Headlines 13 December, 2013
German Hate Mail Comes From Surprisingly Well Educated Sources
New Study Shows Education Does Little To Cure Prejudice
8/12/2013- Over the course of a decade, the letters poured into the Central Council of Jews in Germany like a river. “Is it possible that the excessive violence in Israel, including the murder of innocent children, corresponds to the long tradition of your people?” asked one. “For the last two thousand years, you have been robbing land and killing people!” exclaimed another. “You Israelis are a crowd showing contempt for humanity,” charged another, though its writer was addressing fellow Germans. “You drop cluster bombs above inhabited territory during the last days of war, and accuse people criticizing such actions of anti-Semitism. That is typical of you Jews!” Many would view the stream of vitriol, sent to German Jewry’s central communal organization between 2002 and 2012, as little more than raw sewage. But Monika Schwarz-Friesel, a professor of linguistics at the Technical University of Berlin, saw it as raw data. Together with Jehuda Reinharz, the American historian and former president of Brandeis University, Schwarz-Friesel has recently published a study of these letters. And their findings reaffirm one of the enduring, if still surprising truths about anti-Semitism in Germany and elsewhere.
More than 60% of the hate mail came from well-educated Germans, including university professors, according to their study, “The Language of Hostility Towards Jews in the 21st Century,” released earlier this year. Only 3% came from right-wing extremists. The researchers know this partly from analyzing the language of the letter writers — but also because many of the authors of the emails in their sample gave their names, addresses and professions. “We checked some of them, [and] the information [was] valid,” said Schwarz-Friesel in an email to the Forward. She and her research partner were amazed that the writers were so brazen. “I don’t think they would have identified themselves 20 or 30 years ago,” said Reinharz. “We found that there is hardly any difference in the semantics of highly educated anti-Semites and vulgar extremists and neo-Nazis,” said Schwarz-Friezel. “The difference lies only in style and formal rhetoric, but the concepts are the same.”
This is not exactly new. Schwarz-Friesel pointed out that many Nazis were highly educated, too. One of the research pair’s other main findings was that hatred for Israel has become the main vehicle for German anti-Semitism. More than 80% of the 14,000 emails focused on Israel as their central theme. Schwarz-Friesel and Reinharz say they strove hard to distinguish emails that were critical of Israel — even those that expressed anger toward it — from those that were anti-Semitic. “Only those letters were classified as anti-Semitic that clearly [saw] German Jews as non-Germans and collectively abused German Jews to be responsible for crimes in Israel!” she explained. In the paper’s abstract, the researchers clarify further that “Verbal anti-Semitism is based on 1. Collective discrimination; 2. Fixation (by stereotypes) and 3. Devaluation of Jews.” Schwarz-Friesel said she also considered as anti-Semitic letters that analogized Jewish or Israeli behavior to that of the Nazis.
As a linguist, Schwarz-Friesel sought to decode the classical anti-Semitism that was often hidden in the language of the emails. Schwarz-Friesel says her skills enable her to identify anti-Semitic intent that’s often deliberately obscured. She cites a letter from a professor that opens this way: “You people have a history of 2,000 years…” The letter then goes on to criticize Israel. In this way, according to Schwarz-Friesel, the writer brands Jews as historically evil. Yehuda Bauer, professor of Holocaust studies at Hebrew University and academic advisor to Yad Vashem, praised the study’s methodology as unique. “Such an in-depth research based on language analyzing has not existed yet,” he said. Professor Andreas Zick, director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Conflict Research at Bielefeld University, supported Schwarz-Friesel’s findings. “Studies over the last three years show that anti-Semitic attitudes toward Israel [in Germany] are much higher among the well-educated and the middle class,” he said in a telephone interview.
Zick was not surprised by the hate mail Schwarz-Friesel examined. “I get plenty too, because of my lectures against anti-Semitism and the studies of prejudice done by my institute.” He worries about deeply rooted anti-Semitism in the country that staged the Holocaust. “I’m living in a country where 75 years after Kristallnacht every single Jewish institution is guarded by the police,” he said. “What does it mean that every synagogue, Jewish schools and kindergartens are always protected? It means there’s a threat.” According to Zick, anti-Semitism even afflicts German school children. “When a child’s possession, like a book or pen, is stolen, the culprit is called a ‘Jew,’” he said, offering an example. Yet most teachers are not trained to deal with prejudice in the classroom, said Zick. Some 20% of residents in the country still harbor anti-Semitic attitudes, according to a 2012 study sponsored by the German government. That compares to the Anti-Defamation League’s most recent survey of attitudes toward Jews in America in 2013, which found that 12% “harbor deeply entrenched anti-Semitic attitudes.”
In June, the German government passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in response to the government survey and called for better education programs to fight prejudice. The resolution also called for a deepening of Germany’s special relationship with Israel. In recognition of the state’s historical responsibility for the Holocaust, Germany has committed itself to supporting Israel in ways that go beyond normal state relations. Chancellor Angela Merkel has continued this policy, offering unwavering support for Israel and opposition to anti-Semitism. But Deidre Berger, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s office in Berlin, said that government resolutions and a pro-Israel foreign policy were not enough to combat the kind of prejudice reflected in the decade’s worth of emails to the Council of Jews in Germany. “There needs to be greater public awareness of the scope of every-day anti-Semitism,” she said. “German politicians, educators, government officials, police officers and civil society leaders need to highlight the urgency of the problem and initiate activities to counter anti-Semitism…. It is critical that students learn more about Jews, Judaism and Jewish history, as part of German history, as well as learning more about modern-day Israel.”
© The Forward
German president boycotts Sochi Winter Olympics
Joachim Gauck is first major political figure to boycott Games, understood to be in response to Russia's rights violations
8/12/2013- The German president has become the first major political figure to boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics in February. According to German weekly Der Spiegel, Joachim Gauck last week told the Kremlin of his decision, which is understood to be a response to the Russian government's violations of human rights and harassment of the opposition.
Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor who played a key part in the East German protest movement before the fall of the Berlin Wall, has declined any official visits to Russia since coming to office in March 2012 and repeatedly criticised the country's "deficit of rule of law" and "air of imperialism". In June, a scheduled meeting between Gauck and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, was cancelled – supposedly because of clashing schedules. Gauck visited the Olympics and the Paralympics in London last summer.
The head of the Russian parliament's foreign delegation on Sunday criticised Gauck's decision. Alexey Pushkov tweeted: "The German president Gauck has not criticised the killing of children and women in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But he is so critical of Russia that he doesn't even want to travel to Sochi." The boycott is the first of the Games by a major political figure. So far, it has mainly been artists and activists such as Stephen Fry, Harvey Fierstein and Lady Gaga who have called for a boycott of the Sochi Games in reaction to a new Russian law that criminalises gay "propaganda". In an open letter in June to the British prime minister and the IOC, Fry said "an absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi is simply essential". David Cameron has ruled out a boycott, arguing that anti-gay prejudice would be better tackled by presence rather than absence. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has since echoed Cameron's stance, pointing to the Eurovision song contest in Azerbaijan as proof that public attention could do more to change attitudes than boycotts.
In July, US senator Lindsey Graham also called for a US boycott of the Gamesin July, though his motives had been slightly different: the South Carolina Republican said Russia needed to be rebuked for offering asylum to Edward Snowden. While Germany under chancellors Gerhard Schröder and Merkel has traditionally been keen to tread carefully in diplomatic exchanges with Russia, a standoff between Gauck and Putin has seemed only a matter of time. Gauck, in his post-1989 role as special representative for Stasi archives, has come to represent a systematic investigation into the crimes of East Germany's surveillance state, while former KGB agent Putin has overseen the rehabilitation of secret service personnel during his time in power. In German political circles, it is no secret that there is little love lost between the two presidents. On Sunday, Gauck's office confirmed he had declined to travel to Russia next February, but seemed to pull back from explicitly describing his decision as a boycott.
A spokeswoman said there was no fixed rule that the president had to visit the Olympics, and that president Horst Köhler did not visit the 2010 Games in Vancouver. The German Union of Olympic Athletes said no visit by the president to Sochi had ever been planned in the first place. Gauck was, however, planning to take part in a welcoming party in Munich for returning German Olympians.
© The Guardian
Auschwitz cases dogged by legal obstacles (Germany)
Since September, German justice officials have been investigating 30 suspected former guards at Auschwitz. But due to various legal obstacles, they may never stand trial.
7/12/2013- "We started off with 49 lawsuits, but some of the people live abroad and at least nine of the accused have passed away," said Kurt Schrimm of Germany's Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes. The accused are people who worked as guards in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps in Poland, thereby contributing to the murder of millions people by the Nazi regime. Prosecutors must now act very quickly if they hope to bring any of the 30 remaining defendants in Germany to justice, as they are all between 87 and 97 years of age. "I'm convinced that the prosecutors are aiming to wrap up the proceedings as quickly as possible, but it will still take several months," said Schrimm.
Poster campaign to find suspects
Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, an organization for promoting anti-Semitism and human rights, supports the measures. "What we're hoping is that these cases will be treated with urgency, so that these people can be brought to justice before they die," Zuroff told DW. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has gathered evidence pointing to 111 potential suspects through the "Late, but not too late" poster campaign that ran in Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne in recent months. The list included at least four people that fit the legal criteria for being charged with a crime. According to various media, the central office for Nazi crimes has already launched an investigation into two of these cases. But according to Schrimm, neither he nor his deputy has heard anything of this. Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is continuing its poster campaign, extending it to the cities of Munich, Leipzig, Stuttgart, Magdeburg, Rostock, Dresden, Nuremberg and Frankfurt.
Independent of the recent campaign, Schrimm's office is basing its current investigations on a list of 5,000 names of people who worked as overseers in the Auschwitz concentration camp. "The list has existed for decades and nobody really knows who put it together," said Schrimm. "There is some indication, however, that it was created in the 1960s by the Hesse judiciary or police." Thirty of these cases are current candidates for further investigation. Proceedings against former concentration camp guards have proven difficult in the past. In 1969, Germany's Federal Court of Justice stipulated that, in the case of Auschwitz, individual responsibility for a crime needed to be proven - in other words, simply being part of the mass-murder in general was not enough reason to stand trial. This kind of evidence was already difficult to attain back then - today it is even harder. Written sources are rare and many witnesses have passed away.
New legal possibilities - and challenges
A turning point came in 2011, when a Munich court sentenced John Demjanjuk, a former guard at the Sobibor extermination camp, to five years in jail after finding him guilty of over 20,000 counts of being an accessory to murder. No individual guilt needed to be proven in his case - his former job as guard at Sobibor sufficed. "This case changed the legal situation," commented Zuroff, adding that the "Late, but not too late" poster campaign would not haven been possible otherwise. Demjanjuk appealed against the verdict at the Federal Court of Justice, but passed away before the proceedings were reopened. "We don't know what this court would have decided," said Schrimm. A major legal obstacle in the case of Auschwitz is that not all of it was a death camp: it encompassed a concentration as well as an extermination section. And while many prisoners were murdered in gas chambers on arrival, those in the concentration camp had a small chance of survival. Demjanjuk worked in a straightforward extermination camp, but the contribution to murder is harder to prove in the case of Auschwitz guards.
It is still not certain whether the 30 alleged Nazi criminals in question can be brought to trial. Some also wonder if Germany even has jurisdiction, since for this to be the case, either the suspect must be a German citizen, at least one of the victims must be a German citizen, or the crime must have been committed on German territory. If none of these criteria apply, the trial must take place abroad - but considering the age of the 30 Auschwitz suspects, this may not be feasible from a time perspective. Schrimm and his team at the Central Office still have a lot to do. "Until now we've only been looking at Auschwitz, because of that list," he said. "Unfortunately, there isn't a list like that for other concentration camps, such as Treblinka and Sobibor. It's going to be a big job, but it's doable. We will also have another look at all the concentration camp documents that we have in our archives."
© The Deutsche Welle.
Ukip boss heaps praise on Islam-baiter (UK)
The interim chair of Ukip Scotland has been criticised over his support for a notorious far-right politician in the Netherlands who backs a ban on what he terms the "fascist" Koran.
8/12/2013- Misty Thackeray has described Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, who said Islam was the biggest threat to civilisation, as "great". He also said it would have better had sacked Ukip Scotland leader Lord Christopher Monckton silently vanished "up the Orinoco." As revealed by the Sunday Herald, Ukip in Scotland is imploding due to tensions between senior members. Of nine shortlisted candidates for the European election, at least six quit over the alleged tactics used by one candidate, Otto Inglis. Ukip chief Nigel Farage then sacked Monckton by email. That led to Scottish chair Mike Scott-Hayward and fundraiser Malcolm Macaskill quitting in protest. Local branch officials also resigned in a show of solidarity with Monckton, who said Ukip north of the Border had been "wiped out". Thackeray said he had been asked to act as Scottish chairman until the next annual general meeting, but his hardline right-wing views are causing alarm. The Glasgow-based 52-year-old, described as a security consultant on a business database, praised Wilders on Facebook last year.
Wilders has argued the Koran, which he calls a "fascist book", should be outlawed. He has called for a block on new mosques and claimed Islam was the "biggest threat to our freedom and our civilization". Labour home secretary Jacqui Smith blocked Wilders from entering the UK in 2009, a decision that was overturned. Wilders wrote a book last year, entitled Marked for Death: Islam's War Against the West and Me. This tome prompted Thackeray's Facebook posting: "Geert is great.. (peace be upon him … lol) … and so is this eye-opener of a book!" On the same social media site, Thackeray also blasted Monckton's criticisms of Ukip. "It would have been more gracious if my old mate Christopher had silently vanished up the Orinoco instead of this undignified defacation [sic]. So let me assure you Ukip Scotland is most definitely NOT wiped out and once I've restructured it will be an even more serious force to reckon with." A Ukip source said: "It is clear Thackeray's views mean he should not be not interim chair of the Scottish party."
Thackeray was the party's candidate in a council by-election in Glasgow last week. He came fourth, ahead of the LibDems and Scottish Greens. He has also been a director of several firms. Patricia Ferguson, Scottish Labour's external affairs spokesperson, said: "This is a strange and unwelcome choice of political inspiration even for a senior Ukip official … When we are celebrating a world leader in Nelson Mandela who brought hope to us all, the politics of division and grievance that we see from Ukip look even more out of place." An SNP spokesperson said: "These are appalling views. The people of Scotland have a proud tradition of supporting justice internationally and opposing racism. Ukip's sorry record of intolerance and bigotry have no place here." Thackeray could not be reached.
© The Herald Scotland
Nearly half of ethnic minority teachers feel 'racial discrimination has stopped them progressing' (UK)
Nearly half of teachers who are black or ethnic minority (BME) feel that racial discrimination has stopped them from progressing in their careers, a conference organised by a teacher union has heard.
7/12/2013- The annual NASUWT Black and Minority Ethnic Teacher’s Conference saw teachers from across the country meet in Birmingham on Saturday. Participants took part in a real-time electronic poll aimed at uncovering their views on a series of issues relating to work in education. The question “Do you feel that you are being held back in your career as a result of racial discrimination?” was posed to around 350 teachers. Almost half said yes, a quarter said no, while 25 per cent said they did not know or were not sure. More than three quarters of BME teachers defined themselves as ambitious, yet stated they are being held back by racial discrimination and the attitudes of senior colleagues. One per cent short of all BME teachers felt that the Government does not respect and value teachers and does not understand the day-to-day realities of teaching. Over half of the teachers polled agreed that mental health was an issue and that employers were not committed to protecting their mental and physical well-being at work, with workload cited as the single most negative part of the job.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, who addressed the conference, said: “BME teachers have told us that racial discrimination is an endemic feature of the education system. “Holding back the potential and talent of teachers on grounds of their race or colour also damages the prospects of pupils. "The coalition Government's reforms to the teachers' pay system, which give more freedoms to individual schools to determine teachers' pay, has been overwhelmingly rejected by BME teachers who fear it will exacerbate discrimination against BME teachers. “All of the issues raised today will be taken forward by the NASUWT as we continue to press the Government for a fair national framework of pay and conditions for all teachers.”
A Department of Education spokesperson said: “Teaching is a highly attractive profession which is critical to the success of our education system, and we are making sure this is properly recognised. We are reforming teacher training to attract the best graduates and professionals, investing £4 million in development and training for existing teachers, and reforming pay so schools can attract and retain the best teachers who have the greatest impact on their pupils’ achievements. This will ensure that every school has a clear system for teacher appraisal that is fair and consistent.”
© The Independent
Racist incidents up by 85 per cent in 2013 — Immigrant Council (Ireland)
85% Increase in racist incidents reported during 2013; Harassment, discrimination and physical violence all reported; Review of current laws and reporting procedures urgently required
7/12/2013- Reports of racism and hate crimes have increased by 85% during 2013 according to preliminary figures produced by the Immigrant Council of Ireland. Since January 142 incidents have been reported, compared to 77 over the same period last year. Reports peaked over the summer months, with 31 incidents in July alone.
The findings show that most cases occurred in a person’s local community or workplace with the breakdown showing locations for racism as:
• At home and in victim's local community 21%
• Workplace 20%
• In the street 14%
• While accessing government or community services 14%
• On the internet 12%
• While traveling on public transport 10%
• Other 9%
Harassment both verbal and written accounted for most types of racism, with the reports showing:
• Verbal harassment 35%
• Discrimination (e.g. access to services, education) and Social exclusion 24%
• Written harassment 17%
• Physical violence 9%
• Property damage and racist graffiti 7%
• Non-verbal harassment (e.g. offensive look or gesture) 7%
• Other 1%
Denise Charlton, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said:
“The increase in reported racism is alarming and once again shows that it is a reality which people and families are facing in their communities. While the findings are preliminary and we will produce more details and breakdowns in the New Year they are nevertheless stark. During the year we embarked on an extensive awareness campaign on public transport and across social media to assure victims they had nothing to fear in coming forward and to end the complacency over racism. Our hope is that the increase we have reported is an indication that this has happened rather than an actual increase in racism. These initial findings show that racism can occur anywhere, people have been made victims in their own homes, at work, on the street and increasingly online. We will now carry out analysis of the figures to see why our current laws are not preventing racism and examine what procedures can be in put place, including a reformed reporting system.”
Brian Killoran, Information and Referral Manager with the Immigrant Council added:
“As a frontline agency we are committed to provide information and support to victims of racism. The past 11-months have been unprecedented in terms of the numbers coming forward to us. People need to be continuously assured that when they will be treated seriously when they make a report and that action will be taken.
Anyone who experiences or sees racism should report it to the Gardaí and contact us through email@example.com”7/12/2013
© The Immigrant Council of Ireland
Anti-gay social media group in Russia offers reward for outing LGBT teachers
A new anti-gay group has emerged on the popular Russian social network Vkontakte (vk.com) offering rewards for reporting “confirmed” information on gay school teachers, reports Queer Russia.
7/12/2013- A new St. Petersburg based antigay group emerged on a popular Russian social network Vkontakte has launched an on-line campaign offering an equivalent of $150 for reporting “confirmed” information on LGBT schoolteahers. The group aims to stop “gay propaganda to minors” in schools and dismiss gay teachers with the help of local authorities. The announcement published on the group’s page Vkontakte urges people to collect and send in any public information about LGBT teachers who are, “explicitly or implicitly”, open about their own sexual orientation on the internet and to their schoolchildren. The group refuses to accept any rumors or slander and stresses that the information must be available in the open sources so that the group’s activity does not violate the Russian law on collecting personal data without a person’s consent. The announcement claims that such open information can be “threatening to psyche and mind of children who may be around such people”.
The group claims to have connections with the Russian authorities in order to perform dismissals “without any bullying, homophobia or calls to violence”, but still enforcing the “gay propaganda to minors ban law”. The group calls to have “common sense and protect morality of underage children” and promises to send money to informers in 2-3 weeks once the information sent is “confirmed”. An update published on December 5 claims that during the first 24 hours of operation the group recieved six “worthwhile” reports on LGBT teachers. The group contacts listed include a phone number, an email address and a Vkontake profile page. One of the group moderators, Dmitry Deineko, is under trial for assaulting St. Petersburg LGBT activists in June, 2013. In a video published in the group Deineko says that “gay should be killed as rats and insects which spread infection”. The moderators are the same people who have launched a campaign against LGBT-friendly schoolteacher Ekaterina Bogach, however the campaign itself did not successed in any way.
© Queer Russia
Turkey's gay groups dismayed LGBT abuse not a hate crime
7/12/2013- Gay rights groups in Turkey voiced dismay Friday that proposed legislation fails to make it a hate crime to target people because of their sexual orientation. "The definition of hate crime must immediately be broadened. The government has to guarantee our right to live," Ebru Kiranci, an official from Istanbul's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) association, told AFP. Reforms contained in a so-called "democratisation package" call for jail terms of between one and three years for crimes based on race, nationality, skin colour, gender, disability, political views, beliefs or religion. But the legislation submitted to parliament on Thursday notably excludes crimes based on ethnicity and sexual orientation. Gay rights groups want changes in the criminal code to designate hate and prejudice as an aggravation cause for crimes related to sexual oriantation.
Unlike other Muslim countries, same-sex relationships have never been criminalised in Turkey, where prostitution and sex change operations are legal. But traditional Islamic values hold sway over large sections of society in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim though secular country. Kiranci said 36 transgender people, including six sex workers, were killed in Turkey between 2008 and 2012. "They (the government) turn a blind eye to murders to shore up support from their base. But we are also their support base," Kiranci said. Turkey goes to the polls next year in local and presidential elections, followed by a legislative election in 2015. Although the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has enacted a series of human rights reforms to boost its efforts to join the EU, it has failed to recognise homosexual rights.
Gay groups were among those who joined the nationwide demonstrations in June against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to highlight their cause. "There are people in Turkey who kill their children just because they are homosexual. This has to stop," said Murat Koylu, foreign affairs coordinator of Ankara-based gay rights group Kaos GL. "We are really disappointed," he told AFP, citing the cases of dozens of people who lost their jobs due to their sexual orientation. A man is currently on trial in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir for killing his 17-year-old son in May, allegedly for being gay, and dumping his body outside a hospital.
3 Injured in Bulgarian Refugee Shelter Riot
8/12/2013- Two immigrants have their arms in cast and one has a crack in the head after a riot at the refugee shelter in the southern Bulgarian town of Lyubimets. The information was reported by Bulgaria's largest private TV channel bTV, citing information from the hospital in the nearby city of Haskovo. The tree Algerian nationals have been examined by a doctor and have undergone X-rays at the hospital. The management of the hospital told bTV that one of the foreign citizens had a sprained middle finger, the other - a fractured wrist, and the third - a head wound. After being treated, the three were sent back to the shelter in Lyubimets. Employees of "Border Police" have not been admitted and treated in the Haskovo hospital on the night of the incident.
On Saturday, after being silent for days, the Interior Ministry admitted that a riot has taken place at the shelter on November 30, in which immigrants clashed with police. Albeit small on global standards - some 10 000 refugees are currently in the country - the migration wave is unprecedented for Bulgaria as it has the capacity to accommodate about 5 000. The country is the gateway to the European Union for refugees fleeing Syria via Turkey, many crossing the border illegally. It has shown both the lack of preparedness of state institutions to accommodate the refugees, as well as the latent xenophobia of parts of Bulgarian society.
Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev proposed a plan for reducing the number of illegal immigrants as along with asylum seekers from Syria, a large number of people from North Africa and the Middle East also cross the southern border with Turkey. The plan includes deportation of the latter.
UNHCR Warns about Rising Xenophobia in Bulgaria
7/12/2013- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged Bulgarian authorities to cope with the rising wave of xenophobia against asylum seekers. The UNHCR expressed concern over rising xenophobic violence, citing a recent assault of two Syrian nationals and a Lebanese citizen in Sofia, according to reports of the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR). "The announcements that the Bulgarian authorities plan to increase the use of closed-type centers is also cause for concern," UNHCR Spokesperson Adrian Edwards said, stressing that an alternative solution had to be found. "Seeking asylum is not a crime and detention must be a measure of last resort," he added.
The UNCHR criticized Bulgaria for the inadequate food and poor living conditions at the accommodation centers. The UNCHR also pointed out that the people in most refugee centers were not getting enough food and the Organization had started handing out food supplies to the people accommodated at the center in Harmanli. The UNCHR informed that they were cooperating with Bulgarian authorities for the provision of adequate food to all accommodation centers. The UNCHR also drew attention to the fact that most of the refugees living in tents had been moved to unfinished buildings which needed urgent improvement of sanitary conditions.
Headlines 6 December, 2013
Mandela was a 'terrorist,' says Italian official
6/12/2013- Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela was a "terrorist," a member of an Italian political party known for racially charged statements, says. Francesco Vartolo, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League, made the comments after Mandela's death was announced Thursday, the Italian news agency ANSA reported Friday. ''Finally the terrorist Mandela, the beast who thirsted for white blood and was transformed into a hero by global propaganda, will find himself before all the people that he had killed with bombs in churches or with tires on fire around the neck,'' Vartolo, a borough councilor in Verona, wrote on his Facebook page. Vartolo's comments were condemned by Luca Zaia, a major Northern League official and governor of the Veneto region that includes Verona. He said the statement did not represent the party's views. Another League official, Lombardy Gov. Roberto Maroni, said in a Twitter message: "Honor to the memory of one of humanity's greats." Northern League Sen. Roberto Calderoli recently became the focus of a criminal investigation after he compared the country's first black cabinet minister, Cecile Kyenge, to an orangutan.
© United Press International
Anti-Apartheid Icon Nelson Mandela Dies at 95
5/12/2013- Nelson Mandela, the revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid, has died, South African President Jacob Zuma announced late Thursday. He was 95. The former president battled health issues in recent months, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations. With advancing age and bouts of illness, Mandela retreated to a quiet life at his boyhood home in the nation’s Eastern Cape Province, where he said he was most at peace. Despite rare public appearances, he held a special place in the nation’s consciousness.
A hero to blacks and whites
In a nation healing from the scars of apartheid, Mandela became a moral compass. His defiance of white minority rule and incarceration for fighting against segregation focused the world’s attention on apartheid, the legalized racial segregation enforced by the South African government until 1994. In his lifetime, he was a man of complexities. He went from a militant freedom fighter, to a prisoner, to a unifying figure, to an elder statesman. Years after his 1999 retirement from the presidency, Mandela was considered the ideal head of state. He became a yardstick for African leaders, who consistently fell short when measured against him. Warm, lanky and charismatic in his silk, earth-toned dashikis, he was quick to admit to his shortcomings, endearing him further in a culture in which leaders rarely do.
His steely gaze disarmed opponents. So did his flashy smile.
Former South African President F.W. de Klerk, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993 for transitioning the nation from a system of racial segregation, described their first meeting. “I had read, of course, everything I could read about him beforehand. I was well-briefed,” he said last year. “I was impressed, however, by how tall he was. By the ramrod straightness of his stature, and realized that this is a very special man. He had an aura around him. He’s truly a very dignified and a very admirable person.” For many South Africans, he was simply Madiba, his traditional clan name. Others affectionately called him Tata, the Xhosa word for father.
A nation on edge
Mandela last appeared in public during the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa. His absences from the limelight and frequent hospitalizations left the nation on edge, prompting Zuma to reassure citizens every time he fell sick. “Mandela is woven into the fabric of the country and the world,” said Ayo Johnson, director of Viewpoint Africa, which sells content about the continent to media outlets. When he was around, South Africans had faith that their leaders would live up to the nation’s ideals, according to Johnson. “He was a father figure, elder statesman and global ambassador,” Johnson said. “He was the guarantee, almost like an insurance policy, that South Africa’s young democracy and its leaders will pursue the nation’s best interests.” There are telling nuggets of Mandela’s character in the many autobiographies about him. An unmovable stubbornness. A quick, easy smile. An even quicker frown when accosted with a discussion he wanted no part of.
Despite chronic political violence in the years preceding the vote that put him in office in 1994, South Africa avoided a full-fledged civil war in its transition from apartheid to multiparty democracy. The peace was due in large part to the leadership and vision of Mandela and de Klerk. “We were expected by the world to self-destruct in the bloodiest civil war along racial grounds,” Mandela said during a 2004 celebration to mark a decade of democracy in South Africa. “Not only did we avert such racial conflagration, we created amongst ourselves one of the most exemplary and progressive nonracial and nonsexist democratic orders in the contemporary world.” Mandela represented a new breed of African liberation leaders, breaking from others of his era such as Robert Mugabe by serving one term. In neighboring Zimbabwe, Mugabe has been president since 1987. A lot of African leaders overstayed their welcomes and remained in office for years, sometimes decades, making Mandela an anomaly. But he was not always popular in world capitals. Until 2008, the United States had placed him and other members of the African National Congress on its terror list because of their militant fight against the apartheid regime.
Rolihlahla Mandela started his journey in the tiny village of Mvezo, in the hills of the Eastern Cape, where he was born on July 18, 1918. His teacher later named him Nelson as part of a custom to give all schoolchildren Christian names. His father died when he was 9, and the local tribal chief took him in and educated him. Mandela attended school in rural Qunu, where he retreated in 2011 before returning to Johannesburg and later Pretoria to be near medical facilities. He briefly attended University College of Fort Hare but was expelled after taking part in a protest with Oliver Tambo, with whom he later operated the nation’s first black law firm. In subsequent years, he completed a bachelor’s degree through correspondence courses and studied law at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, but left without graduating in 1948. Four years before he left the university, he helped form the youth league of the African National Congress, hoping to transform the organization into a more radical movement. He was dissatisfied with the ANC and its old-guard politics. And so began Mandela’s civil disobedience and lifelong commitment to breaking the shackles of segregation in South Africa.
In 1956, Mandela and dozens of other political activists were charged with high treason for activities against the government. His trial lasted five years, but he was ultimately acquitted. Meanwhile, the fight for equality got bloodier. Four years after his treason charges, police shot 69 unarmed black protesters in Sharpeville township as they demonstrated outside a station. The Sharpeville Massacre was condemned worldwide, and it spurred Mandela to take a more militant tone in the fight against apartheid. The South African government outlawed the ANC after the massacre, and an angry Mandela went underground to form a new military wing of the organization. “There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and nonviolence against a government whose reply is only savage attacks on an unarmed and defenseless people,” Mandela said during his time on the run. During that period, he left South Africa and secretly traveled under a fake name. The press nicknamed him “the Black Pimpernel” because of his police evasion tactics.
The African National Congress heeded calls for stronger action against the apartheid regime, and Mandela helped launch an armed wing to attack government symbols, including post offices and offices. The armed struggle was a defense mechanism against government violence, he said. “My people, Africans, are turning to deliberate acts of violence and of force against the government, in order to persuade the government, in the only language which this government shows by its own behavior that it understands,” Mandela said during a hearing in 1962. “If there is no dawning of sanity on the part of the government — ultimately, the dispute between the government and my people will finish up by being settled in violence and by force. “ The campaign of violence against the state resulted in civilian casualties.
In 1962, Mandela secretly received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia. When he returned home later that year, he was arrested and charged with illegal exit of the country and incitement to strike. Mandela represented himself at the trial and was briefly imprisoned before being returned to court. In 1964, after the famous Rivonia trial, he was sentenced to life in prison for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. At the trial, instead of testifying, he opted to give a speech that was more than four hours long, and ended with a defiant statement. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” he said. “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” His next stop was the Robben Island prison, where he spent 18 of his 27 years in detention. He described his early days there as harsh. “There was a lot of physical abuse, and many of my colleagues went through that humiliation,” he said.
One of those colleagues was Khehla Shubane, 57, who was imprisoned in Robben Island during Mandela’s last years there. Though they were in different sections of the prison, he said, Mandela was a towering figure. “He demanded better rights for us all in prison. The right to get more letters, get newspapers, listen to the radio, better food, right to study,” Shubane said. “It may not sound like much to the outside world, but when you are in prison, that’s all you have.” And Mandela’s khaki prison pants, he said, were always crisp and ironed. “Most of us chaps were lazy, we would hang our clothes out to dry and wear them with creases. We were in a prison, we didn’t care. But Mandela, every time I saw him, he looked sharp.” After 18 years, he was transferred to other prisons, where he experienced better conditions until he was freed in 1990. Months before his release, he obtained a bachelor’s in law in absentia from the University of South Africa.
Calls for release
His freedom followed years of an international outcry led by Winnie Mandela, a social worker whom he married in 1958, three months after divorcing his first wife. Mandela was banned from reading newspapers, but his wife provided a link to the outside world. She told him of the growing calls for his release and updated him on the fight against apartheid. World pressure mounted to free Mandela with the imposition of political, economic and sporting sanctions, and the white minority government became more isolated. In 1988 at age 70, Mandela was hospitalized with tuberculosis, a disease whose effects plagued him until the day he died. He recovered and was sent to a minimum security prison farm, where he was given his own quarters and could receive additional visitors. Among them, in an unprecedented meeting, was South Africa’s president, P.W. Botha.
Change was in the air.
When Botha’s successor, de Klerk, took over, he pledged to negotiate an end to apartheid.
Free at last
On February 11, 1990, Mandela walked out of prison to thunderous applause, his clenched right fist raised above his head. Still as upright and proud, he would say, as the day he walked into prison nearly three decades earlier. “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,” he said at the time. He reassured ANC supporters that his release was not part of a government deal and informed whites that he intended to work toward reconciliation. Four years after his release, in South Africa’s first multiracial elections, he became the nation’s first black president. “The day he was inducted as president, we stood on the terraces of the Union Building,” de Klerk remembered years later. “He took my hand and lifted it up. He put his arm around me, and we showed a unity that resounded through South Africa and the world.”
Broken marriage, then love
His union to Winnie Mandela, however, did not have such a happy ending. They officially divorced in 1996 after several years of separation. For the two, it was a fiery love story, derailed by his ambition to end apartheid. During his time in prison, Mandela wrote his wife long letters, expressing his guilt at putting political activism before family. Before the separation, Winnie Mandela was implicated in violence, including a conviction for being an accessory to assault in the death of a teenage township activist. Mandela found love again two years after the divorce. On his 80th birthday, he married Graca Machel, the widow of former Mozambique president, Samora Machel. Only three of Mandela’s children are still alive. He has 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren
South Africa’s fight for reconciliation was epitomized at the 1995 rugby World Cup Final in Johannesburg, when it played heavily favored New Zealand. As the dominant sport of white Afrikaners, rugby was reviled by blacks in South Africa. They often cheered for rivals playing their national team. Mandela’s deft use of the national team to heal South Africa was captured in director Clint Eastwood’s 2009 feature film “Invictus,” starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the white South African captain of the rugby team. Before the real-life game, Mandela walked onto the pitch, wearing a green-and-gold South African jersey bearing Pienaar’s number on the back. “I will never forget the goosebumps that stood on my arms when he walked out onto the pitch before the game started,” said Rory Steyn, his bodyguard for most of his presidency. “That crowd, which was almost exclusively white … started to chant his name. That one act of putting on a No. 6 jersey did more than any other statement in bringing white South Africans and Afrikaners on side with new South Africa.” During his presidency, Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights abuses during apartheid. He also introduced housing, education and economic development initiatives designed to improve the living standards of the black majority.
A promise honored
In 1999, Mandela did not seek a second term as president, keeping his promise to serve only one term. Thabo Mbeki succeeded him in June of the same year. After leaving the presidency, he retired from active politics, but remained in the public eye, championing causes such as human rights, world peace and the fight against AIDS. It was a decision born of tragedy: His only surviving son, Makgatho Mandela, died of AIDS at age 55 in 2005. Another son, Madiba Thembekile, was killed in a car crash in 1969. Mandela’s 90th birthday party in London’s Hyde Park was dedicated to HIV awareness and prevention, and was titled 46664, his prison number on Robben Island.
A resounding voice
Mandela continued to be a voice for developing nations. He criticized U.S. President George W. Bush for launching the 2003 war against Iraq, and accused the United States of “wanting to plunge the world into a Holocaust.” And as he was acclaimed as the force behind ending apartheid, he made it clear he was only one of many who helped transform South Africa into a democracy. In 2004, a few weeks before he turned 86, he announced his retirement from public life to spend more time with his loved ones. “Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” he said as he stepped away from his hectic schedule.
‘Like a boy of 15′
But there was a big treat in store for the avid sportsman. When South Africa was awarded the 2010 football World Cup, Mandela said he felt “like a boy of 15.” In July that year, he beamed and waved at fans during the final of the tournament in Johannesburg’s Soccer City. It was his last public appearance. “I would like to be remembered not as anyone unique or special, but as part of a great team in this country that has struggled for many years, for decades and even centuries,” he said. “The greatest glory of living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall.”
Hungarian Far-Right Jobbik Party Embraces Muslim Nations
The seemingly strange link between the European far right and Islam emerged again recently over reports that Gábor Vona, the chairman of Hungary's ultra-nationalist Jobbik party, praised Muslims during a visit to Turkey and called for his country to reposition its foreign policy eastward.
6/12/2013- The Morocco World News reported in early November that Vona even told a Turkish university audience that “Islam is the last hope for humanity in the darkness of globalism and liberalism.” On a speaking tour of Turkish colleges, Vona also highlighted Hungary's ethnic and blood links with the Turks, recalling the once-enormous Ottoman Empire which conquered Hungary and stretched as far west as Vienna. “We’re not coming to Turkey to build diplomatic and economic relations, but to meet our Turkish brothers and sisters,” Vona declared, according to Islametinfo.fr. Vona praised the personal friendships he has enjoyed from various Muslims throughout his life, including a Palestinian who attended his wedding as a guest. He also threw down the gauntlet by making a sharp distinction between his views on foreign policy and those of other Western nations. “The West does not tolerate seeing my party support Turkey and other Turanian peoples, such as Azerbaijanis, in international conflicts.” [Turanians refer to an allegedly mythical people who originated somewhere in Central Asia and migrated westward thousands of years ago. Many Turkish nationalists believe they are descended from these peoples and dream of forming a new Pan-Turanian empire stretching from Asia to Europe.]
In addition, Vona separated himself from other far-right European leaders who generally disdain Muslims, particularly Turks, who now form significant ethnic minority communities in several Western European states. “Africa has no power... South-America [suffers] from perplexed identity due to their much congested societies,” Vona said on his party's website. “Considering all this, there’s only one culture left which seeks to preserve its traditions: It is the Islamic world.” In a broader context, Vona suggested that a nationalistic, conservative society founded on both European and Asian (Eurasian) principles would comprise ideal statehood, in stark contrast to the neoliberal, multicultural, consumerist Western countries, which he perceives as trapped in a hopeless and perhaps irreversible decline. “We have been urging... the improvement of ... relations with Russia, China, India, Central Asia and the Muslim world,” he said on his website.
Vona claimed that the conservative, traditional societies of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia treasure family, faith, patriotism and their ancient cultures, in contrast to the West, particularly the U.S., which he accuses of sinking into moral and spiritual decay. "Some European countries and especially the nations of Asia still preserve a lot of the universal human traditions,” he told a Turkish college audience. “We need to be able to integrate the essence of the European as well as the Asian mentality. The practical European and the profound Eastern approach need to shape us together.” Vona proposed that three modern states already embody this confluence of cultures – Russia, Turkey and his own Hungary. “These three nations are European and Asian at the same time, due to their history, fate and disposition,” he said. “These nations are destined to present the Eurasian alternative." Vona said Turanism can help create a powerful alternative to the decadent and weakening West. "'This is our common mission and the universal task of Turanism: to build a bridge between East and West, Muslim and Christian and struggle together for a better world,” he declared. “We must show that Christians and Muslims are not enemies but brothers. Perhaps none else than us Hungarians and Turks are able to do that; but we are, because we are connected by our common blood.”
Founded only 10 years ago, Jobbik – which means "Movement for a Better Hungary" -- espouses strong opposition to immigration and carries a particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism and homophobia, but cannot be dismissed as a lunatic fringe organization of misfits. Indeed, in the recent Hungarian parliamentary elections, the party snagged one-sixth of the popular vote, granting them 47 out of the 386 seats in the National Assembly, making Jobbik the third-largest party in Hungary (only France's far-right National Front of Marine Le Pen performed better at the polls, among right-wing extremist parties on the continent). Dr. Dieter Dettke, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University in Washington and a former Woodrow Wilson Center Scholar, who has conducted extensive research on Jobbik, told International Business Times that the party’s core supporters comprise both the younger generation and the better educated, and that they are primarily motivated by nationalism as well as by a desire to lash out against the status quo.
On his website, Vona admits that some members of his party adhere to anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and anti-immigration views, but no more so than members and supporters of both Hungary's ruling Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban or the country's mainstream Socialists, MSZP. He also declared Islam is the most able force that can resist the “unipolar” world order advocated by the United States. Vona conceded that most other far-right parties in Europe do not share his passion for Islam. "Obviously, in countries such as Austria or France that are suffering from the problem of immigration, [it is] very difficult [for them] to consider the Islamic world as an ally in the struggle against globalism,” he said. “I can understand their anger. But they also need to understand that based on the behavior of [some]… the entire Islamic community of half a billion can't be judged.”
Vona also cautioned that he is not calling for the mass conversion of Christians to Islam, nor does he necessarily support further immigration of Muslims into Europe. In a December 2010 interview, Vona expressed neither endorsement nor opposition to Turkey’s long-denied application into the European Union, but assured that he didn't fear its ramifications, citing that the Turks now enjoy a buoyant economy and powerful military. “Immigration needs to be regulated to make sure that we don’t end up where Germany is, but besides this, the Turkish membership [in the EU] wouldn’t pose any danger for us, but the exact opposite,” he said. “In my view, we could gain a key ally in Turkey against certain European groups under the influence of the American-Israeli lobby. One thing seems certain, Turkey could be Hungary’s key ally.” (Interestingly, Vona himself wants Hungary to leave the EU, describing financial dependence upon Brussels as a kind of colonialism and even “enslavement.”)
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Vona has also reached out to the Muslim nation of Iran. Not surprisingly, Jobbik has praised Iran's strident anti-Zionism while condemning Western sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program and allegations of sponsoring state terrorism. “The Persian people and their leaders are considered pariahs in the eyes of the West, which serves Israeli interests,” said Marton Gyongyosi, Jobbik’s foreign policy chief. “This is why we have solidarity with the peaceful nation of Iran and turn to her with an open heart.” (Gyongyosi is notorious for having called for the registration of Hungarian Jews, describing them as a potential national “security risk.” He also lambasted Zionism as a “threat” to global peace). Jews in Hungary and elsewhere are concerned by Jobbik’s flirtation with the Iranian regime. Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League in the U.S., wrote in 2011 that anti-Semitism “binds” the Hungarian ultranationalists with the ayatollahs of Tehran in a “nexus of hate.” “That is all they have in common,” he added.
Jobbik is determined to increase Hungarian bilateral trade with Iran, which has plunged from $400 million to $40 million – a 90 percent drop -- since 2000. Coincidentally, next year will mark Holocaust Remembrance Year in Hungary, the 70th anniversary of the deportation of at least 450,000 Hungarian Jews to Nazi death camps. “We know that we were responsible for the Holocaust in Hungary,” Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics told a Jewish conference in Budapest. “We know that Hungarian state interests were responsible.” The ruling Fidesz party, which, through coalitions, controls two-thirds of the parliament, dwarfing Jobbik’s 47 seats, has condemned anti-Semitism in the country repeatedly. (As a bizarre aside, last year it was revealed that Csanad Szegedi, a senior Jobbik leader and member of the European Parliament, was himself Jewish and that his grandmother, Magoldna Klein, was a Jewish Holocaust survivor. Dettke commented that Szegedi is now leading a normal life as a Jewish Hungarian). There are no more than 100,000 Jews residing in Hungary – down from about 800,000 in 1941. Roma (Gypsies) are far more numerous, representing as much as 10 percent of Hungary’s total population today.
Dettke said the party is seeking to establish a role with mainstream right-wing parties. “But because of its anti-Semitism, its pro-Islam attitude and its quaint ideology of Turanism, Jobbik is not acceptable for many other right-wing political parties, in the UK, Netherlands for example." But Dettke noted that Jobbik has some significant leverage in the Hungarian parliament – already it has imposed its will on a number of issues on the Fidesz majority, including provisions for a passport for every Hungarian abroad and a surtax on multinational companies, as well as Orban’s increased geopolitical focus on the Middle East and Asia. Dettke adds also that, given Jobbik’s not-insignificant popular support, Orban has to pander to them – to a degree. “Orban pays a dangerous game of copying and at the same time trying to outflank Jobbik,” he said. “This could lead to [the] legitimization of Jobbik,” adding that Jobbik could draw even more votes both in Hungarian national elections as well in the European elections next May.
© The International Business Times
Former Dansk Folkeparti MP acquitted of racism (Denmark)
MP comparing Muslim women to garbage was creating debate about womens rights, says defence lawyer.
6/12/2013- Tina Petersen, a former MP for Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and current member of the Svendborg City Council, has has been acquitted of racism after posting a photo on her Facebook page in April that compared Muslims to rubbish. “Hehe ... Remember to take out the big trash tomorrow ;-)))…” Petersen wrote next to a manipulated photo of a burka-clad Muslim woman and child who were made to resemble the two rubbish bags they are standing next to. The public prosecutor’s office on Funen filed the indictment. Petersen was acquitted by a unanimous decision.
“The court found that Petersen had no intention of hurting anyone,” Petersen’s defence lawyer, Jens Bertel Rasmussen, told TV2 Funen. “Her intent was merely to create a debate about the oppression of women.” Rasmussen told the court that the offensive picture had appeared many places online since 2006, and that during Petersen’s political career she has fought for women's rights and against the oppression of women. “This is a good decision showing that there is considerable scope for debate and freedom of expression in Denmark,” said Rasmussen.
© The Copenhagen Post.
Austrian mayor resigns over alleged racist, anti-Semitic comments
6/12/2013- The mayor of an Austrian village says he's resigning after being accused of racist and anti-Semitic comments. Karl Simlinger has denied some of the remarks attributed to him by an opposition member of the village council. But on Friday he acknowledged making a statement that "grossly contravenes my convictions and my personal views." Simlinger didn't specify what he meant, but may have been referring to accusations that he had likened foreign asylum-seekers in Austria to excrement and said journalists should be hanged "like the Jews." Simlinger allegedly made the comments during discussion about building a home for refugees in his village of Gfoehl, about 70 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Vienna. In Austria, such remarks are a crime and an anti-racist group is pressing charges against Simlinger.
© The Associated Press
Austrian mayor: Journalists should be hanged like Jews
Mayor of the city of Gföhl is furious about asylum seekers, blames journalists for reporting on them.
5/12/2013- The mayor of the Austrian town of Gföhl said on Tuesday in city council meeting that journalists who reported on asylum seekers should be hanged like the Jews. The Austrian news outlet Heute.at reported on Wednesday that Gföhl’s mayor Karl Simlinger expressed fury about asylum applicants who would be lodged in a planned complex. “I don’t give a shit about asylum seekers, but the journalists are to be blamed. They should be hanged; they are like the Jews.” City council representatives Günter Steindl and Sabine Mai confirmed Simlinger’s statements to the news outlet Heute.at. Gföhl is located in the Austrian state of Lower Austria, with a population of nearly 4,000.
Heute.at reported that Steindl documented Simlinger’s statements in a contemporaneous log during the city council meeting. He asked Simlinger, “Do you know what you just said?” Simlinger responded in the affirmative. Simlinger told Heute.at that “the asylum discussion took a toll on me.” He accused journalists of misreporting events. Simlinger said he has to stand by his word. “I never said the word Jews. I only quoted from Duden. Mr. Steindl should be careful because that goes in the direction of defamation.“ Duden is a German word and grammar book. Steindl and Sabine Mai said it is inexcusable that the mayor voiced “xenophobia and anti-Semitism."
© The Jerusalem Post
Czech Police arrest right-wing extremists who were arming themselves
5/12/2013- Detectives from the Organized Crime Detection Unit (Útvar pro odhalování organizovaného zločinu - ÚOOZ) arrested five men from the Bruntál and Olomouc areas at the end of November and charged them with possessing weapons without permits. During house searches the detectives found weapons, dozens of kilograms of gunpowder, explosives and ammunition, as well as ultra-right themed materials. One of the suspects is a soldier. Detectives have been investigating information from military intelligence regarding the domestic right-wing extremist scene in northern Moravia since the start of 2013, police reported today on their website. "We arrested a total of five persons as part of this action, all of whom were charged with possessing weapons without permits," Pavel Hanták, the ÚOOZ spokesperson, confirmed to TV Nova. Those arrested range in age from 26 to 33 and face between two and eight years in prison if convicted.
During the past few months the investigation, part of an action code-named Timothy, began to confirm that the men had illegal arms. "According to the detectives' information, the main suspect had reportedly hidden what was primarily a larger amount of ammunition and material for producing it (cartridges, gunpowder and shot) in his home, in his previous place of residence, and at his workplace. He was also reportedly producing ammunition to order, either in his home or at his job," the police press release reads. The five men were arrested on 26 November by ÚOOZ detectives in collaboration with other police units. According to police information, another detained suspect was purveying weapons made to order. That particular suspect had illegally produced hundreds of rounds both at his home and workplace. "The amount confiscated is rather large," Hanták said.
Among those detained is a Czech solder who is also a right-wing extremist. "One professional soldier also figures in the case. He is a sergeant from the unit in Žatec working as a driver," Czech Defense Ministry spokesperson Jan Pejšek has confirmed. During the house searches, police found several illegal firearms, both long-barreled and short-barreled, a silencer, several dozen electric detonating fuses, components for devices for ammunition clips, a large amount of already-produced ammunition, dozens of kilograms of gunpowder and thousands of ignition caps, bullets and empty shell casings. "Ultra-right themed materials were also discovered," police said, adding that there is no other information to provide about the case right now. Czech soldiers use Glock pistols, the same make of pistol confiscated by police in this action. The Czech Defense Ministry says it is now investigating the matter. "I do not have any indications that the gear could have come from Army warehouses. The soldier has been relieved of duty," Pejšek has said about the case. Not all of those charged remain in custody. They face anywhere between two and eight years in prison depending on the severity of the charges against them.
On December 1st, 2013 Romania celebrated its Independence Day
A group of neo-fascists, legionnaires, members of the revived "Miscarea Legionara" ( The Legionnaires' Movement or the Green Shirts ), participated at the celebrations presenting their Nazi salute in broad daylight, in public places, in the heart of the capital. All legal. With the approval of the local authorities.
5/12/2013- In January 1941 "Miscarea Legionara" , a political group brought to power by Marshal Ion Antonescu, killed over 120 Jews and vandalized hundreds of Jewish business and establishments in a pogrom that took place over less than three days in Bucharest, , a pogrom that was triggered by a military operation initiated by Marshal Antonescu, the ruler of Romania at that time. Later on many of the legionnaires later joined the communist party. The post-1989 revolution legionnaires claim to be reviving "national pride" and are freely promoting the dogma of the WWII legionnaires, with impunity. The Romanian authorities do not see any threat in the new "Miscarea Legionara" and no steps are being taken in order to dismantle this group which promotes extreme nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism, all wrapped up under "the love for country and God". The attached photos are a vivid example of how neo-fascists in Romania are taking advantage of the legislative vacuum created by the fact that the modified Law 107/2006 is blocked by members of the Romanian Movement and the Romanian Parliament.
Law 107 issued in 2006, based on the Ordinance of the Government issued in 2002, is the law that combats anti-Semitism, racism and the promotion of fascist and Nazi symbols in Romania. Because of changes imposed by the Parliament in 2006, the law has allowed Holocaust deniers and anti-Semitism to escape punishment for their public display of racist opinions. This is why since 2010, MCA Romania together with other Jewish organizations in Romania, worked on modifying the law, which was presented to the Romanian Government in 2011. Since then the adoption of the modified law was blocked by the Ministry of Justice. Four months ago The National Institute for the Holocaust Research together with leading politicians placed a formal request for the law to be adopted, without any further delay, by the Romanian Parliament. Nothing has yet happed. This is why fascists, extreme nationalists, anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers act freely in Romania.
© MCA Romania-The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism
EU anti-racism agency unable to define anti-Semitism, official says
4/12/2013- The European Union’s agency for combating racism dropped its definition for anti-Semitism and now is unable to define the term, an agency spokeswoman said. “We are not aware of any official definition [of anti-Semitism],” Blanca Tapia of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency told JTA on Tuesday. Tapia was answering a query on the recent removal from the agency’s website of a “working definition” of anti-Semitism that was adopted in 2005 by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia — the EU entity that her organization has replaced. The removal was first reported by the pro-Palestinian website Electronic Intifada. Campaigners against anti-Semitism said the document is significant because alongside classical anti-Semitic behavior, it lists the vilification of Israel or Israelis, which some scholars call “new anti-Semitism.” The definition lists “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and drawing comparisons between Israel and Nazis as examples of anti-Semitism.
