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Headlines 19 December, 2014

GERMANY, UK, FRANCE, SWEDEN News week 50

Headlines 12 December, 2014

UK & NORTHERN IRELAND NEWS Week 49

Headlines 5 December, 2014

Headlines 19 December, 2014

Ireland: 51% rise in reports of racism during 2014

217 incidents reported to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

18/12/2014- The number of racist incidents reported to the Immigrant Council of Ireland increased by 51% during 2014 according to preliminary figures published today (Thursday, 18th December, 2014). The Council received 217 reports since the start of the year, an increase from 144 during 2013. Verbal abuse remains the most common form of racism accounting for 38% of reports while the workplace emerged as the location where most incidents occur at 21%. The Immigrant Council has also expressed grave concern that more than one-in-ten incidents involve physical violence.

The breakdown of figures is:

Types of racism:(Note some incidents involved a number of forms of racism)
38% - verbal harassment (115 instances)
15% - discrimination (47 instances)
10% - physical violence (29 instances)
9% - written harassment (27 instances)
9% - social exclusion (28 instances)
6% - property damage (19 instances)
5% - racist graffiti (16 instances)
5% - threats of physical violence (16 instances)
3% - other (9 instances)

Location:
21% - at work (45 instances)
17% - in home and local communities (37 instances)
13% - while accessing government or community services (29 instances)
13% - while traveling on public transport (28 instances)
10% - on the street (21 instances)
8% - in an educational institution (18 instances)
8% - on the internet (18 instances)
6% - other (12 instances)
4% - in a place of leisure (9 instances)

Victim’s ethnic background:
36% - African (78 instances)
19% - Immigrants (42 instances)
13% - Eastern European (28 instances)
8% - Indian and sub continental (17 instances)
4.5% - Asian (9 instances)
4% - Muslim (8 instance)
3.5% - White European (8 instances)
3% - White Irish (7 instances)
2% - Irish African (4 instances)
2% - Roma (4 instance)
2% - Jewish (4 instances)
1% - South American (3 instances)
1% - Other (3 instance)
1% - South East Asian (2 instances)

Victim’s age:
76% - adults (192 instances) 23% - under 18s (58 instances) 1% - unspecified (3 instance)

Victim’s gender:
56% - male (141 instances) 44% - female (112 instances)

Classes of offences:
54% - incidents (118 instances) 28% - persistent harassment (60 instances) 18% - aggravated harassment (39 incidents)

Commenting on the preliminary figures, Denise Charlton, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland added:
“This is the second successive year that we have seen a substantial rise in incidents reported to stopracism@immigrantcouncil.ie. It is unacceptable that people are facing discrimi-nation and abuse in their place of work, while at home they must lie awake in bed at night fearing a brick through the window. It is again worth noting that 10% of the cases reported to us involve physical violence, with people being punched, kicked and assaulted. These figures will require further analysis and must form part of a national discussion on the issues involved. The Immigrant Council of Ireland is campaigning for Government to review the way incidents are recorded and for re-assurance to be given to victims that they can come forward confident that their complaints will be acted upon.

In 2015 we will be undertaking a number of initiatives. In collaboration with partners in public transport we will seek to extend an awareness campaign on buses, trams and trains in the Greater Dublin Area to other parts of the country. We will also focus on exploring opportunities to engage private transport operators in the bus and taxi sectors and we are delighted to work in partnership with the Equality Authority on this important piece of work. The year will also be marked by a new project on Islamophobia with the support of the Open Society Foundations. The fact that racism exists in Ireland has now been established beyond any doubt, it is time now to look at how the Government, Gardaí and all public bodies respond to incidents – and we look forward to being part of that process."
© The Immigrant Council of Ireland

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Netherlands: Anti-Islam Politician Wilders to be prosecuted for inciting hatred

Dutch far-right leader seen on TV leading his supporters in anti-Moroccan chanting

19/12/2014- Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders remains unrepentant after being told he is to be prosecuted for inciting hatred and discrimination towards Moroccans during the European elections campaign last March, describing the charges as “a travesty”. The prosecution stems from a campaign rally in a café in The Hague, broadcast live on television, at which Mr Wilders led his supporters in anti- Moroccan chanting, sparking a record 6,400 complaints to the police and a nationwide debate about the apparent demise of toleran-ce. Moderate Dutch looked on aghast as the leader of the anti-Islam, anti-EU Freedom Party asked the crowd if they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in their city, prompting the chant: “Fewer, fewer, fewer.” After that he leaned towards the microphone and smiled: “We can take care of that.”

In an interview broadcast later the same evening, Mr Wilders referred to “Moroccan scum”. It was a politically ill-judged performance widely credited with having dashed the Freedom Party’s hopes of a much-vaunted anti-austerity landslide in May. Instead, the party’s share of the vote fell from 17 per cent in 2009 to just 12.2 per cent and a lacklustre fourth place. The public prosecutor’s office announced the charges in a statement which said Mr Wilders – whose party is once again topping the polls after that brief period of disgrace – would face trial for “insulting a specific group based on race, and inciting discrimination and hatred”. Unusually, the prosecutor’s statement added the brief observation: “Politicians may go quite far in their comments under the right to free speech, but that same freedom is limited by the ban on discrimination.”

Mr Wilders – who just a week ago refused to apologise and quoted Martin Luther King jnr in defence of his right to freedom of expression – was once again unrepentant, saying he had simply spoken “the truth”. “I said what millions of people think and believe. The public prosecutors should be going after jihadists instead of me. The Freedom Party is the biggest party in the polls, and the political elite apparently don’t like it.” However, the head of the Moroccan National Council, Mohamed Rabbae, responded: “This shows that everyone is equal and that Mr Wilders is not above the law. We want to keep this country together, and that’s why it’s important to show that everyone is treated the same.”

It’ is not the first time Mr Wilders has been in the prosecutor’s sights. In 2011, Mr Wilders he was found not guilty after being indicted for describing the Koran as “fascist” and comparing it to Hitler’s Mein Kampf – comments the judge ruled were “gross” but “acceptable within the context of public debate”. However, there has been a significant change in the law in the past few days. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled in another case that while politicians could shock or insult as part of public debate, they had a responsibility to “prevent spreading pronouncements which conflict with the law and the principles of a democratic state.”
© The Irish Times.

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The Year Hitler Broke the Internet

How Nazi Aesthetics Popped Up Everywhere.

18/12/2014- Remember the public outcry in June, when a teenager from Alabama took a selfie in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and posted it on Twitter? Or the swasti-ka ring for sale by a third-party vendor at Sears but that was removed after multiple complaints? This year has seen its share of seemingly ridiculous headlines that might make some of us wonder whether Nazi symbols have entered mainstream culture. While there is no question that some of these incidents are seriously worrisome (such as the poster depicting the “Arbeit macht frei” [“Work makes (you) free”] sign from the Dachau concentration camp, sold at Wal-Mart’s online store, again by an independent seller), there were plenty of others in cases where the right reaction is much more difficult to figure out.

Just think of the photo from a press conference in Israel last July that shows Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. Netanyahu’s finger casts a shadow on Merkel’s upper lip, making it appear as if she had a toothbrush mustache just like, yes, you guessed it, another German leader: Adolf Hitler. Sort of funny, right? Or maybe a bit unfair to Merkel, the first German chancellor to visit Dachau? Are we allowed to laugh about Hitler memes? There is a growing cultural desire to laugh at Nazis. According to Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, a history professor at Fairfield University and author of the forthcoming book “Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past Is Being Normalized in Contemporary Culture,” this makes sense: On the one hand, laughing at Hitler, Nazis and perhaps even the Holocaust renders the perpetrators and the atrocities they committed more tangible and makes them appear less omnipotent; on the other hand, however, it trivializes the horrors the regime committed.

Here are some “Nazi moments” that made headlines in the past year — and some thoughts on how to treat them.

Are We Being Paranoid?
If you thought that spotting a Hitler mustache on Merkel’s upper lip was a stretch, you might be shocked to find out where else people have seen Nazi symbolism. And this odd pastime has been around for a while: In 2013, a Michael Graves stainless steel tea kettle from J.C. Penney Co. was sold out in hours after posts pointing out a resemblance to Adolf Hitler’s mustache and side-parting hair went viral online. And more Nazi symbols were spotted this year. But were they actually there? There are people out there who are on the lookout for seeing Hitler at unexpected places, and they post their findings online. It can turn into a competition for the most creative application (consider the website dedicated to “Things That Look Like Hitler,” which has been around since March 2011) and, of course, attention and clicks. Exactly how upset should we be about such news stories? “It’s a no-win situation,” historian Gavriel D. Rosenfeld said. It might be good to point them out so that Nazi symbols don’t slip into the mainstream — and then “before long, you’ll be in a place you don’t want to be,” said Rosenfeld. But there is the danger of crying wolf — so choose the focus of your anger wisely.

A Cozy Holocaust Shirt
The blue and white stripes were horizontal rather than vertical, and the yellow star had “Sheriff” written on it. Nevertheless, the resemblance of the kids’ shirt by Zara to the garb worn by prisoners in Nazi concentration camps was too much for many. After widespread protests online, the Spanish clothing company apologized, saying it was inspired by the sheriff’s star in classic Western films. In August the company pulled the shirt from its collection. That was not the first time Zara had come under fire: In 2007 it removed a handbag depicting a swastika from its collection.

Wrap It in Swastika
You had one job, Hallmark, and you messed up, some say. It’s all exaggeration and overinterpretion, say others. Hallmark, perhaps best known for selling greeting cards, decided in December to remove a blue-and-silver wrapping paper from its collection. A Californian shopper had spotted swastikas in the pattern when she saw the wrapping paper in the, yes, you guessed it, Hanukkah section of a Walgreen store. Not even a statement issued in protest by the ProSwastika Alliance, a Las Vegas-based 501(c)(3), to support the “rehabilitation” of the swastika changed anything. And that’s a good thing. “Unless these [Nazi] symbols stay stigmatized forever, they will become part of the normal discourse,” Rosenfeld said. “That would be a huge mistake.”

Mango Goes SS Style
It was dubbed “Nazi chic” and the “Eva Braun collection” on Twitter in October: the women’s shirt “Rayo,” sold by the Spanish fashion company Mango and depicting lightning-like black symbols that look suspiciously like runes — used as the insignia of the Nazi SS unit and the youth organization Jungvolk. Mango apologized promptly, calling the association “unfortunate,” while commenters offered alternative associations: Harry Potter, AC/DC — or the weather report.
© The Forward

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Polish far-right nationalists tap nightclub bouncer for presidential candidate

Poland’s far-right nationalist party tapped little known nightclub bouncer and bodybuilder Marian Kowalski for its presidential candidate.

17/12/2014- Ruch Narodowy (National Movement) is known primarily for organising Independence Day marches, which have invariably resulted in riots. The party claims the rioters are police provocateurs. Support for the party hovers in the low single digits and polls indicate it would fall well short of the 5 percent threshold to win parliamentary seats. Kowalski, aged 50, is the head of security at a nightclub in Lublin, eastern Poland, and a bodybuilding instructor, Ruch Narodowy leaders said in an interview for Catholic portal, Fronda.pl. He has been charged with assault. His case, in which he pleads innocence, is yet to be heard. “He is the candidate of the Polish street,” Ruch Narodowy chairman, Robert Winnicki said. Kowalski is Ruch Narodowy’s deputy chairman. The party could not pick its most recognisable leaders, Winnicki and Krzysztof Bosak, as both are below the age thres-hold of 35. Kowalski is the third candidate to announce his run ahead of the next year’s elections. Andrzej Duda of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party and Janusz Palikot of left-liberal Your Movement have also announced their candidacies.
© The News - Poland

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Czech Rep: Far-right leader sues prime minister for slander

Head of the Workers' Party of Social Justice says Sobotka’s comments incite hatred against a group

17/12/2014- Tomáš Vandas, leader of the extra-parliamentary far-right Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS), today filed a complaint against Czech Prime Minister and Social Democrat (ČSSD) chairman Bohuslav Sobotka for slander over statements in which Sobotka labeled the DSSS an extremist or fascist party. After the municipal election held in October, a ČSSD local branch in Duchcov, north Bohemia, formed a coalition with the DSSS and the Communists (KSČM). The ČSSD leadership criticized this and finally decided to scrap the branch. When criticizing this coalition, Sobotka said last week the ČSSD must not form any alliance with “parties that have a racist or fascist character, and the DSSS undoubtedly is such a party.” The ČSSD Duchcov branch was scrapped on Dec. 13. In reaction to the above statement, Vandas said Sobotka must either apologize to the DSSS or his government must submit a proposal for the DSSS's dissolution.

Sobotka rejected Vandas's call. According to Vandas, Sobotka committed the crime of inciting hatred against a group of people or restricting their rights and freedoms. “These statements want to start a hate campaign against a party that has different political plans and aims than the CSSD,” Vandas writes in the criminal complaint filed against Sobotka. In the general election held in the autumn of 2013, the DSSS won 0.86 percent of the vote. The DSSS's predecessor, the Workers' Party (DS), was established in 2003. In 2010 the Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) outlawed it on the government's proposal. The DS contains xenophobic and chauvinist elements and racist subtext, and it follows up Adolf Hitler's National Socialism, the NSS said. Representatives of the dissolved party, including DS chairman Vandas, then established the DSSS.
© The Prague Post Online

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Bosnia MPs Change Ethnicity to Get Posts

Some lawmakers in Bosnia are trying to change their declared ethnicicity in order to get positions in legslative bodies by exploiting ethnic quota systems.

15/12/2014- The latest elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina have shown that being a Bosniak, a Serb, a Croat or an "Other" could also be a relative matter. Some MPs have jumped ship in terms of ethnicity, declaring a different ethnicity this year from the one they claimed in previous elections. Two MPs in Bosnia's mainly Serbian entity, Republika Srpska, have done so recently, as have members of some cantonal assemblies in the Federation entity. Edhem Fejzic, for example, has now declared himself as an "Other" in order to become an MP in the Federation entity Parliament's House of Peoples. In the local elections, held two years ago, he declared himself to be a Bosniak. Muamer Omanovic, who formerly declared he was a Bosniak has now said he is a Croat for the same reason. The reason for the change is that in the Council of Peoples in the Republika Srpska - and the House of Peoples in the Federation - there are ethnic quota systems for MPs.

The lawmakers who declared their ethnicity differently were attempting to benefit from situations in which there are not expected to be enough candidates from a certain ethnicity to fill its quota in the legislature - giving them a better opportunity to secure a seat by filling the ethnic gap. However, their attempts to take advantage of Bosnia's system of ethnic quotas may have misfired, after the election commission said it would not recognise the mandates of any MPs who had shifted ethnic allegiance within the last few years. “If the MPs declare [their ethnicity] differently now, we are refusing to confirm their terms,” said Maksida Piric of the election commision. “Electoral law says national affiliation may not be changed within the same [four-year] electoral cycle,” she added.

Adis Arapovic, an analyst from the Centres of Civil Initiatives, a non-governmental organization that monitors the work of institutions, said he sees attempts by politicians to change ethnic allegiance as purely political acts of pragmatism. “People have recognized this possibility and used it in a most brutal way,” he said. “Morally this is reprehensible, ethically unacceptable - but it is very pragmatic.” Arapovic said these manoeuvres were a consequence of Bosnia's flawed electoral system, which divided power between people defined as Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats or "Others". “As long as our electoral laws are made on the basis of divisions by ethnic position, those loopholes will be filled,” he said.
© Balkan Insight

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Greek Jews slam right-wing politician for saying Jews don’t pay taxes

A prominent Greek Jewish communal organization condemned a right-wing politician for saying that Jews don’t pay taxes.

16/12/2014- Panos Kammenos, leader of the small Independent Greeks Party, made the comment Monday during an interview on the Antenna television channel. The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece issued a statement in response, saying it “categorically refutes” Kammenos’ comments. “It is a disgrace that a leader of a party in Parliament does not know that Greek Jews are equal citizens and subject to the all the rights and obligations of every citizen,” the statement said, noting that Jewish institutions were governed by the same tax obligations as the Church. The Jewish community called on Kammenos to apologize for the “serious anti-Semitic act.” The comments come days after gunmen opened fire on the Israeli Embassy in Athens, an attack blamed by Greek police on a far-left Greek terror group. A recent Anti-Defamation League poll found that anti-Semitic stereotypes were widespread in Greece, which had the highest percentage of anti-Semitic views in Europe.
© JTA News

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UK: Rotherham abuse scandal: a town still reeling

Despite resignations, reports and investigations, the victims are still being let down, says the local MP. Meanwhile, the community is experiencing a backlash of racism and far-right groups stalk the streets.
By Homa Khaleeli

17/12/2014- Rotherham’s MP Sarah Champion tells me: “Someone said: ‘If there had been an earthquake in Rotherham that had ruined the lives of more than a thousand families, and local structures were down, we would get emergency help. But 1,400 children’s families have been decimated, local governance is in disarray – and we are being left to deal with it.’” In August, the Jay report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham set out the horrific scale of the town’s problem, the vicious abuse that shattered victims’ lives, and the “blatant” failures of the authorities to stop or prevent it. Almost four months later, the town is still reeling. Community spirit unravelled in the wake of the investigation, which confirmed that the majority of the perpetrators were Asian – British Pakistani men. Far-right groups marched through the streets and there was a spike in Islamophobic abuse nationally. Little seems to have improved.

First came a flurry of resignations, including that of the police and crime commissioner, and the council’s director of children’s services. Ten officers are being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and government inspectors are investigating the council. But Champion says the victims are still being let down. “It’s horrendous,” she says flatly. The MP said she secured emergency funding to employ Jayne Senior, the former manager of Risky Business, which helps vulnerable young woman – and the only organi-sation to be commended in the Jay report – to work with victims of child sexual abuse. But one dedicated worker is not enough. Champion won’t disclose how many victims they are working with, but says new victims are coming forward all the time – seven in the last week. “Some want to give evidence [against their abusers] and need support, some want to be rehoused because they are still living on the same street as their abusers and some want counselling,” she says.

In the town centre, English Defence League marches continue, local people avoid the city centre and residents relay stories of racism. Champion tells me some British Pakistani women are so intimidated that it is “stopping them from going into their own town”. Shopkeepers fear they will go out of business because the protests are keeping people away. One young British Asian woman – from a third-generation Rotherham family – told Champion that she had been confronted by a white man in the town centre who told her: “We are going to start raping [Asian girls] to even the score.” Others complained of having their headscarves pulled off, being given dirty looks or being told to: “Go back to your own country.”

Zlakha Ahmed of the Asian women’s charity Apna Haq has been working to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation in the town’s Asian community, educating parents about the issues and how to recognise and report it. And finally, there are signs of a fightback. Community groups have been working hard to restore pride in the town and bring people together. There are plans for a festival, and projects between artists and local traders. United Rotherham, a social media project, has been trying to change the town’s image, one tweet at a time, cheerfully promoting itself as coming from the town which is: “Never in the news for anything good, but full of people who are.”
© The Guardian

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UK: A third of teachers in Wales hear colleagues using homophobic language

A new report by Stonewall Wales has found that a third of teachers have heard colleagues using homophobic language.

17/12/2014- The research by Stonewall Cymru attempts to show a picture of daily life in Welsh classrooms eleven years after the repeal of Section 28. Shockingly, the research shows that a majority of teachers are unsure whether they are allowed to teach about lesbian, gay and bisexual issues, and are unsure of how to support LGB people against bullying. The Teachers’ Report by Stonewall Cymru and YouGov reveals that 84%of primary school and 45% of secondary school staff in Wales say their school does not allow them to teach about lesbian, gay and bisexual issues or don’t know if they are allowed. Despite an overwhelming majority of teachers believing they have a duty to challenge homo-phobic bullying, 90 per cent of primary school and 79 per cent of secondary school teachers have not received any specific training on now to tackle homophobic bullying.

The polling also reveals that a third of secondary school staff (32%) and almost a quarter of primary school staff (23%) have heard homophobic language or negative remarks about lesbian, gay and bisexual people from other staff in their school. In order to support teachers, Stonewall Cymru has recently launched a one day ‘train the trainer’ programme that offers advice and guidance to school staff wishing to challenge homophobic bullying. For more information please go to www.stonewallcymru.org.uk/ educationforall  Stonewall Cymru Director Andrew White said: “It beggars belief that more than a decade after Section 28 was repealed a majority of school staff still question if they are allowed to teach about lesbian, gay and bisexual issues. Teachers are the most powerful tool that we have in the fight to tackle homophobic bullying. Sadly our research shows that, despite some progress, the legacy of Section 28 lives on in Wales’s schools.”

Commenting on the report, Peter Black, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Equalities Minister claimed: “This report shows that the Welsh Labour Government’s bullying guidance just isn’t working. “If, as this report suggests, a third of teachers hear homophobic language from other school staff, then serious questions must be asked about how well-equipped schools are to deal with situations where young people are experiencing systematic bullying because of their sexuality. “I welcome the fact that Stonewall Cymru is putting a programme in place to help address the bullying, but the Welsh Labour Government must take a much more assertive stance in order to turn policy promises into reality”.
© Pink News

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UK: BNP Christmas card alienates few remaining sympathisers of far-right party

The British National Party (BNP) may be flat on its back as a political force, but it still has the capacity to offend, as a new card wishing supporters a "White Christmas" shows.

15/12/2014- A seasonal greeting card by the far-right group carries the caption "Wishing you a White Christmas" beneath the headline "Protecting our Christmas". In context of the BNP's long-standing wish to deport immigrants in order to make Britain in to a white-skinned island, the caption's meaning is so clear that it hardly counts as a double entendre. According to the BNP, Christmas is under threat from multiculturalism directly linked to non-white immigration. Despite the card's blatantly divi-sive and offensive content, it is "doing very well", the BNP has claimed. However, the vast majority of its popularity appears to be coming from social media, via sha-res. Almost nobody has paid for the card and fewer than five have sent in the post, IBTimes UK understands. Critics have condemned it as a "sad stunt" by a party "on its last legs". "The BNP's lost its MEPs, all but one of its councillors, and the season of goodwill clearly does not extend to its many internal feuds," said Hope Not Hate, a diversity group. "Not even this sad stunt, trying to resurrect a non-story from 10 years ago about 'PC councils gone mad', can disguise the face that the BNP is on its last legs."

Unfortunately for the BNP, its card also risks alienating non-white sympathisers at a time when the party is in disarray and badly in need of all the supporters it can get. A party spokesman claimed to IBTimes UK that many West Indians and Sikhs agreed with the party's "Islamophobia" and resented the presence of the British Muslim community. But it is precisely these people who are excluded from the card's "white Christmas" wish, which is hardly the way for an alienated party to drum up new support. BNP spokesman Simon Darby said: "Every time white people express their culture and desire to preserve it, people call you racist. "A lot of Sikhs and west Indians like living in a predominantly white country and they have told us they do not like the way it's going with Muslims. The demographics show that it's going to be a choice between a Christian country and a Muslim country."
© The International Business Times - UK

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UK: Can prescription drugs make you homophobic or racist?

The ex-Ukip candidate Kerry Smith claimed that he made offensive remarks due to stress and the fact that he was taking strong sedatives. So should pharmaceutical companies issue new side-effects warnings?
By Emine Saner

15/12/2014- If nothing else, the resignation of Kerry Smith, a Ukip candidate, clearly serves as a valuable public health announcement. The party leapt to the defence of its candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock, who had described gay people as “fucking disgusting old poofters” and called a woman with a Chinese name a “chinky”, by blaming his views on the prescription drugs he had been taking. Patrick O’Flynn, Ukip’s economic spokesman, said the remarks were made in “a phone call some time ago while he was on sedatives, by his own account, not really speaking [or] thinking rationally”. As we speak, pharmaceutical companies will be reprinting their information leaflets: may cause drowsiness, nausea, racism and homophobia.

Or perhaps not. “All that sedatives do is reduce your ability to restrain and hide your true thoughts,” says David Nutt, Edmond J Safra professor of neuropsychopharmacology and director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit at Imperial College London. “Politicians spend their whole lives telling people what they think people want to hear, and not what they believe. That takes quite a lot of effort. We know from brain imaging studies that lying and hiding things consumes more brainpower than telling the truth, so if people are repressing something they don’t want people to know, they have to actively work [at it]. When you are sedated, the control centres of your brain are dampened down and the underlying deeper truths are less likely to be suppressed and they come to the surface.”

Drugs cannot make you racist or homophobic: “These are deep-seated constructs that are developed over years, if not decades. Drugs can reveal them, but they don’t make them.” Nutt says he quite likes the idea – “in vino veritas” – of the drinking parties in some ancient cultures, where “public debate was held when people were drunk so you didn’t have the intellectual capacity to lie and you had to say what you thought.” In Britain, booze was commonplace in parliament, and only relatively recently frowned on. “In 1783, William Pitt the Younger was seen vomiting behind the back of the Speaker’s chair before replying to a vital debate as chancellor of the exchequer,” writes the Labour MP Chris Bryant.

“I’m not sure I’m recommending [inebriation] but it’s worth considering,” says Nutt. “Many politicians don’t tell the truth and sedative drugs like alcohol or benzodia-zepines may actually get them closer to the truth.” However, he adds that when it comes to votes, “we also have to qualify that; we have to say that intellectual judgment is also impaired”. Short of calling for mandatory drug-taking or drunkenness (although perhaps those subsidised parliament bars could finally serve an impor-tant democratic function), inebriation of the self-inflicted variety has already proved illuminating – the best recent example is the former Tory cabinet minister David Mellor (later extremely apologetic) who after an event at Buckingham Palace was recorded calling a taxi driver a “sweaty, stupid little shit” and telling him to get “a better education”. Maybe someone should buy Nigel Farage another pint.
© The Guardian

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UK: Littlehampton students set to battle gypsy discrimination

Students from across Littlehampton are readying themselves for a fundraising adventure to help brighten the lives of persecuted gypsy children in Romania.

15/12/2014- The Littlehampton Academy has announced that a team of 29 youngsters from the school, in Fitzalan Road, will be tackling the humanitarian effort. They will be travelling into the heart of Romania, next July, and will be running an activity week in two gypsy communities for five days, catering for up to 100 children and young people. Their trip follows in the footsteps of a similar visit by the academy last year. Paul Sanderson, academy chaplain, is leading the expedition and said: “The impact on the students we take as well as the students we serve is life-changing. “The UK-based students take on the role of fundraiser, teacher and at times councillor as they teach and share from their own skill base to the keen-to-learn children of the Roma gypsy community.” The team will need to raise about £700 each to join the adventure, with the cash helping to pay for travel and food costs.

One of those joining this year’s squad of students is year-13 Sabrina Chapman. Speaking to the Gazette, Sabrina, 18, of Wick, said she was excited to be doing some-thing to help others who were less fortunate than herself. “Just seeing the sort of poverty and life that these people have is something totally different,” she said. “We are very lucky that we don’t have that sort of poverty in England and the poverty that we do have is nowhere near as serious. “But in Romania there is a lot of discrimination towards gypsies. I don’t think it’s right. I see them as people and as human beings.” Sabrina said she was touched by a video made by the academy’s last team to visit the country, which revealed the conditions the gypsy communities were forced to live in.

Paul said the academy took a lot of pride in organising humanitarian trips. “International trips to serve others has been at the heart of TLA since 2007. As global citizens, it’s our role to understand the world and the challenges many people face, day in day out,” he said. “Littlehampton students return keener to learn and take less for granted. We are changing the world one story at a time.”
© The Little Hampton Gazette

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When White People See Themselves With Black Skin, Something Interesting Happens

15/12/2014- The antidote to racism partly lies in empathy, or the willingness to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes," as the saying goes. But scientists from universities across Europe are taking the maxim one step further, providing people an opportunity to experience life in someone else's skin by experimenting with virtual reality as a means of helping people shed racial stereotypes. Researchers from London and Barcelona teamed up to discuss their recent experiments on virtual reality and race in an opinion piece for the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, published Dec. 15. The researchers found that if people got the chance to physically experience their own body with different skin colors (or ages and sexes), their unconscious biases against other racial groups could be diminished.

This isn't merely a question of changing mentality or perception. The experience of "living" in different skin triggers sensory signals in the brain that allow it to expand its understanding of what a body can look like. This can "cause people to change their attitudes about others," wrote the study's co-researcher, Professor Mel Slater, a part-time professor of virtual environments at the University College London and research professor at the University of Barcelona. "Our methods and findings might help us understand how to approach phenomena such as racism, religious hatred, and gender inequality discrimination, since the methods offer the opportunity for people to experience the world from the perspective of someone different from themselves," said Professor Manos Tsakiris of the Royal Holloway University of London in a press release about the study review.

The research has special significance in the wake of the deaths of Staten Island resident Eric Garner and Ferguson, Mo. teen Michael Brown, which U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said have raised issues over "implicit bias and pervasive community distrust," as reported by CNN. The authors reflected on three different experiments they had conducted in the past. In the first, called the "Rubber Hand Illusion," white participants were made to watch a dark-skinned rubber hand being stroked on a screen, while their own hand was stroked at the same time. This "synchronous stimulation" caused participants to feel as if they were inhabiting that rubber hand, or that it was a part of their body. 

In the second experiment, called the "Enfacement Illusion," white participants watched a video of a face of someone belonging to a different racial group than them. In the video, while the face was being stroked by a cotton bud, an experimenter was stroking the participant's own face at the same time -- again, making participants feel as if that "other" face was their own face. In the final experiment, called "Full Body Illusions," white female participants were asked to take a racial Implicit Association Test (IAT)--a computerized task which can reveal unconscious racial biases. Then, the women put on a virtual headset that gave them the illusion of being in an avatar's body, which was either white, black or purple (see video below). Afterwards, the women took the racial bias test again. The women embodied in the black avatars became less biased against black people in their test scores. The women who embodied white or purple avatars showed no change.

"Generally using these techniques, it is possible to give two sides of a conflict an experience of what it is like to be a member of the 'other side,'" Slater told The Huffington Post in an email. "This should help to build empathy." "The fact that two groups independently had similar findings makes me confident that this was not just a fluke result," Slater added. While the researchers don't know if virtual reality can be used in the long-term to reduce racism, they do believe it may be used to help people--including the police--better understand what it's like to be a person of another race.
© The Huffington Post

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Russia 'ignoring' anti-gay attacks

Russia's authorities have failed to prevent an increase in homophobic attacks, Human Rights Watch has warned.

15/12/2014- The US-based body said Russia's leadership had reacted to violence and anti-gay rhetoric with silence, and it accused some officials of hate speech. A 2013 law banning gay "propaganda" had led to more attacks, it said. Politician Vitaly Milonov, who authored the first version of the law, told the BBC people found homo-sexual acts "uncomfortable". The rules ban people from providing information about homosexuality to people under 18.

Analysis, by Sarah Rainsford, BBC News, St Petersburg
It was never easy, being gay in Russia, but lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups say life now is even tougher. Since "promoting non-traditional lifestyles" was made illegal, they report an increase in harassment, abuse and even physical attacks. One activist in St Petersburg told the BBC that the new law sent a signal that gay people were second-class citizens, and so gave others a green light to discriminate and even harm. One LGBT support group cited by Human Rights Watch docu-mented more than 300 homophobic attacks last year, over 10 times more than before the gay propaganda law. Fifty per cent of those it interviewed reported psycho-logical abuse. The law's supporters cloak themselves in talk of Russia's Christian roots and conservative, "traditional" values - all increasingly popular here - and often refer to homosexuality as a kind of "perverted" Western import. So far only a handful of people have been prosecuted under the new law, but activists believe that fear is driving Russians back into the closet or, increasingly, to seek a new, freer life abroad.

'Lack of will'
Human Rights Watch detailed testimonies from cities across Russia, with reports of beatings, abductions and public attacks. Tanya Cooper, a Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the authorities were deliberately ignoring such crimes. She added: "Russian law enforcement agencies have the tools to prosecute homophobic violence, but they lack the will to do so." Mr Milonov, a local councillor who first introduced changes to the law in St Petersburg, said: "I want to protect my kids and my family from this dirt going from the homosexuals. "They can do whatever they want in their homes, in the special garbage places called 'gay nightclubs', they can kill themselves with their viruses as fast as possible, but they're not going to do it on the streets because it's not polite and it's uncomfortable for the people." Mr Milonov's local measure inspired a national law which was rolled out after approval by the Duma in June last year.
© BBC News

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Spain: Gay couple hospitalised after ‘Neo-Nazi’ attack

A gay couple in Madrid were attacked by a group for “Neo-Nazis” on Friday, and one of them hospitalised.

15/12/2014- Aged 17 and 23, the couple were attacked by nine men and one woman who were all dressed in black Neo-Nazi clothing, reports the Huffington Post Spain. They were sat on a bench in Madrid’s Temple of Debod with a friend when they were attacked. The friend was not injured in the fray. Saying they were “afraid” to speak openly about the attack, the couple said they wanted to remain anonymous. One of the pair was hospitalised for several hours with bruising to the neck. Protesters last week held a gay kiss-in at a Burger King in Madrid after a gay couple were kicked out for kissing.
© Pink News

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German xenophobia: Peaceful, but menacing

A new movement with a barely hidden message of hate unsettles Germany

18/12/2014- Calling themselves Pegida, or “patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident”, since October they have marched through Dresden every Monday. Their numbers are growing: on December 15th 15,000 protested. Their slogans of xenophobic paranoia (“No sharia in Europe!”) seem bizarre in Saxony, where only 2% of the population is foreign and fewer than 1% are Muslim. The marchers make no attempt to explain their demands. Convinced of a conspiracy of political correctness, they do not speak to the press. Few bear any signs of neo-Nazism. They have eschewed violence. What they share is broad anxiety about asylum-seekers (200,000 in 2014) and immigrants. The instigator is Lutz Bachmann, owner of an ad agency who once fled to South Africa to avoid being locked up for dealing drugs. He has imitators in other cities: Bonn has a Bogida march, Würzburg a Wügida. But eastern Germany, especially Dresden, is the movement’s base.

Counter-demonstrations have sprung up, but their numbers in Dresden (about 5,600 this week) are dwarfed by Pegida’s. Chancellor Angela Merkel accused Pegida of “agitation and defamation”; Heiko Maas, the justice minister, called it a “disgrace for Germany”. But the CSU, a centre-right party in Bavaria that governs with Mrs Merkel, was more nuanced. Calling Pegida a disgrace amounted to “a massive denigration of peaceful protesters,” said a spokesman. The CSU had made news by saying that foreigners should be forced to speak German even “in the family”, though it later backtracked. The leader of the new anti-euro party, Alternative for Germany, Bernd Lucke, said he considered Pegida’s demands “legitimate”.

Germany remains a tolerant place, one reason why some 465,000 migrants arrived last year, making it the world’s second most popular destination after America. But Pegida is a reminder that many, especially in eastern Germany, harbour resentments that can be exploited. “We are the people,” the marchers in Dresden shouted. It was the phrase East Germans used in 1989 in protest against their communist overlords. To outsiders, the cry now sounds chilling.
© The Economist

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Far-Right Germans on the March to Moscow

17/12/2014- Anyone reading headlines about 15,000 people rallying against immigration in Dresden would be forgiven for wondering if Germany has finally caught up to the rest of Western Europe, where xenophobic parties present the biggest threat to the political establishment. I rather doubt that: The rapid rise of Pegida, the group that organizes the rallies, doesn't yet signal a shift in national politics -- although it soon might, if it earns the attention of a political party offering broader anti-establishment appeal and an outside backer, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, willing to bankroll the effort. Pegida stands for Patriotische Europaeer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, or Patriotic Europe-ans Against the Islamization of the West. Yet its growing weekly rallies -- hundreds of attendees in October, when the movement started, 10,000 people last week, 15,000 last Monday -- take place in Dresden, capital of the eastern state of Saxony, which has one of the smallest shares of immigrant population in Germany. Only 99,235 of its more than 4 million residents, on just 2.5 percent, are of foreign origin. Dresden is in no danger of "Islamization." Similar protests in cities with bigger immigrant populations, such as Kassel and Duesseldorf, have only attracted a few hundred people in recent weeks.

Germany is not an immigrant-unfriendly country. A recent poll by the ZDF TV station showed 54 percent of Germans are in favor of bringing in more immigrants. By contrast, in the U.K., 67 percent say the country is "already overcrowded." The majority of Germans, also 54 percent, according to the same ZDF poll, do not believe immigrants commit more crimes than Germans do, and a full 83 percent support foreigners' right to asylum in Germany, allowing the country to remain the world's number one destination for asylum seekers, according to a recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That said, Germany has been cautious not to let in too many people relative to its population of more than 80 million. Last year, the inflow reached 0.5 percent of the population, compared with 0.8 percent in Austria and 0.9 percent in Sweden.

That does't mean there isn't tension between newcomers and the locally-born. There are, first off, the 35 percent of Germans who do believe immigrants commit more crimes. The country also has a relatively small, but active, faction of right-wing radicals. Last week, a far-right group sprayed swastikas on the walls of a yet-unopened refugee housing site in the Bavarian town of Vorra, before setting the building on fire. But pro-immigration Germans vastly outnumber the right-wing extremists. According to Germany's domestic intelligence service, at the end of 2013, there were only 22,700 neo-Nazi organization members in Germany, fewer than the year before. And right-wing attitudes and actions usually face highly public pushback -- not just from mainstream politicians headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, known for her firm pro-immigration stand, but also from ordinary citizens. Local residents in Vorra demonstrated against the destruction of the refugee site. Last Monday, 5,000 people in Dresden turned out to protest against the Pegida rally.

In a political climate of zero tolerance for Nazi flashbacks, Germany's hasn't seen the rise of a strong anti-immigration party. The anti-establishment, anti-European Union Alterna-tive fuer Deutschland, which voiced some mild anti-immigrant sentiments -- considerably watered down compared with those of the French Front National or Britain's U.K. Inde-pendence Party -- failed to get into parliament last year. AfD is, however, represented in the local parliaments of some relatively poor eastern states, including Saxony, and it's now trying to get on the Pegida bandwagon. "Most of their demands are legitimate," AfD leader Bernd Lucke has been quoted as saying. This is a sensible strategy for the AfD, but if it wants to better its odds, it should look beyond the borders of Saxony and consider working together more closely with Moscow. That's the model followed by France's successful Front National, which has loudly bucked Europe's ongoing policy of ostracizing the Russian president, and has received millions of euros from Russia in return. Putin's strategy seems to be to build up a "fifth column" of far-right parties in Europe willing to cooperate with the Kremlin.

Such an arrangement would also be to the benefit of a party like the AfD -- and not just for financial reasons. Russia is already relatively popular in eastern Germany, which has traditional economic ties with the former Soviet empire. It shouldn't be a suprise that the Pegida protests have already featured elements of a pro-Russian agenda into the Pegida protests. Though the group's program focuses on immigration, the protests have also attracted German pacifists who object to Merkel's hard line against Russia. Last Monday's rally also featured pro-Russian slogans, including "Putin, Help Us!"  Mainstream German politicians, headed as ever by Merkel, have condemned Pegida's anti-immigrant slant, and Justice Minister Heiko Maas called the protests "a disgrace to Germany." Yet it might be worth investigating whether immigration is indeed the protesters' biggest grievance. It could be that they simply feel underrepresented by the mainstream parties and in search for an alternative -- "politically homeless" and consumed by a "thirst for leadership," as Jasper von Altenbockum described them in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. That could make the Dresden protesters a convenient lever for an ambitious populist party -- and convenient pawns for Putin's new European game.
© Bloomberg View

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German court dismisses far-right's suit against minister who urged vote against it

16/12/2014- Germany's highest court has dismissed a lawsuit by the country's main far-right party in attempt to gag a Cabinet minister who had spoken out against it. The National Democratic Party, or NPD, argued that Manuela Schwesig, the minister for families, violated its rights when she said in a newspaper interview ahead of Septem-ber's election in Thuringia: "The No. 1 aim must be that the NPD does not get into the state legislature." The Federal Constitutional Court said Tuesday that ministers are obliged to be politically neutral only when specifically using the authority or resources of their office. In June, the court threw out an NPD complaint against President Joachim Gauck, who had described protesters against a center for asylum seekers as "nut cases."
© The Associated Press

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Germany: Anti-Islam 'Pegida' march in Dresden

About 15,000 people have taken part in a march against "Islamisation of the West" in the east German city of Dresden.

16/12/2014- A large counter-demonstration of more than 5,000 people was also held. No major incidents were reported. Dresden is the birthplace of a movement called "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West" (Pegida), which staged a big rally a week ago. Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Germans not to be exploited by extremists. "There's freedom of assembly in Germany, but there's no place for incitement and lies about people who come to us from other countries,'' Mrs Merkel said in Berlin. "Everyone [who attends] needs to be careful that they are not taken advantage of by the people who organise such events." In Monday's march, protesters chanted Wir sind das Volk (we are the people) - a rallying cry used in the city in the weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago. One elderly man shouted: "I'm a pensi-oner. I only get a small pension but I have to pay for all these people (asylum seekers). No-one asked me!" A woman who travelled 80km (50 miles) for the demonstration told the BBC: "I am not right wing, I'm not a Nazi. I am just worried for my country, for my granddaughter."

Earlier, Justice Minister Heiko Maas called Pegida's protests "a disgrace". But the Eurosceptic party Alternativ fuer Deutschland (AfD) is sympathetic. "Most of their demands are legitimate," said Bernd Lucke, leader of AfD, which has campaigned for a tougher policy on immigration, as well as rejection of the euro. In the western city of Cologne, about 15,000 people attended a demonstration on Sunday to promote tolerance and open-mindedness, under the motto: "You are Cologne - no Nazis here."

At the scene: Jenny Hill, BBC News, Dresden
Clutching German flags, candles and banners, thousands of people joined a demonstration ostensibly against the so-called Islamisation of Germany. "No sharia law in Europe!" proclaimed one banner. But it rapidly became clear that most here are protesting against high levels of immigration and asylum seekers. A few years ago such scenes would have been inconceivable in this country. Many in Germany are ashamed and horrified - not just by the numbers at this demonstration but by support for right-wing groups elsewhere. What has startled politicians, though, is that many in the crowds at Dresden are not extremists or neo-Nazis. As conservative politician Wolfgang Bosbach puts it, these are concerned mothers and pensioners. The sheer numbers at recent demonstrations are forcing a public discussion around immigration. It's a debate with which many feel deeply uncomfortable. But it's a debate which many also say can no longer be ignored. Immigration has become a hot topic in Ger-many this year, amid a surge in the numbers of asylum seekers, fuelled by the wars in Syria and Iraq. Germany takes in more asylum seekers than any other EU country.

Germany expects 200,000 asylum claims for 2014, up from 127,000 in 2013. German media report that Pegida grew out of a Facebook group launched by Lutz Bachmann, 41, a chef-turned-graphic designer. He insists that he is not racist. He has admitted to past criminal convictions, including for drug-dealing. He says he spent two years in prison. The AfD leader in Dresden, Frauke Petry, said Pegida "is protesting against inadequate legislation on asylum rights - they are also demanding that German law be applied against law-breakers, and they are opposing religious extremism". The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) - in the ruling coalition with Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats - called Pegida's organisers "Nazis in pinstripes". Police sources, quoted by the Spiegel online news website, said hundreds of Pegida activists in Dresden were members of two hooligan groups regarded as far-right. Minister Maas said Pegida must be "unmasked", and he called for a "broad counter-movement embracing civil society and all political parties"
© BBC News

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Germany: Police see rise in far right extremism: report

German police have noted a significant rise in far-right extremism and attacks targeting foreigners, a news report said Sunday, amid national debate about a new Islamophobic movement.

14/12/2014- The trend is seen as a backlash against a sharp increase in refugees arriving in Germany, Europe's biggest economy and top destination for asylum-seekers and other migrants. "We're seeing a significant nationwide increase in xenophobic offences," Federal Criminal Police Office chief Holger Muench told an interior ministers conference last week, the Welt am Sonntag reported, citing participants. In the latest attack, three buildings reserved to house asylum seekers were set ablaze in the southern town of Vorra last Thursday, with Nazi swastikas and racist slogans scrawled on the walls. Germany's domestic security agency estimates there are almost 22,000 far-right extremists, more than a quarter of them neo-Nazis, in the country. About 10,000 are considered potentially militant. In the eastern state of Saxony, the number of anti-foreigner crimes has reached 179, up from 152 the previous year and the highest level in over a decade, the newspaper reported.

The state capital of Dresden is the birthplace of a swelling protest movement called "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident", or PEGIDA, which drew over 10,000 people last Monday. The marches have been dominated not by shaven-headed neo-Nazis but by disenchanted citizens with a host of grievances, many waving German flags and chanting nationalistic slogans. News weekly Spiegel reported that three PEGIDA organisers have criminal records and that the group has drawn support from the neo-Nazi and far-right football hooligan movements. Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokeswoman Friday condemned PEGIDA and its smaller clones in half a dozen German cities, saying "there is no place in Germany for Islamophobia or anti-Semitism, hatred of foreigners or racism".

The small but growing anti-euro party Alternative for Germany (AfD), represented in three eastern state assemblies and the European parliament, has meanwhile voiced sympathy for the demonstrators. The AfD's Bernd Lucke told the Berliner Zeitung am Sonntag newspaper: "There is an Islamist ideology that glorifies violence, discriminates against women and questions our legal system. When citizens rebel against that, it is right and proper." A majority of Germans are at least open to some of the views voiced by PEGIDA and the right-wing AfD, according to a poll for news weekly Spiegel by the TNS institute. Almost two-thirds of Germans think Merkel's government is not paying enough attention to concerns about immigration and asylum-seekers, it found, and 34 percent believe Germany is undergoing a process of "Islamisation".
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Merkel Is In A Dilemma As Anti-Islam Marches Gain Support

14/12/2014- German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces challenges from allies and rivals to confront a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment driving increasingly popular anti-Islam marches in the city of Dresden every Monday. With thousands expected at the next march, Merkel is in a dilemma. Her security officials are warning of an increase in hate crimes, while opinion polls show support for the marchers' calls for a tougher German immigration policy. "There is a visible rise in xenophobic crime countrywide," police chief Holger Muench told Welt am Sonntag, which like most German Sunday newspapers focused on Monday's march by a group calling itself PEGIDA - an acronym for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West".

There has been a spike in both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiment this year, with right-wingers joining football hooligans to fight Salafist Muslims and a spate of attacks on Jews. At the same time, with record levels of immigration, Germany has become Europe's biggest recipient of asylum-seekers. Merkel said on Friday there was "no place in Germany" for hatred of Muslims or any other minority. But her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition allies, the opposition Greens and the fast-growing Eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) all seem to have spotted a chance to undermine the popular chancellor, whose approval rating was 76 percent in a poll in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The SPD, seething at Merkel's remarks that they had declared political bankruptcy by allying with former communists in one eastern state, challenged her to respond to what senior SPD lawmaker Thomas Oppermann called "probably the biggest issue of the next decade". Greens leader Cem Oezdemir, who will join a counter-protest in Dresden, urged her "to recognize clearly that Germany is a country for immigrants and benefits from them". In fact, Merkel often says Germany needs more immigrants to boost its workforce. But her Christian Democrats' (CDU) mixed response to PEGIDA - some CDU officials urged understanding for the motivation of the marchers, while the SPD simply blasted the organizers as "Nazis in pinstripes" - means she risks being outmaneuvered.

