NEWS - Archive September 2009

Headlines 25 September, 2009

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Headlines 25 September, 2009


A decision in one school in Antwerp rapidly led to a general ban on headscarves in public schools in the Flemish region of Belgium this month. Some in the Moroccan community now want to found their own schools.

25/9/2009- If it was up to her Saïda El Fekri would take off her headscarf in a second. In fact, she does take it off whenever she goes on holiday abroad. But not now. "It would give the impression I'm doing it under pressure from others," says the 36-year-old spokesperson of Baas Over Eigen Hoofd (BOEH, Boss of my own head), a 'feminist' action group in the Belgian city of Antwerp. "The girls who are being forbidden to wear the headscarf to school would lose their role model." Two weeks ago the public school system in the Flemish region of Belgium decided to introduce a blanket ban on headscarves. On Thursday, BOEH filed a complaint against the decision with the council of state, the highest administrative court in Belgium, on behalf of several girls in Antwerp who themselves prefer to stay out of the spotlights.

Universal values
About sixty Muslim girls in Antwerp have dropped out of school since the ban came into effect, says El Fekri. "Some have simply stayed home; others have started their own class and plan to take their exams. But all of them have lost contact with the rest of society." The headscarf controversy was recently brought to the forefront once again after the Royal Atheneum, a school in Antwerp, decided to ban the Islamic headwear. The move was all the more controversial because the Royal Atheneum was one of the last schools in Antwerp not to have a ban. The school's principal, Karin Heremans, in 2005 co-authored a book by then socialist party president Steve Stevaert, in which she argued against a headscarf ban. Heremans advocated cultural differences are an enrichment, and she wanted to introduce universal values to the mixed bag of children at the school: tolerance, separation between church and state. Not for nothing the Royal Atheneum was founded by Napoleon. But Heremans' principled stand put the school in a difficult position. As one of the last refuges for headscarf-wearing girls in Antwerp, it became the school of choice for religious Muslims.

80 percent Muslim
"In 2001 46 percents of all pupils was Muslim", Heremans says, "in 2008 it was 80 percent." Some girls started showing up in the niqab, a veil that leaves only the eyes visible. The niqabs were banned, but the discussion didn't end there. "The debate was no longer about to ban or not to ban the headscarf. It was about how long the headscarf should be. Girls who chose not to wear it were put under pressure. An ex-pupil slipped into the school to take down the names of the girls who took off their headscarves once they were inside. After a few years of this I thought: in a little while we will be a Muslim school. Then what will be left of our project?" Heremans' decision to introduce a ban at her school had far-reaching consequences. After one student filed a complaint with the council of state, it voiced a legal opinion saying it was not up to individual schools to decide on a headscarf ban, but to the supervisory school boards. As a result the board of the roughly 700 public schools in the Flemish region of Belgium decided to introduce a system-wide headscarf ban, much to the displeasure of principals in other parts of the country where the headscarf was not yet an issue. In Antwerp the boards of the various school systems - the public schools and the mostly Catholic 'free schools', which are also state-funded - got together and agreed on a local headscarf ban covering all the schools in the area.

Flowers and chocolate
Heremans says she knew her decision would cause a shock because of the emblematic function of her school - to the degree that she took a crash course in communications before she announced it. But she says there have been many positive reactions too, both from Muslims and non-Muslims. "People have sent flowers and chocolates. Several school principals from the Netherlands called me to give their support." But there have been numerous negative reactions too. "This is a slap in the face," says Mohamad Chakkar, using an expression usually reserved for Flemish politicians to express anger at their French-speaking counterparts. Chakkar is the president of the Federation of Moroccan Associations. He says he was shocked by the speed with which the decision was taken. "The Flemish consultation model was completely abandoned. This is all anyone talks about in the mosques these days," he says. The Moroccan community is now thinking about founding its own schools. Those plans have existed for a while, and they are not directly linked to the headscarf issue. "Research has shown that the education gap between immigrant and non-immigrants students in Flanders is the widest in Europe. We are not looking for religious schools; we're looking for a pedagogic answer to this problem."

Flemish education minister Pascal Smet hopes it doesn't come to that. "Our schools should be a reflection of society," he says. But he is also powerless to stop it: it was a consequence of the so-called "school wars" between the Catholic schools and the secular state schools that anyone who qualifies for state subsidies has the right to start a school. Smet, who has a legal background, has questioned the constitutionality of the Flemish headscarf ban. A national headscarf ban for all schools, like in France, might stand a better chance, but that would require amending the constitution. And it would mean a return to the school wars, because the Catholic schools too would have to ban all religious symbols.
© The NRC



Discrimination on the grounds of disability and age biggest categories

24/9/2009- The largest number of complaints received by the Equality Authority last year were made on the grounds of disability, according to its annual report. Out of 4,640 complaints made to the authority under the Employment Equality Acts and the Equal Status Acts, almost 650 were made on the grounds of disability. These included complaints related to the provision of education, health services and government departments. Discrimination on the basis of age was also high, with a total of 558 complaints made under both pieces of legislation and gender was the basis for 434 of the complaints. Some 372 complaints were made on the basis of race, up from 307 last year. People complained of general harassment, provision of services, education and accommodation under the Equal Status Acts and access to employment, working conditions, dismissal and bullying under the Employment Equality Acts. Almost 10,500 people contacted the authority's public information centre with queries on equality and family leave legislation, with over 4,000 queries under the Maternity Protection Acts, over 1,500 on the Parental Leave acts and 97 on the Adoptive Leave Acts. Chairwoman of the Equality Authority, Angela Kerins, said the organisation's ambitions for an Ireland of equality for all were not in any way diminished by the "challenging times". She said it made sense for society to take active measures to ensure economic downturn did not create any downturn in values or ambitions for equality. The organisation, which was given a 45 per cent cut in its budget last year, was working "smart", Ms Kerins said. "2008 was a very busy and challenging time for the Equality Authority; the board's energy, vigour and commitment sustained the organisation's progress and focus in the emerging new context," she said.
© The Irish Times



24/9/2009- Neo-Nazi Ivo Müller has written a letter to Anna Siváková, the mother of serious burn victim Natálka, in which he apologizes for his horrible deed and asks her forgiveness. Both Ms Siváková and State Prosecutor Brigita Bilíková view the letter as Müller’s attempt to make sure his upcoming punishment will be reduced, Czech Television reports. "Please believe I never intended to injure anyone in such a way, and certainly not a little girl. I am asking you for forgiveness with all my heart, even though I know it is probably in vain, not only after what has happened to you, but most of all what has happened to little Natálka,” Ivo Müller says in the letter. Müller regularly participates in neo-Nazi events organized by the Autonomous Nationalists and the Workers’ Party. "I thank God she survived and is fighting so bravely, she is a very strong little girl. I pray she makes as complete a recovery as possible as quickly as possible. ... I wish I could turn back the clock. Once again, I beg your forgiveness,” the letter from the neo-Nazi says. "I am shocked. If they want forgiveness, they need to go look her in the eyes. I am not able to forgive any of them,” the girl’s mother said on Czech Television. Markéta Polišenská, defense attorney for Müller, said her client has not empowered her to say anything to the media about the case.

Some of the attorneys for the four men charged said earlier they would strive to have the attack reclassified as a less serious crime. "It is the right of the defense and of those charged to choose their method of defense," Bilíková told Czech Television. Speaking through their defense attorneys, the other neo-Nazis are also working on receiving reduced punishments. "At the very least, my client was under the impression that no one was living in the house,” Ladislav Myšák, defense attorney for Václav Cojocaru, told Czech Television. "They can’t excuse one another, saying one of them didn’t know. They knew they were going to set someone on fire, they had to all have known,” Siváková said. Unofficial information from the court file confirms that the defense will rest its case on the claim that the suspects were unaware of the details of the attack. The leader, Jaromír Lukeš of Opava, who has been a neo-Nazi for many years, was at the wheel of the car during the attack and was therefore the only one who did not actually throw a Molotov cocktail through the window of the Roma family’s home.

Police are investigating connections between the Vítkov attack and others in the region. Should police gather enough evidence, they will want to charge the defendants for the other attacks as well. "We have concrete indications that they may have participated in those attacks. Bringing them to trial is a question of further investigation,” Bilíková confirmed to the on-line daily TÝDEN.CZ. The level of punishment will also be influenced by the timing of when the prosecution is announced. A new criminal code will start to apply as of January which sets forth stricter punishments for the most serious violent crimes. Natálka is still hospitalized and has more operations for her burns ahead of her. The family is still living in a temporary shelter with their three older children, as the house they purchased with money from a public collection requires partial reconstruction. The family is conducting the repairs themselves and using what remains in the collection fund to purchase materials. Next week the house will be registered in the cadastre as the property of Anna Siváková and work on the house can begin full-time.
© Romano vodi



23/9/2009- The Czech Interior Ministry Wednesday presented a project aimed to ease tension between the local Romanies and other residents of Chanov, Most's housing estate with prevailing Romany population. Minister Martin Pecina said the project named Usvit (Dawn) has been prepared by the ministry in cooperation with the Most town hall and NGOs. Its goal is to raise the local Romanies' feeling of responsibility, Pecina said. Usvit is a pilot project that should be later introduced also in other socially deprived localities. "Its aim is to make the Romanies join [public life] more intensively, accept responsibility for their lives and for the environment they live in," Pecina continued. "It is important that it will be fellow Romanies who would exert influence on them. The project involves the Romany elites who have influence in the [Romany] community and who can use it positively. We've chosen personalities who are not linked with criminal activities, such as usury or drug trafficking. That is also why Chanov has been preferred [as the project's pilot locality]," Pecina said.

The ministry has earmarked 1,265 million crowns (500.000 EUR) for the project. It will focus on an improvement of people's safety in Chanov, prevention of crime, creation of conditions for a new approach to the education of Romany children, field social work, saving the property purchased for public money and an improvement of the image of Romanies. The Council of Europe (CE) said in its recent report that the previous persisting discrimination against the Romany minority has improved in the Czech Republic in the past years but the country has still a lot to do in this respect.
© The Prague Daily Monitor



22/9/2009- The Czech Forum 50 % civic association promoting a higher women's representation in public posts is calling on politicians to introduce quotas for women's proportional representation in parties' lists of candidates for election, its director Jana Smiggelsova Kavkova said Tuesday. According to the association, Czech women's representation in politics is minimal, she told journalists. "Not only women but the entire society suffers from this as political decisions do not meet the criteria of justice and democracy," Smiggelsova Kavkova said. Although women make up more than one half of the Czech population, their political representation is far from corresponding to this share, she said. Women hold only three ministerial seats in the 17-member caretaker government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer, she said. There are only 35 female deputies in the 200-member Chamber of Deputies, which is 17.5 percent. The Czech Republic ended on the 76th position in the Inter-Parliamentary Union's standings on female participation in parliaments, following Bolivia, Cambodia and Kazakhstan. There are 14 women in the Czech 81-member Senate, the upper house of Czech parliament, which is 17 percent. Women make up 17.6 percent among regional assembly members and a quarter among local councillors.

The Czech Republic ended almost at the very bottom of the EU countries' ladder as regards female participation in the European Parliament after the June European elections. Only four Czech women became members of the new European Parliament. Malta alone which has no female representative in the European Parliament at all ended after the Czech Republic. Forum 50 % fears that the share of women in the Chamber of Deputies after the elections expected to take place in May will further decrease. It has estimated it to fall to 15.5 percent if the mainstream parties do not make considerable changes in their lists of candidates in favour of female candidates, Smiggelsova Kavkova said. "However, I do not expect any considerable changes to occur by this spring although we will naturally work on it," she told CTK. Vladimir Spidla, current Czech EU commissioner in charge of employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, and Senate deputy chairwoman Alena Gajduskova (Social Democrats, CSSD), are among the supporters of women's political representation quotas.

According to a poll conducted by the Centre for Public Opinion Research (CVVM) for the association in July, almost one-half of Czechs would welcome the introduction of quotas for women's political representation and public support for the quotas is growing. While 39 percent of respondents supported the quotas in November 2007, it was 47 percent in the latest poll. According to the poll, almost 90 percent of Czechs believe women's participation in public life is advantageous for society.
© The Prague Daily Monitor



European watchdog sets wide-ranging goals in fighting intolerance

23/9/2009- The Czech Republic must take specific measures, including educating the police and judiciary, to combat racism, according to Europe's top anti-discrimination body. A report this month from the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) found that the Czech Republic must do much more to tackle racism, its chairwoman Eva Smith Asmussen, told The Prague Post from Denmark. "There are three areas which we would like to see improvement on," Asmussen said. "First, legal aid must be introduced to allow people who have a complaint the means to file it. At the moment, it is very hard for anyone who has been a victim of discrimination or racism to take their case to court. Second, apart from the legal aspect, the police, prosecutors and judges must be better educated. On too many occasions, they have brushed off claims of racism by saying it was just the work of hotheads or hooligans instead of going after those responsible. And third, we are concerned that Roma children are not getting into mainstream education. Practical or special schools are a great idea for those children who need it because of certain difficulties. But we see Roma children being sent to these schools when they should really be in mainstream schools."

The ECRI compiles 10 reports a year and is involved in 47 countries, a cycle that means one country is normally reported on every five years - though, in the Czech Republic's case, they will be reporting in two years' time to monitor the implementation of the three measures. Compiling a report means months of research and discussions with various parties. "We meet with government officials, NGOs, as well as minority groups and individuals who feel they have a grievance before any report," Asmussen said. Asmussen stressed that the government was cooperative in their discussions. "Our dealings with the government were friendly and productive," she said. "They maybe had a different perspective on some issues, but they did not try to hide anything from us. We found them forthright and willing in all our meetings." Before combating racism, it is important to define just exactly what it is, Asmussen said. "Racism does not always have to be violent. It is basically when someone judges themselves superior on the basis of color, creed or region. It can manifest itself in subtle ways like ignoring someone or stepping in front of another person in a queue. It doesn't have to be an attack by a group of skinheads," she said. Asmussen said that the real education against racism must come from parents and schools. "Young people must be taught that we all have so much in common. It is important for children to mix," she said.

The advance of the far right in Europe, due in part to the economic crisis and a general feeling of vulnerability among people, is a particular concern for the ECRI. "There is nothing wrong with nationalism as such. We all want the best for our countries, but, when this is allied to the politics of the far right, it becomes a dangerous cocktail," Asmussen said. "In times of economic crisis, we know the danger is there. Europe has a history of this, looking for scapegoats. Then, you have misguided people saying things like they are the liberators of the country and everyone who is different must be sent away."
© The Prague Post



23/9/2009- OMEGA agency has addressed a statement to a number of embassies accredited in Moldova, as well as the Permanent Bureau of Parliament concerning unprecedented actions of the authorities, which have established censorship on TV, having closed one of few information programs in Russian language.

To: OSCE Mission in Moldova, US Embassy in Moldova, Embassy of the Russian Federation in Moldova, EU Special Representative in Moldova, Bureau of the Council of Europe in Moldova, Permanent Bureau of Parliament
Cc: Coordination Council on Tele-radio broadcasting

On Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009, an unprecedented action occurred in Moldova, the purpose of which was closing the information program TOP NEWS, objectionable for authorities, on the relayed channel Ren TV.

Chairman of Audiovisual Coordination Council, Gheorge Gorincioi, executing the instructions of the Speaker Parliament, Mihaj Ghimpu, has ordered by forcible method to Ren TV owners to exclude from broadcasting grid the information program TOP NEWS, which is made by news agency OMEGA and placed according to the legislation according to the contract dated on December 22nd, 2008. In this respect, the information program TOP NEWS has been compelled to stop broadcasting since September 22nd.

What is vivid here, that is the execution of political order generated by ACC Gheorge Gorincioi, as back in this January Mr. Gorincioi personally , having familiarised with the contract, has assured that for placing the informative programme on TV channel Ren TV in Moldova there is no lawful obstacles.

Despite his previous conclusion, the chairman of Audiovisual Coordination Council, personally, has conditioned the further activity of businessmen in the field of cable broadcast with the exception of the specified information programme, which is objectionable as to him, as well as to the highest political leaders of the country.

It is regrettably to realise that such a decision was also caused by the necessity of closing one of few informative programmes in Russian, which is being broadcasted in strict conformity with the law, and spread over exclusively by cable networks.

The actions taken by the head of AC also have hampered the intentions of some owners of regional cable networks, who planned to place in the near future this programme in their networks on contract basis, satisfying the demand of Russian-speaking population of Moldova.

We regard this step as intimidation not only of journalists, but also representatives of business circle, as well as an action directed on discriminating a part of not title nation, a step that is inadmissible in a democratic society.

We believe that the decision taken by Gheorghe Gorincioi, as well as by his patrons in the Parliament leadership, is caused by their totalitarian past and extreme immunity to pluralism of opinions, and also their propensity to discrimination by ethnic principle.

We express our confidence that such actions by ACC chairman will assessed politically and legally. We also call the representatives of international organisations, the embassies accredited in Moldova, to pay attention to non-democratic steps of the new leadership of Moldova, directed towards the establishment of censorships in the private mass-media - first displays of discrimination of national minorities.
© The Obiectiv Media Group.



22/9/2009- A gang of racist youths have been sent to jail for a string of brutal attacks on foreigners in the Russian capital Moscow in 2008. Terms of between eight and 10 years were handed down to the teenaged ringleaders, including a 17-year-old girl, Yevgenia Zhikhareva. Several younger members of the gang got lighter sentences because of their age. The gang were accused of attacking foreigners at random on the streets of Moscow. One was killed. The victims were from China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. They were attacked in February and March 2008. The gang members were accused of four attempted murders and one actual murder. The dead man was an 18-year-old from Kyrgyzstan. He was stabbed eight times by Ilya Shutko, 19, who was jailed for 10 years. Human rights groups have documented increasing numbers of attacks on foreigners in Russia, especially in and around Moscow. A group of skinheads were jailed for up to 20 years last year after killing 18 foreigners in Moscow in little more than a year.
© BBC News



22/9/2009- Migrant market traders held a protest in Dzherzhinsk, Russia (Nizhny Novgorod region) calling for the police to protect them from neo-Nazi gangs that they say have killed three victims over the past month, according to a September 16, 2009 article in the "Regions" supplement to the national daily "Nezavisimaya Gazeta." Two Azeris and an Uzbek have died and several other migrants have been assaulted in recent weeks in that city, and some of the attacks have been accompanied by
graffiti that explicitly threatens non-Russians with violence. On Monday, the migrants held a protest, but police dispersed it, claiming it was an "unsanctioned meeting." The vice mayor of Dzherzhinsk, Sergey Kleymenov, reacted with the following borderline racist comment: "An unsanctioned meeting is no way to address a complaint. We are not under the laws of the [Caucasus] mountains here, but under the laws of the Russian Federation, and those laws will be strictly followed."

The article cited law enforcement statistics putting the Nizhny Novgorod region behind only Moscow and St. Petersburg in the number of hate crimes committed there so far this year. In the first half of 2009, prosecutors opened investigations of extremist actions 21 times in the region, twice the number of cases than during the first half of 2008. In Dzherzhinsk, local neo-Nazis are on trial for beating a Tajik to death last year, and in the city of Balakhna, three members of the neo-Nazi group Russian National Unity (RNU) face charges of killing an ethnic Korean man near a train station. A federal law enforcement official is quoted in the article saying that, "police in Balakhna have not taken steps to stamp out incidents of neo-fascism and all the fences near the station are covered with swastikas." The article pointed out that two years ago in Balakhna, around 30 masked young men screaming racist slogans attacked market traders with baseball bats and chains, sending two the hospital in serious condition. In response, only nine suspects were eventually tried, all of whom reportedly admitted ties to the RNU. Incredibly, a court let them off with short, suspended sentences.

Prosecutors in the Nizhny Novgorod region are currently investigating three neo-Nazi groups: The Whites-88 gang, accused of five assaults on migrants; the Militant Terrorist Organization, charged with three murders and 12 assaults; and an unnamed third gang, suspected of one murder and seven assaults. In the regional town of Zavolzhe, members of a group calling itself the National Socialist Workers Party of Russia is on trial for allegedly blowing up the car of an Azeri man and trying to attack a group of Vietnamese men. The defendants reportedly trained with guns and explosives in the woods, and may have been involved in burning down a partially constructed mosque. Finally, an ethnic Russian professor at the Volzhsky State Academy of Water Transport, Stanislav Aseev, was allegedly murdered by a member of the Militant Terrorist Organization upset over bad grades.
© FSU Monitor



EU Asylum Disparities Put Those Sent Back at Risk of Mistreatment

25/9/2007- Many of the hundreds of migrants arrested by French authorities following the destruction of their makeshift camp in Calais are at risk of being sent back to Greece, Human Rights Watch said today. The French police reportedly arrested 276 migrants, including 125 children, on September 22, 2009, and destroyed their makeshift camp. The French immigration minister said several months ago that many asylum seekers entered through Greece and should be returned there. The New York Times, reporting on the situation, cited remarks by French officials that those who had entered the European Union through Greece would be returned there. The UK's home secretary is quoted in The Guardian expressing his "delight" at the Calais operation and saying that the migrants there could seek asylum in the first country they entered, meaning that many are likely to be returned to Greece.

"France, the UK, and the rest of Europe act as if everything is perfectly fine in Greece," said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch. "But Greece denies 99.5 percent of all asylum claims, has recently eliminated its appeals procedure, and detains migrants in deplorable conditions." Human Rights Watch said that France and the UK should ensure that any children among those removed who have family members in the UK, including siblings and other close relatives, are able to join them on humanitarian grounds. Under the European Union's Dublin II regulations, the country where a person first entered the EU is generally held responsible for examining that person's asylum claim, whether or not the person applied there. European governments enter the fingerprints of all migrants they apprehend into an EU-wide database that allows other governments to trace where a person first entered the EU and to send that person back. While the Dublin II regulations are premised on the notion that all EU member states have comparable asylum and migration practices, there are wide disparities, with some countries like Greece effectively offering no protection at all. This disparity underscores the importance of reforming the Dublin system and ensuring that EU member states are held to account for their failure to respect their obligations under EU law to provide access to asylum.

Human Rights Watch has called on European governments, in two reports released in 2008, to stop sending migrants and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, back to Greece under the Dublin II regulations. The reports said that Greece fails to guarantee a fair assessment of asylum claims, continues to detain migrants and asylum seekers in conditions that can be inhuman and degrading, and has not provided adequate reception conditions for migrants, or special protection for vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied migrant children. Greece also adopted a law in July abolishing a meaningful appeals procedure. The new law leaves asylum seekers with no right to an appeal or remedy against risk of removal to inhuman or degrading treatment, as required by article 39 of the EU's procedures directive and articles 13 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Asylum seekers whose claim has been rejected are at risk of being immediately deported. Concerns are further heightened, Human Rights Watch said, due to Greece's recent arrests of large numbers of asylum seekers and their transfer to detention centers in the north, close to the Turkish border, where some are reported to have been pushed across the border back to Turkey. Greece has a record of systematically pushing migrants back to Turkey, including those seeking protection.

On August 5, Human Rights Watch wrote to the Greek interior minister asking him to take immediate steps to stop this practice and to treat migrants apprehended in Greek territory in a humane and dignified manner. In a November 2008 report, "Stuck in a Revolving Door: Iraqis and Other Asylum Seekers and Migrants at the Greece/Turkey Entrance to the European Union," Human Rights Watch documented how Greek authorities have systematically expelled migrants illegally across the Greece-Turkey border, in violation of international law. These "pushbacks" typically occur at night from the northern detention facilities, and they involve considerable logistical preparation. At that time, Human Rights Watch conducted private, confidential interviews in various locations in both Greece and Turkey with 41 asylum seekers and refugees, who gave consistent accounts of Greek authorities taking them to the Evros river at night and then forcing them across. France and other EU member states are bound under the European Convention on Human Rights not to return a person to a country where he or she is at risk of inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3) and bound by the international legal principle of nonrefoulement. The Dublin Convention allows parties to exercise their discretion under article 3 (2) (the sovereignty clause) not to return an asylum seeker and to examine the asylum claim themselves.

"It is hard not to have the impression that European governments are perfectly happy with Greece doing the dirty work for them and giving them the opportunity to get rid of these migrants, including potential refugees," Frelick said. "Instead of sending them back to Greece, French authorities should ensure these migrants have the chance to apply for asylum in France."
© Human Rights Watch



All eyes were on the massive migrant camp in Calais, nicknamed the “jungle” by its occupants, when it was dismantled on Tuesday. Scenes of desperate-looking immigrants watching their scarce belongings razed by French riot police were caught on camera by French and British TV. Thirty kilometres from there, another "jungle", suffered the same fate; only this time no-one was watching.

24/9/2009- The Calais "jungle" was France's most notorious illegal migrant camp before it was dismantled on Tuesday by over 500 policemen. The camp was set up in 2002 after the French government ordered the closure of a Red Cross shelter in nearby Sangatte. Its main occupants were Afghan refugees hoping to get across the Channel to England. France’s immigration minister, Eric Besson, hailed the dismantlement as a strong step against human trafficking and those who exploit the misery of migrants. But for several human rights associations, the operation is purely symbolic and will have no positive effect: migrants will simply be forced to find refuge in one of the dozens of other camps in the region. Several hours after the Calais 'jungle' was demolished, security forces also razed another migrant camp, at Loon-plage near Dunkirk. Our Observer was there, he brought us this account.

"Policemen have already destroyed the camp at least ten times"
Aïssa Zaibet is a junior high school supervisor in Dunkirk and a member of France’s Movement against racism and for friendship between peoples (MRAP). He has helped the Loon-plage migrants for nearly seven years.

We've heard a lot about the Calais "jungle", but there's also a "jungle" in Dunkirk, as there are dozens around the area. On Tuesday, at around 11 am, a dozen unmarked police vans arrived at Loon-plage and headed straight to the part of the camp occupied by the Afghan community. The camp is divided into several sectors where migrants are grouped together by nationality. Many managed to run away before the police reached them, but at least 50 were arrested. Those who escaped did what they always do: they came back as soon as the police operation was over. We volunteers brought boxes and tarpaulin and began re-building the camp. Loon-plage is located right in front of the ferry terminal with departures for the UK. The camp has existed for over seven years, and has already been razed ten times by the police. Every time, the migrants came back. From here, migrants can watch the boats they one day hope to board...

I’ve helped out migrants for more than six years and have been able to draw some attention to the situation in Loon plage thanks to my blog. But there are dozens of others, all along the A16 highway that runs between Calais and Belgium via Dunkirk. Some highway rest areas were even shut down to stop migrants from setting up camps there."
© France 24 - Observers



22/9/2009- French riot police have rounded up scores of Afghan migrants, many of them children, and bulldozed a makeshift camp called the "jungle" used as a base to sneak across the Channel to Britain. Scuffles broke out on Tuesday between police and some 80 rights activists who set up a human chain around the camp dwellers in the northern port of Calais, but the migrants did not resist as they were led away one by one. Immigration Minister Eric Besson, who flew to Calais to oversee the operation, said 276 people, half of them minors, were detained in the two-hour raid that began at dawn and involved 500 officers. After the migrants were removed, bulldozers moved in to flatten shacks and tents that dotted the sandy scrubland on the edge of town. Besson hailed the operation as a major blow to smuggling networks.

Britain, which last year stopped 28,000 migrants trying to cross the 35 kilometres that separate it from France, hailed the crackdown as "decisive." But rights activists denounced it as a media stunt that would not stop migrants heading to Calais and instead drive them further underground as they waited to climb onto boats or trucks taking the undersea tunnel to Britain. The UN refugee agency said the dismantling of the "jungle" did not address the problem of "irregular migration, nor does it solve the problems of the people concerned." The camp's makeshift mosque was taken down by hand and Besson said its contents would be transferred to the Calais mosque. The police operation "targeted the tools of the criminal gangs who sell migrants passage to Britain, exploit them and have them living in what had become an open air garbage dump," he said.

Nearly half the migrants identified themselves as minors and were to be taken to shelters, he said. The adults will be offered the chance to apply for asylum, money for a voluntary return home or a place in a shelter. Eighteen-year-old Bilal Hazarbauz said: "Maybe they will deport me to Afghanistan. "But where else can we go? This is our home, there is no other place." Thousands of mainly male migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and other troubled nations, have headed to Calais in the past decade to try to jump on a truck, ferry or a train crossing to Britain. The "jungle" sprang up after the authorities closed a shelter at Sangatte, near Calais, in 2002 because of crime and British accusations that it was a magnet for migrants. But activists were furious at the camp's closure. "It's a scandal," said Jean-Claude Lenoir of the Salam migrant support group. "We can't have soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and treat Afghans seeking refuge here with such little dignity." From Saint Malo in Brittany to the Belgian border, some 17 migrant camps and squats along the Channel coast, where hundreds of Iraqis, Afghans or Eritreans await their attempt at the British El Dorado, according to aid groups.
© WA Today



The city of Karlstad in western Sweden should no longer have a neighbourhood called Negern (‘the negro’), the town council decided on Wednesday.

