Headlines 24 May, 2013
Macedonia 'Hiding' Rise in Hate Attacks, Report Says
The authorities in Skopje are ignoring and even concealing the rise in crimes inspired by ethnic and religious hatred, the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said.
22/5/2013- A new survey by the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said the authorities are downplaying a rise in hate crimes, mostly committed for ethnic or religious reasons and involving ethnic Macedonians and Albanians. Attacks on gays and lesbians are also common. “We sense a tendency for these acts to be camouflaged as ‘violence’. Furthermore, the failure to recognise these acts [as hate crimes] has a tendency to concealment that paints a wrong picture of the situation,” said the head of the committee, Uranija Pirovska. The survey cites the example of a 13-year-old Albanian who was slashed with a knife after refusing to kiss a crucifix - a crime not even listed by Macedonian institutions as hate-related, according to the committee.
The survey says that in the past three years only 14 hate crimes cases have been recorded in courts across the country. The maximum sentence given was five months in jail, while most perpetrators were freed on probation. “This figure does not correspond with the reality in Macedonia,” said Voislav Stojanovski, legal advisor for the committee. “Even when perpetrators are discovered, they are being charged with ‘violence’, not for committing a hate crime, which is a graver form of crime,” Stojanovski added. According to the committee, based on reports from the general public, only in the past two months, since ethnically-charged protests erupted in Skopje in March, there have been at least 35 hate-crime cases. Most took place on public buses where angry encounters between ethnic Macedonian and Albanian pupils and students resulted in incidents.
In early March, ethnic Macedonian hooligans clashed with riot police in Skopje while protesting against the appointment of Talat Xhaferi, a former ethnic Albanian rebel commander, as the new defence minister. The next day, clashes escalated as Albanians took to the streets in a counter-protest, alleging they had been targeted by mob attacks. A year earlier, in March 2012, there was a similar spate of ethnically-motivated attacks in which adults and children were beaten and stabbed on buses in Skopje. In 2001, Macedonia went through a short-lived armed conflict between the security forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents. The conflict ended the same year with the signing of the Ohrid Accord, which guaranteed greater rights to Albanians.
© Balkan Insight
On the streets with Hungary's far-right
In Hungary an extremist nationalist party linked to paramilitary-style militias is making huge gains. Brian Whelan reports on his encounters with Jobbik.
21/5/2013- The far-right Jobbik party is hoping to become Hungary's second biggest political party at next year's elections but their manifesto is filled with vitriolic references to gypsies and Jews. Channel 4 News travelled to Budapest to meet the men behind the campaign. Jobbik currently holds 43 seats in the Hungarian parliament and two in the European parliament. In Hungary it has become a legitimate political force - although its anti-Semitic message has raised concerns across the globe. The party is allied with the BNP through the Alliance of European National Movements, but is considerably more successful. One key difference is its ties to vigilante militias - think English Defence League, but sober and in military uniforms. The nationalist militias descend on gypsy towns to intimidate and sow division - when banned, they simply re-form with new names and similar structures.
At a Jobbik protest against "Zionism and communism" a few hundred metres from the World Jewish Congress, Channel 4 News watched Jobbik's leader address a crowd containing uniformed members of the Magyar Nemzeti Garda and the more extreme Betyarsereg (Army of Outlaws). The groups took part in military-style drills, and members of Betyarsereg carried helmets and gas masks. The gathering went almost completely unopposed, with a very light police presence - in Hungary paramilitary-style far-right rallies have been normalised. Although he Jewish Congress is usually held in Jerusalem, it came to Budapest to draw attention to the rise of anti-Semitism and to send a message to Jobbik that they would not be intimidated. Jewish leaders told me that Prime Minister Victor Orban assured them he had dealt with the problem of militias
Nevertheless, those who came to view the rally were shocked by what they saw. At a training session for the Magyar Nemzeti Garda (Hungarian National Guard) militia, the group wore full military uniforms, displayed a clear military-style structure, but claimed it was not a violent organisation. It has taken part in distributing food and clothes to the homeless and given blood en masse to the Red Cross. Its leader, Joseph, laid out the group's ideas to us: "We have a domestic problem that is the gypsy criminality and an external problem that is the Jew expansion." When asked about the past suffering of Hungarian Jews, he replied: "If we want to remember victims, in my mind the holocaust is not the biggest tragedy. This has nothing to do with me. It doesn't interest me. I don't deny it, I'm just not interested."
Less than a century after Hungarian Jews were shot and their bodies dumped in the Danube by the Arrow Guard, fascist groups now openly wear the Arrow Guard logo, and statues of Hungarian nazi-Collaborator Miklós Horthy have been re-erected in parts of the country. The militias play an important role for Jobbik, as we learned in small town of Gyongyospata, where a Jobbik mayor is now in charge. Tensions in the town exploded in 2011. Nationalists blamed the small Roma population for the suicide of a local, and thousands of black-shirted militia members arrived to patrol the streets. Jobbik held rallies outside the homes of gypsies and there were violent clashes. In the aftermath the village became a party stronghold.
The Roma say they played no role in the man's death, and even brought us to meet his son, who confirmed their side of the story. They said over 2,000 journalists have been to the town but never sought to clarify the truth behind Jobbik's claim. The difference in the Roma side of town is astonishing: the roads are unpaved and homes are run-down. The mayor says he is helping the Roma by providing work but many have already fled the town. Across Europe, far-right organisations have been enjoying increased success on the streets or in the ballot boxes. Greece's Golden Dawn holds 18 seats in parliament and Bulgaria's extremist Ataka have 23 seats.
The deputy leader of Jobbik told Channel 4 News of his admiration for Ukip. The parties have little in common but share their opposition to the EU, and both have made rapid gains off the issue. Unlike Ukip, Jobbik plans to strengthen its ties to places the near East and, more specifically, Iran. The town of Tiszavasvari, the "Jobbik capital" has been twinned with the Iranian city of Ardabil. The partnership has been called an "anti-Semitic alliance". In Budapest, the real-world effects of the party's extremist rhetoric is clear. A report prepared for the World Jewish Congress showed how spontaneous anti-Semitic attacks are growing. Jobbik told Channel 4 News it now wants the secret service to start investigating Jewish people involved in public life in the country.
At the party's May day festival, Nazi-tattoo-wearing skinheads rubbed shoulders with ordinary Hungarians. The crowd swells to over 7,000 people, all gathered under the Jobbik flag to watch rock bands and listen to speeches. While shooting our report, a simple shout goes up from one drunken reveller: "What are these Jews doing here?" And then a glass of beer is poured over me. I'm slapped in the head and the crew is forced to leave. A small example of how speeches from a stage can translate into action on the ground. The worst violence came in 2009, though, when six gypsies were murdered in attacks involving guns, hand grenades and homemade explosives. Four nationalists currently remain on trial for these crimes.
© Channel 4 News
'Jews to blame for Holocaust' professor investigated for hate crime (Poland)
21/5/2013- Prosecutors are investigating whether Polish historian Krzysztof Jasiewicz committed a hate crime when he claimed that “Jews worked for generations to bring about the Holocaust”. The remarks by Professor Jasiewicz were made in a special edition of Focus magazine to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto Uprising this April. In the interview for the magazine, Jasiewicz - an employee at the Polish Academy of Sciences and the author of many academic papers on Polish/Jewish and Polish/Soviet history - said: “For many generations, the Jews, not the Catholic Church, worked to bring the Holocaust about. It looks like the Jews haven’t learned their lesson and haven’t come to any conclusions yet.”
On pogroms committed by Poles on Jews – such as in the village of Jedwabne in 1941 when hundreds of Jews were burnt to death in a barn by their Polish neighbours – Jasiewicz told Focus magazine: “I am completely convinced that the crime at Jedwabne and other pogroms were not committed to seize Jewish property or as revenge for the many terrible things that Jews did to Poles in the past. The pogroms were mostly motivated by great fear of Jews.” “I am convinced that there is no point in dialogue with the Jews, because it doesn’t lead anywhere,” said Jasiewicz in another part of the interview with the popular science magazine.
Under Articles 256 and 257 of the Polish Penal Code, the historian, who is a member of the Polish PEN club, could face up to three years in prison for incitement to hatred and publicly insulting a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. In April, the Scientific Council of the Political Studies department at the Polish Academy of Sciences concluded that Jasiewicz had insulted the victims of the Holocaust and diminished the guilt of the perpetrators. "The Scientific Council regrets recent statements about Jews contained in Focus magazine by Professor Krzysztof Jasiewicz, a member of staff at the Academy. These were an expression of his personal views, which the Council does not share,” a council communiqué said after the meeting.
“On behalf of the Jewish community of Warsaw we are deeply indignant at the words of Professor Krzysztof Jasiewicz,” the board of the Jewish Community of Warsaw said after the interview was published, days before the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising anniversary on 19 April and opening to the public for the first time of Warsaw's new Museum to the History of Polish Jews. “We are deeply concerned by this interview, and especially by the decision of the editor-in-chief of Focus to allow such an embarrassing article to be published,” the statement continues.
Editor of Focus magazine, Michal Wojcik has written that though the 61 year-old Jasiewicz's views are "extreme and outrageous, we decided to publish this interview, because in our opinion, however paradoxical this sounds, it shows something very important. […] We have shown that anti-Semitism, even among men of science, does not just belong to the past”.
© The News - Poland
Kazakhstan Shrugs Off Human Rights Concerns
Economics count for more than rights, and Western governments have little leverage anyway.
by Gaziza Baituova
20/5/2013- Despite harsh words from the United States and European Union about Kazakhstan’s worsening human rights record, the country’s leaders are unlikely to modify their behavior, local analysts say. It is a simple equation – placed in the balance against economic and security cooperation with the oil-rich state, human rights count for little. The U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report, issued on 19 April, spoke of severe limits “on citizens’ rights to change their government” and “restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and association” in Kazakhstan. The report dated the crackdown on opposition members and media to the police shootings in the western oil town of Zhanaozen in December 2011, in which 16 people died.
The day before the U.S. report came out, the European Parliament passed a resolution expressing concern at the “dramatic worsening” of the human rights situation in Kazakhstan. The resolution urged the government to revise a clause in the criminal code that outlaws actions intended to “incite social, ethnic, clan, racial, or religious enmity or animosity” – a catch-all offense that rights activists say is being used to silence critics of the government. The European Parliament report listed issues of concern over the last 12 months including the imprisonment in November of Alga party leader Vladimir Kozlov and the subsequent closure of his party, the jailing of 13 oil workers, the imprisonment of human rights defender Vadim Kuramshin, the arrest of anti-corruption campaigner Alexander Kharlamov, and the introduction of a repressive law on national security. The resolution called for talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and Kazakhstan to be suspended until the country’s human rights record improved.
Similar criticisms of the post-Zhanaozen environment have been voiced by international rights groups. New York-based Human Rights Watch also noted that Kazakhstan’s human rights record “seriously deteriorated in 2012.” In its annual Freedom in the World 2013 report, published in January, the U.S. group Freedom House listed Kazakhstan among countries showing “a notable decline” in their human rights record, in this case because of the use of legislation, harassment, licensing regulations, and Internet curbs to control the media and limit freedom of expression. Ludmila Kozlovska of the Open Dialogue Foundation in Poland said the European Parliament resolution is its strongest statement to date. “Whereas Kazakhstan used to serve as a model for the Central Asia region, in every line of this resolution – the third in the last two years – the European Parliament now cites a deterioration in human rights and freedom of expression,” Kozlovska said. “Europe’s message is simple – the West condemns repression and will engage in economic cooperation only if there is progress in liberalizing politics.”
At the same time, Kozlovska noted that the resolution was inconsistent with the actions of individual European Union countries, which remained keen to engage with Kazakhstan. She pointed to a November visit to Kazakhstan by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign affairs emissary, who failed to raise issues about human rights and political prisoners to the extent that rights groups were expecting. Kozlov’s wife, Alia Turusbekova, still hopes that European criticism will prompt a response from the Kazakh authorities. “For us, for our family, this is an important document. We hope the Kazakh authorities will heed the recommendations set out in the resolution,” she said. Turusbekova recalled that trade union lawyer Natalia Sokolova, jailed on “incitement to social strife,” charges similar to those brought against her husband, was freed in March 2012 shortly after the last resolution from the European Parliament.
In Kazakhstan, there is little expectation that strongly worded criticism even from big players like Washington and Brussels will deter the government from doing what it wants, especially when statements are not backed up by sanctions. Tolgonai Umbetalieva, director of the Central Asia Foundation for Democracy Development, said the government was unresponsive to criticism alone, and all the more so when it “was not vocal and not from the top echelons of power.” “The Kazakh authorities won’t panic or worry about this,” she added. Amangeldy Shormanbaev, a lawyer, said reports detailing concerns about Kazakhstan without any threat of consequences were now routine. “If this had exerted any influence over the last 20 years, we’d be living in a different country now,” he said. “For such resolutions to work, they have to include sanctions of various kinds. Only then will the intentions of those who pass them get taken seriously.”
Kazakhstan’s economic value to the West as a producer of oil and metals and increasingly as a market blunts the effect of tough talk on human rights. “Irrespective of the violations, EU countries continue to pursue their own economic interests. Over this period [covered by the reports], France and Germany have signed numerous advantageous contracts with Kazakhstan,” Shormanbaev said. Because the Kazakh authorities are aware of this, any message the European Parliament resolution was meant to send was “ignored,” said Zamir Karazhanov, a political analyst in Almaty. For one thing, he said, neither European not U.S. actors were in good enough economic shape to place human rights values above economic self-interest. For another, Western governments fear that pressuring Kazakhstan will simply drive it toward Russia and China, neither of which cares much about how it deals with human rights.
Karazhanov drew a comparison with Uzbekistan, which fell out with the United States after being criticized for mass shootings in Andijan on 13 May 2005. “This led to the Uzbek government engaging more actively with China and returning to the [Moscow-led] Collective Security Treaty Organization,” he said. “The same thing would happen with Kazakhstan. Pressure from the U.S. or Europe would result in Astana becoming more involved with these countries. The question is whether the West would want to see China or Russia increasing their influence in our region.” Umbetalieva agreed that increased pressure will not force the Kazakh government to mend its ways. She predicted this would happen only if officials felt they had tamed domestic opposition and could afford to ease up. “But given the high level of [social] tensions in the country, the authorities are unlikely to take a softer stance either at the moment or in the foreseeable future,” she added.
Umbetalieva said that although the criticism is ignored, it has nonetheless been noted by Kazakhstan’s leaders. “Astana talks less about relations with European states these days. The president [Nursultan Nazarbaev] realizes that his reputation has suffered as a result of Zhanaozen,” she said. “Whatever he says, he has to shoulder political responsibility for his own people being shot, even though he’s said he was unaware of it.”
Gaziza Baituova is an IWPR contributor in Kazakhstan.
© Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Zeman’s refusal to appoint professor sparks outrage (Czech Rep.)
20/5/2013- The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, has caused an outcry by saying he will not confer the title of professor on a Charles University academic. Czech heads of state normally just rubberstamp such decisions, and Mr. Zeman’s position on the appointment of Martin C. Putna is wholly unprecedented. The president has not been entirely clear on the reasons – but says he objected to a placard (‘Catholic queers salute Bátora’) the academic carried in a gay pride march. In a satirical video released during January’s presidential election, Martin C. Putna imitated Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Wearing an ushanka and holding a bottle of liquor in his hand, the Charles University academic advised Czechs to elect Miloš Zeman to make sure Russia’s interests in the country were protected.
Mr. Zeman has denied that Mr Putna’s support for his rival in the presidential vote is behind his reluctance to appoint him professor. After initially refusing to reveal his motivation, the president told reporters on Monday that he thought Mr Putna’s involvement in a 2011 gay pride parade was unfitting for an academic. The head of state said he respected Mr Putna’s sexual orientation. “But it’s something entirely different when you walk around Prague with a sign that says, ‘Catholic queers salute Bátora’”, he told reporters. Ladislav Bátora is an ultra-conservative former public official who then served as advisor to the education minister. Mr. Putna is a leading Czech literary historian and an expert on Catholic literature. He has authored some highly acclaimed works, including a spiritual biography of Václav Havel and a study on homosexuality in the history of Czech culture.
However, previous post-Communist heads of state Václav Havel and Václav Klaus never refused to respect the choice of the university officials who are in charge of the appointment process. Jiøí Zlatuška is deputy chair of Czech Republic’s Council of Higher Education Institutions and a former rector of Brno’s Masaryk University. “Such a step, if taken by the president as informally announced by the president to the education minister, would be an unprecedented intervention of politics into the academic sphere. That’s one thing. Another is that it would be against the law, it would be against the obligations the president has to fulfil.”
The president’s move has caused uproar in the academic community and among some politicians. Some said he was behaving like communist president Klement Gottwald. Others believe that Mr Zeman is testing how far he can go in extending his powers. Charles University students, meanwhile, have started organizing rallies in support of Mr Putna. They also called on some two dozen other professorial candidates due to be appointed next month to show solidarity with the academic and refuse to accept the title from Mr Zeman. Mr Zlatuška supports that idea. “In my understanding, everybody in the academic community is Mr Putna in this situation. This is about protecting the academic community rather than defending one individual. Of course, I pity everybody who would be awarded the title at the ceremony in June if Mr Putna is not there. Those degrees signed by the president would have the symbolic value of trash.”
Mr Putna himself says he will leave the issue to Charles University officials. The university’s rector, Václav Hampl, has demanded an explanation from the president, and is set to meet Mr Zeman later this week.
© Radio Prague
Kosovo Begins ‘Tolerance and Reconciliation Week’
Officials have launched a week-long series of events aimed at raising awareness about tolerance, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence between different religious faiths in Kosovo.
20/5/2013- The initiative was launched by the foreign ministry on Monday and will see two new peace monuments erected and the arrival of more than 300 guests from nearly 50 countries in an attempt to highlight what officials said was Kosovo’s traditional religious tolerance. “Across the world, most people know about the Kosovo war. But what they don’t know is that religious communities have lived here together peacefully for generations,” said deputy foreign minister Petrit Selimi. “Whether Muslim, Christian, Orthodox or Jewish, our cultural heritage is shaped by this diversity. Mosques and churches can be found side-by-side in many of our towns. We are committed to inter-faith dialogue and respect for all,” he added.
The week commences as Kosovo received its own ‘Stone for Peace’ – a monument that has been placed in various cities around the world by the Stone for Peace Association of Hiroshima in an attempt to honour war victims and promote reconciliation. The Stone for Peace will be placed in Kosovo’s National Museum in a ceremony hosted by President Atifete Jahjaga with deputy culture minister Hajdin Abazi and the mayor of Pristina, Isa Mustafa. A memorial to holocaust victims will also be inaugurated in Pristina during the week. “The inauguration of the holocaust memorial by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci on May 23 on the site of Pristina’s last remaining Jewish synagogue will become a permanent reminder of the important presence of Kosovo’s small Jewish community,” the foreign ministry explained.
Kosovo shares the Albanian code of honour known as ‘besa’, which many caused some of its Muslims to save Jews from persecution during World War II. A national prayer breakfast is also expected to be held during the week, while an inter-faith conference will take part from Friday to Sunday in the town of Peja/Pec. Islam is the predominant faith of Kovovo’s majority ethnic Albanian population, its Bosniak, Gorani, and Turkish communities, and some members of its Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian minorities. The ethnic Serb population, estimated at 100,000 to 120,000, is largely Serbian Orthodox. Religious groups that constitute less than five per cent of the population include Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews.
© Balkan Insight
Serbia’s Right-Wingers Dream of Nationalist Resurgence
The protests over the Kosovo agreement revealed deep divisions among Serbia's right-wingers, but they could still become a serious force if they tap into public disappointment with the government.
20/5/2013- Sitting under a religious icon next to a map of Kosovo at the Belgrade headquarters of the new Zavetnici (Testifiers) movement, Milica Djurdjevic dreams about unifying all the movements that are fighting against European Union membership and want to keep Kosovo within Serbia. Djurdjevic, political science student, said that her organisation, launched in February last year, has several thousand members. It uses a modern internet approach to popularise its views and membership is growing, she insisted. “We are fighting for a change in the way the state is run - a change of government, looking towards Russia and against EU membership,” Djurdjevic explained, eyeing the small Serbian flag on her desk.
Zavetnici was one of the various right-wing groups that protested in the capital against the EU-brokered Brussels agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on May 10th . Demonstrators included some leading Orthodox Church officials, opposition groups like the Serbian Radical Party and Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, the conservative, pro-church Dveri movement and the banned ultra-nationalist organisation Obraz. The protest, organised by Kosovo Serbs, attracted several thousand people. The demonstrators demanded that the Serbian constitutional court challenge the Brussels agreement that saw the Serbian authorities agree to dismantle their institutions in northern Kosovo and put them under Pristina's jurisdiction in exchange for an EU accession date.
The demonstration should have been a showcase for a united and vigorous nationalist movement but instead revealed its core weaknesses. The turnout was played down by mainstream Serbian media but was still too low to show serious power. “There is more talk about unification than real action,” said Djurdjevic. She remains optimistic, however: “This is the moment when all political fractions should act together. That could at some point result in a joint political platform and participation in new elections.”
However, that point does not look likely to come soon. The nationalist bloc in Serbia is far from united. Some organisations are banned, others have differing strategies, many struggle to find funds, they lack clear support from the Serbian Orthodox Church and only one party represents their views in parliament: the opposition DSS, led by Vojislav Kostunica. On top of that, they have a hard time getting media attention as Serbia's mainstream outlets are traditionally aligned with the government. June 28th, the anniversary of the battle of Kosovo in 1389, would be one possible date to showcase right-wing unity but the nationalists are already squabbling over who will rally where. There are two major events announced for the same day, one in Belgrade and the other at Gazimestan in Kosovo, where a monument to the battle stands.
Traditionally, right-wing groups together with church officials, politicians and ordinary people from across Serbia gather at Gazimenstan, under police protection, to commemorate the battle which is seen as a symbol of Serbian patriotism. Marko Jaksic, a DSS deputy from North Mitrovica in Kosovo, who bitterly opposes the Brussels agreement, told BIRN that this year he wants to see opposition parties like the Radicals and Dveri as well as the DSS organise a protest in Belgrade. “The issue of Kosovo and Metohija is not only an issue for Kosovo Serbs, it is a nationwide issue and everyone should get involved more actively in the defence of Kosovo and Metohija,” he said.
But the Serbian National Movement, known as SNP 1389, a right-wing organisation with tens of thousands of members which says it wants to “unify all Serbian lands”, says it will go to Gazimestan on June 28th, instead of attending the Belgrade protest. “I think it is more important to be at Gazimestan on Vidovdan (St Vitus' Day) and show that Kosovo is still Serbian than to participate in a promotion of political parties,” SNP 1389 representative Igor Jovanovic said. “The big question is whether the Belgrade rally will be a wide popular protest or just a rally of languishing opposition parties,” he added. Another group, SNP Nasi (‘Ours’), which was united with SNP 1389 until 2010, will also go to Gazimestan and not protest in Belgrade.
Ivan Ivanovic, the president of SNP Nasi, has also announced a series of events across Serbia aimed at bringing down the current government of “traitors”. Zavetnici will however, participate in the Belgrade protest, and will join other Kosovo gatherings either the day before or the day after. As well as lack of unity, the right-wing bloc is also suffering because of the contradictory messages coming from the Serbian Orthodox Church, widely perceived as the defender of Kosovo and the nation. In April, Patriarch Irinej sent an open letter to Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, asking him to quit negotiations with Kosovo officials. During the Belgrade protest on May 10th , two top bishops - Amfilohije Radovic from the Montenegro eparchy and Atanasije Jevtic, a retired bishop - denounced Dacic along with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and deputy prime minister Aleksandar Vucic as traitors. They held a public prayer for the Serbian government to come to its senses. However, just a day later, Patriarch Irinej slammed the clerics for participating in the protest without his blessing.
In Zavetnici’s small office, packed with flags, posters, and leaflets, some of the movement’s members lamented that there is no political party or organisation that is standing up for what they believe. “Over 30 per cent of Serbian people support the causes we stand for,” said Zavetnici president Stefan Stamenkovski. “We need a consensus from all political sides to get what we want: to stop the implementation of the Brussels agreement and create that long-awaited nationalist bloc,” he said.
Political analyst Jovo Bakic explained that the Radicals, before their split with Nikolic's Progressive Party, used to be the driving force that united all these movements ideologically. The ruling Progressive Party has changed dramatically since the split in 2008, going from patriotic defenders of Kosovo to eager EU supporters. As a consequence, a significant number of right-wing voters, some 20 to 25 per cent of the electorate, are not represented in parliament, Bakic argued. “If unified, this might be a force in the next elections and I don’t see how any government could be formed without them. They will profit more from the economic crisis, the issue of Kosovo and the loss of territories where Serbs live,” he said.
Bakic believes that the Church would support a unified nationalist bloc because it shares a similar ideology: traditionalism, family values, xenophobia and homophobia. He sees the lack of a strong and authoritarian leader as the right-wing bloc’s most serious weakness. “I am not sure who will emerge as a leader, bearing in mind that Kostunica is an old and outdated figure, while the Radicals’ leader Vojislav Seselj is on trial in the Hague and the Dveri political party has so far not delivered a strong personality. Still, I think that this is the bloc that has the biggest growth potential,” he said.
Milica Djurdjevic has similar hopes. “I am disappointed in both the ruling parties and the opposition. The problem is that we do not have an opposition that is strong enough to stand up against the government,” she said. “Our goal is to enter politics because we can win the battle there. That is how we can avoid media censorship and marginalisation,” she insisted. “Yes,” Stamenkovski agreed enthusiastically. “We need to penetrate the system.”
© Balkan Insight
Gay marriage: Commons passes Cameron's plan (UK)
The House of Commons has voted to allow gay marriage in England and Wales, despite 161 MPs opposing the government's plans.
21/5/2013- Several Tory MPs spoke against the proposals, which have caused tensions in the party, but the Labour and Lib Dem leaderships backed them. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill now goes before the House of Lords. David Cameron hopes it will become law soon, with the first ceremonies taking place by next summer. The bill, if passed, will allow same-sex couples, who can currently hold civil ceremonies, to marry. Religious organisations would have to "opt in" to offering weddings, with the Church of England and Church in Wales being banned in law from doing so. Welsh Secretary David Jones and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson voted against the government's bill at its third reading. They were joined by 10 junior ministers.
Altogether 133 Tories opposed the bill, along with 15 Labour MPs, four Lib Dems, eight Democratic Unionists and an independent. It goes to the House of Lords on Wednesday, where it is expected to generate further heated discussion. Tensions between Downing Street and grassroots Conservatives, which have focused on the issue of Europe in recent weeks, have been exacerbated by the same-sex marriage proposals. But Culture Secretary Maria Miler said it was an issue of equality, to which MPs had to show their "commitment". For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "Let's celebrate, not discriminate. Let's put aside the anger and hear it for the joy." Demonstrators against the plans held a vigil opposite the Palace of Westminster as the debate took place. A woman was detained by police after trying to drive a car through the gates of the Palace of Westminster as the vote took place. The bill's third reading was backed by 366 MPs, giving it a majority of 205. There was a ripple of applause in the chamber after the result was announced. The result is a marginal improvement for Mr Cameron on the vote at Monday's second reading, when 175 MPs opposed the plans. They passed after ministers reached agreement with Labour's leadership.
Conservative critics had tabled a proposal to allow heterosexual couples enter into civil partnerships, if gay couples were allowed to get married. But this was defeated, with MPs instead backing a Labour plan to consult on changing civil partnerships. Many Tories are angry about comments reportedly made by Conservative co-chairman Lord Feldman. He has denied calling activists "mad, swivel-eyed loons" and Mr Cameron has sent an email to party members, insisting they still shared a "deep and lasting friendship" with him. Tory MP Brian Binley, who has led calls for an investigation into Lord Feldman's alleged comments, said there was a "growing gap" between the prime minister and the party. And Robert Woollard, chairman of the Conservative Grass Roots organisation, suggested Mr Cameron needed to rein in some of his colleagues in No 10 who were "wet behind the ears" and "needed to get out more".
© BBC News
Gay marriage: Downing Street pleads with Labour to save bill (UK)
Tory rebellion on amendment to grant civil partnerships to heterosexual couples will 'cost £4bn and take two years'
20/5/2013- Downing Street issued a stark warning that the bill to legalise gay marriage will run into grave trouble – and cost the taxpayer an extra £4bn – if the Labour party joins forces with Tory opponents to vote in favour of granting civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. As David Cameron was accused by the Conservative Grassroots group of showing "utter contempt" for party activists by pressing ahead with plans to equalise marriage, Labour sources voiced fears that No 10 appeared to be trying to find ways of killing the bill. The row erupted as No 10 braced itself for a loss of face as up to 150 Tory MPs prepare to show their opposition to the prime minister during a series of votes when the marriage (same sex couples) bill reaches its report stage in the Commons today. At least two cabinet ministers – the environment secretary Owen Paterson and the Wales secretary David Jones – are prepared to vote for a series of amendments that would grant exemptions to teachers and registrars.
Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, and John Hayes, the prime minister's unofficial envoy to the Tory right, may also side with opponents of the bill during a series of votes, which are "free" – allowing MPs to vote with their consciences. The government warned of three dangers to the bill if an amendment to grant civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is passed. It is being tabled by the former children's minister Tim Loughton who opposes gay marriage. A government source said the Loughton amendment would:
• Come with a price tag of £4bn. Steve Webb, the pensions minister, told parliament's joint committee on human rights last week that the state would be liable for new "survivors'" pension rights.
• Delay the introduction of the entire bill by 18 to 24 months because the government would need to work on the joint implementation of new rights for gay married couples and heterosexual couples in new civil partnerships.
• Complicate the government's argument that the changes are about strengthening the institution of marriage by opening it to all couples. "If you open up civil partnerships to opposite sex couples then the institution of marriage will be weakened," one government source said. "The church will not be happy about that."
Government sources said the warnings were aimed at Ed Miliband, Labour's leader, whose support for the amendment will be decisive. One source said: "Ed Miliband clearly wants to make political capital here. Perhaps he should think of the consequences." But Labour rejected what it called the "farcical" warnings, as sources noted that the supposed size of the "price tag" had grown from £3bn to £4bn in five days. One source said: "They are wrecking this bill themselves and trying to blame others." Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary and shadow equalities minister, who has been negotiating with the equalities minister Maria Miller, told Sky News: "I think it's a real problem if this gets lost in the vortex of the Tory infighting that we had over the last couple of weeks when actually it's a really positive bill that we should all want to celebrate."
Loughton accused the government of scaremongering after issuing its warnings about the dangers posed by his amendment. The former minister told the Guardian: "This scaremongering just won't wash. The government has come up with a lot of desperate last-minute excuses as to why giving full equality of civil partnerships will not work. This is what comes when you try to redefine marriage without having thought through the consequences. One of those consequences is that the majority of the population and MPs clearly want equality for civil partnerships. The government bill, as it stands, will deny them that equality. So they need urgently to do the work to make it happen." Last night Loughton tweeted: "£4bn is back of fag packet scaremongering particularly if Govt doubt straight couples want civil partnership."
The anger over the bill was highlighted when 35 current and former heads of Tory associations delivered a letter to No 10 lambasting Cameron. They wrote: "Your proposal to redefine marriage is flawed, un-Conservative, divisive and costing us dearly in votes and membership. "You have failed to listen and respond in an appropriate manner to the concerns of loyal grassroots members...This utter contempt for ordinary people has led to a mass exodus of members and mass loss of supporters."The PM came under fire from another wing of the party when Lord Howe of Aberavon, the former chancellor, warned he appeared to be "losing control of his party". In an Observer article Howe wrote: "If the Conservative party is losing its head, a heavy responsibility now rests with Labour and the Liberal Democrats to hold their nerve."
Sir Richard Branson on Monday joins a group of 19 business leaders describing the economic case for British membership of the EU as "overwhelming". In a letter to the Independent, they write: "The benefits of membership overwhelmingly outweigh the costs, and to suggest otherwise is putting politics before economics."
© The Guardian
Gay Rights Rally Shot Down for 3rd Time This Month (Russia)
20/5/2013- Moscow authorities have rejected a third request from gay rights activists to hold a rally later this month, just as an opinion poll was released showing that society has become more intolerant toward gays. Officials on Friday said the demonstration was not possible because May 25, the day when it was planned to be held in Gorky Park, coincided with graduation day celebrations. Rally organizers said this was just an excuse to turn down the rally, however. "Every year, they find a reason to reject it," said Nikolai Alexeyev, an organizer of gay rights parades. "This year it's graduation day, last year it was border guard's day, the year before it was Cyril and Methodius day — they can find a reason for any day of the year." Gay rights activists filed a complaint with three of the city's courts to appeal the ban on the rally, citing a European Court of Human Rights ruling issued in 2010 that bans on gay parades from 2006 to 2008 were illegal. The ruling came in response to a complaint that Alexeyev filed concerning demonstrations during this period.
Although there is no law banning gay rights demonstrations in Moscow, authorities have never approved a gay rights parade in the city. The recent rejections follow on the heels of the murder of a 23-year old man in Volgograd, believed to have been killed for being gay, and growing intolerance toward LGBT society. An opinion poll released by the Levada Center on Friday showed that the number of people who want gays to have limited rights has risen from 40 percent last year to 47 this year, with 73 percent of people saying the state must suppress any public display of homosexuality. The poll also said one third of Russians considered gays to be mentally defective, while only 12 percent said homosexuality had an equal right to exist with heterosexuality. Alexeyev, the parade organizer, said the results of the poll were not surprising, as "it reflects the policy being carried out by authorities." "If our politicians continue to repeat on TV every day that being a gay is not normal and that homosexuality must be banned, in 10 years people will say all gays must be killed," he said.
While the killing in Volgograd sparked outrage from the gay community and rights activists, 44 percent of Russians think the state is not obliged to protect gays from violence, according to the Levada Center poll. Anton Krasovsky, a former editor in chief of the Kontr TV cable channel who was fired after coming out as gay, said in his op-ed for the Guardian after the Volgograd murder that state policy was aimed at making gays feel afraid and ashamed. "As far as deputies are concerned, I am scum by the fact of my birth, and it was criminal negligence not to have made a note of that in my birth certificate," he wrote.
The State Duma in January tentatively approved a bill that would ban so-called "homosexual propaganda," a term that lawmakers presumably use for gay rights demonstrations. Observers say the legislation would not only ban mass events, but also influence the lives of gays dramatically, possibly even leading to suicides. The bill stipulates fines from 4,000 rubles to 500,000 rubles ($130 to $16,000) for promoting homosexuality among minors. Human rights activists have said the bill would violate the European Convention on Human Rights. Several regions, including Novosibirsk, Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Kostroma, already have similar laws on the books.
St. Petersburg authorities allowed a gay rights demonstration on Friday that, according to official statistics, brought together some 60 gay rights activists and about 200 of their opponents — mostly from nationalist organizations. Thus, St. Petersburg — which incidentally also has a law stipulating fines for promoting homosexuality — became the only Russian city to mark Friday's International Day Against Homophobia, a holiday that saw 17 people injured at a gay rights demonstration in Georgia. According to A Just Russia deputy Yelena Mizulina, head of the Duma's committee on children's and women's rights, the bill against "homosexual propaganda" may be passed by mid-July. "It is an easy bill for me, one day of work," Mizulina said, adding, however, that she respected other people's opinions, and that the Duma intends to organize a working group made up of gay rights activists to make amendments to the bill. "Discussions are needed to work out the right position," she said, Interfax reported Friday.
Alexeyev said he would not take part in the working group, though, "because it is idiotic to discuss a bill that contradicts all international and domestic legal norms." "If the bill becomes law, it won't be effective, just like in St. Petersburg, where the only person who was fined was me," he said. "But the impact on social stability will be horrifying, with cases like that in Volgograd happening more often," he said.
© The Moscow Times
Romanian Journalist physically attacked
20/5/2013- On May 17th, a Romanian journalist was verbally harassed and physically attacked. While walking the streets of Bucharest, in the middle of the day, Mircea Marian, a journalist with a national daily newspaper was pushed around by a man who called him “JIDAN” (KIKE). According to the media, the incident took place while two policemen who were nearby stood and did not intervene. Only later on, other policemen took over the case which is now analyzed by the authorities. The Romanian media published the case expressing its outrage generated by the fact that a journalist was attacked. Also some leading Romanian NGO’s highlighted the incident and asked the authorities to act swiftly for making sure that journalists will not be abused again. The Prime Minister of Romania, Mr. Victor Ponta asked the authorities to investigate the case in depth. The authorities announced that a criminal investigation, for public assault, was opened against the aggressor.
