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Headlines 29 August, 2014

Headlines 22 August, 2014

Headlines 15 August, 2014

Headlines 29 August, 2014

UK: Man faces jail for spraying six people with ‘noxious substance’ in homophobic attack

A man who sprayed six people with a “noxious substance” in a homophobic attack outside a London gay club is expected to face jail.

27/8/2014- One victim, Pariche Frith, said he felt like his face was melting, and that he thought he was going to die, when Jonathan Lynn, 31, sprayed him in the face with a substance at the time thought to be bleach, outside Lightbox, a Vauxhall gay club, the Inner London Crown Court heard. Mr Frith said he started talking to two women, but that Lynn approached him and said the women were with him. After Mr Frith told him he was gay, Lynn responded: “Go away, we don’t like gays.” The court then heard that Lynn was told by Mr Frith that he could have any woman he wanted, if he wasn’t gay. Lynn’s reaction was to spray Mr Frith in the face with the liquid, which caused burns, including ulcers on his eyes. The model said he felt like his face had melted, and that he was going to die. A bystander, as well as two of Mr Frith’s friends were also sprayed with the substance in the attack.

As well as those victims, Lynn also sprayed another man with the substance, which he kept in an Evian water bottle, after he accidentally stood on the perpetrator’s foot. Prosecutor James Keely said: “The concern is that the gay community is vulnerable, it’s fair to say that such a serious and premeditated attack will no doubt have a detrimental effect on the community and impact the attraction to the area.” Lynn, who resides in Worcester Park, will be sentenced on Thursday. Having been arrested two days after the incidents, he later pleaded guilty to four counts of Actual Bodily Harm, two counts of common assault, and possession of a weapon for discharge of a noxious liquid.
© Pink News

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The Myth of the Spanish Model of Roma Inclusion

27/8/2014- “Things are different in Spain.” This is a common refrain when discussing Roma integration in Europe. Spain is held up as a model, and not just by media or government officials. Even some Roma activists point to programs in the country as a way forward. But this rosy picture ignores the historical and economic environment, as well as the vital role of Romani families. As Spain’s economic crisis and its effects take root, it’s time to break this myth. Look at education. Spain receives high marks for enrolling Roma children into primary school but performs terribly when it comes to higher education. Only five percent of Roma students complete upper-secondary education—a statistic that is even more shocking when you consider that Spain is significantly behind less-developed European countries[PDF] like Czech Republic (30 percent), Hungary (22 percent), Romania (10 percent), or Bulgaria (nine percent). Roma students aren’t in the classrooms, and their history isn’t in textbooks: 500 years of Roma contributions to Spain fails to merit a single mention in school history books.

Although negative attitudes toward Roma might be higher in other countries, the Roma remain the most despised minority in Spain: 40 percent of the population would be disturbed if they had a Romani neighbor, and 25 percent would not allow their children to attend school with Romani students. This deep suspicion and mistrust carries over to the streets. Roma are 10 times more likely to be stopped by police for identification than those of a Caucasian appearance. In contrast with Roma in Central and Eastern Europe, Spanish Roma are not an officially recognized ethnic minority in the country, and Roma civil society is for the most part in a pitiful state. After decades of state-funded service provisions through nongovernmental organizations, the much-needed voice of Roma organizations has been reduced to a mere whisper. A growing number of Roma university graduates find no incentive in engaging with the work of civil society.

Of course, there has been progress. But the myth of the “Spanish Roma inclusion model” blinds us to the most important point. It was not Roma-specific policies—like the 1989 Spanish Development Program or the Fundacion Secretariado Gitano’s ACCEDER employment program—that contributed the most to inclusion, but rather developments in Spain that had nothing to do with Roma.

In the transition from Franco’s dictatorship to democracy, the new Spanish constitution banned discrimination on ethnic or other grounds. Subsequently, new legislation was passed to repeal still existing discriminatory provisions towards Roma. Roma—along other excluded groups—now had the institutional backing to legally defend themselves and advance some of their rights as equal citizens. In the 1980s Spain adopted a number of welfare policies such as universal health care coverage, compulsory basic education, and social housing designed to uplift the bottom layers of the society. After centuries of persecution and discrimination Spanish Roma found themselves living in a country that wanted to help all of its underprivileged. The welfare state helped to reduce mortality rates, increased life expectancy, improved levels of basic education, and gave hope to all Spanish citizens. This is single-handedly what has made the greatest difference for Spanish Roma.

During the late ’90s, until 2006, Spain benefited from a growing economy which reduced unemployment and improved living conditions for all. Roma also benefited from the economic boom, as they suffer today from the general economic downturn. The final element which contributed to changes experienced by the Spanish Roma is hardly ever mentioned: the hard work and sacrifice that Romani families put towards making the most of the available opportunities. These are the families that opened the way for a Roma middle class in Spain. We are the children of people who, despite tremendous obstacles and discrimination, managed to improve their lives. One of us, Ostalinda, is the daughter of world-renowned Flamenco dancer Mario Maya. Ostalinda’s father comes from a very modest background. He was raised in a cave without running water or electricity. His personal journey is one of hard work and sacrifice to secure a better upbringing for his three children. It was thanks to his perseverance and encouragement that Ostalinda managed to pursue her academic studies. With two degrees in anthropology and law, she has been working to defend the rights of Roma across Europe.

People like us are not the majority among Roma but we are a growing minority. We owe what we have and what we are to the hard work of our Romani parents and grandparents and not to projects done in the name of Roma. The Spanish experience demonstrates that Roma projects alone cannot make a difference. The social distance between Roma and everyone else remains and can grow even bigger in a period of economic and social crisis. Roma-specific projects are only useful and sustainable if governments change the way they support all people, especially in the domain of equality, welfare provision, and economic development. This way everyone can get a chance. When real opportunity is provided to all, Roma in Spain are the living example that it can work.
This article was originally published in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
© OSF - Roma Initiatives Office

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Spanish mayor compared to Hitler over immigrant claims

Javier Maroto accused of stirring up tensions by saying North Africans abuse system

26/8/2014- The mayor of a town in northern Spain has been accused of racism and even of aping Hitler, after he claimed that immigrants are sponging off the state. Javier Maroto, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), has been known for his tough stance on immigration ever since becoming mayor of the Basque city of Vitoria in 2011. However, in recent weeks he has been even more outspoken, targeting North Africans in particular. “A majority of some communities – Moroccans and Algerians to be precise – live off our land, especially the social support that we all pay for,” he told reporters earlier this month. “I know it’s not politically correct to say so, but as it’s so obvious I’m saying it so that things change and improve.” He added that he had “never had so much support from people on the street on an issue”. Politicians from several other political parties have accused Maroto of populism and needlessly stirring up racial tensions. Xabier Agirre, of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) went even further, warning that the mayor’s comments made him “the Hitler of Vitoria”. “It’s important to remember that Hitler won elections by deepening the confrontation against Jews and that had the consequences it had,” he said. Ander Rodríguez of the radical nationalist coalition Bildu said the mayor was in danger of creating “a hotbed of fascism”, while the NGO SOS Racismo called for him to be investigated for inciting racial hatred.

Maroto’s criticism of North African immigrants focuses mainly on a monthly handout by the Basque regional government of €616 for those who have no other source of revenue and who have been residents for over three years. The Basque Country has more control over its finances than other regions of Spain, where the handout is €426. About 65,500 people received the Basque aid in July, a new record. According to Maroto this is proof that the region’s relatively generous social handout system is attracting immigrants who do not want to work. His party colleague, Javier de Andrés, has supported the mayor, claiming that Nigerians were also sponging off the system. However, official data seems to contradict their accusations. In both 2012 and 2013, the number of foreigners in the Basque region dropped, with nearly 8,000 leaving last year. Immigrants make up 6.4 per cent of the total Basque population, the fifth lowest of Spain’s 17 regions. “We came to the Basque Country because there was more work here than in the rest of Spain, not because of the handouts,” Mohammed Satglarhezal, a Moroccan who lives in Vitoria, told El País newspaper. “How attractive can the handout be if you have to spend three years paying €500 a month before you even qualify for it?”
© The Irish Times.

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Far-right ‘Russian Jihad’ fighters cross into Ukraine

26/8/2014- Since the beginning of the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, Moscow has repeatedly denied sending troops or weapons to help the rebels. Nevertheless, many Russian fighters have crossed the border into Ukraine to fight what they call “Kiev’s fascist junta”. Recruited by far-right nationalist movements, these men are ideologically driven to fight what has been nicknamed “the Russian Jihad”. FRANCE 24 joined a group of these would-be fighters as they headed for the combat zone.

‘Russian imperialist nationalists’
Evgeny Mazepin is a recruiter for the self-styled “Russian Volunteer battalion”. He works out of an office in the city of Voronezh, 500km south of Moscow and 150km from the Ukrainian border. “Ideologically we are all Russian imperialist nationalists, descendants of the White Guard,” he explains, in reference to the anti-communist forces that waged a civil war against the Bolsheviks in the years immediately after the 1917 Russian Revolution. “Every day we receive about 10 applications from candidates who want to join the battalion,” he says. “Our aim is to liberate the land we call Novorossiya – New Russia – and its Russian people from the enemy, the Kiev junta.” Novorussia was the 18th and 19th century name for the region of Imperial Russia that now comprises Ukraine.

‘Mentally I am ready to die’
FRANCE 24 talks to a group of the battalion’s volunteers heading for the border and into Ukraine. Among them is a Russian calling himself Norman. “I'm a nationalist and my priority is protecting the Russian people,” he told FRANCE 24. “Despite what many in Ukraine think, the Russian state is not involved in this mission. If Russia was involved, this war would have been over in four days.” The group head for Luhansk, in Eastern Ukraine, with food and other supplies for their comrades across the border. On arrival in Ukraine, they are each handed an AK47 rifle and a few magazines’ of ammunition, and waited at a camp for orders to join the fight. “Mentally, I am ready to die,” says Norman. “This war will be won by our sacrifice.” “For me this territory is Russian, the communists gave it away unfairly,” he argues, referring to a decision by Stalin’s successor Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 to cede parts of Russian territory, including the Crimean peninsula, to Ukraine. “This land must be returned to the Russian people.”
© France 24.

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Italy: Sicily Recovers 24 Bodies as Boat Sinks in 'Migrant War'

26/8/2014- Italian authorities have recovered 24 bodies from the waters south of Sicily where a migrant boat capsized, as the official Vatican newspaper compared a series of disastrous incidents involving would-be refugees fleeing northern Africa for Europe to a war. The Italian navy said that two of its patrol boats managed to pull 364 people alive from the water, after a fishing boat used by human smugglers overturned en route from Libya to Italy on Sunday night. Rescue teams initially said six migrants had drowned, but later found more bodies. Their remains, as well as the survivors, were being carried to the city of Augusta on Sicily's east coast, the navy said. It was the third such incident to be reported by Italy's search and rescue services in two days. Up to 170 migrants were feared dead after a boat sunk off the Libyan coast on Saturday, while a few hours later 18 died as an inflatable dinghy sunk south of Italy's southernmost island of Lampedusa.

Italian authorities said they rescued almost 4,000 migrants altogether over the weekend, adding to the more than 100,000 who have reached the Mediterranean country so far this year. Fuelled by the increasing instability in Libya, where human smugglers operate, migrants' arrivals have exceeded the previous yearly record of 62,000 set in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings. Hundreds have died in the perilous crossing. In an article headlined: 'Like a war', the Holy See newspaper L'Osservatore Romano described the situation as an "endless massacre". "A new silent war is being fought in the Mediterranean. That of immigration," the paper wrote. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has renewed calls for the European Union to help Italy's search and rescue operations. He is due to discuss the issue at a meeting with EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstroem later this week.
© The International Business Times - UK

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Czech Rep: Commemorative ceremony for Romani Holocaust victims at Hodonín

26/8/2014- Seventy-one years ago, the Nazis transported the largest group of Romani prisoners from the so-called "gypsy camp" at Hodonín u Kunštátu to the extermination concentration camp of Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Few returned from there alive. A commemorative ceremony is held annually in August at the departure point for those transports to honor the memory of the Romani Holocaust. The ceremony is convened by the Museum of Roma Culture in collaboration with the J.A. Komenský National Pedagogical Museum and Library. After a mass in the reconstructed prisoners' barracks was said by priest Martin Kopecký, those assembled went to the nearby memorial at Žalov. There a cross, symbolically covered by the spokes of a wheel (the dominant symbol of the Romani flag) stands at the site of the mass grave of the prisoners who died in the camp.

Wreaths were laid at the memorial. Organizers closed the ceremony with a visit to the cemetery in the nearby town of Černovice, where the first 70 victims of the camp at Hodonín were buried. The cemetery features a plaque in their honor designed by Romani sculptor Božena Přikrylová. The memory of the Roma and their tragic fate during WWII will also be preserved there in future by a new building at the site of the former camp.

The Czech Government decided to entrust the J.A. Komenský National Pedagogical Museum and Library with construction of the building, which should begin next year. On the occasion of the commemorative ceremony, detailed project documentation for the Hodonín Memorial, designed by Richard Pozdníček of the Architecture Faculty at Czech Technical University, who won last year's student contest for its design, was displayed to the public in the prisoners' barracks that were reconstructed in 2012. The planned facility will not just serve as a memorial to the victims of the Romani Holocaust. It will also be a place for educating representatives of nonprofit organizations and schools who visit the memorial.
© Romea.

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Croatia Anti-Fascist Street Naming Thwarted

A proposal to name a new street in the Croatian city of Split after WWII anti-fascist Partisan fighters was withdrawn after opposition from veterans’ associations and right-wing politicians.

25/8/2014- The initiative to name the new street after one of the units that fought against the Nazis and the German-allied Croatian Ustasa regime during World War II was withdrawn on Monday after it ran into heavy criticism. “The proposal to name the street after the 1st Split Partisan Detachment is leading to unwanted ideological divisions,” said Split mayor Ivo Baldasar, who had backed the plan. Controversy erupted in Split after the local committee responsible for naming streets approved the proposal by the Society of Anti-Fascists.

But Split council voted on Monday overwhelmingly to dismiss the issue from its agenda after complaints about the proposal over the past few days from several war veterans’ organisations, including the Coordination of Split’s Forces in the Dalmatian County and the Croatian Association of Disabled War Veterans. “Instead of supporting divisions among the Croatian people, we should have unity like we did during the [1991-95] ‘Homeland War’, when Ustasas and Partisans fought next to each other against the common enemy,” said a joint letter of protest from the two veterans’ groups.

Patar Skoric, the local president of the main opposition centre-right party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), demanded that he proposal be withdrawn after the local assembly in the suburb of Split where the street is located, Mejasi, also expressed objections. Skoric pointed out that the law prescribes that “the names of settlements, streets and squares are chosen by the local municipal assembly, after consulting the local community that lives in that settlement.”

The dispute follows a previous controversy in Split in May, when Split mayor Baldasar was criticised for participating in a commemoration to honour the 9th Battalion of the Croatian Defence Forces battalion that operated during the 1990s war and was named after a notorious WWII Ustasa general, Rafael ‘Knight’ Boban. Rights campaigners accused the mayor of effectively endorsing hate speech, but Baldasar argued that both the Partisans and fighters in what Croatians call the ‘Homeland War’ of 1991-95 deserve commemoration. “Both the homeland fighters and the Partisans are victims [of war], and they have a right to be revered because of their struggle for the freedom of their town and their people. This is history, not politics,” he explained.
© Balkan Insight

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Has Germany learned lessons of NSU failures?

The German government announced measures on Wednesday requiring police and courts to take tougher action against suspected hate crimes, following a neo-Nazi killing spree that went unsolved for more than a decade.

27/8/2014- Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet approved the draft law based on the recommendations of a parliamentary committee tasked with investigating the bungled murder probe. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the discovery of a "terrorist cell" in November 2011 believed to be responsible for gunning down 10 people, mainly Turkish immigrants, over seven years had created "shock and dismay in Germany". "We have the duty to do everything we can to ensure that such things never happen again," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement. The law, which must still pass parliament, would require criminal justice authorities to do more to take possible "racist, xenophobic or otherwise dehumanising" motives into account in criminal investigations and sentencing. Public prosecutors would be told to consider such motives "early on" while probing crimes, while the federal prosecutor's office would be given powers to take over a case when it suspects an extremist motive. The draft law also untangles the lines of authority among stateinstitutions to prevent cases slipping between the cracks.

The parliamentary probe of the so-called National Socialist Underground (NSU), a neo-Nazi trio blamed for the serial murders carried out between 2000 and 2007, found massive failings in the police investigation in a damning 1,000-page report released last August. It said that a lack of coordination between authorities in various regions and a presumption that the killers must also have been immigrants allowed the group to act with impunity. The NSU's sole surviving member, Beate Zschäpe, is on trial, accused of lending vital support to the group's two gunmen, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Bundlos, who died in an apparent murder-suicide in late 2011. Until then, police and the media had dubbed the nationwide series of gangland-style shootings, committed with the same Ceska handgun, the "doner (kebab) murders", suspecting that Turkish criminal groups were to blame. German police and domestic intelligence services faced withering criticism for ingrained bias by associating terrorism only with the far-left or Islamists, not right-wing extremists. The case shook Germany's self-image of having learned the lessons of its Nazi past.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany considers capping child benefit for migrants

27/8/2014- Migrants to Germany from other EU states may have child benefit capped at levels paid in their home countries, under proposals being considered by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government in response to popular concern over migration from eastern Europe. The proposal, which would affect parents who leave children behind in their home countries while coming to Germany to work, echoes UK prime minister David Cameron’s proposal to reform the overseas payment of child benefit. Mr Cameron’s remarks, in which he singled out Poles, provoked an angry confrontation with the Polish government. As rightwing populist parties have successfully exploited anxiety over migration, other governments across Europe including Austria and the Netherlands have also sought to assuage public concern by looking at restrictions on intra-EU migrants. Senior EU officials are looking at the German plans to restrict freedom of movement as a potential template for wider European reform.

At a press conference on Wednesday, interior minister Thomas de Maiziëre said Germany would consider whether child benefit could be “linked to the level of the country where the children are, rather than where the parents are”. “If the parents are in Germany and the children are in Bulgaria, whether the level of benefit could be adjusted to the Bulgarian entitlement,” Mr de Maiziëre said, adding the proposal would be reviewed to see whether it is compatible with EU law. The German government offers generous child benefits of €184 per month each for the first and second child, €190 for the third and €215 for every subsequent child – part of policies aimed at reversing population decline.

The number of claims made by migrants is relatively tiny. Official figures show that last year payments were made in Germany for more than 119,000 children living in other EU states, less than 1 per cent of the total number of children entitled to benefit. But the issue has provoked a political backlash, with Ms Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, calling for the withdrawal of child benefit payments to migrants for the first three months of their stay. Germany is also bringing in legislation that limits the right of unemployed migrants from other EU states to stay in the country and introduces time-limited bans on re-entry in cases of fraud. The draft legislation, unveiled on Wednesday and expected to become law later this year, would limit the right of residence in Germany to six months for migrants who are unemployed.

This stay can be extended if a migrant can prove that he or she is looking for work with a “justified chance of success,” according to the proposed legislation. The restrictions announced by the German government on Wednesday were accompanied by a defence of the principle of freedom of movement, and praise for the contribution of migrants to German society. Mr de Maiziëre said: “We want to maintain freedom of movement, and secure acceptance in society for freedom of movement. It is exactly for that reason that we must combat abuse.” Downing St claimed Germany’s curbs on benefits for EU migrant workers were a sign that London was leading the debate on reforming the rules on cross-border working and showed that Britain was not alone in wanting to tackle the issue. David Cameron has put reforms to EU free movement at the heart of his promised renegotiation ahead of his planned “in-out” referendum in 2017 and says he wants to remove “the magnetic pull” of Britain’s benefits system.
© The Financial Times.

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Mosque Fires in Germany Trigger Concerns of Islamophobia

26/8/2014- A Turkish delegation comprised of officials from Turkish Parliament's Human Rights Committee and head of Turks Abroad and Related Communities directorate of the Turkish Prime Ministry started a two-day visit to Germany yesterday to inquire about the extent of attacks and suspicion of arson. Their first visit was to Berlin's Mevlana Mosque. A fire broke out in a part of the mosque that was being redecorated on August 11. The cause of the blaze is not yet known but German officials said they found traces of a flammable liquid at the scene, pointing to arson. Located in Kreuzberg, a district of Berlin dubbed as "Little Istanbul" due to its large population of Turks - approximately 40,000 people - the mosque was partially open for prayers as reconstruction was underway on the 40-yearold structure. One day before the attack in Berlin, the Süleymaniye Mosque in the German town of Bielefeld was set on fire by suspects who burned Qurans in the mosque. In February, the Central Mosque in Cologne, one of the largest mosques in Germany, was subject to attacks. Suspects crashed a car into the door of the mosque and attempted to set the mosque on fire.

In Germany alone, apart from three recent attacks, 78 attacks targeting mosques have been carried out since 2012 and 219 attacks were carried out between 2001 and 2012. Although arson attacks remain rare, hate crimes targeting Muslims in Europe have spread. In Norway, the Pakistani imam of a mosque, where a pig's head was earlier left on its front door, was injured in an axe attack in June. Other mosques in the country have received arson threats. Racist and Islamophobic attacks have also targeted mosques in Denmark and the U.K., although there were no casualties. Along with mosques, Muslims were targeted in hate crimes. In London, 500 Muslims have been the victims of hate crimes in 2013.

In the Netherlands, four suspects attempted to attack a mosque run by Turks in June, but the Muslim community prevented the attack. Minor attacks targeted mosques in several Dutch cities in 2013. Four mosques were subject to attacks ranging from assailants hurling eggs and Molotov cocktails to incidences of pigs' heads being left at mosques. In Austria, swastikas were drawn on the walls of a mosque earlier this month. The Turkish community views the attacks as isolated incidents by fringe groups though they criticize the German media and politicians' approach to the attacks in a way entirely dismissing the threat. In a visit to the Mevlana Mosque on Aug. 23, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, said he viewed the attack on the mosque as important as any attack on any community center. He said they do not want "conflicts" in other countries to be brought to Germany and that Germany wants the peaceful coexistence of different cultures.
© Daily Sabah

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Muslims in Norway Marched against ISIS and Extremism

Thousands in Oslo protested against ISIS and local extremists recruiting Norwegian youth to fight in Syria.

25/8/2014- The demonstration, organized by young Muslims in Norway, gathered people of different religious and ethnicities together in Oslo against religious extremism and the crimes of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The crowd filled the entire Grønland square as the demonstration started at 17.00. After short talks by the organizers, demonstrators marched through Oslo streets toward Norwegian Parliement (Stortinget) with slogans of "No to ISIS", "ISIS is not in Islam’s Name", "Against ISIS terror for Peace". When the protestors arrived at Eidsvold space, in front of Stortinget, the number has reached to almost ten thousand, according to the organizers. Norwegian convert Yousef Bartho Assidiq told that he is so angry with ISIS barbarity and the members of the marginal group Prophets Ummah, who previously expressed support for ISIS. - We have taken back the city from racists and Nazis. Now we’ll take it back from extermists groups like Prophets Umma, said Assidiq in his speech at Grønland.

19 years old Faten Al-Mahdi Hussein also denounced the Norwegian extremist Ubaydullah Hussain and his group Prophets Umma. She added that she would rather call that group "The Devils Ummah". - It is important for the Norwegian community to see the difference between normal Muslims and people who call themselves Muslims but are completely lack of Muslim attitudes, she said in her speech in front of the Parliament. Talking to The Nordic Page, two demonstrators Tonje (67) and Silje (69) said they traveled from Tåsen province of the city and it worthed to participate and see the young people initiate this meaningful event. Tonje said they are more positive about Norway’s future as they see so many active and responsible young people in the demonstration.

