NEWS - Archive November 2006

Headlines 24 November, 2006

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Kristallnacht commemoration 2006

Headlines 10 November, 2006

Headlines 3 November, 2006

Headlines 24 November, 2006

FEW TAKE OATH OF CITIZENSHIP(Norway)

Only around 10 percent of immigrants who become naturalized Norwegian citizens are opting to take a voluntary oath of citizenship. Ceremonies around the oath are being reinstated next month.

20/11/2006- Norway used to require its naturalized citizens to pledge allegiance to their new country, but the practice was dropped around 30 years ago. Now it's been reinstated on a voluntary basis, with Norwegian officials inviting new citizens to the first of the country's new naturalization ceremonies on December 17. It's up to each new citizen to decide whether they want to accept the invitation to their local ceremony. Those who do accept, however, will be required to take the oath of citizenship, vowing loyalty to Norway and Norwegian society, support for democracy and human rights, and respect for the country's laws. The ceremonies will also feature some speeches and cultural entertainment, and end with the singing of the national anthem.

Poor turnout
A total of 1,252 persons were invited to naturalization ceremonies around the country. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported Monday that only 10 percent of those invited to the ceremony for new citizens in Oslo and Akershus, which will be held in Oslo's landmark City Hall, have accepted the invitation. In Vest-Agder County, in southern Norway, 29 percent accepted. It's unclear why the pending turnout is so low, but some new citizens think those inviting could have done a better job of informing them what it's all about. The invitation that came to the Abdulla family from Iraq nearly got tossed out in a pile of other mail, but all four members who came to Norway as refugees seven years ago have accepted it, and say they know of other earlier immigrants who would have liked to participate in such an event.

'Exciting'
Tatiana A Ingolvsen, who moved to Norway from Russia five years ago, has also accepted the invitation and is looking forward to the ceremony in City Hall. "I will gladly participate, it's exciting," she told newspaper Aftenposten. "I think it's wonderful that the Norwegian authorities are doing this for us." Ingolvsen said she thinks the ceremony will help her feel more integrated in Norwegian society, and that taking the oath will make her feel "almost Norwegian." She said the ceremony itself will be like a party, for both herself and her Norwegian husband.
© Aftenpost

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SENATOR ACCUSED OF RACISM COULD PLAY ROLE IN GOVT FORMATION(Czech Republic)

21/11/2006 - Just three weeks ago Jiri Cunek was fighting off accusations of racism, when - as mayor of Vsetin - he moved Romany rent-defaulters out of the town. But now Mr Cunek, who is also a senator, could become an important player in talks to form a new government - if he is elected chairman of the Christian Democrats. Jiri Cunek has been mayor of the Moravian town of Vsetin for eight years and is said to be one of the most popular figures in the region. He was re-elected mayor with a strong majority in October, when he also became senator for the Vsetin region. Mr Cunek's popularity seems partly based on his strong stand against Romany rent-defaulters in Vsetin, who he forced out of rundown flats in the town centre and into portacabins. Mr Cunek described this as cleaning or removing an "ulcer". There was some criticism of the language used and actions taken by Mr Cunek; several senior members of his party the Christian Democrats distanced themselves from the senator, saying his actions went against party principles. However, the dispute does not seem to have put too great a dent in Jiri Cunek's chances of becoming chairman of the Christian Democrats, when they hold an extraordinary meeting in Brno in just under three weeks' time. Commentators say he is popular within the party as well as with voters.
Mr Cunek, who a decade was working as a safety control officer in a factory, officially announced his candidature for the top party post on Monday. But he seems to already be thinking ahead. Last week he held talks with Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek, though neither participant is willing to say exactly what they discussed. In the on- and ongoing saga of the search for a new government, one of the latest models of cabinet being discussed would feature the Civic Democrats, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, and would be formed after the latter's party conference. Mr Cunek says such a coalition should be for just one year, and only come into being at all if it agrees on a reform programme. Otherwise, he says, it would be better to create some form of minority cabinet. But unlike the last chairman of the Christian Democrats, Miroslav Kalousek, Mr Cunek says he would not take part in a minority coalition with the Social Democrats supported by the Communists.
© Radio Prague

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WEF RANKS MALTA POORLY IN GENDER EQUALITY

22/11/2006 - A World Economic Forum (WEF) study on gender equality released yesterday ranks Malta in 71st place out of a total of 115 countries, representing 90 per cent of the world’s population. The study, which finds Scandinavian countries the most progressive in the world when it comes to equality of the sexes, gauges four separate criteria of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival. It was in the area of educational attainment that Malta scored most favourably, coming in 25th place, but this was offset by a dismal ranking in the area of economic participation and opportunity, where Malta was ranked 91st of the 115 countries. Elsewhere, Malta scored mid-range in the area of political empowerment (48th) and in health and survival, where Malta was placed 65th. Going into the components of the economic participation and opportunity criterion, Malta was given a 100th placing for female labour force participation, 89th for income, 75th for women working as legislators, senior officials and managers, 71st for professional and technical workers and 34th for wage equality for similar work. Malta’s 91st-place ranking in economic participation and opportunity comes after a study by Malta’s National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) in September, which had taken into account a different set of criteria.

The study found that men earn higher wages than women, regardless of their level of education, job level or basis of employment. In the gender pay review portion of the NCPE study, it was found that men with a primary level of education earned an average salary of Lm363 per month, as against the female average of Lm267. Post secondary findings, meanwhile, showed respective salaries of Lm427 and Lm331 per month. The NCPE study had also pointed out that, in most cases, neither men nor women negotiated their pay but rather salaries were established either by the employer or through an agreement with trade unions. On educational attainment, Malta scored first, and attained complete equality in terms of literacy, as well as in enrolment in secondary and tertiary education. In the political empowerment criteria, Malta was placed 88th in terms of having female parliamentarians, 43rd for women holding ministerial positions and 13th, thanks to former president Agatha Barbara, in terms of having female heads of state in the last 50 years. Placing Malta’s ranking in a European Union context, Malta was ranked 23rd of the EU25 and ninth of the EU10. Only Italy and Cyprus received poorer rankings than Malta, with respective placements of 77th and 83rd. Outside the EU, countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia and Mongolia were all ranked considerably higher than Malta. Sweden, Norway and Finland were the top three in the WEF rankings, followed by Iceland, Germany, the Philippines, New Zealand, Denmark, the UK and Ireland. The WEF added that the nations studied had, on average, closed about 90 per cent of the gender gap in education and health but only 50 per cent in economic participation and opportunity, and 15 per cent in political empowerment.
© Malta Independent

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11 TEENAGERS DETAINED IN MOSCOW OVER RACE HATE ATTACK

22/11/2006 - Russian police have detained 11 teenagers for beating an immigrant from former Soviet Kyrgyzstan with metal chains, the Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday quoting a spokeswoman for the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office. The group attacked 23-year-old Chingiz Kailypov, now in a coma, on a suburban Moscow commuter train on Sunday evening. Police are treating the attack as a racially motivated crime rather than hooliganism as previous race attacks have been termed in Russia. “In the wagon of an electrical train a group of skinheads, wearing short black jackets and long boots and shouting nationalistic slogans, attacked Kailypov with their arms, legs and metal chains,” spokeswoman Elena Rossokhina said. The attackers were all teenagers, she said, and some were younger than 16-years-old. Russia has witnessed a wave of race attacks in recent years, mainly on darker skinned immigrants from former Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus. Some victims have died.
© MosNews

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SKINHEADS BEAT MAN ON TRAIN(Russia)

22/11/2006 - A group of skinheads severely beat a Kyrgyz man on a commuter train outside Moscow, the latest in a wave of attacks on dark-skinned foreigners, police officials said Tuesday. Chingiz Kailypov, 23, was on a commuter train to Moscow on Sunday night when about 20 young men with closely cropped hair and wearing heavy boots started beating him with metal bars, said Tatyana Agapova, a spokeswoman for the Moscow region transportation police. Agapova said that if other passengers had not rushed to Kailypov's rescue, he could have been beaten to death. Kailypov suffered a brain injury and facial bone fractures and remains unconscious in a hospital. Officials said 11 of the attackers, all Moscow students aged 17 and 18, had been detained and a criminal investigation had begun. Instead of calling it hooliganism, as has been the case with many previous assaults on dark-skinned people, authorities are treating the attack as a racially motivated crime, Itar-Tass reported. Russia has seen an increase in hate crimes against dark-skinned foreigners, Jews and immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus. This year, 39 people have been killed in apparent hate crimes and a further 308 attacked, according to the Sova rights center, which monitors xenophobia. Also on Tuesday, St. Petersburg prosecutors filed an appeal against last month's acquittal of 17 people in the killing of a Vietnamese student two years ago, said a spokeswoman for city prosecutors. The 20-year-old student of a St. Petersburg institute was beaten and stabbed on Oct. 13, 2004. His death prompted protests from hundreds of Vietnamese and other Asian students.
© The Moscow Times

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KREMLIN OFFICIAL SAYS XENOPHOBIA COULD DESTROY RUSSIA

20/11/2006 - Xenophobia could destroy Russia unless it is countered by law enforcement and education, a senior Kremlin official told an analytical weekly Monday. Xenophobia has taken on alarming dimensions in Russia, with a wave of brutal race-hate crimes sweeping the country in the past few years. "Ethnic criminal groups and the xenophobia they engender could destroy multiethnic Russia unless they are defeated by the justice system, education and successful development," Vladislav Surkov, deputy chief of the Kremlin administration, told Expert magazine. Surkov said criminal networks, above all terrorist ones, had infected many people of various ethnic origins, including ethnic Russians, with xenophobia, the weekly reported. Russians, mainly in large cities, have grown particularly guarded about migrant workers flooding in from provincial areas with lower living standards and from poor ex-Soviet republics. "Charlatans who promote the benefits of ethnic isolation want to force Russians out of a multi-ethnic Russia," Surkov said. He called on locals and their migrant "guests" to act within the law and show mutual respect. The problem attracted widespread attention in early September when local residents rioted after two Russians were killed in an inter-ethnic brawl at a restaurant allegedly owned by Chechens in northwest Russia. The local community accused authorities of failing to protect them or safeguard their interests, and of accepting bribes from criminal immigrant groups.

Surkov turned to history and said that Russia's greatest political projects, such as the Christian idea of a Third Rome or the Socialist Third International, had been open to people of different ethnic origins. "We have every right to be, and will be, proud of all the best we have inherited from the [Russian] Empire and the Soviet Union, including a unique understanding between the Orthodox Church and the Islamic Community, and with other confessions," he said. A recent string of attacks on foreign students has cast a shadow over such Russian cities as St. Petersburg and Voronezh, about 310 miles south of Moscow, which have traditionally been a popular destination for foreign undergraduates. In St. Petersburg alone, a student from Senegal was killed in April and a nine-year-old girl of mixed Russian-African origin stabbed in early 2006. A nine-year-old Tajik girl died of stab wounds in February 2004 when a group of young men attacked her, her father and an 11-year-old cousin. Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said last week that 150 extremist groups, in particular race-hate groups, with a total membership of around 10,000 were operating in Russia.
© RIA Novosti

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MUSLIM OFFICER TO SUE SCOTLAND YARD FOR RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION(uk)

24/11/2006 - A father of five firearms officer was barred from his elite protection unit because of allegations that his children were being taught by an imam who, the police allege to be extremist. Private Constable Amjad Farooq, 39, is suing Scotland Yard for racial and religious discrimination after being removed from Scotland Yard’s Diplomatic Protection Group (S016) (DPG) which guards dignitaries. He used to work as a firearm officer with the Wiltshire Constabulary before his promotion. PC Farooq was told in December 2003 that he had failed counter-terrorism check (CTC), after having worked for the DPG for six weeks. It has been alleged that two of his sons, aged nine and eleven, attended his local Jamia Mosque in Swindon, Wiltshire, and studied under an imam allegedly connected to a suspected extremist group. The imam left the mosque three years ago after a dispute with the committee and another imam. Joint Secretary of the Mosque, Azim Khan, told The Muslim News that he has known PC Farooq since he was a young child. “He would not hurt a fly. The allegations are silly. It is a complete mystery to me,” he said.

Khan said that many children were taught by that Imam and “we make sure that nothing untoward is taught. We supervise the teachings.” He was surprised when the police said the Imam was connected to terrorism. “We found nothing wrong with the Imam. We were surprised and shocked at the allegations. If he has committed any crime why hasn’t he been arrested?” He was outraged and asked, “What kind of logic is the police using that a father is being punished because his children were taught by an imam disliked by them?”
A worshipper at the Mosque told The Muslim News that the allegations were “just an excuse for the police as they don’t like practising Muslims guarding politicians at a time of war against Iraq.” He added that the worshippers at the Jamia Mosque “were surprised that the imam was accused of being an extremist. It is just pathetic, the imam cannot speak proper English, how could he communicate to the young children who speak English?” Khan believes PC Farooq has been discriminated against “because he is a Muslim.” PC Farooq and his family have moved to Gloucester. The Scotland Yard, justifying its decision told The Muslims News that “the decisions taken in this particular case are entirely proportionate, defendable and justified. We carry out appropriate vetting of officers and staff throughout their careers. The level of vetting increases according to the sensitivity of the roles that officers and staff have to perform.”
© The Muslim News

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'STATE RACISM' AS RUSSIA BANS FOREIGNERS FROM JOBS

The Russian government has been accused of state-sponsored racism after it approved laws banning non-Russians from several key sectors of the economy. From January, foreigners will not be allowed to sell alcohol or medicine, and from April they will be banned from working in the retail sector. The ban extends to Russia's indoor and outdoor food and clothing markets, as well as to thousands of roadside kiosks selling anything from newspapers to cosmetics. The jobs affected are typically low paid and are often done by immigrants from the former Soviet republics such as Tajikistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Nobody knows precisely how many people will be forced out of work, but the figure is estimated to be at least one million people. Mikhail Fradkov, the Prime Minister, said the ban was needed to protect the rights of ethnic Russians who have complained of being squeezed out of the retail sector by immigrants. President Vladimir Putin has hailed the new measures as "a correct decision", arguing that Russia is not suffering from a labour shortage in the retail sector so does not need to rely on foreign workers. With crunch parliamentary elections looming next year, the Kremlin is also keen to be seen to be in touch with popular sentiment. The new laws follow controversial comments from the deputy head of the Russian Migration Service. Vyacheslav Postavnin was quoted yesterday as saying that it was a good idea to keep the numbers of non-Russians in any given region below 20 per cent of the overall population. "If the norm is exceeded, it will make the indigenous population feel uncomfortable. As a rule people who come to such districts do not assimilate. They begin living by their own rules," he said. Activists are warning that nationalism is on the march and accuse the state of pandering to racists. Sova, an organisation that monitors racist violence, says there have been 39 racist murders this year so far and 300 attacks. 
© Rusnet

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TOASTS TO TOLERANCE AS A TEENAGER DIES(Russia)

18/11/2006- Some 80 people from different ethnic groups and nationalities sat down to a sumptuous meal at City Hall on Thursday in an attempt to set a new world record and to celebrate the United Nation's International Day for Tolerance. But as they toasted friendship between peoples, news came that an Armenian teenager had been battered to death in the Moscow region. Narek Kocharyan, 15, was assaulted Saturday by a group of young men who beat him, stabbed him several times and strangled him, the Union of Armenians in Russia said Thursday. A bandanna decorated with a skull and crossbones found at the scene suggested that Kocharyan's attackers belonged to an ultranationalist group, the Union of Armenians in Russia said in a statement posted on its web site. It also complained that law enforcement officials were investigating the killing as a simple case of manslaughter rather than a hate crime. "Our esteemed guardians of law and order believe the killing was inadvertent after a man was repeatedly kicked in the head, strangled and stabbed," the statement said. "And not a word about a racial motive for the attack." Critics say the government's response to rising extremism has been inadequate. Supreme Court Chief Justice Vyacheslav Lebedev, speaking before the State Duma on Wednesday, said only six criminal cases related to extremism had gone to court in 2005. Police and prosecutors routinely disregard racial motives when investigating such crimes because they can be difficult to prove in court. Vladimir Slutsker, deputy chairman of a joint commission on nationalities policy affiliated with the Federation Council, said Thursday that the current law on extremism was adequate for dealing with "any manifestation of ethnic tension and xenophobia." The problem, Slutsker said, is that law enforcement avoids enforcing the law. "This is the most direct path to the disintegration of this country," he said.

The Sova think tank says 39 people have died in hate crimes this year, 28 of them in Moscow, and more than 300 people have been injured. The vast majority of the attacks were carried out by skinheads, Sova's director Galina Kozhevnikova said. Back at City Hall, the organizers of the record attempt did their best to maintain a festive atmosphere. State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky was the guest speaker at the banquet, which was organized by the Moscow Association of Entrepreneurs. The event was designed to break the world record for the most ethnic groups seated around a dinner table, as well as to highlight Moscow's multiethnic population. Zhirinovsky was a somewhat surprising choice, since his Liberal Democratic Party of Russia has often been accused of inciting racial hatred, but the politician, a skilled chameleon, was on his best behavior. When asked about immigration policy, he said: "Anyone who wants to come to Russia can come." Zhirinovsky also apologized to Aslanbek Aslakhanov for comments he made previously about Chechens. Aslakhanov, an ethnic Chechen, advises President Vladimir Putin on ethnic relations. Zhirinovsky blamed his Soviet education. "We weren't taught that they were also citizens." With the tables piled high with food and drink, the event had a Soviet feel to it as people from a host of countries and ethnic backgrounds raised their glasses and toasted interethnic harmony.  The event was first held in Sweden in 2002, when 29 different nationalities shared a sauna together in the town of Halmstaad and set a world record. Last year, Moscow broke the record with representatives of 57 ethnic groups and nationalities gathered around a table.  The lighthearted tone of the event could not conceal participants' concern about the increasing frequency of hate crimes in this country.

"Things have gotten worse," said organizer Oleg Goryunov, who once built a giant pyramid out of bottle caps to get into the Guinness Book of Records. "Last year we had better relations with Georgia."  Guests bemoaned the lost era of Soviet druzhba narodov, or friendship between peoples. Ethnic harmony under the Soviets "was not a toy," Aslakhanov said. "It was real. If someone got attacked it was a state of emergency, because we were all together." Now, he said, "it happens every day." "My wife is Russian. I fear for my child growing up half-black, half-white," said one of the guests, Ugandan Ambassador Sam Barteka Sakajja. "Enough is enough. My color does not matter. It is what is in my brain," he said. "I appeal to Russia's youth to grow up and forget racism."
© The Moscow Times

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MIGRATION CHIEF CRITICIZES ETHNIC ENCLAVES(Russia)

18/11/2006- The government should not permit the creation of so-called ethnic enclaves where foreigners outnumber native Russian citizens, the Federal Migration Service chief said Thursday. The comments by Konstantin Romodanovsky came one day after the announcement of a new government policy that bars immigrants from trading at street stalls and markets. "I consider that settlements of the Chinatown-type would be unacceptable for Russia and I can assure you that there will be no such settlements," Romodanovsky told NTV television. "Migration is a very complicated matter, a universal problem that is a sensitive issue, and one must be very careful." His deputy, Vyacheslav Postavnin, said in a newspaper interview published Thursday that the concentration of foreigners in any district or region should not surpass "17 to 20 percent" of the native population, particularly if they have a different national culture and religious faith. "Exceeding this norm creates discomfort for the indigenous population," Postavnin told Vremya Novostei. According to a new Cabinet order regulating labor migration for the next year issued Wednesday, migrants would be prohibited from selling alcohol or pharmaceuticals as of Jan. 1. Foreigners should comprise no more than 40 percent of retail personnel employed outside of stores during the period ending April 1 and will not be allowed to take these jobs further on next year. President Vladimir Putin ordered his Cabinet last month to take steps to decrease the employment of foreign workers at markets, saying they were crowding out native Russian producers and retailers. Postavnin said 10 million to 12 million foreigners work in Russia, including about 7 million illegally. Each of Russia's 88 regions will be able to set quotas for the amount of foreign labor needed, he said.
© Associated Press

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HAVEL FIGHTS FOR HUMAN RTS 17 YEARS AFTER COMMUNISM(Czech Republic)

17/11/2006 - Former Czechoslovak and Czech president Vaclav Havel, a leading figure of the struggle for human rights and against the totalitarian regime, says he still feels it his duty to continue his struggle on international level. "I feel it to be my natural duty even now, when I no longer hold any political post, to commit myself in the struggle for human rights, for human freedom, for human dignity on international level," Havel said in an interview for CTK. Havel, 70, was Czechoslovak president from December 1989 to July 1992 and Czech president in 1993-2003. He is now spending the last two months of the year in New York at the invitation of Columbia University. Havel has committed himself to fighting for the observance of human rights in Burma, Belarus, Cuba and North Korea also because he knows from his own experience how important international support for the opposition is, he said. Havel said it is likewise important for support for human rights and freedoms not to be merely a formal thing that is not considered to be much serious because "barrels of oil or something like that are more important."

He said that imposing of economic sanctions on countries and launching international interventions must be considered "individually in every specific case." The reason is that sanctions "can sometimes harm only and only the nation and people the interests of whom are at stake," he said. "On principle, I believe that it is possible for man to act in defence of a suffering person, in defence of human freedom even in foreign countries. But it does not apply universally that anyone could think that someone is suffering here or elsewhere, and attack the country. It is a matter that must be weighed very sensitively in any particular case, to win international support for it, and the like," Havel said. Havel has shielded with his name in the United Nations in New York a report on human rights violations in North Korea.
The report which also Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Weisel and former Norwegian PM Kjell Magne Bondevik signed, is designed to bring the U.N. to start dealing with the issue of human rights in North Korea. Havel handed the report yesterday to Ban Ki-moon, new U.N. Secretary General, who will assume his post on January 1. "The most visible, terrible think are gulags, terrible camps, of which there are lots," Havel said. He said that "tens and tens of thousands of people and their relatives are in camps, and they are not only imprisoned there, but also tortured."

Havel said that there is another, may be even worse thing in North Korea, and it is "omniopresent fear." People are afraid to talk freely even within families. "On the basis of this general fear, it is possible to do anything, including to throw a majority of the budget into armament and to let die millions of own inhabitants of hunger," Havel said. In Belarus, "there is a sort of new post-communist model of totalitarian system that threatens in a big part of the former Soviet bloc," Havel said. He said he expects Cuba to experience a kind of transformation stage now. "Let's hope for and let's support a good development," he said. Havel said that the world has been looking for a normal, more natural order since the fall of the Iron Curtain 17 years ago. "It has not yet found it in my opinion, but many important steps towards its finding have been taken," he said. One of such steps is the enlargement of western institutions, such as NATO and the European Union. "This is an important step that co-creates the new world order," Havel said. At the same time, however, these institutions must be transformed and their mission must be changed from what it was during the existence of the bi-polar world, Havel said.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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HUNGARIAN ROMA ATTEMPT TO GAIN ASYLUM IN SWEDEN

20/11/2006 - More than one hundred Hungarians have attempted to claim asylum in Sweden over the past few weeks with more expected to follow suit, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Viktor Polgár said last Wednesday. A total of 122 Hungarians, largely from Baranya County in southwestern Hungary, have applied for political asylum so far, Polgár said. According to István Kovács, president of the Gypsy Minority Government in Mohács, the vast majority are Roma. Another group of around 30 Roma left for Malmo last Thursday.

Not eligible for aid
Swedish authorities blamed false rumours about the availability of aid for the sudden surge in claims, and warned that financial assistance would not be granted. “There is a rumour spreading over there that housing and jobs are waiting for them when they get here,” Swedish Migration Board spokeswoman Marie Andersson told the International Herald Tribune. “The board offers accommodation to asylum-seekers but it is not meant for other EU citizens.” Hungarians can travel freely to Sweden and attempt to find work, but the financial assistance handed out to those fleeing war and persecution in their own countries is not open to them. Many have warned of an upsurge in anti-Roma feeling in Hungary recently after several Roma were detained under suspicion of beating to death a schoolteacher who struck and lightly injured a young girl with his car. However, Kovács said that the Roma who were attempting to flee were not doing so out of fear of persecution. “These people do not want to leave Hungary because of persecution, but for a better life,” he told MTI news agency. Several Roma told reporters at Ferihegy airport last Thursday that they were flying to Malmo to find work and escape racism in Hungary.

Roma poverty stubborn
Many Hungarian Roma struggle to support their families, and government figures say that Roma are far less likely to finish secondary school and even have a lower life expectancy than the average. Polgár said he believed that there could be a criminal figure behind the scenes taking advantage of people’s desire to escape their impoverished lifestyles. He warned the forty other families expected to be lining up to claim asylum in Sweden that they would receive no aid and would be unlikely to find employment. “There are few jobs open to Hungarians…particularly those with no Swedish language skills,” he said. However, one of the asylum-seekers told MTI that his relatives had been living in Malmo for months and had encouraged him to come over. Swedish authorities said the requests would not be entertained, and Andersson said that so far 27 cases had been handled and not one of them had been approved.
© The Budapest Times

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SWEDEN DEMOCRATS: PAY IMMIGRANTS TO LEAVE

23/11/2006 - Immigrants should be paid to leave Sweden. That's according to new proposals from Sweden Democrat members of Malmö City Council. But Social Democrats say the proposal would be divisive. The party has proposed a range of policies to clamp down on immigrants in the Skåne region, including a total ban on immigration and to stop publicly funded integration programmes. "Nobody would be forced to leave," Sten Andersson, leader of the Sweden Democrats on Malmö Council, told The Local. The party, the fourth largest in Malmö politics, made the proposal in a submission to amend the council's budget. "This would only apply to asylum seekers, not for instance to Danes who have been here for thirty years," he said. Projects have previously existed through which immigrants who wanted to return to their countries of origin could get 30,000 kronor from the government to help them. "Thirty thousand is not enough," said Andersson, "but we haven't put a precise figure on how these grants would be."

Andersson also wants to stop government grants for immigrant groups. "We think that those who come to Sweden should be able to build whatever kind of Mosque they want, but they should pay for it themselves." Other parties on the council have rejected the idea of paying immigrants to leave. "A policy that creates a 'them' and an 'us' is nothing for us," said Daniel Persson, chief of staff for the ruling Social Democrats on Malmö Council. "This is not a surprise coming from the Sweden Democrats. They have put forward these kinds of proposals before, but they have never got this kind of attention until now. "There is unfortunately a breeding ground for political forces that do not support integration and for all people's equal worth. Fortunately there is a large majority on the council that supports a completely different kind of policy."
© The Local

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DEATH AFTER FOOTBALL MATCH SHOWS NEED TO FIGHT RACISM, ANTI-SEMITISM(France)

24/11/2006 - Violence that broke out when Paris Saint-Germain fans ganged up on a Hapoel Tel Aviv supporter — culminating in a shooting death — shows the need to crack down on racism and anti-Semitism among soccer fans, the Paris mayor said Friday. The brawl Thursday night ended with a plainclothes police officer shooting into the crowd to protect the Hapoel fan, killing one person and injuring another, police said. "The seriousness of this event confirms the absolute necessity of fighting racism and anti-Semitism among PSG fans," Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said in a statement. Delanoe said he would contact the Paris police chief and the president of PSG, which plays in the French first division, to come up with a plan to fight the problem. "I want to make sure that Paris' image and values are respected under every circumstance — there is no room for the slightest form of intolerance," Delanoe said. Hooliganism, overt racism and fan violence have plagued PSG and, more generally, French soccer — even as other countries like Britain have had considerable success in combatting such problems.

Tougher punishments for hooligans and repeated vows from French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and other politicians that soccer violence will no longer be tolerated have failed to eradicate the problem. The incident at a McDonald's fast food restaurant near the Parc des Princes stadium occurred after Hapoel Tel Aviv's 4-2 victory over PSG in a UEFA Cup match. The officer, who was not identified, was trying to protect a Hapoel Tel Aviv fan set upon by some 150 PSG supporters, police said. He lobbed tear gas when the crowd went after him then fired two shots, "having been driven into a corner," police said. The Paris prosecutor's office and the National Police General Inspection unit, which probes incidents involving law enforcement officers, were investigating, police said. French Sports Minister Jean-Francois Lamour denounced the "climate and tension at certain soccer matches." In a statement, he said the incident was "unacceptable and tainted the image of sports."
© International Herald Tribune

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LE PEN STRUGGLES TO FIND BACKERS(France)

22/11/2006 - The French far-right leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, says he is having problems gathering enough signatures to stand for the French presidency next April. Candidates must collect 500 signatures from elected local officials in at least 30 different French regions.
Mr Le Pen accused mainstream parties of exerting pressure on the local officials not to endorse him. He shocked France during the last elections in 2002 when he went through to the second round of voting. Mr Le Pen, 78, has until March to gather the signatures. But age has not diminished the far-right leader's fiery rhetoric, says the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris.

Secrecy call
At a press conference, Mr Le Pen was keen to portray himself as the victim of an "oligarch-like conspiracy between the parties in place and the state institutions to stop the candidate of national opposition from being present". He said local officials were hesitating to endorse him because they knew their names would be made public and were scared to be seen supporting his National Front. "I ask mayors to have the courage to carry out the duty assigned to them by the law," Mr Le Pen told reporters at his party headquarters near Paris. "This is about the fate of the country," he said, calling on the mayors to "overcome their reservations or fears". He also asked French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to change the rules so his supporters could remain anonymous - an idea the prime minister has rejected.

Yet it seems Mr Le Pen will have no problem persuading a significant number of people to vote for him again, says our Paris correspondent. Opinion polls show that between 11 and 15% of the French would back him as president. The far right is attracting many in France who worry about high unemployment and immigration, as well as some who are deeply disillusioned with the French political elite, our correspondent says. Some fear Mr Le Pen could go through to the second round next time too, especially if the centre-right fields more than one serious candidate, she says. The governing UMP party is expected to back Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy as its official candidate, although President Jacques Chirac has not yet ruled out standing for a third term in office.
© BBC News

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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE KILLED 100 WOMEN IN FRANCE IN 2006

22/11/2006- Close to 100 women have been killed by their partners in France since January, a government report showed Wednesday, with domestic violence claiming a woman's life on average every three days. Of the 113 domestic violence-linked killings recorded so far this year, 94 of the victims were women, according to a nationwide study /published ahead of the international day against violence towards women on Saturday. Almost half of the time, the women's deaths were linked to a break-up in their couple, and in more than half of cases the partner was unemployed. Alcohol abuse was cited as a factor in a quarter of all murders. Domestic violence also claimed the lives of 10 children under the age of six since the start of the year, according to the report, which was presented to the French cabinet on Wednesday. According to a survey published in Le Parisien newspaper, almost a third of French people claim to know at least one person they believe is, or has been, a victim of violence in the home. Three quarters believe the government needs to do more to stamp out the problem. France this year adopted a law aimed at fighting domestic violence, forced marriages and genital mutilations. The legislation introduced stiffer penalties for domestic abusers and raised the age of marital consent for women from 15 to 18. But rights group Amnesty International has urged the government to do more, and has criticising a lack of training among the police, the judiciary, doctors and social workers for tackling the problem. According to Amnesty, victims are poorly informed of their rights, and those who dare to speak out are often not given shelter and financial support to protect them from abusive partners.
© The Tocqueville Connection

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BRUSSELS-BASED NEO-NAZI ARRESTED IN FRANCE

20/11/2006- Vincent Reynouard a French neo-Nazi exiled in Brussels was arrested in France and charged of denying the Holocaust. The investigation could implicate his Belgian contacts. Reynouard moved to Brussels in 2002 to create a neo-Nazi group, 'Vision historique objective' (VHO) or objective historical perspective. This group, which principally aims to deny the Holocaust and the existence of concentration camps during WWII, is the French-speaking branch of the 'Vrij historisch onderzoek' a neo-Nazi group created in 1985 by the leaders of the Vlaams Blok, renamed the Vlaams Belang from November 2004. A leader of the Dutch VHO, Siegfried Verbeke, was also arrested on the 14 November in Courtrai and sentenced to a year in prison for denying that the holocaust took place. Now the leaders of the French-speaking branch are suffering the consequences of its hateful propaganda. Reynouard had his license revoked by 'l'Éducation nationale française' and was condemned in France for denying the massacre of 642 innocents by the SS on 10 June 1944 in Oradour-sur-Glane in the Southwest of France. However, Reynouard moved to Brussels to escape justice. Investigators were tipped off that Reynouard was back in France to hold conferences on the holocaust. The legal system caught up with him and he was arrested on 14 November while he was staying illegally in the country with neo-Nazis. He will go on trial for his neo-Nazi actions in France in a few months. Organisations rallying against racism and anti-Semitism have stated they will they will become defendants. This affair is likely to have repercussions for Reynouard's contacts in Brussels, who supported him and helped him propagate his writings. Reynouard was housed by a catholic community in Ixelles, the same community who took in Olivier Mathieu in the 90's, another French neo-Nazi.
© Expatica News

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LIFTING THE VEIL TO REVEAL TRUTH BEHIND THE FAITH(uk)

23/11/2006 - TARA BUTT has chosen her outfit carefully. She swishes by in an elegant black salwar kameez, the long silken black tunic adorned with intricate gold embroidery, and a matching scarf over her shoulders. She could just as easily have turned up in jeans and a sweater, or a skirt and blouse; or maybe she could have appeared with her dazzling smile shrouded in the hijab, or veil, which recently caused so much controversy. Clothes, so much at the heart of the recent debate about British Muslim women, are for her - like most other British women - chosen according to her mood and the occasion. "Sometimes I wear Western clothes and sometimes I wear traditional clothes," says Tara, whose family arrived in Britain from Pakistan almost 30 years ago. "The way I dress depends on how I feel and where I am going." Individual choice is a concept most people would instinctively say is a fundamental British characteristic. Yet while many Muslim women have not experienced any problems in Edinburgh, with the vast majority of people happy to live and let live, some have not been so lucky.

Like mother of three Nasim Azad, 37. "I've been called Taliban," she sighs. "You just feel it's not right. You are walking down the street and people shout 'Taliban' at you. People say to my husband 'Hey Mohammed'." Nasim, elegant in a long grey coat and matching hijab covering her hair, is sitting beside Tara in North Edinburgh Art Centre in Muirhouse. They are surrounded by several other Muslim women of varying ages. For so long a group that seemed to exist in the shadows, they have emerged blazing in their rainbow-coloured salwar kameez silks and satins, determined to spread understanding about themselves and their religion. The result is a booklet conceived in the aftermath of the London bombings, when British Muslims suddenly found themselves dragged into the heart of the terrorism melting pot.
"We had already visited St Mungo's Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow and our older members were exceptionally impressed that Islam was represented so well," says Nasim. "It made us think about what we could do, and then those terrible bombings happened. There was such a negative backlash. Human beings died, regardless of the colour of their faces - yet it felt that all Muslims were blamed."

Pride and Prejudice: Beyond the Veil, is the first booklet produced by Pakeeza ("pure") Women's Group and it is hoped it will help strengthen links between the Muslim and other communities and clear up any misunderstandings by explaining the role of women in Islam and the basics of the religion. Their appeal for racial and religious harmony couldn't be more timely, being launched against a backdrop of rising race-hate crime statistics and the distressing attack on a Sikh teenager last week in which his hair was cut. "Although most of our group members have not experienced physical or verbal attacks, this is not to say it doesn't happen," says Rubeela Umar, 29, chairwoman of the group. "In the Lothians alone there has been a 40 per cent increase in racial attacks in the last year. We constantly see and hear negative language and false images portraying Muslims. "I think it is unacceptable that people living in this country, which they feel is their own, have to deal with such discrimination."

Figures released earlier this year revealed there were 834 reported racial attacks between April 2005 and March 2006, compared with 593 the previous year. But the real figure is thought to be much higher because most racist incidents go unreported. The booklet, a 32-page guide to Islam and Muslims, could help break down barriers that lead to race crimes, says city council leader Ewan Aitken. "The most important thing is for us to learn about each other," he says. "It's extremely courageous of these women to put their heads above the parapet in this way." MSP Malcolm Chisholm, whose responsibilities include racial equality, adds: "It is particularly important that people should have the true information about Islam in order to challenge the myths and misrepresentations. "And it is important we learn to respect the different cultures and religions in Scotland." That's something 31-year-old mother-of-three Tasnim Rafiq agrees with. "We want to tackle these problems," she stresses. "We don't want to sit at the back of the bus any more. We want to stand up for what we believe in. We are asking for support and understanding." • Copies of Pride and Prejudice are available from Pakeeza Women's Group, telephone 0131-551 2197 or 0773 7514301.
© The Scotsman

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MAN JAILED FOR 7 JULY RACE ATTACK(uk)

A man has been jailed for 15 months for spitting at a Muslim woman on a train after a 7 July bombings commemoration.

Charles Adams, 23, admitted religiously aggravated assault and affray with his brother Mark Adams, 26, and father Mark Raymond Adams, 50, from London. Michelle Idrees, from Luton, was wearing a burkha when she was targeted by the father and his two sons. Adams's father received a suspended jail sentence and his brother was given 100 hours' unpaid community work.

Religious insults
Judge Mr Justice Calvert-Smith told Charles Adams: "You started this series of events off. "When, to your surprise, instead of cowering meekly at your abuse, she answered back you increased the venom of your abuse, culminating in what was a disgusting form of common assault by spitting in her face." The three men, all from Colindale,north London, had been to watch an Arsenal game when the incident took place on a Thameslink train on 14 August. The attack was said to have lasted nearly 30 minutes during which Mrs Idrees was spat at and insulted. She was returning to her home in Luton, Bedfordshire, when Charles Adams began chanting a religious song as he passed her. He then started verbally abusing her before exposing his chest to show a tattoo of three lions and saying he was of "true British blood". Mrs Idrees finally pulled the emergency cord and four passengers rang 999 as did Adams, who then told police that Mrs Idrees had a bomb on her.
© BBC News

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BA FACES BOYCOTT AS TRAVELLERS GET REALLY CROSS(uk)

24/11/2006 - British Airways faced the prospect of a growing boycott by international travellers yesterday over its refusal to allow a check-in worker to wear a small Christian cross over her uniform. An internet website was set up to co-ordinate an angry response to the airline's suspension of Nadia Eweida. And a Church of England vicar went on BBC Radio 4's Today programme to urge people to shun the airline because he said it effectively discriminated against Christians. The Rev Tony Kelso, from Matchborough, West Midlands, told The Daily Telegraph: "It is ludicrous that British Airways has the Union Flag on their tail fins which is made up of sacred crosses from our United Kingdom and yet it practises this discrimination against Christians. "They have put themselves in a massive big hole and don't know how to get out." A spokesman for the Archbishop of York, the Rt Rev John Sentamu, hinted that he might also join the boycott.

The Church believes that everyone deserves a second chance and that includes BA," the spokesman said. "There is a second appeal next month and, at the moment, the Archbishop believes that a boycott would be premature." Mr Kelso said it was "a shame" that the Archbishop did not support the boycott and even more so that the Archbishop of Canterbury flew to Rome by BA to meet the Pope on Wednesday. "From BA's point of view, they have to hope that the big Christian groups in America don't join in this boycott, but I think it is coming, they are stirring." Meanwhile, more MPs joined a formal protest at BA's position, with Ben Bradshaw, the environment minister, saying that he would not fly on the former national carrier until it reversed its decision. Jack Straw, the Leader of the Commons, joined his colleague Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, in expressing his dismay at the airline's position, although he stopped short of joining the call for an embargo.

The site www.baboycott.com encourages people to destroy their British Airways frequent flyer cards, photograph the pieces and send the image to them digitally. It also offers advice on alternative flights. Marcus Stafford, a Norfolk-based web designer who set it up, said: "This case was the last straw for me. I had just got so fed up with attacks on Englishness and Christianity that I decided to take action. "I am not an active Christian, more a cultural one, like most people in this country, but I just thought, no more." One contributor to the site wrote: "I usually use BA, but as a Christian, I have decided that if one person is being persecuted because of what she believes in, then BA have no need for my business. I have cut up my card." Ann Widdecombe, the Tory MP and former Home Office minister who has been campaigning against the airline's decision, said she was delighted that the campaign had spread to the internet. "The only way to make them listen and change their minds is through the power of the pound," she said.

