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Headlines 15 December, 2017

Headlines 8 December, 2017

Headlines 1 December, 2017

Headlines 15 December, 2017

Dutch Minister plans major overhaul of integration policy, language lessons from day 1

12/12/2017- Current government policy on integration needs a complete overhaul, junior social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees says in Tuesday’s Telegraaf. The minister told the paper he is shocked at the scale of the problems he has encountered since taking up office and intends to totally reform integration policy. In particular, Koolmees wants to introduce language lessons ‘from day one’. ‘We know that proficiency in Dutch is extremely important for a person’s options in the labour market. It is very simple. I want to raise the standard in order to increase people’s chances of finding work.’ As soon as people arrive in the Netherlands they will go through a sort of scan to determine more about them, their level of education and their experience. This will enable local authorities, who will be in charge of the process, to plan the best integration programme for the individual, he said. A spokesman for the social affairs ministry told DutchNews.nl that the new strategy still needs to be worked out in detail and will take time to implement but that the idea of screening would apply to all new arrivals who are required to go through the integration process. ‘The idea is to see what everyone needs so that people who need more help will get it,’ the spokesman said. ‘There is a difference between what the refugee needs and, say, someone who has come here to work. It is about offering a tailor-made approach.’

Quality
The minister told the Telegraaf said he wants local councils to buy the courses from private agencies on the basis of quality, pointing out that the newcomers, who have to pay for the process themselves, are the ones suffering from poor teaching. Koolmees said that the problems would not be solved overnight. ‘There is clearly a serious problem but I see it as a challenge to better structure policy,’ he said. ‘But I not going to promise the earth. This will always remain a complicated subject.’
© The Dutch News

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German neo-Nazi charged 17 years after terrorist attack

A neo-Nazi has been charged in connection with a bomb attack in the western German city of Düsseldorf in 2000 that injured several Jewish people. Observers are wondering why this has happened so long after the incident.

11/12/2017- Düsseldorf prosecutor Ralf Herrenbrück announced last week that the 51-year-old suspect Ralf S. would be charged, 10 months after his arrest in February, with 12 counts of attempted murder and one count of causing an explosion. A state court will now decide whether to take the matter to trial. The explosion from the home-made pipe-bomb attached to a footbridge at the Düsseldorf-Wehrhahn station in July 2000 injured several Jewish migrants, all from the former Soviet Union, who were learning German at a nearby language school at the time. One woman lost her unborn baby as a result of the attack, and five of the injured have joined the prosecutors as co-plaintiffs.

Evidence not pursued
The charges and the long delay of 17 years have raised questions about the initial investigation — especially in the light of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) murders, which showed that police and intelligence agencies avoided pursuing the lines of inquiry that led to Germany's far-right scene. Ralf S., a former soldier and known neo-Nazi who traded military memorabilia in a store in the area where the bomb went off, was identified as a suspect early on, but police failed to collect enough evidence to make an arrest. It was only several years later that Ralf S. was successfully connected to the crime, when he confessed to a fellow inmate while serving a short jail sentence for unpaid bills. The case was re-opened in 2014, leading to his arrest in February 2017. The prosecutors' 250-page indictment contains testimony from 96 witnesses as well as evidence from phone calls made by the suspect.

According to a report in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger newspaper, the suspect had called another well-known neo-Nazi in the area, Sven Skoda, to request the latter to supply him with an alibi, and had described "the Wehrhahn business" as the fourth happiest moment of his life after the births of his three children. Despite suspicions, an internal prosecutors' report a year after the bombing found that "neo-Nazis were to be seen as a rather improbable" cause of the crime — and suggested that a "crazy solo perpetrator" or eastern European mafia were to be seen as suspects.

Police problems
Maximilian Kirstein, a spokesman for the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, an anti-racism organization, said he did see some parallels with the NSU investigations. "In retrospect, it emerged that a few things were missed," he said. "For example, that the domestic intelligence had had an informant working in the perpetrator's shop." But he did say that it was "a good sign" that the case had been re-opened, and that the prosecutors had shown they wanted to investigate the matter — "just the fact that the act is being recognized for what it is, namely a far-right attack that was meant to kill people." Left party Bundestag member Martina Renner saw the Wehrhahn case as part of a pattern in which the police had avoided neo-Nazi explanations. "There are many such cases, and in the Wehrhahn case there were many questions why the investigating authorities didn't pursue possible neo-Nazi motivations," she told DW.

The problem, she said, was the assumptions the police made. "The police talk their way out of it by saying there was no letter claiming responsibility, and that therefore there was no political motivation — but when it comes to far-right crimes, the acts themselves represent a political message," Renner said. "They are messages to the community at which they are aimed, namely: 'You need to leave this country, and if you don't, we will kill you.' And that's how they are understood by the communities in question." Renner also said that she hoped prosecutors would do more than simply put Ralf S. on trial. "There will only be a complete investigation if there is room in the trial to look into whether there were accomplices — whether the bomb had been built with other people, or whether he had help checking the language school to see when the group of victims would leave," she said. "It's important not to simply pursue the single perpetrator theory, and the second thing is that they need to find out why the investigation wasn't carried out properly or may have been blocked."

None of this, she added, had so far been achieved with the NSU trial.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Website Documents Police Violence Against Refugees in Balkans

The German NGO Rigardu has launched a website gathering reports of illegal push-backs and police violence this year against refugees using the so-called Balkan Route.

11/12/2017- Marking International Human Rights Day, the German human rights NGO, Rigardu, has launched a website documenting allegations of police violence against mostly Middle-Eastern refugees traveling westwards along the so-called Balkan Route. The NGO, Volunteers of Rigardu, and two NGOs based on Serbia’s borders with Croatia and Subotica – No Name Kitchen and Fresh Response – have gathered 110 reports of alleged illegal push-backs over the border and police violence involving at least 857 refugees from January to late November this year. Some 52 of these cases included minors. Of the total, 289 come from Afghanistan, 116 from Pakistan and 123 from the Maghreb region. Other nationalities included people from Bangladesh, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Cuba.

The report states that refugees suffered violence “such as beating, kicking, electric shocks and even dog bites, and were deprived of their belongings, including their clothes, and forced to wait for hours at sub-zero temperature”. Besides photos, the reports contain details of the violence used, the number of police officers involved, as well as the dates and locations of the incidents. “Three or four policemen beat the interviewed man with a fist to all body parts, also to his face, for about 10 to 20 minutes,” it said of a 27-year-old Pakistani, who testified about the violence he allegedly suffered from the Hungarian police in November. “The police put a branch of a tree to his mouth and, to fix it, rolled his jumper around his head. They shouted, ‘Don’t speak, go back to Serbia’,” another report said about an Afghan, who described the violence allegedly used by the Croatian police in October.

NGOs have registered repeated push-backs and violence on the borders between Slovenia and Croatia, Croatia and Serbia and Serbia and Hungary. Most of the violence was allegedly committed along the Serbian borders by the Croatian and Hungarian police, illegally deporting refugees back to Serbia. Slovenian police mostly pushed back refugees to Croatia, from where the police further pushed them back to Serbia, forming so-called "push-back chains". The report specifies that 76 of these cases were allegedly committed by the Croatian police, 16 by the Hungarian police and 12 by the Slovenian police. Rigardu said at least two-thirds of those interviewed had expressed a wish to apply for asylum. Therefore, the NGO claims that the push-backs violated the Geneva Convention, the European Charter of Human Rights and Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Croatia's Interior Ministry told BIRN that its police did not use undue force. Officers carried out their duty to try to prevent migrants from illegally entering Croatia, without expulsions. “We do not support any form of violence or intolerance by police officers, especially towards migrants who are in a vulnerable position and seek international protection in the Republic of Croatia. However, no such event has been confirmed so far,” it said. Slovenia's Interior Ministry told BIRN it was also not aware of such alleged conduct on the part of its police. “As the Slovenian police is committed to maintaining high standards of professionalism and the legality of its work, especially in upholding human rights, your claims have come as a great surprise. We are not aware of any such cases of push-backs and violence by the Slovenian police,” the ministry stated.

The Hungarian Interior Ministry told BIRN that it wished to draw “attention to the fact that the Hungarian police protect the borders of the EU and Hungary”. It said that the state prosecutor's office had all the information on all potential disciplinary processes against police who may have used violence. The state prosecutor's office did not reply to BIRN’s inquiry by the time of publication, however. Rigardu reported about the Croatian police' use of violence against refugees in late June, which the Interior Ministry then denied. Other groups have also reported police violence and the unlawful treatment of refugees earlier this year, however. In January, the Jesuit Refugee Service reported the Croatian Interior Ministry to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, and to the Croatian ombudsman's office, for illegally deporting refugees to Serbia.

The same month, Human Rights Watch said the Croatian police were not respecting the rights of asylum-seekers arriving in the country and had been pushing them back to Serbia. The refugee crisis on the so-called Balkan route, which struck Croatia in September 2015, has eased since Balkan countries collectively closed their borders to refugees and migrants in March 2016.
© Balkan Insight

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Greece: The women of Golden Dawn

10/12/2017- “I am overwhelmed by all the attention ‘Golden Dawn Girls’ has gotten already. Right now I need to have full focus on everything that needs to be done for the premiere in Amsterdam, but as things look now we’ll be able to show the film in Greece in 2018,” says Havard Bustnes, a Norwegian filmmaker who has been inundated by interview requests from Greece since the release of the trailer for his new documentary on the women behind the men of Greece’s far-right party. The reason for this attention is that Bustnes achieved something many have tried and failed at: getting unprecedented access into the private lives of key members of a party that stands accused of orchestrating dozens of brutal attacks against migrants and detractors, but also of murder.

Kathimerini traveled to Amsterdam for the documentary’s premiere, but also to speak to the filmmaker who dedicated four years of his life to this project. “When I was a kid I used to come to Greece for holidays and for a guy from the cold north your country was like a paradise,” says the 44-year-old filmmaker. “When I learned that Golden Dawn were the fifth biggest party I was shocked and I really wanted to understand more about it.” Bustnes knew that getting access would be tough, but he was lucky. Christian Falch, a close friend – and one of the documentary’s co-producers as it turned out – had just finished filming a music documentary called “Blackhearts” on the Norwegian heavy metal scene.

One of his subjects was Giorgos Germenis, the 39-year-old musician and a prominent Golden Dawn MP who goes by the moniker Kaiadas (after the bottomless pit the ancient Spartans were said to toss their unfit children and enemies into). Falch’s crew had already spent a lot of time with Germenis and his family, so when the Greek MP was imprisoned as part of the ongoing trial against Golden Dawn, he and Bustnes approached Germenis’s wife with the idea of making a documentary about the women in the party. Evgenia Christou agreed without hesitation. “She never asked anything about me, much less my political position,” says Bustnes.

Rocky start
The Norwegian filmmaker was warned by several journalists to tread cautiously as soon as he embarked on the project. We see him in the film trying to pass unnoticed as much as possible, often dressing in black – Golden Dawn’s color of choice. He is not always welcome and on several occasions is seen being ordered to switch off the camera while filming at party headquarters. Christou intervenes: “He wants to show that we’re regular people, with families.” “Are you sure it won’t be shown on ERT or something?” Ilias Panagiotaros, another prominent party official, asks her in reference to Greek public television. “Come on, he’s Norwegian,” she responds.

Christou introduced Bustnes to Dafni Iliopoulou, the mother of indicted lawmaker Panagiotis Iliopoulos. At the home where the MP grew up, beside a swimming pool flanked with pseudo-Grecian statuary, she explains that she spent years supporting the socialist PASOK party before joining Golden Dawn, “the only nationalist party in Greece.” We see her later in the film dusting her collection of rifles and teaching her grandchildren how to hold a gun (using a replica), while offering her explanation of the accusations against the party: “[Former prime minister Antonis] Samaras went to a Jewish council in America and they told him to take down Golden Dawn at any cost.” “Let’s not kid ourselves; we’re being tapped through our phones as we speak,” she warns at another point, bringing up another conspiracy theory.

Access to the third protagonist, Ourania Michaloliakou, the outspoken daughter of party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, took a little longer but appeared relatively simple. “It took at least six months before we even met her. I didn’t pitch anything. She never asked. At some point she just accepted,” says Bustnes. Gaining her trust also took a while. “It was funny, because at the beginning we were only allowed to film on the first floor of the headquarters. I think it was a matter of them wanting to have control of the filming. But slowly we got access to the second floor, afterward the third and the fourth, and in the end we filmed Michaloliakou with her father on the fifth floor in his office,” he adds.

Bustnes’s camera also follows the subjects into their homes, to their meetings with lawyers and on prison visits. Throughout, the filmmaker asks them tough questions about the trial and the party’s fascist ideology. The filmmaker admits that the process was a constant tug-of-war with the subjects, and especially Christou, who wanted to have control over filming. In one scene we see Bustnes losing his patience when she staunchly denies an event that has been captured on video: “I saw it on the internet (…) is that something you didn’t want me to see? You want me only to see the good things, pictures of babies?”

There is a similar confrontation with Michaloliakou toward the end of the film. That filmmaker-subject relationship was complicated from the get-go. “She is the daughter of the chief; I have to be careful with my words,” Bustnes tells viewers as he steps into her apartment for the first time. Michaloliakou introduces him to Candy, a small white dog dressed in a white tunic with red bows, and shows him her collection of Disney movies and board games. “This is what we, the bad fascists, do. Sorry to ruin the myth,” she says. But the camera also captures her saying things like “We’ll drink their blood with a straw” when talking about party detractors or professing that she knows one of the witnesses who said she had been attacked by members of Golden Dawn is lying because “she wouldn’t be able to talk if she’d been punched by one our men.”

Bustnes remembers that the impression he had when he first met Michaloliakou was that she wanted a regular life and didn’t want to be an active part of Golden Dawn. “She was studying psychology and told me she wanted to go and study in Britain. She wanted to leave Greece,” he says. By the end of filming, he had changed his mind entirely. In one scene, he shows her photographs of her father giving the Nazi salute in front of the Third Reich flag. “I think he liked that period of history but, no, I don’t think he’s a Nazi,” she tells him. “Do you really believe that or is it a lie you tell yourself? You know, Ourania, you can love him and still say that you don’t support that part of him,” counters Bustnes, to her obvious annoyance.

“I support everything about my father. I support every single part about what he thinks, believes, does,” she says with an icy edge to her voice. The filmmaker persists, asking if she also supports the Nazi ideology and other uncomfortable questions, until Michaloliakou walks away. “Because we worked with her for so long, I really hoped there was something under the mask, that she could distance herself from her father. I hoped that she could say it – and she didn’t. Golden Dawn is her life,” says Bustnes. That scene was the last time he saw or spoke to Michaloliakou. Earlier this month he sent her a copy of the film but never got a response. Only Evgenia Christou sent him a few messages. “She was upset. I think she had hoped that this film would convince everyone that her husband was innocent. I couldn’t make that film,” he says.

Mission accomplished
We talk about the trial. Bustnes has been to the specially designed courtroom at Korydallos Prison twice and hopes to get permission to film a session at some point. I ask him whether he thinks Golden Dawn is guilty as charged. “I’m not an expert, so I can’t have an opinion on such a legal matter,” he says. “But of course you need a trial. Of course it’s important to have this trial.” Would you go testify if asked? “If I could, yes,” he answers, laughing yet somewhat surprised at the question. He explains that culpability was not what he was trying to explore with “Golden Dawn Girls.” “I wanted to understand them or at least try – I don’t know if it’s possible. But only if we understand who they are, what they believe in and how they think, will we know what we need to fight, what we need to stop,” he says.

True sympathies
Bustnes spent four years traveling between Greece and Norway for the film. The general elections of 2015 was one of the most intense periods he experienced. With the men in prison, he witnessed the three women coming out of the shadows and assuming a leading role in the election campaign, becoming dangerously powerful.
“We are like steel: The more you strike it, the harder it gets,” Christou tells supporters in a speech. “My son is in prison. He couldn’t be here to talk to you,” Iliopoulou tells shoppers as she hands out fliers at a farmers’ market. “It’s better he’s not here and can’t kill us,” says a passer-by. Later, at a taverna, a man comments that the party’s spokesman, Ilias Kasidiaris, has a reputation for using his fists. “We need someone like Kasidiaris with this lot. My son is soft,” she says.

Iliopoulos was one of the perpetrators of an attack against foreign vendors caught on camera at a farmers’ market in Rafina in September 2012 and is seen bullying them and smashing their stands with particular ferocity. “Can you describe what your son is doing here?” the filmmaker asks her as he shows her the footage. “He’s asking to see their papers and even thanks them (…) and because they’re illegal and selling counterfeit products, he demands their license and then the others with him overturn a stall. That’s all,” Iliopoulou replies.

Bustnes prefers to let the material speak for itself – and the subjects to expose themselves without being tripped up. In another scene, we see Iliopoulou telling a taxi driver that if someone accused her son of being a Nazi, he would get angry and may even “give them a slap.” In the next scene, we see older footage of Iliopoulos explaining to journalists that the reason why he has “Sieg Heil” tattooed on his arm is that he likes the font. The audience, needless to say, laugh out loud. “Why do you think they try so hard to hide the fact that they’re Nazis?” a member of the audience asks the filmmaker at the Q&A after the screening. “I think they are pragmatic, they want votes, and they understand they need to hide it,” answers Bustnes.
© The Kathimerini.

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UK: Woman in Muslim dress pelted with egg thrown from car

Police are investigation the incident of hate crime in Lincoln

11/12/2017- Police have launched an investigation after a woman wearing Muslim clothing was a victim of a hate crime in Lincoln. Officers say a dark-coloured vehicle, believed to be a Peugeot, slowed down before the occupants threw an egg at the victim. Enquiries are ongoing into the incident which took place on November 20, between 9.30pm and 10pm, along the High Street in the area of Gowts Bridge, Lincoln, towards South Park. Police say the victim was wearing a hijab. Information about the incident was only released today, December 11, as police intensify their efforts to catch the culprits. The vehicle was seen driving off towards the town centre.
© Lincolnshire Live

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Northern Ireland: Britain First cancelled Belfast rally due to bad weather

Right-Wing controversial group Britain First were prevented from having a rally in Belfast

10/12/2017- The protest was to oppose charges taken against deputy leader Jayda Fransen. The 31-year-old deputy was arrested in Bromley by the PSNI and was charged with using the threatening and abusive language outside Belfast City Hall earlier this year. The group confirmed they wouldn’t make the rally: “Unfortunately because of this snowstorm that’s causing chaos at most UK airports, we are not going to be able to make it over to Belfast today. We’ve been stranded here at the airport.” Britain First are best known for their social media presence and anti-Muslim sentiment.
© The Irish Post

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French opposition elects hard-right leaning leader

Laurent Wauquiez took 74.6% of Les Républicains votes, on an anti-immigration, anti-welfare platform that critics say plays into Front National hands

10/12/2017- France’s bitterly divided conservative opposition party has elected a new hardline leader, marking a move away from centre ground toward the territory of the far right. Laurent Wauquiez will take control of the Les Républicains (LR) party after its disastrous performance in the presidential election earlier this year when its candidate, François Fillon, failed to make it into the second-round vote. Wauquiez was elected president of LR on Sunday with 74.6% of the votes. However, less than half of the 235,000 paid-up party members bothered to cast a ballot. In total, just under 99,600 voted. Wauquiez has run a hawkish leadership campaign, running on an anti-immigration and anti-welfare programme, and has worried some party heavyweights with his possible “porosity” to far-right Front National ideas. He refused to call on LR supporters to back Emmanuel Macron against the FN’s leader, Marine Le Pen, in the second round of the presidential vote in May.

There were two other, largely unknown, candidates but members gave Wauquiez, 42, a clear victory, making a second-round vote unnecessary. Wauquiez is expected to consolidate his victory by appointing a youthful shadow cabinet to challenge Macron and raise the party from what he described as the ruins of its presidential catastrophe. His hard-right line does not, however, have unanimous support. Franck Riester, a former LR member of parliament, has left the party, accusing Wauquiez of playing into the FN’s hands. “By running after the Front National, we will end up by giving the far right power,” Riester said recently. Valérie Pécresse, a former budget minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and influential leader of the Ile de France region, said Wauquiez’s victory could shrink, or at worst, destroy LR. “It’s a risk. To avoid it we have to accept our differences and not try to bury them,” she has said.

Pécresse said the party had to learn the lesson of its defeats in 2012, when Sarkozy lost the presidential election to Socialist François Hollande, and 2017, when Fillon’s chances were destroyed by a financial scandal. Above all, she said, it had to avoid being a conduit for FN ideas. “Each time, there’s the reflex to creep towards the hardcore right,” she said. There should be no “porosity with the Front National … that’s a red line. If the right ends up on that slippery slope, then it’s no longer my right.” Until now, the LR, previously led by Sarkozy, had followed the centre-right tradition that has been a dominant force in French politics, providing an umbrella for centrists, economic liberals and those who leaned further to the right. Macron, however, has captured the centre ground in French politics and headhunted some of the LR’s emerging stars, including his prime minister, Édouard Philippe, and budget minister, Gérald Darmanin.

Wauquiez, a devout Catholic, supports economic protectionism and state intervention to regulate the economy, takes a tough line on immigration and social welfare – he considers France’s social model obsolete – and is opposed to the 35-hour maximum working week, same sex marriage and IVF. He has promised “intransigent secularism” seen as anti-Islam, and believes France should not have to apologise for events in its past, all subjects that echo with the far right, though he recently rejected doing any deals with the FN. Hervé Gattegno, the editor of Le Journal du Dimanche and a political commentator, said Wauqiuez risked pushing more moderate conservatives into the arms of Macron’s ruling La République en Marche. “

The more radical Laurent Wauquiez becomes, the more the centrist and moderate LRs are tempted to rally to the president. So it’s a strategy of making the right more extreme, which doesn’t seem to be to be very clever. “Perhaps he hasn’t understood what most [centre] right voters have and what all the opinion polls reveal: the real head of the [centre] right is, for the moment, in the Elysée. It’s Emmanuel Macron,” Gattegno told Europe1 radio.
© The Guardian.

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Italy: Thousands march against 'fascism'

Thousands of people joined a march against fascism in northern Italy on Saturday, in response to anti-immigration action by far-right groups.

9/12/2017- "Today in Como is an important day. There are more than 10,000 of us taking part in this demonstration against all forms of fascism and intolerance," said Maurizo Martina, deputy secretary of Italy's centre-left Democratic Party (DP). Among the crowd marching in the northern town of Como, a rally organised by an alliance of left-wing parties, was former prime minister Matteo Renzi. Last week members of the far-right group Veneto Fronte Skinheads rushed an aid charity meeting in the town, denouncing "the migrant invasion". Days later masked activists from another far-right organisation, New Force, stormed the Rome offices of the daily Repubblica and L'Espresso weekly brandishing smoke cannisters and calling for a boycott of the publications which they said supported immigration. Earlier this week swastikas and other fascist insignia were daubed on the walls of a left-wing association in Udine, northeastern Italy. More than 114,000 migrants have landed in Italy so far this year, down 32 percent on the same period in 2016. Some observers have blamed the resurgence of fascism on rivalry between right-wing groups in the country.
© AFP.

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Headlines 8 December, 2017

Serbian Journalist Threatened After Grilling Rightwing Activist

N1 journalist Marija Antic received death threats on social networks after quizzing French-Serbian activist Arnaud Gouillon about his role in far-right movements.

8/12/2017- A Serbian journalist Marija Antic has said she received death and rape threats after grilling a far-right French activist Arnaud Gouillon about his views and activism. “The job of a journalist is to try to come to the truth. It’s for the audience to accept this truth or not,” Antic told BIRN. During her December 2 interview with French-Serbian citizen Arnaud Gouillon, known best in Serbia for his advocacy for Serbs in Kosovo, Antic asked him about his past involvement in the far-right Identity Movement in France. Gouillon said he had been a member of the Movement in the past but denied any current connection with it. Two days later, VICE website revealed that Gouillon had been a speaker at an Identity Movement event in 2012 at which participants wore pig masks to show contempt for Islam.

Antic also asked Gouillon about his connections with Serbia's own far-right 1389 movement, as he has attended some of its events, but Gouillon denied any real connection. Soon after the interview, Gouillon, who is head of an NGO called “Solidarity for Kosovo”, complained on social media that he had been “attacked” and said that N1 television had tried to “demonize” him. “It is obvious that they prepared themselves carefully for these attacks, and that they intended to demonize me in order to look like a bad guy,” he said. He added that 12,000 donors from France had backed him, and that his help for the Serbs of Kosovo over the last 13 years had been worth millions of euros.

Gouillon is known in Serbia for his advocacy for the Serbian minority in Kosovo, and has had a Serbian passport since 2015. The following year, Serbia's then President, Tomislav Nikolic, awarded him a medal for outstanding merits in the field of humanitarian work. Antic insisted she had treated him in same way as any other guest on N1 . “I’ve said nothing new. It is all already known,” she said. Antic added police had summoned her on Thursday for talks about the threats she had received after Gouillon stated that the interview was the “attack” on him. Serbian human rights NGOs and the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality have condemned the threats. Gouillon, meanwhile, has called on the TV station “to stop the hunt that journalists of this media [outlet] are leading against me”. He said he would refuse any further contact with N1 until he received an apology.
© Balkan Insight

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French far-right militants convicted in mosque occupation

7/12/2017- The French far-right group Generation Identity and five of its members were convicted Thursday of organizing and taking part in a 2012 anti-Muslim demonstration on the roof of a mosque in the city of Poitiers, near where Arab invaders were stopped in the 8th century. In an especially strong response to the protest, the court handed down suspended prison sentences for each of the five and imposed fines and other penalties amounting to nearly 40,000 euros (nearly $47,200.) Generation Identity, calling the decision "a scandal," said on its Facebook page that the five would immediately lodge an appeal, and asked for donations from sympathizers. "The conviction of peaceful young citizens warning the French of the danger of the development of Islamism and massive immigration is particularly scandalous," the group's statement said, noting the terror attacks in Paris, Nice and elsewhere in France that have killed hundreds of people.