A young demonstrator Ali (16) said being in the dmeonstration is important to take away from extremists people and ideologies and say that we do not share the same principles and values with those extremists. Among other politicians and stakeholders, Prime Minister Erna Solberg also had a speech during the demonstration. Solberg said all stand together against extremists. - Today it is about what we believe. We all believe in freedom of speech, democracy, freedom of religion and the political discussion to take place without violence, said she in her speech in the end of the demonstration.
© The Nordic Page

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Malta: Philantropists set sail on first migrant assistance mission

Migrant Offshore Aid Station will spend 60 days at sea this summer, divided into various missions

25/8/2014- Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), a privately funded humanitarian project working to prevent more migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, launched its first operation today. Members of the local and foreign press were invited aboard the 40-metre ‘Phoenix’ to witness the launch of the mission as well as the launch of two drones that will be aiding in the operations. A professional crew of rescuers, seafarers, paramedics and humanitarians will be conducting the mission. The vessel is equipped with two Schiebel remote piloted aircraft (CAMCOPTER® S-100) which will monitor the seas from the sky and provide real-time intelligence to MOAS and the Rescue Coordination Centres of Malta and Italy. MOAS will spend 60 days at sea this summer, divided into various missions.

"We've had a number of struggles to get MOAS off the ground. But, now, just over a year after we conceived of this project, we are finally ready to get started," said Regina Catrambone, who founded MOAS together with her husband Christopher Catrambone. "Much has changed since we came up with the idea last summer: the Mare Nostrum initiative started and has successfully saved tens of thousands of people. Unfortunately, its future is not guaranteed." Another concern is the increasing number of people displaced by turmoil in Syria, Iraq and Gaza, leading to more migrant arrivals, including unaccompanied minors. Further complicating matters is the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. "Our focus is on the young child who finds himself or herself on a un-safe boat through no fault of their own. We believe they deserve to be saved. They might be sent back or face problems in Europe, but at least they did not die at sea. And may one day, they will grow up and dedicate some of their time, money and energy to helping others. This is the spirit of our mission. “

Catrambone thanked the press and the public for their response to MOAS. In particular, she thanked Houston-based POGO Bridges for their generous donation of medical supplies. MOAS will act as an offshore aid station. Its prime aim will not be to carry migrants to one country or another but to locate and monitor migrant boats and provide aid and assistance to vessels in distress. It will coordinate all of its activities according to its legal obligations at sea and in direct liaison with the Italian and Maltese authorities. MOAS director Brigadier Martin Xuereb, who served as Malta's Chief of Defence until last year where he was responsible for the Armed Forces of Malta, said, "We will be an asset at the disposal of the authorities, just as any fishing boat or commercial vessel. The only difference is that we have the capabilities, experience and willingness to assist effectively." The paramedics on board MOAS will assist vessels in distress by providing lifejackets, water, food and medical supplies using two Rigid-Hull inflatable Boats (Rhibs). The Schiebel drones, which will he used to locate vessels in distress, are for the first time being deployed from onboard an NGO-owned ship.
© Malta Today

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Netherlands: Minister under pressure after homeless refugee dies in squat

27/8/2014- Junior justice minister Fred Teeven is facing questions in parliament after the death of a failed Somali asylum seeker in Amsterdam and serious injuries to a second man after a fall. Opposition MPs are calling on Teeven to organise ‘bed, a bath and bread’ for a group of around 100 asylum seekers who have lost their right to stay in the Netherlands and are currently living rough in squatted buildings in the capital. GroenLinks leader Bram van Ojik has urged Teeven to take immediate steps to ensure ‘refugees who have exhausted every legal course open to them do not have to live in inhuman circumstances’, the Volkskrant said.

Scandalous
ChristenUnie MP Joël Voordewind describes the situation as ‘scandalous’ and has urged the government and city council to find accommodation for the refugees. ‘I do not know why it is taking so long,’ he said, pointing out that the council has allocated €1.6m to solving the problem. Amsterdam’s mayor Eberhard van der Laan points out that the council is not allowed to help the refugees by law. ‘We have done what we can,’ a spokesman told the Volkskrant on Wednesday. ‘National government has to solve the problem’ The homeless Somali asylum seeker died in hospital after ending up in a coma following a fight with several others at an abandoned garage in Amsterdam where they have been living for several months. The man is one of a group of around 100 refugees who have lost their right to stay in the Netherlands but are either refusing to leave or don’t have proper paperwork to return home. On Monday, an Iraqi man was taken to hospital after falling through a balustrade in another building where a group of failed refugees were living. He is in intensive car with head and back injuries.

Appeals
The group of refugees are no longer entitled to council accommodation because they have lost their appeals to be allowed to stay in the Netherlands. For the past two years they have moved in to various empty properties in the city, including a church, a prison and old offices.

Warning
The Dutch human rights board warned earlier this summer that the situation in the garage was threatening to get out of hand. ‘Take action before someone dies,’ the board is quoted as saying by the Parool newspaper.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Hema reportedly 'phasing out' Zwarte Piet, critics call for boycott

26/8/2014- Dutch high street retail group Hema is phasing out Sinterklaas’s controversial helper Zwarte Piet from gift packaging and displays, the Parool reports on Tuesday. Although chocolate Piets and Piet wrapping paper will be available this year, this is because they have already been ordered, the Parool says, citing a company email. The email, said to come from sales director Rob Heesen, reportedly states there will be very few Zwarte Piets on the shop's packaging from next year. The email was sent to anti-Piet campaign group Malle Piet, the Parool said. Hema on Tuesday afternoon issued a statement saying it is not getting rid of Piet. 'There are still Piets in our collection. We are following the general discussion and we respect the guidelines that flow from it,' the company said in the online statement. 'Everything has already been bought for December 5 and we cannot say anything about next year.'

Debate
News website nu.nl reports that supermarket group Albert Heijn and the Bart Smit toy shops are also in the process of changing their portrayal of Piet but do not wish to become part of the ongoing debate. In addition, the Bijenkorf department store will not be dropping its automated climbing Piets who decorate the central hall every year. However, Bijenkorf Piets no longer have golden earrings and some have been given straight and plaited hair, a spokesman told the Parool. The Hema report immediately led to social media calls for a boycott of the store. 'A people that yields to nagging immigrants will lose more than Zwarte Piet,' wrote PVV parliamentarian Martin Bosma on Twitter.

Courts
The Council of State is currently considering the future of Zwarte Piet, ruled a negative stereotype by a lower court earlier this year. That court ordered Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan to reconsider his approval for the annual Sinterklaas parade ahead of the December 5 celebrations. Earlier this year, the Dutch folk heritage centre suggested Zwarte Piet should remain black but that his curly hair, thick red lips and golden earnings could go. The centre has been holding talks with other interest groups about how to change the parts of the Piet costume which are considered by some to be offensive.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Muslim clerics who preach hatred face deportation, minister says

25/8/2014- Foreign Muslim clerics who preach hatred in Dutch mosques and who glorify terrorism face deportation, social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher says in Monday’s Telegraaf. Imams with Dutch nationality will also be stopped from preaching, Asscher told the paper. ‘If an imam from Syria wants to preach here and does not have peaceful intentions, he will not get a visa,’ Asscher said. ‘We will also make the lives difficult of Dutch imams who grew up here and spread hatred.’

Visas
It is not the first time controversial religious leaders have been refused visas. Integration minister Rita Verdonk also banned several from travelling to the Netherlands and had others deported between 2003 and 2007. The decision tackle so-called ‘hate imams’ is part of a wider programme to counteract the radicalisation of young Dutch Muslims, Asscher said. For example, efforts are also being made to train key figures in the Muslim community to try to stop youngsters coming under the influence of violent Muslim extremism. ‘One of the great freedoms we enjoy here is freedom of religion,’ Asscher said. ‘But that should not be abused. We will make the life of hate imams difficult, and where we can, impossible.’

Labour
Labour leader Diederik Samsom told the Volkskrant at the weekend the Netherlands needs to show more daring in tackling failures in integration. Referring to the ‘extreme barbarism’ of the Islamic State organisation, Samsom said ‘the breeding ground for a mutual lack of understanding or even hate remains unfortunately fertile in the Netherlands’. Dutch laws must be ‘more actively’ applied and adapted ‘to preserve the rule of law from those who would undermine it’.
© The Dutch News

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Greece: Your genocide or mine?

Greece, racism and the church

29/8/2014- A long-awaited bill whose stated aim is to combat racism has been limping its way through the Greek Parliament, despite several bishops from the national church denouncing it as "catastrophic" while some liberal observers say it does not go far enough. In its latest iteration the bill would: impose fines and a ban on state funding for parties or groups that promote racism; punish "racist acts" with up to three years in jail; and lay down a similar penalty for "praising or denying the significance of genocide, crimes against humanity, the holocaust or Nazism" in a way which could provoke racial hatred or violence. In a country where up to 10% of the vote goes to the ultra-nationalists of the Golden Dawn party—whose leadership is facing prosecution—it will take more than a law to stamp out either racist attitudes or acts of violence against immigrants and other vulnerable groups. But human-rights campaigners around the world have welcomed the bill as a step in the right direction.

And for exactly that reason, Greece's political and religious right has denounced the bill as a measure imposed under foreign pressure. In particular, they have singled out the fact that denying Hitler's Holocaust against the Jews (which is a common enough sentiment on Greece's hard-right fringe) is being made a crime, but no such penalty is laid down for those who deny the suffering of ethnic Greeks in Anatolia, and in particular in the Black Sea region, during and after the first world war. The Pontic Greek lobby, representing Greeks whose forebears came from the northeast of present-day Turkey, has been especially vociferous in denouncing the bill. Some negative reactions have come from unexpected quarters. Bishop Nikolaos of Mesogaias—a former NASA scientist whose personal horizons are broader than most of the Greek episcopate—denounced the bill because instead of merely curbing racial hatred, the bill also contained "the new and suspect word" homophobia.

But this week, the church's ruling Holy Synod issued a statement about the bill which surprised many with its relative moderation. It expressed agreement with the spirit of the bill and insisted that the church itself was not racist; on the contrary it was "helping and succouring thousands of legal and illegal immigrants, regardless of their religious beliefs and racial origins, even now in the middle of an economic crisis." The synod went on to urge, in fairly mild language, that in the section about holocaust denial, a reference be added to the "genocide" suffered by the Greeks of Anatolia and the Black Sea. The government has already indicated that something like that may happen.

To many observers it sounded as though the church had resolved to play the "good citizen" to avoid rocking the national boat any further at a time when economic austerity is continuing to bite hard. But as one disappointed church-watcher said, the statement failed to say anything bold that might discourage racist or homophobic acts by people who claim to be acting in the name of Christianity. Meanwhile, the idea of making an ever-longer list of holocausts whose existence cannot be questioned might seem like a good one—and an appropriate way of commemorating holocaust victims. But The Economist has always come down against criminalising the denial of holocausts, including the one perpetrated by Hitler; it has taken the view that ridicule and counter argument are a better way of dealing with those who defend the indefensible.

In any case, while the church's position on genocide and the anti-racism law has grabbed local headlines, it may well be something else that was said by the church this week will prove more important in the light of history. The synod appealed to the head of the Russian church, Patriarch Kirill, to get Greece exempted from the counter-sanctions which Russia has imposed on the European Union—so that Greek exports can continue flowing to Russia. It won't happen: neither the Greek nor the Russian church has any remit over diplomacy or commerce, of course. But the synod's gesture was an expression of the unhappiness felt by at least part of the Greek public over being forced to take the EU's side in a standoff with Russia. With its strong historic and religious ties to Russia, Greece was a maverick player in the old cold war, and something similar may happen in this new cold war.
© The Economist

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Greece: Athens gay couple attacked by homophobic mob

A gay couple in Athens have been brutally assaulted by a homophobic mob.

25/8/2014- According to the newspaper Kathimerini, the couple – who have not been named – were set upon in the Pangrati neighborhood, early on Saturday. The victims say they were attacked by a group of 10 to 15 men, who had shaved heads and were wearing black t-shirts. Both men suffered injuries following the attack, with one having to undergo surgery on his ankle. Police are investigating the incident, which is the latest in a number of alleged homophobic incidents in the country this year. Last month,  George Kounanis and Harry Vassilakis were reportedly attacked in Athens by a group of police officers for holding hands. In addition, the extreme far right party Golden Dawn picked up three seats in May’s European elections, netting 9.4% of the vote and becoming the third-largest party. In January, gay rights activists in Piraeus used a kiss-in to protest against ultra-conservative Orthodox Christian Bishop Seraphim, who claims that homosexuality “is a unnatural aberration not even observed in animals”.
© Pink News

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Golden Dawn visit dismays Australia’s Greek community

Greek Australians vow to stop neo-fascist party from spreading hate as extremist group steps up efforts to tap diaspora for support

28/8/2014- A planned visit to Australia by members of the European parliament representing Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has been met with embarrassment and dismay by leading members of the country’s Greek community. Days after the extremist group announced that former army generals Eleftherios Synadinos and Georgios Epitideios would visit Sydney and Melbourne in October, Greek Australians vowed to stop the organisation spreading its message of hate. “Greeks in Australia oppose Golden Dawn,” Bill Papastergiadis, the president of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, told Guardian Australia. “The visit by an anti-immigrant party is incompatible with the pluralist and multicultural society in which we live.” More than 300,000 people of Greek descent live in Melbourne. The forthcoming trip is the most concrete sign yet of the neo-fascists’ determination to extend their global reach. Emboldened by its unexpectedly good performance in recent local and European polls, the Holocaust-denying party, now the third-biggest political force in Athens, has stepped up efforts to tap the Greek diaspora for support.

Australia appears to have pride of place in that campaign. Ignatius Gavrilidis, Golden Dawn’s newly appointed Australia representative, told the ABC support for the group was soaring, especially among younger Greek Australians, despite a judicial inquiry in Greece that has unmasked the movement as a criminal organisation. Most of its leadership is detained in pre-trial custody as a result. The visit aimed to raise awareness and funds, Gavrilidis said. He acknowledged that some ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn MPs admired Hitler – with its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, keeping a portrait of the Führer in his home – but they neither espoused nor endorsed Nazi ideology. “Yes they have admired the leadership of Hitler, just like we also admire the leadership of many strong leaders across the world,” Gavrilidis told the public broadcaster. “Vladimir Putin is a very strong leader. He’s got integrity. Benjamin Netanyahu is a very strong leader.”

Supporters in Australia numbered in the “thousands” even if there were no more than 70 activists nationwide, Gavrilidis said.  But Greek community leaders denied the far-right group had any appeal. “Support for Golden Dawn is largely nonexistent,” Papastergiadis said. “They have no profile whatsoever in Australia.”  Victorian Liberal MP Nick Kotsiras, a former minister in the state government, echoed that sentiment, saying Golden Dawn had minimal support among Australia’s Greek community.  “I am embarrassed by the existence of Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn does not represent me, it does not represent my family and does not represent the vast majority of Greeks living in Victoria,” he said. “But they are also not representative of Greeks living in Greece. They are the antithesis of what the Hellenic spirit is all about.”  The politician insisted that if the far-right MEPs were allowed into Australia it should only be after passing the character test automatically conducted on people trying to enter who are suspected of being associated with a criminal organisation.

In May, black-shirted Golden Dawn followers clashed with Greek Australians from the anti-fascist front during a protest in Brisbane that was also attended by supporters of the far-right Australia First party. A Greek-Australian organiser with the Melbourne Anti-Fascist Initiative, Alex Kakafikas, said opponents of Golden Dawn were meeting to discuss their response to the MEPs’ visit, including a blockade of any events they held. “The ultimate goal is to stop them from having their meeting,” he said. Kakafikas said Golden Dawn maintained a “shadowy” presence in Melbourne and had only a few supporters. “But one of the problems is that local Greek-Australian supporters are making connections with the far-right in Australia. Golden Dawn’s Australian leader has spoken at an Australia First meeting,” he said. “It’s not that Golden Dawn will be able to muster enough energy for political influence here. Our concern is its ability to contribute resources [to the Greek branch] and to send people over there to work with the organisation,” he said. Australian members of the group had regularly travelled to Greece to take part in demonstrations and engage in “paramilitary training”, he said.

In Athens, leftist activists who maintain contact with the Melbourne-based “No to Golden Dawn” campaign pledged to help stop the party broadening its support base. “Their aim, clearly, is to set up Nazi cells of hate in the Greek diaspora that would strengthen far-right forces that already exist in Australia and the United States,” said Petros Constantinou, a prominent campaigner with the Movement against Racism and the Fascist Threat (Keerfa). “We will coordinate with our friends over there to stop them creating this black international of fascism. We will help and support their mobilisations in any way we can,” he said in Keerfa’s Athens office. “Diaspora Greeks, immigrants themselves, have been very vociferous in rejecting Golden Dawn’s message of hate.”

The party, whose insignia bears an uncanny resemblance to the swastika, has gone out of its way to soften its image as support for the organisation has risen on the back of Greece’s economic and social collapse. Both Epitideios, an erstwhile Nato commander and Synadinos, the former head of Greece’s special forces, are representative of Golden Dawn’s determination to replace boots with suits in an effort to expand its appeal.  But although the makeover appears to have paid off – with the far-rightists more than doubling the party’s showing in the Athens mayoral election in May – Golden Dawn MPs still face criminal charges for the brazen violence and hate speech they have directed against immigrants, gay people and Jews. Attacks against dark-skinned migrants and homosexuals by black-shirted assault squads have once again proliferated over the Athens summer. Michaloliakos, who founded the party more than 30 years ago, and is accused of murder, extortion and assault, will stand trial with other MPs later this year.
© The Guardian

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Members of controversial Greek far-right political party to visit Australia

European Parliament MPs from the controversial Greek far-right political party Golden Dawn are set to visit Australia, the group's local spokesman says.

25/8/2014- The party's Australian representative told the ABC that the two men, both former army officers, would address events in Melbourne and Sydney in October. Golden Dawn has been strongly criticised in Europe for its use of pseudo-Nazi imagery and its violence against immigrants, who it partly blames for Greece's economic malaise. The party's leader and other MPs were arrested last year and charged with membership of a criminal organisation after a party member stabbed a left-wing activist to death outside an Athens cafe. Some have subsequently been released.

In his first media interview, the party's Australian representative, Ignatius Gavrilidis, said MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) Eleftherios Synadinos and Georgios Epitideios were planning to come to Australia to raise funds and increase awareness among Greek-Australians. He said the party had between 60 and 70 "activists" in Australia, but thousands of "supporters" in the large Greek community here, a figure he said was gleaned from social media use. Mr Gavrilidis said many of the party's supporters did not wish to be publicly identified, but that Golden Dawn's philosophies were proving particularly popular among young Greek-Australians. The party has collected clothing here and shipped it to Greece to be distributed to people hit by the economic downturn.

Party rejects neo-Nazi tag
Golden Dawn has risen to prominence over the last few years as Greece has spiralled downwards into economic crisis. It has portrayed itself as an 'outsider', accusing the traditional political parties of corruption and mismanagement of the economy. However, its members have also become infamous for violent attacks on immigrants, hardline nationalism, anti-Semitism, and use of flags and salutes that bear a striking similarity to those used by the Nazis. Mr Gavrilidis denied Golden Dawn was a neo-Nazi party, but acknowledged that some of its members admired Adolf Hitler and other leaders. "Yes, they have admired the leadership of Hitler, just like we also admire the leadership of many strong leaders across the world. Vladimir Putin is a very strong leader. He's got integrity. Benjamin Netanyahu is a very strong leader," he said.

Mr Gavrilidis said some of the imagery people claimed was neo-Nazi, such as the flags and salutes, had roots in Greek history. Golden Dawn has also established links with right-wing groups in Australia, including the anti-immigration Australia First Party, with which it held a joint rally in Brisbane earlier this year. Mr Gavrilidis said he shared Australia First's concerns about Muslim immigration to Australia. "One thing I am for is controlled immigration in the interests of Australia and in the interest of Australian citizens," he said. "We've got a serious threat from the east. If you cannot control immigration, you're asking for trouble."

MP calls for character test at Australian border
Any visit by the Golden Dawn MEPs is likely to attract significant opposition within both the Greek-Australian and wider communities. Victorian Liberal MP Nick Kotsiras, a former minister in the State Government, said Golden Dawn had minimal support within the Greek community in Australia, and its "politics of hatred" were abhorrent to most Greeks. "I am embarrassed by the existence of Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn does not represent me, it does not represent my family and does not represent the vast majority of Greeks living in Victoria," Mr Kotsiras said. "But also they are not representative of Greeks living in Greece. They are the antithesis of what the Hellenic spirit is all about."

Mr Kotsiras said the MEPs would have to pass the character test to enter Australia, and that under Australian law, anyone associated with a criminal organisation could be denied entry. "I would hope that these individuals are checked, their backgrounds are checked by [Department of] Foreign Affairs, to make sure that if they don't fit in that criteria, they are not allowed to enter Australia." The ABC contacted the office of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to ask whether the two men would be fail the character test, but is yet to receive a response.
© ABC News

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18 bodies found as Italy rescues 3,500 migrants

24/8/2014- Italian authorities have discovered 18 bodies in a boat of migrants as rescue operations went into overdrive this weekend, with 3,500 would-be refugees picked up at sea. The navy said in a series of tweets Sunday that its Sirio patrol ship was docking in Pozzallo, southern Sicily, with 266 migrants and 18 corpses aboard. Since Friday, some 3,500 migrants have been rescued; some 100,000 have arrived this year. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano (picture) renewed his demand for the European Union to relieve pressure on Italy. The country says it's spending 9.5 million euros ($13 million) monthly to operate beefed-up patrols following the drowning deaths of more than 360 migrants near the Italian island of Lampedusa last October. Alfano warned "Italy will make its own decisions" if EU partners don't offer assistance.
© The Malta Independent

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Escalation of anti-Semitism in Europe calls for urgent action

Anti-Semitic incidents are 'provoking a climate of fear' across Europe, warns Michaël Privot

25/8/2014- Racist slogans invoking "death to the Jews" have been heard during protests against the war in Gaza in several European cities in the last weeks, especially in France and Belgium. Online anti-Semitic hate speech, especially on social media, is also exploding across Europe. These incidents, strongly condemned by a great diversity and majority of community leaders, reflect a worrying spike in anti-Semitism and come as a stark reminder that anti-Semitism is still very much a reality in Europe today. Indeed, a recent survey by the EU fundamental rights agency showed that two in three Jewish respondents consider anti-Semitism to be a major problem in the eight countries surveyed. Jews in Europe should not pay the price for the Israeli government's policies.

In Britain, around 100 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in July, double the usual number, whereas in the Netherlands, there has been an increase in anti-Semitic hate on the Internet, with reports of 400 expressions of anti-Semitism in the second half of July, mainly on social media. In Germany, some protesters were prevented from attacking a synagogue in Berlin, and Molotov cocktails were thrown at a synagogue in Wuppertal. Anti-Semitic graffiti and flyers are appearing on walls and in shops in many cities across Europe. In Liege, Belgium, a café owner put up a sign stating that dogs were welcome, but Jews were not allowed. In France, some participants of a banned protest rampaged through the Jewish quarter of Sarcelles in July, attacked a funeral home and set fire to a pharmacy, sparking reactions from a Jewish vigilante group. This situation is legitimately provoking a climate of fear among Jewish communities in Europe, reaching peaks not faced for more than a couple of decades. Many are renouncing their visibility in public spaces for fear of retaliation. Jewish organisations and representatives are receiving threats and are under police protection.

While often the acts of disenfranchised and/or unaffiliated groups, these criminal offences distort the general calls for peace and threaten European Jews' rights to security and integrity. People have the right to express their opinions and their dissent publicly. However, this should under no circumstances give way to racial hatred towards communities that are perceived to have connections to countries or movements accused of breaching human rights standards. This principle applies to the concerning expressions of Islamophobia and anti-Arab hate speech in Europe in reaction to ongoing conflicts in other parts of the world, such as the acts of violence committed by the group "Islamic state of Iraq and Syria". Public authorities across Europe must take steps to prevent acts of hatred towards Jewish communities and promote cross-community initiatives by civil society in Europe, to efficiently counter racism. The new European parliament and European commission have a key role to play in addressing anti-Semitism and other specific forms of racism present in Europe, especially in the context of the rise of xenophobic and racist parties as a result of the European elections.