However no one in Romania approached, directly or indirectly, the anti-Semitism behind the incident. Yes, the “JIDAN” expression was published but no one said/wrote a single word against it and about the need to take a firm stand against the aggressor because of his anti-Semitism. The only institution to point out the anti-Semitism and the need to take a firm stand against it was, as usual, MCA Romania-The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism in Romania. So once again, generally speaking, the anti-Semitism was swept under the carpet. Once again the media, the politicians missed the opportunity to show a change of mentality, some deeper understanding of the anti-Semitic phenomena that is affecting a society, virtually left without the Jewish minority (less than 3500 Jews live today in Romania).
In his interview published by the media, the attacked journalist did not speak about the anti-Semitism involved in the incident but he did mention the fact that he felt the need to defend himself by saying that he is a Christian Orthodox. However he felt that it was shameful to act so and he did not do it. This kind of defense reminds of the times when many Jews changed their “Jewish” names to “Romanian” names in order to avoid exposure to social and political harassment and discrimination. It seems that motives that triggered that kind of self-preservation attitude are still present in Romania.
What that means? If a simple citizen, a Jew would be harassed on the street by the same aggressor, in the same manner as the journalist was, would the media write about it? Would then the Prime Minister ask for a firm investigation? We will find more about it when we will learn how the prosecutors will handle the case and when the ruling on this matter will be published. Then we might learn how deep the anti-Semitism is buried in the local mentality and spirit.
© MCA Romania-The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism
'Neo-Nazi' gang bloodies victim in bottle attack (Spain)
A group of eight 'neo-Nazis' attacked three youths in the Spanish city of Valladolid, breaking a bottle over one person's head before kicking him on the ground.
20/5/2013- Three youths walking home in the early hours of Sunday morning were violently assaulted by a group of 'Neo-Nazis' in Valladolid, the capital city of the autonomous region of Castile and León in Spain. Online journal últimoCero reported that the attack was focussed on two of the three victims. A witness recalled that, "They broke a bottle over one person's head, then started kicking him on the ground." "They also pushed and punched another person but the third avoided the aggression." The alarm was raised by a worker in the area who saw the incident which he described as "started by the neo-Nazis." According to the witness, the victim struck with the bottle was "bleeding profusely from the head." "His clothes were soaked with blood and his trousers were ripped from being on the ground."
The witness expressed his astonishment that when police arrived, only one of the two officers present got out of the squad car. "The first thing he did was to go over to the kid who had his head split open and his clothes soaked with blood and demand to see his ID." An ambulance arrived while the policeman took details of the incident and transported the injured youths to hospital. Official sources confirmed that the two hospitalized youths had not filed a police complaint but did not rule out the possibility that others in the area may have done so on their behalf. The same sources also noted that the two victims "had not referred at any time to being attacked by neo-Nazis" but that they "confirmed that their attackers were dressed in black and wearing a well-known brand of sports shoe."
The attack coincided with the end of a neo-Nazi meeting in the nearby headquarters of the far right National Democracy party. A presentation titled "Indo-European Spanish Nationality" had concluded only hours before the incident. ÚltimoCero reports that this is not the first attack in Valladolid attributed to neo-Nazis in recent weeks. A musician was stabbed by a neo-Nazi youth on April 27th. The perpetrator of the stabbing, who is under 18 years old and has a history of similar offences, is known by the nickname of 'Heineken'. He was later arrested at a youth detention centre in Zamora where he was already incarcerated for his role in a third incident.
© The Local - Spain
Riot police 'resorted to racial slurs' in Husby (Sweden)
Police officers on hand during the Husby riot in northern Stockholm stand accused of using racist language towards people on the ground, with one youth worker in the area claiming it is "not the last time" such scenes will occur.
20/5/2013- The officers on the scene allegedly used words like "monkeys", "rats", and "niggers" to people in Husby on Sunday night, when at least one hundred cars were torched and three police officers were injured after stones were thrown at them. A local youth leader, who along with a small group of teens was out on the street on Sunday, told local newspaper editor Rouzbeh Djalaie that he was called a nigger when he asked the police if they needed any help. The teens were called "monkeys". "I can understand the police officers were stressed, but this language is unacceptable, and unfortunately nothing new," Rami al-Khamisi, law student and founder of youth organization Megafonen, told The Local.
Megafonen is a community-based organization in the area that aims to organize residents of Stockholm's northern suburbs to fight for social justice. Al-Khamisi, the founder of the organization, said the riots were a "reaction to police brutality against citizens, our neighbours". "Last week, the police shot an old man who was holding a knife. How can they do this without taking responsibility? I can understand the reaction," he said. Last Monday, police officers stormed the home of a 69-year-old Husby man who was brandishing a machete and shot him dead. "You have to see what happened from a wider point of view. It's not the first time something like this has happened, and it's not the last. This is the kind of reaction when there isn't equality between people, which is the case in Sweden," he added.
Al-Khamisi said that the crowd was reacting to a "growing marginalization and segregation in Sweden over the past ten, 20 years" from both a class and a race perspective. "Out in the suburbs the majority of people aren't white, and from a political perspective we're seen as a problem that politicians want to solve by sending more police. This is not a solution we agree with," he said. Stockholm police, meanwhile, would not disclose whether any arrests had been made in relation to the incident, which continued from around 10pm on Sunday night until 5.30am on Monday morning.
"I cannot make a statement at present because the police investigation is under way," western Stockholm police spokesman Daniel Mattsson told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. He said that the police were tipped off about potential vandalism by concerned Husby residents who saw people with masks carrying cans containing some kind of liquid, and that just minutes later a car was burning. Police have, however, filed 18 reports, ranging from violent rioting, causing damages, aggravated damages, attempted arson, and assault of an official.
Stockholm police officer Jörgen Karlsson said the accusations of racial slurs were "unfortunate". "It's unfortunate if someone perceives they have been called that. But people can either make a police report or contact the local police," he told the TT news agency. Al-Khamisi, meanwhile, said that it's unlikely that rioting in Sweden will stop any time soon. "This kind of thing isn't only happening in Husby, it's happening all over Sweden. People are tired of politics not working in our favour, they're tired of the current situation," he told The Local. "These people feel they have to take matters into their own hands."
© The Local - Sweden
MPs call for clarity in hunger-striking refugees case (Netherlands)
21/5/2013- MPs want clarity about the treatment of hunger-striking asylum seekers following comments on Monday evening by a doctor treating one of them. Doctor Elcke Bonsen told tv programme Nieuwsuur her client is being mistreated and she is being hindered in her work. Ten asylum seekers are on hunger strike in a Rotterdam detention centre, two of whom have been placed in solitary confinement and one of whom is in hospital because of his deteriorating health. MPs from the left-wing liberal D66, Christian Democrats and Labour say if what the doctor says is correct, the situation is very serious, the Nos reports. On Tuesday Bonsen was allowed into the detention centre to speak to her client and told the Nos he made a good impression. She said earlier she had been told she was not welcome, but finally managed to make an appointment. The MPs want more information about the case ahead of a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.
© The Dutch News
Politicians head for 'Sharia triangle' to find out for themselves (Netherlands)
21/5/2013- Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher and MP and anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders both paid visits to a district in The Hague dubbed the 'Sharia triangle' on Tuesday. Asscher made a fact-finding visit to part of the city's Schilderswijk neighbourhood early on Tuesday morning. It was an 'individual visit, aimed at having a look around part of town which is being written about', a spokesman for the minister said. On Saturday, newspaper Trouw published an article saying the area is so dominated by orthodox Muslims they are dictating what people should wear and how they should behave. The claim was denied by local politicians and the police. Local police chief Michel de Roos told broadcaster Omroep West claims by Trouw that the police allow locals to solve their own problems is not true. The police presence in the area has been strengthened and local beat officers have a strong local network, he said. Geert Wilders spent 15 minutes walking through the area and did not speak to any locals, RTL news reported. 'This is a part of the Netherlands where our norms and standards apply,' Wilders told reporters during his stroll.
© The Dutch News
Police, locals deny claim part of The Hague is a 'Sharia triangle' (Netherlands)
19/5/2013- Claims by newspaper Trouw that part of The Hague’s Schilderswijk district is so dominated by orthodox Muslims they are dictating what people should wear and how they should behave, have been denied by both police and local politicians. Under the headline ‘Hague district is orthodox Muslim territory’, Trouw said ‘short skirts and dresses are not accepted on the street’. The paper said the area, with a population of some 5,000, is known by locals as ‘The Sharia Triangle’. 'Very slowly, the rules in the area are beginning to change,' the article said. 'The norms of the majority are beginning to take over.'
Trouw interviewed a woman, named as Wilma, who said her daughter had been hassled about her style of dress and her son had been called a kafir for lighting a cigarette. A veiled Muslim woman named Meryam told the paper that dressing modestly would do the locals good. She pointed out that ‘women in the heart of the Bible belt wear long skirts and no-one works in Staphorst on Sunday’. The paper also interviewed one man who said he feels he is being driven out of the area because he owns a dog. And a local youth gang member said criminality has dropped, not because of extra police efforts, but because the youngsters are ‘afraid of the wrath of Allah’.
The article generated a tweet from anti-immigration campaigner and MP Geert Wilders who described the situation as ‘islamofacism’ and said he will visit the area as soon as possible. Other MPs demanded a parliamentary debate on the issue. Socialist MP Sadet Karabulut said she recognised some of the things Trouw describes in her own experiences in the locality. She called for efforts to improve the mix of housing in the locality and measures to ensure schools have a better ethnic mix.
But locals were quick to describe the article as exaggerated. ‘We know the area is dominated by Muslims, yes,’ said local Christian Democrat leader Gert-Jan Bakker. ‘But we have never noticed they are in control.’ Local police chief Michel de Roos told broadcaster Omroep West claims by Trouw that the police allow locals to solve their own problems is not true. The police presence in the area has been strengthened and local beat officers have a strong local network, he said. ‘We have had no indications there is a sort of sharia police,’ he said. ‘That is not to say it does not happen, but we are unaware of it.’
© The Dutch News
Anders Breivik: Mass murderer is sole member of his own fascist party (Norway)
Breivik wants to seize power in his home land and set up a state without any immigrants.
19/5/2013- Mass murderer Anders Breivik is trying to set up a fascist party from his prison cell – but he’s the ONLY member. The Sunday People reports the fanatic, 34, is serving 21 years for killing 77 people in a self-styled far-right crusade. Now he has applied to the authorities in Norway to form his own political party to peddle his extremist views, according to the Sunday People. Breivik wants to seize power in his home land and set up a state without any immigrants. But his bid to attract millions of supporters to his barmy cause has flopped and he admits the organisation is ‘temporarily a one-man party’. His lawyer Tord Jordet said: “Two people must sign the formation document for the organisation, so he only needs one other person for these to be registered. "But the way it is today, he is having a hard time sending letters with political content. They are stopped in the letter control.” Officials have rejected his application but Breivik is to appeal. The deluded fanatic, who killed eight people with a bomb in Oslo and 69 students in a gun massacre on Utoya island in July 2011, gave a fascist salute in court when jailed last August.
© The Mirror
French historian kills himself at Notre Dame Cathedral after gay marriage rant(France)
Far-right essayist Dominique Venner, 78, shoots himself at altar after writing blogpost condemning same-sex marriage law
21/5/2013- A far-right French historian has killed himself at the altar of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after declaring that more radical action was needed in opposition to same-sex marriage in France. Dominique Venner, 78, walked into the building at 4pm and put a letter on the altar before shooting himself through the mouth, according to local media reports. Hundreds of visitors were immediately evacuated from the site, which is the most visited Catholic monument in Paris. The motive for the suicide and the contents of the letter were not immediately clear, although Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right Front National, tweeted her "respect" for Venner and said his death was an "eminently political" gesture. Manuel Valls, the French interior minister, arrived as officers cordoned off the site. He told French TV: "At the time of this act, the suicide of a desperate man, there were 1,500 people in the cathedral. These people were evacuated very quickly." He said worshippers and tourists must have been in shock, adding: "Notre Dame is one of the most beautiful symbols of the capital and our country, and we can measure the impact of such an act."
The rector of Notre Dame, Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, said it was the first suicide in decades at the 850-year-old cathedral, which is visited by some 13 million people each year, and perhaps the first time anyone had taken their own life in the building. "It's unfortunate, it's dramatic and it's shocking," he said. Venner, a historian and former member of the Secret Army Organisation that opposed Algerian independence in the early 1960s and waged a terror campaign against Charles de Gaulle's government, had written on his blog on Tuesday about his anger over the recent legalisation of same-sex marriage, which he called vile. Referring to a rally planned for Sunday against the law, which also amended adoption rights, he said the demonstrators were "right to shout their impatience and anger". He also wrote of what he described as the risk of "a France fallen to the power of Islamists", saying that for 40 years all governments and parties, except the Front National, businesses and the church had accelerated north African immigration. He added that there needed to be "new gestures, spectacular and symbolic" to "reawaken the memory of our origins". He added: "We're entering a time where words should be authenticated by actions."
The bill became law on Saturday after a parliament vote and months of street protests, political slanging matches and a rise in homophobic attacks. François Hollande had made the legislation his flagship social reform, but the move triggered the biggest conservative and rightwing street protests in 30 years, followed by skirmishes near parliament that led to more than 200 arrests. France is the ninth country in Europe and the 14th globally to legalise same-sex marriage. A concert to celebrate the law was scheduled to be held at Bastille in Paris on Tuesday night. The country's first gay marriage is scheduled to take place in Montpellier, in the south, on 29 May between Vincent Autin, 40, who works in the tourist office, and Bruno Boileau, 30, a public sector employee. More than 172 hours of heated debate in the parliament and senate meant the bill was one of the most debated in recent history, with furious clashes and a near fist-fight in the National Assembly.
One rightwing MP claimed the government was "killing children" by allowing same-sex married couples to adopt, while a senator said gay marriage would pave the way for people being able to marry animals or objects. MPs in favour of the bill – the most significant social reform since France banned the death penalty in 1981 – suffered death threats; skinheads attacked a gay bar in Lille, while rights groups reported a surge in homophobic attacks. One victim of such an attack, a Dutchman who lives in Paris, Wilfred de Brujin posted a picture of his bloodstained face on Facebook. The image was captioned: "Sorry to show you this. It's the face of homophobia."
© The Guardian
Far-right French politician Marine Le Pen is seriously injured after fracturing her spine
18/5/2013- Far-right politician Marine Le Pen has fractured her spine after falling into an empty swimming pool in France, it emerged tonight. News of the 44-year-old's 'rather serious' accident will send shockwaves around nationalist groups, not just in France but across Europe. Le Pen, who is leader of the National Front (FN), is one of the most high-profile right-wing politicians on the continent, with her hardline anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agenda regularly winning a huge number of votes at elections. A poll in May showed that the current president, Francois Hollande, would lose to her if France were to vote tomorrow.
Miss Le Pen has been capitalising recently on growing discontent in over economic gloom, record unemployment levels and President Hollande's personal unpopularity. News of her accident was broken by her notorious father, the convicted racist and anti-Semite Jean Marie Le Pen, who was runner-up in the French presidential elections of 2002. Explaining his daughter's absence from an FN meeting in Limoges today, Le Pen senior said: 'Marine could not come because she was the victim of a rather serious accident that prevented her from moving. She fell into an empty pool and got a fracture of the spine.'
A statement released by the FN said Le Pen had a fracture of the sacral - the triangle-shaped bone at the bottom of the spine. It is a particularly painful condition which severely limits movement and may require surgery to put right. Le Pen's accident happened a week ago but, said the FN, she was determined it would not stop her fulfilling future engagements. The FN, which was founded by her father, is the third largest political force in France, and has been led by Le Pen since January 2011. Since then she has attempted to modernise its image for extremism, and for intimidating Jews, Muslims, and those from racial minorities. In recent weeks she has been at the forefront of the campaign to prevent gay marriage in France, and has also been a fierce critic of Francois Hollande's Socialist government. She wants to severely reduce immigration to France, reinstate capital punishment, and withdraw from the European Union. Like her father, Le Pen's energy and enthusiasm has come to personify the FN - something which could now be put at risk by her accident.
© The Daily Mail
France gay marriage: Hollande signs bill into law
France's president has signed into law a controversial bill making the country the ninth in Europe, and 14th globally, to legalise gay marriage.
18/5/2013- On Friday, the Constitutional Council rejected a challenge by the right-wing opposition, clearing the way for Francois Hollande to sign the bill. He said: "I have taken [the decision]; now it is time to respect the law of the Republic." The first gay wedding could be held 10 days after the bill's signing. But Parliamentary Relations Minister Alain Vidalies told French TV he expected the first ceremonies to take place "before 1 July".
Mr Hollande and his ruling Socialist Party have made the legislation their flagship social reform since being elected a year ago. After a tortured debate, the same-sex marriage and adoption bill was adopted by France's Senate and National Assembly last month. The bill was quickly challenged on constitutional grounds by the main right-wing opposition UMP party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy. But the Constitutional Council ruled on Friday that same-sex marriage "did not run contrary to any constitutional principles," and that it did not infringe on "basic rights or liberties or national sovereignty". It said the interest of the child would be paramount in adoption cases, cautioning that legalising same-sex adoption would not automatically mean the "right to a child". Comedian Frigide Barjot, who has become a leading mouthpiece for the anti-gay marriage movement, denounced the ruling as "a provocation" and called for the campaign to continue.
Scores of protesters took to the streets of Paris to voice their opposition to the ruling on Friday: previous, occasionally violent, demonstrations against the bill have drawn hundreds of thousands onto the streets. UMP President Jean-Francois Cope said he regretted the Constitutional Council's decision but would respect it. Another senior UMP figure, Herve Mariton, said the party would come up with alternative proposals in 2017 that were "more respectful of the rights of children".
Demonstrators against gay marriage in Paris, 21 April Thousands joined protest marches against gay marriage, such as this one in Paris on 21 April
The anti-gay marriage lobby, backed by the Catholic Church and conservative opposition, argues the bill will undermine an essential building block of society. Opinion polls have suggested that around 55-60% of French people support gay marriage, but only about 50% approve of gay adoption. France is now the 14th country to legalise gay marriage after New Zealand last month. It is also the ninth country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage after legalisation in the traditionally liberal Netherlands and Scandinavia, but also in strongly Catholic Portugal and Spain. Legislation is also moving through the UK Parliament. But the measure has aroused stronger than expected opposition in France - a country where the Catholic Church was thought to have lost much of its influence over the public.
In January, a protest in Paris against the bill attracted some 340,000 people according to police - one of the biggest public demonstrations in France in decades. Organisers put the figure at 800,000. Since then, both sides have held regular street protests. Mr Hollande has been struggling with the lowest popularity ratings of any recent French president, with his promises of economic growth so far failing to bear fruit and unemployment now above 10%.
By Hugh Schofield Hugh Schofield BBC News, Paris
Gay groups in France are delighted that the marriage bill has finally become law. They say there are thousands of couples waiting to get married, and thousands of children being brought up in gay households who will now have the full protection of the law. Opponents are angry and frustrated. They think President Hollande has made gay marriage a personal obsession, because he's failed to make progress on other more pressing issues - like the economy. There's also irritation that the Constitutional Council cleared the text on 17 May - which happens to be World Day Against Homophobia. It suggests, opponents say, that social pressure formed part of the sages' considerations.
Another anti-gay marriage demonstration is planned for 26 May. It could easily be another monster-manif, like the ones earlier this year. This is because opposition to gay marriage has become conflated with all sorts of other anti-government grievances coming from the right. And the atmosphere in the country is particularly volatile. But in reality the battle is over. Gay weddings will now begin to be held in France. Some on the right will promise a repeal if they get elected, but experience shows that reversing this kind of social change is extremely hard.
Timeline: Gay marriage in France
May 2012: Election of President Hollande, who makes gay marriage his flagship social reform
January 2013: At least 340,000 join protests in Paris as National Assembly begins debate on gay marriage bill
April: Senate approves bill, two months after the assembly had passed it
17 May: Constitutional Court dismisses legal challenge
18 May: Bill signed into law by President Hollande
© BBC News
Neo-Nazis to Slaughter Greece Muslims
Neo-Nazis have given a one-month ultimatum for Muslims to leave Greece or they will be "slaughtered like chicken".
18/5/2013- "Muslim Murderers, until June 30 you shut your bordela in Greece and you will go to hell," reads a letter sent to the web-page of the Muslim Association of Greece and cited by EnetEnglish website. "From July 1 onwards those who are still here will [be] slaughtered like chickens on the road." Written in Greek, English and Arabic, the letter uses vulgar language against Muslims in Greece. It threatens that if Muslims do not leave the country, "there will be blood" The emblem of a neo-Nazi, fascist group, the Golden Dawn, was printed on the letter.
Aided by current economic woes in Greece, the far-right Golden Dawn has been gaining popularity over its hostile rhetoric against immigrants. The party has been blamed for recent attacks against immigrants in Greece, which is a major gateway for mostly Asian and African migrants trying to enter the European Union. The Muslim Association confirmed that the letter is addressed to Muslims and not to immigrants. "And this indicates that the religious hatred against humans is undisguised." It urged Greek authorities "to make certain that all citizens are enjoying equal law and that we are not prey in every asymmetric threat".
Muslims account for nearly 1.3 percent of Greece’s 10.7 million population. Anti-Muslim tide has been on the rise in debt-hit Greece, which is battling a growing recession that has brought thousands of job layoffs. In 2011, Muslims holding an open-air prayer near the city centre in Athens to celebrate `Eid Al-Adha, were harassed by local residents who threw eggs at them and blared loud music from windows.
© On Islam
INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA 2013
UN marks International day Against Homophobia
17/5/2013- The UN commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia on Friday, saying lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are entitled to protection by governments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "I am outraged that we still have to fight prejudice, stigma, discrimination, exclusion, criminalization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, not only in their homes, but in their streets, police stations and court rooms," said Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, at a news conference in New York. "It is unacceptable that only one in 10 gay men have access to lifesaving HIV services. HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is 19 times higher than in the general population," he continued. "If we are going to end AIDS we need the LGBT community more than ever." Sidibe spoke a day after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay delivered UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's message at the International Forum on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, in The Hague, the Netherlands.
"The fight against homophobia is a core part of the broader battle for human rights for all," Ban's statement said. "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights promises a world that is free and equal, and we will only honor that promise if everyone -- without exception -- enjoys the protection they deserve." The Declaration's preamble proclaims that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, the document was drafted with the assistance of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Sidibe said that as many as 76 countries have laws on the books that outlaw same-sex relationships. "We know what needs to be done," Ban continued. "Draconian laws used to criminalize and punish LGBT people must be replaced by new laws that are in harmony with universal human rights conventions and protect everyone from discrimination on grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity."
As part of the commemoration, the UN released a two-minute YouTube video, The Riddle, which highlights the plight of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people who are attacked or denied privileges because of their sexual orientation in many countries. "Today, as we commemorate International Day Against Homophobia, we rededicate ourselves to a basic but essential truth -- that human rights are universal and must be protected for all," said U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice.
Croatia Leads Balkans on Gay Rights Legislation
Croatia leads the Balkans in providing the best legal environment for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, while Macedonia offers the least protection, new research says.
17/5/2013- Croatia scored 48 per cent on a checklist of laws that include rules on non-discrimination, gender recognition and hate speech, making it the regional leader, according to the research published ahead of Friday’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. "Croatian officials continued to gradually improve the human rights situation for LGBTI people," the study said. It was also noted that the Croatian authorities had ensured there was adequate police protection for participants at the Split Pride demonstration, which saw violence in 2011, and the event was even attended by five government officials. "The government also expressed its intention to remove the degrading and offensive references to homosexuality identified in biology and religious education textbooks, while LGBT specific content was included in official curricula of the police academy," it continues.
The survey was conducted by ILGA-Europe based on data on developments at a national level in 49 countries in Europe. Albania came second in the Balkans, scoring 38 per cent. "Albania continued to make progress at the institutional level towards greater recognition and protection of LGBTI people," the survey said. "At the same time, homophobia and transphobia remained widespread," it continued. Romania was the next best ranked in the Balkans with 31 per cent. The survey warned however that the risk of discrimination or violence targeting LGBTI people remains high in the country. According to the survey, Montenegro scored 27 per cent, and the country is still dogged by hate speech and violent attacks. Serbia came in fifth place in the Balkans with 25 per cent. The study said that despite some improvements, the situation remains difficult.
"The right to freedom of assembly of LGBTI people was violated this year as the Belgrade Pride was banned by authorities,” the study said. "The risk of physical attacks and threats against members of the LGBTI community also continued to be high," it said. In Bosnia, which scored 20 per cent, homophobia and transphobia remain common with limited or no action taken by the authorities to address discrimination, harassment or violence. "Positively, [Bosnia’s] blood transfusion institute amended its blood donation regulations by deleting the discriminatory provisions," the study said. Overt homophobia and transphobia expressed by government and religious leaders as well as by extremist groups remained common in Bulgaria, which scored 18 per cent. Rampant homophobia also remains a serious threat for LGBTI people in Kosovo, which scored 14 per cent.
"While anti-discrimination legislation on the grounds of sexual orientation is in place, the impact of the law remains very limited in the absence of any proactive policy to ensure its effective implementation," the study said. Macedonia was ranked the worst in the Balkans with 13 per cent. The survey said that discrimination against the LGBTI community remained widespread in the country, often fuelled by homophobic rhetoric from officials. "Journalists also contributed significantly towards the stigmatisation of the LGBTI community through sensationalist and inflammatory articles," the survey added.
© Balkan Insight
Bad News For Georgia's Gay Community
Thousands of anti-gay protesters, including Orthodox priests, occupied a central street in Georgia's capital Friday, with some threatening to lash with stinging nettles any participant in a gay pride parade which was to take place there.
17/5/2013- Police in Tbilisi guarded several dozen gay activists and bused them out of the city center shortly after they arrived at the gathering. Those occupying the street held posters reading "We don't need Sodom and Gomorrah!" and "Democracy does not equal immorality!" Police, however, failed to prevent scuffles, which resulted in 16 people getting injured, the ambulance service said. A number of protesters carrying bunches of stinging nettles threatened to use them on gay activists. They insist that homosexuality runs against Georgia's traditional Orthodox Christian values. Father David, a priest who was one of the organizers of Friday's anti-gay rally, said the parade "insults people's traditions and national sentiments." A gay rally in Tbilisi last year was also short-lived and ended in a scuffle.
Georgia's authorities had given the green light for the gay parade to take place, saying that all Georgian citizens, irrespective of their sexuality, are entitled to voice their views in public. "We are against the propaganda of homosexuality," 21-year-old student Nikolai Kiladze said. "If we need to allow parades like this in order to become a member of the European Union or other Western organizations and blocs, then I'm against joining these organizations." Georgia's human rights ombudsman, Uchi Nanuashvili, said it is "deplorable" that gay people's constitutional rights were violated on Rustavi Street on Friday.
© The Associated Press
Fear, isolation and discrimination common in Europe’s LGBT community
The EU’s largest LGBT hate crime and discrimination online survey ever conducted shows that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people cannot be themselves in their daily lives. Many hide their identity and live in isolation or even fear. Others experience discrimination, and even violence, when being themselves.
17/5/2013- The survey was carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). The results underline the need to promote and protect fundamental rights for LGBT people so they too can live their lives with dignity. “Everyone should feel free to be themselves at home, work, at school and in public – but clearly, LGBT people often don’t. Results from FRA’s survey show that fear, isolation and discrimination are common in Europe’s LGBT community,” says FRA Director Morten Kjaerum. “We need EU-wide action to break down the barriers, eliminate the hate and create a society where everyone can fully enjoy their rights, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity is.”
Some of the difficulties many LGBT people face include:
Schooling: 2 out of 3 LGBT respondents were hiding or disguising being LGBT at school. At least 60% personally experienced negative comments or conduct at school because they were LGBT while over 80% in every EU Member State recall negative comments or bullying of LGBT youth at school. Therefore, Member States need to ensure LGBT students feel safe at school as this is where negative LGBT experiences, societal prejudices and exclusion often begin. This could include LGBT awareness campaigns for teachers and pupils and policies against homophobic bullying.
Work: 19% of respondents felt discriminated against at work or when looking for a job, despite legal protection under EU law. This underlines the need for EU-wide action to counter the many obstacles LGBT people face to their basic rights in their everyday life.
Fear: 26% of LGBT people who answered the survey had been attacked or threatened with violence in the last five years. 66% of respondents across all EU Member States were scared of holding hands in public with a same-sex partner. For gay and bisexual men respondents it was about 75%. This shows that LGBT victims need recognition and protection EU-wide and nationally to counter harassment and hate crime that results in LGBT people living in fear. This could include police training and victim support services as well as laws against hate speech and hate crime.
The survey also reveals that transgender people are the most affected among LGBT respondents to have personally felt discriminated against, particularly in employment and healthcare. About 30% said they were victims of violence or threats of violence more than three times in the year before the survey. High levels of under-reporting of instances of discrimination and hate crime were also detected. This is despite 56% of respondents being aware of laws against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. Half of all victims of violence and harassment felt that the police would do nothing. This pattern is not unique to the LGBT group researched. FRA found such under-reporting also in other groups, for instance, among members of ethnic minorities (See FRA hate crime reports, 2012).
The survey asked LGBT people whether they had experienced discrimination, violence, verbal abuse or hate speech on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They were also asked to identify where such incidents took place, such as at school, work, when seeking healthcare or in public places. The analysis of the survey findings are contained in two reports. They will feed into discussions in the EU and Member States on legislation and policies to improve the situation for LGBT people.
© EU Fundamental Rights Agency
Malta becomes signatory to declaration to combat discrimination against LGBT persons
Malta becomes signatory to declaration calling on the European Commission to combat discrimination against LGBT persons.
16/5/2013- Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli among the EU ministers attending an international conference on the emancipation of LGBT persons. For the first time this year Malta will be officially commemorating the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. According to Dalli, this day will continue to be commemorated annually. Ministers from a number of EU Member States today signed a joint declaration calling on the European Commission to adopt a comprehensive policy approach on the European level on LGBT issues, namely on combating discrimination and violence in all spheres of life. The conference, hosted by the Dutch government, is being held at The Hague on the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), commemorated tomorrow. Ministers are discussing international developments involving the discrimination and the emancipation of gay, bisexual and transgender people. The call is also the first step in which a number of Member States jointly expressed their willingness to work together on LGBT policies and ask for guidance on this matter from the European Commission.
"EU action is necessary to coordinate and promote efforts at the EU level and share good practice, and to support efforts at the national level in order to make progress towards a Europe free from homophobia and transphobia," the declaration states. "Taking action to prevent discrimination and providing remedies can make a difference not only for the millions of LGBT citizens in Europe, but for all." Minister Dalli said that the policy-makers and politicians are bound to set the policy and legislate against all forms of discrimination, including discrimination against LGBT people. "This has to be in parallel with more education from the early years of a person's life," she said, adding that government was committed towards a fair society where everyone enjoys equal rights. During her visit, Dalli took the opportunity to tour the Hofstad Lyceum where she met students and educators. This college is renowned for embracing diversity both in its education curriculum as well as in the school environment. Dalli also held talks with a delegation of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) in Europe.
© Malta Today
Malta ranks 18th in European ‘rainbow map’ of gay rights
Rainbow Europe map published by the International Lesbian Gay Association, sees the UK topping the scoreboard with 77%
16/5/2013- Malta stands in 18th place in a ranking of 49 European countries indexed by ILGA-Europe in its 'Rainbow map', which assesses the laws of each country which impact on the LBGTI community. The Rainbow Europe map, published today by the International Lesbian Gay Association, sees the UK topping the scoreboard with 77% on a checklist of laws that include rules on non-discrimination, gender recognition and hate speech. Next in line are Belgium (67), Sweden, Spain, Portugal (65%) and France with 64 percent. With a score of 35% Malta is surpassed by most western European countries and is one point below Catholic Ireland which only lifted the ban on homosexuality in 1993, two decades after Malta. Malta is also surpassed by Albania. But Malta registers a higher score than Italy, Luxembourg, Greece and a number of Eastern European countries. At 7% Russia emerges as the least gay friendly country in Europe. Malta's major shortcomings are registered in the sphere of family rights where Malta still grants any form of recognition to same sex couples and does not permit assisted insemination to both singles or same sex couples. In fact in this category Malta fails on all 10 counts assessed in the index.
According to ILGA's annual report in the past year, Malta enhanced its protection on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity through the inclusion legislation on hate crime and hate speech and the extension of the remit of the national equality body to cover both grounds. Former Social Policy Minister Chris Said in his brief tenure in office implemented both measures. However, the report notes that Malta failed to extend equality in the area of partnership and parenting. The report singles out the Embryo Protection Act expressly, which excludes lesbian couples and single women from access to fertility treatment. The report notes that the cohabitation bill proposed by the previous government while open to same-sex partners, was greatly criticized by LGBTI civil society due to its weak set of rights, and its disregard of same-sex partners' family life. The newly elected Labour government is committed to introduce civil unions and has appointed a commission involving local LBGT movements to draft the new law.
© Malta Today
Ukraine: new report reveals pervasive homophobia
A new report by Amnesty International reveals homophobia reached endemic levels in Ukraine
16/5/2013- A report launched in Kiev a day before the International Day Against Homophobia, shows that homophobia and anti LGBT discrimination is spiraling out of control in the Ukraine. The 17 page report launched today (16 May), entitled ‘Nothing to be proud of: Discrimination against LGBTI people in Ukraine’, highlights a number of violent attacks on individuals. It concludes that, as a matter of urgency, that the Ukrainian government must introduce legislation to address discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity which are non-existent in the Ukraine. A Pride march planned for last May was cancelled at the last moment because of threats of violence and the failure of the Kiev police to put in place adequate security measures to protect marchers. Immediately after the cancellation, and in the months that followed, some of the organizers were targeted and attacked with tear gas because of their association with the event. None of the investigations into these attacks has been concluded.
Another case highlighted by the report was of Armen Ovcharuk, a young gay man, who was hit on the head as he walked from one gay nightclub in Kiev on October 2012, dying a few days later from the injuries. Amnesty has received no response from Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior about the progress of the investigation into the attack, or whether it has been recorded and investigated as a hate crime. Max Tucker, an Amnesty International expert on Ukraine, said: ‘People have been beaten and in one case murdered because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Most of these crimes have not been properly investigated and have gone unpunished. ‘To add insult to injury, the possibility of attack is now routinely used as an excuse to deprive gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people of their rights to express themselves, to associate and assemble, and to hold public events in a peaceful manner.
‘The police must guarantee adequate police protection for LGBTI groups seeking to demonstrate peacefully. The police’s failure to adequately protect the participants and organizers of last year’s Kiev Pride march amounts to a violation of the participants’ right to freedom of assembly. ‘The police must redress this failure by professionally ensuring Ukraine’s first LGBTI Pride march takes place on 25 May in Kiev without hindrance and with adequate police protection. A further failure to protect LGBTI groups exercising their right to peaceful assembly would not bode well for Ukraine’s aspirations to move closer to the European Union. ‘If the government of Ukraine is to succeed in these ambitions it must bring its legislation into line with European human rights standards. It must ensure that all people, including LGBTI people, are treated equally.” The report also details endemic discrimination by officials and members of the public towards LGBTI people.
It also adds that attacks on LGBTI people are being fuelled by negative stereotypical and discriminatory statements from elected government officials and church leaders. However, rather than addressing discrimination against LGBTI people, Parliament is now discussing laws criminalizing the ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ which will restrict fundamental human rights, including the freedom of expression and assembly. A Ukrainian non-governmental organization received 29 reports of violent attacks against LGBTI people by members of the public in Ukraine in 2012, and 36 reports of threats of violence. It has also has documented 49 cases of human rights violations committed by police against LGBTI people, including illegal detention, blackmail, torture and other ill-treatment in 2012.