But Tapia said her organization had never viewed the document as a valid definition. Agency officials said the document had been pulled offline “together with other non-official documents.” Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told JTA that the agency’s “disowning of its own definition is astounding” and that “those who fight anti-Semitism have lost an important weapon.” He also said the “Union’s about-face on its own definition damages its credibility.” But Tapia said, “The agency does not need to develop its own definition of anti-Semitism in order to research these issues.” In its 2012 “who we are” booklet, the agency listed “Deﬁne areas of work” among its tasks, but Tapia told JTA that the agency “has no mandate to develop its own definitions.” In 2008, the agency published a document that contains definitions for homophobia and transphobia. Tapia said, however, that the agency had defined neither and used “international standards” that “contain definitions, terms and concepts.”
© JTA News
EU moves to prevent new migrant deaths after Lampedusa
The EU has revealed plans to tighten patrols of its sea borders and do more to help asylum-seekers, two months after the Lampedusa boat tragedy.
4/12/2013- A common strategy would be adopted from Cyprus to Spain to monitor routes taken by clandestine migrants, and thereby detect boats in distress more quickly. Proposals to help people apply for asylum before travelling to the EU would be considered. Disagreements between the EU's 28 states have dogged past initiatives. The new initiative announced by the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, on Tuesday is presented as a specific response to the Lampedusa disaster, when more than 350 migrants died in a shipwreck off the Italian island on 3 October. However, it features some measures agreed long before the disaster, such as the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur), which came into effect on Monday. EU justice and home affairs ministers will discuss the initiative later this week, before it goes for final approval to a summit of EU leaders on 19-20 December in Brussels.
"Two months ago the tragedy in Lampedusa triggered a very wide and emotional reaction across Europe - a chorus of voices calling for actions to avoid such disasters in the future," Ms Malmstrom said. "Today we are putting on the table measures and proposals for a truly European response that can make a difference." The urgency of the crisis was underlined on Monday when Italian coastguards rescued some 120 migrants from a packed fishing boat adrift off the coast of southern Italy in gale-force conditions. They were said to be mainly Syrians and included women and children.
The initiative gives priority to stepping up surveillance through a European Patrols' Network backed by the EU frontier agency Frontex, which would cost the EU an extra 14m euros (£12m; $19m) a year. Eurosur would form part of this network, allowing states to share real-time images and data on developments at the EU's external borders. In order to help genuine asylum-seekers before they set out on perilous clandestine journeys to Europe, the new initiative would encourage the policy of resettlement. Under this policy, vulnerable people are brought directly to the country of asylum from foreign refugee camps or conflict zones, typically by air. EU states collected just under 5,000 people under this policy in 2012, compared with more than 50,000 taken by the US, the Commission says. Another proposal is to examine the possibility of "protected entries", whereby asylum-seekers could lodge their application before heading for Europe.
Non-EU member state Switzerland, where the proportion of refugees per head of population is twice the European average, was unique in practising this policy until recently. It allowed applications for asylum to be made at its embassies abroad before the system was abandoned in a popular referendum in June. Other EU measures announced by Ms Malmstrom involve making the asylum application process within the EU more efficient; stepping up the fight against human traffickers; and closer co-operation with states on the traffickers' transit routes, such as Morocco and Libya. Green politicians in the European Parliament attacked Tuesday's initiative, saying it was too vague and focused on surveillance rather than rescue. "Under the guise of fighting trafficking, the Commission is looking to shift the EU's external borders to the African coast," Green migration policy spokeswoman Ska Keller said in a statement.
Matthew Price BBC News, Brussels
One line towards the end of these proposals stands out. The Commission is "ready to explore" ways of allowing non-EU nationals to "access the asylum procedure from outside the EU without embarking on difficult journeys to reach Europe". In other words, could a system be set up which would allow people fleeing war for instance to get permission to come to the EU? Presumably then they could just board an aeroplane and fly in rather than risking their lives on a dangerous boat crossing, or paying thousands to smugglers to drive them across borders. It is fraught with practical difficulties though. How to vet people, how to do it quickly enough to get them to safety if it is needed, and how not to encourage those who do not need asylum? The Commission also wants all EU countries to resettle asylum-seekers - in other words to spread out the migrants who arrive in Europe and to share the burden. Both sound like practical solutions, but many EU countries want to shut off migration channels right now, not open them up. So there will be reluctance to put some of these ideas in place.
© BBC News
A disturbing rise of anti-Semitism (opinion)
From Europe to South America, Jews find themselves facing modern forms of bigotry
By Elayne Clift
4/12/2013- In Belgium, a group of students at a Jewish school are assaulted by neighborhood youth. In a small town in the Czech Republic, vandals topple 80 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery and damage a Holocaust memorial twice. In Finland, swastikas with anti-Semitic slogans are spray-painted on public buildings. The son of a rabbi in France is attacked outside his home by men shouting ant-Semitic slogans. Reports continue to grow in Spain of incidents that include vandalism, verbal harassment, and anti-Semitic sentiment in newspapers and at sporting events. These examples, all of which have been reported by the State Department, are true. And all of them occurred in Europe, where 22 percent of Jewish people say they hide their Jewish identity because they are afraid. But the same kinds of anti-Semitic acts are happening all over the world, from Armenia to Argentina, Belarus to Brazil, Syria to Saudi Arabia. Commenting on a 2012 survey of more than 5,000 people in nine European countries conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, a former representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe noted that “a majority of European Jews are experiencing a rise in anti-Semitism.”
The global increase in incidents of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, not only by individuals but by some government officials and religious leaders, has prompted the U.S. State Department to appoint a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. The Department’s 2012 report on religious freedom cited particular concerns about government-sanctioned expressions of anti-Semitism in Venezuela, Egypt, and Iran. A recent Voice of America editorial shared a message from Hannah Rosenthal, the now-retired U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. “Not only is anti-Semitism still prevalent,” she said before stepping down last year, “but it is evolving into new, contemporary forms of religious hatred, racism, and political, social, and cultural bigotry.” One need only consider how President Obama has been treated in some quarters to see the relevance of her remark. According to the VOA editorial, Ms. Rosenthal has underscored that anti-Semitism is no longer limited to its traditional forms, such as defacing property and desecrating Jewish cemeteries. New forms include Holocaust denial; “Holocaust glorification,” a particular favorite among some Middle Eastern media that call for a new Holocaust to finish Jewish annihilation; and “Holocaust relativism,” in which some governments and institutions conflate the Holocaust with other tragic events that include great human suffering.
Because of the increasing frequency and severity of anti-Semitic incidents over the past decade, especially in Europe, the international community is taking steps to combat it. But how effective will these efforts be? United Nations meetings and resolutions are notoriously ineffective. Speeches by government officials are just so much blah-blah. Law-enforcement agencies frequently downplay the seriousness of hate crimes. And the media seems increasingly willing to provide a forum for anti-Semitic propaganda to flourish. Perhaps recent events in Hungary, reported by The New York Times, offer a way to at least shine light on anti-Semitism. Iván Fischer, conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, fed up with right-wing parties in his country and across Europe, wrote an opera about a famous 1882 blood libel case in Hungary as a rebuke to the country’s growing tolerance for anti-Semitism under the leadership of its right-wing, authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán. The opera has been seen widely and is much discussed in the media and in coffee houses across Hungary. “Culture has a strong responsibility to find the essence, the real concealed truth, which lies behind the day to day,” Mr. Fischer told The New York Times. Perhaps culture can help curb the growing crisis.
But as Hannah Rosenthal knows, “leaders must confront bigotry. Where there is hatred born of ignorance, we must teach and inspire,” she said. “Where there is hatred born of blindness, we must expose people to a larger world of ideas,” Rosenthal said. “Where there is hatred whipped up by irresponsible leaders, we must call them out and answer as strongly as we can — and make their message totally unacceptable to all people of conscience.” Having just passed the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass” in Berlin that marked the turning point toward Hitler’s Jewish genocide, Rosenthal’s words are urgent and perhaps prescient. A Neo-Nazi group in Kansas City, Mo., chose the anniversary day to plan a rally protesting immigration reform. The white supremacist gang, which is connected to the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups, claims to be “the political party for every patriotic white American.” It stands against granting amnesty to “illegal aliens” who, its members say, (as Hitler did of German Jews) are causing the “nation to drown in a free fall of economic collapse.”
Never again? As my mother would say, “From your lips to God’s ear.”
© The Commons
'We don't want Nazi fans in stadium': Real Madrid
Real Madrid's president plans to kick out extreme-right 'Ultra Sur' fans from its stadium and replace them with younger, better-behaved supporters.
4/12/2013- Since its establishment some 33 years ago, Real Madrid's 'Ultras Sur' fan group has provided relentless atmosphere and cheering to the Bernabeu Stadium. Their 'passion' isn’t to everybody’s liking though, as neo-Nazi paraphernalia, violent behaviour and racist chanting have become all too common sights at the stadium's south stand. This explains why Real president Florentino Pérez has now decided to reassign the ultras' seats to a group of younger, more respectable season-ticket holders, Spanish radio station COPE reported on Monday. Some ultra fans have already been banned from the Bernabeu, COPE added.
Pérez's decision has been reinforced by the news of four other ultra fans being fined €3,000 ($4,000) and banned from sporting events for twelve months after they displayed swastikas and other Nazi symbols at the Real-Atlético game last October. Internal disagreements among members of the troublesome group are said to be at the root of a bar brawl outside the Bernabeu after the game against Real Sociedad on November 9th. Those disputes may also explain why the stand behind the south goal at the Bernabeu - the place where ultras always gather- has been partially empty for the past few home games. Football-focused daily AS said that Pérez is planning to take away the ultras' 885 seats to create a new 'Fans Sur' stand of 1,600 seats by next January.
© The Local - Spain
EU threatened by ‘rampant right-wing populism’, warns German think tank
Right-wing populist parties have established themselves with solid electorates in almost all European countries, representing a growing threat for next year’s EU elections, according to a study by the German Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.
5/12/2013- Almost everywhere in Europe, right-wing populist parties have "established themselves as relevant political forces", says a study released on Monday (2 December) by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a foundation associated with the conservative political party the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The study says politicians should not ignore the role of these parties in the political landscape. Anti-European sentiment is on the rise across the continent. A recent opinion poll gave French far-right leader Marine Le Pen a 24% share of the vote, potentially making the Front National the biggest French delegation in the European Parliament next year. "I am interested in Europe, because I am fighting it with all my strength," she said in a 2011 interview.
France is not alone in this respect. In member states such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and the United Kingdom right-wing and nationalist parties have gained strength, "exerting their influence in their countries of origin as well as at the European level," according to the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. Charismatic leaders like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands or Heinz-Christian Strache in Austria share a particularly tough stance against immigrants and reject outright the European institutions. "Harsh EU criticism is part of the regular repertoire," the authors of the study note. “This element is what makes the boundary between 'us', normal and righteous citizens, and 'them', the distant political bureaucrats so apparent," it says. Right-wing populist parties are also notorious "naysayers", the study says, noting they are against immigration, pluralism, cultural diversity and European integration. Moreover, these parties tend to have stable electorates from across the entire political spectrum.
Right-wing populist spillover
Worryingly, the authors note that right-wing populist views tend to "spillover to other [mainstream] parties and affect their positions". The study links Prime Minister David Cameron's proposal for a referendum on British membership of the European Union to growing support for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Cameron has also had to take account of Eurosceptic members of his own Conservative Party. The authors also say that without pressure from the nationalist and populist True Finns, Finland's National Coalition party would probably not have been so hesitant to pledge further bailouts to crisis-ridden eurozone neighbours. The study advises mainstream political parties to confront right-wing populist movements by debunking their claims. "Empty political phrases from right-wing and national-populist parties should be debunked through direct thematic confrontation," it recommends. Conservative parties in particular must play a role by offering more frequent and understandable explanations of EU decision-making processes, for example by emphasising the successes of eurozone stabilisation policy, says the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung publication.
Ethnically charged issues
The foundation's study comes amid fears that right-wing populist parties could make significant gains at the 2014 EU elections, with some polls suggesting they could win up to 25% of seats in the next European Parliament. "This would make it extremely difficult for democratic parties to pursue proper politics,” explained Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green MEP who hosted the launch of the study. “Right-wing extremist parties already use their presence in the European Parliament to legitimise racist and populist positions and to enjoy various financial benefits," Albrecht warned. "In their so-called Kulturkampf [culture war] over Europe's identity, [these parties] are adding to the polarisation of the political debate", the Green MEP contended.
A new edition of Albrecht’s own study, called ‘Europe on the Far Right’, came out on Monday (2 December). It looks back on the influence right-wing radical MEPs have had on the work of the European Parliament over the past five years. With limited representation, populist members have so far not been able to exercise direct legislative power in the European Parliament, Albrecht argues. Still, their presence has not been without effect as the political agenda can be influenced through the appointment of rapporteurs and through written positions, he contends. "In many member states we can observe that right-wing radical parties have been chasing governments forward on topics like immigration and domestic security," explained Tobias Peter who co-authored the study by Jan Philip Albrecht. "Instead of pointing out the social causes for societal problems, these issues are ethnically charged by right-wing radicals so that they are reinterpreted as problems related purely to immigration," he said.
German interior ministers set to debate NPD ban
Germany’s interior ministers have begun debating several initiatives related to combating the far-right scene in the country. All 16 states recently submitted a new bid to ban a neo-Nazi political party.
4/12/2013- Interior ministers of Germany's 16 states gathered Wednesday in Osnabrück, Lower Saxony for an annual fall meeting. The politicians are debating their recent bid to ban the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). The bid was officially submitted Tuesday in Germany's Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. This latest attempt was launched by every state and is supported by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, although it has chosen not to launch its own case with the court. The last unsuccessful attempt to ban the party was made in 2003. The 268-page document submitted to the court claims that the NPD follows the same "racial biological" ideology spread by the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s. It also claims the party is seeking to undermine the democratic principles of the current German state. There is however, no consensus about the chances of success for this attempt to ban the NPD. A press conference about the meeting is scheduled for 1300 GMT.
New app to bust neo-Nazis
The ministers will also debate a new software that, if approved, could help police identify people listening to banned far-right music. Saxony police spokeswoman Kathlen Zink said the new "Digital Audio Fingerprint" software, unveiled by German police on Tuesday, will help officers analyze seized recordings and Internet radio stations for the music. In Germany, certain extremist music is banned for public sale or performance. However, the far-right scene still regularly attempts to evade the regulations during concerts with the aim of recruiting young people. The new software can also determine if the music played at such concerts matches the banned songs. The software has been likened to the popular smartphone app "Shazam" that can tell users what music they're listening to based on a short sample, leading many to refer to the new German software as "Nazi-Shazam." The latest efforts to clamp down on the neo-Nazi scene in Germany gained momentum after allegations emerged two years ago that members of the far-right National Socialist Underground killed nine immigrant small businessmen and a police woman between 2000 and 2007.
© The Deutsche Welle.
Far-right German politician sentenced for selling pro-Nazi CDs
NPD Berlin chairman Sebastian Schmidtke given suspended sentence for selling music with antisemitic lyrics
4/12/2013- A German court has given a senior member of the country's main far-right party a suspended eight-month prison sentence for selling CDs featuring content glorifying nazism and inciting violence. Berlin municipal court convicted Sebastian Schmidtke, head of the National Democratic party's Berlin branch, of offences including incitement and displaying the symbols of anti-constitutional organisations – a charge that covers banned Nazi paraphernalia. The court on Wednesday found that a shop owned by Schmidtke sold music CDs with lyrics that stirred hatred against Jews, foreigners and gay people, called for violence, and used banned slogans glorifying nazism. It says Schmidtke, who can appeal against the ruling, denied selling CDs in his shop. Germany's 16 state governments this week launched a drive for the country's highest court to ban Schmidtke's party.
© The Associated Press
Police probe far-right motive for 750 deaths (Germany)
Germany will review almost 750 unsolved murders, manslaughters and attempted killings dating back more than two decades to assess whether they were motivated by far-right extremism, officials said on Wednesday.
4/12/2013- An initial police review of 3,300 such unsolved violent crimes between 1990 and 2011 had found that 746 of them, resulting in 849 deaths, will need a second look to see whether they were racial hate crimes, said the interior ministry. The outcome is expected in the second quarter of next year, said a ministry spokesman, who cautioned that the review does not mean "that they are indeed crimes motivated by right-wing extremism." Current statistics say about 60 people were killed in right-wing crimes since Germany's reunification in 1990. Critics have long charged that official statistics underestimate the incidence of racist, xenophobic and other right-wing violent attacks, and complained that states use different standards in collating the figures. The Green Party's parliamentary leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt said on Wednesday that authorities had "completely misjudged" the true extent of right-wing violent crime.
The chairwoman of the anti-xenophobia Amadeu Antonio Foundation, Anetta Kahane, accused the government of playing down the issue and challenged it to "face the fact that right-wing extremist violence is a huge problem". Germany was shocked by news in 2011 that a series of 10 murders of mostly Turkish immigrants was committed by a three-member neo-Nazi cell that authorities now consider a terrorist group. Beate Zschäpe, the only surviving member of the self-styled National Socialist Underground (NSU), is now on trial in Munich over the killing spree, which also claimed the lives of an ethnic Greek man and a German police woman. The review announced Wednesday was sparked by the NSU case, which also motivated a new legal push launched this week by Germany's 16 states to seek a ban of the far-right and openly racist National Democratic Party of Germany.
© The Local - Germany
Migrants prefer schools with fewer foreigners (Germany)
Migrants in Germany would rather send their children to schools with fewer other migrants, a study published on Wednesday revealed. Parents fear that attending a school with too many other foreigners could hinder their children’s education.
4/12/2013- On Wednesday preliminary results were released at a press conference in Berlin from the study entitled “Education, Background, Migration”. The study was conducted by the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf on behalf of the Vodafone and Mercator Institutes. Professor Heiner-Barz from the university’s department of educational research told The Local: “Many parents would rather send their children to schools with fewer migrants because they think it will harm their children’s educational opportunities.” “Among other things, they worry that their children’s language skills will not develop properly,” he added. Barz said the results came as a surprise. “We thought that some parents would express these concerns, but not so many,” he said.
For the study, 120 in-depth interviews were conducted with people from a variety of migrant backgrounds. All of the groups surveyed agreed that being a migrant in Germany limits your educational opportunities. From the interviews it emerged that most first- and second-generation migrants received little educational support from their parents. This was due to their parents’ low level of education, a lack of information on the German school system, inadequate language skills or too little money or time to properly help. “Cultural diversity is naturally a part of life for people with migrant backgrounds and is seen as a positive,” the study’s preliminary report said. “In terms of educational participation in Germany, however - especially in deprived areas - one’s own migrant background and that of one’s children is considered a deficiency and a problem.”
The study’s project leader Meral Cerci told the Welt newspaper that parents want the German school system to be improved in two main ways. “For one they want to be better informed,” she said. “Many are hardly familiar with the German school system and therefore choose the closest school or one where they know some of the other pupils.” Parents would also like to see more teaching staff who themselves are from migrant families, the study found. Full results from the study will be published in December 2014.
© The Local - Germany
Germany launches second attempt to get far-right NPD banned
Germany has launched a second attempt to get the far-right NPD banned in court, a decade after a previous effort failed. There is no consensus on what the chances are of this attempt being successful.
3/12/2013- The bid to get the National Democratic Party (NPD) banned was officially launched on Tuesday, when a courier delivered a document outlining the argument for outlawing the party to Germany's Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. This latest attempt at getting the NPD banned is being launched by Germany's 16 states and is supported by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, although it has chosen not to launch its own case at the Constitutional Court. Speaking to reporters in Berlin on Monday, Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, described the NPD as "an anti-democratic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-constitutional party which we all must decisively fight politically". The 268-page document to be submitted to the court claims that the NPD follows the same "racial biological" ideology spread by the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s. It also claims the party is seeking to undermine the democratic principles of the current German state. There is however, no consensus about the chances of success for this attempt to ban the NPD.
Just hours before the legal challenge was submitted, the interior minister of Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, Ralf Jäger, expressed optimism that this attempt would be successful. Speaking on German public radio, Jäger said this case had been more carefully prepared than the unsuccessful one in 2003. It failed because informants working for German police and intelligence had infiltrated the NPD all the way up to its leadership. They received payments from the state for delivering privileged information on the right-wing group's activities, and had influence on the party's leadership. In light of such facts, the court said a ban could not be imposed. This time, though, Jäger said they were quite sure that the document contained no such problematic evidence. However, a former president of the Constitutional Court, Hans-Jürgen Papier, expressed scepticism about the chances of success.
“Banning a political party must be the absolute exception,” Papier said in an interview with a regional public broadcaster on Tuesday. He also pointed to the high hurdles, which would need to be cleared, saying that showing that the party espoused and spread anti-democratic ideas was not enough to justify a ban. He said the states would have to demonstrate an aggressive, actively combative attitude towards the basic values and core of Germany's constitutional order.
The latest effort to get the NPD banned gained momentum after allegations emerged two years ago that members of the far-right National Socialist Underground killed nine immigrant small businessmen and a police woman between 2000 and 2007.
Also see: Neo-Nazis form expanding networks beyond national borders
© The Deutsche Welle.
German-funded Islamic studies contested by some Muslim groups
There aren't enough seats to serve all the applicants at the University of Münster's Center for Islamic Theology. But a political battle is brewing in Germany over how the religion should be taught.
2/12/2013- Quiet murmurs permeate the sparsely furnished office of the student assistants. A Koran rests in front of Daniel Garske as he silently recites a few verses. It's part of his course of study in the Islamic theology program at the University of Münster. "First and foremost I am motivated by personal enrichment and the acquisition of knowledge," the 33-year old student says. "With the knowledge I gain here, I want to achieve great things in life. And also help Islam gain a different image in society." Three years ago Daniel Garske converted to Islam. For the past year he's studied at the Center for Islamic Studies in Münster, the largest of four such centers in Germany where teachers of Islam and imams are trained. Garske is one of the few converts amongst the Muslim students. He wants to stay at the university, teaching and researching. In principle the Islamic theology program should also prepare pastoral practitioners, such as imams. Currently many Turkish communities in Germany import imams from Turkey.
Dispute over the 'correct doctrine'
It may take a few years, but Islamic theologians trained in Germany can be integrated into m osques in Germany, Daniel Garske says with confidence. The centers, which are supported by the German federal government with about 20 million euros ($27 million), are met with criticism by some Islamic organizations. As a result, the German Central Council of Muslims is keeping its distance and questions the teachings of the Münster-based center. One of the allegations says there's too little focus on what is allowed and forbidden in Islam. Behind closed doors, it's a hotly debated topic. Last week, German Federal President Joachim Gauck visited the institute, a move the center's director considered supportive. "It's a great sign of appreciation," said Institute director, Mouhanad Khorchide. "With our center we are pioneers, because there is no other place like it in Europe that offers such training." Khorchide sees himself as a researcher. As a result he rejects strict, fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran, as some conservative followers are demanding.
Good job opportunities for graduates
Behind the scenes, however, are not only questions of curriculum. Germany's four largest Islamic organizations say they feel betrayed by the politics. They say they should be sitting as advisors at the table in order to fulfil the same task that churches fulfil in advising Christian theological programs. But for the past year, this advisory role has yet to come to fruition because the organizations continue to suggest potential advisors who are then rejected by authorities under Germany's Federal Constitution. The proposed advisers have allegedly been suspected Islamic fundamentalists. And that is precisely what German politics wants to keep out of the education of Islamic teachers and imams. Ultimately that was an important reason for the grounding of the four centers, in general. However, the political friction doesn't seem to bother the students. There are more applicants than availability: 400 Muslims are now registered in the Islamic theology and Islamic religious education courses of study. The latter want to become teachers, and their chances at finding a job look quite promising. In the coming years, nearly 2000 Islamic religion teachers will be sought in Germany.
Religion in academics
Mariam Sarwary wants to work as an Islamic religion teacher someday. The 25-year old student shares a biography similar to many here: parents from Afghanistan, herself born in Germany, two years of Koran lessons in the mosque, but at school her religion was not discussed, "Which is what I was missing a bit, this academic approach to the religion," Mariam said. "With this course of study, I can find that missing piece. And I think it's great to be able to pass along to the children exactly what was missing for me when I was in school." The curriculum is only just being developed, but the attitude in which Islam will be taught is already visible when talking with the professors at the Center for Islamic Theology. Above all else, Mouhanad Khorchide says one must use intellect to understand religion. "The task of theology is to justify religion rationally and to take responsibility," he said, adding that it's not about an unquestioning acceptance along the lines of, "I live my religion because it's there." And with that statement, he also gives his critics a very clear answer.
© The Deutsche Welle.
Luxembourg gets first gay prime minister
4/12/2013- Luxembourg swore in Xavier Bettel as its first openly gay prime minister on Wednesday, paving the way for the introduction of social reforms such as same-sex marriage. Bettel replaces Jean-Claude Juncker, who was until Wednesday the European Union's longest-serving head of government, with 19 years in power. That distinction is now held by Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, who took office in April 2005. Bettel, whose deputy Etienne Schneider is also openly gay, is expected to introduce other changes like replacing religious instruction in school with more general ethics classes. His Democratic Party, the Socialists and the Greens won a slim majority in an election on Oct. 20, putting Juncker's Christian Social People's Party (CSV) out of government for the first time since 1979. Bettel, 40, was previously mayor of Luxembourg city. He has said his government will need to take unpopular measures and must cut spending to preserve its triple-A credit rating.
The European Commission last month forecast a widening of Luxembourg's public sector deficit from 0.6 percent of gross domestic product last year to 2.7 percent in 2015, although its debt level even then would still be below 30 percent of GDP. Pierre Gramegna, head of the Luxembourg chamber of commerce and a former ambassador to Japan, will be finance minister. Wedged between France, Germany and Belgium, Luxembourg is one of the world's smallest countries, with just over half a million people. But it is a major financial centre, second only to the United States for investment funds, and a leading private banking hub. Juncker, who also headed the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers until early 2013, will continue to lead his centre-right CSV in opposition, although there is already speculation that he might move to Brussels to take up a European post. The CSV has ruled Luxembourg since 1979 and has only been out of power for five years since the end of World War Two. It is still the largest party in parliament with 23 seats. The three governing parties have 32 of the 60 seats.
Salvation Army in Norway bars gay man
A member of the Salvation Army in Norway has been barred from becoming a secretary in the organisation because he is gay.
4/12/2013- Are Veraas has been a member of the Christian charity since he was 19, and was overjoyed when he was asked last month to act as a secretary to the congregation . After he told the Salvation Army's local leadership that he was in a relationship with another man, however, he found the offer suddenly withdrawn. "To not be true or myself, or to call my boyfriend just 'a friend' so that I'm worthy to be appointed secretary, is just not good enough," Veraas told Norway's TV2 channel. He said that he had felt completely accepted by the Salvation Army when he first came out as a gay man after his marriage broke up eleven years ago, and never realised that the group's leaders believed he did not have an active sexual life. "It was mentioned that they thought I was celibate, because I was not living with my wife anymore," he said. Andrew Hannevik, spokesman for the organisation in Norway, said that the group's local leadership was simply following the guidelines set by the global organisation. "Gay people in a relationship with others are not permitted to be soldiers or officers in the Salvation Army," he said. "It's based on the fact that the Salvation Army is a Christian church and our understanding of The Bible."
© The Local - Norway
LGBT Activist Fined for Breaking 'Gay Propaganda' Law (Russia)
A court in Arkhangelsk has found two LGBT activists guilty of promoting "non-traditional" relationships to minors and fined each of them 4,000 rubles ($120).
4/12/2013- Nikolai Alexeyev, the founder of the Moscow Gay Pride Movement, and his fellow activist Yaroslav Yevtushenko were on trial for picketing in front of a children's library in the northern city on Monday, holding banners that read: "Gay propaganda does not exist. People do not become gay, people are born gay," LGBT rights movement GayRussia said on its website. Alexeyev said he and Yevtushenko would appeal the verdict, reached after a six-hour hearing on Tuesday. "These are the first court decisions in Russia's history to prosecute for propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships under the new federal law," Alexeyev told GayRussia. Several Russian cities — including Arkhangelsk, St. Petersburg, Kostroma and Ryazan — adopted local laws imposing fines for gay propaganda ahead of the federal law being passed in June.
Alexeyev had appealed the St. Petersburg city legislation after police detained and fined him for holding street protests against the local ban in April, 2012. Then, Alexeyev took to the streets with a banner quoting the words attributed to a celebrated Soviet actress, renowned for her sarcastic wit, Faina Ranevskaya: "Homosexuality is not a perversion. Perversions are field hockey or ice ballet." The Constitutional Court upheld the ruling, Dozhd television reported Wednesday. The court ruled that the banner constituted propaganda, not information, and that "heightened attention to sexual relationship issues that can deform a child's perception of the role and value of such relationships in life." The court also ruled that the St. Petersburg ban didn't discriminate against gays because it would equally prosecute heterosexual people for gay propaganda.
Ahead of the Arkhangelsk children's library protest, gay rights activists had applied to the City Hall for a permit to stage a rally on Dec. 2, but the municipal authorities denied the request, citing the federal gay propaganda ban. However, the unauthorized rally went ahead despite the presence of police officers, who arrived at the library before the protest was scheduled to begin. After prolonged phone consultations with unspecified superiors, police officers detained Alexeyev and Yevtushenko, Grani.ru reported. Alexeyev said his sentencing presented an opportunity to fight for the federal law. "The verdicts open the way for appealing the ban on gay propaganda at Russia's Constitutional Court and later at the European Court of Human Rights, which is what we are going to do," he told GayRussia.
While the Arkhangelsk court decision appears to be the first time the federal law has been enforced, gay rights activists had reported instances of official discrimination under the ban. Earlier this fall, a school teacher in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, Alexander Yermoshkin, was fired for holding "rainbow flash mobs" in the city's central square. Yermoshkin said the authorities had never bothered him during his 18-year teaching career until Russia adopted the gay propaganda law.
© The Moscow Times
Fighting the good fight in Russia (opinion)
Human rights groups are resisting a dangerous new law.
By Natalia Taubina
2/12/ 2013- I recently found myself in a Moscow court explaining why the civil rights group I run would not be registering as a "foreign agent," despite being ordered to do so by prosecutors. According to Russia's pernicious "foreign agent" law, which President Vladimir Putin rammed through the parliament in 2012, any advocacy group that receives foreign funding and engages in political activity must apply to be included in a special registry of foreign agents. The definition of "political activity" is so broad that it could cover any work in defense of the public interest. Why won't our group, Public Verdict, register? Because we aren't "foreign agents," a term with a single, unambiguous meaning in Russia: a spy, a traitor to the Motherland. But we are taking a risk. Under the law, if an organization refuses to register, the group may face heavy fines (up to $17,000) and its activities may be suspended. As director, I could go to prison for two years.
Public Verdict is not alone, though. Russian civil society organizations have presented a united front against a law meant to demonize and silence them. Not a single rights group agreed to stigmatize itself by adopting the shameful and false label of foreign agent, and all the leading nongovernmental organizations have made strong public statements condemning the law. But the government hasn't backed down. This spring, prosecutors throughout Russia conducted punitive and aggressive inspections of hundreds of organizations, issuing dozens of warnings along with direct orders to register within 30 days. Public Verdict received such an order: Either stop working or register as agents. We believe that this is fundamentally wrong. For 10 years we have been helping victims of abuse by law enforcement officers, handling more than 500 cases and winning more than 100 in court. More than 100 law enforcement officers have been punished for torture and other crimes, and dozens of torture victims have benefited from our psychological rehabilitation program.
Police torture and impunity for abuse of power are systemic problems in Russia. So, in addition to handling individual cases, we also advocate for comprehensive law enforcement reform. Most of our cases go like this: A man is arrested and taken to a police station, where he is beaten and tortured. Mostly, police officials torture to force a confession, but sometimes they do it simply to project power. Next, more often than not, the man is released or taken away in an ambulance. But because government law enforcers typically don't aggressively pursue torture complaints, our lawyers must do the bulk of the investigative work, interviewing witnesses and building evidence.
It's obvious to the people who come to us for help that our work is in their interest and in the wider interest of the country as a whole. The prosecutor, however, considers our actions to be political activity. The way they see it, trying to eradicate torture and ensure the right to a fair trial in Russia is in the interest of foreigners but not of Russians. We cannot agree with this absurd approach, and we will not register as something that we are clearly not. It is unclear whether that argument, which we used in court, will carry the day.
As we're fighting the prosecutors in court, we continue to receive a flood of complaints. Just two weeks ago, a victim of torture by electric shock approached us. His persecutors had demanded that he confess to a theft. He wants his torturers held to account, but investigators refused to initiate criminal proceedings. We will make sure his case goes to court. Until we see that people no longer need us, we will continue to fight for our right to lead this work without degrading ourselves with infamous and false labels. We are not alone in this struggle. In the approach to the February Sochi Olympic Games, the international community has put a great deal of pressure on our government, demanding that it allow independent groups to operate freely. If this support continues after the Games are over, we can hope for victory. Our next court hearing is due in February. Wish me luck.
Natalia Taubina is director of the Moscow-based human rights group Public Verdict.
© The Los Angeles Times
Ukraine faces neo-Nazi putsch aimed at dictatorship establishment – says Vitrenko
3/12/2013- The latest events in Ukraine are aimed at establishing a neo-Nazi dictatorship, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine Natalia Vitrenko said. "The ideology of the Ukrainian nationalists just leads to bloodshed, the establishment of dictatorship," she said at the press conference hosted by Interfax-Ukraine on Tuesday. Head of the Labor Confederation of Ukraine all-Ukrainian trade union organization Volodymyr Marchenko said, in turn, that present situation in Ukraine today "is a neo-Nazi putsch." "We think there is a neo-Nazi putsch for neo-national socialists to capture power in the country. In future the country will be destroyed, there will be ethnic purges, and physical violence over political opponents will start. These are those threats brought by the leaders of this Euromaidan," Marchenko said.
© Interfax - Ukraine
Canada grants political asylum to Hungarian writer
4/12/2013- Akos Kertesz, an award-winning Hungarian Jewish writer, was granted political asylum in Canada. Kertesz, 80, who fled last year to Canada from Hungary, was given refugee status even though Ottawa in a move that stirred controversy a year ago placed Hungary on a list of “safe countries.” The author said he was the victim of a state-led “hate campaign,” the Canadian Jewish News reported. He arrived in Montreal claiming his life in Hungary had become intolerable because of his outspokenness abroad about Hungarians’ role in the Holocaust and his denunciation of the country’s right-wing government. In August 2011, Kertesz, the author of some 20 books and winner of Hungary’s most prestigious literary prize, wrote an open letter in a U.S. Hungarian periodical slamming his countrymen for not owning up to their record during World War II and for supporting the “dictatorial” Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The article caused a firestorm in Hungary. Kertesz said he became the object of a “witch hunt” and feared for his life after being physically assaulted on the street, harassed and threatened. Much of the invective against him was anti-Semitic. Kertesz said he “was forced [to flee] because of the current Hungarian government,” the CJN reported. “I hope that one day I will be able to return to a democratic, tolerant, humane Hungary.”
© JTA News
Website logs 158 reports of racism since summer (Ireland)
A website that logs reports of racism has said it has received 158 reports since it launched on Jul 11, including 22 reports of online racism.
2/12/2013- The site, iReport.ie, is operated by ENAR Ireland (Irish Network Against Racism) and sets out to log instances of alleged racism reported to it. Its first quarterly review is to be launched next month but initial figures indicate that the number of racist incidents it is told about exceeds the number of reports made to gardaí.
Of the 158 reports the site has received since it launched in July:
* 129 incidents involved interpersonal racism or racism targeted at an individual;
* 29 cases involved allegations of institutional racism and discrimination;
* 15 reports of the total 158 involved allegations of racism against Travellers;
* Nine cases involved alleged racism against Roma.
The data indicates 22 reports were made since July regarding online racism: 11 allegedly racist comments were made on Facebook, with seven claims linked to websites and message boards, and three of the reports made related to Twitter. One was an email. It is understood that one of the Twitter reports involved a comment made by World Champion racewalker Rob Heffernan. He subsequently apologised. ENAR director Shane O’Curry said under-reporting was still commonplace. “Only a small percentage of incidents are reported to Gardaí, usually less than 15% of incidents,” he said.
© The Irish Examiner
Gay lights spark unholy row in Rome (Italy)
6/12/2013- The gay rainbow-flag theme for the Christmas lights on Rome's main shopping street that were switched on Friday have sparked an unholy row in the Eternal City. City assemblywoman Imma Battaglia said she and mayor Ignazio Marino had decided to send a message with the multi-coloured lights, which ripple for a kilometre and a half (0.9 miles) of the bustling Via del Corso. Battaglia, who also leads a gay rights campaign group, said the lights were intended to be against homophobia following the suicide of a gay teenager in the city. “That is how we came up with the rainbow flag idea,” said Battaglia, who is from the leftist Sel party, but added that they could also be seen as a peace symbol.
That did not sit well with the opposition in the Italian capital's assembly, particularly the far-right Fratelli d'Italia (Italian Brothers) party. “The idea is provocative and ideological. There should be an Italian tri-colour instead,” Fabrizio Ghera, an assemblyman from the party, said earlier. The Italian flag colours were used in 2011 to mark the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, while the lights were white monochrome for Christmas last year. The head of the company behind the installation, Laura Rossi International, sought to defuse controversy on Friday, saying the lights would now be dedicated to the late anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela. “This way the message of love, tolerance, unity and sharing will become stronger,” Rossi said.
David Duke: Former Ku Klux Klan leader expelled from Italy
David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, has been kicked out of Italy, where he was allegedly trying to establish a pan-European neo-Nazi group.
6/12/2013- An Italian court said Duke, a Holocaust denier who ran for the US presidency in 1992 and 1998, was "socially dangerous for his racist and anti-semitic views". The court yesterday backed enforcing a Swiss travel and residence ban against the 63-year-old, which is valid across the whole Schengen area. Luciano Meneghetti, deputy police chief in the northern Italian province of Belluno, told Reuters that Duke moved to the Valle di Cadore mountain village after being granted a visa to study and write there by the Italian embassy in Malta. When police discovered the ban, which was made in 2009, Duke lodged an appeal with the Belluno administrative court to avoid expulsion.
And, according to the International business Times, the sentence added: "He was also previously arrested and expelled from the Czech Republic as suspected of promoting the launch of a movement for the suppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms." Duke's lawyer Filippo Augusto said he left the country immediately. He could appeal again.
© The Independent
Italy minister hit by racist slurs warns over populism
4/12/2013- Italy's first black minister Cecile Kyenge, who has been deluged with racist slurs since her appointment in April, urged Europe's leaders on Wednesday not to spread populism or use it to win votes. "There has a been a rise in episodes of racism in many countries, probably linked to the economic crisis but also to a lack of knowledge about what European values really stand for," Kyenge said at a press conference. The minister called for "political leaders to use their words in an instructive fashion, not simply to spread populism or use it to attract votes." Kyenge said an accord to fight racism, signed in the Italian capital by top European officials in September, will be rolled out as an official 2014-2020 pact in January, ahead of the European elections in May 2014. Over 23 European nations have already signed up to the so-called "Rome Declaration". The attacks against Congolese-born Kyenge have ranged from a senior member of the far-right Northern League party likening her to an orangutan, to having bananas thrown at her and being threatened with nooses.
'Italians are closed, but they’re not racist'
Tens of thousands of babies born in Italy each year are denied citizenship because of their family's foreign background. The Local speaks to Fred Kuwornu, a second-generation immigrant and filmmaker who is leading the fight to change the country's citizenship law.
2/12/2013- Despite being born and raised in Italy, Kuwornu couldn’t become a citizen until he turned 18 because his parents are from Ghana. Under Italian law, second-generation immigrants are not allowed to become citizens as children, a rule seen by many as outdated as the country plays host to a growing number of immigrant families. In its current form, the law affects 15 percent of babies born in Italy; 80,000 last year alone. To give a voice to these second-generation immigrants, Kuwornu has made a film telling their stories and campaigning for the law to be changed. “I wanted to make a documentary to talk about this problem and explain it, because this is a sensitive subject that affects a lot of people," Kuwornu tells The Local. “It's to help people see that the law should be changed,”
The film, called 18 Ius Soli - Latin for “right of the soil” - includes interviews with young people who consider themselves Italian but whose parents hail from other elsewhere. “Eighteen is symbolic as for many people it’s a time when you can do a lot of things, but for children of immigrants, 18 represents a problem,” Kuwornu says. While reaching adulthood brings independence as Italians go off to university or the workplace, Kuwornu says for people from immigrant families reaching 18 is a “worrying moment”. Second-generation immigrants rely on their parents’ residency permits as children, but on hitting adulthood they must either successfully apply for citizenship or get their own permit to stay. This renders people with foreign children “third-class citizens”, according to Kuwornu.
He argues that citizenship should be given to children of immigrants not at birth, but when they are six of seven years old. “This is because immigrants are all different; there are some who come here and leave after a few years,” says. Such an approach could also pacify Italians who believe that giving citizenship to children of immigrants at birth would leads to an unmanageable influx of new migrants, putting a strain on services and society. Approaches vary across Europe, with citizenship awarded to people born in the country at different ages and based on a number of conditions. For example, a 2010 report found that six EU countries, including Germany and Ireland, gave babies citizenship if their parents had been residents for a number of years. Many other countries demand that second-generation immigrants wait until they are 18 or 19 before applying for citizenship, having met conditions such as completing a certain amount of school years.
In Italy, Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge sees citizenship as a right, one that should be bestowed on second-generation immigrants in order to ensure they have the same opportunities as their peers. Having only been in the post since April, Congo-born Kyenge is yet to iron out the details of a new policy. For Kuwornu, her presence in parliament alone and her pro-citizenship agenda is a sign of progress. “Having a minister with foreign origins is an important step for Italy. I think that there are few countries that have ministers with a foreign background, this is a very positive thing,” he says. Kyenge has, however, faced a backlash against her policies by far-right groups, which have staged protests with violent undertones such as bloodied mannequins and nooses under an “immigration kills” slogan. “Italians are very closed, but I don’t think they’re racist,” says Kuwornu, who in his lifetime has seen the country transformed into an increasingly plural society. He now hopes that, through his film, Italians will decide that this new reality should be recognized with a change in the law.
© The Local - Italy
Migrant workers in Rome threatened by racist youth raids (Italy)
Migrant workers in Rome, Italy's capital, are being targeted by racist youth gangs, which according to disputed news reports are whipped up by a neo-Fascist organisation.
2/12/2013- In late November, the La Repubblica newspaper said there had been hundreds of cases over the past months. It quoted pro-migrants lawyer Carlo Scepi as saying that Bangladeshi workers had been singled out for attacks. Scepi says he is defending "over 10" Bangladeshi migrants who have been assaulted, and has been told of "10 other cases" by his clients. Rome prosecutors have opened a formal investigation but have not yet identified any suspects, he adds. According to Scepi, young Bangladeshi men are seen as "ideal victims" because they are "meek, not used to violence, slight-bodied, they do not provoke, they do not react ... and almost never report" their beatings to police. One of Scepi's clients is 22-year-old Simon, who earns a few dozens euros a day selling umbrellas and unloading cases of fruit at a food market. He told La Repubblica that he was attacked one evening while waiting at a bus stop. "I don't know why they do all this. But I know that we Bangladeshi are often victims of these aggressions," he said.
Another lawyer and two social workers, on conditions of anonymity, say Bangladeshi and other undocumented migrants are usually reluctant to talk to authorities because they fear being issued with expulsion orders. In extreme cases, they can be sent to detention centres for migrants awaiting repatriation. Police were first alerted about the migrant beatings in May, when someone on a balcony saw two Italians, aged 16 and 19, stop a Bangladeshi teenager in the street, ask him for a cigarette, throw him to the ground, punch and kick him. Officers managed to catch the aggressors, their clothes smattered in blood, because one of them had lost his mobile phone as he ran away. The victim was hospitalised with a fractured eyebrow bone and a split lip.
La Repubblica quoted Massimiliano Scaringella, a lawyer for the younger aggressor, as saying that his client had been "indoctrinated" by "somebody older" from Forza Nuova, a far-right party, who took him on a "Bangla Tour" as part of an "initiation rite." "He explained to me that for him, beating up Bangladeshi people was not just a way to have fun, it was a proper crusade, a battle he had to wage at all costs," Scaringella told the paper, adding that his client had been "brainwashed." Several raids were reported to have started from Forza Nuova's branch in Rome's Appio Latino neighbourhood, a semi-central area that features plenty of graffiti paying homage to Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and right-wing terrorists and thugs from the 1970s. Party leader Roberto Fiore, a former European Parliament member, has since issued a strong denial and has urged La Repubblica to retract the story. "Forza Nuova has absolutely nothing to do with these events," he said in a statement posted on the party's website. Scepi is unsure about the political accusations. "I do not have any certainties," he told dpa, adding that his clients said some of the people who beat them looked like those who assaulted a Bangladeshi-owned shop in a 2008 attack that was blamed on Forza Nuova sympathisers.
Italy is experiencing the worst recession in its post-war history, with spiking poverty rates and jobless numbers. But so far, there has been no mounting support for violent hard-right groups, such as Greece's Golden Dawn. Fiore's party, for example, is a fringe movement: It won just 0.26 percent of the votes in this year's general election. It advocates a stop to immigration and wants Italy out of the euro, but rejects any characterisation as a racist party. Yet, anti-migrant feelings are common in a country that is an entry point for tens of thousands of European Union-bound asylum-seekers. Last month, a shipwreck off Italy's Lampedusa island resulted in the worst migration tragedy in Europe's recent history, with 366 dead. In May, national statistics office Istat found that 37.1 percent of Italians blame migrants for stealing jobs, and about 20 percent think there is no more room for them, given the poor state of the economy. In addition, two of Italy's best-known dark-skinned figures - Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, the country's first-ever black cabinet member, and footballer Mario Balotelli - are frequent targets of racial abuse.
EU Commissioner Warns of Far-Right Surge at May Polls
3/12/2013- European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem voiced concern Tuesday that the EU Parliament will shift toward the far right in elections set for May. "I fear very much that these parties will become very strong in the elections for the EU Parliament and that they will have a real influence over European lawmakers," she told a press conference during a visit to Athens. "Some of them (these parties) have existed for years, some are newer and some are growing stronger in the aftermath of the crisis," Malmstroem added. In Greece, neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn made a shocking first by getting itself elected into parliament in June 2012 with nearly seven percent of the vote, winning 18 seats out of 300.
Authorities have launched a crackdown on the party, after the shock murder of an anti-fascist musician by a Golden Dawn supporter in September. But opinion polls show the party still has strong support. Golden Dawn has greatly benefited from a rise in social tensions in the crisis-hit country, which has experienced a sharp rise in migrant arrivals as it serves as an entrance door to the EU. Malmstroem further expressed her concern about the conditions of migrants in detention and the lengthy periods they are held. "People cannot be detained forever," she said. But she also said Greece had made progress in improving its asylum procedures. Greece has often been accused by the EU and human rights organizations of violating the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers.
Gay marriage ‘a flawed social experiment’ (Northern Ireland)
David Smyth of Evangelical Alliance told Saturday’s TUV conference that gay marriage was an “oxymoron” and a social experiment which was untested.
2/12/2013- Mr Smyth, one of several guest speakers from outside the party, told members that the change introduced by the coalition government in Westminster would have “profound implications” for society. And, although the Assembly has blocked the legislation extending to Northern Ireland, the former solicitor said that the Equality Commission had “chosen to publicly back” same-sex marriage, raising the prospect of a legal challenge. Mr Smyth, who received a large ovation from the crowd, said the term ‘equal marriage’ was misleading and offensive, suggesting that marriage had historically been unequal and discriminatory, adding: “Equality is supposed to go hand in hand with diversity and is not best served by uniformity.” But Mr Smyth said that there was a need to “hold convictions and compassion in tension”. Another guest speaker, Farming Life journalist Richard Halleron, said that he had never felt as positive about the prospects for agriculture, adding that farming could be “on the cusp of a golden era”. Jenny Hamilton of the Orange Community Network explained how it sought to work on behalf of the Orange community on bread and butter problems as well as cultural issues. And Louise Togneri of Housing Rights NI said that if Stormont chooses not to implement the controversial under-occupancy charge (the ‘bedroom tax’) as part of welfare reform it would cost Stormont about £18 million a year, which would have to be taken from other budgets.
© The Belfast Newsletter
Hate speech taskforce to fight rise in Holocaust denial and Islamophobia in Camden (UK)
5/12/2013- Communities in Camden have experienced a surge in hate speech over the last two years, with Holocaust denial and Islamophobia promoted by speakers in the borough. It has prompted the creation of a cross-party taskforce at Camden Council to tackle the problem, spearheaded by Cllr Tulip Siddiq, Labour’s cabinet member for communities and culture. Last night, the council’s cabinet approved the taskforce’s plans to eradicate hate speech in Camden. Cllr Siddiq, who is standing as Labour parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn in the 2015 general election, said: “It is a fact that hate speech has risen in the last two years. “In Camden, we are proud of the community we have - there are high levels of community cohesion. I don’t want people coming into our borough who express hate rhetoric and destroy the community cohesion that we are so proud of.”
Over the last two years, Cllr Siddiq said she has received increasing complaints about hate speakers operating in community centres and at events across Camden and has been shown video footage of several hate speakers in the borough. The incidents reported to the council include speakers in Camden promoting anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, religious speakers promoting misogyny and groups advocating Islamophobia. “Community centres came to the council and asked for help and that’s when we decided we need to take action,” said Cllr Siddiq. “We have a public duty to protect our citizens. We have a duty to foster good relations between diverse groups. “The question is, how do we best fulfil these legal obligations under the Equality Act bearing in mind that we need to protect freedom of speech?”
After months of consultation with various groups, including local faith communities, think-tanks, the Home Office, police and other London councils, Cllr Siddiq said the taskforce had come up with a framework for dealing with hate speakers. She praised Tory councillor Andrew Marshall and Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Keith Moffitt for their work. “From now on, if someone applies to speak in the borough, we will look at stuff they’ve said in the past and events they’ve spoken at,” said Cllr Siddiq. “We will speak to police, the Home Office, we’ll look at the internet. We have been doing it previously but there’s been no formal structure on how it’s done.”
© The Ham and High
Nicky Crane: The secret double life of a gay neo-Nazi (UK)
He was the British extreme right's most feared streetfighter. But almost right up to his death 20 years ago, Nicky Crane led a precarious dual existence - until it fell dramatically apart.
5/12/2013- The skinhead gang marched in military formation down the High Street clutching iron bars, knives, staves, pickaxe handles and clubs. There were at least 100 of them. They had spent two days planning their attack. The date was 28 March 1980. Soon they reached their target - a queue of mostly black filmgoers outside the Odeon cinema in Woolwich, south-east London. Then the skinheads charged. Most of them belonged to an extreme far-right group called the British Movement (BM). This particular "unit" had already acquired a reputation for brutal racist violence thanks to its charismatic young local organiser. Many victims had learned to fear the sight of his 6ft 2in frame, which was adorned with Nazi tattoos. His name was Nicky Crane. But as he led the ambush, Crane was concealing a secret from his enemies and his fascist comrades alike. Crane knew he was gay, but hadn't acted on it. Not yet.
Twelve years later, the same Nicky Crane sat in his Soho bedsit. His room looked out across London's gay village - the bars and nightclubs where he worked as a doorman, where he drank and danced. Crane flicked through a scrapbook filled with photos and news clippings from his far-right past. For years he had managed to keep the two worlds entirely separate. But now he wasn't going to pretend any more. Nicola Vincenzo Crane was born on 21 May 1958 in a semi-detached house on a leafy street in Bexley, south-east London. One of 10 siblings, he grew up in nearby Crayford, Kent. As his name suggests, he had an unlikely background for a British nationalist and Aryan warrior. He was of Italian heritage through his mother Dorothy, whose maiden name was D'Ambrosio. His father worked as a structural draughtsman.
But from an early age Crane found a surrogate family in the south-east London skinhead scene. Its members had developed a reputation for violence, starting fights and disrupting gigs by bands such as Sham 69 and Bad Manners. In the late 1970s, gangs like Crane's were widely feared. "When you've come from a tough background, when you get that identity, it's a powerful thing to have," says Gavin Watson, a former skinhead who later got to know Crane. The south-east London skins also had close connections to the far right. Whereas the original skinheads in the late 1960s had borrowed the fashion of Caribbean immigrants and shared their love of ska and reggae music, a highly visible minority of skins during the movement's revival in the late 1970s were attaching themselves to groups like the resurgent National Front (NF). In particular the openly neo-Nazi BM, under the leadership of Michael McLaughlin, was actively targeting young, disaffected working-class men from football terraces as well as the punk and skinhead scenes for recruitment.