24/9/2009- “They’ve come to their senses,” said Kitimbwa Sabuni of the National Afro-Swedish Association (Afrosvenskarnas riksförbund) to the TT news agency. Karlstad’s Negern neighbourhood has been around for nearly 150 years, but came under fire recently after a private citizen complained that the name was “objectionable, insulting, or just plain rude”. The council in turn sought guidance on the matter from the National Land Survey of Sweden (Lantmäteriet), which ruled in June that the name should be seen as "exotic and evocative" and represented a part of Sweden's cultural heritage. The ruling outraged Sabuni and others, prompting a heated debate on the opinion pages of newspapers across the country throughout the summer and forcing the Karlstad council to take action. After a committee designated to review legislative referrals made its recommendation, the council’s City and Buildings Committee decided to remove the name, following a similar ruling by the city’s Place Name Division. “We can’t have a name which we don’t even dare to say out loud,” said buildings committee head Håkan Holm to TT. The meeting was preceded by a demonstration outside Karlstad’s city hall arranged by the Centre Against Racism (Centrum mot rasism) and other organizations. “Our pressure has brought results,” said Sabuni. However, there remain some who weren’t at all offended by the Negern neighbourhood, such as the head of the Christian Democrats in Karlstad, Peter Kullgren. “The name should have been allowed to remain,” he told TT. “It’s an old name, and if we continue to take away names that some find offensive then we’ll end up with an extremely poor cultural history in the future.” He claimed the neighbourhood received the name shortly after the American civil war and after the majority of the slave trade had ended. “So it’s more like a confession, an approval for what had happened in the world at that time, rather than a sign of the linguistic conventions of the time,” he said.
© The Local - Sweden



25/9/2009- The significance of the far right should not be "overplayed" following clashes between anti-Islamic groups and Asian youths, the head of Scotland Yard warned yesterday. Far-right protests in Birmingham, Luton and Harrow had caused distress to Muslim communities, said Sir Paul Stephenson, commissioner of the Metropolitan police, "and I anticipate further problems". But he said: "We've got to be very careful to keep the problem in context and not to overplay [the far right's] significance and give them an oxygen that serves their purpose." Sir Paul's comments echo the assessment of senior intelligence officials, who believe the extremists pose less of a terrorist threat than dissident Irish republicans, in spite of increasing disquiet among Muslims. Police expect more trouble in Manchester city centre on October 10, when the English Defence League plans the latest in a series of anti-Islamic protests. Running battles broke out in Birmingham in August between EDL supporters, including football hooligans, and Asian counter-protesters organised by Unite Against Fascism.

Sir Paul told the Metropolitan Police Authority the EDL and Stop the Islamisation of Europe were not viewed as extreme rightwing groups and could not be barred from protesting under the law that bans incitement to racial hatred. Nevertheless, "the concern to me is how groups like that either willingly or unwillingly allow themselves to be exploited by very extreme rightwing groups like the National Front and the British Freedom Fighters". John Denham, communities secretary, has likened extreme rightwing groups to Oswald Mosley's fascist blackshirts of the 1930s, although levels of support are small by comparison. Mr Denham plans to adapt a Home Office strategy to prevent Muslim radicalisation to white working- class communities to halt the rise of the far right. The government wants to ensure that young Muslim men do not feel "singled out" as it seeks to engage with them to stop a repeat of the July 7 2005 bomb attacks in London and the foiled plot to blow up airliners using liquid explosives. A senior Whitehall official said the far right did not present as great a terrorist threat as al-Qaeda or Irish dissidents. "It is a real concern within communities and we have to do something more about it but proportionately that is where we are," said the official. "Police already devote quite a large part of their counterterror work to non-Islamist groups. I don't think we need to beef that up."

Lucy James, a research fellow at the Quilliam Foundation, a think-tank set up to counter extremism, said it was "not the time to panic". But she said even small numbers of far-right activists could provoke disorder by targeting sensitive locations, such as mosques. "They can be very calculating in getting a response," said Ms James. "It is important that people do not react with violence and do not themselves appear as threatening to the local community."
© The Financial Times



By Sughra Ahmed, author of the report Seen and Not Heard: Voices of Young British Muslims, and is Research Fellow at Policy Research Centre, Islamic Foundation 

25/9/2009- They appeared a little apprehensive at first, shuffling and wondering, as if a new teacher had walked in for the term. But no sooner had pleasantries been exchanged, despite placing my voice recorder in the centre, postures began to change. We were now a group of plugged-in minds and eager voices, attentive postures and regional English, Scottish and Welsh accents. This was one focus group of many for a major new study of Britain’s Muslim youth Seen and Not Heard: Voices of Young British Muslims, published by the Policy Research Centre, which explored some of the key concerns and challenges facing Britain’s young Muslims. That’s quite a task given the facts: according to Census data, the average Muslim is 28 years old (which is 13 years below the national average), roughly half are below the age of 25 and one third is 16 or younger. Moreover, intense public, media and policy interest, from a mainly security angle, has meant that print rollers have been in constant revolution, reporting on the young (angry and male) British Muslim. Even Google Images is awash with images of angst and problems. Why then a nationwide trek to discover what everyone must surely know?

Much may be written about young Muslims, and more still is swapped across scathing blogs that stem from reports, but when you peel away at the surface, it isn’t usually the voices of young people themselves, but others speaking about them - or for them. It’s almost become an industry and yet rarely are we hearing their own voices. And young Muslims know it all too well. Women are also largely forgotten in most research ventures on young Muslims, which typically dwell on sole inner city concentrations that already have a fair dose of ‘research fatigue’. It’s an easier route but by accessing male voices from a single concentration spot to speak for young people across Britain, research projects can inadvertently perpetuate stereotypes (less than 5% of British Muslims live in Bradford).
The gender bias aside, what does surface, as a look in, is all too often through the security lens. We are used to hearing about young Muslims in the context of radicalisation, but their lives are far more complex (and, it should be clear – quite removed from debates around extremism). There is an untold story of intergenerational tensions, failure of community leadership and also alienation from institutions of wider society.

Seen and Not Heard is the result of 18 months of trekking, listening and analysis that brings together the views – the thoughts, aspirations and frustrations – held by British Muslims of over 15 ethnicities, from across England, Scotland and Wales. It provides a channel to female and male voices, on how they feel they are perceived and how others talk about them. So what are we not hearing? Young Muslims feel strongly that ‘we’, which can be taken to mean you, I and the rest, do not see them as they see themselves: as basically modern young people. Almost in chorus, they stress that we should not regard them as living in a contradiction between their religious and national identities. These identities (note the plural) are in a sort of whirling negotiation, sometimes subconsciously, as they respond to discourses, experiences and pressures that seem to hound the complex lives of young people. The young people described their modern life as surrounded by communication gaps, particularly when it came to intergenerational gaps within their own communities. They also feel largely disconnected from community organisations and leadership.

Self-identification for young Muslims was not just about negotiating the big mad world of politics, or even organised religion for that matter. There is a strong sense of localised identity in young adults, whose grandparents may have had migratory roots but they have lived local lives. Scottish participants were expressly Scottish and proud. But this was also partly connected to acceptance.
The Muslim Youth Helpline, which provides a confidential counselling service to Muslim youth (albeit primarily in the London area), finds that relationships and mental health related issues are among the uppermost reasons for its callers, a third of whom are 16 to 19 year olds. The pressures of life upon young Muslims are yielding social and emotional disorders for a number too great to ignore. More precise numbers cannot yet be established but, worryingly, the evidence available to date points to many young people feeling most of the existing mainstream service providers will not understand them. The majority of young Muslims are showing sophisticated ways of negotiating complex patterns and relationships in their woven worlds. And an instinctive sense of pragmatism marks this negotiation.

Several young women spoke of having felt compelled to find Islam out for themselves in the face of scrutiny and surrounding discourses, but, in living out their new religious confidence, found the realities of the cultural understanding and expectations of their parents’ generation difficult terrain. Others, from both sexes, admitted to being faced with two starkly different lives – one life inside and one outside the home – as a way to negotiate the intergenerational challenges that, for them, was due to a communication divide, modern life and ways and community taboos. It’s a complex tapestry of pictures, but young people feel a strong sense of patriotism and really want to do things to make their lives better. However, they also feel that their voices are not getting across to society. Did we hear that?
© The Muslim News



22/9/2009- What could have been another day of unrest for Luton instead turned into a triumph for police and anti-fascist campaigners, with the threat of a far-right meeting failing to materialise. Plans for an 'anti-extremism' march by the English Defence League had led to Saturday's Luton Town home game against York City being postponed until October 20. Extra police officers were drafted in from Hertfordshire, the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police, but the town centre remained trouble-free and many officers were able to go home earlier than expected. The calm was in contrast to August 30, when police ready to deal with far-right protestors were attacked by a group of young Asian men in Bury Park. Four men in their 20s were arrested last week on suspicion of public order offences and given police bail after questioning. Supt Andy Martin, in charge of Saturday's operation, said: "There was an enhanced community officer presence throughout Luton town centre and Bury Park. Extra officers were placed in holding areas at strategic places around the town, no officers were deployed at any time." Supt Martin said Beds Police was continuing to talk to the English Defence League, but that as far as he was aware the group was not planning any events in Luton in the foreseeable future.

Aside from shoppers, the only activity in George Street on Saturday was a leaflet handout by Three Counties Unite Against Fascism and Luton's Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) group, who were joined in the afternoon by community leaders from Bury Park. LMHR organiser Geoff Webb praised the "low key" policing operation, saying: "They did a great job. As far as I know there was no bother in the town centre at all. "The policing was exemplary, they really seemed to get it right."
© Bedford Today



22/9/2009- Many migrant children are taking a long time to settle in at school because staff are not given enough resources to deal with them, a study has said. The HM Inspectorate of Education report said many migrant children were underachieving in Scotland as a result. Inspectors said staff had not been given enough guidance on dealing with migrant children. The report also said many education authorities had yet to adjust to record high migration levels. Graham Donaldson, HM senior chief inspector of schools, said there were "long-standing weaknesses" in supporting new arrivals who did not have English as their first language. He said: "The increasing numbers of children and young people arriving from outwith the UK means that more children and staff in Scottish schools are experiencing those weaknesses in support first-hand." His comments came after HMIE education inspectorate highlighted several failings at a time of growing pressures on schools.

In 2005, the number of immigrants to Scotland from the rest of the UK and abroad exceeded by 21,6000 the numbers leaving Scotland. A total of 26 local authorities reported a "significant" rise in new pupils from migrant families and some councils reported a 100% increase, with most new arrivals coming from Poland. Children in Scottish schools now have 80 home languages. "Most newly-arrived children and young people, especially those at secondary school, feel that teachers do not have sufficiently high expectations of their achievements," said the report. "They feel that their potential is being underestimated as a result of their lack of proficiency in the English language. "Some Polish children in particular spoke about the lack of challenge of learning, particularly in mathematics."

'Not well informed'
And the report said pupils at one school, which it did not identify, felt "marginalised" by being prevented from using their home language and being made to sit apart at lunchtime from other children who had the same home language. "A few schools have established clear and well-considered practices that involve admissions and induction arrangements to help children settle quickly and to have a sense of belonging," said the report. "However most education authorities and schools do not have clearly-stated policies for welcoming newly-arrived children and their families." Only a few schools had school information booklets in languages other than English and translations were not always high-quality. The report added: "There are situations where children have to translate documents for their parents, including school reports on their progress. "Overall, newly-arrived parents are not well informed about the Scottish education system."
© BBC News



By Joël Le Deroff, ILGA-Europe Policy Officer

24/9/2009- During the last months, the number of homophobic and transphobic incidents reported in Italy has increased significantly. This may be partly due to the increasing awareness of the Italian media when it comes to discrimination against LGBT people. However, this phenomenon provides full evidence of an unacceptable level of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. From January 2009 on, ILGA-Europe member organisations in Italy reported a high number of other incidents, from bullying and blackmail to violence putting at risk the life of victims. On 22 August, 29 August and 2 September 2009, three homophobic attacks took place in Rome, causing at least one person to be seriously injured. Thanks to this documenting activities, ILGA-Europe, ILGA, Arcilesbica, Arcigay and Crisalide sent a report on the status of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Italy to the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in September 2009. NGOs are encouraged to submit information to feed the discussion during the review of the human rights records of each State, which is conducted every four years within the frame of the UN Human Rights Council.

Although Italy has now transposed the existing pieces of EU non-discrimination legislation, LGBT organisations denounce the lack of political will, at the national level, to tackle homophobia and transphobia and to promote equality. The strong influence of the Catholic Church on Italian politics is considered to be one of the reasons of this situation. The Italian House of Representative is currently in the process of looking into a Bill proposed to match this objective, and we consider it as an important step towards a relevant improvement of the situation. The outcome of the debate is highly uncertain, because of some strong opposition coming from inside the ruling right-wing coalition. On 14 September, ILGA-Europe sent a letter to the President of the House, Mr. Gianfranco Fini, and to the members of its Committee on Justice, to stress that combating homophobia by means of legal provisions, including criminal law, is necessary.
© ILGA Europe



* Human Rights Watch says EU must pressure Italy * Since May, Italy has been returning migrant boats to Libya

21/9/2009- The European Union should demand that Italy stop forcing African migrant boats back to Libya, which is consigning would-be asylum seekers to inhumane camps in North Africa, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday. Under a deal with Tripoli, Italy has been intercepting migrant boats in international waters since May and returning them, without screening for asylum applications, to Libya, which has not signed international treaties on refugees. The United Nations says three-quarters of irregular migrants arriving by sea in Italy last year applied for asylum, and half of them were accepted. Many were from war-torn Somalia or repressive states like Eritrea.
"Italy flouts its legal obligations by summarily returning boat migrants to Libya," said Bill Frelick, refugee policy direct at HRW and author of the report. "The EU should demand that Italy comply with its obligations by halting these returns to Libya." The New York-based rights group said the EU border agency Frontex had coordinated some of the returns and it urged EU states to refuse to participate in any Frontex operations that resulted in the return of migrants to Libya.

The crackdown on illegal immigration by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government has already opened a rift within his coalition and prompted a row last month with the European Commission, which has sought an investigation into the repatriations to Libya. Berlusconi promptly threatened to block all EU business unless Commission spokespeople were silenced. In its 92-page report, HRW said migrants testified to brutal beatings and overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in Libyan camps. One migrant said a companion was shot dead by Libyans when their boat was intercepted leaving the North African coast. "We were in a wooden boat and Libyans in a (motorised inflatable) Zodiac started shooting at us ... They kept shooting until they hit our engine. One person was shot and killed," said the migrant, whose name was not given. "They beat some of our boys until they could not walk." HRW called on Libya to improve detention conditions and urgently put in place asylum procedures that conform to international standards.
© Reuters



21/9/2009- Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Spain, with more public expressions and greater acceptance of virulent anti-Jewish attitudes, according to a newly issued report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Polluting the Public Square: Anti-Semitic Discourse in Spain examines recent trends in Spain, including anti-Semitic criticism during Israel's three-week military campaign in Gaza last winter; viciously anti-Semitic cartoons and articles in Spain's mainstream media; and opinion polls conducted over the last year showing an alarming rise in anti-Semitic attitudes. "We are deeply concerned about the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in Spain, with more public expressions and greater public acceptance of classic stereotypes," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Among the major European countries, only in Spain have we seen viciously anti-Semitic cartoons in the mainstream media, and street protests where Israel is accused of genocide and Jews are vilified and compared to Nazis."

The report was formally presented by ADL to Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos at a meeting today at the Spanish Mission to the United Nations. Mr. Moratinos responded that the government will be conducting additional surveys and research on anti-Semitism in Spain and committed to facilitate meetings for ADL with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Justice, to enable the League to share with them its expertise in combating anti-Semitism, hatred, prejudice and bigotry of all kinds. The League has regularly raised the issue of anti-Semitic discourse with Mr. Moratinos and other officials in the Spanish government. One of the concerns raised in the report is how in Spain, what is presented as legitimate criticism of Israel often crosses the line into anti-Semitism. "Opinion makers in Spain are crossing the line that separates legitimate criticism of Israeli actions from anti-Semitism, and the results are evident," said Mr. Foxman. "Our polling shows an alarming rise in anti-Semitic attitudes."

Among the report's findings:
• Spain's major newspapers, El País and El Mundo, have published viciously anti-Semitic cartoons, including a Hasidic Jew with barbed-wire sidelocks and Jews manipulating the world with money for nefarious ends. Opinion pieces in the mainstream press have explicitly compared Israel with the Nazi regime, an equation the European Union's anti-racism organization considers anti-Semitic.

• Since 2002, Spain has been among the countries with the most negative views of Jews. A 2009 ADL poll found that three-quarters of all Spaniards believe Jews have "too much power" in international financial markets; nearly two-thirds believe Jews are not loyal to Spain; and more than half think Jews have "too much power in business."

• Anti-Semitic placards were commonplace at anti-Israel demonstrations in Spain last January. In addition to open shows of support for the terrorist group Hamas and the burning of Israeli flags, anti-Semitic comparisons of Israel to the Nazi regime were all too common.

• While reports of anti-Semitic acts targeting Jews or Jewish institutions have been rare, the report notes three troubling incidents thus far in 2009: The vandalism of a Chabad House in Barcelona on January 11; a violet attack against an employee of a synagogue in Barcelona on January 30; and the harassment of Israel's ambassador to Spain, who was verbally assaulted on the street on May 5 by three men who shouted "dirty Jew," "Jew bastard" and "Jewish dog."

"While Spain's Jewish community has rarely come under physical attack in recent years, history tells us that incitement by some and indifference by many can create an atmosphere conducive to violence against Jews. Spain is not immune to this phenomenon," said Mr. Foxman. "Political and civic leaders, including the highest officials of the Spanish government, must act against the mainstreaming of hatred before it leads to the mainstreaming of violence.

"Spain has hate speech laws and the current government has formally committed to combating racism," he added. "We expect the government to shoulder their responsibilities, and we urge all opinion-makers in Spanish society to ensure that their public statements do not demonize Jews, the State of Israel, or include other expressions of anti-Semitism."
© Anti-Defamation League



The Dutch government wants to prohibit marriage between cousins, but experts wonder if that is possible.

23/9/2009- What if two cousins sleep together, have a baby and then want to get married. Is that allowed? What about this situation: a young Moroccan Dutch man marries his female cousin in Morocco and then brings her to the Netherlands. Is that permitted? Or rather: will that still be permitted in future? According to Ashley Terlouw, professor of sociology of law at Radboud University in Nijmegen, it is doubtful whether such cases can be prohibited. Aside from the question of whether it is a good idea. “Everyone's right to a family life is protected in section 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. If the Netherlands does not respect that, the Court in Strasbourg will have something to say about it.” Experts have responded with surprise – and some with shock – to the plan that deputy minister for justice Nebahat Albayrak announced last week to ban marriage between cousins. It is one of the measures aimed at reducing the number of so-called import brides (and grooms).

Growth in import marriages
Detailed information on the ban and its enforcement is expected in a few weeks, but it is already clear that the ban will apply to everyone, not just ethnic minorities among whom most marriages between cousins take place. The ban will not be imposed with retroactive effect. “It does not seem right to me to apply family law to migration policy,” said Terlouw. “Moreover it is a measure that affects more people than you want it to.” Nor will the ban necessarily bring about any decline in marriage migration. "The Netherlands cannot ban marriages in other countries and will have to recognise most cases. Added to this is the fact that it is certainly not the case that all foreign marriages are between cousins." A driving force behind the measure is the growth in the number of Dutch residents who 'import' a spouse from the country of their parents. After years of decline, the number went up last year by thirty percent to 15,000. But the municipal records do not keep track of how many of these marriages involved cousins marrying each other. According to researchers from Leiden University, a quarter of Turks and Moroccans marry a relative. A European survey, which only looked at second-generation immigrants, indicated that just over 8 percent of Turks and 6 percent of Moroccans reported they were married to a cousin.

Does Albayrak have her facts straight?
Albayrak said last week that marriage between cousins was prohibited in the past, but that is a stubborn misconception said Frans van Poppel of the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute. Only since 1970 has the law permitted an uncle or aunt to marry their nephew or niece, but there has never been a ban on marriage between cousins, according to Van Poppel. It seems as if Albayrak does not yet have all her facts straight, said Han Entzinger, professor of integration and migration studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. “I see that Moroccans and Turks are in fact bringing partners from abroad less frequently.” That is also due to the income requirement that the Netherlands has introduced. The partner here must now earn at least 120 percent of the minimum wage before he can bring a partner from abroad. “Which incidentally has an adverse effect in that many young people stopped their college education to try and earn as much money as possible,” said Entzinger. Proponents of a ban on marriage between cousins stress that they hope this ban will put a stop to forced marriages. Entzinger has serious doubts whether this goal will be achieved. He responds with questions: "What is defined as a forced marriage? Is an arranged marriage also forced? How many forced marriages actually take place? And how would such a ban be enforced?”

Health risks not signifficant
It seems as if politicians are seeking a new way to ban marriage between cousins. From 2003 there have been efforts to introduce the ban on grounds of health risks. This has failed time and again. Last year health minister Ab Klink decided that a ban would be disproportionate. Research has shown that parents who are related, including cousins, have a four percent chance of a child with a genetic defect. That risk is two percent for parents who are not related. If politicians are really concerned about stopping forced marriages and preventing health risks, Albayrak should instead concentrate on better information provision, said the researchers. And on a harsh approach to those who impose forced marriages.
© The NRC



21/9/2009- The Public Prosecutor's Office in Amsterdam is planning to use "mystery guests" to discover whether club doormen are guilty of discrimination. From December the undercover "guests" will be attempting to gain entry to a number of clubs in Amsterdam. They will record how often people are refused entry because of their ethnicity. They will not be handing out spot fines, but the information they gather may be used later if it becomes clear that certain clubs discriminate on a regular basis. A spokesman for the city council confirmed today that this is just one of a package of measures Amsterdam is introducing to combat discrimination. The council will be experimenting with a scheme which enables people to send a text message by phone if they feel they have been discriminated against. Since 2006 Amsterdam has had a Door Policy Panel where people can lodge complaints about doormen and bouncers via internet, but this only receives 35 complaints a year on average. The council wants to make it easier to report incidents of discrimination. As part of its campaign to reduce discrimination against homosexuals, Amsterdam will be competing to organise the 2017 Gay Games or the 2018 World Outgames. There will also be a campaign to combat discrimination in the workplace.
© Radio Netherlands



By Jirair Ratevosian, MPH, based in Washington D.C., chairs the International Health Advocacy and Policy Committee of the American Public Health Association. He was recently named deputy director of public policy for amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research and Amy Hagopian, Ph.D. teaches at the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle, Washington. She is also a senior health workforce policy advisor for Health Alliance International.

20/9/2009- Earlier this year, we visited Armenia en route to a meeting of the 12th World Congress of Public Health Associations. We stopped in Yerevan to help celebrate with local organizations their recent success in persuading the government to repeal unwarranted requirements for foreign travelers to be tested for HIV. In crafting the change in the law, Armenia’s president and parliamentarians realized that longstanding regulations “did not meet the present-day requirements in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” and acknowledged the lack of public health justification for barring immigrants with HIV. The parliament said the new rules were passed with the aim of “strengthening legal reforms and sustaining large-scale HIV/AIDS awareness raising activities” and “safeguarding human freedoms, dignity, and rights.” This was a huge victory for public health and a proud moment for all Armenians. There is added success to report in the global battle against HIV and AIDS. Several nations have demonstrated considerable progress in slowing national epidemics. In the last six years, rates of infection and death have slowed as the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment has increased immensely. Many actors share credit in this achievement, most notably the United States, which mobilized billions of dollars in many low- and middle-income countries.

Despite progress in reducing HIV infections, the past years have also been marked by missed opportunities. There is a real danger in some countries, including Armenia, that the epidemic could surge in vulnerable populations, including women, injecting drug users, and men who have sex with men. These socially marginalized groups face considerable barriers to HIV prevention and treatment access, often as a result of institutionalized discrimination, stigma, and lack of awareness. In fact, the United Nations estimates 7,400 people become infected with HIV every day. Globally, an estimated 33 million people were living with HIV in 2007. The number of people living with HIV in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including countries of the former Soviet Union, has reached 1.5 million. Of that group, 2,300 are living in Armenia, according to the National Centre for AIDS Prevention, though the World Health Organization estimates the total to be higher. Silence, shame, and fear of ostracism enable HIV stigma and discrimination to flourish, resulting in fewer being tested and, ultimately, decreasing numbers of HIV/AIDS cases being reported. Without appropriate health messages and support structures, vulnerable populations unknowingly engage in behavior that increases their risk of infection. A survey by Armenia’s We For Civil Equality revealed young Armenian men who have sex with men are so poorly informed about HIV transmission that only half of the youngest men (18-30 years old) understood that “unprotected sexual intercourse” was a mode of HIV transmission. Half of those youngest men also believed, falsely, that one may get HIV through shaking hands.

Even more serious is the prejudice exhibited by members of the medical profession itself. Doctors, nurses, and staff responsible for the care and treatment of people living with HIV can sometimes turn out to be the most hurtful agents of HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Scientific advancement and public health education have turned AIDS from a death sentence into a chronic disease. Armenia has an opportunity to ensure that HIV infection rates remain low and that people living with HIV and AIDS receive proper care. Investing in needs-based prevention programming, public awareness campaigns, expansion of access to antiretroviral drugs, and accurate and comprehensive sexual health education are critical components of an effective national response. Further, legal reforms are needed to create an environment conducive to eliminating discrimination, stigma, and violence against sexual minorities. The lesson to learn from the countries where HIV infection rates have fallen sharply is that active participation of civil society is critical for success, including participation from organizations representing sexual minorities and people living with HIV/AIDS. Armenia has courageous groups working to provide life-saving services to vulnerable populations, such as Real World/Real People, Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK Armenia), and the Women’s Resource Centre. With sufficient funding and political support, these and other organizations can transform community attitudes, drive policy, and mobilize the necessary resources to reverse the alarming spread of HIV among vulnerable populations.

The government, civil society groups, the private sector, the church, and the media all have a critical role to play in keeping Armenians healthy. Leaders in all sectors must model a willingness to discuss these issues openly and affirmatively enact policies to protect all citizens against discrimination and social exclusion. In turn, government must foster increased collaboration by supporting efforts to share information, address new challenges, and work collectively to design and deliver innovative and effective HIV/AIDS services. Armenia has come a long way in a short time and the response to HIV will signal how it wants to advance on the global development agenda. While it was the last country in the south Caucasus to decriminalize sex between two males (2002), it demonstrated a progressive attitude by becoming the first country in the region to sign on to a UN statement against discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Ultimately, countries are judged by how they treat their poor, marginalized, and stigmatized people. Armenia can flourish as a regional leader by ensuring its people are healthy and cared for in a compassionate way.
© The Armenian Weekly



About one in 10 German voters has an immigrant background, reports the BBC's Oana Lungescu. Their voice is becoming ever more important, with dozens of politicians of foreign descent running as candidates in Sunday's general election.

23/9/2009- The new leader of the Green Party, Cem Oezdemir, is not your typical German politician. He was once voted the best-dressed man in German politics. But there is something else that makes Mr Oezdemir distinctive. His parents came from Turkey in the 1960s, part of the wave of Gastarbeiter who helped rebuild Germany after World War II. Thirty years ago, when young Cem Oezdemir told a teacher he wanted to continue his studies rather than become a factory-worker like his dad, his school-mates burst out laughing. He has come a long way, but has Germany? "I don't feel different because my parents came from Turkey to Germany," said Mr Oezdemir. "I'm a party leader so part of my job is to fight for my party and get the best election results for my party. "But the fact that people remind me that my name is Cem and not Hans or Gustav or whatever shows us that there's still a long way to go until we reach what my party stands for, that is a colour-blind society."