One concrete action would be to move forward on proposing a new reinforced EU law on hate crime which would effectively protect existing and potential victims of such bias-motivated violence and incitement to hatred. Politicians in the European parliament also need to act responsibly by not inciting to discrimination, prejudice or hatred in their political work and by developing appropriate and dissuasive sanctions against politicians using racist discourses in their parliamentary work. Reactions and sanctions imposed by peers would stop the growing feeling of impunity and lack of democratic accountability.
Michaël Privot is director of the European network against racism (ENAR)
© The Parliament Magazine

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Finland: Customers reluctant to get in a taxi with a dark-skinned driver

23/8/2014- Roughly a dozen customers stand by the taxi stand at the West Terminal waiting for a taxi, while driver Masawud Magaji waits in his taxi. No one gets in. “It makes me feel bad. For two or three hours, I think about what's wrong with me, should I quit working and move out of Finland,” Ghana-born Magaji tells. He forgets the incident after thinking about it for a while, but the same may happen the next day. Over the past seven days, three customers have refused to get in a taxi driven by Magaji. “I think it's racism. There are a lot of customers. Only a few do that,” he underlines. Also other dark-skinned taxi drivers wrestle with the problem, Magaji reveals. One of them is his fellow Ghana-born Stanley Nyarko Aboagye. “I'm in the line and a customer gets in the car. 'Fuck, a negro,' he says and walks to the next car,” he describes.

In particular, middle-aged customers are inclined to refuse a ride, Nyarko Aboagye says. Transport Workers' Union (AKT) is familiar with the phenomenon. “It's very real. It particularly affects black men,” says Jari Korhonen, a regional officer at AKT. Employers, Korhonen reminds, are ultimately responsible for the equality of drivers. The Finnish Taxi Owners' Union contrastively says that it has yet to hear about the phenomenon. “It's outrageous especially if it involves racist comments. People have the right to choose their service provider, but if it's due to racist grounds, it can't be tolerated under any circumstances,” communications director Katja Saksa states. Discriminatory attitudes can also jeopardise the safety of customers, says Nyarko Aboagye. “Work days are 9 to 11 hours long. You have to concentrate. If I face discrimination, I can't concentrate properly and start to make mistakes.”

The decision to refuse a taxi ride is not necessarily associated with racism. Elderly people, in particular, may presume that drivers of a foreign background do not speak Finnish. Magaji tells about an elderly woman who got into another taxi due to her lack of English skills. “When she got in, we talked and she noticed that I drive really well. In the end, she thanked me and left me a two-euro tip.” Anssi Roitto, the executive director at the association of taxi drivers in Helsinki, emphasises that all drivers should have a sufficient command of Finnish. “Without the necessary language skills, it would be impossible to pass the written taxi-driver test,” he reminds. Only drivers who have demonstrated their skills and local knowledge in the test are permitted to drive a taxi. Of the roughly 3,500-4,000 active taxi drivers in Helsinki, some 10-20 per cent are of a foreign background, estimates Roitto.
© The Helsinki Times

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Sweden: Church plays Schindler's List theme at Nazi rally

When the neo-Nazi Party of the Swedes holds a public talk in Norrköping in central Sweden on Tuesday, the local city hall will play the theme music from Steven Spielberg's Holocaust film Schindler's List.

26/8/2014- When The Local contacted Vice Chairman of the Norrköping city board, Fredrik Bergqvist, things were already heating up in town. "I can already see the police horses as we speak," he said. "This is a very unusual sight for our town indeed." On Tuesday, the far-right Party of the Swedes (Svenskarnas parti) has police permission to hold a rally from 10am to midday in the central square, Tyska Torget (in English: the German Plaza). In the hopes of sending an even stronger message, the town hall will be playing the theme music from Schindler's List on the 80 bells in the tower, which Bergqvist assured are extremely capable of playing such a melody. "This is a symbol for tolerance and to show that we have a welcoming society. We're playing the theme from Schindler's List because it's a symbol for what's happened in European history," he explained.

But he's not just referring to World War II. "Norrköping has been an open society since the middle ages. We had a big German population in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Scots came here too, there were people from the Netherlands and Belgium in the 16th century... and it's always continued." "We were also one of the first places in Sweden where Jews were allowed to settle and start businesses," he added. While the Social Democrats hold the majority of support in town, both their party and Bergqvist's Moderates have made the unusual move of joining forces against the Party of the Swedes, issuing a joint statement in support of the town hall's decision. "We totally agree on this one," he explained.

"And it's absolutely imperative to have these discussions. When there are extreme movements, the borders of acceptable actions and thinking can shift. And when that happens, racism can become more accepted sooner or later. That's something we're not going to allow." The music will be played before and after the far-right party's talks, as officials said they don't want to disturb the talks, rather to "highlight the fact that everyone is equal". Meanwhile, police were already on hand on Tuesday morning to keep counter-demonstrators at bay, hoping to avoid a repeat of the weekend's activity when ten people were injured as counter protesters and police horses clashed at the party's rally in Malmö. Playing church bells during neo-Nazi rallies in Sweden has become commonplace since May this year, when Jönköping's church rang the bells in alarm for the first time since World War II broke out.
© The Local - Sweden

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Swedes throw stinky fish at calm neo-Nazi rally

After Saturday's violence in Malmö the Party of the Swedes held three meetings in other parts of Sweden which police said passed without incident, although some threw portions of fermented herring.

24/8/2014- The right-wing party of the Swedes (Svenskarnas parti) were greeted with the foul smelling fish in Gothenburg after a Facebook group pledged to give them a "sour welcome." A large police attendance was in force in Gothenburg for the meeting which was held at 2pm. The authorities estimated that around 2,300 people showed up in the Götaplatsen square to protest, but unlike in Malmö there were few signs of trouble. Demonstrators attempted to drown out the speech of Stefan Jacobsson by chanting and whistling. The protesters were divided into pens although many chose to stand outside the enclosures to avoid being trapped. Police said the meeting in Gothenburg passed without major incident as did other rallies held by the party in Halmstad and Vänersborg. "We've taken it in what happened in Malmö and spoke with the Skåne police," Halland police press officer Tommy Nyman told the TT news agency, when asked if the authorities had changed their approach following the incidents in Malmö.

Meanwhile the fallout into the chaos in Malmö continues as police arrested three people in connection with the violence. The conduct of the police has been called into questions after pictures were published of officers on horseback trodding over demonstrators. An investigation is currently under way after a police van collided with a protester. An organizer with Skåne against racism said she was "shocked" with how the police behaved. On Sunday the information officer of the Skåne police was unable to confirm if they had received any complaints about their behaviour. Opposition leader Stefan Löfven, who was in nearby Helsingborg, didn't want to be drawn into a debate as to whether the police should be investigated. "Of course it's bad when people get injured especially in connection with a demonstration," he said to TT.

The anti-racist Expo foundation described the scenes in Malmö as a "success" for the party of the Swedes. "The Nazis in the party of the Swedes have a media strategy that all publicity is good publicity. That's why they have decided to host meetings in big cities to provoke a violent reaction," Alexander Bengtsson of Expo told TT. The leader of the left party (Vänsterpartiet) Jonas Sjöstedt said that the police had been too "generous" in allowing the party to authorize meetings by the right wing party. "They did it on the first of May and they did it at Almedalen. I also think that it's completely absurd that the Svenskarna parti can come into Swedish schools," Sjöstedt told Kvällsposten. However the justice minister Beatrice Ask said it would set a dangerous precedent if such restrictions became commonplace. On Sunday night more than a hundred people gathered in the main square in Möllan in Malmö to protest against police violence after the incidents on Saturday. A similar rally has been planned for outside the police station on Monday night.
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden: Ten injured at Malmö anti-Nazi demonstration

A planned manifestation against the neo-Nazi Party of the Swedes spiralled out of control on Saturday in Malmö as police and protesters clashed leading to several injuries.

23/8/2014- Ten people were taken to hospital, five with serious injuries with one of them requiring treatment in the emergency room. Police arrested six people and took scores more into custody. An estimated 1,500 people gathered in Limhamn square to protest against a planned appearance by the leader of the Svenskarnas parti (party of the Swedes) who was due to make a speech. Even before the party leader, Stefan Jacobsson, showed up there were signs of potential trouble as counter protesters threw smoke bombs and fire crackers. Chaos ensued when Jacobsson began speaking as his words were drowned out by protesters chanting "No Nazis on our streets." He did manage to complete his speech after which there were clashes between demonstrators and the police.

The authorities attempted to quell the crowd by using police horses but encountered a radical element amongst the 1,500 assembled. Local newspaper Sydsvenkan reported that most of the protesters behaved well but that there were people there intent on causing trouble. The atmosphere worsened when the police mounted on horses rode into the heart of the square. A police van also collided with a protester and the incident will be investigated by the force. "We were forced to ride in because masked demonstrators had moved to the outside of the square and we needed to make some arrests," police press officer Ewa-Gun Westford told the TT news agency.

Pictures taken by the TT news agency appear to show police horses trodding over people in the midst of the chaos. "I am shocked at the police's extensive force," Matilda Renkvist of Skåne against racism, an organizer behind the demo, told Sydsvenskan. Westford admitted that the pictures looked bad but that the police were forced to take action as the protest had escalated. When asked by TT if that was the right line of conduct she declined to comment. Among the six people that were arrested one was being held on suspicion of assaulting a police office. A later speech held by the party of the Swedes in neighbouring Helsingborg passed without major incident.  Last year a rally held by the anti-Muslim Swedish Defence League sparked similar ugly scenes in Malmö.
© The Local - Sweden

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Headlines 22 August, 2014

Azerbaijan Tidies Away Human Rights Critics

While Baku presides over European rights institution, senior politician says human rights defenders deserve punishment.
By Afgan Mukhtarli, Samira Ahmedbeyli - Caucasus

22/8/2014- As leading Azerbaijani lawyer Intiqam Aliyev awaits trial, his supporters say his arrest reflects official unease about his role in bringing cases before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). A senior government ally, meanwhile says human rights activists and others caught up in the latest wave of detentions deserve everything they get because they are really working for foreign interests. On August 8, a court in the capital Baku ordered Aliyev, head of the Legal Education Society, to be detained for three months while prosecutors built a case for tax evasion, abuse of office and illegal entrepreneurship. Aliyev denies all charges. “Intiqam Aliyev thinks the real reason for his arrest is his human rights activity, the appeals he sends to the ECHR, and his investigation of corruption,” his lawyer Anar Qasimli said, Aliyev’s lawyer.

One of the ECHR cases brought by Aliyev is that of Leyla Mustafayeva, who is claiming that the 2010 parliamentary election results were fixed in to ensure she lost. “Intiqam Aliyev is my lawyer. He represents dozens of people who have not found justice in our own judicial system,” she said. Amnesty International has recognised Aliyev as a prisoner of conscience, and says he was detained “solely for his work as a human rights defender”. The group noted that his arrest formed part of a concerted campaign against human rights and civil society activists in Azerbaijan.

Three senior United Nations human rights experts issued a statement on August 19 expressing concern at the arrests of Aliyev, Leyla and Arif Yunus, and Rasul Jafarov. (See society activists in Azerbaijan. (See Activists Arrested in Azeri Crackdown and Top Azeri Rights Defender Held on Treason Charge on these recent cases.) “We are alarmed at the wave of politically-motivated repression of activists in reprisal for their legitimate work in documenting and reporting human rights violations,” said a joint statement by Michel Forst, Maina Kiai and David Kaye, the UN rapporteurs for human rights defenders, the right to peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression, respectively. “The state’s primary responsibility should be to protect its civil society activists from intimidation, harassment, threats or attacks.”

Ali Huseynli chairs the Azerbaijani parliament’s legal policy committee and is a member of President Ilham Aliyev’s Yeni Azerbaijan party, has little time for the country’s human rights activists. “Some of them are traitors, some are weak – they will all answer before the law. What kind of human rights defenders are they anyway, if they can’t even defend themselves?” he asked. Huseynli went on to claim that the international organisations complaining about the activists’ arrests had often funded their activities, and suggested that these groups were proxies for Western intelligence. “International foundations and NGOs controlled by Western groups and probably by their special [secret] services are conducting illegal activities not only in Azerbaijan but also in other countries,” he said.

Azerbaijan currently chairs a Council of Europe institution that calls itself “the continent's leading human rights organisation”. A week before his country took up the six-month rotating chairmanship of the CoE’s Committee of Ministers, Foreign Minister Eldar Mammadyarov pledged that it would pay particular attention to the grouping’s “three key pillars – human rights, rule of law and democracy”. Arastun Orujlu, head of the East-West think tank in Baku, believes that the government is calculating that it is currently in a position to step up attacks on human rights and ignore expressions of concern because Western states are too busy with the Russia-Ukraine crisis. “The government is sure that at the moment the United States and Europe will react to political arrests more cautiously since they don’t want to alienate Azerbaijan,” he said.

Maria Dahle of the Human Rights House Foundation is among those calling for a stronger international response. “The authorities want to silence those holding the country to its international obligations and commitments, especially within the Council of Europe,” she said. Meanwhile, the arrests continue. Natiq Adilov, spokesman for the opposition Popular Front party, said armed police raided his father’s home in Sabirabad on August 11, arrested his brother Murad, and claimed to have discovered a package containing drugs. On August 6, a court approved a prosecution request to freeze the bank accounts of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), and two days later, police searched the group’s offices and seized documents, computer hard drives and other materials. Prosecutors issued a summons against IRFS head Emin Huseynov, but he failed to appear.
Samira Ahmedbeyli is an IWPR reporter in Azerbaijan. Afgan Mukhtarli is a reporter for www.civil-forum.az.
© The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

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France: Calais mayor calls for new Sangatte-style camp to house migrants

Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, says she will ask France's interior minister to build a new shelter for migrants to appease fed-up residents

22/8/2014- The mayor of Calais is to press for the construction of a new Sangatte-style camp, as the French city struggles to cope with its rapidly-growing numbers of UK-bound migrants. An estimated 1,200 people - mainly Eritreans, Sudanese and Afghans - are currently squatting in disused factories in the city, or living in tents and beneath tarpaulins in scrubland by the port terminal. Almost all of them hope to sneak onto a lorry and travel to Britain. Natacha Bouchart, mayor of Calais, described the situation as "unsustainable". Earlier this month violent riots broke out between different groups, and on Thursday evening 250 migrants marched through the streets demanding better conditions. She will meet Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, on September 2 and told La Voix du Nord newspaper that she wants a new migrant centre to be built "far from the town, because if it is close to local residents it becomes too tense."

She said it would provide housing for around 400 adults, in good conditions, but did not specify where. "I would accept the construction of this centre if the state agrees to take control of its management," she said. It would, she added, "remove 80 per cent of this phenomena" and "reassure Calais residents that they are entitled to a bit of serenity." Humanitarian workers in Calais cautiously welcomed the idea, but they warned that it was not a long-term situation. "It's a changing of position, because until now she was blocking the suggestion of a shelter and denouncing the squat," said Philippe Wannesson, who runs a blog on the situation. "It's positive to reopen the debate, but a centre for 400 people is not enough. We need a long-term solution, and a better idea would be smaller houses dotted around the centre - rather than a ghetto." Earlier this month The Telegraph reported how the situation was seen as unsustainable by lorry drivers, politicians and humanitarian workers.

On August 4 Denis Robin, the préfet of Pas de Calais, said that the camps would be removed from Calais "in several weeks time." No date has been given for the razing of the settlements - which were last demolished on May 28 and July 2, only to spring up again. On Monday the deputy mayor of Calais, Philippe Mignonet, confirmed the camp would be torn apart in the coming weeks. "The camp will be dismantled," he said. "All depends on the Home Office minister to give the instructions to do so." Ms Bouchart said that the camp would not be a "new Sangatte" - yet the infamous camp, which was shut down by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2002, begun as a centre for 400 migrants and mushroomed into an unwieldy shelter for 1,200 people. It was criticised for attracting migrants to the area and bringing in crime and people traffickers. She also called for a round-table with other European leaders to seek a comprehensive solution to the problem, and for the EU to grant financial aid to towns such as Calais and Lampedusa in Italy.
© The Telegraph

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Germany: Neo-Nazi investigation was a 'fiasco,' report says

A state parliamentary committee examining the police investigation of the German far-right terror group NSU has labeled it a 'fiasco' in a final report. The group has been blamed for the murder of at least 10 people.

21/8/2014- A fact-finding parliamentary committee in the eastern German state of Thuringia on Thursday officially presented its final report on the police investigation into activities of the neo-Nazi group "National Socialist Underground" (NSU). The NSU is alleged to have carried out at least 10 murders, mostly of people with migrant backgrounds, in Germany, along with other violent crimes. The around 1800-page report, which was two-and-a-half years in the making, slammed police and justice authorities for a series of mistakes made during the investigation of the crimes. These included the holding back of important information and a failure to follow up certain paths of inquiry and clues, according to the report.

'Glaring deficits'
The report also spoke of glaring deficits in cooperation between different authorities, above all between the Thuringia branch of Germany's domestic security agency and the state's criminal police authority. The large number of wrong decisions meant that the security authorities had indirectly aided the spread of right-wing extremist structures in Thuringia, the report concluded. It cited the treatment of a right-wing informer Tino Brandt, saying he had received high payments and had obviously been warned about investigations directed against him. An earlier report by a Bundestag committee released in August 2013 had also accused investigative agencies of sweeping incompetence and institutional racism.

'Unprecedented failure'
The interior minister of Thuringia, Jürg Geibert, described the committee's work as an important contribution "to the clarification of this unprecedented case of failure by national and regional authorities." The NSU is alleged to have killed nine immigrants between 9 September 2000 and 6 April 2006, and a German policewoman in 2007. It has also been blamed for a bombing in the central city of Cologne in 2004, in which more than 20 people were injured, some severely, as well as a number of robberies. The group went underground in 1998 following the discovery of pipe bombs and explosives in a garage in the eastern city of Jena. The chairwoman of the Thuringia committee, Dorothea Marx, said mistakes made by police in the first six hours after the discovery were "core errors" in the search for the NSU. Two members of the terrorist trio, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, were found dead in November 2011, having presumably committed suicide after a failed bank robbery to avoid arrest. It was the finding of their bodies that first led police, who had initially assumed that the killers were most likely from the immigrant community, to connect the murders with the NSU. A third member, Beate Zschäpe, is currently on trial in Munich.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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'Sweden Democrats hold the key to elections'

With national elections around the corner, political scientist Stig-Björn Ljunggren says there's a hive of activity behind the scenes, and that the right-wing nationalist party could end up being the key player.

21/8/2014- With elections less than a month away, you'd be forgiven for thinking opposition leader Stefan Löfven will walk away as prime minister with no questions asked. Indeed, the 57-year-old former welder has been a trailblazer in the polls for months, and the governing Alliance is still 7.7 percentage points behind the Red-Green bloc. But the competition heated up this week when Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt brought the red-hot topic of refugees onto the agenda, asking Swedes to open their hearts, show tolerance, and feel comforted by the fact that the Alliance could financially deal with the influx. With this in mind, and considering it's unlikely that either bloc will win a majority of the votes, The Local turned to Social Democrat and political commentator Stig-Björn Ljunggren for the lay of the land.

He offered two potential outcomes for September 14th. "The first scenario is that we get a new government, and I think this would more likely be due to people being pushed away from the Moderates rather than being pulled towards the Social Democrats," he explained. "Some people are bored with the current government, some think they're incompetent, and some are just looking for a change. As a result, we'd get a minority government with the Social Democrats and the Greens. And in the long run, they'll try and make some kind of bloc in the central ground with parties from the other side. Löfven has long shown distaste for the traditional left and right."

The second result would see Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt getting his third four-year term in office. "And he'll only remain in power due to indirect support from the Social Democrats. He will tell the Red-Greens that if they want to form a minority government, they'll need to take on the Left Party, which Stefan Löfven doesn't want," Ljunggren explained. But where it gets both interesting and complicated, he explained, is how the Sweden Democrats come into play. "The reason the Sweden Democrats are major players, despite only having five or ten percent of the votes, is because of the rigidity of the bloc system. As no party on either side of the bloc is willing to support the other side, the Sweden Democrats have the key. And since no one wants to touch them, it becomes problematic."

Why? Because the nationalist party led by Jimmie Åkesson would hold the balance of power. Since the Swedish system is one of negative parliamentarianism, this opens up a can of worms. Negative parliamentarianism means that a government doesn't need to be actively supported by a majority of MPs - it just needs there not to be a majority actively voting against it. The consequence is that abstentions can play a key role. If, for instance, the Sweden Democrats choose to abstain in a parliamentary vote, and all the Alliance parties vote against a red-green government, then Stefan Löfven cannot be prime minister even if the combined forces of the red-green parties have more seats. But if Reinfeldt chooses to resign, speaker Per Westerberg will select the person he thinks has the best chance of forming a government. This is likely to be the leader of the largest party (probably Löfven), or possibly the leader of the largest distinct bloc (for instance, a successor to Reinfeldt as Moderate leader).

The political scientist explained that the Sweden Democrats will essentially have the same role as the Greens did several elections ago, but the difference is that no party had any problems in principle talking policy with the Greens. And considering the Sweden Democrats are likely to side with the Moderates, as they've supported the Alliance in around 90 percent of votes in parliament, the possibility of Reinfeldt winning again appears all the more likely. "Of course, the Sweden Democrats might want something in return," Ljunggren mused. "But the Moderates have said they won't do any kind of negotiation." So with what appears to be a very complicated election on Sweden's hands, how exactly will it pan out? "If I had to guess now it'd be the Social Democrats with the Greens," Ljunggren said, adding quickly that he'd be keen to see the polls after Reinfeldt's refugee speech. "If his comments become the game changer he was hoping for, then I might change my bet."
© The Local - Sweden

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Swedish artist jailed for 'race hate' pictures

A Malmö court has sentenced Swedish street artist Dan Park to six months in jail for incitement to racial agitation and defamation.

21/8/2014- The court also ordered him to pay a total of 60,000 kronor ($8,700) in damages to four people depicted in his pictures. Gallery chief Henrik Rönnquist, who exhibited Park’s pictures, was also found guilty of racial agitation. He was given a suspended sentence and fined. The charges related to pictures deemed offensive to African and Roma people. The court said it had taken into account the fact that Park had several previous convictions for racial agitation. Earlier this year he was twice found guilty and sentenced to a total of four months in prison. He has appealed both of the earlier verdicts. Park shot to infamy in 2011 when he created and distributed posters with a picture of Jallow Momodou of the National Afro-Swedish Association superimposed on the image of a naked man in chains. "Our negro slave has run away," read the text on the posters.

The controversial artist singled out Momodou for having reported a student "jungle party" in Lund, during which three people with blackened faces and ropes around their necks were led into the party by a "slave trader" and later sold. Park's posters were distributed around the southern city and also included Momodou's name and contact details. Momodou claimed the posters were racist and offensive, while Park argued that the purpose of the posters was to highlight the issue of free speech. At the time of his initial arrest in 2011, Park told The Local that he thought the prosecutors were overreacting. ”Was I surprised to be charged? Yes and no. I think it is a waste of tax payers' money mainly. It wasn't a big deal. And no one should be able to tell me what kind of art I can create,” he said. ”We all have different tastes and people often get upset, but that is what art is about - creating reaction."
© The Local - Sweden

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Denmark: Jewish school vandalised in Copenhagen

Carolineskolen in Østerbro had its windows smashed and its walls painted with "political" anti-Semitic messages. The school's leader says nothing like it has happened before in the school's 200 year history.

22/8/2014- The private Jewish school Carolineskolen in Copenhagen’s Østerbro was extensively vandalised overnight between Thursday and Friday. Windows were smashed and anti-Semitic graffiti was written on the school’s walls. “We are the world’s second-oldest functioning Jewish school and we have never before in our 210 year history experienced something like this,” school leader Jan Hansen told TV2 News. “Parents and children are worried, and some parents don’t want to send their children to school.” Hansen said that the graffiti was “political” in nature and referred to the current conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The vandals cut a hole in the school’s surrounding fence in order to reach the school.