Crane was an enthusiastic convert to the ideology of National Socialism. "Adolf Hitler was my God," he said in a 1992 television interview. "He was sort of like my Fuhrer, my leader. And everything I done was, like, for Adolf Hitler." Within six months of joining the BM, Crane had been made the Kent organiser, responsible for signing up new members and organising attacks on political opponents and minority groups. He was also inducted into the Leader Guard, which served both as McLaughlin's personal corps of bodyguards and as the party's top fighters. Members wore black uniforms adorned with neo-Nazi symbols and were drilled at paramilitary-style armed training weekends in the countryside. They were also required to have a Leader Guard tattoo. Each featured the letters L and G on either side of a Celtic cross, the British Movement's answer to the swastika. Crane dutifully had his inked on to his flesh alongside various racist slogans.
By now working as a binman and living in Plumstead, Crane quickly acquired a reputation, even among the ranks of the far right, for exceptionally brutal violence. In May 1978, following a BM meeting, he took part in an assault on a black family at a bus stop in Bishopsgate, east London, using broken bottles and shouting racist slogans. An Old Bailey judge described Crane as "worse than an animal". The following year he led a mob of 200 skinheads in an attack on Asians in nearby Brick Lane. Crane later told a newspaper how "we rampaged down the Lane turning over stalls, kicking and punching Pakistanis". The Woolwich Odeon attack of 1980 was described by a prosecutor at the Old Bailey as a "serious, organised and premeditated riot". After their intended victims fled inside, the skinheads drilled by Crane began smashing the cinema's doors and windows, the court was told. A Pakistani man was knocked unconscious in the melee and the windows of a nearby pub were shattered with a pickaxe handle.
In 1981 Crane was jailed for his part in an ambush on black youths at Woolwich Arsenal station. As the judge handed down a four-year sentence, an acolyte standing alongside Crane stiffened his arm into a Nazi salute and shouted "sieg heil" from the dock. Crane's three jail terms failed to temper his violence. During one stretch, he launched an attack on several prison officers with a metal tray. A six-month sentence following a fracas on a London Tube train was served entirely at the top-security Isle of Wight prison - a sign of just how dangerous he was regarded by the authorities. All this may have horrified most people, but it made Crane a hugely respected and admired figure across the far right. He was neither an orator nor a conversationalist. His vocabulary was sparse at best. But he managed to exude a powerful charisma.
"I knew him, I liked him. He was friendly," says Joseph Pearce, who was leader of the Young National Front during the early 1980s before turning his back on extremist politics. "He was not the most articulate of people. It would be yes or no. It was difficult to have anything but the most superficial conversation with him." In the aftermath of a violent march through racially mixed Lewisham in 1977, much of the UK's extreme right had concluded the path to power lay in controlling the streets and destabilising the multicultural society rather than through the ballot box. At the same time, groups like the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) and, later, Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) were becoming more and more confrontational. "The opposition were very, very combative," Pearce says. "Their strategy was to smash the nationalist movement. It was a necessity to have a street presence that had muscle. Someone like Nicky Crane was a powerful physical but also symbolic presence."
This was a description with which even Crane's enemies concurred. "By appearance and reputation he was the epitome of right-wing idealism - fascist icon and poster boy," writes Sean Birchall in his book Beating The Fascists, a history of AFA. Unbeknown to his comrades, however, a very different side to Nicky Crane was emerging. It was a Thursday night at Heaven, a gay nightclub below London's Charing Cross station. Underneath the venue's arched roof stood a young man, up from Brighton for the evening. A garrulous character, he was universally known by his full title of John G Byrne. Since 1969, when he discovered reggae music as a 13-year-old, Byrne had been a skinhead. As he looked across the dancefloor, he caught sight of a man he'd never seen before. The stranger was tall, shaven-headed and tattooed. Byrne introduced himself. It was Nicky Crane, fresh out of prison.
"He stood out quite a lot," says Byrne. "A lot of people used to be quite keen on him because he was a very butch-looking geezer." Years later, Crane said he hadn't had sex with a man until after he turned 26 in 1984. But now he was becoming a regular at places like Heaven. "I just used to chat to him," Byrne adds. "Nicky was quite a friendly person. He was quite quiet, really. He was the opposite of what he looked like." He appears to have thrown himself enthusiastically into the gay scene around this time. His imposing frame meant he easily found work as a doorman at gay venues through a security firm. But if the neo-Nazi world would have abhorred his sexuality, the vast majority of London's gay scene would have been equally horrified to learn that he was a neo-Nazi. Among the leadership of the largely liberal-left gay rights movement that was growing in London during the 1980s, fascist symbolism was an obvious and outrageous taboo - a reminder of the persecution that lesbians and gay men had suffered.
According to feminist scholar Sheila Jeffreys' book The Lesbian Heresy, a commotion unfolded in 1984 when a group of gay skinheads turned up at a gay bar in London's King's Cross and began seig heiling. She also records that a well-known far-right youth organiser was thrown out of the same pub after taking off his jacket to reveal swastika tattoos. A huge row erupted the following year at the London Lesbian and Gay Centre in King's Cross when a gay skinhead night was held at the venue. It's not clear whether Crane was present at any of these incidents. But it appears that, at least initially, he was able to deflect questions about his politics by presenting himself on the gay scene as a skinhead first and foremost. His friend Byrne, who describes himself as "sort of more a Labour person", had no time for the far-right element that had infiltrated the skinhead movement. But Byrne was convinced at the time that Crane "wasn't really a Nazi. It was all show". The softly spoken Nicky he knew was too nice to be an extremist, Byrne believed. This wasn't as fanciful as it might sound.
By the mid-1980s, a gay skinhead scene was beginning to flourish in London, says Murray Healy, author of Gay Skins: Class, Masculinity and Queer Appropriation. Gay men had many different reasons for adopting the look, he says. Some had been skinheads before they came out. Others found that, in an era when all gay men were widely assumed to be camp and effeminate, "you were less likely to get picked on if you looked like a queer-basher". There were also "fetish skins", attracted to the "hyper-masculinity" of the subculture. Against this backdrop, even the swastikas and racist slogans inked on Crane's body could be explained away, at least initially. During the 1980s, says Healy, "gay Nazis were assumed to be left-wing even if they had Nazi tattoos". "People refused to read these tattoos politically. People thought it was part of the authenticity ritual. People thought he was just playing a part."
And indeed it wasn't just gay skins who flirted with the iconography of fascism. While "redskins" and "Sharps" - an acronym for Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice - confronted those with links to the far right, many heterosexual skinheads who were apolitical also adopted fascist garb, says Byrne. "A lot of skinheads that weren't right-wing used to wear Skrewdriver T-shirts," Byrne adds. "It was about the fashion of being a skinhead." But Crane wasn't just playing with the imagery of Nazism. He was living it. His decision to start frequenting venues such as Heaven wasn't the only thing that had changed since before his sentence. During the years 1981 to 1984, which he mostly spent incarcerated, his fame had grown far beyond the narrow confines of the far right. In 1981, the journalist Garry Bushell helped put together a compilation album of tracks by bands from the burgeoning Oi! scene.
Oi!, a cheerfully crude sub-genre of punk, was popular with skinheads. Its politics were fairly broad - while there were right-wingers within its ranks, some of its most prominent acts, including the Angelic Upstarts, were avowed socialists. Others, such as the 4-Skins, condemned political extremism of all kinds. That was to count for little after Bushell, desperate for a cover image after a photoshoot fell through, seized on a Christmas card which he believed showed a scene from the film The Wanderers. In fact, it was a picture of Crane. It was only when the image was blown up to 12in cover size, Bushell says, that he noticed Crane's Nazi tattoos. Faced with the choice of airbrushing out his markings or pulling the release, the writer chose the former option. "It was a monumentally, cataclysmically stupid decision," he says. The title of the compilation was Strength Thru Oi! - which Bushell says was intended as a pun on Strength Through Joy, the title of a recent EP by punk act The Skids, but which in turn was borrowed from a Nazi slogan.
The Daily Mail seized upon the title and the connection with Crane, condemning the "highly controversial" record as "evil". According to Bushell, who had only recently left the Socialist Workers Party and still regarded himself at the time as a left-winger, the story was a "tissue of lies". But as a result of the coverage, the hitherto obscure Oi! scene became associated by many with the far right - to the chagrin of acts featured on the album, such as the socialist poet Gary Johnson. Crane's musical background had hitherto extended to starting fights at ska and punk gigs, plus a short-lived stint singing in a punk band called The Afflicted. The notoriety, however, transformed him into a skinhead icon. The Strength Thru Oi! cover image - featuring a topless, muscle-bound Crane snarling and raising his boot - was widely reproduced in the wake of the row.
T-shirts featuring the image were sold at The Last Resort, a clothes shop favoured by skinheads in London's Whitechapel. They were a huge hit. Although the album was withdrawn from sale, reproductions of its cover adorned thousands of bedroom walls. "He was literally a poster boy," says Watson, who at the time was a teenage skin in Buckinghamshire. "Even a 15-year-old was like, 'That's what a skinhead should look like.' "He just fell into our living rooms. These little kids in High Wycombe - we didn't know anything about the Nazi stuff." On the surface, the idea of a gay man embracing neo-Nazism might appear baffling and self-defeating. Just as Adolf Hitler's regime had thrown gays and lesbians into death camps, the neo-Nazi movement remained staunchly homophobic.
Crane was becoming all too aware of the contradiction of being a gay neo-Nazi. "A lot of people that I did used to hang around with, they did sort of like hate us," he said in 1992 - "us" meaning gay men. "They'd go out queer-bashing. It's something I never did myself. And I'd never let it happen in front of me, either." He had, however, chosen fascism long before he had embraced his sexuality, and much of his social life and prestige was bound up with his status as a prominent neo-Nazi activist. To maintain his cover, Crane would often appear in public with a skinhead girl on his arm. "He often had a so-called girlfriend but they were never around for long," says Pearce. "Nicky had no chemistry with girls." Certainly, after coming out, Crane always described himself as gay rather than bisexual. Nonetheless, his relationships with women, coupled with rumours that he had fathered a son, allayed any initial suspicions his comrades might have had. So too did his propensity for racist violence.
On Sunday 10 June 1984, Greater London Council leader Ken Livingstone held a free open-air concert to protest against unemployment and government spending cuts. Thousands of Londoners turned out to watch acts like The Smiths and Billy Bragg. Most would have been attracted principally by the music and the summer weather. To Nicky Crane, however, anyone attending a left-wing-hosted event like this was a legitimate target. As The Redskins, a socialist skinhead band, played, Crane led an attack on the crowd. Around 100 fascists began setting about the audience closest to the main stage. "They were organised, they were used to violence, the audience wasn't," says Gary, an anti-fascist activist who was present that day and asked to be identified only by his first name.
The neo-Nazis were beaten back by a group of striking Yorkshire miners, invited to steward the event by Livingstone as a solidarity gesture, and members of the militant far-left group Red Action. Crane was not cowed, however, and after regrouping his forces, he charged a second stage at the other end of the park where the Hank Wangford Band were playing. This time, however, the anti-fascists were better prepared. Militants grabbed empty cider bottles to use as improvised weapons. As the anti-fascists fought back, Crane broke away from the main battle. "He was busy attacking the rest of the crowd, on his own, stripped to the waist," says Gary. As Crane tried to make it over a barrier on to the stage, he was knocked over by a Red Action member. He escaped the furious crowd by using a female left-wing activist as a human shield, according to witnesses.
As the violence subsided, anti-fascists confronted another skinhead in the crowd. His Harrington jacket was unzipped to reveal a slogan on his T-shirt. It read "Nicky Crane", in tribute to the young man's hero. Given the carnage Crane had just instigated, the left-wingers had little sympathy for his admirer. The skinhead was set upon and beaten. Crane was never prosecuted for his part in the riot. In the febrile atmosphere of the mid-1980s, however, violence was everywhere. As clashes between police and striking miners becoming increasingly bitter, football hooligans across the country were fighting it out with unprecedented ferocity. The formation of AFA in 1985 resulted in increasingly bloody stand-offs between anti-fascists and the far right.
Several years later, Crane told the Sun newspaper about an attack on a Jewish Remembrance Day ceremony for which he also appears to have escaped arrest. "We hurled insults at them and started punching and kicking as they went by," he admitted to the paper in 1992. On another occasion, Crane and his gang spotted a left-wing activist on a Tube train. "Me and a few mates beat him really badly," he said. "Even though he wasn't moving we all kept jumping on his head. "I think he survived. It must have been a miracle." After the BM collapsed in 1983, Crane had become something of a free agent. He was a visible presence on demonstrations held by other far-right groups. These included the NF - now split into two warring factions - and the British National Party, formed in 1982 by John Tyndall, which had begun to attract a significant football hooligan following. Among the rank and file of each group, Crane remained a hero.
"You could very easily drop him into the Weimar Republic in 1923 and, some language difficulties apart, he'd fit right in," says Gary. His closest affiliation, however, was with the neo-Nazi rock band Skrewdriver. Originally the group had been apolitical. In 1982, however, singer Ian Stuart Donaldson came out as a supporter of the National Front. With song titles like Europe Awake and Flying the Flag, the group gained a huge following among far-right skinheads. Opposition from anti-fascists meant gigs had to be forcefully stewarded. Donaldson appointed Crane as Skrewdriver's head of security, and he became a trusted lieutenant. Reportedly, Crane wrote the lyrics for a Skrewdriver track called Justice and provided the cover art for the albums Hail The New Dawn and After The Fire. Archive footage of their concerts shows Donaldson barking neo-Nazi lyrics as he loomed above Crane who stood, arms folded, at the front of the stage. The T-shirt on his chest said "Skrewdriver security" in Gothic script. Crane wasn't playing an instrument, but it was as though he was part of the performance. His status as a neo-Nazi icon had never been more secure. But for the first time, the twin strands of his double life were about to intersect.
The anti-fascist magazine Searchlight was, despite its political leanings, required reading for activists on the extreme right. Each month the publication would run gossip about the neo-Nazi scene, and fascists would furtively buy it to see whether they had earned a mention. In April 1985 it ran a feature on Crane. It mentioned the GLC concert, the south London attacks and the jail sentences he had served. The magazine revealed it had received a Christmas card from him during his time on the Isle of Wight in which he proclaimed his continued allegiance to "the British Movement tradition" - that is, violence. The Searchlight report ended its description of Crane with the line: "On Thursday nights he can be found at the Heaven disco in Charing Cross." Even a neo-Nazi audience might have been aware that Heaven was at this point London's premier gay club. Nicky Crane had been outed. And homosexuality was anathema to neo-Nazis. But the response of Crane's comrades to the revelation was to ignore it.
A number of factors allowed Crane to brush off the report, Pearce says. Firstly, homosexuality was indelibly associated with effeminacy by the far right, and Crane was the very opposite of effeminate. Secondly, no-one wanted to be seen to believe Searchlight above the word of a committed soldier for the Aryan cause. Thirdly, on the most basic level, everyone was afraid of being beaten up by Crane if they challenged him. "I remember it was just sort of furtive whispering," adds Pearce. "I'm not aware that anyone confronted Nicky. People were happy for things to remain under the carpet." Sightings at gay clubs were dismissed by Crane. Donaldson claimed Crane told him that he was obliged to take jobs at places like Heaven because the security firm he was employed by sent him there. "I accepted him at face value, as he was a nationalist," Donaldson told a fanzine years later.
For his part, Heaven's then-owner, Jeremy Norman, says he does not recall Crane working on the door: "I would imagine that the door staff would have been supplied by a security contractor and that he would have been their employee but it is all a long time ago." Rumours circulated that a prominent football hooligan and far-right activist had hurled a homophobic slur at Crane, who in response had inflicted a severe beating which the victim was lucky to survive. Word of this spread among the skinhead fraternity, too. "My mate had a shop in Soho," recalls Watson. "People would come in to say, 'Have you heard Nicky's gay?' He would say, he works around the corner, why don't you go and ask him? Of course they never did." Just as some in the gay community refused to believe that a gay man could be a neo-Nazi, others on the extreme right were unable to acknowledge that a neo-Nazi could be a gay man.
In 1987 Crane and Donaldson set up a group called Blood & Honour. It was a cross between a White Power music club and a political party. It staged concerts for Skrewdriver and other neo-Nazi bands with names like No Remorse and Brutal Attack. T-shirts, flags and records were sold by mail order through its magazine. The operation had an annual turnover of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Donaldson was its head, Crane his right-hand man and head of security. Around the same time, the latter's organisational skills were being put to use elsewhere. Searchlight reported in October 1987 that "Crane, the right's finest example of a clinical psychopath, is also engaged in building a 'gay skins' movement, which meets on Friday nights" at a pub in east London. Crane's sexuality might by now have been obvious to any interested onlooker, but the neo-Nazi scene remained in denial. While his right-wing colleagues studiously ignored the report, AFA took an interest. Its activists put the pub under surveillance. The anti-fascists didn't care about Crane's sexuality, but were concerned that the gatherings might have a political objective. "Here were gay skinheads wearing Nazi regalia," says Gary. "We could never get to the bottom of it - whether it was purely a sexual fetish."
The gay community had, by this stage, begun to take notice of Crane, too. He was confronted by anti-fascists attending a Pride rally in Kennington, south London, in 1986. The campaigner Peter Tatchell recalls a row erupting after it emerged Crane had been allowed to steward a gay rights march. The organisers had not been aware who Crane was or what his political affiliations were. But now they were, and Crane must have realised he would no longer be welcome in much of gay London. The gay skinhead night may simply have been an attempt to carve out a space for himself where he would not be challenged either for his sexuality or his politics. While his status in the far right was secure, he was being pushed to the fringes of the gay community. The double life he had been maintaining was beginning to erode.
The Bloody Sunday commemoration rally was held every January to mark the deaths of 14 unarmed protesters at the hands of the Parachute Regiment in Derry in 1972. For years the rally had been a target for the far right, whose sympathies in the Northern Ireland conflict mostly lay with the loyalists. So when Nicky Crane was spotted within the vicinity of the march in Kilburn, a traditionally Irish enclave of north-west London, in January 1990, it was assumed he had trouble in mind. Crane was confronted by anti-fascist activists who were stewarding the event and, after a brief exchange of blows, he managed to get away. But when he was spotted in a black cab heading back into the area, marchers took it as read that he was about to spearhead an ambush on the march. After the taxi became stuck in traffic at the top of Kilburn High Road it was quickly surrounded. Crane was pulled from the vehicle and found himself on the receiving end of the kind of violence he had long inflicted on others. After putting up fierce resistance, he was beaten unconscious.
Three anti-fascists were jailed for a total of 11 years for their part in the incident. Unusually for a political street fighter who deplored the system, Crane testified at their trial.
It was a hint that Crane was preparing to cut his ties with the extreme right. "I don't think he'd have done it in his fascist days, put it that way," says Gary. "You didn't go to the police. Hard men don't do that, they sort it out among themselves." It was not the first indication that Crane was losing his enthusiasm for the Nazi cause. In May 1989 he had fled when anti-fascists turned up to a meeting point in London's Hyde Park for a Blood & Honour gig. After the Bloody Sunday march, there is no record of Crane taking part in any further political activity. He had begun drifting away from the extreme right. Friends say he had begun spending an increasing amount of time in Thailand, where his past was not known and he could, for the first time since Strength Thru Oi! was released, be anonymous.
Back in London, he appeared in a series of skinhead-themed amateur gay porn videos. The films did not achieve wide circulation but, to star in them in the first place, he must have been indifferent to whether or not he was exposed. Eventually he made a decision. It was time to end the double life once and for all. The Channel 4 programme was called Out. It featured a series of documentaries about lesbian and gay life in the UK. The episode broadcast on 27 July 1992 was about the gay skinhead subculture. Its star attraction was Nicky Crane. First the programme showed recorded interviews with an unwitting Donaldson, who sounded baffled that such a thing as gay skinheads existed, and NF leader Patrick Harrington. And then the camera cut to Crane, in camouflage gear and Dr Martens boots, in his Soho bedsit. He told the interviewer how he'd known he was gay back in his early BM days. He described how his worship of Hitler had given way to unease about the far right's homophobia.
He had started to feel like a hypocrite because the Nazi movement was so anti-gay, he said. "So I just, like, couldn't stay in it." Crane said he was "ashamed" of his political past and insisted he had changed. "The views I've got now is, I believe in individualism and I don't care if anyone's black, Jewish or anything," he added. "I either like or dislike a person as an individual, not what their colour is or anything." The revelation attracted considerable press attention. The Sun ran a story with the headline "NAZI NICK IS A PANZI". Below it described the "Weird secret he kept from gay-bashers". Crane reiterated that he had abandoned Nazi ideology. "It is all in the past," he told the paper. "I've made a dramatic change in my life." The reaction from his erstwhile comrades was one of horror and fury. Donaldson issued a blood-curdling death threat on stage at a Skrewdriver gig.
"He's dug his own grave as far as I'm concerned," Donaldson told the Last Chance fanzine. "I was fooled the same as everybody else. Perhaps more than everybody else. I felt I was betrayed by him and I want nothing to do with him whatsoever." But according to Pearce - who by this stage had made his own break with the NF - it was Crane's disavowal of National Socialism, rather than the admission of his sexuality, that proved particularly painful for Donaldson. "I think that Ian would have been very shocked," says Pearce. "He was deeply hurt. But it had more to do with the fact that he switched sides politically. "Nicky didn't just come out as a homosexual, he became militantly opposed to what he previously believed in." British Nazism had lost its street-fighting poster boy. For the first time in his adult life, however, Crane was able to be himself. Watson recalls catching a glimpse of Crane - by then working as a bicycle courier - shortly after he came out. "I saw him riding around Soho in Day-Glo Lycra shorts," remembers Watson. "I thought, good for you."
On 8 December 1993, Byrne took the train to London. He had arranged to meet his friend Nicky Crane at Berwick Street market, just a few yards from his Rupert Street bedsit. Byrne was looking forward to having "a good old chat" about skinheads they both knew. But Crane didn't turn up. When Byrne got home, he found out why. Crane had died the day before. He was 35. The cause of death was given on his death certificate as bronchopneumonia, a fatal inflammation of the air passages to the lungs. He was a victim of the disease that had killed so many other young gay men of his generation. "He didn't tell me about his problems with Aids," says Byrne. "He didn't talk much about it really. I thought it was a shame." Word had got around that Crane was ill, however. Gary recalls his shock at seeing his one-time foe looking deeply emaciated, waiting on a platform at Baker Street Tube station. Crane's stature was such, however, that even at this point fellow passengers were careful to keep their distance.
Those who suffered as a result of his rampages may have breathed a sigh of relief that he was no longer able to terrorise them. But his death marked more than just the end of Nicky Crane. It also coincided with the passing of an era in which the extreme right hoped to win power by controlling the street with boots and fists. In 1993, Crane was dead, Donaldson died in a car crash and the British National Party (BNP) won its first council seat in Millwall, east London. The various factions of the NF had by now all but withered. The following year, BNP strategist Tony Lecomber announced there would be "no more meetings, marches, punch-ups" - instead, the intention now was to win seats in town halls. The party would try to rebrand itself as respectable and peaceful - a strategy continued, with varying success, under the leadership of Nick Griffin. Streetfighters like Nicky Crane were supposedly consigned to the past.
The broader skinhead movement was changing, too. Watson, like many other former skins, had by the time of Crane's death, abandoned boots and braces for the rave scene. His skinhead days already felt like a different age. "The skinhead stuff was washed away by rave and it's, 'Oh yes, Nicky's out of the closet,'" Watson says. "It's the story of that side of skinheads, isn't it?" By contrast, the presence of skinheads in gay clubs and bars was no longer controversial. Shorn of its political associations, the look was by now, if anything, more popular in London's Old Compton Street or Manchester's Canal Street than on football terraces or far-right rallies. Two decades after Crane's death, says Healy, the skinhead is "recognised as a gay man unambiguously in London and Manchester". He adds: "If the Village People reformed today there would be a skinhead in the group."
He may be an extreme case, but Crane reflects an era in which people's expectations of what a gay man looked and behaved like began to shift. "Everybody always knew gay people, but they just didn't know it," says Max Schaefer, whose 2010 novel Children of the Sun features a character fascinated by Crane. "The neo-Nazis were no different from everyone else." It's unlikely Crane reflected on his place at this intersection between all these late 20th Century subcultures. He was a man of action, not ideology - a doer who left the thinking to others, and this may be what led a confused, angry young man to fascism in the first place. As he lingered in St Mary's hospital in Paddington, west London, waiting to die, a young man named Craig was at his side. Craig was "one of Nicky's boyfriends", says Byrne. According to Crane's death certificate, Craig was with him at the end.
# Started as a non-political movement by working-class youths in 1960s London
# Originally influenced by West Indian immigrants - skinheads began by emulating "rude boy" look of pork pie hats and short jeans and listened to soul and reggae
# Faded from popular culture in the 1970s but enjoyed a revival with the introduction of punk rock
# Skinhead clothing included boots (typically Dr Martens) and braces
# Some became associated in the media with inner-city racism in the late 1970s, but there were also Sharps - Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice - and left-wing "redskins"
# Movement spread to Australia, North America, and western Europe - especially Germany - in 1970s and 1980s
# Subgenre of punk rock started in UK in late 1970
# Ideology of the original Oi! movement was a rough brand of working-class rebellion
# Lyrical topics included unemployment, workers' rights, harassment by police and other authorities, and oppression by the government
# First Oi! bands were composed mostly of punk rockers and people who fitted neither the skinhead nor punk label
# Six original Oi! albums are: Oi! the Album, Strength Thru Oi!, Carry On Oi!, Oi! Oi! That's Yer Lot, Son of Oi!, the Oi! of Seks
Gay people and the Nazis
# During Adolf Hitler's regime, 50,000 homosexuals were branded criminals and degenerates and as many as 15,000 died in concentration camps, historians say
# From 1933 gay clubs in Germany were purged, books by gay authors were burned
# SS chief Heinrich Himmler proclaimed that in order to build the Aryan master race "the homosexual must be completely eliminated"
# Gay prisoners were forced to adorn their uniforms with pink triangles - since reclaimed as a symbol of gay liberation
The British Movement (BM)
# British National Socialist organisation founded by Colin Jordan in 1968
# Grew out of National Socialist Movement (NSM) and was first organised as a political party
# Became increasingly associated with violence and racism
# Jordan ran as political candidate in 1969 Birmingham Ladywood by-election - their literature attacked Jews and immigrants and proclaimed loyalty to Nazism
# Led by Michael McLaughlin from 1975-83
Gay men on the far right
# Ernst Roehm, the head of the SA, the Nazi party militia, was openly gay, despite which he enjoyed the support of Hitler only until the Fuhrer came to view him as a political threat
# In 1983 Martin Webster, the NF's National Activities Organiser, was expelled from the party following revelations about his relationships with men
# German neo-Nazi Michael Kuhnen, who was gay, died of an Aids-related illness in 1991
# Formed by lead singer Ian Stuart Donaldson in 1976
# Born originally out of the English Punk movement, the band started as a non-political group but split up in 1979
# Donaldson came out as supporter of National Front in 1982 and re-formed the band with new members as a White Power neo-Nazi skinhead group
# Crane was head of security for the band and reportedly wrote lyrics for one of their songs and drew artwork for album covers
ANL and AFA
# Anti-Nazi League set up in 1977, stopped operating in 1981 and was relaunched in 1992
# Originally launched by Socialist Workers' Party
# Linked with Rock Against Racism who organised large-scale carnivals in the late 1970s
# Anti-Fascist Action set up in 1985 to "confront fascism physically and ideologically"
Nicky Crane 1958-93
# 1978 Gained notoriety leading an attack on Asians in Brick Lane
# 1980 Suspended sentence for attacking a black family
# 1981 Jailed for ambush on group of black youths at Woolwich Arsenal station
# 1981 Daily Mail report on Strength Thru Oi!
# 1984 GLC gig attack
# 1985 Searchlight refers to Crane being a regular at Heaven nightclub
# 1986 Stewarded Gay Pride march, London
# 1990 Attacked by Anti-Fascist Action
© BBC News
UK push for curbs on migrant benefits gets mixed EU reception
5/12/2013- British Prime Minister David Cameron's push to limit the free movement of people within the European Union won some support among wealthy western governments on Thursday but east European nations accused him of pre-election populism. Cameron unveiled plans last week to limit the access of EU migrants to welfare in Britain and said he wanted eventually to restrict people from poorer states from moving to richer ones, stirring a row with the European Commission. In the wake of Europe's financial crisis, Britain and states including Germany and the Netherlands have expressed concerns over people from poorer countries migrating west to take advantage of social security systems or commit welfare fraud. Governments in the poorer, newer member states from the east see such concerns as an attack on one of the key achievements of European integration - the right of citizens to move and work freely across the 500-million-people bloc.
Before talks on the issue among EU home affairs ministers in Brussels, Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May said the EU should consider limiting free movement to protect national economic interests. "For example, shouldn't national governments be able to put a cap on numbers if they believe there are issues around economic migration?" she told reporters.
The European Commission - the EU executive - has criticised Cameron's proposals, saying European rules on free movement of people are non-negotiable and Britain has to accept them if it wants to remain in the EU's single market. Last week, in response to a request by Britain, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, the Commission offered help in resolving some of their concerns by clarifying rules on who is eligible to receive welfare benefits. It said it can help local authorities fight welfare abuse through marriages of convenience and spend EU aid funds to fight poverty. But Britain and its allies said on Thursday the Commission's plans were not enough.
"There is a certain lack of legal clarity," said one diplomat about the proposals, saying more details were needed on issues such as how and when governments could turn back citizens of other countries suspected of welfare abuse, for example. "It is not clear enough what conditions have to be met for member states to impose such an entry ban," the diplomat said. Sweden's migration minister Tobias Billstrom said migration in Europe was beneficial to its economy but protection against welfare fraud was needed.
EU governments are likely to discuss welfare abuse and any limits on free movement in the coming months before any decisions are made or EU laws changed. In Britain, Cameron's Conservatives are likely to push for change, facing a risk of having their vote split at European elections next year and at a national election in 2015 by the anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP). Cameron, under pressure from his own party to get tough on the issue, will have to get other EU governments on board and could face a legal challenge from the European Commission. East European EU members have accused him of pre-election populism. "Britain's domestic politics is being conducted at the expense of European values and this is very sad," one Polish diplomat said on the sidelines of Thursday's discussions.
During Thursday's discussions, the Commission's justice chief, Viviane Reding, told EU governments that preventing welfare abuse by migrants was their responsibility and it was fully envisaged within current rules. "Our EU rules are good and they are here to stay. Member States need to apply them to tackle abuse," she told reporters. One way for governments to address fraud, however, was to limit benefits that may be too "generous", she said. In separate discussions, EU governments were due to consider Commission proposals to address mass migration into Europe from Africa and the Middle East, in the wake of hundreds of people drowning off the shores of Italy in recent months. On Wednesday, the Commission proposed changes to EU asylum rules to allow people to seek protection before actually reaching European soil, potentially making it easier for them to seek asylum. It also called on EU governments to give more support to the bloc's Fronted border agency.
Italy, which bears the brunt of illegal immigration from North Africa, welcomed the discussions as a sign the EU was taking seriously the need to help Rome tackle the issue. Amnesty International said EU governments, due to talk about the issue again at a summit later in December, were shying away from taking responsibility for asylum seekers.
© Reuters UK
A familiar tale: 'Institutional racism' at Greater Manchester Police (UK)
In 1998, then chief constable of GMP David Wilmot branded the force ‘institutionally racist’, and five years later the BBC exposed racism among trainees within a number of forces, including GMP.
4/12/2013- Greater Manchester Police was branded ‘institutionally racist’ in 1998 by the then chief constable David Wilmot. Five years later the BBC’s damning ‘Secret Policeman’ documentary exposed racism among trainees within a number of forces, including GMP. It led to the resignation of six officers and a drive to recruit more black and Asian officers.
The police training centre at Bruche in Cheshire was closed down. But even now the GMP's current Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy has been frustrated at attempts to increase the number of black and Asian officers. Earlier this year he said he was 'embarrassed' by the lack of progress. Earlier this year research by Manchester University Academics commissioned by GMP revealed Asian bobbies were 2.8 times more likely to be subjected to an internal corruption investigation than white officers.
Some ethnic minority officers said white-dominated management were quick to refer Asian officers for an internal affairs probe, while white officers were dealt with informally. Officers complained of a ‘two-tier system’ – but force bosses said a fear of being accused of racism prompted GMP middle managers to refer cases to the Professional Standards Branch rather than trying to deal with them informally. That, according to some ethnic minority officers, was a ‘subtle form of racism’. The report found ‘compelling’ evidence that GMP’s internal procedures contributed to disproportionate number of Asian officers facing internal investigation.
Police's internal standards branch probed over racism claims
Police chief backs 'committed' officers being probed over 'racism' allegations
© The Manchester Evening News.
UK: High Court judge who said equal marriage only benefits ‘0.1%’ to retire
A High Court judge who said the government should have sidelined equal marriage for England and Wales as it would only benefit “0.1%” of the population is stepping down, claiming the judiciary has ostracised him for his views.
2/12/2013- In December 2012, Sir Paul Coleridge said that ministers should focus on supporting existing married couples, rather than the “wrong policy” of equal marriage, which he claimed affects only “0.1%″ of the population. Sir Paul told The Times: “So much energy and time has been put into this debate for 0.1 per cent of the population, when we have a crisis of family breakdown. “It’s gratifying that marriage in any context is centre stage … but it [equal marriage] is a minority issue. We need a much more focused position by the government on the importance of marriage.” Speaking to The Tablet, a Catholic publication, Sir Paul said that he could have continued in his role for several more years had it not been for last year’s remarks.
His comments triggered complaints to the Judicial Complaints Investigations Office which only weeks earlier had warned him to keep a “lower profile” after speaking out about his concerns over the decline of marriage. The High Court judge runs a charity to combat the breakdown of families, the Marriage Foundation, and through it he has encouraged people to “recycle rubbish, but not your partner”. “I could have struggled on … if I had got more solid support,” he said. “But after April, I will be freer to be outspoken.” He also said that “hundreds” of judges were too afraid to voice support for his foundation publicly because they thought it might harm their careers. The Telegraph reports in a speech last month Sir Paul acknowledged that his interventions on marriage had “upset” the senior judiciary.
© Pink News
The French Front National is still an extreme right-wing party (opinion)
By Aurelien Mondon, Lecturer in French Politics at University of Bath
5/12/2013- Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National in France, recently threatened to sue anyone who labelled her party as “extreme right”. This is interesting in many respects, most notably because it demonstrates the new-found confidence of a party increasingly portrayed as a normal, “democratic”, “republican” contender in the French political landscape. Today, the Le Pens’ legitimisation strategy is commonly promoted beyond the party. It is implicitly accepted within mainstream politics and the media, but also increasingly within sections of academia – despite a large body of evidence suggesting the need for caution. I recently participated in debates where it was argued that the Front National should no longer be classified as extreme right, and that it has become harder to claim that it is even right-wing. A non-specialist on the questions even declared, without irony, that the Front National was today more a mix of nationalism and socialism, and therefore neither left nor right, unwittingly reviving an old debate in fascist studies.
Yet just like its far right predecessors, the few social measures in the FN’s programme do not mean that it is leftist, let alone an alternative to “market economy”. This state of things is worrying; the narrative of moderation contradicts many of the Front National’s positions.
The revoked candidates: tip of the iceberg?
Recent events have shown that many in the FN believe in the crudest racist stereotypes, beliefs for which the party has been famous for more than 40 years. In October, a candidate in the municipal elections compared France’s minister of justice Christiane Taubira to a monkey on her Facebook account. Anne-Sophie Leclère claims she is not a racist (“some of [her] friends are black”), but footage has surfaced in which she confides that she would rather see Taubira on the branch of a tree than in the government. Last week, another candidate was suspended from the party for taking an active part in a gathering against Taubira, where children yelled “monkey, eat your banana!” According to some insiders, such ideas are not held by a minority in the party.
Last month, a further candidate withdrew from both the municipal race and the FN, expressing her disgust at the racism and homophobia within her local branch. And last week, a former UMP candidate asked for his reintegration into the centre-right party six months after joining the FN, denouncing it as a “non-republican, sectarian and dictatorial party”. These controversies were denounced by the FN as part of the conspiracy against their party. Possible, although the Facebook comments of many other candidates would suggest otherwise, and would point instead to the prevalence and public acceptance of crude racism beyond the elite of the party. If anything, these incidents have shown up the double standards applied by Le Pen, and her prejudice against parts of the population. After the Montauban and Toulouse shootings in March 2012, Marine Le Pen was quick to jump to generalising and stigmatising conclusions, warning the French (a month before the presidential election) that “the risk of fundamentalism [had] been underestimated in France” – and asking, “How many Mohamed Merahs are in the boats full of immigrants that land in France?”
While Le Pen felt the actions of one person were enough to stigmatise an entire community, she declared that those within her party who had made such racist comments were only bad apples and that a whole party should not be judged on the actions of a minority. For Le Pen, it was a scandal that such events, which she described as “not serious” and “the responsibility of individuals”, were so prominent in the news. She detected a conspiracy: “The system is scared, it is panicking, it is losing its feet.” Still, while cases of racism in the Front National community are much more common than cases of terrorism in the Muslim community (in 2009 for example, only one of 294 terrorist plots in Europe was linked to Islam), no one within the FN has launched a crusade against their own party. No-one in the FN has condemned rank racism as the rise (or return) of fascism in France the way Le Pen herself condemned Merah’s actions as “the start of green fascism in our country”.
Moderate leader, racist rank-and-file?
News today often reports that the racist behaviour of some members is jeopardising the anti-demonisation strategy of the FN, as if the leadership had reneged on its past or that it no longer listened to its rank-and-file (ironic for the self-designated “voice of the people”). Yet this would mean ignoring the careful political strategy put in place by the party in the past 20 years to regain legitimacy, while keeping much of its roots intact. Through what former FN deputy leader Bruno Mégret called a “vocabulary struggle”, the FN has managed to slowly rework its strategy to appeal to the basest instincts of the French population without risking being branded as racists. To achieve this, the FN has instead used a new form of racism, a racism without race. As I have discussed at more length elsewhere, while not racist in the traditional biological sense, this “neo-racism” rests on the same essentialising tenets – yet offers one main advantage: it allows for the transformation of traditional forms of racism into new forms of exclusion, less likely to lead to legal prosecution and/or political discredit. In neo-racist rhetoric, contemporary exclusion is no longer based on natural superiorities and inferiorities, but on a different form of inequality: the innate and indelible incompatibility of cultures. Therefore, under a thin veneer of tolerance, neo-racists can express anti-immigrant sentiment based on the same innate and generalising elements central to traditional types of racism.
During her presidential campaign, Le Pen made it increasingly clear that her moderate stance was little more than a façade. Early on, she set off a firestorm by claiming that 100 per cent of the meat sold around Paris was halal. While she never divulged the proof she claimed to hold, this added to the stigma attached to the Muslim population – in much the same manner anti-Semites created suspicions about the Jewish community in the first half of the twentieth century. Le Pen has long played on the belief that Islam is insidiously taking over France; her halal slander introduced the idea that Muslims had already colonised French plates, imposing their religious practice on our daily habits. To counter this “invasion”, Le Pen stated in an authoritarian manner that with her election “street prayers … would come to an end” and that, if she was elected, “intégristes” would face for the first time in decades “an extremely determined power”. Here again, she conflated various elements of Islam in a one-size-fits-all demonisation of anyone associated with the religion in any way. While the link is never explicitly stated, relatively innocuous or rare occurrences such as halal food, street prayers and mosques all eventually lead to extremist Islam. In September 2012, this invasion scare was reiterated by her father, who declared during the FN conference that the presence of ‘two hundred million Muslims at our doors, south of the Mediterranean, is a serious threat’. This time, it was no longer extremists within the Muslim community who were a threat, but Muslims in general –- innately unable to adapt, and all a potential threat to our society.
We are the Front National, but we’re not, but we are
The changes within the FN, while real, are limited and opportunistic, and the party should still be regarded with the utmost caution. If Marine Le Pen was truly eager to break away from the tradition established by her father and a neo-fascist organisation, she could have gone her own way – or at the very least changed the party’s name, as some of her supporters suggested. Why not remove her father from the new organisation, instead of providing him with a platform as honorary president, from which he can continue making the crudest insinuations? This has yet to happen, casting further doubt about the party’s real wish to break away from its extreme right origins, traditions and ideology.
© The Conversation
'Anti-Racism' of the Left Reaps Scorn in France (opinion)
By Celestine Bohlen
2/12/2013- Politically correct has long been scorned in French political debates as an Americanism that shrouds the truth with a veil of well-meaning but misleading euphemisms deployed by the “caviar left,” the French equivalent of limousine liberals. Now comes “anti-racism,” a word that apparently has come to mean much the same thing, at least as defined by Alain Finkielkraut, a prominent French intellectual who, in his latest book, called it “an unrelenting battle against reality.” So what exactly does that mean? Some years ago, Mr. Finkielkraut elaborated by saying that “anti-racism was the communism of the 21st century,” suggesting that only brave free-thinking dissidents could raise their voices against the reigning ideology.
This could be an empty semantic debate were it not for recent slurs aimed at Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, a black woman who has been compared to a monkey in a photo on a politician’s Facebook page and on the cover of a right-wing magazine, and taunted with bananas at public demonstrations. These ugly insults have been condemned across the political spectrum: The politician had to withdraw from the list of candidates for the far-right National Front party; the magazine, Minute, has been taken to court; and a petition against racism has collected more than 100,000 signatures. But the question of racism — and anti-racism — in France lingers, casting a shadow on an ongoing debate about immigration, as poll after poll shows a deepening resentment of new waves of foreigners arriving in France from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.
“One can observe a very clear hardening of French public opinion on the question of immigration,” said Jérôme Fourquet, a director at the polling company Ifop, commenting on poll results published in the magazine Valeurs Actuelles that showed the percentage of French people who think immigration to be a good thing for the country dropping to 37 percent in 2013, from 49 percent in 2007. The publication of the poll was a key element of a riposte by Valeurs Actuelles, a right-wing magazine with a growing circulation of almost 100,000, to the anti-racist campaign set off by the attacks against Ms. Taubira. The headline: “The Dictatorship of the Politically Correct: No, France Is Not Racist.”
Inside, the magazine circled back to anti-racism, in an article titled “Omerta.” “Anyone who dares to question the credo (that immigration is a bonus for France), repeated in chorus by most of the French media, is thought to be a racist,” the article concluded. Those are strong words, for which Yves de Kerdrel, editor of Valeurs Actuelles, makes no apology. “There is an evolution of an ideology of anti-racism,” he said. “It is the genes of the French left to use any pretext of racism to get itself out of difficulty.” He called the Minute cover “a stupidity” that the current Socialist government turned into a “national event.” At a time of high unemployment and record low popularity ratings, “the Socialists have nothing else to rally around,” he added. That’s why he chose the word “dictatorship” for the magazine’s Nov. 14 cover. “We had to react,” he said.
But react to what? A swift condemnation of obvious, and odious, racism? What does that have to do with a debate about the real problems of integrating immigrants, which, in fact, is aired almost daily in the French media? Mr. de Kerdrel, whose magazine has recently run a string of strongly worded headlines (“Roma, The Overdose,” and “The New Barbarians: The Foreigners Who Are Pillaging France”), says he is appealing to the “invisible France,” readers who are worried about the changes taking place in their country. It’s no surprise that in difficult economic times, those anxieties should take a nasty, xenophobic turn, and many commentators, including Ms. Taubira, have warned against breaking barriers that inhibit racist rhetoric. “A dike has been breached,” she said in the newspaper Le Parisien. “People today don’t have any complexes about making scandalous statements.”
Maybe political correctness isn’t such a bad idea after all.
© The New York Times
30 years on, a new march against racism in France
1/12/2013- Chanting: “We are all the children of immigrants”, thousands of people marched on Paris to call for an end to racism. It marks the 30th anniversary of the first national anti-racist movement in France, SOS Racisme. The march takes on a stronger significance as in recent weeks, the French Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira has been subject to racist slurs. “There have been more and more racist speeches that have become commonplace these last few weeks,” noted Socialist Party leader Harlem Désir. “We have heard things that cannot be tolerated. We have seen front pages of extreme right-wing papers comparing the Justice Minister to a monkey, we have seen these manipulated children who were showing bananas when the minister passed by.” The Taubira affair has opened up public debate on how racist the country is and whether racism is on the rise. “I think that racism has been there for a long time in France,” said one woman attending the demo. She added: “The speeches are increasing and I want to show that we are here and we occupy public space to say that we exist and confront this ideology that permits itself to be expressed in public.” The National Commission for the Rights of Man in France reported a 23 percent increase in incidents of racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism last year, a figure that will force a lot of soul searching in French society.
Migrant’s murder to be included in Golden Dawn case (Greece)
4/12/2013- Another 12 people are likely to be added to the list of Golden Dawn supporters suspected of committing a range of crimes, which is due to include the murder of a Pakistani immigrant that had not been officially linked to the neo-Nazi party until now, Kathimerini has learned. Special magistrates Ioanna Klapa and Maria Dimitropoulou have steadily been building the case against the party’s leader, MPs and members, who are accused of running or being members of a criminal organization. Sources said 12 more people thought to have been involved in criminal actions related to the far-right party are likely to face charges. Incidents which are set to be added to the case file include the murder of a 27-year-old Pakistani man on his way to work in Athens on January 17 this year. He was stabbed by two men on a motorcycle. Two suspects aged 25 and 29 were arrested. Golden Dawn fliers were found at one of the men’s houses. Another incident allegedly connected to the party is the near-fatal stabbing of a 17-year-old pupil outside a school in Neo Faliro, southern Athens, in January. One of the two men arrested, aged 20, has since been identified as having links to Golden Dawn. The party’s deputy leader, Christos Pappas, failed on Wednesday in his bid to be granted conditional release from pretrial custody. Earlier this week, Golden Dawn chief Nikos Michaloliakos also had his request turned down.
Greece's ultra-right party holds rally in survival struggle
1/12/2013- About 1,000 supporters of Greece's Golden Dawn party gathered outside parliament on Saturday to protest against the pre-trial detention of their leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos on charges of forming a criminal organisation. Clad in black clothes, carrying torches and Greek flags, the ultra-right party's supporters shouted slogans such as "hands off Golden Dawn, don't jail nationalists" to the sound of Greek folk and marching songs. The protest took place under the watch of riot police, mobilised to shield it from counter-rallies by rival leftist groups nearby. Events unfolded peacefully after police banned all marches in the area to prevent clashes. It was Golden Dawn's most high-profile public action since a government crackdown against it in September, following the killing of an anti-fascist rapper by one of its supporters.
But the poor turnout of just a few hundred sympathisers showed Golden Dawn is still struggling to recover from the action of the authorities. Thirteen of Golden Dawn's 18 lawmakers are either in pre-trial detention, face charges, or have had their parliamentary immunity lifted, as prosecutors build a case that its leadership was involved in paramilitary-style attacks against political opponents and immigrants. The party rejects accusations of violence. All Golden Dawn lawmakers who have been charged or are investigated deny the allegations against them, saying they are being persecuted for their nationalist beliefs.
The party came out of nowhere in elections last year to win parliamentary seats, capitalising on a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment amid record unemployment in the austerity-hit country. Golden Dawn lost about a third of its support immediately after the rapper's death, according to opinion polls. But it recovered some of those losses in October, after the revenge killing of two of its supporters by a previously unknown, anti-establishment militant group. A poll published on Saturday in newspaper Kosmos tou Ependyti showed Golden Dawn's support steady at 8.8 percent from 9.0 percent in October.
LGBT group criticises Croatia: ‘Human rights can’t be subjected to majority vote’
European LGBT rights group ILGA-Europe, has heavily criticised the decision of Croatian voters to choose to ban same-sex marriage in a referendum yesterday, and also came down on MPs for allowing the vote to even take place.
2/12/2013- The organisation U ime obitelji (In the Name of the Family), gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on whether to ban equal marriage. Around 65% voted “yes” to the question: “Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?” ILGA said it regretted that out of 151 MPs in Croatia, 104 allowed the referendum to take place. Gabi Calleja, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said: “We are seriously concerned by the fact that opponents to equality for all are using democratic tools to impose majority views on the rights of minority groups. “We believe human rights and issues concerning minority groups cannot and should not be subjected to the popular vote in the first place. “In a democracy, elected officials have a clear responsibility to safeguard human rights of everyone and not to allow democratic tools to be abused to restrict the rights of minority groups.” Hundreds of gay rights supporters in Croatia staged a mass demonstration on Saturday against the referendum. British band The xx issued a statement last week saying they did not condone the use of their music by U ime obitelji in its campaign. International LGBT rights group ILGA-Europe had also called on citizens in Croatia to do the right thing in voting in favour of equal marriage.
© Pink News
Croatian PM Denounces Anti-Gay Marriage Vote
Zoran Milanovic says Sunday’s referendum was just a steppingstone to another vote curbing the rights of the Serbian community.
2/12/2013- Officials in Croatia are mulling the consequences of Sunday’s gay marriage referendum, where 66 per cent of those who voted backed a call to change the wording of the constitution to restrict marriage to unions of men and women. Thirty-four per cent voted against the proposal. Croatia’s disappointed centre-left Prime Minister, Zoran Milanovic, said the vote appeared “just a preparation” for another referendum that would curb the rights of ethnic minorities. A group of veterans of the independence war of the 1990s, called “Headquarters for Croatian Vukovar”, said it had already collected enough signatories to call a referendum on whether to limit the rights of ethnic minorities to public and official use of minority languages and script. Current law says a minority has the right to official use of its language and script if it comprises at least a third of the population in a given area. Veterans of the conflict with Serbia - who especially oppose use of the Serbian Cyrillic script - want that changed to 50 per cent.
“The anti-gay referendum was just a preparation for an anti-Cyrillic [script] referendum - but this one won’t be held, regardless of how many signatories the organizers collect,” Milanovic vowed on Sunday. “This was the last referendum in which a majority limits the rights of a minority,” he continued. Milanovic said the government intended to pass a law on civil partnerships “in a week or two” that would still give “all couples, regardless of sex orientation, the same rights”. Adopting a more moderate tone, President Ivo Josipovic, who also opposed the vote, said the results “aren’t a surprise”. The result had to be respected, he added, expressing the hope that it would not cause additional divisions in society. Josipovic also expressed the hope that the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would not prevent a “fair” legal framework for same-sex couples. “The rights of all citizens must be protected,” Josipovic said.
In the 21 counties in Croatia, voters in only two, Istra and Rijeka, voted against the referendum proposal, with 58 per cent “against” in Istria and 53 per cent in Rijeka. Four towns and cities also voted “against”: Rijeka, Pula, Varazdin and Cakovec. The highest “ for” vote was in Vukovar County, in the east, where 81 per cent backed the proposal. In the capital, Zagreb, 55 per cent also voted “for”. The turnout in the vote was 38 per cent. Zeljko Reiner, of the opposition centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, insisted that the referendum result would not lead to anybody’s rights being diminished. “Our friends, neighbours and relatives of a different sexual orientation don’t have to worry, because their rights must be protected, and the HDZ will do that first,” Reiner said. But gay-rights NGOs disagree. Zagreb Pride said the referendum had “divided people into ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ ones”, and had revealed an “incredible amount of intolerance and homophobia”.
An anti-referendum initiative, “Citizens vote against”, blamed its defeat on poor communications. “There was too little institutional support, explaining to people that this referendum was an attack on a constitution”, Marina Skrabalo, from the campaign, said. Gordan Bosanac, also from the initiative, said he hoped “this was the first and last time we had such a burlesque of democracy in Croatia”. Analysts said the referendum had revealed Croatian society to be more Catholic and socially conservative than some had realised. “Croatia has shown it belongs in the Balkans, the region it wanted to escape from so hard”, Professor Zarko Puhovski said. “Croatia is still a half-consolidated liberal democracy and a typical ‘transition’ country”, agreed Zoran Kurelic, professor of Political Sciences in Zagreb.
© Balkan Insight
Croatians vote against same-sex marriage
1/12/2013- A majority of Croatians voted in a referendum Sunday to ban gay marriages in what is a major victory for the Catholic Church-backed conservatives in the European Union's newest nation. The state electoral commission, citing initial results, said 65 percent of those who voted answered "yes" to the referendum question: "Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?" About 34 percent voted against. The result meant that Croatia's constitution will be amended to ban same-sex marriage. The vote has deeply divided Croatia. Liberal groups have said the referendum's question infringes on basic human rights. The Church-backed groups have gathered 750,000 signatures in its support. The country of 4.4 million, which became EU's 28th member in July, has taken steps to improve gay rights, but issues such as same-sex marriage remain highly sensitive in the staunchly Catholic nation.