Nowhere to go
Some are now resorting to threats to prevent that vision from becoming a reality. Oezcan Mutlu, who is also running for parliament for the Greens, showed me a letter he received at his home address at the weekend. Apparently from the commissioner for the repatriation of foreigners, and couched in official language, it demands he go back to his country within three months. But there is no such commissioner in Germany. The letter was actually sent by the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) to about 30 candidates with foreign-sounding names, like Mr Mutlu. "When I saw this paper, I was shocked," he said. "This is my home town. I am German. I have only German citizenship. I have no country to go to." Mr Mutlu, a lawmaker in the Berlin state parliament, is used to hate mail. "Until recently I got them from individuals anonymously, but this time a party with the name on it is addressing me privately," he said. "You don't know what they can do if they have your address. I'm not afraid at all, but I have to be careful." The letter says foreigners should be excluded from the welfare system and banned from owning land in Germany.

Effectively disenfranchised
But of the 15 million immigrants here, only a third have the right to vote - including half a million people of Turkish descent. The Berlin district of Kreuzberg has been dubbed Little Istanbul. At the weekly Turkish market, most people speak Turkish, as well as German, and some of the stall-holders wear head-scarves. When I asked a group of young men selling vegetable if they were planning to vote on Sunday, they shook their heads. "I'd like to, but I'm not allowed," said one. "I'm a Turkish citizen." Dual citizenship is restricted under German law, and many Turks who have made a home in this country are effectively disenfranchised. "We have to stand and watch as others decide for us," complained one vegetable seller. Those in the German Turkish community who are eligible to vote traditionally support the Social Democrats or the Greens. But they are not the only foreign actors on the German political stage. In a former warehouse, a couple are playing out a seduction scene, half-erotic, half-menacing. It is a rehearsal at the small Russian theatre Russkaia Szena, founded by Ilia Gordon to cater to the large Russian community in Berlin. Across Germany, 2.6m ethnic Germans from the former Soviet bloc are entitled to vote. Because of their experience under Communism, many back conservative parties. But Ilia will cast his vote for the Social Democrats. He feels strongly that parties like the NPD, which he calls "fascistic", should be kept at bay. "As somebody who comes from the Soviet Union and somebody who's Jewish, it's very important to me," he said. "And then I look which parties integrate immigrants to propel our interests."

Migrant candidates
Only two per cent of Germany's outgoing parliament - 11 MPs - come from a migrant background, while nine per cent of voters are of foreign descent. It is the first time that the voter statistics have been made public. "Nine per cent is a significant portion," said Andreas Wuest, project director at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research and the only German academic who focuses on migrants as political actors. "In one way or another, this share of the population can have an effect, especially in constituencies with higher levels of migrant voters, for instance in the bigger cities in the West." So all the major political parties are fielding candidates from the fast-growing migrant communities. There is a new leaflet out, in German and Turkish, explaining in simple language how the political system works here, and plans to publish one in Russian for the next election. One of its promoters is Gabriele Guen Tank, the commissioner for immigrants in Berlin's Schoeneberg district. Almost half of the youngsters in Schoeneberg, she said, come from a migrant background. Soon they will be eligible to vote. "It's a big group coming," Ms Tank said. "And if we don't give them the chance of participation, we will have more problems in the future. So there has to be a change." In his small office, Oezcan Mutlu proudly displays Barack Obama's election poster with the slogan: Change We Need. But he does not expect to see a German Obama any time soon. "I don't think that Germany is ready for an Obama - not as a chancellor, not as a president," he said. "Not even my grand-grand-children will see that, unfortunately."
© BBC News



23/9/2009- German police are investigating whether a string of letters from the far-right NPD party to politicians from immigrant backgrounds have incited racial hatred. Dozens of politicians of foreign descent are running as candidates in Germany's election this Sunday. The NPD reportedly sent 30 of them letters advising them to "go home". One recipient said the two-page letter contained a "five-point plan" for "moving foreigners gradually back to their home countries". The letters were signed by a non-existent "commissioner for the repatriation of foreigners". "We are investigating whether there is a suspicion of inciting racial hatred," said Martin Steltner, spokesman for the Berlin state prosecutor's office, quoted by Reuters news agency.

'This is my home'
The National Democratic Party (NPD) leader in Berlin, Joerg Haehnel, defended the letters, which were sent at the weekend. "As part of a democracy we're entitled to say if something doesn't suit us in this country," Reuters quoted him as saying. One recipient, Green party politician Oezcan Mutlu, said he was "shocked" to get the letter. "This is my home town. I am German. I have only German citizenship. I have no country to go to," he told the BBC's Oana Lungescu. Mr Mutlu, a lawmaker in the Berlin state parliament, is used to hate mail. "Until recently I got them from individuals anonymously, but this time a party with the name on it is addressing me privately," he said. "You don't know what they can do if they have your address. I'm not afraid at all, but I have to be careful."

Nazi-style language
Of some 50 million Germans eligible to vote in Sunday's poll, about one in 10 has an immigrant background. Many are ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union, while others are Turks whose parents came to Germany to help rebuild the country after the war. The NPD, which has around 7,000 members and has been polling poorly ahead of Sunday's election. It has no seats in Germany's national parliament but has some seats in regional assemblies. The NPD uses language eerily reminiscent of Nazi propaganda, our correspondent reports. The letter says foreigners should be excluded from the welfare system and banned from owning land in Germany.
© BBC News



21/9/2009- The song blaring from the loudspeakers on the election campaign car is deceptively soft and melodious - matching the sleepy atmosphere in the main square in Cottbus, a small city in former east Germany. The lyrics, however, strike a different note: "When a refugee or a foreigner counts for more than a German, I ask myself, what's going wrong here?". The singer is an artist named Annett - featured on several far- right German websites listing "Ballads of National Resistance", where she appears alongside bands called "Blitzkrieg" and "Brown Brothers". The small group of around 50 activists playing her music at their rally belongs to Germany's largest far-right party, the National Democratic Party (NPD), which is running in Germany's general election on September 27. "Foreigners are taking away German wealth," says Ronny Zasowk, the 23-year-old NPD chairman in the nearby tourist region of Spreewald, adding: "They didn't help to create it. It's also selfish of them with regard to their own countries. They should be working at 'home'."

Zasowk, a politics student in nearby Potsdam, takes it in turns with two other men to rouse the group, made up mainly of young men in jeans and T-shirts. They are carrying black-and-red flags and banners with slogans such as "Germany's fate is your fate." At the 2005 general election, the NPD polled 1.5 per cent nationally, well short of the 5 per cent needed to be represented in parliament. But in the state of Brandenburg, which surrounds the capital Berin, it nearly doubled its vote to 3.2 per cent. The party has traditionally been stronger in former communist East German than in the West, capitalizing on high unemployment and social alienation since German reunification in 1990. It has six representatives in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and at regional elections in August the party won re-election to Saxony's federal state parliament. It also tripled its vote to 4.3 per cent in the state of Thuringia, though ultimately failed to win a seat. In Cottbus, passers-by appear less impressed. "Pigs!" shouts one man on a bicycle as he rides past.

Jan Duong, a German-Vietnamese waiter, sits outside the cafe where he works in the city's main square. The 28-year-old says that though he has had insults shouted at him in the street he has never felt afraid of the NPD. While the demonstration in Cottbus remained peaceful, however, the Federal Office of the Protection of the Constitution in April reported a general rise in violent crime committed by the far right. In July, a man who had previously declared his allegiance to the NPD stabbed an Egyptian woman to death in a Dresden court room. In August, an Angolan-born black activist working for the conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) party in Thuringia received special police protection after the NPD openly threatened him. However, efforts to ban the party have been met with criticism even among anti-fascist activists and other political parties. Banning the party would not get rid of the extreme right in Germany, says Volker Beck, leader of the Green Party parliamentary group: "I strongly advise against a new procedure (to ban the party)."

Zasowk - who refers to eastern Germany "Middle Germany" following the former Nazi claim to a greater Germany including parts of Poland and former Czechoslovaka - say any effort to ban the party would be "the last frightened cry of the state." Young people in particular would be driven to the NPD as they were hit by the global economic crisis, he told the German Press Agency dpa. Over the last 12 months, the number of unemployed under 25 years old has risen by 17 per cent to 451,000 in Germany. In 2008, the NPD claimed to have over 7,000 members. With an average age of 37, it is Germany's youngest political party, according to "Netz Gegen Nazis" - an internet-based anti-Nazi group sponsored by the German Champions League and other organizations. "Young people have little voice in politics," says NPD stalwart Peter Naumann, who's been a member for 40 years. "They are losing their jobs and apprenticeships. Older people are maybe more resigned to the situation and feel they have more to lose if they vote for a radical party. But young people are willing to take risks."

In a bid to establish itself at grassroots level and shed its image as a party of thugs and skinheads, the NPD has started football clubs and organized camping trips. It has also encouraged its members to join local organizations such as the voluntary fire service. Nevertheless, the party is expected to fail in its quest to enter the German federal parliament in the 2009 elections - a prospect simply shrugged of by the NPD in Cottbus: "You shouldn't take polls at face value," says Zasowk. A 20-year-old member of the NPD youth group added: "We don't even want to be part of the system. It is sick and needs to be got rid of." During their demonstration, the black-and-red did not even appear to make canvass local residents. No leaflets were haned out, and no activists appeared to talk to local voters in what appeared, instead, to be a defiant show of strength. Only Annett's lyrics betrayed her soft voice as her songs were played across the square: "I am a member of the NPD. Noone bribed me or broke my will."



A court has ordered the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) to remove election signs declaring “Stop the Polish invasion” from a region of Germany near the border with Poland.

20/9/2009- The court in the state of Mecklenburg-Upper Pomerania said Saturday the signs were illegal and an incitement to racial hatred. In early September, the NPD hung more than 50 of the signs up in the Ueker-Randow district of the state which borders Poland and counts more than 1,000 Polish citizens as residents. Local authorities removed the placards, prompting a lawsuit by the NPD. In the first phase, the NPD succeeded in getting the support of a lower court to declare the district’s actions improper. Saturday’s decision by a higher court overturns the lower court’s action. A court spokeswoman told the DPA news service that the text and picture elements of the NPD placards were an affront to the human dignity of others and posed a danger for public security and order. The NPD’s only recourse now is to appeal the case to the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe on the grounds that the party’s constitutional rights have been violated. The party, which is under observation by German domestic intelligence agencies for its anti-foreigner message, has been successful gaining votes in the economically weak region. In 2006 state elections, the NPD pulled in 7.3 percent of the vote, enough to gain representation in the state parliament. The party also holds 4 out of 47 seats on the district council.
© The Local - Germany



19/9/2009- Hungary's government will hire 200 Roma for public administration jobs, Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai said on Saturday, addressing a forum of Romaversitas, a foundation supporting Roma university students. Bajnai said Hungary needed a much stronger Roma elite who can help advance Roma integration. The state needs to show an example, which is why we are promoting the employment of Roma graduates, he added. Without Roma integration, there will be no sustainable development in Hungary, Bajnai said. Young Roma can apply for the posts from October. The government will spend 100 million forints (EUR 370,000) to prepare the graduates to take the civil service exam and cover incidental costs, government spokesman Domokos Szollar said. Salaries will be paid from a budget of 1 billion forints (EUR 3.7m) - from European Union funding - in the first year.



25/9/2009- Gay or straight, the sexual orientation of adoptive parents does not have an impact on the emotional development of their children, according to a new study. But researchers said that if parents were satisfied with the adoption process, had a stable income and functioned well as a family the risk of emotional problems in children were reduced. "We found that sexual orientation of the adoptive parents was not a significant predictor of emotional problems," Paige Averett, an assistant professor of social work at East Carolina University, said in a statement. "We did find, however, that age and pre-adoptive sexual abuse were," she added. Averett, Blace Nalavany, also of East Carolina University, and Scott Ryan, dean of the University of Texas School of Social Work, questioned nearly 1,400 couples in the United States, including 155 gay and lesbian parents. They used information from Florida's public child welfare system and data from gay and lesbian couples throughout the U.S. for the study. Each couple was questioned about themselves and their children, the family composition and dynamics, and the history of the child before the adoption. The researchers said the findings, which are reported in the journal Adoption Quarterly, are important because it compared gay and lesbian and heterosexual couples. "There are implications for social work educators, adoption professionals, and policy makers in this and other recent studies," said Averett. "We must pay attention to the data indicating that gay and lesbian parents are as fit as heterosexual parents to adopt," Averett added, "because at least 130,000 children are depending on us to act as informed advocates on their behalf." The American Civil Liberties Union has said that laws and adoption agency policies have created obstacles for gay and lesbian couple who want to adopt children.
© Reuters



20/9/2009- An Australian tourist has become the second foreigner in four days to be attacked in Serbia's capital, Belgrade. The 25-year-old man was reportedly targeted by two men in a public park and suffered head and face injuries. A 28-year-old French football fan who was attacked by Serbian hooligans on Thursday remains in critical condition. The attacks come amid concerns about a surge in extremist violence, with police arresting dozens of suspected members of far-right groups. A gay march planned for Sunday was called off this week, when authorities said they could not guarantee its safety. Serb nationalists had planned a "non-deviant" rally to coincide with the march, but reports said it only drew a handful of people. Serbian TV station B92 reported that police were banning all public gatherings in the centre of the city to avoid clashes. The Gay Pride march would have been the first in Belgrade since 2001. That parade descended into chaos amid widespread violence by mobs of protesters. The justice ministry said that a total of 46 members of far-right groups, including a number of leaders of ultra-nationalist organisations, had been arrested, the Associated Press news agency reported. Police said they were searching for a group suspected of attacking the Australian. The state prosecutors office has said that 11 men could be charged with attempted murder for attacking French football fans after Thursday's incident.
© BBC News


WOUNDED PRIDE (Serbia, commentary)

As extremists win the day, and Belgrade’s gay pride parade is canceled, the government needs to devote more than lip service to protecting minority rights.
By Tihomir Loza
, deputy director of TOL

24/9/2009- A gay pride parade that was to be held in Belgrade on 20 September was canceled after the authorities told organizers they could not guarantee security. A 5,000-strong police force was to be deployed to control the event, which ultranationalist groups threatened to break up. Extremists linked to the Serbian Orthodox Church had for weeks waged a campaign of fear, with threatening posters saying “We Are Expecting You” stuck around the city and menacing graffiti featuring prominently in many locations. Extremist leaders, in fact, went on record with open threats of violence in the run-up to the event. “Everyone knows what will happen if they go ahead with that parade of shame, and the responsibility for that will be on those who organized it. They can’t expect to poke their finger in the eye of our nation and go unpunished,” Mladen Obradovic, a leader of the ultranationalist organization Obraz, said in a TV interview. Football hooligans linked to the group attacked foreign tourists in downtown Belgrade whom they thought “looked gay.” One injured man is still in a coma. Obradovic and a few dozen others were reportedly arrested for violating an ordinance against public assemblies when they congregated in downtown Belgrade even after the parade had been called off. The event was to be held in the center of Belgrade. But despite earlier pledges by government officials to provide security, a day before the rally the government said it could not guarantee it would be able to protect the parade. In a meeting with the organizers, Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic proposed another location, where police would have been in a better position to provide protection. The organizers rejected the proposal and called off the event. “The Republic of Serbia has capitulated. We have not,” they said in a statement. The Serb Popular Movement 1389, one of the organizations that had incited opposition to the pride march, rejoiced in the cancellation of the parade as “a great victory for normal Serbia. … In our city infidels and Satanists will not pass,” it said in a statement.

Lack of nerve
We have, of course, been here many times before. That a gay and lesbian community in a country emerging from the chaos of war and transition has not been allowed to march peacefully is hardly surprising. Gay pride events have in recent years been disrupted across the region, including last year in Sarajevo, when it looked as if nearly the entire political and religious establishment conspired to set the stage for Islamic extremists and football hooligans to jointly disrupt what was not even intended to be a parade, but rather an indoor public event. After all, Belgrade’s first attempt at holding a gay pride march in 2001 ended in violence, when right-wing extremists attacked participants. Yet, this time, a few new elements need to be looked at. First of all, Serbia’s gay community activists have developed into rather savvy operators. While a peaceful parade with proper official protection would have been the best outcome for them, they played their cards absolutely right when they rejected the prime minister’s offer of an alternative location and called off the event. Accepting the alternative location on the city’s outskirts would have portrayed them as pushovers. Insisting on going ahead with the event without police guarantees would have cast them as irresponsible attention-seekers. Calling off the parade was just right. It was a small, but potentially far-reaching public relations victory in what promises to be a long battle. The move exposed the government as lacking power and decisiveness and painted the extremists as violent outcasts.

Unlike their counterparts in Sarajevo, Serbian government officials claim to support the rights of the gay community. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of at least some ministers. Yet it is blatantly clear that the government lacked resolve and nerve in this case specifically and is without a meaningful strategy when it comes to protecting and promoting minority rights in general. In recent years, the same extremist groups have attacked Serbia’s ethnic Albanian and Muslim communities, and members of the country’s large Romani population are often threatened as well. The strength of extremist organizations, reflected among other ways in the sheer number of people who are prepared to spend their weekends beating up homosexual fellow citizens, is another new element. Barely a few dozen gay-haters showed up in Sarajevo last year; a few hundred hooligans regularly chase participants of gay parades in Zagreb; in Belgrade in 2001 the anti-gay protesters’ numbers were also in the low hundreds. Yet this time police expected thousands.  “We’re not talking about a handful of hooligans – there were several thousand people ready to attack the participants and the police with everything from Molotov cocktails to knives, iron bars, and steel-ball slingshots. They also planned to attack Western embassies,” Interior Minister Ivica Dacic told the daily Blic on 22 September.

The minister may be exaggerating in order to justify what should indeed be termed as a state’s capitulation to extremists. His reference to Western embassies may also be an attempt to counter criticism from Western governments. Yet Dacic in essence paints a realistic picture, not just of the extremists’ numbers, but of their sense of being entitled to set Serbia’s agenda as well. In the aftermath, some ministers went on a quick guilt trip, calling for extremist groups to be outlawed, an option that prosecutors are considering. This is encouraging inasmuch as the issue at hand is a law-enforcement problem. Of course groups campaigning against minorities and inciting violence against them should be banned. It would be even better if the prosecutors started to target individual extremists with more serious charges than in the past, when most ended up charged with, and often found guilty of, relatively minor offenses carrying short prison sentences, after which they were regarded as heroes by their peers. But the problem, of course, is not just about law enforcement. Serbia needs a government that truly wants to lead it toward becoming a more tolerant and inclusive society, not one that just passes legislation required for the country’s integration process with the EU without paying much attention to implementation. The country needs a government capable of providing protection to all minorities with as many police officers in riot gear as any specific case may require. But even more than that, the country needs a government willing to put in place a long-term strategy to truly modernize Serbia and create an environment in which minorities would not necessarily need police protection.
© Transitions Online



21/9/2009- Serbia may ban political groups uttering threats against others, such as ultranationalists whose vociferous opposition led to cancelling a gay rights march, a government official said Monday. Junior justice minister Slobodan Homen told B92 television that authorities were planning to ask Serbia's top court to "ban all organisations that voice threats." He singled out the small ultranationalist group Obraz (Honour) and the Serb Popular Movement 1389. The two had made it clear last week that they were adamantly opposed to a planned gay rights march in the capital Belgrade on Sunday, with Obraz chief Mladen Obradovic warning that organisers would be responsible for what could happen if it went along. Organisers cancelled the event after authorities suggested a different venue away from the city centre for security reasons. Nationalists later hailed the cancellation saying it was a defeat for "infidels and Satanists". Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas on Friday also came out in favour of outlawing "groups and organisations that condone violence". Also speaking on B92 television, Serbian police chief Milorad Veljovic Monday pledged that "stricter measures" would be taken against people who approve violent behaviour. Veljovic said that "37 people were arrested" Sunday after they tried to stage an anti-gay rally in central Belgrade following an appeal by the ultranationalist Serb Popular Movement 1389. Five people would be brought to justice, four had already been sentenced and the others would be fined, he added. Serbian police had turned out in force Sunday to break up the protest. The gay march would have been the first for nearly a decade since the last one in 2001 broke up amid violent clashes with right-wing extremists.



21/9/2009- Serbian police have arrested 35 people who sought to celebrate the cancellation of Belgrade's Pride Parade on Sunday in the city's downtown. Police announced that the head of the right-wing Obraz movement, Mladen Obradovic, and the leader of the National Serbian Movement 1389, Misa Vacic, were among those arrested. Belgrade’s Pride Parade, scheduled for Sunday, was cancelled on Saturday, after the authorities said they could not guarantee participants' safety. "We had a brief meeting this morning with Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, who handed us a paper informing us that the parade was not possible [in central Belgrade] because the risks were too high," a parade organiser, Dragana Vuckovic, told B92 television on Saturday. The cancelled event was the second attempt by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, LGBT, community to march in Belgrade. The first march was suspended in June 2001 when opponents seriously injured several participants and policemen. In March, the Serbian parliament approved a unified Anti-Discrimination Law which prohibits, amongst other things, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status in all areas. There was a heavy police presence in downtown Belgrade after the decision to cancel the march was taken. B92 reports that in their efforts to prevent extremists from gathering, police discovered a set of knuckle-dusters, three smoke boxes, two firecrackers and a large quantity of stones, which were painted red. The head of Serbian police, Milorad Veljovic, said that measures will be taken against those arrested, for disturbing public order and peace. Vacic has been sent to a jail in Padinsko Skela on a 30-day remand, police confirm.
© Balkan Insight



19/9/2009- A Gay Pride march in Serbia has been called off after police told organisers they could not guarantee its safety. One of the organisers said Serbia's prime minister had urged them to switch Sunday's rally from central Belgrade, but the proposal was "unacceptable". President Boris Tadic vowed on Friday to protect the participants. Anti-gay groups had threatened violence if the march were allowed to go ahead. "We're expecting you" posters had been stuck around the Serbian capital. "Pride parades are traditionally organised in the main streets of big cities," said one of the organisers, Dragana Vuckovic. It is "unacceptable" to stage the parade in a "field", she told the media. The decision had been taken after a meeting on Saturday with Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic. Nationalist and religious leaders have opposed a Serbian bill banning discrimination against homosexuals. The ultra-nationalist Serb Popular Movement 1389 hailed the cancellation of Sunday's march as "a great victory for normal Serbia". "In our city infidels and Satanists will not pass," it added. Homosexuality in Serbia is still far from accepted, says the BBC's Mark Lowen in Belgrade. The gay scene is underground and members of the community are regularly the target of discrimination. Belgrade's first gay parade in 2001 descended into chaos amid widespread violence by mobs of protesters - with television images of bleeding participants and police firing rubber bullets broadcast around the world. The organising committee of the planned Sunday march will certainly keep up the pressure, says our correspondent. "The state has failed the fundamental test," it says in a statement. "The next exam period is approaching fast. The Republic of Serbia has capitulated. We have not."
© BBC News



19/9/2009- A gay parade planned to take place in Belgrade on Sunday has been cancelled, due to security concerns. The decision came after a recent wave of homophobic graffiti that has appeared across the city with slogans like "Gay parade - we're waiting for you" and "Death to homosexuals". Past days have seen increased threats from ultra-nationalist groups vowing to stop the parade at all costs. The organisers and city authorities feared a repeat of eight years ago, when Belgrade's first ever gay parade had to be abandoned half-way through due to widespread violence by an angry mob of protesters. Television pictures of bleeding participants and police firing rubber bullets to disperse the crowd were flashed across the globe. Majda Puaca, one of the organisers of this year's event, also took part in 2001. I met her in one of Belgrade's few gay bars - a smoky little venue, tucked away behind the central boulevard. It is a far cry from the very public party scene in the rest of the city, in which the streets are teeming with cafes and nightclubs. This particular place tries hard not to be noticed. "2001 was really scary," Majda says. "I came to the central square and saw all these people. "At first I thought wow, I can't believe that so many people have come to the pride. And then all of a sudden a guy came and punched a girl in front of me. "The policeman was standing just two metres away eating ice cream and not responding. I screamed at the guy 'why did you hit this girl?' and he replied 'she's not a girl, she's a lesbian'."

Homosexuality in Serbia is still far from accepted. The gay scene is underground and members of the community are regularly the target of discrimination. "I can't do just those basic little things, like sitting in the park and holding my girlfriend or kissing her, because I'd be beaten," says Majda. "I think about leaving Serbia all the time. But this is my home." It had taken some time to rebuild the confidence to give the parade another go, but in the end the government felt the threat posed by far-right groups was too great. One of those bodies at the forefront of the protest movement is Obraz, an Orthodox Christian organisation . Mladen Obradovic, 29, is secretary general of Obraz. Over his desk hangs a portrait of the former King of Yugoslavia, Peter I. "All those trying to promote homosexuality as normal or acceptable are the enemies of the Serbian nation," he tells me. "They are trying to destroy our country and our traditional values. We don't want Serbia to become like Holland," he says, grimacing at the thought. "Everybody knows what will happen if the Belgrade pride goes ahead." I ask him if that means violence. He replies: "I said, everybody knows what will happen." Organisers had hoped for political support, but they received very little. Belgrade's Mayor, Dragan Djilas, said recently that he believed sexual orientation should not be paraded.

Church opposition
Opposition had come from Serbia's national church as well, calling the event a "shame parade, not a pride parade". President Boris Tadic had been under pressure to break his silence over the rally. He finally issued a last-minute statement, not supporting it, but saying that the state would offer protection for its citizens, regardless of their religious, sexual or political affiliation. "Too many politicians are just afraid of their votes," says Marko Karadzic, state secretary for human rights. He was one of the few ministers who publicly backed the parade, receiving death threats for his stance, to which the government made no response. "The fact that the pride couldn't go ahead shows that Serbia is still a homophobic society," he says. "We need to make much more effort to clamp down on the groups and individuals inciting attacks." "I want to show that we have moved away from the values we inherited from Slobodan Milosevic, that we have learned from the past that violence is not an option to fight against something you don't understand or aren't willing to understand."

Serbia 'failed'
Serbia is indeed trying hard to shed its image of the 1990s, forged through the Balkan wars, and to present a new face to the world - open, peaceful and accepting of minorities. One of the motors of that change is the desire for European Union membership. Belgrade says it will submit its application for candidacy by the end of the year. The government has an eye on mid-October, when Brussels releases its annual progress report on the country, containing sections on human rights and respect for minorities. Anxious voices in Brussels may now grow louder over the apparent inability of Serbia to hold a peaceful gay pride, particularly after several European embassies had leant the event their support. The Serbian government will want to avoid any move that could jeopardise the country's EU path. Serbia's prime minister has assured the country's gay community that better lines of communication will be established to ensure that the parade can be held in the centre of the city next year. The organising committee will certainly keep up the pressure. "The state has failed the fundamental test," it says in a statement. "The next exam period is approaching fast. The Republic of Serbia has capitulated. We have not."
© BBC News



19/9/2009- The entire board of Poland's influential public television TVP has been sacked, including its head, a former neo-Nazi skinhead whom the government accused of putting a right-wing spin on news. "The TVP board of supervisors has recalled the entire company board including TVP's acting president Piotr Farfal," the public news agency PAP said Saturday. It gave no reasons. Farfal, who once edited a magazine known for anti-Semitic and homophobic views, became acting chief executive last year. The centre-right government and other critics have accused him and other conservative board members of bias in news coverage, including support for anti-European Union groups. It has also accused him of mismanaging public funds. Farfal, 31, says he has renounced earlier sympathies with neo-Nazi ideology, particularly controversial in Poland which lost six million people, about half of them Jewish, during Nazi Germany's wartime occupation. He said the sacking was illegal because supervisors lacked a required quorum after one board member resigned. "Anyone who attempts on the basis of illegal resolutions to introduce chaos and disrupt the company's normal functioning will be taken to court," he said in a statement carried by PAP.
© Reuters



19/9/2009- Slovakia’s Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) keeps pushing the country’s new State Language Act into the centre of national as well as international attention. Only one day after a massive protest was organised in Dunajská Streda in opposition to the law, party representatives travelled to The Hague and, after their return, claimed that they want to help prepare the guidelines to the legislation. A delegation from the SMK met with Knut Vollebaek, the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on September 2 in The Hague. Vollebaek’s office is supposed to assist in the preparation of the procedural guidelines for the State Language Act. After analysing the amendments to the act earlier this summer, Vollebaek’s office concluded that they pursue a legitimate aim and are in line with international standards. Vollebaek also recommended that Slovak lawmakers further consider the terminology of the law as “it doesn’t always seem consistent”. He also wrote that the imposition of fines for violation of the law should, on principle, be avoided and if they are not totally avoided they should be levied only in exceptional circumstances and be regularly monitored, as issuing fines might easily create tensions.

