NEWS - Archive November 2005

Special News Edition: French riots

Headlines 25 November, 2005

Headlines 18 November, 2005

Headlines 11 November, 2005

Headlines 4 November, 2005

Special News Edition: French riots

FRENCH JUDGES OPPOSE DEPORTATION OVER RIOTS

7/12/2005- French judges on Wednesday opposed a decision to deport a 21-year-old Mauritanian man accused of taking part in last month's wave of suburban rioting. The man, who has lived in France since the age of three, faces a deportation order issued by the prefecture, or state-appointed local government authority, in Cergy, northwest of the capital. An official letter advising him of his deportation accuses him of committing "grave acts of violence against a law enforcement officer" even though he was released without charge following his arrest last month. He denies taking part in the violence. A consultative panel of judges in nearby Pontoise ruled against the deportation on the grounds that the charges against him "have not been established". The panel said the man, who holds valid residency papers, had no past convictions and appeared to be well integrated into French society, and argued that his presence "on French territory was not a threat to public order". The final decision rests with the prefecture in Cergy. Three weeks of unrest broke out in suburbs across France with large numbers of inhabitants of immigrant origin in late October, with arson attacks on almost 10,000 cars and on public property leading to nearly 3,000 arrests. The violence was largely attributed to youths of families from France's former colonial possessions in north and west Africa, who feel they are the victims of racism, chronic unemployment and police harassment. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday that deportation procedures were being carried out against seven of the 83 foreign nationals arrested over the riots. The UN Committee Against Torture voiced concern last month that the French decision to deport foreigners over the riots could have a discriminatory effect and that those concerned could be denied a fair trial.
© Expatica News

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FRANCE'S SARKOZY BACKS BELEAGUERED FINKIELKRAUT OVER MUSLIM RIOT COMMENTS

6/12/2005- The storm aroused by French-Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut refuses to subside. On Sunday, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy threw his full weight behind the beleaguered philosopher, who has been forced to remain cloistered at home following the sharp reactions to an interview he gave to Haaretz. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Sarkozy said: "Monsieur Finkielkraut is an intellectual who brings honor and pride to French wisdom ... If there is so much criticism of him, it might be because he says things that are correct." The minister was asked about Finkielkraut because several reporters saw similarities between the conservative views the philosopher expressed about the recent riots in France and the tough stance the minister took in dealing with the agitators who took to the street night after night. The liberal weekly Nouvel Observateur devoted its cover story to what it called "the new neo-reactionaries." Alongside Finkielkraut's picture on the cover was a title stating that Finkielkraut and his colleagues had worsened the social chasms in the country. Others mentioned as supporters of similar ideas were Sarkozy, philosopher Andre Gluksman and historian Pierre-Andre Taguieff (who coined the phrase Judeophobia). They are described as belonging to a right-wing wave that is now prominent in France. Sarkozy appeared ready to take on the media. He had been following the attacks on Finkielkraut for two weeks and was waiting for a suitable opportunity. "What do you want of him?" he asked the media representatives. "M. Finkielkraut does not consider himself obliged to follow the monolithic thinking of many intellectuals, which led to Le Pen winning 24 percent in the elections. The philosophers who frequent the salons and live between Cafe de Flor and Boulevard St. Germain suddenly find that France no longer bears a resemblance to them."

This is an unprecedented attack on the left wing by the very person who is seen by many French as being the only one capable of preventing the disintegration of the republic. The cafes and bistros of Boulevard St. Germain and the narrow alleyways of St. Germain-des-Pres were traditionally frequented by members of the left, led by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, who would take their morning coffee and read the newspapers there. When the socialists came to power under Francois Mitterand in 1981, the celebrations there were legendary. But of late, the area has lost some of its left-wing color. While Sarkozy has won popular support for his stronghanded policies, he has been criticized in the media for his autocratic manner and his lack of sympathy for the social causes behind the rioters' behavior. Finkielkraut appeared to be mouthing his words. Finkielkraut's apologies printed in Le Monde, a few days after the Haaretz interview, disappointed many. His supporters felt he had retracted his words for fear of a media boycott, as had happened to others. As a result of his apologies, Finkielkraut was able to maintain his radio programs on the prestigious France Culture channel and the Jewish radio channel and even increased his audience. The weekly Le Point also devoted a four-page report to the Finkielkraut affair this week. While the interviewees stressed his intellectual acumen, they almost all felt Finkielkraut had slipped up by mentioning the ethnic identity of the rioters - he had described them as blacks, Arabs and Muslims. Nevertheless, to date, all the organizations and bodies that threatened to sue him for racism have changed their minds. The trials of the rioters, however, will begin shortly. There are 785 detainees, of whom 83 are illegal residents. Seven will be deported in the next few days.
"They are on their way out," Sarkozy told the reporters.
© Haaretz

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DE VILLEPIN INTERVIEW: FULL TEXT(france)

28/11/2005- CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour spoke to the French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin. The following is a transcript of the interview.

Amanpour: Firstly, thank you very much for joining us Mr. prime minister, would you accept that France has a very serious social malaise, a very serious social problem that requires dramatic solutions, actions?
De Villepin: Yes, indeed. Important and severe social unrest; we have had more than 9,000 cars that were burned. We had approximately 130 policemen that were injured and approximately 100 of public buildings that were damaged during this period, during these two weeks of unrest.

Amanpour: You know, many people, after hurricane Katrina struck the United States said, that it exposed the poverty and racism that exist in the United States. Many people in France said that ... around the world said it. Many people also said that the riots in the ghettos if you like... in the suburbs ...
De Villepin: I am not sure you can call them riots. It's very different from the situation you have known in 1992 in L.A. for example. You had at that time 54 people that died, and you had 2,000 people wounded. In France during the 2 weeks period of unrest, nobody died in France. So, I think you can't compare this social unrest with any kind of riots.

Amanpour: What do you call it then?
De Villepin: Social unrest, you have to understand also, there were no guns in the streets. No adults; mostly young people between 12 and 20 ... so it is very special movement.

Amanpour: Many people say that special movement or social unrest is fueled by mass unemployment especially in the youth...
De Villepin: It's approximately the double of the rest of the country.

Amanpour: Which is dramatic ...
De Villepin: Yes, of course.

Amanpour: ... By poverty and by racism ...
De Villepin: Feeling of discrimination: very often, you have people coming from the second generation of immigration, they don't know their country of origin. They don't have the same link with France as their parents who chose to come and work here. So, as Jacques Chirac, the President of the Republic said, there was some kind of a lack of identity.

Amanpour: In terms of Identity, many of them told us, that they are asked to be French in spirit of the republic, but the French government doesn't love them, doesn't care about them, doesn't do enough to make sure that they have equal opportunity in a country that is all about egalité.
De Villepin: I think we should recognize that we have not made enough during all these years and decades. We need to be conscious of this situation. We have to say that, and it is important to also understand the real nature of these movements, there is no ethnic or religious basis of this movement, as we can see in some other parts of the world. But it is true that the feeling of discrimination, the feeling of maybe not having the same equal chance... but what is interesting, is that most of these young people, they want to be 100 percent French. They want to have equal chances. So, it is really our goal now to answer their demands and to move and to put as a priority a lot more that needs to be done on housing, on education, on employment and this is going to be on the agenda of our government during the next weeks and months.

Amanpour: The majority of these people who are in the banlieus are blacks or of North African origins. And they feel that not only there are no opportunities, but there are no role models for them. There no minorities in your parliament, none in your news organizations, ...
De Villepin: But they don't want to be recognized.... They don't want to be recognized as Muslims, or as blacks, or as people coming from North Africa. They want to be recognized, as French and they want to have equal opportunity during their lives.

Amanpour: So what do you say then to somebody whose name is Mohammed, who knows that even if he has the best grades from the Sorbonne, his resume, his c.v., will be rejected 5 times more often than somebody who's called Francois, that's a fact.
De Villepin: Well, the first question is to everybody in this country. We have to answer the question and try to solve it. Nobody can accept that. This cannot be a fatality. We want to change this mentality. And already we have seen so many initiatives. Take for example, a lot of companies, French companies that have decided to have a more diverse recruitment in their own companies. So we should change, we have many decisions that have been taken during the last years. As for example, a Curriculum Vitae anonymous which allows the company to choose people without knowing which race or which religion. So I believe that it is a matter of mobilization in the country in order to make sure that discrimination is not going to be accepted. President Chirac has decided to create a high authority against discrimination and for equality. And this authority is going to be able to give sanctions to people who are not going to comply with our Republican rules.

Amanpour: Is that like positive discrimination? Is that affirmative action?
De Villepin: No, there is a difference between... what we stand for in our republic, which is: equal chances and affirmative action.  Affirmative action is mainly aimed in taking into account the race and the religion. In our republic: everybody is equal and we don't want to take into account the color of the skin or the religion. But we want to take into account the difficulty that one may have. So we want to help the individuals on the basis of their own difficulties. That's why we are going to have an important program in order to help more this neighborhood that has been facing difficulties in terms of education for example. That means we are going to help all the different schools in these neighborhoods, in order to help all the young people that maybe cannot master as well the French language or do have problems in schools. It means very intense program in order to give them equal chances.

Amanpour: How can you help these people if you do not take into account that they are discriminated against because of their color.
De Villepin: We are going to triple the scholarships giving to the children. We are going to triple the boarding schools in order to answer to the best students in these different neighborhoods, in order to help them going to university and to have a good career. But the difference between the system you have and the one we have is that we are going to help as well any young children in France facing difficulties but not taking into account the fact he is black or coming from Maghreb or being Muslim. Every one who is having difficulties is going to be taken into account and helped individually.

Amanpour: It was your government that cut quite a lot of money and quite a lot of programs to these areas that we just saw explode in spasm of violence...
De Villepin: That's not absolutely true.

Amanpour: There were quite a lot of cuts...
De Villepin: Well, we spent differently in different programs and we have put the emphasis mainly on housing. We have decided to have a 30 billion program in order to renovate the whole urbanism. One of the big problems in these neighborhood, is that in the sixties and the seventies in order to answer to the crisis of housing, it has been created a lot of high-rise buildings with a lot of people living there in very difficult way. So we have decided to build residence on a smaller scale and we are doing that in a very very fast programs: 18 months between the demolishing of these big buildings and the reconstruction of these new residences. This is of course very expensive programs. What is true is that we have decided to re-allocate a certain amount of money for the social organizations working in these cities.

Amanpour: But some people also said that the labor laws here need to be changed. That because it is so difficult to hire young people... without being able to fire them because of your very strict social and labor laws, that that is a double negative against those people.
De Villepin: Well, first we want to make a very special effort in direction of the young people of these neighborhoods. That's why we've decided to have our national agency of employment to receive all the young people in these neighborhood during the next month. In order to either propose either a job, either a training program or an internship. In order to really answer to their demands. We are really willing to take into account that their very specific difficulties and individually to answer these difficulties.

Amanpour: How long do you have to get it right?
De Villepin: Well, it is an emergency matter. We want to deal with these matters very very fast. I am going to present a full program on Thursday in order to have a better justice, better education in these neighborhood. So, we are taking this very seriously. We want to have very fast answer, global answers. In order to really comply with our obligations. We are facing, this is the difficulty, problems of very different nature. Problems for example of employment. We want to attract more companies into these neighborhoods. And we have created tax free zones, we want to increase the numbers of these tax free zones in order to have more companies creating jobs but we also want the people of these neighborhoods being able to accept the jobs outside of these neighborhoods, because we need a social mix in order to have a real equilibrium now in our society. So it is a challenge, it is a challenge for these neighborhoods, it is a challenge for the whole French society. And I think it is very important that we succeed in this, because whatever happened in France can happen as well in other countries, in Europe or else where. It is a part of a new phenomenon of globalization. So we need to be successful and I think France has to show that its society has a vitality, has a capacity, has a willingness to make and to deal with the challenge.

Amanpour: France, and you yourself when you were Foreign Minister, was very vocal about the Iraq war. You obviously did not support it and you raised many of the issues that are currently unfolding there right now. What do you think? Do you feel vindicated when you look at what Iraq is going through right now?
De Villepin: No, I think it is of course a very difficult situation; we have gone a long way to begin to establish democracy in Iraq, but still there is a long way to go. And I think the effort should be important in terms of including all the political forces. After the referendum on the constitution, we are going to have general elections in Iraq on the 15th of December, and I think it is a very important moment in order to try to put together all the political and social forces of the country. We know that there are two risks in Iraq still today. One is the division of Iraq which is of course a nightmare for the region. And the second one is a growing role of terrorism. So I think it is very important for the international community to try to put all these forces together to solve the matter and I think we should support the initiative of the Arab League: try to support a better regroupement, coalition of the different political forces, and also make sure that all the countries of the region work together in order to go forward.

Amanpour: But you can see there is a huge amount of difficulty with that...
De Villepin: We knew since the beginning that it was very easy to go to war, but very difficult to get out of Iraq, because of the fragility of the country, because of the sensitivity of the situation in this region. So now we have to face the situation as it is, and it is the responsibility of all the international community to help the process, to make sure that we go forward all together.

Amanpour: Do you believe the United States should set a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops?
De Villepin: I believe that anything should be done coordinated with the local situation in Iraq and the regional situation. I think that the timetable should be a global timetable. The real timetable is the Iraqi situation. We should avoid at all cost the chaos in Iraq which of course would be disastrous for the whole region.

Amanpour: Iran. France, Britain and Germany have taken the lead in trying to make sure Iran does not get its hands on nuclear weapons. And they have also been very clear in not wanting Iran in engaging in the uranium enrichment cycle, those talks broke off, there is a new Iranian president, there is word that the EU3 is ready to start negotiations again, is that true?
De Villepin: No. We have made an offer. And Iran has decided to resume the enrichment of uranium, the conversion of uranium, and I think it is very important now today to put pressure on Iran to make sure that they accept this offer, if they don't accept... then we will have to go then to the Security Council.

Amanpour: Do you believe that the new presidency sees it that was, since they have restarted and said that they won't stop?
De Villepin: As always, in any negotiations, it is difficult to make any prediction, but I think that there is a deal possible, there is an offer that has been made by the Europeans and I think it is in the interests of the international community, in the interests of Iran, to accept these proposals

Amanpour: What sanctions can you imagine?
De Villepin: You see there is one key factor of diplomacy, never tell what you will do before.
© Cable News Network

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FRANCE ANNOUNCES TIGHTENING OF IMMIGRATION CONTROLS

29/11/2005- French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin today announced tightened controls on immigration, part of his government’s response to France’s worst civil unrest in four decades. Legal immigrants who ask for a 10-year residency permit or French citizenship should show that they have integrated and mastered French, he said. France will crack down on fraudulent marriages that some immigrants ue to acquire residency rights and launch a stricter screening process for foreign students, de Villepin said. Both de Villepin and his Interior Minister and rival Nicolas Sarkozy have announced law-and-order measures since the rioting broke out this month in depressed suburbs where many immigrants live. The two men – both members of President Jacques Chirac’s conservative party – are expected to vie for the presidency in 2007, and both want to appear firm in response to the violence and France’s broader social problems. Marriages celebrated abroad between French people and foreigners will no longer be automatically recognised in France, de Villepin said. Consulates must screen couples first before foreign partners can be granted French identity papers, he said. “It’s not an attempt to undermine the right to marry, but to check that all the conditions for a true marriage are in place,” de Villepin said, adding that the measure would be adopted by parliament in the first half of 2006. The prime minister also said the government should have the ability to enforce a law outlawing polygamy. There are 8,000-to-15,000 polygamous families in France, according to official figures.

Some French officials cited polygamy as one reason that youths from underprivileged immigrant households joined the rioting – a suggestion that outraged opposition politicians and human rights groups. They warned against fanning racism and anti-Muslim sentiment. The violence broke out on October 27 near Paris and spread throughout France. While promising to ease unemployment for youths and fight racial discrimination, the conservative government also promised tighter controls on crime and immigration. About 50,000 foreign students come to France each year to study. Foreign students will be screened in their home countries by centres run by officials from France’s Education Ministry, de Villepin said. “We want to channel our efforts to receive the best students, the most motivated, those who have a high-level study project,” he said. The French president said two weeks ago that France also must be stricter in enforcing regulations that govern whether immigrants can move their spouses and children to France. De Villepin said legal immigrants who want to move their families to France should wait at least two years before they can apply, up from the current one year. So-called family reunions are the second biggest source of legal immigration to France, affecting about 25,000 people in 2004. Marriage is the largest: About 34,000 French people married foreigners from beyond the European Union last year. De Villepin later told parliament that the number of illegal immigrants sent back has more than doubled over the past three years, with France on target to deport more than 20,000 people this year.
© Ireland on-line

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FRENCH NGOS BLAST WRITER FOR RACISM AGAINST RIOTERS

26/11/2005- A number of French NGOs launched on Friday, November 25, into a diatribe against intellectual Alain Finkielkraut for calling rioters a bunch of "rebels" with Muslim identity. "Finkielkraut will be sued for inciting hatred," vowed the chairman of Movement against Racism and for Friendship between People (MRAP), Mouloud Aounit. "There will be no dialogue with racists," he said in a statement, adding that Finkielkraut and his ilk should know their limits. Finkielkraut said in an interview with Haaretz last week that the problem with rioters is that they are "blacks or Arabs, with a Muslim identity." "Look, in France there are also other immigrants whose situation is difficult - Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese - and they're not taking part in the riots. Therefore, it is clear that this is a revolt with an ethno-religious character," he said. The rioting began on October 27 with the accidental electrocution of two youths fleeing police in Clichy-sous-Bois outside Paris. The government has then come under increasing pressure to halt the riots, sparked by frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police. Many feel trapped in the drab suburbs, built in the 1960s and 1970s to house waves of immigrant workers. Their French-born children and grandchildren are now out on the streets demanding the equality France promised but, they say, failed to deliver

Dismissal
The racist remarks by Finkielkraut further drew vitriol from other French NGOs. The Audio-Visual Council (Le Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel) urged the France Culture radio to sack Finkielkraut and keep his weekly program from the airwaves. The Jewish Union for Peace in France also censured the writer, issuing a strongly-worded statement blasting the Finkielkraut's blatant racism in the interview. The interview's headline "What Sort of Frenchmen are They?" is a case in point, it said. SOS Racisme also joined the chorus of condemnation, demanding the intellectual to reconsider his statements hoping that it was just a slip of the tongue. Senior government officials have frequently said that the recent turmoil has nothing to do with religion. Chief of Interior Intelligence Service Pierre de Bousquet told French RTL channel on Wednesday, November 23, Islam should by no way take the blame for the work of angry youths. "We must address the roots and real reasons behind the unrest," he said. Bernard Bessingere, the chief of a Saint Denis municipality, lauded last week the key role played by the leaders of the Muslim minority in Saint Denis to calm down a furious generation. On November 20, Muslim leaders in the Saint Denis's District 93, where the first sparkle of riots started, have put their heads together with government officials, clerics and party leaders to tackle how to avoid a repeat of the riots. Better known among the French as "District 93" Saint Denis has a Muslim population of 500,000 out of 1,200 million people, making it the largest Muslim residential area in the country. Muslims make up some five million of France’s 60 million people, the biggest Muslim minority in Europe.
© Islam Online

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FRENCH BLACK GROUPS TEAM UP TO FIGHT DISCRIMINATION

26/11/2005- Sixty French associations for black people formed a federation on Saturday to fight racial discrimination in the aftermath of a flare-up of violence in poor suburbs across France. Named the representative council for black associations, or CRAN, the federation aims to involve political parties, unions and other bodies in fighting discrimination. Prejudice and exclusion have been cited among reasons youths from immigrant families spent three weeks rioting in the outskirts of French cities blighted by poverty and unemployment in late October and November. The federation chose Patrick Lozes, leader of the Capdiv body that promotes diversity in France, as its chairman. "Before the suburbs burn again, we have to take stock of ethno-racial discrimination in France," Lozes said. Stephane Pocrain, a former Green party spokesman, said integrating black people in French society was key. "What's really at stake is how to find greater social cohesion by reintegrating, both in the national story and in the national community, those who are permanently excluded from it because they have black skin," he said after a meeting organised at France's lower house of parliament, or National Assembly. He said CRAN aimed to hold talks with bodies like France's employers federation, Medef, about diversity in companies. The singer Manu Dibango, former footballer Basile Boli and Fode Sylla, the former president of anti-racist organisation SOS Racisme, are all members of the federation.
© Reuters

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BARROSO UNDER FIRE OVER RIOT TORN FRANCE

25/11/2005- European Commission President Durão Barroso came under a hail of vociferous criticism last week after announcing that Brussels plans to give riot torn France millions of euros in aid. He pledged nearly 950 million euros after 18 nights of street riots, car burning and armed attacks on police. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Barroso said: "These riots are a European issue. We are ready to examine the possibility of immediately remobilising and redirecting certain funds". The proposed aid would be in addition to a 100 million euro grant already handed over by the EU for the redevelopment of the kind of impoverished French towns where the riots broke out. During the disturbances, 300 cities and towns were hit and nearly 3,000 people arrested. More than 8,000 vehicles have been set on fire and at least 72 public buildings destroyed, including schools and colleges. However, Barroso's proposed grants have rankled with parties across the political spectrum. The UK Tory party described them as "unbelievable and a waste of taxpayers' money". Tory spokesman Graham Brady told BBC TV: "We all sympathise with the French people who have suffered from the riots, but France is already one of the biggest beneficiaries of EU funding. It would be hard to justify taking still more cash from those who pay the most into the EU, like hard working British taxpayers". Brady expressed surprise that a country as wealthy as France was not able to finance solutions to its own domestic problems, especially as policies for dealing with immigrants such as isolating them on rundown estates, have been the main cause of the riots. Barroso has so far refused to respond to criticism of his planned aid programme and if anything appears to be deter mined to press ahead with further grants if deemed necessary. He was warmly congratulated by the French European Minister Catherine Colonna who went on to say: "It's a good start ­ it's a good thing". Attempting to allay the fears of French citizens over the threats of more riots, President Jacques Chirac said in a TV speech: "These events bear witness to a deep malaise. We will respond by being firm, by being fair and by being faithful to the values of France".
© The Portugal News

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FRENCH PM PLAYS DOWN MP'S ANTI-RAP COMMENTS

25/11/2005- The prime minister of France is playing down comments made by other members of his party, who earlier this week claimed that rap music helped fuel the recent suburban riots. In an interview with French radio Friday, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin dismissed the claim, spearheaded by MP Francois Grosdidier, that songs by French rappers helped drive the three weeks of rioting in poor suburbs. The wide-ranging civil unrest began in late October, when two teenagers were electrocuted at a power sub-station in Clichy-sous-Bois, north of Paris. Local youths allege the pair were being pursued by police, a charge officials deny. In the aftermath of the riots, which abated last week, Villepin said, "it is one of my primary responsibilities to avoid any sort of confusion or finger-pointing." He continued: "Is rap responsible for the crisis in the suburbs? My answer is no." However, he did acknowledge that certain artists must claim responsibility for the content they create. "When one writes a song, when one writes a book, when one expresses oneself, do we have a responsibility? Yes," he said.

Rapper Monsieur R the main target
Approximately 200 French MPs and senators are backing a request for the country's justice ministry to investigate and possibly prosecute seven rap groups over what the MPs believe are provocative lyrics. Earlier this week, Grosdidier argued that music by certain rappers "conditioned" listeners to violence. He alleged that songs like FranSSe by rapper Monsieur R incite racism and hatred and should be banned from the airwaves. Though other musical artists were mentioned in the request, Monsieur R (whose real name is Richard Makela) has been the central target, particularly because of FranSSe. The song – in which the rapper calls France "a prostitute" and disparages historical figures – is not a call to arms against the country but a rant against government leaders who neglect ethnic minorities, Makela told French TV. "Hip hop is a crude art, so we use crude words. It is not a call to violence," he said. Makela is also facing a separate court case for "outrage to social decency" over the song. In recent years, French rappers have predicted that many of the country's suburbs – where poverty abounds – were set to explode in violence.
© CBC News

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FRENCH RAPPERS ACCUSED OF INCITING RECENT RIOTS

23/11/2005- Seven French rap outfits could face legal action following a complaint lodged by some 200 lawmakers on Wednesday, accusing them of helping to provoke the country's recent riots through their song lyrics. "Sexism, racism and anti-Semitism are no more acceptable in song lyrics than in written or spoken words," the deputy behind the initiative, François Grosdidier of the ruling centre-right UMP, told AFP. "This is one of the factors that led to the violence in the suburbs," he said, arguing that rap music "conditions" listeners into a violent frame of mind that can spur them on to action. In a petition co-signed by 152 deputies and 49 senators, the deputy drew the attention of justice minister Pascal Clement to seven rap singers and bands whom he accuses of inciting racism and hatred. The complaint singled out the song 'FranSSe' by the rap artist Monsieur R, whose lyrics describe France as a "bitch" to be "screwed until she drops". Its author, Monsieur R, whose real name is Richard Makela, is already facing a separate court case for "outrage to social decency" over the song, brought by another ruling-party deputy. The complaint also targets the singers Smala, Fabe and Salif and the rap groups Lunatic, 113, and Ministère Amer. French rap artists have been using hip hop music as a medium to protest about conditions in France's tough suburbs since the early 1980s. References to police harassment, drugs, inequality, violence and "a day of reckoning" for the injustices of life all litter their songs. Following the weeks of violence that broke out in poor, high-immigration French suburbs in late October and early November, their lyrics warning of violence and railing against discrimination have appeared eerily prescient.
© Expatica News

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IMMIGRANTS IN FRANCE STRADDLE TWO WORLDS

24/11/2005- Maimouna Djitte and her six brothers and sisters speak French among themselves, but their West African-born parents speak to the children in the Senegalese dialect of their homeland. Like other immigrant families, the Djittes feel stuck between two worlds. "I've lived here longer than in Senegal, but I don't feel French," said the father, Massy, 60, who moved here in 1972 and quickly found construction work. He returned to Senegal in 1977 to marry Aby, a cousin chosen by his father, and they came back to France nine months later and moved into subsidized low-rent public housing. Back then, he dreamed of his sons becoming physicians, professors or engineers - hopes, he says, all but shattered now. He and his sons say racism and discrimination against jobseekers from troubled suburbs like this one northeast of Paris make finding decent work tough if not impossible. Massy said racism was not a problem when he arrived. "Strangers gave us a ride in their cars. It was incredible. They liked blacks in those days because we were honest and hardworking," he said. Now, "even if you work well, they would still hire someone with white skin," he added, tugging the skin on his arm for emphasis. "I thought France would open its arms to my children as it did to me. But it didn't. I want to go back" to Senegal, he said, and plans to when he retires sometime in the next 18 months from his job as a cleaner. Lamine, 26, the eldest son, has a high-school diploma in business, but has secured nothing better than the occasional telemarketing job. "No one says, 'I'm not hiring you because you're black.' But we always feel it's there," said Lamine. He says prospective employers sometimes ask for immigration papers, even though he is French. "Why? Because I'm black?" he asks.

His brother, 21-year-old Boubaka, said their suburban zip code dooms job applications. "When I'm looking for work, my origin becomes more important. My name becomes a barrier," he said. Unlike their father, the children cannot imagine living anywhere but France. Lamine has been to his parents' West African homeland once, in 2000. "I prefer to live here, we have access to a lot of things. Senegal has a lot of development problems, it's poor. People there dream to go to Europe and the United States," he said. "It is crazy that I'm French and would want to live there while they want to leave." Since the riots, President Jacques Chirac's government has vowed to make a priority of combating discrimination and finding work for youths from depressed neighborhoods where unemployment and frustrations run high. Chirac has told companies, unions and media executives that France must encourage diversity, but said his government will not impose hiring or educational quotas based on race. Massy said he had not expected to stay longer than the time it took to earn some money to take home. But jobs were so abundant that he switched plans. "I was ready to do all kinds of work so my kids would have a decent life, better jobs than me, a better future," said Massy. He works as a cleaner, making $1,500 a month. Rent for their three-bedroom apartment, utilities and phone bills swallow about half of that, leaving $700 for groceries and the family car, Massy said. His two eldest sons also have cars. A knee injury forced Aby, 43, to give up her $700-a-month job cleaning a hotel at Disneyland Paris. "I can't say we are poor because there are poorer people than us, but we don't have any money left at the end of the month," Massy said. He plans to move to a house he has built in Senegal, Aby and the children will stay in France. Massy hopes Lamine will find steady work so he can care for them. "My father wanted a lot of things. He came from a country where people didn't have a lot," Lamine said. "I just want to get ahead and do my best - be a good son, maybe a good father and have a job that would give me enough money to pay the bills."
© Associated Press

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MAJORITY OF FRENCH FAVOUR EXTENDED EMERGENCY LAW

20/11/2005- More than two-thirds of French people support the government's decision to extend emergency measures after three weeks of France's worst civil unrest in almost 40 years, a poll showed on Sunday. Sixty-eight percent of French people surveyed were in favour of the extension of the government's special powers, which include house-to-house searches and curfews, while 27 percent were opposed, according to a CSA-le Parisien poll. Parliament extended the measures for another three months on Wednesday as a precaution against a resurgence of urban violence that began on Oct. 27 after the accidental deaths of two youths electrocuted while apparently fleeing police. The unrest was the worst since student riots of 1968. The riots, which included the torching of about 9,000 cars, were declared over on Thursday. Unrest died down after the government adopted emergency measures, although few areas used the special powers. Pollsters surveyed 957 people over the age of 18 on Nov. 16. Fifty-six percent also supported more restrictive rules on allowing the families of immigrant workers to join them in France, which some conservative leaders said was one of the causes of the riots in the suburbs. The rioting has been blamed mostly on youths who feel excluded from mainstream society and are frustrated by racism, harsh police treatment and high unemployment. Many of the rioters are of Arab and African origin but some are white. The poll showed 55 percent were in favour of expelling foreigners found guilty of urban violence, compared with 40 percent against. That bodes well for presidential hopeful and Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, criticised by rioters and politicians for his tough language but whose popularity has risen since he pledged tough action including expulsions to counter the unrest.
© Reuters

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FRANCE 'NEEDS ETHNIC STATISTICS'

18/11/2005- French Equal Opportunities Minister Azouz Begag has urged the government to overturn a ban on collecting data based on ethnicity or religion. Government bodies and private companies are barred from gathering such data - which is deemed potentially divisive.  But Mr Begag told Le Figaro newspaper it was important to assess the presence of minorities in various professions. Job discrimination was a key complaint voiced by many youths who rioted in immigrant suburbs in recent weeks. "We need to see France's true colours," Mr Begag said. "To do that, we need to measure the proportion of immigrant children among the police, magistrates, in the civil service as well as in the private sector." Mr Begag stressed such surveys could be used to overcome racial discrimination, which he said lay at the root of the rioting. He said he hoped to see more politicians from ethnic groups elected into parliament in 2007. At present not a single member of parliament from mainland France is of African or Arab origin - although an estimated 10% of people are. "The place of birth of the parents and grandparents could give us an idea of this diversity, and a basis for action," Mr Begag told Le Figaro. Levels of violence in France's poor immigrant suburbs have decreased in recent days, following three weeks of unrest.
© BBC News

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FRANCE TO VOTE ON EMERGENCY LAWS

The French Senate is set to pass emergency laws a day after the lower house of parliament voted for a three-month extension.

16/11/2005- The laws allow local authorities to impose curfews, conduct house-to-house searches and ban public gatherings. Violence continued across France overnight but fewer cars were set on fire than during previous nights. Nationwide, 163 cars were burnt - almost down to the levels seen before the riots began last month. At the height of the violence, more than 1,400 vehicles were destroyed in a single night. A church was badly damaged by fire in the south-eastern town of Romans. But it is not yet clear if the blaze was linked to the wider unrest. Three mosques have also been hit by firebombs during the 20 nights of violence.

'Polygamy problems'
French police say 8,973 cars have been burnt in the past 20 nights of violence, while 2,888 people have been arrested. National Police Chief Michel Gaudin said on Tuesday the decline showed France was "getting back to normal". But Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin told parliament "we cannot accept that more than 200 cars burn each night". The violence has spread from Paris across French towns and cities, mostly in areas with a high concentration of ethnic minorities. Residents of housing estates, where unemployment can reach 40%, complain of racism and heavy-handed policing. The riots began when two boys of North and West African origin were electrocuted in a Paris suburb after running from police, believing they were being chased. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told the BBC that France has been going through a "very deep crisis due to the crisis of immigration and the failure to integrate". He also pointed to the problem of racism. Meanwhile, senior officials from President Jacques Chirac's centre-right party have suggested that polygamy is one factor in the riots, arguing children of polygamous families have less of a father figure and are more likely to live in overcrowded conditions. "Polygamy... prevents people being educated as they should be in an organised society. Tens of people cannot live in a single flat," Bernard Accoyer, leader of the Union for a Popular Majority (UMP) in the National Assembly lower house of parliament, told French radio. Polygamy is illegal in France but until 1993, it was possible for immigrants to bring more than one wife from their home country to join them. The Senate is dominated by the UMP and is expected to pass the three-month extension to the emergency laws. The lower house passed them by a 346-148 majority. The laws date from the Algerian war of independence in the 1950s. The Socialist opposition attacked plans to extend the state of emergency, pointing out that few local governors had chosen to impose it. Mr Chirac told cabinet ministers the extraordinary powers are "strictly temporary and will only be applied where they are strictly necessary".
© BBC News

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FRANCE TO EXTEND ANTI-RIOT POWERS BY 3 MONTHS

14/11/2005- The French government said on Monday it would ask parliament to grant a three-month extension to emergency powers it invoked to help curb the worst urban violence in almost 40 years. Although the violence dropped again overnight, police said youths destroyed 374 vehicles in petrol bomb attacks in the 18th straight night of unrest in poor suburbs in the Paris region and major provincial cities. Disturbances erupted on Oct. 27 after the deaths of two youths apparently fleeing police but grew into a wider protest by youths of African and North African origin at racism, poor job prospects and their sense of exclusion from French society. Government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope told Europe 1 radio that Monday's special cabinet session would send to the National Assembly a bill extending the 12-day emergency powers act by three months from November 21, when the current measures expire. "The bill allows the government to end them by decree before the expiry date if that is compatible with the goal of restoring public order," Cope said. On Nov. 8 the government of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin revived a 50-year-old colonial-era law to grant prefects, the government's top local officials, broad powers to impose curfews and other restrictions on designated areas. The conservative government decree named 38 towns, cities and urban areas around France, including the capital Paris. However, few prefects have made use of the new powers. It was unclear how the substantial extension of the life of the emergency powers would be greeted by the opposition Socialists, who invoked the same 1955 law when in government in the 1980s. Some local mayors have already criticised the measure as an overreaction and potentially inflammatory. The government has a comfortable majority in parliament and the measure should pass with ease.

EU aid offer
Rioters, who also include white youths, torched 1,400 cars across France last Sunday but violence has dropped sharply since that peak. Police said 10 youths were arrested in the southwestern city of Toulouse after youths burned 10 vehicles on Sunday and damaged a school, driving a burning car against its gates. The disturbances are the worst in France since student riots in 1968 and have shaken the government of President Jacques Chirac, sparked a debate on the integration of immigrants and caused ripples throughout Europe. In a bid to help tackle problems in French suburbs, the European Union has offered France 50 million euros ($58.5 million), EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Europe 1 on Sunday. The main problem behind the unrest was youth unemployment but the challenge of integrating immigrants was shared by many European cities, he said. "The best social politics is to create employment. That is the main thing. When you have 60 percent of youths unemployed in suburbs it is a problem," Barroso said. An editorial in Monday's Midi-Libre newspaper said the riots had hurt France's image abroad. "Even if the violence isn't racial in origin the crisis in the suburbs brings the failure of France's social model ... to the fore and has highlighted the country's social sickness," it said in a signed editorial. The Socialists accused Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday of acting tough to increase his chances of becoming president in a 2007 election. Sarkozy has said he would throw out foreigners caught rioting. Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Front party, called the unrest on Sunday a "a social atomic bomb" caused by immigration and said the rioters were "Chirac's children".
© Reuters

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SARKOZY SHINES AMID CONTROVERSY (France)

His name appears scrawled among the graffiti on housing estate walls in untranslatable terms.

15/11/2005- Young people cite him as the cause of their troubles and demand his resignation. He was pelted with bottles and stones in one Parisian suburb. On the Champs-Elysees he was jostled, booed and insulted. Political opponents, religious leaders and newspaper columnists have accused him of aggravating the tension on the streets. A fellow minister was scathing about him. His two bosses, the most senior men in France, are political rivals seeking to block his progress. Nicolas Sarkozy's language and tough stance on law and order have made him many enemies. Yet the interior minister says he does not feel politically weakened. Last weekend an opinion poll in one Sunday newspaper suggested that more than half of French people had confidence in his ability to bring solutions to the problems in the suburbs. Another survey found many voters, even on the left, thought him "realistic" and "more than ever a potential presidential candidate".

Stolen thunder
To some extent Mr Sarkozy has stolen the thunder from Jean-Marie Le Pen. The Front National leader has looked on smugly while the government enacts measures that he himself has called for: curfews to quell the violence, and the expulsion of foreigners who take part in it.  Compared to the "Sarko Show", the spectacle close to the Louvre on Monday was a sideshow. Mr Le Pen had called for a large turnout for his rally. In fact only a few hundred die-hard supporters braved the cold to wave their flags and listen as he blamed "mad and criminal" mass immigration for the unrest. People hurried home from work, ignoring the drone of the familiar themes as they echoed across the square.  There are signs though that the far right leader's message is striking a chord with the wider French public. Mr Le Pen's popularity jumped five points in a recent poll for Paris Match. "The Front National's strategy is to wait for the media to repeat every day that these are ethnic riots, that most of the rioters are Muslim, and that the problem is with integration, not a social problem," says political scientist Jean-Yves Camus.

Waning star
While the debate over the troubles raged, President Chirac remained largely silent. For some people, his first direct address to the nation on Monday night was notable for two things. Firstly, that it came two and a half weeks after the start of the violence. And secondly, that he was wearing glasses. Far from being a nod to retro fashion - Mr Chirac wore even thicker rims in the 1970s - they took it as a sign that the president was losing his grip. Ten years ago he came to power promising to heal France's social divisions and the sense of "exclusion" felt by many young people. Mr Chirac's acceptance now that there still existed a "profound malaise" in the country's poor suburbs was, for his critics, proof of his own failure.
© BBC News

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LE PEN TO RALLY SUPPORTERS IN PARIS

13/11/2005- The far-right leader of France's National Front Jean-Marie Le Pen is to speak at a rally of party supporters in central Paris Monday evening. The rally, organised under the banner 'Immigration, Riots, Explosions in the Suburbs – Enough', is planned for 6:30pm at the Palais Royal near the Louvre museum. Le Pen on Sunday blamed the rioting which has spread across the country on massive immigration into France, and criticized the government response as insufficient. The riots "result from massive, uncontrolled immigration from the Third World," he said on the private radio station RTL1. "We knew it was a global time bomb." France has been rocked by two weeks of car-burnings, arson attacks and rioting carried out mostly by young Arab and black residents of poor suburban high-rise estates, who complain of economic misery and racial discrimination. Le Pen, 77, criticized government efforts to address such concerns as "not corresponding to the real problem." However the leader of France's National Front party said he said he supported the introduction of emergency measures which allow municipalities hit by violence to impose curfews Last week Le Pen called the rioting the "warning signs of civil war." Le Pen was due to speak at a rally of party supporters in central Paris Monday evening.
© Expatica News

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EUROPE'S TIME BOMB

The French riots should be a wake-up call: what is 'normal' is no longer sustainable.
By Christopher Dickey

13/11/2005- The car-body count dropped dramatically in France toward the end of last week. So vast was the orgy of auto incineration—more than 1,000 vehicles burned night after night as gangs ambushed firefighters and police, raging against French government and society—that when "only" 15 cars were torched one night in the administrative department of Seine-St-Denis, where the violence began, the head of the National Police said that things there had returned to "normal." Statistically true, perhaps. But "normal"? In hundreds of French housing projects and ghettos populated by mostly Muslim Arab and African immigrants and their French children and grandchildren, "normal" has been for years a sort of chronic intifada, even if it was invisible to most of France and the rest of the world. According to research conducted by the government's domestic-intelligence network, the Renseignements Generaux, French police would not venture without major reinforcements into some 150 "no-go zones" around the country—and that was before the recent wave of riots began on Oct. 27. In France's "immigrant" neighborhoods, to borrow a phrase from the American military, it's "situation normal, all f—-ed up." Belatedly, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin invoked a law left over from the French fight to hold onto Algeria 50 years ago that allows local governments to declare curfews. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to deport foreigners convicted of participating in the violence, which sounded much tougher than it was, since at least 92 percent of those arrested were French citizens. Chillier weather, marches calling for peace and the fact that no rioters or cops were killed in confrontations also helped reduce the scope of the violence. But a new turn for the worse was feared as police intercepted telephone text messages encouraging riots in the largely untouched center of Paris last weekend.

The shock of the conflagrations has raised questions not only about France but about the shaky status quo in cities throughout Europe. If most were spared for the moment (there were only minor incidents in Berlin, Brussels and Athens), few governments could rest easy. In Italy, opposition leader Romano Prodi told reporters, "We have the worst suburbs in Europe. I don't think things are so different from Paris. It's only a matter of time." Similar refrains were echoed by social workers in Spain and Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany. The core of the time bomb is demography, and the detonator is racism. The native populations of Europe—let's say it, the white populations—are reproducing slowly and aging fast. Without continued immigration, according to the European Union and United Nations statistics, by 2050 the number of Germans will have shrunk from 83 million to 63 million; Italians will go from 57 million to 44 million. In the same period, among the North African and Middle Eastern countries surrounding Europe, the population will double. Already, on the southern fringes of the European Union, would-be laborers sometimes storm the gates. In September and early October, Africans who had walked for weeks through the Sahara charged hundreds at a time toward the double rows of chain-link and razor-wire fences around the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coast. At least 14 were killed and thousands of others expelled by Moroccan security forces. Those who make it often do find work. Europe's demographic deficit demands them: for Spain alone to keep its economy growing at the robust rate it has seen for the last decade, it has to have 1 million new immigrant workers per year. And despite some right-wing backlash by locals who feel threatened—or overwhelmed—first-generation immigrants cause relatively few problems. They tend to compare their life in Europe with the much harsher one they came from, and typically they take jobs few Europeans want.

But the great waves of immigration to France, Germany and Britain came more than 30 years ago, and the problems seen there are the shape of things to come. Second- and third- and even fourth-generation descend-ants of immigrants have grown up thinking they should have exactly the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, only to discover that the color of their skin or the sound of their surname still walled them out of the European dream. Not until five years ago did Germany ease naturalization for people who weren't of German blood. Since then, almost a third of its 2.6 million "Turks" have taken citizenship. The British favor multiculturalism, encouraging citizens with roots in former colonies to maintain their ethnic and social identities. The French insist that citizenship requires complete linguistic and cultural assimilation. Yet all have created large underclasses of profoundly disaffected minorities. Strong economic growth that creates jobs plus an open business environment that makes room for small-time entrepreneurs can ease tensions. (France is notably weak on both fronts.) But addressing the problem of racism is more complex. Already East European immigrants are competing in some areas with people from African and Asian backgrounds who thought they'd found their niches in the job market. Trevor Phillips, chairman of Britain's Commission for Racial Equality, warned recently that Britain is "sleepwalking... to segregation" as its different ethnic groups become more insulated within their own communities. To acknowledge the problem may not be to solve it, but to ignore it is to court disaster. In France, where the state claims to be colorblind, society still is not. As successive governments refused to look squarely at the issue of racism, ghettos became no-see zones, then no-go zones, where anger and violence that came to seem "normal" led straight to the nights of rage that have shaken a continent.

With Stryker Mcguire in London; Eric Pape in Clichy-Sous-Bois, France; Tracy Mcnicoll in Paris; Stefan Theil in Berlin; Barbie Nadeau in Rome; Jacopo Barigazzi in Milan, and Mike Elkin and Jenny Barchfield in Madrid
© Newsweek

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"WE DON'T HAVE THESE SORTS OF GHETTOS"(Switzerland)

A Swiss integration expert tells swissinfo the violent unrest that has shaken a number of French cities could not happen in Switzerland.

13/11/2005- But Thomas Kessler, who is the brains behind a Basel-based integration project, says the Swiss government has made mistakes in the past in the way it deals with foreigners. Riots flared in France at the end of October when youths in the suburbs of the capital, Paris, took to the streets following the accidental deaths of two teenagers. Consecutive nights of unrest followed during which cars and buildings were set alight. The crisis has led to national soul-searching about France's failure to integrate its African and Muslim minorities.

swissinfo: The violence in France has been followed with alarm in neighbouring Switzerland. Is it possible that something similar could happen here?
Thomas Kessler: Without a doubt, the answer is no. In Switzerland the foreign population taken as a whole is totally unlike what you see in France or other countries with a colonial heritage. Foreigners who live in Switzerland are of many different nationalities. The sort of ghettos that exist in the French suburbs don't exist here.

swissinfo: Before the outbreak of the violence did you imagine something like this could happen in France?
T.K.: When I was last in Paris I visited the areas [where rioting has taken place] and realised that this was likely to happen at some point. And the French authorities also knew this. The police presence was unusually high in the weeks leading up to the start of the troubles.

swissinfo: It all started in Paris, but the situation in Mulhouse across the border from Basel has also been very tense...
T.K.: Mulhouse is small but it's also the case there that you have a city divided between affluent residential areas including the inner city itself, and poor ghetto buildings which are home to African migrants. The key point here is the division of the city and this is the case outside the French capital in other parts of the country. Things are different in Switzerland, which since the moment it was founded has been a multicultural place... there is no single Swiss language and no Swiss religion. It is only in political terms that Switzerland can be defined as a single entity. The problems we have are also [more] tangible. In the 1980s there was an influx of people from the Balkans and from Turkey. Our integration policy for them has not been without its problems, but we are working on putting these right.

swissinfo: You once said that the lack of efforts to integrate people and give them equal opportunities was like a ticking time bomb...
T.K.: Yes, and it's true that Switzerland made mistakes in its policies towards foreigners, particularly in the 1980s and early 1990s. The concept of equal opportunities for all was ignored and the focus was very much on seasonal workers [who would spend some time here before leaving and being replaced by others]. But Swiss society can only function if the successful principle of equal opportunities is adhered to. The rot would set in if we allowed the country to be divided into winners and losers.

swissinfo: The integration programme you developed in Basel is considered by many to be a model for other places. What is so special about it?
T.K.: The programme is wide-ranging and extends as far as the issue of city planning. We want to have a positive influence on the social make-up of the local population and we seek to ensure that the city is not divided into rich and poor areas. One example is the way we have been renovating former employment districts by buying cheap buildings, restoring them at low cost and then putting them back on the market. This costs absolutely nothing because the project pays its way. What then happens is that middle-income families move into districts which are home to poorer residents of the city.

swissinfo: And this has proved to be successful?
T.K.: The strategy is very clear [but] when it is put into practice the plans are subject to the laws of economics and business. It's fair to say that there are parts of the city which do not yet have the social mix we would like to see and not all nationalities are benefiting from equal opportunities.

swissinfo: Amid all the talk of integration, Switzerland also has a policy of zero-tolerance when it comes to so-called "preachers of intolerance".
T.K.: Yes, and there should be absolutely no tolerance shown here because these preachers are an affront to our basic morals and our constitution. Switzerland as a country of minorities has come up with strict rules which are founded on the notions of respect, protection of minorities and accommodation of conflicting interests. Hate, propaganda, feelings of superiority and the spreading of inequality are all a direct attack on our identity and constitution. We shouldn't accept this under any circumstances. Anyone [who expounds such views] should be brought before a judge immediately.
© Swissinfo

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FRANCE AND THE MUSLIM MYTH(Comment)

The French riots have been a godsend for those who oppose integration and progress.                                                                   By Jason Burke

13/11/2005- Analysts and commentators often seek to find evidence to support their well-established ideas in any given event. So while critics of the 'French social model' have gleefully seen evidence of its failure in the recent violence in France, its supporters have seen evidence of the damage done by right-wing policies in the country. But little compares with the extraordinary way in which the disturbances of the last two weeks have been hijacked by those who appear set on either finding, or creating, a 'clash of civilisations' between Islam and the West. Take one particularly egregious example. Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, described the riots in France as 'a French intifada, an uprising by French Muslims against the state'. I covered the intifada in Israel and Palestine and, beyond the fact that thrown stones look much the same wherever they are, saw little that resembled the Gaza Strip in the autumn of 2000 in Clichy-sous-Bois in the autumn of 2005. In the course of her article, Phillips spoke of how 'night after night, France [had] been under attack by its Muslim minority', how the country was being 'torched from Normandy to the Mediterranean', how it had 'sniffed the danger that had arisen in its midst' and quoted a little-known writer called Bat Ye'Or who is a favourite of the more unsavoury right-wing American websites and believes that the European Union is a conspiracy dedicated to creating one Muslim-dominated political entity that will comprise most of the Middle East and Europe.

Phillips also conflated Arabs (a race), and Muslims (a global religion of 1.3 billion, some devout, some not). This is dangerous nonsense, but needs to be studied. First, the facts. According to the French intelligence services, the areas where radical Islamic ideologies have spread furthest in France have actually proved the calmest over recent weeks. Second, characterising the rioters as 'Muslim' at all is ludicrous. Most were as Westernised as you would expect third-generation immigrants to be and far more interested in soft drugs and rap than getting up for dawn prayers. Indeed, a high proportion was of sub-Saharan African descent and not Muslim at all. Others were white and so, following Phillips's description of the darker skinned rioters as 'Arab Muslims', should presumably be referred to as 'Caucasian Christians'. Also, it is clear that the rioters were not seeking to destroy the French state but were demanding a greater stake in it. Otherwise, there would have been many more direct confrontations with the security forces. The point the rioters made again and again was that they felt rejected by 'the Republic', not that they wanted to tear it down. With all other channels of communication blocked, they sent, literally, smoke signals instead. To dismiss claims that the violence was Muslim in origin, rooted in simple racism or in cultural representations of 'the Turk' or the satanic, scimitar-wielding Saracen, would be wrong. Instead, it should be seen as part of a strand of conservative thought that, though varied, has many common traits and which deserves far more attention than it has so far received. Phillips says that to confront the menace of Islam, we need to 'reassert British identity and British values', though she does not define what they might be. This rhetoric, married to trenchant if somewhat unspecific statements about threats, is typical. In France, a significant proportion of the population is falling back on an inchoate but powerful amalgam of zealous republicanism, Gallic exceptionalism, fear of a supposed flood of migrants and last-ditch resistance to an 'Anglo-Saxon conspiracy' apparently intent on imposing bad food, worse films and long working hours.

In the USA, religious fundamentalists who strive for a return to the 1950s and a society where everyone - women, blacks, whites, children - knew their place now wield unprecedented influence. In Russia, there is a virulent and widespread racism and a yearning for the good old days of the gulag. In India, a popular demagogic concoction of Hindu-Indian nationalism is still strong, exacerbating sectarian divisions. And then there is Islamic radicalism. The modern contemporary Muslim militant discourse is rooted in a rejection of change, a twisted vision of history, a belief that modern 'Western' societies are decadent and a hoped-for return to what is certain and true. These strands all depend on a nostalgia for an imagined ideal society, an emphasis on racial or religious difference, a powerful sense of injustice, a sense that weakness threatens moral corruption and a sense of imminent invasion. They unite into a sort of negative version of the largely left-wing, anti-capitalist, anti-globalisation movement that is rarely noticed. This discourse is potentially dangerous. The conservatives, be they French republican diehards, extremist mullahs or newspaper columnists, are likely to find in the age of the budget airline, the internet, satellite television, communities of second- or third-generation immigrants that number in their tens of millions, not to mention massive and growing pressure from migrants beyond European borders, huge flows of capital and even greater movements of cultural exchange that it is impossible to try to turn back the clock. Pulling up the drawbridge will not work. History is flowing in the wrong direction. This means their actions are likely to get more desperate, their logic more twisted, their conspiracy theories more barmy and their rhetoric more rabid. The paradox is that the faster globalisation moves, the more radical and possibly more numerous they'll become. The real clash of civilisations is not between East and West but between those who believe they stand to gain from the steady coming together of communities, nations and religions that globalisation, if not simply used as an excuse for rampant free market capitalism, can bring and those who see this continued integration as a menace to everything they hold dear.

The rearguard is doomed to perish eventually, wrapped in the flag and out of ammunition, but it will go down fighting.
© The Observer

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LYON BURNS AS RIOTS HIT CITY CENTRE

Violence moves out of the suburbs for the first time while Paris prepares for the worst.

13/11/2005- Riots spread to the centre of a French city for the first time last night as police clashed with youths in Lyon. Officers in the city's famous Place Bellecour moved in with tear gas to disperse rioters vandalising vehicles. Police said they had been attacked by groups brandishing bottles, stones and dustbins. The confrontation, which led to two arrests, happened shortly after the local prefect had announced a weekend curfew on minors. Meanwhile, Paris was under siege yesterday as thousands of police guarded key tourist sites such as the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysées and enforced emergency laws, including a ban on groups of people gathering. The capital's prefect of police, Pierre Mutz, said the record deployment of some 3,000 officers was in response to a barrage of text messages and weblogs thought to have come from youths linked to the previous 16 nights of unrest in the city's suburbs. They called for 'the biggest riot ever seen'. 'The police and gendarmes have been ordered to be very firm,' said Mutz. 'It's time to say, "That's enough" to those who might be envisaging provoking riots in Paris.' While arson attacks on buildings and cars were reported to have declined around Paris, violence in other cities - including Toulouse, Dunkirk, Amiens and Grenoble, remained intense. Elsewhere across France, mayors organised silent marches to call for peace on troubled housing estates. About 350 people marched in Stains, in the suburbs of Paris, and up to 600 marched in Toulouse. In Montpellier, a 500-strong march was organised by members of a mosque in the troubled area of La Paillade.

In Paris, police were most visible on the railways serving suburban trains - at Gare du Nord and Les Halles - and around the Champs-Elysées. Under the terms of the 1955 state of emergency law, the authorities have the right to ban 'any meeting of a nature likely to incite or maintain disorder on the street or in public places'. The offence carries a maximum punishment of two months in jail and a fine of €3,750 (£2,520). Police attempting to seal central Paris were helped by bylaws in the suburbs, including a curfew on unaccompanied minors in Seine-et-Marne and a ban on the sale of petrol in jerry cans - an attempt to prevent anyone making Molotov cocktails. The ban on gatherings, which took effect yesterday at 10am and expires at 8am today, is coupled with a state of emergency and covers all of Paris within the ring road. The only demonstration permitted in the capital yesterday was staged at Saint-Michel by anti-racism groups protesting against the emergency laws and the 'colonial mentality' of the government. A march with a similar theme was held in Toulouse, the scene of some of the worst violence outside Paris. So far, the clashes with police and attacks on cars and buildings have been the work of small gangs who have communicated by text message and travelled by scooter and in stolen cars. Today, the National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is due to appear on RTL radio in advance of a demonstration in central Paris by his supporters tomorrow. Many believe the riots have played into the hands of extremists such as Le Pen.
© The Observer

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CURFEW FAILS TO STOP FRENCH RIOT

Police in the French city of Lyon have used teargas to disperse youths throwing stones and attacking cars, the first rioting in a major city centre.

13/11/2005- The unrest, which followed more than two weeks of violence in France's poor suburbs, occurred hours before a curfew for minors came into force in Lyon. In Paris, a ban on public meetings has ended, with no reports of unrest. Police overnight said the situation across France was "much calmer" than on previous nights. More than 370 cars were burned overnight, down from 502 the previous night. A further 212 people were arrested. In the southern town of Carpentras, a nursery school was torched and a burning car was pushed up to an old people's home, causing panic among residents. There were disturbances in the cities of Toulouse and St-Etienne, and two riot police were injured.

Shops closed
The trouble began at about 1700 (1600 GMT) on Saturday on Place Bellecour, where a large number of riot police were on duty as a preventative measure. About 50 youths attacked market stalls and damaged vehicles, witnesses told Reuters news agency. Two people were arrested. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy blamed the Lyon violence on a "demonstration by anarchists", but did not elaborate. Officials in Lyon and 10 towns to the east of the city earlier announced a curfew to bar unaccompanied minors from the streets over the weekend between 2200 (2100 GMT) and 0600 (0500 GMT).

Paris curbs
The government last week declared a state of emergency in Paris and more than 30 other areas to help quell the unrest, which has lasted 17 consecutive nights. The Paris ban on meetings "likely to start or fuel disorder", imposed under new emergency measures, was announced after police reports of e-mails and text messages calling for "violent acts" in the city. Meeting with Paris police on Saturday night, Mr Sarkozy repeated a pledge to throw out foreign nationals caught rioting. "If you want to live in France with a residency permit, you have to abide by the laws... Immigration laws allow expulsions. I am the interior minister and I will apply the law," he said. There was no sign of trouble, and peaceful demonstrations were allowed to go ahead with several hundred people rallying close to police headquarters in central Paris to protest against alleged discrimination against youths of immigrant origin. The country's unrest was triggered by the deaths in the run-down Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois of two youths, who were accidentally electrocuted at an electricity sub-station. Locals said they were fleeing police but the police deny this.
© BBC News

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POLICE FAN OUT IN PARIS TO DETER ATTACKS

12/11/2005- Some 3,000 police fanned out around Paris on Saturday to prevent any attempts to attack high-profile targets such as the Eiffel Tower after a 16th straight night of unrest and arson. Police were posted in suburban trains and at strategic points around the capital, where public gatherings considered risky were banned until Sunday morning. The ban followed calls for ``violent actions'' posted on numerous Internet blogs and in text messages on cell phones. ``This is not a rumor,'' said National Police Chief Michel Gaudin. The famed Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees avenue were among potential targets, he said. ``I think one can easily imagine the places where we must be highly vigilant,'' he told reporters Saturday. Paris police banned gatherings of ``a nature that could provoke or encourage disorder'' from 10 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday. On Friday evening, two Molotov cocktails were tossed into a mosque in the southern city of Carpentras, slightly damaging the porch, local officials said. It was not immediately clear whether the attack was linked to the unrest that has wracked the poor suburbs and towns of France since Oct. 27. President Jacques Chirac asked investigators to find those behind the incident in Carpentras, a town grimly remembered for a 1990 neo-Nazi attack on a Jewish cemetery that sparked national outrage.

Some two weeks ago, in Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois where the recent violence started, fumes from a police tear gas grenade spread into a mosque and heightened the anger that has fueled the worst suburban unrest in the country's history. The riots have forced France to confront the touchy issue of the poor suburbs ringing big cities populated by immigrants and their French children. They face soaring unemployment, poverty and routine discrimination. Authorities have acknowledged the roots of the problem are deep-seated, perhaps linked to the French approach to immigration which works to fit immigrants, whatever their origins, into a single mold. The violence was triggered by the accidental electrocution deaths of two Muslim teenagers in Clichy-sous-Bois on Oct. 27 and has spread around France. The riots have been marked by hundreds of nightly arson attacks on vehicles. Schools, gymnasiums, warehouses and public transport also have been favorite targets for arsons. A furniture store and a carpet store were burned overnight in Rambouillet, southwest of Paris, police said. The number of vehicles burned overnight across the country climbed slightly to 502 from 463 the previous night, police said Saturday. The recent figures are down sharply from the peak of the violence. ``We returned to an almost normal situation in Ile de France,'' said Gaudin, referring to the Paris region. He said that 86 vehicles were burned, which he said was about normal.

As unrest abated, calls for peace were mounting. Peace marches were planned Saturday in Lyon and Toulouse. The anti-racism group known as MRAP planned a demonstration Saturday afternoon in Paris, at Saint-Michel, a Left Bank student haunt, to protest the state of emergency. MRAP said the demonstration was not forbidden despite the ban on meetings - limited to those deemed risky. France imposed a state of emergency Wednesday in a bid to curb the spiraling violence. Overnight, two police officers were injured, one burned in the face by a firebomb while trying to put out flames of a burning vehicle in the Aisne region, Gaudin said. Arson attacks were counted in 163 towns around France, he said. Another 206 people were detained overnight, bringing to 2,440 the number of suspects picked up for questioning in just over two weeks of unrest. Authorities have imposed curfews on minors in seven towns - one of the state-of-emergency measures that also empowers police to conduct day and night house searches and take other steps to quell violence.
© Associated Press

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MILITANTS ATTACK MOSQUE IN BID TO REIGNITE FRENCH RIOTS

12/11/2005- Molotov cocktails were hurled at a mosque in southern France last night in an apparent attempt by far-right militants to reignite the smouldering embers of a fortnight of urban riots. Earlier, the Paris police of chief ordered a ban on all large gatherings in the French capital from 10am today, following a series of internet appeals to young, multi-racial suburban rioters to invade the centre of the city. Although police say that they have no definite warning of an assault on the capital, police reinforcements have been assembled and "potentially troublesome" gatherings banned as a precaution. Both the attack on the mosque in Carpentras in the Rhone valley - a known hot-bed of ultra-right activity - and the internet calls for an attack on Paris run contrary to a clear reduction in the level of violence over the last four nights. It appears that there some militant elements would like to see the violence continue. The French authorities also made it clear yesterday that they would take a harsh line with violent police officers. One policeman was placed in custody and four others put under investigation following the alleged assault on a 19-year-old alleged rioter in police custody at la Courneuve near Paris onThursday. Police unions reacted furiosly to the decision.

Yesterday afternoon, 300 residents of troubled suburbs of Paris demonstrated against violence on the Champ de Mars, close to the Eiffel Tower. The multi-racial demonstrators, carrying white handkerchiefs or flags, urged the gangs, who have left a trail of arson and destruction in poor suburbs all over France in the past fortnight, to bring their violence to an end. However, the demonstrators, organised by a group called Banlieue Respect (respect for the suburbs), also urged the government and wealthier French citizens to heed the warnings of the past two weeks. The riots "express the frustrations of 30 years of denial or recognition to [people] who are French by law but treated in reality as second-class citizens," read a statement issued by the marchers. Although the attack on the mosque in Carpentras, during Friday prayers, caused no injuries, it was clearly intended to provoke the rioters. Many, but by no means all, of the youths who have rioted in the past two weeks come from Muslim backgrounds. The Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, described the attack on the mosque as "discraceful and utterly unacceptable". He sent a message of regret to the Muslim community in Carpentras. For the past three nights, there has been a marked reduction in the level of rioting across France. Poorer districts in the Lyons, Toulouse and Bordeaux conurbations continued to be hit by arson attacks and clashes between rioters and police last night. However, the greater Paris area, where the riots began more than two weeks ago, was once again relatively calm.
© Independent Digital

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CHIRAC SEEKS TO LEARN LESSONS FROM UNREST(France)

10/11/2005- President Jacques Chirac for the first time directly addressed the inequalities and discrimination that have fueled two weeks of rioting across France, saying Thursday that the country has "undeniable problems" in its poor neighborhoods. Violence continued to slow under state-of-emergency measures and heavy policing, with far fewer skirmishes and fewer cars burned. Police, meanwhile, suspended eight officers, two of them suspected of beating a man detained during the riots. "Things are calming," Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on France-2 television. "But that doesn't mean it won't restart." Chirac had kept largely silent about France's worst unrest since the 1968 uprising by students and workers, speaking publicly about the crisis only once in a brief address focused on security measures. But on Thursday, he said that once order is restored, France will have to "draw the consequences of this crisis, and do so with a lot of courage and lucidity." "There is a need to respond strongly and rapidly to the undeniable problems faced by many residents of underprivileged neighborhoods around our cities," he said at a news conference held with Spain's visiting prime minister. "Whatever our origins, we are all the children of the Republic, and we can all expect the same rights," Chirac said. But he also pointed a finger at parents, saying "too many minors" have joined the violence, some "pushed to the fore by their elders."

The unrest started among youths in Clichy-sous-Bois angry over the accidental electrocutions of two teenagers, but it rapidly grew into a nationwide wave of arson and nightly clashes between rioters armed with firebombs and police retaliating with tear gas. The crisis has led to a collective soul-searching about France's failure to integrate its African and Muslim minorities. Anger about high unemployment and discrimination has fanned frustration among the French-born children of immigrants from former colonies. One 20-year-old who grew up near Paris in Clichy-sous-Bois said he had stopped looking for a job and joined the rampage. "Maybe I burnt cars. I know it's not very nice of me but, to be honest, I am happy that things heated up everywhere to let everybody know that we are sick of it," said Ahmed Zbeul, hanging around a courthouse Thursday to support friends on trial for theft. Sarkozy, the interior minister, said fear was the worst factor in the troubled areas, and vowed to dismantle gangs and bands of drug traffickers that he said make up a tiny minority, but ruin life for everyone else. "If we get rid of those poisoning the lives of others, we will have taken a first step," he told France-2. The government has taken a tough stance on rioters, with Sarkozy saying previously that local authorities were instructed to deport foreigners convicted of involvement.

The anti-racism group SOS-Racisme said it filed a complaint over the order with the Council of State, France's highest administrative body. "Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal is illegal," organization president Dominique Sopo said, calling the measure a "mass deportation." In La Courneuve, north of Paris, two police officers were suspected of dealing "unwarranted blows" to a man taken in for questioning, the Interior Ministry said. The officers were suspended along with six others suspected of witnessing the incident Monday. The victim had "superficial lesions" on the forehead and right foot, the ministry said. A 12-day state of emergency went into effect Wednesday, paving the way for cities to impose curfews. But the vast majority of regional governments have not seen a need to use them. The Mediterranean resort region of Alpes-Maritime ordered curfews for minors in 21 towns Wednesday, but a day later lifted the measures in seven places, including Cannes. In Paris itself and much of the rest of the country, the state of emergency had no perceptible effect. Justice Minister Pascal Clement said only two people had been arrested for violating curfews. National Police Chief Michel Gaudin reported a "very sharp drop" in violence. On Wednesday night, the number of vehicles burned dropped to 482 from 617 the previous night. At the height of the violence last weekend, rioters torched nearly 3,000 cars in two nights. The number of incidents has dropped every night since then. Police have arrested more than 3,000 people during the violence. Some 364 people, including 73 minors, have been convicted and jailed, the justice minister said. Police said the worst unrest now appeared concentrated in a few cities away from the Paris region, including Toulouse, Lille, Lyon, Strasbourg and Marseille. The French capital has seen little trouble, although Paris police banned the sale of gasoline in cans.
© Associated Press

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CHIRAC POINTS FINGER AT PARENTS OF RIOTERS

10/11/2005- French president Jacques Chirac called on Thursday for parents to act responsibly towards their children, after thousands of minors took part in the rioting that has gripped poor city suburbs. Calling on "all to fulfill their responsibilities," Chirac appealed at a press conference in Paris to "the parents of the minors, too many of them, who often pushed by their elders took part in the urban violence". The unrest that has wracked poor city suburbs around France for two weeks showed signs of being on the wane Thursday, as police reported another decrease in the number of overnight incidents.
© Expatica News

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MINORITY YOUTH SEE ODDS STACKED AGAINST THEM(France)

10/11/2005- When Amir Ben Merzoug began studying at the university in Creteil to obtain a degree in public administration, he thought he was well on his way out of this grim working-class suburb east of Paris. Four years later, after dozens of unanswered job applications, Merzoug, 23, is no longer applying for office jobs or even restaurant work, where he would be in direct contact with clients, but has resigned himself to targeting telemarketing companies to finance the end of his studies. "At least call centers don't care if you have Arab or African features, because nobody ever sees you," Merzoug, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, said matter-of-factly. "But some ask you to introduce yourself with a French name." Two weeks of rioting have exposed an explosive cocktail of poverty and exclusion in the poor suburbs around France's major cities. But the violence has also highlighted mass unemployment that affects a generation of descendants of immigrants - and that in its extent is unique to France in the Western world, immigration experts say. France is home to an estimated five million Muslims, most of them of North African origin. Their children face a triple handicap: They suffer disproportionately from youth unemployment, their foreign names and faces make it even harder to find work, and many grow up in neighborhoods that are largely devoid of job opportunities. "These young people are caught in the cross-section of several groups that struggle with disproportionately high unemployment," said Jean-Pierre Garson, an immigration specialist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. "Many of them are stuck in quasi-ghettos with no job prospects."

According to a study published by the national statistics office Insee in September, the jobless rate among French-born children of immigrants aged 19 to 29 stands at 30 percent, more than three times the national average. The contrast is even starker in the 751 neighborhoods in France that were identified by the Labor Ministry as trouble spots and included those that have been the scene of the rioting: For those among their 2.7 million inhabitants under the age of 25, unemployment reached 36 percent last year, compared with the 21 percent for the same age group in France as a whole. The current crisis is playing out against the backdrop of an immigrant baby boom from 1975 to 1990, a result of the fact that many immigrants who came to France to work in the 1960s decided to stay, Garson said. "We're seeing the arrival of a massive group of young people of immigrant origin on the labor market at a time when the rest of the population is aging and unemployment is a national concern," Garson said. "It's a recipe for tension." With immigrants' children accounting for 14 percent of all births in France - a proportion far exceeding their percentage of the population - descendants of immigrants today account for 9 percent of all children under 17 in France, but for only 4 percent of those younger than 65. If greater poverty and lower education levels among immigrants and their descendants help explain their high jobless rates, that is only part of the story, argues Guy Desplanques at Insee. Anecdotes abound of youngsters not being invited to job interviews because their résumés - including a photograph - give away their heritage and color.

Merzoug, frustrated with his many failed applications, arranged with a friend named Pierre Morisot, who has similar qualifications, to apply to the same restaurants. While Merzoug was told there were no jobs, Morisot was offered a position. "I knew it already, but that's when it really hit home: This is not a level playing field," said Merzoug, who also works as a volunteer for SOS Racisme, an organization fighting discrimination. His goal is to one day work for a municipal government and improve opportunities for the next generation in the suburbs. SOS Racisme inaugurated a pilot program three years ago aimed at raising the number of ethnic minorities in white-collar jobs. A dozen well-known French companies - including the insurer Axa, Schneider Electric, and Pierre et Vacances, a travel agency - have agreed to let the organization pick out résumés that correspond to the job description for job openings and committed themselves to inviting the youths in question to interviews. The program has since lead to more than a hundred jobs being given to members of ethnic minorities, said Dominique Sopo, president of SOS Racisme, and employers have expressed satisfaction with their new recruits. "If kids from the suburbs make it to university, you can be sure that they are motivated and hard-working," Sopo said. "What big business needs to understand is that immigrants are a source of dynamism and economic wealth." One problem is that the French education system produces an army of as many as 150,000 unskilled dropouts every year, or about 13 percent of all those between the age of 20 and 24, said Raymond Torres, an unemployment specialist at OECD. Those youngsters have even fewer chances on a labor market that at a monthly 1,300, or $1,530, has one of the highest minimum wages in the world. In addition, a lack of job counselors means that young job-seekers are given very little guidance.

On Monday, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced measures aimed at overcoming some shortcomings. He pledged to increase the number of scholarships for those growing up in difficult neighborhoods and promised to set up a system of apprenticeships for failing students starting at 14 years old. He also said unskilled youths would be presented with clear job proposals by the unemployment agency. As some organizations expressed cautious hope that the debate sparked by the riots might force politicians to pay more attention to the festering problems, many youngsters took a more gloomy view. Pressi Ladji, 20, who lives in Champigny-sur-Marne, a suburb east of Paris, said she was convinced that the violence had tarnished her future job prospects. "Those who are burning the cars are not representative," said Ladji, whose parents came to France from Ivory Coast. "But the riots will only reinforce the stereotypes of the suburbs and make it harder for the rest of us."
© International Herald Tribune

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FRENCH RAPPERS' PROPHECIES COME TRUE

"What is it, what is it you're waiting for to start the fire? / The years go by, but everything is still the same / Which makes me ask, how much longer can it last?"

16/11/2005- The words are from the 1995 song They Don't Understand, by one of France's best-known rap singers, Joey Starr of the group NTM. He was far from alone in providing a grim prophecy of the events of the last three weeks. Take these lines from the song In Front Of The Police, by the group 113: "There had better not be a police blunder, or the town will go up / The city's a time-bomb / From the police chief to the guy on the street - they're all hated."

Or this from Don't Try To Understand, by Fonky Family:
"The state is screwing us / Well you know, we are going to defend ourselves / Don't try to understand."
Or this - uncannily accurate - from Alpha 5.20: "Clichy-sous-Bois, it's gangsta gangsta / And Aulnay-sous-Bois, it's gangsta gangsta."

