, says that most of her Muslim friends have fallen victim to some kind of hate crime. “Nearly everyone has faced something, whether it was just name-calling or whether someone pulled their hijab off,” she said. Sheikh said her son attends an Islamic school, and once had his uniform ripped by an assailant on a commuter train, while one of her friends had her veil torn off. “After that day, she didn’t come out of her house for about a month. And when she did, she didn’t wear her veil,” Sheikh said.

Hate crimes
Sheikh is not alone as a victim of UK hate crime. And nor is she alone in not having reported it to the police. “I thought it would be investigated further, police would come down, and matters would get worse. The community would know that I called the police, and things would get nastier,” she told Al Arabiya News. Such a reluc-tance to report incidents is seen as a factor in an emerging row between London’s police service and community groups over trends in Islamophobic crime. According to a BBC report this week, hate crimes against Muslims in London have “risen by 65 percent” in the last 12 months. The BBC cited figures from the Metropolitan Police. But when contacted by Al Arabiya, London’s police service disputed this, saying the BBC did not cite its latest statistics, and that the report did not reflect the trend on the ground.

The number of hate crimes against Muslims has in fact declined by 5.9 percent in the last year, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said. Harassment makes up the majority of the hate crimes against Muslims, but offences also include criminal damage and graffiti, police said. “Our most recent set of figures show a fall in Islamophobic crime from 512 offences in the year to August 2013 to 482 in the year to August 2014,” the spokesperson told Al Arabiya News. The police service said the numbers used by the BBC refer to the last two financial years, rather than the year-to-date as stated by the BBC. But the BBC stood by its coverage, saying that it had used figures supplied by the Metropolitan Police late last month.

‘Politicizing’ the issue
Despite the assertion by the Metropolitan Police that Islamophobic attacks are on the decline, several experts said the opposite is true. Fiyaz Mughal, director of the Islamophobia monitoring group Tell MAMA, said that the police statistics do not reflect the trend on the ground. While he said a 65 percent increase would be on the high side, Mughal estimates that hate crimes against Muslims have increased by about a third in the last 12 months. “Over the past two years, Muslim communities have told us that they feel anti-Muslim incidents have got worse. And that’s a fact, there’s no getting away from it,” he said. While the Metropolitan Police statistics may be technically accurate, they do not account for unreported crimes. And the figures are skewed because of the spike in attacks last year after the murder of Lee Rigby, Mughal said.

“The Met can say ‘Islamophobic crimes are dropping’ – but it’s dropping from a point that was significantly high last year after the murder of Lee Rigby. That’s what they’re not telling you,” he said. “They’re comparing it to a peak. They’re so cheeky… For their own political reasons, they’re saying it’s going down. It’s not factually incorrect, but it doesn’t show us the wider picture.” The Metropolitan Police did not specifically respond to that allegation. It did say however that it “takes all hate crime seriously and would urge London’s Muslim communities to come forward and report hate crime when it happens.”

Reluctance to report
Other spikes in anti-Muslim sentiment followed this year’s revelations of sexual abuse against children in Rotherham, England, as well as international events such as the beheadings by the violent extremist group Isis, community groups say. “Islamophobia is there, and unfortunately it affects people’s lives on a daily basis. It really shows itself where there is a national or international incident,” Mughal said. But a reluctance to report hate crimes to the police – especially among women such as Asma Sheikh – is a “major problem”, Mughal added. “A lot of women say ‘we don’t need the hassle, it will affect my family’,” he said.

Talha Ahmad, chair of the membership committee at the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), agreed that the official numbers on Islamophobic attacks are lower than the reality. “Many people are not reporting crimes,” he said. “One of the issues is a lack of confidence that anything will happen. There’s an ongoing issue with trust in the police force.” Not all police forces in the UK record Islamophobic attacks as a separate category, as the Metropolitan Police does. Ahmad urged the government to make this compulsory across all forces. “The government should also invest in a strategy and campaign to encourage people to report these crimes,” he added.

Ahmad blamed media coverage of Muslims as being a major factor behind the claimed rise in hate crimes. “Much of the coverage is very negative and some of it could be viewed as the demonization of an entire community. And once a community is demonized, it becomes a very easy target,” he said. “We have seen mosques coming under attack after Rotherham. And we are seeing a rise in attacks after Isis… The perception is that incidents against Muslims have increased.”

‘Too fearful to speak’
Standing outside her mother’s abaya shop on Kilburn High Road in London, Asma Sheikh says she is certain that Islamophobia is on the rise. Despite the street being thronged by people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, including many women wearing the hijab and other forms of Islamic dress, Sheikh says she believes the rise to be even greater than the 65 percent cited by the BBC. That’s partly due to a reluctance to report such incidents, Sheikh said: “Off the top of my head, I know 100 people who are too fearful to say anything,” she said. Sheikh said she too has noticed an increase in hate crimes when there is a national or international incident involving Muslims.

“It yo-yos. When something happens, it becomes more heated. And suddenly Muslims say, ‘we have to be careful – don’t go out after Maghrib, the last prayer… Don’t go through Richmond, don’t go through Camden’. It’s depressing,” she said. “The media has a big part in all of this… It needs to be shown that it’s not all about war. There are some [Muslims] out there that just want peace.” Despite her concerns, Sheikh has anything but a fearful demeanor. She is something of a character on Kilburn High Road, chatting confidently to passers-by and a local café owner like old friends. Sheikh may not have reported the crime against her to police – but is determined not to keep quiet now. “Unless there’s a change in the way the media portrays us, it will continue. People like me need to be heard,” she said. “Somebody’s got to speak out.”
© Al Arabiya

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UK: Ukip Defend Controversial Ex-Christian Party Leader Joining Party

Ukip has been forced to defend the fact that controversial ex-Christian Peoples Alliance leader Alan Craig, who once dubbed gay rights activists the "Gaystapo" in a reference to Nazi Germany's secret police, is joining their party.

7/10/2014- Craig, who has described same-sex marriage as "social vandalism" and tantamount to "child abuse", revealed in a recent blog post that he had been campaig-ning in Clacton for Tory defector Douglas Carswell in his bid to become Ukip's first elected MP, and had himself applied to join the party. The ex-Newham councillor told the Huffington Post UK that he was joining Ukip because he wanted Britain to leave the European Union and to break up the "Lib/Lab/Con cartel and the suffocating grasp of the metropolitan political class". He said he also admired "Ukip's courage in standing against the gay marriage tsunami that [David] Cameron et al. hit us with last year". In controversial comments published in the Church of England Newspaper in 2011, Craig compared gay marriage to the "invasion of Poland", warning that it could be a "catalyst for war and a cultural fight-back". The “Gaystapo”, he said, “want to change our language, manipulate our culture and thereby impose their world-view on us all. Cultural domination is their aim and fascist-type intolerance of politically-incorrect dissent is their weapon.”

A Ukip spokesman admitted that Craig had used more "ripened" language about same-sex marriage, telling the Huffington Post UK: "We're not prejudiced against traditional, old-school Christians just as we're not against homosexual people. I'm very wary of joining in a witch-hunt against somebody who holds those views, that the vast majority of the world would also hold." The spokesperson expressed sympathy for the ex-Newhan councillor's call to "rise up" against the "cultural domination of the 'Gaystapo'" in a swipe at "the more excitable parts of the gay lobby". "It's not about tolerance, it's not about tolerating other people's points of view. It's actually about dominating, control and refusing to allow anybody else to have a point of view," he said. The news that Craig, who stood as a London mayoral candidate in 2008, was joining Ukip sparked fury on Twitter.

Craig told HuffPostUK that he did know if he was officially a Ukip member yet, as he had applied less than a fortnight ago. He was nominated "Bigot of the Year" by the gay rights group Stonewall over his controversial attack on the "Gaystapo". In response, Craig said: “By attempting to bully, intimidate, humiliate and generate hatred of individuals through the award, Stonewall fully justifies the Gaystapo tag which I gave the organisation and for which apparently I have been nominated." The former councillor recently wrote: "Whatever you think of the issue itself, the gay marriage legislation last year was a democratic disgrace. Faithful one man/one woman marriage has been a defining and enduring bedrock of our society and culture – and the preeminent place of nurture for the nation’s children – for a millennium and a half.”

“Yet without warning, electoral mandate, Green or White Paper consultation or intelligent debate, and egged on by media, the PR industry, Hollywood celebs and the all-powerful gay lobby on both sides of the Atlantic (the UK perennially follows where the US leads), our political leaders like lemmings rushed off the marriage cliff and into the gay sea while emoting loudly and stupidly that it is ‘all about love’. “Overnight, unitedly and unnecessarily they redefined, enfeebled and wrecked a hugely beneficial social institution.” Craig's former party, the Christian Peoples Alliance, has garnered its own share of controversy. Current leader Sid Cordle drew laughter from fellow studio guests when he told the BBC that it was pretty likely that gay marriage caused flooding in England. "I think all Christians believe that God does, and can do, things with nature," he told the Daily Politics. "A lot of Christians believe God is angry over gay marriage and God can show that anger." Cordle previously told the Huffington Post UK that Christians needed to "take to the streets" to protest against same sex marriage.
© The Huffington Post - UK

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UK faces 'nuclear option' if it scraps European rights charter

The European Commission may seek to suspend the UK's voting rights at the EU level should it withdraw from the European convention of human rights.

6/10/2014- The threat surfaced after a Tory policy document issued last week by the UK’s justice secretary Chris Grayling revealed plans to downgrade the jurisdiction of the European court of human rights to that of an advisory body. UK conservatives want to renegotiate the decades-old pact with the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, should the court's judgments remain binding. “In the event that we are unable to reach that agreement, the UK would be left with no alternative but to withdraw from the European convention of human rights,” notes the eight-page position paper. EU member states also have an “explicit obligation” to the convention under the EU treaty rules. Should a Conservative-led UK government decide to scrap it, the commission could invoke article seven of the treaties. “Such a situation, which the commission hopes will remain purely hypothetical, would need to be examined under articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union,” a commission source told this website.

Article 7 is commonly referred to as the ‘nuclear option’ of the commission’s enforcement arsenal and could lead to the suspension of a member state's voting rights. It has never been used. Austria was once threatened over fourteen years ago when the centre-right party went into government with the far-right Freedom Party. Invoking the article is also not easy. A large backing of member states and the European Parliament must “determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach” of values outlined in the charter of fundamental rights. London-based think tank Open Europe says making such a legal argument for a values breach, should the UK withdraw, would be difficult because there is a commitment to enshrine the convention in Britain’s domestic law. Prime minister David Cameron had mooted the policy move earlier this month when he pledged to scrap the UK’s human rights act. “Let me put this very clearly: we do not require instruction on this from judges in Strasbourg,” said Cameron in a speech at a party conference in Birmingham. Critics describe the Tory policy brief and Cameron's pronouncements as an attempt to attract Ukip voters in the lead up to the elections and possible referendum to leave the EU.

Few case rules against UK at Europe court
The origins of the Tory grief is rooted, in part, in three disputed judgments handed down by the Strasbourg-based court on prisoner voting, life sentences for prisoners, and the deportation of alleged terrorist Abu Qatada. All three decisions are unpopular in the UK, sparking complaints against the overall binding nature of the European court judgments on British law. While the judgments are binding, their enforcement is limited to exerting peer pressure from the council of ministers, a political body. The UK wins most of the cases brought against it. Last year, the court dealt with 1,652 applications concerning the UK - 1,633 or 98.8 percent were declared inadmissible or struck out. Only in eight cases – or 0.4 percent - did the court find at least one violation of convention rights. The UK has had a total of 499 judgments passed onto it between 1959 and 2013. By comparison, Turkey has had 2,994, Italy 2,268, Russia 1,475 and France 913.

There are four possible scenarios for the UK and the Council of Europe. First, it can remain a member. Second, it can withdraw after a six-month notice and join Belarus as the only other European nation not in the body. Greece, while under military dictatorship rule, is so far the only country to have ever withdrawn membership. Third, the Council can either accept specific arrangements for the UK, which don’t apply to the other 46 states running the risk that Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, possibly others may also make similar demands. Fourth, the Council can accept in principle that the court’s judgement just becomes advisory. The UK was among the first to ratify the European convention of human rights in 1950.
© The EUobserver

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Spain's Catalonia region passes 'world's most pioneering laws against homophobia'

The person accused of homophobic acts will have to prove his or her innocence, rather than being presumed innocent until proven guilty as is usually the case.

4/10/2014- Spain's autonomous region of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital city, on Thursday passed a controversial law to protect lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGTB) from homophobic attacks. Calling it the 'world's most pioneering laws against homophobia', the state-run Catalan News Agency (ACN) reports that it includes fines for homophobic behavior at the work place and positive discrimination measures, such as having to prove one's innocence if accused of homophobia. 'This positive discrimination measure is already in place for other offenses, such as domestic violence against women, in instances when it is very difficult to prove,' the ACN report said. The new provisions will punish those who attack gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals with fines of up to €14,000 ($17,700).

The report says 80% of the Catalan Chamber has backed the new law and the only group who voted against the law was the conservative Spanish nationalist People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, while the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, which runs the Catalan Government, split its votes. One of the most vocal defenders of the new law, Catalan Socialist Miquel Iceta said, 'I feel furious when someone appears to deny or play down the discrimination that we gays have suffered or run the risk of suffering.' 'They speak derisively of a gay lobby. But look at this room! This is not a group of people working undercover to achieve illegitimate goals. This is a group working to defend the rights of everyone.' Said Iceta who is one of the first Spanish politicians to come out as gay.

Spain is one of the more progressive countries in the world on gay rights. It legalized same-sex marriage in 2005 under the former Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The country is however seeing a rise in homophobic attacks yet only a fraction are reported to the authorities, according to gay rights groups. According to a study on hate crimes, the first of its kind, published by the government, it showed that out of the 1,172 hate crimes recorded in 2013, a majority (452) were based on the victim's sexual orientation, followed by race (381) and disabilities (290).

hate crimes

© Gay Star News
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Brazilian striker Wellington suffers racist abuse in Romania

4/10/2014- Concordia Chiajna striker Wellington has complained he was the victim of repeated racist abuse from a section of visiting Rapid Bucharest supporters during their Romanian league match on Friday. Wellington accused Rapid fans of throwing a banana at him while TV footage clearly showed a number of supporters making monkey gestures and racial slurs against the Brazilian forward during the tense goalless draw, featuring 10 yellow cards. "It's incredible what happened... my wife and my child were in the stands," Wellington told local media on Saturday. "I wanted to get out of the field, I'm not a monkey." The ugly scenes caused outrage in the Black Sea state. "I told the referee (about the incidents) and he gave me a yellow card!" added Wellington, who burst into tears at the end of the match. "Those who did that are idiots, I hope the federation will do something about it." The Romanian football authorities were not immediately available for comment.

The incidents occurred less than two months after champions Steaua Bucharest were hit with partial stadium closure by European football governing body UEFA following racist behaviour from their fans during a Champions League match in July. Rapid boss Marian Rada, who began his sixth stint as the Bucharest-based club's coach in the match against Concordia, made an extraordinary statement afterwards. "Was he crying? Don't you see what's happening in theatres? Maybe Wellington should have cried because he didn't score," said Rada. "How do we know it was a Rapid fan? Maybe a banana just slipped out of someone's hand in the stands." At the same time, the Romanian police said an investigation has been launched after a Rapid Bucharest fan entered the stadium in Chiajna with a flag with Nazi symbols printed on it. Police said they will use video evidence when tracking the offender who could face from six months to five years in prison. Concordia are 14th in the standings with nine points from 10 matches, just behind the three-times Romanian champions Rapid who also have nine points.
© Reuters

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Just Because a Hate Crime Occurs on Internet Doesn't Mean It's Not a Hate Crime (opinion)

Let's talk about nude photo leaks and other forms of online harassment as what they are: civil rights violations
By Danielle Citron

7/10/2014- Over the past few weeks, a prominent—and nearly all female— group of celebrities have had their personal accounts hacked, their private nude photos stolen and exposed for the world to see. Friday brought the fourth round of the aggressive, invasive, and criminal release of leaked photos. Whether the target is a famous person or just your average civilian, these anonymous cyber mobs and individual harassers interfere with individuals’ crucial life opportunities, including the ability to express oneself, work, attend school, and establish professional reputations. Such abuse should be understood for what it is: a civil rights violation. Our civil rights laws and tradition protect an individual’s right to pursue life’s crucial endeavors free from unjust discrimination. Those endeavors include the ability to make a living, to obtain an education, to engage in civic activities, and to express oneself—without the fear of bias-motivated threats, harassment, privacy invasions, and intimidation. Consider what media critic Anita Sarkeesian has been grappling with for the past two years. After Sarkeesian announced that she was raising money on Kickstarter to fund a documentary about sexism in video games, a cyber mob descended.

Anonymous emails and tweets threatened rape.
In the past two weeks, Sarkeesian received received tweets and emails with graphic threats to her and her family. The tweets included her home address and her family’s home address. The cyber mob made clear that speaking out against inequality is fraught with personal risk and professional sabotage. Her attackers’ goal is to intimidate and silence her. Revenge porn victims face a variant on this theme. Their nude photos appear on porn sites next to their contact information and alleged interest in rape. Posts falsely claim that they sleep with their students and are available for sex for money. Their employers are e-mailed their nude photos, all for the effort of ensuring that they lose their jobs and cannot get new ones.

Understanding these attacks as civil rights violations is an important first step. My book Hate Crimes in Cyberspace  explores how existing criminal, tort, and civil rights law can help combat some of the abuse and how important reforms are needed to catch the law up with new modes of bigoted harassment. But law is a blunt instrument and can only do so much. Moral suasion, education, and voluntary efforts are essential too. Getting us to see online abuse as the new frontier for civil rights activism will help point society in the right direction.
Danielle Citron is the Lois K. Macht Research Professor & Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. She is an Affiliate Scholar at the Stanford Center on Internet and Society and an Affiliate Fellow at the Yale Information Society Project. Her book, Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, was recently published by Harvard University Press.­­­­
© Time

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Headlines 3 October, 2014

Ukraine: Neo-Nazi Right Sector fighters attack pro-Russian MP

3/10/2014- Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov addressed an emphatic warning to neo-Nazis from the Right Sector organization on 1 October. In response to an attack committed Tuesday by right-wing radicals against a pro-Russian MP, Avakov declared that America and Europe could turn away from supporting Ukraine if similar incidents persist. The victim was Ukrainian MP Nestor Shufrych (Party of the Regions), a famous critic of the current regime's military campaign against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country. On Tuesday he was beaten up in the Black Sea port city of Odessa by a Right Sector commando unit who broke his nose, bruised his eye and bloodied his face.

Ukrainian media report that the MP is hospitalized in Odessa with a concussion. "A few more beat-up Shufryches and Europe will turn away from our victorious revolution. I am afraid America will as well," Interior Minister Avakov posted to Facebook on 1 October. "Mister Radicals, unless you want to be taken for insignificant morons, stop lynching people," Avakov wrote. The Unian press agency reported that the reason for Tuesday's incident was a lustration law now being intensively discussed in Ukraine. Shufrych is an opponent of lustration, and the Right Sector activists wanted to throw him into a garbage bin, which has become a widespread form of protest recently in Ukraine. The MP, however, is said to have defended himself proficiently and to have not succumbed until he was soundly punched.
© Romea.