"Normally, parliamentary delegations travel by air and obviously we would normally prefer to travel by British Airways, but I think we should seriously consider that and say, 'No, we don't want to fly BA'." Mr Bradshaw, who is a member of the Christian Socialist Movement, said he was taking the stance on principle. "It is a ridiculous policy to prevent someone wearing a very small crucifix," he said.
"I think what they are doing is wrong and I still hope BA will reconsider this decision. I wrote to BA when this case emerged and I wasn't satisfied with their reply. "They explained their decision but it wasn't in a way I found convincing. I am seeking to avoid using them whenever possible." Mr Straw said during Commons exchanges that he found the BA position "inexplicable". He said: "I strongly supported the right of women of the Muslim faith to wear the hijab — the headscarf — in all circumstances. I therefore find the ban on wearing a cross or indeed a Star of David in equivalent circumstances wholly inexplicable." Iain Dale, the Conservative political analyst and internet "blogger", said: "The whole thing is utterly hypocritical on BA's part and I for one don't want to fly on an airline that treats people in this way. "The adult thing to do would be to put up their hands and say 'we got it wrong', but they don't seem to want to do that."
© The Telegraph

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EXTREME GRAFFITI SPARKS RACISM FEAR(uk)

24/11/2006- Graffiti promoting far-right groups appeared in Buntingford this week, sparking fears that the town is becoming a hotbed of racial intolerance. Vandals daubed 'BNP', in reference to the British National Party, 'NF', meaning the National Front, and 'C18' for Combat 18 - the group who carried out a vicious racist attack in Buntingford in July 1993 - in red paint on road signs, walls and under the road bridge on Aspenden Road. The graffiti, which appeared on Wednesday morning, follows the formation of an East Herts BNP group the Mercury reported in September that the party had set Buntingford in its sights. Cllr Surjit Singh Basra, an Asian member of Buntingford Town Council, said: "I suspect it's just kids, but if it is the BNP then they can target Buntingford all they like. They will not find support here. "If they want a debate they can have a debate if they want a fight they can have a fight. "I have lived here since 1991 and have never had any real trouble - it's the safest place I have ever lived and I'm not worried." Cllr Pat Whittaker said that the graffiti was provocative, regardless of who did it, and that it was a warning sign that the BNP's strategy could work in Buntingford. "There's no daylight between Labour and the Conservatives at the moment "I think the BNP believe by setting themselves out as the radical party with different policies they may get some votes. "The elections are coming up next year and many people will not bother to vote so maybe they think they can sneak in through the back door." The East Herts branch of the British National Party denied any involvement with the graffiti. Spokesman Steve Johnson said: "The BNP is totally against this sort of thing. We want to keep our towns and villages nice places to live. "It is ugly and it is uncalled for and we hope that the culprits feel the full force of the law. "I should imagine it was done by some teenage yobs." Gerry Gable, of anti-Nazi magazine Searchlight, said: "Buntingford is one of a number of rural Home Counties towns that the BNP is targeting. "The BNP play on people's fear of the unknown."
© Royston and Buntingford Mercury

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LEFT OUT AND BULLIED: FOREIGN CHILDREN STRUGGLE IN CYPRUS SCHOOLS

19/11/2006- Most children of immigrants and ethnic minority groups in Cyprus schools live in social exclusion from their Cypriot classmates. This was the main conclusion to emerge yesterday from a workshop on the integration of foreign children organised by migrant support group KISA. Support groups and unions engaged in a public dialogue with state representatives and university professors, with the key participation of immigrants whose children attend Cypriot schools. Not only are foreign children not integrated in the classroom, they often suffer from racism and bullying, while there are common assumptions that children of other ethnicities are under-qualified to attend the same schools as local children. As a result, these minority groups feel an added pressure to succeed, according to Cyprus College Professor and head of the Centre for the Study of Childhood and Adolescence, Spyros Spyrou. “There are popular misconceptions, such as that the dominant group does not need to change or learn,” said Spyrou, adding that society needs to change as much as immigrants do if there is to be true integration. Spyrou presented an eye-opening study, through which a number of disturbing findings emerged, such as the fact that foreign children doing well are not praised like local children are, but usually get the blame if something bad happens. “These children are excluded from school groups and so are their parents – unofficially, but they are. “And some foreign parents don't even send their children to school because they know they are not welcome,” added Spyrou. The study was carried out on the pupils of 10 different elementary schools in Nicosia and it was centred on acquiring children’s views on foreigners. Eight out of 10 Cypriot children said they believed there were too many foreigners in Cyprus, while 39 per cent said all foreigners should go home and 46 per cent said some of them should return to their countries.

Asked what came to mind when they heard the word ‘Pontian’, the most common answer was “jokes”, while asked what they thought of when they heard the word ‘Sri Lankan’, most thought of ‘black’ with ‘domestic worker’ coming a close second.
Serious misconceptions surfaced in the personal interviews that were carried out with the pupils. One child’s response to what he thought of Sri Lankan nationals was: “They eat snakes and they are poor people.” Other responses included: “Because they have nothing much to do, they have children” and “Let’s just say I don't like blacks”. An 11-year-old boy replied: “I had a Filipino in my house; she was relatively good, she obeyed me; she was good.” Representatives from the Education Ministry, the University of Cyprus and other non-governmental organisations attended and took an active part in the discussion. Spokesmen for the Education Ministry admitted that there was still a way to go until the perfect environment was achieved for children of minority groups. But the head of the Primary Education Department pointed out that the ministry has done a lot so far. He said, among others, that the ministry had added 1,355 school periods for the benefit of foreign pupils, had created education centres for adults, had organised seminars for the re-education of teachers and had consulted the Attorney-general on the rights of foreign children in education. The workshop was organised by KISA, in co-operation with Secondary School Teachers’ union (OELMEK) and the Centre for the Study of Childhood and
Adolescence.
© Cyprus Mail

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SURGE IN RACISM AT SCHOOLS BLAMED ON 7/7 AND VEIL ROW(uk)

20/11/2006 - Racist incidents in London schools have increased by 26 per cent in just one year. Attacks on Muslim children have increased since the 7/7 bombings and the debate about the wearing of the veil has prompted further incidents. The figures include verbal and written insults, physical attacks and spreading racist material over the internet. The incidents were not confined to pupils and included parents and staff, with at least one of the reported incidents being between two members of staff. According to figures obtained by the Evening Standard using the Freedom of Information Act, the biggest jump was in Bromley where the number of racist incidents rose from 40 in the school year 2004-05 to 461 last year. Figures from the 25 councils that replied showed that citywide the number of incidents had increased from 4,066 to 5,126 in 2005-06. Schools that recorded the ethnicity of those involved showed that the majority of pupils, both victims and perpetrators, were classed as white British or black African. Professor Heidi Mirza, an expert in equality studies at the Institute of Education, University of London, said: "Islamophobia is a huge problem since the July bombings with Muslim children becoming the focus of abuse and Jack Straw's comments about women wearing a veil, which is just guarded racism, has led to Muslim girls being taunted in the playground. "Another issue is the gangs that children form which are almost always based on racial identity. It's not just black and white. In some areas you will have Somaliangangs and then, say, Nigerian gangs. "Several schools are very well integrated but a child's racial identity will develop and they will become more aware of what politicians are saying and the deeper rot that exists."
© The Daily Mail

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ROW OVER SCHOOL BAN ON MUSLIM SCARVES(uk)

A ROW has broken out after a city Catholic school refused to allow its Muslim pupils to wear headscarves in class.

Despite angry complaints from Muslim parents, St Martin de Porres School in Moseley is not backing down on the ban. Ali Naqvi's nine-year-old daughter Zainab is allowed to wear her headscarf in the playground but not during lessons. He said: "I am a priest and preach about how you should show your obedience to God wherever you are, whether you are at school or out shopping. "Zainab also believes this and wonders why she cannot wear her hajab. "I have met with governors and the headteacher twice but I was only told the policy is reviewed annually. Mr Naqvi, who lives in Hall Green, added: "I am pushing for the school to reverse its decision. This has been going on for nearly a year now. "If they refuse to change the rule I do not know what I will do because the standard of education is very good at the school and I do not want Zainab to leave there." Headteacher Jackie Tomlinson defended the school's stance on the headscarf. She said: "The school has a long-standing and successful policy which does not allow any items to be allowed on pupils' heads. "We will continue to review the policy on an annual basis." However, the headteacher of nearby Moseley Church of England School has no problems with headscarves being worn in class. Dr Julia Burton welcomed two girls who left St Martin de Porres School because of the headscarf ruling. She said: "Birmingham is such a multi-cultural place I think any school banning headscarves would be on a real sticky wicket. "It has not been a problem for us. I'm proud of the way our children accepted the girls."
© icBirmingham

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ANTI-RACIST GROUP BOYCOTT CRE RACE CONFERENCE (uk, press release)

Leading anti-racist group The 1990 Trust is boycotting a conference organised by the Commission for Racial Equality.

20/11/2006- Karen Chouhan, from the Black-led human rights charity, criticised the CRE’s event for being over-priced, and for having “inflammatory” titles for workshops. The 1990 Trust also raises concerns about the CRE’s event being sponsored by a bank with links to the slave trade. The campaigning body has joined forces with many other BME groups to organise an alternative race conference, called the Race & Faith Leadership Summit. This event will have free entry and will discuss the real concerns of Black* communities and will run on the same day as the CRE’s Race Convention. The Race & Faith Leadership Summit will take place next Monday (27th November 2006) at London’s City Hall, SE1. This event is supported by dozens of organisations including the Muslim Council of Britain, the National Black Police Association, and the public sector union UNISON. For more details, and to register, log on to: http://www.blink.org.uk/docs/rsflyer.htm  By contrast, the CRE is charging up to £700 per head for their Race Convention, putting it out of reach for most Black grassroots groups.

The CRE’s event is supposed to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1976 Race Relations Act, which established the CRE. Yet the CRE faces abolition next year, when it is merged with a super-equalities body (Commission for Equality and Human Rights, CEHR). The 1990 Trust believes the CEHR will set race relations back 30 years, as the governments’ “one size fits all” policy of lumping all equalities subjects together will mean race will be sidelined. The 1990 Trust is campaigning for the CEHR to have a statutory Race Committee and a board member with responsibility for race. Currently there is no provision for race equality in the CEHR’s structure. The appointment of current CRE chairman Trevor Phillips as the new CEHR chairman has increased fears that race will be marginalised in a hierarchy of equalities. The 1990 Trust believes the CRE’s Race Convention is sidelining the fight against institutional racism, and instead unfairly shifting the blame for problems in society onto Black* communities. In a letter to the CRE, Karen Chouhan wrote that her conscience would not allow her to attend the CRE’s conference  Chouhan wrote: ‘I am not able to participate in the CRE Race Convention because it is priced too highly and has inflammatory workshop titles like “Rivers of Blood: did Enoch Powell get it right?”
‘It is sponsored by a paper notorious for its right wing take on racism, and is sponsored by a bank that was complicit in the Slave trade.’

The CRE’s event is sponsored by Barclays Bank plc. The Barclay family has historical links to the slave trade, as merchants and owners of plantations. The Daily Telegraph is the CRE’s “media partner” despite the newspaper having a long record of promoting a discourse on race that reinforces institutional racism. Chouhan said: ‘If people want a real debate about race equality thirty years after the 1976 Act, they should come to our Race & Faith Leadership Summit. ‘Our event will be discussing strategies for achieving equality in our lifetime, not blaming Black* communities for segregation.’

Speakers at the Race & Faith Leadership Summit include: Keith Vaz MP, Peter Herbert (Society of Black Lawyers), Lee Jasper, and Massoud Shadjareh (Islamic Human Rights Commission), Keith Jarrett (National Black Police Association), Professor Tariq Ramadan and many more.

The full list of supporters for the Race & Faith Leadership Summit: The Muslim Council of Britain; Muslim Association of Britain; Operation Black Vote; National Assembly Against Racism; National Black Police Association; UNISON; Mayor of London; Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust Visionary Programme; Islamic Human Rights Commission; Respect - Prison Officers Association BME network; Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM); Black and Ethnic Minorities Infrastructure in Scotland (BEMIS); All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (AWEMA); Black Londoner's Forum; The Peepul Centre; the Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit; Diversity Centre; Camden Chinese Community Centre; Kurdish Information & Monitoring Centre; Lewisham anti-racist action group.

Full text of a letter from Karen Chouhan to Zoe Mayne, International Public Relations Officer at the CRE, dated 16th November 2006:

“Dear Zoe, with apologies I am not able to participate in the CRE race Convention this is because in my view:
1.) It is priced too highly, £700 for top rate, £528 for middle rate and £346 for supported rate which means it is a bar to ordinary people who were supposed to benefit from the Race equality legislation and the CRE
2. ) It is inflammatory in the titles it has for workshops like:
'The law and integration 'Rivers of Blood': did Enoch Powell get it right?'
'Communities - Sleepwalking to segregation: are we stirring from our slumber?'
'Lessons from around the world - Plural cities: opportunity or time bomb?'
'Migration - Free movement of people in the EU: taking stock'
'Public services - Housing policies: a gift to the far right?'
'The law and integration - the race equality duty: are we setting the bar too high?'
'Communities - Minority rights or the common good?'
3.) It does not pay enough attention to structural and economic barriers to race equality.
4.) It is sponsored by a paper notorious for its right wing take on racism.
5.) It is sponsored by a bank that was complicit in the Slave trade - which is highly in appropriate as we approach 2007 to commemorate the parliamentary abolition of slavery. The Barclay brothers, David and Alexander, who were involved in the slave trade, were merchants in the 'African Trade' and David even owned a plantation in Jamaica. After marrying into banking families they established Barclays Bank - one of the leading banks in Europe today.

I am sorry to let you down but my conscience wouldn't allow me to be two faced and hypocritical when I don't agree with what he CRE are doing nor the current prevailing political lines on race equality and cohesion and I know there are huge numbers of others in Black communities who also do not share the current discourses on race equality and particularly the demonising of Muslims. Also because a coalition of organisations including the 1990 Trust are intending to host an alternative Summit in the evening of the 27th.
For these reasons it would be wrong for me to participate
Best wishes, Karen Chouhan”
© Black Information Link

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ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION 'CRACKDOWN' (uk)

20/11/2006- Four hundred and forty police officers are being seconded to help tackle illegal immigration in the UK. They will be among 800 new immigration staff - a 25% increase in staff - unveiled by Home Secretary John Reid. The plans will allow Britons involved in people-smuggling to be arrested, firms to face larger fines, and the public encouraged to report suspects. But the Conservatives said the scheme would result in "badly-needed police officers being taken off the beat". "Over the last nine years, we have actually seen immigration officers instructed not to arrest illegal immigrants, merely to meet the prime minister's artificial targets on removing failed asylum-seekers," said shadow home secretary David Davis. "People-trafficking and all its associated evils is one of the fastest-growing and most vicious crimes, yet the government's policy so far has been one of neglect." The 400 police constables and 40 sergeants moving across to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate will be joined by 360 newly-recruited immigration officers. A Home Office spokeswoman rebuffed Mr Davis's fears, insisting: "We are very clear that we do not want this to have an impact on police officers' frontline work. "There won't be any police officers taken off the front line," she said.

Crimestoppers
Under the plans, members of the public will - for the first time - be able to report illegal workers and illegal immigrants using the free Crimestoppers telephone line from 1 January. And ministers intend to create 650 extra detention spaces for illegal immigrants by the end of 2007, possibly using prison barges which the Home Office is currently looking into buying. The government has already said it was doubling the budget for deportations to nearly £300m, and a bill tackling deportations was included in last week's Queen's Speech. The Border and Immigration Bill seeks to speed up the process of deporting criminals and tackle loopholes through which illegal immigrants enter the country. The measures are seen as a response to criticism from political opponents about a perceived failure to deport enough of those identified as being in the UK illegally. There were nearly 5,000 deportations in the last three-month period for which figures were available, which constituted a record.

'Possible discrimination'
But critics say this is nothing compared to the estimated 500,000 people who are in the UK illegally. The idea of penalising businesses did not find favour with the Immigration Advisory Service, which said firms would become "reluctant to recruit anybody". "The trouble with the provisions for civil penalties for employers is that it's going to make employers even more reluctant to recruit anybody, to employ anybody whom they think might not be lawfully entitled to work," chief executive Keith Best told BBC Radio Five Live. "I'm fearful that's going to lead to discrimination against anybody who looks as though they might be a foreigner."
© BBC News

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FAR-RIGHT BAND MEMBERS GET SUSPENDED SENTENCES FOR HATE CRIMES(Germany)

22/11/2006 - A judge on Wednesday convicted four members of the far-right German band Race War of forming a criminal organization that promoted racial hatred, handing them suspended sentences of 17 to 23 months. The defendants, aged 22 to 25, had confessed to the crime as part of a plea-bargain. All four have agreed not to make any more far-right music, the court said. Race War was formed in mid-2001. Prosecutors said it played 13 underground concerts between 2002 and 2004 in Germany and neighboring countries — events that in some cases attracted up to 1,500 people. Judge Wolfgang Kuellmer said the four — Max Hirsch, Bjoern Andrejka, Gerhard Miller and Sven Roland Stuetz — used rock music to glorify Nazi ideals. They were also convicted of incitement. "The texts (of the songs) called for racial hatred," Kuellmer said. Prosecutors said that the band members, in an apparent effort to avoid legal sanction, did everything they could to avoid their names appearing and photos being taken of live appearances. The band's material, banned in Germany, allegedly was distributed from countries including the United States and Belgium. Race War is the second extremist German band to be convicted of forming a criminal organization. A Berlin court found Landser, or Foot Soldiers, guilty of spreading hate against Jews and foreigners in their songs in 2003.
© International Herald Tribune

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FAR-RIGHT GERMAN BAND GOES ON TRIAL ON RACE HATE CHARGES

21/11/2006 - Four members of the far-right German band Race War went on trial Tuesday, accused of forming a criminal organization that promoted racial hatred and glorified the Nazi era. Race War was formed in mid-2001. Prosecutors say its four members played 13 underground concerts between 2002 and 2004 in Germany and neighboring countries — events that in some cases attracted up to 1,500 people. The aim of the group was "to glorify the Nazi era," prosecutor Apostolos Milionis said at the Stuttgart state court. He said their songs also preached racial hatred. The band also stands accused of using banned Nazi symbols. In 2003, prosecutors said, a "special edition" of its now-banned debut CD was issued on Adolf Hitler's birthday, with the Nazi dictator's picture and a swastika on the cover.
Prosecutors said that the band members, in an apparent effort to avoid prosecution, did everything they could to avoid their names appearing and photos being taken of live appearances. The band's material, banned in Germany, allegedly was distributed from the United States, Belgium and Germany. The four — Max Hirsch, Bjoern Andrejka, Gerhard Miller and Sven Roland Stuetz, aged between 22 and 25 — could face punishment ranging from a fine to five years in prison if convicted. However, Judge Wolfgang Kuellmer said later Tuesday that prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges worked out a plea-bargain deal under which the four would each receive suspended two-year sentences in exchange for their confessions. The four men were expected to accept the deal on Wednesday.
© International Herald Tribune

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THOUSANDS PROTEST AGAINST NEO-NAZIS AT GERMAN WWII CEMETERY

18/11/2006- Thousands of people gathered near Germany's biggest World War II soldiers' cemetery on Saturday to protest against far-right extremism. Demonstrators formed a human chain near the cemetery in Halbe, south of Berlin, and heard speeches from politicians and musicians at a rally. "No more facism and no more war — all democrats in Germany must stand up for that," said Matthias Platzeck, governor of the state of Brandenburg. The protest, backed by an alliance of mainstream political parties, went ahead even though police banned an annual demonstration there by neo-Nazi groups. Some 700 far-right supporters instead gathered on Saturday at another war-era cemetery in Seelow, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) further east. Politicians are vowing to step up efforts to counter the spread of far-right ideology, especially in the former communist east, after a spate of incidents involving suspected neo-Nazis. Halbe is in the same eastern state where suspected neo-Nazis on Nov. 10 attacked a memorial to a synagogue burned down on Kristallnacht, the anti-Jewish pogrom of 1938. Far-right activists have gathered for years in Halbe to glorify fallen Wehrmacht soldiers on the eve of Germany's annual Day of Mourning for the victims of war. Chancellor Angela Merkel is to take part in ceremonies in Berlin on Sunday marking the day of remembrance. The remains of about 28,000 German soldiers lie buried in Halbe and another 600 in Seelow, most of them victims of one of Nazi Germany's last stands in April 1945 as Soviet forces advanced toward Berlin.
© Associated Press

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DUTCH MUSLIMS CONDEMN BURQA BAN

18/11/2006- Dutch Muslims have criticised a government proposal to ban women from wearing the burqa or veils which cover the face in public places. Dutch Muslim groups say a ban would make the country's one million Muslims feel victimised and alienated. The Dutch cabinet said burqas - a full body covering that also obscures the face - disturb public order and safety. The decision comes days ahead of elections which the ruling centre-right coalition is expected to win. The proposed ban would apply to wearing the burqa in the street, and in trains, schools, buses and law courts in the Netherlands. Other forms of face coverings, such as veils, and crash helmets with visors that obscure the face, would also be covered by a ban. Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, who is known for her tough policies, said it was important that all people in the Netherlands were able to see and identify each other clearly to promote integration and tolerance. Last year a majority of MPs in the Dutch parliament said they were in favour of a ban. An estimated 6% of 16 million people living in the Netherlands are Muslims. But there are thought to be fewer than 100 women who choose to wear the burqa, a traditional Islamic form of dress.

Civil rights debate
The latest move came after an expert committee judged that it would not contravene Dutch law. Ms Verdonk insisted the burqa was not an acceptable part of public life in the Netherlands. "The Cabinet finds it undesirable that face-covering clothing - including the burqa - is worn in public places for reasons of public order, security and protection of citizens," she said. The minister told the BBC that social interaction would be easier if faces were not covered. "It is very important that we can see each other and can communicate with each other. Because we are so tolerant we want to respect each other." Critics of the proposed ban say it would violate civil rights. The main Muslim organisation in the Netherlands, CMO, said the plan was an "over-reaction to a very marginal problem", the Associated Press reported. Naima Azough, an MP with the opposition Green party who is also Muslim, said the ban was not in keeping with the country's history of tolerance and said the Dutch government was playing on people's fears of Islamic extremism to win votes. "It has to do with radicalisation, it has to do with fears and the absolute reality of radicalisation amongst Muslim youngsters. "The problem is only that you can't say that every person wearing a niqab or hijab or burqa - whatever you call it - is a radical," she said. The Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, said he opposed the wearing of burqas in public and said women wearing one who failed to get a job should not expect welfare benefits. "From the perspective of integration and communication, it is obviously very bad because you can't see each other so the fewer the better. "But actually hardly anybody wears one... The fuss is much bigger than the number of people concerned," he said.

Tension
The issue of the type of clothing worn by Muslim women has become a hotly-debated subject in a range of European countries. France has passed a law banning religious symbols, including Muslim headscarves, from schools. Some German states ban teachers in public schools from wearing headscarves, but there is no blanket rule against burqas. Italy has banned face-coverings, resurrecting old laws passed to combat domestic terrorism, while citing new security fears. The issue of Muslim women's dress also surfaced in the UK, when former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sparked controversy when he said he felt uncomfortable talking to someone whose face he could not see. The Dutch relationship with its Muslim community has been under scrutiny since the murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh by Islamic extremists in November 2004. Earlier this year Ms Verdonk clashed with a minority party in the governing coalition over her handling of the citizenship case of Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The MP scripted a controversial film about the treatment of women in Islamic society, directed by van Gogh before he was killed. But she admitted lying on her 1992 application for Dutch citizenship, and Ms Verdonk initially called for the MP to be deported.
© BBC News

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DUTCH CONSIDER BAN ON BURQAS IN PUBLIC

18/11/2006- Five days before a national election here, the center-right government announced Friday that it planned to introduce legislation to ban burqas and similar garments in public places, saying the full-body garb worn by a small number of Muslim women in the Netherlands posed a grave security threat. The Netherlands has been considering such a move for months, in reaction to the burqa and other articles of clothing that hide the wearer’s face. The government has raised the fear that a terrorist might wear such a garment to move beyond security checks and carry out an attack. The Dutch discussion is part of a European debate about how far governments can go in legislating what people — specifically Muslim women and girls — can and cannot wear. Last month, Britain’s former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, raised a commotion when he urged Muslim women to remove full facial veils when talking to him, saying the veil was “such a visible statement of separation and of difference” that it jeopardized British social harmony. Prime Minister Tony Blair subsequently backed Mr. Straw.

The fate of the Dutch proposal is uncertain, and critics accused the government of introducing it as a campaign ploy in a country that is still reeling from the 2004 murder of a filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, by a Muslim fundamentalist. But if it should pass in Parliament, women would be prohibited from wearing burqas in a variety of public settings, including schools, trains, courts and even on the street. “The cabinet finds it undesirable that face-covering clothing — including the burqa — is worn in public places for reasons of public order, security and protection of citizens,” the immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, said Friday. About a million Muslims live in the Netherlands, about 6 percent of the population, and only 50 to 100 women regularly wear a burqa here, Muslim groups say, making them a rare sight. In light of that, some Muslims say they see the entire burqa issue as a referendum on their very existence here, a suggestion that government officials deny. “It’s ridiculous,” said Yasar Kalkan, a Muslim auto mechanic in Leidschendam. “When you go out on the street, how many burqas do you see? None,” he said, adding that Ms. Verdonk “should find something better to do with her time.” Ms. Verdonk and others noted that the law would extend beyond religious garments to include head-size helmets with full-length visors and any other article that completely covers the wearer’s head and face. “We want to see whom we are talking to,” Ms. Verdonk said last week.

The Dutch are not alone among European countries in seeking to restrict some forms of Muslim dress. France banned from its schools the hijab, the head scarf worn by many Muslim girls and women, along with other conspicuous religious symbols. Britain’s highest court ruled this year that a secondary school was within its rights to bar a female student from wearing a jilbab, a loose, ankle-length gown, instead of the regular school uniform. Prime Minister Romano Prodi of Italy has also joined the debate. “You can’t cover your face, you must be seen,” Mr. Prodi said last month. “This is common sense, I think. It is important for our society.” Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, said, regarding the veil, that immigrants of other religions “must respect the traditions, symbols, culture and religion of the countries they move to.” Ms. Verdonk said she learned only this week that the Dutch cabinet could pursue a burqa ban after getting the go-ahead from legal experts. Those consulted by the government do not believe that such a ban would violate Dutch or European Union laws regarding religious freedom.
© The New York Times

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SIX MUSLIM IMAMS REMOVED FROM U.S. AIRLINER

Passenger raised concern; police questioned scholars before releasing them

21/11/2006 - Six Muslim imams were removed from a US Airways flight at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Monday and questioned by police for several hours before being released, a leader of the group said. The six were among passengers who boarded Flight 300, bound for Phoenix, around 6:30 p.m., airport spokesman Pat Hogan said. A passenger initially raised concerns about the group through a note passed to a flight attendant, according to Andrea Rader, a spokeswoman for US Airways. She said police were called after the captain and airport security workers asked the men to leave the plane and the men refused. “They took us off the plane, humiliated us in a very disrespectful way,” said Omar Shahin, of Phoenix.

‘Six scholars in handcuffs’
The six Muslim scholars were returning from a conference in Minneapolis of the North American Imams Federation, said Shahin, president of the group. Five of them were from the Phoenix-Tempe area, while one was from Bakersfield, Calif., he said. Three of them stood and said their normal evening prayers together on the plane, as 1.7 billion Muslims around the world do every day, Shahin said. He attributed any concerns by passengers or crew to ignorance about Islam. “I never felt bad in my life like that,” he said. “I never. Six imams. Six leaders in this country. Six scholars in handcuffs. It’s terrible.” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, expressed anger at the detentions. “CAIR will be filing a complaint with relevant authorities in the morning over the treatment of the imams to determine whether the incident was caused by anti-Muslim hysteria by the passengers and/or the airline crew,” Hooper said. “Because, unfortunately, this is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airports, and it’s one that we’ve been addressing for some time.”

Prominent Islamic conference
Hooper said the meeting drew about 150 imams from all over the country, and that those attending included U.S. Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis, who just became the first Muslim elected to Congress. Shahin said they went as far as notifying police and the FBI about their meeting in advance. Shahin expressed frustration that — despite extensive efforts by him and other Muslim leaders since even before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — so many Americans know so little about Islam. “If up to now they don’t know about prayers, this is a real problem,” he said. Reached by cell phone just after his release, Shahin said he didn’t know where they would spend the night or how they would try to get back to Phoenix on Tuesday. Hooper said US Airways refused to put the men on another flight.
Hogan said more information would likely be released Tuesday. The other passengers on the flight, which was carrying 141 passengers and five crew members, were re-screened for boarding, Rader said. The plane took off about three hours after the men were removed from the flight.
© Associated Press

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Headlines 17 November, 2006

UK MULLS HATE LAW REFORM AS FAR-RIGHT LEADER CLEARED

11/11/2006 - Racial and religious hatred laws may need reform after a court cleared a far-right leader for the second time this year over a speech in which he called Islam a "wicked, vicious faith", ministers said. Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, was found not guilty on Friday of inciting racial hatred during secretly filmed speeches in 2004. Two senior ministers said the comments had upset most Britons and British Muslims needed reassurance that the laws would protect them. "Any preaching of religious or racial hatred will offend mainstream opinion in this country and I think we have got to do whatever we can to root it out," Chancellor Gordon Brown told the BBC. "If that means that we have to look at the laws again, I think we will have to do so." Constitutional Affairs Secretary Charles Falconer said the country had to show it would not tolerate attacks on Islam. "If you say Islam is wicked and evil and there is no consequence from that whatsoever, what is being said to young Muslim people in this country is that we ... are anti-Islam," he told the BBC. Of the country's 60 million people, some 1.6 million are Muslims.

A taskforce set up after the July 2005 suicide bomb attacks in London concluded that extremists have found recruits among young Muslims "fuelled by anger, alienation and disaffection from mainstream British society."
Divisions have been exposed by a charged debate over whether Muslim women should wear a veil. Prime Minister Tony Blair called it a "mark of separation". Some of the country's Muslims accuse the police of unfairly targeting their community in their crackdown on terrorism. Griffin, 47, and BNP worker Mark Collett, 26, were cleared on Friday of using words or behaviour intended to incite racial hatred by a jury at Leeds Crown Court in northern England. They were cleared of similar charges at a trial in February. Griffin was charged after the BBC secretly filmed a speech he gave in 2004 during which he told supporters Islam was a "wicked, vicious faith" that was turning the country into "a multi-racial hell-hole". Griffin maintained throughout the trial that his comments were not racial and were designed to stir his audience to political activity. The BNP commands nothing like the influence of similar far-right parties across Europe but holds several seats on local councils.
© Reuters UK

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PEACE PLEA AS GRIFFIN IS CLEARED OF RACISM(uk)

12/11/2006 - HOME Secretary John Reid yesterday urged Scots to challenge racists after BNP leader Nick Griffin was acquitted of stirring up hatred. He said they can only be defeated by communities rejecting attempts to inflame tension. Griffin, 47, was cleared on Friday of stirring up hatred by branding Islam "a wicked, vicious faith". He also claimed Muslims were turning Britain into a "multi-racial hell-hole" in a series of speeches in Keighley, West Yorkshire, in 2004. After his acquittal, Chancellor Gordon Brown said new laws might be necessary to include religious as well as racerelated offences. Anti-hatred laws were passed earlier this year - but were watered down following a backbench Labour rebellion. Poisonous Scotland's anti-sectarian laws could be used to prosecute offenders. Yesterday, the Home Office said Dr Reid is considering the need for further legal changes. They added: "We want to make sure legislation is effective and even-handed. "The Home Secretary will think carefully and take time to study and reflect on this judgment and its implications, including taking soundings from ministerial colleagues. "But he believes that the poisonous politics of race can only ultimately be defeated by rational argument, political opposition and the engagement of the whole community in opposition to such extremism."
© The Sunday Mail

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MINISTRY RE-EXAMINES GENOCIDE DEFINITION(Switzerland)

12/11/2006 - A senior justice ministry official says the current anti-racism law needs to be re-examined to modify a clause on genocide. The head of the Federal Justice Office, Michael Leupold, argues that a judge is not in a position to decide on the definition of genocide. The debate on Switzerland's anti-racism legislation came to the fore after Justice Minister Christoph Blocher, a member of the rightwing Swiss People's Party, announced during a visit to Turkey in October that he wanted to change the law. Any act of denying, belittling or justifying genocide is a violation of Swiss anti-racism legislation. The law prompted investigations against two Turkish citizens, including a historian, for allegedly denying the 1915 Armenian massacre. In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung newspaper, Leupold said there could be no question of abolishing the anti-racism law but certain changes were necessary. For Leupold it is up to historians and not judges to decide on the definition of genocide. He added that it was not clear whether the current law infringes on the freedom of speech. However, Boël Sambuc, vice-president of the Federal Commission on Racism she was shocked by Leupold's comments. "The law is very clear and Switzerland also signed an international convention aimed at preventing genocide," she told public radio.

One expert group
Leupold added that judges should seek assistance from an international institution or that the relevant clause be struck from the law altogether. His comments echo a statement by Justice Minister Blocher who said the anti-racism law needed to be clearer and less ambiguous. A working group re-examining the legislation is made of one person so far, according to Leupold. He added the he had not been asked to exclude the president of the Federal Commission against Racism from the group. The controversial head of the government-advisory committee has publicly accused Blocher of telling lies.

Geneva prison
In a separate issue, Leupold announced that the justice ministry was ready to consider a financial contribution to upgrade the overcrowded prison of Champ-Dollon outside Geneva. He said the federal authorities were willing to pay just over a third of the planned costs estimated at SFr68 million ($54.8 million) which the Geneva cantonal parliament is due to consider next year. Champ-Dollon is notorious for being Switzerland's most overcrowded jail. It contains more than 500 inmates, but its normal capacity is set at 270. A series of hunger strikes over alleged police brutality and slow justice, suicides, and a fire in the prison have caught media attention over the past few months. In April human rights campaigners described the situation in the prison as potentially explosive.
© Swissinfo

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FAR-RIGHT LEADER GETS BOOST FOR PRESIDENTIAL BID FROM GOVERNING RIGHT(France)

10/11/2006 - Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen received a boost this week from an unexpected source — top echelon members of the governing party encouraging officials to back the political pariah so he can run in the 2007 presidential race. Le Pen, who heads the anti-immigration National Front party, shocked the nation and the world with his second-place finish in the 2002 presidential election and his runoff with incumbent President Jacques Chirac. Now, less than six months before the 2007 presidential race, the head of the conservative party in the lower house, the National Assembly, has said that the 78-year-old Le Pen should be present in the April 22 first-round vote. "For the democracy, for the health of the democracy, it is better that he be present in the first round," Bernard Accoyer said Thursday. "All French should be able to express themselves when they vote. And it must be recognized that, even if I combat his ideas, Mr. Le Pen united a significant, important part of the French," he said during a radio-television interview. Le Pen traditionally gathers up to 15 percent of votes in elections. In the first-round of the 2002 presidential vote, which featured a bevy of candidates, he had nearly 16.9 percent — just three percentage points behind Chirac.

Presidential hopefuls need 500 signatures from elected officials around the country, usually mayors, to become candidates and Le Pen has said that the process is hard going, particularly because names of backers are published for all to see. Le Pen has long been a fixture on the French political scene. However, he has been convicted of racism and anti-Semitism and association with him can stigmatize mainstream politicians. Some within the governing Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP, worry where Le Pen voters might go if he is not present. Those voters could "take revenge" to the detriment of Nicolas Sarkozy, the law-and-order interior minister and likely UMP party candidate, the daily Le Monde quoted one lawmaker, Herve Novelli, as saying. Others say Le Pen's absence could be good news for Sarkozy whose hammering at the ills of massive immigration is seen by many as a wink in the direction of National Front supporters. Accoyer reminded public officials that "giving a signature so that this or that candidate can be present in the first round is in no way supporting the ideas of this or that candidate."

The comment raised a ruckus and on Friday Accoyer gave a clarification, saying he was not suggesting that officials of the governing party sign off on Le Pen. He added that he had "no connivance with the extremes" of the political spectrum. That did not stop Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin from adding his voice to Accoyer's. Asked about the issue on Friday, Villepin said he would like to see "the diversity of the presidential election preserved." "The life of a democracy is not only the large parties ... It's important that all those who (whose) opinion has resonance in the life of our country can take part in a presidential election," Villepin said during a visit to the Haute-Saone region. Le Pen, who opened a three-day "presidential convention" Friday at the Bourget exhibit grounds northeast of Paris, said he "hopes to have" the needed 500 signatures — but would not divulge how many he currently has. "There is a very simple way to resolve this problem: to keep the backing of mayors a secret," he said in an interview Friday night on the TF1 television station. The extreme-right leader is not discouraged. His goal for the 2007 elections, he said, is "to be in the third round, that is, to be elected."
© International Herald Tribune

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FAR RIGHT ON THE RISE ON THE IBERIAN PENINSULA(Spain)

14/11/2006 - It had been thought that Spain's and Portugal's recent experiences of fascist dictatorships had stymied their far right, but that no longer seems to be the case. Both countries are witnessing a proliferation of violent far-right and neo-Nazi groups which cause increasing concern. Portugal's secret service even believes they could become a threat to internal security. The 1939-75 dictatorship of General Francisco Franco in Spain and the 1933-1974 corporatist dictatorship in Portugal made people wary of the far right and also channelled some of its aspirations into mainstream right-wing or centre-right parties. Neither Spain nor Portugal have a far-right party with parliamentary representation, and both countries seemed resistant to the rise of the far right noticeable elsewhere in Europe. In Portugal, however, the civilian secret service SIS has raised the alarm about neo-Nazi groups recruiting new members. Mario Machado, leader of the National Front, claimed his organization had increased its membership by 400 per cent since November 2004. The National Front is regarded as a more open group than Hammerskin Nation, a white supremacy movement founded in the US state of Texas, which acts as an umbrella for small Portuguese groups. Far-right activists have staged media-prominent marches, and sporadic violence against immigrants or leftists has occurred in recent years. In neighbouring Spain, some 10,000 people are estimated to belong to far-right groups. The US group Volksfront has become one of Spain's most important neo-Nazi organizations, sidelining a group called Blood and Honour, according to the daily El Pais.

Police have arrested more than 100 people in 2005 and 2006 on charges such as beating up immigrants or painting threatening grafitis. Spain's Movement Against Intolerance estimates that ultra-right groups attack nearly 4,000 people annually. Skinheads 'go hunting' - an expression in some of their rock songs - not only for immigrants, but also for leftists, homosexuals, beggars or prostitutes. When the last remaining Franco statue was removed from Madrid on orders of the Socialist government in 2005, hundreds of protesters showed up, stretching out their arms in a fascist salute. The far right, however, no longer identifies much with the Spanish or Portuguese dictatorships. The tiny Portuguese National Renewal Party (PNR) has members nostalgic of the dictatorship, but is closer to the French far-right party National Front. Violent neo-Nazis form part of a new international network of loosely knit anti-immigrant groups in Western countries. Skinheads are usually young, have little education, and may be unemployed. They congregate in football matches and rock concerts, propagating their ideas on the internet. Spanish neo-Nazis already have up to 100 websites. The far right is trying to make political gain from the presence of growing numbers of immigrants. Portugal has up to 700,000 immigrants mainly from Brazil, Africa and eastern Europe, and the SIS fears conflicts between neo-Nazis and ethnic minorities in poor neighbourhoods of cities such as Lisbon or Porto. In Spain, skinheads attack mainly black Africans, who number more than 100,000, and members of the country's 500,000-strong Moroccan community. So far, the Spanish and Portuguese far-right groups have been unable to unite under single leaders. But even if that does not happen, their presence could influence the political scene by making conservative parties adopt a tougher discourse on subjects such as immigration, analysts said.
© Monsters & Critics

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CITATION FOR SREBRENICA TROOPS SPARKS OUTRAGE(Netherlands)

13/11/2006 - The Dutch government has sparked controversy by its plans to give a citation to troops who served as peacekeepers in Srebrenica. The troops are to be given a citation despite failing to stop the mass murder of Bosnian Muslims 11 years ago. Survivors and the families of victims said the insignia for duty at Srebrenica was an insult to those who died, Associated Press reported. Defence Minister Henk Kemp told Parliament on 3 November that he would present the insignia to 850 troops of Dutchbat III on 4 December. Kemp said independent investigations had exonerated the undermanned and ill-equipped Dutch battalion, concluding that the peacekeepers were powerless to halt the slaughter. But survivors and families of victims said the troops should not receive the award. "This is shameful. We wonder how far the humiliation of our victims can go,"' Hajra Catic, president of the Srebrenica Women's Association said in Sarajevo. Bosnian Serb troops overran the UN-protected Bosnian enclave in July 1995. They separated women from men and boys and killed an estimated 8,000 Muslims in the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.
© Expatica News

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VATICAN ENTERS MUSLIM VEIL DEBATE(Italy)

14/11/2006 - A senior Vatican cardinal has expressed concern over the use of some Muslim veils by Islamic immigrants in Europe. This is the first time that the Vatican has joined in the Europe-wide debate on how women who insist on wearing the veil affect the integration of Muslims. Cardinal Renato Martino said immigrants must respect the traditions, culture and religion of the nations they go to. They ought to abide by local laws banning the wearing of certain types of Muslim veils, he added. "It seems elementary to me and it is quite right that the authorities demand it," said Cardinal Martino, who heads the Vatican department dealing with migration issues. He was speaking at a news conference launching a papal statement calling for laws which encourage the better integration of migrants. Here in Italy, a law was passed during the attacks of the Red Brigades urban guerrillas three decades ago which still makes it an offence to cover your face in public if your identity is challenged by a policeman. At that time there were very few Muslim women immigrants in Italy.

