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Headlines 29 July, 2016

Headlines 22 July, 2016

Headlines 15 July, 2016

Headlines 29 July, 2016

Germany: Munich gunman 'obsessed with Hitler and expressed hatred of Turks and Arabs

Ali David Sonboly, 18, was reportedly proud to be a German-Iranian 'Aryan' - and made clear his hatred of Turks and Arabs

27/7/2016- The teenage gunman who shot dead nine people in Munich was obsessed with Adolf Hitler and expressed shocking racist views, German investigators say. Ali David Sonboly, 18, who also left 27 others injured, reportedly saw it as an 'honour' that he had the same birthday as the Nazi leader - April 20. He told his loved ones he was proud to be a German-Iranian 'Aryan' - and made clear his hatred of Turks and Arabs, according to local media. He apparently felt 'superior' to those of either origin. Now, investigators are looking at the possibility that Sonboly, whose parents are Iranian, deliberately targeted foreigners during his deadly shooting spree. Three of the teenager's victims - two boys and a 45-year-old mother-of-two - were of Turkish descent, while several others were of Kosovan origin.

All of those killed had an immigrant background, according to the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine. Sonboly carried out his horror attack on the fifth anniversary of neo-Nazi killer Anders Breivik's slaying of 77 people in Norway in 2011.  During the earlier massacre, Breivik shot dead 69 attendees at a youth summer camp hours after murdering eight others by detonating a van bomb in Oslo. The revelations concerning Sonboly's Hitler 'obsession' and 'racist' views come after police arrested a teenage friend of the gunman. The 16-year-old Afghan boy may have played role in an alleged Facebook post luring people to the shooting scene with an offer of free food, officers say. He has not yet been named, but Munich police say he was in a 'friendly' relationship with Sonboly, who opened fire in the city on Friday. He had been reported to police 'immediately' after his friend's rampage, but was only detained by officers in an apartment in Laim on Sunday evening.

He is under investigation for possibly having failed to report the plans of the gunman, a police statement said. "There is a suspicion that the 16-year-old is a possible tacit accomplice to (Friday's) attack," the statement added. During the devastating massacre, Sonboly opened fire near a busy shopping mall and McDonald's restaurant, killing nine. The teen was initially reported to have carried out the attack in revenge for years of bullying, although his victims are not believed to include his classmates. Seven of those shot dead were teenagers. Prior to the shooting, the gunman is believed to have hacked a girl's Facebook account and lured people to the shopping centre with an offer of free food. Police said on Sunday his 16-year-old friend may have played a role in this act. Earlier, it emerged that the deranged shooter bought his gun on the dark web as part of year-long plot to shoot dead innocent people at the centre.

Bavarian prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch said during a press conference: "It is not the case that he deliberately selected." Mr Steinkraus-Koch said the Glock 17 pistol the teen used in his killings had been bought off the notorious dark web - where numerous illegal items are bought and sold. He added that the gun had its serial number scratched off but appeared to have originated in Slovakia and had been reactivated. Part of the initial findings from the Bavarian Criminal Police Office found that the 18-year-old could have been plotting his attack for a year after visiting the site of a previous school shooting. Robert Heimberger, head of Bavaria's criminal police, said Sonboldy visited the town of Winnenden where 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer shot 15 dead - and took photographs. Mr Heimberger added that the parents of the gunman remained in shock and were not able to be interviewed.

Officers also found that Sonboldy was treated for depression at a psychiatric hospital for two months in 2015. Between July and September last year, he was hospitalised and under the care of a specialist youth psychiatrist. Police said medical documents and drugs showed that the last contact he appeared to have with a doctor was in June this year. As the first pictures of those killed emerged, it was revealed one brave victim, Huseyin Dayicik,19, managed to save his sister's life when used his body as a human shield. Other victims included Dijamant Zabergja, 21, Armela Segashi and her 14-year-old friend Sabina Sulaj, football fanatic Gulliano Kollmann, 18, and 15-year-old Can Leyla. Bavarian state crime office president Robert Heimberger said Sonboly was carrying more than 300 bullets in his backpack and pistol when he shot himself. Although the teen was believed to have been inspired by Breivik, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said it was too early to associate the Munich shootings with the neo-Nazi murderer.
© The Mirror

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Headlines 22 July, 2016

'Send me back to Africa' - a unique response to racism

20/7/2016- "Put your money where your hate is." This is the phrase being used by a crowdfunding campaign, currently going viral, which is being seen as a unique response to racism. The campaign seems to take racists at face value, and asks for donations in order for its black founder to be able to go "back to Africa." Larry Mitchell, an African-American man from Kokomo, Indiana, started the clearly ironic GoFundMe petition, and has had his page shared more than 30,000 times on various social media platforms. In the blurb for the petition Mitchell wrote: "If you want me to go back to Africa I will gladly go… you can help make your dream and mine come true… accepting all donations. KKK, Skin Heads and anyone else with like mind thinking are welcome to donate… Thank you.. God bless you and America… #putyourmoneywhereyourhateis."

"The petition started as a joke," Mitchell, an aspiring chef, told BBC Trending. "I was reading articles following the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile [black men killed in recent incidents involving US police], and there were comments underneath saying 'these black people should go back to Africa', so I started the petition to say 'fine I will if you pay for it'." Mitchell has, at the time of writing, raised around $1,300 of his $100,000 target. Some of those donating money do, in fact, seem to hold racist views and have taken the campaign at face value. A man named Howard McFonsworth donated $5 and accompanied it with the words "good bye" and a highly offensive racist slur. A user named "fedup whiteguy" also donated $5 and said "you better not come back".

However, it seemed most people were in on the joke. A user named David Woo told Mitchell to take the money and enjoy it on a holiday, writing, "I am not a racist, but would love for you to go on some travels and experience the world. Have fun, man!!" Jackson Lam agreed; "Hahaha! Love it. You're genius. Enjoy the trip, but do please come back - we need more clever ideas to solve our complex problems." The majority of the comments were supportive, letting Mitchell know that he was welcome in America, and that they found his method of illustrating racial tensions in America refreshing. The petition, which was started at the start of July, comes at a time of particular racial tension in the United States, following the recent killings of two black men by police and five police officers by a black gunman at protests in Dallas.

Mitchell says that the recent unrest is not surprising for him, "this happens all the time, every year - there are several unarmed black men being shot in the streets of America and it doesn't make it into the news. He himself has been convicted of serious offenses, involving drugs, in the past and has served time in custody. Questioned about this by BBC Trending, he cited racism. "You have to understand the context of where I'm from. In Indiana, we've had Klan marches here. We had one of America's last public lynching here. There's an underlying racism that is still here. Black men are watched and targeted by the police." Historically, the notion of "voluntary repatriation" to Africa has been a long discussed subject, used offensively by those holding racist views, but also finding some echoes among black leaders.

A supporter of the idea was Marcus Garvey. Garvey was a Jamaican-born black nationalist who created a 'Back to Africa' movement during the early part of the 20th century in the United States, although he clarified that the idea didn't apply to all African-Americans. "We do not want all the Negroes in Africa. Some are no good here, and naturally will be no good there," he said. Mitchell, in his GoFundMe page, also linked to Ghana's more recent 'Right of Abode' programme, which enables people of African descent to apply in order to stay indefinitely in the country. But, if he has no plans to repatriate, what will Mitchell do with the pledged money? "If I do hit the petition target, I will go on vacation somewhere in Africa because I have never been," he said. "But I will come back home."
© BBC News

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Bulgaria: Hundreds of Migrants Arrested

Deputy Interior Ministry says round-up of illegal migrants is intended to 'send a signal' that instability in Turkey will not lead to fresh migration pressure on Bulgaria.

20/7/2016- Hundreds of migrants have been arrested in special police operations over the last 24 hours on Bulgarian territory, inside the country and while trying to cross into Serbia illegally, the Ministry of Interior announced on Tuesday. In Sofia, police have arrested 162 migrants without documents, including men, women and children, while 45 others have been prevented from crossing into Serbia in two different groups near the border towns of Kula and Bregovo. “The Serbian-Bulgarian border is well guarded,” Deputy Interior Minister Filip Gounev said on Tuesday following an extraordinary session of two parliamentary commissions dedicated to the threats arising from ongoing instability in Turkey. On Sunday, Serbia decided to form a joint police and military force to patrol the border with Bulgaria and Macedonia and prevent illegal movements into Serbia and the smuggling of refugees.

In response, on Monday the secretary general of the Bulgarian police, Georgi Kostov, said that “Serbia has no reason to worry about the security [of its border with Bulgaria]”, declining to comment further on Serbia’s border policy. The refugees arrested on the Bulgarian-Serbian border were reportedly from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Some have been registered as asylum seekers in Bulgaria and released while the others have been sent to the detention centre in Busmantsi, near Sofia, the police reported. All the migrants arrested in Sofia were found in the Moderno Predgradie district, at four different addresses. Mladen Marinov, senior commissioner in the Ministry of Interior, said on Tuesday that none of them had been registered or detected by the police and none had spent more than 24 hours in the country. Three investigations have been started into the locals who hosted the group.

The Ministry of Interior also reported that border police officers have “prevented”157 foreign citizens from crossing the Turkish-Bulgarian border illegally. Gounev told MPs that Prime Minister Boyko Borissov had decided to boost border security to send a “clear signal that the destabilization in Turkey will not lead to migration pressure”. Since the beginning of the year, over 7,800 people have sought asylum in Bulgaria, State Agency for Refugees data show. In earlier attempts to halt the refugee and migrant flow across the Turkish border, Sofia has deployed additional police to boost its border guards and allowed the army to participate in border patrols. A 133-kilometre barbed-wire fence is still under construction along the land border with Turkey. On May 6, Bulgaria signed a protocol with Ankara to set in place procedures for sending illegal migrants back to Turkey from June 1. However, the Bulgarian authorities have complained that Turkey has only taken back a small number of people so far.
© Balkan Insight

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Czechs fear far-away Islam

19/7/2016- “Islam bans the things we love - sitting in the grass on a beautiful day like this exposing skin to sun, with a beer and a sausage in hand,” said one of the speakers at a demonstration in Prague. “As soon as there are many Muslims here, they will not respect our rules.” The May Day protest, organised by the far-right group Bloc Against Islam, did not mention refugees. Those who joined insist that the people currently coming to Europe are not refugees, but economic migrants, or worse – Islamic invaders. “If they were really running away from war, they would stay in neighbouring countries,” said one of the participants. In the Czech Republic, the refugee crisis is widely framed as a danger of Muslim migration. Islam is a favourite argument of the outspoken president Milos Zeman against refugees.

Last October he warned that the migrants would enforce Sharia law, stoning unfaithful wives and cutting off hands of thieves. “We will be robbed of the beauty of our women, because they will be covered head to toe in burka,” he said. In January he claimed the Muslim Brotherhood had organised the current exodus of refugees with funding from various Muslim countries and the goal of taking control of Europe. “The integration of Muslims is practically impossible,” he insisted. The fierce anti-migrant rhetoric has boosted Zeman’s approval rating to an all-time high, according to various opinion polls. The president is not the only one waging an anti-refugee campaign in the Czech Republic. In May, the investigative reporting website Hlidaci Pes (Watchdog) published testimonies of several journalists from the third most-watched TV channel, Prima, that the management had instructed them to portray refugees as a threat.

A number of bogus stories about Muslims and refugees have been spreading on the internet. Last December a false news story broke that asylum seekers raped two little girls in Kostelec nad Orlici and that the police banned the media from reporting on it. With a refugee camp on the edge of the town, several other pieces of misinformation went around. In Kostelec, the mayor, Frantisek Kinsky, is eager to address any rumours that may cause panic. But elsewhere people do not know what to believe. Only a very small number of Czechs have met a Muslim. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 Muslims live in the country, which is less than 0.2 percent of the population. With the lack of personal experience, people are easily frightened by what they see on the internet. “Many share this content without even reading the whole story,” says Lukas Houdek of the initiative Hatefree, which specialises in exposing online hoaxes.

Muslims can do nothing right
While some are scared of refugees, others worry about radicalisation of society. “Various groups are gradually hardening their arguments, which may turn into something else,” says Martin Buchtik, a sociologist at the Czech Academy of Sciences’ Public Opinion Research Centre (CVVM), suggesting they could turn to violence. In April the media reported that a young woman was punched in a tram for apparently no other reason than speaking Arabic. In a separate incident, someone threw blood-like paint on the wall of a family centre and stuck on the window an obituary of its director, who had collected donations for refugees. “This would have caused an uproar four years ago. Today, the news has quickly faded,” says Buchtik.

It appears that Muslims can do little to improve their image. A young Muslim woman,Eman Ghaleb, recently made headlines in the Czech Republic. Originally from Yemen, she has lived since the age of five in the northern spa town of Teplice, popular with clients from Gulf countries. Willing to ease tensions caused by picnicking habits of some visitors, she started to clean the rubbish left behind and circulated leaflets explaining the code of conduct in the country. Her initiative caught the public eye. But instead of praise, the head teacher of her school received dozens of emails calling for her dismissal. Writers argued that she wore a headscarf and accused her of spreading Islamic propaganda and being a danger for fellow students.

No tradition of public debate
So far there are few indications that Czechs need to worry about a Muslim invasion. The majority of asylum seekers are from the former Soviet Union. “Refugees from the Middle East are more likely to go to countries where they get support from their communities,” says Martin Rozumek, the head of the NGO Organisation for Aid to Refugees. “There are very few Muslims here and there is little risk that they will create ghettos.” Samir, a refugee from Syria is proof that Muslims have no problem integrating. Although the Czech Republic was not his original destination – he was heading to Sweden where his cousins and friends live and was returned to Prague under the Dublin regulation - now that he has got asylum in the country, he is determined to make it his home. He is keen to make Czech friends and learn Czech culture. He insisted that his three sons went to a normal Czech school, instead of an international one. “They now master Czech better than Arabic,” he says in impressive Czech.

Samir’s family sticks to their religion, but they are ready to make concessions. “Back in Syria my wife wore a black headscarf. Now we have bought different colours so that she fits in better,” he smiles. The Czech Republic is not popular with refugees. A little over 90,000 have sought asylum there since the country’s independence in 1993 and just over 3,000 have succeeded. Fewer than 2,000 others have got subsidiary protection. At the end of May, there were 313 asylum seekers in refugee camps across the country. ”They are individuals rather than a refugee wave,“ says Rozumek. “We have a refugee crisis without refugees and people are scared of Islam, although we hardly have any Muslims here.” He argues that the Czech Republic, with unemployment of 4.1 percent, lower than Germany, should take advantage of refugees to fill gaps in the labour market. “There are a number of professions which we are not able to fill with Czech citizens,” he says.

The issue of refugees has polarised Czech society. In a May poll by CVVM, 61 percent of respondents were against and 36 percent for accepting refugees under certain conditions. “The migrant crisis has become the most important issue in the country,” says Martin Buchtik. “Sharp differences of opinion on this topic lead to such quarrels that families and friends are unable to speak together even about other subjects.” Buchtik attributes this situation to the fact that Czechs do not have a long tradition of open public debate, which did not exist during Communism. “The refugee crisis is one of those key topics which split society. There will be other such issues in the future and this experience will set the standard of how far it can go,” he says.
© The EUobserver

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Hungary: Viktor OrbŠn and his responsibility for rising antisemitism

Quite a political storm is brewing in Hungary, after Ronald S. Lauder of the World Jewish Congress named Hungary Europe’s most anti-Semitic country. Specifically, Mr. Lauder said the following: “The worst offender is Hungary. Because they now have a neo-Nazi party called Jobbik. They had started to put up statues of Admiral Horthy, who was a Nazi.” András Heisler, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (MAZSIHISZ), came to the Orbán government’s defence in a statement. He wrote to Mr. Lauder, suggesting that he may have been the victim of “journalistic manipulation or incorrect information from advisers,” as there is “constructive cooperation between the Hungarian government and Jewish organizations.” But many take issue with this. Eszter Garai-Édler, a civil rights activist, wrote to me this morning emphasizing that the Orbán regime is the only government in the EU, which has overtly and wholeheartedly embraced undiluted racism. Ms. Garai-Édler is sharing with our readers the full text of a talk she gave a few years ago at the 4th International Conference of the Global Forum for  Combating Anti-Semitism, in Jerusalem, on Mr. Orbán’s role in rising anti-Semitism. Since then, Mr. Orbán’s rhetoric towards Arabs and Muslims has changed markedly, but his government’s cynical and self-serving use of xenophobia to scapegoat specific communities has not. (C. Adam)
By Eszter Garai-Édler

19/7/2016- It is probably well-known that Hungary is home to one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities. But nearly 70 years after the Second World War, Hungary has started down a path, which in the past has already led to fascism, the rise in power of the far right and a horrific defeat. But before I speak about this ominous path, I would like to make a brief side note: A 1920s/1930s joke, that appeared in a then important humorous political paper, the Ojság (kind of Yiddish for the Hungarian word for newspaper) is still doing the rounds in Budapest – but updated to Orban, Hungary’s current prime minister: Question: Can one believe Viktor Orbán?
The wise rabbi responds by telling this story:
“Grün and Kohn are walking down a side street, when a dog starts coming towards them. Kohn becomes frightened, but Grün reassures him:
-Why are you scared of that dog? Can’t you see how he’s wagging his tail?
-“Yes, but look”—says Kohn—he is snarling and showing his teeth. One doesn’t know which side of the dog to believe.”