© Gay Star News
Suffering of trans people in Europe exposed in new report
Transgender Europe will launch a Trans Rights Europe Map and Index on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
15/5/2013- Julia Ehrt, Transgender Europe's Executive Board member, says trans people cannot wait any longer for human rights. Trans people are still suffering from discrimination, prejudice and persecution in Europe, a new report has found. Published on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (17 May), it will expose the 'bleak' legal challenges trans people face across 49 countries in Europe. Transgender Europe (TGEU) will show which of the countries require sterilization in legal gender recognition and which do not provide for any procedures. The index will present an in-depth overview of the legal human rights situation for trans people. TGEU will also provide an update on the Trans Murder Monitoring project. There have been over 1200 reported killings of trans people worldwide in the last five years.
On the same day, the Fundamental Rights Agency will publish the results of its survey on the experiences of violence and discrimination by LGBT people in the EU and Croatia. The survey is the largest of its kind with 93,000 respondents. ‘All our collected data is clearly suggesting one conclusion: European countries do not take sufficient action to protect trans people efficiently against violence and discrimination,’ stated Dr Julia Ehrt, TGEU’s Executive Director. ‘Trans people cannot wait any longer for the protection of their human rights. The EU has a crucial role in Europe to champion trans rights’, added Alecs Recher, TGEU Executive Board member. Transgender Europe (TGEU) is a European Human Rights Organization with members in 36 countries working for equality and inclusion of all trans people.
© Gay Star News
Acceptance of homosexuality grows (Netherlands)
16/5/2013- The acceptance of homosexuals has grown over the past few years, with just 4% of the population disapproving last year compared with 15% in 2006. The government's socio-cultural policy unit SCP, which carried out the research, looked at the acceptance of gay marriage, of having a homosexual child and of gay teachers. However, some groups still have a negative view of homosexuality, says the SCP. In particular, Moroccans (62%), Turks (54%), church-goers (26%) and anti-islam PVV voters (10%) remain more disapproving of the rights of gay men and lesbian women to live as they wish than the general public.
There are however some areas where the general acceptance runs up against clear limits, the SCP points out. Some 20% of the Dutch think that gay and straight people should not have equal rights to adopt; 29% find the idea of two men kissing offensive, and 19% feel the same about two women kissing. At the same time 14% feel the same way about a man and a woman kissing,' the research showed. Acceptance of gays in the Netherlands compares with that in Scandinavian countries, Belgium, France and Germany, says the SCP. Differences with the rest of Europe are marked, with 50% of eastern Europeans having a negative view of homosexuality, a figure that has remained stable over the past ten years.
The gay rights lobby group COC said in a reaction that although gays are more accepted than in the past, there is still a big gap between 'what people say and the reality'. 'The emancipation problems are tough and need a much bolder approach,' the COC said. On Thursday 700 international participants gather in The Hague to discuss the emancipation of gays, bi-sexuals and transgenders. Among them is queen Máxima. The conference is on the eve of the international day against homophobia.
Read the report (English)
© The Dutch News
Northern Ireland: 80% of homophobic crime is not reported
Eight out of 10 people who experienced homophobic discrimination in Northern Ireland do not report the crime, a report by the Northern Ireland Equality Commision revealed.
13/5/2013- Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner said that 44% of the LGBT community were not aware of the way that the law can help protect them against intolerance and discrimination. “The highest level of negativity was reserved for the smaller minority of people who struggle with their gender identity – trans people. Everyone has the same rights under our equality and hate crime laws to lead a life free from discrimination, abuse or harassment. But prejudice is still rife,” said Mr Wardlow. Mr Wardlow added: “We have already recognised the need to take special measures to address under-reporting of sexual orientation discrimination here in Northern Ireland. We recently launched a new suite of digital resources for the LGB community under the SoMe (Sexual orientation More equality) brand. “We recognise the particular sensitivities around dealing with discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“We know that we need to make particular efforts to reach out to LGBT individuals who may feel that they are totally alone and that they have no recourse against unfair treatment. These are the people who could really benefit from our staff’s advice, support and experience. Individuals can be reassured of receiving a confidential and supportive response when they seek our help.” 246 homophobic incidents were reported to the Police Service of Northern Ireland in the last year, a 23% rise on the previous year. Transphobic crimes doubled during the past year, although from a very low base in the previous year from three to six.
© Pink News
Moscow Rejects Request for Gay Parade (Russia)
14/5/2013- Moscow city authorities said Tuesday that they would not authorize a gay pride parade planned for later this month. "From our point of view, there is no need for such events in the city," said Alexei Mayorov, head of City Hall's security department and Moscow's pointman on approving rallies, Interfax reported. He said gay activists would be officially notified about the rejection Wednesday. On Monday, gay activists applied for official permission to hold a parade, picket and meeting on May 25, saying they would take to the streets irrespective of whether authorities grant permission. Every year since 2006, when the first request was filed, Moscow authorities have refused to grant permission for a gay pride parade.
Gay activists said Monday that St. Petersburg authorities had sanctioned a gay rights rally, despite the city's highly publicized law against "homosexual propaganda." St. Petersburg officials had not confirmed the statement. In January, the State Duma voted almost unanimously in favor of a federal bill similar to the St. Petersburg legislation that imposes fines for promoting homosexual behavior among minors. Further inflaming the gay rights issue, a gay young man was brutally killed in a homophobic attack in Volgograd this past week.
© The Moscow Times
St. Pete Officials Sanction Gay Rights Rally, Activists Say (Russia)
13/5/2013- LGBT activists said Monday that St. Petersburg authorities have sanctioned a gay rights rally, despite the city's highly publicized law against "homosexual propaganda." Activists with the Vykhod organization said in a statement that the rally would be held on May 17 on the central Field of Mars park to mark the International Day Against Homophobia. On May 17, 1990, the World Heath Organization officially excluded homosexuality from its list of psychiatric illnesses. "We think that it's especially important to remind [people] that homosexuality is a perfectly normal sexual orientation," Vykhod activist Olga Lenkova said in the statement posted on the organization's website.
St. Petersburg officials had not confirmed that the rally had been sanctioned as of early Monday afternoon. In February 2012, the city's legislature passed a bill imposing fines for promoting homosexual behavior among minors that was subsequently censured by international stars and foreign governments. A federal bill to the same effect is soon to be heard in a second reading after being overwhelmingly passed in January. Every year since 2006, Moscow authorities have refused permission for LGBT activists to hold a gay pride parade. On Monday, activists applied for official permission to hold their parade on May 25, saying they would take to the streets irrespective of whether authorities grant permission.
© The Moscow Times
Headlines 17 May, 2013
Gay couples in Portugal win limited adoption rights
Portugal's parliament on Friday handed same-sex couples the right to adopt the children or foster children of one partner, a partial victory for equality campaigners that fell short of their call for full adoption rights.
17/5/2013- The co-adoption law scraped through with a majority of just five votes in the 230-seat Lisbon assembly, prompting long applause from the gallery. Nine deputies abstained and as many as 28 did not show up for the vote. Activists hailed the biggest step forward for gay rights since Portugal became the eighth country to allow nationwide same-sex marriages in 2010, breaking with the Catholic nation's predominantly conservative image. "It was a super-important, fundamental approval as it concerns the human rights of the children and not just the couples," said Paulo Corte-Real, head the country's gay, lesbian and transgender rights association, ILGA. He said the law would benefit children raised by same-sex couples by giving the children additional protection if their original parent died or became seriously ill.
Catholic Church leaders have opposed moves by some European countries to allow same-sex unions and adoption by gay couples, saying heterosexual marriage has an indispensable role in society. France, which is mainly Catholic, last month followed 13 countries including Canada, Denmark, Sweden and most recently Uruguay and New Zealand in allowing gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot. The French law also authorized adoption. The Portuguese bill, presented on the International Day Against Homophobia, still needs to be signed into law by conservative President Anibal Cavaco Silva, who enacted the same-sex marriage bill in 2010 but expressed his disapproval. Another bill introduced by two left-wing parties that would have extended full adoption rights to gay couples failed to pass on Friday.
The ILGA took the Portuguese state to court after the European Court for Human Rights ruled in February that Austria's adoption laws discriminated against gay people on the issue of co-adoption. "That case will continue until the law comes fully into force," said Corte-Real. "And we will keep fighting for wider adoptions. Both of today's votes show progress, even the rejection. Support for wider adoptions has grown since last year."
Memorial for deported Jews, Sinti and Roma destroyed again (Germany)
To restore the first destruction cost 41,000 euros, restauration largely funded by donations
The in mid-March vandalised memorial for the deported Jews, Sinti and Roma had been re-erected to the tune of 41 000 euros, funded in large part by donations. Now it is destroyed again, the city of Darmstadt complains. "This repeated damage to the freight yard sign makes me very sad and also gives cause for concern," said Mayor Jochen Partsch, after he became aware of the damage to the freight station. Against the background of NSU process in Munich, which highlights how active militant right-wing terrorism in this country is currently. It is necessary to clean up as soon as possible, "weather if there is a specific right-wing destruction or a criminal damage to property without a political background." Together with the victims of the initiative groups "owie Denkzeichen" the damage to the monument must investigated and it must be considered how it can be restored again. Partsch: "My goal is to have a dignified and safe place for the memorial goods station."
The Denkzeichen freight station was built in 2004 in memory of the Jews, Sinti and Roma who were deported from the former goods station in Darmstadt 1942/1943, to the extermination camps. The memorial was designed by the artist couple Ritula Frankel and Nicholas Morris. it shows a buffer stop and railroad tracks leading to a glass cube. Inside the cube there are shards of glass on which 450 names are engraved, representing 3,400 people from Darmstadt and the region, which were brought from this place to the concentration camps of Eastern Europe. On the night of 9 on the 10th July 2006, the memorial was severely damaged by rampaging youths. The memorial mark stood until the end of 2012 in damaged condition at the train yard. On the occasion of the "Darmstadt commemorative year against the forgetting" the cube was removed, restored and reinstalled. The costs of around € 41,000 was raised by engaged citizens, institutions and the city of Darmstadt. The memorial reopend again on 11 March at the start of the commemorative year 2013, "Against Forgetting".
Translation: I CARE
© Echo Online
Neo-Nazi Trial: Excrement Smeared on Lawyer's Office Door (Germany)
Excrement and urine have been splattered on the Munich office of a lawyer representing plaintiffs in Germany's biggest neo-Nazi trial. Police suspect far-right extremists were behind the incident, just one of several apparently intended to intimidate anti-racist and immigrant groups as the trial gets underway.
17/5/2013- Since the landmark trial of neo-Nazi Beate Zschäpe began this month, a number of anti-extremist groups have been the target of far-right attacks, a media report said on Friday. Only now, the attempts at intimidation have taken a decidedly unsavory new tone, with right-wing extremists suspected of smearing a lawyer's office with fecal matter and urine. The door of the Munich office, which belongs to a lawyer representing family members of a victim of the neo-Nazi terrorist cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), was "extensively" daubed with excrement and urine on Monday morning, according to daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. "It is unlikely that this is a coincidence," the paper wrote.
A housing project in Westend -- the same district of the Bavarian capital where the NSU committed one of its 10 alleged murders -- and the office of refugee counselling service were among other places to have been vandalized a total of seven times with things like neo-Nazi slogans and eggings, the paper said. The latest incident occurred on Thursday night, when the home of anti-racist activists was pelted with paint bombs. Police suspect that right-wing extremists are behind the attacks, but are not currently investigating any individuals. "They want us to feel unsafe," one of the activists told the paper. "We won't allow ourselves to be intimidated."
The NSU trial, the biggest Germany has seen in decades, has sharpened the focus on the problem of neo-Nazi activity in the country. Beate Zschäpe, the last surviving member of the terrorist cell, is alleged to have helped form the neo-Nazi group with Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, who both committed suicide after a botched bank robbery in November 2011. Zschäpe was allegedly complicit in the racially motivated killing of eight men of Turkish descent, one Greek man and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007. She also allegedly took part in orchestrating a 2004 bomb attack that injured 22 in a district of Cologne in which many Turks live. Four alleged accomplices are on trial with Zschäpe, who faces a possible life sentence.
© The Spiegel
Neo-Nazi probe: Indian-origin German MP slams authorities
17/5/2013- Indian-origin MP Sebastian Edathy, who chairs a German parliamentary inquiry commission, has sharply criticised the country's security authorities for their "total failure" in probing a string of 10 racially motivated murders allegedly by a neo-Nazi gang. Edathy, interior affairs spokesman for the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), spoke of "multiple" and "historically unparalleled" failures by the police and intelligence services, which investigated the crimes. They were insensitive to the fact that nine victims were Turkish and Greek migrants and carried out their probe "with blinkers on and loaded with prejudices," Edathy said. Their conduct was "disgraceful for a constitutional state and it should not happen again," he said.
For many years, investigations focused on organised crime within the Turkish communities and right extremists were never suspected as perpetrators of the crimes. There have been allegations that intelligence files on the neo-Nazi cell National Socialist Underground (NSU) were destroyed even after the group's activities came to light. The committee came to the conclusion that mistakes were made by all the agencies involved at the federal and state levels and this led to the total failure of the security apparatus. They have not sufficiently exchanged their information and "massively underestimated the threats posed by right extremists," Edathy said.
The committee has been investigating how NSU carried out the murders across the country without being detected and why the authorities failed to prevent the crimes even though they had information about the gang already in the late 1990s. Existence of the group and their activities came to light after two members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boenhardt, were found dead by police in their caravan in November, 2011, apparently after committing suicide following a botched bank robbery. Beate Zschaepe, believed to be the only surviving member of the group, is currently facing trial at the regional court in Munich on charges of complicity in the murders of nine migrants and a woman police officer.
All of the victims were killed with the same gun in "execution-style shootings", according to the prosecution. More than 80,000 files were examined and more than 80 witnesses, including five former federal interior ministers, were questioned by the committee during its work, which began on January 26, 2012. Its final report will be presented to the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament on September 3. The committee members were unanimous in their assessment that security authorities failed completely at all levels and called for a thorough shake-up of the intelligence services. However, they received no evidences for any attempts by the authorities to cover up the right extremist group, Wolfgang Wieland, spokesman for the Green party, said.
Meanwhile, the NSU trial in Munich was adjourned till June 4.
© The Business Standard
NSU Trial Marred by Angry Courtroom Exchanges (Germany)
Bitter laughter, heckling and loud murmers from the public gallery: the trial of Beate Zschäpe descended into angry, heated exchanges among the lawyers and the judge on its third day on Wednesday. One lawyer even asked the judge to forbid laughter. Nerves are fraying in Germany's biggest neo-Nazi trial.
15/5/2013- The third day of the trial of neo-Nazi Beate Zschäpe, accused of complicity in racially motivated murders, brought another flurry of motions from the defense and heated exchanges across the courtroom floor. The attorneys of Zschäpe and her four co-defendants argued that the trial should be stopped because:
• politicians had interfered in the controversy surrounding media accreditations for the trial.
• the case had already been prejudged because the government had paid out €900,000 ($1.1 million) to the families of the victims -- from a state fund dedicated to the victims of far-right extremism.
• because a square in the city of Kassel had been renamed after one of the victims, a Turkish man shot dead in his father's Internet cafe.
• and because the court and the Federal Prosecutor's Office had failed so far to shed light on the shredding of intelligence files on far-right investigations.
Public 'Convinced of Guilt'
Zschäpe is alleged to have formed the National Socialist Underground (NSU) terrorist group with Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt and to have been complicit in killing eight men of Turkish descent, one Greek man and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007. Four alleged accomplices are on trial with her. Mundlos and Böhnhardt committed suicide in November 2011. "The public is already convinced that Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos are guilty," argued Nicole Schneiders, the defense attorney of Ralf Wohlleben, one of the defendants. That posed an insurmountable obstacle to the trial, she argued in a lengthy speech that involved reading out long quotes from media reports.
Her statement triggered a heated exchange with lawyers for the co-plaintiffs and judge Manfred Götzl. The court echoed with bitter laughter and angry exclamations that poisoned the atmosphere. At one point, one of Zschäpe's three defense attorneys, Wolfgang Heer, called on the court to establish order and said it was unacceptable that people were laughing at him. At which Harald Diemer, the chief federal prosecutor, retorted: "Laughter is a reflex!" Then another Zschäpe attorney, Wolfgang Stahl, stormed out of the courtroom in apparent disgust. The trial had resumed on Tuesday after an eight-day adjournment during which the court considered -- and rejected -- a defense motion to replace the judge on the ground that he was biased because he had ordered defense lawyers to be frisked before entering the courtroom.
On Tuesday, Dimer read out the charges against Zschäpe in chilling detail. She remained motionless and expressionless. The case has alarmed the country's 3 million people of Turkish descent and has been a huge embarrassment to Germany because of the catalogue of errors made by the police and security authorities that exposed them to accusations of institutional racism and of having been blind to the threat of right-wing extremism. The police never seriously considered that the motive may be racismand instead suspected that the victims themselves had links with criminal gangs.
A little goodwill and a bit less hotheadedness would go a long way to calming down the proceedings. Yet the judge, Götzl, appears to find it difficult not to rise to every provocation. It's the third day of the trial, and all sides should be settling in by now. But there's a growing sense of tension. Admittedly, it's an unviable task for any court -- dealing with four prosecutors, 11 defense attorneys and more than 60 attorneys representing the victims' families. On this third day of the trial, the morning is focused on a purely legal problem -- who sits on the judge's bench. Motions against the judges are difficult. They have to be made straight after the charges have been read. A defense that botches this aspect of the trial is doing a bad job. As if the trial weren't complex enough, one lawyer has filed a motion to bring in even more co-plaintiffs -- people injured in a 2004 nail bomb attack targeting immigrants in Cologne, also believed to have been the work of the NSU. Some 70 people were not informed of their right to take part in the trial, the lawyer complained. The daunting prospect of even more plaintiffs and lawyers prompted Götzl to suggest separating the complex nail bombing case from the rest of the trial -- should more victims actually come forward.
© The Spiegel
Resignation sets in as neo-Nazi trial continues (Germany)
Just two days into the trial of suspected neo-Nazis, considerably fewer journalists and demonstrators attended the proceedings. The drop in interest is attributed to resignation among Germans, one politician said.
15/5/2013- Ersan Eksioglu is disappointed. He and a friend seem somewhat lonely as they stands on a Munich street holding up a banner that reads, "We've integrated. Where is justice?" Other than a few cameras and photographers, hardly anyone takes notice of the 30-year-old or of the few other demonstrators. They are on the streets to protest against xenophobia in general and the suspected NSU neo-Nazi murders in particular. The NSU in a video claimed to have shot dead 10 people between 2000 and 2007. Eight of the victims had Turkish heritage, another was Greek and one was a German police officer. The two alleged NSU killers Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, who killed themselves in November 2011 while on the run from police, both came from the same part of eastern Germany as the policewoman. Beate Zschäpe is the only surviving member of the terrorist trio and together with four other defendants linked to the NSU, she's currently on trial at a Munich court.
"Next time I'll wear lederhosen"
The fact that the NSU was able to murder and bomb for a decade without being tracked down has shaken many immigrants' faith in the German legal system. "It does make you think," said Eksioglu as he rolled up his banner. "Next time I'll show up wearing lederhosen." Eksioglu was born and raised in Bavaria, he works as in sales in the mobile technology sector. Today he's wearing jeans with a red-orange shirt and scarf - the colors of Turkish soccer side Galatasaray Istanbul. The man is a devoted fan of the Turkish champion. Last Sunday, the two Galatasaray stars Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Eboue were the target of racist attacks in their side's match against Fenerbahce Istanbul. Xenophobia knows no borders. Eksioglu who was born in Munich, knows that only too well. Whenever he has time he follows his team across Europe. Racism among football fans is a sad reality in most countries he's been to.
Only few spectators left
While the soccer season is on hold for the summer months, the NSU trial in Munich is finally picking up some pace. It is the second day in a trial that according to experts might last several years. But there are already fewer spectators than when the trial opened. There are only few people outside the court and in the breaks between the proceedings it's mostly the joint plaintiff's lawyers who are giving interviews. Memet Kilic, a member of parliament for the Green Party, said he was disappointed that the interest in the case already seems to be waning. He especially took time off from his duties in Berlin to attend the trial. On the first day he expected some 5,000 protesters. Instead an estimated 200 people showed up. After the trial was delayed a week, about 20 people came.
No more candle processions
Kilic said he saw the lack of interest as a sign of "resignation" and the fact that the public got used to such news. In the 1990s there were racist attacks in Solingen, Mölln, Rostock or Hoyerswerda, people across Germany showed their protest and compassion with candle processions of hundreds of thousands showing their dismay and shock. The Greens politician said he wants to continue to follow the trial both by travelling to Munich and following the events from Berlin. He said he also keeps track of the parliament's investigative commission looking into why police and domestic intelligence failed to track the terror cell while it was active. On Thursday, the committee is to meet a last time before it presents a final report this summer. In Munich, however, the trial hasn't even begun hearing the evidence. Mustafa Can and Emre Tanis also had hoped for more progress. They left Berlin at 2 a.m. to be in Munich for the day. Already on the first day of the trial they protested with photos of the 10 victims suspected to have been murdered by the NSU terror cell. Can studies history and German as a foreign language in the eastern German town of Greifswald. Outside the court room he was asked by security staff whether he speaks German - right now he feels very foreign in what is supposed to be his home country Germany.
© The Deutsche Welle.
Investigators into neo-nazi NSU killings accused of 'shameful failure' (Germany)
With the NSU trial in Germany set to reconvene, the lead parliamentarian looking into investigative blunders by German authorities has issued a critical update. He said investigators were guilty of a "peerless failure."
14/5/2013- As the sole surviving alleged NSU core member, Beate Zschäpe, prepared to return to court in Munich on Tuesday, German parliamentarians were again briefed on the problems investigating the neo-nazi cell. The backlash from the uncovering of the NSU - whose killings of eight people with Turkish heritage, a Greek and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007 were initially put down to organized crime among immigrant communities - led to the resignation of the head of Germany's federal domestic intelligence agency and some similar figures in affected states. The head of a German parliamentary committee assigned with finding out what went wrong during the investigations, Social Democrat Sebastian Edathy, submitted an interim report on Monday, with his final paper due this summer. Edathy spoke of a "peerless failure" in the case of the NSU investigation, "a shameful failure with many varying causes." He said, however, that there was no indication that the state covered for or supported the group, but criticized the intelligence agencies for underestimating the threat of right-wing extremism and for failing to convey its findings more publicly.
No news on disappearing documents
After asking witnesses about the shredding of potentially pertinent files in Cologne in November 2011, while the NSU was uncovered by chance following a botched bank robbery, Edathy admitted he had hit a dead end. It was not possible to ascertain whether the papers were trashed out of "pure stupidity" or out of a desire to conceal their contents, he said: "That will have to remain open." Edathy's committee is scheduled to file its full report before the September federal elections, although parliamentary investigations into the open questions might continue after the ballot. The NSU committed 10 alleged murders in a period of eight years under the radar of German law enforcement. Investigators stumbled across the group after a bank robbery; they then found two men who had committed suicide and a firearm belonging to the murdered German police officer and began to unravel the old cases. The trial of the third alleged core NSU member Zschäpe and four alleged accomplices was set to reopen in Munich on Tuesday after its delayed start last week.
© The Deutsche Welle.
Bulgaria's far-right well placed as election deepens political stalemate
Bulgaria faces political paralysis after a snap election failed to hand a majority to any party and gave a potentially crucial role to far-right radicals.
14/5/2013- The result will only deepen the despair and anger of many Bulgarians who endure grinding poverty while a political and business elite thrives in ostentatious style, unhindered by corruption scandals and European Union demands that Sofia do more to fight graft. Allegations of election fraud will add to seething public discontent with Bulgaria’s entire political class. With almost all votes counted, the centre-right Gerb party, which resigned from government in February, was expected to take about 97 seats in the new parliament, with the Socialists claiming 85. The mostly ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) is likely to occupy about 34 seats and the ultra-nationalist Ataka party 24 places.
The brusque, bullying style of Gerb and former prime minister Boiko Borisov has irked the other parties, however, making them reluctant to form a coalition with a party whose anti-corruption credentials were badly tarnished by recent wiretapping allegations against an ex-minister. The Socialists, MRF and Ataka have ruled out coalition talks with Gerb, although some analysts say Ataka may be willing to negotiate with Mr Borisov’s party if the terms are attractive enough. Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev, whose party performed better than expected, said he is willing to discuss an alliance with any party except Gerb, and he has proposed the formation of a broad coalition led by a respected and non-partisan former finance minister, Plamen Oresharski. “Slowly and painfully Bulgaria is getting rid of Gerb and this is a healing process. It is clear that Gerb will not be able to form a government and this is good for Bulgaria,” said Mr Stanishev, who said the Socialists were ready to create a “government with strong expert participation and with a clear programme”.
Unless the final vote count gives the Socialists and MRF a majority, however, they will have to seek support from Ataka, which gained support in the months before the election as public anger grew. Ataka promises to raise taxes on the rich, crush corruption and nationalise foreign-owned enterprises, while also regularly lambasting Bulgaria’s large Roma community and the Turkish minority represented by the MRF. Analysts say a coalition between the Socialists, MRF and Ataka would be extremely unstable. Some predict a resumption of the street protests that forced Mr Borisov’s government to resign, and possibly another snap election this year. Senior Gerb officials say they expect Bulgaria’s president to give them the first chance to form a new government, and the party would almost certainly have to join forces with Ataka to retain power, a prospect that irks many EU states that fear economic hardship is fuelling extremism, and look askance at the rise of far-right parties like Ataka and Jobbik in Hungary.
Eoghan Murphy, the Fine Gael TD who led an election observation mission for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Bulgaria’s ballot offered “genuine choice in a competitive campaign, and the authorities made real steps to uphold the integrity of the election”. However, “when you look at the mistrust that exists between political parties, and at the current economic difficulties, this is a negative development,” Mr Murphy added, noting that various scandals had undermined faith in the political system there.
© The Irish Times.
Political institutions ‘losing legitimacy’ to extremists
14/5/2013- European politicians need to recover “democratic legitimisation” of the economic crisis if the rise of extremists is to be quelled, a high-level conference has been told. Speaking at the conference Right-wing Extremism and Hate Crime: Minorities Under Pressure in Europe and Beyond, in Oslo on 14 May, Ralf Melzer from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung institute in Berlin, said there “is no one single reason, or no one single solution” to the rise of extremism in Europe – although many would agree that it the economic crisis – but, however it is defined, extremism is on the rise in Europe. Some of this, such as with the Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary, is overtly fascist, with borrowed clothes and tactics from the heyday of the Nazi Party; others, such as The Danish People’s Party and the Swedish Democrats, are more tricky to define. Elsewhere, such as Italy and the Netherlands, mainstream parties have allowed those further to the right to prop-up their governments, yet remained outside the categorisation of extremist, despite allowing those parties to influence top-level policy.
The recent electoral rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip), is also causing concern. Melzer would categorise that party along with Fidesz, the ultra-conservative government party in Hungary. On the back of electoral success in local elections, Ukip leader, MEP Nigel Farage, said that he wanted to influence party politics in the UK much in the same way the Social Democratic Party (SDP) did in the 1980s; he wants to shift the mainstream to the right. This would seem to be in keeping with current trends, whereby parties like the Freedom party in the Netherlands, Lega Nord in Italy and the Danish People’s Party have managed to influence the political agenda. Far-right parties are beginning to realise that, if they cannot gain the amount of votes to govern outright, they can, at least, shape the way things are. Jobbik have managed to set much of the political agenda in Hungary, says Melzer; it represents one side of the same political coin as Fidesz. Increasingly, he says, there is “no buffer zone” between the mainstream, conservative right and the far-right, often, extremist, parties.
“Collective expressions of hatred are not natural disasters,” says Heiner Bielefeldt, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, “they do not come out of nowhere.” Likewise, he says, “they are also not artificial, they play with our emotions,” especially fear; fear of decline, economically, morally and demographically. This, he says, more often than not goes hand in hand with notions of superiority. A key factor in the rise of extremism, often amounting to disaffected unemployed youths with no particular party affiliation, just a sense of anger and disconnection, is perceived 9and actual) corruption in the political system. If the police and judiciary are deemed to be a corrupt, there exists, says Bielefeldt, a wider lack of trust in public institutions. It people ask, ‘who to trust?’ then they “stick to their own,” and become inward-looking. Identity politics, from all sides, he says, leads to a “closed we.” Propaganda “with good intentions,” the deliberate reversing of negative stereotyping, just “leads to more suspicion.” He cites the example of right-wing “champions of free speech” who laud their opposition to so-called political correctness.
He says instead that we “need to take experiences seriously, the real experiences of real people, not replace negative stereotypes with positive ones.” If not, “then there is no public sphere,” he says, “because the public sphere in an accomplishment that depends on the functioning of public institutions that are working for everyone.”
© New Europe
Italy: Far-right group launches 'Immigration kills' campaign
13/5/2013- The extreme-right Forza Nuova party on Monday launched an Internet campaign called 'Immigration Kills', after several recent murders allegedly committed by immigrants in northern Italy. ''Supporters of immigration reform must accept responsibility for the rape and murder in Livorno and the very serious events in Milan," read a statement posted by the group. It referred to the recent rape and strangulation in the Tuscan coastal city of Livorno of a 19-year-old woman, allegedly by a Senegalese immigrant, and a pick-axe killing spree in Milan on Saturday by a Ghanaian suspect that left two men dead. The group also attacked as "absurd" proposals by Italy's first black minister, the recently appointed integration minister Cecile Kyenge, who wants to grant automatic citizenship to children born to legal immigrants in Italy. Kyenge, a doctor born in the Democratic Republic of Congo has received a spate of racist insults since her appointment and prosecutors are probing online abuse targeting Kyenge, a member of the centre-left Democratic Party. Kyenge has also been targeted by a senior member of Italy's anti-immigrant Northern League party. An online petition has been launched calling for European Parliament member Mario Borghezio, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League, to be ousted after he claimed Kyenge would seek to "impose her tribal traditions from the Congo," and called the new Italian cabinet a "bonga bonga" government.
Coalition parties to talk about 'more humane' refugee policy (Netherlands)
16/5/2013- The ruling coalition parties - the right-wing VVD and the Labour party - are to hold talks on amending plans to toughen up asylum policy and make it a criminal offence to live in the Netherlands without proper papers. The talks will start in the next few days, a VVD spokesman told website nu.nl. The negotiations are an answer to last weekend's Labour party meeting, at which members said they would accept making it a crime to be an illegal immigrant if other aspects of the new rules are made 'more humane'. These include giving foreigners who cannot return to their country of origin a residency permit, an end to police quotas for catching illegal immigants and a ban on jailing people simply because they don't have the proper papers.
News of the talks comes as junior justice minister Fred Teeven said he has no plans to amend his draft legislation - which is part of the coalition agreement. Teeven told television talk show Pauw & Witteman that he took note of Labour’s position but it is now up to the parties themselves to decide what, if any, changes to make. Opposition parties in parliament have called for a debate on the question, but the ruling parties say they want to wait until the outcome of the talks. Last week there were signs the VVD would be prepared to soften its stance, with some MPs saying the issue is not worth a cabinet crisis.
© The Dutch News
Two asylum seekers on hunger strike in solitary confinement (Netherlands)
15/5/2013- Two of a group of 10 asylum seekers on hunger strike in a Rotterdam detention centre have been placed in solitary confinement, the justice ministry confirmed on Wednesday. The two have been placed in the cells, which contain a mattress on the ground and nothing more, out of psychiatric necessity, not because they are refusing food, a spokeswoman is quoted as saying. Lawyers specialising in refugee policy told the paper they had reached agreement with detention centre management that this would not happen. 'I would like to hear for myself what their psychiatric situation is,' lawyer Frans Willem Verbass told the NRC. 'I have questions about this ministerial statement.'
The ministry says 10 asylum seekers are still on hunger strike in Rotterdam, three of whom are also refusing liquids. Another has been hospitalised because of his deteriorating health. On Tuesday one was released from hospital into the community after a court in Rotterdam ruled he had been wrongly placed in the deportation centre. Afghan national Sayam Uddin Nessar had also been separated from other inmates, which is against agreements, the court pointed out. The NRC says Nessar has lived in the Netherlands for 20 years and his entire family live here legally. He reportedly forgot to renew his residency permit on time and now faces deportation to Afghanistan.
© The Dutch News
Labour backs leader on illegal immigrants, with tough conditions (Netherlands)
13/5/2013- The Labour party’s members’ council on Sunday backed the decision by leader Diederik Samsom to support making it a criminal offence to be an illegal immigrant. However, they also voted in favour of a string of measures to make official policy towards illegal immigrants ‘more humane’ and for scrapping a police quota. Last week, the PvdA conference overwhelmingly voted against making it a criminal offence to live in the Netherlands without proper paperwork. However, Samsom said he planned to press ahead with the plan because it is included in the coalition agreement between Labour and the right-wing VVD. ‘The VVD is not stupid,’ Samsom told the meeting. ‘If we hold new discussions, the VVD will want something in return… the total package could be worse than we have now. You cannot have everything you want in a coalition.’
Fines not prison
Delegates, with the support of Samsom, went on to vote for another motion which would soften some of the aspects of the new rules. For example, a police quota – they are supposed to catch 4,800 illegal immigrants a year – should go. In addition, people without papers should face fines but not prison and people who cannot be deported should not be held in custody, members agreed. Commentators said despite now accepting illegality can be a criminal offence, Labour could still face difficulties with its coalition partner because of the other demands. The anti-immigration PVV has demanded an immediate debate on the Labour party's new position, to find out if there is sufficient VVD support for the changes.
© The Dutch News
Europe must combat racist extremism and uphold human rights (comment)
Europe has been experiencing a worrying intensification of activities of racist extremist organisations, including political parties. According to some commentators, the upsurge has even reached the point of "an early form of far right terror".
By Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
13/5/2013- It worries me deeply that the European community and national political leaders appear not to be fully aware of the serious threat that these organisations pose to the rule of law and human rights. The philosophy of racist extremist organisations is centred on denying the entitlement of �others� � mainly migrants and members of national, ethnic and religious minorities � to human rights and fundamental freedoms. They invent �enemies� who have to be fought and eliminated. In Greece, for example, between October 2011 and December 2012 around 220 racist attacks were reported to the Racist Violence Recording Network headed by UNHCR and the National Commission for Human Rights. That is about one attack every other day. In my recent report concerning Greece I underlined the need to curb hate crime and combat impunity for hate crimes.
Influencing national parliaments
The phenomenon is all the more serious as it is paired with an increased influence of racist extremist political parties in national parliaments and governments, and endeavours by these parties to strengthen their position at European level through alliances. For example in Hungary, Jobbik, self-described as �radically patriotic�, entered the parliament in 2010 as the third largest party. In Sweden polls show a rise in popularity for the Sweden Democrats (SD), a party with neo-Nazi roots, and the same goes for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece. This political presence lends legitimacy and credibility to political extremism that is often linked to racist and other hate crimes. The main targets are migrants and Muslims, as well as particularly vulnerable social groups such as Roma and other minorities. Many such cases are recorded, for example in Hungary, Italy and Serbia.
Low awareness among politicians and law-enforcement
European political parties and national parliaments should be more aware of this trend. Instead, on many occasions political leaders, through their statements and policies, add force to racist extremism expressed by xenophobic and intolerant far-right political organisations. Some serious cases also point to failures on the part of the police and intelligence services to adequately address racist extremism. For example in Germany members of the National Socialist Underground murdered 10 persons between 2000 and 2007 without the police connecting the dots. The same thing happened in Sweden where a man shot seven persons, two of them fatally, in 2009-10. For a long time the murders were described as 'gang-related' by the police.
What should be done
+ European states must fully abide by and give effect to the standards contained in the 1966 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, especially its core provision of Article 4 concerning the sanctioning of racist organisations.
+ In this context, states should revise their legislation to effectively penalise participation in racist extremist groups.
+ Existing national legislation concerning racist extremism needs to be updated and strengthened along the lines of Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of the Council of the European Union concerning the combating of racism and xenophobia.
+ The use of hate speech and participation in racist activities should be a basis for serious, dissuasive disciplinary measures to be imposed on MPs by parliaments and political parties.
+ Countries should take measures to provide systematic, continuous anti-racism training of all law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges involved in the investigation and prosecution of racist crimes.
