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Headlines 3 October, 2014

Headlines 26 September, 2014

Headlines 19 September, 2014

Headlines 12 September, 2014

Headlines 3 October, 2014

Russian Media Ignores Olympic Non-Discrimination Standards Added After Sochi

29/9/2014- Last week, the International Olympic Committee adopted new standards for host cities, explicitly banning discrimination following the sustained public outcry over anti-gay laws passed in Russia before last winter's games. But if you were following the news in Russia, you wouldn't know, because no one is covering it. The changes come in the form of a broad non-discrimination contract based on Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter and are effective with the 2022 winter games. According to the Associated Press, the agreement requires that cities "conduct all activities in a manner which promotes and enhances the fundamental principles and values of Olympism, in particular the prohibition of any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise, as well as the development of the Olympic Movement."

Although sexual orientation is not referenced specifically, the move comes right after the IOC came under fire from international gay rights groups for allowing the 2014 Winter Olympics to take place in Russia despite the country's ban on what it called "gay propaganda." That's why, if you do a search for "International Olympic Committee" right now, you'll find dozens of articles referencing the Sochi controversy. And if you repeat the search in Russian? Not so much. That's not to say that Russian media isn't covering the International Olympic Committee: Many recent stories note the possible inclusion of synchronized figure skating in the games, Russian Alexander Zhukov's job leading the 2022 Games host city selection committee, and the U.N. Human Rights Council's adoption of a Russian-introduced resolution on "promoting human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal."

But the non-discrimination change? Not at all. Intelligencer turned up just one four-paragraph wire story referencing "discrimination" in Russian, with no mention of Sochi or the controversy. (Another mention was buried in a digest culled from English-language news sites.) Instead, the country's closely monitored news sources used the newly adopted U.N. resolution to spout off about how boycotts are counterproductive and go against the Olympic ideal. Because in Russia, what you don't talk about didn't happen.
© New York Magazine

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Move to Ban Gay Unions Alarms Macedonia NGOs

Rights groups have condemned a government-proposed change to the constitution, which not only define marriage in strictly heterosexual terms - but applies to non-marital unions as well.

29/9/2014- Macedonia's latest addition to the constitutional amendment on marriage, enacted in summer, is worse than the original proposal as even non-marital unions are now limited to unions of one man and one woman, NGO representatives told parliament on Monday. "If someone wants to protect marriage as an institution, why introduce a constitutional definition of non-marital unions?" Uranija Pirovska, head of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, asked. "The answer is simple, they want to penetrate every aspect of our lives and protect the heterosexual nature of relations between people," she added. She fears that the planned constitutional change could render all homosexual relationships completely illegal. The motion to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman was one of the first orders of business of the government of Nikola Gruevski after it was re-elected in April.

In July, after parliament gave the motion a green light, the government filed a draft constitutional amendment to parliament. The change was part of a package of several other amendments of the constitution. But, in August, when parliament was on vacation, the government altered the draft, which now defines non-marital unions as well. NGOs have voiced surprise and even some MPs from the ruling coalition are now reconsidering their support. "Over the summer period this amendment was significantly changed and a definition added for non-marital union and partnerships, which spoke of what kind of partnerships were allowed. This made the amendment problematic and unacceptable for me," MP Liljana Popovska, head of the small DOM party, which is part of the ruling coalition, said. "The amendment now touches the private sphere of citizens," Popovska told parliament on Monday, adding that she wanted to see the latest addition scrapped.

Popovska's change of heart brings the entire constitutional package into question as a two-thirds majority of at least 82 legislators is needed in the 123-seat parliament. During the initial phase, the ruling parties barely mustered enough votes for the opening procedure. The procedure is being opened at a time when the opposition, led by the Social Democrats, are boycotting parliament. After the April early general polls, almost the entire opposition refused to take up seats accusing Gruevski's party for conducting fraudulent elections. This is the third time in the past several years that the socially conservative VMRO DPMNE party, which has been in power since 2006, has attempted to define marriage along heterosexual lines in the constitution. The previous two attempts failed because of the government was unable to secure majority enough votes. The opposition has already opposed change, noting that an existing law, the Law on the Family, already defines marriage as heterosexual.
© Balkan Insight

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France: National Front nabs third 'historic' poll victory

After the local elections and the Europeans, Sunday's Senate ballot made it three historic poll successes out of three for France's far-right National Front in 2014. Is the presidential palace the next stop?

29/9/2014- While the National Front just won two seats of the 178 up for re-election on Sunday, it was the first time the 42-year-old anti-immigration, eurosceptic party has entered France’s upper house. Whatever political muscle those two senators will be able to flex is less significant than the symbolic value of the victory and what it says about the future. It is, after all, the third French election in a row that saw the National Front achieve an historic result. In the words of Stephane Ravier, one of the successful National Front candidates, this is the last stop before the presidency: "Now there is only one more door to push open, that of the Elysée (presidential palace).” Speaking after the Senate elections party leader Marine Le Pen was confident enough to spell out her ambitions once again. "My objective is to get get into power, to be elected president of the Republic," she said.

A recent opinion suggested that if Le Pen faced François Hollande in a run-off vote for the 2017 presidential election, she would come out on top. However an political analyst with France’s respected Sciences Po institute cautioned that a lot can happen in the two and a half years until the presidential elections. “2017 is a long way off,” Researcher Bruno Cautrés told The Local on Monday. “It would seem that 2017 will allow the National Front to earn a good score in the first round or even make it to the run-off election. But that’s how it looks now.”

Extend reach
Notably the National Front collected far more votes in the Senate elections than it appeared to have at its disposal. Sunday’s vote saw more than 87,500 regional and local elected officials nationwide choose their preferred candidate, with only some 1,000 of them National Front-affiliated. However, the far-right party says it captured 3,972 votes. One explanation for that is elected officials who have no firm connection to any one party tilted toward the far-right candidates. But another view says traditional right wingers abandoned their candidates for the National Front. The latter is what appears to have happened in certain parts of southern France, including the area around Marseille. “In these departments the electoral body is well defined. There are few floating voters,” University of Picardie political expert Joël Gombin told French daily Le Monde. “To get so many votes, it’s remarkable. One could not rule out that right party elected officials voted for National Front candidates.”

‘Angry, not racist’
In May during the European Parliament elections the National Front was the most popular party snagging 25 percent of the vote and capturing a third of France’s 74 seats in Strasbourg. It was hailed as a big win for Marie Le Pen’s party. But, as the EU Parliament doesn’t directly govern France, it was also seen by many as a means for voters in a low turnout election to express outrage over a moribund economy and scandal plagued political parties. “It was a totally expected result. French people are fed up with the economy, with struggling to survive and with the politicians,” Rialti Mouair, 29, a waiter, told The Local the day after the vote. “It's been how many years and these politicians can’t get their people out of this crisis. We are fed up, not racist.”

Black Sunday
The National Front success in the local elections in March were also historic, seeing the party capture 11 mayorships and some 1,200 seats on town councils across the country. This victory was viewed as the culmination of Le Pen’s strategy to shed the party’s extremist, racist and anti-Semitic associations. To many the local elections were proof that she’d, at least in part, succeeded. "We have moved onto a new level," Le Pen said at the time. "There is now a third major political force in our country." Political expert Cautrés believes this isn’t just bluster from Le Pen. “For some voters, they have tried the left, they tried the right and it didn’t work. And some voters believe it’s time to give Marine Le Pen her chance,” he said. He added: “A vote for the National Front has always been a symptom of malaise in French society, but it's progressively becoming a vote in favour of the proposals of the National Front.”
© The Local - France

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Hungarian PM bans extremist-sponsored conference

29/9/2014- Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary ordered the banning of a right-wing extremist conference in Budapest. Orban on Sunday “instructed Minister of Interior Sandor Pinter to use every legal means at his disposal to prevent an extremist and racist conference from taking place” between Oct. 3 and 5, according to a statement posted Monday on the government website. The National Policy Institute, a white supremacist, nationalist organization based in the United States, organized the conference titled “The Future of Europe — Perspectives on Geopolitics, Identity and Nationalism.” “They will fail. We will persevere. The conference will take place,” the institute tweeted Sunday night.

Planned speakers at the conference include Marton Gyongyosi of Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party and Russian political scientist and ideologist Alexander Dugin, whom Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has described as “known for his radical, racist, Russian nationalist and anti-Ukrainian views.” It is “unacceptable that an extremist American racist organization should hold a conference with Russian radicals here in Hungary,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement issued last week. “The extremists want to use the planned conference to damage Hungary’s international reputation, which the Ministry regards as unacceptable.”
© JTA News

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USA: James Foley photo removed from anti-Islamic bus ads in New York

29/9/2014- A photo of American journalist James Foley shortly before his beheading by the Islamic state militant group is being removed from anti-Islam advertisements appearing on Monday on 100 New York City buses and two subway stations. In response to a complaint from the Foley family, the advertisement is being altered to include an unidentifiable severed head held by the masked militant seen wielding a knife in the video of Foley's beheading, said David Yerushalmi, lawyer for Pamela Geller, whose group is sponsoring the ads. "The use of Mr. Foley's photo in your advertisement will cause profound distress to the Foley family," family lawyer J. Patrick Rowan said in a letter to Geller. Geller writes a blog criticizing Islam. Her group, American Freedom Defense Initiative, paid for a six-ad series scheduled to run for a month on the city's mass transit system.

The ads, including one showing Foley in the video of his beheading released in August, suggest that Islam is inherently violent and extremist, and call for the end of American aid to Islamic countries. "Having lived in and reported from communities in which nearly everyone was of Muslim faith, he had great respect for the religion and those who practiced it," the Foley family lawyer wrote, referring to the journalist. "The advertisement you are preparing to run seems to convey the message that ordinary practitioners of Islam are a dangerous threat. This message is entirely inconsistent with Mr. Foley's reporting and his beliefs." Foley, 40, was kidnapped by armed men in Syria in 2012. Islamic State has seized parts of Syria and Iraq. Geller's lawyer said the image will be replaced out of "compassion for the family's pain and anguish."

New York City politicians and religious leaders last week criticized the ad campaign, saying no faith should be subject to attack ads and calling it an attempt to divide the city. Geller was behind a similar ad campaign in 2012 on the city's transport system, which was initially rejected by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state agency. A federal judge later decided that the MTA's rule against ads that demeaned race, gender, religion or several other categories was unconstitutional. The MTA has since revised its standard, and so-called viewpoint ads like Geller's now run with a large disclaimer saying the MTA does not endorse the views expressed.
© Reuters

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Migrant deaths crossing Mediterranean top 3,000 in 2014

More than 3,000 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

29/9/2014- In a report published on Monday, the IOM said the 3,072 deaths made Europe the most dangerous destination for "irregular" migrants. The organisation said that some experts placed the toll three times as high. This year's total is more than double the previous peak in 2011, and exceeds last year's estimate over four times. Since January, 4,077 migrant deaths have occurred worldwide with 75% of fatalities happening in Europe. The IOM's 216-page report suggests that the high toll "likely reflects a dramatic increase in the number of migrants trying to reach Europe". Its findings come just weeks after one of the worst recorded wrecks, when a migrant boat carrying 500 passengers sank near Malta. Identifying those who die in such disasters is difficult. The IOM says few countries keep information on missing migrants or their deaths. William Lacy Swing, the IOM's chief said it was "time to engage the world to stop this violence against desperate migrants". It is believed that more than 40,000 migrants have died since 2000. Of the toll, 22,000 were trying to reach Europe.
© BBC News

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Left loses majority as France’s far-Right win seats

The far-Right National Front won its first ever seats in France’s upper house of parliament yesterday, as president François Hollande’s Socialist party lost its Senate majority.

29/9/2014- The Left still controls the lower house, which is the dominant legislative body in France, but yesterday’s ballot underlined the unpopularity of the president and the continued rise of the anti-immigration, anti-euro National Front. The party, led by Marine Le Pen, took two seats in the august Senate, following on from its surprise victory in European parliamentary elections in May and its strong showing in municipal elections in March. “These results are beyond what we hoped for,” said Ms Le Pen. “Each day that passes, our ideas are increasingly being adopted by the French people … We have great potential.” Half of the Senate’s 348 seats were up for grabs yesterday, with only some 158,000 people, the vast majority local councillors, entitled to vote. Early results showed that the main opposition party, the UMP, and the centre-right UDI party took at least 20 seats from the Left, which had a Senate majority of just six heading into the election. “There is a complete rejection of Socialist policies,” UMP senator Roger Karoutchi said.

Mr Hollande’s popularity fell to a record low this month, with only 13 per cent of those surveyed saying they were satisfied with the performance of a president who has struggled to revive the stagnant economy. The National Front has successfully capitalised on growing discontent over unemployment and resentment over immigration, and hopes to score an upset in the 2017 presidential election. “There is only one door left for us to push and it is that of the Elysee,” said newly-elected National Front senator Stephane Ravier, referring to the French presidency. The Senate press office last night said a final count will await tallies from all of France’s overseas holdings – not likely until this morning. A conservative win was expected: Senators are chosen by nearly 78,000 electors nationwide, including local officials who took office in a conservative victory in municipal elections six months ago. Socialists still control the National Assembly, which has final say in drafting laws. But control of the Senate gives conservatives a chance to delay legislative bills supported by Mr Hollande.
© The Scotsman

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Greece: Golden Dawn: Australian branch of far-right Greek party raises cash

Ultra-nationalist party raises funds and clothing in Australia using an unregistered charity and sends donations to Greece

29/9/2014- The Australian branch of Greece’s ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party is raising funds locally using an unregistered charity. A Melbourne-based charity named Voithame Tin Ellada (VTE) – which translates to “We are helping Greece” – has been raising cash and clothing from Australia’s Greek community since late last year. The donations are ostensibly sent to Greece to help citizens afflicted by the country’s financial downturn. A shipping container of clothing collected from Australians was sent to Greece in March. Photographs on the charity’s Facebook page show its members clad in matching T-shirts bearing the far-right party’s name and swastika-like logo. A Christmas fundraising drive – asking donors to deposit their money into a Greek bank account – was announced on the page last week by Golden Dawn’s Australian representative, Ignatius Gavrilidis.

Gavrilidis confirmed to Guardian Australia that VTE was affiliated with the controversial Greek political party, whose leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, is in detention awaiting trial on charges of running a criminal organisation. But Gavrilidis said the money raised by VTE’s fundraising efforts only went towards buying food for the needy. “We buy the food direct from the producers and Golden Dawn takes delivery of the goods … We use their labour, they hand out the food where it’s appropriate,” he said. “They [the recipients] need to hold citizenship. As long as they hold citizenship, it gets distributed to them.” The organisation is not registered with either federal or state charity regulators.

Golden Dawn’s anti-immigrant, antisemitic and homophobic rhetoric has found favour with some in a Greek population reeling from the country’s financial crisis, and the party has become the third-largest political force in Athens. Its members have been accused by human rights groups of leading street attacks on dark-skinned immigrants, gays and Muslims. All 18 Golden Dawn members of the Greek parliament were arrested in police raids last year after an anti-fascist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas, was murdered, allegedly by thugs affiliated with the party. Since the crackdown, the party has increasingly turned to its overseas branches to help deliver aid and build support among the Greek population, Gavrilidis said. “The [Greek] government has virtually financially dried the party; they’ve stopped any funding, any entitlements they get as a party,” he said. “So to continue to help those in need they are reaching out to those beyond their borders.”

Gavrilidis said VTE was set up in November 2013 by members of the Greek community not associated with Golden Dawn. “But these individuals failed to attract support, and I offered my assistance, and they were more than happy to get it off the ground,” he said. Within two months the organisation had been absorbed into Golden Dawn’s Australian branch, he said. “We decided to aid VTE and back them up, and we became VTE ourselves.” Sotiris Hatzimanolis, the editor of the Greek community newspaper Neos Kosmos, said it was “not really common knowledge” within Australia’s Greek diaspora that VTE was a front for Golden Dawn. Victorian Liberal MP Nicholas Kotsiras, who is of Greek heritage, said he was “disappointed” that Golden Dawn was fundraising in Australia. “Our aim should be to take away the oxygen of the group so they disappear as quickly as they appeared,” he said.

Kotsiras said he would raise VTE with the Consumer Affairs Department: “I’d like the authorities to take a good look at it.” Golden Dawn announced last month that two of its European MPs, the former army generals Eleftherios Synadinos and Georgios Epitideios, would visit Australia later this year to raise funds and awareness of the group. The proposed visit, scheduled for November, has been condemned by ethnic community leaders, trade unions and senior members of the Greek community.
© The Guardian

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Migrant mass murder: Malta seeking cooperation to bring wrongdoers to justice

28/9/2014- Home Affairs Minister Emmanuel Mallia said the Maltese authorities are seeking cooperation with other countries in a bid to bring the wrongdoers to justice, referring to smugglers who intentionally rammed a boat load of migrants two weeks ago leading to the drowning of an estimated 500 migrants, 10o0 of which are reported to have been children. In an interview with Dr Mallia, which will appear in The Malta Independent tomorrow, the minister said that Maltese police have recorded interviews of survivors of the ordeal since this tragic event happened in Malta’s Search and Rescue area. “These people went through a horrific ordeal,” the minister said.

Two Saturdays ago, around 500 migrants perished after traffickers rammed their boat intentionally after they refused to be transferred to a smaller boat. One of the migrants also had his hands chopped off after trying to cling to the traffickers’ boat. Dr Mallia also replies to other questions made by this newsroom, including claims that the number of police on the beat in Paceville have gone down as a result of cutting back on overtime. Dr Mallia also points out that in the past, sniffer dogs that were stationed at the Corradino Correctional Facility ended up as pets of the inmates. Therefore, six dogs purchased by the government recently, which are being trained to sniff out drugs, will not be stationed at the CCF but in a separate area. “We do not want drugs in prison where the facility is meant to serve as a place where people reform themselves,” Dr Mallia insists. 

© The Malta Independent

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Czech NGO releases exclusive survey by and about Romani women

28/9/2014- Research released earlier this month by the Slovo 21 civic association on the position of Romani women in the Czech Republic found that most Romani women consider their children's education to be very important. More than 600 Romani women were surveyed by the project. The research endeavors to refute stereotypical notions about Romani people, specifically Romani women, on the basis of data. "The opinion prevails in the Czech Republic that Romani women do not want to educate themselves and work, that they have many children, and that they believe it is not important that their descendants receive a quality education. There was no relevant data to either confirm or deny such claims, which is why we decided to research the actual position of these women in Czech society and in the Romani community and reveal the challenges they face daily," the introduction to the study's final report says.

The analysis of the survey findings was performed by an expert team at the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University in Prague. It shows that Romani women in the Czech Republic want to become educated, want to work, and want quality education for their children. Most Romani women in the Czech Republic have completed either a primary school education or a secondary school education without taking a graduation examination. Most have incomes of as much as CZK 10 000 per month. Most respondents said they had encountered discrimination at work and when seeking housing. They most often live with their families in rental housing. The survey found that most Romani women usually get married between 18 and 21 years of age. They are primarily responsible for taking care of their children and household. Selma Muhic Dizdarevic, an author of the study, presented its results earlier this month. She said it is not possible to draw simple generalizations from the data collected.

A total of 46 % of respondents said they had completed primary school, 25 % had completed vocational school, 11 % had completed secondary school and passed a graduation examination, 3 % had earned a college degree, 3 % were completely without any education, and 3 % were graduates of "special school". The survey found that 85 % of the mothers surveyed said they would support their children in acquiring higher education, but only two-fifths of respondents reported regularly attending parent-teacher meetings with their children's homeroom teacher and 31 % had never attended such meetings. Roughly seven out of 10 respondents reported a monthly income of as much as CZK 10 000 per month, with one-third reporting income of up to CZK 5 000 and almost two-fifths reporting incomes of between CZK 5 000 and CZK 10 000 per month. More than CZK 30 000 monthly income was reported by only around 1 % of respondents. About 8 % of respondents lived in households where the total income was less than CZK 5 000. Roughly 6 % of the women lived in a household with a total monthly income of more than CZK 40 000, but three out of 10 respondents lived in households with a total income of between CZK 15 000 and CZK 20 000.

Acccording to the survey, traditional gender roles predominate in Romani families. Three-fifths of the Romani women said they were the sole provider of care for their children and the household. Not quite two-fifths said they shared childcare and household work with their husband, while 2 % said such work was mainly their husband's responsibility. A total of 44 % said they shared decision-making in their family with their partners. Reportedly 34 % of the respondents said they alone were responsible for making the family's decisions. Another 22 % said their husband made the decisions in their household. Most Romani women support their children in continuing their education. It is evident from the survey that most Romani women consider the education of their children to be key. Only 6 % of respondents said they believed otherwise. Most wanted their children to complete secondary school, whether with or without passing a graduation examination.

Every sixth Romani woman in the survey, moreover, wanted her children to earn a college degree. The vast majority of respondents (99 %) do not want their children to attend the "practical" (previously called the "special") schools. The Romani women surveyed agreed that the knowledge acquired in such schools is under no circumstances sufficient. Respondents also stated they regretted not having paid sufficient attention to their own educations, and almost all of them admitted that they would like to make up for the gaps in their education, most often mentioning options for requalification or for further education should their financial situations permit.
Most Romani women want to work
Almost all of the respondents in this exclusive survey on the position of Romani women said they wanted to work. Reportedly they would only want to stay home if they were to have young children to care for. The survey reveals that Romani women are doing their best to actively look for work and to continue their educations and that they are willing to work part-time and at unusual hours. "This is the modern age. Today both parents can work, it's not like before when the woman had to take care of children at home and cook while the guy went to work. Today the woman has to go to work too, there is poverty here," one respondent said. According to the survey, Romani women consider employment important not only for financial reasons, but also for their personal development. Most of them (82 %) believe, however, that there are not enough opportunities in their neighborhood. On the other hand, it must be noted that almost half of the women surveyed (42 %) would not be willing to relocate for work. The survey also shows that almost three-fourths of Romani women have no experience with being released from employment during the initial trial period.

Most Romani women have two childen
The often-heard claim that Romani women have many children was not confirmed by this exclusive research. Almost one-third of respondents (39 %) said they have two children, more than one-fifth (21 %) reported three children and 19 % have only one. More detailed information about the position of Romani women in the Czech Republic is offered by a new publication released by the Slovo 21 civic association. The findings of this exclusive research can serve as a relevant source of information, for example, when designing Romani integration strategy or programs intended to respond to the actual needs of Romani women in the Czech Republic.

The survey was conducted between September 2013 and May 2014; questionnaires were completed by 600 Romani women between the ages of 17 and 77 in 23 towns around the Czech Republic. The survey was performed by 20 trained Romani women and included topics proposed by members of the Romani women's group Manushe.
That group is a section of the Slovo 21 organization and has been active for years in the field of strengthening the position of Romani women inside the Romani community and in Czech society in general. This research is specific in that it actively involved Romani women, from the development of the basic idea of the need to collect relevant data and determining the main topics for investigation that would best reveal the actual position of Romani women, to the implementation of the survey itself.
© Romea.

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'Uncompromising action' needed to tackle anti-Semitism, says Blair

Tony Blair has told European leaders to do more than just disapprove of anti-Semitism, which he said “requires gripping right now with firm and uncompromising action”.

28/9/2014- In an essay on religious extremism, the former prime minister praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for “taking an extraordinary step” of attending a rally in Berlin against anti-Semitism, accompanied by her entire Cabinet. Calling it “a grim harbinger of things to come” Blair said anti-Semitism was “again stalking the streets of Europe” as he laid out a seven-point strategy for dealing with religious extremism. “Defeating ISIS is vital,” he said. “But another ISIS will take their place unless we go to the root of the issue and deal with this ideology [Islamism] wherever and however it shows itself on a coordinated global basis.”
© Jewish News UK

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German minister compares far-right party to neo-Nazis

Schäuble brands Alternative für Deutschland "demagogical"

29/9/2014- Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has called the anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party demagogical and populist, and compared it to German neo-Nazis. His attack on the AfD is the first time a senior member of chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has engaged with the party, little more than a year after it was founded. Until now the CDU largely ignored the AfD, hoping it would vanish as quickly as it appeared. However, a run of AfD electoral success appears to have prompted a rethink inside Dr Merkel’s inner circle. “We have to deal with these populists with all decisiveness,” said Dr Schäuble to Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper, accusing the AfD of employing “no-holds-barred demaogoguery” to win support. The rapid rise of the party reminded him of the Republikaner, he said, a neo-Nazi party that won seats in the 1990s in the state parliament of his native Baden-Württemberg.

Germany without euro
Dr Schäuble said AfD party leader Bernd Lucke, an economics professor in Hamburg, wanted voters to believe everything would be better in Germany without the euro. “That an economics professor claims such nonsense is an impertinence,” he said, adding that every serious economist knew that European integration would mean less prosperity in Germany. Dr Lucke said the finance minister’s “below the belt” attack revealed “his helplessness in dealing with a party that’s opening people’s eyes . . . and finding growing support”. He added that Dr Schäuble was a “pied piper” for “not informing adequately what risks hide behind German liability for European debts”, a nod to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund his party opposes.

Social spending
Anti-euro, bailout-critical policies were the core of the AfD programme when it was established last year. After narrowly missing the 5 per cent hurdle to enter the Bundestag last September, it polled 7 per cent in May’s European elections. In recent weeks it won double-digit support in three regional polls in eastern Germany after broadening its anti-euro platform to demand greater social spending and tough law-and-order policies. However, the party faces growing criticism that its rapid rise is thanks to extremist positions to attract support from Germany’s political fringes. In recent regional elections the AfD demanded referendums on mosque minarets and praised East Germany as a safer place than Brandenburg’s border region with Poland today. A candidate in the central state of Thuringia, with a non- German quota of 1.8 per cent, warned that excessive immigration endangered “German identity”.

Voter concern
The AfD denies it is chasing extremist votes, insisting its critical stance on immigration addresses a voter concern that mainstream parties ignore. But far-right rows forced the AfD in Brandenburg to fire two new parliamentarians before they even took their seats. The first was ousted for spreading far-right rumours about colleagues to the media. Days later his replacement, Jan- Ulrich Weiß, was kicked out for posting a picture of banker Jacob Rothschild on Facebook with the commentary: “We own pretty much every bank worldwide. We steer news, media, oil and your government . . . you have probably never heard of me.” Brandenburg AfD leader Alexander Gauland said the remarks from Mr Weiß were more suitable for the Nazi propaganda newspaper Der Stürmer than his party.
© The Irish Times.

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German police investigate alleged refugee abuse

28/9/2014- Police are investigating accusations that security guards at an asylum center in western Germany repeatedly abused refugees physically and mentally. A police spokesman said Sunday that police raided the center in Burbach near the city of Hagen and questioned both security guards and refugees after a local journalist received a DVD showing the abuse of an asylum seeker by security guards. Spokesman Ulrich Hanki said police also found a picture on a guard's cellphone showing a security officer pushing his foot against the neck of a handcuffed refugee lying on the floor. Hanki said other refugees had come forward and reported further abuse and that all the guards, who belonged to a private security company, were withdrawn from the center. Police and prosecutors are investigating possible xenophobic motives.
© The Associated Press

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The German Muslim community's protest against extremism

The German Muslim community's day of action against extremism and injustice was a strong appeal for tolerance. It was also a demonstration that there are many, many Muslims who are not willing to allow their religion to be hijacked as a justification for barbarism and hatred

27/9/2014- The terrorist militias of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq appear to be unstoppable. Its members are murdering and pillaging their way from one village to the next, torturing and humiliating the population and forcing tens of thousands to flee. Meanwhile in Germany, Muslims are standing up to raise their voices against hatred and injustice. They're distancing themselves in as clear a manner as possible from the extremists who are propagating a regime of terror in the Middle East in the name of their religion, a regime of terror which incidentally is claiming more Muslim lives than any other.

Standing up to be counted
With this day of action, German Muslims were also distancing themselves from the at least 400 members of their faith who have chosen to leave Germany to fight this civil war and take part in its horrific battles. Among them are young men and women who have become radicalised via the Internet or fallen prey to the hate preachers who espouse their views on the fringes of Germany's Muslim community. Such preachers are normally not part of the roughly 2,000 mosque congregations that belong to one of the four major Muslim associations in Germany. The majority of German Muslims, who live ordinary, decent lives, cannot be held responsible for the deviant path chosen by those who blindly follow the preachers of hate and are prepared to risk their own lives to make the violent vision of a pure Islam a reality. Nevertheless, it is a good thing that the Muslim associations have distanced themselves so clearly from these fanatics with this day of action. In doing so, they are helping to make the debate more rational at a time when the mainstream German population is feeling increasingly shocked and unsettled by the terrible events in the Middle East, and when those on the far right of our society are targeting Islam and Muslims.

We are all one
According to reports from representatives of the Muslim associations, the number of attacks against Muslims and Muslim institutions is increasing. In August, there were five attacks on mosques in Germany, more than ever before. During their day of action last Friday, which involved prayers for peace and solemn vigils, Muslims were also protesting against such acts as well as against anti-Semitism and hatred against Jews. "When a synagogue is attacked, I am a Jew; when Christians are persecuted, I am a Christian; and when mosques are torched, I am a Muslim," said Aiman Mazyek, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), this week. These are strong words that we should all make our own.

It is only by standing together and having the courage to stand up for our beliefs that we can oppose growing intolerance, extremism and fanaticism. But that alone is not enough: politicians and the media also have a role to play. Politicians need to make sure that underprivileged, ostracised young people are offered good prospects by granting Muslim associations the funds they need to work with young people. At international level, they have to do what they can to end the conflicts that are tearing the Middle East apart and dry up the swamp where terrorism is breeding. For their part, the media must explain, inform and ensure that they are not contributing to the estrangement and radicalisation of Muslims through the topics they choose to cover and the words they choose to use.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Serbia: Belgrade Braces For First Gay Pride Parade Since 2010

Hundreds of gay rights activists have marched in Belgrade in Serbia's first gay pride parade in four years.

29/9/2014- Media estimate that between 1,000 and 1,500 activists took part in the peaceful march on September 28. Several thousand antiriot police, special police units, armored vehicles, and water cannons were deployed across the capital for the march due to threats by far-right groups. Some 50 antigay protestors were detained during the march. The two-kilometer march began in front of the main government building in Nemanjina Street and passed along Kneza Milosa Avenue and by parliament before ending in front of Belgrade City Hall. RFE/RL's Balkans Service reports that the parade was attended by a large number of public figures. Correspondents say that among the audience were Belgrade Mayor Sinisa Mali, actress Mirjana Karanovic, director Srdjan Dragojevic, and the Serbian Minister of Culture Ivan Tasovac.

Mali told reporters that it was important to show that: "Belgrade is an open city, which means it is open to all and that everyone here is equal." Several foreign diplomats, including the head of the EU's delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport, also attended the march. The parade was banned during the last three years over security concerns after hard-line nationalists attacked marchers and clashed with police at the first-ever event in 2010, leaving 150 people injured. This year, police did not grant explicit permission to organizers, but simply allowed the ban to expire at midnight the day before the march was scheduled. Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic has urged calm ahead of the gay pride parade, warning that authorities could still stop the event if security was threatened.

A few thousand protesters, including members of the ultranationalist Dveri group, had marched on September 27 against the parade. Earlier this week, the Serbian Orthodox Church compared homosexuality to pedophilia. Homophobia is widespread in Serbia, often supported by church leaders and right-wing parties. However, the country came under pressure from the European Union, which says the event is a test of Serbia's commitment to the fundamental freedoms promoted by the bloc. Serbia is pursuing EU membership talks.
© RFE/RL

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Serbia: Belgrade gay pride a 'milestone'

29/9/2014- Gay people in Serbia held a march in Belgrade on Sunday (28 September) in what has been described as a “milestone” in the country's history. The LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex) community was able to walk and celebrate along a two-kilometre stretch in the nation’s capital without incident. Reports say up to 1,500 people joined the pride event, which was flanked by several thousand anti-riot police. It was Serbia’s first gay pride parade since 2010. “It is a milestone in the modern history of democratic Serbia,” said Stefan Fule, EU enlargement commissioner. He added that the parade marked a “substantial improvement towards the effective exercise of LGBTI rights”.

The enlargement commissioner had last year criticised Serbia’s government for slapping a ban on the parade for the third year in a row. Belgrade’s decision to allow the parade on Sunday is seen by some as a tactic to help ease its accession negotiations with the European Union. Serbia was granted candidate status in 2012 with the formal start of its accession negotiations kicking off earlier this year. The country is largely conservative, with one poll in 2010 suggesting some two-thirds of the population view homosexuality as a disease. The head of Serbia’s Orthodox Church also described Sunday’s parade as immoral and said it was “violently imposed by a gay lobby and their mentors from [western] Europe”, reports AFP. Ultra-nationalists and other far-right groups had made threats in the lead up to the march, but were nowhere to be seen amid the heavy presence of police, armoured vehicles, and water canons.

Foreign and local dignitaries and politicians also joined the march. Deputy prime minister Kori Udovicki, Belgrade mayor Sinisa Mali, and Serbia’s minister of culture Ivan Tasovac were present. The head of the EU's delegation to Serbia, Michael Davenport, US ambassador Michael Kirby, and German Green MEP Terry Reintke also made appearances. Prime minister Aleksandar Vucic, for his part, said he had “better things to do” and did not attend the parade. The relaxed atmosphere on Sunday was in stark contrast to the 2010 parade, which descended into chaos with 150 people injured following attacks from hardliners. "I feel phenomenal. Our efforts of the past three years have borne fruit," organiser Boban Stojanovic told Reuters.
© The EUobserver

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Serbia: Belgrade gears up for first Gay Pride since 2010

Serbia on Sunday holds its first gay pride parade in four years, seen as a key test of the European Union hopeful's commitment to protect minority rights.

27/9/2014- Authorities had banned the parade after hardline nationalists attacked marchers and clashed with police at the first ever event in 2010, injuring 150 people. Several thousand police are expected to be deployed across the capital during Belgrade Pride after threats by far-right groups ahead of Sunday's event. Some 500 members of the ultra-nationalist Dveri group were involved in a stand-off with officers wearing riot gear in the central of the capital on Saturday night as they tried to march to parliament to protest. Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic urged calm ahead of the gay parade, warning that authorities could still stop the event if security was threatened. The march, set to start at 1030 GMT in front of the main government building in Nemanjina Street, will pass along Kneza Milosa avenue and by parliament before ending in front of Belgrade City Hall. Organisers were optimistic that the parade would go ahead, saying it had been met with a warmer reception than in previous years.

"For the first time the institutions have publicly supported the organisation of the pride and media reports were more favourable for the LGBT community," one of the organisers, Boban Stojanovic, told reporters on Saturday. Planners expect a few hundred people to attend the event, and have released few details in advance due to security concerns. Several foreign diplomats, including the head of the EU's delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport and European Parliament member Terry Reintke, said they would attend the march. Some Serbian cabinet ministers also said they would join, including the minister for European integration Jadranka Joksimovic and Minister of Culture Ivan Tasovac. Stojanovic cautiously welcomed the government's support, saying: "Only once the pride is held we will be sure that the support of the institutions was honest." 

'Imposed' by Western Europe
Others, such as Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, a former ultra-nationalist who has re-branded himself as pro-European, have said they will not attend. "My obligation is to guarantee security and safety to everybody. But my choice is not to attend the parade, no way," he said. Tensions have been running high in highly patriarchal Serbia ahead of the event. The head of the influential Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, denounced the event as "immoral" and asked why "gay sexual orientation is right to be propagated and not paedophilia and incest". The march had been "violently imposed by a gay lobby and their mentors from (Western) Europe," he added. Earlier this month a German LGBT rights speaker was hospitalised after being beaten in Belgrade and several ultra-nationalist groups have announced anti-gay protests over the weekend.

Dveri members were on the streets of the capital on Saturday night while another group, Obraz, called its supporters to join a march in another part of the city centre the same day. Vucic warned earlier this week that "whoever tries to provoke incidents will be very, very severely punished". Homophobia is widespread in Serbia and other conservative Balkan societies. Belgrade has been under pressure to improve protection for minorities, including the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) community, since starting accession talks with the European Union this year.
© AFP

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Serbia: 3 children die in fire in Gypsy settlement on the outskirts of Belgrade

27/9/2014- Three Gypsy children died in a fire on Friday in a small wooden shack that has been their home on the outskirts of Belgrade, provoking a human rights official to lay partial responsibility on the Serbian state for treating Roma as second-rate citizens. The Serbian capital's emergency service said the children, aged 5, 7 and 9, died in the blaze that broke out in the Gypsy settlement at around 1 a.m. local time. Officials said a lit candle triggered the fire as the children and their mother were asleep.The 37-year-old mother, who managed to escape, was arrested for failing to provide security for her children.

There are an estimated 500,000 Gypsies — many resettled during the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s — living in Serbia, or about 7 percent of the population. Gypsies, or Roma, who mostly live in segregated, makeshift settlements throughout Serbia, have often faced harassment by far-right groups. Sasa Jankovic, the official charged with protecting the rights of Serbia's citizens, said the state is partly to blame for the deaths by "ignoring inhumane living conditions" of the Gypsy population. "This tragedy is another painful warning about the position of the Roma in their informal settlements," said Jankovic. "Concrete measures should be taken to improve their living conditions."
© The Associated Press

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UK: UKIP still on the defensive over racism question

The anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party has continually rebuffed allegations of racism, following a series of gaffes, but still struggles to shake off a xenophobic tag.

29/9/2014- The eurosceptic, populist party’s annual conference was again confronted by the question this weekend, with a “Stand Up to UKIP” counter-rally drawing bus-loads of protesters to denounce the party as racist and homophobic. Yet inside Doncaster racecourse, where 2,000 UKIP members have gathered, allegations of xenophobia were dismissed as unjustified. “We’re no racists. Not at all,” one activist said with a frown, at the “Last Chance Saloon” stand, denouncing plans to bring in plain packaging on cigarettes. Sandra James, who will be standing as a candidate at the May general election, told AFP: “UKIP is a fabulous, commonsense party which goes where other parties are afraid to go. We believe in a multi-cultural society.”

As it targets disaffected working-class voters with its platform of regaining control of Britain’s borders by leaving the EU, UKIP held its annual gathering in Doncaster, northern England — where opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband is a local MP. UKIP, which plans to contest a series of parliamentary seats held by both the Labour and Conservative parties, topped the European Parliament elections in May. It was bolstered on Saturday by the defection to its ranks of Conservative lawmaker Mark Reckless, the second Tory party member to switch to UKIP within two months. Reckless told cheering delegates: “We are not backward-looking or gloomy, still less xenophobic.”

Steven Woolfe, a member of the European Parliament and the party’s migration spokesman, said: “We are the most diverse and modern nation of the world and UKIP embraces that,” declaring himself “proud” to be mixed race. Fellow MEP and communities spokesman Amjad Bashir, who for his part is “proud to be a Muslim”, said: “Respect for others is the key to a healthy community. It starts in the family and must extend beyond into the community so we can live together regardless of ethnicity and religious beliefs.” The two MEPs’ presence in the UKIP front rank could be seen as a foil to those who say the party only speaks to those with blue collars, white skin and grey hair.

A 2012 study by Manchester and Nottingham universities found that UKIP voters are mainly white older people. But at the Doncaster conference, the message was clear: an Indian doctor is just as welcome as a German one. Haunted by a series of gaffes — the latest last month, when UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson was forced to apologise for describing a party supporter originally from Thailand as a “ting tong” — delegates must avoid sending out the wrong message. “At the conference, there is a very strong intention to make sure that there aren’t any embarrassing incidents with delegates making racial comments because the media focus is on that far more than for other parties,” said Jocelyn Evans, a professor of politics at Leeds University, who co-authored the study on UKIP.

UKIP was founded in 1993 by members of the Anti-Federalist League, a small, cross-party organisation opposed to the European Union’s Maastricht Treaty. As it grew, it drew in disillusioned voters from the major parties but also “people with radical ideas, individuals who express ethnocentric ideas,” said Evans, an expert on far-right movements. The growth of the party has been accompanied by a series of scandals, so much so that leader Alan Sked, a founder who has since distanced himself from the party, said he had created “Frankenstein’s monster”. Former UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom made headlines last year for bemoaning sending foreign aid to “Bongo Bongo Land”, and overshadowed last year’s conference by jokingly calling women who did not clean behind the fridge “sluts”. Bloom and UKIP parted ways, with the party, propelled into the spotlight, trying to tidy up its image under the drive and charisma of its leader Nigel Farage.

“UKIP doesn’t want to be seen as the toxic choice,” said Evans. But sometimes UKIP still slips up. Farage was blasted in the media after talking about Romanians taking “indigenous” jobs, and some British towns becoming “unrecognisable” through immigration. In May, a prominent UKIP youth activist of Indian descent announced she was leaving the party as it had “descended into a form of racist populism”. Local councillor David Silvester drew national media attention in January when he said recent English floods were God’s punishment for the introduction of gay marriage. The party suspended Silvester the following day, but it has taken far longer for the party to live down the remarks.
© The International News

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UK: 16% of people still think gay sex should be illegal

Almost a sixth of British people think gay sex should be illegal, according to a new survey.

29/9/2014- The survey of British sexual behaviour, which used a sample of 1,052 adults in the UK, was undertaken by the Observer. The highest figures came from the South East and London, which saw 21% say they thought gay sex should be illegal. Despite being seemingly a high figure, the percentage has dropped considerably from 24% since the last time the survey was carried out, in 2008. When asked ‘how would you define your sexuality?, 4% said gay, 4% said bisexual and 92% said straight. Also, the percentage of people in the UK who think same-sex marrigae should be legal has risen from 53% to 63%, and 61% of people think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children. Overall, the average number of times people have sex each month has dropped considerably, due to a hike in the number of people who don’t have sex at all. 20% of men said they were unhappy with their penis size, and the percentage of men happy with their size dropped from 86% back in 2008, to 79% in 2014.
© Pink News

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UK: Port of Dover will remain open today says Kent Police as far right groups plan blockade

27/9/2014- Kent Police says the force is “prepared for a number of scenarios” ahead of the planned protest supported by far right groups at the Port of Dover today. A Facebook page called Support the Dover to Calais Truckers says drivers intend to use lorries to blockade the port tomorrow, a move that Kent Police says is illegal. Police officers have been visiting the homes of organisers over the last few days which the group claims amounts to intimidation. On its Facebook group it said it expects French drivers to travel over to join the protest tomorrow. Groups including the National Front and the Scottish Defence League say they will be attending the event, which has been discussed on the far-right message board Storm Front. In a statement on its Facebook page, Support the Dover to Calais Truckers said it will: "Prove all the doubters wrong with a lawful protest with no abusive language and no drunken yobs and then we expect a full apology or we will be taking our next protest to people’s front doors.”

Left wing groups are planning a counter demonstration in Dover, with many organisations signed up to attend. Both sides are planning marches through the town. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said no recognised trade groups support or endorse the blockade. Natalie Chapman, FTA south east spokesman, said: "It’s unclear who is organising the protest – there is only the facebook page to go by and some of the comments are by people who are clearly not lorry drivers. "Certainly if you look at some of the comments there are some very strong views about immigration and perhaps there are some people who are hijacking this situation and are not representative of lorry drivers. However, the FTA said drivers' frustrations were real, with many feeling it is they who bear the brunt of the problems in Calais.

Ms Chapman said: "Many drivers feel they are being made scapegoats in this situation with some even having to take out personal loans to pay fines – we understand their frustrations. "But we don’t think blockading the Port of Dover is the Way to go. It will cause huge inconvenience to other lorry drivers on their way home and others driver’s trying to cross the channel." A man claiming to be one of the organisers said it would be a peaceful protest and he hoped no-one will be arrested. Kevin, who would only give his first name, said: “It is a family event, there will be stewards there, so anyone acting inappropriately will be asked to leave.” Kevin said he stopped crossing the Channel at the port nine months ago as he began fearing for his safety. “I stopped because of the pressure, they jump on with knives, it is beyond the joke," he said. “I just hope the MP and transport ministers do deal with the situation in France, they are having a terrible time themselves. “Someone will end up getting killed." Kent Police has been monitoring social media and planning its response to the protest.
© Kent online.

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Headlines 26 September, 2014

Austria: Fine and jail time for Nazi comments

A 27-year-old man has been handed a €7,200 fine and a one year prison sentence for inciting hatred and re-engagement in National Socialist activities.

26/9/2014- Korneuburg Regional Court convicted the man after he confessed to posting countless Nazi and xenophobic comments and content online. The prosecutor noted that he had trivialised the Holocaust and had an ‘88’ tattoo on his back, which stands for HH, or Heil Hitler. The prosecutor said he would not bother reading out any of the man’s postings as “any normal person would find them disgraceful”. When questioned the 27-year-old admitted that he had extreme right-wing views and said that he had developed an aversion to immigrants, Jews, Muslims and Africans since being at school. He also admitted possessing illegal weapons purchased in the Czech Republic. The 27-year-old already had a criminal record after being involved in violent brawls. His defence argued that he had been unemployed for some time and in his frustration had become influenced by right-wing propa-ganda. He said that he has since had most of his tattoos removed, or altered into Hawaiian symbols, and was a “changed man”.
© The Local - Austria

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140,000 refugees flee to Turkey in 3 days

26/9/2014- Last week, ISIS fighters attacked the Kurdish town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, in northern Syria, causing Kobani’s residents to flee towards the nearby Turkish border. Turkey’s initial response was to close the crossing points with Syria saying that humanitarian aid would be provided on the Syrian side of the border. On Friday 19 September, Turkey opened a 30 kilometre section of the border section with Syria and hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurd refugees started crossing into Turkey. However, since Monday 20 September, Turkey has kept only two crossing points open out of nine, as reported by UNHCR. Up until 25 September, 144,000 Syrian refugees, mainly Kurds, have sought refuge in southern Turkey; 80% of the refugees are women and children and the remaining 20% are elderly or disabled. Carol Batchelor, the Turkey representative for UNHCR, said “I don’t think in the last three and a half years we have seen 100,000 cross in two days,” according to Reuters.

The Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly and Mülteci-Der, Turkish NGOs and ECRE members, have criticized that Turkey’s initial response to the arrival of the refugees was to seal off the crossing points with Syria. “Turkey’s decision to allow the arrival of this massive latest wave of Kurdish refugees from Syria 19 September onward was preceded by days of hesitation on the part of the Turkish Government and an effective blockade on crossings by Turkish border units. It appears that earlier the same week Turkey’s new Prime Minister Davutoglu issued instructions for the sealing of the entire Syria and Iraq border stretch before he changed his mind and Kurdish refugees were allowed to cross”, stated Oktay Durukan of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly. “We are pleased that Turkey has now opened the border as it should, but have concerns that opening border to people fleeing war and persecution cannot depend on daily decisions. There must be complete protection for refugees governed by a legal framework respecting human rights and dignity”, stated Piril Ercoban of Mülteci-Der.

Acknowledging the vital role that Turkey and the broader region is assuming by hosting the vast majority of the refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq, the NGOs underine that all States must maintain an open-border policy and call on the European and international community to also play their part by admitting more refugees through resettlement and humanitarian admission. “During the Syrian crisis for the last four years and the recent ones in Iraq and Syria, almost all the responsibility of the humanitarian response has been left to the neighbouring countries. Many countries, including European States are doing very little to deal with the plight of refugees. Just 35,000 places have been provided in response to UNHCR's call for more resettlement from the neighbouring countries. This is indeed amazingly little while there are millions of refugees in the region. While the number of refugees and the need for international solidarity are rising, the neighbouring countries and refugees are increasingly left alone in this grave humanitarian crisis”, stated Ercoban.

“While it is absolutely clear that Turkey needs dramatically more European and international solidarity to help cope with the humanitarian needs of a 1.5 million strong refugee influx, Turkey must not resort to non-arrival measures as the security situation on both the Syria and Iraq sides of the border continues to deteriorate”, warns Durukan. “We are concerned that the rising pressures on Turkey’s resources and administrative capabilities, a growing anti-Syrian sentiment among the public at large and cross-border security considerations appear to have shaken the Government’s resolve on the ‘open borders’ policy to the brink.”

For further information
UNHCR, Number of Syrian Kurds fleeing to Turkey nears 140,000; humanitarian needs mount, 23 September 2014
UNHCR video: Refugees Continue Flowing into Turkey, 24 September 2014
UNHCR, UNHCR airlifts urgent aid into Turkey to help refugees fleeing ISIS, 25 September 2014
The New York Times, ISIS Forays Send Waves of Refugees Into Turkey, 21 September 2014
The Guardian, Kurds call on 'all Middle East' to help defend stronghold from Isis, 21 September 2014
Reuters, More than 130,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing Islamic State crossed into Turkey - Deputy PM, 22 September 2014
Al-Jazeera, Turkish forces fend off Kurdish protesters, 22 September 2014
BBC, Turkey clamps down on Syria border after Kurdish unrest, 22 September 2014
The Washington Post, Turkey breaks up crowds at Syrian frontier protesting Islamic State, border closings, 22 September 2014
World Bulletin, UN calls for aid for refugees in Turkey, 22 September 2014
TIME, Photos Show ‘Unprecedented’ Shift of Refugees Into Turkey, 23 September 2014
© European Council on Refugees and Exiles

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School discrimination against Roma: EU gives strong signal by taking action against the Czech Rep.

The European Commission yesteerday announced that it would initiate legal action (so-called infringement proceedings) against the Czech Republic for discrimination against Roma children in schools. The European Roma Policy Coalition welcomes this long-awaited move. It sends a strong message that discrimination on racial grounds is unlawful and violates the European Union’s (EU) basic values.

26/9/2014- “We have been calling for this for a long time”, said Michael Privot, representative of the European Roma Policy Coalition. “There has been ample evidence of widespread school segregation and discrimination against Roma children in Czech schools for years. The European Commission is now finally playing its role of guardian of EU law and values and taking action against Member States who breach EU anti-discrimination law.” Anti-Gypsyism is a prevalent and serious concern across Europe, not just in the Czech Republic. This infringement procedure is a good first step, however it must be followed by further concrete action to end discriminatory practices in Member States.

The European Roma Policy Coalition (ERPC) is an informal gathering of non-governmental organisations operating at EU level on issues of human rights, anti-discrimination, anti-racism, social inclusion, and Roma and Travellers’ rights. Its members are Amnesty International, European Network Against Racism (ENAR), the European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network (ERGO), the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the European Roma Information Office (ERIO), Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG), the Open Society Institute (OSI), Policy Center for Roma and Minorities, the Roma Education Fund.
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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Gay couple in Azerbaijan forced to flee after engagement vow makes local news

Small ceremony with friends sparks homophobic death threats after being reported by several media networks.

26/9/2014- A gay couple in Azerbaijan have received death threats and been forced to go underground after getting engaged in a small ceremony. Javid Nabiyev and his partner exchanged vows in presence of a handful of friends earlier this week in Sumqayit on the Caspian sea, a year after they first met. But when several news networks in Azerbaijan picked up their private pictures on Facebook, they were inundated with hate mail from people who said they deserved to die. “We received homophobic verbal attacks,” said Nabiyev, who is the head of the Azerbaijani gay rights advocacy group, Nafas Azerbaijan LGBT alliance. “Some people said ‘You should die, I’ll kick you in the street, I’ll kill you’,” he told the Guardian on phone from Baku. The 25-year-old said he had had to leave home because people had gathered outside and shouted homophobic abuse. “We were engaged; not in a big ceremony. It took place between our friends at my home and only eight people were invited,” he said. “At midnight yesterday, I had to change the place I was living in. People in my apartment building had heard about the news and I heard people gathering outside my house and ridiculing us,” he said. “It was very terrible. But I’m now in a safe place in a friend’s house.”

Homosexuality is legal in Azerbaijan, but Nabiyev said discrimination against the gay and lesbian community and homophobia was rife. “After the news agencies published articles on the basis of my private Facebook posting, people showed very homophobic reaction,” he said. Nabiyev’s 19-year-old partner, whose identity is withheld to protect his safety, particularly, is facing a dilemma at home. His father threatened to send him to the army instead of university after hearing the news. “I don’t know what has happened to my partner. He is with his parents now,” Nabiyev said. “He sent me a brief message that his dad wants to send him to the army. His parents have also confiscated all our documents, which we would need to produce a passport if we were ever to leave the country.” Nabiyev said that his partner’s mother had thrown gasoline on him and tried to set him on fire last month, but the attack did not succeed. Despite rising homophobic attacks, Nabiyev said the police does not listen to their demands for safety.

Nabiyev’s organisation have tried to lobby members of the parliament to raise the LGBT issues with Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, but they haven’t gone too far. “Our government is also homophobic,” the campaigner said. “We created a campaign to raise LGBT issues with the president and one MP asked him about the situation of LGBTs in Azerbaijan, but he didn’t mention the LGBT community at all in his answer.” The 2012 Eurovision song contest, which took place in Baku, drew a great deal of attention towards human rights abuses, including those concerning the LGBT community, in Azerbaijan. The former Soviet republic has a notorious track record on human rights and freedom of expression.
© The Guardian

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Olympic Committee Adds Anti-Discrimination Clause for Host Cities

The move comes after the much criticized Sochi games, which took place against a backdrop of Russia's staunchly homophobic policies

24/9/2014- The International Olympic Committee announced on Wednesday that they will add an anti-discrimination clause to host city contracts. So in order to host the 2022 Olympic Games, cities must pledge to adhere to a principle of the Olympic charter which prohibits discrimination. The move is a result of the pushback the IOC faced from human rights organizations following the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, where homophobic policies and incidents were rampant. The updated clause calls for the prohibition of “any form of discrimination,” under the rules of Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which bans “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise.” LGBT rights organizations All Out and Athlete Ally championed the Principle in an effort to get athletes and fans to speak out against the anti-LGBT laws in Russia. Organizations like Human Rights Watch also urged the IOC to add a human rights provision to its host city contract for future games. Co-founder and executive director of All Out, Andre Banks, called the IOC’s announcement a “significant step in ensuring the protection of both citizens and athletes around the world.”
© Time Magazine.

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City of Ylivieska in Finland awards anti-Semite with distinction

Juha Kärkkäinen, who was fined by a Finnish court in the fall of 2013 45,000 euros for publishing anti-Semitic writings of the likes of David Duke and others, was awarded a distinction from the city of Ylivieska, according to Oulu-based Kaleva. Dan Kantor, executive director of the Jewish Community of Helsinki, told Migrant Tales that he was “surprised that in this century” such things happen in Finland today.

24/9/2014- Kärkkäinen is owner of a company based in Ylivieska that owns shopping centers in the cities of Lahti and Oulu. The Pro Ylivieska distinction is awarded to a person or association who has distinguished himself or herself in the community and nationally. A Ylivieska city official whom Migrant Tales spoke to said that the award was given only for Kärkkäinen’s accomplishments as a businessman. “What he thinks (about Jews) is his personal opinion and we have nothing to do with with,” the official said. Even if Kärkkäinen isn’t editor of Magneettimedia, the publication is still owned by J. Kärkkänen Oy.

Kärkkäinen appealed the sentence and 45,000 fine he got in the fall to a the court of appeal, which is expected to give legal validity to the lower-court ruling in the next two months. “In the meantime Kärkkäinen has been able to publish his anti-Semitism on Magneettimedia (which is today an online publication),” said Kantor. The decision to give Kärkkäinen a distinction by the city of Ylivieksa reveals a lot of matters, according to the executive director of the Jewish Community of Helsinki .

“First: That Finland’s laws are helpless and that such a thing (publish anti-Semitic stories on Magneettimedia) can continue to happen for such a long time (even if Kärkkäinen got sentenced by a lower court for ethnic agitation),” he said. “Second: Even if we’re waiting for the court of appeals ruling, anyone with a little common sense could tell that what was (and continues to be) published is wrong.”
© Migrant Tales

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Croatia: Anti-Fascist Victims of WWII Honoured in Zagreb

A new temporary memorial was unveiled in a park in the Croatian capital to honour thousands of people who were executed there by Zagreb’s wartime Ustasa pro-Nazi regime.

23/9/2014- “This monument is to honour the anti-fascist victims of the Ustasa regime [during WWII in Croatia] and the Nazi occupiers who were killed here,” Vesna Terselic, the director of Croatian NGO Documenta - Centre for Dealing with the Past, told the unveiling ceremony in Zagreb’s Dotrscina park on Monday. The park was the scene of mass executions by the Ustasa authorities, beginning in May 1941 and continuing until the end of the war. Around 18,000 people were killed in total, according to the Dotrscina memorial website. Several thousand of them were executed “simply because they were Jews, Serbs or anti-fascists”, Terselic said. The new monument, a sculpture made of tree trunks by contemporary Croatian artist Slaven Tolj, entitled ‘Freezing Rain’, was created as part of the Dotrscina Virtual Museum, a memorialisation project supported by Documenta. Sasa Simpraga, the head of the virtual museum, said that its main objective was “to bring Dotrscina back into the collective memory, from which it disappeared during the 1990s”. There are already several other memorials in the park, including monuments created by distinguished Croatian artists such as Vojin Bakic and Josip Siessel during the 1960s and 1970s.
© Balkan Insight

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Far right violence in Greece (background)

By Maria Alvanou

23/9/2014- 5th Century BC: In Greece the principle of democracy is born, and perfected in Athens.
21st Century AD: Greece faces a severe economic crisis; its political institutions are challenged and violent incidences take place against immigrants, people of different race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, as well as against those who support their rights.

Experts who try to analyse this violent phenomenon from a political standpoint, as well as the media, correlate it with the existence and rise of 'neo-Nazism', 'the far right', 'fascism', 'the extreme right', or 'the populist right' in Greece. These terms are used interchangeably, and though there are ongoing academic debates both on the accuracy and historical correctness of the terms, as well as their scholarly application, this does not change the facts.

Violence is being perpetrated in Greece and it has special characteristics: organised violent attacks, groups that operate as quasi-military units and the use of hate speech, Nazi totalitarian regime symbols and gestures. Foreigners and people of 'non-Greek blood' are targeted because they are conceived as subhuman and a menace to the 'purity' of the Greek nation. In addition, there is an ongoing judicial investigation against members of the Greek parliament belonging to a certain political party (characterised by the press, scholars and other political groups as far right or neo-Nazi), who are accused of involvement in violent criminal activity. Despite the accusations and the pre-trial detention of the party's members, its electoral support is rising. As in other European countries, violent extremist crimes inspired by far-right neo-Nazi principles in Greece don't occur out of the blue. Relevant social, economic, and political developments have taken place and the country has undergone changes. Greek society was silent and neglected or refused to see the problem of extremism. Even politicians, one could say, were blind to the danger.

One reason for this was that such extremism is a strange development in the country's history, culture and tradition. Neo-Nazi salutes and support in a country that paid one of the highest victim tolls during World War II, that had whole villages destroyed and burnt to the ground with their population massacred, seemed absurd. Violently attacking and killing immigrants in a country where nearly every family has an immigrant relative living in the US, Canada, Australia, Germany or Sweden seemed an unlikely eventuality. The rhetoric of hate against people who are different in race, colour, religion, political ideas, or sexual orientation in a society that has been traditional, but where part of this tradition has been tolerance, solidarity, sacrifice and collaboration, did not appear feasible. Against all the odds, what seemed absurd and a dim possibility, actually happened, and it is taking on new dimensions that pose a threat to public security.

Addressing this phenomenon can be tricky for many reasons and lots of problems seem to arise. First of all, extremist violence must be countered, but at the same time freedom of ideology and speech should remain intact in a democratic state and society. Violence as a criminal activity is dealt with through the jurisdiction of law enforcement and justice. This means in-depth police investigations, successful operations, and speedy (and fair) trials, so that criminal cases are solved, and perpetrators arrested and convicted without delay. The message must be that the Greek legal order does not tolerate violence and responds accordingly, and at the same time the legal response must be independent from the political arena and expediency.

Perpetrators of assaults should be punished for their violence (physical or verbal) and breaking the law, not for their ideas (regardless of their absurdity). Political party competition as well as electoral interests must be distanced from the justice system. This will ensure that the prosecuted do not present themselves as 'heroes', persecuted for their beliefs, and that citizens will trust the justice system in its integrity. However, apart from prosecutions, the response to extremism must also take a political form. The whole spectrum of political parties should work to re- establish trust in Greece's institutions and should approach citizens with care regarding their needs and their serious problems.

In addition, the Orthodox Church is a very influential institution and its appeal is wide-reaching in the Greek population. Debunking and deconstructing the ideology of hate, discrimination and violence using the Church's authority and validity (putting forth the humanistic, non-nationalistic teachings of the Gospel and the non-discriminatory practice of orthodox life) can have an impact. Especially considering that far right movements set out to lure and recruit members from 'conservative' parts of the population, who traditionally attend church and are religious.

The phenomenon of far-right extremism is complex and it should be addressed on several levels. It is important to look at the people behind the phenomenon. There are those who perpetrate violence either as a result of their extreme right ideological affiliation, inspired by it or using it as an excuse. These people must be stopped and the role of the police, the law, prosecution authorities and the judiciary is crucial in these cases. Then there are those who believe in the extreme right ideology (and may not even strongly condemn incidents of extreme violence), but themselves would never cross the line and take illegal action; these people cannot be classified as criminals and their political views cannot and should not be a matter of concern for the justice system.

Nevertheless, they may be considered the oxygen of the violent far right, and are the platform that supports their existence. This group of people poses the biggest challenge for the democratic state. While far right and Nazi ideology opposes every aspect of democracy, the very essence of democracy is to avoid criminalisation and persecution simply because of (even adverse) ideologies. Freedom of thought and ideology are the essence of democracy. The weapons against extremism must be political education, dialogue and the re-enforcing of social bonds. This is the path we must take to address a final category of citizens: the circumstantial voter or supporter. These are citizens who feel trapped inside the political system, who suffer real grievances and vote for or support far right or neo-Nazi parties as a form of protest.

They do not agree with the far right rhetoric, and they do not see themselves as affiliated to the ideologies, yet they choose such parties as an alternative and a protest against (in their eyes or objectively) the failed political system. In their case too, more democracy and power to the people is a good starting point. Demo-cracy is not weak or defenceless in Greece. As the meaning of its name tells us (demos means 'people', cratos means 'power') it is the power of the people and in those people rests its power. Greek citizens who know their history, who are a living part of the social tissue, who are active in building a better future for Greece and aware of the country's developments, are the best defence and combat mechanism against any kind of violent extremism. It is time for Greeks to awaken, take responsibility and realise that in democracy there is no place for any type of extremism and fascist violence.
*Maria Alvanou is a criminologist and an expert on terrorism and extremist violence.
© Neos Kosmos

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Ukraine: Nazi truth that West refuses to recognise

23/9/2014- In an era of diminished news budgets, foreign reporting is skimpy at best. We know there is fighting in eastern Ukraine along the border with Russia. But we get few details about Ukraine's fiercest warriors, the 500-strong Azov Battalion. Are they heroes fighting Russian aggression? Or antisemitic, neo-fascist nationalists on a glory hunt? To find the answer, follow the Wolf's Angel. This symbol of the Waffen SS was adapted by the Social National Party in Ukraine - the words 'Social' and 'National' are intentional - when it was founded in 1995. In 2004, the party changed its name to Svoboda and began to publicly moderate its extreme nationalism. That did not stop its leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, from making speeches excoriating the "Muscovite Jewish mafia". Ukraine's neo-fascist right wing, like most extremist political movements, is prone to splits. The three main parties representing this segment of the Ukrainian electorate still got 10 per cent of the vote in last May's elections for the Verkhovna Rada [parliament]. The leader of the Radical Party, the largest of these groups, is Oleh Lyashko, who is also one of the leaders of the Azov Battalion. The Wolf's Angel is now their symbol.

Traces of their worldview are all over the internet. It is pure Aryan Nation fantasy. So why, at a time of heightened awareness about antisemitism's return to Europe, has there been so little about the Azov crew? The internet era is all about rapid flow of unverified, uncontextualised "information", much of it inaccurate. Journalism has changed its rules to keep up. Normal verification procedures have gone out the window; objectivity now means correcting an earlier rumour reported as fact. Ukraine has been the place where all of these changes exploded. Reporters with agendas and language skills make up the West's primary lens on events. But they have left truth in A&E. In the middle of this are the Jews - or the idea of the "Jews", since there are relatively few Jews left in the borderlands. Ukrainian ultra-nationalism, a powerful force, has never really shed its antisemitism. Its heartland is western Ukraine in places whose names are familiar to all Jews: Tarnopil, Berdichev, Lemberg (today L'viv). The ultra-nationalist parties annually honour those Ukrainians who helped the Nazis eliminate almost 100 per cent of the Jewish population during the Holocaust.

From the beginning of the conflict last February on Kiev's Maidan [Independence Square], there have been neo-Nazi elements at the sharp end of the conflict. The Azov battalion evolved from these groups. Their influence has been consistently denied or underplayed by spokespeople for the Ukrainian government but also by Western reporters for outlets such as the Economist and Washington Post, for whom this is a story about a resurgent imperialism in Russia led by the odious and slightly deranged Vladimir Putin. For some of them, war with Russia - with its massive nuclear arsenal - is something the West must anticipate out of this crisis. This view was articulated by Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum last month, in an article headlined: "War in Europe Is Not An Hysterical Idea." In making her case, Ms Applebaum did not mention the fascist elements in Ukraine - although she linked Putin to Mein Kampf in the same sentence. As for Ukraine's 70,000 Jews, most live in Kiev and are staunch backers of the government. But when the fighting is done with Russia and the ultra-nationalists turn on parliament to battle for an ethnically pure Ukraine - as they have sworn they will do - what will Ukrainian Jews think then?
© The Jewish Chronicle

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Serbia Says Gay Pride March May go Ahead

Officials say Sunday's Gay Pride Parade may proceed as planned - although the march could still be banned if current security assessments change.

26/9/2014- Serbia’s Office for the Coordination of Security Services on Friday said the Belgrade Gay Pride march, scheduled for September 28, may proceed as planned. However, Nebojsa Stefanovic, the Interior Minister, stated that the match could still be called off if the security situation changes in the meantime. “The Office reserves the right to do so if, in the coming days, the authorities estimate that the safety of the citizens would be endangered,” Stefanovic said on Friday. He also urged people opposed to the march to refrain from violence. "Do not destroy our country or our city, and do not attack those in charge of security, because they are here to ensure the right of everyone to live freely,” Stefanovic said. Some far-right and religious organisations have already announced that they will hold protests against the march.

The nationalist movement Dver has scheduled a protest for September 27 in defence of “family values.” Another group, Istinoljublje, led by a former Orthodox Church cleric, Dragan Davidovic, has scheduled a protest for the same day. In 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, the authorities banned the parade altogether just days before it was scheduled to take place, after police declared they could not safeguard marchers from right-wing violence. Serbia's first Pride march was brought to a halt in Belgrade in June 2001, when protesters clashed with police. The march went ahead only in 2010, but several thousand young people, including football fans and members of right-wing organisations, caused mayhem on the streets of the capital, throwing stones and missiles, injuring police and setting buildings and vehicles on fire.
© Balkan Insight

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Head of Serb Church Denounces Gay Pride March

23/9/2014- The head of Serbia's influential Christian Orthodox church on Tuesday denounced a gay pride march planned for the weekend, adding to tensions over the event, which has faced threats from extremists. Patriarch Irinej said in a statement that the "shameless" event casts a moral shadow on Serbia — a conservative Balkan country whose gay population has faced harassment. Officials have suggested they could allow Sunday's event despite fears of a repeat of the violence in 2010 when right-wing groups attacked a pride march in Belgrade, triggering clashes with police that left more than 100 people injured. Authorities banned gay rights marches planned for the following three years, citing security reasons.

Holding the march is seen as a test of Serbia's pledge to respect human rights as it seeks European Union membership. Irinej said that the pride organizers "and their mentors from Europe" haven't learned the lesson from the past marches, adding that "a great majority" of Serbs are against holding the event. "Thousands of policemen will have to be brought to Belgrade," he said, adding that they face the threat of injury and death. Several far-right groups, which include soccer hooligans, have announced anti-gay marches in the capital a day before the pride event. Police said Tuesday they have filed charges against eight people who had made threats against gays on social media. "Police are here to secure the safety of all citizens," said Milorad Todorovic, the police officer in charge of cyber crime. "I hope the pride event will be held on Sunday."
© The Associated Press

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ADL Releases “Best Practices” for Challenging Cyberhate

Major Internet Companies Express Support for Initiative 

23/9/2014- The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today announced the release of “Best Practices for Responding to Cyberhate,” a new initiative that establishes guide-posts for the industry and the Internet community to help prevent the spread of online hate speech. The Best Practices initiative is the outcome of months of discussions and deliberations by an industry Working Group on Cyberhate convened by ADL in an effort to develop a coordinated approach to the growing problem of online hate speech, including anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia and other forms of online hate. Members of the Working Group included leading Internet providers, civil society leaders, representatives of the legal community, and academia.

As participants in the Working Group, representatives of Facebook, Google/YouTube, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo have expressed support for ADL’s efforts. They were among those who offered advice to ADL in the formulation of the Best Practices, and the final document embodies some of their own current practices. In conjunction with today’s announcement, these companies are taking new steps to remind their own communities of their policies regarding online hate and how users can respond when they encounter it.

“We challenged ourselves collectively to come up with effective ways to confront online hatred, to educate about its dangers and to encourage individuals and communities to speak out,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and co-author, with Christopher Wolf, of Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet. “The Best Practices are not a call for censorship, but rather a recognition that effective strategies are needed to ensure that providers and the wider Internet community work together to address the harmful consequences of online hatred. This is an opportunity for the Internet community to present a united front in the fight against cyberhate.”

“It is our hope the Best Practices will provide useful and important guideposts for all those willing to join in the effort to address the challenge of cyberhate,” said Christopher Wolf and Art Reidel, ADL leaders and co-chairs of the Working Group. “We urge members of the Internet community to express their support for this effort and to publicize their own independent efforts to counter cyberhate. We believe that, if adopted widely, these Best Practices could contribute significantly to countering cyberhate.”

The Best Practices call on providers to:
Take reports about cyberhate seriously, mindful of the fundamental principles of free expression, human dignity, personal safety and respect for the rule of law.
Providers that feature user-generated content should offer users a clear explanation of their approach to evaluating and resolving reports of hateful content, highlighting their relevant terms of service.
Offer user-friendly mechanisms and procedures for reporting hateful content.
Respond to user reports in a timely manner.
Enforce whatever sanctions their terms of service contemplate in a consistent and fair manner.

The Best Practices call on the Internet Community to:
Work together to address the harmful consequences of online hatred.
Identify, implement and/or encourage effective strategies of counter-speech — including direct response; comedy and satire when appropriate; or simply setting the record straight.
Share knowledge and help develop educational materials and programs that encourage critical thinking in both proactive and reactive online activity.
Encourage other interested parties to help raise awareness of the problem of cyberhate and the urgent need to address it.
Welcome new thinking and new initiatives to promote a civil online environment.

ADL has long played a leading role in raising awareness about hate on the Internet and working with major industry providers to address the challenge it poses. In May 2012, the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA), an organization comprised of parliamentarians from around the world working to combat resurgent anti-Semitism, asked ADL to convene the Working Group on Cyberhate, including representatives of the Internet industry, civil society, the legal community and academia, with a mandate to develop recommendations for the most effective response to manifestations of hate and bigotry online.

In the coming weeks, ADL and industry leaders will be urging others in the Internet community to join in this effort. A number expressed support for the initiative on its launch today. “Facebook supports ADL’s efforts to address and counter cyberhate, and the best practices outlined today provide valuable ways for all members of the Internet community to engage on this issue,” said Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook. “We are committed to creating a safe and respectful platform for everyone who uses Facebook.” “Every day, millions of people post content on YouTube, Blogger, and Google+. In order to maintain a safe and vibrant community across our platforms, we offer tools to report hateful content, and act quickly to remove content that violates our policies,” Google said in a statement. “We support the ADL’s continued efforts to combat hatred online.”

“Microsoft is committed to providing a safe and enjoyable online experience for our customers, and to enforcing policies against abuse and harassment on our online services, while continuing to keep freedom of speech and free access to information as top priorities,” said Dan Bross, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft. “The Best Practices document is a tool that can foster discussion within the community and advance efforts to combat harassment and threats online.” “Twitter supports the ADL’s work to increase tolerance and raise awareness around the difficult issue of online hate, the company said in a statement. “We encourage the internet community to seek diverse perspectives and keep these best practices in mind when dealing with difficult situations online.” "Yahoo is committed to confronting online hate, educating our users about the dangers and realities, and encouraging our users to flag any hostile language they may see on our platform," Yahoo said in a statement. "As a member of ADL's Working Group on Cyberhate, we support ADL's efforts to promote responsible and respectful behavior online."

More information on the Best Practices is available on the League’s web site at www.adl.org/cyberhatebestpractices.
© Anti-Defamation League

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Op-Ed: How European Agencies Suppress Key Anti-Semitism Data

Interview with Professor Amy Elman: The EU Agency repeatedly asked the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism to alter their ‘divisive’ findings connecting Muslims with the phenomenon.

23/9/2014- “From the year 2000 on, anti-Semitic incidents in many European Union member states increased substantially. They were fired up by the second Palestinian intifada, the anti-Israel incitement at the 2001 Durban world anti-racism conference and 9/11. Admission by official European bodies of this ‘new’ anti-Semitism's impact, and exposure of the originators was slow and often distorted. “The European Monitoring Center for Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) was officially established through a European Council Regulation in 1997. Its creation coincided with the 1997 Year against Racism, an outgrowth of the 1994/5 Commission on Racism and Xenophobia (the Kahn Commission). In 2002, the EUMC embarked on a study on anti-Semitism. Its handling of the findings led to an international scandal.”

R. Amy Elman is the Weber Professor in Social Science at Kalamazoo College, Michigan. Her upcoming book The European Union, Anti-Semitism and the Politics of Denial explores the EU’s efforts against anti-Semitism and their consequences. [1] “The EUMC requested its National Focal Points (i.e., contacts) throughout the then-15 EU member states to monitor and report on anti-Semitic violence and viewpoints from 15 May until 15 June 2002. It also asked for examples of the best practices implemented by states to prevent and reduce anti-Semitism. After collecting this information, the EUMC employed the ZfA, the Centre for Research on Anti-Semitism (CRA) at the Technical University in Berlin to analyze and summarize the findings.

“The CRA completed its document in October 2003. It found that violent attacks against Jews often rose from virulent anti-Zionism across the political spectrum. Moreover, it specifically identified young Muslims of Arab descent as the main perpetrators of physical attacks against Jews and the desecration and destruction of synagogues. Many were victims of racism and social exclusion themselves. “The EUMC did not publish the study and insisted that the one month period covered in the CRA investigation was too short. It also claimed the report was never intended for publication. The CRA researchers commented that their focus on Muslim perpetrators of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionist attacks unsettled the EUMC. They stated that this EU Agency had repeatedly asked them to alter their ‘divisive’ findings. After the researchers refused this revisionism, the EUMC shelved their report in November 2003.

“The CRA’s exposure of the EUMC’s suppression of the report led to a scandal which, according to the Centre’s Director, presented the EU Agency with its ‘strongest challenge.’ The CRA also suffered as the EUMC had characterized its research – of which the EUMC itself had established the parameters – as ‘methodologically unsound.’ “In November 2003, a Financial Times article about the CRA report’s suppression by the EUMC led to public outcry. Several European parliamentarians called for the document’s immediate release. In December, the World Jewish Congress published the CRA draft report on the Internet, exposing the EUMC’s manipulation.

“In April 2004, the EUMC released a final, lengthier study. This document reiterated and expounded upon the main points of the CRA report so often that it became difficult to pinpoint all the differences. Nonetheless, the most evident and important distinction was that the EUMC’s final report made few, if any, general statements about the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts. “That reluctance became especially pronounced when the perpetrators of anti-Semitism were not from the extreme right. For example, the CRA draft report contained an account from Sweden of a public gathering of 100 people in Stockholm to oppose anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim prejudice. According to the draft, the gathering was dis­rupted by between 100–150 demonstrators shouting, ‘Kill the Jews!’ and ‘We’ll blow you up!’ The CRA report stated that many of the most belligerent counter-demonstrators were extreme leftist youth. The final EUMC report deleted this observation.

“By expunging evidence of the extreme left’s role in fomenting anti-Semitism, the EUMC final report could imply that opposition to the far right alone is a sufficient response to anti-Semitism. The CRA suggested this is untrue, because some of the greatest threats to Jews come from the left and involve its deepening alliances with radical Islamists and other extreme anti-Semites throughout the political spectrum. “Nowadays, the EUMC’s successor, the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) also seems reluctant to identify anti-Semitism and classify its perpetrators. In 2013, the FRA disavowed its predecessor’s working definition of anti-Semitism months before releasing its own report on anti-Semitism. Furthermore in a fact sheet summary of the methodology and key findings of the 2013 report (‘Jewish people's experience of discrimination and hate crime in European Union Member States’) data pertaining to the perceived perpetrators is conspicuously absent.

“The report also offers no differentiation by country on these perpetrators as it does for other data such as those on victims, their concerns, and experiences. In withholding these data, the FRA obstructs information on anti-Semitism’s perpetrator categories that might help mitigate anti-Semitism. This behavior is consistent with its repeated reference to ‘Jewish people’s perceptions and experiences’ of anti-Semitism, and not anti-Semitism as a fact.”

Sources:
[1] University of Nebraska Press, 2015
© Arutz Sheva

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Netherlands: KPN revises 'women first' policy to focus on ethnic minorities

26/9/2014- Telecoms company KPN has dropped its policy of giving women priority in top jobs and is to focus more on staff from a minority background, jobs market magazine Intermediair says on Friday. The company adopted the policy in 2009 under its then chairman Ad Scheepbouwer. Managers who did not put women forward for jobs had their bonuses cut. However, KPN director Jasper Rynders told Intermediair the policy to ‘focus on women’ has appeared to disadvantage highly educated men with an ethnic minority background. ‘Given the speedy way Dutch society is changing, particularly in the big cities where KPN is active, this is an undesirable side effect,’ Rynders is quoted as saying. ‘We have been forced to chose from a limited group of women and all companies were fishing in the same pond,’ Rynders said. The company had expected women would bring other values, qualities and insights to the company, he said. However, ‘In terms of their behaviour and capacity, some of these women were very like the men who were already in the jobs, including their shortcomings.’ Intermediair says KPN has the most women in top jobs of the eight large telecoms firms operating in the Netherlands but there are currently no women on the management board since the resignation of chief finance officer Carla Smits-Nusteling.

Target
There are just 13 women on the executive boards of the biggest Dutch listed companies, according to the latest edition of the Female Board Index, the Volkskrant said earlier this month. The Netherlands is due to introduce a ‘legal target’ to ensure 30% of their management and supervisory boards are female by 2016. If firms don’t reach this, they will have to explain why and how they plan to improve the situation in their annual reports. Intermediair said 28% of KPN’s supervisory board is female.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Asylum requests nearly double in first half of 2014

26/9/2014- The number of people requesting asylum in the Netherlands in the first six months of the year is almost twice the 2013 figure, junior justice minister Fred Teeven said on Friday. In total, 6,220 people requested asylum in the first half of 2013, but the figure swelled to 12,280 in the same period this year. Teeven says the increase is due to a surge in requests from Eritreans in April and May, plus an increase in the number of refugees from Syria, who now account for almost half the total. Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan used to dominate the number of requests for refugee status Extra accommodation has been set up in Zwolle and Hoogeveen to cope with the increase.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Immigration service will examine Afghan intepreter's case after all

26/9/2014- The immigration authority will look into the case of an Afghan man who acted as an intepreter for the Dutch army but is threatened with deportation after all, junior justice minister Fred Teeven said on Friday. Abdhul Ghafoor Ahmadzai faces deportation to Norway where he first applied for asylum. Norway was planning to send him back to Afghanistan, where Ahmadzai said he feared for his life. Teeven, who said earlier that working for the army was not sufficient grounds to be given a residency permit, told MPs he has been in touch with his Norwegian counterpart over the case. He did not go into details with parliament about the change of heart or why the immigration service is now prepared to look at the case. Earlier this week, Labour MPs blocked a parliamentary debate on Ahmadzai's position, only to have its own change of heart a day later. Teeven's decision to instruct the IND to examine the asylum claim makes that debate now redundant, the NRC says.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Ruling parties thwart calls to debate Afghan interpreter deportation

24/9/2014- MPs from the ruling VVD and Labour parties have thwarted attempts to hold a parliamentary debate on the fate of an Afghan interpreter for the Dutch army who faces deportation, the NRC said on Wednesday. The man lost his appeal for asylum and is to be sent back to Norway, which in turn plans to send him back to his country of origin. Opposition parties wanted to discuss junior justice minister Fred Teeven’s refusal to give Abdhul Ghafoor Ahmadzai refugee status even though he had worked for the Dutch army in Uruzgan. Opposition MPs and military unions say the Netherlands has a special responsibility for people who worked for the country during military missions.

Not enough
‘The simple fact that someone … worked for a Dutch mission is not sufficient’ to grant asylum, Teeven said in a briefing to MPs. Around 120 locals worked for the Dutch as interpreters in Uruzgan between 2006 and 2010. The minister also said it is ‘unfortunate’ Ahmadzai had appeared in a BBC documentary, which contravenes Dutch defence ministry policy on protecting the identity of its local employees. The Dutch immigration service has refused to consider his request because of the prior claim in another EU country.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Children's ombudsman welcomes asylum rethink, still wants answers

25/9/2014- Children’s ombudsman Marc Dullaert has welcomed the decision by junior justice minister Fred Teeven to give asylum to up to 75 families threatened with deportation because they did not qualify for the amnesty for child refugees. However, Dullaert says he still has a number of questions about the criteria used by the minister in assessing cases and that some children are still threated with deportation even though they have strong roots in the Netherlands. ‘It is unclear where the boundary lies,’ Dullaert said. ‘Why is one case considered to be worth of inclusion and others not?’ In May, Dullaert put the files of 54 children threatened with deportation online.

List
The list includes children who were born in the Netherlands, who have been through the Dutch school system and who have never been in their country of origin. Some have been in the Netherlands for over 10 years. Junior justice minister Fred Teeven has already said he will not change the terms of the amnesty but will use his right of discretion to look at some cases again. Opposition party leaders have also criticised the strict way the amnesty is being applied and over 300 mayors have signed a petition calling for change.

Applications
A total of 675 children and 775 of their family members were given Dutch residency permits under the government’s amnesty for young refugees, according to immigration service figures. Some 3,260 children had applied. To qualify for the amnesty, children should have lived in the Netherlands for at least five years and been under national government supervision. They must also be under the age of 21 and have lied about their identity to officials no more than once. The cases highlighted on the ombudsman’s website included An, Yue and Manchu (7, 5 and 2 years old) who were all born in the Netherlands but face deportation because their father was not under government supervision all the time. Their mother and the children were.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: No decision on Wilders race-baiting case

23/9/2014- It is not yet clear when the Public Prosecutor in The Hague will make a decision on the prosecution of PVV leader Geert Wilders. The Public Prosecutor has thousands of declarations against Wilders over the statements he made at an election meeting on March 20th. He asked his supporters in the Hague if they want more or less Moroccans in the city, to which they shouted a reply of “less, less, less”. The PVV leader responded “Then we will arrange that.” Justice is still investigating whether there are grounds to bring Wilders before the criminal court for inciting hatred and discrimination, Daglblad De Limburger reports.
© The NL Times

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Netherlands: Judge removed from jihad recruiter case for showing bias

22/9/2014- The investigating judge in a major criminal probe into the recruitment of jihadists has been removed from the case because of her potential bias. A special panel agreed with the lawyer of one of the defendants that the judge may be biased after remanding chief suspect Azzedine C in jail. ‘I have read in the case file the ideology which you adhere to and that is an ideology which leads to criminal acts and which we all abhore,’ the judge is quoted as saying while questioning C.

Neutral
Seebregts said the statement showed how difficult it is for judges to remain neutral as soon as they hear the word jihad or terrorism. ‘We live by the rule of law,’ Seebregts said. ‘These suspects too deserve a fair trial.’ C, who is 32 and also known as Abou Moussa was arrested in southern Germany at the end of August and extradited to the Netherlands. He faces charges of recruiting people to fight in Syria and Iraq. He and another 24-year-old man are also being held on suspicion of preparing terrorist attacks. ‘These are big fish and played an important role in radicalisation and recruitment,’ Rotterdam mayor Jozias van Aartsen told reporters after their arrest.
© The Dutch News

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Lithuania: Anti-gay propaganda law applied once again to ban social video

Experts who assessed the advertisement of the campaign “Change it“, created by the national LGBT* rights organization LGL, decided that the video has a negative influence on minors. DELFI writes that on Monday, September 15, experts of The Office of the Inspector of Journalists’ Ethics made a decision about the ad which was refused by Lithuanian TV stations. “Experts agreed that information shown in the video has a negative influence on minors based on the criterion stated in the law: it propagates a different form of a family”, – Deividas Velkas, the adviser of the Council told DELFI. It means that the ad can only be broadcasted after 11 PM and with a special sign “S” (“adults only”). The decision was made unanimously. Experts noted that when speaking about a family two flags were shown, and symbols of same-sex couples were presented on one of it. According to them, it clearly propagates a same-sex family model which is not legitimate in Lithuanian legal acts.

On Wednesday, September 24, the Inspector of Journalists’ Ethics signed a response to LGL’s request, confirming the experts’ conclusion that the video “has a detrimental effect on minors’ emotional, spiritual, mental development and health and proper formation of fundamental life values”. LGL states that the video is an invitation to eye-to-eye confrontation with stereotypes, it also disclaims shortsighted presumptions, introduces questions which are widely arising among heterosexual people. LGL plans to submit a complaint to the European Commission under EU directive infringement process. The Commission has the power to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations under Community law, under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
© The National LGBT Rights Organisation Lithuania

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Cyprus: Saved migrants demand to be sent to Italy

Hundreds of mostly Syrian refugees rescued by a cruise liner were refusing on Friday to disembark at Cyprus's main port, demanding instead to be taken to Italy, the cruise company said.

26/9/2014- A total of 345 migrants, mainly women and children, had been plucked from a boat in trouble off the coast of Cyprus on Thursday by a Salamis Cruise Lines ship, according to the company and Cypriot authorities. Some 700 paying passengers disembarked from the 157-metre (515-foot) liner at the port of Limassol, police said, but only 65 of those rescued at sea left the ship. The others refused to budge, the shipping company said. "We were supposed to sail at 10:30 tonight (1930 GMT on Thursday), unfortunately these people want to negotiate," Kikis Vassiliou, managing director of Salamis Cruise Lines, told reporters. "They want us to send them to Italy." "We did our utmost to save their lives, to give them food, support and now they want to destroy this company," he added, speaking of several hundred thousands of euros (dollars) in losses. "There is no responsible person to negotiate and to explain the situation," he said. At 4:00 am (0100 GMT) on Friday, negotiations were continuing, with doctors, nurses, civil defence and Red Cross workers on hand. The 65 refugees who willingly left the ship were bussed to the Kokkinotrimithia camp not far from Nicosia. Meanwhile 300 Russian passengers, who had been due to continue their cruise to Haifa, Israel, had their journey cancelled and were put up in Limassol.
© The Local - Italy

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Italy: Migrant boat deaths amount to 'war': Boldrini

The number of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean amounts to “a war”, the president of Italy’s lower house of parliament, Laura Boldrini, said on Friday as this year’s death toll topped 2,500.

26/9/2014- Speaking in Rome, Boldrini said the number of deaths this year were comparable to modern-day conflicts. “There is a war underway in the Mediterranean,” she told journalists at the Foreign Press Association. “We are talking about a war, because during the last Gaza conflict around 2,000 people died.” More than 2,500 people have drowned or been lost at sea trying to reach Europe, according to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR). Migrants are forced by traffickers into overcrowded fishing boats which are often unfit for purpose. In some cases the vessels are deliberately sunk by people smugglers, as happened last week when around 500 people drowned off the coast of Libya. Boldrini, who worked for the UNHCR for 15 years, said Europe needed to offer migrants an alternative to taking the perilous sea journey. “If someone needs protection, they should be able to receive it from Europe without risking their life. Give people the option of claiming asylum in transit countries,” she said.

Increased cooperation with countries through which migrants travel, such as Libya, is a view recently aired by Cecilia Malmström, the EU’s home affairs commissioner. But Boldrini said providing “an alternative to death at sea” lacked the necessary political will in Europe. “So we are limited to ‘Mare Nostrum’ [‘Our Sea’], which is good but it’s not the solution,” she said, of the Italian government’s operation to save migrants. Mare Nostrum was launched last October following two shipwrecks off the coast of Italy, which left around 400 people dead, and this year alone has helped 135,000 migrants ashore. The operation was described by Boldrini as “a medicine” to an ongoing “illness”, stemming from unstable and war-torn states such as Eritrea and Syria. “We used to speak of ‘mixed flows’ of economic migrants and asylum-seekers [to Europe]. Now for the most part it’s people who don’t have a choice,” she said.

Malmström in August announced a new EU initiative to replace Mare Nostrum, after the Italian government for months pleading for greater support. “Frontex Plus”, named after the EU’s border control agency, is due to be launched by the end of November and bring together European and Italian sea missions. But Boldrini on Friday warned that, as it stands, Frontex is a monitoring agency that doesn’t have sea rescue in its mandate. “I am very pleased that there is a sense of responsibility among countries that support Frontex and invest in it,” she said. “[But] if Frontex is the European response to deaths at sea, its mandate must include rescue.”
© The Local - Italy

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Italians offered €30 a day to host a migrant

Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino has given his backing to a plan to pay Italian families €30 a day to host migrants, as the country’s immigration centres struggle to cope with the influx of arrivals.

25/9/2014- Plans would see the sum currently spent by the government to host a migrant - around €30 a day - passed directly to a family willing to have a person living with them. The proposal aims to ease the pressure on Italy’s immigrant centres, which are now full following the arrival of an estimated 130,000 migrants so far this year, Tgcom24 reported on Thursday. The idea was put forward by Domenico Manzione, undersecretary at the Interior Ministry, and has won the backing of Marino in Rome. “Together with Manzione, we have thought of a proposal that in addition to the custody of children could also see adults entrusted to families. “[The plan could] create a situation of greater availability of reception and social integration,” the mayor said.

But the idea has been criticized by the anti-immigration Northern League (Lega Nord) party and described as an “insult to Italians” by the group’s Senate leader Gian Marco Centinaio. “It really is a mockery, I’d adopt an Italian in difficulty. I think of the unemployed, those forced into early retirement or pensioners living on the minimum, all invisible to the government of immigrants,” Centinaio was quoted as saying. Italy is the first arrival point for tens of thousands of migrants to Europe, with growing numbers of Syrians arriving after fleeing civil war. The majority of migrants intend to travel onward to other European countries, but under EU law are barred from doing so. The Italian government has for months pleaded with European institutions to offer more support in managing the migrant crisis, leading to a new EU initiative being announced last month.
© The Local - Italy

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Greece: Jailed GD MP shown teaching kids how to give the Nazi salute (video)

22/9/2014- With weeks to go before Golden Dawn much-anticipated trial starts, fresh evidence has emerged exposing the party’s Nazi roots. Footage released by Kathimerini on Sunday shows GD number two Christos Pappas instructing young children how to chant “Heil Hitler” and give the Nazi salute. Pappas, in jail awaiting trial on charges of setting up and running a criminal organization, can be heard urging a young boy holding a Nazi flag and wearing a swastika armband to yell “Heil Hitler.” The boy is praised each time he performs the routine. In another scene, an older girl shows the boy how to give the salute. The video, one of four allegedly shot on Pappas’s cell phone, is included in the case file against Golden Dawn. GD members deny they are neo-Nazis, instead saying they are “Greek nationalists.” An opinion poll published over the weekend put GD at 6.7 percent, behind SYRIZA and New Democracy.