Common values
Another Vatican expert on immigration, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, said it was important in the course of dialogue with Muslims to make them understand that the consequences of some of their religious traditions might not be positive in the societies in which they now find themselves. The Italian government is trying to draw up what it calls a Charter of Common Values to get local Muslim leaders to help integrate Italy's fast-growing population. But it is hard going. At one recent meeting, a radical Muslim delegate proposed separate charters for men and for women, and favoured the death penalty. Equal rights for men and women are guaranteed, and the death penalty is banned, under the Italian constitution.
© BBC News

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K-FOR CASES TEST HUMAN RIGHTS LAW(France)

14/11/2006 - The question whether European troops on duty abroad must abide by the European Convention on Human Rights is being put to the test in Strasbourg. The European Court of Human Rights is holding a hearing in cases brought by Kosovo Albanians against France, Germany and Norway. In one of the cases, a boy died playing with cluster bombs they say French troops failed to remove or make safe.
The UK has argued to the court that the troops should not be held responsible.

Boy blinded
The boy's father, Agim Behrami, is travelling to Strasbourg for the hearing. One of his sons, Gadaf, died in the explosion in March 2000, and another, Bekir, was blinded. It would be obviously undesirable and inappropriate for the European Convention to be interpreted in a way that discouraged or even put at risk participation in such peacekeeping

UK government observations
The cluster bombs had been dropped during the Nato bombardment in 1999, and left untouched in an unmarked area in hills near Mitrovica. Mr Behrami says it was the duty of French K-For forces, operating in the Mitrovica area, to mark or defuse the undetonated cluster bombs. The London-based Advice on Individual Rights in Europe (Aire) centre, which is representing him and his blinded son, says the French troops knew the bombs were there, but took no steps to inform families of the danger. "They said it was 'not a priority' for them," the centre said in a press release. The other case is brought by a man, Ruzhdi Saramati, who was detained by K-For troops on suspicion of involvement in armed groups operating on the Kosovo/Macedonia border. He accuses Norwegian and French K-For commanders of violating his right to liberty by holding him for six months without any legal basis.

'Impunity'
The UK government has submitted observations to the court regarding both cases, arguing that countries should not be accountable for violations by their troops of the European Convention on Human Rights, in countries that have not signed it. The UK says the Kosovans were not under the jurisdiction of France, Germany or Norway and that the troops were not "required to secure to them the rights and freedoms" of the Convention. It adds: "It would be obviously undesirable and inappropriate for the European Convention to be interpreted in a way that discouraged or even put at risk participation in such peacekeeping" by states that are signatories to the Convention. Aire staff were among the experts sent in by the Council of Europe to train new Kosovo judges and lawyers on the Convention of Human Rights. "We encountered at first hand the bitterness in Kosovo at being told to they had to implement the convention when the United Nations mission and K-For troops could disregard it with impunity," said Aire director Nuala Mole. She said it was shocking that the UK was arguing that its troops did not have to respect human rights on foreign missions.
© BBC News

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FAR-RIGHT POLITICIAN PRAISES HITLER(Germany)

An avowed neo-Nazi in Saxony's state parliament has made a spectacle of himself this week with two outright -- and illegal -- statements of praise for Hitler. His German party, the NPD, hasn't distanced itself from his words, though it has kicked him out of its caucus.

17/11/2006- Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) was busy with spin control this week after a member of its elected fraction in Saxony's state parliament praised Adolf Hitler -- not once, but twice. Klaus-Jürgen Menzel, a 66-year-old farmer and member of Saxony's NPD caucus, told a TV interviewer over the weekend, "I support the Führer, just as I always did. Nothing's changed, and why should it?" By Tuesday, he was out of the NPD fraction -- on a technicality, though, not for mentioning Hitler. "With his actions and words he has become a burden for the party," read an official statement. But on Wednesday Menzel caused another uproar by stepping up to the podium in Dresden with two shotgun cartridges in his coatpocket and declaring support for vigilante justice. "This is how I would deal with child molesters," he said, producing the cartridges. Then he exchanged words with a left-wing, Austrian-born politician named Peter Porsch. "There are several kinds of Austrians," Menzel said to Porsch while he was still in the parliamentary hall. "But when I see someone like you in front of me, the other (Austrian) always seems more sympathetic." A ranking member of the legislature later asked Menzel if he meant Hitler, who was Austrian-born. Menzel said it would make no sense to compare the last chancellor of the German Reich with a "Stasi snitch" -- a jab at Porsch, who had links to the East German secret police apparatus during the communist era. Menzel was then barred from the plenary session. It was the first time in recent memory that Hitler had been praised in a German legislative hall.

Not just a taboo, but a crime
Open expressions of support for Hitler are illegal in Germany, and the NPD has been under pressure by members of the German federal government who want to ban the party outright. An NPD spokesperson said statements by "the old man" -- Menzel -- didn't express the party line, but he was kicked out of the party's parliamentary group on Tuesday over "financial irregularities." The neo-Nazi NPD is used to walking a narrow legal line in Germany and it hasn't distanced itself from Menzel's praise of Hitler. In fact, Menzel remains a member of the NPD, and retains his seat in the legislature. But he no longer belongs to any fraction and he's vulnerable to prosecution under German law. Since 2004, when 12 NPD representatives were voted into Saxony's state legislature, the fraction has lost one-third of its membership. Three NPD members left the caucus at the end of 2005, and Menzel's departure brings the number of NPD seats down to eight.
© Spiegel Online

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SECURITY OFFICIALS PROMOTE INTEGRATION AS CRIME PREVENTION (Germany)

17/11/2006- German security officials agree that Germany is still a potential target of terrorist attacks and that something should be done about illegal immigration. "Due to its prominent profile in foreign and security policy, Germany is becoming more and more a target of terrorist attacks," said Ernst Uhrlau, president of the German Intelligence Service (BND) on Thursday in Wiesbaden. Speaking at the closing of a three-day conference hosted by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Uhrlau said that legal immigration represents a large problem in preventing terrorist attacks. He referred to a study indicating that only 6 percent of the alleged terrorists currently under investigation had immigrated illegally to the target country. Second and third generation immigrants are often interesting to terrorist groups because they are less conspicuous and speak the language of the target country. "It will be essential to win the minds and hearts of the Muslims to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to an intolerant, extremist and hate-filled world view," Uhrlau said.

Integration as crime prevention
In his closing speech at the conference, BKA president Jörg Ziercke agreed that non-integrated immigrants are more susceptible to the appeals of religiously motivated terrorists. "Successful integration is the best crime prevention method," said Ziercke, adding the police must increase their intercultural competency to better function in a diverse society. At the same time, he warned that immigration should not be equated with criminality. European Commissioner for Security and Justice Franco Frattini, who also spoke at the conference, said that Europe needed immigrants -- both well-qualified specialists and seasonal laborers -- but added that fighting illegal immigration is a high priority for the EU. "We need a unified European immigration policy" that takes into account the immigrants already living in Europe, said the commissioner.
© Deutsche Welle

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GERMANY TRIES 'HOLOCAUST DENIER'

14/11/2006 - A German man deported from the US has gone on trial in the Germany city of Mannheim for alleged Holocaust denial.
Germar Rudolf published a study saying the Nazis did not use gas to kill Jews at the Auschwitz concentration camp. The prosecution says he "represented the Holocaust as invention" and used the internet to spread his documents. If found guilty, Mr Rudolf will face up to five years in prison. He has already been given an jail sentence in a similar case but fled to the US. A chemistry graduate, 42-year-old Mr Rudolf also faces charges of defaming the memory of the dead. He was sentenced to 14 months in prison in a similar case in 1995 but fled the country. His 2000 application for political asylum in the US was rejected and he was deported back to Germany to serve the earlier sentence. In a similar case in February 2005, British revisionist historian David Irving was found guilty of denying the Holocaust by an Austrian court and sentenced to three years in prison.

COUNTRIES WITH LAWS AGAINST HOLOCAUST DENIAL
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland
© BBC News

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FAR-RIGHT GERMAN PARTY SAYS IT WILL HAVE TO PAY BACK STATE FUNDS

12/11/2006 - The leader of a far-right-wing party in Germany conceded Sunday that the Nationalist Democratic Party (NPD) owed hundreds of thousands of euros to the German government. The penalty, a major blow to the party which has never come near the 5-per-cent threshold needed to win seats at federal level, was announced Friday by parliamentary authorities after an inquiry into accounting irregularities involving fictitious memberships. Udo Voigt, re-elected leader of the party late Saturday at a national conference in Berlin, told reporters the party would "have to tighten its belt" but it was not clear yet if it would offer its office building in suburban Berlin as security to raise cash. German political parties are entitled by law to federal funds in proportion to the number of votes they receive at elections. The NPD must return 870,000 euros (1.1 million dollars) in state funds. Efforts to outlaw the NPD failed in March 2003 on legal grounds. Some 400 demonstrators protested outside the conference venue as the meeting began Saturday. Reporters were excluded during discussion of the NPD financial crisis and were only briefly allowed to see stalls where neo-Nazi stickers and music were on sale to delegates. Voigt began his keynote address by welcoming delegates to the Reich capital, a Nazi-era term for Berlin. The meeting by the far rightists in Berlin brought fresh calls in Germany for legal action against the group. Ralf Stegner, interior minister of the state of Schleswig Holstein, said in a newspaper interview that he would seek a coordinated domestic intelligence inquiry into where the NPD was obtaining the rest of its funding.
© German Press Agency

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ANALYSIS: BAN TALK WON'T HURT NAZI PARTY (Germany)

15/11/2006- Leading German politicians have called for banning Germany's far-right National Democratic Party, or NPD, but the move and recently unearthed financial problems will not hurt the neo-Nazi group, experts say. Several lawmakers from the governing Social Democrats have said the time was right to pursue another attempt at banning the NPD, which held a media-heavy party summit in Berlin this past weekend, the first such meeting of a neo-Nazi party in the capital since the Hitler era. While several hundred people protested the summit, Berlin's popular Mayor Klaus Wowereit has called for a ban, and so has Vice Chancellor Franz Muentefering. A government initiative to ban the party failed in 2003 after it surfaced that the government had infiltrated the party with informants, and it is likely that the same would happen again as the spies are still active. Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top government officials have been cool toward calls for a ban, perhaps because they would have to draw out their informants, who are providing valuable information on anti-constitutional activities of the group. Moreover, the government feels the current conditions did "not promise success to seek new proceedings on a ban now," Thomas Steg, a spokesman for Merkel, said Monday.

Experts agree with this view. "The NPD clearly fulfills all the criteria to be successfully banned, if such a petition is professionally prepared," Hajo Funke, a professor at Berlin's Free University and one of Germany's leading experts on extremist movements, Wednesday told United Press International in a telephone interview. "That didn't happen during the first attempt by the former government from 2001 until 2003, and it doesn't happen now." The current debate launched by individual politicians is "unprofessional and irresponsible" because it was not adequately prepared as a joint project supported by the government and the state interior ministers, he said. "But I expect such a petition to be launched within the next two years." While it would successfully hinder the party in its core workings, a ban is only the second-best way to fight what Funke says is an increasing sentiment of frustration and xenophobia among large parts of the German population. A series of anti-Semitic incidents have rocked the country, and roughly 8,000 far-right crimes have been recorded from January until August, nearly double the amount counted in 2004. "It's almost like in the early 1990s," Funke said, referring to a time when hundreds of neo-Nazis marched through Germany's streets and torched asylum homes. The NPD in recent months has managed a worrisome comeback, not as a marching gang of bullies, but as a regular party with considerable support from the young and the poor. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the home state of Chancellor Merkel, the NPD made it into the state parliament, with a top candidate who on election day called Adolf Hitler "a phenomenon -- militarily, socially and economically." The NPD is even using anti-Americanism to attract attention. In the same state, the NPD ahead of next summer's Group of Eight summit in Heiligendamm, wants to submit to Parliament a resolution stating that U.S. President George W. Bush was "not welcome" in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

While the resolution will not likely pass, any draft will have to be debated in the state parliament, and observers say the party, by bashing Bush, is hoping for international media attention and new supporters. In some regions in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, the major democratic parties have already lost the battle against the NPD, experts say. Where unemployment is high and economic prospects gloomy, the NPD opens citizen offices, runs soup kitchens and does debt counseling. "The major parties are not doing enough there and they lack sex appeal," Funke said. "Often, the NPD is the only democratic power that does something in those regions, and that can't be. The major parties have to start tackling the social erosion." Some hope that a financial scandal rocking the NPD will destroy the party's political ambitions. Berlin is demanding the repayment of $1.1 million in federal money paid out to the NPD in 1998 and 1999 because of irregularities uncovered in the party's donation program.
While NPD head Udo Voigt admitted his party had to tighten the belt in the coming years, Funke does not believe the repayments will substantially hurt the party. "That will not endanger them, there are too many donators" who are willing to heave the neo-Nazi group out of trouble, he said.
© UPI

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EXPERTS: BANNING GERMAN NEO-NAZI PARTY IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE

13/11/2006 - Leading German politicians have again called for a ban on Germany's National Democratic Party (NPD), but neither this nor financial problems are likely to hurt the country's far right, experts say. On Saturday, NPD leader Udo Voigt welcomed delegates to the national party convention in the "Capital of the Reich, Berlin." After meeting in obscure provincial towns in previous years, NPD officials for the first time had fought in court to hold their annual gathering in Germany's largest city. "Our time has come," Voigt said, still basking in the recent election success in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania. Journalists observing the two-day convention were only allowed to stay for a few hours -- possibly because delegates had to deal with the issue of looming financial problems. The NPD will likely have to pay back about 870,000 euros ($1.1 million) in state subsidies the party received based on fraudulent donations. In Germany, state subsidies for parties partially depend on the amount raised via donations. Before closing the convention to the public, Voigt did concede that the potential repayment presented a problem. "We'll have to tighten the belt," he told reporters at a press conference, according to Der Tagesspiegel, adding that mortgages on real estate owned by the party, administrative personnel cuts and loans by supporters would all be considered.

Money's not an issue
A potential donor is millionaire Gerhard Frey, the leader of the German People's Union (DVU), who reiterated the need for a unified "people's front" at the NPD convention. DVU and NPD leaders have formed an alliance that includes an agreement not to run against each other in elections. While the NPD is now represented in Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania, the DVU has seats in the state parliaments of Brandenburg and Bremen. Hajo Funke, an expert on right extremism, said Frey and other wealthy neo-Nazis were likely to bail out the NPD. "There's enough money to settle this," said Funke, a professor of politics and culture at Berlin's Free University, adding that he didn't see the potential repayment of state subsidies as a real threat to the NPD's survival. But a former NPD member said that the scandal had the potential to harm the party. "Apart from the financial damage, this also hurts internal cohesion within the group," said Jan Zobel, who served as spokesman of the NPD's youth organization before breaking with the far right in 2001. "I'm really surprised that this is only now becoming public," said the 30-year-old author of "A People on the Edge," a book on the NPD's leaders, politics and perspectives. "I'm sure more rascalities will come to light," he added.

Boost by banning?
Saturday's party convention meanwhile has also led several leading politicians from Germany's democratic parties, including Vice-Chancellor Franz Müntefering and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, to call for a new attempt to ban the NPD. In 2003, Germany's highest court rejected banning the party because the federal government refused to lay open the extent of the NPD's infiltration with intelligence agents. But both Funke and Zobel agreed that this latest initiative was counterproductive. Instead of talking to the media about a ban, politicians should first come up with a sound strategy. "This chaos really isn't helping -- it's neither professional nor responsible," Funke said, adding that a ban of the NPD would not solve the problem of an increasing sentiment of frustration and xenophobia among the population. "Politicians really have to tackle the social erosion and equip democracy with a bit more sex appeal by really listening when people come to them with their problems," he said. Simply banning the NPD might actually strengthen Germany's neo-Nazis, who could regroup within the DVU or in a new party. "The NPD is a bit of a stumbling block for itself that prevents it from growing," Zobel said, adding that the party's ultra-extremist image kept many sympathizers from voting for it. "I'm afraid this could lead to the establishment of something like the FPÖ," he said, referring to Austria's far-right movement, which -- at its peak -- won more than 20 percent of votes in national elections.
© Deutsche Welle

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COMPROMISE REACHED ON "TOLERATED" FOREIGNERS IN GERMANY

14/11/2006- The German government on Tuesday reached a compromise on how to deal with some 200,000 foreigners whose applications for asylum have been turned down, but who are not deported for humanitarian reasons. Most of the 200,000 people in question come from Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. They've lived in Germany because the country tolerates them without offering them the prospect of obtaining full-fledged residence permits. At least once a year they have to see the authorities who may or may not decide to prolong their stay in Germany. The foreigners' undefined status is coupled with many disadvantages on the labor market and problems in social integration. On Tuesday, Germany's ruling Christian and Social Democrats said they had reached a deal on new and clearer legislation. It will make the granting of residence status dependent on the number of years someone has been in Germany. Aside from any other requirements, individuals will be able to receive a two-year residence permit if they've lived here for at least eight years, or six years if they have children. During those two years, they will have to prove that they can find gainful employment and support themselves. Should they fail to do so, they will lose their residence permit and fall back to tolerated status. Social Democrats had pushed for giving people residence permits first before asking them to find employment.

Broader access to labor market
"We just have to face the realities," said Dieter Wiefelspütz, the domestic policy spokesman for the Social Democrats. "The people we're talking about are confronted with enormous difficulties in finding employment. After all, it's the state itself which has set up all sorts of hurdles. So let's look to the future and help them to broaden their access to the labor market instead of telling them that a job is a prerequisite for staying here." Christian Democrats on the other hand had called for granting permits only once people have found work.

Strain on welfare system?
Bavarian Interior Minister Günther Beckstein of the Christian Social Union, the sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, has insisted that permanent residence status must only be granted to those who can support their families without having to fall back on state welfare money. "We just won't accept tens of thousands of people more to strain the country's already overburdened social systems," he said on German public television. "So it would be strange to grant residence status to someone who's just not able to look after his family. And it's no solution for them to be working illegally. They don't pay any taxes, and should not be rewarded for this now. It would be like saying that it's okay to give somebody a driving license just because he's been driving a car illegally for many years."

Protecting children
Members of Germany's main opposition party, the free-market, liberal Free Democrats, meanwhile said they were most interested in finding a humane solution for affected school-age children who were born in Germany. "These kids don't know the countries of their parents' origin at all," said Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a former federal justice minister. "All they know is Germany, here is where they live. Do you want to send them to, say, Afghanistan or Iraq? That would be ridiculous. After all, we're talking about human beings with real biographies, and not just about figures and quota." The interior ministers of Germany's 16 states are expected to fine-tune the agreement at a meeting on Thursday and Friday.
© Deutsche Welle

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150 EXTREMIST GROUPS WITH 10,000 MEMBERS ACTIVE IN RUSSIA

15/11/2006 - The Interior Ministry is currently monitoring 150 extremist groups in Russia, in particular race-hate groups, which have total membership of around 10,000, the minister said Wednesday. Human rights groups have raised concerns over a surge in racially-motivated violence Russia in recent months, and cite widespread xenophobic attitudes in the country. Rashid Nurgaliyev said, "We are now seriously concerned over the fast rise in extremism-related crime, driven by racial intolerance." "Extremists in the cities of Voronezh, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Saratov have attacked and killed foreign students," he said. Extremist groups on the ministry's watchlist include racist organizations, soccer fans, and well-organized far-left extremist organizations. About 80% of the extremist groups' members are under 30, and most are based in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the Samara and Voronezh regions, according to ministry data. Eight of these organizations pose a real threat to public security, Nurgaliyev said. The minister earlier said that youth extremist groups have become more aggressive and better organized, and that some are influenced by criminal organizations. A recent string of attacks on foreign students has cast a shadow over Voronezh, about 310 miles south of Moscow, which has traditionally been a popular destination for foreign undergraduates. St. Petersburg has also been a focus of unwelcome attention over neo-Nazi attacks and killings, including the murder of a student from Senegal in April and the stabbing of a nine-year-old girl of mixed Russian-African origin in early 2006. A Vietnamese student was stabbed in October 2004 in the city by a group of drunk teenagers. Ella Pamfilova, the head of the presidential council on civil society institutions and human rights, said laws should be toughened to eliminate legal loopholes, through which race-hate crimes are registered as 'hooliganism', or no criminal cases are opened at all. President Vladimir Putin has said that the rise in race-hate crime is a disgrace, and has demanded that the police take radical measures to improve the situation.
© RIA Novosti

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COMIC STRIP OF MINSTRELS IN OLD DANDY SPARKS RACISM INQUIRY(uk)

11/15/2006 - THE publishers of a comic annual that first appeared in 1939 have been accused of racism for failing to edit one of the original cartoons. DC Thomson, creators of such famous characters as Oor Wullie and The Broons, have produced thousands of copies of the old Dandy annual with the Christmas market in mind. But the content of one cartoon strip alarmed a Jamaican student who bought a copy in Dundee. Inside he found a comic strip called Smarty Grandpa based on a story about "minstrel niggers". The Grandpa character uses the word repeatedly in the cartoon, while coming up with an ingenious plan to help raise money for the struggling minstrels. Mr Winston Wilson, 42, a mature student studying business at Dundee College, said: "This is extremely derogatory to black people. Any decent person would be disgusted by the terms used. "I couldn't believe it when I opened the book and saw the Smarty Grandpa page. I do not know what DC Thomson were thinking. "There is no doubt in my mind the reprint should have been edited. My partner is white and she was also thoroughly disgusted when she read it. It certainly sends out a bad image of Scotland and one that doesn't reflect the truth. I have lived in Scotland three years now and never really experienced any racism."

The strip opens with Grandpa announcing that he is on his way to "listen to the nigger minstrels". When his face is accidentally blackened after he bursts a bag full of soot, a woman mistakes him for one of the group and he sets out to gather money for them. The annual is available for £16.99, and according to DC Thomson, the Dundee-based publishers, it is selling well. A spokesman defended the cartoon, saying: "Obviously, sensitivity at the time did not consider this to be inflammatory at all. It is a true facsimile copy and we don't feel it is something we should edit. "The position that we have adopted is that this annual is of its time. We would not have published this word in the Dandy of today. "We should celebrate the fact that we live in a time where such ideas around race are no longer seen as appropriate and our society does not condone this kind of language. "But if anything, it is promoting racial harmony. Smarty Grandpa earns money for pals for a slap-up feed because they couldn't do it. I don't think he says anything that can be considered racially prejudiced." A spokesman for the Commission for Racial Equality said it was investigating Mr Wilson's complaint, saying: "We will make a decision on whether it is inflammatory." The Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance has called for the annual to be withdrawn from bookshops. Anita Shelton, for the group, said: "It is an outrage. The word is not a term that has been looked on with favour for many, many years.
As Oor Wullie might have said: "Jings, crivvens, whatever next?"
© The Telegraph

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RIGHT-WING RADIO STATION REMAINS DEFIANT(Denmark)

Right-wing Radio Holger continues to broadcast after its licence was revoked by the Radio and TV Board

11/14/2006 - Right-wing radio station Radio Holger has again run afoul of broadcasting authorities for its alleged racist programming. Despite having its licence revoked last week, the station continues to broadcast. Radio Holger, which takes its name from Denmark's mythical guardian, had its licence suspended after failing to deliver a copy of a broadcast to the Radio and Television Board (RTB). The station, however, has indicated it will only obey a court order to stop broadcasting. The Documentation and Counselling Centre for Racial Discrimination recently filed a complaint against the station, and RTB followed up by requesting a copy of the broadcast in question.
The board did not receive the recording and the station was ordered to stop broadcasting, an order it has refused. Radio Holger broadcasts on a shared, public access frequency, making an immediate shut down of the station impossible. 'Unfortunately if we pull the plug on them, other stations that are broadcasting legally will also be shut off,' said Christian Scherfig, chairman of RTB. 'We could possibly seize the equipment through an injunction. Our legal advisor is investigating the possibility.' RTB has since reported Radio Holger to the police, who will likely slap the station with a fine and possibly confiscate its broadcasting equipment. The broadcast in dispute occurred on 2 August, when the station aired commentary in the wake of the Lebanese conflict with Israel. At that time, a number of nationalist groups questioned why Lebanese immigrants had returned to Lebanon and complained over the cost of evacuating them to Denmark. Radio Holger claims that the 6 November deadline set by the board to deliver a tape of the broadcast exceeded the normal three-month period stations are required to retain copies of their programming. Radio Holger has had its licence revoked before. Should its broadcasting equipment be confiscated as a result of the current dispute, station spokesperson Kaj Wilhelmsen has pledged to move the station's broadcasts to the internet.
© Jyllands-Posten

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ROMA: DISCRIMINATION STARTS WITH PRIMARY EDUCATION(Report Summary)

16/11/2006 - Extreme poverty, discrimination in schools, and the lack of truly inclusive and multicultural curricula prevent Romani children in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia from enjoying their right to education. Amnesty International’s latest report focuses on the exclusion of Romani children from primary education in these three countries and on the failure so far of the governments to address their needs. "The barriers Romani children face in accessing education deprive them of the chance of fulfilling their true potential and perpetuate the marginalization of Romani communities,” said Omer Fisher, Amnesty International's researcher on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia. "Tackling these barriers to education is the responsibility of governments." The rights to education and to be free from discrimination are enshrined in international human rights law and in the constitutions of the three countries featured in the report. Their governments have adopted special programmes and action plans aimed at the inclusion of the Romani population in education. However, governments and non-governmental organizations alike admit that access to education for Romani children is partial at best.

Free meals, textbooks and transportation are sometimes provided to Romani children. But just getting to school can be impossible when the school is too far to reach on foot and your clothes are not warm enough to cope with a bitter winter. Children are often unable to study or do homework in cold, overcrowded homes. As members of the Romani community in Slovenia told Amnesty International, “Some of us live in huts. How can the children do well at school?” Romani children are in some cases discriminated against by their own teachers. Sometimes, children are segregated into “Roma only” groups or classes and are offered a reduced curriculum. Negative stereotypes about the Roma’s “way of life” or attitude towards education are often used to explain poor school attendance and grades. Teachers at Macinec primary school in Croatia used the following arguments in a court submission to explain their decision to segregate Romani children: “Romani parents are frequently alcoholics, their children are prone to stealing, cursing and fighting, and as soon as the teachers turn their backs things go missing, usually insignificant and useless objects, but the important thing is to steal”. It is generally acknowledged by teachers, Romani children and parents, that many of the difficulties Romani children encounter in primary schools are due to linguistic barriers. Many Romani children have no or limited command of the language spoken by the majority population. At present, the languages spoken by Roma are virtually absent from schools of the three countries, unlike other minority languages.

Other measures that could help overcoming language obstacles, such as improving access to pre-school education for Romani children and the employment of suitably trained Romani teaching assistants, have not been implemented in a systematic and comprehensive way. Romani culture and history in general are not included in a systematic way in curricula in the schools of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia. “The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia must adopt an approach to the education of Romani children based on their integration into a school system that adapts to their needs and culture,” Omer Fisher said. Amnesty International is calling for immediate action to confront discrimination against Roma in schools by ensuring that no Romani children are placed in special classes or groups simply because they are Roma, by monitoring the composition of classes and, where needed, the activities of teachers working with Roma, and by providing training to primary school teachers aimed at eliminating negative stereotypes and prejudices. Tackling obstacles in access to education which are the result of extreme poverty, and including Romani language and culture in schools are parts of a long-term process which should be aimed at the full inclusion of Romani children in primary education. "Romani children, like all other children, have the right to an education that will empower them to take their place in and contribute to the society of the country they live in," Omer Fisher said. "It is the responsibility of the governments to break the vicious cycle of illiteracy, poverty and marginalization and to integrate the most vulnerable part of their populations."
© Dzeno Association

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INTERVIEW-MERKEL GOVT BOOSTING FAR-RIGHT - OPPOSITION PARTY(Germany)

15/11/2006 - Chancellor Angela Merkel's "grand coalition" of conservatives and Social Democrats is fuelling the rise of far-right parties by breaking its promises to voters, the leader of Germany's top opposition party said. In an interview with Reuters, Guido Westerwelle, head of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), gave a stinging assessment of the performance of Merkel's government in its first year in power. A staunch advocate of free markets and critic of the German welfare state, Westerwelle was on track to seal a coalition with Merkel following last year's election, but a disappointing result for her conservatives forced her into a prickly partnership with the Social Democrats (SPD) instead. Since then, he has become one of the coalition's strongest critics, saying its policies are curbing the strength of an economic recovery after years of meagre growth. "The worrying thing about this so-called grand coalition is that it's contributing to a shocking degree of political apathy," the 44-year-old politician said on Wednesday. "We cannot allow this grand coalition to lead to the same end as the last one in 1969, when the far-right NPD nearly made it into the federal parliament." The National Democratic Party (NPD) came close to reaching the 5 percent threshold needed to enter the Bundestag in 1969, when Germany's only other post-war "grand coalition" was voted out of office after three difficult years. The far-right party, which government officials have likened to Hitler's early Nazi party, has made gains in the depressed former communist east in recent years. In September it won 7.3 percent of the vote in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where Merkel has her parliamentary constituency. Disillusionment with her coalition was seen as a key reason for the NPD's gains.

BROKEN PROMISES
Westerwelle attacked Merkel's government for pushing through the biggest tax hike in post-war German history, for failing to reduce non-wage labour costs and for creating more bureaucracy -- all moves he said ran counter to the campaign pledges of the governing parties.
"In the best case scenario, this pushes the voters to democratic opposition parties or discourages them from voting," he said. "In the worst case it leads to what happened in 1969, namely the strengthening of left and right-wing extremists." A report last week said right-wing crimes, such as neo-Nazi attacks, in Germany had surged 20 percent in the first nine months of 2006 compared to the same period last year. Westerwelle was careful not to criticise Merkel personally and said his goal remained to bring his party, whose support has risen to 15 percent in recent polls, out of the opposition and into a future coalition with her conservatives. His liberal party, which last governed at the federal level under conservative Chancellor Helmut Kohl, is an increasingly influential king-maker in Germany, where the big parties are losing supporters and searching for new partners. The SPD failed to lure Westerwelle into a so-called "traffic-light coalition" with the environmentalist Greens after the 2005 election, but has been wooing the FDP in recent months with an eye to the next federal poll in 2009. "We will take a decision on which coalition we favour before the next election or when this government collapses," Westerwelle said.
© Reuters

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ROMA FILE CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AGAINST VSETIN MAYOR(Czech Republic)

15/11/2006 - Roma from Vsetin, north Moravia, who have been moved to three small municipalities in the Jesenik vicinity, have filed a criminal complaint against the leadership of the Vsetin town hall. According to Vaclav Zastera, secretary of the Roma Vidnava association, the Roma have accused Vsetin mayor and senator Jiri Cunek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) and his towns hall colleagues of five criminal offences. According to the association, the complaint has been signed by representatives of all families concerned. "We lodged the complaint with the Vsetin state attorney's office, and a copy will also be received by the state attorney's office in Jesenik. It is a criminal offence of oppression, abuse of public office, blackmail, restriction of personal freedom and fraud. The complaint has been filed by the people afflicted and by the Roma Vidnava civic association," Zastera said. Representatives of Roma Vidnava say that the Roma signed contracts for dilapidated properties under pressure and that they lodged the complaint to prevent a repeat of the situation. Cunek previously dismissed the accusation that the Roma had signed the purchase contracts under pressure. "I clearly deny this. I often talked to a whole group, I have not practically attended the signature of the contracts, my colleagues were present (at the signature)," Cunek said.

Three Roma families who defaulted on rent in a house in the centre of Vsetin were moved to the Jesenik vicinity, where the Vsetin town hall bought houses for them via a real estate agency. The Romanies are to buy the houses from the town over a period of 20 years. Other familes were moved to two municipalities in the Olomouc region under similar conditions. Roma Vidnava has also recently complained to the Government Council for the Affairs of the Romany Community. It said that street workers of the Vsetin town hall assisted in the action at variance with their mission. Complaints against Cunek have also been lodged by film director Bretislav Rychlik and the Romea association. While many criticise Cunek, some Vsetin citizens are organising a petition in his support and are calling on politicians to start solving the Romany issue in a constructive and effective way.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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BARROSO DEFENDS ROMANIA'S NEW 'MULTILINGUALISM' JOB

15/11/2006 - European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has played down criticism from socialist MEPs who said multilingualism is not a good enough portfolio for the new Romanian commissioner. "Translation is the language of Europe," the commission chief told journalists in Strasbourg on Tuesday (14 November), quoting Italian linguist and author Umberto Eco. His comment came as a reaction to an earlier statement by the leader of the socialist group in the European Parliament - Martin Schultz - who argued that the portfolio given to Leonard Orban - the new Romanian commissioner-in-waiting - "is not worthy of a commissioner." Instead of multilingualism, the socialist group suggested that Mr Orban should become a "commissioner for minorities," as it would "flesh out" his job. "With xenophobia and racism on the increase in the EU, minorities need protection through having their own commissioner," said Mr Schultz.

The Roma minority has been highlighted in connection with the Romanian commissioner-designate, as his country will bring with it the largest Roma community into the EU - larger even than the whole populations of some current member states. But the socialist request has raised eyebrows in Brussels, according to commission sources. "We have no particular policies exclusively focusing on minorities or concrete administrative structures only dealing with this issue," one official told EUobserver. "With this kind of portfolio, it would be even more problematic to say what exactly the new commissioner should do or which DGs he should chair. Minority rights issues are spread around different sections, not put together under one title like this." The issue of Romania's member of the soon-to-be 27-strong EU executive has been surrounded by controversy. Before accepting Mr Orban to join the team, president Barroso first turned down an earlier nominee from Bucharest due to his links with big business, which also faced criticism from socialist MEPs who said he was too right-wing.

Multi-what?
With one hurdle overcome, the commission's "multilingualism" brief then sparked surprise among commentators in Europe, with some Romanian journalists wondering if it was a form of EU "sanctions" against Bucharest for delays in combatting corruption. Pawel Swieboda, head of Warsaw-based think tank Demos Europa, remarked "If Barroso had wanted to show that the number of commissioners' portfolios must be reduced [as stipulated in the failed EU constitution], then he did that by giving multilingualism to Romania." But Mr Barroso insists that with 23 official languages in the EU, multilingualism should be regarded as a new "resource" and "opportunity."

'Interculturalism' as well
"We need to make more effective communication between different countries and different cultures," commission chief told journalists on Tuesday, adding that Mr Orban's job will not be merely administrative - as he will chair three DGs with the largest number of staff and also deal with "interculturalism." Slovak commissioner Jan Figel, who currently holds the language portfolio, has also defended its relevance, saying that the area has been enhanced by the EU's latest decisions to form special expert groups and organise ministerial gatherings on language skills as an instrument for boosting labour mobility. Mr Orban, along with his Bulgarian colleague Meglena Kuneva - to chair the consumer protection portfolio - will be questioned by the European Parliament on 27 and 28 November 2006, with the vote on their nomination planned for 12 or 13 December.
© EUobserver

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RUSSIA TIGHTENS RULES ON MIGRANTS

16/11/2006- The deputy head of Russia's migration service has called for limits on the concentration of ethnic minorities in towns and cities across the country. Vyacheslav Postavnin said their numbers should not exceed 20%, to prevent "enclaves" emerging in which native Russians were outnumbered. Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov on Wednesday unveiled plans to limit the number of foreigners. Officials put the figure at 10-12 million, most of them illegals. "According to our calculations, compact habitation by citizens of another country in any district or region of the country should not surpass 17% to 20%, especially if they have a different national culture and religious faith," said Mr Postavnin, quoted by the Vremya Novostei daily. "Exceeding this norm creates discomfort for the indigenous population."

Labour restrictions
On Wednesday, Mr Fradkov said that from January 2007, the government would bar foreigners from certain retail sectors, including the sale of alcohol and pharmaceutical goods. And from April next year, the ban will be extended to cover foreigners working in all markets and street kiosks. They are among the most important sources of employment for migrant workers, along with the construction industry. These measures are the toughest yet in a campaign against illegal immigration, says the BBC's Russia analyst Steven Eke. The Russian government says it needs to take control of the huge number of foreign workers - many of them in Russia illegally. But human rights activists say many of the measures are pandering to widespread racism. They say such measures help fuel xenophobia, by portraying foreign workers from the former Soviet republics - typically from the Caucasus and Central Asia - as responsible for crime and social problems.
© BBC News

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POLITKOVSKAYA MURDER SUSPECT DENIES GUILT(Russia)

13/11/2006- A police officer sought by authorities in connection with the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter who uncovered abuses against civilians in Chechnya, has denied allegations of his involvement in the murder. Alexander Prilepin told state-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta in an interview published Saturday that he and his colleagues had been angered by Politkovskaya's reports, which he called unfounded, but added that he had never thought about taking revenge. Politkovskaya, who exposed killings, torture and other abuses against civilians in Chechnya, was gunned down in her apartment building in Moscow on Oct. 7. The gunmen have not been found and the murder set off a chorus of protest from foreign governments and international organizations. News reports said investigators traveled to the Khanty-Mansiisk autonomous district to check the allegations that Prilepin and another police officer wanted for alleged crimes in Chechnya could have been involved in Politkovskaya's murder. Following a series of Politkovskaya's articles exposing police atrocities in Chechnya, one of the officers whom she accused of abuses, Sergei Lapin, was implicated in e-mail threats against the journalist. In 2001, Politkovskaya fled to Vienna after receiving warnings that Lapin was intent on revenge. Lapin was detained in 2002 and later sentenced to 11 years in prison by a court in Chechnya. Prilepin, speaking to Rossiyskaya Gazeta from an undisclosed location, insisted that neither he nor colleagues of his who are also being sought by authorities had anything to do with Politkovskaya's murder. "I wouldn't conceal that most of my comrades, who had been in Chechnya and lost their friends and colleagues there, had been angered by the media providing ideological support for the rebels and casting us as butchers," Prilepin said in a reference to Politkovskaya's articles. "But no one has ever had any plans to take revenge on journalists. Moreover, it's completely unclear why we should remember the old grievances now and decide to take revenge after so many years."

Prilepin said he had been hiding from the authorities not because he was guilty, but because he feared a biased trial in Chechnya at the hands of local, Kremlin-backed authorities. Last week also saw a former security service officer claim that he might have been poisoned by a man who had sought to meet him, saying he had documents related to the death of the journalist. Alexander Litvinenko, a former Federal Security Service officer who has been granted asylum in Britain, was quoted by the British Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday as saying the documents contained the name of an individual who might have been related to the killing of Politkovskaya.  Litvinenko said he met the man and took the documents from him at a London restaurant on Nov. 1. Several hours later, Litvinenko felt sick and was hospitalized with symptoms suggestive of poisoning. The former officer said he would hand over the documents to police and to Novaya Gazeta when he recovered.
© The Moscow Times

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PROTESTERS RALLY AGAINST NEO-NAZI CONGRESS IN BERLIN (Germany)

11/11/2006- Hundreds of people staged a peaceful rally against a meeting in Berlin by the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party, following its gains in recent regional elections, police said. Shouting "Nazis out," roughly 400 demonstrators whistled and booed the 500 NDP members who gathered on a drizzly Saturday afternoon at a hall in Berlin's northern Reinickendorf neighborhood. The rally was called for by local leftist and conservative lawmakers against the far-right group, which remains a minor player in national politics. Opponents earlier failed to prevent the NPD from using the Berlin hall for its party congress this weekend. "We want to show clearly that our society, in its immense majority, doesn't want neo-fascism and neo-Nazis," said Walter Momper, a Social Democrat and speaker of the regional Berlin parliament and a former mayor of the German capital.

Jewish leader thanked crowd
Berlin Jewish community leader Gideon Joffe also thanked the demonstrators for coming out in numbers "to show the NPD what we think of them" -- even though the rally was far smaller than initially expected. So far, the NPD has secured seats in two regional parliaments -- including in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania where Chancellor Angela Merkel's constituency is located. It captured 7 percent of the vote there in September elections. But it has no representatives in Germany's Bundestag, the lower house of parliament. Police turned out in large numbers Saturday against possible clashes between NPD members and protesters. Demonstrators last year blocked an NPD parade around the city to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. German politicians, however, have so far failed to ban the extremist group.
© Deutsche Welle

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CABINET RETHINKS RACE HATE LAWS AFTER JURY FREES BNP LEADERS(uk)

· Defendants met with cheers and anger · Second trial follows acquittal in February

11/11/2006- Race hatred laws may have to be revised following the acquittal of the British National party's leader, Nick Griffin, for the second time on incitement charges, senior government figures said last night. Gordon Brown, the chancellor, and Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, said the laws may have to be looked at, while a spokesman for John Reid, the home secretary, said he would be "taking soundings" from cabinet colleagues about changing the laws. "Mainstream opinion in this country will be offended by some of the statements that they have heard made," said Mr Brown. "If there is something that needs to be done to look at the law then I think we will have to do that," he told BBC News 24. Lord Falconer told the BBC that it was time to rethink the race hate laws. "What is being said to young Muslim people in this country is that we as a country are anti-Islam, and we have got to demonstrate without compromising freedom that we are not," he said. The government was twice defeated in parliament over its attempts to introduce laws on incitement to religious and racial hatred before getting an amended version of the act on the statute books. Mr Griffin walked free from court yesterday to cheers and abuse as the wider storm broke over his acquittal. There were sobs of relief in the public gallery from the Cambridge University graduate's wife, Jackie, and their three daughters, while his co-accused, Mark Collett, the BNP's publicity chief, trembled as he denounced a "waste of a million pounds of ... people's money". Both men were greeted by about 150 flag-waving supporters outside Leeds crown court but Mr Griffin's speech was drowned by 50 protesters from the Anti-Nazi League and Leeds University, where Mr Collett studied. Outside the court, BNP security men surrounded Mr Griffin as he claimed the verdicts showed the "huge gulf between ordinary real people and the fantasy world, the multicultural fantasy world our masters live in".