Hansen said that school officials covered up the graffiti before students arrived so that they would not have to read the anti-Semitic messages. Carolineskolen serves roughly 200 children. In addition to the school, there is a nursery and daycare facility. Earlier this month, school officials advised parents to not let their children wear Jewish religious symbols outside of school grounds as a result of rising reports of anti-Semitic harassment in Denmark. The increase in reported anti-Semitism led to a  ‘kippah march’ through Nørrebro last week in support of Jews’ right to bear religious symbols in the city.
© The Local - Denmark

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Denmark's first 'real' mosque opens, bankrolled by Qatar

"We're not involved in Qatari politics," a mosque spokesperson vows, but many prominent politicians aren't so sure.

19/8/2014- Denmark's largest purpose-built mosque, including the country's first minaret, opens on Thursday in Copenhagen's gritty northwest district after receiving a 150 million kroner (20.1 million euros, $27.2 million) endowment from Qatar. The longstanding political influence of the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party (DF), as well as the row over Prophet Mohammed cartoons that led to deadly protests in Muslim countries have strained relations between Denmark's largest religious minority and the majority population. After years of political wrangling and "not in my backyard" protests, Copenhagen's Muslim community is cheering the opening of the 6,700 square metre (72,118 square feet) complex that will house a mosque, a cultural centre, a television studio and a fitness centre. But sandwiched between a car dealership and a self storage firm in a low income district, it is not quite the symbol of mainstream acceptance that many of Denmark's 200,000 Muslims had hoped for.
The absence of any Danish politician of note at Thursday's inauguration will also highlight the scepticism with which many Danes view the project, not least after it was announced that the funding came from gas-rich Qatar, which has a patchy record on human rights and has lately been embroiled in a corruption scandal over its winning bid for the 2022 World Cup.

'Foolish'
While most politicians have merely said they are otherwise engaged, a few have been more forthright. The leader of the Liberal Alliance party, Anders Samuelsen, told daily Berlingske he couldn't "quite figure out the financing ... and I will not risk endorsing something that is foolish to endorse." The DF's leader, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, said he believed Qatar's conservative government "will very likely expect to have a direct or indirect influence on the mosque," hampering the integration of Muslims in Danish society. Between 2001 and 2011, Denmark's minority centre-right governments relied on the DPP's support in parliament, in return for which the party was able to tighten Danish immigration policies into some of the toughest in Europe. Since a new leader took the helm in 2012 it has toned down its most contentious rhetoric on Islam and focused instead on the potential cost of allowing migrant workers from eastern Europe to work in Denmark, helping it secure one in four votes in May's European elections.

"We're not involved in Qatari politics and we have nothing to do with the domestic situation there," said Mohamed Al Maimouni, spokesman for the Danish Islamic Council, which owns the mosque. "The Danish Islamic Council has full power over the rhetoric used here. And that's why we were so happy with this donation: it's a generous gift that comes with no demands," he added. The organisation initially tried to raise money for the mosque in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia before an appearance on Qatar's Al Jazeera news channel caught the attention of the country's former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The group told Gulf financiers it wanted to create a platform for dialogue between Danish Muslims and other groups in Danish society. To that end, representatives from the Church of Denmark as well as from the Jewish community have been invited to Thursday's inauguration.

'Avoid conflicts'
A Qatari delegation led by its minister of endowments and Islamic affairs will also attend the opening ceremony, which will be broadcast live on Al Jazeera and Qatar state TV. "With this platform you can avoid conflicts like the one over the Mohammed cartoons, because it creates dialogue and understanding," Al Maimouni said. The Danish Islamic Council was known for having "a moderate understanding of Islam" and had "an Islamic philosophy based on adjusting to the society you are in," he argued. "Islam in Qatar or Morocco is not the same Islam as in Denmark. Of course there are some principles that don't change with place or time, but the other things can be changed," he said. The group is working to prevent local Muslim youth from becoming radicalised and travelling to Syria, where the number of Danish fighters is second only to Belgium in Europe on a per capita basis, according to the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalism.

However, on the day before the opening of the mosque, remarks made by Al Maimouni about homosexuality prompted many to question just how much the new Sunni mosque would "adjust" to Denmark's socially liberal society. "In Islam homosexuality is something that is wrong, of course. You view it as someone being ill," he told daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten. It was unclear whether Al Maimouni's comments on homosexuality represented the organisation, said Brian Arly Jacobsen, associate professor of cross-cultural and regional studies at the University of Copenhagen. "Regardless of whether or not they do, that is an area where they are very conservative. And it will be easy for opponents of the mosque to use that as an argument against their project," he said.
© The Local - Denmark

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Croatian Anti-Fascist Street Name Sparks Dispute

The mayor of Split’s backing for the naming of a new street after WWII anti-fascist Partisan fighters has been criticised by right-wing politicians in the Croatian coastal city.

21/8/2014- Controversy erupted in Split after the local committee responsible for naming streets approved a proposal by the Society of Anti-Fascists and Anti-Fascist Fighters to name a street after the 1st Split Partisan Detachment, one of the Yugoslav Partisan units that fought against the Nazis and the German-allied Croatian Ustasa regime during World War II. The small street in the suburbs of Split has yet to be built but critics claimed that the decision to name it after the Partisan fighters was wrong because it was taken when some right-wing members of the naming commission were on summer holiday. One of them, the local president of the main opposition centre-right party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Patar Skoric, complained that such a “forced and hurried procedure” was unacceptable.

Another member of the committee, a member of the far-right Croatian Pure Party of Rights, Luka Podrug criticised the proposed name as “anachronistic”’. “I’m not complaining about marking the victims of totalitarian regimes, but naming a street ‘Partisan’ in the 21st century is anachronistic. It will bring us back into divisions,” Podrug said. Mayor Ivo Baldasar, from the ruling centre-left Social Democratic Party, said that the city council would decide on the issue on Monday but restated his own backing for the move. “I don’t see what the problem is. That name was used before and its return has been wanted for years,” Baldasar told local media on Thursday. The dispute follows a previous controversy in Split in May, when Baldasar was criticised for participating in a commemoration to honour the 9th Battalion of the Croatian Defence Forces battalion that operated during the 1990s war and was named after a notorious WWII Ustasa general, Rafael ‘Knight’ Boban.

Rights campaigners accused him of effectively endorsing hate speech. “The mayor of Split participates in a gathering along with people who wear Ustasa symbols and chant [Ustasa slogan] ‘for the homeland’,” Vesna Terselic, from the Zagreb-based NGO, Documenta - Centre for Dealing with the Past, complained at the time. But Baldasar argued on Thursday that both the Partisans and fighters in what Croatians call the ‘Homeland War’ of 1991-95 deserve commemoration. “Both the homeland fighters and the Partisans are victims [of war], and they have a right to be revered because of their struggle for the freedom of their town and their people. This is history, not politics,” Baldasar explained. “That is the reason why I accepted the invitation from the Croatian Defence Forces to unveil the statue of the 9th Battalion, and for the same reason I accepted the request from the Society of Anti-Fascists to name this street,” he said.
© Balkan Insight

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Enough Hate for Everyone(opinion)

Muslims and Jews Are Targets of Bigotry in Europe
By Kenan Malik

21/8/2014- A few years ago, I was a guest on “Start the Week,” a BBC radio discussion show. Among the other guests was the novelist Eva Figes, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and a fierce critic of Israel. Israel, she suggested, would have built gas chambers to exterminate the Palestinians but for the fear it would “be found out.” What astonished me was not simply Ms. Figes’s comment itself, but the fact that I was the only one who challenged her on it. The other guests may well have felt that a Holocaust survivor had some special license to speak harshly about Israel; I certainly don’t see them as anti-Semitic. But in suggesting without a speck of evidence that Israelis had a desire to build gas chambers, Ms. Figes had, for me, given the history of the Holocaust, crossed a line.

What the incident revealed was that many anti-Semitic ideas have become such an acceptable part of the liberal view on Israel that they are barely seen as such anymore. They have become almost invisible. I was reminded of that discussion as the question of anti-Semitism has returned to Europe — often disguised as anger against Israel’s assault on Gaza. Synagogues have been attacked, Jewish-owned shops smashed, Jews beaten up. At pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London, placards comparing Israelis to Nazis have become common. There have even, reportedly, been chants of “gas the Jews” at demonstrations in Germany. Today’s anti-Semitism in Europe is more than a replay of old themes; it is also the product of new developments. One is the growth of Muslim communities, or rather, their transformation.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Muslim communities in Europe were broadly secular. Since the late ’80s, though, secular movements have been marginalized, while religious fervor has grown. Support for the Palestinian cause has always been strong, but only recently has a fervent anti-Semitism become entrenched. It might be convenient for some to simply blame the growth of reactionary tendencies within Muslim communities for the new anti-Semitism, but the truth is more complicated. A 2008 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project showed that hostility to Jews had increased in most European nations.

In Britain, Muslims make up 4.6 percent of the population; in France, 7.5 percent. The proportion of people who possessed unfavorable views of Jews in those countries was, respectively, 9 percent and 20 percent. But in Spain, where just 2.3 percent of the population is Muslim, almost half the population was ill disposed toward Jews, a figure that had more than doubled in three years. In Poland, there are just 20,000 Muslims, or about 0.1 percent of the population; more than a third of Poles held anti-Semitic views. In other words, there is no clear correlation in Europe between the level of popular anti-Semitism and the size of the Muslim population. In fact, it is in those countries with fewer Muslims that anti-Semitism seems most prevalent. One explanation for this is that many of the drivers of change within Muslim communities that have paved the way for greater hostility toward Jews have had an equally corrosive effect on public opinion at large. The rise of identity politics has helped create a more fragmented, tribal society, and made sectarian hatred more acceptable generally. 

At the same time, the emergence of “anti-politics,” the growing contempt for mainstream politics and politicians noticeable throughout Europe, has laid the groundwork for a melding of radicalism and bigotry. Many perceive a world out of control and driven by malign forces; conspiracy theories, once confined to the fringes of politics, have become mainstream. Anti-Semitism has become a catchall sentiment for many different groups of angry people. The distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism has eroded, as many see Israeli action in terms of grand conspiracies. Thus someone can imagine that Israel would build gas chambers on the West Bank if it could get away with it.

Perhaps in no country are the corrosive effects more visible than in France. And perhaps no figure better represents the character of the new anti-Semitism than the stand-up comic Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, notorious for popularizing the “quenelle,” a hand gesture that, for some, is an expression of hatred for the system, and for others, an anti-Semitic taunt. In reality, it is both: Dieudonné’s popularity shows how inchoate anger against “the system” and anti-Semitic sentiment can all too easily become fused, and his success rests on his ability to blur the two.

But Jews are not the only object of this free-floating rage. The Pew survey showed not just that anti-Semitism had increased throughout Europe, but also that the “publics that view Jews unfavorably also tend to see Muslims in a negative light.” The fusion of xenophobia, conspiracy theory, identity politics and anti-politics that has nurtured the new anti-Semitism has also cultivated hostility to Muslims. The Pew report found that in every country surveyed, “Opinions about Muslims in almost all of these countries are considerably more negative than are views of Jews.”

Against this background, what is troubling is that many who rightly challenge anti-Semitism do so in a way that fuels anti-Muslim prejudice. Many commentators talk of anti-Semitism as an almost wholly Muslim problem, and have used the growth of anti-Semitism to question the wisdom of allowing Muslim immigration to Europe. Others suggest that Muslim support for Palestine shows that Muslims cannot be truly integrated into Western societies. Such arguments only entrench further hostility toward “the other,” and so inflame not just anti-Muslim but anti-Jewish sentiment, too. Israel’s action in Gaza should not be a moral shield for complaisance with anti-Semitism in Europe. But neither should anti-Semitism be a moral shield for the justification of anti-Muslim prejudices. Bigots on both sides need to be held to account.
Kenan Malik, a writer, lecturer and broadcaster, is the author, most recently, of “The Quest for a Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics.”
© The New York Times

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Netherlands: Uefa fines Feyenoord for racist behaviour by fans

21/8/2014- European football body UEFA has taken action against Rotterdam football club Feyenoord for racist behaviour by fans during a Champions League match against Besiktas of Turkey in July. UEFA said Feyenoord must close a section of their stadium for the second leg of their Europa League play-off match and pay a €45,000 fine after fans were involved in racist chanting and throwing missiles. The club itself was criticised for 'insufficient organisation'. Besiktas won the game 2-1 and later eliminated Feyenoord from the competition. The punishment means part of the Kuip stadium will be empty when Feyenoord hosts Ukraine's Zorya Luhansk next week. The first leg of their Europa League key tie is on Thursday evening.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Demos banned throughout The Hague residential areas

21/8/2014- The Hague's mayor Josiaz van Aartsen has extended a ban on demonstrations in the Schilderswijk district to cover all the city's residential areas after it emerged seven rallies were due to take place on September 20. The mayor said demonstrations would be confined to 'suitable areas' without the risk of clashes between various pro and anti Israel groups. This is necessary to ensure the safety of both locals and demonstrators, Van Aartsen said. 'There is just one boss on the streets and that is the police,' he said in a briefing to the city council.

Clashes
Last week, the mayor banned demonstrations in the Schilderswijk district following clashes with rival demonstrators during a rally by an organisation calling itself Pro Patria. Pro Patria had planned a second 'march for freedom' through the Transvaal district, which also has a high immigrant population, on September 20. The extreme right NVU, the Muslim Defence League and local immigrant groups were also planning demonstrations in various parts of the city that day.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Insurer under fire over compensation for woman unable to work

20/8/2014- Insurance company Reaal was discriminatory when it worked out a compensation deal for a woman left unable to work after an accident by assuming she would have children and a part-time job, the Dutch human rights board has ruled. The woman was seriously injured by a motorbike rider as a child and developed permanent brain damage, leaving her unable to work. The motorcyclist was insured with Reaal which used labour market research to determine the woman was unlikely to have worked from the age of 27 to 36. In addition, when she did join the labour market, she would have worked part-time, Reaal said. The insurer’s position was backed by judges in The Hague earlier this year.

Impact
The human rights board, however, said the insurance company should rethink. ‘It is extremely unlikely Reaal would have reached the same conclusion if dealing with a man,’ the board said in a statement. 'This position has considerable impact on the size of the compensation package.' The board urged insurance companies to stop treating men and women differently in this way. The board’s ruling has no legal standing but does clear the way for a further court hearing on the matter, the Volkskrant says.
© The Dutch News

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Senator: Gays to blame for Spain's billion euro debt

A ruling party politician is facing calls to resign after she blamed Spain's record €1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) public deficit "on subsidies offered to homosexuals" by the previous socialist government.

20/8/2014- Popular Party senator Luz Elena Sanín told journalists that Spain’s ruling conservative party had increased its public spending due to "the debts" caused by “subsidies for NGOs and homosexuals”. Sanín, who represents Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta in the Senate, said former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero with the country's opposition Socialists had forced the country’s debt to surpass a record €1 trillion with "his favours". The Colombian-born politician, now a Spanish national, added that her party had been forced to further aggravate the country’s economic crisis when coming to power in order to pay back the debt from Zapatero’s subsidies for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community. "Otherwise we wouldn't have this gaping economic hole," Catalan daily La Vanguardia reported her as saying during a press conference held to sing the praises of her party's economic model.

Her comments have been met with staunch opposition from members of Spain’s Socialist Party and LGBT groups, who have described her words as a "breeding ground for homophobia". "Blaming NGOs and LGBT groups for the government’s public debt is shameful," Socialist MP Patricia Hernández told online daily El Plural, claiming that Sanín either had to apologize or resign. "It’s absurd and ludicrous. All it does is denote the PP senator’s homophobia, this is what she thinks the socialists’ financial inheritance is". Even members from her own party have attempted to distance themselves from Salvín’s accusations. "I don’t agree at all that Zapatero’s feeble economic management was caused by subsidies offered to gay, lesbian and transsexual groups," Popular Party Ceuta MP Francisco Márquez said in response. "They’re organizations that work for just and legitimate causes and receive subsidies based on current legislation." Many in Spain blame the Socialists for the country's long economic crisis which has left 25 percent of people out of work.
© The Local - Spain

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Italy: Store's anti-Roma sign slammed as 'pure racism'

A supermarket sign in Sicily urging people not to give money to “gypsies” is “pure racism”, a director from the European Roma Rights Centre told The Local.

21/8/2014- The supermarket sign in Catania warns shoppers against donating cash to “the gypsies at the door”. “Their begging allows them to earn from 60 to 80 euro a day, an amount of money that a specialized ITALIAN worker doesn't earn, considering that the total sum is free from tax,” the sign reads, published by Ansa. Frustration and financial hardship have been growing in southern Italy, where salaries remain low and unemployment high. Despite this, Adam Weiss, legal director at the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), said the sign amounted to “pure racism” and was entirely unacceptable. “From our point of view we see this incident as a symptom of a bigger problem, a real climate of hostility in Italy,” he told the Local. “People wouldn’t dream of doing this for any other ethnic group, but they seem to think they can do this with impunity against the Roma,” Weiss said.

Discrimination against the Roma community is getting worse in Italy, with members of the Roma community increasingly being subjected to gang violence, he said. While there are more examples of anti-Roma discrimination in Italy than elsewhere, such problems are being documented by the ERRC across Europe. In Italy last year the ERRC discovered victims of theft were asked to fill out a police form in which they were able to name “gypsies” as the culprits, without any other options of ethnicity. Rights groups successfully campaigned to have the tickbox removed. Earlier this year owners of a Rome bakery put a sign in the window banning “gypsies” from entering. The move was likened to persecution in Nazi Germany by rights group 21 luglio, but won support from some members of the public.
© The Local - Italy

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Italy: Supermarket posts sign against Roma beggars, denies racism

'Don't give them money, they make more than skilled workers'

20/8/2014- A supermarket in the Sicilian city of Catania on Wednesday posted a sign urging shoppers not to give money to Roma panhandlers, because they allegedly make more than a skilled worker. "Don't give handouts to gypsies, they make 80 euros a day tax-free. Thus is more than qualified Italian workers make," read the sign. Management denied charges of racism, explaining that they simply wish to discourage the Roma family that has been panhandling in front of the supermarket for three years. "They stick to our opening hours, and drive clients away," management claimed, adding that police merely referred them to social services. Italy has been repeatedly criticized by human rights watchdogs like Amnesty International for ongoing discrimination against the Roma people's rights to education, housing, health care and employment. Pope Francis earlier this summer called on Italy to stop discriminating against this ethnic minority. More than half of the Roma and Sinti people living in Italy have Italian citizenship, according to the interior ministry.
© Gazzetta Del Sud

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Italy: Sport boss in racism row has 'support from Africa'

New Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio said on Monday that he had "a clear conscience" and had received "letters of support from Africa", despite his election campaign being marred by a furore over a racist comment.

19/8/2014- "I adopted three African children, I also run a tomato-growing cooperative there and built two hospitals," Tavecchio, who was voted in last Monday, pointed out at the end of his first federal board meeting in Rome. On July 25th, he said at a public meeting that "Here we get 'Opti Poba' who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first-team player at Lazio." The comments, which appeared to be aimed at France and Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba, sparked controversy in Italy. However, Tavecchio said that he had received "letters of support from Africa written by doctors, religious people and members of civil society. "I didn't mean to hurt anybody," insisted the 71-year-old before an audience of Italian football administrators before saying that he "had already apologized" and that "it is what one does that counts".

On being elected, Tavecchio promised to clean up his image, admitting that he was "a bit rugged and not very glamorous." "I am aware that I am starting at a disadvantage but I will do everything to recover, it will be an obstacle course for me." Tavecchio is expected to name former long jump great British-born naturalized Italian Fiona May, who won two world outdoor titles and two Olympic silver medals, to the role of advisor for integration. He also said that new national team coach Antonio Conte, set to be officially unveiled on Tuesday, "will be a positive shock" for the Azzurri after their poor showing at the World Cup where they exited at the group stage.
© The Local - Italy

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Austria: Islamophobic attack on 84-year-old woman

An 84-year-old woman originally from Turkey wearing a traditional headscarf was kicked to the ground on Thursday afternoon in an attack that was clearly motivated by anti-Islamic sentiments, according to a press release from Austria's Islamic Religious Community Association (IGGiÖ).

22/8/2014- Police confirmed that they received a report of the attack in the Favoriten area of Vienna, and are currently investigating. The perpetrator was a 30 to 35-year-old man who spoke and insulted the woman using a strong Viennese dialect. Another nearby woman was also knocked down by the man, according to reports. Nearby teenagers who came to the assistance of the old woman were unable to prevent the man from escaping after committing the assault. According to the IGGiÖ, the Turkish woman, who uses a cane, was initially in shock and could not be interviewed by police. She was taken to the emergency hospital in the 20th district. A police spokesman said that investigations are ongoing, while the police wait to speak to the victims of the attack and are calling for witnesses. According to the IGGiÖ, the case is unique in its brutality and shows that the xenophobic mood has further escalated. "As bad as this incident was, we hoped that it can strengthen opposition to trends of Islamophobia," it said in a press release.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Teenager sentenced for running Nazi chat forum

Salzburg Regional Court has sentenced an 18-year-old youth to 12 months for operating a right-wing internet forum, under the Prohibition Act Section 3g.

22/8/2014- He must serve one month of his sentence behind bars, and cannot appeal. The 18-year-old has also been told he will be on probation and will have to undergo psychotherapy, as well as finishing college. He was also convicted of assault and serious commercial fraud. According to the prosecution the youth had been running a right-wing extremist forum on Skype, which he called "National Resistance and true National Socialists". He shared numerous videos and audio files which portrayed National Socialism in a positive light. In addition, together with a 20-year-old, he sprayed “Jews out” and a swastika on a glass pane of a local primary school. He was also charged with using the chat forum for fraudulent purposes. He offered Nazi paraphernalia such as badges and coats of arms for sale, although he didn’t actually possess any such items. One person paid him €25. The Prohibition Act of 1947 contains a number of provisions to combat the resurgence of National Socialist activities.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Tyrol mosque defaced with swastikas

A mosque in the town of Telfs, in Tyrol, which is known for its distinctive white minaret has been defaced with swastikas.

19/8/2014- The Nazi symbol was sprayed in black paint overnight on Tuesday, around the entrance to the mosque and on some mosaic tiles. It is not known who defaced the mosque but the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution has launched an investigation. The mosque was opened in 2001 by the local Turkish cultural association. However, many locals protested in 2005 when the cultural association announced that it wanted to build a minaret to accompany the mosque. Among the roughly 15,000 residents of Telfs, about 2,400 people signed a petition against the building of the mosque, and nearby homeowners threatened lawsuits. Locals objected that the minaret would attract crowds and cause traffic congestion. Others complained that the minaret would represent a victory of Islam over Christianity. A compromise was reached wherein the mosque's minaret would be only 15 meters tall, rather than the 20 meters originally planned by the cultural centre. It was also agreed that there would be no muezzin call for prayers from the minaret.
© The Local - Austria

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UK: Policeman Strangled Victim 'Until his Eyes Bulged Like a Cartoon'

A police officer who throttled a man until his eyes bulged from his head "like a cartoon character" has walked free from court.

22/8/2014- William Eliot, 45, attacked a driver at Heathrow Airport for reportedly kissing his teeth at the traffic officer during questioning. The dismissive gesture saw Eliot lose his temper with victim Adebowale Odomosu, who allegedly also spat at Eliot during the incident. Eliot wrapped his hand round the throat of the man and squeezed until Odomosu's eyes bulged. He begged the police officer "please don't kill me," as he was strangled. Odomosu had been pulled over by Eliot and a colleague during a routine patrol on suspicion of being a taxi tout at the airport, in August last year. Odomosu's vehicle was seized for not being roadworthy. The throttling was reported by Eliot's colleague, PC Robert Hughes, and also the victim. At Westminster magistrate's court, Eliot was convicted of assault and given a suspended 12-week prison sentence. He was ordered to pay £500 and also costs. Eliot also faces misconduct hearings at the Metropolitan police. Detective Chief Superintendent Alaric Bonthron said: "The evidence put before the court included that of a colleague who reported the incident, this demonstrates that officers are prepared to report wrong doing. "Now that the criminal proceedings are complete we will be able to proceed with the misconduct process."
© The International Business Times - UK

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Anti-Semitic incidents 'up 500%' in UK since start of bombardment of Gaza

Anti-Semitic incidents in the UK have rocketed by nearly 500 per cent since the start of the latest conflict in Gaza, according to a charity.