Ghetto culture
The violence began on 27 October after the accidental deaths of two teenagers - in Clichy-sous-Bois. Rap and hip-hop have been part of France's immigrant youth scene for so long that many of the original artists - like Joey Starr, MC Solaar and the group IAM - are now regarded as respected old-timers. The new stars are men and women in their 20s - almost all of black African or Arab origin - such as Disiz La Peste, Diam's, Monsieur R, and the groups La Rumeur and Sniper. Like the pioneers who featured 10 years ago in the hit film La Haine, their work continues to cast a revealing light on life in the cités and the conditions which helped provoked the sudden outpouring of violence three weeks ago. Song after song dwells on the same themes of hopelessness, rejection by France, police harassment and the rage that follows. Disiz La Peste, a 27-year-old of mixed Senegalese and French parentage whose real name is Serigne M'Baye, has just released his third album, entitled The Extraordinary Stories Of A Youth In The Banlieue. The chorus of the title song goes: "For France it matters nothing what I do / In its mind I will always be / Just a youth from the banlieue".
"Few people in France have a normal attitude towards us. People are either fascinated or they are frightened. There are two worlds crashing against each other. People have a problem with us, and we do with them," he said in a recent interview.

Shock factor
It is undeniable that some of the lyrics of French rap songs - as in America - are shocking to the conservative-minded. In Brigitte - Cop's Wife, Ministere A.M.E.R indulges in a pornographic fantasy which will not be to most tastes. Other groups including Sniper and La Rumeur have been taken to court - unsuccessfully - for provocative lyrics. And the rapper Monsieur R - whose real name is Richard Makela - was criticised for a recent song called FranSSe, in which he described France as a "chick ... treat her like a whore!"  But most French rap songs show a deep urge to articulate what would otherwise go unexpressed in words, and - whatever your feelings about the genre - many do so with invention. The French language, with its repeated end of word inflections, is widely recognised as lending itself to rap, and even masters of the form in the US have been complimentary. Today many French rappers are saying that if only their words had been listened to, the suburban violence might never have occurred. "Instead of sleeping in the national assembly, government ministers should have listened to our albums. It's the youth of France talking," said Rim-K of 113.

Plea for calm
Some, such as Disiz La Peste, have called openly for an end to the rioting. "Burning cars and schools - it only harms ourselves because it's happening in front of our own homes," he said. "And we risk turning the working people, the poor of our neighbourhoods against us - because not unnaturally they are going to be afraid," La Peste said. Maybe because of his mixed background, he takes an unusually balanced view of the trouble and of how to end it. "First of all France must learn to say sorry - for history, for the colonies, because there is no equality of opportunity, because we can't get into nightclubs, because there are none of us on television or in the national assembly. "But the youth must also learn to say thank you. It may be shocking for them - but in France at least people can still demonstrate and speak out," said La Peste.
© BBC News

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SARKOZY ORDERS DEPORTATION OF FOREIGN RIOTERS

9/11/2005- Interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday issued orders for non-French rioters convicted in the wave of urban violence to be deported -- a measure directed at youths of Arab and African background living in the high-immigrant neighbourhoods involved in the unrest. Sarkozy told prefects, or regional governors, to apply the order to foreigners including those who have valid French residency visas. He told parliament that "120 foreigners, not all of whom are here illegally, have been convicted" of taking part in the nightly rampages that have occurred since October 27. "I have asked the prefects to deport them from our national territory without delay, including those who have a residency visa," he said. Sarkozy's order followed a decision by the government to declare a state of emergency allowing prefects in certain regions to impose curfews and widen police search-and-seizure powers. The tough city suburbs that have spawned the violence are predominantly home to immigrant families from France's former colonial interests in north and west Africa, including Algeria, Morocco, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Tunisia. Though most of the youths from there are French citizens, born and educated in the country, some are non-French, given residency papers to stay with family members.
© Expatica News

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EMERGENCY POWERS FAIL TO STOP URBAN VIOLENCE IN FRANCE

9/11/2005- A state of emergency in riot-areas of France failed to prevent a 13th night of rioting in poor city suburbs Wednesday as youths torched more than 600 vehicles. But police said the violence appeared to be waning, with fewer incidents pitting rioters against the security forces and no reports of shots fired. The government Tuesday declared a state of emergency covering the worst-hit parts of the country under a decree, which came into force Wednesday after it was published in the official journal, allowing regional authorities to declare curfews to combat the violence. The first to act under the new powers, the city of Amiens north of Paris, declared an overnight curfew for unaccompanied persons under 16 and a ban on petrol sales to minors, even before the decree came into force. Mayors have already declared separate, local curfews, in Orleans and Savigny-sur-Orge, both south of Paris, and in Raincy northeast of the capital. Across the country, 617 vehicles were torched overnight, compared to 1,173 on Tuesday, said Claude Gueant, a senior aide to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. He said 1,800 people had been arrested since the riots erupted. Despite the car-burnings and arrests, police said the overall situation was calmer than on recent nights, when dozens of police officers were injured, two by gunshot. "There has been a marked decrease (in violence), particularly in the provinces, and the downward trend is continuing in Ile-de-France (the greater Paris region)," a national police official said.

Sarkozy, visiting police Tuesday in southwestern Toulouse, a flashpoint of unrest in recent days, said there had been a "fairly significant fall" in the violence. Earlier, on the outskirts of Toulouse, police charged a gang of youths who had attacked them with stones and firebombs. A gas-powered bus exploded after it came under attack with a Molotov cocktail in the Bordeaux suburbs, also in the southwest. In southeastern France, Lyon's entire public transport network was shut down after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a train station. And around 50 youths tried, unsuccessfully, to ram their way into a supermarket in the Mediterranean city of Marseille, where 25 people were arrested and 38 vehicles and dustbins torched overnight. In Arras, in northern France, a fire ripped through a shopping centre, spreading from a furniture store to a carpet retailer next door. The situation was relatively calm in the northeast Paris suburbs where the violence began, police said, with isolated cases of arson and a dozen arrests. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Belgium, a dozen cars were set alight, although police downplayed concerns about serious violence spreading over the border.
The French government's emergency measure was the toughest response to date to rioting in high-immigration suburbs which has left more than 6,000 cars burned, dozens of policemen injured and one civilian dead. It invoked a 1955 law, enacted at the start of troubles that triggered the war of independence in French-controlled Algeria, which permits the declaration of curfews, house searches and bans on public meetings.

Seventy-three percent of French people support the government's curfew decision, according to a poll to appear in Le Parisien/Aujourd'hui newspaper. But some have charged that the measure recalls one of the worst moments in the country's modern history and has painful associations for Algerians, the original law's main targets. Sarkozy vowed on Tuesday that the curfews would be implemented "in a manner proportional to the threat", insisting the French people wanted the government to show "firmness". The violence, set off by the accidental deaths of two teenagers on October 27 who were electrocuted in a sub-station where they had hidden from police, spread across the Paris area and in recent days to the rest of the country. More than 1,500 people -- mainly Arab and black youngsters -- have been detained and 106 people handed firm jail sentences. The crisis has thrown into stark relief the failure of French policies for integrating millions of immigrants and their children from its former colonies. Acknowledging the hardships faced by the Arab community, the government also announced Tuesday a series of measures to ease access to the job market and stamp out racial discrimination.
© The Tocqueville Connection

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GO HOME IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, ORDER IMAMS WITH MEGAPHONES

There is unease as the authorities encourage Muslim activists with megaphones to calm tensions

8/11/2005- Muslim activists have been wading into the night-time mayhem of the housing estates, megaphone in hand, and addressing the rioters “in the name of Allah”. Far from inciting the violence, they have been urging the rioting teenagers to stop destroying property and go home. For the Government, the Muslim mediators have been playing a useful role calming youngsters from the mainly Arab estates who respect their authority far more than that of the police and local officials. However, the Muslim mentors, who style themselves “big brothers”, are also causing unease in France because they symbolise what many see as a root of the unrest: the isolation of the ethnic Arab and black minorities into ghettos where Muslim law and outlook prevails. There is also a widespread belief — denied by the authorities — that the unrest is being fostered by the Islamists. The mediators were bolstered yesterday by a fatwa issued by one of the main Muslim organisations, the Union of Islamic Organisations of France, quoting the Koran as saying that “God abhors destruction and disorder and rejects those who inflict it”. The fatwa sparked a dispute with the mainstream Muslim Council, which said that the edict equated Islam with the current vandalism. Some on Left and Right were angered when police withdrew one evening last week from Clichy-sous-Bois, where the rioting started, in order to let Muslims keep the peace. “The supposed mediation of big brothers crying out Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest) is one sign among many of the capitulation of the legitimate authorities,” said Bruno Gollnisch, a senior figure in Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front party.

Non-Muslim mediators who are active on the estates also disapprove of the presence of the Islamic brothers as peace-keepers. Magid Tabouri, 29, who leads a team of municipal, secular, big brothers at Bondy, in the troubled Seine-Saint-Denis département, said: “It is a scandal that they have asked imams to calm down the kids. You can’t apply a religious response to a social revolt.” The authorities are also concerned because many of the estate militants are part of the radical networks who preach the extremist cause and recruit potential jihadists, according to police. A street version of radical Islam permeates the youth culture of the estates, where Osama bin Laden is a hero, George Bush and Israel are evil and President Chirac’s State wants to stifle their religion and identity by banning Muslim headscarves in schools. The young wreckers refer to one another as brothers and they cite the “disrespect” of the State for their religion as part of the origin of their revolt. The chief target is Nicolas Sarkozy, the tough-talking Interior Minister, who has so far refused to apologise for an incident in which a police teargas grenade was thrown into a Clichy mosque. However, the radicals are not behind the present violence, say experts such as the Renseignements Généraux, the police intelligence service that keeps close tabs on the prayer rooms and mosques on the estates. Yves Bot, the Paris chief prosecutor, said that the attacks were co-ordinated locally among the young wreckers using mobile telephones and text messages but there was no central command. The Muslim mediators are exploiting the unrest to enhance their authority among the alienated youths who go out to smash at night, say the police. “They are playing a clever game,” one police officer said. “They are preaching peace but profiting out of the mess to promote their ideology.”
© The Times Online

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UNREST IN BELGIAN CITIES AS RIOTING FEARS INTENSIFY

8/11/2005- Unrest was witnessed in various cities across Belgium on Monday night as fears grew that 12 nights of successive rioting in France might jump the border. In total, seven cars were torched across Belgium, six in Brussels and one in the Flemish city of Sint-Niklaas. In Brussels South, police were pelted with stones. A Molotov cocktail was also thrown at the office of extreme right party Flemish Interest on the Canada Square in Brugge at about midnight. No injuries or damage was reported, but three suspects were arrested after a witness noted the number plate of their car, newspaper 'Het Laatste Nieuws' reported on Tuesday. In the Belgian capital, police reported several clashes with immigrant youth, including an incident in which a car was overturned on the Bergensesteenweg in Anderlecht. Vandals set fire to two cars in Sint-Gillis, also in Brussels. Both vehicles were quickly removed by towing firm Da-car. "We have not yet been able to identify the culprits of these fires. There were no witnesses. But we have certain clues to find the culprits," acting Sint-Gillis Mayor Martine Wille said. Elsewhere in Brussels, two cars were torched in Vorst and two in Dilbeek, known as one of the capital's wealthier city districts. Anderlecht Mayor Jacques Simonet said tension was also witnessed on the "difficult" Lemmensplein, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported. There were also reports of unrest in the Brussels districts of Schaarbeek, Sint-Joost and Molenbeek, prompting police to suggest groups of youths had reach prior agreements with each other. Police had stepped up patrols in the area around the Brussels South train station on Monday night after five cars were torched in the immigrant-dense district on Sunday night. Meanwhile, the third successive night of unrest in Liège was also reported on Monday night.
© Expatica News

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EXPLOSION IN THE SUBURBS(Comment)

The riots now sweeping France are the product of years of racism, poverty and police brutality
By Naima Bouteldja, French journalist and researcher for the Transnational Institute

7/11/2005- In late 1991, after violent riots between youths and police scarred the suburbs of Lyon, Alain Touraine, the French sociologist, predicted: "It will only be a few years before we face the kind of massive urban explosion the Americans have experienced." The 11 nights of consecutive violence following the deaths of two young Muslim men of African descent in a Paris suburb show that Touraine's dark vision of a ghettoised, post-colonial France is now upon us. Clichy-sous-Bois, the impoverished and segregated north-eastern suburb of Paris where the two men lived and where the violent reaction to their deaths began, was a ticking bomb for the kind of dramatic social upheaval we are currently witnessing. Half its inhabitants are under 20, unemployment is above 40% and identity checks and police harassment are a daily experience. In this sense, the riots are merely a fresh wave of the violence that has become common in suburban France over the past two decades. Led mainly by young French citizens born into first and second generation immigrant communities from France's former colonies in north Africa, these cycles of violence are almost always sparked by the deaths of young black men at the hands of the police, and then inflamed by a contemptuous government response.

Four days after the deaths in Clichy-sous-Bois, just as community leaders were beginning to calm the situation, the security forces reignited the fire by emptying teargas canisters inside a mosque. The official reason for the police action: a badly parked car in front of it. The government refuses to offer any apology to the Muslim community. But the spread of civil unrest to other poor suburbs across France is unprecedented. For Laurent Levy, an anti-racist campaigner, the explosion is no surprise. "When large sections of the population are denied any kind of respect, the right to work, the right to decent accommodation, what is surprising is not that the cars are burning but that there are so few uprisings," he argues. Police violence and racism are major factors. In April, an Amnesty International report criticised the "generalised impunity" with which the French police operated when it came to violent treatment of young men from African backgrounds during identity checks. But the reason for the extent and intensity of the current riots is the provocative behaviour of the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy. He called rioters "vermin", blamed "agents provocateurs" for manipulating "scum" and said the suburbs needed "to be cleaned out with Karsher" (a brand of industrial cleaner used to clean the mud off tractors). Sarkozy's grandstanding on law and order is a deliberate strategy designed to flatter the French far right electorate in the context of his rivalry with the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, for the 2007 presidency.

How can France get out of this political race to the bottom? It would obviously help for ministers to stop talking about the suburbs as dens of "scum" and for Sarkozy to be removed: the falsehoods he spread about the events surrounding the two deaths and his deployment of a massively disproportionate police presence in the first days of the riots have again shown his unfitness for office. A simple gesture of regret could go a long way towards defusing the tensions for now. The morning after the gassing of the mosque, a young Muslim woman summed up a widespread feeling: "We just want them to stop lying, to admit they've done it and to apologise." It might not seem much, but in today's France it would require a deep political transformation and the recognition of these eternal "immigrants" as full and equal citizens of the republic.
© The Guardian

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DARK SIDE OF THE CITY OF LIGHTS

Paris Riots Attract Much Needed Attention to Immigrant Suburbs But For the Right Reasons?

7/11/2005- In his sparkling white galabayya, the long flowing robe favored by North African men, and an ornately embroidered green cap perched jauntily on his head, Coulibaly Djogou looks the picture of imperturbable poise. But the 47-year-old father of three is far from serene. "I'm scared," says the former social worker, making a sweeping gesture toward the bleak urban landscape around him. "I'm scared for my children, I'm scared for my property, I'm scared for me." As if to prove his point, an enormous city truck stacked with burned-out cars pulls up behind him. With a gentle whirring, a gigantic metallic arm emerges from the truck and pulls up another singed car carcass parked on the street. Nobody seems to notice the clean-up operation. Mothers and grandmothers, many of them veiled, go by with the evening's shopping. The neighborhood kids in track suits and sneakers hang around the street corners and fathers watch their little ones romp around the barren public compounds unperturbed. This is Clichy-sous-Bois, a bleak suburb north of Paris. It's been Djogou's home for the past 21 years, since he left his native Mali for France. Clichy, as it is popularly known, is about 15 miles from downtown Paris, off the "peripherique" freeway that rings the city.

So Near, and Yet So Far From Paris
But Clichy-sous-Bois is a world away from Paris, the magnificent "City of Lights" of the tour guides. It's one of the bleak banlieues -- or suburbs -- around the French capital that few Parisians enter, or even want to enter. It's often called one of the "lost territories of the Republic," that an alarmingly high percentage of Parisians complain are inhabited -- even infested -- with hoodlums. This, after all, is Paris, the romantic capital of the world, the bon vivant of European cities. Every night, the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde that frame the magnificent Champs-Elysees are lit up in a glorious pageant of architectural splendor. For 10 minutes on the hour after dusk the Eiffel Tower winks, glitters and glows in a spectacular display of illumination guaranteed to steal a visitor's breath away. But in the northern banlieues, a very different sort of illumination has been lighting up the night skies. For more than 10 consecutive nights, angry youths have been torching cars, buses, retail stores, showrooms, schools and police stations across the city's banlieues. Against the angry orange flames of discontent, the flashing lights of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances provide a blue strobe flicker of a state infrastructure shocked, almost paralyzed, by this display of urban wrath.

Accidental Electrocution of Two Teens Sparks Trouble
The troubles began in Clichy-sous-Bois on the night of Oct. 27, when two French youth of North African descent were accidentally electrocuted at an electricity sub-station. The families of Zyed Benna, a 17-year-old resident of Tunisian descent, and Bouna Traore, a 15-year-old student of Malian descent, say the teens were fleeing the police. French authorities however deny the claim and an official inquiry is currently under way. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, Djogou, like most residents of Clichy-sous-Bois, believe the boys were chased by the police. It's the characteristic lack of trust between banlieue residents and law enforcement officials that added fuel to the flames of widespread discontent. As rumors of a police tear gas attack on a Clichy mosque made the rounds, the riots spread to neighboring and far-flung Paris suburbs as well as other French cities such as Nice, Lille, Marseille and Toulouse. By Saturday night, the unrest had reached Paris, when several cars were torched in the 17th district. The toll is staggering: more than 4,300 vehicles have been burned, about 1,000 people arrested and 34 police officers injured, according to French Interior Ministry figures. Stunned, the state machinery, the media, politicians and pundits struggled to understand this senseless destructive violence.

Horrified, But Not Surprised
But Marilou Jampolsky, a spokeswoman for the Paris-based pressure group SOS Racisme, says she isn't stunned by the recent mayhem. "I'm not surprised," she says the morning after French police said rioters in the suburb of La Courneuve fired live bullets at them. "I'm horrified of course," she adds. "But I'm not surprised. There's been a high level of tension in the banlieues. SOS Racisme has warned the government about this a lot of times, but no one pays attention." Indeed, the French shock over the recent banlieue burnings is surprising. Experts, community activists and immigration rights advocates -- of which there are plenty in France -- have been warning that the French Republic is failing its poor, mainly Muslim immigrants of North African descent at the risk of grave social upheaval. By most accounts, the current violence is a manifestation of the inherent problems facing France's dearly-held and passionately defended integration policy.

Racism: Illegal, But Widespread
Racial discrimination is banned in France. But in practice, it's widespread across the nation. Accurate discrimination figures are hard to come by in France since ethnic origins of employees, residential societies, even hate crime complainants cannot be recorded under French law. The estimated figures that do exist however are desultory. While the overall unemployment rate for French university graduates for instance is 5.0 percent, the unemployment rate for "North African" university graduates is a whopping 26.5 percent. According to CIA estimates, Muslims constitute between 5 to 10 percent of France's 60 million population. Yet all the members of parliament from mainland France are white. France has innumerable governmental and nongovernmental organizations working on racial integration and immigrant rights issues. And yet, a subliminal, pervasive racism is apparent in the streets, upscale cafes, restaurants, housing blocks and business enterprises across Paris.

Muslims in French Corner Shops, Not Boardrooms
While French entrepreneurs of North African descent run a plethora of corner shops and halal stores in the downtrodden districts of Paris, unlike the United States and Britain, non-white businessmen are barely represented in corporate boardrooms across France. According to a recent SOS Racisme report, discrimination is rampant in the French workplace, particularly for jobs involving contact with the public, such as the critical hospitality and retail industries. "Some companies believe that to be responsible for marketing you must have roots in mainland France over several generations to understand the French consumer attitudes," the report said. Discrimination is also rampant in housing, says Jampolsky. Landlords and real estate brokers routinely fail to rent or provide information to non-white buyers and renters. SOS Racisme receives innumerable complaints from victims of housing discrimination, many of which are dragged through the courts by the organization's voluntary lawyers. "People think Arabs and black people make a lot of noise, that they have 25 children, that they're dirty," says Jampolsky. "It's amazing. They still have this old, outdated, racist image in their brains."

How French Is French?
Some experts believe the crux of the problem lies with France's integration policy. While countries such as the United States, Britain and Canada have embraced the "salad bowl" or "mosaic" metaphor, France -- like most of continental Europe -- has little patience for the "multiculturalism" of the "Anglophone" world, as it's known here. Faced with mounting evidence of social discontent among its Muslim immigrant groups, political parties in European countries such as France, Germany and Denmark have been pushing for minority "integration measures." At stake, integration proponents say, lies the very "Europeanness" of Europe. The combination of rising Islamic fundamentalism in recent times and the lack of women's rights in tradition-bound immigrant groups have fused to provide popular support for the integration model. Despite widespread international condemnation of the ban on the hijab (veil) and other "conspicuous" religious symbols in public schools last year for instance, the measure enjoys popular French support. Social workers and activists working with France's Muslim immigrants however warn that the problem is not the "Frenchness" of the banlieue youth. Most, if not all, are born in France, have French citizenship, indeed they know of life in no other country besides France. In the face of widespread economic and racial discrimination, the problem appears to be French society's failure to integrate its citizens of non-white descent. In the Clichy housing complex of La Forestière where Djogou lives, the very geography of the Soviet-style, graffiti-ridden complex belies the claim that France's integration policy is working. Marc Couturier, 42, a longtime resident of La Forestière, remembers a time when Clichy-sous-Bois was considered a pleasant suburb to live in. Literally translated as "Clichy under the woods," Couturier remembers how his friends from Paris used to be impressed by the surrounding woodlands. The current urban malaise, he believes, is a result of civic and administrative neglect. "There was a time when we could take the bus directly to Paris," he says. "Now we don't have that. We have to take two buses to reach the city. The only bus that comes here, the 147, shows up once in 45 minutes if you're lucky. There's no train station, there are no garbage cans, no playgrounds. When I take my children to Paris they stare, silent and slack-jawed, at the splendor of the city. For them, it's another world."

Attention at Last, But the Wrong Sort
But in the Hotel de Ville de Clichy-sous-Bois -- the French equivalent of a municipality -- Stephane Le Ho, the director general of services, says the administration is struggling to provide civic services. "Ten years ago when I came to this city, it was bankrupt. The city was in debt," he says. "This used to be a middle class area, but the middle class has left. This city is poor, its inhabitants are poor, they don't have money to pay taxes for the services they require, there's been no corporate investment here since we find it difficult to attract investment, it's a vicious circle of poverty." Out in the municipality yard, a media jamboree is slowly unfolding. Satellite trucks ring the grounds, TV reporters touch up their makeup and camera crews focus on the story du jour. Finally, Clichy-sous-Bois is getting the French public's attention. But Couturier and the other residents of La Forestière worry that it's the very wrong sort of attention. Couturier notes that even the French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has publicly called the residents of the banlieue "racaille" -- a derogatory French word for scum -- and has called for the banlieues to be cleaned up by an industrial powerhouse. After these riots, he says, it's going to be even more difficult for "people to see us as human beings worthy of dignity." Behind him, a graffiti message on a crumbling wall says it all. "Clichy-sous-Jungle," says the sign. The pleasant woods have given way to an urban jungle.
© ABC News

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FRANCE ANNOUNCES PLAN FOR CURFEWS TO STOP UNREST

7/11/2005- France will give local government officials the authority to impose curfews in areas hit by rioting to try to halt almost two weeks of unrest, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced on Monday. Villepin ruled out army intervention in an interview with France's TF1 television but said the cabinet would meet on Tuesday to clear the way for government officials known as prefects to impose curfews. "Wherever it is necessary, prefects will be able to impose a curfew," Villepin said, adding that procedures for such action were set out in a 1955 law. He said 1,500 police and gendarmes would be brought in to back up the 8,000 officers already deployed in areas hit by unrest that began in a poor Paris suburb on October 27. Dismissing growing calls for army intervention, he said: "We have not reached that point." The government has struggled to formulate a response that could halt the unrest, which was sparked by frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police and has spread to cities and towns across France.
© Reuters

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FRENCH BLOGGERS AT ODDS OVER RIOTS

French youths have been turning to weblogs to express their anger and frustration over the violence that has hit some of the country's poorest suburbs.

7/11/2005- As the rioting has spread, so has the debate between bloggers and their readers. The deaths of two teenagers of African origin, which helped spark the riots, inspired a number of online tributes. Bouna Traore, aged 15, and Zyed Benna, 17, "died for nothing", said one blogger, Bouna93 - the number is a reference to their home department of Seine-Saint-Denis. "We love you guys... All of Clichy is with you," he added, referring to the town of Clichy-sous-Bois where the two teenagers died. "We are all tense, we are all irritated and we are all mourning." The blog Clichy-sous-Bombe prints photographs of the two teenagers, captioned "RIP". One visitor commented: "Too young to die, they didn't deserve this!"

Threats
Tribute website Bouns93 gathered 1,700 comments from readers before it was shut down by its host for not following regulations. Another, Banlieue93, has elicited more than 300 responses to its post calling for readers to pay their respects to the two teenagers. But on many blogs, alongside messages of condolence were insults targeting police and threats of more violence. "Clichy is avenging you," wrote blogger Les K1-Fry. "France should be ashamed of the rotten police, and anyway France should be ashamed of herself with such a bad government," wrote a visitor. "We burned shops last night, believe me the cops aren't safe," wrote a reader of the Banlieue93 blog. "We're going to destroy everything," wrote another. "All the departments should unite... and screw justice," wrote a third.

'Pointless'
But there is also considerable anger aimed at the rioters, who have caused damage to thousands of cars and dozens of buildings. "They are angry at the police and yet they burn the cars of factory workers who aren't involved and who will have to work hard for the rest of their lives to pay for it," a visitor to Clichy-sous-Bombe wrote. "Our neighbourhoods are already dilapidated, why destroy them even more?" wrote a visitor to Banlieue93. "What do the rioters want, do play the [extreme right-wing anti-immigration political party] Front National's game, to have Baghdad in the 93?" asked a visitor to Les K1-Fry. "Guys, stop destroying everything, it's pointless, I don't think Bouna and Zyed would be proud of you, avenging them by burning everything, by attacking innocent people," said another. Others also said they had sympathy for the police, who have been blamed by some for the boys' deaths. Bouna and Zyed "shouldn't have run away from the police", wrote a visitor to Banlieue93, and their deaths were "not the fault of the police... or of Sarko [Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy]". "You have to be stupid to hide in an electric generator," wrote another.
© BBC News

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FRENCH FATWA PROHIBITS RIOTING, URGES CALM

7/11/2005- French Muslim leaders on Sunday, November 6, issued a fatwa banning Muslims from joining the unlawful riots raging across the country. “It is not acceptable to express feelings of desperation through damaging public properties and carrying out arson,” read the religious edict issued by the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF)’s Fatwa Body. “Under Islam, one cannot get one of his/her rights at the expense of others,” stressed the fatwa, a copy of which was obtained by IslamOnline.net. The fatwa cited noble verses that read: “Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. (The Cow:190), “Eat and drink of that which Allah hath provided, and do not act corruptly, making mischief in the earth. (The Cow: 60) and “Lo! Allah loveth not the corrupt.” (The Table: 64). Sheikh Ahmad Jaballah, member of the Fatwa Body, said that the fatwa sends a strong message to the French that these riots are un-Islamic. “It came to counter allegations by rightists and extremists who maliciously tried to link the arson to French Muslims,” he told IOL. The fatwa further underlined that minorities in France should live in dignity and suffer no racial discrimination or maltreatment. The rioting began with the accidental electrocution of two youths fleeing police in Clichy- sous-Bois outside Paris. Chirac's government has come under increasing pressure to halt the riots, sparked by frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police. Many feel trapped in the drab suburbs, built in the 1960s and 1970s to house waves of immigrant workers. Their French-born children and grandchildren are now out on the streets demanding the equality France promised but, they say, failed to deliver.

Police Shot
The riots intensified Sunday for an 11th night despite a vow by President Jacques Chirac to defeat it. An Interior Ministry statement said 839 more vehicles were torched only overnight. Thirty-four police were injured in clashes and 186 rioters detained, Reuters reported. “They really shot at officers,” said one officer after about 200 youths attacked his colleagues in Grigny, south of Paris. “This is real, serious violence. It's not like the previous nights. I am very concerned because this is mounting.” The head of France's main business group, Laurence Parisot, warned of the consequences of the violence for the French economy, notably on tourism and investment. “France's image has been deeply damaged,” she told Europe 1 radio. The violence came shortly after Chirac broke a long silence with his first public comments since the unrest began on October 27. “The republic is quite determined, by definition, to be stronger than those who want to sow violence or fear,” he said after a domestic security council met to respond to the violence in which thousands of cars have gone up in flames so far.

Spreading
Further violence was reported in other cities, including Nantes, Rennes, Strasbourg, Lens and Toulouse. Youths seized a bus in Saint-Etienne in central France, ordering passengers off and torching the vehicle. The driver and one passenger were hurt. In the eastern city of Strasbourg, rioters lobbed Molotov cocktails into a primary school. In Toulouse in the southeast, a blazing car was pushed into a metro entrance. At Lens in the north, a firebomb was thrown at a church. In Lille, about 50 cars were torched and a Belgian television reporter was beaten up as he filmed. The police union Action Police CFTC urged the government to impose a curfew on the riot-hit areas and call in the army to control the youths. “Nothing seems to be able to stop the civil war that spreads a bit more every day across the whole country,” it said in a statement. “The events we're living through now are without precedent since the end of the Second World War.”
© Islam Online

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FEAR, RACISM AND JOBLESSNESS FEED UNREST IN PARIS' SUBURBS

7/11/2005- They move in packs at night, burning and wrecking. Their anger is both blind and targeted. They torch their own neighborhoods as well as symbols of the French state that some feel oppresses them. Whatever their motivation, youths leading the violence that in 10 nights has spread across France sow fear, anger and frustration among their fellow residents of “Les Cites” — grim, public housing estates on the outskirts of French cities heavily populated by poor Arab and black Africans. Some officials suspect the unrest that reached into Paris proper early Sunday has in part been instigated by gangs hoping to turn their neighborhoods into no-go zones for police so drug trafficking and racketeering can thrive. But the roots are broader than that. Racism and widespread joblessness among minorities have left young people of the slums languishing in hopelessness and despair, creating the tinderbox of anger that has exploded. It is not just the riots, though. Many in the gritty inner suburbs live in fear of young thugs who roam the streets at night, robbing, selling drugs and intimidating residents, particularly women. “People here are bad. I don't want to live here anymore,” Rebab Khalil, an 11-year-old whose divorced parents came from Tunisia, said when asked about the gangs. She lives in Saint-Denis, northeast of Paris, but she dreams of life “in a big house, on a quiet street. I want to live in the country, where it is calm.” Mounir, a 14-year-old who would not give his name fearing his father's wrath, also wants to leave, saying he does not like that other boys burn cars and steal. “I want to go somewhere calm,” said Mounir, who suffered burns on his left hand — apparently from a projectile thrown during clashes between youths and police in nearby Clichy-Sous-Bois on Oct. 27, the first night of rioting that erupted after two teenage boys were electrocuted while hiding from police in the suburb.

The violence is forcing France to confront the long-simmering anger in its suburbs. They are fertile terrain for crime of all sorts as well as Muslim extremists who recruit frustrated youths. France has some 5 million Muslims, the biggest Islamic population in western Europe. Sonia Imloul, who works with troubled teens in Seine-Saint-Denis, the northeastern Paris suburb hit hardest by the unrest, said youths often feel trapped. “It is very, very difficult to leave this place,” she said. “There is a stigma attached to being a resident of this place.” Families break down in the pressure-cooker of crime, poverty and unemployment. Many single mothers are left to fend alone, said Imloul, a single mother herself whose Algerian parents divorced before her father's death. “Fathers do not play any role in their children's lives. The father doesn't exist at all. French justice gives full rights to mothers,” Imloul said. Coming to France has given some Muslim North African women new freedoms. “They want to lead a similar life as their French counterparts,” Imloul said. “But it is very difficult to leave a patriarchal culture all of a sudden. Women take on the responsibility of both mother and father while they are not at all suited for it. In the end, it is their children who suffer.” She estimated 40 percent of families in the suburbs where she works are dysfunctional, causing a high rate of school dropouts, drug use, petty crimes and aggressive behavior. Police records for petty crimes burden youths, making it harder to build a productive life, she said. “Those who set fire to cars and buildings are not criminals. They are young kids. What are 12-year-olds doing in the streets at midnight? Parents have no control over them,” Imloul said. She the absence of fathers causes some boys to become apathetic, while girls often rush into unsuitable marriages that often lead to divorce and some turn to drugs and prostitution. “There's so much of this in this community,” Imloul said. “Death of love has destroyed a whole generation.”

Suburban youths often show little will to improve their lot. Rawa Khalil, 15, has no interest in education. “No motivation,” she said simply. It is easier to become a hair stylist and marry and have children, she said. Mounir, the 14-year-old with the burned arm, claims no desire to go to college, though in a perfect world he sees himself as a banker. “But with the way things are now, the future is not certain. There's no point in studying. I'm never going to get a job,” he said. Defeatism hits parents, too, and some are accomplices to their children's crimes. Some mothers hide the drugs their sons peddle in their homes, Imloul said. Most parents, however, are law-abiding and fear for their children, she said.
© Reuters

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COLOUR-BLIND POLICY HAS FED MUSLIM RADICALISM

7/11/2005- The biggest explosion of street violence in France since the late 1960s has jolted the country into confronting its failure to include its seven million residents of Arab and African origin in the national mainstream. President Chirac and Dominique de Villepin, his Prime Minister, seem at a loss, however, to propose anything beyond the “republican” strategy that successive governments of Left and Right have followed since the first riots erupted on the immigrant estates 15 years ago. M de Villepin has promised a “major plan” to ease the plight of the immigrant communities — the latest of many over the past two decades — but, meeting community leaders on Saturday, he made clear that this would be more of the same: a mix of tax incentives for business in “difficult districts” plus more money for schools, police, other public services and better counselling for jobseekers. Under the ethnically colour-blind “French model”, the immigrant workers who came in the 1950s and 1960s from the former colonies in North and black Africa were to be regarded as equal citizens. They and their descendants would take advantage of the education system and generous welfare state to assimilate with “white” France. To promote the idea of assimilation, neither the State nor any other body publishes statistics on ethnic or national origin. In practice, France turned its back on the minorities, shunting them into suburban cités denying access to the so-called ascenseur social (social elevator) that was supposed to lift immigrants into the mainstream. Unemployment on the estates is up to three times the 10 per cent national average. Laws supposed to promote integration and oppose multiculturalism, such as the ban on Muslim headwear in schools, have often heightened resentment and the feeling of exclusion. This has in turn fed the rise of Muslim radicalism, which has now become the dominant creed of the young in the French ghettos.

France has always deemed its model superior to the Anglo-Saxon approach of diversity, which has enabled ethnic minorities to retain strong bonds in cultural and religious communities. France calls this “comunitarism” and says that it promotes ghettos, exclusion, poverty, race riots and religious extremism that can ultimately lead to actions such as the London bombings. Three decades on from the big inflow of immigrants, everyone now agrees that the French model has not worked, although almost no one says that the American and British approach has produced better results. Some, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, the iconoclastic Interior Minister who is at the centre of the present crisis, have provoked outrage by saying that France should copy aspects of the Anglo-American model, starting with policies to favour the entry of ethnic minorities into education and jobs. M de Villepin slapped down M Sarkozy last week for promoting dangerous “un-French” ideas that could encourage the Muslim extremism that has recently infected Britain. Mainstream Muslim leaders who have been consulted by the Government have all hammered home the message. “The young have the feeling that they have been abandoned, left at the roadside,” Larbi Kechat, rector of the rue de Tanger mosque in Paris, said. Some change in the French approach has been appearing over the past couple of years. Proposals are afoot to take a firmer hand with the racial discrimination that is still widely applied with impunity to jobseekers. Paradoxically, the figure most associated with a radical new approach is M Sarkozy. His proposals for a break with the French model have received little welcome. Both Left and Right see them as a breach of France’s republican tradition and believe that affirmative action would play into the hands of the anti-immigrant Far Right, led by Jean-Marie Le Pen.
© The Times Online

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RUSSIAN OFFICIAL SAYS FRENCH AUTHORITIES TO BLAME FOR RIOTS

7/11/2005- A senior Russian lawmaker has put the string of riots spreading across France, Germany and Belgium down to the failure of Europe to implement programs for social integration of migrants. Commenting on the alarming developments in France, Mikhail Margelov, head of the upper house of parliament’s international affairs committee, told the RIA-Novosti news agency that any attempts to blame the crisis on radical Islamists and terrorists are aimed at concealing the truth. In Margelov’s opinion, what attracts migrants from third-world countries in Europe is satiety, not democratic values. “But nobody welcomes them there, they are low-skilled, they are subject to discrimination by employers and they respond with an unwillingness to adjust, turning to drug trafficking, larceny and banditry,” the Federation Council official said. Not only do immigrants fail to assimilate, they also fail to adapt to French culture and way of life. Konstantin Kosachyov, Margelov’s opposite number in the lower house of parliament — the State Duma — agreed. “The situation in France is undoubtedly of a system-defined nature,” he said. “The French have failed to ensure the necessary conditions for the social integration of national minorities. ”It is enough to recall that France rejects the concept of ethnic minority as such and has so far refused to ratify the Council of Europe convention on the protection of national minorities,“ Kosachyov said in a telephone interview with RIA.
© Moscow News

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DUTCH CITIZENS TOLD TO AVOID RIOT TROUBLE SPOTS IN FRANCE

7/11/2005- The Dutch embassy in Paris has warned its citizens to avoid the Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-d'Oise districts in the evening and at night after 11 days of rioting in the French capital. The embassy singled out the Argenteuil in the north east and Trappes to the south east as areas of particular concern in the Paris. Similar precautions should be taken in other French cities that have experienced rioting, officials said. The embassies of the US, UK, Japan, Poland and Russia have issued similar warnings to their citizens. The US embassy has cautioned people flying into Charles de Gaulle Airport to take a taxi into the city and not to use the metro. The metro runs through suburbs which have witnessed serious unrest as North African youth battle the police and set fire to cars and buildings. Police are now accompanying all train services through the troubled districts in Paris after the driver of one train was attacked and the passengers robbed. Similar precautions have been taken in other parts of France.

Following the unrest in districts in Paris and other French cities, the question has arisen whether the same could take place in the Netherlands. Urban sociologist Leon Deben at the University of Amsterdam doesn't think so. "The Netherlands does not have the type of suburbs there are in France," he said on Monday. Deben said the enormous concrete buildings in French suburbs cannot be compared to the situation in Amsterdam. "We have them in the Bijlmer but they are currently being demolished." In comparison the Bijlmer suburb in the south east of Amsterdam is a "charming district. We don't have the toughness that exists in some French suburbs," Deben contended. He said problems have been brewing in France for 20 years. "If you went south back then you already saw burnt out flats. The French government has to some extent been in denial and is now clearly reacting far too late," Deben said. He claimed Dutch politicians are keeping a far sharper eye on developments in the more disadvantaged districts in the Netherlands. There are about 80 different groups of "problem youth" living in various parts of Amsterdam, but they will not quickly become so extreme as their counterparts in France. "We had of course the riots on the Mercatorplein in the Baarsjes district but there were like a flash in the pan and were over quickly," Deben said. Meanwhile, five cars were destroyed in arson attack in an immigrant-dense Brussels city district, but the federal government has dismissed the possibility French rioting will spread to Belgium. Extra police patrol have been ordered onto the streets of Berlin after cars are set on fire in a poor district, fuelling fears of copycat violence like the rioting sweeping France.
© Expatica News

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TIMELINE OF EVENTS SURROUNDING PARIS RIOTS

6/11/2005- As France's urban violence flared again for its 10th night straight, police become more robust in arresting trouble-makers, signalling the government's resolve in ending the rampages. Here is a timeline of the unrest:



  • Wednesday, October 19: 


  • Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy declares a "war without mercy" on violence in the suburbs.

    Tuesday, October 25: 


  • During a visit to the Paris suburb of Argenteuil, Sarkozy is pelted with stones and bottles. He describes rebellious youths in such districts as "rabble".

    Thursday, October 27: 


  • Two boys in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, Bouna Traore, a 15-year-old of Malian background, and Zyed Benna, a 17-year-old of Tunisian origin, flee a police identity check. They scale the wall of an electrical relay station and are electrocuted as they try to hide near a transformer. 


  • Youths in the suburb, hearing of the deaths, go on a rampage, burning 23 vehicles and vandalising buildings and hurling stones and bottles at riot police.

    Friday, October 28: 


  • Four hundred youths clash with police in Clichy-sous-Bois, throwing stones, bottles and Molotov cocktails. Twenty-three officers are hurt and their colleagues are forced to fire rubber bullets to push back mobs. Thirteen people are arrested and 29 vehicles are burned.




Saturday, October 29: 



  • Five hundred people hold a silent march through Clichy-sous-Bois in memory of the dead teenagers. 


  • Violence resumes at night. Twenty vehicles are burned. Nine people are detained, some of them for carrying hammers or petrol cans.

    Sunday, October 30: 


  • Clashes occur on the outskirts of Clichy-sous-Bois. Six police officers are hurt, 11 people are arrested and eight vehicles are torched. A police teargas grenade hits a mosque, prompting anger among the suburb's large Muslim community.

    Monday, October 31: 


  • Running clashes between youths and police take place in Clichy-sous-Bois and in surrounding suburbs. Nineteen people are arrested and 68 vehicles are torched.

    Tuesday, November 1:


  • Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin meets the families of the dead teenagers. 


  • Riots and clashes erupt in several suburbs to the north and west of Paris. Altogether, 180 vehicles are torched and 34 people arrested.

    Wednesday, November 2:


  • President Jacques Chirac tells ministers "tempers must calm down." 


  • Villepin and Sarkozy cancel overseas trips to deal with the spreading violence. 


  • Trouble erupts in 22 suburban towns north, south, east and west of Paris. A handicapped woman suffers severe burns when youths set a bus on fire. Police say 315 vehicles are torched and at least 15 people arrested.

    Thursday, November 3:


  • A criminal investigation is opened into the deaths of the two teenagers.


  • Villepin vows the government "will not give in" to the violence. 


  • Sarkozy says more than 140 people have been arrested since the violence began. 


  • The riots resume at night, but for the first time spread to other areas around France, in Dijon, Marseille and in Normandy. Seven cars are also set alight in central Paris. In all, 517 vehicles are torched in and around the capital and another 78 people are arrested.

    Friday, November 4:


  • Arson hit-and-run attacks take place in suburbs around Paris and other French cities. A total of 897 vehicles are torched and more than 250 people arrested.

    Saturday, November 5:


  • Paris prosecutor general Yves Bot says "we can see organised actions, a strategy" in the violence. 


  • The rampages again take place in suburbs outside Paris and other cities. Some 349 people are arrested and over 1,300 vehicles burned. Police use seven helicopters with lights and cameras to chase fast-moving youths who set fire to property then flee.




© The Tocqueville Connection
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HOW MUCH MORE FRENCH CAN I BE?

A French rapper speaks out for second-class citizens

6/11/2005- People like me — the descendants of immigrants, whether Arab, black or Asian — are turning to our roots and embracing our heritage, just the opposite of what our parents did when they arrived. My grandparents, for example, who came to France from Algeria to live, work and build a better life, accepted the role of guest. They did all they could not just to fit in, but to become invisible. Calling attention to themselves usually meant trouble — endless ID and visa checks from police, racist remarks and insults — so they avoided that. They tried as much as possible to integrate, and in doing so shut away their customs, language and heritage.

I certainly don't belittle their choice. But people of my generation are not shy about embracing their heritage, and far from seeking invisibility we're standing up to denounce the prejudice and injustice we face. In my case, Islam is an enormous part of who I am, just as being French is. The two aren't in opposition, or even mutually exclusive. Yet when you hear the debate in France today, you'd swear they must be.

The people who live in projects like those where last week's riots raged are treated as second-class citizens. We have less access to the rights and services of the republic — schools are run down; job opportunities are remote. What we do have is a supermarket, a mall for low-cost shops, a few fast-food joints and maybe a movie complex. That's it. The idea is to create just enough diversion so we stay where we are. The message is: Don't come in to mix with the people in the city centers. That's what the police tell you when they stop you on a bus coming into town: "You have no business in the center? Then you have no reason to be there. Go back where you belong."

Before Sept. 11, I would have said this was a kind of residual racism. The problems people had with us were due to our ethnicity, our skin color. Today, with many young people returning to religion as they start searching for their own identities, faith is becoming the difference that's most often pointed out. I'm not just a black guy or an Arab anymore; I'm a Muslim. And that's a code word for alien, someone who's determined not to fit in.

But I was born and raised in France. I've been a citizen since birth. How much more "French" can I be? And there are many more people like me, not just Muslims but blacks, Asians and South Asians. It's time for the French to reject these outdated labels. And it's time for minorities to reject the cult of victimization, too. Things aren't perfect. There are a lot of problems. Those problems exploded last week, unleashing the long-held resentment of people who feel unwanted, scorned and swept into the margins like so much trash. To change that, the gap between the banlieue and the rest of France must be bridged. We need to make peace with the things that make us different. I'm French, I'm Muslim, and there are millions like me. We live here, and we're not going anywhere. So let's start getting used to it.

Médine, 22, is a Muslim rapper from Le Havre. His latest record is Jihad: The Greatest Struggle Is Within Yourself
© Time Magazine

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LA HAINE: SCHOOLS, SYNAGOGUES AND HUNDREDS OF CARS BURN. IT'S PARIS 2005

The 1996 hit film showed a French capital in flames as its underclass rioted. That was fiction. This time it's for real. Hugh Schofield reports from the streets of a suburb its inhabitants now call Baghdad-sur-Seine

6/11/2005- France's worst urban violence since 1968 spread this weekend, with riots in Toulouse, Marseille, Lille and Rouen after more than a week's unrest in the deprived areas around Paris. On Friday there were attacks on schools, a town hall and a synagogue, and more than 750 cars were burnt out. At least 250 people were arrested. At Aulnay-sous-Bois, one of the worst-affected towns in the eastern Paris suburbs, a group of five or six adolescents in baseball caps and hooded sweatshirts lounged last week in the parking lot of the notorious estate known as the City of the 3,000. Across the dual carriageway that fronts the grim complex, a Renault garage lay in black cinders. Police and passers-by took photographs with their mobile phones. Elsewhere in the town, which is in most parts a safe and genteel area not far from Charles de Gaulle airport, burnt-out cars littered the pavement. A faint smell mixing tear gas and smoke still lingered in the air. Among Abdelkarim and his friends, no one bothered to deny that they were in the thick of it the night before. "In the olden days this used to be a huge forest. It was called the Forêt de Bondy. In those days there used to be highwaymen who cut the throats of the people in the carriages when they came through. That's what we are - like pirates," laughed Abdelkarim, 20. His story was of poverty, discrimination, dreams of his ancestral homeland of Morocco - and also of anti-Semitism, regular consumption of hashish and a swaggering satisfaction with his record of car theft, prison and violence. "Look around you - there is nothing here. We live four to a room. Our parents go to work like zombies. But we have nothing. Even the jobs around here go to people from elsewhere. This parking lot is like our living room," he said.

The surroundings are indeed grim. The City of the 3,000 consists of a series of long low-rise buildings made of the cheapest 1970s materials and painted an unsavoury off-white. Patches of scrubby grass are covered in rubbish and upturned wheelie bins. "The police know us all by name. But when they come they still beat down the door and order our parents to lie on the ground. And when they ask where we are from, we give our addresses, but they say: 'You're not from here. You're from Africa,'" he said. Though he modestly declined the appellation, Abdelkarim is the local "caid" - the Arabic word means leader - and he happily boasted of the €2,000 which he makes from each car stolen. "You want prostitutes, DVD players, jewellery? I can get anything you want," he said. One of his friends, Karim, aged 15, pulled back his sleeves to reveal gold bracelets and then opened his shirt to show a gold chain. Both nicked, he winked. Another boy held a mobile phone. "Come and look," he gestured, laughing. It was a short film of a Chechen guerrilla cutting off the head of a Russian soldier. These are the people who since 27 October have had the French government running scared. Their grievances - racism, poverty, lack of jobs - have changed little since the first disturbances in the banlieues broke out more than 15 years ago, later portrayed in the 1996 film La Haine (Hatred). But where before protesters demanded financial aid and change within the system, many of today's rioters seem motivated more by a nihilistic rejection of all that surrounds them. "I hate France, and the French hate us," said Abdelkarim. "The wicked get punished. See what happened after the Americans made war on Iraq? Allah sent the hurricane. We are getting our revenge." For President Jacques Chirac - and his uneasy cabinet tandem of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy - this stark aggression is proof of the colossal failure of past policies to integrate France's five million-strong Arab minority. Successive governments have invoked the mantra of republican equality to block special measures to favour immigrants, arguing that the country's system of integration would work in time.

But in practice Arabs continue to suffer from widespread discrimination in employment and housing. Unofficial statistics - there are no official ones - show that a hugely disproportionate number of young Arab males are in prison or out of work. Alienation has been fed by the almost total absence of Muslim or African leaders in politics and the media. While Britain has dozens of MPs and other public figures of African or Asian origin, France has virtually none. Meanwhile, there is the constant affront of being obliged to live in the bleak out-of-town estates that have become synonymous with deprivation and violence. Even before this latest wave of rioting, some 28,000 cars were burnt in small-scale riots in France in the first 10 months of the year. "From my window I can see the Eiffel Tower," said Abdelkarim. "But Paris is another world. This is Baghdad." Britain has had a different experience of immigration. Communities have been encouraged to maintain their identities - anathema in France - and moved into the inner parts of the main towns and cities. There is poverty, but employment. In Birmingham two weeks ago the riots were between two groups competing for space. In France the target is different: wealth, authority, the nation. enyahya Makhlouf, a 53-year-old taxi driver who emigrated from Algeria 20 years ago, said that he sympathises with the protesters. "They packed them into these estates and it was like living in a cage. Of course they were going to explode," he said. "The children just give up." But Mr Makhlouf also supported the hardline policing ideas of Mr Sarkozy. "How am I supposed to inculcate the work ethic in my son, when his friends have Nikes given to them by their drug-dealer fathers? At least Sarkozy wants to restore order." The name evokes different emotions among the rioters. "Ever since Sarko came into the government, life has been merde," said Kamel, 16. "He treats us like dogs - well, we'll show him how dogs can react." On this point, he and the outspoken minister, who talks of "cleaning out" the "racaille" (riff-raff), are speaking the same language. He sees the riots as a clear attempt by the caids to take back control, and is determined to stop them.
© Independent Digital

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THE OTHER SIDE OF AULNAY (France)

After a week of riots during which a Renault showroom was destroyed along with the hundreds of cars inside, the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois has become known around the world as a place of violence and poverty.

5/11/2005- And yet just a mile or so from where the menacing, dilapidated tower blocks have seen nightly clashes between angry youths armed with petrol bombs and the police, is the Vieux Pays (Old country) district of Aulnay which has the feel of picture-postcard France. People walk down narrow, tree-lined streets, past quaint houses with wooden shutters and window boxes full of carefully-tended flowers to pick up their baguettes from the bakers. Teacher Elisabeth Jallon told the BBC News website that Aulnay used to be a quiet little country town until it was swallowed up by urban sprawl in the 1960s and the tower blocks were built. In the town's richer neighbourhoods, some understand the frustration and anger of the rioters but the patience of others ran out long ago. "It's been a week now, it's too much. They should send in the police or even the army to stamp it right out," said one man. "It's crazy," said another. "Aulnay used to be a beautiful town and they've wrecked it." "All this only means our taxes will have to go up to pay for the damage," said an old woman taking her poodle for a walk. None of them wanted to give their name for fear of reprisals.

'Separate world'
They all vehemently denied there was any racism in Aulnay but walking around the town's richer areas like Vieux Pays and especially Aulnay Sud, divided by the railway lines from the riot-hit areas, it is noticeable that there are far fewer black and Arabic faces. This overlap of ethnic, economic and physical divisions only makes it more difficult for the different groups who live in Aulnay to understand each other's problems and work together to solve them. One woman said that she used to live on the "hot" estates. "It's a different world over there - completely separate," she said. While most of the violence - except for the burning of the Renault showroom - has been taking place on the estates, the effects are being felt across the town. Some are now afraid to go out at night, while one man lost a day's work clearing out his garage so he could park his car there in case the trouble spreads. The woman walking her poodle said she was worried that the firefighters and ambulance drivers would be too busy having stones thrown at them as they tried to put out the fires to attend to other emergency calls. "I live opposite the police station and I haven't slept in the past week because of all the sirens," said another woman. Paul Coste, 52, who has lived in Aulnay all his life, had to drive around the town to find a cash machine which was still working after those near his house had been wrecked. His 84-year-old mother lives on the estates and is too afraid to go out on her own, so he was taking her shopping - once he managed to get hold of some money. "There could be war," he said. "If they come to burn my car, I'll be waiting with my gun." One of the solutions he wanted was to tighten immigration control, saying it was a shame that the rioters were born in France "or they could be sent back home, where they wouldn't be allowed to cause trouble like this".

Boost for Sarkozy?
Interior Minister's Nicolas Sarkozy has outraged many inhabitants of the estates by saying they should be "pressure-cleaned" of all the "rabble" who live there. But such comments may go down well with a part of the electorate ahead of the 2007 elections which are already dominating French politics. Mrs Jallon's husband, also a teacher, was not sure of the exact mathematical relationship between the numbers of cars burnt and votes for the right-wing but said the violence would definitely help candidates calling for tougher law-and-order and immigration policies. Some young rioters in Aulnay said the violence would continue until Mr Sarkorzy resigned for his insulting comments and what they see as racist policing. It could be that on the contrary, they are actually helping his election campaign.
© BBC News

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'WE'RE FRENCH,' BUT NOT 'REAL' FRENCH

4/11/2005- Walid was born in France and went to a French high school. He will show you his French driving license and even his French identity card. But ask him what his identity is and he will say "93." "Nine Three" - the two first two digits of the postal code spanning the roughest suburbs on Paris's northeastern fringe - stands for unemployment and endless rows of housing projects. It stands for chronically high crime rates, teenage gang wars and a large immigrant community. Since Oct. 27, when the accidental death of two teenagers set off nightly riots across the region, "93" also stands for angry youths burning hundreds of cars, setting fire to shops and attacking the police with anything from rocks to real bullets. Theirs is a defensive identity, an identity by default that has sprouted in a vacuum of any real sense of belonging. These youths may not be representative of the suburbs their nightly rage has catapulted into the headlines: Many fellow residents condemn the violence and yearn for a return to normality. But their anger at a system that has excluded them from jobs, opportunity and a sense of identity is widely shared. "The question of being French is irrelevant - what's in a piece of paper?" said Walid, 19, who is of Algerian descent, dismissively putting his identification card back into his jeans pocket. "I'm from the ghetto, I'm from 93, end of story."

In the northern housing projects of La Courneuve, a menacing place littered with burned-out cars and small groups of youths lingering in entrances, the frustration is palpable. Like Walid, whose parents came to France from southern Algeria in the 1960s and still have Algerian nationality, many young second- and third-generation immigrants here feel neither North African nor French. They have spent their whole life in France, but for their whole life they have felt trapped in a cultural no man's land: their experience in 21st-century France clashes with the traditions and history of their parents' countries - mostly former French colonies in Africa. Formal citizenship in France aside, they feel their North African names and their skin color still firmly set them apart. According to Mamadou, 24, who like most youths here declined to give his last name for fear, he said, of being pursued by the police, everyday reality in the suburbs belies the noble idea of equality before the law. "We are French, but we also feel like foreigners compared to the real French," said Mamadou, whose father came to France from Mali decades ago and married his mother, a French woman. Who, according to him, are the "real" French? The answer comes without hesitation and to vigorous nodding by a groups of his friends: "Those with white skin and blue eyes."

Tales of being treated as "second-class" citizens abound. Many youths feel targeted by a predominantly white police force that conducts regular checks in their neighborhood. As Walid put it bitterly: "If you are black or Arab, chances are you have something to hide." Leaving the afternoon prayer at a makeshift outdoor mosque, Hocine, 23, a soft-spoken young man of Algerian descent in religious attire, said he was resigned to never having his culture and his religion truly accepted in France. "How many times have I gone into Paris and have been shouted at 'Go home!" he said. "Home is here," he added. "But it doesn't really feel like home." Beyond racism and daily routines of hostility with the police, one complaint frequently repeated in interviews in several of the smoldering suburbs north of Paris is that none of the youths in question feel they are given a real chance to leave the ghetto. After quitting school early, Mamadou recently found a job in a supermarket in La Courneuve, one of the suburbs at the heart of the recent rioting, stacking boxes. But it took two years, scores of applications and several humiliating moments of being sent away after interviewers caught a glimpse of his African features. Near a tall wall of graffiti in La Courneuve, telling the government and police to stay away, a group of young men pass their Friday afternoon talking, laughing and occasionally shouting at passers-by. They all of Arab or African origin and they are all either unemployed or working in low-skilled maintenance jobs. "We are all janitors here," said one young man, who appeared to be the leader of the group. "It's our destiny."

The man, who would only identify himself as Awax, said looking Arab in France was more than just having darker skin: It was also a ticket to a societal pigeon hole from which there was no escape. "Looking Arab means you either spend all day at the mosque or you are criminal scum," he said. "People generalize all the time, but you can't. Nobody talks about white French people as Christian." In few places is the separation of religion and state as strict as it is in France, where all conspicuous religious garb like the Muslim head scarf is banned from schools. The law has intermittently prompted some Muslim groups to complain, and last year many cases of Muslim girls refusing to take their scarves off made headlines. While sociologists and immigration specialists say that the religiousness of immigrants is often exaggerated, they say it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. "Many of these guys are no more Muslim than other French people are practicing Christian," said Christophe Bertossi at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. "But if they are given no other identity the Muslim label risks becoming the thing they fall back on."
© International Herald Tribune

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IN PARIS SUBURBS, ANGER WON'T COOL

4/11/2005- Talk to people outside the Bilal mosque in this rundown suburb north of Paris and they will tell you what has gone wrong: why rioters for the past week have confronted the police in overnight bursts of anger in the streets, torching cars, hurling rocks and even firing bullets in the worst civil disobedience in France in more than a decade. Beyond the poverty and despair of life in the shoddy immigrant communities ringing the shining French capital, local Muslims say, there is no one left with any sway over the rioting youths. Parents, the police and the government have all lost touch, they say. On Thursday, after rioters disregarded an appeal for calm by President Jacques Chirac, firing bullets at the police for the first time as the rioting spread for a seventh consecutive night, the government held emergency meetings throughout the day. But despite Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's vow that "law and order will have the last word," the police were bracing for more violence as night fell.

In Clichy-sous-Bois on Thursday afternoon, outside the entrance of the Bilal mosque - a converted warehouse where a tear-gas grenade landed on Sunday, stoking fury against the police - celebrations of the end of the monthlong Ramadan fast were overshadowed by the widening disturbances. Opinions about the riots among people gathered at the mosque differed, but everyone from the deputy imam to local council workers and men leaving the midday prayer agreed that the trouble has been compounded by a vacuum of moral authority. "If you want authority over these kids you need their respect - but all the normal channels of authority lost their respect a long time ago," said Ali Aouad, 42, who has lived in this northeastern town for two decades. "They feel neglected by the government, and the police just provoke them." Even the government's minister of equal opportunity, Azouz Begag, who himself grew up in an immigrant household outside Lyon, carries no authority here, residents said. "Where has he been? He is representative of nothing and nobody," said a young man of Algerian descent, who identified himself only as H2B. "He has done nothing for us and now he is trying to compensate by criticizing Sarkozy," the French interior minister, "but it's too late."

The crisis has penetrated the top level of the French government, where Nicolas Sarkozy and Villepin, the two most senior ministers, are sparring over how to deal with the violence and have both come under fire for failing to bring the violence under control. The trouble erupted in Clichy-sous-Bois on Oct. 27 after two teenagers, apparently thinking they were being pursued by the police, fled and were electrocuted when they hid in an electrical transformer. The disturbances have since spread to at least 20 neighboring towns. In the early hours of Thursday, rioters torched 315 cars, burned a car dealership and a local supermarket, and attacked two commuter trains, the police said. Nine people were wounded. But as appeals for calm by the government fell on deaf ears and a heavy police presence across the northern suburbs only appeared to provoke more violence, a number of local organizations seem to have quietly taken on the task of cooling tempers.

Abderamane Bouhout, president of the cultural organization that manages Bilal mosque, mobilized small groups of young believers during recent rioting to go between the rioters and the police and urge the disaffected youths to express their anger in nonviolent ways. Aouad, who witnessed one such intervention on Monday night not far from the mosque, said it was impressively effective. "It worked," he said. "They went right between the two sides and a lot of the kids listened to them. The damage the next day was a lot less serious than the previous nights." At the local city hall, Lamya Monkachi says the role of religious personalities along with that of young locals recruited from the suburbs to mediate for the city authorities has been key to reducing the violence in Clichy-sous-Bois in the past two days, even as it intensified in other suburbs. "What helped us here in Clichy to calm nerves was that we work a lot with people who know the local youths and speak their language," she said.

There are eight Muslim organizations in Clichy alone that have been mobilized to participate in starting a dialogue with the rioters. In addition, a group of youths, working closely with city hall, have formed an association in response to the riots last week called Beyond Words. Their representatives - young North African men dressed in white T-shirts with the names of the two dead teenagers printed on the back and the words "Dead for Nothing" on the front - have campaigned for peaceful dialogue. But, says Marilou Jampolsky of SOS Racisme, a non-governmental organization fighting discrimination, the current government has made such informal mediation efforts more difficult by cutting back public funding for them. "The number of neighborhood organizations that organize sports, help with school work and just generally check up on these kids has significantly declined since this government came to power" in 2002, she said. SOS Racisme, which also has local branches in suburbs, has lost half its money, she said.

One of the most prominent young mediators is Samir Mihi, 28, who has become an informal spokesman for the various groups that have stepped in to calm the violence and mediated between the rioters and the government. According to Mihi, who grew up in Clichy, the key ingredient for restoring peace in this and other suburbs is to build relationships with the local youths and give them the feeling that their concerns are being heard. "If they listen to us it is because we give them what they most want: respect," said Mihi, who organizes sports activities for teenagers at city hall. "If you respect them, they respect you." One reason politicians fail to make themselves heard in the suburbs is that successive governments have failed to tackle disproportionately high unemployment and crime rates in the suburban housing projects, leaving youth with few opportunities. That feeling of exclusion is exacerbated by a lack of political representatives of North African origin and other role models, Mihi said. The lack of moral authority is perhaps most flagrant with the police, locals said, because the interaction between officers and residents is often reduced to frequent and random identity checks that are perceived to be humiliating in the mainly North African communities in the suburbs. At the local market, Muhammad, 24, who declined to give his last name, said such checks sometimes happen even outside his own apartment. He recounted how the police stopped him as he was walking home the night before. "They grabbed me and touched my hood to see if it was hot or sweaty," he said, describing what he called a regular practice. "If you're caught with a sweaty hood, it means you've been running and that you have probably committed a crime." Meanwhile, the parents of the teenagers in question lack authority because poverty has often made family life more difficult, says Jampolsky. Neither do they share the quest for identity so prevalent among the younger generation.
© International Herald Tribune

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FOCUS ON INTEGRATION IN GERMANY AFTER FRENCH RIOTS

Germany's incoming grand coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats plans to pay more attention to the integration of immigrants as a result of the ongoing violence in neighboring France.

8/11/2005- Both parties -- currently in the middle of fine-tuning their coalition treaty that is expected to be completed this week -- want to place more emphasis on integration, Volker Kauder, the secretary general of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told reporters without giving any further details about concrete plans. German politicians meanwhile called on people not to overreact while viewing the riots as a clear warning sign. "We also have areas with a high percentage of foreigners who withdraw more and more from the rest of society," incoming Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) told Bild tabloid. "We have to improve integration, especially that of young people." Others such as CDU parliamentarian Hermann Gröhe, said that Germans had sometimes been too tolerant in the past. "If our society has not been interested or kept quiet about female circumcision and forced marriages in parallel societies, about people -- almost always women -- getting murdered because the family's honor requires it, that has nothing to do with respecting other cultures," Gröhe told German public broadcaster RBB. "It's rather a shameful lack of respect for the victims of inhumane traditions."

Violence subsides a little in France
In France, meanwhile, police said Tuesday that 1,173 vehicles were burnt and 330 people arrested overnight as France experienced its 12th straight night of urban violence. Twelve police officers were lightly hurt, mainly by thrown projectiles. Some officers were the target for people firing buckshot, though none was hit. A dozen buildings were hit by arsonists. The number of vehicles torched and arrests made were slightly lower than for the previous night, possibly signaling a tapering off of the unrest that has raged since Oct. 27. Overnight Sunday, more than 1,400 automobiles were gutted by flames and 395 people were detained. President Jacques Chirac was to hold a cabinet meeting Tuesday which was to give regional authorities the power to impose curfews if necessary to restore public order.

Curfew law first used in Algeria
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said late Monday he was invoking a 60-year-old law first brought in as an unsuccessful attempt to quell an insurrection in Algeria, at a time when the north African country was a French colony. Villepin, speaking on national television, said regional authorities would be given the power to impose curfews "where necessary." The measure -- effectively a state of emergency for areas around cities and towns -- would ban night time movements of people and vehicles and allow police to set up roadblocks around certain zones. Government ministers were to adopt the measure by decree in the cabinet meeting early Tuesday and it would be applicable from Wednesday, Villepin said. The prime minister ruled out an army intervention to stop the violence, but said that 1,500 police and gendarme reservists would be deployed as reinforcements for 8,000 officers already on the ground.
© Deutsche Welle

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RIOTING UNLIKELY IN GERMANY, SAY EXPERTS

France is facing the worst racial unrest in decades. Could the same happen in Germany, home to a large immigrant population which has been spared violence so far? Experts are skeptical.

4/11/2005- In a ninth night of rioting which saw violence spread to towns beyond the French capital, rioters torched hundreds of vehicles in impoverished suburbs of northeastern Paris as France grappled with the worst race riots in decades that have made headlines around the world. Amid the charred wreckage and mounting anger over what is seen as the government's slow response, many in France are trying to come up with an explanation. Those allegedly responsible -- groups of young Muslim men of largely North African and black African origin -- have said that they are protesting economic misery, racial discrimination and provocative policing. But while some blame the government's recent hardline law-and-order policies, others see the root of the problem in broken promises by the French government to its immigrant communities: The French integration model insists that all citizens are equal before the state, but some say cultural minorities are being left without a voice. In Germany, on the other hand, immigrants have so far lacked any sense of entitlement. Unlike France, Britain or the Netherlands, Berlin has only recently opened up citizenship and loosened naturalization laws. Some say this might be one of the reasons why similar riots have not taken place in Germany so far. The country is home to Europe's second-largest Muslim population -- an estimated 3.7 million -- after France and has a two-million-strong Turkish minority. The only thing in Germany that even comes close to the kind of violence raging in France currently, is the traditional Labor Day demonstration in Berlin that often ends in cars being set ablaze and clashes between the police and youth.

"Immigrants feel like guests"
"Immigrants (in Germany) still feel like guests," said Ruud Koopmans, a sociology professor at Amsterdam's Vrije Universiteit, who previously worked at Berlin's Center for Social Research. "Turks still see themselves to a large extent as Turks and not Germans. Only once they start seeing themselves as (citizens), they start making demands on the society in which they live." Koopmans added that violence among immigrants in Germany is actually more common than in France, but still tends to be related to conflicts in their countries of origins. He named aggression between Turks and Kurds and between different ethnic groups from the former Yugoslavia as examples. "In France, you find almost no political violence that is related to homeland violence," Koopmans said, adding that he expects the situation in Germany to change as more immigrants start to feel like citizens of Germany. "Only then will they start making demands and there will be an increase in the kind of conflicts that you seen in France," he said.

No immigrant ghettos
Others disagreed, saying that since immigrant ghettos like the ones in France, Britain or the Netherlands didn't exist in Germany, riots were less likely to happen. "We don't have these closed clusters of immigrants," said Klaus J. Bade, who directs the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies at Osnabrück University. Immigrant-dominated neighborhoods such as Berlin's Kreuzberg and Neukölln are undoubtedly social hot spots, but Bade pointed out that they were still far from being ghettos. "I don't see any parallel societies developing there," Bade said. "These are relatively mixed areas." But he added that Germans had to realize that they would have to shoulder major costs in the long run if they do not improve existing integration programs. Bade said Germany should set up a three-tier system of intergration: Helping those willing to come to Germany learn the language before they arrive, supporting them once they've immigrated and looking after those who have failed to get on their feet once they're in the country. "That costs a lot of money, but if we don't do it, we'll pay for it dearly in the long run," he said.
© Deutsche Welle

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FRENCH MUSLIMS FACE JOB DISCRIMINATION

Days of rioting in the bleaker suburbs of Paris have highlighted discontent among many French youths of North African origin.
As part of a series on French Muslims, the BBC News website's Henri Astier looks at the issue of discrimination, a leading source of frustration in France's unemployment-riddled ghettos.


2/11/2005- Sadek recently quit his job delivering groceries near Saint-Denis, just north of Paris. He was tired of climbing stairs with heavy bags. Sadek, 31, has a secondary school education and aspires to something better. But he knows his options are limited: "With a name like mine, I can't have a sales job." Telemarketing could be a possibility - his Arab roots safely hidden from view. Of course, he would have to work under an assumed name. Sadek's story sums up the job prospects of the children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants. They may be French on paper - but they know that Ali and Rachid are much less likely to get ahead than Alain or Richard. racial discrimination is banned in France. But a quick look at the people working in any shop or office suggests the practice is widespread. The impression is confirmed by official statistics. Unemployment among people of French origin is 9.2%. Among those of foreign origin, the figure is 14% - even after adjusting for educational qualifications.

Closed doors
The pressure group SOS Racisme regularly highlights cases of employers discarding applicants with foreign names. It says such discrimination is particularly rife in the retail and hospitality industries - but also for jobs involving no contact with the public. "Some companies believe that to be responsible for marketing you must have roots in mainland France over several generations to understand the French consumer attitudes," according to a recent SOS Racisme report. "Doors are closed when you are an Arab," says Yazid Sabeg, a businessman and writer. For many young people, the first time they notice the closed door is when they try to go clubbing. "The first time the guy at the entrance says: 'You're not coming in', you accept it," says Nadir Dendoune, a journalist from Saint-Denis. "But after two or three times, you go home carrying a bag of hatred on your shoulders." And when you can't find a job, Mr Dendoune adds, despondency turns to paranoia. "Every rejection - even those that may not be racially motivated - undermines your self-confidence. You feel you will never make it because you are Arab."

Failed approach
France has countless bodies dedicated to helping immigrants - a High Council for Integration, a Directorate for Populations and Migrations, several regional commissions for the insertion of immigrants, and so on. Despite this, France's integration policy has failed, the Court of Accounts, a government watchdog, concluded last year. The situation could lead to "serious social and racial tensions", the court warned prophetically. According to some, the concept of "integration" itself is flawed. "People always talk of the need to 'integrate' Muslims. But the youths are French. Why should they need integrating?" asks Samia Amara, 23, a youth worker near Paris. Mr Sabeg agrees that "integration" is just hot air. "What does it mean? Are some French people supposed to integrate and others to be integrated?" Some politicians argue that France should admit this failure and try something new. Manuel Valls, an MP and mayor of Evry, a town south of Paris where half the population have foreign roots, says France "cannot lecture Britain or the US" on immigration issues. His country, he points out, has no black or Arab TV presenters, and all MPs from mainland France are white. Mr Valls is a firm believer in "positive discrimination" - a very un-French concept that is beginning to gain acceptance. The broad idea is extra help based on geographical and social - but not racial - criteria. Mr Valls points to an example of such action in his own constituency. The Lycee Robert Doisneau is a secondary school surrounded by some of the country's worst housing estates, with unemployment in excess of 30%. About 70% of pupils have foreign parents or grandparents. Despite such a challenging intake, the school offers a way out of the ghetto. "The students come here to study and to succeed," says head teacher Genevieve Piniau. She has pioneered partnerships with elite schools, whose high-fliers groom local pupils to develop their aspirations. The school also takes part in a scheme run by Paris' Political Sciences Institute, providing special access for students from deprived areas. The result is 89% success in school leaving exams - well above the national average - and a record of success at university level for former students.