The marches have already spawned copycat protests in cities to the west like Duesseldorf, which have larger immigrant populations than Dresden, home to very few of Germany's 4 million Muslims. Hajo Funke, a Berlin professor, said many of the estimated 10,000 people who marched last week voiced vague "discontent with society and their own lives", while the organizers played on fears of armed insurgents like Islamic State and al Qaeda. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said there was no risk Germany would be "Islamized" but saw an "overlap" between PEGIDA and the AfD, which is trying to establish itself as a law-and-order party. The AfD has spotted this too and one of its leaders, Alexander Gauland, plans to be in Dresden on Monday. "We are the natural allies of this movement," said Gauland. This could trigger fresh debate about how to deal with the AfD, which the CDU has so far dismissed as a fringe group which quietly recruits right-wing extremists.
© Reuters

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Swedish PM renews call for cross-aisle co-operation in face of far-right

15/12/2014- Swedish centre-left Prime Minister Stefan Lofven renewed calls on Monday for co-operation across the political aisle to limit the influence of the unaligned anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. Lofven, leading a minority government of Social Democrats and Greens into snap elections in March, said the Sweden Democrats’ threat to bring down the budget of any government that failed to take on board their views on limiting immigration risked causing chaos. “There is one way to avoid such chaos and that is a broaden co-operation cross the aisle,” he said in a televised news conference after a government meeting at the prime minister’s country estate Harpsund, south-west of Stockholm.

Lofven this month said he would call Sweden’s first snap election for more than half a century after the Sweden Democrats helped defeat the centre-left minority government’s first budget bill in parliament. Lofven has several times approached the centre-right opposition Alliance over cooperation talks but been rebuffed. Both centre-left and centre-right blocs, which have become entrenched in mutual animosity in recent years, shun the Sweden Democrats, who hold the balance of power in the Riksdag. While calling for cooperation, Lofven and the leaders of the Green party also delivered fierce criticism of the centre-right budget that was voted through parliament and which they now have to implement, saying it meant worse conditions for young job seekers and retired Swedes.
© Reuters

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Sweden: Stockholm set for anti-racism anniversary demo

Monday night's planned anti-racist rally in Stockholm marks one year since a similar gathering sparked violent clashes from neo-Nazi factions. Organizers and police are expecting a much calmer night.

15/12/2014- Monday's demonstration is being called by Nätverket Linje 17, an anti-racism organization based in the south Stockholm Skarpnäck district. According to Linje 17 organizer Zandra Cullen, several thousand people are expected to show up this year. “We believe it is crucial to have a strong, local anti-racist movement," she told The Local. "We have seen increased anti-fascist and anti-racist activities in Sweden over the last year, which is great. But we also have a racist party in parliament which has grown a lot and is paving the way for even more radical right-wing movements." She said organizers have been working closely with police on the secure planning of Monday's rally. "We do hope they are better prepared than last year,” she said.

Police have said that they are prepared for “any kind of situation”, and anticipate a crowd of up to 3,000 people. “For the moment we don't expect any kind of problem,” Lars Byström of the Stockholm police told The Local. “And if there’s any problem, we will solve it." The demonstration marks the one-year anniversary of an anti-racist demonstration held last year on December 15 which was held to protest Nazi graffiti daubed in the area. A few hundred protesters were gathered in peace-ful protest in the main square when a group of men clad in black stormed the area. Neo-Nazis from the Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska motståndsrörelsen - SMR) were reported to be behind the attack.

Police arrested dozens in the ensuing chaos, and over 30 people have since been prosecuted, most of whom are a part of the neo-Nazi group. Byström noted that no formal counter-demonstration request had come in this year. Meanwhile, organizers are stressing the importance of the demonstration. “It’s partly to remember what happened last year," said Cullen. "But even more so in order to look to the future.”
© The Local - Sweden

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The rise of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats

Sweden Democrats insist that they have shed their racist past. David Crouch goes to their stronghold in Kristianstad to find the truth about the party that brought down a government.

14/12/2014- Kevin is the future of the far right in Sweden. At 16, the computing student – who sports a beanie hat and a wispy beard – is active in the youth wing of the Sweden Democrats, the anti-immigration party that has forced a snap election after flexing its muscles as the country’s third party. “There are not enough jobs for Swedish people, but there are more and more immigrants, hundreds a year coming into this town,” he says in a shopping centre in Kristianstad, southern Sweden, an electoral stronghold of the far right and home to the party’s national headquarters. “We are not a racist or fascist party,” Kevin says. “There were racists and fascists when Jimmie was a boy, but they have all gone.”

Jimmie is the Sweden Democrats’ leader, Jimmie Åkesson, who lives in the area. Åkesson claims to have kicked the extremists out of the party, pulled up its roots in white-supremacist and neo-Nazi activism, and turned it into a slick electoral machine that has doubled its vote every four years, taking 13% in September’s election. This self-image of the Sweden Democrats was challenged last weekend by the prime minister, Stefan Löfven, who called the party “neo-fascist”, citing its early links with Keep Sweden Swedish and White Aryan Resistance.

Löfven, leader of the once mighty Social Democrats, now heads a lame-duck minority coalition with the Greens. He lashed out at his far-right nemesis as the political establishment scrambles to find a way of slowing the Sweden Democrat insurgency. The most recent opinion poll by YouGov suggests the far right is riding high and could take as much as 18% of the vote in new elections in March. Löfven’s “neo-fascist” attack sparked a storm of debate, with critics saying that labelling the far right is irrelevant or dangerous. But the prime minister also expressed a strength of feeling against the Sweden Democrats that is shared by many. When it emerged on Friday that the party wants to lift a ban on recording the national origins of people in the criminal justice system, the head of Sweden’s Bar Association said on Twitter they might as well put a badge on offenders’ jackets – in reference to the practice in Germany in the 1930s. In Kristianstad, however, voters say they have heard it all before.

Lars-Åke, 55, a cleaner, voted for the Sweden Democrats because he approves of their policy of slashing immigration by 90%. “There are too many refugees — so many Arabs it feels like I need to learn Arabic,” he says. He admits to a concern that the party is still “too extreme”as a result of its shady past: “They used to have some very bad people and a lot of them quit, but maybe a few are still left.” Denis, 18, is weighing up whether to vote for the centre left or for the Sweden Democrats. “They are neither racist nor fascist; they just talk about something no one else talks about – we have a problem with immigrants,” the student said. Politicians and the media in Sweden have maintained a stance unique in Europe in shunning the Sweden Democrats, excluding them from political debate and directing fierce criticism at anyone who suggests that the country’s asylum policy is a problem. Sweden currently accepts more than twice as many refugees per capita as any other of the 34 member states of the OECD.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, the centre-right former prime minister who has called on Swedes at the election to “open your hearts” to refugees, made headlines again when he said the country had “more space than you can imagine” to receive asylum seekers, who are expected to number 80,000 this year – a new Kristianstad every year. But as cracks have begun to appear in the Nordic model that has served Sweden so well, the country’s pro-immigration consensus has come under pressure. In Kristian-stad itself, where 12,000 residents were born abroad, one in five voters chose the Sweden Democrats in September, and almost everyone has friends or workmates who are sympathisers. Even the party’s opponents hesitate to call it fascist. “This is not a neo-fascist party,” said Dr Anders Sannerstedt, a political scientist at Lund University. “As a party they have cut their links to their unpleasant roots. There might still be unpleasant individuals, but the party programme has no traces of the white supremacy movement.”

Surveys appear to show that the number of Swedes with strongly anti-immigration values is coming down gradually, says Markus Uvell, head of the Kreab communica-tions firm in Sweden. “What has happened instead is that anti-immigrant opinion has become mobilised, and people who put their anti-immigrant feelings second to other concerns are now allowing it to determine how they vote,” Uvell says. However, academic research this month suggests that Sweden Democrat voters hold “drastically more negative views” about Muslims than other voter groups and are motivated “purely by anti-minority sentiments” rather than the anti-establishment populism in which it is cloaked.

“The risk is that in a society where the Sweden Democrats have a greater and greater say and immigration is portrayed as basically a problem, racist ideas and actions become more normalised,” says Daniel Poohl, editor of the anti-racist magazine Expo, who says racism and intolerance are a basic part of the party’s identity. The local paper in Kristianstad recently had to suspend its practice of allowing online comments under articles because there was so much race hate. Oscar Sjöstedt, the Sweden Democrats’ economic spokesman, said in an email: “I think it is the most absurd statement a Swedish PM has made in a very, very long time.” The party had made it “abundantly clear” that its core values included a belief in democracy, human rights and the rule of law, “values which, I presume, a ‘neo-fascist’ would frown upon”.

It is not just their roots that put the Sweden Democrats at the radical end of the spectrum of far-right Nordic populism – echoes of its past can be heard in its political statements now. One party ideologue wrote about “the great decisive battle for our civilisation, our culture and our nation’s survival”. A theme of Åkesson’s election speech in August was that Islam was “the Nazism and Communism of our time” and must be approached with “the same disgust and much stronger resistance”. “These guys really care about ideology,” says Henrik Arnstad, author of research on fascism cited by the prime minister in defence of his outburst. “You can easily find ultra-nationalism in their politics which is incompatible with liberal democracy. They want to exclude certain people from the nation.”

Anti-racists and the media have collaborated to expose the party’s extremism, revealing that members had posted racist comments anonymously on far-right websites and, in one case, posed with a swastika. Those involved quit or were expelled, but these revelations appear to have done little to dent the party’s popularity. Niclas Nilsson, the Sweden Democrats’ group leader on Kristianstad council, rails against “the huge number of immigrants” and says the country has “the most irresponsible immigration policy in western Europe”, although he is unable to say how many immigrants live in Kristianstad. “Swedish people don’t feel at home any more,” he said. “The problem we have is basically with the Muslims. They have difficulty assimilating, so much of their culture is based on Islam.” Nilsson acknowledged – but had no explanation for – the fact that the vote for his party is higher in isolated, rural areas, where there are fewer immigrants.

Nilsson fears that a higher birth rate among Muslim immigrants will eventually see them in the majority, with the inevitable dilution of the nation’s “Swedishness”, although he struggles to define this notion. But his biggest concern is that the mainstream parties might adopt much of the Sweden Democrats’ immigration policies: “That could be disastrous for our continued growth,” he said. In Gamlegården, an overwhelmingly immigrant area in northern Kristianstad, there are few white faces among the Iraqis, Syrians and Somalis who have made it their home. Ayub, 43, a bus driver who came from Somalia in the 1990s, is offended at any suggestion that the Sweden Democrats are not a racist party. “They can’t hide what they think. They are against the very existence of people like me and want us out of the country,” he says. As a Swedish citizen, he feels confident that he has the same rights as anyone else. “They can’t touch me or my family,” he says. “The problems will start if they ever come to power.”
Residents of Kristianstad interviewed asked that their full names not be used.
© The Guardian

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Most Europeans back migrant curbs, poll finds

14/12/2014- Most Europeans believe that the number of migrant workers from other EU countries has been bad for their country and would like to restrict freedom of movement, a new opinion poll suggests. The research by polling firm YouGov, which was released on Thursday (11 December) interviewed more than 6,000 people across six EU countries - the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Finland - as well as Norway. Swedes were the only country surveyed where a majority agreed that EU immigration had benefited their country. Meanwhile, although majorities in Britain, Germany, Denmark and Finland all believed that immigration had been bad for them, French people were the most hostile. Only 9 percent agreed that immigration had been beneficial for France, while 53 percent disagreed.

Several national leaders have made moves to clamp down on the access EU migrant workers have to welfare benefits, led by UK prime minister David Cameron. Cameron would like to impose a cap on the total number of EU migrants and wants EU nationals to work for at least four years before being able to access the UK benefits system. Meanwhile, the German government tabled legislation in August aimed at tackling abuse of the welfare benefits system and restricting access to child allowances. Asked whether migrants should be allowed to claim benefits, a large majority in all six EU countries said that migrants should be required to work for at least one year before being able to access benefits, and should find work before being allowed to move abroad. However, the three Scandinavian countries disagreed that annual quotas on EU migrants should be imposed. The strongest support for quotas was in the UK and France where 64 percent and 58 percent, respectively, supported their introduction.

The introduction of quotas has been rejected by EU leaders on the grounds that this would breach the bloc's commitment to freedom of movement, one of its four fundamental freedoms. Elsewhere, the poll suggests that Europeans are highly cautious about their economic futures. A majority of respondents in the UK, France, Sweden and Finland felt that their family’s economic prospects would deteriorate over the next year, while Britons were the only group to believe that their country’s economy would be in a better condition in a year’s time. After suffering a double dip recession in 2008 and then 2010, the UK is now one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, while both France and Germany, the two largest economies in the eurozone, have seen growth of less than 1 percent in 2014. French and Finnish respondents were the most gloomy about their economic prospects.

A referendum on the UK’s continued EU membership would also be on a knife-edge according to the poll, with ‘No’ supporters marginally ahead by 43 percent to 38 percent.
© The EUobserver

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Austria: Saudi School threatened with closure

Vienna’s School Board has threatened a controversial private Saudi School with closure by the end of the 2014/2015 school year, after it failed to provide the names of its director and teachers.

15/12/2014- Mathias Meissner, press spokesman for the School Board, told The Local that the school failed to give names for its staff and management by a December 1st deadline, which it is legally obliged to do. The school can appeal the board’s decision within four weeks. The school has been under review since November after a report in News magazine alleged that conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism were being taught at the school. Meissner said that these allegations still have to be proved, and the board plans to carry out inspections in the near future. It has also been asked to provide certified German translations of all its teaching materials by the end of the year.

A reporter from News magazine got hold of a copy of a school history textbook which reportedly contained sentences like “the Freemasons were a secret, subversive Jewish organization, which aimed to secure Jewish control of the world". Around 150 students attend the school. It is run by the Saudi government and is not a religious institution. All lessons are taught in Arabic and follow the Saudi curriculum. However, the school must still comply with statutes set by the Austrian Education Ministry, and anti-Semitism and incitement, as well as failing to provide names of teachers, are against Austrian law.
© The Local - Austria

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Hungary: Rights group says discrimination rising

Europe's leading human rights organization said Tuesday that discrimination against Gypsies, Jews, gays and other minorities in Hungary is getting worse and is urging authorities to fight racist violence and take other steps to protect the vulnerable.

16/12/2016- The Council of Europe made its recommendations in a report that examines a wide range of human rights issues in the country. Its release comes as studies claim poverty is increasing in the country and as Prime Minister Viktor Orban faces accusations from many fronts of weakening democratic standards. The findings are based on a July 1-4 visit to Hungary by Nils Muiznieks, the council's Commissioner for Human Rights. In a 44-page report of Muiznieks' findings, it notes a "deterioration of the general climate of tolerance in recent years" and says that the treatment of Gypsies, or Roma, is the "most blatant form of intolerance." While the Hungarian government has not yet commented on the report, it has usually strongly disputed similar criticism. The report cites as evidence violence against Roma and the rise of the far-right Jobbik party, as well as far-right paramilitary marches by right-wing groups that have taken place in recent years in Roma villages meant to sow fear.

"The Commissioner is deeply concerned at the widespread presence of racist and extremist organiza-tions and movements in Hungary and extremism in the country's political arena," it says. While it praises Orban's government for announcing a "zero tolerance" policy toward anti-Semitism in 2013, it also says that authorities "sometimes fail to deal with anti-Semitic incidents in a diligent manner." It said it is also worried by a trend to rehabilitate, in the school curricula or in monuments, Hungarians known for anti-Semitism or for supporting the Nazis during World War II. The report also takes a critical view of Hungary's treatment of a range of other matters, including media freedom and the treatment of refugees.
© The Associated Press

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'I Am No Holocaust Denier' - Interview With Jobbik Leader Gábor Vona

13/12/2014- In a lenghty interview published on 11 December on the news website Hír24, Gábor Vona, leader of Hungary’s controversial Jobbik party, defends his views and gives his opinion on a number of sensitive issues

Is Jobbik a radical or a far-right party?
Definitely not far-right.

What is Jobbik? And what is it not?
Jobbik is a party that strives to implement is programme within parliamentary rules. What falls outside of this is not our path. 

Nevertheless, you would rewrite democratic rules; not long ago, you criticised universal suffrage
As soon as we will be able to do so, we will in fact eliminate universal suffrage, which is one of the pillars of liberal democracy, and introduce an educational census. Completion of primary-level education would be the prerequisite to vote. 

At that time [in Jobbik's early days], you said labelling political opponents communists, along with anti-Roma and anti-Semitic rhetoric is over the top. Then you did exactly that, which helped you develop into a medium-sized party.
As for using the term ‘communists’, I didn’t mean to say that we don’t reject communism, but rather that labelling is not enough to compete with the Left. As for anti-Roma and anti-Semitic rhetoric, I meant and continue to believe that there is no need for coarse, vulgar racial politics, which leads nowhere and is personally alien to me.

How do you react when you hear “all Gypsies steal and all Jews cheat”?
I say these are false generalisations. However, public life needs to give a responsible and forward-looking answer to the question of why a large proportion of the prison population is of a Roma background.

Because most people living in extreme poverty are Roma, most of whom are uneducated and they, or more precisely their parents and grandparents were the first to lose their jobs at the time of the fall of communism. Destitution and despair is handed down from generation to generation among them. Do you believe such a thing as “Gypsy crime” exists?
The term “Gypsy crime” – not as a collective judgement but as a criminological concept – should not be rejected outright.

“Gypsy crime” sounds like a collective judgement even if you try to use it as a criminological term. It’s like the “Hungarian, don’t steal!” signs that used to be put up in Austrian shops.
In a criminological sense, Gypsy crime means that certain methods of perpetration are characteristic specifically of criminals belonging to the Roma minority. As far as I’m concerned, we can call it a different name, but the term itself is necessary! If we lack even common concept, there is no meaningful debate, let alone a solution. We never stigmatised the Roma; instead, we were the first to honestly address the Roma problem. This is true even if you now might confront me with some over-reacted statements from Jobbik politicians. 

With some? With as many as you want! 
All right, one can definitely find such statements, but it is a matter of fact that Jobbik directed public attention to this problem, which was swept under the carpet for the preceding twenty years. I believe that this was a virtue of ours rather than a crime. We dragged a serious problem – the tensions of Hungarian-Roma coexistence – out from under the carpet, where it was hidden for reasons of vote-gaining by Fidesz and the Socialists.

Let’s return to how Jobbik has changed.
How do you think it has changed? 

One great change has already happened and the second one is currently under way. Before you became an MP, you worked as a salesman at an IT company and clearly have a knowledge in marketing; you know that the political product named Jobbik is a product which has to be sold just like washing powder. The first task was to get it known among people, which is possible in public life through scandals and breaking taboos, such as stigmatising the Roma. You did it, and you made it into Parliament in 2010. However, today you’re no longer satisfied with being a small party; instead, you aim for electoral victory. “I want to build a trendy, youthful, fresh, popular people’s party”, you said a couple of days ago. This would require Jobbik to be positioned more to the centre. I suppose this was the reason you consented to this interview. To refine the style, shun military uniforms for suits, sideline rabble-rousers and somewhat rethink the substance.
This is also a narrative. But if it’s true, why didn’t we found the Hungarian Guard as soon as 2003 and begin consolidation in 2005?

Are you the spiritual father of the Hungarian Guard?
You can call me that, but we established it together with the founders of the association. To me, the Guard is not a method but an objective, a massive love affair which was unfortunately unable to fulfill itself in the political, secret service and media headwind of the time. 

It caused fear among many. Weren’t you bothered about that?
Fear? When we marched in a small village, elderly ladies stood outside their gates in applause, people who had never heard of Jobbik or Gábor Vona before and knew only that we came with the intention of making order. We definitely didn’t spark fear among them. 

Do you think the Holocaust took place?
I do 

With as many victims as we learnt of? 
I haven’t studied this side of the historical question. However, I am sure both as a historian and as a teacher of history that the Holocaust happened and very many Jewish people fell victim to it.

Do you condemn the Holocaust? 
Of course. I condemn all human sacrifices. However, let me note that it is a mistake to turn the Holocaust into a political rather than a historical matter – on the side of both political activity denying its existence and political bludgeoning with it.

What do you think of the memorial of cast-iron shoes on the bank of the Danube?
It is a memory which those who were affected by this tragedy found important to lay remembrance to.
© Hungary Today

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France shaken up by 'new reactionaries'

There is a new intellectual force in France - giving shape and weight to ideas that challenge the disastrous post-1968 left-wing consensus.

14/12/2014- That at least is the hope of the so-called neo-reactionnaires (new reactionaries) - a loose group of writers and thinkers who want to shake up debate on issues like immigration, Islam and national identity. Of course others see the group rather differently. For their enemies they are rabble-rousers, providing spurious philosophical cover for the extremism of the National Front (FN). Most famous of the exponents is journalist Eric Zemmour, whose new book French Suicide reads like a desperate cavalry charge, sabre aloft, into the massed ranks of the progressives.

Seizing popular culture
Zemmour is scorned by most of the Paris establishment but his book is a runaway bestseller. To date it has sold 400,000 copies. "The big divide today is between the elite and the people," he tells me at Le Figaro newspaper's headquarters, where he works. "And that is why my book has done so well. Because I have become a kind of representative of the people. They have adopted me. They say that what I write is what they think." Zemmour is a small, slight man, whose timid air quickly vanishes when he warms to his theme. He has the intellectual confidence and volubility of the school swot, and is probably inured to the swot's unpopularity. Ironically, Zemmour's inspiration is not some right-winger but Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci wrote that for the left to win, it had first to take over popular culture. And that, according to Zemmour, has indeed been the French left's greatest achievement.

"First of all there were the deconstructionist philosophers of the 1960s, who said that everything was social and therefore artificial. "Then that philosophy was carried into the national bloodstream via the intermediary of derision. The greatest example is our comic Coluche. "With his amazing talent, Coluche undermined the structures of French society - nation, family, police. When he ran for the presidency in 1981, he was supported by the well-known deconstructionist philosophers. That says it all. "So after deconstruction, and then derision, we are now in the phase of destruction. It is what I call the three Ds," he says.

But isn't "destruction" putting it a bit strongly? After all, France is still standing tall among the nations. Just about. "Not at all. The sovereignty of the nation has disappeared. The state no longer has the power to revive the economy, or to defend our borders. The state is powerless. "There are parts of France which feel like a different continent today. There are neighbourhoods which are completely Muslim - in their appearance, in their shops, in their tradition. "And at the same time we have the constant process of Americani-sation. Our budget is controlled by Brussels. We have no currency. Our army has to follow Washington's orders. "That is what I mean by destruction."

'Another people's history'
Other well-known figures in the movement include philosopher Alain Finkielkraut. Formerly identified with the political left, he was nearly blackballed this year from the prestigi-ous Academie Francaise because of his writings on national identity. More controversial is aesthete and prolific writer Renaud Camus, who lives in self-imposed isolation in a 14th-Century fortress in the wilds of Gascony. Camus was ostracised from French literary society after he said he would vote for the far-right's Marine Le Pen at the last election. Lacking a publisher, he now produces his own books. "It's absurd, because in most things there is nothing right wing about me. But I just happen to think that today's immigration is the most important thing to have happened to France - ever," he says.

"It is what I call 'le grand remplacement' - the great replacement. If there is a new population in France, then we will no longer have our own history. It will be another people's history, and another people's civilisation." Camus strongly resists charges that he is racist. "Of course I have been called a racist. I have given up fighting it. I do not see myself as one. I don't think I am unfair about other races. I do not seek to judge. "But I do think that ethnic belonging is an important factor in the history of the world. It would be absurd to pretend otherwise. "France has been very good at integrating individuals. But you cannot integrate whole peoples. If immigrants come from a different civilisation which they have no particular interest in abandoning, then they will be representative of that civilisation."

Outsiders and insiders
Back in Paris, a new magazine called Causeur has been created to disseminate the views of the "neo-reactionnaires". Founders Gil Mihaely and Elizabeth Levy say that mainstream publications are too scared to discuss issues such as immigration and national identity. "France has had a very troubled history. And all that troubled past is still alive in people's minds today," says Mihaely. "It means that people instinctively feel they have to be very careful what they say - or it could end in violence. "But by not talking about real issues like immigration, we drove people to voting for the extremes. It is far healthier to broaden the spectrum of debate, which is what we are doing." While disowning any claim to belong to a new school of thought, Mihaely draws parallels with the recent history of French philosophy.

"In the late 1970s we had what became known as the 'nouveaux philosophes' (new philosophers). These were people like Bernard Henri-Levy, who broke away from the Sartre-inspired establishment because they could see the reality of totalitarianism in China and Russia. "They saw a new reality, and realised they had to change their thinking. The same is happening now. "Today there are thinkers who can see today's new reality: the Arab world, our immigration neighbourhoods, Islam. And they realise they have to change their ideas."

No allegiance claimed
The term "neo-reactionnaire" is an exonym. In other words it is a description applied to the group by outsiders. Insiders say they come from both camps - right and left. "The big division today is over the nation state," says Mihaely. "Is the state's historic role finished, or is it still a major actor in the political, anthropological and cultural arenas? "The ques-tion is not if you are left or right but if you believe in the nation. "Our position is that the nation is still the only framework in which politics has any meaning. It is the only arena in which things can get done, where people can vote for change and change happens."

None of the neo-reactionnaires - not even Camus - claims allegiance to the FN. Many of them are Jewish. Nonetheless they stand accused, by expressing such strong views on Islam, identity and the nation, of promoting the cause of the far right. Zemmour says he is fed up with being asked about the FN. "Can't they understand that the FN is not a cause, it is a consequence. It is a consequence of the disintegration of France. "People vote for the FN to say to their elites, 'Stop doing what you are doing!' But they never do. "It was Stalin who first realised how effective it was to turn the enemy into a fascist. That is what they are doing to us today."
© BBC News

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Marine Le Pen Is Making the French Establishment Extremely Nervous

The right-wing leader has become one of the country's most popular politicians.

13/12/2014- On a rainy November morning, dockers from Calais are firing flares in protest against port job losses outside the regional council in Lille, the capital of France’s old industrial north. Inside the plush chamber, a tall, solidly built blonde woman in jeans and boots crooks a leg over her knee and flicks through a news magazine. Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National, which has 18 council seats, has dropped in from a day at the European Parliament in nearby Brussels, where the party has 23 MEPs. Le Pen looks bored as the councillors drone on about allocating €1.1 billion of EU money to help revive the bleak economy of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

When her moment comes, she launches into a riff on the evils of the Union. EU funds just reinforce the dictatorship of Brussels and impoverish the downtrodden rural and small-town folk of the region, she says. “I have to remind people ad nauseam that this is not European money. It’s part of French taxpayers’ money that transits through Brussels with the rest going to pay for central and eastern Europe.” With that, the terror of the French political establishment picks up her papers, closes her beige wool jacket and slips out to a car for the drive back to Paris, missing the council’s splendid lunch. So it goes for Le Pen as she tills the fertile electoral soil of the north as the prelude to a run at the Élysée Palace in two years’ time.

France has been frightening itself with visions of a President Le Pen since 2002 when Jean-Marie, Marine’s father and the founder of the far-right Front, landed in the run-off for the presidency. He was roundly defeated by Jacques Chirac when voters rallied in a “republican front” to block the leader of a pariah party. Now, with his pugnacious daughter in charge of the family firm, the prospects of an anti-Front reflex are dimmer and Marine’s prospects look bright. The country is in a foul mood. The sense of dispossession at the hands of a hostile world is feeding contempt for la France d’en haut—the governing caste. President François Hollande and his Parti Socialiste (PS) have been disowned by many of their disappointed voters, discredited by scandal and economic failure. Civil war is tearing apart the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), the center-right opposition whose leadership is about to be reclaimed by Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president.

Marine Le Pen, 46, the youngest of the 86-year-old patriarch’s three daughters, is gliding above this desolate landscape, a protective, Joan of Arc-like warrior in the eyes of her followers. The blunt-spoken Le Pen fille remains divisive. More than six out of ten people do not trust her to run the country, according to an October poll. But she ranks as one of France’s most popular politicians, with a 46 percent approval rating, after managing to shed much of the racist stigma that made her father unelectable since she became the party’s leader in 2011. After four decades as an uncivilized stain on the electoral landscape the revamped Front is on the brink of the mainstream. As Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, put it in a wake-up call to his bedraggled PS in September: “The Front National is at the gates of power.”

In the spring, the “de-demonized” Front won the biggest score of any party in the European elections and took control of a dozen electoral areas, including the towns of Béziers and Fréjus and the seventh arrondissement of Marseilles. It also won in Hénin-Beaumont, a run-down rust-belt town 20 miles south of Lille, which has become the shop window for Front administration and the base for Le Pen’s battle for the north. Her plan goes like this. Under an Hollande reform, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, one of the 22 regions of metropolitan France, is to be merged next year with Picardy, creating a super-region of six million people under a planned shrinkage to 13 new admi-nistrations. The Front has long been popular in the north, which is at the top of its arc of strongholds extending south-east through Alsace-Lorraine to the Mediterranean coast. Le Pen won 23 percent of the northern presidential vote in 2012 and came just behind Sarkozy. With its new creed of defending the dispossessed, the Front may manage to take Nord-Picardy in elections late next year and that would put Le Pen within credible reach of the Élysée in 2017. 

This scenario is not wishful thinking. It was put to me by Le Pen’s chief local adversary. Daniel Percheron, the Socialist who has presided over the north for 14 years, thinks that Le Pen can win the super-region despite her part-time presence. “From that moment, we will be facing a presidential election of a new kind. She will have a new credibility, a legitimacy that has never existed for the far right in France,” Percheron said. A typical provincial baron, the 72-year-old senator sighed as he acknowledged Le Pen’s skill at winning over his own clientele. Old taboos against the far right have fallen, he said. “Left-wing voters are crossing the red line because they think that salvation from their plight is embodied by Madame Le Pen. They say ‘no’ to a world that seems hard, globalized, implacable. These are working-class people, pensioners, office workers who say, ‘We don’t want this capitalism and competition in a world where Europe is losing its leadership.’ ”

Le Pen, whom I have interviewed several times, going back to 2003, is amused by the left’s indignation over the way that she has broadened her attraction, softening the anti-immigration rhetoric and adding Socialist voters to the party’s hard-right faithful. When we last talked at length, in November 2013 in Le Carré, the party’s seat in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris, she mentioned that Charles de Gaulle—whom she admires—was accused of being both a fascist and a Bolshevik. In her husky smoker’s voice (she quit tobacco two years ago and now vapotes with electronic cigarettes) she said: “France is neither on the right nor the left—it’s just France . . . I don’t have the feeling that I tell patriots on the left different things from what I say to patriots of the right.”

Physically imposing, caustic, and never letting her guard drop, Le Pen is an uncanny chip off the old granite block as she expounds her harsh, France-first creed. The armor was already in place when I first visited her 11 years ago. Back then, she was the party’s young legal counsel and was being groomed by her father for leader-ship. She became hardened early because, as a Le Pen, she was always an outsider, she told me. She was the “daughter of the monster,” as she put it, growing up in the comfort of Montretout, the mansion at Saint-Cloud bequeathed to her Breton-born father by a party supporter in the late 1970s. When she was eight, a bomb had destroyed the family flat and she had felt no sympathy from anyone. No one was arrested for the crime.

There were years of Jean-Marie’s constant absences, and humiliation as a teenager when Pierrette, her mother, posed naked for Playboy. That was an act of revenge in a feud with her husband after she walked out on him, abandoning her daughters to set up home with a journalist. During Marine’s twenties, there came the paternal banishment of Marie-Caroline, the eldest of the three Le Pen daughters, after her husband defected to Bruno Mégret, a Front lieutenant who mounted an abortive takeover of the movement. The wayward Marie-Caroline has never been accepted back into the fold but Pierrette was given a home on the Montretout estate, in the same complex as Marine, and until recently she helped take care of Marine’s three teenage children. Jean-Marie lives nearby with Jeanne-Marie (“Jany”), his second wife.

Le Pen scoffs at talk of a dynasty but she is the heiress to the family enterprise that sprang from the murky pool of nostalgists for Vichy France and French Algeria that Jean-Marie, a former trouble-making MP and paratrooper, hammered together in 1972. And as Marine Le Pen enters middle age, a younger generation is now emerging, in the shape of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, 24, one of the Front’s three MPs, who is the daughter of Yann, Marine’s second sister. Perky and articulate beyond her years, Marion is already a star. She is said to be closer to the patriarch than Marine because she shares her grandfather’s uncompromising beliefs, opposing gay marriage, for example, while Marine tolerates it. Also helping keep power in the family is Louis Aliot, one of the party’s five vice-presidents, Marine’s domestic partner—and her paid assistant in the European Parliament. A rugby-playing lawyer and Front militant from Toulouse, Aliot got together with Le Pen after she divorced, first from Franck Chauffroy, a businessman, and then from Éric Lorio, a former Front official and councillor in Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

The Front’s old guard dislike the way that she has “de-demonized” the party, down to details such as banning leather jackets and requiring blazers among the person-nel. But Le Pen has imposed her authority since her election as party leader nearly four years ago and scored well in the 2012 presidential race. She has distanced her-self from the father who still admires the wartime occupation and she disowns him openly when he reverts to the old sulfur, as he did this summer when he suggested that disease was a remedy for African immigration to France. “Monsieur Ebola can solve the problem in three months,” he said. He has also taken issue with Marine’s plans for rebranding the party, with the aim of dropping the “Front” label, which conjures up brown shirts and stiff-armed salutes. “Only bankrupt companies change their names. That would be betraying the militants who built the movement,” Jean-Marie said this month.

Tension between father and daughter reached a peak in August after one of his dogs killed Arthemys, her cat, on the Montretout estate. She moved out with Aliot and her three children and they now live in a closed community in nearby La Celle Saint-Cloud. Yet Le Pen père, who continues to stir trouble as the honorary Front presi-dent, is proud of the daughter whom he acknowledges neglecting as a child. “Marine is more shy, less warm, less sentimental than me, perhaps. She is my daughter all the same,” he told Serge Moati, a documentary-maker. “People have tried to break the tie between Marine and me but they don’t manage to.” His daughter has an independent mind but she is refusing to “follow the rule of killing the father,” he added.

A Parisian bourgeoise, child of the 1980s, Le Pen defends her father, though she has jettisoned his retro obsessions with the Second World War, the colonies, and race that have landed him multiple court convictions for hate speech. On 20 November, the Paris Appeal Court fined him €5,000 for a pun it deemed a racist insult against the Roma. He had said that, “like birds, they steal naturally.” The French for steal (voler) is also the verb for “to fly.” Yet, for all Marine Le Pen’s feminine stamp on dad’s nasty party, hostility to immigration remains her stock-in-trade. She has merely shifted the ground, focusing on radical Islam rather than race, lumping together the Muslim immigrant presence and the assault on the nation that is supposedly waged from Brussels by free trade. She says that France is finally waking up to the ruin wreaked by immigration, the euro, and the removal of internal EU frontiers. The country needs to reclaim its monetary and territorial sovereignty, she told me.

“Before the total opening of frontiers with the EU, France was a trading nation and rather more so than today . . . From the moment that they put in place the convergence criteria for the euro, our exports collapsed and our imports collapsed. With control of our frontiers, we will just be like 95 percent of the countries of the world.” This goes down well in milieux where people would never have acknowledged sympathy for the old man. “Marine talks sense,” is a line you hear in suburban cafés and workplaces whenever the conversation gets around to la crise, the sense of decline that has hung over French life for decades. Saying “I’m with Marine” is easier than voicing admiration for the Front. Blurring lines, the daughter talks less of the Front than her Rassemblement Bleu Marine—“the navy blue rally,” a flag under which her candidates run in local election campaigns.

Middle-class sympathizers liken the FN movement to the U.S. Republican Tea Party, Nigel Farage’s U.K. Independence Party and the readership of the Daily Mail, yet she is not there yet. The old stigma dies hard. Farage has refused to ally his Ukip MEPs—the other big anti-EU bloc in Strasbourg—with Le Pen’s because of what he calls the Front’s racist DNA. The differences do not stop at the past. Le Pen’s lurch to anti-capitalist populism is the opposite of Farage’s freebooting market ideas. Les Anglo-Saxons are the adversary in the Le Pen universe, while Putin’s Russia is her favored model. If only France had a patriotic leader who stood up for the nation like Vladimir, she says. Farage’s rejection upsets Le Pen, but she makes no excuses for refusing to conform to the more civilized manner that, to some, can make him seem unthreatening. “I’ve had long talks with Nigel Farage,” she told me when she was still courting him. “But his Ukip is a young movement which is suffering the same strong demoniza-tion that is applied to everyone that opposes the EU. He is not tough enough yet to resist the demonization.”

Le Pen’s task is to turn her insurgency into a machine that could plausibly govern. She says she is ready to become prime minister in “cohabitation” with Hollande if he dissolves parliament and the Front wins a majority. She is alone among the party leaders in demanding dissolution, which she says is needed because the most unpopu-lar administration in modern French history has lost public trust. She voices admiration for David Cameron’s promise of an in-out referendum on EU membership, and says that within six months a Prime Minister Le Pen would hold a vote to tell Brussels (as she put it in an interview with Europe 1 radio in October): “Either you reform and you give us back our sovereignty and independence over the currency, or I will propose that France leaves the Union.”

There is little chance of any such thing, given that Hollande has no need to call elections that would be suicidal, and that the Front would have little hope of winning because of the eliminating power of the two-round electoral system and the party’s thin structure. It would need to jump from three MPs to the 200 or so required to secure a working majority. But Le Pen is out to remedy the weakness. Where Jean-Marie never tried to move beyond a protest movement, she and her entourage in Nanterre are weaving networks of activists, anointing candidates, courting business leaders and senior civil servants, and trying to win respectability with the thinking classes.

The work at ground level is being waged by Front stars such as Steeve Briois, a 42-year-old who triumphed in March in Hénin-Beaumont, Le Pen’s northern perch, winning the mayoral seat in the first electoral round. Few local people have a bad thing to say about Briois, who is greeted with cheers when he wanders the streets of red-brick terraces and drops in to the market square to chat like any French mayor. “He’s a nice guy. La Fête de la Musique was great this year, thanks to Steeve,” said Dorothée, a shopkeeper, referring to the popular Midsummer Night party associated with the Socialists since the government invented it in the 1980s. To clean up the town’s finances, which had been run into the ground by a sleaze-ridden PS council, Briois brought in as his deputy Jean-Richard Sulzer, 67, a Paris University eco-nomist and veteran Front policymaker. “It’s excellent being able to put our ideas into practice,” Sulzer told me. “It shows people we can run a clean shop.”

A long-time oddity in the academic world because of his Front role, Sulzer insisted that many colleagues are rallying to the cause. “A substantial number of teachers are going to vote for the Front. They won’t admit it. It’s a perfectly hidden vote but our network of intellectuals is spreading rapidly,” he said. The party’s chief asset on the intellectual side is Florian Philippot, a 33-year-old who hails from the civil service elite and who is, in effect, Le Pen’s deputy. A disciple of de Gaulle—a figure abhorred by Jean-Marie and the old guard—Philippot is shaping Le Pen’s new doctrines of shoring up the welfare state and defending the poor.

The crossover from “brown to red” is vital for her fortunes. She is doing an excellent job capturing les petits blancs—the dispossessed white inhabitants of the suburbs and small towns—says Pascal Bruckner, a star essayist from the post-1968 era. “The genius of the Front is the way it has taken over the values abandoned by a left that converted to multiculturalism,” he said on television recently. The Front is offering old-fashioned certainties, a lurch back to the imagined golden age of the mid-20th century. This was the era of the “Trente Glorieuses,” the 30 years of growth that are the stuff of fashionable nostalgia, reflected in retro pop songs, comedies set in the 1960s, and above all by Le Suicide français, a new, bestselling rant against the evils of modern France by Éric Zemmour, a right-wing essayist.

Le Pen is subliminally promising a return to this imagined golden age that ran up to the mid-1970s. She is forecasting a surge to three to four percent economic growth simply from stopping immigration, slapping tariffs on imports, and leaving the euro. Her contempt for Sarkozy, Hollande, and what she calls the discredited political classes goes down well. “They have failed. They are bankrupt,” she told a radio phone-in in mid-November. “They didn’t react for decades when our sovereignty passed into the hands of the European Union and we became a vast playground for the multinationals.”

It is perhaps easy to be carried away by the specter of President Marine. As implausible as it seemed until lately, the big parties are taking the prospect seriously. L’Express news magazine recently published a cover report explaining “Why the worst is possible.” It quoted Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, saying that her victory could no longer be excluded. It is expected that Le Pen will reach the run-off for the presidency in 2017. A recent Ifop poll showed her topping the vote or coming second to the UMP in a notional first-round presidential vote. In all hypotheses, she would relegate Hollande or any other Socialist to third place. Her most redoubtable adversary at the moment would be Alain Juppé, the UMP elder statesman, a former prime minister who is nearly 70. He is eclipsing Sarkozy’s attempted comeback, according to Ifop.

Yet it is unlikely that Le Pen will be able to pull it off. Some calm analysis comes from Jean-Yves Camus, an academic authority on the Front. “If her opponent in the second round is Sarkozy, he wins the match easily, and if it is Juppé or anyone else from the UMP, they will still beat Marine Le Pen,” Camus told me. We are back to the matter of the so-called anti-Le Pen Republican Front. “The question is, if a left-wing candidate reaches the second round, will UMP voters back the Socialist to block Le Pen?” He thinks that, for all the sympathy on the right for Le Pen, they will flinch from putting her in the palace. “They may back the Front locally, but in a presidential election the question is whether it has the capacity to run the country. The Front does not have the elite necessary to take the controls of the state. It’s as simple as that.”

Le Pen has done a solid job harnessing the nation’s discontent, Camus agrees. “But it’s not very difficult, given the toxic atmosphere that reigns in French politics and the colossal errors being made by her opponents. Marine Le Pen has only to stay in her armchair and watch the news.”
© The New Statesman

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France - Is France’s far right flirting with gay vote?

France’s far right National Front party announced Friday that the cofounder of a prominent gay rights group was joining its ranks and will be a future candidate in elections, a surprise move for a group that has long been linked to homophobic views.

13/12/2014- Party leader Marine Le Pen and Sébastian Chenu held a joint press conference in Paris to confirm he was leaving the right-wing opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party to work alongside the anti-immigration National Front (FN). Chenu, a former UMP general secretary, is mostly known in France as one of the founders of GayLib, a gay rights group that also describes itself as being in the centre-right of the political spectrum. “I am joining Marine Le Pen because of her consistent views on Europe and social issues,” Chenu told reporters. The 41-year-old politician accused the UMP of fully accepting France’s “submissive” relationship to the European Union. Chenu also added that the UMP and Nicolas Sarkozy, the party’s newly elected president, were “alarmingly” out of touch with LGBT issues.

“[Sarkozy] declared that he supported striking down the gay marriage law,” Chenu lamented in reference to a November 15 speech in front of party members. At the same time, he questioning the former French president’s true convictions on the subject: “he could have said the exact opposite if he was speaking to a gay rights group.” Chenu’s decision to join Le Pen, based, at least in part, on the hot-button issue of gay marriage, has nevertheless confounded observers, since the FN officially remains opposed to marriage-equality legislation France adopted in 2013, commonly referred to as the “Mariage pour tous”, or Marriage for all, law. “I will remind you that we are opposed to the marriage for all question, and that we have declared we would repeal the law,” Louis Aliot, Vice-president of the FN and a European MP, was quick to point out in an interview with Radio France International (RFI) on Friday.

Aliot insisted Chenu and the FN had found common ground in their shared rejection of transferring political powers to the EU. GayLib, which works closely with the UMP, also rushed to highlight the contradiction in Chenu’s decision and to pour censure on one of its original members. According to GayLib, by tying the knot with the far-right group, Chenu had “betrayed all the political values and objectives that he supposedly defended, in particular the rights of the LGBT community.” “Sébastian Chenu is joining a political platform that has publicly expressed its rejection of marriage and adoption for same-sex couples,” GayLib deplored in a statement.

Outing Marine Le Pen’s ‘gay lobby’
While Chenu’s induction into the FN family has raised eyebrows and drawn scrutiny, it also appears to confirm Marine Le Pen’s intention to distance the party from her firebrand father and FN founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Le Pen father is infamous for labelling the Holocaust a “detail” in the history of World War Two, but also for declaring on primetime TV in 1984 that homosexuality was a “biological and social anomaly”, and two years later recommending that HIV patients be confined to “AIDS-atoriums.” Since Le Pen daughter took over the FN in 2011, she has avoided similar incendiary comments and worked hard to make her party more palatable to French constituents. In an often quoted statement after she took the reins of the party, Marine Le Pen called the Holocaust “the ultimate act of barbarism.”

A few weeks later she made another pronouncement at the party’s annual May 1 rally that rang out for many as an appeal for change within the party: “Whether man or woman, heterosexual or homosexual, Christian, Jewish or Muslim, we are foremost French.” Claims of rampant immigration and insecurity have remained the party’s key issues under Marine Le Pen, but evidence suggests that hate speech directed at Jews and homosexuals is off the agenda. French media, including far-right weekly Minute, have reported that an important number of men in Marine Le Pen’s inner circle are gay, referring to them as her “gay lobby.” Coincidently, FN party officer Florian Philippot announced this week that he would sue tabloid magazine Closer for recently publishing photos of him and another man the weekly claimed was his boyfriend. Philippot has never publicly confirmed or denied he was gay. While Chenu’s decision to flip from the UMP to the FN has caught many people off guard, others will see the announcement as further proof of the widening rift between Marine Le Pen entourage and the party’s old guard.

Running away from Islam?
At the height of the anti-gay marriage protests in France last year, Marine Le Pen was nowhere to be seen, even as other FN leaders broke rank to take part in the massive marches. Le Pen’s conspicuous absence has been attributed to her friendship and commitment to Philippot. Some journalists in France have moved beyond the debate over whether Le Pen’s “gay lobby” really exists, and have asked how gay men can be attracted to a far-right party and why many were considering voting for Marine Le Pen. In his 2012 book “Why are gays turning to the right” (Pourquoi les gays sont passés à droite, Seuil) French journalist and writer Didier Lestrade suggested gay men in France who feel threatened by hardline Muslim rhetoric are being encouraged by the FN’s anti-Islam rhetoric.

Sylvain Crépon, a French researcher and expert on far right movements in Europe, has said FN leaders are ready to exploit the trend – whether it is widespread or only anecdotal – for electoral gain. The FN may not have a history of defending gay causes in France, but it is well positioned to denounce the persecution of gay Frenchmen by Muslims in suburbs where immigrants are often in the majority, the researcher explained. “It’s as much the harassment of gays perpetrated by Muslims as Marine Le Pen’s statements denouncing it that are driving homosexuals to the National Front,” Crépon said.
© France 24.

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Norway Police Took Action against Right-Wing Extremists

Police Security Service (PST) launches raid against a group belonging to the right wing extreme environment in Rogaland.