When asked if, as Hungarians, Jews and residents of Budapest, we can believe Viktor Orbán, the answer is a resounding “no.” Orbán’s responsibility for the rise in anti-Semitism goes back as far as his electoral defeat in 2002, after which he often turned to coded anti-Semitic language, which any far right supporter could understand and with which he hoped to win over extremist voters. He often spoke about “foreigners”, “foreign cosmopolitans” and even referred to the left as being “genetically coded” to act in what he felt was an unpatriotic manner. With these anti-Semitic speeches Orbán has gained the support of the far right and managed to keep it, up until the extremist realized that much of this is little more than smoke and mirrors, and that Orbán does not necessarily buy into his own rhetoric.

It is well known that the spread of anti-Semitism and racism do not only pose problems in Hungary, but elsewhere throughout Europe. The difference, however, is that in most other European countries mainstream political parties and community organizations have managed to keep these extremist elements quarantined from the rest of society. Most other EU countries have also taken clear, decisive and successful steps in combating far right extremism, especially in places like France and Germany. German television, for instance, took a show off the air after it surfaced that the main character has a Nazi past. Demonstrations that glorify Hitler are banned in Germany, while in Hungary it is even possible to hold such an event right in front of the Palace of the President of the Republic. It should also be noted that Hungarian anti-Semitism differs markedly from the western European variant, where anti-Semitic attacks and aggression are often committed by Muslims, rather than by the majority population. Orbán actually courts Muslims and Arabs.

In an effort to maximize votes, the Hungarian government in everyday life tolerates Nazi ideology and it only protests under international pressure at special occasions that involve the outside world. This is what Orbán himself describes as ‘peacock dance’, something for show only. In fact, one of the great tragedies of post-1989 Hungary is that the country has no moderate, proper conservative party in the European sense. Ellie Wiesel bitterly complained in an open letter to the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament that he, who has the second highest ranking political office in the country, and government ministers as well as the now President of the country, openly and officially associated themselves with anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist individuals and events.

The World Jewish Congress decided that in order to shed light on growing anti-Semitism in Hungary, it would hold its 2013 conference in Budapest, instead of in Jerusalem. In his May 6th speech to the Congress, Orbán admitted that anti-Semitism posed a growing problem in Hungary and promised that he would address this crisis using all means at his disposal. (Slide 10 Orban’s new ‘peacock dance’ Shalom at the WJC in Budapest) Nevertheless, even having said this, he failed to distance himself from the far right. Additionally, he insulted many Hungarian Jews, as in his speech he implied that Hungarian Jews are not Hungarians. This was especially offensive as Jews in Hungary generally identify as much, if not more, with being Hungarian as they identify with their Jewish heritage.

Orbán’s two-faced politics are astounding. He constantly speaks of “most decisive action against all extremist, racist and anti-Semitic acts … in order to diminish the hateful and unacceptable voices … and to protect all citizens from such attacks.” Unfortunately, all his promises have proved to be empty propaganda and rhetoric, while anti-Semitism, racism and homophobia are on the rise, and while hateful speech and hate-filled physical attacks are increasingly common. According to Peter Feldmájer, until very recently the president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, which represents some of the country’s Conservative Jews, the participants of the Congress [quote] “have arrived in a country where an elderly head rabbi is attacked on the streets, where fascists are rampant, where the courts turn murderers into role models for the youth, where streets and squares are named after anti-Semites and where Hungarian Nazi authors form part of the national curriculum in schools.” [unquote] While Feldmájer’s words were clear and succinct, he did not mention who bears responsibility for this situation.

Using his two-thirds super-majority, Orbán has built an autocratic – even dictatorial – structure and has re-crafted the country’s constitutional framework in his own image and to his own liking. With his government’s unprecedented power, he should have no trouble dealing a decisive blow against the extremists and, considering that the Treaty of Paris is still in effect, which declares that parties such as Jobbik are illegal, he would be obliged to take swift action. Instead, the Orbán government has turned to Nazi authors, thinkers and ideas to take the attention away from lost jobs and economic hardship. Unresolved structural problems, high levels of unemployment and the decline in the social safety net, and rise in poverty. The same long queues for free food in 1918 and in 2012 and crime are often blamed on the Roma population and on the Jews. Both minorities are often the scapegoats for all of Hungary’s social ills.

The moral and intellectual decline is clearly evident within Hungarian society. Discrimination and hatred form part of the daily reality and discourse. Certainly, we cannot disregard the responsibility that previous liberal and left-leaning governments also bear, especially since the rise of the far right and the radicalisation of the Hungarian right happened under these governments. The current ruling party, Fidesz, has however taken this to new heights and has even seen the politics of the inter-war era as a model for the country. Horthy, the governor of that time, was in reality a war criminal – though, thanks to Stalin’s intervention he was never convicted – and he bears grave responsibility for the extermination of Hungarian Jews. In 1944, while under German occupation, Hungarian authorities took the initiative in deporting 437,402 Hungarian Jews to the death camps.

In true Orban style, József Szájer, a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament claimed in a congressional hearing in Washington that “there is no rehabilitation of Horthy and that the government has no such plans or desire.” However, the facts are that the new constitution, accepted and approved exclusively by the governing parties, has codified the historic and moral rehabilitation of the Horthy regime, which was in place from 1919 to 1944 and that even Parliament Square is being re-modelled on its 1944 lay-out. Further, high ranking politicians frequently officially partake in events honouring anti-Semites, like Ottokár Prohászka, a cleric who was the intellectual and spiritual force behind Europe’s FIRST racial law, the 1920 Numerus Clausus and who legitimized the most virulent forms of anti-Semitism. Recently prestigious state awards were given to rabidly and openly anti-Semitic journalists, archaeologists, musicians.

Most tellingly and dangerously, the government decided to incorporate into the compulsory school curriculum some virulently anti-Semitic writers of the Horthy regime, on the basis of some perceived “society needs.” According to the Association of Hungarian Teachers, from an aesthetic and literary perspective, these authors cannot be considered to be or to have ever been significant literary figures. Horthy lives on, also thanks to support by the Catholic Church. Paradoxically, a recent Horthy commemoration attended by Fidesz MPs and mayors, was held in a church named after a lady, who saved Jews during the War and was killed by the Nazis. These examples are very telling of the intertwined nature of the right and far right in Hungary. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is also underpinned by the indifference shown by many liberals, which strengthens the right’s campaign of hate.

In Hungary – in stark contrast with other European countries – the lack of a legal anti-hate framework makes it impossible to truly penalize those who spread racism and anti-Semitism. Even in court rooms, courts and judges can be labelled (pejoratively) as Jewish by anti-Semites. So far, legislation has addressed Holocaust denial, but not anti-Semitism. Even today, the anti-Semites and racists claim that Jews are over-represented in more prestigious professions. During the 1920’s and 1930’s the right made the same claims and we all know the consequences of that campaign. A significant section of Hungarian society does not understand that this tendency to discriminate and marginalize – which we have already experienced in our history – portends great danger. At the moment, there is no evidence of a positive change in direction.
© The Hungarian Free Press

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Austria: German targets wrong victim with Nazi slurs

A German man was arrested in Austria after insulting a fellow train passenger with a Nazi slur only to see him pull out his ID, indicating he was an off-duty officer with the country’s counter-terrorism unit.

19/7/2016- The incident happened on a train travelling west from Vienna when the 65-year-old German man began dishing out racial insults to a woman travelling with her young son after the child’s foot had touched the man’s bag. After a man sitting nearby intervened in the incident, the German shouted at him: “I gassed hundreds of tattooed pigs like you in Auschwitz.” The tattooed man then pulled out his ID showing he is a member of Austria’s special operations unit EKO-Cobra, which happens to be responsible for carrying out counter-terrorism operations in the country. The off-duty Cobra officer seized the man, who according to witnesses continued to shout insults at him before being taken off the train at Linz station and handed over to police to the cheers of the other passengers. Under Austria’s Prohibition Act 1947, it is forbidden - as it is in Germany - to broadcast Nazi sentiments or deny or try to justify Nazi crimes.

Outrage at 'Heil Hitler' sign
In late June, residents in Graz were outraged after a photo was published online of a ‘Heil Hitler’ sign pinned to the back of a van driving in the city. A month earlier, police in Upper Austria arrested a suspected neo-Nazi who "repeatedly told friends that he wanted to 'shoot dead all asylum-seekers with his shotgun' at a refugee centre". The man used neo-Nazi language and sent a friend two text messages that included "National Socialist ideology," police said. Latest figures show the country has seen a rise in far-right crime in recent years, with authorities pressing charges in about 1,690 cases related to right-wing extremism in 2015, the highest yearly figure to date.
© The Local - Austria

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Dutch Turks urged to report threats as post-coup tension increases

22/7/2016- Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders has urged Dutch Turks who are being threatened or intimidated following last week’s failed coup to make a formal police complaint. It is crucial to take threats and intimidation seriously and ensure that those behind the calls to violence cannot get away with it, Koenders said. Claims by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen was behind last week’s coup attempt have further fueled the tensions between different Turkish groups in the Netherlands, Koenders said in a parliamentary briefing. Supporters of Gulen have been threatened and there have been calls to boycott businesses owned by his backers, the minister said.

The minister also condemned ‘provocative demonstrations in Rotterdam and Deventer’ and calls for a ‘major clean-up’ by pro-Erdogan groups. ‘This is unacceptable,’ the minister said. ‘In a constitutional democracy, everyone is free to express their own opinion. ‘Last weekend journalists were harassed while doing their jobs. This hits both press freedom and freedom of expression, which are fundamental values in our society.’ Ambassador The Turkish ambassador to the Netherlands has been urged to distance himself from the violence and intimidation, the minister said in his briefing. Rotterdam’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb earlier this week appealed to the Turkish community in the Netherlands ‘to stay calm’ following the failed military coup. There are some 500,000 people of Turkish origin in the Netherlands.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Minister urged to comment on vigilante refugee hunt

20/7/2016- Labour MPs have called on justice minister Ard van der Steur to make a statement about claims that a vigilante group organised a ‘refugee hunt’ in Groningen province to catch a man said to have been harassing women. The group, known as Soldiers of Odin claims to have ‘apprehended’ a young asylum seeker who was harassing women in the Groningen town of Winschoten and handed him over to the police, the Telegraaf said on Tuesday. The group says on its Facebook page that it ‘caught’ the refugee after a ‘hunt’ of one hour. Soldiers of Odin, which originated in Finland last year, says that its role is ‘protecting our citizens and defending our streets’. However, according to various media reports, the asylum seeker himself had been beaten up. He has admitted ‘trying to have a chat’ with several women but no-one has come forward to make a formal complaint. The asylum seeker has also refused to press charges against whoever attacked him and has now been released, local broadcaster RTV Noord said. A police spokeswoman told the Telegraaf that while the police are happy people want to help, ‘we must beware of vigilante justice’.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: No arrests in right-wing groupís detention of asylum seeker

20/7/2016- Right-wing neighborhood watch group Soldiers of Odin (SOO) announced on Facebook that the turned a criminal asylum seeker over to the police in Groningen on Sunday. The police responded to a report and found a beaten up man at the scene. So far no arrests were made. According to the SOO, the man sexually harassed women in Winschoten. “The chapter in Groningen arrested an asylum seeker from Pekela after a raid of an hour”, the group writes on Facebook. “He ensured that women and girls did not dare come out on the street for several days.” The SOO writes that they handed the man over to the police. The police say that they found only the assaulted man at the scene of a report, no one else, according to broadcaster NOS. He did not want to press assault charges. “That (the assault, ed) was probably done by the reporters, but no charges were pressed and nothing can be proven”, police spokesperson Ernest Zinsmeyer said to the broadcaster. He could not confirm whether the man involved was really an asylum seeker from Pekela or whether any women were harassed.

Ronald Kiewiet, SOO member, denied to newspaper AD that members of the SOO had anything to do with beating up the man. “Where we were, there are plenty of cameras. I think the guy previously received a few punches. It wasn’t us.” According to RTV Noord, the man confessed to the police that he approached a number of women to “have a chat”. A woman came to the police station to report sexual assault, but changed her mind. The man was released. And as no charges were pressed from either side, neither the man’s alleged sexual harassment or the assault on him will be investigated. The Soliders of Odin is a neighborhood watch militia that was created in Finland last year. According to the group description, they aim to protect people on the street against asylum seekers who commit a crime or harass women. This is the first time SOO reports actions against asylum seekers in the Netherlands.

The PvdA is demanding clarification on this matter from Minister Ard van der Steur of Security and Justice. Parliamentarians Ahmed Marcouch finds it ridiculous that a group can launch a manhunt on citizens simply because they believe they behaved wrongly. He calls the group’s behavior “disgusting” to broadcaster NOS. “It can’t be that these people play their own judge.” he said to the broadcaster. “I submitted parliamentary questions to show that neo-Nazi-like groups can not have a free hand to hunt for migrants and refugees. That is disgusting and we should not ignore or downplay it.” The National Police stated that they’ve known about this group for some time and this is the first time the SOO is involved in an incident. As no charges were pressed and there is no evidence of assault, the group will not be intensely monitored. “These types of groups can serve as extra eyes and ears for us”, police spokesperson Zinsmeyer said to NOS. “But we always denounce playing your own judge.” He stressed the importance of evidence before anyone can be punished for a crime.
© The NL Times

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Netherlands: Minister does u-turn on gay Christian group funding

19/7/2016- The government is withdrawing its subsidy for a Christian group named Hart van Homos which encourages celibacy among gay men after all, emancipation minister Jet Bussemaker has told MPs. The minister’s u-turn follows pressure from ruling party MPs who argue the group is sending out the wrong message. The group’s mission statement says that its workers ‘opt for friendship without a sexual relationship.’ Last month it emerged that Hart van Homo’s had received government money via an umbrella foundation. At the time Bussemaker said she would not withdraw the grant, saying she was confident the organisation would not proscribe to gay Christians how they should live their lives. Now, however, the minister has agreed to stop funding for the LCC+ foundation, which represents a number of organisations working to win greater acceptance for homosexuality within the Christian community.

New proposal
Bussemaker has now asked the foundation to submit a new proposal for funding which excludes Hart van Homo’s. ‘This is a question of principle, not money,’ Labour MP Keklik Yücel said. ‘Should we be subsidising an organisation which conflicts with emancipation?’ According to Trouw, Hart van Homo’s is a unique project because it aims to boost the acceptance of homosexuality in strict Protestant communities. No-one would be forced to accept celibacy, project founder Herman van Wijngarden told the paper.
© The Dutch News

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Rotterdam mayor appeals to Dutch Turks to stay calm in coup aftermath

18/7/2016- Rotterdam’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has appealed to the Turkish community in the Netherlands ‘to stay calm’ following Friday night’s failed military coup. The Telegraaf reported that windows had been smashed at cultural centres in Rotterdam and Zaandam, and that supporters of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan were circulating ‘boycott lists’ of Turkish businesses in Amsterdam that were critical of the president. ‘What has happened in Turkey is already bad enough,’ the paper quoted Aboutaleb as saying. There are some 500,000 people of Turkish origin in the Netherlands. Mehmet Cerit, editor in chief of Dutch Turkish newspaper Zaman Vandaag told the NRC the failed coup will only lead to a further deterioration in the relationship between different Turkish communities in the Netherlands. ‘It is very worrying’, said Ahmet Taskan, co-founder of a Dutch-Turkish business association and a prominent supporter of Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen, who has denied any involvement in the coup. Several hundred Dutch Turks held spontaneous demonstrations in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Eindhoven on Saturday to celebrate the failure of the coup, in response to Erdogan’s call to his supporters to go out onto the streets.
© The Dutch News

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UK: Man set on fire in homophobic hate attack in Stockton

A man was left needing skin grafts after thugs set him on fire in a homophobic attack.