An all-white jury of seven women and five men took three hours to clear Mr Griffin, 46, and Mr Collett, 26, of words and behaviour which were either intended or likely to stir up racial hatred. As in the previous trial in February, which ended with acquittals on five charges but deadlock on three, the case stemmed from speeches at private BNP meetings in West Yorkshire which were secretly filmed by the BBC. Although Mr Griffin was shown denouncing Islam as "a wicked, vicious faith" and Mr Collett repeatedly called asylum seekers "cockroaches", their defence asserted they were not speaking in public but to like-minded partisans. The jury also returned to court halfway through their discussions for a second viewing of the speeches, which contained long passages of relatively uncontentious material. "The bits which have hit the headlines are in there, but there's so much other stuff which gives a different context," a BNP supporter said at the trial. "The jury's seeing all that which people outside haven't." His optimism proved correct. Mr Griffin, from Llanerfyl, mid-Wales, was admonished by the trial judge, Norman Jones QC, for passages in a blog which "abused" the court's decision to let him use a computer in the dock. Mr Griffin and Mr Collett, of Rothley, Leicestershire, said after the verdicts they would have welcomed going to jail "for speaking the truth". After the first trial, Mr Griffin said the publicity had seen BNP membership and donations rise. The Crown Prosecution Service defended its decision to seek a retrial as "realistic and in the public interest". After the verdict the BBC said it had a duty to investigate matters of public interest and the programme had caused "widespread concern". Weyman Bennett, general secretary of Unite against Fascism and Racism, said: "It's a tragedy that a fascist and racist organisation can hide behind free speech ... But how do you prove intent without getting inside Griffin's head?"
© The Guardian

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WHEN LE PEN MET DIEUDONNÉ(France)

12/11/2006- One of the most bizarre meetings of the year took place yesterday at Le Bourget, when National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen chanced upon black French comedian Dieudonné in the crowd. What was the controversial comedian doing there? A meeting of minds that almost nobody could have thought possible. Extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was also visibly surprised when meeting Dieudonné yesterday at Le Bourget, just north of Paris. Dieudonné, for so long a thorn in the side of the Front National, told Le Pen that he was "just taking a walk. I'll tell you what I think tomorrow on my website". Dieudonné is a well-known and controversial comedian in France. In 1997, he stood against the FN candidate Marie-France Stirbois, gaining 7.74% of the vote. In 2002, he attempted to stand for President at the head of the Utopistes party, but failed to get the necessary 500 signatures for candidates to be allowed to stand.

Dieudonné has regularly lobbied for rights for ethnic minorities in France. Demanding that more coloured people be represented in the Assemblée Nationale, Dieudonné brought his political views more and more into his act. As one of France's more subversive comedians, he has never been away from the spotlight. He was charged with anti-semitism in 2000, while on a talk-show in 2002 he was again accused after a sketch judged to be anti-semitic. Dieudonné replied with a counter-charge when the programme was repeated with a racist SMS shown at the bottom of the screen. The programme-makers were found guilty. In 2004, Dieudonné began to work ideas into his act parallels between the treatment of blacks and Jews, provoking complaints from many organisations that he was inciting racial hatred. He was then attacked a year later in Martinique, and fined a year after that for slanderous accusations against TV host Arthur, who he had accused of financing the Israeli army.

Yesterday at Le Bourget, Dieudonné was clearly the centre of attention, receiving welcomes from Bruno Gollnisch, among others. Someone pinned a FN badge on him, but he quickly took it off. Jean-Marie Le Pen was relatively ambivalent about Dieudonné's presence, although accepted that if Dieudonné were to support him, it would be the boost for his campaign. "I believe that if he was here today, it was to support me. Of course, I don't really need him, but his vote were the one I needed, I would be very glad it was Dieudonné's" said Le Pen yesterday. Le Pen is making his traditional plea for signatures, claiming that he is once more being prevented from gaining the 500 signatures required to stand for President. Le Pen always gets the 500 signatures, despite his wailing; however, if he has the support of Dieudonné, those signatures may carry extra weight. Jean-Marie Le Pen won through to the second round in 2002, and has every chance of repeating that in 2007.
© Paris Link

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LEADING RIGHTS WATCHDOG RESUMES OPERATIONS IN RUSSIA

11/11/2006- The Moscow chapter of the leading international rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, said Tuesday it had resumed operations in the Russian capital after a break of several weeks, brought about by the group’s alleged failure to re-register its Moscow office in accordance with a newly adopted controversial law on NGOs, the Interfax news agency reported citing deputy chairman of HRW Moscow, Alexander Petrov. "We have been re-registered eventually and assigned the registration number 149," Petrov said. The group had been forced to suspend operations in Russia for a couple of weeks. Earlier this month it became known that Russia had suspended the activities of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Republican Institute and more than 90 other foreign nongovernmental organizations, saying they failed to meet the registration requirements set by the new law.

Across the country, foreign grass-roots organizations that investigate human rights abuses, promote democracy and work with refugees folded their tents until further notice, informing staff that all operations must cease immediately. The only work officially authorized was the paying of staff and bills, The Washington Post wrote last week. The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin at the start of the year, drew broad criticism as part of a general rollback of democratic freedoms in Russia. Activists said it was intended to rein in one of the last areas of independent civic life here; Putin called it necessary to prevent foreigners from interfering in the country’s political process. Last Thursday, officials said the suspensions resulted simply from the failure of private groups to meet the law’s requirements, not from a political decision on the part of the state. The groups would be allowed to resume work once their registrations are completed, they said. "No political order has been given . . . to tighten the screws," said Vladimir Lukin, Russia’s federal ombudsman, speaking at a Moscow forum hosted by the Council of Europe, a 46-country human rights organization based in Strasbourg, France. "Colleagues from international NGOs are not in the habit of keeping their affairs and documents in order."

Many nongovernmental organizations fear that the current bureaucratic tangle might be the beginning of a larger crackdown on activism that is not controlled by the Kremlin. They note too that successful registration would not end their dealings with the Justice Ministry. After that, they would have to report on planned activities for the year, and they worry that officials could reject their plans or penalize the groups if they deviate from the plans because of unexpected events. Many of the suspended organizations are American, including adoption agencies, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. The latter two are funded by the U.S. Congress but act independently to promote democracy. Other suspended groups include two branches of Doctors Without Borders, the Danish Refugee Council and the Netherlands-based Russian Justice Initiative, which helps Russians bring cases to the European Court of Human Rights. Under the law, Russian nongovernmental organizations are also subject to new regulation. But a Wednesday deadline to meet the paperwork requirements or stop operation applied only to foreign groups.

Russian officials stressed that the suspensions, which went into effect at midnight Wednesday, are temporary. "We are not speaking about closing organizations; that is out of the question," said a senior Justice Ministry official, Natalia Vishnyakova, in a telephone interview. Concerning the registration process, she said: "We are working properly, and put all our efforts into making it even faster. It is not at all complicated, believe me, absolutely not. It’s really their own headache. On our part, we provided all necessary conditions." Activists complained, however, that the requirements of the law are so vague and cumbersome that meeting the deadline was extremely difficult. Russian officials, they said, nitpicked their way through the submitted documents. The local Human Rights Watch operation, for instance, called itself the "Representative Office of the Non-Governmental Organization Human Rights Watch in the Russian Federation." Officials at the registration office rejected that description and said the group should call itself the "Representative Office of the Corporation Human Rights Watch Inc. (USA) in the Russian Federation."  That change, among others, required Human Rights Watch to send its submission back to its headquarters in New York to have the document revised and re-notarized, then retranslated into Russian and re-notarized in Russia.

Officials at the Human Rights Watch office in Moscow said they could not speak on the record to a reporter because they interpreted the strictures of the suspension to extend to news media interviews. The law says that suspended groups can do nothing that would advance the aims and goals of their offices in Russia. "We are registering, and we are complying with the law," said Carroll Bogert, associate director of Human Rights Watch, in a telephone interview from New York. "But we have been really distracted from our work by the onerous burdens that this law imposes. But this is not particular to us. It’s a hassle for everyone." Other groups, however, said they found the registration office helpful. The American Chamber of Commerce, for instance, said Russian officials there pointed out errors before the organization formally submitted its documents, allowing it to correct them and expedite the registration. In all, the office accepted the registrations of 99 foreign organizations, freeing them to continue their work, officials at the Justice Ministry said. The American groups included the chamber, the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Moscow Center. Amnesty International said it was exploring whether it could continue field research in Russia by flying in researchers from its London headquarters. "We are seeking clarification," said Lydia Aroyo, a spokeswoman based in London. "But we are very unhappy. There were no clear guidelines as to what documents were required or how to fill them out. The process was very cumbersome and very time-consuming."
© Rusnet

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EMIGRATION, KNOWLEDGE MIGRANTS AND BURKA BAN IN THE NETHERLANDS

Mass emigration slows Dutch population growth
10/11/2006- In the first nine months of this year, almost 100,000 people left the Netherlands to settle elsewhere, 12,000 more than the same period last year. About half of the emigrants were Dutch natives, the national statistics office CBS said on Friday. If the trend continues, more than 130,000 people will have left the country by the end of this year. For the third successive year, the number of emigrants substantially outnumbers immigrants, the CBS said. The net effect means the Dutch population was reduced in the 2004-06 period by 75,000. In the preceding three years, there was a positive net migration of 75,000. Despite the dramatic reversal, the number of immigrants is also on the increase. In the first nine months of this year, 76,000 immigrants settled in the Netherlands, an increase of 6,000 compared to last year. They primarily came from Poland, Germany and the US. The number of former Dutch emigrants returning to their country of birth is also growing. The rising rate of emigration slowed population increase to 13,000 this year 9,000 fewer than 2005. The population is expected to grow by 20,000 this year. The population growth has not been so low since population counts were conducted for the first time in 1900. In the first nine months of this year, 139,000 babies were born, a decrease of 3,000 compared with the same period in 2005. If this trend continues, this year's birth rate will be under 185,000, the lowest number in two decades.

2,200 knowledge migrants in 6 months
9/11/2006- A total of 2,200 non-EU citizens were issued with work permits under the Dutch 'knowledge migrants' scheme in the first six months of this year. Although the scheme has proven to be successful, it has compensated for only a small proportion of the skills shortfall, the Federation of European Employers reported earlier this week. For this reason, the Dutch parliament has now approved a 'talents scheme', which will permit those with a wider range of skills to enter the Netherlands for fixed periods, but with a possibility of extension or conversion into permanent status. The permit will be linked to a specific job and will be withdrawn as soon as the immigrant applies for any welfare payments. The knowledge migrant system came into effect in the last months of 2004. It allows easy access into the Dutch labour market for non-EU nationals. However, minimum annual gross salary requirements must be honoured and the Dutch employer must be accepted by the immigration service IND as a participant of the 'kennismigrant' system. If all the conditions of the scheme are met, it is possible to legally bypass the general Dutch work permit requirement. In certain cases that is a huge advantage.

Verdonk: no Burka ban just yet
10/11/2006- The Dutch Cabinet is not in favour of Islamic women wearing a burka but cannot impose a ban on the garment at this time, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said on Friday. But the Liberal VVD minister also said the government was seeking legal space in which to impose ban on the burka, which covers Muslim women from head to toe. Verdonk said the Cabinet believes the wearing of a burka is undesirable and that sufficient legal room exists to eventually impose a general ban, news agency ANP reported. She pointed out that there is already regulations and restrictions imposed on the wearing of clothing that hides a person's face. Those restrictions apply to public transport and in education, Verdonk said .She said the ban not only applied to burkas, but helmets and other facial coverings.
© Expatica News

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CALL TO BRIDGE WEST-MUSLIM DIVIDE

13/11/2006- A cross-cultural group of 20 prominent world figures has called for urgent efforts to heal the growing divide between Muslim and Western societies. They say the chief causes of the rift are not religion or history, but recent political developments, notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The panel, drawn together by the UN, says a climate of mutual fear and stereotypes is worsening the problem. To combat hostility bred of ignorance, they want education and media projects. The Alliance of Civilisations, which includes Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, dismisses the notion that a clash of civilisations is inevitable, but says that swift action is needed. Their findings were presented in a report to the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a ceremony in Istanbul on Monday morning. The group argues that the need to build bridges between Muslim and Western societies has never been greater. They say that the critical symbol of discord is the Israeli-Palestinian, which, along with Western military interventions in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, contributes significantly to the growing sense of resentment and mistrust that mars relations among communities. "Moreover, the perception of double standards in the application of international law and the protection of human rights is increasing resentment and the sense of vulnerability felt by many Muslims around the globe," the report said.

Globalisation's downside
The experts call for renewed effort from the international community to resolve the Middle East crisis, along with an international conference aimed at reinvigorating the peace process and a UN-commissioned White Paper to properly analyse the situation in a dispassionate and objective manner. In a separate development Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is in Washington for talks with President George W Bush on the conflict. The Alliance of Civilisations report also proposes appointing a high-level representative to work to diffuse tensions at times of crisis, to act as a cross-cultural voice of moderation. It warns that globalisation is contributing to the discord, with many communities experiencing it as "an assault". "For them, the prospect of greater well-being has come at a high price, which includes cultural homogenisation, family dislocation, challenges to traditional lifestyles, and environmental degradation," the report said. "In this context, peoples who feel that they face persistent discrimination, humiliation, or marginalisation are reacting by asserting their identity more aggressively." The report also suggests that the repression of non-violent political opposition and the slow pace of reforms in some Muslim countries is a key factor in the rise of extremism and calls for ruling parties there to allow the full participation of peaceful political groups, whether religious or secular in nature.

Youth education

It criticises the inflammatory language sometimes used by political and religious leaders and the effect such language can have when amplified by the media, urging leaders and shapers of public opinion promote understanding among cultures and mutual respect of religious belief and traditions. The report's authors argue that ignorance is the root cause of a good deal of hostility, so they also propose long-term media and youth education programmes and a focus on cultural ties. But the group makes it clear such schemes will have limited impact if the immediate political causes of tension are not addressed. The Alliance of Civilisations report was written by prominent international figures from a variety of religions who have been meeting over the past year. It was created by Mr Annan with the mandate to propose a concrete plan of action to bridge the gap between increasingly polarised Muslim and Western societies and overcome mutual feelings of fear and suspicion. The UN initiative was co-sponsored by the prime ministers of predominantly Catholic Spain and Muslim Turkey.
© BBC News

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Kristallnacht commemoration 2006

VIENNA REMINDED OF KRISTALLNACHT(Austria)

16/11/2006- People in Vienna were faced with a sight not seen for 60 years on the afternoon of Friday, November 10 - men scrubbing the streets with toothbrushes while wearing yellow stars on their backs. Hundreds of passers-by on Vienna's main shopping street, the Kaerntnerstrasse, stopped to stare at the group and the man towering over them - dressed in leather jackboots and a brown, Nazi-style uniform. The piece of street theatre was designed to commemorate the 68th anniversary of Kristallnacht or Night of Broken Glass on November 9-10, 1938 and entitled 'Do Not Look Away'. The actors engaged passers-by in conversation about their initiative, telling them that it was necessary to remain vigilant about current affairs in order to prevent relativisation of Nazi crimes and affronts to human dignity and peace. Lead actor Hubsi Kramar, who was playing the role of the Nazi overseer, said that the piece was intended to attract attention to the growing resurgence of far-right ideology and the threat of neo-Nazism in Austria and elsewhere in Europe. Meanwhile, German President Horst Koehler has warned that the future of Germany’s resurgent Jewish community is under threat from anti-semitic attitudes. Speaking at the opening of a major new synagogue development in Munich that coincided with the anniversary of Kristallnacht, Koehler said: “Still today our dream if a normal Jewish life in Germany clashes with the reality that there is open and latent anti-semtism and the number of violent acts motivated by right-wing extremism is rising.”
© Totally Jewish

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9 NOVEMBER - INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST FASCISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM(Press release)

9/11/2006- The International day against fascism and anti-semitism is marked today. On November 9th 1938, widely known as 'Kristallnacht', the Nazis started a pogrom against the Jewish community in Germany. A wave of organized violence ended with deportation of 20.000 Jews in concentration camps, in addition to the approximately 6 million Jews who were the targets of a complete annihilation policy.  On "The night of Broken Glass", synagogues were set on fire. Jewish shops had their windows smashed across the country. Fires were lit in every Jewish area, around 200 synagogues were destroyed. The attack lasted 24 hours and 91 Jews were killed. The "Kristallnacht" pogrom, usually seen as the symbolic beginning of the Holocaust, will be marked by non-governmental organizations in 41 European countries joined in the UNITED campaign. Coordinated by the international secretariat of UNITED, the participating organizations will arrange torchlight processions, awareness-raising campaigns, demonstrations and exhibitions.
© UNITED for Intercultural Action

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KRISTALLNACHT AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF HATRED(Opinion)

By Rabbi Hanoch Teller, raised and educated in America, resides in Israel with his wife and eighteen children. He is a senior lecturer in numerous Jerusalem seminaries and the author of 27 books and producer of a soon-to-be-released DVD docu-drama, "Do You Believe in Miracles?" 

On the night of November 9, 1938 Storm Troopers leading wild mobs across Germany and later Austria struck at Jewish targets with unrivaled savagery. The windows of Jewish-owned stores were shattered and every one of the 7,500 Jewish businesses and shops that had escaped earlier “Aryanization” (confiscation) were ransacked. Jewish homes were assaulted and the residents brutally attacked. Cemeteries and schools were vandalized and 2,000 synagogues were put to the torch. Killing and maiming was rampant and over 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps where many were murdered; all were tortured. It took over half a year to replace the glass that had been smashed, hence the name Kristallnacht - the night of broken glass. The Jewish community was fined one billion Reichsmarks for the bedlam; insurance payments of 25 million Reichsmarks that rightfully should have gone to their Jewish policy owners went to the state while Jewish store owners were compelled to repair the shops that had been expropriated.

The accurate translation of Kristallnacht is “Crystal Night,” and Field Marshal Hermann Goering, who had just been charged with implementing the Reich’s Jewish policy, intended to use this connotation to ridicule the victims. Like so many other Nazi perversions of language (Sonderbehandlung, “special treatment” referring to gassing victims; Euthanasie, for mass murder of retarded and physically handicapped patients) this term was meant to be a cynical appellation that would free the victims of any sympathy and reinterpret murder, arson, robbery and plunder into a glistening event marked by sparkle and gleam. History books refer to Kristallnacht as the beginning of the Holocaust. This is akin to saying that the burning of the Reichstag is what was responsible for Hitler becoming Germany's unchallenged Fuhrer. Such oversimplification conveys an ignorance of history and aborts the chance for the proper lesson to be learned.

Nearly seven decades is adequate time to soberly reflect, and set the record straight. Auschwitz did not evolve from the Wannsee Conference, which did not evolve from The Nuremberg Laws, which did not evolve from Versailles humiliation. The eventuality of the Holocaust was inescapable regardless of Kristallnacht. Once the dynamics of hatred were engaged, annihilation was inevitable. The Nazis sought a “Final Solution” to the “Jewish problem” and they had the might, the determination and the requisite ruthlessness for its execution. The Nazis attempted to portray Kristallnacht as a spontaneous eruption of German hatred for the Jews. Alas, nothing happens overnight; hatred festers, it doesn’t metastasize. The Nazis assiduously educated their populace (drawing upon a copious history and tradition) regarding the supposed danger posed by the Jews. The outcome of this education was the greatest and most appalling genocide in history.

Over half-a-century later this is precisely what is so terrifying about the instruction conducted in the Palestinian Authority and the Hizbolla educational network. Hatred of the Jews is taught in schools and preached in the mosques. Cartoons and articles in newspapers routinely portray Jews in blatantly anti-Semitic terms, mirroring Der Sturmer. All of the Arab media are harnessed toward this goal as if Dr. Joeseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, were orchestrating the campaign. Palestinian and Hizbolla Television broadcasts hatred and incitement daily, such as this weekly feature: “Mohammed said in his Hadith: The Day of Resurrection will not arrive until you fight the Jews, until a Jew will hide behind a tree and the plant will say, ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!’” The message is that the murder of Jews is a religious obligation. Moslem clerics repeat this theme in their Friday sermons praising Shahada (suicide bombers cum martyrs). The continued glorification of Shahada is yet another cynical perversion of semantics to free the victims of any sympathy and reinterpret murder as admirable, heroic and the fulfillment of Islamic faith. This past summer Hizbolla demonstrated what it could do when it had the might, the determination and the requisite ruthlessness. Hence the methodology employed by Palestinian and Hizbolla indoctrinators does not resonate with historical familiarity; it shouts from the housetops. When Germany was losing on two fronts it removed troops from battle to assist in the murder of Jews. In July of 1944 Germany needed every rail car to begin its evacuation of Greece and send reinforcements to southern Russia. Yet not a single train was diverted from the extermination camp deportations. Unemployment is widespread in the Palestinian Authority and hunger is prevalent. Resources that could be used to alleviate the situation are diverted to the purchase of rockets that are fired upon innocent Israeli citizens.

Kritallnacht did not serve as a wake-up call 68 years ago to a world that was tolerant and uncomprehending of hatred; perhaps it will today. The message is crystal clear.
© Salem Web Network

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NEW GERMAN SYNAGOGUE OPENS ON KRISTALLNACHT ANNIVERSARY

10/11/2006- Nearly 70 years after Adolf Hitler declared Munich's main synagogue an "eyesore" in the centre of his power base and personally ordered it torn down, the city's Jews celebrated a return to the heart of the southern German city. Today, the 68th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, Torah scrolls were marched, flanked by hundreds of onlookers and secured by some 1,500 police officers, through the winding, cobblestone streets of downtown Munich to a newly built synagogue in the heart of the city. Charlotte Knobloch, president of Germany's main Jewish group and a Munich native who survived the night when synagogues and Jewish businesses across Germany were attacked, praised the new synagogue and community centre as a statement that Jews survived and are thriving in Munich. "It has always been my great wish to open the Ohel Jakob synagogue, Munich's new main synagogue, on Nov. 9," Knobloch said, before some 1,200 government and religious officials and others attending the dedication ceremony.  "Because today we can show the entire world that Hitler did not succeed in annihilating us. There are Jews in the former capital of the Nazi movement."  The completion of the synagogue and its accompanying community centre is a milestone for this burgeoning Jewish community of 9,200 members - Germany's second-largest after Berlin's. It not only brings their house of worship, schools and community centres under the same roof, but places them back in the city centre, near the landmark Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady.  For many, that also means that the buildings are close to the heart of German consciousness.

"There are synagogues that have been rebuilt, synagogues that have been renovated, synagogues that have been reconstructed, but those are totally different from building a centre from scratch for a growing Jewish community," said Rabbi Israel Singer of the World Jewish Congress. "That builds hope."  President Horst Koehler expressed hope that such a symbol would help make the Jewish community a normal part of German society again. "The new Jewish centre, to which this synagogue belongs, not only fills a hole left open in the city centre since World War II, it also helps to bridge the spiritual and cultural hole ripped open by the expulsion and murder of the Munich Jews," Koehler said. When the US Army marched into Munich in 1945, only several dozen Jews remained. While the immediate post-war years saw an influx of mostly Eastern European Jews, most of them were fleeing their homes and swiftly moved on to Israel or the United States. Those who remained and slowly started to rebuild took up residence in the city's only remaining synagogue, located in the backyard of a far-flung neighbourhood. Since then, the city has had no visible Jewish buildings.  The new synagogue, which seats 550, is a cubic structure of travertine stone topped by a glass cube aimed at giving worshippers a view of the heavens. The interior walls are panelled with warm cedar decorated with golden psalms.  Funding for the synagogue, which cost about £40 million, came from the city of Munich, the state of Bavaria and Munich's Jewish community. It stands on St Jakobs Square, only a few blocks from where the city's original main synagogue stood until its demise in June 1938. 

In 2003, authorities thwarted a plot by a group of neo-Nazis to bomb the ceremony to lay the cornerstone for the new synagogue.
Security concerns led Jewish leaders to decide to house a memorial to the 4,000 Munich Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust in an underground tunnel between the synagogue and the community centre. Such fears, say Singer, are behind criticism from some Holocaust survivors who argue a new synagogue should not be built in the city that was home to the Nazi party, where Joseph Goebbels gave the orders for Kristallnacht.  Yet, as the home to what the World Jewish Congress describes as the world's fastest-growing Jewish community, conservatively estimated at more than 100,000, Germany must ensure that the rights of its new immigrants are respected, he said.  "There should be squares in Germany that are secure under the sign of David, not only under the sign of the cross," Singer said.
© Associated Press

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POLICE IN GERMANY ARREST 16 FOR DISRUPTING KRISTALLNACHT MEMORIAL

10/11/2006- German neo-Nazis, some shouting "Sieg Heil", rampaged in the eastern city of Frankfurt on Oder and destroyed wreaths placed to mark the anniversary of the 1938 Nazi pogrom against the Jews, police said on Friday. A police spokeswoman said the group had launched an attack on Thursday evening, shortly after a memorial service by community and Jewish leaders at a monument where a synagogue once stood. The neo-Nazis trampled floral wreaths placed at a memorial stone to the synagogue in the city on the Polish border that was destroyed 68 years ago in the Nazis' Kristallnacht, or "Night of Broken Glass", police said. They threw away candles left at the memorial ceremony, which had been attended by about 200 people. When police arrived, some of the neo-Nazis shouted "Sieg Heil". One eyewitness was quoted in a media report as saying he saw three of the neo-Nazis urinating on the memorial stone. A total of 16 people, aged 16-24, were detained after the attack, police said. "I'm horrified," said Matthias Platzeck, Brandenburg state premier. "It is a provocation beyond all bearing. Anyone who attacks flowers and candles for the millions of Holocaust victims hasn't learnt a thing about the greatest disaster in German history." About 150 people followed an appeal by Frankfurt Mayor Martin Patzelt and gathered at the memorial on Friday morning, some placing new floral wreaths and candles. State prosecutor Michael Neff said charges and arrest warrants were being prepared. "We are still investigating but at this stage I can say we will at a minimum be raising charges of using illegal symbols," he told Reuters. Other charges could include inciting racial hatred and breach of public peace. Frankfurt on Oder is on the opposite side of Germany's financial capital in Frankfurt on Main. There are about 200 Jews living in Frankfurt on Oder, a city of 63,000. There were about 800 in 1933 when Adolf Hitler's Nazis took power.

Antisemitism
Earlier on Thursday, President Horst Koehler, in a speech broadcast on national television at the consecration of a new synagogue in Munich, warned anti-Semitism was still present. During the Kristallnacht pogrom on the night of November 9-10, Nazi mobs destroyed hundreds of synagogues across Germany and Austria, ransacked Jewish homes and stores and attacked Jews, in some cases beating them to death. Germany's eastern states, plagued with high unemployment, have been a hotbed of Germany's far-right movement. Extremists there have defied police efforts to thwart the violence." Frankfurt, 80 km (50 miles) east of Berlin on the Oder river, is in Brandenburg, one of three ex-communist states where far-right parties won enough votes for state parliament seats. The federal government has called a rise in anti-Semitic violence worrying. Police said last month attacks by far-right groups rose 20 percent in the first eight months of 2006. In July, extremists in the neighbouring state of Saxony-Anhalt burnt the diary of Holocaust victim Anne Frank. In another incident, teens in the same state last month forced a 16-year-old classmate to parade round school wearing a sign with an anti-Semitic Nazi-era slogan.
© Reuters

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JESUIT PRIEST APOLOGISES FOR ‘GHETTO’ REMARK AT HOLOCAUST CEREMONY(Australia)

16/11/2006- A Jesuit priest who referred to the “ghetto-like conditions of Bethlehem” during a Holocaust memorial ceremony last week has apologised to the Jewish community. Father Frank Brennan (pictured) told the AJN this week he “readily acknowledged” the inappropriateness of his remark at the annual NSW Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) Kristallnacht ceremony at Martin Place last Friday. “I am apologising for any hurt which was caused by the phraseology in my text,” said Father Brennan, who first visited Israel and the Palestinian territories last year. But Father Brennan, a lawyer and human-rights activist who was awarded an Order of Australia (AO) in 1995 for his contribution to Aboriginal reconciliation, did contest some accusations by the Great Synagogue’s Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence and other CCJ members, who claimed he also spoke of the “disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people”. His speech was neither written nor recorded, but Father Brennan said in a letter to Rabbi Lawrence he intended to refer to Bethlehem as “ghetto-like” or perceived by many Palestinians living there as a “ghetto”. Rabbi Lawrence was so outraged by the “ghetto” remark, he immediately sent a letter to the CCJ, saying he “felt sickened” by the “politically charged speech”. It was “singularly inappropriate and distasteful” to make “a parallel between Hitler’s persecution of the Jews and Israeli policy to Palestinians”, Rabbi Lawrence wrote. “That suggestion is grotesquely offensive.” But Rabbi Richard Lampert, emeritus rabbi at North Shore Temple Emanuel, told the AJN he was not so offended. “I thought his [Father Brennan’s] words were, to some extent, inappropriate but I wasn’t overly offended. I think that people have a right to speak about the Palestinian condition, but it was the wrong forum. Perhaps he could have chosen a different message for this occasion.”  A statement issued by the CCJ this week said it “deeply regrets” the remarks made by Father Brennan. “The council deplores the analogy drawn between Israel and Nazi Germany. Israel is a democratic state with an enfranchised Christian and Muslim population, represented in the Knesset. In Nazi Germany, Jews were disenfranchised, denied permission to work and were rounded up for systematic slaughter.” But Father Brennan said he was “deeply troubled that anyone could think I would draw such an analogy”. Father Brennan is a professor of law at the Australian Catholic University and professor of human rights and social justice at the University of Notre Dame Australia.
© AJN

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DAY OF DIGNITY MARKED(Canada)

Flowers symbolize victims of Holocaust

10/11/2006- Six red roses laid in a solemn ceremony of remembrance Thursday night, each representing one million Jewish people killed in the Holocaust, in a subtle way invoked images of the blood that was shed in the unforgettable genocide. The annual Day of Dignity event, held at Province House in Halifax, remembered the six million Jews who perished and also the darkness of destruction that fell over the Jewish communities in Germany and Austria 68 years ago on Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. On Nov. 9, 1938, gangs of Nazi youth roamed through Jewish neighbourhoods, breaking windows in businesses and homes, burning synagogues and looting. "What happened that night was an escalation of steps already being taken to harm the Jewish community of Germany," said Rev. John Boyd, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Halifax. "And future steps would be even worse, leading to the Holocaust itself." As a Christian minister and as a Canadian, Mr. Boyd said there are important lessons, especially for non-Jewish people, to learn from this horrendous experience. "First, violence done to one part of the human community is the business of all of us," he said. "This is especially true of systemic violence that expresses itself in racism . . . and so many other -isms that seek to justify violence against those whose differences in race or creed or some other characteristic is wrongly feared." In a brief but passionate speech about the meaning of Kristallnacht, Leah Ellis, one young member of the Jewish community, challenged those gathered in the packed room to take a stand when they see injustices done.

"The lesson we can take from Kristallnacht is not to let things go by without doing something about it," the Grade 12 Halifax student said, citing today’s conflict in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million others displaced since fighting between rebels, the Sudanese army and a militia of Arab nomads began in 2003. "Like Albert Einstein said, evil is not done by the people who commit it but also by the people who stand by and do nothing. So I think that’s the thing that we should remember tonight." Fear that memories of the Holocaust will be forgotten once survivors pass on is one reason why Matthew Godwin, of the Holocaust Education Committee, takes an active role in organizing this event. "Well, young people are the ones who are going to carry the message to the coming generations and their children," the Halifax university student said after the ceremony. The Day of Dignity usually includes a brief outdoor march and lighting of six candles. But due to Thursday’s rain, the event was moved inside to Province House and the roses were used in place of candles.
© The Chronicle Herald

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2 SYNAGOGUES HONOR A WOMAN WHO CARED (usa)

10/11/2006- Liliane Gaffney was a 13-year-old in Belgium when she noticed ominous signs posted around the capital city of Brussels: "Buy Belgian, not Jewish." "I said, 'What's a Jew?' " recalled Gaffney, now an 81-year-old resident of Northvale. "I grew up in an agnostic family and that was history I didn't know about." Her youthful ignorance didn't last long. During the next several years, Gaffney and her family helped save about 30 Jews from Nazi forces occupying Belgium. Today, two Closter synagogues will honor Gaffney during a Sabbath service marking the anniversary of Kristallnacht, a 1938 attack on Jewish property and synagogues in Germany. "There is a tendency to say that 'no one cared,' " said Bruce Pomerantz, a member of Temple Emanu-El of Closter who helped organize the event. "Yet, here is an example of someone who had everything to lose but who went out of her way to help other people." Gaffney retains a disarming modesty about her actions during the Holocaust. Indeed, she initially turned down Pomerantz's invitation to speak at the synagogue. "I just grew up in a very giving family with a strong sense of justice," said Gaffney, a longtime professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. "We did what everyone should have done." The Nazis conquered Belgium in 1940, instituting anti-Jewish measures and eventually deporting nearly 25,000 to the Auschwitz death camp. But Belgian authorities refused to cooperate, and about 25,000 Jews successfully hid from the Germans, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Gaffney's family hid Jews in their home and provided them with identification papers that allowed them to travel. One young woman stayed in Gaffney's room and pretended to neighbors that she was a deaf mute so no one would hear her Eastern European accent. "At night in my room, she wouldn't shut up," Gaffney quipped. "She taught me Yiddish." Gaffney, though just a teenager, had to stay tight-lipped around her friends. "My mother told me, 'You have to say nothing, otherwise these people will be killed,' " she said. "Their survival depended on my silence." Gaffney and her family left Belgium in 1948 for America.
© North Jersey Media Group

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Headlines 10 November, 2006

AUSTRIAN MP HAILS 'GOOD SIDE' OF NAZISM

10/11/2006- A newly-elected right-wing member of the Austrian parliament stirred up a political storm earlier this week Wednesday after saying that Nazism had "its good side."  Calls for the resignation of Wolfgang Zanger of the Freedom Party (FPoe) and threats of legal action followed his remarks on a television programme late Tuesday. "Of course Nazism had its good sides, only we don’t want to see them today," Zanger said, adding that Adolf Hitler had "given hope" to people in depressed Germany. The head of the conservative OeVP party, Reinhold Lopatka, said the remarks were "scandalous", Social Democrat parliamentary speaker Barbara Prammer said they were unacceptable and the Greens called on Zanger to step down. The head of the Young Socialists, Torsten Engelage, said legal action was being taken for alleged "minimising" of Nazism. Zanger, 37, entered parliament following the elections of October 1 which gave the FPOe more than 11 percent of the vote and 21 seats, three more than in 2002. His party said Wednesday he would not be resigning. Austria, which remains ambivalent over its annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938, regularly sees rows over pro-Nazi statements by politicians. Last year an extreme-right senator deplored the "brutal persecution" of Austrian Nazis after World War II, and another questioned the existence of gas chambers to eliminate Jews.
© EJP

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MEDAL FOR ROMANY ACTIVIST: POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION OR NOT(Czech Republic)

08/11/2006 - Was it an act of positive discrimination when President Vaclav Klaus bestowed the Medal of Merit on Czech Romany Milan Horvat on October 28, or was it correct to award Horvat? the weekly Tyden asks in its latest issue. MEP Hynek Fajmon (Civic Democrats, ODS), former mayor of Lysa nad Labem, central Bohemia, says that his party colleague Horvat deserves the medal. "I´ve know him for ten years. Cooperation between Romanies and the Lysa town hall is an example for other Czech towns and municipalities thanks to him," Fajmon told Tyden. However, other Lysa inhabitants were reluctant to make any official statement for the weekly about Horvat´s decoration. "Well, Horvat is a good chap, but I don´t want to comment on it..." one of them said. In Lysa, people make jokes that he received a Dance Shoe Order as he organiser an annual national Romany ball that the president´s wife, Livia, has repeatedly attended, Tyden says. But Horvat, 53, a widower a father of five, a member of the ODS of which Klaus is honorary chairman, is active in many other areas. He among others does business in construction and organises a Romany festival. Horvat founded a Romany association in Lysa and took part in a project of asylum housing for released prisoners. He has been a local representative and last week he was elected a town councillor, the weekly writes.

It says that Horvat may be considered a good example for the members of the country´s Romany community: a self-made man who offers jobs to Romanies and even educates them, allegedly persuading others to regularly send their children to school. "He is a hard-working, honest and nice man who always handed in proper accounting of all subsidies he received," Tana Hlavata from the Nadace Via foundation said. Horvat was recently awarded the Via Bona prize for significant philanthropists as he funds some of the activities of the Romany association in Lysa. But Hlavata said she believes Horvat should have not been awarded the medal as he has not done enough to deserve a state decoration. "I know tens of people like him and it is rather an exaggerated gesture of appreciation," she told Tyden. Historian Dusan Trestik shares her doubts. "State decorations should reflect merits concerning the state, not any excellent performance," he said. Trestik, nevertheless, said he considers the choice of Horvat as candidate for a state decoration was rather good. The weekly notes that Klaus decorated a man who leads a Romany community that is exceptional in the Czech Republic in one aspect: Lysa Romanies mostly take part in elections, they support the Civic Democrats, and admire the president. A Romany activist was also awarded in 2002 by former president Vaclav Havel who bestowed the Medal of Merit for the Czech Republic upon Karel Holomek, chairman of the Association of Romanies in Moravia. Holomek helped establish the Museum of Romany Culture in Brno.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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VICTIM SUPPORT HIGHLIGHTS HATE CRIME(uk)

09/11/2006 - Victims of homophobic crime are being encouraged to get emotional support and practical help from Victim Support, and to use ‘third party reporting’ facilities. Victim Support is the independent national charity for people affected by crime. Staff and volunteers offer free and confidential information and support for victims of any crime, whether or not it has been reported and regardless of when it happened. New information from the national charity offers advice to its staff and volunteers on supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victims, and highlights the widespread under-reporting of homophobic and transphobic hate crime.
It also explains how victims can use ‘third party reporting’ facilities, such as Victim Support offices, race equality councils and Citizens Advice Bureaux, to pass on information about incidents without reporting them to the police. The guidance also looks at the impact of hate crime, victims’ needs and the importance of recruiting more LGBT volunteers, as well as why concerns about being ‘outed’, lack of confidence in the police, and fear of reprisals discourage many victims from reporting incidents. Victims are often worried that, if they go to the police, they might get an unhelpful or insensitive response, while others may not feel confident that support organisations will understand - or be able to meet - their needs. Peter Dunn, Head of Research and Development at Victim Support, says: “We live in a more tolerant society but unfortunately, crime and prejudice still affect people’s lives. We can, and do, support people who’ve been threatened and assaulted because of their sexuality or transgender status, but we want to reach out to more of them. By getting out into LGBT communities and talking to people, including those who’ve been affected by crime, to find out more about their needs, we can promote our services and help people get on with their lives.”
© Gay.Com

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RACE-HATE ASIANS JAILED FOR 'ABOMINABLE' MURDER OF BOY(uk)

09/11/2006 - Three Asian men were jailed for life yesterday for the “diabolical” race-hate murder of a 15-year-old schoolboy.
The three, who terrorised the Glasgow community where they lived, were convicted of murdering Kriss Donald at the end of an emotionally charged six-week trial. The slightly built boy was stabbed 13 times and then set on fire while he was still alive, simply because he had white skin. Judge Lord Uist told the three killers that the “savage and barbaric nature of this notorious crime has rightly shocked and appalled the public”. At the High Court in Edinburgh Imran Shahid, 29, was ordered to spend at least 25 years behind bars. When he murdered Kriss he had only been out of prison for three months after serving a 30-month sentence for a road-rage attack on a woman. His brother, Zeeshan Shahid, 28, must spend 23 years in prison before being considered for parole and Mohammad Faisal Mushtaq, 27, will serve 22 years for the abduction and murder of Kriss on March 15, 2004. All three had fled to Pakistan after the killing, believing that they were beyond the reach of British justice because the two countries had no extradition agreement. But improving co-operation between Britain and Pakistan over the deportation of terror suspects was extended to deal with other serious criminals.

In June 2005, armed Pakistani police swooped on a flat in Lahore and a remote farmhouse in Punjab and arrested all three men. Four months later the trio agreed to return to Scotland to stand trial rather than spend any more time in Rawalpindi prison. That trial ended yesterday with the judge telling them that they had been convicted of the murder of a “wholly innocent” teenage boy. The judge continued: “He was selected as your victim only because he was white and walking in a certain part of the Pollokshields area of Glasgow when you sought out a victim. “This murder consists of the premeditated, cold-blooded execution of your victim by stabbing him 13 times and setting alight with petrol while he was still alive. It truly was an abomination. “The agony which he must have suffered during the period between being stabbed and set alight and his death is just beyond imagination.” The boy’s mother, Angela, shouted: “You bastards” towards the killers as the jury returned guilty verdicts. Kriss had been taken on a terrifying 200-mile journey across Scotland before being driven to a deserted spot on the banks of the Clyde, where he was stabbed, set alight and left for dead. He had dragged himself 50 yards in the darkness and rolled in a muddy puddle to try to extinguish the flames. He left a trail of blood, scorched earth and fragments of burnt clothing in his wake.