13/12/2014- During the operation, police have seized drugs, propaganda material and a variety of powerful weapons, reported NRK. Some of the seized weapons repor-tedly have the logo of the extreme right organization Motstandsbevegelsen. The organization in Norway say they have four "nests". In Sweden, the organization is more organized and led by the convicted murderer neonazi Klas Lund. In propaganda videos of the group, recordings of their violent demonstrations in Sweden are used. PST Manager, Benedicte Bjørnland, states that right extremist groups in Norway are far less organized compared to Sweden. Rogaland Police pointed out that they are concer-ned about the this far right environment that is trying to gain ground in the region.
© The Nordic Page

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Denmark: Reticent populists

The far right may be more popular by staying out of government

13/12/2014- Populism is on a roll in Scandinavia. Norway’s Progress Party has helped to rule the country since its general election in 2013. Next door, the Sweden Democrats increased their representation in parliament with almost 13% of the vote in an election three months ago. Now, if a recent opinion poll is to be believed, the Danish People’s Party (DPP) has become the most popular in Denmark, a nose ahead of both the Social Democrats, who head the current government, and the centre-right Liberals, who led the previous one. Megafon, a pollster, puts the DPP at 21.2%, the Liberals at 20.9% and the Social Democrats at 19.8%. The three far-right Scandinavian parties have much in common: a deep-rooted suspicion of immigrants and of the European Union (EU); a taste for old-fashioned law and order; and a fondness for patriotic symbols. Yet their fates are unfolding in quite different ways.

Norway’s Progress Party has lost ground since it joined government, as voters have become disenchanted by its failure to honour its election promises. The Sweden Democrats’ triumphant march into parliament has been followed by the harsh reality that their seats will not bring influence over the government so long as the other parties continue to shun them. This impasse has just triggered another Swedish election, due in March. Though the polls suggest the party is rising in popularity, its prospects remain uncertain. The Danish right-wingers seem reluctant to join a coalition government. A general election could be held any time between now and September next year, most likely in March. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the incumbent prime minister and leader of the Social Democrats, has long trailed in the opinion polls, only occasionally edging ahead of her Liberal rival, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, especially when he was pilloried for his travel expenses.

Although the DPP and its capable new leader, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, may be edging ahead, they seem loth to set their cap squarely at the premiership—or even at cabinet seats. But, should he retain his popularity, he ought to have little problem getting enough support to form a centre-right coalition with the Liberals. Yet the DPP’s parliamentary history suggests otherwise. By informally backing various centre-right administrations since 2001, it has won disproportionate influence during annual budget negotiations, insisting on tighter immigration laws in return for its support. The DPP may yet think that it can wield more power by staying out of government.

Mr Thulesen Dahl has a list of conditions for reversing this position: higher public spending; even tighter immigration rules; the reintroduction of strong border controls; and the maintenance of Denmark’s opt-outs from the 1992 Maastricht treaty, which heralded a more integrated EU. Since none of this is acceptable to the Liberals, the prospect of the DPP joining a centre-right coalition is dim. Although the Social Democrats’ economic record has been unimpressive and Ms Thorning-Schmidt is often written off as a spent force, she may yet keep her job if the DPP insists on playing the underdog.
© The Economist

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Ukraine underplays role of far right in conflict

Ever since Ukraine's February revolution, the Kremlin has characterised the new leaders in Kiev as a "fascist junta" made up of neo-Nazis and anti-Semites, set on persecuting, if not eradicating, the Russian-speaking population.

13/12/2014- This is demonstrably false. Far-right parties failed to pass a 5% percent barrier to enter parliament, although if they had banded together, and not split their vote, they would have probably slipped past the threshold. Only one government minister has links to nationalist parties - though he is in no way a neo-Nazi or fascist. And the speaker of parliament, Volodymyr Groysman, is Jewish. He has the third most powerful position in the country after the president and prime minister. But Ukrainian officials and many in the media err to the other extreme. They claim that Ukrainian politics are completely fascist-free. This, too, is plain wrong. As a result, the question of the presence of the far-right in Ukraine remains a highly sensitive issue, one which top officials and the media shy away from. No-one wants to provide fuel to the Russian propaganda machine. But this blanket denial also has its dangers, since it allows the ultra-nationalists to fly under the radar. Many Ukrainians are unaware that they exist, or even what a neo-Nazi or fascist actually is, or what they stand for.

Controversial 'patriot'
This hyper-sensitivity and stonewalling were on full display after President Petro Poroshenko presented a Ukrainian passport to someone who, according to human rights activists, is a "Belarusian neo-Nazi". The Ukrainian leader handed out medals on 5 December to fighters who had tenaciously defended the main airport in the eastern region of Donetsk from being taken over by Russian-backed separatists. Among the recipients was Serhiy Korotkykh, a Belarusian national, to whom Mr Poroshenko awarded Ukrainian citizenship, praising his "courageous and selfless service". The president's website showed a photo of Mr Poroshenko patting the shoulder of the Belarusian, who was clad in military fatigues.

Experts who follow the far right have strongly objected to President Poroshenko's decision. They say Mr Korotkykh was a member of the far-right Russian National Unity party and also a founding member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Society (NSS) in Russia. According to Ukrainian academic Anton Shekhovtsov, the NSS's main goal "is to prepare for a race war". Mr Shekhovtsov said the Belarusian had been charged for involvement in a bombing in central Moscow in 2007, and was detained in 2013 in the Belarusian capital Minsk for allegedly stabbing an anti-fascist activist. He was later released for lack of evidence. Even though the details involved accusations rather than facts, if true they were damning, said human rights activist Halya Coynash.

Top Ukrainian officials then rejected as defamatory any claims that Mr Korotkykh had neo-Nazi ties. "Counter-intelligence has no information that could prevent him from receiving Ukrainian citizenship," said Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, the head of Ukraine's security services. Nevertheless, the fact is, neo-Nazis are indeed a fixture in Ukraine's new political landscape, albeit in small numbers.

Azov Battalion
As Mr Korotkykh's case demonstrates, the ultra-nationalists have proven to be effective and dedicated fighters in the brutal war in the east against Russian-backed separatists and Russian forces, whose numbers also include a large contingent from Russia's far right. As a result, they have achieved a level of acceptance, even though most Ukrainians are unfamiliar with their actual beliefs. The volunteer Azov Battalion is a case in point. Run by the extremist Patriot of Ukraine organisation, which considers Jews and other minorities "sub-human" and calls for a white, Christian crusade against them, it sports three Nazi symbols on its insignia: a modified Wolf's Hook, a black sun (or "Hakensonne") and the title Black Corps, which was used by the Waffen SS.

Azov is just one of more than 50 volunteer groups fighting in the east, the vast majority of which are not extremist, yet it seems to enjoy special backing from some top officials:
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and his deputy Anton Gerashchenko actively supported the parliament candidacy of Andriy Biletsky, the Azov and Patriot of Ukraine commander
Vadim Troyan, another top Azov official and Patriot of Ukraine member, was recently named police chief for the Kiev region
Mr Korotkykh is also an Azov member
Ukraine's media have been noticeably silent on this subject.

Recently, prominent newspaper and online publication Left Bank published an extensive interview with Mr Troyan, in which the journalists asked no questions at all about his neo-Nazi past or political views. And after the Unian news agency reported the presidential ceremony under the headline, "Poroshenko awarded Belarusian neo-Nazi with Ukrainian passport", it was soon replaced with an article that air-brushed out the accusations of extremism. Unian's editors have declined to comment on the two pieces. There are significant risks to this silence. Experts say the Azov Battalion, which has been widely reported on in the West, has damaged Ukraine's image and bolsters Russia's information campaign. And although Ukraine is emphatically not run by fascists, far-right extremists seem to be making inroads by other means, as in the country's police department. Ukraine's public is grossly under-informed about this. The question is, why doesn't anyone want to tell them?
© BBC News

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GERMANY, UK, FRANCE, SWEDEN News week 50

Germany: Government in a twist over 'pinstriped Nazis'

With thousands marching regularly in protest over asylum seekers and perceived Islamisation in Germany, ministers are in a quandary how to separate the neo-Nazi hardcore and participants expressing legitimate concerns.

12/12/2014- Starting in the east in October and spreading to other cities, the marches led by the group Pegida ("Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West") are having serious repercussions, with the far right misrepresenting its real agenda, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière told ARD television on Thursday evening. "We can already feel how the climate in Germany society is becoming more raw," he said. The ring leaders of the marches are not true Europeans, he stressed, but conceding that the appeal of the protests was growing for many people: "The participants include many people who are expressing their concern about the challenges of our time," he added. Colleagues of the minister have been far more direct. Pegida's leaders are no less than "Nazis in pinstripes", insisted North Rhein-Westphalia interior minister Ralf Jäger.

Several marches have take place in the state and more were planned in Bonn, with right-wing extremist groups behind them all, Jäger said. He was then rebuked by his equivalent in Saxony, Markus Ulbig, for tarring all protesters with the same brush. Authorities had to react to the population's concerns "before the right-wing extremist Pied Pipers do with their muted slogans", added Bavaria's interior minister Joachim Hermann, apparently referring to a recent march by right-wing groups against Salafist Islamists in Hanover. "Appeals for tolerance alone are no longer enough here," he said.

Bigger trouble brewing?
Dresden, Düsseldorf, Munich and other cities have in recent weeks seen Pegida marches, which mostly passed without serious incidents. Counter demonstrations drew almost as many people in some cases, but police have generally been efficient in keeping the sides apart. Waving German national flags and decrying "criminal asylum seekers" and the "Islamisation" of their home country, the Pegida marches have attracted hardcore neo-Nazis and also a small but growing anti-euro party, Alternative for Germany, or AfD. The group's name is in itself "a veritable call to arms by far-right populists", evoking echoes of Christian crusaders and Nazi propaganda, said Hajo Funke of Berlin's Free University. "It's about the mobilisation of resentment, about establishing an enemy. It becomes dangerous if it turns into contemptuous aggression and the awakening of mob instincts," the political scientist told AFP.

In its short period of existence, Pegida has grown and spawned smaller copycat groups nationwide, provoking much soul-searching in a country haunted by its history of Nazi terror and the Holocaust. The protests have been fuelled by the sharp rise in refugees seeking political asylum in Germany in recent months, leaving states scramb-ling to house them in converted schools, office blocks and container villages. Germany has received more than 180,000 asylum applications since January, a 57-percent spike from last year, mostly from conflict-ridden Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia,as well as from several Balkan countries. "We can't stay silent when xeno-phobic sentiments are being aimed at people who have lost everything and come to us seeking help," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said. "We must make clear that these demonstrations do not represent a majority."

'Can't stay silent'
Experts on Germany's far-right have noted a new mainstream character to Pegida, likening it to anti-foreigner movements in France, the Netherlands, Austria and Greece. Most of the marchers are not booted skinheads but disgruntled citizens, raising fears especially among immigrant groups that a societal taboo against expressing xenophobic sentiments on the streets is vanishing. The home city of the protests, Dresden, was part of communist East Germany until the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, and the surrounding state of Saxony still lags western Germany in prosperity and jobs. The AfD has also won seats in three state parliaments, spelling a growing challenge as a political newcomer on the right of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

The CDU's annual congress in Cologne this week vowed to boost domestic security, crack down on foreign criminal gangs and pledged that "Salafist Islamic subversion will not be tolerated". In an apparent echo of concerns voiced by many protesters, de Maizière also warned off hard-core Islamist elements seeking to destabilize Germany: "Jihadists should not be under any illusions: We are a tolerant country. But we will react with force and severity against any one who fights against our liberal state," he said at the congress. He has also tried to allay fears of Islamisation. "There is no danger of an Islamisation of Germany - particularly not in Saxony," he said. The number of foreign-born residents make up just 2.2 percent of the population here.

'Looking for scapegoats'
The demonstrators' stated aim is to prevent their country from being overrun by dangerous jihadists and foreigners who refuse to "integrate". But they also cheer and applaud speakers who voice broader grievances - against the "political elite", EU bureaucrats and the mainstream media they blame for allowing multiculturalism to "water down" their national culture. "We are the people," they regularly chant, co-opting the phrase of the original "Monday demonstrations" that led up to the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. They have so far avoided clashes, with police or the anti-fascist protesters, such as the "Dresden Alliance Without Nazis", who show up in equal numbers.

By contrast, the separate group "Hooligans Against Salafists" fought street battles with police that left more than 50 officers injured in October in Cologne. Police union chairman Rainer Wendt said that while riot police can handle football thugs, the bigger challenge stems from the new mass rallies of people "who voice this diffuse hostility, fear and resentment against anything foreign to them". "Many of them have failed in their lives and their jobs and they project onto others their own failure... and are looking for scapegoats," he told news channel NTV. "We need to pay careful attention to them so they're not drawn in by the right-wing Pied Pipers."
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Confronting far-right is 'a task for society'

12/12/2014- After a suspected arson attack on buildings intended to serve as refugee shelters in Bavaria, a German expert warns copycats may feel encouraged by a surge in angry protests against a perceived 'Islamization' of Germany.

DW: Fires broke out at three empty buildings planned to house asylum seekers in a Bavarian town near Nuremberg. Police suspect arson by far-right perpetrators: they found xenophopic slogans and swastikas painted on the wall of one facility. And in Dresden, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the so-called 'Islamization' of the country. Are we witnessing the emergence of a new climate of xenophobia in Germany?
Hans-Gerd Jaschke: We must look at the Nuremberg attacks in the light of recent German history. Between 1990 and 1993, there were similar attacks in Rostock, Hoyerswerda, Solingen and other cities. What makes these crimes unique is that the perpetrators felt encouraged by the mood within the population, which was opposed to an alleged abuse of asylum. If you transfer that to the situation we face today, you could assume that we're once again seeing a mood against the Islamiza-tion of the occident, as the Pegida movement [an acronym that translates roughly to "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West" - eds.] puts it. Perhaps that encouraged violence-prone right-wing teenagers or young adults to take matters into their own hands and launch these attacks instead of just talking and protes-ting. Such mechanisms are at work in these people's heads - it's a very dangerous development because there could be copycats.

The Christian Social Union (CSU) governs the state of Bavaria. Populist slogans regularly win the CSU, the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a good deal of votes. Could such perpetrators also feel encouraged by the conservative state government?
It's precisely the CSU - most recently with a proposal that foreigners living in Germany should speak German at home - that hasn't come up with even remotely friendly refugee policies. The catalyst, however, is presumably to be found in the Pegida movement's actions and the great number of participants in the marches. People are angry; people from the middle of society are getting involved, and that is something the perpetrators point out.

Is the right-wing movement currently on the rise? Are we seeing a growing animosity among the conservative middle class toward minorities like asylum seekers and migrants?
If you base the answer on positions made public by the Pegida movement, the demands come from the conservative middle classes. They aren't far-right or racist, but could just as well be found in CSU or CDU policy documents. What's also important is that movements critical of or opposed to Islam have existed for years in other European countries: there's Gert Wilders in the Netherlands, Marine Le Pen in France; both were successful in European elections his year. But Germany has never had such a movement. What's happening in Germany now has existed across Europe for years.

Has Germany neglected to focus on far-right extremism?
Perhaps it has. In the 1990s, after the attacks in Rostock, Hoyerswerda and Solingen, there ware so many far-right incidents to be cleared up. That was more or less pushed into the background by the September 11, 2001 attacks and Islamist terrorism has been the dominant topic ever since. What's been happening on the far-right extremist scene has been neglected - and wrongly so. After all, far-right extremist attitudes, populism and a disposition toward violence continue to be strong in Germany. Thankfully, the only place the far right is not successful is in elections.

What must German politicians do to ensure that angry citizens feel their concerns are being taken seriously - so they won't slide to the right?
We're talking about asylum, desired migration and economic refugees - an extraordinarily complex issue. Politicians must come up with a concept and discuss what Germany will look like as a country of immigration. That's probably not the way to win elections. What's missing are far-reaching strategies that could also alleviate people's concerns. It's also noticeable that East Germany, which had little experience with migrants, faces a phenomenon known as anti-Semitism without Jews. That's unlike populous regions in West German regions which have dealt with conflicts for 50 years and have also had very positive experiences with migration.

The shelters in Nuremberg were empty and no one was hurt. What can we do to better protect refugees - people who, after all, have come to Germany seeking protection?
This is a task for civil society. When 10,000 people demonstrate on Monday (15.12.2014), it would be important to see the other side protest, too. I hope that people will stand up for a more diverse Germany, I hope there will be a counter-movement so we can send migrants here and abroad a message: Germany isn't just a country of far-right protesters, there's another Germany.
Hans-Gert Jaschke is a political scientist at the Berlin School of Economics and Law. An expert on political extremism - in particular far-right extremism - and domestic security, he also teaches at the German Police University.
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Germany: Merkel condemns racism as Dresden anti-Islam marches grow

12/12/2014- Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday condemned anti-Muslim demonstrations centered on the eastern city of Dresden, saying there was "no place in Germany" for hatred of Muslims or any other minority. In a speech at a party congress of her Bavarian allies in Nuremberg, Merkel also denounced an attack on buildings in a nearby town being turned into refuge for asylum-seekers. The structures were set on fire and daubed with swastikas. "It is unbearable when homes of asylum-seekers are defiled, when people try to make radical slogans," Merkel said, adding that everyone coming to Germany had the right to be treated decently.

Earlier on Friday, Merkel's spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said: "In the name of the government and the chancellor I can say quite clearly that there is no place in Germany for religious hatred, no matter which religion people belong to." "There is no place for Islamophobia, anti-Semitism or any form of xenophobia or racism," Wirtz said of the growing Monday evening marches in Dresden under the motto PEGIDA, standing for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West". Public expressions of anti-immigrant sentiment are largely taboo in mainstream German politics because of the Nazis' mass-murder of Jews and other groups in the Holocaust. Merkel argues that Germany needs immigrants to avoid a demographic crisis. But local officials say they are struggling to cope with the largest number of asylum-seekers in Europe, with net immigration at its highest levels in two decades.

A backlash is being felt: this week Merkel's conservatives debated banning the burka, the full body covering worn by some Muslim women, and her Bavarian allies had to drop a proposal to oblige immigrants to speak German at home. The latest PEGIDA march on Monday drew up to 10,000 people and almost as many counter-demon-strators. The organizers, who began two months ago with a few hundred people, say they are not against immigrants but want to protest against Islamic extremism and the influx of asylum-seekers. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said not all the marchers were racists and they included some who were "expressing their fears about the challenges of the times".

Dresden is the site of Germany's biggest annual neo-Nazi march, on the anniversary of World War Two bombings. German officials are alarmed at the rise in both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiment. This year has seen right-wingers join forces with soccer hooligans against Salafist Muslims and a rise in attacks on Jews linked to the Middle East crisis.
© Reuters

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German interior minister warns of hatred directed at refugees

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has spoken out against a rise in demonstrations by far-right groups. At a meeting in Cologne, he said hatred was being stirred up against refugees.

12/12/2014- Germany's interior minister on Friday accused the country's far-right of fomenting hatred towards asylum seekers. Thomas de Maiziere, who as head of the Interior Ministry oversees the surveillance of far-right groups, made the claim in response to a wave of demonstrations in recent weeks against what has been described as a "creeping Islamization" of society. Following a conference in Cologne attended by interior ministers from Germany's 16 states, de Maiziere made his position clear: "We're not going to let them use the truly tough issues of refugees and political asylum for their own ends."

Fears of anti-migrant sentiment
A rise in demonstrations in recent weeks has seen German leaders condemn the anti-migrant stance of some groups. Around 4,000 self-styled "Hooligans Against Salafists" overturned a police van during a protest march in Cologne in October. Meanwhile, up to 10,000 people attended a weekly rally on Monday organized by a movement known as "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West" (Pegida) in the east German city of Dresden. In a statement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the demonstrations saying there was "no place in Germany" for hatred of Muslims or any other religious or racial group. The protests had been fuelled by a sharp rise in refugees seeking political asylum in the country.

"We can't stay silent when xenophobic sentiments are being aimed at people who have lost everything and come to us seeking help," German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said. "We must make clear that these demonstrations do not represent a majority." De Maiziere added that the Dresden anti-Islam movement was exploiting concerns about the rapid rise of the far-right across the country. He made the comment in the wake of an arson attack, which had racist overtones.

Refugee accommodation torched overnight
On Thursday evening, three converted buildings earmarked to house asylum seekers were set on fire in the town of Vorra, in the southern German state of Bavaria. The police said racism and xenophobia were possible motives behind the arson attack after a nearby building was discovered to have been daubed with graffiti including swastikas and racist slogans. "The suspicion that the culprits were from the far right is plausible, but the police will have to see if it is true," said Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann.

"Islamization" of German society
Meanwhile, the interior minister of Lower Saxony, Boris Pistorius, told the Cologne conference that claims of the "Islamization" of Germany were based on a popular misconception. "We know that just under 5 percent of the population are Muslim by extraction, regardless of whether they practice or not," he said. "Yet studies show that a majority of Germans believe that the number of Muslims who live here is not 4 million as it really is, but 15 to 20 million. The alleged facts on which these fears are based don't match up with reality." De Maiziere also said there were legitimate concerns that needed to be addressed including whether Germany could continue to absorb increasing numbers of refugees.

Regional authorities have been struggling to provide housing for the influx of refugees with net immigration at its highest levels in two decades. Germany had received more than 180,000 asylum applications since January, accounting for a 57 percent increase on last year. Many applications were from people fleeing Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia, and also several Balkan countries. The Cologne conference concluded that clear guidelines needed to be set for the "peaceful coexistence of all people" regardless of skin, color and religion.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Suspected neo-Nazi fire attack on asylum home

Three buildings that were set to house refugees in Bavaria were burned down early Friday morning after the unknown perpetrators painted swastikas on one of the properties.

12/12/2014- Investigators on the scene say signs point to arson as the cause of the fire. The buildings – one an empty house with a shed and the other one a former restaurant – had recently been renovated by local governments to house refugees in the Nuremberg suburb of Vorra. According to the police press release, the houses are now uninhabitable and the damage is estimated to be around €700,000. On Thursday night, a neighbour noticed the fire break out in the restaurant. As firefighters were setting up, they got the call that the house with the shed was also on fire. Crews were able to contain the fires to stop damage to neighbouring houses. As investigators began their work, they noticed swastikas and other right-wing extremist writings on the wall. Around 150 first responders form the area were on the scene.
© The Local - Germany

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German prosecutors re-open probe into deadly 1980 Okoberfest attack

German prosecutors have announced that they are reopening an investigation into a deadly far-right attack on Munich's Oktoberfest more than three decades ago. This came after a new witness surfaced.

11/12/2014- The federal prosecutors' office in Karlsruhe announced on Thursday that it had reopened an investigation into the 1980 bombing of the popular beer festival (memorial pictured above) that left 13 people dead and around 200 others injured. A statement posted on the office's website said Chief Prosecutor Harald Range had decided to reopen the case after a previously unknown witness had emerged. The statement said prosecutors would not limit themselves to the evidence provided by the female witness, but would "pursue all leads … new and comprehensively." The original investigation found that 21-year-old Gundolf Köhler, a university student who was a former member of a far-right group, was the person who deposited the bomb in a rubbish bin at the main entrance to the Oktoberfest grounds. Köhler was among those killed when the bomb went off shortly after he placed it in the bin. Investigators also looked into possible accomplices in extreme right circles but were unable to uncover enough concrete evidence to bring charges against any suspects. Prosecutors believe the new witness may be able to shed light on the identities of possible accomplices. The original investigation into what was the Federal Republic of Germany's worst single far-right terror attack was closed in November 1982. Over the years, representatives of victims and some politicians have publicly cast doubt on the idea that the bomber could have acted alone.
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Germany's Sorbs also face xenophobia, says Saxony state premier Tillich

Germany's ethnic Sorbs are also being targeted by extremists in its eastern state of Saxony, Premier Stanislav Tillich said. Anti-Islamization protests in Dresden, he said, were turning against "everything different."

10/12/2014- Saxon State Premier Stanislav Tillich warned on Wednesday that xenophobic attacks on the Sorbian community in Saxony's Lausitz region had reached a "new dimen-sion." He demanded that "every" incident, including slogans sprayed on street signage in Sorb areas, be investigated. His remarks precede a meeting of interior ministers from Germany's 16 states on Thursday in Cologne. Their agenda will focus on refugees, especially from war-torn Syria, and ways to counter xenophobia. Tillich, who is himself a Sorb and conservative ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said during his youth in the former communist East Germany he had experience hostility, even at football matches. German society, he said, was now preoccupied with rising refugee numbers and "some [extremists] misuse this situation and rail against everything different."

Sorb youth frightened
"That prompts some to become abusive toward Sorbs. I regard that as alarming," he told the newspaper Die Welt on Wednesday. Last month, a police surveillance unit chief in Lausitz, Bernd Merbitz, said Sorb youth were frightened after recent verbal attacks by protagonists, some who were masked. Sorbs of Slavic origin settled in Lausitz 1,500 years ago and also live in the Spree region in Brandenburg State around Berlin. In all, they number about 60,000. They are one of four ethnic minorities with special rights in Germany, along-side Frisians, ethnic Danes, and Sinti and Roma - also known as gypsies.

Far-right captilizing, says Tillich
Tillich accused the fast-growing anti-euro Alternative for Germany party, as well as the the far-right NPD party, which until recently held seats in Saxony's parliament, of initiating a series of anti-Islamification protests. They had seized on worries among citizens about how to integrate and accommodate newly arrived refugees and thereby sought to "make political capital" out of the refugees' fate, he said. What was needed was face-to-face clarification with citizens and education, Tillich added. "We need to remove the insecurity in peoples' minds." Last Monday's anti-Islam rally in Dresden drew 10,000 people and 9,000 counter demonstrators including members of Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities, along with left-wing and "anti-fascist" groups and students.

Emergence condemned by interior ministers
The rally was condemned by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who told Germany's parliamentary TV channel Phoenix "we have no danger of Islamization." He recently noted that foreigners in Saxony made up only 2 percent of the eastern state's population - though the numbers are far higher in western Germany. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas called on all mainstream political parties to distance themselves from "these protests." "We can't be silent if a xenophobic atmosphere is being built on the backs of people who have lost everything and come to us for help," Maas said, referring to refugees. The head of the regional states' interior ministers' conference, Ralf Jäger, who is the Social Democratic intenior minister in North Rhine-Westphalia state said a probe was being launched into the makeup of the anti-Islam groups. Dresden's protests were organized by a group with the acronym PEGIDA, which loosely translates as "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West." Two months ago, its initial match drew only 200 protesters. Members of the group have warned against an alleged Islamization of Germany and Europe, driven by large numbers of refugees and high Muslim birth rates. PEGIDA's website says it opposes "parallel societies" and religious radicalism of any kind.

Rise in asylum-seeker numbers
Last Saturday, the German Office for Migration and Refugees said 230,000 asylum seekers - many of them Muslims - were expected in Germany in 2015, up from a predicted 200,000 this year. In some areas, hotels, former army barracks and schools buildings have been requisitioned to house those arriving. Germany has long become home to more than three million people of Turkish origin, who form Germany's largest ethnic minority.
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Germany: Bulldozer attack on Nazi concentration camp

Unknown assailants cause €50,000 (£40,000) of damage to site of Langenstein-Zwieberge camp in Germany using stolen bulldozer

10/12/2014- A month after the infamous "Arbeit macht frei" sign was stolen from Dachau, another former Nazi concentration camp has been attacked in Germany. Unknown assai-lants used a stolen bulldozer to smash their way into the memorial at the site of the Langenstein-Zwieberge camp, where more than 2,000 prisoners were worked to death, and caused an estimated €50,000 (£40,000) of damage. The motive for the attack remains unclear. Police said they were not ruling out a connection with neo-Nazi groups, but the the fact that memorial signs and information boards were untouched meant the incident was "not necessarily" connected with the far right. "At this stage of the investigation, we suspect a more likely culprit is someone who started the bulldozer up and drove it a few kilometers as a prank. We don't have any other leads," a police spokesman told MDR, a local radio broadcaster.

The bulldozer was stolen from a nearby building site and driven a mile across fields, before being used to tear down the entire perimeter fence at the memorial site, and ram the main gates to the eight miles of underground tunnels built by forced labourers at the site. It was later found torched nearby. Langenstein-Zwieberge, a subcamp of the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp, was established towards the end of the war in 1944. The Nazis sent more than 7,000 prisoners from 23 countries there as slave labourers, to construct vast underground passages where warplane and weapons manufacturing could be concealed from Allied bombers. More than 2,000 of the inmates were literally worked to death. Life expectancy at the camp was just six months. Some of the tunnels were big enough to contain train carriages, and were built with Nazi "cost projections" of a death for every metre built.

Despite a €3,000 reward offered for its recovery, the "Arbeit macht frei" sign which was stolen from Dachau last month still has not been found, and police are continuing their enquiries.
© The Telegraph

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German Eurosceptics embrace anti-Islam protests

Political row in Germany as justice minister speaks out against protests gripping city of Dresden.

10/12/2014- The wave of anti-Islam protests gripping the German city of Dresden have ignited a political row, after the leader of the country's rapidly growing Eurosceptic party publicly backed the protesters. Ten thousand people took to the streets of Dresden on Monday in the latest in a series of weekly rallies under the banner of Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of Europe, or Pegida, to protest against what they say is the erosion of Germany's Judeo-Christian culture by Muslim immigrants. Bernd Lucke, the leader of the anti-Euro Alternative for Germany party (AfD), provoked outrage when he backed the protesters on his Facebook page, saying it is "good and right" that people are giving voice to their fears. "It is a sign that these people do not feel their concerns are understood by politicians," he wrote. The AfD, which opposes the single currency and further integration, but is not against the EU, has made considerable gains in recent state elections.

Mr Lucke's intervention was condemned by other political parties. Stanislav Tillich, the state Prime Minister of Saxony, where Dresden is located, described it as "vile". Mr Lucke was trying to make political capital out of the suffering or refugees, Mr Tillich told Welt newspaper, adding "This is despicable". There was dissent even within Mr Lucke's AfD: the party's deputy leader, Hans-Olaf Henkel, called on party members not to join the demonstrators, and told Tagesspiegel newspaper he could not exclude the possibility the protests had "xenophobic or even racist connotations". The federal government has condemned the protests. The Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, called them an "outrage", and the Justice Minister, Heiko Maas, called on all political parties to "distance themselves clearly" from the demonstrations. "There are still limits in the political battle of ideas," he told Spiegel magazine's website. "We can't be silent if a xenophobic atmosphere is being built on the backs on people who have already lost everything and come to us looking for help."

It is widely thought that the protests have been set off by a huge influx of refugees Germany has struggled to accommodate this year, many of them fleeing the violence in Syria. The Dresden rallies have been called by Lutz Bachmann, a local man with no previous political background. Similar protests in other cities have failed to attract the same crowds. A counter-demonstration against the protests organised by local churches and Jewish organisations, among others, brought 9,000 people onto the streets of Dresden on Monday. "This is a political powder keg," Alexander Häusler, told Spiegel.
© The Telegraph

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Germany: Anti-Islamist protests end peacefully in Dresden and Düsseldorf

Right-wing groups have organized protests with less politically extreme citizens to voice their concern over what they see as the Islamization of Europe. A counter demonstration, however, was also joined in droves.

8/12/2014- Dresden had a relatively large turn-out on Monday, with a PEGIDA-organized protest attracting over 7,500 anti-Islamist demonstrators. The Bild newspaper reported that over 10,000 people had turned out in Dresden to protest against the threat of Islamism in Germany. The umbrella group "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West," or PEGIDA is a group led by previously apolitical Dresdeners who wish to distance themselves from right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis while protesting the perceived prevalence of Islamists and Salafists in Germany and the possible return of "Islamic State" (IS) fighters who hold European passports. On the group's Facebook page, they write: "Dear Friends, dear fellow citizens, dear patriots! Monday is PEGIDA DAY and today too we wish to show a peaceful sign...Bring your friends and neighbors and let us show the counter-demonstrators that we are NOT XENOPHOBIC and NOT ISLAMAPHOBIC …"

Counter demonstrations
Despite the group's efforts to distance itself from neo-Nazis, it has attracted a very large counter effort, which uses the hashtag #nopegida on Twitter. According to media reports, the counter demonstration attracted around 5,000 people in Dresden on Monday. Organizers of the counter demonstration received support from many of the city's Christian churches, the Islamic center, the Jewish community, and the university. Indeed, the city's advisory board on foreigners has said it wasn't really a counter demonstration, but a march or tolerance and openness.

Police prepared
Dresden police were well prepared for the demonstrators and their opposition, cordoning off the area and setting up floodlights at the protest site so that no one could take advantage of the gathering darkness, reported German public news outlet MDR. Similar protests have been cropping up across Germany, beginning in Cologne on 26 October with a group of self-proclaimed 'hooligans' protesting Salafism, and continuing in Hanover, Kassel, and Chemnitz. The protesters represent a mix of hardline right-wingers and citizens concerned with the rapid rise of IS or the possibility of refugee housing being built in their neighborhoods. The presence of counter-demonstrators has always remained significant, however. Last Monday a demonstration was held in Kassel, where the 80 anti-Islamization marchers were stopped by 500 people opposed to their message.

Demonstration in Düsseldorf
In Düsseldorf, the turnout was much lower, with German public broadcaster WDR reporting that only 100 "dügida" - which is similar to PEGIDA - protesters showing up:
PEGIDA has threatened to return again next Monday and have called for the resignation of Helma Orosz, the mayor of Dresden, despite the fact that she has already signaled that she would depart from her position in February 2015.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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In German City Rich With History and Tragedy, Tide Rises Against Immigration

7/12/2014- As it does every Advent, this history-laden city has erected the gift stalls, the glühwein stands and the Ferris wheel of Germany’s oldest Christmas market, around the Frauenkirche, the 18th-century church that was magnificently rebuilt after the Allies’ catastrophic bombing in 1945. But this year, there is tension behind the seasonal jollity. For the past seven Mondays, people have taken up the battle cry of East Germans protesting their Communist government 25 years ago — “Wir sind das Volk!” (“We are the people!”) — and fashioned it into a lament about being overlooked by political leaders of the present. Dresden’s demonstrators, echoing the populist fears coursing around Europe, are a motley mix of far right-wingers in the National Democratic Party, or N.P.D., young hooligans and ordinary folk who feel ignored as foreigners pour into Germany — at least 200,000 this year alone — seeking jobs or asylum. 

First hundreds, now thousands have responded to the summons from a previously unknown activist, Lutz Bachmann, 41, and an organization called Pegida, a German acronym for a title that translates roughly as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West. On Monday, a record 7,500 showed up despite teeth-chattering cold, for an hourlong march through Dresden’s center, a mix of grim Socialist architecture and gems of the pre-1945 past. National flags were flown. One placard said, “We miss our country,” while another demanded, “Protection of the Heimat,” or homeland, “not Islamization.” Carefully kept at shouting distance by the police, several hundred opponents yelled their disagreement. “Refugees are welcome here!” they chanted in English before blocking the Pegida crowd from reaching Dresden’s famed Theater Square, bordered by the beautiful Semperoper opera house and the Zwinger museum, home to one of the finest European art collections.

Despite its rich culture and its present-day prosperity, Dresden is no stranger to right-wingers or hatred of foreigners. But as dissatisfaction simmers throughout Europe over the arrival of migrants, events in this city of 530,000 people have come as a surprise. “They are clearly Nazis,” said Kathi Wetzel, 50, when asked at her food stall about the demonstrators, though, she added, the marches also swept up “simple hangers-on who don’t really know why they are going along.” Martin Landseck, 32, pouring beer at another stand, took a far less definite attitude. “Let’s wait and see,” he said, about which side has the better case. Clearly, Pegida has touched a nerve. In Germany, where the economy is still growing and more people have jobs than ever before, no equivalent has emerged to France’s Marine LePen and her populist National Front, and no leaders have ridden discontent to power like Prime Minister Victor Orban in Hungary.

The Islamization evoked by Pegida is hardly imminent, with only about 2 percent of the population in the Saxony region foreign, and only a fraction of those Muslim.
Continue reading the main story But right-wingers and soccer hooligans banded together in Cologne this fall and overran police officers in violent protests they said were aimed at Islamic extremism. Dresden is almost the anti-Cologne — determinedly antiviolent and careful in its fliers and patriotic placards to stay on the right side of laws banning hate speech — yet focused on many of the same targets. In Pegida, “Obviously, we are dealing with a mixed group — known figures from the N.P.D., soccer hooligans, but also a sizable number of ordinary burghers,” said Frank Richter, director of Saxony’s state office for political education. He and other East Ger-mans who marched against the Communist government in 1989 cringe at the new demonstrators’ appropriation of the old rallying call. “But they obviously feel they have not been understood.”

Some see Dresden’s xenophobia rooted in its Communist past. Before unification, the region was known as “the valley of the clueless,” because it was the only major urban area in East Germany which could not receive West German television. And while the rest of Germany was absorbing Turks and other immigrants for decades, the East was largely isolated from foreigners. Werner Patzelt, a politics professor at Dresden’s Technical University, noted that “in the past 25 years, East German society underwent a huge process of transformation. People now feel that things are halfway back in order: the new system works, our towns look O.K. and we have jobs — and now there comes a whole new change and no one asked us.”

Since reunification in 1990, the N.P.D. has often won seats in the state legislature. While the N.P.D. fell short of the 5 percent hurdle to gain seats in the state legisla-ture last fall, a new populist party, the Alternative for Germany, garnered almost 10 percent of the vote. Suspicion of Islam is not unique to eastern Germany, but it is potent, driven like elsewhere on the continent by the swelling of the Muslim population, the alarming flow of European Muslims to Syria or Iraq to wage jihad, and the growing fears that those jihadists might return to inflict harm on their adopted homelands. An announcement in the fall that 14 new facilities would open in Saxony for some 2,000 refugees — two this year, the others in 2015 and 2016 — may have been the final straw. At Monday’s demonstration, four men in their 60s were unanimous about the danger. “Just look at the Ruhr,” said one, alluding to industrial cities of western Germany, where migrant ghettos are ever more common. “We don’t want that here.”

“Or Berlin,” said a second. “We don’t want to have to put barbed wire on our balconies,” he said, insisting this was common in the capital to keep foreign burglars at bay. (It is not.) Many of the demonstrators refused to identify themselves or be interviewed. But Mr. Bachmann, their leader, eagerly shook hands with a reporter before the march, and insisted that his group is not against refugees from war zones, Islam or foreigners per se. “What we don’t like here” are economic refugees mooching on the German system, he said. “Politicians in Germany, they did the whole thing wrong, basically wrong.” The local Sächsische Zeitung newspaper recently reported that Mr. Bachmann had several criminal convictions — 16 burglaries, driving drunk or without a license and even dealing in cocaine. The report also noted that it was hard to pin down where and how Mr. Bachmann had lived, though it found that, among other things, he had done publicity for nightclubs.

News of his record jars with his accusations that arriving foreigners spread crime, but Mr. Bachmann waved it off as a distraction. Yes, he told the crowd. “I, too, have a previous life,” he said, adding, “If it is better for our cause, I am ready to step out of the unwanted spotlight.” Nevertheless, he said, he was worried about foreig-ners who took advantage of Germany’s welfare system, while “some old people can’t afford a slice of Christmas cake.” Pretty soon, he predicted to applause, defor-mation of the German language would deprive Germans of Christian terms like “Christmas tree.” At the market, Erika Gemende, 74, chatting to a grandson as she sold Christmas sweets, tried to make sense of the Pegida movement. “I will help anyone who is fleeing from war; if they need some of my old things, they can have them,” she said. “But we have to see who gets what.” In this town, she noted, memory plays a part. “My mother, she was all alone, with the four of us children” after her father was killed in the war, Ms. Gemende said. “No one helped her.”
© The New York Times

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Anti-Islamist protests with right-wing ties expand in Germany

A recent anti-Islamist demonstration in Dresden that made a point of avoiding right-wing symbols drew thousands. Now, the PEGIDA movement is spreading to other cities - and drawing neo-Nazis into the fold.

7/12/2014- Posters with slogans like "Foreigners out!" are absent at the weekly demonstrations by the group "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West." Instead, the group known in Germany by its acronym PEGIDA is trying to paint a more friendly picture by drawing on the German flag, slogans like "We are the people" and Monday marches intended to recall the Monday demonstrations that preceded the fall of the East German government 25 years ago. PEGIDA's professionally designed banners are vague: "For the preservation of our culture" - "Against religious fanaticism" - "Against religious wars on German soil." The organizers distance themselves from right-wing extremism, speak of "Judeo-Christian Western culture" and differentiate between Islam and Islamism, between "war refugees" and "economic refugees," the latter a reference to perceived "benefits shopping" by Eastern European immigrants.

And yet, it's possible to read between the lines. For at least some participants, "Islamist" likely means Muslim, and "economic refugee" is conflated with refugees in general. The group's approach has been successful. Though the Dresden-based organization's first march in October drew just a few hundred, last Monday's (01.12.2014) brought 7,500. Left Party politician Kerstin Köditz has already sounded the alarm that notorious Nazis, hooligans and punks are among the demonstrators. But they are mixing with less politically extreme citizens, who are fearful of "Islamic State" terror or new refugee homes popping up near their own residences. "So, it's a conglomeration of carriers of racist ideologies and concerned citizens, who are radicalized in the process," said Köditz, the Left's speaker on anti-fascist politics in Saxony's state parliament.

Other cities, meanwhile, are trying to copy the concept - with mixed results. An Islamophobic demonstration in Chemnitz attracted about 400 people in late Novem-ber, but an equal number of counter-demonstrators also turned up. In Kassel last Monday, 80 demonstrators were stopped in their tracks by 500 counter-demonstrators. Kassel now has its own "KAGIDA" Facebook page, as do Bonn, Darmstadt and numerous other cities. While it's easy to set up a Facebook page, it's not yet clear whether the Dresden concept can be mobilized in other cities. Dresden's case is unique: No known neo-nazi bodies preceded PEGIDA. Its organizers were previously of no political import, says Danilo Starosta of Saxony's cultural affairs office, which monitors the right-wing scene in Dresden. He says those they mobilized were simply in the immediate vicinity. "These are small business owners and people living hand-to-mouth - the little man and the little woman, if you will," he told DW. Only in the weeks following the initial demonstrations, he says, did PEGIDA draw the better-organized neo-Nazis.

Andreas Zick, who directs a conflict and violence research institute in the western German city of Bielefeld, says he believes it's no coincidence that the new move-ment was formed in Dresden, where neo-Nazi marches once took place on the anniversary of the city's bombing toward the close of the Second World War. "They've been fought back successfully," Zick told DW. "Now, a populist, right-wing movement has formed that's far more difficult to protest against, since they're less vulne-rable to extremist labels. Though a counter-demonstration last Monday succeeded in stopping Dresden's PEGIDA demonstration, counter-demonstrators were the minori-ty, numbering just a thousand."

Many institutions and organizations affiliated with PEGIDA hope to change that. Next Monday, they're planning a large protest march through Dresden. Each year, Zick's institute conducts a large study on how common hostility is toward various minorities. "While it's clear that right-wing extremists are retreating," he says, "At the same time, there are quite stable groups - this is the well-to-do middle class - who strongly oppose immigration and whose default setting is chauvinistic." The PEGIDA movement, according to Zick, has the potential to spread nationwide, since the group's fodder already exists: About one in four in Germany are susceptible to populist ideas, he says.

A test in Düsseldorf
A PEGIDA demonstration will also take place on Monday in Düsseldorf, the capital of Germany's most populous state. More than a thousand have registered to participate on its Facebook page, DÜGIDA. How many will actually attend cannot be reliably estimated, particularly since mobilization occurs beyond the city limits. Meanwhile, a counter-demonstration calling for a wide-ranging alliance is in the works. Unlike Dresden, the protest in Düsseldorf is drawing organized right-wing extremists from the start. German media reports indicate that the force behind it is a lawyer who's also a right-wing member of the conservative "Alternative for Germany" party. The man was also noted as attending a recent "Hooligans against Salafists" (HoGeSa) demonstration in Hanover.

"This demonstration is particularly attractive to those on the fringe right," says Düsseldorf researcher Alexander Häusler, who focuses on right-wing extremism. "Parties like the Republicans or openly neo-Nazi groups like the splinter party 'The Right' mobilize their followers there." However, that's exactly what might deter many potential participants. "A movement that wants to be broadly effective with the demonization of Islam cannot be openly associated with the radical right," Häusler says." It has to have the have the appearance of the middle class, of the serious, on the outside."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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UK: The gay Asian men pressured into marrying women

The case of bisexual British businessman Shrien Dewani - cleared this week of murdering his new bride - shone a spotlight on the gay Asian community in Britain. How difficult is it to be gay when homosexuality is seen as a taboo?

12/12/2014- It's a world that's often hidden. Many homosexual men - and women - of south Asian descent are believed to be hiding their true sexuality within hetero-sexual, often arranged, marriages in Britain. Rahul, a Hindu, knows what that's like. He says he always felt he was gay, but accepted an arranged marriage anyway. He thought the "phase" would pass. "But I realised very quickly that I'd made a huge mistake, that these feelings weren't going to disappear."

Family shame
When he finally came out to his family, they were angry. "I felt that secretly a part of them always knew, I think parents always do know," he says. "I think the anger was 'Oh my god, we all knew he was gay, but he finally told his wife. How could he do that?'." Rahul - not his real name - says his parents would have been happier if he'd stayed married, had children and kept quiet about his homosexuality, which his community sees as "shameful". He wanted to hide his true identity to protect his family and ex-wife from more shame. South Asian communities prize marriage highly; from the day their children are born, parents begin saving for their weddings. Many gay people come under intense pressure to marry someone of the opposite sex. According to Asif Quraishi, who works for the support charity Naz, many of them succumb. His contacts with people lead him to believe as many as seven in 10 gay Asians are in what he calls "inauthentic marriages".

'Derogatory words'
"There isn't actually a word for gay or lesbian in our mother languages," he says. "The only words that there are are totally derogatory." Asif is one of the UK's few gay, Asian drag queens. He's also a practising Muslim. As Asifa Lahore, he runs a club night in west London. Many of the men and women there are leading double lives, conforming to what their families require of them, while also being gay. Several talk about how much pressure they are under from their families to have a hetero-sexual marriage. One man in the club says that when he came out to his family, his brother took him to a strip bar to try to "cure" him. He says if his family knew he was at a gay nightclub, they'd kill him for "honour". Honour is still highly prized in Britain's south Asian communities.

Terrible consequences
Many families tell their gay sons and daughters they should keep quiet about their sexuality for the honour of the family. This can have terrible consequences. Last week an inquest heard that London doctor Nazim Mahmood, 34, had killed himself after coming out as gay to his family, who told him to seek a "cure". In April, Jasvir Ginday was given a life sentence for murdering his wife, apparently to stop her revealing his homosexuality. They had an arranged marriage but the bank worker from Walsall was active on the gay scene. Then there is the case of Shrien Dewani. The Bristol businessman had been accused of murdering his wife Anni on their honeymoon in 2010, but a South African court threw out the case on Monday. The court case revealed that Mr Dewani was bisexual and had been seeing a German male prostitute before his marriage. Asif Quraishi says the coverage has had a negative impact on the gay community. He wants something positive to come out of it. "It highlighted that gay Asians are entering inauthentic marriages," he says.