During the October 2012 demonstration, scores of people climbed atop a mosque under construction and unfurled banners. One read "Remember Charles Martel," who led the 732 battle to halt a Muslim advance in Europe. The group demanded a referendum on the building of mosques to cries of "In Poitiers, neither kebabs nor mosques." Generation Identity, a French group with a presence in other European countries promotes the interests of what it regards as the continent's original inhabitants. The group claims that immigration by Muslims poses a danger to European culture and tradition. The mosque occupation, filmed by a major French TV station that had been alerted in advance, was among Generation Identity's biggest publicity stunts. Last summer, the group chartered a ship and sent activists into the Mediterranean Sea to try to stop aid groups from rescuing migrants trying to get from Libya to Italy.

The five said in a statement during their October trial that they were simply "whistleblowers." "By this decision, the justice of our country has clearly shown it has chosen its camp: that of Islamists ... against the defenders of France," Generation Identity said Thursday. Four of the five received suspended one-year prison sentences and lost their civic rights for five years, including the right to vote, the court clerk's office said. The fifth received a suspended sentence and lost the right to run in elections. All five must help pay an assortment of fines in damages and lawyers' fees that amount to nearly 40,000 euros. That includes a fine of 10,000 euros ($11,800) handed to Generation Identity.
© The Associated Press

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Far-Right Hungarian MEP Charged with Espionage for Russia

Bela Kovacs said he would quit his party Jobbik in order to avoid the case being used as a political tool in the upcoming elections.

7/12/2017- European Parliamentary Member and Hungarian opposition politician Bela Kovacs (pictured) is facing charges of spying on the EU on behalf of Russia, according to Hungarian prosecutors, cited by Reuters. Kovacs denied the allegations, and said that he was looking forward to the trial date, which hasn’t been announced, to clear his name in court. He also said that the case against him is likely intended as a way of deflecting attention from ruling party Fidesz’s ties with Russia. “I am almost positive this has a political relevance. It is no coincidence that it was brought up before elections. Now the court dates will probably fall in the thick of the election campaign, and clearly will be used to attack my party,” Kovacs told Reuters.

Hungary’s Constitution Protection Office in May 2014 filed a case against Kovacs, a member of the far-right Jobbik party, for allegedly spying on EU institutions for Moscow. He is married to a Russian-Austrian dual citizen, who had allegedly worked for the KGB, the Soviet Union's spy agency. Rumors had long circulated in Brussels about Kovacs’s alleged ties to Russian intelligence, earning him the nickname “KGBela.” He is also under investigation by OLAF, the EU's anti-fraud office, on suspicion of misusing funds meant for recruiting and paying assistants. Another Central European country has been dealing with a similar case this week. The Polish military police yesterday detained former military counterintelligence head Piotr Pytel for alleged illegal collaboration with the FSB, the Russian security agency that succeeded the KGB, Deutsche Welle reports.

The Polish opposition has said that Pytel’s arrest was politically motivated, with European Council President Donald Tusk tweeting his support, as well as for Pytel’s predecessor Janusz Nosek, who faces similar charges: "I am proud of having been able to work with Generals Pytel and Nosek while I was prime minister. They were and continue to be a shining example of responsibility, patriotism, and honor."
# The next Hungarian parliamentary elections will be held in April 2018. Laszlo Botka – the candidate for prime minister of Hungary’s largest liberal opposition party, the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) – pulled out of the race in October, in a further blow to the chances of left-center parties in next spring’s elections.
# The ruling Fidesz party had a popularity of 59 percent among voters at the end of October, according to a poll carried out by the Tarki Social Research Institute, and cited by the Hungarian Free Press. Jobbik was a distant second with 17 percent support. More than one-third of those polled, 34 percent, were undecided and unlikely to vote at all.
Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
© Transitions Online.

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The Changing Face of Hate in Poland: From Antisemitism to Anti-Muslim Racism

Faith Matters launches a ground-breaking paper looking at worrying levels of far-right anti-Muslim racism in Poland and anti-Muslim activism in the UK in Polish Communities

 


8/12/2017- Faith Matters is proud to launch a new briefing paper to outline some of the key dynamics and drivers of far-right narratives between the UK and Polish far-right. The new report, titled ‘From antisemitism to anti-Muslim racism: the evolving face of the far-right in Poland’, highlights how extremist groups like Britain First have continued to sow division by exploiting the religious sentiments of Poles in Britain to further their anti-Muslim agenda. This includes failed attempts to bring over antisemitic and anti-Muslim speakers, and the leadership of Britain First, namely its deputy leader, Jayda Fransen, has travelled to Poland to engage with such individuals like the antisemitic former priest Jacek Międlar. Faith Matters intends to use this report as a springboard to engage with Polish communities in Britain to start an interfaith dialogue that includes Christian, Muslim, and Jewish voices that will seek to counter the exclusionary and dehumanising narratives of the far-right with a dialogue that will not only seek to address more painful aspects of Polish history but also celebrate the contributions of its Muslim minorities.

By identifying key voices both in Britain and Poland, the report will seek to expose their views, in the hope of marginalising their voice, and empowering Poles to challenge attitudes online, in the home, or in community spaces. It took the combined efforts of voices within the Polish community to translate materials from the far-right politician Marian Kowalski which Faith Matters passed to authorities to prevent him speaking at a restaurant in London. Our concern remains that some will seek to use community spaces to push anti-Muslim or other hateful narratives away from media scrutiny. Other, more extreme neo-Nazi groups, like the National Rebirth of Poland (NOP), coordinated activities with both National Action and the National Front to do ‘whites-only’ foodbanks in Scotland and London. The NOP has also targeted NHS centres in small anti-abortion protests.

Steve Rose, the author of the report, said: “It’s clear that Britain First continues to exploit the religious sentiments of Poles to push an extremist narrative which mythologises a Christian Europe in opposition to very dehumanising anti-Muslim narratives which tap into wider anxieties towards cultural and national identity. This report seeks to challenge that, and highlight that antisemitism remains a key driver of far-right ideology, with anti-Muslim racism seeking further division in a country where Muslims have accounted for less than 1% of the population. What’s clear is that many Poles want to challenge this form of politics and this project will help provide a collaborative partnership to help build dialogue and see the contributions of Muslims historically and in Poland today. Additional research in this field of work will expand beyond the scope of this report and encourage more forms of counter-speech online and through community events in the months ahead.”

Fiyaz Mughal OBE, Founder and Director of Faith Matters said:
“We have been seeing far right extremist groups like Britain First actively tout key activists in Polish communities in Poland and the UK. Yet, during the national Brexit referendum, these very groups were promoting hate against Eastern European communities. This shows the cynical posturing of these far-right extremist groups in the vain hope that they will gain support.”

Key findings of the report, which will be accessible on the Faith Matters web-site, state that:
# A chronology of Islamophobic incidents in Poland demonstrates how some have exploited international events to attack Islamic institutions, including an attack on a mosque in Poznań, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in Paris in January 2015,
# Polling of European countries in 2016 found that negative views of minorities and refugees were commonplace. Negative views of Muslims were widespread in Italy (69%), Hungary (72%), and Poland (69%). It is perhaps unsurprising that almost a quarter of Poles interviewed expressed negative opinions towards Jewish communities. Ideological leanings to the right were indicators of increased unfavourability towards Muslims.
# Anti-refugee sentiment remains stubbornly high in Poland, even though the country has hardly taken in refugees post the Syria civil war. For example, just over half of Poles polled who expressed favourable views of Muslims had agreed that refugees pose a threat, though this jumps to 81% amongst the Poles who expressed unfavourable views of Muslims.      # Outside of Hungary, Poles expressed the most concern (71%) that refugees will increase the risk of domestic terrorism. Almost of a third of Poles agreed that Muslims in their country support ISIS, as a similar number declined to answer this question. As with other countries, Poles also overwhelmingly agreed that refugees were ‘drains’ on the welfare system.




# Perhaps these factors help explain how many Europeans uniformly overstate the size of their respective Muslim populations. In Poland, researchers found that on average, Poles believed that of every 100 people, seven are Muslim. The reality is that this figure is under 0.1%.
# Regarding population shifts, Poles believed that Muslims would make up 13% of the population in 2020. Pędziwiatr (2016) attributes this perception gap to the misinformation presented in sections of Polish press and by certain public figures.
# Social researchers, Gawlewicz and Narkowicz (2015), highlight how the rich Islamic history of the region is ignored, demonstrating how this panic is a modern problem, and reflective the political shifts in Poland in recent years. Some of the key social agitators, highlighted in the Faith Matters report are based in the UK and Poland.
# The history of the Polish Muslim Tatars is completely overlooked by social commentators who promote anti-Muslim hate, as though hundreds of years of engagement with Muslims that have shaped and made up a part of Poland’s history, simply do not exist.

Key Purveyors of Anti-Muslim Bigotry
The report lists these to be:

Miriam Shadad: Miriam Shadad was behind the attempted settlement of fifty Christian Syrian refugees in Poland in 2015, but most would leave Poland within months. She made various anti-Muslim remarks when interviewed in the Financial Times which included the claim that many who practice Islam are ‘criminals’. Shadad has expressed support for Viktor Orbán’s proposed ban on Islam in Hungary. In other media, she said that the Qur’an is a book that calls for ‘hatred and violence’ and that the concept of Jihad is one of force and submission. She appeared on the cover of the Polish weekly magazine Wprost in 2016. She used this interview to call for a ban on Islam in Poland, to praise the Assad regime for its liberal protection of Christians, including her relatives, and to warn that if ‘Europe does not quickly wake up, it will become Islamized.

Piotr Ryback: The extremes of an ethno-nationalist fringe in Poland have gained notoriety in recent years, most notably in the actions of Piotr Rybak, of the Wielka Polska Niepodlegla movement. In November 2015, during an anti-Muslim protest in Wroclaw against Poland accepting Syrian refugees, Rybak burned an effigy of an Orthodox Jewish man. During the protest, most of which was captured on video and uploaded to YouTube, Rybak said, ‘we will not bring a single Muslim into Poland, Poland is for Poles.’ He then set fire to the effigy, which featured an EU flag. The National Radical Camp organised the protest and presented Rybak with the effigy to burn, but the courts rejected his claim that the effigy was of Hungarian-American Jewish philanthropist George Soros, finding him guilty of ‘public incitement to hatred on the grounds of religion and nationality to an unspecified group of Jews by burning an effigy’. The prison sentence given to Rybak fell to three months after an appeal.

Jacek Miedlar: The notoriety of the disgraced former priest Jacek Międlar grew after he was detained at Stansted Airport to prevent him from attending a Britain First rally in Telford, Shropshire in February 2017. Międlar, 28, is an important fixture in the extreme right-wing political scene in Poland, and in Wrocław in west Poland. Two years earlier, Międlar spoke at the far-right organised nationalist demonstration which marked the anniversary of Poland’s independence after the First World War. Organisers claimed that 50,000 attended but police put the actual figure at 25,000 people.

On the Polish Independence Day march on 11 November 2016, Międlar is alleged to have publicly called for hatred against Jews and Ukrainians. During the march, he is alleged to have said, ‘We must be strong in spirit, body, in our mentality and knowledge, because only we will be able to win with the left, with Jewry, and with communism, which is still in our homeland’. Months earlier, prosecutors dropped a hate crime investigation against Międlar, when during his sermon, he described Jews as a ‘cancer’. He is also alleged to have uploaded a photo of Poles performing a Nazi salute during a pogrom in the southern town of Myślenice in 1936 which resulted in non-lethal violence and property damage to Jewish-owned businesses.

Marian Kowalski: Marian Kowalski came to prominence in the English-language media in 2015 following a series of counter-protests following his speaking tour in Ireland during his failed presidential campaign in Poland. Hotels in Dublin and Cork cancelled speaking events for Kowalski, who represents the far-right National Movement (Ruch Narodowy). Kowalski’s views towards the building of new mosques in Poland reflects how anti-Muslim racism is often anti-Arab in focus. In a 2016 speech, he is reported to have told a crowd that Arab-funded mosques are ‘breeding grounds’ for terrorists. On Facebook, he shared a meme about how Poland violently dealt with the ‘invasion’ of Islam on 20 May 2017. On Twitter, Kowalski compared Islam to a ‘trojan horse’.




On 25 September 2016, he photographed a small rally in Trafalgar Square in London which called for the release of Janusz Waluś, a Polish white supremacist, who, in 1993, murdered the anti-apartheid hero and SACP leader Chris Hani. Waluś was a member of the leading neo-Nazi group in South Africa, the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, who hoped his actions would trigger a race war in the final days of apartheid. Kowalski has also gained a reputation for his provocative stunts which included the burning of a rainbow flag in July 2015 following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to legalise same same-sex marriage.

Weronika Kania: The self-styled reporter Weronika Kania, who has contributed one hundred posts to the Polish-language anti-Islamisation website NDIE, was active in interviewing members of Britain First before her videos disappeared from YouTube. She spoke at a Britain First rally on 28 July 2017. On Facebook, she briefly updated her cover photo in praise of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán in 2015. Recent Facebook posts have promoted Tommy Robinson’s controversial new book and linked to a YouTube concerning the paedophilia and Islam. She has also regularly interviewed Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First.

Piotr Szlachtowicz hosts the online radio show ‘The Nowy Polski Show’. It sponsored an event in Slough which listed Jacek Międlar as a keynote speaker. The event celebrated the underground Polish army which fought in anti-communist resistance movements. Międlar, of course, was denied entry into the UK. Another event promoted by his radio show featured the Polish MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke, who, in 2015, was suspended from the European Parliament for ten days after performing a Nazi salute. He has also claimed that Hitler ‘probably’ did not know about the Holocaust and the murder of millions of people was not his ‘goal’. Korwin-Mikke used racial the epithet ‘n—–‘ in 2014 and was suspended this year after making sexist remarks in parliament. An interview with Korwin-Mikke was uploaded by Mateusz Jaronski on 18 July 2017. The Twitter feed of the Nowy Polski Show, has, on multiple occasions, posted tweets favourable of the leadership of the far-right political party Britain First.




The full report can be downloaded HERE.



© Faith Matters
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Italian newspaper offices blockaded by far-right Forza Nuova party

Journalists at La Repubblica and L’Espresso saw their offices targeted by supporters of Italy’s Forza Nuova on Wednesday evening in what the far-right party called the start of a “war” against the left.

7/12/2017- Wearing white masks and hoodies, around ten FN supporters stood outside the newspapers’ headquarters in Rome, waving flags and setting off smoke flares. Some of the protesters threw flares at staff, according to La Repubblica. They carried a banner calling for a boycott of the two liberal papers and read out a series of accusations against them via megaphone. One person, a 34-year-old FN activist, was arrested on charges including demonstrating without authorization and coercion. On Facebook, Forza Nuova described the protest as a “declaration of war” against the left and liberal media in particular, which it accused of being run by “terrorists masquerading as journalists”. “Today was just the ‘first attack’ on those who spread the immigrationist [sic] gospel, who serve the interests of various NGOs, cooperatives and mafias,” the party posted. “From today begins the systematic and militant boycott of those who advocate ethnic substitution and invasion.”

Politicians, unions and press freedom groups condemned the stunt, which came a week after neo-Nazis interrupted a meeting of a volunteer group that helps migrants in northern Italy to denounce, like Forza Nuova, a so-called “invasion” of Italy. “An extremism has reared its head that is contrary to our constitutional values and our freedom,” warned Justice Minister Andrea Orlando, “and I believe that the Italian state and society must affirm the values on which our constitution is based.” Interior Minister Marco Minniti, speaking at La Repubblica’s office later on Wednesday, also cautioned against underestimating the threat from far-right extremists, “because the history of Europe and Italy is full of underestimations”. Matteo Renzi, the centre-left Democratic Party’s candidate for prime minister in Italy’s general election next year, tweeted that “they don’t scare us”.

On the right, the Forza Italia and Fratelli d’Italia parties defended the freedom of the press, while accusing La Repubblica of leftwing bias. They were echoed by the leader of the far-right Northern League, Matteo Salvini, who said he preferred to counter La Repubblica “with ideas and proposals, not with smoke and threats”. La Repubblica and L’Espresso, which share a publisher, said in a statement that they could not be intimated and would continue to report on Forza Nuova and all political parties. The leader of Forza Nuova, meanwhile, said that he meant “political war” and not “war full stop”. In an open letter addressed to the interior minister, Roberto Fiore claimed that his supporters were themselves under threat from “anarchists” stirred up by the liberal press.

His group has announced plans to rally in Como on Saturday, despite being denied permission by the northern city’s police. The group insisted it would meet anyway to counter an anti-fascism demonstration by Democratic Party activists planned for the same day. The party called the protest in response to the incident at the volunteers’ meeting last week, which took place in Como. Police have identified several of the men who interrupted the meeting and are considering charging them with coercion. Officers raided the homes of several members of the group on Thursday morning. The government recently highlighted “the rising phenomenon of threats from neo-Nazi and neo-fascist groups” against journalists in Italy, nearly 200 of whom are currently under police protection.
© The Local - Italy.

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Italy: Nearly 200 journalists are under police protection

Nearly 200 journalists receive some kind of police protection in Italy, the government said on Wednesday, citing an "emerging phenomenon" of rightwing threats against news organizations.

6/12/2017- In a statement, Rome's interior ministry said there were at least 19 protection plans for journalists as well as 167 "vigilance measures", such as regular police rounds conducted in neighbourhoods where journalists live. The figures were published to mark the inauguration of a coordination centre aimed at tackling intimidation against journalists in a country where authorities are still battling the influence of organized criminal groups. The statement said 90 cases of intimidation against the media had been reported so far in 2017, down from 114 in the same period last year. Nevertheless, it warned that it would be paying "special attention to the rising phenomenon of threats from neo-Nazi and neo-fascist groups as well as organized crime cells against journalists who through their work shine a light on wrongdoing". A journalist was attacked last month by an alleged mafioso after asking questions about his links to a fascist organization near Rome.
© AFP.

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Muslim Roma Win Discrimination Case Against Montenegro

6/12/2017- A Romani man and his family who were harassed by neighbours for being both Roma and Muslim, have won their case before the European Court of Human Rights. The family had exhausted inadequate domestic courts which were not delivering justice. So instead they took their case against the authorities who were not properly investigating the ethnic and religious attacks against them. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) intervened in the case on the important issue of intersectional discrimination: the applicant was a Romani Muslim and his neighbours' threats and slurs focused on both identities. Interveners are separate parties to the case who make factual and legal submissions to the Court to help the Court make the right decision with the right reasons.

The family had been subjected to racial and religious slurs, death threats, graffiti painted on their door, attacks on their car, and gunfire aimed at their apartment before they turned to the law. The Court focused on two of the most threatening incidents. Carefully examining the conduct of the police, the Court found it wanting. In one of the incidents, bullets had been fired - those accused of firing them denied they did it, but admitted they heard gunfire and saw the shells. The Court criticised the police for not collecting the shells and seeing if those who allegedly fired them had a gun. Overall, the Court found that "the applicant was not provided with the required protection of his right to psychological integrity". The Court agreed that the violation was compounded by the fact that the applicant was Roma as well as Muslim.

In its written submission to the Court as a third party, the ERRC pointed out the existence of endemic racism against Roma in Montenegrin society. The ERRC also pointed out the evidence of institutional racism within Montenegrin police, who usually treated serious hate crimes as misdemeanours and seldom won convictions. The ERRC's President, Dorde Jovanovic, said "Roma are not a single, homogeneous category. We are women, men, children, Muslims, Christians, lesbians, gay men, straight people, some of us have disabilities. Antigypsyism interacts with misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and other ideologies of hate in complicated ways. This case is just one example. I congratulate the brave man and his family who brought this case. I hope other intersectional forms of discrimination will reach the Court and that we will be able to help the Court deliver powerful judgments that show and condemn the failure of police and others to do their jobs and protect our human rights".
© European Roma Rights Center

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EU to sue Poland, Hungary and Czechs for refusing refugee quotas

The European Commission is to sue Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for refusing to take in asylum seekers.

7/12/2017- The commission, the EU's executive body, accused the three countries of "non-compliance with their legal obligations on relocation". The Luxembourg-based ECJ could impose heavy fines. A relocation plan was launched by the EU in 2015 in response to a large influx of migrants and refugees. The move was an attempt to relieve pressure on Greece and Italy where the vast majority of migrants were arriving. However, the Czech Republic has accepted only 12 of the 2,000 asylum-seekers it had been designated, while Hungary and Poland have received none. The commission launched infringement procedures against the three states in June and warned them last month that further action was likely. "The replies received were again found not satisfactory and three countries have given no indication that they will contribute to the implementation of the relocation decision," a statement said. "This is why, the commission has decided to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure and refer the three member states to the court of justice of the EU."

Following Thursday's announcement, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told the BBC his country would continue to oppose the relocation scheme. He said the quota system had fuelled anti-migrant sentiment and played into the hands of the far right. Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski also said his government was "ready to defend its position in the court". In 2015 EU states agreed to relocate 160,000 asylum-seekers between them based on the size and wealth of each country, however, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary voted against accepting mandatory quotas. Separately, the commission is also taking Hungary to the ECJ over its laws on higher education and NGOs. Hungary's right-wing government is looking to pass a higher education law that could close the Central European University, founded by financier and philanthropist George Soros. Mr Soros has a strained relationship with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The commission said Hungary's education law "disproportionally restricts EU and non-EU universities in their operations and needs to be brought back in line with EU law". Hungary also caused controversy in June when it passed legislation forcing non-governmental organisations to declare themselves "foreign-funded". The commission said the laws "indirectly discriminate and disproportionately restrict donations from abroad to civil society organisations".
© BBC News.

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EU fight against discrimination and hate towards minorities still fails to deliver

6/12/2017- Persisting widespread discrimination, intolerance and hatred across the EU threatens to marginalise and alienate many minority group members who otherwise feel largely attached to the country they live in and trust its institutions. These findings emerge from a major repeat survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). “Almost a decade ago we warned about the presence of large-scale ethnic discrimination and hatred. Today, these new results show that our laws and policies are inadequately protecting the people they are meant to serve,” says FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty. “With every act of discrimination and hate, we erode social cohesion and create inequalities that blight generations fuelling the alienation that may ultimately have devastating consequences.”

The Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II): main results report points to the need for specific and stronger measures to provide legal protection against discrimination coupled with effective sanctions. In addition, since 88% of ethnic discrimination, 90% of hate-motivated harassment and 72% of hate-motivated violence were not reported, much stronger outreach is needed to encourage victims to come report incidents, while law enforcement and equality bodies need the right tools to deal with these reports effectively.

Some of the other key findings include:
# 38% of respondents were discriminated against over the last five years with North Africans (45%), Roma (41%) and Sub-Saharan Africans (39%) particularly affected. Discrimination was greatest when it came to looking for work (29%).
# 31% of second-generation immigrant respondents experienced hate-motivated harassment in the last year. 50% of these victims were harassed at least six times in that year;
# Fewer minority members (61%) completed at least upper secondary education compared to the general population (74%). This reduces their employment chances.

The results also indicate a higher level of trust in public institutions than the general population with a majority feeling strongly attached to the country they live in. They are also largely open towards other ethnic groups. However, the impact of discrimination, harassment or violence is also clearly shown. Those who have been victims trust public institutions less and feel less attached to the country they live in. This is the second minorities and migrants survey carried out by the Fundamental Rights Agency. The survey asked about experiences of discrimination, harassment, police stops, and rights awareness, as well as markers of integration, such as the sense of belonging and trust in public institutions, and openness towards other groups.

Results:
Main results report
Interactive national data - survey results data explorer
© EU Fundamental Rights Agency

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Commentary: Blame Russia. But not too much.

“Missed a train? Lost a vote? Blame us!” reads one of the many posters recently posted on London’s underground transport system for RT, the Russian-based satellite broadcaster formerly known as Russia Today.
By Peter Apps


6/12/2017- The ads are yet another sign of just how overtly Moscow and its outlets have been reveling in their newfound reputation for driving events in Western politics. But it also points to a growing and increasingly difficult dynamic. As the United States, Britain and other European nations obsess ever more deeply about potential Russian interference within their borders, they ironically risk playing further into the Kremlin’s hands. President Donald Trump might remain unconvinced, but outside the White House there remains little doubt that President Vladimir Putin’s government has deliberately attempted to drive political events in Europe and the United States. U.S. intelligence agencies are united in their conclusion that Moscow interfered directly during the 2016 presidential election, primarily through hacking Democratic Party e-mails and disseminating their content to discredit Hillary Clinton.

In Europe the evidence is even more widespread. The European Union’s counter-disinformation campaign “EU Disinfo” says it has tracked more than 1,300 examples of pro-Kremlin interference this year. Moscow’s hand is seen as trying to drive support for the far right across the continent as well as a host of disparate causes like Brexit and independence for Catalonia. Particularly in its most recent campaigns, social media analysts believe Russia has been using an army of automated social media feeds, dubbed “bots,” to get its message across. But it also has more traditional media arms such as the website “Sputnik” and the RT network. Both Sputnik and RT have their own considerable web presence. Google last month announced it would “derank” both to give them less prominence on Google News and other platforms. Their stories, however, continue to be widely spread on other social media.