All three accused denied murder, but the jury of six men and nine women found Imran Shahid guilty by unanimous verdict and the other two guilty by majority verdicts. The judge said Imran Shahid had taken the lead role. The judge told him: “It is clear to me from your criminal record and the evidence I have heard that you are a thug and a bully with a sadistic nature and that you are not fit to be at liberty in a civilised society.” Kriss lived a few streets from his killers but did not know them. Half the population of Pollokshields is Asian, mainly of Pakistani origin, and in general the communities exist peacefully, but separately. But for some time residents had complained to police about drug and drink-fuelled clashes between Asian and white gangs. Kriss, whose only declared allegiance was to Glasgow Rangers, did not belong to any gangs. Known as “Krypto”, he was regarded as the “man of the house” in McCulloch Street, where he lived with his mother, older sister and three younger siblings.
© The Times Online

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TOUGHER ASYLUM LAW IN EFFECT FROM JANUARY(Switzerland)

08/11/2006 - The government has decided to introduce key elements of a tougher asylum law from January 1, 2007. The new law was approved in a nationwide vote less than two months ago. The cabinet argued at the time that harsher measures were necessary to prevent abuses and avoid social tension. At the start of next year, illegal immigrants and rejected asylum seekers can be jailed for up to two years pending deportation – a doubling of the current length. Also as of January 1, applications of asylum seekers failing to produce either a passport or identification card without a credible reason will be automatically turned down. It was mainly this tightening of the law which received so much criticism from a coalition of centre-left parties, trade unions, churches and aid organisations who forced the September vote. They argued that the reforms went against Switzerland's humanitarian tradition. The United Nations Refugee Agency has also been critical of the new asylum legislation, calling it among the toughest in Europe. However, the new law also aims to improve the plight of recognised refugees. Those who have received so-called "temporary asylum" are entitled to work permits. And after three years, they have the right to bring their families to Switzerland so long as they are not dependent on welfare. The cantons will also be permitted to provide food and temporary lodging for people who have been in the country at least four years and are still waiting for their case to be decided. The cabinet said on Wednesday that the other changes to the asylum law – the loss of the right to social security benefits and reduction of the amount of emergency aid – will come into effect one year later on January 1, 2008.
© Swissinfo

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VERDONK URGES ABOLITION OF EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES BOARD(Netherlands)

09/11/2006 - Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk has controversially called for the abolition of the Equal Treatment Commission. Verdonk was speaking in response to a ruling from the commission earlier this week, which said a female Muslim school teacher has the right to refuse to shake hands with men. The hardline Liberal VVD immigration minister said the decision was ridiculous and did not promote the integration of immigrants into society. VVD leader Mark Rutte has backed Verdonk's statement. But Verdonk's proposal angered Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who said the minister had gone too far. Nevertheless, the Christian Democrat CDA leader also said he had difficulty accepting the commission's ruling. The Labour PvdA and Socialist SP parties were also surprised by the commission's ruling, but do not want to abolish the organisation. The teacher was suspended from the Vader Rijn College in Utrecht after she decided she would not shake hands with men. The school sent the matter to the Equal Opportunities Commission, which issued a non-binding ruling that the teacher had the right to use other forms of greeting.
© Expatica News

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BNP LEADER CLEARED OF RACE HATE(uk)

10/11/2006- BNP leader Nick Griffin and party activist Mark Collett have been cleared of inciting racial hatred after a retrial at Leeds Crown Court. Mr Griffin, 46, from Powys, Wales, had denied two charges of using words or behaviour intended to stir up racial hatred in a speech in Keighley. Mr Collett, 26, of Leicestershire, was cleared of four similar charges. Chancellor Gordon Brown has told the BBC race laws may have to be revised in light of the acquittal. Mr Griffin and Mr Collett were charged in April 2005 after the BBC showed a secretly-filmed documentary The Secret Agent in 2004. The party leader smiled and nodded as the foreman of the jury read out the unanimous not guilty verdict. Outside court, Mr Griffin and Mr Collett were greeted with chants of "freedom" by about 200 supporters, some of whom waved the union flag. A small number of anti-fascist protesters shouted as Mr Griffin addressed the crowd on a megaphone. He said: "What has just happened shows Tony Blair and the government toadies at the BBC that they can take our taxes but they cannot take our hearts, they cannot take our tongues and they cannot take our freedom." Mr Griffin said his co-defendant had worked "incredibly hard" for the BNP but had been living under the threat of a prison sentence since the age of 23.

BBC 'cockroaches'
Mr Collett, the party's head of the publicity, said: "This is the BNP - two, BBC - nil." He branded the BBC "cockroaches" and added: "The BBC have abused their position. "They are a politically correct, politically biased organisation which has wasted licence-fee payers' money to bring two people in a legal, democratic, peaceful party to court over speaking nothing more than the truth." In a statement, the BBC said its job was to bring matters of public interest to general attention. "In this case the matters raised in The Secret Agent were seen by a large section of the public and caused widespread concern," the statement read. "The BBC has an important role in doing this. "However, the question of whether criminal offences have been committed is of course a matter for the police, prosecuting authorities and the courts and not for the BBC."

'Divide society'
Speaking to the BBC after the acquittal, Chancellor Gordon Brown said race laws may have to be tightened. He said: "I think any preaching of religious or racial hatred will offend mainstream opinion in this country and I think we've got to do whatever we can to root it out from whatever quarter it comes. "And if that means we've got to look at the laws again I think we will have to do so". The Crown Prosecution Service said it was satisfied there had been sufficient evidence for a "realistic prospect of conviction" and it had been in the public interest to proceed. During the trial, the jury heard extracts from a speech Mr Griffin made in the Reservoir Tavern in Keighley, on 19 January 2004, in which he described Islam as a "wicked, vicious faith" and said Muslims were turning Britain into a "multi-racial hell hole". At the same event, Mr Collett addressed the audience by saying: "Let's show these ethnics the door in 2004." In his closing argument, Nick Griffin's barrister said his client's words were part of a "campaign speech of an official and legitimate party".
© BBC News

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BNP JURY CONSIDERS ITS VERDICT(uk)

09/11/2006 - The jury in the retrial of British National Party leader Nick Griffin, on race hate charges, has retired to consider its verdict.
Mr Griffin, 47, of Powys, mid Wales, denies using words or behaviour intended to stir up racial hatred. The charges relate to speeches made in Keighley which were secretly filmed for a BBC documentary on the party in 2004. Party activist Mark Collett, 24, of Leicestershire, denies four similar charges relating to two other speeches.

Freedom of expression
Summing up at Leeds Crown Court, the Recorder of Leeds, Judge Norman Jones QC said the case was not about the political beliefs of the BNP. He added: "It's not about whether assertions made about Islam are right or wrong. Those are issues to be debated in different arenas. "We live in a democratic society which jealously protects the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression, to free speech.
"That does not mean it is limited to speaking only the acceptable, popular or politically correct things." He said it also extended to things which "many people may find unacceptable, unpalatable and sensitive" and that "along with those rights come rights and duties not to abuse them".

'Legal and democratic'
During the trial, the jury heard extracts from a speech Griffin made in the Reservoir Tavern in Keighley, on 19 January 2004, in which he described Islam as a "wicked, vicious faith" and said Muslims were turning Britain into a "multi-racial hell hole". At the same event, Mr Collett addressed the audience by saying: "Let's show these ethnics the door in 2004." Giving evidence, Mr Griffin said his speech was not an attack on Asians in general, but on Muslims. "This isn't a racial thing," he said. "It's not an Asian thing. It's a cultural and religious thing."
He admitted that until the late 1990s "the party, even myself to a certain extent, could be described as racist", but said this was no longer the case. Mr Collett said his speeches were only intended to motivate party members to take part in "legal and democratic" campaigning.
The case was adjourned until Friday.
© BBC News

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LOCALS LAUNCH PETITION IN SUPPORT OF MAYOR WHO EVICTED ROMANIES(Czech Republic)

09/11/2006 - The residents of Vsetin in the Zlinsky region have launched a petition in support of their mayor and senator Jiri Cunek (the Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) who recently decided to evict some local Romany rent-defaulters from their homes and give them replacement housing outside the town centre, Vsetin town hall spokeswoman Eva Stejskalova told CTK today. The petition asks politicians to start dealing with the Romany issue in a constructive and efficient way. It has also called on the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting to inspect the fairness of the published reports, Stejskalova said. The town hall constructed container-like flats outside the town, to which it moved some 230 Romanies from a dilapidated house from the town centre. Cunek was sharply criticised for the measure by human rights activists. The town hall also moved tens of Romany rent-defaulters outside the town. The Romanies moved outside the Zlinsky region have filed a lawsuit against Cunek. Organisers of the petition say that both the private and public media describe the Romany issue in Vsetin unfairly, painting the picture of Cunek as the worst "rascal and racist." "If anything, it was him who was able to resolve the long-lasting unbearable situation in Vsetin's centre without throwing the rent-defaulters out in the streets, while his opponents, who are criticising him, are shouting cheap slogans about xenophobia and racism from their comfortable offices and desks," the petition said.

Organiser Jan Oth said it was evident that the people did not know the meaning of the word. "In the opposite case, they would keep silent. If there is any racism, it is only committed against the 'whites.' The state robs us at any step through taxes so that it could provide livelihood to parasites," Oth said. If anyone disagrees with the steps, pseudo-protectors of human rights and "blabbermouths" who know nothing about the problem foment big opposition. They have never been to Vsetin, they have never heard its residents who have been exposed for decades to the co-existence with the unadapted people, Oth said. Not Cunek's conduct, but lack of professionalism, buck-passing and ignorance of facts and views of the public are scandalous, the petition said. Two petitions are being held in Vsetin to the same effect. The first was launched by the staff of the clinic that is situated close to the house with Romany rent-defaulters in question, who were most afflicted by the latters' disorderly conduct. The petition has been signed not only by the health staff, but also by patients.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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RACIAL GAP IN EMPLOYMENT 'WILL TAKE 45 YEARS TO CLOSE'(uk)

09/11/2006 - A young black jobseeker will be facing retirement by the time he has the same job prospects as a white counterpart, a minister will warn today. Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal the gulf in employment between white Britons and black or ethnic minority citizens - a gap that on current progress will take 45 years to close. Last week's report from the government's child poverty tsar, Lisa Harker, underlined the need to improve adult job prospects. Poverty rates among black African, Pakistani and Bangladeshi children are more than double the rate among white children, and are up to 10 percentage points higher for those living in black Caribbean and Indian households. Working Pakistani and Bangladeshi households are more likely to be in poverty than white households where no one works. Bangladeshi men earn less than two-thirds the typical hourly wage of white men. In future the monthly statistics for jobseekers will be broken down by ethnicity and region so the government can monitor its progress in closing the divide, which has already fallen by two percentage points since 2003 to 15%. "If we haven't closed the employment gap we can't eradicate relative poverty," said Jim Murphy, a minister at the Department for Work and Pensions. "In the recent past the trajectory was that it would take a century to close the gap. In previous decades it would have taken generations. The question is, what more can we do to close this gap over the next decade?"

Factors range from low skills in some communities to firms recruiting by word of mouth rather than advertising jobs. Mr Murphy added: "We have tried 60 years of the centralised command and control welfare state. [It] treated an unemployed white steelworker in the east end of Glasgow in a very similar way to a Bangladeshi man in the east end of London. That just doesn't work." Instead, he argued, "a localised and increasingly personalised welfare state" is needed. Under the government's cities strategy introduced this year 15 areas - from east and west London to Rhyl and Glasgow - have been given greater freedom to decide priorities and find solutions. Areas that succeed in increasing employment rates will be able to use the money saved in benefits to reinvest in local services. Officials say relatively simple changes can make a substantial difference. They point to a project in Bradford that offered information to businesses about the needs of Muslim employees and advised Muslims about job options they might not have considered. In Newham, east London, a factory that usually hired by word of mouth worked with recruiters to ensure black and Asian communities knew about vacancies.
© The Guardian

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OSCE MEETING IN VIENNA FOCUSES ON HATE CRIME DATA DEFICIT(Press Release)

10/11/2006 - OSCE participating States should strengthen efforts to collect and maintain reliable information and statistics on hate crimes, including on violent manifestations of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, including against Muslims. This was the main concern voiced by participants of a meeting in Vienna today. Organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), it brought together experts from OSCE participating States, representatives of inter-governmental organizations and civil society. "Throughout human history, hate has been the principal driving force behind violence and aggression. Today, hate motivated crimes remain part of our reality. Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, violence against Roma, members of religious and other communities - all these manifestations of hate pose threats to security and stability in the OSCE region," said Ambassador Christian Strohal, ODIHR Director. "Instigating fear against one community ultimately raises the feeling of insecurity among others too." Participants pointed out that a data deficit hampers the ability of governments to assess the nature and extent of hate crimes, and stands in the way of effective measures and strategies to prevent and respond to hate-motivated acts.

Law enforcement agencies and the judiciary need reliable data to be aware of the trends in hate-motivated crimes, develop adequate policies and offer sufficient protection to vulnerable groups. The need to develop national legislation in regard to hate crimes, as well as to report cases to the ODIHR, and make such information available to the public was also underlined. "Certainly, no country has a monopoly on hate; no state can claim to be totally free of prejudice and bigotry. The recent increase in the victimization of vulnerable people is a worldwide phenomenon," said Dr. Jack Levin, of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict, Northeastern University, USA. "When you think of hate, you might want to think of the conflict in the Middle East or the war in Iraq. But please don't forget where hate begins - in the silence of ordinary people." The ODIHR assists OSCE participating States in developing methodologies for collecting and maintaining reliable information and statistics about hate crimes and violent manifestations of intolerance and discrimination. In June 2005, the Office published a report on Combating hate crimes in the OSCE region, and in October 2006, issued a second paper on Challenges and responses to hate-motivated incidents in the OSCE region, which included updated statistics, legislation and other information submitted by participating States. The ODIHR has also developed police and civil society training programmes to support states in strengthening their response to hate crimes. PDF attachments or links  
© OSCE

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KIEV SKINHEADS MURDER NIGERIAN (Ukraine)

7/11/2006- Five young men who appeared to be skinheads murdered a citizen of Nigeria in Kiev, according to Vyacheslav Likhachyov, UCSJ's Kiev monitor. Godknows Mievi, a 44 year old man who lived for many years in Ukraine, was killed on the evening of October 25 near the Poznyaki metro station. Eyewitnesses reported that the attackers shouted racist slogans. Mr. Mievi, who is survived by a Ukrainian wife and a son, died of knife wounds before police arrived. He had a Ph.D. and worked for an oil company in the city. The November 1, 2006 Ukraine edition of the national Russian daily Kommersant added that Mr. Mievi's assailants shouted "We will save Ukraine from these freaks!" as they stabbed him and that they did not bother robbing him of the $400 he had in his possession, all evidence that the murder was a hate crime. The article, however, failed to mention the fact that in the entire post-Soviet history of Ukraine, there has been only one successful hate crimes prosecution, and even in that case (the trial of several neo-Nazis who attacked a synagogue in Kiev while screaming "Death to the Yids!"), the chief organizer of the assault was let out of prison early.

The November 2, 2006 edition of the Kiev newspaper Gazeta po-kievski reported that a suspect has been detained in the murder investigation, though the article offered no details about the charges he faces. Ruslan Skripets--a member of the extremist nationalist Ukrainian Movement Against Illegal Immigration--was reportedly arrested shortly after the murder. This organization, which was obviously inspired by the Movement Against Illegal Immigration in Russia (an organization allegedly linked to anti-minority violence in Kondopoga and elsewhere), distributed racist leaflets in Kiev shortly before the murder, according to an October 25, 2006 report by the Kiev newspaper Blik. The leaflets claimed that Ukraine's population has fallen by five million over the past five years, while at the same time almost as many Africans and Asians have migrated to the country (both of these figures are grossly over-stated, according to government statistics). "Only Slavs are dying!" in Ukraine, the leaflet argues. The article quoted a local activist from this organization saying that while his group does not engage in violence against minorities, he understands why neo-Nazis do and thinks other people should avoid "stigmatizing them." Police reportedly did nothing to investigate the distribution of these leaflets, which may violate Ukraine's laws against hate speech.

The Gazeta po-kievski article quoted Pastor Sandey Adelazha--an African Protestant minister whose services are widely covered in the press--as saying that Africans are assaulted on a weekly basis in Kiev and that the rise of racist violence in Ukraine is probably connected to the growth of the neo-Nazi movement in neighboring Russia. "I've lived in Ukraine for 13 years, and it was calmer back then," the pastor said, "though even then Africans had some problems and my apartment was robbed four times. But nowadays, African embassies receive complaints every week from their citizens who have been attacked." The article exposed a previously unreported incident as well. In 2004, a Ukrainian woman and her African husband were attacked by two men who knocked the African to the floor and started to kick him. The wife's screams attracted the attention of a passing police patrol, which scared off the attackers. However, when the officers realized that an African had been attacked, they allegedly refused to take a report of the assault or give him medical assistance, and instead just drove off. The couple complained to the prosecutor's office, and an investigation was launched, but by then it was too late to find the suspects. The Ukrainian woman claimed that her husband was not robbed of anything during the attack and that the attackers screamed something racist in English as they beat him.

Finally, a Nigerian consular officer, Parkison Maduako, was interviewed in the November 1, 2006 edition of Gazeta po-kievski and was quoted as saying that he had been subjected to a racist attack. On his way to the bank one day, a man pushed him to the ground for no reason, and didn't attempt to rob him. "What inspired him to do that, I don't know, but I think it was the color of my skin," Mr. Maduako said.
© FSU Monitor

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SLOVENE AUTHORITIES CAPITULATE TO MOB

06/11/2006 - The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Slovene section of Amnesty International have sent a letter to Slovene Prime Minister Janez Jansa to express serious concern that Slovene authorities may be currently involved in facilitating the forced eviction of a Romani settlement near the village of Ambrus, following actions by a non-Romani mob. Police authorities have reportedly acted at certain points to protect the residents of the Romani settlement from direct and violent threats of the instigated mob. However, police did not intervene in a timely fashion, and authorities have to date failed adequately to condemn the activities of the majority community and the outbreak of durable and credible threats of racially motivated mob violence.

The facts are as follows: On 29 October, a group of around 30 Roma from Decja vas, near the village of Ambrus, municipality Ivancna Gorica, including a number of children, were evacuated to the Postojna refugee centre, a former military barracks, in order to protect them from local non-Roma. This action was apparently undertaken as a result of a conflict arising from an incident occurring around one week previously, in which a non-Romani man was reportedly attacked by inhabitants of the settlement. He thereafter required emergency health treatment. Following the attack, on 23 October, non-Romani villagers met and openly called for violence against local Roma. Police were reportedly present at the meeting, which was broadcast on national television, but failed to intervene. Following the meeting, the entire Romani community fled from their homes into the forest. They spent several nights hiding in the forest in fear of retribution of non-Roma, who threatened the local Roma with a range of actions, including death. On 28 October, the local Roma attempted to return to their homes under police protection. However, approximately 200 non-Roma local residents objected to the return of the Roma and, under threat of violence, demanded that authorities resettle the Romani community living there to the more suitable location “due to security and ecological reasons”. Local non-Roma reportedly maintained that “Roma would never return to the area”. Due to the credible and evident threat of mob violence, Slovene police blocked access to Romani settlement and special police units were brought in.

On the evening of 28 October, allegedly “all sides” reached an agreement that Roma would be temporary resettled to Postojna refugee centre. In the Postojna centre, there is running water and sanitary facilities, but there is no warm water and no heating. As a result, Mr. Jurij Zaletel, Head of the Sector for the Integration of Refugees and Aliens of the Ministry of Interior, said that Roma would be able to go to the nearby facility “Veliki Otok”, a closed detention centre for aliens, 2-3 times per week in order to have shower. Slovene Human Rights Ombudsman Matjaz Hanzek has reportedly stated about the incident that the rule of law has been dangerously undermined, as “a mob which threatens with death can decide where someone will live”. He also warned that such treatment might serve as a signal to others and that this pattern might be repeated in the future. The ERRC/Amnesty Slovenia letter notes that the police acted to protect members of the Romani community from those who threatened their safety. Recognising that the relocation of the community to temporary housing in Postojna may constitute a legitimate measure to ensure their safety, concern is nonetheless expressed that the continued presence of the community in Postojna may no longer be necessary or proportionate to address the initial threat. The organisations also observe in the letter that any such limitation on the rights to privacy and to adequate housing should be limited in time strictly to what is necessary in the circumstances. Acts of racial violence should be thoroughly investigated.

In addition, police appear to have only begun to take seriously the gravity of the threats to persons concerned on 28 October, a number of days after the beginning of the episode. In the letter sent to Prime Minister Jansa, the letter expresses concern that authorities have not acted with due diligence to condemn and investigate what appeared to be racially motivated attacks, with a view to bring those responsible to justice. The letter further expresses concern at reported plans to permanently relocate the affected Roma to alternate sites. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, commenting on the requirements of Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, has held that forced evictions are prima facie incompatible with the requirements of the Covenant. Irrespective of the nature of tenure, everyone should be afforded a degree of security of tenure. Any proposed relocation of the community should take place only following adequate opportunity for genuine consultation with those affected, adequate and reasonable notice for all affected persons prior to the scheduled date of eviction, due process of law, and in strict compliance with international human rights law. No form of discrimination including the very serious harm of racial discrimination is permissible in the implementation of removing persons from housing by force.

In the current case, a number of these fundamental protections appear to have been infringed. The community is apparently in danger of being forcibly evicted, in gross violation of their human rights. The solutions which appear to be proposed have not been developed following genuine consultation with the community, and they lack sufficient opportunities to challenge decisions before an appropriate tribunal. Furthermore, in capitulating to the intolerance of the majority, the authorities may be fostering racial discrimination. The letter concludes by urging Prime Minister Jansa to take action to ensure that the human rights of the community affected by these attacks are respected, protected and fulfilled, as required by international law. Persons wishing to express concern about these events are urged to contact:
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia
Mr. Janez Janša
The Government of the Republic of Slovenia
Gregorciceva 20
1000 Ljubljana
Slovenia

© Dzeno Association

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AFTER SANGATTE: REFUGEES STRUGGLE ON IN NO-MAN'S LAND(France)

8/11/2006- The queue that wraps around this piece of wasteland in the northern French town of Calais is a bleak reminder, if one were needed, of the world's bleakest conflicts. The trail of Iraqis, Kurds, Afghans, Sudanese and other -- perhaps temporary -- escapees from tragedy back home shuffles forward slowly. Huddling against the cold, they stop before an ugly prefabricated hut scrawled with graffiti in Arab, Pashtun and Farsi to collect a meagre plastic sachet of food. Four years after the forced closure of the infamous Sangatte immigrant holding centre near Calais, the problems are still the same for these refugees from human brutality.
Daily life is a non-ending cycle of struggling to get by and sporadic, clandestine bids to reach England. Many of these desperate attempts are futile, some fatal. But these men have little left to lose, other than their own lives. Ibrahim, a 19-year-old Iranian, slouches against the prefab hut, his face wrapped in a scarf. "I used to write articles about democracy and freedom. I couldn't stay. I was having too many problems," he tells AFP. His friend Akbar explains through hand gestures that he fled to escape poverty. He says he is 19 but he looks 30. Abdelkrim, a 17-year-old from Eritrea, left his home in the Horn of Africa because of the conflict with neighbouring Ethiopia. He, like the young Ethiopian who refuses to give his name, dreams of making it to England and to university.
"They're only looking for two things here -- getting across to England and making a life there," says Charles Framzelle. Framzelle, aka "Moustache", has been doggedly battling for years to provide support for this flotsam and jetsam, washed up by the vagaries of fate in hostile Calais. Nothing has changed since right-wing Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, whose naked ambition is to become president next year, ordered the closure of Sangatte on November 5, 2002, after complaints by London that too many clandestine migrants were sneaking through the nearby Channel Tunnel to Britain's shores.

The wars continue and the migrants keep coming. They stay a week in Calais, two months, six, and then vanish, recount the volunteers from the Refugee Emergency Support Collective (C-Sur). "They're kept going by the collective's soup. Its fame stretches all the way to Kabul," grins Francis Gest, one of C-Sur's founders. Sangatte was set up by the Red Cross in 1999 to offer a modicum of help to hundreds of refugees whose only other option was to sleep rough in the Calais damp. Meant to house 600 people, it was taking in about 1,300 when it was forced to shut. With nowhere else to go, many of the migrants have since drifted towards Calais town. But the local authorities, aware of the unpopularity of the refugees among locals, have closed all their meeting points, one after the other. Turfed out of a piece of woodland in the middle of an industrial zone, the migrants now gather more discreetly on a patch of sandy heathland they call "the jungle", situated even further from the town centre. The desolate expanse of tough grass and stunted bushes is now interspersed with slum huts, made from detritus washed up with the latest migrant arrivals. Niajbuddin, a Pakistani, emerges from one of the huts when he sees Moustache arriving. He shows him the only legal document he possesses -- a photocopy of a order for him to be deported to the French border. "Today we're almost back to the same number of refugees as when Sangatte was open -- 1,300 in the Calais region," Gest says. "But they're more scattered now." In an effort to give the refugees somewhere more human to live, French charity Secours Catholique (Catholic Rescue) has bought an old butcher's shop and is ploughing 400,000 euros (512,000 dollars) into refitting it as a house. There will be showers, kitchens, a room where they can change their clothes, an administration office -- that is, if the planning permission goes through. But the locals in this working class district on the outskirts of town are already trying to block the project. "I think they've chosen a good spot. There are fields behind it and a wood. They're going to dig in there with their tents," glumly predicts Nicolas Carton, who has lived in the area for the past 10 years. "No chance," retorts C-Sur. To take a shower at the new house, migrants will have to collect a ticket from the opposite side of town.
© The Tocqueville Connection

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TWO PARIS AIRPORT WORKERS WIN BACK SECURITY CLEARANCE

08/11/2006 - Two Paris airport workers who had been stripped of security clearance because of fears they had links to Islamic extremists on Wednesday won back their badges after taking legal action. The two were among 72 workers at the Charles de Gaulle airport who had their security clearance withdrawn since May 2005 because of suspected ties to fundamentalist groups. The others -- including six colleagues who had also been part of the legal action lodged against Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy -- remain barred from restricted areas at the airport. Unions at the state-owned facility are considering strike action to protest the government's move, which they claim is discriminating against employees simply because they are Muslim. One of those who recovered his badge Monday after a hearing at government offices near the airport, Abdelhazak Rabehi, told AFP he was angry at having been targeted. "I was smeared. They said I was a terrorist. There is no accusation more serious than that," said the baggage handler. He added that the company he worked for since 2002 had been preparing to fire him over the matter, before he took the legal action. "I hope that's the end of the nightmare. Now, I'm going to call my boss and resume work," he said. Sarkozy said last week the withdrawal of the men's security clearance was a necessary "precaution", given the suspicions and the fact they worked in proximity with passenger aircraft. Officials at Roissy said one of the 72 was in contact with an associate of the British "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid, who was convicted of trying to blow up an American Airlines Paris to Miami flight in 2001.
© The Tocqueville Connection

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PARIS AIRPORT MAY STRIKE OVER MUSLIM WORKERS ROW

07/11/2006 - Unions at Paris's main airport were to meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss possible strike action over the withdrawal of security badges from more than 70 airport workers, mostly Muslims. Last week officials at Charles de Gaulle-Roissy international airport said that 72 workers have been stripped of their security clearance since May 2005 for suspected links to Islamic extremists and other fundamentalist groups. A spokesman for the CGT union said it would be pushing for a "total work stoppage" to protest against the conditions in which the badges were withdrawn. Unions have already filed a complaint for discrimination and the French anti-discrimination agency HALDE is also investigating the matter. On Wednesday a court is to rule on a plea brought by seven of the affected workers, who are requesting that the interior ministry produce the evidence against them. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday that the withdrawal of the men's security clearance was an "obligation of precaution." Officials at Roissy said that one of the men was in contact with an associate of the British "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid, who was convicted of trying to blow up an American Airlines Paris to Miami flight in 2001.
© Expatica News

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LE PEN PLOTS SURPRISE AFTER POLL BOOST(France)

The far-Right leader is benefiting from ghetto violence in the race for the presidency

4/11/2006- Aged 78 but bursting for a new fight, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the far Right in France, yesterday savoured news that shook the main parties in the race for the presidency next spring: he is enjoying a surge of popularity. A poll by the CSA institute showed that 17 per cent of voters supported the chief of the National Front. This is eight points higher than the same period before the 2002 election, in which M Le Pen shocked Europe by coming second to Jacques Chirac. M Le Pen, campaigning for the fifth time since 1974, has been insisting that he is heading for a bigger breakthrough than in 2002, when he won nearly 17 per cent of the vote in the first round. He is, he says, benefiting from public anger over immigration, ghetto violence and disgust with politicians. “I am convinced that I will be in the second round,” he said yesterday. “The economic, financial and social position of the country will be much more serious . . . so I will benefit from the rejection of the governing parties.” With typical bluster, the one-time paratrooper and 1950s MP told the weekly magazine VSD that he is not just preparing for another run-off — he lost heavily to M Chirac in 2002. “I want to govern, in order to apply my ideas. Everyone reproached me for talking about immigration . . . now everyone can see that this is the chief cause of the worrying events in our country,” he said.

A repeat of the 2002 first-round result is unlikely because of the domination of two reform-minded favourites in their early fifties — Ségolène Royal, of the Socialists, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the leader of the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement. Each is trying to appear tough on law and order and immigration — M Le Pen’ s recruiting ground. The shine is fading from both candidates in the face of opposition from party rivals and M Le Pen is predicting that “Sargolène and Ségozy”, as he mockingly calls the duo, will fall before the final round, which will take place next May. As in 2002, the Socialist candidate may be weakened by a fragmented field from the far Left, but M Le Pen’s biggest hope is that M Sarkozy stumbles. The Interior Minister has made inroads into the Le Pen electorate with his harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration and violence. President Chirac is indirectly helping M Le Pen by waging an underground campaign to undermine M Sarkozy, whom he loathes. He is encouraging Dominique de Villepin, the Prime Minister, and Michèle Alliot-Marie, the Defence Minister, to run against M Sarkozy. Both have indicated that they plan to do so. As usual, the pariah status of M Le Pen has kept him out of the media, while polls have shown his popularity rising. “I am like Zorro,” he said. “Everyone knows that I am there but no one sees me.” Renewed violence on the immigrant estates has been playing into the hands of M Le Pen. The spectre of another electoral hijacking has woken up the media this week as opinion polls reported support rising from 12 per cent to the higher teens. Stéphane Rozès, director of CSA, which carried out yesterday’s poll for the newspaper Le Figaro, said that only one third of those saying that they would vote for M Le Pen represented extreme-right supporters. The rest were hardline conservatives and disillusioned voters who would vote in protest against the mainstream.
© The Times Online

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GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF SYSTEMATICALLY REPRESSING MUSLIMS(Uzbekistan)

6/11/2006- Since the suppression of the Andijan uprising religious practice has become ever more difficult for them, many Uzbek Muslims say.  All faiths in Uzbekistan are suffering from an increase in state pressure and tightened restrictions on their activity since the government's violent suppression of the Andijan events in May 2005, Forum 18 News Service has noted. But Muslims in particular have noted systematic changes in the existing repressive government policy towards religion. Muslim sources in Uzbekistan, who prefer not to be identified for fear of reprisals, have told Forum 18 that one of the most significant changes has been an attempt to reduce Islamic religiosity among young people and children. Publication of religious literature – already under strict government censorship – has also become more difficult. Forum 18's attempts to discover the Uzbek government's real policy on religion from officials were fruitless. As usual, Forum 18 was told that Aziz Obidov, spokesperson for the government's Religious Affairs Committee, was not at work when repeated attempts were made to reach him by telephone on 1 November. Other committee officials refused to speak to Forum 18. As part of an attempt to reduce Islamic religiosity among the young, sources claim that the authorities distributed instructions to imams about the undesirability of children attending mosques. In Bukhara in western Uzbekistan and elsewhere, police on occasion prevented children from attending Friday prayers at the mosque. Forum 18's sources also note that since the crushing of the Andijan events, not a single new madrasah (Islamic religious school) has been opened in Uzbekistan. Just before the Andijan events a madrasah paid for by believers was constructed in the town of Margilan, a suburb of Ferghana, but after the Andijan events the authorities refused to allow it to open. Islamic religious education in Uzbekistan is under total state control.

Meanwhile arrests of Muslims continue. Human rights activist Surat Ikramov told Forum 18 from Uzbekistan on 31 October that after the Andijan events the number of court cases against independent Muslims in Uzbekistan increased considerably. Ikramov also noted that before Andijan the authorities usually accused arrested Muslims of being members of the banned Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Today, arrested Muslims are usually accused – normally inaccurately – of being "Wahhabis" or members of another banned Islamist group, Akramiya, which played a key role in the Andijan events. Muslim sources agree that after the Andijan events the number of arrests increased, but they say that the present repressions are significantly less than after the 1999 terrorist attacks in the capital Tashkent. Forum 18's sources point out that after the 1999 attacks the police began arresting women wearing the hijab on the street and men with beards, while after Andijan such excesses did not take place. Forum 18's sources report that it is now much more difficult to secure permission to publish religious literature than before Andijan. As before, permission is needed to publish religious literature from both the state Committee for Religious Affairs and the state-controlled Muslim Spiritual Board (Muftiate). "Previously the agreement of the Muftiate was a formality, but now the staff thoroughly examine all books trying to find heresy," one source told Forum 18. One of Forum 18's sources added that there is a secret instruction to publish no more than 1,000 copies of any single religious book. The current limitations on distributing religious literature were preceded by changes to the criminal code and the code of administrative offences which came into force in June instituting new penalties for the "illegal" production, storage, import, and distribution of all forms of religious literature, with penalties of up to three years' imprisonment for repeat offenders. At that time, the then chairman of the state Committee for Religious Affairs, Shoazim Minovarov, admitted to Forum 18 that the import of foreign Muslim literature had practically ceased.

After the Andijan events, Forum 18's sources report, the authorities began to follow more closely the activities of foreign charitable organizations. Since the late 1990s, only one Muslim charity - the Committee of Muslims of Asia, established in 1989 by the Kuwait-based International Islamic Charitable Organization – has been able to operate in Uzbekistan. The Committee of Muslims of Asia provides material aid, sponsors gifted students, gives financial support to Tashkent's Islamic University (which was set up by the government) and madrasah, and distributes copies of the Koran and other Muslim literature that has passed the compulsory censorship of the government's Religious Affairs Committee. The Uzbek authorities insisted, Forum 18 was told, on the appointment of Abduhakim Matkulov as the representative in Uzbekistan of the Committee of Muslims in Asia. He is an Uzbek citizen and director of the government-controlled Tashkent Kukuldash madrasah. "The Uzbek authorities are not opposed to the Kuwaitis investing money in Uzbekistan's social services," one source told Forum 18. "However, they don't want the Kuwaitis to preach their religious views or to have control over such an organization's activity. Matkulov is the ideal person to control the Kuwaitis' activities."Haed Ergashev, deputy head of the Committee of Muslims of Asia in Uzbekistan, admitted that only Uzbek citizens work in his organization, but pointedly said nothing about government restrictions. "The Kuwaitis merely give money," he told Forum 18 from Tashkent on 2 November. "Foreigners simply don't want to come here." Foreign non-governmental organizations with any kind of religious affiliation or suspected of having a religious affiliation have been closed down and foreign citizens involved in religious activity have been deported.

It remains unclear how many pilgrims the authorities will allow to go on the haj to Mecca at the end of December. In recent years, the Uzbek government has restricted the numbers to some 4,200, below the number reported to have wanted to go and well below the quota the Saudi authorities allocate to Uzbekistan. Such restrictions continued in 2006. The past year has seen increased government control of all religious activity in Uzbekistan. Religious minorities such as Protestants and Hare Krishna devotees have noted increased state attacks on peaceful religious activity. New restrictions have been proposed to punish religious leaders if any members of their communities share their faith with others and censorship of religious literature has been intensified, while massively increased fines for unregistered religious activity were introduced at the end of 2005.
© Forum 18 News

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EUROPE DIARY: HEADSCARF CHIC(Turkey)

BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell talks to headscarf wearers and headscarf opponents to get a full picture of the Turkish debate on Muslim dress - plus more thoughts on the Ottoman slaughter of Armenians.

Designer cheek
9/11/2006- Rabia Yalcin looks stunning. I am not sure I should write that about someone who prides themselves on dressing in accordance with the Islamic dress code, but she is an Istanbul fashion designer who says her aim is "to show the beauty of the flower, while covering the flower". She's wearing a bright scarlet headscarf, a grey jacket and trousers modelled on Turkish pantaloons.
She has an interesting, not to say cheeky, take on the religious rules. She shows us one of her latest creations. It's a floor length pink gown with a black velvet headscarf. Very modest. But a couple of clips undone here and there and it becomes a very revealing halter neck evening dress leaving little to the imagination. Rabia says it's of course only to be worn at home in front of husband and family.

Funky hats
She has a similarly ingenious way of coping with Turkey's headscarf ban. The Turkish Republic has a bit of a thing about the political symbolism of headgear. Its founder, whose picture still adorns every office, every public place, Kemal Ataturk banned the fez as a head covering and expected men to wear the hat. His own favourite was evidently the Panama, although he's often depicted wearing a kalpak, a tall black fuzzy number which in certain lights could pass for a fez, but which obviously has some crucial difference that I'm missing. Like all his dramatic changes to Turkish society, from a new alphabet to public dances, it appears to have been accepted with remarkably little fuss. Although he banned religious dress in public places and railed against veiling women he didn't make much progress against the headscarf. It was left to a government in 1979 to make that illegal. Rabia's ingenious solution? Her daughter is at university and she has designed haute couture items to satisfy both Koranic law and the Turkish state. Her daughter wears funky hats that cover all her hair... Many of her fellow students and lecturers just thought she was ultra-fashionable, and I guess rather eccentric and blessed with a talented mum, until they saw her out of class wearing the traditional head dress. Then the penny drops.

Hard choice
The story of Rabia's personal assistant, who doesn't have a designer mum is rather different. Aslinur Kara is one of those people who immediately makes you think: "I wish she worked for me." She exudes no-nonsense efficiency and directness. She's also devout and had a hard choice when the time came to go to university. She told me that she decided not to waste her education and ruin her life. So she took the scarf off at the doors. She said it was hard, against her values, an insult and against human rights. But in time it didn't hurt so much, and she came to feel that for her fellow students it was brains, the person inside, that mattered, not what they wore. One is tempted to say, "Well, precisely!" But I don't. She now has a job where she can wear the headscarf. But the law remains and she couldn't go into politics or the civil service or teaching without making that hard choice again.

Pro-military liberals
I suspect many, probably most people in Britain would see this as a matter of freedom of choice, but it's not seen like this here. The government's tentative plans to change the law meet fierce opposition. Just last weekend there was a march through Ankara, a crowd of 12,000 people, to protest against the very possibility. It's an interesting twist that people who most probably would be leftie Hampstead liberals in Britain are here supporters of the army - the principal opponents of any weakening of what they see as the secular state. Bedri Baykam is an artist who clearly loves to shock. He's working on a series called Picasso's women and his studio is covered with photographs of naked women. He says that women who wear the headscarf these days are making a statement that they are warriors for militant Islam. He says their head covering is not like the headscarves worn by his mother or grandmother but have tight elastic so that not one scrap of hair escapes. He says it's ridiculous that people should treat hair as though it's a sexual organ.

Slippery terminology
The former four-star general Edib Baser goes further. He says that religious groups pay poor women to wear the headscarf and he too makes the point that these are not the traditional dress of his mother and grandmother. What the secularists miss is that mum and granny would not be allowed into universities. I don't know how Rabia and Aslinur vote but they certainly don't strike me as having a particularly strong political agenda. But terms like "political Islam" are slippery. The ruling party is Islamic but prefers to see itself as Conservative. As one academic remarks dryly, spending a great deal of time and effort passing laws required by the EU is not the usual prelude to Islamic revolution. I spend some time chasing a rumour that high taxes have been imposed on alcohol in some parts of the country, before it strikes me that Tessa Jowell is Urging the same thing at home.

Angry doctors
But there's no doubt some people feel deeply uncomfortable with the current order. Nilufer Cetin was in her fourth year studying to be a doctor when the headscarf ban was introduced. She went to Hungary to finish her education but still can't practise as a doctor. She said: "I was shocked. It was unbelievable, it was a terrible situation. But I think it was just a pretext to attack believers." Her husband, also a doctor, is still angry. In fact he radiates anger. When I tell him that I can never see the headscarf being banned in public institutions in Britain he is derisive and insists I will be proved wrong. He says the ban will have to go: he's a doctor and "it's like suppressing the function of a cell, if it goes on a cancer will grow, there will be chaos."