OSCE asks for cooperation with minorities
Upon his return from The Hague, SMK deputy József Berényi called on the Slovak government and the involved ministries to publish all of their correspondence with Vollebaek’s office because he said he believed that the public was not informed in a proper and balanced way about the exchange of correspondence, the SITA newswire reported. Berényi also said that Vollebaek had expressed disappointment over the fact that the State Language Act was passed before parliament had received his opinion, SITA wrote. In his statement for the press on September 3 Vollebaek emphasized that it is important for an appropriate balance to be ensured between strengthening the state language on one hand and protecting the linguistic rights of persons belonging to national minorities on the other. “It is essential that implementation of the Act does not negatively affect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities in Slovakia,” Vollebaek stated, adding that he encouraged both governments to engage in constructive dialogue. “It is also imperative that the next steps are taken in close cooperation with national minority representatives in Slovakia,” he wrote. Vollebaek stated that he will participate in a meeting of the Slovak-Hungarian Joint Commission on Issues of National Minorities and that he will take part in drafting implementation guidelines. “I intend to remain engaged with this matter until it is resolved in a way that all sides accept. I will visit Budapest and Bratislava in mid-September to continue assisting Hungary and Slovakia in resolving their differences,” he concluded.

Misstatement about the law?
After its meeting with the High Commissioner, the SMK also asked the Culture Ministry to involve representatives of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia in the working group assigned to draft the procedural guidelines to the law. The SMK believes the guidelines might help clarify some unclear paragraphs in the law, such as whether people can use a minority language in public offices in municipalities with a minority population over 20 percent and the section concerning fines for incorrectly using the Slovak language. The Culture Ministry reacted negatively, saying that SMK will be invited to cooperate in preparation of the guidelines only if SMK stops “spreading the biggest lies about the law – that ordinary people will be sanctioned for using a minority language, that they will be punished for speaking Hungarian to the doctor and that inscriptions on graves will have to change,” the ministry’s spokesperson, Jozef Bednár, told SITA. Meanwhile, the Sme daily reported on September 4 that Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai had misspoken about the language act. “Why is it necessary in 21st century Europe to bother and fine people, the citizens of the Slovak Republic, when they want to talk to their physician in their mother tongue or they want to hear the mass in Hungarian?” Bajnai reportedly said. However, the State Language Act does not deal with the language of masses, Sme wrote. Bajnai is expected to meet with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico on September 10 in the northern Hungarian town of Szécsény. “The prime minister believes that it wasn’t [Bajnai’s] intention to spread mendacious information about Slovakia,” Fico’s spokesperson Silvia Glendová said, but adding that Fico was very unpleasantly surprised by the apparent gaps in the Hungarian side’s knowledge of the act.

No fines without the guidelines
The Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry is organising the meeting between the prime ministers with the hope to start a constructive dialogue between the two countries. In this light, they see SMK’s meeting with Vollebaek positively. “From SMK’s statements after the meeting it is clear that they did not manage to cast doubts on the essence of his [Vollebaek’s] report,” the ministry’s spokesperson, Peter Stano, told SITA. “The ministry now expects that SMK will consider this fact when they next address the law.”  A Slovak delegation met Vollebaek on July 21 to discuss the amendment. This was followed a day later by a Hungarian delegation. Vollebaek said he would continue to remain engaged in the matter with a view to providing a possible venue for the two sides to address matters of mutual concern in a way that promotes the interests of minority communities and enhances friendly relations between the two countries, according to the OSCE press department. The Slovak Culture Ministry has said that the guidelines for the law should be ready by January 2010 and until then the ministry will not issue any fines for violating the State Language Act, SITA wrote.
© The Slovak Spectator



25/9/2009- A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a fundamentalist Kansas church's protest outside the funeral of a Westminster Marine killed in Iraq is protected speech and did not violate the privacy of the service member's family, reversing a lower court's $5 million award. The ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., held that the signs and writings of the Westboro Baptist Church, which included anti-gay and anti-military messages, are protected by the First Amendment. The Topeka-based congregation has protested at military funerals across the country. "Notwithstanding the distasteful and repugnant nature of the words being challenged in these proceedings, we are constrained to conclude that the defendants' signs and [what it has on its Web sites] are constitutionally protected," Circuit Court Judge Robert B. King wrote in the majority opinion. Margie Jean Phelps, an attorney for Westboro and the daughter of the church's leader, said "it was an absolute shame to have a little church put on trial because of your religious beliefs." "Everyone knows that we didn't disrupt a funeral," said Phelps, daughter of the Rev. Fred W. Phelps Sr. "Our speech, on our signs and our Web sites, is public speech. It's not on private matters. It's on public issues, so it's protected."

Sean E. Summers, an attorney for Albert Snyder, of York, Pa., the dead Marine's father, said he will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. "The most troubling fact is that it essentially leaves grieving families helpless," said Summers. "There are a lot people sending their kids over to war, and unfortunately, they're not all coming back. You would think that at least we could offer them dignity and respect." Summers said that Albert Snyder would not comment on the decision. At trial, Snyder testified, "I had one chance to bury my son, and they took the dignity away from it." Fred Phelps, two other adults and four children picketed the March 10, 2006, funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, holding signs that said, "Thank God for dead soldiers," and wrote on the church's Web site that Snyder's parents "taught Matthew to defy his creator." Matthew Snyder, a 2003 graduate of Westminster High School, was 20 years old and had been in the war zone for less than a month when he was killed in a vehicle accident in Anbar province. Westboro church members believe soldiers are being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan as punishment for what they say is the nation's tolerance of homosexuality. The church has about 75 members, most of whom are related to Phelps.

Albert Snyder sued Fred Phelps and two of his daughters, Rebecca Phelps-Davis and Shirley Phelps-Roper, for invasion of privacy and emotional distress. In October 2007, a federal jury in Baltimore awarded the father nearly $11 million, ruling that the family's privacy had been invaded. In February 2008, a federal judge reduced the damages from $10.9 million to $5 million, citing constitutional concerns of appropriateness. "The amount was set with a goal, and the goal was to silence us," said Margie Jean Phelps. "In this country, you don't get to claim damage over words you don't agree with. ... Because we've trained a nation of crybabies doesn't mean we change the law."
© The Baltimore Sun



By Michael Gerson

25/9/2009- The transformation of Germany in the 1920s and '30s from the nation of Goethe to the nation of Goebbels is a specter that haunts, or should haunt, every nation. The triumph of Nazi propaganda in this period is the subject of a remarkable exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (where I serve on the governing board). Germany in the 1920s was a land of broad literacy and diverse politics, boasting 146 daily newspapers in Berlin alone. Yet in the course of a few years, a fringe party was able to define a national community by scapegoating internal enemies; elevate a single, messianic leader; and keep the public docile with hatred while the state committed unprecedented crimes. The adaptive use of new technology was central to this achievement. The Nazis pioneered voice amplification at rallies, the distribution of recorded speeches and the sophisticated targeting of poster art toward groups and regions. But it was radio that proved the most powerful tool. The Nazis worked with radio manufacturers to provide Germans with free or low-cost "people's receivers." This new technology was disorienting, taking the public sphere, for the first time, into private places -- homes, schools and factories. "If you tuned in," says Steve Luckert, curator of the exhibit, "you heard strangers' voices all the time. The style had a heavy emphasis on emotion, tapping into a mass psychology. You were bombarded by information that you were unable to verify or critically evaluate. It was the Internet of its time."

This comparison to the Internet is apt. The Nazis would have found much to admire in the adaptation of their message on neo-Nazi, white supremacist and Holocaust-denial Web sites. But the challenge of this technology is not merely an isolated subculture of hatred. It is a disorienting atmosphere in which information is difficult to verify or critically evaluate, the rules of discourse are unclear, and emotion -- often expressed in CAPITAL LETTERS -- is primary. User-driven content on the Internet often consists of bullying, conspiracy theories and racial prejudice. The absolute freedom of the medium paradoxically encourages authoritarian impulses to intimidate and silence others. The least responsible contributors see their darkest tendencies legitimated and reinforced, while serious voices are driven away by the general ugliness. Ethicist Clive Hamilton calls this a "belligerent brutopia." "The Internet should represent a great flourishing of democratic participation," he argues. "But it doesn't. . . . The brutality of public debate on the Internet is due to one fact above all -- the option of anonymity. The belligerence would not be tolerated if the perpetrators' identities were known because they would be rebuffed and criticized by those who know them. Free speech without accountability breeds dogmatism and confrontation."

This destructive disinhibition is disturbing in itself. It also allows hatred to invade respected institutional spaces on the Internet, gaining for these ideas a legitimacy denied to fringe Web sites. After the Bernard Madoff scandal broke, for example, major newspaper sites included user-generated content such as "Find a Jew who isn't Crooked" and "Just another jew money changer thief" -- sentiments that newspapers would not have printed as letters to the editor. Postings of this kind regularly attack immigrants and African Americans, recycle centuries of anti-Semitism and deny the events of the Holocaust as a massive Jewish lie. Legally restricting such content -- apart from prosecuting direct harassment and threats against individuals or incitement to violence -- is impossible. In America, the First Amendment protects blanket statements of bigotry. But this does not mean that popular news sites, along with settings such as Facebook and YouTube, are constitutionally required to provide forums for bullies and bigots. As private institutions, they are perfectly free to set rules against racism and hatred. This is not censorship; it is the definition of standards.

Some online institutions, such as The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, screen user comments before posting them. Others, such as The Post and The Wall Street Journal, rely on readers to identify objectionable content -- a questionable strategy because numbness to abusiveness and hatred on the Internet is part of the challenge. Whatever the method, no reputable institution should allow its publishing capacity, in print or online, to be used as the equivalent of the wall of a public bathroom stall. The exploitation of technology by hatred will never be eliminated. But hatred must be confined to the fringes of our culture -- as the hatred of other times should have been.
© The Washington Post



24/9/2009- The OSCE has made strides in promoting gender equality and mainstreaming gender in its programmes and projects but further work is needed, found a report presented to the OSCE's participating States today.  The OSCE's annual evaluation report on implementation of the 2004 Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality, which was presented to the Permanent Council by OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, noted achievements in recruitment, mainstreaming and the promotion of gender equality in priority fields in participating States. According to the report, women now account for 24 percent of senior manager positions, an increase from 19 percent last year. Among the professional staff, the OSCE has achieved almost full parity with women holding 45 percent of all professional posts. "This result is admirable, but we need to carry on our concerted efforts to consolidate this positive trend in 2010 and beyond," said de Brichambaut.

Under the Action Plan, which was adopted by all 56 participating states, the OSCE makes gender equality between men and women a priority when it comes to the staffing and work environment in OSCE's executive structures, to the formulation of policies and the implementation of field projects. While the report noted the commitment shown by the OSCE's executive structures on improving the share of women in the OSCE, the continued mainstreaming of gender across themes of the three dimensions of the Organization's security work remains a pressing challenge. The report also underscored the need for sustained commitment from the participating States. "The participating States of the OSCE need to share responsibility to build on and surpass our current achievements, especially when it comes to nominating more women for senior positions," said Ambassador Mara Marinaki of Greece. Gender equality and gender mainstreaming are priorities of the 2009 Greek OSCE Chairmanship.



22/9/2009- Representatives of governments and civil society from the 56 OSCE participating States will gather in Warsaw on Monday to begin a two-week meeting that will review the progress made in implementing the commitments adopted by governments in the field of human rights and democracy. Some 1000 participants from across the OSCE region are expected to attend the "Human Dimension Implementation Meeting", Europe's largest human rights conference. Former Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski will deliver a key-note address to open the conference, organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The meeting scrutinizes achievements made by participating States in honouring their human rights commitments, including in areas such as freedom of assembly and other fundamental freedoms, democratic elections, prevention of torture, the rule of law, and tolerance and non-discrimination. This year's meeting will feature special sessions on freedom of expression and free media, early education for Roma and Sinti children, and human rights education. The conference will play an important role in setting the OSCE's human rights agenda ahead of the Ministerial Council meeting in Athens in December and Kazakhstan's forthcoming chairmanship of the Organization in 2010.

The meeting is unique in that civil society groups have full access to working sessions and can discuss challenges with government representatives on an equal footing. On the margins of the meeting, more than 50 side events organized by governments, civil society groups and OSCE institutions and missions, will highlight specific topics of concern and country situations. Senior OSCE representatives, including the OSCE's top human rights representative, ODIHR Director Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, the OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, and the OSCE Secretary General, Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, will take part in the opening session. Journalists are invited to attend the opening session, which will begin at 10:00 on Monday, 28 September, in Hotel Victoria, ul. Krolewska, Warsaw, as well as all regular working sessions and side events. The agenda, daily updates, interviews with participants and short summaries of events in English and Russian as well as other information will be available on the conference website



21/9/2009- Bulgarian career diplomat Irina Bokova won the top job at the UN culture agency Tuesday after a race clouded by anti-Semitism accusations against her Egyptian culture minister rival, UNESCO officials said. The former foreign minister was elected director general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation after five rounds of voting by its executive council that finally eliminated her main rival Faruq Hosni. Hosni, an abstract painter who is currently Egypt's culture minister, has been dogged by anti-Semitism accusations after saying last year that he would burn Israeli books. Bokova paid tribute to her defeated rival, praising him for the friendship and respect he had shown her. "I said to the Egyptian delegation that I hope that we will be together and that I never believed in the idea of a clash of civilisations," she told reporters at the Paris headquarters of the UN body. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov told AFP in Sofia that "this is really unexpected and a huge victory for a small country like Bulgaria." Israel, which did not oppose Hosni's candidacy, praised Bokova for her victory. "Israel welcomes the election and is convinced that fruitful cooperation with UNESCO will continue and even be reinforced," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

A French foreign ministry statement said Bokova was "a woman of conviction" who has "international experience that will be particularly useful to fulfil UNESCO's ambitious mandate." But Egyptian writers' union leader Mohammed Salmawy slammed the result. "The Jewish lobby has put a great deal of pressure and taken some statements made by the minister, put them out of context and made them political," he said. The vote by UNESCO's 58-nation executive council gave 31 votes to Bokova and 27 to Hosni, officials said. Bokova is a former communist turned europhile who has represented Bulgaria on UNESCO's board since 2007 and is also ambassador to France and Monaco. When she takes over from Japan's Koichiro Matsuura -- after her appointment is endorsed next month by UNESCO's 193-member assembly -- she will become the body's first woman boss and its first from the former Soviet bloc. The multilingual 57-year-old, who helped draft her country's new constitution after the fall of Communism, served briefly as foreign minister in 1996-1997 and has worked at UN headquarters in New York.

Nine candidates were in the running when UNESCO's council began voting last Thursday, including European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who was seen as a favourite. But they dropped out one by one until only Bokova and Hosni were left. Hosni's supporters had said his election as the first Arab head of UNESCO, which has a mandate to promote global understanding through culture, science and education, would send a positive signal from the West to the Muslim world. But his detractors, who include Auschwitz survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, said his appointment would "shame" the global community. In his lengthy political career, Hosni has often been accused of promoting anti-Semitism, in particular in 2008 when he told the Egyptian parliament: "I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt." Hosni, who has been Egypt's culture minister for 22 years, insists his comment was made during an angry exchange with hardliners from the Muslim Brotherhood and had been taken out of context. Khattar Abu Diab, a political scientist at the University of Paris III, told Egyptian television that "Arab, African and third world states must look at this (Hosni's defeat) as a challenge directed at them."  Other contenders for the UNESCO job included Lithuania's UNESCO ambassador Ina Marciulionyte, Benin ambassador Noureini Tidjani-Serpos, former Algerian foreign minister Mohammed Bedjaoui and Russian ex-deputy foreign minister Alexander Yakovenko.


Headlines 18 September, 2009


Nagorno-Karabakh and genocide claims could divide Armenian public opinion on the diplomatic breakthrough.

17/9/2009- The tentative Armenian-Turkish plan for diplomatic normalization has sparked Armenia’s oldest political party, the nationalist-oriented Armenian Revolutionary Federation, to take to the streets with sit-down protests and hunger strikes. Public support for the party’s criticism that the Armenian government risks selling out Armenia’s national security interests appears to be spreading, even though it remains far from uniform. Bearing red party flags and banners proclaiming “Don’t forget, don’t surrender, let’s rebel!” 74 party activists, including 24 hunger strikers, kicked off their campaign in front of the Foreign Ministry and the prime minister’s office in downtown Yerevan on 15 September. The protests will continue until the end of the six-week period envisaged for discussion of the protocols within Armenia and Turkey before the documents’ ratification, the party’s TV ads state. President Serzh Sargsyan plans to start consultations on the protocols on 17 September with the leaders of Armenia’s major political parties. Supporters claim that the 31 August protocols imply that Armenia should recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, accept the current Armenian-Turkish state border, and, by agreeing to “implement a dialogue on the historical dimension,” potentially backtrack on the country’s longstanding demand for international recognition of Ottoman Turkey’s 1915 mass slaughter of ethnic Armenians as genocide.

The documents, however, make no such specifications on these topics. Written in broad language, they commit the two sides to opening their joint border within two months of the protocols’ ratification and to establishing bilateral government commissions to work on expanding cooperation in fields ranging from education to energy. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has emphasized in media interviews that border recognition is the first step in the reconciliation process, but the protocols do not mention border recognition. That, however, does nothing to reassure many Armenians. “We will fight until the end since [the protocols signed with Turkey] contradict our national interests,” one male protestor in his late 20s told EurasiaNet. “We will do everything that promotes our national interests.” Statements from Turkish government officials that the border will not open until Armenia and Azerbaijan make progress in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict suggest that attention on the Karabakh issue will increase in the coming months, opined political analyst Yervand Bozoian. “That’s the most dangerous thing,” he said.

The governing Republican Party of Armenia counters that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation is using the protest to score self-interested political points. The 119-year-old party left Armenia’s coalition government in April in protest at President Sargsyan’s Turkey policy. “The Armenian Revolutionary Federation and other political forces have the right to choose what way to fight,” commented Republican Party parliamentarian Eduard Sharmazanov, the party’s spokesperson. “Any preconditions from Turkey are unacceptable for us.” Other members of the governing coalition have echoed those comments. “I think we just need good will and courage. We see it in the actions of this president [Sargsyan]. We’ll help the president to settle this issue,” declared Heghine Bisharian, head of the Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) parliamentary faction. But many Armenians do not see any manifestation of “good will” in the protocols’ provisions. “Turks are so cunning, they will do everything to serve their interests. We know it perfectly well,” asserted 70-year-old Anzhela Garanian, whose parents survived the 1915 slaughter. “How can I believe in their sincerity when I have heard all these stories from my father?”

Philologist Mkrtich Hambardzumian similarly equates the Turkey of the Ottoman past with the Turkey of the present. He takes issue with Turkish assertions that Turkey’s border with Armenia cannot be reopened until Armenian forces withdraw from Azerbaijani territory surrounding Karabakh. “What are we talking about? Turkey forgetting its bloody history now tries to interfere with the Karabakh issue,” he fumed. “I’m not a political scientist, but the protocol is worrying.” Suspicion in Yerevan about Turkey’s motives is far from universal, however. Some passers-by at the protest commented on the irony of a former government coalition member now staging hunger strikes to block a government policy. Other Yerevan residents said protestors should consider the future. “I don’t say we need to forget the past,” said 25-year-old designer Emma Babaian. “But two neighbors cannot live with closed borders forever. Bilateral relations will help Armenia economically and will offer an alternative route to Europe.” The protests are not limited to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The Heritage Party, the only opposition party represented in parliament, has written Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian about holding a referendum on the protocols. Earlier, Heritage Party leaders proposed a vote of confidence in the president, and a petition to the Constitutional Court. On 15 September, the party called on all members of parliament to appeal for “radical” changes in the protocols.

“The development of Armenian-Turkish relations cannot directly or indirectly be linked to the establishment of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic,” asserted the Heritage Party’s parliamentary faction secretary, Larisa Alaverdian. Meanwhile, Suren Surenyants, a senior supporter of ex-President Levon Ter-Petrosian, the head of Armenia’s main opposition coalition, argues that Turkey wants to take on a leadership role in the South Caucasus, and will, therefore, try to play the role of an impartial mediator on Karabakh. The documents pose no danger to Armenia, he continued. Those casting doubt on Turkey perhaps are trying to conceal their own private agenda, he hinted. “Political groups should be sincere,” he said. “Either we want [to establish] diplomatic relations [with Turkey], which means we need these protocols, or we do not.”
© Eurasia Net



17/9/2009- Roma thrown out of Serbian capital after authorities bulldozed their slum are left to fend for themselves in remote regional town. In a 15-square-meter cottage, close by a filthy toilet, Ferando Kamberi, aged one, light-heartedly slurps while finishing his bottle of milk. His brother, Ornando, aged four, stands right next to him, taking his last bite of a slice of bread and pate. The three other children in the family observe Fernando and Orlando with envy. They are surely disappointed, as no food will be left for them. “We eat, sleep and relieve ourselves in the same place – seven of us sharing one blanket while sleeping,” says Nevzadija Kamberi, mother of the unhappy brood. “There is no need for a toilet or bath tub since there is no running water. We expect an epidemic to break out.” Such is the ironic fate of one Roma family, deported from the so-called “cardboard city” settlement under the Gazela bridge in Belgrade, after the city obtained a 3-million-euro loan from the European Bank to reconstruct the bridge. The Roma from under the bridge were simply packed onto buses on August 31 and sent off to towns all over the country. Bulldozers destroyed the illegal slum, once home to several hundred Roma families, in front of their very eyes.

Officials in Vranje say about 13 of the families, numbering 69 persons in total, were sent 360 kilometres south to their town, close to the border with Kosovo and Macedonia. They were only some of the total number that was expelled. Those registered with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy received compensation of 200,000 dinars, worth 2,200 euros. Those not on the Ministry records are in a far worse position, with no compensation payment and no social worker to take care of them. Despair marks Kamberi’s face as she recalls the events of recent years. Searching for a better life, she moved to Belgrade 10 years ago. There she had a family, which has since struggled to survive. Since August 31, they have lived on the hill above Vranje in a hut with no water or electricity. They are non-existent citizens in the eyes of the Labour Ministry. Kamberi says staff from the local Social Work Centre and the municipality met them in Vranje. “At first, they gave us shelter along with 2,000 dinars for necessities. We spent a night there but then were left on our own,” she says.  “What do we do now? We live under a sheet metal roof with no road nearby and no water, electricity and food. It’s been two weeks since we got here and we haven’t taken a shower.”

Kamberi’s children ought to be going to school soon but Irinka hesitates about letting them attend in such poor condition. “It would be shameful to go to school like this – dirty, with lice, hungry, without basic school equipment as they don’t even have a pencil.” Nurija Zecirova is fractionally luckier. She received a one-off relocation payment of 200,000 dinars from the state as one of the 13 “registered” Roma deportee families. “We got it to cover urgent lodging but as soon as we have gone through the money we’ll have nothing to live off,” she says. “My husband has heart disease while my 14-year-old boy digs potatoes for a living instead of going to school.” Her family also lives in a cottage on the hill above the town. A fire burns in front of the hovel where underwear is boiled and rinsed. Wood for the fire is taken from the mountain. Her neighbour, Kenan Kamberi, explains why he refused to register with the authorities in Belgrade. “Those who registered in Belgrade have got 200,000 dinars per family. But we didn’t do that since some people in Belgrade were making a real business from it. They would register you as a resident at their address and then demand 300 or 500 euros from you in return.”

Almost all of the Roma sent to Vranje from Belgrade used to collect and sell secondary raw materials for a living. “Basically, we cleaned up Belgrade, which then expelled us in the end,” said Kenan Kamberi. “We’d like to do the same thing here [in Vranje] but we are not even allowed.” Not one of them has found a job. In impoverished Vranje, where ten percent of the 80,000 population are without a job, there are fresh lay-offs every day. The prospects for the marginalised Roma from Gazela in Belgrade are hopeless. The situation is especially tough for the elderly. Among the expelled Roma is 65-year-old Zulifi Kamberi whose face bears traces of a difficult life. “I’m not educated but it doesn’t mean I’m stupid,” he says, standing next to the rusty stove in front of his hovel. “I’m an old, tired, man who is sick, winter is approaching and I don’t have a single branch to light the fire,” he says. “I’ve been smoking for 50 years and I cannot even afford a packet of cigarettes”. Branimir Stojancic, the official from the Vranje local government responsible for social issues, says the municipality does all it can to help these people, although it doesn’t have precise data on how many people actually came from Belgrade. “To the 13 families with complete social data, the Ministry has given some 200,000 dinars per family but they weren’t the only ones that came, as Roma were coming from Belgrade the whole night,” he says.

Stojancic says the local authority will help all the families that are proved to have originated from the town of Vranje. “To those from Vranje and who meet all the legal requirements we will provide financial security,” he insisted. “They will receive up to 20,000 dinars a month, depending on their financial situation and their integration into the social welfare system.” Stojancic said local governments were now responsible for the fate of the expelled Roma from Belgrade. “We will make all the efforts we can but this problem will last because it’s a long-lasting one,” he said.
© Balkan Insight



By Zoltán Csipke

18/9/2009- Despite the recent relative quiet this past week, longtime visitors to this site (and the other All Hungary sites) have probably noticed that over the previous year, the nature of the comments left here has become increasingly vulgar and far-right in spirit. As it turns out, we're not the only ones under siege. In an opinion piece in the August 27th issue of moderate-right weekly Heti Válász, István Dévényi commented how over the previous year, the far-right has infested online forums with Jobbik propaganda. Anyone who doesn't believe the country is being sold to the highest bidder is Jewish, anyone not willing to slur Gypsies must be a Gypsy themselves, and if you don't hate the gays, that means you must be gay yourself, among other allegations. Dévényi added his opinion that he doesn't believe Jobbik itself is behind this, but that it is the party's followers organizing this campaign to drown out debate so that only their voices are heard.

It's no secret that Heti Válasz supports Fidesz, but the fact that some in the right-leaning media are becoming disgusted by these recent developments is worth noting. Some might suggest that Fidesz via Heti Válasz is trying to point the blame for these commenters onto Jobbik, but it's fair to state that these types of comments are not being left by disgruntled Free Democrat supporters. To those who believe these comments are left by government agents pretending to be the far-right to gain support for those currently in power, if that is the case, it certainly hasn't helped them. And while I'm expecting that this post will receive a flood of comments, most of which will degenerate into name calling and not even be related to this post itself (aside from proving the points made in Dévényi's article) we're already working on something that will still allow people to give a piece of their mind, while keeping things a lot more civil like they used to be, hopefully to be implemented soon.
© Politics Hungary



The governing Conservative Party has dropped its proposal for a ban on the burka.

17/9/2009- A controversial proposal fielded by the governing Danish Conservative Party to ban the Muslim burka and niqab in the public space has been dropped after Justice Ministry officials have studied the idea. ”The Justice Ministry officials have said that in their view, the proposal raises important issues in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Constitution,” says Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen (Cons). ”It’s obvious that neither I, nor a party such as the Conservative People’s Party, can support a proposal that raises that sort of legal issue,” says Mikkelsen.

Controversy arose on the issue after the Conservative Party’s new integration spokesman announced in August that the party, which is the junior minority coalition party, wanted to introduce a total ban on Muslim burkas or niqabs in the public space. “We don’t want to see burkas in Denmark. We simply can’t accept that some of our citizens walk around with their faces covered,” MP Naser Khader (Cons) said at the time. More recently a report on said that Khader had told two reporters from Jyllands-Posten that the ban should include domestic situations, but the editor of the centre-right newspaper demanded new contacts with the Conservative Party, after which Khader’s quotes were amended. Several other parties supported the idea of a ban, although the Social Democratic Party, after initially wholeheartedly supporting the proposal, changed its mind, saying a ban could be unconstitutional.

Working group
Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen says that instead, he looks forward to a report from a working group that the government has set up to look into how the use of the burka can be stemmed by other means. ”The burka represents an oppressive view of women and humanity which the government does not feel has a place in Denmark. So the government has set up a fast-working burka group to study the issue and I am looking forward to its findings,” says Mikkelsen.