The referendum was called by the "In the Name of the Family" conservative group after Croatia's center-left government drafted a law to let gay couples register as "life partners." The Catholic Church leaders have urged their followers to vote "yes" in the referendum. Nearly 90 percent of Croatians are Roman Catholics. "Marriage is the only union enabling procreation," Croatian Cardinal Josip Bozanic said in his message to the followers. "This is the key difference between a marriage and other unions." Several hundred gay rights supporters marched in the capital, Zagreb, on Saturday urging a "no" vote. "I will vote against because I think that the referendum is not a festival of democracy, but a festival of oppression against a minority, which fights for its rights and which does not have its rights," Jura Matulic, a university student, said.
Croatia's liberal President Ivo Josipovic said he will vote against amending the constitution. "We don't need this kind of a referendum," Josipovic said. "Defining marriage between a man and a woman doesn't belong to the constitution. A nation is judged by its attitude toward minorities." Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said that "this is the last referendum that gives a chance to the majority to strip a minority of its rights." The EU hasn't officially commented on the referendum, but has clashed with Croatiaover some of its other laws, including an extradition law that has prevented its citizens from being handed over to the bloc's other member states, which Croatiahad to amend under pressure from Brussels.
© The Malta Independent
Croats Tipped to Outlaw Gay Marriage
Polls shows large majority of those intending to vote in Sunday’s referendum back calls to change the constitutional definition of marriage.
1/12/2013- Croatians went to the polls on Sunday to decide whether to add a line to the constitution defining marriage as an exclusive union of a woman and a man. If a majority who cast ballots say “Yes”, lawmakers will have no option but to change the constitution. By 11am over nine per cent of the electorate or 326,279 people cast their ballots, said the State Electoral Comission. About 3.7 million people have the right to vote. Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic cast his vote saying "this is a sad and senseless referendum and i hope this is the last time that in this way or with these kind of questions we are coming out on a referendum." President Ivo Josipovic echoed the same sentiment saying "we did not need this referendum."
A poll conducted by Promocija plus agency, published November 25, says 62 per cent of those who intend to vote in Sunday’s referendum in Croatia will back a call to ban gay marriage in the constitution. “Do you support the introduction of a clause to the Croatian Constitution that defines marriage as life-long union between a woman and a man?” is the question wording. Only 27 per cent of those intending to vote Sunday, polled by the agency, said they would vote “No”. The size of the turnout is irrelevant, because under Croatian law there is no minimum threshold for a referendum result to be valid and binding.
In the weeks ahead of the referendum, the “Yes” and “No” camps have mobilized supporters on social networks such as Facebook. The referendum has been organised by grassroots campaigners backed by right-wing opposition parties and the socially conservative Catholic Church. Centre-left officials, including Prime Minister Milanovic and President Josipovic, have condemned the referendum as discriminatory and as damaging to the country’ human rights image. “Citizens vote against”, one of the groups lobbying against a ban on gay marriage, says the change would permanently violate the human rights of an entire minority.
“In the name of the family”, the name of the umbrella campaign in favour of the change, responds by saying that marriage can only be the union of a woman and a man. Many artists and pop singers, including Croatian pop star Severina, have joined the “No” camp. So has American rock star Bruce Springsteen who posted a supportive message, on November 27 on Twitter. “For a long time I believed and spoke in favor of same sex marriage. I support those who promote that kind of treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Let their voices be heard now,” Springsteen said. The referendum would be the third in recent history after the vote on independence from Yugoslavia in May 1991 and a second vote on joining the EU in January 2012.
"In the name of the Family" Denies Access to Media:
The conservative group called "In the name of the Family", has denied access some of the main media outlets in the country, including the public broadcaster HRT, due to their "biased" reporting. Apart from HRT, accreditations for referendum coverage from the headquarters of the initiative were denied to all media outlets in the EPH media group, Novi List, Index.hr and others. The Croatian media Council condemned the move saying it is "preposterous that in 2013 in a EU member country, journalists and media are banned because of their reporting." They called the conservative initiative, which is supported by the Catholic Church and some opposition parties, to allow access to all media or face a boycott by journalists. Edtors at Nova TV, a private broadcaster, which was not denied accreditation, have already said that in show of solidarity with their colleagues they will not be reporting from the "In the name of the Family" media centre.
© Balkan Insight
Refugee Commissioner speaks out on sexual orientation asylum (Malta)
1/12/2013- Following last Sunday’s article that highlighted the Refugee Appeals Board’s granting of asylum to a Nigerian in November on the grounds of his sexual orientation, after his first application to the Office of the Refugee Commissioner had been denied in April, Refugee Commissioner Mario Guido Friggieri has clarified that his office has granted asylum on such grounds in the past. Mr Friggieri explains, “Asylum seekers who substantiate their fear of past or future persecution in their country of origin due to their sexual orientation, are recognised as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Geneva Convention, by this same Office. “The Office notes that it has already in the past granted protection to persons who claim to be homosexuals and who have substantiated their claim that they fear persecution in their respective country of origin.”
Last week’s article dealt with the case of an 18-year-old Nigerian migrant who had been granted asylum in Malta due to persecution in his home country because of his homosexuality, seeing that consensual homosexual conduct is punishable by up to 14-years in prison under Nigeria’s federal criminal code. The Refugee Appeals Board also found that in Nigerian states applying Sharia law, consensual homosexual conduct among men is punishable by death by stoning or flogging. This was the first time such an asylum application had been granted since the recent judgement delivered by the European Court of Justice which ruled that gay asylum-seekers from an African country where people are jailed for being homosexual qualify for asylum in Europe – a ruling that had been considered by the Refugee Appeals Board in its determinations. But, according to Mr Friggieri, this was far from the first time that asylum has been granted on the grounds of a claimant’s fear of persecution in his or her country of origin due to their sexual orientation.
The Office of the Refugee Commissioner, however, disagrees with the details of such cases being divulged. Mr Friggieri explains, “The Office of the Refugee Commissioner is of the opinion that it is preferable that no details about such cases are divulged since confidentiality is extremely important and only the client himself should have the right to make public details about his asylum application.” The Refugee Appeals Board, in overturning the decision of the Office of the Refugee Commissioner, had also flagged certain questions asked by the Refugee Commissioner’s Office regarding the sexual life of the appellant as “not appropriate, and shed no light whatsoever on the particular matter which needed to be determined”.
The Refugee Appeals Board had stated: “The question at hand was, in the view of the Board, very simple: whether the appellant is credible in claiming to be homosexual or not,” which can be established through clear facts, such as whether he had had a male partner for a continuous period, and whether he involved himself in same-sex sexual encounters.
The Board said that further questioning about the specifics of these sexual encounters “is purely irrelevant, if not lacking in respect for the dignity of the appellant”. But, according to Mr Friggieri, such questioning is perfectly in line with the difficult task of assessing an applicant’s asylum claim. He adds, “Regarding the assessment of credibility, which as correctly described in the article is ‘notoriously difficult’, the Office of the Refugee Commissioner notes that this plays a central role in asylum determination and is a crucial step in deciding how to weigh an asylum seeker’s statements and other evidence, when making an asylum decision.”
© The Malta Independent
Archbishop speaks out after anti-Islam attacks (Sweden)
Sweden's newly elected archbishop Antje Jackelén has admitted she wasn't prepared for the online abuse she has received from anti-Islamists labelling the attacks as "spiteful."
30/11/2013- Jackelén became the first female archbishop of the Church of Sweden in October and is known for her views on religious tolerance and arguments in favour of a multi-faith Sweden. She will take up the post next year but has already been the target of abuse by users on xenophobic online forums and Twitter who have slammed Jackelén for her beliefs and even her hairstyle. "Choose Muhammed instead so we can be spared from your ugly old man's haircut," posted one user on a message board while another asked for her to be burned at the stake. The new archbishop said she was taken aback by the online abuse but insisted she does not feel in any danger despite the nature of the hate-filled posts. "I was not prepared for this spite and hatred. It's clear that I am being personally referred to, it is hard to protect yourself when there is so much aggression,"Jackelén told Sveriges Radio P4 Kristianstad.
German-born Jackelén, a 58-year-old mother of two, is presently a bishop in Lund in southern Sweden and was the clear winner of October's archbishop election where she clocked up 55.9 percent of the vote. An early advocate of social media she posts regularly on Twitter and her number of followers has doubled to 5,600 since her election triumph. She has been the subject of several death threats on social media with a lot of the abuse coming via Twitter. "I know that there have been death threats which were then removed," she said. Jackelén added to P4 Kristianstad that most of the abuse is motivated by "nationalism and an incredibly great fear and hatred of Islam."
Jackelén has courted controversy in the past for being unclear on her views on faith and saying there is no contradiction in believing in God as well as evolution. She suggested that the virgin birth was a metaphor rather than an actual event, which is understood to have angered some in the Swedish clergy. Jackelén has said in the past she was unaware if her comments caused a split. Following the revelations about the online attacks Jackelén reiterated that she wasn't personally afraid but did concede that she was fearful about the development of hatred on the internet. Jackelén will succeed outgoing archbishop Anders Wejryd when he steps down next summer.
© The Local - Sweden
MDI Pilot Project Counter Speech (Netherlands)
6/12/2013- Counter Speech is engaging online discrimination , racism and prejudice through various methods , including countering 'bad speech ' with ' good speech ', arguing on blogs, discussion groups and web forums and in the social media , dispelling myths using hard facts and information , debunking stereotypes and assertions and doing positive campaigns. This year the MDI started a counter speech project that will run until the end of 2014 and focusses on antisemitism and Holocaust denial , classical forms of discrimination which, unfortunately, still have a very strong presence in ( Dutch ) society.
Traditionally, the MDI works on semi-voluntary removal, in other words: requesting removal with a big legal stick ready. This is effective in the short term. In the longer term, we see that because of the nature of the Internet, nothing disappears completely. Many things are copied and uploaded elsewhere, or simply move to physical locations where the law allows online discrimination.
Counterspeech seems to be a way of countering antisemitism and Holocaust denial that has impact in the longer-term, especially in a preventive sense. So far, we have had some good results. It can be compared with the work of the police; purse-snatchers are arrested every day but are set free again pretty fast, so the police force also uses prevention and neighborhood projects. In severe cases, the MDI will allways keep on striving for the removal of antisemitism and Holocaust denial.
After completion of the project at the end of 2014 an evaluation will follow. Based on this it will be decided whether we will broaden the counterspeech scope also to other forms of discrimination.
Counterspeech against antisemitism and Holocaust denial is very labor-intensive and needs to be done in a structured and disciplined way. But also ordinary citizens can do counterspeech, on a limited scale, for example by simply providing facts in discussions. If you have the time and energy to do this, give it a try! Every little bit helps. See the column on the right!
© Complaints Buro Discrimination Internet (MDI)
Why the Dutch Love Black Pete (opinion)
By Arnon Grunberg
4/12/2013- When I was growing up in Amsterdam in the 1970s, the phenomenon of Santa Claus was relatively unknown. Christmas was celebrated without Santa and mostly without gifts. Sinterklaas was the man with the presents. If one had the good fortune to be Jewish, one received presents not only on Dec. 5, the eve of Sinterklaas’s name day, but also at Hanukkah. Only in recent years has Santa Claus made his rise to stardom in Holland, and today a Dutch child — or a Dutch adult for that matter — no longer has to be Jewish to cash in twice in December.
Sinterklaas arrives from Spain by steamboat in late November, travels farther on horseback, climbs onto roofs and on Dec. 5, known as “Pakjesavond,” drops presents through the chimney with the help of the Black Petes, a crew of dark-skinned helpers wearing large earrings who cavort and entertain and, as Dutch parents often tell their children, owe their blackness to chimney soot. Black Pete and St. Nicholas also conspire to form a punitive duo. In the traditional Sinterklaas songs, St. Nicholas brings gifts for good boys and girls; naughty children get a spanking with Black Pete’s bundle of twigs.
I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, and every November, whenever I would come across someone from Suriname — in those days, most black people in Amsterdam were from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America — I feared I had run into a Black Pete in plain clothes. Until recently, Black Pete was uncontroversial. Not because the Dutch are particularly racist, but because Sinterklaas, like the royal family, is sacred, perhaps because of a dearth of other, specifically Dutch traditions. A matter, in other words, of conservatism.
Such traditions are even more important today, given the view that, in order to safeguard the Dutch national identity, homegrown culture and folklore must not be tampered with — a view expressed primarily, though not exclusively, by the extreme right wing Party for Freedom, run by Geert Wilders. But just as the defense of traditions has grown stronger, so too has the criticism that Black Pete is a racist holdover from the Netherlands’s colonial past. In January the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights sent a letter to the Dutch government stating that Black Pete perpetuated the image of people of African descent as second-class citizens and constituted a “living trace of past slavery.”
The Dutch government responded by saying that it regarded the Sinterklaas tradition as a children’s celebration, that it was aware of the differences of opinion concerning Black Pete, but that it was highly committed to combating discrimination in all forms. Both letters, by the way, received publicity only in October of this year, when the public debate over Black Pete resurfaced. Emotions were running so high that a popular singer, Anouk, who is white and had publicly called for the abolition of Black Pete, received numerous insults and threats via social media. A plan for a Sinterklaas parade with a proposed compromise, Green Petes, had to be canceled after threats were made against its planners.
In The Hague, the seat of government, a demonstration was organized for the preservation of Black Pete, while a pro-Black Pete Facebook page received two million likes almost immediately. Even the nation’s highest-circulation newspaper, De Telegraaf, agreed that the United Nations letter constituted interference in the Netherlands’s domestic affairs. In a debate in Parliament, Mr. Wilders’s party asked the minister of education, culture and science whether she shared the view held by some that “Dutch traditions” should be made subordinate to “multicultural drivel.” Not to be outflanked, both Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the mayor of Amsterdam recently spoke up in defense of Black Pete, albeit with reservations. Sinterklaas, Mr. Rutte said, would not be Sinterklaas without Black Pete.
Of course, there were Dutch people who saw things differently, and there were many with no opinion either way. Yet the general tenor among the Dutch public was that “they” should keep their mitts off “our tradition,” an opinion you can hear in any number of variations on any street corner. By “them” people mean the United Nations and “unnatural” Dutch citizens, by both birth and naturalization, who want to put an end to this admittedly dubious tradition.
The Black Pete debate underscores how deep within the Netherlands’s prosperous and safe society lies the fear of losing identity, a fear undoubtedly fueled by globalization, migration and the notion that the European Union is gradually doing away with the European nation state. During the triumphal entry of St. Nicholas into the Netherlands this year, a national happening whereby a sort of street theater is performed on the children’s behalf, the Black Petes were in attendance once again, albeit this time with less ostentatious golden earrings. For security’s sake, the saint himself was accompanied by armed Petes in bulletproof vests.
The truly disturbing thing is the aggression conjured up by this public debate, the thinly disguised xenophobia that roiled to the surface when attempts were made to make Black Pete less black. A civilized person, after all, could say: “Personally, I don’t have much of a problem with Black Pete, but if others do, well, then, why don’t we make him Green Pete or Blue Pete?” But no. To my utter amazement, at least two million Dutch people have taken the stance: “Black Pete, c’est moi.”
Which once again goes to prove that national identity often boils down to distasteful folklore.
Arnon Grunberg, a novelist, is the author of “The Jewish Messiah” and “Tirza.” This essay was translated by Sam Garrett from the Dutch.
© The New York Times
Most Dutch wants borders closed to Romanians, Bulgarians
3/12/2013- Eight out of 10 Dutch people think the Netherlands’ borders should remain closed to people from Bulgaria and Romania from next year, according to a Maurice de Hond opinion poll for the Socialist Party. The poll of 1,800 people shows 91% of supporters of the ruling VVD, 82% of SP supporters and 100% of people who vote for the anti-immigration PVV want the borders to stay shut, the Telegraaf reported on Tuesday. Even 53% of people who vote for the pro-Europe Liberal democrats D66 want restrictions to continue, the poll apparently shows.
The SP on Tuesday called on Asscher to take unilateral measures to ensure that visa requirements remain in place. Socialist MP Paul Ulenbelt told the Telegraaf Asscher is all words and no action. The situation facing the Netherlands is ‘unbelievably irresponsible’, the paper quotes Ulenbelt as saying. MPs are debating the home affairs ministry budget with Asscher on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Asscher reportedly said last week he considers British calls for limits to EU migration are ‘potentially interesting’ and plans to study them further. British prime minister David Cameron has suggested a raft of measures to limit inter-EU migration ahead of the end of restrictions on people from Bulgaria and Romania at the beginning of next year. Asscher plans to raise the ‘negative impact’ of free movement for people from Eastern Europe at the next EU leaders’ summit on December 9. The minister is also making agreements with Poland, Romania and Bulgaria to stop workers being exploited.
The Christian Democrats have also come out in support of Cameron’s ideas, website nu.nl reports. MP Pieter Heerma told the website the arrival of new workers from Eastern Europe will complicate the task of finding work for the almost 700,000 Dutch jobless. ‘Our labour market has a national and a European side,’ he said.
© The Dutch News
Director claims racist rejection email to intern was a joke (Netherlands)
30/11/2013- On Thursday, Dutch media outlet De Telegraaf, reported that an employee from Mike de Wilde Electronics B.V. accidentally sent a racially tinted email to a intern candidate. The candidate, Jeffrey Koorndijk, applied for an IT internship because he eagerly wanted to gain more technical experience. Koorndijk had sent Mike de Wilde Electronics B.V. his resume a week ago and was expecting to receive a response from them. But, the response that he received wasn't the response that he had been hoping for. "Just took another look...its nothing. First of all, he is a dark skinned (negro). And on his cv [resume] I can't find any real computer experience listed," Ruben Willemsen wrote. Willemsen is the companies internship supervisor and meant to send the email to the companies boss, Mike de Wilde.
Mike de Wilde Electronics B.V., is owned by Mike de Wilde. The electronics company specializes in audio and video system(s) installations. The company is located in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Mike de Wilde Electronics B.V. released two statements via their company website, apologizing to Koorndijk. "Director Mike de Wilde, [and] on behalf of the employes, want to apology for the way in which the candidate was informed about being rejected [for our internship program]. The Company, [Mike de] Wild Electronics has a policy that they evaluate applicants on skills and not on skin color," stated the companies website. The site also states that there was no racism involved and that it was more of a internal company joke. "This is racism. This email caused me a lot of pain, but I am also happy that I received it. I finally have proof of what I already have been suspecting for a long time: some companies don't want me because of my skin color," Koorndijk told reporters from De Telegraaf.
On Tuesday, British news outlet ibtimes reported that a judge from 'Holland's Got Talent' brushed off accusations of racism over a series of racist jokes he made about a Asian contestant. "Which number are you singing? Number 39 with rice?," said judge Gordon Heuckeroth. He also sees no need to apologize and claims that the international media has blown it out of proportion. After receiving the email, Koorndrijk called the company and spoke with Willemsen. The internship director explained that he had sent the email by mistake. Koorndrijk claims that instead of Willemsen taking responsibility for sending the racially tinted email, he tried to make it seem like it wasn't a big deal. Thats when Koorndrijk decided to post a photo of the email on his Facebook profile. Within a couple of hours it went viral. Friends immediately began leaving comments and took it upon themselves to share the photo on their timelines. Due to public outrage and death threats, Willemsen has gone into hiding and has even taken down his Facebook profile.
© The Examiner
Bulgaria Builds Wall to Keep Migrants Out
Critics say wall, due for completion in February, will not stop wave of migrants from entering, as it covers only a small section of the border.
30/11/2013- A 33-kilometer-long wall designed to keep Syrian refugees and other migrants from crossing the Bulgarian-Turkish border will be completed in February, the Bulgarian Interior Minister said on Thursday. The first part of the project, which included repairing some 107 kilometres of roads, was already complete, Tsvetelin Iovchev told a joint press conference with the Defence Minister and army chiefs, adding that the refugee crisis would be under control “in a few weeks”. Critics say that the three-metre high fence made of concrete and barbed wire and costing some 2.5 million euros will not stop the migrant wave, as it will cover only a small section of the 274-kilometre-long border. “Such problems cannot be solved with walls, and especially by such a short wall,” said Evgenii Dainov, a professor of political science and sociology at New Bulgarian University in Sofia. “This wall has one advantage, as it will redirect migrants toward the official border crossings, where they will be processed legally. But I don’t see how it can stop them…. This is a public relations exercise,” he added.
More than 10,000 refugees and economic migrants have crossed into Bulgaria from Turkey this year, the majority of them Syrians fleeing the brutal civil war raging in their country.
Many have encountered hostility and miserable living conditions in the EU’s poorest country, where xenophobic attacks and anti-immigrant sentiments have risen sharply over the last few months. Bulgaria was caught unprepared by the refugee wave and was forced to house many migrants in makeshift camps and long-abandoned buildings, lacking basic sanitation. A few weeks ago, some 200 Syrian refugees announced a hunger strike in the camp in Harmanli, a town in southern Bulgaria. Though the country recently received some 5.6 million euros of EU aid for the refugees, the onset of cold weather and snow over the last days has exacerbated problems and made them more urgent.
© Balkan Insight
Headlines 29 November, 2013
Protest against Mosque may be Defined as Hate Crime (Iceland)
29/11/2013- Three pig heads and bloodied pages of the Koran were scattered across the plot of land allocated to the Association of Muslims in Iceland for the building of a mosque on Wednesday. Professor at the University of Iceland's law department Björg Thorarensen says the incident could be classified as a hate crime but Benedikt Lund at Reykjavík Metropolitan Police told visir.is that it is unlikely that the case will be investigated as they don’t have any evidence. The animal parts and pages of the Koran were discarded by City employees tasked with cleaning up the site after the incident. According to Benedikt, the police officer on the scene said that there was some paper at the site but didn’t know whether it was related to the issue. Óskar Bjarnason, who lives in Sweden, told visir.is that he was present when the incident took place and that a group of 20 people are behind the act. Óskar claimed that prominent figures in Reykjavík are among its members. He mentioned examples of protests by others in Sweden but said that the action taken in Iceland was less radical. Reykjavík City Council formally approved the building site for Iceland’s first mosque in September. The Association of Muslims in Iceland was allocated the plot of land in January. The association is currently run from a building in Reykjavík but this will be the first building built specifically as a mosque in Iceland. The City Council’s decision has raised much discussion in Iceland.
© The Iceland Review
Denmark: When hate speech begins, free speech ends -or does it?-
An artist's conviction for racism has ignited a debate about whether the state should punish people who spread hateful views in public, or if racism laws are even useful at all
28/11/2013- Last week’s conviction of Danish-Iranian artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan for racism, after she claimed on her blog that she was “convinced that Muslim men around the world rape, abuse and kill their daughters”, has led to free speech advocates questioning whether anti-racism laws are fair – or even effective. Bazrafkan was convicted by the Eastern High Court for violating section 266b of the criminal code – the so-called racism law – and fined 5,000 kroner. According to the law, it is illegal to “spread messages that threaten, taunt or degrade a group because of their race, skin colour, national or ethnic extraction, belief or sexual orientation”. The court argued that Bazrafkan in her blog had generalised about Muslims men being criminals, and that because her statement “derided and degraded a group simply based on their faith”, she was guilty.
Bazrafkan argues, however, that her blog post was actually a criticism of Islam and not a racist generalisation of Muslims. “It’s important to remember that I did not write that ALL Muslim men committed horrible acts and used Islamic codes to justify them, I wrote that Muslim men around the world can do these things because it is allowed according to [Islamic] codes,” she told The Copenhagen Post. “It’s not the same thing.” She added that her conviction meant the court had limited her freedom of expression – a right that is guaranteed under article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Conditional free speech
But it’s not as simple as that. While article 10 does indeed protect free speech, it also grants states the right to restrict speech for various reasons, such as public safety or the protection of health and morals. Even though states can limit free speech, Jacob Mchangama, the director of legal affairs at the liberal think-tank Cepos, said that authorities had no business interfering in the public statements of its citizens. “It’s very misguided for democracies to place arbitrary limits both on what can be said and who is being protected. Why is it okay to say degrading things about disabled people but not homosexuals? And how do we judge when something is sufficiently degrading? There are problems defining these limitations.” Mchangama has called for the abolition of section 266b. “I think it’s valid if people want to start a debate about tolerance and our need to be more open toward ethnic and sexual groups. But the state needs to be neutral about statements that individuals make.” Getting rid of section 266b is not simple however. Denmark is a signatory of several international conventions and treaties that obligates it to legislate and enforce against hate speech.
Learning from history
Christoffer Badse, the senior legal adviser at the Danish Institute for Human Rights, argued that these laws have their place given the number of global conflicts that have arisen because of hate between groups. “Racist language can create an atmosphere of hatred,” Badse said. “We have seen this both in modern society and in places with ethnic conflicts such as Northern Ireland and in the former Yugoslavia. There are historic reasons for these laws.” He sympathises with Mchangama’s complaint that the law affords some groups criminal protection that others don’t receive, but argues that anyone can use civil courts to sue if they feel they have been discriminated against. He added that some groups, given the history of discrimination they have suffered, are offered extra criminal protection. “In the case of hate speech against the disabled, we haven’t seen that it is a big enough issue for it to warrant criminal conviction.”
Unlike the disabled, Muslim immigrants have been the focus of intense media scrutiny for decades, particularly since the formation of the anti-immigration party Dansk Folkeparti in the mid-1990s. Statements critical of Muslim immigrants and their religious background are commonplace in the Danish media. Some more recent examples include MP Marie Krarup (Dansk Folkeparti) calling for Muslim women to discard their headscarves, and MP Inger Støjberg (Venstre) demanding that Danish Muslims accept that Denmark is the land of the Danes and that they can find somewhere else to live if they don’t like it here. Badse argued that the harsh tone of the immigration debate demonstrates that it is possible to have a debate about Islam and religion without breaking the racism legislation. “There is a balance between the need to protect vulnerable groups and minorities, and recognising concerns about freedom of speech and expression, which I think the prosecutor in [Bazrafkan’s] case got right,” Badse said. “When people make exaggerated claims and accusations, they can be punished. But it is still possible to discuss all issues of public interest.”
But Mchangama argued that cases such as Bazrafkan’s demonstrate how the law interferes with the public debate. He also questions whether laws preventing racist speech actually protect anyone. “After all, everyone is protected from being the victim of crimes, whether they are based on hate or otherwise,” he said. “I don’t think there is good science showing that if you have hate speech laws in place that they result in less hate crimes,” Mchangama said. “Laws like these have been abused in many different countries as a way to suppress various groups. So we need to be careful and err on the side of liberty.” The laws may even be counterproductive. Following Bazrafkan’s conviction, the statement that a court deemed illegal was published across the Danish media (including The Copenhagen Post). After her conviction, Bazrafkan remained staunch in her opposition to the law. “Section 226b, I’m not done with you,” she wrote on her Facebook profile, suggesting that she will continue to speak out against Islam.
Anti-racism law helps racists
In an opinion piece in Politiken newspaper following Bazrafkan’s conviction, Rune Engelbrecht Larsen, an author who focuses on social issues, argued that the racism law was probably having the opposite of its intended effect. “Each racism case has already become an opportunity to strengthen and defend hate speech, and after this verdict it’s hard to see how the racism legislation can accomplish anything else,” he wrote.
© The Copenhagen Post
Can virtual reality be used to tackle racism?
It's an uncomfortable truth but scientists say most people have an ingrained racial bias. Now a team has shown that a short stint in a virtual world could reduce it, but could this have a longer lasting effect?
28/11/2013- Racism is an issue that still pervades many societies. In England and Wales, there have been 106 fatal racist attacks since the killing of teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993 according to the Institute of Race Relations. It also reports thousands of racist incidents recorded by the police each year. The issue is complicated by the fact that many biases are ingrained over long periods of time. Scientists have now found that this ingrained racial bias was reduced when participants were immersed in a virtual body of a different race.
To test their implicit racism, a team led by Mel Slater at the University of Barcelona gave participants what's called an implicit association test several days before the experiment. They were given the same test again after their experience in virtual reality. It was only the participants who had been placed in a dark virtual body that showed this decrease. Another unrelated study had similar results. A team found that when a dark rubber hand was stroked at the same time as the participant's own (out of sight) hand was touched, implicit racism subsequently decreased. This work was led by Manos Tsakiris at Royal Holloway University of London. Both teams say it's promising that two separate experimental settings show this effect.
It might be surprising to some white people that they show preference for white faces over black faces in the implicit test. This could be for a number of reasons, says Prof Slater. It doesn't mean someone is explicitly racist, he says, rather it reflects how their brain has been wired based on the society in which they grew up. If the media frequently reports negatively on a given "out-group", for example, then somehow the brain picks up these associations which are reproduced in the implicit bias test. He refers to virtual reality as an "empathy generating machine" to give people experiences they can't have in any other way.
The question remains whether or not these findings could ever be applied in the real world. Prof Slater believes they could: "If the effect is shown to be long-lasting this might provide tools for serious immersive games that attempt to foster pro-social behaviour and empathy," he argues. Prof Tsakiris agrees. He believes that achieving similar results could even be possible without an experimental set-up. "It's about the idea of sharing sensory experiences with people that might be different from you. This sharing - especially when there is some kind of synchronicity between people's bodies - it can bring people closer together. "Doing things with others seems to function as a social glue. The obvious thing would be to have no segregation in society, not to have any schools dominated by one ethnic group," Prof Tsakiris adds.
It is still unclear how long-lasting these effects would be. Prof Slater says this will be hard to pin down, but rolling the technology out into the real world in the first instance is a possibility. "It may be used to help people who have these implicit biases, to recognise they have them but also to reduce them." But Antony Greenwald, at the University of Washington in Seattle, says it's still too early to be optimistic because the negative associations measured by the implicit racism test "are pretty durable". "The best interpretation is that this makes some sort of temporary change in how a person represents the categories [of race]. "We live in a world in which we are surrounded by things that cause us to develop associations that produce stereotypes. It's like the air we breathe; we can't help talking it in," Prof Greenwald adds.
However, Ziada Ayorech, from King's College London says the research shows that a negative racial bias could be detuned over time and could even become positive. "When we think of something as implicit racial bias you think that it's already ingrained and there's nothing you can do, but in reality these studies show that by simply having people relate to someone with a different ethnicity - you can already change that. "New associations will be built. It's a stepping stone, for sure." But outside an experimental setting, tackling ingrained racism remains difficult, especially because it's hidden, says Neil Chakraborti, a criminologist at the University of Leicester who works with victims of racist attacks. "Precisely because it is almost impossible to label it as an offence, latent racism is rarely reported. You see people normalise these kinds of experiences; it's become a routine part of being different," he says.
This issue of prejudice is something Dal Babu feels he has experienced in the police force - an organisation he says should be representative of the society it aims to protect. He was one of the UK's top ethnic minority officers at the Metropolitan Police, and was critical of the lack of black and Asian recruits and how few were in senior positions. "The irony and most commonly quoted phrase by Sir Robert Peel (founder of the Met Police) is that the public are the police and the police are the public," he says. But despite his efforts, the majority of senior police officers "remain stubbornly white", Mr Babu adds. It's clear that there is no one simple way to tackle an issue as complex as racism. Until researchers find that reducing an innate bias can be reproduced and sustained, an awareness of it seems a crucial first step. And while
'Preconceived expectations of black culture'
by Ziada Ayorech
I moved from Uganda to Prince George, Canada - a really small town. I was the first black person that most of my friends had met. They had all these expectations of what black people are, what black culture is, and how a black person should behave. Biases are learnt from a young age and children are very inquisitive. I've had a child ask me, "do you have chocolate on your skin or are you dirty"; to which their parents react in horror, which is where the learning begins because the child sees that response. Instead, it's important to show children that I'm just from a different place. Opening up that dialogue will make a change.
Testing implicit bias
To establish an implicit bias, researchers ask participants to respond quickly to black and white faces paired with positive or negative words
An implicit bias is deduced if participants assign positive attributes more quickly to white faces and negative attributes to black faces
Harvard University's implicit association test indicates that most Americans have an automatic preference for white over black faces
Take the race implicit association test
© BBC News
‘Working Definition’ of anti-Semitism abandoned by Europe
Jewish groups have criticized the recent removal of the ‘’Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’’ from the website of the Vienna-based Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), the European Union agency tasked with providing advice to the member states on fundamental rights of people living in the EU.
29/2013- The ‘’Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’’was drafted in 2004 on the initiative of the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), the predecessor of the FRA, and was considered a major achievement for the EU in the struggle against anti-Semitism. The document was created in order to provide a practical guide for identifying incidents, collecting data and supporting the implementation of legislation dealing with anti-Semitism at a European level. It was disseminated on the FRA website and units of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concerned with combating anti-Semitism also employ the definition. The US State Department’s yearly report, ‘Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism,’ makes use of this definition for the purpose of its analysis.
Earlier this year, the EU’s ''Working Definition of anti-Semitism'' was used in Britain in a complaint relating to the BBC coverage of comments about Israel made by a British member of te Parliament, David Ward. The BBC Trust, the public broadcaster’s governing body, first upheld the definition in characterizing Ward’s comments as ‘anti-Semitic’ but later reversed its ruling following the removal of the Definition from FRA’s website. In a communication to BBC last month, a press officer at the FRA explained that the ‘’Working Definition of anti-Semitism’’ was a ‘’discussion paper’’ which ‘’was never adopted by the EU as a working definition, although it has been on the FRA website until recently when it was removed during a clear out of “non-official” documents. The removal is seen as ‘’wrongful’’ by the European Jewish organizations who are calling for the republication of the paper.
The European Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global Jewish human rights organization that confronts anti-Semitism in the world, has called on the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, to launch an investigation into the disappearance of the Working Definition. Arguing that the FRA carries responsibility for the documents of its predecessor, Shimon Samuels, the Centre’s Director for Internatonal Relations, also asked to return the Definition to the current FRA website and to ensure that the appropriate EU bodies endorse it in its entirety. Shimon Ohayon, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, who chairs the Knesset Lobby for the Struggle against Anti-Semitism, told a visiting delegation of the European Parliament that Europe needs to deal more seriously with the rise in anti-Semitism and hatred. He highlighted that there are many anti-Semites who have been fighting against the ‘Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’ for many years so they can continue their attacks on Jews and Israel.
‘’Europe needs to deal more seriously with this rise in hate which is creating an untenable situation for the Jews of Europe. However, to really fight anti-Semitism, the European Union first needs a fundamental definition which law enforcement agencies and judicial bodies can use to prosecute those who target Jews and Jewish institutions,’’ Ohayon told the MEPs. The European Jewish Parliament (EJP) has joined other Jewish organizations in their efforts. “The Fundamental Rights Agency released a report about anti-Semitism two weeks ago, but there is a lack of coherence between the publication of this report and the deletion of the Definition of anti-Semitism. It is like identifying a disease and afterwards throwing the medication away”, said Joel Rubinfeld, Co-Chairman of the EJP.
Contacted by the European Jewish Press about the issue, a FRA official in Vienna confirmed what the body told earlier to the BBC and said : ‘’We don’t foresee adding the working definition to our webpage. The FRA is not a standard-setting body and creating definitions is not part of our mandate. The EUMC working definition of antisemitism is not an official EU definition and has not been adopted by FRA.’’
© EJP News
Growing number of attempts from far right groups to hijack pro-EU rallies in Ukraine
26/11/2013- Up to 150 supporters of the Ukrainian opposition and people who back Ukraine's integration with the European Union are holding a rally outside the government headquarters in central Kiev demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. The demonstrators are holding EU and Ukrainian flags, flags of the Batkivshchyna, or 'Father', opposition party and pro-EU banners. Maxim Eristavi, Head of the Voice of Russia bureau in Kiev, shared his opinion about the crisis with the VoR's world service correspondent.
Maxim, good to hear you. First of all, what is happening in Kiev now? And what about the current security situation in the Ukrainian capital?
We saw quite turbulent 24 hours in Kiev. Clashed broke out this night between the police and protesters. A couple of protesters got injured, but thankfully not so badly. The incident started when the local MPs and protesters at the Kiev rally had found out a suspicious car filled with spying equipment. As it turned out, it was a national security services’ car. And no the prosecutors say that they are thinking about opening a case against some protesters for blocking the work of security service.
Do you think that in the next few days the protest will actually vanish? Or you think it will increase, if we hear no more good news for those who support EU integration?
It is actually quite hard to say at this time. Yesterday and today we saw a little bit of increase in the size of the protest. Of course, they were not as big as this Sunday, when it was a weekend day. But it is still tend of thousands of people around the country. We saw a very interesting thing. As a part of a bigger trend of growing legal war between the Ukrainian Government and pro-EU protesters, not only Kiev but many other big cities across the country courts are trying to block the rallies that are popping up every day. And in some cities it goes with the success, but in others protesters just ignore the courts’ decisions. But the other thing that worries everybody is the growing number of attempts from the far right groups to hijack the pro-EU rallies or to provoke violence, as we saw this night. All violent incidents that broke out since the start of protest were provoked by this kind of tactics. And that’s why so many activists are urging right now to abandon any symbolic associated with any political party, to keep is more grassroots-style.
In general, if we talk about the situation and the mood in Ukraine, can we say that the country is actually split on the issue or you’d rather say it is unified?
Unfortunately, we don’t have any fresh polls to base any assumptions on. But still, there is a split, of course. It is more like 50 to 50 or 60 to 40, with 60% of pro-EU rallies and 40% of those who oppose the EU deal. But right now, it is hard to say. Of course, a lot of young people are among the supporters of pro-EU rallies. Actually, today we saw the Ukrainian students became major game changers for pro-EU rallies across the country. The student organization went on strike until the trade deal with the EU is signed. This happened after Yulia Timoshenko – the jailed ex-Prime Minister – went on hunger strike with the same demand.
What about the authorities? Can you say that they in any way changed the rhetoric after those protests?
Yesterday night we saw President Yanukovich to make the first public attempt to speak on this matter. He said yesterday that he’d answer any question on the subject through the TV appearance in the nearest future. Our assumption is that it could happen this night. And also he emphasize that there is no other option, he doesn’t see any deal signed in the future Vilnius summit.
Do the media have any certain angle or are they objective on that?
It was quite a surprise for me to see a lot of the Ukrainian media trying to take sides in all this conflict. It is a lot easier for protesters to get a different kind of information right now, to have more balance in information they are getting. So, Twitter is huge right now and it is the main tool for organizers.
© The Voice of Russia
Few Roma families take part in elections in Georgia
The Meliasanovs, a Roma family of nine, did not participate in the last presidential elections, because they are registered far from where they actually live.
27/11/2013- However, they don’t believe that the elections would improve their hard social and financial situation, which has stayed unchanged for more than 10 years. The family consists of a middle aged couple and seven children. They are a rare exception of Romas, in that they have ID cards and birth certificates. The lack of formal registration among people from a Roma, or gypsy, background is the reason why it is so hard to figure out the exact number of Romas living in Georgia. A census conducted by the National Statistic’s Office in 2002 indicated that there were only 472 gypsies living in Tbilisi. In 2008, the National Center for Minority Issues registered 1 500 gypsies in the whole of Georgia. The most recent data about the number of gypsies was provided by the Ombudsman’s office about 3 years ago and found that there are 1 000.
Nino Andriashvili, a lawyer at Human Rights Center, considers gypsies the most disadvantaged minority in Georgia, as they mostly don’t have even ID cards and can’t participate in the elections, go abroad or get a job. Romas in Georgia are divided into two branches: Krim and Vlakh. The Krim branch is made up of Muslim from Crimea, South Ukraine and South Russia, while the Vlakh are made up of Orthodox Christian gypsies from Ukraine and Russia. The Meliasanov family are Christians and on the question about their nationality, Alena Meliasanova, a mother of seven, answers that they are Georgian Roma, citizens of Georgia. “We were born here, we respect and love Georgians, and we know the language. If we move somewhere, we won’t be treated like we are here,” says Alena. She says negative stereotypes about gypsies does not affect her. “Our housekeeper is a Georgian woman. She gave us furniture, helps us. Sometimes when we are hungry, she brings us food.”
Two small rooms, that the Meliasanovs rent for 5-6 lari (3-3.50 USD) per day, is on the second floor of a house at Gudarekhi, a district in uptown Tbilisi that is mostly inhabited by Romas. There are only three beds, and the parents sometimes have to sleep on the floor. Early in the morning they go to the market. Alena and her husband Vasil are street vendors at Lilo Fair, one of the largest flea markets in Tbilisi. They sell shoes and clothes, mostly. “We receive a small social assistance from the government, but it’s not enough… Sometimes we don’t have money to buy goods and beg money,” Alena says. Alina, the oldest daughter of the Melisianovs, is 13. She takes care of the house and her siblings, cooks, washes and has no time to spend with her friends.
“Other girls wear nice clothes. I don’t. I like staying at home,” Alina says. Sometimes she has to leave house and beg money too. “They often ask me why I don’t attend school. I say, because I have to take care of my brothers and sisters, I have no time, and my family does not have money for it. I attended three classes in school, but then my brother got ill with meningitis and I had to leave school.” Alena is the only child in her family who has attended classes. The mother says her children need books, notebooks and other items for school and they even don’t have enough clothes to go out.
Though primary education is mandatory in Georgia, no-one seems to be interested in the violation. The Meliasanovs say that for more than 10 years, no social workers or government representatives have visited them. “Often, parents don’t understand the importance of their children’s education and prefer that they beg in the streets. Generally, the reason is their hard social conditions,” according to a report by the Public Defender Office published in 2010. “Sometimes the police calls us, asking to take the children home,” said Alena. She and her husband have had several incidents with the police, when, according to them, the police confiscated their goods, as street vending is forbidden in Georgia. “A young guy came and asked if I had shoes. I showed one pair worth 5 lari (3 USD) and at this time the police approached and took my bag. I asked them to return it, but they never did,” recalls Vasil.
The Meliasanov family has lived this way for more than 10 years, after they left their house in Kobuleti, a seaside resort in Adjara, in western Georgia, and moved to Tbilisi. The government does not have a special program for Romas and they mostly don’t ask for anything from the government, because, according to the Ombudsman report, they have no information, don’t know their rights, where and what to ask. That makes it hard to involve Romas in civil and political life in the country. The Melisianov family is not interested in politics. They wake up early every morning and go out to earn their own money.
© Balkan Insight
Italy's gay union ban allows Russian adoption
Italians are allowed to adopt Russian children because their country has a ban on gay marriage, the Kremlin's official for children's rights has said.
29/11/2013- Pavel Astakhov’s comments come shortly after the Italian parliament passed an anti-homophobia bill and Rome’s mayor said he was open to same-sex marriage. “Italy is the only country whose citizens have the possibility to adopt Russian children, because it does not recognize gay marriage,” said Astakhov, quoted in Italian media. His comments come after Russian President Vladimir Putin in June banned adoption by gay couple in the country and foreigners from nations that sanctioned same-sex marriage. The legislation was enacted to protect children from “distress”, Russia Today reported. The decision limits Russia’s options to have children adopted abroad, as countries across Europe are legalizing gay marriage. France was the seventh EU country to legalize gay marriage earlier this year, while the first same-sex wedding in the UK will take place in 2014. But this appeared inconsequential to Astakhov, who said “our priority is to have children adopted within the country” rather than abroad. Earlier this year, the Kremlin banned adoption by US citizens in response to the US government’s Magnitsky Act, which blacklisted Russian officials implicated in the death of an anti-corruption lawyer.
© The Local - Italy
Gay rights protester stopped by Russian police while posing in Red Square with ‘Love is Love’ banner
27/11/2013- An Italian journalist has achieved unexpected internet fame after he posed for a photograph in front of St Basil's Cathedral holding a banner saying “Love is Love”, and was quickly confronted by Russian police. Enrico Procentese, a photographer and travel blogger, was reporting from Red Square on behalf of Conde Nest Traveller at the end of last month when he paid homage to Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton’s July protest against the country’s anti-gay laws. Despite the fact that the Italian’s poster was only identifiably pro-gay because of a tiny rainbow-coloured heart dotting the “i” of “is”, Moscow police officers responded almost instantly, demanding he hand the banner over. Though Mr Procentese’s protest only received muted coverage initially, it has now touched a chord with social media users and been shared thousands of times online after it was picked up by La Repubblica, one of Italy’s largest newspapers.
Speaking to Russia’s English-language Moscow Times, the journalist said: “Unfortunately, taking the photograph was not easy, since the police immediately stopped me and asked me to give them the flag I was carrying. The officers made their demands in a torrent of Russian which Procentese did not understand, he said, and spoke no English when he tried to ask for an explanation. “People are astonished by the fact that the police intervened to confiscate the flag in such a peaceful situation,” he said. It remains unclear exactly what drew the attention of the Russian police, when there are thousands of tourists taking photographs outside the Kremlin every day. The Moscow Times nonetheless reported that the authorities have had little patience with anyone openly opposing the new law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, which banned so-called “gay propaganda”.
According to the new legislation, a protest like Mr Procentese’s or Ms Swinton’s is punishable by 15 days in prison, a fine and deportation from Russia. The “Love is Love” campaign started in June after US President Barack Obama tweeted a message in support of gay marriage ending in #LoveIsLove. Within minutes the hashtag became the most popular on Twitter. Procentese said he hoped other people would follow his lead to support gay rights through peaceful means such as posing for a picture on Red Square. “I believe promoting awareness through messages like 'Love Is Love' is the only way to change this attitude in Russia as well as in other countries of the world,” he said.
© The Independent
Putin Seems to Think Russia is Welcoming for Gay People
26/11/2013- Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that violence against gay people is unacceptable and that Russia does not discriminate against the LGBT community. This makes us wonder if Putin knows which country he is in? At a meeting with junior political parties this month, Putin brushed off criticism concerning Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, saying, “You know how much criticism I had to listen to, but all we did on the government and legislative level [was] to do with limiting [gay] propaganda among minors.” At the same time he seemed keen to at least touch on the wave of prejudice and violence against the LGBT community that began to arise shortly after Russia’s national law against promoting gay rights in the public sphere passed in the summer, saying, “In the meantime we should not create a torrent of hatred towards anyone in society, including people of non-traditional sexual orientation.” Putin has previously said that all people are welcome at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
While these most recent statements came couched in a wider political discourse that attempted to assuage fears that Putin is systematically outlawing peaceful protest and making life harder for other political parties, it was also clearly meant to answer criticism that Russia should not be hosting Sochi 2014. Unfortunately, a wider look at Russia’s human rights landscape speaks to a different reality. Human Rights Watch notes that, since May 2012, Russian lawmakers have passed legislation that specifically restricts public assemblies, adding restrictions on internet content, and also broadening how Russia defines treason. The gay propaganda law has been used to condemn media outlets that have dared to publish pro-gay articles, and recently signed legislation means that all forms of protest at the site of the Sochi Olympics will be banned. At the same time, Russia passed legislation that has resulted in raids and closures of foreign nongovernment groups (NGOs). This has even led to Russian officials reportedly bugging an LGBT rights group meeting between domestic activists and groups such as Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Campaign.
What the meeting was in reality was a discussion about how to peacefully protest the Sochi Olympics and put pressure on Sochi’s sponsors to speak out about Russia’s gay rights situation. These views were presented by host Alexander Buzaladze as “massive LGBT propaganda” and an attack on Russia that is “in full-swing.” The report also called the human rights groups “homosexualists” that it said were attempting to “infiltrate” the country. The violence against Russia’s LGBT community also appears to be escalating. While attacks against individuals by so-called vigilante groups continue apace, organized attacks against gay clubs have now started to make the headlines, with gas attacks, a shooting at a Moscow club and a violent attack against an HIV group’s headquarters among recent incidents.
Despite all this, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it is satisfied that Russia fulfills the demands of the Olympic Charter and that the games should go ahead. Sochi 2014 sponsor Coca Cola has also refused to use its influence to rally against Russia’s gay propaganda law beyond reciting its own general policies that it doesn’t support discrimination of any kind. With Russian lawmakers on record as saying they wished they had waited until after the Sochi Olympics in order to pass the propaganda law, and hints that further laws are in the works, the focus for LGBT rights groups is changing to what will happen once the world’s gaze leaves Sochi after the Olympics and Russia’s LGBT population is left without a media spotlight to help them in their fight against Russia’s anti-gay crackdown.
© Care 2
British PM's calls for EU migration restrictions are 'interesting': Asscher (Netherlands)
29/11/2013- Dutch social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher thinks British calls for limits to EU migration are ‘potentially interesting’ and plans to study them further, the Telegraaf reports on Friday. British prime minister David Cameron has suggested a raft of measures to limit inter-EU migration ahead of the end of restrictions on people from Bulgaria and Romania at the beginning of next year. The Telegraaf says Asscher plans to raise the ‘negative impact’ of free movement for people from Eastern Europe at the next EU leaders’ summit on December 9. The minister is also making agreements with Poland, Romania and Bulgaria to stop workers being exploited. According to the Independent newspaper, the Netherlands and Austria back Britain’s call for tighter restrictions.
In August, Asscher made his own plea for restrictions, issuing a ‘code orange alert’ for the European labour market. The resettlement of so many people from eastern Europe in the west has had a 'disruptive effect on some of our poorer and less well educated citizens in the richer EU states like the UK and the Netherlands,' the article, written together with British commentator David Goodhart, stated. According to the national statistics office CBS, some 600,000 people from other EU countries currently live in the Netherlands and 20,000 of them are claiming jobless or welfare benefits.
© The Dutch News
Mayor gives failed refugees until December 3 to leave building (Netherlands)
29/11/2013- A group of around 200 failed asylum seekers must leave a building they have taken over on Amsterdam's Weteringschans by December 3 or face eviction, the city's mayor Eberhard van der Laan said on Friday. The refugees have turned down an alternative offer of accommodation in a former prison for a six-month period. The group say living in a prison would bring back emotions and bad memories for many. They are also angry the offer is confined to the 159 failed asylum seekers who first handed their cases over to refugee agency Vluchtelingenwerk. Since then their number has grown to over 200. The Netherlands has a policy of evicting failed asylum seekers from refugee centres if they refuse to cooperate with their deportation. Vluchtelingenwerk estimates some 5,000 would-be refugees are put on the street every year. The Amsterdam group first lived in tents on waste ground in the city's Osdorp district and later lived in an abandoned church. They argue they cannot return home either because it is unsafe or because they do not have proper papers.
© The Dutch News
Chinese talent show candidate did not like Gordon's jokes (Netherlands)
29/11/2013- A Chinese talent show contestant who was the butt of jokes by panel member Gordon has finally broken his silence, saying he did not like the jokes made at his expense. Xiao Wang, a PhD student, was first asked by Gordon if he was going to sing 'number 39 with rice'. Gordon then went on to say he was 'sulplised' by Wang's singing. The controversy, on the Holland's Got Talent show, has been picked up outside the Netherlands and caused a minor media storm.
In a short statement, Wang said he had not paid much attention to what the jury said but did feel uncomfortable. 'After looking at the footage again, I have to say I don't like the "jokes".' 'I believe in a multicultural society in which people are treated with decency and respect and in which people are careful not to insult others. People should think twice before they make jokes,' he said. Wang went on to say he has made very good friends in the Netherlands and that he hopes this statement will end the matter.' Broadcaster RTL issued a statement on Thursday saying it took full responsibility for the show and the decision not to cut out the offending passages.
© The Dutch News
Dutch TV station asked to apologize after racism complaints on Chinese participant
28/11/2013- The Discrimination Hotline of Amsterdam (MDRA) has written to Dutch TV station RTL, asking for a formal apology after receiving complaints that a Chinese-origin participant was racially mistreated by a Dutch judge in a talent show. During the Nov. 16 episode of Holland's Got Talent, several alleged slurs were made by jury member Gordon Heuckeroth against Chinese-origin participant Wang Xiao. Some of his comments to Wang included, "Which number are you singing? Number 39 with rice?" The remarks were picked up by media in the United States, China and Holland a few days later and created an uproar. Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher also weighed in, calling the statements inappropriate.
Heuckeroth reacted saying Wang did not feel offended. "If that man had felt differently, I would have offered my apologies," he told local media. "It was an innocent joke, stigmatizing yes, but I do not consider it as racism," he said. Adding that he perhaps joked "too much." The MDRA received 15 complaints of racism and said it took the matter seriously. "Looking at the surnames, the complaints were mainly made by people from the Chinese community or the Asian community," Jessica Silversmith, director of the MDRA, told Xinhua. "In the complaints, the judge's statements are called racist and unacceptable. Also, people cannot understand that he does not wants to offer apologies," she added. Heuckeroth responded on Twitter on Wednesday saying: "I believe that everyone is going nuts!"
Labour fudge position on illegal immigrant arrest quotas (Netherlands)
26/11/2013- The Labour party will not call on junior justice minister Fred Teeven to abandon police quotas on illegal immigrant arrests, website nu.nl said on Tuesday. During last week’s debate on the justice ministry budget, Teeven made it clear he has again agreed with police that they should arrest 4,000 illegal immigrants for deporation, nu.nl says. Labour, which partners Teeven’s VVD Liberals in the current coalition, had earlier said quotas should be dropped in return for its support to make it a criminal offence to be in the Netherlands without proper papers. However, the party will not support a ChristenUnie motion which will stop the police picking up illegal immigrants to make up the numbers. ‘In last week’s debate the junior minister made it clear: the police are not going out looking for people who live here without proper paperwork,’ Labour MP Marit Maij told NU.nl. This makes the ChristenUnie motion pointless, she said. Labour MPs who oppose quotas have urged the party to support the ChristenUnie.