Even directly Russian government-linked social media outlets such as the Russian embassy Twitter feed in London have been openly “trolling” western governments and institutions, mocking them with jokes and sometimes ungrammatical rants. None of this behavior is entirely new – but it hasdoes appear to have increased substantially in the last two years. Ever since Russia annexed Crimea and began a wider war in eastern Ukraine in 2014, a growing number of Western analysts have believed that Putin is deliberately doing whatever he can generate discord and chaos within the West. Even more than the intensity of Russia’s activity, the level of attention now paid to it has increased. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May recently devoted an entire speech to the topic, saying such actions “threaten the international order.”



In the United States, meanwhile, the focus is on the potentially paralyzing consequences of prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow – particularly now that former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn has cut a deal to cooperate with the inquiry after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador last December. There is clearly a difficult balance here. Many in the West, particularly former members of the Obama administration, feel they were caught out by the scale and intent of Russian activity, especially during the 2016 U.S. election. The risk, however, is that the level of attention now being devoted to Russian hacking, manipulation of social media and other questionable political activities furthers Putin’s goal of delegitimizing Western governments while boosting Russia’s reputation for being able to call the shots.

For all the evidence of Russian activity, we may never know to what extent Moscow truly affected the outcomes of any of the political contests in which it dabbled. We know that a pro-Kremlin institution bought ads on Facebook to provoke partisanship in the United States. We know that significant numbers of American voters went online to search for the hacked political emails Russia apparently gave to Wikileaks. But, as analyst Nate Silver notes, “there just isn’t a clean-cut story in the data.” On the surface, the volume of potential Russian interference on social media can seem massive. According to one estimate, Russian-related Twitter feeds were responsible for more than 1.5 million election-related tweets during the 2016 campaign. However, compared to the sheer volume of other election-related material published during the campaign, the Russian contribution is unlikely to have been the only factor.

The same is true when it comes to the rise of Europe’s far right. There’s no doubt that Russia has pushed some very divisive storylines, including around the alleged rape of a 13-year-old Russian-speaking girl in Germany by Arab migrants – an incident authorities say was later proven never to have happened. Those who monitor far-right chat rooms closely, however, say that Russia -related content remains only a very small proportion of the traffic. Most simply remains homegrown, according to a report by the UK’s Royal Institute of International Affairs. That doesn’t mean Russian involvement isn’t real. But by focusing on it to the exclusion of other variables, political establishments in Europe and the U.S. all too often give the impression of looking for scapegoats. That may paradoxically reduce the prospects of addressing reasons for the underlying political issues that led to dissatisfied Britons voting to leave the European Union and disaffected U.S. citizens voting for a polarizing candidate like Trump.



In the UK, those issues included frustration at the mainstream political establishment over multiple issues, immigration in particular. In the United States Trump’s rise too was partly because he was able to tap into the alienation and frustration of those who’d lost their jobs to workers in other countries. Russia clearly did what it could to exploit those feelings and trends, but it did not create them. Politicians need to find ways to address their concerns and reduce political polarization, not look for excuses about why voters turned against them. That is obviously easier said than done – every Western government has been desperately searching for policy solutions since the 2008 financial crisis, with often relatively little to show for it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not vital that policymakers continue to try. The Kremlin’s narrative is aimed not just at undermining individual governments and institutions, but the entire idea of Western democracy itself.

The West needs to be alert to Russian meddling, and giving people the information they need to detect it is important. But if the West is tempted to make Moscow take the blame for all its ills, it will end up furthering the Kremlin’s strategy more than Putin might ever have hoped.

Peter Apps is Reuters global affairs columnist, writing on international affairs, globalization, conflict and other issues. He is founder and executive director of the Project for Study of the 21st Century; PS21, a non-national, non-partisan, non-ideological think tank in London, New York and Washington. Before that, he spent 12 years as a reporter for Reuters covering defense, political risk and emerging markets. Since 2016, he has been a member of the British Army Reserve and the UK Labour Party.


© Reuters.
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Who Could Have Predicted Trump? Poland, and Hungary, and Slovakia

After the Cold War, right-wing populists surged to power by exploiting economic uncertainty.
By John Feffer


5/12/2017- He was a rich businessman, an outspoken outsider with a love of conspiracy theories. And he was a populist running for president. In 1990, when Donald Trump was still beyond the furthest outskirts of American politics, Stanislaw Tyminski was trying to become the new president of post-communist Poland. He shared something else with the future Trump: Nobody in the political elite took Tyminski seriously. That was a mistake. He was the standard-bearer for a virulent right-wing populism that would one day take power in Poland and control the politics of the region. He would be the first in a long line of underestimated buffoons of the post–Cold War era who started us on a devolutionary path leading to Donald Trump. Tyminski’s major error: His political backwardness was a little ahead of its time.

In true Trumpian fashion, Stan Tyminski couldn’t have been a more unlikely politician. As a successful businessman in Canada, he had made millions. He proved luckless, however, in Canadian politics. His Libertarian Party never got more than 1 percent of the vote. In 1990, he decided to return to his native Poland, then preparing for its first free presidential election since the 1920s. A relatively open parliamentary election in 1989, as the Warsaw Pact was beginning to unravel, had produced a solid victory for candidates backed by the independent trade union, Solidarity. Those former-dissidents-turned-politicians had been governing for a year, with Solidarity intellectual and pioneering newspaper editor Tadeusz Mazowiecki as prime minister but former Communist general Wojciech Jaruzelski holding the presidency. Now the general was finally stepping aside.

Running in addition to Mazowiecki was former trade union leader Lech Walesa, who had done more than any other Pole to take down the Communist government (and received a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts). Compared to such political giants, Tyminski was an unknown. All three made promises. Walesa announced that he would provide every Pole with $10,000 to invest in new capitalist enterprises. Mazowiecki swore he’d get the Rolling Stones to perform in Poland. Tyminski had the strangest pitch of all. He carried around a black briefcase inside which, he claimed, was secret information that would blow Polish politics to smithereens. Tyminski managed to get a toehold in national politics because, by November 1990, many Poles were already fed up with the status quo Solidarity had ushered in. They’d suffered the early consequences of the “shock therapy” economic reforms that would soon be introduced across much of Eastern Europe and, after 1991, Russia.

Although the Polish economy had finally stabilized, unemployment had, by the end of 1990, shot up from next to nothing to 6.5 percent and the country’s national income had fallen by more than 11 percent. Though some were doing well in the new business-friendly environment, the general standard of living had plummeted as part of Poland’s price for entering the global economy. The burden of that had fallen disproportionately on workers in sunset industries, small farmers, and pensioners. Mazowiecki, the face of this new political order, would, like Hillary Clinton many years later, go down to ignominious defeat, while Tyminski surprised everyone by making it into the second round of voting. Garnering support from areas hard hit by the dislocations of economic reform, he squared off against the plainspoken, splenetic Walesa. Tyminski did everything he could to paint his opponent as the consummate insider, a collaborator with the Communist secret police in his youth.

“I have a lot of material and I have it here…and some of it is very serious and of a personal nature,” Tyminski told Walesa in a debate on national television, holding that briefcase of his close at hand. Walesa retaliated by accusing him of being a front man for the former communist secret police. Tyminski was forced to admit that his staff did include ex–secret policemen, but he never actually opened that briefcase. Walesa was resoundingly swept into the presidency by an electoral margin of three to one. Stan Tyminski eventually took his wild conspiracy theories and populist pretensions back to Canada, a political has-been. And yet he was prescient in so many ways (including those charges against Walesa, who probably did collaborate briefly with the secret police). The liberal reforms that Eastern Europe implemented after the transformations of 1989 were supposed to be a one-way journey into a future as prosperous and boring as Scandinavia’s. Tyminski, on the other hand, had conjured up a very different, far grimmer future—unpredictable, angry, intolerant, paranoid—the very one that seems to have become our present.
© Tom Dispatch

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Neo-Nazis denied ferry trip from Sweden to Finland

A group of neo-Nazis who were due to travel from Sweden to Finland for the latter country’s centenary celebrations had their trip cut short when the ferry company they were going to travel with denied them passage.

7/12/2017- "We have made an assessment together with the authorities. Our cooperation with authorities means we are on top of the different groups who travel with us," Viking Line Communications Manager Johanna Boijer-Svahnström told news agency TT. In total, 24 members of the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) were denied passage on the Viking Line boat between Stockholm and Turku. They were believed to be going there to take part in a demonstration called by the Finnish branch of the organization on the day of centenary celebrations in the country. A Finnish court recently banned the NRM following a request by police. Viking Line said it had security concerns. "Today Finland celebrates its 100th anniversary and we have many families with children on board. We therefore wanted it to be safe and calm."

Jonathan Leman from anti-racism foundation Expo noted that there are reasons to have security concerns when the NRM is involved. "NRM say that it is forbidden for members out carry out unprovoked attacks on others. But we have seen how they use situations where someone confronts them to attack and assault the person.” "Those who travel to protests are also largely part of the organization’s core group, where many have been convicted of violent crime in the past.” Being present in Finland was particularly important for the NRM because of the recent ban against them, he noted. A number of NRM demonstrations have taken place in Sweden this year, including a large September march in Gothenburg which required a heavy police presence and ended with arrests. The neo-Nazi group was founded in 1997 and promotes and openly racist and anti-Semitic doctrine.
© The Local - Sweden.

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Finland: Thousands march in Helsinki in far-right, anti-facist demonstrations

6/12/2017- Supporters of the far right in Finland and anti-facists staged rival marches in the capital on Wednesday as the country celebrated 100 years of independence. Police in riot gear reinforced by security personnel from around the country made 10 arrests due to scattered fights and misbehavior. Around 2,000 people joined the anti-facist march while demonstrations by two far right groups also gathered up to 2,000 people, the police said. Anti-immigrant sentiment has been on the rise in the Nordic EU member country of 5.5 million. About 32,500 migrants and refugees arrived during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015. The number came down to 5,600 last year. “No nazis in Helsinki!” shouted anti-fascist demonstrators. Far-right marchers held a slogan saying “Towards freedom” and many carried torches. Last week, a court banned a neo-Nazi group called Nordic Resistance Movement but it took part in a march as the decision is yet to be implemented. Finland was part of the Russian Empire and won independence during the 1917 Russian revolution, then nearly lost it fighting the Soviet Union in World War Two.
© Reuters.

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Finnish kids party cancelled over far-right march

A children's party to mark 100 years of Finland's independence has been moved because it clashes with a march by an ultra-nationalist group.

5/12/2017- The manager of the Tukkutori wholesale market in Helsinki's Toolo area, Elina Siltanen, told the YLE public broadcaster that police warned of a "security risk" if the party went ahead, given the proximity of the far-right 612 movement's torch lit procession. The nationalist group had arranged their march in advance, as they have done in several previous years, so the children's party - which was to feature rabbits and alpacas - has to make way, Police Chief Inspector Seppo Kujala confirmed. Ms Siltanen put the unfortunate double-booking down to "poor communication" with the police.

Organiser denies deliberate clash
The head of the Toolo Children group, Aleksi Pahkala, is also a well-known anti-racism campaigner, but he denied suggestions that he had deliberately scheduled the event as a protest against the 612 march. His colleague Jaakko Hilppo said they chose the Tukkutori market as the area is "relatively well lit in the evening, and so it's easy to organise an event there that people will come to". He said he had no problem with the 612 procession, and told YLE "I'm glad I can live in a country where people have the right to express their opinions". The Toolo Children group intends to complain to Helsinki council, saying it is "not right for a children's event to be cancelled for security reasons. The city should be safe for everyone," Yle reports. But the story has a happy ending for the children, as the manager of the HJK Helsinki football club has offered them the use of the team's nearby stadium. Aki Riihilahti tweeted that the club will "always have room for children".
© BBC News.

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Support for anti-immigration Sweden Democrats tumbles: poll

5/12/2017- Support for the far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party has fallen to its lowest level since surging during the migration crisis of 2015, a government poll showed on Tuesday. The Sweden Democrats’ approval rating shot to nearly 20 percent in November 2015 after hundreds of thousands of people arrived in Sweden to seek asylum. But a stricter immigration policy has led to a big reduction in numbers, and the issue has slipped from the top of the political agenda. Support for the Sweden Democrats stood at 14.8 percent in November, compared to 18.4 percent in June, Sweden’s Statistics Office found in its twice yearly poll for which it interviewed 9,000 people between Oct. 27 and Nov. 28. The government, comprised of the Social Democrats and Greens, had a 36.4 percent approval rating, compared with 35.6 percent in the June poll.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has wooed voters with a pledge to boost spending by almost 44 billion crowns ($5.23 billion) in the budget for 2018 with much of the money going on welfare, education and the police. “Immigration is no longer dominating the political debate in Sweden,” Jonas Hinnfors, political scientist at Gothenburg University said. Together with the Left Party, which supports the coalition in parliament, the government has 43.4 percent support, up from 41.9 percent in June. At its current level of support, the Sweden Democrats would still have enough clout to block either the centre-left or centre-right blocs from forming a government after the next election in September 2018, should they fail to reach a majority. The Sweden Democrats, shunned by all the major parties due to their far-right roots, have said they would help vote down either a centre-left or centre-right coalition in 2018, making it unclear how either bloc will be able to form a government.
© Reuters.

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Ireland: Just 10% of transphobic hate crime reported to Garda, study finds

Many victims feel they will not be taken seriously, according to Stad report

5/12/2017- Only one in 10 transgender victims of hate crime report the incident to the Garda, according to a new study. The study details 62 anti-transgender hate crimes [57 in the Republic and five in Northern Ireland] which were reported to Stop Transphobia and Discrimination (Stad) between 2014 and 2016. It shows victims of transphobic hate crime in the Republic are face less likely to make an official report compared with those in Northern Ireland. The offences included rape, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, assault causing harm, threats to kill, and public order offences. The Stad Report 2014-2016 was conducted on behalf of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (Teni) by the University of Limerick’s Hate and Hostility Research Group.

“Despite recent advances in transgender rights, including the ground-breaking Gender Recognition Act 2015, many members of our community continue to encounter levels of prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives that undoubtedly constitute hate crime,” chair of Teni Sara Phillips said. “It is also worrying that among those identified in the report only one in 10 chose to report such incidents to gardaí.” Ireland does not have any laws specifically dealing with hate crimes such as assault or harassment. Hate speech can be prosecuted under the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 but there have only been five such prosecutions in the last 28 years.

Teni chief executive Stephen O’Hare said: “It is widely accepted that Ireland lacks an adequate legal framework to combat this sort of crime. Despite recent observations from respected national and international human rights monitoring bodies on the need to introduce measures which are effective, proportionate and dissuasive, progress has been slow. This leaves many trans and gender-variant victims of transphobic hate crime with no obvious legal remedy.” Of the 57 anti-transgender crimes in the Republic of Ireland logged to Stad, only six were reported to the Garda. In contrast, three-quarters of those logging hate crimes in Northern Ireland reported them to the PSNI. The most common reasons given by victims for not reporting incidents to gardaí were the belief they would not be taken seriously or that gardaí would not or could not do anything.

The report also detailed 34 incidents of non-criminal transphobia. These included 14 instances of discrimination in accessing services, two instances of discrimination in employment and two instances of online abuse. “As I closed the door, I heard one of the men shout the word “F****t!” . . . a few moments later, the sound of an attempted kicking-in of the locked door of the cubicle I was occupying, which was quickly followed by the sound of two laughing Neanderthals as they fled the scene,” one person reported. Another person reported an attack by two people with knives: “The others were cheering them on . . . They made swipes at me with the knives but missed me on purpose . . . I ran home and they followed me half way and stopped when they saw me put a key in the door”.
© The Irish Times..

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UK: Police Chiefs Debate Possibility Of Making Misogyny A Hate Crime

It could mean tougher sentences for those who target women.

6/12/2017- Senior police chiefs are set to debate the possibility of making misogyny a hate crime as part of a drive to clamp down on sexual harassment. Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, national policing lead on hate crime, told a Commons select committee on Wednesday a review of “strands” of offences categorised as hate could see action taken against those who target women. He said the discussion, being led by former Nottinghamshire Police Chief Constable Sue Fish, is ongoing but could lead to tougher sentences for offenders should the government and police forces decide to review current laws. “There is an option there to consider reviewing the five national reported strands of hate crime,” he said. “Because they all have statutory provision around enhanced sentencing, at the minute what we would describe as a misogyny-type offence does not exist. “Where we are with that now is Sue [Fish] is presenting evidence to us on the consideration of misogyny as sixth strand of hate crime, or if not, what are we going to do about it. “Another six chief constables are also reporting on it at the minute and others are waiting to see what we come back with.”

ACC Hamilton said the Law Commission was tasked with reviewing the effectiveness of the law on hate crime, and whether its scope should be expanded, in May 2014. The commission recommended the five current strands of hate crime - which cover disability, gender identity, race, ethnicity and nationality - be reviewed, but no action has yet been taken by the government. The women and equalities committee invited him to give evidence as part of an ongoing probe into sexual harassment and sexist culture, and the legal frameworks for tackling it. Committee chair and Conservative MP Maria Miller said: “There has been significant and growing concern over the past few years about routine sexism and sexual harassment that women and girls experience in their daily lives. “Recent allegations that have emerged across different sectors have amplified this. “Last year, the committee published a report which uncovered a disturbing level of sexual harassment and sexual violence against girls in schools. We are now interested in hearing about women’s experiences in other environments.”

She said the session wanted to hear from experts from different sectors about women’s experiences of sexism and sexual harassment in universities, workplaces, public spaces and online. “Once we have a better picture of the problem, we will consider further work on this in the new year,” Miller added.
© The Huffington Post - UK

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Trump "is not welcome here": Edinburgh protest planned to derail Trump's UK visit

A protest spurred by President Donald Trump’s retweeting and apparent endorsement of the far-right Britain First organisation will be held by anti-fascist and anti-racist campaigners in Edinburgh on Thursday, 7 December.

6/12/2017- Late month, Trump shared a series of Islamophobic tweets from Britain First, including a video originally shared by the group’s deputy leader Jayda Fransen, claiming to show “Muslim migrants beating up a Dutch boy on crutches.” Subsequent reposts by Trump were captioned “Muslim destroys statue of Virgin Mary” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death”. The Independent newspaper reported that the content of the videos or their origin could not be independently verified, but also pointed to “local reports” indicating that the first video was taken during riots surrounding the coup against former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2013, and that the victim was likely a Muslim himself. Similarly, local media reported that the attacker in the second video posted was neither Muslim nor a migrant, and was subsequently arrested over the incident.

The planned protests in Edinburgh have been backed by Stand up to Racism, Unite Against Fascism, Stop the War, Edinburgh RISE, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities. Ahead of the protests, Sabby Dhalu, Stand Up To Racism co-convener said: “Trump’s latest tweets are a further chilling sign of his willingness to associate with a racist, Islamophobic and violent far-right intent on spreading hatred and division. “When Islamophobia and racism is normalised, racist and Islamophobic attacks increase. We’ve already seen a shocking rise in hate crime – Trump’s tweets and potential visit can only make things worse. “All those who stand against racism must oppose his entry into Britain and demand Theresa May does not grant him a state visit.”

Maz Saleem, Stand Up To Trump spokesperson said: “Jayda Fransen is a convicted Islamophobe and racist, who is the spokesperson for Britain First. “When far-right terrorist Thomas Mair murdered British MP Jo Cox, he shouted ‘Britain First’. For Trump, to retweet several Islamophobia racist tweets from her account speaks volumes about why we need to stand up to the President of racism, Islamophobia and bigotry named Trump. He is not welcome here.” Following Trump’s apparent endorsement of Britain First’s posts and views, Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “the wrong thing to do” for the President to retweet the messages and videos of the organisation. Trump responded in a further Twitter post, telling May: “Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine.”

Despite the ensuing diplomatic incident, Trump is reportedly due to visit the UK in February, according to the Sunday Times. The Daily Mirror has reported that, according to sources, it will not be a full state visit and Trump will not be meeting with the Queen. Should Trump’s visit to the UK go ahead, further protests are planned. A spokesperson for the Stop Trump campaign told the Evening Standard: “The British government know that the protests against a Trump visit could be the biggest we’ve ever seen in the country. Upwards of a million people could take to the streets.” The Edinburgh protest will assemble at Waterloo Place at 5.30pmfor speeches before delivering a letter to the United States consulate.
© Common Space

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UK: Neo-Nazis target minorities in Dundee and Cambridge

6/12/2017- Members of the neo-Nazi group The System Resistance Network (SRN) have distributed anti-refugee, homophobic, and antisemitic flyers in Dundee and Cambridge. The Courier reported that locals had torn down the anti-refugee flyers in the Marketgait area of Dundee on Tuesday morning. Less than a mile away, the group targeted an LGBT support service with flyers which praised Aids as a ‘cure’ for ‘faggotry’. Tell MAMA reported back in September that the group had distributed disturbing homophobic flyers in the Southampton area. The social media activity of the group suggests some coordination of its activists in England and Wales. Despite their small size, the group has increased its activity both online and offline, expanding its geographic reach, and ability to spread race hate and bigotry. An antisemitic appeared on a sign for the Christ’s Pieces park in central Cambridge. The text featured the racial epithet ‘k*ke’.

Flyers distributed near Cambridge University juxtaposed a swastika over legal scales with the text ‘Justice Awaits You’. The same flyer appeared in Wales on November 30, per their social media. A propaganda video from the group suggests that its members have targeted parts of Wales before. YouTube has now placed a region block on their account but remains accessible. We warned that the proscribed neo-Nazi terror group National Action could be operating under the System Resistance Network banner, like with the proscribed NS131 and Scottish Dawn groups. The SRN continues to use the encrypted Tutanota email service. Its propaganda mirrors the above groups. If the SRN is not affiliated with National Action but inspired by it, it demonstrates their enduring influence on neo-Nazi groups domestically, which is of great concern, so is their uptake in activity, having rebranded from Vanguard Britannia in June 2017.

David Anderson QC, the former terrorism watchdog’s investigation into internal reviews by the security services and police following the wave of terror attacks in Britain this year, called for an increased role for MI5 and the JTAC ‘in so-called domestic extremism work, including in particular XRW [Extreme Right-Wing] terrorism’. Anderson added this aim is to ‘ensure the equivalence of processes in analysing and dealing with all kinds of terrorism, irrespective of the ideology that inspires them’. The report notes that the known level of attack-planning for far-right terrorism was much lower, and remains impossible to quantify the number of thwarted far-right terror attacks since October 2013. This uncertainty relates, in part, to the activity of lone wolf actors, and whether they ‘crossed’ the threshold from hate crime to terrorism. Anderson QC gave two examples of recent attack-planning which included the purchase of firearms and the construction of viable explosives, adding that the police assessment indicated the individuals had the resources and knowledge to carry out the attacks.
© Tell Mama

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British government was just told to get tougher on rising threat of far-right terror

5/12/2017- Britain's security officials have been urged to get tougher on the rising threat of extreme right-wing terrorism — and to treat it in the same way as they would Islamist terror threats. While the known number of terrorist plots from far-right extremists are lower than from Islamist radicalists, security authorities should implement an "equivalence of processes in analysing and dealing with all kinds of terrorism, irrespective of the ideology that inspires them," according to an independent report. The recommendations were made by David Anderson QC, who on Tuesday published a review of the UK response to the Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, and Finsbury Park attacks this year. The 61-page report noted that in the 12 months leading up to October 2017, there were "instances of attack-planning" from far-right extremists, including "the construction of viable explosive devices and the acquisition of firearms."

It was hard, however, to quantify the number of thwarted attacks from far-right extremists "in part because of uncertainty as to whether a lone actor was actually planning an attack and, if so, whether it would have crossed the threshold from hate crime to terrorism," Anderson noted. He said the far-right threat was "exemplified" by the murder of Jo Cox in June 2016, when the Labour MP was shot and stabbed to death by Thomas Mair. Prosecutors said his crimes were "nothing less than acts of terrorism."  MI5 should have "an increased role... in so-called domestic extremism work, including in particular XRW [extreme right-wing] terrorism," Anderson said. "The aim is to ensure the equivalence of processes in analysing and dealing with all kinds of terrorism, irrespective of the ideology that inspires them."
© The Business Insider

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UK: Teenager 'Strangled And Forced To Apologise For Being Gay' In Attack On Tube Line

Police have released CCTV images of two people they wish to speak to

4/12/2017- A teenager was strangled and forced to apologise for being gay during a homophobic hate crime assault in London, police have said. British Transport Police (BTP) have released images of two people they would like to speak to in connection with the incident, which happened on October 21, at about 11.10pm. One of the victim’s friends, a 25-year-old woman, was also punched and pushed to the ground during the assault, police said. British Transport Police are appealing for information following a 'hate crime assault' on the Tube. Police said the 19-year-old victim was travelling on a westbound Jubilee line train between West Ham and North Greenwich with his friends when the assault took place. He and his friends were dressed in fancy dress for an event they were going to when two men boarded the train at West Ham and became verbally abusive. Police said the offenders used homophobic language and became aggressive when challenged.

BTP said in a statement: “The first offender then pulled the victim from his seat into a headlock, strangling him. “The second offender took the victim’s phone and verbally abused him again, also making threats to stab him. “They demanded the victim apologise for being gay which eventually the victim did as he was struggling to breathe. “They then let him go and handed back his phone and a fight ensued between the victim’s friends and the offenders.” The woman who was punched sustained bruising, police said. Meanwhile, the original victim did not sustain any injuries and the victims left the train at North Greenwich. Police added in a statement: “Hate crime will not be tolerated by British Transport Police. “We believe that everyone has the right to travel safety. “We won’t tolerate behaviour where someone is targeted because they are perceived to be different, or made to feel uncomfortable on their journey.”