Wave of Homophobia Sweeps the Muslim World

17/9/2009- In most Islamic countries, gay men and women are ostracized, persecuted and in some cases even murdered. Repressive regimes are often fanning the flames of hatred in a bid to outdo Islamists when it comes to spreading "moral panic." Bearded men kidnapped him in the center of Baghdad, threw him into a dark hole, chained him down, urinated on him, and beat him with an iron pipe. But the worst moment for Hisham, 40, came on the fourth day of his ordeal when the kidnappers called his family. He was terrified they would tell his mother that he is gay and that this was the reason they had kidnapped him. If they did he would never be able to see his family again. The shame would be unbearable for them. "Do what you want to me, but don't tell them," he screamed. Instead of humiliating him in the eyes of his family, the kidnappers demanded a ransom of $50,000 (€33,000), a huge sum for the average Iraqi family. His parents had to go into debt and sell off all of their son's possessions in order to raise the money required to secure his freedom. Shortly after they received the ransom the kidnappers threw Hisham out of their car somewhere in the northern part of Baghdad. They decided not to shoot him and let him go. But they sent him on his way with a warning: "This is your last chance. If we ever see you again, we'll kill you." That was four months ago. Hisham has since moved to Lebanon. He told his family that he had decided to flee the violence and terror in Baghdad and that he had found work in Beirut. Needless to say he didn't disclose the fact that he is unable to live in Iraq because of the death squads who are out hunting for "effeminate-looking" men. In Baghdad a new series of murders began early this year, perpetrated against men suspected of being gay. Often they are raped, their genitals cut off, and their anuses sealed with glue. Their bodies are left at landfills or dumped in the streets. The non-profit organization Human Rights Watch, which has documented many of these crimes, has spoken of a systematic campaign of violence involving hundreds of murders.

Restoring 'Religious Morals'
A video clip showing men dancing with each other at a party in Baghdad in the summer of 2008 is thought to have triggered this string of kidnappings, rapes, and murders. Thousands of people have seen it on the Internet and on their cell phones. Islamic religious leaders began ranting about the growing presence of a "third sex" which American soldiers were said to have brought in with them. The followers of radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, in particular, felt the need to take action aimed at restoring "religious morals." In their stronghold, the part of Baghdad known as Sadr City, black-clad militiamen patrol the streets, on the lookout for anyone whose "unmanly appearance" or behavior would make it possible to identify them as being homosexual. Often enough long hair, tight-fitting t-shirts and trousers, or a certain way of walking were a death sentence for the persons in question. But it's not just the Mahdi army who has been hunting down and killing gay men. Other groups such as Sunni militias close to al-Qaida and the Iraqi security services are also known to be involved. Homosexuals in Iraq may be faced with an exceptionally dangerous situation but they are ostracized almost everywhere in the Muslim world. Gay rights organizations estimate that more than 100,000 gay men and women are currently being discriminated against and threatened in Muslim countries. Thousands of them commit suicide, end up in prison, or go into hiding.

Egypts Starts to Clamp Down
More than 30 Islamic countries have laws on the books that prohibit homosexuality and make it a criminal offense. In most cases punishment ranges from floggings to life imprisonment. In Mauritania, Bangladesh, Yemen, parts of Nigeria and Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Iran convicted homosexuals can also be sentenced to death. In those Muslim countries where homosexuality is not against the law gay men and women are nonetheless persecuted, arrested, and in some cases murdered. Although long known for its open gay scene, Egypt has recently started to clamp down hard. The lives of homosexuals are monitored by a kind of vice squad who tap telephones and recruit informants. As soon as the police have accumulated the kind of evidence they need they charge their victims with "debauchery." In Malaysia homosexuality has been used as a political weapon. In 2000 opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sentenced to nine years in prison for allegedly committing "sodomy" with his wife's chauffeur as well as with a former speechwriter. In 2004 the conviction was overturned on appeal and he was acquitted. In the summer of 2008 charges were filed against him in a similar case when a male aide accused him of sodomy. The case is still ongoing.

For a while Anwar was the favorite of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and was being groomed to succeed him in that office until they had a falling out in 1998. Ten years and some prison time later, on August 28, 2008, Anwar managed to be sworn in again as a member of the Malaysian parliament. But that's as far as he has got with his political comeback. Even in liberal Lebanon homosexuals run the risk of being sentenced to a year in prison. On the other hand, Beirut has the only gay and lesbian organization in the Arab world (Helem, which means 'dream' in Arabic). There are posters on the walls of the Helem office in downtown Beirut providing information on AIDS and tips on how to deal with homophobia. The existence of Helem is being tolerated for the time being but the Interior Ministry has yet to grant it an official permit. "And it's hard to imagine that we ever will be given one," says Georges Azzi, the organization's managing director.

Islamists Are the Dominant Cultural Force
In Istanbul there is a free gay scene, a Christopher Street Day, and even religious Muslims are among the fans of transsexual pop diva Bülent Ersoy and the late gay singer Zeki Müren. But outside the world of show business it is considered both a disgrace and an illness to be a götveren or "queen." In the Turkish army homosexuality is cause for failing a medical test. To identify anyone trying to use homosexuality as an excuse to get out of military service, army doctors ask to see photos or videos showing the recruits engaging in sex with a man. And they have to be in the "passive" role. In Turkey being in the active role is considered manly enough not to be proof of homosexuality. It looks as if a wave of homophobia has swept over the Islamic world, a place that was once widely known for its openmindedness, where homoerotic literature was written and widely read, where gender roles were not so narrowly defined, and, as in the days of ancient Greece, where men often sought the companionship of youths. Islamists are now a dominant cultural force in many of these countries. They include figures such as popular Egyptian television preacher Yussuf al-Qaradawi who demonizes gays as perverse. Four years ago Shiite grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa saying that gays are to be murdered in the most brutal way possible. These religious opinion leaders base their hatred for gays on the story of Lot in the Koran: "Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds." Lot's people suffered the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. The Prophet Muhammad has a number of dicta in which he condemns these acts by Lot's people and in one of them he even goes as far as to call for punishment by death.

European Prudery Exported to the Colonies
The story of Lot and related verses in the Koran were not interpreted as unambiguous references to homosexual sex until the 20th century, says Everett Rowson, professor of Islamic Studies at New York University. This reinterpretation was the result of Western influences -- its source was the prudery of European colonialists who introduced their conception of sexual morality to the newly conquered countries. The fact of the matter is that half of the laws across the world that prohibit homosexuality today are derived from a single law that the British enacted in India in 1860. "Many attitudes with regard to sexual morality that are thought to be identical to Islam owe a lot more to Queen Victoria than to the Koran," Rowson says. More than anything, it is the politicization of Islam that has led to the persecution of gays today. Sexual morals are no longer a private matter. They are regulated and instrumentalized by governments.

Part 2: 'Regimes Want to Control the Private Lives of Citizens'

"The most repressive are secular regimes such as those in Egypt or Morocco which are under pressure from Islamists and so try to outdo them with regard to morals," says Scott Long of Human Rights Watch. "In addition the persecution of homosexuals shows that a regime has control over the private lives of its citizens -- a sign of power and authority." For several years now a sense of "moral panic" has been systematically fomented in many Muslim countries. Iran is a case in point, where homosexuals have been persecuted on a more or less regular basis since the Islamic revolution. Since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been in office there has definitely been an increase in this persecution despite the fact that Ahmadinejad never grows tired of emphasizing that there are no homosexuals in his country. The mere suspicion that someone may have committed "unnatural acts" is enough for that person to be sentenced to a flogging in Iran. If caught more than once, the person in question can be sentenced to death. According to official statistics, 148 homosexuals have been given a death sentence and executed thus far. The true figure is doubtless much larger than this. The last case of this kind to attract public attention was that of 21-year-old Makwan Moludsade, who was hanged in December 2007. He was accused of having raped three boys several years earlier. Homosexuals are almost always charged with other crimes such as rape, fraud, or robbery in order to be better able to justify their execution.

'If I Had Stayed, They Would Have Killed Me'
As a result of this situation thousands of gays and lesbians have fled Iran. For most of them the first port of call is Turkey. "I had no choice but to flee," says Ali, a 32-year-old physician. "If I had stayed, they would have killed me." Ali was careful. He rarely went to parties, he used different Internet cafés for online chat sessions, and he didn't let anyone in on his secret, not even the members of his family knew. Everything went well until one day his friend's father caught them kissing. Two days later Ali lost his job at the hospital and then he was hit by a car, in what seemed to be a deliberate attack. Shortly after that he received a telephone call telling him: "We want to see you hang." What he hadn't known was that his friend's father was a high-ranking member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Ali went to the bank, withdrew his savings, and took a train to Turkey, where he applied for asylum. Since then he has lived in a tiny apartment in Kayseri, Central Anatolia, one of 35 gay Iranian exiles in that city. Arsham Parsi, 29, from Shiraz, fled Iran four years ago. A slight man with a fluffy beard and glasses, he was one of the most wanted men in Iran for several years after creating the country's first gay network in 2001. Its members only communicated with each other by e-mail and very few people knew his real name. But in the end his identity was still revealed. Parsi managed to get away but it was a close call. He got a visa for Canada, where he founded the "Iranian Queer Organization", which now has 6,000 members in Iran. They include numerous transsexuals or persons who consider themselves to be transsexuals. Parsi estimates that "Nearly half of all sex-change operations are requested by homosexuals."

Sex-Change Operations Booming in Iran
The persecution of gays has led to a boom in demand for sex-change operations in Iran. More operations of this kind are carried out in the Islamic Republic than anywhere else in the world apart from Thailand. These procedures were approved by Ayatollah Khomeini himself in 1983. Khomeini defined transsexuality as a disease that can be healed by means of an operation. Since then thousands of people have requested this kind of treatment and the Iranian government even covers part of the costs. "Family members and physicians urge homosexuals to have operations to normalize their sexual orientation," Parsi says. This way it was possible for a high-ranking Shiite religious scholar to finance his secretary's physical transformation into a woman and then to marry him. The archconservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country where sharia law is the sole legal code, under which homosexuals are flogged and executed. "homosexuals are freer here than they are in Iran," says Afdhere Jama, who traveled through the Islamic world for seven years doing research for his book "Illegal Citizens." Gay men and women have a surprising amount of space in Saudi society. Newspapers print stories about lesbian sex in school lavatories, while it is an open secret that certain shopping centers, restaurants, and bars in Jeddah and Riyadh are gay meeting points. "There are numerous Saudi men who have sexual relationships with youths before they are married or when their wives are pregnant," Jama says. In these cases having sex with another male is often the only way of having sex at all. Extramarital affairs with women are nearly impossible. "In the West the men in question would be considered gay, but in countries like Saudi Arabia it is harder to categorize them," Jama notes. Most Muslims have trouble understanding the Western concept of "gay identity." In their countries there is no such thing as a gay lifestyle or a gay movement.

Cultural and Political Factors
Daayiee Abdullah, 55, is an imam. He wears a prayer cap, has a beard -- and is gay. He is one of only two imams in the world who are openly gay. He voluntarily chose to follow the path of Islam. Raised as a Baptist in Detroit, he made friends with Chinese Muslims while studying in Beijing and then converted to Islam. "They told me it would be no problem for me as a gay man to be a good Muslim." Imam Abdullah and many others along with him have a somewhat different interpretation of the story of Lot. According to them, those whom God condemned were not homosexuals but rapists and robbers. It is not homosexuality that the Koran prohibits but rather rape. "The rejection of gays is a result of cultural and political factors," he says. "Just like honor killings and arranged marriages. They're not in the Koran either." Abdullah lives in the US capital, Washington D.C., and says prayers at the funerals of gay persons, particularly if they died of AIDS, something no other imam is willing to do. He officiates at same-sex marriages and, for the past 11 years, has provided religious advice in an on-line forum entitled "Muslim Gay Men." He regularly receives death threats but now laughs them off, saying: "How can two loving men pose a threat to the foundations God has laid?"
© The Spiegel



17/9/2009- Increased immigration to Sweden in recent years has helped boost the country’s foreign trade, a new study shows. Between 2002 and 2007, roughly 200,000 people immigrated to Sweden. During the same period, the total value of Sweden’s imports and exports nearly doubled, and according to research carried out by economist Andreas Hatzigeorgiou, there is a connection between the two phenomena. By looking at both trade and immigration statistics for the five year period, Hatzigeorgiou concluded that every 10 percent increase in the number of immigrants to Sweden from a specific country increased Sweden’s exports to that country by 6 percent. At the same time, imports from the same country increased by 9 percent on average. “The study shows that if immigration increased by about 12,000 people, that leads to an increase in exports of about 7 billion kronor ($1 billion),” Hatzigeorgiou said in an interview posted on the Swedish foreign ministry website.

Currently, immigrants account for roughly 20 percent of all new companies formed in Sweden, with an estimated 250,000 companies run by residents with foreign backgrounds. According to Hatzigeorgiou, immigrants contribute to increased foreign trade by offering specialized knowledge, cultural competence, and contacts to Swedish businesses looking to export to new markets. “[Immigrant entrepreneurs] are well-equipped to do business in their former homelands and can also serve as guides to Swedish companies who want to establish themselves abroad,” he said. Hatzigeorgiou's work, which is set for publication in November in Ekonomisk Debatt, a Swedish economic journal, has been used as the basis for a new project to help expose foreign-born business owners in Sweden to business opportunities abroad. “We have a unique resource among our foreign-born which we haven’t paid enough attention to. This study shows that immigration is something extremely positive for Sweden,” trade minister Ewa Björling told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

The project, entitled Kosmopolit, calls for the creation of networks of foreign-born entrepreneurs that will allow them to exchange information and experiences with one another. “In other countries, like the United States, for example, these sorts of networks get created on their own,” said Hatzigeorgiou. “In Sweden, these sorts of networks don’t exist in the same way.” Currently, the network consists of about 50 mostly small- and medium-sized businesses, but according to Björling, large, traditional Swedish companies likes Ericsson, Volvo AB, and Scania have also shown an interest in the project. “It’s important for large companies to absorb these lessons and understand the importance of employing people with foreign backgrounds,” she told DN.
© The Local - Sweden



18/9/2009- The UK Border Agency has rejected calls for Britain to accept some migrants from the illegal camp in Calais known as "the jungle". High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres had said the government should consider granting entry to those who already have large families in the UK. He spoke after French officials said the camp would be shut down imminently. But the UK Border Agency said genuine asylum seekers should make their claim in the country where they enter Europe. An agency spokesman said: "People seeking asylum should do so in the first safe country they come to, those who are not in need of protection will be expected to return home. "The decision to close illegal encampments in and around Calais is a matter for the French government and we will continue to cooperate with them on tackling illegal immigration."

'Granted protection'
The camp has replaced official centres like Sangatte as a gathering point for migrants hoping to cross to Britain. Some 1,500 people, many of them from Iraq and Afghanistan, are now living in insanitary settlements close to the port. France's Immigration Minister Eric Besson told French television that imminent closure of the 'jungle' would send a strong message that people traffickers could no longer use Calais. The minister was due to hold talks on the issue with Mr Guterres on Thursday, but in the meantime, the high commissioner told the BBC the UK should be prepared to help France handle the closure. "There will be situations in which we would recommend the British authorities consider the possibility, within reason, of receiving, for instance, people who have large families in Britain and things of this sort," he said. "What I believe is important is that everybody that is in need of protection should be granted protection." Mr Besson said it would be the local Calais authorities who would set the exact date for clearing the tents and makeshift shelters, but regardless, it would be closed before the end of next week.

'Asylum a la carte'
He promised that the operation would be carried out humanely and that each illegal immigrant would be offered the chance to apply for asylum or to return voluntarily to their country of origin. None would be forcibly returned, he added. Mr Guterres also called on all European countries to work more effectively together to standardise their asylum policies. "The problem is that we have freedom of movement among European countries, but we have different asylum systems with different rates of recognition," he said. "You might be easily recognised as a refugee in one of the European countries and not so easily in another. "You have a kind of asylum a la carte and this doesn't make sense at all."
© BBC News



16/9/2009- France has said it intends to close the camp in Calais known as "the jungle", where migrants gather to try to reach the UK. Immigration Minister Eric Besson told French television that the illegal gathering of tents and shelters should close imminently. The jungle has replaced official camps like Sangatte as a gathering point. Mr Besson said the closure would send a strong message that people traffickers could no longer use Calais.

'Humane operation'
Mr Besson is due to hold talks on the issue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Thursday. He said it would be the local Calais authorities who would set the exact date for clearing the makeshift camps near the port but added that in any case it would be closed before the end of next week. Some 1,500 migrants are now living in insanitary settlements in Calais and neighbouring areas, hoping to cross to Britain. The minister promised that the operation would be carried out humanely and that each illegal immigrant would be offered the chance to apply for asylum or to return voluntarily to their country of origin. Many of the migrants come from Iraq and Afghanistan. The minister insisted they would not be forcibly returned.
© BBC News



18/9/2009- Some of the most powerful women in the EU are discussing how to bring gender equality to European politics, an arena that continues to be overwhelmingly dominated by men. A who's who of women politicians in Brussels met on Wednesday (16 September) to see how they can better promote women in the EU capital, where women's names routinely fail to be mentioned for the top jobs. The 15-strong gathering, including four EU commissioners, Sweden's Europe minister and seven parliament committee heads, wants women to become better networkers and better at promoting one another in politics. "There is still a glass ceiling to reach the very top of European politics. It is still very much an old boy's network and men are very good at praising each other and promoting each other," Finnish Green MEP and head of the human-rights sub-committee, Haidi Hautala, told EUobserver. "But as there are so few women, this does not really happen."

Danuta Huebner, the head of the parliament's regional development committee and a former EU commissioner, also stressed the importance of women supporting one another. "We should do more about networking - that's where we're extremely weak. If we start some networking of women in European institutions, this could have some impact. If you are alone, you just behave as those around you," said the Polish politician. The women's initiative comes as the 27-nation club gears itself up for what is likely to be fierce haggling on new EU commissioners and their portfolios. This year, the possible creation of two new high-level jobs - an EU foreign representative and an EU president - will bring extra spice to the negotiations. None of the names often mentioned for the posts are those of women. Diana Wallis, vice-president of the European Parliament, said the main point of Wednesday's meeting was to say:  "Here we are, a group of women all in fairly high posts in the European institutions, so what's all this chat about there not being women able to do any of the senior jobs either as commissioners, or any other posts that might come up under the treaty of Lisbon."

Those EU family portraits
Although gender equality is enshrined in EU law, there is often little evidence of it at the top of European politics. The "family portraits" of the regular gatherings of EU leaders are eloquent witnesses of this - amid a sea of men, German chancellor Angela Merkel is the only woman head of government. "We talk about gender equality more and more and we have all those laws and everything that is needed to give everyone an equal chance in the political life [yet] when it comes to concrete cases, jobs for taking responsibility in Europe, somehow women disappear," said Mrs Huebner. To illustrate her point, she spoke about a 10-minute video to commemorate the 10th anniversary of European Monetary Union. "There were no women in this, like women did not exist in the history of European integration." The group has sent a wishlist to newly re-elected European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and national governments to ask that member states present both a man and woman candidate for commissioner posts and that Mr Barroso make sure his team of commissioners is equally balanced. At the moment, there are eight women commissioners in the 27-member college. Women represent 35 percent of MEPs in the 736-member strong parliament, with Finland sending the highest proportion of women to Brussels (61%) and Malta, with no women for the second legislature running, the least. According to Mrs Wallis, there was a "real buzz" around the table on Wednesday that these politicians could keep up the pressure even after the negotiations on EU posts begins in earnest.

Wallstrom, Robinson, Halonen
One of the main objectives is for the group to drop names of qualified politicians into the EU jobs discussion, with Mrs Hautala mentioning Finnish President Tarja Halonen, former UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson and communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom for the EU foreign minister or president jobs. Mrs Wallstrom, for her part, did not categorically deny interest in such a post, but pointed out she had already dedicated much of her life to a public career, including the last 10 years as commissioner in Brussels. "There are so many good women candidates and we need to get them out there," she told this website, offering to be a "mentor" to others seeking EU jobs. The women's proposals are set to meet resistance among national capitals - even in those countries considered to have a more progressive gender equality policy. Mrs Hautala said she discussed the idea of each government suggesting two candidates for a commission post with Finnish leader Matti Vanhanen. "Even our prime minister is not convinced," she said, with Mr Vanhanen fearing the proposal would take power away from member states' right to choose commissioners.
© The EUobserver



The four soldiers reportedly belong to Bloed Bodem Eer en Trouw (BBET), a splinter group of the neo-Nazi organisation Blood & Honour. The four soldiers are accused of involvement in the planning of several large scale BBET attacks.

16/9/2009- The extremist wing of the BBET had allegedly been planning attacks on the National Bank and on Filip Dewinter from the extreme right wing party Vlaams Belang. In the beginning of 2006, 21 military and civilian followers were detained by police, suspected of involvement in these planned attacks. Around three hundred weapons were seized in house raids at the time. Meanwhile, the investigation has been completed and all 21 defendants are awaiting trial. The Defence department refuses to give the identity of the four soldiers involved in the trial. "They are chief suspects and serious evidence has been collected against them," say army sources. The future of the four dismissed soldiers is now in the hands of the presiding judge. Currently there is no information regarding the start of the court trials but the Court of Cassation, the main court of appeal in Belgium, is to make important statements about the infiltration and observation techniques used in the investigation on 13 October.
© Expatica News



16/9/2009- The actions of the Maltese authorities fall “woefully short of international human rights obligations and standards of conduct at sea,” the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay wrote in an article in The Guardian and other international news outlets last week. Pillay was referring to an incident last month in which scores of migrants died of hunger and thirst while attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy. The Maltese authorities had spotted their boat in distress and provided food, water and fuel, as well as life jackets, and alerted their Italian counterparts; but the emaciated passengers were left to continue their journey. When they were finally rescued by the Italian Coast Guard, only five out of an estimated 80 passengers had survived their ordeal. On their part, the Armed Forces of Malta deny this version of the story, arguing that the dinghy intercepted by the Italians was not the same as the one assisted by a Maltese patrol boat some days earlier. The incident sparked a deluge of criticism of the Maltese authorities in the Italian press, as well as calls for Malta to relinquish part of its Search and Rescue zone.

“The Maltese government maintains that its officials complied with international agreements,” Pillay wrote last week in the Guardian. “But their acts fall woefully short of international human rights obligations and standards of conduct at sea.” Pillay referred to the incident again in a keynote speech to the UN’s Human Rights council yesterday, in which she reminded governments that “human beings adrift at sea are not toxic cargo.” She also condemned the Italian decision to forcefully repatriate migrants as one which violates international law. Both the Maltese government and the Labour opposition have expressed support for the policy condemned by the United Nations. Pillay has also condemned port authorities who force migrants back to sea to certain hardship and peril as though they were turning away ships laden with dangerous waste. According to Pillay every time a government refuses to allow those who have been rescued to disembark at the nearest port or the final port of destination, they increase the pressure on captains and shipping companies to avert their gaze when they see a migrant boat in trouble.

Ministry rebuts criticism
Late yesterday evening, the Ministry for Justice and Home Affairs relayed the facts of the Eritrean case yet again in reaction to Pillay’s comments. The ministry noted that the High Commissioner was “apparently… unaware of” the facts of the matter. “The statements of the High Commissioner for Human Rights seem to be based on the same misinformation that appeared in the Italian media over the past weeks. One would expect an official in High Commissioner Pillay’s capacity to check the facts with the relevant authorities rather than passing a judgement based on the second or third hand information that appears in the media,” the ministry said. The government added that forcefully rescuing the occupants of the dinghy against their express wishes and in the absence of a real and imminent danger of loss of life, “as the High Commissioner is suggesting, would be an illegal exercise of jurisdiction… Malta has consistently been abiding by its international SAR responsibilities for decades. It will continue doing so in the years to come.”

The government said the rubber dinghy was spotted on 19 August inside the Libyan search and rescue area, and the Maltese rescue coordination centre directive an AFM vessel towards it. “The migrants were found to be in good spirits and in good health. More importantly, the persons on board refused to be rescued by the Maltese military vessel and insisted on continuing their voyage towards the northwest and the Italian island of Lampedusa. Their dinghy was in a good condition and seaworthy. An aerial still photograph already published by the AFM of this dinghy clearly shows that there was no evidence that it had been carrying ‘scores of migrants’ mentioned by High Commissioner Pillay,” the ministry said. It added that the AFM had no option other than providing food, water, fuel and lifejackets so as to reinsure the occupants’ safety. The dinghy then continued its voyage on its own steam. The AFM surface vessel continued monitoring the dinghy so as to be in a position to intervene should its occupants require any assistance or rescue. On the morning of 20 August, as the dinghy was approaching Italian territorial waters, the Maltese authorities informed the Italian authorities through the European Patrolling Network about its presence. The dinghy was then intercepted by a patrol boat of the Italian Guardia di Finanza and its occupants taken ashore to Lampedusa. “It must be noted that at no time did the AFM patrol boat lose contact with the dinghy from the moment it was intercepted until the immigrants were recovered by the Guardia di Finanza,” the ministry said.
© Malta Today



16/9/2009- Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil yesterday cautioned against simplistic statements on the issue of immigration. He was addressing the European Parliament’s plenary session in Brussels which was discussing immigration, Frontex and co-operation among Member States in the light of the incidents that took place in the Mediterranean sea during this Summer. The debate was prompted by the European Socialist, Liberal and Green parties in Parliament which accuse Italy of being too heavy-handed on immigration and of having failed its legal obligations by returning immigrants back to Libya. The debate was introduced by Swedish Immigration Minister Tobias Billstrom on behalf of the EU Presidency and EU Commissioner Jacques Barrot. Busuttil, who leads the EPP group on immigration issues, was the first MEP to take the floor and acknowledged Barrot’s work on the immigration dossier, notably his proposal to establish a pilot project which would enable solidarity with Malta. Referring to Italy’s return of immigrants intercepted at sea back to Libya, Busuttil cautioned against simplistic assessments. “Immigration is a very sensitive, controversial and complex issue and one should avoid falling into the trap of simplistic statements,” Busuttil said. “It is all too easy to accuse this country or the other when what is really needed is a deep assessment of what is essentially a very complex issue.” he warned.

Although it was understandable to ask questions on Italy’s policy of returning migrants back to Libya, Busuttil noted that it was indisputable that as a result of these returns, the number of arrivals this year was down on last year and so were the number of tragic deaths. Likewise, he said, these returns had thwarted the operations of the criminal organisations who were exploiting migrants. “So whereas the right to asylum is important, we cannot ignore the right to life which is being put at risk as a result of these dangerous crossings and we cannot forget our duty to put a stop to the tragic loss of human lives,” he said. During his address, Busuttil also insisted with the Swedish Presidency and with the EU Commissioner to deploy the EU’s Frontex agency on co-ordinated return missions, to urgently embark upon solidarity measures such as Malta’s pilot project and to engage third countries like Libya without whose co-operation Europe’s efforts were stymied.
© Malta Today



Racism is widespread in Switzerland, despite authorities’ continuing efforts to end discrimination, a Council of Europe commission has found.

17/9/2009- A report highlights problems of direct racial discrimination in gaining access to employment, housing, goods and services. The victims are mainly Muslims and originate from the Balkans, Turkey and Africa. The findings published on Tuesday in a report compiled by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), chart the progress made by Switzerland in implementing recommendations for action in curbing racism made in 2004. Anti-racism bodies within Switzerland mainly agreed with the findings, but the report was lambasted by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, which was singled out for criticism for promoting racist generalisations. On the plus side, the ECRI noted that various measures had been taken to foster the integration of immigrants in areas such as employment, housing and health. State bodies for anti-racism and migration had continued to raise awareness of racism and racial discrimination and steps had been taken to combat rightwing extremism. However, it noted there had been a dangerous growth of racist political discourse against foreign nationals, Muslims, blacks and other minorities. The ECRI found the Swiss People’s Party to be part of the problem, saying the party had taken on a "racist and xenophobic tone" in recent years, leading to racist generalisations. "Repeated attacks by Swiss People’s Party members against foreigners’ fundamental rights and against the prohibition of racism and xenophobia have created a deep sense of unease in Swiss society generally and especially in minority communities," the report said. Immigrant children have disadvantages in education, some Swiss media have reinforced racist stereotypes, and neo-Nazi and far-right groups have been active in the country. Finally, the report said legislation had not been adequately developed to deal with direct racial discrimination.

Constructive criticism
It recommended more training in anti-racism laws for police and judges and better resources for anti-discrimination bodies. Swiss authorities should also step up efforts to combat racism in public discourse and review the effectiveness of their integration measures. The Federal Commission against Racism said it shared the report’s criticism of the "vilification" of immigrants and religious minorities as well as the lack of protection from discrimination. The commission said it too had observed that migrant groups were attacked during political campaigns and xenophobic speeches had been tolerated. The commission added that it would publish its own recommendations into toughening laws against discrimination later this year. Michael Chiller-Glaus of the non-governmental foundation against racism and anti-Semitism told the report was "fair and balanced" and contained "constructive criticism", but it showed Switzerland still had some way to go to counter racism. "The report rightly notes that progress has been made in reducing racism in Switzerland. Nevertheless, there is a need for further campaigns to sensitise the public to various aspects of racism and discrimination that still persists."  "Public funds to finance such campaigns have noticeably been reduced in recent years, as has been the support for efficient non-governmental organisations tackling racism. This is an objectionable development playing into the hands of the political rightwing mentioned in the report."