Distant dream
Of course, youths from poor suburbs need more than an education - they need jobs. Efforts are being made to encourage employers to take them on. Unlike the failed legislative approach, the emphasis is now on voluntary pledges by employers. Mr Sabeg is among the sponsors of a new "diversity charter" encouraging companies to "reflect the diversity of French society" by hiring qualified non-whites. It remains to be seen how this will be implemented. Mr Sabeg is looking across the Channel for inspiration, noting that the head of Vodafone, one of Europe's largest companies, is an Indian, Arun Sarin. "When this happens here, we will know France has changed," he says. Meanwhile in Saint-Denis, Sadek would settle for a temp job at the post office - but that remains a distant dream.

Unemployment woes
9.2% unemployment rate for people of French origin
14% unemployment for people of foreign origin (adjusted for education)
5% overall unemployment for university graduates
26.5% unemployment for "North African" university graduates
Source: Insee
© BBC News

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HEADSCARF DEFEAT RILES FRENCH MUSLIMS

Rioting in a Paris suburb has highlighted discontent among French youths of foreign origin, many of whom define themselves through Islam. As part of a series on French Muslims, the BBC News website's Henri Astier reports on the impact of the headscarf ban.

1/11/2005- Every morning headteacher Genevieve Piniau stands guard at the gate of the Lycee Robert Doisneau in Corbeil-Essonnes near Paris. She is there to ensure no rules are broken, including a ban on Muslim headscarves and other "conspicuous" religious symbols in French state schools. Dozens of girls duly take off their hijabs as they approach the gate. But when one student tries to sneak past Ms Piniau with hers still on, the headteacher immediately spots her: "Off with it!" Despite this rare incident, Ms Piniau says the ban is now widely accepted. The collective baring of heads at the school gate testifies to that. However the acceptance is often grudging. Asma Boubker, 16, says she feels targeted as a Muslim: "Christians have crucifixes, why can't we have headscarves?" But other Muslim girls support the ban. "Some teachers would not see beyond the scarf and judge us - it's best if we have to take it off," says Siham, 15. Rama Kourouma, 18, agrees that religion should not be advertised in schools. "Faith is in the heart," she smiles.

Popular
The compliant students of Lycee Robert Doisneau are no exception. "All conspicuous religious signs have gone," says Marie-Louise Testenoire, the top education official for the Essonne department - which includes Corbeil-Essonne and other areas with large Muslim communities. This development is remarkable given the controversy that surrounded the introduction of the ban last year. French Muslims marched against a move that many condemned as intolerant. Many pointed out that the bill reversed court decisions that had allowed students to wear religious signs, as long as they did not amount to "proselytising". The first blow to the anti-ban campaign came in August last year - ironically at the hand of militants who abducted two French reporters in Iraq, demanding the law should be withdrawn. Protests died down, as French Muslims refused to be associated with the hostage-takers. But the key to the ban's success has been its enduring popularity. All political parties endorsed it. And a recent Pew think-tank survey indicated that secularist France was the country where restrictions on religion symbols had the strongest support - a full 75% backed the school ban.

Soft approach
At Robert Doisneau, Ms Piniau says that during the last academic year she secured co-operation through discussion, rather than discipline. Even at the height of the controversy in early 2004, when 30 girls defiantly came to school with headscarves, she never expelled anyone. "I took them into my office and explained to them what secularism meant," Ms Piniau recalls. "I said I had the deepest respect for their faith, but I did not want to know what their religion was - any more than I wanted them to know what mine was." The message was accepted by all but one of the girls - most of whom, according to Ms Piniau, had been pressured by relatives. The clearest sign that the 2004 law is now accepted is that no Muslim group is fighting for its repeal - not even the Organisation of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF), which is closest to grass-roots opinion in the country's poorer suburbs. "The law is unfair to Muslims, but we've put it behind us," said Rachid Hamoudi, the UOIF director of a big mosque in Lille, northern France. The building also houses one of France's Muslim schools, the Lycee Averroes, which Mr Hamoudi offers as "an alternative for those who want to wear a veil".

Lingering tensions
But the wide acceptance of the ban does not mean the scarf issue has been settled once and for all. It remains contentious, not so much for the French Muslim community as a whole - which includes many secularists - but for youngsters with North African roots who have found a sense of identity through religion. To get an idea of the lingering tensions, it is worth looking at what happens to these young Muslims beyond secondary school. At university level, the law on religious signs does not apply. Nevertheless Teycir ben Naser, a second-year student at Creteil University near Paris, has opted for a discreet bandana. The 19-year-old feels the headscarf she wears off campus could become a liability during oral exams. Not that it would influence examiners, she says, but "they might say things or look at me in a certain way, and that would undermine my confidence".

Veiled ambition
The main challenge, however, will come after university. "We are studying to be able to work later," Ms ben Naser says. "And we all we know that if you wear a veil all the doors will close." She says her mother, who has a PhD in philosophy and wears a headscarf, does not have a job as a result. Sonia Benyahia, a student who wears a headscarf on campus and wants to be a schoolteacher, fears her future could be equally blocked. "I don't know if I'll be able to take off the scarf, so I think I'll remain a housewife," she says. Ambitious Muslim women will no doubt enter the French workforce in the coming years. But many will have to choose between their careers and wearing their religion proudly.
© BBC News

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GHETTOS SHACKLE FRENCH MUSLIMS

Rioting by youths in a Paris suburb has highlighted the discontent among sections of France's immigrant population. The BBC News website's Henri Astier explores the sense of alienation felt by many French Muslims.

31/10/2005- When Nadir Dendoune was growing up in the 1980s, his home town of L'Ile Saint-Denis, north of Paris, was a fairly diverse place. "We were all poor, but there were French people, East Europeans, as well as blacks and Arabs," says Mr Dendoune, 33, an author and something of a celebrity in his estate. Two decades on, the complexion of the place has changed. "On my class photos more than half the kids were white," he says. "On today's pictures only one or two are." L'Ile St-Denis is among the "suburbs" around French cities where immigrants, notably from former North African colonies, have been housed since the 1960s. Blighted by bad schools and endemic unemployment, the suburbs are hard to escape. The immigrants' children and grandchildren are still stuck there - an angry underclass that is increasingly identified through religion. Ten years ago these youths were seen as French "Arabs". Now most are commonly referred to, and define themselves, as "Muslims".

Alarm
Many countries have ethnic and religious enclaves. But in France they cause particular alarm, for three reasons. First, they are not supposed to exist in a nation that views itself as indivisible, and able to assimilate its diverse components. Separatism, the French are told, is a plague afflicting the Anglo-Saxon multicultural model. The government bans official statistics based on ethnicity or religion. As a result, no one knows exactly how many Muslims live in the country - at least five million is the best guess. Ghettos also threaten another tenet of French identity - secularism. As the country celebrates the centenary of the separation of Church and State, Islam is seen as the biggest challenge to the country's secular model in the past 100 years. Thirdly, the worldwide rise of Islamic militancy strikes fear in the heart of a country that is home to Europe's biggest Muslim community. French police know that there is no shortage of potential jihadis in the country. The assertiveness of French Islam is seen as a threat not just to the values of the republic, but to its very security.

A different view
Is such alarm justified? The view from the suburbs invites a nuanced, and ultimately sanguine, assessment. Some groups do advocate cultural separation for Muslims - but they do not speak for many. Far more common is the attitude of Nour-eddine Skiker, a youth worker near Paris: "I feel completely French. I will do everything for this country, which is mine." Mr Skiker's Moroccan origins mean a lot to him. But, like many youths in the suburbs, he sees no contradiction between being French and having foreign roots. The main problem is that many French people do, says writer Nadir Dendoune. "How am I supposed to feel French when people always describe me as a Frenchman of Algerian origin? I was born here. I am French. How many generations does it take to stop mentioning my origin?" And crucially, the suburbs are full of people desperate to integrate into the wider society. "I do not know a single youth in my estate who does not want to leave," Mr Dendoune says. France's Muslim ghettos, in short, are not hotbeds of separatism. Neither do they represent a clear challenge to secularism - a doctrine all national Muslim groups profess to support. "We have no problem with secularism," says Lhaj Thami Breze, president of the Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF). He argues that by establishing state neutrality in religious matters, the doctrine allows all religions to blossom. Islam has adapted to local laws - from Indonesia to Senegal - and is adapting to France, says Azzedine Gaci, who heads the regional Muslim council in Lyon. This is not just the leaders' view. A 2004 poll suggested that 68% of French regarded the separation of religion and state as "important", and 93% felt the same about republican values.

Suspicious minds
All observers agree that jihadism does pose a direct threat to the country. The fact that - in France as elsewhere - the militants speak for a tiny minority of Muslims does not make the threat less severe. But as Islam expert Olivier Roy notes, bombers should not be seen as the vanguard of the Muslim people. Jihadis everywhere, he says, are rebelling both against the West and their own community. The great majority of Muslims resent the extremists in their midst - although many in France do not recognise this. Yazid Sabeg, an industrialist and writer, says the French have "a real problem" with both Arabs and Islam and equate both with extremism. The most worrying aspect of the separation between French Muslims and the rest of society is that it breeds suspicion on both sides. "We must tell youths that France does not want to hold them down," says Rachid Hamoudi, director of the Lille mosque in northern France. "We must ensure that the community trusts its country, and vice-versa. If you get to know me, you will get to trust me. If I get to know you, I will trust you."

French Islam
Second largest religion
Five million Muslims (estimate)
35% Algerian origin (estimate)
25% Moroccan origin (estimate)
10% Tunisian origin (estimate)
Concentrated in poor suburbs of Paris, Lille, Lyon, Marseille and other cities
© BBC News

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PARIS RIOTS PROMPT EXTRA SECURITY (France)

France's Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to step up security after violence flared for a fourth night in a Paris suburb.
31/10/2005- Six policemen were hurt and 11 people arrested in the latest clashes with youths in Clichy-sous-Bois, although it was calmer than on previous nights. Police said somebody not yet identified had fired tear gas into a mosque. Mr Sarkozy met police in Clichy, but the parents of two youths whose deaths sparked the riots refused to meet him. On Saturday, hundreds of mourners paid homage to the teenagers by holding a peaceful procession in the north-eastern suburb, which has a large immigrant population. The authorities have denied rumours that policemen were chasing the two boys, who were electrocuted on Thursday after entering an electricity sub-station. Flowers now lie near the spot where Ziad, aged 17, and Banou, 15, died. An official investigation into the boys' deaths is under way. A third young man is seriously ill in hospital. The BBC's Alasdair Sandford in Paris says many in the suburb do not believe the authorities' account that the two boys were not being chased by police. Mr Sarkozy has promised to send special police units into difficult suburbs around France to stamp out violence. Residents will be given "the security they have a right to", he said while speaking to senior police officers in Clichy. He promised to find out who had hurled one or more tear gas canisters into a mosque on Sunday night, but added "that does not mean that it was fired by a police officer". Rumours that the tear gas was thrown by the police into a place of worship fuelled the unrest. Mr Sarkozy also met the president of the Muslim community in the Clichy area. Local people in Clichy have accused Mr Sarkozy of heightening tensions by using inflammatory language. During Saturday's march in memory of the dead teenagers, there were calls for the government to tackle discrimination against immigrant communities such as theirs. Mr Sarkozy told police on Monday that "for 30 years the situation has been getting worse in a number of neighbourhoods". "It's not a story that's three days, three weeks or three months old," he said.
© BBC News

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MORE VIOLENCE ROCKS PARIS SUBURB (France)

Violence has flared for a fourth night in a north-east Paris suburb, but not on the same scale as before.

31/10/2005- Six policemen were injured and 11 people arrested in the latest confrontations between angry youths and police in Clichy-sous-Bois. Police said one or more teargas canisters were hurled into a mosque from an unidentified source. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is to meet the parents of two teenagers whose deaths sparked the riots. Saturday saw hundreds of mourners pay homage to the teenagers by holding a peaceful procession in Clichy-sous-Bois, which has a large immigrant population. The authorities denied rumours that policemen were chasing the two boys who were electrocuted on Thursday after entering an electricity sub-station. Flowers now lie near the spot where Ziad, aged 17, and Banou, 15, died. An official investigation into the boys' deaths is under way. A third young man is seriously ill in hospital. The BBC's Alasdair Sandford in Paris says many in the suburb do not believe the authorities' account that the two boys were not being chased by police. Mr Sarkozy has promised to send special police units into difficult suburbs around France to stamp out violence. But local people in Clichy accuse him of heightening the tensions with inflammatory language. During Saturday's march in memory of the dead teenagers, there were calls for the government to tackle discrimination against immigrant communities such as theirs.
© BBC News

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Headlines 25 November, 2005

FIGHTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN (Germany)

A day after the World Health Organization published a report revealing that domestic violence is a global problem, the world marks White Ribbon Day, or the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

25/11/2005- Thursday saw the publication of a report by the World Health Organization based on surveys of 24,000 women in 10 countries showing one in six women have suffered from domestic violence. The first-ever global study on gender violence was conducted by the World Health Organization in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Path, a global health organization. Former United Nations commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson hailed it as a seminal document. "We don't actually know, unless we have studies like this, how serious and pervasive violence by intimate partners really is," she said. "For the first time, this study has used consistent means to measure violence across countries, so that we can now reasonably compare."

The unforgettable butterflies
Its publication tied in with International Day of Violence Against Women, a date that commemorates the lives of the three Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic, who became known as the Inolvidables Mariposas (unforgettable butterflies). In 1960, during the Trujillo dictatorship, they were murdered for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government. Their story was claimed by feminists and catapulted into the public consciousness in the early 1980s. Then, in 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Since then, Nov. 25 has become a day of a global recognition of gender-based violence and the victimization of women, from domestic battery, rape and sexual harassment, to state violence including torture and abuses of women political prisoners.

A global issue
According to estimates, one in five women in Germany suffer physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner. Domestic violence happens at all levels of society, and takes a number of forms, pointed out Claudia Schrimpf, president of the association "Women Helping Women" and director of the Autonomous Women's Refuge in Cologne. "The definition of 'violence' can be very broad," she said. "Women who come to us are not necessarily just being beaten, they're being isolated, refused money, kept at home. Intimidation can be psychological as well as physical." Most of Germany's women's refuges are funded by churches and private associations. They serve as a safe haven for battered women who often have no money and no network of support. And they're all fleeing violent partners.

Anonymity guararanteed
"Whatever religion women are, wherever they come from, we'll take in all women seeking help," said Sylvia Arndt, who is in charge of a women's refuge that takes in mainly immigrant women. "They have to be over 18, and they have to be homeless." The refuges tend to be completely cut off from the outside world. "The women have to get in touch with us," explained Schrimpf. "We advertise our phone number, but not our address."We arrange a meeting place with the women, which will usually be close by. We don't reveal the address until the last minute to minimize the risk of their partners locating us. The women telephones us from their arranged meeting place and we send one of our staff out to pick her up." As well as providing protected accommodation, the refuge helps put women in touch with lawyers. And according to the Autonomous Women's Refuge, 80 percent of the women who arrive as victims of domestic violence succeed in building a new life for themselves.
© Deutsche Welle

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AUSTRIANS REFUSE BAIL FOR IRVING

25/11/2005- Austrian authorities have refused bail for British historian David Irving, who is facing Holocaust denial charges. Mr Irving, 67, was arrested on 11 November in connection with two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989. Mr Irving's lawyer has said the historian now no longer denies that gas chambers existed in Nazi death camps. Mr Irving can appeal against the charges under Austrian law. No trial date has been set yet. He could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty. A court in Vienna ruled on Friday that Mr Irving must stay in custody as there was a risk he could abscond. His lawyer Elmar Kresbach had offered to post bail. Mr Irving is accused of having denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz in two speeches he made in Vienna and Leoben in 1989. Mr Irving sued US historian Deborah Lipstadt in London in 2000 for labelling him a Holocaust denier. He lost in a comprehensive verdict. Despite the mortal blow to his reputation in 2000, he remains a showman and may well relish the opportunity to grandstand before a wider audience if put on trial, BBC legal affairs analyst Jon Silverman says. In his books, Mr Irving has argued that the scale of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis in World War II has been exaggerated. He has also claimed that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler knew nothing of the Holocaust. Mr Irving was previously arrested in Austria in 1984.
© BBC News

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FACING TRIAL, HITLER FAN BACKS OFF

25/11/2005- British historian David Irving now acknowledges that Nazi gas chambers existed but admits that some of his past statements could be interpreted as denying people were gassed, his lawyer said yesterday, on the eve of a court hearing. Prosecutors this week charged Irving, 67, under an Austrian law that makes denying the Holocaust a crime. The charges stem from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he allegedly denied the existence of the chambers. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Irving's attorney, Elmar Kresbach, said yesterday the historian has told him he now believes that Nazi gas chambers existed. "He changed some of the views he is so famous for," Kresbach said. "He told me: 'Look, there was a certain period when I drew conclusions from individual sources which are maybe provocative or could be misinterpreted or could be even wrong."' He said additional research Irving carried out after Soviet archives were opened to scholars persuaded him that his former beliefs were "not really worthwhile to hold up," Kresbach said. Irving's new position was met with skepticism from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which works to track down former Nazis before they die. It "is an admission designed to extricate himself from imprisonment and in no way truly reflects his views," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Los Angeles-based center. Zuroff said Irving has simply learned from previous legal battles and was "trying to minimize the danger." Austrian law does not allow Irving to be interviewed while in custody. In the past, Irving has claimed that Adolf Hitler knew nothing about the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews, and has been quoted as saying there was "not one shred of evidence" the Nazis carried out their "Final Solution" to exterminate the Jewish population on such a massive scale. He is the author of nearly 30 books, including "Hitler's War," which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.
© Associated Press

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UKRAINIAN JEWS SHARE DISMAY A YEAR AFTER YUSCHENKO TOOK OFFICE

23/11/2005- A huge stage and soup kitchens were set up in downtown Kiev this week to make the city’s central square look the way it did a year ago. Part of official festivities as Ukraine marks the anniversary of the “Orange Revolution,” the props are intended to remind Ukrainians of the days when tens of thousands of them braved freezing temperatures in a two-week protest over rigged presidential elections in which Viktor Yuschenko was deprived of victory. Wearing orange, the color of Yuschenko’s campaign, the protesters helped force new elections that brought him to power. But a year later, the official celebrations are doing little to improve the mood of most Ukrainians — including Jews — who now believe the revolution made little difference in their lives. Regardless of whom they backed in last year’s elections, local Jews today seem to agree that Yuschenko’s government has not shown enough political will or ability to implement economic and political reforms and combat anti-Semitism. This has been a year of “grand but useless declarations,” sighed Yevsey Kotlyar, 70, a Kiev retiree, as he visited a Kiev Jewish community center one recent morning. “How can I trust this government if it only makes declarations?”

Yuschenko’s rise to power was built on promises of rapid economic improvement and measures to root out corruption that permeated Ukraine under his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma. But in September Yuschenko fired his own government in response to allegations of corruption in his inner circle. On the economic front, his government has been blamed for scaring off investors and prompting an increase in food and gas prices. A year ago, the country’s estimated 250,000 to 450,000 Jews, like other Ukrainians, found themselves split between supporters and opponents of the Orange Revolution. Today people from both camps seem to share the disappointment over the lack of achievement in Yuschenko’s first year. Yet some still believe the revolution was the right thing for Ukraine. Reaction in the Jewish community is mixed, said Rabbi Azriel Haikin, one of Ukraine’s three chief rabbis. “Some Jews say it’s too early and we should give the government more time, but others say that the government has no direction,” he said. “It would be wrong to talk about the failure of the Orange Revolution,” said Georgy Tseitlin, a professor from Kiev. It’s quite normal in human history “when a revolution devours its own children,” he added, referring to the failure of Yuschenko’s first Cabinet, which was replaced this fall by a more moderate government of technocrats.

To Yuschenko’s credit, many agree that Ukraine has more free speech and other political freedoms as a result of the Orange Revolution. Some in Washington believe so as well. Over the weekend, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to graduate Ukraine from the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment, a piece of Soviet-era legislation that linked trade with the United States to a country’s willingness to let Jews emigrate. The sour mood of Ukrainians, including Jews, stems from the country’s lack of economic progress. Yuschenko promised to introduce liberal economic reforms, but the country’s economic growth has slowed during his first year in office. The economy has grown by less than 4 percent this year, a drastic decline from last year’s 12 percent growth. “Revolution does not mean changes, but the beginning of changes,” said Aleksandr Pashver, a Jewish economic aide to Yuschenko, though he acknowledged that economic improvement has yet to occur. A government source told JTA on condition of anonymity that the current government “has lost the positive dynamic of the Orange Revolution. There are no deep positive changes, and probably the situation will become even worse” for the Ukrainian economy. U.S. philanthropist George Soros, long a supporter of post-Communist life in Eastern Europe, agreed. “Ukraine faces a very difficult transition from what might be called ‘robber capitalism’ to ‘legitimate capitalism,’ ” Soros said on a visit to Kiev earlier this month. At least the Jewish community feels as safe today as it did before the revolution. “There are no changes for the worse for the Jewish community,” said Mikhail Frenkel, head of the Association of Jewish Media in Ukraine.

But some believe Yuschenko should do more on this front as well. He has made several strongly worded statements against anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitic propaganda continues to emanate from MAUP, a business management school in Kiev that is believed to be the country’s largest private college but which also has become the major purveyor of anti-Semitic ideology and publications in Ukraine. “There is no strong reaction to xenophobia and anti-Semitism in the country,” Haikin said. Despite their disappointment in the results of the revolution, many Jews, like human-rights activist Mila Milner, still prefer Yuschenko to Kuchma. Yet Milner calls the past year “a year of wasted opportunities” for Yuschenko. “He failed to make use of the colossal degree of trust that Ukrainians had put into the Orange team,” she said.
© JTA News

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RUSSIAN MPS ACT TO 'CURB' NGOS

Russia's lower house of parliament has backed in principle a bill that will give the state greater control over non-governmental organisations.

23/11/2005- In a 370-18 vote, the State Duma approved in the first reading the bill that would require all NGOs to re-register with a state commission. The bill's sponsors say the aim is to prevent money laundering and improve financial oversight. NGOs say it will significantly curb their activities. More than 1,000 NGOs have been urging the house to reject the bill. It is clear that the Kremlin is determined to crack down on politically-active NGOs who receive foreign money for fear they might help foment Ukraine's style Orange Revolution in Russia, the BBC's Emma Simpson reports from Moscow. The debate in the Duma comes just months after President Vladimir Putin announced that he would not allow foreign funding of political activities in Russia. Procedurally, the bill will have to go for further readings in the Duma and will require presidential signature to become law. Some 1,300 NGOs on Tuesday issued a statement said the bill "hinders the development of civil society" in Russia. The statement said that the proposed legislation would particularly target human rights organisations. Lawyers for the big foreign groups - like Human Rights Watch - believe international organisations will no longer be able to have branch offices in Russia, our correspondent says. Instead, they would have to register as independent Russian legal entities, a condition that many NGOs will find difficult to meet, she says. But the authors of the bill reject such criticism as unfounded, saying they simply want to extend checks standard for political parties to NGOs. "This is an absolutely fine and an absolutely sane law. All these cries from its opponents have no relation to the actual law because the law does nothing but establish order," MP Andrei Makarov told Reuters news agency. There are about 300,000 NGOs currently operating in Russia.
© BBC News

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RUSSIA: DRAFT LAW WOULD EVISCERATE CIVIL SOCIETY

22/11/2005- Russia’s parliament should reject legislation that would tighten government control over Russian civil society groups and force foreign organizations in Russia to close, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper today. On Wednesday, November 23, the State Duma is scheduled to consider the draft law in first reading. The bill has been sponsored by all four factions in the Duma. If adopted, the law would have far-reaching consequences for Russia’s already severely weakened civil society. It would require all nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to re-register ahead of the upcoming national elections, would prohibit foreign NGOs from operating in the country, and would give the government wide discretion to interfere in the work of Russian NGOs. “This law signals a new chapter in the government’s crackdown on civil society institutions,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Now that the Kremlin has neutralized other checks and balances, NGOs remain among the last independent voices that can criticize the government and demand accountability in Russia.” In the new briefing paper, “Managing Civil Society: Are NGOs Next?” Human Rights Watch analyses how the Kremlin eliminated most independent media, destroyed regional elites as a political force, installed a pliant parliament, and undermined the independence of the judiciary. The draft law comes against the backdrop of these deliberate attempts to dismantle the system of checks and balances to President Vladimir Putin’s power. Although NGOs continued to operate relatively freely when Putin came to power, the government began to systematically harass NGOs that work on issues related to Chechnya after Putin lashed out against NGOs in his 2004 state-of-the-nation speech. Since then, officials have instituted spurious criminal charges against activists, threatened them, sought to close down NGOs or refused to register them, and intimidated victims who have spoken up. The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, for example, has been under sustained attack over the past year. In early November, the Nizhnii Novgorod Department of Justice unsuccessfully sought to close down the organization through the courts. Stanislav Dmitrievsky, the director of the organization, is on trial on charges of inciting hatred for publishing interviews with two Chechen rebel leaders, and faces a five-year prison term if found guilty. The tax inspectorate has claimed 1 million rubles (roughly US$35,000) in back taxes—a claim that the organization is contesting. The working environment for many other NGOs in Russia has deteriorated significantly with officials increasingly launching into angry tirades against them. For example, officials have repeatedly and vehemently attacked the Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers.

“The express purpose of this law is to emasculate the NGO community,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The State Duma should kill the bill.” The bill bars international organizations from having representative or branch offices in Russia. Such groups would have to re-register as local NGOs and be financially independent from their head offices. It would render them ineligible for most sources of foreign funding. The bill also prohibits anyone who is not a permanent resident of Russia from working at an NGO. Among the organizations threatened with closure are international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, think-tanks, foundations, social welfare and humanitarian aid organizations. Moreover, the bill drastically expands government oversight over local NGOs, giving the Justice Department the right to demand any financial and other papers from them at any time. In other countries, such as Uzbekistan, similar strictures have been used to harass NGOs on political grounds. Information from sources in the State Duma indicates that the bill has been fast-tracked. A joint second and third reading could be held on December 9, after which it would go to the Senate for approval. If approved, the bill could become law before the end of the year. “It is deeply worrying that such an important bill be rushed through the Duma without any meaningful public discussion,” said Cartner. “NGOs hardly have the opportunity to carefully consider it and put forward their objections.” Human Rights Watch called on the international community to take urgent steps to stop or, at least, delay passage of this legislation. It should make it clear to President Putin that enactment of this bill would have serious consequences for Russia’s standing in the international arena. “The international community needs to act immediately,” Cartner said. “The short timeline makes it critical that steps are taken now.” In its current form, the legislation violates numerous obligations under international law, including the rights to freedom of expression and association, and provisions prohibiting discrimination.
© Human Rights Watch

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ACTIVISTS SAY NGO BILL WILL VIOLATE FREEDOMS(Russia)

23/11/2005- A bill on nongovernmental organizations going before the State Duma on Wednesday would violate not only the Constitution but also international rights conventions by putting NGOs under state control, rights activists warned a day before the session. The bill would force all NGOs to reregister next year under tighter rules. The bill appears to have a good chance of passing, as it is sponsored by a group of deputies from all four Duma factions. "This situation is the hardest and the most acute in all the 15 years of existence of civil society in Russia," said Yury Dzhibladze, president of the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, at a news conference on Tuesday. The bill would prohibit convicts, suspects in money-laundering or terrorism cases and foreigners who have lived less than one year in Russia from founding NGOs, the bill's sponsors and rights activists have said. It would also prohibit foreign NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, from having branches in Russia, activists said. Thus, it would violate Article 20 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Dzhibladze said.
© The Moscow Times

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THE HIGH COST OF LOW IMMIGRATION(Russia, comment)

20/11/2005- In a multinational, multifaith and unevenly populated country such as Russia, racial and religious intolerance can create a threat to territorial integrity. But more than anything else, such attitudes hurt the national economy. Demographic trends in Russia are very troubling. World Bank data indicate that the population will shrink from 144 million to 119 million by 2050. Raising the retirement age, a remedy being tried in some countries, will not help here, where work is heavy and people do not live that long. Russia clearly needs a steady flow of immigration, or work force shortages will slow economic growth. The World Bank estimates this need at 1 million immigrants per year, close to the figure of 1.1 million reached by the Center for Strategic Research of the Volga Federal District. This is three times the average annual immigration rate for the years 1989-2002. People will not come to Russia in these numbers by themselves: The country must stimulate the inflow through immigration policy. The countries of the former Soviet Union should be a natural source for Russia: They share a common language, similar educational standards and the experience of living together as one country. But Russia is not using these advantages. Draconian citizenship and migration laws, developed under the leadership of presidential adviser Viktor Ivanov, are a definite policy mistake. Strict procedures, bureaucratic red tape and corruption do not simply make the lives of potential immigrants more difficult, they drive them into the criminal-controlled, non-taxpaying gray economy. Lack of housing and labor market information plus the onerous institution of registration also hinder migration from depressed regions of Russia to faster-developing ones. The end result is that immigration flow is not simply decreasing, but a "negative selection" is at work: Qualified, educated and more easily assimilated residents of neighboring countries do not want to put up with the inhuman conditions in Russia, so they go elsewhere. Certain politicians are making the situation worse by playing on latent nationalism and fears of an immigrant rebellion like the one in France. These nationalists are distorting the French situation for their own ends. The uprising there was caused by high unemployment among immigrants and their isolation from the rest of society. Having a job, and especially being able to own a business -- these are the key factors in integrating immigrants into a host society. In Russia, lack of work is not a danger for immigrants. Why then are the Russian authorities so slow to correct their immigration policy and so reluctant to set strong sanctions against nationalist appeals? Their delay has a very high price.

This comment first appeared in longer form as an editorial in Vedomosti.
© The Moscow Times

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MASS PETITIONS BLOCK MOSQUE CONSTRUCTION IN RUSSIAN TOWN

22/11/2005- Mobilized by the local diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), thousands of residents of Maloyaroslavets (Kaluga region) have written the mayor's office in a successful bid to halt the planned construction of a mosque, according to a November 17, 2005 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. The local mayor says he has received between 5,000-10,000 letters of protest, along with collective letters from local factories, hospitals and even hair salons. “Half of our guys have gone through Chechnya,” the Mayor Vladimir Pechenkin explained. “People don't get drafted too often in Moscow, more and more [draftees] are from the provinces! And people fear mosques. They fear that the city will be filled with people from the Caucasus.” Showing a strong disregard for the law, the mayor said: “On the one hand, we have a law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations, but on the other hand we are obligated to listen to the opinions of our city residents.” He went on to express satisfaction with the fact that the construction has stopped. The local ROC diocese led the charge against the mosque construction. A local priest, Father Igor, was quoted as saying that Islam had become “aggressive” in recent years and quoted a Russian Islamic extremist (former “Pamyat” activist Geidar Dzhemal) as saying that: “In 50 years, the Islamic factor will dominate [Russia].” Pointing out that Orthodox attempts to build a church in Saudi Arabia would be blocked by the local population there, Father Igor asked rhetorically, “Are we somehow worse than the Arabs?” A local ROC parishioner was even more strident in denouncing the mosque construction, saying that: “Maloyaroslavets is a Russian city, the people here live in an Orthodox way, and it's up to us to decide which temples can be built and which cannot!”
Ironically, the Muslims who want to build the mosque are not primarily migrants from the Caucasus, but rather the local 900-strong Tatar community, which traces its roots in the city back to 1922. “We even have a Tatar cemetery here,” a local Tatar activist explained, adding that a decorated World War Two hero serves as the community's mullah, and a Tatar businessman born in the city is the primary sponsor. “We don't have any Wahhabis here! We even keep in touch with the FSB. They come to us regularly.” Therefore, he is amazed at the scope of the opposition: “We would understand it if migrants wanted to build a mosque… I never though that the Orthodox would go to such extremes. These leaflets and proclamations. Firecrackers have been thrown into our yard.” Local Pentecostals, who themselves often face demonization in other parts of Russia, tried to take a middle ground. One of their leaders was quoted as saying that a mosque should be built, but not near the entrance to the city, as originally planned.
© FSU Monitor

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GROWTH OF ISLAM IN RUSSIA BRINGS SOVIET RESPONSE

22/11/2005- Security officials here in Karachayevo-Cherkessia, a restive republic on Russia's mountainous southern border, have a secret list of people who are kept under scrutiny. Those on it have committed no crimes, but are considered suspect because they are Muslims who practice Islam outside of the state's sanctioned mosques. Ovod Golayev is on that list. He lives in Karachayevsk, a city nestled in the foothills of the Caucasus, where he works for a tourism company that organizes skiing and hiking excursions. He wears his hair and beard long. He prays five times a day. He fasts during Ramadan, which is unusual here. In recent weeks, he said, the police have detained him four times, twice in one day. Mr. Golayev, 36, said the Islam he observes is opposed to violence, but he warned that the mistreatment of believers was driving men like him to desperation. "They will pressure me enough," he said, "and then I will blow somebody's head off." Here in the northern Caucasus, and across all of Russia, Islamic faith is on the rise. So is Islamic militancy, and fear of such militancy, leading to tensions like those felt in Europe, where a flow of immigrants from the Muslim world is straining relations with liberal, secular societies. And so the government has recreated the Soviet-era system of control over religion with the Muslim Spiritual Department, which oversees the appointment of Islamic leaders. But the Muslims of Russia are not immigrants and outsiders; they are typically the indigenous people of their regions. "These are Russian citizens, and they have no other motherland," President Vladimir V. Putin said in August, when he met with King Abdullah of Jordan.

In Russia, the struggle over Islam's place is not seen as a question of whether to integrate Muslims into society, but whether the country itself can remain whole. The separatist conflict in Chechnya, more than a decade old, has taken on an Islamic hue. And it is spilling beyond Chechnya's borders in the Caucasus, where Islam has become a rallying force against corruption, brutality and poverty. On the morning of Oct. 13, scores of men took up arms in Nalchik, the capital of the neighboring republic, Kabardino-Balkariya. They were mostly driven, relatives said, by harassment against men with beards and women with head scarves, and by the closing of six mosques in the city. In two days at least 138 people were killed. In Dagestan and Ingushetia, militants have been blamed for unending bombings and killings. Followers of a Chechen terrorist leader, Shamil Basayev, have claimed responsibility for the deadliest attacks, including the one in Nalchik, and before that a similar raid in Ingushetia and the school siege in Beslan in September 2004. In Beslan, 331 people were killed, 186 of them children. All have been part of Mr. Basayev's declared goal to establish an Islamic caliphate, uniting the northern Caucasus in secession from Russia. That goal has little popular support in the region's other predominantly Muslim republics, but discontent is spreading as the government cracks down. Not all involved in the attacks are hardened fighters of Chechnya's wars. More and more oppose the hard-line stands that the Kremlin takes against anyone who challenges its central authority.

In places like Nalchik and here in Karachayevo-Cherkessia, "official" muftis and imams have themselves been accused of acting to preserve their own status by tolerating the Kremlin's efforts to repress anyone practicing a "purer" form of Islam. Larisa Dorogova, a lawyer in Nalchik whose nephew Musa was among those killed in the fighting, said Muslims had appealed to the authorities, both religious and secular, to end the abuse of believers, only to be ignored. "If they had listened to the letters we wrote - from 400 people, from 1,000 - maybe this would not have happened," she said. Officials have denounced those who took up arms in Nalchik with the same broad brush they have used to describe Mr. Basayev's forces. Mr. Putin linked the Nalchik uprising to international terrorists, whom he called "animals in human guise." But in the Caucasus, where Islamic-inspired violence has killed far more people than terrorists have in Western Europe, the prevailing view is quite different. "They were all good guys," Ms. Dorogova said of Nalchik's fighters. The paradox of Islam in today's Russia is that Muslims have never been freer. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of its repression of all faiths led to an Islamic revival in the past 14 years. Islam is officially recognized as one of Russia's four principal religions, along with Orthodox Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism. Russia has applied to join the Organization of Islamic States.

The number of Muslims is estimated at 14 million to 23 million, 10 percent to 16 percent of Russia's population. They are spread across the country but congregate in several Muslim-majority republics. Thousands of mosques have been rebuilt and reopened, as have madrasas, including one here in Cherkessk, where 66 young men and women learn the fundamentals of their faith. Among their teachers are four Egyptians. "We could pray on Red Square and no one would care," the imam of Cherkessk's mosque, Kazim Katchiyev, said after evening prayers recently. This tolerance, however, has been strained. Believers outside of the state's Muslim departments are increasingly viewed with suspicion because of the radicalization of Chechnya and other republics. They are denounced as Wahhabis, followers of the puritanical sect from Saudi Arabia, a word that has become Russian shorthand for any Islamic militant. There has also been a violent backlash. On Oct. 14, for example, a group of young men ransacked a prayer house in Sergiyev Posad, near Moscow, badly beating an imam. They shouted, "There is no place for Muslims in Russia," according to the Council of Muftis, which represents the spiritual departments in Russia. Mufti Ravil Gainutdin, the council's chairman, said the government needed to do more, complaining that state television routinely depicted Muslims collectively as radicals waging holy war against Russia, rather than as members of Russian society.

"If we educate Muslim children to be rebel fighters, ready to do battle, and meanwhile teach Russians to be against Muslims, then we do not have the right policy," he said. "And so the leadership of this country, the government, must see this and respond to this."
He warned that government policy in the Caucasus, and its failure to overcome deep social and economic problems, was pushing some to seek refuge in what he considers improperly radicalize forms of Islam. "If people see social injustice, corruption in the authorities, the unfair assumption of wealth among some and the impoverishment of others, then that is a cause of unhappiness, of a radicalization of moods, of something that leads to conflict and revolution." In Nalchik, many Muslims blamed the republic's former president, Valery Kokov, for the seething tensions that exploded in violence last month. His Interior Ministry had responded harshly against those who observed Islamic rituals. Arbitrary arrests and beatings were common. Many of those killed in Nalchik were not hardened fighters, but local residents acting out of what appeared to be desperation. Many were not armed, according to officials, but were hoping to seize weapons from police stations. Among the dead was Kazbulat B. Kerefov, 25, a lawyer and former police officer. His parents, Betal and Fatima, refused to believe he was a militant, but like many there understood what set off the attack. "It was not a terrorist act," Betal Kerefov said in an interview in the family's apartment. "It was a revolt." Ali Pshigotyzhev, 55, worked as an announcer on state radio for 30 years until he was dismissed, he said, for praying. His son, Zaur, was arrested on Oct. 29 in a wave of detentions that followed the fighting. Mr. Pshigotyzhev accused the local imams in effect of endorsing the repressions, for fear of losing their status. "People were patient in this republic, but patience has its limits," he said in Nalchik's only mosque. "And a tragedy occurred. And it is only the beginning of the tragedy." Such sentiments are what the authorities fear most. Mustafa Batdiyev, the president of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, said his region openly supported Islam. A businessman, he paid for the construction of a mosque in his native village. The republic pays for people to make pilgrimages to Mecca. The last day of Ramadan is a holiday in the republic. But Chechnya's separatists, he said, had hijacked Islam to wrest control of the Caucasus from Russia, instilling an insidious version that is not widely accepted among the region's comparatively secular Muslims. Rebel leaders like Mr. Basayev, he added, were actively recruiting militants across the region, including in his republic, justifying the compilation of the list of suspects. The people on the list "have not yet broken any Russian laws, so no measures, no force have been used against them," he said. "But we have talked and are talking to the population and explaining about them, so as to warn any of their possible supporters and to deny them the opportunity to attract more of our young people to their ranks." He added, "We cannot accept and cannot agree with the way these people worship." In May, security officials raided an apartment here in Cherkessk, killing six people accused of terrorism. Five were local residents. Among the dead were two women, one eight months pregnant, according to Mukhammat Budai, a neighbor of the woman's mother. Mr. Batdiyev said the raid had disrupted a plan to seize a school, as happened in Beslan, but evidence was never detailed. A similar case happened in February, in Karachayevsk, the city in the foothills where Mr. Golayev lives under scrutiny and suspicion. He adopted Islam after serving in the Soviet Army in East Germany. The authorities, he said, fear Islam because they fear the discipline it demands, the defiance it offers in a corrupted society. "Who needs a person who does not drink, who does not smoke, who has freedom?" he said of the official attitude. "If I am lying drunk on the ground, I am easier to control."
© Rusnet

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COOL WELCOME FOR MESKHETIANS(Georgia)

Muslims exiled by Stalin are to be legally entitled to go back at last, but convincing many Georgians this is a good idea is likely to be a difficult task.
By Fati Mamiashvili in Tbilisi

23/11/2005- After almost six years of wrangling with the Council of Europe, Georgia is finally taking steps to allow the Muslim Meskhetians to return home after a 60-year exile. However, convincing Georgians to welcome back the community – deported by Stalin towards the end of the Second World War – will prove difficult. Many local people are suspicious of what they regard as an alien group who will not be easily assimilated. There is also the more pragmatic consideration of absorbing extra immigrants for a state already beset by numerous economic and social problems. Making provision for the Meskhetians is a condition of Georgia’s membership of the Council of Europe, CoE, since it joined in 1999. In March 2005, the CoE issued a statement urging the government to comply with the request. But although the government is clearly keen to keep its promises to the CoE, many Georgians think it has gone too far in bending to the pressure on the Meskhetian issue. In line with the CoE’s minorities programme, by the end of this year, Georgia will complete preparations to enable tens of thousands of descendants of Meskhetians to return to their motherland, if they want.

One of Stalin's "punished peoples"
The deported Muslim group used to live in the Meskheti area of southern Georgia, now the Samtskhe-Javakheti administrative region. They are also known as Meskhetian Turks, as there is some dispute about whether the majority are basically Turkish or Georgian in origin. Stalin took against them, as he did with many ethnic groups across the Soviet Union. In this instance it was probably because the tide of the Second World War had turned in his favour, allowing him to consider aggressive action towards Turkey, and suggesting a need to clear away possible Turkish sympathisers. Most of the deportations took place on the night of November 14, 1944. Almost the entire population of Meskhetian Muslims was rounded up and packed on to freight trains by security forces. By dawn, more than 92,000 people had gone, bound for a harsh life of exile in Central Asia. Historian Marat Baratashvili, who runs a group called the Union of Meskhetian Repatriates, recalls, “My father Latipsha Baratishvili, a village teacher, helped his fellow villagers on the night of the deportation, because he thought he was carrying out [Communist] party orders. But then he was put into one of the railcars himself along with his Christian wife.” The Meskhetians are thought to be the last of the peoples deported wholesale by Stalin to be given the right to return to their motherland. The Chechens, Ingush, Karachay and Balkar of the North Caucasus and the Kalmyks of southern Russia were allowed back after the dictator’s death in 1953; the Crimean Tatars and Volga Germans were permitted to leave Central Asia only in the latter years of the Soviet Union – the former going home to Ukraine and many of the latter emigrating to Germany.

Implementing the repatriation plan
As a condition of its membership of the CoE, which it joined in 1999, Georgia is required to facilitate the return of the Meskhetians by 2011. Teimuraz Lomsadze, an adviser to the Ministry of Conflict Regulation who is working closely with the CoE minorities committee for protecting ethnic minorities, told IWPR that the repatriation will start next year. Last month, a government commission headed by the minister of conflict regulation, Georgi Khaindrava, travelled to the Central Asian republics to assess the possible scale of repatriation. Accommodating tens of thousands of new settlers - no one really knows how many will opt to come - will be extremely hard for a country whose economy is weak, and which has already received tens of thousands of refugees as a result of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “It is a complicated process,” admitted Lomsadze. “But the biggest problem is money. We are hoping for aid from the governments of various countries, from international organisations, and from the state budget.” The repatriation will be made possible by a law which is currently being drafted and which according to Khaindrava will come into force in 2006. In its statement earlier this year, the CoE’s Parliamentary Assembly noted that the law was supposed to have been adopted two years after Georgia joined the international body in 1999. The first task for the authorities is to establish how many people are likely to come. Khaindrava’s Central Asian trip in mid-October was intended to inform a more accurate assessment of the numbers involved. According to a 2004 report from the European Centre for Minorities, ECMI, most of the diaspora live in Kazakstan – up to 100,000 people – and Azerbaijan, which may have as many as 110,000. In addition, there are up to 30,000 in Kyrgyzstan, and perhaps 15,000 in Uzbekistan, and 5,000-10,000 in Ukraine. Most of the once large community in Uzbekistan left after ethnic violence there in 1989, and moved to Russia, Azerbaijan or other countries. A further group, estimated at more than 25,000, now lives in Turkey, which they are unlikely to want to leave. Khaindrava’s team talked to Meskhetians in Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and examined files on deported individuals, which are held in the state archives of these countries. “In the Bishkek archive alone there are up to 75,000 personal files relating to various deported nations,” said Lomsadze. “And then we will have to compare all the information there with what we find in the Georgian archives. We have to prevent a situation where people unrelated to the Meskhetian Muslims decide to come to our country.”

After the trip, Khaindrava concluded, “Our overall impression is that the descendants of the deported Meskhetians know almost nothing about Georgia. But most of them want the right to live in their motherland.” At home, the government is now planning the practical steps that will make repatriation possible. Two centres will be opened in west and east Georgia where the families of returning Meskhetians will stay for at least three months, learning about the country’s culture and history and studying the language. The foreign ministry is already talking to the European Union about funds for this part of the programme. Then the authorities will need to identify the areas where the returnees are to be settled, allocate land to them and provide jobs or pensions. They may also open bilingual schools where teaching will be conducted in Georgian and Turkish. Another area that the government plans to address is encouraging public opinion to be more receptive, and that is likely to prove an uphill task. Apart from natural concerns about providing for the incomers, the Meskhetian issue is highly emotive. “Mass repatriation of the Muslim community is dangerous because the majority of them have no intention of identifying themselves as Georgians,” Nodar Natadze, leader of the nationalist Popular Front party, told a press conference in August. “They want to come here and live as Turks.” The majority of people whom IWPR asked for their opinion of the repatriation programme expressed doubt and in some cases outright hostility to the issue. “Settle the Meskhetian Turks in Georgia on a large scale? Tbilisi is already overflowing with refugees from Samachablo [South Ossetia] and Abkhazia,” said Tbilisi resident David Gachechiladze. “Let Georgians living abroad come back! Why bring in Muslims who differ from us in every way?” At the same time, Gachechiladze said he feels “sincerely sorry for this unhappy people”. In the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, some local people harked back to the ethnically-tinged conflicts in the southern Caucasus that followed the 1917 Russian Revolution. Local Georgians told stories of Muslim attacks on Christian villagers in 1918-19 to justify their present hostility. By contrast, Baratashvili insists that “in days gone by, there were absolutely normal, good-neighbourly relations with the Meskhetian Muslims, so their return does not pose the slightest danger to anyone. In actual fact the danger comes from possible provocations and the political games played by bigger countries”.

Immigration a mixed success to date
Baratashvili is one of the small number of Meskhetians who quietly settled in Georgia before there was any talk of repatriation. His Union of Meskhetian Repatriates collects information on the approximately 600 returnees now living in various parts of Georgia. Such groups as have returned have settled in Samtskhe-Javakheti and other areas. Baratashvili ended up in the capital Tbilisi after finding life untenable in Akhaltsikhe, the main town of Samtskhe-Javakheti, in the Eighties. Others have clustered together in newly-built hamlets in various parts of the country. IWPR reported the difficulties facing one such community in 2003 in a report entitled Meskhetians Make a New Life in Georgia. Many of these people talk of the discrimination they faced when they tried to settle in Georgia. Gular Khutsishvili, who brought his family to live in Akhaltsikhe a few years ago, told IWPR, “At first they really persecuted us. They threw stones at our windows and shouted, ‘Get out of here, Tatars!’ “We had small children and they were really scared. But gradually everything calmed down and now everything’s alright.” Gular’s relative Mamuka Khutsishvili, who moved to Akhaltsikhe in 1997, considers himself a Georgian and sends his children to a Georgian school, but his neighbours still call him a Turk. “I am a Georgian, but other people find this hard to accept,” he said. “When they call us Meskhetian Turks, they don’t understand that it’s very offensive.” Some Georgians cite a difficult relationship with the existing settlers as an argument for preventing more from coming. Lali Kopaliani lives next to the Meskhetian-inhabited village of Akhali Ianeti in the west Georgian province of Imereti, and regards her neighbours as too different to be assimilated easily. “The only thing they have is Georgian surnames,” she said. “We live by different rules and we have a different religion. I don’t want the number of mixed families to grow. What will the Georgian people turn into?”

Location a key factor
Right now it is unclear where the government plans to put the repatriated Meskhetians – either in Samtskhe-Javakheti region alone, or spread across Georgia. The government appears to have opted for the second of these options. “The question we heard most often during our visit to Central Asia was whether they would be resettled in Meskhetia itself,” said Khaindrava. “These people have experienced many misfortunes and humiliations, they were forced to resettle outside Georgia, and it is our duty to return them to their historical homeland. “However, for those to whom Georgia is dear, as it is to all Georgians, the motherland is the whole country, not just one part of it. So the repatriates will be put wherever it is possible.” Baratashvili counters this proposal by quoting the Georgian constitution, which says every citizen has the right to live where he or she wants.

How many will actually come?
In reality, it is unlikely that anything like the entire diaspora will want to return. The estimated 18,000 Meskhetians living in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region might be keen to move as they have been given a hard time by unwelcoming local authorities. But around 2,000 have already been allowed to settle in the United States, and there is talk of granting US residence to virtually the whole group in the next year. A second group - the 100,000 or so in Azerbaijan - have found it easy to assimilate into the local population as they are close in language, culture and religion. Ibrahim Burkhanov, the local leader of Vatan, a Meskhetian association, said on November 15 that repatriation was now a realistic prospect given the positions of the Georgian government and CoE. But it is unclear how many of the Azerbaijani community will opt to exercise this right. After his Central Asian trip, Khaindrava said that “in Kazakhstan, for example, they have a good life - they live peacefully and have their own smallholdings. Judging from our meetings with them, probably not more than 20 or 25 per cent will want to come to Georgia”. Members of the investigating commission would not be drawn on precise figures, but they believe that many of those who decide to come back will be the poor, and the elderly people who still remember the country. Although Khaindrava suggested that about 30 per cent of the Meskhetians abroad might return, it was unclear what figure he was using as a total. “It will all become clear once we have looked at individual cases in the archives in Central Asia,” said Lomsadze. “We need several months just to do that.”
© Institute for War & Peace Reporting

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POISONED SECURITY(Kosovo)

The people who run Kosovo are starting to heed mounting evidence of severe lead contamination in Romani refugee camps.

24/11/2004- Heedless of the admonition “Warning, dangerous chemicals” posted nearby, four-year-old Sebastian Hajrizi and his younger brother Luan play in the mud just a few meters outside the shack in which they live. This is the Zitkovac camp for people made homeless by the Kosovo conflict in 1999, a camp created near a disused lead mine and a site that has been the two children’s home all their lives. However, after six years, calls for the Roma people living in Trepca in northern Kosovo to be moved to better housing may finally be gathering pace. Activists have for several years asserted that camp residents are being poisoned and dying from lead in the ground, water, and air of the camps. Now, Kosovo's UN administrators and elected government have finally promised to re-house the camp dwellers. About 560 people in 125 families live in Zitkovac and two other nearby camps, Kablare and Cesmin Lug, on the northern outskirts of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica. The UN refugee agency UNHCR established the camps after NATO troops entered Kosovo in 1999, in urgent need to house some of the people fleeing the Romani neighborhood, or mahala, in the predominantly Albanian southern part of Mitrovica. Activists speaking for the local Roma claim the mahala, where some 7,000 people lived, was torched under the eyes of NATO troops. At the time hundreds of thousands of Serbs and Roma were fleeing the province as Serbian troops and paramilitaries withdrew. The return of the Roma has been hampered by the international community's focus on the tense relations between the Albanian and Serbian communities in the province.

The Roma may now become the beneficiaries of the increasingly urgent need of UNMIK and Kosovo's elected government to place Kosovo's transition process in a good light as talks on the province's future begin. UNMIK spokesperson Neeraj Singh said in early October that the 100 days would see a vigorous effort to improve the situation in the camps. Discussions about Kosovo’s final status began this week. “An urgent health mitigation program is underway in the camps to improve sanitation and provide milk and food, as well as blood testing, medical treatment, and health education,” Singh said. Activists say that adults in the three camps show signs of lead poisoning, including chronic fatigue, depression, heart problems, and hypertension, and children show signs of neurological disorders and attention deficit problems as well. According to the World Health Organization, children up to the age of six are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning because of the metal's ability to damage organs in the primary stages of growth and development. The death last year of a four-year-old girl, Gjenita Mehmeti, was said by doctors to have been linked to lead exposure. Nor have the suspected victims all been young children. A 26-year-old man, Vehbi Selimi, died earlier this year in the Kablare camp. Before he died, tests showed a very high level of lead in his blood.

Wheels start to turn
The plight of the camp dwellers rose higher on the agenda in the space of just a few days in October. The German government stepped in with a promise of 500,000 euros for the relocation of Roma from the three camps. In a statement released on 12 October, the UN Secretary General's special representative in Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen, thanked Germany and went on to describe the situation in the camps as one of the worst humanitarian problems in the Western Balkans. “The living conditions experienced by the Roma families in those camps are an affront to human dignity,” he said. Jessen-Petersen's words came just as the UN gave the long-awaited green light for talks on Kosovo's future to begin. UN special envoy Kai Eide's report said that Kosovo had made sufficient progress on meeting political, economic, and human rights standards for talks to begin among negotiators from Kosovo, Serbia, and the international community, despite the continued poor relations among ethnic groups in the province. Eide said the picture for the Serbian and Romani minorities was grim. “Regrettably, little has been achieved to create a foundation for a multiethnic society," he wrote. Eide called the continued existence of the Mitrovica camps a disgrace for the provincial government structures and the international community. Although some money is flowing in the direction of the camp dwellers, still unanswered are questions about when they can leave the camps, and where will they go. Jessen-Petersen said that the German contribution brings the total amount of money donated to fund the relocation of the camps to half of the 1.3 million euros needed. UNMIK spokesman Singh said that talks will begin soon with the Roma in the camps on "voluntary relocation" to a new site. However, he would give no details. The signs are the camp residents have some time to wait before they can go back home to the mahala. In April, the international caretakers of Kosovo and the Mitrovica municipal authorities agreed in principle that the Roma refugees should return to their former neighborhood in Mitrovica. They did not put a time frame on the returns. An optimistic prediction is next summer, according to the website of Get the Lead Out, an umbrella group of civil society groups working with the Roma in the camps.

The prime issue
Paul Polansky, a poet and Roma-rights activist, says UNHCR officials told him six years ago the camps would be used for a month or at most a month and a half. “I told them not to build the camps near the mine and smelter, but they wouldn't listen,” he recalls. The claims of lead poisoning in the camps made by Polansky's Kosovo Roma Refugee Foundation, the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center, and Amnesty International are backed by Rohko Kim, author of a World Health Organization report on lead contamination in the camps. When blood tests were carried out on camp residents, two children registered a level of 65 micrograms per deciliter of blood, so high they had to be hospitalized, Kim wrote. Four other children also had extremely high levels of lead, and one pregnant woman had a level of 40 micrograms. Kim's report stated that he had never seen such high levels referred to in the professional literature and that the lead contamination in the Mitrovica camps represented one of the worst cases of environmental poisoning on record. The UNHCR, however, disputes the linkage between lead and the poor health of the camp residents. “According to the information we have received, there are no specific numbers on illnesses and deaths clearly linked to the lead contamination," UNHCR spokeswoman Myrna Flood says. "Some Roma have died due to chronic bronchitis for example, but the medical services cannot say it was, in fact, due to lead contamination," she says. The agency's "prime issue" when building the camps six years ago was the security of the displaced people, she says. "UNHCR could not place them in an area where they might be at risk.” In May, UNMIK and Kosovo government officials briefed the missions of the United States, Britain, France, Germany and other potential donors to the slow-moving project of rebuilding the mahala. Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi pledged 200,000 euros, and Jessen-Petersen promised that UNMIK would "more than match" that amount. But even if UNMIK chips in with a million euros, the donor community will be left to fill a very big hole in the budget. The coordinator of the Kosovo government's efforts to meet international standards, Avni Arifi, says rebuilding the Romani neighborhood could cost eight million euros.
© Transitions Online

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FLEMISH INTEREST DENIES CALL FOR FOREIGN WORKERS(Belgium)

24/11/2005- The extreme-right Flemish Interest refuted media reports on Thursday that it was appealing for foreign workers to fill unwanted jobs in Belgium. Party chairman Frank Vanhecke and party spokesman Joris Van Hauthem said the claims were "as wrong as lying", newspaper 'De Tijd' reported on Thursday. Belgian media earlier reported that a new party leaflet indicated the Flemish Interest was in favour of allowing foreign workers from non-EU countries to immigrate to Belgium. This was despite the fact party leaders were planning to visit Morocco next month in an attempt to reduce the inflow of Moroccans into Belgium. The Flemish Interest will hold on Saturday an economic congress called 'Enterprising Flanders'. However, it is not the party's long-awaited social-economic congress. Debate will not be held over the party's social policies. However, the party's social policies can be found in three brochures that Flemish Interest MPs Koen Bultinck and Guy D'Haeseleer presented last month. In one of the brochures, called 'Aging and the Labour Market', a proposal to allow foreign workers to immigrate into Belgium from non-EU countries can be found. "It is possible that in the long-term, non-EU nationals could help fill 'troublesome job vacancies," the brochure said. These vacancies are jobs that prove difficult to fill because there are no or insufficient candidate employees. This is often because the jobs have unfavourable workplace conditions. Flemish workers are not willing to take them on or do not have the right qualifications. The Flemish employment agency VDAB said there are thousands of such job vacancies, newspaper 'De Morgen' reported. It was not certain what nationalities the Flemish Interest — long associated with its anti-immigrant stance — had in mind for its foreign workers policy. But the brochure said foreign workers would have to undergo a Dutch-language exam in their country of origin. They would also be tested on trade skills and awareness of Flemish culture before being allowed into Belgium. "People with a criminal record or political extremists are not welcome," the brochure added. However, the Flemish Interest later stressed that its stance on foreign workers remained unchanged. It said the brochure only contained several conditions which would make it possible in future for highly educated foreign workers to temporarily stay in Belgium.
© Expatica News

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FLEMISH INTEREST CALLS FOR FOREIGN WORKERS (Belgium)

24/11/2005- Party leaders with the extreme-right Flemish Interest plan to visit Morocco next month in an attempt to reduce the immigration of Moroccans to Belgium. However, a different message is being pushed in a new party leaflet, in which the Flemish Interest says the immigration of foreign workers from non-EU countries into Belgium should be allowed. The party will organise on Saturday an economic congress called 'Enterprising Flanders'. However, it is not the party's long-awaited social-economic congress. Debate will not be held then over the party's social policies. However, the party's social policies can be found in three brochures that Flemish Interest MPs Koen Bultinck and Guy D'Haeseleer presented last month. In one of the brochures, called 'Aging and the Labour Market', a proposal to allow foreign workers to immigrate into Belgium from non-EU countries can be found. "It is possible that in the long-term, non-EU nationals could help fill 'troublesome job vacancies," the brochure said. These vacancies are jobs that prove difficult to fill because there are no or insufficient candidate employees. This is often because the jobs have unfavourable workplace conditions. Flemish workers are thus not willing to take them on or do not have the right qualifications. The Flemish employment agency VDAB said there are thousands of such job vacancies, newspaper 'De Morgen' reported on Thursday. Meanwhile, it is not certain what nationalities the Flemish Interest — long associated with its anti-immigrant stance — has in mind for its foreign workers policy. And while it remains opposed to immigration in principle, the party said the foreign workers would have to undergo a Dutch-language exam in their country of origin. They would also be tested on trade skills and awareness of Flemish culture before being allowed into Belgium. "People with a criminal record or political extremists are not welcome," the party brochure added.
© Expatica News

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RACE HATE COMPLAINT AGAINST DEWINTER(Belgium)

22/11/2005- Multicultural youth organisation Kif Kaf and the anti-racism group MRAX have lodged a complaint against extreme-right Flemish Interest leader Filip Dewinter. The complaint is in response to Dewinter's comment in a recent interview with the US daily newspaper 'Jewish Week' that the Flemish Interest is an "Islam phobic" party. The Dutch-language Kif Kaf and Francophone MRAX have requested the public prosecutor press charges against Dewinter for inciting race hate, newspaper 'De Tijd' reported on Tuesday. Both organisations are demanding Dewinter be deprived of his parliamentary immunity. They also said the Flemish Interest should lose its public subsidies. Dewinter made his comments in the US newspaper on 28 October. Upon questioning why Jews should vote for a xenophobic party, Dewinter denied the assertion the Flemish Interest was xenophobic. Instead, he said if the party had to be described as having a phobia, he said the party should be known as having "islamophobia". "Yes, we're afraid of Islam. The Islamisation of Europe is a frightening thing. If this historical process continues, the Jews will be the first victims. Europe will become as dangerous for them as Egypt or Algeria," Dewinter said. "So, I return your question. Should Jews vote for a party that wants to stop the spread of Islam in Europe?"
© Expatica News

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CALL TO LET LONG-TERM ASYLUM SEEKERS STAY AMID REFORMS(Belgium)

22/11/2005- Asylum seekers who have been waiting for years for Belgian residence status should not be deported, Socialist PS leader Elio Di Rupo has said. The statement was an important signal on the eve of a federal government debate on reforming the nation's asylum procedures. "It is inhumane to order deportations if the decision to refuse [residence] comes years after the application for asylum," Di Rupo said. Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has refused to grant a general amnesty for everyone who has been waiting long-term for their application for asylum to be processed. Some of these people are still being deported. However, whoever wants to avoid being repatriated has a chance of staying if they lodge an individual request for official residence status, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Tuesday. The Francophone Di Rupo is otherwise in agreement with Flemish Liberal VLD Minister Dewael and his plans to reform asylum procedures. Flemish refugee lobby group Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, Amnesty International and the Minderhedenforum (Minorities Forum) have backed Dewael's plans. However, they were highly critical of plans to make conditions for granting asylum stricter. The government wants to reduce the number of asylum seekers entering Belgium. "For several years, we had 40,000 applications for asylum, now there are 15,000, but that is still unacceptably high for the minister," Vluchtelingenwerk
director Pieter De Gryse said. "He thinks that Belgium must be just as unattractive as neighbouring countries and is placing investigations [of applications] in danger with his asylum [procedure] reforms."
© Expatica News

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MULTICULTURALISM HAS BETRAYED THE ENGLISH, ARCHBISHOP SAYS

St George's Day should be celebrated and the English should reclaim their national identity and culture, Dr John Sentamu says, a week before his enthronement in York

22/11/2005- Britain's first black Archbishop has made a powerful attack on multiculturalism, urging English people to reclaim their national identity. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said that too many people were embarrassed about being English. “Multiculturalism has seemed to imply, wrongly for me, let other cultures be allowed to express themselves but do not let the majority culture at all tell us its glories, its struggles, its joys, its pains,” he said. He said that the failure of England to rediscover its culture afresh would lead only to greater political extremism. The new Archbishop also strongly criticised the Terrorism Bill, showing that he is likely to be even more robust in his criticism of the Government than the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Dr Sentamu has consistently denied speculation that his was a political appointment and, as a former judge in Uganda, his attack on counter-terrorism legislation carries particular weight. “The moment you make your laws so tough, even the most law abiding will say, this is a chance to break them,” Dr Sentamu said. He called for the English to rediscover their cultural identity by properly marking celebrations such as St George’s Day on April 23. “I speak as a foreigner really. The English are somehow embarrassed about some of the good things they have done. They have done some terrible things but not all the Empire was a bad idea. Because the Empire has gone there is almost the sense in which there is not a big idea that drives this nation.”

The Ugandan-born Archbishop, who fled Idi Amin’s regime in 1974, said he would not be where he was today were it not for the British Empire and the English teachers and missionaries who worked in Africa. Dr Sentamu was speaking to The Times before his enthronement as the Church’s new No 2 at York Minster on November 30. As the most senior black churchman, who during his time as a bishop in London acted as an adviser to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry that found institutional racism in the police, he received racist and abusive letters, some covered in human excrement, after his appointment was announced earlier this year. But as a direct product himself of the British Empire, he intends to make mission and a passion for English culture, and the Christian roots of that culture, driving forces of the next decade or more that he will spend as primate of England’s northern province. “What is it to be English? It is a very serious question,” he said. “I think we have not engaged with English culture as it has developed. When you ask a lot of people in this country, ‘What is English culture?’, they are very vague. It is a culture that whether we like it or not has given us parliamentary democracy. It is the mother of it. It is the mother of arguing that if you want a change of government, you vote them in or you vote them out. “It is a place that has allowed reason to be at the heart of all these things, that has allowed genuine dissent without resort to violence, that has allowed all the fantastic music that we experience in our culture.” Multiculturalism as a concept failed to convey the essence of what it meant to be English. “England is the culture I have lived in, I have loved . . . My teachers were English. As a boy growing up, that is the culture I knew.” He disliked the word “tolerance” when used in reference, for example, to people of different cultures. “It seems to be the word tolerance is bad because it just means putting up with it,” he said. “I was raised in the spirit of magnanimity. That is a better word than tolerance. If you are magnanimous in your judgments on other people, there is a chance that I will recognise that you will help me in my struggle.” He described English culture as rooted in Christianity and, in spite of attempts by secularists to marginalise it, the Church still had a central role to play. “I think the Church in many ways has to be like a midwife, bringing to birth possibilities of what is authentically very good in the English mind.”

He will work closely with Dr Williams, and disclosed the precise nature of that relationship. “We come from a similar stable,” he said. “He is my Moses. I have chosen in that analogy to try and be a Jethro to him. Jethro was Moses’s father-in-law who was always very practical, making suggestions. In the end it was Moses who had to put them out [into practice]. “People say to me, ‘are you going to play second fiddle to the Archbishop of Canterbury?’ That is not helpful. This is going to be a partnership.” Referring to Dr Williams’s “incredible gifts of intellect” and deep spiritual life, he described him as “a person of prayer and a person who listens to God, a person who wants to be magnanimous about everybody, which some people don’t like. He is a Welshman, I know, but still his behaviour is the kind of tradition I was raised in.” A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed Dr Sentamu’s comments. He said: “I’m only embarrassed about being English when we lose a cricket match in the way we’ve just lost one.”
© The Times Online

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LIVINGSTONE ISSUES RACISM WARNING(uk)

Ken Livingstone today warns the government that its policy of merging the Commission for Racial Equality with other bodies could undermine attempts to stamp out racism.

21/11/2005- Ministers are planning to merge the CRE with other equalities watchdogs into a single super-equalities body. Under the proposed legislation, a new body governing disability, gay and lesbian rights, gender equality and human rights will be established. But the London mayor suggests that the move could be a serious setback to race relations in the UK. He warns that the provisions in the Equality Bill fail to give the successor organisation, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, any security of Black and ethnic minority representation. Livingstone, who is calling on minority groups to lobby against the government, has also intervened to warn the move could mean a reduction in funding for race relations projects. Under the legislation only spending for disability rights will be ring-fenced, critics of the Bill have warned. Livingstone says the provisions in the current legislation should not be "acceptable" to Black and Asian Londoners. "Racism is still very real in the UK. The BNP vote grew eight-fold at the last general election," he warned on Monday. "Given this, it is deeply disconcerting that the government is seeking to establish a new commission that in its current form offers Black, Asian and ethnic minorities a poorer deal than that on offer at the existing CRE. "Those directly affected by discrimination and inequalities should be able to speak for themselves. "There should be an explicit requirement that there be proper representation. The current proposals could end up creating an equality commission where all the commissioners are white men." Livingstone insists that a number of CEHR commissioners must be drawn from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.
© ePolitix

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FAILED ASYLUM SEEKERS SENT HOME(uk)

20/11/2005- Fifteen failed Iraqi asylum seekers have been forcibly sent home, the Home Office confirmed. The refugees are being flown out to the northern city of Irbil, according to leaked Home Office documents obtained by Channel 4 News. A Home Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that fifteen Iraqi nationals with no leave to remain in the UK were removed to Iraq on November 20. "The Government announced its intention to commence enforced returns to Iraq in February 2004 and these removals bring Iraq into line with arrangements we have with other countries. "All those removed were informed in advance of this action and have been given assistance to help re-establish themselves in Iraq enabling them to contribute to the re-building of their country. "It is important for the integrity of our asylum system that any individual who is found not to be in need of international protection should be expected to leave the UK." The Home Office first announced its intention to resume enforced removals in February last year but previous attempts have foundered because the situation in Iraq was judged to be too dangerous. But over the past two years more than 1,000 Iraqis have returned home voluntarily and hundreds more are currently preparing to return, the Home Office said. Voluntary returns are always preferable to enforced returns but if people do not leave voluntarily, we will enforce their return. "There is clearly a difficult position in those parts of Iraq most affected by insurgencies, but we do not accept this is the case in all areas. "As such, enforced returns are taken forward on a case by case basis and only to areas assessed as sufficiently stable and where we are satisfied that the individuals concerned will not be at risk," the spokesman said.
© The Scotsman

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FORUM TARGETS ‘RACIST TODDLERS’(Ireland)

20/11/2005- Racism among Irish toddlers will be tackled at a conference for childcare providers in Dublin later this month. International research shows that children can form prejudices against other races even as babies and pre-schoolers. Workers in creches and childcare facilities will be shown how games and activities can prevent such discrimination forming. The anti-racism initiative is being organised by childcare committees in south Dublin and Fingal who hope it will provide a blueprint for child carers across the country. Julia Hackett, a co-ordinator on the south Dublin committee, says it is important for children to acknowledge the differences between people at an early age and learn to accept them. “Children from a very early age acknowledge the difference between people. We want to bring together the childcare professionals that are working on the ground to develop practical anti-bias approaches that are active, indeed activist, so that we can challenge prejudice, stereotyping and bias,” she said. “Childcare professionals want activities for the children to encourage them to feel comfortable with the differences and similarities between themselves and others.  “By listening to the professionals we will be able to find the best way to integrate these activities and plans into the existing curriculum rather than just having them as an add-on.”  Hackett says the group hopes to be able to provide guidelines to childcare facilities about the inclusion of different nationalities — including providing halal meat on menus. The conference will be opened by Brian Lenihan, the minister for children, on Saturday. A special report looking at barriers to accessing childcare for lone parents, parents of children with special needs, travellers, asylum seekers and refugees will also be launched. The research carried out by Fingal County Childcare Committee is expected to show how difficult marginalised groups find it to get their children into pre-school childcare.
© The Times Online

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RIOT POLICE DETAIN, INTERROGATE 65 AT GAY DEMO IN POZNAŃ(Poland)

“They were dragging us around on the street” - Demonstrator

19/11/2005- The police in Poznań today briefly detained and interrogated 65 demonstrators during the March of Equality organized by organizations of leftist and gay activists in Poznań, western Poland. Demonstrators protested against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, race, and disability, the organizers said. The march was banned by the mayor of Poznań, who cited security reasons. A year earlier, a similar legal event led to street riots with far-right activists. The organizers of the march claimed that the mayor of Poznań, Ryszard Grobelny, surrendered to the demands of far-right parties and the Catholic clergy, who believed the demonstration was immoral. Riot police surrounded the demonstrators shortly after they began their march. 65 demonstrators, who sat on the street, were pulled out of the crowd, detained, and interrogated at police stations. “They were dragging us around on the street,” a demonstrator told the Warsaw Independent news agency. “I was put in a police car, driven to a police station, and charged with taking part in an illegal gathering,” the demonstrator said, adding he will be tried for a misdemeanor. “The police surrounded the demonstrators with a double cordon,” the Campaign against Homophobia, a non-governmental organization, said in a statement following the march. “Police units headed for the demonstrators. The policemen brutally pulled sitting demonstrators from the group and dragged them along the sidewalk.” Tadeusz Iwiński, an MP of the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), said he had filed an official interpellation to the government, alleging the violation of Polish domestic and European Union regulations regarding the freedom of expression and gathering. Neither the police or governing politicians were not available for comment when Warsaw Independent news agency posted this news item.
© Warsaw Independent News Agency

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CZECH HOMOSEXUALS PROTEST AGAINST POLICE CRACKDOWN IN POZNAN, POLAND

The viewers and organisers of Prague's gay film festival Mezipatra have joined the protest of the Czech Gay and Lesbian League against the police crackdown on a gay rights demonstration in Poznan on Saturday. They handed in a protest letter yesterday to the Polish Embassy in Prague.

22/11/2005- The Poznan police used force to suppress the banned demonstration of Polish homosexuals staged against sexual and racial discrimination. Over 60 out of the total 500 participants were detained and face charges of attending an illegal gathering. The detained activists have complained against police brutality. "We perceive the problems and discrimination which our Polish neighbours meet with more frequently than us," said organisers of the film festival, which ended on Sunday. They stressed that the events in Poznan must be condemned. They compared the Polish police steps to the practices of the former Communist regime. Last year, ultra-Catholic and right-wing radicals prevented a similar rally in Poznan and police had to interfere to calm down fights in the streets. This year, the Poznan authorities did not permit the event, arguing that police would not be able to protect safety of the participants and inhabitants.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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FOREIGNERS POLICE IN PRAGUE SUPPLY FALSE INFORMATION(Czech Rep.)