20/8/2014- The Community Security Trust (CST), which has a helpline for British Jews to report incidents, has received more than 240 calls in July alone – up from around 50 a month for the rest of 2014. Anti-Semitic incidents are classed as any verbal or physical act aimed at Jewish people, groups or property where there is evidence of an Anti-Semitic motivation. Mark Gardner, the communications director for the CST, said the number of attacks in July is likely to rise as workers process the “huge volume” of calls they have received. “The actual data is bad enough but cannot convey the mood of the Jewish community, with many people telling us that they have never felt so bad, have been under such pressure, nor worried so much about what the future may hold,” he added. “British Jews, like those elsewhere, will continue to suffer local anti-Semitic impacts from overseas events and global ideological trends.”

July was the second-worst month ever recorded by the charity, established in 1994, after 289 incidents were seen in January 2009. There have been more than 10 arrests made in relation to the reports so far and other cases are being investigated by the police, while others have not been confirmed. It follows a pattern of spikes caused by violence in the Gaza Strip, where an estimated 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in less than two months in an Israeli military operation against Hamas. Many incidents have involved verbal abuse and threats against Jews in public places, Mr Gardner said, adding that dominant themes were Jews being called child murderers or Nazis and being told “Hitler was right”. He used the analogy of a pressure cooker to describe how hatred bubbling under the surface has had the “lid blown off” by recent events.

A similar phenomenon was recorded by Muslim charities in 2013 following the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich, when a spate of Islamophobic crimes including mosque attacks broke out. Countless protests have taken place against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza across the UK and many groups have taken pains to distinguish their stance on the nation’s military policy from anti-Semitism. But Mr Gardner said it was not the Jewish community that needs telling the distinction as Jews become targets across Europe. In a letter in Friday’s Independent, Stephen Spencer Ryde, from London, described how his wife was called “scum” in a pub in Bath when she mentioned her Jewish background and a friend’s son was asked to leave a student hall in Manchester because he was eating kosher food with a Hebrew label. A blue plaque marking the birthplace of former Israeli president Chaim Herzog had to be removed in Belfast because of repeated vandalism and a Tesco supermarket in Birmingham was vandalised following a protest to boycott Israeli goods. At Kingston Synagogue, in west London, a sign reading “child murderers” was stuck up outside the building.

Rabbi Samuel Landau said he had an “initial knee-jerk reaction” fearing “blood libels of old”, but despite the attack he says Jews “should not be fearful”, and that he has had “heart-warming expressions of support” from numerous faith groups. The situation is worse in France, where Jewish families are reportedly fleeing after a rise in violent attacks, including the vandalising and looting of Jewish businesses in the Sarcelles district of Paris after a pro-Palestinian rally. The CST’s report of anti-Semitic incidents in 2014 had been promising, finding that the total of 529 was almost 20 per cent down on 2012. The charity provides guidance on anti-Semitism to authorities and offers security services and training to Jewish organistions. Even when the current conflict in Gaza comes to an end, Mr Gardner believes the current of anti-Semitism will continue. “Some of those anti-Israel and anti-Zionist passions found their physical outlet against Jewish targets, as they always do,” he said. “It is a basic political phenomenon and anti-Semitism is an old tradition.”
© The Independent

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UK: Racist vandals target Muslim graves in Chadderton Cemetery

Racist yobs uprooted headstones, trampled on flowers and kicked over memorials in what police branded a ‘heinous and senseless’ crime in Chadderton Cemetery

18/8/2014- Racist vandals have carried out a sickening attack on Muslim graves in a cemetery. The yobs uprooted headstones, trampled on flowers and kicked over memorials in what police branded a ‘heinous and senseless’ crime in Chadderton Cemetery. The raid took place at the site, on Middleton Road, between 8.30pm on Friday, August 15, and 7.30pm the following day. Officers received a distressed call from someone visiting the grave of a loved one. When police arrived they found up to ten graves - all in the Muslim section of the cemetery - had been damaged, leading them to believe it was a racially-motivated attack. Wooden grave markers and headstones were uprooted from four adjoining graves, one of which had a brass plaque ripped from the headstone itself. A further two large floral tributes on other graves were smashed, trampled on and the flowers scattered across the other, while flowers on up to four other graves were also kicked over. There was also some evidence to suggest someone had walked directly over a recent grave. Police are now appealing for witnesses to come forward.

In June a community rallied around to clean up a Jewish cemetery in Blackley targeted in a racist vandalism attack. Sgt Jon Martin said: “The exact motive for this heinous and senseless vandalism is unclear, but given that only the Muslim section of the cemetery was targeted it has to be treated as being racially motivated. That makes this vandalism even more sickening, as the culprits have singled out the resting places of those who have lost their lives purely because of their religion. "This is not just wanton racism but the deliberate, calculating and cruel act of desecrating the memories of Muslims who are buried at the cemetery. “The distress this has caused to the families who have loved ones buried here is immeasurable. It is not just the vandalism itself, which can be repaired, but the thought of someone trashing what should be a place of sanctity and tranquillity for those who have lost their lives purely because of their religion. "We need to find the culprits, who may very well live the local area, so I am appealing to the community for help in identifying them. If you suspect who may be involved then please call us.

“I would also ask people to search their consciences and if you know who is responsible, do the right thing and call us. How would you feel if it was your loved one’s grave that was vandalised in this way? Think of the anguish you would feel and imagine how the victims are feeling right now. So please, if you do know anything then call us.”
© The Manchester Evening News.

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Russian anti-gay Nazi leader sentenced to 5 years NOT for his anti-gay crimes

Russian neo-Nazi leader Maxim Martsinkevich has been sentenced to 5 years in prison, but not for any of his anti-gay crimes.

18/8/2014- Martsinkevich, among other things, is the leader of the Russian group Occupy Pedophilia, while claims to have kidnapped and tortured around 1,500 young men, many of them gay. (The group records the abductions, and then posts them on Russian social media site VK.com (Vkontakte), which generally refuses to remove them. I’ve written extensively about Occupy Pedophilia, and about the Russian government’s refusal to take any serious action against the Nazi extremist group. And even in Martsinkevich’s case, the Russians refused to include any of the gay-related kidnaping and torture charges in the case against him. Instead, he was convicted of posting “racist” videos online.

Also troubling is the fact that Occupy Pedophilia continues to operate in Russia, and Ukraine, to this day. The last time I checked, there were nearly 4,000 Occupy Pedophilia videos on the VK, a company that was recently taken over by Putin crony Alisher Usmanov. VK was also home for nearly 700 Occupy Pedophilia community pages. (The company’s indifference to the apparent criminal activity being broadcast on its site began under Pavel Durov’s reign, and continues to this day.) So the problem continues, in terms of VK’s refusal to abide by what seems to be a clear violation of its own terms of service, and the Russian government’s continued coddling of a nationwide Nazi criminal conspiracy. And as far as we know, most of Occupy Pedophilia’s members, including the kidnappers, who have no problem showing their faces in the many videos still posted on VK.com, remain at large.
© America Blog

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What brings Europe's Roma together

18/8/2014- The annual assemblies of Romani people that are Europe-wide in scope can be counted on the fingers of one hand. One such gathering is for the commemoration of the largest single massacre of Romani people during the Nazi era. On the night of 2 August 1944, almost 3 000 Romani people, mainly children, the elderly and women, died in the gas chambers of the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Every year on that day, former prisoners, representatives of various states and of embassies in Warsaw gather at the scene of this crime. Ordinarily there are dozens of people, but on big anniversaries there are more. This year several hundred people were there. The media rarely report on this significant event, or if they do so, it is only as a sideline. On the 60th anniversary, 10 years ago, the Czech Government did not send a representative to the event (they didn't even send flowers), causing a small fuss in some media outlets, and ever since then the commemorative ceremony is regularly attended by at least a representative of the Czech Embassy in Warsaw.

Young people as a guarantee for the defense of democracy
This year the commemorative ceremony at Auschwitz was attended for the first time by young people from all over Europe thanks to a four-day conference held by the TernYpe organization that took place at Auschwitz at the same time and attracted participants from 20 countries around the world. Those attending spent two and a half hours in hot weather listening to speeches by politicians and representatives of churches, states, and the survivors; here are some excerpts from the main speeches and the greeting sent by those who, due to time constraints or for other reasons, were unable to attend the ceremony in person: Heinz Eduard Bamberger, a German Sinti and Holocaust survivor, speaking to the young people: "Consider it your primary obligation and task to honor your dead forebears in your prayers and with your remembrance. They underwent inexpressible persecution and suffering here, with which they had to live and die. We are here to remember them."

Roman Kwiatkowski, chair of the Romani Union in Poland and co-organizer of the commemorative ceremony: "For Roma and Sinti all over the world, Auschwitz is what connects us." Bronisław Komorowski, President of Poland (in absentia): "Romani people were the third most numerous group to be murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz. Here in Poland we have been opened up in a completely unique way to commemorating all of the victims and to remembering our obligations to them. May these cries of protest, these calls for humanity, never stop shaking the conscience of the world. The German National Socialists wiped out members of Romani communities from all over Europe, including in areas of the occupied republic of Poland. This was the same country where Romani people had been a firm component of Poland's dramatic path through history, the same country where, in the 17th century, a Romani vajda [chief] was officially designated by the king and where, at the end of the 18th century, the joint Lithuanian-Polish Police Committee issued a law that at the time represented an unusual step forward in recognizing the rights of Romani people."

Discrimination as a return to the Fascist era
Martin Schulz, Chair of the European Parliament (in absentia): "As chair of the Parliament I consider it especially important that everyone who lives in Europe feels at home here. Any form of discrimination, whether because of ethnic affiliation, nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation returns us to the dark era of Fascism and totalitarianism... Extremists who want to revive this nefarious ideology (Nazism) and who deny the Holocaust have found (during the recent elections) a way into the European Parliament." Reuven Rivlin, President of the state of Israel (in absentia): "The state of Israel and the Jewish world stands here today by your side, daughters and sons of Roma and Sinti, to commemorate this and to remember together with you. We must never forget. Let's express that promise of ours aloud and clearly: Never again... Auschwitz is one of the places where the question to ask is not 'Where was God', but 'Where was humanity?'."

Claudia Roth, Vice-Chair of the German Parliament: "At this place of terror we want to make this promise to the living: Never again will such murder and systematic destruction of human life be permitted as was committed at Auschwitz under the rule of the National Socialists." According to Roth, the systematic murder and persecution of more than 20 000 Roma at Auschwitz and 500 000 Roma overall in Europe was an attempt by the Nazis to definitvely destroy Roma culture. "They did not succeed in erasing entire cultures. They caused deep trauma and wounds, they weakened the abundance of European nations, but they did not manage to destroy them... 70 years later we can say the Roma and Sinti belong to European culture and are a firm component of our cultural and ethnic abundance in our European societies where they have been living for many centuries," she said.

The present-day obligation
Romani Rose, chair of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma: "2 August 1944 is deeply engraved into the collective memory of Europe. Only when the European nations understand Sinti and Romani Holocaust victims as part of their own culture of remembrance and that remembrance as a present-day obligation will they have learned the lesson of the horrible legacy of National Socialism." Today, however, even "governing parties are deploying populism at the expense of our minority in order to achieve political gain. Hidden behind this is the concern that they might lose votes to right-wing parties," Rose said. However, by doing this, they are fulfilling the strategies of the right-wing extremists and creating fertile ground for violent extremist crimes. "Long ago, prejudice against Romani people firmly took hold of the very center of society. Today, one's origins are again becoming the basis for all kinds of negative attributions," Rose said. "This is not just a Europe of banks and financial markets, but also the Europe of citizens who share a common vision of democracy, freedom and responsibility. That is why I am particularly pleased that so many young people, both from our minority and from majority societies, have come here from so far away on the occasion of this remembrance day. They are the ones who will hand down the experiences of our elders and who will have to defend the achievements of our societal values, values that include protection for minorities." Michael Roth, German Minister for European Affairs: "The power and sovereignty of our free, inclusive society is demonstrated in particular by the fact that minorities live as equals in majority society, that they are respected and that they can equally develop without losing respect for their own culture and denying their own roots."

All over Europe, but without media attention
Remembrance gatherings took place on that same day in Berlin, Dublin, Leipzig, Lety u Písku, London, Maribor, Strasbourg, Stuttgart and the Croatian village of Uštica, where thousands of Romani victims from the Jasenovač concentration camp are buried. Other commemorations took place elsewhere in the world as well.
© Romea.

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Slovakia: Roma Holocaust finally getting attention

18/8/2014- It is essential to commemorate the victims of the Roma Holocaust so that the persecution of the Roma during the Second World War is not forgotten, and because associating the whole Roma minority with asocial behaviour is dangerous, according to Zuzana Kumanová, an ethnographer from the In Minorita non-governmental organisation. In connection with the 70th anniversary of the Roma Holocaust, The Slovak Spectator spoke to Kumanová about how Slovak society approaches this issue and how the Roma deal with this part of their history.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Why is the Roma Holocaust so frequently ignored by the Slovak public?
Zuzana Kumanová (ZK): On the contrary, I would say that this issue has been enjoying much attention from society, especially from experts as well as the non-governmental sector, in the past few years. In the past, the Roma Holocaust was labelled as “unknown”, but I don’t agree that it should bear such a name today. Maybe it is more fitting to say that it is an “unacknowledged” holocaust. What has changed in comparison with the past is that the Roma Holocaust is becoming a topic that politicians use to introduce the whole Roma issue to the public.

It is true, however, that historical research lags behind the educational or political aspect of this issue. Historians pay little attention to this topic and I can’t even name one person who would systematically focus on it, and the topic could be popularised through their work. The only person who devoted half of his life to the Roma Holocaust was Czech historian Ctibor Nečas, but he doesn’t have any successors who would continue his research. There were some historians who studied the Roma Holocaust, but just as a part of their research.

To illustrate the problem, there is one Holocaust memorial in the town of Hanušovce nad Topľou, where the Nazis ran one of their labour camps. There is a file in the national archive containing documents from this camp, but no one has been interested in studying them and working with them so far. It would improve our knowledge about the Holocaust.

TSS: How do Slovak schools address this issue?
ZK: There is generally little space for learning about the Roma minority in the Slovak school system. Children at elementary schools receive only a little information about the Roma, which is the second biggest minority living in Slovakia – and even those are affected by stereotypes. But at the same time, I have to admit that children receive poor information even about other minorities in Slovakia and the multi-ethnic composition of Slovak society.

The Roma Holocaust, their history, culture and literature: none of these are part of the Slovak curriculum. So it would be an illusion to expect that schools will focus on the Roma Holocaust more in-depth. They usually mention it in relation to the Second World War or the Jewish Holocaust, adding that there were other groups of people who suffered from the genocide. It needs to be said that neither the Second World War nor modern history receive proper attention in the curriculum. Therefore, we don’t deal with the Roma Holocaust at schools, as we don’t deal with the Jewish Holocaust, the Slovak National Uprising (SNP) or other issues which are important for us for knowing who we are.

TSS: How do you evaluate the media’s reporting of the Roma Holocaust?
ZK: Thankfully, the media broadly covered the Roma Holocaust commemorations and reported about all related events that took place this year. However, the news media don’t have sufficient space to educate the public about the importance of this issue, and they don’t go deeper to explain some of the principles. The issue of the Holocaust is important because of two things. First, it is important to not forget what happened here and not remember people who died or were persecuted just because they belonged to some ethnic minority. Second, it is important to learn from it and be aware that some of the things we are witnessing today also happened in past and resulted in genocide or persecution – namely the connection of the Roma with asocial behaviour.

Many Slovaks see the Roma as people who don’t want to work, who are parasites on the social welfare system and are not interested in improving their life situation. But these are not things that represent Roma culture. This connection between asocial behaviour and Roma identity is really dangerous for society because it is stereotype. It applies also to the media, particularly tabloids, which usually report about the Roma in connection with such asocial behaviour. This connection, however, isn’t the truth, and it isn’t possible to confuse poverty with ethnic identity.

TSS: How do the Roma, and particularly young people, deal with this part of their history?
ZK: Persecutions were usually about not letting Roma enter towns or casting them out of public life; therefore, they suffered from hunger or poverty. After the Nazis defeated the SNP, some Roma communities exterminated. Those Roma who survived had to deal with it and continue to live their lives. Those who were affected had no time to look back and point to people who, for example, belonged to the Hlinka Guard fascist militia, who had beaten Roma, shaved the hair off their women and so on. Therefore there was no general settlement with Roma Holocaust survivors after the war.

Those who survived told their stories to their family and often times they even remained totally silent about it so as not to open old wounds. Therefore, the next generation of Roma didn’t receive this information at home, but it came to them from the outside. It is simply a new part of history even for Roma who have to learn about it in school. But the same is true in the case of the SNP or the Second World War, because survivors are generally not willing to speak about it and historical memory can evolve mainly through oral transmission. There are, however, some small pieces of oral tradition transmitted in the Roma environment, like songs written in concentration camps. But people started collecting them only in 2000, when serious research of the Roma Holocaust in Slovakia began, and now these pieces should go back to the Roma community. This is a difficult process, which takes the form of education, documentary films and so on.

This is part of the Roma ethnic emancipation process and it is still a living issue. Some 10 years ago, when we began promoting the Roma Holocaust, it was unknown to young Roma or people from Roma NGOs. However, during the last 10 years, several documentary films have been made and some initiatives have occurred in an attempt to spread information about the Holocaust in the media, so the situation has improved. I appreciate that there was a four-day workshop in Poland at the place of a former “gypsy camp” as part of the 70th anniversary of this camp’s liberation, attended by around 1,000 people. Organisers tried to teach young Roma about the Holocaust and show them how to spread this information further through art or by organising educational events. It is important to do this so that the Roma Holocaust may become part of Roma culture and identity. This identity can’t be created from nothing - it needs to have some real roots.
© The Slovak Spectator.

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Czech Rep: 17,000 attend Prague Pride march

16/8/2014- A march by attendees of Prague Pride, the summer festival celebrating LGBT culture, has been attended by an estimated 17,000 people. The event kicked-off at Wenceslas Square and proceeded to Letenské Sady park on the other side of the Vltava river. Prague Pride is held under the auspices of the Mayor of Prague Tomáš Hudeèek and Human Rights Minister Jiøí Dienstbier. Additionally, it enjoys support from the US Embassy and countless corporate and cultural partner groups. Reports had emerged of ultra-conservative and nationalist groups calling for concurrent counter-demonstrations to fight so-called "homosexualism". According to Novinky, only one incident caused concern - a small group of protesters deliberately blocked the path of the march near Nemocnice na Františku hospital on Saturday afternoon and were subsequently removed by the police.
© Radio Prague

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Headlines 15 August, 2014

As online anti-Semitism grows, so do efforts to counter it

15/8/2014- It’s been 17 years since Suzette Bronkhorst co-founded the Dutch Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet, but she said she doesn’t remember the level of anti-Semitic speech on social media platforms ever being this high. “There are thousands of incidents and we’re getting so many complaints,” she said of her organization, which registers complaints of hate speech online. “There’s been a huge surge since Gaza.” The Gaza conflict, which has led to the deaths of 1,900 Palestinians and 68 Israelis, has also sparked a wave of counter speech, with organizations like Bronkhorst’s attempting to tackle hate speech by debunking myths and stereotypes on blogs, forums and social media. “There’s a lot of chatter on the Internet that is not based on fact and there are different ways in which you can do counter speech,” said Bronkhorst, whose organization goes by the name MDI. “For instance, if there’s a discussion on Facebook, you join in and you try to give counterpoints to people who are just ill-informed.”

In one instance, Bronkhorst’s volunteers asked a Twitter user writing “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” whether he really wanted to murder people by gassing them. The user removed the tweet, apologized and said he didn’t mean it. In July, the number of Dutch-language anti-Semitic Facebook pages ran into the hundreds, according to MDI, which cannot keep up with the amount of hate-fueled posts, ranging from statements such as “Jews must die” to those praising Adolf Hitler. On Twitter, the hashtag “Hitler was right” appeared more than 10,000 times in July in connection with Gaza and became a trending topic, says MDI.

Sergey Lagodinsky, a lawyer and a member of the Jewish community’s representative assembly in Berlin, said comments by friends on Facebook shocked him. “It’s hardly tolerable because people are being attacked,” said Lagodinsky. “You have a lot of people who you thought were friends who articulate things in a way which leaves you speechless.” Berlin’s Technical University has just started a project analyzing around 100,000 Internet texts to see how anti-Semitism spreads online on social media and in comment sections, chatrooms and forums. “The Internet plays an important role here as more drastic use of language can flourish through links between websites as well as user anonymity,” said Matthias Jakob Becker, a member of the research team. The team has found that not only Islamist and right-wing circles have resorted to old canards, such as Jewish world-domination conspiracy theories, but so, too, has the educated middle class.

Anti-Semitism is a particularly sensitive issue in Germany. Special police protection is provided for Jewish buildings, ranging from synagogues to bakeries, and the growing anti-Jewish sentiment even prompted the country’s biggest newspaper, Bild, to wade into the fray. On its website, the newspaper created a button depicting a Star of David and the slogan “stimme erheben: nie wieder Judenhass” (raise your voice: never again Jew hatred) that people could share online. It has also added interviews with celebrities, politicians and ordinary people speaking out against anti-Semitism. Bild encouraged readers to tweet against anti-Semitism under the hashtag “stimme erheben.” While the campaign ran for just one day, Tobias Froehlich, a representative for Axel Springer, Bild’s owner, said the publication may follow up with similar campaigns. “You can still find it online and of course, depending on how the news develops, you could see it again in our newspaper,” said Froehlich. “The voice against anti-Semitism isn’t just for one day.”

Members of Germany’s Jewish community said the Bild campaign is a reminder that Jews in Europe are generally safe and that while anti-Semitism is a reality, it’s mainly kept in check. “The online world is a tool of propaganda for hate speech against everyone,” said 29-year-old Giulia Pines Kersthold, a Jewish New Yorker and author who has lived in Berlin for six years. But she added: “I have never really felt unsafe as a Jew in Germany and I would say that I still don’t.”

In France, where pro-Palestinian demonstrations in July culminated in attacks on eight synagogues, many Jews are fleeing to Israel. Between January and June, 2,830 French Jews emigrated to Israel. That number is expected to exceed 5,000 by the end of 2014 — marking the first time in modern history that a full 1 percent of a western Jewish community will move to Israel in a single year, according to the Jerusalem-based Jewish Agency for Israel. In 2013, 3,288 French Jews left for Israel. Yonathan Arfi, vice president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, called the anti-Semitic surge a new phenomenon that has intensified thanks to the Internet. “It is a space without laws,” he said. “You have many people on the Internet who are Jewish and easily accessible to people who target them.”

Bronkhorst at MDI acknowledges the difficulties but is optimistic and hopes the project will expand to other organizations in the International Network Against Cyber Hate, of which MDI is a member. “It’s a matter of resources right now,” said Bronkhorst. “We’re going to do it and we can only do it if we all work together to change our neighbor and let our neighbor change another one — one drop at a time to make an ocean.”
© The Washington Post

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France: Jewish Man Assaulted in Marseilles Over Gaza War

A man in his 60s was lightly wounded in an apparent anti-Semitic assault in Marseille.

15/8/2014- The assault Tuesday began after the victim drove up to his own garage to discover it had been blocked by a parked car, the local branch of the CRIF umbrella organization of French Jewish communities wrote in its report of the incident. The attacker showed up after the victim, who wears a kipah, sounded the horn. The attacker began chasing the victim while shouting: “Dirty Jew, this isn’t Gaza, I’m going to kill you and your family.” Catching up to the victim as he was heading for the stairs of his apartment building, the attacker, who was much younger than the victim, began hitting the victim in his face. The attacker was joined by several other people who are believed to be relatives. He continued to attack the victim, also using headbutts. The victim has filed a complaint with police for racially aggravated assault, the CRIF statement said. It did not say whether police have a suspect in custody.