Police are appealing for information and would like to speak to those shown in the images as they may have information which could help the investigation. Anyone who recognises those pictured is asked to contact BTP on 0800 40 50 40 or text 61016, quoting reference number 273 of 1/12.
© The Huffington Post - UK

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Inside Britain First: ex-member tells of petty rivalries, racism and violent anti-Muslim plots

The deputy leader’s former boyfriend speaks of intimidation and why he left

3/12/2017- Britain First may have been thrust into the epicentre of global politics by Donald Trump, but those familiar with the inner workings of the far-right political group portray a factionalised rabble, riven by jealously and petty infighting. People who have mixed with the group’s senior echelons also describe mammoth drinking sessions, threats of violence and boasts of inciting conflict with Britain’s Muslim community. Speaking publicly for the first time, Graham Morris, a former boyfriend of Britain First’s deputy leader, Jayda Fransen – whose anti-Muslim videos were retweeted by Trump last week – said he had left the group because it “was out of control” and some members advocated violence. Morris revealed tensions between the group’s leader, Paul Golding, 35, whom he described as a “narcissist” and who was extremely jealous of his relationship with Fransen, 31.

Morris, 54, who lives near Hinckley, Leicestershire, and left Britain First several months ago, also revealed how members would plot large-scale anti-Muslim attacks, describing one such plan hatched after a Britain First demonstration in Birmingham in June. "They were talking about damaging mosques up and down the country, targeting them at the same time. I’ve got a young child, I didn’t want to be part of any mosque attacks, that sort of thing,” he said. He also described how the group’s security guards would be told to “kick people’s doors in”, and that despite the group claiming officially to reject “racial hatred in all forms” some members were openly racist. Experts who have followed the rise of Britain First insist that President Trump’s extraordinary intervention will ultimately fail to have an electoral impact. Despite having 1.9m Facebook likes and 27,000 Twitter followers, the group is believed to have attracted fewer than 1,000 members. 

Matthew Collins, of the anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate, said: “It has internal difficulties and ongoing legal cases that have very little to do with politics and more to do with the culture of the party, which is one of jealousy, drinking and intimidation. There’ll be no political gain and they won’t be standing in more elections, they’ll just intimidate more people and beg for more money.” Collins said that, despite last week’s massive publicity, the party was unlikely to avert what he called a gradual decline. “The nature of Britain First is that during the last six to 12 months it has become more and more extreme, returning to its British National party roots and the relationship between its senior members is unlikely to be repaired.”

Morris, who said he became involved with Britain First earlier this year because of his concerns over sharia law, said he quickly became disillusioned with its racist and violent tendencies. On Friday Fransen threatened New York Times reporters who sought to interview her with “home visits of their own”. Morris’s misgivings first began during the Britain First protest in Birmingham in June when Fransen invited his 10-year-old son on to the stage. “She was asking me to bring my son to the demonstration and then she took him on stage, then there was a picture of my son on stage, used in a publicity stunt, like some sort of poster boy. I wasn’t very happy with that and we started falling out,” added Morris, who said that he had contacted the police regarding harassment since he had left the group.
© The Guardian*

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Netherlands: Police union criticised for putting ‘price tag on civil rights’

4/12/2017- Police union ACP has come under fire for revealing at the weekend that the cost of supervising a demonstration against Zwarte Piet in the Frisian town of Dokkum ran into the hundreds of euros. ACP chairman Gerrit van de Kamp estimated the cost of the operation at between €350,000 and €500,000. ‘Those are hours that we can’t spend on other business,’ he told RTL Nieuws. Around 200 people took part in Saturday’s demonstration, holding banners and chanting ‘No more blackface’ and ‘No more Zwarte Piet!’ Police had expected around 300 demonstrators as well as several dozen counter-protesters, but the latter stayed away. Protest leader Jerry Afriyie told the Volkskrant that dozens of protesters had called off because of the escalating tension around the Zware Piet issue. ‘They didn’t dare to come any more,’ he said.

Blockade
Saturday’s demonstration was organised after protesters were unable to reach the town on the day of the official welcoming parade for Sinterklaas two weeks ago when nationalist counter-demonstrators, including members of the far-right Pegida group, blockaded the A7 motorway. The local mayor had given permission for the protest to take place just before the parade, but reversed the decision at the last minute on ‘safety grounds’. A criminal investigation has been launched into the blockade, which may lead to prosecutions for illegally stopping cars on the motorway and endangering road safety. Several minor accidents were reported in the queue that built up on the A7 on November 23. This time police sealed off the route to ensure the demonstrators could travel unhindered. Riot police were on standby in the town centre and police were given temporary powers to carry out random ID checks. Two people unconnected with the protest were detained for not producing ID. ‘It made me think of the first black children in the US who needed an army escort to travel to mixed-race schools,’ Afriyie said of the scale of the police operation.

Cost
The ACP’s intervention was criticised by politicians who said democratic rights should not be framed as a financial burden. D66 MP Monica den Boer said it was wrong to ‘put a price tag on the right to demonstrate.’ ‘First of all, everyone in this country has the right to demonstrate, that comes first,’ she said. ‘It’s also the case that everyone has the right to the protection they need.’ CDA MP Chris van Dam said: ‘It’s absurd that so many police had to turn out for a demonstration, but the costs cannot be allowed to come first. It’s a bad idea by the ACP.’ Van de Kamp said the ACP wanted to make people aware of the cost implications of policing the right to freedom of assembly. ‘It’s an important first step for us. Demonstrations often come on top of other duties, at the cost of other things we could be doing.’
© The Dutch News

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Russia: Worries about hooligans and racism remain as Moscow holds World Cup draw

3/12/2017- Immigrants are fearful of racism at Russia's World Cup despite promises that the government is taking the problem seriously. Moscow is also reportedly cracking down on violence like that between Russians and Brits at Euro 2016, with hooligans warned they will face “big problems” unless they stay away from the tournament. Alexei Smertin, the Russian football union's anti-discrimination czar and a former Chelsea player, said at a conference this week that Russia has installed stadium observers to catch racist behaviour, like bananas thrown at dark-skinned players. He added that World Cup spectators with rainbow symbols wouldn't run afoul of Russia's law against gay propaganda among minors as long as no one would “go into a school and speak”.

This comes after FIFA head Gianni Infantino's promise that it was making “200 per cent” sure discrimination didn't mar the matches. Some remain doubtful, however. Salifou Camara, who came to Russia from Guinea in 2012 and works with Africans here, said racism has been growing less violent. But he says minorities still “should worry” at the 2018 World Cup because the authorities can't always control the stands. “I know the government is ready to do everything so there won't be racism, but there are people who will be racist for sure,” he said. Robert Ustian has received threats since he founded CSKA Fans Against Racism in 2014. Neo-Nazis have had a significant presence in fan groups here, he explained. “I don't want to say I'm a hero, but some day you may be writing that the founder of a CSKA fan group has been beaten or killed,” he said.

During the Fifa Confederations Cup this summer fans in blackface came to a match in St Petersburg and marched with bananas in Sochi. In September, Uefa sanctioned Spartak Moscow supporters for racially abusing Liverpool's Nigerian-born winger Bobby Adekanye. The FARE network found 89 incidents of discrimination related to Russia's 2016-17 football season. These were mostly neo-Nazi signs, but also included an assault on a North Korean man in Tula and an attack on a man from the Caucasus, an area of ethnic minorities, in the World Cup host city of Samara. In July, the Russian Football Union banned French player Yohan Mollo, then a winger for Zenit St Petersburg, from two matches for flicking off fans who reportedly chanted “Mollo is a faggot”.

But in a positive step, the Russian Football Union this month sanctioned Spartak Moscow fans after racist chants against a team from the Caucasus. Police have been cracking down as well, and authorities in the World Cup host city of Saransk said in November felony crimes had fallen 20% over the past 10 months. On Wednesday, Vladimir Chernikov, head of the Moscow region security department, said 400 “aggressive” fans have already been blacklisted from World Cup. Yury Reizer, a lawyer and Spartak Moscow fan, said hooligans he knows have been warned by police to leave town during the World Cup. “A lot of hooligans are Russian patriots,” Mr Reizer said, “and they don't want shame for Russia.” “What happened in Marseilles could happen in Marseilles but not in Russia,” Mr Ustian said.
© The Telegraph

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Are media giving neo-Nazis the oxygen of publicity or exposing ugly truth?

A recent New York Times profile of a Holocaust denier was criticised as overly sympathetic but journalists face tough decisions when covering the far right
By Lois Beckett


3/12/2017- When Alfred Münzer, a 76-year-old Holocaust survivor, read a major newspaper profile of a young “Nazi sympathizer next door”, he was shaken. The New York Times profile, which focused on a 29-year-old Holocaust denier’s pop culture tastes and listed items in his wedding registry, has been criticized as painting a neo-Nazi in an overly sympathetic light. Many readers argued it should not have been published at all. Münzer, who volunteers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, thought the profile lacked some crucial context. But he also believed it told an important story. “The fact that there are really ordinary people who have beliefs that are really so reminiscent of Nazi Germany is absolutely frightening,” said Münzer, whose two older sisters and father died in Nazi concentration camps. “This is not just a crazy fringe.”

Münzer has been increasingly disturbed by what he has seen in the US over the past two years: a presidential campaign driven by racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic rhetoric and policies; hundreds of neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching openly through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, in August; a president who had to be prompted to explicitly condemn those neo-Nazis, rather than casting blame for violent clashes on “many sides”. Then on Wednesday, as Americans debated the ethics of giving media attention to hate groups, Donald Trump tweeted three pieces of anti-Muslim propaganda from a fringe Islamophobic group, Britain First. “To me, it’s incredible that an American president would retweet hate messages like that,” Münzer said. “It’s just totally incredible.”

Trump’s tweets sparked international headlines about a racist group with a few hundred members which is best known for harassment campaigns. A rightwing terrorist shouted “Britain first” before killing MP Jo Cox last year. The party’s deputy, found guilty last year of religiously aggravated harassment, received just 56 votes in her last run for parliament. Britain First was recently deregistered by the UK election watchdog, after failing to update its paperwork. Like neo-Nazi groups in the US, Britain First has used stunts, harassment and digital provocation to attract attention and build its profile, despite having a tiny membership and no political power. Covering such groups, which try to weaponize even negative media coverage as a recruiting tool, has been a constant challenge for journalists. Critics have questioned whether the prominence and volume of such coverage has only served to make fringe groups more powerful.

In the US, neo-Nazi leaders have rejoiced at the coverage they have received, with three prominent far-right racists gushing on a podcast a year ago that the coverage had been “very good, all the things they’re doing are so good”. “The coverage only has one effect, which is the normalization of our ideas. And it doesn’t take a political scientist to figure that out. If it isn’t purposeful, then it is absurd incompetence,” said one neo-Nazi internet troll. “I think in a weird level the left, like, secretly wants us to rise,” said Richard Spencer, who was profiled in 2016 as America’s blazer-clad, “dapper white nationalist”. Such profiles of Spencer, who has degrees from elite American universities, sparked the first major wave of public outrage at news articles about white supremacists that portrayed them as bizarre and fascinating characters rather than dangerous threats.

Americans of color have been quick to raise concerns about this kind of coverage, said Whitney Phillips, a digital media scholar who studies trolling, conspiracy theories and hate groups. Some coverage of white supremacists is implicitly filtered through a white perspective, she said, providing white audiences with shocking stories of “wayward white folks” rather than focusing on the danger or anxiety faced by communities of color. Part of the problem with the New York Times profile of the “Nazi next door” was that “they didn’t talk to that guy’s black neighbors”, Phillips said. “They weren’t asking questions of the groups that these ideologies create a hostile environment for.” The crucial question when profiling a neo-Nazi is “who have they harmed”, she said.
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Heidi Beirich, who leads the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and individual extremists, said white supremacist groups must be covered by the media “because they are a threat to democracy, a threat in terms of domestic terrorism and hate crime”. Despite criticisms of the volume of media coverage of white supremacist groups, white supremacist violence is not covered well, Beirich said. It tends to treat white supremacist killers as individuals, rather than portraying their violence as inspired by a single ideology and the result of a process of radicalization, as coverage of Islamic State-linked terrorism tends to do. “It’s like they’re all one-offs,” Beirich said. “We are very reluctant to look at ourselves, our own culture, as a font for this violence. It is a lot easier to point the finger at something coming from Iraq or Syria.”

Some Americans on both left and right continue to ask why fringe hate groups are being covered by the media at all, arguing that their views are ludicrous. Beirich, like other experts who study racist extremists, contested such assumptions. “The US, people have to remember, was founded on white supremacy and slavery, and it didn’t dismantle white supremacy as its form of government until the mid-1960s,” she said. “Black people and people of color were legally discriminated against. Hate groups – their views, most of them, would have been considered totally normal in 1965.”

‘A reverberating effect’
Joan Donovan, a researcher at the Data and Society institute who studies how white supremacist groups manipulate the media, says articles about hate groups should be treated with the same caution as articles about suicide, where the wrong kind of coverage runs the risk of causing real harm. News coverage of extremist groups may have “a similar kind of reverberating effect”, Donovan said, adding that white supremacist activists run media-based movements and no matter how ostensibly negative news coverage might be, any mainstream attention provides validation and fodder for their activism. Donovan recommends that journalists use “strategic silence” when covering hate groups. “If there is no newsworthy event compelling you to cover this, it’s not a good idea to go searching for these stories,” she said. Local neo-Nazi rallies, like a recent one in Shelbyville, Tennessee, should primarily be covered locally and not as a major national story, she argued.

Phillips, who has interviewed 50 journalists for a project on the difficulties of covering conspiracy theorists and hate groups, studies the way media coverage can “amplify” dangerous lies and hoaxes, helping them spread and become entrenched. Media coverage of bigotry and falsehood is not a neutral force, she said. A news article about a harassment campaign, for instance, will prompt even more harassment of the original target, “and it will increase the likelihood that those tactics will be used in the future”.

The way news coverage can amplify harassment, rather than put an end to it, was clear earlier this year during a campaign of neo-Nazi abuse directed towards Jewish residents of Whitefish, Montana, a town where Richard Spencer’s family owns a vacation home. Whitefish residents said each wave of news coverage seemed to spark a new round of abuse. Neo-Nazi trolls used lurid claims – suggesting they bus in skinheads to hold an armed hate march in the middle of January – to prompt continued press attention and international coverage. But Phillips said that simply not covering harrassment may not be the right choice, either. “If you have a rise in far-right extremism, you can’t just turn away,” she said.

In an onstage interview on Thursday, the New York Times editor, Dean Baquet, defended the paper’s neo-Nazi profile, saying the degree of outrage it had inspired was “the most ridiculous overreaction to a story” and that the piece had been right to provide a portrait of modern extremism that was not driven by “guys who live in the hills of Alabama smoking pipes”.

‘Playing with fire’
Münzer, the Holocaust survivor, did not express particular interest, as the Times’ article’s author had done, in the “obscure” soul of one neo-Nazi and how he had gone astray. He thought the the article should have pushed more into questions of collective responsibility. “Where did these feelings come from?” he asked. “What did we do wrong? How does this represent a failing of the schools? Or the failing of the way we teach history? A failure really to communicate what happened or the dangers of Nazis and the danger of racism – and that they can lead to murder?” It was not news to him that citizens with otherwise normal-seeming lives could become Nazis. It was an ordinary man, and a secret member of the Dutch Nazi party, who turned in Münzer’s sisters, eight-year-old Eva and six-year-old Leah, to the authorities. The two girls were sent to Auschwitz. The man’s wife, who had tried to protect the girls, was also sent to prison.

Münzer said journalists should focus more on ordinary heroes willing to confront the rise of fascism. When Münzer grew up in hiding in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, it was a Dutch Indonesian family who took him in and a Muslim nanny who served as the Jewish baby’s surrogate mother. There were people of five religions in the household that risked their own safety to protect him. The Muslim woman who cared for him slept with a knife on her pillow, ready to defend his life. “Hatred, whether it’s directed against Jews, against Muslims, against anyone who is perceived as the other, is dangerous, and can really be a prelude to murder,” he said. “I think this is really playing with fire. It’s stoking the fires of hatred.” At the same time, he said: “I’m seeing more people willing to stand up and speak up. People are beginning to really confront the hate. I see that among young people, and that’s very encouraging.”
© The Guardian*

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Germany Inches Closer to a New, Old Government

8/12/2017- Germany inched toward a new government on Friday, as leaders from the center-left Social Democrats, the previous partners of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, agreed to sit down next week for exploratory talks on resuming the arrangement. Andrea Nahles, parliamentary whip for the Social Democrats, said that her party’s leadership would meet on Wednesday with its counterparts from Ms. Merkel’s conservatives to begin the process that a majority of Germans, according to recent opinion polls, hope will lead to a fourth chancellorship for Ms. Merkel. The two groups governed together from 2005 to 2009, and again from 2013 until this year.

The Social Democrats’ party conference, a three-day gathering that opened on Thursday, voted by hand on the prospect of beginning open-ended talks and approved it by a “large” majority, according to Niels Annen, a senior Social Democrat who counted the votes. No fixed percentage of the vote was given. “We don’t have to govern at any price, but we also can’t reject governing at any price,” Martin Schulz, the party’s leader, told delegates in a rousing speech on Thursday. “What matters is what we are able to implement,” said Mr. Schulz, who was re-elected as the Social Democrats’ party leader with 81 percent of the vote. The Christian Democrats welcomed the decision and said their leadership would convene on Sunday and Monday to discuss their strategy for the talks. The goal, said a party whip, Klaus Schüler, was “to build a stable government for our country. That is our responsibility and that is what the people expect.”

The threat of early elections has forced a change of heart by the Social Democrats, who had announced after the Sept. 24 election that they would not join another Merkel coalition. That election delivered a difficult result. Mr. Schulz’s Social Democrats slipped by 5 percentage points, a performance for which he apologized in his conference speech. Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats lost even more support — 7 percentage points — but remained the strongest party, with the task of seeking partners to build a government. The far-right party Alternative for Germany, or AfD, was voted into Parliament for the first time, as the third-strongest party, draining support from the two main parties in a significant showing of voter anger over immigration and inequality.

Ms. Merkel first tried to build a broad-based coalition with two smaller parties. After that effort collapsed last month, the country’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose responsibility it would be to call new elections, told politicians it was their job, not that of voters, to find a solution, leading Ms. Merkel to turn again to her most recent partners. Last week, the chancellor sat down with Mr. Steinmeier, Mr. Schulz, and the head of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of her own Christian Democratic Union, to determine whether they could talk. Mr. Schulz insisted that members of his party must decide whether to proceed. Most Germans would like to see Ms. Merkel returned to office, a regular political survey by the polling company Infratest Dimap found, with 56 percent expressing a positive view toward a fourth term for the chancellor. German sentiment has also become more favorable toward another coalition of the country’s two largest parties, after 10 weeks without leadership.

But the Social Democrats are insisting that any new government would have to more clearly bear their own stamp, and to fulfill promises from their election campaign, which focused heavily on social justice issues. Ms. Nahles said her party had identified certain “essential, important issues,” including health care, European policy, affordable housing and increased spending on social welfare programs for seniors. “But we are not going into talks with a big bundle of red lines,” she told Deutschlandfunk radio on Friday. “Then we could save ourselves the talk altogether.”


© The New York Times.
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Germany to surveil far-right doomsday 'prepper scene'

Germany is to begin surveillance of a growing subculture with some far-right affiliations known as the "prepper scene." The network collects weapons and other supplies in case of natural disasters or social collapse.

8/12/2017- Germany's federal and state interior ministers have decided to keep the country's growing "prepper" scene under surveillance, according to a report by the RND media group. The issue was raised at the interior ministers' conference in Leipzig, where both governing parties, the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), were understood to support the measure. The "prepper scene" refers to a loose network of people collecting firearms and other supplies in preparation for a collapse of state power. There are thought to be well over 100,000 preppers in Germany, and there are suspicions that some members have connection to the far-right, though few details are publicly known. During an anti-terrorism raid in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania at the end of August, German police searched the offices and apartments of six preppers, two of whom were suspected of preparing a terrorist act — though no arrests were made. In response, the state's Interior Minister Lorenz Caffier established a commission to investigate the preppers.

Police officers and soldiers
The newspaper Die Welt reported in September that the investigators had found lists of more than 5,000 mostly left-wing local and national politicians during the raid, with files on the politicians including their names, addresses and photos — though there was no clear evidence that the politicians in question were being spied on by the preppers. The group that was searched included both an active police officer and a Rostock-based lawyer who has denied that the list was a "kill list." The taz newspaper reported that five of the six men searched were members of the German military's reservists' association, and would therefore have had regular access to firearms. The six men belonged to a network that exchanged messages in a chat group on the encrypted messenger service Telegram, in which they discussed the Bundeswehr's troop movements and vaccine shortages.

There are indications that this prepper scene had ties to Germany's neo-Nazis. According to Die Welt, the August raid was carried out as part of the investigations into Franco A., a far-right Bundeswehr officer who was arrested earlier this year for allegedly planning a "false flag" terrorist attack in disguise as a Syrian refugee. A German prepper who wanted to remain anonymous told DW that he had encountered people from the "far-right scene" among preppers who wanted to make money from survivalists, while some preppers had stopped using the term altogether because of such extremist connotations. "You also find people with Scientology connections and 'info warriors' in the scene," he said. "But there are also fairly normal people like me, who already had to live off my provisions twice, when money was very tight."

Collecting guns
On its website, the German prepper community (PGD), identifies its own roots in a 19th century American movement that originated among farmers during lean times in the US Civil War. "The prepper educates himself in various areas and specializes in them," the PGD website says. "The prepper acquires capabilities over time, during which he makes his preparations and studies the most diverse possible danger situations such as tornados, flooding, earthquakes, economic collapse, wars, etc., as well as circumstances in his immediate surroundings." The skills listed on the PGD site include finding food, treating water, hunting skills, self-defense, first aid, as well as building shelters and bunkers. The site also describes firearms as the "biggest difference" between preppers in the US and Europe.

Since guns are easier to buy in the US, the site argues that US preppers are beginning to fear that other preppers are becoming more armed than they are, and so might be able to overpower them in a crisis situation — resulting in a "spiral of rearmament." Unlike in Europe, prepping has also become a major industry in the US, where businesses now routinely sell survival equipment and offer courses to prepare for a crisis situation. Many US preppers are also Mormons, a religion that teaches its followers to collect and keep food and money in reserve. Despite the far-right associations of the preppers' movement, the PGD points out that the German government itself has an agency dedicated to "civil protection and disaster assistance" (BBK), which publishes pamphlets on how to prepare for disaster scenarios. The PGD says that preppers are "experienced partners" for the government on the issue. The BBK even advises citizens to keep an "emergency rucksack" ready in case of evacuations, containing a first aid kit, a radio with batteries, a camera, and provisions.

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany: Far-right activist allowed to sell gallows built for Merkel

8/12/2017- A court has allowed an opponent of Angela Merkel’s refugee policy to continue to sell miniature gallows with her name on them after ruling that they were artworks. Jens Doebel initially created full-size gallows two years ago for a street demonstration in Dresden by the anti-immigration movement Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West). The small wooden replicas he sells for €29.95 have two nooses. One is “reserved” for the German chancellor and the other for Sigmar Gabriel, her deputy. The public prosecutors’ office in Chemnitz, a city in Saxony, where the Pegida movement was founded, investigated a complaint that the models incited violence, which is punishable by a fine or up to five years in prison. The prosecutors ruled that the gallows were artworks and should not be taken seriously. A spokesman said: “It cannot be proven that the accused wanted to incite third parties to an unlawful act, namely to kill Mrs Merkel or Mr Gabriel.” Doebel, 41, argued that the gallows were not a call to violence but symbolic of the “political death” of the two leaders.
© The Times.

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Germany: Berlin Ali Baba playground opens after controversy

An Ali Baba themed playground has been subject to vitriolic attacks for its Islamic symbols. One of the structures seemed to resemble a mosque and has a crescent moon on top.

7/12/2017- An Ali Baba-themed playground opened its doors in Berlin on Thursday after weeks of controversy over claims of creeping Islamization. The opening appeared to go smoothly, with authorities denying that the nearby presence of police officers and vehicles was related to the event. The playground drew controversy after images were released showing a large playhouse shaped somewhat like a mosque and topped with a crescent moon. The Berlin faction of the far-right populist AfD party wrote on Twitter: "Playgrounds are already turning into religious institutions," when the first images of the construction site appeared. Heavy criticism followed from far-right groups, including the anti-Islamic Pegida movement.

Even the state branch of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union weighed in, with the faction's spokesman for integration policy telling Berliner Zeitung: "This very questionable project was probably conceived by some civil servant who thinks he has made a contribution to intercultural understanding." He later toned down his comments. Parents interviewed by local papers were mixed in their response to the park, some saying that religious symbols had no place in a children's playground, while others were indifferent. Complicating matters is the fact the park was built in the borough of Neukölln, the center of Berlin's Turkish population and a frequent target of far-right groups for the many Muslim immigrants who live there.

It's an oriental castle
Neukölln's district mayor, Franziska Giffey denied the playground depicted a mosque. "The design has nothing to do with religion. The debate is really absurd," the SPD politician said at the opening ceremony on Wednesday. "We didn't build a mosque here, we built an oriental castle." She said the play area aimed to tell stories, stimulate children's imaginations and immerse them in a fairytale world. As well as the 5-meter (16-foot), crescent-moon-topped climbing house, there are also wooden palms, a bazaar, a flying carpet, Ali Baba and a treasure chest on the site. "Such themed playgrounds are not uncommon in Berlin and in Germany," the playground planner Axel Kruse told DPA news agency, pointing out other playgrounds themed with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bernd das Brot, and other cartoon characters. Kruse's plans transformed a long-unsightly area in Walterstraße. "For 15 years there has been a park themed with the fairytales from 1001 nights. Nobody's ever been bothered by that," Kruse said.