© Kathimerini

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France: Far-right councillor faces suspension over slur on black minister

A regional councillor belonging to France’s far-right National Front (FN) faces suspension from the party for comparing the country’s black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey on Twitter.

26/9/2014- Olivier Burlats, who sits on the council for the Haute-Savoie region of eastern France, posted a picture on his Twitter feed showing a monkey riding a bike in response to a tweet by Taubira, who is a keen cyclist. The anti-immigration and anti-Europe FN, which is keen to shake off its historic image as a party of racist bigots, told Europe 1 radio on Friday that Burlats had been “suspended from the party pending a disciplinary hearing”. It is not the first time Taubira, who supported gay marriage legislation which was vigorously opposed by the French far-right, has been subjected to racist abuse. In October 2013 she was subjected to at least three overtly racist slurs in as many weeks, beginning with a 12-year-old at an anti-gay marriage demonstration approaching the minister to offer her a banana.

Later in October Anne-Sophie Leclère, an FN candidate for the 2014 local elections, said she would prefer to see Taubira "in a tree swinging from the branches rather than in government”. Leclère was jailed for nine months in July and banned from politics for five years. And in early November 2013 she was once again compared to a monkey when far-right magazine Minute running ran the headline: “Crafty as a monkey, Taubira gets her banana back.” (The French phrase “to get your banana back” also means putting a smile back on your face). Minute is currently being prosecuted for the slur. On Wednesday, French prosecutors said they wanted its editor to be fined 10,000 euros and handed a 3-month suspended sentence for slandering the minister.
© France 24.

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French Muslims to protest extremist killings

Outraged by the beheading of a French hostage, French Muslims will gather at Paris's Grand Mosque on Friday in protest of the violence carried out by extremists in the name of religion.

26/9/2014- Muslim groups plan to hold a demonstration outside Paris's main mosque Friday to denounce the "barbarism" of Islamic State militants, as flags fly at half mast after the beheading of a French national. The demonstration comes as France is engaged in air strikes in Iraq. The government also promised more support for Syrian opposition forces, as the country mourns the murder of hostage Herve Gourdel by jihadists. President Francois Hollande pledged "determination, composure and vigilance" in the face of threats issued by IS militants sowing terror in Iraq and Syria. He announced flags nationwide would be flown at half-mast for three days from Friday to mourn the mountaineer murdered in Algeria. The abduction of Gourdel on Sunday in the restive east of Algeria and his subsequent execution at the hands of IS-linked Algerian group Jund al-Khilifa, or "Soldiers of the Caliphate," sparked global outrage and an outpouring of grief in France.

In an unusual move, the head of the French Muslim Council (CFCM) Dalil Boubakeur called on Muslims to gather outside the Paris Mosque on Friday afternoon to denounce "the horrific and bloody barbarism of the (IS) terrorists". Earlier this week, the IS group issued a chilling threat to all members of the Iraqi campaign, urging militants to "kill a disbelieving American or European -- especially the spiteful and filthy French". In response, the French presidency announced Thursday that security in public places and on transport would be strengthened. The foreign ministry widened its vigilance alert for nationals abroad from around 30 countries earlier this week to some 40 nations -- including Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Leading French Muslim figures signed a message run in Friday's Figaro daily proclaiming solidarity with the victims of IS and proclaiming "We are also 'filthy French'".

There were also calls on social media for displays of solidarity in several other French cities, including Nantes and Lyon. Kamel Kabtane, head of the Lyon mosque said he plans a large interfaith gathering on October 1st "to oppose violence wherever it emanates from". In the small, southern Alpine village of Saint-Martin-Vesubie where the 55-year-old Gourdel worked as a mountain guide, distraught locals and friends took part in a silent march late Thursday. They spoke of him with fondness, some with tears in their eyes.

France boosts security
Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Hollande urged "national unity" during the crisis, according to government spokesman Stephane Le Foll, who also announced France had carried out air strikes in restive Iraq on Thursday morning -- the second bombing raids in the space of a week. Fighter planes destroyed four hangars near Fallujah city, west of Baghdad, that "likely" contained weapons and other equipment, a military source added. Paris opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq but was one of the first to sign up for an active role in the US-led campaign against the IS group. It has six Rafale fighter jets and just under 1,000 soldiers based in the United Arab Emirates. On Friday, France carried out its first air strike on IS targets in Iraq, destroying a logistics depot. While it has pledged to push forward with air strikes in Iraq, Paris has stressed it will not deploy ground troops, nor will it expand operations to Syria, as the United States has done. US, Saudi and Emirati warplanes bombed oil installations in eastern Syria overnight in a bid to cut off a significant source of funding for the IS group. But the presidency announced France would "continue and intensify its support for Syrian opposition forces who are fighting jihadist groups".

'Unspeakable pain'
Back in Gourdel's home town of Nice, residents came to grips with the violent end of one of their citizens. The mayor of the French Riviera resort, Christian Estrosi, visibly moved, told reporters that the country had been plunged into "national mourning", after he met Gourdel's relatives late Wednesday. "It's a terrible shock" for the parents, he said, adding that the family had reacted to Gourdel's death "with dignity, anger and an unspeakable pain". In a statement, his relatives asked that gatherings planned across France in memory of the mountaineer be held "with dignity and restraint." The mountaineer was kidnapped while hiking in a national park in eastern Algeria that was once a magnet for tourists but later became a sanctuary for Islamists. A passionate photographer, Gourdel liked going off the beaten track, though he was always careful, his friends said.
© The Local - France

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France's Muslims decry beheading of tourist

The outrage from the Muslim community and the rest of France has been potent since Islamic militants beheaded a French tourist in Algeria. The Local hit the streets of Paris to get of the sense the mood of a public still in shock.

25/9/2014- A day after Islamic militants linked to Isis beheaded a French hostage over France’s air strikes in Iraq, the country's outrage was continuing to build as was its resolve to confront the heavily-armed extremists. Members of France's Muslim community have been some of the most vociferous in condemning the beheading of the hostage Hervé Gourdel as well as calling for united efforts to stop the Isis militants, who have seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria. “They aren’t Muslims, the people who did this. They don’t even know how to pray,” Madiaba Draora, 33, a Muslim labourer, told The Local on Thursday. “These people are dangerous to everyone, no one is safe.” His feelings have been echoed by Muslim leaders across the country. “I’m furious, I’m angry at these criminals, these murderers from a group called Daesh, Islamic State, but which has nothing to do with Islam, nor any religion,” Abdallah Zekri, a leader of French Muslim group Conseil Français du Culte Musulman, told Europe 1 radio.

A collective of prominent Muslims wrote an open letter in French daily Le Figaro on Thursday declaring their love of France and their repulsion at the killing. "We, Muslims of France, can only express repulsion and denounce with all our energy the abominable crimes perpetuated in the name of our religion, of which the founding principles are peace, mercy and respect for life," their letter said. Muslim leaders have called on their community to protest against Gourdel’s beheading at Paris’s Grand Mosque on Friday.

Divided opinion
Outside of the Muslim community, on the streets of Paris opinions were divided over France’s participation in the international coalition targeting the Islamic militants, despite the anger over the beheading of Gourdel. Marilyne Werner, who works for a tourist boat company, said she’s horrified by the beheading and all the killings carried out by the militants. But she wonders if bombing will fix anything. “It’s an escalation, it pushes things to the next level,” she said. “And then when they start dropping bombs the militants disappear. But the civilians can’t get away and maybe one of those bombs lands on them.” “So is that the right thing to do?” she asked. Jean-Charles Guichardot, 27, told The Local: “I’m really not convinced this is going to work or that it is going to change anything. Is bombing the best way to do this?" he said. Still the killing had left Guichardot’s family rattled. His father has cancelled a motorcycle trip to Morocco after the attack, deeming the planned cruise around the country’s back roads near the Algerian border too risky. “I’m afraid to think it and I don’t want to be afraid,” he said. “I find it sad. I don’t think being afraid is a solution to anything.” This kind of fear and the negative impact it will have on the tourism industry in North Africa could only encourage more violence, said Leo Matthieu, a 20-year-old student. On Thursday France announced that it was boosting security in public places and on public transport in response to the increased threat to its nationals.

Back the bombings
Despite the increased anxiety among the government there was still plenty of support for the air strikes on the streets of Paris. “I read on Facebook that the killing was a result of France’s foreign policy and I think that’s wrong,” said Meredith a 24-year-old law student who declined to give her full name. She believes France must resist forces that want to undermine its values and the country needs to take a leadership role on the world stage. “Is the life of one Frenchman more valuable than a whole community? No, I don’t think so,” she said. “France is an important country and it must defend the ideals of the republic.” She was not alone in believing France needs to intervene in order to stop a threat to its ideas and innocent civilians. “It’s barbarism, this killing. We can’t let this go on for another minute,” said an 81-year-old retired cook who refused to give his name. “I’m behind François Hollande. We must act.” The man added: “He (Gourdel) was absolutely innocent and unaware. He didn’t deserve this.”
© The Local - France

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France: Nicolas Sarkozy: Same-sex marriage is ‘humiliating families’

Announcing his return to politics, former President of France Nicolas Sarkozy has condemned François Hollande for introducing same-sex marriage to the country, calling it “humiliating” for families.

2/9/2014- According to The Guardian, Mr Sarkozy reintroduced himself to the French public in a prime-time news interview this week, where he made several statements criticising Hollande’s government. When asked about about the introduction of equal marriage last year, he said he “detested” the way it was “forced” into law. He added: “[The government is] humiliating families and humiliating people who love the family,” although conceded he would not attempt to repeal the legislation. In the 45-minute-interview, Mr Sarkozy said he blamed himself for losing the 2012 presidential elections. But now, he said, he “does not have a choice” but to return to politics. The 59-year-old politician, currently on his third wife, has affirmed his opposition to marriage equality before, saying he views the definition of a family as one mother and one father. In a rare speaking appearance last year, he called it “unwise” to push for same-sex marriage during an economic crisis, as it would risk causing a “divide in the country.”
© Pink News

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Sweden Democrat posts 'Hitler selfie' to Facebook

A Sweden Democrat local politician in central Sweden has come under fire for posting a picture of himself dressed as Hitler on his Facebook page.

26/9/2014- Ola Sjökvist received enough local election nominations to snag one of four Sweden Democrat seats in Avesta. But he's been criticized after a picture he posted on Facebook in 2010 caught the attention of the Avesta Tidning newspaper on Friday. It appears to show Sjökvist taking a photo of himself in a mirror while performing a "Heil" gesture with what appears to be a Hitler-style moustache on his upper lip. His hair is combed to the side and he is wearing a brown shirt. "It was nothing more than a fancy-dress party of a friend of mine," he explained, when confronted by the paper. "It was really just a bit of fun. We had to dress as someone well known - and if there's someone who's well-known it's him. Everyone recognizes him," he added. The costume marks the second time this month that someone with Sweden Democrat connections has landed in hot water due to Nazi-related accessories. A 20-year-old woman stepped down after she was snapped wearing a Nazi armband. In March last year, another Swede who dressed as a Nazi for a party was acquitted of hate crime charges.
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden Democrat politicians had 'violent pasts'

Several regionally elected Sweden Democrats were revealed on Thursday to have previous convictions for violent crimes.

25/9/2014- During Sweden's election on September 14th, dozens of Sweden Democrats were nominated by open ballot in the regional areas of Örebro and Västmanland, meaning voters were allowed to write any name on a ballot paper rather than select people from a list. For the party's 101 seats in the areas, 34 of the nominees were selected in this manner - and several of these have violent histories, Swedish broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT) has revealed. Three of them were convicted for assault, one for aggravated drink driving and drug crimes, while another was sentenced for blackmail and fraud. Furthermore, some had ties to white supremacy forums online, SVT reported. But Jonas Millard, the regional party chairman, said that the nominees were unlikely to end up being allowed to take up the positions. "When it comes to aggravated crimes, and especially when they occurred recently, you'll not pass the character test," he told the broadcaster. Nationally, the Sweden Democrats doubled their support in the September elections, becoming the third biggest party in the country with 12.9 percent of the votes.
© The Local - Sweden

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Loophole lets neo-Nazis onto Swedish councils

Two neo-Nazis who received only a handful of votes have won seats on Swedish councils thanks to a kink in the country’s election laws.

23/9/2014- Neo-Nazi parties failed to make a mark in this month's municipal elections, but far-right extremists from the Party of the Swedes and the Swedish Resistance Movement were able to exploit a quirk in the system to sneak into local governments in Ludvika and Surahammar, Expo magazine reports. In both cases, the neo-Nazis crept into the corridors of local power at the expense of the nationalist Sweden Democrats, whose unprecedented success left a gap for opportunists. In Ludvika, the Sweden Democrats won seven seats but only fielded five candidates on their open list for the municipal election. Their failure to close the list meant voters were free to suggest alternative candidates. Eighteen people wrote the name of Pär Öberg from the Swedish Resistance Movement. This was enough to get him elected, much to the annoyance of Sweden Democrat Benny Rosengren. “It was an open list and they’ve used subterfuge to get in. All I know about him is the little I’ve read. None of us know him,” Rosengren told news agency TT, adding: “He’ll be an independent; we don’t take in these kinds of idiots.” The Party of the Swedes slunk in through the back door in Surahammar, where Carolus Motander got enough written votes on a Sweden Democrat list to claim a seat. The Swedish Resistance Movement is also next in line for a seat in Borlänge should any Sweden Democrats step down, Expo reports. The Sweden Democrats in Ludvika said they would hold a meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss what had happened.
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden: Neo-Nazis double their gains compared to last election

21/9/2014- Parliamentary elections were held in Sweden recently and their outcome is evidently the end to the eight-year-long government by the center-right coalition led by Prime Mnister Fredrik Reinfeldt. Almost one-third of the votes were won by the opposition Swedish Social Democratic Party. Local media have reported the main surprise as being the significant strengthening of the ultra-right base of Swedish neo-Nazis. Compared to previous elections, ultra-right candidates more than doubled their gains.

Neo-Nazis in isolation
Even prior to the elections, the strengthening of the populist, radical, strongly anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats, a party whose roots are in the neo-Nazi movement, was the most discussed outcome (and not only in Sweden), The party won 12.9 % of the vote, becoming the third-strongest group in parliament; it has been doing its best recently to distance itself from its extremist past, but one of its female candidates in a local race was captured in recently published photographs wearing a swastika on her clothing. While in the elections four years ago the party won 5.7 % of the vote, it has now won 12.9 % and 49 seats. The Financial Times has reported that the party does not have much of a chance politically, because (as in most of Europe) none of the main political parties are willing to collaborate with the ultra-right.

The left is leading
Swedish PM Reinfeldt was primarily criticized by the left for his policy of lowering taxes, privatizing state-owned companies, and reducing welfare benefits, all deviations from Sweden's idea of a welfare state. Critics say the moves led, among other things, to a significant enlargement of the gulf between the poor and the rich and to deteriorating the quality of educational facilities, health care, and senior citizens' homes.

Feminist Initiative didn't change its chances
The Feminist Initiative in Sweden has also been drawing attention after it became the first-ever feminist party to sit in the European Parliament this May and sparked hope that it would exceed the 4 % threshold for entry into the Swedish legislature. Ultimately, however, the party did not get in.
© Romea.

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Defender refuses to play on as more racism hits Russian football

24/9/2014- Yet another incident of racist abuse has hit Russian football which shows little sign of cutting out discrimination despite plenty of pledges to the contrary. English defender Christopher Samba took the unusual step of asking not to go out for the second half of Monday's Moscow derby between Dynamo and Torpedo due to the abuse he was receiving. Dynamo won the game 3-1 and coach Stanislav Cherchesov initially tried to give the impression afterwards that Samba had been substituted because of a calf injury. But a Russian Football Union (RFU) representative said racist chants had been directed at the former Blackburn and Queens park rangers player, a version confirmed later by Dynamo "I can confirm Samba felt offended with Torpedo fans and didn't want to go on the pitch for the second half," Dynamo vice-president Gennady Soloviev said. "That's why he was replaced."
It is the second racist incident involving Samba in Russia after a fan threw a banana at him in March 2012 while he was playing for Anzhi Makhachkala. Samba picked up the banana and threw it back into the stands. The RFU's disciplinary committee will hold a hearing on the latest case on Thursday. Russian president Vladimir Putin said at a handover ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, before the World Cup final in July, that he hoped the tournament, which Russia stages in 2018, would help the fight against racism. But a string of incidents keep occurring domestically and in European games.
© Inside World Football

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N-Ireland’s new Health Minister blocks PinkNews, gay rights advocates on Twitter

Northern Ireland’s new Health Minister has inexplicably blocked PinkNews and several critics on Twitter, just hours into the role.

24/9/2014- DUP politician Jim Wells was appointed to the post yesterday in a reshuffle to replace Edwin Poots, who was branded a “disgrace” after he refused to lift the country’s blanket ban on gay men donating blood. However, Mr Wells – who has previously claimed that he finds Pride “repugnant” and refused to take part in gay rights debates – has taken to blocking users who criticise him on the social networking website. He has blocked the official Twitter account of PinkNews from following him – and is yet to provide a reason for doing so. A hashtag #BlockedByWells has sprung up among users targeted by the Minister, and skeptics groups, women’s rights activists and gay rights advocates are all among those who have been blocked.
© Pink News

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Northern Ireland's legal system's racism blind spot

For many people of ethnic minority backgrounds in Northern Ireland, this has been a long, uncomfortable summer.

23/9/2014- There has been a massive rise in racist attacks this summer - so much so that there have been more racial offences recorded by the police in the last five months than in the whole of the previous year. Much of the rise seems to be driven by an increased number of attacks in Belfast. BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme has investigated and asked whether the many victims of the growing number of racist attacks are being let down by the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. "No matter how you look at these figures, they are deeply worrying," Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr told the programme. "There is a deep sense of intolerance throughout the city that has to be addressed."

'Easier to secure'
One way to address the issue is for the perpetrators of racist attacks to be convicted, and to receive longer sentences because of the racial element to the crime. However, there seems to be a problem with the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland when it comes to racist attacks. Joleena Flett of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities said: "We have had cases where people will be the victim of the racist crime… if it goes to the courts, it will often be prosecuted as maybe an assault, but without a racial element, because that conviction is easier to secure." For victims of racist attacks, it is crucial that the criminal justice system sees an attack for what it is - motivated by racism.

So what is going on?
Partly, it comes down to legislation used in Northern Ireland to prosecute racist hate crimes.

Blind spot
In England and Wales, specific racially-aggravated offences were introduced in 1998. This means that a perpetrator can be prosecuted for a specific crime, such as racially-aggravated assault. In Northern Ireland, the basic offence, such as assault, is prosecuted, and then it is up to the judge to add on an enhanced sentence for the racial element if the crime can be proved to be racist. The trouble is, there are no figures available for when - or if - that happens, because the various agencies involved, including the Public Prosecution Service and the Courts Service, either have not properly collated them or have not published them. This means there is a massive rise in racial offences entering the criminal justice system, and a blind spot at the other end in terms of whether anybody is ever given a longer prison sentence in Northern Ireland for a racial crime. For many victims of racist attacks, this is simply not good enough.

The 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent report by Sir William McPherson into the police handling of the killing led to sweeping reforms of the criminal justice system in England and Wales. "That's precisely what should have been done here," says Dr Robbie McVeigh, who has written two major reports into race and the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. "It wasn't done. I would argue that we are still in pre-McPherson situation. We still haven't looked at McPherson and thought what we should do and change about criminal justice and race in Northern Ireland." The Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC, said the Public Prosecution Service was doing all it can to meticulously record crimes with a racial element and bring them to court. However, he pointed out that under the current system, "there is no easy opportunity to identify the race element in court". "It's the law - it's the way it is framed - and certainly the policy-makers and law-makers on these issues may want to revisit this," he added.
© BBC News

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UK: Muslim and Jewish bodies calls for peace

26/9/2014- The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) issued a joint statement on August 27 calling for common ground between the UK’s Muslims and Jews and action against both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The unprecedented declaration came after a ceasefire was agreed between Israel and the Palestinians after 50 days of fighting which saw over 2,000 Palestinians killed, most of them civilians, and 70 Israelis killed, most of whom were soldiers. The conflict was a source of huge tension between the two communities, with the two organisations campaigning on diametrically opposed platforms. The MCB condemned Israel’s actions, and supported protests including calls for boycotts and divestments. Meanwhile, the BoD has defended Israel’s actions, and opposed calls for boycotts.

The declaration between the two recognises the ‘deeply-held’ and differing views between Muslims and Jews as the ‘about the origins, current reasons and solutions to end the conflict.’ It is also significant as it acknowledges, perhaps for the first time, the right of each side to campaign for their respective pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli positions. The joint statement affirms: ‘Whilst everyone has the right to voice their political opinion, be that in a rally or on social media, we must be mindful of how we convey our protest.’ During the 50-day conflict, the tensions from the Middle East threatened to spill over into the UK with both expressions of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. While a synagogue had daubed on its doors the normally laudable slogan of ‘Free Gaza’, many commentators in the mainstream media exploited the conflict to express openly Islamophobic views.

The statement has been broadly welcomed in the Muslim community, though some may be wary given that the BoD and related bodies has historically campaigned to limit the right to campaign against the policies of Israel. There is justifiable some concern that legitimate protests and calls for boycotts of Israeli products will be branded as anti-Semitic. Indeed, in 2009, it was the Gaza conflict that led to the BoD to openly call for the Government to disengage with the MCB and in 2010 it protested when the Government briefly re-established engagement with the MCB. It is unprecedented for a leading body of one faith community to deny political space for the leading body of another faith. The joint initiative has also been broadly welcomed in the Jewish community as well. In a statement, Liberal Judaism said that the move “is a bold and constructive step and should be welcomed by all those with an interest in strengthening community cohesion in the UK’.

Inter-faith bodies have also welcomed the move. The Three Faiths Forum which promotes inter-faith activities between Muslims, Jews and Christians said: “We consider this joint statement an excellent and constructive step in strengthening relations between Muslims and Jews in this country.” However, there have been angry and vocal denunciations of the joint initiative by hard-line both members of the Jewish community and Islamophobic commentators. It has been reported that two former presidents of the BoD have called on the current leadership of the Board to resign over this issue. The Jewish Chronicle newspaper has also led a vociferous campaign against the initiative, describing the Board as ‘naïve’.

Meanwhile, neoconservative commentator Douglas Murray of Henry Jackson Society, a lobby group, condemned the statement in the right-wing Spectator magazine as ‘the most terrific shot in the communal foot of Britain’s Jewish communities.’ The author Melanie Phillps joined him by writing in the Jerusalem Post stating that the common platform means “Jewish leaders are minimizing evidence of Muslim extremism.” Both Phillips and Murray have led the neoconservative charge against the MCB in the past, and in criticising the BoD, they also dismiss the scourge of Islamophobia, with Murray stating that ‘Islamophobia’ remains a ‘nonsense term’.

It remains to be seen whether such hard-line views will prevent Britain’s Jewish leadership from seeking deeper relations with British Muslims. It is equally unclear whether hardliners will prevent the UK Government from supporting this initiative of better community relations. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, praised the MCB-BoD statement as ‘unprecedented’. However, Home Secretary, Theresa May, according to a report in the Jewish Chronicle, appeared to criticise the decision by suggesting that the MCB was extremist. She said: “The Government is very careful about the organisations with which it will work. It’s not for me to comment on what the Board does.”
© The Muslim News

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The UK's far-right is using the Islamic State as a powerful propaganda tool, and it's working(opinion)

The atrocities of Isis have been used by far-right extremists to recruit new members
By Imran Awan


24/9/2014- When the Home Office admitted last week that the government had taken its eye of the ball by focusing too much on a “global jihadist agenda”, and ignoring the increasing threats posed by far-right extremists in the UK, it didn't surprise me. Earlier this year I published a report on the rise of far-right extremists following the death of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. Given the extent to which they had infiltrated the internet, and used it to widely promote their brand of anti-Muslim hatred, I recommended that the Government reassess their policies toward far-right extremists. This threat was acknowledged by Home Office's senior advisor, who said that “This is one of the most worrying periods in right-wing extremism, given the growth in right-wing groups and the recent news events which are making them more angry.” If left unchallenged, this vitriol has the potential to create a deeply divided society. But at the moment, recruitment for the far-right in on the rise, with the murder Westerners such as James Foley, Stephen Sotloff and David Haines being used as propaganda to fuel the drive.

As their numbers rise, it is likely that the number of hate crimes committed against Muslims in Britain will too. Indeed, Tell Mama, who monitor anti-Islamic hatred in the UK, received 219 reports of abusive incidents targeted at Muslims last month: almost double the number recorded in January. My research into Islamophobia after the murder of Lee Rigby found some problematic links between individuals associated with the far-right, and those who had made both provocative and threatening comments. For example, some of the comments figures linked to the far-right included: “Blow up every mosque” and “Horrible dirty Pakis! Kill them all!!! murdering scum don’t deserve to be in this country.” As Isis continue to use the web to recruit and radicalise, we are also witnessing how one form of extremism feeds off another with the rise of the far-right online. After what happened in Woolwich, people seemed to assume that such groups would continue to appear in the form of demonstrations. But marches and protests on the streets by groups like Britain First and the EDL pale in comparison to the hatred and ignorance that's being spewed online.

We have a lot of legislation where people can be prosecuted for online crimes, yet policing of the Internet needs to be better. Social media is clearly pushing the growth of many these groups, and while it might be easy for the authorities to combat physical threats, the online world of far-right extremism has been left to fester for far too long.
© The Independent

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UK pledges €15 million to prevent migrants and refugees in Calais from entering Britain

26/9/2014- The UK has committed 15 million euro to the strengthening of controls, surveillance and security at the port of Calais. A Joint Declaration from the French Ministry of Interior and UK Home Secretary agree that funding will be given to France for a period of three years to strengthen security and to prevent migrants from crossing into the UK. This will be done through the building of robust fences, permanent security installations, and operational cooperation between British and French law enforcement agencies at the border. According to the joint declaration, part of these funds will be used to ensure that vulnerable persons, such as victims of trafficking, receive appropriate support.

Through the declaration, both countries agree also to take action “to stem the flow of illegal migration into Europe” building upon the joint letter to the European Commission from the French, Polish and Spanish Interior Ministers and the British Home Secretary on the 9 September. The Joint Declaration refers to the “volume of illegal migrants arriving along the southern Mediterranean border of the European Union” as well as deterring illegal migrants from congregating in and around Calais. However, about half of those arriving by boat in Italy are Eritreans and Syrians, who have 76% and 91% recognition rates respectively European wide according to ECRE and EASO.
© The European Council on Refugees & Exiles (ECRE)

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UK: Top London School Accused of 'Islamophobia' after banning Girl

23/9/2014- Camden School for Girls, one of the most prestigious state schools in the capital, has come under fire for refusing a Muslim pupil to wear a Niqab - traditional Muslim dress - in the coeducational sixth form. Over 300 people have signed a petition in support of the unnamed student, headed "Stop the Islamophobia". The petition claims the girl has studied at the school for five years, sitting for GCSEs in the Niqab - a form of dress in which only the eyes are visible. The petition says: "What someone chooses to wear does not affect anyone else. What we feel most strongly about is that there has been no discussion, no real attempt to find a middle ground, especially with the strong voices of students on this. Why should a personal choice of deciding to wear religious dress affect their education?"

The school, whose alumni include Emma Thompson, Geri Halliwell and Tamsin Greig, responded: "We have an appearance policy and students at the school may wear what they wish subject to any requirement in the interests of teaching and learning, health and safety. Inappropriate dress which offends public decency or which does not allow teacher-student interactions will be challenged." Last year Mayor of London Boris Johnson said pupils should be banned from wearing any form of veils in the classroom, telling radio station LBC: "I think that the face veil is a very difficult thing to make work in a school. I think that you've got to teach in a way that you can see how the kids are responding. They've got to be able to participate in the class. I think that it's only fair that they should be able to react and take part in that way."

A number of countries have banned the burqa and other face-covering garments from educational establishments, and some - including France - have banned them from public life altogether. In Britain schools choose their own dress codes, but when he was a Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne said there should be a national debate about whether face-covering garments worn either by pupils or teachers are desirable.
© The International Business Times - UK

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UK: The far right is changing but its anti-Islam message remains

By Chris Allen, Lecturer in Social Policy at University of Birmingham Chris Allen is an independent member of the Coalition Government's Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group. He receives no remuneration for this.

22/9/2014- A UK government adviser has suggested that at least five new groups have emerged within the past month to stake a claim to the far-right in the UK. And according to that adviser, the catalyst for their growth has been the increasing presence of Islamic State in the Middle East and the fallout from the inquiry into child sex abuse in Rotherham. Over the past decade and a half, far-right organisation in the UK and Europe have sought to gain political influence by promoting various incarnations of an insidious anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim ideology. They have taken the kind of discourse once used against Jews and Judaism and applied it to Muslims and Islam. These groups have sought to justify this by claiming the need to halt what they perceive to be the Islamification of Europe.

In the UK, this ideological frontier was opened and subsequently exploited by the British National Party (BNP). In the post-9/11 and post-7/7 climate, the BNP made significant political gains by arguing that Islam is a destructive and alien doctrine. At its zenith and on the back of highly Islamophobic campaigns, the BNP held a seat in the London Assembly, two MEPs in the European Parliament and 56 local councillors across the UK. Its leader, Nick Griffin openly declared in 2008 that if the BNP wanted more success “[we] should be positioning ourselves to take advantage for our own political ends of the growing wave of public hostility to Islam.

As the BNP’s star began to wane, its Islamophobic ideology was soon adopted and furthered by the English Defence League (EDL). Instead of concentrating on the political mainstream though, the EDL chose to take its ideology to the streets – particularly streets that were home to large Muslim populations and more recently, where Muslims had been convicted of being involved in “grooming gangs”, such as in Rotherham. The EDL always claimed that it was not, and never had been, a far-right group something that many refuted.

But various events over the past year have damaged both the BNP and EDL, potentially sowing the seeds of their demise. The BNP lost of all its seats in the European Parliament at the May 2014 elections, having for some time struggled with dwindling numbers, party infighting and severe financial problems. Without the income from Europe it is difficult to see how the party will be able to continue, at least in its current form. As for the EDL, it was thrown into disarray in October 2013 when its  leaders Tommy Robinson and Kevon Carroll both resigned, prompting a mixed response from the EDL rank and file. Despite various affirmations that it would continue without Robinson, the movement has since shown a lack of coherence and organisation and its supporters have fallen dramatically in number.

It is perhaps therefore unsurprising that new groups are emerging. The far-right has always been schismatic and somewhat disparate so those once active in the BNP and EDL will be looking for new outlets for their insidious ideological leanings. This is evident in groups such as the English Volunteer Force and the North West Infidels, both of which splintered off from the EDL. Likewise Britain First, a group created by former BNP members who fell out with the party’s hierarchy. Adopting a more confrontational and militaristic approach, Britain First members routinely speak about providing “frontline resistance” to the alleged Islamification of Britain. This group is best known for its “mosque invasions”, during which members confront worshippers and imams. They argue that Britain is a Christian country, aggressively force copies of the British Army Bible on them and argue that Muhammad was a false prophet.

It’s not yet clear whether the actual number of people choosing to join groups such as these is on the rise or whether the far-right is merely in a state of flux. Similar numbers of activists could just be shifting their allegiances or setting up new groups in response to being disillusioned with what else is on offer. It is clear though that all these groups will be setting Islam and Muslims squarely in their sights. They will continue to capitalise on “the growing wave of public hostility to Islam” the BNP identified just over half a decade ago. They will zoom in on the atrocities being committed by IS and the belief that child abuse cases in Rotherham, Oxford, Derby and elsewhere have some kind of link to religion.

As research into Islamophobia has shown, public perceptions of Islam and Muslims are such that little differentiation is evident between Muslims in Birmingham or Bradford and Muslims in Baghdad or Islamabad. The view is that they are pretty much the same and have similar aspirations and capabilities. So even though more than 100 British Muslims have penned an open letter unequivocally condemning IS atrocities, wider society will continue to see them as merely the public face of the faith. So while we should expect new groups to emerge to replace the BNP and EDL, we should not be complacent about the potential for the number of people empathising with far-right groups to grow. If we do, some of these groups could find their way into the political mainstream, as some similar organisations have in Europe.

Nor should we be complacent about the danger presented by any growth in the expression and dissemination of Islamophobic ideologies. As distasteful as IS has shown itself to be and as horrifying the abuse case in Rotherham is, any group that seeks to exploit and capitalise on either has to be seen to be as equally unwanted and potentially dangerous.
© The Conversation

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UK: Police pay out £200k over race discrimination dispute

21/9/2014- SENIOR officers in Bedfordshire Police have been found to have discriminated against one of their own sergeants because of his race. An employment tribunal, held in East London earlier this year, found the actions of some senior officers prevented Harmit Bahra from rising through the ranks because he is of an Indian background. As a result, Mr Bahra, who worked for Beds Police for 31 years until he retired in July, has been awarded a pay-out of more than £200,000. Mr Bahra, 48, first encountered racial discrimination after taking his inspector’s exam and interview board in 2006. Although he passed the tests, and in fact came second in terms of ability, the tribunal heard that Mr Bahra was not promoted despite all seven of the other officers who had also passed that year being promoted to temporary inspector roles.

The tribunal also heard evidence of how senior figures in the police, including then acting inspector Rob McCaffray, had allowed officers to submit false claims for overtime while seeking to challenge legitimate claims made by Mr Bahra. It was said that the duty sheet system used to log the total number of hours worked by all officers below the rank of assistant chief constable were ‘regularly overlooked and abused’ and when Mr McCaffray, now superintendent, was challenged on this at the hearing, his evidence ‘unravelled’. Making his judgment, judge Jonathan Ferris said: “It was clear he was seeking to justify, on a routine basis, time spent by, for example patrol sergeants at rural police stations, to attend up to half an hour earlier before shifts began as planned overtime. This practice could not be justified.”

The tribunal then heard that Mr Bahra was consequently made subject to misconduct proceedings which lasted for three years, finally being heard in 2010. Altogether he initially faced 16 charges, 15 of these were later dropped and ultimately he was only fined 13 days’ pay in total. It was following this that Mr Bahra lodged a claim with the employment tribunal in 2012 after several other attempts he had made at filing allegations of discrimination internally failed to be investigated. Following a five week hearing in April, on July 31 the tribunal ruled that Mr Bahra was discriminated against on grounds of his race and awarded him £179,188.15 for loss of earnings due to the force overlooking him for promotion and £30,000 for injury to feelings. Father of two, Mr Bahra said: “I still question how these individuals are able to do what they are doing given the circumstances.

“The reason I challenged how I was being treated was because I joined the police to help individuals who had been treated badly and who had been wronged, the victims who have been wronged by the offenders. What I couldn’t do was allow myself to be wronged. I was a victim and I couldn’t let them get away with it.” Bedfordshire Police claims the force is taking legal advice on disciplinary matters for those involved. Chief Constable Colette Paul said: “I must first offer my sincerest apologies to Mr Bahra and his family, who have endured a difficult and stressful time throughout this process. The force defended this case, however we have made the decision not to appeal the judgement in the hope that drawing a line under this will enable everybody involved to move on, preventing

further stress to Mr Bahra and his family and further cost to the public purse, allowing the force to concentrate on our job of fighting crime and protecting the public. “The force has learnt a great deal from this historical case and we are working hard to ensure that all lessons are being fully captured and considered as part of our continuous improvement work which will include consultation with key partners including the Police Federation and the Black Police Association.”
© The Bedfordshire News

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UK: Far right hijacks image of Afghan heroine for anti-burqa campaign

Policewoman Malalai Kakar was killed by the Taliban, but now her picture is being used on social media to represent a 'terrorist'

20/9/2014- A pioneering Afghan policewoman who fought for women's rights and was gunned down by the Taliban for her work has been used as a symbol of Islamic extremism by far-right UK group Britain First and an Australian senator campaigning for a ban on burqas. Both have shared on Facebook a decade-old portrait of Lieutenant-Colonel Malalai Kakar wearing a powder blue burqa and brandishing a pistol, now overlaid with warnings in red. "Terror attack level: Severe. An attack is highly likely," one message reads. Below her arm is another slogan: "For security reasons it's now time to ban the burqa." The picture was taken in early 2005 as Kakar prepared to head out on a mission to free a kidnapped teenager, throwing a burqa over her Afghan national police uniform at the last minute. They brought the girl home safe a few hours later. "This is not what I wanted for this photograph," said photographer Lana Slezic, who was captivated by Kakar's strength and compassion. "To see an image of her and all she still represents used this way is such an insult to her and her family and all the women in Afghanistan. I don't even have the words to describe it."

A mother of six from southern Kandahar city, Kakar was the first female graduate of the regional police academy. She commanded a unit fighting crimes against women, in a conservative area where plenty of men thought they did not deserve any rights. Known both for bravery and efficiency, she was kind to the women who sought refuge in her office, sometimes still dripping blood, but ruthless to the criminals she tracked down: rapists and vicious husbands, killers and kidnap gangs, Taliban and thieves. "She was a force of a woman, she was incredible. In my two years in Afghanistan, she was the one who really gave me hope for the future," said Slezic, who returned to photograph Kakar so many times that the two women eventually became friends. The fearless daughter of a policemen, Kakar defied Taliban death threats and warnings to give up work, enlisting a brother to serve as a bodyguard. She saw the traditional covering she wore outside the office not as being a burden but as an extra layer of security. "I am not forced to wear the chaudari [burqa], my husband or the police force does not require it. I want to wear it because it gives me advantages," she told a documentary film-maker before her death. "I wear it to protect my family and myself."

But in 2008 two gunmen who had been trailing the police colonel ambushed her car with AK-47s as she left for work, killing her instantly and badly wounding one of her sons, who was travelling with her. "When I heard about her assassination, I collapsed," Slezic said. "It doesn't matter how many years pass, when I think about the way she was killed in front of her home, and in front of her child, it's still raw." The modified portrait of Kakar was first posted on Britain First's Facebook page in late August with the caption: "Do you agree that the burqa is a security risk?" Since then it has picked up over 31,000 "likes" and been shared more than 43,000 times. Paul Golding, the party's leader, said that his team found the image on the internet and shared it, without checking its origins. When he was told about Kakar's work and assassination, he said that it was "very upsetting", but he did not plan to take the picture down. "Not at all," he said. The image was pushed further into the spotlight last week when it was shared again on the Facebook page of Jacqui Lambie, a conservative Australian senator, who is calling for a nationwide ban on burqas. She did not respond to requests for comment.

Slezic has asked Britain First and Lambie to take down the image, because it violates her copyright. She already has legal advice, because copies of the picture have been doctored before to carry an anti-Islam message. Experts warn that it is a problem that is only likely to expand as the role of social media in attracting funds and supporters increases. "Social media is playing a key role in radicalising both Islamists and the far right," said Haras Rafiq, outreach officer at the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism thinktank, who said that the image of Kakar links "the burqa and Muslims and Islam with terror". "Decontextualisation and hijacking of images is becoming more and more common, and more and more effective. The general public don't question images … as much as they should do." Software to modify photographs is now cheap and easy to use, so there are few technical barriers to making a portrait of an assassinated policewoman a cipher for extremism, rather than a source of inspiration. "Her life was threatened many times, and she never gave up because she was empowered by the women around her, and she really felt what she was doing was important," Slezic said.
© The Guardian

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Hungary: Far-Right MEP Accused of Acting as Russian Spy

26/9/2014- The Hungarian government is requesting the right to lift immunity from a member of the European Parliament so that it can investigate accusations he has been acting as a spy for Russia. Béla Kovács, who is a member of Hungarian far-right party Jobbik and a vocal advocate of pro-Russian politics, is suspected of having ties with the Russian intelligence dating back to the late 1970s. “The case is currently in front of the European Parliament, after the Hungarian prosecutor general’s office turned to its President requesting the suspension of MEP Béla Kovács’ immunity,” Hungary’s Prime Ministerial office confirmed.
© Newsweek Magazine

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Hungary: Promising Roma crackdown, far-right party gains ground

20/9/2014- Over ten million gypsy, or Roma, people live in Europe today. In the small EU nation of Hungary, a rising tide of right-wing politics has led to deepening tensions with the country’s Roma minority. NewsHour's Stephen Fee reports.

STEPHEN FEE: Just a two-hour drive east of the capital Budapest, Miskolc is Hungary’s third largest city with 160,000 residents. And on its outskirts this summer, we met 55-year-old Jozsefne Nagy in the courtyard of her former home. Nagy, her daughter, and three grandchildren lived in this city-owned apartment for three years — until they were evicted this past August.
JOZSEFNE NAGY: “We didn’t know we’d have to leave. My daughter left in the morning to go for her job training program. She went to school and the kids were here, and I get a call from the neighbors that they’re moving my daughter out. Kids and all.”

STEPHEN FEE: Nagy rushed home to a chaotic scene. A newspaper photo from that day shows men hauling the family’s belongings outside.
JOZSEFNE NAGY: “There were so many policemen you couldn’t move. They just kept saying: Out! Out! I repeatedly told them we don’t have any debts, but they just kept repeating themselves.”

STEPHEN FEE: And she’s not the only one facing eviction. City officials plan to demolish this neighborhood of around a thousand people, whether the tenants have paid their rent or not.
GYULA SCHWEICKHARDT, DEPUTY MAYOR, MISKOLC: “The people who live there are poor, and users and drug dealers have appeared, which is something the city must deal with in some shape or form.”

STEPHEN FEE: But Nagy says she and her neighbors are being thrown out for a different reason.
JOZSEFNE NAGY: “The goal wasn’t to evict those who don’t pay, but to evict Gypsies.”

STEPHEN FEE: Here in what was once Hungary’s industrial heartland, the vast majority of Miskolc’s Gypsy — or Roma — population is unemployed. The evictions are the latest chapter in a history of strained relations with their non-Roma neighbors. It’s a tension that’s hardly unique to Miskolc — or even Hungary. Since their ancestors arrived in Europe from India some 600 years ago, Roma people have been enslaved, expelled, and ethnically cleansed. Hundreds of thousands were slaughtered during World War II. More recently, France deported thousands of Roma who overstayed visa requirements in 2010 — the EU’s justice minister called the expulsions ‘a disgrace.’ Fears of crime have motivated anti-Roma feelings across Europe. And headlines about Roma criminal rings help drive those perceptions.
DOCUMENTARY NARRATOR: “Across Europe, thousands of children are being forced on to the streets to beg and steal.”

STEPHEN FEE: A 2009 BBC documentary called “Gypsy Child Thieves” focused on Roma pickpockets. But unlike those cases, Roma in Hungary aren’t migrants — they’re citizens. And in Hungary, fears of Roma criminality have driven the popularity of a nationalist political party called Jobbik. Founded just ten years ago, the party netted 20 percent of the vote in this year’s parliamentary elections. The group describes itself as a ‘principled, conservative, and radically patriotic Christian party.’
SZABOLCS POGONYI, CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY: “Through the presence of a very strong, openly anti-Roma far-right party, anti-Roma talk, rhetoric and even policies are becoming mainstream.”

STEPHEN FEE: That’s Szabolcs Pogonyi. He chairs the nationalism studies department at Budapest’s Central European University. A disclosure: I worked at the university for two years.
SZABOLCS POGONYI, CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY: “They were the first party which got into parliament and openly spoke about what they call as ‘gypsy criminality’ — that is openly linking crime and ethnic background.”

STEPHEN FEE: Three years ago in the Hungarian town of Gyongyospata, disputes between Roma and non-Roma over property crime erupted into a confrontation. As this video from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union shows, Jobbik party members along with other groups marched in the streets. They railed against what they called “gypsy crime,” promising to protect the villagers. Critics say it was a campaign of intimidation against Roma. Pogonyi says levels of anti-Roma feelings in Hungary have been consistent since the early 1990s. But the Jobbik party, he says, is the first political bloc to capitalize on those feelings.
SZABOLCS POGONYI, CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY: “People living particularly in rural areas, poor rural areas have the sense of being abandoned by the government. I mean, they face petty crime, and they realize that the government — the authorities do and can do nothing. And at that point some people appear and they say, we will protect you.”

STEPHEN FEE: Jobbik leaders declined our interview requests, but on their website, they defend the term ‘gypsy crime,’ calling it ‘a unique form of delinquency, different from the crimes of the majority in nature and force.’ I asked Roma journalist and advocate Erno Kadet if there was validity in using a term like ‘gypsy crime,’ especially when crime rates are higher in some Roma-majority communities.
ERNO KADET, ROMA PRESS CENTRE: “The way I see it the problem is –- and they are perfectly aware of this, the Jobbik party -– that by using the word Gypsy and the word crime in the same sentence, it brands everyone. I don’t think there is a single Roma, a single credible Roma leader, who says there are no criminals among the Roma population, just as there are a substantial number of criminals among the non-Roma population. But they say it’s because of poverty, not because of belonging to a certain ethnic group.”

STEPHEN FEE: In Hungary today, 70 percent of Roma live below the poverty line and 85 percent are unemployed. Government spokesman and former social inclusion secretary Zoltan Kovacs says the country is working to improve conditions for Roma — but those plans will take time.
ZOLTAN KOVACS, GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: “It’s impossible to have a breakthrough. I mean, there’s a complete agreement in professional circles as well as in politics that you have to be very consistent actually on applying these measures on the long run. That means at least ten years. The Roma issue has been with us not only for the past couple of years or decades — it’s a six hundred years old issue. We’ve been living together with the Roma communities for the past couple of centuries.”

STEPHEN FEE: “You know, someone might say if they listen to this interview, that the rhetoric that we’ve been living with the Roma — with us — that you’re already separating yourself from people who are Hungarian citizens, right?”
ZOLTAN KOVACS, GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: “It’s an ongoing debate actually, even with the Roma themselves. They also use this terminology, that us and them, so you like it or not, this differentiation on both sides is present.”