20/7/2016- The 20-year-old man was attacked at 3am on Tuesday morning as he walked through the grounds of Holy Trinity Church on Yarm Lane in Stockton - an area known locally as “The Chuggy”. A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “A group of four men confronted him and began questioning the victim about his sexual orientation. “He ignored them and continued on to Parliament Street. “One of the men then approached him from behind and sprayed an aerosol can at the victim’s legs which he then set alight, causing burns to the victim’s calves.” The victim was treated for burns at North Tees University Hospital in Stockton, and then discharged, but will have to return to have skin grafts. The attackers made off towards Yarm Lane. The man who lit the aerosol is described as white, in his early 20s, medium build, with short blonde hair. He was bare-chested and wearing jogging bottoms.

Cleveland Police is treating the incident as a homophobic hate crime. Sarah Lewis, of Teesside LGBT support charity Hart Gables, said hate crime was often under-reported - but that she believed physical attacks like this were uncommon in the Teesside area. “Hate crime is a problem, and the main problem is that it is under-reported,” she said. “It is not often that we see instances like this physical attack, but we do see a huge amount of verbal abuse on social media, a lot of homophobia but in particular transphobia. “The people who did this crime probably started out with verbal abuse, and this has escalated which is why verbal and online abuse needs to be taken seriously and tackled at its source. People sometimes don’t realise it is a crime because it isn’t physical – but it’s important to report it. “We have definitely seen an increase in transphobia in particular, possibly because the community is more visible now and it it still quite taboo. “At the moment there is a lot of hate around - from the Orlando shootings, to the hate crime from the fall out of the EU referendum - and any minority group feels more vulnerable in times like these.”

Anyone who might have information about the attack is asked to contact Cleveland Police on the non-emergency number 101.

© The Northern Echo

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UK: Two thirds of lesbian and bisexual women experience discrimination at work

Three quarters of lesbian or bisexual women are also not out to colleagues at work

19/7/2016- Two thirds of lesbian and bisexual women have experienced discrimination in the workplace, research has found. The study, conducted by the British LGBT Awards, interviewed 1,200 lesbian and bisexual women in the UK to analyse their experiences at work. 64 per cent said that they had experienced some kind of negative treatment including sexual discrimination, inappropriate language, lack of opportunity or bullying at work. 73 per cent of the women who took part were not fully out to colleagues and 86 per cent said there is a need for more visible lesbian and bisexual women in senior professional roles to help boost visibility and provide role models for other women. Previous research has shown that a ‘gay pay’ gap may exist in the workplace whereby lesbian women earn 9 per cent more than heterosexual women on average. It is thought this may be due to heterosexual women being more likely to take maternity leave and facing discrimination as a result, which lesbian women are less likely to encounter.

Research on how bisexual women’s pay is affected by their sexuality is inconclusive. Some studies have suggested bisexual women may be less likely to be employed than lesbian or heterosexual women, however, it is not known if this is due to bisexual women being younger on average and this thereby affects employment rate indirectly. Sarah Garrett, British LGBT Awards founder, said that the results show that while progress has been made for LGBT equality in recent years, progress still needs to be made especially for LGBT women. She said: “The results are startling and clearly show that in 2016 lesbian and gay women are still finding it hard to be themselves in the workplace and worse still, those who are out at work have had negative experiences including discrimination, bullying and reduced opportunities to progress compared to male counterparts. “The findings are worrying and show that a lot of work remains to be done to change attitudes and promote acceptance.”
© The Independent

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UK: Police investigate sickening race hate attack at children's park

Portuguese father-of-five needed hospital treatment following assault

18/7/2016- A Portuguese father-of-five needed hospital treatment following a sickening race-hate attack at a children’s park. Two thugs repeatedly kicked Serafim dos Santos in the head and shouted “Go back to your own country” during the assault at Redhill Park, Chadsmoor, Staffordshire. Wife Marta says she found her husband slumped on the grass, with the attackers nearby and swigging lager. She bravely asked them why they had beaten up her husband. “They told me we are not British and should go back to where we came from,” said the launderette worker. Following the incident, which took place at 3pm on Tuesday, July 5, she accompanied 43-year-old Serafim to Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital. He was treated for bruising and internal bleeding. But last night, she told the Sunday Mercury: “The support we have received from British people is much bigger and much stronger than what happened.”

Marta, mother of a month-old baby, described how trouble flared while Serafim, a former firefighter in his home country, strolled through the park which is next to Redhill Primary School. “They were drinking beer on the grass,” said Marta. “My husband said, ‘No, I’m not spying on children. I have five children of my own. I’m just tired and want to rest’. “But when he began to speak they noticed he wasn’t British and yelled, ‘Go back to your country’. They kicked him and punched him.” The couple arrived in this country close to four years ago and have never encountered racism before. “It was just two people who wanted trouble,” stressed Marta. “It had nothing to do with Brexit or anything like that. “My husband is recovering, but now he is always worried when he goes out. He is always looking round for trouble.”

The couple came to this country following Portugal’s economic collapse. Serafim has struggled to find work and is currently unemployed. Marta added: “Because of his work as a firefighter, he has problems with his legs. When the attack happened, he was resting in the park because his legs hurt. He was tired. “It is not just the attack. My husband was upset because they accused him of spying on children. His own children are at school.” A Staffordshire Police spokesman told the Sunday Mercury: “We take all allegations of race hate crime extremely seriously and we are fully investigating the incident. “No individuals have been arrested in connection with the incident but we are working with the victim to establish the circumstances. “Anyone with any information regarding this incident should contact Staffordshire Police on 101, quoting incident number 447 of July 5.

Alternatively, they can contact independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through their Anonymous Online Form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org . “No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced or recorded and you will not go to court.”
© The Birmingham Mail.

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Germany faces self-radicalization among frustrated young refugees

The Würzburg attacker seems to have been a young, lonely, unaccompanied refugee who had radicalized himself. De-radicalization experts in Germany say such people can be particularly vulnerable.

19/7/2016- Few details are known about the attacker who seriously injured four people on a train near Würzburg on Monday night. According to Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, he was a 17-year-old asylum seeker from Afghanistan, who had been living in the Würzburg area since March 2015 - first in a home, and more recently with a foster family. Herrmann also told Tuesday's press conference that there was no indication yet of a direct link between the Islamic State (IS) militia and the young man. But he may have pledged allegiance to the group independently: police found a "hand-painted" IS flag in his room, along with a text in Pashto which suggested, as Herrmann put it, "that this could be someone who had radicalized himself recently." But having no direct link to the attacker has not deterred IS from claiming responsibility for the attack - just as they did with the recent attacks in Orlando and Nice.

Refugee recruits
Radicalization among refugees is not a new problem. Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, last year warned that refugees could be targeted by "Salafists" - the agency's term for Muslims who preach an ultra-conservative version of Islam - even though in practice many Salafists distance themselves from IS. Julia Reinelt, head of international affairs at the de-radicalization organization the Violence Prevention Network (VPN), agreed that this does happen. "There certainly are recruitment attempts [by Salafists], beyond what the Verfassungsschutz claims," she told DW.

Meyer Husamuddin, an imam who works with de-radicalization projects in the town of Wiesbaden, also thinks that young unaccompanied refugees may be vulnerable to radicalization. "Some of them are in a difficult psychological situation because their parents are often still in danger - and then maybe things aren't going so well here," he said. "Then it can happen that one or two of them become a ready victim for those who want to manipulate them." And Husamuddin has also noticed that radical Islamists have "discovered that there are certain people who it's easier to provoke into doing things."  "My impression at the moment is that the networks trying to recruit for Daesh are weakened," he added, using the Arabic acronym for IS. "But the fact that they want to [recruit] - I do believe that."

Vulnerable position
So can young unaccompanied refugees, without social contacts and often caught in a frustrating bureaucratic dead-end in Germany, be more susceptible to radicalization? "I would say that they probably are more in danger [of radicalization] than a young person who has a well-functioning social network and parents and people to talk to and knows the language and the culture," Reinelt said. "But whether that actually does lead to increased radicalization among them, we can't say at this point." There's no doubt that the new influx of migrants does pose new social problems, which de-radicalization organizations have only just begun dealing with. VPN has been running the Al-Manara ("the lighthouse") project in Berlin since the beginning of April, and offers counseling specifically for unaccompanied under-age refugees. (There were around 4,200 unaccompanied minors among the 80,000 refugees who arrived in the German capital last year.)

Lone wolves, self-radicalized
"Of course, a lot of the refugees come because they've fled from [Islamic State]," said Reinelt. "It sounds like a paradox that people allow themselves to be radicalized by the people they fled from - but things are often not that black and white and logical. My impression is that we don't have that much to fear from the refugees." A more immediate danger, she said, was that attacks like the one in Würzburg could be exploited by far-right extremists, who could in turn incite Islamist extremists even more. Reinelt has noticed that young people can radicalize themselves very quickly without any outside influence except social media - making it very hard to detect. Though this, she insisted, was the exception. "In general radicalization doesn't happen exclusively online - there are usually contact people in real life," she said. "But we know that there are exceptions where people can get radicalized very quickly and only via social media."

Meanwhile, de-radicalization specialists are always trying to identify other factors. "I would definitely not say that radicalization is always a mental health issue - that is of course nonsense," said Reinelt. "But there certainly are signs that some of the young people who have been to Syria or carried out attacks have shown signs of mental health issues." "I've definitely noticed over the last five or six years that people who are angry want to copy things like this - it's very difficult to deal with," said Husamuddin. "It's not like how it's often presented: someone becomes more and more religious and then becomes a radical. In fact, they convert from being a criminal to being a terrorist. "What can we do about it? I can only think of one method: we have to avoid giving the impression that the people coming here are unwanted or get pushed to the margins. We have to try to take them into our communities."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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A look at Germany's unaccompanied minor refugees

19/7/2016- In the wake of the Würzburg train attack, police are focusing their investigation on an "unaccompanied minor refugee." There are tens of thousands of such refugees in Germany. Here's an overview of the key facts.

How many unaccompanied minor refugees are living in Germany today?
According to the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees, at the end of January 2016 there were more than 60,000 children and adolescents in Germany who entered the country as a refugee without a parent or guardian. Most of them are 16 or 17 years old. According to statistics provided by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, during the past year asylum applications were submitted for almost 14,500 unaccompanied minor refugees in Germany. Compared to 2014, that number had more than tripled.

Where do the minors come from?
In 2015, the main countries of origin were Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Iraq, and Somalia. One in three of those asylum applications was submitted on behalf of a minor from Afghanistan, almost every fourth on behalf of one from Syria.

What happens when they arrive in Germany?
The usual procedure is outlined by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees as follows: the Youth Welfare Office takes care of the minors during the initial stages. It provides accommodation: They can stay with relatives or foster families, in youth service institutions or so-called clearinghouses which specialize in unaccompanied minors. Within 14 days, they are distributed across the country, provided there are no objections, legal or otherwise, against this course of action. The Youth Welfare Office also makes a request for guardianship. A family court decides who assumes this responsibility. With respect to guardianship, home country legislation applies. If in a given country a person is officially of age at a date later than usual – in Togo, for example, at the age of 21 – the guardianship will be prolonged accordingly.

Next, their residential status will be clarified. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees points out that a considerable number of the minors in question - or, respectively, their legal representatives - forgo asylum applications and seek a different residential status. One example is the so-called Duldung (tolerance), which allows them to stay until obstacles for their deportation are cleared. That's what it looks like in theory. In practice, however, the procedure is marred by numerous problems. Nils Espenhorst, an advisor at the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees, told DW that, for example, clarification of guardianship takes much too long and results in a delayed asylum application submission. All this, says Espenhorst, creates uncertainty and frustration. In his experience, older adolescents are also taken to collective accommodation centers again and again, instead of providing them with decentralized accommodation.

How do authorities determine they're minors if they carry forged documents or none at all?
The Youth Welfare Office determines the person's age. If there are doubts as to the age specified by the refugee, the Youth Welfare Office will resort to a variety of approaches. They run the gamut from simple age estimation, where behavior and psychological make-up are also taken into consideration, to a physical examination and even radiological examinations of the subject's teeth or collarbone. Carpus X-rays will reveal the degree to which the growth plate is closed. There is, however, no scientific method which can determine a person's age with 100 percent precision. There is always some degree of inaccuracy.

The Würzburg case: Are unaccompanied minor refugees specific targets for recruitment by so-called 'Islamic State'?
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution told DW it had no knowledge of IS specifically trying to approach unaccompanied minors. According to a spokeswoman, however, there were more than 300 reported incidents of Islamists trying to establish contact with refugees in general in the vicinity of shelters. "Radicalization is not an important subject here," says Jürgen Soyer, managing director of Refugio München, a support and treatment center for refugees and torture victims. He estimates that, during the past year, around 180 unaccompanied minor refugees underwent psychotherapy there. "Now and again, adolescents are unsure of where they belong in this world. In this regard, however, there's no difference to German adolescents," affirms Soyer. In addition, young refugees have to come to grips with their memories of displacement and flight. "If they get the feeling that there is a full-fledged place for them in society, and if they are well taken care of, then they are not prone to radicalization," Soyer concludes.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Pegida starting political party as authorities mull ban over extremism

Lutz Bachmann, head of German far-right group who has been convicted for inciting racial hatred, will not seek party leadership

18/7/2016: Germany’s anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant Pegida movement has announced that it is seeking to found a political party but stressed it would not seek to draw votes from populist far-right group AfD. The new grouping would be called the Popular Party for Freedom and Direct Democracy, or the FDDV by its German acronym, movement head Lutz Bachmann said at a meeting in Dresden, Pegida’s eastern stronghold. Bachmann – convicted and fined in May for inciting racial hatred by branding refugees “cattle” and “scum” on social media – insisted he did not intend to stand for the leadership. The move to form a party comes with authorities mulling a ban for the original association which spawned Pegida over fears of growing extremism. Bachmann insisted the new party would not seek to overshadow the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has polled at more than 10% support in recent months.

The AfD was founded as a Eurosceptic protest party in 2013 but now mainly rails against Islam and Germany’s openness to refugees, which last year brought more than 1 million asylum seekers to Europe’s top economy. “We shall support the AfD in the next elections (scheduled for 2017) and shall only field candidates in a limited number of constituencies,” Bachmann said. He added that relations between the two far-right movements were mostly good and that “only together” could they serve their mutual cause. Cracks in the AfD have emerged in recent months, with a leadership split deepening after a row over antisemitic comments by one of the party’s lawmakers, who labelled Holocaust deniers “dissidents”. There are also differences within the AfD on whether to embrace Pegida or keep the movement at arm’s length.
© AFP

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Greece: Old Athens Airport Is Now Home To Thousands Of Desperate Refugees

Imagine living outdoors in a tent when it’s 37 degrees.

18/7/2016- “Head, shoulders, knees and toes,” volunteers chant as young children, coaxed by their mothers, try to follow along with the exercise game and point to their own body parts. Song and dance are some of the few ways refugees distract themselves from the scorching heat and wretched living conditions in Elliniko, a makeshift refugee settlement centered in the dilapidated former Athens airport. A maze of graffiti, concrete and colored tents, the Elliniko camp extends beyond the airport and includes several stadiums that were used in the 2004 Olympics. The camp’s total population is currently around 4,000 people, according to recent estimates. When The Huffington Post visited last month, the space was so overcrowded that newcomers had been forced to pitch tents wherever they could find room, like next to an Olympic statue. To make matters worse, it was Ramadan, meaning that the primarily Afghan population had to endure hours without eating or drinking.

Elliniko is one of the last remaining informal refugee settlements in Greece that is untouched by the government. In the last few months, authorities have subsumed the vast majority of camps or have built their own centers where they’ve relocated people en masse. And although only about 50 migrants and refugees are currently stepping foot on Greek soil per day, the government is under strain trying to provide for the nearly 57,000 people from the Middle East and Africa stuck in the country indefinitely. Several thousand, like those at Elliniko, don’t receive government assistance. They rely on aid workers and volunteers for their survival. Life in Elliniko is a waiting game without any expiration date, a stop on a journey without any known end point.