The theme for the park came from polling the neighborhood residents on what they would like. They eventually settled on Ali Baba in reference to a nearby child care center called "Ali Baba and his Forty Thieves."  "I don't understand how this can be turned into a political and religious discussion," the director of the center Guldane Yilmaz told DPA. On Wednesday children were less occupied by the wider political ramifications of the park design and more intrigued by a big red Santa Claus distributing candy, three alpacas bought by the wise men, and a camel.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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German pilots refuse to carry out deportations

Pilots across Germany are stopping planned deportations of rejected asylum seekers. At the same time, refugees are appealing their deportation orders in record numbers - and winning.

5/12/2017- Many pilots in Germany are refusing to participate in deportations, local media reported on Monday. Following an information request from the Left party, the government said that 222 planned flights were stopped by pilots who wanted no part in the controversial return of refugees to Afghanistan, which, in some cases, has been deemed safe enough to allow deportations, despite ongoing violence and repression in parts of the country. Some 85 of the refusals between January and September 2017 came from Germany's main airline Lufthansa and its subsidiary Eurowings. About 40 took place at Dusseldorf airport, where the controversial deportations are routinely accompanied by protesters on the tarmac. The majority of the canceled flights, around 140, took place at Frankfurt Airport, Germany's largest and most important hub.

Lufthansa spokesman Michael Lamberty defended personnel who chose not to fly deported people back to their countries of origin, saying that sometimes security was a concern. "The decision not to carry a passenger is ultimately made by the pilot on a case by case basis. If he or she had the impression that flight safety could be affected, he must refuse to transport the passenger," Lamberty was quoted by the Westdeutsche Allegeimeine Zeitung as saying. According to Lamberty, Lufthansa pilots sometimes talk personally to passengers who are about to be deported prior to the flight. In general, these people are treated like normal passengers, "they have a valid ticket after all." "Should security personnel at the airports have some sort of information in advance which indicates that a situation could escalate during a deportation, they can decide ahead of time not to let the passengers board."

Germany decides more asylum cases than rest of EU combined
Despite an uptick in deportations, Germany remains the main destination for refugees and migrants to the European Union — so much so that in 2017, Germany processed more asylum applications than all 27 other EU countries combined. Die Welt daily, quoting the European statistics agency Eurostat, said that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) decided 388,201 asylum cases in the first six months of 2017. As Germany stepped up deportations, the number of asylum seekers appealing their decisions has increased significantly. Nearly every second ruling made by the BAMF in the first half of the year was brought before a judge. This is nearly double the number of appeals made during the same period in 2016 – as it stands now, the courts side with about one in every four asylum seekers who appeal their status. According to public broadcaster NDR, these suits have cost Berlin about €19 million ($22.5 million) from January to November 2017, an increase of €7.8 million from the previous year.

In order to reduce the number of appeals and speed up deportations, the government has proposed a program to begin in February 2018 that would see rejected asylum seekers given 3,000 euros as an incentive to accept deportation.
© The Deutsche Welle*

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Germany's far-right AfD chooses nationalist as co-leader

2/12/2017- Members of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party elected a right-wing nationalist to be their co-leader on Saturday, signaling a possible toughening of tone before regional votes next year. A party congress chose Alexander Gauland - who once defended an AfD member who had said history should be rewritten to focus on German victims of World War Two - to return to the post he had held until 2015. As members deliberated, thousands of anti-AfD protesters marched outside carrying placards reading “Hanover against Nazis” and “Stand up to racism”. Earlier, riot police fired water cannon at dozens of protesters who blocked a road leading to the congress, underlining the divisive impact the party has had since it entered the Bundestag lower house for the first time in a Sept. 24 election.

The party’s incumbent leader Jorg Meuthen - seen as a relative moderate in the movement - won enough votes to keep his post. But in a vote that dragged into the evening, he was joined as co-leader by Gauland, who ran for the post at the last minute after another candidate seen as a moderate, Georg Pazderski, failed to win enough votes. Before the leadership vote, Meuthen praised the party often beset by internal strife for showing unity after two senior members quit in September in protest against what they saw as an unstoppable populist streak. “There are people in this country who don’t only say ‘We can do this’ but who actually manage to do something,” Meuthen told delegates, putting a new twist on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “Wir schaffen das” (We can do it) message to those who doubted Germany can deal with a record influx of migrants in 2015.

Votes Next Year
As thousands of protesters marched peacefully outside, AfD delegates watched a short film that painted a gloomy picture of Europe’s largest economy being overrun by beggars, stone-throwers and Muslims. Founded in 2013 as a vehicle to oppose euro zone bailouts, the AfD was polling at around 3 percent nationally two years ago on the eve of the refugee crisis. The arrival of more than 1.6 million people seeking asylum in the two years to the end of 2016 has helped it morph into an anti-immigrant party that now has seats in 14 of Germany’s 16 regional parliament. Polls suggest it will win seats in next year’s regional elections in the southern state of Bavaria and the western region of Hesse, which would give it a foothold in all of Germany’s state parliaments.

Gauland replaces Frauke Petry, who quit to become an independent member of parliament. Her sudden departure two days after the AfD became the first far-right party to win seats in the Bundestag since the 1950s exposed rifts over whether the party should ditch rhetoric including statements saying Islam was not compatible with the German constitution.
© Reuters.

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Headlines 1 December, 2017

Why speak up about anti-Muslim tweets? (editorial)

The British leader’s denunciation of a retweet by President Trump, along with her support for Muslims, adds to a trend against such religious bigotry.
By The CS Monitor's Editorial Board


1/12/2017- In a rare spat between close allies, British Prime Minister Theresa May has denounced a retweet by President Trump. The original Twitter message included three anti-Muslim videos posted by a nationalist group in Britain. Ms. May said resending such images “was the wrong thing to do.” Her courage to speak out against such biased claims, even if they are spread by a fellow world leader, is as commendable as what she actually said. And that may be the larger point. Just as more women now find it in themselves to reveal and denounce acts of sexual harassment and assault, many more non-Muslims are taking a brave stand against religious bigotry directed at Muslims. Their forthright honesty first exposes the wrong belief and then, even more important, asserts the truth about Muslims. In the case of the Trump retweet, May said that British Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding, and have themselves been subject to acts of terror.

Such affirmations aimed at countering anti-Muslim bias may be having a healing impact. According to a Pew survey released in July, nearly 50 percent of American Muslims said they have recently experienced support for being Muslim – a remarkable increase from 32 percent 10 years ago. In fact, Muslims in the United States are 19 percentage points more likely than the general public to say that Americans are friendly toward Muslims. “In a sense, with rising Islamophobia has come more support from the American public,” said Amaney Jamal, a professor at Princeton University who served as an adviser for the survey. In addition, an earlier Pew poll found that the share of all Americans who say there is not much or no support for extremism among US Muslims has risen to 54 percent, up from 45 percent in 2011.

One reason may be that Muslims and non-Muslims are living closer to or working more closely with each other. The same survey found that non-Muslims who personally know someone who is Muslim are far more likely to say there is not much or no support for extremism among US Muslims. The beneficial effect of these shifts in attitudes may be that Muslims and nonMuslims will be more willing to work together to curb extremists within the Muslim community and to head off terrorist acts. To broad-brush Islam as inherently violent only helps to stoke Muslim extremism. The best course against terrorism lies in accurate depictions of Muslims, not biased retweets against them.
© The Christian Science Monitor.

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Austria's conservative-far right cabinet likely to be sworn in Dec. 20: source

1/12/2017- Austria’s new conservative-far right ruling coalition is likely to be sworn in on Dec. 20, an informed source said on Friday, marking a victory for nationalists so far shut out of government elsewhere in western Europe. Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, whose mainstream conservative People’s Party (OVP) won a parliamentary election on Oct. 15 but not a majority, has been in coalition talks with Heinz-Christian Strache’s Freedom Party (FPO). Both sides have described the discussions as friendly and constructive but so far failed to disclose the kind of sweeping tax, immigration and administrative reforms they had called for in their campaigns. Kurz, 31, who has taken a tough stance on immigration and Muslim “parallel societies”, tilting towards the FPO line as the far right surged in popularity, is tipped to become chancellor and the youngest head of government in the European Union.

There has been no confirmation on who might get which portfolio in the new cabinet, but the anti-immigration FPO has said it would aim for about half of the ministries. The OVP gained 31.5 percent and the FPO 26 percent of votes in the Alpine republic’s October election. “(Dec. 20) is certainly a possible date (for the swearing-in),” OVP Chairwoman Elisabeth Koestinger said on Oe1 radio, adding they would put quality before speed even if that meant a deal only after Christmas. FPO deputy leader Norbert Hofer told Oe1 that no deal had been sealed yet, repeating previous statements that both parties aimed to finish before Christmas. The Austrian national news agency APA also cited Dec. 20 as the most likely date for the swearing-in of the new government by President Alexander Van der Bellen, but listed Jan. 8 as an alternative date.

The FPO, which came within a whisker of winning the 2015 presidential election, is allied with France’s National Front and Germany’s AfD, which in a September election became the third strongest party in Germany’s parliament. The populist far right last entered an Austrian federal government in 2000 and currently rules in coalition with centrists in two of the country’s provinces.
© Reuters.

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Finland bans neo-Nazi group for being racist, violent

Senior police officer says decision to outlaw Nordic Resistance Movement sends message hate 'has no place in Finnish society'

30/11/2017- A court in Finland banned a neo-Nazi group on the grounds of spreading hatred and advocating violence as self-defense. The ruling came in a lawsuit Finland’s national police filed that sought to dissolve the right-wing Nordic Resistance Movement. The suit argued the group was violent and openly racist. Senior police officer Seppo Kolehmainen said the decision issued Thursday is “a clear message” that hatred “has no place in the Finnish society.” A Nordic Resistance Movement member, Jesse Torniainen, was convicted of aggravated assault for kicking a man in the chest during a September 2016 demonstration. The 28-year-old man died from his injuries. Torniainen was sentenced to two years in prison. The fatal assault drew public attention and led to calls to ban racist and other extremist organizations in Finland.
© The Associated Press.

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Poles target foreign press in bid to polish image after far-right march

New initiative will allow volunteers to report cases of Poland being 'slandered' by media accounts of nationalist activities

30/11/217- A Polish non-governmental organization backed by the foreign ministry has launched a website that will enable people to report suspected slander against Poland in the foreign press. “We should react to what is said and written about us. Especially if media outlets resort to information that is manipulated or inaccurate,” said Mira Wszelaka, president of the Polish League Against Defamation (RDI) that launched the Rycerz (Knight) initiative this week. “The reports by Western media on the subject of the Independence Day march show that this kind of initiative is necessary,” she added on the RDI website.

Organized by far-right nationalists to mark Poland’s independence day on November 11, this year’s march featured people chanting xenophobic slogans but also Poles who simply wanted to mark the national holiday. The right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government has since expressed anger over the portrayal of the nationalist march as “fascist” by certain media outlets abroad. The initiative will have both permanent correspondents and volunteers, who will log on to the system and “report information about likely slander, give the country and language, record the incident and the type of slanderous media and add attachments confirming the slander,” Wszelaka said. The media outlets or individuals behind the suspected slander will then be notified and asked to correct the information.

For many years now, Polish officials have routinely requested corrections when global media or politicians describe as “Polish” former death camps like Auschwitz set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland. Even if used as a geographical indicator, Warsaw says the term can give the impression that Poland bore responsibility for the Holocaust, whereas it says it was one of the chief victims of the slaughter. Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens, including three million Jews in the Holocaust.
© AFP.

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How Poland's far-right government is pushing abortion underground

A year ago, mass protests in Poland defeated a new abortion ban. But the ruling party, supported by the church, continues to cut reproductive rights – leaving people at the mercy of the black market.

30/11/2017- Barbara Nowacka first had an inkling that something exceptional was happening on the morning of the protests. It was October 2016, and a journalist she knew, a conservative, called to ask how it was looking. She told him she had no idea what was going to happen. The journalist told her that his two daughters had gone to school that morning dressed in black. Perhaps, Nowacka thought, this could be big. A ban on abortion in Poland had been put forward in parliament six months earlier, and Nowacka, a leftwing politician and long-time social activist, was a leading figure in the movement to oppose it. Nationwide protests had been scheduled for 3 October, but like most people, she had little hope that they would succeed. Perhaps they would get a nice crowd, a little media coverage; but it would ultimately be a gesture. The law would pass.

The consequences of this new law would be grim: an end to all forms of abortion in Poland, prison sentences for women who have illegal abortions, criminal investigations into “suspicious” miscarriages, and restricted access to antenatal testing, since doctors would be wary of unintentionally inducing miscarriage. Similar proposals had been made over the past decade, but in the previous 12 months, the political atmosphere had changed. In October 2015, the far-right Law and Justice party, closely allied with the conservative wing of the country’s powerful Catholic church, became the first Polish political party to gain an outright majority in parliament since 1989. Sensing their opportunity, a network of anti-abortion groups, Stop Abortion, announced a few months after the election that they were going to try to introduce a ban. To table a debate in parliament, they needed a minimum of 100,000 signatures. With the tacit support of the Catholic church, Stop Abortion were able to collect almost half a million.

On 31 March 2016, Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the Law and Justice party, declared that he would support the proposal. He added that he wasn’t going to force his party to vote for a ban, but predicted that most of them would support it. The announcement set off a flurry of activity that extended far beyond the country’s small feminist circles. The proposal had aroused a deep anger, shared by many Polish women, over the church’s increasing influence on their lives. In the following days, new groups sprang up around the country as women made contact on social media to organise marches and gatherings. The largest group, Dziewuchy Dziewuchom (Gals for Gals), began as a Facebook group and quickly gained 100,000 members. “I couldn’t stand the arrogance of people in government against women,” said Ewa Kacak-Niemczuk, who was new to activism. She joined Dziewuchy and attended her first protest on 3 October.

Nowacka and fellow activists decided to counter with their own proposal for a new law, Save Women, which would liberalise the country’s abortion laws. They knew it had little chance of passing, but parliamentary rules stipulated that proposals on the same topic must be debated together; they would, at least, get a hearing. Volunteers began collecting signatures on the streets in May, and eventually amassed almost a quarter of a million. On 23 September, both proposals came before parliament in a debate that was widely covered by the media. Three days earlier, the leftwing Razem party had called for Polish women to wear black to signal their opposition to the proposed law. (Polish women had worn black in the 19th century to mourn the country’s partition and loss of sovereignty. Many of the protesters’ slogans and visual motifs subverted nationalist imagery.) A hashtag – #czarnyprotest – began to circulate on social media, raising awareness of the ban’s consequences.

As expected, the Polish parliament dropped Save Women and decided to send Stop Abortion’s proposal to the committee stage for a further reading. In response to this first defeat, activists proposed a national strike, using social media to call for women to skip work on Monday 3 October if they could, or to wear black if they couldn’t, in protest against the impending ban. The protest would become known internationally as Black Monday. There was an outpouring of passion and support – “We want to love, not die!” was one slogan – but this did not guarantee a turnout. The Saturday before the protests, organisers in Warsaw were afraid there wouldn’t be a crowd. They called Nowacka to make sure she was coming.

No one was expecting what happened next. In a society mired in political apathy, around 100,000 people took part in 143 protests in cities, towns and villages across Poland. Many thousands more wore black to work or school. The protests were remarkable for both their spontaneity – they had come together in less than two weeks – and their local character. There was no central organiser, no unified plan of action; across the country, women took the initiative and came up with their own ideas about how to protest. In Warsaw alone, there were more than 60 events throughout the day. Two women with no previous involvement in politics organised a protest outside Kaczyński’s office and 1,000 people came; others organised readings and discussions of feminist texts; men handed out sandwiches to participants and the day culminated in a 30,000-strong demonstration in the centre of the city.

Two days later, the proposed ban was withdrawn. It was the Law and Justice party’s first defeat since assuming power. Jarosław Gowin, the minister of science and higher education, said the protests “caused us to think and taught us humility”. The Polish women’s activism struck a chord. They became a symbol of resistance against a rising tide of rightwing populism. Before the vote, Polish expats had staged protests in Berlin, London, Brussels and beyond. In the following weeks, women staged strikes in defence of women’s rights and freedoms in Korea and Argentina, and the Polish strike was cited as inspiration for the International Women’s Strike on 8 March this year, in the US. Barbara Nowacka and fellow politician-activist Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk were named leading global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine “for humbling Warsaw”. New York magazine invited Polish women to advise their American counterparts how best to defend their reproductive rights. With the protests, the author of the New York article wrote, Polish “women had won some of their rights back.”

But the protests, while impressive, merely prevented a bad situation from getting worse. Few countries have experienced such a steady erosion of reproductive rights as Poland in recent decades. While no one in Poland goes to jail for having an abortion, there has, effectively, been a ban since 1993. Social pressure from church groups and an opaque approval process are threatening existing rights. Oral contraceptives are difficult to obtain, while emergency contraceptives now require a prescription, after legislation that came into effect in July. There is, nonetheless, one assured method for Polish women to assert their reproductive rights. The best way to defend your reproductive rights in Poland is to buy them.

Abortion lies at the intersection of the two major trends that emerged in Polish society after the fall of communism in 1989. The first of those trends is social conservatism, which flows from the reinvigorated Catholic church. The second is the enthusiastic embrace of economic liberalism that began in late 1989, when Poland became one of few countries to voluntarily submit to the IMF’s “shock therapy”. The church’s drive to ban abortion was matched by neoliberals’ desire to remove the state from economic life. Abortion ceased to be a medical procedure and became a moral issue; it ceased to be a medical right and became a commodity. The push to ban abortion, which had been legal in Poland since 1956, began immediately after the fall of communism. The second bill introduced in 1989 was a total ban on abortion (it failed after widespread protests). Banning abortion was understood as a concession to the church – a reward for its role in fostering opposition to communism. After direct intervention by Pope John Paul II, the current abortion law came into effect in 1993, despite surveys showing that more than 60% of Poles opposed it.

Under the law, abortion is permitted in exceptional circumstances: if the mother’s life or health is endangered; if the foetus has a severe congenital disorder; or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Women who have an abortion are not considered to have committed a crime. However, anyone who provides or helps a woman to get an abortion outside these grounds, is liable to prosecution and the penalty is imprisonment. In practice, it is very difficult to get a legal abortion even if you meet one of these criteria. Since the law was implemented, there have been, officially, no more than 1,000 abortions a year, in a country of nearly 40 million people. Before 1989, there were upwards of 500,000 abortions a year in Poland, and more than 97% of the women said they were doing it for socio-economic reasons.

A black market for surgical abortions quickly emerged to meet demand, operating at first out of many gynaecologists’ private offices. The law was never seriously enforced. Pursuing doctors with criminal prosecution would have risked social problems, while the black market conveniently solved the contradiction between Polish society’s external show of Catholic morality and the existing social reality. Underground abortion providers have never been particularly difficult to find. After the law’s introduction, adverts began to appear in newspapers: “Gynaecologist: Intervention”, “Retrieve the Menstrual Cycle”, or “Full Gynaecological Services”, along with a number to call. The ban on abortion became a financial boon for doctors prepared to carry out procedures illegally. Prices for an illegal termination are high, roughly equivalent to a Pole’s average monthly earnings (currently 4,256 złoty, or around £895). Illicit abortions in Poland are generally safe, provided by working gynaecologists, and deaths are rare, but having the procedure is all the more unpleasant and upsetting in an unregulated and harried environment.

Agnieszka, who I met last summer in Berlin, was 19 when she discovered she was pregnant, in 1994. She found the clinic in Łódź through word of mouth. She couldn’t afford the operation, so her boyfriend paid for it. The doctor was “pretty scary. Everything was horrific.” After the procedure she bled for three weeks, becoming so weak she could barely walk. In the end she had to return to the clinic so the same doctor could repair the damage. “Doctors who take a lot of money for [performing abortions],” she reflected. “There are two sides to it: they are doing something good, because every woman has a right to decide, but on the other hand … ” The Federation for Women and Family Planning (Federa), Poland’s oldest reproductive rights organisation, estimates that, contrary to the 1,000 terminations a year cited by official statistics, the figure is more like 150,000.

The anthropologist Agata Chełstowska estimated in 2011 that illegal abortions were generating as much as US$95m a year for medical practitioners. “Once abortion leaves the public sphere, it enters the grey zone of the private: private arrangements, private health care and – the most private aspect – private worries,” Chełstowska writes. “In the private sector, illegal abortion must be cautiously arranged, and paid for out of pocket. When a woman enters that sphere, her sin turns into gold. Her private worries become somebody else’s private gain.” Wanda Nowicka, the founder of Federa, told Chełstowska: “We are talking about a vast, untaxed source of income. That is why the medical profession is not interested in changing the abortion law.”

Elżbieta Korolczuk, a sociologist and longtime activist, met young women at last year’s protests who, because they have the means to pay for it, previously didn’t know that abortion was illegal in Poland. “Many women have access to abortion, so they think: what’s the problem?” Korolczuk says. Doctors successfully prosecuted under the law typically receive suspended sentences and do not go to jail or lose their medical licence. In tolerating the black market, the government effectively outsourced abortion to an unregulated industry. Around 2011, activists operating Federa’s telephone hotline noticed that more and more women were asking about clinics abroad. Women searching for cheaper alternatives also asked them about ordering pills online to induce miscarriage.

In 2012, Ewelina was in her early 20s, and seeing a man she did not intend to stay with, when she found out she was six weeks pregnant. “There was no maternal feeling,” she says. “It felt like a sickness I wanted to get rid of.” She turned to various Polish internet forums on abortion access, and the Polish-language pages of two Netherlands-based websites, Women on Waves and Women on Web, in order to find out more about her options. She learned about a drug used to treat osteoarthritis that can induce miscarriage as a side-effect. Ewelina was able to obtain the drug through a connection who was authorised to write prescriptions. She told him it was for her grandmother. “The only fear I had before taking the medication was that it may not work,” Ewelina says. She went to a friend’s apartment near a hospital and took three pills at two-hour intervals, nine pills in total. Five hours after the last dose, she began to feel cramping, and she had some bleeding. The next morning she went to the hospital and was given an ultrasound. Medical staff told her there was no heartbeat. She began to cry; the doctor mistook her tears of relief for sorrow.

Women on Web was set up in 2006 to send women the medicines, Misoprostol and Mifepristone, so they can safely terminate a pregnancy at home. Women are asked to donate €70-€90, if they can afford it, to cover the cost of the pills, which usually take a week to arrive from the manufacturer in India. A few thousand Polish women order pills from Women on Web annually, according to founder Rebecca Gomperts. (Another organisation, Women Help Women, provides a similar service.) However, there’s not much postal traffic between India and Poland, and customs officials in several regions of Poland started intercepting and confiscating the packages. Polish internet forums about abortion access began to appear in the early 2000s, encouraging women to induce termination using pills, rather than a surgical procedure. Although moderators discourage the practice, these forums, set up to help women, can serve as a marketplace where buyers and black-market sellers of abortion-inducing pills can connect.

After learning that she was six weeks pregnant, Basia came to the decision that she would terminate the pregnancy. Through an online forum her partner found another couple living in Warsaw who would sell them abortifacient (abortion-inducing) pills for 500 złoty (about £105). Basia does not know what the pills were, but she took two, or maybe three. After a few hours, she began to feel very painful cramps. “During the heaviest cramps, I was scared,” she said. The worst passed, but Basia bled for three weeks, until she went to a hospital to be given a D&C (dilation and curettage, the usual treatment to clear the womb after a miscarriage). It is not clear why she had an extreme reaction, but since she bought the drugs on the black market, she will never know.

Abortifacient pills such as Misoprostol and Mifepristone have a major advantage for Polish women: they are cheaper. As demand for these pills has grown, however, so too has the opportunity for profit and fraud. Black-market providers of surgical abortions have also started selling pills. With the help of a translator, I was able to reach two sellers. One offered abortifacients for between 400 and 600 złoty (£84-£126), or a surgical operation for 4,000 złoty. The second offered pills for 1,300 złoty. Since Women on Web is unavailable in some regions, and because women believe they don’t have time to wait, many turn to the local black market – sellers with no medical training and no quality control.

Dr Janusz Rudziński, a Polish gynaecologist who settled in Germany decades ago, estimates that 75% of his Polish patients have gone through a failed abortion with black-market pills. More than 1,300 Polish women cross the border every year to have an abortion at Rudziński’s practice in Prenzlau, about 100km north of Berlin, near the Polish border. He receives between 100 and 150 calls from Poland every day. His patients come from all over the country. Most find his number online. Rudziński left Poland before abortion became a moral issue, and is unimpressed by the harsh rhetoric it has since attracted. “It used to be normal,” he told me. “Nobody talked about it. If someone came to the clinic and wanted [an abortion], they had an abortion.”

Prices for surgical abortion are falling as clinics in neighbouring countries become available to Polish women. A clinic in Vienna keeps a Polish translator on staff. Many women reportedly travel to the Czech Republic, despite a law passed by the Czech government intended to prevent them from coming. The most common destination is Slovakia, as it is cheapest and most efficient; some clinics reportedly have two-week-long waiting lists. These clinics charge less than the cost of an illegal termination in Poland: €500-550 in Germany, or €370-390 in Slovakia. And here, women are not made to feel like criminals.

Markets are discriminatory; those who lack money or information are excluded. As long as there is a ban on abortion, or even severe restrictions, there will invariably be women desperate for a solution, and the black market will thrive. Any attempts to liberalise Poland’s abortion law, however, must contend with the entrenched power of the country’s Catholic church. Liberalising access to abortion, which no major party in Poland currently supports, will require a political party willing to broach a different taboo in Polish society: the church’s political power. As the Polish state retreated during its economic “shock therapy”, the church expanded its role in society and became an alternate centre of political power.