Not consummated
"Gay Asians need to take responsibility, to use the exposure to question these marriages. "And, at the same time, the British Asian community needs to recognise that by pressuring their children into these marriages, it leads to mental health problems - and the real victims are the heterosexual partners." Salma - not her real name - was certainly a victim. She was forced into marriage to a cousin at 19. He told her on their wedding night he was gay. "When we were left alone and it was time to go to bed, he said 'Is it alright if I sleep next door because I'm not into women?'," she recalls. Their marriage was never consummated, but when she left him, she says she was blamed. Even her own family tried to persuade her to go back, telling her she was a "bad wife". Her mother told her if she "had done everything right, he wouldn't have been gay". Salma adds: "She said 'You should have touched him, made him have feelings for you'." The attitude of the south Asian community to homosexuality has even been absorbed by some of the gay and lesbian members within it. Hrpreet - not his real name - is a married man in his 20s with a young son.

'Life in tatters'
He says that if his child told him he was gay, he'd be upset because being gay is wrong. And yet Hrpreet calls himself bisexual, and says he prefers having sex with men. His wife and family don't know that he regularly goes to gay clubs and picks up men. If they found out, his life would be in tatters, he says. In a country where gay rights are enshrined in law, for many British Asians so much is still shrouded in secrecy. And it will remain so until their community accepts them for who they are and understands that marrying someone of the opposite sex is not a "cure" for being gay.
© BBC News

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UK: Pensioner locked up for gypsy slur

IAN MacGregor had never been in trouble with the law before but 71-year-old was hauled into court after his neighbours overheard his comment.

12/12/2014- A pensioner was taken from his home, locked in a police cell overnight and charged with a “hate crime” after he was overheard using the word “tinks” in his own garden. Retired Ian MacGregor, who has never been in trouble before and has no criminal record, was left visibly shaken after he was forced to appear in court on his 71st birthday. The treatment of the pensioner, who was not reported to the police until two days after the comment was made, has been condemned as totally disproportionate by politicians. MacGregor - who described the prosecution as a “piece of nonsense” - admitted saying “that’s the tinks got the shed up” and was admonished at Perth Sheriff Court.

The court was told he was taken from his home by police officers after neighbour Kelly Byrne – who was fined £100 after breaking a tagging order to appear on the Trisha TV show in 2006 – reported the comment. Kelly Byrne and her partner Sandy McDonald, who also has a number of convictions, claimed they were offended by the comment because they believed it referred to them. However, they only reported it two days later. Mid-Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser branded the police decision to lock up the shocked pensioner as heavy handed and unnecessary. He said: “You have to ask the question whether the police response was proportionate in all the circumstances of the case? “To take an elderly gentleman out of his own home and make him spend a night in police cells does not appear to be in line with the nature of the offence he was accused of committing.

“Perhaps in future the police and prosecutors need to consider the circumstances more carefully before they rush into taking such severe action. To make this poor man spend a night in police cells is completely out of proportion.” Mr MacGregor, from Kenmore, Perthshire, admitted making comments of a racial nature towards Ms Byrne and Mr McDonald on December 8. Fiscal depute Tina Dickie said: “The incident happened in the back gardens. Mr McDonald describes himself as a man of the travelling community. “They were in the garden erecting a shed. The accused exited the rear door of his property and entered his own shed. As he exited the shed he said in a loud voice ‘that’s the tinks got the shed up'. “The witnesses heard this and perceived it to be a racially motivated comment.”

Solicitor Pauline Cullerton, defending, said: “My client finds himself in court on his 71st birthday. He has stayed in the property 46 years and never had trouble with the neighbours before. “He said he made this comment to himself as he went in the back door. He must have said it reasonably loud as the neighbours were 20 feet from him. It wasn’t said directly at them.” Sheriff Christopher Shead said: “In the unusual set of circumstances, bearing in mind he comes before the court with no previous record at 71 and has been kept in custody, I will admonish him.” Outside court, former plant operator Mr MacGregor said: “The whole thing has just been a shock. I have never been in trouble in my life before. It is ridiculous that I got kept in a cell. “I’m not going to deny I said it. You can’t say anything nowadays without someone taking offence. Those people are criminals but they know the system.”

His wife Barbara, 67, said: “We were just having a quiet drink in the house when the police came in. The officers were nice and told us that they wouldn’t have done anything about it five or six years ago. “They took him away and kept him in the police cells with the real criminals. I never slept a wink. This whole thing has been a piece of nonsense. “We have lived in that house nearly 50 years and never had a problem with anyone before.”
© The Daily Record

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UK college steps back hosting Islamophobia conference

Islamophobia conference will be held at alternative venue after Birkbeck College cave in to online campaign against it

12/12/2014- An academic conference tackling the alarming rise in Islamophobia in the UK has had to be relocated after Birkbeck College decides not to host the conference organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission. The conference will now be held at an alternative venue. In statement organisers said, "The turnaround came after calls on social media by Britain First. "While IHRC believes that the safety of everyone is paramount it is not justifiable to allow threats and intimidation by a tiny minority to disrupt the normal flow of everyday life."

The conference, which is being supported by 19 Muslim and non-Muslim organisations including Stop the War Coalition and Campaign against Criminalising Communities, is due to feature speeches by leading academics in the fields of race relations, Islamophobia, multiculturalism and securitisation, exploring and suggesting responses to the soaring levels of Islamophobia in the UK. IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said "It is staggering to think that an Islamophobia conference held in an academic arena can itself become the victim of institutional Islamophobia at so many levels", Asian Image reported.
© World Bulletin

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UK: Herne Bay English Defence League DJ taken off air by police raid

A far-right shock jock operating a pirate radio station out of house in Herne Bay has been raided by police.

12/12/2014- Officers burst into Davey Russell’s detached home near the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital. Broadcasting and communications watchdog Ofcom led the raid, which saw radio equipment removed from the house. Russell, 44, is a leading member of the English Defence League (EDL) and runs what he calls an internet talk/rant show on his station Motiv8 Radio. In a camera rant on his Facebook page following his arrest, Russell says strange lines and messages began appearing on his computer in the days before his arrest. “I am being severely looked at,” he says. “It’s not good people. “Something has got to be done. Do you understand? Something has got to be done.”

Russell also tells his 3,500 followers that 14 police officers and five Ofcom officials came to his house while he was in bed and seized equipment, including a mixer, a hard drive, a computer and a transmitter with a reach of five miles. “This has all but wiped me out,” he says. “It was overkill. This is not a big outfit, but it’s something we have to suffer. We are not earning money out of it. “I might just get a slap on the wrist and get the kit back, most of which is my disabled son’s. But this has been an attempt to silence us.” Ofcom and Kent Police say the raid was carried out because Russell, a married father-of-two, was suspected of breaching section 35 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006.

The section of the Act relates to installing, using or establishing a station for wireless telegraphy without a valid licence. Ofcom spokesman Emma Hutchinson said: “Illegal broadcasts, or pirate radio stations cause harmful interference and can affect critical services including air traffic control, police and fire services. “They also disrupt legitimate radio stations. For these reasons, Ofcom undertakes enforcement action against illegal stations.” Russell, who dubs himself DJ Bossman, insists he has no intention of paying any money for a valid radio broadcast licence. He has interviewed former British National Party leader Nick Griffin and Tommy Robinson, the former head of the EDL, on his radio station, which has been active for five years.

A union-backed activist group Hope Not Hate has been monitoring Russell. It says he has been trying to manoeuvre himself into the EDL’s top job following Robinson’s departure, but says the group is now fractured by internal division. Hope Not Hate organiser Duncan Cahill said: “The EDL are a fading force in far-right politics beset with endless internal conflicts which is welcome news for the many communities around the country who have endured unacceptable levels of violence and intimida-tion. “The number of people attending their demos has been decreasing for the last couple of years – apart from after the tragic murder of Lee Rigby and the aftermath of the Rotherham grooming scandal. “The arrest of David Russell for illegal broadcasting is welcome news and I’m sure a relief for the people of Herne Bay.” Russell is due to answer bail at Canterbury police station on February 17.
© Kent online.

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Atheists in UK face 'systematic discrimination', says report

Atheists and humanists face "systematic discrimination" in the UK, according to a report  from the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

10/12/2014- The IHEU, which annually rates every country in the world for "anti-atheist persecution", found that almost all countries discriminate against the non-religious, in some cases through religious privilege or legal exemption. Its five-tier rating system goes from "grave violations", "severe discrimination" and "systematic discrimination" through to "mostly satisfactory" and "free and equal". Countries such as Sudan, Iraq and Nigeria are at the bottom of the scale, while Belgium, the Netherlands and Estonia are at the top. The UK was classified as having "systematic discrimination". The IHEU accepts that UK laws and policies protect freedom of expression and religion, but says the Church of England and Church of Scotland's status as the established churches gives them a "privileged constitutional status and position in official ceremonies and informally lends them many other advantages".

For example, it points out that the 26 most senior Church of England bishops are automatically granted membership in the House of Lords, where they have the right to vote on all legislation. It also points to "discriminatory tax exemptions" for religious institutions and the increasing proportion of state-funded religious schools. "These schools are typically allowed to discriminate against students in their admission policies, favouring those of the faith over those of other faiths and of no faith, or even favouring those of other faiths over those of no faith," it says. The Freedom of Thought report also found that non-religious people are being targeted by "hate campaigns" in many countries around the world, with political leaders increasingly using "hate speech" against atheists.

In some of the worst cases of discrimination in other parts of the world, children have been taken from atheist parents, while laws mandate death sentences for "apostates", says the report. "This year will be marked by a surge in this phenomenon of state officials and political leaders agitating specifically against non-religious people," it says. The report singles out the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who this year labelled humanism and secularism as "deviant", while Saudi Arabia comes into criticism for a new law equating atheism with "terrorism".
© The Week

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UK: ‘Christmas’ leaflet distributed in Cambridge claims homosexuals are like vampires

A ‘Christmas’ leaflet has been distributed across Cambridge claiming that homosexuals are “like vampires”.

10/12/2014- The leaflet was distributed in the city this week, in the latest in a spate of similar incidents in Cambridge and across the country. It claims: “Christmas is the invasion by God into the world He created out of pure love; which through man’s evil has become a polluted landscape of de-humanized people, debasing themselves with their false gods and fetishes. “Homosexuals, like vampires in their insatiable lust, prey upon youth, as they conspire to create more of their own kind, meanwhile busy abusing each other’s anuses and worshiping (sic) their own and each others’ penises in a festival of authentic Satanism. “This corruption of youth cries to heaven for vengeance. “While the pale, pathetic world of lesbianism de-feminises women and makes demonic mockery of true womanhood, embodied in the Blessed Virgin Mary. “Gay and Lesbian homo-fascists scheme their eval design of indoctrinating and corrupting young children with the big lie that depravity is “diversity”. “This too cries out to heaven for vengeance. The increasing army of the deranged’ transgenderists, transvestites, ‘queer-folk’, ‘indeterminates’, ‘polyamorists’ and ‘asexuals'; forming the advanced guard of the Antichrist, like unleashed denizens of hell.”

Leaflets distributed in the city in October claimed that AIDS is God’s punishment for gays, homosexuality is linked to paedophilia, and that transgender people should be exorcised. However, Cambridge Police has previously declined to take action to stop the anti-gay leaflets – claiming they are covered by freedom of speech laws and are not a crime. A spokesperson said last month: “Whilst it is acknowledged that many recipients will be offended by the leaflet’s content, Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights gives individuals the right to Freedom of Expression – the right to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideals without interference by public authority. This includes opinions which may offend, irritate, shock or disturb. “While the material being distributed earlier this week will in many cases offend, irritate, shock or disturb, the content, context and actions of the male concerned fall short of any criminality at this time.” A man was arrested in Brighton in connection with the distribution of homophobic leaflets last month.
© Pink News

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UK: Boris Johnson criticises Nigel Farage's M4 delays excuse

London Mayor says Ukip leader's suggestion he was late for event because of Britain's 'open-door immigration' is 'one of the poorest' excuses he has ever heard.

8/12/2014- Boris Johnson has likened Nigel Farage's decision to blame high levels of M4 traffic on immigration to "effluent" and "sewage". The London Mayor said the UK Independence Party leader's "feeble" attempt to link his tardiness at a recent event with the number of foreigners in Britain was "one of the poorest" excuses he had ever heard from a politician. He said xenophobia was a "natural concomitant of the human condition" that came from a suspicion of "the Other" and which must be dealt with in a systematic way rather than "freaking out about traffic jams". It comes after Mr Farage said Britain's "open-door immigration" partly explained why he was late to a £25-a-head reception in Wales after getting stuck in traffic on the M4. Appearing on LBC Radio, Mr Johnson was asked by a listener what he made of Mr Farage's recent comments making the link. "Yeah, I heard this. Xenophobia is like sewage, it’s a natural concomitant of the human condition," Mr Johnson said.

"We’ve got to manage it, we’ve got to dispose of it. It’s like effluent, it’s something that human beings naturally produce." Pushed on the comments by the show's host Nick Ferrari, Mr Johnson said that immigration had been "massively" beneficial for London and the country but xenophobia reflected a wider fear of Otherness. "It’s part of the way human beings are. I think there’s a natural sort of tendency to be alarmed about the Other, the alien," he said. "My view about the whole immigration is very, very clear. London has benefited massively from immigration; the country benefits massively from immigration, but people need to be British. "They need to speak English, they need to be loyal to this culture, to this country, to our institutions, to our society, to the Queen, to the rule of law – all the things that make us British – a sense of humour, and not freaking out about traffic jams on the motorway."

Mr Farage said over the weekend he was unable to attend a reception for 100 party supporters to meet the leader at Ukip’s first conference in Wales because of traffic on the M4. Speaking to the BBC's Sunday Politics Wales, Mr Farage said: "It took me six hours and 15 minutes to get here – it should have taken three-and-a-half to four. "That is nothing to do with professionalism, what it does have to do with is a population that is going through the roof chiefly because of open-door immigration and the fact that the M4 is not as navigable as it used to be."
© The Telegraph

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UK: Tafheen Sharif explains why communities should't have to live in fear

By Cllr Tafheen Sharif 

7/12/2014- I am a Muslim and I am 'me', I am a human with my own character, my own soul, my hopes and dreams and I do not wish to be judged on the actions of others, nor of minorities, nor of extremists. These are the views of many Muslims throughout Luton and beyond. Yet racism, discrimination and Islamophobia, unfortu-nately, are on the increase. We are witnessing the increase of hate, prejudice and intolerance against Muslims. Horrific and unjustified acts of criminality across the globe are profoundly linked back to Islam and Muslims.

No community, of any background, should live in fear or hostility. Muslims have been existing since the start of time. However, what we have seen particularly over the last decade, has led to institutionalised generalisations of Muslims. There are good and bad people, who have free will. If you are a good person, your religion if you have one, will bring out the best in you. If you are a bad person, you will utilise religion to justify your actions. Recently the #NotInMyName campaign launched mass support in favour of Muslims and many others in Luton.

However, once again it has exposed a sad reality, that Muslims must dedicate a portion of their lives to justify their existence, and distance themselves from those that are using their religion as a name for wrongdoing; having to apologise and defend their faith day in and day out. In fact British Muslims are role models in various fields including sport, business and entertainment. British Muslims are an enterprising community contributing to over £31bn to the UK economy every year. Over 100,000 British Muslims are civil servants, doctors, lawyers and accountants to name but a few. These are 'our' Muslim role models in Luton and for Luton. We are in challenging times, and there will be challenging times ahead of us.

However, despite this I want Lutonians, of all backgrounds, to flourish, be provided with the best opportunities in life, to be the best of human character and to take responsibility in society. Let us fight against hate of all forms, let us challenge Islamophobia and let us strengthen our communities in Bedfordshire. Luton Council of Mosques recently held the first Islamophobia conference in Bedfordshire which provided an insight into the rise of Islamophobia and challenged Islamophobic narrati-ves. If anyone has been subject to a Hate Crime or a Hate Incident, including Islamophobia, it must be reported to the police.
© Luton on Sunday

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France Far-right Party Sacks Muslim Member

France’s far-right National Front (FN) has sacked a local councilor who reverted to Islam earlier this year, answering calls of the party members to punish him over his decision.

10/12/2014- There are “a lot of Islamophobes” within the FN, Maxence Buttey, an elected member of the municipal council of Noisy-le-Grand, a suburb of Paris, told Le Parisien, France 24 reported on Wednesday, December 10. “It’s not the case with (Marine) Le Pen and many in the national leadership who know the difference between private and public life,” he said “but in the regional department, some do not.” Buttey, 22, reverted to Islam after which he sent a video to officials of the anti-immigration FN party in which he praised the "visionary" virtues of the Qur’an and urged them to become Muslims. The video was a shock to many members of the party, which announced suspending Buttey from a regional FN committee. The 22-year-old’s suspension was lifted shortly after by the party’s leadership - a decision that left many FN members unhappy, including Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, niece of party leader Marine Le Pen, who called for his punishment to be reinstated. Responding to angry comments, FN’s regional chief Jordan Bardella confirmed Tuesday that Buttey has now been dismissed from the party.

Speaking to Agence France Presse (AFP), Bardella said Buttey was an "unstable boy, timid and with a limited ability to work in groups”. The video touting Islam was “the straw that broke the camel's back”, he said, adding that “the relationship of trust is lost”. As an elected representative, Buttey will remain a council member, but has been relieved of his party duties. “Since the video, I have said nothing, done nothing to promote my religion. They have punished me just because of my religious convictions,” he said. France is home to a Muslim community of nearly 6.5 million, the largest in Europe. Le Pan’s party has been adopting anti-Islam agenda for years. She took over the National Front from her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has several convictions for racism and anti-Semitism. Le Pen has objected to schools serving Halal meat for Muslim pupils, a contro-versial issue in France, which has banned the wearing of the full-face veil in public and headscarves in state schools. She also compared Muslim street prayers to Nazi occupation in a speech given during a rally in 2010.
© AFP

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French far-Right leader 'defends' use of torture

Marine Le Pen says there are times when it is "useful to make someone talk"

10/12/2014- France’s far-Right leader Marine Le Pen has said she cannot condemn the use of torture and insisted that it can be “useful” to make terrorists talk. Responding to ques-tions in a television interview about a damning inquiry released on Tuesday on the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques", Miss Le Pen said: "There can be cases, if I may say so, when a bomb is going tick-tock and will explode in an hour or two and will perhaps kill 200 or 300 people, when it is useful to make the person talk." Asked whether torture could be used to do so, the leader of the far-right Front National party replied: "With the means that you have." “On subjects like this, it is fairly easy to turn up in a television studio and say, ‘Oh, that’s bad’,” she told BFMTV. “I do not condemn it,” she said. In later comments on Twitter, Miss Le Pen slammed a "malicious" interpretation of her remarks, saying she had meant "legal means, obviously not torture."

Miss Le Pen, who polls predict will be a serious contender in France’s next presidential election in 2017, was being questioned about the US Senate report that described CIA torture of terror suspects. Miss Le Pen’s initial comments echoed those of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the firebrand founder and long-term leader of the Front National, who has repeatedly stated that torture can be a useful tool. He himself has been accused of torture when he was a soldier in the French army during the Algerian war of independence. He told an Israeli newspaper in 2002 that it is “very easy to be critical (of torture) when you are sitting in your armchair.” “We didn’t crush the terrorists by being nice to them. The war against terrorism is a brutal thing,” he told Haaretz, noting that he preferred to use the words “enhanced interrogation” instead of “torture”.
© The Telegraph

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France: Rally in Creteil against racism and anti-Semitism

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve will join Sunday a rally against racism and anti-Semitism organized by the Jewish community of the city of Creteil, east of Paris, in the aftermath of a new anti-Semitic aggression against a young Jewish couple in the city earlier this week.

7/12/2014- The couple was kidnapped, robbed and the woman was raped in their apartment. According to the prosecution, the attack ‘’was based on the idea that being Jewish meant that one had money." Two young men of African and North African origin have been arrested by police and formally accused of committing the hate crime. The men, both aged 20, have been “placed under formal investigation” on suspicion of gang rape, armed robbery, kidnapping, extortion and “violence motivated by religion”. The couple were tied up and robbed at gunpoint and the young woman was gang raped, authorities said. According to one of the victims, one of the three attackers said: “We are here to rob you and beat up Jews at the same time…. You must have cash here because you are Jews.” One of their alleged victims, identified only as Jonathan, 21, said it was clear the attackers had sought out a Jewish target. “They said they knew we had cash in the flat ‘because Jews have money and they never keep it in the bank’,” Jonathan told French radio. “They said, over and over, ‘We’re robbing you and we are attacking Jews at the same time – the two things in one’.”

Sunday’s republican rally ‘’aimed at making the cohabitation between communities continue in this multifaith city" will take place in the area of the port of Creteil where the attack, occurred. Since Monday, indignant reactions followed the attack including from the Interior Minister, President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls. There has been a 91 per cent increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks or threats in France this year, according to the Protection Service of the Jewish community (SPCJ). Most of the attacks have been attributed to the “new anti-Semitism” of Muslim and black youths, rather than the “old” anti-Semitism of the extreme right. Julien Dray, the Socialist – and Jewish – vice-president of the Ile de France (greater Paris) regional council, said: “The taboos have been broken. The kinds of things you would never have imagined 10 or 15 years ago are coming back. Stars of David scrawled on your letterbox. Insults and violent against anyone wearing a kippa in the street.”

The Creteil attack has revived memories of the torture and murder near Paris eight years ago of Ilan Halimi by the ‘‘gang of barbarians’’ a multi-racial gang of youths With 600,000 members, the Jews of France are Europe's largest Jewish community.
© EJP News

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Neo-Nazi clashes in Sweden: One year on

A year after the violent clashes in Stockholm between neo-Nazis and anti-racist demonstrators, the presence of right-wing extremist groups remains strong. But the angry scenes helped inspire a more united anti-fascist movement with another protest rally planned this weekend.

12/12/2014- The clashes on December 15th last year were sparked after members of the Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska Motståndsrörelsen - SMR) attacked an anti-fascist rally in Kärrtorp. Scores were injured and dozens arrested amidst violent scenes with neo-Nazis chanting 'Sieg Heil' and launching fireworks at the protes-ters. Eventually the right-wing activists were forced to retreat and flee the scene as the police battled to control the situation. "I still get shivers thinking that us ordinary people were able to force the hardline Nazis back. With the help of the chants we were able to push them into the woods," Ammar Khorshed, of the Line 17 against racism group, told the TT news agency. The manifestation in Kärrtorp a year ago was held in reaction to Nazi grafitti being daubed in the area.

A large crowd of protesters gathered in the main square before a group of men clad in black stormed the square and all hell broke loose. In the ensuing mayhem the estimated 50 neo-Nazis engaged in violent clashes with the protesters. Police arrested dozens of people at the scene and to date more than 30 people, most from the neo-Nazi group, have been prosecuted. On the anniversary of the incident the evidence presented to the prosecution suggests it was an unprovoked attack. Among the material being sifted through by the prosecutors is video footage of the day's events captured by neo-Nazis as well as protesters. "There's been a lot of interest. Particu-larly at the beginning the phone was ringing all the time. I have also received emails and questions from the public that I had not experienced before," prosecutor Tove Kullberg told TT.
© The Local - Sweden

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Lack of ideas, leadership in Swedish politics may benefit far right

12/12/2014- Sweden's mainstream parties head into March's snap election unloved by voters and short on seasoned leadership, raising the risk the far-right will increase its support and be able to force a shift in generous immigration policies. Center-left Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's need to call a new election two months into office underlines his weak-ness. His likely rival for the top political post - Moderate party economic spokeswoman Anna Kinberg Batra - will not even head her own party until January. The center-right and center-left lack fresh ideas - tax cuts are over but will not be reversed - and voters gave a thumbs down to both blocs in September's vote, handing the Sweden Democrats the balance of power. After bringing down Lofven's government, the Sweden Democrats could now cement their rise from right-wing fringe to the center-stage of Swedish politics.

"No one knows how big the Sweden Democrats could be," said Anders Sannerstedt, political scientist at Lund University, pointing to research in 2013 that showed 44 percent of Swedes wanted to see less immigration. "They got 12.9 percent in September's election, so their voter pool isn't empty yet." The party has threatened to bring down any govern-ment that fails to rein in immigration and wants to cut the number of asylum seekers reaching Sweden - the world's top per capita recipient - by 90 percent. All major parties have refused to cooperate with them. But a strong showing by the Sweden Democrats in March will make them harder to ignore. A YouGov poll in December put support for the Sweden Democrats rising to 17.7 percent. "The mainstream parties ... either have to find a way to cooperate across the political divide, or change their views on the Sweden Democrats," Magnus Hagevi, political scientist at Linnaeus University, said.

Generous immigration has been a cornerstone of Swedish politics for decades and research from Gothenburg University shows Swedes are becoming more, not less, tolerant, though the number saying they want lower immigration is still above 40 percent. However, record number of asylum seekers - up to 105,000 in 2015 says the Migration Board - have revealed fault lines in the country of 9.5 million people. Former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in August that growing asylum seeker numbers would leave little room for welfare spending in the coming years. A TV poll this week showed more than 50 percent of local politicians from Reinfeldt's Moderate Party want Sweden to take in fewer refugees. Sweden Democrat acting leader Mattias Karlsson said he wanted the March election to be "a referendum on immigration."

Uninspiring
The main parties are in the doldrums. The center-right Moderates face the possibility their partners in the former Alliance government could fall under the parliamentary threshold to win any parliamentary seats. The Moderates themselves saw their share of the vote drop nearly 7 percentage points to around 23 percent in September and are short of funds. One senior party insider said the campaign budget will be 20-30 million crowns against 100 million for the EU and general election last year. "We don't have the economic muscle," the party source said. By contrast, the smaller Sweden Democrats have around 15-20 million crowns to spend. Sweden Democrat party secretary Bjorn Soder said his party would become Sweden's second biggest, "maybe following the snap election, but by the latest in 2018." Leadership issues also dog the center-left and center-right. At 44, Moderate leader-in-waiting Kinberg Batra is a seasoned MP. But she has yet to step out from the shadow of Reinfeldt.

She is best known for saying Stockholmers were "smarter than the hicks" in the rest of the country. "It is very hard to take over after Reinfeldt who was such a safe pair of hands, experienced and such a strategic thinker," said Lena Mellin, colum-nist at Aftonbladet newspaper. Social Democrat Lofven, picked as compromise leader after two election defeats, has shown little of the negotiating prowess that made him a successful union leader. A Sifo poll for daily Svenska Dagbladet in November showed only 25 percent said his govern-ment had done a good job in its first month in office. Faced with continued parliamentary deadlock, the Alliance has offered a deal that would make it easier for minority govern-ments to pass budgets, hoping to avoid the trap Lofven's fate at the hands of the Sweden Democrats. With polls showing the center-left and center-right running neck and neck, neither side has yet flinched. "My biggest worry is that a new vote really isn't going to solve anything," said Linneaus University´s Hagevi.
© Reuters

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Sweden: Firebombs thrown at police in Stockholm riot

7/12/2014- Police were attacked with firebombs and rocks in a poor suburb in Sweden's capital late on Saturday, leading to the arrest of eleven young people for rioting and arson. The events in Ragsved in southern Stockholm came after week-long riots in Husby on the other side of the capital in May last year when hundreds of cars were burnt as police battled immigrant youths after a Portuguese man was shot dead by police. A police spokesman said it was too early to say who the perpetra-tors were this time, but that four of the eleven arrested were younger than 18. "What is quite unusual here is that this was seemingly somewhat planned ahead," police spokesman Kjell Lindgren said. He said firebombs and piles of paving stones were already prepared when police arrived and the approximate 30 people behind the riot were reported to have been masked.

No people were harmed but around 10 cars were set on fire. Police cars were damaged and a Ragsved police office also saw some damage. Like Husby, Ragsved has a large immigrant population, and further violence in immigrant suburbs could help boost the far-right anti-immigration Sweden Democrats in snap elections in March next year. The Sweden Democrats effectively brought the centre-left government down after just two months in office by breaking with common practice and voting for the centre-right opposition budget, thereby getting it passed. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Wednesday he would call for the country's first snap elections in over 50 years, to be held March 22 next year. The Sweden Democrats made significant gains in the regular election in September, doubling their vote to become the third largest party.
© Reuters

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Swedish far-right party demands apology for 'neo-fascist' tag

The far-right Sweden Democrats party on Saturday demanded that the prime minister and finance minister apologise for calling it "neo-fascist".

7/12/2014- "It's remarkable that both a prime minister and a finance minister speak in this way and it calls for an apology to the Sweden Democrats party and to all voters," spokes-man Bjorn Soder said at a party meeting, the TT news agency reported. Social-Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Lofven wrote in an op-ed published in the Dagens Nyheter daily on Saturday: "The Sweden Democrats are a neo-fascist party... that respects neither the differences between people nor Sweden's democratic institutions." For her part, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson said Friday: "What we have here is a neo-fascist party which believes it must have a decisive influence and set the agenda in Swedish politics." Loef-ven, in office for just two months, had called the March 22 election on Wednesday after the Sweden Democrats, who oppose his liberal immigration policies, refused to back his budget in parliament.

The snap polls are the first Sweden has seen in half a century. The Sweden Democrats have already announced that they intend to turn the election into a "referendum on immigra-tion". The Sweden Democrats, with roots in the country's most radical extreme right, entered parliament in 2010 with the ambition of curbing Sweden's generous policy on immigra-tion and refugees. The party became Sweden's third-biggest in September general elections with 12.9 percent of the votes and 49 of the 349 seats in parliament. All seven parties in parliament refuse to take on the Sweden Democrats as allies, however.
© AFP

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Headlines 12 December, 2014

Greece: Kasidiaris hearing for TV beating postponed

12/12/2014- An Athens court on Friday postponed the trial of Golden Dawn’s Ilias Kasidiaris over charges of attempted grievous bodily harm to March 1st, 2016. The postponement was due to action called by lawyers. The case centered on charges brought against Kasidiaris by Greek Communist Party (KKE) MP Liana Kanelli, following a televised brawl on June 2012. The incident occurred during a live morning show on Antenna television, when Kasidiaris threw a glass of water at SYRIZA’s Rena Dourou, now Attica governor, before slapping Kanelli several times across the face. Kasidiaris is currently in pre-trial custody at Korydallos Prison in connection with a criminal investigation into the activities of the neo-Nazi party. The trial was postponed in October due to industrial action called by court secretaries.
© Kathimerini

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Netherlands: Minister acts to ensure equal pay for foreign workers

12/12/2014- Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher has finalised draft legislation aimed at stopping companies from not paying foreigner workers the same wages as Dutch staff. This, the minister said, is disadvantaging Dutch workers and by ensuring everyone is paid the same companies will no longer be able to compete unfairly with each other. ‘People should get the same pay for the same job, whether they come from Rotterdam or Romania,’ Asscher said. The legislation states that workers who are underpaid can claim the rest from their employer or sub-contractor. If that fails to generate results, they can claim their unpaid wages from higher up the contracting chain. ‘The main contractor has an interest in making sure underpayments are solved in order to prevent claims or reputational damage,’ Asscher said at the presentation on Friday. The new legislation also states that pay will be transferred electronically and all workers must be given an easy-to-understand wage slip. Nor can deductions any longer be made for rental housing costs. Last year, labour ministry inspectors identified 582 workers who were not paid official rates, over 200 more than in 2012.
© The Dutch News

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Armenian Human Rights Defenders Predict Harsher Environment

Civic groups are bracing for the fallout from the country’s entry into the Eurasian Economic Union in January
by Arevik Sahakyan 

12/12/2014- Human rights defenders in Armenia are warning that civil liberties and press freedom could be eroded once the country joins Moscow’s new Eurasian Economic Union. One early sign of this is a plan to copy Russia’s restrictions on nongovernmental groups. “We are about to face great challenges,” Avetik Ishkhanyan, of the Helsinki Committee human rights group, said. Armenia will become a member of the EEU in January, joining the three states already part of its predecessor, the Customs Union – Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. A fifth country, Kyrgyzstan, is finalizing arrangements to join. The grouping is formally a European Union-style bloc with common trade tariffs and harmonized legislation. Many analysts, however, believe it is also a political structure that will inevitably be dominated by Moscow. This feeling has only strengthened since Russia took on Ukraine and fell out with the West.

In Armenia, there are fears that the government will fall into line by adopting the kind of retrograde legislation seen in Russia. To take one example, Kyrgyzstan – for the last two decades Central Asia’s most liberal state – has a bill before parliament that would impose severe restrictions on what has been a thriving community of NGOs. This bill, inspired by Russian legislation passed in 2012, would force civil society groups to register as “foreign agents.” In both Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, there are moves to copy Russia’s 2013 law banning “gay propaganda.” Now the Armenian Justice Ministry has come up with a similar bill designed to restrict NGOs’ freedom to operate. “This law completely throws into question the independent activity of public [nongovernmental] organizations,” Ishkhanyan told IWPR. “That is very much in keeping with the policy of restricting NGO activities all across the Eurasian Economic Union.”

‘Political’ Detentions
Artur Sakunts, head of the Vanadzor office of the Helsinki Assembly, is gloomy about the prospects for broader observance of basic rights once Armenia joins the Eurasian bloc. He said this year has seen a marked downturn in the rights environment and that Armenia has gone back to being a country with political prisoners. Sakunts cited two cases. One is that of Volodya Avetisyan, a retired colonel convicted of fraud and given a six-year jail term in July. Supporters say his real crime was to organize a protest calling for better welfare provision for Armenians who fought in the Nagorno-Karabakh war of the early 1990s. The second case is that of Shant Harutyunyan, who took part in a small anti-govern-ment demonstration in the capital, Yerevan, last year.

He was given six years after a trial in October. Other participants were also convicted, including Harutyunan’s son, a minor, who got a probationary term. Two opposition parties, Heritage and the Armenian National Congress, have declared Harutyunyan a political prisoner. According to Sakunts, the na-ture of the evidence that led to guilty verdicts in both cases suggests they were really about “political persecution.” Armenia’s justice minister, Hovhannes Manukyan, insisted no one is incarcerated for political reasons. “None of the reports or reviews indicates that there are any political prisoners,” he said.

Attacks on Rights Defenders
Another worrying development is the attacks on the human rights community that look random but are clearly targeted. In November, Gevorg Safaryan, a member of a wide-ranging reform group called Pre-Parliament, was assaulted in Yerevan, and six cars belonging to members of the same organization were torched. The Pre-Parliament group had recently announced plans to stage anti-government demonstrations. “This was an unprecedented case of political persecution, and I doubt any of the culprits will ever be found,” Ishkhanyan said. His colleague Sakunts suspects the authorities of employing freelance thugs to carry out attacks on their political opponents, a tactic that allows them to insist they are not behind the violence.

Inroads on Free Speech
Media-watchers believe freedom of expression is now under attack, as well. Between January and the beginning of October, rights groups recorded seven physical assaults on journalists in Armenia. That is the same number recorded for the whole of 2013, a year in which a presidential election took place – a significant point, according to Ashot Melikyan, head of the Committee for the Protection of Free Speech. “Since cases of violence against journalists increase during elections, the figure for this year can be seen as retrograde,” he said. Melikyan also pointed to formal attempts to curb free speech, for example a bill designed to make media outlets legally liable for comments posted by anonymous web users. The legislation was blocked by a concerted campaign by Armenian journalists. The latest Internet Freedom report from the Washington-based watchdog Freedom House gives Armenia a significantly better score than any of the other Eurasian union members. Another troubling precedent has been set by a case in which prosecutors went to court to try to force two media outlets, the Hraparak newspaper and the Ilur.am news website, to reveal sources of information. “All this is a covert attempt to impose censorship,” Melikyan said.

Other Concerns
Human rights defenders interviewed by IWPR pointed to alarming trends in other areas. Sakunts said police continued to use violence against detainees with near-impunity, as most prosecutions of officers were subsequently dropped. Campaigners also see a major pension reform involving the introduction of mandatory contributions as an unconstitutional attack on personal and property rights. After Armenia’s Constitutional Court deemed the legislation unlawful, the government responded by amending it rather than dropping it altogether. Meri Khachatryan, a lawyer with the Dem Em group which has been fighting the pensions reform, told IWPR she hoped the Constitutional Court would now reject the government’s revised version. She also pointed to two other laws she saw as infringements on social and labor rights – one reducing maternity pay, and the other setting out new tax rules for retailers. Sakunts describes 2014 as a “dismal year” for human rights in Armenia and predicts that things can only get worse once the country is part of the Russian-led bloc. “If the Armenian government had any intention of altering human rights protections [for the better], it would never have decided to join the Eurasian Economic Union, in which respect for human rights is absent at a structural level,” he said.
Arevik Sahakyan is a freelance reporter in Armenia.
© Institute for War & Peace Reporting

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Italy's Northern League calls for EU to be 'demolished'

10/12/2014- In a European political landscape increasingly populated with insurgent, anti-system parties, Italy's eurosceptic anti-immigrant Northern League is the latest to profit from a groundswell of hostility to the European Union. The League's 41-year-old leader, Matteo Salvini calls the euro a "criminal currency" and wants to demolish the Brussels con-sensus that has dominated European politics since the end of World War Two. He is also, at odds with mainstream leaders, an admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Salvini has become Italy's second-most popular leader since taking over the party, founded in the early 1990s as a separatist movement in the prosperous north of Italy. Forceful and plain-spoken, Salvini has emerged at the same time as the 39-year-old prime minister, Matteo Renzi, highlighting the generational change shaking up Italian politics since the fall of Silvio Berlusconi in 2011.

He is a friend of Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Front, and well-disposed to a Russian president who has spurred anger, and economic sanctions, in Brussels over his policies toward pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine. "The Europe of today cannot be reformed in my opinion," he told the foreign press association in Rome. "There's nothing to be reformed in Brussels. It's run by a group of people who hate the Italian people and economy in particular," he said. Such talk would once have been unthinkable from a mainstream Italian politician but more than six years of economic crisis have fueled a remarkable surge in anti-European sentiment in the eurozone's third-largest economy. With the Northern League, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party all to a greater or lesser extent against the euro, around half of Italian voters now support eurosceptic or outright anti-euro parties.

Salvini, who took over as Northern League leader last year after financial scandal brought down party founder Umberto Bossi, has surfed the wave of discontent. He has played down the movement's former regional focus and wants to broaden its appeal into southern Italy, where the crisis has hit hardest. As well as his opposition to the euro, he says he would introduce a single flat-tax rate of 15 percent, deport illegal immigrants immediately and crack down on crime with tough measures including chemical castration for sex offenders. Recent polls give the Northern League around 10 percent of the vote and Salvini said polls suggest it could win between 4 and 7 percent of the vote in central and sout-hern Italy. His own popularity was running at 26 percent, behind Renzi on 40. With the 5-Star Movement beset by infighting and slipping in the opinion polls, he hopes to claim much of the protest vote against the man he mockingly calls "His Majesty Renzi". Fears that his message could alarm Italy's partners or the financial markets are dismissed unceremo-niously. "I don't want to reassure anyone at all," he said.
© Reuters

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Malta: Sexual predator targeted vulnerable migrant women in Safi

‘Officers refused by the Armed Forces of Malta sent to work as detention services officers,’ former detention services head told 2012 inquiry

11/12/2014- A 2012 inquiry into the death of Malian asylum seeker Mamadou Kamara, 32, has revealed the extent of the horrific conditions asylum seekers held in detention centres faced and the unimaginable traumatic experiences they were put through. From a sergeant who used to prey on vulnerable migrant women and another refused by the army because he had usury problems, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Gatt – former head of the detention services – had let everything out during an inquiry conducted by retired judge Geoffrey Valenzia. This is the first time that the contents of the inquiry, which took place in 2012, are being made public after it was tabled yesterday in parliament by the government. Downloadable Files:  Mamadou Kamara Inquiry Report.pdf

For years, human rights NGOs had decried the appalling state of the detention services, repeatedly calling on the different administrations to ensure that asylum seekers are effectively protected from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. “They used to send me the worst of the worst…soldiers refused by the army,” Gatt had told Valenzia explaining that working at the Detention Services was a sort of punishment for soldiers. One time, an officer was transferred to the Detention Services because he was deemed as the “worst officer” of the Armed Forces of Malta. After two weeks, he tendered his resignation because he no longer wanted to stay there, dubbing the DS “a punishment unit”.

“I asked for a replacement and they decided to send an officer who had been charged with shooting at a yacht during training. I rushed to Luqa barracks asking whether they were in their right mind. How could they send me someone with a criminal record when we just had the incident of that migrant?” Gatt said, referring to the death of Infeanyi Nwoko-ye in 2011. “Another example: I had a sergeant in Hal Far who used to prey on migrant women, entering their rooms during the night and taking a woman back to his office with him. Even condoms were found in the room.” This sergeant was never suspended but simply transferred to another section. Four years later he was returned to the DS.

Gatt told the inquiry that once they had sent him “a good” officer, only to be replaced six months later by another who had usury problems. “They didn’t want him because he was involved usury and he was being chased by people who wanted their money back. Once he took the driver out with him during the night, only to be stopped by armed peop-le. “What I’m trying to say here is that nothing will ever be achieved with these type of people working at the detention services. We have to change the people and the structure if we want things to change around here.”

Human rights NGOs who spoke to Valenzia as part of the inquiry said the system “dehumanised migrants”. “They’re not treated as humans but treated as illegal object that have no rights and no access to procedures. They’re just waiting for something to happen to them. The system creates an environment of animosity between them and the staff. […] this dehumanising process and everyone feels abandoned and being criticised by everyone and the only persons they can vent their frustration on is each other, and this leads to violence, racial abuse, harassment, vulgar language, xenophobia and sadly this incident of a few weeks ago.” Neil Falzon, of aditus, had opined with the inquiring judge that Kamara’s death was “the result of a number of problems and accumulation of years and years of stress on the system which collapsed”.

Mamadou Kamara, the inquiry revealed, died from a heart attack caused by severe pain as a result of blunt trauma: according to forensic expert Mario Scerri, Kamara was kicked into the groin. “[…]It was not easy to hit him. A blow on the testis can cause a sudden death. The death can be instant. Death was caused by vagal inhibition due to severe pain followed by blunt trauma. We also found that when we saw the scenario that this person was dead when he was put in the van. Probably he was already dead. His stomach was full of food. He had eaten with half an hour of his death. If he was running, if he was on the run, he couldn’t have eaten. There was food in the stomach. It was very slightly digested. It was recent. One of the lungs had haemorrhage at the base which corresponds to the blows and there were petechiae on the surface. “[…]His heart was strong. He was in great pain when he died. […] Severe pain is a known cause of cardiac arrest.”

When Kamara escaped and was later recaptured, he was placed in a steel cage at the back of a detention centre van where he was brutally beaten, suffered a heart attack and died. Not only had the detention service officers killed the man but they also broke protocol when they sat inside the cage with him while he was being transported, handcuffed and lying on the floor, to the health centre. The inquiry had revealed that the detention services was severely understaffed, especially when it came to female officers stationed with migrant women. At the time, there was only one female detention service officer. This meant that male officers would walk straight onto female migrants taking a shower for the head count; male officers would accompany pregnant women to hospital at times even staying with them while they were being examined by the doctor. The inquiry found that there was “a kind of inappropriate relationship going on between some members of staff and migrant women being detained. It could have been consensual but given the context, you question this consent…how real it is… because they are detained and there is a soldier-detainee relationship which renders the relationship inappropriate”.
© Malta Today

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Austria: Interior Ministry holds asylum crisis meeting

Austria’s Interior Ministry is holding a crisis meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the country’s urgent need for more accommodation for asylum seekers.

10/12/2014- The reception centre at Traiskirchen, and the Magdeburg Barracks in Klosterneuburg - which only opened a week ago - are bursting at the seams. Many more refugees are expected to arrive in Austria in the next few months. Last week, more than 1,150 asylum applications were filed in Austria, the highest number in more than a decade, accor-ding to the Austrian Press Agency. “We need national solidarity in order to avoid a situation where refugees end up being housed in tents,” a statement from the Interior Ministry said. “We currently have a crisis situation concerning the accommodation of asylum seekers. We are faced with an increased number of applications but the states are not doing enough to provide accommodation,” Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundböck said. Currently, all federal care facilities are being used, as well as police department gyms. The Interior Ministry meeting will discuss the possibility of temporarily using army barracks and church buildings to house refugees. Representatives of the federal states have been invited, as well as from the Roman Catholic charity Caritas, the Evangelical Church and the defence and foreign ministries. Only Vienna and Lower Austria are currently meeting their quotas for housing asylum seekers.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Muslim woman attacked at Vienna bank

A 60-year-old Muslim woman was seriously injured after being attacked at a bank in Vienna, in an incident which appears to have been motivated by Islamophobia.

9/12/2014- Pensioner Selver S. was waiting in a queue to collect her pension at a Bawag bank branch in Schönbrunner Strasse (Meidling) when a man approached her, insulted her and repeatedly shoved her, knocking her to the floor. She was taken to hospital, suffering a spinal injury. A 40-year-old man was arrested outside the bank shortly afterwards. Her son Engin told the Heute newspaper that she suffered a lumbar fracture and had to spend seven days in Hanusch hospital. She had to have an operation on her spine and is now being cared for at home by her son. There have been several incidents where women wearing head scarves have been insulted and attacked in Vienna recently, which comes after frequent stories in the press about young Muslims being radicalized and travelling to Syria to fight alongside Isis.
© The Local - Austria

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Lithuania: A Lesson in Propaganda?

Lithuania’s Russian-language schools are under a microscope after students attend a boot camp for kids from ex-Soviet republics.
by Linas Jegelevicius

9/12/2014- Like kids the world over, lots of young Lithuanians are interested in guns. But to much of the country, pupils from two Russian-language schools in Vilnius dismantling and reassembling Kalashnikovs at a martial youth gathering in far-off Kyrgyzstan hardly looked like child’s play. Indeed, the news of what a handful of ethnically Russian Lithuanian teenagers did on their summer vacation caused a brouhaha in the Baltic country, where always-bubbling tensions with Russia have come to a boil over the Ukraine crisis and ongoing trade and energy fights. “Obviously, this constitutes a threat to Lithuania’s national security,” said Gediminas Grina, director of the Lithuanian State Security Department (SSD). “I suggest we not make our children hostages to the interests of other countries in that way.”

Youth from across the former Soviet sphere who attended the “Soyuz 2014 – Heirs of Victory” camp in the Kyrgyzstani town of Issyk Kul in August not only wielded Russian arms and wore Russian paratroopers’ camouflage gear. They also heard lectures on the glory of the Soviet Union, the menace of NATO and Western propaganda, and Baltic politicians tearing down the house of Slavic unity. “That sort of a youth camp definitely serves as a means to preach a certain extremist ideology. Through brainwashing youth are actively recruited for aggressive actions,” said Nerijus Maliukevicius, a lecturer at Vilnius University’s Institute of International Relations and Political Science. “This is how Islamic extremists are recruited, through military exercises and indoctrination.”

To many ethnic Russians in Lithuania, the uproar is a tempest in a samovar – albeit one that has brought them under the microscope of national intelligence services. Since the story broke in Lithuanian media in early September, the Russian-language Vasily Kachalov and Sofia Kovalevskaya schools – from which 10 senior boys went to Issyk Kul, accompanied by a chaperoning teacher – have drawn scrutiny from Vilnius city agencies; the Ministry of Education and Science, which has authority over the schools; and the security service. Lithuanian media reported that police searched the two schools on 3 December. Rita Aliukoniene, a Vilnius District prosecutor, told the Delfi news website the raids were related to an investigation into students’ participation in the Soyuz camp, but chief prosecutor Ramutis Jancevicius said at a press conference that the young people were not a target of the probe.