© The Dutch News
Hastings resolution calls for action to curb racism in Europe (USA)
27/11/2013- South Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings, D-71., capped a recent meeting with black European human rights leaders by introducing a resolution in Congress that turns the U.S. spotlight on the African Diaspora and a growing wave of racism in Europe. The 11-page “Recognizing people of African Descent and Black Europeans,” which the veteran Democratic lawmaker submitted on Nov. 19, calls on Secretary of State John Kerry to name a senior advisor on “Afro-descent peoples” in the State Department and to establish a “Fund for the Inclusion of Racial and ethnic Minorities” similar to those for women and girls and the LGBT community. Hastings also is calling for the adoption of a “Joint Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality and Inclusion” between the U.S. and the European Union.
The seven million to 10 million people of African descent who live in Europe, particularly in France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, have contributed greatly to European history and culture over the past several centuries and “form an influential part of the African Diaspora,” he said. The resolution cites distinguished blacks who have made “significant contributions” to European history and culture: Juan Latino, a Spanish poet; Alessandro Medici, an Italian duke; Alexandre Dumas, a French novelist; Anthony William Amo, a German scholar; Le Chevalier de St. George, a French composer; Oladuah Equiano, a British abolitionist; and Abram Hannibal, a Russian general and governor.
“The story of black Europeans remains widely untold, rendering many of their past and present contributions to the political and social life of Europe invisible or forgotten,” Hastings said in a statement announcing the resolution. “Furthermore,” he continued, “similar to the experiences of many African Americans, they have increasingly become the targets of discrimination, pernicious racial profiling, and violent hate crimes impacting equal access to housing, employment, education, and justice.”
Hastings acted after he met a 10-nation delegation in Washington, D.C., from the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
He also presided, as ranking Democratic member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, over a briefing whose topic was “Europeans of African Descent – Black Europeans: Race, Rights and Politics.” “Building on past and current initiatives, the purpose of the delegation’s visit was to shed light on the experiences of black Europeans in the face of ongoing racism and discrimination, specifically with regard to their representation in leadership positions and political participation,” Hastings said. “Their personal testimonies offered a raw and honest glimpse into the realities of many Blacks living in Europe,” he added. Such testimonies, the congressman said, provide an opportunity to address “issues of inequality, discrimination and inclusion” in the 57-nation OSCE.
The resolution is peppered with references to racial discrimination, racially motivated crime and victimization and notes the OSCE’s 2013 annual hate crimes report attributed more than 16 deaths to racist attacks and, the resolution adds, “persons of African descent are often targets of racist and anti-migrant violence, especially in eastern Europe.” At the same time, it said, many countries do not provide legal assistance and financial support for victims of such attacks. The current spate of violence, according to the resolution, is linked to changes in immigration and asylum laws and the rise of groups such as neo-Nazis and skinheads. Hastings notes in his resolution that some efforts were made to tackle racism and inequality, resulting in the United Nations designating 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent. That year also, the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution titled “Strengthening Efforts to Combat Racism and Xenophobia and Foster Inclusion.”
In addition, black and minority lawmakers met in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and several forums were held to discuss the issue. The most recent major talks took place last October involving European parliamentarians and the European Network Against Racism. The discussions included a debate on “People of African descent and Black Europeans: Realities of Afrophobia.” Despite such initiatives, racism and violence have continued against blacks in Europe, the resolution notes. Hastings is calling on European governments to do more to tackle the problem. He also wants the U.S. House of Representatives to encourage “the recognition and celebration of the collective and achievements made by people of African descent” and to reaffirm “the importance of inclusion and the full and equal participation of people of African descent around the world in all aspects of political, economic, social and cultural life.”
“I believe that our government can do more to help advance human rights and inclusion, including more partnerships with black European communities and the public and private sectors; increased parliamentary activities such as legislation and policy, speaking out against racism and increasing the political participation of racial minorities; and working with the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),” Hastings said in his statement.
© The South Florida Times
Racist letter threatens attacks on Muslim community in Dublin (Ireland)
An unsigned letter sent to mosques and schools in Ireland warns members of imminent attacks.
26/11/2013- Justice minister Alan Shatter has condemned the sending of hate mail to the Muslim community, and said he is bringing the matter to the attention of Garda Commissioner. An unsigned letter, which features an image of Michael Collins, was posted to a number of schools and mosques recently, threatening extreme violence if building plans for a new mosque in north Dublin get underway. The Minister said in a statement that he utterly condemned “racism and religious bigotry in all of their forms” and that he was “appalled by the nature of the letters. He added: “Religious intolerance has no place in our society. Incitement to hatred and incitement to violence are offences under our laws.”
The letter states that:
“Your very presence in our country is destroying our heritage and culture and we are calling on our countries’ people to attack any Muslim they come across in shops, taxis or mosques or any other place they come across them.” “Anyone seen wearing a veil or hijaab will be severely delt with (sic),” it continues. The letter also states “we will attack any Muslim man, women and child that enters any mosque in Ireland and especially if the new larger mosque is build (sic) in North Dublin. And our children will attack yours in schools…” Read the full letter here.
The intimidation has been condemned by the Irish Anti-War Movement and the Immigration Council of Ireland today. Gardaí have opened an investigation. “A hate campaign against the Muslim community in Dublin must be fully investigated and those responsible prosecuted,” said the Immigrant Council of Ireland in a statement. “The emergence of this letter and its threats is both sinister and alarming. The language used is that more often associated with right wing extremists which have re-emerged in other parts of Europe,” added CEO Denise Charlton.
“The Immigrant Council is committed to working with the Gardaí to combat racism and is requesting that the force use all available resources to establish which group or individual is behind the letters and the internet postings and to ensure that they face the full rigour of the law. “The response to this incident will test the effectiveness of Irelands Incitement to Hatred legislation. “The tone and language of the letter does not allow for ambiguity, it is by any definition an act of hatred and should be prosecuted as such,” she added. According to the IAWM, some Muslim girls have received letters specifically referring to their waring of the Hijab.
The group noted:
It is evident from the letter that the mosque planned to be build in Clongriffin, near the Priory Hall site in North Dublin, is likely one of the excuses for this extremely racist reaction. “This letter is unspeakably shameful and disgusting. The author(s) of this ‘porn’ claim to represent ‘the Irish People’ (whatever that imaginary monolith is) but that claim is an insult to Irish people. So it’s not just Muslims that are being insulted. “The letter is also deeply disturbing as it contains a picture of Michael Collins at the top. The Irish Government must denounce this letter immediately as it is a clear incitement to racial hatred and racial violence.”
© The Journal Ireland
We are in danger of becoming slaves to a broken system (Ireland)
Ireland has a long and complex history with slavery, which continues today.
25/11/2013- There is a small enough statue outside the courthouse in St Louis, Missouri, of Dred Scott and his wife Harriet. In 1857, the former sued for his freedom and that of his wife and two daughters. He lost the case, but it was a hugely significant one, igniting further discourse on the citizenship of slaves. When Abraham Lincoln made his famous “a house divided against itself cannot stand” speech while accepting the Republican nomination for the US Senate a year later in 1858, the implications of the Dred Scott case were fresh in his mind. Two years later he would be president. And a year after that, the American civil war began. You do the math, as his contemporary fellow citizens might say. The courthouse in St Louis – a city still unnervingly divided along racial lines – is an imposing structure, and the statue of Dred Scott and Harriet, clasping hands and looking towards the horizon, is dwarfed by it. The nearby Mississippi river divides the city from East St Louis, which has, depending what list you read, the highest crime rate in the US. Dred and Harriet have their backs to the river.
Slavery was disappearing in medieval Europe when it was reaching its peak in Ireland. In Iceland last year, I met a farmer and hunter who rather proudly put the beauty and physical strength of Icelanders down to the careful selection of Irish slaves by the Vikings, extracting the prettiest women and hardiest men as their “thralls”, the Norse term for serf or slave. Ireland has a long and complex history with slavery, which continues today. Our patron saint was a slave. And we’re not unusual. It’s hard to think of a country or society that hasn’t been touched by slavery, be it victim or perpetrator or both, yet we continue to talk about slavery in abstract and historical terms. When one thinks of the term “slave” or “slavery”, al- most immediately the African-American legacy of slavery is evoked. That terribly recent narrative has not been dealt with properly. The inequalities African-Americans face in the US are shameful. Their statues commemorating people who fought for freedom are far too small.
Modern slavery is complicated, as demonstrated by the unfolding story of three women rescued from a house in London. There are 30 million slaves in the world. They include those in forced marriages, bonded labour, forced prostitution and domestic slavery, as well as child soldiers and migrant workers forced into servitude, debt bondage and so on. Slav- ery can be a physically enforced horror or the psychological trauma inflicted on a person until they believe they have no choice but to remain in captivity. The Global Slavery Index published last month by the Walk Free Foundation says up to 340 people are living as slaves in Ireland. The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland has called for action on the domestic servitude of people in diplomatic households in Dublin. “It may seem incredible that people are being trafficked in to be exploited and abused in the Dublin homes of diplomats,” Gráinne O’Toole of the centre said, “but we have seen numerous cases over the past few years.”
Denise Charlton of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, which has been putting pressure on the Government through the Turn off the Red Light campaign to adequately legislate against prostitution instead of criminalising victims of it, said recently that in the past 12 months in Ireland, 48 victims of trafficking were identified, including 23 children, most of whom were victims of sexual exploitation. The regime under which asylum seekers live in this State is not slavery. But it is demeaning, restrictive, and denies asylum seekers the appropriate freedoms we should be proud to offer those who come to our country to seek better lives. Youth detention is not slavery, but inspections often yield unnerving reports, such as the concerns raised last week about punishments doled out to young people at Oberstown detention school in north Dublin. These included “protection rooms”, where young people were placed for refusing to take direction from staff. “Inspectors found that this cold and bleak environment was not suitable for children or young people for any purpose,” the report by the Health Information and Quality Authority said, although a good standard of healthcare and staff care was provided overall.
The same goes for conditions in some of our prisons. The Magdalene laundries, which existed until 1996, enslaved young women, yet the State’s resistance to fully admitting the collusion of imprisoning women in work camps and compensating survivors adequately is shameful. There are horrible things happening all over the world that we do little about. But the least we could do is make our own society better. Freeing people from shackles starts at home, and we must do what we can to alleviate all restrictions imposed on people, be they clear-cut or complex. A caring society, which protects those vulnerable to falling under the restrictive control of another, can legitimately call itself “developed”. Otherwise, we’re just all slaves to a broken system.
© The Irish Times.
Forced to be Nomads: Milan Prefers to Evict Rather Than Integrate (Italy, press release)
25/11/2013- This morning, Milanese authorities forcefully evicted more than 700 people, among them more than 200 children, from an informal settlement in the Montefeltro/Brunetti area of Milan. The eviction was carried out in the presence of several policemen, together with Carabinieri who were in anti-riot gear and had a bulldozer. The 700 Roma from Southeast Europe came to the area approximately one year ago following previous evictions in the Milan area. This is the largest forced eviction in the municipality of Milan since 2011. "There has been an eviction of more than 700 people that ignores the particular circumstances of individuals: the elderly, women or children. The question of proportionality has been ignored and no viable alternative solutions have been identified. Only about 240 places were made available by the local authorities" reports Rosi Mangiacavallo, ERRC’s monitor and researcher.
The ERRC had called upon the authorities in Milan not to proceed with this forced eviction, stressing that it does not comply with international standards and national legislation. Unfortunately, the authorities in Milan have continued with the (unsuccessful und unsustainable) approach of their predecessors of carrying out evictions without complying with legislation, without providing alternative accommodation for all of the evicted people and without considering the consequences of the evictions. The evicted people will either stay on the streets or have to find new “informal accommodation”, as they have not been offered access to other forms of accommodation.
The eviction by the authorities in Milan severely limits the right to education for many children enrolled in schools in the area, but provides for the prospect of living on the street in wintertime. The ERRC will continue to monitor the situation, to assist the evicted people and to advocate for systemic solutions which provide a path towards the full integration of the Roma.
© European Roma Rights Center
Canada Grants Asylum to Montenegro Gay Activist
Canada has given political asylum to prominent gay rights campaigner Zdravko Cimbaljevic, the first man to publicly come out as a homosexual in Montenegro.
25/11/2013- Cimbaljevic, the director of the Montenegrin rights group LGBT Forum Progress, which organised the country’s first Gay Pride march this year, has been given asylum in Canada after he said that he was facing serious threats in his home country. Explaining the decision to grant Cimbajljevic asylum, the Canadian immigration office accused Montenegro of not protecting its citizens and the country’s prosecution of “not taking the manifestations of hatred, violence and threats [directed at Cimbaljevic] seriously”, according to a statement issued by the rights campaigner. Cimbaljevic said he had faced constant threats because of his sexual orientation and public involvement in campaigning for gay rights, a situation which deteriorated further after the inaugural Pride parade in the coastal town of Budva in July.
The parade, named Seaside Pride, was attended by an estimated 120 people and went ahead despite being attacked by anti-gay protesters who threw stones and bottles. A few of the participants were injured and police arrested around 20 people suspected of attacking the marchers. In August, Cimbaljevic was chosen as one of the five ‘grand marshals’ who led Vancouver’s Pride parade, which attracted some 650,000 people. The second Montenegrin Pride march, organised by a different campaign group in Podgorica in October, was also attacked by a mob of masked anti-gay protesters who clashed with police as they attempted to stop the event.
© Balkan Insight
Lithuanian Parliament backs anti-gay proposal despite rejection by Human Rights Committee
27/11/2013- On 26 November the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas voted on the proposal to reject the draft amendment to the Code of Administrative Violations No. XIP-4490 (2). The amendment introduces administrative liability for “public denigration of constitutional moral values and of constitutional fundamentals of the family life, as well as organization of public events contravening public morality”. The bill was proposed by MP Petras Gražulis in May, 2013 in reaction to the upcoming Baltic Pride 2013 March for Equality. The implementation of this amendment could be used to justify discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals (LGBT). Moreover, it violates the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of the LGBT community. The Parliament rejected the recommendation of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights to disapprove this controversial legislative initiative (29 votes in favour, 33 votes against, and 14 abstentions). Now the amendment will be considered by the Committee on State Administration and Local Authorities. It will already be the sixth committee that will consider the above-mentioned proposal. During the autumn session the Lithuanian Parliament has considered or will consider five homophobic and transphobic initiatives.
© The National LGBT Rights Organisation Lithuania
Gay musicians in anti-gay campaign (Croatia)
25/11/2013- Music of the British gay band The XX has been used for an anti-gay campaign in Croatia. Association In The Name of Family used the music of The XX when filming a clip as part of their campaign against gay marriage, probably not knowing or forgetting there are three gay and lesbian members of the band. The conservative association has earned the right to a referendum on 1 December to vote that marriage is a union between a man and a woman after collected hundreds of thousands of signatures. Gay activists are strongly opposing the referendum, but In The Name Of Family are firmly going forward with its aims. The association used the music of the band when filming a clip to support the YES vote. Confusion was raised after the news website Index reported about the absurd situation. The clip has been removed in the meantime. However, the members of the group that played last year at Terraneo festival in Croatia have revealed to Croatian music news website Muzika.hr they will soon decide whether to sue the campaign organizers.
© The Croatian Times
Croatian ‘Fascist’ Chant Footballer Gets Facebook Support
Over 150,000 people have joined a Facebook group backing Josip Simunic, who was fined for leading a chant associated with the Fascist Ustashe movement at an international match.
25/11/2013- The Facebook group entitled ‘Support for Josip Simunic’ had gathered more than 155,000 members by Monday morning as some Croatians rallied around the defender who caused controversy by shouting “For the homeland”, one of the slogans of the Nazi-backed WWII-era Ustashe regime, after the national team’s World Cup play-off win over Iceland last week. “Anyone who does not like Croatia being a country of national awareness and patriotism can leave the country and go wherever he feels comfortable,” one comment on the group’s page said. Simunic was fined 25,000 kunas (3,200 euros) last week by the Croatian state attorney’s office in Zagreb for “spreading racial hatred”, while football’s world governing body FIFA has also begun disciplinary proceedings against the player. “Proceedings were opened against Simunic for his own behaviour and other proceedings were opened against Croatia for improper conduct of the spectators,” a FIFA spokesperson told the BBC.
The player has denied any intention to stir up ethnic hatred but has insisted that he is blameless. “Some people have to learn some history. I’m not afraid. I did nothing wrong. I’m supporting my Croatia, my homeland. If someone has something against it, that’s their problem,” he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. Slogans from the pro-Nazi regime in Croatia were also chanted at a match on Sunday night in Split, between Hajduk Split and Osijek. According to Croatian media, the home club could also get fined for this incident. Meanwhile a series of rights groups including the Civic Committee for Human Rights, Documenta and the Serbian Democratic Forum have called on FIFA’s disciplinary committee to show “zero tolerance”. “We strongly believe that, in the spirit of FIFA’s fight against racism and discrimination, it is crucial that this case is handled with great caution,” they said in an open letter.
© Balkan Insight
Croats in France insist in a court case with Bob Dylan
25/11/2013- Rock star Bob Dylan will go to court in Paris over inciting racism, a group of Croat immigrants in France confirms after reporting the star to the court. "The court in Paris has accepted the case and we still wait for the date of the trial to be confirmed. We still don't know whether Bob Dylan will appear in person or will send a lawyer to represent him," Vlatko Maric, the representative of Council of Croatian Community in France has revealed to daily newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija. Bob Dylan has been reported for inciting racism after he gave an interview to Rolling Stone in which he put Croatians in the same category as the Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan. Representatives from of the Council of Croats in France, the CRICCF, said that the comments had been an insult to Croats the world over and Bob Dylan had been reported to French officials with a view to him being charged with racism. The publisher of the French edition of the Rolling Stone magazine that carried the interview from the English version has also been reported. "He was without any doubt inciting hatred against Croatians", Vlatko Maric revealed. The American legend caused controversy after telling Rolling Stone magazine: "Black people can sense Klan blood, Jews can sense Nazi blood and Serbs can sense Croat blood" in an interview about the roots of racism. Soon after that Croatian Radio Split banned his songs from their play list.
© The Croatian Times
42% slated to vote far-right in the next local elections (France)
A poll published today by the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) revealed that 42 per cent of French voters could vote for a far-right candidate in their next municipal election.
25/11/2013- The Polling Vox institute survey on 13-14 November found that 18 per cent of the French could "certainly" vote Front National (FN), 24 per cent "might" vote far-right, and 58 per cent declare that they "would not" vote FN. Last week, opinion polls indicated that nationalist candidates are leading in May's European Parliament elections and are also expected to rake in 16 per cent of the vote in French municipal elections in March. This poll came as another poll, released a week ago by the French Institute for Public Opinion (IFOP), showed president François Hollande's approval rating falling to 20 per cent, the lowest seen since 1958. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen vowed to use next year's local and European elections as a springboard to national office, bringing her FN party into the mainstream. In the latest controversy, the FN dropped a candidate for the 2014 municipal vote who compared the country's most prominent black politician, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, to a monkey.
French Politician Quits FN over ‘Swastika Tattoos, Homophobia and Xenophobia’
25/11/2013- A French politician who left Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party for the far-right Front National (FN) has backtracked claiming he was shocked to see candidates sporting swastika tattoos at party meetings. Marine Le Pen's FN said it was to sue Arnaud Cléré, a 34-year-old council candidate for the northern village of Gamaches, over his remarks which the right-wing party described as a political manoeuvre to discredit it. Cléré was forced to leave the UMP in May, after he breached the party's directions, striking an alliance with an FN affiliate ahead of council elections in 3,000-inhabitant Gamaches, which is near Dieppe. "It was a mistake to think I could combine two groups like that, the UMP and FN," Cléré told AFP after sending a letter to UMP leader Jean-François Cope, asking to be readmitted to his party. "It shocked me that at FN's meetings one can still hear xenophobic and homophobic ideas and remarks." In a tweet announcing his decision, Cléré described FN as "sectarian and dictatorial" political movement.
Since taking the reins of the party from her father in 2011, Le Pen has been working hard to clean up FN's longstanding image of a racist and anti-Semitic movement. Cléré said he realised the party had not changed upon seeing Nazi symbols tattooed on the arms of several FN candidates at a meeting in the northern city of Hénin-Beaumont, ahead of local elections in October. "That shocked me," Cléré said. "Listening to Marine Le Pen I thought that these kind of people no longer had a place in FN but unfortunately I saw them with my own eyes." Cléré's remarks were swiftly seized upon by Cope: the UMP has seen its electoral base eroded by a surge in support for FN. "The right and the extreme-right are not the same thing," Cope told Europe 1. Le Pen denied Cléré's claims, saying the party was ready to provide photos of all the 130 FN candidates who attended the Hénin-Beaumont meeting to show that no one sported swastikas. The 45-year-old lawyer said the revelations had been orchestrated in advance by Cope, and threatened to sue the local politician and AFP for defamation. In October the FN took the lead in an opinion poll for the first time since it was founded in 1973, scoring 24% of preferences.
© The International Business Times
Journalist found guilty of insulting 'proud national socialist' by calling him a 'neonazi' (Greece)
On the anniversary of the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Polytechnic uprising, school director Vasilis Makrypoulias posted an entry on his blog calling the 1973 Polytechnic uprising, in which over 20 people were killed, 'the ultimate hoax'
28/11/2013- Mytilini courthouse Mytilini courthouse A court on the Aegean island of Mytilini has handed down a six month suspended sentence – subject to an appeal – to a journalist for referring to a self-proclaimed "national socialist" school director as a "neonazi". Stratis Balaskas was originally accused of libelling Vasilis Makrypoulias, who is the director of the 6th junior highschool on Lesvos, but the charge was reduced to an insult during his trial on Wednesday that lasted eight hours. On the anniversary of the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Polytechnic uprising, in which over 20 people were killed, Makrypoulias had posted an entry on his blog entitled "The ultimate hoax: the Polytechnic in 1973", which included a rightwing documentary called "The Myth of the Polytechnic".
In an article on the local Emprosnet.gr newssite, Balaskas, who also contributes to Eleftherotypia, referred to Makrypoulias as a "Golden Dawn highschool chief" and "known and avowed neonazi highschool chief of the 6th junior highschool of Lesvos". Later it emerged that during the official ceremony at Makrypoulias' school marking the commemoration, the documentary that Makrypoulias had included on his blog was shown, apparently at the "initiative" of two students. In the past, Makrypoulias has posted messages on his blog calling for people to vote for Golden Dawn, published articles by leading German Nazis Joseph Goebbels and Rudolf Hess, praised the 1967-74 junta and proclaimed that he was "proud to be a national socialist". At the trial, Makrypoulias denied he had Golden Dawn links and said he was simply a "Greek".
© Enet English
Anti-racism Bill Deliberated in Parliament (Greece)
28/11/2013- New Democracy, PASOK and DIMAR are in favor of the anti-racism bill. Those who are opposed to it are SYRIZA, KKE and Golden Dawn, while the Independent Greek party remains skeptical on their stance. Τhe MP of SYRIZA Zoi Konstantopoulou accused the government of introducing the bill without consulting anyone, requesting the formation of a new bill with the participation of the related bodies. “You represent what the bill is opposed to. We don’t need democracy lessons from you,” stated the MP of New Democracy, Thanasis Davlouros. “The principle of majority rule states that it is not a requirement for the bill to be discussed,” replied the chairman of the Public Administration, Kyriakos Virdivakis.
In a short statement from the Ministry of Justice, Charalampos Athanasiou, stressed that the aim of the bill is to combat racism and xenophobia and to promote the harmonization of the Greek legislation within the frame of the 2008 decision made by the European Union. SYRIZA strongly disagreed with the procedure, the number of the bodies invited, and also about the time of their hearing. Finally, the Minister of Justice said that he is open to changes as far as the anti-racism bill is concerned. He also stated that the bill refers to crimes committed during genocides. This not only concerns genocides that have been officially recognised with irreversible decisions by international courts, but also those that are recognised by the Greek Parliament and genocides that may occur in the future.
© The Greek Reporter
Golden Dawn, Not Breaking (Greece, opinion)
By Andrew Stuttaford
27/11/2013- When a society crumbles…
Nearly two months after the launch of a judicial investigation into the neo-Nazi party – which is reportedly linked to 10 murders, attempted murders, blackmail, money laundering and other crimes – public surveys suggest that despite the aura of criminality around Golden Dawn, its popularity remains. An ALCO poll conducted between November 12-15 for Sunday’s Proto Thema newspaper put Golden Dawn, which controls 18 seats in the 300-strong House, in third place with 8.8 percent, up from 6.6 in a previous poll carried out a month earlier. A Pulse survey for To Pontiki weekly between November 8-12 put the party even higher at 10.5 percent and clearly ahead of once-dominant PASOK socialists, withering at 6.5 percent. A Metron Analysis poll for Ethnos on Sunday put support for Golden Dawn at 10 percent, more than 2 percentage points higher than about a month earlier.
…Whereas it was once a taboo to endorse Golden Dawn publicly, over recent months several high profile figures have been happy to admit their admiration for the extremist party. Singer Petros Gaitanos, famous for his performances of Byzantine liturgy, pop artist Yiannis Ploutarchos or the idiosyncratic Notis Sfakianakis [another singer] , have bashed the “corrupt” establishment and openly voiced their support Golden Dawn. In a much-publicized outburst last week, singer Sfakianakis praised Greece’s 1967-1974 military dictatorship, urged support for Golden Dawn and called [the somewhat portly] government Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos a “pig.” –
…Critics from the left have accused the government of not actually being interested in bringing alleged criminals to justice, but rather intent on marginalising an upstart that is siphoning voters away from the two coalition parties. In the June 2012 election, four out of 10 Greeks who cast their vote for Golden Dawn were former New Democracy supporters. Vassiliki Georgiadou, a political science professor at Panteion University in Athens and an expert on right-wing radicalism, notes that a big chunk of the anti-fascist movement in Greece deems that the whole Golden Dawn clampdown is a bit “fishy”.
…On November 1, four days after “Ochi day,” two Golden Dawn sympathizers, Manolis Kapelonis, 23, and Giorgos Fountoulis, 26, were gunned down underneath the Metaxas banner in a point blank shooting as they patrolled outside the party’s offices in the northern Athens suburb of Neo Iraklio, rekindling the party’s ratings. A previously unknown group, the Militant People’s Revolutionary Forces, claimed responsibility for the killings. In an 18-page proclamation, the organization said the attack had been carried out in retaliation for the stabbing of Fyssas. Police have not confirmed the authenticity of the claim.
Wasn’t the introduction of the single currency meant to bury the demons of Europe’s past once and for all?
© The National Review - The Corner
Greek neo-Nazis see rise in voter support
24/11/2013- Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn has seen a jump in its approval rating despite the indictment of several of its members following the murder of an anti-fascist rapper, a poll showed Sunday. In the survey by Metron Analysis for the Ethnos daily, 6.7 percent of respondents said they would vote for Golden Dawn were elections to be held. After taking into account the 32.5 percent of respondents whose vote intentions are currently unclear, Metron Analysis said Golden Dawn would probably pick up 10 percent of the vote. Golden Dawn's support took a dive after leftist rapper Pavlos Fyssas was fatally stabbed by a neo-Nazi supporter in September. But then the fatal shooting of two Golden Dawn members outside a party office earlier this month, an act claimed by leftist extremists, appears to have increased sympathy for the group.
So far, six of the party's 18 elected members of parliament have been charged with belonging to a criminal organisation. Three are in pre-trial detention including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, who is charged with running a criminal organisation. Court documents have linked the party to two murders -- including that of Fyssas -- as well as three attempted murders and numerous assaults. In past surveys by Metron Analysis, Golden Dawn's voter support had reached a high of 13.1 percent in July but then dropped to 7.6 percent in October, following the murder of Fyssas. The findings are consistent with those of other survey companies, in which Golden Dawn has held onto an approval rating of around 7.0 percent, making it the third most popular party in spite of Fyssas'a murder and subsequent judicial crackdown. Three more Golden Dawn lawmakers are to appear before magistrates on Monday to face criminal charges. Golden Dawn won nearly seven percent of the vote in last year's elections, capitalising on anti-austerity anger and long-running fatigue with unchecked immigration.
Parents fury at school threatening children with ‘racism’ claims if they don’t attend Islam workshop (UK)
Furious parents have condemned a school after receiving a letter that said their children would be branded ‘racists’ if they did not attend a workshop on Islam.
23/11/2013- Lynn Small, headteacher of Littleton Green Community School in Huntingdon, Staffs, wrote to parents to say that a £5 trip to Staffordshire University was mandatory for years four and six. Ms Small said that if the children did not attend the ‘cultural education’, during which they’d learn about Islamic artefacts, then they would have a ‘racial discrimination note’ attached to their record for the remainder of their school years. Outraged parents, who felt that the school was trying to blackmail them, feared that their children would be tarnished ‘racists’ if they didn’t go on the trip. Parent Gillian Claridge, 55, added: ‘How dare they threaten to brand the children racist at such a young age? It’s going to make them feel like little criminals. ‘The very nature of religion is all about choice – on this occasion they were not being given any choice at all. ‘It was draconian move and it’s left a lot of parents fuming.’
The primarily Christian school has since made a U-turn on the demand, following a slew of complaints by parents and council chiefs. South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson said: ‘The idea of attaching a “racial discrimination note” to children’s education records saying it will remain on their file for the duration for their school career seems unfair, particularly when it is not the child’s decision whether or not he or she attends.’
The original note read:
As part of the National Religious Education Curriculum together with the multicultural community in which we live, it is a statutory requirement for Primary School aged children to experience and learn about different cultures.
The workshop is at Staffordshire University and will give your child the opportunity to explore other religions. Children will be looking at religious artefacts similar to those that would be on display in a museum. they will not be partaking in any religious practices.
Refusal to allow your child to attend this trip will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child’s education record, which will remain on this file throughout their school career.
As such our expectations are that all children in years 4 and 6 attend school on Wednesday November 27 to take part in this trip.
All absences on this day will be investigated for their credibility and will only be sanctioned with a GP sick note.
If you would like to discuss this further please contact our RE Coordinator, Mrs Edmonds.
© Metro UK
‘Gays' sexual activity does not have a role within society’ – Auxiliary Bishop (Malta)
Bishop Charles Scicluna insists that parliament has no mandate to implement adoption for gay couples
28/11/2013- "While the sexual activity of heterosexual couples has a fundamental role in producing future members of the society, that of same-sex couples does not have a role in society as it does not produce offspring," Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna said this evening, on PBS's Dissett where he was quizzed by PBS Head of News Reno Bugeja. The uncompromising auxiliary bishop was categorical about his displeasure that parliament was not establishing a clear distinction between marriages and civil unions, in its debate on the civil unions bill. "Currently, the obligations and rights of members within a civil union are barely different from those within a marriage and consequently, parliament needs to clearly distinguish the rights pertinent to a marriage and those to a civil union." Currently at is second reading in parliament, the Civil Unions Act seeks to regulate civil unions for gay couples and was proposed in the PL electoral manifesto.
Scicluna, who had previously said that equating civil unions with marriage was "illogical" and "deceptive", urged MPs to engage in a thorough debate and reflection before equating civil unions with marriage. On adoption by same-sex couples, the auxiliary bishop said that since gay people could not "by nature" become parents, consequently they should not be considered as prospective adoptive parents. The former Vatican sex abuse prosecutor also said the government had no mandate to introduce gay adoption since Labour's electoral manifesto merely proposed civil unions. "Neither the government, nor the opposition said anything about amending the adoption laws, but the PL merely vowed to implement same sex civil unions. Consequently, they do not have the mandate to implement adoption for gay couples." Asked about the possible discrimination the illegality of same-sex marriage imposed on gays, the auxiliary bishop said this did not amount to discrimination as EU jurisprudence lef it in the hands of the member states to decide on this matter,
One year into his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop, Scicluna described Church-State relatons as being positive, despite being characterised by "clear" disagreements and opposing stands. "The Church respects the autonomy of the government and we respect the government's clear and truthful stance." "The Prime Minister has acknowledged that the bishops and other members of the church have a right to voice their opinion. The bishops are duty bound to voice their opinion but on the other hand, they must respect the pluralistic and democratic society." Despite giving the impression that the church does not accept this separation in practice, Scicluna said it was still offering its hand in cooperation. Asked about the church's opposition to host civil marriages inside Church-owned property, Scicluna said that people married by civil registation should consider the consequences of such marriages. "Civil marriages are not hosted in church establishments as the couples chose to go against the religious teachings... so those couples should instead host their weddings and take their photos elsewhere."
On the citizenship scheme, Scicluna argued that he does not regret entering into the issue. While insisting that the Maltese citizenship is priceless, Scicluna argued that the Maltese passport should not be sold at a mere €650,000 donation. He instead called for the government to ensure that the Individual Investor Programme stays true to its name and ensure that the beneficiaries are in some way or another tied to Malta not just by their passport.
© Malta Today
Gay man granted asylum in Malta due to persecution in Nigeria
24/11/2013- An 18-year-old Nigerian migrant has been granted asylum in Malta due to persecution in his home country over his homosexuality, the first time asylum has been granted on these grounds in Malta. Consensual homosexual conduct is punishable by up to 14-years in prison under Nigeria’s federal criminal code. The man was granted asylum by the Refugee Appeals Board in Malta this month after his initial request had been turned down by the office of the Commissioner for Refugees in April. In its ruling, the Board noted the recent judgement delivered by the European Court of Justice which ruled that gay asylum-seekers from an African country where people are jailed for being homosexual qualify for asylum in Europe. The Board found that in Nigerian states applying Sharia law, consensual homosexual conduct among men is punishable by death by stoning or flogging.
As Malta slowly progresses towards the passing of a ‘Gay Marriage’ Bill, Nigeria went in the opposite direction in November 2011, as the Senate passed a Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) bill. Persecution against homosexuals in Nigeria is not merely directed towards the individuals themselves, but also towards any person or group that “witnesses, abets and aids the solemnisation of a same-sex marriage or union” or “supports” gay groups, “processions or meetings”. Such “crimes” are punishable by up to 10-years imprisonment. Amnesty International reports that the same sentence would apply to a “public show of same sex amorous relationship” and anyone who registers a gay club, as well as organisations protecting the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people, the Board noted.
Quoting a 2012 report by the UK Border Agency, the Appeals Board said: “many Nigerians strongly disapprove of homosexuality. “The dominant role of religion is widely seen as the root of the country’s homophobic culture. Punishing gays is one of the few common themes that politicians can promote with equal zest in the mainly Christian south and the largely Muslim north. Under federal law, sodomy is punishable by a 14-year jail sentence,” the Board said.
Board flags inappropriate questions
The Board said that certain questions asked by the Refugee Commissioner’s Office regarding the sexual life of the appellant “are not appropriate, and shed no light whatsoever on the particular matter which needed to be determined.” The methods used to establish whether or not a migrant’s claim to be homosexual is credible have come under scrutiny due to the European Court of Justice’s ruling. Neil Falzon, a human rights lawyer and the director of human rights NGO aditus, told The Malta Independent on Sunday that he supports the finding of a 2011 report entitled Fleeing Homophobia when it comes to type of questions asked when establishing homosexuality. The report says that, all too often, EU member states rely on simple stereotypes when trying to assess the credibility of a homosexuality claim by an asylum-seeker. “Legal decisions still frequently rely on the idea that the sexual orientation of an asylum seeker is only to be taken seriously when the applicant has an ‘overwhelming and irreversible’ inner urge to have sex with a person of the same gender,” the report highlights.
The same report argues that “stereotypes exclude persecuted bisexuals from international protection, in addition to other LGBTI people who do not behave in accordance with the stereotypes used by decision-makers. Stereotypes may exclude lesbians who do not behave in a masculine way, non-effeminate gays, and LGBTI applicants who have been married or who have children.” Credibility assessment is notoriously difficult, and is usually compounded by a lack of sensitivity on the part of the adjudicator, and the report draws a definite red line at any form of medical test being used to establish homosexuality. “Since LGBTI identities are not legitimate medical, psychiatric or psychological categories, the use of medical, psychiatric or psychological expert opinions in order to establish an applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not legitimate or appropriate. Producing such opinions entails an invasion of the applicant’s privacy which may cause intense suffering, especially for applicants who have faced similar interrogative practices in their country of origin,” the report states.
The Refugee Appeals Board said in its own report that “the question at hand was, in the view of the Board, very simple: whether the appellant is credible in claiming to be homosexual or not”, which can be established through clear facts, such as whether he had had a male partner for a continuous period, and whether he involved himself in same-sex sexual encounters. The Board said that further questioning about the specifics of these sexual encounters “is purely irrelevant, if not lacking in respect for the dignity of the appellant.”
Offices decline to comment on ‘individual case’
A spokesman for the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Malta declined to comment on the merits of this particular case, citing the fact that it “has no direct or indirect powers in relation to the taking of decisions by member states' asylum authorities on individual applications for international protection. “In this context, our mandate prevents us from tackling individual cases directly and we suggest that you address your request for comments to the national asylum authority and/or the institution concerned,” the spokesman said. The EASO does not have any guidelines on how to assess the credibility of an asylum-seeker claiming homosexuality. The United Nation’s Refugee Office in Malta also declined to comment on the case, but pointed out that a 2013 report that it had commissioned entitled Towards Improved Asylum Decision-Making in the EU analyses LGBT considerations in the asylum process.
© The Malta Independent
Hungary is anti-semitic and vile to the Roma. Don't dare lecture us, Mr Commissioner (UK, opinion)
By Michael Burleigh
28/11/2013- With incredible effrontery, the Hungarian EU Employment Commissioner and former socialist politician Laszlo Andor has warned David Cameron his plans to curb welfare benefits for migrants risk making Britain seem ‘a nasty country’. Claiming that the mass migration of some one million Poles to this country had benefited Britain economically, he accused Mr Cameron of fuelling ‘hysteria’ about the imminent arrival of migrants from Bulgaria and Romania after we open our borders to them from January 1 next year.
Andor has some gall. It is not just that his intervention displays the instinctive bullying of a senior Eurocrat who is terrified that if one EU country is allowed to determine any aspect of its own destiny, the entire European project might unravel. It is that he comes from a country with an increasingly undemocratic government — a country that really does have a record for nasty behaviour when it comes to racism and migrants. Hungary’s economy is in constant crisis, and its authoritarian Right-wing government, under the leadership of Viktor Orban, competes for votes with a hugely popular neo-Nazi party that is as malign as Britain’s BNP. The difference is that the extremist Jobbik, or ‘right choice’, party exerts real power. It is the third largest party in Hungary’s parliament, with 17 per cent of the vote and 47 out of 486 seats. Jobbik’s support tends to come from relatively well-off and educated people, who have something to lose, rather than from the ill-educated and poor. As such, it is influential.
The extremist party is internationally notorious for encouraging vicious hatred of marginalised Roma gipsies — indeed, its anti-Roma stand is its flagship policy. The Roma constitute about 8 per cent of Hungary’s ten million-strong population and are heavily congregated in the north-east, where two decades ago they worked in Communist-era factories. Now these jobs have gone because of botched privatisations and the Roma live in squalid shacks, up to their necks in debt. Some of them sell their daughters into prostitution. Ironically, they even accept cash from corrupt politicians to vote for Jobbik in elections.
In 2007, Jobbik leaders founded a neo-Nazi military organisation which not only routinely holds marches against ‘gipsy crimes’ but does not hesitate to use violence against minorities. These uniformed para-military thugs, nowadays called the New Hungarian Guard, strut around wearing black boots and trousers, white shirts and black waistcoats, intimidating locals in Roma villages. Roma homes have been attacked, women raped and people murdered. Last August, four members of a neo-Nazi gang (including two former members of Jobbik) were convicted after killing six Roma gipsies in a series of planned attacks in 2008 and 2009. One of the victims was a four-year-old boy, shot dead with his father as they fled their burning home. The case was solved only when, after a sluggish local police investigation, the FBI was called in on the orders of the Hungarian justice minister.
In April 2011, terrified Roma were forced to flee their own homes as far-Right militia arrived for a ‘training camp’ in the village of Gyongyospata. The following month, the village suffered a wave of violence and the government was forced to adopt a new law tightening penalites for all forms of racial and ethnic hatred. Nevertheless, the loathing continues. The country also has a shocking history of anti-Semitism. The far-Right leaders of Jobbik inevitably whitewash Hungary’s dismal wartime record, but there is no doubt about the behaviour of the collaborationist regime of Hungary’s wartime leader, Admiral Miklós Horthy, which was jointly responsible with the Nazis for the murder in Auschwitz of 475,000 Hungarian Jews.
In 1938 Horthy introduced a version of the Nuremberg Race Laws, banning Jews from being newspaper editors, actors, doctors or lawyers. Around 250,000 people were stripped of their livelihoods. After the Germans occupied Hungary in 1944, they and their Hungarian accomplices deported 12,000 Jews a day to Auschwitz, where 90 per cent of them were gassed on arrival. These poor souls were not rounded up and deported by Nazi stormtroopers — the SS had only 150 men in Budapest at the time — but by thousands of Hungarian fascist ‘Arrow Cross’ militia. The Arrow Cross had also established two ghettos in Budapest, killing 15,000 people before the capital was liberated by the Red Army in February 1945.
Today, Hungarian Jews suffer a level of anti-Semitism that is among the worst in Europe. Last year a Jobbik MP, Marton Gyongyosi, called for a list to be published of all people of Jewish origin, claiming they were a national security risk because they supported Israel in its disputes with the Palestinians. Pointedly, the World Jewish Congress decided to hold its annual meeting in Budapest this year. When it did, Jobbik members protested that the Jews were planning to ‘buy’ Hungary. The party also indulges in Holocaust denial, notwithstanding the mass murder of Hungary’s own Jews, with one Jobbik MP claiming that the museum at Auschwitz ‘may not reflect the real facts of history’. On the subject of history, Jobbik erected a large bronze bust of Admiral Horthy a stone’s throw from the country’s parliament — a gesture that, in the eyes of the party’s critics, is like allowing the BNP to put a bust of Sir Oswald Mosley near Westminster.
When Israel played Hungary in a friendly football match in December 2012, the Budapest fans booed the Israeli national anthem and chanted the names of fascist leaders. A few months later Ferenc Orosz, head of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (named after the Swedish diplomat who tried to save wartime Jews), spoke out against racist football fans at another match in Hungary after he heard them cry ‘Sieg Heil’. ‘I asked them to stop but they ignored me. Then after the game they attacked me — one of them hit me in the face and broke my nose,’ he said. Jobbik supporters frequently combine the Jews and Roma into one satanic conspiracy by claiming that while the Roma ‘distract’ ordinary people with crime, Jews are quietly buying up the whole Hungarian economy.
This is the country of the EU commissioner who lectures Britain on being nasty. It is a country whose current government has also been repeatedly criticised by the U.S. for authoritarian behaviour, from curbing the Press to political corruption. The government operates a sinister ‘media council’, consisting of the prime minister’s party cronies, which allots radio frequencies to political friends. To boost its electoral fortunes it dishes out passports to ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries outside the EU, such as Serbia — including people who can’t speak a word of Magyar, the Hungarian language. It does this in the certain knowledge that these Serbs, and others who receive passports, will then be able to migrate throughout the EU. In other words, Hungary is doing its best to encourage migration from the poorer to the richer half of Europe, just as David Cameron is suggesting that this deeply worrying trend demands urgent action.
True, EU Commissioner Andor is a socialist who has no truck with his Right-wing government or, indeed, the extremist Jobbik party. But since he comes from a country with a shameful record of racism, a government that is cavalier about the rule of law and a fast growing neo-Nazi movement, shouldn’t he be turning his attention to his own backyard before lecturing us?
© The Daily Mail
Policing far-right demos cost force Ł3m (UK)
28/11/2013- The region’s largest police force has spent more than £3 million in the past four years on keeping the peace at English Defence League demonstrations, the Yorkshire Post can reveal. Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show West Yorkshire Police have been left with a six-figure bill after protests by the far-right group on seven occasions since October 2009. The county’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson has called for increased powers to ban protests by right-wing groups after an event in Bradford last month which cost in excess of £1 million. West Yorkshire Police was the only force in the region to provide details of the cost and manpower needed to police EDL demonstrations after a request under the Freedom of Information Act by the Yorkshire Post. But South Yorkshire’s PCC has recently revealed that two rallies held by the group in Sheffield in June and September this year left his county’s force with a bill of £1.4 million.
West Yorkshire Police’s response revealed details of nine EDL events which have required a policing presence since October 2009, though they do not include last month’s rally in Bradford and a recent event in Wakefield. A demonstration in Bradford in August 2010 which saw the EDL and Unite Against Fascism hold separate protests cost the force £995,000 and required 1,281 officers. West Yorkshire Police were supported by 13 other forces to help keep the groups apart. Thirteen protesters were arrested after several skirmishes broke out. In October 2009, some 900 EDL supporters joined a rally in City Square, Leeds, and were penned in by a ring of officers. A total of 672 officers were required policing cost £310,000. After last month’s protest in Bradford, which saw 700 EDL supporters visit the city and involved more than 1,000 officers from several forces, politicians called for greater powers to ban demonstrations by far-right groups. At present, static protests cannot be banned.
In a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May in October, Mr Burns-Williamson said: “The community impact of such a damaging and disruptive demonstration and the costs incurred to our communities at a time of severe cuts to public services makes the current legislative arrangements in my view hugely questionable. “It is wholly wrong that the people of Bradford and taxpayers across West Yorkshire should carry the burden of the impact and costs for such events which are imposed upon them, and are designed to bring division and fear to our communities as well as attract groups with opposing views that only adds to community tensions.” Mr Burns-Williamson has also applied for a Government grant to help meet the costs. South Yorkshire’s crime commissioner Shaun Wright has also called on the Government to contribute to policing costs as he says his own cash-strapped force is powerless to stop such rallies. In June, around 1,000 police officers were on duty to keep the peace when the EDL laid wreaths in memory of Drummer Lee Rigby in Sheffield city centre, at a cost of £600,000. Humberside Police has sent officers to two EDL protests this year as well as one in 2011 and two in 2010. All the demonstrations were in Hull city centre.
© The Yorkshire Post
Football fan cautioned for anti-semitic tweets (UK)
28/11/2013- A football fan has been arrested for a series of anti-semitic tweets referring to the Holocaust and Hitler made before a Tottenham Hotspur match against West Ham. The 55-year-old, who used the handle pienmashgeezer on the social networking site, was held this morning at his home in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire and later accepted a caution. His Twitter account, which also contained entries that urged violence against Muslims, has now been suspended. Police had warned fans before the Premier League match not to use the word “yid” and said supporters who did so could be committing a crime. West Ham told supporters that anyone caught behaving in a racist, anti-semitic or homophobic way would be punished to the full extent of the law.
This comes after British Home Secretary Theresa May said that concerns about anti-semitism among the UK Jewish community must be addressed. In a speech last night she said: “A newly released survey shows concerns about anti-semitism are on the rise in Europe. The survey covers the eight countries where 90% of Europe’s Jewish population lives: the UK, France, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Hungary and Latvia. “Britain, I am pleased to say, comes out better than most of those countries. But even here, two thirds of Jewish people think that the situation for them has worsened in the last five years. Nearly half think that anti-Semitism is a ’very big’ or ’fairly big’ problem in their lives. And one in five report that there are places they avoid in their neighbourhood because they do not feel safe in them. “That level of anxiety is clearly far too high, and we badly need to reduce it.
“What can Government do? One of the things we can do is make it clear that we will not tolerate anti-semitism in any form, and we will zealously protect the right of Jewish people to follow their religious practices and customs.” She said that the law would also be used to stop people inciting racist or religious prejudice.
© The Irish Examiner
UKIP chairman suspended over alleged racist comments on Facebook (UK)
27/11/2013- The former chairman of Crawley's UKIP group has hit out after he was suspended over allegations he posted racist comments on Facebook. John Mac Canna has been removed from the position he has held for more than four years after the party was told racist comments had been posted on the UKIP Crawley Facebook page. The 50-year-old has been replaced on a temporary basis by Lee Gilroy, 44, from Anglesey Close in Broadfield, who defected from the Conservatives in July. Mr Gilroy intends to apply for the position permanently. Mr Mac Canna, from Wordsworth Close in Pound Hill, denies the accusations and believes he has been forced out as part of a plan to quickly promote Mr Gilroy. He said: "I have lost all confidence in the decision-makers in this party. I have been suspended without a hearing and when I asked for the evidence they were unable to present any. "From the way this has been handled I see no point in fighting the decision. It has left a bitter taste in my mouth and put me right off UKIP. It is clear to me the plan all along has been to make Lee chairman when there have been members committed for years. God help us if he ever gets into power."
Mr Gilroy, a former Tory councillor for Broadfield South and Crawley Conservative Association chairman, defected to Ukip after becoming "troubled" by Tory policies. He said: "John has been accused of holding some extreme views and I hope we can move on from this. Members have previously felt excluded from the group but I am actively involved and want to bring everyone together. There is no conspiracy theory. I happened to be in the right place at the right time to help out. The regional organisers have seen I am keen to fight to win seats and grow the membership." Mr Gilroy added that he will not "do any deals with Labour or the Conservatives" to gain more control at the council and has identified four Tory seats he believes the party can win. Mr Gilroy also intends to put his name forward to become UKIP's general election candidate for Crawley.
Steve Harris, UKIP's South East regional organiser who made the decision to remove Mr Mac Canna, admits he did not substantiate the claims before doing so. It is not known what the alleged racist comments were and Mr Harris acknowledges he has not seen them and there is now no sign of them on Facebook. He said: "I was informed that John Mac Canna had put some absolutely abhorrent comments on Facebook and decided to suspend him. I am too old to use Facebook myself but I was told there were racist posts and decided to put a stop to it. "We are now trying to close down John's Crawley UKIP Facebook page. John had the right and opportunity to appeal but it has been more than a month and he has not done so. None of the Crawley members I know who have been a part of the group for a long time wanted to be chairman so I put Lee Gilroy in place. Lee is a very impressive man." An AGM will be held in the new year where all the members of the Crawley UKIP branch will vote on a new permanent chairman.
© This is Sussex
Blunkett and Clegg fan the fire of more anti-Roma stereotyping (UK)
26/11/2013- Hounded from their homeland, persecuted for centuries, exterminated by the Nazis, victims of intolerance and physical attacks wherever they settle, Roma gypsies remain among the most abused people of all time. Yet rather than offer comfort and support to refugees from poverty, discrimination and injustice in Eastern European ghettos, two of our most prominent politicians have instead chosen to continue this tradition of abuse. In response to the concerns of a few Sheffield residents over the lifestyles of a newly-arrived Slovak Romas to the city, both Nick Clegg and David Blunkett have resorted to the age-old sport of gypsy-baiting. Their outbursts are the latest in a series of Romaphobic incidents this year which have had the effect of stirring up hatred against these much-maligned and misunderstood people.
In recent months, young children in Greece and Ireland have been snatched from their parents by police because they did not bear a close physical resemblance to other family members. Blonde and fair-skinned, the implication was that these children had been stolen, perpetuating a mythical stereotype favoured by the writers of dodgy fairytales. The state-sanctioned detention of children in Greece and Ireland simply fed the latest wave of Romaphobia. And who should blunder into the fray but Blunkett and Clegg. The mistake these two politicians made was to fall into the trap of demonising an entire community, rather than any individual from that community who might have caused a problem. By their actions they have fuelled the bigotry of extreme right-wing groups and others looking for an excuse to cause real trouble. And by predicting what Blunkett described as an "explosion", the people of Sheffield may sadly have a self-fulfilling prophecy on their hands unless moves are made to calm the situation.
Clearly seeing an opportunity to boost their flagging popularity among voters in their Sheffield constituencies, both men seized upon the concerns of a few constituents – and let rip. If the focus of concern had been any other ethnic group, critics would have been far more circumspect in their use of language. But it would appear that even in 2013 the Roma remain fair game. Blunkett got the ball rolling in an outburst reminiscent of Enoch Powell's infamous "rivers of blood" speech back in the dark, unenlightened days of 1968, when racial abuse went largely unpunished. He said: "We have to change the behaviour and the culture of the incoming Roma community because there's going to be an explosion otherwise. We all know that." Mr Clegg, adding fuel to the fire, weighed in with: "There is a real dilemma when you get communities that behave in a way that people find sometimes intimidating, sometimes offensive. I think it is quite right that people should say so. We have every right to say if you are in Britain and you are coming to live in Britain and you are bringing up a family here, you have got to be sensitive to the way that life is lived in this country."