The assault in Marseille — a city where such violence is relatively rare despite it being home to France’s second-largest Jewish community and a sizable Muslim population — comes amid a wave of anti-Semitic assaults triggered by Israel’s attack on Hamas in Gaza. Even before the latest Israel-Gaza war, community leaders said anti-Semitism levels had reached worrisome dimensions and were spurring on record levels of Jewish emigration out of France. From Jan. 1 to June 30, Israel saw the arrival of 2,830 new immigrants from France – nearly a 250 percent increase over the 811 French immigrants who arrived in Israel in the corresponding period in 2013.
© JTA News

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Netherlands: Amsterdam mayor to appeal Zwarte Piet judgement

14/8/2014- Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan is to appeal against a court ruling in July that he must reassess the granting of a licence for the Sint Nicolaas procession last December. That ruling said he must look again at whether he should have given the go-ahead for the procession because he had not taken the European Human Rights Convention into account with regard to the figure of Zwarte Piet. Van der Laan told Dutch media on Thursday he had not done so because any discussion about the character should be for the Dutch people. When assessing the permit, he had only taken public order into account.

Changes
The mayor also announced that Zwarte Piet would change over the next four years. The black face paint, curly wig and red lips, seen as racist by opponents of the figure, will be toned down. Piet's appearance will be more that of someone who has been down a chimney to deliver presents and less that of a colonial stereotype, the mayor said. He would not say what the changes will be because he did not want to spoil the surprise when the procession is held in December.

Activist
On Monday, anti-Zwarte Piet activist Quinsy Gario quit the discussions about the Sinterklaas festivities, saying Van der Laan had enough information to decide whether he would appeal or not. It is not known when the case will be held.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Demonstrations banned in The Hague Schilderswijk district

15/8/2014- The ban on marches through The Hague Schilderswijk district is to be challenged in the courts by the extreme right-wing group NVU, Dutch media report. The Hague mayor Jozias van Aartsen announced the ban during an emergency meeting of the city council on Thursday evening, called after riots in the district last weekend. 'I am more sorry than I can say that I have had to take this decision,' said Van Aartsen, who broke off his holiday to attend the meeting.

Principle
Later on Friday, NVU chairman Constant Kusters told the Nos challenging the ban in the courts is a question of principle. 'Van Aartsen cannot be allowed to curtail freedom of speech,' he said. The organisation has successfully fought bans on demonstrations in the past. 'Youngsters threatening to riot were judged not to be an excuse for a ban. There must be the threat of a life and death battle,' according to Kusters.

Illegal
The riot that led to Van Aartsen's ban broke out last weekend when around 150 Muslim youngsters began an illegal protest, blocking the route of a legal march against Muslim radicals and the Islamic State (Isis). The fact that Van Aartsen was on holiday and there was no statement on the incident from the city council caused an outcry.

Anti-Jewish
The mayor was already under fire for not taking tough action during an anti-Jewish rally on July 24, when demonstrators were heard chanting 'death to Jews' and protesters carried pro-Isis flags. During Thursday evening's meeting, Van Aartsen confirmed that mayors can only ban demonstrations if there is a danger to public health, traffic or public order.

Peace
He took the decision to ban marches through the Schilderswijk in order to give the people who live there some peace, he said. 'The majority of people who live in what is a poor neighbourhood are trying with all their might to make something of their lives. I do not want to let them down. They are the victims when a handful of radicals of various persuasions start fighting,' he said. Before Van Aartsen spoke, people from the district had their say. All of them wanted a ban on demonstrations in their district, pointing out that the Malieveld, a large grassy area in the city, is the best place for demonstrations.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Wilders calls for anti-Islam march in The Hague

Geert Wilders is calling on 'everyone' to take part in an anti-Islam demonstration in The Hague Schilderswijk district on September 20.

13/8/2014- The anti-Islam PVV party leader made the call on Wednesday morning following reports in the Telegraaf about continuing unrest in the district. Last weekend, a riot broke out in the district when around 150 Muslim youngsters began an illegal protest, blocking the route of a legal march against Muslim radicals and the IS (Islamic State) terror group. It was the latest in a string of problems in the Schilderswijk which includes the harassment of psychiatric patients, fans of ISIS who dream of a caliphate in the area and anti-semitism.

Unacceptable
On Tuesday, justice minister Ivo Opstelten said the weekend riot was 'unacceptable' and called on the city council to take action. The council is now set to meet on Thursday evening to discuss the situation and mayor Jozias van Aartsen will finally return from holiday to attend the meeting. Van Aartsen has been criticised for his absence and for his lack of action on previous occasions.

Second march
Wilders made his call to join the demonstration on September 20 after the organisers of the weekend march applied to the city council for permission to hold a second march. 'I think lots of people, hopefully thousands, should join the march to show that this is about Dutch territory and we will not accept a sharia district,' he told Dutch media.

Claims
That remark refers to claims made in early 2013 that the area was so dominated by orthodox Muslims they are dictating what people should wear and how they should behave. The claims were denied by police and local politicians. If permission for the march is withheld, Wilders says he will march alone carrying the Dutch flag. 'Even though my personal protection force will not think that is a good idea,' he told the Telegraaf.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Civil servant who made zionist plot remarks suspended

13/8/2014- A civil servant at the justice ministry who said terror group ISIS does not exist and is a zionist plot has been suspended. Yasmina Haifi, project leader at the National Cyber Security Centre, said on Wednesday morning on Twitter that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam and is a plot by zionists to blacken the name of Islam. The outcry that followed did not look as if it would make her take back the words. However, she later deleted the tweet saying: 'Realise the political sensitivity in relation to my work. This was never my intention.' On Wednesday afternoon, Haifi was suspended from her job.

Connection
'Because her remarks have a direct connection with the work of the NCSC, they form a reason for immediate suspension,' the justice ministry said in a statement. Both the ministry and the Dutch counter terrorism organisation NCTV said they 'distance themselves totally' from Haifi's remarks.

Fuss
Haifi told Radio 1 she had no idea her comments would cause such a fuss. 'I assumed I was living in a democratic country,' she said. 'Apparently freedom of speech in the Netherlands applies to particular groups and not to others,' she told Radio 1.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: The Hague riot 'unacceptable', city council in panic, mayor on holiday

12/8/2014- The riot in The Hague last weekend is 'unacceptable' and the city council must take action, justice minister Ivo Opstelten said on Tuesday. The riot broke out in the Schilderswijk district when around 150 Muslim youngsters began an illegal protest, blocking the route of the legal Freedom March against Muslim radicals and the IS (formerly ISIS) terror group. The situation on the streets of the Schilderswijk has remained turbulent since the Sunday riot, with young men throwing stones and fireworks at the police. 'Freedom to demonstrate is a great thing, but it should never lead to sowing hatred, discrimination and violence,' Opstelten said in a reaction.

Frozen
It is not the first time trouble has broken out in the area and the city council seems to be frozen with panic, the Telegraaf reports. Mayor Jozias van Aartsen, who has previously been criticised for his lack of action, is on holiday and refusing to return early, and there has been no statement from the council, the paper says. The various parties on the city council are calling for Van Aartsen's resignation or protecting their members, according to the Telegraaf. The party leader of the Liberal left-wing D66 told the paper: 'We have to find a good way of dealing with this situation. Take a careful look at what more we can do after the holidays.'

Problems
The list of problems in this district of the 'international city of freedom and law' includes the harassment of psychiatric patients, fans of ISIS who dream of a caliphate in the area and anti-semitism, the paper says. In early 2013, Trouw claimed the Schilderswijk district was so dominated by orthodox Muslims they are dictating what people should wear and how they should behave. The claims were denied by police and local politicians. Just last month, Van Aartsen was urged to get tough on anti-Jewish demonstrators after people were heard chanting 'death to Jews' at a pro-Gaza rally.
© The Dutch News

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Serbia: Festival canceled after reports neo-Nazi would perform

The organizers of the Kamp Pustai Music Festival in Novi Bečej have canceled the event, tanjug is reporting

15/8/2014- This came after accusations that the festival program features the performance of Hungarian neo-Nazi Balazs Sziva and his rock band. One of the camp organizers Ferenc Erman told Tanjug on Friday that the festival was canceled after various accusations appeared in the media, and added that Sziva was never supposed to perform at the festival. Erman said that the camp was canceled to avoid potential provocations after the appearance of unfounded accusations, and added that the organizers would never allow a Nazi band or performer to appear on stage during the event. Erman told Tanjug on Thursday that the event is not a festival but a closed-type summer camp, adding that no such Hungarian band would have performed because they would not have been allowed to do so.

The Novi Sad-based Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) was the first to warn against the performance of Sziva, the singer of the Hungarian neo-Nazi rock band Romanticus Eroszak (Romantic Violence), and their warning was followed by reactions of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Serbia which called for a ban of the controversial performance. AFA warned on Thursday that the three-day festival which was supposed to begin in Arac near Novi Bečej on August 19 serves as a replacement for the banned EMI-Tabor festival which had been organized for years by Hungarian fascists in the Serbian province of Vojvodina, Transylvania in Romania, and Slovakia. AFA called on all anti-fascists to stand in the way of the public fascist events regardless of the national community it may come from.
© B92.

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Serbia: Ban sought on concert of Hungarian neo-Nazi

LDP and DSS parties have asked Serbian authorities to ban the performance of Hungarian neo-Nazi Balazs Sziva at a music festival in Novi Bečej, northern Serbia.

14/8/2014- The Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) said in a statement that the announced performance was "unacceptable and in complete contradiction with the principles of respect for human and minority rights, multiculturalism and prohibition of discrimination and hate speech." "Promoting a dark totalitarian idea is an affront to our society that has made many sacrifices in the fight against Nazism. As part of the European democratic society we must not allow a smooth promotion of fascist and Nazi ideas," the statement said. The LDP invited competent national authorities to respond as soon as possible and make a decision to ban the holding of these and all other events and gatherings which send messages spreading ethnic and other forms of hatred and intolerance.

The Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) assessed in its own statement that the municipality of Novi Bečej in the province of Vojvodina, where the local government is headed by the LDP and the Serb Progressives (SNS), is complicit with the parties movements of the Hungarian right-wing in organizing a camp within whose program neo-Nazi Balazs Sziva planst to perform on August 20. "Sziva was already a guest in Serbia with the band 'Romatic Violence', whose fans openly and publicly call for the use of arms in order to achieve the objectives of the Hungarian irredentists. After the concert in Kanjiža, where he participated in 'The Festival of the United Hungarian Youth in the Southern Area," he is now arriving in Novi Bečej," the DSS noted. The party added that the current and the two previous prime ministers of Serbia are responsible for allowing Hungarian neo-Nazis to, for several past years, enter the territory of Serbia unimpeded, and to, in cooperation with some municipalities, propagate their ideology, advocating a revision of the Trianon Treaty and the restoration of 'Greater Hungary.'

The DSS urged the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government to supervise the legality of work of local government units. "The government is under obligation to take all legal measures to prevent the actions of neo-Nazi groups and individuals, whether they are our citizens or not, and also when it comes to those municipalities where such activities are not only tolerated but are also irresponsibly encouraged," the statement said. Earlier, the Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) of Novi Sad warned that Sziva, one of the leading figures of the Hungarian neo-fascist movement, would perform in Novi Bečej in a camp organized by people close to the Hungarian ultra nationalist party Jobbik and other movements of the Hungarian fascist right-wing.
© B92.

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Iceland: Immigrants Subject to Hate Speech in Comments

13/8/2014- A new analysis of hateful comments on news stories in the Icelandic online media was presented yesterday, showing that racist comments based on stereotypes are common and that immigrants who participate in the dialogue often fall victim to hate speech. The analysis was conducted by Bjarney Friðriksdóttir, a PhD student in European Law, and she presented her results at the meeting of the City of Reykjavík’s Human Rights Council yesterday. “It’s as if immigrants shouldn’t be allowed to express their opinions on affairs concerning them,” Anna Kristinsdóttir, director of Reykjavík City’s Human Rights Office, told Fréttablaðið. Of the 14,815 comments analyzed, 75 percent were written by men and 25 by women. Most prejudiced comments targeted Muslims and comments characterized by nationalism or neo-racism were also common, as stated in a press release from Reykjavík City.

Bjarney studied comments on the subjects asylum seekers/refugees, people of foreign origin/immigrants, the building of a mosque in Reykjavík, gender equality, feminism, sexual violence and LGBTQI people from March 2013 to March 2014. The study showed that when a person of foreign origin comments on an issue, an Icelander is usually quick to discredit that person’s reputation with a comment along the lines of: “these people should be sent back to their home countries.” In the commenting system, people of foreign origin don’t appear to be entitled to having a critical voice in society. The study further showed that prejudiced comments often reveal that those commenting lack knowledge on the limitations of the freedom of speech and what laws on human rights exist in Iceland.

There is also a link between the tone of an article and the comments which appear alongside it. If the article presents a subject in a prejudiced manner, it leads to prejudiced comments, the study concluded. The analysis made special note of the comments concerning the subject of the building of the mosque in Reykjavík, which were particularly hateful and characterized by neo-racism, racism and nationalism. The comments included death threats and other personal attacks on one of the representatives of the Muslim Association of Iceland. The study mentioned that a group of eight to ten people is especially active in commenting on the subject of the building of a mosque in Reykjavík and Muslims in Iceland, some of whom run websites with hate speech and scare tactics against Muslims.
In June it was reported that Salmann Tamimi, founder of the Muslim Association of Iceland, was suing for hate speech. He and his lawyer, Helga Vala Helgadóttir, stated it was important to make a stand against such comments.

However, in relation with the Israel-Palestine conflict late last month, Salmann faced criticism because of a comment he wrote on a story in The Jerusalem Post, where he said he hoped dead Israeli soldiers would go “to hell.” In an interview with visir.is, Salmann said he stood by his comment. “Yes, these people are calling the soldiers heroes. They are murderers who kill our children. I simply told them to go to hell.” Salmann is originally from Palestine. Reykjavík’s application to become an Intercultural City is currently being processed by the European Council. Sixty cities are on the list and in order for Reykjavík to be included, the city must pass the council inspectors’ appraisal of how its immigrants are treated. The inspectors are expected to arrive in Reykjavík this coming autumn, Fréttablaðið reports.
© The Iceland Review.

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Germany: Neo-Nazis increasingly target young net users

A German Internet watchdog has issued a new report on hate propaganda circulated online. It identifies a rising trend and calls for more international cooperation in tackling the problem.

12/8/2014- Blatant racism, homophobia and promotion of violence are on the increase in the German-speaking cyber world, finds the latest annual report published by Jugendschutz.net, Germany's state-sponsored child protection service in matters relating to the Internet. The report, titled "Right-wing extremism online 2013"  ("Rechtsextremismus online 2013") finds that the more offensive and provocative the content, the more quickly and broadly it is circulated. "While in the past the propaganda was more subtle, today we regularly see blatant portrayals of Jews, Muslims, Sinti and Roma and homosexuals as second-class citizens," Stefan Glaser, deputy head of Jugendschutz.net, said in a statement.

Not new, only worse
This general finding reflects the overall trend identified in the reports from previous years. "The first neo-Nazi websites appeared in the 1990s, and right-wing Internet content has increased dramatically over the years," Christiane Schneider, head of the political extremism department at Jugendschutz.net, told DW. "With the rise of social networking, hate propagators have also grown smarter. They know how to present themselves in a friendly and appealing way to attract young followers." Methods such as humor and satire are used, which help disguise hate speech. "In addition, a widespread climate of hate online makes this kind of behavior look increasingly normal, which only attracts more people," said Schneider.

Beyond national borders
While the study focused on Internet content accessed by German youth, its findings extend beyond Internet platforms hosted in Germany. An increasing amount of young people are networking internationally or simply using foreign websites for sharing extremist content. An example is the Russian social networking site VK. Previously known as VKontakte, the platform has been described as a safe haven for right-wing extremists from countries like Germany, where the laws controlling Internet content are stricter. The network has recently been used for disseminating videos published by the Okkupay Pedofilyay group, an anti-gay movement started in Russia. The videos feature neo-Nazis attacking, beating, torturing and humiliating gay people.

So far, according to Jugendschutz.net, VK operators have not given a sufficient response. They rarely delete hate-inciting content or block access for German users. "It's hard to control the activities of web portals based abroad," said Schneider. However, there have also been some examples of success. "There is a Latvian question-and-answer site called Ask.fm, which has been quite popular among young German users," explained Schneider. "When we noticed right-wing activity there we notified the operators. At first they didn't react, but through various international contacts and organizations we managed to put pressure on them and today they react much more quickly to complaints." Jugendschutz.net representatives hope to have more influence of this kind in the future. According to Glaser, sites like VK and US microblogging and social networking site Tumblr do very little do ban extremist content.

A double goal
While it's hard to pinpoint the exact consequences of an individual piece of right-wing propaganda online, there are obvious dangers when one particular group is labeled as inferior. Jugendschutz.net aims to prevent young people from becoming both perpetrators and victims of online extremism. "Hate propagators take advantage of the latest technology and popular social networking sites to influence young people," said Schneider. "Some of these people then cause emotional or physical harm to their peers, but young Internet users can also be harmed simply by what they read online."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Austria: The grassroots group uniting Muslims and Jews

The organiser of the Muslim Jewish Conference, held in Vienna this year, says that he believes the gathering of young people from around the world has helped break down stereotypes and that every participant has been changed by their experience.

13/8/2014- Ilja Sichrovsky, the 31-year-old founder of the MJC, was born in Berlin but grew up in Vienna and his father’s family have Jewish roots in Vienna dating back centuries. He told The Local he was inspired by a personal experience to help create dialogue and understanding between Muslims and Jews. “Until the age of 25 I had no constructive contact with Muslims, but a student conference meant I had to step out of my comfort zone. I was a left-wing student but had appalling misconceptions about Muslims. A lot of the participants came from Pakistan, Lebanon… the wider Middle East. It was really a personal relationship that started it, with a participant from Pakistan - we both realised how little we knew about each other’s religion and culture and how problematic the ideas we had about each other were.” Mustapha is now his best friend.

When Sichrovsky decided to set up the MJC most people told him it was “unthinkable that a grassroots organisation could deal with this issue - especially as established organisations have failed. People told us we were making a big mistake.” But Sichrovsky thinks the problem is that the organisations that are working on building interfaith relations and solving the Middle East conflict have an agenda - and are jeopardised by either financial or political influence. “The power of the MJC is that it really is neutral and independent of all the existing organisations and institutions. We do have financial support but we’re not affiliated with anyone.”

The MJC is struggling financially, as it refuses to take money from sources that want to have a say in what it does. Its main sponsors are private donors, but it operates on a shoestring budget. The last four conferences were run on a total budget of €250,000, which included salaries. It takes a full year to organise each conference which has taken place in a different city every year - including Kiev, Bratislava and Sarajevo. A core team of 35 volunteers work across 25 countries. Conference attendees have to pay for their own flights, and the MJC pays for their accommodation, food, and events. There is no conference fee. Sichrovsky praises the participants, who are often “taking a risk, going against their communities, their religious background, sometimes they are identified as a traitor, but they are brave enough to hop on a plane and do something unprecedented - without these people we wouldn’t exist.”

The MJC has applications from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Libya and Sichrovsky credits word of mouth and social media for helping spread the news about the grassroots movement. “We’ve never had to campaign to get people to apply for the conference - and we’ve got 400 alumni from the previous conferences who have really spread the word and are ambassadors for the cause.” Every year they have between 200 and 300 applications - and accept around 100 people. “The demand is there - people want to make up their own minds and there isn’t a forum in which to do that. If we had a bigger budget we would have more than one conference a year.” Of course there are still people who believe that the MJC is wasting its time and meddling - “many people try to tell us that we should accept that this is an impossible task… but we don’t agree, and we think we have a right to try and make interfaith dialogue possible.”

“We want to be taken seriously, this isn’t some feel-good programme that we do two days a year… and I think if organisations like ours don’t get supported and funded Europe is going to be a very uncomfortable place, racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia is not something that is going to go away by itself.” “Hate-speech on social media and violence on the streets has to be taken seriously - the Muslim and Jewish minority have to stand up for their rights as citizens of European countries,” Sichrovsky adds.

'Healing effect'
His grandfather fled from Nazi Austria and fought his way back to Vienna with the British army in 1945. He resettled in Vienna, and serves as an inspiration to his grandson. “I’m not willing to give up on this place. Looking at the odds he overcame I know I can develop the patience and stamina to keep doing this.” With anti-Semitism and Islamophobia growing in Europe, Sichrovsky believes interreligious dialogue is the only solution to bring people together. “You have to destroy these stereotypes and this hatred, which I think we manage to do in seven days…We need to find a language where we can agree to disagree, and be friends, not enemies.” This year the visit to the Mauthausen concentration camp memorial was a moving experience. “Being able to see a group of Muslim participants coming together and reciting their prayer for the lost loved ones, really made the Jewish participants emotional. They were sharing the pain together - the same thing happened in Srebrenica where we went last year - and I think this has a healing effect that goes beyond words and projects…which will last a lifetime.”
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Police 'lack of concern' for child hit by neo-Nazi

A father whose son was attacked by a neo-Nazi during a family hike in Styria has complained that the police failed to take his child to hospital and blamed him for being out so late with his children.

12/8/2014- For weeks, nine-year-old Fabian and seven-year-old Daniel had been looking forward to a night hike with their father, Herbert Zeilbauer. They set off on Sunday evening, the night of the full moon. But the outing in Mürzzuschlag ended terribly. The family stopped at 10:30 pm to have a drink, “On purpose we sat outside the pub as I didn’t want my children sitting inside as it was so late,” Zeilbauer told the Kurier newspaper. “We were wearing reflective vests and headlamps and apparently this provoked a dog that was tied up outside the pub, and he began barking loudly,” he added. A man came out of the pub and started shouting 'Nazi slogans' at the family - he then hit seven-year-old Daniel. When Zeilbauer stepped in to defend his son, he was also punched. Police arrived a short time later but instead of showing concern for Daniel, Zeilbauer said that they “asked me what I was doing out so late with my children”.

They took the perpetrator to hospital, to test him for drugs, but seemed less worried about the children. "I had to take my son to hospital in Leoben myself. The police seemed to be treating me as if it was all my fault, as we were out so late,” Zeilbauer said. Daniel was still in hospital on Monday night but his parents hoped he would be released on Tuesday. A hospital psychologist who examined both children fears that they may suffer some mental scarring from the incident. They have been drawing pictures of the attack and depicting the attacker as the devil. The police in Mürzzuschlag said that when they arrived at the scene the children appeared to have no external injuries and that their father did not ask for help. However, they did make a note in their report that the children were out at 10:30 pm and have referred the case to the Youth Welfare Department in Bruck/Mürzzuschlag.
© The Local - Austria

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Northern Ireland: Plaque marking birthplace of former Israeli president removed

Marked the Cliftonpark Avenue birthplace of Chaim Herzog.

12/8/2014- A blue plaque marking the Belfast birthplace of a former Israeli president has been removed 'due to a series of anti-Semitic attacks'. The plaque was first erected on a property at Cliftonpark Avenue in 1998. It marks the birthplace of Chaim Herzog - who later went on to become President of Israel between 1983 and 1993. But according to one DUP councillor, the plaque has had to be removed due to a spate of attacks. Brian Kingston said there was concern for the safety of those living in the area. "Attacks have included the scrawling of anti-Israeli graffiti on the building and items being thrown at the plaque and the house," he said. "Recently some youths were stopped in the process of trying to remove the plaque with a crowbar. "Out of concern for staff and for residents living in neighbouring houses, the community group and the Ulster History Circle have decided that it was best to remove the plaque for the foreseeable future, and it was removed at the end of last week."