Thanks for your messages
Thanks to all of you who answered my plea to help me with understanding attitudes to the Armenia killings within Turkey. They are all very thought-provoking and interesting. I haven't met many people here who deny that something terribly wrong happened. Many however want to put it in context. It's true I did speak to one highly intelligent individual who should know better than to try to convince me that Ottoman soldiers were merely trying to escort Armenians out of a danger zone when attacked by Kurdish brigands. But such effrontery is rare. I have heard several stories of how Turkish families sheltered Armenians or helped them escape. One academic made the point that while Germany, as a state, has made full apology and admitted the Holocaust, few Germans who were around during that time talk easily about it. By contrast, he said, Turkish people have many stories to tell and it is the state that cannot tolerate debate.

Immaculate conception
But it was Professor Halil Berktay who had us entranced. The interview went on for rather a long time and I was about to apologise to the rest of team when Xav the cameraman said: "That guy is so interesting, I could stay here all afternoon and listen." So I'll offer without adornment Prof Berktay's take on why the Turkish state cannot face up to what happened. As the Ottoman empire broke up, nations were created from the Balkans to the Arab world, he says: "All of which were conceived in anger and hatred and enmity and antagonism towards one another. In each case, these nationalisms never like talking about what they have done to others. But they can speak for hours and hours of what others have done to them. Especially in this part of the world. In the Balkans and south-east Europe and the Middle East everybody loves to talk about how they have been victimised but they have never hurt anyone else.
"The Turkish grand narrative turns to a very large extent on how Great Power imperialism kept hounding and persecuting the Muslim Turks of the Ottoman empire, and eventually the Turkish rump that was left. Then we had to wage this glorious nationalist struggle against them and against plots to partition us. Now, the Armenian genocide, the tragic uprooting, deportation and annihilation is not something that sits well with this narrative of pure victimisation and suffering." He compares it to a child believing that they were brought by a stork, that their parents couldn't possibly have had sex and calls his theory "the immaculate conception of the nation state."
© BBC News

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EU REPORT CONTAINS STINGING CRITICISM OF TURKEY

8/11/2006- Freedom of speech in Turkey is not guaranteed, the military still plays a "significant" political role and non-Muslim religious communities face discrimination, the European Commission has said in a key report on Wednesday. Just over a year after Turkey started membership negotiations with the EU in October 2005, the European Commission on Wednesday (8 November) released both a specific progress report on Turkey and a general enlargement report which also deals with Ankara's EU accession bid. The general report says that "Turkey has continued to make progress in reforms," but adds that "the pace of reforms has slowed." "In 2007, it will be important to undertake determined efforts to broaden the reform momentum throughout Turkey," the document says. The progress report – detailing specific policy areas - kicks off with a chapter on Turkey's compliance with the EU's political and human rights standards which according to the commission leaves a lot to be desired. "The armed forces have continued to exercise significant political influence. Senior members of the armed forces have expressed their opinion on domestic and foreign policy issues," the text says referring to generals interfering in issues such as Cyprus, secularism and the Kurdish issue. Further highlighting the uncontrolled role of Turkey's army, the text continues by stating that "no further progress has been achieved in terms of strengthening parliamentary overseeing of the military budget and expenditure."

'Climate of self-censorship'
The report is highly critical of restrictions on freedom of speech in the EU candidate country – targeting in particular the notorious article 301 of Turkey's recently adopted penal code, which penalises insults against "Turkishness". "The prosecutions and convictions for the expression of non-violent opinion under certain provisions of the new Penal Code are a cause for serious concern and may contribute to a climate of self-censorship in the country." "Freedom of expression in line with European standards is not yet guaranteed in the present legal framework," Brussels concludes in the document. Brussels in the report welcomes a "downward trend" in the number of cases of torture and ill-treatment but notes at the same time that torture cases are "still being reported, in particular outside detention centres." The report further says that non-Muslim religious communities "continued to face restricted property rights" while "full respect of women's rights remains a critical problem, particularly in the poorest areas of the country." Two local TV stations have been allowed to air in the Kurdish language – but they are not allowed to show educational programmes in Kurdish.

No progress on Cyprus
As expected, Brussels has condemned Turkey's continued blocking of trade from EU member state Cyprus. "Turkey has continued to deny access to its ports to vessels flying the Republic of Cyprus flag or where the last port of call is Cyprus," Brussels notes, adding Ankara's restrictions "infringe the customs union agreement" it signed with the EU. But Brussels has postponed a recommendation on whether or not to suspend the accession talks because of Turkey's stance on Cyprus - until a later date before an EU leaders summit in December. "The commission will make relevant recommendations ahead of the European Council, if Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations," the text says.

Some positive notes
Despite the generally critical tone of the report – with "limited" or "no" progress reported also in the areas of agriculture, the environment and in many internal market-related areas - the commission also has some praise for Turkey. "Turkey's overall alignment with EU common foreign and security policy has continued," the document says referring to the country's positive role in the Middle East. Progress is also welcomed in specific areas ranging from the fight against human trafficking to monetary and competition policy. As for education and culture, "alignment is nearly complete and overall Turkey is well prepared for accession in this area," according to the report. "Education and culture" is among the next negotiating chapters waiting in line to be opened as part of the accession talks – but Cyprus has said it will veto the opening of any new chapter unless Turkey gives in on opening its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic before the end of the year.
© EUobserver

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ITALY GOVERNMENT SEEKS VEIL BAN

Italy is to put forward draft new legislation to ban the Islamic veil that covers the face.

Vice-premier Francesco Rutelli says current laws are insufficient. The niqab and the burka have aroused concerns, not least because Italy has a law - intended to foil terrorism - against wearing masks in public. Mr Rutelli has now entered the debate, calling for a change in Italian law which would make the wearing of the niqab an offence. "If you look at the laws that are currently in place, they're not sufficient," he said. "We need a new law, one that respects people's rights in our society but at the same time makes it quite clear that it's not acceptable for people to cover their faces." The debate mirrors that in France, Holland and Britain, where politicians have described the niqab as a mark of separation. Romano Prodi, the Italian prime minister, has already set out his position. "You can't cover your face, you must be seen," he said recently. "It's important for society and for integration." But the debate has sparked tensions. The centre-right National Alliance MP, Daniela Santanche, is now receiving round-the-clock police protection after calling for a ban on the veil during a TV chat show. Until recently Italians have been reluctant to ban religious symbols, perhaps as religion and the crucifix are such a key part of Italian society. As for the headscarf, it has been commonplace for devout Roman Catholic women, especially in the south, to cover their heads when outdoors.
© BBC News

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RACISM AND RACE CRIME REDEFINED (uk)

8/11/2006- Racism was once defined as "prejudice plus power" - a definition which, in a British context, has tended to exclude all but the white population. However, the "racist murders" of Kriss Donald in Glasgow in 2004 and Ross Parker in Peterborough in 2001, young white men killed by Asians, demonstrate how society has been forced to redefine racism. It was, of course, the murder of a young black man, Stephen Lawrence, which changed the debate about race crime in Britain. The inquiry which followed redefined a racist incident as any "which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person". It is, therefore, a largely subjective crime - and one which has proved extremely difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt. The statistics reflect that subjectivity, but they also reflect a belief right across the spectrum in multicultural Britain, that people are attacked because of the colour of their skin.

Changing picture
Until the mid-nineties, the government's British Crime Survey only asked ethnic minority groups whether they had been the victim of a crime which was racially motivated. Since then, all victims are asked and the picture has changed dramatically. The most recent analysis shows that in 2004, 87,000 people from black or minority ethnic communities (BME) said they had been a victim of a racially motivated crime. In the same period, 92,000 white people said they had also fallen victim. Focusing on violent racial attacks, 49,000 BME were victims. Among whites, the number was 77,000. Of those that involved wounding 4,000 were BME. Among the white population it was 20,000. The numbers can be highly misleading, though. Since about 90% of people in Britain are white, the statistics actually show the risk of being a victim of race crime is significantly greater if you are from an ethnic minority. According to the most recent Home Office analysis, the chances for a white person is less than 1%. For Black and Asian people it is put at about 1%.

Low risk
Taking into account the subjective nature of the statistics, it seems that the risks are relatively low across all communities. Nevertheless, for the tens of thousands of white people affected by race crime, the issue is a real one. The far right has tried to exploit what it claims is the untold story of racial attacks on white people. On the National Front website they feature a long list of "The Fallen", white people they say were killed by non-whites. Often, however, the crimes have nothing to do with race and in a number of cases, for instance Ross Parker, relatives of the victims have objected to their names being used. Trying to unravel the motivation behind a crime is always difficult. Was a kick or a punch in a violent robbery any harder because of the victim's skin colour? Describing an incident as racist may say as much about a victim's mindset as the offender. How else can one explain the British Crime Survey finding that 3,100 car thefts from Asians were deemed to be racially motivated? Most of the offenders (57%) in the racially motivated crimes identified in the British Crime Survey are not white. White victims said 82% of offenders were not white. Among black victims of race crime, a quarter of offenders were identified as not white. Among Asian victims, the non-white proportion rises to a third. There has been in increase in recorded instances of race crime, but experts believe this is due to more people coming forward to report incidents and a greater willingness from the police to take accusations seriously. The British Crime Survey tells a different story. The most recent figures suggest the incidence of race crime is falling - a drop of 13% year on year. Amid this soup of subjective and contradictory statistics, what is clear is that race crime is no longer a black and white issue. It is as complex and multifaceted as the communities in which it occurs. In the Lozells district of Birmingham last year, tensions defined around race exploded into violence. Asian gangs and black gangs clashed in what have been described as "race riots". But, in reality, the disturbances were about poverty, housing and fear.

Racism, prejudice and bigotry are not defined by the colour of someone's skin.
© BBC News

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'I HAVE ASIAN FRIENDS' - TORY COUNCILLOR DEFENDS RACIST POEM(uk)

7/11/2006- The Conservatives have suspended a councillor and would-be MP after an "utterly dreadful" poem about illegal immigrants was sent from her email account. The Liberal Democrats reported Ellenor Bland to the Commission for Racial Equality after obtaining a copy of the message. But Mrs Bland - who stood for parliament in Swansea East at the last election and was until yesterday an approved Conservative candidate - told the Guardian it was "lighthearted". Forwarded under the words Oh Yes! Ellie, it is titled Illegal Immigrants Poem and written in pidgin English. It describes a migrant coming to Britain to live on benefits before inviting friends from his home country to join him, buying up the area after white residents move out and "breeding" large families. "Write to friends in motherland - Tell them 'come fast as you can'. They come in turbans and Ford trucks. I buy big house with welfare bucks," runs one verse. "Soon we own the neighbourhood ... We have hobby, it's called breeding. Welfare pay for baby feeding." It concludes: "We think UK darn good place. Too darn good for the white man race! If they no like us, they can scram. Got lots of room in Pakistan!"
Beneath the poem appear the words "Please send this to every British taxpayer you know" and a cartoon of the white cliffs of Dover with the words "Piss off - we're full!" scrawled across them. Mrs Bland said the email had been forwarded by her husband, David - also a Tory town councillor in Calne, Wiltshire - despite bearing her name. But she claimed that the leak was "an infringement of my life", adding: "I'm finding this all rather tiresome. "It's incredibly childish and churlish for anyone to make something big of this ... My husband and I are not racist." She said it was fine if people brought skills or came to Britain because they were persecuted, but that she was worried "so many people are coming in and we don't have the infrastructure to provide for them all".

Asked why the poem singled out Pakistanis and turban-wearers and talked about the "white man race" if it was not racist, she added: "I didn't write it ... We do have friends of all kinds - we actually have German in-laws. And we have friends who are Asian. I wouldn't be rude to them." Mrs Bland insisted that the message had nothing to do with her political career. But a Conservative spokesman said they had suspended her from its approved candidates list and from the party pending a full investigation. He added: "The Conservative party disassociates itself entirely from the sentiments in this poem." Asked about her husband's position, the spokesman added: "It's from her email account. We can't at this stage substantiate who it was from." Her husband could not be reached for comment. It later emerged that someone had also posted the doggerel on the website of Boris Johnson, the shadow higher education secretary. "It is an utterly dreadful poem and I condemn it unreservedly," he said. "Hundreds of people post material on to the site and I had absolutely no idea it was there." Dominic Grieve, the shadow solicitor general, told Sky News: "Members of the party shouldn't be sending racist emails of any kind. [It was] suggested that it's lighthearted, but it seems to me it has an underlying unpleasantness. I consider it offensive." Ed Davey, the Lib Dem chair of campaigns and communications, has asked the CRE to rule on whether the message conformed with the watchdog's guidelines to political parties and individuals in elected public office. "It is totally unacceptable for elected representatives to be distributing this kind of material. Racism has absolutely no place in British politics and I am asking the CRE to advise on what further action can be taken," he said. "Despite David Cameron's best PR efforts, the Conservative party clearly continues to contain some deeply unpleasant elements." Mr Cameron had to distance himself from a would-be Tory councillor at the party's spring conference this year in similar circumstances. Joan Haworth, an activist in Manchester, told Channel 4 that selecting an ethnic minority candidate in her constituency would be a mistake, adding: "We are a traditional working-class constituency. It wouldn't work for us." She later recanted her remarks - saying they were "not what I meant or believe at all" - after Mr Cameron said she was in the wrong party.
© The Guardian

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RETRIAL BEGINS OF BNP LEADERS ACCUSED OF STIRRING RACIAL HATRED(uk)

· Pair caught on BBC film attacking Islam, court told · Modern Britain 'described as multiracial hell'

4/11/2006- Two British National Party leaders stoked up racial hatred in an area of troubled community relations with speeches against Islam, ethnic minorities and asylum seekers, a court heard yesterday. Islam was derided by the far-right party's chairman, Nick Griffin, as "a wicked, vicious faith" while one of his deputies, Mark Collett, called asylum seekers "cockroaches" and urged cheering supporters to "show ethnics the door in 2004". Both told closed party meetings they would face trouble from the media or the law if they denounced the Qur'an publicly or an alleged plan to destroy the white community. But they did not know that a BBC journalist, Jason Gwynne, who was posing as a BNP enthusiast, was covertly filming the speeches at a pub in Keighley, West Yorkshire. Mr Griffin, 47, of Llanerfyl, Powys and Mr Collett, 25, of Rothley, Leicestershire deny charges of using words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up racial hatred. Mr Griffin faces one count and Mr Collett four with the maximum penalty of seven years on conviction. A small group of BNP supporters stood under flags and placards outside Leeds crown court but there were none of the scuffles that took place during a bigger demonstration and counter-protest when the jury was sworn in this week. Rodney Jameson QC, prosecuting in a retrial after a previous jury failed to agree on the charges, quoted extracts from the speeches which were shown to the jury.

Mr Griffin urged activists at the Reservoir Tavern in January 2004 to work at the local and European elections to persuade local voters of "the evil these people have done to our country". Denouncing modern Britain as a "multi-racial hell," he made repeated allegations about paedophile drug rapes in Keighley and linked them to Islamic teachings. He said: "This wicked, vicious faith has expanded from a handful of cranky lunatics about 1,300 years ago and it's now sweeping country after country before it, all over the world. And if you read that book (the Qur'an), you'll find that that's what they want. If you doubt it, go and buy a copy and you will find verse after verse and you can take any woman you want as long as it's not Muslim women." The court also heard Mr Collett's speech, made to the same meeting, which Mr Jameson described as "little more than a crude racist rant". The Leeds University graduate, who was heckled earlier in the week by local students outside the court, repeated Mr Griffin's clams about attacks in Keighley. He was recorded by the BBC's hidden camera saying: "When these Asians go out looking for a victim, they don't go looking for Asian victims. They don't go mugging Asian grandmas, they don't go stabbing each other, they don't go trying to solicit sex off little Pritesh or little Sanjita. "They go straight to the whites because they are trying to destroy us and they are the racists. If you want these people out and to stop asylum seekers coming in, then vote for the BNP."

In a second speech two months later at the Crossroads pub in Keighley, Mr Collett turned on asylum seekers. Again recorded by Mr Gwynne, for a BBC2 programme called Secret Agent, he said: "I honestly don't hate asylum seekers - these people are cockroaches and they're doing what cockroaches do because cockroaches can't help what they do, they just do it, like cats miaow and dogs bark. The people I hate are the white politicians who have sold us down the line." Mr Jameson said there were occasions when the line between "robust and legitimate debate" and stirring up race hatred could be a fine one, but such cases were unlikely to come to court. The language and behaviour used by Mr Griffin and Mr Collett went beyond robust comment and their intention to stir up hatred was clear. Mr Griffin was acquitted on two similar counts and Mr Collett on four at the original trial in February before the jury deadlocked on the remaining charges.
© The Guardian

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‘POVERTY AND RACISM DROVE THEM TO CRIME’ (Cyprus)

8/11/2006- A Nicosia judge yesterday cited poverty and racial discrimination as the main reasons behind four men robbing the co-op bank in the village of Mammari last summer. The comments were yesterday made by Chief Judge Yiasemis Yiasemi, who went on to describe the defendants as “children of a lesser God”. Yiannos Stylianides, 24, Spyros Tziamas, 25, his brother Petros Tziamas, 28, as well as Sudanese asylum seeker Ana Mohammed Abdurrahman, 26, all pleaded guilty to several counts of armed robbery, possession of an illegal firearm and causing terror to civilians. Yesterday, the court jailed Stylianides for four years while the other men were sentenced to five years imprisonment. Although Cypriot nationals, Stylianides and the Tziamas brothers are of Sudanese descent. All four men were Mammari residents and, according to eyewitnesses and village residents, owed money to various convenience stores and kiosks which was later discovered to be the main reason behind their idea to rob the co-op. “For the past few years, the defendants were living in extreme poverty because they didn’t own anything and could not get any jobs. As a result, they were unable to pay off the many debts they had, mainly to grocery stores,” said Judge Yiasemis. He adds, “Due to the fact that they were foreign and/or partially foreign, from a large family and coloured, they were subjected to racial discrimination in the employment sector – something which had a negative effect on their financial situation.” On August 16, the Tziamas brothers as well as Abdurrahman entered the co-op bank wearing black balaclavas and using a pistol, a shotgun and a knife to rob the bank out of around £24,000. Stylianides, who was waiting in the car which was stolen that morning, was the getaway driver. At the time of the robbery, there were two cashiers in the branch and one customer. Local police as well as a police helicopter were quickly mobilised, and after a short pursuit, caught a car with the four suspects in Ayioi Trymithias. According to investigators, the men were eventually apprehended by police after they stopped the car and got into a row about which escape route to take. Sentencing the men yesterday, Judge Yiasemis added, “Nobody can condone what the defendants did. However, their extreme poverty outlines a personal picture under which the defendants committed the crime. “Under those circumstances, the court was able to be lenient in its sentencing of the defendants.”
© Cyprus Mail

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HARD CORE OF GERMAN SOCIETY CLINGS TO FAR-RIGHT VIEWS

8/11/2006- A small but tenacious minority of Germans hold far-right views including deep skepticism about democracy, belief in their supremacy over other nations and suspicion of Jews, a poll released Wednesday indicated. About 5,000 Germans were questioned for the survey conducted for the respected Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which is run by the Social Democratic Party, partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government. It found that nine percent of those polled believed "predominantly" or "completely" that under some circumstances a dictatorship can be a better system to run a state than a democracy. Fifteen percent support an iron-fisted leader "to govern Germany for the benefit of all". One in four -- 26 percent -- said they favored a single party in Germany "that would embody the national community as a whole". About 15 percent said they believed the Germans were "by nature" superior to other cultures while one in 10 said they believed that some human beings were unworthy to live.

Difference between east and west
Sociologist Oliver Decker of the University of Leipzig, who conducted the study for the Usuma opinion research institute, said he noticed key regional differences. Easterners, he said, were more likely to express xenophobic views while westerners were more anti-Semitic. Forty-four percent of those in the former communist east said that foreigners came to Germany to exploit the generous social welfare system, versus 35.2 percent in the west. Meanwhile 15.8 percent of westerners agreed with the statement "Jews use dirty tricks more than other people", against six percent in the east. Westerners were also more likely to play down the importance of the Nazi era, with nine percent saying they thought the focus on this period was exaggerated versus five percent in the east. Decker said that unemployed Germans expressed right-wing extremist views most often, followed in second place by pensioners. And more men held far-right opinions than women. Far-right parties have made major inroads in the economically depressed east and are represented in three state legislatures, although none has captured seats in the national parliament.
© EJP

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NAZI 'MASTER RACE' CHILDREN MEET(Germany)

04/11/2006 - A group of children selected by Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime with the aim of creating an Aryan master race has met openly for the first time as adults. Children from the Nazis' "Lebensborn" or "Font of Life" project gathered in the German town of Wernigerode to discuss the trauma over their origins. The project aimed to create a breed of people that fitted the Nazis' physical ideal and could manage a future empire. It saw thousands of often illegitimate children placed in Nazi members' homes.
The children were frequently selected for qualities the Nazis regarded as typically Aryan, such as blonde hair, blue eyes or pale skin. They were often adopted by the families of the Nazis' elite force, the SS. For years those children either did not know about their past or were too ashamed to discuss it in public.

Trauma and prejudice
The head of a group of people who grew up under the project said Saturday's gathering was a means of exposing myths about the system. "The aim was to take the children out into the open, to encourage those affected to find out their origins," Matthias Meissner of the Lebensspuren, or "Traces of Life" group said. He said the meeting was also a way of showing "the outside world that the cliche of the stud farm with blond-haired, blue-eyed parents is not correct". Many children from the project grew up to face prejudice and personal problems over their origins. Folker Heinicke, 66, was taken from his parents in Ukraine and brought up by a German family. He told the Associated Press news agency: "There was always a feeling inside that something was not quite right." "I was ripped away from my mother." While thousands of children with apparently desirable Aryan qualities were nurtured by the Nazis, the regime's aim to create a perfect race also underpinned the genocide of millions of Jews and other minorities.
© BBC News

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GREECE HORRIFIED BY RACIST GANG RAPE IN SCHOOL

5/11/2006- The gang rape of a 16-year-old star pupil in the toilets of her Greek school has sent shock waves through the country. The basic facts of the case are bad enough: a girl was allegedly raped for an hour by four boys while three girls watched, one of them filming it all on her mobile phone. But what has made headlines here is the reaction to the incident, some of it decidedly racist. The girl is Bulgarian. Not only have she and her mother had to leave the village where they have lived since 1999 after receiving threats, but the mother says the school is refusing to talk to her, and the girl claims the rape was accompanied by racist insults. The village mayor said that there should be some consideration for the boys "who were upset by all this as well". One of the boys charged is the son of one of the teachers there, while another is the son of a local policeman. Even the Greek president, Karolos Papoulias, has spoken out on the incident. "Greeks have experienced emigration and racism and we will not impose what we have been through on the immigrants living and working here," he said.In the past 15 years more than one million immigrants, mainly from Eastern Europe, have come to Greece, which has a population of almost 11 million. This is cited as the main reason for racist incidents in schools across Greece. The four boys have now been charged with rape. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in juvenile centres or in jail.
© Independent Digital

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POPE ASKED TO HELP ROMAS MOVED FROM CZECH TOWN

6/11/2006- Prague- Minority rights groups sought help Monday from Pope Benedict XVI as a row over government relocations of hundreds of Roma, or gypsies, spread far beyond the Czech town where it started last month. The pope was asked to intervene in the dispute that began when poor Roma families were recently evicted from public housing in the eastern town of Vsetin and relocated in villages up to 70 kilometres away. Vsetin Mayor Jiri Cunek has repeatedly defended the relocations, but the letter's co-author and activist Vaclav Miko of the group Roma Realia told the CTK news agency that the mayor's decision "is a sin that can turn into a crime."
Meanwhile in Prague, the government's human rights commissioner pledged to investigate the use of state funds for part of Vsetin's programme, which some critics called minority-group "deportations."  Under the programme, Roma families were evicted for failing to comply with public-housing rules including rent payments and noise. About 100 Romas were moved to villages and another 230 were placed in a community of metal "container" homes about 1 kilometre outside the town of 28,000. The containers were bought with state funds allocated to Vsetin by the Ministry of Local Development, officials said. Cunek and his critics have clashed over whether the state funds were used properly. Cunek's critics include his political party colleagues with the Christian Democrats (KDU) as well as members of the Green Party (SZ), such as parliament member Katerina Jacques. Jacques said the programme isolates Romas at a time when the Czech government is working to integrate minority groups into society. SZ considers the Vsetin programme "unacceptable" and contrary to state policy, said party spokeswoman Dzamila Stehlikova. "The battle against social exclusion and the legislation for stable, social housing is part of state and local policy," she said.
© German Press Agency

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RUSSIA'S STATE HUMAN RIGHTS BODY BLASTS ANTI-GEORGIAN CAMPAIGN

08/11/2006 - Russia's main state human rights body condemned Wednesday a wave of 'selective persecution' against Georgians in Russia as 'unfounded', criticized illegal detentions and deportations of Georgians by Russia's authorities, and attributed the row to a political misunderstanding. The recent clampdown against Georgians in Russia follows a diplomatic feud that erupted with Georgia's brief detention of Russian officers on spying charges in September; tensions had already been strained over bans on imports of certain Georgian goods, and disputes over Russia's presence in Georgia's conflict zones. "Administrative and legal measures applied [against Georgians] are unfounded: businesses employing ethnic Georgians are being closed down, visas and registration papers legally obtained by Georgian nationals are being cancelled, people are being illegally detained and deported from Russia," the Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, headed by Ella Pamfilova, said in an open statement. Russia has imposed a postal and transport blockade on its economically-dependent ex-Soviet neighbor, shut down several casinos and restaurants in Moscow allegedly owned by the Georgian mafia, and arrested suspected Georgian crime bosses. According to official data, Russian courts have ruled to deport about 1,430 Georgian citizens since September, citing violations of migration legislation.

The European Union has urged Russia to lift its economic sanctions against the small South Caucasus country, but Russia has so far dismissed the calls. "I cannot approve of selective actions on ethnic grounds," Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a televised Q&A session on October 25, answering a question on measures against Georgian criminal groups in Russia. "On the contrary, I call on law enforcement agencies to abstain from such actions, and I consider them inadmissible." But he said anti-crime measures must be conducted constantly, while the actions taken against Georgian criminals happened to stand out because of the attention the diplomatic row attracted. He said Russian authorities deported 15,300 illegal immigrants from one of the former Soviet republics, about 13,400 people from another and only 5,000 illegal immigrants from Georgia. "Consequently, talking about selective actions against Georgians is incorrect and untrue," the president said. However, the Russian human rights group said the anti-Georgian campaign "clearly arose as a consequence of a skewed understanding of general political statements made by the countries' leaders with regard to issues of relations between Russia and Georgia, which were taken in certain quarters as an instruction for action with regard to organization of persecution against persons of Georgian ethnicity." The document also said, "such selective persecution is incompatible with the constitutional principles of a state of law, represents unacceptable discrimination, and cannot be seen as lawful method of combating illegal migration." "We call on the Russian authorities to immediately take the necessary measures to restore legality, humanitarian principles and respect for rights and liberties with regard to all residents of our country," the group said.
© RIA Novosti

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IT'S EASY TO GET BURNED BY XENOPHOBIA(Russia, editorial)

8/11/2006- At first glance, the countrywide ultranationalist marches during the National Unity Day holiday on Saturday look like a marked improvement from last year. Although at least 2,000 ultranationalists defied a ban to take to Moscow streets, their number was down from last year, and Nazi regalia and chants of "Heil Hitler" were missing for the most part. Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who came under fire after a subordinate authorized last year's march, not only personally refused to sign off on a parade route this time, but also warned that events of this sort "could destroy the unity of our society." Even so, it is hard to shake the sense that political leaders are less worried than they should be about the threat from a growth in ultranationalism.

President Vladimir Putin has cautioned about the danger of racism and xenophobia, but he also has seemed to endorse ultranationalistic attitudes. His call last month to protect the rights of the "native" population -- a message repeated by other leaders, including Luzhkov -- dovetails nicely with the thinly veiled xenophobic rhetoric coming from ultranationalist groups like the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, or DPNI, which was one of the major participants in Saturday's march. Calls to protect the rights of Russians are gaining resonance. The DPNI, which resembled little more than another fringe ultranationalist movement only a year ago, has since developed grassroots appeal and organization in many cities where ethnic Russians comprise the majority of the population. It managed to bring out thousands of people for marches in more than 20 cities. There is no indication the group enjoys Kremlin support. But it certainly is not being singled out like the anti-Kremlin, unregistered National Bolshevik Party, whose similarly unsanctioned rallies typically prompt brutal police crackdowns.

This suggests the Kremlin is turning a blind eye to the ultranationalists, who incidentally seem to have no opinion about Kremlin policies. Some political observers speculate that the Kremlin is allowing xenophobia to simmer on the backburner, perhaps one day to play up the danger of a menace from which only Putin and United Russia can be trusted to protect the country. A back-burner approach would be dangerous. In a country as ethnically diverse and with a history as cluttered with ethnic conflicts as Russia's, keeping xenophobic attitudes warm in order to capitalize on them politically is leadership of the most hazardous type. Anything kept simmering for a time can easily boil over.
© The Moscow Times

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TOLERANCE BUDGET TO GET BOOST(Russia)

8/11/2006- As Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov lashed out Tuesday at journalists for stoking ultranationalist fires, city officials debated the details of a two-year, $4.4 million media campaign to boost tolerance. The campaign, which is backed by Luzhkov, would focus on not only Russian citizens with non-Slavic appearance, but also on people from other countries. Groups that have suffered at the hands of skinheads include students from Africa and migrant workers from the Caucasus and Central Asia. The campaign would include documentaries about outstanding dark-skinned Muscovites to be broadcast on city-run television. The City Hall meeting came on the heels of an ultranationalist protest Saturday against illegal immigration, which drew about 2,000 activists. The protest, dubbed the Russian March-2006, coincided with National Unity Day. "We must not only mark this one day," Luzhkov said, referring to National Unity Day. "We must also build a multinational, multi-faith state that cannot be destroyed by outcasts, fascists and the Black Hundreds." The Black Hundreds were proto-fascist groups known for their virulent anti-Semitism that staged pogroms against Jews in the early 1900s. The Bolsheviks banned them. The mayor accused the media of taking an "alarmist" stance on ethnic issues. Other possible features of the city's television campaign include a series on major religions, and shows about migration and ethnic holidays and traditions. The new spending would come on top of that already devoted to the program Multinational Moscow, which features television programming, billboards and banners promoting interethnic understanding. City officials declined to say how much was spent on Multinational Moscow, created last year. Alexei Alexandrov, head of the ethnic policy department, which developed the plan for the media campaign, said Hollywood had helped promote tolerance by casting black and Latino actors.
© The Moscow Times

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ULTRA-NATIONALISTS AND ANTI-FASCISTS CELEBRATED DAY OF NATIONAL UNITY (Russia)

7/11/2006- On 4 November 2006, rallies and marches took place in a number of Russian cities to celebrate the Day of National Unity; these actions were organized by right-wing radical groups under a collective name of Russian March. To remind, overall coordination of these events originally planned in 7 Russian cities (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Syktyvkar, Chita, Irkutsk, and Volgograd), was performed by activists of the Movement against Illegal Immigration (DPNI). In end-October and early November, a number of regions banned the march, which did not stop those willing to participate, although the geography of the march changed significantly as a result. Nationalist events of some kind were held in 12 Russian cities, and four events were prevented due to police interference.
Moscow
The biggest event was held in Moscow. After DPNI attempted to blackmail the Moscow authorities and the administration of the Moscow metro by threatening to hold the march "underground," law enforcement authorities took unprecedented measures of security and pressure against the right-wing radicals. As a result, it was announced on 3 November that the marchers would join the permitted rally in the Devichye Pole organized by Sergey Baburin’s Popular Will Party. The attendance of the rally held between noon and 1 p.m. totaled about one thousand. Claims by right-wing radicals that the march attracted around 7,000 participants are not true (see, for example, photos at Lenta.Ru website). The meeting participants included at least seven members of the State Duma (S.Baburin, V.Alksnis, I.Saveyeva, N.Kuryanovich, D.Rogozin, A.Saveyev, A.Makashov) and about a dozen right-wing radical groups and organizations (including DPNI, the National Imperial Party of Russia, the Russian All-National Union, Kvachkov Support Group, Pamyat, the Russian Order, the National Union, etc.). For some reason, participants included representatives of the PORTOS group, having nothing to do with right-wing radicals. Baburin allowed DPNI and other "marchers" to participate in his rally, but limited the display of DPNI symbols, and at the close of the event Baburin made an unsuccessful attempt to deny the floor to DPNI leader A.Potkin (Belov). Notably, for the first time in his career as DPNI leader, Belov was publicly anti-Semitic. His statement at the meeting was extremely emotional: he was yelling obscenities, targeting in particular presidential aide Vladislav Surkov. As soon as the rally was over, right-wing radicals were escorted by police (marched?) to the nearest metro station along the empty Leo Tolstoy Street, yelling ethnocentric and Nazi slogans. Fighting began outside the metro station, and a large group of skinheads were arrested as a result.

In addition to the rally in Devichye Pole, at 2 p.m. in Slavyanskaya Square, an "alternative" nationalist-patriot rally was organized by a group of Christian Orthodox fundamentalist groups that had split from the Russian March organizing committee a week before – including the Union of Russian Orthodox Citizens, the Union of Russian Gonfalon Carriers, the Popular Council, etc. - a total of around 200 participants. There was no fighting or similar incidents. Some radical neo-Nazi groups had discouraged their supporters from joining the march, urging them instead to confront an anti-fascist rally in Bolotnaya Square "to engage them in debates." The radicals first came to the Devichye Pole anyway, and then went to Bolotnaya. However, a strong police cordon prevented them from attacking anyone, and as soon as they attempted to chant their slogans, riot police attacked and dispersed the skinheads. By official data, a total of 559 people were arrested by police on 4 November; most of them - judging by the context of the reports – were right-wing radical activists. Virtually all of them were released by the end of the afternoon. A total of 156 people face charges for various administrative offences. The arrests substantially limited the right-wing radical activity - in particular, the symbols and the leader of the Slav Union were not visible, even though they were co-organizers of the Russian March. Similarly, Igor Artyomov was nowhere to be seen, although the symbols of his RONS group were there.

St. Petersburg
Although the march was banned in St. Petersburg (as an alternatives, the organizers were advised to hold a rally outside the Kirov Stadium), around 200 right-wing radicals marched from the bookstore - the site where Timur Kacharava was killed - along the Nevsky, escorted by riot police (OMON); the police did not interfere with the non-sanctioned march. As a result, a crowd of neo-Nazi (groups which announced their participation in the march included DPNI, the Freedom Party, the National Socialist Society, Slav Union, and a number of smaller neo-Nazi groupings) encountered a group of about 50 radical anti-fascists who blocked their way, and fighting started. Police used teargas to disperse the fighters. A total of 118 people were delivered to the Central District Police Station in St. Petersburg. Most of them were released by late afternoon, and 18 people face trial by the magistrate. Later, right-wing radicals met outside the Kazan Cathedral and held a rally yelling ethnocentric, nationalist and neo-Nazi slogans. Besides, rallies and "marches" were held in a number of Russian cities.

Vladivostok
Two marches were held in Vladivostok. The first march gathering around 200 participants was organized by the local chapter of DPNI (joined by the Russian Club and RNE). The second, banned march was organized by the Slav Union chapter led by former policeman Dmitry Dmitriyev, whom the local DPNI labeled "agent provocateur." The rally brought together less than three dozen people.

Irkutsk and Chita
The marches in Irkutsk and Chita, by various estimates, gathered between 100 and 200 participants. The events were initiated by leaders of the local Union of Russian People chapter Alexander Turik (Irkutsk) and Alexander Yaremenko (Chita).

Novosibirsk
In Novosibirsk, although the march was banned by local authorities, it gathered around 250 participants including nationalists from Tomsk, as well as Novosibirsk (most of them affiliated with DPNI). The main organizer of the event was city councilor Alexander Lulko. About two dozen marchers were arrested for various offences.

Krasnoyarsk
A rally in Krasnoyarsk brought together around a hundred people, of whom 70 were arrested by police afterwards.

Stavropol
In Stavropol, an event was organized by leader of the Union of Stavropol Slav Communities (associated with DPNI and RONS) Vladimir Nesterov and gathered around 400 people (right-wing radicals claimed there were five thousand, but admitted that order was maintained by just 100 police).

Kaliningrad 
The march in Kaliningrad headed by well-known local anti-Semitist, chairman of the National and Cultural Autonomy of Ethnic Russians (local branch) Vladimir Levchenko (currently facing trial for incitation of ethnic hatred) gathered approximately two dozen participants.

Maikop
In Maikop, around 150 people joined a march organized by the Slav Union of Adygeya; marchers included right-wing radicals from Krasnodar and their "colleagues" from Armavir who were not allowed to march in their city. They marched along the central street of Adygeya capital under pouring rain, and then peacefully dispersed.

Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk
In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, a nationalist march organized by the local Slav Union (no relation to D. Dyomuskin's group of the same name) led by Alexander Marisov gathered approximately two dozen participants. LDPR initially declared its intention to take part in the march, but then refused to participate. The participants soon joined the "official" crowd of the United Russia Party and the Young Guard who watched street festivities while celebrating the national holiday.

Chelyabinsk
In Chelyabinsk, around 40-50 people joined a nationalist rally. Activists of the local Young Guard chapter approached the site to “watch” the marchers. They watched with their banners folded – i.e. the Young Guard’s action was not officially sanctioned, as opposed to the “patriotic” event. The groups faced each other for a while, then dispersed. Three active national patriots were stopped by police for minor offences (including two organizers and a visiting activist from Perm, where the march was banned).

Blagoveschensk and Syktyvkar
In Blagoveschensk and Syktyvkar, no rally was held, because participants did not show up, while the organizers were detained by police (to remind, both organizers - Igor Terekhov from Blagoveschensk and Yuri Yekishev from Syktyvkar – face trial for incitation of ethnic hatred).

Nizhny Novgorod
The march in Nizhny Novgorod did not take place, because the police had arrested virtually everyone who came (27 DPNI activists).

Volgograd
In Volgograd, the march was stopped by police on legitimate grounds: the marchers chose a different route from what had been permitted.

The anti-fascist rally in Moscow
On 4 November 2006, in Bolotnaya Square in Moscow, an anti-fascist rally was organized by the Russian Anti-fascist Front (RAF), also involving the left-wing anti-fascist front. By various estimates, the rally was attended by 700 to 800 people. Its beginning was marked by a neo-Nazi provocation, which did not surprise either the organizers or the riot police (OMON). A neo-Nazi coalition had urged their supporters in advance to come to Bolotnaya Square obviously suggesting violent confrontation. However, as soon as neo-Nazi – more than a hundred – gathered on the opposite bank of Obvodnoy Canal and started raising their arms in a Nazi greeting, they were immediately surrounded by riot police and herded into bystreets, and a number of participants were arrested. Then the police blocked access to the antifascist rally, so that some radical anti-fascists (who, admittedly, looked and behaved almost like skinheads) were not allowed to join the rally. The police, however, overdid it and also denied access to some other people who did not look like skinheads at all. The rally was addressed by well-known human rights defenders, activists of civil society organizations and political parties, and workers of culture. The participants adopted a resolution expressing their concern over the government’s failure to counteract the spread of neo-Nazi and xenophobic sentiments in the country, and urging civil society forces to come together against the fascist threat. There were no attacks or other negative incidents after the event, unlike the anti-fascist rally last year. However, a group of activists from the Vanguard of Red Youth were escorted by police to the metro station to avoid potential attacks by neo-Nazi.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis

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RUSSIAN MARCHERS DEFY MOSCOW BAN

4/11/2006- Ultra-nationalists and far-right demonstrators have rallied in the Russian capital, Moscow, defying a ban on their march by the city's mayor. Fewer than 2,000 protesters turned up - lower than expected - and dozens were arrested, local media reported. Some carried religious icons, others gave Nazi-style salutes as they delivered a message of opposition to immigrants and immigrant workers. There was a huge police presence for the march on National Unity Day. Protesters gathered in a central Moscow square, met by several hundred police officers, some in riot gear. One banner read: "Don't confuse German fascists with Russian patriots." The protesters called for special privileges for ethnic Russians and more restrictions on immigrant workers. One protest organiser, Alexander Belov, said there were demonstrations in more than 20 cities - including St Petersburg, Krasnodar in southern Russia and Novosibirsk in Siberia. Police in St Petersburg reportedly broke up a fight between right and left-wing protesters, detaining dozens. A counter-protest in Moscow by left-wing demonstrators drew about 500 people carrying banners with slogans such as "Russian Anti-Fascist Front" and "I am Russian and therefore not a fascist." One left-wing protester, Svetlana Gannushkina, said: "We have to protest this ideology of lies and hate," About 30 people were also arrested at a demonstration in Kiev, in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, when fighting broke out between pro-Russian and nationalist Ukraine demonstrators. The BBC's Steven Eke in Moscow says organised protests by far-right groups in Russia have become increasingly common in recent years. The anti-immigration message is increasingly catching on in Russia, he says, and Russian society at large seems to be becoming increasingly intolerant of minorities. Monitoring groups say 39 people have been killed and hundreds attacked so far this year in apparent hate crimes. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov had banned the rally in the capital this year in a bid to prevent any repeat of last year's demonstration when hundreds of ultra-nationalists shouted far-right slogans. That march dominated the new 4 November Public Unity holiday which replaced the 7 November public holiday marking the 1917 Bolshevik uprising.
© BBC News

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RUSSIA SUBMITS DRAFT RESOLUTION AGAINST NEO-NAZISM TO UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY

8/11/2006- Glorification of the nazi movement and former members of the criminal organisation Waffen SS, building monuments in honour of SS members, their processions and other actions of the kind desecrate the memory of innumerable victims of fascism and negatively affect the younger generation and are absolutely incompatible with obligations assumed by UN member states. It is one of the key clauses of a draft resolution “Inadmissibility of certain practices escalating modern forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” submitted by Russia to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. It is stressed in the document that such actions present not the exercise but “a clear and obvious abuse of the right to freedom of peaceful meetings and associations, as well as the right to freedom of opinion and its expression.” Moreover, such acts can fall within the effect of Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination that demands from Convention member states to criminally prosecute participants in such acts. The draft resolution says that in accordance with this article the Convention signatory states should, in particular “denounce all kind of propaganda and all organisations based on ideas of racial superiority or that try to justify and encourage racial hatred and discrimination in any form; announce criminally punishable by law any dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred; announce illegal and ban organisations that encourage racial discrimination and its instigation.”