Clothes hang from mangled fences. Children wander in and out of tents placed directly in the sun, some ride around on donated scooters, others splash around in dirty water sitting stagnant in discarded UNHCR buckets. People seek shade in every corner, including at a former bus stop, where travelers once waited for the airport’s limousine service. A set of stairs covered by a plastic tube lead to the airport’s former departures lounge. Rows of tents are packed together in front of a sign pointing to duty free shops. Here, at least, people have a place to sleep indoors. Everyone complained of the heat. It was a windless 37-degree day. And only those who weren’t fasting could ease their discomfort by drinking water. A teenage girl who identified herself as Samira told HuffPost she was grateful not to be fasting that day because she was menstruating.

Giorgios Kyritsis, a member of parliament for the ruling Syriza party and the spokesman for the government’s new coordinating body for refugees, said the government is aware of the conditions in Elliniko. “The conditions are not good, but we are trying to make things better,” he said. Kyritsis reiterated the intention to get people out of the informal encampment and into state-run centers, but provided no details about a timeline. The government has made empty promises to evacuate the Elliniko settlements numerous times. Kyritsis emphasized that Greece has very limited financial resources. The country was forced to enact massive spending cuts and tax hikes to repay emergency loans it has been receiving from European nations and the International Monetary Fund.

The influx of refugees has increased the strain on the already-distressed Greek economy, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an organization representing the world’s wealthiest nations. Finding resources to staff the refugee coordinating body, which the government created in April, has been a challenge, according to Kyritsis. “Every aspect of our civil service is understaffed right now,” he said. Thankfully, volunteers brave the heat and the stench to help fulfill basic needs. At lunchtime, a volunteer from the Danish Refugee Council summoned Elliniko’s squatters. Women lined up, waiting to pick up blue and red plastic bags containing prepared meals in containers. Some fed their children right away and kept the rest for sundown, when they would be able to break their fasts. Doctors Without Borders also runs a clinic at the settlement, providing vaccinations and psychological care. The organization has so far immunized all children in the camp between the ages of six months and 15 years old.

Camps in Greece, like Elliniko, were once all informal settlements where people were offered a pitstop to rest, have something to eat and change into dry clothes before continuing on their journey deeper into Europe. Most, however, have now become the opposite of temporary. The EU-Turkey deal has left the approximately 57,000 refugees in Greece in total limbo. Unable to cross any borders further into Europe, they risk being sent back to Turkey if they don’t apply for asylum in Greece. Although arrivals to Greece had halted after the deal was passed, they appear to be picking up again with handfuls of people arriving on the island of Lesbos daily. And officials predict that there will be an uptick of refugees leaving Turkey in the wake of the attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. If they do enter the Greek asylum system, their chances of actually being granted asylum are slim. The process is backlogged. Priority is still given to Syrians, leaving those from other countries in the lurch. Those who flee for economic reasons are sent to the back of the line.

Last month, Greece established a system intended to streamline the asylum process. One of Athens’ two pre-registration sites happens to be at Elliniko. So far, more than 15,500 people on Greece’s mainland have received asylum seeker cards, which are valid for one year, UNHCR announced on July 1. They are now legal residents and can access basic services. “The exercise will help to identify those eligible for family reunification or relocation,” UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said. Kyritsis, the government spokesman, acknowledged the registration backlog, and said the government is working on it, but needs assistance. Other European nations “should help us more,” he said. “They cannot understand the problem in its full extent,” Kyritsis added. “It is a big European problem. We cannot handle it on our own.”
© The Huffington Post

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Croatian Right-Wingers Removed from Anti-Fascist Monument

Police removed members of the far-right Autochthonous Croatian Party of Rights from a WWII monument where they had been staging a sit-in to prevent an anti-fascist commemoration.

18/7/2016- Police on Sunday morning removed several members of the far-right Autochthonous Croatian Party of Right, A-HSP, from the WWII anti-fascist monument near the village of Srb in the Lika region, close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The right-wingers, who set up a tent by the monument, had been hoping to prevent a commemoration on July 27 of the 75th anniversary of the uprising by anti-fascists against the WWII Nazi-allied puppet regime, the Independent State of Croatia. But after they breached a police deadline to leave, officers removed the tent and carried away eight of the ten A-HSP members on site who refused to move. Seven of them were released shortly afterwards. A-HSP president Drazen Keleminec was a given a 700 euro fined for breaking public order and public assembly laws and banned from the monument for another six months by the magistrates’ court in the town of Gracac.

Keleminec represented himself in court, claiming the judge gave him only two hours to hire a lawyer, and condemned the ruling. “Of course I'm not satisfied with the verdict because it is tailored according to police wishes so that I couldn’t come to Srb on July 27,” he said. Keleminec and his party planned to stay at the monument to prevent the Serbian National Council and Croatian anti-fascist associations from commemorating the 1941 uprising against the wartime Nazi-allied regime. For the past six years, A-HSP has held protests during the commemoration, claiming that it is a ‘Chetnik commemoration’ and should be stopped. During the 1941 uprising, the local population, the majority of them Croatian and Bosnian Serbs, rebelled against the regime after numerous crimes against Serbs were committed by fascist Ustasa units in the region in the momths beforehand.

The date was the celebrated as the Day of the Uprising of the Croatian People until the 1990s, when it was replaced by the Day of the Anti-Fascist Struggle on June 22, commemorating the anniversary of the establishment of one of the first anti-fascist units was established in the Brezovica forest next to the town of Sisak in central Croatia. The A-HSP opposes the commemoration in Srb because it says war crimes were committed by anti-fascists against local Croats during the uprising. However police said that the party did not get attain a permit to use the site for its sit-in. Police first said that the tent should be moved last Tuesday, but the A-HSP activists moved it just ten metres. The party also warned the police not to try to remove the tent by force “because it could ‘light a match’ and create problems that nobody wants”. The same day, some of Srb’s residents sent an open letter to the Croatian authorities urging “all institutions and prominent members of our society to protect us and support the memory of the resistance against… the Ustasa regime”.
© Balkan Insight

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French politicians rush to assign blame after third terror attack

Rivals lash out at security strategy and military service

17/7/2016- In November, after Islamist terror attacks in Paris killed 130, Manuel Valls, France’s socialist prime minister, warned a shaken nation that more innocent lives would be lost. Eradicating the threat, he said, would take a generation. Days after a truck driver ploughed into a crowd of Bastille Day revellers in Nice, killing 84, the public mood is less forgiving and rival politicians are rushing to assign blame and promise solutions. Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, and Alain Juppé, the former prime minister who is leading in the contest for the centre-right presidential nomination, lashed out at a government security strategy that failed to avert the third mass casualty attack on French soil in 19 months. Centre-right MP Henri Guaino, who was an adviser to Mr Sarkozy, proposed equipping soldiers guarding sensitive sites across France with rocket launchers. Another opposition MP, Frédéric Lefebvre, suggested placing the country under military siege.

Meanwhile, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who is widely expected to qualify for the second round of presidential elections next year, proposed restoring compulsory military service. Such reactions — 10 months before presidential polls — contrast with the unity France’s political class demonstrated in the aftermath of the November attacks. They highlight a growing sense of public fear and frustration in the face of a security threat that even the strongest countermeasures have so far failed to neutralise and which experts struggle to comprehend. “The latest attack, by one man without much logistics, shows the limits of an all-security approach,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, head of the Paris-based Centre for the Analysis of Terrorism. “Some of these individuals fall off the radar of intelligence services. We need to broaden the spectrum of our analysis, get more people under cover. We need more human rather than technological intelligence tools.”

Earlier this month, a parliamentary inquiry into last year’s Islamist terror attacks highlighted deep failings in the country’s intelligence services and called for an overhaul. It urged the revival of a network of field agents, calling its unwinding in a previous reform “a catastrophe” that had prevented authorities from collecting “weak signals” from homegrown terror operatives. The committee also questioned the use of 10,000 soldiers across the country. “The government digs up exactly the same responses as in November,” Georges Fenech, the centre-right committee chairman said. “It’s proof that we’ve reached the limits, that there is no political offering to fight terrorism.” Mr Juppé said that, however difficult the task, “fatalism [was] not a policy.”

In an interview with Le Parisien published on Sunday, the mayor of Bordeaux said he would do a better job deploying the 100,000 police force and soldiers currently mobilised to ensure security. He also pledged to re-establish a network of field officers and set up a new prison police force to spot radicalised inmates. “We have to switch gears in this fight that is a permanent and an extremely serious threat,” Mr Juppé was quoted as saying. Mr Sarkozy suggested expelling foreigners flagged as radicalised and setting up deradicalisation centres. “Not everything has been done,” he said during a televised interview on Sunday evening. Ms Le Pen’s proposals involve restoring border controls and compulsory military service, stripping dual-nationals of their citizenship and shutting Mosques suspected of preaching a radical form of Islam.

But on Sunday, Mr Valls defended François Hollande’s measures in the aftermath of the Nice attack. The deeply unpopular socialist president, who is not expected to qualify for the second round of the presidential race, extended the state of emergency for three months and intensified French air strikes against Isis in Syria. Mr Valls warned that the fight against Isis could not result in a “Trumpisation of the minds” — seemingly referring to the US republican presidential candidate’s polarising rhetoric about Muslims. “I can see the escalation of proposals, the temptation to question the rule of law,” Mr Valls told the Journal du Dimanche. “Let’s be clear: we have a changed era. The terrorist threat is from now on a central, durable question.”

In Nice, as France entered the second of three days of national mourning, the mood among some residents swung from resignation to anger. Near one of the shrines scattered along the Promenade des Anglais, where the attack took place, one woman said she was “revolted” at the political class “Right, left — they only care about their buttocks!” she shouted. But Gerard, a retired civil servant smoking a cigar on one of the city’s sea-facing beaches, was more philosophical. “I don’t think there is anything they could do to prevent this,” he said. He suspected the killer was “someone desperate, suicidal, who decided to take as many people with him as possible,” adding: “I think there will be more.”
© The Financial Times.

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France: Why jihadists stalk the French Riviera

The French Riviera is a renowned playground for the cosmopolitan elite, but what is less well-known is that it is also a breeding ground for jihadists.

16/7/2016- Move a mile or two from the Nice coastline and its marinas, and you find bleak housing estates where disaffected youths of immigrant origin are vulnerable to radical Islam. In recent years, 55 people are estimated to have left the region for Syria, including 11 members of the same family travelling together in 2014. In terms of reported cases of radicalisation, the Alpes-Maritimes area is second only to the notorious "93" district north of Paris. Imene Ouissi, a 22-year-old student who volunteers for a women's group in the town of Vallauris, west of Nice, noticed in 2012 that local youths were becoming fascinated by slick recruitment videos produced by Islamic State. "It was better than a film. It made them dream," she says. "In gaming you can shoot again and again, but this was real. And you can do that for god! They found it fantastic."

'You will never succeed here'
At the same time, self-styled preachers emerged with a message targeted at disaffected Muslim youths. Playing on widespread feelings of resentment about poverty and discrimination, they told their audience that they would always be treated as foreigners in France. In Vallauris, one charismatic figure pitched up in a high-rise housing estate in 2010. People came from all over the region to hear him preach every Friday, until, after three years, the authorities dismantled his makeshift mosque. "What he said really shook me," Imene Ouissi recalls. "I had gone there because everyone was talking about it. He spoke the language of the kids, so they identified with him. His message was: you must not stay in a land of villains, you will never succeed here. You must go to a Muslim country."

Kamel, a youth worker in the Nice area, says one of the reasons for the recent success of the Salafist ideology that has inspired jihad, is that it provides a ready and easy way of justifying the actions of petty criminals. "The kids are told that they are in a land of unbelievers, so when they steal and attack people it is justifiable; the petty criminal is turned into a holy warrior, and is promised status, sexual gratification and eternal life." At a time when identity feeds on a sense of victimhood, past trauma is often used to stoke current tensions. In the Nice area, Algeria's war of independence in the 1950s and early 60s casts a long shadow. Many former French colonists who were summarily expelled from Algeria settled in Nice. Their political influence and lingering resentment at the French state that let them down is still felt in the strong presence of the far-right National Front there, Kamel says. Equally, he adds, crimes committed by the French army during the war are increasingly being dredged up by children of Algerian ancestry to nurture a feeling of alienation. "We have competing identities, and people who want to make others pay for the crimes of past generations."

Fatima Khaldi, a councillor for a tough area of north-eastern Nice, is alarmed by the number of young people who define themselves as Moroccan, Algerian, or Tunisian. "It's worrying to see third, fourth or fifth-generation children who do not feel French. People like me, who are from the second generation, cannot understand that." Boubekeur Bakri, an imam from the same area, says he became worried about the rise of extremism as early as 2010. By December 2014 he gathered local officials and Muslim leaders in his mosque to sound the alarm. Three weeks later the attacks against Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket confirmed his fears about home-grown jihadists. He calls radicalism an "open wound" for the Muslim community. The problem, he says, is that having 40% unemployment "lowers the immunity" of marginalised communities, allowing "microbes" to spread.

Another reason for the prevalence of jihadist ideas in parts of the Riviera hinterland has been the presence of good recruiters. Omar Diaby, a criminal from Nice also known as Omar Oumsen, is believed to have sent about 40 local youths to Syria before settling there himself three years ago. A few budding jihadists have managed to return to the city. Jean-François Fouque is a lawyer for one of them, a troubled youth who went to Syria as part of a group of friends in 2014. The man witnessed unspeakable violence, including the beheadings of one of his fellow French recruits who had complained about IS discipline. He managed to slip out but what he went through will stick with him forever, Mr Fouque says. "He wants others to know. His message is: don't go." But as word of atrocities in IS territories spreads and border controls are tightened, most observers believe the main danger is no longer departure for Syria - but conducting the holy struggle at home.

Patrick Amoyel, a psychoanalyst who heads "Entr'Autres", a Nice-based association that helps fight radicalisation, stresses that jihad means an effort to reach out to the House of Islam. Speaking on a glorious afternoon before the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, he said: "You can either wage Jihad by the tongue and by the mouth - that is ideological jihad - or by the hand and the sword. Those are the official categories of jihad. "And jihad by the hand and the sword can be done here in France with cars and knives."
© BBC News

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Italian Parliament names hate crime committee after Jo Cox

The Italian parliament has named a cross-party committee set up to tackle intolerance and hate crime after Jo Cox.

18/7/2016- Commons Speaker John Bercow told MPs he received a letter from the President of the Chamber of Deputies Laura Boldrini telling him that the group will be called the Cox Committee. Ms Cox, the late MP for Batley and Spen, died on 16 June after being shot and stabbed outside a library in Birstall. Mr Bercow paid tribute to the victims of the terror attack in Nice, France before informing the House of the letter from Ms Boldrini. Speaking before the start of Communities Questions he said: “I should also like to inform the House that I have received a letter from the President of the Chamber of Deputies of Italy telling me that her chamber has established a cross-party committee on intolerance, xenophobia, racism and hate crime and have decided to name it the Cox Committee after our colleague Jo Cox. “In the President’s words, and I quote, ‘through this act we will contribute to keeping the memory of Jo Cox and of what she stood for alive’.” The Italian Parliament consists of two houses: the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic.
© The Scotsman

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Italy: 20 dead in migrant tragedy, 366 rescued

16/7/2016- Rescuers saved 366 migrants from rickety boats trying to cross the Mediterranean to Italy but at least 20 people were reported to have drowned, Italian police said. The survivors, who were rescued in four separate operations, were crammed onto three rubber dinghies and a wooden fishing boat. They were all taken to the Sicilian port of Augusta, where they were questioned last night by the Italian police unit Interforce, which combats illegal immigration. The Norwegian ship Siem Pilot went to the aid of one dinghy that sank in the Sicilian Channel, but many migrants were already in the sea when it arrived, Antonio Panzanaro, an Interforce official, told Reuters. One corpse was recovered but survivors said that at least 20 people had drowned before the ship arrived, he said. There were 82 women and 25 children among the 366 people rescued, he said. The survivors were mainly from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Bangladesh.