Last month windows were smashed at a synagogue in north Belfast. The attack on the Somerton Road building was branded "disgraceful and despicable". Figures released last month showed incidents of antisemitism across Britain rose by more than a third in the first six months of this year, indicating rising hate crime against Jews prior to the current conflict in Gaza and Israel. Incidents since the start of the latest surge in conflict include an assault on a rabbi near a Jewish boarding school in Gateshead, the desecration of a Manchester cemetery, physical assaults and a poster displaying an antisemitic image of a hook-nosed man pasted on a Hertfordshire street.
© The Belfast Telegraph

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Rising Ukip star on Roma in the UK, vaccines and racist gardeners

Rotherham is a Ukip target in next year's general election. Jane Collins tells how she hopes to unseat Labour by being 'different'

10/8/2014- Jane Collins will open Ukip's party conference next month and last week the former equine physiotherapist was selected for a seat that the party believes could deliver its first MP. But in an extraordinary interview – ranging from the debate about alleged racism on Gardeners' Question Time to the need for "indigenous" children who are in contact with the Roma Slovak community to receive vaccines – there was one area out of bounds for this politician who says she is proud to be "different": policy. "I'm not going into policy, because I can't," she said in her first interview since being selected. "All our policies will be out for everyone to have a look at and review at our September conference. But we are just keeping a lid on our manifesto until then."

Asked what her political creed would be, she said: "I tend to see myself more as a progressive libertarian really." But on what that means in policy terms, she seemed determined: "I've seen the policies, I'm very happy with them. I think a lot of them are libertarian policies. I don't want to say too much. It's a bit like you wanting to know the end of the film. I'd get shot by the director if I did that, so I can't do that." Beyond a desire to leave the EU, Ukip's lack of policies – not the ones in a previous manifesto that Nigel Farage described as "drivel" – has long been one of its weaknesses. Nevertheless recently published research suggests Ukip could still rob Labour of victory in next year's general election. Dr Matthew Goodwin of the University of Nottingham has identified five Labour constituencies particularly vulnerable to Farage's party, fuelled greatly by unease over immigration.
And Rotherham, a historic Labour stronghold where Collins has been selected, is right up there. Ukip came second in a 2012 byelection in the South Yorkshire constituency and took more than 40% of the vote at the local elections, capturing 10 council seats and finishing a close runner-up in the other 11. Ukip insiders say that they have concerns that the Tory vote that has migrated to Ukip during local and European elections could disappear at the general election when the electorate starts to get serious. It is, they say, the old working-class Labour crowd, bitterly disappointed by their party's abandonment of their former voting mainstay in favour of the middle ground during the Blair years, that might just stick with Farage in 2015. If that is right, then it might not be Farage – said to be eyeing up South Thanet in Kent for a seat, where Tory incumbent Laura Sandys is standing down – that could offer the best bet for Ukip's success. It could be Collins.

A former head girl at the racing stables run by trainer Rob Ward in Moss, near Doncaster, Collins isn't letting it go to her head, though. She lost to Labour's Sarah Champion by almost 5,000 votes in a byelection in 2012 forced by the resignation of Denis MacShane over his conviction for expense fraud. And, as a close friend of former Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom, the 52-year-old has seen how political careers can disappear down a hole. Bloom – after calling a room full of women "sluts" and accusing the government of sending cash to "bongo bongo land" in an attack on international development aid – was ushered out of the party. Collins had worked for him during the last two European elections. "There isn't anywhere called bongo bongo land anyway," she said. "Bongo bongos are a set of drums. But the fact of the matter is that it gave the wrong perception of what he was trying to say. His point was valid, but he put it across in the wrong way and I think if you asked him he would say that himself."

Collins said she laments the loss of politicians shooting from the hip. No friend of political correctness, she said that the country "needs to get a grip", and cites the recent claims by a sociologist that discussions of "indigenous species" during Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time are racist. She is a straight talker. Not a racist, she says, but someone who is concerned about the economic and health implications of immigration. And there is one local case on her mind. "In Sheffield we have a health problem developing," she said. "There is quite a high Roma Slovak community, and in that community hepatitis B is at a lot higher rate than it normally is in this country. We have got some health problems coming. We have to address those. They are over here and are now resident, and they will have to be treated, which puts a greater strain on the health service. "And, yes, there is a problem that it could spread. It is 100 times more infectious than HIV. "There is going to be a programme running in Sheffield to vaccinate all the Roma Slovak children. But actually why can't we vaccinate our indigenous children who are in close contact with those children as well?" With Bloom gone, Ukip's ability to stir up controversy seems in safe hands.
© The Guardian

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UK: Ukip tells its youth wing: Copy Hitler

Bill Etheridge told Ukip youth conference members to emulate Nazi leader; Lauded Hitler as 'the most magnetic and forceful public speaker in history'; Comes after the West Midlands MEP published a book celebrating golliwogs; Ministers blast speech as 'unbelievable' and call on Farage to respond

9/8/2014- Nigel Farage was facing a storm of protest last night after one of his MEPs was revealed to have coached Ukip candidates to emulate Hitler. Bill Etheridge described the Nazi dictator as a ‘magnetic and forceful public speaker’ who ‘achieved a great deal’ – and said the candidates should copy the rhetorical style deployed by Hitler at the Nuremberg rallies. Mr Farage is on the brink of formally confirming his intention to stand for Parliament in the Kent seat of Thanet South. This new disclosure will dismay the Ukip leader as he battles to de-toxify the party’s image following a string of rows over extremism. Mr Etheridge, who recently wrote a book celebrating golliwogs, made his astonishing remarks last weekend while training young Ukip members planning to stand in council or parliamentary elections. The West Midlands MEP was hired to give a class on public speaking at the Young Independence Conference in Birmingham. He suggested that the audience should take their oratorical tips from ‘a hateful figure who achieved a great deal’.
Mr Etheridge, 44, said: ‘Look back to the most magnetic and forceful public speaker possibly in history. When Hitler gave speeches, and many of the famous ones were at rallies, at the start he walks, back and forth, looked at people – there was a silence, he waited minutes just looking out at people, fixing them with his gaze. ‘They were looking back and he would do it for a while. And then they were so desperate for him to start, when he started speaking they were hanging on his every word.’ He added: ‘I’m not saying direct copy – pick up little moments.’ When a member of the audience asked Mr Etheridge, who was tasked by his party to deliver the conference, how they should use social media for pro-Ukip campaigning, he warned: ‘If you think for even a second that what you say can be screwed, twisted and spun, do not allow that video to be posted by people.’

Last night Labour MP Mike Gapes described the training session as ‘unbelievable’. He said: ‘I thought nothing could surprise me any more, but this just goes to show that Farage has completely failed to clean up his party. ‘One of his MEPs training young candidates to speak like Hitler? Simply unbelievable.’ During the past year, Ukip has been embarrassed by a series of racist and sexist outbursts by its activists. One candidate said that the comedian Lenny Henry should emigrate to a ‘black country’. Another compared the family of murdered Stephen Lawrence to apes. And a Ukip councillor suggested that January’s floods were linked to the Government’s decision to legalise gay marriage. Mr Etheridge was one of 24 Ukip MEPs elected in May and is planning to stand in Dudley North in the General Election. He was suspended by the Conservative Party in 2011 after he posed on Facebook with a golliwog.

Shortly after his suspension he wrote the book Britain: A Post-Political Correctness Society – featuring a picture of two of the dolls on its cover. In it he argued that ‘the political and social elite have cravenly surrendered to the diktat of the Politically Correct dogma that has crushed free speech, smashed enterprise and reduced Britain to a mere shadow of its former self’. Mr Etheridge’s speech at the Birmingham conference was addressed to a 40-strong audience of under 30-year-olds, three-quarters of whom said that they were planning to stand in elections for the party. After the ‘Hitler workshop’, other speakers, including Mr Etheridge’s fellow Ukip MEP Tim Aker, talked about policy, campaigning and the use of social media. Last night, Mr Etheridge stressed to The Mail on Sunday that he had also mentioned other public speakers in his tutorial.

At one point he also name-checked the wartime Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and made clear that he thought that both Mussolini and Hitler changed the world in a ‘very negative way’. In a statement, Mr Etheridge said: ‘I was talking about a whole range of public speakers and the techniques they used. I also mentioned Tony Blair. ‘At no point did I endorse Hitler or anybody else. I was merely discussing public speaking and the techniques used down the years. ‘Hitler and the Nazis were monsters and I am angry that I am even being asked questions about whether we would wish to be linked with them. Yet another cheap shot to deal with from the media.’ Mr Farage is expected to announce in the coming days that he will be standing for the Commons in Thanet South at next year’s General Election, after party officials in the constituency let slip this weekend that he is on their shortlist.

The most recent local polls indicate that the Ukip leader – who has said that he wants to fight a contest in his native Kent and previously identified the Thanet seat as his most likely option – would win if he ran. The Conservatives have selected Craig Mackinlay, who briefly led Ukip in 1997 and joined the Conservative Party in 2005. The choice is an attempt to defend the seat against Mr Farage. The sitting Conservative MP, the pro-European Laura Sandys, has already announced that she is standing down at the Election. Mr Farage was not available for comment yesterday.
© The Daily Mail.

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Slovak media closing online discussions due to hatred and racism

13/8/2014- The Slovak media are starting to run out of patience with readers who inundate the discussion boards beneath their online articles with hatred, lies and racism. Two popular news servers, Aktuality.sk and SME.sk, have changed the format of their discussion boards in recent days. The main tool is not to post open discussions beneath articles on specific topics, but moderated discussions where every contribution is checked by a moderator before being published. Sme.sk started its changes at the start of August and Aktuality.sk began turning off its discussion boards yesterday; both servers had already instituted the requirement that discussants register to participate.

No more aggressive, lying, racist contributions
The editors of SME.sk say their reason for the move is simple. "If we can't manage to control the discussion, if we don't know how to ensure that aggressive, lying, racist or vulgar contributions are not posted to our website, then we are forced not to open some discussion boards," news server SME.sk writes on its editorial blog. The editors also point out that the most frequent complaints received by SME.sk are about the level of the discussions posted beneath the articles. Aktuality.sk gave a similar justification for its own decision: "As of today we are closing the discussion boards on several types of articles. The reason is the growing hatred and deteriorating communications and vocabulary of the discussants. This has primarily to do with the topics of Islam, Romani people, Russia and Ukraine. The hateful discussions conducted among themselves by several people depreciate the articles, these topics, the events reported on and the people we are writing about."

Not censorship
Both editorial boards say the move is under no circumstances about censorship, but about taking responsibility. "No, this is not censorship. This is a responsible decision. At the end of the day, it's not just the authors of these discussion posts who are responsible for their content - we are too," write the editors of SME.sk. As Aktuality.sk points out, administering discussion boards is an extraordinarly demanding, sensitive matter, because "many discussants consider the removal of their contributions to be interference with their freedom of speech. That is not the case. Aktuality.sk has always approached discussion boards with maximum openness, but it is unacceptable for our discussion boards to become a place for communications by extremists (of any kind) or for individuals who intentionally unleash hatred... We are making this move for our readers who want to join responsibly join discussions that stay on topic."

Czech media not much bothered by hatred
It seems that for the time being calls for hatred, the dissemination of lies, racism don't much bother the Czech media. While discussion board formats have changed in the Czech media more than once, many hateful, racist contributions are left untouched by the administrators of the discussions posted beneath articles online. In the Czech Republic the news server that is probably most hospitable to aggressive discussants is Novinky.cz, where discussants must register under their own name, and iDNES.cz, where the discussions are supervised by several moderators led by Jan Dvořák. Differences of perception as to what constitutes hatred have been well-mapped by the magazine RESPEKT in an article entitled "If Hitler had only known" (Kdyby to Hitler tušil), which investigates hatred on the Czech internet. "They've had hundreds of years and they still live on the outskirts of society. However, it's not because of racism, it's only because of their approach to education, life and work," one discussant posts beneath an article about Romani integration on iDNES.cz.

According to Dvořák such a posting may remain online because "while it is a bit of a generalization, it is nonetheless a legitimate, rather sober way of expressing a critical opinion of Romani people." Representatives of news server Romea.cz and SME.sk take a different view of the matter. "That's an ordinary generalization unsupported by any arguments. Our image isn't made just by the quality of our articles, but by what kind of discussions we allow under our brand," Filip Struhárik, one of the designers of the current form of online debating at SME.sk, told RESPEKT. Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of the ROMEA organization, agrees, saying he believes the contribution made above by a reader of iDNES.cz is hate speech and should be removed. "This is a classic example of a generalization that tars an entire group of people with the same brush," he says.

Ryšavý believes everything should be removed that offends either specific individuals or any group of people, from Romani people to wheelchair users to Czech soldiers. "Naturally I am under no illusions that such hatred would completely disappear, I don't believe it would. However, at least the followers of such hatred would not have acccess to the biggest websites and to wide-ranging discussions. They should be somewhere in the background, tucked away on their own websites, and as long as they don't break the law, let them discuss all they want there," he said.

Improvement in the justice system and police
We can see a slight change for the better, of course, in the work of the justice system and police in the Czech Republic. As RESPEKT reports, a contribution posted to a discussion on Facebook calling for death to Czech soldiers participating in foreign missions was found by police to be a misdemeanor against civil coexistence warranting a CZK 5 000 fine. The author of the hateful commentary, Jiří Pohl, ultimately did not have to pay the fine, as he apologized. Recently former Czech MP Otto Chaloupka (Public Affairs) received a first-instance verdict for his own anti-Romani statements on Facebook. News server Romea.cz reported that Chaloupka was sentenced to six months' probation by the District court for Prague 1. The court made its ruling without holding a hearing or asking for additional evidence.

The former MP, according to the court, incited hatred against an ethnic group. Chaloupka appealed the April verdict and a hearing will be held in his case this September. Last year Chaloupka posted a message to his Facebook profile on the events in Duchcov (Teplice district), where a small group of Romani people attacked and beat up a non-Romani married couple. "Decent people have put up with your aggresion, your thievery and your unjustified demands for more and more advantages for long enough," he wrote. During the subsequent discussion he added that "people are on edge - a few more gypsy provocations like this and the slaughter will begin. Then even the riot police won't save them."
© Romea.

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Slovakia: 70th anniversary: a chance to learn more

The 70th anniversary of the Roma Holocaust saw a number of events taking place in Slovakia earlier this month to commemorate the tragic events of the Second World War that cost many Slovak Roma their lives. Even so, one can hardly say that the tradition of remembering the Roma Holocaust is well established in Slovakia.

11/8/2014- When the series of commemorative events started in 2005 in Banská Bystrica, the media was very cautious at the time and did not do any extensive reporting of the event. The situation has since changed for the better, said Arne Mann, an ethnographer from the Institute of Ethnology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, who focuses on the Roma Holocaust in his research work and who co-organises the events. “The media definitely pay much more attention [to the Roma Holocaust] now and I think that many have realised that yes, we need to talk about it and we need to write about it,” Mann told The Slovak Spectator.

Remembering Roma Holocaust
This year in Slovakia, memorial events to this end were held in early August, as August 2 is the official day of remembrance for Roma victims of the Holocaust. On the night of August 2, 1944, around 2,900 Roma and Sinti were killed in the gas chambers of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Altogether, the number of Roma from around Europe who died during the war is estimated at 300,000-500,000. A remembrance mass was held in Bratislava’s St Martin’s Cathedral and wreaths were laid in Dunajská Streda, with memorial events also taking place in Banská Bystrica and Hanušovce nad Topľou. In the latter, wreaths were laid at the local train station to mark the town’s role in the Roma Holocaust. In 1942, a labour camp for so-called asocial people was established there and mainly Roma were transported to work there on the construction of the Prešov-Strážske railway. “Remembering the pointless liquidation of the Roma does have a sense, for the mutual respect, from the part of both Roma and the majority, as well as for our future cohabitation,” said Peter Pollák, the government proxy for Roma communities, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

Why remember
Zuzana Kumanová, an ethnographer from the In Minorita non-governmental organisation, agrees that remembering the Roma Holocaust is important for preserving the memory of those who died or were persecuted because of their ethnicity. “Another thing is to learn from it and pay attention, because these features have shown up in the past and this happened even before the events that led to the genocide and persecutions,” Kumanová told The Slovak Spectator. She mentioned the stereotype of the Roma as asocial people who avoided work, which helped fuel the wartime persecutions and the many laws directed against the Roma. The stereotype of work-shy Roma is widespread even today, when many see the Roma as people who leach on the system, shy away from work and do not care about improving their environment and their life. “These are not the Roma, it is not something that represents the Roma culture,” Kumanová said.

Obstacles in memory
The fact that the Roma have continued to face harsh discrimination in Slovakia (as well as elsewhere in Europe) since the war has made it harder to document and commemorate the Roma who died in the Holocaust. There has been a stigma on the Roma Holocaust, quite the same as there was for Jews, and they preferred forgetting it rather than remembering. Many Jews who were born after the war were unaware of the fact that their parents had been in concentration camps, Mann noted. What was different for the Jews, however, was that there were many intellectuals among them who realised the need to talk and write about what happened. Soon enough, various research organisations emerged and began focusing on the Holocaust. “There was, however, nobody [to do the same] among the Roma; plus the topic was taboo,” Mann told The Slovak Spectator. And not just the Roma Holocaust, but also the Roma as such were not even recognised as an ethnic group, but rather as a social group, Mann noted. It was not until 1988 that a research work was published on the Roma, but the wartime events were omitted, with the argument that the Roma did not suffer that much during the war, Mann said.

Post-communist awakening
With the fall of the communist regime in Slovakia and beyond, the view of the Roma Holocaust shifted. In the early 1990s, Polish Roma came up with the idea to commemorate the Roma Holocaust on a specific day, and a research centre focusing on the Roma was established in Auschwitz. Other organisations followed suit. In Slovakia, Arne Mann initiated the first commemorative event in 1990 in Dúbravy pri Detve. Later, in 2005, the Ma bisteren! (Roma word for Don’t forget!) project was launched, which resulted in the unveiling of seven memorials around Slovakia. Kumanová believes the topic of the Roma Holocaust has made it into the public’s awareness in the past 20 years, with mainly experts and NGOs leading the debate, though the historiography still lags behind. “Historians pay little attention to this topic and I can’t even name one person who would systematically focus on this, and the topic could be popularised through their work,” Kumanová said. Similarly, school curricula pay little attention not only to the Roma Holocaust as part of history, but to the Roma minority as part of society. “Children in primary schools learn only minimal information about the Roma, the second biggest national minority, and even that information is stereotype-driven,” Kumanová said, adding that the same could be said about other minorities and the multi-ethnic character of Slovakia as such.

Roma and their history
As for the Roma alone, they received neither reconciliation nor recognition of their Holocaust history after the war. “The people who survived had to adjust and live their lives,” Kumanová said. “They did not have the time to look back.” As a result, the Roma only recounted their stories at home, or simply did not discuss them at all. Therefore, the Roma Holocaust is a new history for the Roma, as it is for the non-Roma, and it is as if it needs to be re-introduced into their historical memory. For the Roma, this is part of their ethnic emancipation processes, according to Kumanová. The projects raising awareness about the Roma were launched about a decade ago, and since then many young people have become familiar with the topic. When the 70th anniversary of the Roma Holocaust was marked in Auschwitz this year, about 1,000 young people attended the events and participated in workshops for young activists and artists, generally aimed at nurturing the cultural identity of the Roma.
© The Slovak Spectator.

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Slovakia: Recalling the Roma Holocaust

11/8/2014- The Roma Holocaust in Slovakia largely took the form of forced labour in awful conditions leading to death and illness, and later moved to a second phase – direct mass murders. As the August 2 commemoration date of the Roma Holocaust passes, historians are returning to the theme of what took place. The Holocaust was the result of legislation adopted by the Slovak war-time state (1939-45), which mirrored the legislation of Nazi Germany, including the racist Nuremberg laws. The precise number of Roma killed in Slovakia during the Holocaust remains unknown, with data from many regions missing. The total number of European Roma victims is estimated between 300,000 to 500,000.
To justify the murders, the Nazis used propaganda portraying Roma as an asocial group that spoiled the racial purity of the German population. “Propaganda stemmed from stereotypes of both Slovakia and Germany,” Arne Mann, an ethnographer of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, told The Slovak Spectator. “Those stereotypes have been present here for several centuries.”

Restrictions on Roma
To target the Roma, the Slovak state introduced various restrictions even before the mass murders began. First, Roma as well as Jews were forced to do labour for the Nazi military and thus became part of the war effort, but carrying pickaxes and shovels instead of weapons. Second, an Interior Ministry edict defined the term “gypsy” as a person whose parents were Roma and avoided working. Other edicts introduced restrictions for those who were not willing to work. For example, the Roma were forced to leave their villages and establish their residence at least two kilometres from the municipality in a place which could not be seen from the road. Furthermore, the Roma were only allowed to visit towns and cities during certain hours of the week and were banned from using public transportation, buying beer in bars or owning a dog, according to Mann.

Another measure against the Roma was the creation of labour camps for people considered to asocial. A report from the local mayor saying that a particular person refused to work was enough for the authorities to send someone to the camps. Roma worked 11 hours per day in the camps in horrible conditions. In one camp, typhus spread among prisoners, so all straw and blankets were burned and prisoners slept on wooden desks. “When [the Nazis] took them in the summer, the Roma were shoeless; but they let them work this way even during the winter,” Mann said. “Truly, the conditions were like those in liquidation camps; many prisoners harmed themselves or tried to escape.” Roma worked on the construction of railways in eastern Slovakia, the Čertovica mountain road and the Orava water reservoir.

During the Slovak National Uprising, numerous Roma joined the fight against the Nazis. After Germany defeated the rebels, the most cruel phase of the Roma Holocaust began as the SS special corps initiated killings of groups of Roma. “A big execution took place in Čierny Balog village, where they killed 60 Olach Roma,” Mann said. “They were captured near the town of Zvolen, imprisoned in a school and then the Roma men were shot dead while the women were gathered in barns and burned.” The Nazis were also preparing deportations similar to what was done with the Slovak Jews, but the war ended, Stanislav Mičev of the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising told the Slovak Radio. The first goal was to destroy the Jews, the Roma were next and the Slavs were third, he added. However, many Roma from southern and eastern Slovakia, which belonged to Hungary at that time, were also taken to Nazi camps.

Slovaks willing to help
Generally, relationships between the majority population and the Roma were not as bad as Nazi propaganda presented. Most Roma lived in rural areas and farmers hired them as labourers, paying them in kind. In villages, where this form of cooperation existed, mayors were usually not willing to let them go to labour camps, according to Mann. For example, in Kuzmice, a village in eastern Slovakia, locals had a good relationship with the Roma and helped them survive the war. When troops of Slovak fascist militia – the Hlinka Guard – came, they destroyed all the Roma houses. After the guards left, the villagers took all the important remains of their previous houses, transported them to a nearby forest and helped the Roma build temporary shelters. Roma lived there until the front moved closer to Germany, then the villagers helped them move back to Kuzmice again. “This is proof that relationships were not tense everywhere,” Mann said.
© The Slovak Spectator.

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Czech cell of international Blood & Honour organization indicted

11/8/2014- This autumn a nine-member group from various parts of the Czech Republic will be going on trial. According to the indictment, the group planned to assault specific individuals and called for violent attacks on the headquarters of political parties and on representatives of the Government and the police. At least two attacks were carried out but no injuries were sustained by those targeted. Some of those now indicted, according to police, also personally contributed to the creation and establishment of the neo-Nazi organization Blood & Honour Division Bohemia and its militant daughter organization Combat 18.

The main representative of the Czech branch of the neo-Nazi organization Blood & Honour and Combat 18 is said to be a Jan B., the founding member of the Prague branch of the organization called Division Bohemia (who was 22 years old at the time of his arrest). Other members of this organized group are a man (age 22) and a woman (age 28) from A�, a man (age 37) from Hodonín, a man from Prague (age 22) and a man from Sokolov (age 28) who have also been charged with establishing, supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. The same charges are also being faced by a man (age 31) from Trutnov who is also being prosecuted for the offense of defamation of a nation, race, ethnic or other group and the offense of inciting hatred against a group or suppressing their rights and freedoms. Two other men from A� (age 22 and 32) have been charged with the crime of establishing, supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms.