STEPHEN FEE: Back in Miskolc, deputy mayor Gyula Schweickhardt designed the plan to eradicate the city’s Roma majority neighborhoods.
GYULA SCHWEICKHARDT, DEPUTY MAYOR, MISKOLC: “We don’t think the question is whether someone is Roma or not; city leadership is not approaching this as an ethnic or racial issue. It is in fact sad that the issue has been raised as one at all. We approach it as an endeavor to eradicate an impoverished slum.”

STEPHEN FEE: The city isn’t replacing the housing, but will pay evicted tenants up to $8,500 to find a new home. But on the condition they buy homes outside the city and not return for five years. Already, surrounding communities have signed petitions saying they won’t welcome Miskolc’s displaced residents. Local Roma leader Gabor Varadi concedes the Roma neighborhoods have their social problems. But that destroying them will only lead to conflict.
GABOR VARADI, ROMA COMMUNITY LEADER: “I think the solution is not to evict people and relocate the problem to another settlement, or to throw families out into the street. If we do that the problem gets bigger and creates more tension.”

STEPHEN FEE: After facing so much difficulty, I asked Jozsefne Nagy — evicted this August from her neighborhood on the fringes of Miskolc — if she wants to stay here in the city.
JOZSEFNE NAGY: “Yes, definitely. Definitely. We were born here and we’d like to die here. We went to school here, we spent our life working in the factory here, at the waste plant. I don’t want to leave. The children go to preschool here and to school. They are heartsick. All of them. We’re terrified, like everyone else who lives here.”

STEPHEN FEE: Since the eviction, she’s moved in with another one of her daughters, also in the same neighborhood. But with the city planning to build a parking lot here once demolition is complete, Nagy’s days here are almost certainly numbered.
© PBS Newshour

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Germany: NSU trial offers glimpse into extremist milieu

The Thuringian neo-Nazi and former intelligence service informer Tino Brandt discusses his past double life as he testifies at the trial centering on the NSU Terror group. What exactly went on back then remains unclear.

24/9/2014- Tino Brandt's best days are long gone. In the mid-1990s he was one of the leading lights of the emergent far-right scene in the German state of Thuringia. Back then he was acquainted with the presumed murderers who made up the National Socialist Underground (NSU); they were part of his circle. Uwe Böhnhardt, Uwe Mundlos and Beate Zschäpe are believed to have been motivated by racism to murder ten people of predominantly foreign origin between 2000 and 2007. Zschäpe is now the main defendant in the murder trial currently being heard by the Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Munich. Her two companions committed suicide after they blew their own cover in November 2011.

All those involved in the trial are expecting Brandt's appearance in the witness box to provide insights into the milieu in which the trio of alleged murderers were involved before they went into hiding in the late 1990s. But they are also hoping it will provide clues about the period that followed, when the NSU is believed to have selected and mercilessly gunned down its victims. One year after the first murder, perpetrated on the Nuremberg florist Enver Simsek in September 2000, Brandt was exposed as an informant for the Thuringian intelligence services. He has been branded a traitor by the far-right scene ever since. The 39-year-old has already given evidence to this effect when he first took the stand in the NSU trial in mid-July.

Hoping for exoneration
This time around, both Zschäpe's court-appointed lawyer and the lawyers of the four alleged NSU helpers who stand accused of complicity to murder will have an opportunity to question the witness more extensively. Wolfgang Stahl, who along with Anja Sturm and Wolfgang Heer is defending Zschäpe, is particularly interested in Brandt's dubious career with the intelligence service. Why did he became an informant in the first place, Stahl wants to know. The answer, unsatisfactory from the defense attorney's point of view, is that things "unfortunately developed that way" in 1994. Stahl's strategy is clearly aimed at extracting information from the witness that will exonerate his client. For this it might be helpful if the NSU trial were able to scotch the image of the intelligence services helping to rebuild the far-right scene in Thuringia. It's an impression that has already been reinforced by the federal and local NSU investigation commissions. And Brandt's statements at the NSU trial sound like confirmation.

Photos from a neo-Nazi march
The intelligence services obliged him not to reveal his role as an informant to the far-right scene, the police or the judiciary, says Brandt. He states that he put the money he received for his services as an informant towards supporting political work in the right-wing scene. As examples, Brandt cites the distribution of propaganda stickers and covering the outstanding debts of members of the right-wing extremist party - the NPD - who got into financial difficulty. At the start of the cross-examination the presiding judge, Manfred Götzl, presents the witness with several photos of events organized by the right-wing scene. Among them are pictures of a so-called Rudolf Hess commemorative march. Hess was Adolf Hitler's deputy: the last Nazi war criminal left in prison, he took his own life in 1987. "Here I recognize myself, Uwe Mundlos and Beate," says Brandt. The photo is from 1996 or 1997; he says he's no longer exactly sure.

Well-versed in right-wing ideology
At Zschäpe's lawyers' request, Brandt describes the 39-year old as a person who, although well-versed in right-wing ideology, did not push herself to the fore. At political rallies she "never stood in front of the crowd and held speeches," says Brandt. But she wasn't a "wallflower," either; and he adds that, unlike her companions Böhnhardt and Mundlos, Zschäpe was always dressed "nicely," in "civilian clothes." She didn't correspond to the cliché of the blonde skinhead girlfriend. Brandt's portrayal of the accused fits the picture the public has been able to make of her during the NSU trial so far: that of a confident woman who definitely didn't allow herself to be treated as a compliant "girlie" by the men around her in the right-wing milieu. This characterization is hardly likely to work in Zschäpe's favor: It fits better with the prosecution's appraisal of her. Their case is that Zschäpe was the one who covered for Böhnhardt and Mundlos as they traveled about the country murdering people, maintaining their bourgeois façade in the apartment they shared in Zwickau. This was where they lived for the longest period of time, without raising the suspicions of either neighbors or the authorities.

"We wanted to be members of parliament"
Tino Brandt claims that he had no further contact with his old comrades after the trio went into hiding. Relations with Ralf Wohlleben, a former NPD official who is also on trial in Munich as an accessory to murder, were, according to Brandt, "completely messed up" after he was exposed as an informer. Wohlleben's lawyer, Olaf Klemke, wants to know whether Brandt ever discussed the use of violence with his client. Not that he can recall, answers Brandt. Back then, in the 1990s, they decided to go down the "political route," and joined the NPD. "We wanted to be members of parliament," he says. At the end of the day, no one has much reason to be satisfied with the witness' answers. When the presiding judge presses the question of who he still had contact with, Brandt cites his poor memory for names. "The intelligence services used to complain about it even back then," the shifty witness jokes. His cross-examination is set to continue this week.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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German Muslims protest against extremism, racism

20/9/2014- On Friday, Muslim organizations in Germany held a nationwide campaign against religious extremism to draw attention to growing racism and attacks against mosques. At a press conference held in Berlin on Tuesday, Dr. Zekeriya Altug, head of the northern branch of DITIB - the largest Turkish-Muslim union in Germany - said, "Many terror groups are using Islamic symbols, values and terminologies for their goals. We Muslims do not want to be indifferent to abuse of our values and terminologies. We would like to give a clear message on Friday and try to demonstrate what Islam in reality stands for," he said. During Friday prayer this week, imams from 2,000 mosques throughout Germany delivered messages on the real values of Islam, Dr. Altug said. He also added that non-Muslims were also to be welcome to mosques to show solidarity with them.

The highlight of the nationwide campaign, "Muslims Standing Against Hate and Injustice" on Sept. 19, was peace rallies in front of mosques in nine big cities including Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Hanover. Several leading political figures including German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and Integration Minister Aydan Ozoguz were among the participants. Recent developments in the Middle East and attacks and violent killings by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have sparked suspicion and negative feelings towards Muslims in Germany. The participation of some radicalized young Germans to ISIS has further added to worries. According to a survey by the Forsa Institute last month, 52 percent of Germans do not see Islam as part of Germany, despite the fact four million Muslims have lived in the country for decades.

Ali Kżzżlkaya, the spokesperson for Germany's Muslim Coordination Council (KRM), told journalists on Tuesday that the radicalization among some of the younger generation of Muslims should be a common concern for all in Germany. "This problem is affecting all of us. These radicalized people have socialized in this country. They have taken lots of things from this society. They had frustrations, maybe fear of the future. This problem is related to sociological questions rather than religious questions," Kżzżlkaya said. German security organizations estimate that about 400 Germans, mostly young immigrants, travelled to Syria and joined ISIS since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. About 120 returned to Germany. The recent attacks against mosques in Germany have sparked fears among the Muslim community. Unknown suspects attacked five mosques across the country last month, and eighty mosques were attacked in the last two years, according to Germany's Muslim Coordination Council (KRM).
© Daily Sabah

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Headlines 19 September, 2014

Make human rights for Muslims a reality in Europe: stop Islamophobia - Joint statement

Ahead of the European Day Against Islamophobia on 21 September, anti-racism, Muslim, Jewish, Roma and Black organisations [1]jointly call on EU leaders and decision makers to recognise Islamophobia as a specific form of racism and to tackle this increasing phenomenon.

19/9/2014- Ezra, 84 years old, violently attacked in the street because she wears a headscarf; Paula, 25 years old, not allowed to accompany her children to school because she looks Muslim; Youssef, controlled 5 times per week by the police; Cemil, refused a permanent contract by his employer for the last 14 years. These are real and recent examples that are occurring in the European Union, which is supposed to embody the values of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. These people all have one thing in common: they are victims of Islamophobia. Islamophobia - a form a racism targeting individuals or groups on the basis of their real or perceived belonging to the Muslim population - is widespread in many European countries. In France for instance, the Collective Against Islamophobia (CCIF) recorded 691 Islamophobic acts in 2013 (a 47% increase compared to 2012), with women being the primary victims (78% of the total number of incidents). In the United Kingdom, 734 cases were reported to the organisation Tell MAMA between May 2013 and February 2014.

Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim suffer from discrimination, stigmatisation and exclusion in all areas of life such as employment, education, vocational training, services and political participation, but also from racist speech and violence, especially on the internet. We call on the EU institutions to publically recognise and condemn Islamophobia as a form of racism. Efforts to fight this phenomenon need support at the highest level, but so far there has been little political will. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency issued a report on discrimination against Muslims in 2009 and reported that on average 1 in 3 Muslim respondents stated that they had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months. However, no further investigation or political action by key European bodies such as the European Parliament and the European Commission have taken place since.

A first step would be to mark this European Day Against Islamophobia by publicly condemning this increasing phenomenon in Europe. A second step would be to ensure that EU anti-discrimination laws are actually implemented by Member States and to urgently adopt EU equal treatment legislation which has been stalled in negotiations for the last six years and which would better protect against discrimination against Muslims, among others.

[1] African Empowerment Center Denmark, Association des Juristes Arabo Musulmans d’Europe, Austrian Muslim Initiative, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, CEJI – A Jewish contribution to an inclusive Europe, Centrum mot Rasism, Collectif contre l’Islamophobie en Belgique, Coordinamento Associazioni Islamiche di Milano e Monza e Brianza, Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France, Etudiants Musulmanes de France, European Forum Of Muslim Women, European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion, European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network, European Roma Information Office, European Roma Rights Center, Fight Racism Now, Giovani Musulmani d’Italia, Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland, Kifkif, Movement Against Xenophobia, Muslim’s Rights Belgium, Pan African Movement for Justice, #SchauHin
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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Norway: Father warns Breivik 'more extreme than ever'

Jens Breivik, the father of mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, revealed on Thursday his son is becoming more and more extreme in prison and fears he may never see him again.

18/9/2014- The revelations came at a press conference in Oslo for Jens Breivik's new book, his story about raising and knowing Anders. “Min skyld? En fars historie” (“My fault? A Father's Story”) is Jens's story to convey his truth about who he really was amid incorrect accusations. Breivik senior was keen to state this is not a book about the July 22nd massacre, but a father's defence of the relationship between himself, his son and Anders Behring Breivik's mother. Jens said to NTB: “Quite a lot of [what has been said about me] is speculation, half-truths and fiction. To avoid making it stand as the final facts and truth, I have chosen to tell my story.” While writing the book, Jens tried to visit his son in prison in Skien last autumn. However, he received a long letter from Anders, asking his father to join his political viewpoints and become a fascist before they meet. His father regarded the letter as cold and formal and was shocked and hurt. Jens Breivik said: “The letter scared me and still scares me. He just becomes more and more extreme, and maybe he becomes more dangerous as well.”

The 79-year-old claims he does not know why his son became a terrorist or if how he was raised can explain Norway's worst mass murderer. Jens Breivik was a diplomat who divorced from Wenche Behring Breivik when Anders was one-year-old. Father and son only met annually from then on and had no contact after Anders was 16-years-old. In 1983, the father attempted to take over custody for Anders, who was at the time 4-years-old. The move was in reaction to the Norwegian child care authorities alerting him about his child's conditions at home with the mother. The court in the end did not support Jens taking parental control. Jens has not seen Anders for 19 years. Jens Breivik reflected: “There are many children growing up with only one parent who do not become terrorists. The fact that [Anders] grew up with a bad relationship with me, does not explain what he did.” “I have to continue to live even though I'm the father of a mass murderer. I can never forget what happened. It always stresses me.”
© The Local - Norway

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Austria: Controversial mayor expelled from FPÖ

Austria's Freedom Party (FPÖ) expelled the mayor of the Carinthian market town of Gurk, Siegfried Kampl, from its ranks on Wednesday evening after he made controversial statements about National Socialism in an interview with the Kleine Zeitung.

18/9/2014- In an online edition of the paper, Kampl was quoted as saying: "I distance myself only from what they have done, not from National Socialism." FPÖ chairman, Heinz-Christian Strache, immediately moved to distance the party from Kampl's statements. "Someone who flirts with National Socialism has no place in the FPÖ," announced Strache in a press release. Carinthian FPÖ state party chairman Christian Ragger asked Strache to exclude Kampl from the party, because his statement posed an "imminent danger". "Such statements are intolerable," said Ragger. Kampl had previously caused offense in 2005 by referring to Wehrmacht deserters as "partly murderers of their comrades".
© The Local - Austria

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Polish MEP fined for racist remark

18/9/2014- Janusz Korwin-Mikke, an ultra-right legislator at the European Parliament from Poland, has been fined EUR 3 040 for making a racist statement during a plenary discussion. The MEP from the Congress of the New Right (KNP) party called unemployed young Europeans the "niggers of Europe" during a discussion at the EP this July on youth unemployment. The statement, made two months after right-wing parties made significant gains during the EP elections this May, prompting concerns that xenophobia is spreading, sparked general outrage. EP chair Martin Schulz told his fellow MEPs that he had offered Korwin-Mikke the opportunity to "correct" his statement or apologize for it. "He refused and insisted on his position," Schulz said. "I then made the decision to fine Mr Korwin-Mikke 10 per diems, which he will be docked." The per diem for MEPs is EUR 304. "Legislators at the European Parliament in particular must avoid making statements that are discriminatory or that insult human dignity," Schulz said. "Our Parliament includes various religions, various races, various political convictions, representatives of various cultures and nations," the chair said in a speech during the plenary session on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the start of WWII. "Peace, tolerance, and respect are only effective when they are not just written on paper, but when they apply day in and day out. The great strength of this Parliament lies in the fact that this is precisely what we do."
© Romea.

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Civil society paves the way for Roma inclusion

Europe’s largest minority continue to be marginalised and discriminated against despite EU initiatives to improve their well-being. Almost half of the existing ten million Roma in Europe live on the edge of poverty and the majority of them face social exclusion every day.

18/9/2014- National governments either lack political will to implement EU recommendations or are slow in using the available European funds allocated to Roma inclusion. Civil society organisations remain the main actors helping Roma to integrate in local communities. “Even if a lot has been done for Roma, it is not enough,” said Anne-Marie Sigmund, the former president of the European economic and social committee (EESC) and a Roma activist. “There is a missing link between what is done at the European scene and at the local level.”

Vicious circle
Long-lasting discrimination and segregation is the reason Roma face poor living conditions, said Ákos Topolanszky, the EESC rapporteur on Roma. Roma children face segregation at school, with the highest drop-out rates seen in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Without basic education, Roma cannot get a job and the economic crisis has worsen the situation. Finland, Austria, and Bulgaria have launched local services to provide job counseling and vocational training. But those small-scale projects are only directed to a limited number of people. Unemployed and with no education, Roma cannot afford a place to live. They rely on social housing and more often end up settling in a ghetto. Topolanszky believes that if the government would help with the housing problem, Roma would travel much less. Permanent housing would ensure that Roma children can attend school and complete their education in order to find suitable employment. According to Topolanszky, the Finnish government established a social programme in the early 1970s ensuring housing for all the Roma. It has been one of the most successful integration policies of Roma in Europe, he said. But Roma themselves can be reluctant to embark on permanent housing schemes. And the absence of a sedentary lifestyle means schooling also becomes a problem.

Don’t preach to the converted
A number of initiatives have been proposed and adopted at EU level but none of them are legally binding. This means that the integration of Roma remains under the sole responsibility of every member country. “Top-down actions are not the right way forward,” said Sigmund. “You preach to the converted if you keep on taking actions at European level.” EU governments cooperate with the Commission to adapt their yearly national strategies on Roma. They receive progress reports and recommendations on what needs to be improved. Brussels also offers financial support to local projects targeted to Roma. The responsibility lies ultimately with the national and local administrations to take advantage of the EU support but Roma integration does not seem to be high on the national agenda.

Awarding the civil society
As a result, a lot of the work on the ground is done by non-governmental organisations. They play an important role in closing the gap between the minority-group and the society they live in. The EESC will award a prize to the three organisations that have achieved significant results in integrating the Roma at the local level. The prize is awarded to different civil society initiatives from different areas. This year the committee decided to choose Roma as the theme for the prize. “The aim of the EESC's Civil Society Prize is to showcase best practices among NGOs throughout the EU so that other organisations can emulate that work,” said Jane Morrice, the EESC vice-president. “We therefore chose people who suffer seriously from discrimination in the European Union,” said Morrice. “We wanted to highlight the valuable work that is being done to work with, accept and integrate Roma into society in the member states.” Morrice said the committee received more than 80 applications from organisations that have done work in housing, education, and training. ”It was good to see those projects in particular where the Roma themselves were involved in the work within the organisations,” she said.

Two-way process
The social and economic integration of Roma requires not only European, local and regional effort but also from the Roma community. “There is a need to change the mind-set of how people perceive the Roma and also how Roma see themselves,” said Topolanszky. Sigmund gave the example of a Sinti family established in Sweden. The youngest daughter in the family organised courses to teach the older Sinti women how to write and read. These kinds of initiatives are a great way to integrate with the local community, Sigmund said. But cooperation is the best way to bring the two communities together, according to Sigmund. As an example, she quoted the one of a Romanian priest who made no distinction between the Roma and the rest of the village. The priest involved both sides into building a well. After the work was completed, the Roma were no longer seen as different but part of the community. “They were brought together by working together,” said Sigmund.
© EuroActiv

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Czech Rep: Brno court acquits German far-right activist of racism

Robin Siener was defending his right to talk about foreigners, especially from India and Africa, in negative terms

18/9/2014- A Czech court today acquitted German far-right activist Robin Siener of racism charges over his speech delivered at the May Day rally of the Czech Workers' Youth in Brno in 2011. In his speech to the crowd of about 500 far-right proponents, Siener sharply criticized the "cheap labor that is flooding Europe" and he spoke of multicultural terrorism. Siener said, among other things, no great poet or scientist had ever come from Africa and India. The verdict has not yet taken effect, and the prosecutor may still appeal it. Siener expressed satisfaction over the verdict. "My speech was social criticism. I talked like we talk about these issues in Germany. If it is no problem in Germany, I cannot see why it should be a problem in the Czech Republic," he told the Czech News Agency. Judge Dagmar Bordovská said Siener's speech had xenophobic passages, but no violation of law and he committed no crime with his statements. The activists from the Workers' Youth that organized the rally May 1, 2011, closely cooperate with the Czech extreme-rightist Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS). The DSSS was repeatedly prosecuted over the May Day speeches delivered by its leaders. The party follows up the Workers' Party (DS), which was outlawed because of its racism in 2010.
© Czech News Agency

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Netherlands: Geert Wilders misused our statistics, researchers say

Researchers from two separate institutes have distanced themselves from the way Geert Wilders has used their reports to score politicial points about Dutch Muslims.

18/9/2014- During Wednesday's debate on the government's 2015 spending plans, Wilders claimed that 73 percent of Dutch Muslims believe people travelling to fight in Syria are heroes. The research was published in May 2013 by Amsterdam bureau Motivaction. Senior researcher Ahmed Ait Moha told newspaper Trouw the figures are not only outdated, but refer to ousting Syrian leader Assad, not support for the IS militias. Wilders also claimed three-quarters of Dutch Muslims support the introduction of sharia law in the Netherlands. However, researcher Ruud Koopmans, told Trouw his focus was on rules outlined in the Koran not the interpretations of the Koran used to devise Sharia law.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Homo, whore, Moroccan and Jew are children's

17/9/2014- Homo, hoer (whore), Moroccan and Jew are the most often used insults in Dutch playgrounds, according to research by the Dutch academy for media and society. The list was drawn up ahead of the publication of a new tool to allow teachers to monitor bullying and playground insults. It shows that sex and personal background are more often used by bullies rather than style of dress and hair colour, Metro says. The list is based on interviews with teachers and will be revised when the first results of the monitor are published at the end of October. 'We want to show the raw reality of bullying,' NAMM director Bamber Delver told newspaper Metro.
© The Dutch News

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Italy: Mother laments number of 'foreigners' at school

An Italian mother has insisted her outrage over the fact that her daughter is the only Italian in a school full of children with foreign backgrounds does not stem from racism but from concerns over "culture and education".

17/9/2014- Eleonora Baccaro has written to the mayor of Padua, Massimo Bitonci, to complain that her daughter is the only Italian among 66 children at the Quadrifolgio pre-school in the city's Arcella area. "I'm very concerned about what's happening at Quadrifoglio," she wrote in the letter published by Il Mattino di Padova. "To me, having a school with 65 foreign children and only one Italian seems like an educational and teaching mistake. The ratio is so disproportionate, we can't even talk about integration. Unless it's integration in reverse, with Italian children being among a large group of foreigners." Baccarco went on to write that her worries were based on educational and cultural standards and not on racism or "intolerance towards those who come from afar".

"With so many children from a different cultural background, and having a different religion to ours, how can you arrange, for example, any kind of Christmas play inspired by our Catholic faith? This is not good." Gabriella Balbo, a teacher at the school, told The Local that most of the foreign children at the school were born in Italy and those who weren't are in the minority. "We have always been multi-ethnic," she said. "We do our best to welcome all children and have had to come up with strategies to maintain a good level of education and ensure all children are taken care of." But with more pressure on teachers to respond to the varying needs, Balbo admitted that the school is in dire need of cultural and linguistic mediators.

"The challenge is mainly bureaucratic."
Other teachers at the state school, which takes children aged three to six, reportedly support the mother, with one lamenting the linguistic challenges. Children in Italy returned to school on Monday. "On the first day of school a Chinese mother wanted, at all costs, to speak to us teachers about her son, who was in his first year," the teacher was quoted in Il Padova di Mattino as saying. "The woman had only been in Padua for a short time and didn't speak a word of Italian. So we had to find another Chinese mother to translate." Padua Mayor Massimo Bitonci, a Northern League (Lega Nord) senator, earlier this year said that crucifixes must be hung on the walls of all schools and offices across the city.
© The Local - Italy

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Greece: PMs righthand man used SMS to tell Golden Dawn MPs how to vote

Text messages show that interaction between former cabinet secretary Takis Baltakos and Golden Dawn, which was already exposed in a video that emerged in April, went beyond 'social contact and gossip'

19/9/2014- Takis Baltakos, former cabinet secretary and righthand man of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, maintained direct lines of communication with Golden Dawn, even to the point of instructing the neonazi party on how to vote in parliament and congratulating its MPs for their rowdy behaviour, a daily newspaper has revealed. Baltakos was forced to resign in April after a video surfaced showing him engaged in what appeared to be a friendly conversation, in his parliamentary office, with leading Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris. While Baltakos admitted to having “coincidental meetings” with Golden Dawn figures, a series of reports published in the Efimerida ton Syntakton (Efsyn) daily on Thursday and Friday show this interaction was “not limited to social contact and gossip”, according to Efsyn journalist Dimitris Psarras, who has authored a number of books on Golden Dawn. He said Baltakos sent messages, via a conduit, to Kasidiaris advising him on how Golden Dawn MPs should vote on issues which were dividing the then three-way coalition between New Democracy, Pasok and Democratic Left.

Baltakos relayed his messages via Theodoros Zoubos, a research assistant in Kasidiaris’ parliamentary office. One message, sent by Zoubos to Kasidiaris on 5 February 2013, read: "Takis Michalolias and Takis Baltakos have just been to the office.” Takis Michalolias, a well-known criminal lawyer, is a brother of Golden Dawn’s leader Nikos Michaloliakos who changed his surname in the 1980s. Efsyn suggests that the two men had come to Golden Dawn’s offices to meet Michaloliakos. Later that month, on 25 February, Zoubos sent another message to Kasidiaris in which Baltakos gave instructions on how Golden Dawn was to vote in parliament:
"Baltakos told me that tomorrow noon we must attend the committee on drugs for articles 62 and 83 of [Democratic Left justice minister Antonis] Roupakiotis. Voting will be by a show of hands. He also told me about Thursday, amendment 85 on race in military schools. I told him we’re aware of that!"

Articles 62 and 83 concerned riders to a bill that would have given the Supreme Court and Council of State the right to reopen civil cases, following a decision of the European Court of Human Rights. It is understood that this would have allowed the courts to re-examine the ban on associations of Turkish-speaking Greek citizens from using the term “Turkish” in their title, such as the Turkish Union of Xanthi. Roupakiotis’ amendment was subsequently defeated with the votes of conservative New Democracy, nationalist Independent Greeks and neonazi Golden Dawn. Amendment 85 referred to an attempt by 85 New Democracy MPs to ban admission to the country’s armed forces and police of anyone who was not of "Greek race". The amendment was subsequently withdrawn for “technical reasons” after junior coalition partners Pasok and Democratic Left condemned it as racist.

In a third message, sent on 17 May 2013, Baltakos appears to applaud the actions of a Golden Dawn MP, Panayiotis Iliopoulos, who was expelled from parliament for calling other MPs “goats” and “jokers”. As his fellow Golden Dawn MPs left the chamber, the slogan “Heil Hitler” could be heard three times. The text read: "Baltakos stopped by and told us to pass on congratulations to Iliopoulos.” On Friday, Efsyn reported that Baltakos said the texts were sent in the “national interest”. It also said that Baltakos continued to send messages to Golden Dawn after the murder, by a Golden Dawn functionary, of Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013.
© Enet English

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Greeks remember rapper whose murder sparked neo-Nazi probe

17/9/2014- Greek anti-fascist groups are holding street events this week in memory of a leftist rapper whose murder sparked a crackdown on the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. "A series of cultural and political events will be held to root out the neo-Nazi menace," the groups said in a statement ahead of Thursday`s first anniversary of the killing. Street gatherings will be held on Thursday in Keratsini, the western Athens district where Pavlos Fyssas, 34, was murdered outside a cafeteria near his home last September. A sculpture of Fyssas will be unveiled on the spot where he died, and a concert in his memory will be held in central Athens on Friday. Fyssas was fatally stabbed by a Golden Dawn supporter during a street brawl on September 18, 2013. His murder shocked the nation and prompted a rapid response from the authorities, who until then had done little to stem violence blamed on the party.

Fyssas` mother Magda says his murder exposed the true face of the neo-Nazi group -- which claims to reject violence and at the time was organising food handouts for impoverished Greeks to boost its popularity. "We owe this knowledge to Pavlos," she told the Ethnos daily. "If anything, it taught people to vanquish fear." Two weeks after Fyssas` death the authorities unleashed a crackdown against Golden Dawn that continues to this day. The party`s 18 lawmakers were progressively indicted on charges of belonging to a criminal organisation and several were placed in pre-trial detention, including Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos. Investigating magistrates said the group had committed dozens of criminal acts dating to 1987, including at least two murders in the previous two years.

Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, Golden Dawn surged in popularity in the wake of the country`s debt crisis, tapping into widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms. The far-right party recently scored new election victories, sending its first deputies to the European Parliament. And its ratings remain high, especially in areas hit by soaring unemployment. "In Keratsini, 48 percent of people are unemployed...there is disgust towards the established political class," said the area`s former mayor Loukas Tzanis. The Golden Dawn trials are expected to start by the end of the year, with most of the defendants facing at least 10 years in prison if convicted. "I`d like to believe that they will be punished severely," Magda Fyssas told Ethnos. "But we will receive no justice...they killed our child. It would have been better if they had killed us too," she said.
© AFP

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Greece: Member of Neo-Nazi Party Guilty of Inciting Racism

Member of Golden Dawn party found guilty of inciting racist violence after saying that migrants are "sub humans".

17/9/2014- A court in Athens, Greece, on Tuesday found a member of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party guilty of inciting racist violence, the To Vima Greek newspaper reported. The man, Alexandros Plomaritis, was given a three-year suspended sentence, according to the report. Plomaritis was accused of making racist comments in a documentary by director Konstantinos Georgousis, where he referred to migrants as “sub humans” and “taints”. Clips from the documentary had been broadcast by Channel 4 in the UK. The candidate for the neo-Nazi party told the courts that his comments were made during an exaggerated, private conversation at a café and claimed to have thought that he was talking to a student competing an assignment rather than a professional director, according to To Vima. Golden Dawn has become notorious for its blatant anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric, openly displaying copies of “Mein Kampf,” as well as other works on Greek racial superiority at party headquarters.

The party's leader Nikos Michaloliakos has claimed that Nazi concentration camps did not use ovens and gas chambers to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust. Over the past year, however, the party has been the subject of a crackdown by Greek authorities, with several of its leaders being arrested and tried. Last week, Greece ratcheted up its punishments for racism, anti-Semitism and hate speech, in a move prompted by the surprise rise of Golden Dawn. A new law approved by parliament sets prison sentences of up to three years - up from two years - and fines of up to 20,000 euros ($26,000) for "inciting acts of discrimination, hatred or violence" over race, religion or disability. Similar punishment is meted to those denying or praising the Holocaust, genocide and war crimes against humanity.
© Arutz Sheva

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Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission publishes new report on Slovakia

16/09/2014- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fifth report on Slovakia. ECRI’s Chair, Mr Christian Ahlund, noted steps forward, but also a number of outstanding issues, such as the problematic application of the anti-discrimination law and the slow implementation of the Roma integration programmes. On a positive site, sexual orientation is now among the aggravating circumstances of a criminal offence and positive measures to compensate disadvantages linked to race and ethnicity are expressly allowed by the law; the Ombudsman has taken a proactive role in the anti-discrimination field; there are positive examples of using sport’s values to counter racism and stereotyping; and the so called municipal firms facilitate the active involvement of Roma at local level.

Despite these improvements, anti-“minorities” rhetoric and offensive discourse targeting sexual orientation remain common among politicians and hate speech is recurrent on the Internet. Moreover, disaggregated data on hate speech is not available. The reform of the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights should be completed without delay in order to ensure the effective application of the anti-discrimination law. Finally, poor housing and segregation in school are the most palpable examples of the inequalities encountered by Roma. In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations to the authorities, among which the following two require priority implementation and will be revisited by ECRI in two years’ time:

@ a mechanism for collecting disaggregated data on hate speech incidents should be put in place and data made public;
@ the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights should be reformed and endowed with sufficient financial and human resources in order to fulfil independently and efficiently the tasks assigned to it.

The report, including Government observations, is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s contact visit to Slovakia in November 2013 [Press release] and takes account of developments up to 20 March 2014.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI.

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Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission publishes new report on Slovenia

16/9/2014- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fourth report on Slovenia. ECRI’s Chair, Mr Christian Ahlund, noted steps forward, but also a number of outstanding issues, such as persistent widespread discrimination against Roma and an atmosphere of hostility towards the “erased”. Slovenia ratified Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights in 2010. Important steps have been taken to improve the situation of Roma, including the adoption of the Roma Community Act and the National Programme of Measures for Roma. All Roma have access to pre-schools, Roma assistants are being trained and an increased number of employment and public works projects for Roma have been launched. The “erased” have the possibility retroactively to reinstate their permanent residence status by applying, within three years, for a permanent residence permit. A law establishing a domestic compensation scheme for the “erased” has been enacted. Training has been initiated for police on stereotype and prejudice awareness and discrimination prevention in a multicultural community.

Despite these improvements, many Roma continue to live in isolated settlements well below the minimum standards and where there is often a lack of access to safe water. The Law Implementing the Principle of Equal Treatment is dysfunctional and the Advocate of the Principle of Equality lacks organisational and budgetary independence. Hate speech on the Internet has increased, targeting mainly Roma, LGBT people and Muslims. Finally, there is no body independent of the police and prosecution entrusted with the examination of cases of alleged police misconduct, including racist or racially discriminatory behaviour. In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations to the authorities, among which the following three require priority implementation and will be revisited by ECRI in two years’ time:
@ a suitable solution should be found with all parties involved for a fully independent national specialised body to combat discrimination, including racial discrimination, to start operating as soon as possible;
@ a suitable and fair solution should be found to compensate the “erased”, as required by the European Court of Human Rights, as well as to resolve the legal status of any “erased” who wish to obtain Slovenian citizenship or permanent residence in Slovenia;
@ immediate action should be taken to ensure that all Roma have practical access to safe water in or in the immediate vicinity of their settlements where this is still a problem.

The report, including Government observations, is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s contact visit to Slovenia in April 2013 [Press release] and takes account of developments up to 4 December 2013.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI.

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Council of Europe’s anti-racism committee publishes a new report on Switzerland

16/9/2014- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today publishes its fifth report on Switzerland. Christian Ahlund, Chair of ECRI, said that there are positive developments but that some concerns remain, including the rise of xenophobia and insufficient support for the integration of some migrants. ECRI welcomes that, at cantonal level, new institutions have been given the task of assisting victims of racism and discrimination and that several media combat hate speech on their websites. The Confederation and the cantons have adopted integration programmes and a system of indicators will measure their impact. Steps have been taken to ensure early education for children with a migrant background.

At the same time, Switzerland has not enacted effective legislation to combat racism and discrimination. Victims cannot submit a complaint to a body specialised in combating racism and discrimination everywhere in the country. Due to the xenophobic evolution of political discourse, several vulnerable groups experience significant deterioration in their living conditions. Young lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons are often victims of hate speech. In its report, ECRI has made several recommendations to the authorities, among which the following two require priority implementation and will be reviewed by ECRI in two years’ time:
@ confer to the bodies specialised in combating racism and discrimination the competence to hear and consider complaints;
@ to task one or more independent authorities with combating intolerance and discrimination against LGBT persons.

The report is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s contact visit to Switzerland in October 2013 [Press release] and takes account of developments up to 20 March 2014.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI.

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Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission publishes new report on Bulgaria

16/9/2014- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fifth report on Bulgaria. ECRI’s Chair, Mr Christian Ahlund, noted steps forward, but also a number of outstanding issues, such as low achievement in education and disproportionately high drop-out rates among Roma pupils, and the climate of intolerance and xenophobia against refugees. On the positive side, amendments to the Criminal Code introduced enhanced penalties for murder and causing bodily harm committed with hooligan, racist or xenophobic motives. A National Roma Integration Strategy, requiring every region to develop a strategy and action plan for the integration of Roma, and a National Strategy on Migration, Asylum and Integration were adopted. A change in the law now allows illegally built houses to be legalised and no longer subject to demolition leaving Roma families homeless. Obligatory pre-schooling for two years has been introduced in order to ensure an equal start for every child and early socialisation.

However, hate speech or violence targeting sexual orientation or gender identity is not recognised as an offence in the Criminal Code. Racist and intolerant hate speech in political discourse is escalating, the main target now being refugees. A growing number of ultra-nationalist/fascist groups and political parties operate in Bulgaria; one such party is represented in Parliament. Racist violence continues to be perpetrated against Roma, Muslims, Jews and non-traditional religious groups and their property. It is seldom prosecuted under the criminal law provisions specifically enacted for this purpose. In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations to the authorities, among which the following two require priority implementation and will be revisited by ECRI in two years’ time:

@ an awareness-raising campaign should be urgently organised promoting a positive image of and tolerance for asylum seekers and refugees and ensuring that the public understands the need for international protection;
@ the Commission for Protection against Discrimination should produce and publish information about discrimination, explaining the procedures for discrimination complaints, in a variety of languages used in the country and disseminate it widely.

The report, including Government observations, is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s contact visit to Bulgaria in November 2013 [Press release] and takes account of developments up to 21 March 2014.
© The Council of Europe - ECRI

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Bulgaria’s refugee agency to charge mayor with racism over protest

17/9/2014- Lawyers at Bulgaria’s State Agency for Refugees are preparing to approach the prosecution and the Commission for the Protection against Discrimination over alleged racism by Kovachevitsa mayor Vassil Stanimirov and the municipal council for opposing the admission of refugee children from Afghanistan and Somalia to a local school. Stanimirov earlier denied that racism was behind the opposition to the admission of the children, who following protests by residents of the village of Kalishte were expected to be sent to school in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia. On September 15, the first day of the Bulgarian school year, Kalishte villagers protested against plans to admit the 12 children to a school that has, with all grades taken together, 18 children. Soon after, the municipal council held an emergency meeting about the situation and issued a public call for the refugees to be removed from a local “childrens’ ecological park” where they have been housed since late 2013.

Earlier reports said that it was the placement of the refugees at the park that sparked an institutional “war” between the State Agency for Refugees and the local municipal authorities. On September 17, public broadcaster Bulgarian Natioanl Television quoted the State Agency for Refugees as saying that the reason for the agency’s complaint against Stanimirov and the local councillors was that their actions caused a conflict on a xenophobic and racist basis, and so were violations of Bulgarian and international law on people with protected humanitarian status. Stanimirov countered that the situation was not racism but desire to comply with the law. Bulgarian law requires that refugee children, before being admitted to school, should have proof that they have completed a formal course in the Bulgarian language. Earlier, it was reported that there were claims and counter-claims about whether the children had such certificates. However, at least one television report showed a child who had been barred from the village school speaking in Bulgarian.

On September 16, Bulgarian-language media said that the refugees were to be transferred on September 17 to the Ovcha Kupel refugee centre in Sofia. This meant that the children’s ecological park on Kovachevitsa would be emptied of the 79 migrants there. The State Agency for Refugees was quoted as saying that it was negotiating with the regional education inspectorate in Sofia about which schools would be admitting the children. It was expected that the refugee children who would be entering first grade would go to the same school while those in higher grades would be distributed among various schools in the capital city. Stanimirov also has challenged whether the children really have refugee status, alleging that such status is pending. Restating his opposition to the admission of the children, Stanimirov was quoted by daily 24 Chassa as saying that in the end, “our kids will learn Arabic”.

At the start of the protest, the Kalishte villagers said that unless the foreign children were prevented from coming to the village school, they would withdraw theirs. One of the Bulgarian children was seen on television saying, “we will beat them up, what else? Anyway they are ill, they do not deserve to live”. Asked why he said that the children were ill, the boy replied, “the headmaster said that they are ill”.
© Independent Balkan News Agency

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Bulgarian village continues ‘war’ over refugee children – but denies racism

A group of refugee children from Somalia and Afghanistan may end up going to school in Sofia after residents of the Bulgarian village of Kalishte in the Kovachevitsa area campaigned against the children being admitted to the local school.

16/9/2014- On September 15, the first day of the Bulgarian school year, a special meeting of the Kovachevitsa municipal council issued an “ultimatum” for the Somali and Afghan families to leave the national children’s ecological complex in the town by October 30. At the complex, 82 men, 79 women and 105 children are being housed. Residents of Kalishte rallied against admitting the children to the village school, arguing that the immigrants would infect them with “lice, worms and chicken pox.” The controversy in Kalishte has made headlines in several national media in Bulgaria, which saw a significant increase in the number of refugees arriving in 2013, and which is heading to early parliamentary elections on October 5. Kovachevitsa mayor Vassil Stanimirov denied that there was racism in the decision by the municipal council to call on the refugees to leave. Both he and the headmaster of the school were informed only on September 12 that the 12 children from Somalia and Afghanistan would be brought to the Kalishte village school.

Stanimirov asked how the immigrant children, whom he said did not know Bulgarian, would learn alongside the Bulgarian children at the school. He said that there had been a case of malaria at the camp, but the local authorities had learnt about this only from the media after a one-month quarantine at the camp had expired, during which time residents of the camp had been walking around in the village. Parents were concerned that there was no clear communication between the State Agency for Refugees and the local authorities, according to Stanimirov. “Why should our children suffer? What integration will there be when there will be two local pupils and seven little Somalis in the class who do not speak Bulgarian?” However, for all the claims that the children from the camp did not speak Bulgarian, at least those who were interviewed by television reporters gave their interviews speaking Bulgarian. A Bulgarian child who spoke to a television reporter about his supposed objection was – as could be clearly heard – being prompted off-camera by an unidentified adult.

A report by Nova Televizia said that the Somali and Afghan children had not arrived at the school on the first day of the school year and “in all likelihood” their families would be moved to Sofia and the children would be sent to study at schools in the Bulgarian capital. A report in daily Sega said that the situation in Kovachevitsa was complicated by an already ongoing institutional war between the State Agency for Refugees and local authorities. The conflict began smouldering last year when the refugees were brought to the complex last year by night without the mayor being notified in advance. “If to protect their interests is a war, then we are at war,” Stanimirov told Sega. He alleged that the children should have taken a three-month course in Bulgarian but this had started only in August. The State Agency for Refugees said that this was untrue, and that the refugees at the centre had completed the course last year.

The chairperson of the municipal council, Ventsislav Todorov, said that the declaration calling for the refugees to be removed from the complex would be sent to the President, Prime Minister, Minister of Education, head of the State Agency for Refugees and the regional governor of Pernik. “We do not accept integration, in which the Bulgarians are a minority, and Somalis and Afghans without (refugee) status are the majority,” he said. Kalishte’s school has only 18 children. Commentators on the situation noted that with such low numbers, it was likely to face being closed down. Caretaker Education Minister Roumyana Kolarova said that she was ready to discuss the situation with the municipal council and the mayor “but at the same time, I am ready to stand up for what I believe in, that all children are equal and should have equal access to education”.
© Independent Balkan News Agency

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Belgian Synagogue Set on Fire in 'Criminal' Attack

Amid a wave of anti-Semitism in Europe, and just four months since deadly Brussels shooting, attackers set fire to a synagogue.

16/9/2014- A fire broke out in a synagogue in the Belgian capitals of Brussels Tuesday, in what appears to be a "criminal" act, according to reports. Belgian daily La Dernière Heure said that several people broke into synagogue, which is located in the predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Anderlecht, and ignited several fires on the fourth floor of the building. The wife and two children of the synagogue's caretaker suffered slight smoke inhalation in the fire on the top floor of the building, where they lived, said Laurens Dumont, a spokesman for the city prosecutor. The caretaker was absent at the time. Dumont said "it would seem that the fire was set deliberately" at the synagogue in the Brussels neighborhood near the main train station, but the investigation was in its early stages. "All leads are open," Dumont said.
The synagogue reportedly serves roughly 240 people in the area, whose once-large Jewish community has dwindled in size.

Although Belgium suffers from high levels of anti-Semitism, the leader of Anderlecht's Jewish community, Yehuda Guttman, said that he was still unsure as to the attackers' motivations. "I do not know ... If the act was anti-Semitic, the authors would have burned a Torah, the sacred books. And that's not the case. Here we live at peace with everyone," he said. The same synagogue was also attacked in 2010, when unknown assailants hurled firebombs in a previous attempt to set it alight. Belgian Jewry has been shaken in recent months by a surge in anti-Semitism that has engulfed most of Europe. Just four months ago, the community was rocked by an anti-Semitic terrorist attack in which an Islamist gunman opened fire with an assault rifle in the Brussels Jewish Museum, killing four people. And just last Sunday, visitors to a Holocaust memorial close to the synagogue were attacked by thugs who threw stones and bottles at them, according to media reports.
© Arutz Sheva

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Migrant boat was 'deliberately sunk' in Mediterranean sea, killing 500

Two survivors of sinking said traffickers rammed boat, which left Egypt on 6 September, after passengers refused to transfer vessel.

15/9/2014- About 500 migrants are feared to have drowned after the boat carrying them from Egypt to Malta was apparently rammed and deliberately sunk by people-traffickers, an intergovernmental group has said. The news – based on the accounts of two Palestinian survivors – emerged on the same day up to 200 more people were feared dead when another boat heading to Europe capsized off Libya. The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said there was no independent verification for what happened to the vessel heading to Malta, mainly because only nine people are believed to have survived. The IOM's account comes from the two Palestinians, who were rescued by another boat and taken to Sicily. Malta's armed forces said it had flown seven survivors, who were suffering from hypothermia, to a hospital in Crete. It said initial information pointed to a collision of some sort between a boat carrying up to 400 migrants and another vessel.

If the Palestinian men's account is correct, by the IOM's tally about 2,900 migrants have died this year in the Mediterranean against 700 for all of 2013. "If this story, which police are investigating, is true, it would be the worst shipwreck in years – not an accident but a mass murder, perpetrated by criminals without scruplesor any respect for human life," the IOM said in a statement. The UN High Commission for Refugees said the situation in the Mediterranean was unclear and it was trying to get confirmation of five shipwrecks. A spokeswomanfor the UN High Commission for Refugees, Carlotta Sami, described it as "without any doubt the deadliest weekend ever in the Mediterranean" and the agency said it believed at least 500 were dead or missing in the last three days. Leonard Doyle, an IOM spokesman, said the Palestinian men recounted having boarded the people-smuggling vessel in Damietta, Egypt, on 6 September. Midway through the voyage the people-smugglers, who appeared to be travelling in a separate boat, ordered the migrants, who also came from Syria, Sudan and Egypt, to switch to a smaller, less seaworthy vessel. The migrants refused to do so.