International interference?
The Swiss People’s Party responded saying the report was flawed as it had misunderstood its policies, which were not against foreigners per se but rather foreign criminals and those who refused to follow Swiss laws. "We understand: it is easier to blame the People’s Party for alleged xenophobia than to reflect the real issue of foreign criminals," the party said in a statement. It called on the government to reject such "interference" in Switzerland’s internal affairs. "International organisations, spurred on by the Swiss political left, regularly criticise us." The Swiss Refugee Council agreed with the report overall and told the government needed to improve communication about its asylum policies before public opinion and discrimination could change. "Public opinion is so poisoned by this dialogue that asylum and refugees are a problem that it is very difficult to get away from this. You need to start again with a totally new communication. If you want to stop asylum seekers being seen as a problem then you need to communicate in a totally different way, you need to show positive examples of integration," said the Council’s Susanna Bolz.
© Swissinfo



16/9/2009- The Czech government will submit another proposal to dissolve the extreme rightist Workers' Party (DS), Prime Minister Jan Fischer told journalists Wednesday. The first proposal was turned down by the Supreme Administrative Court in the spring. It argued that the proposal was poorly prepared. Fischer said the new document submitted by the former government of Mirek Topolanek had been drafted with maximum expertise. However, there is still the risk that the attempt "will fail" even for the second time, he added. The government will be represented in court by lawyer Tomas Sokol, Czech interior minister in the early 1990s and the head of one of the most prominent lawyer's offices in the Czech Republic. The government will only publish the proposal after it is conveyed to the DS and the court. It includes some audio and video recordings, Interior Minister Martin Pecina said. The proposal has 66 pages and 88 addenda, he added. "There are hundreds of pages and two DVDs," said Pecina, who showed photos proving that the party was connected with rightist extremism at the press conference. Pecina worked on the proposal along with external experts in extremism and academics from the spring. The Interior Ministry also cooperated with experienced lawyers including Sokol who will represent it along with one of its employees, Pecina said.

"I believe we will be successful. I am a genuine optimist. We must keep fighting the practices appearing in the extremist movement. This is one step the government has taken," Pecina said. Pecina said the drafters of the proposal had set themselves the task of proving that not only individual members, but the entire party behaved illegally. Pecina said he had cooperated on the proposal also with the police. In the spring, the cabinet passed a strategy of the struggle with extremism. The extra-parliamentary DS is mostly active in north Bohemia where it claims to represent "decent people" against the attacks of what it calls "unadaptable" Romanies who only abuse welfare benefits. The DS said in an official statement it believed it would win its cause again in court. "Our views and ideas are stronger than expedient lies and slander," the statement said. Pecina said in mid-August that the success of the new proposal can be helped by the April arson attack on a Romany family in which a two-year-old girl was severely burnt. The annual report of the BIS counter-intelligence also spoke about a connection between the DS and neo-Nazis. DS leader Tomas Vandas has told the paper Lidove noviny he had no contact with neo-Nazis. "We are convinced that we will win again in court," Vandas said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor



16/9/2009- Some Czech Romany activists do not share the view that the situation of Romanies in the Czech Republic in the sphere of human rights has recently improved as claimed by the report of the Council of Europe published today. Government human rights commissioner Jan Litomisky said the report reflected the reality, but in some points it evaluated the Czech Republic in too harsh terms. Since the previous CE report was published five years ago, criticising the Czech Republic for persisting discrimination against the Romany minority, the situation has improved but the country has still a lot to do in this respect, writes the report worked out by the CE's European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). The report praises Czech political leaders for condemning displays of extremism and vowing to take tough steps mainly against neo-Nazi groups. "This is true, but I can't see any qualitative shift," Ivan Vesely, chairman of the Dzeno group and deputy chairman of the government council for the affairs of the Romany community, told CTK today.

The CE report also gives a positive assessment of the educational system. "Special schools" to which children from Romany unadaptable families had been sent, were replaced with specialised schools only accepting really handicapped children. "However, Romany children are still not successfully integrated into the educational mainstream," Cyril Koky, a member of the government council for the affairs of the Romany community, said. On the other hand, many Romany parents, too, should lay greater emphasis on the education of their children, Koky said. "It seems to me that the report is fairly objective. The state is exerting much effort to improve the situation," Litomisky said. Litomisky said he disagreed with some of the report's conclusions such as the alleged police biased treatment of ethnic minorities. "I do not know of any such cases having been documented," Litomisky said. "I am of the opinion that law-enforcement bodies mostly make mistakes through inactivity, perhaps out of indolence or for fear of being accused of excessive intervention both in relation to the majority population and members of a minority," Litomisky said.

Litomisky said he disagreed with the argument that the Czech Republic lacked the means for the protection against discrimination. In June, the Czech Republic was the last EU member to pass an anti-discrimination law protecting minorities. The number of children whom social authorities place in children's homes on economic or social grounds is enormous. Parents can be stripped of their rights too easily, the CE says. Litomisky said he disagreed with the conclusion, too. "The children are sent to the children's homes because the families do not take sufficient care of them," Litomisky said.
© The Prague Daily Monitor



The Czech police have in the past two decades learnt ways to dissolve neo-Nazi concerts and demonstrations, but they are still incapable of protecting victims of neo-Nazi threats, the weekly Respekt writes Monday.

14/9/2009- A door doused with petrol, an SMS threatening with slitting the addressee's throat, a few kicks in his abdomen and similar messages that Czech right-wing extremists send to local Romanies and to their critics from among the majority population are alarming, but no one is capable of protecting the threats' victims though the perpetrators' identity is often known or close to evident, Katerina Copjakova and Bara Prochazkova write in the magazine. North Moravia probably would not have the bad reputation of a region with extremists' frequent attacks on Romanies if the police did their job appropriately, they continue. To illustrate this, they give the example of two Romany women from Horni Benesov who, two years ago, received threats from neo-Nazis, now suspected of this April's arson attack on a Romany family in Vitkov [in which a two-year girl suffered serious burns]. The two women reported to the police the SMS "Tell all Gypsies that it will be gradually the turn on all", sent to them by David Vaculik and Ivo Mueller. The police assessed the SMS as a misdemeanour and transferred it to the local town hall for discussion, Respekt says. Two months later, a bottle with unknown liquid was thrown in the flat of one of the women. She told the police that she suspected Vaculik and Mueller of having thrown it. The police again qualified this as a misdemeanour and passed it to the town hall. The outcome of the town hall's discussion is unknown as the hall's lawyer, Premysl Hradecny, keeps it in secret. "Their [the perpetrators'] names should not be discussed in public. I'm against young people starting their life with a certain label that could prevent them from finding a job," Hradecny is quoted as saying.

The result of the town hall's soft approach is known. This August, Vaculik and Mueller were accused of the arson attack in Vitkov, and taken in custody, Respekt writes. Another disturbing example is the case of Tereza Reichova, a documentary film student in Prague whom extremist harass over a documentary she shot about a neo-Nazi march in north Bohemia. In their Internet debates, the neo-Nazis have labelled Reichova an "obvious Jew," adding quotations of Joseph Goebbels and remarks such as "No Holocaust took place, but it will," Respekt writes. When Reichova presented her film in a Prague cafe, a group of neo-Nazis turned up and unsuccessfully tried to prevail in the discussion. On departure, they photographed all Romanies and white activists present, Respekt writes. Reichova is now close to the position of an "enemy" whose contact data are widely available. She awaits a threat coming from an eager neo-Nazi. This system gives a big strength to the extreme right, Respekt writes. "For each swine a butcher is found one day, we've found him for you," read an SMS that Miroslav Broz, spokesman for the We Do Not Want Nazis In Usti group, received after his CV and phone number were disclosed on the Internet. Another two threats followed. The police failed to cope with the case and finally shelved it as a suspected misdemeanour by an unknown perpetrator. "It is impossible to dectect the SMS's author," says police spokeswoman Zuzana Tuzarova. A more explicit warning that was impossible for the police to shelve, was received by Roman Martinek from a south Moravian regional daily. In July 2008, an unknown perpetrator doused the door of his house with petrol and set on fire. The fire fortunately did not spread but everyone in the house, where Martinek's wife and three kids were sleeping, got scared.

"Extremists must have been behind the attack. A week before I wrote about their links with the military," Martinek said. He said the attack was preceded by hateful e-mails reacting to his articles about neo-Nazis. The police failed to detect the perpetrator, says Respekt. Does this mean that nothing has changed since the early 1990s when the police qualified neo-Nazi attacks as a common brawl?  Ondrej Cakl, an activist monitoring the right extremists, is sceptical. When he was attacked for the first time in 1994, he reported it to the police, but he does not do so any more now. "It sometimes happens that the police watch me being attacked [by neo-Nazis] at a demonstration without intervening. Why should I go to report the attack at the police station?" Cakl says. He says the police welcome activists as a useful source of information ahead of extremist meetings. After the activists become a target of extremists' threats, they turn into an extra burden for the police to deal with. Since the beginning of this year, a new police programme has enabled the protection of victims (consultations, wiretapping, change of place of residence), but no one has used it so far.  Even police experts in extremism leave the police in reaction to extremists' threats rather than to continue taking a risk, though under the police protection, Respekt writes. No wonder that the Czech ultra-right scene's self-confidence is rising as are its contacts with neo-Nazis abroad, mainly Germany, who serve the Czechs as a model to follow, Respekt writes. The Czech police, too, should eye their German counterparts as an example to follow, Respekt concludes, pointing to the German police's uncompromising crackdown on the neo-Nazis suspected of injuring a Czech photographer at a demonstration last year. The two suspects were convicted a fortnight ago, Respekt says.
© The Prague Daily Monitor



14/9/2009- Slovakia’s highest state officials, political leaders, and representatives of civil society and the Jewish community gathered to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day on September 9. The country’s three highest state representatives, a delegation from parliament, cabinet members, diplomats and some Holocaust survivors laid wreaths at the Holocaust memorial in Rybné Square in Bratislava, the SITA newswire reported. September 9 marks the anniversary of the day when the so-called Jewish Code was adopted by the wartime Slovak state in 1941. The code stripped Slovak Jews of all their rights and excluded them from the social and economic life of the country. The first deportations of Jews to Nazi concentration camps followed soon after, in March 1942. Israel’s ambassador to Slovakia, Zeev Boker, and representatives of the Jewish community in Bratislava also attended the event. Representatives of the Jewish community and President Ivan Gašparovič spoke mainly about the importance of remembering the dark side of history in order to prevent similar events being repeated in future. Prime Minister Robert Fico focused on the younger generation in his speech, saying that today’s relatively peaceful central Europe was now importing extremism in uniforms. He called the extremists “confused and lured”, adding that “neither Jobbik nor Kotleba’s [followers] nor other extremists will pass”, SITA reported.

On September 7, prior to Holocaust Remembrance Day, Fico met a delegation from the American Jewish Committee led by Rabbi Andrew Baker, who also is the Personal Representative for Combating Anti-Semitism of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), SITA wrote. During his visit to Slovakia, Baker was accompanied by the executive vice president of US-based Jewish organisation B'nai B'rith, Daniel S. Mariaschin, and Norbert Hinterleitner, his adviser on anti-Semitism issues. The guests were told of Slovak plans to set up a Holocaust museum at the site of a former labour 'camp for Jews' at Sereď. Baker voiced his appreciation for the present government's approach to remembering the Holocaust and Slovakia's Holocaust Remembrance Day on September 9, and also thanked the government for having legislation against holocaust deniers in Slovakia, which he said attests to the strong political will in this respect, according to SITA.

On September 8 the visitors attended the unveiling of a Monument to Gallant Souls in Zvolen, devoted to those killed during WWII while trying to save persecuted Jews. Fico said that he thinks it is regrettable that young people know little about the killing of Jews during WWII. To change this, the PM proposed building memorials near schools devoted to victims of the Holocaust and to people who helped Jews to survive, SITA wrote. Among other events held to remember the Holocaust was a reading of Jewish names from the Book of the Dead, an annual tradition in the Jewish community. The event, initiated by Slovak journalist and writer Ľuba Lesná, took place in the Slovak National Theatre. Bratislava also saw a meeting of children from a famous photo taken by Alexander Voroncov in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp just after its liberation by the Red Army in 1945. Seven of the 13 children in the photograph were from Slovakia. They met in Bratislava for the first time in 50 years.
© The Slovak Spectator



14/9/2009- FPÖ MEP Andreas Mölzer made fresh calls today (Mon) for a halt in negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the European Union.
Mölzer, whose party had previously called for the negotiations to be halted, said 40,000 Austrians had signed an FPÖ petition against Turkish accession. He said he would introduce two resolutions in the European Parliament (EP) this week calling for a stop to Turkey’s accession negotiations and the beginning of negotiations on an agreement for an EU privileged partnership with Turkey. Mölzer claimed MPs from eight EU member states, including representatives of Italian governing party Liga Nord, supported the FPÖ’s effort to stop Turkey’s EU accession negotiations. He added that Social Democrat (SPÖ) MEP Hannes Swoboda, the deputy head of the EP’s Social Democratic faction, and the People’s Party’s (ÖVP) Ernst Strasser, the head of the ÖVP’s EP delegation, should "show that their anti-Turkey attitudes during the EP election campaign had been serious by supporting us." Mölzer claimed Turkey was not ready to join Europe. "On the issues of Cyprus, Armenia, the Kurds, human rights and Islam, Turkey has not moved or has moved hardly at all. Turkey would be indigestible for Europe in terms of politics and population."
© The Austrian Times



16/9/2009- Spanish police found six children and no adults when they intercepted an inflatable dingy in the treacherous waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, a spokesman for Spain's Civil Guard said. "There were five children aged between 10 and 11 years old and another 16-year old. They were all in good health," the spokesman said, confirming that the children were found in the small boat. At least four African migrants were killed in the channel between Southern Spain and North Africa in June when a boat thought to be trafficking around 30 people hit rocks. The number of African immigrants trying to reach Spain has tumbled as the Spanish economy has slumped, with the amount of people attempting the dangerous sea crossing falling 40 percent in the first seven months of 2009 from a year earlier. People smugglers increase trips in the summer because better weather conditions reduce the dangers of shipwreck and hypothermia, common causes of death for those who risk the trip from Africa to the Spanish mainland or the Canary Islands.
© Reuters



CCTV cameras captured the soldier fatally stabbing a 16 year old anti-fascist

13/9/2009- Thousands turned out to support an anti-fascist protest in Madrid this Saturday, ahead of the trial which starts in the provincial court this Monday of a neo-Nazi accused of the fatal stabbing of 16 year old Carlos Palomino in the city’s metro two years ago. The teenager was killed in a crowded metro train stationed in Legazpi station in November 2007 by the soldier, Josué Estébanez, who was on his way to a far right demonstration in Usera. Carlos Palomino was also travelling to Usera as a protester against the demonstration. Images captured on the Metro’s security cameras showed assailant and victim exchanging some words, and then the soldier pulling out a knife and stabbing the 16 year old in the chest. He then stabbed another man in the ribs and, El País reports, gave a Nazi salute before fleeing the scene. The accused faces a possible 29 years in prison – 17 for the killing, and another 12 for the attempted murder of the man stabbed in the ribs. The private accusation in the case sees it as a crime of ideological hate, and says Estébanez should spent 37 years inside.
© Typically Spanish



A court in the Netherlands has ordered far-right politician Geert Wilders to stand trial on 20 January 2010. The leader of the Freedom Party is charged with inciting discrimination and hatred with his statements about Islam and Muslims.

13/9/2009- A court in the Netherlands has ordered far-right politician Geert Wilders to stand trial on 20 January 2010. The leader of the Freedom Party is charged with inciting discrimination and hatred with his statements about Islam and Muslims. In an interview in the conservative De Telegraaf newspaper, Wilders says it's regrettable he has to face trial for what he says are merely political statements. The lawyer defending him is the well-known Amsterdam attorney Bram Moszkowicz. Wilders says he is certain he will be acquitted.

© Expatica News



15/9/2009- The U.N. human rights chief admonished Italy and other countries Tuesday for treating boat people like "dangerous waste" that threatens to wash up on their shores. Tens of thousands of migrants cross the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Aden, the Straits of Florida and other stretches of water in barely seaworthy boats each year, fleeing persecution at home or searching for better economic prospects abroad. "In many cases, authorities reject these migrants and leave them to face hardship and peril, if not death, as though they were turning away ships laden with dangerous waste," U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay said in a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Countries are obliged under international law to determine whether migrants have the right to asylum or other forms of protection before being turned back, she said. Her comments came as the U.N. refugee agency said 16 African migrants died and another 49 went missing trying to cross the Gulf of Aden in recent days.

Italy recently started intercepting boat people before they reached Italian shores as part of a policy to clamp down on illegal immigrants. Italy's Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, rejected the charge that his country was ignoring the plight of migrants. "Italy respects all international regulations, so obviously the criticism shouldn't be directed at us," Frattini said, the ANSA news agency reported. Rome's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva struck a more conciliatory tone. "We are well aware that every single migrant is entitled to human rights, irrespective of his or her legal status," said envoy Laura Mirachian. "(But Italy) has been exposed over the last few years to massive flows of migrants to such an extent that this trend can sometimes affect domestic public order." Italy was working with other European Union countries on a common migration policy that would tackle the root causes of mass migration such as poverty and human trafficking, Mirachian said. Pillay's speech addressed a broad range of human rights issues and singled out for criticism 47 countries, including the United States, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Congo.
© The Associated Press



12/9/2009- On September 4th, Minister Roberto Calderoli, prominent member of the Northern League - the anti-immigrant, anti-gay party - declared during a press conference in Treviso in response to the proposal of the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini, to grant immigrants the right to vote: “The Constitution does not distinguish between voters at political and administrative elections. I wouldn’t like to find myself with a “suntanned” president in five years’ time.” The Italians are more than familiar with Roberto Calderoni and the Northern League’s racist ideologies, but what is astounding is that no minister, no member of the majority has publicly spoken out against or criticised this new racist declaration, a declaration that stirs up sentiments of ethnic and racial hatred in the Italian people; people already afflicted by numerous episodes of ethnic, racial and homophobic violence. Unfortunately, Calderoli’s words represent present-day Italy; an Italy that “pushes back” refugees from Africa and from Islamic countries rife with humanitarian crises; a country that fails to assist African refugees dying on the open sea; a country that is tolerating an unprecedented campaign against homosexuals, and one which is carrying out barbaric ethnic cleansing policies against the Roma people. 80,000 Roma (including many children and seriously ill people) have been kicked out of their makeshift shelters by the authorities - without any offer of assistance or alternative lodgings. These inhuman policies have led to many deaths and many humanitarian tragedies. EveryOne Group (whose members have also received serious threats and intimidation of all kinds) is committed to ensuring that Italian human rights movements emerge one more, and that news of what is happening in Italy is heard over the borders (in spite of the control and the censorship the government exercises over the media) in the hope that it will touch the conscience of the civil world and all those who have still not abandoned the path of solidarity between individuals and peoples - or a human rights culture.

© The EveryOne Group



More than four million Germans with a migrant background are eligible to vote in the country's Sept. 27 elections. The majority will presumably back the Social Democrats. But the conservatives also want their vote.

18/9/2009- Germans of Turkish heritage make up the country's largest migrant community. In the coming elections, this group represents some 700,000 votes. The majority are expected to cast their ballot for the Social Democratic Party (SPD). This mainly has historical reasons, said Andreas Wuest, project director at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research and a specialist on migrants as political actors. Many Turkish immigrants came to Germany as guest workers and became involved in labor unions. "Unions, of course, belong to the party's forefront organization," Wuest said. "A long-term bond and proximity evolved to the Social Democrats." Since the 1960s, unions - which have always maintained close ties to the SPD - were very successful in integrating foreign workers, said Dirk Halm from the Foundation Center for Studies on Turkey in Essen. "The political socialization of Turks here widely occurred through labor unions," Halm said. "Nowhere has integration been as successful as in labor unions." One main reason for this was that historically, companies wanted to avoid a conflict of interest between native German and immigrant workers, he said. Therefore, great emphasis was placed on integrating the foreign staff into the unions.

Issues not parties
A study by the Berlin-based market research company Data 4U earlier this year showed that 55.5 percent of Germans of Turkish heritage would vote for the SPD. The Green party could expect 23.3 percent, said the company, which is specialized in research among Germany's immigrant population. The conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) would only win 10.1 percent of the votes. Data 4U's managing partner Umut Karakas said German-Turks placed emphasis on other issues than native Germans did. "They are concerned with integration policies and the debate surrounding Turkey's European Union membership, as well as the issue of citizenship," Karakas said. "These are topics where the SPD and Greens are ahead; integration was already a topic at an early stage." Halm agreed that certain issues only applied to migrant communities. "In addition to these bicultural issues, this group also structurally deals with other social issues which don't affect the average German," Halm said. "Surveys have shown that integration in the workplace and unemployment are by far the top issues here simply because migrants are more likely affected by these matters." According to figures by the Federal Statistics Office, over 15 million Germans have a migratory background - some 18 percent of the population. Of this figure, over 14 percent have a Turkish heritage.

A new strategy for the CDU
The statistics show that the CDU has some catching up to do if it wants to win these voters into their camp - a fact the party's general secretary Ronald Pofalla has admitted. "The goal is for migrants in the CDU to someday become a matter of course that no longer needs to be talked about," Pofalla said at a meeting of CDU parliament members with foreign heritage last month. To reach this goal, though, the CDU needed to rethink its communication strategies, said Bülent Arslan, head of the CDU's German-Turkish Forum in North Rhine-Westphalia. "The key is the impression we make," Arslan said. "And our communication policies in the last 10 to 20 years have been way too focused on the problems which surface in integration and that is not necessarily attractive for a new voter group. They want to know what we have to offer." Arslan said a feeling of "team spirit" was missing, both among native Germans, as well as immigrants. "As long as there's no feeling that we belong together, the whole thing won't work," he said. Political parties could contribute to ending this feeling of "us and them."

Christian and Muslim?
But Wuest said the Christian Democrats tended to scare off foreign voters because of their tougher immigration policies in the past. "Also, of course, the fact that the 'C' in the name stands for 'Christian' can be a turn-off," Wuest said. "Other countries have a conservative party that is simply right-leaning, but here in Germany that group calls itself the Christian Democrats, making it especially difficult for Muslim voters to choose them." Arslan said he disagreed. "Religious migrants in particular, for example religious Muslims, see the C as an additional attraction in the party's name because they say this is a party based on religious values and they prefer this to a party that is more atheistically organized," Arslan said. Most observers forecast the next German government to be a CDU-FDP coalition government, with Angela Merkel remaining chancellor. But if Germans of Turkish background could vote the chancellor directly, Data 4U's Karakas said over 25 percent would choose Green party leader Cem Oezdemir. This was based on his heritage as a German-Turk. "He, as a child of migrants, has achieved something politically, knows the problems and living conditions of German-Turks and serves as a role model," Karakas said.
© The Deutsche Welle



Germany's far-right NPD party is in hot water again over racist remarks made about a football player of Turkish descent. Earlier this year, three NDP members were given suspended sentences for a similar offense.

17/9/2009- The German Football Association (DFB) is considering taking legal action against National Democratic Party (NPD) spokesman Klaus Beier, after he made derogatory remarks about Turkish-German player Mesut Özil during a television broadcast. The far-right politician said the 20-year-old midfielder wasn't a real German but only had German nationality on paper. The remarks prompted nationwide condemnation. "We are proud that Mesut Özil is a German national player," DFB president Theo Zwanziger is quoted by the newspaper Der Tagespiegel as saying. "This is the kind of Germany that the DFB wishes for: a free, tolerant and independent country, in which there is no place for nationalist thinking and racism, such as the NPD idiots try to spread." Zwanziger added that he would speak to Mesut Özil, who was born in Germany to Turkish parents, and his club, Werder Bremen, about what kind of legal action they might take against Beier. This is not the first time racially-motivated insults have been hurled at footballers by the NPD. In April, Beier was given a seven-months suspended sentence for inciting racial hatred against Patrick Owomoyela, born to a Nigerian father and a German mother. Two other high-ranking NPD officials also received suspended sentences for the same offense.
© The Deutsche Welle



Police say at least 60 left-wing protesters were arrested after riots broke out in Hamburg for a second night on Saturday, injuring several people. The unrest came after a demonstration aginst a far-right rally.

12/9/2009- Police spokesman Ralf Meyer said the latest violence erupted after a group of rioters broke several windows of a police station in the northern port city. He said several people, including police officers, were injured in the scuffles. Nearly 2,000 police officers were deployed to contain the violence. The rioters threw stones at the police, set fire to car tyres in the street, demolished a bus stop and turned over a car, before splitting up and fleeing among the festival crowd. The unrest came after an all-night street festival in Hamburg's Schanzenviertel district and a demonstration against a rally held by the far-right NPD party. Hamburg regularly sees clashes between police and left-wing demonstrators.

On Friday night, around 100 members of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) had gathered to demonstrate against Saturday's street festival in the Schanzenviertel district.A counter demonstration was held by more than 2,000 people, which included members of trade unions, political parties and left-wing group.Police said the trouble began when a group of around 700 leftists tried to break through police ranks separating the two groups. The leftist protesters reportedly threw stones and fireworks at the officers, set rubbish bins on fire and smashed up a number of cars. A group of rioters also attacked a police car with iron bars, and threw a paving stone through the rear window, prompting a police officer to fire a warning shot from his pistol. Officials had to resort to batons, pepper spray and water cannons to disperse rioters.

The Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDU), have in recent days vowed to renew efforts to ban Germany's far-right neo-Nazi NPD party. But Heino Vahldieck, who heads the Hamburg office of the German domestic intelligence agency, said it wouldn't be easy. "I am currently of the opinion that the legal hurdles are so high that it will be a problem to get over them," Vahldieck told German press agency dpa.
© The Deutsche Welle



14/9/2009- Migrants are being left homeless and destitute on the streets of Cardiff after being brought over to work under false pretences, a charity has claimed. A third of those sleeping rough on the streets of Cardiff come from eastern Europe, says the city council. And because they are excluded from claiming benefits and help with housing, they are left with nothing. Housing charity Shelter Cymru said it has interviewed eastern European economic migrants of Czech and Slovak Roma origin in the capital as part of a project designed to find out why increasing numbers of them are ending up on the streets. Interviews with migrants, mainly from Poland, have also taken place in Bridgend, as well as in West Wales and North Wales. Shelter Cymru research officer James Radcliffe told the Echo: “Quite a few people are being brought over under false pretences by employment agencies and are being offered accommodation.” But he said the job they are brought over to do often finishes after a couple of months and the agency will tell them to pack their bags and leave their accommodation. Mr Radcliffe said he has heard of migrants who have nowhere to go being dropped at the nearest train station late at night. But he added: “There are some positive stories of people coming here with nothing and making a success of themselves.”

The study on homelessness among central and eastern European migrants in Wales is being funded by the Big Lottery Research Programme and is being undertaken in partnership with Cardiff and Swansea universities. One of the main reasons for homelessness is that people from countries that joined the European Union after 2004 – including Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Poland and Latvia – are not entitled to claim any benefits or apply for housing unless they are a registered worker and can prove they have worked for 12 months continuously. As the low-paid jobs they are brought to Wales to do – including fruit picking, crop harvesting, labouring and cleaning – last just a couple of months, they often find themselves destitute and forced to survive by begging as they are deemed to have no recourse to public funds. A Cardiff council spokeswoman said: “Thirty-two individuals have been sleeping rough over the last six weeks. “Of the 32 recorded, 11 have been central or eastern European migrants. “None has access to public funds, with five having underlying drug and/or alcohol issues – one with serious alcohol-induced health problems. “Of the 11 central or eastern European migrants, four Romanians who slept rough on and off during August have not been to the rough sleeper intervention breakfast run so far in September. “We do have three migrants who attend the breakfast run who are accommodated in hostels. They also have drug and alcohol issues.” The Wales TUC is among the bodies campaigning for better protection of migrant workers. Research and campaigns officer Chris Hartwell said: “Addressing language barriers, improving rights awareness, better enforcement of employment rights and robust implementation of the Agency Workers’ Directive are some of the important steps that are needed to better protect vulnerable workers.”
© Waes On-line



13/9/2009- Tension in the Tooting community is high tonight after two attacks by black youths against Muslims in eight days but the local community is united in insisting there is no inter-racial problem between Asian and blacks. As Muslim’s gathered for Ramadan prayer’s this afternoon, press from around the world, including Al Jazeera, which has its headquarters in Qatar and Press TV, based in Iran, descended on Tooting to follow the story. Police are investigating the murder of Ekram Haque, who was attacked as he stood with his three-year-old granddaughter Miriam outside a mosque in Church Lane on August 31. Police said a second attack on a 30-year-old Muslim in Gatton Road on Tuesday was not linked to the first attack although both involved a group of black youths and were racially motivated. Tooting MP Sadiq Khan said there was a danger the two separate attacks outside mosques in Tooting were creating a racial tension that didn’t exist. Mr Khan said: “I have lived in Tooting all my life, I work and shop here and in my opinion we do not have an inter-racial problem. The danger is we start to slander the good reputation of Tooting. We are a very strong community where mosques and churches live cheek by jowl. We are a community in inner London and these attacks have not led to any riots and retaliation, which shows what a cohesive community Tooting is. These are terrible, abhorent attacks but I have been extremely impressed with the response from the police and authorities have dealt with the problem. There will now be due process and these matters will be dealt with by the police and court.”