Presenting the resolution draft Russian official Andrei Nikiforov stressed that “hidden and open calls are still heard sometimes in various corners of the world for revising the results of the Second World War, rewrite history and in some countries considering themselves quite democratic and progressive the days of liberation from fascism are announced mourning dates, and those who fought nazism with arms in the hands are criminally prosecuted.” The Russian diplomat asked in this connection, “What prospects for eradication of racism and xenophobia can we talk about?” “Such actions held with connivance and sometime with support of the authorities, not only cultivate interethnic strife and desecrate the memory of innumerable victims of fascism and Holocaust, but also most negatively affect the formation of the attitude of tolerance in the youth,” the Russian diplomat stressed.

Nikiforov recalled that a resolution with the same name has already been adopted on the Russian initiative at the previous, 60th session of the UN General Assembly and earlier – at sessions of the UN Human Rights Commission. The official expressed extreme surprise at the attitude of Western countries and their allies that “at different stages of coordination of the Russian initiative try to weaken the text of the draft, emasculate its content, lower its severity and importance and after that abstain in the course of voting on such a serious document.” In the words of the Russian diplomat, these steps are taken by those states that had been members of the anti-Hitler coalition and suffered from fascism themselves. “Thus they actually put into question the decision of the Nuremberg Tribunal, the tasks and principles of the United Nations that was created as a response to suffering caused by the fascist ideology,” said the Russian official. Nikiforov expressed the hope that the above delegations will find a possibility to adjust their stances and support the Russian initiative.
© ITAR-TASS

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INDEPENDENT EXPERT SOUNDS ALARM OVER RISE IN RACISM, INTOLERANCE(United Nations)

7/11/2006- A sharp spike in racism, xenophobia and intolerance poses the most serious threat to democratic progress, an independent United Nations rights expert has told the General Assembly. “The emerging trends of racism, xenophobia and intolerance justify the sounding of an alarm,” said Doudou Diène, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. “It constitutes the most serious threat to democratic progress and the building of multicultural societies.” Startling signs of a retreat in the struggle against racism include a rise in xenophobic immigration policies, racist political platforms and violence, and the serious nature of the defamation of religions, anti-Semitism, “Christianophobia,” and particularly “Islamophobia” after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, said Mr. Diène, adding that a trivialization of racism has taken place. Painting portraits of the state of racism in countries around the world, the Special Rapporteur briefly outlined findings from field missions undertaken for the Human Rights Council, discussing xenophobic immigration laws in Switzerland, Japan’s “insular and hierarchical society” resistant to multiculturalism, Russia’s rise in racist violence, and, in Brazil, the “economic, social and political weight of racism” despite government efforts to combat those problems. Stumbling blocks towards ending racism include the proliferation of scientific and political publications carrying racist theories, and a rising tide of racism in political parties, including violence by neo-Nazi and nationalist groups, said the expert, who also highlighted a concern for racism in sport, particularly in football.

“The fight against racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia faces major challenges,” said Mr. Diène, whose recommendations to the General Assembly include convening a series of regional conferences to develop specific plans and to assess the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Mr. Diène also urgently called on the UN and Member States to muster political will and set out systematic efforts to establish far-reaching measures to crush racial and religious hatred, address xenophobic immigration policies, and halt the growing legitimacy of racism among some intellectuals and political parties. Special Rapporteurs are unpaid independent advisory experts with a mandate from the Human Rights Council who also make periodic reports to the General Assembly.
© UN News service

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RACISM BY POLICE REAL AND CAN'T BE IGNORED, ONTARIO COURT SAYS(Canada)

09/11/2006 - Anti-black racism by police is a reality of life that cannot be ignored, the Ontario Court of Appeal said in an unusually blunt statement on the highly sensitive issue of race. It said that the community "and the courts, in particular, have come, some would say belatedly, to recognize that racism operates in the criminal justice system." The statements came in a ruling that went against two black men who had sued the police for mistreatment. The appeal court concluded that the trial judge reached a reasonable conclusion on the evidence when he threw out their lawsuit. However, the judges used the case to embark on a lengthy discussion on the insidious nature of anti-black racism and racial profiling by police. They also warned that courts must not bend over too far in the other direction, effectively forcing police defendants to prove that they did not act on racist impulses. The case arose from an incident in which two Toronto men -- Garfield Peart and Earle Grant -- said that physical injuries they suffered were the result of improper procedures followed by two officers who arrested them. Mr. Grant and Mr. Peart were arrested early on Dec. 1, 1997, in Mississauga. The officers said that they deemed a "high risk takedown" to be necessary after the two men sped away from a gas station and did not pull over immediately after being signalled to do so.

However, the plaintiffs said that they were beaten during the takedown and, later, at a police detachment. Neither man was ever charged with a crime. Their lawsuit targeted Peel Regional Police constables Steve Ceballo and Jake Pedler. The police said they were chasing a speeding car they felt could have been stolen, and they acted in accordance with standard regulations. Mr. Justice George D. Lane of Ontario's Superior Court dismissed the $1-million civil lawsuit in 2003, saying he was not convinced based on the evidence. "The reasonable person must appreciate that both explicit and institutional racism can affect the way that the police see and treat black persons, and the way black persons react to the police," the appellate judges said yesterday. "The fully informed, reasonable person must understand that police misconduct can be racially motivated, even if the officer does not consciously appreciate that motivation." At its worst, the court said, racial profiling undermines effective policing and alienates law-abiding members of minority communities who feel they are targeted. "A full appreciation of the relevant social reality also extends to an understanding that not every claim of racism, even where honestly made, is valid," added Mr. Justice David Doherty, writing on behalf of Mr. Justice Stephen Goudge and Mr. Justice Paul Rouleau. They rejected the notion that in a racial profiling case, courts must try to adopt the mental framework of a "reasonable black man," rather than simply "a reasonable man." Judges must endeavour to put aside their own views as much as possible and attempt to understand how others view the world, Judge Doherty reasoned. "As difficult as it may be to blend these perspectives, it is no answer to abandon that effort in favour of an inherently subjective and one-sided inquiry."
© Globe and Mail

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CONGRESS GETS FIRST MUSLIM LAWMAKER(USA)

08/11/2006 - Democrat Keith Ellison was elected as the nation's first Muslim member of Congress on Tuesday, easily winning a Minneapolis-area district Republicans had not carried since 1962. Ellison, who is black, is also Minnesota's first nonwhite representative in Washington. He said those things were only of secondary importance. ``I think the most important thing about this race is we tried to pull people together on things we all share, things that are important to everyone. We all need peace, and this Iraq policy is dangerous to our country,'' said Ellison, who has called for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. Ellison said his campaign united labor, minority communities, peace activists. ``We were able to bring in Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists,'' he said. ``We brought in everybody.''
Ellison focused on issues that resonate in the urban, liberal-leaning 5th District in Minneapolis. By favoring gay rights and legal abortion, Ellison cut a path away from many Muslims. Hayat Hassan, 30, a single mother and a Muslim, said she voted for Ellison because of his positions on health care and education. ``I didn't even know he was a Muslim until one of his campaign workers told me,'' she said.

The seat was thrown open when longtime Rep. Martin Sabo said he would retire after 28 years. The Minneapolis-centered district is the most Democratic-leaning in the state; in 2004 seven of 10 voters went for John Kerry for president. That meant the real battle was the September primary, and Ellison, the endorsed Democrat, beat several strong candidates in that race, including Sabo's former chief of staff Mike Erlandson. On Tuesday he beat Republican Alan Fine and the Independence Party's Tammy Lee. Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society, compared an Ellison victory to Edward Brooke's election in 1966 as the first black senator since the 1870s. He said Muslims followed the campaign closely, and that they are more excited about seeing a Muslim in Congress than they are concerned about Ellison's strong liberal views. ``We are monotheistic, but we are not monolithic. There are things within our own community that we disagree about,'' he said. Ellison's views ``might be a concern but I think the overall factor of having a Muslim voice in Congress overrides those types of concerns.'' Ellison's campaign had to deal with reports of overdue parking tickets, late campaign finance reports and unpaid taxes. He also faced questions about anti-Semitism because of past ties with the Nation of Islam, a black Muslim group led by the confrontational Louis Farrakhan. Ellison, a criminal defense attorney who converted to Islam as a college student, denounced Farrakhan, and he won the endorsement of a Minneapolis Jewish newspaper.
© The Guardian

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Headlines 3 November, 2006

HUNGARIAN SECRET SERVICE FILES BLAME FAR-RIGHT GROUPS FOR RIOT

3/11/2006- Hungary opened secret service reports on the October 23 riots in Budapest and claimed far-right political groups incited some of the violence. Two audio files identified on the Web site for the Prime Minister's Office as tapped phone conversations between protest organizers suggest rioters wanted to pull police onto a nearby rally by the largest opposition party Fidesz. Seven other files, labeled as recordings from police communications, show authorities attempted to keep protesters away from the rally. “Speed it up, disperse it, the protesting crowd can't disturb the Fidesz rally,” a police commander said, according to the transcript. “The whole mass is now connected,” he said 10 minutes later. “We can't push any further.” The ruling Socialist Party and Fidesz have traded blows over police action on October 23, when anti-government protests turned into riots on the day of the 50th anniversary of Hungary's anti-communist uprising. Police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds, eventually storming a barricade at 1:30 a.m. Fidesz accused authorities of brutality and attacking peaceful protesters and also claimed police purposely pushed demonstrators toward its event at Astoria in central Budapest. The government, which originally planned to classify the secret service files for 80 years, denies that was the tactic. “Wind up the cops a bit, but without a clash, and pull them toward Astoria,” one man identified as “Debil,” or “retard” in Hungarian, says on the recording posted on the Prime Minister's Office Web site. “That's what we want, this is exactly what we went out for. We didn't want to kill anybody here, you know,” replies a voice identified as “Gyik,” or “lizard.”

Hungary has been gripped in more than a month of anti- government protests and street violence, the worse since the revolt in 1956. The demonstrations started on Sept. 17 when media got hold of a recording leaked from a closed Socialist Party meeting in which Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány admitted to lying about the economy to win re-election in April. Riots broke out the next day, with protesters seizing the headquarters of state television and burning cars. Clashes between police and rioters continued for two nights and restarted on Oct. 23, leaving about 400 people injured. Police shot 1,700 tear-gas grenades, lost eight cars, one water cannon and dozens of shields during the violence, the Népszabadság newspaper reported today, without citing sources. Some 318 officers were hurt and the extra policing has cost Ft 2.5 billion ($12.3 million), the paper said. More than 30 events and protests are planned for tomorrow to mark the anniversary of Soviet troops launching an invasion to crush the 1956 uprising. Hungarian authorities expect far-right political groups to try to start riots again tomorrow, MTI news agency reported, citing György Szilvásy, the minister who oversees the Prime Minister's Office and the secret services.
© The Budapest Business Journal

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NPAR ANNOUNCES €400,000 SPORTS FUND FOR INTEGRATION(Ireland)

National Action Plan Against Racism Announces €400,000 Local Sports Fund for Integration Initiatives

01/11/2006 - The National Action Plan Against Racism (NPAR) today launches a €400,000 fund for Local Sports Partnerships (LSP) to develop programmes and initiatives to encourage diversity and integration through sport. The grant is made available with the support of the Irish Sports Council (ISC). The National Action Plan Against Racism identifies sport as an important tool for the integration of minority groups through participation and the establishment of relationships and trust. The funding will be granted to initiatives that serve that purpose. Chairperson of the Strategic Monitoring Group of the NPAR, Lucy Gaffney, said: “Sport has an international language which breaks down barriers - essential to integrating different cultures and traditions. Whether on the pitch or in the stand, supporters and players are all working towards a shared cause.” By making this funding available, the NPAR is acknowledging the essential work that the Local Sports Partnerships have already begun in order to promote greater participation in sport at local level. The LSP structure, with its broad community involvement with government agencies, community and voluntary interests, is well suited to forwarding the aims of the National Action Plan Against Racism on participation and inclusion.
© The Irish Sports Council

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VSETIN MAYOR EVICTS ROMANY FAMILIES(Czech Republic)

002/11/2006 - Jiri Cunek, mayor of Vsetin, South Moravia, and senator for the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), has continued the town's practice of evicting Romanies, this time moving them to the neighboring villages of Cechy pod Kosirem and Drevnovice, Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) reported Thursday. The town had earlier evicted almost 100 Romanies to the Jesenik region. This time, the town has moved two families with 26 members in total, MfD writes. The evicted Romanies are complaining about being pressured, while Olomouc deputy regional governor Jitka Chalankova (KDU-CSL) considers the move an unacceptable deportation. Cunek says he is actually helping the families, MfD writes. Roman Tulej currently lives with 10 family members in a small, two-room house. The house's former owner sold it to the Vsetin town hall for CZK 320,000. The Tulej family will repay Vsetin CZK 460,000 for the house, with the profit to be divided between the real estate office and the mediator, MfD writes. The Tulejs say the house is damp and dilapidated. "They scared us with the claim that we would end up in the street and that our children will be moved to a children's home," Tulej's wife Jolana told the paper. In Vsetin, both families lived in a house which was to be torn down. The town hall did not extend their lease contract, but the families did not want to move out. They were given a lessee's note of termination of lease. Cunek said he did not see anything wrong in the relocation. "The people cause problems and we want to solve them. We have actually helped them to set themselves up," Cunek said. The house was bought by a mediator who claimed that he wanted it as a cottage. "If I had known that he would resell it, I would have never signed the contract. It is a small and old house which needs repair. It cannot hold 11 people," original owner Olga Juklova told the paper. Mayors of both villages described the removal was brutal. "I am shaken. This type of removal is like deportation. It is unacceptable that the steps are taken by Cunek, who is a the Christian Democrats senator and candidate for the chairman of the party," Chalankova said. This year, Cunek moved many rent defaulters, most of them Romanies, to "indestructible" container-like flats with washable plaster and transferred others during the night far away from Vsetin.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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ROMANY ORGANISATIONS UPSET OVER EVICTIONS(Czech Republic)

02/11/2006 - Organisations dealing with Romanies' integration into society have expressed indignation at the steps of Vsetin Mayor Jiri Cunek (Christian Democrat, KDU-CSL) who has moved Romany rent-defaulters from the town centre. Film director Bretislav Rychlik, who highlights Romany issues in his documentaries, said that Cunek should step down from politics. Political analysts cannot agree whether this controversial step will harm or increase Cunek's popularity. "I consider his [Cunek's] behaviour unethical, incorrect and at variance with the government concept of Romany policy," Romea association chairwoman Jarmila Balazova told CTK. She added she expects the KDU-CSL representatives to condemn Cunek's behaviour. Czeslaw Walek, secretary of the Government Council for Romany issues, said that the council has only limited powers in similar cases and can only issue recommendations and appeals. He added that the council representatives had talked repeatedly with the Vsetin Town Hall and proposed various solutions, but in vain. Rychlik stressed that Cunek, who was elected senator last weekend, should not sit in the upper house. Rychlik criticised Cunek's statements on commercial TV Nova in which he compared his transfer of problematic Romany families to the outskirts to a doctor "removing an ulcer." Rychlik called on other senators to condemn Cunek's words. He said he would file a legal complaint against Cunek soon.

The daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) reported that Cunek had moved two Romany families, 26 people in all, who lived in a dilapidated house which was scheduled to be demolished, from Vsetin in north Moravia to the nearby villages Cechy pod Kosirem and Drevnovice.
The town did not extend the families' rental contracts. Though the families had signed a document agreeing with the move, they now claim they were forced into to it. The Vsetin Town Hall previously relocated almost 100 Romanies from the town to the countryside.
Cunek is being considered a possible candidate for KDU-CSL chairman, to be elected at the party's national congress in early December. Political analyst Petr Just pointed out that Cunek could profit from the reputation of an uncompromising mayor. "Czechs have general objections to the Romany community though they pretend not to have any," Just told CTK. Analyst Vladimira Dvorakova expressed the opposite opinion. "It does not seem probable to me that the Christian Democrats would elect a controversial politician at their helm. That is why I think the case can harm him [Cunek]," Dvorakova told CTK. According to a recent research carried out by the GAC company, there are roughly 80,000 people living more than 300 poor Romany settlements in the Czech Republic, and the number of Romanies in such deprived localities has been rising.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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GAINS BY FAR RIGHT PROMPT SOUL-SEARCHING IN BULGARIA

* This article was made available to Sofia News Agency for publishing by Balkan Insight, Internet publication of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) ** Ekaterina Petrova is a BIRN Bulgaria project coordinator. Daniel Asparuhov, intern at BIRN Bulgaria, contributed to this article. Balkan Insight is BIRN's online publication

27/10/2006 - Almost 600,000 Bulgarians supported the leader of the far-right Ataka party, Volen Siderov, on October 22, ensuring he will be Georgi Purvanov's only challenger in the second round of presidential elections next Sunday. The first round put Purvanov, the incumbent Socialist president, way in the lead with 64 per cent of votes cast, followed by Siderov at 21.5 per cent. As voter participation was low and did not meet the threshold of 50 per cent, the two candidates must go head-to-head in spite of the huge gap between their votes. The forecasts of the election outcome alarmed commentators who claimed Siderov's gains showed Bulgaria was succumbing to nationalism and xenophobia. But now most experts say his showing was mostly an anti-establishment gesture. Siderov first appeared on the political scene before last year's parliamentary elections at the head of his new, hard-line nationalist party Ataka. Campaigning largely on hostility to Bulgaria's substantial ethnic and religious minorities, Ataka received 8.9 per cent of votes and won 21 seats in parliament. The number of seats has since dwindled to 12, however, due to some Ataka parliamentary deputies disassociating themselves from the party and others who were expelled as a result of scandals involving the obstruction of justice and accusations of pedophilia.

Since then, Siderov has softened his rhetoric with a view to winning over a broader section of the electorate outside his hard core of racist, xenophobic supporters. In the latest campaign, he reduced outward attacks on minorities to concentrate on denouncing the common political priorities of the big parties, such as EU and NATO membership and the closure of out-of-date reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. Racist comments were not entirely absent from his campaign, however. He pledged to scrap the news programme in Turkish from Bulgarian National Television, for example. And responding to accusations, he stated that he did not wish to turn Roma into soap (as the Nazis did), but joked that he would send soap bars to be used as intended to Roma-populated areas. Although his opponents and the ethnic minorities in question do not believe he has made any meaningful change to his attitudes, analysts say his milder campaign attracted people with anti-establishment views who until a few months ago would have felt uncomfortable voting for him. In a televised debate on the results last Sunday, political scientist Ognian Minchev said he saw the large turnout for Siderov as a protest vote against the system.

Many analysts agreed, saying most of those who backed Siderov did not plump for him as a fascist but as a figure challenging the status quo and "the system". Andrey Raychev, of the BBSS Gallup International polling agency, agreed. He told Balkan Insight only a minority of the voters opting for Siderov were hard-core nationalists. The rest wanted to make a protest vote against the government. "There aren't half a million fascists in Bulgaria," he said. Gallup's exit polls showed many of Siderov's voters were, in fact, followers of centrist democratic parties. Ten per cent of the supporters of the United Democratic Forces, UDF, voted for Siderov as did 22 per cent of supporters of a newly formed centre-right party, GERB. Those statistics shed light on another factor explaining Siderov's gains - the lack of an appealing non-Socialist alternative. While a number of democratic parties united around a common candidate, their nomination, the relatively elderly and unknown Nedelcho Beronov, was a poor choice. Beronov came third in the poll, taking fewer than ten per cent of the votes - less than half the number that voted for Siderov. A third reason why the vote for Siderov cannot be interpreted entirely as a vote supporting racism and xenophobia, but rather as an anti-establishment vote, is that it is not without precedent. Bogomil Bonev in 2001 and George Ganchev in 1996 were both populist nationalists who did unexpectedly well in presidential races. However, neither made it to the second round of the elections.

This makes Siderov's case more interesting and disturbing. Many observers have admitted it is a warning to the establishment concerning a deep dissatisfaction with the status quo among many Bulgarians. Many find the transition to democracy has taken too long without yielding fast and tangible results and they see themselves being worse off economically and excluded from the democratic process. "In a society, in which there are so many excluded and faithless people, who think of themselves as losers... these people's thesis is, 'There are bad people, who took our life away and we want to get it back.'," said anthropologist Haralan Aleksandrov, commenting on the vote for Ataka in the parliamentary elections in an interview for online news-site Vsekiden.com. In the second round, significant groups, such as members of ethnic minorities and hard-core democrat supporters, face a tough dilemma, choosing between a former communist and a man of the far right. "It is impossible for me to call on my supporters to vote for Siderov," said Bulgaria's former president and head of the UDF Petar Stoyanov. He said such an action would negate his entire political career, a view that echoes the feelings of many naturally centrist voters. On the other hand, Stoyanov said he could not encourage his supporters to vote for the Socialist president either. Members of minority groups face a similar headache. Metody Stoilov, of the Roma council, Kupate, said he would vote for Siderov if he removed racist and extremist elements from his agenda. His appeals for changes to the status quo had registered favourably with many Roma he added. But as matters stood, he would have to vote "with disgust" for the "lesser evil" of Purvanov in the second round.
© Novinite

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ACTIVISTS PREPARE TO MARCH AGAINST RACIAL INTOLERANCE(Russia)

27/10/2006 - Politicians and activists are preparing to take to the streets on Sunday to protest against hatred, fascism and discrimination.The March Against Hatred which will start at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Sportivnaya metro station is dedicated to the memory of Nikolai Girenko, a prominent expert on ethnic and racial issues who was gunned down at the entrance of his apartment in June 2004.
Organized by local branches of Yabloko and Union of Right Forces as well as human rights groups, including Memorial, Soldiers' Mothers and Citizens' Watch, the event aims to unite and consolidate local citizens. The march's organizers stress that they are appealing to citizens, rather than the authorities. Russia's human rights advocates say they are alarmed that in St. Petersburg three different juries in a row have this year acquitted people charged with hate-crimes. In March, a jury cleared a teenager of murder charges in the stabbing of a 9-year-old Tajik girl in 2004, finding him guilty instead of hooliganism and calling for leniency in his sentencing. In July, another jury acquitted defendants of the murder of Congolese student Roland Epassak, and, in October, prosecutors failed to convince the jury of the guilt of suspects in the murder case of Vietnamese student Vu An Tuan.

"Rulers come and go, but the people stay on; and it is the people who are now finding themselves on the verge of pogroms against Georgians and other non-Russians," said Iosif Skakovsky of the human rights group Memorial. "The authorities are used to using special task forces, water cannon and gas against furious crowds, but a better and more long-lasting way to prevent massacre and pogroms is to nurture civil society," Skakovsky said. Alexander Vinnikov, one of the leaders of the For Russia Without Racism movement, agreed. "More and more Russian citizens feel alienated from one another. Not only are their social values and political beliefs different. Many people hate the very difference between them — be it a different skin color, political persuasion or social status — and are unwilling to open the door to dialogue and reconciliation," Vinnikov said. The march will include a meeting of protest at 2 p.m. on Andrei Sakharov Square. Both the right and left-wing opposition are expected to participate in the march. Its organizers have asked the most controversial groups, including, for instance, National Bolsheviks, whose slogans and philosophy frequently spark argument, not to bring any party symbols to the event. At previous meetings there has been a substantial amount of hatred, intolerance and propaganda in the rhetoric of some of the march's participants, providing a striking contrast to its declared goal. This time round the event's organizers promise more moderation.

"During one of the first marches, some of the activists carried anti-Putin posters and shouted slogans like 'Russia Without Putin,'," recalls Yury Nesterov of the For Russia Without Racism movement. "Although many participants of the march felt the same way, there were people whose attitude toward the president was much less critical. The shouting made them uncomfortable and that's the kind of thing that we should certainly avoid in the future." In previous years, public support for the march has been low. The first event in 2004 assembled about 700 participants, and last year the march gathered just over 1000 people. City officials have distanced themselves from the event. Sergei Khokhayev, chairman of Memorial, blamed Gov. Valentina Matviyenko and other officials for what he called a "hands-off attitude." "Not only do they stay away from anti-fascist meetings, but they also don't send anyone to remove fascist graffiti from the walls of apartment buildings," he said. "Young activists from Antifa are removing extremist slogans from walls on their own initiative, while the city simply turns a blind eye to them." The activists are hoping for a better public attendance for their events. "After all, the fascists are watching us, and if they see only a handful of activists out in the street, they feel they are winning," Khokhayev said. "And, of course, the state would face greater pressure to deal with the problem of intolerance if many thousands of people join forces even if it's just for the one street protest this coming Sunday."
© The St. Petersburg Times

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ROMANIANS TELL BRITAIN: WE DON'T WANT TO COME TO YOUR COUNTRY ANYWAY

UK holds 'no attraction' for workers facing restrictions planned by John Reid - they would rather go to Spain or Italy

28/10/2006 - As Bucharest's giant stopwatch proudly counted down the days until Romania's January entry to the European Union, Constantin Ivan stood on a crossroads beneath the grey apartment blocks that are a legacy of the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. A shy, 17-year-old Roma in jeans and an anorak, he waited solemnly with dozens of other men aged 16 to 60 to be picked up in vans for a day's black market work building lakeside villas or shopping malls for Romania's new rich. Ivan knew nothing of the UK, had no plans to travel there and was baffled to hear he had become public enemy number one in the corridors of Westminster. First it was the Polish plumber that struck fear into Britain, but when the home secretary, John Reid, this week announced plans to curb the number of migrant workers arriving from Bulgaria and Romania, a fresh, faceless threat crystallised in the public imagination: the Romanian builder.
Seven days a week, Ivan gets up at 3:30am after three hours' sleep and walks 4km from his village to catch a packed, slow train to Bucharest. From 6:30am he waits at the crossroads for someone in a battered van or car to give him a day's work, building, digging or shifting debris. He is paid £7 for a 10-hour day. While Romania enjoys an economic boom with plush office blocks and new roads dotted with shiny cars, there are plenty of crooked building bosses willing to exploit the gap between rich and poor.

"Life is miserable," said Stefan Vasiliu, 53. His hands were swollen and calloused after seven years working on the black market from this crossroads. "England is beautiful. People are very straightforward and honest." But like the other, mainly Roma, men waiting in line, he didn't have the funds or desire to seek a better life in the UK. If these builders did sell all they had to travel across Europe in January, they would choose the favoured destinations of over 50% of the 2.5 milion people who have already left Romania: Italy and Spain. After all, Romania describes itself as a Latin-Balkan hybrid with the emphasis on Latin, it speaks a language close to Italian and plays Spanish pop on the radio. Its migrant workers quickly learn Romance languages and many instinctively head for known support networks in Latin countries. When terrorists bombed the Spanish train system during rush hour in 2004, the second highest death toll among foreigners were the Romanian immigrants on their way to work. The British government admitted that its decision to limit Romanian and Bulgarian arrivals came after its vast underestimation of the number of eastern European migrants from the last round of EU enlargement in 2004. Britain predicted 15,000 arrivals, but up to 600,000 - half of them Polish - turned up. Now the open-door policy for workers has been slammed shut. Unskilled Romanians and Bulgarians will be limited to food processing and agriculture jobs. No more than 20,000 will be allowed in a year. Skilled workers such as engineers won't be allowed in at all unless they prove they are doing jobs that cannot be filled by UK residents.

Bad image
Mr Reid's announcement has dominated Romania's newspaper front pages and TV debates all week, as the media have raged about the injustice and humiliation of their being turned into second-class citizens, treated differently from the eight other former communist countries that entered the EU in 2004. "Sadly, Romania has a bad image in the EU and that's difficult to overcome," read one newspaper editorial. "Our most famous people are still Dracula and Ceausescu." At the fountain outside Bucharest's architecture facility, where bullet holes still mark the 1989 uprising that overthrew the Ceausescus, English-speaking students had stopped talking about that other conversation piece from CNN - Paul McCartney's divorce troubles - to rage about Britain's negative stereotypes. "They think we're all Gypsies and swan eaters," said Grozea Alexandru, 23, in his fourth year of a degree in construction. Some students blamed Gypsies for sparking a fear of Romanians in British tabloids. But Maria Ionescu, head of Romania's national agency for the Roma, told the Guardian there was "no attraction" in the UK for Roma who were much more likely go to Italy or Spain. The Polish migrants knew they had Polish cafes, restaurants and churches waiting for them in London when they arrived in 2004, she said. But both Roma and Romanians didn't have much of a community there and would naturally head elsewhere, even Greece, or Germany, which also announced restrictions on workers this week.

Hangover
While the new EU-friendly Romania battles to curb the effects of a neglected, failing education system, corruption, tax evasion and the malign hangover from its powerful secret services, its unemployment is low - at 5% half that of France. Many in Bucharest find it ironic Britain is making such a fuss about Romanian migrant workers when the country of 22 million is suffering a work shortage. This week, the prefect of Botosani in the north-east appealed for more immigrant workers to fill the job vacancies left by the departure of 20% of the working age population. Migrant workers from Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are arriving to fill the gap. At University Square, Cristian Stroe, 49, a carpenter, was sitting on a bench wearing his father's Ceausescu-era army jacket. "You must remember that communism and Ceausescu was a catastrophe, a nightmare," he said, describing a world where travel was banned and even greeting a foreigner was a suspicious act that had to be reported to the secret police. "Now borders are open, I want to travel because I remember when I could not. England is one of the great powers of the world and a great civilised country, but we must not take too much notice of these restrictions heaped on us - if we had, we would never have got this far." Sitting beside Romanian and EU flags in his office in downtown Bucharest, Nicolae Idu, head of the European Institute of Romania, said the UK had already "frustrated" Romanians by still insisting on visas. "I haven't been to Britain since 2000. I don't like to be humiliated, queuing at the British embassy early in the morning for a visa that all other European countries have lifted. I prefer to meet my British counterparts in Brussels."
© The Guardian

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ITALY: RAPPER EXPLORES MIGRANT ISSUES

27/10/2006 - He grew up in a tough neighbourhood with his father in and out of jail, feeling marginalised because of his ethnic background. Sounds like the profile of a hip-hop youth from an inner-city American suburb, but instead it's what Amir Issaa, an Italian musician, raps about. "I feel like a foreigner in my nation," said Issaa, born in Italy to an Egyptian father and Italian mother. "If the police stop me and an Italian friend, they'll definitely stop me for a half-hour longer and make hundreds of checks," he told Adnkronos International (AKI). Issaa gives voices to growing numbers of 'new Italians' who have more than one identity. "After 9/11, they also now associate an Arab surname with Islamic terrorism and other such things which are very far away from who I am or my reality," Issaa told AKI. Issaa, 27, was referring to "Straniero nella mia nazione" or "Foreigner in my Nation", a track from his debut album, "L'uomo di prestigio" or Prestige Man. In the song, Issaa raps in Italian about how he straddles two worlds, how he is a "mix of bloods, cultures, races and religions". "I take your hatred and transform it with my words," he says in his lyrics. "S.O.S, it's a negative outcome, that they call me a foreigner in the place where I live."

A veteran of the Italian hip-hop scene, Issaa got his big break this year when he signed a recording contract with EMI/Virgin. "I think it's a positive result from the fact of my origins," said Issaa, dressed in an oversized red tracksuit jacket and baggy pants, wearing a chain and shiny, diamante stud earrings on both ears. He said that record companies now realise rap sells records among Italian youth, tired of melodic Italian songs. This, together with the fact that he's a second generation Italian of immigrant parents, has helped him secure the record deal. A report published earlier this week by the Catholic charity Caritas said that the number of immigrants in Italy is on the rise. There are today an estimated three million immigrants, making up 5.2 percent of the Italian population. However immigration is a realtively recent phenomenon in Italy unlike Britain or France, where people frm the ex-colonies have moved there for decades. One million of Italy's immigrants come from Eastern Europe while those hailing from non-EU countries are mostly Albanian and Ukrainian. Most immigrants hailing from Africa are Moroccan nationals, while among Asians, Chinese and Filipinos make up the majority and among Americans, its mostly Peruvian and US citizens. With so many different cultures now interacting with Italians, there is potential for tension and misunderstanding between the local and immigrant communities, with some suggesting rising crime and increased unemployment is a result of this influx of migrants.

One of Italy's political parties, the Northern League, is xenophobic and has played on the insecurities of Italians, regarding the new arrivals. "Italians are quite racist and they have a short memory," said Issaa. "They forget that 40 to 60 years ago they did abroad, what immigrants here are doing now. They moved to other countries for work, doing whatever they could to get on," he said. "I feel it's an asset to have such variety here in Italy and to see such diversity. Hopefully one day they [Italians] will see that too." The neighbourhood where Issaa grew up and still lives today, Tor Pignattara, is a reflection of this new multicultural reality. A lower-income suburb of Rome, it's an example of the capital's new multicultural reality. Walk down the main street,and it's possible to find a restaurant serving "Chinese-Italian cuisine", a Punjabi bar and a traditional Italian pizzeria. Grocery stores have shelves lined with Indian spices next to Italian pasta. The suburb is also dotted with telephone call centres and money transfer agencies, used by immigrants to contact home. This diversity has influenced Issaa in his music. "Close to home there are Chinese and Bangladeshi shops and many Eastern Europeans. There is a mix in the quarter that has inspired and influenced me a great deal," said Issaa. "I feel in a way I represent this scene (and am) a spokesman for these people, as a child of an immigrant. We are Italian, we feel Italian but because of they way we look, because of our names, we're not treated as 100 percent Italian."

His personal experience also shaped his music. With an Egyptian father, Arabic music was often on the radio in Issaa's home. The first single from his album, Shimi Shimi incorporates this sound into his hop-hop beats. "Arabic music, the rhythm from the orient, are part of my DNA," he said. "When I was little I would listen to the music of my father and his friends. But I can't say that I have a deep knowledge of this music. In the end I assimilated it together with rap." From the time he was just two years old, Issaa's father was often in prison and his mother had to take on whatever work she could to make ends meet for him and his sister. After dropping out of school at 16, Issaa had a string of jobs, from washing dishes in restaurants to delivering packages and helping a brick layer. His life growing up inspired his music and hard-hitting lyrics. He would write his rhymes, in the "most direct and best way" to communicate his ideas and experiences. Over time, he got to know several artists in the Italian rap music scene and even hosted freestyle rap competitions between aspiring rappers. Through this he discovered others like him.

Among those who have collaborated with Issaa is Mike Samaniego, 24, the son of Filipino and Chinese parents, but also born and bred in Italy. Samaniego raps in a mixture of Italian and Tagalog - the main language of the Philippines. "I can't talk about the life of a regular Italian but I can of my background, of how I was brought up and in this way, I hope I can open the mentality of others," Samaniego told AKI. Samaniego and others in Issaa's posse are happy with the recognition that came with the recording deal and thrilled that their friend has become a minor celebrity in Italy. The young rapper has already begun writing his second album and hopes to continue with his music. But his feet remain firmly planted on the ground. "I hope to change the conditions of my life and of those close to me. I have no grand desires to change the world," said Issaa. "My hope is to resolve my personal problems which are heavy enough as they are," he said.
© adnkronosinternatioanl

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ISLAM: VEIL A NON-ISSUE FOR MUSLIM FEMINISTS (Spain)

3/11/2006- The right to wear the face-veil - which has in recent weeks caused growing controversy in Europe - is not the most important issue facing female Muslims. Discrimination against women within the social and legal fabric of a country, is a far more serious problem, Abdennur Prado, director of an international conference on Islamic Feminism told Adnkronos International (AKI). Shariah law and its influence on Muslim countries' legal systems is the focus of this year's conference taking place in the northern Spanish city of Barcelona on Friday through Sunday, Prado said  "Undoutedly, the country where discrimination against women is worst is Saudi Arabia. Then there are countries such as Iran, where women are forces to observe certain dress codes and endure physical punishments," Prado said.  "Another country where discrimination against women is rife is Pakistan, but some North African countries such as Algeria are also guilty," she added. The congress will take a clsoer look at the legal and social position of women in these countries, as well as in Senegal, Sudan, Indonesia and Tunisia. While some North African countries, most recently Morocco, have undertaken important reforms of their family law in favour of women, other such as Algeria, have yet to overhaul theirs, Prado noted. "There are those who justify discrimination against women in the name of Islam," she said. The conference in Barcelona will focus on Sharia (Islamic) law and Muslim countries' laws. "It is one thing for sexism to exist in a country on a social level - as it does in Spain and Italy - and quite another to approve discriminatory laws against women that forbid them to go out and condemn them to harsh punishments such as whipping if they disobey," Prado underlined. Besides the Shariah, the 400 delegates at the congress will also look at other issues affecting Muslim women such as divorce, sexuality, family planning and poligamy. "The conference aims to be a tool for women to get closer, for dialogue and understanding between secular, Muslim and Christian feminists. The fight against discrimination must be global," Prado stressed. The conference, is being attended by some of the most prominent Muslim women intellectuals and women's rights activists, and will also look at the role played by female leaders.
© adnkronosinternatioanl

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POLITICIANS RALLY AROUND LAWMAKER IN HEADSCARF ROW IN GERMANY

Politicians from across the spectrum have expressed solidarity with a Green Party parliamentarian of Turkish origin who has received death threats after urging Muslim women in Germany to take off their headscarves.

31/10/2006 - Elkin Deligöz' comments in a newspaper article two weeks ago sparked not just a deluge of criticism by religious leaders and the media in Turkey but also intimidation. The Green Party parliamentarian has received death threats and is now under police protection. The incident has, although somewhat belatedly, led to a slew of German politicians -- ranging from her fellow left-wing party members to lawmakers from the center-right -- to express their support and defend her right to speak her mind. Freedom of expression must be protected, said German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. "It's not OK when someone is threatened" for exercising that right. He called on politicians to do everything they could to throw their weight behind Deligöz. The Green Party's co-leader in parliament, Renate Künast, has already complained to Turkey's ambassador in Berlin of "unacceptable" reactions in Turkish media to Deligöz' comments. Newspapers in Turkey had called Deligöz a "Turkish Nazi" and a "disgrace to mankind."

Meeting with Islamic groups
Künast invited several Islamic organizations for discussions on Tuesday, including the Islamic Council, the Turkish Association of Berlin and Brandenburg and the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs. Several representatives stressed that they did not agree with Deligöz' opinion, but condemned the threats she had received. "What she said is nonsense to me," said chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, Kenan Kolat. But he added that it was important that "she is allowed to spread this nonsense." Deligöz, who was born in Turkey but grew up in Germany, addressed Muslim women living in Germany in a newspaper article recently, saying: "Wake up to today's Germany. This is where you live, so take off your veils." After the meeting on Tuesday, Deligöz stressed that she would not allow herself to be intimidated, and that she stood by her opinion on headscarves in Germany. "I am going to live my life from now on just as I have up to now," she said. "I stand by my comments and I have no reason to deviate from them whatsoever." Integration of Germany's Muslim population has been a hot-button issue in Germany for some time. It has become a priority for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government as concern grows about Islamic radicalisation across Europe and the emergence of an underclass of disillusioned young Muslims in the country, who are mostly Turks. Recent moves by a theater in Berlin to cancel a opera that featured the severing of the heads of religious figures, including that of Prophet Mohammed, for fear of Islamist attacks was strongly condemned by politicians. Though the opera has since been reinstated, the incident has served to underline the growing debate on freedom of speech in Europe and whether it should have limits when it comes to offending religious sensibilities.