Separation of church and state is a “communist-inspired” system, said Józef Glemp, then the country’s Roman Catholic Primate, in 1991. At that time, a majority of the population attended mass every week, and church leaders urged parishioners to support “only those political groups that favour protection of life from the moment of conception”. John Paul II, the first Polish pope and an immensely popular figure in his homeland, envisioned Poland as a bastion of Christian values and a beacon of moral renewal in Europe. As unemployment rose to 16.4% and earnings deflated following the IMF’s economic measures, the population became less enamoured of moral renewal, and more worried about feeding their families. In 1991, a poll found that overwhelming majorities of Poles opposed church dominion over policy towards, among other issues, contraceptives (81%) and abortion (71%). Still, the church’s prestige and command of public attention was difficult for politicians to ignore.

Under church pressure, the government first removed subsidies for birth control pills in 1991, tripling their price. The cost of birth control today is not, in theory, prohibitive, at about 40 złoty a month. However, some doctors refuse to prescribe contraceptives, some pharmacists refuse to sell them, and they are difficult to obtain in public hospitals. The Polish healthcare system is split between a low-cost public sector plagued by long wait times and poor-quality care, and a more expensive private sector with better and more readily available care. One activist I spoke with, Karolina Brzycka, said that in her local public hospital, in the late 90s, only one of the four gynecologists would prescribe hormonal contraceptives. Women started lining up at 4am for an appointment.

According to a 2015 UN report, Poland has among the lowest access to contraceptives in Europe, with less than half of women using a modern method of contraception. If a woman wants birth control without a long wait, she must pay for an appointment at a private clinic. The appointment costs as much as 400 złoty plus 120 złoty for a three-month supply of pills. The prescription must be renewed four times a year, at a cost equivalent to 13% of average earnings. The new law that went into effect in July this year will further restrict access. The emergency contraceptive pill ellaOne – the most popular morning-after pill in Poland, and the only one previously available over-the-counter – now requires a prescription. (Viagra, however, was recently made available without a prescription.)

The new law doesn’t technically amount to a ban. Some women, particularly in big cities, will be able to obtain a prescription on short notice in an emergency, or if they can afford to pay for it. But most people cannot afford it. If you don’t have money, if you’re on the losing side of Poland’s economic transformation, you’re stuck with the religious dogma. Despite broad public support, the church has stymied all attempts to introduce sex education in schools. In a 2014 pastoral letter, Polish bishops warned that sex education leads students to “become regular customers of pharmaceutical, erotic, pornographic, paedophile and abortion enterprises”. Several activists I spoke with recalled being shown, instead, the notorious anti-abortion film The Silent Scream. Another, Barbara Baran, remembered being forced to sing an anti-abortion song, sung from the perspective of an aborted foetus.

Even so, Poland has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, by some accounts the lowest in Europe. The Polish Health Ministry recently released a video suggesting rabbits as a healthy model for mating habits. While the church’s influence has failed to multiply its flock, it has succeeded in creating a taboo around abortion. Church groups harass patients arriving at doctors’ offices with gruesome placards. Between a quarter and a third of Polish women have had an abortion, but nobody talks about it. One activist told me that only after last year’s protests did she learn that three of her friends had had abortions. The church’s influence is not necessarily indicative of popular will. Weekly mass attendance has fallen from more than 60% in the 90s to about 40% today; the drop is especially sharp among young women. Since 2005, Polish politics, like a broken metronome, has swung between the right (under the Civic Platform party) and the far-right (under the Law and Justice party), both of which eagerly court the church for patronage, securing the church’s political power even as its popular support ebbs.

Any “humility” the government learned from last year’s protests appears to have been short-lived. There are currently several proposals circulating to further tighten the existing abortion law, by removing the right for a termination in cases in which the foetus has a congenital disorder. The church and leaders of the Law and Justice party have signaled their support. Save Women is again countering with a proposal to liberalise access to abortion. On 10 November, a legal opinion was leaked suggesting that anyone providing information about how to use pills or clinics abroad should be prosecuted for abetting abortion. The document was written by Ordo Iuris, a group of ultra-Catholic lawyers with connections to the Law and Justice party. For now, prosecutors are not acting on its recommendations but it seems designed to increase pressure on activists providing information to women.

It was around the same time that Polish customs began seizing shipments of pills from Women on Web and Women Help Women. The push to further restrict the current abortion law, the threats against those providing information, and the ongoing seizure of pills illustrate the limitations of eluding legal restrictions on abortion. You can only do so much without political power.
Support for this article was provided by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
© The Guardian*

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Ireland: Racism is just a normal part of our lives, youths tell study

29/11/2017- “Just be realistic here, because this actually does happen, I’m seen as a nigger... seen as a monkey... We get called these names. That even if it’s not on a daily basis, at least once a week. I’m just saying this actually does go on and you’re not taking it seriously.” That is the view of a black woman living in Ulster and interviewed for a report which shows many young people consulted now believe racism has become a ‘normal’ feature of their lives. The report, based on interviews with 50 young people from 20 different ethnic backgrounds around the country, was compiled by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI). Entitled ‘Make Minority a Priority’, it will be launched today in Dublin.

Latest Census data shows that almost one in seven people aged 15 to 24 are from an ethnic minority, including Poles, Romanians, Irish-Americans, and Brazilians. According to the report: “A key issue to emerge was the degree to which racism had become a ‘normal’ feature of young people’s lives. Remarkably, the young people presented stories which spoke of considerable resilience. In deflecting the impact of racism, they diminished it largely by shrugging it off. Nevertheless, the young people also expressed eagerness to find ways to challenge the endemic societal nature and tolerance of racism.” One key finding in the report was that “young people felt the need to have safe and supported places in which they could discuss ... issues”.

One Asian teenager told the interviewers she was afraid to show people who she was as she was afraid they would judge her based on where she came from. “So you’re just, like, scared of really being yourself,” she said. The report found that some teenagers faced an internal conflict between the identity of their parents and their Irish identity. “Young people have to negotiate being accepted by both their minority ethnic peers and their majority ethnic peers who all make differing demands or judgements,” said the report. Another finding among those interviewed was that integration was needed to build cultural understanding within the wider Irish community. “Critical was the call for an environment in which young people could be themselves and not be expected to assimilate,” said the report. It also found that some young people may also feel uncomfortable being singled out on the basis of their migrant or ethnic status or any requirement that they be a ‘representative’ of a particular country or culture.

Since the focus of the report is how the youth work sector can respond to the needs of those from ethnic minorities, it makes a range of recommendations, including the availability of anti-racism and intercultural training and religious literacy training with the aim of reducing Islamophobia. It also suggests creating a minority ethnic-led youth work forum as a special interest group, and that more work should be carried out to find gaps within current youth work provision. The NYCI said resources needed to be allocated at all levels to provide dedicated youth workers to support intercultural youth work, and it also calls for youth work funding to be opened up to ethnic-led youth work organisations “that aligns them with current youth work services”.
© The Irish Examiner

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World Cup in Russia could be dangerous for homosexual fans, FIFA advisers warn

28/11/2017- FIFA's anti-discrimination advisers are warning gay soccer fans going to the 2018 World Cup in Russia that displays of affection could be met with an aggressive response from intolerant locals. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains strong and intensified after a law was introduced in 2013 prohibiting dissemination to minors of "propaganda" legitimizing homosexuality. As fans prepare their trips after Friday's World Cup draw, the FARE network said it will produce a guide spelling out the threats to be prepared for in Russia. "The guide will advise gay people to be cautious in any place which is not seen to be welcoming to the LGBT community," FARE executive director Piara Powar said. "If you have gay fans walking down the street holding hands, will they face danger in doing so? That depends on which city they are in and the time of day.

"The guide will also include some detailed explanations of for example the actual situation of the LGBT community in Russia. It is not a crime to be gay but there is a law against the promotion of homosexuality to minors. Issues relating to the LGBT community are not part of the public discourse. Gay people have a place in Russia which is quite hidden and underground." FARE, which monitors FIFA fixtures for discriminatory behavior, said it is unclear whether fans will be allowed to display rainbow flags inside stadiums. "British and German fans' groups have asked FIFA if they are OK to raise a rainbow flag inside the stadium," Powar said. "FIFA has not really responded so far to say if this is something the security services will allow."

FIFA diversity head Federico Addiechi said he has seen no written request from fan groups on whether gay pride flags can be unfurled. "There's nothing in the regulation from FIFA that prevents anyone from entering the stadiums with non-political messages," Addiechi said. FARE has also has long-standing concerns about the reception black and ethnic minority fans will face around games in Russia. "Do go to the World Cup, but be cautious," Powar said. "There are two elements to it — one towards people of color and other element is far-right nationalism. Far-right extremist groups have had around 300 people banned from attending the World Cup. "After years of denial about racism Russian FA finally taking action, group under Alexei Smertin has been addressing the issue and fines have been issued." Research for the 2016-17 by FARE and Russia-based SOVA showed there were 89 racist and far-right incidents at Russian games, slightly below the two previous seasons.

Russian champion Spartak Moscow was punished by UEFA for monkey chants in a recent Youth League game against Liverpool. Spartak was also fined for discriminatory chants against fans from Russia's North Caucasus in a domestic cup game last month. Anti-discrimination observers will be deployed at the June 14-July 15 World Cup where matches can be stopped or abandoned if racism persists after warnings inside stadiums. "The World Cup must be inclusive, respect human rights, must respect the rights of everyone including minorities," Addiechi said. "We have the assurance from the Russian organizing committee and the Russian authorities that everyone will feel safe, comfortable and welcome in the country."
© The Associated Press

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Italian neo-Nazis interrupt volunteers’ meeting to bemoan migrant ‘invasion’

A gang of skinheads barged in on voluntary workers in the city of Como on Tuesday night to denounce their efforts to help migrants in Italy, which they claimed was subject to an “invasion”.

29/11/2017- The group of around 15 men, who said they belonged to a group called Veneto Fronte Skinheads, interrupted members of Como Without Borders, a network of associations that help migrants and refugees in northern Italy, as they met in a local community centre. Dressed in matching black bomber jackets, the men surrounded the volunteers’ conference table and listened as their spokesman read aloud a wordy screed decrying globalism and immigration. Amid awkward silence, he claimed that European people were being “replaced” by “non-people” and denounced those who assist migrants as “proponents of immigrationism [sic] at all costs, incapable of seeing that their sick logic is sacrificing people the world over on the altar of alienating turbo-capitalism”. “For all of you, children of a country that you no longer love,” he told the volunteers, “we’re here to remind you that the real people loves and does not destroy itself. Stop the invasion. “Now you can go back to discussing how to ruin our country,” he concluded.

A video filmed by one of the volunteers then shows the surreal spectacle of the men filing out of the room as the association members wish them goodnight and ask them to be quiet leaving the building. The whole encounter only lasted a few minutes. Yet commentators say it’s another alarming sign of how visible neo-fascism is becoming in Italy, as economic crisis combines with the arrival of migrants – and the stirring of populist politicians – to fuel xenophobia. “It is unacceptable that that a group clearly inspired by neo-fascism interrupts a peaceful meeting to deliver their racist ramblings,” commented Carla Nespolo, the president of Italy’s partisans’ association Anpi, which maintains a lookout for new forms of fascism in Italy. The group called on the government to give an urgent response to what it described as “the umpteenth, shameful episode”.

Veneto Fronte Skinheads are a prime example of what Italy calls “naziskins” – a portmanteau of Nazi and skinhead. Founded in 1986, according to La Repubblica, in recent years the group has taken to targeting charities that offer assistance to migrants. Its website posts pictures of recent stunts, which seem to consist chiefly of hanging homemade banners attacking charities, denouncing Islam, praising Nazi collaborators and commemorating Allied bombings on Nazi Germany. “They wanted to intimidate us, but they didn’t succeed,” a spokeswoman for Como Without Borders, Anna Maria Francescato, told local news site Qui Como. “We’ve received lots of messages of support that encourage what we’re doing. We certainly won’t change any of our activity and we’ll continue to fight fascism.”

Asked to comment, the leader of the Northern League – a nationalist, far-right party that has made immigration its leading talking point – said the skinheads were wrong to enter the meeting without permission. "That's not the way to solve the problem of immigration, which so far has been tackled with the wrong policies," Matteo Salvini told La Repubblica, adding that his supporters are planning nationwide demonstrations this weekend against a new law that would allow the children of non-Italian residents to seek citizenship.
© The Local - Italy.

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Wilders files police complaint against Dutch PM for ‘discriminating against the Dutch’

30/11/2017- Opposition leader Geert Wilders has filed an official police complaint accusing prime minister Mark Rutte of illegally discriminating against Dutch people. Legal experts said the move had ‘no chance’ of succeeding, mainly because Wilders’ complaint concerns laws that Rutte has submitted to Parliament in his job as prime minister rather than his behaviour as an individual. ‘It’s highly likely that the public prosecution service won’t pursue this,’ Wim Voermans, professor of public administration law at Leiden University told NOS. ‘It’s hard to see how the Equal Treatment Act can be applied here.’ A spokesman for the prosecution service in The Hague, which will have to decide whether charges should be brought against Rutte, said it would comment once police had sent the case file. ‘Then we’ll see what’s in there,’ said a spokesman.

Wilders said he had taken legal advice before filing his complaint, but declined to say who from. The legal practice of Geert-Jan Knoops, who defended Wilders when he was convicted of inciting discrimination against Moroccans in 2016, declined to comment. Accommodation facilities for asylum seekers, free healthcare for refugees with no income and the abolition of dividend tax to attract overseas investors are all examples of legislation where the government discriminates in favour of foreigners, according to the PVV leader. Wilders also launched a special website, rutte3discrimineert.nl, inviting people to support his campaign and send in instances of discrimination.

The method is similar to the PVV’s ‘shop a Pole’ website in 2012, which was condemned by Dutch MPs and European commissioner Viviane Reding, and turned out to have been inundated with false or satirical complaints. The move is a change of tack for a politician who has spent the last decade calling for anti-discrimination laws to be scrapped or rewritten to enshrine the pre-eminence of Judeo-Christian culture. Wilders has been prosecuted twice under discrimination laws in the last seven years. In 2011 he was cleared of insulting Muslims and inciting hatred and discrimination in a series of public statements and his documentary film, Fitna.
© The Dutch News

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Dutch coalition parties call for better assessment of gay asylum seekers

29/11/2017- MPs are calling on the immigration service to improve its screening of gay and Christian convert asylum seekers to make sure that no-one is sent back to their country of origin if they could face persecution. The four coalition parties will submit a motion calling for better checks during Wednesday’s debate on the justice ministry budget, broadcaster NOS said. Questions about sexuality and conversion to Christianity are difficult ones to pose, D66 MP Martin Groothuizen said. ‘You don’t want to give people who are abusing the issue a residency permit but we also want to stop people who are gay and who won’t be safe in their country of origin being sent back home,’ he said. ‘This is why the processes need to be more careful.’

Currently, the focus of immigration service questioning focuses on how a refugee became aware he or she is gay. ‘Sometimes people are asked what day they became gay on,’ Groothuizen said. ‘But you don’t become gay in one day, especially not in a country where you won’t be accepted. This June a gay Iraqi refugee was been given temporary leave to stay in the Netherlands after judges in The Hague said officials were wrong to say he was ‘not gay enough’. The 26-year-old fled Iraq in 2015 and claimed to have been abused by his uncle and his uncles friends since he was 12. But the then junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhof refused to give him a refugee permit, saying he had not sufficiently proved that he was homosexual.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: 40 hours’ work order for telling Zwarte Piet campaigners to ‘go work as slaves’

27/11/2017- A man who posted a racist message on Facebook in response to a demonstration against Zwarte Piet has been ordered to carry out 40 hours’ unpaid work. The 31-year-old man from Lelystad said protesters at the welcoming parade in 2015 should be ‘put to work again as slaves’, adding: ‘work off that lazy sweat, nikker, that’s what you were born for.’ The message was one of 50 out of 19,000 posts highlighted by activists in the first case to use social media activity as the basis for a charge of offensive behaviour towards a group. A lawyer for the campaigners told the district court in Utrecht that the messages were discriminatory, threatening and incited hatred. The court sentenced the man to a 40-hour compulsory work order, 20 hours of which were suspended. The prosecution service is bringing cases against nine people altogether for posting offensive messages. Previous cases involving tweets and online posts have focused on direct threats or inflammatory language, such as the messages sent to politician Sylvana Simons when she joined the minorities’ rights party Denk. One of the campaigners involved in today’s case said it would send out ‘a signal to society that racist and violent statements will not be accepted’.
© The Dutch News

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How a Russian Neo-Nazi Became a Role Model for German Hooligans

28/11/2017- Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. It is a cool but mild Saturday in Cologne. FC Cologne and Schalke 04 are playing a friendly while, at the same time in Berlin, there is a conference for football fans on diversity and their rights. All of this is, however, quickly forgotten as major riots break out across the city. Two hundred hooligans and violent ultras have arranged a so-called "match." The police step in and nip it in the bud, though one person suffers life-threatening injuries to his head. The Cologne side was supported by hooligans from Dortmund and by one of the most important figures in European hooliganism: Denis Nikitin, a supporter of the extreme right from Moscow and the founder of the Neo-Nazi martial arts brand White Rex. “We won. Unfortunately the whole thing was taken up by the courts and I am one of the suspects but it was an awesome day," Nikitin jabbers in an interview with the Ukrainian website troublemakers.com in early 2017. "The Schalke fans did not want to go out to the fields but wanted a fight in the city like in the old days."

A 'Real Boys' Friendship'
Nikitin's relationship with the city’s hooligans is not just occasional. “Nowadays I fight for the people in Cologne,” he says. These are developed networks. The Cologne fans have been seeking contacts in the Russian Neo-Nazi scene for years. In the autumn of 2013, hooligans from Cologne took part in a very unusual football tournament in Moscow. The flag of “Hooligans Cologne” hung from the railings alongside those of groups like “N-troops” and the “Warriors” of CSKA Moscow as well as the neo-fascist “Simple Youth.” The place teemed with runes, skulls and Celtic crosses. Wine was served from bottles with a likeness of Hitler on the label. After the tournament, there was another “match.” Eight Cologne fans took on the so-called “Kindergarten” from Moscow and were badly beaten. Cologne’s ringleader was quickly knocked out and one of his men suffered fractures to his face — all part of the fun for right-wing hooligans. Nikitin fought alongside the men from Cologne.

He comes to the city on the Rhine several times a year and speaks fluent German. If you trawl through his Facebook contacts, it quickly becomes clear that many are from Cologne — from their profile picture or from the addition of the word Cologne to their names. Some are posing in martial arts gear in front of the football team’s flag or in T-shirts from the Ultra group “Boyz.” One person wears a T-shirt which has the words “Ultra Violence” in three languages on it. This is not just a right-wing shirt advocating violence. It belongs to White Rex’s stock and this is how the brand has established itself online. “We established a real boys’ friendship with the guys from Cologne and Dortmund. We were brought together by nationalist ideas” — this is how Nikitin describes his connection to Germany. The relationship to football is, however, gradually disappearing. “The German groups have long since cut themselves off from the clubs and do their own thing. In Cologne it has reached the point that we don’t fight for the club but for the Dortmund boys and ourselves. We’re fighting for our city, our region," Nikitin says. Politically they support the AfD, a far-right German political party.

Right-wing business
Nikitin founded the Neo-Nazi and martial arts brand White Rex in 2008. Since then he has set up a series of martial arts tournaments across Europe targeted at the far-right. They began in Russia but have more recently been held in Italy, Hungary and Greece. The first one, named “Warrior Spirit,” was an MMA qualification tournament. These early events were in places like Voronezh and Novorossiysk, far away from Russia’s great metropolises, and were sometimes held in small rooms with ten fighters and twenty spectators. The fighters could qualify from these for grand tournaments for right-wing thugs in St. Petersburg and Moscow. In the interview with troublemakers.com, Nikitin talks openly about his racist mindset. “I give white boys (and young women) the opportunity to test their strength. You have to get healthier and stronger,” he says. Nikitin is an ascetic “health Nazi.”

Other tournament series organized by Nikitin include the “Birth of a Nation” in October 2013, which the Dortmund Hooligan Timo “Fritz” K. participated in, and the “Young Storm League,” in which up-and-coming fighters prove themselves. The events are well attended, up to 1,500 spectators fill the halls. Nikitin has taken well to organizing such huge events. White Rex is professionally run. They advertise their events with well-produced videos and modern designs. Nikitin is both neo-Nazi and businessman. He wants to reach people from outside his own scene and has a business plan which is not just limited to sporting events. White Rex also has a far-right hiking group, “the Vandals,” which sells outdoor equipment. “I have a global remit and I need to cover all the elements of modern living,” Nikitin continues. “White Rex is an alternative approach to life, which I want to be complete with clothing, tournaments, sports nutrition and gyms.”

Nikitin wants to be a big deal, a kind of all-encompassing National Socialist supplier. He comes from the Moscow hooligan scene, has a busy career and has access to a wide range of international networks. He was 22 when he got into the scene and four years later became a member of “Yaroslavka,” a group close to CSKA Moscow. “That was pure chance. I don’t like football. I love boxing. As a supporter, chanting along with the team does not do much for me. I like the adrenaline, hunting opponents through the city, pitched battles, the action behind the football. That's my thing!” He is deeply tied to the Russian hooligan scene, and in 2016, along with many others, traveled to the European Championships in Marseille to start a riot at the harbor. Nikitin was the leader of a small group of participants. He also offers courses in self-defense and knife-fighting, both in and outside Russia. In 2014, he was invited to speak at a conference of the “London New Right,” according to the blog ukrainianpolicy.com.

Before that, he had led fitness courses at a training camp for British neo-Nazis in Wales. Through his brand, he has also made contacts with Legia Warsaw and Sparta Prague fans and he is also close to Ukrainians, having organized a tournament in Kiev. This relationship does not appear to have been much affected by the Russian-Ukrainian war in the Donbass. “I love the idea of a Russian world but you have to set this world up in its own country first,” says Nikitin before embarking on a monologue about Russia’s internal multi-culturalism, especially the Chechens and the Tajiks. “It’s why I find it so sad that so many good Russian and Ukrainian lads got involved,” is how he articulates his thoughts on the war.

The Nibelungen Fight
With his mixture of Nazi businesses, a range of modern martial arts and an international network, Nikitin has developed into one of the key figures in the European far-right. He is attempting to bring hooligans into the Nazi scene with a new kind of event — a financially profitable festival of violence, solidarity and political hatred. He has even brought this to the German market. Along with the partners mentioned above, he sponsored a martial arts event organized by the far-right “Hammerskins” called “The Nibelungen Fight.” He took part himself both as a speaker and a fighter. The tournament’s name relates to a medieval Germanic saga in which Siegfried the dragon-slayer bathes in the blood of one of his victims and thereby becomes invincible. His shoulder is however covered by a leaf and remains vulnerable. The logo of the tournament contains a small leaf – it contributes to the tournament organizers’ self-image as being part of a national epic.

Since 2013, the event known as “The Ring of the Nibelungen," has taken place in secret locations — it is set up as a kind of secret Nazi concert. You send an email to an anonymous address to buy tickets and then receive a PO Box number, normally in Dortmund, to which you transfer money in order to receive your order. On the day of the event, you are sent a telephone number which leads you to various meeting points and other phone numbers, until you eventually receive the exact location. For the first few years, this was in a spa town on the German side of the Eifel mountain range, in 2016 it took place in Gemünde in Hesse, as confirmed by the government in response to a parliamentary question. At the event, a ring is constructed with ropes in the middle of a hall, in which both K-1 boxing, similar to kickboxing, and Mixed Martial Arts bouts take place. There are chairs around it and a standing area.

Over the years the music played has alternated between current pop groups and bands associated with the scene like Stahlgewitter and Landser. Merchandise like T-shirts, stickers and sporting equipment is on offer from brands like Ansgar Aryan, Pride France and White Rex. You can also buy records from bands who are performing. Because of the Russian guests, vegan soup has established itself as a snack of choice because many Russian neo-Nazis adopt a ‘straight edge’ philosophy, according to people in the scene. This has been the cause of a certain amount of nose-wrinkling and sarcastic comments from the German beer drinkers. However, vegan Nazis and ‘nipsters' are becoming more prominent in Germany too. Only around 100 spectators and fighters came to the first tournament. It has grown since then. In 2016, there were around 180 spectators. It is not just hooligans from the heartlands of the German far-right scene — Dortmund, Saxony and Thuringia — who make the journey.

In 2016 a hooligan from Bielefeld fought at the Niebelungen fight, using the name Adolf. He is a member of the violent, right-wing group “Venomous Generation,” a melting pot of ultras and hooligans around Arminia Bielefeld. Spread out over the whole afternoon and evening, more than 20 bouts took place. At the center of the event and of vital importance to the fighters are fascist ideas of bodily perfection and self-discipline as well as an enmity towards the democratic system. “Whereas at most ‘fight nights’ in Germany, participation all too often depends on the individual fighter’s acceptance of the liberal democratic constitution, the Nibelungen Fight does not see itself as part of a decaying political system but seeks to establish itself as a fundamental element of an alternative to this system and to spread this more widely” is how the fight’s homepage describes their view of democracy.