+ States should ensure that victims of extremism have unimpeded access to national justice and effective protection. Particular attention should be paid to migrant victims without residence status.
+ National authorities should be particularly vigilant concerning racist extremism within law enforcement authorities and eradicate impunity notably through independent and effective complaint mechanisms.
+ Human rights education should be systematically included and emphasised in schools.
A human rights based approach necessary
Racist violence, as opposed to other forms of violence, has a broader destructive impact on human dignity and social cohesion. This is why it should be treated more seriously than other forms of violence and extremism. Individuals and organisations involved in such acts are a threat to the pillars of democracy. They erode human rights to which democratic countries adhere, and undermine the rule of law. States have to ensure the protection of human rights through the eradication of impunity, effective protection of victims, and systematic, on-going awareness work notably through education. National authorities need to be vigilant and combat racism and extremism at all levels of society.
+ Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Recommendation No. R (97) 20 on hate speech.
+ PACE Resolution 1754 (2010), Fight against extremism: achievements, deficiencies and failures.
+ ECRI's General Policy Recommendation No. 10 on combating racism and racial discrimination in and through school education.
+ The Charter of European Political Parties for a Non-Racist Society (1998).
+ The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Guidelines on eradicating impunity for serious human rights violations (2011).
+ FRA findings about the necessity of access of victims to justice and effective protection.
© The Council of Europe
UKIP councillor: 'Islam cancer which needs to be cured with radiation' on Facebook 'to step down' (UK)
Worcestershire councillor Eric Kitson, 59, has admitted will have to quit; He shared series of controversial anti-Muslim and anti-Semetic messages; Mr Kitson admits he has been 'stupid' but maintains he's not a racist; 'I thought I could handle politics, but I can't - I don't see how I can carry on'
14/5/2013- A UKIP councillor has announced he will probably have to step down after less than two weeks because he posted a series of offensive messages about Jews and Muslims online. Eric Kitson, 59, has admitted 'I don't see how I can possibly carry on' after sharing racist cartoons and messages on Facebook. One included a picture of a nuclear weapon exploding emblazoned with the message: 'Some cancers need to be treated with radiation, Islam is one of them'. He also shared an image of a Muslim being roasted over a pile of burning Korans, as well as several anti-Semitic outbursts linking the Rothschild banking dynasty to Adolf Hitler. In one comment he said in reference to Muslim women: 'Hang um all first then ask questions later.' The councillor from Stourport, Worcestershire, has apologised to residents and party colleagues for his 'stupid' actions. But he denied being racist and claimed he had shared the material to expose the 'unacceptable' views they contained. He said: 'I thought I could handle politics, but I can't - I don't see how I can possibly carry on. 'I'm not a racist, all my friends know me better than that. 'What I wrote was stupid, but it wasn't racist. I am not racist. I'm the only white guy on my local five-a-side football team. 'I wanted to show people this is bad, this is wrong. What I should have done is write something on them about how bad it is but I didn't.
© The Daily Mail
Claim: Preaching by extremists and discrimination through segregation has become widespread at UK universities
13/5/2013- Preaching by extremists and discrimination through segregation at student events has become a widespread trend at many UK universities, a student equality group claims. Radical preachers spoke at nearly 200 events at universities including Cardiff and University College London (UCL) over the last year. Research found that segregated seating for men and women was promoted or implied at more than a quarter of the events, at 21 separate institutions, despite university rules forbidding it. Student Rights, which was set up to tackle extremism on campuses and carried out the research, said universities were failing to provide students with work and study environments that are free from discrimination and harassment. In its study of events promoted to students by union-affiliated societies between March 2012 and March 2013, Student Rights found 180 that featured "speakers with a history of extreme or intolerant views".
Of these, 46 (25.5%) explicitly promoted segregation by gender, or implied that it would be the case through promotional material or by providing separate contact details for men and women. Six of the events were subsequently cancelled. Two institutions, UCL and the University of Leicester, have sine announced investigations into the segregated meetings. Among the events highlighted was a gender-segregated at UCL on March 9, Student Rights said. A lecture, Islam vs Atheism, was organised by the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), and pitted writer Hamza Tzortzis against Prof Laurence Krauss in a debate. A policy of segregation was suggested by the IERA in a statement before the event, which said: "As for seating, it is according to when the ticket was booked and gender." Students raised the issue with UCL, which gave assurances that segregation would not be allowed.
But the sexual segregation policy was enforced at the event, with separate entrances for men and women - although couples were allowed to enter together - and segregated seating. Organisers' security tried to physically remove members of the audience who would not comply, Student Rights said. Speaking of its findings, Student Rights said in a statement: "The fact that such a large percentage of the events logged by Student Rights during this time period either explicitly advertised events as segregated by gender or implied that this would be the case underlines claims that events highlighted are not 'isolated incidents', but rather form a part of a wider, discriminatory trend on UK university campuses." The organisation said that universities were failing in the responsibilities to tackle discrimination, and called for better communication of policies and a closer monitoring of events to ensure that discrimination does not occur.
Raheem Kassam, director of Student Rights, told the Times that universities needed to do more to end the practice of segregation. He said: "I am distraught that, in the 21st century, British university campuses can be used to segregate and denigrate women. "The acceptance of segregation on campuses is a far more serious issue than previously thought."
© The Independent
Tory rebels want a referendum on gay marriage (UK)
National vote being called on to ensure new law has full backing of the public; Opponents seek amendments to the bill including one to protect churches
13/5/2013- Tory rebels are demanding a referendum on gay marriage – and have threatened to wreck the Coalition’s attempts to make it law if they do not get their way. Up to 150 MPs are said to support a call for a national vote on same-sex weddings to ensure that such a historic change in legislation goes ahead only with full public support. Without it, opponents say they could torpedo the Government’s gay wedding Bill with a range of amendments such as allowing churches and registrars to opt out if they have strong religious or principled objections. Other demands include giving religious schools and teachers the right to refuse to teach the topic, and making sure at least 51 per cent of voters approve the legislation in a national referendum. David Burrowes, Tory MP for Enfield Southgate, said: ‘Despite 13 sittings of the Bill committee and a majority of Conservative MPs voting against the Bill, the Government has not amended one word of it. ‘It has steamrollered ahead and ignored all opposition on its path.’
Polls have regularly revealed broad public support for same-sex marriages, but rebel MPs say the Tories need to respond to the success in the recent local elections by UKIP, which opposes the issue. Whitehall sources say they will not accept the amendments because Culture Secretary Maria Miller – who is pushing the legislation through Parliament – believes it would set a precedent for public servants to opt out of duties they object to. However, ministers are expected to offer a compromise in which registrars with strong objections could take on other duties, unless there is a shortage of people to marry same-sex couples. A deal could also allow teachers to avoid the promotion of gay marriage in classrooms and even let them voice personal objections. However, they would still have to teach children that marriage between same-sex couples was within the law. The Government is expected to reject the national referendum clause.
Tory and Labour MPs who abstained in February’s key vote on the Bill have indicated they could oppose it this time unless there is greater protection for registrars and others with conscientious objections. Some Labour MPs with religious concerns are considering voting for some of the amendments. Other possible clauses tabled by Tory rebels include the protection of those who discuss or criticise same-sex marriage from prosecution on grounds of discrimination. They have also called for straight couples to be given the right to a civil partnership, a move which ministers are expected to oppose. Tim Loughton, the former children’s minister, said: ‘If the Bill is to go through, same-sex weddings and civil partnerships will be available to gay couples, but there will be clear discrimination against opposite-sex couples who don’t want to get married but do want to enter into a formal relationship through civil partnerships.’
© The Daily Mail
Turkey worried about 'rising xenophobia' in Europe
13/5/2013- Turkey's foreign minister voiced concern Sunday about rising anti-foreigner sentiment in crisis-hit Europe, on a visit to Germany where a neo-Nazi cell's bloody murder spree claimed mostly Turkish migrants among its victims. "We, as Turkey, are concerned with rising xenophobia and right-wing sentiments after the economic crisis in Europe," said Ahmet Davutoglu, who had met relatives of those killed by the self-styled National Socialist Underground earlier on his trip. "The EU started as a peace project, but the developments in recent years are a source of concern for all of us," Davutoglu told a joint press conference with German counterpart Guido Westerwelle. The ministers had met to launch a strategic dialogue between Turkey, a rising economic power and regional player, and Germany, home to some three million ethnic Turks. Some Turks in Germany complain of discrimination and racism, highlighted by the neo-Nazi murder spree from 2000 to 2007 and the way police, media and the courts dealt with it.
Investigators and newspapers had for years dubbed the 10 killings the "doner (kebab) murders". The main suspects were Turkish gangsters, and suspicion turned on some of the bereaved family members of the eight Turkish men killed. The damage was compounded when a Munich court trying the surviving member, Beate Zschaepe, this year failed to guarantee reserved seats for Turkish journalists under a first come-first served system that was later revised. Davutoglu also criticised the "arrogant attitude" of Zschaepe, dubbed the "Nazi broad" by German media, in court last week, which he said had affected the psychology of the families. He said Turkey wants not just a few people to be punished but the collapse of a far-right "network which threatens the future of Europe".
In a joint article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung weekly, the ministers said that mutual respect and understanding "must not be threatened by extremists on the margins of society". They declared that "after more than 50 years of Turkish migration, we find that harmony and peace are the main characteristics of the Turkish community in Germany". Westerwelle and Davutoglu also agreed that talks should resume quickly on Turkey's bid to join the European Union. Ankara has recently warned it may look beyond crisis-hit Europe for new economic partners, for example to China. The ministers wrote that they wanted "new momentum" in EU accession talks for the majority-Muslim country, citing "major progress" it had made in promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Davutoglu said: "There has been stagnation in Turkish-EU relations. Hopefully we will open a new chapter, but spring doesn't come with one flower". The parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, Volker Kauder, quickly released a statement Sunday demanding that Turkey "must once and for all guarantee religious freedom" if wanted to join the EU.
Roma representatives from 5 countries work to promote Roma rights
Roma parliamentary representatives from Serbia, Macedonia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia have signed a declaration about a collaboration on the enforcement of Roma rights at a national and local level.
14/5/2013- Roma parliamentary representatives from neighboring countries joined in an inter-parliamentary organization which will work on the improvement of the Roma situation at the local level. Roma members of parliament from Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Croatia have took on the challenge to tackle the problems of local Roma communities and advance their rights. The first official assembly of this group was organized by the Serbian Parliament. On this occasion, the representatives signed a declaration that establishes an inter-parliamentary group for protection of Roma rights. This organization will collaborate with the governments of the countries that signed the declaration, and will also cooperate with international organizations such as EU, OSCE and UN.
Apart from this agenda, this group will also promote the International Day of Roma, 8 April, and Romani language Day, 5 November. During the official meeting in Belgrade, Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic, president of the National Assembly of Serbia Nebojsa Stefanovic, as well as the USA, Germany and UK ambassadors shared their support for the initiative. Representatives of Serbian governmental institutions highlighted the fact that the work done for Serbian Roma has given great results so far, and that their country has embraced the affirmation of minority rights. “I am glad about this initiative, which, in spite of being new, could turn into a key factor in helping democratic institutions solve Roma issues through a lucrative partnership. Serbian Roma fully enjoy their citizen rights, a fact made obvious through this meeting taking place in Serbia’s house of democracy,” added Nikolic.
From the declarations coming from representatives of the 5 countries, we could deduce that Roma enjoy the same rights as the majority. However, EU reports show the exactly opposite situation for its southern and central European member countries, as well as for other countries that currently have a candidate status. Despite warnings issued by the EU towards local authorities, the Roma living in the region still face poverty and discrimination coming from non-Roma, and continue to be refused entry into the EU on the grounds that they are asylum seekers. We can conclude that, on one hand, in all 5 countries mentioned before, Roma rights are declaratively, formally and publicly guaranteed. However, EU reports are saying the complete opposite for EU member countries, and are stressing that Roma issues are vital for the integration of EU candidate countries. Still, the main problem that Roma face is poverty, as well as discrimination coming from the non-Roma. Even more, a lot of Roma are constantly sent back from the borders of the EU because they are seen as asylum seekers.
This is why the Decade of Roma Inclusion, which started in 2005, made Roma inclusion into society its main goal. Eight years after the start of the Decade, little change happened in the countries taking part in this program, as shown by reports on its implementation. It’s already 2013, and we should probably put an end to the fantasy that the Decade will put an end to all Roma problems. On the other hand, the work of the recently established inter-parliamentary group might have higher chances of bringing change, given that, in its case, Roma issues are discussed at a lower level by people who are truly familiar with the topic.
© Roma Transitions
Greek parliament ejects neo-Nazi MP as 'Hail Hitler' shouts heard
17/5/2013- Greece's parliament on Friday ejected a neo-Nazi lawmaker and shouts of 'Hail Hitler' were heard in the chamber in the latest incident involving the aggressive Golden Dawn far-right party. Golden Dawn MP Panagiotis Iliopoulos was ordered out by the acting speaker after he poked fun at the leader of the main leftist opposition Syriza party. The acting speaker is also from Syriza. As Iliopoulos was leaving the chamber with fellow Golden Dawn lawmakers, he called MPs applauding in approval "goats" and "pathetic" and amid the mayhem, someone shouted "Heil Hitler" three times. State-run Athens News Agency said the shouts came from Golden Dawn parliament spokesman Christos Pappas, who is considered a senior party ideologue. Golden Dawn denied this.
Earlier this week, Pappas admitted in parliament that he had written a tract several years ago praising Adolf Hitler as a "visionary." "Thank you for bringing up writings from our youth," Pappas told the chamber. "Nationalism is the youth of the world and its future belongs to nationalism." Golden Dawn was elected to parliament in June, winning nearly seven percent of the vote and 18 seats out of an overall 300. The party has benefitted from a rise in social tensions as Greece experiences a fourth year of strict austerity policies.
Many Golden Dawn supporters have been implicated in violent assaults against immigrants and the party is known for its anti-Semitic and xenophobic discourse. A number of its lawmakers have also been implicated in aggressive behaviour incidents -- one of them recently attempting to punch the Athens mayor -- and have had their parliamentary immunity lifted to enable their prosecution.
Anti-racism bill sent to parliament (Greece)
The bill raises prison sentences and financial penalties for racist attacks, and is due to be debated on May 21
16/5/2013- An anti-racism bill the government had was due to be tabled in parliament last week has finally been presented to the house. The bill had gone back to the prime minister's office for consultation, according to Eleftherotypia newspaper, but was returned to parliament on Wednesday unchanged. It is to be debated on May 21. The bill raises financial and prison penalties for racist offences, which have been on the rise during the six-year recession. On Tuesday, unknown assailants beat a 20 year-old Syrian immigrant with wooden batons outside Attiki metro station in central Athens. The assailants were wearing black clothing, the trademark colour of the far-right Golden Dawn party. The Syrian man was taken by other migrants to Doctors of the World, where first aid treatment was administered. "He bore marks from punches to his face, and he was bleeding from the nose," said Nikitas Kanakis, former head of Doctors of the World. A Syrian boy aged 14 had been attacked two days earlier. His assailants cut his face with a broken glass bottle.
On the morning of the same day, five unknown arsonists burned a shop in the Agios Panteleimonas neighbourhood of western Athens, which was owned by an immigrant from Cameroon. Apparently the arsonists had visited the shopkeeper the previous evening and abused him verbally, saying that they would burn his shop. Police say they have arrested two of them and are looking for the other three. These are just two of the most recent incidents of what is turning into an epidemic of racist behaviour. A new watchdog formed by 30 NGOs, 1against racism, recorded 154 attacks last year, or one every two and a half days. Earlier this year police created a dedicated Service Against Racist Violence within the police force to receive reports of racist acts and initiate arrests.
© Enet English
Golden Dawn MP reveals true colours (Greece)
During a vote to lift the parliamentary immunity of Syriza MP Petros Tatsopoulos, Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas referred to a Hitler-praising text as 'the writings of our youth' adding that nationalism is 'the future of the world'
15/5/2013-Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas addresses parliament Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas addresses parliament Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas on Wednesday referred to a text that he wrote praising Hitler as “the writings of our youth”, adding that nationalism is "the future of the world”. The incident occurred during a parliamentary session to vote on lifting the parliamentary immunity of Syriza MP Petros Tatsopoulos, who has been sued by Pappas for calling Golden Dawn MPs “pimps”. Addressing parliament, Tatsopoulos highlighted the dangers of criminalising political speech, reading out an extract from a text written by Pappas in Golden Dawn's magazine, in which the far-right MP praised Hitler. “We thank Mr Tatsopoulos for reading out to us the writings of our youth,” Pappas told parliament, adding that nationalism is "the future of the world”. “I'm not asking for my parliamentary immunity to be lifted,” Tatsopoulos told MPs, stressing that Golden Dawn aims to raise his immunity in order to create a climate that criminalises political speech. “People will think twice before they speak in order not to be taken to court,” he said.
Golden Dawn had sued Tatsopoulos following an interview the latter gave to Lifo magazine, in which he condemned the party for its violent reactions to the staging of theatrical play “Corpus Christi”, which led to the cancellaton of the play. In October 2012 Golden Dawn members and MPs, together with religious groups, gathered outside the Hitirio theatre in downtown Athens preventing the audience from entering the theatre and threatening the director of the play, which they deemed blasphemous. “What happened that night, when Golden Dawn MPs marshalled outside the Hitirio like pimps to impede audience attendance, was a night of terror,” Tatsopoulos had told Lifo. Tatsopoulos stressed that “a pimp is a protector who uses violent means” and that Golden Dawn had decided that “the play would not be staged and so it didn't”. Parliament voted against lifting Tatsopoulos' parliamentary immunity with 121 votes against and 73 votes in favour.
© Enet English
Far-right assaults focus of secret police document (Greece)
12/5/2013- As a new report by Europol marks a worrying increase in the activities of far-right organizations in several European countries, a confidential Greek police document seen by Kathimerini highlights the need for a “re-evaluation of security needs” following a spike in assaults attributed to ultra-right organizations in Greece. The police document refers to “commando-style” assaults by members of far-right organizations against immigrants, noting that 84 such attacks were recorded last year. Of the 84 assaults, nine were linked directly to the ultra-right party Golden Dawn, which entered Parliament last summer after campaigning on a staunch anti-immigrant platform and currently ranks third in opinion polls. The document notes that far-right groups and parties have thrived due to a growing sense of insecurity among many Greeks due to a burgeoning population of immigrants, a fear of “the erosion of the nation’s cultural characteristics” and an alarming rise in unemployment. Such groups “walk a fine line between constitutional order and the principles and values of a democratic society,” the document notes. The observations in the police review came as Europol issued a report highlighting an intensification of activities by far-right organizations in several European countries as well as cross-border cooperations that are apparently aimed at creating an “anti-Islamic” front within the EU.
Photograph of Afghan teen victim of race attack published (Greece)
14/5/2013- Daily newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton on Tuesday published a chilling photograph of a 14-year-old Afghan teenager who was attacked in central Athens on Monday, May 6, by three men who beat him and carved his face with a broken bottle. The newspaper said that it reached the controversial decision to publish the photograph in order to prompt a response from authorities to the vicious attack, which comes in the wake of similar assaults around Greece on migrants. According to the report, the unnamed teenager told the Doctors of the World nongovernmental group, which treated him for his injuries and has been overseeing his case ever since, that he was approached by three men wearing black t-shirts with a stamp of "two intertwined laurel branches and another symbol in the middle." He said they demanded to see his identification papers and when the teenager told them he was from Afghanistan they began beating him and cutting his face with a broken beer bottle.
The injured youth was taken to a Doctors of the World free clinic by a group of his compatriots, where he received 300 stitches on his face alone, the newspaper said. The organization reported the incident to an Athens prosecutor, which now has protective custody of the youth with the supervision of Doctors of the World. "This was yet another incident of racially motivated violence that reached our office," the organization's chief, Nikitas Kanakis, told News 247 in the aftermath of the attack. "What makes this particular case different is that it concerns a boy. It can only be defined as barbaric." Kanakis said that his organization has seen an escalation in street violence. He also added that the case of the teenager brings to light the problem of undocumented minors who are without adult supervision. "He was all alone, without any support. His parents had left the country and he had stayed in Greece," Kanakis said.
No such thing as 'race', say French lawmakers
French lawmakers approved a bill on Thursday to completely remove the word “race” from the country’s law books, but the initiative has been blasted as naïve and useless by right-wing opponents.
17/5/2013- France’s National Assembly voted on Thursday to strike out the word “race” in any existing legislation that governs the country, even as members of the main opposition Union for Popular Movement labelled the move as overly idealistic. “In eliminating the legal category of race, the Assembly has helped our country move forward on ideological and educational levels,” said the text’s author, MP Francois Asensi, a member of the far-left Left Front coalition that sponsored the bill. The bill’s supporters argued that the term, which appears at least six times in France’s penal code and other legal texts, could be interpreted as a category of people. “The word 'race' has no scientific validity and it has been the basis for racist ideologies,” the preamble to the bill declared. Under the new law, France will not recognise the existence of any distinct race or races. Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who as an MP in 2001 authored a law defining slavery as a crime against humanity, said she applauded the bill’s adoption.
Remains in constitution
Members of the ruling Socialist Party had rallied behind the measure, claiming it was a first step in a larger reform to delete “race” from France’s constitution. President François Hollande’s winning platform in the 2012 elections included a measure to omit the word from France’s most important legal document. The term “race” appears just once in the French constitution. “[France] guarantees the equality of all citizens before the law, regardless of their origin, race or religion,” it states. However, Hollande’s idea seems destined to fall flat, as a change in the constitution requires a difficult to clear three-fifths majority in both the National Assembly and the upper-house Senate. Opponents of the bill approved on Thursday decried that the ban would create a legal void between the constitution and legislation. They also pointed out that it did nothing to diminish racism or hate crimes. “You can not change reality by simply changing the words... you're wasting a lot of time and energy on illusions,” argued Lionel Tardy, an MP with the opposition UMP party, who voted against the change.
© France 24.
Topless Femen crash far-right rally in Paris (France)
A group of women belonging to the topless, Ukrainian-born Femen movement on Sunday interrupted a Joan of Arc commemoration which had been organised by far-right groups in central Paris.
12/5/2013- The breast-flashing and fist-pumping Femen group struck again in Paris on Sunday, interrupting a rally organised by far-right groups to commemorate Saint Joan of Arc in central Paris. The four feminists appeared topless – a trademark of the Ukraine-based feminist movement – on a rooftop overlooking the equestrian statue of Joan of Arc in Place des Pyramides, where ultra-conservative Catholics, French royalists, skinhead youths, and other groups had gathered around noon. The women unravelled a two-story high red and black banner reading “Sextermination for Nazism”, while being admonished with cries of “Femen die” and “Femen whores” from the crowds below.
Joan of Arc, considered a French medieval hero, has become an iconic symbol for far-right groups, including the National Front political party. Sunday was the Catholic saint's feast day. Femen activists violently clashed with members of far-right groups last November, when, disguised as nuns they infiltrated an anti-gay marriage rally and proceeded to strip down to their underpants in counter-protest. More recently the group caused outrage by celebrating Pope Benedict's resignation at Notre Dame Cathedral. The standoff in Paris on Sunday, which lasted around one-half hour, did not end with a physical confrontation. Firemen eventually escorted the women off the building.
© France 24.
Macedonian Police Target Roma with Excessive Force
13/5/2013- The ERRC is deeply concerned about media reports which indicate that a special police unit, along with the regular police force, used excessive and arbitrary force when they entered a Roma neighbourhood to arrest a man who had committed a crime while on leave from prison. Around 50 police officers used force against Roma on 5 May, indiscriminately targeting individuals, including women, in the course of the operation. Roma from the Topana neighbourhood told the ERRC that officers forcibly entered several Romani houses and local shops without providing any explanation; harassing and pushing people, often in the presence of children. Roma reported that police officers kicked and punched them with fists and police batons. Around ten Romani individuals were beaten up, including three women.
Official reports state that Roma resisted arrest, throwing stones at police forces. However eyewitness reports clearly indicate the police response was indiscriminate and out of all proportion. Media in Macedonia released a video showing the police actions. The Ministry of the Interior made a statement saying that anyone who believes their rights were violated should file a complaint. This response is clearly inadequate. This police action is in contrary to fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Macedonian Constitution and international human rights treaties, including the right to physical and moral integrity, right to liberty and security, right to privacy, and ultimately the right not to be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Such conduct is also incompatible with national codes.
The ERRC calls on the relevant authorities to: conduct an independent, thorough and effective investigation into the legality of the police and action in line with the obligations enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights; to ensure that the investigation fully explores any evidence of discriminatory action or bias motivation and to make public the scope, methods and findings of the investigation in this case.
© European Roma Rights Center
Arrests over 'anti-gay' murder in Volgograd Russia
Police in southern Russia are questioning three men over a murder reportedly motivated by homophobia.
13/5/2013- The victim's naked body had been dumped in a courtyard in the city of Volgograd. His skull was smashed and he had been raped with beer bottles. A suspect told police he had been killed because he was gay. But the victim's family and friends say he was not homosexual and investigators have told the BBC there is no reason to believe he was. The victim, 23-year-old Vladislav Tornovoi, was reportedly drinking beer with three men in a children's playground when they fell out. His body was discovered on Friday after World War II Victory Day celebrations in Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad. The first reports about the motive for the killing sparked fears among Russia's gay community and civil rights activists.
'He was normal'
A video of one of the suspects appeared online in which he was asked why Mr Tornovoi was attacked. "Because he said he was gay," the suspect replied. Igor Kekshin, a friend of the dead man, told the BBC the victim had been drinking with men he had grown up with in the area. Mr Kekshin said Mr Tornovoi had never shown any interest in people of the same sex and had mixed with a lot of girls. Contacted by the BBC, investigators in Volgograd said: "We have no information about him belonging to this cast of people or not. "A lot of media are writing about this and the parents of this lad are going about complaining." According to the investigators, the victim's parents said he was not gay.
Gay rights activists said the case highlighted growing intolerance in Russia and accused the authorities of encouraging intolerance. There are fears that homophobia is being fuelled by legislation banning gay parades and dissemination of "homosexual propaganda" to anyone under 18. In January a bill banning "homosexual propaganda" passed its first reading in the Russian parliament. The second reading is planned for 25 May. The bill envisages a nationwide ban on events promoting gay rights and big fines for the organisers. A similar law is already in force in St Petersburg. The European Court of Human Rights has fined Russia for banning gay pride marches in Moscow. A prominent gay activist in Russia, Nikolai Alexeyev, says the gay community has asked the Moscow authorities for permission to hold a march in the city centre this month, despite the previous refusals. The request offered two dates - 25 or 26 May - to celebrate 20 years since Russia stopped treating homosexuality as a criminal offence, Interfax news agency reports.
© BBC News
Russian tortured to death for 'being gay'
12/5/2013- A 23-year-old man has been tortured to death in Russia in an apparent homophobic attack, investigators say, amid growing fears by rights groups that anti-gay sentiments are on the rise in the country. The victim's battered and naked body was found in the courtyard of an apartment building in the southern city of Volgograd on Friday morning, said a spokeswoman for regional investigators. The young man had suffered numerous injuries, including to the genitalia, and had been sodomised with several beer bottles. "He was raped with beer bottles and had his skull smashed with a stone," Natalia Kunitskaya, a spokeswoman for the Volgograd region branch of the Investigative Committee, told AFP. She confirmed the attack was believed to have been a hate crime, in a rare admission from Russian law enforcement agencies on the sensitive issue of homophobia in the country.
Two men aged 22 and 27 have been detained in connection with the attack, the Moscow-based Investigative Committee said in a statement on Saturday. One of the suspects has a criminal history, investigators said. The victim was said to have been drinking with the two men, apparently while celebrating Victory Day which Russia marks on May 9. Regional investigator Andrei Gapchenko told Echo of Moscow radio on Saturday that two men started beating the victim after he told them he was gay. The Investigative Committee's tersely-worded statement said investigators had opened a murder probe, without commenting on possible motives for the killing. Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993 and officially removed it from the list of psychiatric disorders in 1999. But homophobia remains widespread and socially acceptable, and almost no public figures have come out as gay.
Several Russian regions have outraged rights campaigners by approving local laws banning "gay propaganda" among minors, in legislation which is now being discussed at the federal parliament. President Vladimir Putin, who prides himself on his macho image, has repeatedly denied that Russia was violating gay rights. But he recently warned that Russia could change agreements for the adoption of Russian children with Western countries that are legalising gay marriage, such as France.
© The Herald Sun
Christian churches back Jews facing anti-Semitism in Hungary
When Hungarian radical right-wingers rallied against a Jewish conference in Budapest in early May, a well-known Protestant pastor hid behind the stage while his wife stepped up to the podium to denounce Jews and Israel.
14/5/2013- Lorant Hegedus could have preached the same anti-Semitism as his wife, a deputy for the populist Jobbik party in parliament. But his part in launching the rally may cost him his role as the far-right's favorite clergyman. With anti-Semitism on the rise here, Christian churches are working with the Jewish community to counter the provocations against Jews and the Roma minority that have won Jobbik support among voters fed up with the country's economic crisis. The Hungarian Reformed Church has begun proceedings that might end up defrocking Hegedus and depriving him of his high-profile base at the Homeland Church on the upscale Freedom Square, near the central bank and the United States embassy. "This is a permanent provocation," Gusztav Bolcskei, the Church's presiding bishop, said of Hegedus's political activity. "It has nothing to do with the Gospel." Hungary's small community of 80,000-100,000 Jews appreciates the Christian support. "We're satisfied with the actions of the churches," said Peter Feldmajer, who stepped down as head of the community on Sunday. "I think, at the end of the day, he will be fired," he said. Hegedus declined to be interviewed for this article.
Religion in Politics
Anti-Semitism has deep roots in Hungary, which began passing anti-Jewish laws in 1920, more than a decade before Nazi Germany. About half a million Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust, which the Christian churches failed to oppose. Other trends that resonate with sections of Hungarian society are a tradition of vibrant nationalism after centuries of foreign domination and, more recently, a strong resentment against the country's largest minority, its 700,000 Roma. With the country in economic crisis and voters disillusioned by the previous Socialist governments, Jobbik tapped these emotions to win 17 percent of the votes in the 2010 election. While conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban has condemned anti-Semitism and rapped Jobbik in recent comments to an Israeli newspaper, he shied away from denouncing the party in a May 5 speech to a World Jewish Congress assembly here only minutes after WJC President Ronald Lauder urged him to do so.
"If Orban goes too hard against Jobbik, he's worried he won't be able to scoop up Jobbik's voters," said Robin Shepherd, author of a study for the WJC on neo-Nazi parties in Europe. Neutralized in public during the four decades of communism that ended in 1989, religion has crept back into Hungarian politics in recent years as Orban's Fidesz party stresses the country's Christian roots while Jobbik fans resentment of Jews. This has come despite a dramatic fall in church affiliation. Census figures show that self-declared Roman Catholics dropped from 54 to 39 percent of the population between 2001 and 2011 and self-declared Reformed from 16 to 12 percent. The Jewish community remained stable at 0.1 percent.
Difficult to Defrock
The resurgent mixture of nationalism and anti-Semitism has presented a challenge for the Reformed Church, which has a strong patriotic tradition rooted in opposition to the Catholic Habsburgs plus church laws allowing wide leeway to its pastors. Its national leadership has denounced anti-Semitism several times but failed a decade ago to oust Hegedus, whose father was bishop of Budapest at the time. It renewed the effort to defrock him last month after he called for the anti-Jewish rally. "According to our democratic rules, this should start at the church district level," Bolcskei said. If the district agrees to move against a pastor, the case then goes up the hierarchy and through church courts before a final decision. "It can be done, but it's a very long procedure," he said. Thanks to regular dialogue between Jews and Reformed Church leaders, Feldmajer said he understood why Bolcskei - who he said was "totally with us" - could not easily expel Hegedus. He thought only about 10 percent of Reformed preachers and congregants harbored anti-Semitic views, a figure that matches pollsters' estimates of Jobbik's core political support, and hoped the Church leadership could change their minds.
"It's easier in the Catholic Church," said Feldmajer, who praised Cardinal Peter Erdo for his strong support for the Jewish community "not just in a closed room but also in public." Jews used to feel some hostility from some Catholic clergy, he said, but that faded away after Erdo became archbishop of Budapest a decade ago, he said. The Catholic bishops issued an open letter before the 2010 election warning against "neo-pagan tendencies" in some political parties, a clear reference to some Jobbik ideologues who hark back to Hungary's pre-Christian history. Erdo, who was frequently mentioned earlier this year as a possible successor to retired Pope Benedict, joined the 2012 Budapest March of the Living to remember the Holocaust. "I've received some hostile letters and criticism in some newspapers saying that the Catholic Church is not patriotic enough," the cardinal said. "There are also people who say Jesus Christ was not a Jew. Come on, this is crazy."
Three Hungarians sentenced for accosting Jews during WJC Budapest meet
12/5/2013- A Hungarian court convicted three men who accosted Jews in Budapest during the World Jewish Congress General Assembly. In an expedited court procedure on May 9, a man identified by the Hungarian news site Hir24 as Gabor M. was sentenced to three years in jail. The others, identified as Gabor E. and David V., were given suspended sentences of two years. Gabor M. appealed the verdict, according to the news site. The men, all in their 20s, belonged to a group of about a dozen neo-Nazis who accosted a group of visitors to the WJC assembly on May 3 at the Hungarian capital’s Deak Ferenc Square. The Hir24 report did not say what charges were brought against the men, but according to Kossuth Radio they were arrested on suspicion that they intended to physically assault the Jewish visitors. The three followed the visitors from the Dohany Street Synagogue and made Nazi salutes at them and shouted Nazi slogans. Gabor M. received a tougher sentence because of earlier convictions for violence, a spokesman for the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office said, according to reports.
© JTA News
NGO points to Hungarian neo-Nazi wrestler's planned Czech stay
15/5/2013- The participants in Friday's martial sports tournament in Prague are to include Attila Petrovszki, a Hungarian contestant who openly claims his adherence to neo-Nazism, Czech server Romea.cz reported Wednesday, citing the Antifascist League's information. The Prague City Hall and public broadcaster Czech Television (CT), whom the organisers present as the tournament gala evening's partners, have dissociated themselves from it, while other partners said they do not mind the neo-Nazi's participation, Romea.cz wrote. It wrote that Petrovszki's open adherence to neo-Nazism is clear from his rich tattoos including a swastika and Adolf Hitler's portrait, and a photograph in which he poses wearing a T-shirt with the name of the neo-Nazi group Blood & Honour on it. On a video recorded last year, Petrovszki uses the Nazi salute to greet the audience after a victorious match. The organisers say, citing Petrovszki's manager, that he will be dressed at his match in Prague, and that he does not actively support neo-Nazism any more.
"I've been assured that this fighter will appear in Prague dressed and will refrain from any propaganda. The manager also told me that Attila Petrovszki is no longer an active supporter of this [neo-Nazi] movement, he is trying to actively focus on sport and leave his past behind," one of the tournament's organisers, Pavel Tous, is quoted as saying. While the City Hall and CT have dissociated from the event and asked for their logos to be withdrawn from its website and promotion materials, representatives of the Prague 9 district, the tournament's venue, said they find sufficient the organisers' assurance that Petrovszki will be wearing a maillot. Similarly, the event's another partner, the Prazska energetika company, said it relies on the organisers' assurances that Petrovszki will be dressed and no problems will accompany his stay in Prague. Prague 9's spokesman Adam Vazansky said the district authority has asked the police to monitor Petrovszki's appearance and conduct.
© The Prague Daily Monitor
Czech Jews document tripling of online anti-Semitism
14/5/2013- The Jewish Community of Prague documented a tripling of online instances of anti-Semitic hate speech last year. The increase, which the community links to a Jewish politician’s presidential bid, among other factors, was documented in an annual report on anti-Semitism published Tuesday. The community documented 82 instances of online hate speech on Czech websites in the last year, compared to only 26 the previous year. According to idnes.cz, a news site, the report attributes the increase to the presidential campaign ahead of elections last January. Jan Fischer, a Jewish politician, was considered a leading candidate but did not make it past the first round. “The presidential elections have revealed a degree of latent anti-Semitism in some groups, but certainly did not indicate anti-Semitism in the majority or mainstream political speech,” the authors of the report wrote. Other causes listed were a strategic shift in extreme-right circles to online activity; escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and warm relations between the Czech government and Israel, idnes.cz reported. The authors recorded no physical assault or threats due to anti-Semitism in 2012, but did register six attacks on property and ten instances of harassment, mainly via email. The report further states that the overall prevalence of anti-Semitism is lower in the Czech Republic than in other European countries.