Doyle said: "The survivors said the traffickers became so enraged after the migrants refused to board the replacement craft, there was an argument, a fight, and that the smugglers used their boat to sink the one the migrants were on. It seems they intentionally rammed the ship." One of the Palestinian man, aged 27, said he was able to cling to a lifebuoy for a day and a half, initially with around six other passengers. Doyle said: "Over the next 24 hours they all disappeared. The man said that among these was one young Egyptian who said he had left home to earn money and pay for the heart medicine of his father." The survivor was eventually picked up by a Panama-registered container ship that was already carrying 386 survivors from another sunk migrant boat, and taken to Sicily. The same ship seemingly picked up the other Palestinian man, who is aged 33. The IOM has not spoken to the other seven survivors.

The IOM learned of the men's account over the weekend and sent an Egyptian investigator to speak to them.A spokeswoman for the Italian coastguard said it had no information on the apparent sinking as it had not had contact with any survivors. A search of the area had uncovered no trace of a boat or any bodies, she added. Earlier on Monday, the Libyan navy said a migrant boat carrying around 250 people capsized off the coast near Tripoli. While 36 people were confirmed rescued, any others were feared dead. A navy spokesman, Ayub Qassem, told Reuters the boat had sunk near Tajoura, east of the capital, Tripoli. He said: "There are so many dead bodies floating in the sea." Doyle said the IOM had not previously heard of so many migrants drowning by a deliberate sinking, but that if it had happened it was possible no one survived. "On the face of it it's looking like a horrific incident," he said.

Huge numbers of people are attempting to flee from Africa to Europe, with numbers sharply up this year, in part due to the continued violent chaos in Libya and Syria. More than 100,000 people have been rescued since January, the UNHCR, says. According to the agency that monitors the EU's external borders, more migrants are likely to risk the dangerous crossings this year than at the height of the Arab spring. By mid-August this year there had already been almost as many illegal border crossings counted as there were in the whole of 2011, when the number reached 140,000, said Frontex. Doyle said the situations in Libya and Syria were undoubtedly part of the reason for the increased deaths, with "desperate" migrants willing to try the crossing in almost any vessel. "They're very much at the mercy of traffickers," he said. Earlier this year a leading Libyan people smuggler, speaking anonymously to the Guardian, explained how he uses a different tactic to ensure the trafficking boat can be used again. The man said that once the Italian military was en route to the ship he and his crew would decamp to a small rubber inflatable. Once the migrants are removed they return to the smuggling boat and return in it to Libya.
© The Guardian

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Luxembourg: Juncker warns of referendum xenophobia

15/9/2014- Former Luxembourg PM and soon-to-be EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has warned that a referendum on the right to vote for foreigners in Luxembourg could cause a “poisonous atmosphere.” Speaking to Radio 100,7, Juncker warned that the CSV – who opposes the right to vote for non-nationals – needs to tread carefully, as he believes the referendum could act as a breeding ground for xenophobic sentiment. Juncker currently still acts as the head of the CSV's faction in parliament although he will soon resign from his MP seat and depart for Brussels. The new EU Commission is expected to pick up in November. Juncker has frequently spoken out against a referendum as the method to settle the question of voting rights for non-nationals. He reiterated his stance on Monday, saying that “I always had fears that a referendum could cause a poisonous atmosphere in Luxembourg society.” Instead of access to voting rights, Juncker – and the CSV – have supported easier access to Luxembourg nationality.
© The Luxembourger Wort

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Kazakhstan politician: gays can be identified with blood test for 'degeneracy'

The national movement leader says young people in colored pants who hang out at malls should be tested.

15/9/2014- A Kazakh politician has said LGBTI people can be easily identified by blood testing for 'degeneracy.' Dauren Babamuratov, leader of the Bolashak national movement, made the comments last week at a press conference calling for laws banning LGBTI people from spreading 'propaganda,' taking public office and serving in the military. TengriNews website quoted him as saying, 'We have stooped so low that LGBTs no longer hide their orientation. One can see a lot of people in the city's malls and other public places - these are young people in colored pants. 'This means they no longer hide their [sexual] orientation. I think it is very easy to identify a gay person by his or her DNA. A blood test can show the presence of degeneratism in a person. 'Unfortunately, suppressing activities of the LGBT community in Kazakhstan is extremely difficult, because there is no law in our country prohibiting this type of activity, that is, the promotion of homosexuality.'

He said the Kazakh capital Almaty had 14 gay clubs and bars and was also 'the gay capital of Central Asia.' Activist and journalist Zhanar Sekerbayeva said, 'There is no gay "propaganda" in Kazakhstan, but there is homophobia. 'The question of gay marriage in Kazakhstan has never been on the agenda. No one has been promoting [gay lifestyle]. There have been no public speeches or gay pride parades. There is only homophobia and discrimination of women.''LGBT community is not an invention of the West. And they (gay people) are much more traditional than 'traditional' heterosexuals. LGBT people have always been there since the ancient times - Ancient Rome, Greece, it is only that the attitude towards them was different.'
© Gay Star News

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Slovenian journalist facing jail for revealing party's neo-Nazi links

Sources: IPI/OCCRP

15/9/2014- A Slovenian journalist who is accused of publishing classified state intelligence is facing a possible three-year jail sentence. The charges against Anuška Delię, an investigative reporter for the daily newspaper Delo, relate to a series of articles she wrote in 2011 shortly before Slovenia's parliamentary elections. She reported on alleged connections between a neo-Nazi group known as Blood and Honour and members of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS). Slovenia's intelligence and security agency (SOVA) claimed that information in Delię's report was classified and had been illegally acquired from its files. She was charged in April 2013 and, after more than a year and a half of deliberation, a judge in the capital, Ljubljana, ruled last week that she must stand trial for disseminating classified information.

Delię was unaware of details of the indictment until the judge's ruling. She says the document reveals that prosecutors had sought a warrant to access her phone records in an effort to uncover her source. A court apparently denied the request. Speaking to the International Press Institute (IPI), Delię expressed "relief" at finally having access to the indictment. She said: "After reading it, I still believe this trial is foremost a case of political prosecution of me, because I am the journalist who uncovered the existence of neo-Nazi members within one of the major political parties." The charge is, she said, "a sham and its only goal is trying to get to my sources."

IPI and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), have expressed serious concern over Delię's prosecution. IPI's press freedom manager, Barbara Trionfi, said: "To allow unresolved accusations of such a serious nature to loom over a journalist in this manner is totally unacceptable. "Secondly, we are indeed deeply sceptical of the case against Ms. Delię itself and we urge prosecutors to drop the charges without delay. Journalists have a right to report on questions of public interest – as the topic of Ms. Delię's reporting obviously was – and we struggle to see what compelling state interest justifies this prosecution. "Furthermore, it goes without saying that while an intelligence agency may understandably wish to locate the source of a leak, it may not do so by pressuring or harassing the media."
© The Guardian - Greenslade Blog

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Row over viral 'Nazi receipt' in Swedish shop

A photo of a till receipt with the Nazi slogan "Sieg Heil" printed on it has gone viral in Sweden, with supermarket chain Coop launching an internal investigation.

17/9/2014- The picture emerged after a woman in Stockholm noticed that a receipt from a Coop store in the Swedish capital had some unusual text on it:
In capital letters, the receipt read: "DON'T COME BACK! SIEG HEIL".

Sieg Heil is a German Nazi greeting meaning "Hail victory" and was made infamous during World War II. The woman, named only as Kerstin by the Aftonbladet newspaper, said she got a knot in her stomach when she read the text. "I can confirm that this happened. It's completely unacceptable and we're very disappointed," Louise Stephan, Coop's press manager told The Local. She denied that someone had hacked into the system, explaining that the message was manually added to the system by an employee. "We've launched an investigation to see what consequences this will have." She refused to comment on whether the person behind the text had been identified, or whether they would be fired. Stephan added that the "Nazi receipts" had only been found at the one Stockholm store, and that only two were printed out. The story on Aftonbladet, Sweden's biggest newspaper, shot to top of the most-read section and has been shared 14,000 times on Facebook. The news comes just days after the nationalist Sweden Democrats, led by Jimmie Åkesson, doubled their support in the national election, grabbing 12.9 percent of the Swedish votes to become the country's third largest political party. The Sweden Democrats have Nazi roots but its members have sought to distance themselves from their past in recent years. However during the election campaign a local candidate quit the party after photos emerged of her wearing a swastika armband. A similar receipt scandal cropped up in Italy recently, when a restaurant bill included an anti-gay message from a waiter reading: "I warn you, they're faggots".
© The Local - Sweden

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How a Former Neo-Nazi Party Became Sweden's Third-Largest

16/9/2014- Sweden's elections are over, the victorious Social Democrats are scrambling to form a government, and the country's third-largest party is a populist right-wing group with roots in the country's neo-Nazi movement. Let that sink in for a moment. In Sunday's election, the Sweden Democrats, which has turned xenophobia and anti-immigrant posturing into a political growth industry, captured 12.9 percent of the vote. The election marks the end of the eight-year rule of the Moderate Party, which saw a huge number of its voters jump ship and vote for a group that has been roundly denounced by Sweden's political class as a racist movement that has no place in the country's politics.

In one sense, the election defied typical conventions. The government of Fredrik Reinfeldt has overseen tax cuts that have put more money in the pockets of the average Swede, shepherded the country through the financial crisis in admirable fashion, and built public finances that put the rest of the continent to shame. Since the center-right government took power in 2006, the economy has grown by 12.6 percent and disposable income is up 20 percent. As thanks for his efforts, Reinfeldt got thrown out of office in humiliating fashion. The Social Democrats, the dominant power in 20th-century Swedish politics, emerged the winner on Sunday but it's a sorry kind of victory. Compared to the 2010 election, the Social Democrats barely increased its share of the vote. Rather, it beat the Moderates because a huge number of center-right voters fled to the Sweden Democrats.

Stefan Löfven, the head of the Social Democrats and a former union boss, will become Sweden's next prime minister, but he faces a terrible season of parliamentary wrangling. His political block lacks a clear majority. And because all Sweden's political parties have pledged not to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats, Löfven will try to forge a unity government that includes one or two of the smaller parties that made up the previous center-right government. That's a tough task. The problem of Swedish politics today is one that the Nordic nation shares with almost all of its European peers. The industrial base that financed Sweden's generous welfare state is mostly gone. The question of how to finance such a system in a post-industrial economy remains something of a riddle. With government benefits stretched by an aging population, financial crisis, and austerity, an ugly form of xenophobia has returned to Europe. In Sweden it goes by the name "Sweden Democrats," in France it's the "National Front," in the United Kingdom it's "UKIP," and in Italy it's the "Lega Nord." On Tuesday, French President François Hollande's new cabinet will face a confidence vote that could lead to new elections, which could provide a fresh electoral opening for the National Front.

Sweden has partly solved the conundrum of financing a big welfare state in a post-industrial economy by pursuing a series of modernizations and market reforms that have reduced government spending. (Equally important, Sweden mostly avoided the wreckage of the financial crisis.) But in Sunday's election, Swedes punished the Reinfeldt government for taking those reforms too far. Most important was the perceived drop in the quality of Sweden's schools, which have been the site of aggressive market experimentation. In December, Sweden's results tumbled across the board in Pisa educational assessments, triggering a crisis in the country's education politics. But the supposed over-reaching didn't result in an exodus to the political left, but a shift to the right. According to exit polls, a third of those who voted for Reinfeldt in 2010 abandoned him for the Sweden Democrats.

Those same exit polls provide a rough sketch of the average voter for the Sweden Democrats. They are mostly rural, unemployed men. Incredibly, Sweden Democrats were the second-biggest vote-getters among Sweden's largest trade union. In short, the typical Sweden Democratic voter is one who has been left behind by the post-industrial economy. The party uses that fact, along with the country's astronomic immigration rates, to incredible political effect. And this is where Swedish politics have gotten really ugly. Sweden's liberal immigration policies have left the country with one of the largest per capita immigrant populations in all of Europe. This population lives a marginalized existence, experiencing extreme unemployment and housing segregation. They are outsiders and the Sweden Democrats play a cynical game in stoking fears about their alleged criminality and abuse of the Swedish welfare system. According to exit polls, voters for the Sweden Democrats ranked immigration, law and order, and health care as their biggest concerns.

The leader of the Sweden Democrats is a handsome, well-spoken young man named Jimmie Åkesson. He is what you might call a housebroken racist. His party's roots go back to Sweden's neo-Nazi movement, and while Åkesson has purged the party of its most virulent racists, his members still got caught professing their true beliefs on occasion. One of the party's local candidates was forced to step down earlier this month after a photo emerged showing her cleaning while wearing a Nazi armband. In response to the party's rise in the polls, Reinfeldt has shown extraordinary strength. Resisting the temptation to protect his right flank by engaging in a bit of subtle xenophobia, Reinfeldt began the campaign urging his countrymen to "open their hearts" to the refugees who will, in all likelihood, keep coming to Sweden's shores.

It was an admirable statement, in line with the tolerance that marks Scandinavian politics, but it left Reinfeldt politically exposed. Last year, Sweden saw riots in a mostly immigrant suburb. A few months later, the government offered asylum to any Syrian who made it to the country's borders. With persistently high unemployment, this is a kind of generosity that fewer Swedes appear willing to finance -- or at least the Sweden Democrats have convinced them that they feel that way. And so, a bad remix of a neo-Nazi party is now Sweden's third-largest. This is nothing short of a political earthquake that Löfven is terribly positioned to handle. Sweden has failed to integrate its massive immigrant population -- a problem that will continue benefitting the Sweden Democrats. Löfven will probably end up with a minority government. It is unclear whether he will be able to push through major reforms on the question of integration.

That, of course, will only strengthen the racists.
© Foreign Policy

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Sweden turns left as far right soars

Swedish voters have turned away from the centre-right Alliance coalition of Fredrik Reinfeldt after eight years, and Social Democrats leader Stefan Lofven says he is prepared to form a government with other parties on the left.

15/9/2014- Yet the Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party have fallen short of a parliamentary majority, leaving them dependent on support from the far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, which became the country's third largest party with close to 13% of the vote. Sweden receives more asylum applications per capita than any other European country, and recently offered permanent residency to all Syrians fleeing the war there. The Swedish Democrats are the only party which opposes the country's immigration policy, and Sunday's result more than doubled their seats in parliament to 49. They first entered parliament in 2010. Yet all the mainstream parties still consider them to be too radical to work with. "I will not," Stefan Lofven, the incoming prime minister, told BBC News. "We need a strong government. Our party and I will take the responsibility so that Sweden will get a strong government not depending on the Sweden Democrats," Mr Lofven said. That means he might have to cross the floor and try to secure the votes of parties on the right of centre - the outgoing government - on a case-by-case basis.

Scandals
The Sweden Democrats survived a string of scandals in the run-up to the election, including the publication of a picture of a party official wearing a Nazi symbol, and the revelation that party leader Jimmie Aakesson has a problem with online gambling. Many of their election rallies were met with mass demonstrations, and took place with a heavy police presence. "I am very surprised and sad," said Ingrid Bjoerenson, a Stockholm resident who came to protest at a Sweden Democrats rally the day before the election. "They were here before as well, just to get the attention of the media and to provoke, because this is not an area where they have many voters," she told BBC News. Indeed, it is hard to find anyone who will admit to supporting the Sweden Democrats, despite their strong showing in these elections.

"For many years you had a bunch of small, marginalised parties fighting for the position to be the big, anti-immigration party, and the Sweden Democrats won that fight," said Daniel Poohl, leader of the Expo foundation which maps far-right extremism in Sweden. He believes the party's success is not necessarily a sign that public opinion on immigration is turning, but rather proof of their ability to build a palatable image. "In the 2006 election they grew away from the other small marginalised parties, and since then they have been the trademark for anti-immigration in politics." Ulf Bjereld, a politics professor at Gothenburg University, agrees. "The Swedish people has not changed their view, but those who think like the Sweden Democrats think, they have been mobilised to vote for them."

Strong welfare state
Mr Reinfeldt's centre-right Alliance had steered Sweden through the economic crisis with relative success compared to many other European countries, without cuts to public spending. "The welfare state has a very strong standing in Swedish public opinion," said Ulf Bjereld. "The reason the Alliance and Fredrik Reinfeldt and his Moderates Party could succeed in winning two elections [in 2006 and 2010] was because he promised very hard not to change the Swedish welfare system. "But in 2006 they had a vision for how they would develop the Swedish state. Today they have fulfilled their promises but they haven't been so successful in formulating a new vision." The Social Democrats say they want to raise taxes on business to boost spending on education, jobs creation and welfare. But with a minority in parliament, and faced with a stronger than ever Sweden Democrats, the incoming government faces an uphill battle.
© BBC News

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Sweden: Neo-Nazis disrupt Stockholm polling stations

Members of a neo-Nazi disrupted several polling stations on Sunday in southern Stockholm, newspaper Aftonbladet reports. Eyewitnesses told the paper that they filmed voters, shouted slogans and threw confetti.

14/9/2014- The election board in Stockholm confirmed several of the outbursts, including one at a school in the suburb of Enskede. Police said about 10 neo-Nazis entered the high school in Kärrtorp, another polling station where they filmed voters' faces and which ballots they took with them into the booths. Kärrtorp was the site of a Nazi attack last year when members of a neo-Nazi group clashed with peaceful protestors demonstrating against a spate of Nazi graffiti in the area. "They've been in Kärrtorp's high school, Enskede's school and in Alviksvägen school," Eva Debels, director of Stockholm's election committee, told news agency TT. "They are said to have thrown confetti," she said, adding that police have been notified of incidences. Jonas Widmark with Stockholm police confirmed that offices had launched a preliminary investigation but that no one had been arrested.
© Radio Sweden

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Sweden heads for minority left government, far right surges

14/9/2014- Sweden's centre-left Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven emerged as victor in Sunday's general election after a voter backlash against tax cuts and trimmed welfare by a centre-right government, but he fell short of a parliamentary majority. The Nordic region's biggest economy and one of the few star performers in Europe now faces a weak minority government with a possible political impasse as the anti-immigrant far right emerged as the third biggest party to hold the balance of power. Lofven's Social Democrats and two other opposition parties, the Greens and Left, garnered 43.7 percent of the vote, against 39.3 percent for Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's coalition. That means a government with limited clout to pass bills. Lofven told supporters he would begin coalition talks with the Greens, but also reach out to other parties. "We are in serious situation. We have thousands of people unemployed, We have school results that are declining more than in any other OECD country," Lofven said. "There is something that is breaking. Now Sweden has answered that we need a change."

A projection by the election authority showed that the three centre left parties - who have not as yet created a formal bloc - won 159 parliamentary seats, short of the 175 need for a majority. The government coalition won 142 seats. The projection is highly unlikely to change substantially as the final districts are counted. The far right anti-immigration Sweden Democrats won 12.9 percent in the poll, and 48 seats. Despite holding the balance of power, other parties refuse to work with them. "You can't avoid taking us into account if you want to run the country," Sweden Democrat leader Jimme Akesson told cheering supporters. "We are holding the absolute balance of power now." Lofven, a former welder and trade union negotiator, now faces hard and protracted negotiations to form a government. While the Social Democrats are the biggest party, it was one of their worst electoral results in a century. "It is clear that from a broader perspective that this is difficult for Sweden," said Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg. "We go from having one of Europe's strongest governments to having a weak government power with considerable uncertainty about economic policy."

In a blow for the centre left opposition, the Feminist Initiative Party got 3.2 percent, below the threshold for parliamentary seats. A win for the centre left in a weak minority government could also be another nail in the coffin for reform in the Nordics, where governments in Norway, Finland and Denmark are holding back on trimming their expensive welfare states. A defeat for Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt would rob the likes of Germany and the United Kingdom of a voice in the troubled bloc for fiscal prudence and reform. Lofven has campaigned for more growth and investment and higher taxes on companies and the wealthy in the European Union. Under Reinfeldt Sweden lost much of its image as a socialist welfare state. The country's tax burden fell four percentage points, to 45 percent of GDP, under France's. Taxes on inheritance and wealth were lowered or abolished. More Michelin star restaurants than ever opened in Stockholm.

"These have been fantastic years where the Alliance have taken responsibility for Sweden," Reinfeldt told party supporters on announcing his resignation. "My hope is that the journey will continue, but it will be without my participation." Many Swedes are worried that reforms under Reinfeldt have gone too far, weakening healthcare, allowing business to profit from schools at the expense of results and dividing a nation that has prided itself on equality into haves and have-nots. Voters have been shocked by scandals over privately-run state welfare - including one case where carers at an elderly home were reportedly weighing diapers to safe money - and bankruptcies of privately run schools. "We need to re-find our values, those that say we take care of each other, that it is not all about the rich getting it better," said Sofia Bolinder, playing with her young daughter in a playground after voting in the suburb of Skarpnack in southern Stockholm. Bolinder, in her 30s, said she voted for a party "on the left."

Unemployment
Widely admired for its triple A-rated economy, stable government and liberal attitude to immigration, Sweden nevertheless faces significant challenges, which a weak government will struggle to deal with. Unemployment is high at 8 percent, hitting immigrants and young people especially, and a potential housing bubble threatens economic stability. Widespread riots last year in Stockholm's poor immigrant suburbs highlighted a growing underclass in Sweden, which has had the fastest growing inequality of any OECD nation. The rise of the far right points to a society starting to question its role as what Reinfeldt calls "a humanitarian superpower". The number of asylum seekers from countries like Syria is expected to reach 80,000 this year. Even Reinfeldt has said government finances would be strained due to the cost of new arrivals. They were figures that played into the hands of the far right. The Social Democrats plan to spend around 40 billion crowns ($5.6 billion) to improve education, create jobs and strengthen welfare by raising taxes on restaurants, banks and the wealthy.

The centre left parties include the Left Party - formerly Sweden's communist party - which wants to raise income and corporate taxes and exclude profit-making businesses from schools and welfare, policies that the Social Democrats and Greens reject. The other centre left party, the Greens, have campaigned to end nuclear power in Sweden. The Liberal and Centre parties, the two smallest in the current government, have snubbed Lofven's call for a broad-based government, raising the threat of deadlock after the election, or, in the worst case scenario, a new vote. The Swedish crown weakened around 3 ore versus the euro in early Asian trade after it became clear both sides would be short of forming a majority. "It is going to be very difficult to form a government," said Swedbank economist Knut Hallberg.
(1 US dollar = 7.1247 Swedish crown)
© Reuters

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Germany: Muslims announce Day of Action against Hatred and Terrorism

17/9/2014- An organizaton of German Muslims has announced a demonstration against hatred this Friday. The Day of Action is meant to draw attention to displays of hostility not just against Muslims, but also against Christians and Jews, Muslim representatives say. Spiegel Online reports that the Muslims want to clearly distance themselves from the Islamist organization Islamic State (IS), which now rules parts of northern Iraq and northern Syria, by holding the event in more than 2 000 mosques throughout Germany. "We want to make it clear that criminals and terrorists do not speak in the name of Islam, that they trample on the commandments of Islam, and that our religion has no place for the criminals and murderers in our ranks," Aiman Mazyek, chair of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, has declared.

The slogan of Friday's Day of Action is "Muslims rise up against hatred and lawlessness". More than 2 000 mosques in Germany want to join the day by holding prayers for peace and preaching about it, said Ali Kizilkaya, spokesperson for the Muslim Cooperation Council, who called on all citizens to raise their voices against racism and stand up for the liberal democratic social order. According to German Muslims, the Day of Action targets all extremists. "When a synagogue is targeted for attack, then I am a Jew, when Christians are persecuted, as they are for example in Iraq, then I am a Christian. When explosives are set off near mosques, I am Muslim," Mazyek said.

© Romea.

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Jewish leaders press Germany to extend ban on Hitler's Mein Kampf

15/9/2014- International Jewish leaders on Monday urged German book sellers and publishers to continue blocking the dissemination of Adolf Hitler‘s Mein Kampf after a ban on the controversial text expires in 2015. At a meeting in Berlin, board members of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) unanimously agreed that the memoir‘s sale in book shops offends Holocaust survivors, welcoming a recent proposal by German officials to uphold a ban on the text. "Mein Kampf continues to be a tool of incitement for neo-Nazi and other racial bigotry-oriented groups and individuals throughout the world," WJC leaders said in a statement, adding that Germany has a special responsibility towards victims of Nazi crimes. The resolution - one of several during the meeting - is an official policy guideline for the WJC, which represents Jewish communities in 100 countries across six continents. Germany‘s southern state of Bavaria has controlled the copyright of Mein Kampf since it impounded Hitler‘s legal estate after his suicide in 1945.

Bavaria‘s ownership of the book allows authorities to use simple provisions of copyright law to block reprinting. ut copyright in Germany expires 70 years after the author‘s death, meaning that the Nazi dictator‘s memoir is set to enter the public domain at the end of 2015. German state interior ministers in June vowed to prosecute anyone who tries to reprint and sell the memoir after it enters the public domain. Hitler wrote the two-volume book in 1924 in Landsberg Prison, spelling out his hatred of Jews and his theory of the Aryan master race. Before the Berlin vote, resolutions committee chair Moshe Ronen showed board members a photo of anti-Semitic vandalism - a sign spray-painted with the words "Jews Out" in German - taken moments earlier in Berlin‘s Tiergarten park. Germany has struggled for seven decades to eradicate every trace of Nazism and keeps close tabs on active neo-Nazis. Owning and treasuring Mein Kampf was a mark of devotion to the Nazi cause during World War II.
© DPA

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Germany: New study shows anti-Romani prejudice has deep roots

15/9/2014- At the end of August the results were published of what is the most extensive study to date on the opinions of the German population about Romani and Sinti people in Germany. The research was performed for the Federal Anti-Discrimination Center (the ADS) by the Institute for Research into Conflict and Prejudice and the Institute for Research into Anti-Semitism, using a sample of 2 000 adults. According to the head of the ADS, Christine Lüders, the findings are "dramatic". Lüders says indifference, lack of awareness and rejection are creating a fatal mixture that prepares the way for discrimination against Roma and Sinti.

The indigenous Romani population of Germany call themselves Sinti and have a significantly different culture from that of other Romani people living in the country. According to estimates, members of these minorities comprise around 0.2 % of the German population. The aim of the study was not just to verify the stance of the population toward this minority. It focused in particular on people's existing knowledge about the minority, how they handle prejudice and stereotypes about them, how such beliefs are transmitted and what the importance is of this topic in society; answers to those questions could explain the high percentage of dismissive attitudes about Roma and Sinti noted in previous surveys.

Racism out of ignorance
One of the most important results of the study was the finding that every third inhabitant of Germany claims it would be "very" or "rather" unpleasant to have Romani neighbors, with every fourth Christian Democratic voter making that claim. Only one in 10 members of the younger generation share that belief. No other group in Germany encounters such a low level of sympathy as the Roma do. Half of the population believes Romani people are to blame for this hostility because of their own behavior, half of the population considers travel restrictions for Romani people to be a tried-and-tested means of reducing problems with them, and every fifth inhabitant of Germany has a significantly dismissive attitude toward Romani people. Romani Rose, chair of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, is disturbed by the findings. "The study shows there is significant aversion to Sinti and Roma," he says,"which is why it is possible for such deeply rooted prejudices to keep being reactivated."

Rose believes this view of "Gypsies" as "the enemy" is quite common in Germany. "This study is a warning sign," ADS director Lüders said of the results. What is particularly striking is that people of all ages and social statuses do not consider Roma their equals. "That means we must all take action to better integrate the Romani minority," Lüders said. On the basis of these new findings, the ADS will be asking the Government to commission regular reports on discrimination and racism so that the degree of their social exclusion and any eventual developments in it will be more visible and the functionality of any counter-measures chosen will be reviewable. The ADS wants to use campaigns to familiarize the public with the topic, as the study has shown that many people in Germany know nothing at all about the Roma and Sinti.

Greens call for action
Romani Rose says the study has revealed some positive aspects as well. "Of those surveyed, 80 % knew the Roma had been persecuted by National Socialism," he said. That is a very decent result for the country that perpetrated those abuses. However, there are deviations between the age groups of respondents familiar with such information. The age group from 25 - 34 knows very little about Romani people, while older inhabitants are better informed about them, revealing a lack of current instruction about them in the schools, particularly in the decade after the unification of Germany. The Government and the larger political parties have not yet responded to the report, but the opposition Greens have issued a detailed statement.

Volker Beck, the Green spokesperson for domestic policy, and Tom Koenigs, the Green spokesperson for human rights policy, said that "It is disgraceful that racist prejudice continues to be so widespread almost 70 years after the genocide of the Sinti and Roma. It is high time for a change in the administration, in the media, in politics and in the schools. We must systematically research the conditions for the creation of antigypsyism, the forms it takes, and raise awareness about Sinti and Roma. A group of experts on both practical and theoretical aspects of this should be entrusted with that work, we will ask for it in the Bundestag. Racist prejudices against Sinti and Roma threaten peaceful coexistence in our society. This mainly is a problem of the majoriy society accepting them. Health care, language courses, participation in the housing and labor markets, a school's inclusion of the children obliged to attend it, all of this is a call for action."

"Most of the federal government is looking to enact a law that would deny refugees from the Western Balkans the right to asylum. Some administrative courts, however, have been casting doubt on the federal policy of rejecting asylum requests filed by Serbian Roma as manifestly unfounded," said a representative of the Refugee Council from the state of Schleswig-Holstein in response to the report.

Catalogue of requirements
The ASD and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma have compiled a catalogue of requirements, not just of the government, but of educational and research institutions as well. They want to see measures and programs for inclusion avoid ethnicizing these problems and restereotyping Roma and Sinti, arguing that program titles such as "Romani Integration Strategy" could spark even more aversion, as they create the mistaken impression that most Romani people, unlike the rest of the population, are not integrated. Research to date on this issue has lagged behind, which is why the ADS and Central Council say there is a need to establish an independent university department for the systematic survey of this issue, just as one has long existed in the field of anti-Semitism. Fair access to education, they say, is the key to equality, and an educational academy should be established for the creation of top-notch Romani professionals by facilitating information about educational opportunities and providing tutoring.

Participation in the development of society is only possible when members of minorities are involved - otherwise it can happen that even high-quality integration meausres will not be accepted by minorities. That is why the ASD and Central Council recommend the various states conclude binding agreements with Romani organizations in this area. Stigmatization of Romani people arises mainly as a result of media reporting on the situation of Romani refugees, most of whom are unsuccessfully attempting to acquire residency in Germany because local authorities and schools in their home countries have long not made it possible for them to participate in the labor market or the schools. The ASD and Central Council say the state should recognize that there is systematic discrimination against Roma in the countries of Southeastern Europe in the areas of education, employment and health care and should ensure that refugee children can succeed in German schools despite the deficits of their circumstances.

Most of the respondents to the survey consider Romani people a foreign element at the bottom of society who allegedly often create their own problems for themselves. The German population doesn't know how to distinguish among Romani people as individuals and is unfamiliar with the diversity and normality of the life of the Romani people, which is why there is a need to improve the knowledge of journalists and teachers in this area.

Criticism of the study
The new study is also encountering criticism from many German Sinti. Richard Laubinger of the Sinti Allianz Deutschland group said some of the questions used by the survey created false impressions. For example, the question of whether restricting entry by Romani people onto German territory might improve the situation suggests that most Romani people living in Germany are of foreign origin and have only recently immigrated. "We Sinti are not just arriving here. We have been living in Germany and at home here for more than 600 years. We may have been here longer than many of the ancestors of many other Germans," Laubinger said, who is asking the ADS to leave the Sinti out of such studies in the future,"and for we have had good relationships with our neighbors here for decades."

What does this mean for the Czech Republic?
The Týden.cz news server in the Czech Republic commented on the publication of the results of German study as follows: "It's not that long ago that Germany and other Western countries were charging Central and Eastern Europe with racism over its approach to Romani people. However, all it has taken has been a few years during which thousands of Romani people, mainly from the Balkans, have begun moving to Germany, and the Germans have started showing themselves to be 'racists'." Týden.cz forgot to add that according to a recent, similar survey conducted by the STEM public opinion poll this March, nine out of 10 inhabitants of the Czech Republic do not want to have Romani people as their neighbors. Sociologist Jan Herzmann told the media that such a high percentage, from a scientific point of view, means "practically everyone" in the country shares that view.

Such surveys in the Czech Republic have not yet been as extensive as the one now published in Germany. However, that does not mean Germany is either less or more racist than any other country where open racism rules and people have no problem admitting to it. Hidden racism toward ethnic minorities can be transformed into open racism, mainly in cases of serious crises, and can lead to violence. That is why extensive new studies of the issue are so valuable.
© Romea.

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German cabinet joins demonstration to speak out against anti-Semitism

Germany's Jewish community has gathered to protest anti-Semitism. Chancellor Merkel's cabinet is also there to speak out against the hatred, recently reignited when Israel launched an offensive on the Gaza Strip.

14/9/2014- Crowds gathered before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Sunday for a demonstration against a recent wave of anti-Semitism in Germany. The Central Council of Jews in Germany organized the rally, citing a stark rise in aggression and violence toward the country's Jewish communities. This protest is necessary after "the worst anti-Semitic rhetoric in many years," the Central Council's president, Dieter Graumann, told the demonstrators. Graumann noted that criticism of the Israeli government was acceptable, but that the lines between disapproval of a country's decisions and hatred of its people must never be blurred. "Enough is enough...We are here to [say] together, as one: There is no place for the hatred of Jews!" Members of the German government were in attendance on Sunday, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. Other prominent guests included German President Joachim Gauck, the head of the German bishops' conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx and the head of the Council of the German Evangelical Church, Nikolaus Schneider. At least 4,000 people had gathered for the demonstration in Berlin on Sunday.

Judaism 'part of our identity'
The German chancellor also spoke out against the wave of violence and hatred, reminding Germans of their duty to stand up against anti-Semitism. The Jewish way of life "is part of our identity," she told the crowd, adding: "We want [members of the Jewish community] to feel safe in Germany." Echoing a promise made this summer by the German justice minister, the chancellor reminded the protesters on Sunday that German authorities would rigorously pursue any threats and acts of violence toward Jews.

Summer violence
The noticeable rise in anti-Semitism began this summer after the Israeli government authorized a military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza StripThe nearly two months of fighting  - including airstrikes and raids on underground tunnels - resulted in the deaths of roughly 2,100 people in Gaza. According to the United Nations, 70 percent of those killed were civilians. Israel lost 72 of its own citizens, most of whom were military personnel. In Germany, there have been reports of threats made against Jewish communities. At least two Palestinians have been arrested in recent weeks on suspicion of setting a fire at a synagogue in the western city of Wuppertal. The controversy surrounding the deadly military campaign drew criticism not only from abroad, but also at home. On Friday, 43 reservists from Israel's elite army intelligence wrote an open letter to their government, saying they refused to serve after the military's "abuses" against Palestinians.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Berlin's anti-Semitism demonstration should have been much bigger(opinion)

Germany's entire political elite has gathered in Berlin to demonstrate against anti-Semitism. The protest adds 6,000 people to the campaign. But it is far from enough, says DW's Editor-in-Chief Alexander Kudascheff.

14/9/2014- It is a clear signal - 6,000 people have gathered in Berlin to protest against anti-Semitism. Only 6,000. No more. In 1992, over one million Germans held candle-light vigils in cities, villages and communities across the country to speak out against racism. That was at a time when right-wing hate was countered with demonstrative and imposing force. But this time, 6,000 people have spoken out. That includes Germany's entire political elite. The president. The chancellor. Ministers. Unionists. The Protestant and Catholic churches. They all gathered on Sunday to make a clear statement against anti-Semitism - upon invitation from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, since no initiative came from within society, from within Germany itself. That is quite disgraceful, as is the small number of participants.

It is undeniable that there is a discrepancy in how Jews are perceived, especially in what people think of Israel. The German public has become distinctly more critical of Israel than the government. And behind this legitimate critical view of Israel, there are still archaic anti-Semitic resentments lurking - displayed on the streets by Muslim immigrants, spread on the Internet by normal Germans. The amount of vulgar remarks, hate and rage against Jews that can be found isn't only humiliating and disgraceful, it is also very disturbing. And that's why the rally at Berlin's Brandenburger Tor is the right statement: Germany is responsible for the Holocaust, for the "Shoah," for the murder of six million European Jews. In Germany, there must be more commitment to speak out more loudly, more impressively and more resolute against anti-Semitism than anywhere else. We cannot pretend that everything is ok.

According to opinion polls, around 20 percent of people in Germany have anti-Semitic views or agree with anti-Semitic stereotypes. That, unfortunately, is more than it was 25 years ago. These people are right-leaning, left-leaning, Muslim immigrants, people straight from the mainstream of German society. Seventy-five years after the beginning of WWII, after the annihilation of the Jews, Synagogues still have to be protected by police security. Even kindergartens. Jews wearing kippas have come to expect verbal attacks. Cemeteries are dishonored. This is a reality for Jews living in Germany.

But: despite the Holocaust, and every-day anti-Semitism, there is Jewish life in Germany again. Communities are growing. Jews do not hide, they are self-confident. That was evident at the rally in Berlin. They show their feelings. They will not accept the insults, the abuse. They are a part of German society. They have found their home here. A home that stands up against anti-Semitism. And that's why, as the German chancellor put it, the struggle against anti-Semitism is a self-evident matter of course for the republic. A free society ostracizes anti-Semitism. And it hates racism.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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The Holocaust’s Forgotten Roma Victims

More than 500,000 Roma and Sinti were exterminated in the Nazis’ death camps—and it’s time to include them in the official history of the Holocaust.

13/9/2014- Sit for a moment and picture all the people you know and grew up with; include your Mom and Dad, siblings, grandparents, and extended family, all your friends from your neighborhood and from school. Do you have everyone in your mind’s eye? Good. Now imagine 75 percent of all those people … dead. Systematically murdered because they were related to you or similar to you. It’s almost too horrifying to envision. However, this was exactly the situation at the end of World War II for hundreds of thousands of Romani survivors of the Holocaust who were targeted for extermination by the Nazis, because of who they were or to whom they were related—because of their ethnicity. (Romani people, also called “Gypsies,” a term considered derogatory by Romani activists, are part of a diaspora that began in India in the eleventh century.)

Between 500,000 to 1.5 million Roma and Sinti were victims of the Holocaust in various camps and in mass killings carried out across Europe. This year, August 2, International Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day marked the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the so-called zigeunerlager or Gypsy Camp, at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Notably, Romani activists increased their efforts to organize memorial ceremonies across Europe and were supported by international organizations, including bringing together more than 1,000 Romani people from across Europe for commemorations in Auschwitz and Krakow; respected journals and newspapers recounted the tragedy to their readers as well.

It is important for the world to recognize that Romani people who were killed by the Nazis and their allies were part of the Holocaust—its logic and its aim of a so-called “final solution”—and not a separate instance of genocide. Generations of school children have learned to call the results of the Nazis’ attempts at race-based exterminations by that name, “Holocaust,” and to infer that the Roma were not part of the same horrible policy enactments is not only historically inaccurate, but also implies that there was a different experience for Roma.

Not only were similar policy statements and pseudo-scholarship used to justify the killing of Jews and Roma on the grounds of “racial inferiority,” but all the Holocaust victims faced the same elite troops, were held in the same or similar camps, died in the same crematoria, and experienced gruesome medical experiments, mass starvation, and other violence. When we talk about the Romani victims of the Holocaust, it is without compromise that we refer to them as Holocaust victims, first and foremost.

It is our moral duty and right to preserve the memory of the Romani victims who lost their lives on this day and throughout the war. Thus, in memory of the victims, the signatories call upon governments, international organizations, museums, and commemoration ceremony organizers, as well as scholars, activists, and the media, to accurately refer to the Romani victims of the Holocaust and to reject the description of Romani victims of the Holocaust as being part of an isolated genocide.

On September 18, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USMMM) will hold a symposium to showcase new and emerging scholarship on Roma and the Holocaust. Roma and non-Roma scholars will present findings from their exploration of pre-war persecution and on the effects of the Holocaust on Romani communities in its aftermath. This is most welcome, and yet we are mindful that, while the USMMM is currently mobilizing scholars and allowing for more recognition of the Romani victims of the Holocaust, there is still no Romani representative—or two or three—on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Nothing less than full Romani participation in the direction of the Museum’s affairs by representation on its Board will allow us a true voice into the commemoration of our people’s past losses and sufferings.

Removing Roma and Sinti from Holocaust history by creating a separate genocide and by denying their voice in the Holocaust ceremonies signal a disregard for the memory and the dignity of the Romani people. Yet, the United Nations continues to dither about whether Roma and Sinti should be included in their annual Holocaust Remembrance ceremony. Furthermore, being designated as a victim of a separate genocide and not a Holocaust victim is precedent-setting. For example, many Romani Holocaust survivors were unable to qualify for any type of compensation for the losses they endured, specifically because the German government failed to recognize them as part of the Holocaust for several decades after the War, long after many survivors had died. This is not an example that current governments and institutions should emulate.

Only 10 percent of the hundreds of millions of dollars made available by the United Nations for the survivors, and which the U.S. Government was given the responsibility of disbursing, was set aside for non-Jews, and none of that found its way to the Romani survivors. When the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council was established in 1980, no Roma were invited to participate, and as mentioned above, it has no Romani member today.

The experience of the Holocaust is an indispensable part of Romani history, a suffering that permeated Romani families’ identities, and solidarity, for generations. The policy of “racial extermination” actualized by the Nazis was a primary event in the history of human civilization, and, as our Romani Elders noted at the memorial to the Roma and Sinti in Berlin, was the result of “state policies that were justified through vicious theories, administrative criteria, and institutional practices based on blood right-based citizenship, the assumed hierarchy of fictive human races.” That such justifications are seen again today in marches, rallies, hostile actions, and speeches by Neo-Nazis and sympathizers in many European countries, and which once again find the Roma and Sinti and Jews in the crosshairs, should galvanize every well-meaning world citizen into a renewed commitment to remember with the highest standards of truth-telling and without regard to prejudices.

Before policy decisions can be made, it must first be determined who the victims are; removing Romani people from Holocaust history may result in further injustices to be committed against survivors and their families in the future.

This will not be tolerated.

Romani people have the right to accurately represent our own history and it is the responsibility of others, especially those with the power to influence, to acknowledge our place in history and to correctly describe it. We believe that the accurate recognition of the Romani Holocaust and the representation of Roma and Sinti in Holocaust ceremonies are necessary steps that must be taken in a longer struggle for shifting the narrative on Romani people. Objective and true information about Roma and Sinti can lead to overcoming stigma and embracing Romani people as equal members of society, deserving of dignity and respect.

Signatories (alphabetical order):
Glenda Bailey-Mershon, The Foundation for Romani Education and Equality (FREE)
William Bila, Board Member, Roma Education Fund, Budapest, Hungary and Board Member, Roma Education Support Trust, Leicester, UK
Sarah Carmona, Post-Doc Researcher, Laboratoire IRMMC Université de la Manouba, Tunis, Tunisia, and 2015 Lillian Robinson Scholar, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Montreal, Canada
Qristina Cummings, Descendant of Survivors
Gina Csyani-Robah, Founder, Canadian Romani Alliance
Ian Hancock, Director, The Romani Archives and Documentation Center and State Commissioner, Holocaust and Genocide Commission
Angela Kocze, Visiting Assistant Professor, Wake Forest University Research Fellow, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Sociology
Ronald Lee, Romani Author and Educator
Margareta Matache, Instructor, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University
Nathan Mick, Vice President, StateBook International
Valeriu Nicloae
Jud Nirenburg, Board chair, National Roma Center of Macedonia and Chair, American Council for Romani Equality
Kristin Raeesi, Research Professional- Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska, Anchorage
Iliana Sarafian, PhD Researcher, University of London, UK
Marius Taba
© The Daily Beast

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Ukrainian Soldiers Filmed Wearing Nazi Helmets Deny Neo-Nazi Links

ZDF TV shows Ukrainian Azov battalion fighters wearing uniforms with Nazi symbols.

13/9/2014- Ukrainian volunteer soldiers have been broadcast on German television wearing helmets with Nazi symbols. The soldiers, reportedly from the Azov battalion, were shown on German public broadcaster ZDF wearing uniforms decorated with Nazi motifs, including swastikas and lightning bolt-like runic symbols of the SS, a World War II Nazi paramilitary organisation. The footage was captured by a camera team from Norway's TV2. Oystein Bogen, a foreign affairs correspondent at TV2 told NBC: "We were filming a report about Ukraine's Azov battalion in the eastern city of Urzuf when we came across these soldiers." A spokesperson for the Azov battalion denied that the force has any fascist tendencies. "We are just Ukrainian nationalists," he said. The Azov battalion is one of the more prominent volunteer units fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east of Ukraine, and was established by the Social-National Assembly, an alliance of far-right and nationalist parties.

Neo-nazi accusations
Azov battalion fighters have faced repeated accusations of being neo-Nazis. The force uses the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf's Hook) symbol on their banner, and members of the battalion have openly espoused white supremacists and anti-Semitic views. One battalion fighter named "Phantom", a 23-year-old former lawyer, told The Telegraph last month: "Personally, I'm a Nazi. I don't hate any other nationalities, but I believe each nation should have its own country. We have one idea: to liberate our land from terrorists." The battalion's commander Andriy Biletsky, a former history student and amateur boxer, also commented: "The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led untermenschen [sub-humans]." Pro-government Russian media have repeatedly focused on Ukraine's far-right nationalist elements in an effort to discredit President Petro Poroshenko's pro-Western government. Ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine have also cited Kiev's alleged Nazism as a reason to fight to break away from Ukraine.
© The International Business Times - UK

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Serbia: Mauricio Pochettino condemns Partizan’s antisemitic banner

• Tottenham manager: it is unacceptable and disrespectful • Uefa investigates incident involving Partizan Belgrade fans • Partizan Belgrade 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur

18/9/2014- The Tottenham Hotspur manager, Mauricio Pochettino, was angered by the “unacceptable” antisemitic banner displayed by Partizan Belgrade supporters in their Europa League opener. A much-changed Spurs side got their Group C campaign off to a solid start by securing a hard-fought, 0-0 draw in an intimidating atmosphere in the Serbian capital. However, the performance was overshadowed by an antisemitic banner in the home end, inspired by the Only Fools and Horses logo. The name was changed to “Only Jews and Pussies” and was displayed at Partizan Stadium throughout the match. Uefa is investigating the issue after it was pointed out to them by Tottenham’s officials. A delegate from the governing body took photographic evidence after the match. “I didn’t see it,” Pochettino said. “The club is aware but I did not see [it myself]. But if this is true, then it is an unacceptable thing. It is very disrespectful. This is a shame, very disrespectful and unacceptable.”