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Netherlands: Prosecutors preparing cases against up to 10 jihadists: lawyer

3/10/2014- The public prosecution department is preparing a case against up to 10 suspected jihadists from The Hague, a lawyer for one of them has told broadcaster Nos. André Seebregts, who represents Azzedine C, says his client faces charges of membership of a terrorist organisation but has not yet seen the evidence, the broadcaster reports. A number of other men face similar charges, Seebregts said, estimating their total at between five and 10. C is suspected of trying to recruit people to fight in Syria and of spreading dissent and hatred via social media and news sites. He has been in custody for the past month. In June, he appeared on television show Nieuwsuur and congratulated Muslims in the Netherlands on the formation of the Iraqi and Syrian caliphate.

Freedom of speech
Seebregts said he expects the eventual trial to revolve around freedom of speech issues and how far that goes. ‘It remains open to question if you are committing an offence by saying on social media you oppose democracy and support a caliphate,’ Seebregts said. The trial is set for spring 2015 but there will be a preliminary hearing in early December. C, who is 32 and also known as Abou Moussa was arrested in southern Germany at the end of August and extradited to the Netherlands.
© The Dutch News

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Just over half the Dutch population say they are religious

2/10/2014- Last year, 53% of the Dutch considered themselves to be religious, down slightly on 2012, according to new figures from the national statistics office CBS. One in four people consider themselves to be Catholics, 32% are a member of one of the various Protestant churches in the Netherlands and 5% are Muslim, the new CBS figures show. Members of orthodox Protestant groups are most likely to go to church - half of them go at least once a week. Almost 27% of Muslims say they attend a mosque service once a week, but just 6.3% of Catholics do so. The former island of Urk has the highest percentage of churchgoers - nearly 94% of the fishing port's population go to church at least once a week. Muslims account for the largest religious population in The Hague (14%) and Amsterdam (11%). However, the number of active Muslims is just a tiny fraction higher than the percentage of Catholics in both cities, the CBS said.
© The Dutch News

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Facing fears over extremism, Austria unveils new law on Islam

2/10/2014- Austria called on Thursday for standardized German-language translations of the Koran and moved to prohibit foreign funding of Muslim organizations on its soil in a draft law aimed in part at tackling Islamic extremism. The bill will overhaul a 1912 law governing the status of Austrian Muslims, prompting concern from a major local Islamic body, which saw it mirroring widespread mistrust of Muslims. The initiative comes at a time of robust support for the far-right in Austria and also alarm over reports of Muslims from the small, neutral country joining Islamist militant forces fighting in the Middle East. "The clear message should be that there is no contradiction between being a faithful Muslim and a proud Austrian," said Foreign Affairs and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz, a member of the conservative People's Party. "If you don't have orderly legal regulation ... this can always bring dangers (of extremism).

In this sense, if you like this is maybe a part of prevention," he told reporters. He added that Sharia, or Islamic law, had "no place here". Roughly half a million Muslims live in Austria, representing about 6 percent of the total population, which is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. The Christian and Muslim communities have co-existed for years and relations have been relatively unproblematic by comparison with friction seen in other European nations. For example, unlike France, Austria has not moved to ban Muslim women from wearing full-face veils in public. However, tensions have grown with the rise of the anti-immigration and Islam-critical Freedom Party, which is backed by roughly a quarter of Austrians according to opinion polls.

"Not a Gift"
Under the terms of the draft bill, state-recognized religious organizations will have to offer a unified German-language version of their doctrine and sources of faith, including for the Muslim holy book, the Koran. At present, there are only two officially recognized Islamic organizations in Austria. The legislation would also forbid Islamic teachers employed by any foreign states from working in Austria and stop outside funding for any Islamic organizations. "Among the Muslim base, the law is not seen as a gift for the Eid holiday," said Carla Amina Baghajati, spokeswoman of the Islamic Community of Faith in Austria (IGGIO), referring to Eid-al-Adha which Muslims will celebrate in the coming days. "(The bill) mirrors in its overtone the spirit of the times we currently perceive, which is marked by blanket suspicion and mistrust against Muslims," she said, adding that she was optimistic the legislation might still be amended. Specifically, the IGGIO was worried about the law appearing to bundle together various Sunni, Shi'ite and Alawite sects and also about the ramifications of trying to agree on a unified German-language version of the Koran.

The Arabic version of the Koran is generally thought of as the word of Allah in Islam, with any translation including an element of interpretation. "If a version of the Koran (in German) comes along as the codified, ultimate (version), then this would contradict the self-conception of Islam," Baghajati said. Foreign minister Kurz told Austrian radio last month that numerous translations of the Koran had generated countless interpretations and said it was in the interests of local Muslims to eliminate possible misunderstandings. The Austrian government warned in August that Islamist militancy was on the rise and officials have said around 140 people have left Austria to fight with the likes of the Islamic State, which has grabbed control of swathes of Iraq and Syria. Last month, Austria said it would ban militant Islamist groups' symbols and strip citizenship from people who travel abroad to fight with jihadists. On Thursday Kurz dismissed suggestions that a unified translation would pose a problem. "Am I skeptical when I hear this is difficult or not easily done? Fundamentally no," said Kurz, adding that it had previously been possible to create unified teaching material for Islamic religious studies at schools across Austria.
© Reuters

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New task force to police Austria's border areas

A new border patrol team called Operation Fox seized two people smugglers and a family of six in Burgenland on Thursday, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP) announced.

3/10/2014- The task force has been set up in order to help police the current influx of refugees arriving across Austria’s borders. Several provincial governors have been calling for the introduction of temporary border patrols. Mikl-Leitner said that Operation Fox had been active in the Neusiedl am See and Eisenstadt area, and had stopped and searched around 600 vehicles. Two men aged 28 and 53 were arrested for people smuggling. They were found in a carpark near to the A4 motorway in Zurndorf. A Kosovan family was hidden in their station wagon, including three children aged two, three and six years old. One of the men had been thrown out of Hungary for not having a residence permit and another was due to appear in court.

Mikl-Leitner said that Austria would not be introducing border controls across the country "in the coming weeks", but said that she could not rule out that it might happen at some point. She added that Austria must "accurately prepare and plan" for such a scenario. Mikl-Leitner said a more effective strategy is "unannounced, hard to predict priority checks in border areas". She said it would be a long-term strategy that would initially focus on identified ‘hot spots’ as well as borders with woods and streams. Operation Fox "is not directed against people seeking protection, but people who are trying to make money by smuggling others over the border," Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundböck stressed.

Some 50 police officers were involved, including uniformed personnel with sniffer dogs as well as plain clothes police and human trafficking specialists. As well as being on the lookout for people smugglers they are also focussing on preventing evening burglaries. "Currently, we have a lot of refugees from Syria, but also people from Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, who have handed over large sums of money to traffickers," Gerald Tatzgern, head of the central office combating human trafficking said. Syrians are also being forced to hand over money, Tatzgern said, often between €5,000 and €15,000, but usually their preferred destinations are “Sweden, Norway and Germany”. He added that traffickers often force families to be separated on the journey, to make sure they pay up. Operation Fox had interpreters on hand on Thursday, to speak with the victims and try and find out any useful information.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Teenager (15) convicted of Nazi offences

A 15-year-old boy from Salzburg has been convicted of Nazi offences, libel, and attempted coercion. The judge gave him a ten month sentence, and said he must serve two months of that in prison.

2/10/2014- When the boy was 14 he chose an image from Quentin Tarantino's film Inglourious Basterds, which featured Nazi symbols including the swastika, as his profile picture on the social networking site Facebook. He also posted lyrics from former German neo-Nazi rock band Landser, and between December 2012 and January 2013 he regularly left comments on the social networking site which glorified Nazism. He got a swastika tattoo and posted photos of himself wearing typical ‘skinhead’ clothing. He also threatened a classmate of Somali origin with a knife. In court he confessed to the allegations and said that he now viewed his actions “with disgust”. He said he had wanted to impress friends and gradually fell into believing right-wing ideology, even though he knew it was illegal. He had not had an easy childhood, having had to endure several eye operations, change schools repeatedly as he was considered a ‘problem child’ and had been thrown out of home on several occasions. The jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty, but didn’t find the teenager guilty of an additional charge of assault. The 15-year-old has already served eight months of his sentence in pre-trial detention. Austria’s Prohibition Act aims to suppress any potential revival of Nazism.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Former brothel to house asylum seekers

A former brothel in Styria, which closed just last week, has been made into temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.

2/10/2014- The conspicuous blue building, next to the busy motorway 67 in the village of Weitendorf, is now home to two Serbian Roma families, including seven children. A sign outside reads ‘Studio 6’ (six, or sechs in German, sounds like sex). “The last lady left the place on Friday,” the building’s owner said (she did not want to be named). She said the building will be able to accommodate up to 50 people “in new and luxuriously furnished apartments,” and that she plans to renovate the rooms. But the two families are not happy and have already threatened to go on hunger strike. “It stinks, the bed linen is dirty, and the older children have to share a bed. You can’t bring children to live in a brothel,” one refugee complained to the Kleine Zeitung paper. “We can’t leave these people on the streets,” the owner said. She has to provide the families with three meals a day and receives €19 per day, per asylum seeker, from the government.

If the building were to house 50 people she would be taking in around €28,500 a month. More refugees are expected to arrive this week - to the annoyance of mayor Franz Plasser (ÖVP). He said that he had wanted to allow only three refugee families to live in the 1,500 strong community but had only discovered on Wednesday that 50 people were expected to arrive. “This can’t be - how will it work? What are people expected to do in this former brothel?” he said. He added that it would be much harder for 50 people to become properly integrated into the community and that as the accommodation was directly on a busy road it was not suitable for families. He feels that the owner and politicians have gone over his head, and should have consulted him.
© The Local - Austria

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Italy: No end in sight to tide of migrant tragedies

A year after more than 360 Africans perished on a burning, sinking ship off Lampedusa there is no end in sight to the stream of migrant tragedies in the Mediterra-nean, or the political row over how to stop them recurring.

2/10/2014- The victims of the Lampedusa disaster, many of them fleeing conflict and persecution in Eritrea or Somalia, were within sight of the Italian island on October 3rd 2013 when the tiny fishing boat they had been crammed onto in Libya developed engine trouble and began to tilt alarmingly. The hellish nature of what ensued left the survivors plucked from the sea by the Italian navy scarred for life, and alerted the world to the humanitarian crisis unfolding. In an attempt to draw attention on shore to the vessel's distress, someone on board set fire to a blanket. Soon a whole section of the boat was on fire. Some threw themselves overboard while others stampeded to the opposite end of the vessel to escape the flames. Fatally unbalanced, the 20-metre boat capsized, condemning those trapped in the hold to death by asphyxiation.

Pope Francis called on Twitter for people around the world to pray for the wretched victims. It was described as a wake-up call, a tragedy that must never be repeated and a stain on Europe's conscience. But a year on, Lampedusa is no longer even the worst incident of its kind, the horrors of that October morning having been surpassed in the last month by the death of 500 people off Malta in a shipwreck triggered by the vessel being deliberately rammed by traffickers trying to force its human cargo onto another, smaller boat. The tragedy of Lampedusa prompted Italy to launch a rapid-reaction search-and-rescue mission known as "Mare Nostrum" ("Our Sea") which has, for the last year, picked up an average of 380 people a day from the Mediterranean surf, a total now nearing 140,000.

How many others have perished is impossible to know but bodies such as the International Organization for Migration put the death toll at over 3,000 this year alone. The implosion of Libya, civil war in Syria and renewed Israeli-Palestinian hostilities have helped push the flow of would-be refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe to unprecedented levels. Humanitarian organizations say new tragedies are inevitable and have accused Europe's leaders of closing their eyes. Cash-strapped Italy has lost patience with its European Union partners' refusal to help shoulder the financial burden of patrolling its lengthy coastline (estimated at between €6 and 9 million a month) and has said it will end Mare Nostrum patrols from November 1st.

EU governments 'a disgrace'
A new operation, dubbed "Triton" and run by the European borders agency Frontex will take its place, but both aid groups and rescue specialists suggest it will provide nothing like the cover that the Italian navy does. "Triton will never replace Mare Nostrum because Frontex is not a rescue body," said Mauro Casinghini, the national director of the Italian branch of the charitable Order of Malta's sea-rescue operation. "Instead of crisis management we need long-term planning for dealing with migratory flows," Casinghini said. Organizations such as Amnesty International have slammed the EU for failing to accept it must increase the number of refugees it welcomes when the world around it is in flames.

European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who has tried in vain to persuade EU governments to adopt a coordinated approach to the issue, on Thursday blasted the attitude of some countries in the 28-member bloc. "When it comes to accepting refugees, solidarity between EU member states is still largely non-existent," she said. "In some countries, the number of yearly refugees barely exceeds a few handfuls. This is nothing short of a disgrace." Italian lawmaker Mario Marazziti says a potential way of easing the numbers of boat people heading to Europe would be to allow refugees to make asylum applications in transit countries, rather than having to get to Europe first. "If the requests could be registered with European consultants based in countries like Libya, then at least we could organize safe sea crossings in ferries, which would cost a lot less," the human rights activist said.
© The Local - Italy

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Italy: Extreme right threatens hoteliers over migrants

The extreme-right Forza Nuova party on Thursday threatened to release a blacklist of hoteliers hosting migrants, which the group described as a threat to “health and security”.

2/10/2014- Forza Nuova (New Force) said the list would name managers of hotels that are hosting migrants in the Emilia-Romagna region, La Repubblica reported. With immigration centres over capacity across Italy, local authorities pay hoteliers €30 a day to host migrants. But the move puts “the health and the security of the popula-tion” at risk, Forza Nuova’s Emilia-Romagna branch claimed. “The use that these hotels unscrupulously make of immigration is deplorable and humiliating. “Stop immi-gration and fight for the total repatriation of all the immigrants in the country, it’s no longer a right but a must,” the party said. The extreme-right group has long been vocal about its anti-immigration views, recently carrying out controversial stunts in Italy.

Last year, the party hung nooses around a town ahead of a visit by Cecile Kyenge, then integration minister, followed weeks later by bloodied mannequins targeting the minister. More recently, members of Forza Nuova marched on a swimming pool in north-east Italy, to protest against a women and children swim slot aimed at integrating Muslims. While the party is strongly anti-foreigner in many respects, it has kindled relationships with fellow extreme right groups across Europe. Its international partners include Nordic Youth (Nordisk Ungdom), a Swedish extreme-right youth movement, and Flemish nationalist group Outpost (Voorpost).
© The Local - Italy

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Kazakhstan gay kiss poster hit with lawsuits

Human Rights Watch says 'homophobia masked as cultural concern' must not be allowed to triumph after lawsuits have been brought over a poster showing a same-sex kiss.

2/10/2014- A series of lawsuits have been brought over a poster showing a same-sex kiss in Kazakhstan. The poster, created by an advertising agency, shows two significant historical figures kissing – the Kazakh composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbaiuly and the Russian poet, Aleksandr Pushkin. Today, a judge in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, will begin initial proceedings in a case brought against the agency by 34 people who work at a national conservatoire and in an orchestra named after the famous 19th century Kazahk composer. The plaintiffs are seeking approximately US$186,000, (£115,000) in damages from the Havas Worldwide Kazakhstan advertising agency. The picture - and advert for a gay club - sparked controversy on social media after the agency posted it to Facebook on 24 August.

The human rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, has now said that “respect for freedom of expression should lead to dismissal” of the lawsuits in a statement. “The poster is no doubt provocative, but provocation is a legitimate part of freedom of expression and arguably an inherent part of creative design,” said Mihra Rittman, the Europe and Central Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Kazakhastan’s judiciary should ensure that freedom of expression trumps subjective discomfort about a particular image, and that homophobia masked as cultural concern is not allowed to triumph,” Rittman said.

The poster was designed for the Central Asian Advertisement Festival where it won an award in August. The picture references the intersection of the Kurmangazy and Pushkin streets in Almaty, which is also where the gay club, Studio 69, can be found. One of the artists involved, Valery Volodin, wrote on Facebook: “One can be proud of this work. First of all because it works: people understand and remember the address. Secondly, it is a brave work, and in the case of the gay movement, traditionally living on the edge, it is more than accurate and justified," EurasiaNet reported. The plaintiffs say that the poster is “unethical” and offensive not only to the “honour and dignity of the composer’s and poet’s descendants, but to all people not indifferent to their art.”

In early September local media reported that Nurken Khalykbergen, who claims to be a descendant of the composer, has also filed a lawsuit for “moral damages” of about US$55,000. After the social media stir was caused by the poster the country’s Bolashak (Future) national movement organised a roundtable against homosexuality. The movement’s leader called for Kazakhstan lawmakers to criminalise LGBT “propaganda.” A statement which Human Rights Watch has also criticised saying: “Kazakh officials should firmly reject any attempts to introduce such legislation.”
© The Independent

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'Non-existent' EU cooperation on refugees

Sweden's EU commissioner Cecilia Malmström has criticized European Union countries for a lack of solidarity when it comes to taking in refugees.

2/10/2014- Malmström was speaking ahead of the first anniversary of the Lampedusa disaster. In September 2013, 366 people died when a boat sank off the coast of the Italian island. She argued that EU countries should take more action to share the burden of taking in refugees from outside the European Union, suggesting that nations should work more closely together "to develop a responsibility distribution mechanism between all EU countries". The commissioner said that solidarity within the EU when it came to taking in refugees was "on the whole non-existent" at present. Some countries receive only "a handful" refugees even though "the world around us is on fire," she argued. Sweden has one of the world's most open and tolerant approaches to immigration and is  expected to welcome a total of 100, 000 refugees in 2014. It currently takes in more asylum seekers than any other European country.
© The Local - Sweden

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Karadzic Proclaims Innocence in Trial’s Closing Arguments

Former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic began his closing arguments at his war crimes trial in The Hague by insisting he was not guilty of masterminding atrocities including genocide.

1/10/2014- Karadzic told the Hague Tribunal on Wednesday that there was no evidence to support the prosecution’s claims that he masterminded genocide, ethnic cleansing and military terror, and that the court had put the entire Serb people on trial. “The prosecution characterised me as a thief and a criminal. I will not use that kind of language, and I am certain that it was difficult for the prosecutor Alan Tieger to do that, since he has no single piece of evidence,” Karadzic told the UN-backed court. The 69-year-old is charged with masterminding genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 and in seven Bosnian municipalities in 1992, the persecution of non-Serbs, terrorising the besieged population of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage. Prosecutors have demanded a life sentence for the former Bosnian Serb leader.

But Karadzic said the prosecution had based its case on allusions, chit-chat and statements from its own employees. He argued that the allegation that he was part of a Serb-led ‘joint criminal enterprise’ to commit war crimes was a fabrication. “The joint criminal enterprise is an invention of this prosecution. If it wasn’t for that, there would be no indictment. Apart from the joint criminal enterprise, why should I be guilty, because I only did good for the Serbs and the other two peoples [Bosniaks and Croats],” said Karadzic. Karadzic said that Bosnia’s Serbs sought only to protect what they already had and they didn’t intend to impose their will on anyone else. “My defence is not to accuse anyone, but to establish what happened. Civil war happened,” he said.