© JTA News
Cardinal remembers Roma Holocaust victims (Czech Rep.)
13/5/2013- Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka and a hundred of other people remembered Roma Holocaust victims by a commemorative event at a memorial near the site of the Lety wartime internment camp for Roma Monday. The event was attended by U.S. ambassador Norman Eisen and the Czech government human rights commissioner Monika Simunkova, among others. Duka said the Lety internment camp is a place showing what human hatred, malice and irresponsibility can do. More than 1300 Roma were interned in Lety during the German Nazi occupation, 327 of whom perished in the camp and over 500 were sent to Oswiecim. According to estimates, the Nazi regime exterminated some 90 percent of Czech Roma. Only 600 Roma inmates returned from Nazi-operated camps after the war ended.
Prime Minister Petr Necas said last year he believed it would be good to organise one commemorative act connected with a specific historical date associated with the tragic event. Necas then proposed that it could be July 10, the day on which a police order on the uprooting of the Roma plague was issued in 1942. The Committee for Roma Holocaust Compensation that organised the event Monday has been seeking the removal of a pig farm from the site of the former interment camp. "We would like this place to be a little bit more dignified," the committee's head Cenek Ruzicka said. Necas said in 2012 the government does not have the money for which to buy the pig farm. The total costs would allegedly reach hundreds of millions of crowns.
© The Prague Daily Monitor
Czech Interior Ministry: Extremists have won over new patrons online
12/5/2013- A Czech Interior Ministry report about extremism in the country last year will be reviewed by the Government this coming Wednesday. According to the report, Czech extremists shifted their activities more to the internet in 2012. Thanks to that move, both left-wing and right-wing radicals have managed to win over new patrons, especially among young people. The right-wing scene also reportedly exploited social networking sites. The ministerial material warns that right-wing extremists did their best last year to revive the production of neo-Nazi concerts. A total of 48 took place in 2012, 30 more than in 2011. "The organization of musical events domestically was revived, but did not succeed in fully returning to pre-2009 levels in terms of its extent or a high participation of famous bands from abroad,” the report says.
Right-wing extremists in particular are reportedly maintaining their foreign contacts with their fellow-travelers in Germany and Slovakia. "Collaboration with those abroad took the form of functioning as branches of international organizations, gathering in public, holding musical concerts, performances, or private events, and providing certain services," the report says. However, compared to 2011, none of the extremist scenes has reportedly changed much. On the right wing of the political spectrum the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dìlnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) continues to dominate, while anarchists dominate the left-wing scene. Both camps continue to grapple with a lack of money. Police say the broader membership base of the right-wing radicals is comprised of about 5 000 people. The militant section is allegedly only about 150 people. Roughly one-third of those militants can be considered leading personalities and major activists. The situation is allegedly similar with respect to left-wing extremists.
Headlines 10 May, 2013
The Polish far right is making more noise than ever
Their agenda ranges from fighting social liberalism and rights for sexual minorities to calls for the creation of a Catholic state for the Polish nation
10/5/2013- Polish far-right and neo-Nazi groups which have been silent for decades in a country harshly experienced by Nazi occupation during World War II, are working to become more visible in the social and political sphere. Marches and demonstrations which are organized throughout Poland show a tame picture of the organizations, which reach back to the roots of Polish far-right at the beginning of the 20th century. But a different picture was drawn when around 50 men affiliated with the same organizations attempted to enter a lecture by Magdalena Sroda, a Polish feminist and academic, at Warsaw university, wearing balaclavas and plastic animal masks. Security guards pushed them from the auditorium and they moved to an adjacent hall, waving fists and shouting a chant from the soccer terraces that compares opponents with Poland's widely despised former Soviet overlords: "Hit the red trash with a hammer, with a sickle!". The anti-racist Never Again Association said it documented a 30 percent rise in the number of racist or xenophobic incidents and crimes linked to the far-right last year.
"Well, certainly what we have seen in the last couple of months has been an increase in activities of extreme right groups in Poland and quite clearly there is a certain increase in support for those groups, for example among the football hooligan circles or fan associations related to the polish football culture," said Rafal Pankowski, founder of Never Again. In Poland, where the far right is not in parliament, the "flash mobs" combine elements of bothof the right-wing spectrum. At one is the hooliganism of the soccer fans who fight police with their club scarves over their faces and whose anti-communist chants can mask anti-Semitism and homophobia. At the other is the organisation and social conservatism of the mainstream right-wing, which expresses its views in parliament, Catholic sermons and on television talk shows.
"It would be quite difficult to imagine lawmakers from the British Conservative Party, for example, marching together with skinheads of the British National Party. Well, this is what has happened in Poland on a number of occasions. We've seen members of parliament from Law and Justice, the main right-wing opposition party marching together with the extreme right, with skinheads, with neo-Nazis in Warsaw on the 11th of November and on other occasions," Pankowski said. The masked gangs are loosely affiliated to far-right groups and have targeted, among others, the editor of a major newspaper, the first openly gay member of parliament and a student society planning to debate same sex couples. They coincide with a rise of the far-right in countries across Europe as recession bites. Hungary's far-right Jobbik party is now third biggest in parliament, while in Greece, the far-right Golden Dawn won 7 percent of votes last year.
"Jobbik is a model for the activity of the National Movement in Poland, the new extreme right group. And there is a lot of contact, there is a lot of exchange of experiences and the hope for the Polish far right today is to follow into the footsteps of Jobbik, create a big extreme-right group, a big extreme-right movement, which is active both on the street level, against its enemies and on the political, parliamentary level," Pankowski added. The invasion by "flash mobs" of liberal lectures and conferences marks a new battleground in a years-long struggle between Poles seeking to embrace liberal, western European values and those who say phenomena like feminism and gay partnerships are a corruption of traditional Polish values. "Violence is not a characteristic of the National Movement, we organize dozens of public debates at universities or in other public places, you should go there with a camera there; hundreds of people come to listen to leaders of the National Movement, there is a debate on Polish and speaking about violence is an attempt to distort the image by the media," said Artur Zawisza, a former member of parliament who is now one of the leaders of the National Movement (Ruch Narodowy), which aims to unite the forces of Poland's far-right.
"A part of the football fan groups, the most mature ones, can be seen as an example, they remember Polish history and cultivate it at football games. But this is a real phenomenon. But we can't take responsibility for everything that goes on at football stadiums. Hazel '86 is not our responsibility, it's very good that Margaret Thatcher dispersed British hooligans during her time, but you should not blame it on us," Zawisza said about his movements followers. The "flash mobs" were well-organised groups standing up for their beliefs, Zawisza said, adding that he had nothing to do with inspiring or organising them but understood their frustration with the liberal establishment. "Going to political meetings and asking difficult questions or chanting slogans ridiculing organizers of the meeting fits the standards of a debate, it is a impulsive behaviour, but has nothing to do with violence," he said about the flash mobs. Poland's far-right agenda ranges from fighting social liberalism and rights for sexual minorities to calls for the creation of a Catholic state for the Polish nation.
Even in the political mainstream, conservatism is strong. The legislature in January threw out draft laws aimed at giving homosexual couples limited legal rights and deputy Krystyna Pawlowicz of the largest opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), said gay people should attend "therapy centres". Analysts say economic slowdown plays a role in the rising popularity of far-right beliefs. Youth unemployment is at a six year high of 29 percent as Poland's economy, which defied the euro zone crisis for years, grinds almost to a halt. The far-right "flash mobs" and demonstrations, like a march on Poland's Independence Day which turned into a few-hour battle between football hooligans and riot police in central Warsaw, have channelled unformed youthful aggression into disciplined operations with a political agenda. The main far-right organisations deny organising them but there is a trail of connections - from links on each other's Facebook pages to statements praising each other's activities - that tie the groups indirectly to the new tactics.
© ITN Source
Nine Roma get jail time for “crimes against the nation” after attack on Jobbik (Hungary)
10/5/2013- A Miskolc court on Thursday handed down prison terms ranging from two and half to four years to nine Roma people from Sajóbábony, Borsod County, finding them guilty of “crimes against the nation”. In November 2009 the local chapter of Jobbik held a local forum that Roma people considered an act of provocation. A day later a Roma woman was involved in an altercation with the head of a food store. Jobbik then held a spontaneous demonstration and its members were attacked by a group of Roma with iron bars and clubs, smashing the car of a group of Jobbik sympathisers, who suffered minor injuries. The Civil Liberties Union harshly criticised the verdict stating that while the fact that the perpetrators took the law into their own hands is unlawful, their motive was fear from racists and the court was wrong to define the event as an act against “members of the Hungarian nation.” The defendants have appealed the sentences and the case will continue in the Debrecen Court of Appeals.
© Politics Hungary
Hungarian newspaper fined for Orban ally's Roma slur
8/5/2013- Hungary's media regulator said Wednesday it was fining a pro-government newspaper over a column by a prominent right-wing journalist close to Prime Minister Viktor Orban describing the Roma minority as "animals". Following a stabbing incident involving young Roma men, Zsolt Bayer, one of the founders of Orban's Fidesz party, wrote in January: "Most Gypsies are not suitable for cohabitation. "They are not suitable for being among people. Most are animals, and behave like animals. They shouldn't be tolerated or understood, but avenged. Animals should not exist. In no way," he said. Orban has long been accused of pandering to the openly anti-Semitic and racist far-right Jobbik party and of presiding over a rise in xenophobia in the EU member state, although he says he abhors any such feelings.
The media regulator said that the article in the Magyar Hirlap newspaper, headlined "Those Who Shouldn't Exist", was "not in harmony with regulations on media content and press freedom pertaining to hate speech and discriminatory content." It said it was fining the newspaper 250,000 forints (833 euros, $1,120) and ordered it to publish the decision in both its print and online versions, while also prohibiting it from publishing similar content in the future. After the remarks sparked protests in Hungary and abroad Bayer said his comments were "deliberately misinterpreted". "I don't want to liquidate Gypsies, neither some of them nor a single one," he said. "I want order, I want every respectable Gypsy to be happy in this country and every Gypsy who is incapable of and unsuitable for living together to be excluded from society," he added. The Roma people, also called Gypsies though many consider the term pejorative, are a minority in several eastern and central European countries.
Norwegian MP tars Bulgarian, French and Romani people with the same brush
8/5/2013- Agence France-Presse reported on Friday, 3 May that an MP with the second-strongest party in the Norwegian Parliament, the populist “Progress Party”, has called for the monarchy to close its borders to “organized groups of Roma, Bulgarians and Frenchmen”, labeling them notorious criminals. MP Per Sandberg, whose party scores political points through its anti-immigrant rhetoric in particular, proposed taking “three immediate steps to stop the influx of beggars and criminals” into the country. "The police can (on the basis of existing legal regulations) stop these international organized groups of Roma, Bulgarians or Frenchmen, because we know from experience that these people disturb public order, and it is also proven that many of them are involved in crime,” declared Sandberg, who also chairs the parliament’s committee on the law. A debate is now being held in Norway on whether to ban begging, which is currently undergoing a sharp rise.
Elections to parliament will take place in Norway this September. Public opinion surveys suggest that the populists could strengthen their position and enter government. The Norwegian media has reported that Sandberg initially focused his statements only on Romani people, adding the Bulgarian and French examples so it would not seem as if he was targeting just one nationality. Most Western European countries are reportedly grappling with an influx of a large number of Romani people, especially from Bulgaria and Romania. In addition to begging and petty crime, the newcomers allegedly do their best to exploit generous social welfare systems in those countries. In recent years several countries, with France in the lead, have decided to deport these people back to their countries of origin and have earned criticism from human rights organizations for doing so.
Hate speech bill delayed by Samaras' office (Greece)
Prime minister's officials believe a number of bill's provisions could 'potentially cause problems' The proposed law would outlaw incitement against people because of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and impose jail sentences of up to six years on offenders
10/5/2013- A proposed hate-speech law has not yet been deposited in parliament for public consultation after the prime minister's office said a number of its provisions could "potentially cause problems". The justice ministry bill has been delayed by government general secretary Takis Baltakos and State Minister Dimitris Stamatis. The bill would outlaw incitement against people because of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and impose jail sentences of up to six years on offenders, according to reports. MPs would not be excluded and parties that receive public funding would see it suspended if their leaders publicly denied the Holocaust, took part in racist attacks or used Nazi salutes or symbols in parliament. The bill enjoys the support of most parties, with the exception of extreme rightwing Golden Dawn. The Communist Party (KKE) has raised objections to the bill, claiming that it is part of a European Union-inspired attempt to equate fascism with communism and would be used to contain the "popular struggle". Earlier this week, the justice minister, Antonis Roupakiotis, had said that the bill would be sent to parliament by Friday May 10 for public consultation. He had expected it to be tabled in parliament by the end of the month.
© Enet English
Despite warning on violence, Greece won't ban Golden Dawn
Surge in racist attacks tied to elected extremist party.
7/5/2013- Although Greece's government has said it will not ban the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights said there is enough evidence of the party's support for violence to outlaw the group. Nils Muiznieks said Greece must take tougher measures to combat a surge in racist violence that critics blame on extremists. While he didn't recommend that Greece should ban Golden Dawn from public office, Muiznieks added the government would be "fully within its rights under international human rights law" to do so. "If you ban Golden Dawn," he said, "you would still have the problem of racist violence in Greece, which is the broader issue." Golden Dawn holds 18 seats in parliament and its approval has been as high as 13 percent in public surveys. The Council of Europe -- a separate entity from the EU -- runs the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the rights code signed by the council's 47 member states.
Muiznieks visited Greece earlier this year and recently released a report describing Golden Dawn as a "neo-Nazi and violent political party" that should be isolated under legally binding international human rights conventions signed by Greece. The coalition government, led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, has rejected the idea of banning a legally elected party. Antonis Klapsis, head of research for the Konstandinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy in Athens, said the government's hands-off approach is the right way to deal with Golden Dawn. "Trying to outlaw Golden Dawn now will not help in any way tackling the problem of right-wing extremism," he told SETimes. "It would make Golden Dawn look like a victim and give more points to the party's support. The root of the problem is the one that should dealt with, not the symptoms."
Between October 2011 and December 2012, UNHCR and the National Commission for Human Rights logged more than 200 racist attacks in Greece, including many directed at immigrants, a regular target of Golden Dawn's rhetoric. Golden Dawn did not respond to a request to answer Muiznieks' charges, but posted a link to the report on its website describing the Council of Europe as a "Zionist institution." It added: "The brazen commissioner did not see and did not hear anything about the murders, rapes and robberies of our people by the barbarian hordes of Asia and Africa." The government has moved swiftly to make arrests in cases of violence against immigrants, including the murder of a Pakistani man riding to work on a bicycle just before Muiznieks' visit. Three foremen and the owner of a strawberry farm were arrested in the shooting and wounding of 29 immigrant strawberry farm workers, mostly from Bangladesh, after they demanded six months back pay.
Alex Sakellariou, a sociologist at the University of Panteion who specializes in studying extremist groups, said the government should go after Golden Dawn. Compared to the tactic of staying silent, it's better to try to reveal their ideology in full and challenge them," he told SETimes. "If we leave them alone to reproduce history through revisionist tactics they will have the opportunity to influence people, especially the younger ones, which will be disastrous." "They shouldn't be in Parliament. They are Nazis and it bothers me that I know people who like them," Saimir Limka, 20, an Albanian living in Greece told SETimes.
© The Southeast European Times
Reding should 'stick neck out' on gay rights (EU)
7/5/2013- Activists are hoping EU rights commissioner Viviane Reding will this month announce concrete plans for legislation to stop discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in the EU. The European Parliament has been asking for an LGBTI roadmap - with proposed laws and a timetable - since 2011, noting that the European Commission already has similar strategies in place for disability rights and equality between men and women. They expect their case to get strengthened by a survey on discrimination against LGBTI people by the EU's Agency for Fundamental Rights. The survey is to be released on 17 May, the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, marked by a major conference in The Hague, which Reding is to attend. "We strongly believe it is high time for the EU to translate the commitment to work on LGBTI equality into concrete actions," said Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) Europe.
She said the release of the survey will be a "unique opportunity" to renew its commitment to the issue. But others note that it is a politically difficult subject. "Next to abortion, it is the single most sensitive issue to work on. Politicians just prefer to stay away from it," Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie in't Veld told this website. She indicated that Reding would have to tackle two formidable groups if she were to go ahead with draft laws on anything from making sex education in schools more diverse, to opening up health care access and criminalising hate speech. One group would be other politicians, particularly from within Reding's own centre-right political family. The other would be religious leaders. "I hope she's going to stick her neck out. I always think as a politician you have to tackle things that don’t necessarily make you popular," said in't Veld.
For its part, the commission says that Reding is already an outspoken supporter of LGBTI rights, pointing out that she readily intervenes in national discourse when their rights are being undermined. Reding's office also says that a recent law on rights for victims of crime is "solid proof" of the EU's commitment to the issue. The law provides for specific assistance and protection to people who suffered crime because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It also points out that it follows up on whether member states are properly implementing the Fundamental Rights Charter, whose article 21 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. "It's much more important to have actions that count rather than coming up with a roadmap," said Reding's spokesperson Mina Andreeva.
© The EUobserver
Neo-Nazi murder trial highlights German far-right 'blind spot'
The surviving member of a German neo-Nazi cell went on trial on Monday for a series of racist murders that scandalized Germany and exposed the security services' inability or reluctance to recognize far-right crime.
6/5/2013- The chance discovery of the gang, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which had gone undetected for more than a decade, has forced Germany to acknowledge that it has a more militant and dangerous neo-Nazi fringe than previously thought. Beate Zschaepe, 38, is charged with complicity in the shooting of eight Turks, a Greek and a German policewoman in towns across Germany between 2000 and 2007, as well as two bombings in immigrant areas of Cologne and 15 bank robberies. Her two presumed male accomplices both committed suicide in 2011.
In a tailored black suit, white blouse and big earrings, and with her long hair looking glossy, Zschaepe's appearance in court was very different from the surly mugshots that have been splashed over German media ahead of the eagerly-awaited trial. One of four other defendants charged with assisting the NSU hid under a dark hood. Defense lawyers immediately challenged the presiding judge's impartiality for ordering them but not some other participants to be searched thoroughly before entering the Munich court. "This implies the defense lawyers are so stupid they might bring forbidden objects into the court," said attorney Wolfgang Stahl, adding that Judge Manfred Goetzl seemed to suspect the defense team might pass messages or objects to their clients. The case has shaken a country that believed it had learned the lessons of the past, and has reopened a debate about whether it must do more to tackle racism and the far right.
"With its historical, social and political dimensions, the NSU trial is one of the most significant in post-war German history," lawyers for the family of the first victim, flower seller Enver Simsek, said in a statement. Outside the courthouse, which was guarded by about 500 police officers, German-Turkish community groups and anti-racism demonstrators held up banners including one that read: "Hitler-child Zschaepe, you will pay for your crimes". The existence of the gang came to light in November 2011 when the two men believed to have founded the NSU with Zschaepe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, committed suicide after a botched bank robbery and set their caravan ablaze. In the charred vehicle, police found the gun used in all 10 murders and a grotesque DVD claiming responsibility for them, in which the bodies of the victims were pictured with a cartoon Pink Panther totting up the number of dead.
After the suicides, Zschaepe is believed to have set fire to a flat she shared with the men in Zwickau, in east Germany. Four days later, she turned herself in to police in her hometown of Jena, saying: "I'm the one you're looking for." For the victims' families, the trial will be the first chance to come face-to-face with Zschaepe, whose blank expression and resolute silence since her arrest have left people struggling to make sense of her motives. "The Banality of Evil" read the front page of the newspaper Die Welt. The mass-circulation Bild wrote that Zschaepe "looks like a woman at the supermarket till" rather than someone "rabidly mad or explosive".
The Norwegian anti-immigrant mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in 2011, wrote to Zschaepe last year addressing her as "Dear Sister" and urging her to use the trial to spread far-right ideology - but few expect her to explain herself. Hearings are scheduled into early 2014, with Zschaepe's estranged relatives and the parents of Mundlos and Boehnhardt due to testify. As teenagers in Jena, the trio were known to authorities to be involved in racist hate crimes and bomb making, but they escaped arrest and assumed new identities. Prosecutors say they chose shopkeepers and small business owners as easy targets to try to hound immigrants out of Germany. Some of the victims' relatives came under suspicion because police simply did not consider a far-right motive. "During the investigations they were either treated as suspects or as relatives of criminals," said lawyer Angelika Lex.
The German parliament is conducting an inquiry into how the security services failed for so long to link the murders or share information, despite having informers close to the group. The head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency resigned last year after it emerged that files documenting the use of informers in the far right had been destroyed after the discovery of the NSU. Politicians have accused the intelligence agencies of being "blind in the right eye" and of focusing so much on Islamist groups that they overlooked the threat from the far right. The trial had been postponed by two weeks after an uproar over the court's failure to guarantee Turkish media a seat.
Protests outside Germany's neo-Nazi trial
Several organisations fighting far right racism have protested outside a courthouse in Munich where a neo-Nazi trial is being held.
6/5/2013- Dozens of anti-racist demonstrators have rallied outside a German courthouse where the biggest neo-Nazi murder trial in the country's history is about to start. Several organisations fighting the far right gathered for the protest on Monday, where activists hoisted banners with slogans such as "Against Nazi terror, state and everyday racism" and urged German authorities to take a harder line against extremists and their crimes. Two women jostled with security forces and smashed a bottle outside the barricades, police said, amid a massive turnout of international media for the trial in the southern city of Munich. Beate Zschaepe, 38, the last surviving member of a far-right trio calling itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU), is charged with complicity in the murders of eight ethnic Turks, a Greek immigrant and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007. Four alleged accomplices will join her in the dock for the trial secured with a major police presence. Zschaepe is also accused of involvement in 15 armed robberies, arson and attempted murder in two bomb attacks.
The investigation was bungled by German authorities, who for years suspected Turkish mafia groups were behind the killings. They later admitted that files relevant to the case were shredded. In custody since turning herself in on November 8, 2011, Zschaepe arrived at the court from her cell in solitary confinement at Stadelheim prison, one of Germany's largest. She was led into the courtroom wearing a black blazer, a pressed white shirt and large hoop earrings. She stood with her back to television cameras waiting for the proceedings to begin.
New KKK cell uncovered in Germany
4/5/2013- Police say they have identified a new chapter of the white supremacist movement Ku Klux Klan in Baden-Wurttemberg, in southern Germany. Previously, two police members in the region were found to have belonged to a different KKK offshoot. “The group is small – with less than ten members,” said regional police chief Dieter Schneider. He stated it was led by a man who calls himself Didi White, but declined to say if any further steps against the group will be taken. Membership in the clandestine sect, founded in the US in 1865 and responsible for what are estimated to be thousands of murders, is not in itself illegal in Germany. The country is, however, sensitive to the potential existence of radical groups as Beate Zschaepe, a woman accused of being an accomplice in a series of ‘Doner Murders’ of mostly Turkish immigrants since 2000, prepares to take the stand in her trial next week.
There is also a direct connection between the case and the KKK. Two police officers in the same department in Baden-Wurttemberg as one of the alleged Zschaepe victims, turned out to be members of a KKK affiliate. The senior policemen joined the European White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (EWK) between 2000 and 2001, but were cleared in an internal investigation, as they said they only joined the sect for several months and abandoned it after encountering its racist beliefs. Media speculated that the men may have had some involvement in the ‘Doner Murders’, but no definitive links were unearthed.
Suspects to stand first court hearing in Germany's neo-Nazi terror trial
4/5/2013- A year and a half after German security authorities became aware about the existence of a neo-Nazi terror cell, a court in Munich will begin this coming Monday hearing of a case against a chief suspect plus four others on the charges of killing 10 people, including 8 Turks, a Greek national and a German policewoman, between 2000 and 2007, 14 bank robberies, arson and aiding a terrorist group. The "National Socialist Underground" (or NSU) trial, the highest-profile criminal case in Germany in the past decades, also brings into question modus operandi of Germany's domestic intelligence agencies, fueling doubts that German authorities had been "reluctant" to clamp down on the NSU when it staged its first attack, a bombing in 1998 in the city of Jena. A string of revelations about the NSU and its ties since November 2011, when the cell's existence first came to light after Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Bonhardt -- two of the three known members of the NSU who allegedly killed themselves following a failed bank robbery -- have sent shockwaves through German politics, security bureaucracy and the Turkish community, and expectations have been raised that the trial will shed light on suspicions involving German state institutions.
-NSU begins attacks-
After joining in 1990s in a far-right group called "Kameradschaft Jena," Mundlos, Bonhardt and Beate Zschaepe, the third NSU member and the sole surviving suspect in the case, staged their first attack in January 1998 by detonating 10 grams of TNT at the Theater Square in Jena. No one was injured. The cell went underground after German intelligence services raided Zschaepe's house and her garage where they found bomb-making materials. The group robbed a market and three banks in 1999, strengthening their financial support. The first victim of the NSU was Enver Simsek, a Turk in Nurnberg, who was murdered on September 9, 2000. In 2001, the group staged a bomb attack on a market in Cologne, seriously wounding the Iranian owner. The second victim was Abdurrahim Ozudogru who was killed on June 13 in 2001. He was a dressmaker from Nurnberg. Two weeks later, Suleyman Taskopru, who owned a grocery store, was murdered on June 27 in Hamburg.
The fourth killing came in Munich on August 29, 2011, when Habil Kilic was murdered and the NSU went into hiding for the next two and a half years until they acted again in February 2004 to murder Mehmet Turgut, owner of a kebab shop on in Rostock. On 9 June 2004, a pipe bomb was detonated in Cologne in a business area popular with immigrants from Turkey. Twenty-two people were wounded, four sustained serious injuries. A barber's shop was completely destroyed, many shops and numerous parked cars were seriously damaged by the explosion and nails were added to the bomb for extra damage. Ismail Yasar, a kebab shop owner, was killed on June 9, 2005 in Nurnberg, and seven days later a Greek national, Theodoros Boulgarides, was killed in his shop in the vicinity of a crime scene from the previous murder of August 2011 in Munich. On April 4, 2006, the kiosk vendor Mehmet Kubasik was found dead in his shop in Dortmund and the trio killed their last foreign victim Halil Yozgat, an internet cafe owner, two days later in Kassel. The NSU trio are also believed to have killed German police officer Michele Kieswetter on April 25 in 2007.
-Mundlos and Bonhardt found dead-
Mundlos and Bonhardt were found dead in a torched caravan on November 4 in 2011 in the city of Eisenbach in Germany. It was announced that they committed suicide. Police found in the caravan a semi-automatic pistol which the trio used in all the murders. Three hours after the incident, Zschaepe, set fire to her house in Zwickau. She surrendered to the police in Jena four days later. The killings led to the questioning of the working methods of the state intelligence services and police forces with a popular belief that the German government was blind on its "right eye." Heinz Fromm, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, resigned on 2 July 2012, shortly after it was revealed that his office had "accidentally" destroyed files regarding informants within far-right groups, which led to resignations of heads of intelligence agencies in four states.
Apart from Zschaepe, four suspects will stand trial on the charges of aiding the NSU. The trial is expected to last two years and 85 hearings are planned.
© The Turkish Press
Albania Politicians Chided for Anti-Gay Slurs
Albania’s anti-discrimination commissioner, Irma Baraku, has asked two politicians to issue a public apology to the gay community for offensive comments made in the media.
10/5/2013- Irma Baraku accused the deputy defence minister, Ekrem Spahia, of using undignified language in a TV debate on March 21, which "violates the right for security and protection from violence of people, because of their sexual orientation." Artan Lame, a Socialist Party official, was also asked to issue an apology for using discriminatory language against the gay community on March 23, in an op-ed published in the Tirana daily Shqip. Lame described homosexuality as a deviation, in an article which centered on a notorious case of a pedophile, accused of kidnapping a ten-year-old boy. Spahia, who heads the conservative Legality Party, is well-known for his opposition to gay rights. In 2012 he responded to plans for a gay parade in Tirana, by calling that the “organizers should be beaten with clubs.” Both Lame and Spahia have 15 days to issue a public apology or face fines, based on Albania’s anti-discrimination law, which was passed in 2010.
The decisions come on the heels of a landmark amendment to the criminal code made by parliament on May 2, which strengthen the legal protection for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community from hate crime and hate speech. The penal code include now as an aggravating circumstance for crimes motivated by hatred because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Another important change has to do with the inclusion of the hate speech concept towards LGBT people through the use of information technology. Commenting on the changes in the Albanian criminal code, Albania’s Ombudsman Igli Totozani called the amendment a "revolution" for Albania’s legislation. “This is a precious contribution for a more a just society, which protects human dignity,” Totozani said.
© Balkan Insight
Albania passes landmark gay hate crime laws
Two laws just approved by Albania's parliament make it one of the countries with the most advanced legislation in the region for protection of LGBT people
5/5/2013- Albania amended its criminal code and put hate crimes against sexual orientation and gender identity on par with an offense against gender, race, ethnicity, religious belief, disability and so on. It also passed a new law punishing the dissemination of homophobic information through any means (including the internet) by a fine and up to two years imprisonment. Albania’s parliament amended yesterday (4 May) Section 50/j of its criminal code to strictly punish a crime ’when the offense is committed due to reasons related to gender, race, color, ethnicity, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, health status, genetic predisposition, or disability’. If a crime has occurred for the above reasons, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity, then the circumstances are aggravating and the perpetrator will be punished more severely (i.e. with no recourse to ‘mitigating circumstance’). Albania’s parliament also introduced the concept of crimes against the LGBT community through information technology.
Article 119/a, adds a new crime to the list of offenses that is the ‘distribution of racist, homophobic or xenophobic materials through systems of communication and information technology.’ The law makes it a criminal offence: ‘Providing to the public or distribution of deliberate materials containing racist, homophobic or xenophobic content, through the communication and information technology, is punishable by a fine or imprisonment up to two years.’ In the case of deliberate dissemination of homophobic materials on the Internet (website, social networks like Facebook, etc.) or in any other form, will be considered a criminal offense that can be punishable by up to two years imprisonment.
These landmark legislations was the fruit of a collaborative work between Albania’s LGBT associations, civil society, Ministry of Justice and the country’s ombudsman. Igli Totozani, Albanian ombudsman, hailed the laws as a ‘revolution’ stating that it put Albania in the forefront of the region in this regard and thanked the parliament for passing these laws. He said: ‘Albania is on the way to a more fair, equal and European society. ‘[The laws are a] valuable contribution to a greater protection of human dignity and a more open and European Albania.’ Some radical Islamic groups (over 30 Facebook pages), who previously recommended ways to kill gays, voiced their objection the new laws.
In retaliation the website of the Ombudsman was hacked by Albanian hackers calling themselves the ‘Islamic Ghost Team’. Aleanca LGBT and LGBT Pro, two groups who advocated for the laws, welcomed and praised the move by Albania’s lawmakers. Recently Albania’s prime minister came out in support of the country’s LGBT community and promised that he would see the legislation mentioned pressed through. Bekim Asani of the neighboring Macedonia based LGBT United congratulated the two Albanian groups and told Gay Star News: ‘Albania is leading the region with its visionary and tolerant approach to LGBT rights. 'It really brings tears to my eyes to think that a mainly Muslim secular Balkan state can be so progressive, we hope Macedonia and other countries in the area will follow its lead.’
© Gay Star News
Fifa taskforce wants anti-racism observers at games
Fifa's new anti-racism taskforce wants extra observers at games to specifically monitor racist or discriminatory behaviour.
6/5/2013- The taskforce, meeting for the first time, has also proposed tougher penalties for clubs whose players, officials or fans are guilty of racism. They include points deductions and elimination from competitions. Member associations will vote on the measures at Fifa's annual congress in Mauritius at the end of May. The new taskforce, formed by football's world governing body in a bid to combat discrimination in the game, is led by Jeffrey Webb, a Fifa vice-president from the Cayman Islands. Penalties for racism would start with stronger fines or games played behind closed doors. They would be followed by points deductions for offending teams or even elimination from competitions. The proposals would apply only to Fifa-mandated competitions but sources close to the discussions have told the BBC they expect Fifa to encourage other confederations to adopt the same or similar measures. European football's governing body Uefa already adopts a monitoring system in co-operation with Football Against Racism in Europe (Fare). It is expected that Fifa's proposal would be administered along similar lines. A second taskforce meeting is planned for the autumn to look at plans for an education programme across football.
© BBC News
NUS leaders condemned for blocking anti-racism motion (UK)
10/5/2013- Anti-racists slammed National Union of Students leaders today for rejecting proposals to fight discrimination and fascism. The NUS's executive council shot down a motion calling on it to "actively challenge racism, Islamophobia, anti-semitism and fascism" in an eight to 11 vote on Thursday. If passed, the motion would have committed the union to a massive student voter registration drive in a bid to unseat fascist Euro MPs Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons. NUS president Liam Burns was among those who opposed the motion, as it mandated the union to work with Unite Against Facism (UAF). Opponents cited the involvement of the Socialist Workers Party, which is currently embroiled in a rape scandal. But black students officer Aaron Kiely labelled the decision "absurd" in the week that "Ukip make a breakthrough in the local elections and the government announces a new immigration Bill aimed at ramping up racist scapegoating."
Mr Kiely, who proposed the motion, said the fact that Doreen Lawrence, mother of racist-murder victim Stephen, is honorary president of UAF should have given NUS members confidence to work with the organisation. Labour MP Diane Abbott said: "I completely condemn the rape scandal that has tainted the SWP leadership. "But I am still in general support of the good anti-racist work of the UAF." And UAF national secretary Sabby Dhalu told the Morning Star she was "deeply concerned" about the vote when "students and young people face some of the most violent manifestations of racism. "With the far-right increasingly targeting campuses, and with this being the 20th anniversary of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, this vote sends the wrong signal."
© The Morning Star
Police confirm pig’s head was brandished during far right Leeds protest (UK)
West Yorkshire Police have confirmed that a pig’s head was brandished during a far right demonstration in Leeds.
8/5/2013- It was initially reported on the YEP’s website that severed pigs’ heads were allegedly thrown by English Defence League supporters during a rally outside the derelict Lingfield pub in Alwoodley on Saturday. That section of the story was removed after police issued a statement which said that it was “inaccurate”. The statement said: “A man was spotted wearing a latex pigs mask which did come off and may at some point have been thrown in the crowd during the protest. “But at no point were protesters seen throwing animal parts of any kind.” However, after evidence was published on Facebook and Youtube, the force has now released a new statement. A spokesman said: “Having viewed subsequent footage of the demonstration and spoken directly with officers involved we can confirm there was a pig’s head found on the floor in the crowd which was quickly removed by officers and disposed of. “This was in addition to the latex mask.” Four people were arrested during Saturday’s demonstration, which was organised to protest against plans to turn the pub into a Muslim-run community centre.
© The Yorkhire Evening Post
New app for hate crime victims in Hampshire (UK)
8/5/2013- A mobile phone app listing where victims of hate crime can get support has been launched in Hampshire. The free app, available to download for free on iPhone and Android phones, has been developed for Hampshire Constabulary and was piloted in the western area of the force. It includes detailed information about crimes targeting a victim’s race, sexual orientation, transgender identity, disability, religion, age or refugee or asylum status. It also encourages people to report such crimes. PC Ahmed Sasso, who came up with the idea, said: “The communities we serve across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are diverse and the app is another tool to help us connect with them. “The idea is to provide information in one handy place about hate crimes including how to report them, how to stay safe and what support is available for victims.” He added: “We treat all reports of a hate crime or hate incident very seriously. They are cowardly and unacceptable crimes which can affect not only the victim but also their family, friends, and in certain cases, a whole section of a community.” The Helping Victims of Hate Crime app will be officially launched on Tuesday, May 14, at the Ageas Bowl, home of Hampshire Cricket Club.
© This is Hampshire
Landlords told: vet migrant tenants (UK)
Private landlords will be legally responsible for ensuring that they only let properties to people allowed to be in Britain under immigration laws to be announced in tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech.