The Nibelungen Fight is an important meeting place for right-wing hooligans, neo-Nazi gangs and famous international right-wing martial arts fighters. It is very possible that this martial arts event will develop further and get bigger especially as the Nibelungen Fight was registered as a trademark with the German Patent and Brand Office in the summer of 2017. They want to enter the free market. Right-wing hooligans in Germany have become more professional. They organize their own events, run their own labels and have international networks. Russia provides them with a precedent. Nikitin went to visit his comrades from Dortmund and Cologne in October 2017 — probably not for the last time.
This is an excerpt from a chapter titled, “Hooligans professionalizing their violence” from the book Hooligans: A World of Football, Violence and Politics," by Robert Claus.
© The Moscow Times.

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German mayor stabbed in the neck by anti-immigrant attacker

Mayor Andreas Hollstein's attacker was allegedly upset over his stance on refugees.

28/11/2017- A mayor in the small German town of Altena was slashed in the neck by a man who was upset about the mayor’s pro-refugee stance. Andreas Hollstein, 54, had stopped by a kebab shop on Monday night when he said was approached by a man asking if he was the mayor. According to Hollstein, the man began accusing him of “bring[ing] in refugees”, produced a foot-long blade, and lunged at him. The mayor was saved by the quick-thinking of kebab shop owner Ahmet Demir and his family. Demir and his father overwhelmed the attacker, while his mother called the police, who arrived quickly and arrested the assailant. Hollstein, who suffered a six-inch cut to the left side of his neck, praised the family, who are of Turkish origin, for their reactions. “I’m sure if they hadn’t reacted like that, I wouldn’t be alive now,” he said.

German politicians were quick to condemn the attack, which the country’s security services said was politically motivated. “I am outraged by the knife attack on Mayor Andreas Hollstein, and very relieved that he is able to be back with his family,” Chancellor Angela Merkel tweeted. “Thanks also to those who helped him.” Justice Minister Heiko Mass tweeted, “We must never accept attacks on people who are just helping others. There must be no room in our country for hatred and violence.” Hollstein has been subjected to a barrage of abuse from Germans critical of his pro-refugee immigration stance. His small town of Altena took in more than 100 extra refugees in 2015 and established a network pairing new families with sponsors to help them integrate. “Everyone who works for people…is experiencing hate spread through social media and threats — I have had several in the past years,” Hollstein told the New York Times. “Interaction at the municipal level, not only in dealing with refugees, has become increasingly tough and ruthless.”

The attack on Mr Hollstein is the latest example of the growing specter of far-right extremism within Germany. Earlier this year, the German newspaper Tagespiel reported that authorities were aware of at least 23,000 far-right extremists in Germany, 12,100 of whom were described as violence-prone. Disturbingly, intelligence services also found an increasing number of first-time offenders who were not previously classified as far-right extremists. The high-profile trial of alleged neo-Nazi Beate Zschäpe is also nearing its conclusion after four years. Zschäpe is accused of being part of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which is accused of killing ten people, including a policewoman, between 2000 and 2007. The group is also accused of arson, two bomb attacks, and 15 robberies.

Hollstein is not the first German mayor to be attacked over refugee policies in recent years: In 2015, mayoral candidate for Cologne Henriette Reker was also stabbed in the neck while handing out roses to pedestrians, by a man angry with her policies. “We are shocked by the misdeed’s presumed xenophobic motive,” her campaign said at the time, adding that she was recovering in the hospital with family by her side. (Although Reker, an independent, was stabbed one day before the election, she managed to coast to victory with 52 percent of the vote.) None of this is helped by the fact that Chancellor Merkel’s government is currently at an impasse. After being dealt a heavy blow in the September elections, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, has spent the last two months trying to form a coalition government with the Social Democrats Party (SPD).

However, progress has been limited, raising the possibility of new elections just months after the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party gained an unheard-of 13 percent of the vote. One of AfD’s flagship criticisms: Merkel’s immigration policies and the idea that she had helped speed up the “Islamisation” of Germany. “Islam’s expansion and the ever-increasing number of Muslims in the country are…a danger to our state, our society and our values,” the group’s manifesto reads.
© ThinkProgress..

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Germany: Controversy over AfD member joining former concentration camp board

Politicians from the far-right AfD could soon be represented on a board that oversees former Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Survivor groups are appalled. But some observers say excluding the party could backfire.

28/11/2017- The success of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in last month's Lower Saxony elections is causing a headache for establishment parties and the state's Memorials Foundation. In previous years, each party represented in the Landtag, or state parliament, sent one member to sit on the foundation's oversight board. Following the current rules, a representative from the AfD, which won more than 6 percent of the vote in the October 15 Lower Saxony election, would also get a seat. The Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation is in charge of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial, the site of a former concentration camp where visitors can learn about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.

Controversy over German remembrance culture
Among the Memorials Foundation's main tasks is to "appropriately commemorate the victims of Nazi persecution and to ensure their life stories are not lost" and "support historical and civic education relating to Nazi crimes and to encourage reflection about their significance for the present," according to its website. Prominent AfD members in the past have stirred controversy for making anti-Semitic statements. Björn Höcke, head of the AfD in the eastern-German state of Thuringia, earlier this year called the Holocaust memorial in Berlin a "monument of shame" and said that German remembrance culture should first and foremost consist of teaching people about the great achievements of their forefathers. The AfD parliamentary group in Lower Saxony has not replied to DW's request for comment for this story.

Preserving ideals or creating martyrs?
News of a possible AfD member on the Memorial Foundation's board has sparked backlash from Holocaust survivor associations. Former Bergen-Belsen prisoner Shraga Milstein wrote a letter from Israel saying the thought of a member of this "revisionist and racist" party on the board was "unbearable" to him. Milstein was 12 when British soldiers rescued him from the camp in 1945. The director of the Memorials Foundation, Jens-Christian Wagner, has received other worried letters from survivors' associations in the US, France and Israel. "We have to take these concerns seriously," Wagner said in a statement. "It would be wrong to ignore the AfD. [But] dealing with them and their positions has to happen in a public forum … The foundation board is the wrong place for this. One hopes that the AfD will not send a representative to sit on the board." However, some observers fear that excluding the AfD would send the wrong message. "I don't think changing the rules to exclude the AfD is a good idea," Michael Fürst, chairman of the Association of Jewish Communities in Lower Saxony, told DW. "That would only turn them into martyrs. Us other board members are strong enough to deal with an AfD representative."

'Opposite of everything foundation wants to achieve'
Lukas Welz, chairman of Amcha Germany, an aid organization for Holocaust survivors, vividly remembers how, during the national election campaign this fall, the right-wing populists put up an election poster with the picture of a pregnant woman and the line "We'll make new Germans ourselves" in front of the Bergen-Belsen memorial. Displaying this xenophobic, anti-immigration poster right by the former concentration camp was a deliberate provocation by the AfD, Welz said. "Thinking about this and the fact that survivors' organizations are so opposed to an AfD member on the board, I've come to the conclusion that the AfD cannot be on the foundation's board, because the party is the opposite of everything the foundation wants to achieve," he told DW.

The board in its current, pre-election configuration will meet in December to discuss the issue. Member Sven Bratmann, who represents the state parliament's center-left Social Democrats (SPD), believes that the addition of the AfD would not stop the Memorials Foundation from achieving its goals. "We are doing good work and one AfD board member would not be able to stop us," Bratmann told DW. "But the good atmosphere we've had in our meetings so far would probably change." Instead of every parliamentary party automatically being represented on the foundation board, Bratmann has another suggestion. "We could vote on the board members the Landtag sends to the foundation," he said. "This way, AfD members would have to explain why they want to be on the board." If the other parliamentary groups weren't convinced by what the AfD members had to say, they wouldn't get elected, Bratmann said. "I think this could be a solution."
© The Deutsche Welle*

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German MP accused of making anti-Semitic, racist videos

AfD lawmaker’s company produced clips for extreme-right group.

27/11/2017- A senior member of the Alternative for Germany party is accused of having produced anti-Semitic and racist videos for a radical far-right group. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Peter Felser, a member of the Bundestag and one of the AfD’s parliamentary party deputies, is an owner of a production company called wk&f Kommunikation which, from 2001 to 2003, made campaign films for the extreme-right Republikaner (Republicans) party. The Republikaner party has in the past been monitored by German intelligence services because of extreme views, FAZ reported. The videos produced by Felser’s firm were banned. A German court found that one of the video clips was “endorsing, denying or downplaying the Holocaust,” Spiegel reported. Felser told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he regretted the films, and agreed that “indeed, they could be understood as a denial of the Holocaust.” A court ruled that another video, from 2001, was “clearly of anti-Semitic character.” The AfD was founded in 2013 and in this year’s general election it became the first far-right party to enter the German parliament since World War II.
© Politico EU.

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German far-right claims credit for Merkel struggles

The far-right Alternative for Germany party sees Chancellor Angela Merkel's struggle to form a new government as proof of its growing power to upend the country's political order, a top party official told AFP.

26/11/2017- Parliamentary group leader Alexander Gauland said in an interview that the current turmoil showed that the four-year-old AfD had succeeded in its primary goal in September's general election. "It's all downhill for Merkel now and that is partly our achievement," Gauland said in the eastern city of Potsdam. "Her time is up -- we want her to leave the political stage." The AfD campaigned on the slogan "Merkel must go", railing against her decision to let in more than one million mainly Muslim asylum seekers since 2015. Its election score was nearly 13 percent, snatching millions of votes from the mainstream parties and entering parliament for the first time with almost 100 seats in the Bundestag lower house. Although Merkel won a fourth term, she has thus far been unable to cobble together a ruling majority -- an unprecedented impasse in German post-war politics.

The crisis could trigger snap elections. Yet despite polls indicating that the gridlock could lift the AfD to an even stronger result, Gauland, 76, seemed reserved about heading back into electoral battle. "It is not up to us to call new elections and we aren't asking for them, but we are prepared for them," he said. "None of us is hoping for that with great enthusiasm, but we would probably make gains." Polls indicate that both Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU bloc and the rival Social Democrats would shed support if voters were called back to the ballot box. With his trademark tweed jackets and reading glasses, Gauland cultivates the look of an English country gentleman and expresses pride over the support his anti-immigration message has received from pockets of the British right-wing. In May he sparked outrage by saying that while German fans love star footballer Jerome Boateng, who was born in Berlin to a German mother and Ghanaian father, "they don't want to have a Boateng as a neighbour".

With the German economy humming and unemployment at a record low, the AfD has zeroed in on identity as a rallying cry. Gauland, a former CDU member, acknowledged that meant playing to deep anxieties and resentments, particularly in the former communist east, about a multicultural Germany. "We have always said that we give a voice to people's fears," he said. "We don't want the country to change to such an extent that it can't be turned back." Apart from the current political volatility, Gauland sees the wind at the AfD's back due to an announcement this month by one of Germany's biggest employers, Siemens, that it was slashing nearly 7,000 jobs globally. The industrial giant plans to close its sites in Görlitz and Leipzig, both in the eastern state of Saxony which the AfD won outright in September. "That will probably help the AfD," Gauland said of the layoffs. "In any case it is not very smart public relations when you rake in record profits and then sack people at the same time."

Gauland appeared relaxed about parties such as the pro-business Free Democrats trying to poach some of the AfD's signature issues including tougher border policies. "There is the old fight about who is the original and who is the copy," he said smiling. "If the FDP moves in our direction, I can't condemn that as completely wrong." Gauland played down rivalries within the AfD, seen most spectacularly in the resignation of former co-leader Frauke Petry just days after the general election. Looking ahead to a party congress this week in Hanover, Gauland said the AfD would focus on its platform rather than personnel. "People don't vote for the AfD because of specific people but out of protest at what is happening." Gauland said he did not see the AfD as riding a global populist wave. "Everyone always says 'Brexit and Trump, that will give you a big boost', but I don't see it that way," he said, pointing to the distinct national roots of each movement.

"I have always been sceptical of solidarity pacts with parties that are supposedly similar", including France's National Front and the Dutch Freedom Party. "An exception though is the FPOe," Gauland added, citing "cultural" ties with the Austrian far-right party now in talks to join a ruling coalition. Asked about a protest this week in which a group of activists secretly erected a replica of Berlin's Holocaust memorial outside the home of AfD politician Björn Höcke, who has urged Germany to stop atoning for Nazi guilt, Gauland's temper flared. "It is absolutely outrageous and the fact that the press is not up in arms surprises and angers me a lot," he said. "But of course it will help (Höcke) -- that is absolutely clear."
© AFP.

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Fractured French Right struggles to unite against Macron

A year ago, France’s conservatives appeared headed for the presidency. Now the French right is more fractured than at almost any point in the modern-day Fifth Republic, leaving one clear winner: President Emmanuel Macron, a centrist.

29/11/2017- Over the weekend, a group of Macron-friendly lawmakers cemented their split from the center-right The Republicans party, forming a new party, Agir (Act). In a further blow to The Republicans, three other party heavyweights defected to Macron’s Republic on the Move party. This comes at a time the far-right National Front party is riven by internal divisions and fighting a new rival movement set up by one of its own. In two weeks, The Republicans will elect a new party chief. The task of whoever wins will be to heal divisions and rebuild a party blown apart by Macron’s election triumph. “The Right is in the process of breaking apart ... if this goes on we will be in opposition for 20 years,” Mael de Calan, a rising star in The Republicans and candidate for party leader, told television channel France 2.

De Calan hit out at those deserting the party. He also said the frontrunner in the party leadership race, 42-year-old Laurent Wauquiez, was advocating policies that would push The Republicans too far to the right -- an outcome which could prompt others to leave. Macron, 39, dynamited France’s traditional political landscape in the summer, winning the presidency without ever having held office before and securing a commanding majority in parliament with a party just over a year old. Macron poached cabinet ministers from both the Socialist Party and The Republicans, leaving both scrambling for an answer to the former investment banker’s stunning rise to power. The Socialists of former President Francois Hollande were particularly hurt.

Traitors
“Macron destroyed the Left with the presidential election and now the target is the Right,” said Frederic Dabi of pollster Ifop. Both far-left ‘France Unbowed’ leader Jean-Luc Melenchon and far-right National Front chief Marine Le Pen are viewed as stronger opponents to Macron, an Odoxa poll showed at the weekend. Equally worrying to Wauquiez should he become leader of The Republicans is that another survey on Tuesday showed one in two voters were indifferent to him. Wauquiez, who calls those quitting the party “traitors”, told Reuters last week that he wanted to unite the party and that France needed his hardline proposals on immigration, security and Europe. “We won’t bring people together by being tepid,” he said. His platform has, however, left moderate party stalwarts such as Valerie Pecresse, leader of the wider Paris region, and former prime minister Alain Juppe, being coy about their future.

“The Republicans’ problem is that they are not showing the French an image of unity or a (future) leader that embodies a solid enough opposition,” said Odoxa’s president Gael Sliman, adding that Wauquiez’s hard-right line was not popular enough. Marine Le Pen, gloating, said on Tuesday that The Republicans faced a “catastrophic” situation. “They imploded in two camps,” she told BFM TV. But she too presides over a deeply divided party. One of its eight lawmakers on Monday defected to a splinter party established by her former deputy in September.
© Reuters.

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French president Emmanuel Macron to ban gender-based insults

Police to have power to fine perpetrators of verbal gendered violence

26/11/2017- France is to ban gender-based insults and wolf whistling in the street in a crackdown against sexism, the country’s president has said. In a speech Emmanuel Macron said it was unacceptable for France to be “one of those countries where women live in fear” of “verbal violence against women”. “Gender-based insults will be punishable by law. Offenders will face a deterrent fine,” Mr Macron said. “Many women have said that the first sexist violence they meet is in the street,” the French President said in the address to mark International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. He added: “And many harassers practice wolf whistling and other types of verbal stigmatisation - and for a long time people reacted with indifference.” “This is unacceptable. Women must feel comfortable in public spaces. Women in the republic must not be afraid to use public spaces. This must be one of the priorities of the police.”

During the speech Mr Macron, whose popularity with voters has struggled since his election in May this year, observed a minute's silence for the 123 women killed by their partners or ex-partners in 2016. He unveiled a package of measures, one of which will make create “an offence which will give the police the right to issue a fine if there is a verbal attack on a woman". The president also said he would create “on-demand” bus stops in the evening to help women to get home safely, and set up a 24-hour national online service for victims of sexual discrimination and harassment. Mr Macron has also called for an awareness campaign against online pornography and the extension of the powers of the French television regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel, to internet videos. Last month in the UK the Green Party called for attacks against women to be recorded by police as hate crime. Under current rules the Crown Prosecution Service recognises religious, racist, anti-disability, homophobic, biophobic and transphobic hate crimes.
© The Independent

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French politicians launch new party in challenge to conservatives

Center-right party ‘Agir’ will stand for ‘liberal, social, European, humanist and reformist ideas.’

26/11/2017- A breakaway group of French politicians launched a right-leaning political party Sunday as an alternative to the conservative Les Républicains party. The party — called “Agir,” which in French means “to act” — was founded by 19 politicians who were previously members of the “Constructivists,” a group formed in June by members from the Républicains party and the center-right Union of Democrats and Independents, according to French newspaper Le Figaro. The party is staking its ground as an alternative to Les Républicains, which has been divided and demoralized ever since François Fillon crashed out of the presidential race in April. Laurent Wauquiez, the front-runner in party leadership elections slated for December, has staked out anti-Macron stances on everything from economic policy to the role of Islam in France, often emulating far-right leader Marine Le Pen and infuriating some moderates.

It is not yet clear if the founders of Agir, who are still part of the Républicains party, will be able to hold on to their Républicains membership. In its party manifesto, the party it wanted its members to remain “free” even if it supports certain ongoing reforms under the government of President Emmanuel Macron and his party, La République En Marche. Its goal, the party claimed, is “to defend the liberal, social, European, humanist and reformist ideas of the right and the center.” The party’s launch came as several politicians — Minister for Public Accounts Gérald Darmanin, Ecology Minister Sébastien Lecornu and Representative for Hauts-de Seine and key Constructivist leader Thierry Solère — chose to join Macron’s party after they were excluded from the Républicains party, according to newspaper Journale du Dimanche.
© Politico EU

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Breitbart Writer Exposed as Admin of White Supremacist Facebook Group

Jack Hadfield, who writes for the site run by Steve Bannon, is behind a group that serves as a platform for fascists and white supremacists, report says

28/11/2017- A writer for Breitbart, the far-right news website run by former White House chief counsel Steve Bannon, has been exposed as the administrator of a far-right Facebook group featuring "virulently racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic content," the progressive news website ThinkProgress reported on Monday. According to the report, the British anti-fascism charity Hope Not Hate discovered that Jack Hadfield, a third-year political science student in Britain, is behind the hidden group Young Right Society. The page, which has some 200 members, describes itself as "a place for those who are on the Right to discuss politics, philosophy, and general Right-wing stuff with as little censorship or government intervention as possible."

But Hope Not Hate has discovered that the group also serves as a platform for fascists and white supremacists, with some members expressing support for a neo-Nazi group the British government classified as a terror organization. "Jo Cox was a virtue signalling, more-progressive-than-thou cunt and we do not owe her respect just because she was killed," wrote one member in a reference to the Labour MP who was murdered by a neo-Nazi. Another post proposes a cover photo for the group featuring a swastika and men dressed up as Nazis. Hadfield defended his failure to delete especially hateful posts, saying in a statement, "that's what free speech is. "This smear campaign run by Hope not Hate is just another example of the left attempting to shut down free discussion, a worrying insight into the future of so-called 'liberals' in this country," said Hadfield, who has written over 150 articles for Breitbart.

Breitbart News, which is edited by Steve Bannon, is popular with the "alt-right," a loose grouping characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics that includes neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. Bannon left the news website prior to joining U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 presidental campaign, but returned to work for Breitbart just hours after Trump fired him in August.
© Haaretz.

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British MPs seek ban on Trump visit after neo-Nazi tweets

1/12/2017- Theresa May should be true to her word and cancel Donald Trump’s invitation for a state visit, having declared that peddlers of hate should be banned from Britain, Members of Parliament (MPs) said yesterday. The Labour Party’s Paul Flynn was one of many who suggested that the U.S. president be charged with inciting racial hatred on arrival to Britain after he retweeted a series of posts by far-right activist Jayda Fransen. Widespread condemnation both in and out of Parliament has followed Trump’s sharing of anti-Muslim videos posted by Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First. Her group, best-known for social media bigotry and videoing its members harassing mosque-goers, was a major influence on Thomas Mair, who killed MP Jo Cox in June 2016.

Flynn said of Trump: “He has disgraced himself again and again and he worries us, because his impulsive finger is on the nuclear button. "If he’s allowed to come to this country now, he should be treated as anyone else who breaks the law and charged with inciting racial hatred. The government should withdraw the invitation.” Labour former minister Chris Bryant agreed that the U.S. president was “a repeat offender.” He added: “You cannot stand up to this kind of action, you cannot stand up to horrible racism, or pretend to do so, and invite the man in through the front door. “The Prime Minister, when she was home secretary, said homophobes and racists who will stir up hatred in this country will not be allowed in and, if they come to this country, they’ll be arrested. “That’s what should happen in this case and the Home Secretary [Amber Rudd] knows it.”

Conservative Party MP Peter Bone asked Rudd if the Prime Minister could make “the world be a better place” by persuading Trump to shut down his Twitter account, which has 44 million followers. Rudd appeared to back the suggestion by replying: “It’s interesting to note [Bone’s] advice regarding Twitter accounts—I’m sure many of us might share his view.” Labour MP Naz Shah said May, when she was home secretary, had banned people from Britain for having “promoted organizations peddling the hate-filled ideology of fascism.” She added: “Not only has the commander-in-tweet done this, he has defended it, publicly chastising the British Prime Minister for her comments.”

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said that Trump’s online activities were “offensive to all decent British people.” London Mayor Sadiq Khan also said May should withdraw the invitation and demand an apology on behalf of the British people. An invitation for Trump’s state visit had been extended and accepted but the dates are yet to be agreed, Rudd said. May stated that the president was “wrong” to retweet the videos—purportedly showing violent acts by Muslims. At a press conference during a visit to Jordan, May said: “Britain First is a hateful organization. It seeks to spread division and mistrust among our communities. “It stands in fundamental opposition to the values we share as a nation—values of respect, tolerance, and common British decency.”

Trump responded by berating the Prime Minister about British domestic policy, again via Tweet, saying: “Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!” Trump has also received criticism from the House of Lords with Labour former cabinet minister Lord Hain saying there could be no question of a state visit until Trump at least expressed some remorse. He described Britain First as a “Nazi group with a vicious record of attacks, racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.”
© Peoples World

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UK: McDonald's apologises after Muslim woman ordered to remove headscarf

McDonald’s has apologised after a Muslim woman was told to remove her hijab by a security guard at a restaurant in London.

1/12/2017- The young Londoner filmed the McDonald's employee telling her to remove her headscarf and saying: "it's just a matter of taking it off" at the branch in Seven Sisters on Friday. In the clip, he appears to block her from stepping forward to the tills to order her food after she rightly refuses to remove her hijab and explains that she wears it for religious reasons. Eventually, another customer steps in and tells the employee he cannot stop her from entering the restaurant. She is heard saying: “It’s not just a matter of taking it off. I wear it for religious reasons and I’m not ashamed of it. And I will stand in line and I will get the food that I want because this isn’t OK. “I go to all the shops and any restaurant I want and in my hijab and I buy the food I want to buy and then I come here. And I literally live down this street from here. "This is actually like a hate crime, this is a hate crime.”

The customer who stepped in to help then said: “You can’t stop her coming into here because she’s wearing a headscarf.” The woman replied: “I’m sorry I just want to know who is implementing this policy because this is f****** ridiculous.” She is accused of being rude and tells staff: “I’m not being rude I’m just so shocked right now. I’ve been living in the UK for 19 years now and this is the first time I’m faced with this kind of discrimination and I am shocked. I’m actually shocked.” The footage ended with the Muslim woman leaving the restaurant and telling staff: “I don’t want anything any more.” It was posted on Twitter by a woman named Sabrina, who said the footage was recorded by her friend. “My friend was refused service at a McDonalds today in London because she was wearing a hijab,” she said. “When she started recording the incident, she was told to stop but thankfully didn’t. “Thank you to the kind man who defended her against the security guard and employees at the store.

McDonald's apologised in a message on social media and also released a statement. A spokeswoman for the fast food giant said: "McDonald’s does not have a policy in place which restricts or prevents anyone wearing a hijab, or any other religious dress, from entering the restaurant. We welcome customers of all faiths and would like to apologise to the customer as this situation should not have taken place. "We are taking this matter extremely seriously and are addressing this with the individuals involved."
© The Evening Standard..

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UK: Far right Polish hooligans recruited by neo-Nazis to fight anti-fascists in Liverpool

Three men jailed after court hears of "planned mob violence" featuring arsenal of weapons and "appalling" injuries

27/11/2017- Three far right Polish hooligans recruited by neo-Nazis to fight anti-fascists in Liverpool were today jailed. Opposing factions hurled missiles and caused up to £25,000 of damage to St George’s Hall in ugly scenes on Saturday, February 27, 2016. A woman was left scarred for life, a man suffered a broken nose and a police officer was knocked unconscious outside Lime Street Station. Another officer suffered a broken wrist and an elderly black woman was racially abused and struck in the head by a stone. Nazi swastikas were daubed on walls, cobble stones were torn up from the building’s plateau and a Victorian statue was damaged. Marcin Reekus, Pawel Starzynski, Lukasz Pietraszek and Michal Nalepka all admitted violent disorder at the start of a trial. Liverpool Crown Court heard how they were recruited by event organisers and North West Infidels members Shane Calvert and Wayne Bell.