“We are talking about criminal activity noted in Article 118 of the penal code, about helping another country act against Lithuania,” Jancevicius told reporters. “Your colleagues … have shown reports from some schools where certain people were noticed visiting schools and trying to recruit children to go to a certain country for training.” The security service has refused to comment on the searches, which were condemned by the Russian Union of Lithuania as a “public relations campaign” aimed at discrediting the country’s Russian population, according to the Baltic News Service. “Unfortunately, with the focus on the schools, many in the community now feel that anyone of Russian ethnicity could pose a national security threat,” Ela Kanaite, president of Lithuania’s Russian School Teachers Association, said.

The father of one 17-year-old who attended the camp dismissed the indoctrination scare. “For my son, it was all about the spirit of a military camp and getting invol-ved in real-life paramilitary exercises, not the politics,” he said. “For many here in Lithuania it’s nearly turned into treason. We want to be left alone as soon as pos-sible, which I understand is hardly possible now with the scrutiny of the kids and their families.” The father spoke on condition of anonymity and declined a request to interview his son, whom he said “has had enough already,” referring to media and law-enforcement attention to the camp participants. In an October interview with Lithuanian news site Alfa.lt, security chief Grina said his agency had met with some the participating students' parents and “the schoolchildren will effectively be ob-jects of our surveillance now.” SSD spokesman Vytautas Makauskas told TOL the agency has provided “surveillance information” to the Education Ministry, even though the trips to Soyuz were not illegal.

“In a democratic country like Lithuania, which is based on EU values, the SSD cannot forbid citizens to travel where they want. However, issues of national security and legality sometimes are not identical,” Makauskas said in a statement. “Military youth camps in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States aim to nurture individuals to defend the interests of those countries. Therefore, the department advises parents to consider whether their children could become unfriendly foreign states’ pawns in our state.”

Instilling Soviet Spirit
According to Russian media, which covered Soyuz 2014 extensively, the annual event brings together youth from all the former Soviet republics, but a good deal of the coverage focused on kids from the Baltics. News outlets celebrated the work of Russian-language schools in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in supposedly overcoming hurdles to bring their charges for what Russian-government-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta called a “truly geopolitical” project. “Even though the Baltics have demonstra-tively stood with NATO and everything that aims to thwart Russia, even if it hurts the region’s economic, political, and social interests, for several years in a row schoolchildren from Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have come,” Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported in August. Behind the annual gathering stands a Russian organization, also called Soyuz – Heirs of Victory, which states a goal of nurturing “the spirit of international friendship” through the camps. On its website, the group calls the events “a yearly international and educational convention of youth military and sports organizations and cadet corps.”

One of the main organizers, Oleg Bakanach, has been described in Russian media as a former Interior Ministry special forces instructor. He boasts that Soyuz instills the Soviet spirit in Russian-speaking youth from across the former Soviet bloc. “After the breakdown of the Soviet Union it became evident the republics, having gained independence, have been regressing and moving away from one another,” Bakanach told Russia’s News-Asia website. Amid the uproar, officials at the Vilnius schools have been at pains to note that they have no official connection with Soyuz. Attending the camp, or doing anything else over the summer holidays, is “always up to the schoolchildren and their parents,” said Roza Dimentova, director of the Vasily Kachalov school. She has apparently had to say it frequently. “Once again, I want to repeat it,” Dimentova told TOL in response to a request for comment. “Our pupils’ summer activities are not part of the school curriculum and the school does not bear responsibility for them.”

The principal acknowledged that her school has shared information with students on opportunities to the go to the camp. “The school constantly receives invitations to participate in various events, and some of the children opted for the camp this year,” she said. Education Minister Dainius Pavalkis said he was previously unaware of the camp or the participation by Lithuanian pupils, adding, “The ministry has never supported, does not support, and will never support any events that are organized within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States.” Pavalkis said he hoped the “ruckus” over Soyuz would deter Lithuanian youth from similar travel but added that “the eastbound trips, whatever their purpose, aren’t going to end all of a sudden. We don’t live behind the Iron Curtain that we had 25 years ago.”

Still, his department is aiming to nudge the deterrent along. In light of the camp controversy, the ministry, working with defense officials, “has instructed the head-masters of Russian schools on how to identify propaganda of other states and how not to get involved in their manipulations,” spokeswoman Danguole Barauskiene said. Pavalkis views the “participation of Lithuanian schoolchildren in camps abroad [as] not only an issue of education, but also a problem of national security,” she added. Barauskiene said the ministry has also set aside 1 million litas ($359,000) to conduct “an inter-institutional civil education program” next year. The money will go the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union, a paramilitary organization that was active between the world wars and relaunched in 1989. Liudas Gumbinas, the head of the union and a lieutenant colonel in the Lithuanian reserves, said the organization has seen “incrementally growing numbers” of adult members as tensions with Russia have flared. He said the group does not actively recruit youth but does have about 3,500 school-age members, many of whom “joined this year.”

Gumbinas said he was not comfortable setting up the union as a political counterweight to the Russian military camps but that it is set “to make inroads” in Lithuania’s Russian schools. “Definitely, we’ll go into the schools and talk to the youth. We’ve already visited some of the schools, and the children were quite interested in what we were offering them – a real-life boot camp with everything that type of facility can offer,” he said. “If young people really care for that kind of experience, they can get it in Lithuania.” From her side of the controversy, Kanaite, of the Russian teachers’ association, is also wary of politicizing the Soyuz trips, which she called “irresponsible.” “One would hardly talk about them if not for the timing this year,” she said, referring to the camp taking place amid the escalation of the Ukraine conflict and the Lithuania-Russia standoff on trade and energy. “In fact, there was a similar camp in Ukraine last year, and it stirred not a ripple.”

Kanaite worried that the splash the Soyuz camp made this year could grow into an anti-Russian tide. “We should consider ourselves poor educators and a weak nation if we believe that youth participating in boot camps abroad will soak up the ideology and wield it against Lithuania,” she said. “I daresay our 18-year-old boys can sort the wheat from the chaff. But the shadow of mistrust, citing some camp far away, cannot be a reason to cast a shadow on the entire Russian community.”
Linas Jegelevicius is a freelance journalist in Klaipeda, Lithuania.
© Transitions Online.

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Netherlands: Geert Wilders defends ‘fewer Moroccans’ chant, quotes ML King

8/12/2014- PVV leader Geert Wilders is sticking by his ‘fewer Moroccan’ statements made earlier this year, the anti-Islam campaigner said in a statement on Monday. ‘I am not taking back a single word I said,’ Wilders said in the statement he gave to police investigating claims he incited racial hatred. Wilders was interviewed on Monday morning on the orders of the public prosecution department. The department said in October Wilders is ‘suspected of having insulted a population group with respect to their race and of incitement to discrimination and hatred’. The investigation goes back to the local elections last March. During a post vote meeting with supporters in The Hague, Wilders asked the crowd ‘and do you want more or fewer Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?’ To which the crowd chanted ‘fewer, fewer, fewer’. ‘We’ll arrange that,’ Wilders said, smiling, when the chanting died down. In his statement, Wilders said that he did want ‘fewer Moroccans’ and ‘less Islam’ in the Netherlands and that he would not allow himself to be silenced. Wilders went on to quote US black rights activist Martin Luther King. The quote is taken directly from Dr. King’s keynote 1957 address (pdf) to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Atlanta. ‘There is nothing greater in all the world than freedom. It’s worth going to jail for. It’s worth dying for,’ Wilders’ statement said, in English.
© The Dutch News

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Spain’s soccer hooligan map

The recent death of a Deportivo fan in a fight in Madrid shows violence is still a problem.

12/12/2014- The 1990s was a golden age for Spain’s ultras, or soccer hooligans, a time when some clubs even courted hardcore fans, allowing groups of extreme rightwing or leftwing supporters to practically do as they pleased in their stadiums. Either way, games would often end with violent confrontations between home and away fans. Clubs only began to take action when heavy fines started to be imposed and stadiums closed. Over the last decade, as sides began to distance themselves from hooligans, or directly ban certain groups, most stadiums have returned to normality. Which is why last week’s fight outside Atlético Madrid’s stadium between home fans and those of visiting Deportivo de la Coruña – which resulted in one death and several serious injuries – caught the authorities off guard, signaling that violence remains a problem within some of Spain’s leading soccer clubs.

GALICIA
Celtarras and Riazor Blues
At second division Celta Vigo’s game against Eibar the day before the fight between Atlético Madrid fans and Deportivo supporters, whistling and jeering from the home fans’ end, which is occupied by the so-called Celtarras, interrupted a minute’s silence in honor of a female police officer shot and killed the week before during a bungled bank robbery in Vigo. The referee called off the minute’s silence and began the match. Celta later issued a statement blaming the incident on what it called a “small number of fans.” Since Mexican businessman Carlos Mouriño took over as president in 2006, Celta no longer provides any support to its hardcore supporters, who have traditionally identified with the extreme left. But in 2013, following pressure from the fan base, the club decided against hiring Salva Ballesta, now coach at Málaga, who is known for his outspoken, right-wing political views, and once suggested sending the armed forces into the Basque Country to deal with ETA.

Also nominally on the far-left, the Riazor Blues take their name from Deportivo’s Riazor stadium, appearing in the mid-1980s in response to violent incidents in matches against regional rivals Celta. Their position was strengthened by the public support they were given by Deportivo players such as Arsenio and Bebeto, and at one point they even had their own offices in Deportivo’s stadium. In 2003, one of the group’s members was killed in a fight after a match in Santiago de Compostela, after which it announced it was disbanding. But over the last few years, it has made something of a comeback, fighting fans in Zaragoza and Gijón. At the same time, it has links to left-wing fan groups at Rayo Vallecano and Sevilla. The police estimate that the group numbers around 250.

ASTURIAS
Regional rivals
Since they first appeared in 1981, the so-called Ultra Boys of Sporting Gijón have been involved in any number of violent incidents, particularly during away matches. Sources at the club put membership of the neo-fascist group at around 400, although only a few dozen are considered dangerous by police. Their relationship with the club has had its ups and downs over the last three decades, although the Ultra Boys have storage space for their banners at the El Molinón ground. In 2005, they organized a fundraiser on the occasion of the side’s centenary. The hardcore fans of Asturias’ other main club, Real Oviedo, are known as the Symmachiarii, after a local tribe during the Roman era. Sworn enemies of the Ultra Boys, they are resolutely non-political, and do not allow any banners or flags in support of either the right or left during matches. In 2003, the side was demoted from the second to the fourth tier of Spanish soccer for financial mismanagement.

THE BASQUE COUNTRY AND NAVARRE
Pro-independence fan base
Athletic Bilbao’s hardcore supporters club is known as Herri Norte (the Northerners), and was set up in the early 1980s. It currently has around 200 members, who call themselves antifascist and anti-racist, and also support independence for the Basque Country. Over the years Herri Norte has undergone many changes of leadership, and is now in the midst of a struggle for control over the space it is allocated in the club’s stadium. It regularly engages in pitched battles with visiting fans, most re-cently those of Portuguese side Porto. Also pro-independence and nominally anti-fascist, Real Sociedad’s Peña Mujika was set up around the same time, after the San Sebastián-based side won the Spanish league two seasons in a row.

It had more or less died out toward the end of the 1980s, but resurfaced in 1989. Its name comes from that of a factory close to the side’s former Atotxa stadium. The Indar Gorri, or Red Force, supports Osasuna, Pamplona’s soccer team, and like its rivals in Bilbao and San Sebastián is an anti-fascist group that supports independence. It considers Navarre to be part of the Basque homeland, and fills the home end of the Sadar stadium with green, white and red ikurriña Basque flags. The group regular-ly engages in running fights with visiting Real Madrid and Zaragoza supporters.

VALENCIA
Far right
The Curva Nord (North End) is made up of around 1,800 fans, around 100 of whom the police consider dangerous. Last season, around 70 were involved in a brawl with Atlético Madrid fans in a bar in the Spanish capital. In December 2012, one of its members threw a firework into the VIP area occupied by members of Real Sociedad’s management. The Curva Nord was created in 2009 out of different Valencia supporters’ associations in a bid to control the Yomus far-right group. Recent seasons have seen repeated incidents at the Mestalla stadium. Valencia’s other main sides, Elche and Levante, have also attracted far-right groups.

ANDALUSIA
Sevilla-Betis rivalry
Los Biris is Spain’s oldest hardcore fan group, set up in 1975, and named in honor of Biri Biri, a Gambian striker who played for Sevilla between 1973 and 1978. Left-leaning, it is well organized and funded. Recent years have seen it launch campaigns in support of the removal of former club president José María del Nido, who was jailed in December 2013 for corruption. The group now has good relations with the new management, and was given a large number of tickets to the Europa League final in Turin earlier this year, which Sevilla won on penalties. Its arch-rival is Atlético Madrid, but it has good relations with other left-leaning groups. Seville’s other soccer side, Betis, once had around 1,000 hardcore far-right fans, but numbers have dwindled to around 200. They have traditionally been backed by the club’s mana-gement, who paid for away trips and provided free tickets in the hope of preventing violence at the stadium.

MADRID
A popular front
The Frente Atlético is largely responsible for the electric atmosphere at Atlético Madrid’s Vicente Calderón stadium, and have been involved in dozens of violent incidents over the years, the most recent being the fatal fight outside the ground on November 30, which may well see it lose its place in the southern end. Numbering around 2,500, only around 100 are dangerous, say police. The group emerged in the early 1980s, and has been allowed to display Nazi symbols. In 1998, a Real Sociedad fan was beaten to death outside the Calderón by members of the Frente Atlético. Across the other side of the city, Rayo Vallecano’s left-leaning Bukaneros have been a regular presence in the working-class Vallecas district, taking part in demonstrations to protest austerity cuts, and last month even pressuring the club to come to the rescue of an 84-year-old widow whose home had been repossessed.

ZARAGOZA
Infighting
Last month, fighting broke out between rival groups of Zaragoza fans, the neo-fascist Ligallo and the far-left Avispero. The Ligallo has been involved in numerous incidents during games against Basque teams, as well as against Osasuna.

Barcelona and Real Madrid tackle their hardcore fans
Joan Laporta was the first Barcelona FC president to confront the problem of violence in and around the Camp Nou stadium, banning the so-called Boixos Nois (Crazy Boys) in 2005, prompting death threats against him. In 1991, an Espanyol fan was murdered by Boixos Nois outside the Camp Nou, while the Mossos d’Esquadra Catalan police said recently that Barcelona’s management was not cooperating sufficiently to help eradicate the group once and for all. The Mossos are this week investigating an attack that saw two Paris Saint-Germain supporters stabbed in the vicinity of the Camp Nou on Wednesday, just as Barcelona’s Champions League match against the French club was finishing at the stadium.

Last year, Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez dissolved the Ultras Sur group, which for the previous three decades had occupied the area behind the goal in the south end of the Santiago Bernabéu stadium. Members with convictions for violence were expelled from the club. Like their arch-enemies in Barcelona, the group had for many years been allowed to display Nazi flags and symbols at games, and enjoyed special privileges. But a pitch invasion at the end of a Champions League semifinal in 1998 spelled the beginning of the end.
© El País in English

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Spain: Madrid's shocking slum shames Spanish capital

Just 12 kilometres (seven miles) from downtown Madrid, hundreds of Romanian Roma are living without running water or toilets in third world conditions, a lawyer working with the community has told The Local.

10/12/2014- Madrid's El Gallinero neighbourhood is a world away from the bustling streets of the city centre. Rubbish litters the streets while armies of rodents and insects infest the temporary shacks that make up the slum. The area is home to around 300 Romanian Roma children and their families in conditions that "represent a grave violation of their human rights" according to the charity Save the Children, which has just published a report on the area together with the Family Institute at Madrid's Pontificia Comillas Universi-ty. Just some of the basic human rights violated include "the right to a decent home, water and sanitation as well as to social assistance, education or healthcare", according to the report.

One little girl interviewed by authors spoke of her fear of the mice and snakes that came into her shack: "The mice, right, sometimes they come into the houses at night and if there are little kids there, they eat them up." The children also have no decent areas to play, with one little girl describing street conditions thus: "The little ones often get run over by cars on the street. Once a tiny little girl, who was two years old, was in the street and was knocked over by a car." The slum was established around eight years ago and although families have been offered shelter in a migrant housing facility, most want to stay put. "The alternative the government is offering is an isolated housing facility surroun-ded by major roads, where the families would be supervised. The children would have to change schools and accessing health care would be more difficult," Blanca Gómez, a lawyer who worked on the report told The Local.

Moving to such a facility would be the first step toward obtaining long-term accommodation in an apartment, Gómez explained. But she noted that not all families in El Gallinero are equally ready for such a shift. "Some of the families have lived in apartments before, like the people who came to Spain during the country's building boom, but who have since lost their jobs," she said. "Others, though, have basically lived as nomads after being kicked out of their homes in Eastern Europe and have no experience of apartment living." If and when these people do find longer-term housing, they will then have to deal with a generally hostile society. "People think the families living in El Gallinero are all criminals and that they want to live the way they do. They are rejected by Spanish society at large," Gómez said.

In the last 18 months, a third of the children living in El Gallinero have seen their homes demolished without alternative accommodation or any form of long-term stability. Save the Children are now calling on the government to call a temporary halt to such demolitions until a lasting solution is found. "I want to have my house, to have my job and to have my money. I want to live a normal life like everyone else lives”, one boy told the authors of the Save the Children report. The study does highlight one positive development in El Gallinero though. Most of the children are now going to school. "These children are heroes. They keep smiling despite the fact they keep seeing their parents' rights trodden on," the lawyer Patricia Fernández told Spain's 20 minutos newspaper.
© The Local - Spain

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Spain: Neo-Nazi mauled by lions at Barcelona Zoo

A Neo-Nazi has been mauled by lions after he jumped into their enclosure at Barcelona Zoo.

8/12/2014- Dressed in military uniform, the man – named in local reports as Justo Jose MP – climbed into the enclosure and began scaling one of the walls. But almost instantly he was dragged into the pit by the leg by a lioness, who was quickly joined by two others lions. The 45-year-old was rescued around 30 minutes later, covered in scratches and bite marks, after firefighters used hoses to fight off the animals. He was taken to the city’s Hospital de la Vall D’Hebron where he remains in a serious but not life-threatening condition. The neo-Nazi demonstrator was arrested in November after draping banners covered in Swastikas over the Casa Mila building in an anti-abortion protest. It is not yet known whether the incident at Barcelona Zoo was a demonstration, although firefighters insist it could not have been an accident. Chief firefighter of the Bomberos de Barcelona, Hector Carmona, said: “The security system makes it impossible for a person to fall into the enclosure. It cannot have been by accident, to enter the enclosure you have to want to go in.”
© The Olive Press

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Macedonia Abortion Rulebook 'Traumatises Women'

A new Health Ministry rulebook for counselling during termination could traumatise women by emotionally blackmailing them to continue their pregnancies, gynaecologists warned.

10/12/2014- The new rulebook produced by the Health Ministry that instructs doctors how they should counsel those who are seeking an abortion looks more like a guide for applying psychological pressure on women to change their minds, medical professionals told BIRN. “I do not understand the goal of this rulebook. Until now, we asked women who wanted a termination whether they would like to hear the heartbeat of the offspring. In most cases they declined. From now on I will be obligated to do it,” a gynaecologist from a Skopje clinic told BIRN under condition of anonymity. “Obviously our medical knowledge and ethics differs from those of the [health] minister,” the gynaecologist added. The document, written in line with the government’s socially conservative policies that aim to portray abortion as a murder, is signed by Health Minister Nikola Todorov, and will soon be distributed to medical facilities and become obligatory for doctors.

Medical professionals said that the most disturbing part of the text specifies that “during counselling… dynamic ultrasound images are shown [to the pregnant woman] along with description of the offspring, and she is played the heartbeat of the offspring”. The text further instructs that “the doctor should inform the woman of all the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the offspring at that gestational age”. Another gynaecologist from a private clinic in Skopje told BIRN, under condition of anonymity, that women will not be given a choice whether to listen to the new text or not. “I will now have to explain to the woman, where the offspring’s eyes are and where the heart is. I don’t see the point of it, unless the goal is to persuade her to keep it,” he said. He said that women who seek termination, whether it is for personal or health reasons, usually avoid such potentially emotional confrontations.

He explained that the foetus’s eye blink and heartbeat can be seen after six weeks of pregnancy. After ten weeks, individual organs can be recognised. The problematic text further states that the pregnant woman will be counselled “about the possible benefits from the continuation of her pregnancy, as well as about the possible risks from undergoing or avoiding of the intervention”. The Association for Health Education and Research, HERA, an NGO, said that the rulebook should be withdrawn and revised because it goes against local legislative and international health conventions. It said that according to the Macedonian Law on Patient’s Protection and the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, a patient has the right to refuse information linked to his or her health and recommended medical interventions. “The showing of dynamic ultrasound images of the foetus, listening the heartbeat, being informed about its gestational age and explanations of the effects of the intervention are in no way linked to the health condition of the woman, and are irrelevant for the intervention itself,” HERA told BIRN in a written statement.

“They have a biased goal, to make the woman feel guilty and possibly change her mind, which can further reflect badly on her health,” it said. In June 2013, the government adopted new abortion legislation that critics said curbs women's rights. The changes were adopted amid protests by activists and in the absence from parliament of opposition parties. The old law, dating from 1976, left key decisions on terminations to women and doctors. But under the adopted changes, women were obligated to file requests for abor-tions and now have to confirm that they attended counselling, informed the 'spouse” of their intention to abort and meet a gynaecologist. The law now also prohibits women from having a second abortion within a year of the first one. Last year Health Minister Nikola Todorov insisted the changes were “liberal”. “There will always be opposing opinions over which right is greater, the right of the woman to decide on her own or the right to life of the child in her womb,” Todorov then said. The government has also backed an anti-abortion media campaign that described terminations as murder.
© Balkan Insight

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Macedonia’s New Monuments ‘Fuel Ethnic Divisions’

The country’s recent monument-building spree is a political project intended to boost the government and feeds ethnic and religious tensions, a new report claims.

8/12/2014- Macedonian NGO Civil - Centre for Freedom, which is launching the report called ‘Reality Check’ on Monday in the ethnically-mixed north-western town of Tetovo, said that the recent drive to build scores of new monuments could be a “ticking bomb for inter-ethnic violence” in the future. “The memorialisation of history in Macedonia, especially in recent years, is being misused to the utmost extent. This turns monuments into an explosive that boosts the power of the ruling political structures,” said Dzabir Deralla, the head of Civil. The recent government funded revamp of the Macedonian capital, dubbed ‘Skopje 2014’, saw many new monuments erected in the city centre. But critics say the monuments promote an ethnocentric view of history that is being pushed by Prime Minister Nikola Gruveski’s ruling VMRO DPMNE party.

Deralla said that the new monuments also promote a “culture of violence”. “We have more than 100 monuments [in central Skopje] concentrated in a small area, and most of them depict people carrying weapons, knifes, daggers, swords, guns, sometimes even carrying two weapons at once,” Deralla said. “It justifies extreme vio-lence on ethnic, religious and gender grounds,” he said. Macedonia went through a brief armed conflict in 2001 between security forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents, which ended in the signing of a peace deal that granted greater rights to Albanians, who make up a quarter of the country’s 2.1 million population. But concerns remain that ethnic tensions could again erupt into violence.

Last week, during a visit to Macedonia, the outgoing European Parliament rapporteur for the country, MEP Richard Howitt, warned that “vigilance has to remain to prevent any development which could still lead to a return to conflict”. The Civil report is part of a wider project by the NGO called ‘Remembering the Past - Shaping the Future: Local Cultures of Remembrance’, which studies the memorialisation in multi-ethnic Macedonia, where there are also significant Turkish, Serbian, Bosniak and other minorities. In its pilot phase, the project looks at Skopje’s multi-ethnic municipality of Cair, as well as the towns of Kicevo and Tetovo, which also have mixed communities. It covers a period running from the St Elijah (Ilinden) uprising in 1903, seen as one of the most important events for the ethnic Macedonian majo-rity, to the present day.
© Balkan Insight

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Ukraine: Poroshenko grants Belarusian Neo-Nazi Ukrainian citizenship

When people are risking, often sacrificing, their lives for their country, quibbles about questionable neo-Nazi views may be out of place. This is not the case where they are fighting for another country, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s decision to grant Sergei Korotkykh, a fairly notorious Russian/Belarusian neo-Nazi, Ukrainian citizenship cannot fail to raise eyebrows.

8/12/2014- The President’s website informs that on Dec 5 Poroshenko handed an internal passport “to Belarusian Sergei Korotkykh who has been fighting in the Azov battalion since it was created and is the commander of reconnaissance. The President thanked Sergei Korotkykh for his courageous, dedicated service”. He also announced that the Defence Ministry, together with the Interior Ministry, is preparing a number of submissions to grant Ukrainian citizenship to fighters “who selflessly defend the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. The courage and commitment of volunteer fighters of the Azov battalion have been demonstrated in military action over recent months and in their defence of Mariupol, and gratitude and recognition of their bravery are certainly warranted. The battalion, however, is known just as much because of the pronounced neo-Nazi views of its commanders and at least some of its members.

Those views are shared by the foreign nationals who have joined Azov, including Sergei Korotkykh. According to an original report on the UNIAN website, Korotkykh [known as ‘Malyuta’] is a Belarusian far-right radical with a formidable neo-Nazi background. He was formerly on the political council of the National-Socialist Society, many of whose mem-bers were later convicted of racially or politically motivated murders. He is a friend of the Russian neo-Nazi and former skinhead leader (whom UNIAN calls pro-Putin) Maxim Mar-tsynkevich [‘Tesak’], and a former member of the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity party, many of whose supporters are fighting on the side of pro-Kremlin militants in eastern Ukraine. One of the original leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic, Pavel Gubarev was once a member of this organization.

“Korotkykh has been accused of organizing a powerful explosion in the centre of Moscow in 2007 which by sheer chance did not kill anybody, and an attack on the Belarusian opposition figure Dmitry Sannikov in 1999. The opposition media in Belarus have accused Korotkykh of collaborating with the Belarusian and Russian security services, citing the fact that Korotkykh escaped punishment for the explosion in Moscow and for a knife attack on three anti-fascists in Minsk in 2013.” All of these details have been removed, together with the word ‘neo-Nazi’, from the edited version of the same report. Why this happened can only be guessed, however it was almost certainly not because the information was found to be inaccurate.

While most of the details involve accusations, rather than proven facts, all are widely known, and, if true, damning. Korotkykh is certainly wanted for questioning in Russia over the Manezh explosion. He seems to have surfaced in Belarus (where he has citizenship, although he is originally from Russia), and was arrested together with Martsynkevich and one other person in February 2013 following the above-mentioned knife attack on three anti-fascists. According to one report, it was Korotkykh – “a person no less obnoxious than Tesak”, who stabbed one of the anti-fascists twice, one of the stab wounds proving serious, although not fatal.

In an article in the opposition website Belarusian Partisan entitled “Who is Malyuta working for?”, Dmitry Petrushkevich suggests that it was Korotkykh [Malyuta] who inflicted all the knife wounds that left one man in intensive care and two injured. He points out that in a country where people are jailed for 15 days for supposedly using foul language and supposedly lashing out with your hand at a riot police officer’s shield can get you three years inside, it is inconceivable that a person would escape punishment for a videoed knife attack. Yet this appears to be precisely what happened. Martsynkevich was released, supposedly for cooperating with the investigators. The next morning, Korotkykh was also released. The author notes that neither Belarusian nor Russian media were particularly interested in Korotkykh, and “the absolute impunity of pro-Russian neo-Nazis in our country did not interest [journalists]. While only such circumstantial evidence is provided, there are suggestions that Korotkykh has close ties with the Lukashenko regime.

Korotkykh was a member of the political council of the National Socialist Society, formed in Russia in 2004. According to a report, two years later ‘close relations’ between Korotkykh and Martsynkevich created the impression that the latter’s Format 18, notorious for murderous attacks on people from Central Asian republics or Asia working in Russia and down-and-outs, was a part of the NSO. Format 18 turned against NSO after the latter expelled Korotkykh for harming the organization. There is considerably more information to be had from a simple Google check. So much so that the President’s Administration can only be concluded to have not done their homework. Editing UNIAN reports cannot remove scandalous details in the biography of a person now granted Ukrainian citizenship. This is a serious omission and, unfortunately, not the first. Proper investigation could have averted the appointment of Vadim Troyan, Azov deputy commander and member of the neo-Nazi ‘Patriot of Ukraine’ organization to the responsible post of head of the Kyiv Regional Police.

The edited version of the report on UNIAN also omits mention of plans to bestow Ukrainian citizenship on other foreigners fighting for Ukraine. Given the chequered background of this first individual, it is much to be hoped that Ukraine’s leaders will do some serious research – and thinking about the message they wish to give Ukrainians and the international community - before making any further appointments or granting citizenship on the basis of undoubted bravery on the military front.
© The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

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Czech Republic told it must share the migration burden

Although the Czech Republic is not a direct target of large movement of migrants from Syria and other political unstable countries, foreign politicians are telling the government of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka that it should take part of the burden. EurActiv Czech Republic reports.

12/12/2014- Armed conflicts and political instability in countries surrounding the EU have put Europe in a brand new situation. Millions of migrants will probably never come back to their homes. Countries providing protection to these people are bursting at the seams. It is expected that the pressure on EU external borders will increase. The most critical situation is in Syria. According to EU sources, the number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt and the North African states) is currently about 3 million. Many are trying to reach Europe. “All member states should feel concerned by illegal immigration within the EU, especially those which are part of the Schengen area,” Former French Minister of Justice and current MEP Rachida Dati (EPP) told EurActiv.cz. “Because we accepted to share our borders, this has become a European issue,” she added.

The Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004 and the Union’s borderless Schengen area in 2007. Some countries, including Germany, which is now receiving the most asylum seekers among the EU countries, are calling for more solidarity within EU. Landlocked member states without external borders (excluding the international airports) are frightened because they are not prepared to accept the influx of thousands of refugees. One of the reasons could be the fact the discussion about handling these problems within Czech society has not started yet, or it is in its infancy.

Looking the other way
Although the country has positive experiences with the integration of foreigners (in 2013, the foreigners represented 4.1 % population), politicians do not pay so much attention to the current crisis. “We got the impression that we are not involved in the issue because we are not dealing with the same situation as the Italians, who see with their own eyes boats carrying migrants every day,” the Czech MEP Dita Charanzová (ALDE) explains. “Politicians are trying to avoid these topics because they do not simply know how to tackle it,” Director of the European Values think-tank Radko Hokovský said. Current events show the situation is in the long-term unsustaina-ble. “Facing irregular migration in Europe requires involvement from all member states,” Rachida Dati thinks. Countries that are not currently facing major issues linked to migratory pressure could face them one day, she stresses. “By entering Schengen, we have all accepted its benefits, but we must also accept the responsibilities that come with it. It would not be fair that only a few states bear the burden of Schengen´s weakness,” Dati continues.

It could touch on the call of some EU states to accept the aformentioned Syrian refugees. Countries including the Czech Republic should take a significant number of refugees via the resettlement programme of the UNHCR. Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec doubted this plan last week, when he said the country is not ready and it will not accept a binding EU quota. The Czech government prefer to help directly in the Middle East and provide financial aid and resources, he explained. The fact, that the Czech Republic has so far not resettled Syrian refugees, is a “shame”, German green MEP Ska Keller told EurActiv. “The Czech Republic could also offer to the southern EU countries such as Italy or Malta to take some of the refugees there,” she added.

National discussion to begin
Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP) is persuaded the Czech Republic should change its position. “Immigration is a global problem. If we are a part of the EU, which has the immigration among its major priorities for another three years, we must start to do something. It is not only about the quotas,” he stressed. It seems the better times are coming these days. The migration was one of the main topics of wide roundtable discussion among stakeholders called National Convention organised by the Czech government of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Its aim is to find a new way of the politics towards the EU. The National Convention focusing on immigration prepared recommendation for the government how to deal with the problem in the future.

“If we feel as a full, equal and responsible member of the EU, and we do so, we should confess, we are involved in the problem. Not solving it could damage the foundations the EU stands on,” State Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza told EurActiv.cz. “Our priorities are to cooperate with the third countries, help refugees and protect the external borders,” Prouza said. Another long-term priority of the Czech governments is free movement in the EU. “The restriction of this freedom is unacceptable for us,” he says.
© EuroActiv

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Růžička: demand review of the police procedure over defamation of Romani Holocaust victims

12/12/2014- The chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust (Výbor pro odškodnění romského holocaustu - VPORH) Čeněk Růžička,, the ROMEA organization, Michal Miko of the Slovo 21 association and Miroslav Kováč of the Equal Opportunities Party (Strana rovných příležitostí - SRP) have sent the District State Prosecutor for Prague 5 a motion to review the police procedure in the investigation of a report that Tomio Okamura, chair of the "Dawn of Direct Democracy" movement (Úsvit), committed the felony of denying, questioning, approving and justifying genocide. "In this matter we must take advantage of all the options afforded us by law. We cannot close our eyes to the kind of defamation of the memory of the Romani victims of the Holocaust that Tomio Okamura has perpetrated," Růžička previously told news server Romea.cz.

On the eve of Roma Genocide Remembrance Day earlier this year, Okamura trampled on the memory of the victims of the camp at Lety by Písek when, in a statement for the political tabloid ParlamentniListy.cz, he spoke of the camp as a "lie and a myth". Okamura claimed no one had been killed in the camp and that its prisoners had died as a result of old age and diseases they themselves brought into the camp beacuse of their previous traveling lifestyle. Police sent a response of several brief paragraphs to those who had reported the crime, stating that they had performed a "qualified evaluation" of the criminal report and that, after undertaking an investi-gation, they had come to the conclusion that "facts did not come to light that would reasonably suggest a crime has been committed." Police decided to act outside the framework of a criminal proceedings in this case, using a measure that would not be subjected to any formal requirements.

The police have not provided any sort of justification for their decision and it is not, therefore, possible to evaluate whether the officers involved actually did thoroughly investigate the case. Mr Růžička, the ROMEA organization, Mr Miko and Mr Kováč reject the police's conclusions and are convinced that their procedure for evaluating this criminal report was incorrect. Those who reported the crime also emphasize that they themselves had already referred to the necessary facts in their criminal report. Specific historical and scholarly resources as well as the jurisprudence of international courts testify to the illegality of Okamura's behavior.
© Romea.

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Czech Rep: Five Years after Victims of Involuntary Sterilisation Still Waiting for Compensation

For almost three decades, until the end of the 1990s, Romani women and women with disabilities in the former Czechoslovakia were sterilised without free and informed consent. The practice continued occasionally in the 2000s. Until today, these women have not received justice or compensation for the violations of their human rights, despite several promises from the Czech government.

10/12/2014- On the occasion of Human Rights Day, more than five years after the official regret, the Group of Women Harmed by Coercive Sterilisation, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), and the League of Human Rights met with some involuntarily sterilised Romani women in Prague in order to jointly express their concerns about the government’s inactivity in providing redress to harmed women and their families. One of the harmed women, Elena, expressed her frustration about the Czech Government’s failure to compen-sate her suffering in these words: “"It has been ten years and there is still no compensation, so we are quite angry that there is news about it coming but this means nothing." Another harmed woman, Anna, said that, "I am recovering from a heart-attack and I have diabetes. Who knows if I will live long enough to be compensated?"

Back in December 2005, the Czech Public Defender of Rights (Ombudsman) reported that the practice of sterilisation without free and informed consent occurred en masse in the former Czechoslovakia and that this practice was encouraged by State policy. The Ombudsman’s report motivated recommendations of urgent action by various international bodies. In November 2009, Prime Minister Jan Fischer and the Government acknowledged individual failures and expressed regret for coercive sterilisations. In February 2012, the Czech Government’s Human Rights Council passed a motion urging the Czech Government to introduce a mechanism for adequate financial redress for victims of involun-tary sterilisation. The Council advised establishing a systematic and transparent compensation mechanism for women subjected to involuntary sterilisations. Since the Council’s recommendations, the Czech government has several times announced that it will prepare a mechanism to compensate victims of unlawful sterilisations. The Minister for Human Rights Jiří Dienstbier stated that the compensation mechanism will be in place by the end of 2014.

However, nine years after the Ombudsman’s report and five years after the government officially admitted that many Romani women and women with disabilities in the Czech Republic were sterilised involuntarily, the government has not taken any further steps to introduce any form of redress mechanism. The Group of Women Harmed by Coercive Sterilisation, the ERRC, and the League of Human Rights would like to remind the Czech government of its own promises and encourage the government to speedily grant compen-sation to all potential victims of unlawful sterilisation in the Czech Republic irrespective of their age, ethnicity, nationality or the particular period when they underwent sterilisa-tion. Many of these women have waited 40 years for justice, and postponing compensation adds to the injustices they have experienced.
© European Roma Rights Center

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Amnesty Czech Rep. launches online manual for teachers about handling intolerance

9/12/2014- Amnesty International Czech Republic has launched an online manual for teachers that provides instruction on how to handle displays of intolerance in the schools from their colleagues, their pupils, and their superiors. The manual is divided into five areas: Intolerance of non-Romani students for Romani people, intolerance of Czech students for foreigners living in the Czech Republic, the "caste systems" developed by students according to economic or other differences, bullying, and dis-plays of xenophobia from other educators or school directors. The manual offers proposals for addressing specific situations, such as how to respond when others express the stereotypical view that Romani people abuse welfare and don't want to work. In the other sections teachers can learn what to do when pupils exclude others who don't have the latest mobile phone or brand-name clothing.

The advice also concerns what to do when school directors and teachers discriminate against a pupil and how to respond to xenophobic remarks in the faculty room. In addition to tips on how to proceed in specific scenarios, there are links to other resources on these topics and contacts to experts and organizations that can aid educa-tors in such situations. "We chose the form of a website because it can be easily updated and we can gradually expand it. We would be grateful for any feedback, ideas and suggestions from educators," said Šárka Antošová, Amnesty International's methodologist for education projects, in a press release. In addition to its other activity, Amnesty International Czech Republic is dedicated to human rights education. As part of that work it runs the educational portal www.lidskaprava.cz, which has a special section dedicated to teachers that also provides them with materials and themes for specific activities to incorporate human rights topics into the instruction of various subjects.
© Romea.

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Czech Rep: Roma in Ostrava demonstrate against racism

8/12/2014- At 14:00 on 6 December a demonstration against racism took plcea in Ostrava which was convened by several Romani residents with the assistance of the Konexe organization. Participants gathered on Svatopluk Čech Square in the Přívoz quarter and then followed their announced march route to Prokešovo Square and back. At that square between 20 and 40 neo-Nazis had gathered at 13:30 and then set out in the direction of the anti-racist event. Police stopped them and the racists then dispersed around town in small groups that did their best to provoke the Romani procession. After the demonstration was over, a gathering was held at the Přemysl Pittr Primary School, where participants debated how to create Romani representation in Ostrava to negotiate with City Hall and the municipal departments. News server Romea.cz followed the demonstration in real time.

On-line reportage
17:00 At the meeting at the primary school about 45 Romani people are discussing how to create Romani representation in Ostrava to negotiate with City Hall and the municipal departments. We are ending today's on-line coverage and we thank you for your attention.

16:24 The anti-racist demonstration is over. Some participants are asking police officers to accompany them to the tram stop. People are afraid of the small groups of neo-Nazis that have dispersed throughout the neighborhood. Roughly 30 people are heading for the primary school where a conference on the topic of racism will take place.

16:01 According to our correspondent, demonstrators have been singing the Czech and Romani national anthems on the way back to their starting point and are slowly drawing closer to it. No other incidents with the racists have occurred.

15:46 The procession is heading toward the primary school where a conference will be held that the conveners have called a "Romani Congress". Participants intend to discuss the rising danger of racism there. According to information received to date they also intend to elect representatives to negotiate on their behalf with the Ostrava City Hall and with municipal department councils.

15:40 The anti-racist march ultimately reached the local town hall on Prokešovo Square. About 15 neo-Nazis attempted to provoke the activists and Romani residents, but they responded with anti-racist slogans.

15:30 About 20 neo-Nazis ran out of a local bar and began to shout vulgar curses at the Romani marchers. Police kept the two groups apart.

15:19 The march has stopped on Sokolská Street and participants are deciding whether to keep marching or to head straight for the primary school where the so-called "Romani Congress" will take place. The march is planned and announced to travel to Prokešovo Square, where the neo-Nazis had gathered at 13:30 but, according to the available information, are no longer there.

15:10 Our correspondent reports that other Romani residents are joining the march en route, so now roughly 70 Romani people are marching through Ostrava. Along they way they were provoked by a group of four or five neo-Nazis, but police kept both sides separate. Activists and Romani residents are chanting slogans like "Black, White, Forces Unite", "Czechs Come With Us", "Stop Racism", etc.

14:56 Participants in the anti-racist event are setting off on their announced march.

14:47 De la Negra, a rap group from the town of Krupka, are singing to the participants in the anti-racist demonstration.

14:46 The anti-racist demonstration is beginning to disperse. The parents of some Romani youth have come to pick up their children in cars, while other demonstrators are leaving on their own.

14:40 Deputy Mayor of Ostrava Zbyněk Pražák is addressing the anti-racist demonstration.

14:38 A group of neo-Nazis heading in the direction of the Romani demonstration was stopped by police. The estimated number of the small group ranges from 20 to 40 participants. The neo-Nazis, according to several unverified reports, are said to have continued on as several smaller groups.

14:37 According to our correspondent there are 40 Romani people present at the anti-racist event. Roughly 40 more are standing on the outskirts of the square.

14:32 Speakers are taking turns at the microphone. Parson Mikuláš Vymětal reminded those present of the significance of two figures, Martin Luther King and Přemysl Pitter (at a local church school named after him there will be a so-called "Romani Congress" once the demonstration is over). Local Romani organizer Imrich Horvát told the crowd that Romani people very often prefer not to leave their homes out of fear of assault, especially when there are football matches in Ostrava, because those fans include many neo-Nazis and violent thugs. Romani activist Ivanka Čonková criticized discrimination against Romani children in the schools.

14:15 According to information from the scene there are around 40 people at the neo-Nazi counter-action.

14:10 According to Imrich Horvát, the organizer of today's event, the low number of participants doesn't necessarily mean anything: "It's too early to draw conclusions, more people are still joining us, a group just arrived from Olomouc. It always takes people a longer time to meet up. What's more, the weather is no good." Horvát estimates that right now there are about 80 people at the site of the event.

14:00 For the time being around 40 people including activists and journalists not local to Ostrava have gathered on Svatopluk Čech Square.

13:40 There are no indications that anything is going on in Ostrava. "There are only a couple of journalists on Svatopluk Čech Square, about 10 Romani people walked through here and are already gone. There's also no one at the site where the neo-Nazis are supposed to gather," reports our correspondent on the scene in Ostrava.

9:45 Organizers of the demonstration against racism have canceled a press conference that was scheduled for 10 AM. No journalists were interested.
© Romea.

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Trans people in EU face widespread violence, discrimination-report

Transgender people in the European Union (EU) face serious violence and discrimination,and EU institutions, as well as member states, should develop policies to protect them, according to a report published on Tuesday.

9/12/2014- The report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights(FRA) said that trans people are frequently discriminated against in key aspects of life such as employment, education and healthcare services. "Everyone has the right to be themselves. However, in reality many trans people live in fear as society is often intolerant and ignorant of trans people and their needs," Morten Kjaerum, director of FRA, said in a statement. "Our research shows that trans people live noticeably better lives where Member States are aware of the problems and have developed policies to protect and support them." The report uses data from a 2012 survey on the status of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in the EU, and analyses the "lived reality" of over 6,000 self-declared trans respondents. Violence and hate crimes emerged as the most worrying result of the survey. One in two trans persons said they were physically attacked, threatened or insulted in the year before they took the survey, an incidence twice as high as that for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) respondents. Over two in five of those respondents who said they were victims of violence indicated that such incidents happened three or more times during the year before the survey. Perpetrators were mostly groups of male individuals unknown to the victim.

Discrimination
Fifty-four percent of trans respondents felt personally discriminated against or harassed because of their being transgender, the study showed. Discrination was felt more strongly by young respondents not in paid work or from a low income stratum. The area in which trans persons felt the strongest discrimination was employment, particularly during the search for a job. One in three respondents said they felt discriminated against when looking for a job, more than twice the percentage of LGB respondents to the same point. Around one in five respondents indicated they felt discriminated against by personnel when accessing health services. Data from the survey showed that many trans people live in hiding or avoid expressing their identity for fear of violence, harassment or discrimination, even within the privacy of their own home. Despite existing legal provisions and policies protecting the rights of trans people in the EU, the report argues that Union-wide action as well as national responses should be strengthened to address gender identity and gender expression. "Ultimately, as trans respondents noted, they are citizens who feel that they are not allowed to be themselves," said the report.
© Reuters

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EU looks to African dictators for migration solutions

The EU is turning to African dictators to help counter a multitude of threats as it steps up efforts to tighten border controls and renew counter-terrorism initiatives.

8/12/2014- Dimitris Avramopoulos, the commission’s top man on migration and home affairs, told reporters last week following a two-day marathon meeting of EU justice and home affairs meetings in Brussels that “we are confronted with increasing pressures at our external borders and inside the European Union”. Discussions included the issues surrounding the threat of foreign fighters returning to Europe after fighting for IS, getting the European parliament to sign off controversial data sharing agreements, border surveillance, and migration. Part of the migration strategy was already hammered out in Rome at the end of November. The Italian EU presidency had organised and launched the so-called Khartoum Process to try and prevent asylum seekers from going via countries such as Libya to get to the EU.

Around 114,000 migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees were detected in the central Mediterranean region in the first eight months of 2014. This represents a six -fold increase from 2013. Criticized for being a pull factor by its many detractors, the end of Italy’s search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum has not stemmed the flow of people risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean. Just under 9,000 boat migrants were intercepted within the first week of Triton, the EU-led border surveillance mission that superseded Mare Nostrum on 1 November. The broad plan now is to step up development projects and crack down on criminal networks by working with some of the countries where people are fleeing from in the first place. This includes reinforced intelligence sharing, investigation capacities, and information cam-paigns. “We have expanded our co-operation with countries outside the European Union, which are either countries of origin or transit countries,” said Avramopoulos.

The Greek commissioner called for respect of human rights when it comes to migration issues. Yet many of the countries the EU will be working with - including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan - are barely functioning states. All were invited to Rome, along with ministers from other African nations, to discuss migration where they signed the Khartoum declaration. Sitting at the table was Avramopoulos, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, and EU interior minis-ters. Mogherini’s presence is significant because it indicates that migration is of equal importance to both foreign and home affairs ministers. Within the mix is a renewed sense of urgency amid recent reports that the Islamic State has set up training camps in eastern Libya. “Today, instability in Libya is the main issue that one links to irregular migration, so a lot of things hang on this,” said Italy’s minister of interior Angelino Alfano.