7/5/2013- Almost two million buy-to-let property owners will be responsible for checking the immigration status of potential tenants, with fines running into thousands of pounds for those breaking the law. Employers will also face “more substantial” fines for taking on illegal immigrants. The measures are likely to prompt questions over whether ordinary people and employers are being made responsible for policing the immigration system after repeated failures by the UK Border Agency. They are included in an Immigration Bill which will also limit the ability of European immigrants to claim benefits and ensure that the right to reside in Britain on the basis of family commitments is not abused by criminals. Temporary migrants will also be charged for using the NHS and only those who have lived in an area for at least two years will qualify for social housing. The legislation has been drawn up as the Coalition struggles to contain the electoral threat posed by the UK Independence Party, which has wooed voters with its hard-line immigration policies.
The Queen’s Speech, which sets out the legislative programme for the next year, is expected to contain more than a dozen parliamentary Bills. Measures to reform the state pension, cap the costs of long-term care, rehabilitate criminals and reduce regulations on business will be outlined. A National Insurance Contributions Bill will cut the cost of the tax for smaller firms taking on employees, and a Consumer Rights Bill will improve the rights of online shoppers. In the document setting out the package, David Cameron and Nick Clegg will acknowledge that their experience of Government has been “tough”. They will add: “But three years on, our resolve to turn our country around has never been stronger. We know that Britain can be great again because we’ve got the people to do it. Today’s Queen’s Speech shows that we will back them every step of the way. It is all about backing people who work hard and want to get on in life.” The details of how the measures will be implemented will be set out later in the year. The plans will be the subject of a formal consultation in the coming months.
Ministers are expected to say that the legal requirements on landlords will affect those letting rooms in multi-occupancy properties. However, the measure will be universal and it will be the responsibility of all landlords to seek copies of passports and appropriate visas. It is unclear how people are supposed to establish the authenticity of the information. The level of fines is also yet to be set but will run into “thousands of pounds”. The Immigration Bill will also contain provisions to ensure human rights laws giving people “the right to stay in the country because of family connections” are not abused by criminals. Courts will be ordered to “balance” the seriousness of the crime committed against the right to remain in Britain. Regulations will also be amended to ensure that European immigrants cannot claim “certain benefits for more than six months” if they do not actively seek work and show they have a genuine chance of seeking employment. Other measures will limit the right of immigrants to claim legal aid, closing a loophole which allows those here illegally to rack up taxpayer-funded bills fighting deportation.
Earlier this year, the Prime Minister said in a speech that immigration needed to be “properly controlled”. Many of the measures are designed to reduce the attractiveness of Britain for Bulgarians and Romanians who will be able to live and work throughout the European Union when immigration controls are lifted next year. Critics have said many of the proposals would have a limited impact and the only way to address European immigration was to renegotiate EU migration treaties or leave the single market. A number of Bills were dropped from the announcement, including legislation to ensure spending on international aid, a register of lobbyists and “snooping” laws. Mr Cameron also refused to agree to demands for legislation ensuring a referendum on membership of the EU by 2018.
© The Telegraph
Far-Right Parties Surge in Britain and France
7/5/2013- British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande, both struggling with sick economies, now share another problem: a surge in voter support for far-right, anti-immigrant politicians. The U.K. Independence Party, which wants Britain to leave the European Union and sharply limit immigration, chalked up big gains in English local elections this month, mostly at the expense of Cameron’s Conservative Party. “This sends a shock wave through the Establishment,” UKIP leader Nigel Farage said after the May 2 vote, in which the party won about 150 local government seats. UKIP’s anti-European stance is gaining ground among Conservatives—including former Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, who said today that Britain should leave the EU. Britain’s relationship to the EU “fundamentally changed” after the creation of the euro currency zone, “of which, quite rightly, we are not part,” Lawson wrote in an article published in the Times newspaper.
Across the English Channel, Marine Le Pen, head of France’s far-right National Front (FN), now has a 32 percent popularity rating, compared to only 24 percent for President Hollande, according to a recent TNS-Sofres poll. Le Pen’s rating is the highest ever recorded by a leader of the party founded 41 years ago by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Polls show that she draws support from the far left as well as the right. UKIP “has many points in common with us,” Marine Le Pen told France 3 television on May 4 as she campaigned for an FN candidate seeking a vacant parliamentary seat. The parties do have some striking similarities, including charismatic leaders and platforms that call on their countries to curb immigration and exit the EU.
The biggest reason for their surging appeal, though, is public exasperation with economic malaise. French unemployment is at 10.6 percent and its economy is expected to shrink 0.1 percent this year. In Britain, the economy grew 0.3 percent in the first quarter, narrowly avoiding a triple-dip recession, and joblessness has risen to 7.9 percent as Cameron’s government imposes the deepest budget cuts since World War II. “People feel left behind, and they’re not clear where their country is going,” says John Curtice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde in Britain. It’s a situation tailor-made for the messages of UKIP and the FN. And UKIP, after its May 2 electoral showing, can now claim a significant presence within local government. That, in turn, creates momentum as the party as it prepares for June 2014 elections for the European Parliament, where it already holds 11 of Britain’s 73 seats. Party leader Farage says he plans to run for the British Parliament in 2015.
By contrast, FN politicians hold relatively few elected posts in France. Le Pen is one of two FN members in the national parliament, and the party holds three of France’s 74 seats in the European Parliament. Tthe number of FN members in local government has declined after a surge in the 1990s. Indeed, populist movements in Europe tend to fizzle out pretty quickly, says Patrick Dunleavy, a professor of political science at the London School of Economics. “Populists take very complex problems, they blame them on an alleged elite, they promise a very easy and pat solution. It’s a tricky thing to sustain.”
© Bloomberg Businessweek
Racial storm in France over viral anti-gay marriage poster
7/5/2013- A poster calling for an anti-gay rights demonstration in Paris has been attacked as being racist after going viral overnight in the French Twittersphere. The poster, designed by an anti-same sex marriage activist, depicts France’s Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who is black, as a raging gorilla/King Kong, overwhelmed by a flow of demonstrators from the “Manif Pour Tous,” the main anti-same sex organization. The slogan is a play on words: “manif monstre” can mean ‘giant demo.’ The picture, posted on Monday night, was retweeted and commented massively by anti-gay rights activists and by both outraged anti- and pro-same sex marriage activists. Among the reactions, one user notes “[The anti-same sex marriage crowd] go from presumed homophobes to proven racists.” One same-sex marriage opponent tweeted: “You are completely discrediting the Manif Pour Tous with this horrible image!” Defenders of the poster said it was supposed to be humoristic and ironic and that the monster refers to a “monument of American cinema, the devastating [King Kong]” and the “destruction” the bill will bring to the families.
On Tuesday morning, the owner of the Twitter account where the picture was initially posted deleted it, before explaining: “I confirm that I acted on my own, without racist intention. Sorry if it has hurt. I withdraw the picture but it is a misunderstanding. I used an already existing monster picture.” To make further amends, he then retweeted a message from an official anti-same-sex marriage organisation stating “The only poster for the May 26 demo is this one.” Another official account of “La Manif Pour Tous”, @lamanifpourtous, tweeted “the only news and posters to take into account for the May 26 are those tweeted by this account.”
French Guiana-born Christiane Taubira is, as François Hollande’s Minister of Justice, the main proponent of the bill legalising same-sex marriage. She has been the target of a large majority of the slogans and banners from anti-same sex marriage demonstrators. The bill legalising same-sex marriage was voted into law on April 23 after more than 140 hours of heated parliamentary debates, massive demonstrations from both side and rising tensions in French society. It has been blamed for a series of violent clashes between protesters and homophobic attacks. The opposition has appealed to the Constitutional Court in the hope that it will reverse or modify the law, a decision it will make within the coming days. France is now the 14th country in the world to allow same-sex couples to wed and the ninth in Europe.
Could Run-of-Mill French Suburb Be Global Model of Religious Tolerance?
Jews Join Other Faith in 'Esplanade of Religions'
5/5/2013- A knot of about 100 people stood under a steely winter sky January 26 to plant a tree for Tu B’Shvat in the Paris suburb of Bussy-Saint-Georges. The town’s 120-family strong Jewish community was out in force for the celebration, which mirrored similar rites held around the world. Here, however, a few things stood out as different: a delegation of brightly dressed Buddhist nuns, the Taiwanese ambassador to France, two Catholic priests and a large mosque under construction next door. The diverse gathering reflects an unusual and inspirational multi-faith experiment in Bussy-Saint-Georges, an otherwise run-of-the-mill French suburb of 25,000 that has sprung up from farmland 20 miles east of Paris. Jews have joined Muslims, Catholics and Buddhists in planning a sprawling “Esplanade of the Religions” that will include houses of worship from each of the faiths. “In France you put a bar of separation between yourself and your neighbors,” said Guy Benarousse, an Algerian Jew who has served as the local rabbi since he moved his family to Bussy in 2005. “Here, we’re going to show everyone how to live together.”
Still in its infancy, the campus could serve as a model for multi-faith cooperation in France, which has been beset by intolerance toward religious minorities and also has a strong secular tradition of avoiding government involvement in any religious projects. The unspoken question of whether or not Jews and Muslims might be at odds was addressed head on by an unusual request from Benarousse. He demanded that the nascent community reflect the one he left in North Africa: Jews and Muslims living side by side. “As a symbol, I asked that the mosque be built next door to the synagogue, “ he said. “The point is to say, ‘We can disagree, but we have to talk to each other.’” Farid Chaoui, vice president of the Muslim community association TAWBA, agrees. “There have been no problems — on the contrary! Jews and Muslims, especially in North Africa, lived for centuries together.” Chaoui, 58, also from Algeria, added that he and Benarousse often reminisce together. “We joke that we’re cousins,” he said.
Bussy may at first seem like an unlikely place to serve as a “laboratory of tolerance,” as the town’s mayor puts it. The town had just 500 residents in 1988, when the French government sought to expand suburbs in the outer reaches of the metro area by buying up farmland for housing. It has grown rapidly in recent years, driven mostly by the rising cost of housing within easy access of Paris. The Esplanade is mostly the brainchild of Hugues Rondeau, the town’s mayor since 1998. Rondeau, a Catholic, is no ordinary French public servant. His view of laïcité, the strict doctrine of separation of church and state, is more nuanced than most. “The ‘Esplanade of the Religions’ comes from my intuition that the state should not stand in the way of faith because of intransigent secularization,” said Rondeau, 45. “The state must accompany religion to enable a kind of social peace.”
Growing up in a conservative French family (“We didn’t have Jewish friends,” he said), the mayor was not an obvious champion of inter-communal tolerance. But he has developed a particular sensitivity to the needs of other faith communities — especially Jews, who make up the smallest minority in the town. “I wanted to show the Jewish community of Bussy that I appreciated their presence,” he said. The road to acceptance hasn’t been smooth for Jews, who started moving out to the bedroom community in the early 1990s, along with Muslims and other native-born French residents. In the absence of an established Jewish community, the residents have had to make do. When Miriam Rosilio, 49, moved to Bussy in 1993, there were virtually no Jews to speak of. Her two children were toddlers at the time, and she desperately sought to give them some sort of Jewish education. After finding out that another Jewish family with two children lived in the same building — a “total coincidence!” — Rosilio started hosting Hebrew school in her living room.
“We had to bring in a tutor from Paris, who would travel to our house on Sunday mornings,” she said, looking back. Seven years later, after attending an event hosted by the city, Rosilio realized she wasn’t alone. “We realized there were all these Jews in Bussy,” she said. “We had no idea.” As a result, Miriam and Michel Rosilio, 48, founded Association J’Buss, the local Jewish association, which Michel Rosilio went on to lead until last year. There are still no Jewish day schools in Bussy. But Sunday Hebrew school is now held in a synagogue, housed in a prefabricated trailer and taught by a rabbi. Once the Esplanade is complete, each faith community will have its own place of worship, including the mosque, a Laotian Buddhist pagoda, a new synagogue and a $20 million Taiwanese Buddhist temple. A Catholic church already stands adjacent to the planned holy quarter. Rondeau admitted that some locals had misgivings about the plan. “Some people were worried that I was creating a religious supermarket,” he said. “It’s not because you have a synagogue next door that the rabbi is going to ring your doorbell and try to convert you.”
Despite the inspirational promise of this project, the Jewish community’s full participation is threatened by a more mundane concern: financing. Jewish leaders have played a prominent part in the planning, but they have raised only 10% of the 1 million euros needed for construction of the synagogue. Meanwhile, the Taiwanese temple already stands tall, and the Muslim community has broken ground on its mosque. “We’re falling behind the others because we’re a smaller community,” explained Claude Windisch, current president of J’Buss. “The Jewish community in France hasn’t yet understood the importance of what we’re trying to do here. It’s a project that goes beyond Bussy-Saint-Georges.” After meeting formally at the Tu B’Shvat ceremony, the Taiwanese ambassador to France extended a formal invitation to Windisch and Benarousse to visit the Jewish community in Taipei to discuss fundraising for the project. They hope to mount a fundraising trip to New York, but that remains a pipe dream for now.
Despite the logistical setbacks, Benarousse remains positive about the future of Jews in Bussy and their role in the Esplanade. Even if it takes time to build a new synagogue, Rondeau says it is crucial that the Jewish community have a visible place in the town. “When you have a synagogue, it means your community exists,” the mayor said. “In this population of 25,000, there are Jews.”
© The Forward
'Geography of Hate' maps racism and homophobia on Twitter
10/5/2013- Following the 2012 US Presidential election, we created a map of tweets that referred to President Obama using a variety of racist slurs. In the wake of that map, we received a number of criticisms - some constructive, others not - about how we were measuring what we determined to be racist sentiments. In that work, we showed that the states with the highest relative amount of racist content referencing President Obama - Mississippi and Alabama - were notable not only for being starkly anti-Obama in their voting patterns, but also for their problematic histories of racism. That is, even a fairly crude and cursory analysis can show how contemporary expressions of racism on social media can be tied to any number of contextual factors which explain their persistence.
The prominence of debates around online bullying and the censorship of hate speech prompted us to examine how social media has become an important conduit for hate speech, and how particular terminology used to degrade a given minority group is expressed geographically. As we’ve documented in a variety of cases, the virtual spaces of social media are intensely tied to particular socio-spatial contexts in the offline world, and as this work shows, the geography of online hate speech is no different. Rather than focusing just on hate directed towards a single individual at a single point in time, we wanted to analyze a broader swath of discriminatory speech in social media, including the usage of racist, homophobic and ableist slurs.
Using DOLLY to search for all geotagged tweets in North America between June 2012 and April 2013, we discovered 41,306 tweets containing the word ‘nigger’, 95,123 referenced ‘homo’, among other terms. In order to address one of the earlier criticisms of our map of racism directed at Obama, students at Humboldt State manually read and coded the sentiment of each tweet to determine if the given word was used in a positive, negative or neutral manner. This allowed us to avoid using any algorithmic sentiment analysis or natural language processing, as many algorithms would have simply classified a tweet as ‘negative’ when the word was used in a neutral or positive way. For example the phrase ‘dyke’, while often negative when referring to an individual person, was also used in positive ways (e.g. “dykes on bikes #SFPride”). The students were able to discern which were negative, neutral, or positive. Only those tweets used in an explicitly negative way are included in the map.
All together, the students determined over 150,000 geotagged tweets with a hateful slur to be negative. Hateful tweets were aggregated to the county level and then normalized by the total number of tweets in each county. This then shows a comparison of places with disproportionately high amounts of a particular hate word relative to all tweeting activity. For example, Orange County, California has the highest absolute number of tweets mentioning many of the slurs, but because of its significant overall Twitter activity, such hateful tweets are less prominent and therefore do not appear as prominently on our map. So when viewing the map at a broad scale, it’s best not to be covered with the blue smog of hate, as even the lower end of the scale includes the presence of hateful tweeting activity.
Even when normalized, many of the slurs included in our analysis display little meaningful spatial distribution. For example, tweets referencing ‘nigger’ are not concentrated in any single place or region in the United States; instead, quite depressingly, there are a number of pockets of concentration that demonstrate heavy usage of the word. In addition to looking at the density of hateful words, we also examined how many unique users were tweeting these words. For example in the Quad Cities (East Iowa) 31 unique Twitter users tweeted the word “nigger” in a hateful way 41 times. There are two likely reasons for higher proportion of such slurs in rural areas: demographic differences and differing social practices with regard to the use of Twitter. We will be testing the clusters of hate speech against the demographic composition of an area in a later phase of this project.
Perhaps the most interesting concentration comes for references to ‘wetback’, a slur meant to degrade Latino immigrants to the US by tying them to ‘illegal’ immigration. Ultimately, this term is used most in different areas of Texas, showing the state’s centrality to debates about immigration in the US. But the areas with significant concentrations aren’t necessarily that close to the border, and neither do other border states who feature prominently in debates about immigration contain significant concentrations.
Ultimately, some of the slurs included in our analysis might not have particularly revealing spatial distributions. But, unfortunately, they show the significant persistence of hatred in the United States and the ways that the open platforms of social media have been adopted and appropriated to allow for these ideas to be propagated. Funding for this map was provided by the University Research and Creative Activities Fellowship at HSU. Geography students Amelia Egle, Miles Ross and Matthew Eiben at Humboldt State University coded tweets and created this map.
The full interactive map is available here
© Floating Sheep
UCSJ Statement About NGOs in Russia
9/5/2013- Since March 2013 the so-called “complex prosecutors checking” of Russian NGOs has become a widespread campaign conducted by the Kremlin within the framework of the anti-Constitutional Law about “Foreign Agents.” About 600 NGOs in 50 regions were suddenly checked. Prosecutors came not alone, but together with representatives of many organizations – the offices of justice, tax services, sometimes police; and officers from the Ministry of the Extraordinary Situations, FSB (former KGB) and fire-brigade. Every one of these organizations did their own examination. These checks were without cause. The officers requested copies of all documentation, sometimes including even medical records– thousands of pages altogether. In some cases these officers tried to check the offices and interrogate the NGO’s staff members. These events contradict all international and even local laws.
At the same time, several Russian TV channels expanded a wide propaganda campaign to discredit the NGOs. It is no secret that these events occurred due to President Putin’s speech at a meeting with leaders of law-enforcement on February 2013. Following this, the Prosecutor General ordered local divisions to start a massive checking of NGOs. President Putin was displeased that previous laws about NGOs had not stopped their work. The Soviet and Russian authorities always have been suspicious and hostile to an independent society. History is repeating itself… In 2000 it became clear that the authorities’ response to criticism did not change – they interpreted it as political opposition, and independent NGOs were not built in the so-called “vertical of power.” Since the time of the “color revolutions” (or even before) modern Russian leaders saw the NGOs as a “Fifth Column” financed from abroad. The image of the enemy was created. The authorities especially were frightened by mass rallies in December 2011 and in 2012 in Moscow and many other regions. They did not understand that these demonstrations and meetings demonstrated a necessary component of a democratic society.
Now the situation has deteriorated. The association “Golos” (“Vote”), a very popular NGO that monitors the elections and helps in advocacy, and its executive director Lilia Shibanova were fined ($13,000) because they received the Sakharov Award from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (they did not use the funds and returned the money part to Committee). Golos, along with all the other independent NGOs (MHG, Memorial, Agora, Movement for Human Rights, etc.) refused to apply to register as “Foreign Agents.” They prepared documents to appeal to the Constitutional Court. But there is no hope for fair decisions. The situation with respect to human rights in Russia shows that the country again has become a Stalinist police state.
Larry Lerner, President of UCSJ declares: “We are very concerned about the Russian government’s war against NGOs and its massive violation of human rights; about the changing foreign policy and anti-American propaganda, and about moving back to Cold War-style politics. Western Governments and the public should unite to protect Russian NGOs and save the achievements of the Helsinki process.”
Survey says media discriminates in coverage of Roma minority (Italy)
Newspapers blame ethnic group for trouble, says report
7/5/2013- Media reports show only the negative side of Roma and Sinti in Italy, according to a survey of newspaper articles released Tuesday. The survey by Naga, which often focuses on health care services for foreigners, found that "discriminatory statements" were made in 37.2% of articles studied. Another 32.3% of articles differentiated between "us" - meaning Italians - and "them," referring to Roma and Sinti, said Naga, a non-profit organization working for better treatment of foreigners in Italy. For 10 months, beginning last June, Naga followed numerous newspapers, including local and national journals including Il Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica, La Stampa, Il Sole 24 Ore, Il Giornale, Libero, La Padania, and La Prealpina. The survey suggested that some newspaper reports on negative events made reference to Roma people even when they were not directly involved in the story.
Naga called on the Italian media to improve its work. The press "can be not only a tool of exclusion, but also of knowledge and approach," said Naga president Cinzia Colombo. A 2012 report on racism and intolerance by the Council of Europe said that the situation in Italy has worsened over the last five years. ECRI, the human rights body of the Council of Europe that monitors problems of racism and xenophobia, criticised a climate of "intolerance, especially regarding Roma, immigrants and Muslims" in a report examining the situation in Italy from 2006 to 2011. Inflammatory media and "security measures" adopted by Italian authorities came under fire in the report for allegedly creating a climate that refuses integration and acceptance of immigrants and foreigners. Roma, sometimes referred to as Gypsies, are considered Europe's most discriminated minority.
© Gazzetta Del Sud
Neo-fascists and police attack students in Naples (Italy)
A rally of students was brutally charged by the police in Naples on Tuesday morning. The images of the attack went viral immediately, shared both on mainstream and independent media, from Repubblica to youreporter.it.
8/5/2013- Surprisingly, almost all sources unanimously introduce the video with the same caption, reporting a police intervention in order to divide two clashing group of protesters and presenting the incident as a scuffle between students and workers. The video can be seen here. Yet the footage tells a different story: a group of protesters attacked the students’ rally unprovoked, with the complicity and support of the police, who charged and chased the students without identifying those responsible for the violence.
The events took place in Naples, in Piazza Plebiscito on the morning of May 7. About 100 students were protesting in front of the Prefecture: they were demonstrating their solidarity peacefully with the students brutally charged by the police at the State University in Milan the day before (May 6), and were waiting for the arrival of Maria Carrozza, newly nominated Minister of Education. A few meters away, around thirty former workers of the Consorzi di Bacino were also demonstrating against their job losses, as they have been doing for several months. A group of neo-fascist extremists entered their ranks. They were led by Salvatore Lezzi, a local member of Forza Nuova who was tried in 2003 for alleged involvement with organized crime. Neo-Fascists started taunting the students, then attacked them.
Policemen who had been standing nearby then immediately charged and dispersed the students with anti-riot batons. Two more charges followed, as police chased students in the alleys behind the square. One student was injured. Several other students and researchers were identified by police; they were all released but they reported intimidating behavior during their questioning. Police attacked left-wing activists once more during the afternoon, for no apparent reason, as they had regrouped and formed a rally in Via San Sebastiano. This episode of violence closely follows the violent repression of student protest in Milan and it comes as a sinister start for the term of Angelino Alfano, the Minister of the Interior coming from the ranks of Berlusconi’s party. Meanwhile, biased media keep criminalizing dissenting voices and protesting students even when they are suddenly attacked at a peaceful demo, while neo-fascists pose undisturbed as representatives of the “workers”.
© Struggles in Italy
World Jewish leaders urge crackdown on far-right
7/5/2013- The World Jewish Congress urged Hungary on Tuesday to crack down on the far-right Jobbik party and called on governments in Europe to consider banning neo-Nazi parties threatening democracy and minority rights. The WJC plenary assembly, held in the Hungarian capital rather than Jerusalem to highlight rising anti-Semitism in Hungary, passed a resolution saying Budapest must recognize that Jobbik poses "a fundamental threat to Hungary's democracy. "Decisive action by all democratic forces against these contemporary expressions of extremism must now be taken," it said, adding a request that Prime Minister Viktor Orban sign an international declaration on combating anti-Semitism.
Jobbik, which openly vilifies Hungary's Roma minority and has accused Jews of buying up property to take over Hungary, has been a central issue at the three-day WJC assembly, which brought together Jewish leaders from about 100 countries. Orban addressed the opening session of the assembly on Sunday evening, issuing a strong denunciation of anti-Semitism but avoiding any mention of Jobbik. "He missed a golden opportunity," said WJC President Ronald Lauder, who while introducing Orban had specifically asked him to denounce the populist party.
Lauder later apologized, saying he had not been aware of comments made by Orban to the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth before the congress, in which the prime minister said Jobbik was a real danger to democracy. "I want to put it on the record that the prime minister really did make a strong statement against Jobbik," Lauder said in his closing remarks to the congress. Jobbik, which won 17 percent of the vote in the 2010 election and has 43 of the 368 seats in parliament, held an "anti-Zionist and anti-Bolshevik" rally in Budapest to protest against the WJC meeting being held in the Hungarian capital. Orban's Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority in parliament, but has lost ground in opinion polls since it took power in 2010. It still has a strong opinion poll lead however and has a good chance of winning next year's election. Support for Jobbik meanwhile has hovered around 10 percent this year.
Greece and Germany
Robin Shepherd, author of a study for the WJC on neo-Nazi parties in Europe, told the assembly Fidesz was not anti-Semitic but it competed with Jobbik for votes among nationalists frustrated by the economy and resentful of foreign influence. "If Orban goes too hard against Jobbik, he's worried he won't be able to scoop up Jobbik's voters," he said. The assembly also debated the rise of far-right parties such as Golden Dawn in crisis-stricken Greece, which came from nowhere to win about seven percent in elections there last year. Shepherd said support for Golden Dawn had risen in opinion polls since the election and the Athens government was so concerned about the country's economic crisis that it did not immediately respond to the challenge it presented. David Saltiel, leader of the Greek Jewish community, agreed and told the assembly: "Our country was caught by surprise." But Saltiel said the government, after lobbying by the WJC, had assured him it would soon pass a tough hate speech law that would outlaw incitement against people because of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and impose up to six years in prison on offenders.
Parliamentary deputies would not be excluded, he said, and parties that receive public funding would see it suspended if their leaders publicly deny the Holocaust - which Golden Dawn leaders have done in the past. "We think with this law, (Golden Dawn) will be brought back to the small numbers it had before," he said. The resolution also urged Germany and other countries with neo-Nazi parties to consider banning them. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has decided not to seek a ban on the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) because it is not clear whether such a ban would be constitutional. But the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament that represents the 16 federal states, has begun its own effort to ban the party, he said.
Headlines 3 May, 2013
France's invigorated far-right party marches in Paris
1/5/2013- Hundreds of activists marched in Paris Wednesday behind the leader of the far-right National Front, which is riding high on a wave of discontent over the country's stagnating economy. The National Front, which stages a procession through the French capital on May 1 every year to celebrate folk heroine Joan of Arc, is currently doing well in opinion polls on the back of the economic crisis and a deeply unpopular government. Party leader Marine Le Pen, a fervent critic of the European Union, said France had "shut itself away in the darkness of Europe" in a speech after the march in front of Paris's famed opera building, on top of which fluttered a EU flag. France "is sinking into an absurd policy of endless austerity... because it's about always saying yes to Brussels, to Berlin of course, and to financial moguls in all circumstances," she said.
Le Pen's speech to hundreds of supporters carrying French flags comes as the National Front is gaining strength just as Socialist leader Francois Hollande's government struggles against a tide of discontent. In one recent opinion poll, when asked who respondents would vote for if an election was called immediately, former president Nicolas Sarkozy came first and Le Pen second, far ahead of Hollande in third. His Socialist government has been deeply affected by a economy, and a scandal involving ex-budget minister Jerome Cahuzac who was charged with tax fraud for siphoning hundreds of thousands of euros into a secret foreign bank account. Since his election last May 6, Hollande's approval rating has fallen faster and further than any other president's since the founding of France's Fifth Republic in 1958. As a result, the National Front says it has gained more followers, including Socialists unhappy with their government, though they have not provided any figures. The far-right party is looking to municipal elections next year, where it hopes to gain control of several towns or cities.
The government inspectors (Russia)
Gogol's government inspector was a figure of fun. Russia's new government inspectors are anything but funny.
By Anna Sevortian
1/5/2013- At a meeting with FSB leaders on 14 February, Vladimir Putin put an end to any doubts about his intention to implement his controversial ‘foreign agents’ bill. ‘We have a law’, he announced. ‘And we need to enforce it.’ With this instruction, Putin turned a poor law into a conspicuous and ugly witch-hunt. The heat (if you’ll excuse the pun) is now on, as the first ‘agents’ are paraded before the Russian public (and it is by no means just human rights organisations that are feeling it). The worst thing is that this law has set in motion yet another mechanism for the repression and harassment of anyone involved, however marginally, in civil activism.
What to expect from an inspection
Russian NGOs are already very familiar with so-called ‘inspections’ by regulatory authorities. For many years now, they have submitted comprehensive and regular reports of their activities and finances to the Justice Ministry and other bodies. With a fraction of the resources, the voluntary sector is subject to as much paperwork and monitoring as the business world, if not more. Just imagine, then, to also, suddenly be subjected to inspection in connection with the ‘foreign agents’ law, to be accused of ‘extremism’ in your activity, and to be investigated under another such pretext - possibly all at the same time? That’s exactly the situation in which hundreds of Russian NGOs have been finding themselves since February.
Across Russia, small and understaffed organisations have become the subjects of inspection commissions. Led by officials from the Prosecutor’s Office, the commissions usually include representatives of the Justice Ministry and Tax authorities, and less frequently from the FSB, the Police, the Federal Migration Service (FMS), the Fire Service and so on. Some Moscow based organisations have also found a film crew from the NTV channel on their doorsteps. This happened, for example, at ‘Memorial’, when staff had to eject ‘reporters’ illegally attempting to film the inspection process.
Here are just a few examples of what has been going on, memorable for their farciality (although of course there was little amusing about them).
In St Petersburg inspectors asked staff of NGOs to produce such arcane documents as a rat control certificate and proof that they had all undergone chest x-rays. At the St Petersburg Human Rights Resource Centre employees were asked about their rubbish disposal arrangements, and at the NGO Development Centre the inspectors assiduously photographed the spines of all books with titles in foreign languages.
In a Moscow organisation that runs academic exchange programmes, one of the inspectors also spied something suspicious on a bookshelf. It was a volume whose title started with the words ‘Polemical questions...’. ‘What’s this?’, asked the inspector. ‘Polemical sounds almost like ‘political’’.
One member of the auditing group visiting the Moscow office of an international NGO quietly asked its staff, in a moment of empathy, ‘You wouldn’t on the off chance know what we’re supposed to be finding here?’
The Russian Foreign Agents Law (an amendment to the Law on NGOs) came into force on 21st November 2012. It requires all foreign-funded NGOs involved in ‘political activity’ to register at the Russian Ministry of Justice as ‘foreign agents’. Organisations engaged in ‘activities relating to science, culture, the arts, health, social support, support for the disabled, environmental protection and philanthropy’ are, theoretically at least, not subject to the new law. The law has attracted widespread criticism as being discriminatory, unlawful and unconstitutional. Most have noted that the phrase ‘political activity’ is ambiguous and can be used to encompass any activities that protect public interests. With its MI6 and James Bond undertones, many NGOs also find the ‘foreign agent’ label ethically unacceptable. The law represents a significant tightening of the screws on NGOs, and provides for the criminal prosecution of people working in the sector. Organisations that refuse to register as ‘foreign agents’ face various sanctions, up to and including closure.
A second wave
In an interview on German television on 5 April, Vladimir Putin stated that ‘654 non-governmental organisations operating in the Russian Federation between January and April received a total of 28.3 billion roubles from abroad, almost $1 billion [£580 million], and 855 million roubles of that was channelled via diplomatic missions.’ Listening to the president, many people working in the Russian voluntary sector probably imagined that his aides had accidentally given him the wrong figures, and were confusing NGO funding with deposits by Russians in Cypriot bank accounts. No one has confirmed this, of course, and meanwhile the second half of April has seen a new wave of inspections, some of them repeats of earlier ones.
On 22 April, for example, inspectors returned to the Moscow offices of the Civil Assistance Committee, a well known NGO working with migrants. The reason for the visit was ‘information’ passed on to them from Georgy Fyodorov, a member of Russia’s Public Chamber. Officials from the Prosecutor’s Office and the FMS checked the IDs of everyone on the premises, given that Mr Fyodorov had claimed that the Forum was involved in ‘organising illegal immigration and the legalisation of illegal immigrants’. A day later other members of the Public Chamber passed a motion in support of Svetlana Gannushkina, the head of the Committee, but tellingly only nine of the Public Chamber’s 126 members signed the motion.
Inspections do not, of course, stop with human rights organisations. Judging by the growing number of NGOs who have been subjected to one, the main qualification for this honour is simply the receipt of foreign funding. ‘Perspectiva’, for example, an organisation working with disabled people and one of Russia’s leading NGOs, received a letter from its local Prosecutor’s Office in Moscow on 22 April. Just the day before, it had organised a grand dance marathon for people with disabilities, which included a collection towards funding for its support projects. Now it was faced with an administrative marathon: it was required to produce, within 20 hours, a huge list of documents going back three years, including everything relating to funding and any media publications. ‘In normal countries support [for disabled people] is provided by the state, whereas here all the state does is run checks on the people who provide the support.’ (NGO director)
You only have to call in at Perspectiva’s offices to see that there are no agents here, and that the organisation does immensely valuable work supporting disabled people in Russia. ’Perspectiva is a very important and professional organisation' agrees Natalya Taubina, director of‘Obshchestvenny Verdikt’ (Public Verdict), an organisation that provides free legal aid for victims of unlawful actions by the law enforcement authorities (of course, Public Verdict has not escaped inspection either). ‘In normal countries this support is provided by the state, whereas here all the state does is run checks on the people who provide the support’. In the second phase of its inspection, ‘Memorial’ was asked to, produce, in the space of 24 hours, documents adding up to 8766 pages – the equivalent of ten copies of Tolstoy’s massive ‘War and Peace’. Although, frankly, the absurdities of the present situation are perhaps more reminiscent of writers such as Gogol or Kafka.
There is only one topic of conversation in Russia’s voluntary sector these days — who has been audited and who not. Those who haven’t yet had an inspection are preparing for one; those who have, for another one. In these circumstances it is very difficult to actually get on with the work the organisation was set up for in the first place.
Only obeying orders
‘Today I was planning to visit Boris Yeltsin’s grave’, Georgy Satanov, head of the INDEM Foundation wrote on his Facebook page a couple of days ago. ‘But I, like others, had a second visitation from the inspectors, and had to go to work. Forgive them, Boris Nikolaevich; they are only obeying orders.’ Voluntary organisations are not, in fact, the only hostages to this situation. The authorities themselves have seen their workloads increase exponentially, forced to drop what they were doing and race around the country inspecting NGOs.
Igor Kalyapin, director of the Nizhny Novgorod Committee against Torture sympathises with the bureaucrats who were forced to inspect his organisation. ‘In Nizhny Novgorod’s central district alone there are 40 NGOs to be inspected over three years. The office of the local public prosecutor, who is responsible for the process, is simply disappearing under piles of documents. When she asked me to come for an interview, she said, ‘Come whenever you like – the weekend, in the evening, at night – whenever suits you.’ Her staff are being asked to get their heads round the totally unfamiliar activities of very specific organisations: among the NGOs on the list are the Hari Krishna group, the Jewish Cultural Centre, the environmental lot and the people who rescue stray dogs. I asked her why she hadn’t asked the Ministry of Justice for information about them – after all we all have to lodge our annual reports and accounts with them. Her answer? ‘We were told to get on with it ourselves.’
Sign up as an agent
According to Tatyana Vagina, deputy director of the Justice Ministry’s NGO department, as of 15 April 528 inspections had taken place in 49 regions. None of them had been registered as a foreign agent; none of them had been judged to be involved in political activity. In the two weeks since then, however, the situation has changed considerably. NGOs have been receiving ‘warnings’ about the dire consequences of breaking the law and recommendations that they register as foreign agents.
On 25th April, Ms Vagina was in court for the first case brought against an NGO under the new law. The charge placed before the election watchdog Golos  was that it had failed to register as a foreign agent. The organisation presented a convincing case that since the law came into force it had not received a penny of foreign funding, that its activities had nothing to do with politics, and so on. It was all to no avail - the organisation was fined 300,000 roubles (£6000) and its director Liliya Shibanova 100,000 roubles (£2000). Shibanova summed it up: ‘today was a test-drive for a plan to destroy every NGO in Russia.’