This might all sound quite reasonable, were it not for the fact that the Slovak Roma in Sheffield have done little that could be described as either intimidating or offensive. But when it comes to gypsies, the age-old prejudices are trotted out with impunity; from the Brothers Grimm to Enid Blyton, they have been insulted and scapegoated. The truth is that in common with every other group of migrants seeking comfort and safety in our largely tolerant nation over the centuries – from Irish to West Indian to Asian to Somali – the Roma desire nothing more than to earn a living, raise a family and live their lives in peace. The only politician to come out in defence of Sheffield's Roma was Respect MP George Galloway, who submitted a motion to Parliament, calling on fellow MPs to condemn David Blunkett's "derogatory comments" , adding that his words could lead to "stigmatisation, prejudice and Romaphobia". Mr Galloway said: "These migrants have been driven to our country through poverty and prejudice. They should be welcomed."
Professor Yaron Matras, an expert on Roma culture from the University of Manchester, went further, accusing both Nick Clegg and David Blunkett of "ethnic profiling" gypsies and claimed their use of "medieval stereotypes" was likely to increase rather than prevent the likelihood of attacks on Roma, who would inevitably then retaliate. "People who meet Roma personally have a positive experience," said Professor Matras. "Those who get their information from indirect sources, such as parts of the media, have negative impressions – but there is nothing in Roma behaviour that is inherently more offensive or intimidating than for any other group." Attacking immigrants has long been regarded as an easy vote winner by the right wing. And now it appears the likes of Clegg and Blunkett are employing similar tactics. It can only be hoped that voters in their neighbouring Sheffield constituencies opt to distance themselves from such views and kick them both out at the next election.
© This is Somerset
Using the word 'gay' to mean 'crap' is a form of bullying of gay people (UK, opinion)
Youngsters may not intend to be homophobic but they need to learn that such language can be very offensive and upsetting
By Will Young
24/11/2013- I like to think I'm down with youth culture and its slang. Well, a bit anyway. I understand that the word "sick" can mean "cool", and "bare" can mean "a lot". This is pretty much the limit of my knowledge. But I do like to think I can tell the difference between words that have changed their meaning in a quirky but harmless way, and those that have a damaging knock-on effect. The evolution of the word "gay" is a case in point. Once it meant carefree or merry. Over time it came to be used to describe a sexual orientation. Now – for many at least – it has been appropriated to mean "rubbish" or "crap". So a word that started out meaning "happy" has ended up being used to denigrate. Well, language changes, doesn't it? Many would see no problem with a shift driven by everyday speech.
It is a problem, however, for those of us – a whole swath of society – who are actually gay, and for whom the word forms an important part of our identity and sense of self. It might not be obvious to those who aren't. But the casual, insulting use of the word, in schools and elsewhere, hurts us. In fact, it seeps into the subconscious. It fuels people's perception of gay people as wrong or bad. If a young person, growing up gay, constantly hears the word being used to refer to something that's disliked, useless or stupid, they are quite naturally going to feel that reflects on them. They are going to feel disliked, useless and stupid. And young gay people have enough to deal with already. Look at the statistics: 23% of gay or bisexual young people have tried to take their own lives and 56% have self-harmed. This isn't inconsequential squabbling over the use of an adjective. No one is looking to fetter freedom of expression. This is about stopping a new generation of gay people from growing up in a climate of persecution and ostracism.
Gay charity Stonewall is leading a campaign against homophobic language. I share its view that the young people using the word gay negatively are not necessarily homophobic. There is a difference between labelling a statement or action homophobic and labelling someone a homophobe. What is needed is better education – of students and teachers alike. This isn't a question of punishment, but one of enlightenment. Young gay people have told Stonewall that when they hear phrases such as "that is so gay" they feel ashamed; like they are outsiders. Once again, this isn't oversensitivity, or nitpicking over language that may have been used quite innocently. I believe that political correctness for the sake of it can be counterproductive. No, this is a form of bullying – intentional or not – that has obvious consequences.
But are we fighting a losing battle? Can you really stand in the way of a linguistic change, or the way kids choose to behave in their own friendship groups or the playground? I firmly believe that young people's attitudes can rapidly change once they've been educated about something – I've seen it with my own eyes. I have faith in them. Give them the information they need about the harm being done and they will stop using language that hurts and upsets many of their peers. Most of the time, young people don't want to offend. They want to understand things and, ultimately, behave well towards one another. The devil is in the detail when it comes to language that is used to ostracise people. It is the detail that we have to get to grips with. People "tolerate" gays and lesbians; Joe Bloggs "admits" to being gay. Double maths is "so gay". These seemingly minor examples can lead to damaging emotional responses. They subtly undermine and erode confidence. The results are bad for society as a whole.
Language is key. Language is everything. After all, what else do we have?
© Comment is free - Guardian
EDL Attacks Bishop of Pontefract at Wakefield Rally (UK)
25/11/2013- A drunken EDL supporter roughed up a Church of England bishop at a public rally in Yorkshire. The Bishop of Pontefract was manhandled at what was scheduled as a peace rally in Wakefield town centre, West Yorkshire. Bishop Tony Robinson had just come from mass to address 100 people at a march against the anti-Islam group when he was accosted. According to witnesses, the intruder was aged around 30, dressed in an English Defence League sweatshirt and reeked of booze. "It was shocking," said eyewitness Sally Kincaid. "The bishop was just talking and suddenly this big guy came out from behind and started shouting about grooming. It was all quite surreal and he looked drunk. "A few people got around him and he was handed over to the police."
Bishop Robinson told IBTimes UK that efforts had been made in the past to reach out to the EDL but had failed. "They are not always keen to debate in a non-confrontational way. It seems to me that we should talk with people like the EDL to find out why they are angry and we have tried to do that with the EDL," he said. "This showed there are people who just want to shout obscenities." About 100 EDL supporters descended on Wakefield for an event that was opposed by a community coalition. A counter-demonstartion of around the same size was staged by an umbrella group called 'We are Wakefield.' Police made 11 arrests including some for breach of the peace. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom said. "The arrests we made were focused on preventing persons provoking trouble. Our swift action ensured that the genuine protesters and the Christmas shoppers were kept safe and feeling safer."
© The International Business Times
Cabinet split over restricting migrant benefits (UK)
David Cameron faces opposition from within his Cabinet over plans to impose new restrictions on benefits to migrants.
24/11/2013- The Cabinet is split over restricting benefits to migrants. David Cameron is considering dramatically increasing the length of time new arrivals have to stay in Britain before qualifying for welfare, ahead of the relaxation of border controls on people from Romania and Bulgaria in the new year. One option being studied by the Prime Minister includes restricting benefits to migrants who have been in Britain for more than a year, four times the current requirement. The move risks triggering a protracted legal row with the European Commission, which bans members states from discriminating between their own citizens and people from other member states. Mr Cameron faces opposition from within the Cabinet over the plans, it emerged this morning. Alastair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat secretary of state for Scotland, said he was not yet “persuaded” of the case for the plans because he fears a row with the rest of the EU. “Potentially it might put us on the wrong side of the rest of the European Union and as a member state I don’t particularly want to find myself in that territory,” he said.
The plans have been discussed within Government, he confirmed. He told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pinaar’s Politics show: “It’s something that ultimately would need to be discussed with the Commission in the EU. I can understand the concern, I can see the need for robust transitional arrangements. I would need to be persuaded of that but I am prepared to look at the whole situation in the round.” Michael Gove, the education secretary, said the proposals to restrict benefits “struck exactly the right note”. “When it comes to new migrants from accession countries in the EU, we need to look properly at the benefits system here to make sure people are coming here to work and contribute, not to take advantage of what is rightly a generous welfare system." Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, indicated Labour would support new restrictions on migrant benefits and said the Government should have acted earlier. "I do think when people are coming to this country they should be contributing and so we have already said there are changes you could make to Jobseekers' Allowance so people can't come and claim Jobseekers' Allowance straight away,” she said.
© The Telegraph
‘Courts are biased against blacks’ says official report (UK)
Average prison sentence given to Caucasian criminals is seven months shorter than those given to Afro-Caribbean offenders.
24/11/2013- Judges and magistrates are institutionally racist, consistently handing down more lenient sentences to white criminals, an official Government study has revealed. The disturbing report, produced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), shows that black and Asian defendants are almost 20 per cent more likely to be sent to jail than those who are white. At the same time, the average prison sentence given to Caucasian criminals by courts in England and Wales is seven months shorter than those given to Afro-Caribbean offenders. The report separates conviction and sentencing rates by comparable offences and pleas, excluding the possibility of the data being inaccurately skewed. The Ministry of Justice said yesterday that ministers were aware “without a shadow of a doubt” that there were problems with the system, and said work had begun to address it as an area of “increasing concern”. “The Criminal Justice System should work to promote equality, and should not discriminate against anyone because of their race,” the Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green said. “Targeting a person or a group based on their race or religion is unacceptable, it is divisive and harmful to individuals and has no place in a civilised society.”
However, Labour suggested the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should carry out its own investigation into racial bias in the judiciary, claiming work done under the last Government had “ground to a halt”. One leading black barrister said the figures showed that the courts, like the police, were “institutionally racist”. A spokesman for the EHRC said it was “aware of the issues behind the report” and would “examine the concerns raised”. The MoJ document, Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2012, was published without fanfare on the department’s website. It shows that over the past four years black criminals have been less likely to receive police cautions and more likely to have been proceeded against in court, than any other ethnic groups. The most common outcome for a white criminal was a community sentence; for Black, Asian and Chinese offenders it was custody. The statistics are broken down by types of crime, ruling out the possibility that black defendants might be being proportionally found guilty of more serious offences.
Disturbingly, in every year studied, a higher proportion of white defendants had previous convictions – which would normally result in a greater number of prosecutions and harsher sentences. But this does not appear to be the case. The proportion of white criminals sentenced to immediate custody by the courts was 26 per cent while the proportion of black criminals sent to prison was 31 per cent and Asians 32 per cent. The average custodial sentence for white offenders was 15.9 months; for black prisoners it was 23.4 months. Different types of crime also show sentencing differences. A white person pleading guilty to burglary was sentenced to, on average, 25 months in prison compared with a black person who typically received a 28-month sentence. Of those pleading not guilty but convicted by the courts, the sentences were 40 months and 47 months respectively. Similarly, 76 per cent of white people convicted of production or supply of a class A drug were sentenced to immediate custody compared with 84.8 per cent of black people.
One former prison governor said that he believed there was a degree of “establishment denial” about the problem. “When I worked in Brixton prison, of the 900 prisoners we had, between 60 and 65 per cent were non-white, which was completely disproportionate to the make-up of the community,” said Paul McDowell, now chief executive of the crime reduction charity Nacro. “This was a direct consequence of what was happening in the courts. But there is a degree of establishment denial. There seems to be a view that the judiciary are independent and cannot be interfered with. But that lack of challenge is at the root of the problem.”
Peter Herbert, chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers and a crown court judge, said the figures represented “institutional racism”. “I’m not sure what else you can call it,” he said. “The effect is right across the criminal justice system. From stop and search, to arrest, to charge and to sentencing – every aspect of the process is stacked against defendants from ethnic minority backgrounds. It is not a pretty picture.” Mr Herbert said the figures needed to be broken down to individual court level, and judges confronted with their sentencing decisions. “It needs urgent attention,” he said. “I don’t believe that judges are sitting there consciously discriminating against black defendants, but if you look at the cumulative effect of sentencing decisions there is no rational explanation for the discrepancies. “We need to drill down into the figures and ensure that they are examined on a court-by-court basis. Judges then need to ask themselves hard questions.”
Richard Monkhouse, chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, said a unit in the MoJ that had examined the issue under the Labour government had been disbanded. “I think that’s a real pity because only by understanding what is going on can we begin to address the problem. Judges have to operate within tight sentencing guidelines. So, why is there still disproportionality? “It’s crucial that people know our system of open and transparent justice will deal with them fairly and equally, regardless of gender, class, age, race or religion.” Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said: “If the colour of your skin means you are treated unfairly by our justice system then urgent action is required to address that.”
© The Independent
Victory for centre-left, but far-right scores surprise success (Slovakia)
Slovakia's centre-left has consolidated its control of the country by winning six of the eight positions as regional governor available in elections completed on Saturday (23 November).
28/11/2013- Post-election debate has focused, however, on the unprecedented success of the far-right. The central region of Banská Bystrica will now be governed by Marian Kotleba. Hungarian Slovak politicians have voiced concern at the success of Kotleba, whose supporters sport uniforms and insignia drawn from the puppet government installed by the Nazis during the Second World War. Hungarians make up roughly 8.5% of the Slovak population. Kotleba has in the past particularly directed his rhetoric and demonstrations against the Roma, who make up between 2% and 8% of the population. A Slovak court cleared him of incitement to hatred for a description in 2009 of Roma as “gypsy parasites”. Fico blamed Kotleba's victory on the centre-right, arguing that they should have supported Smer's candidate in the run-off. Fico's own attitudes to the Roma have, however, been criticised. After a European Council meeting this June, Fico played down the 14% rate of unemployment in Slovakia as being “coloured by the large Roma minority”, suggesting that it was “almost impossible” to get the Roma into work.
© The European Voice
The Triumph of Extremism in Slovakia
Ultimately, it will be the political elite, not the voters, who determine the success of the far right.
by Martin Ehl
26/11/2013- During a recent state holiday, Polish ultranationalists set alight a rainbow sculpture on a square in central Warsaw and a guard booth at the Russian Embassy. It was an international affair. Their Slovak counterpart, Marian Kotleba, took things a step further. He won the regional elections this past weekend and became governor of the Banska Bystrica region. Slovaks were shocked. Via direct election, a man now stands at the head of one of the eight regions who praises the wartime fascist Slovak state and the expulsion of the Jews. He lets himself be called “Leader”; he wants to establish a home-defense militia to solve allegedly Roma-related crimes; and the program of his People's Party-Our Slovakia could best be summarized as “populist improvisation with elements of neo-Nazism.” Since the entry of the extremist Jobbik party into the Hungarian parliament in 2010, it's no longer surprising that in Central Europe the frustration and disappointment from political and economic developments are channeled into support for an extremist politician and his party. But the mutual recriminations of Slovak politicians on the left and right – in the style of “it's your fault, not mine” – attest that they don't understand the change in the thinking of their fellow countrymen.
Kotleba's participation in the second round mobilized more voters to turn out than in the other four regions where the elections took place 23 November. His votes came from a diverse lot, not just from one social or political group. Kotleba's victory will apparently steer him next year toward the presidential elections and local elections. He doesn't have a chance, but he is preparing the ground for parliamentary elections in 2016. As the regional head, it's true that he'll be isolated, but that will give him an even greater opportunity to present himself as a victim of the system and earn points, according to sociologist Martin Butora, a co-founder of the respected Institute for Public Affairs (IVO). But the governing party, Smer, has not yet decided whether to send Kotleba into isolation. Kotleba’s success is the result of a few factors, not all of which the Slovaks will admit to. Overall dissatisfaction with how their society has developed is one of them. Another is the bungling of the left- and right-wing elites who might have been able to stand up against Kotleba after he had surprisingly advanced to the second round.
Prime Minister Robert Fico supported the candidates of his Smer party in the southwestern Nitra and Trnava regions against ethnic Hungarian candidates, but he didn’t make enough time for his party colleague in Banska Bystrica. And the civic right, whose candidate utterly flopped, refused in the second round to support the Smer nominee. A third factor is long-term and more subliminal. According to sociologist Michal Vasecka, many voters in Slovakia simply respond to an authoritarian model (see the earlier electoral results of the Slovak National Party and Vladimir Meciar's HZDS). This group is willing to question the idea that Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest and wartime leader of Nazi-allied Slovakia, bore responsibility for the country’s crimes against Jews during the Holocaust. This ideological stream from the mid-1990s is growing stronger, says Vasecka, thanks in part to the influence of some in the Catholic Church. The election of Kotleba – however we place it in the European context of increasing support for extremists – surpasses a mere protest vote. This unpredictable extremist colors his populism with the sensitive and long-unresolved Roma question.
Unofficially, Roma comprise roughly one-tenth of the Slovak population. The Roma issue is understood by the majority in Slovakia as primarily a question of security, not of human rights or deprivation. That plays to Kotleba, who, for instance, bought the land under one of the many Roma settlements and wants to expel them – namely to use the solution of force. So it has been not the traditional ploy of rallying Slovaks to vote against ethnic Hungarian candidates, but anti-Roma sentiment that has painted Slovak politics into an extremist corner. The reaction of mainstream politicians show that they have been taken aback and that Kotleba’s success throws off the country’s hitherto political development. Since 1989, the climate in Slovakia for liberal democracy and its fundamental values has sometimes been far from hospitable. But not even the notorious former head of the Slovak National Party, Jan Slota, endorsed Nazism and its historical Slovak relative as openly as Kotleba.
"It's more serious than it seems,” Butora says. In the IVO publication, “From Where and to Where: 20 Years of Independence,” the former government commissioner for Roma issues, Klara Orgovanova, says the status of the Roma is a litmus test for how successful the Slovaks have been in building a civil society. Kotleba, closely associated with the Roma issue, will be a test for all of Slovak politics. Now the ways politicians deal with this reality, which an undoubtedly democratic process has created, will show us the true state of Slovak (civil) society and the quality of the country’s democracy. They can boost Kotleba’s popularity by making him a pariah, or they can let him discredit himself in the role of regional governor. But the odds of their playing this the right way seem rather slim.
Martin Ehl is the foreign editor of the Czech daily Hospodarske noviny, where this column originally appeared.
© Transitions Online.
Far-right leader Kotleba wins in Banská Bystrica (Slovakia)
24/11/2013- Voters in the Banská Bystrica Region have elected Marian Kotleba, who has a history of racist statements and acts, to lead the self-governing region, known by Slovaks under the acronym VÚC. Kotleba of the People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS), picked up 55.6 percent in the second round run-off and thus defeated Vladimír Maňka, backed by Smer, KDH, SMK, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Movement for Democracy and the Green Party, who collected 44.3 percent, according to unofficial results published by the Slovak Statistics Office. Kotleba finished as the regional councillor with the single biggest voter support in the whole country in absolute numbers in the first round.
Prime Minister Robert Fico blamed right-wing parties for Kotleba’s success in the first-round, arguing that they were unable to pick a strong enough candidate to face Maňka. Political analysts however suggested that it was partly anti-Roma sentiments and partly the legitimisation of nationalist discourse by Fico’s first government that fuelled the success of Kotleba of ĽSNS. Beating the opposition candidate of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) Ľudovít Kaník, Kotleba advanced into the November 23 second round with more than 21 percent of the vote.
Kotleba, originally a secondary school teacher, is well-known on the margins of the Slovak political scene. He founded and led the Slovenská Pospolitosť (Slovak Togetherness) far-right political party, which was later banned by the Interior Ministry and existed only as a civic organisation. He frequently organised and participated in anti-Roma demonstrations or marches commemorating the Nazi-allied wartime Slovak state and its president Jozef Tiso. He has been detained and charged repeatedly for crimes including racial defamation.
Observers originally had said that they saw almost no chance for Kotleba to succeed in the second round against the Smer candidate, but nonetheless found his strong showing disturbing.
© The Slovak Spectator
How a Neo-Nazi got out of Sweden's most powerful white supremacy group
When Robert Orell, 33, was in his early teens, he became involved in a white power movement. To put it bluntly, Orell was a neo-Nazi.
27/11/2013- Neo-Nazis seek to revive Nazism, the white supremacist movement made notorious by Adolf Hitler in the 1930s and 40s. The movement is characterised by its violence, racism and xenophobic attitudes. "When I first got involved, Xenophobic parties were not uncommon in the government, you had serious shooting of immigrants, a lot of attacks on asylum seekers, that sort of thing," says Swedish-born Orell. "We also had a popular youth culture focusing a lot on nationalism, on Sweden being the land of the Vikings, and during that time the racist groups started to recruit young Swedes if they saw an interest in nationalisms or history, that kind of thing. It was a natural base for recruitment.
"I was a fairly insecure teenager, and I was hearing these messages about being special, about masculinity, about being a strong, cool Viking, and I felt attracted to that message. I also had a lot of personal troubles at that time - school failure, conflicts, that kind of thing, and my perception is that this group came at the right time for me, when the message I wanted to hear was 'You're special, you're part of a cause, we need you, we have a purpose for you.' "It wasn't intellectual - it was connection on an emotional base. I was prepared to die for these people, for this, it was so strong. Everything made sense, like a piece of a puzzle. I knew my friends, I knew my enemies, it all was so clear."
Indeed, seeking belonging and a sense of purpose are some of the reasons why many young people become involved in white power groups all across the world, including Australia. "Recruitment isn't about ideology - it's important but it's not the primary factor of recruitment," says Orell. "You recruit people by offering a sense of belonging, a community. Looking at the radicalisation research globally, this notion comes up time and time again - with violent Islamic groups, for example, you see the same type of patterns." "The research we rely on shows that recruitment is certainly about identity, and it's that younger demographic who are likely to get involved in white supremacy groups," agrees Priscilla Brice, Managing Director of All Together Now, an anti-racism charity tackling recruitment by white power groups in Australia.
"One in 10 Australians have racist attitudes, and believe that there are people who don't belong in this country because of their cultural background or ethnicity, according to the Challenging Racism study done by the University of Western Sydney. These attitudes are apparent online in chatrooms, in posters around cities, there's a White Supremacist concert in the Gold Coast every May, and there was one in September in Melbourne too. It's concerning," says Brice. In Australia, All Together Now seek to undermine recruitment into white power groups by targeting young men who are on the periphery.
"More or less, all extremist environments are male dominated," says Orell. "They're masculine focused, the heroes are men, females are there to support the men. One of the girls I knew had two views of women - that they were either baby machines, or they had to be ten times as tough as the guys to match up. That was her description of it." All Together Now brought Orell to Australia to share his story so that young men who are involved might be dissuaded from joining groups. So how did someone like Orell, who was so heavily involved in the white power movement for so many years, actually leave?
"It's not like it used to be," says Orell who currently heads up Exit Sweden, an organisation which provides support and rehabilitation for Neo-Nazis. "Since Exit started in 1998 in Sweden I have seen a lot of positive changes. Nobody thought you could leave the movement - once a Nazi always a Nazi, that kind of thinking. But today people know that you can go through all kinds of situations - drugs, gangs, extremism - and you can come back. That's a real shift in thinking. "For me personally, in one way it was like a release to leave, but in another way it was really hard. I went into the military with the idea to get military training for the 'coming revolution'. But when I was in the military I realised, I don't want to go back to [my old] life.
"I started reflecting on my life, my comrades. These environments are very good at double standards - they say a lot of things that are very holy, and you can't break the rules. But people do. I had friends who robbed other Swedish people for money, who drank beer, but we weren't supposed to take drugs or commit crimes, unless they're for 'the cause'. To use steroids was looked down upon because one of the consequences is that you might become impotent, which meant you can't have white children, which destroys the cause.
"The tough part was, this is a very sectarian environment and you're in it 24/7. These environments are so destructive. They foster hate and aggression, and you can't live like that for a long period of time. You think and you breathe and you eat the ideology and the movement and the world view, and when you want to leave you have a feeling of emptiness. I was really uncertain of my competencies, my interests, what I want to do or where I want to go. I thought, society won't want me back, I have no place there. I had no education, I was very unsure. That's why I am trying to use my experience in a good way - I didn't just waste all these years, I can use my experiences from that time to help people get out."
Both Orell and Brice agree that the thing that takes people out of white power groups is the same thing that attracts them to them - relationship. "If you are an active white power member, you wouldn't get disengaged by a message on a board or a pamphlet - to make change you have to make relationships. These people who are in this sectarian environment and are so heavily influenced by the people around them, need other people to help them get out. This is what organisations like Exit Sweden and All Together Now help with - relational networks, be they formal, with professional relational workers like school counsellors, or informal. There's tonnes of research from the last decade on exit strategies and de-radicalisation, and this is one of the areas we have seen works.
"Seeing people let that hate go is such a relief," says Orell. "It makes a change in your relationship with others, with yourself, all these things, when you let that hatred go. "There are two messages I want to get out in doing this. The first is that it is possible to understand and respond to these white supremacy environments if you have proper knowledge of radicalisation and the relational networks. The second is for people in the movement, that it is possible to get out. Society will take you back. You can make that change."
© The Herald Sun.
Swedish media targeted in neo-Nazi protest
A slew of Swedish newspaper offices were targeted in a coordinated action by neo-Nazis on Monday morning who left a calling card warning of "anti-Swedish propaganda".
25/11/2013- When Norra Skåne's deputy managing editor Anders Kauranen arrived at work on Monday morning he found the office cordoned off with the entrance adorned with tape and a sign which read "Stop. This building has been sealed with yellow-blue tape due to the anti-Swedish propaganda which is spread from here". The action was claimed by Svenskarnas parti (The Party of the Swedes), which describes itself as nationalist and was founded in 2008 by members of the National Socialist Front (Nationalsocialistisk front). "We can confirm that it is members and sympathisers of the party who are behind the action," Stefan Jacobsson, The Party of the Swedes' leader, told The Local on Monday. Anders Kauranen has filed a report with the police. "This is not on and we hope that the police take it seriously," Anders Kauranen told the TT news agency. Several other newspaper offices arrived to find the same greeting on Monday with Östran and Hudiksvallstidning also targeted. "It is not just newspaper offices, we have also targeted municipal buildings... Groups which we consider to support 'anti-Swedishness'," Jacobsson said.
Minnie Karlsson-Berne Falk, publisher of the Norra Skåne daily argued that the action should be taken seriously, arguing that it was an attempt to influence editorial decisions. "We do not yet know who is behind it, but we have filed a police report. Furthermore, I'd like to underline that it is unacceptable to attempt to influence the newspaper and its journalistic mission, or try to prevent people getting in touch with the editor," she said. Jacobsson however denied that the action was an attempt to influence editorial decision. "They have the right to publish whatever they want, this is simply an attempt to stimulate debate," he told The Local. "We are not alone, I understand . It's not the first time we have been subjected to this type of thing and we intend to file a report with the police," said Eric Arenius, news editor for the Östran daily. A few weeks ago 15 town halls and several newsrooms around the country were targeted in a similar exercise. The police decided against proceeding with the case as they deemed the action to be "a symbolic gesture within the bounds of freedom of expression".
The phrases "anti-Swedish" or "enemy of Sweden" (svenskfientlig) and its polar opposite "pro-Swedish" or "friend of Sweden" (sverigevän) are common labels used by the Sweden Democrats and the far-right in Sweden to describe critics and supporters. Jacobsson explained that the phrase refers to the "discrimination of Swedes" citing labour market opportunity and hate speech legislation as examples.
© The Local - Sweden
Agency backs halal meat in school lunch spat (Sweden)
The Swedish schools agency has ruled that serving of halal meat in schools does not break the law in response to complaints from parents who argued the practice breaches the non-denominational praxis of the Swedish education system.
23/11/2013- The Swedish Schools Inspectorate ruled that the law does not regulate the method of slaughter used for the meat served in schools, according to a report in the agricultural magazine ATL. Parents in Svedala in southern Sweden had reported a school to the agency for serving halal chicken arguing that the school meals fall under the non-denominational praxis of the Swedish education system. The issue was discussed in the municipal council in September and has been the subjected of intense debate among locals and parents on social media. The municipality's schools have been serving the chicken, which originates from Denmark, for the past four years. Halal slaughter follows old religious rules. Halal is any action or object which is permitted according to Islamic law, is not limited to food and can be applied to all matters of daily life. With regards to the slaughter of animals halal refers to the use of a sharp knife to make an incision to the throat. The animals should also be slaughtered while uttering the words "in the name of God". Kosher and halal meat products are permitted in Sweden if the animal is anaesthetized prior to its throat being cut. While technically against the rules, the majority of Muslims and Jews living in Sweden accept this compromise.
© The Local - Sweden
Sweden opens first retirement home for gays
Sweden's first retirement home for elderly members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities opened in Stockholm on Friday, capping a four-year effort that may spark a new trend.
23/11/2013- On Friday afternoon, residents and supporters of the Regnbågen (‘Rainbow’) senior living facility (seniorboende) will gather for an official opening ceremony for the facility, which located in Stockholm's Gärdet neighbourhood. "It's wonderful," resident and association vice-chair Lars Mononen told The Local. "People have worked hard on this for several years and now it's finally a reality." Regnbågen is a cooperative renters association for people aged 55 and older that offers 27 flats located on the top three levels of an eight-storey building on Sandhamnsgatan. Forty men and women have already moved into the facility, which means the majority of the association's 90 members are waiting for a flat to open up. "Some of our members are younger people who are in their thirties who are planning for the future by getting in the queue now," said Mononen, who is 64 and joined the association earlier this year. He explained that Regnbågen is meant to be a place where members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities can feel comfortable in their later years.
"We don't have kids, generally, and often aren't that close to other family members, and when you stop working you really miss that social interaction," said Mononen. "Renbågen gives us all a little bit of an extra social safety net lets us be a part of an active community. This is a place where people actually seek out contact with their neighbours, rather than try to avoid it." Plans for the facility were hatched in earnest back in 2009 and involved representatives from Stockholms Äldreboende AB, which manages the provision of care of a nursing home in the northern section of central Stockholm, and Micasa Fastigheter, which manages all of Stockholm’s nursing home properties. When it became clear that there was strong interest among members of the city's LGBT community for an senior living facility with their interests in mind, the project gained additional momentum. "We’re looking to create a care home where LGBT people can ‘speak their own language’ and feel secure in who they are," Renbågen chairman Christer Fällman, considered one of the main drivers behind the project, told The Local in 2009 when planning first began in earnest.
While the facility caters to the needs of homosexuals, including staff trained in issues specific to the community, it would be open to anyone and would accept residents from around the country. “We don’t want this to be seen as a move back into the closet. Anyone will be allowed to live there. It would be another form of integration,” said Fällman. Mononen reckons that while Renbågen may be Sweden's first gay-friendly retirement home, it likely won't be the last. "I know already they are looking at doing something similar in Gothenburg," he said.
© The Local - Sweden
Bulgaria’s far-right Ataka asks territories in Serbia, Macedonia to be returned to Bulgaria
27/11/2013- “Territories in Serbia and the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, which are inhabited by Bulgarians, should be returned to Bulgaria,” far-right Ataka party required in a declaration presented at the parliament today, FOCUS News Agency reporter informed. The declaration reads that “in 1919 a humiliating treaty – the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine, was signed, and under this treaty many Bulgarians were left outside the country”. “Serbia and the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia cannot be considered legal successors of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. Serbia was not accepted for successor of Yugoslavia by the UN and the international community, while FYR Macedonia is not even recognised under its constitutional name. Respectively, the Neuilly-sur-Seine dictatorship has no power in terms of Serbia and FYR Macedonia and it is invalid in terms of the Western Outlands and Strumica, due to the disappearance of the country it was signed with. The lands separated from Bulgaria under this treaty should be returned to its territory,” the declaration reads further. Ataka thinks that the issue should be settled before Serbia starts the EU accession talks and before FYR Macedonia’s entrance in the EU.
© FOCUS News Agency
Bulgarian Authorities Move to Counter 'Racist' Patrols
25/11/2013- Bulgaria's Chief Prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, has requested increased police presence in downtown Sofia in order to prevent the so-called "civil patrols." The Prosecutor's Office announced Monday that Tsatsarov has met with Interior Minister, Tsvetlin Yovchev, and the Head of the State Agency for National Security (DANS), Vladimir Pisanchev, where they established joint measures for countering all forms of violations of public order and the establishment of any type of formations for self-protection, self-defense and citizens patrolling of the streets. The prosecution further informs that Yovchev has ordered all police to apply their authority without any compromise and not allow behavior that leads to self-imposed order in the capital and the wearing of marking signs. "Compliance with the Constitution and Political Parties Act of certain political formations will also be analyzed," the prosecution further informs.
The meeting was prompted by the recent announcement of far-right nationalist Bulgarian National Union leader Boyan Rasate about the creation of militias, allegedly to secure the peace of Sofia residents. Rasate has denied any racist motivations behind the move. He also claimed the patrols were coordinated with the Sofia Directorate of the Interior Ministry. In the past weeks, there have been an increased number of cases of violence against immigrants and Bulgarians from the minorities. Flaring tensions and an apparent stirring up of the far-right - including the founding of a new, Neo-Nazi-like party - led to an antifascist rally in Bulgarian capital Sofia.
At the same time, activists warned that a planned new law regarding the Bulgarian police could pave the way to formalizing the vigilante militias. Meanwhile, a Roma organization in Bulgaria announced it has created a platform for self-defense groups in response to reports of far-right vigilante patrols roaming the streets of Bulgarian capital Sofia. On Monday, Pisanchev had presented information and evidence regarding certain individuals instigating hatred and violence on racial, religious and ethnic grounds. The Prosecutor's Office stresses that both organizing the so-called "civil patrols" and Roma self-defense groups has never been coordinated with the prosecution and the police.
Xenophobia on Rise in Bulgaria - Poll
23/11/2013- Bulgaria might be parting with its image of being one of the most tolerant countries in the world, as recent studies show a stark increase of xenophobic attitudes, according to sociology experts. The alarming trend and statistics were presented Friday by the Director of the polling agency Mediana, Kolio Kolev. Kolev spoke during a round table titled "Lost Borders – the New EU Refugee and Immigration Policy." According to a recent poll, conducted by Mediana, 15% of Bulgarians have said they approve violence against foreigners, which has also been in the rise in recent weeks, while 20% want full closure of the southern border. "This is very dangerous and forecasts upcoming clashes between Bulgarians and immigrants. In reality, this xenophobia has been triggered by unpunished petty crime, the high crime rate among Bulgarian Roma, unemployment and decreased living standards," says Kolev, cited by bTV.
A number of senior Bulgarian officials have already voiced serious concerns over xenophobic attitudes being one of the main threats currently faced by the country. Last week, far-right nationalist Bulgarian National Union leader Boyan Rasate announced the creation of militias, allegedly to secure the peace of Sofia residents. Rasate has denied any racist motivations behind the move. At the same time, in the past weeks, there have been an increased number of cases of violence against immigrants and Bulgarians from the minorities. Flaring tensions and an apparent stirring up of the far-right - including the founding of a new, Neo-Nazi-like party - led to an antifascist rally in Bulgarian capital Sofia last Sunday. At the same time, activists warned that a planned new law regarding the Bulgarian police could pave the way to formalizing the vigilante militias.
Meanwhile, a Roma organization in Bulgaria announced it has created a platform for self-defense groups in response to reports of far-right vigilante patrols roaming the streets of Bulgarian capital Sofia.
The far right eyes Europe’s election (opinion)
by Anthony Manduca
24/11/2013- In May of next year 390 million people will be eligible to vote in elections for the European Parliament. These will be important elections, the first ones on a European level since the eurozone crisis erupted, and a key test of public opinion towards both the euro and the EU. Opinion polls, as well as recent results of a number of European national and local elections suggest a level of dissatisfaction among voters towards the established political parties and growing support for eurosceptic, populist, far right and to a lesser extent, far left, parties. Furthermore, the perception that European parliamentary elections are not that important is expected to encourage people to ‘take a risk’ and vote for fringe parties. All eyes will be on Europe’s far right and right-wing populist parties, which have high expectations in this election, and which are trying to organise themselves on a pan-European level, something which has caused great concern in the Brussels corridors. Worryingly, some of these parties have gained in strength in recent years as various countries struggled with recession and immigration emerged as a major concern of the electorate.
Opinion polls in France, for example, show that 24 per cent of voters will vote for the National Front in the European elections, while in Britain the eurosceptic UKIP enjoys the support of almost 12 per cent of voters, slightly ahead of the Liberal Democrats. An electoral pact was, in fact, recently formed between Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France and Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party in the Netherlands. The two parties, which are both hostile to the EU and immigration (but which have different views on aspects of social policy and on Israel) will contest this European election as a joint force in order to exploit the euroscepticism raging across the EU after four years of the eurozone crisis. “This is a historical day. Today is the beginning of the liberation from the European elite, the monster in Brussels,” Wilders said after meeting Le Pen in The Hague. “We want to decide how we control our borders, our money, our economy, our currency,” he said. After her meeting with Wilders, Le Pen last week met Franz Obermayr, from the anti-immigration Austrian Freedom Party, and spoke of her wish to unite candidates from across the EU on the ticket of the European Alliance for Freedom, and consequently form a right-wing bloc in the European Parliament.
Such a bloc would be a worrying development indeed. First of all the grouping’s core beliefs would go contrary to the democratic values and principles of the EU, which most of us hold dear. Secondly, however, the aim of such a bloc would be to wreck the body (the European Parliament, one of the key institutions of the EU) to which it was elected. To qualify for caucus status, the new group will need at least 25 MEPs from seven countries. While the figure of 25 MEPs seems very possible, it is not clear whether seven different parties will be willing to join forces in one group. By forming a new caucus in the European Parliament, however, the bloc would gain access to funding, committee seats and chairs, and more speaking rights. There are a number of eurosceptic or right-wing parties which are expected to do reasonably well in next year’s election, namely in Greece, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Finland, Holland, Belgium and France. It would be wrong to describe all these parties as belonging to the far right as there are differences between them, but they are all essentially populist parties of the right.
Greece’s Golden Dawn and Hungary’s Jobbik party, for example, are basically neo-fascist parties; France’s National Front and Sweden’s Democrats are both right-wing Nationalists; the Danish People’s party, Austria’s Freedom Party and the Flemish separatists of Vlaams Belang are all anti-immigrant; Italy’s Northern League, Britain’s UKIP, Germany’s Alternative for Germany and Finland’s Finns Party are eurosceptic in orientation, a policy shared by the other right-wing parties. UkIP leader Nigel Farage, for example, has rejected any offer of joining a right-wing pan-European movement saying: “UKIP is not right-wing but a libertarian party which believes in small government, low taxes, personal freedom and responsibility under a democratic national government, not under Brussels rule. UKIP are not involved in this initiative by Geert Wilders.” Any possible shift to fringe parties in next year’s European elections, however, should worry mainstream parties of the centre. Voters’ concerns, especially over immigration and tough austerity measures, must be addressed from now in order to reduce the appeal of right-wing parties. Furthermore, such parties must be engaged in debate, and not demonised. Voters must be convinced, through logical and rational arguments, that right-wing populism does not offer any long-term solutions for Europe’s problems.
© The Times of Malta
Headlines 22 November, 2013
'Spain's gypsies are more invisible than ever' (interview)
22/11/2013- They are often portrayed as flamenco artists or petty criminals. But what is Spain's Roma population really like? And how has the crisis affected them? The Local spoke to Carolina Fernández at Spain's Gypsy Foundation (the FSG) to find out.
First thing first: what’s the correct term — 'gitano' or 'Roma'?
Gitano! Roma is the term promoted by the Council of Europe, but the term 'gitano' (the Spanish word for gypsy) doesn't have negative connotations for people in the Roma community here in Spain.
The stereotype of Spanish gitanos abroad is flamenco music, drugs and crime. Can you give us a more comprehensive picture of the community?
Flamenco is perhaps the most visible face of gitanos in Spain. But we can also talk about 'invisible gypsies'. After three to four decades of integration many of Spain's up to 700,000 gitanos study, and work and live a 'normal life'. So television shows like Palabra de gitano (a cultural programme which has been accused of reinforcing stereotypes) only give a partial image.
Can you tell us about a gypsy-related news story which has interested you recently?
It was really interesting to see the coverage of the story of a Roma girl who was deported from France during a school trip, and to see the racist speech of the French government. It was also interesting to see that the Spanish media reported the story: Roma issues don't usually get much coverage in Spain. Overall, the media here has improved over the last 10 years in terms of gitanos. But there are still cases where certain media outlets report on the ethnicity of people where it's not relevant. And there is still very little reflection about how Spaniards in general fee about the gitanos in our society.
Why don’t we have stories about gypsies being deported or otherwise persecuted in Spain?
Integration has been different in Spain — very pragmatic. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 says that all Spaniards are equal before the law (section 14), and this has marked integration. Gitanos have had access to social housing and employment, and there has been a substantial change in living conditions. But the rejection of the majority of the population continues because of the link with drugs and crime. Gitanos have been living apart for many centuries and it is going to take a while for this to change.
And how is the crisis affecting Spain’s gitanos?
There are a few factors here. Firstly, there are the budget cuts to services which are affecting gitanos just as they are affecting everyone else. Then there are the cuts to programmes designed specifically for gitanos. On top of that, the higher poverty rate in Spain has made gypsies even more invisible. Their needs are larger but now they are even harder to see. It is also a question of social discrimination: gitanos are seen as a ‘social burden’ and now their image is even worse.
What is the relationship like between Spain’s gitanos and the Roma from Eastern Europe who live in this country?
There is no relationship. Gitanos have tried to integrate and they see the Roma of Eastern Europe as having traditions they have given up. Eastern European Roma, for example, still beg. But Spain’s gitanos stopped doing that three decades ago.
Are being gitano and being Spanish mutually exclusive?
In a modern society, we all have different identities. For gitanos, the feeling of being Roma is very strong but the first identity is still one of being a citizen. The important thing is that human rights, social rights and cultural rights are respected. Our foundation doesn't place an emphasis on ethnicity. We talk in terms of being a citizen. At the same time, political representation is not a priority for Spain’s gitanos, and recognition as a minority is not important either.
What are the main objectives for your foundation, the FSG?
What comes first is improvement in living conditions — access to employment, education and housing. Gitano children are now attending school. But the next step is to make sure they finish compulsory education and don’t drop out. We also still have a number of gypsy camps in Spain, especially on the edges of big cities.
And to finish up, can you give me some positive news about the situation for Spain’s gypsies?
The enlargement of the EU to include many eastern European countries has been a positive development for Roma. The EU has really run with the Roma issue and now there are lots of new policies and laws designed to protect the Roma. This has also been positive for Spain’s gitanos.
Spain's Fundación Secretariado Gitano runs 407 programmes for Spain's gitano population. In 2012. they worked directly with 104,000 people.
© The Local - Spain
Spain illegally pushing back migrants to Morocco
22/11/2013- Spanish newspaper El País has shown this week that the Spanish Guardia Civil (Spanish policing authorities) continues to push back migrants to Morocco from Melilla, the Spanish city on the northern coast of Morocco. These renewed revelations were made through the disclosure of a recorded conversation on the night of 26 April 2013 where two Spanish officers agree how to hand over to the Moroccan authorities a group of migrants who had jumped the fence between Melilla and Morocco some hours earlier. The push-back took place through the only part of the fence that is not filmed by security cameras.
Spain’s Law on Foreign Persons provides that irregular migrants who are intercepted at the border have the right to legal assistance and interpretation and should be taken to a police station as soon as possible to proceed with their identification and where appropriate their return. However, these safeguards are not always respected in Melilla. According to El País, around 20-30% of the migrants who manage to climb over the fence do not enter the centre for temporary stay of migrants (CETI, in its Spanish acronym) and this gap could only be explained by the fact that they are intercepted before getting to a police station and returned to Morocco.
According to El País, the officers involved in the push-back operations are told that the 1992 readmission agreement between Spain and Morocco (which is applicable since 2012) provides a legal basis for their acts. However, as Carlos Arce Jiménez, Migration Coordinator at the NGO Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía (APDHA) and Researcher at the University of Cordoba explains, “the readmission agreement in itself provides for certain safeguards that are not respected in this kind of action and in any case no bilateral agreement can legitimate a State to violate its own legislation, in this case Spain’s Law on Foreign Persons”. The Spanish Government Delegate in Melilla, Abdelmalik el Barkani, has always denied the existence of these practices that have been denounced for years by NGOs such as Prodein and APDHA, political parties and Spain’s Ombudsman.
Last June, a Union of the Spanish Gendarmerie (Asociación Unificada de Guardia Civiles) asked the Prosecution Office to investigate whether the expulsions of migrants in Melilla are legal or not, arguing that the officers that take part in these operations are in a vulnerable position from a legal point of view as they do not know whether they are breaking the law when they follow orders. In October, two migrants for Cameroon took Spain to the European Court of Human Rights for being expelled from Isla de Tierra, a Spanish islet off the coast of Morocco, and handed over to Morocco, along with 71 other migrants. The two applicants claim that they did not have access to an individual asylum procedure and were collectively returned to a country where the human rights of sub-Saharan migrants and refugees are systematically violated.
“Everyone knows about the illegal pushbacks to Morocco. The situation is broadly documented but there does not seem to be political will in Spain to put an end to this violation of rights. Our hope is the European Court of Human Rights”, said Carlos Arce Jiménez from APDHA, one of the organisations that located the two applicants who managed to enter again Morocco after having been expelled to Argelia.
© The European Council on Refugees and Exiles
Fascist-Era Chant Lands Croatia Football Player in Trouble
Croatia defender Josip Simunic said he did nothing wrong after his country qualified for the World Cup by rallying fans using a chant associated with the Fascist Ustashe movement.
21/11/2013- Dinamo Zagreb football player Josip Simunic said he "did nothing wrong" following his side's World Cup play-off win over Iceland on Tuesday when he shouted "For the homeland" over a microphone to which fans responded, "Ready". The chant is associated with the Ustasha, the Croatian Fascist movement that ruled during World War II. Simunic, who was born in Australia, told the BBC on Wednesday that even the thought of putting him in the context of incitement of hatred or violence is horrible. "As a Croatian who was born and grew up outside my homeland, I associate home with love, warmth and positive struggle - everything that we showed on the pitch to win our place in the World Cup," he said. "These were the only reasons I got carried away with my emotions and why I started the kind of exchange with the supporters," he said. FIFA is awaiting a report from match officials and is gathering information from Football Against Racism in Europe observers. The world governing body will then decide on whether to begin disciplinary action against Simunic and fans. Fascist-era salutes are not rare at Croatian matches. Earlier this month, FIFA fined Croatia for prejudicial actions and comments fans made and said in recent matches.
© Balkan Insight
Ukrainian video game has players kill Jews
In online ‘Nationalist simulator,’ users strafe the motherland’s ‘enemies,’ including Jews, gays, Russians, Americans and communists
21/11/2013- If you were a kid between the late 1970s and the early ’90s, chances are you’ve played Space Invaders, while the more adventurous among us have also tried Papers, Please. Now, a Ukrainian website features a throwback to those games with one that challenges players to defend the motherland against Ukraine’s enemies: gays, Russians, Americans, communists and Jews. Egged on by occasional chants of “Kill, kill!” in English and an unrelenting stream of invective in Ukrainian, players move a small Ukrainian flag icon armed with an AK-47 and fire on successive waves of targets. The objective of the game is to shoot the rainbow flags, Russian flags, American flags, red balls and Jews, who are represented by orange circles adorned with yarmulkes and sidelocks. If you let too many enemies pass by unscathed, the game, titled “Nationalist Simulator — Defend Ukraine,” is over. One Twitter user remarked that no matter how hard he tried, he found it impossible to defeat the unending wave of Jewish icons in the game. A Russian Twitter user asked, “God, why had no one come up with this amazing game?” Another Russian Twitter user called it “a masterpiece.” According to information about the site on Wolfram Alpha, the website’s servers are hosted in Berlin, Germany.
© Times of Israel
Nationalists, arson, and rioting: Another dark Independence Day in Poland
For the third straight year, the Polish holiday was marred by far-right protesters torching cars and fighting cops.
21/11/2013- It was another tumultuous Independence Day in Poland. For the third consecutive year, Nov. 11 ended in clashes between rioters and police as nationalist hooligans torched cars, threw firecrackers, and set fire to a guard's booth in front of the Russian Embassy – resulting in a diplomatic scandal between Warsaw and Moscow. And less than a mile down the road from the embassy, far-right protesters torched an 80-foot rainbow art installation made of flowers that many in the city had regarded as a symbol of gay rights and tolerance. Such events are becoming more common in Poland, where the far right is gaining strength. After a long history of being dominated by neighbors in Europe – Russia and Germany in particular – nationalist groups are taking advantage of Poland's young democracy to flex their muscles and dream of creating a powerful social and political movement.
"Radical movements have been on the rise, due to national identity problems,” says Ireneusz Krzeminski, a sociologist at the University of Warsaw. “This is a side effect of the democratic transformation process” – one that's visible in many Central and Eastern European countries. The far right is on the rise in Ukraine, Hungary, Lithuania, and Latvia too.
The National Movement, the biggest far-right organization in Poland, is becoming more and more popular, especially with young people. Now, it has over 46,000 likes on Facebook – more than Civil Platform, Poland's ruling party, which has around 42,000. And that rising popularity coincides with an increase in hate crimes, Rafal Pankowski of the anti-racist association “Never Again” notes. "We documented over 600 hate crimes in Poland during the years 2011 to 2012. It meant that the number of such crimes rose 25 percent in comparison to 2009 to 2010,” Mr. Pankowski says.
But the Independence Day showing offered a more immediate sense of Polish nationalism's growing numbers, as tens of thousands of Poles took to the streets in Warsaw. "Our march was a big success, from the both, organizational and ideological perspectives, according to different statistics around 100,000 people took part in it,” says Witold Tumanowicz, president of the society “Independence March,” which organized the event. Police estimated a lower turnout, however: about 50,000 in the Independence March alone, and around 66,000 total across the city on Nov. 11. Nonetheless, it was a large showing – and one that even non-Poles were involved in, according to Krzysztof Bosak, a leader of The National Movement. “It was an international event. Representatives from national movements from Hungary, Spain, Italy, France, Sweden, and even the US, came to Warsaw,” Mr. Bosak says. Mr. Tumanowicz says his society doesn't condone the attack on the Russian embassy, though he declined to apologize. “It wasn't our fault," he says, noting that Russia "is not a very friendly country to Poland."
Nationalism on the rise
Indeed, right-wing groups and nationalism have risen all across Europe in recent years. Just days after the riots in Warsaw, for example, France's Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing Nationalist Front, visited Dutch nationalist politician Geert Wilders to discuss launching a "historic" alliance for next year's European elections. Many sociologists point to Europe's economic crisis, and the woes it has inflicted on the public, as a major factor. The eurocrisis didn't hit Poland as much as it did the rest of Europe, though some economic analysts warn it's still knocking at Poland's door. "If we let it in, it will add fuel to the far-right's fire," says Professor Krzeminski.
But Edmund Wnuk-Lipinski, a sociologist at Collegium Civitas in Warsaw, thinks that the major reason for the nationalist surge is the political 'civil war' climate in Poland. He notes that the biggest opposition party, Law and Justice, and its leader and former Polish prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, have echoed far-right rhetoric, including accusations that Poland is not a fully independent country. “In Mr. Kaczynski's vision, Poland is only free and independent when he is in power, when he's not, the country becomes 'a German-Russian condominium,'” says Professor Lipinski. “These kinds of words, which came from the former prime minister, have in some way legitimized young people's fights and riots.” And Lipinski notes that the fall of communism gave nationalists more room to maneuver. “Polish society is more divided today than it was in 1989. In the '80s, Poles were united because they had a common enemy – the Communists. It's much harder to unite around positive things,” he says.
Bosak says the right's rise is indicative of Polish youth looking for a new identity. "It's been more than 20 years after the fall of the USSR. The young generation in Poland doesn't remember communism and is not fascinated with the West and consumptionism. Young people want to discover their national identity and tradition,” he says. The far-right has many complaints about the side effects of democracy. "We support the idea of mono-ethnic country, with very small numbers of immigrants,” says Tumanowicz. "We are against feminism, abortion, gay marriages, democracy in every institution. Ideologically, we can be compared to the paleoconservatism represented by [US conservative] Patrick J. Buchanan,” says Bosak, adding that "We don't want to start a new party, but a social movement."
Krzeminski notes that forming a new party might not be realistic anyway. "The reason for starting a social movement and not a party could be that they would have problems registering, because of the fascist slogans they promote." Tumanowicz says his group will soon start preparations for next year's march. Banners with slogans like “Independence is not for idiots” or “Disgrace to traitors who are selling Poland now” will be unfurled again. But Lipinski points out the irony. "If these kinds of slogans were shouted by Russians or Germans, people in Poland would have been outraged,” he says. But that hasn't stopped them from calling out their own government. "No one holds Poland in contempt as much as Poles themselves."
© The Christian Science Monitor
French far-right candidate courts 9/11 controversy
Aymeric Chauprade, the National Front’s top candidate for EU parliamentary elections next year, is making headlines in France, but mostly for an essay presenting inflammatory conspiracy theories about the September 11, 2001 attacks.