Media have reported that the wartime Bosnian Serb president is also expected to argue during his summing-up that he should be found not guilty of genocide in Srebrenica because he did not personally order the killings of some 7,000 Bosniak men and boys, and did not know that civilians were being massacred. The prosecution claimed however in its own closing arguments earlier this week that Karadzic was liar and a criminal with genocidal intent who was the driving force behind the ethnic cleansing of the non-Serb population in Bosnia during wartime. It also accused him of being responsible for terrorising the population of Sarajevo during the 1992-95 siege of the city. His trial began in 2009 after he was arrested in Serbia and handed over to the Hague court following more than a decade on the run. After the closing arguments, the verdict is expected to be delivered in the summer of 2015.
© Balkan Insight

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Fascist Party Wins in Swedish Election Likely to Increase Religious Freedom Constraints

30/9/2014- After eight years of center-right rule that championed the free-market approach – and which saw Sweden’s economy recover faster than any other in Europe – the Swedish voters recently turned their backs on the governing coalition in favor of left-leaning parties. The darling of the September 14 elections, however, turned out to be the Sweden Democrats who captured 13% of the vote – good for third place – doubling their seats in the Parliament. More importantly, the Sweden Democrats are now in a position of power as both the center-left (43.7%) and center-right (39.3%) blocs lack a clear majority.

The Sweden Democrat party has a far-right nationalist platform that has its roots in a white supremacist organization (‘Keep Sweden Swedish’) and a xenophobic populist movement. In 1988, when the party was founded, its members wore Nazi uniforms to meetings. In a quest for mainstream recognition, the party toned down its radical elements – purportedly rejecting Nazism outright in the late 1990s. It has since aligned its interests with nationalist parties of Europe considered more moderate, such as the National Front party, which currently stands at the precipice of power in France.

Still, the Sweden Democrats have retained some of their radical origins, and local journalists and historians describe the party’s ideology as fascist. The party’s most distinguishable policy proposals are comprehensive restrictions on multicultural activities as well as a 90% cut in immigration numbers – a central feature of its campaign. Although its members are careful to portray a polished, conformist image, there is an occasional glimpse into the party’s dogma. Such was the 2012 video of three Sweden Democrat MPs threatening – with a metal bar – Swedish-Kurdish comedian Soran Ismail, exclaiming that Sweden was “my country, not your country.” This election cycle saw immigration at the forefront of the country’s political agenda.

According to the UN, Sweden received the most per-capita asylum applications in the world from 2009 to 2013. The current influx of immigrants into Sweden is at its highest level in two decades with refugees primarily from Syria, Somalia, and Iraq. In 2014, approximately 80,000 people will apply for asylum – up about 33% from the previous year. The number of foreign-born Swedes has now reached 15% of the total population, compared with 11% in 2000. Polls have shown that a quarter of Swedes would like to see more immigrants while a full 50% would prefer that the number be reduced. Rather than remaining a fringe issue, the governing party inadvertently made immigration a central focus.

In an attempt to fend off a challenge from the left promising increased welfare spending, the reigning Prime Minister, Frederick Reinfeldt, warned that such spending could not be “financed responsibly.” That was so, he continued, due to the “vast cost” of integrating tens of thousands of refugees. The Sweden Democrats immediately capitalized on the Head of State’s nexus between spending and immigration, buttressing their platform around the 90%-cut policy. Conventional election concerns, such as schools and housing, became intertwined with the rising anxiety about immigration numbers – an issue fraught with prejudicial inclinations. Although skinheaded neo-Nazis have been a constant political presence in Europe, their parliamentary representation has been nominal. The Telegraph’s Jake Wallis Simons sees “the boots of the 1930s marching through Europe” – not in the form of Nazi uniforms but through a subtler, more sanitized version of the same message.

Scandinavian far-right parties still maintain a preoccupation with Nordic ethnicity and culture, welcoming only those newcomers that strip all semblances of their identity to embrace the “Swedish way.” But their representatives look, sound, and act mainstream. Less threatening logos have been adopted. Public exposure of anything perceived as “racist” is handled internally with swiftness. The Norwegian far-right official that spoke of “the flow of beggars from outside Norway,” was summarily banned from government. The Sweden Democrat politician who suggested that “ethnic Swedes should be armed” to counter the “immigrant threat” was ousted from the party. Any appearance of bigotry has been carefully whitewashed.

Prior to 2010, the Sweden Democrats failed to crack the 4% threshold to gain Parliament seating. The 2010 election saw the party gain 5.7% of the Swedish vote for 20 of the 349 Parliament seats. In addition to the 49 seats Sweden Democrats will occupy in the upcoming Swedish Parliament, the party also netted 9.7% of Sweden’s seats in the European Parliament. The evolution and progression of the far-right is part of a wider trend in the region. Far-right parties in neighboring Norway and Denmark are part of the respective coalition governments where they are able to directly assert their influence to set policy. Some of their far-right counterparts in the rest of Europe, such as the National Front party’s Marine Le Pen in France, are poised to assume majority control in upcoming elections.

For minorities in Europe, the trend of far-right influence is disconcerting. As demonstrated by the rise of overt European anti-Semitism during the summer’s Israel-Hamas conflict, Jews – in particular – are in the line of fire. Generally viewed as one of the most tolerant nations in the world, Jewish life in Sweden is already effectively restricted. Safety issues persist with direct and indirect threats against the Jewish community as well as verbal and physical attacks on Jewish individuals. Permanent security personnel are needed at the Jewish school, camp, and synagogue. Shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) has been effectively banned since 1937. With the law requiring stunning prior to slaughtering, any kosher meat must be imported. In recent years, ethical considerations around Brit Mila (circumcision) have gained steam, this year culminating in Swedish medical groups calling for its ban. With the emergence of the far-right as a serious participant on the political scene, advocates are unlikely to reverse the prevailing conditions constraining religious freedom.
© The Algemeiner

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France: The Far Right Wins Again as France Elects Its Youngest Senator Ever

1/10/2014- After unprecedented success at both the municipal and European elections in spring, France's far-right party, the Front National (FN), broke another record on Sunday. The FN won representation in the senate for the first time in its history, and two seats in France's upper house are another step in the party's establishment in the country's political landscape. Two days after his election, with a smile high on well-rounded cheeks and a sparkle in his eyes, David Rachline walks towards the pack of journalists waiting for him in front of the senate. The battle for the presidency of this house is still raging inside but this new senator is answering questions with the confidence of an experienced politician. Rachline also has a catchy line on his resume. Also the mayor of Fréjus in southeast France, Rachline is only 26, the country's youngest senator ever, when his colleagues are usually in their mid 60s.

Passing the massive doors of the Palais du Luxembourg (a.k.a. the senate) for the first time, the two new senators represent a party that actually wants to abolish the upper house. Yet Rachline told reporters today: "There has always been an interest from the Front National in the senate. This doesn't mean that we can't start a debate on institutional reform. Marine Le Pen [the FN leader] is asking for such reform. We are not in government yet. But it will come soon, very soon. And when this time comes we will put an institutional reform to the agenda. What shape will this reform take? This will be in the hands of the President of the Republic." Are these two seats a real sign that the FN is on its way to the French presidency? Alain Mergier, a sociologist who has studied the party, told VICE News: "There are only two [senators], it won't fundamentally change things. As they won't be able to form a group in the senate, their influence will be really limited. But it's a symbol and an interesting clue. It's symbolic of institutional legitimacy being built step by step. This evolution has to pass through the institutions, this is another institutional element indicating that the FN has become a party like the others, using the same tools of legitimacy."

Stéphane Ravier, the other new FN senator, is mayor of the 7th district of his hometown of Marseille. He also told reporters today: "We will come to the senate to work. We will do it seriously." Rachline added that the new representatives want to add to "new debates" and stand for a "political alternative." Mergier said of the FN's growth: "We've witnessed this rise for a while now. The news event is that this strategy is working. Who can now say that this party is marginal and non-institutional?" However, Mergier added that the timing is not particularly strange: "Both traditional parties, the UMP and the PS are in a terrible shape, in very deep ideological, political and organizational crisis. The two parties that polarize French politics are in a state of advanced decay. Their ideas are blurred: The right-wing doesn't come up with new ideas and it has become impossible to identify the left-wing's ideas."

In recent years, FN strategy has been to attempt to renew both its ideology and its public figures. This process, launched by Marine Le Pen, runs counter to her father's time at the head of the FN, who founded the party in 1972 and led it until 2011. This new tactic has been characterized by the media as "dédiabolisant" or "de-demonizing" the FN. Le Pen has pushed the party's young figures into the spotlight. Jokingly referred to as "the Republic's pension," the senate also lowered the minimum age of eligibility in 2011 from 35 to 24. But while 26-year-old Rachline is France's youngest ever senator, he is not new to the FN and has been a member of the party since he was 15. Fréjus, the town that elected him mayor in March 2014, is currently the biggest city ruled by the FN. This gave him a new public stature, but a profile in the newspaper Liberation tells many chapters of his career as a young active member of the far-right movement. He was a big fan of Jean-Marie Le Pen (and now Le Pen the daughter), and was once close to Alain Soral, the polemical far-right essayist.

Pascal Perrineau, political science professor at Sciences Po in Paris, told VICE News about the effects of these new tactics: "Thanks to this strategy shift, Le Pen has changed her party and focused on local officials, something her father did not do. She realized that in France no political force could neglect a strong local presence. Until now, the FN was mainly a protest party, but now it shows its capability to be rooted locally, in little-known territories and small villages. The FN is starting to look like a respectable, local and 'de-demonized' party."
© The Vice

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France: National Front nabs third 'historic' poll victory

After the local elections and the Europeans, Sunday's Senate ballot made it three historic poll successes out of three for France's far-right National Front in 2014. Is the presidential palace the next stop?

29/9/2014- While the National Front just won two seats of the 178 up for re-election on Sunday, it was the first time the 42-year-old anti-immigration, eurosceptic party has entered France’s upper house. Whatever political muscle those two senators will be able to flex is less significant than the symbolic value of the victory and what it says about the future. It is, after all, the third French election in a row that saw the National Front achieve an historic result. In the words of Stephane Ravier, one of the successful National Front candidates, this is the last stop before the presidency: "Now there is only one more door to push open, that of the Elysée (presidential palace).” Speaking after the Senate elections party leader Marine Le Pen was confident enough to spell out her ambitions once again. "My objective is to get get into power, to be elected president of the Republic," she said.

A recent opinion suggested that if Le Pen faced François Hollande in a run-off vote for the 2017 presidential election, she would come out on top. However an political analyst with France’s respected Sciences Po institute cautioned that a lot can happen in the two and a half years until the presidential elections. “2017 is a long way off,” Researcher Bruno Cautrés told The Local on Monday. “It would seem that 2017 will allow the National Front to earn a good score in the first round or even make it to the run-off election. But that’s how it looks now.”

Extend reach
Notably the National Front collected far more votes in the Senate elections than it appeared to have at its disposal. Sunday’s vote saw more than 87,500 regional and local elected officials nationwide choose their preferred candidate, with only some 1,000 of them National Front-affiliated. However, the far-right party says it captured 3,972 votes. One explanation for that is elected officials who have no firm connection to any one party tilted toward the far-right candidates. But another view says traditional right wingers abandoned their candidates for the National Front. The latter is what appears to have happened in certain parts of southern France, including the area around Marseille. “In these departments the electoral body is well defined. There are few floating voters,” University of Picardie political expert Joël Gombin told French daily Le Monde. “To get so many votes, it’s remarkable. One could not rule out that right party elected officials voted for National Front candidates.”

‘Angry, not racist’
In May during the European Parliament elections the National Front was the most popular party snagging 25 percent of the vote and capturing a third of France’s 74 seats in Strasbourg. It was hailed as a big win for Marie Le Pen’s party. But, as the EU Parliament doesn’t directly govern France, it was also seen by many as a means for voters in a low turnout election to express outrage over a moribund economy and scandal plagued political parties. “It was a totally expected result. French people are fed up with the economy, with struggling to survive and with the politicians,” Rialti Mouair, 29, a waiter, told The Local the day after the vote. “It's been how many years and these politicians can’t get their people out of this crisis. We are fed up, not racist.”

Black Sunday
The National Front success in the local elections in March were also historic, seeing the party capture 11 mayorships and some 1,200 seats on town councils across the country. This victory was viewed as the culmination of Le Pen’s strategy to shed the party’s extremist, racist and anti-Semitic associations. To many the local elections were proof that she’d, at least in part, succeeded. "We have moved onto a new level," Le Pen said at the time. "There is now a third major political force in our country." Political expert Cautrés believes this isn’t just bluster from Le Pen. “For some voters, they have tried the left, they tried the right and it didn’t work. And some voters believe it’s time to give Marine Le Pen her chance,” he said. He added: “A vote for the National Front has always been a symptom of malaise in French society, but it's progressively becoming a vote in favour of the proposals of the National Front.”
© The Local - France

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Left loses majority as France’s far-Right win seats

The far-Right National Front won its first ever seats in France’s upper house of parliament yesterday, as president François Hollande’s Socialist party lost its Senate majority.

29/9/2014- The Left still controls the lower house, which is the dominant legislative body in France, but yesterday’s ballot underlined the unpopularity of the president and the continued rise of the anti-immigration, anti-euro National Front. The party, led by Marine Le Pen, took two seats in the august Senate, following on from its surprise victory in European parliamentary elections in May and its strong showing in municipal elections in March. “These results are beyond what we hoped for,” said Ms Le Pen. “Each day that passes, our ideas are increasingly being adopted by the French people … We have great potential.” Half of the Senate’s 348 seats were up for grabs yesterday, with only some 158,000 people, the vast majority local councillors, entitled to vote. Early results showed that the main opposition party, the UMP, and the centre-right UDI party took at least 20 seats from the Left, which had a Senate majority of just six heading into the election. “There is a complete rejection of Socialist policies,” UMP senator Roger Karoutchi said.

Mr Hollande’s popularity fell to a record low this month, with only 13 per cent of those surveyed saying they were satisfied with the performance of a president who has struggled to revive the stagnant economy. The National Front has successfully capitalised on growing discontent over unemployment and resentment over immigration, and hopes to score an upset in the 2017 presidential election. “There is only one door left for us to push and it is that of the Elysee,” said newly-elected National Front senator Stephane Ravier, referring to the French presidency. The Senate press office last night said a final count will await tallies from all of France’s overseas holdings – not likely until this morning. A conservative win was expected: Senators are chosen by nearly 78,000 electors nationwide, including local officials who took office in a conservative victory in municipal elections six months ago. Socialists still control the National Assembly, which has final say in drafting laws. But control of the Senate gives conservatives a chance to delay legislative bills supported by Mr Hollande.
© The Scotsman

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Survivors Can’t Get Justice In Hungary: Lawyers

1/10/2014- In April, Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party — described by the president of the European Jewish Congress as an “unabashedly neo-Nazi party” — won more than 20 percent of the vote in Hungary’s parliamentary election. A poll by the Anti-Defamation League in 2012 found that 63 percent of Hungarians agreed with three out of four anti-Semitic statements. That same year, Jobbik’s deputy parliamentary leader called for the registration of all Jews in Hungary as well as an evaluation of all Jews in the government to determine the “potential danger they pose to Hungary.” And in August, as a protest to the Gaza conflict, the far right-wing mayor of the Hungarian city of Erpatak called Israel a “Jewish terror state” and ordered the hanging in effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres. Now, the anti-Semitism rampant across Hungary is emerging as the central argument in a federal appeals court in Chicago that is hearing what is believed to be the only Holocaust restitution case pending in the U.S.

On Tuesday, that court heard lawyers for Hungarian survivors say that increasing anti-Semitism in Hungary makes it impossible for their clients to win their Holocaust restitution case there. “A virulent strain of anti-Semitism has been spreading at an alarming rate within Hungary … and these dangerous sentiments have found increased acceptance among mainstream Hungarian politicians and parliamentarians,” lawyers for nearly 100 Hungarian survivors said in court papers filed ahead of their arguments to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. U.S. federal courts have jurisdiction in this case because it is against agencies of a foreign government, in addition to which there are alleged violations of international law. The citizenship of those bringing such cases is irrelevant as long as one of the plaintiffs is an American.

The lawyers were appealing a ruling of a lower court — the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois — that dismissed their suits against the Hungarian National Railroad and the Hungarian National Bank on the grounds that they had failed to exhaust their legal remedies in Hungary. In their court papers, the lawyers said the “threats against the Jewish population continue to grow, creating a situation in which it would be completely unreasonable to require the plaintiffs in this case to pursue their remedies against the Hungarian state in Hungary.” The suits were filed in 2010 on behalf of Hungarian survivors who allege that both the bank and railroad “were indispensable participants in, and aiders and abettors of, the execution of the Hungarian genocide of the Jews.” It said Hungarian authorities made the Jews pay for their train ride to the death camps. “These funds were seized either from illegally confiscated private Jewish bank accounts or from the conversion of Jewish personal and real property … as well as from individual Jews as they boarded the trains,” the suit said.

One of the plaintiffs, Edith Eva Eger of San Diego, Calif., told The Jewish Week that she was 16 in 1944 when she was ordered onto a train to Auschwitz with her parents, grandparents and a sister. “They herded us onto the train and I think my mother had things sewn into her clothes and stuffed into a bag, like expensive jewelry,” she recalled. “They were taken by railroad employees. We had to leave it behind before we were put on the cattle car. My parents and grandparents died in the gas chamber the first day they were in Auschwitz. My sister and I survived.” The plaintiffs’ lawyers contend that the “continued retention of these assets without restitution by the present day bank is itself a perpetuation of the act of genocide as the Hungarian Jewish community is being denied the means to fully reconstitute itself to this day.”

Lawyers for the bank and railroad insisted that the plaintiffs did not have to bring a suit in the U.S. because they are free to file suit in Hungarian courts. They argued in their court papers that to “determine whether the decades-long chain of successorship alleged by plaintiffs has any validity whatsoever, a court will need to examine complex issues of Hungarian law” and the impact of “Communist expropriation and reprivatization. … “The Hungarian courts are patently more capable of deciding these issues than U.S. courts, and … . The risk of adversely affecting U.S./Hungary foreign relations by determining these issues is clear,” they argued.

But the survivors’ lawyers argued that pursuing their claims in Hungary would be fruitless. They cited: 
# Growing anti-Semitism.
The fact that Hungary denaturalized and disenfranchised Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust, stripping them of any rights accorded Hungarian citizens.
Compensatory laws defendants said would redress survivors’ injuries expired more than 15 years ago, were available only briefly and were inadequate.
The statute of limitations on these claims expired.

In addition, the lawyers pointed out, the new Hungarian Constitution exempts Hungary from responsibility for actions committed during the Holocaust. “Plaintiffs here could even face prosecution in Hungary for daring to ‘denigrate the state’ by accusing the government of being complicit in the Holocaust when the Hungarian Constitution disclaims such responsibility,” they said. But in its ruling dismissing the suit, the lower court wrote: “Plaintiffs offer mere speculation and unsupported fears that they may not be treated fairly in the Hungarian court system, contending that the ‘Hungarian judicial system is not fair or independent.’”