Seven people were arrested from the four boats, including their drivers, on suspicion of people-trafficking, he said. Italy has long been on the front line of seaborne migration from Africa to Europe, and is now the main point of entry after the European Union struck a deal with Turkey to stem flows to Greece amid Europe's worst migration crisis since World War Two. Slightly fewer migrants arrived on Italian shores in the first six months of 2016 compared with the same period last year, but the number of deaths on the route has risen, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). More than 67,000 seaborne migrants arrived in Italy between Jan. 1 and July 3, according to the IOM.
© Times of Malta

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Headlines 15 July, 2016

EU court advisor: Asking employee to remove headscarf is discrimination

13/7/2016- Asking a Muslim employee to remove her headscarf when dealing with clients amounts to unlawful direct discrimination, a legal advisor to the European Union's top court said in a written opinion on Wednesday. The case arose when a female employee of a French IT consultancy was fired after refusing to remove her headscarf when meeting clients. She challenged this before a French court, which referred the case to the European Court of Justice. "There is nothing to suggest she was unable to perform her duties as a design engineer because she wore an Islamic headscarf," Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston wrote. Opinions by the Court's advocates general are advisory but it usually follows their advice in drawing up a final ruling. While a company could impose a neutral dress code if it pursued a legitimate aim, Sharpston said it was hard to see how such a measure could be seen as proportionate in the present case. France bars civil servants from wearing clothing indicating religious belief, such as a headscarf or a Jewish skullcap, but not employees in the private sector. Companies can set dress codes but their exact legal status is disputed.
© Reuters

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Germany: Former Pegida frontwoman facing charges for her role in vigilante 'migrant hunt'

13/7/2016- A former frontwoman of Germany’s Pegida anti-Muslim movement is facing potential criminal charges over her part in a vigilante hunt for migrants, it has emerged. Tatjana Festerling travelled to Bulgaria last month with Edwin Wagenfeld, the leader of Pegida’s Dutch offshoot, to spend a day with a paramilitary group hunting for migrants crossing the border with Turkey. She posted photographs of herself with the vigilantes on Facebook and called on the “men of Europe” to travel to Bulgaria and join the hunt.  It now appears she could face criminal charges and a possible five-year jail sentence in her native Germany over the stunt. Police in Hamburg on Tuesday confirmed they have opened a criminal investigation against Ms Festerling under German laws which prohibit citizens from joining or helping foreign paramilitary organisations.

Ms Festerling responded with a statement on her website in which she condemned “all attempts to stigmatize and criminalize me by frantically invoked terms such as “parami-litary”. She claimed she had accompanied “local voluntary, unarmed and legal border patrols” in Bulgaria. She previously posted pictures of herself on Facebook posing in a military-style uniform alongside masked men holding up a banner that said “Fortress Europe”. She also said she had been in contact with Petar Nizamov, a Bulgarian who was placed under house arrest in April after he posted a video on social media of the “citizens’ arrest” of three Afghans. The migrants were forced to lie on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs while a man stood over them with a knife. They told police they were threatened with guns and knives and searched for valuables and money.

Ms Festerling travelled to Bulgaria in June to spend a day with the “Bulgarian Military Veterans Union”, one of several vigilante groups hunting for migrants in the border area. She boasted on Facebook of braving “Scorching heat, rough terrain, jungle-like forest and mosquitoes” which “ensure these patrols are anything but a walk”, but admitted the group had not found any migrants on her day with them. A former candidate for mayor of Dresden, Ms Festerling first came to international notoriety earlier this year when she called for asylum-seekers to be shot if they attempted to cross the German border. She was expelled from Pegida last month after she called for the German people to “take up pitchforks” against Angela Merkel’s government.

Pegida, or Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West, first emerged in Ms Festerling’s home city of Dresden in 2014. It has spread across Europe and brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets at its height in early 2015, but has fallen in prominence in Germany after a series of scandals involving its leadership.
© The Telegraph

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Germany: Support for far-right AfD drops further after split

13/7/2016- Support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) dropped further to 8 per cent on Wednesday in the wake of the party‘s split in the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. The fall marked a 1-percentage-point drop on the previous week, according to the Forsa polling institute. The slide in the polls comes after 13 AfD members in the Baden-Wuerttemberg parliament formed a new group last week. They had split from the 23-strong faction over allegations of anti-Semitic comments made by their colleague Wolfgang Gedeon. The party‘s co-leader Joerg Meuthen, who led the revolt in the southern state, has been locked in a struggle with Frauke Petry over who should head next year‘s federal election campaign. The pair pledged at the weekend they would continue to share the leadership of the national party. Another cross-party Forsa poll revealed that many Germans doubt that the party will survive its internal divisions, with 61 per cent saying that the party had no future. Twenty-nine per cent of those surveyed do not believe that the AfD will sink into insignificance though. The figure rose to 81 per cent among AfD supporters. The low support figures are a serious blow to the embattled party, which secured 15.1 per cent of the vote in state elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg in March. The party has polled as high as 24.3 per cent this year in elections for the parliament for the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt.
© DPA

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Turkey: Split within far-right party could hold key to future of Turkish politics

Meral Aksener, a challenger within the Nationalist Movement Party, hailed as possible threat to Erdogan's rule

13/7/2016- A row within Turkey’s leading far-right party could hold the key to the future of the country and potentially disrupt the continued rule of the governing Justice and Development party (AKP). On Wednesday the rift between supporters of current Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli and supporters of challenger Meral Aksener came to blows during Eid celebrations in a hotel in Ankara. The celebrations, which were initiated by Aksener, were interrupted by Bahceli supporters who chanted, “The leader of the movement is Devlet Bahceli!” According to Hurriyet, glasses were thrown by both sides and a number of people were wounded in the fighting, while a gunshot was heard outside of the hotel. Echoing the conspiratorial rhetoric of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Bahceli claimed that the US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen had a hand in the disruption. “The [only MHP] Eid celebration is the one here, today,” he said, referring to separate Eid celebration organised by his supporters. “According to the information I received, any celebration other than this is a plot recommended by the Fethullah Gulen movement and their effort to put themselves in political and social ground once again.

“We will foil the plot.”
The rise of Aksener within the MHP has proved arguably the most significant new development on the Turkish parliamentary political scene since the emergence of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in the June 2015 elections. The MHP lost 40 of its 80 parliamentary seats in elections last year under the almost 20-year leadership of Bahceli. Polls have indicated that should his stagnant leadership continue, the party could end up falling beneath the 10-percent vote threshold needed to enter the Turkish parliament, as they haemorrhage support to the AKP. Conversely, polls suggest under Aksener’s leadership MHP support could rise above 20 percent, stealing seats from AKP that would undercut the support needed in parliament for a change in the constitution.

“Aksener, for many MHP supporters, is a committed technocrat, committed to actual governance and expanding the party's base with the right-wing of the Turkish electorate,” said Aaron Stein, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. “Aksener is an interesting political case because she is not actually a fresh face or a political insider, but rather a Turkish political lifer. “Her main strength is that she is not Devlet Bahceli.” The woman, who has already been touted as Turkey’s answer to Marine Le Pen, could eventually hold the balance of power in Turkey - though the controversial politics of the MHP, which has been labelled “neo-fascist” by some, mean this is unlikely to allay the concerns of Turkey’s allies about the direction of the country.

Dissident congress
The MHP was founded in 1969 after former military official Alparslan Turkes - a spokesperson for the 1960 military coup - took control of the Republican Villagers Nation Party and rebranded it the MHP, bringing it more in line with his ultra-nationalist, anti-communist views. Though the MHP, and its paramilitary and youth wing the Grey Wolves, have long targeted (both verbally and physically) what they see as subversive elements within Turkish society - including leftists, Armenians, Jews and Alevis - the primary focus of their campaigning since the 1980s has arguably been Kurdish nationalists, in particular the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Despite the damning polling evidence, Bahceli - a veteran of the political violence of the 1970s - has clung on to the leadership. Many have even accused him of forging links with Erdogan and the AKP in order to undermine his challenger.

On 15 May, MHP dissidents attempted to force an extraordinary congress in Ankara in the wake of the MHP’s poor result in the November elections, a move that was denounced as “illegal” by Bahceli and the leadership. When delegates tried to enter the venue for the congress, they found their way blocked by police. In the end, they were unable to hold the congress. Undeterred, the dissidents successfully held another congress - this time overseen by a court-appointed board of trustees - on 19 June at which they claimed 659 delegates voted in favour of holding a congress to elect a new leader. The congress was again condemned as "illegal" by Bahceli, who claimed less than 500 delegates had attended, below the required amount. “Since 85 percent of the party delegates attended the first rebel congress, he has clearly lost his grassroots support," said Turkey analyst Ankarali Jan.

He told Middle East Eye that the mounting opposition to his rule had already led him to purge dissidents within the regional parties. “Bahceli has been sacking provincial leaders who came out for Aksener ever since early December, and later began sacking other provincial leaders who supported the idea of a leadership challenge,” he explained. “In some cases he has simply closed the entire branch structure in a province and started again.” Due to complex constitutional laws on political parties implemented by the military coup government in 1982 - in the interest of national stability - it is very difficult to change party leaders in Turkey and the central government and judiciary have a lot of influence over the process. At another emergency MHP congress held on 10 July, delegates voted in favour of changing the party rules allowing a challenge to the leadership. Following the vote, however, Turkey's High Electoral Council - which monitors all elections in Turkey - said it would neither count nor recognise the vote.

Some have even accused Bahceli and Erdogan of - either tacitly or directly - colluding to undermine the rebels, citing Bahceli's support for Erdogan's presidential system. The anti-Bahceli faction in the MHP accused the AKP outright of having intervened to shut down the 15 May congress, saying that the "internal matters of the MHP have become a matter of the AKP and the government". The dissidents claim double standards, pointing out that a party "changes a prime minister [Ahmet Davutoglu] in just one hour and takes a decision for its own snap congress in just two hours, has trampled on the law to deprive the MHP from having its own snap congress”. "The two men are symbiotic actors," explained Stein. "Bahceli's ineptitude helps the AKP win more seats in parliament, which Erdogan obviously benefits from."

Aksener has claimed that the alleged attempts by the AKP to shut down the party congresses show that Erdogan and his supporters feel threatened by her challenge. “For a very long time, the president has been trying to shape the opposition parties, especially the CHP [Republican Peoples' Party] and the MHP, which is why the opposition is not strong. This will change,” she said in an interview, according to Politico. “That’s why I am not only competing with the candidates of my party, but also with the president and the prime minister."

'Hardball'
Though the AKP and MHP failed - despite the predictions of many observers - to form a coalition following June 2015's indecisive parliamentary elections, should the leadership of the MHP eventually be changed the party could end up exerting a huge influence on Turkish politics in future. “Aksener has promised to play hardball with the AKP on the constitution, and therefore has advocated for the MHP being an indispensable negotiating partner with the AKP. I doubt she would cave on the party's opposition to the presidential system, but instead push for MHP-style language in a new document,” said Stein. Most worryingly for observers of the violence raging in the country's southeast and growing xenophobia (including against Syrian refugees), such a development could see tensions increase in an already fragile society.

The MHP staunchly opposed the PKK peace process launched by the AKP government and have long called for a tougher military response in the southeast. They have also consistently accused the HDP of being a front for the PKK and have called for harsh measures against the party. Although Aksener herself has been hailed as a moderating influence by some commentators, she has still been responsible for statements reflecting a hardline nationalist view. In 1996, while Interior Minister, she attacked the leader of the PKK Abdullah Ocalan in the parliament as "Armenian semen". When asked to clarify the remark, which appeared to reflect the popular far-right conspiracy theory linking the PKK to Armenia, she said the comments "did not refer to the Armenians living in Turkey," but rather "referred to the Armenian race in general".



She also promised to make no compromises with regards to the Kurdish insurgency in the southeast, claiming she would "break the back of terrorism" in six months. All depends, however, on the leadership battle, which is still very much up in the air and then forcing the notoriously authoritarian Bahceli to actually step down. "The rebels will probably take it to the courts," said Jan, the analyst. "If the courts allow them to, they will have another rebel congress and elect a leader (almost certainly Aksener)". "Then there will be two leaders both claiming legitimacy."


© The Middle East Eye
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Austria moves to stop Neo-Nazi 'cult site' Hitler birth house

Austria's government is to seize the house where Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 to prevent it becoming a site of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis.

12/7/2016- The owner, a retired local woman, has refused repeated offers to buy the house in Braunau am Inn in the past. However, there is disagreement over what to do with the house next. The interior minister wants it demolished but others say a museum or even a supermarket would more effectively "depoliticise" it. "The decision is necessary because the Republic would like to prevent this house from becoming a 'cult site' for neo-Nazis in any way, which it has been repeatedly in the past, when people gathered there to shout slogans," Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said. "It is my vision to tear down the house," he added. However, Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner said a project with "educational value" such as a museum would be a better use of the site, Die Presse newspaper reported.

Growing numbers of people were travelling to the house, the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance said. But the organisation's head Gerhard Baumgartner said demolishing the building would not solve the problem, as right-wing extremists would instead have a "Hitler Square" or "Hitler Park" to visit instead. "The place must be fully depoliticised and something has to be there that no one will want to be photographed in front of," he told broadcaster ORF. Locating a supermarket or fire station in the building could have the desired effect, Mr Baumgartner said. The Austrian state has rented the house since 1972 and currently pays about €4,800 ($5,300; £4,100) a month for it. The building has in the past housed workshops for disabled people, but has been empty since 2011 because the owner repeatedly rejected ideas for its future use as well as purchase offers from the state, an interior ministry spokesman said.

Under the new proposal, the owner will receive compensation similar to that awarded when homes are demolished to make way for railway projects. The bill to seize the house will now go before parliament. If it is passed, the building's fate will then be decided by a commission consisting of 12 members from the fields of politics, administration, academia and civic society. The only obvious link to the building's past is a stone outside inscribed with the words: "For peace, freedom and democracy. Never again fascism. Millions of dead remind us." Hitler's name does not appear. Adolf Hitler lived on the street Salzburger Vorstadt for only a few weeks before his family moved to another address in Braunau. They left the town for good when Hitler was three years old. Hitler went on to rule Nazi Germany from 1933 until his death at the end of World War Two in 1945. His regime was responsible for the deaths of millions of people.
© BBC News

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Swiss Italians Say No to the Burqa (opinion)

The prettiest corner of Switzerland wasn’t exactly crawling with Muslim women, so it’s worth asking what happened
By John R. Schindler


12/7/2016- Even in Switzerland, most citizens don’t think much about Ticino. It’s the southernmost of the country’s 26 cantons—roughly equivalent to American states—and the only one that’s wholly Italian in language and culture. Only half a million of the eight million people in Switzerland are Italians, and about two-thirds of them live in Ticino. For the country’s German-speaking majority, Ticino is Switzerland’s Sonnenstube (sun porch) due to the canton’s notably brighter and warmer climate than what prevails in most of this Alpine land. South of the Gotthard Pass that has divided Teutons from Latins for centuries, Ticino’s steep mountains ring the canton at heights surpassing 10,000 feet, their peaks remaining chilly even in the summer heat that prevails on the shores of the beautiful lakes that dot the scenery.

Ticino is one of Europe’s loveliest places, combining a very Italian dolce vita with trademark Swiss efficiency. Things work here in a timely fashion as they don’t always in neighboring Italy. It’s a minor miracle that Switzerland has made Italians work like Germans—while losing none of their fine food, wine and culture. Locals aren’t excessively fond of Swiss Germans—they find them stodgy—but they look down a bit on Italians across the border too, who never can quite seem to make their trains run on time. As they do in Ticino. That said, not much exciting happens in Ticino. The canton seldom makes Swiss headlines—much less beyond this small country. About the only noteworthy thing that happens in Locarno, the canton’s second city, situated on lovely Lago Maggiore under the Alps, is the annual international film festival every August. Since 1946, that draws movie stars and therefore press. Not much else gets the international media to Locarno.

Suddenly, that’s changed. And the issue is one of the most hot-button ones in all of Europe, indeed across the West right now: the role of Islam in public life. Islam is not indigenous to Switzerland, of course, just as in most of Europe. But it’s arrived here in recent decades due to immigration. There are about 400,000 Muslims in the country—about five percent of the population. Muslims were but one percent of the Swiss population only 35 years ago, so the growth has been sudden. Roughly half of Swiss Muslims are from the Balkans, Bosnia and Kosovo mostly, and many have assimilated successfully. Assimilation is more challenging with non-European Muslims—from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—who are arriving in increasing numbers. Most Swiss cities now possess visible populations of Muslims, some of them remaining decidedly foreign in outlook and appearance decades after their arrival.

Ticino is hardly awash in Muslims, since only about two percent of the canton’s population consists of immigrants from the Islamic world, but they are visible on the streets and their political presence has been felt—not always in a manner considered positive by locals. The first sign of this pushback came in 2007, when the city council in Bern, the Swiss capital, rejected plans to build one of the largest Islamic centers in Europe there. Then followed a November 2009 national referendum on the building of minarets, that is towers, for mosques. The Swiss love their referendums, and despite the opposition of the Swiss government, almost all NGOs, and even the Catholic Church, 57.5 percent of voters wanted minarets to be banned. In all, 22 of 26 cantons voted for the ban.