It is not the first time Partizan have found themselves in hot water, having been thrown out of the Uefa Cup and fined in 2007 for rioting during a first qualifying round first-leg clash at Zrinjski Mostar. They could have their stadium at least part-closed by Uefa if found guilty of misconduct over the banner. The incident came just two years after the racial abuse suffered by England Under-21s in a European Championship play-off in Serbia. The Spurs left-back Danny Rose was caught up in the problems that night and was among those rested for the Partizan match. Partizan’s coach, Marko Nikolic, was clearly unaware of the issue surrounding the antisemitic banner when he thanked the crowd for their behaviour. “I want to congratulate the crowd,” Nikolic said. “The support was great and not only great but everything went well. It was a wonderful, sporting environment without the slightest problem.”
© The Guardian

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Serbia: PM: No room for xenophobia and homophobia

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučię has told Deutsche Welle that Serbia was seriously opposed to xenophobia and homophobia, and fighting against it.

15/9/2014- He pointed out that it will become evident "in the coming weeks" how successful the state was in this. He was referring to the investigation launched after a German participant in an LGBT conference was assaulted over the weekend in Belgrade. "Belgrade is a cosmopolitan city, Serbia is a country that is fighting not only to join the European Union, but a country that will never support the values ​​of violence and primitivism, compromising the rights of others, and other people's lives," Vučię said. The German agency introduced the interview by saying that the incident had shocked Serbia, that the suspects have been arrested, and that the seriously injured German activist was recovering, adding that the incident was the reason for the brief conversation with Vučię.

Asked to comment in his role as prime minister and say what state authorities had done on this occasion, Vučię said that it was a terrible event and that no matter what anyone stated as their reasons, it was "pointless, insane and unacceptable." "And we have not only condemned it as the worst thing that could happen, but as something that should not be happening in Belgrade and Serbia," said Vučię. He added that the reaction came very quickly,, noting that "no one has ever arrested all attackers so quickly" describing the suspects in custody as "one key (attacker) and two helpers." "State authorities have undertaken and done all the most important measures in the shortest time possible to protect the legal system, law, justice, and the innocent man who was attacked, and that's what we could do," said Vučię.

He then added that "it is up to us to try to, through upbringing and education, learning and constant talking and conversation, explain to people that attacking a foreigner, someone who has a different sexual orientation, on someone who is different, is disgraceful and not a value to be protected." Asked to comment on his meeting with Christoph Straesser, the German government commissioner for human rights policy who was in Belgrade for the conference, Vučię said that it was a good meeting and that he on the occasion said that Serbia "knows their responsibilities": "Serbia respects its obligations, its constitutional obligations and civil rights and human freedoms, as well as its international obligations, and Serbia will act in accordance with that."

Commenting on remarks of Amnesty International and other organizations that warned about homophobia and xenophobia in Serbia, Vučię said that every complaint was understood seriously, "but we have shown that the state is seriously opposing and fighting xenophobia and homophobia." When the interviewer observed that there was "little time left until the Pride Parade," and asked "what was his message at this time to the the German, and also to the Serbian public, as far as the safety of participants and the prevention of violence," Vučię reiterated that Serbia found it "important to protect diversity, human rights and freedoms, and would behave accordingly." According to Vučię, this was done not because of pressure coming from various sides or statements from different organization, "but because it is important for our country, for our people, for our citizens." "In this sense the state is undertaking measures in line with its powers and in line with its jurisdictions," he concluded.
© B92.

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Serbia Urged to Protect Gays After Brutal Attack

After a German gay activist was severely assaulted in Belgrade, German officials and rights campaigners urged the Serbian authorities to ensure the safety of the capital’s upcoming Gay Pride parade.

15/9/2014- Germany’s human rights commissioner Christoph Strasser told Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic after the weekend attack that left the German activist criticially ill that a safe and successful Pride Parade this month “would have a tremendous meaning for Serbia”. In a brief statement after their meeting, the government office for media said that the Serbian PM had assured the German lawmaker that “Serbia will do everything to ensure the respect of human rights”. The 27-year-old German activist, who was visiting the city to attend a conference on LGBT rights, was badly beaten in the centre of the city in the early hours of Saturday. He was hospitalised "with severe head injuries and bleeding, so he has had surgery and been put in intensive care", Dusan Jovanovic of Belgrade's emergency centre told the AFP news agency.

Hundreds of gay rights supporters marched in Belgrade on Saturday in protest over the attack, carrying placards saying "Stop the Violence". The Serbian authorities are under pressure to protect human rights as they strive to win EU membership. Serbian police arrested three suspects on Saturday over the attack, which according to reports from local rights organisations and media was motivated by hatred of gays and foreigners. Rights group Amnesty International urged the Serbian authorities to prevent further assaults. “Suspects identified should be brought to trial in fair proceedings. The investigation must seek to establish whether the attack was motivated by the victim's sexual orientation and/or nationality. If established, such a motive should be adequately reflected in sentencing,” Amnesty said in a statement. “Coming just 10 days before the Belgrade Pride, this attack is a grim reminder of the threats and attacks that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people still face in the country. The perpetrators must be identified and brought to justice,” the statement added.

Serbian interior minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Sunday that police were currently carrying out security checks after which they will decide whether the Pride parade scheduled for September 28 can take place. In 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, the authorities banned the parade altogether just days before it was scheduled to take place, because police declared they could not safeguard marchers from right-wing violence. The country's first Pride march was brought to a halt in Belgrade in June 2001 when protesters clashed with police. The march went ahead only in 2010, but several thousand young people, including football fans and members of right-wing organisations, caused mayhem on the streets of the capital, throwing stones and missiles, injuring police officers and setting buildings and vehicles on fire.
© Balkan Insight

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Serbia: German gay rights activist critically injured in Belgrade assault

A German man who took part in a gay rights conference has been hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after he was attacked in central Belgrade. The assault comes ahead of a scheduled gay pride march in the city.

13/9/2014- Serbian police say the man, who has been identified only as D.H., was beaten up by unknown assailants in downtown Belgrade early on Saturday morning. Jovanka Todorovic, from the organization Labris which hosted the conference on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) rights, told Associated Press the man was attacked by a group of young men who bashed him with a glass ashtray. He was taken to Belgrade's emergency hospital suffering life-threatening head injuries and internal bleeding. "He has undergone surgery and been put in intensive care as his condition is very serious," Dusan Jovanovic, the hospital's deputy director, told news agency AFP.

Serbia's Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said in a statement that he had ordered an "intensive investigation" to bring the perpetrators to justice. "We will not allow these kinds of things to remain unpunished ... and we will arrest the German citizen's attackers," he said. The incident is not unique in Serbia. The country has a long history of violence against gay rights campaigners by far-right groups - a serious challenge for the government, which is currently seeking EU membership and has pledged to improve its protection of human rights. Later on Saturday, anti-riot police were on hand as hundreds of gay rights activists marched through central Belgrade in protest of the latest attack.

The gay pride parade is scheduled to take place in two weeks and will be the first event of its kind since a gay pride march in 2010 resulted in clashes between police and ultra-nationalists that left more than 100 people injured. After clashes in 2010, authorities banned such marches, citing security concerns that participants may be attacked by right-wing extremists.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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UK: Hard to admit, but we're all guilty of casual racism

19/9/2014- It is difficult to quantify casual racism. But most of us are guilty of it. However, sensitivities will always be heightened when one’s child is exposed to it. A friend told me how an online spat between her 12-year-old son and his school friend quickly reduced to a nasty exchange of words: “You’re brown.”, “Stop being racist you freaky retard.”, “You’re a monkey face.”, “Well you’re stupid.”, “At least I’m white.” In an era that is arguably quite ridiculously politically correct, particularly in a school environment, this episode today would be almost unheard of. Another friend, a teacher described how she asked her pupils to describe each other as a sweet. One girl innocently said her Pakistani friend was a ‘caramel’ because she is brown. Uproar ensued and both sets of parents were duly called into school to clear up the matter. The irony is, as Asian people, we are grossly indignant when non-Asians pass comments or remarks towards us. Yet many are happy to use the race card as a scapegoat for almost anything in life- ‘ I didn’t get the job because he’s racist, innit.’‘ ‘I didn’t pass my exams because the examiner is racist.’ Etc, etc.

However, the prejudice that we exert amongst our own people is possibly the most toxic kind of casual racism there is. It is even more damaging, because it is accepted. From fair skinned women still being placed on the most culturally insensitive pedestal possible, to regional differences being used to discriminate. One family friend revealed, “She’s a nice girl. But she’s Punjabi. “We couldn’t possibly marry into a Punjabi family.” Another friend relayed to me an anecdote on how a potential marriage partner was rejected by her parents. “He’s a doctor. Check. Owns his own property. Check. Has a nice car. Check. “But his family are from Sialkot. Mine are from Karachi. So no chance.”

‘Everyday Racism’ is a new free app that has been launched in order to decipher how covertly racist we actually are. The app invites the player to put themselves in the shoes of a Muslim woman or an Indian student as they negotiate a range of scenarios in which subtle racism is at play. Mundane experiences of everyday racism are highlighted by the app. The app is a great concept, and serves to reiterate how this complex issue remains very much engulfed in all our lives.
© The Lancashire Telegraph

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UK: Islamic State and Rotherham abuse 'fuelling far right'

Islamic State extremism and the Rotherham abuse scandal are fuelling a far-right backlash in the UK, one of the Home Office's most senior advisers on right-wing extremism has said.

18/9/2014- The anonymous worker claims the government has overlooked the problem amid its focus on tackling jihadists. The Home Office says it is working to prevent "all forms of extremism". But the Institute for Strategic Dialogue claims the government must engage more with the far right.

'Worrying period'
The senior adviser works directly with right-wing extremists as part of the Home Office's Prevent strategy, and asked to remain anonymous to protect his personal safety. He says the government has underestimated the threat posed by the far right in Britain. "This is one of the most worrying periods in right-wing extremism, given the growth in right-wing groups and the recent news events which are making them more angry," he explains. The adviser, who has 27 years of field work experience, says he has spoken to several individuals in recent weeks who have displayed real anger at the ongoing conflict in the Middle East - where Islamic State (IS) militants control large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Membership to far-right groups, he adds, is on the rise. He claims that since last year, at least five new groups have formed, often having branched off from existing groups to follow a stronger ideology and comprising over 100 members. He says one group member told him he would like to implement death camps in the UK. "When I asked who he would like to put in the death camps, he just listed everyone that he didn't see as white British," he added.

'Increased' racial hate crime
Data compiled by Tell Mama UK, which monitors anti-Islamic hatred, reflects fears that the actions of IS are provoking Islamophobia in the UK. In August it received 219 reports of abusive incidents targeted at Muslims in England - the same month as the IS beheading of US journalist James Foley. This was almost double the 112 incidents recorded in January, though the organisation stresses its figures only show a glimpse of the full picture, with many victims of racial hate crime afraid to report abuse. Even though Tell Mama UK's data was collected anecdotally - the Muslim Council of Britain supports its claim that there has been an escalation in violence against individuals.

The findings of an inquiry into child sex abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 are also a cause of increased hate crime towards Muslims, Tell Mama UK suggests. The report, commissioned by Rotherham Borough Council, found at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited by criminal gangs predominantly of Pakistani heritage.
In August, when it was made public, over a quarter of anti-Muslim hate crimes (58) recorded by Tell Mama UK were said to be provoked by the scandal. Last weekend an English Defence League (EDL) rally took place in Rotherham in response to the revelations revealed by the inquiry.

Groups 'encourage active role'
One former member of a neo-Nazi group, who wants to remain anonymous, agrees that current domestic and global events present the "ideal recruitment ground" for right-wing extremist groups. He says once young members sign up groups urge them to take on an active role. "There are books that are available on the internet that you're encouraged to read," he says, "you'll then be questioned on your knowledge." Asked what the books are about, he replies: "How to disable somebody and how to basically kill people." He says he originally joined the neo-Nazi movement as he felt the British population was being ignored. "Coming from a working class background, I was very conscious of money being allocated to other areas [by the government]," he explains. He says he no longer holds racist views.

Success abroad
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) think tank, which specialises in research on right-wing extremism, is calling on the UK government to change its approach to tackling far-right movements. It has published research which, it says, suggests Britain must find new ways to engage with such groups. "When individuals are entrenched in these movements there is very little support or option for them to leave," its research and policy manager on far-right extremism and intolerance, Vidhya Ramalingam, claims. "We've seen there's evidence from programmes that exist in Sweden, Germany and Scandinavia, that actually if you offer a space for individuals to turn to when they are doubting their ideology, we can prevent violence from happening in the first place," she adds.

Former Labour cabinet minister Hazel Blears told the Today programme that encouraging people to integrate more would help combat extremism of all kinds. "What really needs to be done, is what we've tried to do for a long time - certainly I have - and that's to bring people together. If you bring people together, it's a lot more difficult to hate each other if you're sharing day-to-day lives. ISD reports that since 2000 the Exit programme in Germany has helped over 500 individuals leave the extreme right, with a 97% success rate. The Exit-Fryshuset programme in Sweden has achieved 94% success with 133 people, says ISD. The Home Office insists much of its work on radicalisation specifically addresses far-right extremism, with a quarter of the 2,000 cases it has dealt with since April 2012 being concerned with the problem. It says its Prevent strategy "tackles all forms of extremism, including from the far right".
© BBC News

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UK: London debate on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia polite, but pointed

The fine line between criticizing Israel and delving into anti-Semitism is discussed by leading Muslim and Jewish journalists
At a September 15, 2014 London debate, editor Mehdi Hasan,Huffington Post, and journalist Jonathan Freedland (Guardian) highlighted high levels of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the UK and suggested there should be common cause in ending it
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16/9/2014- British Jews need to become as comfortable listening to genuine criticism of Israel as they are at discussing rising levels of anti-Semitism, and not fear giving “ammunition” to the other side, a leading British Jewish commentator suggested this week. Speaking at a debate in London on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia hosted by the Guardian on Monday evening, journalist Jonathan Freedland said that when it comes to the Middle East “you so often need to say both things” and called on the community to accept that. He argued that acknowledging rising levels of anti-Semitism in the UK should not be seen to run contrary to criticism of Israeli Government actions. “People are comfortable saying the first thing,” he said. “But when I go on to say I think Israel’s response was wrongheaded they will denounce me.”

The wide-ranging but polite debate saw discussion of the Tricycle Theatre’s recent (now reversed) refusal to host the UK Jewish Film Festival if it maintained Israeli funding, and calls for a moratorium on Holocaust analogies in discussion of the Middle East. Editor Mehdi Hasan and Freedland highlighted high levels of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the UK and suggested there should be common cause in ending it. Freedland, a writer for the Guardian and the Jewish Chronicle, made clear his warmth for Anglo-Jewry in his comments. But he also viewed Israel’s actions in Gaza this summer as self-defeating and emphasized that encouraging debate within the community is crucial. “There is no shortage of Jewish critics of Israel, but those who are committed to the Jewish community? Not so much,” he said. “If you really want progress, the people who will make it happen are the people who are listened to by their own communities,” he said. “If you do want progress then you do have to win over people on both sides.”

He was joined in the discussion by British Muslim commentator Hasan, the political editor of the Huffington Post UK, who last year wrote a widely-discussed piece criticizing his own community for tolerating anti-Semitism. Both journalists made clear that as members of their communities, they understood the fear among British Jews and Muslims of giving “ammunition” to the opposition, recalling how they had respectively been attacked as a “Nazi collaborator” or as a “Mossad agent” after taking contradictory views. But they warned against a retreat into comfort zones. “We can’t not talk about these things because we are worried about the PR,” said Hasan, urging his own community to become better at “airing their dirty laundry in public.” “You’ve got to go out there,” he said, adding, “You have to work out how much ammunition you want to give. How much do you want to provide Islamophobes or anti-Semites to club you with?”

Freedland acknowledged that for many British Jews, there are genuine worries about raising their voice, given the tone of the debate on social media or in the wider world. “People fear that if you offer an inch of criticism you hear a mile back of the most vicious antisemitism,” said Freedland. Speaking from his own experience, he said that minutes after a recent column criticizing Israel was published online, people “who are implacably opposed to Israel” were tweeting his comments out of context. “That just comes with the territory,” Freedland said. “People tweet the bit they agree with, so you feel reluctant to give ammunition. But you’ve got to say it.” Arguing that Islamaphobia is not necessarily taken as seriously as it should be in the UK, Hasan said that he sees anti-Muslim attacks downplayed in a way that anti-Semitism in the UK is not. “Mainstream politicians don’t trade in anti-Semitism,” he argued. “We do have politicians who say those things about Muslims.”

But Freedland argued that “Zionist” has become a codeword for Jew, and pointed out “the minute there is a new incident, what comes up is this doctoral level debate about whether it is anti-Semitism.” “Both communities go through this situation where prejudice against them isn’t taken seriously,” he said. “The first response for people with no skin in the game is that’s not anti-Semitism or Islamaphobia… people find a way to explain it away.” The pair also differed in their views on the linking of “Israel” and “Jewish,” with Hasan arguing that when British Jews start conflating the two by emphasizing their links to the country, it is “very hard to find language to talk about Israel that doesn’t trip into anti-Semitism.” But arguing that this is one of the knottiest aspects of the debate, Freedland warned that commentators must work to find the distinction. Referring to the Tricycle Theatre’s decision, which he said he found chilling, he said it was not anti-Semitic but nonetheless gave the sense that it is “first condemn this, then you’re allowed into polite society.”

“It would be really easy to say, ‘Say what you like about Israel but not about the Jews,’ but it’s not that simple. The Jewish community here is exceptionally bound up with Israel,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean they are accountable.” Pointing out that affinity for Israeli society and its people do not commit you to support the Israeli government Freedland stressed that “if you care about dialogue you have to be aware of that as a starting point.” He also emphasized that while the line can be murky, it is not always so. “During the Gaza war the hashtag ‘Hitler was right’ was trending on Twitter. It’s not always that subtle,” he said. “Sometimes it’s really just overt anti-Jewish prejudice.”
© The Times of Israel

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UK: Dozen arrests at mass far-right protest rally

There were ugly scenes as police officers and some protestors clashed as the far-right English Defence League descended on Rotherham in the wake of the damning report into child sexual exploitation.

14/9/2014- The report revealed how 1,400 children in the town were subjected to horrors by largely Pakistani men including being raped, trafficked and assaulted in over a 16-year period and pointed to a failure on part of the authorities to deal with the scandal. EDL supporters outraged at the abuse called for justice for the victims and for Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright to lose his job. He was the Rotherham councillor with responsibility for children’s services for five of the years when the abuse is said to have occurred and he is now responsible for setting policing priorities in South Yorkshire and holding the county’s police force to account.

Eleven man and a woman were in custody overnight, including a 20-year-old from Mexborough, who was arrested on suspicion of causing damage to a mosque. Around 800 supporters from the EDL took to the streets yesterday, with Unite Against Facism mounting a counter protest in All Saints Square. Around 1,500 police officers were drafted in to police the protest. Three Rotherham men - two aged 38 and one 34 - were arrested as well as a 44-year-old Rotherham woman, who was held on suspicion of causing racially and religiously aggravated fear of alarm and distress. An 18-year-old, from the town, was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an officer. Two 26-year-olds were taken to hospital with what were believed to be minor injuries.

Officers were forced to drawn their batons at one flashpoint when a crowd started pushing officers and hurling missiles at them. Metal barriers were pushed over and thrown at officers as a splinter group of EDL supporters left the march, but after 15 minutes of mayhem order was resumed and the protestors continued along the pre-arranged route to end up at Rotherham Main Street police station. Chief Superintendent Jason Harwin, of South Yorkshire Police, who said earlier that police “fully acknowledge our previous failings”, said: “The protests have passed with only sporadic outbreaks of disorder. “I would like to thank all officers and partners involved in the operation for their professionalism leading up to the event and throughout yesterday.”
© The Yorkshire Post

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International Day of Memory of Victims of Fascism

The International Day of Memory of Victims of Fascism, marked every year on the second Sunday of September since 1962, will be honoured this year on September 14.

14/9/2014- The date is observed in September since World War II began on September 1, 1939 with the Nazi invasion of Poland and ended on September 2, 1945 with the surrender of the militarist Japan. WWII involved 61 states and over 80 percent of the world's population, taking a toll over 55 million people. Hostilities occupied the territories of 40 states and the vast basins of the Atlantic, Arctic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The Soviet Union sustained the biggest losses, some 27 million people, in addition to losses to its armed forces, some 8.7 million people. Nearly 70 years have passed since fascism was defeated by a unified effort. Though the social organization brought the world innumerable sufferings and killed millions, some countries are still trying to revise the results of WWII.

Russia's Foreign Ministry regularly draws the world's attention to the attempts of some former Soviet republics to alter history. Thus, it has repeatedly expressed indignation over the gatherings of veterans of the 20th Estonian SS division. Russia believes that support for such events that facilitate the promotion of fascism and neo-Nazi manifestations is inadmissible in an EU member state. For example, Russia's bilateral ties with Latvia are seriously aggravated by the latter's efforts to glorify the former Latvian SS. Many politicians and veterans of the Great Patriotic War are critical of the attempts to glorify the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and its leaders in Ukraine. Every year, marches are held in Ukraine to honour the formation of the Galichina SS division. The Right Sector, which unites Ukraine's nationalist organizations, operates on its territory. Activists are promoting extremist and nationalist activities through symbols and attributes of organizations that collaborated with fascists during WWII.

Upon Russia's initiative, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution in 2005 urging an end to the glorification of Nazism each year and in 2013 approved the another resolution on combating practices contributing to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The General Assembly expressed its deep concern over attempts to glorify Nazism, neo-Nazism and former members of the Waffen-SS in any form, including the construction of monuments and the holding of public demonstrations. The resolution has expressed concern over the "recurring attempts to desecrate or demolish monuments erected in remembrance of those who fought against Nazism during WWII, as well as to unlawfully exhume or remove the remains of such persons," and noted an alarming increase in racist incidents and violence globally.

On May 5, 2014, President Vladimir Putin signed a law introducing punishment of up to five years in prison for rehabilitating Nazism, denying the facts established by the Nuremberg Tribunal and disseminating false information about Soviet activities during WWII. Under the law, fines will be issued to those desecrating the days of combat glory and other memorable events in Russia. A draft law equating Nazi symbols to those of the organizations that collaborated with the fascists, including the followers of the Stepan Bandera movement, has been submitted to the State Duma. It extends the list of organizations whose public demonstrations, propaganda and symbols entail administrative responsibility. Traditionally, public campaigns are held in Russia during the International Day of Memory of Victims of Fascism to commemorate the tens of millions of people who perished in WWII.
© RIA Novosti

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Russia: Moscow Takes Break From Ukraine Fighting to Hate Gays Some More

13/9/2014- Fresh off (not) waging war in Ukraine, Russian officials hosted an international forum on "Large Family and Future of Humanity" this week that ended with a call for the international adoption of anti-gay laws. Russia's anti-gay policies may have taken a back seat to it's annexation of Crimea this summer, but they're never far from the Kremlin's worldview. In fact, the forum was hosted in part by Vladimir Yakunin, a close advisor Vladimir Putin's and head of a state-run company. A glowing article on the website LifeSiteNews reports that in addition to Yakunin, the conference drew a wide range of high-ranking officials, including the vice-speaker of the Duma and the minister of culture. It's a miracle the president himself — a strong proponent of anti-gay policies — didn't make an appearance.

In a declaration addressed to "leaders of all faiths, To the architects of public opinion, To those at the helm of professional, women’s and youth organizations, To the UN General Assembly, To the heads of state and legislative bodies and To the mass media" issued at the end of the conference, attendees of the forum pushed for the legitimization of "meaningless" (childless) sexual relationships. The resolutions ends with a how-to list for riling up anti-gay sentiment around the world, like, you know, the government already did in Russia. It specifically instructs like-minded individuals to push for legislative initiatives that would define "family" in terms of heterosexual relationships, ban surrogacy that might help same-sex couples have children, and condemn children to foster homes and orphanages rather than place them with same-sex parents. In the name of family. The recommended courses of action have already been implemented in Russia, capped off by a nation-wide ban on "gay propaganda," which was signed into law by Putin in 2013.

What's more jarring, though, is that the meeting was originally organized under the auspices of the U.S.-based World Congress of Families, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center but sees itself as an organization promoting family values. (Another American, National Organization for Marriage spokesman Brian Brown, actually spoke at the event.) But at the last minute, the World Congress "suspended" its meeting and it was reorganized under a different name, because of war and sanctions and stuff. Americans were also still on the organizers list less than a week ago, prompting questions about whether they inadvertently violated anti-Russian sanctions by cavorting with the country's most virulent homophobes.
© New York Magazine

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Headlines 12 September, 2014

Russia: Racism and Xenophobia in August 2014

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

12/9/2014- In August, at least three people fell victim to racist and neo-Nazi violence, in the Krasnoyarsk and the Tomsk regions. Since the beginning of the year, 13 people have been killed as a result of racist violence, with 74 more injured and one receiving a serious death threat. Such incidents have been recorded in 21 regions of Russia.

The only action of some importance organized by the far-right in August was one with the slogan “For Donetsk Russia”. This was held in Moscow on the August 2 by the Battle for Donbass public movement. The movement includes the Right Conservative Alliance, the Eurasian Youth Union, the Right Platform. The action was coordinated by the Right Conservative Alliance member Alexey Zhivov and attended by the activists of Konstantin Krylov’s National-Democratic Party (NDP), Alexander Dugin, Egor Kholmogorov, Roman Antonovsky of the Right Conservative Alliance and Valentin Tabachny (early suspected of posting xenophobic materials on VKontakte social network site).

The far-right went on with their anti-immigrant raids. For instance, on August 10, the National-Socialist Initiative (NSI) held a “Russian sweep” with the movement’s leader Dmitry Bobrov and several others swept over the city market places checking immigrant workers’ documents.

In August, we only recorded one incident of xenophobic vandalism. In Korolyov near Moscow a standing cross was desecrated. Since the beginning of the year, we could count no fewer than 29 targets of xenophobic vandalism in 24 Russian regions.

We are unaware of any guilty verdicts for racist violence issued in August 2014. Since the beginning of the year, at least 12 such verdicts have been issued with 30 people convicted in 10 Russian regions.

In August 2014, one guilty verdict was issued for xenophobic vandalism. In Surgut a vandal was sentenced under Part 2 of Article 2014 of Criminal Code to two months of arrest for making xenophobic inscriptions in a lift cabin. That is the only verdict for xenophobic vandalism issued this year we are aware of.

In August 2014, at least 12 verdicts convicted 12 people in 12 Russian regions for xenophobic propaganda. The sentence against Maxim (Tesak) Martsinkevich issued by Kuntsevsky District Court on August 15. Tesak (the nickname means “backsword”, and is sometimes translated as "Slasher") was sentenced to five years of strict regime penal colony for posting three videos on VKontakte (“Kick the churki out! Pre-election campaign!”, “Tesak on the movie Stalingrad and the situation in Biryulyovo”, and “Tesak on the movie Okolofutbola” (“Near Football”).

Since the beginning of 2014, 89 verdicts have been issued against as much people in 43 regions of Russia.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated six times in August. Entries 2342-2424 were added. The additions include various xenophobic materials, mostly videos from Vkontakte, and some more: two songs by Korroziya metalla thrash metal group, a leaflet found at the bus stop in Abakan, Platsdarm and Ataka far-right websites, books by Hans Günther and Joseph Goebbels, William Powell’s famous Anarchist Cookbook, a brochure by neo-pagan ideologist Alexey (Dobroslav) Dobrovolsky, an article from Svoimi imenami newspaper and an article by imprisoned radical publicist Boris Stomakhin. A number of Islamic materials from some Hizb ut-Tahrir texts to militant Jihadist Imarat Kavkaz videos and Kavkaz-tsentr mirrors were also included. So was a site copying the Federal List itself but containing links to the banned materials. In August, at least two materials were added twice on the list owing to court sentences issued simultaneously, a video containing a text by American racist leader David Lane and a video entitled Mujahids are invincible, you, dogs, realize this.

In late August, the Federal List of Extremist Organizations published by the Ministry of Justice grew up to 36 items (the organizations banned as terrorist not included). Muslim religious organization of the village of Borovsky, the Tyumen region banned by the Tyumen Regional Court on May 6, 2014 and Russian Native Community of Schyolkovsky district, the Moscow region deemed extremist by the Schyolkovsky City Court of the Moscow region were added on the list.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis.

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We need to understand hatred better if we’re serious about fighting anti-Semitism

by Kenneth S. Stern
The recent surge in antisemitic hate crimes in Europe was, unfortunately predictable. This much we know about antisemitism: since the collapse of the Camp David peace talks in 2000, whenever violence in the Middle East involves Israel, hate crimes against Jews and Jewish-linked property increase, dramatically, particularly in Europe.

12/9/2014- In just the past few weeks, we’ve seen attacks at synagogues (mob-like), attacks on individual Jews, attacks on Jewish-linked property, refusal of a business to serve Jews, and the shuttering of Jewish museums for fear of attack. France, Norway, England, Ireland, Turkey, Belgium, Ukraine, you name it. We also know that because the shooting between Israel and Hamas has stopped for the moment, and with it the cessation of fresh images of dead Palestinian children, the hate crimes in Europe should likely deescalate too. Until the next time. But other contemporary antisemitic-linked challenges remain: the rise of the far-right in Europe, the full-throttled import of classic antisemitism into the Muslim world, and the vilification of Israel as the stand-in for the classic Jew, to name but a few. We seem to be loosing this battle. There are many reasons for this disturbing trend, but the most significant one is a matter of insufficient imagination and not enough serious thinking.

We fight antisemitism in many ways. Some ways are probably somewhat effective, as far as they go, but are really seat-of-the-pants, we’ve-always-done-it-that-way strategies. Not a single means of countering antisemitism is rooted in academic research, let alone testable theories, to tell us if what Jewish NGOs choose to do will be effective, and if effective, moreso than something else they could choose to do. Too often they do things because they’ve done them before, they sound “strong,” and “determined,” and – not coincidently – can be used as centerpieces for fundraising.

There are five major tools in the current anti-antisemitism arsenal: attitudinal surveys, political pressure, education, legal approaches, and press releases. The purpose of this essay isn’t to delve deeply into each approach, but rather to give a hint of their limitations. 
1. Press releases (and blogs) put Jewish organizations “on the record” when an antisemitic act occurs (so they don’t appear unconcerned or uniformed), and are useful for fundraising more than for effecting any significant change. 
2. Educational programs, largely targeted to high school students and frequently using the Holocaust as a centerpiece, expose teenagers to important issues, but there is no convincing evidence that they result in long-term attitudinal changes. And, in any event, there are many well-educated antisemites.
3. Legal tools, such as hate crime legislation and training, are important, but also limited in what they can accomplish, and attempts to use legal tools against speech (on campus in the U.S., against Holocaust denial in some other countries), are actually counterproductive as they change the debate from antisemitism to “free speech,” and/or give a disincentive for political leaders to speak out against antisemitism (because, they claim, a case is before the courts). 
4. Political pressure, especially applied abroad, to speak out against and crack down on antisemitic crimes, political parties, or incidents, is, while important, of limited effectiveness, and ironically at times, works because of antisemitic stereotypes (a belief by some leaders who want access to the U.S. government, that the U.S. Jewish community holds the keys to Washington, DC). 
5. Attitudinal surveys tend to look at classic antisemitic stereotypes, and then classify people as antisemitic or not, when antisemitism isn’t a black-and-white issue (most people are probably somewhat antisemitic, like most are somewhat racist). Further, most surveys fail to address all contemporary forms of antisemitism, and very few employ any comparative analysis: if x percentage of people believe Jews have too much power, is that a small number or a large number compared to what people think about other groups?

The current approach has limited effectiveness because it largely looks at antisemitism as if it were an isolated phenomenon, and not – as we must – a subset of a larger human challenge: hate. Looked at as separate from the human capacity to define, and then dehumanize and demonize some “other,” we can see only a small hint of what antisemitism is, and that frequently out of context. This blindness also limits our ability to identify what to do to curtail it. (The same can be said about other hatreds too – sexism, homophobia, racism, Islamophobia, etc.) It’s as if we look at it through a peephole, when, in order to see the object clearly, we need to use a wide-angled lens.

How narrow is our lens? We tend to default to “common wisdom” answers focusing on Jews or antisemitism alone, with little or no evidence to support these strategies. Holocaust education, as mentioned. Knowing about the Holocaust is important, but there is little evidence knowing about the Holocaust reduces antisemitism – in fact, some who apparently have received that education use the vocabulary of the Holocaust (“ethnic cleansing,” for instance) as weapons to vilify Jews in general and Israelis in particular. And what makes us think that teaching about Auschwitz is going to change the way a young Muslim male in France thinks of Jews, especially when he sees pictures of Israeli soldiers with weapons, trained on his co-religionists?

Another piece of narrow “common wisdom,” frequently reflected in blogs and press releases, is to combat antisemitism by noting what Jews, individually and collectively, have accomplished. We’re smart. You wouldn’t have cures for polio or the latest computer gadget without Jews. There’s some academic-based evidence to suggest that it is difficult to hate and have empathy at the same time, but that’s quite different from suggesting that admiration (or jealousy?) or gratitude is an antidote to hate.

And another is the questionable notion that antisemitism – particularly for Israelis from Palestinians – can be countered with economic prosperity. There is little evidence to show that having the capacity to buy more consumer goods because Jews have lifted the economic boat in Palestine can somehow remove a more powerful thought: that people who you perceive as your religious inferiors have an upper – and heavily armed – hand in a land you (and God) believes – belongs to you, alone.

These pat strategies of questionable effectiveness for combating antisemitism are endorsed because no one is demanding an investment in testable theories, based on understanding how human hatred works, to define what to do instead. And we can no longer afford the luxury of such ignorance. Interestingly, after World War II, inspired by the antisemitism of Nazism, there was an attempt to go to the academy for insights about prejudice and hatred. Theodor Adorno wrote “The Authoritarian Personality.” Social psychologist Muzafer Sherif conducted the “Robbers Cave” experiment, concluding that people (in this case summer campers) were likely to have prejudiced views of competing groups, but that when they had a common challenge which involved a superordinate goal, these views diminished.

There is much in evolutionary and social psychology that suggests that hatred isn’t something that’s learned – it is hard-wired (although we need help figuring out whom to hate, and sometimes how to find and identify “others” in creative ways – for example, a study noted that Greek and Turkish Cypriots identify each other by the brand of cigarettes smoked). And academics such as James Waller have made compelling cases that most of us, in the right circumstances, have the capacity not only to hate passionately, but also act on that hatred. Sociologist Kathleen Blee, writing on women in the Ku Klux Klan, found that her subjects explained their racism and antisemitism differently. They could recount an interaction with a black person that they believe sparked their animus, but with antisemitism it was more of an “aha” moment, about secret forces and how the world really worked.

But while research in various fields offer some insights into how humans identify and dehumanize others, including Jews, there are very few multi-disciplinary efforts to pull together insights from these various fields – psychology, social psychology, law, religion, anthropology, economics, political science, history, and many others – to enable us to look at the many moving parts of any hatred simultaneously – how hate operates on the individual, group, societal, national, international levels, all at the same time. By expanding the academic study of hatred, so that we understand better what motivates people to hate, what effectively controls hate, and how our institutions should have a better understanding of how they may intentionally or unintentionally impact hate (such as the unintended but foreseeable consequences of political actions, such as in Iraq), testable theories would emerge about what to do, and what not to do, to impact growing antisemitism.

Antisemitism, after all, isn’t really a problem for Jews, it’s a problem largely about how others think of Jews, whether they be Islamic extremists, neo-Nazis, or the less violent, but still disconcerting, more “normal” percentages of various populations (including those living in places where there are no Jews as neighbors). To understand what they think about Jews, and why they think what they do, and how they are motivated to act on those beliefs (such as voting for antisemitic parties in parts of Europe), we need to energize the academy to produce new interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary theories and research tied into how human beings intersect with hate – as individuals, groups, societies, nations.

The starting point of analysis must be from the macro – that humans hate, why they hate, how hate impacts them, those around them, and their institutions – and then to the micro – that some humans hate Jews (and then how Jew-hatred manifests itself). Sometimes the most important questions (and answers) will have nothing to do with Jews directly. For instance, when Jewish groups spoke with leaders of various European governments over the last two decades about the antisemitism of the far-right, rather than speaking about just about Jews and the importance of “tolerance” of Jews to democracy, might it not have been wiser to draw those leaders’ attention to research, such as that of Professor Terri Givens at University of Texas – Austin, documenting the specific actions mainstream parties should undertake (and avoid) to maximize the probability that extremist parties remain marginal? (She argues that when mainstream parties make clear they will never join a coalition with extremist parties, those parties tend to lose votes in subsequent elections.)

One complicating factor to developing an approach to antisemitism grounded in a better understanding of the human capacity for hate is that the Jewish community usually insists that antisemitism is “unique.” And of course in some ways it is – it is one of the longest hatreds, it is one that occurs on the political left and the right, and it is one fueled by ideology and theology, usually packaged in conspiracy theory.

There are, of course, some logical reasons why the Jewish community leadership insists on antisemitism’s uniqueness. Politicians – especially in some European countries – have too many times tried to eliminate antisemitism from an articulation of their concerns, even while Jews are under attack. Isn’t it ok, they sometimes ask, to speak out against racism and xenophobia, isn’t antisemitism covered by the implicit “etcetera?” But this attempt to back-burner antisemitism (recall French officials in the early 2000s blaming “hooliganism” rather than antisemitism when synagogues were torched – but if this was “hooliganism,” why were synagogues, and not churches and mosques, being “hooliganized?”) is the problem of people who want to avert attention from antisemitism. The answer to them is not to ghettoize antisemitism further into a dark corner of limited thinking. It is to emphasize that hatred is a huge human problem – just look at all its manifestations every day in the news – and that to understand any subset of it better (including antisemitism), we have to expand our thinking. Maybe empirical research about how best to respond to hatred, rather than raw political pressure from Jewish groups, will provide recalcitrant politicians convincing evidence of the need (and the benefit to them) to call any hate by its name, quickly and loudly?

To know why people hate Jews, we have to know first why people hate. For as long as there have been human beings – no matter where, when, what the major religion, economic or political system – people have divided themselves into “us” and “them,” and then found ways to identify the “other” as not only alien, but a danger. Antisemitism, it has been said, is in some ways like a disease. Each disease is different, but doctors who specialize in researching any particular disease all start from the fundamental departure point – the knowledge that people get sick. They may know how brain cancer differs, say, from heart disease, and their research may delve deeply into minutia. But their starting point, and overall framework, is predicated on the understanding that their particular disease is a subset of something that impacts the human body. We need a similar comprehensive approach to know everything we can about hate if we are ever going to understand everything we must about antisemitism.
Kenneth S. Stern is an attorney and author who has written widely about hatred and antisemitism.
© The Jewish Journal

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It's time to take action against Islamophobia in Europe

Islamophobia is one of the most violent and frequent forms of racist violence and discrimination in Europe today. But it remains unrecognized, leaving the EU powerless in quantifying and countering this phenomenon, writes Elsa Ray.
By Elsa Ray, spokeswoman of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), a member organisation of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR).

12/9/2014- Imagine a country where Muslim women are banned from restaurants and beaten on the street. Where Muslim bearded men can’t sit in the metro without being avoided like the plague or insulted. Imagine a country where mosques are being vandalised every week. Where Muslim cemeteries are defaced every month. Now, imagine that these cases happened in Europe in recent years. In France, The Collective Against Islamophobia (CCIF) recorded 691 Islamophobic acts in 2013 (an increase of 47% compared to 2012), with women being the primary victims (78% of the total number of incidents). The United Kingdom's biggest police force, the Metropolitan Police, recorded 500 Islamophobic hate crimes in 2013.

The situation is already critical and the phenomenon is steadily increasing. However, there is no comprehensive Europe-wide data collected on Islamophobia, and no political will of EU Member States to combat this worrying phenomenon. The Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union issued a report on discrimination against Muslims in 2009 and reported that on average, 1 in 3 Muslim respondents stated that they had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months. However, no further meaningful investigation or political action by key European bodies such as the European Parliament and the European Commission have taken place since. Data collected by NGOs show that in the UK, France, Belgium, northern and southern European countries, women are the main targets of Islamophobic discrimination and hate crimes, especially when they wear a headscarf. Which makes Islamophobia a specific form of racism and sexism. These are two very good reasons for Europe to act.

2014 is the year of the European elections, and they have been marked by the rise of far-right parties and hate speech across the political spectrum. In this very tense context, the European Parliament’s role must be to combat all forms of hate, including Islamophobia. Hate speech by members of the European Parliament or by national politicians must also be systematically denounced and sanctioned. The lack of data must be the number one issue for the European Parliament. Indeed, without strong data on Islamophobia, policy makers cannot make a comprehensive assessment of the phenomenon and therefore cannot adopt efficient measures to stop it. This leaves the victims of Islamophobia unprotected and increasingly marginalised. Members of the European Parliament should also ensure structured and effective cooperation with civil society actors fighting racism and Islamophobia from across Europe to have a first assessment of the situation. It would also be a first step towards a true recognition of the phenomenon by the European institutions.

The European Parliament and the European Commission should encourage and support local, national and European initiatives to encourage victims to report Islamophobic incidents or hate crimes, to support victims of Islamophobia and to empower them with practical and legal tools. In addition, the European Commission should live up to its mandate and ensure that Member States are implementing EU anti-discrimination legislation, by investigating more closely countries where concerns have been raised. Racism, and especially Islamophobia, have become commonplace. It is time to reverse the trend and for Islamophobia to be recognised at the highest level by EU decision makers. Ahead of the Council of Europe’s European Day Against Islamophobia on 21 September, a first step would be for the European Institutions to mark this day by publicly condemning the increasing phenomenon in Europe.
© EuroActiv

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Netherlands: Sinterklaas with no switch or servant: traditional songs get overhaul

12/9/2014- Songwriter Paul Passchier has come up with a revised collection of Sinterklaas songs, traditionally sung by primary school children in the run up to the St Nicholas celebrations on December 5. He hopes his updated lyrics will become standard in schools, and publisher Ploegsma says it wants to distribute the book to every primary school in the country by the end of this year, the AD reports. Some of the lyrics Passchier has changed refer to Zwarte Piet, Sinterklaas’s servant who is at the centre of a major row about racism. Piet, traditionally played by a white person in blackface make-up, is also undergoing a gradual makeover to make him less of a racist stereotype.

Black as soot
One lyric which is constantly referred to by anti-Piet campaigners is ‘Even though I am as black as soot, I mean well’. That should be changed to ‘He is here for you and me, come and join in’, Passchier suggests. Another popular lyric which harks back to the early days of Sinterklaas states: ‘His servant laughs and keeps on calling out to us. "If you are good you get something delicious, if you are naughty, a switch"’. Passcher suggests amending this to take modern sensibilities about beating children into account. ‘Look, Piet is laughing and calling to us, ‘I’ve got enough delicious things for all of the Netherlands’, is his suggestion.

Teddy bears
Other lyrics involve updating the wishes of children to make them more modern. Spinning tops and skates are replaced by books and teddy bears. 'But we have not been too modern,' he says. 'We have not put an iPhone in the shoe. The songs must stand the test of time.' The author claims to be in talks with the education ministry but a spokesman says officials have had an email about the book and that is all. ‘We do not go into how songs are sung,’ he told the Volkskrant. Meanwhile reactions by readers on the AD website are overwhelmingly negative about the new words.
© The Dutch News

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Platini criticises FIFA over discrimination tolerance

10/9/2014- UEFA president Michel Platini had a dig at football's world governing body FIFA on Wednesday, saying it had failed to show zero tolerance towards discrimination at the World Cup. "It's all well and good to create committees and task forces but you will get nowhere without infrastructure and... rules," the Frenchman said as he opened an anti-discrimination conference in Rome. "UEFA put up a system that is a complex monitoring system of all high risk matches so that, unlike the World Cup in Brazil, zero tolerance is really put into practice.” Platini appeared to be referring to FIFA's failure to hand out sanctions after Mexican fans chanted the word "puto" - or "faggot" in Spanish - at opposition goalkeepers during games. Claudio Sulser, head of FIFA's Disciplinary Committee, said at the time that the decision to take no action against Mexico reflected that the abuse was not aimed at an individual player. FIFA also took no action against German fans who blacked up their faces at the match against Ghana and Croatian fans who displayed neo-Nazi flags and insignia.

Platini added: "Football is a mirror of society, it reflects its qualities but magnifies its flaws. "We need to make sure we can protect the most vulnerable. Discrimination is a scourge that has scarred history for many years... that can no longer by accepted in our society in which everyone should be equal." "Gone are the days of football in Europe as sport for middle class, white male chauvinists and it will never return," he added. Platini said the fact the conference was being held showed that, for all its efforts, football had failed to stamp out discrimination. "This is a long arduous difficult journey with lots of obstacles, but nobody will keep us from going the extra mile. "Football includes, it welcomes, it integrates, it does not exclude or discriminate against anybody, it accelerates progress in society," he said.
© Reuters UK.