James Lowy, a Tampa, Fla., lawyer who represents other Hungarian Holocaust survivors who are considering filing a similar suit against the Hungarian railroad and bank, told The Jewish Week that his clients “are afraid that if they openly join the claims in Chicago — without some form of protection — then the Hungarian government will retaliate against them individually, their organization and the broader organized Hungarian Jewish community. … All of them are afraid of the rise in anti-Semitism in Hungary.” He said they complained to him that the “the idea of having to first make the claims in Hungary before being able to come back to make the claims in the United States is crazy. … Holocaust survivors will never be able to make and prosecute claims in Hungary and they will never get a chance of a fair hearing before a judge who is not prejudiced against Jews.”

But attorneys for the bank said the lower court had considered the plaintiffs’ claims that they feared for their safety in Hungary and “explicitly considered and then disregarded this argument” as having “ insufficient evidence as to their safety concerns.” Lowy said he believes that once the Court of Appeals rules, survivors from such countries as Romania and Ukraine may file similar restitution claims. But what may be unique about the Hungarian suits is the claim that virulent anti-Semitism in Hungary makes pursuit of claims there impossible. The plaintiffs contend that although anti-Semitism “continues to be a scourge throughout Europe and the world, what seems different in Hungary is the growing acceptance, tolerance and, in fact, integration of these sentiments into the mainstream.”

They cited a February 2012 survey by the Anti-Defamation League that found that 73 percent of Hungarians believe Jews have too much power in the business world, 75 percent believe Jews have too much power in international financial markets, and 55 percent believe Jew are more loyal to Israel than to Hungary. And the suit quoted Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, as saying that Hungary is experiencing the most worrying anti-Semitic trends in Europe in which “barely a week passes without an attack on minorities or outrageous comments from far-right politicians.” Ken McCallion, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, told The Jewish Week that the president of Hungary fired the chief judge for objecting to judicial reforms that caused Jewish judges to resign. He said those and other political changes in Hungary have prompted the European Union to consider expelling Hungary as a member. He added that he is unable to “find a lawyer in Hungary to work with because they are all afraid of their lives.” He noted that there have been numerous attempts by survivors over the years to sue the national bank and railroad for restitution but they have “gotten nowhere.” “In the last 50 years, no family has received more than $200 in reparations,” he said.
© The Jewish Week

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Hungarian PM bans extremist-sponsored conference

29/9/2014- Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary ordered the banning of a right-wing extremist conference in Budapest. Orban on Sunday “instructed Minister of Interior Sandor Pinter to use every legal means at his disposal to prevent an extremist and racist conference from taking place” between Oct. 3 and 5, according to a statement posted Monday on the government website. The National Policy Institute, a white supremacist, nationalist organization based in the United States, organized the conference titled “The Future of Europe — Perspectives on Geopolitics, Identity and Nationalism.” “They will fail. We will persevere. The conference will take place,” the institute tweeted Sunday night.

Planned speakers at the conference include Marton Gyongyosi of Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party and Russian political scientist and ideologist Alexander Dugin, whom Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has described as “known for his radical, racist, Russian nationalist and anti-Ukrainian views.” It is “unacceptable that an extremist American racist organization should hold a conference with Russian radicals here in Hungary,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement issued last week. “The extremists want to use the planned conference to damage Hungary’s international reputation, which the Ministry regards as unacceptable.”
© JTA News

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Bulgarian elections 2014: NGO lodges complaint over far-right party’s poster

1/10/2014- An election campaign poster by the far-right Bulgarian National Union-New Democracy party in the country’s early parliamentary elections on October 5 has led to a complaint by an NGO for its depiction of black people in an anti-foreigner message. The poster has a photograph of three people, a man, woman and child, wearing Bulgarian traditional dress. The text says, in translation, “No thanks! I choose (ballot) number three – Bulgarian National Union-ND”. The party, led by Boyan Rasate – who in 2013 was in the headlines for his involvement in anti-immigrant “civil patrols” in Sofia – has been campaigning on an ultra-nationalist platform. No opinion poll sees it winning seats in Bulgaria’s 43rd National Assembly. In a letter to the Central Election Commission, Antoaneta Tsoneva of the Institute for Public Environment Development said that the institute believed the poster was contrary to article 183, paragraph 4, of the Election Act. This forbids the use of promotional materials that threaten the lives and health of citizens, private, municipal and state property and traffic safety, as well as materials which violate the decency, honour and reputation of the candidates. She said that she had contacted Rasate by phone to ask whether it was his political group that was distributing the poster. She said that she had been told that the poster was being distributed from October 1 until October 3. “We urge the CEC to take the action provided for by law to stop the distribution of this election poster,” Tsoneva said.
© The Sofia Globe

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Bulgaria's GERB Far Ahead of BSP in Sova Harris Poll

30/9/2014- Six parties are expected to enter the Bulgarian National Assembly after early elections on Sunday, polling agency Sova Harris predicts. A survey ordered by the daily Presa shows that conservative Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) will be the clear winner at the vote, with 98 MP seats, 32 seats ahead of the Bulgarian Socialist Party BSP, coming second with 66 seats. Liberals from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) are expected to get half as many lawmakers (33) and Bulgaria without Censorship will likely have two time less than this (15-16). The Reformist Bloc, which until recently was considered to have a result close to the threshold of 4-percent support, looks now as certain to enter the Parliament, with the votes of about 200 000 people helping it to jump over the barrier, the pollster says. Another group to the right of the political spectrum, the Patriotic Front (a VMRO-NFSB coalition) will also make it into the National Assembly with 13 lawmakers, according to Sova Harris. Far-right Ataka, which was part of the former Parliament, has seen support plummet, with many of its voters drained by the Patriotic Front. The poll's results suggest Ataka will most likely stand below the election threshold. The figures show that a center-right majority is the most evident option to forge a coalition after the snap vote, Sova Harris believes. The agency stresses voter turnout has seen a five-percent increase in the last month, with 58% (3.4-3.6 million) of those eligible to vote saying they will cast a ballot.
© Novinite

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Russia ends US student exchange in part over 'friendly relations' of gay men

Longstanding study abroad program ends as Kremlin official claims student was persuaded to ask for US asylum by Michigan couple.

2/10/2014- Russian authorities have cancelled a long-running foreign exchange program with the United States, alleging that a gay couple persuaded a young man to stay with them and apply for asylum after he was meant to return home. In announcing the end of Russia’s participation in the US government-run Future Leaders Exchange (Flex) program, children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov claimed that two gay men became the legal guardians of a Russian student, after the student left his original host family and stayed in America when the school year ended in May. “One of the reasons [for the decision] was the gross violation by the host country, the United States, of the obligation to unconditionally return students from Russia who travel there to study,” Astakhov wrote on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

US ambassador to Russia John Tefft said in a statement the Russian government had canceled its participation in Flex, the largest educational exchange program between the two countries, for 2015-16. Since it was founded in 1992, the state department-financed program has brought 23,000 students aged 15 to 17 from former Soviet countries to study in American schools and live with local families for one academic year, including about 8,000 students from Russia. Astakhov said in an interview with the official government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta that the student, who was born in 1997, moved in with two men in Michigan, “and they gradually developed – how can I say this carefully – close friendly relations.” “The men wanted to register their guardianship over him and have him live with them, and he agreed,” he said.

Russian state news agency Itar-Tass reported that the student met the gay couple, elderly veterans who had previously adopted two American boys, in church, quoting legal representatives of the Russian embassy in the United States. The couple offered to become his immigration sponsors and pay for him to study at Harvard University, it reported. “Under their influence and with the permission of his American host family, the young Russian turned himself in to US immigration authorities and asked for asylum, saying that he was gay,” Itar-Tass reported. Human rights organisations have accused the Russian government of promoting discrimination following a 2013 law against gay propaganda, and this year the country passed legislation banning the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples or single people in countries where same-sex marriage is legal. Previously, Russia also banned all adoptions by US citizens.

Foreign ministry human rights commissioner Konstantin Dolgov said in a statement on Wednesday that the Flex program had “created conditions for getting around Russian law, such as the ban on adoptions by American citizens, including those of non-traditional orientation … Such an incident unfortunately took place.” Itar-Tass reported that the student met with his Russian mother in the presence of local lawyers to tell her he was seeking asylum. “As far as the embassy knows, these lawyers themselves observe a non-traditional sexual orientation,” the agency wrote. During the meeting, his mother “at times cried and took medicine, at other times was happy for some reason”, it quoted embassy representatives as saying.

David Patton, executive vice-president of American Councils for International Education, which administers the Flex program, said the Michigan student had been placed in a “traditional home stay”. If students refuse to leave after the program, it becomes an “immigration-naturalisation issue”, he said. “Over years of the Flex program and 8,000 participants, the non-returnee rate is less than 1%, but human beings are human beings and can’t always be controlled, and there are occasions when people decide to stay,” Patton said. “At that point we are unable, we have no authority to put them on a plane.” According to Astakhov, at least 15 Russians have stayed in the United States over the years after traveling there on various exchange programs.

Anton Meshkov, a 2012-2013 Flex participant, said the fact that 15 young people stayed was not a “serious reason to take away the chance to travel from hundreds of kids”. “It’s absurd to suppose that the program could facilitate the seduction of young Russians,” Meshkov said. “As a participant in this program myself, I know what a serious selection process host families go through.”
© The Guardian

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Russian Media Ignores Olympic Non-Discrimination Standards Added After Sochi

29/9/2014- Last week, the International Olympic Committee adopted new standards for host cities, explicitly banning discrimination following the sustained public outcry over anti-gay laws passed in Russia before last winter's games. But if you were following the news in Russia, you wouldn't know, because no one is covering it. The changes come in the form of a broad non-discrimination contract based on Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter and are effective with the 2022 winter games. According to the Associated Press, the agreement requires that cities "conduct all activities in a manner which promotes and enhances the fundamental principles and values of Olympism, in particular the prohibition of any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise, as well as the development of the Olympic Movement."

Although sexual orientation is not referenced specifically, the move comes right after the IOC came under fire from international gay rights groups for allowing the 2014 Winter Olympics to take place in Russia despite the country's ban on what it called "gay propaganda." That's why, if you do a search for "International Olympic Committee" right now, you'll find dozens of articles referencing the Sochi controversy. And if you repeat the search in Russian? Not so much. That's not to say that Russian media isn't covering the International Olympic Committee: Many recent stories note the possible inclusion of synchronized figure skating in the games, Russian Alexander Zhukov's job leading the 2022 Games host city selection committee, and the U.N. Human Rights Council's adoption of a Russian-introduced resolution on "promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal."

But the non-discrimination change? Not at all. Intelligencer turned up just one four-paragraph wire story referencing "discrimination" in Russian, with no mention of Sochi or the controversy. (Another mention was buried in a digest culled from English-language news sites.) Instead, the country's closely monitored news sources used the newly adopted U.N. resolution to spout off about how boycotts are counterproductive and go against the Olympic ideal. Because in Russia, what you don't talk about didn't happen.
© New York Magazine

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Move to Ban Gay Unions Alarms Macedonia NGOs

Rights groups have condemned a government-proposed change to the constitution, which not only define marriage in strictly heterosexual terms - but applies to non-marital unions as well.

29/9/2014- Macedonia's latest addition to the constitutional amendment on marriage, enacted in summer, is worse than the original proposal as even non-marital unions are now limited to unions of one man and one woman, NGO representatives told parliament on Monday. "If someone wants to protect marriage as an institution, why introduce a constitutional definition of non-marital unions?" Uranija Pirovska, head of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, asked. "The answer is simple, they want to penetrate every aspect of our lives and protect the heterosexual nature of relations between people," she added. She fears that the planned constitutional change could render all homosexual relationships completely illegal. The motion to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman was one of the first orders of business of the government of Nikola Gruevski after it was re-elected in April.

In July, after parliament gave the motion a green light, the government filed a draft constitutional amendment to parliament. The change was part of a package of several other amendments of the constitution. But, in August, when parliament was on vacation, the government altered the draft, which now defines non-marital unions as well. NGOs have voiced surprise and even some MPs from the ruling coalition are now reconsidering their support. "Over the summer period this amendment was significantly changed and a definition added for non-marital union and partnerships, which spoke of what kind of partnerships were allowed. This made the amendment problematic and unacceptable for me," MP Liljana Popovska, head of the small DOM party, which is part of the ruling coalition, said. "The amendment now touches the private sphere of citizens," Popovska told parliament on Monday, adding that she wanted to see the latest addition scrapped.

Popovska's change of heart brings the entire constitutional package into question as a two-thirds majority of at least 82 legislators is needed in the 123-seat parliament. During the initial phase, the ruling parties barely mustered enough votes for the opening procedure. The procedure is being opened at a time when the opposition, led by the Social Democrats, are boycotting parliament. After the April early general polls, almost the entire opposition refused to take up seats accusing Gruevski's party for conducting fraudulent elections. This is the third time in the past several years that the socially conservative VMRO DPMNE party, which has been in power since 2006, has attempted to define marriage along heterosexual lines in the constitution. The previous two attempts failed because of the government was unable to secure majority enough votes. The opposition has already opposed change, noting that an existing law, the Law on the Family, already defines marriage as heterosexual.
© Balkan Insight

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Thousands march across Spain to celebrate end of abortion reform

Pro-choice campaigners also hail resignation of ex-justice minister over failure of law.

29/9/2014- Women’s groups marched across Spain on Sunday to celebrate the government’s recent announcement that it was dropping plans to toughen the country’s abortion law. The demonstrations, which coincided with a global abortion rights campaign called March for Choice and took place in 40 Spanish cities, also hailed the resignation of the minister who championed the changes. The largest march took place in Madrid, where around 3,000 people stood in the rain and chanted slogans such as “Yes we can!” and “Gallardón has been left without a seat!” There were several well-known faces in the crowd, including Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez, who said he would be “watching” to ensure the government did not curtail women’s rights in any way. Smaller marches took place in Barcelona, Seville, Bilbao, Valladolid, Alicante, Málaga, A Coruña and Vigo, among other cities.

Organizers had initially called the marches to protest the conservative Popular Party (PP) government’s plan to revoke existing legislation, which allows abortion on demand in the first trimester. The PP wanted to take Spain back to an earlier law that prohibited pregnancy terminations except in a few specific cases, such as rape or serious and accredited fetal deformities. Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón had planned to take the new law further and eliminate even this last possibility, a notion that created widespread opposition among political and social groups. The deeply divisive reform had even affected the PP, some of whose leading officials openly expressed opposition to it. After softening up parts of the draft, a week ago Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy confirmed that the reform was being scrapped altogether, a decision that prompted the resignation of Ruiz-Gallardón just hours later. He has since been replaced by Rafael Catalá.
© El País in English

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USA: James Foley photo removed from anti-Islamic bus ads in New York

29/9/2014- A photo of American journalist James Foley shortly before his beheading by the Islamic state militant group is being removed from anti-Islam advertisements appearing on Monday on 100 New York City buses and two subway stations. In response to a complaint from the Foley family, the advertisement is being altered to include an unidentifiable severed head held by the masked militant seen wielding a knife in the video of Foley's beheading, said David Yerushalmi, lawyer for Pamela Geller, whose group is sponsoring the ads. "The use of Mr. Foley's photo in your advertisement will cause profound distress to the Foley family," family lawyer J. Patrick Rowan said in a letter to Geller. Geller writes a blog criticizing Islam. Her group, American Freedom Defense Initiative, paid for a six-ad series scheduled to run for a month on the city's mass transit system.

The ads, including one showing Foley in the video of his beheading released in August, suggest that Islam is inherently violent and extremist, and call for the end of American aid to Islamic countries. "Having lived in and reported from communities in which nearly everyone was of Muslim faith, he had great respect for the religion and those who practiced it," the Foley family lawyer wrote, referring to the journalist. "The advertisement you are preparing to run seems to convey the message that ordinary practitioners of Islam are a dangerous threat. This message is entirely inconsistent with Mr. Foley's reporting and his beliefs." Foley, 40, was kidnapped by armed men in Syria in 2012. Islamic State has seized parts of Syria and Iraq. Geller's lawyer said the image will be replaced out of "compassion for the family's pain and anguish."

New York City politicians and religious leaders last week criticized the ad campaign, saying no faith should be subject to attack ads and calling it an attempt to divide the city. Geller was behind a similar ad campaign in 2012 on the city's transport system, which was initially rejected by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state agency. A federal judge later decided that the MTA's rule against ads that demeaned race, gender, religion or several other categories was unconstitutional. The MTA has since revised its standard, and so-called viewpoint ads like Geller's now run with a large disclaimer saying the MTA does not endorse the views expressed.
© Reuters

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Migrant deaths crossing Mediterranean top 3,000 in 2014

More than 3,000 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

29/9/2014- In a report published on Monday, the IOM said the 3,072 deaths made Europe the most dangerous destination for "irregular" migrants. The organisation said that some experts placed the toll three times as high. This year's total is more than double the previous peak in 2011, and exceeds last year's estimate over four times. Since January, 4,077 migrant deaths have occurred worldwide with 75% of fatalities happening in Europe. The IOM's 216-page report suggests that the high toll "likely reflects a dramatic increase in the number of migrants trying to reach Europe". Its findings come just weeks after one of the worst recorded wrecks, when a migrant boat carrying 500 passengers sank near Malta. Identifying those who die in such disasters is difficult. The IOM says few countries keep information on missing migrants or their deaths. William Lacy Swing, the IOM's chief said it was "time to engage the world to stop this violence against desperate migrants". It is believed that more than 40,000 migrants have died since 2000. Of the toll, 22,000 were trying to reach Europe.
© BBC News

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Greece: Demolition of uninhabited homes at Roma camp goes ahead

1/10/2014- Authorities on Wednesday went ahead with the contentious demolition of 12 uninhabited residences at a Roma camp in the northern Athenian suburb of Halandri but have postponed the relocation of dozens of residents to a new site west of the capital amid reactions. Residents of the camp, which was established behind the present-day Nomismatokopio metro station over 40 years ago, on Tuesday defied evacuation orders and staged protest action the included roadblocks on Mesogeion Avenue. The Roma at this particular location are protesting a decision by authorities to have them relocated to a mountain in Megara, west of Athens, arguing that it is too isolated and vulnerable to the elements. After several meetings between municipal and regional authorities with representatives of the Roma residents, it was decided that the demolition of the 12 uninhabited residences would go ahead on Wednesday morning, but the relocation would be postponed until a more suitable site is found.

Speaking on Skai TV on Wednesday morning, the Interior Ministry’s general secretary of decentralized administration, Manolis Angelakas, said that it will take up to two months for the residents of the camp to be relocated. Halandri Mayor Simos Roussos said that an agreement was reached on Tuesday for the demolition of 12 uninhabited residences with the approval of the community's president, Stelios Kalamiotis, who supervised Wednesday's operation. The objective, Roussos said, is to "meet the decisions of the courts which have to be executed at the smallest possible cost to the people." The mayor also said that his intention when backing the Roma protesters on Tuesday and calling for more dialogue was to "avert police intervention, which would have put the Roma, their neighbors and the entire area at risk." "The Roma need to be relocated under conditions that ensure a dignified quality of life, with access to healthcare, education and all the necessary infrastructures," Roussos added.