Eliminate the possibility of saving any victims
Jakub Kubias of the Regional State Prosecutor in Plzeň told the daily Právo that the most serious crime in the indictment was committed by two men from A�, who now face between 15 and 20 years in prison or even the possibility of extraordinary sentencing for 18 counts of racially-motivated attempted murder. Youths Michal P. and Tomá� K. identified a building to target in the northwest tip of the Czech Republic where two Romani families and several foreign workers were living. In the dead of night on 26 February 2012 the youths masked themselves with balaclavas, threw Molotov cocktails through one of the family's windows, and then fled the scene. "They did their best to carry out the attack in such a way as to maximally eliminate the possibility of saving any victims. They poured gasoline around the front doors, intending to make it impossible for the occupants to get out of the residential hotel once it caught fire," the daily quotes the state prosecutor saying in the indictment.

Fortunately, neither of the Molotov cocktails made it into the rooms where 10 adults and eight children were sleeping at the time because the interior window pane of the double-glazed windows stopped them. The occupants managed to put out the blaze from the burning gasoline in the space between the windows. "Given the significant amount of flammable material, the fire would have spread very rapidly in the interior areas with their lack of partitions. Toxic fumes would have represented another danger. If the main entrance had also caught fire, the opportunity to flee would have been greatly complicated," reads a fire expert's evaluation of the situation, according to the daily.

The head of the group, according to the indictment, criticized those who carried out the arson for being insufficiently "committed" and for not causing more damage. The indicted men excused their behavior to investigators by saying they had been drunk at the time, describing the entire incident as an unfortunate excess. At the start of 2012, other members of the group attacked the "Gizela" cabin in a forest in the Krč quarter of Prague because their self-appointed leader said it was a hangout for left-wingers. According to the indictment, Jan B. is said to have pulled a canister out of his backpack and begun spraying the walls of the cabin with gasoline. Jan B. then allegedly handed a friend a box of matches and ordered him to set the cabin on fire. Právo reports that flames were soon shooting from it, according to his co-defendant, Čeněk N. of Prague.

Threat to paralyze the state
Members of the group are also charged with actively planning so-called "direct actions" against their opponents, representatives of the state, and the democratic order of the Czech Republic, as well as calling for participation in these actions on the organization's website, which was hosted on a server abroad. Through this site they reported on the activities of the organization and its ideological struggle against "the system", the democratic order of the state and its representatives, "whether that be representatives of the Government or the Police of the Czech Republic." Pavel Hanták, spokesperson for the Organized Crime Detection Unit (Útvar pro odhalování organizovaného zločinu - ÚOOZ) said those plans had not yet acquired a concrete form. "However, if they had decided to realize them and succeeded, the result apparently would have been to paralyze the activity of the state," Hanták said.

For example, the highly organized group pointed out on its website that it would be easy to attack the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) in Prague, for example, from a passing car. Another onlne piece approved of the arson attack committed on a house occupied by a Romani family in Vítkov in April 2009 that resulted in a two-year-old girl suffering third-degree burns over almost her entire body, the painful, permanent repercussions of which will remain with her for the rest of her life. By posting links to other freely-accessible websites, the group actively supported racial hatred, various forms of violence with a tendency to terrorism, Holocaust denial, and incitement to violence against the so-called "inferior races", certain groups and certain individuals. Police say the group identified and invited new members and maintained active communications with them.

Politicians disappointed with intelligence services
Immediately after the arson attack in Aš, the then-Deputy PM for the fight against corruption, Karolína Peake, made the following emphatic statement: "The Molotov cocktails thrown at the Romani residential hotel in Aš have prompted my concern over this horrible spread of aggression and intolerance. (...) Throwing Molotov cocktails or any other kind of violence is not a legitimate method and will only produce misfortune. This can destroy the lives of both the assailants and the victims and cause a human tragedy." The Communist Shadow Interior Minister said in April 2012 that "the Security Information Service did not not warn [the public] of the activities of this neo-Nazi organization, which even espouses violence", nor did the cabinet-level recipients of the service's classified reports. "According to the information published online, [the Government] was satisfied by the statement regarding developments on the extremist scene that the 'right-wing extremist scene had stagnated'," he said.

The anti-extremist department of the ÚOOZ carefully kept its two-year investigation of Blood & Honour Division Bohemia a secret, collecting hundreds of hours of tapped telephone calls, the recordings of which they were able to spend entire weeks studying in order to be able to cast doubt on the defense case of those charged. This is another reason the court proceedings will not start until the fall, i.e., two and a half years after the suspects were arrested. The whole case has one big flaw, mainly in relation to the defendants charged with multiple counts of the attempted murder of children: Neither of them has ever been taken into custody. Requests for these possible murderers to be remanded into custody were filed by ÚOOZ investigators and rejected by the judge, which makes it probable, therefore, that this case, just like other similar "highly serious cases of ultra-right extremism" in the past, will end after years of work with the acquittal of the defendants or with their receving mild, suspended sentences.

Blood & Honour Division Bohemia
According to the Czech Police, Blood & Honour Division Bohemia is a section of the most radical, militant contemporary neo-Nazi organization, Blood & Honour, which was established in Great Britain in the 1980s by the leader of the neo-Nazi skinhead music group Skrewdriver, Ian Stuart Donaldson. It was originally established as an extensive, effective distribution network for racist, neo-Nazi materials among youth (carrying on the legacy of the Hitlerjugend in Germany), mainly in the area of music. In many of its materials the group calls for violent action. Its name is sometimes coded as the number "28". Combat 18 (C 18) is the militant, terrorist wing of Blood & Honour. It was created at the end of 1991 and start of 1992 in Great Britain and gradually its divisions or sections were created in several other countries, including the Czech Republic.

Members of this organization have carried out many violent terrorist actions. In its current conception C 18 espouses the notion of a leaderless resistance and serves as a symbol of ultra-right terrorism. David Vaculík, the head of the group of arsonists who carried out the attack in Vítkov, has "C 18" tattooed on his chest. A group of Hungarian neo-Nazis who carried out several fatal arson attacks on Romani dwellings throughout Hungary recently were also part of the group; last year a first-instance court in Budapest sentenced three of its members to life in prison.
© Romea.

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Roma Evictions in Albania 'Concern' CoE

The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, has expressed concern over the planned eviction of seven Roma families in Elbasan to make way for development.

11/8/2014- “Concerned about planned evictions of Roma in Elbasan, Albania,” Muiznieks wrote on his twitter account on Thursday. “I call on authorities to ensure suitable and sustainable housing alternative and uphold human rights,” he added. The houses of the seven Roma families face demolition due to make way for the expansion of the city’s soccer stadium and a road. The stadium is undergoing reconstruction funded by the municipality and Albania’s Football Federation, and is earmarked to host the qualifying games of the national football team in the run-up to the UEFA European 2016 championship. Although the families are entitled to compensation, they cannot claim it because, like hundreds of thousands of other families in Albania, they built their homes without permits. Since 2007 the government has allowed for process of legalization for unauthorised constructions, but progress has been slow.

In July the municipality of Elbasan suspended the demolition of the houses after the UN Committee on Human Rights called on the government to suspend the eviction of the families until a complaint filed by their lawyers on the merits of the decision to demolish the houses and subsequent compensation claims had been heard. The UN Human Rights Committee is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by state parties. On Friday the municipality announced that the demolition of two houses due to the stadium expansion had been halted, while the families affected by the road expansion would be provided with a rent allowance. However, the families’ lawyers from the ResPublica legal aid center in Tirana told BIRN that the issue of compensation for the soon to be demolished houses remained unsolved and they would proceed with their claim before the UN human rights committee.
© Balkan Insight

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Voice to the voiceless - The Slovak Spectator Editorial

By Beata Balogová 

11/8/2014- One of the regulations issued by the wartime Slovak state defined the Roma as people “who avoid work”, while stripping them of a number of elementary human rights based on racist principles. The Roma were required to remove their dwellings from the proximity of public roads and were condemned to live in remote places out of sight. They were banned from public transportation and had access to some municipalities only during specific hours of the day. They could not even own a dog, as Arne Mann, an ethnographer from the Institute of Ethnology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, who focuses on the Roma Holocaust, suggested in an interview with The Slovak Spectator. Indeed, in Slovakia it was Mann who initiated the first commemorative event of the Roma Holocaust in 1990 in Dúbravy pri Detve, which is actually much more recent than one would have thought for the first such event.

Even though the public’s awareness of the Roma Holocaust has been growing (altogether an estimated 300,000-500,000 Roma from around Europe died during the Second World War), some of the stigmas that the Nazi regime applied to the Roma seem to be gaining a second life. Seventy years after the Roma Holocaust, there are public figures in Slovakia who would still describe members of this marginalised ethnic group as having the trait of “avoiding work” and talk about removing their dwellings from lands that the Roma do not legally own as though it were only to remove a heap of thrash. They rarely miss a chance to use anti-Roma sentiments to boost their popularity while resorting to soft racism, and when confronted by the media, they argue that they are only defending the interest of the “decent people” as opposed to the “indecent”. Even though the tradition of remembering the Roma Holocaust is far from well-established in Slovakia, scholars studying these tragic times suggest that over the past couple of years these events have received more intense media coverage and even some politicians have begun putting the anniversary on their political map.

However, if the remembering is stuck at the level of some formal political speech and a couple of wreaths laid on memorials across the country, then the potential of these anniversaries is wasted. The majority population in Slovakia knows so little about the Roma outside of the general stereotypes that when a discussion ensues, many readily offer a number of negative experiences they have had with “gypsies”, assuming that these “stories” constitute a sufficient basis of knowledge about the second biggest ethnic group in Slovakia. The problem is that the voice of the Roma among the majority population remains unheard, as though those people whom some Slovaks describe as “indecent” or having asocial traits were completely voiceless. Without understanding how the Roma had been treated throughout the course of Europe’s history, seeing that they have been one of the most persecuted ethnic groups in Europe, regardless of state borders, Slovaks will never understand the situation of the country’s Roma.

Zuzana Kumanová, an ethnographer from the In Minorita non-governmental organisation, rightly pointed out that some time ago people attached the word “unknown” to the Roma Holocaust. However, it is more fitting to say that it was “unacknowledged”, with Kumanová saying in an interview with The Slovak Spectator that she sees a “crucial difference between these two words”. But there has been progress and now it is up to the media and perhaps the history teachers, because not allowing children to hear the story of the Roma at an eary age (one quite different from what they might hear from their parents) could saddle them with that familiar baggage of stereotypes for their whole life. This is and should be one of the roles of the media: giving a voice to the voiceless so that they are able to share their stories. Stories are powerful because if they are told at the right time to the right people and in the right place, they can make the world a better place.
© The Slovak Spectator.

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Far from home and far from safe - a migrant's nightmare (opinion)

If Marioara Rostas had been Irish, writes Eilis O'Hanlon, her name would be burned into our consciousness

10/8/2014- Jews are not generally seen these days as untermenschen, even if the recent fighting in Gaza has given the deep hidden store of anti-Semitism in Europe another opportunity to go mainstream. Communists and gay people, likewise, are now accepted as perfectly respectable, non-threatening members of the community. Alone amongst those whom Hitler sought to demonise, members of the Roma community remain targets for distaste and distrust. Germany didn't even admit that the Roma had been a special group targeted for their ethnicity during the Holocaust until 1982, and the community has never received reparations in the way that European Jews did, though hundreds of thousands of them, possibly more than a million, died in concentration camps and pogroms in the 1930s and '40s, with the entire Roma population of some countries, including Croatia, Estonia and Lithuania, being wiped out at a stroke. Still the Roma live on the margins of European society, never quite fitting in, never quite being accepted, never quite shaking off the reputation of being shifty, dirty, anti-social.

This continuing prejudice, of course, offends the liberal sensibilities of many Irish people, who were keen to leap on a recent report into the removal of two blond-haired, blue-eyed Roma children from their families under suspicion that they'd been stolen from their real parents. It's easy, though, to accuse the Garda Siochana of "institutionalised racism", less so to accept that the same negative attitude towards the Roma might be more widely shared, or that it may have been exposed again by the recent trial for the murder of 18-year-old Romanian girl Marioara Rostas in 2008. Last week, Alan Wilson, a Dublin criminal currently serving a seven-year sentence for an attack on another man with a meat cleaver, was found not guilty of her murder after a five-week trial at Dublin's Central Criminal Court. The jury took less than three hours to deliver a unanimous not guilty verdict after Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy warned them of the danger of convicting the defendant on the uncorroborated evidence of another convicted criminal, a man by the name of Fergus O'Hanlon, who was in a relationship with the defendant's sister at the time and who subsequently claimed to have helped dispose of Marioara's body.

O'Hanlon was given immunity from prosecution in another District Court case in return for his evidence and was also provided with money and accommodation as he entered a witness protection programme. Ultimately, this seems to have guaranteed that he was regarded by the court as an unreliable witness, even though the prosecution and the man himself never claimed he was an "angel". Now it looks as if the murder of Marioara Rostas will go unsolved and unpunished, and the horrific details of what happened to this young woman, a mere 18 days after she first arrived in this country, will be filed away in a cabinet somewhere, gathering dust, her name forgotten. It's hard to believe that we would be so accepting of this if Marioara had been, to borrow a phrase, One Of Us. If it had been an Irish girl who stepped into a Ford Mondeo that day and suddenly "didn't exist any more", as her brother Dimitriu, who saw his sister take that fatal trip, put it powerfully on Prime Time last week, there would surely be outrage, protests, demands for action.

If it had been an Irish girl shot four times and whose remains were found buried, wrapped in plastic, four years later in the Wicklow Mountains, Marioara would be burned into our consciousness, as French filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier was after she was beaten to death in west Cork in 1996; or as Raonaid Murray's name and face became part of our collective memory when the 17-year-old was stabbed to death near her home in Silchester Park in 1999 as she walked home from a night out in Dun Laoghaire. Siobhan Kearney, sister of writer and artist Brigid McLaughlin, strangled to death by her husband Brian in Dublin in 2006, is likewise remembered, naturally and without any need for reminders. These women are part of the story of what we are. They're part of us.

Tragically, they're not alone. There can't be a person in Ireland who doesn't know the name of 21-year-old Jojo Dollard, or 18-year-old Deirdre Jacob, or, perhaps most famously of all, 21-year-old American student Annie McCarrick, who all disappeared in Leinster's so-called "Vanishing Triangle" during the 1990s. Their disappearances all remain unsolved, but their stories are known to all. So they should be. Perhaps if they'd been members of the Roma community, they'd be forgotten too. Marioara Rostas, sadly, was as invisible in life as she has become in death, and it doesn't help that she was part of a community which is widely regarded as having separated itself from the protection of mainstream society by engaging in activities which many regard as inviting danger, just as prostitutes are commonly blamed for their own mistreatment when they too become victims of violent men. Violence should never be shrugged off as an occupational hazard.

Having said that, there is some truth to the statement that certain lifestyles carry with them inherent dangers. Every summer, awful tales come back from the four corners of the world of young Irish people who will never come home again after being killed abroad. They were far from home, often vulnerable because they couldn't easily decode the cultural particularities of the environments in which they temporarily found themselves; they made bad decisions, and paid the ultimate price. These are often educated and articulate people, in English-speaking countries that they imagine they know and understand because they've seen them on television. How much more vulnerable and at risk young people are when, as in the case of Marioara Rostas, they come to a foreign country with no money, nowhere to live, and no facility with the native language that might help them get out of trouble.

Marioara was living in a derelict house in Donabate with more than a dozen other adults and children, with no electricity and no running water. Her inability to speak English meant that, when she did manage to phone her brother in Romania the day after her abduction, she was unable to tell him the name of the place she was being held. It may still have been too late to save her life. We'll never know that. But being in the wrong place at the wrong time is all the more dangerous when you're also in a different country, where there's not much sympathy for your community and you don't understand a word that's said. To say that such a life carries risks is not to blame the victim, but to show how vulnerable people like Marioara are. Not just members of the Roma community, although they have particular problems; Amnesty International published a report in April warning of a rise in the number of hate crimes against Romas. But the real vulnerability is of migrants of all races who find themselves in countries far from home and without the usual networks of help.

That is never going to be an easy life, but we can at least try to make it slightly easier by changing our attitudes towards them; not least by ceasing to think of members of the Roma community and others who travel across man- made borders in search of a better life as parasites, or as if they have no right to be here. The Brazilian economist Roberto Unger poses the question: If goods and capital are allowed to move freely throughout the world without restriction, why are people not allowed to do the same? That question has never received a satisfactory answer from those who wish to restrict the movement of migrants or to portray those who do turn up on their neighbours' doorsteps as scroungers seeking to live off the fat of someone else's land. Marioara Rostas wasn't asking for much from Ireland or the Irish. On the day she was snatched off the street, she was begging for amounts of money that, even in the midst of the worst recession in history, most of us would still consider to be small change. For this, she didn't deserve to be vilified. To our shame, we failed Marioara by not finding and punishing her killer. The least we can do in recompense is to remember her. More importantly, to be more welcoming to the next Marioara, because there will always be Marioaras.
© The Irish Independent

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Sweden Plans to Thwart Racism By Eliminating the Mention of Race From Its Laws

Sweden’s government is pushing a new measure to tackle racism issues in the country — it plans to completely remove the word "race" from all legislative documents.

11/8/2014- Shortly after Sweden was recognized as having the worst record in the European Union for employing foreign non-EU citizens, the country’s Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag announced plans to investigate the process of eliminating the word from all of its legislation. According to Swedish media outlet The Local, Ullenhag explained that laws should not be used to promote the idea of race, which he explains is not a biological factor, but instead a social construct. "We know that there aren’t really different human races. We also know that the fundamental grounds of racism are based on the belief that there are different races, and that belonging to a race makes people behave in a certain way, and that some races are superior to others," he said in an interview with Sveriges Television after announcing the plans. Ullenhag told The Local he has “wanted to remove the concept of race for a long time.”

The minister's political advisor Sophia Metelius told VICE News that the plans have been discussed by the government for some time. "Of course it's not to say we don't have racism, because we do," she said, noting discrimination issues towards Muslim, African, and Roma populations specifically. "We believe Swedish legislation should not imply that there are different races." According to Metelius, the proposal will now be passed to a committee in order to evaluate the best way to move forward with the measure — and as a constitutional change it will eventually have to be approved by two consecutive parliaments. She said it's important to ensure that the legislation is not weakened in the process of removing the word, and the government will also include civil society groups, relevant actors, and NGO's in the discussion.

But not everyone is a fan of the measure, including the country’s Afro-Swedish group Afrosvensarnas Riksförbund (ASR.) The organizations spokesperson, Kitimbwa Sabuni, told The Local that it was an effort to take away the possibility to discuss race. He said "this scientific racism that Ullenhag is focused on, when he says that racism is based on believing in different races, is not true.” Irene Molina, a professor at Sweden's Uppsala University, told VICE News that this has been an ongoing debate in Sweden where phrasing in legislation has already begun referring to ethnicity instead of race. She called it a "glorification of multiculturalism" among people who don't want to recognize that racism exists in Sweden. Molina said this is compounded by common views that Swedish people are very polite, fair, and open. "Common people on the street say we don't need that word, we don't have racism, everything is equal," she said. "People are against racism, but they don't recognize we have it in Sweden, there's a huge unconsciousness on what racism is."

Like Ullenhang, many use the idea that racism is merely a social construct, not a biological reality, to support racially neutralizing legislation. Nancy Heitzeg, a sociology professor at St. Catherine University, told VICE News that while it is true that race is a social construction, it’s still important to measure and compare race in order to take account for racism. Similarly, according to the American Sociological Association, ceasing to study racial categories is "ill advised" even if "racial categories do not necessarily reflect biological or genetic categories." “Pretending we’re race-neutral by changing language, if that’s all that happens, if there are no other efforts to address structural inequality, we’re ultimately allowing structural inequality and racism to persist, just with a new cover story,” she said.

Heitzeg explained that eliminating race from a country’s laws is merely just a cosmetic change. She said it’s a way of hiding institutional racism under the thought that if race is not being discussed, politicians can just pretend racism, as a structural problem, does not exist. “In the language of sociology, we would call that color blind racism,” she said. The proposal is an attempt to address an issue that has often been a dark cloud over Sweden’s typically positive global rankings. In fact, focusing on race as merely a social construct negates the country’s early dedication to race biology research with discriminatory roots. Sweden established the first national race biology institute in the world back in 1922. In its infancy, the institute was associated with the larger eugenics movement and led by Herman Lundborg. Research was largely focused on analyzing the genetic makeup of the country’s people, as well as skull size. Lundborg’s beliefs that ethnic Swedes were superior were reportedly the underlying force of the country’s controversial forced sterilization program, during which more than 60,000 people were sterilized between 1935 and 1975.

"Racism exists and is a very huge problem in every day Swedish life," Molina said. "It is everywhere, political life, the labor market, racism is a reality for all people with non-Swedish backgrounds." More recently, Sweden has come under fire by many for having deeper-seated issues with race than it lets on. A 2012 analysis found reports of anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, and Afrophobic hate crimes were on the rise in the country that is almost 90 percent white, despite the decline of homophobic hate crimes and others. Another problematic issue in Sweden has been occurrences of “black face," including a 2013 incident in which the country’s culture minister took a slice of cake that was designed to look like a naked black women. The male artist, who made the cake as an installation to address female genital mutilation was present, sporting a face slathered in black paint, looking on as the minister took a slice from below the belt. "Swedish society is developing increasingly racist feelings, it is exactly a result of not recognizing that racism is at the core of the society," Molina said.

While Sweden takes the next step in moving forward with removing race from its laws, it is not the first country in Europe to push this kind of measure. For example, Austria, Finland, and Hungary have all removed race from national legislation, opting to use begun use the word “ethnic affiliation” instead. Similarly, France decided to strike the word from its laws in 2013, in a move that the bill's author and parliament member Francois Asensi said "has helped our country move forward on ideological and educational levels." "There is a similar trend in Europe in general, the idea being that removing the word race will somehow affect racism in society," Paul Lappalainen, the senior advisor with the Swedish equality ombudsman, told VICE News. "The real attraction behind this kind of measure is that policymakers seem to be doing something without really doing anything." He said that this type of political measure puts form before substance.

Lappalainen said he has urged the Swedish government to not only focus on attitudes, but on behavior as well. For their part, Metelius said the government is working on allocating money towards schools in order to provide teachers with resources to discuss race in the classroom. She also mentioned Sweden's backing of the Council of Europe's No Hate Speech campaign. According to Heitzeg, “this idea of sort of washing out racism from the laws is not new.” However, she said part of the impetus of this way of thinking in Western Europe has do to with a greater presence of a variety of ethnic groups and races over the last few decades — particularly in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, and France. While not to say one is handling racism better than the other, she said that unlike the US, where slavery and inequality happened from the get-go in its own borders, most European colonies were far away and out of sight. Until relatively recently, Western Europeans did not have to deal with issues of non-European, non-white people every day.

“Watching from afar, it’s kind of the tragedy of Western European social democracy,” she said. “They were fine with benevolent policies as long as these policies benefited people who looked like them.”
© Vice News

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Sweden: Politician ousted after beggar 'parasite' post

A local politician representing the governing Moderate Party has been removed from his posts after describing Roma beggars as "parasites".

9/8/2014- "Damn you parasites ...," was how Joacim Benes described beggars he had had an altercation with in a post on Facebook, according to a report in the Smålandsposten daily. "They are a disgrace to their country and mess it up for those who actually need help," he added. Benes, who is a Moderate municipal councillor in Växjö and chairman of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) in Kronoberg, defended his comments when the newspaper called. "It describes a single individual, not the whole group," he said. Benes is also reported to have written on Facebook that he had not had "very positive experiences of Roma who think they can take advantage of your generosity". The Facebook comments were removed after Benes' interview with the newspaper, although not before they had drawn the attention of the party hierarchy. On Friday evening the Moderate Party in Växjö issued a statement stating that Benes had resigned from all his political positions in the municipality. "I profoundly regret and am ashamed of what I wrote. It was one of the most stupid things I have done in my life," Benes said in the statement.
© The Local - Sweden

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