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Jews Flee Mariupol Amid Fears Of Anti-Semitism In Ukraine

10/9/2014- Hundreds of Jews have reportedly fled the port city of Mariupol, in eastern Ukraine, despite a shaky cease-fire that went into effect Friday between the Ukrainian army and Moscow-backed rebels. And, as the war drags on, fewer Jews are expected to return to the region's embattled cities and instead choose to migrate to Israel or to safer areas in Ukraine. Rabbi Mendel Cohen reportedly told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that Jews are fleeing the city as well as the rebel stronghold of Donetsk where they had reportedly taken refuge earlier during the conflict. According to Cohen, the local Chabad, a community organization, has reportedly helped “hundreds” of Jews leave Mariupol, which has seen fierce fighting between rebel and government forces. Cohen's Chabad is also working to find housing for community members who have fled to other Ukrainian cities like Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Kiev and Zhitomir, where they will remain until the situation gets better, Cohen reportedly said.

In recent weeks, more than 100 Jewish families from Donetsk, along with their Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski had reportedly arrived in Mariupol. Vishedski reportedly said that, from a population of more than 10,000 Jews before the war, only about a thousand now remain in Donetsk. However a Jewish leader from Kiev reportedly disputed this figure, saying that many more Jews remained in the city. In recent months, Mariupol, which lies about 70 miles south of Donetsk on the Sea of Azov, has switched between rebel and army control leaving its residents, including the city's Jewish population, in constant fear. However, Cohen reportedly said that the community did not feel threatened by either side because of their religion, and added that the local Jewish community wanted to stay apolitical and focus on helping the community survive in the region.

Moscow-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces have accused each other of anti-Semitism with a German television program reportedly airing footage that showed Ukrainian militia wearing Nazi symbols on their helmets. Earlier in April, the BBC reported anti-Semitic leaflets being distributed by masked men in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. The leaflets, which reportedly ordered Jews to register and pay a tax, or leave, also carried the stamp of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk. However, the separatists had denied the claims and declared them to be a hoax.
© The International Business Times

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Ukraine Crisis: Are Nazis And Nationalists Popular in Ukraine?

Every few weeks, photos and video of ultranationalists displaying Neo-Nazi symbols surface out of Ukraine, showing the world a troubling faction among pro-government elements in the ongoing conflict with pro-Russian separatists. Most recently, stills from a Norwegian television report show two soldiers of the volunteer Azov battalion displaying a Nazi swastika and Nazi “SS runes,” raising new questions about what role nationalism –and to a lesser degree, Nazism- is playing in the Ukraine crisis.

9/9/2014- Radical nationalist right-wing groups are minorities in Ukraine, but it's not surprising that men marching in all black and banners eerily similar to the Nazi swastika have attracted international attention. Pro-Russian media anchor much of their criticism of Ukraine's new government, led by President Petro Poroshenko, and its military on Ukrainian nationalist elements, rarely shying from decrying protesters as fascists, Nazis and anti-Russians bent on eradicating ethnic Russians from Ukraine. By keeping the focus on the ugliest and most polarizing elements of the pro-European camp, these media outlets have stricken fear into its largely ethnic Russian viewer base, convincing many to support the separatist campaign.

“That is a mischaracterization of the Ukrainian populous’ views, the government’s views and of these organizations on the right,” said Erik Herron, a political science professor at the University of West Virginia who specializes in Eastern European studies. “There is some evidence of their popularity in small groups, but in terms of their levels of influence and numbers, it certainly does not seem they are as influential as Russian media suggests.” The Azov battalion is perhaps the most well known of the 44 volunteer battalions fighting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, despite being only 400-500 fighters strong. They are not part of the Ukrainian military and some are privately funded. Some, like Azov, are successors of the radical and violent movement that helped oust former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukoych.

One Avoz fighter told the Telegraph he identified as a Nazi, adding, “I don’t hate any other nationalities, but I believe each nation should have its own country. We have one idea: to liberate our land from terrorists.” Azov battalion uses a neo-Nazi symbol, the Wolf’s Hook, to represent the battalion and its leader, Anbdriy Biletsky, has expressed anti-Semitic and white supremacist views in the past. Politically, the Ukrainian far right is more of a loose association of small political parties, local leaders and radical supporters than a unified movement. “They have not generally performed well nationally,” Herron said. “They have performed well in some local elections … some individual candidates have overperformed based on their expectations, but they have not received large-scale support nationally.”

The largest far-right group, Svoboda, which is moderate in comparison to Ukraine’s other far-right parties, won just 10 percent of the vote in the 2012 Verkhovna Rada (parliament) elections. Svoboda gained international attention because its leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, was one of three leaders in the so-called Euromaidan protests, which supported European integration. A racist “skinhead” contingent is part of the right-wing groups, but there are also individuals with “partial views of Ukrainian history, the role of the Ukrainian language in Ukrainian life and the right of Ukrainian sovereignty” that identify with parties associated with the far right, Herron said.

Ukrainians will vote in their next government on Oct. 26. A lot has changed since the last election in 2012: Parties have splintered, and the Ukrainian political environment is highly fragmented, so minority parties could perform a lot better than expected, Herron said. “Where do voters who supported Fatherland, etc, go? One possibility is that they could support right-wing candidates, not because they are far right nationalists, but because … When your country is facing an existential threat, an appeal that emphasizes nationalism is a powerful one,” Herron said. Herron, who has traveled to Ukraine as a Russian speaker, said the only real resistance he witnessed from Ukrainians prior to the ongoing conflict was that some would purposely answer in Ukrainian when he asked a question in Russian. Up until recently, there was little hostility between Ukrainians and Russians, he said.
© The International Business Times

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Ireland: Anti-racism training for gardaķ

9/9/2014- How to prevent ethnic profiling will form a key part of the training delivered to a group of Cork-based gardaí who have signed up for a groundbreaking anti-racism project. The pilot, developed by Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, in partnership with An Garda Síochána, follows two high- profile cases last year where Roma children were removed from their families on suspicion that they had been abducted, largely on the basis that they did not look typically Roma. Jennifer DeWan, Nasc spokeswoman, said the negative experiences of the Roma community in Cork had been repeatedly captured in various Nasc reports, including last year’s In From the Margins: Roma in Ireland where 75% of Roma women surveyed said they had been fined for begging and 25% had spent time in prison for non-payment of fines, while 37.5% of Roma men said they had been stopped in their car by gardaí and searched. Nasc said the findings indicated “a perception that the community needs to be heavily policed and points to a concerted targeting of this group” which in turn “serves only to foster hostility and mistrust”. Some 20 officers will take part in the project which gets under way in Cork this week. The findings will be used to develop a national training tool kit.
© The Irish Examiner

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EU 'radio silence' over Italy migrant crisis

As a new report finds European countries guilty of "radio silence" over Italy’s boat migrant crisis, one expert tells The Local that EU states need to get over their "national egoism" and take swift action.

9/9/2014- So far this year the Italian government has saved more than 106,000 boat migrants, as part of its “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea”) operation, costing the country millions of euros every month. Promises of greater support made last year by European leaders have however turned into “radio silence”, according to the Asylum Information Database (Aida) report  published on Tuesday. “Europe is sitting on the fence” leaving Italy to cope with increased boat migration “with only limited financial support of the EU”, the report said. “A true European response is lacking,” Aida found, despite around 60 percent of migrants to Italy moving on to other EU countries. Speaking to The Local, Christopher Hein, director of the Italian Council for Refugees (Cir), said the current debate “is overshadowed by national egoism rather than a [European] Union solution.” The migrant crisis is being compounded by war in Syria, which has forced the majority of the country’s three million refugees to flee to neighbouring countries. “In front of such a humanitarian drama, at the edge of the EU, all need to do more,” Hein said.

Last year 26 percent of boat migrants to Italy were Syrians or Palestinians from Syria, according to the UN’s refugee agency. Many travel overland to Libya, from where they take dangerously overcrowded boats to Italy. Growing violence and instability in the North African country has worsened the plight of refugees, with militia groups directly involved in people trafficking across the Mediterranean, Hein said. “As long as the situation in Libya stands as it is, it is certainly necessary to intervene in countries before people arrive there,” he said. The EU should set up registration posts in countries such as Chad, Egypt and Sudan, for refugees fleeing countries including Syria and Eritrea, Hein said. That way those in need could be granted asylum in the EU without having to take the perilous boat journey to Italy. Such as idea is already being discussed in Brussels, but “we are still a way from political consent”, Hein said.
© The Local - Italy

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Call to bring back Austrian border controls

Austria’s Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner (ÖVP) has acknowledged that the number of refugees travelling through Austria into Germany presents “a substantial problem” and that the reintroduction of border controls might be something to consider.

9/9/2014- This comes after the CSU, the Bavarian allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, announced it is preparing a “seven-point emergency programme” including reinstating border controls with Austria to limit the number of refugees entering Germany from the south. Bavaria's state premier Horst Seehofer wants to “suspend” the Schengen agreement, which guarantees freedom of movement and abolished border controls between European countries which have signed up to it, at the state's border with Austria. However, Austria's Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP) has said that she is against the idea as it would have a negative impact on tourism. She is in favour of EU member states agreeing on a quota of refugees that they pledge to take in. Bavaria has become a target for refugees entering Europe through Italy and then heading towards Austria. In July, police in Munich reported a "huge increase" in the number of people arriving illegally at Munich's main train station with 600 arrivals in June and July. Bavarian government figures show almost 17,000 people applied for asylum last year.

“Italy has clearly violated the Schengen agreement,” Seehofer told Bild on Monday. “If that isn't fixed, Germany must really consider putting a stop to it with border controls.” But the party's suggestions met with immediate resistance from their allies, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU). “To tighten borders would be a sign of powerlessness and a confession that the authorities in Germany don't work fast enough,” said Peter Hauk, leader of the CDU group in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament. Germany was recently praised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees who called Germany's refugee policy "an example for other European countries to follow". A CSU spokesman contacted by The Local said that renewed border controls were not yet part of party policy, as they first have to be agreed at a party board meeting on Monday. Many towns in Bavaria are complaining that they are now overburdened with asylum seekers and refugees.

Under the Schengen agreement and EU border regulations, refugees are supposed to remain in the country in which they first arrive so that the burden can be shared among member states. But Italy has been accused of turning a blind eye to the refugees passing through the country so that they don't become a burden on its social security system. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière recently promised more support to Italy so that the country can deal with the large numbers of refugees arriving on its shores as EU rules require.
© The Local - Austria

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Austria: Mayor rejects FPÖ school board candidate

Vienna mayor Michael Häupl (SPÖ) has asked the Freedom Party (FPÖ) to nominate a new candidate for Vienna’s school board, after rejecting its first choice of Maximilian Krauss, a member of the extreme-right student group Aldania.

8/9/2014- The FPÖ’s original choice of 21-year-old Krauss for vice president of the school board, which provides educational and psychological support for parents and students, was widely criticised in the Austrian capital. The FPÖ is the second largest party in the city council, and so it falls to them to make the appointment. Krauss was known for calling Mayor Häupl the "mayor of the Turks (who) takes his orders directly from Ankara". He had also demanded that "immigrants with Turkish blood (be) sent back where they came from" and called for foreign children to be put in separate classrooms because their German is not good enough. Häupl’s office said that the current vice president, Helmut Günther, must stay in office until the FPÖ has nominated a suitable candidate. Human rights organisation SOS Mitmensch welcomed the decision. "A person who stirs up hatred and divides children and young people according to their origin and religion, has no place in the city council," said spokesman Alexander Pollak. "His appointment would have been a slap in the face of many students."
© The Local - Austria

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Canada: Council to consider racism complaint hotline

Councillors will consider a request to implement a city-sponsored racism complaint hotline later this month.

8/9/2014- The city's finance committee heard several delegations Monday in support of the creation of an anti-racism resource centre - basically a one-person office tasked with providing help to residents via a telephone hotline. The committee asked staff to bring back a report on a possible action plan, including how to cover the estimated $130,000 cost for an 18-month trial period. Several community members spoke in favour of the centre in person or by letter. "In my work and research, people have voiced the need to have their experiences of racism heard, their experiences of race-related crime or discrimination treated respectfully and with due diligence," wrote Ameil Joseph, an assistant professor of social work at McMaster University. A February pitch for the centre spurred confusion among councillors who questioned why the initiative wasn't co-ordinated through the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, which already receives city funding. A city report says that agency doesn't have the capacity or mandate to run a hotline.
© The Hamilton Spectator

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Second Sweden Democrat quits in a week

A member of the Sweden Democrats in Stockholm has stepped down after he was caught posting racist comments online. His departure marks the second in a week for the party.

9/9/2014- Christoffer Dulny had anonymously written posts on various Swedish websites, revealed the Expressen newspaper on Monday. "Foreigners are the absolute worst when it comes to lying and manipulating (...) they're absolutely shameless," he wrote. After he was confronted by the paper, Dulny stepped down on Tuesday, saying in a statement that the move was "in the party's best interests". He told Sveriges Radio that the decision was "100 percent his own choice". The party's press officer added that racist opinions could be found among individual politicians in other parties too, and questioned Expressen's timing in releasing the revelations so close to the national elections, which take place on Sunday. Last week, another Sweden Democrat left her post after pictures surfaced of her wearing a Nazi swastika armband while apparently cleaning her house.
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden: Opposition leader says 'gypsy' twice on radio

The leader of the Social Democrats apologized after he used the word "gypsy" during a radio interview on Monday.

8/9/2014- Stefan Löfven, who fronts the poll-topping Social Democrats, was left scrambling on Monday after an interview with Sveriges Radio (SR). During a conversation about beggars in Sweden, Löfven said he supported EU programmes "that ensure the Romani and the gypsies can integrate properly". The choice of words caused a splash in the Swedish tabloids, and Löfven offered an apology soon after. "I'm terribly sorry and I deeply regret using the expression," he later told the Expressen newspaper. He said that the word was "archaic, outdated, and offensive". The word zigenare was once used freely in Sweden, reported the TT news agency, but has come to be accepted as a derogatory word.
© The Local - Sweden

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OSCE Chair’s Personal Reps on tolerance in joint country visit to Denmark

11/9/2014- The OSCE Chairperson’s Personal Representatives on combatting discrimination and promoting tolerance on 10 to 11 September 2014 made their second joint country visit this year to Denmark. The visit is aimed at identifying problems, best practices as well as gaps in policy, activities and legislation, and areas where the OSCE can provide further support. The three Personal Representatives met with a number of different representatives of Danish civil society. The visit also includes meetings with the Ombudsman’s office, the Ministry of Justice, the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, the Danish National Police, the Ministry of Children, Gender Equality, Integration and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“During our visit to Denmark, I met grassroot Muslim civil society organizations. They shared their perspectives, experiences and expectations of the Muslim minority community in Denmark. We also met government representatives who kindly addressed our questions and challenges ahead", said Talip Küçükcan, Personal Representative on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims. He reflected upon this second visit: “In sum, the meetings were very fruitful and provided useful data for further discussion and research.” “The Danish Jewish community reported as many anti-Semitic incidents in six weeks this summer as in all of 2012, and this was a subject to address in very candid discussions with justice ministry officials,” reported Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism. “Denmark has maintained a relaxed approach to security in general, which may clash with what Jewish leaders believe is needed in the present climate”, he added.

“Danish official institutions are doing their best to prevent discriminatory acts and hatred. Meanwhile, xenophobia, ethnic profiling and religious intolerance are appearing in Danish everyday life”, noted Alexey Avtonomov, Personal Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also Focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians and Members of Other Religions. “We are very pleased with all meetings, as all of them have been conducted in the spirit of transparency, sincerity and mutual understanding”, he concluded. The Personal Representatives will present a report on this visit to the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, and will therein share recommendations for action and identify areas of possible support by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
© The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

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Report maps out extremism in Denmark

Some 15 groups make up anti-democratic organisations in Denmark

9/9/2014- The Danish National Centre for Social Research released a report today in which it compiles information about 15 anti-democratic and extremist groups in Denmark. The groups represent religious organisations and political bodies form the far-right and far-left. “There are three extremist milieus in Denmark with a total of 15 groups that are either radical right-wing, radical left-wing or Islamic,” a press release accompanying the report explained. Six of the groups are categorised as radical right-wing, four as radical left-wing and five as Islamist (see fact box).

Links to biker gangs
“All of the groups deny criminal activity or violence. But there are individuals involved with the milieus who use criminal and violent methods. For example, there are radical left-wing people who are ready to engage in conflict with the police. In the Islamist and right-wing radical milieus there are particular problems regarding biker gangs,” the press release continued. The report highlights differences in the demographics and recruitment tactics of the different types of group.

Demographics
The far-right recruits are found to be mainly men and recruited through personal relations and the internet. The Islamist groups are similarly mainly male and also recruited through personal relations and networks. On the other hand, far-left organisations have a more even gender balance and recruitment is mostly via social events such as parties, concerts and demonstrations.

The report was commissioned by the Ministry of Integration and Social Affairs. Read the report (in Danish) here.

Extremist groups in Denmark
Islamist groups:
Hizb ut-Tahrir
Kaldet til Islam
Dawah-centret
Dawah-bærere
Muslimsk Ungdomscenter

Radical right-wing groups:
Danmarks Nationale Front
Danish Defence League
Right Wings
Dansk National Socialistisk Bevægelse
Stop Islamiseringen af Danmark
Bevægelsen Frit Danmark – Folkebevægelsen mod Indvandringen

Radical left-wing groups:
Antifascistisk Aktion
Antifascistisk Netværk
REDOX
Libertære Socialister
© The Copenhagen Post.

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Danish xenophobia is bad for business (opinion)

The capital may have branded itself cOPENhagen in a bid to woo foreign businesses and investors, but if Denmark's political parties don't do more to change the tone of the political debate, columnist Michael Booth argues that no branding campaign in the world can help.
By Michael Booth

9/9/2014- How open is cOPENhagen? Obviously, not at all, if you are a Muslim, but what about the rest of the world? How keen are the Danes to do business internationally? I recently took part in a panel discussion at a gathering of Copenhagen’s Goodwill Ambassadors. These are Danes with high profile jobs or positions out in the real world, from Brazil to South Africa, the US and Japan, who work to spread the word about what a great place the Danish capital is to do business. The audience was made up of the ‘ambassadors’ themselves, in town for their annual get-together.

Alongside me (no, I have no idea why I was invited: I assume Chris MacDonald was busy) on the panel to discuss how they might achieve their goals were a Harvard professor who had moved to Copenhagen to work at the Niels Bohr Institute (“When are people going to stop asking me when am I going to leave?” he wondered at one point); a Dane who lives in Germany and has a big job at VW; and US-based goodwill ambassador, Henrik Fogh Rasmussen, who, as the astute among you will have guessed, is the son of the former PM and current, outgoing head of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. We talked around the subject of how to sell Danish goods abroad and how to attract foreign companies and talent to Copenhagen, but in truth the key issue was being skirted.

What was the one single thing that would help present the Danish capital to the world as attractive and open for business, the host finally asked me? “Well, the elephant has just left the room,” I said, referring to the previous debate which had featured Morten Messerschmidt, the Danish People’s Party’s (DF) notorious MEP, and the recipient of the most personal votes in Danish election history. “Copenhagen is an amazing city - frankly, I can not understand why you guys all live abroad - but the biggest hinderance to foreign investment and skills coming here is the current political landscape. When Danes vote for xenophobic parties, what message do you think that sends?” I asked.

The truth, sadly, is that I wasn’t just talking about DF. The rot set in during Fogh Rasmussen’s father’s time as PM when he kowtowed to DF, introduced ill-thought out immigration restrictions (such as the 24-year rule) and bungled the Mohammad cartoons crisis. Over time, the xenophobic tone introduced into the political mainstream during the first decade of the century has spread across the political spectrum, Legislation which would once have been deemed Draconian and regressive is broadly accepted by all parties (the current, Social Democratic-led government has done little to actually change the laws in this regard).

Before our panel debate, the current foreign minister, Martin Lidegaard, had given a slick little presentation on Denmark’s current foreign policy - slick, but insubstantial. Afterwards he was challenged by a goodwill ambassador from Brazil about policy on visitors from his adopted homeland (the Brazilian Embassy had recently voiced its indignation at the restrictions to Brazilian nationals who wanted to come to Denmark), but Lidegaard could offer no concrete policy changes in terms of those all-important BRIC countries. “I can categorically say that Brazilians are very welcome to Denmark,” he said, meaninglessly.

The truth is, cOPENhagen can talk as much as it likes about its welcoming attitude to overseas investment and skills, but if the people vote DF - as they have done and will do again, likely in greater numbers than ever - that ‘branding’ will mean nothing. No one is advocating a Swedish-style, open-door immigration policy for Denmark, clearly, but whether the Danes like it or not, they must now compete in a globalised world and, with that in mind, the story of a closed, fearful, ‘småracistisk’ people unable to discriminate between radicalised Syrians and educated Brazilians is the wrong kind of Danish fairytale to be telling in 2014. 
Michael Booth is the author of The Almost Nearly Perfect People: The Truth About the Nordic Miracle available now on Amazon and is a regular contributor to publications including the Guardian and Monocle.
© The Local - Denmark

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Czech Rep: Equal Opportunities Party files charges against ultra-right party leaders

11/9/2014- Miroslav Kováč, chair of the Equal Opportunities Party (Strana rovných pųíležitostí - SRP), has announced that his party has filed criminal charges against DSSS chair Tomáš Vandas and vice-chair Jiųí Štģpánek (pictured above). News server Romea.cz is publishing this article by Kováč about those charges in full translation:

Equal Opportunities Party files criminal charges against the DSSS leadership
The Equal Opportunities Party (SRP) has filed criminal charges with the Regional State Prosecutor in Ústí nad Labem against the chair of the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dģlnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) Tomáš Vandas and DSSS vice-chair Jiųí Štģpánek on suspicion of the following crimes: Defamation of a nation, race, ethnic or other group; incitement to hatred of a group; suppression of the rights and freedoms of a group; incitement to crime; slander. The charges were filed on the basis of statements the men made at a DSSS rally in the town of Dģčín on 23 August 2014.

A total of 120 people (approximately 40 of whom were neo-Nazis, one-third of whom were onlookers, and the rest of whom were journalists and police officers) heard the men's hateful speeches against the Romani national minority, whom Vandas called "inadaptable ethnic gypsies." "You go to the Labor Office, you go there and naturally after some time they send you to the social welfare department. When you arrive there they ask whether you have a refrigerator, a washing machine, a car - so you sell them all just so they can talk you. The inadaptable ethnic gypsies, however, receive all possible benefits and welfare support without having to document anything. They get CZK 20 000 - 30 000 a month in social support and live a satisfied life. Naturally, in such a situation they will not be looking for work," Vandas told the rally.

"Vandas made this speech consciously, as a politician, despite the fact that detailed information about the social welfare system in the Czech Republic and how one becomes eligible for aid to those in material distress is accessible and available to him. With the intention of accruing personal gain in the form of votes, he has intentionally presented the public, through the weight of his 'office', with misleading information. He is aware that he is harming a group in a serious way by so doing and that he is inciting one group in the population against another, and he is also aware that he is disseminating hatred among his fellow citizens..." the SRP writes in its criminal charges. DSSS vice-chair Štģpánek called on the public to lynch Romani people by saying the following: "After 25 years, I have run out of patience. Sometimes I say to myself... Let's send [Hussite military leader] Žižka after them and beat them come what may."

In that public speech, according to the SRP, Štģpánek consciously and intentionally incited hatred against Romani people and urged the public to physically destroy them. "We believe that in this case the right to freedom of speech is being abused in a way that contravenes democracy and human rights and significantly interferes with the rights of others... Racism and xenophobia are a direct violation of the principles of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, principles on which the European Union was founded and that are held in common by the Member States," the SRP adds.
© Romea.

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Czech Rep: Racist graffiti on Romani candidate's election poster

11/9/2014- News server iDNES.cz reports that racist slogans such as "Black mug" and "Don't vote for niggers" have recently turned up on election posters for the ANO movement in the Czech town of Prostìjov. Ondøej Provazník, a local 18-year-old Romani candidate for the movement, is the target. The vulgar attacks have also targeted the female manager of the movement and three female candidates. The racist vandal proceeded systematically, choosing highly-frequented places and leaving other political parties' ads alone. The ANO movement estimates the damage connected with producing new posters at roughly CZK 10 000. Police are investigating. "I have already filed criminal charges against an unidentified perpetrator with the police. I think the person who did this doesn't have his head in order. It is decent and normal to tolerate different opinions," Provazník said in response to the racist insults.

Provazník studied at the Evangelical Academy Conservatory in Olomouc and is now attending a business high school in Prostìjov where he is training to be a cook. He has been active in local politics for several years. Since 2007 Provazník has been a member of Prostìjov's Children and Youth Council, has spent two years in the same "body" as the mayor, and currently works in that body as a vice-mayor. He primarily considers the racist abuse to be unethical. "I don't like it and it makes me angry, but under no circumstances will it deter me. On the contrary - it gives me even more of a kick. I believe there is a need to take a clear stand against such opinions," he said.
© Romea.

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Czech court acquits editor, publisher of Hitler's speeches of approving genocide

10/9/2014- Today the Municipal Court in Brno acquitted Pavel Kamas and Lukáš Novák, the owners of the Guidemedia publishing house, and publicist Stanislav Beer of approving genocide by publishing a book entitled "Adolf Hitler: Speeches" (Adolf Hitler: Projevy). The court found that publishing the book did not constitute a crime. The indictment saw the book as promoting Nazism, a crime for which the defendants faced up to 10 years in prison. According to several experts, the book is problematic because it does not contextualize Hitler's ideas. Presiding Judge Martin Hrabal said the court had familiarized itself in detail with the publication and sought an answer to the question of whether the commentary on Hitler's speeches published by Beer in the book constituted agreement with those speeches. "From the content side it is difficult to draw such an inference," the judge said.

Hrabal noted that in the preface to the book, which features 18 speeches by the Nazi dictator in Czech translation, the editors say they do not intend to evaluate Hitler's ideas at all and are presenting them to readers in their authentic form. State prosecutor Jan Petrásek is taking to time to consider an appeal. Any such appeal would be lodged with the Brno Regional Court. The defendants left the courtroom today obviously satisfied. "I presumed this would be the ruling. Even the average educated orangutan understands that something like this [indictment] had no chance," Kamas told the Czech News Agency. The publisher noted that the publication was released in 2012 in a print run of 10 000. It was sold only online, and this May the publishing house produced more copies. Kamas has not specified how many copies Guidemedia has sold. In his view, today's verdict means the editors of the publication can "step on the gas and get ready for a second edition."

During the past few weeks the company has also released a book called "The NSDAP Program" (Program NSDAP), which summarizes the main political ideas of Hiter's Nazi Party. The publishers make no secret of the fact that "Hitler sells well and is a more suggestive brand than Coca-Cola". The publishers also say criticism of Hitler and his ideas was intentionally missing from their commentaries on his speeches so readers can form their own opinions. The prosecution argued that the book celebrates the dictator and promotes the ideas of National Socialism, specifically through opinions and thoughts included therein about the alleged oppression of the ethnic German population of Czechoslovakia, and that it includes a critique of so-called "international Jewry".

The publisher of Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" (Młj boj) in Czech translation has also been prosecuted. He was first given a suspended sentence, but in March 2005 the Supreme Court ultimately acquitted him. Defense attorneys for Guidemedia argued that the prosecution of the publishing of Hitler's speeches was an analogous dispute to that previous case. However, the prosecutor argued that unlike "Adolf Hitler: Speeches", the Czech edition of "Mein Kampf" was published without any commentary whatsoever, i.e., as an authentic document.
© Romea.

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Czech prosecuted for selling clothes with neo-Nazi symbols

9/9/2014- The Czech police have accused a 23-year-old man of producing clothes with neo-Nazi symbols and selling them via the Internet, police spokesman Petr Gųes has told the Czech News Agency. The suspect ran the controversial "business" for almost one year, using his father's trade license. "The young man promoted the right-wing extremist movement. He also attended several [ultra-right] meetings and demonstrations. He designed, produced, distributed and sold clothes and accessories with extremist symbols," Gųes said. He decorated the clothes with signs of the officially unregistered neo-Nazi organization Blood and Honor - Combat 18, the neo-Nazi militant skinhead organization Hammer Skins, the banned neo-Nazi movement National Resistance and the Anti-Antifa organization, the police say. He also used the symbols that were used by Nazi Germany: the Reichsadler (Imperial Eagle) and the swastika. "He ran the business since November 2013 at the latest. We arrested him during a home search in early September," Gųes said. The police seized some clothes bearing extremist symbols. They also took photos of the suspect's room to document the wall decorations mirroring his extremist views. The man, a resident of north Moravia, faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
© The Prague Post

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Czech Rep: Brno court hears closing arguments in Hitler speeches publication case

8/9/2014- A court in Brno on Monday heard the closing statements in the case of the 2012 publication of speeches by Adolf Hitler. Two publishers and an editor stand accused of propagating Nazism, and could face up to ten years in jail if found guilty. The publishers of the book said they wanted to make historic documents accessible to Czech readers while making a profit, arguing that Hitler was a “stronger brand that Coca-Cola”. However, prosecution experts said the Nazi dictator’s thoughts were not placed in proper context, and could therefore influence uninformed readers. The verdict in the case is expected on Wednesday.
© Radio Prague

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Serbia: Belgrade Gay Pride Plans Parade and Party

Belgrade Pride, which was banned last year, could go ahead this month and conclude with a party, if police give permission for the parade amid continued fears of attack by right-wingers.

8/9/2014- Organisers of the Pride parade said it will be held on September 28, if permitted by the authorities, after being postponed earlier this year due to the heavy floods that hit the country in May and banned altogether in previous years. The marchers are scheduled to walk from the government building in Nemanjina Street to parliament at Trg Nikole Pasica. The march will end with a party, just across the street from the parliament, in a square in front of Belgrade City Assembly. The original plan was that the marchers would walk from Slavija Square to Belgrade’s main square, Trg Republike, but the route was shortened due to security concerns.

One of the organisers, Goran Miletic, said that the route could again be amended after final talks with police – and admitted that there was still the possibility that it would not take place at all. “We are making all the preparations as if it is going to be held, but whether we will actually walk the streets of Belgrade has always depended on a decision of one man at the top of the pyramid of power - regardless of a party from which he comes,” Miletic told daily newspaper Politika. However, he added that so far the organisers enjoyed support from and cooperation with the police and other institutions. “We have excellent cooperation with the police, we have support from the minister for European integration, Jadraka Joksimovic, and a large number of Western countries’ ambassadors,” said Miletic. He added that so far no one has threatened the organisers or the potential participants.

In 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, the authorities banned the parade altogether just days before it was scheduled to take place, because police declared they could not safeguard marchers from right-wing violence. Miletic told Politika that he expects that the organisers will once again be informed whether the parade will take place “at the last minute”, although they announced the event to the police in early June. The country's first Pride march was brought to a halt in Belgrade in June 2001 when protesters clashed with police. The Pride march went ahead only in 2010, but several thousand young people, including football fans and members of right-wing organisations, caused mayhem, throwing stones and missiles, injuring police officers and setting buildings and vehicles on fire.
© Balkan Insight

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UK: White British Nationalists Are Burning Crosses in the Woods Outside London

By Sumy Sadurni

12/9/2014- Last weekend I found myself in a pitch-black forest outside London, taking photos of some men in balaclavas burning a cross. Working my way through the thicket, I’d been greeted by a group of white British nationalists flying the White Dragon banner—a symbol of English resistance—and holding an Anglo-Saxon sword to represent Excalibur. A two-meter wooden cross had been erected, doused in fuel and set alight. I’d met and spoken to some of these guys before at various far-right demonstrations across London, including a pro-Golden Dawn rally, over a two-year period. I asked where their allegiances lie, but they made it clear this new faction represents “no specific political group, but rather the downtrodden white working class of England.” “At the moment, this is just a rallying point to try and attract more people from other groups, as well as newcomers,” said one of the men. These groups include underground fire-right movements such as Englisc Resistance (that's the right spelling, don't worry), the New Dawn—an organization inspired by the Greek fascist group the Golden Da—and a “plethora of other small but likeminded ethnic English groups.”

Cross burnings tend to be associated with the Ku Klux Klan—which is understandable, as setting bits of wood on fire and wearing shitty ghost costumes is how they made their name in the States. However, this group were adamant that their cross burning was not directly linked to the KKK. “We don’t burn the cross here—we ‘light it,’” said one of the assembled nationalists. “We’re not a Christian group, but the symbolism of a lighted cross in Britain goes back centuries, originating in Scotland, where it was used as a declaration of war. Of course, it is always associated with the Ku Klux Klan in America, but they took it from these isles.” So who was this lighting of the cross aimed at? The government? England’s white working class? “Both,” said the man. “We feel we are standing up to defend our very existence as a race and nation. No one is battling for the white working class in this country—we have been left out to dry and have been put in a position where our backs are against the wall, leaving us no alternative.

“The lighting of the cross is a very emotive symbol that will either be applauded or fill the viewer with disdain and revulsion. Show a picture of it to anyone and there will be no middle ground or apathy.” Feldman also spoke about trigger events, which, in a way, “license” the far right to take to the streets and publicly promote their views. Events like the 2005 London bombings, the murder of Lee Rigby—which sparked a sharp rise in BNP and English Defence League–led demonstrations across the country—and the recent case in Rotherham, where several “anti-Muslim pedo gangs” demonstrations were held by the BNP and Britain First.

Paul Sillet of Unite Against Fascism believes that these types of groups “feed off the atmosphere of extremist Islamophobia in the mainstream press, and try to capitalize on the horrors of situations such as Rotherham.” “For us, this is an example of fragmentation of the far right in Britain,” Sillet explained. “Now that parties like the BNP are being demoralized, the hard-core fascists and smaller disenchanted groups are resorting to these kinds of tactics, which should be taken extremely seriously.”

So where does the future lie for this group? Are we about to be inundated with reports of burned-out crosses in the backwoods of Rutland and Hertfordshire? Or will the group fulfil their objective of recruiting vast swathes of white British nationalists and doing… something? It’s difficult to say at such an early stage, and considering the troop I met in the woods didn’t outline any real plan of action, I’m not sure how they’ll go about bringing people to their side. As Feldman mentioned, the ideology of the extreme far right will always be present in the UK, but its current status is more akin to a subculture than a direct threat. With parties like the BNP losing support, more and more of these small groups continue to pop up that lack cohesion, direction, or—like the cross burners I met—even a name. But, as Feldman also pointed out, that's not to say we shouldn't take them seriously.
© The Vice

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UK: Care system fails Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children

12/9/2014- A recent undercover project led by children’s charity Barnardo’s exposed the shocking realities facing vulnerable young people. It revealed that hundreds of children, some as young as 16, are being sent to live in isolation in bed-and-breakfast accommodation when they leave care, even if they are ill-equipped to do so. While this is a problem that affects all kinds of children leaving care, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children face unique challenges. Even though the numbers of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children have increased significantly over the last five years, little thought is being given to their specific cultural needs in policy documentation.

It is important to note that people who are referred to as “Gypsies” “Roma" or “Travellers” in England actually constitute a rich and diverse group of communities. Accommodating this diversity means acknowledging, among other things, ethnicity, identity and cultural preferences. It also means recognising how these communities function. The immediate family is not the end of a child’s network in many cases, there are important inter-family connections and structured extended communities that need to be taken into consideration.

A special case
For many Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, the sense of family and community is a common feature of their individual cultures. Even if they assimilate somewhat into the mainstream, they maintain a resilient commitment to community traditions and continue to need the support that their extended family provides. If care services fail to act upon the importance of kinship, it will be significantly harder to help children make the move from care to independent living. There are 60 Irish Travellers currently living in care in England and 180 Gypsy and Roma children. While small, these numbers represent significant increases; the number of Irish Travellers in care is up by 200% on 2009 figures and the number of Gypsy and Roma children is up by 350%.

There are methodological weaknesses in the government’s approach to reporting such figures but they do seem to give credence to a long-held suspicion that these children are being taken into care at a disproportionate rate. While Barnardo’s points out that many children are being placed in unsuitable accommodation when they leave care, it could be argued that all Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children will be placed in unsuitable accommodation if they are not able to live with their communities and families. Research has shown that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children who leave care often feel alienated and oppressed by the wider “non-Gypsy” society while they are simultaneously rejected by their own communities.

To overcome this sense of isolation, many feel compelled to seek some proximity to their cultural identity and community by creating physical and emotional distance between themselves and the living arrangements made for them. Some might abscond from provided accommodation while others might disengage from the services that are offered to them or ignore the expectations that are placed on them. But because they might have been raised in foster care, away from their communities, they are sometimes unequipped to deal with the prejudices that they could have to confront. Some may not have been taught how respond to direct and indirect racism, for example. Others will almost certainly not be prepared to manage potential rejection by their own kin who accuse them of being contaminated by “outsider” influences.

For the transition out of care to be effective, there needs to be cultural continuity. It is essential that all children feel valued, and that they are able to experience continued cultural and social inclusion with Gypsy, Roma or Traveller groups. As Barnardo’s has shown, this ambition cannot be achieved if people leaving care are sent to live and suffer in cultural and social isolation. Placing Gypsy, Roma or Traveller children away from their community will only strip them of their identity, their need to belong and their need to feel close to other Gypsy, Roma or Traveller people.

In line with the recommendations of the 2014 Children and Families Act, the best option for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller care leavers is to be supported by Gypsy, Roma or Traveller carers. To make this possible, there is a need for those who work in leaving care services and others to forge and maintain relationships with Gypsy, Roma or Traveller communities and to advocate for the rights of the children they are working to support, and to support them to become independent. Unless these children are given the right to maintain a sense of proud identity their culture will be lost. If this happens, the realities of isolation and forcing them to assimilate into mainstream culture will continue to affect their health and well-being long after their childhood has ended.
© The Conversation

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UK: Islamophobia and anti-semitism upsurge in Scotland

There has been a “worrying upsurge” in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Scotland due to the conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Gaza, it has been warned.

11/9/2014- In a statement released today, the Church of Scotland said it was joining in the condemnation of the attacks on the Jewish and Muslim communities along with the Muslim Council of Britain and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (Scojec). In recent weeks the first minister, lord advocate and chief constable have all asked to meet with Scojec to discuss what the organisation called an “unprecedented number of unambiguously anti-Semitic incidents”. The Church of Scotland said it was “deeply troubled” to learn that anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents were on the rise. Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, said: “There can be no excuse for hate, for racism, violence, intimidation or the targeting of people because of the faith they practice. Lazy, unhelpful stereotypes and prejudiced, unkind behaviour demean us all. “We must do all we can to make sure that we do not conflate extremist behaviour in Iraq with Islam, nor political policies in Israel with Judaism.”

Last month, Scojec said it had received roughly the same number of reports of anti-Semitic incidents in one week as it had in the whole of 2013. Incidents that were reported to the police included threatening phone-calls, e-mails, and graffiti on synagogues. The Rt Rev John Chalmers, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “We need to work together to raise awareness and offer support to people who find themselves under pressure because of wholly unacceptable, unhealthy prejudice. We must stand with our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters, and commit to modelling good relationships as a way to move past mere tolerance and towards a peaceful partnership which has all of Scotland’s people at its heart.”
© The Scotsman

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The complex rise in Northern Ireland racist hate crime

Racially motivated crimes in Northern Ireland have risen by more than 50% in a single year, but what is behind this?

11/9/2014- Kerry Ann Brown still has fond memories of the Rathcoole housing estate in Newtownabbey, on the outskirts of Belfast. With its well kept flowerbeds and clean streets, it was - she says - a good place to bring up her family. "Most of the people are quite friendly," she remembers. "And it's been known as the best kept housing estate since 2011." But, in May this year, Ms Brown says she felt forced to leave the estate after what she believes was a racist attack on her family home. "They wrote, 'Blacks out' there," she says, pointing at the front door of her former home. "And then 10 months later we got a brick and a bottle thrown through the front window." She explains: "It was quite obvious to me that it was racially motivated. Because of all the houses on Linford Green, why is it only my house that had 'Blacks out' written on the door and then a bottle and a brick through my window? "One of my neighbours told me she was very sorry. All she could do was give me a bunch of flowers. All the neighbours on the street came out. They were very upset. They were livid," she adds.

'Greater awareness'
Originally from Jamaica, Ms Brown is testament to the changing face of Northern Ireland. The 2011 census found that 32,400 people - 1.8% of the usually resident population - belonged to ethnic minority groups. This was more than double the proportion 10 years earlier, when the figure stood at 0.8%. These ethnic minority groups are increasingly under attack. Incidents range from verbal abuse, to victims having stones thrown at their homes or rubbish dumped in their garden, Anna Lo of the cross-community Alliance Party tells me. Originally from Hong Kong, Ms Lo is the first and only member of the Northern Ireland Assembly to come from an ethnic minority. She lists other serious cases - including physical attacks on immigrants - but says racism is nothing new in Northern Ireland. The change, she believes, is the media focus since the Troubles ended. "The newspapers probably didn't have column space to report on ethnic minority issues when there were bombs, bullets and assassinations," she says. "But I think since peace, we are beginning to see a higher awareness of ethnic minorities being attacked."

Immigrant population 'static'
The figures, though, suggest more than just a change in perception. According to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), in the 12 months to June 2014 racist incidents rose by 36%, from 830 to 1,132. In the same period, racist crimes increased by 51%, from 525 to 796. Most of the increase is concentrated within Belfast, where on average a racially motivated offence takes place at least once a day. The PSNI is so concerned, it introduced a dedicated phone line for reporting racist hate crime in May. And yet the immigrant population appears to be relatively static. The most recent figures available from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency show approximately the same number of people leaving Northern Ireland as arriving from outside the UK.

'Unpleasant taste'
Police say most of the incidents have been happening in loyalist areas. Officers from the PSNI believe that elements of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary group, are behind some of the attacks that Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr described as leaving "the unpleasant taste of... ethnic cleansing". The flag of US white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan was seen flying from a lamppost in Belfast in July. A shopkeeper who runs a store selling flags in east Belfast told the BBC that he is asked for KKK flags at least once a week. He described those trying to buy them as "ordinary working people" - all men, most of them in their 30s.

'Much more complex'
Peter Shirlow, professor of conflict transformation at Queen's University Belfast, says it is important not to jump to conclusions about who is behind the rising racial tension. He believes "there's too easy a script that basically says Protestant bigots [are the cause of] the issue. "I think it is much more complex than that," he adds. Many loyalists believe they lost out in the 1998 Good Friday agreement, and that republicans were subsequently at an advantage. It is easy to draw the conclusion that the surge in racist incidents is an expression of that frustration. But Prof Shirlow says the mentality towards outsiders has deeper roots. "Local here is very local," he says. "We are probably still more family-based in where we live. You know, mother lives [in house] number six, daughter lives in number eight, granny lives in number 12. Clearly ethnic minorities came late." He adds: "You're always twitchy if you grew up here between 1968 and 1994. When a car pulled up behind you, you used to always wonder, 'Is this it?' I don't think that goes away."

Republican areas
One Eastern European resident of Northern Ireland, who spoke anonymously to the BBC, questioned the idea that racist violence was limited to loyalist territory. She was the victim of a racist attack in republican territory. "There is racism everywhere, and that includes republican areas," she says. "In those republican areas, I think it's common knowledge that you don't necessarily go to the police if you've been attacked. "And whenever you read in the media about punishment beatings, there's a reluctance for people to come forward. So statistically I'd say that the number of racist attacks might be similar," she adds. There are numerous programmes to help immigrants integrate into both republican and loyalist communities, but she has given up hope on fitting in and plans to move out of Northern Ireland. "I don't think I'll stay here with my family, because it's very difficult to really become close to local communities on the personal level," she says. "You may work very closely with people on a professional level, but afterwards they won't even invite you home for tea. And that's something that I treasure the most."
© BBC News

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UK: Renewed calls for prosecutions of online anti-Semitism

Community leaders have stepped calls for legal action against those spreading hate on social media amid urgent calls for clarification on what breaches the law.

10/9/2014- Cabinet ministers from the prime minister down this week lined up to condemn the rise in anti-Semitism during the Gaza conflict which saw a record 302 incidents just in July, and to reassure the community of action being taken. The Community security Trust this week held emergency talks with officials from the Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service during which they have called for definitive action against those preaching hate, including online which formed a quarter of cases during July. Home secretary Theresa May told the Jewish News this week: “We’re very clear that if something is a crime offline it can be a crime online.” She added: “It’s necessary to make sure the right guidance is available for police and other authorities in looking at this but we’re also talking to companies about their own policies and the sort of material they are willing to leave online or take down.”

Mark Gardner, director of communications at the CST, said: “It’s important that the Jewish community has confidence in police and prosecutors’ willingness to pursue online and social media anti-Semitism in the same way that they seem to follow up, for example, on abuse of public personalities.” The Board of Deputies also calls for “additional political and material support to prevent and prosecute anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in new media” in a manifesto released this week ahead of the General Election. One of the most shocking examples of hate that emerged during the Gaza conflict was use of the phrase ‘Hitler was right’ – which was trending on Twitter in July and written on a placard carried at one march for Gaza in central London. But CST said: “We have heard conflicting legal opinion whether Hitler was right would be liable and also about whether it would make a difference if said verbally, held on a placard, said via twitter or said online.”

He added: “We fully appreciate the need for clarity as to what is and is not illegal, particularly as the same phrases such as Hitler was right keep reappearing. Ultimately it will be up to court cases to decide what does and does not breach the law.” But he said CST has ongoing discussions with the CPS “as to what is and is not illegal and as to whether or not particular crimes are being looked at religious hatred legation or race hate law which are slightly different matters”. The Campaign Against anti-Semitism said it believed the phrase constituted a crime under the public order act if committed in person and under the communications act online. Co-founder Gideon Falter said: “We’re working for the authorities to give rank and file police officers and prosecutors specific examples like this of modern anti-Semitic acts and which laws they break.”