The Roma camp in Halandri was established in the early 1970s by trespassers on privately owned land. The owners of these plots have secured several court orders for their evacuation over the past 15 years, yet all efforts to clear the camp have so far failed.
© Kathimerini

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Greece: Golden Dawn: Australian branch of far-right Greek party raises cash

Ultra-nationalist party raises funds and clothing in Australia using an unregistered charity and sends donations to Greece

29/9/2014- The Australian branch of Greece’s ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party is raising funds locally using an unregistered charity. A Melbourne-based charity named Voithame Tin Ellada (VTE) – which translates to “We are helping Greece” – has been raising cash and clothing from Australia’s Greek community since late last year. The donations are ostensibly sent to Greece to help citizens afflicted by the country’s financial downturn. A shipping container of clothing collected from Australians was sent to Greece in March. Photographs on the charity’s Facebook page show its members clad in matching T-shirts bearing the far-right party’s name and swastika-like logo. A Christmas fundraising drive – asking donors to deposit their money into a Greek bank account – was announced on the page last week by Golden Dawn’s Australian representative, Ignatius Gavrilidis.

Gavrilidis confirmed to Guardian Australia that VTE was affiliated with the controversial Greek political party, whose leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, is in detention awaiting trial on charges of running a criminal organisation. But Gavrilidis said the money raised by VTE’s fundraising efforts only went towards buying food for the needy. “We buy the food direct from the producers and Golden Dawn takes delivery of the goods … We use their labour, they hand out the food where it’s appropriate,” he said. “They [the recipients] need to hold citizenship. As long as they hold citizenship, it gets distributed to them.” The organisation is not registered with either federal or state charity regulators.

Golden Dawn’s anti-immigrant, antisemitic and homophobic rhetoric has found favour with some in a Greek population reeling from the country’s financial crisis, and the party has become the third-largest political force in Athens. Its members have been accused by human rights groups of leading street attacks on dark-skinned immigrants, gays and Muslims. All 18 Golden Dawn members of the Greek parliament were arrested in police raids last year after an anti-fascist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas, was murdered, allegedly by thugs affiliated with the party. Since the crackdown, the party has increasingly turned to its overseas branches to help deliver aid and build support among the Greek population, Gavrilidis said. “The [Greek] government has virtually financially dried the party; they’ve stopped any funding, any entitlements they get as a party,” he said. “So to continue to help those in need they are reaching out to those beyond their borders.”

Gavrilidis said VTE was set up in November 2013 by members of the Greek community not associated with Golden Dawn. “But these individuals failed to attract support, and I offered my assistance, and they were more than happy to get it off the ground,” he said. Within two months the organisation had been absorbed into Golden Dawn’s Australian branch, he said. “We decided to aid VTE and back them up, and we became VTE ourselves.” Sotiris Hatzimanolis, the editor of the Greek community newspaper Neos Kosmos, said it was “not really common knowledge” within Australia’s Greek diaspora that VTE was a front for Golden Dawn. Victorian Liberal MP Nicholas Kotsiras, who is of Greek heritage, said he was “disappointed” that Golden Dawn was fundraising in Australia. “Our aim should be to take away the oxygen of the group so they disappear as quickly as they appeared,” he said.

Kotsiras said he would raise VTE with the Consumer Affairs Department: “I’d like the authorities to take a good look at it.” Golden Dawn announced last month that two of its European MPs, the former army generals Eleftherios Synadinos and Georgios Epitideios, would visit Australia later this year to raise funds and awareness of the group. The proposed visit, scheduled for November, has been condemned by ethnic community leaders, trade unions and senior members of the Greek community.
© The Guardian

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Migrant mass murder: Malta seeking cooperation to bring wrongdoers to justice

28/9/2014- Home Affairs Minister Emmanuel Mallia said the Maltese authorities are seeking cooperation with other countries in a bid to bring the wrongdoers to justice, referring to smugglers who intentionally rammed a boat load of migrants two weeks ago leading to the drowning of an estimated 500 migrants, 10o0 of which are reported to have been children. In an interview with Dr Mallia, which will appear in The Malta Independent tomorrow, the minister said that Maltese police have recorded interviews of survivors of the ordeal since this tragic event happened in Malta’s Search and Rescue area. “These people went through a horrific ordeal,” the minister said.

Two Saturdays ago, around 500 migrants perished after traffickers rammed their boat intentionally after they refused to be transferred to a smaller boat. One of the migrants also had his hands chopped off after trying to cling to the traffickers’ boat. Dr Mallia also replies to other questions made by this newsroom, including claims that the number of police on the beat in Paceville have gone down as a result of cutting back on overtime. Dr Mallia also points out that in the past, sniffer dogs that were stationed at the Corradino Correctional Facility ended up as pets of the inmates. Therefore, six dogs purchased by the government recently, which are being trained to sniff out drugs, will not be stationed at the CCF but in a separate area. “We do not want drugs in prison where the facility is meant to serve as a place where people reform themselves,” Dr Mallia insists. 

© The Malta Independent

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Czech Rep: Roma Or Away As Teams Refuse To Play Gypsy Soccer Side

2/10/2014- A Roma gypsy football cub just promoted to the Czech football league is being boycotted by other teams who say they are too scared to play them. The club - FK Junior Roma - has won two games by default already this season because teams refused to play them at home, and two others have also said they will not be turning up to the team's home ground in the town of Decin in the northern Czech Republic's Bohemia region. They shot to notoriety during a pre-league amateur game in 2011 when the Roma team members from Decin attacked the referee, and the other team - and then turned on rival supporters. The club was banned after they refused to pay a fine following the fight but were allowed to come back to the country's nine league this year as FK Junior Roma. But many teams in the league have reacted strongly against their return with one Czech player - who refused to be named for fear or reprisals - told local media: "If their players don't get you their fans will. They are the most violent team in the league." He added: "We are a small, friendly division but the last time we went there we were threatened."

But teams refusing to play the side will not only lose matches by default, they will also be fined 500 GBP per missed match. Football league spokesman Ondrej Synek said: "We cannot have teams picking and choosing which games they play. This may end up with FK Junior Roma winning the division by default while barely kicking a ball." General secretary of Czech Football Association Rudolf Repka added: "This is not racism, teams are just scared of the club's fans." But the goalkeeper for the FK Junior Roma side Patrik Herak said: "The guys from those teams told us openly: 'You're gypsies, we're not playing against you'. It seems we are too black for them." FK Junior Roma's coach Pavel Horvath said: "We insist on politeness and fair play on the pitch at all times. Every team can play against us without worrying." But one rival team member Martin Pilecky from Prysk FC said: "We've agreed to play against them - but only because our club doesn't have enough money to pay the fine."

To try to encourage solidarity among the teams, the Swedish ambassador to Prague, Annika Jagander, arranged for a friendly match to be played between embassies and FK Junior Roma, which surprisingly ended with a 6-5 penalty shoot out win for the diplomats. Horvath later described the solidarity match as "extremely pleasant not only for the footballers, but for all Roma in Decin".
© The Croatian Times

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Czech Roma Under the Swastika

This article won the best reportage category in the 2013 Czech journalism competition organized by the Open Society Fund-Prague. It originally appeared in Respekt magazine. Awards were handed out in a ceremony in April. – TOL

Only a tenth of Roma survived extermination during the Nazi protectorate. Some even thanks to ‘white people.’ 
by Silvie Lauder

1/10/2014- Seventy years ago Czech and Slovak Roma embarked on a grim path to nearly complete annihilation. In the spring and summer of 1943, 4,500 Roma were shipped off to the so-called Gypsy camp in Auschwitz: one-third were from camps in Lety and Hodonin, in the south and southwest of the country, and two-thirds were taken from their homes. The fates of local Roma remain one of the least investigated chapters of the war, and one part of this story is completely unknown – that some Roma survived the Nazi attempt at extermination thanks to the help of “white people.”

The Train That Left
Even after decades 87-year-old Emilie Machalkova’s voice shakes and tears fill her eyes when she recalls those scenes. The spring sun was not yet very warm when one Monday afternoon she stood, a 16-year-old girl, at the railway station in Nesovice, a village 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Brno. She, her parents, two brothers, grandmother, and 3-year-old cousin were waiting for a train to take them to the stables of the protectorate police in Masna Street in Brno, where they had been told to report. Nearly all their neighbors accompanied them to the station, Machalkova recalls: all her childhood friends and family friends came. Someone brought a traditional Czech pork dish, others bread. “All of us were crying a lot because we thought that we wouldn’t come back.” They were right to be afraid. A few weeks earlier much of Machalkova’s extended family in Moravia had been summoned to Masna Street. Lugging a suitcase, her grandfather Pavel had left, along with three of her uncles, some cousins, and other relatives – all together 33 members of the large Holomek family, a known clan of Moravian Roma. Even though it was not until after the war that they found out the whole truth, at the time everyone suspected that Roma, just like Jews, were being sent to their deaths. “In ’42 they took away the entire Jewish Fischer family, who had an estate and a restaurant in Nesovice. We knew our time was coming too,” Machalkova says.

Last year Machalkova and her husband, Jan, celebrated their 50th anniversary in a comfortable apartment in Brno. On the walls and shelves is a flood of smiling photographs of their three daughters, son, grandchildren, and great grandchildren – reminders that thanks to the bravery of some, they were among the few protectorate Roma who escaped the extermination machine. In March 1943 during the farewells at the Nesovice station, suddenly Josef Kilian, the town’s mayor, appeared. Pale and exhausted, he had just returned from Brno, where, he told the terrified family, he had vouched for them in the office of the Gestapo and had them “exempted from the transport,” – a status later inscribed on their protectorate identification cards. “Apparently for three days he negotiated at the Gestapo. He probably didn’t just negotiate, since he told us afterward that even Germans can be bribed,” Machalkova says. “When we asked him why he did it, he said, ‘I have to protect my citizens.’ ”

Although the mayor could not save the Fischer family, for the only Roma family in his city he took advantage of the existing legal instruments. According to documents of the Central Office of Reich Security, members of the police could exempt people from many categories from the list, including “Gypsy individuals who are socially adjusted.” Kilian convinced the Brno officials to do it in the case of the Holomeks, even though he put the whole city at risk in doing so, as afterward the Gestapo regularly checked on the family. There are other stories like Machalkova’s, but first a little history is in order.

Against Roaming Gypsies
Special laws against Gypsies started to spread across Europe as early as the Middle Ages (the first Czech one was promulgated in 1549). In the first third of the 20th century the “fight against the Gypsy tide,” as it was commonly called, was a firm part of the law of many states. “When Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they inherited a number of already existing anti-Gypsy laws,” historians Donald Kenrick and Grattan Puxon write in their 1995 book Gypsies under the Swastika. In 1927 the parliament of Czechoslovakia passed the “law on roaming Gypsies,” requiring them to register and be fingerprinted and prohibiting them from entering certain areas. “This statutory regulation was among the most restrictive in Europe and in the 1930s it was given as a model at international criminal conferences,” historian Petr Lhotka says. Later, Czechoslovak officials would cite the law when returning Austrian and German Roma who fled to Czechoslovakia back to those countries. Furthermore, the decision to establish disciplinary labor camps for men who did not have “a proper way of life,” into which later entire Roma families would be herded, was made even before the German occupation in March 1939. Although this measure did not lead to the mass murder of Roma, it did prepare the ground for it.

Later, first in Germany and then in other countries, the Nazis broadened and toughened the existing laws. Along with Jews, in 1935 Roma were included in the Nuremberg Racial Laws, which later established so-called preventive detention, into which anyone considered “anti-social” or “whose conduct, even if not criminal, … makes clear a lack of desire to conform to society” could be put indefinitely. People were sent from preventive detention for an indefinite time to concentration camps. From the end of 1939 Roma could not migrate within the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Those who did so were sent to the disciplinary labor camps that had been established in Lety and Hodonin. At the same time the Nazi persecution of the Roma was contrary to their ideology celebrating the Aryan race, to which Gypsies – with their Indian origins – belonged. Robert Ritter, the head of the Research Institute for Racial Hygiene, helped to fudge this issue. “Ritter claimed that he found only one-tenth of Roma, if not less, were pureblooded. The rest were mixed,” writes historian Guenter Lewy in The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies.

Himmler’s Decisions
Until 1942 Roma were dying in concentration camps; Jewish ghettos in Poland, where the Nazis had moved them until the beginning of the war (Austrian Roma were put into the Lodz ghetto); or in the East, where the SS Einsatzgruppen murdered them along with Jews. Only in the fall of 1942 – half a year after the Wannsee Conference, where the decision was made to exterminate Europe’s Jews – did the Nazis reach a decision on “the final solution” to the “Gypsy question” as well. “Who decided about the extermination of the gypsies along with the Jews has not been confirmed with certainty,” Kenrick and Puxon write. “The available evidence suggests that it was the personal decision of Himmler.” Gypsies did not interest Hitler, although he knew about the policy change and authorized it. There is not a single word about Roma in Mein Kampf and in all the 12 years of his rule he mentioned them publicly only twice. However, Himmler stood behind most of the steps concerning Roma, including the first plan to move them to the East, or to expand the murderous work of the Einsatzgruppen to the Roma.

In 1942, 250 Roma were sent to Auschwitz in 10 trainloads that carried mostly whites whom authorities deemed “anti-social.” The first exclusively Roma mass transport to Auschwitz left Germany at the end of February 1943. Because a large Roma community lived on the territory of the protectorate, the protectorate offices were under pressure to get the transports running as soon as possible. As early as 8 March, more than 1,000 Roma had been sent to Auschwitz from Brno and its surroundings. Another 2,000 followed from Prague and Olomouc. A shift had occurred. While in 1941, only individual Roma who had violated some law were sent to concentration camps, a year later it was the turn of whole families, even the law-abiding, “assimilated” ones. That could be why some “whites” helped Roma when things started to get rough – they were their neighbors, classmates, and friends.

Unsung Heroes
We know little about those who helped Jews. One hundred and fourteen Czechs have been recognized as Righteous Among Nations, an honor bestowed by the Yad Vashem remembrance organization in Jerusalem to those who saved or helped Jews during the Holocaust. “I dare to say that there are tens, maybe hundreds of cases where those who helped Jews didn’t get any prize or recognition,” says historian Miroslava Ludvikova, author of Darovane Zivoty: Pribehy Ceskych a Moravskych Spravedlivych Mezi Narody (The Gift of Life: Stories of Czech and Moravian Righteous Among Nations). Of course, Roma have no state to represent their interests as the Jews now have, but in the decades following the war, their situations in communist Czechoslovakia were similar: no one talked about their fate. During this time the victims died out, as did their potential rescuers – and with them, their stories. “We won’t find it in the archives. The majority of Roma eyewitnesses didn’t survive and non-Roma eyewitnesses are dead,” says historian Michal Schuster of Brno’s Museum of Romani Culture.

Some stories were saved thanks to Ctibor Necas, a historian who found eyewitnesses and recorded their stories in the late 1980s. Among them was Vincenc Daniel, who fled from the Auschwitz transport and survived in the forests around Brno until the end of the war thanks solely to residents of surrounding villages who gave him sustenance and did not expose him. Many Roma musicians, among them Jozka Kubik, a legendary bandleader from the southeastern Hornacko region, managed to avoid the transport thanks to the persuasion of the little-known Moravia Ethnographic Association. The Brno Gestapo chief, an inspector Boda, saved other members of the Holomek family. First, he warned Tomas Holomek, the first of the local Roma with a university education, who hid with one of his university friends. Later, he saved six of the children of Tomas’ brother Stanislav from the transport. They survived the war hidden with friends and acquaintances.

Bozena Danielova, an 8-year-old prisoner of the Hodonin camp, escaped from the Auschwitz transport and was hidden until the end of the war by a non-Roma family in Olesnice, a town north of Brno. In their book, Kenrick and Puxon mention Barbara Richterova, who fled from the camp in Lety to Prague, where she got help from a “transport inspector who gave her a dress and a hat so she could hide her shaved head.” After a re-arrest she went through Auschwitz and other camps, one from which she managed to escape again and to hide with a man in Prague whom she later married. Many secret heroes did not manage to change the unhappy fate of their Roma compatriots, but at least they tried to help them. For example, Bozena Valdova’s family hid for months with the knowledge and aid of unknown residents of the village of Lidecko in eastern Moravia but in the end someone exposed them.

Houses, Horses, Equipment
Although we don’t know how often the persecuted Roma got such help, the numbers suggest it was rare. Of more than 6,000 protectorate Roma only one-tenth survived. In many places, Nazi plans were welcomed as a way to get rid of the Roma. For example, the municipal council of Svatoborice at Kyjova, a town southeast of Brno, addressed a letter to the government even before the German occupation calling for the need to “clean the roots of the nation from such parasites as the Roma.” (It is no surprise that it was from here that the ill-fated members of the Holomek family disappeared before someone could stand up for them, as happened later for their relatives.) “It was the same as with the Jews; it was about property,” Schuster says. “People say they didn’t leave much behind, but that isn’t true – they had houses, crafts, or workshops. Horse traders had horses.” Archives show that the Roma’s neighbors either took their property directly or attained it through public auctions. For example, in March 1943 one city council announced the auction of belongings of “the Gypsy Tomas Daniel.” Six beehives with the bees were up for grabs along with a goat, a rabbit, a blacksmith’s anvil, and “home furnishings.” The owner was in Auschwitz at the time.

Some Roma witnessed the theft of their homes and belongings. “They hadn’t even taken us away yet and already they were robbing us,” recalls Antonia Angrova from Straznice, a town southeast of Brno. Roma property, which unlike Jewish property was not reserved for Germans, was plundered mercilessly. Many Roma who survived the war were shocked to find that even their houses, inherited from their parents, had disappeared, stick by stick. An overwhelming majority, around 5,500, of Czech and Moravian Roma ended up in Auschwitz. Most were transferred to the so-called Gypsy camp, which was special in allowing families to stay together. In that respect it was similar to the family camp of the Czech Jews. Historians are still investigating why the Nazis, in the middle of mass murder, decided to have a milder model in these two camps. Kenrick and Puxon suggest it was an “experiment in how to handle other unclean races in the continuation of German expansion.” This experiment lost its point as the war’s end – and Soviet troops – drew near, and the inmates of these camps were quickly murdered.

Twenty thousand of the 23,000 European Roma who went through the Gypsy camp did not survive. Czech and Moravian Roma, after German and Austrian Roma, made up the second-largest group and on them the Nazi persecution fell with the most terrifying strength. “The majority of adults were killed along with entire families and clans, and with them their family traditions, customs, music, songs, and stories were lost,” notes Vlasta Kladivova in the book, The Last Stop: Auschwitz-Birkenau. “There was no one left to pass them on to.”