Support from the right
Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy head of the conservative Christian Democratic parliamentary group, called on Germany and its leaders to "show some backbone." "She (Deligöz) has earned the unconditional support of all of civilized society," he told the broadcaster n-tv. Bavaria's Interior Minister Günther Beckstein, member of the Christian Social Union, said: "It's sad when backward-looking circles take something as matter of course as the call to take off the headscarf as a reason to issue death threats."
© Deutsche Welle

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FORMER NEO-NAZI HELPS OTHERS BREAK FREE OF TOTALITARIAN IDEOLOGY(Germany)

27/10/2006 - BERLIN Matthias Adrian once wore a Hitler mustache, believed in a "Zionist world conspiracy" and wouldn't reach for a cornflakes box in the supermarket if he saw a foreigner had touched it. "I believed the Third Reich never died, the German constitution didn't have any meaning for me," the former neo-Nazi says. Today, Adrian, 30, speaks in schools and public assemblies for the private group Exit Deutschland, which helps people leave the neo-Nazi scene just as he did. The work of activists like Adrian and Exit Deutschland is in the center of a debate in Germany over how to stem an increase in hate crimes nationwide and far-right political successes in the nation's economically depressed east. Last month, the far-right National Democratic Party won seats in the state legislature in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania; the party already sat in the state parliament of Saxony. That victory, and a 21 percent increase in the number of far-right crimes reported in the first part of the year, led the German government to beef up spending on programs aimed at fighting far-right extremism by €5 million (US$6.3 million). The money could help Exit Deutschland keep going.

Director Bernd Wagner said non-governmental groups like his are key to combatting extremism among young people, because many neo-Nazis will not turn to government organizations for fear of prosecution. Adrian uses his insider knowledge of neo-Nazi thinking — and its flaws. "You have to anticipate that there will also be three to 15 far-right extremists at such an event who will ask questions," said Adrian. "But we use exactly that situation to openly discredit the scene." "It is clear that a 14-year-old will easily believe it if you tell him all foreigners need to leave, we need to withdraw from the EU and then we will have full employment." "But I tell them that we, as export world champion, depend on the EU's trade policies. Those are the things the scene doesn't know or likes to keep secret. That's how you get those guys." But Wagner had to lay off Exit Deutschland's four employees in October because there were no prospects for new funding. "This year we had about €170,000 at our disposal, including donations. That equals the prison costs for three to five inmates," said Wagner. "When I consider that we look after 30 to 50 people per year, about half of them criminal offenders who don't relapse, then we bring in a lot of money for society." The Federal Office of Criminal Investigation recorded 7,994 right-wing motivated crimes from January to the end of August, a 21 percent jump over the same period in 2005 and a 56 percent increase compared to similar numbers for 2004. Of the crimes reported, 452 were violent.

Adrian's plunge into the far right started when he was a boy growing up in a small town in the state of Hesse that he described as "Roman Catholic and arch-conservative." His grandfather and other older relatives had fought in World War II and would reminisce about Nazi leisure and youth organizations, though they weren't Nazi party members. That whitewashed view was challenged when his third-grade teacher talked about the Holocaust. Upset, Adrian asked his grandfather if terrible things had happened during the war. "And then he told me, 'Boy, it wasn't all that bad,'" Adrian recounted. His grandfather described the SA — the Nazi's brown-shirted "storm troopers" — as "three old men in our village, but they never harmed anyone, they just painted city hall and things like that. ... Our pastor was also in the concentration camp, he never said anyone was gassed.'" By age 14, he was writing to the far-right German People's Union, though his father forbade it. He started denying the Holocaust in class and wearing neo-Nazi attire: a brown shirt and black tie, black military pants, a belt with a shoulder strap and combat boots. Expelled from one school, he changed to a different one where he founded his own extremist clique that burned election posters and painted swastikas on buildings.

After graduating from high school, Adrian became an active member of the right-wing National Democratic Party, serving on the executive board of the party's youth arm in the state of Hesse. But instead of meeting Germany's "national elite" he said he encountered "a bunch of alcoholics, brawlers and hypocrites." A turning point came as he prepared to publish works by Nazi theorist Alfred Rosenberg, who he said wrote that the Aryan master race originated in the lost city of Atlantis. "And I thought that's complete rubbish," Adrian said. "Everyone in the right-extremist scene has heard of the Atlantis theory, but that's an old running gag everyone makes fun of." More motivation came when his girlfriend left the scene. He started reading a self-help Web site, http://www.nazis.de, aimed at reaching neo-Nazis — another of Germany's private initiatives. On his 24th birthday in 2000, Adrian quit his party posts. "And then I thought, you have to do something against this ideology," he said. "Because I realized what the ideology had made out of me." "Fortunately, I was never violent," he said. "I regret my actions, but with hindsight I am also thankful for the experience, because without this extreme experience, I would now be one of the dumb guys living in his dull, racist world."
© International Herald Tribune

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MASSIVE POLICE PRESENCE DURING GÖTTINGEN NEO-NAZI MARCH(Germany)

30/10/2006 - Some 4,000 residents and 800 anarchists march against 200 NPD members; 6,000 police on hand to prevent violence
Some 4,000 people turned out on Saturday in the German university town of Göttingen to protest an NPD-party march - the third in the town this year - consisting of about 200 skinheads and other adherents. About 6,000 police officers were also present to prevent property damage and fights between the right-wing extremists and around 800 anarchist counter-demonstrators who turned up as well. Why did this march happen in a prosperous, west German town like Göttingen? Christian Teevs, writing in the online edition of Der Spiegel, reported that NPR party heads apply for Saturday protest permits in the 120,000-person city both to disrupt local shops' most important market day, and because their protests consistently attract a large anarchist counter demonstration, which in turn necessitates a large police presence, alienates the city's citizens, and garners significant media attention. Willi Klie of the city's chamber of commerce told Der Spiegel that the protest cost €2 million in tax payer money and led to sales losses of about €1 million. Many citizens held up signs reading "My dream: A Göttingen free of Nazis." This could only happen if the NPD party (which, among other things, praises Hitler, calls for non-Germans' expulsion, and denies that the Holocaust happened) were banned or their marches forbidden, or both.
© The Berlin Paper

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NEO-NAZI DEMONSTRATIONS BANNED FROM SYNAGOGUE OPENING(Germany)

31/10/2006 - A German court has upheld a ban on all neo-Nazi demonstrations that have been scheduled in Munich for November 9th – opening day of the city’s newly rebuilt synagogue. Finishing touches are being applied to city’s newest house of worship which is being built on the Jakobsplatz where the city’s main synagogue once stood, prior to being destroyed by the Nazis in 1938. The complex will stand once again stand in the shadows of the church towers of the city’s centre.

Koehler to attend
The opening ceremony will host hundreds of VIPs, including Germany’s federal president, Horst Koehler and his first lady. A speaker for the city’s central borough district, Wilfried Blume-Beyerle, welcomed the court’s decision, the DDP press agency reported. Blume-Beyerle said that the city is vehemently against any sort of Nazi demonstration but conceded that it was not always legally possible to stop such groups from exercising their right of free speech. “A neo-Nazi demonstration during the synagogues opening service would amount to nothing more than an unbearable provocation. It would provoke unforeseeable reactions and could endanger public safety and order,” Blume-Beyerle said. Blume-Beyerle was reacting to past dangers associated with the synagogue’s construction.

Plot uncovered
Just prior to the official groundbreaking, two years ago, police uncovered a plot by right wing extremists to attack the ceremony which was resided over by then President Joahnnes Rau. Today the neo-Nazi instigators of the plot are sitting behind bars. However, Jewish institutions, throughout Germany, are still considered vulnerable to terrorist acts. The new Ohel Jakob Synagogue will be opened 68 years after the destruction of its predecessor. The complex will also house the city’s Jewish community’s offices and new Jewish museum – both of which are due to open within the first half of 2007.

Communal renaissance
Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, who also heads the Bavarian city’s 9,000 strong Jewish community, said that the new synagogue was yet another confirmation of Germany’s Jewish renaissance and resiliance. Several dozen synagogues have, thus far, been re-erected throughout Germany, since 1990, with new ones opening their doors on an almost on a yearly basis. The rapid growth of Germany’s Jewish communities has been attributed to the heavy influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union who immigrated to Germany since the mid-1980s. Funding of the Munich complex, which began in 2004, was paid for by the Jewish Community and private donations. Each private contributor has been given the name “godfather of tolerance”. The programme was called to life by Germany’s publishing magnate, Hubert Burda who was recently awarded the Central Council of Jews in Germany’s Leo Baeck prize. The structure will be smaller than its pre-war predecessor. Before the war, Munich counted 12,000 registered Jews.
© The European Jewish Press

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GERMANS SET UP TASK FORCE AGAINST HOOLIGANISM

31/10/2006 - Senior German football officials agreed Tuesday on a "task force" to fight hooliganism and racism in and around the country's stadiums. The agreement between the heads of the German Football Federation (DFB) and German Football League (DFL) follows several incidents of fan violence and racist chants this season. Although the World Cup in Germany this summer passed off largely peacefully, German football officials have been dismayed to see an increase in hooliganism this season. The top-flight Bundesliga has largely escaped incidents of fan violence but clashes have been prevalent at lower league games. There were also more than 40 arrests when German fans clashed with police during and after a Euro 2008 qualifying match in Slovakia earlier this month. DFB president Theo Zwanziger and his DFL counterpart Werner Hackmann, meeting in Frankfurt, agreed on measures to step up its links with official fan clubs and fan projects. The task force will seek to improve fan information and communication and include a security liaison official along with a fan integration officer. It will be asked to provide a detailed report on developments in the regional associations and their clubs as well as in the Bundesliga. The meeting followed a weekend of violence at matches in the second, third and fourth divisions, a cup match being abandoned last week after the linesman was hit by an object thrown from the crowd and two incidents of racist chants directed at Bundesliga players.

Over the weekend, a total 43 fans were detained after outbursts of violence around the second division match between Augsburg and 1860 Munich and a third-division game between Hertha Berlin II and Dynamo Dresden. There were also clashes involving a group of around 30 fans at the fourth-division game between Pforzheim and SVW Mannheim. In addition, all 70 weekend matches in the lowest leagues of the central German Siegerland-Wittgenstein area were called off after weeks of violence towards match officials. A first-division Bundesliga match and a German Cup match have also been marred this season by racist taunts from a section of fans, with Germany's Ghana-born international striker Gerald Asamoah a victim of monkey chants while playing in Rostock. "We will be trying to minimise these sort of incidents but we won't be able to eradicate them completely," Hackmann said. As part of its efforts, the DFB will be looking to impose stricter conditions regarding ground improvements in the lower leagues. Zwanziger said: "It is clear that this phenomenon of violence is being experienced more strongly in the regional leagues (third division) and the lower leagues. "We have been following this with some concern for a long time. We have to respond to this." The DFB had already called for a meeting with all the country's official fan projects in January or February next year to discuss fan issues.
© Expatica News

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HUNDREDS OF NEO-NAZI CDS SEIZED IN POLAND

29/10/2006- Customs officers in Poland have intercepted a parcel containing hundreds of neo-Nazi CDs on its way from the United States to Germany. Officers in Wroclaw opened the package to find 300 CDS with neo-Nazi lyrics and illustrations, after they were posted on by a Polish resident, named only as Bartosz J, in the south-western town of Opole. Most of the records had extreme imagery on their covers, including pictures of Adolf Hitler, barbed wire from Second World War concentration camps and a canister of Zyklon B - the gas used to slaughter inmates at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The lyrics –penned by notorious German neo-Nazi groups, such as Hassgesang and Landser – also broadcast fanatical rightwing ideology. A sample from one of the CDs reads: "We will lay down our lives for the Aryan race/Our country will be free when the last Jew is dead." According to the sleeve notes the CD also includes "marches and war songs from the European Nazi movement and SS volunteers." The band Landser is strongly featured in the collection. The neo-Nazis were the first rock group to be outlawed in Germany, when they were convicted for "defaming the dead of World War II" in 2003, with the band’s leader, Michael Regener, sentenced to more than three years in prison. On Sunday, October 21st, some 750 skinheads staged a protest calling for his release outside the prison where he is being held in Berlin. The irony of Poland being the transit country for his music is that some of Landser’s songs are anti-Polish, with one proclaiming that "Gdansk, Wroclaw and Szczecin are German cities just like Berlin." This anomaly was already highlighted during Regener’s trial when it was revealed that the sleeve to one of his CDs was published in Poland. Despite being a victim of the Nazis during World War II, Poland has recently witnessed a growth in far right-wing activity.

Rafal Pankowski, an activist in the anti-Nazi organisation ‘Never Again’ said: "It doesn’t surprise me that fascist materials are coming from the USA to Germany through Poland." "The law is more liberal in the States which makes it easier to send material of this type and in Poland anti-fascist regulations are less rigorously enforced than in Germany." A police spokesman said that packages such as the one found in Wroclaw were quite common. "A considerable amount of fascist material is sent here from the UK and USA," said Pawel Biedziak. "Though we cannot talk of a permanent smuggling route." Bartosz J. faces two years in prison for propagating Nazi material.
© EJP

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REFUGEE CLEARED TO STAY IN UK

27/10/2006 - A REFUGEE who fled from west Africa to Hackney because she feared being mutilated in a barbaric tribal ritual has won the right to stay in the UK. Zainab Esther Fornah, 19, escaped from war-torn Sierra Leone five years ago after tribal elders threatened to circumcise her. The British government had argued that the college student had insufficient grounds to claim refugee status. However, her appeal was upheld in a landmark ruling in the House of Lords last week. Miss Fornah's solicitor, Jen Henwood, said: "My client is delighted and I am delighted for her." After arriving in England, Miss Fornah was placed in care in Brighton at first before moving to a housing estate is Hackney with her baby son. Her case revolved around whether women in Sierra Leone facing genital mutilation should be seen as a "persecuted group" under the terms of the United Nations' Refugee Convention signed in 1951. She had been granted asylum in 2003, but the decision was challenged by the Home Office and overturned. The Brighton Housing Trust immigration legal service took up her case and five Law Lords - Bingham, Hope, Rodger, Brown and Baroness Hale - made the unanimous decision to allow Miss Fornah to stay in the UK as a refugee.
© Hackney Gazette

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ISLAM CENTRE WILL CURB EXTREMIST(UK)

A MUSLIM man wants to open an “anti-terror school” in Accrington.

30/10/2006 - Wahid Iqbal has applied for planning permission to set up an Islamic learning centre to help combat the spread of religious extremism within the community. Mr Iqbal,  a 30-year-old father-of-three, said he had seen Islamic fundamentalists trying to spread their message of hate outside mosques in Accrington including those on Blackburn Road, Higher Antley Street, Empress Street and Grimshaw Street. He said they had handed out leaflets which were later confiscated by mosque leaders. Mr Iqbal said he hoped his proposed centre on Beech Street would teach Asian children that true Islam is a peace-loving religion. It would teach children the five pillars of Islam and encourage them to do well at school and further their education. He said: “We will talk to them about terrorism. There’s no room for it in our religion. “Two years back I went to a local mosque and saw a couple of guys handing out leaflets about the war in Iraq and 9/11. I knew some of them from my school days and growing up with them. “There was a lot of concern in the wider community and I could see they were trying to prey on young minds. I went to the mosque and said we needed to tackle this and stop them coming to our mosque. We got that sorted out but they were just driven underground. “It’s all to do with their perception of a particular strand of Islam. But they are wrong. We need to get the true Islam out and let the children know we are peace-loving.” Plans have been submitted to Hyndburn Council for the centre that would provide after-school tuition for between 15 and 20 youngsters. The top floor of the property would be used for offices and living accommodation, while the ground floor would be made into classrooms, a kitchen, a wash area and toilets. Initially the intake would be children aged six to 11 but Mr Iqbal said he hoped the centre would eventually be open to older children and teenagers, who might also be taken on social activities such as camping trips. Mr Iqbal said: “The community has got together and decided to use 37 Beech Street as a learning and community centre. It’s about putting something back into the community.”
© The Asian News

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COLOUR BLIND(uk)

Tiger Woods opened America's eyes to the inaccuracy of seeing ethnic identity in terms of black and white. In Britain, the debate has not begun - but, in a series of exclusive interviews, Observer Sport reveals a surprising depth of feeling

29/10/2006 - When Tiger Woods went on Oprah to declare himself mixed race, not black, it caused outrage across the United States. Many saw Woods's declaration as a rejection of his black heritage. In America, a country where the 'drops of blood' mentality still exists - measuring black identity into halves, quarters and eighths - one drop means you are black. Even senior political figures, such as the former Secretary of State Colin Powell, weighed in. 'In America,' said Powell, 'when you look like me, you're black.' But Woods rejected such polarisation. His heritage is Caucasian, Black, Native American and Asian. He has invented a word to describe himself: Cablinasian. The debate in the US highlighted that, hidden behind the idea that the colour of a person's skin is irrelevant, there is a real issue for people who consider themselves neither black nor white - and, partly thanks to Woods, sport has become the focal point of the debate. In the UK this debate has not begun, even though Observer Sport has discovered a surprising depth of feeling. You have only to look at England's World Cup squad this summer. Six out of seven of the players described as 'black' were mixed race, but this was not mentioned on TV or in the written press. Mixed-race people account for about 1.4 per cent of Britain's population, so for mixed-race footballers to make up 26 per cent of England's elite is a huge achievement. Theirs is the fastest growing ethnic minority in the country and yet 'mixed race' was included in the UK census for the first time only in 2001. Factor in that a high number of mixed-race children are raised in single-parent households and that mixed-race people are more likely to be victims of crime than any other ethnic group in Britain and it becomes all the more apparent as to why their achievements should be applauded.

This year, football's anti-racism campaign, Kick It Out, launched their week of action around the slogan 'One Game, One Community'. But mixed race challenges conventional notions about community. The very different stories of the six World Cup players gives an indication of how diverse that term can be - from David James's and Theo Walcott's experiences of growing up in predominantly white rural areas, to Rio Ferdinand's and Ashley Cole's urban experience of multi-ethnic London estates. Cole is a good example. He isn't offended by being described as black. 'But,' he says firmly, 'I call myself mixed race.' Cole was raised by his mother in east London. 'It was a predominantly white home environment. I didn't really see my black family. At home we ate English food; when we went to parties we didn't listen to soca or reggae, it would be English music. But in football you're just seen as black or white; I don't think people realise the difference.'
But being either black or white in football can be difficult, as Stan Collymore's autobiography, Tackling My Demons, explains. 'Show me two rooms,' he wrote, 'one with black footballers, one with white footballers, and I would pick a room on my own.' Collymore, who grew up with his white mother in Cannock, felt alienated by the urban black culture he encountered at his first club, Crystal Palace. He says he felt 'torn apart' and 'isolated'. Paul McGrath told of similar stories and such experiences often form a stereotype. One well-known Premiership manager, who has worked with mixed-race players past and present, labelled them difficult, 'less stable' and 'confused'. If a respected manager thinks this way, what other forms of prejudice do mixed-race footballers face?

One of the most common, and offensive, terms to describe mixed race is 'half-caste'. Heather Rabbatts, born to a Jamaican mother and an English father, is the recently appointed vice-chair at Millwall. 'I haven't heard the word half-caste for many years, but I have heard it in football,' she says. 'I've heard it used by white managers, although I don't think they realise that it's racist. There's a long way to go before football understands how to talk about race.' Palace winger Jobi McAnuff grew up in north London with his Jamaican father and white English mother. He feels strongly about the term half-caste. 'It's something mixed-race people have been labelled as for years,' he says. 'If you polled a cross-section of society I bet the majority of people would say half-caste. I don't like the word, but then you get people who are so used to it they are blind to its offensiveness.' He agrees the term is common in football. 'All the clubs I've been at I've been called half-caste. It's routine. I make a point of asking people not to call me it, though.' Of all those interviewed for this article, opinion was divided on whether the term is offensive, although most agreed that 'it doesn't sound good'. Interestingly, many guessed at the true meaning of the word. Don Walcott, father of the Arsenal striker Theo, likened it to 'a fisherman who can't quite cast his line across a pond'; the Portsmouth goalkeeper David James offered, 'inhumanely manufactured'; McAnuff said: 'It means you're half of something, like there's something missing.'

In fact, half-caste is not far off the appalling term half-breed, one that Rabbatts remembers hearing growing up in Kent. Caste comes from the Latin castus, meaning pure, and the derivative Portuguese casta, which means race. Caste was first used in India in the sixteenth century to describe the Hindu system of hierarchy. The term half-caste indicates how pure you are racially and echoes the days of colonial slavery when words such as mulatto, quadroon and octoroon were commonplace in sales ledgers and even in post-emancipation days in the old United States census. Curtis Davies, the West Brom defender, whose mother is English and father is from Sierra Leone, says he is so used to hearing half-caste it doesn't bother him, but he objects to the term quarter-caste. 'Half-breed is the worst, though,' he says. 'People say it in banter to me, but if they said it seriously I would be offended.' Being described in fractions is like being seen as abstract parts, says James. 'It was a subtle prejudice that I felt,' he says, 'but people always commented on pieces of me - my hair, my colour - no one ever said anything nice about the whole of me.' Growing up surrounded by white faces in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, James was the only non-white child at his junior school. 'I was called a coon and a black bastard,' he says. 'I lived with my white mum so I couldn't go back to an ethnic home and relate the experience. At school I was asked if I was adopted. I got confused and I'd go home and ask my mum if I was divorced.' James believes that there was a direct correlation between bullying because of his mixed-race background and his low self-esteem. 'Trying to break records in goal was all about proving that I was valuable.'

Sitting in a quiet pub garden in Hemel Hempstead, Don Walcott muses on the subject. Next to him is Theo's older brother, Ashley. Although it is the father who is being interviewed, it is interesting how often he defers to his son for an opinion on being mixed race. It is refreshing. Most of those interviewed said they had never spoken to a parent about their identity. 'I'm black British and it's very defining,' says Walcott senior, born in Britain to Jamaican parents. 'But people often look at my kids - Holly, Theo and Ashley - and wonder, "What are they?" They've been asked if they're Moroccan and Asian. It shouldn't matter what they are. It's a shame that it does to some.' The term half-caste starts an interesting exchange between father and son. Walcott senior says he doesn't find it offensive, 'but maybe that's because I'm black', he says. 'It's to do with your age as well,' says Ashley. 'Maybe,' says his father. 'Does that term offend you?' he asks. Ashley thinks for a moment before saying: 'It's not a big problem, but I prefer to be called mixed race.' The distinctions are important to Davies. 'I'm as much white as I am black,' he says. 'People have got to acknowledge that. My mum is white and I don't want people to discount that.' Davies has an older half-brother who is white. 'Every time we went to football people couldn't believe we were brothers,' he says. 'They couldn't take that I could be related to a white person.'

McAnuff says the same of his white cousins who sometimes watch him play for Palace. 'My mum's side of the family are from Portsmouth. But I don't think many of the lads at football can imagine me sat round eating a traditional English roast dinner with my white uncles and aunts. People tend to see me as black, but there's a big difference between black and mixed race. I can identify with Tiger Woods on that.' McAnuff celebrates his fluid identity, but he admits that in football there are racial cliques. 'From my experience I get seen as one of the "brothers". You walk into the canteen and there's a table of black boys and the white boys are up the other end, but I don't see it as a negative. I'd like to think it's easier for me to cross between groups, but my white friends at Palace still see me as black. People only see skin deep and society says I look more black than white.' Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe is not mixed race but grew up around mixed-race families in the East End. He says that half-caste is derogatory. He sees his mixed-race team-mates as black, he says. 'If we were messing about, having a kick around, and someone said let's play black v whites, I'd expect JJ [Jermaine Jenas] and Aaron [Lennon] to come with us. I don't think they'd even stop to think about it.'

Surrey cricket captain Mark Butcher was born to a Jamaican mother and an English father. 'There's often a tribal thing in sports teams where all the black players go out together, but I never got into that. Often music will split a room, but in our house there was never anything you shouldn't listen to. I remember sitting up Sunday nights, we'd get the stereo and crank it up. Mum would put on Deep Purple and dad's got the reggae on.' For Davies, a fluid identity can also raise difficult questions. 'If I'm walking down the street with black mates, it's cold and we've got our hoodies up, we are likely to get name-checked by the police. I've been with my white mates, same area, same hoodies and it's never happened. The police don't even look or slow down. I guess that's another aspect about the split in my race,' he says. England women's striker Rachel Yankey grew up in west London with an English mother; her Ghanaian father did not live with them. Sometimes it is the small things about a mixed-race background that make the most impression. 'I've been in a shop with my mum and they've looked at both of us and gone, "I can see you're related", and I'm thinking, "Why say that?" Or hairdressers, that's the most common one. I remember going to white hairdressers with my mum and they couldn't cut it right, or they put the wrong products in.' Yankey says she feels uncomfortable when people assume things about her because of how she looks. She tells the story of an African mother to a child who attends her coaching sessions. 'She brought in some traditional African food for me and asked if I knew what it was. She wasn't quizzing me, but I felt that being half-African I should know. It bothered me that I didn't. I felt I had to explain. I said that my dad didn't bring me up, I didn't grow up eating African food.'

The example of Collymore and his rooms full of black and white people elicits interesting responses. James says he would probably hang out on his own, while Davies is aghast at the idea of having to choose. 'Choosing which room to go into?' he says. 'That's like choosing who to save from a burning building, your mum or your dad.' Yankey's view is more complex. 'When you go in the white room you know you're different looking, but I've grown up with white people so that's probably where I'd feel most comfortable. When you go in the black room you look similar but you don't feel as comfortable inside. I'm happiest when I'm surrounded by a mix of people.' Rabbatts says: 'For many years you had to be in one camp or another, but it's becoming less about a singular choice these days. My son is able to support four different national football teams. When I was working in diversity groups not long ago it was all about the cricket test: if you didn't support England you were in trouble. For me at Millwall it's about being with my black players and my white players. If I have any advantages in life it's that I can understand and be part of both of those spheres.'

So how does football's anti-racism body, Kick It Out, view the position of mixed-race individuals in the game? Director Piara Powar says the use of the term half-caste is a form of abuse. 'If a player came to us with a complaint about it we would support their case,' he says. 'It's an issue the industry needs to be educated on.' Still, Powar believes that had Ron Atkinson abused a top mixed-race player using the term half-caste, in the way that he abused Marcel Desailly - in an unguarded moment, he called the Frenchman a 'fucking lazy, thick nigger' in April 2004 - there would have been nowhere near as severe repercussions for the former ITV pundit. Kick It Out do not currently educate on mixed-race issues, but Powar says that the term half-caste could be introduced into steward training packages as a primary step. So what does the future hold? Cole is not confident that much will change. 'It's the adults that are teaching the kids the word half-caste; to get them to change you need to re-educate them first,' he says. McAnuff says the media is a vital tool in this. 'I don't think people realise saying mixed race would make such a big difference to mixed-race players like us. The media is powerful. Imagine if they started using it in the newspapers and on Match of the Day. It would educate people. I think it's something we could look at.' In Britain, mixed race is the youngest age profile of any ethnic group, with about 50 per cent aged 16 and under. It is likely many more top footballers will emerge from this group. Walcott senior says it takes a generation for people to be educated on these issues. His son Theo, nicknamed Tiger Woods at school, may just be part of the next generation to effect that change.
© The Guardian

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SUSPECTED FIRE-BOMBERS OF BUS ARRESTED IN FRANCE

31/10/2006 - French police Tuesday arrested five minors suspected of fire-bombing a bus in an attack that left a young woman passenger struggling for life with horrific burns, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said. The weekend attack came exactly a year after the start of a wave of urban riots that swept through the country. The five, two aged 15 and three aged 17, were seized in a dawn raid in the poor suburb in the southern city of Marseille where the Saturday night attack took place. Prosecutors believe they made up the gang that stopped the bus, doused it with petrol and set it alight. The injured woman, a 26-year-old French university student of Senegalese origin, was unable to get out in time and suffered burns to 62 percent of her body. She is in a Marseille burns clinic in an induced coma with doctors unsure that she will survive. The attack was the worst incident in a wave of violence which struck some suburbs around France last week and which coincided with the first anniversary of the 2005 riots that gripped most of the cities in the country.
A total of nine buses were targeted by hooded or masked youths hurling firebombs last week, though the Marseille attack was the only one in which someone was seriously hurt. Villepin announced in parliament that the five arrested were wanted for the Marseille bus fire-bombing. "The suspected perpetrators were arrested this morning in Marseille," he said. He added that other youths suspected of throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at police in the Paris suburb of Grigny on Saturday had also been arrested. The prime minister has vowed to toughen laws to prosecute all members of a gang involved in an "ambush" and make minors more accountable in court.


Locals in the Marseille neighbourhood where the suspected bus fire-bombers were arrested said police had wrongly arrested at least some of the five. "This is my son... he has an alibi," cried the father of one of them as police whisked him away. "Everyone around here knows who did it, but we won't snitch on them," said one 22-year-old man, giving his name as Atef. At the Marseille university faculty where the burned woman, Mama Galledou, had recently obtained a master's degree in nutrition, some 250 students and teachers held a rally in her name. "We are all devastated, we can't understand it. She didn't deserve this -- neither does anyone," said Sarak Sack, 26, a fellow student and close friend of the victim. "Mama is a very warm, sociable person, full of life," she said. "We are praying for her to pull through this". Galledou was on artificial respiration with burns to her face, legs, arms, hands and throat, exposing her to breathing, neurological and infectious problems, doctors said. Her family was at her side. President Jacques Chirac said in an intervivew in Le Figaro newspaper Tuesday that France must remain "firm" in the face of such acts and "reject violence". Extra riot police were deployed in Marseille to react to any further attacks.
© The Tocqueville Connection

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PARIS AIRPORT STRIKE PLANNED OVER MUSLIM WORKERS ROW (France)

3/11/2006- Unions at Paris's main airport said Friday they plan to call for a strike over the withdrawal of security badges from scores of airport workers, mostly Muslims, denouncing it as discrimination. Officials said Thursday that 72 workers at the Charles de Gaulle-Roissy international airport had been stripped of their security clearance since May 2005 for suspected links to Islamic extremists and other fundamentalist groups. "We are going to call for a strike at the end of November and for a rally outside the prefecture in Roissy," which took the decision to remove the staff badges, said Didier Frassin, the head of the main CGT union at the airport. Seven unions were to hold a meeting on Tuesday to decide whether to back the strike call and what further action to take. Unions have already filed a complaint for discrimination and the French anti-discrimination agency HALDE is also investigating the matter. Jacques Lebrot, the Roissy deputy prefect, said Thursday the workers had been "linked to fundamentalist movements with potentially terrorist aims." The "great majority" were linked to an "Islamist movement", although badges were also taken away from "just under a dozen" people suspected of links to Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger rebels as well as from one Sikh worker, he said. One was allegedly in regular contact with an associate of the British "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid, who was convicted of trying to blow up an American Airlines Paris to Miami flight in 2001. But union leaders say many have been unfairly targeted. "The deputy prefect is just making allegations, not proving anything. We are waiting for proof of the threat these employees represent — not just shock statements," said Philippe Decrulle, CFDT union leader at Air France. "It is all totally vague, they have nothing to go on, it's a scandal," said Daniel Saadat, a lawyer for a group of workers who have appealed the decision.

But Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said officials were obliged to withdraw the security clearances as a "precaution". "Each time we withdrew a badge, it was because we had elements that allowed us to do so. Me, I have a duty which is a duty of precaution. In the Roissy zone, you can get close to planes, there are millions of passengers," he said. "It's quite right that the police services conduct inquiries and only certify those people we are certain about." He also rejected the argument that ordinary Muslims were being discriminated against purely on the grounds of their faith. "The Muslims in France have nothing to do with this. Islam can be practised without a problem. Where there is a problem is with extremism," he said. Lebrot said another 40 employees at the airport were currently being investigated as posing a possible security risk. Sixty-eight others have been cleared since the start of the investigation in May last year. Five who lost their badges later regained them after "bringing new elements" to the attention of the authorities, he said. A nationalist French politician, who created a stir in April for publishing a book in which he claimed the airport was infiltrated by Islamic extremists, said his contentions had been borne out by the authorities' decision. Philippe de Villiers, head of the right-wing Movement for France (MPF) party, said on Friday he believed Islamic extremists could still be working at the airport despite the recent crackdown. "There are networks of baggage handlers who are Islamic extremists, that's now been shown," he told RTL radio. "There were some, and there probably still are some," he said. "When I brought my book out, a lot of people told me 'It's probably exaggerated'. Today, we see it's true and that it's scary."
© Expatica News

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72 MUSLIM WORKERS BARRED FROM PARIS AIRPORT(France)

31/10/2006 - The French authorities charged with assessing security risks at Charles de Gaulle airport have stripped 72 Muslim workers of their access badges because they had traveled to Pakistan or Afghanistan, or were suspected of having links to extremists, according to a government official who oversees the airport. Several are suspected of having trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, though a mere trip to one of those countries would be enough for a revocation, said the official, Jacques Lebrot. One of the suspended workers, he added, was a friend of Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber. About a dozen other workers have been notified that they are considered security risks, but remain on their jobs pending questioning, Mr. Lebrot said. The unions representing them said some were still cleaning planes and handling baggage. Mr. Lebrot did not present any evidence against the workers, saying that would compromise French intelligence sources. But France’s largest union filed a discrimination lawsuit in mid-October over the revocations, and at least 10 airport workers who lost their jobs have sued separately to regain their security clearance.

Among those still working is Hassane Tariqui, 37, a French citizen who was born in Morocco and supervises cleaners inside passenger planes, most of them bound for the United States. On Sept. 21, he received a letter from the authorities saying that his “attitude” and “personal behavior” posed a risk to airport security, but it did not specify how. “If they really think I am a security risk, why am I still allowed to work here?” said Mr. Tariqui, who has been employed at the airport for 16 years. He said he was not a radical, nor even an especially devout Muslim, although he has made a pilgrimage to Mecca. Mr. Lebrot said that some of the employees who received the letter were still working because they had not yet been interviewed. Those who lose their security clearance at the airport are at risk of dismissal by the private companies that employ them, like Air France and FedEx. All who received the letter came to the attention of intelligence services in an antiterrorist investigation at French airports ordered by the Interior Ministry in May 2005, Mr. Lebrot said, and 72 had their security clearance revoked after questioning. Sixty-eight more people were investigated and cleared, Mr. Lebrot said. The United States Homeland Security Department declined to comment on the development. “It’s the government of France’s jurisdiction,” said a spokeswoman, Joanna Gonzalez. The airport, north of Paris, is near suburbs with Muslim populations where rioting erupted last year. Unions estimate that at least a fifth of the airport’s 83,000 employees are Muslim.

Mr. Lebrot, the deputy prefect in the Seine-St.-Denis district, where the airport is located, said the letters singled out employees suspected of links with movements or people who rejected “France and our values,” or who were suspected of traveling to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some are believed to have spent time in terrorist training camps and extremist Koranic schools in the two countries, Mr. Lebrot said. One employee, he said, was discovered to have been a friend of Mr. Reid, a London-born convert to Islam who tried to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001 using explosives hidden in his shoe. Mr. Reid is now serving a life sentence in Colorado.
Another man is believed to have been close to a senior figure in the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, an Algerian terrorist group with links to Al Qaeda, Mr. Lebrot said. Muslim organizations and human rights groups have accused the authorities of waging an anti-Muslim campaign in a presidential election year, while some terrorism experts say the government risks being too slow in removing security threats. “We need an emergency procedure to revoke badges, provided that the intelligence that calls the security of an employee into question is serious,” said Alain Marsaud, a lawmaker and former antiterrorism chief. But Eric Moutet, a lawyer for some of suspended workers, said “We have not seen any objective evidence against our clients. The only common denominator we see today is that they are all Muslim.” Mr. Lebrot insists that the decision to bar some airport employees has nothing to do with their religion. “Monsieur or Madame X who goes to pray in the mosque and travels to Mecca for the pilgrimage is not a problem for us,” he said.
© The New York Times

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DISSIDENT FROM BELARUS WINS AWARD(France)

27/10/2006 - A Belarussian opposition leader, Aleksandr Milinkevich, was awarded the Sakharov Prize on Thursday for his fight for democracy in the former Soviet republic, the European Parliament said. The European Union's top human rights prize is named after Andrei Sakharov, a former Soviet dissident. It is awarded annually to a person or group judged to have made a particular achievement in the field of human rights, defense of international cooperation or promotion of democracy and the rule of law. "We feel that we are not alone," Milinkevich said in Minsk. "Europe is with us." Milinkevich ran unsuccessfully against the authoritarian president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, in elections in March and became the symbol of Belarus's persecuted opposition. The award includes a $63,000 check. The prize will be presented to Milinkevich - if he is allowed to leave Belarus - at a December session of the European Parliament. He said he would give the prize money to persecuted politicians and their families. Last year, the joint winners of the award were a Cuban women's movement, Ladies in White; a Nigerian human rights lawyer, Hauwa Ibrahim; and the press advocacy organization Reporters Without Borders. The prize was created in 1988 in honor of Sakharov, a Soviet nuclear physicist and human rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.
© Associated Press

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NAZI ACTION BANNED IN MOSCOW ON NATIONAL UNITY DAY(Russia)

01/11/2006 - Moscow’s powerful Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said on Tuesday he had banned a march in the Russian capital planned by far-right groups on November 4 to prevent another show by neo-Nazi groups and racists, Reuters said. National Unity Day, which last year officially replaced the traditional November 7 anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, marks the 1612 defeat of invading Polish troops by poorly clad and barely armed Russian irregulars. But the holiday, meant to demonstrate the unity of Russia’s multiethnic nation, last year degenerated into a show of ultra-nationalist groups who marched through Moscow and other cities with swastikas and greeted each other with Nazi Germany’s salute “Heil Hitler!” “I have taken a decision to ban the so-called ’Russian march’,” a stern-looking Luzhkov said in a weekly question-and-answer session with Muscovites shown on several television channels. “I ask Muscovites to be vigilant,” he said. “If we allow our state to be split on ethnic or interconfessional grounds, if we allow religious wars, then I am afraid this will be the end of Russia.” Russia, which lost around 30 million people fighting Nazi Germany and its allies in World War Two, has seen a surge in racism in recent years.

Dozens of foreign workers and students with non-Slav features and dark complexion have been killed or wounded in racist attacks, with many of the assailants escaping justice. Far-right groups said earlier this month they wanted to hold rallies in Moscow and across Russia on November 4 under the slogan “It’s our country”, while human rights bodies warned of a mounting racist campaign to drive foreign workers out. A group called Action Against Illegal Immigrants (DPNI), the main organiser of rallies planned in 10 Russian cities on November 4, told Reuters earlier this month it would go ahead with their gatherings regardless of whether they were authorised or not.
But in a somewhat bashful way, Moscow municipal officials said the ultra-nationalist “Russian march” could not be held only because of construction works on its route in central Moscow. Brushing off his staff’s diplomatic niceties, Luzhkov vowed to prevent a repeat of last year’s “shocking behaviour of young men marching with swastikas and saluting each other Nazi-style”. “This is an alarming sign for all of us, for all those who do not want to allow this rampage of chauvinism, extreme racism and nationalism,” he said. “We have enough forces and we have the support of the overwhelming majority of our society.” However, Luzhkov’s native city has already witnessed a wave of attacks on casinos, restaurants and markets, with masked police rounding up “criminal Georgians”. Hundreds of other Georgians have been deported in what human rights groups say is an official campaign reflecting Moscow’s unprecedented chilly ties with the tiny Caucasus nation.
© MosNews

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UEFA CUP EVENTS TO CLOSE FARE ACTION WEEK

2/11/2006- The 7th edition of the FARE Action Week, after hitting the highest point with a series of high profile and grassroots events at the week-end of the 28-29 October, closes with a prominent symbolic action at the UEFA Cup match between FK Partizan and AS Livorno on 2 November in Belgrade. The players of both teams will carry onto the pitch two big banners with the Partizan motto “We don’t divide, black – white, we unite“. The Partizan and Livorno players as well as the referees will wear anti-racism message T-shirts. To demonstrate that racist gestures will not be tolerated both teams will present to their fans a sign saying “POKAZI RASIZMU CRVENI KARTON” (Show racism the red card). After a dispute with the UEFA competitions department, the European football governing have now given the green light to AS Nancy-Lorraine to wear the slogan 'non au racisme' on their shirts in their UEFA Cup match against Polish side Wis³a Kraków at the Stade Marcel Picot on Thursday 2nd November. UEFA has given the French club special dispensation to keep the anti-racism slogan for the game to mark the FARE Action Week. UEFA's communication and public affairs director William Gaillard said:I am happy to say that we have been able to find a compromise, given UEFA's campaign against racism in football.

Enhancement of Jewish Arab co-existence in Israel
This is the first year that Israel will be taking part in the pan-European week of action against racism and discrimination. The central anti-racist event has been delayed until November 4th, so that it can take part prior to the Israel Premier League’s biggest game, at Teddy Stadium between Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa, Israel's champions. The overall aim is to combat racism against Israel's Arab ethnic minority, immigrant players and overseas Black players. Prior to the FARE Action Week Israel's Deputy State Prosecutor Shay Nitzan has reminded the police in a letter that racist chants at football matches are prohibited according to a law passed in 2005. He said that police who are present at a sporting event and hear racist chants, such as "Death to Arabs," by groups or individuals, should begin collecting evidence with a view to bringing the perpetrators to trial.
© Football Against Racism in Europe

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