He added: “We have perfectly good laws against anti-Semitism, we have strong support for zero tolerance enforcement, but the arrests and prosecutions are not materialising. We cannot allow it to become so normal to see and hear phrases like this on the streets and online.” On Tuesday, May told a Conservative Friends of Israel reception she has been “appalled” by the “abhorrent and unacceptable” increase in incidents reported in recent months. She listed the various measures taken by her Government to fight the scourge and added that “new guidance has been issues to police and CPS in dealing with hate crime”. May this week met several north London MPs to discuss the scourge and is due to hold talks with senior figures from the CST, Board of deputies and Jewish Leadership Council in the coming days. She said: “This country has one of the strongest legislative frameworks in the world to protect communities from hostility, violence and bigotry. But I am clear that we must keep both the operational and legislative response under constant review. There is absolutely no place in our country for anti-Semitism.”

In a letter to the chief rabbi this week, David Cameron said: “I know that many in our Jewish communities are feeling anxious at this time. As we reflect on events this summer, it is now more important than ever to say that there can never be any excuse for anti-Semitism.” He added: “A Jewish friend once asked me whether it will always be safe for his children and grandchildren to live in Britain. The question to that question will always be ‘yes’. I hope that in years to come that question will not even need to be asked.” Meanwhile, two men have been charged with racial public disorder offences after being captured on camera night giving Nazi salutes in central London last week.
© Jewish News UK

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UK: Lots of Welsh schoolchildren do not think racial slurs are offensive

A survey of 3,000 Welsh 11-16 year olds for Show Racism the Red Card reveals many children think words like 'n*****', 'p***' and 'c*****' are acceptable to use

8/9/2014- Huge numbers of schoolchildren in Wales do not think it is offensive to use racial slurs like p*** for Pakistani people, a study of nearly 3,000 11-16 year olds has revealed. The poll, carried out by sport-based anti-racism charity Show Racism The Red Card over 12 months in Wales, revealed that:
* Almost half those surveyed believe “coloured” is an acceptable term to use;
* 42% believe the word “half-caste” is okay;
* One in four believe paki for a Pakistani person is acceptable;
* Almost one in five thought that the word ‘chink’ for a Chinese person – a term recently highlighted in allegations about texts between ex-Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay and his chief scout Iain Moody - was permissible in everyday language.
Perhaps the most disturbing of all though, was the fact some school children didn’t consider ‘nigger’ to be taboo, something which the charity largely attributed to the word’s perpetuation in popular rap and hip-hop music.

“While rappers and other role models continue to use the n-word and other offensive words it is difficult for us, as an anti-racism education, to educate young people,” Ian Simpson, Education Manager for Show Racism the Red Card Wales. “Kids are left feeling confused and uncertain about which terms are acceptable and which are not. “As role models, these artists can have a massive influence in young people’s lives and we would want that influence to a positive one.”

Furthermore, in a previous survey carried out with Show Racism the Red Card and the National Union of Teachers, almost 90% of teachers surveyed stated that they had not received any anti-racism training. A quarter of staff stated that they are not at all confident to deliver an educational workshop about combatting far right groups and organisations, an area of increasing concern across Wales. Not only that, one teacher surveyed even admitted to believing that slurs like ‘p***’, ‘coloured’, ‘c*****’ and “half-caste” were acceptable to use.

Sunil Patel, Campaign Manager added, “Schools should be a safe environment in which pupils can learn and flourish. “Unfortunately, this is not the case for many of the victims of racist bullying. “Certain groups, such as those with minority ethnic or religious backgrounds, are at a higher than average risk of bullying and in the long term affects to them can be devastating for them. “The use of racist language needs to be taken more seriously and not treated as if it’s banter. “The recent Action on Bullying report from Estyn highlighted that schools and local authorities should do more to tackle racism and provide a level playing field for all pupils.” Show Racism the Red Card also stated that a lack of funding from local councils – Cardiff, in particular - only created more hindrances to their mission to enlighten young people.

In the 2013/2014 academic year, Show Racism the Red Card Wales educated close to 800 trainee teachers from across Wales, giving them the vital tools to deal with racism in their schools and delivered workshops to 17,000 youngsters in the classroom. youth clubs, pupil referral units and prisons. The charity added that, in light of these latest revelations, it hoped to gain increased support from local authorities and educational bodies to help tackle the problem. “It’s a challenge for everyone to eradicate these kinds of words and phrases from our vocabulary, but not only from our schools, from our homes countrywide too,” added David Evans, Wales secretary of the National Union of Teachers. “We need to work with organisation like Show Racism The Red Card in the classroom, but it’s equally important that parents teach their children about what kind of language they should be using.“I know it’s not going to be easy, but we’re far enough down the road by now to realise what’s acceptable or not.” A Cardiff council spokesman said: "The council is working with partners to tackle racism. Like all local authorities in Wales, the city council is facing unprecedented budget pressures and has to prioritise how its limited resources are allocated."
© Wales Online

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UK: Gay police officers still fear for their careers, poll shows

Superintendents' association says survey results are 'frustrating and unacceptable' in 2014

7/9/2014- Many gay and lesbian police officers still fear the consequences of revealing their sexuality as they rise through the ranks, according to new research. A survey of 1,300 senior police officers by the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales (PSAEW) found four out of 10 lesbian or gay superintendents and chief superintendents have "experienced discrimination in the policing workplace". Respondents to the survey said homophobia still existed at "a subtle underlying level" within the force. One senior officer admitted they "would love to be openly gay" but did not feel they could be.

The PSAEW's lead on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) policing, Chief Supt Mike Gallagher of the Metropolitan Police, said the findings were "frustrating and unacceptable". "It is very disappointing that we are still talking about this as an issue in 2014," he said. He added: "It must be emphasised that homophobia is not accepted in policing. The police service has come a long way, as has society, and that has to be acknowledged. But there is more to be done. Sadly, some police officers and staff are not confident being out in their police forces, particularly as they rise through the ranks, and some fear homophobia still exists in areas of policing."

The police should reflect the public they serve and more gay and lesbian role models are needed, to help "improve the confidence of some LGBT communities in policing", Mr Gallagher said. Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall, who will be speaking at the PSAEW's annual conference in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, tomorrow, said: "I'll be calling on superintendents to make sure they create a culture where officers feel able to come out. "As demands on police forces increase, all staff and officers need to be able to perform to the best of their ability. Keeping secrets from your colleagues gets in the way of that performance," she added. Ms Hunt argued LGBT people would have more confidence in the police if they "see themselves reflected in their local police forces".

The debate comes just weeks after Suzette Davenport, head of Gloucestershire Police, became the first openly lesbian chief constable during a speech at a Gay Pride event in Gloucester. "It is not tattooed on my forehead, but I don't hide it either," she said. "The police have made significant progress on these issues and we are much better than some public sector organisations, but there is still some room to improve. "I want people to understand hate crime," she said. "I know what it feels like having been through it myself." Lord Paddick, a former deputy assistant commissioner at the Met, said that some officers are "concerned it will impact on their promotion prospects, and indeed I didn't come out until after I had achieved my career ambition, to be a commander". Lord Paddick called on LGBT officers to be open about their sexuality "so that it's no longer unusual to have an openly gay senior police officer".
© The Independent

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UK: Ukip under fire for asking far-right Swede to Scotland

UKIP in Scotland has been criticised after it gave a platform to an MEP from a far-right party formed by white supremacists.

7/9/2014- A high-ranking politician from the Sweden Democrats, whose members used to attend meetings in Nazi-style uniforms, addressed a Ukip a meeting in Edinburgh recently. SNP MSP Christian Allard described Ukip as an "embarrassment" to the No campaign. Ukip, although campaigning for the union, is not part of Better Together. The party, which is opposed to mass immigration and the European Union, made its breakthrough in Scotland recently by getting an MEP elected. It will make a major contribution to the independence referendum this coming Friday when leader Nigel Farage fronts a pro-Union rally. The event has triggered security fears, as previous Farage visits have attracted hundreds of protestors. Figures in Better Together, the official No campaign, are also said to be angered by the event, as it threatens to tarnish the image of the mainstream effort to keep Scotland in the Union.

The Sunday Herald can now reveal Ukip Scotland's association with far-right European politics. In June, it emerged Ukip was part of a wider European Parliament group that included what one Liberal Democrat source described as the "dregs" of the far right. The Europe of Freedom and Democracy group includes the Sweden Democrats, founded in 1988 by racists and a former member of the Waffen SS. It was only in 1995 that the party banned its members from wearing Nazi dress to meetings. According to a Ukip Scotland circular to party members, a Sweden Democrats MEP was the special guest at a recent meeting in the capital. He wrote: "We were also pleased to have Kristina Winberg MEP as guest speaker."

In June, Winberg and another party MEP released a statement in an attempt to distance themselves from their party's fascist past. "We acknowledge and learn from our [the party's] mistakes," they said. "The worst of these mistakes was that the party didn't distance itself from radical youths with subcultural looks and that these were allowed to participate in some of the party demonstrations." However, last year a leading Sweden Democrats politician had to resign after she posted "I hope they starve to death" in response to an article about teenage asylum-seekers who had begun a hunger strike.

The SNP's Allard said yesterday: "This is just another example of the type of party Ukip is - which is exactly why their support is such an embarrassment to the No campaign in the referendum. "While Yes is the biggest grass-roots political campaign in Scotland's history, the No campaign counts on the support of the likes of Ukip. And with parties like Ukip urging a No vote, it's absolutely no surprise that more and more people are switching from No to Yes as we get closer to polling day." Colin Fox, co-convener of the Scottish Socialist party, said: "It is preposterous to see who Farage and his fellow right-wingers line up with. They are completely out of touch with the social democratic mainstream in Scotland. It is also another reminder of how embarrassing Farage's trip to Glasgow is for Better Together."

A Ukip spokesman said: "The Sweden Democrats as a party never had a policy of white supremacy or of wearing uniforms. The party has changed dramatically in the last 10 years with a new leader, a new political platform which expelled any extremists and acknowledges past mistakes. "The very amiable Kristina Winberg is a member of a moderate patriotic party which is polling at 15% in Sweden."
© The Herald Scotland

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UK: London murder highlights rise of Islamophobia

British Muslims were on the receiving end of threats after a beheading incident in the UK capital even though it had nothing to do with Muslims.

6/9/2014- The brutal murder of a woman in the UK capital has highlighted the increasing level of Islamophobia that has crept into British society after a backlash against Muslims followed the incident, even though the murderer was not a Muslim. 82-year-old Palmira Silva was beheaded in her garden in Edmonton, north London on Thursday by 25-year-old Nicholas Salvador. The murder triggered a local manhunt with police ordering residents out of their homes while the assailant jumped over fences behind people's houses. The nature of the murder led many to believe it was a copycat attack after the beheading of two American journalists in Iraq last week, with many quick to blame the attack on Muslims even before any details were made available. Fiyaz Mughal, director of Tell Mama, told The Guardian newspaper that the think tank recorded a sudden spike in the number of threats made against Muslims and mosques on social media as well as in the streets of Britain. “The assumption is that ‘beheading equals Muslim.’ The association, for some, is an automatic response,” Mughal said.

In this case, however, the culprit was not a Muslim. Rather, he was a machete-wielding crazed maniac going on a rampage that seemingly targeted victims indiscriminately, including Muslim residents in the area and even a cat. Police said the attack had nothing to do with terrorism and have charged the murderer who is recovering in hospital after being subdued by police. Following the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby by two converts to Islam last year in London, British Muslims have been on the receiving end of increasing Islamophobic attacks. These attacks peaked again recently when it was discovered that a group of Muslim men had been committing sexual abuses in the city of Rotherham. British Muslims this year have also been the target of a scandal covered extensively by the media alleging that they were trying to 'take over' control of a public school in Birmingham, an accusation local Muslims deny. The British government are currently in the process of adopting measures to confiscate the passports of 500 odd British Muslims who are suspected of having travelled to Syria to participate in the war there.
© World Bulletin

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UK/France: Calais braced for clashes between migrants and far-right marchers

Extra police are drafted in to keep order as backlash grows against migrants seeking to find a new home in the UK.

6/9/2014- Extra police will be drafted into Calais on Sunday ahead of a planned far-right demonstration, amid warnings that tens of thousands of Eritrean migrants could soon be heading towards Europe. Following chaotic scenes in the northern French port last week, when scores attempted to storm a cross-Channel ferry to Dover, the anti-immigration group Sauvons Calais (Save Calais) will march in protest at the growing population of migrants, largely Eritreans, hoping to reach Britain. Calais officials have reserved the right to ban the demonstration if there is a "threat to public order".

Former home secretary Michael Howard became the latest politician to wade into the debate on Saturday, insisting that France needed to "get its act together" and deal with the growing numbers of asylum seekers in Calais instead of blaming Britain. Both the mayor and deputy mayor of Calais have issued direct appeals for UK help. Elsewhere, reports indicate growing numbers of migrants continue to head north from Africa, with new routes opening up as the continued instability in Libya and the closure of the Israeli-Egyptian border forces migrants to travel along the north coast of Egypt, principally through Alexandria.

Eyob Haile, of London-based human rights charity Release Eritrea, said: "Alexandria appears to be a new route. A group of Egyptians are facilitating this as an option, using a small boat to board big boats, tankers in the Mediterranean. This is the first time we have heard of such a journey." Opening up the Alexandria route coincides with reduced trafficking through Sinai. Hundreds of Eritrean refugees have been kept in torture camps in Sinai during the past decade, enduring violence and rape and extorted by traffickers often in collusion with state security forces. Some have died while others suffered mutilation, burning, beatings and sexual assault, according to Human Rights Watch testimonies.

The United Nations says that around 4,000 Eritreans a month are fleeing their homeland, escaping a country described by critics as a "giant prison". Eritreans have now confirmed northern Egypt as a departure point for families seeking a new life in Europe. One Eritrean, Taher Ibrahim, 42, said he knew of four Eritrean families who had recently made the journey by boat from Egypt's north coast to Europe. The Refugees Solidarity Movement (RSM) in Alexandria confirmed a rise in the number of Africans, in particular Eritreans, moving through the port city during the summer. Hebatallah Mansour of the RSM said groups of Eritreans had been arrested in the region, the first in April. He could not recall a single African detained in the same period last year.

One former Egyptian smuggler cited a shadowy figure known as "the Doctor" as overseeing the local smuggling industry and suggested traffickers were able to operate with the tacit approval of the authorities, in particular the military. Another source with close links to smugglers said that migrants frequently heading to Italy left northwards on boats from the port of Dekheila in central Alexandria, which is closely guarded by the military, and along the north coast. Mansour and others monitoring the increasingly lucrative smuggling business fear that it may morph, as did the smuggling routes in Sinai in 2009, into trafficking and extortion of the most vulnerable migrants.

Human rights campaigners, meanwhile, warned that Israel's policy of attempting to force more than 35,000 Eritreans out of its country will lead tens of thousands of migrants to flood into Libya and head north, via the Mediterranean, to Europe and on to Calais. A Human Rights Watch report will on Tuesday condemn Israel's treatment towards Eritreans, in particular its use of unlawful indefinite detention policy, which is aimed at achieving Israel's aim of "encouraging the illegals to leave".

Gerry Simpson, the report's author, said: "This is refoulement, indefinitely detaining in an effort to coerce them out of the country. If they are forced out, there is a real possibility they will head north from Libya." The watchdog is concerned that, by effectively detaining hundreds of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in "open prisons", Israel will eventually force them to leave the country in search of a better life. There are approximately 37,000 Eritreans and 14,000 Sudanese – currently the two most prominent nationalities camped at Calais – seeking sanctuary in Israel after managing to cross into the country before it effectively sealed its border with Egypt in December 2012.

” Disorder broke out on Saturday afternoon at an immigration centre after the death of a detainee. Staff at Morton Hall in Swinderby, Lincolnshire, were withdrawn to a "place of safety" and emergency services called. The disturbance is thought to be linked to a death on Friday night. The Home Office has launched an investigation.
© The Guardian

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Does France have a racism problem?

The recent racially-tinged attacks on the Moroccan-born woman at the head of the French education ministry have prompted new questions over whether France is seeing a rise in racism.

9/9/2014- "Provocation", "a Moroccan Muslim", "an Ayatollah": the appointment of a young Morocco-born woman as France's education minister has sparked a wave of attacks that has renewed concerns about racism in the country. Najat Vellaud-Belkacem is one of the brightest lights in President Francois Hollande's deeply unpopular government. The 36-year-old telegenic Hollande protegee was appointed last month as the country's first-ever female education minister, the latest step in a prodigious political career. But her appointment was greeted with a volley of complaints from the far-right, with its weekly mouthpiece Minute describing the appointment of "a Moroccan Muslim" as a "provocation." Another right-wing publication, Valeurs Actuelles, described her as the new "Ayatollah" at the education ministry. And the latest controversy: over the weekend, a false letter circulated on Twitter, purportedly from the minister, encouraging town halls to introduce an hour of Arabic-language class in schools.

The education ministry has said it will take legal action against the forgers for identity theft but sources close to Vellaud-Belkacem said the minister largely shrugs off the attacks. She has been attacked on social networks for years, says her entourage, but her appointment to such an important ministry has "changed the scale". On the other hand, the "outrageous attacks have sparked a change in opinion" and she has received countless notes of support. She is only "very slightly" affected by the campaign against her, according to her close advisors. Her approval rating is running at 51 percent, which her boss Hollande -- at 13 percent -- can only dream of.

'I was called a monkey'
Togo-born Kofi Yamgnane, who was elected in 1997 to the lower house of parliament as a Socialist deputy from the northern Brittany region, said that social networks had given racists a greater platform. "French racists have lost their taboos ... it's not that France is more or less racist (than other countries), but the racists have no inhibitions. Social networks have also offered freedom of speech to the racists," he said. "The racists are less numerous than the others but, because we don't hear the others, you get the impression that the racists are strong. I would encourage people to speak out. Minorities need to be defended," he added. Another high-profile black minister, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, has also suffered insults, notably from the Minute weekly, which featured her on its front page with the headlines "Crafty as a monkey" and "Taubira gets
her banana back." In French, getting your banana back is roughly the equivalent of recovering the spring in your step.

Rama Yade, a former minister who is black, said she received several letters comparing her to a monkey and inviting her to "go back home." "I was the first young woman, born abroad, in the government. People didn't know how to deal with that. Observers didn't know how to describe me... it was terribly violent and unfair," she said. "Sometimes people tell me that I shouldn't be seen too much because the (far-right) National Front is riding high. But, on the contrary, one has to offer an alterative to the National Front that shows a multi-cultural France," added Yade. Historian Pascal Blanchard, who specialises in colonialism and immigration, said the appointment of high-flyers like Vellaud-Belkacem and Taubira in fact showed that "equality is making strides." "These women are occupying high-level positions. This means the system is changing," he said, drawing a parallel to the attacks on top Jewish politicians in the 1930s. "France is no more racist than other countries. In Poland, there are no attacks like this because it would be inconceivable to have a women with a North African background," noted the historian.
© The Local - France

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Anti-Semitic attacks nearly double in France: Jewish group

Anti-Semitic attacks nearly doubled in France in the first seven months of the year, the country's main Jewish group said Thursday.

12/9/2014- A total of 529 anti-Semitic actions or threats were registered up to the end of July, against 276 for the same period last year, the Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) said, citing figures gleaned from the interior ministry. They included violence against individuals, arson and vandalism. Such anti-Semitic acts "exacerbate the growing unease that oppresses Jews in France each day and overshadows their future", CRIF said in a statement. Yet more worrying, the group added, is the appearance of new forms of violence against Jews -- including attacks by organised gangs and the targeting of synagogues, as well as acts of vandalism against Jewish businesses and "terrorist attacks".

Last week the French office of the Jewish Agency for Israel said that more Jews have left France for Israel so far this year than from any other country, blaming a "climate of anti-Semitism". France houses some 500,000-600,000 Jews, the third largest Jewish population in the world, after Israel and the United States. In addition to the largest Jewish diaspora in Europe, France is also home to the continent's biggest Muslim community, which is estimated at around five million. Concerns have been raised by violent attacks on Jews, including the murders of a rabbi and three Jewish children by an Al-Qaeda inspired gunman Mohammed Merah in 2012 in the southern city of Toulouse.

Support has also been rising for far-right parties like France's National Front, which has long faced accusations of anti-Semitism. Tensions over the recent Gaza conflict spilled out into the streets of France in July with looters destroying Jewish businesses and shouting anti-Israel obscenities in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles -- sometimes known as "Little Jerusalem" for its large community of Sephardic Jews.
© The Local - France

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More Macedonians Seek Asylum in Germany

Numbers in the first six months of this year are well up on the figures for 2013, highlighting Germany’s continuing popularity as an asylum destination.

11/9/2014- In the first half of this year, Germany registered substantial increase in the number of asylum seekers coming from Macedonia, although few of them obtained approval to stay. About 4,600 Macedonian nationals requested asylum in Germany in the first six months of 2014, the German Migration and Refugee office said. Only 0.3 per cent of these had their request approved. This is a sharp increase on the numbers in the same period last year, when some 3,100 Macedonians had applied for asylum. In terms of the Balkan region generally, Serbia remains the leader on terms of asylum requests in Germany. Serbian nationals submitted almost 12,000 requests in the first half of the year. Macedonians came second followed by Bosnians who made 4,150 applications. Almost 3,000 people from Kosovo sought asylum in Germany and 780 Montenegrin citizens.

In December 2009, the European Union lifted visa requirements on citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, allowing them to travel into the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone without needing visas. Since then, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and other European countries have complained to Serbia and Macedonia about mass arrivals of asylum seekers from the Balkans, mainly ethnic Albanians and Roma. While some countries have curbed the problem by reducing the length of procedures for reviewing applications, Germany remains a popular destination owing its relatively lengthy asylum procedures during which applicants get a free stay and have their living expenses there covered. This may change at the end of this month when the Bundestag is expected to vote on a new draft law reducing the duration of asylum procedures.
© Balkan Insight

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Germany: Neo-Nazis Threaten German Newspaper

Daily's office, known for its coverage of far-right groups is vandalized with graffiti, alarming security officials in Brandenburg.

12/9/2014- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Friday that neo-Nazi vandalism and threats against a local newspaper in eastern Germany were "unacceptable and must be stopped." This week, vandals sprayed the words "Jews" and the Nazi slogan "Sieg Heil" on the office windows of the Lausitzer Rundschau, a newspaper known for its coverage of far-right groups. The week before, four swastikas were daubed on other offices of the paper as well as "Jews, kill them" and "We'll get you all". There were similar incidents against the daily in 2012. "These threats and acts of vandalism must be stopped and I am confident that the authorities will take the necessary precautions to ensure journalists' safety," the OSCE's media representative Dunja Mijatovic said. "I welcome the condemnation of these attacks from the highest level of the German authorities in Brandenburg state and trust that these incidents will be swiftly and thoroughly investigated," she said in a statement. The chief editor of the newspaper, Johannes Fischer, told the Berliner Zeitung daily that it would fight back with words, "the most powerful weapons against spray cans and baseball bats." Chancellor Angela Merkel will speak at a rally at the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin against anti-Semitism on Sunday coinciding with a World Jewish Congress (WJC) meeting in the German capital.
© AFP

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Germany: Police 'must do more' to reflect diversity -

People from immigrant backgrounds are massively under-represented in Germany's police forces and security agencies, which are not making enough effort to track the problem, a study published on Monday found.

8/9/2014- Migration information service Mediendienst Integration asked all 16 state police agencies, the Federal Criminal Police (BKA), the Federal Police and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution about their workers' origins. Most states do not collect figures on the backgrounds of their entire police forces, and neither do the federal agencies.
In the states which do record such figures, numbers were low. Lower Saxony reported that 3.2 percent of police officers were from migrant backgrounds, Rhineland-Palatinate had 2.5 percent and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern just 0.4 percent. The levels of people with migrant backgrounds in those states are 17.8 percent, 19.6 percent and 3.8 percent respectively. However, advertising campaigns aimed at encouraging more applicants from migrant backgrounds were successful in Berlin and Lower Saxony. Since 2013, both states have received applications proportionate to the numbers in the population at large. But similar campaigns in Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein didn't achieve the same success.

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution, meanwhile, makes no special effort to attract applicants from a migrant background and does not collect statistics about its employees' origins in most states. But four of its state offices do. The state of Brandenburg claimed “no-one” came from a migrant background among its officers. In Hamburg the figure was 2.7 percent, Hesse was 5.2 percent and Lower Saxony 4.1 percent. And the federal police and BKA, while running a targeted campaign to recruit people from a migrant background, also do not collect statistics.

NSU
The investigation was prompted by the investigation into the “National Socialist Underground” (NSU) case, which revealed massive gaps in police understanding of people from migrant backgrounds. The NSU carried out ten killings between 2000 and 2007, targeting immigrants and a policewoman. Investigators took years to pick up their trail because they didn't consider the possibility that the murders had a racist motive. One of the recommendations of the special parliamentary committee appointed to investigate the failures was that the police do more to recruit people from migrant families. “The NSU terrorism experience shows that the security authorities have a serious lack of intercultural sensitivity,” Green Party interior affairs expert and former policewoman Irene Mihalic said. “That's true of the federal police and the Federal Criminal Police too,” she said. “Leaders desperately need to do more.” Wolfgang Schönwald, spokesman for police union GdP, said in a statement that “the first results show that we're on the right path, even if the impact could be much greater”. “We shouldn't be thinking in terms of quotas or anything like that...we have to bring more people with a migrant background closer to our job.” Rainer Wendt, head of the German Police Union (DPolG) claimed that the police are already doing everything they can to recruit more officers with a migrant background.
© The Local - Germany

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Germany: Child refugees in Germany lack basic services: report

UNICEF Germany has released a report criticizing the conditions faced by refugee children within the country. Medical care, education, and housing provision are singled out as being exceptionally inadequate.

9/9/2014- One in three asylum seekers coming to Germany are children or teenagers, according to a UNICEF report published on Tuesday. The organization reported that 65,000 minors in Germany were facing uncertain legal status, and receiving inadequate government support. Refugee children's treatment in Germany fell below the standards prescribed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the report said. The comprehensive report on the situation of refugee children and their families was the first of its kind commissioned by UNICEF Germany in 10 years. The Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (Bundesfachverband Unbegleitete Minderjährige Flüchtlinge, or B-UMF) was in charge of carrying out the study, titled 'Children first and foremost - refugee children in Germany'. The study was presented on Tuesday in Berlin at a press conference led by Thomas Berthold, the paper's author; Christoph Strässer, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid; and Anne Lütkes, a board member of UNICEF Germany. "Above all, refugee children are children. They have lost their homes and are particularly in need of support," Lütkes said.

Basic services lacking
The report heavily criticizes refugee accomodations. Child and adolescent asylum seekers often live in crowded multi-family housing with little privacy, sometimes for years. They are crammed in with strangers, and intra-family conflict is almost never without an audience. Those going through puberty suffer particularly under these conditions. Furthermore, the study found that bureaucratic hurdles hinder access to proper medical care and education. Medical intervention is only allowed in cases of acute illness and pain, ignoring the fact that most refugee children have fled traumatic circumstances and are often in dire need of counseling or other medical services. Proper nutrition is also a concern. Municipalities are allowed to give refugees food packets instead of letting them select what they want. Therefore it is not always possible for children to get the nutrients they need. The law also allows municipalities to level sanctions which reduce services to a minimum. The report said that these sanctions hit children the hardest. As for education, there are relatively few places in schools open to refugee children. Their living conditions offer little opportunity to learn German, and what language courses are offered remain insufficient. These problems are compounded by the fact that aid organizations for children and teenagers do not concern themselves with refugees.

"I simply want to live here"
The report gave the example of Ruslan, a 13 year-old boy from Chechnya. His mother brought him, along with his two younger siblings, to Germany via Poland to escape the constant military conflicts in Chechnya and kidnapping threats from their father. At the German border Ruslan was forced to undress for the guards, submit to a full-body search, and was brought into the city without his mother. "I simply want to live here, to be able to stay here," Ruslan, who attends a nearby school and has made friends in the area, told UNICEF. But the chances are slim, and a deportation to Poland seems likely; EU rules stipulate that asylum seekers must apply to stay in the first member state where they set foot. After fleeing violent conditions, the family continues to live in perpetual uncertainty, and fear they will not be safe if they are forced to return to Poland.

Looking towards the future
The report's conclusion offered a number of recommendations, highlighting the fact that child asylum seekers are first and foremost children, children who have grown up in difficult conditions and who need the particular care that these situations require. Legal proceedings must be aligned to the needs of children, and those involved must be correspondingly trained. Children must have access to comprehensive medical care, education, and social support. Lastly, the report said that incoming refugees must be adequately informed about existing services. With the number of refugees coming to Germany on the rise, creating a sufficient infrastructure is more important than ever.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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German far right faces uncertain future after vote

Germany's biggest far-right party, which once fueled fears of a neo-Nazi surge, is now in the doldrums.

9/9/2014- While some other European countries are seeing a rise in the far right, National Democratic Party was last week booted out of parliament in Saxony, one of only two German states where it had lawmakers. The resulting loss of some 2.5 million euros ($3.3 million) each year in public funding, which critics have said the NPD used to finance campaigns in other states, could crush a party that was regarded just a few years ago as a magnet for neo-Nazi sentiment in Germany and a threat to the country's post-war reputation. "This could be the beginning of the end for the party as a political force," said Hendrik Traeger, a political scientist at Leipzig University. "Saxony was their stronghold." It was in the eastern German state that the NPD received 9.2 percent of the vote in 2004, shocking Germany's political establishment and raising the specter of the country's Nazi past. The election gave the party 12 seats in the state parliament, a public platform to spread its ideas along with dozens of jobs for far-right activists.

Despite the money, the party had little impact in Saxony, according to Werner J. Patzelt, a political scientist at the Technical University Dresden. "The NPD failed to fulfill any of the hopes its voters had, it didn't have any credible representatives and skidded from one scandal to another," Patzelt said. Its former leader in Saxony once referred to Israel as a "Jewish criminal state," party lawmakers refused to honor a minute's silence for victims of the Holocaust, and one deputy calling for the use of hand grenades against "Zionists," a common far-right synonym for Jews. Apart from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, another eastern state, the NPD failed to emulate its success in Saxony anywhere. At the national level, the party hasn't received more than 1.6 percent in the last decade — far less than the 5 percent needed to enter parliament. Still, the NPD's limited success was enough for other parties to seek a judicial review that could see it banned for pursuing unconstitutional aims. Germany's domestic intelligence service has long warned that "the NPD aims to abolish the free democratic order" and its positions "show parallels to the programs of the original National Socialists."

Meanwhile, the NPD's decline in Saxony has been hastened by the rise of a new party, Alternative for Germany, which has attracted some socially conservative voters who previously voted for the far right by promising to restrict immigration and promote Christian family values. Alternative for Germany received 9.7 percent in last week's vote, taking more than 10,000 votes from the NPD. The far-right party fell 809 votes short of the 5 percent threshold as a result. The NPD's fate contrasts with that of other far-right movements in Europe. In France, the National Front received 26 percent of the vote in May's European elections. In Greece, the extremist Golden Dawn party saw 18 lawmakers elected in 2012. But unlike France and Greece, Germany is going through a period of economic prosperity. "Back in 2004, the European Union had just opened its doors eastward and the jobless rate in Germany was significantly higher than today," said Traeger. "This allowed the NPD to play on people's fears and prejudices."

Traeger expects the party to try to rebuild itself from the bottom up. It still has about 100 seats in local councils in Saxony, out of about 330 nationwide. Unlike other parties, the NPD didn't hold its final election rally last week in one of Saxony's major cities, but in the small town of Schneeberg, which has seen regular protests against the construction of a center for refugees. "The party clearly has deep roots at the local level," said Traeger. After losing all of its seats in Saxony, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc said it was time to drop attempts to ban the party. The suggestion met with a swift rebuke. "We mustn't get lulled into a false sense of security," said Germany's minister for families, Manuela Schwesig, whose portfolio includes coordinating efforts to counter neo-Nazi activity.

Stephan Kramer, director of the American Jewish Committee's European office, told Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper that withdrawing the legal brief would send a fatal and wrong signal that the NPD and the organized far right aren't a serious threat to our society and democracy." Aware that the fate of the party may hinge on its presence in Saxony, the NPD has already said it is considering asking for a recount. "The NPD will use all available legal means to determine the real election result," its leader in Saxony, Holger Szymanski, said shortly after the vote.
© The Associated Press

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Germany: Sinti and Roma inspire 'hostility' in German population, study reveals

A recent study shows that one in three Germans rejects Sinti and Roma as neighbours, revealing “deeply rooted stereotypes". EurActiv Germany reports.

8/9/2014- Results of a recent survey show ignorance and prejudice against Sinti and Roma remain widespread within the German population. The comprehensive study, "Popular opinions regarding Sinti and Roma" was presented Wednesday (3 September) by the German Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (ADS) . Researchers analysed stereotypes related to Europe's largest minority and existing knowledge about the group, providing recommendations for dismantling discrimination. Compared to other minorities, Sinti and Roma are met with the least amount of sympathy, the study showed. One in two respondents said they believed Sinti and Roma inspired hostility, because of their behaviour. "Indifference, ignorance and rejection create a fatal combination, that paves the way for discrimination of Sinti and Roma," ADS director Christine Lüders said at the presentation of the study. A considerable portion of the German population does not regard Sinti and Roma as equal fellow citizens, she explained.

The findings are dramatic, Lüders said, demanding substantial action from both a political and societal standpoint. Romani Rose, the chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, voiced his concern over the deeply rooted stereotypes revealed by the study: "Against their better judgement, key policy makers exploit the concept of Roma as an enemy in the poverty migration debate, thus instrumentalising widespread anti-Ziganism," Rose said. In a joint proposal for action, ADS and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma called for regular surveys on discrimination experiences among Sinti and Roma. The construction of an educational academy for Sinti and Roma is also important, the two groups said, as well as greater efforts by self-organised bodies to participate in state agreements. Additional initiatives proposed by the groups included representation on broadcasting councils and better protection measures combating discrimination by administrative authorities and the police.
© EuroActiv

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Merkel calls on Germans to rally against anti-Semitism

Chancellor urges crowds to gather for Berlin demonstration, vows to 'do everything to ensure anti-Semitism doesn't have a chance in our country'

6/9/2014- Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday she would do everything she could to fight anti-Semitism in Germany, amid reports of attacks and a spike in anti-Israel sentiment since the Gaza conflict. In her weekly podcast, Merkel said she was alarmed that Jewish institutions in Germany still needed police protection and called for a big turnout at a rally against anti-Semitism that she was planning to address in Berlin next weekend. Authorities and media in Germany, ultra-sensitive about anti-Semitism because of the Holocaust, have criticized chants against Israel and Jews during rallies against Israel's conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In July, petrol bombs were thrown at a synagogue in the western town of Wuppertal and a man wearing a skullcap was beaten up on a street corner in Berlin. "I will personally do everything I can – as will my entire government – to ensure that anti-Semitism doesn't have a chance in our country," said Merkel, without referring to specific incidents or mentioning any new policies. She said there had been a revival of Jewish culture in the country since World War Two. "We're proud and pleased that it was possible for that to grow in recent years." There were more than half a million Jews in Germany when the Nazis took power in 1933. That number fell to about 30,000 after the mass killings and emigrations, but the population has since grown to about 200,000.

Merkel said she hoped as many Germans would join her at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on September 14 for the rally organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany. "Hopefully there will be as many people as possible there to show that everyone who lives here will be protected," Merkel said. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us," Merkel added. "We can see that there is not a single Jewish institution here (in Germany) that doesn't have to have police protection... That's something that very much concerns me." Jewish schools, shops, buildings and synagogues are regularly guarded by armed police. German anti-racist laws forbid incitement to racial hatred such as anti-Semitic slogans, and outlaw propagation of the racist beliefs of the Nazis, whose emblems are also illegal.
© Reuters

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Germany moves to tighten asylum rules

Germany, which has for two years been Europe's leading destination for asylum seekers, is planning to toughen its immigration laws as it struggles to deal with a growing influx of new arrivals.

6/9/2014- While Greece and Italy have called for more European funding to help deal with the flow of immigrants arriving on their shores, Germany is readying steps to tighten rules for applicants from three Balkan states. The Bundesrat upper house of parliament is due to debate draft legislation later this month that would make it easier for authorities to deport asylum seekers from the formerly war-ravaged states of Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Berlin says it wants to focus instead on refugees from more dangerous warzones such as Syria and Iraq. Lawmakers in the lower Bundestag have already approved the measure, which is opposed by human rights organisations. Ministers from Germany's 16 regional states held two days of discussions on the issue, ending on Friday. Thuringia state's interior minister Jörg Geibert said the measure aimed to cover asylum seekers whose request "is obviously unjustified".

After a surge in applicants in recent years, Berlin has argued that the three Balkan states are safe and citizens don't face persecution, torture, arbitrary violence, or inhumane or humiliating treatment. Chancellor Angela Merkel said efforts now needed to be focused on refugees fleeing current hotspots. "We must watch that we concentrate on refugees who urgently need help or for whom there are grounds for asylum, such as people from Syria," she told the Märkische Allgemeine regional newspaper. Serbs, often from the impove-rished Roma minority, are among the biggest groups of asylum seekers in Germany. Even if their requests end up being rejected, they receive benefits while their applications are being considered -- possibly for several months -- that often exceed what they can hope to earn back home. Petra Follmar-Otto of the German Institute for Human Rights said all the measures boiled down to a "restrictive" policy on asylum law that would "seriously change the way in which one deals with people who are looking for protection".

Since the end of 2010, the number of asylum requests in Germany has soared. For the last two years, Europe's biggest economy has attracted more asylum requests than any other country in the European Union. In 2013 requests jumped 64 percent to 127,023, according to German government data, making up 29 percent of the total number of requests registered in the EU. The long and bloody conflict in Syria has seen the number of Syrian asylum requests in Germany increase almost threefold since the start of the year, while those from Iraqis has doubled. Many of the refugees have made a perilous journey across the Mediterranean and eventually arrive in big cities such as Berlin where centres are already feeling the strain.

Some 6,141 refugees had arrived in the German capital by late August, more than the figure for the whole of 2013. The city has now taken the unprecedented step of closing until the start of next week its arrival centre for refugees, forcing them to turn to relatives or rely on charities. In other German cities asylum seekers are living in gymnasiums, bus depots or in tents, as is the case in the southeastern city of Nuremberg. The German Institute for Human Rights has complained about conditions in some centres, while the Pro Asyl organisation warns such emergency solutions cannot drag on forever.
© The Local - Germany

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Greece tightens anti-racism rules amid series of attacks

9/9/2014- Greek lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill toughening anti-racism laws and making Holocaust denial a criminal act, as it cracks down on a wave of xenophobic attacks that have come amid the country's worst-ever peace-time financial crisis. A gateway into the European Union for thousands of migrants from Asia and Africa, Greece is home to more than 1 million undocumented migrants, who face growing hostility as the country struggles through a six-year recession and record unemployment. Hate crimes have surged alongside the rise of the fiercely anti-immigrant Golden Dawn party, whose top members are in jail pending trial on charges of setting up a criminal group that attacks immigrants and opponents. They deny the accusations. "Reinforcing our legislative arsenal is demanded more than ever today, when the enemies of democracy and those who deny the human substance preach hatred," Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou told parliament last week.

The bill raises the prison term for instigating hate crimes to three years from two and allows prosecutors to investigate crimes even if the victims fail to report them to authorities. It also imposes fines of up to 30,000 euros for those instigating racism and up to 100,000 euros for groups involved in racially motivated crimes, in addition to banning them from receiving state funding for up to six months. A controversial article criminalizing the denial or trivialization of the Holocaust, Nazi war atrocities and genocide, was voted for by 54 of the 99 lawmakers present during the summer session. The government had rejected a proposed amendment that would have legally recognized gay and lesbian couples, citing the need for study of tax and religious issues, despite a 2013 EU court ruling that it was violating EU rules by not doing so. Rights groups like Human Rights Watch that have long criticized Greece for turning a blind eye to racism welcomed the latest changes. "Greece is waking up to the fact that there is a serious problem with racist violence," Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.

Golden Dawn, which features a swastika-like emblem and has referred to immigrants as "subhumans", said the new rules violated freedom of expression. "What is xenophobia? The railings at my home stopping a Pakistani, or any foreigner, from raping my wife or killing me?" Golden Dawn lawmaker Michail Arvanitis told parliament. "Discrimination is a fact of life." Golden Dawn's leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, has denied the Holocaust, and the party's members have been seen giving Nazi salutes. Michaloliakos has held in pre-trial detention after a party supporter killed a anti-fascist rapper a year ago. An investigation into Golden Dawn's links to a string of violent attacks, including the killing of the rapper and a Pakistani immigrant, has entered its final stage. A trial of more than 70 suspects, including Golden Dawn's 16 lawmakers, is expected to begin in November. The new laws cannot be applied to those on trial.
© Reuters

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Greece: MPs poised to pass anti-racism legislation

The process of passing the anti-racism bill, which punishes hate crimes, is due to be completed on Tuesday.

6/9/2014- The vote was delayed last week after a number of parties asked for a vote by roll call, while PASOK also proposed a last-minute amendment. Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou on Friday accepted the junior coalition partner’s suggestion that punishment should be stiffened for those who commit racially motivated crimes. The change was backed by SYRIZA and Democratic Left (DIMAR). The draft law seeks to toughen sanctions for incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence. It also aims to criminalize denial of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. SYRIZA only backed one of the bill’s five articles, arguing that in some places the would-be law does not go far enough, while in others it may infringe on freedom of expression.

Specifically, the opposition party expressed concern about the government’s bid to punish those, such as members of the Muslim minority in Greece, who refuse to recognize the slaughter of Greek and Armenian Christians by Turks as genocide. Athanasiou however insisted that the bill does not target those who challenge the term but those who do so “in an insulting and ill-intentioned manner” that may lead to violence. “Who defines what is insulting?” responded SYRIZA MP Anna Chatzisofia.
© Kathimerini

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Greek island police chief photographed giving Nazi salute

8/9/2014- The police chief of the popular Greek tourist island of Hydra was photographed giving the Nazi salute while on a trip to Germany. The Ethnos Sunday newspaper published the picture of Lt. Yiorgos Kagkalos, which it reported was taken in 2011 during a visit to the Nuremberg Transport Museum. The publication follows persistent reports suggesting widespread support among the Greek police for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. It also comes in a week when the Greek Parliament is working to pass a law that would outlaw Holocaust denial and hate speech. In the photo, Kagkalos is standing in front of a red locomotive emblazoned with the Nazi eagle and swastika. His arm is raised in the Nazi salute. The newspaper reported that the photo had been sent anonymously to the police who investigated the incident, but ultimately did not charge Kagkalos due to lack of evidence. Kagkalos has appealed to the administrative courts an order by police headquarters to remove him from his position, which he has held since 2011, the newspaper reported.
© JTA News

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Slovak priest: Jews are to blame for Holocaust

He warns that the Roma are headed in the same direction

6/9/2014- Slovak Catholic priest Emil Floriš said the Jews themselves are to blame for the Holocaust and the same can happen to Romanies, the Czech daily Právo writes. "A part of the speech by Floriš, who spoke at a mass in Čadca, north central Slovakia, that was devoted to Jews and the Holocaust offends and humiliates the memory of the victims," Lucia Kollárová, spokeswoman for the Headquarters of the Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia, told the Slovak news agency SITA, Právo writes. Kollárová said a part of Floriš's speech included untruths and anti-Semitic cliches, relativizing the suffering of the Jewish population during World War Two, also on the territory of present-day Slovakia.

Floriš reportedly said Jews from all over Europe had been transported to the concentration camps because they were hated, for which they themselves were to blame, Právo writes. "Now the same is threatening Romanies. Do you know why? Because they abuse the system and charity of people," Floriš said before hundreds of church-goers, Právo writes. About 70,000 Jews were deported from war-time Slovakia, a Nazi-controlled puppet state, during the war. About 67,000 of them perished in Nazi death camps. The head of wartime Slovakia, Catholic priest Jozef Tiso was executed as a war criminal in 1947.
© The Prague Post

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USA: 9/11 Families Launch Anti-Islamophobia Campaign For Anniversary Of Tragedy

6/9/2014- Family members of September 11 victims are taking a stand against Islamophobia with a new bus ad campaign designed to promote religious tolerance and interfaith unity. "Islamophobia is not pretty," the ad reads. "Let's build bridges, not walls. Hate hurts, hope heals." Sponsored by September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the ad's launch coincides with a symposium on gun violence and hate crimes taking place on September 6 in New York City. The symposium will encourage dialogue between panelists and audience members with the intention of discussing solutions to religious intolerance. "We wanted to make a clear statement that our 9/11 family members do not want to promote fear and hatred in our names," Peaceful Tomorrows Project Director Terry Greene, whose brother died aboard United Flight 93, told HuffPost. "We believe that unity and interfaith tolerance are the path forward to a more peaceful tomorrow."

poll conducted by the Arab American Institute from 2010 to 2014 looked at American attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims and found that unfavorable feelings toward these groups have increased in recent years. Forty-five percent of Americans polled said they viewed Muslims unfavorably -- though only 47 percent said they personally knew someone who was Muslim. Although hate crimes targeting Asian Pacific Americans, Arab Americans, Muslims, Sikhs and others spiked after September 11, Greene said, the campaign aims to respond specifically to recent attacks on Sikhs in New York City. "The civil liberties of all Americans are threatened," Greene said. "By developing and advocating nonviolent options and actions in the pursuit of justice, we hope to break the cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism," the organization said in a press release.

Panelists at Saturday's event will include MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Bloom, Rev. Matthew Crebbin, Senior Minister the Newtown, CT Congregational Church, Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Director of Community Partnerships at the Interfaith Center of New York and Chet Whye, Founder of the Harlem4 Center for Change. The Borough of Manhattan also declared September 6 the September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows Appreciations Day, Greene told HuffPost. "We want to honor our loved ones by preventing other innocent civilians from dying needlessly," Greene said.
© The Huffington Post

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