21/11/2013- France’s National Front (FN) claims it has changed its game plan to gain wider legitimacy among ordinary voters, but one of its new faces is courting the kind of controversy that has long made most of the electorate recoil from the far-right party. Aymeric Chauprade, a former professor at France’s most prestigious military academy, will be the top FN candidate representing Paris in European Parliament elections in May. The French press has pounced on Chauprade since the party's announcement was made, but not to inquire about his views on monetary policy or allowing Turkey into the EU. Journalists mostly want to know about an essay he first published in 2009, in which he cast doubt on the official version of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In "Chronicle of the Clash of Civilizations", he develops several alternative theories about the tragic event attributed to al Qaeda, including one that 9/11 was part of a devious American-Israeli conspiracy. Chauprade has offered several interpretations about the origin of the World Trade Center attacks without picking one in particular, but has also expressed disbelief about the causes given by US authorities for the collapse of 7 World Trade Center, which fell hours after the Twin Towers. “The shockwave could not have triggered its collapse… Only a controlled demolition with explosives can explain such a quick and perfect collapse,” he wrote. The essay cost him his teaching job shortly after it was released. Afterwards, he also called into the question the reasons the French government gave for his dismissal. According to Chauprade, he was not ejected for his incendiary comments about 9/11, but because he was a vocal opponent of then-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to rejoin the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) central command.
Coming out of the FN closet
Chauprade is part of a handful of experienced bureaucrats and political strategists now touted by the FN as examples of its new professionalism and level-headedness. But unlike the rest of the 'new faces', the bona fide geostrategist is not a recent FN convert; rather he is finally coming out of the closet. Chauprade previously considered his unofficial but active affiliation to the FN a liability to his promising academic career. Now, with daughter Marine Le Pen at the helm of the party, he can finally claim his rightful place. He met Marine Le Pen in 2009 and is now her official advisor on foreign policy matters and could soon be flying the party’s flag at the European Parliament. Making up for lost time, he has been busy giving interviews and going on the airwaves to promote the FN brand and his own as-yet unfamiliar name. Chauprade has expressed some frustration over the constant quizzing about his 9/11 conspiracy theories, complaining to Le Parisien daily on Tuesday that the media was focusing on “only 10 pages” among “over 3,000 published throughout my career.” However, the next day he told Europe 1 radio that he “welcomed” that line of questioning. “I learned to question things. I am a scientist and when dubious things appear in an official version I ask questions,” he said.
Flirting with controversy
According to Sylvain Crépon, an expert on far-right movements in Europe, Chauprade’s flirting with controversy is completely in line with the party’s method of operation and is a consistent hallmark of the Le Pen family. “The National Front needs to play both ends of the field. Marine Le Pen has avoided extreme provocation to appeal to more voters, but she can’t go too far in sanitizing the party for fear that it will become mundane,” he told FRANCE 24. “This subtle mix between the two postures is ongoing.” Chauprade, an advocate of realpolitik, appears to be adapting quickly to his new role. At no time has he disavowed his controversial essay, and may in fact be courting additional drama. In the latest edition of “Chronicles”, published last month, the FN candidate took aim at WikiLeaks, offering yet another eye-opening interpretation: The online whistleblower group made famous by Julien Assange may be an example of American’s shrinking power, but it is more likely a “secret programme” established by Washington. By creating a “fake opposition”, the US can thus boost its own credibility around the world, Chauprade noted. The FN candidate provocatively asks why WikiLeaks has never revealed any documents about such an important subject as the September 11, 2001 attacks.
© France 24.
The Far-Left Economics of France's Far Right
20/11/2013- The right-wing National Front (FN) has become France’s most popular political party, as its leader Marine Le Pen capitalizes on voter anger over the country’s sagging economic fortunes. What’s more surprising is that FN has a plan to fix the economy that in many ways resembles a leftist manifesto. Nationalizing banks, raising protectionist trade barriers, handing out cash to low-paid workers—they’re all part of the platform developed by Le Pen, 45, who took over leadership of the party two years ago from her father, FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen. “The FN used to hobble along on one leg,” talking only about immigration and crime, which were its signature issues, Marine Le Pen says in an interview at the party headquarters in suburban Paris. “When you go from 10 percent to 25 percent in the polls, you are a real party, and you need to behave that way. I’ve immersed myself to give visibility to the economic and social program, to build a real platform on these issues.”
Le Pen says France has been “left alone, naked” to face unchecked globalization. She wants France to leave the European Union and pull out of the euro currency so it can keep tight controls on imports while devaluing its currency “to relaunch exports and employment.” The FN platform calls for a 3 percent tax on all imports that would be used to give a €200 ($270) monthly bonus to the country’s lowest-paid workers. She also wants the government to play a stronger role in managing the economy—for example, by temporarily nationalizing banks and forcing them to “clean up” their practices. “We still believe in free markets,” she says. “The danger is ultra-liberalism, where financial markets impose all the rules.” Le Pen isn’t the only French politician who has blasted financiers. Socialist President François Hollande proclaimed them his “enemy” during his 2012 campaign. But he has never suggested nationalizing banks. While Hollande has been raising taxes in an effort to narrow the budget deficit, the FN’s economic platform is packed with expensive crowd-pleasers, such as a 20 percent cut in the gas tax and a lowering of the standard retirement age to 60. (Then-President Nicolas Sarkozy of the center-right raised it to 62 only three years ago.)
Le Pen says the government can save money by cutting waste, ending social benefits for immigrants, and eliminating payments to the EU. She’s not an anti-tax campaigner, though. “I am for a social protection system, à la française,” she says. “In this country we are willing to pay a certain level of taxes in order to assure a certain standard of living.” A tall, elegant woman who trained as a lawyer and who is a single mother of three, Le Pen is a more sympathique figure than her father, an ex-paratrooper known for making anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic comments. “It’s true that in his 65-year career, he said some unfortunate things,” she says of her father. “He’s a bit of a punk.” But, she says attacks on her father went “beyond reason.”
© Bloomberg Businessweek
Italian politician faces jail for anti-burqa protest
A Milan prosecutor has requested a one-month prison sentence and €100 fine for Daniela Santanchè, a right-wing politician and ex-leader of the Movement for Italy party, now a faction of Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, for organizing an anti-burqa protest in 2009 without permission.
19/11/2013- Santanchè protested against the burqa as 3,000 Muslims gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan at Milan’s La Fabbrica del Vapore, a cultural centre, in September 2009. Santanchè, along with 12 other activists, reportedly asked women entering the building to “uncover their face”. She also called on Italian police to apply a law that has been in place since the 1970s forbidding any dress that hides a person’s face. The protest provoked anger among the Muslim community, ending with an Egyptian man, Ahmed El Badry, assaulting Santanchè. Despite denials of the attack by witnesses, El Badry was fined €2,000 on Monday. In 2006, Santanchè clashed with the imam of a mosque near Milan, Ali Abu Shwaima, after saying “the veil isn’t a religious symbol and it isn’t prescribed by the Koran”. She claimed Muslim women forced to wear the veil had asked her to speak out. Santanché, now a vocal MP for Berlusconi's centre-right party, spoke out in support of Italy's former prime minister earlier this year when he was not among the four people selected as an honorary senator for life. "[I am] deeply sorry for the one person who should have been named a senator for life and has not been that is, Silvio Berlusconi. He would have been the best and the person who is most qualified and most deserving," she said.
© The Local - Italy
'Norwegian racism' triggers Twitter storm
Norwegians with ethnic backgrounds have flooded Twitter with personal stories of racism after a 23-year-old medical student tweeted a moving post with the hashtag #Norskrasisme.
19/11/2013- The hashtag, which means "Norwegian racism", became the country's most trending topic on the micro-blogging service on Monday, according to the Twitter monitoring service Trendinalia. Warsan Ismail, a 23-year-old medical student of Somali origin, said she had never expected such a response when she started the tag. "I'm as surprised as everybody else," she told The Local. "I suppose that many people with minority backgrounds realized that they had an opportunity to share their stories." Ismail wrote about how she had returned from nursery school to find her mother surrounded by police. The family's neighbours had set their dogs on her, before hurling racist abuse at her. "Luckily, the severe incidents are very rare," she said of racism in the country. "But I've experienced a lot of non-severe incidents, especially when people are a bit drunk when they get out of the subway and start asking where you come from. Just because you're drunk doesn't mean you can get racist." She said second generation immigrants like her generally found it easier to get by in the country. "I'm lucky, I'm young. I'm fluent in Norwegian and I've lived here all my life. But my impression is that the less time you've lived in Norway, the less fluent you are in Norwegian, the more often you will meet prejudice." She said that the response showed that Norwegians were not afraid to discuss the problem of racism in their country. "What's surprising is that many people who are ethnic Norwegians also shared stories from people in their circles who have uttered racist comments."
© The Local - Norway
Hungary far-right Jobbik party 2nd most popular among young and middle-aged voters
The older Hungarian people are the more willing they appear to be to cast their ballot at the upcoming elections, Hungarian pollster Tárki found in its latest survey, which showed a steady Fidesz lead in all age groups. Whereas the Socialist Party (MSZP) is more popular among older voters, the views of far-right radical Jobbik party fall on fertile ground among the younger voters.
19/11/2013- The younger voters were the least certain (63% of the respondents) whether they will turn up or not at the polls, whereas the oldest respondents were the ones with their minds made up the most about this issue (77%). This kind of firmness grows with age - with some fluctuations between age 23 and 52 -, but the ratio of those with a clear idea whether they want to vote or not was over 70% in age groups above 53. The ratio of those willing to cast their ballot is higher than of those willing to stay away from the election in every age group, but the difference between the two intentions within the specific age groups greatly differs. Among the youngest respondents the former group is almost as large as the latter, and the willingness to turn out at the booths grows with age until the ratio of those intending to vote becomes fourfold of the ratio of those who do not in the 63-67 age group.
The ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition remains the leader in terms of approval ratings in every age group. There is some fluctuation in this between the two age groups between 23 and 32-year-olds (see chart below), which has to do with the fact that the ratio of those favouring Jobbik is much smaller in the 28-32 age group than in the 23-27 age group. The ratio of voters supporting MSZP and Jobbik is almost the same in the 43-47 age group, whereas the far-right radical party is more popular among younger people and the Socialists are preferred by more among older voters. After this turning point the popularity of Jobbik wanes almost persistently (and virtually vanishes among people older than 68 years of age), while exactly the opposite can be said about the MSZP (and the party’s approval rating almost reaches Fidesz highs). The approval rating of Együtt 2014-PM is the highest in the 43-57 age group (12-13%), whereas LMP (Politics Can Be Different) becomes less popular with age, dropping to 1-2% from 7-8% and the Democratic Coalition gains popularity among older age groups (to 3-4% from 1-2%).
© Portfolio Hungary
Anti-racism monitors spotlight Ukraine after nationalist march
19/11/2013- Anti-racism monitors on Tuesday threw the spotlight on Ukraine fans after a march by nationalist hardliners ahead of their 2014 World Cup qualifying playoff against France. "Radical nationalist political statements do not belong in international football," said Rafal Pankowski of the Never Again Association, which monitors the East European game for the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network. Ukraine fans' behaviour is in sharp focus amid their country's playoffs against France -- the two nations meet Tuesday for the return leg in Paris, after France lost 2-0 on Friday. Shortly before Friday's match in Kiev, Pankowski said, more than 500 fans marched on the streets brandishing red and black flags, which repeatedly have sparked controversy. The flag, whose colours stand for blood and soil, is commonly used by Ukrainian far-right and nationalist groups.
FARE was mandated by European football's governing body UEFA to draw up a list of xenophobic and offensive symbols in the run-up to Euro 2012, hosted by Ukraine and neighbouring Poland, and the flag was among them. "On some occasions the flags were removed from display in recent domestic league games," noted Pankowski. The flag was the banner of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA), which during World War II allied with Nazi Germany and massacred Jews and Poles -- making its display at a qualifier against Poland last month all the more controversial. But Ukraine's nationalist Svoboda party and others argue that history has been slanted against the UIA, which also fought the Soviets in a vain effort to win independence, and that honouring it in stadiums is legitimate.
Svoboda, whose supporters range from neo-Nazis and hardcore nationalists to corruption-weary mainstream voters, is now the fourth-largest party in Ukraine's parliament. Last month, it was rebuked by world football's governing body FIFA after a Svoboda delegation including lawmakers visited FIFA's Swiss base, posing inside and outside the building with a large flag. Ukraine were already in trouble over racist taunts against Brazilian-born Ukraine player Edmar by his own fans during a September home qualifier against San Marino, plus Nazi salutes and the display of SS symbols. FIFA ordered Ukraine to play their next qualifier behind closed doors and imposed a five-year ban on international matches in Lviv, the western city which is the hub of the nationalist movement, but Ukraine appealed and the sanction remains suspended pending a new hearing.
Six European far-right groups join forces
Six European far-right parties are joining forces ahead of EU-wide elections in May, in a bid to contain Brussels and take back national powers, Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe) announced Monday.
19/11/2013- Representatives of Frances Front National (FN), Italy’s Lega Nord, the Sweden Democrats, Belgiums Vlaams Belang and the Slovak National Party met Friday in Vienna to discuss an alliance that will put Europe “back on the right track,” FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache told reporters. “There are many important patriotic parties in Europe that have recognised problems and are prepared to work together,” he said. After European parliamentary elections in May, there is a “real chance that with the partnership that were working on we can have a strong parliamentary group,” he added. The alliance will be formalised after all party leaders have met. Strache did not say when this might occur. The Vienna meeting came just two days after FN leader Marine Le Pen and Dutch anti-Islamic leader Geert Wilders announced a “historic” alliance of eurosceptic parties to fight the EU elections.
Wilders’s PVV party was not present in Vienna but Strache said he would soon meet with the notorious Dutch politician. Previous attempts at European alliances between the FN, FPOe and other far-right parties in recent years have failed to bear fruit. But now, “influential big parties are talking to each other and are united in their position... Before, we had small splinter groups or the big parties didn’t talk to each other. This is different,” Strache insisted. Polls have shown significant support for the Front National and Lega Nord at home and in Austrian general elections in September, the FPOe finished a strong third with 20.5 percent of votes.
© The News - Pakistan
Danish far-right party swaps mayorship for meatballs
21/11/2013- The anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DPP) agreed Thursday to abandon a closely-fought mayoral campaign in suburban Copenhagen if the current mayor promised to serve more pork meatballs in public canteens. After municipal elections on Tuesday in the town of Hvidovre, just south of the capital, the DPP's candidate Mikkel Dencker looked to be on his way to victory. But after a day of wrangling, Dencker agreed to let the ruling Social Democrat mayor keep her job -- if she agreed to serve more traditional Danish fare in canteens, and bring back the town's official Christmas tree. "Things like open-faced sandwiches, minced meat, Danish roast pork and meatballs... The main rule is that traditional Danish food should be served," Dencker told AFP. Dencker had campaigned on a promise to bring back traditional Danish meatballs known as "frikadeller" after claiming that Denmark was "losing its identity" when some public nurseries removed them from the menu. Thursday's deal did not include an outright ban on halal-slaughtered meat in public institutions such as hospitals and nurseries, which the DPP has also campaigned for. With a sluggish Danish economy helping the party have a strong showing in Tuesday's local elections, the DPP became the second largest party in Hvidovre after the Social Democrats.
Denmark's populists on the rise
The latest surveys indicate that Denmark's far-right Danish People's Party is poised to do well in local elections. This could be a boost for similar parties across Europe, which aim to join forces.
19/11/2013- Gwyn Nissen is relaxed. The importance of the Danish People's Party (DF) should not be overestimated, he says. "Compared with other right-wing populist parties in Europe, DF is a light version." The editor of the German-language Danish newspaper "Nordschleswiger" says the DF appears more moderate than similar parties elsewhere and is therefore a special case when it comes to the modern European right, he said. Nevertheless, the performance of the euroskeptic party in municipal polls on Tuesday (19.11.2013) will be watched from far beyond Scandinavia. A successful result for the DF would be a small, but strong, signal for rising far right parties in other European countries.
Rebound on the right
Six months before elections to the European Parliament in May, these parties are concentrating their forces. Last week, Geert Wilders of the Netherlands and France's Marine Le Pen met in The Hague to propose a joint parliamentary group for all parties on the right in the European Parliament. Both politicians are riding a wave of success in their countries, sometimes even leading in opinion surveys. Should they be able to form a viable group in the new European Parliament, they would not only get more money from the EU budget, but also earn the right to present resolutions. That would potentially allow these euroskeptic parties to block the parliament's political work. A group in the European Parliament must have at least 25 members from seven countries.
Parties with differing roots
Political scientist Kai Arzheimer of the University of Mainz doubts that the far right parties will be able to form a coherent group. "Past experience shows that it is very difficult for them to come to a lasting partnership." Six years ago, one such attempt failed after just ten months. Then, Italian politician Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of her country's wartime dictator, came into conflict with five parliamentarians from Romania. Newspaper reports said members of the Greater Romania Party accused her of "comparing Gypsy criminals with the entire Romanian population." Arzheimer says one cause of such pointless strife is the difficult personalities of many far right politicians: "They usually have a big ego." But differences in political roots can also lead to a failure to cooperate. France's National Front originated in a heavily Catholic environment and was characterized by a pro-colonial stance, he said. "In the early years there were also connections to French right-wing terrorism." The Danish DF is free of this historical burden and therefore also follows a more cautious approach, he said. The Danish party has already made clear that it would not join a far right alliance in the European Parliament.
Joining the government through adroit negotiations
There are many potential areas of conflict. One of these is the issue of free trade. "Le Pen has protectionist tendencies," Arzheimer said. The DF, on the other hand, represents liberal positions. But the populist Danish party should not be underestimated: "The DF draws a lot of support for its opposition to immigration, but also because of its anti-Islamic stance." The party was highly vocal in the 2005 conflict over cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, which it said was a fight for freedom of expression in the West. By that time, the DF had already become part of the political establishment in Denmark. From 2001 to 2011 it supported the conservative-liberal minority government. That makes it electable for many Danes, Nissen said. In polls ahead of local elections it is drawing between 8 and 12 percent of potential voters in large municipalities. That makes it Denmark's fourth-largest party, behind the Liberals, the Social Democrats and the Radical Left Party, a good percentage in the relatively fragmented party landscape in Denmark. In Aarhus, the country's second-largest city, DF is polling 11.7 percent. Nissen says it is possible the party could join the municipal government there. "At the local level, there is a very broad scope to gain a majority in Denmark. " This means that in practice politicians swap ideology for jobs after the election is over. It is even conceivable that Aarhus could soon have a DF mayor.
© The Deutsche Welle.
Hundreds Join Macedonia Anti-Discrimination March
Several hundred people joined the country’s fifth annual Tolerance March in the capital Skopje to protest against discrimination and violence.
18/11/2013- The march, held on Saturday under the slogan ‘Macedonia has Love for All’, this year attempted to highlight attacks on gay rights activists and violence among schoolchildren. “This year we are saying no to the violence that the government tolerates, fails to penalise, and fails to find those responsible for it. As a consequence, violence becomes commonplace and hurts everyone who is different,” said Uranija Pirovska, the head of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, which organised the event alongside the Macedonian LGBT Centre, the NGO Civil – Centre for Freedom and others. Participants were reminded of the several attacks on Skopje’s gay and lesbian community centre and its activists over the course of the year, particularly in June, when rights groups tried to stage a gay pride week. Despite the fact that the perpetrators were caught on video, the authorities have yet to bring them to justice.
The head of the NGO Civil, Xhabir Deralla, spoke of a “worrying increase in violence” in 2013, as well as “a tendency of increased violence among youth”. Another of the groups taking part in the march, the NGO Youth Education Forum, raised concerns about youth gang violence in schoolyards and on public transport. “Our research shows that 52 per cent of high school students in Skopje only occasionally feel safe in buses while 19 per cent never feel safe. Forty-nine per cent think that it is relatively easy to get a gun,” the Youth Education Forum said in a statement. The march stated symbolically at five minutes till noon in front of the government building and ended with a cultural programme at the entrance to Skopje’s Old Bazaar.
© Balkan Insight
Sweden Democrat head snubbed by Nobel
The Nobel Foundation has declined to invite Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson to its annual banquet for the fourth consecutive year, finding no cause change its stance that the party's anti-immigrant values contradict the spirit of Alfred Nobel's will.
18/11/2013- All other seven party leaders have been invited and have accepted the invitation for the Nobel dinner which will take place in Stockholm City Hall on December 10th. "We can say that the board found no reason to revisit the decision taken in 2010. We are a private foundation and are free to invite whoever we wish," said Nobel Foundation spokesperson Annika Pontikis. 2013 marks the fourth year running that Åkesson has been the only party leader not to have been extended an invitation. "It comes across very clearly that no consideration should be made to nationality affiliation. SD's values stand in direct contravention of this," said Michael Sohlman, Executive Director of the Nobel Foundation said in 2010, by way of explanation. Åkesson has in recent years take the snub lightly, pointing out last year that 'he was in good company' as some nine million other Swedes would not be attending. He has however also complained, claiming that the decision is politically motivated and pointing out that Michael Sohlman is a Social Democrat. The Nobel banquet is traditionally attended by the Swedish royal family, political leaders, Nobel prize winners and a host of other dignitaries. The dinner is the culmination of a week of festivities in Stockholm which begins on December 5th with a serious of press conferences and lectures.
© The Local - Sweden
Stockholm mosque hit in pig's trotters attack (Sweden)
Police suspect vandalism after pig's trotters were thrown into a mosque near Stockholm after the windows of the building's main door were smashed in on Monday morning.
18/11/2013- "Shortly before 11am we received a call from the mosque" in Fittja, police official Ulf Lindgren told AFP. "The person had just arrived and found pig's trotters inside." In Islam, pork meat is considered impure. "We have classified this as an act of vandalism," Lindgren said. "But insofar as it is pig's trotters, it could be something else." Police are looking for witnesses in the area and have no suspects so far. "In Sweden, pig's trotters are a traditional dish around Christmas time. You can buy them easily," Lindgren said. The mosque was the focus of attention in the spring as it hosted the first public call to prayer from a mosque in Sweden. The prayer call, on the last Friday in April, came following a decision earlier in the month by local police who ruled that it wouldn't violate local noise ordinances. The ruling allowed the prayer call for between three to five minutes on Fridays between midday and 1pm. Back in September, local government officials had approved the move in principle, voting in favour of scrapping a 1994 prohibition on allowing prayer calls, which dated back from before the construction of the mosque. The mosque was built in 2007 in the municipality's Fittja district and has over 1,500 members.
© The Local - Sweden
Racism is nesting in Europe (opinion)
Whether it be in the form of taunts against French and Italian ministers, monkey cries directed at footballers, Islamophobia, or discrimination against the Roma, unabashed racism is increasingly common. Author Tahar Ben Jelloun warns against making any concessions on an issue that must be tackled by more education.
18/11/2013- Racism is part of human nature. We should bear this in mind so that we can prevent it, and fight against it with laws. But that’s not enough. We must also dismantle its mechanisms and demonstrate the absurdity of its foundations by educating people, and remaining vigilant. These days, French society is perceived as virulently racist, but on a fundamental level it is no more racist than others. The rejection of the foreign, that which is different, that which is considered to be a threat to our security, is a universal reflex that leaves no society untouched. Racism can in some cases focus on one community, but this does not mean that others will not also be affected by it. There is no discrimination in the exercise of hatred. Everyone has to endure it.
Today in Europe we are witnessing incidents that are serious, because racism which begins with words can also be implemented by crematoria. To refer to [French Minister of Justice] Christiane Taubira as an “ugly female ape” in a demonstration against gay marriage late in October is just the beginning. If left alone, it is a short step from insults to physical punishment, then to torture (the case of the young Ilan Halimi) and to murder. That’s why it’s wise to remember that there is no racism “lite”, nor is there a decaffeinated version. Mrs Taubira can regret that no political leaders spoke out against the racism to which she had been subjected. Another minister suffered the same treatment in Italy, where Minister of Integration Cecile Kyenge, originally from the Congo (Kinshasa), was insulted by high-level members of the Northern League, who are known for their racist views.
Black football players are also the target of entrenched racism. When a head of government sets out to obtain a cheap laugh by referring to “Obama’s tan", he is effectively encouraging those who would otherwise not dare to speak out to unburden themselves and give free rein to their rank ideas.
An easy attitude to adopt
The fact that Europe has gradually lost its prominence in the world, not only economically but culturally, promotes an acrimony that is likely to transform into a contempt of everything that is different. Spain has not yet cleaned up its relationship with Islam. Immigrants from the Maghreb are called "Mauros", a pejorative term that recalls the sad episode of the Inquisition. The economic crisis has not improved matters. People are always suspicious of those who are poorer or more foreign than themselves. That is what makes racism an easy attitude to adopt in dealing with the hardships of life: a reflex that finds someone to blame. It used to be Jews; now it is Muslims.
While racism has always existed, there are plenty of politicians today who use it to serve their own interests. It is easier to spread hatred of foreigners than respect for difference. Humankind has a tendency to indulge its baser instincts, especially in situations where it is undermined by an inability to cope. Racism is mental laziness and a refusal to think. There will be always someone to think for you, and to make noxious software much easier to parse. We are told today that not all members of the National Front are racist. Perhaps. But all racists are surely welcome within the party, provided that they are discreet about their beliefs. As long as the main concern of the politicians is to ensure their re-election, we will continue to see the most disgraceful degradations. Add to that the effectiveness of the new make-over of the National Front, to make it respectable and even banal.
The attempt to shake off the party’s label as “far right" is an interesting signal. If it were only a matter of words, one could admit that the extremist aspect has been replaced by something deeper and more dangerous: the trivialisation of prejudice and xenophobia.
Children must be taught
To combat the ideas of this party, there should be a systematic response every time one of its leaders proclaims false truths or proposes a programme that is not only unworkable but can be disastrous for our country. Besides this vigilance, which is sorely lacking in all the opposing political parties, there is a need to push on in schools with in-depth education over the long term. Children must be taught, while their spirit is still reachable, what racism is based on; they should be taught its history, its devastation, its inhumanity. We must say and say again that fear and ignorance are the two sources that nourish this scourge, and that with knowledge and intelligence, through debate and by breaking down taboos, it is easy to take apart its mechanism. There is a need to tackle all subjects and not to turn a blind eye to the excesses of those who, reacting to the stigma they encounter, also become racist.
Asserting and proving that races do not exist will not of itself eliminate racism, obviously, but at least it is a truth that will shake some certainties. Often, when the annoyances are at their worst, racist tendencies seem to be proliferating and racism to be on the increase; the reality, though, is that it has always been among us, lurking in the mind, ready to catch its breath when we sense a threat to our well-being and the arrogant need to feel alive – and above all, to think we are superior to others.
This article originally appeared in La Republica. Translated from the Italian by Anton Baer
© Press Europe
File under: Dutch Liberalism (opinion)
In the Netherlands, many people convince themselves that racism is something that exists elsewhere–in South Africa, for example, or in the United States. For theirs is a ‘tolerant,’ liberal nation. To maintain the facade, often blatant acts of racism are downplayed, rationalized or swept away. As an exercise, see some of the comments on our Facebook page whenever we post something about racism in the Netherlands.
By Chandra Frank & Serginho Roosblad
21/11/2013- We have written before about the Dutch blackface tradition of Zwarte Piet (in English: Black Pete), and what passes for ‘debate’ on the topic annually about this time of the year. This year though the debate about Zwarte Piet — dressed in a golliwog-style wig, pronounced red lips and gold earrings — has reached new levels, confronting in the process what many for a long time have tried to address: racism in Dutch society.
In September, anti-racist and black activists pressured the Amsterdam municipality to have a public hearing into whether to give permission for Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) festivities during Sinterklaas’ “helper” Zwarte Piet would be prominent. (The public hearing was a victory, though the municipality eventually did grant the permit.) Then Verene Shepherd, chairperson of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, told a TV program that “she would object to the character of Zwarte Piet if she lived in the Netherlands.” The result was a nasty racist backlash against Shepherd. Nearly 2 million people “liked” a Facebook page that expressed support for Zwarte Piet. Racist remarks in traditional and on social media were common and, as CNN reports, death threats made against anti-Zwarte Piet activists.
Dutch, and some international media, have created the impression that there is a vigorous debate on Zwarte Piet and racism in the Netherlands. This is simply not true. Instead, what we have is a ‘debate’ hijacked by white Dutch intellectuals who downplay the racist nature of Zwarte Piet by arguing that he is an archetype not related to slavery. In the process they overlook how Zwarte Piet is embedded in the racist colonial legacy of the Netherlands. (There are exceptions in the media, with mostly non-Dutch media critically unpacking Dutch race relations. Have a look, for example, at the reporting by the New York Times and the BBC in the last few days.) Some Dutch people defend Zwarte Piet on the grounds that it is not racist, but understand that some black people might feel offended. Yet, what they fail to grasp is that it is not about feelings, but institutional: that the Netherlands upholds, celebrates and exploits a racist caricature, something that should concern every Dutch citizen.
Discourses of ‘race’ and ‘racism’ rarely enter debate and discussion. Racism is seen as too strong a concept to use, sullying a celebration associated with a children’s party and a national holiday (see the reaction of a grown man in blackface telling the BBC reporter, at the link above, how he’s only trying to make the children happy). Another frequently used argument by the pro-Zwarte Piet camp is that people should be looking at ‘real racism’ rather than interfering with a longstanding innocent festivity for children. In doing so, the perceived innocent experience of children is understood as neutral while the experience of black people is being infantilized and dismissed. To oppose Zwarte Piet equals inauthentic citizenship. Imagined tolerance is used as an excuse to utter personal racist attacks and to uphold a superior position towards black citizens. If you can’t adapt, leave and go back to Africa or the Caribbean, they shout. “Reverse-racism” charges by white Dutch people are common, with some even filing complaints at anti-discrimination bureaus arguing that ‘others’ want to take away their national blackface hero.
Yet no less an authority than the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) of the Council of Europe has expressed itself clearly on how racism is woven into the fabric of Dutch society. ECRI details how:
… certain politicians and media often portray Islam and Muslims, as well as the arrival of Eastern Europeans, as a threat to Dutch society. The criminal-law response to some of these statements has been criticised. There is no national inclusion strategy for Roma. Bills with discriminatory implications have been announced to regulate the settlement in the Netherlands of Dutch citizens from parts of the Antilles. The integration tests have several questionable aspects.
The Commission was explicit about how Dutch law fails to attack racism and racial discrimination:
The acts listed in the criminal law provisions against racism and racial discrimination are not prohibited on grounds of citizenship and language. There is no provision explicitly establishing racist motivation as a specific aggravating circumstance in sentencing. There is concern over the interpretation given to the provisions prohibiting racist insults and incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence, particularly when applied in the context of political discourse. The authorities have cut the funds of the Complaints Bureau for Discrimination, which receives complaints about racist offenses committed through the Internet.
The report also calls upon all political parties to take a firm stand against racism. So far politicians have dismissed the severity of the ECRI report and brushed off arguments against Zwarte Piet. Prime Minister Mark Rutte couldn’t do any better than to state that Zwarte Piet “just happens to be black” and that he could do nothing about it. Eberhard van der Laan, the mayor of Amsterdam, responded to the complaints made at the public hearing via a public letter. In his response Van der Laan stated he would not call the festivities racist and that it would be good to strive for an inclusive festivity in the course of five to ten years. Van der Laan aligned himself with Hoofdpiet Erik van Muiswinkel (basically the national chief of the Zwarte Pieten) who wrote that Zwarte Piet must of course stay but that the figure must become “less black” and be less of a servant. Needless to say, such responses of politicians are offensive and degrading. Sinterklaas is now protected by nine armed police officers dressed as Zwarte Piet to protect him from those who supposedly mean him harm. It doesn’t seem to matter that the racist remarks and death threats were targeted against those who oppose Zwarte Piet.
Critical voices, such as Egbert Alejandro Martina and Zinhi Özdil, who have offered intellectual insights with regard to Zwarte Piet and Dutch racism, have been swiftly put aside as Allochtone Twitter Intellectuelen (Allochthonous Twitter Intellectuals) merely concerned over futile issues. The descriptor “allochtoon” meaning “other tone” is used to describe black and non-Western Dutch citizens, residents and immigrants and point to racial hierarchies in the society. In response to the racist backlash and serious threats against black people and critical voices, some activists have circulated a public statement. Among the organizers were Martina and Özdil. The statement clearly explains and links Zwarte Piet to anti-black racism and other forms of dehumanization that are taking place in the Netherlands:
We would like to reiterate that Zwarte Piet is racism and the protests against Zwarte Piet are not a deviation from a wider struggle against all forms of oppression. In addition, the protests against Zwarte Piet are not new. There are and have been countless others who have inspired this struggle and cleared the path long ago.
Zwarte Piet is on par with other forms of dehumanization through racialization, such as racial profiling, racism in the labour market, and the violence inherent in Dutch asylum policy. Our protest against Zwarte Piet is situated in a broader ongoing decolonial anti-racist project. Within the mainstream Dutch public sphere the tone is that people are ‘getting tired’ of the debate on racism and Zwarte Piet. Racism has become something to laugh about. Predictably someone’s already made and posted a Hitler-parody video on YouTube. Yet what can’t be denied is that racism is deeply imbedded in Dutch society and should not be viewed as the exception but rather as part of the normative framework in which society operates. What the ‘debate’ on Zwarte Piet and racism has shown is how black bodies are systematically oppressed, critical voices are silenced, and how the normativity of white power continues to determine the rules of engagement.
© Africa is a Country
Slur blurs racism and humor line (Netherlands)
22/11/2013- After “Holland’s Got Talent” host Gordon brought the tolerance of the Netherlands in question earlier this week when he made derogatory remarks about a Chinese contender, the country’s reputation received yet another blow when another RTL television program became the center of ongoing debate about racism. RTL Late Night talk show host Humberto Tan was told by actor Jack Spijkerman, “My God, you’re not only dark [skinned], you’re dumb as well.” The audience reacted with shock and Tan, of Surinamese descent, was dumbfounded. Spijkerman seemed to think he had done no wrong when he followed up his remark by saying, “I can say that. To him I can.” The broadcast was televised on November 8, and has become viral online following the “Holland’s Got Talent” incident.
Racism in the Netherlands has become a hot topic in recent months, spurred on by heightening protests against the caricature of Zwarte Piet, the helper of bearded do-gooder Sinterklaas who brings children gifts. Many black people in the country feel offended by the Zwarte Piet portrayal, which counters the beliefs of many white Dutchmen who say the black-faced, red-lipped, nappy-headed helper is a treasured Dutch tradition that should not be disturbed. The protests drew the attention of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR). Independent human rights experts looking into the issue at the behest of the UNHCR called on the Dutch Government to take the lead in the ongoing debate about whether it is time the tradition undergoes a change.
These issues have left the country wondering where the division between satire, fun and racism exists. Writing about the Zwarte Piet debate in October, newspaper columnist Asha ten Broeke questioned whether “White fun is more important than Black pain.” “I don’t see the joke,” Lamyae Aharouay, another columnist wrote on Thursday, as she described Gordon’s behavior toward the Chinese “Holland’s Got Talent” contender. When introduced to singer Xiao Wang, Gordon asked, “What number are you singing, number 39 with rice?” A smattering of the audience laughed at the remark.
A singer who moonlights as TV presenter, Gordon seemed not at all aware that he was being racially insensitive when Xiao Wang performed Verdi’s “La donna è mobile”. He made fun of the man’s origin, of the stereotypical Chinese inability to pronounce the letter “L”, and acted surprised that Wang actually sang beautifully. Gordon said, “I tell you honestly, this is the best Chinese I had in weeks.” Gordon burst out in a laugh, along with several in the audience. After voting the amateur singer into the next round, American choreographer Dan Karaty criticized fellow panelist Gordon.
“We’re very tolerant in the Netherlands; to the extent that we tolerate racism. It is totally normal to make jokes on TV about the color of someone’s skin or his origin. And if you are not OK with it, then you are the one who is leftist, sour or just a huge pain in the butt,” the columnist wrote. Spijkerman’s comments on RTL Late Night were reminiscent to some of a highly criticized lyric in a children’s Sinterklaas song: “Even though I am black as soot, I still mean good.”
© The NL Times
Holland’s Got Talent Racist Judge Gordon Should be Sacked, Simon Cowell Told
22/11/2013- Simon Cowell has been pulled into the row over a television judge's racist digsat a talent show contestant with an online petition demanding that the judge be sacked. Cornelis Heuckeroth, who goes under the stage name of Gordon, made a number of snide comments mocking singer Xiao Wang's ethnicity during Holland's Got Talent, a programme ultimately under the control of Cowell. "Racism isn't a laughing matter," Avinash Sampath, am Amsterdam-based activist who launched the petition on Change.org website, said. "This shouldn't be swept under the carpet of 'Oh! This is how we crack jokes in Holland!' The petition urged Cowell to sack Heuckeroth "for his blatantly racist remarks at Xiao Wang".
"The comments got under my skin," Sampath told IBTimes UK. "It's 2013 and no one deserves to be insulted or mocked because of where they are from. And definitely not on television. "I understand that Simon Cowell takes personal interest in picking the judges in every country his franchise rolls out in," Sampath said. "So I'm hoping he'll sit up and take notice." "It's high time to teach Gordon and racist colleagues a lesson. Not having Gordon on TV is generally a good idea for humanity," said subscriber R Coenen. "I'm utterly ashamed of your show and am not watching any more," added Lachlan Hayman.
Heuckeroth, a 45-year-old Dutch singer turned television presenter, fired a series of cheap shots at Xiao, a PhD business student of Chinese descent before and after his performance. "Which number are you singing? Number 39 with rice?" Heuckeroth asked Xiao after the contestant announced he was to sing an operatic aria. "Surplise. Honestly, this is the best Chinese I've had in weeks. And it's not a takeaway," he added after the performance. A video of the incident was initially posted on YouTube by the show's Dutch broadcasted RTL but was later taken down. It has been reposted by other users. A spokesman for Fremantle Media, which owns the "Got Talent" franchise, said the company was "trying to get to the bottom" of the incident but had no further comment. No one at RTL was available for a comment as we published.
© The International Business Times
Holland’s Got Talent judge cracks racist jokes
Holland’s Got Talent judge Gordon Heuckeroth has come in for criticism after making a series of racist slurs on Chinese contestant Xiao Wang.
20/11/2013- The singer-turned-reality judge chose to focus on Mr Xiao’s ethnicity rather than his operatic voice, asking him: ‘Which number are you singing, number 39 with rice?’ to groans from the crowd. Heuckeroth kept up the cheap gags, later opting for the old confusion of L’s and R’s cliche when he said the performer’s voice was a ‘surplise’. ‘Honestly, this is the best Chinese I had in weeks’ he continued, adding as if anyone was yet to get the joke: ‘and it’s not a takeaway!’ Then, just when you thought he had exhausted his idiocy, Heuckeroth concluded with the backhanded compliment that he never expected such a voice to come from someone who ‘looks like a scientist’.
Mr Xiao was forced to laugh off the jokes, but the same could not be said for viewers around the world, with one Reddit user commenting: ‘I hate this show. Let’s have a bunch of beautiful celebrities mock the plebeians, and every now and then, we’ll act so surprised when one of these filthy commoners belch out a tune so we say, “Despite all your obvious flaws, you managed to sing. Isn’t that something?” Holland’s Got Talent is currently in its sixth season, and sees Heuckeroth joined on the judging panel by Dutch actress Chantal Janzen and American choreographer Dan Karaty. Let’s all take the semi-high road and laugh at Heuckeroth questionable dance-pop hit Kom Eens Dichterbij instead.
© Metro UK
UN body calls for end to 'virulent intolerance' for Zwarte Piet critics (Netherlands)
21/11/2013- The UN group which became embroiled in the debate about the role of Zwarte Piet in the Sinterklaas celebrations says it is ‘deeply troubled by the virulent intolerance’ of people who could not understand critics of the character. In a statement issued on Thursday, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, called on the Dutch government to take the lead in facilitating the national debate on the role of Zwarte Piet, in order to ‘promote understanding, mutual respect and intercultural dialogue’. The working party said it had asked the Dutch government to comment on concerns from individuals and organisations about the portrayal of Zwarte Piet and what steps had been taken to address the concerns. ‘This was not an "investigation", nor was there any intention to reach a judgment,’ the statement said.
‘In late October, we began to receive disturbing reactions, including threats and insults,’ the statement said. ‘We were deeply troubled by the virulent intolerance expressed by those who could not understand that there might be problems with the way Zwarte Piet is presented or that the presentation might be perceived negatively.’ In addition, since the debate has escalated ‘people of African descent report being subjected to even greater racial abuse and ridicule’, the working party said.
Acknowledging that the future of the Zwarte Piet character is up to the people of the Netherlands to discuss and decide, the working party went on to call for calm. ‘In the meantime we ask for calm and an end to the abuse directed at opponents of the tradition in the Netherlands and the UN Experts,’ the statement said. The working party's chairwoman Verene Shepherd was attacked in the Dutch media after giving an interview in which she said she did not understand that 'people in the Netherlands do not see [Zwarte Piet] is a throwback to slavery and that in the 21st century this practice should stop.’ She also said she did not see why the Netherlands wanted two Santa Clauses. Every year the discussion flares up about the role of Zwarte Piet, played by a white person in black face make-up with a wig, red lips and gold earrings. This year protestors tried to have the traditional Sinterklaas procession in Amsterdam banned because of the role of Zwarte Piet.
Read the UN group's statement.
© The Dutch News
Racist Dutch tradition comes under fire
19/11/2013- When Santa Claus comes to town in Amsterdam, it's not a cluster of elves leaping around the robust figure in red waving at cheering children and adults. The dancing figures are "Black Petes" – white Netherlanders in blackface wearing Afro wigs. Servants of St. Nick, they are variously Black Pete playing music or singing; Black Pete on horseback; Black Pete on stilts and Black Pete climbing up the façade of department stores or cavorting atop six-story buildings. This year, members of the country's black community demanded an end to the century-old tradition of "Zwarte Pieten," or Black Pete and the racist imagery. At a rally of several hundred over the weekend, protestors carried signs saying "Free Pete" and "Let Me Love You Again, Netherlands." One sign with a picture of President Obama read, in English, "Leave Our Face Out of It!" "Black Pete anywhere in the world would not be accepted," said activist Quincy Gario of St. Maarten, a Dutch territory in the Caribbean. Gario was arrested in 2011 for wearing a t-shirt that read "Zwarte Piet is Racisme" at a Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) parade.
"We here in the Netherlands have a blind spot towards our colonial history, towards racism, towards structural inequality," he told the German news agency Deutsche Welle. Gario believes he speaks for many other citizens with roots in the former Dutch empire. Still, the majority of the country supports Black Pete. Last month a Facebook petition received two million "likes" - that's in a nation of just under 17 million residents. And a recent poll revealed that more than 90 percent of the country would not change Black Pete's appearance. The debate over Black Pete reached a new level this year when Verene Shepherd, who chairs the U.N.'s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, denounced the character on Dutch radio, calling Black Pete a "throwback to slavery." She said: "If I were living in The Netherlands, I would object to it." Her comments irritated many in the Netherlands who felt she was uninformed. "There is racism in Holland no doubt - in any country," said Erik van Muiswinkel, who played Black Pete on national TV for 16 years.... But I don't have the feeling that getting rid of him would solve any of our racist issues."
© Insight News
Protesters shun 'racist' Black Pete in Amsterdam festival (Netherlands)
18/11/2013- Tens of thousands of people crowded Amsterdam's streets on Sunday to watch the traditional holiday arrival of Saint Nicholas as a handful joined a silent protest against his sidekick "Black Pete", which they said was a racist symbol. The debate over Black Pete has reached a fever pitch in the last weeks in the Netherlands, highlighting the issue of racism in a country that prides itself on open-minded values. It has even sparked a UN rights probe. Two months ago 21 Dutch citizens filed complaints against Black Pete's presence at the annual Saint Nicholas arrival festival, a move that has split opinion in the country of 16.7 million people. The complainants, many of whom are descendants of people from former Dutch colonies like Suriname and Curacao, asked Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan to pull the permit for the festival because of Black Pete's presence.
Their request was turned down and on Sunday demonstrators taped their mouths and turned their backs as thousands of spectators cheered Saint Nicholas' arrival in the city centre, accompanied by hundreds of Black Petes. "Black Pete reminds us of a time when black people were enslaved. It's not appropriate in 2013," said one of the protesters, Kenneth Brammerloo, 52, wearing a T-shirt depicting Black Pete's face with a "no-entry" sign over it. "The only way to tell people that Black Pete is a racist caricature is to educate them about it," Roelof-Jan Minneboo, one of the organisers, told AFP, adding that there were demonstrations being staged at various spots in the city. At its famous Dam Square, around 75 demonstrators, many wearing anti-Black Pete T-shirts, turned their backs in silent protest as Saint Nick and his helpers passed by.
The invention of a Dutch school teacher, Black Pete has since 1850 been loyally at the side of Saint Nicholas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus or Father Christmas. Saint Nicholas and his helpers traditionally "arrive" with a gift-filled boat from Spain on the third weekend of November. Three weeks later, on December 5, the Dutch give each other gifts said to have been distributed by Saint Nicholas -- a Turkish bishop wearing a long red gown and mitre -- and Black Pete. Dressed in a gaudy medieval costume, with a blackened face, red lips and an afro wig, Pete is seen by many ordinary Dutch as a harmless prankster cheering up a children's festival. Opponents however say the character recalls the time when Dutch colonists exploited slaves, notably in the Caribbean colonies of Suriname and Curacao. While many festivalgoers on Sunday said they disagreed with the protest, they believed there should be a debate about the issue of Black Pete.
"But ultimately, it must remain just what it was intended for -- a children's festival," added Dennis Wierenga, 42, who brought his two boys, aged two and four, to watch Saint Nicholas' arrival. "The protest is totally ridiculous," said another woman, 72, who declined to give her name. "The whole of the Netherlands are against these people." Although the debate surfaces every year, the row is particularly bitter this year after the Jamaican chair of a committee at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Verene Shepherd, bluntly told Dutch television that "the practice must stop".
Right-wing extremists, opponents gather in Prague (Czech Rep.)
17/11/2013- A march of about 200 far-right extremists walked through the centre of Prague, being watched by the police, this afternoon, but no conflict occurred, Prague police spokesman Jan Danek has told CTK. Only after the marchers left the Prague centre, the police let their opponents stage their own rally that wanted to prevent the former, Danek said. Thanks to this, the hostile groups did not clash, he added. The followers of the extra-parliamentary Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS) were called by its associated Workers' Youth for an "anti-regime" rally. They estimated the number of marchers at 300, but the figure was about 100 smaller. The DSSS is a successor to the Workers' Party (DS) outlawed over its xenophobia and racism. When marching through the Prague centre, the demonstrators chanted "Radically, Socially, Nationally," "Europe, Youth, Revolution," "Nothing but Nation" (the slogan of the Czech far-right in the 1930s) and "Czech Lands to Czechs."
After two hours, DSSS leader Tomas Vandas ended the rally with a short speech, in which he called the protesters the "only real opposition to the current regime." A speech was also delivered by a representative of the Jungen Nationaldemokraten, the youth organisation of the extreme-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). He criticised capitalism and globalisation and demanded a strong Europe of nations. The organisation unfurled its own banner at the rally. Ordered by the police, the extremists had to change the planned route of their march in order to prevent a clash with about 500 opponents of the extreme right. Following the appeal by the No to Racism group, the protesters met and also staged a march through the Prague centre this afternoon.
© The Prague Daily Monitor
Bulgarian Roma Muster Self-Defense Teams in Answer to Far-Right Militias
21/11/2013- A Roma organization in Bulgaria has created a platform for self-defense groups in response to reports of far-right vigilante patrols roaming the streats of Bulgarian capital Sofia. The platform is called Organization of Minorities for Defense against Violence (OMON), and has been created by the National Center for the Development of Roma in Bulgaria, reports Dnevnik.bg. Last ween far-right nationalist Bulgarian National Union leader Boyan Rasate announced the creation of militias, allegedly to secure the peace of Sofia residents. Rasate denied any racist motivations behind the move. At the same time, in the past weeks, there has been an increased number of cases of violence against immigrants and Bulgarians of minority ethnicity. Dnevnik.bg reports that the Roma Center plans involves "safeguarding Roma neighborhoods and places where public order is being disturbed."
Center director Petko Asenov said that he has talked to Sofia police head Ivaylo Spiridonov and Vice-Chief Prosecutor Asya Petrova regarding rising tensions. He added that the platform is intended to include Roma people from across Bulgaria. Increased tensions and an apparent stirring up of the far-right - including the founding of a new, Neo-Nazi-like party - led to an antifascist rally in Bulgarian capital Sofia last Sunday. At the same time, activists warned that a planned new law regarding the Bulgarian police could pave the way to formalizing the vigilante militias.
Refugees Stage Hunger Strike in Bulgaria
Refugees at the camp in Harmanli have gone on hunger strike, protesting against poor conditions and lack of information.
20/11/2013- Refugees at a camp located in Harmanli have gone on hunger strike, protesting over lack of information, poor relations with security guards and dilapidated conditions. The camp is notorious for its grim conditions. New arrivals all but squat in a makeshift trailer park and have only outdoor fires to stay warm in low winter temperatures. One woman at the camp complained that the security guards treated the refugees like animals, regardless of gender. She said they have neither food nor information about what is going to happen to them. The refugees at Harmanli have joined protests staged at the Busmantsi detention facility near Sofia and at Lyubimets who also went on hunger strike. As an EU member state, but not part of the Schengen area, Bulgaria is a transit country for migrants. Bulgaria is rarely their end goal. Hoeveer, the number of migrants is growing. Some 1,000 people apply for asylum each year, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq, Armenia, Iran, and most recently, from Africa and Syria. But no more than about 10 per cent obtain political asylum. The rest can spend years wrestling with local red tape before they decide to head off to Western Europe, often again illegally.
Bulgarians March agaist Neo-Nazi Xenophobia
17/11/2013- Scores of Bulgarians gathered in front of the National Palace of Culture in Sofia for a protest rally against a rising tide of xenophobia and far-right political activism in the country. Summoned under the slogan "Danger! Fascism!", the march walked to the Palace of Justice at the other end of the Vitosha Blvd. Protesters, who as the rally went on, grew to several hundred, carried signs such as "Fascism kills, those in power hide," "Fascism is not an opinion but a crime," and chanted "No to violence!" The rally is in response to a rise of violent acts against foreign immigrants and Bulgarians of non-Bulgarian ethnicity in the country. Activists have warned of an imminent activization of fringe far-right structures, signaled by the founding end of last week of a new neo-Nazi party. They have also warned against the rhetoric of nationalist party Ataka, who have their group in the current Bulgarian parliament. Activists have also argued against media coverage which they say effectively presents such far-right phenomena as normal.
German authorities launch second attempt to have neo-Nazi party proscribed
The 16 German state (Länder) governments are launching a second attempt to have an extreme-right and anti-Semitic party banned that many regard as similar to Hitler's Nazi party. An application to proscribe and disband the National Democratic Party (NPD) will be lodged at the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe in December, German media report. It seeks to prove that the NPD is actively seeking to undermine or overthrow the free democratic order and should therefore be proscribed according to Art. 21 of the German constitution.
22/11/2013- The move comes exactly a decade after a first attempt to have the party outlawed failed. At the time, the Constitutional Court refused to rule on the case after learning that a lot of material in the application relied on witnesses in the NPD that were government-paid informants. Now, the 16 German states reportedly want to guarantee that none of the evidence submitted to the court comes from informants planted by the intelligence agencies. About 100 such informants in the NPD leadership were ‘deactivated’ over the past three years. Charlotte Knobloch, the head of the Munich Jewish community, welcomed the decision to launch a second attempt for a ban of the NPD. Referring to the country’s history, she said, there “can be no place for an extreme-right party in Germany.” Germany’s outgoing center-right federal government has not joined the application, mainly out of fears that a second dismissal by the court could boost the NPD’s position.
The NPD was established in 1964 and merged with the German People’s Union (DVU) in 2011. It has no representation at the federal level but sits on two of Germany’s 16 state legislatures. Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution said about the party: “Statements of the NPD document an essential affinity with National Socialism; its agitation is racist, anti-Semitic, revisionist, and intends to disparage the democratic and lawful order of the constitution.” The party also holds to other familiar neo-Nazi themes such as a twin rejection of liberal-democratic capitalism and socialism, as well as visceral hostility to non-white immigrants and their descendants.
© World Jewish Congress
Experts call for official tracking of hate crimes in Germany
Experts say that collecting official data on hate crimes could help in the fight against violence motivated by prejudice. Recent studies suggest that anti-Semitism and xenophobia are on the rise in Germany.
20/11/2013- Before being attacked, Nasr Abdelaoui had been looking forward to a short vacation with a dash of art, culture and wellness. But soon after his arrival at Dresden's main train station, neo-Nazis targeted the 42-year-old nurse from Cologne. Abdelaoui's dark, curly hair and skin tone led his young assailants to identify him correctly as a foreigner. "I heard shouting and loud taunts, turned around and suddenly a beer bottle was flying toward me," Abdelaoui recalls. The violence seemed about to escalate, but police were able to intervene fast enough to protect Abdelaoui. It's an experience, he says, that he hasn't forgotten.