Foreigners applying for long-term residence permits in Prague allegedly received false information from the Foreigners Police staff and were asked to produce documents and certificates that the law does not require, the daily Pravo reported yesterday.

22/11/2005- For example, Pravo reports that some of the office staff of the Foreigners Police in Prague claimed that foreigners are allowed to register as long-term residents only if they reside in apartments or houses that they own. According to Pravo, that was the information given to an American for whom an employer had been processing a visa and long-term residence permit. The American therefore could not register his long-term residency in the home of his Czech fiancee who had been living in a privately-owned tenement house. After the couple married and the American applied for permanent residence, a different member of the Foreigners Police staff requested that he first get the approval of the tenement house's owner. The head of the foreigners department at the directorate of the Foreigners and Border Police Service, Miloslav Smetana, told Pravo that the conduct of the staffer was incorrect. "It is redundant to request that a tenement house's owner approve whether a foreigner can move in with his wife," Smetana told Pravo. Smetana also described as nonsense the report that a foreigner can only be registered for long-term residence in an apartment or house in one's personal ownership. Pravo notes that Smetana could not explain the conduct of the Foreigners Police Prague office.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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FAR-RIGHT NATIONAL PARTY PREPARING TO LAUNCH INTERNET RADIO HOMELAND(Czech Rep.)

18/11/2005- The far-right National Party is preparing to launch its own Internet radio station called Homeland for several months, Pavel Sedlacek from the party told CTK Wednesday. The station will be on air round the clock and will broadcast music, commentaries on political developments in the Czech Republic and in the world and information about the election campaign of the National Forces coalition of extremist parties as well as invitations to their events. "If the large media ignore us what can we do about it? We will establish our own! We must start with something and experience from abroad shows that it is possible to break through the media favourites and politically succeed," National Party chairwoman Petra Edelmannova said on the party's Website. The National Party is running in the mid-2006 elections to the Chamber of Deputies jointly with two other nationalist parties. The Republicans of Miroslav Sladek and members of the Czech Movement of National Unification are to be on its lists of candidates. The grouping that calls itself the National forces rejects the European constitution, criticises generous welfare benefits, demands a ban on the use of all drugs and seeks the renewal of the death penalty. It presents itself as a distinctly anti-communist entity and organises demonstrations of protest against the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft. Initially, the coalition included five parties. The Workers' Party was the first to withdraw from it in protest against the participation of Miroslav Sladek in the project. The National Unification left the grouping due to ideological discrepancies. The National Party is not the first party to have its own Internet radio station. The Communist Internet radio station Radio Halo Futura (RHF) has been broadcasting for several months. It works round the clock and its programme mainly includes music as well as news programmes and interviews with communist politicians and left-orientated personalities from public and cultural life in the afternoon.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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LAW AND JUSTICE FOR ALL?(Poland)

Poland's new government may find it hard to keep its backers, the Polish electorate, and its western and eastern neighbors happy.

21/11/2005- After all the talk of a strong coalition of conservatives and liberals, what Poland now – finally – has is a minority government backed by small parties mistrusted by many within and outside Poland. Such is the political landscape since 10 November, when a new government headed by the nationalist and conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) took office after winning a confidence vote with the help of two populist parties, Self-Defense and the League of Polish Families (LPR). “We have only been working a few days, give us time,” Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said in response to questions about his cabinet’s economic program. But with an unstable hold over parliament and the questions continuing to come about its economic and foreign policy, the new government may not have much time.

Raise benefits, cut taxes
In an attempt both to ease the concerns of the financial markets and to please those parties who supported his government, Marcinkiewicz has already presented an economic program combining populist causes with more economically mainstream proposals. The government wants to spend a lot, especially to support families. Its flagship proposals here are a one-time payment to families for each child born and meals for poor pupils. Tax relief for families with children, longer maternity leave, and higher welfare payments for the poor are also in the pipeline, Marcinkiewicz says. At the same time, Marcinkiewicz’s government has also promised to cut and simplify taxes and to hold the budget deficit steady at 7.5 billion euros throughout its four-year term in office. Some observers are skeptical. "Increase spending, lower taxes, and curb the deficit? It is possible, as long as there’s fast economic growth. One needs to show, however, what the tools with which to achieve that growth actually are,” commented economist Witold M. Orlowski in Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s leading daily. So far, the most visible tool is a spanner in the works. Attracting foreign investment to boost growth looks certain to be more difficult if ministers continue to make remarks like those of Finance Minister Teresa Lubinska earlier this month. “Hypermarkets like Tesco are not investments. I mean they are not vital for economic growth,” Lubinska said. That comment was picked up by British papers in particular, with the Financial Times noting in its front-page report that Tesco was the largest British investor in Poland. But, far from distancing himself from such comments, Marcinkiewicz backed his minister's skepticism about hypermarkets as growth generators.

The Polish way of conservatism
Lubinska's words have merely fueled the doubts that businesses in Poland and abroad already had about the new government. Her comments also raised questioned about the price that PiS is willing to pay for political support. Many commentators interpreted Lubinska’s statement as a thank-you for the support the new cabinet received from Radio Maryja, the conservative and traditionalist Catholic station that has been crusading against foreign retail investment for years now, claiming it will doom the Polish economy. Marcinkiewicz and other ministers are already making regular appearances on Radio Maryja and its sister television station, TV Trwam. In comments that will have gone down well with Radio Maryja’s audience, Marcinkiewicz told the station on 17 November that his government would stand firmly against abortion, in-vitro conception, and contraceptives. “I am not afraid of the European Union’s pressure to liberalize abortion policy,” Marcinkiewicz said. Another move welcomed by conservatives across the country was doing away with the position of gender-equality ombudsperson. The government said it would assign an anti-discrimination brief to a lower-ranking official. The creation on an anti-discrimination watchdog had been required by the European Union and this, and Marcinkiewicz’s comments on abortion are likely to underscore the concerns felt by many outside Poland. Statements and acts like these could do harm to Poland and lead to the country becoming marginalized and isolated in the EU, the political scientist and head of the Batory Foundation Aleksander Smolar told Gazeta Wyborcza on 15 November. The new foreign minister, Stefan Meller, has downplayed the suggestion that the government would make euroskepticism the basis of its foreign policy. “I don’t know of a single statement from PiS politicians questioning our presence in the EU. But our position there does need to be stronger, and our negotiations tougher, where possible and necessary,” Meller told Rzeczpospolita on 19 November.

Being tougher with Brussels did not include, Meller said, renegotiation of Poland's accession treaty. This is one issue on which the PiS clearly differs from Self-Defense and the LPR, who both believe Poland is an underdog in the Union and should review the terms on which it joined the EU. Meller called such statements “very unfortunate” and said renegotiation of the accession treaty was not possible. As though to acknowledge the importance of the EU, Marcinkiewicz made Brussels the destination of his first official trip as prime minister. But Marcinkiewicz will also have to pay close attention to the eastern dimension of Poland’s foreign policy. Just after taking office, Marcinkiewicz and Meller had to deal with a Russian ban on Polish agricultural and meat imports because of allegedly forged health documents. The step immediately hit many Polish farmers, and Meller flew to Russia for talks, saying he hoped the problem was “really about meat gone bad, not politics gone bad." Another problem for the government may be that its ideological position is poorly understood abroad. Typical of many analysts' assessments was that of Piotr Buras, an expert on Germany from Wroclaw University. He argues that Poland’s new ruling elite is viewed with “distance and mistrust” in Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe. “Polish conservatism has a popular and Catholic character, while German [conservatism] is bourgeois and civic, where liberalism is not the enemy, but a more and more important partner,” Buras wrote in Gazeta Wyborcza*. Law and Justice, with its – in Western eyes – peculiar version of conservatism, founded on socialist economic thought, anti-liberalism, euroskepticism, and dislike of Germans, will find little sympathy in Germany, and the rest of the “old” EU, Buras wrote.

Liberalism as the enemy
Opposition to "liberal" thought, especially that promoted by its electoral rival Civic Platform (PO), bolstered PiS's campaigns in this autumn's parliamentary and presidential elections and it seems likely to remain one of the party's guiding principles. Even as negotiators from the two parties tried to fashion a coalition program following parliamentary elections narrowly won by Law and Justice, that party's presidential candidate Lech Kaczynski again and again bashed the vision put forward by Donald Tusk, the Civic Platform’s candidate and eventual loser, saying it would turn Poland into a “liberal experiment that will benefit only the rich.” Law and Justice then delivered a series of slaps to the face of PO, rejecting PO's candidate for the post of speaker of parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski – citing Komorowski’s unfavorable comments about PiS – and then doing the same to the liberals' candidate to become speaker of the Senate. PiS politicians ended up winning both posts. Perhaps most humiliating of all to the second-most powerful party in parliament was PiS' move to reinstate Jacek Kurski, the head of Lech Kaczynski’s electoral campaign, as a party member. He had been ejected for saying shortly before Kaczynski and Tusk faced off in the second round of presidential voting that Tusk’s grandfather had voluntarily served in the Nazi Wehrmacht. Back then, his own party blasted Kurski’s behavior as “reprehensible and deserving retribution.” But on 15 November, saying Kurski had been punished enough, the party allowed him to rejoin its ranks. “Only now can I truly enjoy [Kaczynski's] victory,” Kurski said.

Powerful and vunerable
Such post-election snubs and the debate ahead of the confidence vote on a government without Civic Platform raise questions about whether Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother and PiS leader Jaroslaw were speaking in good faith when they assured Poles before the parliamentary elections that Civic Platform was their party's most likely coalition partner. In parliament, Jaroslaw Kaczynski condemned what he called PO's advocacy of allowing free-market principles to penetrate into all spheres of life. The liberal party "assumed a quick expansion of capitalism … without questioning the origins of the new [wealthy] class,” Kaczynski said in a reference to the early post-communist political careers of PO politicians as well as those of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the party booted out of government by the conservatives and liberals in September's elections. The SLD and the liberals of PO alike have often faced accusations that they improperly reaped the fruits of the early years of capitalism in Poland. Jaroslaw Kaczynski told parliamentarians that Civic Platform wished that "only those with access to money would be decision-makers. And there are only so many political formations in Poland that have that access.” How strong the PiS government will be is now the crucial question. The party won 155 seats in the 460-seat parliament (Sejm) in September's elections. With the unofficial support of Self-Defense and LPR, it can count on another 90 votes. Civic Platform won 133 seats, and the former governing Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) won just 55 mandates. While Law and Justice may only have a minority government, their partners share their fierce criticism of the post-1989 "liberal" order associated with the SLD and PO. If that support holds, Jaroslaw Kaczynski has a chance to carry out all he envisioned. His party has the presidential and prime ministerial offices, the most deputies in the parliament, and the majority in the Senate. It may take a guiding role in the public media too: the party wants to change the media law to give it sole right to select members of the National Radio and Television Board, the watchdog for public television and radio. Jaroslaw Kaczynski himself holds no official position in the government. “He’s a classic example of a politician who uses ideas in a purely instrumental way exclusively in order to achieve particular political goals, nothing more,” political analyst Waldemar Kuczynski told TOL. That so many reins of power come together in his hand creates grounds for concern, Kuczynski said. Yet Law and Justice is also in a very vulnerable position, exposed to the populists’ caprices, Kuczynski added, saying that the moment Self-Defense and the League of Polish Families sense that their support for Law and Justice is damaging their poll ratings, "they will jump right at its throat."
© Transitions Online

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POLICE SACKED FOR FAILURE TO KEEP ORDER(Slovakia)

21/11/2005- The murder of young philosophy student Daniel Tupý by alleged skinheads not only incited massive protests against neo-Nazism but it also resulted in the ousting of two top police officials. Interior Minister Vladimír Palko sacked authorities in Bratislava and Trnava, citing a lack of resolute police action against skinhead attacks in November. Palko dismissed the head of the Petržalka district police, Štefan Božík, for failing to ensure sufficient order in the area where Tupý was stabbed. The 21-year-old from Žilina was attacked at Tyršovo nábrežie, a traditional outdoor venue for rock concerts on the right bank of the Danube River near Starý most by a group of about 15 skinheads on November 4. Six other people were seriously injured and taken to the hospital. A few days later, on the morning of November 12, eight skinheads on an express train heading to Bratislava threatened five high school students from Trenčín. The skinheads and students boarded the same train in the western Slovak town of Piešťany. According to a TASR news agency report, the skinheads chose a compartment next to the group of students. During the journey, two of the skinheads started to disturb the students by knocking on their compartment door. Alarmed, the students locked the door, at which point the skinheads started kicking the door and yelling, "Open up, anti-Fascists!" The whole incident lasted around 30 minutes. One of the students accused the conductor of running away. When the train made a routine stop in Leopoldov, the students shouted from their window for help but were ignored. Finally, one of the students managed to contact the railway police on his mobile phone. In Trnava, four policemen boarded the train, at which point, the two most aggressive skinheads ran off. Police caught the remaining six skinheads. The students were shocked when the skinheads directed a death threat at them in the presence of police and the police did not respond. The police are investigating the incident and assured the public that if any failure is found on the part of the police, the officers will be penalized.

The night previous, on November 11, 19 young men espousing extremist ideas and dressed in the skinhead style, attacked patrons at a bar in Piešťany with stones, knives and burning trashcans. As a result of these incidents, the Interior Minister sacked the head of the Trnava police section. The minister said that the police officials failed to impose tough enough penalties on the offenders. Palko met with top police officials from around the country and stressed the need to take tougher measures against the skinhead movement. Meanwhile, the prosecutor in Trnava charged the 19 men who ransacked the Piešťany bar with violence against a group of people and individuals, rioting and supporting and promoting organizations that oppress human rights and freedoms. According to Martina Kredatusová, spokesperson of the Trnava regional police, three of the young men are likely to be charged with assault causing bodily harm. If the accused are found guilty, they could be jailed for up to five years. The human rights group making the loudest call for action against the growing neo-Nazi movement is People Against Racism. "We asked Minister Palko and the police to take a responsible approach to the problem of neo-Nazism. It needs a prompt solution, as it is an increasing problem with the number of attacks on the rise. We appealed to the police to intensify their patrols in cities," People Against Racism's spokesperson, Jaroslava Farkašová, told The Slovak Spectator. People Against Racism is a member of the ministerial commission for the elimination of racially motivated crime, a body created within the Interior Ministry. So far the group is satisfied with the cooperation of the various police divisions within the commission. Political groups are also involved in the commission. Says Farkašová: "It is a challenge for politicians, not only because elections are nearing, but because neo-Nazism is a serious problem." Farkašová's organization wants to see concrete steps taken by the parties to eliminate hate crimes. "There is no evident sign that someone [the political parties] is determined to solve the problem," Farkašová added. People Against Racism continues to record increasing number of attacks by skinheads and neo-Nazi groups within Slovakia.
© The Slovak Spectator

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GENOCIDE - THE EVERLASTING TRAGEDY(Slovakia)

Ma bisteren! project educates on the little known Roma Holocaust

21/11/2005- "When we talk of the Holocaust today we have in mind the historical period when Jews and other ethnicities were killed. But we forget there are similar attempts directed on other religions, nations and other groups, also today," said Pavol Mešťan, director of the Museum of Jewish Culture in Bratislava. He was speaking on November 9, when Slovakia mourned the death of the 21-year-old student killed by neo-Nazis and when the Jewish museum opened its doors to educate on the Roma Holocaust. The Slovak Roma Holocaust 1939-1945 exposition in three languages, including English, is part of the Ma bisteren! (Don't Forget! in Roma) project aimed at reminding and educating on the horrors committed on the Roma population during World War II. Along with the educative role, the project also marks the locations connected with the Roma Holocaust with memorial plaques. Housing the exhibition in the Jewish museum is more than just a symbolic gesture. Though the Holocaust was first of all directed at the Jewish population, the terrorizing genocide did not spare other ethnicities, including gypsies, as they were called at that time.

Several hundred Roma died during the Holocaust in Slovakia. Overall, up to half of the then Roma population in Europe was killed during WWII. Slovakia and Croatia were the only two nations who offered to pay to have each Jew deported to concentration camps, Mešťan says, and the same legislation used against Jews was enforced on the Roma. Jews often bring attention to the fact that other ethnicities also died in concentration camps during the WWII Holocaust. But in general, ethnographers say, the Slovak public tends to associate the term with Jews. The Roma Holocaust is something that is new to them, an unknown landscape. Not only the general population but also the Roma themselves have an insufficient knowledge of the Roma Holocaust. Ma bisteren! is one of the few attempts in Slovakia lately to try to raise awareness of the historical facts. "One of the reasons it's come so late are the Roma themselves, as they haven't attempted to make the subject more visible," said the cabinet plenipotentiary for Roma communities Klára Orgovánová, who understands the exhibition to be about Slovaks' mutual history. "It's about people who've been living on this territory for a long time, including Roma."

The number of victims might not be as important as was the suffering all these people went through and the serfdom they were subjected to. It was all based on principles of ethnic superiority, which was enough of an argument to enforce laws that resulted in the killing of millions. For the Jews it also took time to spread the word, to build first memorials and then open expositions illustrating the WWII horrors. The first exposition in Slovakia, dedicated to the Jewish Holocaust, was opened in Nitra last September, 16 years after the collapse of Communism. "Western Europe has been talking about the Holocaust for entire decades. Eastern Europe, including Slovakia, was quiet. This changed in the 1990s, when [Slovak] Jews who survived began to talk about the six million dead. They felt the need to share the horrors, to let them out. The Roma didn't have this need," said Mešťan, reminding us that the process of revealing this part of history is very slow in general. "But here is the beginning. And anything more we do in the matter would help a better understanding of the issue and better relationships with one another."
© The Slovak Spectator

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MALTESE CRISIS AS MIGRANT TIDE ENGULFS THE WEST

25/11/2005- In the playground of the disused school building Ibrahim Ali now calls home, surrounded by wire netting, he is talking about the four-month journey that brought him to Malta in search of a livelihood after fleeing civil war in Somalia. "I can't say too much because it makes me cry," he said. "There were 28 of us on the small boat that we hired in Libya. I had to pay more than €1,000 (£680). We spent six days in rough seas with no food. Three people died." His voice trails off. "Can you help me?" The people who can help 25-year old Mr Ali, and the 400 other illegal economic migrants from Africa in the camp who have ended up by accident on this tiny Mediterranean island, will be meeting in Malta, a few miles away at the five-star Golden Sands hotel for three days from today. The closed-door meeting of Commonwealth leaders from 53 countries should provide a unique forum for the rich countries, which have become the destination of the migrants and asylum-seekers from the developing world, to hold a meaningful dialogue with the poorer countries which are losing their most talented human resources. Thousands of nurses, doctors and pharmacists from such Commonwealth countries as Ghana, Uganda, Botswana and Malawi have been poached by the rich Commonwealth states of Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, severely straining the medical services of the African countries struggling with the HIV/Aids pandemic. Now, the mounting problem of illegal migration is putting a further strain on developing societies as the middle classes rush for the exit as they try to lift their families out of poverty. But yesterday, as foreign ministers debated the summit's draft final communiqué, it looked unlikely that the issue, which has become a pressing problem for the summit's host government, will merit more than a line.

Leaders such as Tony Blair and John Howard of Australia see the migration issue through the prism of terrorism, and, in short, the North-South divide remains a dialogue of the deaf. As Africans stormed the fringes of "Fortress Europe" - arriving in Spain's Moroccan enclaves, Malta and Sicily - to get a toehold in the EU, the European Union responded in July with "emergency measures" consisting mainly of financial incentives to help Malta, Italy and Libya start joint patrols and early warning systems. But the measures do not address the root problem causing the mass population shift, and the migrants have continued to risk drowning in ever larger numbers. For Malta, the smallest EU country which joined only last year, the arrival of 1,600 illegal migrants since the beginning of 2005 has overwhelmed the island's resources and brought a racist backlash against the "Arabs". But Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth secretary general, has said lowering trade barriers is a more effective way of eradicating the poverty that drives people to set sail for distant shores. That is why he backs the call from the Commonwealth's developing countries in Africa and the Caribbean for the US, EU and Japan to drop the trade barriers and open their markets as part of the trade talks culminating at the World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong next month. "If they dropped their tariff barriers, you would take 150 million people out of poverty," Mr McKinnon said. "Despite the increases in aid, greater economic opportunity will bring people out of poverty."
© Independent Digital

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STUDY SHOWS MUSLIMS CHANGE NAMES TO AVOID DISCRIMINATION(France)

22/11/2005- At least 10 percent of France's population is of African and Arab origin and many of them settled in France many decades ago. However, even members of the second generation within this immigrant community choose to change their names on their official documents to avoid discrimination as Arabs and Muslims. This has emerged from a study published on Tuesday on the Islamic Internet site islam-online.net. The posting from Paris on the Muslim portal features a series of testimonies by young Muslims of Arab origin who decided to change their names on their identity documents. One of the testimonies is that of Abdel Rahim, 23, a French citizen of Moroccan descent who changed his name on his identity card to 'Peres'. "No one in my family in Morocco knows about this change and neither do any of my colleagues," said Rahim. "This new name has given me the possibility to find work, putting me at the same level as my colleagues who do not know my history or my past," he added. Rahim said that his Muslim name was an obstacle to his career, while with his new name, he could tell his employer that he was of Spanish origin. "When I called myself Abdel Rahim, I never received any response from the five companies from which I had applied for a job, while Peres has been accepted by two of these companies, so much so that my only problem now is choosing between the two." Abdel Rahim maintains that up until now, thanks to his new name, he has nothing to fear when he's stopped by the police and he feels like a first-class citizen. A similar story was told by Karim, 22, who decided to call himself 'Christophe'. "I remained unemployed for four years and I found [a job] only now," he said. Even Nigma, a young woman of Moroccan origin, said that she only found a good job and an apartment after she changed her name to 'Marianne'. Many other Arab families search to resolve the problem at the root, covering their Islamic identity and giving their children French names. Ahmad Gaballah, a member of the European Council of the Fatwa (religious edits), said that he is concerned about the situation in which Muslims in France live and according to him, this system will not resolve the problem of racism in the country. "We have to confront the problem of racism at its source," said Gaballah. "The fact of changing the name, and choosing one that will not offend Islam, is not forbidden per se by the religion," he said. According to the site islam-online, it was the ostracism of Muslims in France and the wrong policies of preceding governments that provoked the riots of the past few weeks. France was hit by weeks of unrest by urban youths across the country. The violence spread from Paris across French towns and cities, mostly in areas with a high concentration of ethnic minorities. Residents of housing estates, where unemployment can reach 40 percent, complain of racism and heavy-handed policing. The riots began when two boys of North and West African origin were electrocuted in a Paris suburb after running from police, who were said to have chased them.
© Aki

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FRENCH DEPUTY MUST DEFEND HOLOCAUST COMMENTS(European Union)

22/11/2005- EU lawmakers refused Tuesday to grant immunity from prosecution to a French far right-wing deputy for remarks about the Nazi gas chambers, in a case threatening to embarrass the EU assembly. After four times delaying a vote on Bruno Gollnisch, number two in France's extreme right National Front, the parliament's legal affairs committee voted overwhelmingly not to give him protection as a member of the European parliament (MEP) from court proceedings. Gollnisch was charged over his comments at a press conference last year which trod a fine line on the edge of French laws against calling into question crimes against humanity. The committee chairwoman, British MEP Diana Wallis, said her panel felt that the way Gollnisch had acted "was not fairly and fully and squarely within the member's exercise of his duties as a member of this parliament." "We are not in any way entering into a debate on the nature of the charge in France or the nature of the law in France," she said. Speaking in Lyon, France, in October 2004, Gollnisch said: "I do not deny the existence of deadly gas chambers. But I'm not a specialist on this issue, and I think we have to let the historians debate it." He did not contest the "hundreds of thousands, the millions of deaths" during the Holocaust, but added: "As to the way those people died, a debate should take place." Four days later, then French justice minister Dominique Perben, who is now transport minister and intends to run against Gollnisch in 2007 municipal elections, ordered police in Lyon to launch an inquiry. They found he had no case to answer but Perben insisted charges be laid. The trial of Gollnisch, who claims he is being persecuted by Perben, was scheduled for September but was pushed back until November 29 so that parliament could rule on his immunity. The EU assembly will vote on the committee's recommendation in full session next week. In the unlikely event that it votes against the committee's advice, the case against Gollnisch would probably have to be dropped.
© Expatica News

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ROMA FACE MOST PREJUDICE IN EU: WATCHDOG

23/11/2005- Roma minorities are the group most vulnerable to racism in the European Union since the bloc expanded into central Europe, an EU watchdog said on Wednesday. In its annual report, the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia said Roma -- also known as Gypsies -- faced discrimination in employment, housing and education, as well as being regular victims of racial violence. "The particular histories and population characteristics of the new Member States mean that the Roma and people from the former (Soviet Union) are often the targets of racist sentiments and acts," the report said. It said segregation in housing was particularly acute for the Roma population in the Czech Republic, Spain and Hungary. Roma children were disproportionately concentrated in special education classes in several countries with an over-readiness to label them as educationally disabled or with learning difficulties. The Vienna-based center said the ethnic diversity of the EU had changed with enlargement in 2004. While western Europe had big ethnic minority communities of labor migrants and their descendants, who have been targets of racism, xenophobia and discrimination, eastern Europe did not have the same diversity. By contrast, large Roma communities were found in the new member states of central and eastern Europe, notably the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. "It is for this reason that so many of the...reports on the 10 new member states focus primarily or solely on issues of Roma ...When concerns of racism and discrimination are raised in the new member states, this is often the only group for which there are available and significant facts to relate," it said.

The executive European Commission pressed the newcomers to improve the legal rights and treatment of Roma minorities as a condition for joining the EU. Now they are members, they are subject to the same monitoring as old member states. In Western Europe, the report highlighted waves of violent incidents mainly against Muslims in the wake of the March 2004 train bombings in Madrid and the murder of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh. Both attacks were carried out by suspected Islamic militants. It said a rise in both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic attacks in France was reported in the period after the Madrid bombs, which killed nearly 200 people. There was a wave of violence against Muslims and mosques in the Netherlands after the Van Gogh killing, but the report also noted death threats against politicians in Belgium and a strong impact on public and political debate on immigration and religion in Denmark and Germany. In a separate report published earlier this month, the EU watchdog said Britain had successfully put an end to a spasm of anti-Muslim violence after last July‘s attacks by Islamist suicide bombers on London‘s transport system. The annual report, compiled before this month‘s riots in France‘s heavily-immigrant suburbs, laments the absence of adequate data from several member states, such as France, which do not record "race," ethnic or national origin or religion in statistics. Such figures are important to identify indicators of discrimination and to develop and measure the impact of anti-discrimination policies, the EU center said.
© Herald News Daily

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TEN YEARS OF EUROMED: TIME TO END THE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFICIT(Amnesty, EU Office)

1. Summary of Recommendations
24/11/2005- Amnesty International’s recommendations to the EUROMED Summit stress that human rights must finally be given real priority within the Barcelona Process. The 35 partner countries gathered in Barcelona should reaffirm human rights as a cornerstone of their vision for the future of the EURO-Mediterranean partnership. Countries should ensure that their efforts to enhance the security of their citizens and co-operation on all aspects of ‘illegal immigration’ will be based on full respect of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Amnesty International calls upon all the leaders of the 35 states that comprise the EUROMED partnership to renew their commitment to promote human rights in their own countries and across the wider region by ensuring that the work plan for the next five years includes: 




  • a special focus on safeguarding human rights when countering terrorism and managing migration; 


  • new mechanisms for human rights that enable partners to monitor regularly and effectively the ratification and application of international human rights instruments and to collaborate in securing their implementation; 


  • unimpeded participation of civil society in the EUROMED process, by ensuring freedom of expression and association and by fostering independent civil society organisations; 


  • an imperative that human rights within the EUROMED partnership are applied unequivocally to all 35 partner countries without distinction or favour.




2. Political context
When the Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers met in Barcelona on 27-28 November 1995 and launched the EUROMED Partnership, the new regional framework for co-operation was set against a political context of hope for peace and stability in the region. After the end of the Cold War and with the recent signature of the Oslo Peace Accords, the region seemed set towards a path of renewed political endeavour and rapprochement.
In Barcelona, the Ministers set forth three main objectives of co-operation: 



  • to achieve peace and stability by strengthening human rights and democracy; 


  • to promote prosperity through the construction of an economic and financial partnership; 


  • to facilitate mutual understanding between peoples through a social, cultural and human partnership.




These three cornerstones of the partnership were to give the necessary impetus to reinforce the positive political trend.

Ten years later, the political environment has altered dramatically. Not only has the partnership been changed by EU enlargement and the introduction of the broader European Neighbourhood Policy, but the political agenda in 2005 is dominated by conflict and by the increasing pressures of counter-terrorism and fighting ‘illegal immigration’. The achievement of the original objectives, in particular those of peace, stability and mutual understanding between peoples, seem more remote than ten years ago. It is widely recognised at both political and institutional levels that human rights are essential to the partnership. As the Commission stated in its communication, advancing political reform towards human rights and democracy is key to achieving sustainable security and stability. However, there is common agreement that the Barcelona Process has failed to improve the human rights situation in the region.

In 2005, human rights continue to be violated on a serious and systematic scale in most of the Mediterranean partner countries. At the same time they are under growing pressure within the EU as responses to the challenges of countering terrorism and irregular migration increasingly infringe on basic rights, against a troubling backdrop of racism, xenophobia and intolerance.

Instead of addressing the fundamental problem of the Barcelona Process’ human rights deficit in its plan for the future, the Commission’s proposals appear to relegate human rights to conferences and educational efforts. Though important, these can only be effective if they are deployed alongside, not instead of, concrete efforts to ensure respect for human rights and good administration of justice throughout the EUROMED countries.
In order to revive the original promises of the Barcelona Process, Amnesty International considers that the following conditions should be met: 



  • human rights must be placed firmly and squarely on the political agenda, underpinned by adequate implementation mechanisms and a clear time frame; 


  • counter-terrorism measures must be based on principles of human rights and democracy; 


  • efforts to control migration must be in accordance with international standards of refugee and migrants’ rights protection; 




the EUROMED human rights agenda being essentially reciprocal, both sides must confront their shortcomings on a basis of shared responsibility.

3. The EUROMED partners: human rights deficit
Over the past ten years Amnesty International has produced numerous reports detailing the gross human rights deficit of the Barcelona Process. In the Southern Mediterranean countries, this deficit includes the continuing use of arbitrary detention, unfair trials, torture and the death penalty in most countries; sharp curbs on freedom of expression and association, targeting of human rights defenders, unresolved "disappearances", and extrajudicial killings in a number of countries and violations of the rights of women and widespread impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations throughout the region. In EU Member States, the human rights deficit has been exemplified by patterns of excessive use of force, ill-treatment and even torture by state agents, often marked by discriminatory elements and with impunity for perpetrators; unlawful detention and refoulement of asylum seekers and compromising important human rights principles when devising counter-terrorism measures. In spite of the EU’s stated commitment to further the "respect for human rights and democratic principles" in its international co-operation with third countries, it has failed to intervene and to effectively apply the human rights clause of Article 2 common in the agreements to either the partner countries or to its own Member States. Furthermore, the failure to address human rights violations by individual EU Member States makes the EU as a whole complicit and can only undermine its political and moral authority to raise human rights concerns with third countries. Within the Barcelona Process, Amnesty International notes with concern the paradox that while the EU develops frameworks and allocates significant resources to promote human rights, it tolerates or turns a blind eye to practices which have undermined human rights protection in partner countries. Similarly EU Member States export their restrictive agendas on countering terrorism and ‘illegal immigration’, effectively undermining human rights protection in the partner countries, as well as their own ambition to provide durable solutions to the challenges posed by terrorism and irregular migration.

4. Combating terrorism: human rights eclipsed
The parties to the Barcelona Declaration expressly declared that "the peace, stability and security of the Mediterranean region are a common asset which they pledge to promote and strengthen by all means at their disposal". They further committed to "strengthening their co-operation in preventing and combating terrorism, in particular by ratifying and applying the international instruments they have signed, by acceding to such instruments and by taking any other appropriate measure." The Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs held in Brussels in October 2001 was the first after the 11 September tragedy in the United States. In their conclusions, the Ministers "express their total condemnation of terrorism everywhere in the world (…) and welcome the adoption of Res.1373(2001) of the United Nations Security Council aimed at eliminating all forms of support for terrorism and pledge rapidly to take the measures needed to implement it." Amnesty International unconditionally and unreservedly condemns attacks on civilians and calls for those responsible to be brought to justice. States have an obligation to take measures to prevent and protect against attacks on civilians; to investigate such crimes; to bring to justice those responsible in fair proceedings and to ensure prompt and adequate reparation to victims. Amnesty International recognises that in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks and other attacks in several EUROMED countries, it was incumbent upon the EU and its Mediterranean partners to review legislative and other measures with a view to ensuring non-repetition of such attacks and protection of those under their jurisdiction.

However, within the EUROMED context, counter-terrorism measures have eclipsed other agendas and human rights in particular. With the political and security partnership in disarray by the flaring crisis in the Middle East, the fight against terrorism appears to provide the only common ground for advancing the political dialogue between the EU and its Mediterranean partners. This is reflected in the agendas of the annual meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and by the fact that all recent Association Agreements (as of 2000) contain a specific clause on terrorism. This increased focus has culminated in the European Commission five-year work programme put forward to mark the 10th anniversary of the EUROMED Partnership, which turns the fight against terrorism and irregular migration into primary elements of the partnership. The absolute necessity for states to ensure that all counter-terrorism measures be implemented in accordance with international standards of human rights, humanitarian and refugee law has repeatedly been made clear by the UN Security Council, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, among others. In official pronouncements, the EU too has consistently subscribed to the principle that there can be no security without human rights, and distanced itself from portraying human rights as a barrier to effective protection from terrorist acts rather than as a pre-requisite for genuine security.

However, amid the flurry of recent counter-terrorism initiatives both in the EU and beyond, the concept of human rights and the rule of law as the basis for genuine security is almost invisible. As the political focus on counter-terrorism measures has increased, the human rights agenda has fallen victim to a wrongly perceived ‘Realpolitik’, side-stepping not only countries’ international obligations but also ignoring the vital role human rights play in conflict resolution and establishing long term stability. Amnesty International is deeply concerned that in its policies and legislation on counter-terrorism the EU has failed so far to properly address the serious issue of protecting fundamental rights. In practice the EU and its Member States have a habit of ignoring breaches of rights protection within the EU, while too little attention is given to human rights abuses that may result when suspects are returned to their countries of origin or third countries. These include EUROMED partner countries.

In surveying the multitude of counter-terrorism initiatives at EU level since 11 September 2001, Amnesty International established that there are serious human rights deficiencies in the EU’s criminal law response to terrorism, while a blind eye is turned to the questionable laws and practices on counter-terrorism in EU Member States as well as in EUROMED partner countries. Many of the EUROMED partners have used the pretext of the ‘war on terror’ to reinforce or introduce repressive measures against political opponents, minorities and citizens in general. Anti-terrorist legislation contains broad definitions that are used to criminalise legitimate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association, and to clamp down on political opposition and human rights activists. Mechanisms applied to combat terrorism not only threaten human rights standards, but also thwart important democratic processes and initiatives. Within the EU, there is a real risk that counter-terrorism policies, in the way they are applied in practice, may lead to a sense of alienation within certain sectors of society that may feel as though they are being unfairly targeted. The common values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law are a cornerstone of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. Failure to address significant human rights deficiencies internally undermines the EU’s credibility when trying to promote human rights externally. Unless the EU takes active steps to address its own shortcomings and Member States’ failure to comply with their international human rights obligations, it not only loses credibility and authority on human rights issues with its EUROMED partners, but it also seriously undermines the key objectives of its Common Foreign and Security Policy as a whole.

5. Managing migration: the human cost of Fortress Europe
In light of the tragic incidents in recent months in the Mediterranean area, Amnesty International has documented evidence of a consistent pattern of human rights violations in this region linked to interception, detention and expulsion of foreign nationals, including persons seeking international protection. The string of incidents at the Southern European borders is tangible evidence that the integrity of the international refugee system is put at risk by EU Member States’ practices. Despite a sharp decline in asylum applications in most EU Member States, these same countries are increasingly tempted to withdraw from their international commitments regarding refugee protection and to shift responsibility to neighbouring third countries where responsibility, enforceability and accountability for effective protection are likely to be minimal at best, and where states’ practices towards refugees and migrants have also often been abusive of their human rights. These include EUROMED partner countries. Beyond this ‘protection crisis’, these events have shed light on a major ‘migration crisis’ within the context of the continuing gross imbalance between Northern and Southern countries. In assessing the impact of EU policies on neighbouring countries, there can be little doubt that the manner in which the ‘fight against illegal immigration’ is conducted risks exacerbating rather than alleviating the problems associated with irregular migration. The lack of real solidarity, combined with abusive practices puts a strain on the EU’s stated goal of seeking durable solutions and tackling its root causes. It undermines the EU’s credibility and legitimacy in asking others to carry burdens that it is not prepared to accept itself.

Amnesty International acknowledges recent initiatives such as regional protection programs undertaken by the EU to enhance refugee protection in regions of origin and countries of transit. However, while keeping refugees close to their regions of origin is seen as a panacea from the perspective of European governments, the presence of large numbers of refugees may have a detrimental impact on the political stability of the host societies. The Barcelona Process should be used as a framework to develop a sustained and open dialogue on ‘regional protection’. Central to the debate is the definition of what constitutes effective protection and who will be in charge of assessing refugee needs. However, the EU’s contribution to enhancing the refugee system should not be limited to legal, financial and technical assistance to third countries. It should also be translated into practice by concrete solidarity measures with countries that are facing severe difficulties to develop proper reception facilities and integration schemes and are often hosting large numbers of refugees. In this context, expanded resettlement opportunities within EU countries would constitute a welcome development for the EU and a significant contribution to international protection. Another significant step would be to develop emergency tools that would allow the EU to intervene promptly and efficiently when a neighbouring country is faced with a massive humanitarian or migration crisis. Such tools could range from adequate financial instruments to a joint team of experts who could assist in processing asylum claims and identifying vulnerable groups. Such tools should be geared towards the protection of people rather than focussing on border controls. Central to the debate is also a renewed commitment towards the United Nations and the need to increase its capacity to prevent and solve humanitarian and political crises. Greater financial and political support to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is a key element in enhancing refugee protection and developing durable solutions.

The recent crisis has highlighted the need for EU Member States to enhance the protection of migrants’ rights. Migrants working illegally in the EU are suffering economic exploitation and are the victims of discrimination and xenophobia. The EU policy to fight irregular immigration has so far primarily targeted individuals through a control-driven approach, and there is as yet no coherent approach to labour exploitation. Amnesty International believes that the starting point for a discussion on economic migration management must be the rights of migrant workers which should be firmly grounded in principles of non-discrimination and of equality before the law. Furthermore, the EU’s policy on economic migration should seek to prevent and eliminate the exploitation of all migrant workers and members of their families, and provide mechanisms to ensure that those responsible for abuse are held to account. Whereas most of the non-EU states party to the Barcelona Process have already ratified the 1990 UN Convention on the rights of migrants and their family members, this convention has not been acted upon by most EU Member States. In order for migrant workers to receive comprehensive protection, Amnesty International calls on the EU to encourage the Member States to ratify the Migrant Workers Convention, including the optional provision of article 77 regarding individual complaints.

6. The way forward: renewed focus on human rights and democracy
The governments of the EUROMED Partnership committed themselves to act in accordance with the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their signature expressed a political will to develop the rule of law and democracy, and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression and freedom of association. In the current political climate it is more important then ever that the EU acts as a strong proponent of human rights standards in its relations with the EUROMED partners, and that it applies those standards scrupulously and systematically in its own conduct.

Respect for human rights in all EUROMED countries
To revitalise the human rights dimension of the EUROMED partnership as a matter of priority, human rights must be placed firmly on the political agenda of all relevant fora, with concrete mechanisms to be developed and applied consistently without favour to implement the human rights clause of the Association Agreements and the human rights commitments of the Action Plans under the European Neighbourhood Policy. The November EUROMED Summit should task the proposed Euro-Mediterranean conference on human rights and democratisation in 2006 to ascertain progress and problems to date and to design a framework of action for the next five years to include:



  • an annual review of the situation of human rights in all countries of the partnership; 


  • priorities for corrective action on the basis of agreed benchmarks; 


  • full participation of civil society based on unimpeded enjoyment of freedom of expression and association; 


  • mainstreaming of human rights in all areas of co-operation including trade, education and security. 


  • The EU should end the bias in the Barcelona Process to date by which the focus is on human rights violations in the Mediterranean partner countries only.




Respect for human rights in combating terrorism 



  • All partner countries should ensure that all measures to enhance security and combat terrorism are in full compliance with international standards of human rights, international humanitarian and refugee law.




Respect for human rights in managing migration



  • The EU should develop a comprehensive approach to migration and ensure respect of the integrity of the international refugee protection system as well as of basic human rights of all migrants, regardless of their legal situation.



© Amnesty International USA
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NAZI MEMORABILIA IS BIG BUSINESS ONLINE

19/11/2005- Hitler memorabilia has become a multimillion-pound business with autographs routinely fetching £2,000. Reams of writing paper embossed with the Nazi eagle and the intials AH were liberated by American soldiers from a warehouse near Hitler’s mountain retreat on the Obersalzberg. It can now be bought on the internet for £30-£50 a sheet. Calling cards from the same source, usually marked “Adolf Hitler, Deutscher Reichskanzler”, are also available. Hitler’s ink blotting pad — a signature is revealed if it is held to a mirror — fell into the hands of Gerdy Troost, his interior decorator. A single authenticated autograph dated February 18, 1936, is on offer for thousands of pounds. It is one of perhaps tens of thousands that Hitler scribbled during his political career. Maria Zeldovitch, a Russian interpreter at the postwar Nuremberg trials, has sold thousands of copies of a photograph she took of the wedding certificate of Hitler and Eva Braun, signed in the Berlin bunker at the end of the war. The bride started to write “Braun” then, realising her mistake, scratched it out and wrote her husband’s name. The photographs sell for £25. Hitler watercolours are the probably the safest investment. A signed sketch of a German postman sold at auction for £5,200 in Cornwall this month. It is said to have belonged to Otto Günsche, Hitler’s personal adjutant, who remained with him in the Berlin bunker in May 1945 and who supervised the burning of Hitler’s body. France, Germany and Austria ban the sale or display of Nazi memorabilia.
© The Times Online

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NORWEGIAN ANTI-SEMITISM ON INTERNET

19/11/2005- Many pupils in Norway use a neo-Nazi website when they look for answers for questions regarding Second World War, writes the Norwegian daily Dagbladet. The website belongs to a small extreme-right group, Vigdis. Tore W. Twedt, the group’s chairman, openly declares his sympathy to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, denies the Holocaust and notoriously attacks anything that has to do with Jews or Israel. In a recent interview with Dagbladet, Twedt said his group had stepped up its activities among schoolchildren and students “to supply them with answers they won’t get in school”. He said the website receives an average of four to five questions a week, most of them about the Holocaust.

Legality questioned
“We tell youngsters not to believe the vicious propaganda about the six million Jewish victims, who supposedly lost their lives during the war. These are all lies and fabrications by international Jewry, who rule the world by controlling world finance and media,” he said. When asked if such information would not be dangerous to be used by pupils in their schoolwork, he answered that he warns pupils to use this kind of information “in a subtle way”. Norwegian police have opened an inquiry into the legality of the Vigdis website, but Norwegian human rights’ organisations doubt whether this stream of propaganda can be stopped. Two years ago the Norwegian Supreme Court gave permission for similar propaganda to be disseminated, “as long as it is a general point of view, and does not personally point at a certain individual”.

Website must be banned
Ole Melboye Petterson, the head of SOS Racism, a Norwegian watchdog against racism, said he was worried about the Vigdis’ activities, but added that there was little hope of stopping the organisation through legal means. “I am shocked and terrified about the damage such false information can do to young people. It must be stopped. The problem is that in Norway we have little experience of how to [stop such activities],” Petterson said. Halvard Holleland, the chairman national pupil’s organisation, also hopes that the website which he says “spreads ideas which are totally foreign to the values of most Norwegians”, will be banned. Academic authorities at the University of Oslo on Wednesday refused to approve a doctoral thesis about the Second World War. The paper, “Race war”, written by Olav Bergram, 66, failed on the grounds that it provided insufficient documentation to prove its premise that the WWII was justified. It argued that Nazi Germany had had no other choice but to react against Communist Soviet aggression and that the Norwegian Nazi dictator Vidkun Kvisling was “the most brilliant and visionary politician of his time”.
© The European Jewish Press

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RACISM AMONG THE MANY FOES ONLINE GAMERS MUST FIGHT

21/11/2005- Aaron Freeman plays "Halo 2" online under the name Black Jesus — so he expects to get some flak. He gets cursed at. He gets run over by his teammates. And he is frequently told, by the anonymous gamers from miles away that he is connected with via his Xbox and microphone-enabled headset, that "Jesus wasn't black, you stupid n---er." "I think I've come to tune it out," Freeman said. A film media major at Hunter College in New York, Freeman, 23, has been playing games online for several years and can more than hold his own in "Halo." While he admits his gaming moniker can be provocative, he says racism online is uncalled for and all too common. "Sometimes you get the feeling [people] go online not even to play, just to bother other people," he said. "It's kind of disturbing." Gamers who have racked up a few kills or won a few races on any online games that can be played with strangers already know that prejudicial remarks are a regular part of the chatter they'll encounter. "If you play every day, you will hear it every day," said 20-year-old Chris Buddha from Queens, New York. "The first time it happened I was a little shocked," said 23-year-old Chris Scott of Brooklyn. "It's different from the racism I encounter in person." In the real world, people can react. "If I said something to someone else, they can punch me in the face for that," he pointed out, "but when it's over the Internet and Internet games it's a little bit harder. Because you wonder who it is. You wonder more of 'Why?,' like 'What's the point?' "

Some gamers, and even some in the industry, say unsavory types are unavoidable anytime you're dealing with huge numbers of people, such the 2 million Xbox Live players or the thousands who play "SOCOM" nightly on their PS2s. "If you have this large a community, you're bound to have some problems," said Larry Hryb, director of programming for Xbox Live. A Sony PlayStation representative had no comment at press time. Aaron Greenberg, group marketing manager for Xbox Live, said Microsoft has a zero tolerance policy for any racist remarks made by users of its online system. "We shoot to eliminate it completely," he explained. To that end, the upgraded version of Xbox Live launching this week with the Xbox 360 will include several new safeguards. They include "Gamer Zones" that allow subscribers to only interact with, say, those who have chosen a kid-friendly area. The new Live will offer an improved feedback system that allows gamers to file complaints about other gamers directly through their system and it will introduce an eBay-style five-star rating system, which may help indicate who is worth playing against. But Microsoft reps also say that, numerically speaking, racism has not been a major issue on their network. "We've banned over 10,000 people, but that's not just for racial remarks," Greenberg said.

"I game a lot," said Hryb. "I'm not saying this doesn't exist, but from what I've seen it really hasn't crossed my desk that much." That might be because gamers don't complain about online racism to Microsoft or Sony with nearly the frequency they experience it. Gamers interviewed by MTV News said protesting to game makers about prejudiced players would be futile. "They could ban their accounts, suspend them, but there's loopholes around that," Buddha said. Freeman thinks the prevalence of online racism can be attributed to the anonymity of playing online. "It's a godlike power Microsoft gave everybody," he said. That freedom seems to breed a culture where taboos are readily broken. "I've heard mention of all kinds of things you just can't bring up in person," he said "The word 'rape' is pretty much dulled now because of that." He admitted that the freedom of online chat, combined with the vicarious thrill of online action gaming, can be intoxicating. He recalled one time — the only time, he said — when he let loose on another player. "I just picked out someone and I said, 'You did awful, you should kill yourself, blah, blah blah,' " he said. "I'll admit it was kind of fun." Having now recognized the inability of Microsoft or Sony to eradicate racism from online gaming, some players have explored other ways of turning the tables. If Freeman discovers that the players he's matched with on a "Halo" team are racist, he'll slip off to make an offer to rival forces. "I'll sneak up to an opposing player with a powerful weapon or rocket launcher and I'll go, 'Hey, kill racists!' and I'll hand it to them and run off," he said. "They say, 'Black Jesus is a freedom fighter. He's a civil-rights worker.' "

For 29-year-old Victor De Leon of Long Island, the solution was to find a narrower playing field. De Leon often games with his 7-year-old son, a "Halo" whiz kid who games as Lil Poison. He used to eagerly engage in worldwide matchmaking games that could net completely unknown gamers as online opponents. But the comments from other players got to be too much, and one incident provided the breaking point when players with a Southern drawl verbally attacked him and his son. "They just kept on saying 'sp--' and 'stupid n---ers,' " he said. "I was like, 'How can you say this to a 7-year-old kid?' " Now De Leon keep their gaming more restricted, playing primarily against people they know. Others have taken their gaming offline. Kia Song, 25, and Brian Tang, 24, founded a New York-based offline gaming group called NYClan in part to appeal to gamers beleaguered by online prejudice. "We've had gamers travel to be in our events," said Song, noting that the group offers an alternative "for anybody who is frustrated with people screaming racial slurs at each other and just deteriorating the quality of the game." NYClan late-night gaming parties have attracted 250 gamers since June. Scott, who has played in NYClan events, said he can't let racism ruin his ability to play online. He's not going to be chased off. "My strategy for this now that it's become commonplace is I just crush them," he said. "That's it. I crush them and let them talk."
© MTV

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SHE SAT DOWN TO CONQUER(usa)

Through a small act of defiance, Rosa Parks set in motion an irreversible process of racial equality and non-discrimination in the American society
By Arif Azad

20/11/2005- Rosa Parks died quietly on October 25, 2005. Before her death she had changed America forever as far as the issue of racial equality was concerned. By refusing to vacate her bus seat for a white passenger on December 1, 1955, she had triggered a civil rights movement which successfully campaigned for the end to segregation of blacks from whites in most parts of the American society. Rosa Parks was born in 1913, to politically conscious parents who themselves had been the victims of age-old racism and discrimination formalised in the laws and social life of the American South. They instilled in her a determination to challenge racism and discrimination that had reduced a whole people to a life of poverty and dehumanisation. She briefly attended school -- a rare feat for a black child in those days -- before dropping out on account of illness in the family. Being politically precocious, she did not take long in signing up to the Montgomery chapter of National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) where she progressed to become its secretary by 1943. This position exposed her to leading civil rights campaigners which polished her political and moral outlook further. Armed with a greater awareness of political rights, she began to mount daily challenges to discriminatory acts perpetrated upon her on account of her colour by the white supremacist system. Before being catapulted into the eye of a storm, she was known to the bus drivers for being a 'difficult customer'. Her finest hour came on December 1, 1955 when, asked to surrender her seat to a white passenger, she refused point blank. Police were called in and Rosa Parks was arrested for violating the racial segregation system operating on the municipal transport. Twelve years earlier she had been ordered off the bus for flouting segregation laws.

The age-old racially segregated bus system required the blacks to be relegated to the rear of the bus, at the same time requiring them to relinquish seats to white passengers when asked by the driver. Rosa Parks' act of defiance lit the fire of stored up resentment that had built up among the blacks as a consequence of discriminatory laws and regulations applied to them for centuries. What this act of defiance, however, started went beyond the wildest dreams of the civil rights campaigners: Unprecedented solidarity and coming together of the whole black community in a state-wide bus boycott which lasted 381 days. The then unknown 26 year old Baptist minister Martin Luther King led the boycott under the banner of the Montgomery Improvement Association. This was the beginning of the rise of King who went on to play a sterling part in the American civil rights and etch himself in the memory of the US, and the wider world beyond, through his speech "I have a dream..." which continues to reverberate among those fighting for the right to a dignified and non-discriminating world. Although Rosa Parks was fined for her disobedience, her defiance was instrumental in getting segregation on the bus transport outlawed. The emergent civil rights movement had won its first major battle in a long drawn out war which saw the birth of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. In some sections of the liberal press, Rosa Parks' act of defiance has been put down to her fatigued state rather than an inborn fierce political and moral outlook. The fact is that Rosa Parks was a highly politicised feminist who had adopted the stance she adopted out of deeply held political convictions. The largely held view about Rosa Parks acting out of fatigue has been given short shrift by Herbert Kohl in his book entitled She Would Not Be Moved in the following words:

"To call Rosa Parks a poor, tired seamstress and not talk about her role as community leader and civil rights activist as well, is to turn an organised struggle for freedom into a personal act of frustration." Speaking to a gathering in 1992, Rosa Parks too went out of her way to put the record straight by saying that "the real reason of my standing up was I felt that I had a right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of thing for too long."

But the centuries old racial attitudes were too entrenched to be rooted out by legislation alone. During this seminal, and uncertain, period of the civil rights movement, wide-spread harassment and racial violence was perpetrated upon the black activists by the white robed adherents of Ku Klux Klan which advocated undiluted white racial supremacy. It was not long before this atmosphere of pervasive racial intimidation forced Rosa Parks to relocate to Detroit in 1957. In Detroit, she went back to her seamstress job, before settling into a black congressman's Detroit office where she worked till her retirement in 1988. The period between her retirement and the death was filled with public engagements in the right-oriented projects and campaigns. Upon her retirement, she expended considerable energy and time on building Rosa and Raymond Institute for Self Development that is devoted to developing leadership among Detroit's young people. As late as 1995 she addressed One Million March organised by controversial Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. In 1999 she was awarded the Medal of Honour by the US congress -- the highest civil award in the United States. The Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, voiced the feelings of many when he said in his tribute that "she stood up by sitting down. I am only standing because of her." This tribute stands out among a flood of plaudits that her dignified death provoked. The fact that her funeral was given presidential status shows how far and how deep her influence spread. This perhaps sums up Rosa Parks' legacy for the future generations of minority and civil rights activist. By her quiet dignity, backed up by heighten understanding of race, class and civil rights, she set in stone a pattern of resistance which has been copied all over the world. At a time, when a renewed assault on civil liberties has been launched by security-oriented governments the world over, the non-violent and sustained spirit of resistance displayed by Rosa Parks is needed more than ever before.
© News on Sunday

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HARD LESSONS AT CARDINAL MCGUIGAN(Canada)

By Morgan Campbell, Leslie Scrivener and Catherine Porter, staff reporters

20/11/2005- Jeffrey had just finished a Grade 11 math quiz Monday morning, when his class was interrupted by knocking. The principal, Jim Matthews, was at the door. He told Jeffrey to step into the hall. The 16-year-old boy had no idea what was about to happen Ñ to him, the school and the community. He had no way of knowing that the next 24 hours would change his future, shatter the reputation of his school, batter a tentative peace between police and his neighbourhood, and ignite charges of racism. "When I came outside, I saw so much cops," the bony teen said from his home in an interview last week. (His name has been changed in compliance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act.) While his teacher watched through the open door, the young man was handcuffed by officers and marched down to the school's office.  Along with another 11 boys and two girls, he was loaded into a cruiser and carted to the police station, where he spent the night confused and uncomfortable, being searched, fingerprinted, and locked in a cell until the next morning. Jeffrey still doesn't know why he was arrested. "I asked what they were arresting me for, and they said `criminal harassment,'" he said. But he knows that it had to do with two similar arrests at the school the week before and the chilling allegations by a 16-year-old student that she had been sexually assaulted and harassed by a group of young boys for more than a year.

In total, police arrested 16 students from James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School over six days. Two were charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement, having to do with two alleged assaults. In one, police say a 17-year-old boy forced the girl into both a school stairwell and washroom where he sexually assaulted her last month. In the other, a 15-year-old student is alleged to have followed the girl into the washroom of a fast food restaurant, locked the door and then demanded sexual favours before a restaurant employee arrived and the girl was able to escape.  Police haven't released details about the reported involvement of Jeffrey and the other students, other than to say that the two young women threatened the girl with bodily harm and the other young men criminally harassed her Ñ which, according to the Criminal Code, could include taunts, threats, verbal abuse or following her. But Jeffrey and others maintain their innocence. "I don't know how I got caught up," said Jeffrey. "I don't even talk to her."

Lesson 1: Race is a factor even if it isn't
The subtext to the uproar that followed the arrests is colour. The victim is white. All of the accused are black. Instead of feeling pity for the girl, the surrounding community has reacted with rage.  They call the police ham-fisted, and worse a racist. They wonder: If this had been a black girl and white boys, would police have reacted with charges so quickly? Would they have arrested the youth in their school, not allowing their parents the courtesy of taking them to the police station without the glare of flashing cameras and the wide eyes of their peers? "I don't think if it was a black (accuser), it would have reached that," said Jeffrey's mother. "And take 14 white people out of school? I don't think so." Some even say police broke the law. "One of the most important things, especially in dealing with young offenders, is anonymity. For the police to go into the school, arrest them in front of other students and basically out them in front of other peers... that flies in the face of the Youth Criminal Justice Act," said Royland Moriah, a policy research lawyer with the African Canadian Legal Clinic. The police explanation of why they arrested the students at school comes down to logistics. The concern was that the youths, many of them friends, would have notified one another on cellphones or pagers, and fled before police could arrest them. Then the safety of the victim and witnesses would be jeopardized.  "We believe we made the right decision, and we stand by that," said Inspector Tom McIlhone, the second in command of 31 Division. "Everyone knows everyone anyways. Where in the world could we arrest somebody and be sure not to breach (their) identity?" Police have gone into schools to make arrests before, he said. In 1991, Metro police swooped into a southeast Scarborough high school and arrested three 17-year-olds after a mob swarming and robbery at a local flea market. In that case, all of the officers were in uniform Ñ to make a point, McIlhone said.

In this case, police tried to be as discrete as possible, he said. They parked their cruisers away from the school. They arrived after the beginning of the second period, around 11 a.m., so there wouldn't be many students in the hall to witness the arrests. "We could have done this another way. We could have came and dropped 20 police cars in front of the school and everybody rushing around and grabbing them out of class. That's just the inappropriate way to do it. We tried to do this with as little embarrassment as possible for the people involved," he said. The method would have been the same given the charges at any school across the city, McIlhone added. And the treatment wouldn't have altered if the victim was black, and her alleged tormentors white, South Asian or any other colour. Before the arrests were made last Monday morning, the officers had names only they didn't know the ethnic background of the students before each one stepped into the hallway to be arrested, he said. "We're here to protect the public, in particular the youth, they're the most vulnerable. It matters not to us what the race culture is," McIlhone said. Outspoken community members and the mothers of the accused think otherwise. "Race does play a factor in it as far as I'm concerned," said Toronto District School Board trustee and local community activist Stephnie Payne. "It begs the question."

Lesson 2: Bad things can happen in good schools
James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School stands near the corner of Jane and Keele Sts., in the shadow of what is known as the Jane-Finch corridor. As the only Catholic school in the area, many of the teenagers from the highrises on San Romanoway at Jane and Finch make the two-kilometre trek to McGuigan each morning. Windswept and anonymous, the corner is a postcard of the ailments that plague Toronto's inner suburbs. Giant paved roads whiz with traffic, separating towering brick apartment buildings and small, desolate malls. Tucked between York University and Downsview Park, green spaces in the area are lined with electricity towers. People line up for the bus Ñ distances here are too far to walk. Added to the sprawl is crime and poverty. The median household income is $37,000, $18,000 below the city's average. Unemployment is high, education levels low, the teen pregnancy rate almost double the city's. The area also claims many of the city's most rundown buildings. More than half of the people who live in them are visible minorities, many of them black. Given the desperate conditions, it's no surprise that gunfire flashes around the neighbourhood. From early July to the end of October this year, there were four shootings in the area. Just last week, a man was shot on the residential streets southeast of the school. As a result, the Jane-Finch area has become a hot spot of resentment toward the police. It's a spot where many grieving black mothers are interviewed about the death of their sons, and angry black residents lash out at their treatment at the hands of officers. Despite outside tensions, the orange brick walls and adjacent portables of Cardinal McGuigan have offered a sanctuary.

Opened in 1982, the school was started by Franciscan Fathers and named after the first cardinal in English-speaking Canada. Its motto is Ambulate in Dilectione - walk in fraternal charity. One of the founding principles of the school was the teaching of St. Francis, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant who cast off his life of privilege to live in poverty and loving sacrifice. All students interviewed by the Star said they felt safe in its halls and adjoining portables. "Nobody in our school is part of a gang. This year we had one fight, and those people aren't allowed in the school any more," said a Grade 11 student named Nicki. "There are no weapons, there is no violence. This is really a good school." Inside its crowded halls, the student body reflects the surrounding community. Flipping through the pages of last year's yearbook, about 40 per cent of the faces are black. An almost equal number are white. The rest are Latino, Middle Eastern, Asian and South Asian. At the school's multicultural day last year, 67 cultural groups were represented. Students and teachers at McGuigan said race has never been an issue. Outside the school, students gather in clusters segregated only by gender,  black girls, white girls, Hispanic girls all giggle together on their way back from lunch. Most of the staff is white, with Italian names. But even one of the few black teachers there said he's never encountered racism in the school. Others agree.

"We've dedicated our careers to this community," said Paul Bergin, a social science teacher who has taught at McGuigan for 18 years. "Obviously it's a neighbourhood with many different cultures, and that's why we're here Ñ because we want to be." But the wall that had separated the culture of the community and the culture of the school came crashing down last week. A school meeting hosted as a debriefing for parents turned into an angry venting session, with black mothers shouting down white officials on a stage with cries of "racism." "We're not animals, we're human beings," yelled one woman. Much of it was aimed at the police for the way they handled the arrest. "I saw my classmates humiliated and degraded," said Grade 12 student Dianne Escobar. When a white woman took the microphone and claimed that her 14-year-old son had been offered sexual favours from the young victim, the gym went wild. People jumped to their feet and danced in the aisles, shouting "racism" the underlying implication that it was only because the boys were black that they were facing criminal charges. The tension was so high, one white mother found herself shaking in her seat. "I felt like what it must have been like to be black 30 years ago, when you were told to sit at the back of the bus," said Catherine Burger. "I am really afraid for my daughter Ñ not just her emotional safety, but her physical safety."

Given the background, police should have been more sensitive, said legal-clinic lawyer Moriah. "We've had problems of racial profiling, of overpolicing, of harassment, harsher sentences, harsher bail conditions and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. All of this should be in their minds when they're going through these procedures and thinking how they should go about arresting these children. You have to think about what the history is and take that into account when you make these decisions." The local division has been working to bridge relations with the community. Officers play hockey and soccer regularly with the local youth, McIlhone said. They've implemented mentoring programs. And, before making the arrests last week, they did look at the broader situation. But at the end of the day, "we have to police up here," he said. "Given all the circumstances, I don't believe there's anything else we could have done. I don't think things would have turned out good no matter what we did."

Lesson 3: A victim can make noise and still be unheard 
In all the din and outrage over the last week, the one voice that has been deafeningly silent is that of the victim: the 16-year-old girl, who after more than a year of allegedly being assaulted, finally came forward. In the classroom, vicious rumours abound. Many students are saying the same things as their parents. That the boys were only arrested because they are black. That there hadn't been any assaults. And, most of all, that the girl wasn't a victim at all. "That girl, she has so much attitude," said one girl, surrounded by friends outside the school. No one but police has publicly taken her side. Parents of the accused say she was a willing participant. Judgments are made about why she waited for so long to come forward. Some of her classmates said she was outspoken and a sports groupie. "Why did she hang around all those black guys?" asked Jeffrey's outraged mother. "What was her purpose?" "There's a lot of name-calling going on," said one female student of the school, referring to teenage slang that casts some students as "freaks" or "brainers." In the warped logic of teenage slang, the latter term has evolved from meaning someone who is studious to someone who doles out oral sex. "People are saying bad stuff about the girl. Some people think she wanted it. One disgusting thing somebody said was, `Look at the way she dresses.'"

The girl hasn't returned to the school since the arrest, although police said she initially wanted to. When reached at her family's condominium, she told a Star reporter she didn't want to speak. While students say she had friends, they aren't willing to talk. One contacted at home denied associating with her. One acquaintance said the intimidation factor has been overwhelming. "I've had people asking me if I was friends with her. It's intimidating," said the 16-year-old girl. "If they hate her so much, they may hate you, too." In the middle of the raucous parent meeting at the school last week, McIlhone reminded the crowd: "Keep in mind we have a victim and witnesses who can't come to school." He pointed out that no one knows why the girl hadn't come forward sooner; no one knows her situation, or whether, under the surface, she has self-esteem issues. "You can't really understand unless you've walked into somebody's shoes, and thank God, there's very few people who have walked in this young girl's shoes," he said. "I've had almost zero support for the victim," he added. "This victim has made a huge step, she's very courageous, she should be very proud of herself." The message the community is sending to future victims is damning, he said. "They're going to be afraid they're going to get this backlash. The community is almost passing sentence on the victim before we even have a trial," McIlhone said. The 16-year-old acquaintance worries about the same thing. "Now I'm scared that if something like this happens again, some kind of harassment, people will be scared that people won't believe them, and they won't be able to come back to school."

Lesson 4: Teachers don't know everything
In the blame game that has erupted since last Monday's arrests, few people have been spared. The principal was targeted by parents, including a group of mothers who started a petition, demanding he resign. "Mr. Matthews didn't support and protect us," one student declared into the microphone at the public meeting. The teachers have been lambasted by students, parents, and even politicians. "There's a serious supervision problem in that school," Frank Klees, the conservative education critic announced in Queen's Park last week, linking the event to decreased funds in the provincial education budget given to supervision. The Catholic school board's director of education also questioned whether teachers had the skills to recognize the signs of distress among their students. "Are all our staff properly prepared to identify situations that could in fact be harassment or assault?" Kevin Kobus asked last week. "I'm not convinced of that at this stage." If this kind of behaviour were happening in their school, right under the administration's noses, how could they not see it? How could this happen at the school, period? Those are questions that many have been mulling all week. "People here are obviously quite hurt by everything. We're still trying to cope with what's gone down," said Bergin, the staff union representative for the school's 63 teachers and support staff.  "I can't explain it. I really can't." Even Matthews, the school's principal, was baffled. "I'm greatly saddened. I'm confused. I didn't like the situation one bit," he told angry parents during the public meeting. "I was taking my direction from the police." Teachers contacted by the Star who taught the victim said they knew her as a confident woman, not susceptible to peer pressure. There was no sign. I had a good rapport with her in class. And there was no sign of anything. All of the staff are asking ourselves...," said one veteran teacher. "There's no way, if anybody had known this was happening, we'd let it go on." Some of the incidents are said to have taken place after school hours, when students no longer require passes to venture the halls, and most teachers are no longer present. "How would we know?" said Bergin. "Obviously, if we see bullying, we approach kids to address it. But if a kid doesn't come to us and basically tell us... " Most of the school halls are equipped with cameras. Police have said they examined videotapes before making the arrests. But the tapes are checked only after a suspicious occurrence is reported, and the cameras are there to protect the students from intruders. "They're not there to spy on the kids," Bergin said.

Lesson 5: Perception is reality
Cardinal McGuigan is not the first choice of many families in the northwest part of the city, teachers and the school trustee admit. It has a reputation as a technical school. Special education and ESL students form a large part of the population; 22 percent have special needs. It doesn't have a strong academic record. Only nine percent of McGuigan's Grade Nines reached the provincial standard in applied math, compared to 20 percent in the Catholic board in Toronto, and less than half the Grade 10 students passed the province-wide literacy test. "There are other schools they'd prefer," said Catholic school trustee Mary Cicogna, referring to local parents. "Parents felt St. Basil's, for example, had more to offer. If a student is doing well, that's the school they'd send them to."  The school has also had to contend with the stigma of its surroundings. "It's determined by our geography," said Angela Convertini, a former principal who left two years ago after being seconded to Loretto College at the University of Toronto. "People have a perception of Jane-Finch that is so skewed. There are decent, hard-working people striving to make a living. We tried to celebrate that, and I tried to get media to come in and change the perception of geography we were up against. I couldn't even get the local paper to come in. Now you can't get them to go away." The precise location of the school is important to some students: "It's Finch and Keele, not Jane and Finch," one boy said emphatically last week.

A successful effort has been mounted to dispel the school's reputation. New neat uniforms were introduced last year to give a good impression. "Perception is important," Cicogna said. She's been visiting feeder elementary schools and speaking to Grade 8 students, promoting the school. This year, enrolment increased. And the school is preparing for a $10 million expansion, to eliminate surrounding portables. But in the shadow of last week's events, will anybody care? "In the last five to six years, we've tried to do a lot to improve the image of the school," said one veteran teacher. "Something like this has kicked us right back to the bottom." That's not all the school has had to contend with. Three days after the arrests, Grade 12 student Anna Zarnock was found dead with her boyfriend inside a parked car, apparently the victim of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. The school's awards ceremony was postponed, and instead of proud parents, a fleet of grief counsellors rushed into the building. Meanwhile, the teachers have to continue teaching; the school year isn't even halfway over. Cicogna hopes to stage some morale-boosting events at McGuigan. There's talk of a community mass and visits by local celebrities and basketball stars. As early as this week, most of the 16 accused will have been placed in other Catholic schools, awaiting their trials. The victim is also heading to a new school. "I hope some good will come out of all this bad," said Burger, the mother of a McGuigan student. "That's why I didn't want to pull my daughter out of the school. With all this media focus, they'll try to fix this school up, hopefully."
© The Toronto Star

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Headlines 18 November, 2005

ZAPATERO SUPPORT SLUMPS AS SPANIARDS FEAR IMMIGRATION

18/11/2005- Spaniards are increasingly concerned about rising immigration while support for the government has fallen dramatically, a poll finds. Immigration is the number two worry for Spaniards, after unemployment, according to poll results released by a respected social-research institute. In poll after poll, immigration has been rising in importance as an issue for Spaniards. The survey, by the Centre for Sociological Investigation, also found the Socialist government's popularity had slipped to within two points of the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP). Prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's party garnered the supoort of 39.7 percent of those questioned, while the PP got 37.7 percent. Some 37 percent of respondents now spontaneously list immigration as a concern, compared to 51 percent citing unemployment and 25 percent identifying terrorism, which has lost more than 20 percentage points in recent months. The category of other economic issues took fourth place in the survey for October, with 22 percent. Housing was cited as a concern by 20 percent of respondents. The poll was conducted between 21-28 October, just weeks after the incidents in Spain's North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, where sub-Saharan Africans made numerous attempts to enter the Spanish cities illegally, rushing the border fence. Several immigrants died, hundreds were deported and a new border fence was constructed by Spanish authorities. Regarding the economy, those questioned were split between those saying it was "bad" or "very bad" (21.7 percent) and those responding that it was doing "good" or "very good" (23 percent). One-third of Spaniards, however, said they expected the economy to worsen in the next 12 months, compared to 12 percent who said it would improve.
© Expatica News

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RACISM IN SPANISH FOOTBALL 'AT WORST POINT EVER'

18/11/2005- The problem of racism in Spanish soccer is growing and the past year has been the worst ever, an anti-racism group claimed. Esteban Ibarra, head of the Movement against Intolerance, told a parliamentary commission formed to help eradicate racism from Spanish sports that the situation was getting worse not better. "The problem of racism in Spanish soccer has grown in the past year, during which we have experienced the worst wave of this type," he said. "It's not about a spontaneous phenomenon, because the spontaneous passes quickly and we have had this problem for 20 years. "On the Internet, there are permanent forums promoting violence and racism," he told the deputies. The claim comes a year after a notorious 'friendly' game between England and Spain during which black England players were barracked with racist chants. Professional games at stadiums in several parts of Spain have been marred by repeated incidents in which hooligans hoot like apes when black players have the ball. International sport officials and players and coaches from other countries also have complained about the persistence of racist expressions by groups of Spanish fans. Early this year, Samuel Eto'o, a Barcelona player from Cameroon, spoke out strongly against racism after being the object of insults during a game against Zaragoza. "This does a lot of harm," Eto'o said. "If sometimes they treat me like a white man because they think I earn a lot of money, imagine how they must treat the black kid who peddles things on the street."  But Eto'o supported a Barcelona FC director who was forced to resign after it emerged he was a supporter of the Francisco Franco Foundation, named after the former dictator. In March, Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos, who plays for Real Madrid, the country's premier pro soccer team, called for harsher measures against racist fans who repeatedly insult black players during games. "It's a shame that in a country like Spain someone has to stop a match to ask fans to stop insulting a player. It's a disgrace that such a thing is happening in this country, with so many black players on the field," Carlos said. But Carlos recently gave his shirt to a convicted racist thug after a Real Madrid match.
© Expatica News

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"MOCK TRIBUNAL" SLAMS SWEDISH ASYLUM POLICY

15/11/2005- Sweden's asylum policy, often praised as one of the most welcoming in Europe, came under heavy fire on Tuesday for not living up to its ideals from intellectuals who attended a symposium in Stockholm. After a two-day hearing, they drew up a list of recommendations including holding Swedish authorities and officials criminally accountable for turning away people seeking asylum on legitimate grounds. "Swedes and people outside really put up Sweden as an example. We're hoping that Sweden can live up to its very good reputation ... and make its asylum policy more just and humane," opera singer Barbara Hendricks, an ambassador to the United Nations refugee agency, told AFP. The so-called "asylum tribunal" issued a preliminary list of problems with the process in Sweden, including people having been expelled back to countries where they risk torture and the use of speech analysis as the sole factor in determining whether an asylum seeker is genuine. "We're going to present our suggestions to the government and to Swedish citizens, and we hope they will engender discussions and reflection about the problem," said Hendriks. The conference was inspired by a 1967 tribunal in Stockholm and Copenhagen organised by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Joined by greats of the day as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, he set up an unofficial trial to hold the United States accountable for what the group claimed were war crimes in Vietnam. Although the Stockholm hearing was less international in scope, it managed to draw a number of personalities, including Hendricks and George Bizos, a South African human rights advocate and lawyer to its former president Nelson Mandela.