So banned they were, despite denunciations from capitals across Europe and the Muslim world—Tehran memorably warned the Swiss of “consequences”—and even the United Nations. Although none of the four existing minarets in Switzerland were affected by the ban, the idea that the country is “Islamophobic” began to get traction in progressive and Islamic circles alike. This did nothing to stop the rise of the far-right in Switzerland, almost entirely over the issue of immigration—in truth, it seems to have aided it. Swiss politics are divided by language as well as ideology but it cannot be denied that in recent years the most powerful party in the country is the Swiss People’s Party (SVP in German), which espouses right-wing populist views on the full range of issues.

The SVP’s views on immigration—especially Muslim immigration—are negative and a clear vote-getter for the party. Its leaders understand that migration is their key issue, and the most recent parliamentary elections last fall gave the SVP 65 of the 200 seats in the lower house and 29 percent of the overall vote, a record. Although the SVP is mostly a German party, Ticino has witnessed the rise of a local equivalent, the League of the Ticinese People (Lega dei Ticinesi or LdT). Led from its founding by its bombastic leader, Giuliano Bignasca, who died in 2013, the LdT slowly rose to become one of the two big parties in the canton. The League made its big move last November, when the canton’s legislature passed a law banning public wearing of the burqa—the full body covering including complete face veil worn by some Muslim women—with violations of the law to be met with stiff fines. This followed a September 2013 referendum in Ticino which saw 65 percent of voters wanting a burqa ban.







Since Ticino wasn’t exactly crawling with burqa-clad women, it’s worth asking what happened here. The Ticinese are notoriously proud and defensive of their local traditions and they don’t like being told what to do, especially by outsiders. Banning burqas because big city folk—in Bern and Brussels alike—told them not to, cannot be ruled out as a motivation. Neither can the impact of witnessing neighboring Italy’s mounting problems with Muslim migration. Milan is barely an hour from Ticino, making it more than twice as close as Zurich. Milan has had problems with its radical mosques fomenting trouble in Italy and the Balkans since the early 1990s, and reports of jihadists plus street crime by Muslim gangs did not go unnoticed in Ticino, which wants none of those things in its bucolic Alpine hideaway. The burqa ban was predictably denounced by the usual suspects, but not many in Ticino seemed to care—not least because it wasn’t initially clear when the new law would actually take effect.

Then it was announced that the anti-burqa law would take effect this July 1, just as the tourist season gets into gear. Although Saudi Arabia warned its citizens visiting Switzer-land to respect local laws and not cause trouble, it was widely anticipated that provocateurs would seek to get attention. On cue, two protestors showed up in Locarno on the very morning the ban took effect. One woman, Nora Illi, a Swiss woman who converted to a radical form of Islam, was wearing a full burqa and was arrested by police. So was her companion, Rachid Nekkaz, an Algerian politician and businessman. They got the global media attention they sought. Ticino authorities mean business and have  announced that Illi will be fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,170) and Nekkaz will receive a fine of 200 francs ($204). There’s not much sympathy for them in Ticino. He is a professional provocateur for Islam while she is a public advocate of polygamy.

Nevertheless, there are concerns here about the impact of the burqa ban on tourism. Before tourism became the canton’s bread and butter in the 1960s, Ticino was the poorest part of Switzerland, its hardy residents having subsisted for centuries on polenta, cheese and nuts. Every year more than 40,000 tourists come here from the Middle East, spending lots of francs. More than a few of the women are covered head-to-toe, per traditional practice in their homelands. Since the burqa ban contains no exemption for visitors, it’s not clear what happens next. Most Ticinese are philosophical, seeming more concerned about protecting their traditional way of life than about offending Muslims thousands of miles away—or next door. Whether that continues may depend on how many more provocateurs show up here, seeking to cause trouble before the cameras. Since the Locarno film festival kicks off in less than a month, concerns are mounting in the prettiest corner of Switzerland. Meanwhile, Europe watches.

John Schindler is a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer. A specialist in espionage and terrorism, he’s also been a Navy officer and a War College professor. He’s published four books and is on Twitter at @20committee.






© The Observer
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Polandís Clash of Cultures Escalates

12/7/2016- Unlike some central and eastern Europe nations, Poland has not seen a major push for an exit from the European Union in the wake of Brexit, but the country's nationalist movements, whose influence continues to rise, are calling for deep reforms in the EU. Those calls are being led largely by young people, members of the post-communist freedom generation, whose views are often and paradoxically much more traditionalist and conservative than the older generations that suffered under Nazi and later communist repression. At a nationalist gathering in Warsaw this week, the memory of communist repression is fresh enough to bring a 79-year-old man to tears. “What they did to my martyred nation!” he said. “I am sorry I lived times like that. I survived thanks to providence.” The 20th century was not kind to Poland. Once an ethnically diverse, cosmopolitan society, Nazi occupation all but wiped out its Jewish population. Later, Soviet-style communism repressed debate and assaulted the country's traditional culture. Poland is and feels a part of Europe, but a rising nationalist movement takes aim at the EU’s push for refugee quotas and LGBT rights, which some Poles feel are a threat to traditional culture.

Debate over EU
One outspoken critic of the European Union is a Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a highly controversial anti-left crusader who serves as a member of the European Parliament. “In the communist times, members of parliament used to speak about workers’ class struggle, friendship with the Soviet Union and American imperialism. In the European Parliament, you must talk about the fight against global warming, the equality of sexes, about the equality of gender, and homosexuals, and about more democracy. It is exactly the same, but they are much more stupid,” he said. That stance is rejected by Pawel Kasprzak, who took part in the 1980s Solidarity movement that led to the end of communist rule. He sees association with Europe as Poland’s best guarantee against a return to totalitarianism and its best protection against aggression by Poland’s historical enemy, Russia. “I’m not for conspiracy theories, but I think part of the last recent change was also due to Russian propaganda and the Internet," he said, referring to elections in October that brought the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party to power. “I think it’s extremely dangerous and I think we in the West - I’m proud to say we belong to the West - we in the West underestimate the threat.” Kasprzak and others are campaigning against what they say are the ruling party’s moves to put limits on Poland’s Constitutional Court.

Rebuke from Obama
Poland faces possible EU sanctions unless the government reverses controversial changes it made weakening the court's power to challenge government legislation. The impasse prompted a rebuke from President Barack Obama when the U.S. leader met with his Polish counterpart on the sidelines of last week's NATO summit in the Polish capital. Younger Poles often have a different view of freedom than their parents. The Kukiz 15 movement, made up largely of young people, is further to the right than the ruling right-wing party. A banner outside its offices in Poland’s parliament building reads: “Stop refugees.” "We speak with honest language. We do not look at political correctness. We say what we think. We do not dress up simple issues with beautiful words,” said Pawel Szramka, a young Kukiz 15 parliament member. Runaway capitalism and unemployment in Poland during the 1990s helped shape young people’s thinking and made many cynical about the promises of submitting wholeheartedly to the promises of the western model. Analysts see a paradox. “For people who personally experienced the reality of the Second World War, for example, Nazi occupation, the Holocaust, but also the period of dictatorship in Poland, authoritarianism, totalitarianism,” said Rafal Pankowski, a sociologist with the Never Again Association, a Warsaw anti-racism group, “they often tend to cherish civic freedoms more than the young people who don’t have that experience.”

EU exit unlikely
Unlike other parts of Europe, Brexit has not inspired a drive for Poland to leave the European Union, but calls for a reformed, less intrusive EU are growing. “We do not consider leaving the EU a possibility,” said Malgorzata Gosiewska, a Law and Justice Party lawmaker who says EU mandates on migration and LGBT rights are hampering the debate. “It is also our goal to reach a compromise in Poland. Outside interference makes reaching this compromise difficult,” she said. For young nationalists, modern western European social liberalism is the enemy. “I think our culture is a hope for western Europe because western European culture is dying,” said Edyta Luty, 30, at a march attended by scores of young nationalists in Warsaw this week.
© VoA News

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Europeans Fear Wave of Refugees Will Mean More Terrorism, Fewer Jobs

Sharp ideological divides across EU on views about minorities, diversity and national identity

11/7/2016- The recent surge of refugees into Europe has featured prominently in the anti-immigrant rhetoric of right-wing parties across the Continent and in the heated debate over the UK’s decision to exit the European Union. At the same time, attacks in Paris and Brussels have fueled public fears about terrorism. As a new Pew Research Center survey illustrates, the refugee crisis and the threat of terrorism are very much related to one another in the minds of many Europeans. In eight of the 10 European nations surveyed, half or more believe incoming refugees increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country 

ut terrorism is not the only concern people have about refugees. Many are also worried that they will be an economic burden. Half or more in five nations say refugees will take away jobs and social benefits. Hungarians, Poles, Greeks, Italians and French identify this as their greatest concern. Sweden and Germany are the only countries where at least half say refugees make their nation stronger because of their work and talents. Fears linking refugees and crime are much less pervasive, although nearly half in Italy and Sweden say refugees are more to blame for crime than other groups. Most of the recent refugees to Europe are arriving from majority-Muslim nations, such as Syria and Iraq. Among Europeans, perceptions of refugees are influenced in part by negative attitudes toward Muslims already living in Europe. In Hungary, Italy, Poland and Greece, more than six-in-ten say they have an unfavorable opinion of the Muslims in their country – an opinion shared by at least one-in-four in each nation polled.

For some Europeans, negative attitudes toward Muslims are tied to a belief that Muslims do not wish to participate in the broader society. In every country polled, the dominant view is that Muslims want to be distinct from the rest of society rather than adopt the nation’s customs and way of life. Six-in-ten or more hold this view in Greece, Hungary, Spain, Italy and Germany. Notably, the percentage saying that Muslims want to remain distinct has actually declined since 2005 in four out of five countries where trend data are available. The biggest drop has been in Germany, where the share of the public expressing this view has declined from 88% to 61%.

While most Europeans think the recent surge of refugees could lead to more terrorism, there is less alarm that Muslims already living on the Continent might sympathize with extremists. The percentage of the public saying that most or many Muslims in their country support groups like ISIS is less than half in every nation polled. Still, 46% of Italians, 37% of Hungarians, 35% of Poles and 30% of Greeks think Muslims in their countries are favorably inclined toward such extremist groups. On these and other questions included on the poll, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Poland often stand out for expressing greater concern and more negative views about refugees and minority groups.

Across the EU nations surveyed, the refugee crisis has brought into sharp relief deep ideological divides over views of minorities and diversity. On nearly all of the questions analyzed in this report, people on the ideological right express more concerns about refugees, more negative attitudes toward minorities and less enthusiasm for a diverse society. For example, negative opinions about Muslims are much more common among respondents who place themselves on the right of the ideological spectrum. In Greece, 81% of those on the right express an unfavorable view of Muslims, compared with 50% of those on the left. Significant right-left gaps in attitudes toward Muslims are also found in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, France and the United Kingdom.

Similarly, supporters of far-right political parties hold much more negative attitudes toward refugees and Muslims and are much more skeptical about the benefits of a diverse society. For instance, fears that the surge of refugees will lead to more terrorism and harm the economy are considerably more widespread among supporters of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the UK and the National Front in France. Ideology is not the only dividing line in European attitudes, however. On many questions, education and age also matter, with older people and less-educated individuals expressing more negative opinions about refugees and minorities. These are among the key findings from a new survey by Pew Research Center, conducted in 10 European Union nations and the United States among 11,494 respondents from April 4 to May 12, 2016, before the Brexit referendum in the UK and terrorist attacks at the Istanbul Atatürk Airport, both of which took place in late June. The survey includes countries that account for 80% of the EU-28 population and 82% of the EU’s gross domestic product.

Along with worries about refugees and minorities, the survey finds mixed views regarding the overall value of cultural diversity. When asked whether having an increasing number of people of many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in their country makes their society a better place to live, a worse place or does not make much difference either way, over half of Greeks and Italians and about four-in-ten Hungarians and Poles say growing diversity makes things worse. Relatively few Europeans believe diversity has a positive impact on their countries. At 36%, Sweden registers the highest percentage that believes an increasingly diverse society makes their country a better place to live. In many countries, the prevailing view is that diversity makes no difference in the quality of life.

Negative attitudes toward minorities common in many nations
Muslims are not the only minority group viewed unfavorably by substantial percentages of Europeans. In fact, overall, attitudes toward Roma are more negative than attitudes toward Muslims. Across the 10 nations polled, a median of 48% express an unfavorable opinion of Roma in their country. Fully 82% hold this view in Italy, while six-in-ten or more say the same in Greece, Hungary and France. Negative views of Roma have gone up since 2015 in Spain (+14 percentage points), the UK (+8) and Germany (+6). Greeks have also become increasingly unfavorable (+14 points) since 2014, the last time Greece was included in the survey. Negative ratings for Muslims have also increased over the past 12 months in the UK (+9 percentage points), Spain (+8) and Italy (+8), and are up 12 points in Greece since 2014. In France – where coordinated terrorist attacks by ISIS at the Bataclan concert hall and elsewhere in Paris in November left 130 people dead – unfavorable opinions are up slightly since last year (+5 points).

Negative attitudes toward Jews are much less common. A median of only 16% have an unfavorable opinion of Jews in their country. Still, a majority of Greeks give Jews in their country a negative rating, and one-in-five or more express this view in Hungary, Poland, Italy and Spain. Unfavorable attitudes toward Jews have been relatively stable since 2015.

Language, customs and tradition seen as central to national identity
Opinions vary about the key components of national identity, but European publics clearly agree that language is fundamental. Across the 10 EU countries surveyed, a median of 97% think that being able to speak the national language is important for truly being able to identify with their nationality. A median of 77% say this is very important. Majorities believe it is very important in every nation polled. There is also a strong cultural component to national identity. A median of 86% believe sharing national customs and traditions is important, with 48% saying this is very important. Fully 68% in Hungary say sharing national customs and traditions is very important for being truly Hungarian, and 66% express similar sentiments in Greece. In contrast, fewer than four-in-ten consider sharing these traditions and customs very important in the Netherlands (37%), Germany (29%) and Sweden (26%).

There is less agreement about the need to be born in a given country. Still, a median of 58% say it is important for someone to be born in a country to be truly considered a national of that country; a third think this is very important. Religion is generally seen as less central to national identity. However, it is an essential factor to many in Greece, where 54% say it is very important to be Christian to be truly Greek. To further explore this topic, we constructed an index based on the four questions we asked regarding national identity (importance of speaking the national language, sharing customs, being native born and being Christian). The results highlight the extent to which exclusionary views vary across the EU. By far, restrictive views are most common in Hungary, Greece, Poland and Italy; they are least common in Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.



Continue reading:
1. Europeans not convinced growing diversity is a good thing, divided on what determines national identity
2. Negative views of minorities, refugees common in EU
Acknowledgments Methodology Appendix A
© Pew Research Center
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Bosnia: Thousands Mourn at Srebrenica Anniversary Commemoration

Thousands of people gathered in Srebrenica to mark the 21st anniversary of Europe’s worst atrocity since the Holocaust and bury 127 more Bosniak victims of the massacres.

11/7/2016- Crowds of mourners gathered on Monday at the genocide memorial centre in the village of Potocari near Srebrenica to commemorate the victims killed by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995. Buses brought people from all over the country for the 21st anniversary commemoration of the massacres of more than Bosniak 7,000 men and boys. Flowers were laid and there were Muslim prayers for 127 victims who had been identified over the past year and whose remains were buried at the memorial site. The youngest of the victims was Avdija Memic, who was 14 years old when he was killed. Srebrenica mayor Camil Durakovic told the memorial ceremony that the search for about 1,000 more victims continues, and called on anyone who knew where more bodies are buried to inform the authorities. He also called on Bosniaks who fled Srebrenica during wartime to return to live in the town. “Justice will be our revenge. The laughter of our children, who will come here and live here, will be our revenge,” Durakovic said.

Carmel Agius, the president of the UN war crimes court in The Hague, said that the international tribunal’s verdicts served as “a reminder of barbarism”, but more efforts to achieve reconciliation were necessary. “Justice itself is not sufficient. Processes bringing the three peoples [Bosniaks, Croata and Serbs] closer to each other are needed,” Agius said. The Bosnian Council of Ministers declared July 11 a day of mourning in the entire country and flags at state-level institutions were lowered to half-mast. Srebrenica survivor Nermina Muminovic said that the 127 victims who were buried on Monday were killed because they were Bosniaks. “They have returned to the green valley of white tombstones 21 years after the genocide,” said Muminovic, who was 13 at the time of the massacres. She said that despite the killings, she had gone back to live in Srebrenica. “My two daughters are proof to the criminals that they shall never win,” she said.