Convicted crack cocaine and heroin dealer Reekus, 31, was described as the “principal organiser” of the “Polish Hooligans” group. He ran a ‘Polish Ultras’ Facebook page and after being contacted by Calvert, sent him a poster confirming they would fight side-by-side. Reekus knew the “anti-immigration demonstration” was being moved from Manchester to Liverpool – a deliberate ploy to try and trick police. Simon Driver, prosecuting, said Reekus did not get out of the train station, where he was pictured posing with a Polish flag. But a second group of fascists gathered on the steps of St George’s Hall, where neo-Nazi flags were flown amid ‘sieg heil’ salutes. Police spotted 10 to 15 men in a car park in Craven Street near TJ Hughes, who Mr Driver said “made no secret of their designs”. Some wore black hoodies emblazoned with “Polska Hooligans” and badges showing a person being kicked, captioned “good night left side”.

The masked group were approached by an officer and asked what they had come to Liverpool for, to which one thug replied: “A fight.” The group – including Starzynski, 36, Pietrazek, 28, and Nalepka, 33 – doubled in size then “descended in unison” to the hall. Mr Driver said: “The arrival of this group was a catalyst for an increase in the levels of violence.” Police came under attack from both sides with industrial fireworks, flares, bottles, cobble stones and eggs at around 2.30pm. After four and a half hours, officers encircled the right wing supporters and marched them back to Lime Street Station. Police recovered a pepper spray canister from the steps and knuckledusters, a baton and a dog chain from the area where the Poles were held. Starzynski was arrested and his mobile phone revealed his number had been used for arranging transport on a “f*** Islam and ISIS” event poster.

He had talked about buying the hoodies, one of which he wore when he ran to the hall and threw a smoke canister at counter-protesters. He was recorded wearing a clown mask, which he took off to reveal a gum shield, and “sparring mitts” on his hands. Pietrazek also wore one of the hoodies and his phone showed he was responsible for buying and distributing the tops. He had exchanged text messages with a man about fighting “lefties”, saying a “decent crew” was going from Preston, Leeds and Crewe. Nalepka, who wore his own grey top, was recorded with his face covered and wearing gloves with padded knuckles. Mr Driver said: “He is captured on the footage adopted a fighting stance with his fists raised towards left wing protesters.” Nalepka was pushed back by officers, but later breached a cordon, only to be assaulted by counter-protesters.

Judge Andrew Menary, QC, imposed criminal behaviour orders, banning all four men from entering Liverpool for five years. He said many of the “self-styled Polish hooligans” wore “deliberately intimidating face masks” and tops bearing violent imagery. The judge said: “There was nothing benign about the hooded tops that those men were wearing.” He added: “It was planned mob violence.” Reekus, of Bradford, West Yorkshire, was jailed for 23 months and Starzynski, of Ware, Hertfordshire, and Pietraszek, of Hayes, West London, for 20 months each. Michal Nalepka, of Harlow, Essex, was handed 20 months in prison, suspended for two years, plus a 25-day rehabilitation activity requirement. Judge Menary said Nalepka must perform 250 hours of unpaid work and pay £500 in compensation, to be split equally between the five victims.
© The Liverpool Echo

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UK: Islamophobia award ‘puts target on back’ of former equalities chief Trevor Phillips

26/11/2017- The annual Islamophobia awards are “genuinely dangerous”, according to Trevor Phillips, the former equalities chief who is nominated for a controversial satirical award from the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). Other nominees for the Islamophobia awards, presented in a London ceremony tonight by the pressure group — which is authorised to take part in UN meetings — include Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, and Dame Louise Casey, the former integration tsar. Phillips said the label “painted a target on the back of people on the list”. He added: “Defining Louise or myself or anybody else as an Islamophobe is offering a licence to do us harm. “They will say that it is just verbal and political. They know that in this world right now this is not the way some other people see it. It really isn’t a joke. It is genuinely dangerous. These campaigns are all part of an attempt to intimidate public figures from saying anything at all about integration into our society.”

Ofsted, which last week announced plans to question children who wear the hijab to primary school, described the label as “disappointing and unhelpful, particularly if it leads to flawed perceptions about what we, as an inspectorate, are trying to achieve In its announcement of the nominations, the IHRC says it is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) holding special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN. It was admitted in 2007, entitling it to take part in UN meetings. Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the IHRC, said: “If any of the nominees has received any credible threats to their lives, we would advise them to do what we do when we receive similar threats from Islamophobes and racists: contact their local police for support and protection.” However, he insisted that the awards were a satirical event and that “numerous nominees . . . have actively campaigned for their supporters to vote for them as they covet the title of Islamophobe. We have not been contacted by any nominee or third party claiming our satirical awards have led to them being threatened either this year or in previous years.”

The IHRC said the public nominated the contenders for the awards, and voted on who they wanted to win. It said it was unable to explain on what grounds particular nominations had been made, but would announce the citations for the winners. Casey’s review of integration, published by the government last December, found that segregation was at “worrying levels” and accused public bodies of being too afraid to challenge divisive or harmful religious practices. In 2016 Phillips presented a Channel 4 programme, What British Muslims Really Think, that unveiled polling data revealing a rift between Muslims on issues such as gender equality and homosexuality as well as terrorism. Earlier this year he criticised Tower Hamlets, an east London council, over the case of a non-Muslim foster child placed in a Muslim household: he claimed its “pro-Muslim stance” allegedly took priority over the child’s welfare.

A UN spokesman said: “It is not our place to comment on the views of NGOs, which are their own views. Consultative status does not imply any endorsement by the UN of the views of the organisations that hold such status.”
© The Times,

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UK: Racists are in for a big surprise when they see what happens to immigration after Brexit

After Brexit, the “free movement” of European immigrants into Britain will come to an end. * Non-European countries are likely to want new trade deals with Britain, just as the Leavers insist. * But those countries will all demand immigration rights. India already wants this. * Non-white immigration into the UK could increase because of these new trade deals. * This, presumably, is the opposite of what the racists were hoping for.

26/11/2017- A lot of people who voted “Leave” in the EU referendum did so because they want to see Britain take back control of immigration. One of the requirements of EU membership is that the UK allows “free movement” inside Europe – anyone with an EU passport can live anywhere else in Europe. Britain always had immigration, of course. But it was only in the 1990s that net inward immigration suddenly leapt from tens of thousands per year to more than 200,000 per year, according to the ONS. The change was dramatic.
A large number of Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian, and other workers landed in Britain in the last 15 years. Two-hundred-and-forty-eight thousand immigrants came to Britain in the year ending March 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics. Some neighbourhoods went from majority English-speaking to minority English-speaking within a decade. (The British took advantage too, and about 300,000 now live in Spain.) At the same time, immigration from non-EU countries increased as well. Now, it is not uncommon to see people wearing strict, traditional Islamic clothing in the streets of some cities – a rare sight prior to 1990. For many, the pace of change was disconcerting.

Playing on those fears, in 2016, before the vote, then-UKIP leader Nigel Farage unveiled a campaign poster showing hundreds of brown-skinned refugees tramping through Europe, with the caption “Breaking Point.” The photo wasn’t from Britain – it actually came from the Croatia-Slovenia border during the height of the conflict in Syria. But the message was clear: Vote in favour of Brexit, and we won’t let these people in. Some of the people who voted Leave did so because they’re racists, according to a study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology. Brexit, Trump, the rise of the AfD in Germany, and the 60,000 “white Europe” marchers at Poland’s Independence Day celebrations, are all signs that Europe’s white population is tired of dealing with mass immigration. And, to be fair, some working class people have legitimate questions about how the government is going to pay for all the extra healthcare and education resources that immigration requires.

Those people are feeling pretty pleased with themselves right now. After 2019, “free movement” comes to an end in Britain. After Brexit, the UK will be able to pick and choose who comes in, and be more selective about the countries we deal with. In theory, anyway. But racists will be in for a shock, according to YK Sinha, India’s High Commissioner to the UK. There are many non-European countries around the world who would like to do trade deals with Britain once the UK is out of the EU. And one of their key demands is going to be increased immigration for their people into the UK, Sinha told The Telegraph:  “You’ve all read about issues of freer mobility of professions. That is something right up there as far as India is concerned.” “I’m not talking about unfettered access or unrestricted travel, I’m talking about movement of professionals, movement of doctors, technicians, engineers. I think both sides will benefit from this exchange.”

When asked about that, the Indian-born British founder of Cobra Beer, Lord Karan Bilimoria, told Business Insider’s Adam Payne that India will indeed insist on immigration as a requirement for a trade deal. He echoed Sinha’s words: “India will want the movement of professionals, the movement of doctors, the movement of engineers. Both sides will benefit from this exchange. It won’t be a one-way street,” he said. That street will be paved with a trade deal, he said. He noted that Trade Minister Liam Fox was encouraging British businesses to export more beyond Europe. “What trade deals has he [Fox] actually done?” Bilimoria told Business Insider. “The Indian high commissioner warned today that an agreement [between Britain and India] might not be in place until 2030 and said talks haven’t even begun. He said the agreement would have to be mutually beneficial and can’t be a one-way street.”

“When Theresa May went to India in November 2016 it was a disaster. It would have been better if she had not gone. In the opening bilateral speech she made, she didn’t mention the movement of people at all, didn’t mention international students, didn’t mention universities, let alone meet with the university leaders who were part of the delegation. And then the Indian PM – one of the most powerful people in the world – humbly said that the free movement of our people is very important to us. Expect to hear more of this. The Brexiteers are right. A lot of countries outside Europe will want to trade with Britain when the country leaves Europe. But they will all come to the table with a similar demand: If we are doing business in your country, we will need to move there. Let us in, too. This table shows EU and non-EU immigration to Britain for the last couple of years. Note that European immigration is actually lower than that from the rest of the world. Asia alone sends 110,000 migrants to Britain every year. The rest of the world sends another 57,000.

European migrants, of course, tend to be white, whereas everyone else tends to be non-white. So the immigration pattern that is likely to develop after Brexit is a reduction in white immigration from Europe and an increase in immigration from everywhere else. Even if rest-of-the-world migration held steady, it would make up an increasingly greater percentage of UK immigration. This, presumably, is the opposite of what the racists were hoping for.
© The International Business Times.

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Why Farage and his friends are willing Sweden to fail (opinion)

People like Nigel Farage are desperate to demolish Sweden's reputation – because open, liberal Sweden discredits his brand of closed, suspicious nationalism.
By James Savage


28/11/2017- When we started The Local in 2004, I frequently found myself annoyed with the way the country was covered. If it was written about at all, outside of the sports and financial pages, it was painted in utopian terms that I found hard to reconcile with the complex society I lived in. Columnists like Polly Toynbee popped over and saw the most successful society the world had ever seen. I saw a generally happy and contented society, with high levels of trust and excellent public services, but also saw segregated cities in which immigrants lived behind invisible walls, in areas rarely visited by native Swedes. I saw the world's healthiest population with one of the world's highest levels of sick leave. Where outsiders saw a utopia, reality was more complex – and more interesting. Fast forward thirteen years and look how far the pendulum has swung.

Now, Sweden is the favourite poster child of the global far-right, of Breitbart, RT (Russia Today) and Trump acolyte Nigel Farage. But instead of fêting its successes, their job is to dismantle the picture of Sweden as a utopia. The far-right Gatestone Institute, frequently cited by these media, calls it a 'failed state'. Often these journalists just rip tidbits off the web, take them out of context and use them to portray Sweden as a place taken to the edge of the abyss by its liberal migration policy. American site Breitbart obsessively catalogues Sweden's failures: car burnings and supposed no-go zones are regular fodder for its paranoid editors. No local newspaper crime report is too obscure for them. They also pick up on stories that liberal media run with a positive spin, but turn them against Sweden – like the (somewhat inaccurate) story that the Church of Sweden had stopped calling God 'Lord' in favour of gender-neutral language. Russian propaganda channel RT (Russia Today) obsesses about migrant crime and political correctness.

The theme that Farage, former leader of the UK Independence Party, likes to return to is that Sweden is the 'rape capital of Europe'. Naturally, he blames migrants for this. This weekend he was talking about Sweden again on British radio station LBC: "The caller earlier… told me how wonderful Sweden was and the picture I was painting was wrong," he said. And then to refute them he said this: "[In] the Swedish city of Oskarshamn, joggers going out after night will have the option of being accompanied by armed police officers." "Who would have believed I would have said that about a Swedish city just five years ago? It is truly incredible." The story he had latched on to was that police in Oskarshamn (more a small town, not a city) had said they would take part in evening runs to create a feeling of security for joggers. The story about the jogging group was true. The reasons for it were not.

In fact, the policeman in Oskarshamn who organized the jogs said: "Not much happens here, but people are affected by what is happening elsewhere in the world and can feel unsafe when it’s dark." In other words, there was no heightened threat. Rather, people who felt uncomfortable jogging in the dark, but who otherwise had no specific reason to be worried, were being helped out by a police force with not much to do. Yet Farage managed to turn this into an example of a country in crisis. But if Oskarshamn is safe, what about Sweden as a whole? Is Farage right that it's the rape capital of Europe? On the face of it, Sweden has far more reported rapes than other countries – 68 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 28 in Belgium (the next European country on the list), 27 in the US and 19 in Norway. However, look into the figures and the picture of Sweden as a rape capital falls apart. The facts are boring and complex – something the far-right uses to its advantage: who can be bothered to question the headline figures?

First, Sweden's way of reporting crime (each rape by the same rapist against the same victim is counted as a separate incident) and its broad definition of what constitutes rape – increases the number of rapes in the stats. It also means that comparing the figures with other countries is meaningless. Until Sweden widened its definition of rape in 2005, Sweden's rape figures were similar to those in Belgium, Iceland, New Zealand or the US. Too high, for sure, but a rape capital, no. For the past decade the number of reported rapes per 100,000 has been pretty steady, vacillating between a low of 60 in 2015 and a high of 69 (in 2011). The migrant crisis seems not to have shifted the figures, although the far right repeatedly tries to link high rape levels to migration.

But for Farage and his fellow populists, facts are just tools. They use them selectively to paint a false picture of Sweden as a failed society. Why? For the same reason that left-wing commentators wanted to show it was a success back in 2004: to prove a political point. Breitbart, Russia Today and Farage aren't interested in Sweden, but the open, progressive values they think it represents. If Sweden succeeds, they have failed. That's why when I pointed out their errors on Twitter last weekend, they piled in with derision, vitriol and threats. They ribbed me for living in a middle-class neighbourhood, claiming that a supposed member of the elite like me knew nothing of the real Sweden. Discrediting me was vital: for them to succeed, Sweden has to be seen to fail.

Since the migrant crisis in 2015, the chorus egging Sweden on to fail has never been louder. During that crisis, Sweden took in 163,000 asylum seekers – more per capita than anywhere else in Europe. And they can point to real problems. Absorbing and integrating genuine refugees is a massive challenge, and one where Sweden has been found wanting in the past. The discrepancy between unemployment rates for native born Swedes and immigrants is high. Sending back failed asylum seekers is difficult, especially when they go underground to avoid deportation. And Moroccan street children, who don't have the right to asylum, have been blamed for a spate of muggings in central Stockholm. Then there are the parts of Sweden the far right like to call 'no-go zones'. And these urban areas with large numbers of migrants, like Stockholm's Rinkeby or Malmö's Herrgården, are rough. There are problems with gangs and guns



Some Swedes might feel justified in saying that these problems never existed when their country was more homogeneous. But if you're looking at Sweden from the outside, don't start thinking these places are worse than their counterparts in other European countries. And don't believe the lie that the police have abandoned them – actually, they're devoting more resources than before. I know all of this. I've lived and worked as a journalist here for 14 years. For all the trolls accusing The Local of whitewashing, we've reported on Sweden's problems far more than any other English-language publication. But we also know that the problems are only part of the story. I've travelled the length and breadth of Sweden, and I know it's an exceptionally well-run country with some daunting challenges.

Yet for Farage's listeners, or readers of Breitbart or RT, the problems are the whole story. Sweden is the perfect country for the populists – familiar enough to resonate with their audiences, foreign enough for people not to be able to properly assess their claims. Handily for them, there are very few permanent foreign correspondents in Sweden to give a more balanced picture. The far right wants you to think that Sweden as a whole is failing. It is not. In fact, it remains remarkably successful. Its economic growth is well above the European average and it tops lists of business-friendly countriesTrust in institutions and in fellow citizens is practically undiminished over the past three decades and is among the highest in the world. It's also one of the most gender-equal countries and has the highest life expectancies. Perhaps this is why it is always ranked as once of the world's happiest countries by the UN. 

Farage, Breitbart and RT don't want you to know this – but this is far closer to the real Sweden than the country teetering on the abyss that they want you to see.


© The Local - Sweden.
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Nigel Farage attacked for claiming joggers need armed police escorts in Sweden

Former Ukip leader claims people in Sweden are too scared to leave the house after dark while trying to justify depiction of the country as overrun with violent immigrants 

26/11/2017- Nigel Farage has sparked criticism after claiming a Swedish town is giving locals the option of an armed police escort due to concerns over immigrants. The former Ukip leader has previously depicted Sweden as a crime and rape hotspot due to high immigration. On his LBC Radio show, Mr Farage cited a story, later written up by far right news website Breitbart and conspiracy website InfoWars, which claimed the people in the Swedish town of Oskarshamn were too afraid to leave the house at night. He said: “The caller earlier who told me how wonderful Sweden was and the picture I was painting was wrong - [In] the Swedish city of Oskarshamn, joggers going out after night will have the option of being accompanied by armed police officers. “This is something that the local inspector thinks will make people a bit safer at night, going out in a Swedish city. “Who would have believed I would have said that about a Swedish city just five years ago? It is truly incredible.”

But the idea, which was first reported by the Swedish national broadcaster STV, was created by a local police officer who has set up a volunteer programme to encourage local residents to exercise more and had nothing to do with fears over immigration. Police Inspector Peter Karlsson said he came up with the idea after noticing that many people who wanted to run and walk during the winter were nervous about running in the dark. He then got together a group of his colleagues to set up an armed escort in their spare time for any joggers who want to run at night. He stressed that it was not needed as the town had little crime but said people were scared due to “events around the world and feel unsafe when it’s dark”. He added that they only needed to be armed due to protocol which says police must be “equipped for service” when out in the community.

When Breitbart covered the story, it highlighted the “armed” aspect and used it as part of its ongoing campaign to depict Sweden as crime ridden since the start of the refugee crisis in 2015. It linked the Oskarshamn story with a report published by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in 2016 which claimed 46 per cent of women over 16 felt scared to go out after dark in Swedish cities. But the report only recorded fear of crime rather than instances of crime itself and made no reference to the presence of refugees as the reason women were scared. Responding to Mr Farage's comments, journalist James Savage, who is British but lives in Sweden, posted a lengthy thread on Twitter about how "fed up" he was with people like the politician "spreading lies about this country to advance their racist agenda". He said Mr Farage and others target Sweden because it is an "open, liberal" country which is so successful it "utterly discredits [their] brand of closed, suspicious nationalism".

Others who had either lived in Sweden or knew people who do ridiculed the claims. Far-right media and politicians have recently attempted to depict Sweden as being overrun by immigrants who have created “no go zones” where even the police are too scared to venture. Mr Farage recently sparked an Ofcom inquiry after claiming Sweden has become the “rape capital of Europe due to the influx of predominantly Muslim refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq. The claim was widely contradicted by experts, such as Philip N Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, who produced a graph showing rapes recorded by police started increasing after 2004, eight years before the refugee population started increasing in 2012.
© The Independent

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Swedish politician forced to resign after saying Muslims are 'not fully human'

Martin Strid was a member of the right-wing Sweden Democrats

27/11/2017- A politician in Sweden has been forced to step down after he said in a live TV debate that Muslims were not “fully human”. Martin Strid, a member of the right-wing Sweden Democrats, sparked the controversy when he ranked Islamists on a scale of “0 to 100” while speaking at a party national conference. "On one end you are 100 per cent human, a person, everything that’s part of that concept. At the other end, you are 100 per cent Mohammedan," he said, according to a translation of his comments by the Swedish edition of The Local. Mr Strid’s party colleagues immediately denounced his comments, with its secretary Richard Jomshof saying the statement amounted to "racism". "Everyone has fundamental human worth, the same for everyone. If you think that someone has a worse value based on a certain skin colour or the community they are part of, that is racism for me. We will not accept that," Mr Jomshof said

Mr Strid tried to explain himself by saying Isis members were "close to being 100 per cent Mohammedan" but added that "all Muslims are somewhere on that scale". The local politician from the town of Borlänge added: "If you are an ex-Muslim you have come quite far towards being fully human.” He was speaking at the party’s national conference in Norrköping, Östergötland in the south east of Sweden. SD board member and MP Aron Emilsson later officially distanced the party from Mr Strid. "It is a statement we, from the party leadership, take a clear distance from. Categorising people and human values ​​based on what religious beliefs you have is a way we cannot argue,” it said, according to a report by SVT. “It is contrary to our basic view of human dignity.” Mr Emilsson’s statement did not call for Mr Strid to step down, only saying his comments “will certainly be handled in some way".

Mr Strid later apologised for his statement after a barrage of criticism. "It was very unfortunate, I expressed myself very clumsy," he told news site TT. Mr Strid quit the party hours later, The Local reported. But party leader Jimmie Åkesson dismissed the controversy, saying he had "never heard of [Strid] before" his speech, TV4 reported. "In this case it is very clear that if it isn't racism it is very close to racism," said Åkesson. Sweden is set to go the polls in a general election scheduled for September next year, with Sweden Democrats recently becoming the most popular party in the country, according to one poll. A YouGov survey in March found nearly a quarter – 23.9 per cent – of people said they would vote for the party if an election was held then.
© The Independent

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Sweden Democrat quits after calling Muslims 'not completely human'

Martin Strid has quit the Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna, SD) after saying that Muslims were "not completely human" during a conference.

26/11/2017- Strid, a local politician from the town of Borlänge, told the audience at the party's national conference in Norrköping that there is a "scale of 1 to 100". "On one end of the scale you are 100 percent human, a person, everything that’s part of that concept. At the other end, you are 100 percent Mohammedan," he said. Strid continued by saying that "all Muslims are somewhere on that scale" and that members of terror group Isis "are close to being 100 percent Mohammedan". "If you are an ex-Muslim you have come quite far towards being fully human," Strid continued. He also said that he wanted to "free Muslims from Islam, the goal is for them to join SD instead". The speech was recorded by broadcaster SVT, which also wrote on Sunday that Strid had been reported to police for hate speech.

SD party secretary Richard Jomshof called Strid’s statement "racist" and said he expects him to be excluded immediately, while Julia Kronlid, an MP with the party, called it "damaging". "This is very bad, extremely bad. We had the chance to get our policies out [through the conference, ed.] and the only thing the media are writing about is this," Kronlid said. The MP also said that she strongly rejected the comment, which was made by Strid from the stage at the conference in Norrköping, adding that it in no way represented the views of the party. Jomshof said that Sweden Democrats were entitled to be critical of ideologies but not to violate the rights of individuals. "Everyone has fundamental human worth, the same for everyone. If you think that someone has a worse value based on a certain skin colour or the community they are part of, that is racism for me. We will not accept that," he said. "Qualified criticism is allowed [within SD, ed.], but not racism. It’s as simple as that," he said.

The secretary added that a case had already been opened into the potential exclusion of Strid over the statement, and added that he would work to that end. The Borlänge delegate was also asked by SD to leave the conference. Strid apologized on Sunday morning for the comments, which were made on Saturday. "It was very unfortunate and I expressed myself very clumsily," he told TT, adding that he regretted the speech. "If you are stressed and in a hurry, you can sometimes express yourself wrongly," said Strid, who appeared to be speaking from memory, according to TT's report. He said he was aware his speech can be interpreted as saying Muslims are not fully human. "I have realized [this] and it’s very unfortunate. I know a lot of Muslims and am good friends with a lot. People are people, of course," he said. Later on Sunday broadcaster TV4 reported that Strid had asked to leave the party.

Party leader Jimmie Åkesson told SVT that he had "never heard of [Strid] before" his speech. "In this case it is very clear that if it isn't racism it is very close to racism," said Åkesson. SD’s national conference is currently being held in Norrköping, attended by the party’s senior decision-making body. 256 delegates will make decisions on almost 300 motions and four party programmes that will form the basis of next year’s general election campaign.
© The Local - Sweden

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Czech NGOs call on Babiš to keep post of human rights minister

25/11/2017- The Czech Helsinki Committee, Czech Women's Lobby and Lumos NGOs appeal on the election-winning ANO's head Andrej Babis not to cancel the human rights minister post, which ANO declared in its election programme, the NGO's said in an open letter to Babis provided to CTK on Friday. According to the NGO's representatives, the human rights agenda needs to be secured institutionally and as regards human resources and finance, unless it is to be merely formal. The ANO movement announced its plan to remove the post in its pre-election programme published one month before the October general election. The agenda was to be moved to the Justice Ministry, which his currently headed by Robert Pelikan (ANO). Jan Chvojka from Social Democrats (CSSD) currently performs the role of the Human Rights Minister. The outgoing government will hand in its resignation next week. President Milos Zeman plans to appoint a minority government led by Babis in mid-December.

It is crucial that the new cabinet further systematically dealt with the protection and fulfilment of human rights and civic freedoms of all vulnerable groups, such as women, children, seniors, the disabled and asylum seekers, and with continued assessment of whether the police, prison service and other state institutions respect the Czech laws and international human rights conventions, the NGO's wrote. They also stressed that the Czech Republic received 201 recommendations from the United Nations (UN) this month on what steps it should take in the next five years to improve the protection of rights of these groups and to meet its commitments in the area of human rights. "An action plan has to be prepared so that these recommendations can be met and it needs to be carried out without delay. And this is a task deserving a human rights minister," the Czech Helsinki Committee's director Lucie Rybova told CTK.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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