Mr Khan did accept there are problems with gangs but said it was a small minority of young people and gangs causing trouble. Maree Hanson, a community worker who has worked with black and Asian youths, said she hadn’t witnessed any increase in racial tension. She said: “I’ve worked with a lot of kids in Wandsworth since 2006, from completely different backgrounds and races, and have never seen any trouble or tension. “In fact, from my experience, black and Asian kids seem to get on as well as anyone. I definitely think there is no real problem between the two communities.” Councillor Rex Osborn of Graveney Ward - where the attack on Mr Haque occurred - said: "There’s an obvious concern that the race problem becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. If there was a big problem we would have seen it. The important thing when there is we fully establish the facts on the attacks before we make any conclusions.” Flowers mark the spot where Mr Haque stood with his granddaughter before he was attacked with outside the Idara-e-Jafferiya Mosque. A note attached to one bunch, from a Kate Neville of neighbouring Moring Road, said: “A terrible tragedy Mr Haque, best wishes to your family. God bless you.” Today a spokesman for the mosque said: “We are all still in mourning for our respected colleague and friend Ekram Haque. People are anxious we are calm. Firstly we don’t get violent and secondly this is a month of peace and love for us. It is a month where we try and make peace with everyone and try to propagate peace.” The police [who have stepped up patrols in the area] have been very good.”

The deputy Mayor of Kingston, Councillor Shiraz Mirza, a leading member of the south London Pakistani community who worships at the Church Lane mosque, said Muslims needed to treat other communities with sensitivity. He said: “I think it is important that during Ramadan, when there are a lot of Muslims gathering to pray, people don’t stand around in large groups blocking the footpath, leave litter in the street and don’t block other people’s driveways. It has to be communities working together.” Pensioner Saabir Tareef, from Earlsfield, said: “I think because this has taken place during the holy month, emotions are frayed. Different generations of Muslims are reacting differently to the death of Mr Haque. “The older ones are trying to keep the peace despite being worried. The generation below are angry but are trying to tell their children not to worry. However, it seems the younger generation are the most angry.” Martin Bainbridge, of Vant Road, said: “There have been problems with gangs round here (Tooting) for a while so I think it was probably to do with gangs rather than racism.” Residents living around Church Lane are particularly concerned.

Henal Patel, 42, said: “I didn’t think the first attack was racist but then I heard about the second one. But two attacks in a week, both outside mosques in Tooting, surely this can’t be a coincidence?” Mother-of -two, Noor Malik, from Tooting, added: “From a female point of view, I’m very worried. If a man of Mr Haque’s size [Mr Haque was over 6ft] can be assaulted then what chance do the large number of Muslim women, who walk here mainly on their own, have?” Hasnan Muhammed, from Mitcham, said: “It’s not surprising that someone has been killed. This was always going to happen as it seems children, because lets be honest that’s what they were, are allowed to run riot and do as they please.” A mile away the mood was calm as worshippers gathered Outside the Gatton Road Mosque, where the 30-year-old Asian was attacked on Tuesday evening. One worshipper, Mohammed Omar, 31 said: "Me personally, I'm not worried. I don't believe it was a racist attack. They were just young boys fighting." Another, who did not want to be named, said: "We are not worried. It was just two young boys having a fight, that's all. “ Hoosen Randeree, deputy headteacher of the all-Muslim Gatton School, which is located beside to the mosque, said: "We are always vigilant, because we have children in our care. It's shocking. It's something we treasure, that we have a diverse community and live in harmony. These incidents are very sad.” Four teenagers appeared in youth court on Tuesday. A 15-year-old, and two 14-year-olds were charged with the murder of Mr Haque and two counts of ABH. The fourth boy, aged 12 was charged with conspiracy to commit GBH and two counts of assault.
© The Wandsworth Guardian



Fury as Muslim meeting is switched to Pall Mall while right-wingers protest in Trafalgar Square

13/9/2009- The right-wing group behind a series of anti-Islamist protests which have ended in running street battles is planning to demonstrate today in London's Trafalgar Square. A pro-Palestinian rally scheduled several months ago has been switched to neighbouring Pall Mall, much to the anger of the organisers. They blamed the decision on the English Defence League (EDL) and other right-wing groups. Raza Kazim, spokesman for the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: "At the last minute after months of negotiation, the Greater London Authority told us we are not allowed to go ahead with the rally in Trafalgar Square. Instead of standing up to threats they have capitulated. A place that was to be used to raise voices against fascism is now being given over to the very bigots we are supposed to be standing against." Scotland Yard said it was powerless to prevent the protest provided it remained a "static demonstration". The details emerged as Communities Secretary John Denham warned of a surge in fascist extremism designed to provoke violence on Britain's streets. He said the tactics employed were the same as those used by Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists blackshirt campaigns in the 1930s. "I think that the EDL and other organisations are not large numbers of people. They clearly, though, have among them people who know what they're doing," he said. "The tactic of trying to provoke a response in the hope of causing wider violence and mayhem is long established on the far-right and among extremist groups. "You could go back to the 1930s if you wanted to – Cable Street and all of those types of things," he said, referring to the day in 1936 when violence broke out as Mosley tried to lead a column into the heavily Jewish district of Whitechapel in London's East End. Mr Denham later insisted the situation was not as bad as the 1930s but warned the threat be taken seriously before it escalated.

The central London demonstration follows clashes between protesters, anti-fascist groups and police in Luton, Birmingham and north London. The EDL, originally formed by football supporters in Luton, claims to be a non-violent group campaigning against Muslim fundamentalism but is alleged to have links to former hooligan networks and known British National Party agitators. It was formed in March in reaction to barracking by Muslim protesters at soldiers from the Royal Anglian Regiment parading through Luton on their return from Iraq. On Friday, 500 riot officers broke up a crowd of 2,000 Muslim youths who gathered to defend Harrow central mosque from a planned protest by the EDL-affiliated group Stop the Islamisation of Europe. Police made 10 arrests as the two groups attempted to confront each other.  Birmingham city centre has twice seen running battles between the EDL and the campaign group Unite Against Fascism, and unofficial marches have been temporarily banned from Luton town centre following violence. The EDL's spokesman, a 28-year-old carpenter from Luton who uses the name Tommy Robinson, said the group was quickly gathering nationwide support through social networking sites. He stressed they are a non-violent organisation aiming to protest against Islamic fundamentalism in the UK. BNP leader Nick Griffin has distanced his party from the group. Despite this, anti-fascist campaigners say some of EDL's key organisers have been BNP members. Gerry Gable of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight said: "We're faced with an upsurge in fascist groups, and it's a real problem. This could do more damage to community relations than anything since the Oldham and Bradford riots of 2001 and 2002."
© The Independent



12/9/2009- A British government minister said a recent rise in right-wing anti-Islamist militancy bore echoes of 1930s attempts by fascists to spread fear in Jewish areas of east London. Communities Secretary John Denham said far right groups were deliberately trying to provoke ethnic minority groups into conflict in a bid to cause divisions within communities. His comments came after members of the Stop Islamisation of Europe group were confronted by about 1,000 opponents outside a mosque in north London on Friday. Ten arrests were made, including nine for possession of offensive weapons, and bricks and bottles were thrown at police. The incident comes after trouble in recent weeks between nationalist supporters and counter demonstrators in the central English city of Birmingham, resulting in dozens of arrests. "You could go back to the 1930s if you wanted to," he told the Guardaian newspaper. "The tactic of trying to provoke a response in the hope of causing wider violence and mayhem is long established on the far-right and among extemist groups." The black-shirted British Union of Fascists stirred fear in largely Jewish areas of London's east end in the 1930s. When they rallied for a march through the Stepney district in October, 1936, Tens of thousands of east enders blocked the approaches. Police attempts to clear their way resulted in fierce clashes and the BUF was eventually forced to abandon its plans in what became known as the Battle of Cable Street.

Suicide bombings
One senior counter-terrorism officer warned in July that right-wing extremists were plotting a "spectacular" incident to fuel racial hatred. The government has been trying to improve integration of ethnic minorities since race riots across northern England in 2001, and efforts were stepped up after the 2005 London suicide bombings carried out by four young British Islamists. Denham said far-right groups were again trying to take advantage of white, working-class people although he added modern extremist groups lacked the potency and organisation of those of the 1930s. "What we're seeing is small but we do need to take it seriously enough to say there are obviously people who would like to be provocative," he told BBC radio. Support for the far-right British National Party has been growing, fuelled by anger at the main parties and suspicion that immigration was impacting on jobs and services. It won two seats in European Parliament elections in June. Groups such as the anti-Islamist English Defence League have become more prominent since a small number of Muslim protesters heckled and jeered a homecoming parade by British soldiers earlier this year. "We haven't finished the job yet and we know there are communities who feel that their questions are not being answered," Denham said.
© Reuters



Stonewall's 'Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!' campaign is tackling bigotry in our schools

13/9/2009- Some of the UK's most prominent female writers, comedians and presenters, and one MP, are chatting over coffee and biscuits in a smart London bar. The topic of conversation isn't the latest play at the National, the current publishing sensation, or a piece of controversial legislation. No, these women are talking about sexual abuse; about insults scrawled on toilet walls; hate-filled letters published in newspapers; name-calling in the street: in short, about the harassment they have suffered as a result of their sexuality. Like an estimated 1.8 million women in Britain, Stella Duffy, Rhona Cameron, Amy Lamé, Angela Eagle and Sarah Waters are lesbian or bisexual, and as some of the country's few prominent lesbians, the are fronting the gay rights group Stonewall's latest campaign, entitled: "Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!". Timed to coincide with the start of the new academic year, the simple slogan was the idea of school pupils and is intended to highlight the problem of homophobic bullying in schools. "A taster campaign of the billboards saw some defaced with homophobic graffiti – reminding us that prejudice is still very much alive in Britain today," said Stonewall's Ben Summerskill. This sentiment is backed by recent research by YouGov, which revealed that one in five gay people in the UK has been a victim of hate crime in the past three years. These statistics indicate that, while gay rights in the UK have improved dramatically in the 20 years since Stonewall was founded – decades in which Section 28, the controversial legislation that banned teachers from talking about homosexuality in schools, has been repealed, civil partnerships have been introduced, and the age of consent has been equalised – the struggle to eradicate homophobia from the streets and schools of Britain may not be over yet.

Leading the fight against homophobia...

Stella Duffy
Writer, 46
"I was brought up in a small town in New Zealand, where there wasn't a lot of gay identity being paraded. I would have felt a lot less lonely if there had been. There are about 12 'out' lesbians in the public eye. I think it is less socially acceptable to be a lesbian. In the world of entertainment we've had pop stars like Elton John, Boy George and Will Young as cultural icons, and that helps. Gay men didn't have the problem of invisibility; they had a law against them that gave them something solid to join and unite against. We are still living in a culture that wants women to get married and have babies. They don't know where to put us, especially lesbians who look like me. I haven't been bullied, but I've suffered everything from sexual harassment to other, minor inappropriateness. I went to another civil partnership last week. If these are so great, then we should scrap marriage and everyone should have them. I've been with my partner for 15 years; we had a civil partnership three days after it was legal, but I want to get married."

Angela Eagle
MP, 48
"We fought to equalise the age of consent, to repeal Section 28, but there is still more to do in terms of legislation. We need a law dealing with incitement to homophobic hatred, like the law against incitement to racial hatred. If something leads to violence against people in a certain group, then that shouldn't be tolerated. There is a group in Parliament who'll be hostile to legislative change around the issue of gay rights; around 70 per cent of the Tory Party. You need a progressive majority of MPs to move on. I'm the only lesbian in Parliament. The only 'role model' in terms of sexuality in politics I had is the MP Maureen Colquhoun, outed in a disgusting way by Nigel Dempster in the mid-1970s. She lost her seat at the next election. I got to the stage where I was willing to risk losing my seat if that's what happened. I didn't know what to expect, but luckily I was supported by my then boss, John Prescott. Tony Blair was also extremely supportive. My constituents were fantastic."

Amy Lamé
TV presenter, 38
"I came out in my final year of university, and the bullying was shocking. It was a systematic hate campaign; from horrible letters printed in the school paper to graffiti on toilet walls. My academic work suffered as a result of it. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey – a cross between Essex and Liverpool – an hour out of New York, but it might as well have been a world away. I had no lesbian role models when I was young, and it wasn't until I started reading feminist books as a teenager that I found a channel for my feelings. I know what it is like to be isolated and feel as if you are the only one. I did a series called My Big Gay Prom with gay teenagers, which is one of the things I'm most proud of doing. Things have changed dramatically because people like Stonewall have worked hard to change laws, perceptions and mindsets. Rights and freedoms in the United States now pale in comparison to the UK. I've been in the UK for 17 years and have been with my partner for 15 years, but we couldn't go to live in the US because our civil partnership isn't recognised there."

Rhona Cameron
Comedian and author, 43
"Let's remind ourselves of a few things that have happened in the past year: in Liverpool a young boy was killed for being gay; elsewhere in the UK a man watched his partner stabbed to death and called faggot; and in South Africa a promising young footballer was gang-raped and killed for being a lesbian. The idea that these things aren't going on is just wrong. Statistically, homophobic bullying is still a big problem in schools, and a big factor in teen suicide. I was bullied for a time at school. I lived in fear of people turning up at my house and shouting stuff. Events that happen at school can scar you. I hadn't heard of any lesbians when I was at school; I used to look up 'lesbian' in the dictionary as I didn't know what it meant. It is disappointing that there are so few athletes out. If you are at a rough comprehensive, you're not going to know about some novelist, but you'll know about sports stars and pop stars. There are at least six gay Premier League footballers who are closeted; some of the female sporting legends of all time were, and are, gay."

Sarah Waters
Writer, 43
"Lesbianism is a part of life, but young people who are gay can feel isolated and like freaks. I think it is both easier and harder for young people now. Because of the greater visibility of gay people, they are also more of a target: there is a climate of homophobia that wasn't the case in my day. I don't like the way that the word 'gay' is used as an insult. I use the word 'dyke', though. I feel we have reclaimed it. Offence comes from the way words are used, not the words themselves. We're more protected than ever in law, but now more cultural and social changes are needed. We see far more gay men in the public eye than women. This is partly because gay culture on the whole is more flamboyant and glamorous. For me, as a writer, there are quite a lot of lesbians around. Literature feels like a lesbian-friendly place. I doubt young lesbians look up to people like me, more to people like Beth Ditto; it is healthy and exciting that there are role models like her."
© The Independent



11/9/2009- A Moscow City Court spokeswoman says 11 mostly teenage skinheads have been found guilty of hate killings and causing explosions. Anna Usachyova said Friday that jurors found the group, aged 16 to 21, guilty of killing four natives of China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and causing a series of blasts in Moscow. She said the jurors asked for clemency for an 18-year-old woman who headed the gang. The other 10 are male. Sova, a Moscow-based hate crimes monitor, said 47 people have been killed and 222 wounded in Russia this year in apparent hate attacks. Last year 107 were killed and 468 wounded. Sova's Galina Kozhevnikova said the drop reflects a "tactical switch" of neo-Nazi groups from targeting non-Slavs to indiscriminate attacks, which are not classed as hate crimes.
© The Kyiv Post



Macedonian gay rights advocates see more politics than conviction behind proposed anti-bias legislation.

18/9/2009- Risto and Ilija have been friends since they met at university a decade ago. They are well-educated, hold good jobs in a country mired in high unemployment, and are eager for their small nation to enter the European Union so there is a gateway to better educational and business opportunities. “And so we can be free to be who we are,” said Risto, 29, turning to smile at Ilija. “We do not want to be ‘in the closet’ but we are forced to stay there by our society, our religion, and the intolerance of our political leaders.” “We are locked in the closet,” added Ilija, a year younger and less gregarious than his friend. Across the western Balkans, homosexuals like Risto and Ilija (not their real names) face rejection and stigmatization in societies where conservative religious values and the harsh anti-sodomy laws of former authoritarian regimes – although now off the books – continue to shape public attitudes. Fervent nationalists have also used gay rights to rail against foreign influence, fueling anti-Western rhetoric and sporadic unrest. Indeed, Serbian authorities are braced for violence during the 20 September gay pride parade in Belgrade, where past marches have turned chaotic. In June, gay pride marchers were heckled and harassed in Zagreb, forcing Croatian police to intervene and arrest several protesters. And one year ago in the Bosnian capital, a mob armed with knives and stones attacked crowds gathered for the Queer Sarajevo Festival, wounding several participants and a police officer.

Prodded by the EU and other international organizations, Balkan states have taken steps to revamp their laws to protect against hate speech and bias based on faith, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Croatia’s lawmakers approved an anti-discrimination law in 2008 and Serbia narrowly did so in March as part of a package of pro-EU reforms. Albania’s new government is weighing a measure that would legalize same-sex marriages, which would make it the first in the region and one of only a handful of countries in Europe to do so. In EU-candidate Macedonia, change has come more slowly. Proposed laws to expand on existing workplace anti-discrimination rules have been bogged down partly by fervent opposition to statutes that provide explicit safeguards for sexual minorities. The 120-member parliament led by center-right Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is expected this autumn to consider more limited proposals that would ban bias based on gender, religion, and ethnicity.

A sop to the west
But human rights advocates say some proposals being discussed by the Macedonian parliament fall well short of expectations and are more a sop to the EU than a meaningful effort to protect the country’s minorities and marginalized people against discrimination. “On the one hand, the government is very eager to pass a law because it is part of the benchmarks for the EU accession talks,” said Mirjana Najcevska, a law professor and co-director of the Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution in Skopje. “But they want a law that will not bother them in the long run.” Najcevska said current proposals would leave religious nonconformists and marginalized groups – including migrants, asylum seekers, and sexual minorities – out in the cold. The government had rejected broader anti-bias legislation developed in 2005 by civic groups, lawyers, and academics. Najcevska, who was among those drafting the earlier measure, said they drew on British, French, and Belgian anti-discrimination laws that provide more sweeping protections than can be found in the Balkans. But she said the earlier draft was imperfect. It did not make provision for an independent mediation board that Najcevska said would play a significant role in carrying out the intent of the legislation. The board she envisions would investigate bias complaints and have the power to arbitrate, potentially saving time and costly legal battles. Rights groups are pressing lawmakers to include such a board.

But it may be an uphill fight to win a broader anti-bias law, in part because of opposition to protections for sexual minorities. The Macedonian Orthodox Church opposes such provisions, and leading politicians have rebuffed anti-discrimination measures that include protections for homosexuals. During the presidential campaign earlier this year, the eventual winner Georgi Ivanov angered the country’s gay rights advocates when he told the Spic daily, “Our system discriminates against no one. Homosexuals stigmatize themselves and think they are in an underprivileged position.” Such statements stoke fear among rights advocates that what will emerge is a law too weak to combat stigmatization or provide adequate legal rights for people across the spectrum of sexual and gender identity. “We hope we can manage changes, not [all that] we might want, but we believe we can make it [the legislation] better,” Najcevska said.

Laws aren't enough
Risto and Ilija, the young gay couple, are skeptical that such a law would improve rights and ease the stigmatization of gays. “Of course we support the laws, but what we need is for politicians and the church to speak of tolerance and not of hate,” Ilija said. “The younger generation understands. But the older ones … it is their habit to listen to the authorities rather than feeling with their hearts.” The two men spoke to a visitor in nearly flawless English at a riverfront cafe in central Skopje. They insisted on anonymity, repeating the request several times during a nearly 90-minute interview, saying that exposing their relationship would traumatize their families and bring opprobrium from friends and relatives. “I go out with girls for protection,” Risto said, emphasizing the word, “because I am afraid to openly show my feelings for a man.” Reported cases of violence against homosexuals are rare in Macedonia, but rights workers say harassment and intimidation are not uncommon. According to the Skopje chapter of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, there is scant legal recourse here for bringing cases of bias against homosexuals, and victims of harassment or violence are wary of pressing charges for fear of outing themselves or their lovers. Gay activists also face official roadblocks, as did organizers of the Queer Square Festival in 2007. They were denied a permit to use the broad central square, which is encircled by cafés, shopping galleries, and office buildings. Municipal authorities turned down the request on grounds that a cancer-awareness event was scheduled at the same time.

But politicians, a cultural aversion to homosexuality, and religious fervor may not be entirely to blame for the slow pace of change in this nation of 2 million people. Public activism is not common and the gay community itself has been fragmented. One leading gay rights organization, the Macedonian Association for Free Sexual Orientation, folded last year because of internal disputes. Even in cases involving police or family violence against homosexuals, there are few legal challenges, partly because of the absence of statutes protecting sexual minorities, but also due to the lack of willingness to emerge from the shadows. “It is almost impossible to talk about the gay community in Macedonia,” said Slavco Dimitrov, coordinator of the Coalition for Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities. “There is not some politically active core that is working to represent gays and their rights.” Still, Macedonian authorities do not hold a monopoly on quashing gay pride demonstrations or evoking faith and social mores to oppose legal protections. According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, such incidents occur across the 27-nation bloc. “Fear of discrimination, homophobia and transphobia contributes to the present ‘invisibility’ of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] persons in many parts of Europe and in many social settings,” the agency said in its 2009 annual report. “LGBT persons often adopt a strategy of invisibility because of the perceived risks of being exposed to discrimination. This contributes to the comparatively low number of cases of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression reported across the EU compared to discrimination cases on other grounds, such as ‘race,’ ethnicity or gender.” The EU report also cites restrictions on assembly and attacks by counter-demonstrators in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Romania, as well as ardent political resistance to strengthening rights for gays and lesbians in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, and Malta.

Pressure from the EU (aqnd Albania)
For all the challenges rights supporters see in Macedonia, there is a glimmer of hope. The country’s quest for EU membership and its political leaders’ desire to win allies in the nation’s exhausting name dispute with Greece make them more likely to cooperate with the EU, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international organizations pressing for stronger minority rights. And then there’s Albania. While Dimitrov believes the draft same-sex marriage law is a ploy to get good publicity and shore up support for Tirana in Brussels – “laws are only good if they are enforced,” he said – it’s still a step in the right direction. “I find it very positive in the influence it can have on other countries in the region,” Dimitrov said, “because Albania has traditionally been seen as the most conservative.” And if Albania grants homosexual couples the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, “We may go there to get married,” Risto said wryly. “We just won’t tell anyone.”
© Transitions Online



18/9/2009- A group of Dutch-Iranian students have filed a case against the Dutch government for its harsh interpretation of EU sanctions aimed at preventing Iranian students in Europe from acquiring information on nuclear and missile technologies, saying the measures are discriminatory and racist and will not stop Tehran from creating an atomic bomb. In a bid to strengthen previously approved UN measures against Iran, EU governments in January 2007 agreed to "take measures to prevent Iranian nationals from studying proliferation sensitive subjects within the EU." The purpose of the regulation is to stop Tehran from acquiring enough nuclear knowledge to create its own atomic bomb. How to implement the EU sanction into national law is up to each member state. Concrete legislative measures have so far been rare across the union, with most countries settling for visa restrictions for students from Iran. The Dutch government, however, has enacted legislation barring Iranian nationals, including those holding dual citizenship in the Netherlands and Iran, from access to courses and facilities related to nuclear technology. Universities and nuclear institutions face criminal sanctions if they accept Iranians to excluded master studies or their nuclear institutes. "These measures are in clear violation of international human rights and anti-discriminatory treaties, as well being utterly racist," Dutch lawyer Jelle Klaas, who has filed a case against his government on behalf of an Dutch-Iranian student's activist group, told this website.

The group "Stop Verdachtmaking van Iraniërs!"- stop suspecting Iranians - demands that the government scraps the implementation of the EU regulation, and that the judge declares discriminatory bans directed at a single nationality. The group has also collected over 4000 signatures including prominent personalities such as US academic Noam Chomsky. Mr Klaas said that the measure is not only stigmatising for Iranians in the Netherlands- over 80 percent of the 30,000 strong Iranian community in the Netherlands have Dutch passports, and many are born and raised in the country - but that it is also a pointless regulation in terms of preventing nuclear information from reaching Iran. "What prevents students from other communities like the Dutch or, say, Pakistani, from passing on the information?" "If the secrets are not secret enough and risk being spread, then the sites should look into their security procedures and start checking everyone, and not just Iranians," Mr Klaas concluded. Mr Behnam Taebi, an Iranian-born Dutch PHD student specialising in the ethics of nuclear energy, and one of the leaders of "Stop Verdachtmaking van Iraniërs!, told Euobserver it is "common knowledge" that most members of the Iranian communities abroad are against the regime in Tehran, and that these regulations actually target "the enemy of the enemy".

"The Netherlands is trying to fix an image problem they suffer from since the seventies," the researcher, who no longer has access to several sites where he previously conducted crucial research for his thesis, explained. The Netherlands played a pivotal role in one of the 20th century's biggest nuclear spying operations. Pakistani nuclear physicist Abdul Qadeer Khan obtained an advanced degree at the Delft technical university, and worked at the Physical Dynamic Research laboratory from 1972 until 1975. Mr Khan disappeared in 1975, only to reappear in 1976 as the leader of the Pakistani nuclear weapons research programme. In 2004, Pakistan announced that Mr Khan had sold nuclear information to Libya, Iran and North Korea, together with a Dutch business partner.

Swedish universities split
In Sweden, a country with a large Iranian community, many of which fled the Islamic coup in 1978, confusion spread through both academic and governmental corridors when Swedish radio this summer put the spotlight on Iranian students being banned from certain educational programmes, following a warning from the country's security service. The security police, along with two other authorities – the Inspectorate of Strategic Product and the Radiation Safety Administration – sent letters to seven Swedish universities alerting them to how their institutions could be affected by the restrictions on Iranians wishing to study in Sweden. The letter pointed to concerns about specific masters and PhD programmes at the schools. But it is still up to each institution to decide which subject areas will be covered by the restrictions, according to the security police spokesperson, Patrik Peter. "Our letter was just a letter of information, not a demand," he said. Other authorities have said universities should be aware of the country's anti-discrimination laws. "Whoever resides in Sweden is covered by Swedish anti-discrimination law, regardless of where he or she comes from," an official at the country's anti-discrimination Ombudsman's office told Euobserver. A legal expert at the education ministry said that setting up bans based on nationality would be "clearly discriminatory". So far, two out of the seven universities contacted by the security police have refused to ban Iranians from applying to their programmes. "We do not register applicants' nationality at all. Everybody who has the necessary academic merits is given a chance to study," a spokesperson for the Royal Technical University in Stockholm said in a statement.

Just Google it
Members of the scientific community in Sweden told reporters that the information referred to as "sensitive" in the master programmes concerned, is available on the internet and in Iranian universities. "There is nothing 'dangerous' at all in any of the courses pointed out by the authorities," said professor Christophe Demeziere at Chalmers Technical University in Gotenborg, one of the schools which has decided to not accept Iranian students to study certain topics, told Swedish radio. "They actually have nuclear technology courses in Iran too. So this restriction is frankly quite stupid," he added. A European Commission spokeswoman said that the agreement between member states on sanctions against Iran was a strictly political act, and that legislation or other follow-up measures are up to member states themselves, not Brussels.
© The EUobserver



15/9/2009- Social media expert Andre Oboler writes about Facebook's defense of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in an article for The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs' (JCPA) Institute for Global Jewish Affairs. He chronicles the evolution of Facebook's stand on hate speech, culminating in the rewriting of itsTerms of Service to remove prohibitions on defamatory or inflammatory content

No longer prohibited is content that is "derogatory," "demeaning," "offensive," "harmful," "defamatory," "abusive," "inflammatory," "vulgar," "obscene," "fraudulent," "invasive of privacy or publicity rights," or "racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable." Also gone is the clause not to "violate any local, state, national or international law." Facebook is not above the law and removing this clause changes nothing. By dropping the ban on a whole raft of antisocial behaviors, from the "vulgar" to the "obscene," Facebook retracted its position that "certain kinds of speech simply do not belong in a community like Facebook." The removal of the prohibition on defamation and on racism, prohibited since the start, is particularly worrying, specifically in light of Facebook's canned response that specifically talks about hate against individuals. Facebook has dropped its commitment to being a safe place on the internet. It has given up any pretense of being guided by morals rather than money.