The most surprising thing about how the ‘foreign agent law’ has worked thus far is the indecent haste with which the authorities are ‘flushing out’ agents who do not even formally meet the definition of what is very controversial legislation. The sledgehammer seems to be working in a very hit-and-miss manner, forced to stretch the law in unbelievable directions. ‘People and the Law’, an NGO working in the Mari El Republic, has been advised to register as a foreign agent because its constitution includes a clause about ‘holding to account officials who infringe human rights’, a phrase interpreted to indicate ‘political activity’. ‘Help for people with Cystic Fibrosis’, meanwhile, has been taken to task by the Moscow region prosecutor’s office for having an founding objective to ‘promote the rights and legal interests of people with cystic fibrosis with the statutory authorities’.
'Even if your organisation has been cleared of ‘agent’ status, this doesn’t mean it’s off the hook. You can be fined if your office’s electrical wiring is too old, if you haven’t installed soundproofing or if you don’t have a sign advertising your opening hours.' The Kostroma Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee has also fallen foul of the law because its members acted, in a private capacity, as election observers (again, before the law came in to force), while several environmental organisations (the Baikal Environmental Wave in Irkutsk; the ‘Green House’ in Khabarovsk, etc.) have also been told to register, even though it is difficult to classify their remit as political in the broad and amorphous definition used in the new law.
Even if an organisation has been cleared of ‘agent’ status, this doesn’t mean it’s off the hook. You can be fined, for example, if your office’s electrical wiring is too old, if you haven’t installed soundproofing or if you don’t have a sign advertising your opening hours. One regional organisation has just been fined a total of over 600,000 roubles (£12000) – more than many Russian NGOs’ annual turnover. Clearly, some of these unlawful and impulsive decisions will be challenged and some will be overturned. There may even be an acknowledgement of officials acting in an overzealous fashion. Might we even dare to imagine that under a principle of ‘one step forward, two steps back’, this discriminatory law might even be repealed? Alas, even if all this happens, it will be next to impossible to undo the harm caused by these few months of mudslinging and harassment. It has simply become very difficult for the Russian public to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ NGOs.
In the speech to FSB leaders that I quoted at the beginning of this article, Vladimir Putin stated that it is his government’s intention to support the development in Russia of a strong, competent and mature civil society. The process he had in mind will presumably begin only once Russia’s fledgling, self-reliant and self-nurturing civil society has been conclusively inspected and neutralised.
© Open Democracy - Russia
Polish far-right flash mobs scare liberal thinkers
Magdalena Sroda, a Polish feminist and academic, was about to deliver a lecture at Warsaw university on "Morality in public life," when around 50 young men wearing balaclavas and plastic animal masks shoved their way into the building.
30/4/2013- Security guards pushed them from the auditorium and they moved to an adjacent hall, waving fists and shouting a chant from the soccer terraces that compares opponents with Poland's widely despised former Soviet overlords: "Hit the red trash with a hammer, with a sickle!". They soon dispersed and the lecture went ahead, but the audience, which included professors and two university deans, was shaken, Sroda told Reuters, recalling the incident in February, one of a growing number since late last year. "We are dealing with a new political movement that has decided to use barbarity against democracy," she said. The invasion by "flash mobs" of liberal lectures and conferences marks a new battleground in a years-long struggle between Poles seeking to embrace liberal, western European values and those who say phenomena like feminism and gay partnerships are a corruption of traditional Polish values.
The masked gangs are loosely affiliated to far-right groups and have targeted, among others, the editor of a major newspaper, the first openly gay member of parliament and a student society planning to debate same sex couples. They coincide with a rise of the far-right in countries across Europe as recession bites. Hungary's far-right Jobbik party is now third biggest in parliament, while in Greece, the far-right Golden Dawn won 7 percent of votes last year. In Poland, where the far right is not in parliament, the "flash mobs" combine elements of both ends of the right-wing spectrum. At one is the hooliganism of the soccer fans who fight police with their club scarves over their faces and whose anti-communist chants can mask anti-Semitism and homophobia. At the other is the organization and social conservatism of the mainstream right-wing, which expresses its views in parliament, Catholic sermons and on television talk shows. Together, they make a potentially explosive mix.
"Football fans are the avant-garde of the young generation today," said Artur Zawisza, a former member of parliament who is now one of the leaders of the National Movement (Ruch Narodowy), which aims to unite the forces of Poland's far-right. The "flash mobs" were well-organized groups standing up for their beliefs, Zawisza said, adding that he had nothing to do with inspiring or organizing them but understood their frustration with the liberal establishment. "There are so many examples of disregard for Polishness, for tradition, history and culture that it causes anger and rebellion."
"Hit the Red Trash!"
Poland's far-right agenda ranges from fighting social liberalism and rights for sexual minorities to calls for the creation of a Catholic state for the Polish nation. Even in the political mainstream, conservatism is strong. The legislature in January threw out draft laws aimed at giving homosexual couples limited legal rights and deputy Krystyna Pawlowicz of the largest opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), said gay people should attend "therapy centers". The mobs have yet to affect policy, but many intellectuals say they have a chilling effect on academic debate; at least one university discussion has been canceled because organizers feared it could be hijacked by far-right activists. Prime Minister Donald Tusk condemned the flash mobs after the incident at Warsaw university. "If we do not act in an unambiguous way, then in a month or half a year they will not only yell, but they will beat," he said. "I do not have the slightest doubt about it."
The authorities are struggling to know how to deal with the new tactics, which occupy a grey area between legitimate protest and violent intimidation. A few days after Sroda's lecture was ambushed, around 20 young men tried to interrupt a lecture by Adam Michnik, the editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, a leading liberal newspaper. Internet footage shows them jostling with university security staff in Radom, about 100 km (60 miles) south of Warsaw, and shouting the same slogan, "Hit the red trash!". It was extra ironic; Michnik was one of Poland's most prominent dissidents in communist times. In March, Robert Biedron, Poland's first openly gay member of parliament, was at a conference with other leftist politicians when around 30 young men in sports clothing gathered outside the hotel in Sandomierz, 220 km south of Warsaw. "This is Poland not Brussels, here we do not support deviations!" they shouted in video footage on the Internet.
Some of the young men got past security personnel into the meeting hall while police stood by. Once in they shouted the "Hit the red trash...." slogan and "Get the fuck out of here!". Biedron, a member of the liberal Palikot party, said he had heard of other such incidents involving far-right groups. "It fills me with horror to watch this," he said in an interview. "These movements raise their heads today and, with increasing audacity, interrupt meetings and demand debates be canceled," Biedron said. "This is very dangerous and the authorities and the police are just passively watching." Police spokesman Grzegorz Dudek said an oversight body would look into whether police at the hotel could have done more. Sandomierz prosecutor Malgorzata Sowinska-Lalek told Reuters preliminary police findings indicated the group was made up mainly of fans of a local soccer club. She said her office would determine whether to press criminal charges of unlawful threats.
The anti-racist Never Again Association said it documented a 30 percent rise in the number of racist or xenophobic incidents and crimes linked to the far-right last year. Analysts say economic slowdown plays a role. Youth unemployment is at a six year high of 29 percent as Poland's economy, which defied the euro zone crisis for years, grinds almost to a halt. The far-right "flash mobs" have channeled unformed youthful aggression into disciplined operations with a political agenda. The main far-right organizations deny organizing them but there is a trail of connections - from links on each other's Facebook pages to statements praising each other's activities - that tie the groups indirectly to the new tactics. A group calling itself the Independent Academic Faction (NSA) has taken responsibility for the incident in Warsaw, saying it was staged to protest against the cancelling of a nationalist debate at the university.
Little is known about NSA, but it is affiliated with Ruch Narodowy, the informal umbrella movement for far-right groups that was launched in November last year at a nationalist demonstration after which some marchers clashed with police. That movement is led by two main groups: Pan-Polish Youth and the National Radical Camp, which shares its name with an anti-Semitic party that was outlawed before World War Two. Przemyslaw Holocher, a National Radical Camp leader, said his group was growing, but did not organize the "flash mobs". "We do not dissociate ourselves from such initiatives, because they are grassroots social initiatives, which are an effect of leftists' ideologies throwing themselves around for many years," he said.
Robert Winnicki, who was leader of Pan-Polish Youth at the time of the Warsaw incident, denied organizing it, calling it an "eruption of students' discontent" at the cancellation of the nationalist debate. "This was a happening, not well prepared, but a happening," he said, rejecting violence and using a term that usually describes an artistic performance. "If it is a happening then I support it," he said.
Macedonia Accused of Concealing Discrimination
Macedonia’s top anti-discrimination body is turning a blind eye to widespread cases of discrimination in state institutions, local NGOs say.
30/4/2013- NGOs united in the Anti-Discrimination Network have urged Macedonia's parliament not to accept the annual report for 2012 that the state Anti-Discrimination Commission presented on Monday. They say the report shows that the commission failed to do its primary job of acting on people’s complains and determining cases of discrimination present in public institutions. “What is particularly concerning is the practice of the commission of avoiding determining the existence or non-existence of discrimination based on filed complaints,” the Network said. They say that in many cases the commission aborted an investigation based on arbitrary findings that the institution in question had showed a desire to correct its behaviour. “This prevents determining responsibility about who is discriminating, and prevents victims from seeking further legal protection,” they say.
In its annual report, the commission notes that people mostly complained of discrimination in the Interior Ministry, the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry, the Health Ministry and in many municipalities. Most complaints concern cases of reported ethnic discrimination, often against the Roma population. Health care is the second most reported field of discrimination. In 2012 the commission says it admitted 75 complaints, resolving 43 of them. In the report, the commission admits that in many “resolved” cases it aborted procedures for determining discrimination. But it argues that this was for positive reasons, centering on the the willingness of state institutions to immediately correct their actions. “It is a positive thing that the majority of potential discriminators - state institutions - on our recommendation showed willingness to cease acts of discrimination during the process of investigating the complaint - hence some complaints were successfully solved by becoming irrelevant,” it said.
In the report, the also commission complained that it was understaffed and underfunded for its work. The Anti-Discrimination Network of NGOs insists that halted investigations cannot be counted as resolved cases, and that this creates an unrealistic picture of the problem. The Network was formed in 2010 by local human rights NGOs, including the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and the Open Society Institute – Macedonia.
© Balkan Insight
End of the Road for Italy’s Illegal State of Emergency
2/5/2013- Italy’s highest court has upheld the ruling which declared the ‘Nomad State of Emergency’ unfounded, unmotivated and unlawful. The Cassation Court rejected the government’s appeal against the Council of State’s decision from November 2011. The European Roma Rights Centre and a Romani family first launched a legal challenge to Italy’s highly controversial State of Emergency in 2008. The Cassation Court's decision marks the final stage of the legal proceedings at the Italian courts, and marks the government’s last opportunity to appeal the Council of State's earlier decision. The decision was made following a hearing on 26 March. “This is the final nail in the coffin for Italy’s disastrous State of Emergency policy,” said Dezideriu Gergely, ERRC Executive Director. “We trust that the Italian authorities will stop the building works started under this policy, and will engage more positively with Roma, Sinti and Caminanti communities in the future, as outlined through the National Roma Inclusion Strategy.”
La Barbuta, a large formal camp isolated on the outskirts of Rome, is just one of the building/renovation projects started under State of Emergency legislation. Italian authorities also monitored camps and carried out censuses of residents (including children), taking photos and requesting documents to identify and record residents. Roma were forcibly evicted, excluded from education, fingerprinted, segregated, harassed and expelled. These actions brought about violations of the rights to adequate housing and education. The census also raised grave concerns about data protection.
© European Roma Rights Center
Italy: Scores of 'Syrians' rescued from migrant boat
30/4/2013- Italian coastguard late Monday rescued a boat off the Sicilian coast with 78 people aboard who claim to be Syrian. The 35 men and 44 boys were all reported to be in good health. An aerial patrol had spotted their boat adrift off the eastern Sicilian coastal city of Syracuse and a coastguard vessel towed it into port. The migrants were transferred to a local migrant holding centre for health and identity checks. Early on Tuesday, 15 migrants reached the southern coastal city of Crotone in Italy's Calabria region, 12 of whom were detained. Their nationalities were unknown. The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said in March that over a million people had fled the civil war in Syria, putting strain on host countries in the region. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said Syria was "spiralling towards full-scale disaster," and urged nations to pledge funds urgently.
Hate is where the heart is: Time for Europe to confront anti-Gypsyism (opinion)
It is time for the European Union to officially recognize anti-Gypsyism as a long-standing and deeply rooted form of European prejudice.
By Bernard Rorke
2/3/2013- Back in 1996, reflecting on the rise of Jorg Haider and the Freedom Party in Austria, the late Tony Judt cautioned against indulging the thought that this represented some kind of renascent fascism, “an echo of the ghosts of Europe past”. He warned that the successes of Haider and his ilk stood for something more far more serious: “they are the ghosts of Europes yet to come.” However, last year walking home through Budapest’s 7th district, the city’s Jewish quarter, it was difficult not to be chilled by spectres of the past. An English-language graffiti scrawl “Hate is where the heart is” caught my attention. Bizarrely, as if on cue, a group of black-clad Magyar Gárda types stumbled around the corner, shouting about “mocskok zsidok es büdös ciganok (filthy Jews and stinking Gypsies),” giving raised armed salutes to thugs on the other side of the road who responded with “Adjon az Isten szebb jövõt!” (God grant us a better future!)
These very streets bore witness to some of the worst excesses of 20th century barbarism. On these very streets, on the night October 15th, 1944, Zsuzsa Gábor was one of a group of Jews, forced at gunpoint from their house in a raid by Hungarian and German Nazis that left 18 people dead. The rest – mothers with toddlers and helpless old people among them – were herded down Aradi Utca, then Teréz Korut, as far as the school in Kertész Utca with their arms in the air. “Then we were shoved into a large white-washed cellar and beaten and thrashed regardless of age or anything … a piece of biscuit wrapped in paper was found in my 18-year-old cousin’s pocket. They wanted to cram it into his mouth ... but he resisted and was beaten to death in front of his own mother … they picked the men out of the mess, and crammed them into another part of the cellar. Their screams and cries could be heard all night long. No one ever saw them again, dead or alive.”
During a ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial Centre for Romani victims of the Nazi genocide in Budapest last August, those in attendance were reminded that it was three years ago to the day since Maria Balogh was murdered in her bed, and her 13-year-old daughter seriously wounded, in a gun attack by neo-Nazis in the village of Kisléta. This was the final assault in a terror campaign targeting Romani settlements that claimed the lives of six and wounded many others. At the commemoration, György Hölvényi, Minister of State for Church, Minority and Non-governmental Relations in Hungary declared that the government was determined that “there will be no place for hatred among Hungarian citizens.” To his credit Zoltán Balog, Minister for Human Resources has promptly and publicly condemned incidents of hate crime, and has repeatedly called for solidarity between Roma and non-Roma citizens.
But mixed messages come from Fidesz. In January 2013, following a New Year stabbing incident, the journalist Zsolt Bayer wrote in a national daily that “a significant part of the Roma is unfit for coexistence… They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals, and they behave like animals… These animals shouldn't be allowed to exist. In no way. That needs to be solved - immediately and regardless of the method.” Bayer, a long-time purveyor of hate, is one of the main organizers of the pro-government Peace Marches, a founding member of Fidesz, and a long-time confidante of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Viviane Reding promptly condemned the remarks as unacceptable: “The European Union has no room for racism, hate speech or any other forms of intolerance.”
It seems, however, that in this corner of the European Union, there is room for hate speech. The response from Fidesz spokeswoman Gabriella Selmeczi was that Bayer wrote this article “not as a politician, but as a journalist,” adding that “we don’t qualify the opinions of journalists.” Despite the fact that nobody was killed in the incident, Selmeczi went on to accuse left-wing and liberal opposition parties of “encouraging criminals by blaming not the killers but those who are outraged [by their crimes].” Paying tribute to Bayer at his 50th birthday celebration, Speaker of Parliament László Kövér was even more forthright: “Good and bad, hard times and joy, we experienced it together. We never once denied each other and we never will.”
It’s hard to reconcile the fine sentiments contained in the government’s National Roma Integration Strategy, with its equivocation in the face of statements that disparage, dehumanize, and degrade Roma. If this is what counts as elite opinion in circles close to the government, it’s little wonder that anti-Roma prejudice is so widespread and so strident among the citizenry in Hungary. It’s little wonder that the far-right feels emboldened in a political climate where there seems to be ample room for hate. Confounding its critics, the extremist Jobbik party has managed to sustain its level of public support following its initial electoral successes. According to Political Capital, this was attributable to the leadership’s public reaffirmation of a more radical and belligerent style of politics: reverting to street politics, stepping up anti-Roma and anti-Semitic rhetoric and backing up Gárda-style organizations: “Clearly, stoking ethnic tension is in the political interest of Jobbik and other far-right organizations with ties to the party”.
Such extremism contaminates all areas of public life in too many European Union member states. The politically orchestrated anti-Gypsyism we witness today is of a different order, and needs to be recognized as a specific form of racism. Formal recognition is a necessary first step in political cultures where ‘blaming the victim’ is so deeply embedded in what passes for common sense. Facing up to contemporary anti-Gypsyism, one cannot help but be minded of Hannah Arendt’s observation in 1938 “that the Jews are the source of antisemitism is the malicious and stupid insight of antisemites”. As though nothing was learned from the dark times of the twentieth century, such malicious and stupid insights can be heard today in the strident racist and populist chorus blaming the Roma for the discrimination they endure and the hatred and prejudice heaped upon them.
Thomas Hammarberg described the emergence of a climate of intolerance against Roma as a shift from ‘traditional’ prejudice to “outright racist attitudes, preached by marginal yet increasingly visible political groups and left largely unchecked by mainstream society”. For Hammarberg what’s especially disquieting that “today not even mainstream parties are immune from using anti-Roma rhetoric for short-term political gain – something that would not have been tolerated a decade ago.” It is clear that a laissez-faire approach to the politics of hate just will not do. If the politics of hate seems to be in the ascendant and Roma most often in the firing line, a ‘business as usual’ approach is not just ethically bankrupt but politically reckless. It is delusionary to imagine that the politics of hate will simply run its course; that the attraction of friend-enemy relations, rendered more piquant by anti-Roma prejudice, will just run its course and fade away. The time has come to counter anti-Gypsyism with the kind of broad-based civic and political solidarity that’s needed to make a difference.
A first step would be for the European Union to officially recognize anti-Gypsyism as a long-standing and deeply rooted form of European prejudice. The lived reality in villages, towns and cities where Roma face intimidation and other forms of very direct and indirect discrimination every day, may seem a universe away from resolutions passed in Brussels and Strasbourg. But this would be just the first step, for when it comes to combating the words, deeds and institutional practices that denigrate and dehumanize our Roma fellow citizens, it is the practical impact that will count. Official recognition of anti-Gypsyism would involve a series of positive and practical steps for the European Commission, European Parliament, and Member States. Within the context of the EU Framework for Roma Integration there is a need for a concerted drive to work with local authorities, law enforcement agencies, educational institutions, and civil society partners to launch public awareness-raising campaigns, and support community-based initiatives to dispel anti-Roma prejudice and foster inter-cultural dialogue.
Members of the European Parliament would need to work more assiduously with their political parties back in their home countries to fight prejudice, cultivate majority support for Roma inclusion policies, to combat hate crime and provide effective redress against institutional racism. There is also a need for a coordinated and public Europe-wide 'reckoning with history' to shed light and spread knowledge about the mass atrocities against the Roma people in the past. As Thomas Hammarberg put it, what we witness today is “a continuation of a brutal and largely unknown history of repression of Roma, going back several hundred years. The methods of repression have varied over time and have included enslavement, enforced assimilation, expulsion, internment and mass killings … A full account and recognition of the crimes committed against the Roma might go some way to restoring the trust of Roma communities in society.” For if we are to displace the politics of hate with a politics of hope, solidarity and mutual respect, then we need trust. And this must be a sustained effort, fully integrated into the EU Framework for Roma Integration up to 2020.
© Open Democracy
Fascists claim 'We are the people' slogan (Germany)
A new German far-right xenophobic party has taken as its name the slogan which helped bring down the Berlin wall, it was reported on Friday.
3/5/2013- The group, led by Hans Müller and Wilfried-Hassan Siebert, secured the name Wir sind das Volk - "We are the people" - at the Munich patent and trademark office, the Leipziger Volkszeitung reported. The slogan is famous across Germany after being used by demonstrators in 1989 who undermined the authority of the socialist East German regime, defying them with demonstrations which grew in size Monday after Monday. The "We are the people" phrase came to represent the entire concept of reclaiming the authority of acting on behalf of the population from the government that had lost all legitimacy to do so.
Until now rights over the phrase had been held by the city of Leipzig where many of the most important Monday demonstrations were held. But the city lost those rights just a few weeks ago, the newspaper said. Now Müller and Siebert, from Schleswig-Holstein, have claimed the phrase for their party which supposedly wants to stop what they say is the continued occupation of of Germany - and to stop all immigration to the country. Leipzig is considering a legal challenge to the party's claim on the phrase and has until the start of June to do so.
© The Local - Germany
'Most dangerous neo Nazi' an enigma (Germany)
2/5/2013- Prosecutors call Beate Zschaepe Germany's most dangerous neo-Nazi and from Monday she will sit in the dock in the country's biggest far-right murder trial of the post-war period. But as the proceedings get underway against Zschaepe and four alleged accomplices in the southern city of Munich, the unassuming bespectacled brunette remains an enigma behind a wall of silence. When she walked through the door of the police station of Zwickau, a sleepy town in former communist East Germany, on 8 November 2011 to turn herself in, she told officers simply: "I'm the one you're looking for." Since then, she has refused to divulge any secrets from the previous 14 years which she, according to the authorities, spent underground and on the run as part of a far-right killer trio blamed for 10 murders. "Everyone in Germany knows her name but no one knows who she is," the daily Die Welt wrote about a woman who has shaken the country's self-image as having learned the lessons of its Nazi past. Four days before she gave herself up, her two fellow gang members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, died in an apparent murder-suicide after a bungled bank heist, finally bringing their lethal "National Socialist Underground" (NSU) to light.
'The Nazi moll’
Investigators say the three were locked in a macabre love triangle, robbing banks and living comfortably off the proceeds while they carried out a nationwide hunt for immigrant victims. Now 38, Zschaepe, the only surviving member of the group, is suspected of involvement in the killing of nine shopkeepers of Turkish or Greek origin across Germany between 2000 and 2006 and a German police officer in 2007, as well as 15 armed robberies, arson and attempted murder. Dubbed "the Nazi moll" by the German tabloids, Zschaepe faces life in prison. But those who knew her in Zwickau, where she shared a spacious rented flat in an attractive pre-war building with Mundlos and Boehnhardt, say she was a "gentle soul" who never revealed her far-right views. "She was a kind of big sister, someone with a big heart," a shocked neighbour, who gave her name only as Heike K, told German television. She said her friend told her her name was Lisa, one of at least nine aliases Zschaepe used over the years.
Federal prosecutors say that although she likely never pulled the trigger, Zschaepe played a "dominant role" in the NSU, maintaining the delicate "emotional link" between herself and her lovers. She fell first for Mundlos, the soft-spoken son of a university professor often seen taking care of his wheelchair-bound brother, at the age of 16, and later took up with Boehnhardt, a more volatile type with a weakness for weapons. "Ms Zschaepe acted like a wife but for two men," one of their alleged accomplices told authorities. Zschaepe held the purse strings, managing the windfalls from their bank hold-ups, prosecutors say. She juggled several identities, using them to defraud Germany's generous social welfare system, they allege, while she did the cooking and took care of their two pet cats, Lilly and Heidi. On 4 November 2011, she allegedly blew up their apartment in a bid to destroy evidence after the death of the two Uwes - after dropping off the cats with a neighbour.
Zschaepe had a chaotic upbringing. Her mother, Annerose Apel, gave birth to her on 2 January 1975 in the East German city of Jena, purportedly without knowing she was pregnant. Her father was believed to be Romanian but refused to acknowledge her as his child. During the first three years of her life, Beate's last name changed three times until she finally took the surname of her mother's second husband. The girl spent much of her youth with her grandmother, to whom she has said she is still attached. Zschaepe was 14 when the Berlin Wall fell, sending economic and ideological shockwaves through communities like hers and leading many to the political extremes. When she finally gave herself up to police, Zschaepe had not seen her mother or grandmother in over a decade. Investigators say she saw Mundlos and Boehnhardt as her only real family.
The unexpected costs of eastern German racism
Can a local, right-wing extremist movement have wide-ranging economic consequences? It turns out that it can - and it's a lesson the German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania is learning the hard way.
1/5/2013- "Racism, anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism have no place in our company," reads a poster at a German construction company called Beton-Service Wittenburg. The poster alone might have little effect in causing a neo-Nazi to turn away. What is clear, however, is that xenophobia will not be tolerated inside the building. The company is in the northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, an area of beautiful lakes, forests and beaches. Beyond the travel brochure images, however, there's a darker side to the state. In some districts, well over 10 percent of the electorate is now casting its vote for the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). In some towns, neo-Nazis have even become a permanent presence, setting up offices and clubs, even creating real party centers.
A PR problem
Right-wing extremism has become part of the state's public image, just as it has in other regions of eastern Germany. That's why a diverse group of social forces have come together to fight right-wing extremism there. Prior to the last state assembly elections, the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) and a coalition of business associations in the state (VUMV) printed a brochure to combat extremist views. They took an unusual tack, warning of the potential economic cost if the region was perceived as xenophobic. Tourists and clients might avoid the area; suppliers and partner firms might pull out. It's scarcely possible to quantify the economic damage of such a negative image. But some branches do have figures. Mecklenburg-West Pomerania's tourism association, for example, believes the state could host another 400,000 holidaymakers per year if the state had a more positive image.
It's equally difficult to tell whether the NPD's presence in the state parliament and local clubs is causing investors to lose interest. Though the Chamber of Commerce, the VUMV and the state's Economic Development Corporation aren't aware of any individual cases, that doesn't necessarily imply that they don't exist. Birgit Neumann, who's part of a DGB team helping businesses deal with the far right, told DW that high levels of xenophobia "might scare off a firm or two here and there." And a study undertaken by the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg confirms Neumann's view. For 20 percent of eastern German firms and 10 percent of western German firms, the study showed, levels of xenophobia and right-wing aggression do play a role when it comes to choosing a location.
For Achim Froitzheim, a spokesperson for the district of West Pomerania-Greifswald, there's a risk that travelers to the region are already being scared off. "When elections come around and vacationers have to drive by NPD posters, then of course you get massive negative feedback," he told DW. Neumann of the DGB is not mainly concerned with getting new investors to come to the state - her main task is to help companies deal with their day-to-day problems with right-wing extremists. She tells them how to recognize neo-Nazis, what signs and symbols help to identify them. But there's also a caveat. "In this day and age," she says, "neo-Nazis - unlike some years ago, perhaps - just aren't as recognizable." In addition, she explains how to annul contracts with sub-contractors who turn out only later to be right-wing oriented. She's also fighting for an "ethical agreement" to be included in labor contracts, whereby employees who make racist comments - in or outside the workplace - can be fired.
The emphasis on "outside the workplace" is because right-wing extremists don't usually make racist comments at work, says Gisela Ohlemacher at the DGB in the city of Neubrandenburg. "They know they'll be sanctioned to the point that they'd be fired," she told DW. Neumann is also trying to inspire businesses to position themselves clearly against right-wing extremism, something that's not always easy. "I know that some companies are worried about creating a PR problem as soon as they begin approaching the subject. They're worried that public perception would be, 'If this firm is working so hard to fight it, then they must have a problem.'" Yet more and more companies appear to be willing to take that risk. In early 2013, says Neumann, Beton-Service Wittenburg, as well as another company, signed an ethical agreement against racism. And a social services agency added an "anti-discrimination" clause to its standard contracts with business partners.
© The Deutsche Welle.
Study: Germans see Islam as a threat
A major study of attitudes towards religion says Germans approve of openness towards other religions. But many are still suspicious of Islam.
29/4/2013- Former German President Christian Wulff earned much praise but also much criticism when said in a speech during his tenure, "Islam is also a part of Germany." The criticism can be partly explained by the "Religion Monitor," a survey put together for the Bertelsmann Foundation. The findings have been published, and among them is the fact that half of all Germans believe that Islam does not fit into the Western world. The study, which surveys views on the social significance of religion and values, was carried out in Germany and 12 other countries, and included the views of 14,000 people. Among the Germans, 85 percent agreed or tended to agree that one should be open towards all religions. They saw most religions as an enrichment, especially Christianity, also Judaism and Buddhism, but a majority of 51 percent saw Islam as a threat.
Detlef Pollack, the sociologist who co-authored the study, says that this negative perception could be due to the lack of personal contact between Christians and Muslims. More people in eastern Germany see Islam as threatening than in the West, even though the east is home to only two percent of all the country's Muslims. But Pollack also notes that people have even less contact with Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, all of which are seen more positively than Islam, and he argues that the media have a lot to do with that: "The picture the media give of Buddhism or Hinduism is that of peace-loving religions," Pollack told Deutsche Welle. "Their picture of Islam is more about fanaticism and aggression."
The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, agrees. "In the media we often see a very distorted picture of Islam," he says. Extremist groups are often shown, and frequently no distinction is made between religion and extremism, as when, after the Boston Marathon attacks, the bombers were said to be part of an "Islamic network." But Mazyek also sees reason for self-criticism: "The Muslims have to roll up their sleeves, get more involved in society and make it clear that they are committed to this country." Politicians and churches have been trying to encourage dialogue between the various religions for years now. The Muslim communities have held an "Open Mosque Day" every October 3 since 1997, while Jewish communities also regularly invite non-Jews into their synagogues. But it's not just in Germany - in many western states, Islam is seen as a particular threat. That applies to 76 percent of Israelis, 60 percent of Spaniards, 50 percent of the Swiss and 42 percent of US citizens. In contrast, in India, only 30 percent see Islam as a threat, and in South Korea, it's just 16 percent.
All the same, there are differences among western European countries: France, Britain, and the Netherlands all see Islam in a more positive light than does Germany. Pollack argues that this has something to do with the educational level of the Muslims in each country. "In Germany we have very few highly educated people among immigrants," he says. "That influences people's attitudes, especially towards the Muslim immigrants." In other countries, educational opportunities are better, and there's a larger proportion of immigrants who are moving upwards socially. There are some optimistic findings in the Religion Monitor: a clear majority of Christians, Muslims, and those without religion all agree that democracy is a good way of governing the country - that's the view held by 80 percent of Muslims and those without religion, and by 90 percent of Christians. And a majority of all the groups asked is also in favor of the separation of religion and state.
© The Deutsche Welle.
NSU Aftermath: German Investigators Sharpen Focus on Far Right
For years, German federal law-enforcement officials hesitated to launch terrorism investigations against right-wing extremists. But the NSU debacle has prompted them to launch an unprecedented number of cases and to employ controversial means in an effort to avoid accusations of inaction.
29/4/2013- The operation was blanketed under the strictest secrecy. On Aug. 27, 2012, terrorism investigators in the German states of Bavaria and Saxony quietly fanned out to execute search warrants issued by the Federal Court of Justice. One of the targeted individuals visited by state authorities that Monday was extremely well known to experts involved in combating right-wing extremists: Martin Wiese, 37, one of the most notorious neo-Nazis in Germany. Wiese, the former leader of a far-right militant Kameradschaft group, had been arrested in 2003 on suspicion of involvement in plans to detonate a bomb during the groundbreaking ceremony for a Jewish center in Munich. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for being the ringleader of a terrorist group. Wiese once again came to the attention of the authorities due to information provided by a fellow far-right extremist, Mario K. (editor's note: German privacy laws prevent his surname from being published). K. had told them about obscure Nazi circles, old networks and new militants, incriminating both Wiese and himself in the process. The Federal Prosecutor's Office then took charge of the investigation and issued search warrants. Although the searches didn't turn up weapons or attack plans, investigators did stumble upon encoded communications.
Before the neo-Nazi terrorist cell known as the National Socialist Underground (NSU) was uncovered in November 2011, these clues probably wouldn't have prompted Germany's highest investigative body to take such actions. But much has changed since Germany was shocked by the revelation of the NSU's series of racist murders. Believing that there are grounds for suspicion that a "terrorist association" was founded in Bavaria, federal prosecutors are investigating a number of individuals, including Wiese, who denies the allegations against him. His case is one of 14 investigations that Federal Prosecutor General Harald Range is conducting against suspected neo-Nazi terrorists and their accomplices. This number was released in response to an official request for government information filed by the opposition Left Party. The number sounds dramatic because it is higher than the total of all other investigations into right-wing terror conducted over the last decade. And it raises a number of questions: Must Germany brace itself for more attacks and possibly even murders committed by neo-Nazis? Are imitators of the NSU trio already hatching new plans for strikes?
A 'Paradigm Change'
In fact, this high figure does have something to do with a change in thinking on the part of authorities. They are now taking a closer at the extreme right - and, when in doubt, they now prefer to investigate sooner rather than later. "We have sharpened our focus on indications that could point to the emergence of right-wing terrorist structures," says Hans-Georg Maassen, the president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany's domestic intelligence agency. Manfred Murch, the head of the organization's state branch in the northern city-state of Hamburg, speaks of a "paradigm change." While authorities used to primarily investigate right-wing extremism in the wake of concrete crimes, Murch says that investigators are now also looking into "networks and clandestine associations in the neo-Nazi scene" and that the tipping point for this change was the NSU affair. Clemens Binninger, a domestic policy expert with the parliamentary group of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), concurs, saying that the many new investigations are most likely owed to "the acknowledgement of having done too little in the past."
A glance at the statistics reveals the continued importance of getting to the bottom of the NSU's crimes, including the murders of 10 people -- eight men of Turkish descent, one Greek and one German policewoman - as well as other attacks and a series of unsolved robberies. Of the 14 new investigations, 10 share ties with the broader NSU case. They are directed at alleged supporters of the group, but do not involve the five individuals who will be tried beginning on May 6 in the Munich Higher Regional Court for alleged involvement in the crimes of the NSU terror cell. In addition, there is the investigation against Wiese, for which the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is currently evaluating the evidence. Yet another series of investigations revolves around Meinolf Schönborn, the former head of the "Nationalist Front," banned in 1992 because of its plans to establish paramilitary units. Schönborn has been among the best-known German neo-Nazis since the 1980s. He and three accomplices are now suspected of having built up a new far-right extremist group called "Neue Ordnung" ("New Order"), though he has contested the allegations to SPIEGEL.
Investigators got on Schönborn's trail in the summer of 2012 after finding a dead neo-Nazi in a guesthouse in Herzberg, a village in the eastern state of Brandenburg roughly 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Berlin (#843430). On the property of the building, which had been leased by Schönborn's girlfriend, investigators found an arsenal of weapons in addition to a mass of partially encrypted computer data that they are still analyzing. In northern Germany, federal prosecutors are also investigating a handful of neo-Nazis suspected of having planned to obtain weapons to be used in attacks. But it remains unclear how much progress their most recent attempts had made.
Employing 'Fundamentally Questionable Means'
The last case involves a measure that is both atypical and daring in legal terms. The investigations do not focus on particular individuals or a certain grouping, such as the NSU. Instead, federal prosecutors are compiling their own set of files on any clues related to militant right-wing activities, a sort of grab bag to be filled with information about the neo-Nazi scene. Investigators assume that they will at some point be able to fill it with facts pointing toward right-wing terrorist crimes. This new strategy comes as another result of the NSU debacle, in which authorities made a series of embarrassing blunders and failed to see any terrorism. Indeed, it wasn't until an NSU video claiming responsibility for one of the killings was found in November 2011 that officials went from believing the crimes were committed by a Turkish criminal gang to a neo-Nazi terrorist organization, thereby allowing federal authorities to step in.