At the same time, he described Libya as a breeding ground for a possible terrorist insurgency, which now poses an indirect threat to Europe. According to a recent report by the EU border agency Frontex, nine out of ten departures in the Mediterranean during 2014 have so far been from Libya. The average price per head is $1,300. It notes that around 26 percent of the total nationalities detected in 2014 are Eritreans. Most are fleeing to evade “compulsory, oppressive, and indefinite military service” in the country, says the report. It is unclear how exactly the European commission and EU ministers intends to work with countries like Eritrea. But Alfano floated one possible idea. “They can apply for asylum there in Africa and then when people are awarded asylum, then we will in Europe, offer reception facilities spread throughout the European Union,” he said.
© The EUobserver

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UN launches International Decade of People of African Descent

10/12/2014- People of African descent still face racism in every country, region and continent of the world, said United Nations General Assembly President Sam Kutesa as the word body today kicked off its International Decade of People of African Descent. “Over the next ten years, people everywhere are encouraged to take part in the global conversation on the realities faced by people of African descent,” Mr. Kutesa who is a national of Uganda told the General Assembly today, calling the Decade’s launch a historic achievement. “The Decade will allow us to explore the challenges faced by people of African descent due to pervasive racism and racial discrimination engrained in our society today,” he added.

On 23 December 2013, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming the International Decade for People of African Descent, commencing on 1 January 2015 and ending on 31 December 2024 with the theme “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development.” Joining Mr. Kutesa at the Headquarters event was UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, who spoke on behalf of the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović; and Irina Bokova, Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO). The event also featured several performances by African musicians. This Decade is an opportunity for a wide range of actors including the United Nations, Governments, civil society and individuals to create synergy in efforts to combat racism and contribute to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) adopted at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

Mr. Kutesa added that it is important to ensure the protection of the human rights of all people African descent. Effective actions at the national and regional levels contribute toward tangible improvements in the lives of millions of people of African descent around the world. On the matter of justice, he said that people of African descent are “too often” victims of crime and violence, while facing discrimination in their attempts to seek legal redress. In many societies the problem is endemic. On development, he said the international community has come to recognize the correlation between poverty and racism. Despite the refutable evidence of contribution people of African descent have made to the development of our societies, they are too often marginalized. During the decade, States are encouraged to help people of African descent by revisiting policies and practices that have a negative impact on the communities of people of African descent. African diaspora is a component of Africa, he said.

The decade is an opportunity to “unite our voices” and renew political will to eliminate racial discrimination against anyone, anywhere. Speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-General, Ms. Amos said that people of African descent suffer from inequality and disadvantage from the history of slavery. People of African descent are among the poorest and most marginalized around the world with limited access to healthcare, education and even employment. People of African descent face alarmingly high rates of police violence and racial profiling, Mr. Ban said, calling on Governments to do more to ensure justice. This Decade is about focused and converted action to guarantee that “a decade from now the situation of people of African descent is improved.” Creative initiatives will be the ones to make concrete impact on people’s lives, the UN chief said, noting that some Member States have already allocated funds for their Decade activities.

Mr. Šimonović said that the launch of the decade on UN Human Rights Day is symbolic. Reading Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said that the “simple words should guide us.” “Human rights belongs to us all,” he declared, noting recent events in New York that serve as a tragic reminders that people of African descent face disproportionate levels of racial discrimination. But the problem is universal. “This Decade aims to shine a light on inequality, invisibility, underdevelopment, discrimination and violence on each and every continent,” the human rights chief said. The 10-year span will be an opportunity to call for the adoption of anti-discrimination laws and ensure justice by fighting against impunity in regard to racial profiling and guarantee the equal protection of the law. Decade activities will also promote the right to development and equal access to education, health, as well as employment.

Also joining the event via video conference UNESCO’s Irina Bokova who said the launch of a decade sends at a critical time an essential message of hope, tolerance and human rights. “The Decade is inspired by the powerful idea that to counter discrimination, to build a more just future, we must build on the history all humanity shares,” she said. The past features tragic chapters. The Decade is designed to counter and eliminate prejudices inherited from the past and to shed light on the struggle of people.
© UN News Centre

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Islamophobia is racism, pure and simple (opinion)

The Dresden protests are illegitimate and the attitude of German politicians towards false fears of ‘Islamisation’ needs to change
By Yassin Musharbash

10/12/2014- Islamophobia is on the rise in Germany. That is troubling enough. But what’s even more concerning is that many of those whom I would define as Islamophobic feel very good about it. They see themselves not as racist or xenophobic, but as defenders of democracy and human rights against the adherents of a religion they believe is incom-patible with both. Over the past few years the advance of Islamophobia can be easily observed. Anti-Muslim websites such as Politically Incorrect have expanded and become more aggressive, cherry-picking reports of crimes by Muslim perpetrators in order to confirm their prejudices; books with a clear anti-Muslim agenda – such as that of Thilo Sarrazin, a former Berlin finance senator – have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, including claims that Muslim immigrants are “dumbing down” Germany; parties such as Pro Köln, which hysterically warn of an “Islamic land grab”, have been founded.

It is against this backdrop that we have to look at the weekly protests in Dresden against the “Islamisation” of Germany. Few of those attending are neo-Nazis or classic rightwing radicals. Instead, the vast majority are normal citizens. Interestingly, and perhaps tellingly, there are hardly any Muslims in Dresden. Islamophobia apparently has as much to do with imagination as with reality. To be sure, Islamophobia is no German speciality. In the Netherlands, for example, similar developments started years earlier. In fact, Islamopho-bia is on the rise across western Europe, not least in the UK.

As a journalist with an Arabic name, I receive a fair amount of Islamophobic hate mail, as do many colleagues with a similar background. Three years ago, when we realised this was happening to all of us and had become more frequent, we started to stage public events at which we read from these letters to an audience. But we don’t just read the letters. We have created a show around it – a party, if you like – called Hate Poetry Slam, during which we compete over who has received the meanest, most racist, most hateful letter. It is a public act of catharsis. But much more importantly, when read out loud in front of hundreds of people, the full extent of idiocy, the lack of logic, the hysteria in these letters becomes palpable. And laughable.

Of course, Islamophobia can’t be laughed away and ours is just small way of dealing with it. But what’s clear is that traditional racist arguments are now more likely to come in the form of abuse on the basis of religion. The argument is often that Jews share the same values as Christians, and Vietnamese immigrants are good at integrating, but for Muslims neither is true; plus, they want to take over. Which is why their religion is in fact an ideology; which is why it is OK to be against it; which in turn makes you a freedom fighter. What’s feeding this? Clearly 9/11 and other Jihadist terrorist attacks play a role. But that’s not all. There is fear of losing out economically, for which Muslims are scapegoated; there’s the challenge of living in a society changing rapidly in the light of globalisation; there’s anger about the increasing visibility of immigrants.

The organisers of the Dresden demonstrations claim to be responding to street fights between Salafists and Kurds that broke out in western Germany a few weeks ago. But framing this and other problems as part of a phenomenon of Islamisation is ridiculous. And yet it is time we started to take this seriously. Those people in the streets of Dresden may be nonviolent but they have been infected with a smug contempt for a minority, and may embolden the more radical fringes of the Islamophobic spectrum. Politicians here have sensed that something is building. But until very recently, they mostly just maintained that people’s grievances should be taken seriously, rather than criticising the racist sentiment that came with their complaints. This needs to change – now. It needs to be made clear that Islamophobia in Germany is no legitimate expression of anger or frustration and most certainly nothing to be proud of. It’s racism, plain and simple.
© Comment is free - Guardian

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We should beware Russia’s links with Europe’s right (opinion)

Moscow is handing cash to the Front National and others in order to exploit popular dissent against the European Union
By Luke Harding

8/12/2014- It sounds like a chapter from a cheesy spy novel: former KGB agent, chucked out of Britain in the 80s, lends a large sum of money to a far-right European party. His goal? To undermine the European Union and consolidate ties between Moscow and the future possible leader of pro-Kremlin France. In fact this is exactly what’s just happened. The founder of the Front National (FN), Jean-Marie Le Pen, borrowed €2m from a Cyprus-based company, Veronisa Holdings, owned by a flamboyant character and cold war operative called Yuri Kudimov. Kudimov is a former KGB agent turned banker with close links to the Kremlin and the network of big money around it. Back in 1985 Kudimov was based in London. His cover story was that he was a journalist working for a Soviet newspaper; in 1985 the Thatcher government expelled him for alleged spying. (During the same period Vladimir Putin was a KGB officer in Dresden.)

In Paris, the FN confirmed last week that it had taken a whopping €9.4m (£7.4m) loan from the First Czech Russian bank in Moscow. This loan is logical enough. The FN’s leader, Marine Le Pen, makes no secret of her admiration for Putin; her party has links to senior Kremlin figures including Dmitry Rogozin, now Russia’s deputy prime minister, who in 2005 ran an anti-immigrant campaign under the slogan “Clean Up Moscow’s Trash”. Le Pen defended her decision to take the Kremlin money, complaining that she had been refused her access to capital: “What is scandalous here is that the French banks are not lending.” She also denied reports by the news website Mediapart, which broke the story, that the €9.4m was merely the first instalment of a bigger €40m loan.

The Russian money will fuel Marine Le Pen’s run for the French presidency in two years’ time. Nobody expects her to win, but the FN topped the polls in May’s European elections, winning an unprecedented 25% of the vote; Le Pen’s 25 new MEPs already form a pro-Russian bloc inside the European parliament. In part, the Moscow loan can be understood as an act of minor and demonstrative revenge. It follows President François Hollande’s decision to postpone the delivery to Moscow of the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers, in a deal worth €1.2bn. His U-turn follows considerable western pressure, in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its ongoing covert invasion of eastern Ukraine. But there is also a more profound and sinister aspect to the Moscow cheque. Since at least 2009 Russia has actively cultivated links with the far right in eastern Europe. It has established ties with Hungary’s Jobbik, Slovakia’s far-right People’s party and Bulgaria’s nationalist, anti-EU Attack movement. Here, political elites have become increasingly sympathetic to pro-Putin views.

According to Political Capital, a Budapest-based research institute which first observed this trend, the Kremlin has recently been wooing the far-right in western Europe as well. In a report in March it argued that Russian influence in the affairs of the far right is now a “phenomenon seen all over Europe”. Moscow’s goal is to promote its economic and political interests – and in particular to ensure the EU remains heavily dependent on Russian gas. In Soviet times the KGB used “active measures” to sponsor front organisations in the west including pro-Moscow communist parties. The Kremlin didn’t invent Europe’s far-right parties. But in an analogous way Moscow is now lending them support, political and financial, thereby boosting European neo-fascism. In part this kinship is about ideology or, as Political Capital puts it, “post-communist neo-conservatism”. The European far right and the Kremlin are united by their hostility to the EU. Since becoming president for the third time in 2012, Putin has been busy promoting his vision for a rival Eurasian Union. This is an alternative political bloc meant to encompass now-independent Soviet republics, with Moscow rather than Brussels as the dominant pole.

The Kremlin has also discovered that the western political system is weak, permeable and susceptible to foreign cash. Putin has always believed that European politicians, like Russian ones, can be bought if the money is right. According to US diplomatic cables leaked in 2010, Silvio Berlusconi has benefited “personally and handsomely” from energy deals with Russia; the former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Putin’s greatest European ally, sits on the board of the Nord Steam Russian-German gas pipeline. Far-right and rightwing British politicians, meanwhile, have also expressed their admiration for Russia’s ex-KGB president. In March Nigel Farage named Putin as the world leader he most admires, and praised the “brilliant” way “he handled the whole Syria thing”. In 2011 the BNP’s Nick Griffin went to Moscow to observe Russia’s Duma election. Afterwards he announced that “Russian elections are much fairer than Britain’s”. Last week Griffin tweeted praise for Russia Today, the Kremlin’s English-language TV propaganda news channel: “RT – For People Who Want the Truth”.

There are many ironies here. In his state of the nation address last Friday, Putin implicitly compared the west to Hitler, and said it was plotting Russia’s dismemberment and collapse. In March Putin defended his land-grab in Crimea by arguing he was rescuing the peninsula from Ukrainian “fascists”. A few weeks later a motley group of radical rightwing European populists turned up in Crimea to watch its hastily arranged “referendum”. Tactically, Russia is exploiting the popular dissent against the EU – fuelled by both immigration and austerity. But as rightwing movements grow in influence across the continent, Europe must wake up to their insidious means of funding, or risk seeing its own institutions subverted.
© Comment is free - Guardian

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Russia: Racism and Xenophobia in November 2014

The following is our monthly review of instances of xenophobia and radical nationalism, along with any government countermeasures, for the month of November 2014. The review is based on material gathered by Sova Center in the course of our daily monitoring.

6/12/2014- In November, one person fell victim to racist and neo-Nazi violence. In Moscow, near Metro stop Sviblovo, a woman dressed in Islamic clothes was suddenly and without a visible cause attacked by a young man with a knife who stabbed her a few times in the stomach. Since the beginning of the year, our monitoring shows that no fewer than 19 people have been killed in such incidents across Russia, with 97 more injured, while two people have received a serious threat against their life. Racist violence has been recorded in 24 regions of Russia so far this year.

November saw no fewer than eight acts of neo-Nazi vandalism. As such, since the beginning of the year, we have recorded no fewer than 48 acts of ideologically motivated vandalism, in 32 regions of Russia. Traditionally, the Russian March of November 4 turned out to be the main public event of the autumn organized by the ultra-right. The Day of National Unity was marked this year by three mass events: the official rally-concert We Are United and two rival ultranationalist actions, both called “Russian Marches.” One of the nationalist processions took place in Lyublino, the other marched from the Oktyabrskoye Polye Metro stop to the Shchukinskaya stop. The coordination of the actions, along with their preparation, was marked by difficulties and conflicts, primarily due to factionalization within the far-right community over support or opposition to Novorossiya. Sova staff observed about 1,800 people present at the Lyublino march, the Russian March for Novorossiya at the Oktyabrskoye Polye Metro stop brought out about 1,200 people.

Several marches took place on November 4 in Saint-Petersburg. Those were the Patriotic March, a rally For Slavic Union, an unauthorized Russian Walk along the Nevsky Prospect and some pickets held in support of Russian March which had not been sanctioned. Actions under the badge of Russian March were held in no fewer than 36 towns and cities. In many cases nationalists split over the Novorossiya issue and held separate actions. Thus, for the first time in years the number of marchers reduced in almost all the cities, inclu-ding the capital, and so did the number of cities where the Russian March somehow took place. Of the other public actions held by nationalists in the period under review we should only mention a rally in memory of Alexander Dudin, the ultra-right activist killed in the fight with anti-fascists two years ago in Ryazan. In spite of a widespread announcement, only 30 people gathered in Ryazan on November 14. The rally was organized by the Ryazan branch of the Russians association. The leader of the branch Alexander Samokhin was detained by the local police.

We are aware of at least four November 2014 verdicts on racist violence charges that took a hate motive into account – in Archangelsk, Vladimir, Tomsk and Perm regions. Seven people were convicted. We should note the verdict against Russian nationalist Alexey Voyevodin convicted for beating a young man to death (Voyevodin had been earlier senten-ced to life imprisonment). We have recorded no fewer than 18 verdicts on racist violence charges, taking into account the hate motive. These trials say 39 people convicted in 16 regions of the country. We are aware of only one verdict for xenophobic vandalism this month. In Ivanovo a vandal aged 24 was sentenced to three years of imprisonment for making insulting inscriptions on the central mosque and placing a pig’s head on its fence in June 2013. Since the beginning of the year, we have recorded three such rulings, against four people – in the Ivanovo and Tula regions, and in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region.

This month 15 people were convicted, in as many rulings, on xenophobic propaganda charges in 15 regions of Russia. Nikolay Babushkin from Norilsk, National Union of Russia co-ordinator and administrator of VKontakte social network group Russian March-2013, received a suspended sentence of one year of corrective labor for putting xenophobic materials on the social network page. Oleg Gonchar, head of public organization South Siberia Cossack Circuit PR service, was fined 120 thousand rubles for publications in VKontakte. This year has seen a total of 130 rulings for racist propaganda, against 132 people in 51 regions. The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated seven times – on November 6, 25, 26 and 28. Entries 2499-2521 were added. Materials added include Islamist militant videos and a whole series of Nazi-Skinheads’ videos from VKontakte as well as videos with speech-es by Kirill Barabash and Valery Parfyonov of For Responsible Authority initiative group and a book entitled The Dead Water. Public Security Concept.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis.

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Russia's Strategy For Undermining Western Unity Is Working

Vladimir Putin's timing can be impeccable.

6/12/2014- On the day before NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels, Belgium, this past week to re-affirm their unity and determination in the face of Moscow's aggression in Ukraine, the Russian president was enjoying a red-carpet welcome in the country with NATO’s second-largest army. "This visit by Putin is a clear sign of the progress in relations between Turkey and Russia,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday. “Our political will to increase our trade volumes to $100 billion is still valid." Photos of Putin inspecting an honor guard of Turkish troops in their sky-blue coats, offers of cut-price Russian energy exports, and a commitment to help Turkey — a key NATO ally — become a hub for Russian gas sales were perfectly timed to undermine NATO's show of unity the following day. "Talks during my state visit to Turkey were held in an exceedingly friendly and cooperative atmosphere," Putin crowed at a joint news conference following the meeting in Erdogan's lavish new palace in Ankara.

Putin's Turkish trip is the latest move in what Western defense officials view as a concerted and multi-pronged Russian offensive to undermine Western resolve over Ukraine. The Kremlin's tactics include the diplomatic and economic wooing of more receptive Western governments like Turkey's; outreach to friendly political forces (see recent revelations of Russian funding for France's far-right National Front party); an expensive multimedia propaganda campaign; and attempts to undermine moves toward the West by nations just be-yond NATO's eastern fringe, like Serbia and Moldova. It's an approach that is bearing fruit. "There are people in our countries, and legislators too, who do not see Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a threat to our interests or security," British lawmaker Hugh Bayley told parliamentarians from NATO nations last month. "Some are lured by Russia’s lies and propaganda. Others want to bury their heads in the sand."

Erdogan, upset with criticism from his country’s European and North American allies over his heavy-handed rule and unpredictable foreign policy, was glad to find a friend in Putin. "It's a reflection of deteriorating ties with the West," says Amanda Paul, an expert on the region at the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based think tank. "[The West is] pushing Turkey into the arms of other countries and one of those countries is Russia, which doesn't criticize Turkey over democracy, human rights, civil liberties, etcetera." For Putin, the Turkey visit ticks a number of boxes. It builds economic ties with a neighbor who has refused to sign on to international sanctions against Russia. The trip was a nice platform for slamming the European Union — and for sowing division among European nations by announcing he's pulling out of a major pipeline designed to take Russian gas into EU markets. That stunned Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary, who had hopes of profiting from the South Stream pipeline's route through their territory. Putin invited them to vent their anger at EU headquarters, which has sought to restrict plans to give Russian's energy giant Gazprom a monopoly on use of the pipeline.

He had a particular message for Bulgaria — a country with close historic and cultural ties to Russia — which joined the EU in 2007. "Bulgaria is deprived of the opportunity to act as a sovereign nation," Putin said. "Direct revenues to Bulgaria’s budget alone (from the pipeline) would have been no less than €400 million ($492 million) a year, but ultimately, this is also the choice of our Bulgarian partners; it seems they have certain obligations." That's talk that resonates in Bulgaria — the EU's poorest member, where pro-Russian politicians were quick to blame the government for sacrificing the national interest under pressure from the EU and United States. "Bulgaria had a chance to win back its energy independen-ce," said the Socialist Party’s Rumen Ovcharov, speaking to Russia's new Sputnik media operation. "The country's leadership acted inadequately and foolishly. And, unfortunately, Bulgaria emerged as a loser."

Across Europe, the Kremlin has been building a network of political allies, notably among parties on the far right and radical left that are opposed to the EU and have risen to prominence in several countries during the union's long economic crisis. After media revelations, the leader of France's National Front, Marine Le Pen, last month acknowledged the party had received €9 million ($11 million) from a Russian bank. She's denied reports that's just the first installment of a planned €40 million ($49 million) loan designed to fund the far-right leader's campaign to run for president in 2017. Le Pen is an outspoken critic of the West's support for Ukraine, wants France to resume the sale of high-tech warships to Moscow, and describes Putin as a role model. "I admire his cool head," she told the Euronews TV channel this week. "There is a cold war being waged against him by the EU at the behest of United States, which is defending its own interests. I admire that he has managed to restore pride and contentment to a great nation."

While other far-right parties in Europe have denied receiving money from Moscow, they do express ideological kinship with Putin's macho nationalism. "Russia represents the future," says Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's Northern League. Currently his country’s second-most popular politician, Salvini has been invited to the Kremlin to meet with Putin, which whom he shares a dislike of the EU and a penchant for posing bare-chested. Several European parties on the far right and left have cemented their support for Putin by acting as observers in elections and referendums organized by pro-Moscow groups in bits of Ukraine they've seized. But Russia isn’t only focusing on the extremes. The Kremlin has also cultivated influential sympathizers among European business leaders and prominent members of mainstream parties in countries like Germany, Hungary and Italy.

Another strand of Putin's strategy is to reach out directly to European public opinion, with a propaganda blitz designed to sow doubt about Western condemnation of Russia's ac-tions in Ukraine and other neighboring states. Russia is pouring money into the Sputnik multimedia operation launched last month and headed by ultra-nationalist TV presenter Dmitry Kiselev, who earlier this year warned Americans that Russia had the power to turn their country into "radioactive dust." The state-funded RT global television network, formally known as Russia Today, has also stepped up its activities. It opened a dedicated British channel, RT UK, in October, an online German channel in November, and launched an aggressive advertising campaign that suggests the Iraq War could have been avoided if people had listened to its broadcasts. Increasingly, Western officials are calling for a communications counter-strike.

Earlier this year a NATO Strategic Communications Center opened in Latvia. The US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill in September authorizing $10 million in annual funding focused on countering Russian “propaganda” in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. "The best counter to Russian disinformation is the truth," Alexander Vershbow, NATO's Deputy Secretary General wrote in a recent online debate. "NATO has improved its ability to get the facts out via traditional and social media, but I agree we can do better. This will be a priority."
© The Global Post.

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UK & NORTHERN IRELAND NEWS Week 49

Britain First bases propaganda video on completely made-up story about Muslims

5/12/2014- Far-right political party Britain First is facing ridicule after it based a propaganda video on a made-up story about Muslims that was disproved months ago. A video re-posted on the group's Facebook page this Monday shows its uniformed activists visiting a cinema that was accused in July of being "Muslim only". The story was debunked shortly after it was first reported, with police confirming they had received no complaints about an alleged incident in which men were supposedly turned away on the basis of their religion. The cinema noted that some visitors may have been turned away from the cinema on the day in question for a more benign reason: because it had been full. In the video, Paul Golding, the group's leader, can be seen confronting the manager of the theatre and ranting about the incident that never happened.

A Vue spokesperson said: “Everyone is welcome at Vue. During peak times, holidays and celebrations Star City does get very busy and we unfortunately have to turn some customers away if our screens are up to capacity. "This has no bearing on the religious and cultural backgrounds of our customers and everyone is welcome at Vue at Star City." The group pulled the stunt days before it claimed its deputy leader was arrested at a protest. Jayda Fransen was taking part in a demonstration outside the Egyptian Embassy in the Hyde Park area of West London. The Metropolitan Police could not immediately confirm the arrest had taken place when contacted by The Independent.
© The Independent

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UK: Doctor killed himself after mother asked him to seek 'gay cure'

5/12/2014- A Harley Street doctor killed himself by jumping from his luxury penthouse apartment after his mother asked him to seek “a cure” for being gay, an inquest heard. Dr Nazim Mahmood, fell four storeys to his death from the balcony of his £700,000 flat in a mansion block in West Hampstead, London, in July. An inquest at St Pancras Coroners’ Court heard Dr Mahmood had told his mother he was gay and was in a 13-year relationship with his fiancée, Matthew Ogston, just days before his death. The court heard Dr Mahmood had kept his sexuality secret from his Muslim family in Birmingham, fearing they would refuse to accept it on religious and cultural grounds. But having returned to the family home to celebrate Eid, the 34-year-old revealed his sexuality after his mother asked him if he was gay, the court heard.

Mr Ogston, who lived at the penthouse flat with Dr Mahmood, told the inquest yesterday: “She had suggested to him he needed to see a psychiatrist to see if he could be cured. Together I think they agreed they would get through it. “Telling someone they needed to be cured would not be the easiest thing to take.” The court heard that Dr Mahmood, who had never suffered from depression or any other mental illness, had taken drugs mephedrone and ketamine shortly before his death. Dr Mahmood was a GP who also ran Face Clinic London – a chain of medical clinics which he co-founded in 2009,providing wrinkle treatments such as Botox and chemical peels. Mr Ogston wept in court as he told of his love for Dr Mahmood, describing him as his “soulmate” and insisting his fiancé had given no indication of any intention to kill himself.

“He always wanted to help other people, always put other people first and wanted to care for people,” Mr Ogston told the coroner. “He was quite simply the most amazing man I’ll ever meet in my whole life.” The coroner, Mary Hassell, ruled that Dr Mahmood took his own life. She said: “It seems incredible that a young man with so much going for him could have taken his own life. “But what I’ve heard is that he had one great sadness which was the difficulty his family had in accepting his sexuality. “It seems desperately sad that in 2014 a person should feel that they can’t be accepted because of the way that they live and I can only feel the deepest sympathy for Nazim that he felt so sad and despe-rate.”
© The Independent

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UK: Crime warning on social media abuse

People who use social media to "peddle hate or abuse" will not escape justice by hiding behind their computers or phones, Scotland's top law chief has warned amid new guidelines on whether messages posted online constitute a crime.

4/12/2014- The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal (COPFS) said it wants to reassure the public that it takes such offences as seriously as crimes committed in person. It has set out four categories of behaviour, including "grossly offensive, indecent or obscene" comments. However it said there is no danger to freedom of speech, and stressed that people will not be prosecuted for satirical comments, offensive humour or provocative statements. Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said: "The rule of thumb is simple - if it would be illegal to say it on the street, it is illegal to say it online. "Those who use the internet to peddle hate or abuse, to harass, to blackmail, or any other number of crimes, need to know that they cannot evade justice simply by hiding behind their computers or mobile phones. "I hope this serves as a wake-up call to them. "As prosecutors we will continue to do all in our power to bring those who commit these crimes to justice, and I would encourage anyone who thinks they have been victim of such a crime to report it to the police."

The Crown Office said it has chosen to publish its guidance to ensure there is absolute clarity both in terms of its approach and the difference between criminal and non-criminal communications. It said it will take a "robust approach" to communications posted via social media if they are criminal in content, in the same way as such communications would be handled if they were said or published in the non-virtual world. The four categories of communication which prosecutors will consider are those which: 
@ Specifically target an individual or group of individuals, in particular communications which are considered to be hate crime, domestic abuse, or stalking;
@ May constitute credible threats of violence to the person, damage to property or incite public disorder;
@ May amount to a breach of a court order or contravene legislation making it a criminal offence to release or publish information relating to proceedings;
@ Do not fall into categories 1,2 or 3 but are nonetheless considered to be grossly offensive, indecent or obscene or involve the communication of false information about an   individual or group of individuals which results in adverse consequences for that individual or group of individuals.

In an interview on BBC Radio Scotland, the Lord Advocate was asked how "grossly offensive" could be defined when it could be seen as relative. He replied: "The guidance sets out that it would not include, for example, humour, satirical comment, which is part of the democratic debate, so there's guidance to prosecutors as to what's not included. "It doesn't include offensive comment because we recognise that, in a democratic society, with use of social media you can have offensive comment which wouldn't be criminal but it's really the category above the high bar grossly offensive which has a significant effect on the recipient of the comment. "We've all seen on the media reports of what you described, internet trolls, where this kind of comment, grossly offensive comment, is sent out to directly wound and has quite a significant effect." He added: "There's very detailed guidance of all the factors that prosecutors will take into account when they assess whether or not to raise criminal proceedings in relation to grossly offensive comments posted on social media."
© The Herald Scotland

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Britain's hidden racism: Workplace inequality has grown in the last decade

Racial inequality in the workplace has worsened over the last decade, despite the fact that ethnic minorities now outperform white British students in education, research shows.

3/12/2014- The Runnymede Trust, the charity behind the study, believes the findings point to institutional racism in the workplace. Ethnic minorities are also more likely to live in poor housing conditions, a comparison of census data from 2001 and 2011 in England and Wales has found. Omar Khan, director of the trust, said: “It’s time we stopped telling ethnic minorities that all you need to do is get better qualifications and integrate more and it’ll be fine. The evidence shows British ethnic minorities don’t have a problem in terms of attitude, or education, or good grades, so what else explains their poor outcome in the labour market other than discrimination?” In more than a third of districts in England and Wales there were increases in ethnic inequalities in employment over the 2000s. Newcastle, Leeds, Cardiff, Swansea and Bristol were amongst the cities which saw the gulf in employment outcomes for ethnic minorities when compared to white British citizens grow in the decade to 2011.

In some cases progress reversed dramatically. Ethnic minorities in Durham, Dover, Fylde and the Ribble Valley had better employment outcomes than white British people in 2001 but by 2011 they were worse. Mr Khan said: “I think racism is more hidden now. It’s more insidious and hard to capture. It’s easier to spot racism when it’s Tommy Robinson and the EDL saying awful things. We absolutely need to rebut that, but it can distract attention from insidious racism happening across the country in public and private institutions that not only are preventing black and Asian people from being recruited and promoted but also are leading to higher rates of child poverty and lost opportunities for a third generation of British born ethnic minority young people.”

London’s Lambeth and Haringey had the worst racial inequality gap between white British people and ethnic minorities, followed by Rotherham in Yorkshire. On average educa-tional achievement is now higher amongst ethnic minority groups, with higher rates of university participation. Yet this is not translating to success in the workplace. Mr Khan believes the Government and businesses need to be more proactive in giving more opportunities to ethnic minorities in the workplace. He said: “I think it’s really worrying. Government and policy makers at a local and national level are just not doing enough about this. Companies should at least have soft targets… if managers are able to progress black and Asian staff it should count in their favour.

There are indications that the situation is similar in Scotland. A report produced by the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) earlier this year found that just 0.8 per cent of staff in all of Scotland's local authorities are from BME backgrounds - despite making up four per cent of the general population of Scotland.
© The Independent

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UK: Secret video: Is anti-Semitism alive on the streets of London?

A new report suggests hate crime is on the rise in the capital. Jake Wallis Simons donned a kippah and filmed the results

3/12/2014- “Christ,” muttered the fat man in the suit. My heart skipped a beat. Was this anti-Semitism? But no, he wasn't blaming me for the crucifixion. He was just irritated that I had got in his way. I sighed, adjusted my skullcap and ploughed on in the direction of the Finsbury Park mosque. “Christ,” muttered the fat man in the suit. My heart skipped a beat. Was this anti-Semitism? But no, he wasn't blaming me for the crucifixion. He was just irritated that I had got in his way. I sighed, adjusted my skullcap and ploughed on in the direction of the Finsbury Park mosque. And it's not just the case in London. In July, a rabbi was attacked by four Muslim teenagers outside a Jewish boarding school in Gateshead. In Belfast, the windows of the city’s only synagogue were smashed on two consecutive nights; in Manchester, a Jewish cemetery was defaced with swastikas.

But let me begin at the beginning.
Yesterday, a new report commissioned by the Mayor of London revealed that 95 per cent of hate crimes against faith groups in the capital – which have surged by 23 per cent compared to last year – were anti-Semitic. And it's not just the case in London. In July, a rabbi was attacked by four Muslim teenagers outside a Jewish boarding school in Gates-head. In Belfast, the windows of the city’s only synagogue were smashed on two consecutive nights; in Manchester, a Jewish cemetery was defaced with swastikas. Has our coun-try’s famous tolerance deserted it? Is it no longer safe for Jews to walk the streets of Britain? Many of my Jewish friends are beginning to feel that way. And as somebody who is half-Jewish, I feel both sides of the problem keenly. So I persuaded a friend to join me in a “social experiment”. I would put on a Jewish skullcap, or “kippah”. He would cut a hole in the brim of a beanie, hide a video camera inside, and film me as I walked the streets.

Everybody told us it was a bad idea. A relative persuaded me to buy a stab-proof vest, then offered to be responsible for arranging my funeral. A Muslim friend looked worried, and told me to “be careful”. Even the Community Security Trust (CST), an organisation that provides security for Jewish events around the country, advised me to keep to the main roads and be aware of escape routes at all times. The night before, under pressure from all these quarters, we almost pulled out. But, buoyed by the importance of bringing anti-Semitism to the public’s attention, we decided it was worth the risk. I started in Waterloo, and meandered through central London. The tourists were too busy jabbering hysterically, and walking very slowly, to register anybody around them. Nobody seemed to even notice me.

After a time, we headed north through Bloomsbury, and found ourselves approaching Russell Square. This was the home of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I strolled conspicuously past groups of students hanging around on the corners. Nothing. At one point I entered one of the buildings to visit the lavatory. There may have been a few glances from the Muslim kids. Possibly. But that was it. Let's face it, I thought, the vast majority of anti-Semitic incidents have been allegedly perpetrated by Muslims. So we took the tube – nothing – to Edgware Road, and walked up and down it a few times. There were the men in beards; there were the women in niqabs. Nobody batted an eyelid. It all got a bit ridiculous when I had lunch in a Lebanese restaurant, still wearing my kippah, surrounded by orthodox Muslims. The waiters were courteous, and the food excellent. They forgot to bring me my tap water, but that would hardly qualify as a hate crime.

A host of other areas followed, including Finsbury Park, location of Abu Hamza’s old mosque. You guessed it: not a sausage. In the evening, I gave up and had a drink. The lack of reaction, I decided, was partly an expression of British tolerance, and partly of British indifference. Maybe the two go hand-in-hand. Either way, it felt like a win for London. It must be acknowledged that this experiment was unscientific. It is beyond dispute that the level of anti-Semitic hate crimes has risen sharply, with about 1,000 being reported in London last year. But it seems that British Jews do not need to feel constantly under threat. At the end of a long and unexpected day, I felt prouder to be Jewish – but exceptional-ly proud to be British.
© The Telegraph

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Britain First releases 'Taliban Hunting Club' hoodie 'just in time for Christmas'

The far-right group Britain First has released a new hoodie “just in time for Christmas”.

2/12/2014- Dubbed the “Taliban Hunting Club” hoodie, the sweater is aimed at those wishing to “display [their] patriotism in a simple yet effective way”. The “limited edition” black garment features the Britain First symbol topped with a crown on the left breast and a skull and weapons encircled with the slogan “Taliban Hunting Club” on the right breast. Advertised on the group’s official Facebook page, it is available on a website called Patriot Store, which also sells other Britain First garb, including polo shirts, baseball caps and even fragrances. It costs £29.95 excluding VAT. The latest sales pitch comes just weeks after police officers charged with protecting the Queen launched an investigation into the leader of Britain First over whether the group had made unauthorised use of an image of the monarch’s crown. Officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Operations directorate are looking into whether the group has breached royal copyright by using an image of St Edward’s Crown on its clothing.

It is expected that leader Paul Golding will be questioned over the next few weeks after the group didn’t comply with a government request to discontinue the merchandise. How-ever, Mr Golding previously told The Independent the merchandise was “perfectly legal”. A Met spokesperson today told The Independent that the investigation is on-going. Self-described as a patriotic political party and street defence organisation, Britain First was founded in 2011 by Jim Dowson, who resigned from the group in July. While the organisation blamed “media pressure” and family issues for the decision Mr Dowson publicly shamed the group’s tactics as “unacceptable and unchristian”. His departure came after members of the group “invaded” a mosque in south London. The stated aim of the incident in July was to “demand the removal of sexist signs” outside the Crayford Mosque. The signs designate separate entrances for men and women, so they can enter for segregated worship as is the custom in most mosques. The group is also stridently anti-Europe with an aim to preserve what it views as traditional British culture.
© The Independent

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UKIP Dep Chair: PinkNews is ‘gullible’ for reporting officials followed a fake Twitter account

A UKIP Deputy Chair has written a column claiming that PinkNews is “gullible” and “Left-Wing” for revealing that a large number of UKIP officials followed a fake Twitter account which spouted racist and homophobic abuse.

2/12/2014- Responding to a report on PinkNews from last week that a number of UKIP officials were following a fake UKIP branch’s Twitter account which claimed that gays were a “disgrace to humanity”, Suzanne Evans wrote a column on Breitbart suggesting that PinkNews had fallen for a “hoax”, and that UKIP was the “victim” of a Twitter “sting”. She also, in a sentence complaining about inaccuracies, made a spelling mistake. Complaining about inaccuracies, and the spread of hoax news, the Parliamentary Candidate for Shrewsbury and Atcham wrote: “Back in 2011, DEMOS produced a report titled Truth, Lies, and the Internet, after research revealed many young people don’t both [sic] to ‘fact check’ the information they find online and can’t recognise propaganda or bias when they come across it.” Referring to the Twitter account for “UKIP East London branch”, she said it was set up by an “anti-UKIP troll”, in an attempt “purely to make trouble.”

She continued: “That a few gullible Tweeters who don’t really know what UKIP stands for could have been taken in by all this was one thing; but the story was picked up by first the Independent, then the London Evening Standard, IBTimes, and Pink News [sic].” Incorrectly labelling PinkNews as left-wing when in fact PinkNews is neither left-wing nor right-wing, and is not affiliated with any particular political party. Ms Evans continued to suggest that UKIP was the “victim” of a hoax, apparently missing the point that the original PinkNews article simply pointed out that UKIP officials, and high profile supporters followed the fake Twitter account. “They took the word of the troll at face value. Despite clear evidence that UKIP had been the victim of a Twitter troll sting, all four journalists implied in their articles that UKIP was nevertheless somehow responsible by claiming UKIP had ‘disowned’ the account. How can UKIP disown something we never owned?” she continued.

PinkNews found that dozens of UKIP officials had continued to follow the “fake” account despite the overtly homophobic and racist messages – including a number of the party’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidates. UKIP officials including deputy chair Neil Hamilton, and PPCs including Charlie Smith, Peter Baillie, Nick Lincoln, Iain Mckie, Graham Moore, Lee Slaughter, Richard Thomas, and Herbie Crossman, were all apparently unable to tell the difference between the fake homophobic account and actual party policy. UKIP said in a statement: “The UKIP East London Twitter account is not a UKIP account. “We do not have an ‘East London’ branch and nor would we in any way endorse the Tweets it has made. We have taken steps to report it to Twitter as both misleading and malicious.”
© Pink News

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UK: Mario Balotelli risks 'racism and anti-Semitism' storm over Instagram post

Mario Balotelli, the Liverpool striker, faces a Football Association investigation and possible five-match ban for an inflammatory social media message that has earned him a public rebuke from his club and an angry response from the Jewish Leadership Council.

1/12/2014- Balotelli posted and then swiftly deleted an image on his Instagram page depicting the computer game character ‘Super Mario’ alongside a racial stereotype and anti-Semitic remark – "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew". Simon Johnson, the former FA executive and now chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council reacted angrily to post on Monday night. "We abhor all forms of racism, wherever it is found," Johnson said. "We call upon the FA to investigate this offensive social media post and to take action if appropriate if we are to succeed in kicking racism out of football." The provocative language in Balotelli's post, even if he claims it to be an ironic anti-racist message, leaves the Italian open to a breach of the FA’s social media guidelines. If charged, the minimum ban on race-related breaches is five games. At the very least, the striker has had to explain his intentions to his club and the swiftness with which it was removed demonstrated Liverpool concerns. The FA is sure to explore it further.

“We are aware of the posting which has since been promptly deleted by the player,” a Liverpool spokesman said on Monday evening. “We will be speaking to the player about the issue.” Balotelli tried to defend his actions on Twitter. “My Mom is jewish so all of u shut up please," he wrote. FA rules are clear that players are also responsible for any third-party postings on their account, even if they are attempting to demonstrate the racial attitudes of others. FA Rule E3 states: “Participants are deemed responsible for any postings on their account. The fact that a posting may have been made by a third party will not necessarily prevent disciplinary action being taken. 
In addition, re-tweeting another person’s posting may lead to disciplinary action if the original comment was improper. 
Finally, deleting an inappropriate posting, whilst advisable, does not necessarily prevent disciplinary action being taken.”

The governing body would also determine the context of such a posting, even though Balotelli may have been mocking racial stereotypes – he has been the subject of horrific abuse throughout his career – rather than advocating the message in the illustration. The FA would fully assess this prior to determining whether further action is required, although plenty of players have fallen foul of the pitfalls of using social media in recent season. Rio Ferdinand was fined and banned for three games for a tweet referencing gender this season, having earlier incurred the FA’s wrath for appearing to endorse someone’s else’s offensive tweet regarding Ashley Cole. Balotelli's post comes soon after Dave Whelan, the Wigan Athletic chairman, claimed in an interview that "Jews do chase money", a phrase that, along with his belief that "chink" is not an offensive description of a Chinese person, resulted in an FA charge.

For Liverpool, there is also the issue of Balotelli providing yet another distraction on the eve of an important fixture. The 24-year-old did not travel with his team mates to Leicester ahead of their Premier League meeting, and club officials acted promptly when informed of the Instagram post. Since moving to Anfield, Balotelli has continued to find himself courting attention for the wrong reasons – often inadvertently. Although it remains to be seen if further action will be taken due to his use of social media, the incidents are starting to pile up as the club determines whether to retain him for the long term. If he is charged by the FA, he will not only face a club fine but it will ensure – as per the clauses in his contract – he receives a reduced salary from his club. An FA spokesman said it was aware of the situation and would be looking into it before determining whether to take any further action. A spokesperson for Kick It Out said: "Kick It Out has been made aware of Mario Balotelli's Instagram post by a Twitter user and has now forwarded on to the FA to look into the matter."
© The Telegraph

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UK: BBC still won’t allow its presenters to wear AIDS ribbons

A year after causing controversy by blocking its presenters from wearing red ribbons for World AIDS Day, the BBC still appears to be enforcing the ban.

1/12/2014- Graham Norton was last year reprimanded by the BBC for wearing an HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon on his Friday night chat show. The broadcaster and comedian ignored instructions not to wear the ribbon on his programme on 29 November 2013 to highlight World AIDS Day on 1 December. Despite the fact that all of his guests on the Graham Norton Show – Jeremy Clarkson, Jo Brand, Colin Farrell and Sharon Osbourne – were allowed to wear the red ribbons – the Irish presenter was told not to. This year, the star appeared last Friday, 28 November, without the ribbon. This year’s guests Nicole Kidman, Julie Walters and Hugh Bonneville, as well as Take That, all appeared without wearing the ribbon.

BBC entertainment controller Mark Linsey last year confirmed to PinkNews that he had reprimanded Norton and his production company So Television over their actions. “World AIDS Day is an issue which Graham cares passionately about and he did wear a World AIDS Day insignia on his programme,” Linsey told BBC in-house magazine Ariel. “However, this is in breach of BBC guidelines. The production company has been contacted and reminded that he cannot do this and Graham has accepted he was wrong to do so. The BBC has been assured it will not occur again.”

The Daily Telegraph reported a BBC source having said: “The whole thing is totally disgraceful – Graham is a well known supporter of AIDS charities and there is no way in the world he was not going to wear the ribbon. “It means so much to him and is very close to his heart and for the BBC to have a go at him is as unbelievable as it is disgusting. “His guests were all allowed to wear ribbons – even Jeremy Clarkson – so if Graham didn’t wear one, can you imagine how he would feel?” ITV, the BBC’s main commercial rival, has allowed judges and presenters on its main Saturday night fixture, X Factor, to wear HIV/AIDS awareness ribbons to mark World AIDS Day for the past several years.

Last year, the BBC allowed presenters to wear Christmas jumpers as part of Save the Children’s fundraising campaign. It is unclear whether they will be allowed to this year. Former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw last year wrote to BBC Director General Lord Hall over the decision to discipline Graham Norton for wearing the ribbon on, and says the corporation is not being consistent with its own guidelines. PinkNews is unaware of any response having been posted to Mr Bradshaw. The BBC refused to answer questions from PinkNews about inconsistencies in the policy, the only official exception to is the poppy- which presenters are allowed to wear for Remembrance Day. Calls for the BBC to elaborate on this in 2013 were never returned.
© Pink News

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UK: Former BNP leader backs Nigel Farage

The former leader of the British National Party has endorsed UKIP at the next election.

30/11/2014- Nick Griffin said he was planning to vote UKIP to shake up the political system and because he believed it would increase the chances of an EU referendum happening. “I will hold nose & vote Ukip because it will help break up the Westminster system. & hold Cameron's feet to referendum fire,” he tweeted yesterday. He however criticised Nigel Farage, referring to him as a “Toryboy” and posting a photograph of the party leader holding a mug with a picture of Margaret Thatcher on it. “Don’t be fooled,” he added. In another tweet this morning, Mr Griffin said: "Farage votes for GM crops in the EU Parliament. Vote UKIP to kick Cameron, but don't be fooled." UKIP has sought to distance itself from parties of the far-right, banning former BNP members from joining and rejecting alliances in Europe with France’s Front National.

It has however, like the BNP, been dogged with allegations of racism amongst its members. Mr Griffin quit the BNP as party leader this summer after a series of election disastrous election result, including the loss of his own European Parliament seat. He was replaced by party member Adam Walker. The far-right party was wiped out in the European Parliament elections in May and lost nearly all of its council seats. Back in 2009 Mr Griffin presided over a moderate rise in support for the BNP when it took six per cent of the vote in the European elections. He was declared financially bankrupt in January this year.
© The Independent

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Research: British Muslims face worst job discrimination of any minority group

30/11/2014- Muslims are facing the worst job discrimination of any minority group in Britain, according to new research which found that they had the lowest chance of being in work or in a managerial role. Muslim men were up to 76 per cent less likely to have a job of any kind compared to white, male British Christians of the same age and with the same qualifications. And Muslim women were up to 65 per cent less likely to be employed than white Christian counterparts. Muslims were the most disad-vantaged in terms of employment prospects out of 14 ethno-religious groupings in the UK, researchers Dr Nabil Khattab and Professor Ron Johnston found using data from the Office for National Statistics' Labour Force Survey of more than half a million people. Skin colour made little difference to the figures.

Dr Nabil Khattab, of Bristol University, said the situation was "likely to stem from placing Muslims collectively at the lowest stratum within the country's racial or ethno-cultural system due to growing Islamophobia and hostility against them. "They are perceived as disloyal and as a threat rather than just as a disadvantaged minority," he added. "Within this climate, many employers will be discouraged from employing qualified Muslims, especially if there are others from their own groups or others from less threatening groups who can fill these jobs." Dr Khattab said the "penalties" for being Muslim got worse when applying for better-paid managerial or professional jobs. "If this persists, it could have long-term implications for the cohesion of the UK's multi-ethnic, multicultural society. The exclusion of well-qualified black and Muslim individuals could undermine their willingness to integrate in the wider society," he said.