Sweden's asylum process has been the focus of much heated debate in recent years, criticized at home and abroad for being too lengthy and leaving refugees in a state of uncertainty, sometimes for years. The country has also been chastised by the UN Committee against Torture, Human Rights Watch and other international bodies for its 2001 deportation of two suspected Egyptian extremists to Egypt, where they were later allegedly tortured. In December 2001, Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zery, who were suspected of terrorist activities and ordered deported from Sweden, were handed over to US agents, then put on a plane leased by the Pentagon and flown to Egypt. The pair claimed they were mistreated by the agents during the transfer to Cairo, and then tortured during their detention in Egypt. "I was especially troubled by ... the case of the two Egyptians," Hendricks said, insisting that Sweden had shown an "abdication of responsibility" in the case. Responding to some of the criticism, the Swedish parliament last week voted to temporarily give asylum seekers whose application have been rejected a second chance to obtain a residence permit. The asylum tribunal did not directly address the temporary law but hopes to influence a definitive law expected to go into effect next March. "There are lots of questions that need to be asked ... How does someone prove that they have been tortured? How do they prove it is dangerous for them to go back?" Björn Linnell, president of the Sweden Center of International PEN, one of the organizers of the tribunal, told AFP before the hearing began. "We want to raise awareness about these issues," he said.
© The Local

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MALMÖ MOSQUE "FACES RUIN"(Sweden)

16/11/2005- An Islamic centre in Malmö says it is threatened with financial ruin after arson attacks earlier this year and in 2003. Now the centre’s insurance company has said it can no longer provide cover because of the risk of further attacks. Bejzat Becirov, the Chief Executive of the centre, has aksed Prime Minister Göran Persson to help the mosque. The lack of insurance means the centre is likely to face difficulties getting credit for business funding and investment in the future, according to Becirov. “Next time we’re under threat of sabotage and terrorism it will become impossible to rebuild the centre, we won’t be able to get a loan to do so either”, Becirov wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister. Göran Persson visited the mosque during party rallying earlier this month and gave “half a promise” of financial support. He said the repeated attacks on the mosque show that Sweden “sadly has become a country with European norms”. It was difficult to find an insurance company that would offer cover to the centre after the first attack in April 2003. The policy had a higher risk assessment than normal and the company that approved The Islamic Centre at the time has since withdrawn their cover. Approximately 57,000 Muslims are members of the centre.
© The Local

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SWEDISH JEWS AND MUSLIMS JOIN FORCES

Swedish Jews have joined forces with their Muslim counterparts to protest laws that outlaw religious slaughter making the production of Kosher and Halal meat illegal.

13/11/2005- Sweden is the only EU country today where slaughter according to the rules of kashrut and halal is legally prohibited. Jewish and Muslim organisations have long argued that this is in breach of the freedom of religion of religious minorities. On 30 September, the Central Council for Jews in Sweden and the Muslim Council of Sweden made public a joint statement in which they advocate a method of slaughter that would satisfy religious rules and assuage concerns regarding animal welfare. Last April, the Swedish Animal Welfare Agency, a governmental authority , completed a report on methods used for religious slaughter in other countries, such as those used to produce halal meat in New Zealand. This report has been referred to several different authorities as well as NGOs, including the Central Council for Jews in Sweden. In a joint statement on this report, the Central Council for Jews in Sweden, the Muslim Council of Sweden and the Brotherhood Movement (a Christian Social Democratic organisation), wrote that “the current laws of slaughter is in opposition to the European Convention for Human Rights, which since 1995 also is Swedish law that protects freedom of religion”.

Unnecessary suffering
According to Swedish law, animals may only be slaughtered under anaesthesia. Since this means that the animal would be immobile, it does not satisfy the criteria for kashrut, which say that an animal must be healthy and able to move before it is slaughtered. Importing kosher or halal meat is permitted, but it is about 100 to 200 per cent more expensive than regular meat in Sweden. The statement recommends that “an exception concerning religious slaughter according to the EU directive and the European Convention should be incorporated into the law of animal welfare”. The joint statement criticises the report by the Swedish Animal Welfare Agency for not including an examination of the method of slaughter called “after-cut stunning.” This method has been accepted both by the Central Council of Jews and by some Muslim groups in Sweden as suitable for kashrut and halal slaughter. The common view in Sweden is that slaughtering animals without giving them anaesthesia causes unnecessary suffering and goes against principles of animal welfare. The government will present a bill on the matter after the referral process has been completed, which will probably happen early next year.
© The European Jewish Press

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'COMMON LAW' NEARER FOR SAMIS(Scandinavia)

16/11/2005- Efforts to give North European Samis a common law cutting across national borders took a major step forward on Wednesday as experts submitted a draft convention for the indigenous Nordic population. Of a total of 75,000 Samis – formerly known as Lapps or Laplanders – in the Nordic region, 50,000 live in Norway, 20,000 in Sweden and the rest in Finland. Each of the three countries currently applies its own laws to Samis and the new text, after three years of negotiations, aims to harmonize their economic, cultural and linguistic rights regardless of national boundaries. "The Nordic Sami convention will represent historic progress for the recognition of the rights of indigenous people," Pekka Aikio, president of the Sami parliamentary council, told reporters in Helsinki. "It has been clear for a long time that national borders obstruct cooperation between Samis. Cooperation has been made particularly difficult by the fact that all states treat Sami questions differently and have different laws and a different judiciary," he said. For the first time in a joint declaration, Samis are recognized as the region's indigenous population and not just a minority, and as having a right to self-determination as well as having suffered "injustices". The convention's authors said it was to establish a minimum level of rights, leaving each state free to go further towards granting Samis special rights. This is a reflection of divergent views between the three countries, with Finland dragging its feet on some Sami rights, especially the exclusive right to hunt reindeer. Finland was also still doubtful on the exact meaning of self-determination for Samis, as well as their water and land rights, Finland's minister for justice, Leena Luhtanen, said. The convention was drafted by an expert group presided over by Norwegian Carsten Smith, whose government has become a driving force behind Sami rights, and which includes representatives from the three governments and from Sami parliaments. The text does not extend to the 2,000 Samis living in Russia.
© The Local

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FIGHT AGAINST RACISM GOES ON(Switzerland)

15/11/2005- Dignitaries from Swiss politics and international organisations have attended an event in Bern to mark the end of a four-year project combating racism. The initiative funded 500 projects between 2001 and 2005 to the tune of SFr14.2 million ($10.8 million). From 2006 the government will spend SFr1.1 million annually on the fight against racism. Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin opened the conference in the presence of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism Doudou Diène. "We all know that the fight against racism is never over," Couchepin said during his speech. He added that the every citizen had a role to play, whether at work or play, and that the state had the task of observer and of ensuring equality. "We must be on our guard," Couchepin said.

International praise
Gil-Robles – who had criticised Switzerland's treatment of asylum seekers in a report published in June – was full of praise for the work carried out under the project's aegis. He stressed that the good work had to continue and called on the media to play its part in ensuring the population remained informed. A flow of information would prevent irrational fears and ignorance, which formed the breeding ground of xenophobic and racist developments, he said. As for the future, delegates agreed that combating racial discrimination was a long-term activity and that young people had to be educated about the importance of a society free from discrimination. To this end, the bulk of the budget earmarked for next year will go towards teaching youth about such values.
© Swissinfo

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ESTONIAN GOVERNMENT ALLOCATED MONEY FOR A MONUMENT TO FASCISTS

14/11/2005- At a session on November 10, the Estonian government ordered to allocate 89,700 Estonian krones for transporting and erecting the monument “In honor of the 60th anniversary of defending Estonia against the anti-Hitler coalition forces” in the territory of the Liberation War Museum in Lagedi, near Tallin, the government’s press service told a REGNUM correspondent.  It is noteworthy, in the last three years it will be the third attempt to erect the notorious monument, known as “the Likhula Monster” among anti-Fascists and veterans of World War II. The anti-Fascists called the monument that was earlier placed in the village of Lihkula for portraying a soldier in a Nazi uniform with the insignia of the 20th Division of the SS troops, the so-called “Estonian Legion”. In July 2002, the monument was erected in Parnu, but was dismantled under a resolution of the town administration after wide international publicity. In August 2004, the monument was unveiled in Likhula in the presence of the Estonian governmental officials and consecrated by a Protestant priest. However, a photo report of the Russian-language “MK-Estonia” newspaper portraying Estonian neo-Nazis wearing T-shots with images of Fascists’ soldiers who welcomed the monument and called for annihilation of Jews was delivered to the US Ambassodor in Estonia Aldona Wos, who is a member of the US Holocaust Memorial Council. After a talk with Wos Estonian Prime Minister Juhan Parts ordered to dismantle the monument. On September 3, 2004, the law enforcement troops dismantled “the Likhula Monster” despite the protests of the citizens. Tear-gas and dogs were used to disperse the protestants. Several policemen and a worker were hurt. Dismantling of “the Likhula Monster” launched the so-called “war of monuments”, and in September-October 2004 in several regions of Estonia about 20 monuments and gravestones at graves of the Soviet warriors were vandalized. In accordance with a verdict by Tallin district court, on September 30, 2005, the Estonian Rescue Department returned the monument to its formal owner, pensioner Ants Eduard Teder, who participated in World War II on the side of the Hitler coalition. On October 15, “the Likhula Monster” was erected in the presence of governmental officials and veterans of the Hitler coalition in the territory of the Liberation War Museum in Lagedi.
© Regnum

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NIJMEGEN EMBROILED IN ROW OVER ANTI-VERDONK POSTERS(Netherlands)

15/11/2005- Mayor Guusje ter Horst of Nijmegen said on Tuesday she is not going to order the removal of posters criticising Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk from Nijmegen City Hall for the time being. Mayor Ter Horst said she does not have the power to intervene because the posters are not hanging in a public space. The posters are in fact pamphlets stuck to the window of the office used by the green-left party GroenLinks in the City Hall. The protest was initiated by Wouter van Eck, the party's leader in Nijmegen. A translation of the text on the pamphlets reads: "travel agency Rita, arrest, deportation, cremation - efficient to the bitter end." This is a reference to the eleven rejected immigrants and asylum seekers who died in a fire at the Schiphol detention centre in late October. Similar banners and posters have been removed from City Hall in Amsterdam, squats in the capital and from public areas. Van Eck said he decided to use the GroenLinks office in Nijmegen because the removal of anti-Verdonk pamphlets from 27 locations in the city endangered the freedom of expression. Activists are to seek an injunction from an Amsterdam court on Friday to stop the police removing banners and posters, which the public prosecutor's office (OM) has decided are offensive to Verdonk and breach the law. Amsterdam's Mayor Job Cohen and Nijmegen's Ter Horst are cited as respondents in the court case.
© Expatica News

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NINETEEN SKINHEADS ACCUSED OF DISORDERLY CONDUCT IN PIESTANY(Slovakia)

15/11/2005- The police today accused 19 skinheads that participated in Friday's attack on bar guests in Piestany, west Slovakia, of offences including disorderly conduct, promoting extremist ideology and harming others' health, police spokeswoman Martina Kredatusova told CTK today. Four of the bar guests suffered injuries after being pelted with rocks by a group of young men that witnesses described as skinheads. If convicted, several of the alleged skinheads could face up to five years in prison. "The investigators have accused men aged between 17 and 23 of the criminal offence of engaging in violence against a group or an individual, disorderly conduct and supporting and promoting movements aimed at curtailing the rights and freedoms of individuals. In addition, three of the men were also accused of harming others' health," said Kredatusova. All 19 alleged skinheads were accused of promoting extremism. Slovakia has seen a surge in the number of criminal offences committed by extremists in recent weeks. Following several attacks by skinheads in October and at the beginning of November, unknown neo-Nazis murdered 21-year-old student Daniel Tupy in Bratislava, causing a wave of indignation around the country. However, attacks by extremists did not cease even after the murder. After the disturbances in Piestany on Friday, skinheads attempted to attack a group of secondary school students inside a train on Saturday. The skinheads boarded the train in Piestany. "We are even more concerned about the situation at hand on the streets of our cities because a young innocent person lost his life recently. The neo-Nazis continue their attacks and are threatening and harming people. Despite the public's outcry, we see that individual police officers are reluctant to deal with the problem responsibly," Jaroslava Farkasova, spokeswoman for the People Against Racism civic association, said today. Slovak Interior Minister Vladimir Palko today reacted to the recurring violence and the failure of the police to track down Tupy's murderers by dismissing the police chief in Bratislava's fifth district where the student had been killed. The director of riot police in Trnava, west Slovakia, was also dismissed.
© Romano vodi

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NEO-NAZI TRIAL PUT ON ICE AFTER UPSET(Germany)

The trial of notorious Holocaust-denier Ernst Zündel will have to be rescheduled after the judge disqualified the public defender. She had appointed a debarred right-wing extremist as her legal assistant.

15/11/2005- On the second day of the trial against neo-Nazi Ernst Zündel in Mannheim, Judge Ulrich Meinerzhagen announced that a new lawyer would have to be assigned to defend the 66-year old. Attorney Sylvia Stolz had appointed Horst Mahler, a debarred lawyer and well-known right-wing extremist, as her legal assistant. The judge said this was legally punishable. He dismissed both Stolz and Mahler from the defense on the first day of the trial last week. Meinerzhagen said a new defender would need time to prepare, which was no longer possible in the midst of the current trial. No date for a new trial was given. Zündel, who had been deported by Canada to Germany in March, faces charges of inciting racial hatred. Meinerzhagen said he would remain in pre-trial detention and that the trial's collapse was entirely due to the defense team.

Convicted for right- and left-wing extremism
Mahler spent 1970-1980 in prison after being convicted for membership in the German left-wing terrorist organization Red Army Faction (RAF). After leaving jail, he turned his attention to the extreme right-wing. In January, he was convicted of inciting racial hatred and sentenced to nine months in jail. The defense team had earlier in the day attempted to have the judge recused from the trial for alleged bias, but the court rejected the petition as unfounded. It also turned down the defense's appeal to have the trial closed to the public. The district attorney's office said it was unlikely a new trial would start before next year.
© Deutsche Welle

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NEO-NAZI MARCH BLOCKED IN GERMANY BY PROTESTS

14/11/2005- A blockade by several thousand activists helped prevent a neo-Nazi march from taking place over the weekend at a World War II military cemetery in eastern Germany, police said Sunday. A blockade of about 2,200 people including local politicians, trade unionists and anti-Nazis prevented a group of about 1,600 neo-Nazis from marching through the biggest cemetery for soldiers in Germany in Halbe, about 30 kilometres south of Berlin. More than 2,000 riot police kept the opposing groups separated. After failing to break through police lines, the rightists gave up and left the Halbe area on Saturday evening, police said. About 23,000 soldiers and civilians are buried at Halbe which was the scene of one of the last major battles in 1945 before Nazi Germany's defeat.
© Expatica News

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IMMIGRANTS TO START PAYING FOR OWN INTEGRATION COURSE(Belgium)

14/11/2005- Flemish Integration Minister Marino Keulen is drawing up new integration legislation in which immigrant students will need to personally pay for their courses. Employment Minister Frank Vandenbroucke is also moving to significantly boost the means with which employer associations can stimulate the recruitment of immigrant workers. Keulen wants to amend current federal legislation, particularly the section that deals with penalising students who refuse to enter an integration course. Currently, the matter is dealt with by the judiciary, but public prosecutors are dropping most of the cases because have other priorities. In future, Keulen wants to fine immigrants, but the amount of the fine has not yet been announced, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Monday. The most important change is that Keulen wants to make students pay for their integration course. The amount they will need to pay will be dependent on the student's financial means or those of his or her partner. Whoever starts but fails to finish the course — which is designed to reduce social tension by integrating newcomers into Flemish society — will have to pay more. Keulen also intends to make it compulsory for family unification and marriage immigrants to undergo an integration course. The previous Flemish government thought such a regulation breached European and international treaties, but Keulen is of another opinion. The Liberal VLD minister is also targeting immigrants who have been in Belgium for an extended period of time. If they are unemployed, the immigrants will be offered an integration course. Moreover, he will also urge parents to send their children to Flemish schools and not always to a vocational or technical school. He also wants to boost the number of immigrant children at non-compulsory pre-schools. Meanwhile, Socialist SP.A Employment Minister Vandenbroucke said the employment level of immigrants in Flanders is disappointing and that the government had to invest more. He proposed strongly boosting the budgets of employers associations Voka and Unizo so that they can convince more companies to take on immigrant workers. Voka and Unizo already have initiatives such as Jobkanaal and the Servicepunt KMO & Diversiteit, but Vandenbroucke said these projects need to be revised. Prejudice and racism must be completely eliminated and the Flemish employment bureau VDAB must offer more chances for immigrants. Vandenbroucke announced earlier this that year he would help companies draw up a diversity plan and has now committed an annual allocation of EUR 5 million. However, at a congress of the Minorities Forum on Saturday, the minister said he was not in favour of 'anonymous' job applications to combat racism.
© Expatica News

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PORTUGAL SEES INTEGRATION PROGRESS

In Portugal the sea is never far away, and the distant lands once ruled by the Portuguese still enrich modern life, from architecture to cuisine.

14/11/2005- Carlos Trindade describes Portugal's ethnic mix as "social soup". He is responsible for migration issues as an executive member of the national trade union federation, the CGTP. He told me he was "confident that Portugal does not face the chaos of the French riots" which have grabbed Europe's attention. The government says it is fully engaged with the issues of immigration and race.

Beach incident
An incident on a beach near Lisbon in June heightened concern about ethnic tensions in Portugal. Mr Trindade said early media reports of hundreds of black youths from Cape Verde working in gangs and mugging beachgoers were exaggerated. The police had later explained that the incident involved maybe 30-40 youths at most, Mr Trindade recalled. But he said the incident had been a "signal" for those working in race relations - not just of the dangers of social exclusion, but also of over-reaction on the part of the media and the authorities. Mario Lima Moreira, deputy president of the Cape Verde Association in Lisbon, also said the whole incident had been absurdly exaggerated, and not even one complaint of theft had been filed with the police. According to Mr Moreira, in Portugal black immigrants "continue to face a greater challenge to find work and social acceptance than their 'whiter' counterparts from Brazil and recent immigrants from eastern Europe". Mr Moreira believes black African immigrants often face "subtle discrimination". He says Portugal has just one parliamentary deputy whose family comes from Cape Verde - Celeste Correia.

Ukrainians
Carlos Trindade however puts such discrimination down to the issue of job qualifications held by immigrants. He said a recent influx of Ukrainian immigrants had been a success story because they usually hold good qualifications. He said black immigrants often came from countries with a poorer social infrastructure. Out on the street, three Cape Verdean men disagreed. Joseph Armando, Pedro Goncalves and Paolo Nazolini said that they all had professional backgrounds, but felt that colour was an issue when they went for jobs or housing. By day, they camped and cooked on a city square, parking cars for odd change. By night, they slept in shelters or hostels. Rui Marques, Portugal's High Commissioner for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities, says two ministers are focusing on migration issues. They are: the Minister of State for Internal Administration, Antonio Costa, and Minister of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Pedro Silva Pereira. Mr Marques believes that "this integrated approach has meant better bridge-building out to the immigrant community on a wide range of issues".

Help for illegals
He says even illegal immigrants to Portugal have the right to come to his office and seek help. Once in his building, they can ask for advice on their rights without facing arrest or deportation. Illegal immigrants are entitled to free medical care in cases of emergency, childbirth, their children's health, or tuberculosis, HIV/Aids and any other infectious diseases, he says. But he added that no amnesty for illegals was likely from the Portuguese government. He criticised the Spanish Socialist government's amnesty for illegals earlier this year, saying it had caused the chaos in Ceuta and Melilla, with refugees scrambling to enter Spain's North African enclaves. According to Mr Marques, Portugal has about 400,000 legal immigrants in a population of 10 million. However, he acknowledged that there was no way of counting the illegals. Mr Marques says Portugal only has a 4% immigrant population compared to Spain's 8%, but legal immigrant numbers have doubled in the past three years while Portugal's economic crisis has seen unemployment double since 2000. Nevertheless, he says there is "no xenophobia crisis" in Portugal. In the last general election, the far right only managed to gain 10,000 votes nationally, he noted. But he did warn that "things can change quickly" and that after the riots in France, Portugal would have to be "very attentive and very careful". The government recently launched a public awareness campaign, to say "thank you" to immigrants and their families for their contribution to Portugal and their enrichment of Portuguese life, he said.

Foreigners legally resident in Portugal - by origin
Cape Verde - 53,858 (21.5%)
Brazil - 26, 561 (10.6%)
Angola - 25,681 (10.2%)
Guinea-Bissau - 20,209 (8.1%)
UK - 16,784 (6.7%)
Spain - 15,329 (6.1%)
Dec 2003 data - main groups
Source: National Statistics Institute

© BBC News

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RACISM IN BRITAIN NO LONGER A BLACK AND WHITE ISSUE

16/11/2005- The discourse of racism in Britain has long been premised on the white-non-white dichotomy, but recent events have added a hitherto unforeseen dimension - racism within the non-white minority. Racism in Britain is clearly no longer a simple black and white issue. There is little attention given to the changing colours of racism within the non-white minority. The Home Office has been warned by a race relations expert that it is ignoring repeated warnings of conflict between Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities. While the Asians, who have progressed over the years, believe they have done so due to their hard work, there is a strong feeling within the Afro-Caribbean community that state funds to promote multicultural policies have been cornered by Asians. Recent disturbances in Birmingham were confined to clashes between youths of Asian and Afro-Caribbean origin. There was no reported involvement of white youths in the clashes. A trend of similar incidents is evident elsewhere too. The spark for the Birmingham clashes may have been lit by the unsubstantiated news report on a pirate radio station that a 14-year-old Jamaican girl was gang-raped by Asian men, but there was already simmering tension between the two communities due to wide economic disparities. Asians in the Lozells and Handsworth area of Birmingham have generally prospered, and claim that it was jealousy that motivated their economically less successful Afro-Caribbean neighbours to target them. In Leicester - a town in the east Midlands with a large minority of Gujarat origin - there are reports of an undercurrent of tension between immigrant communities, particularly between Asians who settled there after being expelled from Idi Amin's Uganda in the early 1970s, and recent immigrants from Somalia. The Somali immigrants have clashed with earlier immigrants of Afro-Caribbean origin in Leicester, while not every successful Asian businessman in the town welcomes competition from the new immigrants. These new undercurrents of tension between the non-white minorities in different towns across Britain pose new challenges to the thesis of multiculturalism that has held good so far. Leicester, in fact, has so far been seen as a model of multicultural harmony, but race relations experts are keeping their fingers crossed.

In yet another incident of racism within the non-white minority, the Manchester Crown Court was this week told how a young Asian of Indian origin was brutally murdered by an illegal Albanian immigrant who taunted him for associating with "white bastards". Kalvinder Singh, 31, who ran a grocery shop, had been queuing with friends at an Indian takeaway when an Albanian man started screaming racial abuse. Minutes later the man returned with three more thugs who beat Singh to the floor and stamped on his head. He suffered severe head injuries with his skull and cheekbones were fractured and he died 16 days later in hospital. His friend Wayne Sykes, 30, was treated in hospital for a fractured skull and is now permanently deaf in one ear. The Manchester Crown Court was told the Albanian, Marjan Semaj, 22, had entered Britain illegally six years ago through the Channel Tunnel and had assumed the identity of another immigrant. Semaj has been convicted of murder and jailed for a minimum of 12 years, but the police are still hunting three other suspects who entered the country at about the same time. Singh's devastated widow Gurmehar, 29, who is now looking after their daughters Tina, 10, and Kim, 13, alone, said: "This group ruined our lives. They haven't just killed one person. They have devastated our whole family." Singh's father Awtar, 59, said: "He was a very ambitious young man and worked hard in the family business. He was very clever and had a bright future. He wanted to be an accountant." The incident occurred in April, but the sentencing of the Albanian immigrant has taken place at a time when new crosscurrents in race relations are emerging across Britain.
© Webindia123

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MINORITIES BREAK 'CLASS BARRIER' (uk)

Young people from working class ethnic minorities tend to out-perform their white counterparts, says a report.

14/11/2005- Research into 140,000 children over 30 years found immigrant families breaking through class barriers, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said. Half of children from Indian working class families went into professional or managerial posts, compared with 43% of white children, it found. But Pakistani and Bangladeshi children did worse than some white children. Some 45% of those from Caribbean backgrounds also obtained professional or managerial posts, the study found. The study into the success of ethnic minority children, many the sons and daughters of immigrants or born overseas themselves, looked at their lives over three decades, with the help of official statistics. It suggested parents encouraging their children to get educated was one of the factors playing a key role in their success. Academics at the University of Essex used national statistics to track what happened to 140,000 people born in England and Wales since the 1960s. The study found proportionally more ethnic minority children appeared able to do better than their parents. The report attributed this to their parents encouraging them to stick at education.

'Under-performance'
However, those from Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities were found to under-perform compared with white children from working class families. "The Pakistanis [tracked in the figures] were less likely to end up in professional/managerial families even when taking their backgrounds and their own educational level into account," said the report. While there appeared to be clear educational and social reasons for the poor performance of some Bangladeshi children, said the report, it was harder to explain the lack of social mobility in Pakistani children. The report suggested two factors played a key role in explaining success. Firstly, children of working class immigrants tended to be motivated by their parents, a phenomenon reported in other studies. While some immigrants initially do economically worse on arrival in a country, because only the poorest paid jobs are available, many of those who stay see their children do a lot better because of encouragement to work hard at school. Secondly, the report suggested the upward mobility had been helped by the expansion of Britain's service industry at the expense of manual jobs - meaning there was "more room at the top" for those who aspired to reach it. Lucinda Platt, of Essex University, the report's author, found Jews and Hindus had more chance of upward mobility than Christians. In contrast, Muslims and Sikhs had less chance of breaking through class barriers. Children born into professional and managerial families, regardless of their ethnicity, were less likely to find themselves in less qualified work than their parents. "Britain is still a long way from being a meritocracy where social class no longer plays a part in determining children's chances of well-paid careers," said Dr Platt. "There is good news to the extent that a disproportionate number of the young people who are upwardly mobile are the children of parents who came to this country as migrants. "But their welcome progress is no cause for complacency, especially when it appears to be so much harder for young people from Pakistani or Bangladeshi families to get ahead."
© BBC News

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TEENAGER MURDERED OVER SKIN COLOUR, COURT TOLD(uk)

16/11/2005- The black teenager Anthony Walker was murdered with an axe for no other reason than the colour of his skin, a jury was told today. Mr Walker, an 18-year-old A-level student, was attacked in Huyton, Merseyside, in July this year while walking his girlfriend Louise Thompson to a bus stop with his cousin, Marcus Binns. Opening the case for the prosecution at the start of the trial of Michael Barton, prosecutor Neil Flewitt QC said Mr Walker and Mr Binns were attacked "for no reason other than the colour of their skin". Mr Barton, 17, appearing before Preston crown court sitting in Liverpool, denies murder and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm. Another man, Paul Taylor, 20, admitted murdering Mr Walker yesterday when he changed his plea on what was due to be the first day of the trial. Mr Flewitt told the jury today: "Both Paul Taylor and Michael Barton are white, as is Louise Thompson. "Anthony Walker and Marcus Binns are black. It is the prosecution's case that on 29 July 2005 Paul Taylor, Michael Barton and others decided to pursue Anthony Walker and Marcus Binns for no reason other than the colour of their skin. "They pursued them from a bus stop opposite the Huyton Park public house and they pursued them to attack them with the intention of causing them grievous bodily harm." On the night of the attack, a local man saw Mr Walker with his arm around Ms Thompson and described him as being "his usual happy self". Mr Flewitt QC said: "After they had been at the bus stop for about five minutes, Louise and Marcus noticed a lad directly opposite them standing on the low wall outside the pub. "Their attention was drawn to this lad because he was shouting abuse in their direction. Louise recalls him using the words 'niggers' and 'coons'.

"He then turned to his friends on the car park and shouted, 'See how fast you can go'. "Marcus recalls the lad shouting at him 'Microphone head' and 'Michael Jackson'. At that time Marcus had a distinctive Afro hairstyle," Mr Flewitt said. The court was told that Mr Walker shouted back to the boy on the wall: "We're only waiting for the bus and then we're going." Mr Flewitt said: "The lad on the wall then shouted again towards Anthony, Louise and Marcus. This time he shouted, 'Walk nigger, walk'. "Sensing trouble, Anthony and his friends started to walk to the next bus stop." The prosecution claimed that both Taylor and Mr Barton were present during the racial abuse. As Mr Walker and his friends walked to the next stop, they were followed by a Peugeot car in which the prosecution claimed Mr Barton, Taylor and others were travelling. The three tried to escape by walking into McGoldrick Park, known locally as the flower park. Mr Flewitt said: "In McGoldrick Park, Paul Taylor, Michael Barton and others confronted Anthony Walker and Marcus Binns. "Although Marcus Binns and Louise Thompson were able to run away and escape their attackers, Anthony Walker was not so fortunate. "He was struck to the head and killed by a single blow from an ice axe. "It is the prosecution's case that the fatal blow was struck by Paul Taylor, but that the weapon was provided by Michael Barton." Mr Flewitt then held up the approximately 2ft-long axe in a clear plastic bag to show the jury. The prosecution claims this proves it was Mr Barton who provided the weapon used by Taylor to deliver the fatal blow. Taylor admits delivering the fatal blow with the axe. Mr Barton, the jury was told, admits wanting to fight with Mr Walker and Mr Binns but claims he did not intend to cause grievous bodily harm to either of them. He also denies being present when the fatal blow was struck and claims he was chasing Mr Binns at the time.
© The Guardian

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MAN ADMITS MURDER OF ANTHONY WALKER (uk)

15/11/2005- A man accused of killing the black teenager Anthony Walker today pleaded guilty to his murder at Liverpool crown court.
Paul Taylor, 20, admitted bludgeoning the 18-year-old to death with an axe as he walked with his girlfriend and his cousin near his home in Huyton, Merseyside, on July 29. Taylor's co-defendant, Michael Barton, 17, is still on trial and has pleaded not guilty to murder and to conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm to Mr Walker and his cousin, Marcus Binns. Yesterday, Taylor entered a plea of not guilty at Preston crown court, where a jury was sworn in. The rest of the trial will take place at Liverpool crown court. Following Taylor's change of plea, Mr Barton's trial has been adjourned until tomorrow. Mr Walker died in hospital a few hours after being attacked as he walked his girlfriend to a bus stop with Mr Binns.
© The Guardian

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IMMIGRANTS IN PARIS AND HELSINKI HAVE A COMMON PROBLEM: UNEMPLOYMENT(Finland)

Foreigners want work and equal treatment

13/11/2005- Everything is not all right here. The sight at the Myllypuro Metro station is a stunning one. On the edge of what appears to be a sleepy part of Helsinki, hundreds of people are standing, holding numbers. It is a food queue. A large proportion of the people waiting in the area are native-born Finns, but in the murmur of voices, languages such as Somali, Russian, and Estonian can be heard. East Helsinki is known for its relatively high population of immigrants, and here, among the poorest, their proportion appears to be even higher. "An immigrant is always the one to get work last", sighs Deaconess Liisa Rautala, standing in the middle of the group. "It seems to be truly difficult for them to get work, and if there is work, it is often part-time, and at the minimum wage." The riots in France have been a topic of discussion around the world for two weeks. The events were sparked by the deaths of two boys, but deeper in the background is the frustration felt by immigrants over unemployment, among other things. But surely, nothing like that can happen in Helsinki?

According to the Ministry of Labour, one third of the more than 100,000 immigrants living in Finland are unemployed, and the figure is much higher if those who have been given subsidised work or who are in training are taken into account. "If immigrants do not have work, it is no wonder that unrest breaks out", says Sinikka Backman, who is responsible for food distribution in Myllypuro. Kari Jallinoja, who runs a kiosk at the Vuosaari Metro station, believes that rebellion might be possible in Helsinki suburbs as well. "Sure, it's possible, if more and more people keep coming here. In France, and here, it is stupid to put immigrants in one heap." Jallinoja believes that idleness is the greatest cause of the problems. "Immigrants should have everyday routines. This is probably where the problem is. If people work, they do not have the strength to cause trouble at night." Pensioner Eeva Keinonen stands at the Metro station of Helsinki's main railway station, waiting for the next train to Vuosaari. Keinonen feels that immigrants in Finland have it better than in France. "They take care of immigrants pretty well. I don't think that something like that could happen in Finland."

Ahmed Mohammed, an 18-year-old Somali, is waiting for the Metro in Itäkeskus. He speaks fluent Finnish and studies chemical technology. Nevertheless, finding a job is not easy for him. "As soon as they hear that the applicant is a foreigner, they say that the job has already been filled", Mohammed says. "I think that there should not be any separation between foreigners and Finns. They are all people." The problem is a common one in different parts of East Helsinki. "I have been looking for work since the summer and have not found any", says Somali-born Ahmed Ali Hirsi, also 18. "One of my friends is a cleaner, and all others are unemployed." "It is a problem not to have work", says Russian-born Natalia, age 63. "I have a diploma from the Sibelius Academy. I play the piano."
Nigerian Smart Ikhu Omaregbe, 32, pushes a cleaning cart at a shopping mall in Vuosaari. He has a job, but not exactly the kind that he would like. Omaregbe studies at the Helsinki University of Technology. He has applied for jobs at Nokia, and at a data security company. "I have been waiting for them to call back for eight months."

A floor-washing machine at the Metro Station at Helsinki's main railway station is run by Sanni Be, a good-natured man who came to Finland from Gambia 17 years ago. Be has not thought much about recent news about the rioting in France. "You can't compare Paris and Helsinki. Paris is so much bigger", Be ponders. Be is satisfied with his life in Finland. "I have work, and I can pay for my own meals. Give people work. That is the solution to the problems." Be feels that Finnish society is "90% good and 10% bad". The bad part is racism, and he has come across it now and then: people stare at him or resort to verbal abuse. "It feels bad." Hassan Yussuf, a Somali drinking coffee at the Mellunmäki Metro station, also wants equal treatment for immigrants. He feels that officials are in an important position, if an outbreak of dissatisfaction is to be avoided in Helsinki. "When a foreigner does something bad, it is turned into a big issue, but if a Finn does something bad, it is not so big", Yussuf says. Mohamed Ibrahim, who works as a youth counsellor in Vuosaari, agrees. "A few Somali groups commit crimes, but the whole community is labelled. There are 3,500 of us in Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa, but only about 20 of us cause problems." Kristian in Myllypuro appears to know all about racism. He says that he used to be a neo-Nazi, but after a religious awakening, his views changed completely. "My thoughts about immigrants were very extreme. Now I feel that everyone is equal", Kristian says. "But the worst racists are often ordinary Finns, even though they don't look like it."
© Helsingin Sanomat

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GAY GROUP DEMANDS PROBE OF HOMOPHOBIA IN SOFIA POLICE FORCE(Bulgaria)

16/11/2005- The Bulgarian gay organisation BGO Gemini has lodged an official complaint concerning homophobia within the Sofia police. The move comes following the LGBT group learning of police harassment against a young gay man of Albanian origin. The man – know as “I.A” – became the latest victim of homophobia by the police when he was arrested on the night of October 25 as he entered a Sofia club popular with the gay community. BGO Gemini claims that the arrest was illegal. Without being given the reason for his arrest, I.A. was taken to the police station where he was detained for 12 hours. Worried about the policemen’s attitude, he requested one of them to show his identification card. But this request for identification led to verbal abuse from the officer. “Arkan [Serbian paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic] was right when killing Albanians in Kosovo,” the policeman is alleged to have said. Officers also made homophobic remarks such as “you nasty, dirty, contemptible faggot”. None of the police officers showed identification documents. In addition to the verbal insults on his sexual orientation and ethnic origin he was subjected to, “I.A.” was also physically beaten by the officers. When he requested a ‘psychological consultation’ and a phone call to his mother to inform her about the situation, both were refused. Gemini has started legal proceeding over the matter.

Background on Being Gay in Bulgaria
by Desislava Petrova of BGO Gemini

Bulgarian legislation contains no provisions that refer specifically to perpetrators of crimes motivated by homophobia, despite the fact that the Council of Europe considers homophobia to be equivalent to racism. In the Penal Code, homosexuals are only singled out when they are the subjects of a crime (i.e. when they are the perpetrators), and not when they are objects (i.e. victims of a crime). Judicial and police bodies do not show any eagerness to collect evidence about the homophobic motives of those who perpetrate crimes. Judges are not obliged to consider such motives as aggravating the circumstances of guilt or to impose more severe punishments when homophobic motives are present. Discriminatory attitudes of police officers towards sexual minorities are no different from discrimination against any other minorities. Individual cases reported to BGO Gemini provide evidence indicating the presence of the discriminatory practices within the police force. Police officers refuse to register cases of brutality committed crimes against sexual minorities and do not conduct investigations that would seek criminal responsibility from the perpetrators of crimes motivated by homophobic prejudices. The passive behaviour of the police is an expression of the states desire to ignore the violation of the rights of LGBT.

The police have initiated on numerous occasions unprovoked actions towards homosexuals. In the past, BGO Gemini has dealt with a case of a gay man from a small town who submitted a complaint against three police officers. They had arrested him with no reason being given and took him into custody. He was threatened by them and beaten while being in custody because he had been known as gay. A few days later he was released from police arrest and his police file mysteriously disappeared. There are also cases of gay bashing. BGO Gemini has been made aware of about attacks on LGBT people by other individuals, but mostly by groups of people and mainly in the evenings. Due to a lack of effective and focused cooperation with the police, no such cases have ever been legally investigated and no measure taken in order to find and punish the criminals. The new anti-discrimination law came into force in January 2004. The Act is in line with the antidiscrimination law of the European Union, in particular Directives 2000/43, 2000/78, 2002/73, as well as with the Framework Program for the Equal Integration of Roma into Bulgarian Society.

A Commission for protection against discrimination, consisting of nine experts, was appointed in 2005. Four members of the Commission are appointed by the President, and five by the Parliament. However, the Commission is not operational yet so the Bulgarian human rights organizations have to bring discrimination cases to court, instead of passing them on to the Commission. Moreover, only human rights lawyers and NGOs are aware of the existence of Commission itself, its members and the functions of this institution the general society and specifically the victims of human rights violations are not familiar with this Commission. A discrimination case on the grounds of sexual orientation was brought to Sofia District Court and won in April 2005. In its verdict the Sofia District Court recognizes that four homosexual boys have been subject to discrimination on the base of their sexual orientation. The four victims were denied of access to the sports centre of Sofia University. The Court ordered the University to allow the boys access to the centre and to pay a fine of just 500 Bulgarian leva (€255, £175, $300). This is the only discrimination case on the base of sexual orientation brought to the court. However, research for the level and nature of discrimination performed by BGO Gemini shows that this court case is only the tip of the iceberg. Of 34 inquires to Gemini last month, 26 were cases of discrimination, including violence on the workplace, school, university or at home. Two of the reported discrimination cases have been officially reported to the Police – not as cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation, but as cases of violence or harassment. There is a fear in Bulgaria among the gay community that reporting discrimination their sexuality would be disclosed publicly. In addition, there is mistrust in the various institutions
© UK Gay News

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ANTI-FASCIST MURDERED IN ST.PETERSBURG (Russia)

By Natalia Sineaeva and Stephania Koulaeva

17/11/2005- A student of the State University was killed in St. Petersburg this Sunday. His friend was seriously wounded. Both of them were active members of the local antifascist group. Just before the incident occured together with other antifascists they participated at the action " Food Not Bombs". According to some eyewitnesses during the street action a group of nazi skinheads observed the peace action and then quickly disappeared. After the peace action ended, two action participants and organizers- Timur Kacharava and Maxim Zgibova were brutally beaten by approximately 10-15 skinheads on their way home. Friends found Timur and Maxim laying in blood. An ambulance has arrived only after 20 minutes. Timur Kacharava from received knife injures died on the spot.
His friend has been hospitalized. The Office of Public Prosecutor of the Central area of Petersburg started to investigate the case.
Timur Kacharava was a 20 years old student of St.Petersburg University and a punk musician. He and another anarchist (Max) were attacked in the street in the centre of the city - during day time. They were walking with a group of other comrades (approx. 12) from the Vladimirskaya metro-station. Most of them entered a bookshop, while Timur and Max stayed outside to wait for the others. At that moment they were attacked by a big group of skinheads with knives. Max is in hospital now and no information about him is available - even his full name is kept in secret. This anti-fascist group was active (especially in the last month) in successful street direct actions against nazis. Only last week there were a few fights, anti-fascists were attacking the nazi-demonstration on 4th of November, some other times they were attacked by the nazis. The anti-fascist demonstration on 6th November (were we last time met the anarchist group) was not attacked probably only because of the presence of hundreds of riot-cops, who were sent to guard it...
© I CARE News

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VORONEZH FACES STUDENTS' CONCERNS(Russia)

18/11/2005- A representative of the Voronezh city administration, speaking Thursday at a forum dedicated to International Students' Day, said the city was powerless to protect foreign students -- just over a month after the latest murder of a foreign student in the city. "Speaking of recent incidents of violence against foreign students, we are of course deeply sorry about them, we consider it a huge problem, and we are worried about every foreign student in the city," said Denis Petrov, head of the city administration for youth matters, at a forum titled "Youth, Demography, Modernity." But as much as the city wanted to take responsibility for foreign students, "there is no federal law clarifying whether we or the regional administration have that responsibility. Until there is such a law, there is nothing we can do to protect them," Petrov said. On the evening of Oct. 9, Peruvian student Enrique Arturo Angeles Hurtado, 18, became the second foreign student killed in two years in the city. Hurtado and two friends were attacked by 15 to 20 young men while leaving a sports center. Hurtado's friends, who survived the attack, said several of the attackers were skinheads. The slaying of Hurtado drew a fierce outcry from Voronezh's community of 1,200 foreign students, as well as condemnation from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The Education and Science Ministry said it was looking into whether the city should be removed from a list of recommended places for foreign students to study.

At Thursday's forum, however, Voronezh Mayor Boris Skrynnikov said the city welcomed foreign students. "We have many foreign students who finish their studies, start families here and stay permanently. There are many, many such examples," Skrynnikov said. A dramatically different portrayal of the situation came from Moroccan student Mohammed Khammal, head of a local association of foreign students. Khammal was one of three foreign students at Thursday's forum who received an award "for a significant contribution toward the realization of youth politics" -- the timing of which Khammal called "suspicious." "For years, we haven't been invited to any events of this kind," he said. "When a student was killed in 2004, we were invited for the first time. Now, after another murder, we've been invited again. I think they believe they can congratulate us for something and make the whole problem go away." The 30-year-old, who has been married to a Russian woman for three years, said that racism in Voronezh ran deeper than had been acknowledged at any level of government and was getting worse. "You can feel the hatred all around the city. You can see in people's eyes it that they don't want us here," Khammal said. "Since 1996, we've been trying to get an official response. In 1998, they began to beat us, and in 2004, they started to kill us. If something had been done back in '96, it may have prevented people from dying." In June 2004, Amaru Antonio Lima, a student from Guinea-Bissau, was stabbed to death by skinheads in broad daylight. "You hear about students being afraid to go to discos at night. What do we do when we're being attacked in broad daylight?" Khammal said.

Lima's slaying was one of 45 attacks on foreigners in Voronezh in the first nine months of this year, according to Voronezh region prosecutor Alexander Ponomaryov. Human rights activists and student associations say the vast majority of such attacks are racially motivated, while police overwhelmingly refer to incidents of violence against foreigners as "hooliganism." "What is 'hooliganism'? Khammal said. "Look in a dictionary in most languages and you won't even find the word." Thursday's forum was focused on the role of young people in tackling the country's demographic crisis. The population has fallen from 149 million to 143 million in the last five years. President Vladimir Putin and others have talked of the importance of migration in combating the crisis, even as anti-migrant sentiments have played an increasingly large role in national politics. Khammal said that members of his organization traveled to local schools to meet schoolchildren, many of whom were seeing people of color for the first time. International Students' Day, celebrated since 1941, itself has a little-known link to ethnic violence of a previous generation. On Nov. 17, 1939, the Nazi government in Czechoslovakia closed universities and colleges and put many students in detention camps. Two years later, the London-based International Student Assembly declared the day a holiday in a gesture of solidarity with the students. "They ask to touch our skin," Khammal said. "It's not offensive -- the important thing is that they know afterward that Africa isn't a single country. "We're not asking for Russians to love us," he said. "We're asking for respect."
© The Moscow Times

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LEARNING THE HARD WAY(Russia, opinion)

By Nickolai Butkevich

15/11/2005- Is there anywhere left in Russia where foreign students can study without getting their heads bashed in by nationalist extremists? Such was surely the question in the mind of the Ecuadorian diplomat who recently escorted two co-nationals from Voronezh to Belgorod, where they hope to complete their studies in peace. The Ecuadorians were following in the footsteps of dozens of their foreign classmates who have fled racist violence in Voronezh. The last straw for the Ecuadorians was the murder of a Peruvian student there last month. But are these students merely jumping out of the fire into the frying pan? While the situation is certainly calmer in Belgorod, that city is not immune to the attacks on foreign students that have been taking place throughout Russia. According to a Nov. 2 article in the Belgorod newspaper Zhityo Bytyo, in early October a fourth-year Ghanaian student at a local university was set upon near campus. Three attackers beat him for several minutes before retreating; no robbery or attempted robbery of the victim was reported. Two days later, police arrested three teenagers, charged them with "hooliganism" and claimed that there was no racial motive behind the attack.

A spokesman for the local Federal Security Service told the paper that there were no organized extremist gangs like Russian National Unity or skinheads in the Belgorod region, but he did admit that there were "individuals who are inclined to extremist incidents against foreigners." It is unclear if the official was being disingenuous or was simply badly informed, since only a month before, two local Russian National Unity thugs were sentenced for attacking foreign students in Belgorod. After years of reading similar reality-defying claims, it is hard not to think that Russian law enforcement officials are so worried about their cities being labeled hot spots of neo-Nazi activity that they try to cover up racist violence by any means necessary. They publicly acknowledge it and start taking serious measures against it only when bodies start to pile up. By then, unfortunately, the problem is often far out of control. A case in point is Voronezh, where after years of denying that skinheads even existed in the city, police finally began cracking down after the killing of a student from Guinea-Bissau last year. The killers were even convicted on hate crimes charges and given long prison sentences, though local skinheads have not been not noticeably deterred. Nor have better police practices hindered their comrades in other cities. Reports of attacks on foreign students, most of whom are from developing countries, come in with disturbing regularity from all corners of the country. This month, a Chinese student was stabbed in St. Petersburg by a group of youths (who apparently made no attempt to rob their victim); a Columbian student was slashed with a knife in Nizhny Novgorod by a young man who reportedly didn't like his accent; in Murmansk skinheads attacked a Peruvian man; and in Krasnodar a Kenyan student said he was denied medical treatment at hospitals after a group of young men beat him up.

Why are skinheads and other racists concentrating so much on foreign students? First, a contextual caveat is in order. Russian neo-Nazis are clearly attacking migrant workers from the "near abroad" more often than foreign students; but since many of these migrants are present in Russia illegally, they have a greater incentive not to report hate crimes committed against them. Foreign students, of course, also fear the police, who often are just as racist as the skinheads and tend to be more interested in shaking down foreigners for bribes than in solving crimes committed against them. Nevertheless, most foreign students have legal status in Russia, and some have the support of their embassies, whose intervention automatically raises the media profile of an attack. That said, I believe that foreign students, aside from clearly looking different and acting differently from the majority population, are seen by racist thugs as easy marks, at least in comparison to many of the other minority groups on their ever-growing enemies list. Anybody who has ever visited Maryina Roshcha or other Moscow Jewish sites can't help but be impressed by the level of security there. Migrants from the Caucasus likewise think defensively: Although widely hated, they are just as widely feared, as many are likely to be armed. Reports of skinheads being shot, beaten or stabbed by their intended victims are increasingly common. Aside from damaging Russia's international image, attacks on foreign students deal a serious economic blow, especially to provincial universities. At a time when education funding is so scarce that many professors resort to giving out good grades in exchange for bribes, the thousands of tuition dollars that each foreign student injects into his university's budget are precious indeed. If only more police, prosecutors and politicians thought the same about these students' lives.
© FSU Monitor

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UNITED RUSSIA DEPLOYS A YOUTH WING

17/11/2005- The increasingly crowded field of political youth movements gained a new member -- or at least a new name -- as the United Russia party's Young Guard wrapped up its founding congress with a rally full of razzmatazz that invited comparisons with its kissing cousin, the equally pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi. About 2,000 young people were bused in from different regions for the rally, held in an aircraft hangar on the outskirts of Voronezh. The choice of Voronezh, where last month a Peruvian student was knifed to death, was "no accident," said Boris Gryzlov, the State Duma speaker and United Russia party leader. He urged participants to form "a barrier against fascism." Taking the stage with a lineup of film stars and musical acts as the nose of a half-built airplane loomed behind him, Gryzlov invoked the congress' central themes of hope and unity, and told the crowd, "The future is in your hands." In comments to reporters later, Gryzlov said that one of Young Guard's responsibilities was to combat "fascist youth movements that seek to destabilize society and win foreign funding." United Russia condemned "all possible racist, nationalist and fascist escapades," he said, adding that the authorities should not bow to racism, but rather "create normal conditions for the education of foreigners." There have been a series of attacks on foreign students in Voronezh "We consider it our duty to bring these sorts of things to an end," Gryzlov said. Gryzlov's comments appeared to be aimed at quelling disquiet about racially motivated attacks -- and racist slogans by nationalist groups, such as those used on a march through Moscow earlier this month on People's Unity Day. The strongly anti-racist line appeared to distinguish Young Guard from Nashi, which has vaguely described itself as an anti-fascist movement. Nashi leaders' definition of "fascists" has on occasion been extended to include some liberal politicians. The Voronezh congress was largely a renaming congress, as Young Guard is a new incarnation of the pro-Putin Youth Unity movement formed in 2000.

Many of the young people gathered in the aircraft hangar wore T-shirts with the slogan "I've Been Called," yet seemed unsure who had called them, or to what purpose. In addition to a new moniker, the group has new 40-something celebrity leaders, including television anchor Ivan Demidov, 42, and film director Fyodor Bondarchuk, 41. The group's stated goal, however, is a deeply conservative one. Young Guard's main task "is not only to politicize youth, but to give them a path to power to preserve the current government order after 2008. We don't hide the fact that the current authorities more than suit us," Demidov said Wednesday, over the noise of a booming sound system in the aircraft hangar. Demidov also said that Young Guard's proximity to power -- with the pro-Kremlin United Russia party holding a large majority in the Duma -- meant the group could have "a real influence" on the country's political life. Comments by Demidov and other Youth Guard leaders, barely audible as many in the audience clamored for T-shirts and noisemakers, sounded like a milder version of those uttered by Nashi leaders. Youth Guard's relationship to Nashi was a repeated topic of discussion, perhaps because Nashi's leadership has measured its vocal support of President Vladimir Putin with condemnations of "bureaucrats." Demidov spoke only of similarities, however, calling Nashi "among the most prominent youth movements today." "We are different in our methods, but our goals are identical," he said. Gryzlov's patrician image generated far less enthusiasm among the youth than Bondarchuk's. Already a well-known actor before the record-breaking opening of his directorial debut "9 Rota," or "Company 9," last month, Bondarchuk was spotted before he reached the stage and overwhelmed by autograph-seekers. One he made it to the stage, the filmmaker kept his comments brief. "Have you seen the film '9 Rota'?" Bondarchuk asked, to a roar of affirmation. "The last line in that film is, 'We will win.' Well, we will win!" The youth group also capitalized on Bondarchuk's star power in Moscow on Tuesday with a send-off event for the congress' Moscow delegation. Bondarchuk appeared there with a group of actors from the film, and attendees received autographed DVDs.

The prevailing mood among many of the youth milling around the hangar in Voronezh on Wednesday was something less than celebratory, however. Even while Bondarchuk was addressing the crowd, one young woman in a Young Guard T-shirt broke away to address a reporter. "Do you know what you should write? Write that they got us to come here from Moscow by promising us real food, and they haven't given us anything other than some kind of sukhariki," she said, referring to a snack food made from dried bits of black bread. The young woman gave her name as Maria, but when asked to give her last name, she glanced nervously at a group of leaders from the movement and shook her head. Other young people told of being let out of schools or universities and bused from surrounding towns without a clear idea where they were headed. Lena Sokolova, 20, from the town of Lipetsk, said she had come on one of four buses from the town that brought about 200 people to the rally. "I'm not sure who organized it, but it basically got me a day off," Sokolova said. "I don't pay much attention to politics." Three other young women from Lipetsk were more enthusiastic about the event. "A lot of people think that participating in politics only means going to vote in elections, and I don't think that's right," said Marina Budyukina, a 20-year-old architecture student. "The future of the country depends on people getting more involved, and young people in organizations like this are doing that." Budyukina said she had not been a member of Youth Unity, nor was she yet a member of Young Guard. Alexander Novikov, a 20-year-old medical student from Belgorod, had been a member of Youth Unity and was hopeful about the organization's recent transformation. "The organization can help me in my career by helping me meet other people with similar interests, and I hope it can help change things in the country as well," Novikov said. "You always want to look positively at things, but there is a quite a bit here we need to change."
© The Moscow Times

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SUPREME COURT CONFIRMS BAN ON LIMONOV'S NATIONAL BOLSHEVIKS(Russia)

15/11/2005- Russia's Supreme Court has left in effect the decision to ban the Eduard Limonov-led National Bolshevik Party. Thereby the court declared valid the decision made by the Moscow Region's court and dismissed the protest filed by NBP lawyers. The Moscow Region Prosecutor's Office spokesperson Yelena Mikhlina has expressed "full satisfaction with the decision." Speaking at the court's session Mikhlina mentioned a number of reasons for the NBP's elimination, including "prolonged reluctance to submit the required package of documents to the registration authorities exercising control of the activity of non-governmental associations." The prosecutor's office spokesperson said the National Bolsheviks had no right to use the word party in the title of the organization, because they had been originally registered as an inter-regional non-governmental association. "NBP activists have repeatedly committed crimes and administrative offences of extremist nature, and the party's leader supported and approved their activity through the mass media," Mikhlina said. NBP lawyer Vitaly Varivoda declared the intention to protest Tuesday's decision by the Supreme Court in the European human rights court. Eduard Limonov declared the intention to set up a new political organization called the National Bolshevik Party of the Russian Federation. It is expected that once the court's decision has been delivered to the Federal Registration Service, the NBP will be deleted from the list of formally registered public associations. After a three-year litigation the Moscow Regional Court on June 29 sustained the demand filed by the Moscow Region Prosecutor's Office for stripping the NBP of formal registration. The prosecutor's office said the NBP had repeatedly abused the legislation on political parties and public associations. The Supreme Court looked into the NBP's protest to have canceled the Moscow City Court's Ruling, but the court's presidium on October 5 considered a protest from a deputy of Russia's prosecutor-general to have ordered a retrial. The prosecutor's protest said the second instance court had made a groundless decision, failing to take into account fresh evidence and charges of extremism. The NBP was registered as an inter-regional non-governmental organization in 1993. Two courts in Moscow are in the process of considering criminal cases opened against NBP activists - the 39 men and women who forced their way into a presidential administration office in Moscow and two NBP members who in May used abseiling equipment to hang a drape on the wall of the Rossiya Hotel overlooking the Kremlin with an anti-presidential slogan. Another two cases against Limonov's associates are considered by courts in the Khabarovsk Territory and the Kamchatka Peninsula.
© FSU Monitor

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NATIONALISTS STAKING THEIR POLITICAL CLAIMS(Russia)

17/11/2005- In recent weeks, Russian nationalists have been steadily encroaching on the political stage, as seen in the slogans chanted during sanctioned street marches and the spin given to news programs, movies and commercials shown on national television. Given the tight grip the Kremlin holds on the country's political life, this burst of nationalism could not have occurred without at least a silent nod of official approval. Some say the latest upsurge of xenophobic nationalism was intentionally stimulated by the Kremlin with an eye to the 2007-08 elections. If voters are sufficiently alarmed by the fascist threat, the theory goes, they will support any Kremlin-backed candidate who they believe can curb the brown shirts. Others say the atmosphere of a besieged fortress instilled by the Kremlin after the velvet revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, coupled with attempts to build patriotism by dragging out symbols of Russia's imperial past, were enough to foster the xenophobic sentiments. All, including leaders of nationalists groups, agree, however, that recent events have allowed radical nationalists to see themselves as a rightful public force and to hope for future political success. "Our march was a decisive moment in the history of the Russian patriotic movement: It is no longer a marginal group but a popular force that everyone will have to take into account," said Alexander Belov, leader of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, or DPNI, which provided an umbrella for the ultranationalist groups that took part in a march to mark the new Nov. 4 holiday.

Thousands of nationalists and unabashed skinheads paraded through the center of Moscow, giving Nazi salutes and carrying signs saying "Clean Russia of the Occupiers." The march was authorized by city authorities. At about the same time, TV Center, a Moscow television channel with a national outreach, began showing a provocative campaign ad for the nationalist Rodina party, one of only four parties represented in the State Duma. The ad, which featured boorish dark-skinned migrants eating watermelon and tossing the rinds on the ground, called for "clearing the city of garbage." It was taken off the air after city prosecutors began investigating complaints that it incited ethnic hatred. Rogozin reportedly has vowed to bring back the ad in a different form: The neighborhood would be identified as Paris one year ago and the characters would speak French. The recent rioting in France by dark-skinned youth of African and Arab origin has been shown extensively on state television news programs, where it has elicited excited finger-pointing by nationalist politicians and commentators who portray migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia in Russian cities as the major threat to the Russian nation. Also this month, state-owned Channel One has been showing an intensely promoted saga about the archetypal Russian poet Sergei Yesenin, who in the television serial is driven to his death by stereotypical Jewish ill-wishers around him, although the consensus in the literary world is that Yesenin committed suicide at a time of deep personal crisis. The serial also portrays the 1917 Revolution as being funded by "Western" money. If previously the nationalist card was played largely by political and public forces as part of a larger agenda, nationalism has recently become a force of its own, said Dmitry Badovsky, a political scientist with the Institute of Social Systems at Moscow State University. "It is like toothpaste that can no longer be pushed back into the tube," he said.

Badovsky said the Kremlin's attempts to energize youth political activism in order to fight off a velvet revolution in Russia had brought young violent nationalists close to entering public politics. The mood seems ripe. In a poll released last week by the independent Levada Center, half of the 1,880 respondents said they would support banning natives of the Caucasus from living in Russia. The survey did not specify whether this referred to people from the North Caucasus, which is part of Russia, or from former Soviet republics that are now independent countries. Slightly fewer supported a ban on Chinese (46 percent) and Vietnamese (42 percent), while about one third supported keeping out natives of Central Asia (31 percent) and Gypsies (30 percent). The survey, which was conducted in August, before the recent upsurge in nationalist sentiment, showed a slight increase from last year but a notable increase from three years ago. This year, 59 percent said they wanted the government to cut the influx of migrants, compared with 45 percent in 2002. The poll has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. Belov said DPNI had worked out "a special mobilization plan" to see how many people they could assemble at short notice, but on Nov. 4 "it worked beyond our wildest expectations." By different accounts, between 2,000 and 5,000 people joined the procession. The official organizer of the parade, the nationalist Eurasian Youth Union, or ESM, had the Kremlin's blessing, but it was DPNI that took advantage of the situation, Belov said. "We did what was good for us. We marched against migrants, not against the expansion of Western influence, as ESM had planned," he said with a note of triumph in his voice. Valery Korovin, a senior member of ESM, said the xenophobic slogans on DPNI's banners were approved by city authorities as the march was beginning, against the will of his organization. "When DPNI held out the banners with slogans against migrants, of which police were warned in advance, a deputy prefect of the city's central district who was there told policemen, 'Fine, let them go,'" Korovin said. "Authorities in fact legitimized the anti-migrant rhetoric." Permission for the march was issued by deputy prefect Sergei Vasyukov, Novaya Gazeta reported Monday, citing a city document, a copy of which the newspaper had obtained from city officials.

Korovin said the march was a shock for the Kremlin, which is why it was not shown on national news broadcasts. "A dozen young Nazis shouting 'Heil!' on camera is enough to scare the liberal public, while 5,000 people on the march is a real threat to the state," he said. Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, said that by all appearances the nationalist threat had been orchestrated in the Kremlin. "If Putin were able to run in 2008, the Kremlin would not need to use the nationalists, but to make people vote for an obscure candidate, you really need to scare them with an ugly alternative," he said. Badovsky and Alexei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technologies said the Kremlin would be able to keep nationalist leaders on a short leash at least until the 2008 presidential election. Rodina leader Dmitry Rogozin, for instance, wants to be accepted at home and abroad as a legitimate political figure and would likely be unwilling to jeopardize his standing. Keeping the young radical nationalists and skinheads under control would be a more difficult task. If nothing is done to stem the nationalist mood, we could see tens of thousands of youth marching in dozens of Russian cities next year, the analysts said. Belov, for one, acknowledged that violent skinhead groups use his organization as an umbrella. He claimed to be able to persuade most of them not to use violence against dark-skinned migrants, but said some were beyond his influence. Attempts to squash radical nationalists by police force would be counterproductive, the analysts and the nationalist leaders said. Pribylovsky pointed to the crackdown on the radical National Bolshevik Party, which only gained strength after its activists were jailed after a protest action. "We are not against the Kremlin, and it should understand that cracking down on us will only help us organize a real right-wing opposition to the regime," Belov said. Badovsky said the Kremlin had driven itself against a wall in playing with the nationalists. "Nationalists are not known to be consistent partners," he said. He also warned that if the economy were to plunge into crisis in coming years, the radical nationalists could become a strong alternative to the current regime. "If this were to happen, given the multiethnic structure of the Russian Federation, there is a risk of the Balkanization of Russia," Badovsky said.
© The Moscow Times

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THE ANTI-SEMITIC PASTS OF RUSSIA'S ANTI-IMMIGRANT ACTIVISTS

16/11/2005- Russian political activists now attracting support for their attacks on immigration in many cases began their careers in anti-Semitic organizations like the notorious Pamyat’, and their remarks suggests many of them have changed their views far less than some in Russia and the West give them credit for. In a recent interview, Aleksei Makarkin, the deputy general director of the Moscow Center for Political Technologies, said that the most disturbing aspect of the November 4 th demonstration against immigration was how respectable those holding such views had become. Up until now, Makarkin said, “the inertia of Soviet internationalism” made any openly nationalist or racist remarks in public unacceptable for most Russians and for most members of the country’s political elite. All who denounced whole ethnic groups was usually viewed as marginals -- even by those who agreed with them in private. As a result, openly anti-Semitic and racist groups like Pamyat’ and Russian National Unity (RNE) quickly discredited themselves in the eyes of the population, and their followers were never accepted as legitimate by members of the elite, again despite the fact that many senior officials shared their views. Now, however, that taboo against openly racist remarks has been undermined. On the one hand, the radical nationalists have discovered that their anti-immigrant rhetoric allows them to mobilize the population in ways that tap into the same fears without putting people off far more effectively than their anti-Semitic screeds in the past. And on the other, Russia ’s political elite has changed. A decade ago, senior members of that elite would have nothing to do with those who advocated openly racist and anti-Semitic ideas, but now, Makarkin says, many in the elite are ready to meet people like those who led the November 4 th demonstration.

That shift in elite attitudes gives these people new credibility, the Moscow analyst says, allowing them to gain not only respectability and support among the elite but also among the population as a whole, a trend that he says points to dangers ahead given that these people have changed little. “In order to present himself as a new man, unconnected with the entirely discredited xenophobes of the 1990s, who appealed to the swastika and the Black Hundreds, to fascism and all the rest, [the new leader of the anti-immigrant movement] speaks under a pseudonym.” “Aleksandr Belov, the pseudonym of one of the little leaders of Vasilev’s ‘Pamyat’,’ is currently trying to change his image from that of a participant in an absolutely discredited and odious organization to a new man without any ties to the swastika and all the rest.” “But judging by his speeches, he remains just what he was in the past.” Moreover, he is not alone: “a large number of activists [in the anti-immigrant movement] … are attempting to cleanse themselves from the image they had in the 1990s as marginals and failures and thereby become completely successful politicians.” The danger, Makarkin continues, is that many people in Russia and the West do not recognize these figures for what they really are. Instead, many politicians, analysts and ordinary people accept the claims these people make that they are simply reflecting the views that many people around the world have about illegal immigrants. Such acceptance, the Moscow analyst suggests, makes it more likely that these leaders will succeed politically, that they will further erode the taboos against racism and anti-Semitism, and that they will exercise ever greater influence on those now in office or even gain power for themselves.

What should Russia do to prevent that outcome? Makarkin suggests that this is a real challenge. Banning such groups won’t work. Instead, that would give them new credibility in some quarters precisely because many people would then view these groups as consisting of people willing to take risks that ordinary politicians will not. In Western countries, Makarkin points out, genuinely conservative parties draw off much of the energy that currently powers these groups, but in Russia , there are no such parties. And consequently, the Russian government and Russian society must work together to block the rise of those whose fascist pasts may reemerge in the future. The Russian government must carefully deploy existing laws against extremism in ways similar to those employed in Western countries. It should not ban fascist parties, Makarkin says, but it should vigorously enforce the laws against using the Hitler salute or calls for killing or deporting members of one or another group. And Russian society should support this effort by recognizing that those who speak against immigrants now spoke out against Jews only a few years ago and by refusing to meet with the anti-immigrant leaders now just as most members of society refused to meet with anti-Semites in the past. In France , Makarkin noted, “everyone is acting within [such] a strict framework, except the National Front, which is isolated there. That is, everyone understands that the exacerabation of xenophobia is not a way out, that this is not a method for opposing criminality or a means of resolving real problems standing before the country.” The Russian state and Russian society are likely to have a hard time doing that, Makarkin suggests, but he argues that only by standing up to those whose fascist convictions are cloaked in anti-immigrant rhetoric can Russians avoid a yet another tragedy in their national history.
© FSU Monitor

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HAVEL, SEVEN OTHER EX-PRESIDENTS, WRITE TO PUTIN OVER HUMAN RIGHTS

16/11/2005- Czech ex-president Vaclav Havel and sever other former leading politicians have sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin in which they express thier concern over the state of human rights in Russia, Havel's secretary Jakub Hladik told CTK Tuesday. The letter says that the information that free media carry or confirm arouse the suspicion that the Russian state exerts unacceptable pressure on the free- and democratic-minded opposition in Russia; that the freedom of the media is kept in check and restricted, and that prosecutors and courts are wrongfully influenced, says the letter Hladik gave to CTK. The letter's signatories include former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), Mary Robinson (Ireland), Vigdis Finnbogadottir (Iceland) and Rexhep Meidani (Albania), and former Prime Ministers Kim Campbell (Canada), Petre Roman (Romania) and Philip Dimitrov (Bulgaria). Almost 30 former politicians took part in Prague last week in a conference of the Club of Madrid, which is comprised of former presidents and prime ministers. The letter calls on the Russian government, and particularly Putin, to respect internationally recognised democratic standards and individual freedoms. It says that this is the only way for the Russian federation to be respected as a fully-fledged and trustworthy partner of the democratic world. The letter says that the signatories will appeal to the other governments' representatives not to repeat the mistakes committed within the policy of appeasement and not to sacrifice human rights and political freedoms for business interests and the vision of advantageous investments. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg strongly criticised Russia in June for the state of democracy and human rights observance in the country and for the insufficient progress Russia has made in the two fields since it entered the Council of Europe in 1996.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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DUTCH PAIR HELD FOR PROMOTING NAZISM(Czech Rep)

16/11/2005- Czech police are investigating two Dutch nationals suspected of promoting Nazism, an official said yesterday. Police spokeswoman Ludmila Knopova said the two men, aged 25 and 40, were detained on Saturday as they were traveling to a concert in Zlata Olesnice, 160 kilometers northeast of Prague. Police halted the concert, attended by about 140 skinheads, shortly before midnight Saturday because of racist lyrics in some of the songs. One Czech concert participant has already been accused of promoting Nazism and inciting racial hatred. Knopova said the two Dutch citizens were detained near the restaurant where the concert was held after police found CDs, T-shirts, badges and printed material with racist symbols in their cars. She said the men, who have been released, face up to three years in prison if convicted.
© Associated Press

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CZECH POLICE TAKE ACTION AGAINST NEONAZIS

14/11/2005- About 100 Neonazis and Skinheads were having a birthday party on Saturday (November 12, 2005) night in the restaurant Na Vrsich located in the village of Zlata Olesnice near Jablonec nad Nisou. Actually , the "birthday party" was just camouflage for a concert of neonazi bands. Police of the Czech Republic were monitoring the whole event and before midnight decided to disband the concert after neonazi slogans were heard from the concert. Most of participants left the concert without resistance, however 12 of the most aggressive neonazis had to be turned in to the police and a 24 year old man was charged with incitement of hatred. Police were informed about the event in advance and were monitoring access roads. They succeeded in making some of the arriving "partyguests" turn back. Among the stopped participants were also two cars with citizens of the Netherlands who were transporting DVDs, CDs, T-shirts and caps with Neonazi symbols. Czech Minister of Interior Frantisek Bublan confirmed that police will battle on against people organizing concerts of Neonazi bands singing lyrics promoting racially motivated hate or even neonazism. Uncompromising procedures against the last neonazi concert has been acclaimed from both the public and the media, which were previously this year repeatedly critizing slack action against similar concerts. Probably the most scandalous case happened in September 2005 in Krtetice u Vodnan, where Police did not take action although Neonazis were shouting "Gypsies to gas"!
© Dzeno Association

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CZECH COURT RULES IN FIRST-EVER CASE HEARD ON 'COERCIVE STERILISATION' OF ROMA WOMEN

Helena Ferencikova and her husband Jan always wanted to have a girl. But the young Roma couple's simple dream may never be realised, for in October 2001 -- when she was just nineteen years old -- Mrs Ferencikova was sterilised against her wishes, after giving birth to her second son. On Friday, the regional court of Ostrava stopped short of awarding damages but ruled that the hospital which performed the sterilisation owes Mrs Ferencikova an apology. The court's decision, once finalised in writing, would be the first finding in any Czech or Eastern European court of legal violations concerning the coercive sterilisation of Roma women.

14/11/2005- From the 1970s on, Roma (Gypsy) women were routinely sterilised in Communist Czechoslovakia. There was an official policy in place to curb the "high, unhealthy" birth rate of that minority group, which authorities - and society at large - considered problematic. Social workers were authorised to give state money to women who underwent sterilisation - and are alleged to have used the threat of enforced foster care to get reluctant Roma women to agree to the operation. This policy was decried by the Czechoslovak dissident initiative Charter 77, and extensively documented in the late 1980s. The international pressure group Human Rights Watch concluded in a 1992 report that the practice ended in mid-1990 -- but in recent years, human rights groups in the Czech Republic and Slovakia have unearthed evidence that doctors and hospital staff continue to pressure Roma to undergo sterilisation. In the case heard in Ostrava on Friday, doctors claimed they were right to sterilise Helena Ferencikova because, after two caesarean sections, a third would have endangered her health. The hospital in question intends to appeal the court decision. Mrs Ferencikova says she was in the throes of labour at the time and would have signed any paper doctors had put in front of her; she didn't understand its contents and doctors ignored her request to consult the matter with her husband. Lawyer Michaela Tomisova is representing nearly seventy Roma women who have filed complaints with the Czech Public Defender of Rights, or "ombudsman's office", over sterilisations allegedly carried out without their "full and informed" consent. She says that the Ostrava court case set an important precedent: just because a woman signed a release form, doesn't mean the procedure was legal.