To the Stables and the Slaughterhouses
In March 1943 the officials of the German police and the protectorate gendarmes gathered more than 1,000 Roma from Brno and other places around Moravia in the stables of the gendarme in Brno’s Masna Street. The stables were located near the city slaughterhouses, to which the railroad led, and transports did not elicit much attention here. All the Roma had their hair cut off, which caused the women, who were proud of their long hair, to cry. Some eyewitnesses also spoke of the tearing out of gold teeth. Their documents and valuables were confiscated; because people suspected they may not return home, they had taken with them their jewelry, savings, cash, and checkbooks. They slept on piles of hay on the ground, freezing in unheated spaces with only minimal rations of food. For the overwhelming majority, who had lived in their own homes, this was a shock. Later, they were moved to the Brno slaughterhouses, from where 1,038 Moravian Roma in 23 cattle cars were taken to Auschwitz. Czech-Moravian railroad, a protectorate railroad company, organized the transport, so we can assume that some Czech or Moravian drove the train as well as threw coal in the furnace of the train. Whoever he was, he left a chilling and terse report, unearthed in the archives by historian Michal Schuster, that the “transport and conferral of the Gypsies was carried out without a single fault.”
Silvie Lauder is a reporter for the Czech magazine Respekt, where this article originally appeared. Translated by Anna Kotlabova.
© Transitions Online.

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Czech NGO releases exclusive survey by and about Romani women

28/9/2014- Research released earlier this month by the Slovo 21 civic association on the position of Romani women in the Czech Republic found that most Romani women consider their children's education to be very important. More than 600 Romani women were surveyed by the project. The research endeavors to refute stereotypical notions about Romani people, specifically Romani women, on the basis of data. "The opinion prevails in the Czech Republic that Romani women do not want to educate themselves and work, that they have many children, and that they believe it is not important that their descendants receive a quality education. There was no relevant data to either confirm or deny such claims, which is why we decided to research the actual position of these women in Czech society and in the Romani community and reveal the challenges they face daily," the introduction to the study's final report says.

The analysis of the survey findings was performed by an expert team at the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University in Prague. It shows that Romani women in the Czech Republic want to become educated, want to work, and want quality education for their children. Most Romani women in the Czech Republic have completed either a primary school education or a secondary school education without taking a graduation examination. Most have incomes of as much as CZK 10 000 per month. Most respondents said they had encountered discrimination at work and when seeking housing. They most often live with their families in rental housing. The survey found that most Romani women usually get married between 18 and 21 years of age. They are primarily responsible for taking care of their children and household. Selma Muhic Dizdarevic, an author of the study, presented its results earlier this month. She said it is not possible to draw simple generalizations from the data collected.

A total of 46 % of respondents said they had completed primary school, 25 % had completed vocational school, 11 % had completed secondary school and passed a graduation examination, 3 % had earned a college degree, 3 % were completely without any education, and 3 % were graduates of "special school". The survey found that 85 % of the mothers surveyed said they would support their children in acquiring higher education, but only two-fifths of respondents reported regularly attending parent-teacher meetings with their children's homeroom teacher and 31 % had never attended such meetings. Roughly seven out of 10 respondents reported a monthly income of as much as CZK 10 000 per month, with one-third reporting income of up to CZK 5 000 and almost two-fifths reporting incomes of between CZK 5 000 and CZK 10 000 per month. More than CZK 30 000 monthly income was reported by only around 1 % of respondents. About 8 % of respondents lived in households where the total income was less than CZK 5 000. Roughly 6 % of the women lived in a household with a total monthly income of more than CZK 40 000, but three out of 10 respondents lived in households with a total income of between CZK 15 000 and CZK 20 000.

Acccording to the survey, traditional gender roles predominate in Romani families. Three-fifths of the Romani women said they were the sole provider of care for their children and the household. Not quite two-fifths said they shared childcare and household work with their husband, while 2 % said such work was mainly their husband's responsibility. A total of 44 % said they shared decision-making in their family with their partners. Reportedly 34 % of the respondents said they alone were responsible for making the family's decisions. Another 22 % said their husband made the decisions in their household. Most Romani women support their children in continuing their education. It is evident from the survey that most Romani women consider the education of their children to be key. Only 6 % of respondents said they believed otherwise. Most wanted their children to complete secondary school, whether with or without passing a graduation examination.

Every sixth Romani woman in the survey, moreover, wanted her children to earn a college degree. The vast majority of respondents (99 %) do not want their children to attend the "practical" (previously called the "special") schools. The Romani women surveyed agreed that the knowledge acquired in such schools is under no circumstances sufficient. Respondents also stated they regretted not having paid sufficient attention to their own educations, and almost all of them admitted that they would like to make up for the gaps in their education, most often mentioning options for requalification or for further education should their financial situations permit.
Most Romani women want to work
Almost all of the respondents in this exclusive survey on the position of Romani women said they wanted to work. Reportedly they would only want to stay home if they were to have young children to care for. The survey reveals that Romani women are doing their best to actively look for work and to continue their educations and that they are willing to work part-time and at unusual hours. "This is the modern age. Today both parents can work, it's not like before when the woman had to take care of children at home and cook while the guy went to work. Today the woman has to go to work too, there is poverty here," one respondent said. According to the survey, Romani women consider employment important not only for financial reasons, but also for their personal development. Most of them (82 %) believe, however, that there are not enough opportunities in their neighborhood. On the other hand, it must be noted that almost half of the women surveyed (42 %) would not be willing to relocate for work. The survey also shows that almost three-fourths of Romani women have no experience with being released from employment during the initial trial period.

Most Romani women have two childen
The often-heard claim that Romani women have many children was not confirmed by this exclusive research. Almost one-third of respondents (39 %) said they have two children, more than one-fifth (21 %) reported three children and 19 % have only one. More detailed information about the position of Romani women in the Czech Republic is offered by a new publication released by the Slovo 21 civic association. The findings of this exclusive research can serve as a relevant source of information, for example, when designing Romani integration strategy or programs intended to respond to the actual needs of Romani women in the Czech Republic.

The survey was conducted between September 2013 and May 2014; questionnaires were completed by 600 Romani women between the ages of 17 and 77 in 23 towns around the Czech Republic. The survey was performed by 20 trained Romani women and included topics proposed by members of the Romani women's group Manushe.
That group is a section of the Slovo 21 organization and has been active for years in the field of strengthening the position of Romani women inside the Romani community and in Czech society in general. This research is specific in that it actively involved Romani women, from the development of the basic idea of the need to collect relevant data and determining the main topics for investigation that would best reveal the actual position of Romani women, to the implementation of the survey itself.
© Romea.

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'Uncompromising action' needed to tackle anti-Semitism, says Blair

Tony Blair has told European leaders to do more than just disapprove of anti-Semitism, which he said “requires gripping right now with firm and uncompromising action”.

28/9/2014- In an essay on religious extremism, the former prime minister praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for “taking an extraordinary step” of attending a rally in Berlin against anti-Semitism, accompanied by her entire Cabinet. Calling it “a grim harbinger of things to come” Blair said anti-Semitism was “again stalking the streets of Europe” as he laid out a seven-point strategy for dealing with religious extremism. “Defeating ISIS is vital,” he said. “But another ISIS will take their place unless we go to the root of the issue and deal with this ideology [Islamism] wherever and however it shows itself on a coordinated global basis.”
© Jewish News UK

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Serbia: Belgrade Braces For First Gay Pride Parade Since 2010

Hundreds of gay rights activists have marched in Belgrade in Serbia's first gay pride parade in four years.

29/9/2014- Media estimate that between 1,000 and 1,500 activists took part in the peaceful march on September 28. Several thousand antiriot police, special police units, armored vehicles, and water cannons were deployed across the capital for the march due to threats by far-right groups. Some 50 antigay protestors were detained during the march. The two-kilometer march began in front of the main government building in Nemanjina Street and passed along Kneza Milosa Avenue and by parliament before ending in front of Belgrade City Hall. RFE/RL's Balkans Service reports that the parade was attended by a large number of public figures. Correspondents say that among the audience were Belgrade Mayor Sinisa Mali, actress Mirjana Karanovic, director Srdjan Dragojevic, and the Serbian Minister of Culture Ivan Tasovac.

Mali told reporters that it was important to show that: "Belgrade is an open city, which means it is open to all and that everyone here is equal." Several foreign diplomats, including the head of the EU's delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport, also attended the march. The parade was banned during the last three years over security concerns after hard-line nationalists attacked marchers and clashed with police at the first-ever event in 2010, leaving 150 people injured. This year, police did not grant explicit permission to organizers, but simply allowed the ban to expire at midnight the day before the march was scheduled. Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic has urged calm ahead of the gay pride parade, warning that authorities could still stop the event if security was threatened.

A few thousand protesters, including members of the ultranationalist Dveri group, had marched on September 27 against the parade. Earlier this week, the Serbian Orthodox Church compared homosexuality to pedophilia. Homophobia is widespread in Serbia, often supported by church leaders and right-wing parties. However, the country came under pressure from the European Union, which says the event is a test of Serbia's commitment to the fundamental freedoms promoted by the bloc. Serbia is pursuing EU membership talks.
© RFE/RL

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Serbia: Belgrade gay pride a 'milestone'

29/9/2014- Gay people in Serbia held a march in Belgrade on Sunday (28 September) in what has been described as a “milestone” in the country's history. The LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex) community was able to walk and celebrate along a two-kilometre stretch in the nation’s capital without incident. Reports say up to 1,500 people joined the pride event, which was flanked by several thousand anti-riot police. It was Serbia’s first gay pride parade since 2010. “It is a milestone in the modern history of democratic Serbia,” said Stefan Fule, EU enlargement commissioner. He added that the parade marked a “substantial improvement towards the effective exercise of LGBTI rights”.

The enlargement commissioner had last year criticised Serbia’s government for slapping a ban on the parade for the third year in a row. Belgrade’s decision to allow the parade on Sunday is seen by some as a tactic to help ease its accession negotiations with the European Union. Serbia was granted candidate status in 2012 with the formal start of its accession negotiations kicking off earlier this year. The country is largely conservative, with one poll in 2010 suggesting some two-thirds of the population view homosexuality as a disease. The head of Serbia’s Orthodox Church also described Sunday’s parade as immoral and said it was “violently imposed by a gay lobby and their mentors from [western] Europe”, reports AFP. Ultra-nationalists and other far-right groups had made threats in the lead up to the march, but were nowhere to be seen amid the heavy presence of police, armoured vehicles, and water canons.

Foreign and local dignitaries and politicians also joined the march. Deputy prime minister Kori Udovicki, Belgrade mayor Sinisa Mali, and Serbia’s minister of culture Ivan Tasovac were present. The head of the EU's delegation to Serbia, Michael Davenport, US ambassador Michael Kirby, and German Green MEP Terry Reintke also made appearances. Prime minister Aleksandar Vucic, for his part, said he had “better things to do” and did not attend the parade. The relaxed atmosphere on Sunday was in stark contrast to the 2010 parade, which descended into chaos with 150 people injured following attacks from hardliners. "I feel phenomenal. Our efforts of the past three years have borne fruit," organiser Boban Stojanovic told Reuters.
© The EUobserver

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Serbia: Belgrade gears up for first Gay Pride since 2010

Serbia on Sunday holds its first gay pride parade in four years, seen as a key test of the European Union hopeful's commitment to protect minority rights.

27/9/2014- Authorities had banned the parade after hardline nationalists attacked marchers and clashed with police at the first ever event in 2010, injuring 150 people. Several thousand police are expected to be deployed across the capital during Belgrade Pride after threats by far-right groups ahead of Sunday's event. Some 500 members of the ultra-nationalist Dveri group were involved in a stand-off with officers wearing riot gear in the central of the capital on Saturday night as they tried to march to parliament to protest. Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic urged calm ahead of the gay parade, warning that authorities could still stop the event if security was threatened. The march, set to start at 1030 GMT in front of the main government building in Nemanjina Street, will pass along Kneza Milosa avenue and by parliament before ending in front of Belgrade City Hall. Organisers were optimistic that the parade would go ahead, saying it had been met with a warmer reception than in previous years.

"For the first time the institutions have publicly supported the organisation of the pride and media reports were more favourable for the LGBT community," one of the organisers, Boban Stojanovic, told reporters on Saturday. Planners expect a few hundred people to attend the event, and have released few details in advance due to security concerns. Several foreign diplomats, including the head of the EU's delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport and European Parliament member Terry Reintke, said they would attend the march. Some Serbian cabinet ministers also said they would join, including the minister for European integration Jadranka Joksimovic and Minister of Culture Ivan Tasovac. Stojanovic cautiously welcomed the government's support, saying: "Only once the pride is held we will be sure that the support of the institutions was honest." 

'Imposed' by Western Europe
Others, such as Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, a former ultra-nationalist who has re-branded himself as pro-European, have said they will not attend. "My obligation is to guarantee security and safety to everybody. But my choice is not to attend the parade, no way," he said. Tensions have been running high in highly patriarchal Serbia ahead of the event. The head of the influential Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, denounced the event as "immoral" and asked why "gay sexual orientation is right to be propagated and not paedophilia and incest". The march had been "violently imposed by a gay lobby and their mentors from (Western) Europe," he added. Earlier this month a German LGBT rights speaker was hospitalised after being beaten in Belgrade and several ultra-nationalist groups have announced anti-gay protests over the weekend.

Dveri members were on the streets of the capital on Saturday night while another group, Obraz, called its supporters to join a march in another part of the city centre the same day. Vucic warned earlier this week that "whoever tries to provoke incidents will be very, very severely punished". Homophobia is widespread in Serbia and other conservative Balkan societies. Belgrade has been under pressure to improve protection for minorities, including the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) community, since starting accession talks with the European Union this year.
© AFP

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Serbia: 3 children die in fire in Gypsy settlement on the outskirts of Belgrade

27/9/2014- Three Gypsy children died in a fire on Friday in a small wooden shack that has been their home on the outskirts of Belgrade, provoking a human rights official to lay partial responsibility on the Serbian state for treating Roma as second-rate citizens. The Serbian capital's emergency service said the children, aged 5, 7 and 9, died in the blaze that broke out in the Gypsy settlement at around 1 a.m. local time. Officials said a lit candle triggered the fire as the children and their mother were asleep.The 37-year-old mother, who managed to escape, was arrested for failing to provide security for her children.

There are an estimated 500,000 Gypsies — many resettled during the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s — living in Serbia, or about 7 percent of the population. Gypsies, or Roma, who mostly live in segregated, makeshift settlements throughout Serbia, have often faced harassment by far-right groups. Sasa Jankovic, the official charged with protecting the rights of Serbia's citizens, said the state is partly to blame for the deaths by "ignoring inhumane living conditions" of the Gypsy population. "This tragedy is another painful warning about the position of the Roma in their informal settlements," said Jankovic. "Concrete measures should be taken to improve their living conditions."
© The Associated Press

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GERMAN & UK NEWS

Germany: Berlin: Anti-Semitic Attack on Tourist over Rosh Hashanah

Tourist insulted, robbed of Star of David necklace amid concerns of rising anti-Semitism in Germany.

1/10/2014- A 31 year-old tourist was attacked in Berlin last week, according to the Judisches Forum fur Demokratie und gegen Anti-Semitism (Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism), during the Rosh Hashanah holiday. At about 6:00 pm Thursday, the organization stated, an attacker shouted anti-Semitic insults at the tourist and mugged him, snatching the Star of David necklace he wore around his neck. The attack occurred in the Kreuzberg district, local De Welt added, in Gorlitz Park. Germany's national police have launched an investigation into the incident, it said.

Anti-Semitism throughout Europe reached record highs during the past few months as incitement and attacks against Jews - mostly led by Muslim the extremists, but also elements from the far-right and far-left - left Jewish communities throughout the continent in a state of shock. Germany's Jewish community in July, at the height of the fighting between Israel and terrorists in Gaza, condemned an "explosion of evil and violent hatred of Jews" at pro-Palestinian rallies where some demonstrators chanted that Jews should be "gassed".

The spate of ugly incidents that deeply unsettled Germany's resurgent 200,000-strong Jewish community also saw a petrol bomb hurled at the facade of a synagogue in the western city of Wuppertal. Three people, described as "Palestinian" nationals, have been arrested in connection to that attack. Anti-Semitism has become so high recently that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with Jewish leaders, spearheaded a rally in a central Berlin square against Jew hatred earlier this month.
© Arutz Sheva

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Germany: An affront to the constitution(opinion)

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution may have some success fighting religious fanatics, but it's been an utter failure in coping with the right-wing NSU, writes DW's Marcel Fürstenau.
By Marcel Fürstenau

2/10/2014- What else will come out? How deep do the troublesome roots run? These questions still need to be posed almost three years after the far-right extremist National Socialist Underground (NSU) became known to the general public. The terror group is accused of 10 race-related murders and numerous bombings and bank robberies. The alleged offenders disappeared in 1998, even though the Thuringia branch of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, Germany's domestic intelligence agency) kept them under surveil-lance at the time. The series of murders began two years later and only ended in 2007. Now the public has learned that the BfV received a CD marked NSU/NSDAP (the abbreviation for Hitler's Nazi Party) all the way back in 2005. According to the Cologne-based BfV, the CD was recently discovered "while looking through files for ongoing preliminary proceedings." If this is true, it's another reason to be concerned as it would mean that the office responsible for protecting the German constitution is not able to filter its own material in this digital age.

How else could it be explained that undiscovered information is collecting dust in the archives of a highly technical intelligence agency, when it should become visible with a simple keyword search?

No more embarrassing excuses
Did anyone at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution think it might possibly be a good idea to search their own files for "NSU"? No more excuses, please. They are sometimes embarrassing, sometimes ridiculous, but mostly: implausible! Here's a sad reminder: a few days after the NSU revealed itself in November 2011, files relating to the terror group were destroyed. In light of scandal after scandal, who is still willing to believe in coincidence or incompetence? Heinz Fromm, then president of the BfV, stepped down. Shocked by the NSU, Germany's federal interior minister and his colleagues from Germany's 16 states vowed to push through extensive reforms in the intelligence agency. But they have hardly more to show for it than a central database for informers who are part of their respective scenes and report back to the BfV. In the past, handling rightwing extremist and other informers was the dominion of each state's authorities. This practice was based on vanity and jealousy and facilitated the murderous actions of the rightwing extremists. The parliamentary inquiry committees in Berlin and Frankfurt concluded as much.

Which secrets did "Corelli" take to his grave?
The same accusation was recently made by a lawyer for the victims' relatives in the Munich-based NSU trial, which has been going on since May 2013. The timing for his accusation was perfect: after the questioning of neo-Nazi and longtime informant Tino Brandt and his handlers in the BfV. The alleged NSU-murderers Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos radicalized in the orbit of these murky relationships between rightwing extremists and intelligence agents. But the questionable state of things in Thuringia is not the only factor contributing to rising doubts about the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The NSU-CD that has supposedly only now been checked in Cologne comes from another highly questionable informant from the rightwing extremist scene. Thomas R., also known as "Corelli" was found dead in his apartment a couple of months ago. It is to be feared that the public will never learn the secrets he took to his grave.