Research on hate crimes like these began in the US in the 1960s. In Germany, punishable hate crimes range from defamation, intimidation or incitement of public hatred (called Volksverhetzung in German) all the way to capital offenses. The victims are typically taken to represent certain social groups, such as immigrants, Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, the homeless, the disabled or specific subcultures, like punks. "Attacks on bankers or particularly wealthy people can also be considered hate crimes if they are motivated by prejudice," says Michael Fingerle, a researcher on hate crimes at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt. Germany doesn't keep an official tally of hate crimes, trackig only the category of "politically motivated violence" instead. But several recent studies, including research conducted by the non-profit Bertelsmann Foundation and sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer, point to rising anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia in the country. The studies, however, have not reached a conclusion as to whether hate crimes are also increasing.
Loss of trust in government institutions
In the US and some EU countries, authorities keep an official record of the number of crimes motivated by hate. "In England, police records can classify an offense as a hate crime, so they name the assailant's motive," notes Caroline Bonnes, a researcher with Fingerle's team. British judges can also issue more severe sentences for those who commit hate crimes. As part of the research project "When Law and Hate Collide," Fingerle and his team surveyed potential victims of hate crimes. "It's of interest to us what those who face such crimes feel they need - what they would expect from laws, institutions and society," explains Bonnes. The surveys, she adds, clearly show the next form of trauma after a hate-based attack often comes by way of dealing with the police. "The reception given to victims by officers on the ground is often rather cool and inscrutable," notes Fingerle. He says many victims reported feeling as though they were not taken seriously and, as such, faced a second form of discrimination.
The now widely-publicized case of a string of neo-Nazi murders committed by the NSU terror group in Germany have traumatized not only those immediately affected, but many other immigrants in Germany as well. "Apparently, German intelligence does not have the sort of privileged or exclusive information needed to get a case like this under control," says Fingerle, adding that trust in the police and justice officials diminished in light of the handling of the NSU murders.
Increased data collection
To combat hate crimes, Fingerle believes Germany needs to introduce a system for systematically recording incidences of hate crimes, with the goal of raising awareness to such acts. "We need a database in which the crimes can be entered according to their targets and frequency," he says. The EU's Fundamental Rights Conference in Vilnius last week focused on fighting hate crimes in Europe. That means recognizing the rights of victims and raising awareness of the issue, says Karim Moustafa, who represented the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) at the event. "Islamophobia needs to be included as a crime," says Moustafa . "Germany can't continue to be stuck in the middle of the field in the European Union when it comes to data collection." Moustafa sees hate crimes as just the tip of the iceberg, explaining: "We have a massive problem in terms of everyday discrimination, particularly in the area of education, with apartment hunting or in the work force." Recognizing these problems and looking for solutions should be among Germany's key goals, argues Moustafa.
© The Deutsche Welle.
Germany to return some works to hoarder of Nazi-era art trove
19/11/2013- German authorities said Tuesday that they would order the return of several paintings to a recluse accused of hoarding hundreds of priceless artworks stolen by the Nazis. The chief prosecutor in the southern city of Augsburg, who is investigating 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt on charges including tax evasion, acknowledged that some of the more than 1,400 works confiscated from his home in February 2012 clearly belonged to him. "It is of key importance that works taken in connection with Nazi persecution be identified so that outstanding property claims can be settled and possible previous owners can exercise their rights," prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz said in a statement. "At the same time, determining the provenance of the paintings also makes possible an identification of those artworks that without a doubt belong to the accused, whose return should be immediately offered to him." Nemetz said he had asked a task force appointed last week to identify such paintings "as soon as possible".
Gurlitt is the heir of a powerful art dealer tasked by the Nazis with selling works that they stole, extorted or seized in exchange for hard currency, and with handpicking masterpieces for a "Fuehrer Museum" for Adolf Hitler in the Austrian city of Linz that was never built. The task force said last week that of the 1,406 long-lost paintings, sketches and prints seized at Gurlitt's Munich flat, about 970 were suspected of being looted from Jewish families or taken from museums in a crackdown on avant-garde, "degenerate" art. Untangling the provenance of the works by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Renoir and Delacroix is expected to be a drawn-out process, complicated by Gurlitt's insistence that he will not give up the works without a fight. "I will not give anything back voluntarily," a defiant Gurlitt told this week's Der Spiegel magazine.
© Expatica News
NSU mother: 'Police set up my son with weapons' (Germany)
The mother of neo-Nazi terrorist Uwe Böhnardt accused police on Tuesday of setting up her now deceased son by planting weapons in her flat while he was living there in the late 1990s.
19/11/2013- Police also threatened to shoot the trio if they resisted arrest while on the run, said Brigitte Böhnhardt in court in Munich on Tuesday as part of the ongoing trial of Böhnhardt's ex-girlfriend Beate Zschäpe. The National Socialist Underground (NSU) terrorist cell is thought to have carried out ten murders over a ten-year period spent in hiding. Together with third accomplice Uwe Mundlos, Zschäpe and Böhnhardt went underground in 1998 after explosives were found in a garage they used. "If we find them and they so much as twitch - believe me, our people are faster with a gun," Böhnhardt's mother claimed one policeman once told her. In her testimony, Brigitte said the police had also planted weapons - including daggers and a crossbow - in her flat in 1998 to frame her son Uwe, who she said had first come to the attention of the authorities long before.
According to her version of events, authorities had been watching the far-right trio for a long time, "but various circles and authorities didn't really want the trio to give themselves up." That is why, she claimed, authorities then planted evidence to threaten her son with trumped-up charges, said the Welt newspaper. Convinced of her son's innocence, the mother told how she believed police had secretly entered her flat and planted the weapons "in order to be able to find them there again later." Certain things they found she thought were particularly suspicious, she said, such as three daggers police claimed they saw lying on the table. "My son wouldn't have done that to me. I'm scared of sharp knives," she said. She also raised doubts about the crossbow police said they found. "Where would you hide a crossbow in a little boy's room of three metres squared? They found nothing. I'm not talking about what they possibly planted there."
The ultimate aim was to threaten Böhnhardt with ten years in prison, she said, after he had already been traumatized by two stints in jail. "Ten years! Uwe was to go to prison for ten years! ... My son was very scared of prison. That's why the trio fled," the retired former teacher told the court. While on the run, the trio were occasionally in touch with Brigitte and her husband, leaving notes in her letter box telling her to come to a phone box at a set time. Although she never knew where they were, she said she once almost managed to convince them to give themselves up. Prosecutors had got in touch with her, she said, offering her son a deal with the prospect of milder punishment if they all three turned themselves in. According to Brigitte, Zschäpe and Böhnhardt were tempted but Uwe Mundlos had been dead against it. "He probably never trusted them from the beginning. He was probably right," the paper quoted her as saying. Böhnhardt's mother also claimed her son had got money from undercover German intelligence officials to attend events.
"[Uwe] was also said to have taken part in [far right] demos and events. I asked myself: how did he pay for that? He had very little money. Later I heard it was Timo Brandt … who paid it," she told the court. Brandt was a leading far right extremist in eastern Germany who later turned out to have been working undercover for the authorities, wrote the Welt. Speaking for over an hour, Brigitte showed little remorse or regret for her son's suspected deeds. Her son had been a troubled student, she said, but she and her husband had liked his friends. "I found Uwe Mundlos, Beate Zschäpe and Ralf Wohlleben to be nice, young, polite people," said the retired teacher. "All unfortunately out of work. They had a lot of time." Böhnhardt and Mundlos committed suicide in November 2011 following a botched bank raid. Beate Zschäpe, the last surviving member of the NSU cell, turned herself in to the police a few days later.
© The Local - Germany
Dubious witnesses at German neo-Nazi trial
A Munich court recalls witnesses who gave implausible testimony in the neo-Nazi NSU trial and may even have helped the killers. Observers wonder why they haven't been charged.
18/11/2013- In the past, Andreas S. worked in a shop called the "Madley." It catered to the far-right scene. Its patrons were mainly neo-Nazis and sympathisers from the area around the eastern city of Jena, with a bent for heavy combat boots and right-wing music. One day around the year 2000, Carsten S. showed up with an unusual request. He wanted to buy a gun with a silencer, supposedly on behalf of Ralf Wohlleben, a functionary for Germany's right-wing NPD party. He received the weapon, and passed it on to the alleged National Socialist Underground (NSU) killers Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos. He didn't know why they wanted the Ceska pistol, Carsten S. told prosecutors at the NSU trial in Munich in June. Prosecutors believe Böhnhardt and Mundlos used the gun to kill nine of 10 victims in racially-motivated murders. Carsten S. is thus charged with being an accessory to the murders. The question of whether Andreas S. - suspected of having sold him the weapon - guessed or even knew more than his customer, has so far not played a role in the NSU trial. On the 55th day of a trial that began in May, Andreas S. was called as a witness .The presiding judge, Manfred Götzl, instructed the witness he could invoke the right to remain silent - which he did, for fear of being charged with aiding and abetting the NSU.
Right to silence
In that case, both the buyer and the seller of the alleged murder weapon would both be in the dock. Numerous observers at the trial, including lawyers for the victims' families, find it hard to comprehend why that isn't the case yet. It is doubtful whether Andreas S. will give more information when he takes the stand again as a witness on November 20 - this time, with a lawyer of his choice so as not to "get into trouble." Andreas S. doesn't have much to fear by way of incriminatory testimony: his former business partner at the Madley testified that he never witnessed a weapons deal.
The poor hairdresser
Testimony by yet another witness has caused even more amazement. Silvia S. sold co-defendant Holger G. her health insurance card for 300 euros ($400). Beate Zschaepe, the main defendant in the trial and alleged sole surviving member of the three-member NSU, used that card to visit the doctor. The 33-year-old claims she "never" asked who needed her card, and why. "I'm a poor hairdresser," she said, adding that at the time, she only saw the money. She also says she never talked to her husband about it, although he was present for the sale. She also ignored her husband's right-wing beliefs and the "Skinhead" tattoo on his stomach: "I'm not interested in politics," Silvia S. says.
Observers point out a witness even less credible than Silvia S.: Andreas T., an employee of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution, who is scheduled to take the stand again in December. The witness showed up in Kassel in July 2006, at the time of the killing of Halit Yozgat, who ran an Internet cafe in the city. The witness made contradictory remarks during the police investigation, but numerous files have been kept under wraps by order of the Hessian state Interior Ministry or were not admitted to the NSU trial by the prosecution. Several lawyers of the victims' families as well as Beate Zschäpe's and Ralf Wohlleben's defense lawyers request that these files be declassified. A decision is pending. The same is true for petitions made by joint plaintiffs to call as witnesses the employee's colleagues and investigators who worked with him.
Uwe Böhnhardt's mother Brigitte Böhnhardt takes the stand on Tuesday (19.11.13.) She has already admitted that she and her husband met with their son - who went into hiding in 1998 - and his accomplices Uwe Mundlos and Beate Zschäpe several times until 2002. Initially, Brigitte Böhnhardt was scheduled to take the stand last week. But the interrogation of the hairdresser whose medical insurance card was used by the trial's main defendant dragged on. Judge Manfred Götzl deemed her testimony implausible enough that not only Silvia S. will have to appear before court once more: her husband will also be called as a witness. He is a long-time friend of Holger G., one of the defendants facing charges related to assisting the NSU.
© The Deutsche Welle.
German far right draws 1,500 to anti-refugee demo
16/11/2013- A protest organized by Germany's biggest far-right party has drawn hundreds to a torch-lit march against refugees for the second time this month. Saturday's demonstration, organized by the right-wing NPD party, was directed against the opening of a reception center for asylum seekers in the small eastern town of Schneeberg. Police spokeswoman Heidi Hennig says several participants are being investigated for carrying illegal weapons and attacking a press photographer. Hennig says there were minor clashes with left-wing counterdemonstrators. Some 1,500 people also took part in a peaceful march for tolerance organized by town officials.
© The Associated Press
The rise of frustrated nationalism in Russia
International media followed events in a southern Moscow suburb with a sense of foreboding and concern.
21/11/2013- Youths rioted, fought with security services and attacked migrants in retaliation for the killing of a young Russian named as Yegor Sherbakov. The murder was blamed on a “non-Russian” and sparked a wave of anger among far right activists who shouted white supremacist slogans. Following the riots the death of a migrant was blamed on the activist group. This has led to speculation in the media that Russia is facing a serious threat from the far right and that ethnic tensions are set to emerge in what is, and always has been, an ethnically diverse and ill-defined nation. It appears this is set to become an increasingly prominent issue as Russia comes into the global spotlight over its controversial anti-homosexuality laws alongside the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and its successful bid to host the 2018 FIFA world cup. But while much analysis has analysed where this precedent could lead, very little has been devoted to explaining where this phenomenon has come from and why ethnic tensions are on the rise.
Political Power Games
It’s no secret that Russian politics has been through a tumultuous period since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It has stabilised since the turn of the millennium under the stewardship of Putin, but still the political system suffers from serious issues of access and lack of democracy. Putin is undoubtedly the most popular leader in Russia but the power games behind closed doors suggest a less than harmonious attitude within the Kremlin walls. Despite the decision of Medvedev to step aside in 2012 to allow Putin to return as President, the leadership still struggles with warring factions between more liberal minded apparatchiks and the more militarist hard-liners. It has been claimed by some that this explains the sometimes arbitrary and random decisions made by the Russian government.
One thing that did cause analysts to sit up and take notice came during the 2011 legislative elections. Large protests broke out in Russia criticising the democratic process and challenging the dominance of the United Russia party which is strongly affiliated to President Putin. These were seen as the prelude to the formality of Putin being re-elected President, but instead they marked an interesting move in the Russian populace to oppose the status quo. There is also a rising importance of opposition movements in Russia – both civil and party political. The Communist Party is currently the second largest party in Russia and the far right Political party LDPR is also popular. The music group ‘Pussy Riot’ has also appeared in the news recently and have become a symbol for opponents of the Russian regime.
However, overall, the far right scene in Russia is unaligned to this process and has remained aloof even from the LDPR and other far right political movements. According to a report by the Sova centre many of these groups have turned to street-level activity and violence in order to get their message across. The have an intrinsic distrust of law and order and oppose anyone who isn’t an ethnic Russian. This, interestingly, is not a solely Russian phenomenon—it is also happening among far right groups in Germany, whilst the Golden Dawn party in Greece relies heavily on its street level activities to gain support from the population. The far right in Russia is, therefore, clandestine and difficult to challenge from a political perspective. Again, the roots for this mistrust of government and propensity to turn to street-level activism can be seen in the history of Russia.
The definition of what it is to be Russian has been an issue at the heart of Russian society for decades. As far back as the time of Josef Stalin, minorities were persecuted and seen as ‘non-Russian’. Stalin, himself having been born in Georgia, opposed the presence of minorities in the corridors of power and even moved entire populations across Russia to far-flung parts of the empire. However, the concept of a Communist state, it can be said, managed to keep harmony among a diverse nation in the face of a hostile west. With the fall of Communism this has changed. Now many ethnic Russians are residents in states which used to be part of the Soviet Union but are now sovereign territories; some openly hostile to Russia. Equally, within Russia this can be said to have translated into a wide-ranging debate about what it means to be an ethnic Russian. Again, this is not a purely Russian phenomenon. The concept of ‘frustrated nationalism’ can be seen as a factor in explaining the rise of far right and ethnic-nationalist attitudes in West Germany during the immediate post-war era and in modern day East Germany.
The humiliation of Russia on the world stage was complete with the loss of Ukraine and the loss of huge resources to oligarchs that the state tries either to deal with or bring to justice. Therefore, the youthful activists who were the victims of the Russian collapse are now the street activists with an intrinsic distrust of government and a blatant opposition to the presence of non-Russians within their territory. When discussing the far right and neo-Nazism there can be a propensity among analysts to overstate the importance of economic issues. While one cannot ignore the importance of economic factors in explaining the rise of the far right, one should not underestimate the importance of a concept of ethnic nationalism and frustrated nationalism either. Economic issues can often be temporary, yet latent racism and ethnic-nationalism can continue to exist. This is what drives the far right and leads to violence as any non-Russians can be clearly seen within society.
So this goes part-way to explaining where the far right is coming from in Russia. There are multiple other factors that greater research could elaborate on more. It’s a worrying trend, but it also appears that the authorities are powerless to stop it. Furthermore this is in no way a Russian phenomenon, but is becoming more noticed in international media with the increased exposure of Russian society. In this sense, it appears that this trend isn’t going to end and until the authorities can re-attach with the people, the quest for an ethnic-nationalism and use of violence could be set to continue.
© The Foreign Report
Russia to rejoin the UN Council on Human Rights
Moscow’s representative vows to fight xenophobia and defend traditional values from renewed seat on the UN HRC.
18/11/2013- The United Nations General Assembly elected Russia to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) for a three-year term beginning in 2014. Russia received votes from 176 out of 193 countries. In total, 14 new member countries, including China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, were elected to the HRC. Vitaly Churkin, Russia's permanent representative to the UN, said that while on the council, Russia will give priority to combating racism, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance, as well as to protecting traditional values. "We will also pay special attention to issues such as preventing human trafficking, business and human rights, traditional values, the integrity of the judicial system, and others," Churkin said. During its previous term on the council, Russia established itself as a reliable and responsible partner in matters of human rights, Churkin said. "We are consistently increasing our participation in international human rights treaties, and we cooperate with the special procedures of the HRC and the Universal Periodic Review," he added. He also pointed out that Russia is actively cooperating with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Since 2006, Russia has been paying its $2 million voluntary contribution to the UN office annually.
Russia was a member of the UN Council on Human Rights when it was created in 2006 until 2012. Churkin said Russia's one-year hiatus from the council was because of HRC rules that do not allow countries to be a member for more than two consecutive three-year terms. Even before the vote, the Human Rights Council elections drew criticism from some international human rights organizations. Representatives of Human Rights Watch announced that the candidacies of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Cuba, which consistently appear on lists of human rights violators, discredit the ideas of the council.
The Human Rights Council assesses the human rights situation in each member state of the UN. This intergovernmental body is composed of 47 UN member states that are elected by the UN General Assembly. It was created by a resolution of the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006. Its first session was held from June 19 to 30, 2006. The council is responsible for promoting universal respect for and protection of human rights around the world and for examining cases involving violations of human rights, as well as issuing recommendations. The council is tasked with discussing all issues and situations related to human rights that require its attention.
© Russia Beyond The Headlines
Shooting at the Famous Moscow Gay Club (Russia)
16/11/2013- Famous gay club, “Central Station”, in Moscow was attacked by two men who started shooting at people from the handguns around 5am Moscow time on November 16, 2013. Fortunately, nobody was injured. According to numerous reports, the perpetrators attempted to enter popular Moscow gay club "Central Station" in the early hours of Saturday, Nov. 16. When guards refused to allow them into the club, the men opened fire. According to Russian news agency, LifeNews, two bullets damaged the front door, but there were no injuries inside the club. The suspects were tracked on surveillance cameras and the video is possession of LifeNews in order to assist local police.
The nightclub’s management claims the men came to the club that night with one purpose - to shoot the club’s visitors. This is not the first attack on the gay club, the management has repeatedly appealed to local police and the Central Administrative District.
Russian language aggregate news source Queer Russia reports:
"Besides brute force attacks there are other provocations by ill-wishers. For example, on October 21, 2013 at the entrance to the club a huge banner "GAY CLUB ENTERANCE " was placed. Later, a megaphone appeared near the club, broadcasting Boris Moiseyev’s song "Blue Moon" (Golubaya Luna) round the clock.
The "Central Station" administration believes that the real estate development company which owns the building where the club is located might be involved in the incidents, Lifenews reports."
Homophobia is policy in Putin’s Russia!
© Spectrum Human Rights
Is anti-fascism being criminalised? (UK, opinion)
An activist comments on the implications of recent arrests of anti-fascists at demonstrations opposing the English Defence League and the British National Party.
by Vincent Callaghan
21/11/2013- In the space of just over three months this year, police made upwards of 340 arrests of anti-fascists in London. Of the arrests made over two occasions, less than a dozen will proceed to trial. ‘No Further Action’ has been taken against the vast majority of those arrested, raising questions about the credibility of the grounds for arrest. But Wednesday 6 November saw the first court date for five anti-fascists arrested on 1 June. All five pleaded not-guilty and will present a united defence case, in a five-day trial due to take place in April next year. This trial could have important implications for anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigners, should opposition to far-right street movements be effectively criminalised. In a climate of resurgent anti-Muslim racism and attacks from the media and politicians on migrants and refugees, the police response to those campaigning against racism and fascism has, by any measure, been severe.
On 27 May 2013, less than a week after the killing of Lee Rigby, the English Defence League (EDL) organised a protest outside Downing Street in central London. Estimates of the number of EDL supporters in attendance ranged from 1-3,000. A smaller number of anti-fascist demonstrators, around 600, were present to voice their opposition. Toward the end of the protest and counter-protest, anti-fascists were forced to retreat under a hail of glass bottles, cans, sticks and other debris thrown by EDL supporters over the heads of the police and into the crowd of their detractors. Police said thirteen arrests were made over the day, but it was only by chance that the crowd of anti-fascists, which included wheelchair users and the very young, did not sustain any serious injuries. Three days later, Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party (BNP), used Twitter to make a ‘personal appeal’ to EDL leader Tommy Robinson to join him on the BNP’s own anti-Islam protest the following Saturday. Griffin had originally planned to hold a march from Woolwich barracks to the Lewisham Islamic Centre, but the Metropolitan Police used the Public Order Act to force the demonstration to relocate out of South London and to Whitehall. The BNP agreed to assemble instead at Old Palace Yard, close to the Houses of Parliament, and then march to the Cenotaph.
Anti-fascist activists again mobilised in response, this time significantly outnumbering their opponents. Hundreds linked arms and moved to blockade the path of the BNP and prevent them marching to the Cenotaph. After several hours, police moved to disperse the anti-fascists and facilitate the BNP march. ‘Snatch squad’ tactics were used to pick off demonstrators – who were then arrested and placed on London buses marked ‘special service’, to be driven to various police stations around London. In contrast to the more timid policing of the EDL the previous Monday, fifty-eight anti-fascists were arrested. One woman was hospitalised with a broken leg, caused allegedly during her arrest by police. Restrictive pre-charge bail conditions were imposed on those arrested, preventing them from attending future protests against the BNP or the EDL.
Despite the arrests, the BNP were unable to complete their march, and left humiliated. On 7 September, however, the EDL returned to London – this time to the borough of Tower Hamlets. Again anti-fascists took to the streets to voice their opposition to the Islamophobic and racist politics of the EDL, and again the police responded by making mass arrests. This time 286 arrests were made, including anti-fascists, legal observers and passersby. London buses were again used to send arrestees as far away as Sutton, where punitive pre-charge bail conditions were handed out en-masse. Information recently revealed under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the Metropolitan Police contacted Transport for London twelve days ahead of the planned march to inquire about hiring London buses. A booking with Sullivan Buses was confirmed by 29 August.
Should the anti-fascist protestors be convicted next year on a series of public order offences, it will set a worrying precedent. On the one hand, it would imply that positions and tactics of fascists and anti-fascists can somehow be equated. On the other, it could send out a warning signal to would be opponents of the EDL and BNP that they face criminalisation just for demonstrating. That is, if the arrests themselves – and the collection of names, addresses, DNA and fingerprints that accompanied them – have not already made the message clear.
Vincent Callaghan is a pseudonym.
© Institute of Race Relations
Muslim Women more likely to suffer Islamophobic attacks than men - study (UK)
Study also found attacks were more likely against women wearing the niqab or other clothing associated with Islam
20/11/2013- Muslim women are more likely to be subjected to Islamophobic attacks than men, especially if they are wearing the niqab or other clothing associated with their religion, a study has found. Maybe We Are Hated, a report on the impact of Islamophobic attacks, written by Dr Chris Allen, a social policy lecturer at the University of Birmingham, will be launched in the House of Commons on Wednesday. It is intended to look beyond the statistics and, for the first time, give a voice to the female victims of Islamophobia. One of the women featuring in the report, Rachel, 28, was run over by a man after she asked him to move his car, which was blocking the drive of her house. Before attacking her, he said: "I'm gonna pop you, Muslim."
In another case, four decomposing pigs' heads were placed outside a woman's house. Shareefa, 33, told how she was repeatedly abused by a group of young people calling her names such as "ninja" and had fireworks posted through the letterbox of her home. "I was scared to go out on the street or into the area on my own," she told Allen. "It made me think continuously that I need some sort of self-defence class so I know now to defend myself and protect my children. You start linking everything as being anti-Muslim, and that may well not be the case. For example, some people give you a look, which may be nothing."
Allen interviewed 20 women aged between 15 and 52 about their experiences. One was called "Mrs Osama bin Laden" and told to "go back to Afghanistan" while at the gym. Another, on her way home after dropping her children at school, was followed by a woman with a pushchair, who spat in her face and asked her: "Why do you look so ugly? Why are you covering your face?" Fiyaz Mughal, from Faith Matters, which commissioned the report, said: "This is the first time Muslim women's voices have been given life in terms of anti-Muslim prejudice. We keep hearing people saying: 'What are the numbers?' We can understand that, but it's important to recognise the actual impact on people."
Tell Mama, a hotline for recording Islamophobic crimes and incidents, found that, excluding online abuse and threats, 58% of all verified incidents between April 2012 and April 2013 were against women and that in 80% of those cases the woman was wearing a hijab, niqab or other clothing associated with Islam. According to Allen, some of the women said their experiences had made them question their Britishness, with one saying her husband wanted them to leave the country. He said a refusal to take Islamophobia seriously risked giving credence to the "clash of civilisations" narrative promoted by Islamists and the far right. "It feeds into the rhetoric of the Islamists saying: 'No matter how hard you try, you will never belong here, they hate you," he said. "When it comes to Muslims, they won't tackle these issues. It adds fuel to the fire."
The names of the victims have been changed.
© The Guardian
Students accused of racism for blackening their faces (UK)
Students in York, Edinburgh and ULU have all come under fire for painting their faces black
20/11/2013- In York, four male students have been criticised for painting their faces black and dressing as characters from the film Cool Runnings, in which a group of Jamaicans enter a bobsleigh competition. The students wore black morphsuits, had painted black skin and one donned a dreadlock wig. The news follows reports that law students in Edinburgh this month painted their faces to dress as Somalian pirates for an "around the world" themed party. Meanwhile at the University of London, a student with a painted black face recently won a fancy dress competition at a union event. "I've noticed that it's happening more now," says Aaron Kiely, Black Students Officer for the NUS. "It's deeply worrying, because it fuels racist stereotypes about black people. "If you're a black student walking around campus and you see people who have dressed up to mock you, what kind of environment does that make for people who want to learn?"
Isabelle Scott and Sairish Tahir, racial equality officers at York University, agree that the phenomenon is on the rise: "Perpetuating racial stereotypes to create shock value seems to be an increasingly common theme across young people at universities now." They point out that painting faces black was a popular form of entertainment in the 19th century. "Blacking up is steeped in a history of discrimination, degradation and bigotry. It began in the 19th century to dehumanise an entire race for the amusement of the privileged and elite." Helena Horton, a student at York University, says not everyone is convinced there's anything wrong with blacking up: "A lot of people have defended [wearing black paint], saying 'what's wrong with black faces anyway', and 'it's a joke – they're having fun, not being malicious'."
"'Bad taste' or 'politically incorrect' parties are in vogue at the moment," says Eleri Watson, a student at Durham University, who has held discussion groups about racism and sexism at university. "At one party we heard about, white people blacked up to pretend to be slaves. There have also been people dressed as Nazis, the twin towers and Jimmy Savile. It's common to see costumes like that. It's branded as banter or as ironic." "Some people think it's funny," says Sofia Hewson, a student at Durham University. "And if you call them out, you're branded as humourless. Students are in a cocoon at uni, where they don't have to participate in real life and they're protected from being judged."
In lad culture, racism and sexism can thrive, says Hewson. "Students are in a bubble and so some think they can do what they want." "Universities seem to give students who do things like this a slap on the wrist," says Watson. "In the real world you could get fired, or be punished by law. If students go into a job and expect that it's alright to behave like this, then they'll have a rude awakening." The student union at Birmingham University recently tried to tackle the issue by banning any costume deemed racist from campus venues. The blanket ban drew criticism from many students, for targeting all costumes that could be seen as racist, including some based on fictional countries.
So is a blanket ban the best way to go?
Jonathan Blausten, a student at Birmingham University, wrote an open letter criticising the union's ban at Birmingham and accusing it of "perverting what is a very important conversation". He said: "By cutting out even the slightest mention of race, or by looking for wrongdoing when it isn't there, they're giving themselves no leg to stand on when someone is actually racist. "There's no difference in treatment, and no room to make an example of someone. This stupid, catch-all policy is lazy, and students are being punished for no reason." But when it comes to painting faces black, many feel a hardline policy is necessary and justifiable. "I fully support a zero tolerance approach," says Kiely. "We have to say that it's unacceptable, especially on our campuses and in public places." More awareness is needed, some students say. "It's a case of changing the culture," says Watson, "rather than having a ban." "We need to promote a healthier culture," says Hewson. "Universities need to actively discourage racism and raise awareness, not just put measures in place once something has happened."
© The Guardian
Gay rights group challenges Charity Commission refusal (UK)
Human Dignity Trust was denied charitable status on grounds that it did not meet public benefit requirement
17/11/2013- A human rights organisation that supports gay and lesbian individuals in countries where homosexuality is outlawed has been denied charitable status on the grounds that it is not sufficiently of "public benefit". Human Dignity Trust (HDT) is appealing against a decision by the Charity Commission to turn down its application. The ruling raises doubts about the ability of philanthropic organisations to launch legal challenges and reopens questions about what constitutes political action. Campaigning charities such as Amnesty and Justice have said the decision reverses years of progress and imposes restrictions that will significantly narrow the scope of their work in the UK and abroad.
The London-based Human Dignity Trust was established in 2011. It supports legal action aimed at overturning laws in foreign states that criminalise homosexual conduct. Many countries banning such activity are Commonwealth states that retain onetime British penal statutes. The trust has worked on high-profile cases in Jamaica, Cyprus and Belize that may yet force far-reaching changes in those countries' domestic legislation. One of its founding members, the barrister Jonathan Cooper, has been an adviser to the Foreign Office on human rights. In rejecting the trust's application, the Charity Commission declared that HDT "is not established for exclusively charitable purposes for the public benefit" and did not "meet the public benefit requirement for a charity as its purpose is directed towards changing the law".
Announcing the decision in October, the commission's chairman, William Shawcross, said: "I sympathise with [HDT's] aims … and know that many people around the world will support their work to tackle discrimination. However … we cannot and must not make our decisions based on value judgments about the merits of an organisation's aims or activities." One of the main objections was that "under charity law a purpose directed towards changing the law or changing decisions or policies of government or government authorities either in this country or in foreign jurisdictions is not charitable". In another key passage, the commission said that "political purposes cannot be charitable purposes" because "changes to the law or government decisions, either in this country or abroad, cannot necessarily be seen as beneficial and therefore meeting the public benefit requirement".
Its reasoning was largely based on a landmark UK case from 1982, McGovern v Attorney General, which forced Amnesty International to reorganise its operations on the basis of separate charitable and non-charitable sections. Most third sector organisations believed that charity law had moved on significantly since then. Andrea Coomber, director of the legal affairs charity Justice, said: "The commission's decision undermines the determination of parliament that the advancement of human rights must be a charitable purpose. If it stands, valuable work to uphold important legal standards designed to protect us all will be deemed to have no public benefit. This cannot be the case."
Tony Farnfield, director of corporate services for Amnesty International UK, said: "The problem here seems to be that the Charity Commission is legally bound to apply an overly narrow definition of what counts as advancing human rights. "HDT's work to challenge the criminalisation of consensual activity is, by any sensible definition, a human rights matter and meets a commonsense test of the public benefit requirement. Parliament needs to issue fresh guidance to enable the Charity Commission to apply more practical rigour in cases such as this one."
Cooper, chief executive of HDT, said: "The outcome of [our challenge] could have serious repercussions for many UK charities that aim to protect vulnerable people by upholding human rights law. "[We are] a not-for-profit human rights organisation that is concerned about the criminalisation of homosexual conduct, [which] violates a person's right to dignity, equality and privacy. In countries where it is still a crime to be gay, HDT provides legal expertise to local groups or individuals who are using the courts to protect themselves and their clients from the human rights abuses that flow from such criminalisation. "If the Charity Commission's decision is upheld, we risk a dangerous precedent being set, the logical conclusion of which would limit the effectiveness and even threaten the charitable status of many organisations that use the courts to protect minority or oppressed groups."
© The Guardian
Hundreds turn out to oppose far right in Exeter (UK)
16/11/2013- More than a thousand people turned out to show their opposition to a far-right group that staged a rally in a city centre. A small group of about 250 supporters of the controversial English Defence League (EDL) came to Exeter to march through the city centre but they were met by hundreds of local people who had devoted their Saturday to show the world that the Westcountry stands together in unity with people of all faiths and races. Devon and Cornwall police had earlier said initial estimates suggested there were about 225 EDL supporters but that more than 700 campaigners from Exeter Together had staged their own rally in opposition to the march. Many more local people joined the Exeter Together demonstration later in the day, swelling the numbers to well over a thousand according to organisers.
Exeter City Council leader councillor Pete Edwards, who stood at the front of the Exeter Together rally, said: "Today has been a great day for Exeter. Over 1,000 people have turned out to stand together against fascism and racism. It's good stuff for Exeter and all its citizens." Many people travelled from other parts of the South West to show their opposition to the EDL protest. One woman, who would only give her name as Barbara and who was from Bristol, said she had travelled about a hundred miles for the march "to show strength" and "to oppose racist ideas". Leading figures - including Dean of Exeter Cathedral the Very Revd Jonathan Draper - joined residents, community groups, councillors and trade unions in supporting the counter march and rally to celebrate the city’s cultural heritage.
Spokesman Hannah Packham said: "Our message is clear: the EDL with their racist, divisive politics are not welcome in Exeter. "Exeter residents have united to show that we will not be divided by the EDL's hatred, lies and racism. "It has been so inspiring to see how so many groups and organisations have worked together in such a short space of time to achieve so much. "We want to focus on Exeter coming together to celebrate the multi-cultural, multi-race, multi-faith diversity of the city." There were some angry exchanges with protesters at one point in the day, but there were no reports of an outbreak of violence which had been feared by some city residents. Police made four arrests during the day.
Some 250 police officers from other parts of the country including Birmingham had been drafted in by Devon and Cornwall Police. South Wales’ mounted police unit, known for their horseback patrol of specialist activities ranging from sporting matches to riots, also provided the most visible officer presence. A police spokesman said: “We respect the right to peaceful protest. But if people overstep the mark, we will deal with them accordingly and robustly.” The Church of England in Devon said it was “expressing solidarity with those who are protesting against racism and fascism” by opposing the EDL march. Martyn Goss, from the Diocese of Exeter, said: “The Church has always recognised and affirmed the equality of all people, regardless of backgrounds, creed or colour. Both in our churches and in communities, we have been enriched by growing together across traditions.”
© The Plymouth Herald
Plymouth: racist, unkind to the disabled and unfair to the young (UK)
16/11/2013- A survey of hundreds of Plymothians has found a “distressing” level of racism and unkindness to the disabled. Dame Suzi Leather, who leads the Plymouth Fairness Commission, and her team of 20 volunteers met hundreds of residents in their quest to know what ordinary people feel about the state of their lives. “What was distressing to hear about was the everyday street abuse,” she said yesterday in an exclusive interview with The Herald. “We encountered a lot of racism and that is something we are going to be investigating. “It’s inevitable at a time of great austerity that people are fearful of losing services and jobs, and perhaps don’t have sufficient understanding of the net contribution these people are making. She said it was not only racist abuse, but also directed at the disabled. “Tourism is important and we live in a very diverse culture nationally. Plymouth needs to be genuinely welcoming . “We want to present ourselves as a city open and welcoming of visitors.”
Their “Summer of Listening” report, published yesterday, Friday 15 November, reveals the real unfairness that people face in the city. Through a series of group meetings, street surveys and visits to people’s homes, the commission uncovered the “gut feeling” of what people feel is unfair in their lives. Dame Suzi said public transport in Plymouth was not good value compared to many other cites. “I had an interesting conversation with some young carers. They are getting into trouble because they are turning up late for school. “But one girl told me she had to leave home at 6.30am to get to class because the bus system was inadequate. “Sometimes apprenticeship places are not taken up. One of the reasons is the high cost of getting to work.” “We did get a sense that our young people are having a rough time,” Dame Suzi said. “We give cheaper transport for older people but there is a need for young people to get access to public transport.
“One of the things that came up repeatedly was that young people did not have places to go that don’t cost money. It’s partly because we have lost some of the places where we used to meet – like churches. “There is a sense of injustice that children from some areas are doing better than others. But older people also suffer. “You can know instinctively that there is some very poor housing in the private sector in Plymouth,” she said. “It’s not until you see it that you think, ‘My god, we shouldn’t be keeping pets in housing like this’. In 2013 we can’t expect people to live like this.” She talked to two elderly people who were attacked in their own homes. Both were blind and they were deliberately targeted by burglars because of their disabilities. “One of them subsequently received repeated phone calls saying, ‘If you tell the police you will be killed’,” Dame Suzi said. “You can get this kind of thing from the data, but it’s much more real to hear it directly.
The commission – one of 18 around the country – will produce recommendations for how unfairness can be tackled. “My message will be to divert more funding this way,” she said. “It’s jolly obvious that Plymouth misses out. There are some issues that should be on the national agenda, about the way Plymouth is being treated. “As a region we have a strong – and justified – sense that we are largely ignored by central government. “That came through in some of the conversations we have been having.” “We have to be realistic about the fact that there is going to be less, not more, money. This is going to be the great challenge. “Our recommendations will not be about spending shed-loads of money but about helping people to help themselves. “The sense of isolation in Plymouth was very strong, particularly among older people and carers. “Young carers will be one of our focuses. If you think about the amount of money some of them save the State, the least we can do is to recognise what they are dong and try to ease some of their burden.
© The Plymouth Herald
UK: Tabloids declare war against migrants from continental Europe
16/11/2013- British media reports are alleging that a suburb of Sheffield in northern England is experiencing a large influx of Romani people from Slovakia who are causing tensions there. The immigrants say they want to give their children a chance at a better life in Britain, but according to local and tabloid papers, gangs of Romani youths are clashing with other residents, primarily immigrants from Pakistan, by making too much noise and shoplifting. Police, however, say they have not noted a rise in local crime rates. The tabloid The Daily Express has even gone so far in its anti-immigrant crusade as to report that Romani people from Slovakia are offering their children for sale.
The national British daily The Guardian reported online that police have found nothing of the sort to be underway in Sheffield. Dissatisfaction with Romani residents in a suburb called Page Hall has led the local community, primarily comprised of Pakistani immigrants, to create an association to monitor the behavior of Slovak immigrants and try to calm the situation. The association says the situation is like a powder keg at risk of explosion, but rejects those who label the group a militia. They also say they are bothered by littering and by the fact that the Romani children stand around in the streets. "We're just a group of ordinary local people who do not like it when someone terrorizes us in our own neighborhood. We are doing our best to explain to the newcomers how life works here," said 64-year-old Barrie Rees, who has been keeping notes on his observations of the behavior of the Slovak Roma after walking around town.
On Thursday, according to The Guardian, a patrol comprised of Reese; a half-Jamaican, half-Scottish woman named Fatima; a white woman named Beverley and a Pakistani landlord who introduced himself as Khan spent time walking through the streets of the suburb. The Guardian also mentioned a news report by the tabloid The Daily Express alleging that Romani teenagers had tried to sell the owner of a local shop a child for GBP 250. Police have emphasized that they have thoroughly investigated the speculation that children were being sold and found no evidence of any children having disappeared in the Page Hall area. A police spokesperson said the allegations were a "pathetic joke". The Daily Express appears to be waging open war against immigrants from the rest of the EU. The tabloid features a petition on its website against citizens of Bulgaria and Romania living in Britain, called "Say No to Migrants from the EU".
The petition is linked to by these words: "SIGN OUR PETITION TO SAY NO TO ANY MORE EU MIGRANTS HERE". The Guardian has also reported that while local police do not have exact crime statistics available for the Page Hall suburbs, it does not seem to them that crime has significantly risen since a larger number of Slovak Romani people arrived in the community three years ago. The Guardian quotes a local police officer as saying the following: "There has not been a more significant crime increase since a large number of Slovak Roma immigrated here. What is happening is more like antisocial behavior than shoplifting or other crimes."
British newspapers are also quoting the opinions of Romani immigrants living in the suburb of Sheffield. Mario Sandor, a 37-year-old father of five, emphasized that he just wants his family to have a better life. "In Romania I can't get work because I'm black," he said. "Here I work at Tesco and in a hot dog factory. My children are receiving a proper education. That's why I'm here: I want them to become doctors and lawyers." Daniel Dunka, now 17 years old, immigrated to Sheffield with his seven brothers and one sister seven years ago and said he wants to get a good job one day, preferably as a teacher. Patrick Pokuta, another 17-year-old studying at the local business high school, said he wants to become a mechanic. Neither boy said he considered it a problem to stand around in the streets at night. "There's nowhere else to go," they said.
Christian Kandrak, age 10, has been living in Sheffield since February but was already speaking English with a Sheffield accent as he explained he wants to become a professional interpreter. "I like it in England. I want to learn English properly so I can get a good job and make money. That's why Slovaks are moving here," the Czech news server Britské listy quotes him as telling The Guardian. Authorities estimate that around 1 500 Eastern European Roma live in the town, of whom 500 reside in the small Page Hall quarter. However, according to the papers, a certain local Romani resident from Slovakia says the numbers are even higher. The man's opinion was quoted that anywhere between 600 and 900 Romani families live in the town, most of them in Page Hall. The Guardian also reports that local residents have welcomed the fact that authorities have begun focusing on their problems in recent days and said a greater police presence can reportedly also be felt in the town now.
Not all inhabitants of Great Britain share the opinions of the British tabloids. News server Britské listy cited one of the posts beneath The Guardian's online article on the issue as follows: "I am a community nurse currently caring for one elderly member of a Romani family from Eastern Europe. Three generations are living under one roof (they are paying for private accommodations and are not entitled to a state apartment) and in my opinion they are living in very cramped conditions, but they say it is much better than the conditions they lived in before. The main breadwinner works at a poorly-paid, unskilled job even though in his native country he was a skilled laborer. They receive minimal social assistance and all of the children attend school regularly. My patient, an invalid, became the target of racism here to such a degree that it is no longer possible for him to go outside alone. They are making an enormous impression on me with their approach to caring for their elderly. I cannot blame anyone, especially not people as nice as this family, for wanting a better life for their children."
On Thursday, UK Deputy PM Nick Clegg called on Romani immigrants to conform to the British way of life. Speaking in a radio interview, he also emphasized that the best way to resolve disputes is "to talk to one another" and said he believed Britain must remain an open country. His remarks followed those made by former UK Interior Minister David Blunkett, who warned that without better integration of Romani people there is a risk of violent unrest in some parts of the country. Blunkett, who is from the Labour Party, and Clegg, who is a Liberal Democrat, were specifically discussing the quarter of Page Hall, which both represent in Parliament.
Blunkett has said he believes that Romani people from Slovakia are coming to Britain from an immeasurably neglected, oppressive environment where electricity, waste removal and water services don't function and that it is necessary to teach them to adapt to the existing services in the civilized environment of Britain. According to Jan Čulík of the Bristké listy news server, other Czech media outlets are quoting Blunkett inaccurately. "What is interesting is that Blunkett's remark about Romani people from Slovakia coming from 'downtrodden villages or woodlands' was not quoted by the other Czech media. It is evident from his remarks that he blames Slovak society for the state of the newcomers from Slovakia," Čulík writes on news server Britské listy.
Former UK Interior Minister Jack Straw (Labour Party) said on Wednesday that opening Britain up without restrictions to citizens of the new EU Member States after 2004, including the Czech Republic and Poland, had been a "spectacular error". He said the government had predicted 13 000 new immigrants at the most per year and ultimately experienced more than 200 000 annually. These latest concerns among British residents are being prompted by the fact that at the start of 2014, Britain is also supposed to open up to citizens of Bulgaria and Romania without restrictions.
British Muslims seek to combat extremism
Monday marks the beginning of the trial of two men accused of murdering a British soldier in Woolwich, London, in May. The attack was widely condemned by faith leaders and has caused unease in the Muslim community.
18/11/2013- British soldier Lee Rigby was killed in broad daylight outside his barracks in southeast London on May 22, 2013. The attack provoked a public outcry, because the accused told passers-by that they were killing a soldier to avenge the killing of Muslims by the British armed forces. Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, both converts to Islam, pleaded not guilty to the charges during a hearing in September. On Monday, the two men will appear in court. In the morning, roughly 30 protesters demonstrated in front of the courthouse, according to Agence France-Presse. Among them was the leader of the far-right British National Party, Nick Griffin. The attack against Lee Rigby was widely condemned by religious leaders, but still led to a rise in threats made against Muslims and mosques in the days and weeks following the murder. Shaynul Khan of the East London Mosque says the atmosphere was tense. "We heard many incidents of mosques and other institutions, as well as people, being attacked in the wake of the Woolwich incident," he told DW in an interview. "So I think at that time the community was gripped by a certain degree of fear."
Several months later, however, the situation seems calmer. On the roof of the East London Mosque the call to prayer cuts through the sound of traffic on the busy street below. Thousands of people, many of them of Bangladeshi origin, worship here every week. "What happened in Woolwich was unspeakable and it's not something that anyone can forget in a hurry. So I think the impact of that will still continue to linger on with us for a while to come," Khan said. Some three million Muslims live in Britain today. They face a number of challenges. On the one hand, right-wing extremists, such as the English Defense League, are seeking to stir up sentiment against them. The EDL staged a number of anti-Islamic protests in the aftermath of the Woolwich killing. On the other hand, Islamist extremists are seeking to radicalize disaffected people on the fringes of society. But there are also organizations working with the Muslim community to promote integration and protect against extremism, such as the Quilliam Foundation - a think tank that seeks to challenge extremist views.
Usama Hasan works for the Quilliam Foundation. He knows the dangers of extremism only too well. By turning away from the radical Islamists, he and his colleagues became a potential target for these extremists. Their office in central London is now fitted with bomb-proof windows. Nevertheless, Hasan feels that the Muslim community has made a lot of progress since the Islamist attacks on the London Underground and buses in July 2005, which killed over 50 people. "One of the silver linings from the Woolwich incident was that ordinary British Muslims really felt a strong sense of revulsion, as the whole country did. And their reaction was 'enough is enough,'" Hasan said.
But it's young people - young men in particular - who most risk radicalization. That's why the Osmani Youth Centre, a short walk away from the East London Mosque, offers support to youngsters in the local area, notably those at risk of joining gangs. "We find that sport is a very good tool," program manager Abu Mumin told DW. "Sport is a language that everyone understands and it's a good way of engaging young people from all types of races and faiths. It's one of our more successful programs." Mumin feels Muslims tend to get bad press in the British media, even though he says the vast majority of them are well-integrated into British society. Shaynul Khan of the East London Mosque agrees with him. For him, the UK is still one of the best places in the world to be a Muslim. "I've grown up here all my life," he said. "I consider no other place home other than Britain. And I think the liberties that I'm offered here are far better than anything I would see across the globe. So I'm really proud to be living here in Britain."
© The Deutsche Welle.
Golden Dawn's alleged Piraeus chief remanded in pretrial custody (Greece)
22/11/2013- The two special prosecutors who have been assigned the investigation into the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn and charges that it operates as a criminal organization, on Friday ordered that a suspect who is believed to head the party's cell in Piraeus be remanded in custody pending trial. Nikos Apostolou was taken into custody on the strength of allegedly incriminating telephone calls in the early hours of September 18, when a member of Golden Dawn stabbed to death 34-year-old rapper Pavlos Fyssas in the Piraeus suburb of Keratsini. Counterterrorism officers and police investigating the murder have been tracing telephone calls made on that night between the assailant, who has confessed to the stabbing, and higher-ranking members of Golden Dawn, which is believed to operate according to a strict hierarchy. The murder of Fyssas prompted a crackdown on the far-right party - which has been linked to a number of violent assaults, mainly on migrants - that has led to the arrest of its leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, and other party cadres. Three Golden Dawn MPs - Giorgos Germenis, Panagiotis Iliopoulos and Stathis Boukouras - are expected to face prosecutors Ioanna Klapa and Maria Dimitropoulou on Monday to respond to charges of active participation in a criminal organization.
ENAR meets with key representatives of the Greek gov to discuss the fight against racism in Greece
The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) is holding its annual meeting of national coordinators in Athens to show solidarity and support for the whole population of Greece, including migrants and ethnic and religious minorities, in these times of deep economic crisis and rising racist violence. In that context, ENAR has met with officials from the Ministry of Public Order; with Mr Athanasiou, Minister of Justice, and with Mr Georgiadis, Minister of Health, to prepare the upcoming European Presidency of Greece, starting in January 2014.
22/11/2013- ENAR recognises the valuable efforts made by the Greek government, despite its dire financial situation, to (1) improve the protection of vulnerable groups from hate speech and violence, notably through the proposal of new anti-racism law brought to the Parliament on 20 November, and (2) to launch a conversation on the conditions of access to health services for third country nationals, in particular in detention facilities. ENAR however has underlined the urgency of tackling the blatant denial of the basic Human Rights of migrants and ethnic minorities in Greece, including:
1. The lack of support for Greek citizens and third country nationals to seek justice in cases of racist abuse. While the law provides for means of redress, it is not implemented by the judiciary and victims are not informed adequately about redress measures. Furthermore, the widespread distrust in State authorities prevents victims from bringing complaints to the Prosecutor in charge of hate crimes. ENAR calls on Greece to fully implement its anti-racist legislation.
2. The huge cuts in public spending for Human Rights based and equality measures. Greece has substantially reduced funding for Human Rights and minority NGOs, their Human Rights Ombudsman, the public health system, etc. The severe consequence of the cuts is that a substantial portion of the population is unable to enjoy basic support to live in dignity. This has led to an aggravation of physical and mental health problems, which have already impacted the ability of Greece to recover from the crisis and benefit from a healthy and dynamic population. Financial support for Human Rights based measures is crucial for dynamic democracies and economies. ENAR urges Greece to increase its social spending to at least the pre-crisis level.
3. The spread of responsibilities for tackling racism in its various forms between different Ministries (Public Order, Justice, Health, Finances, Foreign Affairs…) has created a general lack of ownership in dealing with racism by the various administrations, leading to chaotic service delivery, impacting both Greek citizens and third country nationals. ENAR calls for improved collaboration and exchange between the different administrations.
ENAR Chair Sarah Isal said: “ENAR has come to Greece to offer its expertise and to advise the Greek government to further develop the good initiatives currently undertaken during these extremely difficult times. We hope to see Greece improve its track record ahead of the EU Presidency for the benefit of all its residents, and we are glad that Ministers Athanasiou and Georgiadis accepted our offer to work together. We will keep providing expertise and support in the coming months. Civil society has a crucial role to play in making Greece and Europe a better place to live in”.
© EUropean Network Against Racism
Greek far-left group claims Golden Dawn killings
16/11/2013- A previously unknown Greek far-left group claimed responsibility Nov. 16 for the killings of two neo-Nazi Golden Dawn members, saying it was in retaliation for an anti-fascist rapper's murder. "We, the People's Struggling Revolutionary Powers, claim responsibility for the political executions of the fascist members of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn," the group said in a statement posted on the Greek news portal Zougla. An anonymous caller gave instructions for finding the tract, which was on a USB memory stick that was placed in a plastic bag and left at a location in the Athens suburb of Kaisariani, the news portal reported. "The attack was an act of retaliation for the murder of Pavlos Fyssas," the statement said, further accusing Golden Dawn of murdering and beating up migrants and leftists over the past two years.
Golden Dawn members Emmanuel Kapelonis, 22, and Giorgos Foundoulis, 27, were murdered in a Nov. 1 drive-by shooting in an Athens suburb, outside local party offices. Their murder raised fears of civil unrest, coming on the heels of the Sept. 18 fatal stabbing of street musician Fyssas by a Golden Dawn member. Last week, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias warned of "the beginning of a spiral of terrorist attacks and a bloody vendetta with insecurity spreading in society." The government, long accused of turning a blind eye to Golden Dawn's activities, launched a crackdown on the organisation after Fyssas' murder. So far, six of the party's elected MPs have been charged with belonging to a criminal organisation. Three are in pre-trial detention including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, who is charged with running a criminal organisation. Court documents have linked the party to two murders - including that of Fyssas - as well as three attempted murders and numerous assaults. But the two Golden Dawn killings have overshadowed the ongoing criminal investigation.