"The case of Mrs Ferencikova is a typical case from the nineties or early in this decade; what is quite alarming is that the commission founded by the Ministry of Health found the case of Mrs Ferencikova completely okay, without any violations. But the court expressed a different view, and there are more cases very similar to this one [pending]."

Helena Ferencikova was the first to have her day in court. Dozens more cases are certain to follow, says Ms Tomisova, a lawyer retained by the European Roma Rights Centre in Budapest and the League of Human Rights, a Czech advocacy group. Last year, faced with a public inquiry by the ombudsman, then Health Minister Milada Emmerova appointed a commission to investigate the Romany women's claims. In nearly every case, an interim report found, hospitals had failed to follow elementary legal procedures and made "serious errors" in the paperwork.
© Radio Prague

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DOING IT OUR WAY(Poland)

The Silesians are one of the largest ethnic groups in Poland. But Warsaw officialdom can't make up its mind whether they are a "minority" or not.
By Tomasz Kamusella, scholar of ethnicity and nationalism at Opole University, Poland.

12/11/2005- In the autumn of this "super-election year," Polish voters elected a new parliament and president in three nationwide elections in the space of a month. On the national level, the voting saw a sharp shift to the right as the left-of-center government finally gave way under the weight of scandal and 20 percent unemployment. These national elections also served as a testing ground for local elections due to take place next year. In the Opole region, one of Poland's most multicultural, local political campaigns may well see the reactivation of old debates about which groups in Polish society are nations in their own right and which are merely offshoots of the Polish nation and, therefore, are ineligible to claim special privileges. It is a debate that has only intensified since a 2004 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that buttressed the Polish government’s position that the country’s most numerous minority – the Silesians – are not a minority.

Who are the Silesians?
In the preamble to Poland’s first post-communist constitution, the Polish nation was redefined as “all the citizens of the Republic of Poland.” The rights of minorities, however, were not fully outlined until January 2005, when, after 12 years of protracted parliamentary deliberations and delays, a minorities law finally came into effect. The act enumerates the "national minorities" – those whose brethren abroad enjoy their own nation-states – and stateless "ethnic minorities" such as the Roma. At the most recent census, in 2002, these communities made up just 470,000 people, or 1.2 percent of the population. But the 173,000 people who stated in that census that there nationality was Silesian were glaringly absent from the list of groups affected by this year's minorities act. That count made them the largest national minority in Poland, followed by the Germans (153,000), and – in much smaller numbers – Belarusians and Ukrainians. Between the time the census data was collected and the official publication of the results, a stroke of the bureaucratic pen re-defined the Silesians as a “social group” rather than a "nationality," and their right to claim any of the advantages offered to official national and ethnic minorities was effectively massaged out of existence. This decision hence effectively cut the number of members of Poland’s recognized national and ethnic minorities to 298,000, or 0.82 percent of the population.

The Silesians began agitating for recognition after World War I, when the status of Germany’s Upper Silesia became uncertain. A turning point in their story came in 1922, when Upper Silesia was divided between Germany and Poland, disregarding the yearning of many of the area's 2.3 million inhabitants for an Upper Silesian nation-state with German and Polish as its official languages (the interwar Union of Upper Silesians, the main proponent of independence put its membership at half a million). Until then, the multilingual but homogenously Catholic Silesians had used German in school and for official business, and Polish in their dealings with the Church. At home, both prior to and after the division of their homeland between Poland and Germany, they continued to speak their local Slavic dialect interlaced with numerous Germanic loanwords and grammatical structures, which they termed “speaking in our own way” (po naschimu) or “the Silesian language.” Neither Berlin nor Warsaw would stand for that. For Berlin, the Silesians became "in-between people" and, for Warsaw, a "nationally labile population." Policies of enforced Germanization and Polonization took hold on either side of the borders of Upper Silesia. During World War II, the entire region was reincorporated in Germany, which nullified the achievements of Polonization. After 1945, the process was reversed, with all of Upper Silesia being granted to postwar Poland along with other formerly German territories. Millions of what Polish authorities called “indubitable Germans” were expelled, but those Silesians referred to as “autochthons” or “ethnic Poles insufficiently aware of their Polishness" were allowed to stay on, after being were sifted out from “indubitable Germans” by a process of “national verification” that was not, in truth, too rigorous: to qualify, it was enough to speak some of the Upper Silesian Slavic dialect, or just to have a Slavic-sounding surname.

The (mis)fortunes of a 'regional group'
A heavy-handed forced assimilation policy adopted by Warsaw deprived the post-1945 Silesian generations of their command of German, but, paradoxically, made them into convinced Germans, enchanted with the prospect of taking part in the West German "economic miracle." Nearly 600,000 Silesians emigrated to West Germany during the communist era, and between 1990 and 2002 another quarter-million gained German passports without having to leave Poland. Most remained in Poland, though many took up seasonal jobs in Germany or in the Netherlands. However, since the early 1990s, Silesians in the eastern part of Upper Silesia have found the option of obtaining a German passport largely closed to them, on the grounds that the region had not been German territory prior to World War II. This – and the traumatic experience of de-industrialization that this stronghold of Polish heavy industry underwent after 1989 – made Silesian-ness into a viable social and political option in the Katowice Voivodship, or region (confusingly re-named Silesian Region in 1999): many Upper Silesians felt rejected both by Poland and Germany. Soon after the return of democracy, the Silesians of the Katowice region, neglected by Poland’s mainstream parties and left unclaimed by Germany, threw their lot in with the regionalist Silesian Autonomy Movement (RAS), demanding that Upper Silesia be granted the status of an autonomous region with Opole as its capital. In 1991, two RAS leaders were elected to the lower house of parliament, the Sejm. However, in 1993, when a law was passed giving seats only to parties that gained five percent of the national vote, the RAS knew its days in the national parliament were over. Unless, that is, Silesians could achieve the status of a national minority; that would exempt them – like the Germans, Ukrainians, and Belarusians – from the five-percent rule. This they set out to do in 1996, when an organization called the Union of People of Silesian Nationality (ZLNS) laid claim to legal status as the representative of a national minority. Silesian activists maintain that the 2002 census vastly undercounted their true numbers and say their nation numbers more than a million in Upper Silesia.

A Katowice law court did register the ZLNS in 1997 as a representing a minority, but after two months the registration was revoked by a regional court. A series of suits and countersuits followed, as regional and central Polish officialdom countered the organization's claims with the argument that Silesians, as “a regional group of the Polish nation,” were not even an ethnic minority, much less a nation. The Silesians turned to the court of last resort, claiming that refusal to register the ZLNS violated the organization's right of freedom of assembly, but in 2001 and again in 2004, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled that Warsaw had acted within its rights, because this attempt at registration as a minority might have been a ploy designed to bypass the election threshold. The justices in Strasbourg did not, however, lay claim to the divine prerogative of deciding if the Silesians exist at all, and if so, under what legal definition. In the meantime, 173,000 people had declared Silesian nationality in the 2002 census, the first in which this question was an option. In 2004, ZLNS head Andrzej Roczniok acted on the ECHR’s suggestion not to demand full national-minority status. The organization was redefined as an association of “people who declare their Silesian nationality” – a move that, if accepted by Warsaw, will allow the organization to officially represent the Silesian nation but not to circumvent the election threshold. In May 2005, a regional court in Katowice returned the issue of whether the ZLNS should be registered to a local court for review.

Silesians and Germans
While the ZLNS may (at least temporarily) have withdrawn a claim to represent Silesians, Silesians have by no means pulled out of politics. Their strategy is long-term, and based on trying to collect votes from both the Silesian and German communities. The initial strategy of the main Silesian group – the Silesian Autonomy Movement (RAS) – was to try and convince the German community to join forces with it. But, this spring, its overtures to German organizations in the Katowice and Opole regions failed. With no hope of crossing the five-percent threshold by itself, the RAS therefore decided not to contest the parliamentary elections this September. Its focus now are elections in the Opole and Katowice regions in 2006, and its strategy is to try and take over numerous local posts formerly held by the German minority, especially in the Opole region. This strategy may have more chance their initial offer of cooperation. The RAS’s leader in the Opole region, Piotr Dlugosz, had seemed ideally suited to lead the German minority as well as the Silesians, since he has an excellent command of German. But he was perhaps simply far too young to appeal to the Socio-Cultural Society of Germans (TSKN), the most powerful German group in the region. The TSKN’s leaders, chief among them the Sejm member Heinrich Kroll, are now in their 60s and 70s. But the TSKN’s failure to embrace the RAS is a decision that could extend the decline in the Germans’ political power. The German community's youth organization saw vibrant growth in the 1990s but its members found their path toward "real politics" barred by the gerontocrats at the top and their faithful electorate of aging voters. This has prompted young Germans to give their votes to others. Nature is now intervening to reduce the number of votes cast in favor of German-minority candidates: in parliamentary elections, support for them in the Opole region plummeted from 75,000 in 1991 to 40,000 in 2001. The RAS believes young people of German descent who are disenchanted with the TSKN’s gerontocracy may now shift their allegiance to the RAS, which offers meritocratic career paths to its members, favors young leaders, and sticks to an open-ended ethno-regionalist program that welcomes anyone who regards Upper Silesian autonomy as the area's political priority whether or not they consider themselves to be Silesian by nationality.

How might Warsaw react if the Silesian movement makes significant electoral gains in 2006? A hint may lie in a section of this year's minorities act that introduces the formula of a "regional language" to grant partial recognition to the aspirations of the Kashubs, a community of 200,000 to 400,000 people that lives in the vicinity of Gdansk and whose most high-profile member is Donald Tusk, the runner-up in October’s presidential elections. The community’s leadership has consistently maintained that the Kashubs are a regional subgroup of the Polish nation, and their demands have focused on gaining Warsaw’s recognition for Kashubian as a language in its own right. (For the past century, most linguists outside Poland have had no doubt that Kashubian is a separate language.) Elementary and secondary education in Kashubian is available, and the act ensures Kashubian enjoys equal status with the languages of Poland’s recognized national and ethnic minorities. But in the case of the more vocal and politically active Silesians, Warsaw continues to vociferously deny their existence as either a national or ethnic minority, while defining their language as a dialect of Polish, even though in the 2002 census 56,000 people in the Katowice and Opole regions declared Silesian as the language spoken within the family. Warsaw’s attitude reflects a wider trend in Central Europe, where the politicization of languages continues to be the norm as too is the traditional understanding of nationhood as holding true to the formula one nation, one language. Recognizing that support for a language can boost its speakers' claim to separate status, the publications and websites of the Silesian movement contain short stories and articles written in Silesian, although considerable dialectic and orthographic variation remains. Interestingly, in recent years Silesian texts have also run in the German minority’s leading periodicals and in the Katowice monthly Slask, a mouthpiece for those Silesians who feel themselves to be Poles. This suggests that Silesian can be used for different uses. Today, when most members of the German minority speak no German, it seems that many of them may be transforming Silesian into the badge of their Germanness.

Ethnic gamesmanship
The Czech Republic also its own Silesian minority (Silesia is viewed as the country’s third historical land, alongside Bohemia and Moravia), but, as attachment to the idea of Silesian autonomy has risen in Poland, it has plummeted south of the border: between 1991 and 2001 there was a fourfold drop in the number of people declaring themselves Silesian, down to just 11,000. Why? Through the 1990s, Poland experienced much deeper and more persistent disparities in income and access to employment than did the Czech Republic, as the post-communist transition variably rewarded and disadvantaged different regions and social strata. And, most significantly, unlike Poland’s Silesians, the Silesians of the Czech Republic exclusively declared Polish, not Silesian, as their family language. The Czech Silesians’ identification with Poland echoes what is, arguably, the rule in Slavic nation-states – that nation-states recognize other Slavic minorities only if they enjoy undisputed links to their own nation-states. The rationale is clear: this approach upholds the myth of ethno-linguistic homogeneity, the ultimate legitimization of national statehood. The rule is breached only to weaken or splinter recognized minorities for political gain, as happened this year, when Belgrade recognized the Bunjevci and the Sokci as national minorities and their respective dialects as languages. This step outraged Zagreb, which counts the communities as Croats, but it enabled Belgrade to diminish the numbers of Croats in its Vojvodina province. (This has historical echoes too: Hungarian census takers classified the Bunjevci and Sokci as separate nations in the 19th century in order to fragment Hungary’s Croatian and Serbian minorities.)

Polish central governments have likewise played ethno-linguistic communities against each other in the past. In the interwar period, when minorities made up one-third of the Polish population, Warsaw drove a wedge between Ukrainian minority groups by recognizing the Lemkos of the Carpathian Mountains as a separate ethnic group. The Lemkos were themselves divided on the question of their "national identity," some holding that they constituted a separate nation, others that they belonged to the Russian or Ukrainian nation. After 1945, especially in eastern Slovakia and in Ukrainian Transcarpathia, the Russian option waned, to be replaced by the idea of the Rusyn nation. Kyiv recognizes the Lemkos and Rusyns merely as ethnographic groups of the Ukrainian nation. Warsaw displays a similar approach to the Kashubs and Silesians. Whether that approach is sustainable is now under question. Numerically, the Silesians are Poland’s largest minority. They are emphasizing and displaying a specific ethnic identity distinct from Polishness or Germanness, and are striving to maintain and standardize their language. But they have no state of their own, and in such cases the international community leaves the decision whether to recognize their separate status to the nation-states on whose territories these minorities happen to reside. (A notorious example is that of the Kurds living in Turkey, long defined by Ankara as “Mountain Turks" who had forgotten their native language.) Warsaw alone will determine whether the Silesians are a nation, an ethnic minority, a social group, or none of the above. But, in a democratic system, it is increasingly difficult to disregard the voice of those most concerned, the Silesians themselves.
© Transitions Online

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HOW 'HOLOCAUST DENIER' FOUGHT AND LOST

David Irving's reputation as a historian was shredded at the High Court in April 2000 in a devastating judgement.

18/11/2005- At the conclusion of a libel action brought by Mr Irving against American academic Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books, Mr Justice Charles Grey described Mr Irving as a "falsifier of history" an "associate of right-wing extremists" and "an active Holocaust denier". In a book, Ms Lipstadt had branded Mr Irving "one of the most prominent and dangerous Holocaust deniers". The three-month case was among the most colourful in British legal history. Mr Irving, defending himself and surrounded by a mountain of source material, opened by describing his opponents as "part of an international endeavour" to destroy his reputation and make him untouchable by publishers. Later, a video was played to the court, showing him telling a meeting that "more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz".

Wider issues
Mr Justice Grey's judgement comprehensively dismantled Mr Irving's case and his reputation. It was later published as a book. Although a libel action, it was Holocaust denial which was, by implication, on trial. In Britain, to deny the Holocaust is not a criminal offence but it is in Austria and that is why Mr Irving has been arrested there. In a co-incidence of timing, one of Mr Irving's associates, convicted Canadian Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, is standing trial in Germany, having been extradited to face charges of inciting racial hatred and spreading Nazi propaganda. Like Austria, Germany has a Holocaust denial law, as does France. Lawyer James Libson, who represented Deborah Lipstadt in her battle with Mr Irving, believes it is right that they should have. "Given Britain's history, it would be ridiculous to have a Holocaust denial law here. But in countries like Germany and Austria, where far-right, neo-Nazi parties are highly visible, it is different. However, the Holocaust denial message is still being disseminated, despite the law," he says.

Bankruptcy
Mr Irving is an undischarged bankrupt and the Trustee in Bankruptcy is still trying to recover assets tied up in archive documents and World War II diaries in his possession. Some are thought to be quite valuable. Since losing his Mayfair flat, the disgraced historian has relied on an international network of supporters for financial help and from his speaking engagements abroad, which are invariably in front of extreme right-wing, anti-Semitic audiences.  Despite the mortal blow to his reputation in 2000, he remains a showman and may well relish the opportunity to grandstand before a wider audience if put on trial.
© BBC News

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IRVING FACES WEEK IN AUSTRIA CELL

18/11/2005- The revisionist British historian David Irving is likely to remain in custody in Austria for at least a week, prosecutors say.
The authorities are considering whether to put him on trial for denying the Nazi mass extermination of Jews, the public prosecutor's spokesman said. He was detained a week ago on a warrant issued in 1989 under Austrian laws that make it a crime to deny the Holocaust. Mr Irving was stopped in the southern province of Styria, en route to Vienna. If formally charged, tried and convicted, Mr Irving could face up to 20 years in prison, said the spokesman, Otto Schneider. In his books, Mr Irving has argued that the scale of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis in World War II has been exaggerated. He also claimed that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler knew nothing of the Holocaust.

Libel case lost
He told a libel hearing in London in 2000 that there had been no gas chambers at the Auschwitz camp. He lost the case and the judge branded him "an active Holocaust denier". A spokesman for the Austrian interior ministry, Rudolf Gollia, told the BBC that Mr Irving was first taken to the town of Graz, but was now in custody in Vienna. Anti-Nazi groups in the UK congratulated the Austrian government. The chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Lord Greville Janner, said he hoped the move would "lead to a successful prosecution". The head of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Stephen Smith, said denial was not a matter of opinion. "Austrian law demands incisive action to protect its citizens from a repeat of the past," he added. Mr Irving was previously arrested in Austria in 1984.  This time, the historian was stopped near the town of Hartberg while reportedly on his way to address a students' club in Vienna. Mr Irving came into the spotlight in 2000 when he sued US academic Deborah Lipstadt for describing him as a "Holocaust denier" in her 1994 work Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. Giving his verdict, the British judge said Mr Irving was "an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-Semitic and racist and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism". Brian Levin, a US professor of criminal justice who has studied Mr Irving's arguments, told the BBC News website that "to punish him on the basis of his ideas is fundamentally flawed". "I believe we have to cherish freedom of speech," Mr Levin said, arguing that the way to deal with Holocaust denial was through educational campaigns, "not by silencing".

Countries with laws against Holocaust deniel: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Switzerland.

© BBC News
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DAVID IRVING ARRESTED IN AUSTRIA

17/11/2005- Far-right British author David Irving has been arrested for Holocaust denial in Austria and has been in jail in Graz for six days, Austria's interior ministry confirmed today. Mr Irving was arrested last Friday on a warrant issued in 1989 under Austrian laws that make Holocaust denial a crime. The charges stemmed from speeches he delivered that year in Vienna and in the southern town of Leoben. In a statement posted on his website, Mr Irving's supporters said he was arrested while on a one-day visit to Vienna, where they said he had been invited "by courageous students to address an ancient university association". Despite precautions taken by Mr Irving, he was arrested by police who allegedly learned of his visit "by wiretaps or intercepting emails", the statement alleged. It said that en route to Austria, Mr Irving had privately visited German playwright Rolf Hochhuth, a friend he had not seen in 20 years because of travel restrictions imposed on both men. Austrian authorities had no immediate comment on the statement. Stephen Smith of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust said Mr Irving's beliefs were more than just a matter of opinion. He said, "Denial is not a matter of opinion, it is a politically loaded and vary dangerous assertion that leads directly to the rehabilitation of National Socialism and all the evil that it stood for." Widely discredited by other historians, Mr Irving is the author of nearly 30 books, including Hitler's War, which challenges the extent of the Holocaust. He once famously insisted that Adolf Hitler knew nothing about the systematic slaughter of six million Jews, and he has been quoted as saying there was "not one shred of evidence" that the Nazis carried out their "final solution" on such a scale. "I don't see any reason to be tasteful about Auschwitz," Mr Irving declared in 1991 before a group of rightists and neo-Nazis. "It's baloney. It's a legend ... more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz."

That view was comprehensively dismissed not only by survivors but also by a former Nazi SS guard Oskar Groning in the BBC documentary Auschwitz shown in January. "I would like you to believe me," the 80 year old told the BBC, "I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematorium. I saw the open fires. I was on the ramp when the selections took place. I would like you to believe that these atrocities happened, because I was there." If formally charged, tried and convicted, Mr Irving could face up to 20 years in prison, said Otto Schneider of the Austrian public prosecutor's office. But he said it was unclear whether there were sufficient legal grounds to continue holding Mr Irving on such a charge so many years after the alleged offence was committed. A decision was expected by the end of next week on how to proceed, Mr Schneider said. In 2000 Mr Irving lost a libel case he'd brought against the respected Holocaust expert Deborah E Lipstadt for calling him a Holocaust denier. The court ruled that Mr Irving was anti-Semitic, racist and misrepresented historical information. Mr Irving has said he does not deny Jews were killed by the Nazis, but challenges the number and manner of Jewish concentration camp deaths. He has questioned the use of large-scale gas chambers to exterminate the Jews, and has claimed that the numbers of those who perished are far lower than those generally accepted. He also contends that most Jews who died at Auschwitz did so from diseases such as typhus, not gas poisoning. Mr Irving has had numerous run-ins with the law over the years. In 1992, a judge in Germany fined him the equivalent of £3,500 for publicly insisting the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz were a hoax.
© The Guardian

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TERROR 'DISTORTS' IMAGE OF ISLAM (Austria)

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani says the Islamic world must fight the scourge of terrorism and the problem of sectarianism between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

15/11/2005- He was speaking at an international conference aimed at fostering dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims, which is taking place in the Austrian capital, Vienna. Mullahs, muftis and Christian clergy, as well as high-ranking Muslim leaders including the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, and former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami are meeting in the baroque splendours of Vienna's Hofburg Palace. The conference, which is hosted by the Austrian foreign ministry, comes at a time of increased tension between the Islamic world and the West. "Muslims throughout the world are suffering increasingly from the unacceptable connection of Islam with violence or even terrorism," Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik told the meeting. She said that the recent bombings in Jordan and the riots in France had no direct link to Islam but that some people were trying to make the connection. "It is imperative to get rid of the distorting simplifications, dangerous stereotypes and 'images of the enemy' which prevail in some quarters with regard to Islam," Ms Plassnik said.

Distorted message
The Iraqi president said Islam was being disfigured by terrorism. "The Islamic religion is facing a disfigurement in essence to its reality as a religion of love, compassion and peace by a small group of radicals who have lost the way," he told the conference. President Talabani said it was incumbent on Muslim religious leaders to condemn those who incited others to terrorism and he urged them to fight sectarianism between Shia and Sunni Muslims. The Afghan president said Islam was a fundamentally tolerant religion. But he said parts of the Muslim world faced challenges:
"Muslims throughout the world continue to make major contributions to the progress of cultures, arts and sciences today. "But it is also clear that, unlike in Islam's glorious past, parts of the Muslim world today suffer from stagnation, violence and a weakening of state institutions which curtail their ability to address the demands of their populations."

'Not challenging enough'
The former Iranian president said Islam was not the only religion to face problems. "Many Christians take an especially radical approach to pluralism like some Muslims - both are mistaken," he said. Although he did not specifically name the United States, President Khatami denounced the use of the word "crusade" - sometimes used by American and Western politicians in the context of defeating Islamic terrorism. Many Muslims find the word offensive. He said great religions should concentrate on the points they had in common - and that dialogue was the way forward. But there was some concern that the Vienna conference had failed to address the full range of Muslim views. "The majority of those invited to the meeting already have good relations with the West," said Omar al-Rawi, a member of the Islamic Community in Austria, who is active in integration efforts. "The great challenge would be to have a more inclusive dialogue with people who perhaps have more controversial opinions."
© BBC News

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MODERATE ISLAM URGED TO SPEAK OUT (Austria)

Moderate Muslim leaders must speak out against extremists, not let them set the agenda, the host of an international conference has said.

14/11/2005- "We should not concede the public space to those who abuse religion... and abuse culture to reach their aims," Austria's foreign minister said. Ursula Plassnik was opening a three-day conference in Vienna on relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. Presidents and Nobel prize winners are expected to address the conference. The presidents of Afghanistan and Iraq are attending, as is former President Mohammad Khatami of Iran. Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi is also expected. Foreign Minister Plassnik says it is aimed at fostering dialogue. She said mistrust and violence between Muslims and non-Muslims was growing, not least in Europe. She added that increasing numbers of European Muslims were seeking their rightful place in society. Leaders must show courage to unite against groups promoting cultural intolerance and violence, Ms Plassnik said. The BBC's Bethany Bell in Vienna says the recent riots in France, fears about terrorism and widespread discontent in the Arab world about Western policies in Iraq and the Middle East have contributed to an atmosphere of suspicion. The high-level meeting comes just before Austria takes over the presidency of the European Union. It is being seen as a sign that Austria wants to encourage more EU ties with moderate Muslim leaders. Austria has been the most vocal opponent of allowing Muslim Turkey to join the EU.
© BBC News

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TALKS ON MUSLIM RELATIONS TO OPEN (Austria)

Religious and political leaders are gathering in Austria for an international conference on relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.

14/11/2005- The Iraqi and Afghan presidents are among those expected to address the three-day conference in Vienna. Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, who is hosting the meeting, says it is aimed at fostering dialogue. She said mistrust and violence between Muslims and non-Muslims were growing, not least in Europe. She added that in creasing numbers of European Muslims were seeking their rightful place in society. The BBC's Bethany Bell in Vienna says the recent riots in France, fears about terrorism and widespread discontent in the Arab world about western policies in Iraq and the Middle East have contributed to an atmosphere of suspicion. The former president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, is also expected to attend the conference, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani.
© BBC News

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DF OPPOSES IMAMS IN CHURCH(Denmark)

The Danish People's Party requests that the church minister take action against a vicar, who has granted a Muslim imam permission to use her church for interviews

12/11/2005- 'Insane' and 'opposed to the national church's foundations' are some of the comments the Danish People's Party has for Reverend Anne Braad's decision to grant a Muslim imam permission to use her parish church for weekly informative meetings. Braad, who his parish priest for the Sankt Stefans Kirke in Nørrebro, one of Copenhagen's biggest immigrant communities, has invited Imam Fatih Alev, a Muslim cleric and debater, to meet with Muslims and interested Christians in her church. 'I would like the national church to develop into a holy house, which can room all forms of religiousness,' Braad said, according to daily newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad. The Danish People's Party's MP Søren Espersen said he was not impressed with the vicar's plans, and had asked Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs Bertel Haarder to raise an ecclesiastical court case against Braad, or take other steps to prevent her from carrying out her plans. 'It's insane that anything else than Lutheran Christianity takes place in the national church,' Espersen said. Braad said the party's reaction did not surprise her. 'I feel safe in the knowledge that the bishop has approved the invitation to Fatih Alev into the church's minister chamber, and what I say for myself about the future of the national church is hardly a reason for a court case,' she said. Espersen said he was surprised why the bishop of Copenhagen, Erik Norman Svendsen, had not reacted to the decision. Svendsen said he saw nothing wrong with the decision, as Alev would only be available in the minister's chamber alongside one of the Christian ministers. 'I have praised this initiative, and I stand by that. Dialogue promotes understanding, and reciprocal understanding is necessary for Christian and Muslim citizens can live together in peace in Nørrebro. The initiative neither collides with laws on use of the church nor undermines the national church's foundations,' Svendsen said.
© The Copenhagen Post

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FRENCH STRUGGLE TO BUILD LOCAL ISLAM

Rioting in France's poor suburbs has highlighted discontent among youths of foreign origin.
As part of a series on French Muslims, the BBC News website's Henri Astier reports on efforts to build a home-grown version of Islam.


14/11/2005- Khalil Merroun's office is open to all. People come to the head of the Evry mosque, south of Paris, for guidance on both spiritual and daily matters. "I accidentally slammed the door on my kitten and broke his legs," a woman sobs. "The vet says he must be put down." "He is right," the mosque director tells her. "The Koran allows mercy-killing for animals. I take responsibility for this decision." Mr Merroun's influence extends far beyond his congregation. He has been a key player in a long-term drive to establish Islam as a proud religion in France - an effort that has involved rival foreign powers and bitter feuds among French Muslims themselves. Mr Merroun arrived in the 1960s from Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, to work as a technician. Affable and charismatic, he quickly became a community leader and decided that Muslims deserved better than the murky halls they were praying in.

Kindness of strangers
In the 1980s he secured funding from the Saudi-based World Islamic League. His mosque, completed in 1995, now ranks among the main ones in France. "I brought Islam out of the cellars in Evry," Mr Merroun says. In fact, he pioneered a nationwide movement. In immigrant suburbs across France, mosque construction is continuing apace. It is largely fuelled by money from Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Algeria - but also by grass-roots enthusiasm. In Villeurbanne, near Lyon, a shining new building will soon replace the makeshift tent the faithful currently use to pray. Azzedine Gaci, the head of the regional Muslim council, insists that the funds were raised locally. "Muslims are richer than they used to be and can afford to give," he says. The new mosque is being decorated by a local boy who is an award-winning builder. With such commitment, Mr Gaci feels the community does not need foreign help. "When Saudi Arabia gives you 1m euros with one hand, with the other they give you a list you must or must not say," he says.

Independence
According to Mr Merroun, such suspicions are unwarranted. French Islam, he contends, does not have to be beholden to its foreign backers. Mr Merroun does have a track record of independence. Soon after the Evry mosque was completed, he broke with the Saudis and secured support from Morocco. "I am comfortable working with the Moroccan Ministry of Religious Affairs because they do not dictate their terms," he says. But whether or not foreign support for mosques comes with strings attached, national Muslim organisations are clearly far from independent. One group is headed by the Paris mosque, which is openly bankrolled by the Algerian government. Another, the National Federation of French Muslims (FNMF) - which Mr Merroun helped found - is backed by Morocco. The third main group, the Union of the Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF) is an offshoot of the Muslim Brothers, whose roots are in Egypt. The three have to work together within the National Muslim Council set up in 2003, and the various regional councils. But rivalries are never far from the surface. In the northern regional body, the OUIF accuses the Paris mosque and the FNMF of joining forces to marginalise it.

Chessboard
But by far the main rivalry is between the latter two, fuelled by mutual suspicions between Algerians and Moroccans. The tensions turned violent in Evry in 1996, when a gang claiming links with the Paris mosque briefly took over Mr Merroun's building. "It was nasty," he recalls. "There was fighting with iron bars." The pro-Moroccan side led by Mr Merroun won both the physical fight and a legal rematch. Today both camps are playing down the incident. But the tensions still remain - especially as the Paris mosque has retained the presidency of the national council, despite the fact that the FNMF has a majority in the body. According to journalist Christophe Deloire, author of the book The Islamists Are Already Here, the notion of French Islam is "a farce". He describes the country's Muslim community as a "chess board" where foreign forces move their pieces. "The best way [for Algeria and Morocco] to exert influence on their communities in France is through religion," he says. France accepts this, Mr Deloire adds, because it needs good relations with its former colonies.

Patience
But regardless of tensions at the top, efforts are under way at community level to build a home-grown form of Islam. Mohammed Ould Kherroub, who heads the Muslim Association of Versailles, west of Paris, deeply resents foreign intrusions that "feed divisions" among Muslims. "There should be no nationalism. We are all French here," he says. The Versailles faithful refuse to vote along ethnic lines, and sent blank ballots in elections to Muslim bodies. His feeling is shared by many across France. The director of the Lille mosque, Rachid Hamoudi, feels confident that one day Muslims will break free from outside powers. "We must be patient," he says. "Things will change with the emergence of new generations. Eventually we will have really democratic, truly French elections."
© BBC News

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MUSLIM APARTHEID BURNS BRIGHT IN FRANCE(Opinion)

By Minette Marrin

13/11/2005- For many years our family had a house in southern France on the edge of the marshes of the Camargue, not far from the beautiful city of Montpellier. When we first arrived it seemed lost in time. It was bull fighting, sea fishing, farming country with hot summers, cold winters and the treacherous mistral wind — la France profonde. Then the government rapidly developed the beautiful coast for mass tourism and a lot of building went on everywhere. But our village remained much the same, with a bull ring and a church in the main square full of plane trees, a few cafes, a smart pharmacy and not much else. For years we were the only foreigners and while nobody paid us much attention, everyone was pleasant enough. By the end we were on friendly terms with quite a few people. I say by the end, because we left. We sold the house a few years ago because the atmosphere of the village had gone sour. There was something almost frightening in the air. It is strange to me that people have been so surprised by the past few weeks of burning and rioting in French cities, including Montpellier. It has been obvious for at least 10 years, even to a foreign visitor, that something was badly wrong.

The first sign I noticed, one Easter, was the arrival of a lot of new people, north Africans to judge from their appearance, who seemed to spend most of the time hanging around in the streets looking lost and forlorn. That was not surprising; unemployment in France was about 14% at that time and much higher round there. What surprised us was the animosity that people in the village felt for the Arabs, as they called them when they didn’t use worse words. Nobody talked to them or played with their children. I think ours were the only children in the main square who did. In every shop there would be angry mutterings among indigenous people about them and us — how they were parasites, thieves and ignorant; they wouldn’t even have their children inoculated. You had to lock your doors. And there were so many of them. Whatever righteous attitudes we tried to strike, we too became angry when our house was burgled. We had to start locking our door and our car wheels were slashed. Worst of all the benign neglect we had enjoyed for so long — nobody can accuse the French of being excessively welcoming even to white foreigners — changed subtly into something faintly unfriendly. It was as if the locals were suddenly sick of all foreigners, inoculated or not, of the changes they bring and the threats they represent to a nation undergoing a crisis of confidence. Then we began to hear of attacks on local synagogues, usually downplayed. Finally a synagogue in Montpellier was firebombed. We were glad to be out of there.

There is nothing new about the rage and resentment that have set France alight. Our part of France had been Le Pen country for years. La Haine, the celebrated film about a French ghetto just like those which have been ablaze for days, was made in 1995, 10 years ago. So it is odd that it has taken the French so long to wake up to the alarming failure of their much vaunted un-Anglo-Saxon society to accommodate its Muslims. Perhaps it is unfair to single out the French. The multicultural social model has not worked either and all European countries have been unforgivably slow on the uptake. The riots have spread to Denmark, Belgium and Holland; we have already had riots in England and bombings in Madrid and London.

It is perhaps pointless to look back at the shamefully irresponsible immigration policies that have brought so many European countries to this explosive point. It is pointless to wonder how anyone in authority could have imagined that it would be a good idea to dump enormous numbers of poorly educated Third World immigrants from different societies into unprepared and unwilling, sometimes racist, European host cultures, into hellish high-rise suburbs from Seville to Rotterdam, in numbers so huge that integration became ever more unlikely and ghettos more inevitable. It is done now. However, we might at least recognise the problem. As usual a great many people are deliberately avoiding it, in particular by editing the word Muslim out of their debates, as if Islam had nothing to do with the dangerous mood sweeping Europe. Poverty and rejection have played a significant part, but there is an unmistakable sense in which the riots are Muslim, consciously so.

Muslims vary and their beliefs vary. But the response of some Muslims to frustration — whether or not the fault of westerners — has been to retreat into more extreme forms of Islam and into the arms of fundamentalists. Yet although we know this, and despite the Salman Rushdie affair, despite the bombs and assassinations that led up to 9/11, despite the recent atrocities, we seem unwilling to recognise that what this can mean is deliberate separatism — apartheid. Islam in the European ghetto can mean an unwillingness to integrate at all, a desire to practise the faith with as little interference from the geographical host country as possible. An internal security agency in France reported in 2004 that there were 300 communities across the country — roughly the number that rioted — which were “in retreat”, meaning communities marked by fundamentalism, anti-semitism and violence, coupled with hatred of France and the West. It is hardly surprising that there were effective no-go areas normally avoided by police in some of the French riot areas.

Even when Islamism does not aim at anything so extreme as striving for an Islamic caliphate in Europe, it can mean trying to impose Islamic practice and law. According to Amir Taheri, the Muslim writer, some French Muslims are calling for local religious autonomy, as in the Ottoman empire, and it already exists in some parts of France where radicals have imposed Islamic dress, chased away French shopkeepers selling alcohol and pork and shut down “places of sin” such as cinemas. Even more startlingly, in Canada this year the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice proposed that sharia should take precedence over Canadian law in civil disputes between Muslims. There are sharia courts and councils operating informally in Britain. If Europeans lack the conviction to stand against apartheid and for integration, perhaps before long there will be one in our old village in France.
© The Times Online

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"ISLAM IS NOW A EUROPEAN RELIGION"

Swiss intellectual Tariq Ramadan tells swissinfo that Muslims in Europe should not be defined by religion, but seen as members of the society in which they live.

12/11/2005-  Ramadan, who recently took up an advisory role for the British government on Islamic extremism, says that Islam is now a European religion, and should be recognised as such. The Geneva-born philosopher is visiting fellow at St Antony's College at Britain's Oxford University. A controversial figure, Ramadan had his visa to the United States revoked last year, preventing him from taking up a professorship at Notre Dame University in Indiana. Ramadan said the ban was unjustified and rejected the "untrue and humiliating" claims that he was barred because of ties to terrorism. The 43-year-old is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, who founded the prominent Islamic movement the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928. Accused of supporting attacks in Israel and Iraq, Ramadan has publicly condemned the September 11 and London attacks and says he is against the taking of innocent life. While he has a popular following among European Muslims - especially in France - Ramadan has been banned from Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Tunisia.

swissinfo: So who is Tariq Ramadan?
Tariq Ramadan: My profession is teaching. I work at two different levels. Within academia, I work and write on religious, legal, political and social issues. I also want to remain connected with the grassroots, with people, trying to find concrete solutions. I am an activist scholar. I have never claimed to be a Muslim intellectual, but I have been defined in such a way by people not willing or not able to acknowledge the academic and universalist dimensions of the Islamic tradition.

swissinfo: Does your new position at Oxford compensate the fact that you were barred from a teaching position in the US?
T.R.: No, and there is no need for compensation. I was ready to move to the US permanently. Academic circles there gave me huge support when the American authorities revoked a visa I got after two months of clearance procedure. Even in the Bush administration people like [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell understood that they made a mistake and asked me to re-apply. Other people in this administration do not want my strong critical voice to be heard in the US. When I see how this administration behaves, to be banned by it is more a recognition than a humiliation. But I don't hold a grudge. The position I have now in Britain is interesting and there seem to be some good opportunities for the future. British society is more knowledgeable about the Muslim world than Americans are. The British have a different approach to the US. But we shouldn't confuse the United States with the few neo-conservatives who are close to President Bush and ruling the country. I try to build bridges between two worlds that don't know each other very well.

swissinfo: Some sections of the media don't seem to like you. Why?
T.R.: There are a lot of people who support my work, just like there are many who criticise it. I knew from the beginning that not everybody would appreciate my work. I try to build bridges between two worlds that don't know each other very well. There are people who consider that I am too much of a Westerner and others who think I am too Muslim. I disturb people because what I say goes against their old certainties, some of their prejudices and even their doubts. I accept the criticism I face in the Muslim world, just like I take criticism from Westerners. The vast majority of my critics come from France. I think I disturb people [there] because I talk about religion, which has always been, beyond Islam, a hot-button issue. There is also a problem for some with the fact that Muslims are now French citizens who want the same rights as everyone else. I'm not appreciated because I tell the French they need a reality check and I personify their fears. I accept that as well, it is a transitory but necessary tension.

swissinfo: You seem to be saying there are second-class citizens in France. Given the events taking place there now, has integration of other communities, such as Muslims, failed?
T.R.: I think it's wrong to say a system has failed. Each society can find solutions to problems such as those faced by France if there are politicians brave and creative enough to take them on. But it's true that in France the debate on Muslims has focused on religion, secularism and the veil – which is in my view wrong - rather than the fact that most Muslims are perfectly culturally and religiously integrated. We have to realise that Islam is now a European religion, that French Muslims are first French citizens and democrats. The problems are social and we are dealing with a socio-economic crisis. The situation in France is such that there are second-class citizens who are not recognised by society and have no access to jobs or decent accommodation.

swissinfo: You are a Swiss citizen. Do you think the same kind of problems could appear in Switzerland?
T.R.: I don't think so. There aren't the same social problems. There aren't the ghettos you see in France. But we need pre-emptive policies. The real problem is that some people are raising non-existent issues and are fuelling the policies of the far right or the Swiss People's Party. They might not get more votes out of it, but it influences other politicians and the public. Part of the right uses fear of Muslims to mobilise voters. The risk is that this may lead to a breakdown in communication between communities and citizens.

swissinfo: So what is the place of a Muslim in Europe today?
T.R.: Our identities have multiple dimensions. I am used to saying about myself: I am a Swiss by nationality, my culture is European, my heritage is Egyptian, I am a Muslim by religion and my principles are universalist. To be able to say this means that you are self-confident. It's when you don't feel comfortable with yourself, with society, that you reduce your identity to one single and closed dimension. To be confident, you have to respect yourself, feel respected, understand the diversity of society, and be recognised by that society. A contemporary European Muslim today must be a citizen of his country, be a witness to his beliefs and be coherent in his actions. And I feel this should be the same for a Jew, a Christian, a Buddhist or an atheist.
© Swissinfo

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COURT UNPLUGS HATE WEBSITE(Canada)

15/11/2005- For the first time in Canada, a court has temporarily banned a London, Ont., man from posting alleged white supremacist and anti-Semitic Internet messages the judge describes "as vile as anyone can imagine." The interim injunction from the Federal Court of Canada is considered a legal milestone because it is normally left to the Canadian Human Rights Commission to order hate-mongering out of cyberspace, a lengthy process. But commission lawyer Monette Maillet said the agency went to court seeking a unique injunction to halt Tomasz Winnicki from spreading his messages while a two-year-old complaint against him continues to wind its way through the system. "It's really groundbreaking," said Richard Warman, a federal public servant who filed the complaint. "It shows as the human rights process is grinding along, that you can take steps to ensure that the hate propaganda isn't still being put out there in the meantime."  Warman, an Ottawa lawyer, estimated there are almost 50 white- supremacist and neo-Nazi websites used by Canadians, and they are usually channelled through U.S. servers beyond the reach of Canadian law. Warman's complaint against Winnicki is one of about a dozen he is pursuing in his quest to stop Canadians from posting hate on the Internet. Judge Yves de Montigny acknowledged he was embarking on "uncharted territory" in his recent ruling and he stressed granting the interim injunction does not mean he is pre-judging the outcome of the human rights process or trying to stifle free speech. The ruling contains numerous "offensive and debasing" statements posted online. "Mr. Winnicki apparently stated that black people were intellectually inferior and dangerous and that the Jewish-controlled government was to blame, that European girls were murdered by Jewish people because the latter hate European beauty and nobility, that persons of the black race are subhuman and inherently criminal and so on," de Montigny wrote.
© Edmonton Journal

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IN HATE CRIMES, RACISM IS LIKELIEST MOTIVE(usa)

14/11/2005- Racial prejudice lay behind more than half the 7,649 hate crimes reported to the FBI in 2004, the bureau said Monday. Hate crimes against black Americans were most prevalent. The number of race-based incidents rose by 5 percent last year to 4,042 from 3,844. Authorities identified prejudice against blacks in 2,731 of those crimes, the FBI said. Overall, the number of hate crimes grew by just 2 percent compared with the 7,489 in 2003, and there were slight declines in crimes motivated by bias based on sexual orientation and ethnicity, the FBI said. The data also showed that crimes against Muslims have leveled off since a spike following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "We tend to see the number of bias incidents go in cycles in large part tied to international events," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It has leveled off since 9/11, but unfortunately at a higher level than prior to 9/11." In 2001, there were 481 anti-Islamic incidents. There have been around 150 in the three years since, the FBI said. Among anti-religious hate crimes, anti-Jewish incidents have long been the most common. Of the 1,374 incidents of religious bias, 954 were directed at Jews, the FBI said. The information was supplied by 12,711 local law enforcement agencies nationwide covering nearly 87 percent of the U.S. population. Because the number of police agencies reporting varies each year under the voluntary system established by the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990, officials caution against drawing conclusions about trends in hate crime volumes between years. They say the figures provide a rough picture of the general nature of hate crimes.

FBI Uniform Crime Reports
© Associated Press

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UN MARKS INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR TOLERANCE

16/11/2005- The growing scourge of intolerance demands a global response based on mutual understanding and respect, United Nations officials said today in commemoration of the International Day of Tolerance. "In a world of intense economic competition, shifting populations and shrinking distances, the pressures of living together with people of different cultures and different beliefs from one's own are very real," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in his message commemorating the Day. The resultant backlash is evident in the rise of xenophobia and extremism across the globe and demands our strongest response, Mr. Annan stated, asserting that the need for tolerance is greater today than at any time in the UN's past. He stressed the importance of individual initiative in building a culture of tolerance in addition to increased legal protection and education, and noted that tolerance cannot simply mean "passive acceptance of other peoples' perceived peculiarities." Instead it must involve "an active effort by all of us to learn more about each other, to understand the wellsprings of each other's differences, to discover what is best in each other's beliefs and traditions. Only through such a process of discovery can we come to realize that what binds us as human beings is far stronger than what divides us men," he said.

In a message to mark the day, the Director-General of the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO), Koïchiro Matsuura, said that the protection and promotion of cultural diversity and education in the universal values of human rights, human dignity and respect for and acceptance of others have become the priority concerns, especially in societies that have experienced major crises, or armed conflict. "To further the values of tolerance, UNESCO is implementing a global integrated strategy to combat racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance," he noted. An example of the real problems generated by intolerance are the increasing challenges faced by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as it works to protect refugees, returnees and other displaced persons. "The rise of intolerance in today's world and the inability of different people to live together threaten peace, the safety of refugees and the social cohesion of societies," High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said at a press conference in New York earlier this month.

The International Day for Tolerance is observed on 16 November as an occasion both for tolerance education and for reflection and debate on intolerance. It was set up in 1996 at the initiative of UNESCO.
© UN News service

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Headlines 11 November, 2005

WEST TURNS A BLIND EYE AS ACTIVISTS CRUSHED BEFORE AZERBAIJAN POLL

5/11/2005- Briefly the democracy activists of Azerbaijan had dared to dream of an "Orange revolution", but the oil-rich former Soviet republic will contest what were supposed to be the country's first democratic elections tomorrow in an atmosphere of fear. The two-month election campaign has seen some of the opposition's most idealistic young campaigners jailed, brutally beaten by police, threatened with torture, cleverly framed and discredited and effectively neutralised as a political force. Defiant to the last, they insist they are still on course to capture more votes than the government, but their hopes of replicating the success of campaigners in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan who toppled corruption-sodden Soviet-era regimes look slim. The run-up to tomorrow's parliamentary elections was neither free nor fair, and there are serious international concerns about the equity of voting itself. But even if there is a row over falsified elections the democracy activists look ill-equipped to convert any popular discontent into regime change. The millionaire Aliyev family dynasty, which has ruled the country with an iron fist for most of the past three decades and has multi-million pound property interests in London, has simply proved too clever and too willing to use force and intimidation. Ilham Aliyev, the country's 40-year-old President, took over the mantle of his father, Heidar, in 2003 and has crafted a public image of himself and his regime as a permanent feature of Azeri life. He enjoys good relations with Washington and London, which have major interests in Azerbaijan's new oil pipeline, wields complete control over the broadcast media and has thousands of fiercely loyal riot police at his disposal.

The Aliyev mark is stamped all over Baku. Statues and billboards featuring the avuncular features and musings of the late Heidar Aliyev, who died in 2003, are everywhere. The cult of personality affords little room for alternative voices. The Yeni Fikir (New Thinking) pro-democracy youth movement knows all about the regime's dislike of opposition. Set up last year, it was supposed to be the spearhead of the Orange movement and was the first opposition grouping to make orange, the colour of Ukraine's successful revolution, its own. Crafted in the image of similar youth groups in the former Yugoslavia, Georgia and Ukraine, it began to hold noisy rallies. However, today it looks a spent force. In August its leader, Ruslan Bashirli, 26, was arrested at his home by men in black masks. He was accused of trying to forcefully overthrow the government and of plotting dissent with security service agents from Armenia, Azerbaijan's sworn enemy. The authorities claimed that the Armenian agents had suggested using live gunfire during an opposition rally in order to destabilise the country. America's National Democratic Institute, a non-profit organisation closely aligned to the US Democratic Party, was also accused of complicity in the plot. Secret footage of Bashirli's "traitorous meeting" was broadcast on giant public screens in Baku and the young activist was thrown into jail for three months, a stretch that has since been extended to five. His fellow activists say he was framed. Other activists have fared little better. Said Nuriyev, another leading light in Yeni Fikir, was arrested soon after Bashirli and is now under house arrest in a Baku hospital where he is recovering from a long-standing blood disorder. Attempts to visit him - even by some of his own close family members - have been refused and when his fellow activists tried to see him they were barred from the hospital grounds and beaten by more than 100 baton-wielding policemen.

The movement's third big hitter, Ramin Tagiev, 26, has also been arrested and has similarly been accused of fomenting violent change. He has been given a three- month prison sentence and his friends and family have found it almost impossible to get news of his well-being. Attempts to discredit Yeni Fikir did not end there. On one occasion activists returned to their campaign office to discover a white carrier bag containing four hand grenades and some TNT explosive. Ahmad Shahidov, an activist who has not yet been locked up, says he believes it was another attempt to discredit his organisation. "The President was due to make a visit right across the street on the same day. We think they wanted to accuse us of wanting to kill the President." With local and foreign media looking on, the activists eventually got the police to take the explosives off their hands. Human Rights Watch says another activist, Sarvan Sarhanov, was detained by the police for six hours during which time they urged him to go on television to make a statement denouncing the movement. They brought a pair of pliers into the interrogation room and threatened to use them on his hands, but he did not comply and was eventually freed. "These guys were just young people who had had enough of living in a country where everything in their lives was controlled by one family," Murad Gassanly, an activist for the opposition Freedom Bloc told The Independent. "What happened to them shows what you get here if you become politically active. Anything against the regime carries serious repercussions."

The mainstream opposition has not been allowed to hold rallies in central Baku, or to put up its posters in many areas. It has been starved of all important air time and many of its rallies have ended with demonstrators being rushed to hospital after police beatings. The opposition estimates that 1,500 activists have been detained since 5 September, 2,000 injured, 400 arrested and held for over a month, and 200 sentenced. Thirty prospective parliamentary candidates have also detained or beaten up. Mr Aliyev has dismissed opposition criticism out of hand. He says that tomorrow's elections will be free and fair and that there is no need for a velvet revolution. Last-minute concessions such as marking voters' hands with invisible ink and allowing exit polls mean, he insists, that the elections will be the country's freest yet. America is watching closely and while Washington concedes that things could be better, the consensus seems to be that Mr Aliyev, the custodian of the Caspian Sea's oil riches, is a man they can do business with. Azerbaijan's border with Iran means, analysts say, that for America, stability is paramount.

History of a dynasty



  • 1993: Heydar Aliyev declares himself President.


  • 1994: Three members of special police force arrested after assassinations of deputy head of parliament and Aliyev's security chief.  Later in the year, Azerbaijan signs contract with oil companies for use of three oil fields.


  • 1995: Aliyev's New Azerbaijan Party wins election alleged to contravene international standards.


  • 1998: Opposition activists arrested at protests against elections.


  • 2001: Azerbaijan becomes full member of Council of Europe. 


  • 2002: Work starts on pipeline to carry oil from Azerbaijan to Turkey.


  • 2003: Aliyev appoints son Ilham as Prime Minister. Three people killed in opposition demonstrations. In December, Aliyev dies in US hospital, aged 80.


  • 2005: Oil starts flowing through pipeline. Police use force to break up opposition demonstrations in Baku before elections.



© Independent Digital
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WELCOME TO SCOTLAND, WHERE RACISM LIVES ON(uk)

While the latest executive initiative is aimed at attracting immigrants, the spectre of racist intolerance is still lurking, argues Tim Luckhurst

6/11/2005- When 500 pioneering Jamaican immigrants aboard the Empire Windrush sailed into Tilbury docks in June 1948, Ernest Bevin, then the foreign secretary, announced they would not stay long. England was too cold, he said, they “would not last one winter”. Modern aspirants to a new life in Scotland might be forgiven for thinking the Scottish executive is trying to deter them with similar logic. Its website, Scotlandistheplace.com, declares “It doesn’t always rain in Scotland”, before going on to confirm that, actually, most of the time it does and certainly a lot more than in England. That sounds a little like encouraging newcomers to set up home south of the border. And throughout the 20th century that is what most immigrants did. Between 1921 and 1961, when mass immigration helped England’s population grow by 30%, Scotland’s population remained static. In 1966 only two out of every 1,000 Scots came from the new Commonwealth. The proportion in England and Wales was 12 times higher. The rhetoric of ethnic diversity flows seamlessly from the lips of Scottish public servants and institutions, but it is a huge distortion of reality. The 2001 census reveals that only 2% of the Scottish population is from an ethnic minority. Its largest ethnic minority group, the Pakistani community, numbers less than 32,000 and makes up a mere 0.63% of the population.

Unfortunately our miserable climate is not the only factor working against the executive’s efforts to attract fresh talent. There is growing evidence that Scotland in 2005 is hardly more welcoming to overseas immigrants than England was in 1948. Last week the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) warned: “The executive may understand the benefits of increased immigration, but we are not certain the wider public is ready for it.” It backed up its assertion with evidence that 10% of Scots think there is “nothing wrong in attacking people from another ethnic background” and almost half deny that terms such as “Paki” and “Chinky” are racist. It also revealed that 68% of Scots want to keep immigration low and 40% have been so duped by the pretence that white, monocultural Scotland is already an ethnic melting pot that they perceive a “real danger” of race riots in the near future. These findings are supported by opinion on the ground. The broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli — from Glasgow — recently identified “terrible” racism in Scotland. Kohli, who now lives in London, added: “I speak to asylum seekers from Sighthill (in Glasgow) and the situation, the abuse they face, is awful. Where is the compassion? I’m fed up with the myth that Scotland is warm and welcoming to everyone, that there’s no racism in Scotland.” The CRE hopes to convince ministers that if its “fresh talent” initiative is to work, Scotland will have to become much better at welcoming and integrating new arrivals. It fears any influx of foreign workers will awaken the “latent racism” inherent in Scottish society and warned the executive that “integrated societies do not emerge by themselves, and unless we proactively deal with the implications of adopting a pro-immigration strategy, new migrants to Scotland will experience the same difficulties as previous generations”.

Research commissioned by the executive has demonstrated how difficult it is to eliminate racist prejudice. In 2001 ministers launched a £1m anti-discrimination campaign. Four years later the investment has achieved nothing. More than half of Scots admit they would be worried if people from other ethnic or cultural backgrounds came to live in Scotland. Twenty-eight per cent say it is acceptable to use racist language privately to friends or family, and a substantial minority claim it is not racist to be offensive to people from non-Scottish backgrounds. Last week, statistics outlining the level of recorded crime in Scotland showed that the problem goes well beyond attitudes. The number of race crimes committed north of the border rose from 3,097 to 3,856 in 12 months. Since the concept of racially aggravated crime was incorporated in Scots law six years ago, the figure has risen fourfold. So the comfortable, complacent myth of Scotland as a less racist place than other parts of the United Kingdom cannot be sustained. It is astonishing it ever existed. Modern anti-racist campaigners can point to examples such as the racist murder of Surjit Chhokar in 1998 and the brutal stabbing in Glasgow in 2001 of Kurdish asylum seeker Firsat Dag. But they delude themselves if they imagine the fable of Scottish tolerance was based on more than the fact that immigrants have traditionally provided a small minority of the Scottish population. Mr Deasy in James Joyce’s Ulysses pinpointed the attitude when he observed that Ireland had never had a problem with Jews because it never let them in. Honesty is key to tackling racism and Scotland might benefit from an honest appraisal of its recent history. In the early 20th century it was common for Scots in responsible positions to condemn the “Irish invasion”. Many blamed it for “threatening the extinction of the Scottish race”. Others blithely attributed the supposed deficiencies of Irish immigrants to racial characteristics that they identified according to “scientific racist” principles deployed by Hitler. Irish Catholics were deemed to be genetically lazy, dirty and prone to criminality and sexual promiscuity.

In 1922 the church and nation committee of the Church of Scotland published a dementedly racist document entitled The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality. Andrew Dewar Gibb’s Scotland in Eclipse explained: “Wheresoever knives and razors are used, wheresoever sneak thefts and mean pilfering are easy and safe, wheresoever dirty acts of sexual baseness are committed, there you will find the Irishman in Scotland with all but a monopoly of the business.” Then as now much fear was based on a wildly distorted perception of the impact of immigration. At the time of greatest anti-Irish loathing, when councillors were elected on racist manifestos, Irish immigration into Scotland had virtually stopped. Hatred was whipped up by intemperate press campaigns and boosted by irresponsible politicians. That rabid loathing of Irish Catholics still finds echoes in the football-centred sectarianism of 2005. The new wave of potential immigrants are being sold the idea that Scotland is “actively seeking a flow of fresh talent to flourish alongside native-born Scots and secure its place as part of the global economy”. But they would be wise to come equipped with a proper understanding of the chasm between anti-racist rhetoric and reality. Visitors from English cities with large communities of Asian and African origin are often stunned by the casual racist language and cultural ignorance they find in Scotland. Others recognise that while the race riots that erupted in Notting Hill, west London, 10 years after the first big influx of Jamaican immigrants are unlikely to be repeated here, that is not because Scotland is an instinctively warm and welcoming place. From primary school through to their first experience of employment, young Scots are taught it is wrong to regard immigrants as alien invaders and encouraged to consider anti-racism as a bold, progressive modern ideal. The hope is that when that education is confirmed by the experience of living, working and socialising with people from other ethnic backgrounds, racist crime and prejudice will start to fall. But the message promoted by the CRE, and confirmed by statistics and experience, is that it is hopelessly naive to believe such progress has happened.

The people who arrived on the Empire Windrush had been encouraged by broadcasts on the BBC World Service to believe Britain would welcome them as citizens of the empire coming to do their bit to restore the fortunes of the war- battered “mother country”. Many were appalled to encounter overt racism in the allocation of housing and jobs, and bands of thuggish teddy boys who considered violence towards West Indians proof of their patriotic machismo. When the executive promotes the fresh talent initiative with claims that “Scotland’s tradition of welcoming strangers continues today”, wiser counsel notices there is limited evidence it ever started. As the CRE report notes, the initiative implies that skilled new arrivals will be welcomed. But that is hardly the experience of the asylum seekers, economic migrants and refugees who arrive in Scotland every week.
© The Times Online

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NOTHING TO DO WITH US GUV SAY BIRMINGHAM COUNCIL (uk)

Birmingham City Council have washed their hands of any responsibility for the recent disturbances.

5/11/2005- Britain's biggest local authority blamed African-Caribbean and Asian communities for the riots despite the council being warned five years ago that racial division was storing up future conflict. In 2001 the Birmingham Stephen Lawrence Commission said failure to tackle economic deprevation and different communities living apart would allow racial 'apartheid' to develop. But questioned about the Birmingham Council's response to the recent disturbances Dr Mushaq Ally, head of equalities, absolved his authority of any responsibility. He told Blink: "We can’t be responsible if people send rumours around the community. We can’t solve that by social engineering. That has to come about by natural processes."

Misinformed
Dr Ally, who resigned as head of the Wales Commission for Racial Equality in 2002 after being accused of 'abuse of power', was criticised by campaigners. Distrust and tensions between African-Caribbean and Asian communities were building for some time. Leader campaigner Maxie Hayles said: "He's just come into town and doesn't know sod-all about the politics of Birmingham. He is obviously misinformed. "Aren't they responsible for community relations or regeneration? The problem is the council, which has a budget of £2 billion, does not spend it equally. It's a bad joke." Mr Hayles said £39 million pounds of Neighbourhood Renewal funding, which was agreed in the aftermath of the Birmingham Stephen Lawrence Commission report, should have been earmarked for the 13 poorest wards but was instead spread over 29 wards. Birmingham Labour councillor Sybil Spence said the council could have prevented the disturbances. She said: “They could have prevented it. If it (Birmingham Stephen Lawrence recommendations) had been fully implemented, maybe this sort of thing wouldn’t have happened.”

Disastrous
The Commission, led by circuit judge Ray Singh, warned that Birmingham was becoming racially segregated and that this could inflame tensions between the city’s diverse communities. African-Caribbeans and Asians were increasingly living apart and did not have access to regeneration funding. It found that institutions were failing to tackle racial inequality and warned this was potentially disastrous for Birmingham, leading to a split city where ethnic minorities are socially excluded and geographically segregated in deprived inner-city neighbourhoods like Handsworth. The report stated: “Racial inequality and discrimination are still persistent features in the lives of large sections of the minority ethnic population in Birmingham. "Race quality policies were said to be failing because of institutionalized racism, a lack of effective leadership and the absence of a commitment to actively promote race equality.” Tory council leader Mike Whitby is said to have been opposed to the Commission's conclusions. He was not available for interview. At the time Birmingham council chief executive Sir Michael Lyons admitted the council hadn’t done enough to tackle racism.

Exploit
Dr Ally gave Blink a catalogue of reasons that he said were behind the current problems, and all of them rested with the failings of the communities themselves. He said: “90 percent of what we’ve been talking about is ethnic conflict. Criminality can’t be ignored….”   Dr Ally said tensions between African-Caribbean and Asian stemming from the lack of identity amongst young people, failure of community leadership, criminality, and gang warfare. The mud-slinging came after disturbances that left two African-Caribbean men dead, and over 35 people needing hospitalisation two weeks ago in the Lozells area of the city. Tensions are still high following the desecration of Muslim graves possibily by the far-right seeking to exploit the situation, and a leafet perporting to be from 'Islamic Jihad' which calls for bloodshed of African-Caribbeans. Last year journalist Darcus Howe exposed racial divisions between Asian and African-Caribbean youth in a controversial TV documentary. Many in the African-Caribbean community were shocked at the racial insults being used by young Asians against them. Howe’s Channel 4 film Who are You Calling a Nigger? was slated for inflaming tensions but now appears to have been a discarded warning sign. Dr Ally defended the council, saying it now had 8,000 ethnic minority employees, though it had no BME chief officers. “People do continue to suffer but I don’t believe nothing has been done about it.” Meanwhile residents and traders from Handsworth want the city council to hold a public inquiry into what sparked the disturbances in Lozells. The petition, which was delivered to council leader Whitby, has been signed by seven major groups, including the Council of Sikh Gurdwaras, the Indian Workers' Association, Handsworth and Rookery Road Traders' Associations, the South Asian Alliance and Copthall Road Residents.
© Black Information Link

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WAS GRAVE DESECRATION WORK OF FAR RIGHT?(uk)

An unheard of group calling themselves the Black Nation has desecrated Muslim graves in Birmingham. There is speculation that the attack was not the work of African-Caribbeans.

5/11/2005- Birmingham campaigners have never heard of the 'Black Nation' and say the incident had all the hall-marks of the far-right trying to provoke further violence between African-Caribbean and Asian youths ahead of the weekend. The far-right has a long history of grave desecration against Jews and Muslims. None of the African-Caribbean figures Blink has spoken to had heard of the 'Black Nation' raising the possibility it was the sort of stereotypical name a white racist might make up. Leading Birmingham campaigner Maxie Hayles said: "This is not the African-Caribbean style. I condemn the attack on these graves. It is senseless. It looks like the work of far-right groups. It looks just a bit too obvious."

Blood
Another Birmingham source said: "This looks like the work of fascists, the sort who came from all parts of the country to stir things up in Oldham and Burnely. I feel they are coming here too. It's too obvious. The Black Nation? That's just the kind of name they'd choose to try and kick things off again." Last week another spurious leaflet was in circulation bearing the name 'Islamic Jihad' and calling for Muslims to shed African-Caribbean blood. The leaflet used several Islamic phrases but Muslims leaders doubted whether it could have been produced by fellow Muslims. They pointed to the fact that radical Islamic groups often have sizable African and African-Caribbean members including those in leadership positions within such organisations. Earlier today news spread that dozens of Muslim grave stones have been smashed and pushed over in a cemetery in Handsworth in Birmingham. The desecration was discovered on Friday morning by relatives visiting the Muslim part of the cemetery.

Insults
Leaflets were also scattered with insults against Muslims, they were attributed to Black Nation. Last month riots involving Asian and black youths took place in nearby Lozells, sparked by a claim that a 14-year-old black girl had been raped. West Midlands Police are at the scene collecting the leaflets and taking statements from those who found them. Between 35 and 45 grave stones had been desecrated, it was reported. Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood was at the cemetery. He said: "These are disgraceful events, deliberately done to entice people. They are definitely trying to cause more problems particularly on this day when Muslim people are coming to pay their respects." He called on Muslim people not to react to the vandalism. "We can't point the finger at a single community, individuals have done this but we are not sure who."
© Black Information Link

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RACISM LAWS 'FAILING FOR YEARS' (uk)

Decades of anti-racism laws have failed to tackle the root causes of prejudice, according to a new book.

8/11/2005- Written for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, it warns there could be an increased backlash against ethnic minorities because of botched policies. It argues there has been "much rhetoric but little widespread implementation" of racism policies. The book comes amid concern over racial tensions in the light of the London bombings and Birmingham's recent riot. In the book, "Tackling the roots of racism", the authors argue that over 30 years society has wanted to do something about racism, but done very little of practical benefit. The authors from Middlesex University reviewed British research into the impact of race laws and equality measures, particularly those aimed at tackling discrimination at work and building bridges between different groups. They found that while policies had arguably made a different to the employment of minorities, they had not necessarily dealt with ingrained prejudices. In turn, institutional racism, the concept popularised by the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, was neither properly understood nor widely enough defined, they went on. While it has been used to explain how a public body fails to serve a minority, the authors said institutional racism as popularly understood by public bodies did little to explain subtle racism based on differences of class, gender or disability. The authors criticised local authorities which chose "short-term" solutions like annual multicultural music festivals because these resulted in little meaningful contact between people.

'Unintended consequence'
Turning to employment, the authors warn that methods used to monitor performance or progress of employees could have the "unintended consequence" of compounding prejudice by focusing solely on the performance of black or Asian workers. Co-author Reena Bhavnani said public authorities needed to do more to tackle the causes of racism. "The complexity of the way that race issues interact with inequalities arising from class, gender, age and disability suggests that a more holistic approach to tackling the roots of racism is needed," said Dr Bhavnani. "Patterns of behaviour are ingrained in the British establishment and its structures and in everyday British culture. "Individuals do not necessarily act in racist ways, but attitudes and ideologies based on ideas about the supposed inferiority and subordination of certain groups are still deeply embedded in British society." However, the book praises a range of projects, including youth work directly targeting racism among gangs in south London, the national "Kick It Out" racism in football campaign and the Presswise Trust's refugees in the media scheme, a group that helps exiled journalists.
© BBC News

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WALES RACE PROSECUTIONS RISE 55% (uk)

Race crime prosecutions in Wales rose by 55% last year, compared to a 29% increase across the UK as a whole.

11/11/2005- The number of prosecutions for racially-aggravated offences rose from 269 to 419 for the year up to March 2005. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which compiled the figures, said they reflected a trend as more people were more prepared to report race crime. Most were in south Wales, where there were 241 prosecutions (155 previously). In the Gwent Police area the figure rose from 57 to 74 while there was a slight fall in Dyfed-Powys from 29 to 26. In the North Wales Police area there were 78 prosecutions, compared to 28 last year. The chief crown prosecutor for Wales, Chris Woolley, said one of the reasons behind the rise was changing attitudes, with more people willing to come forward to report such crimes. Most of the incidents reported were for public order offences, with about 10% assaults. "In south Wales we have the biggest urban population and we think the police and CPS are actually doing quite a good job, reflecting the views of the community, encouraging people to come forward and report crime, and we're taking action on it," Mr Woolley told BBC Radio Wales. The CPS did not think the rise in crime reported reflected an actual increase in crime, he added. "We think it's more likely that people are ready to report it, ready to support us through a prosecution," Mr Woolley said. "There has been a trend upwards since the figures were introduced in 2000." Naz Malik, director of the All-Wales Ethnic Minority Association, said: "What I find rather pleasing - and that we can celebrate - is that people from all kinds of different cultures and racial backgrounds are taking the issue of race and race crime very seriously and are prepared to stand up and be counted." Aled Edwards, chair of the Welsh Refugee Council, added: "The freakery of racism is still abhorrent and all the indicators say it is happening and we should fight and be robust in our response to that." The figures were released as seven people were arrested over an attack on three men in what police believe was a racially-motivated incident. The three men - aged 21, 24 and 51 - needed treatment at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales, after the attack on 3 November in the Tremorfa area of the city. Ethnic minority leaders in Cardiff are holding talks with police after the attack on the men, who were on their way to a mosque. A South Wales Police spokesman said: "The events are being treated as racially motivated."

Race prosecutions
Dyfed-Powys: 29 (down 3)
Gwent: 57 (up 17)
North Wales: 78 (up 50)
South Wales: 241 (up 96)
Total: 419 (up 150)
From 1 April, 2004 - 31 March, 2005. Source: Crown Prosecution Service
© BBC News

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GAY BISHOP ATTACKS CATHOLIC STAND (uk)

The first openly gay Anglican bishop, Gene Robinson, has called for the Roman Catholic church's attitude to homosexuals to be confronted.

6/11/2005- The Bishop of New Hampshire said the Vatican's ban on ordaining gay men was "vile", in a speech in London. He received a standing ovation after his speech, in which he spoke of how he had faced prejudice in his role. Some Anglican conservatives had called for the St-Martin-in-the-Fields church venue to be changed to a secular one. Bishop Robinson said: "We are seeing so many Roman Catholics joining the church. "Pope Ratzinger may be the best thing that ever happened to the Episcopal Church." He continued: "I find it so vile that they think they are going to end the child abuse scandal by throwing out homosexuals from seminaries. "It is an act of violence that needs to be confronted." His speech at St-Martin-in-the-Fields, in Trafalgar Square, was part of the 10th anniversary of the gay rights group Changing Attitude. He had been asked not wear his full vestments or take part in the religious service before addressing the audience from a lectern rather than the pulpit. "I'm here to encourage you to talk about God," he said. "I am not here to talk about a social agenda. I am not here to grind any axes, I am here to do the thing that Christians do, that is to witness to the good of God."

'Full inclusion'
The London Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship, which includes senior lay and clergy members, had urged the Archbishop of Canterbury to move the Bishop's talk to a secular venue to prevent "damaged relations" between sections of the church. The Bishop said his home state in the US was "the one place in the world where I am not the gay bishop - I'm just the bishop... it is a wonderful feeling". He said homosexuals would eventually be fully welcomed in the church but warned that it may take some time. "This is going to end with our full inclusion," he said. "We won't live to see it, but it's going to happen."

Church rift
On Thursday the New Hampshire bishop met Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and said he wanted to help heal the rift caused by his consecration, but would not give up his post. His conscecration two years ago attracted widespread criticism from the more conservative African and Asian sections of the church. Changing Attitude is an organisation which calls for the Anglican Church to "fully accept, welcome and offer equality of opportunity to lesbian, gay and bisexual people". He is due to address a congregation in Stockport later on Sunday.
© BBC News

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RACISM ROW HITS GAY GROUP(uk)

11/11/2005- A row involving accusations of racism has hit the Gay and Lesbian Humanist campaigning group, after its magazine apparently slammed immigrants to the UK as “criminals of the worst kind” and Muslims as “adhering to a barmy doctrine”. GALHA, which campaigns against religion “impinging on the rights of individuals”, made the comments in an opinion section of its magazine’s autumn issue. Additionally, it expresses support for gay Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn who was shot in 2002. The politician was killed during the country’s election campaign. He had caused controversy by campaigning on an anti-immigration ticket. “The warnings of popular gay politician Pim Fortuyn were tragically snuffed out by a left wing assassin before he could sufficiently alert people to the damage the influx of Muslims is doing to his own native land,” an article in the magazine said. The Lesbian and Gay Coalition Against Racism slammed the magazine’s content, arguing that racism “has no place in the lesbian and gay community”. It accused GALHA of “demonising immigrants and denouncing Muslims”. “We believe that the lesbian and gay community has nothing to gain from racism,” the group said. “On the contrary, we pledge to work with the Black and Asian communities to tackle racism and the far right which threaten all of our human rights and indeed our very lives.” The coalition, which includes members of gay Muslim campaigning groups, race equality organisations and student groups, said the GALHA would be better placed to target the “bigoted attitudes” of some religious leaders rather than slam all religious believers. “We differ with the leaders of most religions in their all too often bigoted attitudes to lesbian and gay rights,” the group said. “But rather than demonise any one religion or race or immigrants, we will work with lesbian and gay Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, people of all religions and none, to promote respect for our human rights.”