For women, Muslim Pakistanis and a "Muslim other" group were 65 per cent less likely to have a job, with Muslim Indians 55 per cent, Muslim Bangladeshis 51 per cent and white Muslims 43 per cent less likely. For men, the "Muslim other" group was 76 per cent less likely to be in work, followed by Muslim Bangladeshis (66 per cent), white Muslims (64 per cent), Muslim Pakistanis (59 per cent) and Muslim Indians (37 per cent), the Social Science Journal study found. White British men and women of no religion were, respectively, 20 and 25 per cent less likely to have a job than Christians. Black Christians with Caribbean origins were 54 per cent and 48 per cent less likely. The only ethno-religious group with better work prospects than white British Christians were British Jews, with women and men 29 and 15 per cent more likely to be employed.

Of those in work, the researchers found only 23 per cent and 27 per cent of Muslim Bangladeshis and Muslim Pakistanis, respectively, had a salaried job. White British Jews had the highest rates, with 64 per cent in salaried jobs, followed by Hindu Indians and white Christian Irish on 53 and 51 per cent respectively. White British Christians, white British of no religion and black Christian Africans were all above 40 per cent. Dr Khattab added: "The main components of this discrimination are skin colour and culture or religion. But colour is dynamic, which means white colour can be valued in one case, but devalued when associated with Muslims. Equally, having a dark skin colour – Hindu Indians, for example – is not always associated with any significant penalty."
© The Independent

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In Northern Ireland, a Wave of Immigrants Is Met With Fists

29/11/2014- More than 16 years after the Good Friday peace deal brought real hope that Protestants and Roman Catholics could live together in relative harmony, Northern Ireland is being racked by another wave of violence. But this time it is not driven by the sectarian divide, but by animosity toward a fast-growing population of immigrants — adding one more challenge as Europe struggles to cope with the combination of intense economic strain and rapid demographic change. “This is a society that always prides itself on being very friendly, but it is becoming less and less welcoming, particularly to certain types of people,” said Jayne Olorunda, 36, whose father was Nigerian, and though she grew up in Northern Ireland said her color has always marked her as an outsider.

The expanding problem appears to be partly racial and partly directed at immigrants of all backgrounds at a time when open borders in the European Union have led more legal migrants to Britain and Ireland in search of work. At the same time, war and economic deprivation have driven waves of legal and illegal migrants toward Europe from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The more recent immigrants from Eastern Europe and parts of Africa tell stories similar to those of people from China, India and Pakistan who have lived here for decades. Mohammed Khattack, a 24-year-old Pakistani who arrived in Belfast last year hoping to study humanities after three years in London, got a first warning one night in June when an empty wine bottle shattered the front window of his rented house in north Belfast. When he and his housemate, who is also from Pakistan, began cleaning up the next morning, small groups of neighbors had formed. But they had not come to help — they had come to gloat.

Then one of them began raining blows down on Mr. Khattack amid a tirade of racist slurs. “He was a big guy and he approached me, and at this point I called the police to report trespass as he was inside the gate,” Mr. Khattack said. “But he grabbed me in a headlock and began punching me and jumping on my legs. I managed to get into the house, but he followed me through the door until I got to the bathroom and there he continued to beat me.” Mr. Khattack was treated for severe bruising and spent months on crutches. He still walks with a limp. The police arrested a 57-year-old man, who was later released on bail. The police told Mr. Khattack that the man had since fled the area. The official figures and anecdotal evidence indicate that the severity and frequency of attacks in Northern Ireland have increased in recent years.

On average, almost three racial hate crimes a day are reported to the police. Between 2013 and 2014 there was a 43 percent increase in racially motivated offenses, 70 percent of them in Belfast. Immigrant groups assert — and the police concede — that the real figure is much higher, with many attacks going unrecorded because of fear of reprisals or a lack of faith in the justice system. According to a recent report by the Northern Ireland Commission for Ethnic Minorities, just 12 of 14,000 race-related crimes reported over the past five years ended in a successful prosecution. The police say paramilitary groups are cynically manipulating xenophobia to gain support in their communities by targeting migrants. In April, a senior police officer, Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr, said the rise in the number and severity of racial hate crimes in Protestant loyalist areas left “the unpleasant taste of a bit of ethnic cleansing.”

But Patrick Yu, the executive director of the Northern Ireland Commission for Ethnic Minorities, said it is simplistic to brand certain communities intrinsically racist. “Most of the available housing stock for private rental just happens to be in loyalist areas where there is already a wariness of outsiders and a feeling of being left behind by Catholics who they believe have benefited disproportionately from the Good Friday Agreement,” he said. “There is still huge deprivation in these areas, and I believe sectarianism and racism are two sides of the same coin — both need to be tackled.” Although less prevalent, attacks have also taken place in Catholic west Belfast. In June, hundreds of people marched in the area in support of a Nigerian man who was hospitalized after a racist assault. His attackers had also threatened to run over his 2-year-old daughter and burn down his home.

There is also concern that casual racism and willful ignorance are pervasive, evident in the flying of a Ku Klux Klan flag in loyalist east Belfast in July. Also that month, the Ulster Rugby team apologized for a picture in which three of its players were wearing black makeup and one had chains around his neck as if he were a slave. This summer, a fundamentalist Protestant preacher, James McConnell, drew widespread condemnation after telling his congregation that “Islam is heathen; Islam is satanic; Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell.” Anna Lo, the only ethnic minority representative in the Northern Ireland Assembly, recalls the night she heard the province’s first minister, Peter Robinson, speak in support of Mr. McConnell, saying “there wasn’t an ounce of hatred in his bones.” “I was screaming at the television,” she said in an interview. “I couldn’t believe these views.”

Mr. Robinson’s remarks prompted Ms. Lo to make an emotional appearance on a popular talk show in which she said she was considering leaving the country. Ms. Lo, who was born in Hong Kong, has lived in Northern Ireland since 1984. “What kind of place are we now living in?” she said. “I feel vulnerable that when I walk on the street I might be attacked.” Both men eventually apologized for their remarks. In Britain, immigrants make up roughly 12.4 percent of the population, compared with 1.8 percent in Northern Ireland. Still, the rate here is higher than the 0.8 percent in 2001, with the bulk of the immigrants coming from Poland after it joined the European Union in 2004. 

Many immigrants say the abuse is tolerated for economic reasons: Workers here can expect to earn far more than in their home countries. Others cannot go back even if they wanted to. “I acknowledge that it is somewhat ironic that I seem to have swapped fear in my own country for another kind here,” said Suleiman Abdulahi, who fled Somalia after the outbreak of civil war there in 1991. The new wave of immigrants has certainly not brought safety in numbers. “It’s my home, but I don’t feel like a very welcome resident,” said Ms. Olorunda, whose broad accent is pure Northern Ireland. “When more people began to arrive I was excited at first,” she said, “but then the attacks began to move from verbal to physical and I began to think this isn’t a good thing, after all.”

Ms. Olorunda said she has endured a lifetime of racism and stays in Northern Ireland mainly to look after her mother, who she said never recovered from the loss of her husband. He died in 1980 when an Irish Republican Army bomb exploded on a train. In a twist that shows just how small this society can be, Ms. Olorunda’s mother, a nurse, met the badly disfigured man responsible for her husband’s death in a hospital some years later. She accepted his apology, even though she had been left alone to bring up three young daughters. Although born and raised here, Ms. Olorunda said she and her sister were thinking of joining their other sibling in London. “I love the people, the humor, the sense of space,” she said. “But my sister and I have always said we wouldn’t end up as two old ladies in Northern Ireland.”
© The New York Times

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Headlines 5 December, 2014

Romanian Ambassador in Armenia makes anti-Semitic jokes

MCA Romania urges the Romanian Presidency to take immediate action in response to the official anti-Semitic and homophobic statements made by the Romanian ambassador in Armenia, Mr Sorin Vasile.

5/12/2014- In his speech at the American University of Armenia, on 19th of November 2014, the Romanian ambassador spread religious, anti-Semitic and homophobic stereotypes, mixing jokes about Jews and the Armenian genocide. Answering to questions from students and media, in our view Mr Vasile made comments of an abysmal ignorance, profound lack of respect and total irresponsibility. He 'dismissed' the Armenian genocide by a phrase, took homophobic sides and made jokes about Jews being greedy accountants, ready to overpass any law in order to make profit, a clear anti-Semitic stereotype. Romania's ambassador statements were revealed by a local publication, Civil Net, and are available on-line. According to our evidences, this is by far the clearest proof of anti-Semitism at the highest level, overpassing any anti-Semitic incident involving a Romanian official up to date. This outrageous incident occurs days before the official visit of the MCA’s National Director in Armenia. As some of those involved in similar incidents assumed the responsibility and retracted their initial statements, Mr Vasile, refused to apologize and engaged Romania's reputation and responsibility for such actions. MCA Romania reminds again that the Romanian Parliament should finalize the procedure of updating the anti-racist laws, together with a stronger focus on education.
© MCA Romania

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Human Rights in Ukraine Are 'Deteriorating Rapidly'

3/12/2014- Human rights are deteriorating in Ukraine and Turkey, a global index revealed today. The human rights situation in both countries has drastically declined and Ukraine has seen the greatest annual increase in risk to human rights. The 10th annual Human Rights Risk Atlas (HRRA), published by risk analysis company Maplecroft, ranked 198 countries on the basis of 38 violation categories, including human security, political rights and labour rights and protection. Categorizing countries from low risk to high risk, the Atlas is designed to help businesses, investors and international organisations assess, compare and monitor human rights risks and seven-year trends. According to the Atlas, Turkey’s decline has been caused by the repression of civil and political rights. Restrictions on the media and the actions of security forces against demonstrators at protests are additional factors. “When widespread human rights violations, such as these, are present in a country,” Maplecroft said, “they have the potential to trigger further unrest and spur greater political risks to investors, particularly in respect of societally induced regime change.”

“We work to advise companies and improve their human rights due diligence,” Maplecroft’s Lizabeth Campbell, director of human rights and societal risk told Newsweek. “Busi-nesses can then be more adept at identifying where violations are occurring in their operations and find ways to mitigate against these human rights violations in the future.” Ukraine fell 19 places in the Atlas this year, ranking as the 44th most at risk country. It also fell ten places in the ranking for forced labour and eight places for trafficking which Maplecroft attributes to the exploitation of 430,000 conflict-driven migrants in the country. “In addition to the current conflict,” Maplecroft said of Ukraine, “the decline reflects an ongoing deterioration of human rights protections since 2011.” Following the overthrow of former president Yanukovych in January last year, Ukraine has been thrown into a civil war between the European-leaning government in Kiev and pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow which has led to the death of over 4,000 people. The peninsula of Crimea was annexed by Russia in March.

Cases of routine kidnapping, torture and executions by Russian authorities in Crimea and by separatists controlling Donetsk and Luhansk, are said to have undermined the efforts made by Kiev’s new government to protect human rights. Maplecroft indicates that a “divergence in human rights protection globally” has resulted in the increase in extreme risk countries. “Government repression, especially violations committed by state security forces against opposition groups and protesters, are a key reason for the increase in extreme risk countries, while robust governance, progressive reforms and active civil society have fostered improvements in low risk countries,” the company’s statement read. The Atlas judges a country’s commitment to human rights through a number of factors, including the willingness of a country to enforce human rights standards, how the violations are being reported (either by state or society), the frequency of violations, where the violations take place, the duration of the violations and their severity.

The countries which had the worst human and labour rights abuses were Syria, Sudan and Iraq, followed by Afghanistan. DR Congo, Pakistan, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and South Sudan were also included in the top ten. “Human security in Syria has deteriorated,” Campbell said. “Conflict in Syria has stopped basic labour protection. When we see that state cannot exert control over physical territory there are usually severe violations in respect to human trafficking and forced labour.” The Syrian civil war that has killed an estimated 190,000 people since groups opposed to the rule of Bashar al-Assad staged an uprising that led to entrenched urban fighting. The Islamist group Islamic State has seized control of large parts of the country, often committing atrocities against those who do not subscribe to their strict interpretation of sharia law. The UNHRC, the UN’s refugee agency, estimates that 6.8 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Insecurity caused by years of conflict and violence has begun to destabilize surrounding regions, according to Campbell. “Elements of the very complicated conflict in which Syria finds itself in the centre of are starting to spread,” she said, particularly implicating Lebanon and Jordan. Campbell said that forced migration and forced displacement of minori-ties are the biggest threats to human rights today: “We see it happening in the extreme today with conflict, violence, and upheaval. People seek better living situations due to the deterioration of their environment, whether that be war, poverty or an oppressive government. “The instability for people on the move impacts their vulnerability and makes them a target for criminal organizations that prey upon vulnerable people globally. It leads to the physical, economical and sexual exploitation of so many hundreds of thousands of people.”

West Africa has made the greatest improvement this year and Taiwan, Latvia, Lithuania, Uruguay and the Czech Republic have all entered the low risk category. This is the first year the Atlas has seen an increase in the number of low risk countries, although countries labeled as an extreme risk also increased, from 20 countries in 2008 to 35 in 2015. “The effects of human rights is felt both in developing and developed countries,” said Campbell. “This is an issue that impacts governments across the world,” she said. “It is the responsibility of the state, businesses and individuals to make the situation change.”
© Newsweek Magazine

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OSCE Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues marks 20 years

5/12/2014- Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Budapest Summit, when the OSCE participating States signalled their commitment to improving the situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE region by creating a Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues (CPRSI). Since then, the CPRSI has been instrumental in addressing the historic discrimination and persecu-tion of Roma and Sinti and in promoting their inclusion in the region.

Contained within the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the CPRSI has acted as a focal point for reviewing the implementation of OSCE commit-ments relating to Roma and Sinti and for facilitating contacts between participating States, international and non-governmental organizations and OSCE institutions. Through field visits, workshops, publications and teaching materials, the CPRSI works to improve the situation of Roma and Sinti, including by combating racism and discrimination against Roma and Sinti, improving their access to education, addressing their socio-economic needs, building on good relations between police and their communities and enhancing their participation in public and political life. “The role of the CPRSI in putting Roma and Sinti issues on the policy agenda is unparalleled,” said Michael Georg Link, Director of ODIHR. “In the 20 years since its creation, the CPRSI has made significant progress in shaping institutional mechanisms to protect the rights of Roma and Sinti and to promote their inclusion at all levels of government and society. Today marks an important milestone and is a time to reflect on the progress made and the way forward,” he added.

The CPRSI is also responsible for drafting ODIHR status reports on the implementation of the 2003 Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE region, a key policy instrument for promoting Roma and Sinti inclusion. The status reports examine activities undertaken by OSCE participating States to improve the situation of Roma and Sinti in the region by assessing progress, identifying challenges and defining priority areas for action. The reports’ findings represent a vital resource for states in their efforts to achieve the objectives laid out in the Action Plan.

“Over the past few decades, the OSCE human rights agenda on Roma and Sinti has shifted from raising awareness of the issues to applying practical tools on what needs to be done. In the last eight years the discussion has centred on how Roma and Sinti integration can be effectively achieved,” said Mirjam Karoly, ODIHR’s Senior Adviser for Roma and Sinti Issues. “The missing element to realizing this goal is strong and genuine political leadership coupled with the meaningful participation of Roma and Sinti. This has to become a focus of the international agenda for the coming years.”

In addition to informing the policy agenda, the CPRSI has conducted a number of field visits in recent years to evaluate the situation of Roma and Sinti on the ground, including, most recently, a visit to Ukraine in 2014 to assess the challenges and risks facing Roma and Sinti in conflict situations. In particular, CPRSI’s assessment found that a lack of civil registration documents and poor public perceptions of Roma and Sinti make them particularly vulnerable in the displacement context. Additionally, the CPRSI has made the empowerment of Roma and Sinti women and youth a focus of its work, including by holding consultations with Roma women to mainstream their interests within the overall OSCE gender equality agenda and by organizing a youth forum for young representatives of Roma and Sinti, among other activities.

“Policy makers should recognize that the success of inclusion programmes is dependent on Roma and Sinti having ownership of them, something that the OSCE has acknowledged from the very beginning,” said Lucie Fukova, Member of the Government Council for Roma Minority Affairs and Member of the Green Party of the Czech Republic. “To make this a reality, Roma and Sinti, especially women and youth, must to be included in decision-making processes both in elected office and in public administration. The barriers to real participation are still many and significant, and their efforts to participate need to be supported and nurtured.”
© OSCE - Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues

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OSCE CiO Burkhalter receives civil society recommendations ahead of the Ministerial Council

3/12/2014- In his capacity as Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE, Didier Burkhalter attended the closing session of the Parallel Civil Society Conference, held in the margins of the Ministerial Council meeting on 02 and 03 December. In Basel, more than 100 civil society representatives discussed and adopted concrete recommendations directed at the OSCE, its Institutions, field presence and participating States. In addition to the CiO, the closing session of the conference was attended by Ambassador Dejan Šahović, Head of the Serbian Chairmanship Task Force, and Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The Parallel Civil Society Conference has been held each year on the margins of the OSCE Ministerial Council meetings since 2010. This year, a special focus was given to the topic of intolerance, discrimination and hate crimes, which are reflected in the so-called “Basel Declaration”. The other set of recommendations include thoughts and analyses by civil society actors on freedoms of expression, assembly and association, security of human rights defenders, prevention of torture, independence of the judiciary, protection of privacy and the right to free and fair elections. “The body of OSCE commitments is pretty solid, but the number of recommendations made here today underlines that there is a need to strengthen implementation,” said CiO Didier Burkhalter. “Co-operation is crucial and I am convinced that together we can achieve progress. Our constructive and positive co-operation with civil society during the Swiss Chairmanship gave the possibility for mutual learning through dialogue”, he added.

During the conference, participants noted the relevance of the recommendations to the work of all OSCE structures and, above all, to ODIHR. “The Basel Declaration contains many valid points relevant to our work in the human dimension,” said Michael Georg Link, ODIHR Director. “In particular, we are pleased that the Declaration acknowledges the impor-tance of existing OSCE commitments in addressing and combating all forms of discrimination, racism, xenophobia, intolerance and hate crime, while also calling for a review of their effectiveness and implementation in light of current political developments in the region,” he added. Ambassador Dejan Šahović, Head of the Serbian Chairmanship Task Force, on behalf of Ivica Dačić, the incoming OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, underlined the continuing support provided by the OSCE Chairmanship to civil society. “As you know, the incoming Serbian OSCE Chairmanship identified strengthening links with civil society and promotion of its active involvement as one of our priority activities. We did so, in co-operation with our Swiss colleagues, believing that civil society has a prominent role in assisting participating States to implement their commitments, especially in the area of the human dimension”, he added.

Yuri Dzhibladze, member of the Coordinating Committee of the Civic Solidarity Platform underlined the consultative process of elaboration of this comprehensive set of recommendations by various civil society activists throughout the year. “It is our hope that the recommendations will be taken aboard by OSCE participating States, institutions and field presence. It is important that the many negative trends in the human dimension will be addressed by the OSCE actors in co-operation with civil society.”


  • Basel Declaration and recommendations of civil society

  • © OSCE - Chairperson-in-Office
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    28 rescued from migrant boat off Spain, 23 missing

    5/12/2014- Spain's Marine Rescue service says it has saved 28 African migrants from an inflatable boat in waters off southeast Spain, and is searching for 23 others believed missing after the vessel ran into stormy weather. A spokeswoman said the rescue took place Friday in the Mediterranean Sea, 20 miles (32 kilometers) off Cabo de Gata cape. She said the rescued migrants confirmed there had been 51 people aboard the 33-foot-long (10-meter-long) boat and that many had fallen into the sea when the vessel ran into high waves and winds on Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with the service's regulations. African migrants seeking a better life in Europe often try to reach Spain by crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Morocco in small boats.
    © The Associated Press

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    Spain: Atletico ban far-right group after violence

    3/12/2014- Atletico Madrid banned the radical far-right group Atletico Front from the stadium yesterday for their involvement in the brutal fight on Sunday which left one man dead. Jimmy Romero, a member of Deportivo La Coruna’s left-wing ultra group Riazor Blues, died when Atletico Front and Riazor Blues attacked each other before Sunday’s clash beween Atletico and Deportivo. Atletico said in a statement: “Among those identified are 15 people who say they are Atletico Madrid supporters, of which seven were club members. Those members have been expelled immediately.” Atletico president Enrique Cerezo said: “This has nothing to do with football. Neither Atletico nor Deportivo have anything to do with these incidents, they are organised by radical groups who have their histories and accounts to settle.”
    © The Morning Star

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    ‘Thank God Nazis shot gays’: Latvian MP in hot water over offensive tweets

    A Latvian MP has been forced resign her position in the ruling party leadership after sparking a scandal with gay-hating comments she published on Twitter.

    2/12/2014- Inga Priede landed in hot water after crossing the line in an online debate with fellow Unity party members on the possible legislation of same-sex partnerships. The issue of gay rights is a hot topic in Latvia after last week’s coming out by Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkçvičs and a similar move by UK’s Charge d’Affaires in Riga, Iain Frew. Priede stated that all Latvian countryfolk are “in shock” after learning about the draft law and rural gays “are not proud” of their sexual orientation “because there are basic values.” She went further, tweeting: “Thank God! The Germans shot them in their time. Was good for demographics,” an apparent reference to the Nazi Germans’ campaign to “improve the nation” through the extermination of citizens deemed unfit to be part of it, including homosexuals. The MP’s controversial statements on Monday evening immediately backfired on her, even though she deleted the original tweets and called on all readers to adhere to Christian values.

    “Such statements are absolutely unacceptable. And her later attempts to say she didn’t write these criminal things or that she had been misunderstood prove that Ms. Priede is not a brave person and does not take responsibility for her words,” said MP Ilze Viňíele, a former Latvian social minister as cited by Mig news website. Unity Party Chair Solvita Âboltiňa and some other leadership members said the statements were against the party’s position on the issue and that the issue would be considered at a leadership meeting as soon as possible. On Tuesday Priede resigned her position in the party leadership and apologized, saying she had not intended to insult anyone. The scandal however may not be over for Priede, with several unveiled threats of criminal prosecution voiced by her critics.
    © RT

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    A Gay Mayor in Poland? No Big Deal

    In the end, the fact that Robert Biedron is one of Poland’s most prominent gay-rights activists seemed to play almost no role in his election as the new mayor of Slupsk, a conservative city of 97,000 near the Pomeranian coast.

    2/12/2014- “There is no reason to think that Mr. Biedron’s private life was an advantage, but it looks like it wasn’t a disadvantage, either,” said Jaroslaw Flis, a sociologist and political commentator. “Sexual orientation didn’t matter for the voters in Slupsk.” In conservative Poland, where the Roman Catholic Church wields enormous political power, that amounts to a sea change. “Poland is not the most progressive European country, of course, on this issue,” Mr. Biedron said Tuesday in an interview. “There is a lot of conservatism and homophobia and prejudice. But Poland is also on the track to change. The lesson of tolerance is being learned, and Polish society is changing.”

    Mr. Biedron, 38, was the country’s first openly gay member of Parliament and is now its second openly gay mayor. The first, Marcin Nikrant, 26, was elected in 2011. He runs a relatively tiny village of 1,500 residents and, though not in the closet, was not as openly gay in his community as Mr. Biedron is. “Of course they knew I am gay, because everyone in Poland knows that I’m gay,” Mr. Biedron said of the voters on Tuesday. “But it did not matter. In the campaign, none of the seven candidates tried to use it as a tool against me, not even the right-wing ones.” True, he was widely expected to lose the race, but not because of that. For one thing, he was running for mayor of Slupsk while living in Warsaw, hundreds of miles away. And though most races come down to a battle between the ruling Civic Platform party and the more conservative Law and Justice opposition, Mr. Biedron was running as an independent.

    In an initial round of voting, no candidate won a majority, and Mr. Biedron finished a fairly distant second, winning 20 percent of the vote to the 29 percent taken by the Civic Platform candidate, Zbigniew Konwinski. But in the runoff on Sunday, Mr. Biedron scored a convincing victory, beating Mr. Konwinski 57 percent to 43 percent. Other than in a few fusillades from the right-wing media, Mr. Biedron’s sexual orientation barely came up during the campaign. Instead, the focus was on local issues like potholes and transportation, as well as a growing discontent with the financially struggling city’s political establishment. He made that point in several postelection interviews, promising to ride his bicycle to work rather than use the limousines that previous mayors had at their disposal. “If you are mayor of a modest city, you must live a modest life, and many politicians in Poland do not understand that,” he said. “You cannot treat the city like you are a king and it is your own.” Now, Mr. Biedron said, he must pack up his belongings and move to Slupsk. The voters, he said, “wanted a new whisk to clean up the city,” and he got the job.

    “Poland has gone through a major shift in recent years in the way it views L.G.B.T. people,” said Agata Chaber, president of the Campaign Against Homophobia, referring to lesbians, gays, bisexu-als and transgendered people. "It can be seen in politics, in the media. Robert’s election is just one of those examples.” Still, there are no laws in Poland covering “even the most basic things” for gay citizens, Mr. Biedron said. Until last year, civil partnerships had never been openly discussed in Parliament. Change is coming quickly now, though, said Ms. Chaber, whose organization was founded by Mr. Biedron in 2001. “In 2011, there were very few L.G.B.T. candidates in the country, maybe 10, and just two got into Parliament,” she said. “In the European Parliament elections last summer, there were a few more. And during these elections, there were over 30, and Robert Biedron was elected the mayor of Slupsk.” That he did it without his sexuality’s becoming an issue was the most important point, Mr. Biedron said. “It shows you cannot play these homophobic games anymore,” he said. “Polish society will no longer accept it.”
    © The New York Times

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    Fifa in zero-tolerance World Cup discrimination pledge

    Fifa want the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign to highlight a "zero-tolerance policy" against discrimination.

    2/12/2014- Football's governing body will appoint racism monitors for the qualifiers, which should begin in June 2015. A pledge to create an action plan to train and appoint the monitors was made by  Fifa's anti-discrimination taskforce at their meeting in Zurich on Tuesday. In addition, they will compile a handbook to "guide and assist" on handling anti-discrimination policies. In the summer, criticised by its own anti-discrimination chief, Jeffrey Webb, for failing to take action against homophobic chanting and neo-Nazi banners being displayed at World Cup matches. Webb chaired the latest meeting, which was attended by, among others, FA board member Heather Rabbatts and anti-racism campaigner Jason Roberts.
    © BBC News

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    Swedish far-right makes big gamble to shed pariah status

    4/12/2014- Sweden's far-right is gambling its political future in pitching the country into snap elections, calculating disaffection with established parties and fears over immigration can further its meteoric rise from a pariah-like obscurity to mainstream power. But voters may yet punish the Sweden Democrats, who want to cut asylum seekers by 90 percent, for tipping the balance in a vote over the budget on Wednesday and forcing a Social Democrat-Green coalition to call polls after only 2 months. Turmoil is an alien spectacle in Swedish political culture. "If they succeed in conveying an image that they are a strong, established party that has pushed this through, they may at least to some extent be rewarded for it," Gothenburg University Professor Folke Johansson said. "But if they are perceived as having thrown a spanner in the works and been looking for a fight, they will do badly."

    The campaign, pitching the Sweden Democrats against parties of the left and right who shun them, will determine whether they are entrenched as king makers - potentially redrawing the political landscape - or sidelined for years to come. "We see a big opportunity with a new election," Sweden Democrat MP Martin Kinnunen told Reuters. "We can raise the question of immigration even higher up on the agenda." Kinnunen's party may well improve on the 13 percent it polled in September. "The most likely thing is that the Sweden Democrats, which is most clearly the party for the discontented, will benefit from this," said Torbjorn Sjostrom, CEO of pollsters Novus. The far-right is on the rise across Europe, fed by disillusionment with the establishment, economic hardship and worries over immigration.

    In Sweden's neighbor Denmark, the Danish People's Party has seen its support soar on a platform of tight immigration, tougher punishment for criminals and more welfare spending, apparently on track to become the country's biggest party. There are, however, also lessons of caution to be learned beyond Swedish frontiers. The Dutch far-right Freedom Party, forced an early general election in 2012, but ended up the biggest loser partly as some voters blamed leader Geert Wilders for stirring a crisis. A poll by Demoskop in tabloid Expressen showed voters blaming Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, equally for Sweden's current crisis.

    New Landscape
    Mainstream parties can still sideline the far-right, but that requires left and right bridging a divide that has deepened over the past decade. "Nothing indicates either bloc will win a majority on their own," said Bengt Westerberg, a liberal minister in the 1990s and one of the last centre-right leaders to seek rapprochement with the left before the two blocs recoiled in mutual animosity. "If they want to prevent the Sweden Democrats from gaining influence they must be prepared to break up the bloc politics." The longer that political deadlock lasts, the more the pressure will build on either centre-right or center-left to finally bring the Sweden Democrats in from the cold. As head of the weakest government in decades, Prime Minister Lofven has repeatedly sought accommodation with the four centre-right parties that formed the previous Alliance government. They are reluctant to co-operate, fearing this could effectively cement the role of the centre-right as junior parties in governments led by the Social Democrats, the country's biggest party for most of the last 100 years.

    Under charismatic leader Akesson, the Sweden Democrats have disowned their roots on the neo-nazi fringe, promoting a nostalgic view of "family values" and economic conserva-tism. One model for the Sweden Democrats might be France's National Front. Once burdened with a reputation for racism and xenophobia, it has moved into the mainstream under the leadership of Marine Le Pen, broadening its appeal by directing ire against Brussels and EU bureaucracy.
    © Reuters

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    Sweden faces government crisis as far-right party vows to block budget

    Sweden's minority, center-left government teetered on the brink of collapse on Tuesday after just two months in office when a far-right party announced it would vote against the 2015 budget, effectively dooming it to defeat.

    2/12/2014- The anti-immigration Sweden Democrat party, which holds the balance of power in parliament, said it would support an alternative budget proposed by the center-right Alliance opposition bloc, leaving the government isolated. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said last-ditch talks with Alliance leaders to resolve the crisis sparked by the unalig-ned Sweden Democrats, who want to cut the number of asylum seekers by 90 percent, had proved fruitless. "There is no one on the other side of the table, it is meaningless to hold talks," Lofven told reporters after the meeting at the government headquarters, saying he would decide how to proceed after Wednesday's debate in parliament. "We may call snap elections later, when the constitution allows. We could also resign and there are other alternatives."

    The leaders of the Moderate, Centre, Christian Democrat and Liberal parties, which make up the Alliance, stood their ground despite the olive branch offered by Lofven, saying they would not budge from their pledge to vote for their own bill. Parliament is due to vote on the budget on Wednesday. Lofven, head of a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, faces the risk of becoming Sweden's shortest-serving prime minister since the 1930s, having ruled out staying in government and implementing an opposition budget. With options rapidly running out, he could still send the budget back to committee for amendments to try to win backing from the center-right, though prospects of success are remote. He could also resign and try to put together a new government.

    A last resort would be to call a snap election - something that has not happened since 1958 - risking a period of political and market uncertainty. A vote could be called in late December at the earliest, with the elections taking place within the following three months. "Sweden hasn't been this close to a snap election for many decades," said Andreas Johansson Heino, political scientist at liberal think tank Timbro. The Swedish crown weakened after the Sweden Democrats' decision, losing around 3 ore to stand at around 9.32 to the euro at 5.50 p.m. ET. "In the long term, the most important thing is that we have stable government finances," Annika Winsth, chief economist at banking group Nordea, said. "Investors are going to continue to have confidence that that is the case unless this drags on for a long time."

    Immigration Key
    The budget was meant to draw a line under eight years of tax cuts under previous center-right administrations that made many Swedes richer, but also raised worries over decli-ning standards in healthcare and education and over increasing social division. The Social Democrats and Greens planned extra spending on schools, welfare and job creation financed by tax hikes, including for high-income earners. The Alliance is proposing more cautious spending as well as vehicle tax hikes and higher duties on tobacco and alcohol. Acting Sweden Democrat leader Mattias Karlsson said his party was flexing its muscles to force a reversal of Sweden's generous stance on immigration. "If the Alliance doesn't change its policies (on immigration), we would try to bring down a government of those parties too," he said.

    Costs for asylum seekers including housing, language lessons and welfare allowances totaled 1.5 percent of the country's 2013 budget, with Sweden the biggest per-capita recipient of asylum seekers and refugees last year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. That humanitarian generosity has fed the rise of the far-right. The Sweden Democrats doubled their support in the September election, taking 13 percent of the vote and beco-ming the third largest party in parliament. Mainstream parties have shunned them, and the budget gives them a rare opportunity to show their political strength. "They have a mandate from their constituents to stir up trouble," said Henrik Ekengren Oscarsson, professor in political science at Gothenburg University.
    © Reuters

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    European Court of Justice: Asylum seekers should not have to undergo tests to prove they are gay

    The European Court of Justice has ruled that refugees who claim asylum on the grounds that they are gay should not have to undergo tests to prove it.

    2/12/2014- The court made the ruling in relation to three men, one from Uganda the other from a Muslim country, who had failed in their bids for asylum when a Dutch court said they had not proved their sexual orientation. In its latest ruling, the BBC reports the court said that determining a refugee’s sexual orientation had to be consistent with EU law and respect their private and family life. In particular, it said that evidence of same-sex acts submitted from tests or on film infringed human dignity, even if it was proposed by the asylum applicant. Allowing such evidence could result in it becoming a requirement, the court said While authorities could interview an asylum seeker to find out about their sexual orientation, questions could not be asked about same-sex sexual activity.

    A report published in October by the Sir John Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, found that a fifth of gay asylum interviews conducted by Home Office caseworkers contained some stereotyping and a tenth contained questions of an unsatisfactory nature. The Chief Inspector expressed particular concern about the treatment of sexual identity cases in the Detained Fast Track (DFT) process. Earlier this summer, the High Court ruled that fast track detention, a system used to process the vast majority of cases, was “unlawful”. In response to Sir John’s report, the Home Office said it accepted “all eight of the Chief Inspector’s recommendations, seven in full and one in part”. The department pledged to improve training for caseworkers.
    © Pink News

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    Denmark: Foreign adoptees face racism

    No place in Denmark for those that look different, survey says

    1/12/2014- A sizeable proportion of Danish people adopted from overseas countries say they have been met with racism and discrimination in Denmark. Some seven percent run away from home before the age of 16 due to the discrimination, and 17 percent say it has happened at least once in the last six months. However, no overall figures were provi-ded by Ankestyrelsen, the national appeals board, which spoke to 2,000 adoptees about their lives. In total, there are 18,000 Danes adopted from overseas countries like South Korea and China. “Denmark is a society that is not particularly receptive to people who look different,” a psychologist and adoption specialist, May Britt Skjold, told Metroxpress. “Administrators in the regions need to step up their efforts in the investigation and selection of future adoptive parents.”
    READ MORE: Does Denmark have a racism problem?

    Seek professional help
    Skjold said there should be an intensive follow-up with both the children and the parents. The survey revealed that fully 30 percent of children adopted in 1979 and 1980 sought out professional support and advice. Yong Sun Gullach, the head of the adoptee advocacy group Adoptionspolitisk Forum, said the problems were worse than those revealed by the survey. “Many of these problems occur in the teenage years during which adoptees ask: 'Who am I and why do I look different?’” she said. “Many of them feel like strangers in Denmark. Gullah questioned whether it was even wise to “take children from the other side of the earth and fly them to Denmark”.
    © The Copenhagen Post.

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    Serbian Police Hunt Anti-Roma Campaigners

    Serbian police are searching for the authors of leaflets which were distributed across the country, calling for violence against Roma people

    1/12/2014- The interior ministry said on Monday that it was trying to identify the people behind the little-known organisation called Srbska Akcija that distributed the anti-Roma flyers across Serbia over the weekend. “Police in cooperation with the prosecutor's office are working intensively on the detection and identification of the persons that created and distributed flyers which openly call for violence, lynching and hate speech against Roma,” the ministry stated. The flyers, which urge people to stop “the spread of wild gipsy settlements” that bring “arguments, fights and the rise of crime”, appeared in mailboxes in Belgrade and several other cities. Nevena Petrusic, the Serbian Commissioner for Protection of Equality, has filed criminal charges against the people who created the leaflets. “The state is obliged to protect the freedom and security of all its citizens, to prevent threats, violence and hatred toward national and any other minorities,” said Petrusic, adding that the state must send a clear message that Serbia will not tolerate racism.

    Meho Omerovic, the head of parliamentary committee for human and minority rights, said that the leaflets were “fascism in action” and must be taken seriously. “Today it’s Roma who are to be blamed for everything, tomorrow it will be LGBT and all others that are different. That is how evil starts – with leaflets and hate speech that are followed by violence and murders,” Omerovic wrote in a statement. He announced that he will urged parliament to adopt an emergency declaration against violence and hate speech. “If we do not see that it’s fascism in action, then we have accepted that it is allowed and we are all accomplices in this open call to lynch,” he said. The NGO Anti-Fascist Action said that the leaflets contain “the most primitive form of fascist propaganda urging violence against Roma, which are marked as the cause of poverty in which most citizens of Serbia live”.

    “It is a basic fascist doctrine of distraction from the real causes of the economic situation. Just as Hitler in Germany invented that the Jews were the cause of the economic crisis to draw attention from the real culprits - the big capitalists - today domestic fascists point at Roma,” Anti-Fascist Action said in a statement. It said that “fortunately, people are not so blind and naive to believe that the most vulnerable ethnic groups in society, 99 per cent of whose members live in absolute poverty, below the minimum level of human dignity” are responsible for the economic situation in Serbia.
    © Balkan Insight

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    German city braces for large far-right protest

    5/12/2014- The eastern German city of Dresden is bracing itself for one of the biggest far-right marches the country has seen in years. City officials said Friday that organizers have told them 8,000 people will take part in the protest, which is billed as a march against Islamic extremism. Monday's protest is organized by a group called PEGIDA, a German acronym for 'Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West.' Experts say the group has managed to attract people who wouldn't normally associate with the far right, by banning any neo-Nazi symbols or slogans and trying to present themselves as a mainstream movement. But past protests have drawn praise and support from neo-Nazi groups and far-right parties, including the National Democratic Party. Over the past two months PEGIDA has organized seven protests in Dresden, growing from 200 at the first march to 7,500 people at the start of this week. Speakers at those events have focused on the rising number of asylum seekers and the threat posed by radical Islam, even though the state of Saxony, where Dresden is located, has comparatively few Muslims.

    Authorities have so far taken a hands-off approach. Security officials said they aren't paying significant attention to the protests since there is no sign they pose a threat to public order or the state. Dresden police spokesman Thomas Geithner said previous PEGIDA protests had been largely peaceful. Meanwhile, student groups, political parties, Dresden's Jewish community and the city's mayor have urged citizens to join a counter-protest Monday for peace and tolerance. "In this heated discussion many people forget that Dresden and Saxony have profited from migration and asylum for centuries," said mayor Helma Orosz. A demonstration against Islamic extremism in the western city of Cologne erupted into violence in October, with 49 police officers injured.
    © The Associated Press

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    Germany: Berlin introduces 'anti-nazi' application

    2/12/2014- With the support of the city-state of Berlin, a German association has launched a new mobile telephone application which aims to update users on nazi activity in the nation's capital and how to combat it. "Every app user will receive, if they wish, automatic notifications about all neonazi group actions in Berlin," Bianca Klose, the director for the Berlin Association for Democratic Culture (VdK), told AFP today. "In that way the user will be able to decide how to combat those extremist movements, be it through participating in counter-demonstrations which are also notified in the app or, for example, putting a flag in their window," she added. The "Against the Nazis" app can be downloaded for free on Android and iPhone mobiles and is available in three languages, German, English and Turkish. While the far-right in Berlin are a minor electoral force small groups are active in certain neighbourhoods of the German capital, prompting VdK and other organisations to form the "Berlin against Nazis" movement in March 2014 in an effort to stamp out extremist activity.
    © AFP

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    Germany: In Berlin, Jews and Muslims Fight for Each Other

    By Yermi Brenner

    1/12/2014- This past summer, Armin Langer, a 24-year-old rabbinical student in Berlin, came to speak at the Sehitlik mosque in Neukoelln, a district of the German capital with a large Muslim population. Langer is the co-founder of the Salaam-Schalom Initiative, a Neukoelln-based intercultural dialogue group. His pre-scheduled presentation at the mosque, to announce Salaam-Schalom’s new campaign, took place on June 26, just as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians was escalating. “I thought it was very courageous on his part to go on the stage and introduce himself as a Jewish person,” says Denis Mert Mercan, 26, a devout Muslim who lives in Berlin and was at Sehitlik mosque that day. “And I thought it was an amazing idea that the Jews would defend Muslims and Muslims would defend Jews in terms of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.” The campaign Langer was introducing was a series of posters against anti-Muslim prejudice, to be displayed on the streets of Neukoelln. He explained that the goal of Salaam-Schalom is for Jewish and Muslim Berliners to collaborate, battling all forms of racism at once.

    Salaam-Schalom’s grassroots attempt to bridge the gap between Jews and Muslims is happening at a time when Germany is experiencing a wave of anti-Semitism that’s partly rooted in Muslim communities. This summer, during the Israel-Hamas war, a Palestinian immigrant threw a petrol bomb on a synagogue in the town of Wuppertal, and hate speech against Jews appeared in Berlin demonstrations against Israel’s operation in Gaza. “We are not soldiers standing against each other on the front. We are average people living in the same city,” said Langer, a Hungarian Jew who attended a yeshiva in Jerusalem and moved to Berlin to continue his religious studies. “Of course we all feel sorry for what’s going on there and we have relatives and friends in Gaza and in Israel and in the West Bank. But maybe we can build up something more peaceful here in Berlin.”

    Salaam-Schalom started operating one year ago. It has grown from four founding members to dozens of active participants, including Muslims, Jews, Christians and secular indivi-duals. The group has organized street events and panel discussions in mosques, synagogues and community centers throughout Berlin. They received extensive media coverage in Germany, and in August were invited to a meeting with German President Joachim Gauck. In July, after a Berlin Imam called for the murder of Zionist Jews, Israeli ambassador to Germany Yaakov Hadas-Handelsman said Jews are being pursued in the streets of Berlin “as if it were in 1938.” The president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, said the country’s Muslim community should “do much more than they have in the past to finally and robustly tackle the catastrophic anti-Semitism that is evident within their ranks.”

    One of Salaam-Schalom’s most high-profiled actions came in response to the anti-Semitic slogans that appeared in Berlin’s pro-Palestinian protests. The group cooperated with the Sehitlik mosque to set up a human chain at a festival marking the end of Ramadan. On July 31, 1800 miles away from the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Berliners of all religious back-grounds gathered outside the Neukoelln town hall and held hands to symbolize their united battle against all kinds of racism. “Our goal is to create dialogue,” said Adi Liraz, an Israeli-born, Berlin-based Salaam-Schalom member. “Not a dialogue that is behind closed doors but rather an open, public dialogue, to show the German society that such a dialogue is possible, that it exists, that it also makes sense.”

    Liraz relocated to Berlin in 2003. She pointed out that for the most part Jews are in a privileged place in German society because of what happened in the Second World War, while Muslims suffer from discrimination and negative attitudes in the German mainstream. Her view is in line with a Pew Research Center report that found that a third of Germans have an unfavorable view of their fellow Muslims. Much of Salaam-Schalom’s work has been focused on challenging negative German stereotypes about Muslims. The group organized public panels with titles like “What would Moshe do in a mosque?” and “Between anti-Semitism and Anti-Muslims,” drawing crowds to synagogues and community centers throughout Berlin. For Liraz, Salaam-Schalom has become a community, one in which people share a common goal regardless of their native country. “There is a big community of Israelis here and there is a big community of Palestinians or Muslim immigrants in general,” Liraz said. “We all fall into the category of immigrants or foreigners, and we are all just trying to find a way to connect to this place we are living in.”
    © The Forward- blogs- Forward Thinking

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    Netherlands: Why I Changed My Mind About Black Pete (opinion)

    By Harriet Duurvoort

    6/12/2014- When I was a child in the Netherlands, the festival of Sinterklaas was magic. Through the month of November, leading up to Dec. 5, I would slip out of bed at night, my sister asleep in our top bunk, and tiptoe to the living room. Sinterklaas, our version of Saint Nicholas, had arrived via steamboat from Spain, but I was really looking for Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, his comical blackface assistant. Maybe Black Pete would tumble through the chimney, as we were told he did every year, and leave us presents. As a brown girl of Surinamese descent, I was fascinated by Zwarte Piet. I imagined that he was an important Surinamese man, maybe a prince.

    In the years leading up to Suriname’s independence from the Netherlands in 1975, a mass migration occurred. Because they wanted to retain their Dutch citizenship, almost half of the Surinamese population, many of them of African ancestry, moved to the Netherlands. Their adjustment was far from smooth. They lived on the periphery — in anonymous gray suburbs and overcrowded apartment complexes. Our family had immigrated a decade earlier, though the white Dutch looked at us all with suspicion. But Black Pete they loved to pieces. So did I.

    The tale is that Black Pete is not meant to be a black man at all, but looks the way he does because he’s been crawling through chimney soot. I like this version of the story. But, the thing is, he sometimes speaks with a Caribbean accent and looks just like a caricature of a 17th-century house slave. I didn’t think much about this growing up. Being a brown girl with a light complexion, I painted my face countless times to dress up like Black Pete. Some of my classmates with darker complexions didn’t have to do that. They were Black Petes instantly; all they had to do was put on the costume, and I was envious.

    My unease crept in slowly. In our Surinamese church, slavery was a heritage that was hidden, shameful. No one wanted to talk about it. And in school, the slavery history we learned was basically limited to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” but did not touch on our own Dutch colonial past. I wouldn’t learn about the larger African diaspora in school, but from artists like Alice Walker, Bob Marley and Grandmaster Flash. I remember when I painted my face for the last time. I was 15. An uncle had just told me that our surname was a typical slave name. Around the same time Black Pete’s Surinamese accent started bothering me. And then there was the fact that every foreigner I met, black or white, would ask me why on earth black people agreed to this.

    I stopped celebrating Sinterklaas. It is, after all, a children’s holiday. But three and a half years ago, I became a mom. Now I have a little boy and Black Pete is impossible to avoid because every preschool celebrates Sinterklaas. Over the past few years, things finally started shifting in the Netherlands. The Dutch artist and activist Quinsy Gario, who is of Afro-Antillean descent, began speaking out about the blackface tradition, making one very memorable appearance on national television. Black Pete ridicules our heritage, he said. This is a slave caricature; why are we teaching it to our children? 

    Many people in the Netherlands were shocked. They never thought that Pete was racist. The tradition may not have been developed to deliberately belittle black people, like American blackface, but it has that effect. The problem is that few Dutch know their own history. It’s what you could call unintended racism. Some seek a middle ground, a modified Black Pete. I saw one version presented on a recent talk show that looked much like the traditional Pete, but with one minor change: His Afro had been replaced by a weave. The city of Amsterdam is developing its own updated Black Pete that is light brown, not jet black, and doesn’t wear the typical garish golden earrings or have the stereotypical big red lips. Still, it seems almost unimaginable that the tradition will change. People dressed in Black Pete costumes are on every street corner.

    Recently, when Mark Rutte, our prime minister, was asked his opinion on Black Pete during a visit from Barack Obama, he said: “My friends from the Dutch Antilles are actually happy they don’t have to paint their faces. When I play Zwarte Piet, it takes me days to wash that stuff off my face.” But things have to shift eventually. My country is a mixture of shades and races, each with their own histories. Where my son goes to school, in Rotterdam, you’ll find the diversity of our country: Surina-mese, Antilleans, Somalis, Moroccans, Poles, Hungarians.