No source protection when it comes to murder!
And then there's former BfV agent Andreas T., who was proven to have been on the scene when the NSU murdered Halit Yozgat. The investigation against him was dropped after a short time. The case files remained sealed to the public as per orders of Volker Bouffier, then interior minister of Hesse. The conservative politician has been promoted; he is now governing the state together with the Green party. A few months ago, an NSU inquiry commission has been instated in Hesse's parliament as well. This commission, too, will come to conclusions that everyone is already aware of: state authorities, and especially those protecting the constitution, have failed. As long as all files with relations to the NSU remain closed, however, there won't be more than this finding. Pointing to the duty to protect sources, who are shady informants from the right-wing extremist scene, is more than cynical towards the families of the victims. The fact that the background of a race-related series of murders could remain undetected for years is scandalous enough. But the lack of willingness from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and some politicians to illuminate things is topping it of. And it makes you wonder, what else will come out?
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: New allegations against German intelligence over NSU murders

When allegations came to light in 2011 that a right-wing terrorist group had committed murders unchecked in Germany for years, domestic intelligence was under the gun. Now there are more questions being asked.

1/10/2014- Over five years before the NSU members were caught, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution - German domestic intelligence - was in possession of a CD labeled "NSU/NSDAP" [National Socialist Underground/National Socialist German Workers' Party, the latter of which was the party co-founded by Adolf Hitler, eds. note]. The CD had been in the intelligence archive since 2005, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday, adding, however: "It was only found last Monday during an archive search for another investigation in process."

Politicians outraged
"This is yet another setback in a long line of mishaps on the part of our intelligence when it comes to rightwing terrorism," said Irene Mihalic, Green party politician and member of a parliamentary committee on internal affairs, in response to the finding. Other members of the committee asked Wednesday whether this simply represented incompetence, or whether there were motives behind the CD not being "found" all this time. "Now it's clear that we have to turn over every single stone in the intelligence archive," said Burkhard Lischka, Bundestag internal affairs spokeswoman. Officials at the intelligence office said the CD contained "rightwing extremist" material and the NSU tag, but that it offered no conclusive evidence suggesting the existence of a terrorist group.

Unchecked for a decade
The NSU trial, which is in its 144th day, concerns the murders of nine Germans of foreign descent (eight Turkish, one Greek) and a police officer, as well as bank robberies and bombings, all of which are believed to have taken place between 2001 and 2007. German intelligence was aware of the NSU while the murders were taking place. Officials say they withheld their knowledge under the assumption that the murders were reactions to disputes with other groups. Only when Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt committed suicide in November 2011 did the existence of the rightwing terror trio come to light. Soon after, the third member, Beate Zschäpe, set fire to the group's hideout, an apartment in Zwickau. Authorities found weapons, rightwing paraphernalia and a CD with pictures linking the trio to the murders. The trial against Zschäpe began at a Munich court in 2013.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Led and misled: Neo-Nazi informant Tino Brandt in NSU trial

In the ongoing proceedings against the National Socialist Underground, federal agents have described how they recruited spies from the far-right scene. It is clear they were walking on thin ice.

1/10/2014- At times, the trial - now on its 144th day - against the National Socialist Underground (NSU) cell at Munich's OLG court can be tiring. But it can also be informative and shocking. That was the case last week when Tino Brandt was called as a witness. Brandt, a former neo-Nazi activist, worked as an informer for the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's domestic intelligence agency. This week, three of his so-called handlers from the regional authorities for the Protection of the Constitution in the state of Thuringia are called to testify. From the mid-1990s until media reports blew his cover in 2001, they worked with Brandt. The 39-year-old founder of the so-called Thuringian Homeland Protection (THS) was a key figure in the group when Beate Zschäpe, the main defendant, and fellow NSU members Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos were involved in the neo-Nazi scene about 20 years ago. Brandt's former handler, Reiner B., didn't mince words: "From head to toe, he was a rightwing extremist." And that hasn't changed, he said. Coming from an agent who dealt regularly with Brandt for about four years, this is a notable statement. After all, Brandt gave a completely different portrayal of himself a few days ago. He said he was opposed to violence and had plans to become a lawmaker for the rightwing party NPD.

Big shot in the far right scene 
But that's not how the handler remembers dealing with Brandt as an informer. They weren't interested in having him be omnipresent, B. said, adding that it was difficult to stem Brandt's influence as THS initiator and officer of the far right NPD party. In fact, B. said, the Thuringian Office for the Protection of the Constitution was not pleased to see the informer was a "big shot" on the rightwing scene. From a current perspective, he said, keeping Brandt in check was "quite an impossible task." Meanwhile, the handler at the time finds it regrettable in hindsight, "to have only had one source." Intelligence wise, it is always better to have two in order to confirm the information, B. emphasized. He did not believe, however, that the human source named "Brandt" was a complete failure from the perspective of the federal office. They had successfully forbidden him to take part in the so-called Wednesday get-togethers of the far right scene, while they had threatened to cancel his spying bonuses. At the time, Brandt was "obedient" and had done, "what we wanted and not what he wanted."

'Federal agents enabled the NSU to commit serious crimes'
Joint plaintiffs' attorney Thomas Bliwier is certain after Brandt's testimony and that of his handler B, that the questionable cooperation was "a complete failure" of the intelligence agency. In his statement at the end of the 144th day of proceedings in the NSU trial, Bliwier spoke of an "entanglement" of federal agents in the buildup of the THS. He also blamed the Thuringia Office for the Protection of the Constitution for the failed attempt to find the alleged NSU murderers Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe, who went underground in 1998. The questionable roll of the Thuringia authorities, but also other government agencies, have already been sharply criticized by the NSU examination committees of the Bundestag and the Thuringia state parliament. Bliwier, who is representing the interests of the family of NSU victim Halit Yozgat, draws a devastating conclusion. The Thuringia Homeland Protection group would "never" have achieved its national relevance without the state office for constitutional protection. Even more serious is Bliewier's accusation that the Thuringia federal agents had prevented the capture of the people in hiding and "enabled the NSU to commit serious crimes."

Unsuccessful "tracking technology"
The account of the former handler B. appears to be the exact opposite. He had supposedly fitted Brandt's car with "tracking technology," in order to be able to locate the hidden trio. But this measure did not help in tracking down the NSU trio. In 1998, Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe were able to escape the grasp of the security authorities. Two years later, a series of murders occurred, targeting nine men of Turkish and Greek descent as well as a female police officer. In the view of the joint-plaintiffs attorney, the neo-Nazi and informer Brandt played an important role in the radicalization of the alleged NSU murderers. His nickname had supposedly been "the arsonist," Bliwier claimed, drawing on evidence from the testimony of another far-right extremist.

Defense claims testimony "useless"
Meanwhile, Zschäpe's attorney Wolfgang Stahl assessed Brandt's eyewitness testimony and his former handler as exonerative for his client. Brandt is a "nearly notorious liar," Stahl said. Brandt had admitted to having lied to his comrades and the state authorities. The claims against his client were "fruitless" and "contradictory." According to Stahl, Brandt's testimony is "useless" for the evaluation of Zschäpe's potential guilt.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Refugee abuse guards 'nicknamed the SS'

A group of guards who allegedly abused refugees in an asylum centre in western Germany were nicknamed “the SS” after Hitler's stormtroopers, according to one of their colleagues. Photos of guards abusing refugees have sparked a backlash in Germany against security firms.

1/10/2014- Speaking anonymously to his local paper, the Siegerlandkurier, the man, who was a security guard at a refugee centre in Burbach, said there was a “legal vacuum”, at the former barracks which houses 700 people. Refugees were constantly abused and security guards were overworked. The man added that some of his colleagues "clearly" had a far-right background. Groups of guards, who looked for refugees flouting rules against smoking and drinking, were named internally after the SS, he added. The guards also had a special room for refugees who caused them difficulties, known as the “problem room”. It was furnished only with mattresses and refugees would have to spend eight hours locked inside without access to a toilet.

Police are now investigating 11 guards at three different centres for refugees in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photos released of the abuse have been compared to Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. One video shows a refugee being forced to lie in vomit on a mattress. Another photo shows a man from Algeria bound by two security guards with one of the guards' boot on his neck. Some of the guards being investigated had criminal records and North Rhine-Westphalia’s interior minister Ralf Jäger announced on Tuesday that all security workers would face more stringent tests.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: 'Neo-Nazis' Firebomb the Reichstag in Berlin

30/9/2014- German police say they suspect a neo-Nazi group was behind a firebomb attack against the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin. An unidentified person threw a Molotov cocktail onto the entrance steps of the German parliament building early on Monday morning. No one was injured and the flammable liquid burnt itself out, without spreading, in a short time. Police say the attacker, who managed to flee from the scene, left a number of flyers ascribable to extreme-right ideology. Local media reported the leaflets contained xenophobic slogans. The incident might have a symbolic dimension. In 1933, an arson attack against the Reichstag allegedly perpetrated by a Dutch Communist was seized on by Adolf Hitler to launch a crackdown on communist lawmakers and pass restrictive laws that gave him absolute powers, eventually transforming the government into a Nazi dictatorship. Communal tensions have been on the rise in Germany in the wake of deteriorating security in the Middle East. The Reichstag firebombing came as police launched an investigation into allegations that refugees were abused by private security guards at an asylum centre, in Burbach, near Bonn, after images of torture emerged. Home to approximately 4.5 million Muslims, Europe's largest economy has recently experienced a rise in asylum applications, partly because of the war in Syria. Reports on home-grown radicals fighting with Islamic State jihadists have helped fuel far-right anti-immigration rhetoric. Germany's domestic security agency said that almost 400 German nationals have travelled to the Middle East to join the jihad.
© The International Business Times - UK

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German police investigate alleged refugee abuse

28/9/2014- Police are investigating accusations that security guards at an asylum center in western Germany repeatedly abused refugees physically and mentally. A police spokesman said Sunday that police raided the center in Burbach near the city of Hagen and questioned both security guards and refugees after a local journalist received a DVD showing the abuse of an asylum seeker by security guards. Spokesman Ulrich Hanki said police also found a picture on a guard's cellphone showing a security officer pushing his foot against the neck of a handcuffed refugee lying on the floor. Hanki said other refugees had come forward and reported further abuse and that all the guards, who belonged to a private security company, were withdrawn from the center. Police and prosecutors are investigating possible xenophobic motives.
© The Associated Press

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German minister compares far-right party to neo-Nazis

Schäuble brands Alternative für Deutschland "demagogical"

29/9/2014- Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has called the anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party demagogical and populist, and compared it to German neo-Nazis. His attack on the AfD is the first time a senior member of chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has engaged with the party, little more than a year after it was founded. Until now the CDU largely ignored the AfD, hoping it would vanish as quickly as it appeared. However, a run of AfD electoral success appears to have prompted a rethink inside Dr Merkel’s inner circle. “We have to deal with these populists with all decisiveness,” said Dr Schäuble to Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper, accusing the AfD of employing “no-holds-barred demaogoguery” to win support. The rapid rise of the party reminded him of the Republikaner, he said, a neo-Nazi party that won seats in the 1990s in the state parliament of his native Baden-Württemberg.

Germany without euro
Dr Schäuble said AfD party leader Bernd Lucke, an economics professor in Hamburg, wanted voters to believe everything would be better in Germany without the euro. “That an economics professor claims such nonsense is an impertinence,” he said, adding that every serious economist knew that European integration would mean less prosperity in Germany. Dr Lucke said the finance minister’s “below the belt” attack revealed “his helplessness in dealing with a party that’s opening people’s eyes . . . and finding growing support”. He added that Dr Schäuble was a “pied piper” for “not informing adequately what risks hide behind German liability for European debts”, a nod to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund his party opposes.

Social spending
Anti-euro, bailout-critical policies were the core of the AfD programme when it was established last year. After narrowly missing the 5 per cent hurdle to enter the Bundestag last September, it polled 7 per cent in May’s European elections. In recent weeks it won double-digit support in three regional polls in eastern Germany after broadening its anti-euro platform to demand greater social spending and tough law-and-order policies. However, the party faces growing criticism that its rapid rise is thanks to extremist positions to attract support from Germany’s political fringes. In recent regional elections the AfD demanded referendums on mosque minarets and praised East Germany as a safer place than Brandenburg’s border region with Poland today. A candidate in the central state of Thuringia, with a non- German quota of 1.8 per cent, warned that excessive immigration endangered “German identity”.

Voter concern
The AfD denies it is chasing extremist votes, insisting its critical stance on immigration addresses a voter concern that mainstream parties ignore. But far-right rows forced the AfD in Brandenburg to fire two new parliamentarians before they even took their seats. The first was ousted for spreading far-right rumours about colleagues to the media. Days later his replacement, Jan- Ulrich Weiß, was kicked out for posting a picture of banker Jacob Rothschild on Facebook with the commentary: “We own pretty much every bank worldwide. We steer news, media, oil and your government . . . you have probably never heard of me.” Brandenburg AfD leader Alexander Gauland said the remarks from Mr Weiß were more suitable for the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Stürmer than his party.
© The Irish Times.

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The German Muslim community's protest against extremism

The German Muslim community's day of action against extremism and injustice was a strong appeal for tolerance. It was also a demonstration that there are many, many Muslims who are not willing to allow their religion to be hijacked as a justification for barbarism and hatred

27/9/2014- The terrorist militias of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq appear to be unstoppable. Its members are murdering and pillaging their way from one village to the next, torturing and humiliating the population and forcing tens of thousands to flee. Meanwhile in Germany, Muslims are standing up to raise their voices against hatred and injustice. They're distancing themselves in as clear a manner as possible from the extremists who are propagating a regime of terror in the Middle East in the name of their religion, a regime of terror which incidentally is claiming more Muslim lives than any other.

Standing up to be counted
With this day of action, German Muslims were also distancing themselves from the at least 400 members of their faith who have chosen to leave Germany to fight this civil war and take part in its horrific battles. Among them are young men and women who have become radicalised via the Internet or fallen prey to the hate preachers who espouse their views on the fringes of Germany's Muslim community. Such preachers are normally not part of the roughly 2,000 mosque congregations that belong to one of the four major Muslim associations in Germany. The majority of German Muslims, who live ordinary, decent lives, cannot be held responsible for the deviant path chosen by those who blindly follow the preachers of hate and are prepared to risk their own lives to make the violent vision of a pure Islam a reality. Nevertheless, it is a good thing that the Muslim associations have distanced themselves so clearly from these fanatics with this day of action. In doing so, they are helping to make the debate more rational at a time when the mainstream German population is feeling increasingly shocked and unsettled by the terrible events in the Middle East, and when those on the far right of our society are targeting Islam and Muslims.

We are all one
According to reports from representatives of the Muslim associations, the number of attacks against Muslims and Muslim institutions is increasing. In August, there were five attacks on mosques in Germany, more than ever before. During their day of action last Friday, which involved prayers for peace and solemn vigils, Muslims were also protesting against such acts as well as against anti-Semitism and hatred against Jews. "When a synagogue is attacked, I am a Jew; when Christians are persecuted, I am a Christian; and when mosques are torched, I am a Muslim," said Aiman Mazyek, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), this week. These are strong words that we should all make our own.

It is only by standing together and having the courage to stand up for our beliefs that we can oppose growing intolerance, extremism and fanaticism. But that alone is not enough: politicians and the media also have a role to play. Politicians need to make sure that underprivileged, ostracised young people are offered good prospects by granting Muslim associations the funds they need to work with young people. At international level, they have to do what they can to end the conflicts that are tearing the Middle East apart and dry up the swamp where terrorism is breeding. For their part, the media must explain, inform and ensure that they are not contributing to the estrangement and radicalisation of Muslims through the topics they choose to cover and the words they choose to use.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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UK: #MuslimApologies witty and informative response to Western Islamophobia

As an increasing number of people fail to see the difference between Isis and peaceful followers of Islam, Muslims have been sarcastically apologising for their religion.

3/10/2014- Islam is the religion of almost 2bn people from all over the world, all with different backgrounds and cultures. But it has come under a lot of scrutiny and suspicion recently due to the atrocities committed by Isis in Iraq and Syria. When it hasn't been misinterpreted and corrupted by fanatics, Islam is a religion based entirely on peace, tolerance and respect. Such values can be found in all faiths, from Judaism and Christianity to Buddhism and Hinduism. And as the religious scholar Reza Aslan pointed out during a debate on CNN debate this week, all of these religions, including Buddhism, have their violent fundamentalists who wreak havoc in the world. Since some Western Muslims decided to follow this path, and join the terrorist group Isis abroad, Muslims the world over have been forced to publicly defend their beliefs, out of fear of association. 

It is against this backdrop that the hashtag #MuslimApologies has emerged. It is has been appended to a number of sarcastic and informative tweets, highlighting the contributions Muslims have made to the world. One great example came from the Huffington Post journalist Medhi Hasan, who tweeted "I’m so sorry for coffee, cheques, parachutes, chemistry, inoculations, soap, shampoo, cameras, etc #muslimapologies".

Like the hashtag #NotInMyName, #MuslimApologies part of a growing trend of Muslims getting fed up of being discriminated against because of their religion. Such tweets are important because, although sarcastic, they still show a different side of Islam which many are unaware of, such as the obligation on every Muslim man and women to seek knowledge. This is something Muslims have always been obliged by the Qu'ran to do, and has led to coffee, cameras, chess and distillation being introduced to the world. With so many Islamophobic remarks thrown around on social media at the moment, and Islam constantly being portrayed negatively by the media, it's reassuring to see Muslims fight back in a witty and informative way, and raise awareness about the history of the religion.

Mehdi Hasan  @mehdirhasan 12:15 PM - 24 Sep 2014
I'm so sorry for coffee, cheques, parachutes, chemistry, inoculations, soap, shampoo, cameras, etc: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/how-islamic-inventors-changed-the-world-469452.html … #muslimapologies

Abdullah al Andalusi @AbdullaAndalusi 12:11 AM - 27 Sep 2014
We're TRULY sorry that we took Europeans out of dark ages & let them study our science, our books & attend our universities #MuslimApologies

Fatima Barkatulla @FatimaBarkatula 1:37 AM - 24 Sep 2014
We apologise for inventing Algebra and Algorithms- which laid the groundwork for thousands of modern day advancements #MuslimApologies

Ammār ibn Aziz Ahmed @Ammar_Ibn_AA 4:30 AM - 24 Sep 2014
I'm sorry to let you know that Isaac Newton learned about gravity from the the books of Ibn al-Haytham #MuslimApologies

Safwan Shaikh @safwanshaikh92 1:23 AM - 24 Sep 2014
I apologize for LeBron leaving Cleveland, then returning to Cleveland. Bonus: Apologies for his hairline #MuslimApologies

Sulطan Al Masroori @Soli2022 12:55 AM - 26 Sep 2014
We are sorry for the kabsa, biryani, masala, shawarmas, kebabs and all that good stuff #MuslimApologies
© The Independent

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UK: As Jews, We should stand up for Roma rights (opinion)

By Daniel Macmillenactivist and writer.

3/10/2014- October 5th is Roma Pride Day, when events will take place across European cities to celebrate Roma culture and denounce racism and discrimination. Given this occasion, it is perhaps worth reflecting a bit about Jewish-Roma relations in the past and their state today. At first blush, there is an instinctive sense of kinship between these two groups, emanating from a number of cultural resemblances and historical coincidences. Both Jews and Roma share Eastern origins, have maintained ancient customs and traditions, and place essential emphasis on family and community life. Both developed their diasporic cultures in contexts of unease and hostility, and accordingly, Gypsies have a term for non-Gypsies (Gaje), just as Jews have one for Gentiles (Goyim). Laws of ritual purity play fundamental roles in both societies, from kashrut in Judiasm to marimé in Romani culture.