It is not the first time the GALHA has faced criticism. Secretary George Broadhead was slammed by Muslim campaigners after the group released a statement in the wake of the London bombings and the possible visit of controversial scholar Yusuf al Qaradawi. “He is not the sort of person who should be welcomed here at any time, let alone at a time when the country is reeling from the kind of extreme violence that is spawned by his religion,” Broadhead said at the time. Muslim groups said that, while GALHA was free to criticise the visit of Yusuf al Qaradawi, it was naive and dangerous to draw such links between Islam and the London bombings. In a statement released today from the GALHA, the group’s committee said it was “disturbed” by the comments in its magazine. "As humanists, we believe in defending secularism and confronting religious ideology where it impinges on the rights of individuals,” the committee said in a statement. “But equally we oppose the encouragement of hatred or discrimination against individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of their religious affiliation.” “Humanists criticise ideas, not people.” It said it was taking “urgent steps” to review the situation and pledged that the views expressed in the magazine were “inconsistent with GALHA’s ethos”. “We therefore wish to make it clear that GALHA does not endorse those opinions and we unreservedly dissociate ourselves from them.”
© Gay.Com

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HELP FOR SCHOOLS TO BATTLE RACISM(N. Ireland)

8/11/2005- Schools in Northern Ireland need support and assistance to deal with racism, a leading teacher union has claimed. The Irish National Teachers' Union has produced a pack for its members to help them tackle the issue in schools. The pack contains expert guidance for principals and vice principals on the best methods to tackle racism against teachers or pupils in schools. In addition, it contains support material, including an anti-racism poster from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. Addressing delegates at the recent launch of the anti-racism pack Frank Bunting, the union's Northern secretary, said: "INTO believes that the pack builds on the very successful anti-sectarianism guidance that was made available to schools last year. "The organisation recognises that schools need support and assistance to tackle the scourge of racism, whether it is perpetrated against teachers or pupils. "Racism, be it direct or through graffiti, jokes or poor employment and promotion practices, damages the learning environment of schools. "The information in this pack is aimed at improving the knowledge base of those who have to deal with racism in a school environment."
© Belfast Telegraph

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ONE DEAD AND TWO SERIOUSLY INJURED AFTER SUSPECTED NEO-NAZI ATTACKS(Slovakia)

7/11/2005- One death and at least two seriously injured persons is the result of two organized - allegedly neo-Nazi - attacks during the past week in Bratislava, the People against Racism organization reported on November 6, the TASR news agency reported. The attacks occurred only a few days before the International Day of the Fight against Fascism and Anti-Semitism on November 9. During the night from Monday, October 31 to Tuesday, November 1, two young men were attacked by a group of neo-Nazis in the centre of Bratislava. Four armed men attacked a boy and stabbed him six times. During another attack on Friday evening, a 19-year-old student was killed. A group of unknown attackers - likely also to be neo-Nazis - attacked him and his six friends on a car park on the banks of the Danube River in Petržalka. Police are investigating the case as murder and are still searching for the culprits. "This attack proves that neo-Nazism and its followers are still here and are ready to threaten peoples' lives just because of their convictions, appearance or skin colour," Daniel Milo, head of People against Racism, told the news agency.
© The Slovak Spectator

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REACHING OUT TO EXTREMIST YOUTH(Switzerland)

Outreach worker Samuel Althof, who has spent five years among young extremists, tells swissinfo personal problems often lie behind militant behaviour.

7/11/2005- The spokesman for Action Children of the Holocaust says that by dealing with these problems the pressure group has helped more than 40 far-right and far-left extremists abandon militancy. The Basel-based group was, as the name suggests, founded by children of Holocaust survivors. Over the past 15 years, its members have been involved in a number of campaigns against racism and anti-Semitism. Now their main focus is on extremism prevention. The "internet-streetworking" project, which involves approaching young extremists in a bid to help them find a way out of the scene, works in collaboration with Basel University's youth violence research project.

swissinfo: Why is it important to target both the far-right and far-left scenes?
Samuel Althof: Because far-right and far-left extremists are related to each other. Each side uses the other to justify their existence. If you just work with the far right, you don't get in touch with the whole problem.

swissinfo: How significant is the far-right scene?
S.A.: If you judge it by media coverage, the problem seems to be very big. But if you look at the facts, you have about 1,200 far-right activists in Switzerland. A minority of them are hard-core activists who have developed their own closed ideology. Other people in the scene come and go. You have a lot of people showing up at concerts or events who do not have a deep involvement or fixed ideology yet. These young sympathisers are the ones we work with. What is very important is that there is no strategic working alliance between the far-right groups in Switzerland now. They are trying to establish it but up to now have not been successful. So you cannot say that we have a national problem. But we sometimes have local problems that can be very dangerous.

swissinfo: And on the far-left?
S.A: There are more people, over 3,000, and they have a very well functioning network. These groups have a strategy of violence in their politics.

swissinfo: How do you approach people who are attracted to these groups?
S.A.: We use the internet but we also go into the scenes or get information from parents, instructors and classmates. When we work through the internet, we watch them for a long time and collect information about them. A typical experimental extremist has none of his own content on his website. His website has copy-pasted content from many places. With these so-called nationalists, you can reach them if you start to engage with them but we never argue with them in a political way. We always discover complicated family problems and usually we find that there is a weak or absent father. It can also happen that the young person has experienced real problems with young foreigners at school. They may have been beaten up or bullied and they get no help to get along with the foreign children so they start to become racist. They have no coping skills and start to use black and white views. They fall into a racist trap.

swissinfo: What is the attraction of the neo-Nazi ideology and imagery?
S.A.: It is the power of identification with the aggressor; this has a lot of power. To put it simply, these people are trying to go from being a loser to a winner. By taking something that is taboo in society, they show that they are strong. They also use it to shock their parents and keep them at a distance.

swissinfo: Do you have much success in convincing them to change their minds?
S.A: We never try to convince anybody. If we did this we would push them deeper into the mindset because our assessment of these young far-right people is that the external behaviour is not the problem. We have learnt that they have problems behind this and that's what we talk about. We try to build opportunities for them to leave the scene, to find a win-win situation by leaving it behind.

swissinfo: What it your advice to a parent who finds their child has drifted into an extremist scene?
S.A.: Even if your child is behaving in a way you don't like, you have a responsibility as a parent to accept him. If you don't, you make it worse by giving him grounds to be like he is. Parents have to enter into a critical dialogue with their children - there is no point in throwing them out of the house. Rather than attacking the behaviour, you have to talk about it.
© Swissinfo

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BULGARIA’S ETHNIC RELATIONS AT RISK

7/11/2005- PRESIDENT Georgi Purvanov has issued a strongly-worded warning that ultra-nationalism could put ethnic tolerance in Bulgaria at risk. Purvanov made the remarks at a conference on October 31 on “National Interests, National Identity, and European Integration”. The conference was organised by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences’ Philosophical Research Institute, the Thracian Research Institute, the Macedonian Research Institute, and the National Self-Preservation Association. Purvanov called for a national policy to avoid a confrontation between ethnic identity and a sense of national belonging. The Government should address Bulgaria’s serious social and economic problems, such as unemployment, and inadequacies in education and health care, that could give rise to ethnic tensions, Purvanov said. There should be a “pro-active” policy towards dealing with such issues in regions with mixed populations, without giving preference to any ethnic community, because all were equally affected by the problems, he said. “If these problems are to be solved, communities should be consistently integrated, not separated and isolated,” Purvanov was quoted as saying by Bulgarian news agency BTA. He said that ethnic tolerance was generally the rule in Bulgaria, although there were some examples of serious conflicts. In what was widely seen as a reference to ultra-nationalist group Ataka, which took fourth place in the parliamentary elections in June this year, Purvanov said: “Confrontation is a breeding ground, above all, for incompetent politicians, who have always espoused the ideology of hatred. “Ideological confrontation no longer seems sufficiently motivating in party politics, which is why the politically adventurous have resorted to nationalism.”

Purvanov said that there was no outside threat to the Bulgarian identity. “The major threats to the nation and all things national are, above all, domestic. Ethnic peace is not something given for once and for all, and playing with this fire can be dangerous.” Patriotism could not thrive on alienation and opposition to Europe. Authentic nationalism should be based on the nation’s contemporary achievements, Purvanov said. Social analyst Professor Nikolai Genov told the conference that Bulgarian parties and institutions should address the serious economic, social and cultural stratification in Bulgarian society, which could cause inter-ethnic problems. He quoted a March 2005 survey which said that 57 per cent of the Roma people interviewed saw their social status as very low, along with 20.5 per cent of Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent, and 7.5 per cent of non-Roma and non-Turkish Bulgarians. Nearly 91 per cent of Roma, 72.7 per cent of Bulgarians of Turkish descent, and 44 per cent of Bulgarians had incomes of less than 100 leva a month, according to the survey, which also showed a series of other inequalities, for example in education. Genov said that the Cabinet and Bulgaria’s political parties should come up with a strategy to prevent inter-ethnic conflicts in the country. Possible “cultural segregation” would be disastrous. If this were combined with social segregation, such as withdrawal from economic life and people living in “ghetto-like” communities, there would be serious conflict among ethnic groups, Genov said.
© Sofia Echo

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SWEDISH PRIESTS REJECT GAY CHURCH BLESSINGS

6/11/2005- More than 400 Swedish Lutheran priests have posted an Internet message distancing themselves from an official Church decision to guarantee same-sex partners the right to religious blessings of their civil unions. "We believe this decision is not in accordance with the order of communal life and marriage as revealed in the Word of God defining it as a relationship between man and woman," said a website statement. "The Word of God does not authorise us to bless another type of relationship among couples," said the signatories, distancing themselves from the Church's new official position. On October 27, the Lutheran Church said it would guarantee same-sex partners the right to religious blessings of their civil unions. "The Church board has been given the task of working out a system for these homosexual partnership blessings ... The system will go into effect during 2006," said a spokeswoman. Sweden's current law gives gay couples the same rights as married couples, but while the public commonly refers to gay unions as "marriages", they are in the eyes of the law officially called "partnerships". The Church decision was taken at a congress by a majority of 160 delegates to 81 against, with eight abstentions. Pastor Yngve Kalin published a "priest's statement" on his website on November 1st denouncing the Church decision. By Friday evening, 416 priests had added their names to the site in support of the statement.
© The Local

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Call for Action: LATVIA MOVES CLOSER TOWARDS CONSTITUTIONAL BAN ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

On 26 October 2005, the Latvian Parliament approved a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union of a man and woman during the first reading.

8/11/2005- The amendment was proposed earlier this year by the First Party of Latvia who initiated extreme homophobic campaign again the first LGBT Pride March last July in Riga. Although the First Party is stressing that the aim of the amendment is to protect and strengthen family, they openly stated they want to ensure that Latvia does not join other European countries which provide legal recognition for same-sex partners. They regard this amendment the most important decision to be taken during the current parliament term. 65 members of the 100 seats Latvian Parliament supported the amendment, 5 MPs voted against and 20 abstained. In order for the amendment to pass it needs to go through three readings. Constitutional amendment can be approved if during each reading there are at least 2/3 of the MPs presents and each reading gain support for the amendment from at least of 2/3 of the MPs present during the reading. The second reading on the constitutional amendment is scheduled for 12 November 2005 and all the submissions regarding the constitutional amendment need to be sent to the Parliamentary Legal Committee (this committee is responsible for the amendment) before 12 November 2005.

Lesbian and gay activists in Latvia are coordinating a letter campaign to the Parliament and prepared a letter to the Latvian president inviting her to engage into this debate:

"Your Excellency President Vaira Viíe-Freiberga,

In the last few months, the gay, lesbian and bisexual community in Latvia has been on the receiving end of countless verbal attacks by Ministers and Saeima Deputies. On a regular basis the press reports their homophobic statements, made during debates in the Saeima, during interviews and through press releases. Gays, lesbians and bisexuals have been called everything from monkeys, to the most important threat to family values in Latvia. At the moment, these same deputies are working hard to institutionalize discrimination against sexual minorities in Latvia, by amending our Constitution.

President Viíe-Freiberga, we undersigned invite you to participate in the public debate on sexual minority rights in Latvia. At the moment, the only messages we hear from the political leaders in this country is one of homophobia, paranoia, fear and discrimination. Through their public statements, Ministers and Deputies are telling our nation that it is acceptable and even encouraged to discriminate and condemn gays, lesbians and bisexuals in Latvia. We invite you, as a doctor of psychology, educator, president, world leader, but most importantly as a citizen of Latvia, to bring reason and intelligence to this debate. Our society needs to hear from our political leaders that discrimination, hate and mockery of sexual minorities are not accepted practices in our democratic Latvia. We invite you to serve as a model of tolerance and understanding, from which our nation can learn and grow.

Yours sincerely, Concerned citizens, non-citizens and residents of Latvia"


We kindly ask you all to support our effort not to allow this homophobic amendment to be passed and write to the Latvian president inviting her to engage into current debate and to support
We also ask you to write to the Legal Committee of the Latvian Parliament to express your condemnation of the constitutional amendment and inviting the Parliament to address the issue of the rights for same-sex partners.

Juridiska Komisija (Legal Committee)
Saeima
Jçkaba ielâ 11
Rîga LV 1811
Latvia
E-mail: ikrumina@saeima.lv

Vaira Vike-Freiberga
President of the Republic of Latvia
Pils laukums 3
Riga LV-1050
Latvia
E-mail: chancery@president.lv

If you have any questions regarding the situation in Latvian, please do not hesitate contacting us: jlavrikovs@hotmail.com

© ILGA Europe

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COMMITTEE BACKS GAY ADOPTION RIGHTS(Belgium)

11/11/2005- The Belgian Parliament's justice committee has approved a legislative proposal giving gay couples the right to adopt children. The Francophone Liberals rejected the motion on Wednesday, as did the extreme-right Flemish Interest party. However, support from the Flemish Liberal VLD and Socialist PS parties helped the proposal win majority support. The motion was eventually passed with 9 votes for and 7 against. The controversial discussion over gay adoption rights was recently sparked by SP MP Guy Swennen, who proposed amending present legislation with just three words. He proposed omitting the words "of different sex" from the current law so that not only heterosexual, but gay and lesbian couples could also adopt children. The sub-parliamentary family law committee placed the proposal on the negotiating table in the current term of government and passed it onto the justice committee.
The justice committee approved of the proposal before the summer parliamentary recess, but a final vote could not be held because another amendment was raised. Wednesday's final vote gave a positive result for Swennen's proposal and the legislation will now be lodged with the Belgian Parliament for debate on 24 November. In principle, a majority of MPs are in favour of the legislation, but the Francophone Liberals could swing the vote. Also, not all of the VLD MPs are totally in favour of the proposal.
© Expatica News

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MARCH AGAINST HATRED HELD IN ST.PETERSBURG(Russia)

6/11/2005- About 300 antifascists held a March Against Hatred in downtown St.Petersburg on Sunday to commemorate well known scholar and human rights campaigner Nikolai Girenko, an Interfax correspondent reported. A rally is being held in the University campus now, he said.' The action involves members of Yabloko, the Union of Right Forces, the Red Youth Vanguard, the Our Choice party, the National-Bolshevik Party, the Defense movement, the Civil Front and the Association of Marxist Organizations. Marchers carried posters reading: "Shame to the City which Kills Guests!" "Criminals Must be Brought to Account!" "Down With Fascism!" The march was joined by 30 African students who carried a poster, reading: "How Many More People Will be Killed?" "We were deeply touched by this action. It shows that there are tolerant people here, who are kind to us," one of them said. Ethnographer Girenko wad killed in St.Petersburg on June 19, 2004 in his home. He was a leading expert in racism and nationalism, and assisted criminal investigations.
© Interfax

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MAJORITY OF RUSSIANS WANT RESTRICTIONS ON FOREIGNERS

11/11/2005- 56 percent of Russians would like the government to introduce restrictions on the number of people entering the country, a recent poll conducted by the Levada Polling Center has shown. Approximately 50 percent of those who took part in the survey want measures to be imposed on people from Caucasian countries, 42 percent are against Chinese migrants, and the same amount against Vietnamese citizens. 31 percent would not like to see migrants in Russia from ex-Soviet Central Asian states. 30 percent would not welcome gypsies, while 18 percent were against Jews and 8 percent didn’t like the idea of Ukrainians coming to Russia. 36 percent of Russian citizens have nothing against migrants. However, the vast majority of Russians — 86 percent — do not feel hostile toward people of other nationalities. According to the pollsters, their point of view has been unchanged for three years.
© MosNews

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MORE THAN HALF OF RUSSIANS XENOPHOBIC — RIGHTS GROUP

7/11/2005- More than half of Russians are xenophobic, director of the Moscow Human Rights Bureau Aleksandr Brod has said. “Public opinion polls have shown that xenophobic slogans are supported by as many as 60 percent of residents. Xenophobia isn’t a localized problem, but a disease gripping the entire country,” Brod told Interfax Monday. He said that xenophobia in Russia is spreading through a variety of ethnic groups. “Unfortunately, it permeates the whole of our society. There is the xenophobia of the ethnic majority and the xenophobia of the ethnic minority,” Brod said. The Moscow Human Rights Bureau, which is supported by the European Union, monitors instances of ethnic extremism in Russia. Brod said that during a special investigation rights activists had revealed, among other things, that Russophobia has developed in the ethnic republics of the Russian Federation. “There is discrimination against Russians on ethnic grounds, particularly, when it comes to employment,” he said. He believes that not enough is being done to combat xenophobia and extremism on ethnic grounds in Russia. “On the contrary, the negative attitudes of protest are being heightened. There are constant attacks by skinheads on representative of ethnic minorities, rallies and calls for deportations. We may provoke disturbances like the ones taking place in France,” Brod said. He said that in the opinion of rights activists, the authorities should not have allowed nationalist parties to hold a right-wing march in Moscow on Nov. 4, National Unity Day. “There was some kind of shocking connivance by the authorities in this act. At the same time any action by Eduard Limonov’s National Bolsheviks is stopped with the utmost ruthlessness,” Brod said. He said that in order to counter xenophobia in Russia the authorities should be more effective in countering the activities of radical nationalist groups.
© MosNews

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POLITICAL SCIENTISTS MARKOV, URNOV DISAGREE ON NATIONALISM, XENOPHOBIA IN RUSSIA

7/11/2005- Russian society is gripped with feelings of nationalism and aggression, which may lead to a split in the country, Expertiza's Director Mark Urnov said. "We are at the most dangerous stage now, Russian aggressive nationalism is on the rise," Urnov told Interfax on Monday. According to him, Russian society is filled with "overly aggressive nationalist ideas that are very popular. Some 40% of the population is infected with radical nationalism, and 70% harbor negative attitudes toward Caucasians." "War is spreading all over the Caucasus, new republics are getting involved, Muslim and anti-Russian nationalism is gaining ground there, and if Islamic enclaves on Russian territory such as Tatarstan or Bashkortostan get drawn in, things will get even worse," Urnov said. "On the one hand, the basis for fascism has consolidated, but on the other hand, due to the high tolerance of Russians and the effective actions taken by special services, there is less fascism than in many European countries," director of the Institute for Political Studies Sergei Markov said. Markov urged people to appraise the danger of fascism objectively. "We should say clearly that the threat of fascism in Russia should not be overestimated, although it should not be underestimated either," Markov told Interfax on Monday, commenting on the demonstration by right-wing radicals in Moscow on November 4.
© FSU Monitor

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COUNTER-TERRORISM CAMPAIGN IS SAID TO TARGET MUSLIMS(Russia)

10/11/2005- Muslims and human rights campaigners in Russia have joined forces to denounce what they describe as a persistent campaign of harassment and detentions targeting Muslims, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported. They say that growing numbers of ordinary Muslims are falling victim to the government’s attempt to show successes in fighting terrorism. The government is fabricating cases against Muslims in order to prosecute them for terrorism, leading human rights campaigners charge. At a press conference on October 31, Vitaly Ponomarev, an activist of the rights group Memorial, said that 39 Muslims have been sentenced on terrorism charges since the beginning of this year across Russia, not counting the northern Caucasus region. Dozens more are awaiting trial, he added. The first wave of terrorism charges brought against Muslims began soon after the hostage tragedy in Beslan in September 2004, a trend that rights activists say is gaining momentum. “Torture is used in about 40% of cases to obtain confessions,” Ponomarev said. “A new tendency is the fabrication of group cases. It is announced that large underground terrorist organizations have been uncovered. The most scandalous case, which has yet to reach court, is taking place in Tatarstan, where more than 20 people are charged with allegedly preparing terrorist attacks ahead of the millennium in the city [of Kazan, the Tatar capital].” The rights groups say that defendants are, as a rule, accused of having ties to Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic organization that Russia outlawed in 2003 as terrorist group. “Hizb ut-Tahrir seeks to establish a caliphate in Central Asia, but formally rejects violence,” RFE/RL reported. “Russia's Federal Security Service, however, accuses the group of supporting separatist rebels in Chechnya.”

Mars Gayanov, a 53-year-old Muslim from Bashkortostan, told reporters that Russian special forces in December raided his house, where they allegedly found Islamic extremist literature and homemade bombs. Gayanov denies hiding either bombs or extremist literature. He said law-enforcement officials tried to beat confessions out of him. But he claimed that neither he nor his sons have been members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. The fact that Gayanov was beaten while in prison has been officially established, according to RFE/RL. He was given a suspended sentence, but his two sons were sentenced to five years and 7 1/2 years in prison. Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the rights group Civil Assistance, said the government is rounding up Muslims in an attempt to make it appear that it is combating terrorism. “Politics are currently aimed at channeling popular dissatisfaction, which is always possible if there is some kind enemy,” she said. “The enemy is once again the United States, and we also need an internal enemy. The internal enemy is chosen because it is different and because someone is afraid of him. I am absolutely convinced that Islam and the Islamic caliphate are a phobia of the president of the Russian Federation.” Gannushkina said she has personally heard President Vladimir Putin make negative comments about Islam and accuse Muslims of plotting to establish a caliphate in Russia, particularly in Chechnya. According to Gannushkina, many alleged Uzbek terrorists have been illegally transferred to Uzbekistan, although the Council of Europe and the European Union have denounced any such extraditions. “There is a very clear agreement -- the falsification of legal cases testify to this -- between the highest-ranking people in Russia and in Uzbekistan, according to which people whom the Uzbek government requests are sent to Uzbekistan,” she said. In June, 14 ethnic Uzbeks were arrested in the central Russian city of Ivanovo at the request of Uzbekistan for allegedly participating in the Andizhan uprising. All but one are in detention, pending extradition.
© Bigotry Monitor

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RUSSIA CONSIDERS NGO RESTRICTIONS

Russia's state duma is considering new rules which would force all non-governmental organisations to re-register within a year.

9/11/2005- NGOs fear the changes could be used to restrict their activities or to close them down altogether. The move comes after allegations by senior Russian officials that NGOs helped foment democratic revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. It is not clear what chance the bill has of becoming law without changes. Despite this, the draft has foreign NGOs worried. If passed in its current form, it will mean that all not-for-profit groups would need to register with a state commission which would have the power to scrutinise their work and their financing. According to several NGOs here in Moscow, this means the authorities could have the power to effectively ban any groups whose activities they do not approve of.

Control
A spokesman for Human Rights Watch said that his organisation would no longer be allowed to have a representative office or branch in Russia. Instead, they would have to re-register as a new financially independent association - a condition that some NGOs would find difficult to meet. Human Rights Watch described the proposals as "another step in the control of civil society". But one of the bill's sponsors said the purpose was to improve financial oversight. For instance, the new law would help prevent money laundering. But it is clear that there is another motive: the Russian government wants to crack down on politically active NGOs that receive foreign funding for fear that the money might be used to promote an "orange revolution" here. Earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin said he would not tolerate foreign money being used to finance political activities.
© BBC News

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RUSSIAN PROSECUTORS PROBE MOTHERLAND PARTY’S TV AD FOR RACISM

9/11/2005- Moscow’s prosecutor launched an investigation on Wednesday into a campaign advertisement by a nationalist party that has drawn charges of inciting racism, the Reuters news agency reports. The television commercial, by the Rodina (Motherland) party, shows a blonde woman pushing a pram over watermelon rinds discarded by a group of dark-skinned men sitting nearby. The spot is packed with cliches suggesting people from the Caucasus region, who often sell fruit and vegetables in the capital’s markets, only eat watermelon and do little else. A party leader tells them to pick up their watermelon skins. Another then asks in language normally used to address children: “Do you understand Russian?” The clip ends with: “Let’s clean the city of rubbish.” A spokeswoman for the Moscow prosecutor’s office said the investigation into whether the 30-second advert incites violence against ethnic minorities should take about a month. “Today we only just started the checks on the advert by Rodina,” she said. Liberal politicians and human rights groups have attacked Rodina, saying the party created before the last parliamentary election in 2003 was prejudiced against darker-skinned minorities, mostly those from Chechnya, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Chechens have often been the target of attacks in the capital and other Russian towns since Moscow waged war against the breakaway province in the early 1990s. Yuri Popov, a deputy in Moscow’s city parliament and a member of Rodina, said the advert did not break the law. “It’s the viewers’ business, they see what they want to see in the advert ... We are standing for a clean city. There is not one word about nationalism in the advert, not one call for ethnic hatred,” he said on the party’s Website www.rodina.ru. Analysts say Rodina was created with help from the Kremlin, keen to pull support away from the Communist Party by creating a new populist party before the last election. But Rodina has fashioned itself as an opposition party ahead of a parliamentary election in 2007 and presidential polls a year later. Russian nationalism has spread among a population keen to see Russia return to its superpower status of the Cold War. On Friday, several thousand youths, including members of the Movement against Illegal Immigration, marched in Moscow, with military-style bands, Nazi-style salutes and placards declaring: “Russia for the Russians” and “Russians against occupation”.
© MosNews

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NATIONALISTS IN TROUBLE(Russia)

10/11/2005- A controversial campaign aired over the weekend and featuring nationalist party leader Dmitri Rogozin calling on Muscovites to "take out the garbage" may get his party, Rodina, taken off the ballot in the upcoming city Duma elections for racist undertones. In the ad, which the state-owned TVC channel ran over the three-day weekend, stereotypical men of Caucasian nationalities are shown strolling Moscow streets and eating watermelons, throwing the cores on the sidewalk. After throwing the cores under the wheels of a baby stroller, one of the men, wearing a characteristic cap that Caucasian personalities sport in Russian movies, rudely tells the mother, a young Russian-looking woman, that there are too many people like her. The phrase, "ponayekhali tut," is usually used by Russians and Muscovites when talking about foreigners, particularly from the southern Russian provinces like Chechnya and the Caucasus regions, and from former Soviet countries in Central Asia. Then, Dmitri Rogozin and another party leader, General Yuri Popov enter into the picture and ask the man to pick up the trash. When the man insolently refuses, Popov directly confronts him, asking "Do you understand Russian?" The ad ends with the slogan "Clean Moscow from Garbage." After airing the ad, TVC editors, who themselves are, by law, responsible for the campaign materials that they air under penalty of fines, sent the tape with the ad to the City Election Committee with a request to assess whether it was "politically correct" enough to be broadcast. But the City Election Committee forwarded the tape to city prosecutors, explaining that they would have the necessary expertise.

While there have been no comments from either the election agency or city prosecutors regarding the fate of the tape or the party, the Vremya Novostei daily cited several lawyers and experts who said the tape was racist. "In America, where people react to even the slightest insinuations based on race or nationality, lawyers analyze whether such statements are criminally racist based on the reactions that such statements can evoke from people," Yuri Astakhov, a prominent Moscow lawyer, told the newspaper. Other experts cited in the article claimed that just from the journalists' description of the tape, its content was enough to violate Article 282 of the Russian Penal Code, which deals with xenophobia. General Yuri Popov, meanwhile, is a controversial figure in his own right, who reportedly sent a pamphlet over the summer to the Ekho Moskvy radio station calling for quotas favoring Russians in Moscow. In a statement quoted by the radio station, he denied that there were any calls to racial purity in the ad. "There are no words regarding nationalities in the video," he said. "We are just saying that we want a clean city." In a statement to Vremya Novostei, he said the ad addresses issues of sanitation and nothing more.

As for Dmitri Rogozin, this popular former presidential candidate has already come under fire for heated statements promising to get Russians to "take to the streets" if the election results are falsified. One of the first to respond to the unrest in France, Rogozin was viewed by media here as Russia's answer to the "French intifadah" after he requested that Russia's Interior Ministry look into potential for riot in the nation's Muslim and Caucasian diaspora. It is unclear to what extent the ad could further endanger his party's already shaky position as a City Duma hopeful. Experts say, however, that there are strict laws in the legislation regulating elections, and incendiary statements can potentially get a candidate's registration annulled.
© The Moscow News

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SOROS TO PROPOSE PLAN TO IMPROVE ROMANY SITUATION(Czech Rep.)

American philanthropist George Soros may submit to the Czech government a plan for the improvement of the situation and life of the Romany minority, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek told journalists after meeting with Soros yesterday.

10/11/2005- The Czech Republic could then use certain plans that succeeded in Hungary and Romania, he said. Soros, 65, is a Hungarian-born Jewish-American financial speculator and philanthropist who established the Open Society Fund, an international network of foundations. He is the president of the Open Society Institution that has initiated, jointly with the World Bank, the Romany Decade project. The project was joined by eight countries of Central and Eastern Europe this year, including the Czech Republic. It is expected to improve the level of Romany education, employment, health and housing in the next 10 years. "We have agreed with Mr Soros that he will submit such a plan and we will discuss it and initiate public debate on this topic," Paroubek said. The plan should more involve non-profit organisations in the solution of Romany problems, Paroubek said. "I think that this cannot be only a matter for the government," he added. Some representatives of Romany organisations have criticised the government in the past for its failure to solve Romany problems. For instance, according to Ivan Vesely, head of the Dzeno association, the government has failed to solve the problem of enormous unemployment among Romanies. According to Paroubek, Soros is to come to the Czech Republic at the beginning of next year. They will then discuss activities and the plans of his foundation. Paroubek said he the key to solving Romany problems "lies mainly in increasing the level of their education and their integration with society." The Czech Republic could also find financial means for educational programmes for the young Romany generation in European funds, he said. Soros came to Prague to take part in a meeting Thursday of the Madrid Club, which is a discussion forum of former presidents and prime ministers.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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GOVERNMENT CAMPAIGN SPOTLIGHTS SUCCESSFUL MINORITIES(Czech Rep.)

This year's government campaign "Together Against Racism" presents successful people from ethnic minorities and foreigners living in the Czech Republic, and not victims of racial attacks, the campaign creators and government representatives told reporters yesterday.

10/11/2005- The already 6th government campaign against racism is to support mutual tolerance and help remove prejudices against minorities and foreigners in Czech society. "We are fighting against racism by respecting every individual," government human rights commissioner Svatopluk Karasek (junior ruling Freedom Union, US-DEU) said. The campaign organisers pointed out that the situation in the Czech Republic and the public stance on foreigners has been gradually improving. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek (Social Democrats, CSSD) said that racism and tolerance are political topics of major importance in all civilised countries. However, he added, political slogans must not conceal lack of interest or incompetence to cope with racism which is not yet "a unique phenomenon" in the Czech Republic, but its manifestations reflect a stance deeply rooted in Czech society. As in past years, the government earmarked CZK four million for the campaign against racism in 2005. The finances were spent on ads in the press and in the streets, as well as on websites, T-shirts and postcards. They depict faces of successful representatives of ethnic minorities, for instance Romany driver Ivan Saray who graduated from university, Romany Andela Haluskova who succeeded in the Czech Miss beauty contest and Russian actor Alexandr Minayev currently starring in the popular TV series Street. "They are no artificial celebrities. The campaign should show that every man is unique," Filip Smoljak, one of the campaign authors, said. Within the campaign, the Archa theatre in Prague and the Refugee Facilities Centre have organised a joint theatre performance with asylum seekers playing. The campaign is also accompanied by courses for clerks and judges to inform them about regulations concerning cases of unequal treatment and discrimination. The new penal code, which the lower house is debating, should implement more severe sentences for racial acts and manifestations. Deputy justice minister Ivo Hartmann said that entrepreneurs and restaurant keepers who refuse to sell goods and services to people because of their race or nation can face one year in prison and a ban on their business, or possibly three years in prison in case of repeating such acts.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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CZECH REPUBLIC SHOULD LEGALISE MIGRANTS STAYS, SAY NON-PROFITS

The Czech Republic should legalise stays of certain foreigners as one of the solutions to the problem of illegal migration, representatives of non-profit organisations dealing with immigration problems said at a conference in the Senate yesterday.

9/11/2005- The government should legalise the stays of certain immigrants retroactively, the non-profits say. For its part the Labour Ministry is not opposed to this discussion. But Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan had said earlier that permitting stays of illegal migrants was not considered for the time being. Last year the foreigners police detained 16,696 foreigners who were staying in the Czech Republic without permits. Most of them were from Ukraine. According to certain estimates, up to several hundred thousand foreigners stay in the Czech Republic illegally, and thousands of them illegally work there. According to representatives of non-profit organisations, Czech legislation is too restrictive. The non-profits say obtaining a residence permit is complicated and time-consuming. But if the government agrees to the legalisation, foreigners who have been staying and working illegally in the Czech Republic for a long time will be permitted to stay in the country legally. In the Czech Republic this would apply to several hundred or thousand people. "If illegal foreigners paid standard taxes the money could be used to finance the care for the elderly," said Pavla Burdova Hradecna, who works for a consulting centre for foreigners. According to her, the legislation would help the state better control migration and fight crime and human trafficking, improving conditions for migrants. Burdova Hradecna also pointed to the negative sides of the measure -- additional demands on the civil service, opportunities for corruption, and the need to forgive people who have violated laws. She added that the legalisation would not solve the cause of illegal migration, only its consequences. Deputy Labour Minister Eva Smejkalova said her ministry had not taken a position on the legislation but was not against the discussion. "Our country should in its own interest try to attract to its economy foreigners not only for unqualified work," she said, adding that foreigners in some regions of the Czech Republic could easily find jobs already due to the shortage of Czechs qualified for certain professions.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAUBED WITH NAZI SLOGANS(Germany)

7/11/2005- A memorial to Holocaust victims was daubed with neo-Nazi slogans and defaced with black paint, police in the eastern German city of Dessau said Monday.  Suspected rightists targeted an open-air exhibit on the production of Zyklon B gas which was used in the gas chambers at death camps such as Auschwitz.  "60 years later and are we still guilty?? No!!!," was painted in big letters over a 15 to 20 metre section of the memorial which includes abstract models of Zyklon B containers, police said.  A police spokesman said it was believed the attack was carried out in the run-up to November 9 which is the anniversary of the so-called of "Night of Broken Glass" in 1938 when Nazis attacked hundreds of Jewish businesses and synagogues across Germany. The Dessau memorial was opened last January as a stark reminder that about two-thirds of all Zyklon B produced for the Third Reich was made by a company based in the city: the Dessauer Werke fuer Zucker und chemische Industrie. In a related development, Germany's parliament said in a statement there had been 308 reported anti-Semitic crimes nationwide in the third quarter of this year. Six people were injured in the anti-Semitic attacks, the statement said. Some 200 suspects had been identified and 25 people had been detained in connection with the crimes.
© Expatica News

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GERMAN HOLOCAUST DENIER ON TRIAL

A German Holocaust denier who has regularly lavished praise on Adolf Hitler has gone on trial in Germany.

8/11/2005- The case was delayed as soon as it had started, when the judge dismissed a member of Ernst Zuendel's defence team for having a racist conviction. Mr Zuendel, 66, moved to Canada in 1958 but was judged a national security threat and deported earlier this year. He denies inciting racial hatred and spreading Nazi propaganda. He faces up to five years in jail if convicted. Mr Zuendel once published a book called The Hitler We Loved and Why, and described the former Nazi leader as "a decent and very peaceful man". Denying the Holocaust is a crime in Germany. In a 20-page charge sheet, Mr Zuendel is accused of using "pseudo-scientific" methods to try to rewrite the accepted history of the Nazi Holocaust, in 14 pieces of written work and internet publications. He is charged with incitement offences, as well as libel and disparaging the dead. He denies the charges, asserting his right to free speech, and questions the constitutionality of the laws being used against him.

Calm
In court in the western German city of Mannheim, Judge Ulrich Meinerzhagen dismissed Mr Zuendel's defence lawyer Horst Mahler on the grounds that he was barred from practising earlier this year, and had been convicted of incitement for distributing anti-Semitic propaganda. Fellow defence lawyer Juergen Rieger complained: "These are measures not even used in the gulags in the Soviet Union." The defendant's supporters in the gallery cried "Shame!" Mr Zuendel appeared calm in court, wearing a dark suit and a light shirt. The judge told him he must also answer charges of denying the Holocaust after claiming that the death camps were merely a Jewish plot to extort money from post-war Germany. His wife, Ingrid Rimland, described the charges against him as "politically tainted".

On the move
His appearance in Mannheim was the climax of a lengthy effort by German authorities to bring him before a court. He was arrested and fined 6,400 euros (£4,300) in 1991 on a previous visit to Germany. In 1988 he was convicted in Canada of "knowingly publishing false news" after issuing a leaflet carrying the title Did Six Million Really Die? But in 1992, the Supreme Court struck down the "false news" law on the grounds that it violated freedom of expression. Mr Zuendel, who never managed to obtain Canadian citizenship, moved to the US in 2001 but was later deported back to Canada for allegedly violating immigration laws. Germany obtained an international warrant for his arrest in 2003, but it was two years before Canada judged him to be a security threat and ordered his deportation.
© BBC News

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GERMANY COMMEMORATES “KRISTALLNACHT”

11/11/2005- Protest speeches, silent marches, wreath laying ceremonies, cultural activities dotted the German landscape in commemoration of the 67th anniversary of the Reichs “Kristallnacht” or “night of broken glass.” In the night of 9 to 10 November 1938, Jewish stores were plundered, over 1,000 synagogues set ablaze and thousands of Jews were deported to concentration camps in what was the first public, large-scale attack on Jews in Germany during the Nazi period. “Everybody says that they did not know what was really happening to the Jews. But by 9 November 1938, nobody can claim that,” lawyer Michel Friedman, a popular personality within Germany’s Jewish community, told a crowd of several hundred people in Berlin on Wednesday. “If before that date, Germany was laden with passive followers, after that date, those followers, knowingly or unknowingly became accomplices. After 9 November, nobody could claim any longer that they did not know what was happening,” Friedman, who is a member of the Jewish Agency Board, added.

Anti-Semitism still alive
Crowds gathered throughout Germany to honor the victims of Nazi terror. Protest speeches such as Friedman’s were held in front of Europe’s largest department store – founded in the early 20th century by Jews – around the corner of Germany’s largest shoe store chain – also founded, before the war, by Jews. “We have to be here today to protest what happened 67 years ago, because racism in Germany prevails to this date. We have to fight anti-democratic tendencies, racism and anti-Semitism wherever it shows its face,” Albert Meyer, the outgoing head of Berlin’s Jewish community, told the same crowd. In his hometown of Duesseldorf, Paul Spiegel, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told a crowd that “one hundred thousand Jews in Germany is proof that we are no longer sitting on packed suitcases. It shows that we have arrived at a point where we trust the underlying democratic structure of the Federal Republic. “Despite this, Jews in Germany are still part of a persecuted minority. Over 4,000 acts of violent rightwing activity took place between 2000 and 2005. Even if in a totally different dimension, racism and anti-Semitism are a norm in Germany today,” he said.

Combatting extremism
Germany’s incoming coalition government between Christian Democrats and Social Democrats said on Wednesday it would take up an appeal from a collection of civil rights groups to make the fight against anti-Semitism a priority in its manifesto, Agence France Presse reported. It agreed on 9 November to commemorate the “Kristallnacht” anniversary, taking up a petition by the “Forum Berlin”, a non-governmental lobby group. On the occasion of the “Kristallnacht” anniversary, “Forum Berlin” called on the German government to be more courageous and to ensure that “the respect of human rights and the fight against any form of extremism be given a higher profile in its foreign policy objectives”. It also asked the government to introduce new measures such as publishing a yearly report on anti-Semitism. The appeal met with support from both parties in the coalition government to be led by conservative leader Angela Merkel which is due to complete negotiations on its policy programme by Saturday. The parties have agreed "to ensure the respect of human rights and to fight any form of extremism, also from the leftwing," Maria Eichhorn, the spokesman for family issues for the Christian Democratic Union, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper. "It is an important sign that both parties support initiatives that fight rightwing extremism," said Kerstin Griese, who speaks on family issues for the Social Democrats. The NGO Forum Berlin includes the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the American Jewish Committee.
© The European Jewish Press

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A MURDER WAKES UP A NATION(Slovakia)

11/11/2005- Thousands of people have joined anti-fascist marches following the murder of a young white Slovak by suspected neo-Nazis. Anti-racism campaigners say the killing has finally brought home to Slovaks the danger from extremist right-wing groups. Daniel Tupy, 21, was killed after he and other friends were attacked, apparently by neo- Nazis, as they walked home in Bratislava on the night of Nov. 4. Police believe Tupy was singled out simply because he had long hair and was carrying a guitar. The murder shocked the nation. Within hours of news of Tupy's death an anti-racism march in capital Bratislava, as well as a concert featuring top pop stars had been arranged. Thousands, including politicians, celebrities and rights activists joined the march Nov. 9. Slovak media have offered large rewards for any information that could lead to the arrest of his attackers. Newspapers have carried pages of reports on the killing, and interviews with celebrities, artists and intellectuals condemning the attack and racism in general. Police have poured huge numbers of officers and resources into the case and said they will not rest until they catch Tupy's killers.

But anti-racism campaigners, while welcoming both the police response and the high- profile public condemnation of the attack, have said the public outcry came because Tupy was white and that the white Slovak majority have suddenly realised they too are targets for right-wing extremists. "There have been plenty of attacks by neo-Nazis on white people before, but they rarely drew headlines because the people did not die," Daniel Milo, head of the group People Against Racism told IPS. "Previously the people killed in these kind of attacks had been Roma, and there was not such a reaction in those cases." Milo said it is a shame that racism got attention only when someone white died. "I can only hope that from this there will be a change in society's attitude to neo-Nazis because they now know that they are a real danger, that it's not just the Roma or someone else who could be attacked, that it could even be them and their children." Many of the racist attacks recorded by police are on members of Slovakia's 500,000 Roma population. The Roma are a people of Asian origin who migrated into Europe centuries back. Less frequently there have been attacks by gangs on members of the 500,000 ethnic Hungarian minority, or on foreign students or some of the very small numbers of Asian and Middle Eastern ethnic groups. Under communist regimes former eastern bloc states did not experience the post-war immigration of different races which other western European states did. This left many central and eastern European states with massive majority white populations -- something which has mostly continued in the 16 years since the fall of communism.

With small or virtually non-existent minority non-white ethnic populations, many racists and neo-Nazis are forced to target other groups, experts say. "The situation is the same in places like Poland and the Czech Republic where these attacks happen as well," Milo said. "If there is no visible ethnic minority, as is the case in for example Bratislava, then the targets are people in other, alternative society groups." Such concerns have grown following reports that neo-Nazi gangs across Europe are becoming more organised and therefore more dangerous. Miroslav Mares, an expert on extremism at Masaryk University in Brno in the Czech Republic told the Slovak daily Pravda Nov. 8: "Recently there has been an attempt among skinheads to professionalise violence and to avoid, if possible, attacks as some kind of spontaneous idea after ten beers. In short there is a tendency to put violence on a more sophisticated, even terrorist, level." This view is backed by those involved in neo-Nazi groups. In an interview with the Slovak daily Novy Cas Nov. 10, a former neo-Nazi who gave his name just as Peter, said: "The attacks are harder and more brutal, people (neo-Nazis) are more organised. You can see that in the case of the death of Tupy." Anti-racism groups estimate that there are up to 3,000 right-wing extremists and neo- Nazi supporters in Slovakia carrying out racially motivated attacks, and spreading hate propaganda. Of those, they say a hardcore few are linked to both legitimate and illegal right-wing political groups.

Slovakia's far-right political parties have enjoyed a reasonably stable level of political support since the country came into existence in 1993 after the split of Czechoslovakia. Recently though, a new far-right political party, Slovenska Pospolitost (SP), made headlines after rallies where members appeared dressed in black uniforms reminiscent of those worn by fascist parties across Europe in the 1930s. SP leaders called Roma "parasites", and paid tribute to the president of the war time Slovak Nazi puppet state, Jozef Tiso, who oversaw the sending of tens of thousands of Slovak Jews to Nazi death camps. When SP first began its rallies earlier this summer some politicians called for it to be outlawed. The High Court is currently considering a petition by People Against Racism to have the party disbanded. "There is no integrated national neo-Nazi network here. But there is a definite connection between them and right-wing groups such as Slovenska Pospolitost," Milo told IPS
© Inter Press Service News Agency

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9TH NOVEMBER: INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST FASCISM AND ANTISEMITISM

9/11/2005- 9th of November is dedicated to fight against fascism and antisemitism in commemoration of the events that happened on 9th November 1938. On this gloomy day, over 90 Jews were murdered, 100 synagogues were set on fire and 7500 Jewish shops were damaged and had their windows smashed. It was recorded into history as "Kristallnacht", freely translated means the Night of Broken Glass. Imprisonments and deportaions of 30 000 Jews into concentration camps followed straight afterwards. Persecution and holocaust are a part of history of our Romany nation as well. Its nationals had been similarly persecuted and unjustly murdered for centuries. It shouldn’t be only 9th of November when we remember tragic life stories of more than 600 000 Roma and other million of people murdered in The Second World War. Despite all other difficulties that we have to face in our everyday life we musn’t forget this historic experience and make sure that Roma will never have to be subjected to crimes against humanity.
Romale, ma bisteren ko san, kaj džan the so amenca kerenas.
© Dzeno Association

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IS A KRISTALLNACHT AGAINST ROMA POSSIBLE?

by Valeriu Nicolae

8/11/2005- On April 8, 1991 a mob of 2000 Romanians from Bolintin Deal , Romania looted and then set on fire 22 homes of the Roma families following a homicide committed by a Roma man. The local police din nothing to stop the collective punishment then, and again a month later when the same mob gathered and destroyed two other houses in a try to prevent the return of the expelled Roma. On May 17, 1991, a mob of 3000 villagers in the town of Ogrezeni , burned 7 houses belonging to Roma following a similar incident. In solidarity the Romanians of Bolintin Vale destroyed another thirteen houses the next day. On June 5th, Roma in Gaieseni lost 9 houses three of them to fire. On the night of 20th of September 1993 in Hadareni, 3 Roma were killed by an angry mob and 13 houses were completely destroyed. One of those killed had 89 open wounds on his body. All those incidents and especially the Hadareni case are still considered justifiable by a good part of the Romanians. These events bear strong similarities with the night of 9th to 10th of November 1938 when a homicide committed by a Jew was used to justify the pogrom of the Kristallnacht in the eyes of the highly anti-Semitic German public.

On 10th of October 2005, Romania remembered the Holocaust. There was not much besides silence about the Roma victims of Holocaust in the Romanian mass media. Not even one single Roma was invited by the TV stations or radios to talk about what happened in the 1940s with tens of thousands of Roma. Widespread ignorance, defensive reactions and sometimes open denial are the main trends among the majority population not just in Romania but in Europe when it comes to the Roma victims of the Holocaust. Despite some recognition in the last years, especially at the level of open minded political and academic elites there is very little public debate around the mass murder of hundred of thousands of Roma during the Second World War. According to the Romanian press in September 2005 a group of Romanian high school graduates visited the European Academy in Berlin . The discussions around the Holocaust were the most difficult ones in the opinion of the instructor Jaroslav Schonka. Many of the students thought that Marshall Antonescu responsible for the killing of hundred of thousands of Jews and tens of thousands of Roma should be regarded as a patriot and national hero. During the discussion one of the students accused Jewish conspiracies for the denial of Nobel Prize for medicine for a Romanian scientist, Nicolae Paulescu on the reason that he was against Jews. Nicolae Paulescu, a rabid anti-Semite, is one of the main promoters of the Romanian “scientific racism” which was used to justify the pogroms in Romania .

Elie Weisel’s appointment as the president of the Romanian Commission for Holocaust was considered unreasonable biased by another student. The focus of the Romanian students replies was around the Jews who escaped death, which in their opinion proved the good-will of Antonescu. The article said nothing about the students’ opinion on the over 20.000 Roma victims of the Antonescu’s regime. The results of a Gallup poll released in September 2003, show that 82 per cent of the interviewed considered Roma to be criminals. The same poll also revealed that a large majority of the Romanians( 78%) do not know or do not believe that the Romanian state was not involved in the extermination of Roma and Jews during World War II. At the beginning of 2005 The International Commission for the Study of Romanian Holocaust launched its final report. The much needed document advocates strongly, well deserved measures able to reverse the shocking percentages of Romanians denying or unaware of the role Romania played in the Holocaust. Unfortunately but somehow expectedly it pays marginal attention and is remarkably vague when it comes to the Roma victims of Holocaust. Out of the 30 members of the Commission just one was of mixed Roma, Jewish origins.

There are almost no resources for Romanian youth to learn about the Roma Holocaust. The main trend in fact is the denial, altogether, of its existence. In Europe , the Holocaust of Roma does not receive much attention as there was almost no talk about it until the beginnings of 1990s and nowadays continues to be largely ignored by media and historians. The lack of direct orders from the Nazi leadership explicitly requiring the annihilation of Roma was used by many to present the Roma exterminations more or less as some accidental murders carried by the overzealous smaller rank Nazi killers. The part of the notorious “Commissar Order” received by the elite Einsatzgruppen which specifically requires the killing of the Gypsies in the Soviet Campaign continues to escapes the attention of most people studying the Holocaust. The similarities with the denial of the Jewish Holocaust during the 1940s coming from the Nazi Germany are striking.

The main argument used to deny the Romanian Holocaust is that what happened with the Roma and Jews didn’t happen on the Romanian territory but on foreign one. In Transnistria. The same argument was used by the Nazi regime as they tried to pretend that whatever was happening to the Jews in Poland was not the because or under the jurisdiction of Germany. The fact that there was no direct order for the killing of Roma coming from the fascist leader of Romania , Antonescu was similarly used in the case of Hitler’s defenders who say there was no direct order from him to kill those who died in the Holocaust. The overwhelming majority of the Romanian Roma victims died as a result of hunger and horrendous conditions during the deportation to Transnistria. This, in the eyes of many, seems to be worth less that the “final solution” applied to Jews and Roma in Germany . The incredible cruelty of starving to death babies and children seem to escape the twisted minds of those trying to justify the Romanian Holocaust. The same tactic of “useless mouths” was also used by the Nazis to justify the killings of Jews and Soviet prisoners of war during the “intermediary solution” preceding the gas chambers. On the football stadiums in Romania Antonescu is often remembered; there are many Romanians who think the same “solution” which killed tens of thousands in the 1940s should be reinstated. There are reasons of some optimism as in Romania and Europe in general more and more people talk about anti-Gypsyism and the urgent need for change. But at this moment there are far more youngsters who vocally defend the killings of 1940s than those who try to raise awareness and make sure that the Holocaust will never happen again. The worst part of this is that, us, the Roma are always viewed as suspicious or biased whenever we dare to talk against rampant anti-Gypsyism and almost not many seem to care or dare to say it with us.

On 25th of October 2005 in Romania , the police found in the flat of an ethnic Romanian hundreds of pieces of what it was the body of an 11 years old Roma girl which was raped and afterwards killed. A Romanian newspaper “Adevarul” published the news on 26th of October. A similar case with reverse ethnic identities of the victim and aggressor would have probably trigger a similar reaction as the ones in Bolintin or Hadareni. The same evening on the Romanian TV station OTV during a regular talk show there were two parts concerning Roma one about the abdominal killing above and the other about a fight between Roma. The main reaction regarding the ethnicity of the girl was that the Roma parents are unable to take care of their children. The other topic brought in live a caller who without hesitation said “Gypsies should be shot dead.” A Kristallnacht targeting Roma is possible not just in Romania but in most of Europe . The main effort nowadays seems to be not in preventing it to happen but preemptively justifying it by endless arguments around why, we, the Roma, deserve being treated as a subhuman race.
© European Roma Information Office

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SERBIAN HELSINKI COMMITTEE CRITICIZED THE GOVERNMENT OVER NOVEMBER 9

10/11/2005- The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia (HOPS) criticized the Serbian Government over its failure to mark November 9, the International Day of Fight Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism. "What does Serbia do today, when over 40 countries in the world – including the immediate neighbourhood – marks the pogrom that took place 66 years ago, to the day? What does Serbia do today, when millions of people remember the Kristallnacht”, the symbolic start of the Holocaust?” asked the public release issued by HOPS yesterday. HOPS estimates that the “official politics in Serbia are dominated by dogmatic and anti-modern ideologies on the left and the right of the political spectrum, their opposition to the concept of human and minority rights being the common denominator for both.” HOPS also objects the media promotion of intellectuals that advocate the ideas represented by fascist collaborators in occupied Serbia in the WWII, but also the prohibition of NGOs financed by “Sorosz-ian, Jewish lobby”. The Committee also criticized the Serb Orthodox Church, for its canonization of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic, who considered Adolf Hitler the “greatest statesman of the 20th Century”. "Last, but not the least, hundreds of publications and reprints of books first printed during the Nazi occupation, but authors who joined fascist and similar organizations, are printed in Serbia today”, says the HOPS release.
© OneWorld South East Europe

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ANTI-DISCRIMINATION OFFICE DISSOLVED (Poland)

8/11/2005- Last Friday (Nov. 4th) the Polish Prime Minister announced that the office of Plenipotentiary for Equal Status, a central administration body responsible for the delivery of basic policies counteracting discrimination, supporting gender equality and offering equal opportunities for marginalized groups will be liquidated. During the four years of its activity, the Office of Plenipotentiary for
Equal Status of Women and Men has been effectively active in the field of counteracting discrimination, contributing to changes in Polish legislation, introducing the issue of equality into the public discourse and successfully implementing projects financed from EU sources. 80 Polish NGOs (women, LGBT and other representing national and religious minorities, including anti-racist "NEVER AGAIN" Association) sent on Friday a protest to the Prime Minister.
© Never Again Association

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MUSLIM SCHOLARS SCOLD NEWSPAPER FOR CARTOONS(Denmark)

Two of the world's leading Muslim thinkers, Iranian human rights fighter Shirin Ebadi and Swiss philosopher Tariq Ramadan, agree that a Danish newspaper's decision to print caricatures of prophet Mohammed did more harm than good

11/11/2005- Cartoons featuring Muslim prophet Mohammed caused a divide between Denmark's Muslim and non-Muslim populations, rather than uniting them and calming hostile voices, two of the world's leading Muslim democratic thinkers say. Lawyer and author Shirin Ebadi, who received the Nobel peace prize in 2003 for her fight for human rights and democracy in Iran, told daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten that its decision to call for and print twelve caricatures of the Muslim prophet might have been a well-intentioned attempt to prompt a dialogue on democracy between Muslims and non-Muslims in Denmark. The effect, however, had been the opposite, and in fact risked harming democracy's cause in Islamic countries. 'I would like to stress that I do not personally have any problems with cartoons like these,' said Ebadi, who is a devout Muslim. 'The problem is the way the subject is approached. It splits more than it unites.' She went on to say that many Islamic regimes placed populations in a dilemma, telling them that they had to make a choice between their religion and democracy. 'When people protest, they tell them that Islam and democracy cannot coexist. Totalitarian regimes present them with a choice between Islam and democracy - exactly like some Western intellectuals do. But it's a false controversy,' Ebadi said. 'What your newspaper has done is the same thing undemocratic Islamic government's do, when it comes to discussions about democracy.' She said many Islamic governments were probably ecstatic that the newspaper had printed the cartoons. 'Now they can present this page of the newspaper and say: 'Look what the so-called Western democracies do to your religion!' So it has a negative effect on Muslim people's fight for democracy.' Ebadi said the harmful effect of the prophet cartoons could have been diminished by printing other cartoons by their side, featuring Jesus Christ and Moses, to show Muslims that the intention was not to harm them, but to poke fun at religion in general.

Swiss-born, British philosopher Tariq Ramadan said the newspaper had every right to print the cartoons, but that did not mean the decision was an intelligent one. 'Muslims in the West have to understand that they should not overreact on situations like this, where a Danish newspaper decides to run caricatures of the prophet Mohammed. Muslims need to learn that it's a part of the culture in this part of the world to use humour, satire, and irony in relation with religion,' said Ramadan, who teaches Islamic studies at the University of Oxford and forms a part of British PM Tony Blair's Task Force on better integration. 'My advice to Muslims would be: It doesn't mean that you need to accept it with all your heart. But let your mind form a critical opinion about it. I don't think 3000 Muslims should have walked in a demonstration through Copenhagen's streets. I think they should have quietly sent letters to the editor protesting the printing of the articles, and let that be it.' Ramadan, however, said Jyllands-Posten decision to print the cartoons had been wrong, as it prevented reciprocal respect between the two population groups. 'If there is to be a common ground for the future in the relationship between Muslims and Danes, we all need to show a certain wisdom. There hasn't been much wisdom, neither with the people who started the drawings nor the people who got 3000 Muslims to march in a demonstration in Copenhagen,' Ramadan said.
© The Copenhagen Post

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FOGH: RIOTS ARE NOT TERRORISM(Denmark)

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen brushes away the Danish People's Party's description of street riots in France and Århus as terrorism

8/11/2005- Rioting immigrant youths in French building projects and Danish immigrant districts cannot be compared with terrorists, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Tuesday. Rasmussen made his statement at a press conference after his government's support party, the Danish People's Party (DF), said new anti-terrorism legislation ought to be used to prevent street riots. Last week, the government presented a 49-point plan to fight and prevent terrorist attacks in Denmark. DF's leaders have said that the DKK 150 million set aside in the state budget for the anti-terror package should be used to crack down on rioters. Shortly before the outbreak of street violence in the outskirts of many French cities, teenagers in the Jutland city of Århus rampaged through a shopping district a few nights in a row, setting fire to a hot dog stand and a childcare centre, and hurtling bricks through shop windows. The events had local politicians clamouring for tougher measures and a zero-tolerance approach towards the rioters. The local police, however, said it had no plans to tackle the disturbances by other means than dialogue and peaceful negotiations with the teenagers. Shortly afterwards, the violence subsided. 'Let's just keep our definitions sorted out,' Rasmussen told reporters. 'Denmark's anti-terrorism effort is to be used against organised terrorism, like we witnessed with the London underground bombings. Street riots and disturbances are not terrorism.' The prime minister added that the terms riots and disturbances applied to the French situation, while the Århus teenage behaviour could be defined as simple pranks.
© The Copenhagen Post

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MUSLIM SCHOOL FACES FUNDING CUT OVER INTEGRATION ROW(Netherlands)

9/11/2005- Education Minister Maria van der Hoeven is threatening to cut of funding for 'As Siddieq' primary school in the Baarsjes district of Amsterdam. A report by the education inspectorate said the authorities at the Muslim school are not doing enough to encourage the pupils to integrate into Dutch society. In answer to questions from MPs of the Liberal Party (VVD) and the populist LPF, the minister wrote on Wednesday that she has given the school a final warning. Until a new law was passed recently the minister only had the power to withhold funds if the educational standard remained below an acceptable level for a long period of time. Now Van der Hoeven can withhold state aid if a school does too little to encourage integration and "active citizenship". Amsterdam City Council concluded two years ago that the school was doing too little about integration. The education inspectorate has monitored the school's progress since. ISBO, the organisation representing Islamic schools in the Netherlands, expressed amazement at the minister's tough stance on Wednesday. A ISBO spokesperson said representatives from the school, the ministry and the ISBO had a meeting three weeks ago to agree steps the school had to take. "We are working hard to make good on these agreements but we need time," the ISBO said.
© Expatica News

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COURT BACKS TURKISH HEADSCARF BAN

Turkey can ban Islamic headscarves in universities, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

10/11/2005- The court rejected an appeal by a Turkish woman who argued that the state ban violated her right to an education and discriminated against her. Leyla Sahin had brought the case in 1998 after being excluded from class at Istanbul University. But the judges ruled that the ban was justified to maintain order and avoid giving preference to any religion. Although overwhelmingly Muslim, Turkey is a secular republic and the Islamic headscarf is banned in all universities and official buildings. The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Istanbul says the verdict will have a major impact as more than 1,000 other women from Turkey have filed similar applications.

'Extremist movements'
According to the court's ruling, which is final, the headscarf ban is based on the Turkish constitution's principles of secularism and equality. In a society where men and women are equal, it said, a ban on religious attire such as the headscarf was justified on university premises. "The court did not lose sight of the fact that there were extremist political movements in Turkey which sought to impose on society as a whole their religious symbols and conception of a society founded on religious precepts," the court's ruling added. Our correspondent says the ruling is a bitter disappointment for Ms Sahin and her lawyers. Ms Sahin, who now lives in Vienna, had argued the ban violated her right to study and discriminated against her for her religious belief. Her defence team believe the decision is political and that the court feared the enormous implications of ruling otherwise for a mainly Muslim country. But they point out that the headscarf ban applies to all Turkish universities, state or private, so that students are faced with an impossible dilemma - to ignore their religious beliefs or go without higher education.
© BBC News

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TEACHER CONVICTED OF RACISM(Norway)

11/11/2005- A high school teacher in Buskerud County failed to win an appeal after being convicted of racism, after telling a student that people from his native country climbed in trees and ate bananas. The court ruled that the teacher deserved the disciplinary punishment meted out by his school after complaints came from several students. The ruling stated that one student in particular, from the Dominican Republic, was particularly insulted. He was called a "neger" (Negro) and a gigolo. He was also informed that he was stupid and lazy and that where he came from people didn't go to school, they climbed in trees and ate bananas. The court found that teachers remarks went well over the permitted limits of what should be said to a student and that they degraded people of dark skin in general and from the Dominican Republic in particular. The Racism paragraph was not specifically invoked, but the court ruled that most people would perceive the teacher's behavior as racist. The teacher, who is himself of foreign background, claimed that he was the victim of a smear campaign from certain members of the school that wanted to get rid of him. He originally sued the County for compensation and to have the disciplinary proceedings invalidated. In the appeal the teacher claimed that his remarks were not racist, but were "traditional expressions for people of that kind of background". The appeals court upheld the original verdict and also required the teacher to pay NOK 38,000 (USD 5,750) in court costs for Buskerud County.
© Aftenpost

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NORWAY IN WOMEN BOSSES ULTIMATUM

Norway has said it might close down companies that fail to meet proposed boardroom quotas for women.

11/11/2005- The new coalition government in Oslo said it was considering introducing a law which would require 40% of boardroom posts to be filled by women. Norway's previous government drew up the law, which it threatened to apply if companies failed voluntarily to meet minimum quotas by 1 July this year. Only a fifth of Norway's 590 publicly listed firms comply with the quotas. "It's not going fast enough," said Karita Bekkemellem, Norway's minister for family and children. "I don't want to wait 20 or 30 years until sufficiently intelligent men finally appoint women to the boardrooms." She added: "I wish to establish, from January 1 2006, a system of sanctions which makes it possible to break up companies."

Out of all proportion
The cabinet of Prime Minister Jen Stoltenberg is due to examine the gender equity law which, once applied, would give companies two years to comply before being threatened with break-up. Critics condemned the proposed law, arguing it could force some companies to relocate outside Norway. "The closure of a company is a punishment out of all proportion to the offence," said Sigrun Vaageng, who heads Norway's employers' association. "In theory, the government can break up a company because it is missing a single woman." But a spokeswoman for Ms Bekkemellem said introducing the law could be the only way to of ensuring equality in the boardroom. "It is a question of power," the spokeswoman said, insisting that several surveys had found that companies where both sexes were strongly represented on the board were more profitable. "For a woman to get in a man must get out. It is not difficult to find qualified women."
© BBC News

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‘WE WANT TO CELEBRATE THAT WE HAVE FOREIGNERS, NOT VIEW IT AS A CURSE’(Cyprus)

11/11/2005- Over 300 complaints relating to anti-discrimination have been filed at the Cyprus Anti-Discrimination Body in the Ombudsman’s office since its creation in May of 2004, many of which come from foreign workers and asylum seekers, as well as from certain marginalised groups of Greek Cypriots such as homosexuals and the handicapped, according to the Ombudswoman. ombudswoman Iliana Nicolaou said yesterday that the law alone – which demands among other things equal opportunities for work, housing, wages and human rights – is not enough to solve the problems of racism and discrimination and that it is “therefore necessary for the participation of citizens and non-governmental organisations like KISA”. Immigrant support group KISA (Action for Equality, Support and Anti-Racism) has been working alongside the office of the Ombudswoman to organise the 9th Annual “United Against Racism” Rainbow Festival, taking place this Sunday at Nicosia’s ‘Tripoli’ Municipal Park. “Ninety-nine per cent of our time we deal with problems,” said KISA representative Doros Michail, adding that this “does not give you the chance to celebrate that there are people of different cultures and religions.” Michail said that through music, songs, dance, and other mediums the Rainbow Festival will highlight the advantages that the presence of many cultures brings to Cyprus. “We want to celebrate the fact that we have foreigners, and not view it as a curse.” “Usually Cypriots go to other countries to experience different cultures, when it is all here in Cyprus.”

Although this is the 9th Rainbow Festival in Cyprus, this is the first time that there will be a bicommunal event, with the Greek Cypriot Haji Mike and a Turkish Cypriot folk dance group co-ordinating an event together. There will also be more activities geared for children this year than in past years. This year there is also more of an effort through heightened pre-event publicity to draw more Greek Cypriots to the festival. According to Michail, usually 60 to 70 per cent of the participants are foreigners, refugees and English-speaking residents. Ombudswoman Iliana Nicolaou said that the purpose of the festival is “to bring about more immediate contact between people and especially to create a feeling of joy, which is the best way to bring people together.” One of the festival organisers told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the title “Rainbow Festival” was chosen to describe the event because it is about the display and blending of different cultures. The event is under the umbrella of the European Union and is not related to the renowned Rainbow Gatherings, which are more about living communally and free from popular culture. The 9th Annual Rainbow Festival will be at the Municipal Park “Tripoli” in Nicosia on Sunday, Nov. 13 from 11 am – 5 pm. Admission is free.
© Cyprus Mail

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EU REPORT CALLS ON PORTUGAL TO SCRAP IMMIGRATION CONTROLS

In a report commissioned by the British government, which currently holds the EU six-month rotating presidency, it is recommended that Portugal drop all quotas presently in place regarding immigrant workers from the new EU member states. The recommendation comes a week after Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair had asked Portugal and Spain to clamp down on illegal African immigrants crossing over to the EU via Iberia.

5/11/2005- "Restrictions on the movement of workers from the new member states should be removed immediately under certain criteria. At the very least, restrictions on new European citizens with a university degree should be removed", argues Patrick Weil, director of the French CNRS Research Council in a discussion paper, prepared for the UK presidency. In the paper, presented at the EU summit last week at Hampton Court in southwest London, Weil inveighs at the "transitional arrangements" faced by workers from new member states, who are looking to work in 12 of the `old' 15 EU members. Only the UK, Ireland and Sweden have fully opened their labour markets to new EU citizens. Since enlargement in May 2004, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria have applied quotas for workers from eight of the new EU members ­ the exceptions being Malta and Cyprus. "Data collected especially in Britain, Sweden and Ireland, show that labour flows from the new member states have been both manageable and beneficial", said Weil. According to the report, workers arriving in Sweden from the EU-8 states increased the active population by just 0.7 per cent, between May and December 2004. Whereas in Italy the quota of 79,000 in 2005 set for the new European citizens has only reached 48,000 immigrants. Weil argues that if Portugal continues to close its labour market it may actually be entering a downward spiral with new European citizens crossing over its borders anyway and working illegally. He said the same situation would apply to the other three EU states applying restrictions on immigrant workers from EU-8 nations. "In those EU states that have opened their labour market, new European citizens fill the jobs that are filled in the rest of Europe by illegal migrants, either from the new EU member states or non-EU countries", Weil pointed out, adding: "Rapidly lifting the transitional periods currently placed on citizens from the new member states will contribute to the reduction of the number of illegal workers coming from non-member states and will therefore deter illegal migration from outside the EU". Weil also makes a case for generally more open immigration policies in order to tackle the EU's demographic problem. He said that despite their traditional pro-family stance countries such as Portugal, Greece, Spain and Italy have extremely low birth rates. He opined that low immigration rates mean that these countries are facing a sizeable decrease in their population levels.
© The Portugal News

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URGENT NEED TO COMBAT SOCIAL EXCLUSION AND DISCRIMINATION IN EUROPE(Press release)

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) calls on the European Union to strengthen the fight against discrimination and promote social inclusion. Racism, discrimination, poverty and exclusion are inextricably linked. Europe has a key role to play in overcoming the cycles of deprivation and disadvantage facing many ethnic minority communities.

European governments must live up to their commitment to guarantee social justice, social cohesion and fundamental rights within the shifting social and economic context. The treatment of ethnic minority communities serves as a key indicator on the success of EU governments in promoting social inclusion. Given the clear and demonstrable link between discrimination and poverty, and in particular racism and poverty, ENAR places great importance on the National Action Plans on Inclusion. The events of recent weeks clearly demonstrate the necessity to continue to include ‘targeted reference’ to such ethnic minority communities, as there is the constant danger that such groups will not be included.

“Politicians in all EU countries should focus on improving access to education, the creation of job opportunities, and combating discrimination. Exclusion of ethnic minority communities can cause a massive backlash which can destabilise entire societies,” said Bashy Quraishy, Chairman of ENAR.

Recent events in Birmingham (UK) and in the suburbs of Paris and other French cities have focused attention on a reality that exists in many European societies. The fight against discrimination and social exclusion has a long way to go. In France, the riots have highlighted long-standing discontent and alienation among French youth of immigrant origin, who feel they have no way out of poverty, unemployment and inadequate education. The July 2005 Fauroux Report on the fight against ethnic discrimination in employment in France found that racial discrimination contributes massively to difficulties of professional inclusion of those of migrant background. Racism and discrimination lead to the economic and social exclusion that has acted as a catalyst in recent events.
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW: THE 25 MEMBER STATES COMPARED(European Union)

10/11/2005- The European Commission’s Network of Legal Experts in non-discrimination has issued a new comparative analysis of anti-discrimination laws in the 25 EU Member States – drawing on the comprehensive country reports it has already produced. The report compares and contrasts the different national laws, identifying trends and common aspects in implementation of the two Directives. By considering each of the different grounds of discrimination in turn and collectively, it provides a comprehensive overview of national legislation to combat discrimination across the EU.
The report in English.

Remedies and sanctions in EC non-discrimination law
The network has also published a new report examining the concept of “effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions” – and what it means for the implementation of the Race and Employment Equality Directives. As a background, the report discusses the development and meaning of the concept in EC sex equality law (where it has its historic origin) and in general EC law. It then turns to requirements under international human rights law. Finally, it discusses remedies and sanctions in the specific framework of the EU Directives, as well as upper limits on compensation.
The report in English.
© Anti Discrimination Website

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Headlines 4 November, 2005

EUROPEAN COURT CONDEMNS BAN ON BULGARIAN PARTY

Bulgaria embarrassed after Strasbourg judges lambast Sofia for outlawing ethnic Macedonian party.
By Boryana Dzhambazova and Albena Shkodrova in Sofia

29/10/2005- Bulgaria was criticised for violating human rights last week, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the constitutional court’s ban on a political party was unjustified. The decision over this controversial case is seen as a landmark in the struggle to overcome Bulgarian resistance to recognising the existence of an ethnic Macedonian minority. Last week, the Strasbourg court, empowered with addressing violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, attacked the constitutional court's decision to ban the OMO Ilinden Pirin party. It said the ban had violated article 11 of the convention, which guaranteed freedom of association. Bulgaria, which ratified the convention in 1992, is the second European country after Turkey to receive a ruling from Strasbourg accusing it of violating the right to association as foreseen in the Convention on Human Rights. For more than 15 years, Bulgarian institutions have resisted efforts by groups in some southern districts to identify as ethnic Macedonians and form political parties. The attempts date back to 1990, when several groups identifying themselves as Macedonians united under the name OMO Ilinden, and demanded registration of their association in the courts. After being denied official listing, they allegedly maintained illegal activities and were accused by the authorities of endangering national integrity with separatist demands. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to legally register, a group led by Ivan Singartiyski in 1999 registered in Sofia the United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden – Party for Economic Development and Integration of the Population, OMO Ilinden Pirin. After a short period of legal existence, in which the party elected two village mayors and three members to municipal councils in the Gotse Delchev and Razlog areas, in 1999 a group of 61 deputies in parliament petitioned the constitutional court, seeking a ban on the grounds that the party was based on an ethnic principle, which is prohibited by law.