The annual commemoration was again tinged with controversy after the organising committee, headed by mayor Durakovic, said that Serbian political leaders who denied that the mass killings were genocide would not be invited to attend. Last year the 20th anniversary commemorations were marred when Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was pelted with bottles and stones by angry mourners. Serbia admits that the Srebrenica massacres were a crime, but does not define them as genocide, despite the rulings of international courts. The leader of Bosnia’s Serb-led entity Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, said on Monday that he will never accept that the Srebrenica massacres were genocide, arguing that the number of victims has been exaggerated, regional television station N1 reported. “We will not recognise the genocide. There was no genocide,” Dodik said. “I’m sorry to say these things today. I don’t want to downplay anybody’s pain, but this has become just a political issue,” he added.

However Serbian opposition politician Cedomir Jovanovic, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, did attend the commemoration in Srebrenica, saying that it was his “human obligation and political duty”. “What is necessary is [to adopt a clear stance] on what happened in Srebrenica ... until this happens, the people of Serbia will carry the burden of what happened here,” said Jovanovic, who was one of the MPs who tried last month to get the Serbian parliament to adopt a resolution condemning the Srebrenica genocide. Meanwhile activists in Belgrade will light candles outside the Serbian parliament on Monday evening to commemorate the victims of Srebrenica.
© Balkan Insight

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Netherlands: Asylum centers step up measures to protect LGBT refugees

11/7/2016- Refugee centres are to recruit specialist counsellors for LGBT residents in response to concerns about homophobic bullying. Some asylum seekers’ centres (AZCs) have introduced separate wings to house vulnerable residents, despite the cabinet’s opposition to the idea, the Volkskrant reported. Junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff has said the government should focus its efforts on dealing with offenders rather than isolating the victims. The refugee accommodation service COA said that specialist staff were being trained to act as confidants for gay, lesbian and transgender residents and would start work from 1 August. ‘Discrimination, aggression and violence are not tolerated at our facilities,’ a spokesman for the COA told the newspaper, before adding: ‘At some centres the infrastructure allows members of vulnerable groups to be accommodated together. There are centres with a separate wing for women and LGBT residents can live in adjacent rooms.’ LGBT wings have been introduced in Amsterdam, Almere and Zeist.

Knife in bed
The gay rights group COC said it had received 32 reports of serious threats against LGBT rsidents since last October. ‘Compared to Heumensoord, where LGBT people were so afraid that they slept with a knife in bed, the wings for vulnerable people are an improvement,’ said spokesman Philip Tijsma. ‘But there is still a lot to be done.’ Sandro Kortekaas, spokesman for LGBT Asylum Support, said intimidation often goes unreported because victims are afraid to come forward. ‘Because of their experiences LGBT refugees have little trust in the authorities,’ he said. Dijkhoff told Parliament in the spring that all residents should be able to take their concerns to any member of staff, rather than hiring extra staff to handle LGBT residents’ concerns. But a majority of MPs are in favour of separate accommodation if it is needed to secure refugees’ safety.
© The Dutch News

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French official charged with ordering arson attack on Roma grocery

10/7/2016- A senior local official has been charged with ordering an arson attack on a Roma grocery in a northern French town in a case that has highlighted growing resentment over EU migration. Yohan Senez, a Socialist councillor who runs the office of the mayor of Denain, an impoverished former mining town, is accused of ordering municipal employees to set fire to the shop. He allegedly toasted the “success” of the attack with a single-malt whisky. A 25-year-old working for the municipality on a temporary youth employment scheme, named as Didier L, admitted starting a fire at the Stoica grocery on the night of March 20. No one was hurt as the building was empty. Didier L told police that his boss, Jean-Philippe Devotte, in charge of cleaning services, had given him a can of petrol and gloves, saying the order came from someone “highly placed at the town hall” and promising him a permanent job if he carried out the attack.

Mr Devotte, 28, later confessed to police, claiming he acted under the instructions of Mr Senez, who has campaigned against racism and the far-Right. Mr Senez, who allegedly ordered Mr Devotte to “get rid of that grocery” and told him not to inform the mayor, was charged with ”complicity in arson committed because of the race, ethnicity, nationality or religion of the victim”. The arrival of more than 500 Roma families in Denain in less than two years has led to severe tensions in the town of 20,000 people. Most of the immigrants, from Romania and Bulgaria, have moved into an area of red-brick terraced houses left empty as Denain's population dwindled following the decline of the mining and steel industries. A local councillor of north African origin, Djemi Drici, said: “In 2014, there were 12 (Roma) families. Now, no one knows exactly how many there are. I was nine years old when my parents came to France, but this can’t carry on as it is.”
© The Telegraph

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Sweden: Are Migrants Really Raping Women?

The allegations are horrifying, but not only have Sweden’s number of rapes remained stable since the refugee influx, but police have had to retract accusations.

10/7/2016- The reports circulating in the Swedish and international press are disturbing. On the weekend of July 2, gangs of "foreign youth" are reported to have sexually assaulted dozens of women and girls at two music festivals in Sweden. The incidents reportedly occurred at the Bråvalla Festival in Norrköping, and at Karlstad's free annual Putte i Parken (Party in the Park), where the groups of men reportedly raped five teens and young women and groped some 40 others, the youngest victim just 12 years old. "'It was creepy," one 17-year-old victim told the Daily Mail. "Someone stood around me and groped me and I had no idea who it was. It was sick.""They were probably immigrants," she added. "I hate to say it. But it is the truth."

Shortly after the Putte i Parken assaults, police also attributed the crimes to "foreign youths" in a statement posted on the Värmland regional police website. “There is no doubt,” the statement read, “about who takes these liberties." The perpetrators are then named as "a gang of seven to eight boys belonging to the group of unaccom-panied children," referring to the young male refugees who have arrived in the country without a parent or guardian. However, the statement was quickly removed from the site after police admitted that of the seven men arrested, only two were young men who resided in the type of home for troubled youth that often houses young refugees without parents. "The wording was unfortunate and we will take that to heart," the head of Värmland police, Lars Wirén, told teborgs-posten. "We should not generalize and point at a group like this. We should handle it on a case-to-case basis."

The incident arrives on the heels of another rape scandal back in January, when police came under fire for withholding information regarding nearly four-dozen reports of sexual assault in 2014 and 2015 during a popular Stockholm music festival. In that instance, officials were accused of failing to publicly release crucial details surrounding the assaults, namely that the majority of those behind the attacks were believed to be young Afghan refugees. However, Reuters reported that the police documents the news agency reviewed did not, in fact, mention the perpetrators' ethnicity. The Swedish prosecutor's office ultimately decided not to open an investigation into the alleged cover-up, but the story created a firestorm in the media, and contributed to a debate as to whether identifying details about those accused of crimes should be made public in Sweden, where an alleged criminal's ethnic background is not typically released during police investigations or reported by the press.

 


Responding to the January incident in an editorial published by the Swedish magazine Mänsklig Säkerhet, Martina Lindberg, a former lecturer on women, peace, and security matters at Stockholm's Swedish Defense University, notes a skewed gender imbalance among asylum seekers in Sweden, with an estimated two-thirds of refugees being male. However, she argues that while the Swedish government should acknowledge this imbalance and adapt appropriate integration measures, it should not allow individual sex crimes to form what she calls "the basis for a simplified approach to the asylum-seeking man." "Violence against women in the public sphere has been more or less constant in recent years," she wrote. "It seems as if the debate today depends more on who is assumed to be the perpetrator."

Indeed, according to official statistics on file with The Swedish Crime Survey, the sexual violence rate in Sweden has remained about the same between 2005 and 2014. In fact, it actually decreased by .3 percent between 2013 and 2014. That said, the country has the highest rate of rape in Europe, a statistic that has been partially attributed to both Swedish law, wherein rape is given a wider definition than in other countries, as well as a higher tendency among women to report the crimes to the police. "It is much more complicated than the way the media are normally presenting it," Jerzy Sarnecki, a professor of criminology at Stockholm University, told The Daily Beast. "According to studies which I have done on general crime, most of the differences in recorded crimes between immigrants and Swedes are explained by socioeconomic factors. It doesn't mean of course, that one, a few, or several other incidents of that kind (sexual assaults perpetuated by immigrants) didn't happen. "

Although the wave of people fleeing conflicts in Afghanistan, Africa, and Syria are a fairly recent phenomenon in the Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, the pervasive fear and stereotyping of immigrants among residents of their adoptive countries is nothing new on this side of the Atlantic. Prejudice against immigrants has been rampant throughout American history, and each new group of arrivals to the New World was often viewed as inferior "others" with an inborn tendency for criminality. In the 1840s, Protestant mobs in Philadelphia rioted against Irish Catholics, leaving 13 dead.  Anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic attitudes also produced groups like the nativist "American Party," which sought to promote what they called "traditional American ideals."

Throughout the 19th century, Americans commonly carried out attacks on Chinese immigrant communities, which were viewed with distrust and blamed for taking jobs from Americans born in the US. Chinese characters in so-called "Yellow Peril novels," were depicted as sly, sinister individuals bent on overthrowing the government. And in 1881, a New Orleans mob lynched 11 Italians believed to have been involved in a murder of a local lawmaker, nine of whom had already been tried and acquitted. A New York Times editorial described the murdered men as "sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins, who have transported to this country, the lawless passions, the cutthroat practices, and the oath-bound societies of their native country, are to us a pest without mitigation."

And today, some 135 years later, presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump made headlines around the world after describing Mexican immigrants as "rapists" who bring drugs and crime to the country, indicating that in America, as elsewhere, the xenophobic fear of the "other" is not limited to history books. "One of the ghosts of all kinds of racial prejudices is allegations of sexual crimes against women," Sarnecki said, noting that in the 19th and 20th centuries many African-American men were executed based on (often unproven) allegations of raping white women. "It's an old, very well-used argument against immigrants." "Young men coming from the Middle East confronting the much more open way of behavior of Swedish women may have, from time to time, committed acts which are criminal," he added. "But then the whole discussion is extremely exaggerated because of the political dimension of it."

In recent years, the Nordic nation of less than 10 million people has taken in thousands of asylum seekers, many fleeing the bloody civil war in Syria. More than 163,000 applications for asylum were received in 2015 alone – double the amount submitted during the Balkan wars in the 1990s. With the influx of refugees, concerns have mounted regarding whether the country possesses the social resources to absorb so many newcomers. "It has been a very difficult autumn where our ability to handle the task has been tested to the absolute limit," the Swedish Migration Agency's Director-General Anders Danielsson said in a statement on the agency's website earlier this year.

As Sweden has grappled with ways to successfully integrate the thousands of new immigrants, the country has seen a surge in support for the far-right Sweden Democrats party, which has called on leaders to keep refugees out. "Border controls are a step in the right direction but we want to see border closures,” the party’s spokesman for migration and citizenship, Markus Wiechel, told The Guardian back in November shortly after the terror attacks in Paris. As anti-immigrant sentiment has spread in the country, crimes targeting refugees have likewise increased. Dozens of asylum centers have been torched in arson attacks in recent months, and in late-January around 100 masked demonstrators marched into downtown Stockholm, where they distributed leaflets that read: "It’s enough now" and threatening to punish the "north African street children who are roaming around."

The recent rise in support for the onetime fringe party and its hostile stance on immigration is a factor in why the police and the press were quick to jump to conclusions following the music festival attacks, Michael Williams, a founding member and vice-chairman of FARR, a non-profit network of refugee support groups told The Daily Beast. "I think a number of people have been influenced by the kind of lunge in Sweden over the last three or four years to an anti-immigrant party," Williams said, referring to the Sweden Democrats. "And people's prejudices can sometimes affect their professional judgment." The news of the festival assaults has provoked outrage in Sweden, and the British rock group Mumford and Sons, who performed at Bråvalla, took to Facebook to say that they planned to boycott the event.

"We won't play at this festival again until we've had assurances from the police and organizers that they're doing something to combat what appears to be a disgustingly high rate of reported sexual violence," the group wrote. In the meantime, Swedish Prime Minister Prime Stefan Lofven announced on Tuesday that the government will review the country's current sex assault laws and look into tightening them. Sarnecki said that sexual assault is often a crime of opportunity, and both he and Williams cite music festivals themselves, with their vast, tightly packed crowds and free-flowing booze, as places where sexual predators can operate with a lower risk of getting caught. Indeed, some of the victims in this instance were unable to identify their attackers, and, in such an environment, it’s not difficult for an assailant to grope his victim and then quickly melt away into the throngs of revelers.

"There is a complex discussion emerging from this incorrect assignation (to refugees) about the frequency of sexual assaults in public places," Williams said. "I've heard middle-aged women saying that when they were in their teens this kind of behavior did take place, but at that time it wasn't openly mentioned." Susanna Udvardi, the director of the Southeast Skåne Women’s Shelter, who heads up a volunteer group that assists refugees with integration in Sweden, told The Daily Beast that men need to be educated to respect women from a young age, regardless of cultural background. Only then will incidences of sexual assault in the country, and elsewhere, diminish. She also pointed out that the "refugee-as-rapist" emphasis in certain press outlets also obscures the larger issue of sexual violence against women, whereby the victims themselves are forgotten and the pervasive global issue of sexual assault is minimized.

"The focus in the media is wrong," Udvardi said. "The focus is not on the victim." She added: "There are idiots who rape women in every culture, not just refugees." There are. And if incidents of sexual violence are approached with the taint of pre-conceived prejudices rather than objective facts, the damage can be long lasting, not least of all to victims, who won't see justice if police nab the wrong guys. As for the ethnic communities of those accused, suspicions and fear of "the other" can linger even after the truth has come out. "When the policemen in Karlstad went out and said that these were unaccompanied minors, it was accepted as a proven fact for a number of days," Williams said.  "And it's always the first headlines that people remember. They don't remember the corrected version."

© The Daily Beast
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Albania: Gay Marriage Threat Worries Conservatives

Right-wing MPs and clerics say proposals to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation will smooth the path towards legalisation of gay marriage.

10/7/2016- Albanian conservatives and clerics are demanding withdrawal of a proposal to outlaw discrimination based on sexual identity, saying it could open the way towards gay marriage. The arguments come ahead of an expected vote in Albania's parliament on a package of judicial reforms sought by the EU on July 21. The constitutional changes, among other amendments, including changing Article 4 of the constitution that refers to non-discrimination. The ad-hoc committee of professionals that wrote the basis of reform proposed to include constitutional protection against discrimination based on "sexual orientation" in adition to gender, race, religion and others.

On Thursday, Mesila Doda, an MP for the Party for Justice, Integration, and Unity, PDIU, which is in coalition with the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama, asked her colleagues to not vote for the reform until this amendment is withdrawn. Speaking in the plenary session Doda said that "without doubt, the changes [to the constitution] open the way for gay marriage. "We are not going to vote the draft if you don't withdraw the amendment," she added, addressing parliament. Doda called on her colleagues in the chamber to trust in God and urged them to "not vote changes that change our social model." Doda's party mainly represents members of the Cham community, ethnic Albanians expelled from Greece after World War II. But much the same arguments are also being used by the Catholic and Muslim community leaders to show their disagreement with the initiative.

A well known imam in Tirana, Ahmed Kalaja, on Facebook on Thursday said Doda's speech was powerful and welcomed by all religious communities in the country. "To believe in God and, at the same time, to approve that law, are two things that cannot go along together... cursed be whoever added that amendment to the package of judicial reforms," the imam wrote. On Friday, two organizations protecting LBGT rights in Albania reacted against the MP's speech. Xheni Karaj, of the LGBT Alliance, and Kristi Pinderi, from ProLGBT, in a joint statement said it was absurd to suggest the proposed reform opened the way to gay marriage. "We have spent 48 hours going through the drafts of the reform and we cannot find an article speaking about marriage," the statement reads.
© Balkan Insight

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UK: Why don't Syrian refugees stay in Turkey?

15/7/2016- More than a million migrants crossed the Mediterranean last year to reach Europe - usually in dangerously overcrowded boats. Many were Syrians who had fled their country's civil war - as featured in a series of videos published on the BBC website this week. Here we answer readers' questions about why they were prepared to risk drowning at sea to reach Europe, after crossing the Syrian border into Turkey.