There is also a rich history of co-habitation and interaction. In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, Jews, Gypsies and Turks lived together in an inter-ethnic quarter at the turn of the 20th century. Shtetls such as ªtefãneºti in Romania were constantly visited by Roma traders and blacksmiths. In Hungary, Jewish musicians played so frequently in Roma orchestras that composer Franz Lizst called these bands Jüdische Zigeunerkapellen (Jewish-Gypsy orchestras). In pre-WWII Bessarabia, Gypsy musicians played at local Jewish festivals and balls. Perhaps most saliently, there is also a painful shared past of persecution and suffering, characterised by wild prejudices, ostracization, xenophobia, scapegoating, pogroms, ghettoization, and genocidal horror.

In 15th century Spain, the deportation of Moors and Jews coincided with the attempted expulsion of Gypsies. Across the rest of Renaissance Europe, Jews and Roma were repeatedly banished, accused of banditry, disproportionately taxed, and portrayed as inferior and unhygienic. Whilst the narrative of “two peoples bound by mutual suffering” appears clichéd and simplifies the marked differences of policies effected towards Jews and Gypsies, the parallels remain poignant, nowhere more so than during Nazi rule. The infamous Nuremburg Laws of 1935 targeted Jews and Gypsies. In 1941, Reichskommissar Hinrich Lohse ordered that Gypsies “be given the same treatment as Jews” in the Baltic region. Otto Ohlendorf, commander of Einzatsgruppe D along the Russian front, testified during his trial that he saw no difference between Jews and Roma.

Both were perceived as equivalent threats, and were jointly decimated throughout the Ukranian Babi Yar valley and Crimea. Across Poland, Gypsies were relocated to Jewish quarters, including the £ódŸ and Warsaw ghettos. In Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Treblinka, and other Polish camps, Gypsies shared the unspeakable fate of Jews. In Yugoslavia, Jews and Gypsies were both targeted by the Ustaše, and hundreds were executed together outside Belgrade. This tragic tangling of fates prompted Holocaust activist Simon Wiesenthal to write that “we Jews, including Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, have by no means shown the Gypsies the understanding or sympathy to which, as brothers in misfortune, they are entitled.” Wiesenthal gestured at a distinct responsibility held by Jewish people in relation to the Roma, one rooted in a sense of empathy and historical affinity. Yet despite this bond, questions affecting the Roma arouse sparse attention in Jewish communities.

How often do we think about the marginalized reality of Europe’s largest minority? How much do we really know or learn about the Porajmos (the Romani Holocaust; literally “the devouring” in Romani)? How often do we speak up about the Anti-Ziganism (prejudice and discrimination against the Romani people) pervasively peddled in the media? How aware of are we of the systematic poverty, exclusion, educational disadvantage, and discrimination faced by Roma across the continent? There have a number of principled initiatives by Jewish organisations over the years, but these have been limited and are restricted to a few countries. As support rises for far-right political parties in Europe, and Anti-Ziganist attitudes surge, it is ever more vital that Jews express their outrage against all expressions of racism, and work to combat the social exclusion of Roma. Let us use this celebration to recognize the vibrant and extensive contributions imparted by the Roma to the world, but also recall our necessary solidarity with the plight of Romani people today.

Note: An inevitable problem that arises when discussing ethnic groups is appropriate nomenclature. The “Romani people”, and designations like “Gypsy” or “Tsigani”, are umbrella terms which encompass a heterogeneous array of smaller groups, such as the Horahane, Kalderash, and Ursari. There is no agreed-upon categorisation which is fully precise or unobjectionable, which is why I have interspersedly used “Gypsies”, “Romani”, “Roma”, and “Rom” to collectively refer to the cohesive population of Romani groups. For clarification on this topic, see this instructive piece by Filip Borev,“ “What is in a word? ‘Gypsy’: pride or prejudice” 
© Jewish News UK

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UK: Two Celtic fans given one-year ban from stadiums

Two men arrested during a protest by a group of Celtic fans against a crackdown on hate crime have been banned from football matches for a year.

3/10/2014- Nicholas Diplacito, 29, admitted behaving in a threatening manner while Mark Glancy, 24, admitted a charge relating to the obstruction or assault of a police officer during the incident on March 16 last year. Trouble flared after ­officers moved to halt an unauthorised march to Celtic Park ahead of a match against Aberdeen. The event had been called by the Green Brigade group in response to the implementation of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, which some fans have claimed led to heavy-handed policing. However, the police response provoked some criticism amid claims the 200 officers who responded to the trouble had used the controversial "kettling" method. At Glasgow Sheriff Court yesterday, Diplacito was ordered to carry out 135 hours of unpaid work and Glancy was fined a total of £630.

The men, both of whom also admitted charges in relation to possession of drugs, were handed football banning orders for one year each, which forbids them from attending any matches in the UK for 12 months. Stephen Ferguson, ­Football Liaison Prosecutor for the west of Scotland, said: "These men were part of a disorderly crowd and seemed intent on causing trouble, such shameful behaviour will not be tolerated. "Police officers carrying out their important role in maintaining public order should not be subjected to assault and abuse or hindered and obstructed."
© The Herald Scotland

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UK: Tories threaten to leave ECHR unless Britain can defy human rights rulings

The Conservatives have threatened that Britain will leave the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), unless it is allowed to flout rulings on human rights issues.

3/10/2014- Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced today that the ultimatum will be delivered to European judges, and that the courts will need to come to terms with working in an advisory capacity with Britain. The proposals, condemned by human rights groups as “nasty, spiteful and shameful”, suggest that the Human Rights Act, which was introduced under Labour in 1998, and which enshrined the ECHR in British law, would be nullified. Prime Minister David Cameron also announced the proposal in his keynote address to the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham earlier this week, saying: “As for Labour’s Human Rights Act, we will scrap it once and for all.” In its place, a Bill of Rights would be brought in, including the principles of the convention, which initially was drawn up following World War II. The difference under the new proposals is that the new legislation would specify the British Supreme Court as the “ultimate arbiter” on human rights issues.

Mr Grayling today said: “We can no longer tolerate this mission creep. What we have effectively got is a legal blank cheque, where the court can go where it chooses to go. We will put in place a provision that will say that the rulings of Strasbourg will not have legal effect in the UK without the consent of parliament.” On what would be said to the European judges, he continued: “We hope you can accept this. If you don’t accept it or you can’t accept it then we will withdraw from the [ECHR].” Article 14 of the Human Rights Act, which affords protection from discrimination, has been used in many legal cases to argue for protection for LGBT people. The calls to scrap the Act and leave the ECHR has been met with reservation from rights campaigners. Kate Allen, the head of Amnesty International, said: “Disappointing to hear the PM vowing to scrap the Human Rights Act when it has done so much good. We should be defending it.” Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, added: “Shame on the Prime Minister for citing Churchill, while promising to trash his legacy.”

Also see: Ed Miliband: UK leaving the ECHR would be a disaster for gay people
© Pink News

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UK: Anti-Semitic crimes in Barnet treble

Anti-Semitic crimes have more than trebled in Barnet.

2/10/2014- A total of 46 crimes took place in the borough between April 1 and September 14, compared to 15 during the same period last year. Barnet has seen the largest increase in London this year, with more than a quarter of all anti-Semitic crimes in the capital taking place in the borough. Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green, said: "Whenever there is conflict in the Middle East there is a jump in anti-Semitism. These figures are worrying as they seem to accompany anti-Semitic undertones on attempts to boycott Israeli goods, have kosher food removed from supermarkets and support for terrorist organisations at recent demonstrations. “That is why I took a delegation of colleagues to see the Home Secretary to discuss the issue. She agreed that the anti-Semitism witnessed is abhorrent, and confirmed new guidance has been issued to police forces to tackle it."

A total of 182 anti-Semitic crimes have been reported in London since April, compared with 69 offences last year. Harassment constitutes for two-thirds of the crime figures. The majority of the remaining offences are for criminal damage, which has seen an increase to 31 crimes since April, compared with seven in 2013. There has also been one anti-Semitic sexual offence reported, compared to none last year. Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, said: “This increase in anti-Semitic crime in Barnet is shocking and unacceptable. “I was encouraged that police patrols were stepped up in various parts of the borough to provide reassurance to the Jewish community. I will continue to highlight my concerns on this problem and urge the police to do all they can to prevent anti-Semitic crime.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “We will take positive action to investigate all hate crime, support victims and their families and bring perpetrators to justice. “If anyone feels that they are the victim of hate crime, including anti-Semitic abuse, we would urge all victims to come forward and report any incident or crime as soon as possible.”
© This is local London

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UK: Nick Griffin expelled by BNP

The British National Party says it has expelled its ex-leader Nick Griffin.

1/10/2014- In a statement, the BNP accused him of trying to "destabilise" the party and "harassing" party members. In a tweet, Mr Griffin took issue with the decision, accusing the party leadership of "plastic gangster games". Mr Griffin stepped down as party leader in July after 15 years at the top. The party saw its vote collapse in May's elections, in which Mr Griffin lost his seat in the European Parliament. The BNP said the decision to expel Mr Griffin had been taken by its conduct committee following an investigation after he stepped down as leader.

'Factionalism'
It accused him of seeking to "destabilise" the party and "embroil it in factionalism". Specifically, it claimed Mr Griffin prepared and leaked "damaging and defamatory" allegations about senior members of the party and its finances. It also accused him of "harassing members of BNP staff and in at least one case making physical threats" as well as publishing e-mails giving a false account of his own financial affairs after he was declared bankrupt in January. "Although we all appreciate that Nick has achieved a lot for our party in the past, we must also remember that the party is bigger than any individual," the BNP said. "Nick did not adjust well to being given the honorary title of president and it soon became obvious that he was unable to work as an equal member of the team and alarmingly his behaviour became more erratic and disruptive." In response, Mr Griffin accused the party of "operating outside the constitution", adding that he would "ignore their plastic gangster games".
© BBC News

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1,000 racist incidents recorded in nine Scottish council primaries

A sickening catalogue of racist abuse in Scottish primary schools has been unveiled by education chiefs.

29/9/2014- Nine of Scotland’s biggest councils confirmed there had been almost 1,000 racist incidents serious enough to be recorded in primary schools in the past three years. The worst last year was Edinburgh – with almost three incidents reported on average every week. Fife Council was the only council to give specific information about the 94 incidents recorded in the area’s schools since 2011. In one case, a pupil talked about putting another “in the washing machine to turn him white”. And a child from an ethnic minority was taunted that “he looked like he had chocolate on his face”. Ten of Scotland’s biggest councils were asked to provide details under the Freedom of Information Act. Nine councils revealed a total of 971 cases since 2011 but the figure is likely to be much higher because the country’s biggest council, Glasgow, did not provide figures.

Since 2011, Edinburgh has seen 428 racist incidents, ranging from verbal to physical assaults.
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “The children involved in these incidents are extremely young, and will be saying these things without knowing their potential consequences. “As a result, it’s important the solution is education rather than simple punishment. “If we can make children realise at a young age that such remarks are unacceptable, this will reduce the chances of them being repeated in later life.” A spokesman for BEMIS (corr), a charity which empowers Scotland’s ethnic and cultural minority community, believes more needs to be done to tackle racism in schools. He said: “Our Schools do not exist in a social vacuum and while it is naturally a concern that these attitudes have been reflected across 32 local authorities it does not wholly surprise me. “As communities and citizens we must empower people to utilise the legislation at their disposal in fighting racism. “Schools should be accountable to their duties but equally to be supported by us all in advancing their effort in addressing such serious issues.”

Craig Munro, Executive Director of Education and Children’s Services for Fife Council said: “The welfare and well-being of all our pupils is our number one priority. “We take a proactive approach to multi-cultural education and to valuing all diversity. Racism is an issue we take very seriously within our very well developed and robust approach to equalities and inclusion. “This means that all incidents are reported and meticulously recorded.” “In Fife we have implemented a range of approaches to ensure children and young people develop positive attitudes to support an inclusive society.”
© Deadline

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UK: UKIP still on the defensive over racism question

The anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party has continually rebuffed allegations of racism, following a series of gaffes, but still struggles to shake off a xenophobic tag.

29/9/2014- The eurosceptic, populist party’s annual conference was again confronted by the question this weekend, with a “Stand Up to UKIP” counter-rally drawing bus-loads of protesters to denounce the party as racist and homophobic. Yet inside Doncaster racecourse, where 2,000 UKIP members have gathered, allegations of xenophobia were dismissed as unjustified. “We’re no racists. Not at all,” one activist said with a frown, at the “Last Chance Saloon” stand, denouncing plans to bring in plain packaging on cigarettes. Sandra James, who will be standing as a candidate at the May general election, told AFP: “UKIP is a fabulous, commonsense party which goes where other parties are afraid to go. We believe in a multi-cultural society.”

As it targets disaffected working-class voters with its platform of regaining control of Britain’s borders by leaving the EU, UKIP held its annual gathering in Doncaster, northern England — where opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband is a local MP. UKIP, which plans to contest a series of parliamentary seats held by both the Labour and Conservative parties, topped the European Parliament elections in May. It was bolstered on Saturday by the defection to its ranks of Conservative lawmaker Mark Reckless, the second Tory party member to switch to UKIP within two months. Reckless told cheering delegates: “We are not backward-looking or gloomy, still less xenophobic.”

Steven Woolfe, a member of the European Parliament and the party’s migration spokesman, said: “We are the most diverse and modern nation of the world and UKIP embraces that,” declaring himself “proud” to be mixed race. Fellow MEP and communities spokesman Amjad Bashir, who for his part is “proud to be a Muslim”, said: “Respect for others is the key to a healthy community. It starts in the family and must extend beyond into the community so we can live together regardless of ethnicity and religious beliefs.” The two MEPs’ presence in the UKIP front rank could be seen as a foil to those who say the party only speaks to those with blue collars, white skin and grey hair.

A 2012 study by Manchester and Nottingham universities found that UKIP voters are mainly white older people. But at the Doncaster conference, the message was clear: an Indian doctor is just as welcome as a German one. Haunted by a series of gaffes — the latest last month, when UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson was forced to apologise for describing a party supporter originally from Thailand as a “ting tong” — delegates must avoid sending out the wrong message. “At the conference, there is a very strong intention to make sure that there aren’t any embarrassing incidents with delegates making racial comments because the media focus is on that far more than for other parties,” said Jocelyn Evans, a professor of politics at Leeds University, who co-authored the study on UKIP.

UKIP was founded in 1993 by members of the Anti-Federalist League, a small, cross-party organisation opposed to the European Union’s Maastricht Treaty. As it grew, it drew in disillusioned voters from the major parties but also “people with radical ideas, individuals who express ethnocentric ideas,” said Evans, an expert on far-right movements. The growth of the party has been accompanied by a series of scandals, so much so that leader Alan Sked, a founder who has since distanced himself from the party, said he had created “Frankenstein’s monster”. Former UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom made headlines last year for bemoaning sending foreign aid to “Bongo Bongo Land”, and overshadowed last year’s conference by jokingly calling women who did not clean behind the fridge “sluts”. Bloom and UKIP parted ways, with the party, propelled into the spotlight, trying to tidy up its image under the drive and charisma of its leader Nigel Farage.

“UKIP doesn’t want to be seen as the toxic choice,” said Evans. But sometimes UKIP still slips up. Farage was blasted in the media after talking about Romanians taking “indigenous” jobs, and some British towns becoming “unrecognisable” through immigration. In May, a prominent UKIP youth activist of Indian descent announced she was leaving the party as it had “descended into a form of racist populism”. Local councillor David Silvester drew national media attention in January when he said recent English floods were God’s punishment for the introduction of gay marriage. The party suspended Silvester the following day, but it has taken far longer for the party to live down the remarks.
© The International News

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UK: 16% of people still think gay sex should be illegal

Almost a sixth of British people think gay sex should be illegal, according to a new survey.

29/9/2014- The survey of British sexual behaviour, which used a sample of 1,052 adults in the UK, was undertaken by the Observer. The highest figures came from the South East and London, which saw 21% say they thought gay sex should be illegal. Despite being seemingly a high figure, the percentage has dropped considerably from 24% since the last time the survey was carried out, in 2008. When asked ‘how would you define your sexuality?, 4% said gay, 4% said bisexual and 92% said straight. Also, the percentage of people in the UK who think same-sex marrigae should be legal has risen from 53% to 63%, and 61% of people think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children. Overall, the average number of times people have sex each month has dropped considerably, due to a hike in the number of people who don’t have sex at all. 20% of men said they were unhappy with their penis size, and the percentage of men happy with their size dropped from 86% back in 2008, to 79% in 2014.
© Pink News

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UK: Port of Dover will remain open today says Kent Police as far right groups plan blockade

27/9/2014- Kent Police says the force is “prepared for a number of scenarios” ahead of the planned protest supported by far right groups at the Port of Dover today. A Facebook page called Support the Dover to Calais Truckers says drivers intend to use lorries to blockade the port tomorrow, a move that Kent Police says is illegal. Police officers have been visiting the homes of organisers over the last few days which the group claims amounts to intimidation. On its Facebook group it said it expects French drivers to travel over to join the protest tomorrow. Groups including the National Front and the Scottish Defence League say they will be attending the event, which has been discussed on the far-right message board Storm Front. In a statement on its Facebook page, Support the Dover to Calais Truckers said it will: "Prove all the doubters wrong with a lawful protest with no abusive language and no drunken yobs and then we expect a full apology or we will be taking our next protest to people’s front doors.”

Left wing groups are planning a counter demonstration in Dover, with many organisations signed up to attend. Both sides are planning marches through the town. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said no recognised trade groups support or endorse the blockade. Natalie Chapman, FTA south east spokesman, said: "It’s unclear who is organising the protest – there is only the facebook page to go by and some of the comments are by people who are clearly not lorry drivers. "Certainly if you look at some of the comments there are some very strong views about immigration and perhaps there are some people who are hijacking this situation and are not representative of lorry drivers. However, the FTA said drivers' frustrations were real, with many feeling it is they who bear the brunt of the problems in Calais.

Ms Chapman said: "Many drivers feel they are being made scapegoats in this situation with some even having to take out personal loans to pay fines – we understand their frustrations. "But we don’t think blockading the Port of Dover is the Way to go. It will cause huge inconvenience to other lorry drivers on their way home and others driver’s trying to cross the channel." A man claiming to be one of the organisers said it would be a peaceful protest and he hoped no-one will be arrested. Kevin, who would only give his first name, said: “It is a family event, there will be stewards there, so anyone acting inappropriately will be asked to leave.” Kevin said he stopped crossing the Channel at the port nine months ago as he began fearing for his safety. “I stopped because of the pressure, they jump on with knives, it is beyond the joke," he said. “I just hope the MP and transport ministers do deal with the situation in France, they are having a terrible time themselves. “Someone will end up getting killed." Kent Police has been monitoring social media and planning its response to the protest.
© Kent online.

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