While the court declined to define OMO Ilinden Pirin as an ethnic party, it proclaimed it unconstitutional, basing this verdict on media and interior ministry reports that spoke of the party’s separatist demands, the opinions of the justice committee of parliament, the minister of interior, the minister of justice and the chief prosecutor. Five years on, the Strasbourg court’s decision presents the authorities with a dilemma. It suggests that either the Bulgarian constitution needs to be changed, or the constitutional court, one of the highest judicial authorities in the land, has misinterpreted it. While none of the sides blames the constitution, opinions clash over whether it was misinterpreted. While human rights activists believe it was abused, the judges defend their decision, claiming the Strasbourg court issued the wrong verdict, possibly due to lack of information about the arguments informing the constitutional court’s decision. “There was nothing wrong with the constitution… but the constitutional court was interpreting it arbitrarily,” said Krasimir Kunev, of the Bulgarain Helsinki Committee. Nedelcho Beronov, chairman of the constitutional court, blamed unsatisfactory presentation of the case to the court in Strasbourg. But Ivan Singartiyski of OMO Ilenden Piron says he did not submit any new evidence to the human rights court, while the government’s representative there, Milena Kotseva, said all the documents on the case had been duly translated and presented in Strasbourg. Their varying comments highlight the complexity both of the case and of the Strasbourg court’s decision, which some politicians have called “ridiculous”. In the ruling, the judges admitted that “it was not unreasonable for the authorities to suspect that certain leaders or members of the applicant party harboured separatist views and had a political agenda that included the notion of autonomy for the region of Pirin Macedonia, or even its secession from Bulgaria”.

The ruling agreed that members of OMO Ilinden Pirin had openly claimed that the Pirin region, where most party members live, was not part of Bulgaria. On the other hand, the court found the measure to ban the party was extreme, as its leaders and members never voiced an intention to use violence or other undemocratic means to achieve their aims. “However shocking and unacceptable the statements of the applicant party’s leaders and members might appear to the authorities or the majority of the population and however illegitimate their demands might be, they did not appear to warrant the interference in question,” the ruling went on. “The fact that the applicant party’s political programme was considered incompatible with the prevailing principles and structures of the Bulgarian state did not make it incompatible with the rules and principles of democracy.” The second important factor behind Strasbourg’s decision was OMO Ilenden Pirin’s negligible public influence, which made claims that it threatened national security appear exaggerated. Such arguments do not sway the sponsors of the original petition to the constitutional court, however. Krasimir Karakachanov of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation, VMRO, one of the deputies who filed the complaint against OMO Ilinden Pirin in 1999, said he stood by his earlier views. “There is evidence that OMO Ilinden Pirin is a separatist organisation,” he said. “If the European court cannot see deeper into this issue and act accordingly, it’s a senseless authority.” Karakachanov admitted that it had gained only a few hundred votes and that the party’s political influence was insignificant. But he still objected to Strasbourg’s argument, saying, “There is no such term in law as ‘negligible’. There is either a violation of the law, or no violation of the law.” He also said the party’s tiny voting results was not an argument in favour of its legal existence. ”You might say the political influence of Hitler at his first elections was negligible but we all know what happened after that,” he said. Ivan Singartiyski, however, dismissed accusations of separatism, “It is ridiculous to think of separatism nowadays and it is neither part of our party's program nor our policy,” he said. He admits that some party members may have expressed such views privately but says it has nothing to do with OMO Ilinden Pirin’s agenda. “All we want, is to participate in Bulgaria's public life, to have political representation and to receive the same rights as other minorities in this country,” he said.

As a signatory to the human rights convention, Bulgaria will have to abide by its court's decision. “Even though it’s not a good sign for us, we have to obey,” said Nedelcho Beronov. Singartiyski, meanwhile, is embarking on a new registration campaign for his party. Although the courts cannot reject registration on the same grounds as those mentioned by the constitutional court, he remains pessimistic. “Our application will be delayed again endlessly, and without much explanations, as happened before,” he said. He tried to register a new organisation in 2002, called OMO Pirin, and after being rejected by the city court in Sofia and the court of appeal, he still awaits a decision of the supreme court. He hopes that once Bulgaria become a EU member and reforms its judicial system, it will be more careful about violating what he says is his elementary human right.
© Institute for War & Peace Reporting

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RADICALISM AS A COMMODITY(Bosnia)

Is Bosnia a hotbed for international terrorism? No. But Bosniak Muslim leaders remain disturbingly undisturbed by radical Islam.

31/10/2005- First, on 19 and 20 October, Bosnian police arrested three young men, one Turkish, one Swedish, and one Bosnian citizen, on suspicion of planning suicide attacks on Western embassies in Bosnia. Police said they had found significant quantities of explosives, weapons, and other equipment in their homes. The Bosnian citizen was soon released without charge, while the Turkish and Swedish citizens – both said to have originally come from the former Yugoslavia – were remanded in custody. Then on 28 October, Danish police arrested four terrorist suspects following a tip-off from their Bosnian colleagues. The four were Danish Muslims aged between 16 and 20. A day later, another two men of similar profiles were taken into custody as part of the same anti-terrorist investigation. Police said they had found strong evidence of links between the suspects and the Swedish citizen arrested in Bosnia. The news of the arrests brought Bosnia back to international headlines, with analysts asking if Bosnia was fast becoming another terrorist hotbed. A simple answer to this questions is “no.” But the question makes a great deal of sense given the region’s recent history of violence, the general weakness of local governments and the rise of radical Islam on the margins of a number of Balkan societies, principally in Bosnia, over the past 15 years.

Alien, but not unwelcome
Radical Islam arrived in the Balkans along with the chaotic freedom unleashed by the fall of communism and the violent breakup of the Yugoslav federation. Even though the circumstances – and consequences – were rather different in different parts of the region, the pattern of penetration seemed to be the same in Bosnia, Serbia-Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania and Bulgaria. Charitable organizations from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries would set up shop locally and then start dispensing large amounts of money to local Muslim communities. Very often but by no means always, the aid came with a number of strings attached. In exchange for support, the locals were asked to adopt elements of foreign Islamic traditions, most often of the strict Wahhabi variety. While the foreigners’ demands were more often than not scorned by local communities, the sums involved – both on the personal and institutional level – were hard to resist. Soon, the landscapes of the Muslim parts of the Balkans were peppered with mosques that were architecturally totally alien to local traditions, and the streets of its towns and cities offered the occasional sight of a long-bearded man in rather short trousers followed at some distance by a woman enveloped in a burka. The phenomenon is still marginal and has made no significant impact either on the politics or official religious affairs of the region’s largely secularized Muslim communities. While Wahhabi money and influence has made some inroads in rural parts of Bulgaria, there is an overwhelming sense among the country’s Turkish minority that this type of radicalism simply cannot fly there. The same goes for most ethnic Albanians of the Balkans, whose traditional society leaves very little room for religious influence on their politics and identity (though with the slight exception of some parts of Albania). The consequences for Bosniak Muslims of Bosnia and the region of Sandzak in Serbia-Montenegro have been significantly different. Though still marginal and likely to remain so, the presence of radical Islam is felt unmistakably. With almost half of its population Muslim, Bosnia represented an attractive target for the Islamists. The 1992-95 war, in which the Bosniak side found itself squeezed between two aggressive nationalisms – nationalisms whose narratives heavily leaned on pseudo-Orthodox Christian and Catholic motifs – turned Bosnia into an Islamist cause.

A few thousand foreign mojahideen, some with Afghan experience behind them, flocked to central Bosnia to join Bosniak forces, with some becoming notorious for their merciless treatment of prisoners of war. The most gruesome crimes committed by Bosniak forces were the work of these mojahideen resistance fighters. Others are better remembered for their attempt to impose a strict Islamic code of behavior on the streets of central Bosnia, an effort that the Bosniak authorities were in the end forced to put an end to. The circumstances of the mojahideen arrival have remained murky. Some analysts argued they could not possibly have come without having reached some kind of arrangement with the late Bosniak leader Alija Izetbegovic, whom critics often accuse of Islamist leanings. Izetbegovic, however, rightly pointed out that he did not control the country’s borders at the time. As the mojahideen fighters arrived via Croat-controlled territories, other Bosniak leaders implied, rather implausibly, that the whole thing was a ploy by the Croatian government to portrait Izetbegovic and his side as extremist. Izetbegovic, who due to his public manner and the suffering of his people, acquired a reputation of a moderate quite early on in the war, also argued he could not refuse help from these people at a time when not much concrete help for Bosniaks was forthcoming from elsewhere. The truth is, though, that the only kind of help the mojahideen could offer – the manpower – was not in short supply on the Bosniak side. Izetbegovic’s men lacked artillery, ammunition, and food, but vastly outnumbered their Serb and Croat foes. Whatever the motives involved, the fact remains that despite their conduct, the foreign fighters were not made unwelcome on Bosniak territories until the very last stages of the war, when the local population put pressure on the authorities to curb their influence.

Neither alien…
Some mojahideen remained in Bosnia and were rewarded with Bosnian passports. Those who married local women were later settled in a village previously inhabited by ethnic Serbs. They were later moved to two other locations. These places, which are said to be run according to strict Wahhabi traditions, feature quite often in the region’s press as a kind of journalistic freak show. Rather less entertaining is the fact that many foreign Islamist fighters, humanitarian activists and preachers who came to Bosnia during or after the war have regularly featured in terrorist investigations by the Bosnian and international authorities. Police and international security officials in Bosnia claim to have thwarted a number of terrorist plots against Western interests in Bosnia. They have also converted a small but vocal minority of local young men to Wahhabism in both Bosnia and Sandzak. For years now, two local Islamist organizations have preached hatred and called for a holy war – jihad – against Bosnia’s non-Muslims. Two years ago, a devotee put his money where his mouth was and massacred a Croat family on Christmas Eve. In other words, while the public often see them as fools, and perhaps rightly so, Bosnian Islamic radicals should not be completely dismissed as irrelevant. For no matter how foreign the concept of jihad is in the context of the Balkans, Bosnia is a deeply traumatized society susceptible to extremism. If they were indeed planning attacks in Sarajevo, the two groups arrested in Bosnia and Denmark could have had two types of motives. First, they might have seen Bosnia as a target-rich area. Along with its Christian population, Bosnia has a fairly large Western presence. While Western intelligence services have often carried out terrorist investigations in Bosnia since 9/11, the main focus of Western agencies in Bosnia remains nation-building, making Sarajevo an easier target than the Western capitals. Bosnia’s borders are notoriously porous and explosives are readily available on the black market. But an equally important aim might have been to put Bosnia firmly on the map of terrorist battlefields. An Islamic terrorist outrage in Sarajevo would destabilize, though probably not end, the uneasy post-war balance in Bosnia. But it would certainly radicalize certain elements in Bosnia and Sandzak – and on all sides. A pool of potential white recruits carrying Bosnian or even Western passports would presumably be of great value to terrorists.

… nor made unwelcome
Fortunately, there are very few signs that such a scenario would work in reality. There are many more suggesting that radical Islam will continue its menacing, if also rather grotesque, existence on the margins of Bosniak society. Which is why it is in a way all the more surprising that whenever the issue is raised, most Bosniak leaders immediately fall back into a defensive position without really addressing the issue. One likely reason is that many Serb and Croat leaders raise the question of Islamic fundamentalism – to use their preferred term – in a malevolent way, seeking to score points in the popular Balkan game of reporting its ethnic competitors to that perceivably omnipotent entity known as the international community. But another obvious motive for becoming defensive is that the Bosnian Muslims’ mainstream clerics and politicians have an ambiguous attitude toward radicalism in general. They see it as a political commodity to be used at will. There are very few people in the Islamic Community (IZ), the body that administers the religious life of the Bosniaks, or the Bosniak ruling Party of Democratic Action (SDA) who would advocate jihad in any sort of practical sense. There are many, though, who often advocate or at least flirt with very radical fundamentalist ideas, such as polygamy and the issuing of fatwas (religious decrees), not necessarily because they passionately believe in them, but because they find them useful in the ongoing identity war among Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. As in many other places in the world, religion is a key part of ethnic identity in the Balkans. Remove Islam, Orthodox Christianity, and Catholicism from the Western Balkan equation and you would be hard pressed to tell the three groups apart. Add a few radical religious or pseudo-religious elements to their diet and they appear on your identity radar as truly different, if often ridiculous for being so. For the past 15 years, the SDA and the IZ have basically been two intertwined parts of one and the same nationalist enterprise bent on making sure that the Bosniaks become, and become used to thinking of themselves, as unmistakably separate to, and different from, the Serbs and Croats. Their efforts were not entirely unjustifiable given Serb and Croat aggression, but it should now be enough for them to reflect that they have been spectacularly successful (as have their Serb and Croat counterparts). In other words, they could and should relax now.

Which is precisely what they do not seem prepared to do. Last month’s re-election of Mustafa Ceric, an opponent of secularism, as the head of the IZ and the rejection of the moderate scholar Enes Karic demonstrated that the prevailing mood is to maintain the status quo. The IZ is now used to exercising social and, via the SDA, direct political influence. Over the past ten years, this influence has ranged from an attempt to ban Santa Claus (described as a symbol of Serb domination over Bosnia) to editing public television broadcasts, and meddling with fiscal affairs and diplomatic appointments. The SDA now regularly counts on imams to deliver them the mosque vote. The two serve the same clericalist cocktail mixed of controlled religious radicalism and nationalist monologue. And while there is, of course, a long road from the Islamicized nationalist demagogy practiced by Bosniak religious and political leaders to advocating suicide bombing, the Bosniak proponents of nationalist demagogy seem to regard the Wahhabi presence as a useful reminder to both foreigners and locals that there is a far worse alternative to SDA-IZ rule in the Bosniak parts of Bosnia. Which is perhaps why the Bosniak authorities have often displayed a rather lax attitude toward radical Islamic elements and which is precisely how true democratic alternatives remain obscured for the Bosniak majority.
© Transitions Online

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CHURCH-STATE DEBATE REVIVED BY CALL FOR MOSQUE FUNDING(France)

31/10/2005- A call for a change to a century-old French law to allow the state to fund new mosques has sent sparks flying in a society deeply attached to the separation of religion and state. Concerned that a shortage of mosques is allowing extremists to gain a foothold among Frances 5.5 million Muslims by funding places of worship, interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy earlier this month named a panel to look into the prickly question. Due to report to the government in June next year, the committee is being asked, among other things, to suggest ways of reviewing the 1905 secularity law that bans the state from funding places of worship. The initiative placed Sarkozy squarely at odds with both president Jacques Chirac and prime minister Dominique de Villepin, who sees the century-old law as one of the pillars of our republican system and rejects the idea of updating it. True, more work is needed to recognise the rightful place of France's Muslims, de Villepin said, but as members of a strictly secular community. The two men, rivals both aiming for the presidency in 2007, tried to smooth over their differences on this and other matters at a joint press conference this week. Sarkozy has repeatedly argued that breaking the French taboo to provide public money for mosques and imams would be the best way of bringing the Muslim community into the mainstream, out of the garages and basements it is often forced to use as unofficial prayer rooms. "To separate French Islam from foreign influences," Sarkozy said last month, "let us give it the means to be independent."

Islamic radicals are already thought to control 20 mosques in the country, according to France's domestic intelligence service, which also says militants are increasingly congregating in secret prayer-rooms, out of sight of the authorities. A year after a hotly disputed ban on Muslim headscarves and other religious signs came into force in French schools, the debate on funding is the latest in a string of delicate negotiations between the French government and its large Muslim minority. Despite France's reluctance to be seen as supporting any religious group, concerns over the rise of Islamic extremism have led it to take a more and more active role in the affairs of the Muslim community in recent years. Two important steps have already been taken to bring greater transparency to the way the religion is funded. In 2003, French Islam obtained its first ever officially-recognised representative body, the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), which has responsibility for issues ranging from the funding of mosques to the ritual slaughter of animals. Now a recognised public institution, it is the government's main point of contact with the Muslim community. And in June this year a government-backed 'Foundation for Islam' was also set up to oversee the financing of the religion in France, grouping private donations from France and abroad, held in a state-owned bank to ensure maximum transparency, to pay for building and renovating mosques as well as training imams. Many in the political establishment are against taking the states role any further, including the CFCM president Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris mosque, who immediately backed de Villepin in opposing any change to the secularity law. But other voices within the CFCM took a less hostile view and the influential rector of the Lyon mosque, Kamel Kabtane, supports a review of the 1905 law.

Among the majority Roman Catholic Church, the conference of bishops said it believed the current church-state balance should be upheld, but did recognise that certain "practical problems" needed tackling. The response from other religious groups has been mixed: Protestant leaders said they would welcome a rethink of the law, but Jewish community leaders have come out against any change. A collective groan rose from the press following Sarkozy's announcement with the conservative Le Figaro warning it would fuel the tug-of-war between his camp and followers of Chirac and de Villepin, already at odds over economic policy and such issues as Turkeys bid to join the European Union. The left-leaning La Libération said the debate could easily turn into a slinging match, in a country still bruised by a fiery, painful debate over the Islamic headscarf in schools. Meanwhile, the opposition Socialists scolded the government for sending out mixed messages on such a sensitive issue, and urged the president and prime minister to keep their ministers in check.
© Expatica News

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ISLAM DISSIDENT BACKS PM IN DISPUTE(Denmark)

Death-threatened politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali hails PM's refusal to discuss Danish press coverage of Islam

31/10/2005- European leaders should step forward and support Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's refusal to meet with eleven Muslim ambassadors to discuss press coverage of Islam, Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali said on Sunday. Somalian-born Hirsi Ali, who is considered one of northern Europe's staunchest Islam opponents, has lived under police protection for a year, ever since Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered for his critical film on women in Islam, which Hirsi Ali penned. Daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported that the 36-year-old politician and debater supported whole-heartedly the paper's decision to call for and print cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed last month, an action considered blasphemous by devout Muslims and an unneeded provocation by many Danish politicians and journalists. The ambassadors of eleven Muslim countries have deplored the newspaper's decision and asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is also the minister of press issues. Rasmussen, however, declined to meet the ambassadors, saying that if they had the slightest understanding of the workings of Danish society, they would know that he had no desire or powers to change the newspaper's editorial policies. 'The Danish prime minister's reply to the ambassadors should be an example for every European leader,' Hirsi Ali told Jyllands-Posten's reporter. 'The prime minister steps forward to tell Muslims loud and clear that the freedom of expression is a deciding factor for a free society, and that a prime minister in a free society neither can nor wishes to regulate what newspapers do or do not do. The fact that he makes a special point of explaining this to the ambassador from Turkey - which is seeking entrance to the EU - is an expression of true statesmanship.' Hirsi Ali, who says she suffered physical violence at the hands of her Islamic teacher in her country of birth and had to escape from her family when they tried to have her married against her will, criticises Islam as a totalitarian religion, which makes a special point of debasing women. She said Jyllands-Posten had made the right decision to print the caricatures of Mohammed, and urged media in other countries to do the same. 'It's necessary to taunt Muslims on their relationship with Mohammed, because otherwise we will never have the dialogue we need to establish with Muslims on the most central question: Do you really feel that the prophet Mohammed is completely infallible, and that every Muslim in Europe in 2005 should follow the way of life the prophet had 1400 years ago, as the Koran dictates? The provocation is necessary to spark the debate,' Hirsi Ali said.
© The Copenhagen Post

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SCATHING WELCOME FOR LE PEN (Cyprus)

29/10/2005- Jean-Marie Le Pen, President of the French National Front yesterday arrived in Cyprus for a six-day visit to growing protests. KISA (Action for Equality, Support and Anti-Racism) yesterday issued a press release condemning Le Pen’s visit. “Yesterday, on October 28, the day that symbolises the struggle of the Greek and Cypriot people against Hitler’s fascist rule, Le Pen chose to begin his visit to the island. “He is one of the symbolic leaders of the neo-fascist, neo-nazi movement in Europe and is a nostalgic perpetrator of the abominable Hitlerite ideology and policies. “Taking advantage of the continuing unemployment, poverty and other socio-economic problems, including the serious blows that the welfare state is still receiving from the neo-liberal policies of consecutive French governments and as a result of globalisation, Le Pen is using vulnerable groups such as migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, as scapegoats for all these social ills, with the ultimate aim of bringing about the segregation and inequality of the races and the exclusion of other vulnerable and different social groupings. A model that led the world to an unprecedented catastrophe and the Holocaust, which according to his notorious statement, ‘is a mere detail of history’. “As in France and the rest of Europe, Le Pen’s visit to Cyprus – despite his hiding under the respectability of a Member of European Parliament – is a provocation to all democratic, anti-racist, anti-fascist people because it aims to strengthen the racist and chauvinistic circles in Cyprus, which want to promote the irreconcilability of co-existence and co-operation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, migrants and the local population. “By skilful usage of sensitivities emanating from the Cyprus problem, Le Pen proposes that Turkish culture and Islam are ‘lower’ and hence irreconcilable with the ‘higher’ European ideals. By doing that, not only does he not help the Cyprus problem, he actually rekindles it. “For all these reasons, we, along with the Workers Democracy, Youth of New Cyprus Party, Youth against Nationalism, the Federation of Environmental and Ecological Organisations, Youth of Ecological Party, Baraka Cultural Centre, the Association of Recognised Refugees and the Organisations of Migrant Communities in Cyprus, declare our opposition to the visit and our determination to deter him from achieving his plans. We call on all democratic organisations, political parties, trade unions and NGO’s to oppose his visit to our country.” A demonstration was scheduled to take place yesterday evening at 7.30pm and also next Tuesday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Limassol, where Le Pen is scheduled to give a presentation.
© Cyprus Mail

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THE NEW COLOUR OF BRITISH RACISM

Behind the riots lies vicious hostility between the Asian and African-Caribbean communities in Birmingham, reports crime correspondent Mark Townsend

30/10/2005- Maybe his compassion was exhausted, but the reality suggests that Makaveli had always disliked black people. Either way, within hours of arriving from Pakistan after helping survivors of the Asian earthquake, he was brawling with African-Caribbeans on the streets of Birmingham. It felt natural; all his friends agreed with him that these people were the lowest form of humanity. 'They come in our shops, but can't stop stealing something. Niggers can't help it, they have a dirty gene. They are the lowest of the low,' hissed Makaveli. The 26-year-old spat furiously at the pavement and nodded east along Lozells Road, beyond the huddle of Asian-owned shops, to where the Rastafarians sometimes gathered. Inside Simply Veg, a group stood beside huge spears of sugarcane, papaya and jars of Ethiopian myrrh. The mood was tense, the talk of slavery, oppression, of a black community without hope. But their stories suddenly sounded different. Their oppressors were no longer solely white. Now they felt subjugated by another race; the Asians. We've had centuries of slavery. Now the Asians want to take over here,' said Rob, a Jamaican, slamming the grocery counter. 'Black people need a break, but things are getting bad.' Outside, across the bustling Lozells Road, down into the red-bricked terracing of the local estates, lies a reminder of what bad can actually mean. On the doorstep of 59 Carlyle Road, lilies and carnations smother a plastic sheet weighed down with bricks.

Here, 23-year-old Isiah Young-Sam was stabbed to death during last Saturday's race riots as he wandered home; the yellow petals are a dark pointer to the new reality of race crime in Britain. The worst riots to afflict Britain's second city for 20 years challenge the most fundamental assumption of multicultural Britain - that racism is principally a white vice. Almost 40 years after Enoch Powell talked of 'rivers of blood' just two miles from where Young-Sam was murdered, a community has broken down. Powell's inflammatory rhetoric warned that immigration would inspire strife, but few predicted that the immigrants would turn on each other. Only a few experts had observed that the scramble for the scant resources of Britain's deprived inner cities was a catalyst for conflict between competing communities. For the vast majority, particularly the government, racism remained a strictly black and white issue. Even the Commission for Racial Equality has failed to research the issue of inter-ethnic racism. For its part, the Home Office is accused of ignoring repeated warnings of conflict between black and Asian communities from its most senior strategist into race relations. Marian Fitzgerald, now a criminologist at the University of Kent, identified the fracture lines that led to last weekend's clashes, not just in Birmingham, but throughout the UK. The rioting around Lozells Road, which left two dead in more than 200 separate violent incidents, followed a single, still unsubstantiated, rumour that 18 Asian men had gang-raped a 14-year-old black girl in a beauty parlour. The allegation may have been the catalyst, but in Lozells Road they had been predicting a bloody night for years. Thirteen months ago a message that appeared on a black website warned that 'Birmingham's Asian and ethnic African are becoming increasingly polarised'. The author felt Asians were becoming 'more aggressive' and that the 'daily spiritual, and sometimes physical, face-offs' between the two communities had left 'indelible scars on the soul'. Violence, the emailer concluded, was inevitable. For years Lozells had been hailed as a vibrant example of the melting pot that defines urban Britain. Yet for many who lived in the tight terracing north of Birmingham's bright new centre, the area had become a racial tinderbox.

As with most previous riots, the tension had its roots in the trivial. For the black community of north Birmingham it was the manner in which Asian shopkeepers handed back their change. Already smarting over the fact that most local businesses had been snapped up by Asian entrepreneurs, a common complaint among African-Caribbeans was the treatment by shopkeepers. 'They throw the change at us as if we're lower-class citizens'. Rob raised his left arm above his head and flung a 10p into his right palm. 'Like that. They won't even touch us.' Those beside him in Simply Veg nodded. To the Asian community, such complaints are mired in envy. 'We can work 16-hour days. We pay tax. We own the shops. They're jealous,' Makaveli said. That the everyday rituals of capitalism became such a source of discontent is apt; experts agree that the rioting stemmed from the economics of inequality. For decades, the African-Caribbean community watched as the Asian community bettered itself. Of the 50 or so stores on Lozells Road, 90 per cent are Asian-owned. But the competition runs deeper. Amid the deprivation of Lozells, the two communities scrap for dwindling government support in housing, jobs and community projects. Asian shopkeepers rarely employ blacks; similarly, the few African storeowners can wait days for the next Pakistani patron. In response, the African-Caribbean community of Lozells is calling for a total boycott of Asian shops. Dani arrived in Birmingham from Jamaica in 1960. He remembers when he had Asian friends. 'They became millionaires, we became beggars,' the 65-year-old said wearily. That community elders are encouraging tension is no surprise to those monitoring the situation. Frank Reeves, of Race Equality West Midlands, describes a meeting between community leaders last week that was riven by self-interest rather than reconciliation. A cycle of rumour, bigotry and suspicion has intensified in the wake of the riots. For every story of a black schoolboy beaten by 20 Asians there is one such as that from Makaveli's best friend, Abdul, whose brother was killed two years ago; caught in the crossfire of a shoot-out between black gangs in the nearby streets.

So endemic is gangland culture that when several doctors from the nearest hospital were required for front-line medical duty during the Iraq war, they already possessed the skills required for treating gunshot wounds. Further violence appears a question of when, not if. 'I get the impression people are getting tooled up,' Reeves admits. The police presence suggests as much. Around 600 police a day have been drafted in to keep order on the maze of streets around Lozells Road. Recent website postings earmark Eid, the Asian festival this Friday that signals the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, as a flashpoint. One entrant on a black power website reads: 'Pakistanis are marked for death. The blacks have had enough of Pakistanis running things up there.' The bigotry is never exclusive. One Asian site glorifies the alleged rape: 'Big up the Pakis dat tapped the nigger bitch in Brumland. We had the upper hand on them ever since the abolishment of slavery.' Even now, it is unclear where the rape allegation originated from. Suggestions that it was concocted by the black community are unconfirmed. What is certain is that the rumour was perfect for a riot; a poisonous Chinese whisper that gained horror and currency with every repeat. Reeves describes the allegation as a 'textbook classic' and that it was no accident it centred around a shop run by Asians selling black beauty products.

The supposed victim was an illegal immigrant who will not come forward, a detail that also tapped into African-Caribbeans disquiet over immigration laws. 'The British took us as slaves to the Caribbean and now they won't even let us in,' said Paul, 40. Similarly, the allegation seemed to corroborate a long-standing suspicion among the black community that Asian men gang-rape their women. 'They have been raping black girls for centuries,' said Maxine Goldman, 28. 'They make them wear hijabs, wrapping them up to their eyeballs.'  Despite a police investigation finding no evidence of the rape, the black community is adamant it is true. In turn, the Asian community believes the 'rape' was conceived as an excuse to attack their shops. Whatever proves true, half the community is complaining that its traditional voice - pirate radio - is being persecuted. DJ Warren G made the mistake of broadcasting the rape allegations he had heard in a barber's shop. The price would be personal - within days his former schoolfriend Young-Sam was dead - and professional as police continue to investigate claims that his repeating of a rumour was incitement to disorder. But little may change; the 1985 riots in Handsworth proved that. The people of Lozells agree that the carnations of Carlyle Road will not be the last.
© The Observer

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LABOUR 'BURIED RACE RIOT FEARS' (uk)

30/10/2005- Warnings that Britain was heading for inter-ethnic rioting in its cities were repeatedly ignored by the Home Office, according to a former government expert on race relations. Marian FitzGerald, a senior researcher on race issues for the Home Office for 11 years, said Labour chose to bury mounting concern over the inter-ethnic tension building in UK cities. Instead, the government adopted the Seventies model of racist behaviour, which meant all racism involved the white community and that which did not was 'taboo'. In doing so, claimed FitzGerald, the government missed an opportunity to tackle racial tension between black and Asian communities. Her warnings were realised last weekend during the worst race riots to hit Birmingham for 20 years. Two people were killed and more than 30 injured. FitzGerald, currently a visiting professor at Kent criminal justice centre, said: 'There was a taboo on discussing [inter-ethnic tension]. Police found themselves bereft because the issues they were dealing with couldn't be spoken about. Policy wouldn't address them, there was no guidance to go by.' FitzGerald, who has spent 20 years studying ethnic communities, said: 'There was an opportunity in 1997 (when Labour came to power) to take a constructive look at these issues, but that was missed.' FitzGerald left the Home Office in 1999 after deciding she could not make a 'constructive' contribution to the debate on racism while working for the department. However, Paul Goggins, the Home Office Minister responsible for community relations, told The Observer that the rise of inter-ethnic tension between blacks and Asians was being taken very seriously and would now be investigated by the Commission on Integration. 'Goggins said the riots had illustrated the risk of assuming black and Asian communities, often living side by side in Britain's inner cities, were necessarily integrated as a result. 'It is asking the question, how do we all fit together?' Old assumptions that young Asian men were kept on a tight leash by their families were being challenged by the 'emerging trend' of Asian gangs moving into organised crime, said Goggins. Rob Beckley, spokesman on community cohesion for the Association of Chief Police Officers, submitted reports detailing inter-ethnic tension as long ago as 1995. He said he had used FitzGerald's findings. Meanwhile, yesterday, two more men were arrested by detectives investigating the murder of an IT worker who was stabbed during last weekend's rioting in Birmingham.
© The Observer

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OUSELEY(FORMER CRE) ATTACKS PHILLIPS(CRE) OVER BIRMINGHAM RIOTS(uk)

31/10/2005- Trevor Phillips, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, was today attacked by his predecessor in the job for giving priority to "soft" cultural questions over issues of discrimination and urban deprivation. Lord Ouseley accused Mr Phillips of grabbing headlines with controversial comments about race relations terminology, but failing to speak out about last week's riots in Birmingham. His comments came as the CRE released details of a report claiming to show that members of ethnic minority communities feel more "British" than white people in the UK. The peer said the commission should have offered high-profile support to organisations seeking to calm tensions in the Lozells area of Birmingham, where two people died in clashes between black and Asian groups. "It is rather surprising that, having heard so much about 'sleepwalking' and the use of the words 'coloured' and 'multiculturalism', at a moment of great strife and worry with two people dead, we heard nothing from the CRE," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. "My worry is that it is pursuing all the soft cultural options. It is not focusing on the hard-edged deprivation, discrimination, disadvantage issues which are fundamental in areas where there are deep divisions and resentments between different communities."

Mr Phillips has made high-profile comments recently warning that Britain is "sleepwalking" into cultural segregation, questioning the concept of multiculturalism and challenging the taboo over the word "coloured". But today he insisted that the CRE was doing a lot of less high-profile work on exactly the issues which Lord Ouseley had highlighted. Thanks to its close contact with people on the ground in Birmingham, the organisation had predicted disturbances of the kind seen in Lozells last week, he said. "I spoke at some length to our people on the ground in some areas of Birmingham last Monday," he told the programme. "I will be returning there today." "The fact that I don't have to tell the whole word about that, perhaps, is an indication that I am serious about doing something rather than talking about it ... In these rather difficult circumstances, people grandstanding and showing off their egos is not what the people of Birmingham need, is it?" Mr Phillips said that his speech in which he warned of "sleepwalking" into segregation had highlighted precisely the problems seen in Birmingham, where different communities live in entirely separate worlds from one another and do not integrate. He insisted that his approach did not run counter to Lord Ouseley's focus on equality. "These two things are not at odds with each other," he said. "It is extremely important that we pursue the fight for equality. It is also important that we ensure that people of different communities within Britain interact with each other."

Today's research, based on focus group interviews with 96 people, showed that white Britons were more likely to describe themselves as English, Scottish or Welsh than British. By contrast, members of ethnic minorities were more likely to describe themselves as British, though many qualified this with terms such as Asian British or black British. Few members of ethnic minorities living in England called themselves English, as they saw this as a term referring only to whites. Mr Phillips said: "When you ask people about their attachment to Britishness, the people most attached to Britishness are ethnic minority people who live in England. "They are attached to that idea of Britishness because to them it means fairness and equality, and not being bullied because of your race or colour. "Secondly, it is about the British tradition of individuality. You don't have to conform to somebody else's idea of what being British might look like, and that means you are not trapped by your race and religion."
© The Guardian

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LORDS THROW OUT KEY ASYLUM RULE (uk)

The Home Office has suffered a major defeat after Law Lords rejected an attempt to enforce a hardline asylum welfare policy.

3/11/2005- After a three-year battle the Lords said the Home Secretary was wrong to deny support to asylum seekers if it were to leave them sleeping rough. The ruling defeats the controversial measure introduced in 2002 by former Home Secretary David Blunkett. The rule withholds benefits to those who fail to seek asylum on arrival.

Section 55 judgement
Welcoming the victory, asylum and housing agencies called on the government to scrap "Section 55", the immigration rule at the centre of the three-year legal battle. While the Law Lords do not have the power to strike out legislation, the ruling puts pressure on ministers to change the act. The rule, championed by former Home Secretary David Blunkett, obliges people to seek asylum at the first reasonably practical opportunity on entering the UK, or lose any benefits. Ministers said the measure contained in the Asylum and Immigration Act 2002 would be key to preventing illegal entry and working and subsequent attempts by people to prolong their stay once discovered. But refugee agencies said it completely ignored the fact that the majority of people claim asylum after being in Britain for a few days, largely because of the irregular way they enter the country in the first place. Separate rules ban asylum seekers from working, meaning those without funds were left relying on family, friends or the wider community, such as churches, for support. But by early 2004 there were an estimated 500 people sleeping rough in London because of the rule, with up to 700 legal challenges piling up at the High Court.

Test case
That prompted a test case by three asylum seekers - Wayoka Limbuela, from Angola, Binyam Tefera Tesema, from Ethiopia, and Yusif Adam, from Sudan. Mr Limbuela, from Angola, had claimed asylum the day after arriving in the UK, but was refused support for applying too late. He slept rough for two nights outside of a police station before being granted temporary support. Lawyers for the Home Office had argued that it was entitled to wait and see if a withdrawal of benefits led to someone crossing a "threshold of suffering" before being obliged to intervene. But in May 2004 the Court of Appeal disagreed, saying the Home Office had to do more to ensure that people in these circumstances had access to shelter as a "basic amenity". Section 55 had therefore breached the fundamental human rights of the three asylum seekers by subjecting them to "inhuman and degrading treatment", held the judges.

Lords' Ruling
In the ruling, Lord Bingham said the Law Lords were not creating a "general public duty to house the homeless" - but that there was nevertheless a duty to prevent foreseeable destitution caused by policy. "I have no doubt that the threshold [of suffering] may be crossed if a late applicant with no means and no alternative sources of support, unable to support himself is, by deliberate action of the state, denied shelter, food or the most basic necessities of life," said Lord Bingham. The Home Office had already agreed to house those affected prior to the Lords' ruling. Immigration minister Tony McNulty defended the government's policies, but conceded he would consider changing the rules. "The judgment leaves intact a fundamental principle within our approach to asylum which is that people should claim as soon as they arrive in the country," said Mr McNulty. "The Law Lords have recognised that there are difficult decisions to be made and each case has to be judged on its individual merits. "We are adopting tough new means to crack down on opportunistic behaviour. In particular, we are setting up tightly managed new processes for handling late and opportunistic claims. "The impact of this will be that those who seek to play the system will receive a very quick asylum decision and so will, in reality, have very limited access to benefits."

'Delighted'
But Maeve Sherlock of the Refugee Council said: "We are delighted with this unanimous judgement. It was disgraceful that vulnerable refugees were left to starve on the streets. "Section 55 brought immeasurable harm to many innocent refugees who were guilty of nothing more than asking for protection here. "Thousands of people, who arrived here scared, alone and traumatised, were refused basic food and housing by this unjust law and forced to sleep rough on British streets. "A significant proportion of these later would be given refugee status or leave to stay in the UK."
© BBC News

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FOOTBALL TO BOOT OUT HOMOPHOBIC FANS (uk)

After giving racism the red card, the FA is set to target anti-gay taunts

30/10/2005- Football fans who hurl anti-gay taunts at players, referees and other supporters will be identified and prosecuted in a new clampdown on behaviour at matches. Following the success of the drive against racism in the game, the Football Association is making the eradication of homophobia its next priority. Footballers are regularly derided from the stands as 'poofs' or 'queers', for example when they go down injured. 'There is a problem with homophobic abuse in the game directed at not just players but also referees and also opposing fans,' said Lucy Faulkner, the FA's Ethics and Sports Equity Manager. 'Such behaviour is offensive and runs totally counter to both the game's family image and efforts to make football more acceptable to all sectors of society.' In a bid to banish such behaviour, the FA has expanded the role of its freephone hotline for reporting racist incidents at matches to include homophobic comments. It is also overhauling the training it gives match officials so that referees and their assistants recognise and punish such incidents in both the professional and amateur game. Players who use such language may now be shown a red card. 'Homophobic abuse is a breach of Law 12, which covers offensive, insulting and abusive language on the pitch, and is a red card offence,' said Faulkner. 'One referee in grassroots football recently told me that he regularly receives homophobic abuse himself,' she added. In the most infamous example of homophobia, Liverpool's Robbie Fowler bent over and waved his bottom at Chelsea's Graeme Le Saux. Fowler had already called his opponent a 'poof' earlier in the match in February 1999, to which le Saux replied: 'But I'm married.' The Liverpool player then said: 'So was Elton John, mate.' Ex-Norwich City, Nottingham Forest and Hearts striker Justin Fashanu, Britain's only openly gay player to date, received horrendous abuse during matches in his career in the Eighties and Nineties and later committed suicide. The FA is holding its first 'homophobia summit' this week. Participants from across the game will be told about the recent conviction - the first of its kind - of a Hull City supporter for hurling anti-gay taunts at Brighton and Hove Albion fans. Hull magistrates court heard how Kevin Smith had chanted 'indecent' comments at the visiting spectators when Brighton played Hull in August. He was fined £50, ordered to pay £50 costs and banned from attending any Hull City game for three years. Brighton fans are regularly subjected to homophobic abuse simply because the city has a large gay population. 'The other team's fans often chant "Does your boyfriend know you're here?",' said Faulkner. 'That, though, is very much at the milder end of the spectrum.' Michael Collins, spokesman for the Gay Football Supporters' Network, said: 'Calling someone a "poof" or a "queer" seems to be the last acceptable thing you can shout at people at matches. Most people wouldn't racially abuse a black player anymore, but some think that anti-gay taunts are OK.'
© The Observer

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ANDERLECHT STRIKER FACES CHARGE AFTER ALLEGED RACIAL ABUSE OF SISSOKO

3/11/2005- Nenad Jestrovic, Anderlecht’s Serbia and Montenegro striker, could be banned for up to six matches if he is found guilty of racially abusing Mohamed Sissoko during Liverpool’s 3-0 Champions League victory at Anfield on Tuesday evening. Uefa, European football’s governing body, confirmed yesterday that it will hear the case against Jestrovic at a meeting of its Control and Disciplinary Body in Switzerland on Monday after Kim Milton Nielsen, the referee, recorded the alleged incident in his official match report. It is the first known case of a player being sent off for racial abuse, though in an astonishing coincidence, Ben May, the Millwall forward, was also shown a red card on the same night for allegedly racially abusing Frank Sinclair, of Burnley, during a Coca-Cola Championship match at Turf Moor. The only previous incident of a player being reprimanded by Uefa for racism was that of another Serbian, Sinisa Mihajlovic. The defender, who was playing for Lazio at the time, pleaded guilty to racially insulting Patrick Vieira during a Champions League match against Arsenal in 2000. The offence was missed by the referee, but Mihajlovic was handed a two-match ban. Jestrovic had been on the pitch only five minutes when, after an innocuous clash with Sissoko, he is claimed to have muttered the words “F*** off, black” at the Mali midfield player. Jestrovic claimed that he had sworn at Sissoko only after the player called him a “son of a bitch”, but the tirade was heard by Nielsen, who showed the substitute a red card before informing Knud Stadsgaard, the Uefa delegate, that the alleged abuse had been racial.

“This type of behaviour deserves a serious punishment by Uefa because it sets a bad example for the whole world and must be settled rapidly,” Sissoko said. “The referee heard it, but now the player claims he didn’t say anything. For me this topic is very disagreeable and it is closed, but if the Uefa calls me to give evidence I will tell the truth. I know what I heard. “In Spain, when I was with Valencia, I received some screams from rival supporters, but this is the first time it has happened to me with a player.” Uefa officials are also understood to be dismayed by the reaction of Frank Vercauteren, the Anderlecht coach, who refused to condemn racist behaviour when asked about Jestrovic’s alleged comments, insisting that “what was said is something that occurs 50 times in an average match”. Vercauteren indicated that the club would not take any further action against the 29-year-old forward, even if Uefa finds him guilty of racial abuse, because the sending-off is “punishment enough”. The incident comes less than three months after CSKA Sofia were fined €19,500 (about £13,000) by Uefa after its supporters taunted Djibril Cissé, the Liverpool striker, with “monkey noises” during the Merseyside club’s 3-1 Champions League third qualifying round win in Bulgaria. Uefa has hardened its stance against racism since forging a close partnership with the Football Against Racism in Europe network and supports campaigns that attempt to “banish this evil” from football. William Gaillard, the Uefa director of communications, told The Times last night that players found guilty of racial abuse can expect “severe sanctions” and that racism will “not be tolerated” in the sport. Kick It Out, football’s anti-racism campaign, said yesterday that it was vital that players are given hefty bans in cases where they are found guilty of racist abuse. Liverpool declined to comment yesterday, preferring to reflect on a fine performance and a win befitting European champions. A point against Real Betis, who kept their Champions League dreams alive with a surprise 1-0 win over Chelsea in Spain, at Anfield on November 23 will ensure Liverpool’s passage into the last 16.
© The Times Online

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BELARUS: CIVIL SOCIETY PERSISTING UNDER PRESSURE

An interview with Valiantsin Stefanovich, Human Rights Center Viasna

1/11/2005- Belarusian NGOs have been under increasingly strict watch of the state since 2003. Many have been liquidated, and still others have been forced to shut their doors because of smothering restrictions on their funding and registration. Authorities have also used taxation and auditing policies and raised rents arbitrarily or terminated rental contracts to stifle the operation of NGOs. NGOs and their leaders have been victims of arrests, threats and intimidation and even disappearances. The Belarusian Human Rights Center 'Viasna' has been one of the most vocal critics of government policy and human rights abuses. The centre was founded in 1996 to help people arrested during mass protest actions of the democratic opposition in Belarus. Because of its work, Viasna was liquidated in 2003, but continues to operate without registration. In the past month, Viasna offices have been vandalised and shot at in attempts to silence the organisation. In an interview with CIVICUS' Civil Society Watch programme, Valiantsin Stefanovich, a lawyer with Viasna, describes the restrictive environment for civil society in Belarus.

Civil Society Watch: President Lukashenka has issued a series of decrees over the past five years imposing strict registration requirements on NGOs, limiting foreign aid to NGOs, and restricting legal aid. How have these decrees affected non-governmental organisations in Belarus?
Valiantsin Stefanovich
: Undoubtedly, the restrictions imposed by the Belarusian regime on NGOs exert an adverse impact on their activities. Since 2003, the Belarusian authorities have been waging a war against NGOs. Almost all active public organisations have been shut down: youth associations, human rights groups and regional resource centers. Today, most of them have to work as unregistered, underground groups. Registering a new NGO or legally obtaining foreign aid is impossible. The new law 'On Public Associations' adopted this year did not change the situation. In fact, it merely comprised the earlier presidential decrees that discriminate against NGOs. The law was adopted before civil society could evaluate it - so it ignores civil society’s interests. Since 1999, the Minister of Justice has decided whether an NGO should be registered on the basis of a recommendation provided by a special Republican Committee for Registration (Re-registration) of Public Associations, whose members are appointed by President Lukashenka.

Apart from using decrees, how else has the government restricted NGOs?
Apart from the mentioned presidential decrees and the law 'On Public Associations,' NGOs have been substantially restricted by numerous instructions and regulations adopted by the Ministry of Justice which has unlimited functions of controlling NGOs. This may sound strange, but in Belarus an NGO may lose its registration because some of the internal minutes of meetings feature a shorter version of the association’s name, or because a word in the association’s seal uses a lower-case letter where it should instead be a capital letter. Numerous governmental authorities, from the Ministry of Justice down to taxation agencies, have the right to conduct regular and extraordinary audits of NGO activity. Often, such audits result in the liquidation of a NGO in court. Requirements that a NGO has to meet with respect to the location of its official legal address are very difficult to satisfy. NGOs are not allowed to establish their offices in privately-owned apartments or houses, they must always be non-residential premises, most of which are owned by state agencies or state-controlled companies.

How have NGOs in Belarus responded to these restrictions? What actions have they taken?
Naturally, NGOs in Belarus have attempted to withstand the pressures exerted by the authorities. The Assembly of Non-Governmental Democratic Organisations of Belarus, which unites more than a hundred NGOs, conducted a campaign called 'Our Solidarity' in 2003 and 2004. This campaign included conferences on the effective legislation, actions in support of liquidated NGOs, etc. In 2003, representatives of several dozen liquidated NGOs staged a picket at the Justice Ministry, demanding that the campaign of repression against NGOs be stopped. However, it certainly is very difficult to talk to someone who will not listen. The NGOs did not manage to stop the wave of repression against civil society in the country. One of the recent actions was staged by the Viasna members who, during the court hearing on the liquidation of Viasna, sat down on the floor and refused to leave the premises. Later, all of them were arrested by the police and forced out of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus. That was an action of despair.

Over the past three months, the government has closed 80% of local offices of the three major parties, jailed activists and levied massive fines against the few remaining independent media. Considering this, what is the atmosphere among civil society in Belarus?
After it was all but eliminated in 2003 and 2004, the civil sector of Belarus continues to function. Organisations work illegally, without official registration. Now many NGOs in the country are focused on the future elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus. NGOs are going to stage a variety of campaigns, ranging from counter-agitation to election observation. As a human rights organisation, we see our role in the prompt provision of the necessary assistance to the victims of the reprisals, who, as our previous experience shows, will be many next year.

Why has the government become increasingly hostile towards civil society?
The reason the government has been so hostile toward civil society can only be explained by a desire to have absolute control over the people of the country. Since 1996, Lukashenka has been fighting against freedom. In 2001-2004, this struggle reached its height: official, compulsory and single state ideology was introduced. The government not only liquidated independent NGOs, but works of art, books and rock groups are being censured. The last free educational establishments, which included Belarusian Humanities Lyceum and European Humanities Universities, were liquidated, and finally almost all of independent NGOs were shut down. In place of them, we have so-called “governmental NGOs” like BRSM (a mass state-controlled youth organisation, successor to the Soviet Komsomol), unions of war veterans and official trade unions. All of them are financed by the state and serve the needs of the current regime. A neo-Soviet political regime has been created in the country.

How has Viasna been affected by government restrictions and harassment, both in the past and currently?
Undoubtedly, Viasna has been affected by the loss of the legal status. In many aspects the activity of the organisation has become more closed, more private. Some lines of activity cannot be pursued, such as the nomination of election observers and conduct of educational programs. However, we continue functioning in this environment. We conduct educational programmes outside the country – in Ukraine or Lithuania. However, what should be noted is that despite the loss of its legal status, Viasna remains one of the most active and prominent human rights organisations in Belarus. Viasna attaches a lot of importance to work with international human rights structures, such as UN Committees and European structures. Viasna is a FIDH member, which has been assisting our operations in many ways.

How is Viasna able to continue functioning in an environment that is increasingly harsh towards civil society?
It should be noted that given all the problems in the country, we continue to be able to function actively. We are able to distribute human rights information among the people of the country through the unregistered newspaper “Right to Freedom” which has quite a large circulation. We are also able to distribute information through the Internet. Our offices are in seventeen cities of the country, with lawyers in each of them. People know us and come to us, though we do not advertise ourselves. Despite everything, Belarus today is not the USSR. And we hope it will never become the USSR. This period will pass and Belarus will take its place in the world’s family of free nations.

The situation of civil society in Belarus has been highlighted by numerous international human rights organisations. How else can international organisations assist Belarusian civil society?
The distribution of information about what is happening in Belarus is one of the important areas of activities of international organisations. We believe that international organisations conducting actions in support of specific people would be very efficient. For example, actions staged by Amnesty International in support of political prisoners and the families of the disappeared politicians, or similar actions. And certainly, international organisations have the ability to provide financial and other assistance to the NGOs in Belarus.

What are your thoughts on the future of civil society in Belarus?
The future of Belarus directly depends on the country's current political regime. We are convinced that the golden age of the Belarusian third sector is still to come, because it is after political regime changes and democracy is restored that the NGOs in Belarus will have to do real work, aimed at bringing about changes in society, helping society and transforming the neo-Soviet system into a free society.
© Civil Society Watch

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EU TO FIRE WARNING SHOT ON BELARUS ELECTIONS

4/11/2005- EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (7 November) are set to fire a shot across the bows to Belarus on human rights ahead of the July 2006 presidential vote. The statement, preliminarily agreed by EU ambassadors on Thursday, calls on Minsk to conduct the elections fairly and under proper international observation, as well as to stop harassing independent media and NGOs, such as the Polish Union in Belarus. The text says the EU is "ready to take further appropriate restrictive measures versus responsible individuals" if the conditions are not met. The words are a thinly veiled reference to the possible extension of a visa ban on six Minsk politicans, imposed in November 2004 due to alleged abuses surrounding a referendum on the length of president Alexander Lukashenko's mandate. Ministers will also ask the European Commission to channel more funds into flexible budgetary instruments, such as the European Initiative for Human Rights and Democracy, rather than more formal structures, such as TACIS, where EU spending ideas have to be signed off by the Belarusian authorities.

Belarus tops foreign affairs agenda
Ministers plan to debate the Belarus conclusions for one hour on Monday, the first time since November 2004 that the issue has come so high on the European agenda, despite the efforts of MEPs who issued five resolutions on the subject since enlargement. The ministers' main objective is that observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have full access to the election campaign in the run-up to July 2006, as well as the vote itself. "We have to make sure the opposition candidates are allowed to conduct some kind of campaign," a Polish diplomat said. The EU's specific reference to the Polish Union in Belarus (ZPB) is also a break from past etiquette, which tends to speak of "civil society" en masse rather than singling out organisations. ZPB, representing 400,000 ethnic Poles living mainly in the east of Belarus, is widely seen as the last major independent NGO left in the country. "The situation there has not improved," the commission's foreign affairs spokeswoman, Emma Udwin, said. The Polish diplomat added "things are even worse there than we got used to [under communism]."

Meller debut
The new Polish foreign minister, Stefan Meller, will make his EU debut at Monday's meeting, bringing his experience as Polish ambassador to Russia for the past four years to the Belarus debate. Poland and Lithuania, which share a direct border with Belarus, have been the strongest proponents of further EU action against the country's regime. But Ms Udwin said the issue has also become "a centre of interest" for most member states in recent months.
© EUobserver

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DISCRIMINATION AND HYPOCRISY (Poland)

By Rafal Pankowski

4/11/2005- An incredibly symbolic case of racial discrimination was recently uncovered by a local Roma Association in Wroclaw. All Roma-looking customers are turned down by the Wroclaw four-stars hotel Park Plaza, including its restaurant. The hotel refuses to rent them rooms, the waiters refuse to serve them. A local journalist did a simple test, trying to enter the restaurant in the company of a Roma and without. There is no doubt the staff discriminate against the Roma customers, claiming they have no seats or hotel rooms. The discriminatory treatment of the dark-skinned customers at Park Plaza has been going on for many months already. Some staff members admitted they had an instruction from the management not to serve the Roma, because allegedly a Roma customer did not pay a restaurant bill in the past. The manager of the hotel denied any such rule was issued. Park Plaza is a top hotel in the city and it belongs to the network Best Eastern Plaza Hotels, owned by the state-supported Polish Tourist Organisation. Tomasz Droszcz, the marketing director of the network, explained to the journalist he had heard about ... the problems allegedly created by the Roma customers at Park Plaza (sic). "Surely something must have happened if the manager made this decision" - stated Droszcz in his mind-blowing comment. To add insult to injury, in February this year the hotel hosted an international conference organised by the regional government under the title "Against discrimination. The Roma - administration - police". In the current political situation the social climate for ethnic minorities in Poland is hardly going to improve. The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (a Council of Europe body) is soon coming to Poland for a "roundtable" discussion on the situation in the country. Will it move beyond the official anti-discrimination rhetoric to challenge the hypocrisy of pseudo-anti-disrimination policies?
© I CARE News

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NAZIS ATTACK YOUTHS IN SLOVAK CAPITAL

2/11/2005- During the night of October 31st to November 1st, two boys were attacked in the center of Slovak capital Bratislava by a group of organized Neo-Nazis. The victims of the crime were two boys who are fans of punk music and style. As the victims informed our source, the Slovak NGO Ludia proti rasizmu, they were attacked only because of their image. The organized group of Neo-Nazis attacked the boys while they were on their way to the bus stop. The Neo-Nazis were waiting for the attack and began the unprovoked assault with weapons in hand. Four of the attackers were equipped with knives which they used to stab one boy 6 times. Fortunately, none of his vital organs were damaged. The second boy was injured on the face. “The assault proves that despite of huge progress in the attitude of the police to racially motivated crimes and extremism Neo-Nazism and its followers is still here and the followers are ready to attack the life and health of others just because of other beliefs, image, or color of skin,” said Daniel Milo, chair of Ludia proti rasizmu.
© Dzeno Association

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COUNTERPROTESTERS IN PRAGUE SHOUT DOWN A NEO-NAZI RALLY(Czech Rep.)

30/10/2005- Holidays in the Czech Republic are a time for getting away to the country with the family. But 150 Prague residents, including many well-known Czech personalities, sacrificed last Friday, Czechoslovak Independence Day, to rally against a neo-Nazi demonstration. Some 60 neo-Nazis gathered in front of the German Embassy to protest the incarceration in Germany of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, deported from Canada to his native Germany in March and charged with inciting hatred by sending materials over the Internet. Before they assembled, a crowd, barricaded by police for their own protection, had already assembled to prevent the neo-Nazis from being heard.  “I was alive in 1937, I saw what the Nazis did, and it is my obligation to come here and say it and to support the action by the German government,” said Senator Karel Schwarzenberg, descendent of a long line of Bohemian aristocrats. Ivona Novomestska, a 22-year-old student at Charles University, said she felt obligated to protest against the neo-Nazi demonstration because “although their numbers are very small, if we all ignore them, they could get a lot bigger.” The counterprotesters carried banners with slogans such as “he who hasn’t learned from history is forced to repeat it.” Ludmila Hellerova, 77, a Holocaust survivor who was carrying an Israeli flag, walked into the neo-Nazi throng, saying neo-Nazism leads to Nazism and Nazism leads to the Holocaust. The young people turned their backs to Hellerova and shouted at her to shut up.

Leo Pavlat, director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, said during the event that he felt encouraged that so many prominent personalities and journalists showed up for the counterprotest. “It shows that Czechs don’t think of this as a Jewish question anymore,” he said. There was unprecedented media coverage discussing the planned neo-Nazi demonstration on all three national television stations and in the leading daily newspapers, which carried editorials denouncing what they called the misuse of freedom-of-speech advocacy. The neo-Nazis have gatherings on Czech national holidays at least twice a year, but only once before have they tried to express a specific political message. In 2003 they sought to march through Prague’s Jewish Quarter to protest what they called the Israeli Holocaust against the Palestinians, but Prague authorities steered them into a another part of town. Johana Lomova, spokesman for the League Against Anti-Semitism in Prague, says the counterprotest was “the first time that the public, the common people said, openly without any problem, that they disagree” with neo-Nazis. “It is something very new. Also the police showed they can be proactive,” she added. Following a dramatic increase in the number of neo-Nazi concerts in the Czech Republic this year, the police have faced harsh criticism from politicians and even the foreign minister for failing to prevent the gatherings or make arrests. The rally was led by the National Resistance, the country’s most visible neo-Nazi organization. In response to a letter by the Federation of Jewish Communities stating that the neo-Nazis should not be allowed to demonstrate, Prague city officials said they could not prevent the neo-Nazis from gathering, but the police, who were out in force, did make two arrests. Holocaust denial is illegal in the Czech Republic, as it is in Germany, and the mostly young and male protesters were careful to emphasize that they were demonstrating “solely in the name of freedom of speech, a freedom Zundel has been denied,” said a neo-Nazi supporter. He refused to give his name but said he was a 22-year-old university student from Prague. Asked repeatedly by JTA if he thought the Holocaust had not occurred, he refused to answer.

Meanwhile, there was some debate among counterprotesters who were concerned about free speech and asked whether it was wise for the counterprotesters to continually shout down the neo-Nazis, who unsuccessfully tried to make their speeches heard through the din of whistling and shouting. Their pamphlet argued that Zundel’s incarceration without trial was counter to Europe’s commitment to human rights. “Listen, I know what the neo-Nazis are all about and I don’t want them gathering about anything,” said one protester against the neo-Nazis who asked to remain anonymous. “But the truth is I think the treatment of Zundel has not been fair.” In contrast, an Auschwitz survivor, 84-year-old Jan Fischer, told JTA during the counterprotest that no one has the right to promulgate a lie. “How did these kids become such idiots?” he said, rolling up his sleeve to show his concentration camp tattoo.
© JTA News

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FAR-RIGHT CLAIMS RUSSIAN HOLIDAY

More than 1,000 ultra-nationalists have marched through central Moscow to mark a new national holiday that has left many Russians bewildered.

4/11/2005- The Day of People's Unity was created last year after the parliament scrapped the 7 November public holiday marking the 1917 Bolshevik uprising. The new 4 November holiday marks the end of Polish occupation in 1612. The Moscow demonstrators used the occasion to chant "Russia against occupiers!" and "Russia for Russians!" Correspondents say polls show only 8% could name the new holiday, while more than 60% opposed dropping Revolution Day. The Soviet-named anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution was celebrated for more than 80 years - albeit renamed as the Day of Reconciliation and Accord after the collapse of communism. The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says the Kremlin may have wanted the new holiday to boost patriotism, but in Moscow it risked becoming a day of nationalist fervour. Swastikas and Nazi salutes were seen among the crowd who carried banners proclaiming the supremacy of the Russian nation. Elsewhere in Russia the new holiday was a low-key affair, devoid of parades or fly-pasts, our correspondent reports.

Communist anger
Human rights activists have urged the Russian authorities to do more to counter a rise in xenophobia. The old communist-era holiday was on 7 November - but now that will be a normal working day. Moscow's liberation from Polish invaders was achieved in 1612 by a volunteer army raised by a prince and a merchant from the city of Nizhny Novgorod. But the decision to lose the old holiday has angered communists, who have called it a crime against history. Historian Yury Afanasyev went further, telling the Novyye Izvestia newspaper: "This holiday will never help unify society. On the contrary, it will lead to discord and aggravate Russo-Polish relations."
© BBC News

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RIOTING AT LINKÖPING NAZI DEMO(Sweden)

29/10/2005- Around 100 people have been arrested after rioting broke out in Linköping during a neo-Nazi demonstration, police have said. One person was charged with intention to assault. A large group of demonstrators from Anti Fascist Action (AFA) had also gathered in the town, 200 kilometres south of Stockholm, in response to the demonstration. Riot police have been brought in from Stockholm and regular police from the neighbouring Sörmland and Jönköping counties. It was unclear at the time of writing whether police in Linköping would require further reinforcements. At 1pm, a march which the National Socialist Front had permission to hold had not been able to start. The neo-Nazis gathered in Borggården where the march was due to start. "We have a large group of AFA activists 30-40 metres away from them, and we're trying to keep them apart," police spokeswoman Pia Thevselius told TT. The neo-Nazis have permission to demonstrate, but AFA does not have authorisation. The 100 or so activists that have been arrested were anti-fascist counter-demonstrators, Thevselius told news agency TT. They were taken by bus to Linköping's police headquarters. Police in Linköping warned the general public to stay away from the town centre. Several groups, including the National Socialist Front and several left-wing groups have permission to demonstrate. At lunchtime on Saturday the situation was described as very tense. "It is a very threatening situation now, and we're trying to control it," Thevselius told TT at 12.30. A policeman was robbed during the riots, Thevselius said. Local paper Östgöta Correspondenten says the policeman was attacked with a knife and his police radio stolen. The paper also says activists threw bottles at the policeman. Several streets in Linköping have been sealed off.
© The Local

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UNDER INVESTIGATION IN SWEDEN, FORMER KU KUX KLAN LEADER LASHES BACK

1/2/2005- Former Ku Kux Klan leader and presidential candidate David Duke said he was "shocked" that Swedish authorities are investigating whether he violated racism laws in a speech that he says simply promoted "a lot of passion and love for European heritage." Duke - chafing after Sweden's chief prosecutor ordered police to reopen a probe of whether he made racist remarks during a February speech to a gathering of what authorities said were neo-Nazis in southern Sweden - said that the claims were an attack on his freedom of expression. Duke said that if he was charged, he would "come back and challenge this." Duke denied that there was anything inflammatory about the speech, telling The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday night that "there was nothing hateful about it. ... It condemns violence in any way." "It's absolutely a speech with a lot of passion and love for European heritage, in particular the heritage of the people of Sweden, which is under threat from massive non-European immigration," Duke said, speaking from Kiev, Ukraine, where he is teaching history and international relations at the private Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, known by its Ukrainian acronym, MAUP. The preliminary complaint against the former Louisiana state representative, filed by a Swedish man, had been dropped because he lives in the United States. But chief prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem said he ordered the case reopened because "if he has committed a crime, it would be wrong to let him go free." Alhem said police would look into whether Duke can be tried for "agitation against an ethnic group," a crime punishable in Sweden by up to four years in prison. It was unclear if Sweden would seek his extradition.

Duke, who visited Sweden several times in 2004 and this year, contested the allegations, saying that the accusations against him are tantamount to "an attack on the human and civil rights of the Swedish people. It hits at the freedom of speech at its core." Duke, whose vocal opposition to immigration and his pointed remarks about Jews and other ethnic and religious groups have earned him a reputation as a white supremacist, said that as "an American, I'm shocked that Sweden apparently has laws against freedom of speech." "They're saying it's somehow an agitation against Jews," said Duke. "What is does is expose the racist position of extremist Jews, what I call Jewish supremacists who support the apartheid state of Israel." But he said he believes that once officials take a closer look at the speech, no charges will be filed. Still, he said, he would not back away from a fight. "If they chose to charge me, and they want to make an international issue of the oppression of free speech in Sweden, I will come back and challenge this," said Duke. "I will not run away from this. ... It's about the right of the Swedish people to hear a different view." Duke rose to prominence in the United States after winning a state House seat in suburban New Orleans in 1989, despite his past as a Klan leader and avowed neo-Nazi. Distancing himself from overtly racist views, he made the runoff for governor in 1991, alarming anti-racist organizations and drawing worldwide media attention to Louisiana. He was soundly beaten in the runoff by Edwin Edwards, made a poor showing in 1992 presidential primaries and failed to make the runoff in a later race for Congress. In 2002, Duke pleaded guilty to bilking his supporters and cheating on his taxes, and spent a year in federal prison, but later denied any wrongdoing.
© Associated Press

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ANTI-RACISM ORGANISATION FACES FUNDING CUT(Sweden)

31/10/2005- Despite the fact that no financial irregularities have been found at the Centre Against Racism, Sweden's Board of Integration wants the funding it receives from the state to be reconsidered. The Centre, which is an umbrella organisation for the government's work against racism, hit the headlines in the summer after an investigation by daily paper Svenska Dagbladet. The organisation was accused of being wasteful with public money and of doing nothing since it was formed in the autumn of 2003. Indeed, the only high profile achievement of the Centre was its controversial criticism in April of the promotion of an ice cream which it deemed to be racist. It slammed GB Glace for associating its new 'Nogger Black' ice cream with black youth culture, including using graffiti-style writing in the ad. Many representatives of the Centre Against Racism rejected Svenska Dagbladet's criticism but Minister for Integration Jens Orback demanded an inquiry into the organisation's affairs. This has now been produced by an independent auditing firm which said that the accounting and financial routines "have generally worked satisfactorily". Nor did the firm see anything wrong with the Centre Against Racism's expenditure of 330,000 kronor on furniture and interior design at its 180 square metres of office space in central Stockholm, saying that it was "not in an especially luxurious style". But at the same time, the auditor noted that board-level conflicts had negatively affected the Centre Against Racism's work. There was also criticism of some "technical errors in the book-keeping" and a lack of knowledge of its members. In response, the Board of Integration has said that the state funding which the organisation receives is too large in relation to the work it is expected to do. The government has set aside a total of 5.5 million kronor for the Centre Against Racism for 2005. A more conclusive report on the organisation will be submitted in the spring of 2006.
© The Local

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NEO-NAZI TRANSLATION CONFUSING YOUTH(Norway)

A growing number of young Norwegians doubt the truth of the Holocaust after a website has begun translating neo-Nazi propaganda.

31/10/2005- "We are contacted by desperate parents and teachers who find that children and adolescents deny the Holocaust after having read Nazi propaganda from (Norwegian neo-Nazi group) Vigrid on the Internet," Henrik Kunde, information leader and researcher at the Anti-racist center, told newspaper Dagsavisen. Vigrid and their leader Tore W. Tvedt try to convince readers that the killing of millions of Jews by the Germans during the second world war is a bluff, and the presentation of arguments in Norwegian is something new. "There is a great deal of Holocaust denial literature on the Internet, but until recent this was in English and so less accessible for the young. By translating some of this to Norwegian it seems that Vigrid has found its niche," Lunde told the newspaper. The Mosaic Religious Community is concerned about the development. "Probably not so many youngsters let themselves be fooled. But Vigrid beginning to use Holocaust denial and the registration of an increase in the number of young who believe this propaganda is very worrying," said Anne Sender, director of the MRC.
© Aftenpost

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PUSH TO FIND MISSING IMMIGRANTS(Norway)

Police say they will now step up efforts to find illegal immigrants. In the past four years over 20,000 persons have left Norwegian asylum reception centers and vanished.

4/11/2005- In 2002 police estimated that about 4,000 persons were living in Oslo illegally, newspaper Dagsavisen reports. Since then, new figures from the UDI (Directorate of Immigration) indicate that 20,530 persons have disappeared from asylum centers. Director Paula Tolonen at the UDI's asylum division told Dagsavisen that most of these have probably returned home or moved on to apply for residency in another country, but police believe that there are still many living illegally here. "It is no coincidence that so many disappear just before their application is rejected. There is reason to believe that there is a significant number living here 'underground'. It is both a societal and a security problem," police commissioner Arne Jørgen Olafsen of the PU (Police Immigration Unit) told the newspaper. So far this year the UDI has decided on around 1,000 deportations. Oslo police have expelled over 300. The deportations apply to foreigners who have committed serious crimes, persons without legal residence discovered during police controls, or those who commit minor crimes such as petty theft.


© Aftenpost

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UN CREATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY

The UN's General Assembly has passed a resolution designating 27 January as the annual Holocaust memorial day.

1/11/2005- The resolution rejects any denial that the mass murder of six million Jews and other victims by Nazi Germany during World War II took place. It stresses the duty to remember and educate future generations about the lessons of the genocide. Assembly President Jan Eliasson said the Holocaust was a "unifying historic warning around which we must rally". The resolution, proposed by Australia, Canada, Israel, Russia and the US, was adopted by consensus. Israel's UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman thanked the assembly for approving "this unprecedented resolution". "The UN bears a special responsibility to ensure that... this tragedy will forever stand as a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice," he said. Stephen Smith, chair of the UK's Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, welcomed the announcement that the UN had "recognised the importance of the Holocaust and its salutary lesson". "Hopefully the UN will also be resolved in exercising its will in preventing the repetition of genocide in Darfur," he said. "There is no more meaningful act of memorial than applying the lessons of the Holocaust in practice."
© BBC News

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DOWN WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

By David Rieff, author of At the Point of a Gun: Democratic Dreams and Armed Intervention and the acclaimed A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis.

31/10/2005- The relationship between the United Nations and the human-rights movement has always been ambiguous. On the one hand, human-rights ideology – and it is an ideology, every bit as much as Communism was or neo-liberalism is today – is profoundly legalist, claiming legitimacy from treaties and other international and national instruments. These include, as “first among equals,” the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The modern human-rights movement was born out of the UN, and in many ways it has never entirely left home. On the other hand, the UN is more a bully pulpit for the promulgation of the high ideals of human rights, equality, and personal and economic freedom than it is a way station on the road to world government (no matter what some conservative extremists in the United States imagine). Indeed, at its institutional core, the UN is an inter-governmental body whose officials, from the most junior staffer to the Secretary General, serve at the pleasure of its member states – above all, its powerful member states. As a result of this profound contradiction between ambition and mandate, the UN often seems to impede the advance of human-rights goals as much as it realizes them.

Doubters need only recall the unwillingness of Secretary General after Secretary General, from U Thant to Kofi Annan, to meet with – or, in some cases, even to permit on the UN’s premises – victims of human rights violations who had the misfortune of being born in powerful countries. For all the UN’s intellectual commitment to the furtherance of human rights, it knows better than to incite the displeasure of the Chinese or the Russians by receiving activists from Tibet or Chechnya. In fairness, no UN Secretary General has paid greater homage to the ideals of the human-rights movement, or attempted, at least rhetorically, to associate the UN with those ideals, than Kofi Annan. Rhetoric is not reality, of course, and the UN’s declarations have often seemed far removed from its daily practice. But words are not without consequences, and there is little question that human rights has occupied a higher place in international deliberations during Annan’s tenure than ever before. Moreover, Annan’s appointee as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, former Irish President Mary Robinson, was instrumental in many developing countries’ adoption of a human-rights agenda, which previously was often viewed as a flag of convenience for Western meddling.

People close to Annan say that he hoped to build on these successes during the UN’s recently concluded summit. In March, he wrote that “the Organization [must] take the cause of human rights as seriously as those of security and development.” Among his key proposals was the replacement of the largely discredited UN Commission on Human Rights – a body that has no mechanism for excluding even notorious human-rights violators like Libya, Cuba, or Zimbabwe – with a new Human Rights Council, where such embarrassments would in theory not be tolerated. It is generally agreed that the summit was largely a failure. Annan himself conceded as much in the speech he gave at the opening of the 60th UN General Assembly. There are many reasons for this. There was the US government’s eleventh-hour decision to table hundreds of objections to the final Summit Declaration, effectively reducing it to a series of lowest-common-denominator platitudes. There was also skepticism among developing countries about whether a stronger UN commitment to human rights was what Annan claimed it to be or, instead, merely a moral flag of convenience – or worse, a legal warrant for Western military intervention.

A great deal of attention has been paid to the stratagems of John Bolton, the fiercely anti-UN diplomat whom President Bush recently appointed US ambassador to the UN, and rightly so. But what has tended to get lost in these discussions are the malign synergies between a Third World suspicious that so-called humanitarian interventions are only colonialism redux and a unilateralist US administration wedded to the concept of pre-emptive war against enemies that it equates with states that violate human rights. Because the Bush administration, as its officials repeatedly insist, placed the installation of democratic, human-rights-oriented regimes, by force if necessary, at the core of US foreign policy, those who see only aggressive imperialism in America’s interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq view human rights in a more skeptical light. In a sense, the UN, Annan, and the human-rights activists who have been perhaps his biggest backers, are caught in the crossfire.

All of this brings to mind one of the great Spanish director Luis Buñuel’s late films. The pre-credit sequence shows a group of Spanish guerrillas during the insurgency against Napoleon being led to a wall where they are to be executed by firing squad. At the head of the firing party, a French soldier carries the Tricolor forward. On it are the great words, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” The guerrillas are led to the wall, and, just as the soldiers are raising their guns to their shoulders, one insurgent shouts, “Down with liberty!” We have not progressed very far, it seems.
© Project Syndicate

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