Still, just how meaningful such clues will be for the new cases remains an open question. Indeed, there are many indications that law-enforcement officials are planning to put the controversial Section 129a of the German Penal Code into use in their battle against right-wing extremism, much like they did for decades while fighting the left-wing extremism of groups such as the Red Army Faction (RAF). The section makes it a punishable offense to be a member of a domestic terrorist organization. But investigators would most likely use it less to gather indictments and more as leverage to illuminate the right-wing extremist scene. Ulla Jelpke, the domestic policy spokeswomen for the Left Party's parliamentary faction, senses that an effort to exert political influence on the judiciary lies behind this new strategy. "The federal government denied the mere existence of neo-fascist terrorists for much too long and labeled them as confused individual perpetrators," she says. "After the uncovering of the NSU, it is now seeing to it that the terrorism stick of Section 129a is being eagerly brandished against the right." Nevertheless, she adds, this approach remains questionable.
Wolfgang Kaleck, general secretary of the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, agrees. "The fact that the section is being used against the far right doesn't make it any prettier," says the criminal law expert. It has often been the case, he adds, that Germany's highest court has ruled that state authorities have used "fundamentally questionable means" in cases involving Section 129a. Indeed, the state can avail itself of an entire arsenal of surveillance means when investigating individuals suspected of forming a terrorist association. Investigators are allowed to wiretap the telephones of suspects, sometimes for years, as well as store huge amounts of computer data. They can place tracking devices on cars and bugs in homes, install cameras on house doors, analyze DNA and test odor samples. The section provides an expedited method of placing indicted individuals in pre-trial detention, and it also allows for prison sentences of up to 10 years.
Reintroducing Restricted Practices
But despite the massive expenses, the results have ultimately been paltry: Sooner or later, almost all cases involving Section 129a have petered out. This results from a groundbreaking decision handed down by the Federal Court of Justice in the fall of 2007 that curbed the use of Section 129. The court reminded investigators that the law on the formation of a terrorist organization states that the stipulated offenses must be "intended to seriously intimidate the population" and that terrorism is defined as when a group uses violence "to significantly impair or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a state or an international organization." In the wake of this decision, Section 129a was limited to playing a niche role. Between 2008 and 2011, federal prosecutors only launched five related investigations -- three against left-wing extremists and two against right-wing ones. But then the NSU case exploded in November 2011. And, since then, everything is different again.
© The Spiegel
German court causes fresh uproar over access to neo-Nazi trial
29/4/2013- A Munich court caused fresh uproar on Monday when a lottery it used to assign press seats to the trial of a suspected neo-Nazi accused of a series of racist murders left major German dailies and international news agencies without a place in court. The trial is one of Germany's most anticipated in decades and the murders by the far-right cell, which went undetected for more than a decade, have exposed deep intelligence lapses and a failure to recognise the threat of neo-Nazis. The court's decisions over how to allow the media to cover the case have been criticised from the outset by victims' lawyers, politicians and rights groups as a fiasco, and Monday's lottery brought yet more criticism and legal threats. The major German dailies Die Welt and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which are without a place, said they would consider legal action. Newspaper Taz said it was looking at a legal appeal for the court proceedings to be transmitted by video.
Monday's lottery, which saw 324 applications for the seats drawn from 10 different lots, came after the court's first allocation in March on a first-come first-served basis saw no Turkish journalists granted a guaranteed seat, even though eight of the victims were ethnic Turks. This prompted a successful complaint by Turkish newspaper Sabah to Germany's Constitutional Court, which ruled the Munich court had to make seats available to Turkish and Greek media. The announcement on Monday of the 50 media representatives, which include women's lifestyle magazine Brigitte, advertising journal Hallo Muenchen and a series of local newspapers and radio stations provoked jeers and howls of disbelief. The court room is small and no video transmission of proceedings is allowed.
International news agencies Reuters, the Associated Press and Agence France Presse are also without guaranteed access. "The allocation of media places stands in stark contrast to the immense national and international significance of this trial," the German Journalists' Association said in a statement. "The Munich court is out of its depth in managing the press relations of this trial." Judges in Munich had already delayed the trial by more than a fortnight to set up the lottery system. A previously unknown neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), carried out the murders of the eight Turks, a Greek and a policewoman over a period from 2000 to 2007. The focus of the trial will be a 38-year-old woman, Beate Zschaepe, accused of being an NSU founder member and of involvement in the murders. Four suspected male accomplices are also on trial.
Labour leader ignores party congress on making illegal stay a criminal offence vote(Netherlands)
29/4/2013- Labour leader Diederik Samsom will not implement a vote condemning government moves to make living in the Netherlands without proper papers a criminal offence, he told the party’s conference in Leeuwarden. In his speech, Samsom said he could not listen to party members, who earlier passed a motion condemning the draft legislation. If he did, it could have an impact on other agreements made with the VVD to soften strategy on dealing with foreigners, he said. The PvdA and VVD form the current government.
But more than that, Samsom said, he had given his word to the VVD on the new law. ‘I cannot meet your wishes and break my promise,’ he said. ‘But I will fight day after day for what we all want – a tough but fair policy towards foreigners, focused on treating vulnerable people in a human fashion.’ Labour party members earlier on Saturday voted by a large majority in favour of a motion condemning the government’s plans to make being an illegal immigrant a criminal offence, opening up a potential conflict with the party’s leadership. The motion’s backer, Sander Terphuis, was given a standing ovation for his speech. The motion also called on party leader Diederik Samsom and Labour MPs to do all they can to ensure the bill does not become law.
Terphuis fled to the Netherlands from Iran in the 1990s and spent several months living at a secret address without papers. ‘You do not compromise when it comes to people,’ said Terphuis, who changed his name when he took Dutch nationality. RTL political commentator Roel Schreinemachers said the vote is ‘painful’ for the party leadership. Labour and the right-wing VVD agreed to make illegal immigration a crime in their coalition agreement last year. A number of senior party figures, including former aid minister Jan Pronk, Hedy d'Ancona and Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen, are among those who have signed a petition calling on Samsom to break open the coalition agreement and scrap this section.
© The Dutch News
Geert Wilders looks to alliance with Front National, other EU parties (Netherlands)
29/4/2013- Anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders is looking to form an alliance with other similarly-minded parties, including France's Front National, to fight next year's European elections, the Volkskrant reports on Saturday. Wilders, who leads the PVV in parliament, recently met Front National leader Marine Le Pen for lunch to discuss his ideas for a pan-European approach. 'We think the same about 90% of things, perhaps more,' Wilders said in the Volkskrant interview. 'We also have a lot of points of agreement in terms of immigration.'
Wilders said the meeting with Le Pen is the first of 'many' he plans to have with other European party leaders in an effort of forge an alliance. 'Next year we can make an enormous advance,' he told the Volkskrant. 'Parties which are against what we call the elite are growing in popularity. These are parties which support the national interest, the national identity.' Wilders declined to say which other parties he is in talks with and would not comment on whether he would visit new German party Alternative fur Deutschland. 'Some don't want it to be public,' Wilders said. He said he did plan to hold talks with the Flemish nationalists Vlaams Belang 'but they do not know this yet'.
A political revolution is under way 'from England to Germany, from France to the Netherlands and Italy', Wilders told the paper. 'We are going to judge people by what they are, without fear for the electoral consquences,' Wilders said. 'I have more in common with those parties abroad than with the entire [Dutch] parliament. The PVV took four of the 25 Dutch seats in the European parliament at the last elections in 2009 with 17% of the vote. As well as wanting a freeze on non-western immigration, the party says the European parliament should be abolished and wants the Netherlands to leave the euro.
© The Dutch News
Counter-intelligence: Czech far right busy with internal feuds
2/5/2013- Far-right extremists were mainly involved in internal disputes, which surfaced at the election congress of the Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS), the Czech counter-intelligence service (BIS) said in its report on the extremist scene in the first three months of the year. The extremists also increasingly join the activities of football hooligans, the report said. On the other hand, far left proponents mainly staged concerts and demonstrations, it added. No activities threatening democracy appeared in the Czech Republic, the report said. On the face of it, the January DSSS election congress seem edto be without any problems, but there were disputes inside the party, it added. "They led to the departure of party deputy chairman Petr Kotab and his supporters from the DSSS," it added. The post of party leader was kept by Tomas Vandas.
The DSSS was established by former leaders of the Workers' Party (DS) after it was dissolved as extremist, racist, chauvinist, xenophobic and pro-Nazi in February 2010. The far right staged two rallies in Ostrava, north Moravia, in mid-February. At one of them, roughly 150 Czech and German extremists met at the rally called Light for Dresden, devoted to the victims of the 1945 Allied bombing of the German town. The young part of the DSSS, called the Workers' Youth, focused on the issues in the Balkans. Some 90 of its followers voiced disagreement with the secession of Kosovo from Serbia. There were no riots during both protest actions. The BIS recorded a continued shift of far-right extremists to the radical football fans, the hooligans. "As there very frequent relations between hooligans and neo-Nazis, the development has been quite natural," the report said.
The BIS goes on to mention extremists' concerts in Usti nad Labem, North Bohemia, Plzen, West Bohemia, and Prague. All of them were attended by some 150 people each. The BIS also recorded anarchists at the rallies staged by other groupings. The same goes for the followers of the Communist Youth Association. "Its members attended remembrance rallies for the anniversary of Communist journalist Julius Fucik, executed by the Nazis in 1943, and for the 1948 Communist coup in Prague," the report said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor
200 neo-Nazis march on Czech town, police confiscate pepper spray, truncheons
1/5/2013- Organizers from the ultra-right Workers’ Youth (Dìlnická mládež – DM) association, which is linked to the ultra-right Workers’ Social Justice Party (Dìlnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) experienced disappointment over their assembly today in the Czech town of Pøerov. Instead of the anticipated 700 radicals, only about 200 DSSS promoters showed up, according to the Romea.cz correspondent at the scene. According to those who convened the gathering, this was to be the main 1 May assembly for their movement this year. Police are claiming there were eventually a total of 450 right-wing extremists in attendance, while the Czech Press Agency reports there were 300. The ultra-right radicals also invited colleagues from Slovakia to the event. Several hundred police officers were on hand, a police helicopter conducted aerial surveillance, and mounted officers were also in reserve. Policie confiscated pepper spray and truncheons from some of the demonstrators. A brawl broke out later at the train station that was unrelated to the ultra-right event.
DSSS representatives led by their chair, Tomáš Vandas, met on the central TGM Square just after 14:00 today. Vandas gave the same speech he has been giving, with minor modifications, at all of the party’s rallies since 2008. "Nothing new, it’s still the same speech,” the Romea.cz correspondent reported from the scene just after 14:30. After Vandas, the head of the Slovak Solidarity group (Slovenská pospolitost) and DSSS vice-chair Jiøí Štìpánek also spoke. The Pøerov daily has reported that the registrar at the Pøerov town hall, Jiøí Bakalík, said all of the political speeches were standard. In his view, no manifestations of extremism were on display during the gathering. When the speeches were done, the demonstrators gathered in Kratochvílova Street and set out on a roughly two-kilometer “exercise march” through the town. The Romea.cz correspondent reports they were carrying banners at the head of the parade reading “Out of the Crisis = Out of the EU” (Pryè z krize = Pryè z EU). He did not notice any conflicts taking place during the march.
The demonstrators did not target Romani localities with this particular event as they normally do. From TGM Square they walked down Kratochvílova Street, Komenského, Havlíèkova and Èechova streets, across Šíøava Street to Žerotínovo Square and then along Wilsonova Street back to TGM Square. "The route does not pass through any socially excluded localities and is not advertised as a march against Romani people,” police coordinator Michaela Sedláèková announced prior to the start of the demonstration. Nevertheless, Romani residents displayed a significant degree of nervousness in their parts of town, leaving their homes and coming into the streets to see what might happen. Shortly after 16:00, the DM and DSSS march made it back to TGM Square and the event was officially over. The riot police then relocated to the train station, as many local Romani people live nearby.
The sole incident of the day took place there. “Two local citizens aged 39 and 22 attacked a man who had not been participating in the march. The older man punched him, he fell to the ground, and the younger man kicked him. The man was taken to the hospital and both assailants were detained,” said Sedláèková. Police later clarified that the conflict had nothing to do with the ultra-right march and had been the settling of a personal dispute between the assailants and the victim. The Pøerov daily reported that the two assailants were Romani and the victim was allegedly a member of the Antifa movement. The incident sparked tension in the local Romani locality, with roughly 50 Romani people coming out of their houses to see what was happening, but in the end everyone calmed down and dispersed. Police will remain to monitor the situation into the night.
I will not sell a car to a Roma (Czech Rep., opinion)
By Mária Hušová
29/4/2013- This is an ad I saw two weeks ago on some Czech website selling used cars. My boyfriend was surfing the web in order to find a second-hand transit van at a convenient price. He stumbled upon one sold for a very low price which made the deal seem a bit suspicious. However, what really got our attention was the content of the ad, which read that the car is in a quite good state, its price is negotiable and, last but not least, that the owner “ will not sell it to a Roma.” Needless to say, I was very amused. This sentence proves that racism is still flowing in the blood of non-Roma. They would prefer not to sell the car or let it rust in their yard rather than seeing a Roma drive it. Actually, this is not about racism anymore, but about the paranoia of a man who would give up a profit just to avoid coming into contact with a Roma. If businessmen dependent on profit discriminated in the same way, what would their businesses come to?
I have worked for a fairly big Czech company and one workshop that I took part in was devoted to this theme. I was surprised about that, but apparently they must have had employees who caused losses to the company in the past. The speaker highlighted that everyone entering the shop, including Roma, is a potential customer requiring our attention. In fact, Roma would buy the most expensive toys in our shop, although I could tell they were not rich. Out of love for their children, they would buy them a toy that would cost around 10 000 CZK, even if this was a once-in-a-lifetime expense. For some, Roma are non-acceptable customers, but for others they are acceptable because of the money they spend. However, Roma employees are rarely suitable because their places can easily be filled by non-Roma. I have to mention that the same company fired me because of my nationality. Although this was never said out loud, some legal grounds are always easy to find.
When I started working for this company, the son of my employer was very keen on me. He dedicated so much of his time to explaining and training me. He must have thought that I had Spanish roots, because after a month his friendship vanished completely and he was hardly able to greet me at all. He must have understood that I was Roma. I was forced to leave when my contract expired. They did not give me any reason why the contract was not extended and my place was taken by a non-Roma in a flash.
This is how life goes for many Roma. Although sometimes we don’t take racists seriously, they can ruin our lives, or at least try to do so. If they can, they take the last penny out of our pockets or they scorn us. This is a sad reality which starts with “I will not sell to a Roma” and ends with murderers of Roma being dubbed “shooters,” and getting very light punishment, if any at all. But I will tell you more about that next time.
© Roma Transitions
US writer: Czechs should admit their part in Roma Holocaust
28/4/2013- Czech politicians are unwilling to admit the Czech involvement in the liquidation of Roma in the Nazi-operated internment camp Lety in southern Bohemia and elsewhere, U.S. writer and activist Paul Polansky said in a speech he delivered in Prague Sunday. "The Romany Holocaust did not end in 1945, it has been going on until now in Eastern Europe and Italy," Polansky said. He said the guards of the Lety concentration camp were Czech police and customs officers. In 1998, Polansky's book Black Silence based on the memories of several dozen Romanies who survived the Nazi occupation on Czech territory was published. In his book the controversial historian says only eight people died of typhus fever in the Lety camp, although there were thousands of victims. In another book he wrote that the parents of current Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg used the inmates of the Lety camp as cheap workforce when their forests were devastated by a tempest in 1939. The Foreign Ministry said previously that the book included a number of errors and false information.
Polansky, who was the first to speak of the Holocaust of Czech Romanies in the 1990s, talked of his work for Romanies in Kosovo where he has been operating for 14 years during his Prague lecture, organised by the Antifa group. Over 1300 Romanies were interned in Lety during the German Nazi occupation, 327 of whom perished in the camp and over 500 were sent to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). According to estimates, the Nazi regime exterminated some 90 percent of Czech Romanies. In 2010, a memorial to the victims was built in Lety. A pig farm is located on the site of the former camp. The Czech government repeatedly said it had not enough money to buy the farm and remove it.
© The Prague Daily Monitor
Gov't to back commemoration of Roma Holocaust (Czech Rep)
27/4/2013- The Czech government will probably support the plan to commemorate March 7 as the day to remember the victims of Romany persecution during World War Two. March 7 was proposed by a group of lower house members as the date of the first deportation of Romanies from Bohemia and Moravia to the Oswiecim (Auschwitz) concentration camp in 1943. The remembrance of the Romany Holocaust may considerable contribute to the suppression of the continuing animosity of the majority society towards the Romany community, the authors of the draft amendment to the law on public holidays. The lower house of parliament recently agreed on the marking of two new significant days, the Jan Palach Day and the Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius) Day.
Czech student Palach set himself on fire on January 16, 1969 in protest against the creeping lethargy in society after the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia that crushed the Prague Spring communist reform movement a few months before. He succumbed to the burns sustained three days later. Comenius was a 17th century scholar of Czech origin. He is considered the father of modern education. The proposal is yet to be discussed by the upper house. The Czech calendar now includes nine significant or memory days. However, the government says in its preliminary view that will be discussed at the lower house session on Thursday that the Holocaust Memorial Day marked on January 27 includes also the persecution of Romanies. If the proposed day specially remembering the Romany Holocaust is passed, there will be the question whether the victims of Nazis from other ethnic or social groups should not be remembered, too.
© The Prague Daily Monitor
Head of Hungary’s Raoul Wallenberg Association injured in anti-Semitic attack in Budapest(Hungary)
The head of the Raoul Wallenberg Association was assaulted at a football match on Sunday.
29/4/2013- Ferenc Orosz told MTI at a conference on hate speech on Monday that first he was verbally assaulted and then his nose was broken after a match at Budapest’s Puskas stadium which he attended with his family. Orosz said supporters near him were chanting for Mussolini and “sieg heil”. When he asked them to stop he was threatened and called a “Jewish communist”. At the end of the match, as he was leaving the stadium, two men blocked his way. One said “it is sieg heil, even so” the other one hit Orosz, who was hospitalised with a broken nose. Police have pressed charges against the assailant.
Orosz said he discharged himself from the hospital on Monday in order to speak at a conference on hate speech organised by the ombudsman. He told MTI he thought what had happened to him constituted a hate crime and that organisers or police should have removed the Nazi chanters from the arena. Peter Feldmajer, head of the federation of Hungarian Jewish communities Mazsihisz, said that the incident was “a manifestation of intolerance in society”. Feldmajer told MTI that he found it “especially serious” that the leader of “an organisation with such an undoubtedly positive message” should be assaulted. He said he trusted the attackers would soon be detained.
© Politics Hungary
Row over empty Leeds pub sparks far right rally (UK)
2/5/2013- Far right demonstrators are planning a protest at a former Leeds pub earmarked for conversion into an Muslim-run community centre. Saturday’s rally by the English Defence League (EDL) outside the old Lingfield pub in Alwoodley comes just four days after six men pleaded guilty to a failed plot to blow up a similar demonstration in Dewsbury last year. A counter demonstration by Unite Against Fascism is also planned. Mohammed Arif, of UK Islamic Mission (UKIM), which is behind the community centre proposal, said: “It’s really unfortunate that the EDL are bringing people in from outside the locality to create an issue when we have been very transparent about what we are doing, both in the planning process and during consultation meetings. “However, we are not going to get involved.”
UKIM wants to create a centre with a public gym, IT suite, library, training facilities. and a prayer room for up to 70 worshippers. The plan has been at the centre of a storm of controversy, with more than 400 letters of objection over traffic congestion and noise concerns. The night before a planning meeting to discuss the application in February, the words ‘no mosque’ were daubed on the building. Councillors approved the plan despite the protests. Supt Martin Snowden, from North East Leeds Police, said: “We have a duty to protect the right to peaceful protest, and plans are in place so those demonstrating are allowed to do so while causing minimum disruption to local residents and businesses. “Forming part of our plans there will be an increased police presence in the Moortown area on Saturday to reassure local people and ensure that any offences are dealt with in a positive manner.”
© The Yorkhire Evening Post
Six men plead guilty to plotting to bomb EDL demo (UK)
30/4/2013- A few minutes ago six men from Birmingham pleaded guilty to planning to bomb an EDL demo in Dewsbury last June. Armed with a bomb, two shotguns, knives and a machete, they went to attack the EDL demo in "a direct retaliation of [the EDL's] insulting of the Prophet Muhammad".
A Plague on Both Their Houses
While the bomb was rudimentary, the men travelled up to Dewsbury to kill and main. They even wrote letters to the Queen and David Cameron explaining their actions. "We love death more than your life ... it is of the greatest honour for us to do what we did." They only failed in their bid because they arrived in Dewsbury after the EDL demonstration had finished. They were only caught because one of their cars was uninsured. HOPE not hate totally condemns these actions. This murderous attempt to silence their opponents was both totally and completely unacceptable and counter-productive. Amongst the senseless victims, it would have been their fellow Muslims who would have suffered most. Dewsbury is a very multi-ethnic town and a bomb packed with nails could just as likely injured local Muslims as it did the EDL supporters they were targeting. And what about the repercussions if they had carried out the attack? Muslim communities across the country could well have been targeted for revenge attacks.
But perhaps this is what these men wanted. They were after all hardline Islamist extremists with links to other men recently convicted of terrorism and, as we have seen so often with other extremists of all persuasions, acts of extreme violence to spark further violence is part of their raison d'être. We saw it with David Copeland, the London nail bomber. He planted three bombs in 1999 in the hope of sparking a race war and eventually the election of a BNP Government. We saw it with Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, in the hope of awakening Western Europeans to the threat of Islam before it was too late. But this case also highlights the clear symbiotic relationship between supposedly opposing extremisms. "With every action there is a reaction", the six men wrote in their confession letter. They were reacting directly to the actions of the EDL.
This is not the first time a potentially violent or inflammatory action has been caused by the actions of an opposing extremism. In 2010 the burning of poppies by Muslims Against Crusades on the streets of London later led to a former soldier in Carlisle burning a copy of the Koran. The publicity about his actions was picked up by Al Qaeda supporters in Pakistan and, according to investigators, Carlisle was discussed as a potential target for attack. A rabidly anti-Muslim speech by the Sikh EDL supporter Guramit Singh, in Peterborough, led directly to Al-Muhajiroun supporters in Luton producing a leaflet calling for the conversion of Sikh girls ahead of an EDL demo in the town.
Last Autumn we saw the violent reaction around the world to the disgusting anti-Muslim film, the Innocence of Muslims, produced by hardline Islamophobes. While many Muslims would have felt insulted by the film, Islamist extremist groups lost no time in using it to whip up anti-Western, anti-Christian and antisemitic hatred to justify their own world view. And let us not forget that the EDL was itself set up as a result of a tiny Al-Muhajiroun protest against a British Army homecoming parade in 2009. Jihadist and anti-Jihadist extremists are locked in a cycle of tit for tat threats and violence. Whilst claiming to stand diametrically opposed to the Other, they need and use the actions of the Other to justify their own existence.
In 2010 a senior officer with the West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit told the BBC that the actions of the EDL was pushing young Muslims into the hands of Al Qaeda supporting groups. So much for the EDL acting as a barrier to Islamist extremism. More like recruiting sergeants! We need to break this cycle of violence and publicly denounce both the violent Islamists and the Muslim haters of the EDL. We need to unite all communities against this extremism and not be selective in our targets. The EDL will today present itself as the innocent victims of Islamist terrorists. But this is wrong as they are part of the problem. We must unequivocally denounce these six men for their murderous intent and the cycle of violence their actions, if successful, would have triggered. But we must also look at the wider symbiotic relationship between extremism and to that end, we must clearly state: A Plague on Both Their Houses.
© HOPE not Hate
Physical excercise prevents you becoming gay, claims UK councillor candidate
John Sullivan, a UKIP party candidate, up for election next week, has made a series of anti-gay Facebook comments, including congratulating Russia for banning gay Pride, and comparing gays to termites
27/4/2013- John Sullivan, a UK councillor candidate congratulated Russia on banning gay Pride marches and claimed regular exercise in schools can prevent homosexuality. In a series of Facebook posts, Sullivan, who is a member of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) likened gay activists to termites and stated that feminism is evil and being gay is even worse. Sullivan is standing for local elections on 2 May, to win a seat as a councillor for the Forest of Dean area in Gloucestershire’s County Council, in western England, UK. In a series of posts on the far right anti-gay Traditional Britain Group Facebook group Sullivan expressed anti-gay views, revealed Colin Cortbus, an anti-extremist campaigner and a Gay Star News reader. In one post Sullivan suggested regular physical exercise prevents children from becoming gay. He recommended Victorian style regular physical exercise be reinstated in schools as it apparently causes releases of tension which prevents homosexuality.
Gay Star News readers thought Sullivan’s ideas were hilariously bad: ‘Has he never seen a gaggle of gym-bunnies?’, read one comment. One reader stated: ‘Regular exercise made me even gayer!!’ ‘Not in my gym...’, said another. Sullivan also congratulated Russia for banning gay Pride and saying: 'Well done the Russians'. Reacting to Sullivan’s recommendations, Nikolay Alexeyev, co-founder of Moscow Pride and Gay Russia, told GSN: ‘Unfortunately Sullivan was born in the wrong country (and century). ‘I’d advise him to ask Putin for a Russian citizenship, he would make an excellent member of United Russia and his views on promoting hatred would be far better received. ‘Putin would very likely personally take a liking to him and congratulate him on his views.’ Sullivan also went on to call gay marriage supporters 'termites' mockingly reacting to an article on Conservative party members supporting marriage equality.
His antagonism doesn’t stop there, he also claimed feminism is evil, suggesting that homosexuality is even worse (saying 'it doesn't go there'). When it comes to education, Sullivan has some novel suggestions: the best way to rear children is to handle them in a similar way to dogs, who learn that with obedience comes trust. Sullivan recommended this method (which he said he tried and tested on his own children) be adopted by UK educational establishments. Gay Star News contacted UKIP's Forest of Dean and West Gloucestershire Branch for comments but has received none to the date of the article's publication. UKIP has recently come under fire for some of its members expressing anti-gay views. Nigel Farage, UKIP's leader, called upon Conservative party members to defect to his party over the government's pro gay marriage stance. While, Olly Neville, the former chairman of UKIP’s Young Independent wing, was recently fired from his position for backing marriage equality. Winston McKenzie, a UKIP unsuccessful MP candidate previously said gay adoption is like throwing kids to the 'dogs'. Former UKIP chair, Dr Julia Gasper, was forced to resign when said gays are more likely to abuse children, branding LGBT rights activists as a ‘lunatics’ and claimed some gays prefer sex with animals. Cortbus, who exposed Gasper and led to her eventual resignation, told GSN: ‘party-members and candidates like Sullivan evidence the dangers of UKIP's politics’.
© Gay Star News
Far right stumbles again in Austrian state election
28/4/2013- Austria's far-right Freedom Party lost ground on Sunday at a third consecutive state election, further clouding its prospects for joining a national coalition after parliamentary elections due by September. Heinz-Christian Strache's Freedom Party - which had stumbled badly in two other state votes this year, including in its heartland of Carinthia - fell below 10 percent in the western province of Tyrol, provisional results showed. In more good news for the centrist coalition in Vienna, Eurosceptic billionaire Frank Stronach's new party failed to clear the minimum vote hurdle, halting its momentum from the two previous state elections at which it won 10 percent. Team Stronach national parliamentary leader Robert Lugar blamed party infighting for the poor showing in Tyrol, saying: "We will do better in the national elections."
Partners in the federal coalition - the conservative People's Party and center-left Social Democrats - slipped to their worst post-war results in the state but still finished first and second in a fragmented field of 11 parties. The People's Party fell below 40 percent but still took first place in Tyrol where it has long dominated, lending some support to national leader and Deputy Chancellor Michael Spindelegger. Chancellor Werner Faymann's Social Democrats fell below 14 percent for second place. National polls show the coalition parties comfortably ahead, with the Social Democrats on around 27 percent and the People's Party on 25 percent. Freedom stands at 19 percent, while Team Stronach gets 10 percent and the Greens 13 percent. State elections in Salzburg, which has been shaken by a financial scandal, take place next Sunday in the last regional test before the national parliamentary vote.
When the wolves feed the lambs (Greece, opinion)
By Nikos Konstandaras
2/5/2013- The clash between the mayor of Athens and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party on Thursday is a positive development. At last someone stood up to the black-shirted brigades and showed the rest of us where the battle lines are. The reactions of our political parties underlined where each stands on the issue. So, after yesterday’s events at Syntagma Square (and later at City Hall’s grocery charity), we all have a clearer picture of our political scene. In taking an unequivocal stand against Golden Dawn’s effort to hand out Easter foodstuffs “only for Greeks,” by imposing the law, by acting as mayor of all Athenians, Giorgos Kaminis provoked Golden Dawn cadres into revealing the full extent of their hypocrisy: The zealots of law and order showed once again that their words are just words, that their gods are lawlessness and violence.
This time, though, they were up against a determined and powerful institution – the mayor’s office and the police – and not some poor loner in an alley. And so, the fury, the threats, the violent outbursts did not lead to terror’s triumph but to widespread condemnation, a police inquiry and the very public exhibition of a shameless criminal mentality. It may turn out that Kaminis made a mistake in drawing a red line by prohibiting Golden Dawn’s exhibition of racist largesse, that this will embellish the image of a heroic, nationalistic party that fights the “system” and “the mayor of illegal immigrants and globalization” (as it calls Kaminis in what it believes is the ultimate insult). In fact, Golden Dawn was trying to exploit the institution of Easter for a display of propaganda in the capital’s center (despite the fact that its core members despise Christianity).
But this also allowed us to remember that – far from the media’s attention – City Hall has stood by the needy all through the crisis, handing out 9,000 meals a day and taking care of the homeless. The Church, charitable foundations, state and private bodies, and many volunteers have also helped form a bulwark of civilization and humanity against the chaos and misery caused by the crisis. Golden Dawn’s occasional forays into racist “philanthropy” are nothing but wolves handing out hay to sheep.
It is sad that while the mayor was taking a stand in support of the law, human rights and democracy, with the governing parties at his side, the leftist main opposition party, SYRIZA, rushed to show once again that in its knee-jerk protestations it does not hesitate to undermine even those whom it should support. Calling Kaminis’s actions “sporadic publicity-seeking that cannot change things,” SYRIZA flirted dangerously with giving joy to the neo-Nazis. The left’s cadres should know that society’s future is at stake. They should take a responsible stand now that the battle is joined, instead of indulging only in theories and petty politics.
Greek police use tear gas to break up "racist" food handout
2/5/2013- Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis was assaulted by members of the extreme far-right Golden Dawn party Thursday after he stopped its members from organizing a "Greeks only" food handout in the capital‘s main square. Greek riot police used tear gas to disperse Golden Dawn activists as they attempted to proceed with their plan ahead of the Orthodox Easter holidays. Kaminis had vowed to stop the "racist and xenophobic" charity and asked law enforcement officials to prevent Golden Dawn from holding what he described as a "hate-filled" event. Activists then decided to distribute the food from their party office in central Athens. Hours later, a lawmaker from the Golden Dawn party allegedly drew a gun at the municipal charity distribution centre in downtown Athens and tried to punch the mayor as the official was handing out Easter candles to children. The punch missed its target and hit a 12-year-old girl instead, according to Greek media reports. The girl suffered a bruised forehead in the attack. Television footage showed the mayor‘s security guards restraining the lawmaker - identified as Giorgos Germenis - and leading him out of the building. Golden Dawn had held a similar event last year, when it asked to see people‘s ID cards before giving them food to ensure that migrants were not among the recipients. Golden Dawn won 18 seats in the 300-seat parliament in elections last year and is the country‘s third most popular party. Its members have been repeatedly accused of carrying out racist attacks against members of the country‘s large immigrant population.
Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Fresh Bid to Donate Blood to Greeks Only Sparks Outrage
A Greek journalist has been attacked by Golden Dawn members at a hospital in Tripoli, Peloponnese, after he filmed the group holding a voluntary blood donation to Greeks only.
29/4/2013- The unnamed reporter said that neo-Nazi thugs intimated him to delete video footage recorded on his mobile phone, claiming that their faces should not be identified in the video, according to Greek reporter. The far-right party announced on Friday that they would be donating blood only to people who can prove to be Greeks, sparking a heated reaction by the union representing state hospital workers in the country. In a statement, the union appealed on staff to stop Golden Dawn members from turning blood donations to “celebration of national and racial purity” and slammed the neo-Nazi thugs for “fixation on such initiatives despite the outcry of society and professional bodies”.
A trade union affiliated to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) held a protest against Golden Dawn, with banners that read “Golden Dawn is the bosses’ sidekick and the system protects them”. In 2012, a drive by the far-right group to get Greeks to donate blood only to their fellow citizens caused a backlash by doctors, who deemed the initiative as racist and inhuman. Golden Dawn appealed to volunteers to give blood "only for Greeks who need our help." "This would be inhuman. If someone needs blood, he or she should have every right to get it no matter who they are," a health ministry official said.
Greek Neo-Nazi Party Targets Leading Jewish Group
Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has once again launched a vicious attack on a leading Jewish organization and has charged that the "Zionists" are in control of United States and Greek policy.
1/5/2013- In an article posted on its website, the party condemned the upcoming visit to Washington of Greek Prime Minister Samaras, who will be addressing the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum next month. The party also posted a cartoon that depicts Prime Minister Samaras sitting on the floor under a bloody AJC logo in front of a caricatured Jew in a chair, reminiscent of horrific, Nazi-inspired cartoons of the '30s and '40s in Europe. On the wall is a demonized President Obama, portrayed as a religious Jew. Elsewhere, the president is described in racist terms. "Golden Dawn does not even attempt to camouflage its ideology of hate," asserted Executive Director David Harris. "Indeed, Golden Dawn is crystal clear, and, nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, represents an insidious outlook that cannot be ignored today."
This is not the first time AJC has been attacked by Golden Dawn. Similar vitriolic messages were issued during AJC's last visit to Athens in January, when, as a gesture of solidarity, the organization partnered with the Greek-American community to support medical care for Greeks in need. "AJC enjoys long-standing and fruitful relations with Greece – with the government, civil society, the Orthodox Church, Greek American leaders, and, of course, the Jewish community in Greece," said Harris. "We are truly honored that Prime Minister Samaras, with whom we stay in close touch, will address our Global Forum. He will reach a large global audience eager to hear from him and show their support for Greece's bright and prosperous future – a future in which the Golden Dawn will, we hope, fade into the oblivion it so richly deserves."
Golden Dawn, which gained 18 parliament seats last year in the country’s national election, has become notorious for its blatant anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric and has been responsible for perpetrating attacks on Jews and foreigners.
© Arutz Sheva
Dendias: Greek society is not xenophobic at all
Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias tells CNN that Greeks are not xenophobic at all, «rather the opposite», before adding that illegal migrants are «a huge problem»
27/4/2013- “The Greek society is not xenophobic at all, rather the opposite”, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias told CNN International during an interview on Friday. During a two-day visit to New York, Dendias spoke to CNN about Greek strikes, social unrest and xenophobia. Asked about the rising numbers of racist attacks, Dendias responded that the ministry has “taken all necessary measures to protect any human being in Greece”, stressing that illegal migratory flows present “a huge problem”. The minister pointed to the fact that Greece receives 90% of all illegal immigrants in the EU, adding that “if you add that to the existing crisis in the economy, really it creates a very difficult situation for the Greek society.” Dendias’ statements come just days after 29 Bangladeshi workers were shot in the village of Manolada for demanding back pay. The incident attracted international attention, with the connection being made with the rise of racially motivated attacks in Greece.
Answering a question on how unemployment affects social unrest, Dendias said that youth unemployment is “close to 45% and maybe even more”, when in fact the unemployment rate among under 25s is almost 60%, according to the latest available data. Dendias expressed his hope that “there will be no more strikes”, saying that “there is light at the end of the tunnel and I think the Greek society has finally seen that light.” The minister sounded equally optimistic during a speech at New York City University, when he told an audience that the centre of Athens and other city centres have been changing for the better. "As part of a concerted campaign to enforce the law in the centres of Athens and other major cities since last August, hundreds of drug dealers, thieves, smugglers and traffickers have been arrested and brought to justice," he said. As part of his visit to New York, the public order minister also visited the FBI and NYPD offices, where he was briefed on matters of police training and combating crime. Dendias also met with the head of the bureau’s New York office, George Venizelos - of Greek origin, as the name suggests.
© Enet English