    On Dec. 6, Sinterklaas sets sail back to Spain. I wonder what the festival will look like next year. I’d like to see a Black Pete with actual chimney soot on his face, not made up to look like a black servant. I do want the celebrations, but I won’t ridicule my enslaved ancestors. I also want my son to wake up to presents in front of the chimney, left by Pete. Just Pete, not Black Pete.
    Harriet Duurvoort is a columnist for the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant.
    © The New York Times

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    Netherlands: Jihadi couple trial: wife not guilty of recruiting, husband jailed

    A 20-year-old woman from Zoetermeer has been found not guilty of recruiting people to take part in jihad in Syria by judges in The Hague.

    1/12/2014- The public prosecution department said Shukri F should be jailed for four years for encouraging six people to become jihadis. The court said in a written statement, F was not guilty of any criminal offences. ‘The court does not doubt the 20-year-old woman’s extreme jihadist tendancies,’ the court said. The woman had tried to encourage two women to travel to Syria and marry jihadis but that is not the same as recruitment, the court said. Her acquittal was greeted by a cheers from a number of veiled women who attended the hearing, the Volkskrant reports.

    Her 20-year-old husband was jailed for three years for joining an Islamic militia in Syria and taking part in jihad. Maher H is the first jihadi to be jailed in the Netherlands on his return from the Middle East. H was found guilty of preparing to murder and commit manslaughter with a terrorist viewpoint. ‘He joined a jihadi group in Syria and took part in fighting,’ the court statement said. H claims to have been an aid worker delivering food parcels. The couple, who are married in Islamic law and have a baby, were in Syria from July 2013 to the beginning of this year, the Volkskrant says. A third man, 23-year-old Imad el O, was given 200 hours of community service and three months in jail for helping a 16-year-old girl travel to Brussels without her parent’s permission. He then planned to travel with her to Syria via Egypt.
    © The Dutch News

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    Russia: LGBT Activist Compensated After Russian City Bans Gay Pride Parade

    5/12/2014- A court in Kostroma has awarded compensation to a prominent gay rights activist after authorities unlawfully banned a gay-pride parade and two LGBT-themed protests from taking place in the city. In accordance with the ruling passed down Wednesday by a district court, local authorities will have to pay 3,000 rubles ($55) in moral damages to activist Nikolai Alexeyev, the GayRussia.ru. news site reported. The decision marks the first time in a decade that Alexeyev, the founder of the Moscow Gay Pride movement, has been compensated for moral damages in regards to his LGBT rights activism in Russia, the report said.

    In 2013, the country adopted legislation banning the promotion of nontraditional sexual relations to minors, though homosexuality itself is not illegal in Russia. In October, the same court ruled that Kostroma authorities would have to pay Alexeyev more than 8,000 rubles ($150) for pecuniary damages and legal fees related to its cancellation of the planned events: a gay pride parade and two protests against the so-called “gay propaganda law.” Alexeyev was attacked by unknown assailants in Kostroma after traveling to the city in September to participate in a hearing against the ban on the parade and rallies, GayRussia.ru reported at the time. Rights activists have criticized the adoption of Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, saying it will lead to a restriction of the rights and freedoms of the country's LGBT community.
    © The Moscow Times

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    Russia bans black player for reacting to racism

    The Russian Football Union banned a club player for three matches on Friday for showing an offensive gesture to fans who racially abused him.

    5/12/2014- FC Rostov midfielder Guelor Kanga, from Gabon, was targeted with monkey chants by Spartak Moscow fans in the Russian Premier League on Thursday, and responded by showing them his middle finger. In addition to a three-match ban, Kanga was fined 50,000 rubles ($930) for the "insulting gesture to fans," the RFU said.
    Spartak was fined 70,000 rubles ($1,300) for "the chanting by fans of insulting expressions," a charge which usually refers to swearing, rather than the separate offense of racist chanting. In September, Dynamo Moscow's Congolese defender, Christopher Samba, was given a two-match ban in similar circumstances after Russian fans racially abused him. Spartak and Rostov drew 1-1 at Moscow's Otkrytye Arena, a 2018 World Cup venue. Rostov coach Igor Gamula was already banned from the fixture as part of a five-match sanction for discriminatory comments about black players on his own team. So far this season, defending Russian champion CSKA Moscow has been punished for fan racism in the Champions League, while Spartak and Torpedo Moscow have faced racism charges in the Russian Premier League.
    © The Associated Press

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    Russia: Neo-Nazi gang connected to Kremlin murdered anti-Fascists, immigrants and judges

    The Moscow Regional Court has been the venue recently for a closely watched trial in the BORN (Bojové organizace ruských nacionalistů - Combat Organization of Russian Nationa-lists) case. Members of the group have been charged with murdering several anti-Fascists, attorneys, immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia, a journalist and judges.

    1/12/2014- The trial is taking place in a tense atmosphere, with increased incidents of violent racist crimes and immigrant criminal activity on the one hand and the Kremlin nervously following the testimonies of the defendants on the other, as they are claiming they were paid by the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin and that their criminal plans were ideologically blessed by him. Members of the gang murdered Federal Judge Eduard Chuvashov; anti-Fascist activists Ivan Khutorsky and Ilya Djaparidze; a member of an organization of Caucasian radican nationals called the Black Cranes, Rasul Khlaliov; world champion in That boxing Muslim Abdullayev; taxi driver Soso Khachikyan; and worker Salakhedin Azizov.

    Jobs from the Kremlin
    BORN members Maxim Baklagin, Mikhail Volkov, Vyacheslav Isayev a Nikita Tikhonov have confessed to the murders. On 19 November one of the key hearings in the trial took place during which one of the neo-Nazi bosses, Tikhonov, confessed to murdering the famous attorney Stanislav Merkelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, who were shot dead in broad daylight on a busy street in the center of the Russian capital. Tikhonov also confessed to being the main ideologue of the neo-Nazi gang. His wife, who participated in the murders, gave shocking testimony about the connection of the gang to Vladislav Surkov, one of Putin's closest co-workers. "I am one of the founders and organizers of BORN," Tikhonov testified. "Our organization was founded in 2007, when I met with my friend Ilya Goryachev. At that time a warrant had been issued for my arrest and I was in hiding."

    Tikhonov, a graduate in history at Moscow State University who worked at an advertising and PR agency as a copywriter, was sought on suspicion of having murdered the anti-Fascist Alexander Ryukhin. A group of neo-Nazis stabbed Ryukhin to death near the Domodyedovska metro station in Moscow. Ilya Goryachev's reputation was that he had good contacts in Putin's administration and participated in regular consultations at the Kremlin on the topic of nationalist movements. He had been in hiding in Serbia, where he was arrested and extradited to Russia. "Goryachev told me that he was well-known in the Kremlin and said he might have some jobs for me. These were murders for hire that were in the interests of highly-placed people. He turned to me because he knew I have a wide circle of acquaintances among the football hooligans and neo-Nazis who are prepared to murder in the name of a higher ideal," Tikhonov told the court.

    First, according to Tikhonov, there was a discussion of murdering members of the opposition National Bolshevik Party and members of the United Civil Front, led by Garry Kasparov, who were thorns in the side of the Kremlin. However, Tikhonov claimed to have refused to commit those murders because he did not consider opposition activists and politicians to be the enemy.

    "Execution" of an anti-Fascist
    "I told Tikhonov that Russian anti-Fascists, anarchists and other left-wing radicals were getting money from their European partner organizations to establish 'a new type of political party'. The coordinator of those transactions was supposed to be Stanislav Merkelov, an anti-Fascist who made his living as an attorney. The political party was going to reject nationalism and Stalinism and had a basic aim of fighting for amnesty for illegal immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia, whom it was going to provide with legal aid to help get residence permits and visas in Russia. In addition, they were supposed to combat homophobia, neo-Nazism and Orthodox fundamentalism. The new party was allegedly going to hold hard rock and punk concerts where they planned to recruit new members. If something were to happen to Merkelov, those in the President's administration would be in our debt and would reward us," Goryachev told the court.

    Several months later, Tikhonov turned up with a list of persons designated for assassination, their addresses and their photographs. At the start of October 2008, Tikhonov and Volkov went to the home of one of the men in the list, anti-Fascist Fedor Filatov, at 10 AM and laid in wait for him outside. Tikhonov had a knife and Volkov was wearing brass knuckles. Both were masked and wearing wigs in the style of the haircuts of the band The Beatles. Filatov came out of his front door with his motorcycle helmet in his hand. Tikhonov lunged at him and punched him several times in the head with the brass knuckles. Volkov then stabbed him with the knife. They left him lying on the sidewalk and fled. Tikhonov returned to his home and Volkov went to his place of work. The next day they learned from the internet that Filatov had actually died.

    In court Tikhonov confirmed Goryachev's testimony regarding the murder. He added that shortly thereafter he met with Goryachev again, who praised him for the murder but also let him know that there was a need to create more of a media stir. "He tasked me with inventing a name for a group and organizing the dissemination of press releases explaining its neo-Nazi ideology and a warning to anti-Fascists," Tikhonov told the court. "Goryachev gave me a list of e-mail addresses and taught me how to send messages from a phone so police could not determined where they had come from."

    Revenge for a dead schoolgirl
    Several days later, Tikhonov sent out his first declaration in the name of BORN, the Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists. It was an immediate response to the rape and murder of 15-year-old Russian schoolgirl Anna Byesnova by a citizen of Uzbekistan working in Moscow as a gastarbeiter who was eventually sentenced to 23 years in prison. Korshu-nov and Tikhonov wanted to first take revenge for this horrible deed by murdering some of the friends or relatives of the Uzbek murderer. Ultimately, however, they never managed to track him down, so instead they murdered a randomly chosen gastarbeiter "of Central Asian appearance," the worker Salakhedin Azizov.

    In 2009 the neo-Nazi Maxim Baklagin joined the group. He did so shortly after Tikhonov murdered the attorney Merkelov and the journalist Baburova. That scandalous double mur-der sparked such a panic and response that Goryachev allegedly said to Tikhonov: "The people up top don't want us to murder any more anti-Fascists because it could be counter-productive and spark chaos in the country." However, the members of BORN had acquired a taste for their new mission and did not intend to ignore any other potential victims. Their next one was the anti-Fascist Ilya Djaparidze. Tikhonov shot him at close range with a taser and Baklagin then stabbed him with a knife. The BORN action was revenge against an aggressive, violent gang of Caucasian nationalists called the Black Cranes who engaged in attacks against small groups of Russian radical nationalists from among the ranks of football rowdies. One of their members, Rasul Khalilov, was shot dead by Volkov. Tikhonov sent a report to all the main Russian media outlets in which BORN took responsibility for the murder and declared war on "everyone who is not Slavic." The last victim of the BORN neo-Nazis before the group was apprehended and arrested at the end of 2009 was anti-Fascist activist Ivan Khutorsky.

    Culprits from the Kremlin enjoy impunity
    The next day of the trial, Yevgeniya Khasis, Tikhonov's wife, testified; she had already been sentenced to 18 years in prison for aiding and abetting the murder of Baburova and Merkelov. She clarified information about the links between BORN and the administration of President Putin. "The highly-positioned man who led the neo-Nazis to the idea of establishing a criminal gang fighting against anti-Fascists and immigrants," was, according to her testimony, Leonidi Simunin, a functionary in the pro-Kremlin youth movement "The Locals". He was said to have been a subordinate to the first deputy of cabinet head Vladislav Surkov. "I am describing here in detail a chain of events in which these murders were merely the causal consequences of decisions taken by persons who never were charged [for ordering these assassinations] and probably never will be," Khasis told the court. She spoke of her husband emotionally as a naive, romantic, young skinhead who in the beginning was attracted more by political activity than by criminal acts.

    In 2006 the couple established the nationalist, radical magazine Russian Image together "as a platform for attracting radical young nationalists." Then their acquaintance, Goryachev, established a movement of the same name. Russian Image became very popular among nationalist radical youth and those in the President's administration noticed it as well. "Back then it was Vladislav Surkov himself who was in charge of working with civil society at the Kremlin. He and Leonid Simunin should also bear responsibility for these murders, since they instigated them," Khasis testified. Surkov currently is Putin's adviser, while Simunin turned up out of the blue several months ago in Donetsk, Ukraine, where he is in the role of adviser to the Energy Minister of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk. The trial will continue to depose more witnesses and a final decision on the classification of the criminal activity of the BORN neo-Nazi group and the length of their sentences is expected by the end of the year.
    © Romea.

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    All but One Faith Persecuted in Crimea

    The de facto regime targets leaders and monitors members of various religious groups.
    by Halya Coynash

    1/12/2014- The occupation regime in Crimea, together with the FSB (the Russian security service), are waging a witch hunt against all but one religious group in Crimea, with the situation in Donbas under Kremlin-backed militants similar in many ways. At a 25 November press conference, the Crimean Human Rights Field Mission organization warned that most religious faiths in Crimea are experiencing intimidation, discrimination, attempts to discredit them, destruction of their property, summonses for questioning, and other forms of pressure. The human rights activists, together with representatives of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate, the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine, and a number of Protestant communities gave examples indicating a serious deterioration in religious freedom since Crimea was annexed by Russia. For all, that is, except the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate. Several Kyiv Patriarchate Orthodox priests have been forced to leave Crimea and most have been summoned by the FSB for questioning.

    Kyiv Patriarchate churches have been shut down in Sevastopol, Krasnoperekopsk, Kerch, and in the village of Perevalne, where the church was subjected to an armed attack in June. The prosecutor’s office has refused to initiate criminal proceedings over the attack. Kyiv Patriarchate Archbishop Clement of Simferopol and Crimea constantly receives threats. His dacha was burned down and he fears that his church could also be targeted. Members of the Moscow Patriarchate Orthodox Church have massively increased the rent in an attempt to force the Kyiv Patriarchate to relinquish its main church in Simferopol. It is clear from the accounts given by representatives of both the Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC KP) and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) that Russian propaganda has increased religious intolerance in the peninsula, with representatives of both churches branded “nationalists,” supporters of the “Kyiv junta,” etc. The armed pro-Russian Cossacks who seized the church at Perevalne were joined by “self-defense” vigi-lantes who claimed to be looking for members of Right Sector, the far-right party that Russia has been demonizing since before its invasion and annexation of Crimea.

    According to Father Yevstratiy Zorya from the UOC KP, FSB officers have turned up at church services and demonstrably observed worshippers. As early as two months ago veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev reported that the FSB was openly watching believers in Crimean mosques. In June pastor Ruslan Zuyev from the Salvation Army left Cri-mea after being the object of overt harassment by the Simferopol FSB. He says agents began phoning and then turned up at his office asking strange questions. His wife and daugh-ter also received threats. Rabbi Misha Kapustin left Simferopol following threats over his opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Russian propaganda was subsequently caught out faking material in order to suggest that he had fled Ukraine out of fear of the supposed “fascist Kyiv junta.” As reported, the demand that religious communities re-register according to Russian legislation may be a weapon to remove churches that have long been present in Crimea. Concern over this likelihood was expressed by the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations on 20 October.

    Only citizens of the Russian Federation are allowed to register religious associations, meaning that members of Ukrainian churches and of the Muslim and Jewish communities who remain Ukrainian nationals will be “illegal” from 2015. Father Piotr Rosochacki, the head of a Roman Catholic parish in Simferopol and a Polish national, was forced to leave Cri-mea despite having provided all necessary documents and assurances from the occupation regime’s “prime minister,” Sergei Aksyonov, and “prosecutor,” Natalya Poklonskaya, that all would be resolved. According to Oleksa Petriv of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, a number of UGCC priests have been driven out of Crimea because of harassment by the “self-defense” vigilantes. Also, many of its clergy are foreign nationals who are allowed by Russian law to be in the country for only 90 days, after which they have to leave and can return only after three months.

    Said Ismagilov, mufti of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine, wrote on his Facebook page after the press conference, “When you look at the problem from the point of view only of Muslims, the situation seems simply bad, whereas when the negative experience of various religions is added together, you begin to see how much worse it is than it seemed. Who could have imagined that in the 21st century in the center of Europe we would be seeing widespread repression unleashed on the basis of religion?” At the press conference, the mufti pointed out that there had been two arson attacks over the last nine months (on 13 June in Simferopol and 12 November in Solnechnaya Dolina), whereas no mosque in Ukraine outside Crimea has ever been the target of an arson attack. He noted another “specifically Russian form of entertainment – grabbing people of non-Slavic appearance.” He was referring to two major raids on markets in Simferopol as well as on Turkish and Crimean Tatar cafes. Ismagilov also accused the de facto authorities of placing classical Muslim religious works on a list of prohibited literature.

    The FSB has conducted numerous armed searches of mosques, religious schools, and private homes, claiming to be looking for arms, drugs, and prohibited literature. Crimean Tatars have been accused of “extremism” on occasion for the use of words like “annexation” and “occupation.” Over recent months, however, there have been attempts to present Crimean Tatars as “radical Muslims” who could unleash a wave of violence in Crimea. An effort seems to be under way to create schism and undermine the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Crimea and all Crimean Tatars whom the regime cannot cower into submission, including the effective seizure of the renowned Juma-Jami Mosque in Yevpatoriia. A Tavrida muftiat (named for a historical region that encompassed Crimea) has recently been established, headed by Ruslan Saitvaliev, who has told Russian media that Crimea is a hotbed of Muslim extremism and that most Crimean mosques are led by “Wahhabis,” members of Hizb ul-Tahrir (an organization banned in Russia), and other forms of “nontraditional Islam.”

    In nine months the occupation regime has demonstrated profound intolerance and unwillingness to brook any religious or political “dissent.” The Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is favored, and all others are subject to harassment aimed at intimidating them into silence or hounding them from their home in Crimea.
    Halya Coynash is a journalist and member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, on whose website this commentary originally appeared.
    © Transitions Online.

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    Swiss voters reject 'green' immigration cap

    The Swiss on Sunday flatly rejected a call for dramatic immigration cuts in the name of saving the environment, along with bids to scrap tax breaks for rich foreig-ners and hike the country's gold reserves.

    30/11/2014- Results from a majority of the country's 26 cantons showed voters spurning the so-called Ecopop initiative, which called for slashing immigration to reduce urban pressure on the Alpine nation's idyllic landscape. Initial results nationwide showed 73 percent of voters said 'no' to Ecopop — far above the 56 percent seen in the latest opinion poll. According to initial results, 61.6 percent had also rejected the call to ditch tax breaks for wealthy foreign residents, while and 76,8 percent turned down the bid to force the country's central bank to boost its gold reserves to at least 20 percent of its holdings. While the final results were not yet in, the fact that a majority of cantons had clearly dismissed the three initiatives meant they were doomed.

    Most voters in Switzerland cast their ballots by mail in advance, so counting votes can often be done quickly after polls close at noon on frequent voting days in the country renowned for its direct democratic system. Although opinion polls had hinted the Swiss would vote 'no' across the board Sunday, supporters of the Ecopop initiative had voiced hope silent support from the masses would lead to a surprise win. That happened less than a year ago, when voters in February caught many off guard by voting to impose quotas for immigration from European Union, throwing non-member Switzerland's relations with the bloc into turmoil. But voters clearly were not swayed by the Ecopop argument that too many immigrants are swelling the country's population and thus threatening its environment.

    'Ecoflop'
    As it became clear that voters had massively rejected the initiative, sarcastic tweets flourished carrying the hashtag #Ecoflop. Foreign nationals already make up nearly a quarter of Switzerland's 8.1 million inhabitants, official statistics show. According to Ecopop, immigration is adding 1.1-1.4 percent annually to the Swiss population, putting the country on track to house up to 12 million people by 2050. The campaign wanted to cap immigration's contribution to population growth at 0.2 percent, which after some 93,000 emigrants were deducted would mean an addition of 16,000 people each year and a population of 8.5 million by the middle of the century. "What I'm worried about is a collapse," Philippe Roch of the Ecopop committee told RTS after the results became clear. "But clearly this text did not convince voters," he acknowledged.

    Indeed, most voters heeded the call of the government, all political parties, employers and unions to reject the initiative, slammed as xenophobic and a threat to Switzerland's economy which depends heavily on immigrant labour. Christian Lüscher, a parliamentarian for the Liberal Party and co-chair of the committee opposing Ecopop, described the initiative as "absolutely absurd", and warned it would "impoverish our country". Initial results also showed a clear rejection of the bid to scrap tax breaks for rich foreigners living but not working in Switzerland, who today can choose to be levied on their spending rather than income.

    Voters back tax breaks for rich expats
    Switzerland counts 5,729 millionaires and billionaires with foreign passports, who together pay around one billion Swiss francs ($1.04 billion) in taxes annually. That is a far cry from what they would have paid had they been levied at the same percentages as average Swiss taxpayers, according to the left-leaning parties and unions behind the initiative. But backers of the system insist wealthy foreigners contribute substantially to Swiss tax coffers and inject huge sums directly into the local economy, warning many would leave the country if they face higher taxation.

    "People can count," Lüscher told RTS as the results ticked in, pointing out that Geneva, where most beneficiaries of the current system live, risked losing hundreds of millions of Swiss francs (dollars) in tax revenue alone if the wealthy residents packed up and left. Voters also heeded warnings from the Swiss National Bank and econo-mists that forcing the bank to hoard gold and banning it from selling the precious metal would tie its hands and could have disastrous results. Analysts had warned the bank would be forced to buy around ten percent of the annual global gold production through 2019 to meet that requirement.
    © The Local - Switzerland

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    MP quits parliamentary group of Bulgaria’s nationalist Patriotic Front

    A member of Parliament for Bulgaria’s nationalist coalition the Patriotic Front (PF) has quit its parliamentary group.

    30/11/2014- The Patriotic Front won 19 out of 240 seats in Bulgaria’s National Assembly in October 2014 early parliamentary elections, and currently supports the centre-right coalition cabinet headed by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, although it is considering withdrawing its support. Velizar Enchev, who was alone on November 7 in running against the Patriotic Front’s coalition decision by voting against parliamentary approval of the Borissov cabinet, said on November 30 he was leaving the PF parliamentary group because of the “political fraud” carried out by the leadership of the coalition. He singled out xenophobia as the issue troubling him, saying that there was a “worrying fixation” on the ethnicity of the opponents of the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria, the PF constituent party led by Valeri Simeonov.

    Simeonov has been insisting on the withdrawal as deputy defence minister of Orhan Ismailov, appointed from the quota of the Reformist Bloc, which includes the People’s Party Freedom and Dignity, essentially a breakaway from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – a party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity. The PF also has been insisting on the removal from the national airwaves of public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television’s daily 10-minute news bulletins in Turkish. Enchev said that “fixation” on the ethnicity of the opponents of the NFSB cast a shadow over the democratic character of the party and gave rise to accusations of xenophobia. He said that the electoral platform and public messages of the NFSB had defined it as a party of the poor and those marginalised by a quarter century of crime during the transition, and not as a crutch of those responsible for socio-economic disaster in the poorest country of the European Union.

    The NFSB largely had been created to fight against the viciousness of the first government headed by Borissov (in office from 2009 to early 2013) but currently was in the service of Borissov’s GERB party, Enchev said. The Enchev departure from the PF parliamentary group is the third change of the setup of MPs in Bulgaria’s 43rd National Assembly. Even before Bulgaria’s new Parliament held its first sitting, one of the MPs for the populist Bulgaria Without Censorship party said that she was quitting the party to sit as an indepen-dent, while on November 28, the MRF announced that it was expelling two MPs from its parliamentary group because they had failed to keep to a claimed promise not to take up their seats won through the electorate using preferential voting. These changes from the seat allocation announced by the Central Election Commission on October 9 reduced the number of MPs for the BWC (which now calls itself the “Bulgarian Democratic Centre”) from 15 to 14 and the number of MRF MPs from 38 to 36. Both of these parties are in opposition.
    © The Sofia Globe

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    Why has this Italian politician’s neighbourly photo prompted such a furious backlash?

    By Nando Sigona, Birmingham Fellow and Lecturer at University of Birmingham

    5/12/2014- Italy has been experiencing a resurgence of xenophobia recently. Migrants and Roma have been violently attacked by gangs, and people claiming to be “ordinary citizens” have organised marches in racially mixed neighbourhoods to stir up unrest. Against this backdrop, Enrico Rossi, the left-leaning president of Tuscany, has turned what appears to be a rather mundane photograph into a bold political statement. In the photo, Rossi stands flanked by a family of men, women and children. It’s a Sunday afternoon in Florence. “Let me introduce my neighbours” reads the description posted on Facebook. His neighbours are Romanian Roma.

    Tense times
    The picture was taken just a few weeks after Matteo Salvini, the new leader of the anti-immigration, anti-EU Northern League, paid a controversial visit to a Roma camp in Bologna to see how “tax money was spent”. Salvini has made regular verbal attacks on Roma and migrants, a core part of his party’s attempt to rebrand itself as Italy’s answer to the French Front National. The steady rise in his approval rating would suggest that it’s working. Meanwhile, the right is campaigning against Roma and new migrants at a local level too. In Rome, a crazy-train coalition of right-wing extremists, centre-right politicians and members of the mayor’s own Democratic Party is using immigration to fuel public anxieties in an attempt to force the mayor Ignazio Marino to resign.

    But the animosity doesn’t stop there. Some of the same people who’ve been at the forefront of campaigns against undocumented migrants and Roma have now been accused of making money out of them as part of a sprawling inquiry into corruption in Rome. The inquiry has exposed a network involving high-profile officials and mafia. They are suspected of bribery, extortion and corruption. So far 37 people have been arrested and 100 others investigated. The charges include making millions of euros by taking money meant to help support Roma and migrants. Officials have even been caught bragging about how exploiting migrants and Roma is more profitable than the drug trade.

    Everybody needs good neighbours
    Given all this tension, it is perhaps not surprising that Rossi’s neighbourly photo went viral. The picture attracted more than 6,000 Facebook comments, including from Salvini himself. Most were negative; many were violent and openly racist. (That said, there were 5,000 likes as well.) Various accusations were levelled at the president in the comments. Many fell back on stereotypes about Roma: why, they asked, was the head of the region hanging out with foreigners, benefit scroungers, parasites, criminals? Why wasn’t he standing up for law-abiding taxpayers? No matter if this Roma family includes children regularly attending a local school, and adults who work and have no criminal record; the people in the photo are not accepted as neighbours – they are dehumanised, and their real biographies trampled.

    It is admirable that Rossi has held firm on his position despite the storm around the photo – even senior members of his party have voiced disapproval. He’s replied to a number of the comments made about the photo on Facebook. With just a few months to go before a regional election, it’s certainly bold to cause such a stir. Given the current climate in Italy, his decision to fight this particular battle could affect his political career and electoral future – but at least for now, he doesn’t seem to care. One thing is certain: this particular photo will be plastered on leaflets and billboards everywhere as the next election approaches.


    © Reuters

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    Italy's far-right leader to meet Putin in January

    Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League, will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in January, La Repubblica reported.

    3/12/2014- Following in the footsteps of his French counterpart, Marine Le Pen, Salvini will travel to Moscow with Gianluca Savoini, the president of Lombardy-Russia, which describes itself as a cultural association whose views are in line with Putin’s on “identity, sovereignty and tradition”. The pair hope to build relations with a view to reducing the impact of Russian sanctions on Italy’s economy. In August, the Russian government announced a year-long ban on food imports from the EU, US and other countries, in response to sanctions against Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine. Salvini denied that his Northern League party, which is wooing recession-weary voters in Italy on an anti-immigration, anti-euro and overtly anti-Muslim platform, is courting Russia for funding. Le Pen’s National Front last week admitted that it received a €9 million loan from a Russian bank close to Putin.

    “We have not received even a euro,” Salvini said in an interview published on Wednesday with the magazine, Oggi, for which he posed bare-chested, under a duvet, wearing a green tie. “Our relationship is political, cultural and commercial. Together with Lombardy-Russia, our focus is the interests of farmers and Italian exporters in crisis.” The January meeting follows an unsuccessful attempt by Salvini to meet Putin during a trip to Moscow in October. At the time, Salvini praised the country for “having no Roma community or illegal immigrants.” As Silvio Berlusconi’s popularity dwindles, Salvini has been winning voters from the former premier's Forza Italia party, while former members of centre-right parties in the south are joining the Northern League. This falls in line with Salvini's aim to extend the League's influence and appeal from the wealthy north of the country to the much poorer south, from where media tycoon Berlusconi traditionally drew much of his support.

    In the interview with Oggi, entitled ‘Would you trust this man with Italy?’ Salvini said he wanted to give the country “an alternative to Renzi”. Meanwhile, other far-right leaders across Europe have also been wooing Russia. In November, the leader of Austria’s Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, visited Moscow for a discussion on “overcoming the crisis in Europe”. The trip came amid speculation as to whether the party might have also received financial support from Russia, after a Moscow strategy paper seen by German media revealed that Putin has been advised to influence Europe through right-wing populist parties. Peter Kreko of the Budapest-based Political Capital think-tank told The Local Sweden last month: “What we’re seeing across Europe is Russia’s desire to destabilise the EU and its member states."
    © The Local - Italy

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    Italy: Far-right rally, concert held in Milan despite protests

    30/11/2014- A far-right rally and concert went ahead in Milan despite protests by the Milan Jewish community and other groups. Reports said the event Saturday drew far fewer participants than anticipated. No incidents were reported. The Italian media said about 300 skinheads and other far-right militants attended Hammerfest 2014, which was held in a privately owned outbuilding in an outlying district of Milan. According to reports before the event, some 1,000 participants had been expected. Many of the crowd had “shaven heads, swastikas, and all the repertoire of the ‘Nazi look,’ ” the Italian news agency Ansa wrote. The Milan Jewish community was among the organizations that had called on authorities to bar the concert, which Milan’s mayor criticized as “unacceptable.” A similar concert was held in 2013.
    © JTA News

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    France: Far-right mayor refuses to remove nativity scene

    A far-right French mayor, supported by the National Front, is sticking to his guns by refusing to take down the Christmas crib in the town hall, despite being warned it’s against the country’s principle of secularism.

    5/12/2014- Robert Ménard, who is in charge of Beziers, installed the nativity scene, a traditional feature of a Christian Christmas in the hall of the building, despite opposition from other political groups. No sooner was it installed than Menard received a letter from the prefecture warning him that it was against France’s principal of secularism (laïcité), the strict separation of the state from all things religious. But Ménard is refusing to budge. “I installed this nativity scene as part of the overall cultural policy of the city’s New Year celebrations,” he said, adding that he had sent a letter to the prefecture. It is the second row in a week over whether Baby Jesus and co. should be allowed in state buildings.

    The Local reported how the local council for the department of the Vendée, a traditionally Catholic region of France, had also been ordered by a court to remove the nativity scene because it undermined the neutrality of public service. That sparked an angry row with the council promising to appeal the decision in time for Christmas. “A nativity scene is a religious symbol, representing a specific religion,” said Jean Regourd, President of the Free Thinking Association of France’s Vendée department, the organization that had complained about the crib. “In theory it doesn’t respect the law of neutrality of public buildings nor of the State, and it doesn’t respect the freedom of conscience of a citizen who sees a religious emblem imposed on them when going into Vendée’s departmental council," he said.

    But the president of the General Council of the Vendée Bruno Retailleau hit back. “Respecting secularism doesn’t mean abandoning all our traditions and cultural heritage,” he said. “Should we also ban the Christmas stars hanging on our streets right now, under the pretext that a religious symbol will tarnish public space?”
    © The Local - France

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    France: Outrage forces Marseille to bin yellow triangle IDs

    France's second city Marseille has been forced to ditch a controversial initiative that saw homeless people handed ID cards adorned with yellow triangles prompting critics to accuse authorities of implementing a "Nazi-style" scheme.

    5/12/2014-
    Authorities in Marseille were blasted for its plan to issue its homeless with ID cards featuring yellow triangles that detail their health issues. Although the initiative was aimed at making it easier for health workers to know what they were dealing with in emergency situations, human rights groups and government ministers were equally outraged, compa-ring the cards to the Nazi-era yellow Star of David that was sewn onto Jewish people’s clothes during the Holocaust. And the uproar put an end to the scheme on Friday when authorities in Marseille confirmed that they were scrapping the plan. “It’s finished. There won’t be any more cards,” the head of the social and medical emergency services SAMU Sociale René Giancarli told The Local. “We never meant to cause any harm or trigger a controversy, but it happened,” he said, adding the cards had been stopped on the orders of the city’s mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin.

    Giancarli also said he could understand the criticism the initiative had gotten. “We just wanted good to come out of this, but I made a mistake. I admit that and I can accept when I’m wrong.” The card, which was supposed to be worn visibly, identified the person with his or her photo, name and date of birth. It also specified whether the person had any illnesses or allergies. The front of the card was adorned with a yellow triangle. Several activist groups, including French human rights group La Ligue des droits de l’Homme, said they were troubled by the resemblance “of this card and the yellow star that the Jews had to wear during World War II.” It also got its fair amount of bashing by President Fran-çois Hollande’s government in Paris.

    Social Affairs Minister Marisol was quoted in French daily Le Parisien on Thursday as saying she was shocked to hear about the initiative and that she wanted Marseille to scrap the IDs with immediate effect. “Forcing homeless people to carry a yellow triangle indicating the illnesses they might have is outrageous. You don’t point the finger at the poorest.” “You don’t write their illnesses on their clothes. Medical confidentiality, in particular, is a fundamental right. I want this local initiative to be stopped,” she said. On Wednesday, about 100 activists and homeless people also protested against the initiative outside the city’s town hall. Although Marseille’s Town Hall initially tried to defend the distribution of the cards, saying the purpose was to help health workers quickly come to the aid of a homeless person who has fallen ill or is in need of aid, it finally buckled under the pressure that they were too stigmatising. Over 100 of the ID cards had been distributed before the plan was scrapped.
    © The Local - France

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    French homeless forced to wear 'yellow triangles'

    The city of Marseille has been blasted for using Nazi-era tactics to identify its homeless population by issuing them with ID cards, adorned with a yellow triangle. The cards detail their health issues and will be worn visibly.

    4/12/2014- Authorities in France’s second-largest city have come under fire for issuing its homeless with ID cards that detail their health issues. Human rights groups and govern-ment ministers have slammed the “yellow triangle cards”, comparing them to the Nazi-era Star of David that was sewn onto Jewish people’s clothes during the Holocaust. “This is scandalous, it’s stigmatizing,” Christophe Louis, president of the homeless charity Collectif Morts de la Rue, told The Local. “Wearing something that shows the whole world what illnesses you have is not only discriminating but it also breaches all medical confidentiality,” he said, adding that the symbolism in the design of the card is outrageous. “Being identified by either a star or a triangle is horrific,” he said.

    French human rights group La Ligue des droits de l’Homme said it was troubled by the resemblance “of this card and the yellow star that the Jews had to wear during World War II.” President François Hollande’s government in Paris has also reacted sharply to the initiative. “I’m shocked. Forcing homeless people to carry a yellow triangle indicating the illnesses they might have is outrageous. You don’t point the finger at the poorest,” Social Affairs Minister Marisol told French daily Le Parisien in an interview published Thursday. “You don’t write their illnesses on their clothes. Medical confidentiality, in particular, is a fundamental right. I want this local initiative to be stopped,” she said.

    The card, an initiative Marseille's Town Hall and social services, identifies the person with his or her photo, name and date of birth. It also specifies whether the person has any illnesses or allergies. The front of the card is adorned with a yellow triangle. In their defence authorities say the purpose is to help health workers quickly come to the aid of a homeless person who has fallen ill or is in need of aid. Over 100 of the identifications have been distributed already. On Wednesday, about 100 activists and homeless people protested against the initiative outside the city’s town hall. For its part Marseille Town Hall has been outraged by the criticism it has endured by issuing “the card that saves lives”.
    In a statement given to The Local, one of Marseille’s deputy mayors Xavier Mery said: “I’m appalled by the absurd controversy surrounding this help card distributed by the SAMU (social medical emergency services). "[The reaction] not only questions the necessity of a scheme for homeless people but also the commitment of the city, the SAMU and volun-teers to come to the aid of those who need it the most”. Mery rejected the idea that the cards need to be worn visibly and say they "allow above all firefighters and care workers to get access to essential information in order to identify, give efficient help and often to save the lives of people lacking a social safety net.”
    © The Local - France

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    French Far-Right Elder Hostile to Renaming Party

    This is Marine Le Pen's moment. Re-elected to lead the far-right National Front party, France's rising political force, she is basking in the limelight, her eyes set on her dream job: to become president of France in 2017.

    2/12/2014- But something is amiss in the House of Le Pen. The warm glow at the National Front's weekend congress masked underlying disputes within the family-run anti-immigration party. As Marine Le Pen works to scrub clean the image of the party, long regarded as a political pariah, the group is riven with rivalries over strategy and ideology. On one side is Jean-Marie Le Pen, 86, Marine's father and the party's founder: a charismatic old lion of the extreme right with numerous court convictions for racism and anti-Semitism that he bears like battle wounds. On the other side is Marine, 46: the pragmatic mother of three teens working full-steam to make the party a voter-friendly political machine. In an interview with The Associated Press, Jean-Marie Le Pen said talk among Marine Le Pen's supporters of possibly changing the party's name is "ridiculous" and labelled some potential new voters that his daughter has reached out to as "lukewarm."

    Among other things, Marine Le Pen has marginalized the old guard while injecting young blood into the party's upper echelons, a point of contention for some. In a public spat between the father and daughter in June, Jean-Marie got temporarily banished from the party website over an anti-Semitic smear. Under Marine Le Pen, at the helm since 2011, the party has campaigned for an end to Muslim immigration and withdrawal from the European Union and euro currency. Reaching out to less radical voters, she has removed from rallies the jackbooted skinheads that were regulars at the elder Le Pen's events. The National Front is among the most visible of Europe's far-right parties, now on the rise, and has created links all the way to Russia. Present at the party congress were other European far-right leaders and two Russian parliamentarians.

    The strategy of reaching out at home to new voters appears to be paying off: This year the National Front won local seats in 11 towns, as well as three parliamentary seats. It increased the number of seats it occupies in the European Parliament from three to 24 ? more than any other French party. Recent polls have placed Le Pen as top candidate in the first round of a potential French presidential vote. "We have let globalization sweep away our factories, our agriculture, our values, our way of life, our identity," Marine Le Pen told a cheering full house at the party congress. "The people are waiting for us." Marine Le Pen is seeking to provide an alternative to the governing Socialist Party, crippled by the record unpopularity of its leading personality, President Francois Hollande, and the conservative UMP of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, torn to shreds by corruption allegations and infighting.

    Publicly, the family, including the young blood of a new generation, has buried their differences in favor of party unity. "Everyone in the National Front knows that to strengthen the (party) dynamic ... the party must absolutely present a united face," said leading extreme-right expert Jean-Yves Camus. "Everyone plays the unity card even if there are divergences." "There is no fissure, no ideological fracture," Jean-Marie Le Pen told the AP. Yet, he himself lashed out at a proposal to change the party's name in order to help give it a new face. No new name has been floated. "I am obviously very hostile. I find it laughable, ridiculous," he said. "It amounts to fooling voters about our real nature." The real nature of the National Front may be a work in progress.

    The elder Le Pen also frowns on a movement his daughter mounted to draw in those who might otherwise hesitate to vote for the far-right party, saying it is a place for them to "come in to warm up." Despite the softer image of the National Front, its president maintains a staunchly anti-system stance, the distinguishing feature of the party, which con-siders the political mainstream "decadent." With the Socialists and conservative UMP party discredited by divisions and decades of failure to improve the economy, this is a mes-sage that resonates with more and more French voters. "The political capital of the National Front is its radicalism," said sociologist and far-right specialist Sylvain Crepon. "If it (cleans up) too much, it becomes banal." National Front leaders, therefore, must "navigate between the two poles."

    The party has for decades been a critical factor in French politics, thrusting immigration to the top of the mainstream right's agenda and playing kingmaker in elections. Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked the world when he made it to the runoff of the 2002 presidential vote. Given the high political stakes, French media avidly follow the Le Pens, and even reported in October that father Le Pen's dog killed daughter Marine's cat ? and claimed that in anger she pulled up stakes from the family domain. Jean-Marie Le Pen confirmed the guard dog ? not his own ? did, indeed, kill his daughter's Bengalese cat when no one was home. But he said Marine Le Pen's relocation from a loft above the old stables to a property that "better corresponds to her new stature" was unrelated. "I don't want to pass for a cat assassin," he said. Still, Marine Le Pen may not have heard the last of her father, known for his quick, often bombastic, tongue. "I'm a moral authority for the movement ... and I don't have the habit of keeping my opinions to myself," he said.
    © The Associated Press

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    France: Clashes follow anti-far right Lyon rally

    An anti-far right protest in the city of Lyon in east-central France is followed by clashes between police and participants.

    30/11/2014- The rally was held on Saturday as the country’s far-right National Front party held its congress. Violence erupted about 20 minutes into the demonstration. The protest was joined by Michele Picard, the mayor of Venissieux, a city on the outskirts of Lyon, who blamed French politicians across the political spectrum for helping the party gain votes by pitting different groups in the population against each other. "That's the breeding ground for fascism in France," Picard said. In the absence of any challengers in party elections, National Front leader Marine Le Pen is expected to start her second term on Sunday. Her father Jean-Marie Le Pen has said he believes Marine will win the next presidential election in 2017. "The sooner [she becomes president], the sooner the better because the situation of France keeps worsening," he said. Also on Saturday, France's former President Nicolas Sarkozy was elected the head of his right-wing UMP party, fueling speculations as to his resurgent presidential aspirations for the 2017 race.
    © The Associated Press

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    Has France's far right National Front won the battle of ideas?

    Marine Le Pen is hoping to build on a year of momentous electoral victories to establish her National Front as France’s pre-eminent political force – a battle some say the far-right party has already won.

    30/11/2014- National Front party members gathered in Lyon on Saturday for the start of their two-day party conference. France's third-largest city, Lyon is also a left-wing bastion with a proud record of resistance to fascism during World War II. Its choice underscores the party's all-conquering confidence ahead of next year's regional polls. The weekend gathering caps a triumphant year for the National Front, which captured a dozen towns in municipal elections, romped to victory in European elections with a whopping 25% of the vote, and seized its first ever seats in the Senate. Should France hold a presidential election next week, polls say Marine Le Pen would thrash her challengers in a first round of voting – but would likely come up short in a runoff vote.

    Either way, analysts say there is a very real chance the FN, as it is known in France, may one day wield power in France. Some have argued that Le Pen won’t even need to clinch the presidency for her party to claim some sort of ideological victory. Earlier this week, she appeared as one of five French nationals – and the only French politician – in Foreign Policy’s list of the 100 most influential figures of 2014. The respected magazine said Le Pen had become “something of a standard-bearer for Europe’s far-right, Eurosceptical forces – a model for how they, too, can become serious political contenders.”

    Setting the agenda
    Foreign Policy ranked the far-right leader among a group of "challengers" who "tested the status quo". Even after its recent electoral successes, Le Pen's party still only controls a fraction of the country's town halls and parliamentary seats. And yet its favourite topics – Euroscepticism, reaffirming French sovereignty, drastically curbing immigration – largely dominate the political debate. “The FN has long won the ideological battle – at least in part,” says Sylvain Crépon, a sociologist and expert on the French far right. According to Crépon, France's deeply unpopular mainstream parties position themselves according to a political agenda dictated in large part by the FN. The conservative UMP party, in particular, is routinely accused of pandering to the far right by adopting an ever tougher stance on immigration. “But many among the ruling Socialists have also embraced the discourse on ‘French identity’ and hardline security,” says Crépon. Nonna Mayer, a researcher at Sciences-Po Paris and author of numerous publications on the FN vote, says it is too soon to speak of an ideological victory for the FN.

    “But, it is undeniable that the other parties are running after the far right,” she says. Mayer believes the UMP's Nicolas Sarkozy has done most to legitimise FN ideas on immigration and the supposed threat to French identity, leading to “ever more porosity between the two parties' electorates”. The former French president also appears to have embraced the FN’s Euroscepticism, at least in part. Once a champion of European integration, he now proposes to suppress EU powers and overhaul the Schengen agreement, which allows people to move freely between member states. Meanwhile, the left has been unable to articulate an alternative discourse, paralysed by its own unpopularity and the fear that Le Pen's slogans will sound more appealing. “In fact a majority of the French don’t agree with the FN’s key idea that French nationals should have priority access to jobs and services,” says Mayer. But few politicians seem willing to say so.

    Fear-mongering
    Like other far-right parties in Europe, the National Front has thrived on the gloom and anxiety that has swept across France in the wake of the financial crisis. Mayer says her studies have revealed a steady rise in xenophobia since 2009, after years of decline. She believes the FN is making the most of challenging times, finding an ideal scapegoat in immigration, which “condenses voters' fears about jobs and security”. In this respect, it is no surprise that the party's support has grown most in impoverished, peripheral constituencies, home to a lower middle class fearful of losing jobs and social benefits to immigrant communities. In contrast, the PS and UMP have proved largely inept at confronting the far-right challenge. The left, in particular, has hardly moved on from its 1980s strategy of pouring scorn on the far right – and, implicitly, its voters.

    The plan worked with Le Pen's unabashedly racist and anti-Semitic father, the party's founder and longtime leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. But it is proving less efficient when tackling his less controversial, media-savvy daughter. “It is no longer enough to slam the far right on ideological grounds,” says Crépon. “The FN has to be confronted on pressing issues like unemployment and crime – which is much more difficult.” Unfortunately for President François Hollande's ruling Socialists, there is little to boast about on the employment front. As for the UMP, it has spent much of its time in opposition tearing itself apart. Moreover, both parties have been rocked by multiple scandals, fuelling Le Pen’s claim that they are all part of the corrupt and inefficient political establishment she is bent on overthrowing.

    Credibility gap
    Such is the level of disgust with the mainstream parties that some say the FN’s political rivals are also its best allies. In listing Le Pen among the world’s most influential figures, Foreign Policy said she had “rebranded her party as a refuge from political dysfunction”. But critics say Le Pen is yet to prove she can make her politics func-tion. Ironically, the success of FN ideas has run parallel with Le Pen’s efforts to tone down her party’s ideological charge and transform it into a modern, respectable force. Since taking over from her father in 2011, Le Pen has put the emphasis on expanding the party’s membership and training its lieutenants. What had long been a one-man act is gradually developing into a modern political force with a handful of high-profile figures, including the leader’s niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who at 24 is France's youngest ever MP.

    But Crépon says Le Pen’s efforts to professionalise her party are still at an “embryonic” stage. “FN members acknowledge they have difficulty finding suitable candida-tes in local elections, let alone finding the expertise to one day run the country”, he says. Le Pen is hoping her party's 14 mayors, most of whom were elected this year, will help build support from the ground up and prove the party is fit to govern. But so far, they have gained notoriety for, among other things, attempting to ban begging, giving themselves handsome pay rises, and repainting a fountain without consulting the artist. For all its ideological successes, says Nonna Mayer, “the FN is still a long way from winning the battle for credibility”.
    © France 24.

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