Turkey is a safe place - why don't they stay there?
The majority of Syrians in Turkey and other countries that neighbour Syria are staying where they are. It's only a minority who try to make the journey to Europe. An estimated 4.9 million Syrians have left their homes to seek asylum abroad since the conflict started in 2011. By the end of 2015, Turkey was hosting 2.5 million refugees - mostly from Syria. But things are often getting worse for the refugees rather than better, as time goes on. "After five years of conflict, many are slipping deeper and deeper into poverty," says UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Ariane Rummery. "Many children are still not in school... in Turkey for example only about 40% of the refugees are in school. "Further afield, many of them think they will have a better chance of education and rebuilding their lives." People don't want to stay in camps indefinitely. It has also been hard for refugees to get work in Turkey, although legislation has recently been introduced that may make it easier to get a work permit.

Why don't they travel to Europe legally - can't they go to an embassy in Turkey and apply there?
The British Home Office says that people seeking asylum should do so in the first safe country they reach. As the UK deems Turkey to be a safe country, they are unable to go to the British embassy in Ankara to apply to move to the UK. The UK is not alone in taking this approach - many other countries do the same. There are very few legal ways to travel, says Rummery. "The vast majority of countries do not issue visas for people fleeing danger so they can book a plane ticket and fly safely and then apply for asylum." However, a few nations, such as Brazil, offer special humanitarian visas. Brazilian embassies in countries neighbouring Syria issue visas so that people can travel legally. They can then claim asylum as soon as they arrive in Brazil. The Home Office points out that the UK has committed to resettling 20,000 Syrians in the UK during this parliament, which is due to run until 2020. These people will be selected from the countries neighbouring Syria, with the help of the UNHCR. Those who have crossed the Mediterranean and entered the European Union will not be eligible.

Why don't Syrian refugees go to countries closer to home?
The vast majority of Syrian refugees are being hosted in neighbouring countries. As well as the 2.5 million in Turkey, there are about one million in Lebanon - whose own population is only just over four million. Jordan has 628,000 and Egypt 117,000. Rummery adds that the Gulf Cooperation Council has released figures showing there are 1.5 million Syrians in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. Because these countries are not signatories to the Refugee Convention, Syrians there are not officially counted as refugees and they are not included in the UNHCR's 4.9 million figure. Also, some were already in these countries as migrant workers before the war began; their families have since been allowed to join them.

Why are they coming to the UK instead of going to other European countries?
Many migrants are applying for asylum in other European countries. UNHCR figures show that Germany had the most new applications in 2015 - 441,900 in total, of which 158,700 were made by Syrians. Sweden had 156,400 new applications for asylum - 50,900 from Syrians. In October last year, the Home Office reported that the UK had taken in more than 5,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Syria since 2011. In the year to March 2016, a total of 1,981 asylum requests were granted, plus a further 1,667 under the vulnerable person resettlement scheme.

Why don't young Syrian men stay at home and fight for their country?
Some have fought to defend their own cities, and have fled only after being defeated. Others may be at risk of forced recruitment into an armed group they do not support. "People will try to avoid fighting for IS or other armed groups who stop them at checkpoints," says Rummery. Some Syrians may be unsure whether any of the warring factions are fighting for the good of the country. "There isn't a simple clear narrative of who the different parties are - there is a multitude of armed actors," says Rummery.

How can they afford mobile phones?
Many of the refugees had well-paid jobs before the war and had a high standard of living. Phones are crucial for migrants - they are a way to stay in touch with family, as well as a source of information such as maps and contacts. If they have not got a smartphone anyway, a family planning to travel to Europe will do whatever they can to buy one.
© BBC News

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Hungary: Glad to be gay

9/7/2016- The streets were entirely empty, save for the 20,000 people marching through them. Members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and their allies braved a hot July sun on Saturday to demonstrate through Budapest’s downtown in celebration of the city’s 21st Budapest Pride Festival. Waving rainbow flags and shimmying to upbeat dance music booming from the flatbed of a white Mercedes 10-wheeler, demonstrators maintained a jovial mood while an escort of police watched over the perimeter. The only way into the parade was through two security checkpoints managed by organisers at Hűsök tere, the march’s commencement point. As in years past, the entire parade route was cordoned off, as were all side-streets stretching a city block in each direction. It created a surreal scene: the only people who witnessed the demonstrations were those who lived, worked or were concurrently patronising businesses along the route.

In 2007 and in 2008, hundreds of anti-gay counter-protesters disturbed the marches by throwing rocks, eggs and other refuse at participants. Police have provided the one-block buffer zone to the parade route each year since. This year’s march started just after 4pm. The demonstrators headed southwest down Andrássy út before turning right onto Nagymezű utca, and then swinging briefly north up to Alkotmány út. They then flooded into Kossuth Lajos tér in front of the Parliament building, where activists gave speeches demanding greater legal recognition from their government and greater respect and tolerance from Hungarian citizenry writ large. Csaba Császár, one of the event organisers, spoke passionately in the square. He urged attendees to build coalitions with Hungary’s other vulnerable populations. “It doesn’t matter who we’re talking about, we have to defend each other,” Császár said. “If you don’t like it when people belittle you for being gay, don’t allow them to belittle gypsies.”

A spokesperson for the Hungarian Police Department reported that there were no arrests. Along the parade route, demonstrators expressed joy and relief at being in a space where they felt accepted. “I have a place here,” said Andrea Müller, an 18-year-old transgendered woman originally from the town of Mosonmagyaróvár in northwest Hungary. Müller said this was her first Pride parade. Müller said she has identified herself as female since she “was little”, but she only came out to her parents as transgendered at the age of 14. She said they were slow to accept her at first but have become fully supportive in the years since. Still, within the Hungarian populace at large, Müller finds resistance, even in the comparatively cosmopolitan capital.

“I wouldn’t say people are nasty but they’re not always tolerant either. Some people don’t know that I’m trans. Once I tell them that I am, some people just stop talking to me.”
According to Hadley Z. Renkin, a professor of Gender Studies at Central European University whose work is focused on gay identity in post-socialist Hungary, the ascendance of the right-wing Fidesz government in 2010 has led to a conflation of anti-gay rhetoric with anti-western Europe rhetoric, which has in turn inflamed homophobia in Hungary. He pointed to an amendment to the 2012 Hungarian Constitution, which restricted the definition of marriage to heterosexual couples, as an example of anti-LGBT policy on the part of the government. “I think this kind of move, which is visible in public on the part of the government, can set a tone in the way people see a certain social group.” But many at the march painted a brighter picture, suggesting that homophobia in Budapest has never created problems for them, and they’re able to behave in public however they wish.

Adri Huszák, a 21-year-old physical therapy student, said no one in Budapest ever said anything to her, despite “it being pretty obvious that I’m a lesbian”. “I’m openly gay. It’s accepted,” said Huszák, who is originally from Kecskemét but now lives in Budapest. “I can walk through the streets and no one says anything.” Still, others from out of town said Hungary has work to do to become a fully inclusive place for its LGBT community. Decked out in black leather pants, knee-high black boots, a tank top and a black sash embroidered with the words, “Mr. Leather Europe 2015”, 37-year-old Austrian Thorsten Buhl said Budapest lagged behind cities in the Western world when it comes to the open celebration of queer identity.

Buhl has marched in Gothenburg, Vienna, Amsterdam and other Pride parades. “I represent the leather community of Europe,” he said of the inscription on his sash, which he described as a “BDSM [bondage, etc.] and fetish community” that is “unfortunately not” existent in Budapest. Noting that Budapest is about the same size as Vienna, which he said does have a leather community, Buhl said the lack of one in Budapest is evidence of homophobia in the city. “If there wasn’t, the fetish people would dare be out and proud,” he said. Hungary has allowed registered partnership to LGBT couples since 2009. Under the current system, LGBT couples are granted some of the rights that married couples are entitled to – such as hospital visitation and some tax incentives – but are denied other rights, notably the joint adoption of children.

At a press conference in Debrecen in May, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the current system of allowing registered partnerships to LGBT couples while only granting full marriage rights to heterosexual couples is a compromise that ensures a lasting accord between the LGBT community and the more socially conservative elements of the Hungarian populace. “Hungary is a serious country built on tradtional values… Hungary is a tolerant country,” he said. “Tolerance doesn’t mean that we need to grant equal legal rights to different lifestyles from our own… I feel compelled to let the homosexuals in the Hungarian public know that they shouldn’t comport themselves in a provocative way.” Orbán said such behaviour cuts against LGBT groups’ own interests by inflaming backlash from the other side of the debate.

“Hungary’s Constitution makes clear differences between marriage and other forms of cohabitation… foreigners don’t feel that Budapest is in any way a dangerous city. Which I think is good. This is how we can live together. If we move the system in either direction… then I think the peace will collapse.” According to Renkin, a major political divide in Hungary right now is the belief among anti-LGBT Hungarians that the LGBT community is less “Hungarian”. “One of the reasons that the Fidesz government and many Hungarian nationalists have such a problem with LGBT people is that they see them as representatives of the West,” he said. “They see them as foreigners.” If that’s the case, then for one day at least they were foreigners who conquered territory: pouring through the streets, appropriating Hungarian football anthems and holding up signs mocking leadership in government as they danced to live music next to the Danube River in the long shadows of the late afternoon. “Why should I have less rights to be visible than heterosexual families with children?” asked Buhl. Added Huszák: “People should be able to love whomever they love.”
© The Budapest Times

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UKIP rule change excludes most of partyís key figures from leadership election

The UK Independence Party has changed the rules for its leadership election at the eleventh hour – to exclude many of the party’s key figures.

12/7/2016- Nigel Farage resigned as UKIP leader for a third time last week in the wake of the EU referendum, promising to walk away from the role. However, the planned leadership contest has already been thrown into dissaray, after a last-minute rule change by the executive that requires all leadership candidates to have been a UKIP member for at least five years. As the party only rose from obscurity in the past few years, the rule means that nearly all of the senior UKIP figures mooted for the position until now are unable to run for leader. These include the sole UKIP Member of Parliament Douglas Carswell, Welsh Assembly Member Mark Reckless, top donor Arron Banks, London Assembly Member Peter Whittle and David Kurten, and former interim leader Suzanne Evans. As early frontrunner Paul Nuttall has now also ruled out a bid, there is now a serious question about how many candidates could be eligible run. North Eastern MEP Jonathan Arnott is so far the only candidate to have declared he is running.

Fellow MEPs Diane James and Steven Woolfe are thought to also be mulling bids – while AM Neil Hamilton is eligible to run despite having ruled out a bid. The party’s former interim leader Suzanne Evans was already blocked from the party – as she was suspended earlier this year after calling for the deselection of a homophobic candidate. She said: “I cannot imagine a decision more ridiculous and more likely to bring UKIP into disrepute. “It means people such as Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless cannot stand, despite the huge dedication they have shown to the party and their current elected positions. “I hope the new leader will allow members to attend NEC meetings unless confidential information is being discussed, publish the minutes, and set up a ‘right of recall’ so NEC members are accountable to members. “At the moment, frankly, by operating in secret, changing the rules as it goes along, and being totally unaccountable, it is behaving like the EU.”
© Pink News

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UK: Sadiq Khan speaks for peaceful Islam at Trafalgar Sq Eid festival (Blog post)

London’s Muslim mayor has been confounding past claims by opponents that he’s had questionable “links” with Islamist extremists
By Dave Hill


10/7/2016- Just a few months ago, before the EU referendum triggered earthquakes across the UK political landscape, the Conservative party and its press allies were seeking, unsuccessfully, to portray Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, and at that time Labour’s candidate to become London mayor, as having questionable “links” with Islamist fanatics in one of the most poisonous election campaigns the country had ever seen.

On Saturday, Mayor Khan addressed an audience of thousands at London’s 11th annual Eid al-Fitr celebration in Trafalgar Square for the first time since taking office. He called for peace, unity and an embrace of religious freedom and diversity, describing this as one of London’s great strengths. He pledged zero tolerance of hate crimes, reports of which have risen in the wake of the EU leave vote, and he denounced “criminals who do bad things and use the name of Islam to justify what they do”. After that came a crowd-embracing selfie with TV presenter Konnie Huq, who had introduced him. The whole event received positive and rather lavish coverage from the Daily Mail - a far cry from April when Mail columnist and BBC Sunday Politics regular Isabel Oakeshott was recycling “troubling” stories of exceptional flimsiness to question Khan’s suitability for City Hall and her venerable colleague Max Hastings was declaring, absurdly, that Khan “represents a brand of socialism that is out of fashion even in Cuba”.

In reality, of course, Khan in office is turning to be nothing like what the Mail’s pundits predicted and has been putting campaign pledges to be “a Mayor for all Londoners” and a Muslim mayor who’d “take the fight to the extremists” into early effect. Only three weeks ago, he addressed the Pride in London festival from the same stage. His short Eid video message showed that he is still not the most natural performer in front of a camera, but there’s no mistaking the symbolic value of a moderate, socially liberal Muslim being elected the UK capital’s political leader.  Compare that with his predecessor Boris Johnson’s Eid message performance last year.
No contest.
Dave Hill has been writing for the Guardian since 1984 and its award-winning London commentator since 2008
© The Guardian - Dave Hill blog

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UK: Liverpool lawyer unmasked as ex-leader of far right British Resistance party

Joe Chiffers now facing disciplinary action from bosses over extreme views

9/7/2016- A Liverpool lawyer is today unmasked as the ex-leader of a far right party called British Resistance. The extreme group – once headed by Joe Chiffers from MSB Solicitors – vowed to “reclaim Britain from our oppressors”. The employment lawyer is now facing a disciplinary hearing after bosses learnt about his far right activities. Speaking to the ECHO, the 34-year-old insisted he is not a racist but said he would never apologise for his political beliefs. In videos on the internet, Mr Chiffers says he wants to shift British politics “radically to the right”. He also says: “The indigenous British have the right to remain a majority in their own homeland.” Mr Chiffers stood for Ukip in Liverpool Riverside in last year’s general election, winning 2,500 votes. The solicitor then became leader of British Resistance when it was set up in March but resigned in May.

One of the party’s registered officers is Jack Sen – the former West Lancs Ukip candidate who was suspended after his Twitter account was used, allegedly by a party activist, to send anti-Semitic messages to Wavertree MP Luciana Berger. He later defected to the BNP. Mr Chiffers is also chairman of a right-wing think-tank called the British Renaissance Policy Institute. He wrote on its website his aim is to “save western civilization from destruction”. Mr Sen and Mr Chiffers both appeared in a video filmed outside Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum in March. In the five-minute clip, Mr Sen describes British Resistance as a “new party formed to combat cultural Marxism and help us reclaim Britain from our oppressors”.

In a follow-up clip, Mr Chiffers claims the museum is an “instrument of psychological warfare” that “guilts people into accepting mass immigration”. He also talks about the Overton window – a pundits’ term for the range of political opinions the public will find acceptable. Mr Chiffers says: “We need to move that Overton window radically to the right if we are to stand any chance of winning.” He also says in the same video: “The indigenous British have the right to remain a majority in their own homeland.” The British Resistance Facebook page also makes numerous far right references, although Mr Chiffers says he never had any involvement in the party’s social media. Its Facebook page says: “No foreign aid, no EU, no immigration. No more PC rubbish, no quangos, no foreign wars, confront cultural Marxism. Indigenous British people first.”

The page was used to share a message from ex-BNP leader Nick Griffin after the EU referendum saying “Happy Independence Day to all Britons”. It was also used to re-publish a link to an article that accused Remain campaigners of using the death of Labour MP Jo Cox for “political purposes”. And the page was used to post some photos of an immigration raid accompanied by the words “disgusting filthy illegals”. Mr Chiffers’ conduct is now under investigation by his bosses, who have launched disciplinary proceedings. He claimed he could not comment on the disciplinary matters but said: “I have provided all of my clients with the best possible service irrespective of their personal characteristics.” He added: “I will not apologise for my political philosophy, which is in no way supportive of violence or racism.

“In the spirit of freedom of speech, the fair and ethical approach for people who disagree with my political philosophy is to engage with me in a rational debate, which I would welcome, rather than to simply damage my career and reputation as a dedicated solicitor, which I may never come back from.” Paul Bibby, managing partner at MSB Solicitors, said: “The incident involving Joseph Chiffers has been brought to our attention and we have already commenced disciplinary proceedings. “They have not yet concluded and we must not pre-judge their outcome. “However, we pride ourselves on being a socially liberal firm and the views expressed are absolutely the antithesis of what we stand for at MSB.”
© The Liverpool Echo

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