The article demonstrates how Facebook "has given up any pretense of being guided by morals rather than money" and concludes that:
Facebook has demonstrated once again that it is media pressure and not its own Terms of Service or ethical deliberations that cause action to be taken against online hate. The company has watered down the provisions against various types of hateful content and dropped its promise to provide a "safe place on the internet." Most alarmingly, despite still prohibiting hateful content, Facebook has decided as policy to allow Holocaust denial on the platform. This demonstrates a lack of understanding regarding anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in particularly, and a lack of engagement with the problem of anti-Semitism 2.0.
© Snapshots



16/9/2009- The first round of secret voting for a new director of the United Nations' cultural body, Unesco, begins tomorrow amid controversy in Paris over the favourite, Egypt's culture minister, Farouk Hosni. Hosni, an abstract artist, has spent recent days battling allegations of anti-semitism over his comment last year that he would personally burn Hebrew books in Egyptian libraries, as well as concerns at his government's questionable record on freedom of expression. Hosni is close to the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, and has served in government for more than 20 years. He would be the first figure from the Arab world to lead the Paris-based education and cultural body. Supporters say it would send an important sign of progress to Muslims. But before his candidacy was put forward in May French intellectuals, including the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy and the Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel, denounced his statements about Israeli culture, deeming him unfit for "one of the most important positions of cultural responsibility on the planet". After publishing a mea-culpa in Le Monde in May, Hosni this week told Le Figaro his comments on book-burning had been taken out of context. He said he had been replying to a fundamentalist MP in parliament who complained about the presence in libraries of "Israeli books insulting Islam". Hosni said: "I replied, 'If there are books insulting Islam, bring them to me and I'll burn them myself'." He refuted charges of a lack of freedom of expression in Egypt. With the Unesco headquarters in Paris, France is supposed to be neutral over the appointment of a new director. But behind the scenes French presidential aides have favoured the Egyptian, in part to secure ongoing Egyptian backing for French president Nicolas Sarkozy's project for a Mediterranean Union. A series of secret ballots of UN members will take place before the new director is announced next month. Israel has dropped its objections to Hosni's nomination. The nine candidates include Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations.
© The Guardian



15/9/2009- Discrimination remains a “scourge” that affects every country, the United Nations human rights chief said today, adding that combating it has become one of her office’s top priorities, along with tackling impunity for various rights violations. “Eliminating discrimination is a duty of the highest order,” Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in her opening address to the 12th session of the UN Human Rights Council. She said there were “huge gaps” between the “lofty pledges” made by States and the realities of daily life for many of their inhabitants, pointing out that “no country in the world can claim to be free of human rights violations.” Ms. Pillay, who has just completed her first year as the world body’s top rights official, gave a wide-ranging speech to the Geneva-based body in which she named 47 different countries and territories in connection with themes ranging from the effect of the recession on the world’s poorest people to the brutal suppression of criticism to the toll of conflict on fundamental rights.

Highlighting her point that no country is immune from discrimination, she listed 17 European countries where violence or discrimination against Roma has been recorded, ranging from fatal attacks and police brutality to forced evictions and systemic discrimination. In Latin America, she noted positive developments with regard to the approach taken by some States to indigenous peoples, but added that “land grabs, the suppression of traditional customs, outright violence and deadly attacks continue to take place.” Turning to China, she urged the authorities there to respect human rights in their efforts to uphold the law, and to “reflect on the underlying causes” of incidents such as the recent disturbances in the Xinjiang and Tibetan Autonomous Regions which include discrimination and the failure to protect minority rights. Ms. Pillay also highlighted the fact that the human rights of women continue to be denied or curtailed in many countries. While noting some improvements in the Gulf region, she stated that the overall situation of women there “falls well short of international standards.”

The High Commissioner issued a strong call to governments to combat impunity for crimes committed during armed conflicts, and in particular those directed against civilians. “I urge the international community, including this Council, to insist on full accountability for all violations and to ensure assistance to the victims,” she said. “I also urge all those States contributing to military operations, whether it be in their own country or in other countries, to enhance their efforts to prevent civilian casualties, which in Afghanistan and elsewhere remain at unacceptably high levels.” She noted that an “intolerable” number of displaced people continue to live in camps, adding that in the case of Sri Lanka “internally displaced persons are effectively detained under conditions of internment.” Another area requiring action by States is addressing the “alarming global trend” of governments, or other powerful forces, persecuting or even killing peaceful opponents and critics, she stated.

“In too many countries, brave human rights advocates, journalists and dissidents face abduction, arbitrary detention, torture and even death to defend their rights and freedoms and those of the communities they serve or represent,” said Ms. Pillay. In particular, she cited “the unfair and arbitrary detention” of Aung Sang Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 other political prisoners, which she said “makes a mockery of Myanmar’s commitment to democratic transition.” She also noted the 20-year prison sentence imposed on Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, who had criticized the army’s treatment of Tamil civilians, and the detention and ill-treatment of a prominent human rights defender in Zimbabwe, as well as the recent murders of human rights defenders in Mexico and Russia. She also called on the Government of Iran to release those detained for peaceful protest in the wake of the recent elections, and to investigate reports of their ill-treatment.

In addition, Ms. Pillay said that “democratic deficits” remain a significant obstacle to the protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law, noting that “constitutional order has been subverted” in places like Honduras and Fiji. In a related development, the 47-member Human Rights Council today decided not to let Honduras’ Geneva-based ambassador attend its proceedings, after determining he represents the post-coup government that few countries recognize as legitimate. The action came after other Latin American States said the ambassador represented an “illegal” regime and not the administration of President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted by the military in June.
© The UN News Service



15/9/2009- Four United Nations agencies and offices will be amalgamated to create a new single entity within the Organization to promote the rights and well-being of women worldwide and to work towards gender equality. The General Assembly adopted a resolution late yesterday on improving system-wide coherence within the UN, and the text spells out the support of Member States for a new consolidated body – to be headed by an under-secretary-general – to deal with issues concerning women. The resolution means the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women, the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW) will be merged.

In a statement issued today by his spokesperson, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “particularly gratified” that the Assembly had accepted his proposal for “a more robust promotion” of women’s rights under the new entity. “An important step has been made in strengthening the United Nations’ work in the area of gender equality and empowerment of women, as well as in ensuring the effective delivery of its operational activities for development, which constitutes the other key components of the resolution,” the statement noted. Mr. Ban said in the statement that he had appointed more women to senior posts than at any other time in the history of the UN, including nine women to the rank of under-secretary-general. The number of women in senior posts has increased by 40 per cent under his tenure.

The Assembly’s resolution tasks Mr. Ban with providing Member States with a comprehensive proposal outlining the mission statement, structure, funding and oversight of the new entity so that it can be created as soon as possible. The resolution also calls for greater measures to harmonize business practices within the UN development system, ways to improve the funding system for such activities, and other steps to streamline practices within the world body. After the resolution, UNIFEM – which currently operates in autonomous association with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) – issued a statement welcoming “the unanimous strong support” among Member States, which follow three years of extensive consultations on the structure and operational details of the new body. “UNIFEM trusts that deliberations can resume soon to ensure an informed and swift establishment of the composite entity,” the statement said.
© The UN News Service


Headlines 11 September, 2009

EXPLAINING 9/11 TO A MUSLIM CHILD (usa, opinion)

This day will always bring more questions than answers. How to explain to your child what happened on a crystalline morning eight years ago? And if your child is Muslim, those questions have added layers, and more complicated answers. In a guest blog today, Moina Noor (a freelance journalist who blogs about public education at describes trying to make sense of it for her young son, while still trying to understand it all herself.

Explaining 9/11 to a Muslim Child
By Moina Noor

Recently on the morning drive to school my 8-year-old son asked me a question I’ve been dreading since he was a baby, “Mom, what happened on 9/11?” Mass murder is impossible to explain to yourself, let alone a child. But how do I, as a parent, explain the slaughter of innocent people in the name of a religion that I am trying to pass on to my boy? Bilal was just 8 months old when September 11 happened. He was just starting to crawl and put everything in sight into his mouth, and I remember having to peel my gaze away from the television screen and remind myself to keep a watchful eye on where he lay nearby. After Bilal was born I viewed everything — especially current events — through the lens of parenthood. I knew the world had changed irreparably on 9/11, and while I mourned the innocent and raged against my crazy coreligionists, my nagging anxiety was for my son. Even in those early surreal hours after the attacks when images of towers falling and long-bearded men in caves flooded the television screen, I knew that Bilal’s childhood would not be like mine.

When I was growing up in suburban Connecticut few people knew much about Muslims, let alone cared. My parents and their friends would gather in community rooms or church basements for our version of Sunday school. They were devout but weren’t necessarily interested in teaching their neighbors about Islam. We were few in number and invisible. After 9/11, the spotlight was aimed at Muslims everywhere, especially here in America. Like many Muslims, I felt the need to defend my religious identity. I threw myself into all things Muslim, and explained and explained: “We are like you. Islam is peaceful. Complex sociopolitical factors create lunatics who kill people. Please don’t judge a billion people by a few bad apples.” I hung tightly to my spiritual rope. I could not let go of a faith has given me and my family comfort and solace for generations. Since 9/11, I’ve worried how Bilal would feel about his identity as a Muslim living in America. A survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life appeared in 2007 stating that 35 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion about Islam. Could one of those 3 in 10 people be Bilal’s teacher or soccer coach?

Over the past eight years I’ve read about Muslims being deported and pulled off airplanes and mosques being vandalized. My sister, a former middle school teacher in Brooklyn, heard kids taunt a Muslim student on the playground, calling him a terrorist. And even though I fear the possibility of discrimination for Bilal, what I fear most of all is that the din of Islamophobia will rob my son of self-respect and confidence. So just as I became an activist, I became a proactive Muslim mommy. When Bilal was a preschooler, I took him to Muslim playgroups, organized activities in Ramadan and bought him board books about the Prophet Muhammed. I pushed him in his stroller at peace walks and brought him to interfaith events. These days, I organize local Islamic school classes and give talks about the Hajj at his elementary school. My husband and I read him books about Islamic contributions to math and science.

Over the years, I’ve tried to protect my son from any negative associations made with Islam. I’ve developed lightening quick reflexes — the second I hear a story about suicide bombers or terrorists on the radio, I switch to a pop music station. I’ve made my husband limit his CNN time to after the kids go to sleep. I don’t want to have to answer the question, “Mom, what is the ‘threat of radical Islamic extremism?’ ” For me, the thought of talking to Bilal about terrorism is a bit like talking about sex for the first time. It is awkward and difficult I’m just not sure how much a child his age is ready to hear. This year 9/11 falls during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. I made Bilal watch President Obama’s five minute long “Ramadan Message to Muslims” on the Internet. President Obama spoke with respect, knowledge and a sense optimism to Muslims around the world. He found the speech interesting but nothing out of the ordinary. For Bilal, who is just starting to become conscious of a world bigger than our front yard, there is no “clash of civilizations”.

Bilal is proud to tell others that he was named after “the Prophet’s best friend,” an African Muslim with a beautiful voice who gave the first call to prayer. He is also a Cub Scout who has learned how to fold the American flag. I did try and answer Bilal’s question. I relayed the day’s events in broad cartoonish strokes: bad guys attack, buildings collapse. Don’t worry, I assured him, we’ll get the bad guys so they won’t do it again. As I looked at Bilal in the rearview mirror, I explained that good and bad exists in every group, even your own. I think he understands.
© The New York Times


THE RELIGION THING (Kyrgyzstan, commentary)

As Islamic radicalism grows in Kyrgyzstan, the country’s leaders take the easy way out.

11/9/2009- Former U.S. President George Bush (the father, not the son) once famously confessed that he was not good at “the vision thing.” He evidently meant that he had trouble thinking originally and conceptually beyond the daily grind of meetings and events – quite an admission from a world leader. Halfway across the world and about two decades later, the leaders of Central Asia have shown themselves not only bereft of vision in dealing with the growth of religious activity since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but, more often than not, that they don’t get this “religion thing” at all.

Two reports issued last week, focusing on Kyrgyzstan, demonstrate that many of the lessons that should have been learned for dealing with religious extremism – in Central Asia, the Middle East, and other trouble spots around the world – continue to be ignored: Instead of viewing growing radicalism as an outcome of poor governance, corruption, and despair, the authorities see only a threat. Instead of dealing with that threat in a multi-faceted way that gets at the root causes of this new-found fervor, officials react with repression, by legal and physical means. And that plays right into the hands of the radicals. In a detailed report, the International Crisis Group describes the growing popularity in Kyrgyzstan of groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, especially among women, and the heavy-handed, counter-productive reaction of the government. Hizb ut-Tahrir, calling itself a global Islamic political party with the aim of bringing all Muslim nations into a unitary Islamic state or caliphate, has caused alarm across Central Asia (though it preaches non-violence). The movement is banned throughout Central Asia, and most governments treat it as a terrorist organization. Yet even forced underground, the movement has, according to ICG estimates, up to 8,000 members, with as many as 2,000 women, in Kyrgyzstan. “Women, especially those living in rural or conservative areas where traditional gender norms prevail, turn to [Hizb ut-Tahrir] to find meaning in their restricted social roles,” the report states. “Religious women, in particular, feel that women in government do not represent their views, because most are proponents of secularism.” Hizb ut-Tahrir has also filled a gap in social services, offering, for example, after-school programs for children.

Left to its own devices, the report suggests that Hizb ut-Tahrir would have limited potential for growth, having made little headway into the educated middle class and offering few advantages to women who have managed to assert themselves in a secular society. Yet, the report warns, an approach centered on repression could end up filling the ranks of the movement and turning some of its members toward violence: Hizb ut-Tahrir “views prison as the ultimate test of party resolve and will regard a crackdown as an opportunity to provide new martyrs and draw new recruits.” The ICG dates the government’s new aggressive strategy toward Islamist groups to almost a year ago, when an October 2008 demonstration in the town of Nookat turned violent. While some of the details remain fuzzy, what is clear is that a large group of people turned out to protest the decision to cancel festivities celebrating the end of Ramadan. The police reacted with batons and tear gas, saying later that they had been attacked. Within a week, the authorities rounded up 32 alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members, including women and teenagers, and before the end of November, they had all received lengthy prison terms of nine to 20 years (the Supreme Court subsequently reduced most sentences by two to five years). The crackdown clearly seems to have been intended by the government as a lesson that the authorities’ tolerance of the organization had its limits, and probably reflected concern among officials that they had been too soft on radicals and needed to adopt a tougher approach along the lines of Uzbekistan (quick show trials and long sentences). As TOL has reported, the authorities also stepped up pressure on madrasas after Nookat.

Officials have claimed that they have also pursued a policy of engagement with Hizb ut-Tahrir followers, but the ICG report found that any such dialogue has taken a back seat to repression by the security apparatus: “Civilian elements of the government tasked with reaching out to the religious community take at best a distant, secondary part. They are either too inefficient and uncoordinated, or simply reluctant to do anything that impinges on the responsibilities of the powerful security establishment.”

Attacking the problem from the wrong end
An article for the Oslo-based Forum 18 news service makes clear that the authorities have also chosen to take a legal route toward limiting religious activity, a tactic that has ended up affecting many other religious groups besides radical Muslims (Baptists, Lutherans, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and others). Forum 18, which monitors religious freedoms mainly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, reviewed the draft text of a new law on religious education and said it “would impose sweeping controls on who can open religious educational institutions, would ban all but approved and licensed institutions, and ban individuals from seeking religious education abroad without state approval.” Religious education would only be allowed in the form of full-time study, with any home schooling or special training courses forbidden. The law, if passed, would follow up the restrictive religion law that came into force in January, despite protests from local human rights groups, many smaller religious communities, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and others. Among other things, the law forbids children to belong to religious organizations, and bans “aggressive action aimed at proselytism” and distribution of religious literature, print, and audio-video materials, according to Forum 18.

The ICG’s long list of recommendations to the government of Kyrgyzstan is noble and full of good advice: develop policies aimed at improving the lives of religious women and poor families; create an inter-agency task force on radicalization; and commission a study to analyze the needs of religious women in areas where radicalism is on the upswing. In other words, the authorities need to get to know the new and potential movement recruits better in order to serve their needs and turn them away from more extreme solutions. Any such initiatives would, however, have to originate with leaders who not only have an inkling about this religion thing sweeping their country and region, but the vision to deal with it. And repression and vision rarely go hand in hand.
© Transitions Online



11/9/2009- Two Roma parents have received 16-month prison sentences because two of their children avoided going to school, Nepszabadsag daily said on Friday. The paper cited a child protection officer who said that it is unprecedented in Hungary that both parents, who have six children including an infant, have been awarded simultaneous prison sentences. Three of the children regularly attend school. Whereas the two oldest children were started off to school from their home at the edge of Sajokaza village, NE Hungary, they dropped out along the way. The Association for Freedom (TASZ) has sent a petition to President Laszlo Solyom -- a copy was sent to the justice minister, too -- asking him to intervene in the case, arguing that the blame should not lie with the parents: the reason the children avoided going to school is that they felt very unhappy there. "No doubt because of their Roma origin, they were often put in a disadvantage and, what is more, they were subject to violence more than once," according to the petition. The justice minister has the right to suspend the sentence until the president has made a decision in the matter.



11/9/2009- The former head of Greece's secret services Yannis Korantis is to stand for extreme-right party LAOS in next month's parliamentary elections, the party said on Thursday. Korantis will head the party's list at the October 4 elections, called by Prime Minister Costas Karamalis last week to deal with the country's economic woes. Korantis was sacked in July after five years as the head of the EYP spy agency. A police source said that his sacking was punishment for publishing transcripts of phone taps in Greek newspapers. Neo-Nazi Dimitris Zafeiropoulos, who recently joined LAOS, said he would also stand for the party in Patras in the northern Peleponnes. Zafeiropoulos was last year sentenced to five months in jail for writing an article celebrating how few Jews were left in the northern city Thessaloniki, where 96 percent of the Jewish population was killed by the Nazis. LAOS entered parliament for the first time in 2007 with 3.8 percent of votes and 10 MPs.



The government has proposed a sweeping overhaul of Sweden’s system for supporting newly arrived immigrants in their search for a job in hopes of getting them established and working more quickly.

11/9/2009- The proposal calls for the creation of “establishment guides” and takes primary responsibility for helping immigrants find work away from local authorities and puts it in the hands of the National Public Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen). “The reform is for all of those who need extra support and prerequisites in order to succeed in making the critical life choices within their first year in their new homeland,” writes integration minister Nyamko Sabuni in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper. “Therefore the reform we’re presenting to the Council on Legislation (Lagrådet) is based on individuals’ will, participation, and responsibility for their own future in their new country.” According to the proposal, immigrants can enlist the help of companies or organizations to serve as guides to help them expand their networks and support their efforts to find employment. The so-called “establishment guides”, in coordination with the employment agency, will help immigrants draw up action plans to speed up their integration into Swedish society. The guides will in turn be eligible for performance-based compensation in order to create “an incentive for the guides to contribute to new arrivals’ ability to quickly find work and support themselves”. The government hopes the reform, which is expected to cost around 920 million kronor ($132 million), will increase individuals’ responsibility and incentives to get into the job market quickly, as well as change attitudes about refugees arriving in Sweden from war-torn areas. “People who flee from war or grave circumstances expect to have a chance to contribute to society – not live on benefits payments,” writes Sabuni. “Through improved individual planning in which each person is actively participating, and by better follow-ups to ensure that planned activities are carried out, the possibilities for successful integration will be improved.” While losing primary responsibility for helping immigrants find jobs, Swedish municipalities will continue to contribute to the integration of immigrants by providing assistance with housing, Swedish language instruction, adult education, and programmes for children and young people.
© The Local - Sweden



Right wing extremist political party, the NPD, was re-elected in Saxony two weeks ago. Now a leading politician in Bavaria wants to seek a national ban on them. But his push is causing political conflict. Because while most German politicians want to stop the NPD, they can't decide how best to do so.

10/9/2009- The far-rightNational Democratic Party (NPD) recently made gains in state elections in Saxony. Now a politician in the German state of Bavaria wants to launch a new bid to ban them. "Bavaria will not just look on as the NPD, an enemy of the constitution, drives to establish itself," Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. By pushing to take the case to Germany's highest court, the CSU, which rules Bavaria in a coalition with the Free Democratic party (FDP), is breaking ranks with its sister party, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The CDU in no way supports or endorses the NPD and would be pleased to see it disappear from the political stage altogether. But the CDU wants to avoid another failure to ban the group at Germany's Federal Constitutional Court. They would prefer simply to wait until the party is pushed back into the margins of society or for a more opportune time to launch another offensive against them.

Xenophobic Views and Nazi Ideology
In 2003, the federal government made a first attempt to seek a ban on the NPD, claiming its far-right ideology breached Germany's constitution and strict anti-Nazi laws. The government argued the party should be outlawed because of its xenophobic views and espousal of Nazi ideology. Indeed, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, has described the NPD as a "racist, anti-Semitic, revisionist" political body. But the attempt failed. Judges at Germany's highest court threw the case out, saying that some of the evidence against the NPD was inadmissible because it had been collected by informants for the German intelligence service, meaning the trial was irreversibly tainted. Wolfgang Schäuble, the federal interior minister and also a member of Merkel's CDU, would like to avoid an embarassing repeat of that debacle. Earlier this year, Schäuble also snubbed similar plans by the Social Democratic Party (SPD), labelling them as "unserious." Speaking to SPIEGEL ONLINE on Thursday, the deputy head of the CDU's parliamentary group, Wolfgang Bosbach, said the situation hadn't changed since 2003 and the "reasons that have kept us from submitting a new application to ban (the NPD) are still valid today." Bosbach said he shared the CSU politician's opinion "that the NPD is anti-constitutional and dangers. I also think it should be banned." But Herrmann maintains that the NPD poses an acute threat to Germany that must be taken seriously.

In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Herrmann said that he would be willing to lead a "straight forward debate" with Schäuble if necessary, adding that he knew he would also be able to rely on full support from Bavaria's Governor Horst Seehofer, also a member of the CSU. He said he would be ready to launch a case by next summer. Herrmann's announcement comes less than two weeks after the NPD managed to clear the 5 percent threshold during its re-election campaign in the eastern state of Saxony. Under German law, a party needs 5 percent of the vote or more in order to enter parliament officially. Saxony's state party funding rules stipulate that the party may be entitled to an additional €100,000 ($146,000) a year in state financing because it secured a second term. The NPD has met that condition, having leapt the 5 percent threshold to enter the assembly in Saxony twice in a row. The party wants to use that money to transform its "Education Center for Homeland and National Identity" into a foundation.

'Endangering our Country'
The Left Party and the Greens have argued the NPD should not be given the money because of its xenophobic political platforms. These are highlighted in its current campaign for the Sept. 27 national election with slogans like "Fatherland, Mother Tongue, Children's Joy" and "German Work for Germans First." The NPD is also demanding €500 child benefit "for every German child" and a monthly mother's benefit of €1,000 for "every German mother." In the Saxony election, the party's slogans included placards with phrases like "Deport Criminal Foreigners," with "criminal" printed in smaller letters, and "Stop the Invasian by Poles." Last month the NPD hit the headlines for harassing a black member of Merkel's CDU, telling him he should leave the country. And during the spring, the SPD published a 90-page document in which it quoted the NPD leader in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Udo Pastörs, saying that "a Jew cannot be a German in the sense of ethnic origin." Politicians across party lines are united in a desire to stop the NPD. But what they seem to be divided about is whether a new case should be brought to court to do so. "If we leave the NPD to do what it wants until the federal republic is at risk, then we have missed the right point for a ban," Herrmann told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "Then we will be endangering our country."
© The Spiegel



Tariq Ramadan was in the Netherlands to talk about his dismissal by the city of Rotterdam and the Erasmus University because of his ties with Press TV in Iran. 'It is all about the local elections.'

9/9/2009- Tariq Ramadan (47) made a quiet yet combative impression as he told of his disappointment in the Rotterdam city executive, the board at Erasmus University, and above all, Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb. The mayor should have stood up for him, he said, when the city council asked for his dismissal because of his connection to the government-financed Iranian television station Press TV. He is especially piqued by a remark Aboutaleb made in April during a debate in the city council about Ramadan's alleged homophobic statements. "We could sit out this construction, but my advice would be: never again." Ramadan: "The muncipality conducted an investigation which showed that I had been falsely accused. Shortly after that I was called in by the [Erasmus University] rector. He asked me to move to another university in the Netherlands and to break all ties with the municipality. Everything pointed to the mayor being behind this. The university was asked to solve his problem, and the problem was me." Mayor Aboutaleb categorically denies Ramadan's reading of the events.

How do you know the mayor was behind it?
"The rector referred to the mayor twice during our conversation. He supposedly said 'the situation was difficult'."

Did you ask why Aboutaleb wanted to get rid of you?
"Not directly, but I did ask why the rector wanted me to quit. The answer was that, with local elections coming up [in March 2010], I would sooner or later become a political problem. I declined the offer."

The mayor is a Muslim too. Did that play a role?
"I think it definitely did. Before he became mayor he told me: 'You're doing good things. We need more people like you.' As mayor he changed his position. He didn't want to give the impression that he was looking out for other Muslims. I understand: a Muslim mayor and a Muslim intellectual... That's just too much for some people."

The rector says you didn't understand how sensitive your work for Press TV was for the Western world.
"The rector places me outside the Western world. But I was born in Switzerland. I grew up and I was educated in Europe. I am a part of this continent. And I would not understand the West? It is ironic that the way I am being treated in the West is a lot like people are treated in Eastern, non-democratic countries. What has happened here is not Western. It is only by casting me as an outsider who just doesn't get it that the rector can justify his decision."

What does that mean?
"The rector's reasoning reflects a deeper feeling that exists in the Netherlands: you are a Muslim, so you are incapable of understanding our Christian values and norms. That's just sad."

What did you think when you watched the city council debate about your performance in April?
"It was humiliating. People without any knowledge about the matter at hand, who had never read a single one of my books, expressed their opinions about me and my performance. It was all about the local elections. I was like a ping-pong ball. I thought: why bother listening to this? But it also made me realise that Rotterdam still has a long way to go. The debate reinvigorated me: there is work to be done here."

Did you make any mistakes yourself?
"No. I didn't have the time to make mistakes. Perhaps I should have been more insistent that my reports to the municipality were published. There were three of them and two are still in a drawer somewhere. If I can be blamed for anything it is that I have been too nice."

Why were two out of three of your reports never published?
"Out of fear. It's the only reason I can think of. One was about the jobs market, the other about the role of the media. Both were visions based on conversations with people in Rotterdam. I made 34 proposals in all. Nothing was done with them. I should have said: I want these proposals published, then we can talk about it and everybody will know what I proposed. My critics are now saying that I wanted the municipality to train journalists - like I am some kind of a Stalinist. I do think that journalists, and politicians too, should have a better knowledge about what's at stake in the city."

What is at stake in the city?
"Rotterdam, like the whole of the Netherlands, is frightened and angry. Politicians play on that fear by encouraging the fear of Islam. Geert Wilders is the best example, and he has forced other parties to follow suit. You can dismiss Wilders as a foolish leader, but you can't ignore the fear among the voters. What is needed is a counter-movement: people who point to ideas, to involvement, to similarities. That's what I was working on."

Why are people so frightened?
"There are several reasons. Globalisation. The Netherlands is a small country, part of an ever bigger and ever more threatening world. An identity crisis, in short. Secondly: immigration will continue. The economic demand for workers is at odds with the culture of these people. Thirdly the second and third generation of immigrants are developing rapidly and are becoming more and more visible. They are Dutch. They speak their mind. That's new and therefore threatening. Finally, there is Islam. Everyday we see images of violence connected directly or indirectly to Muslims. That's undeniable. Take the cartoon riots, or the bombings in Madrid and London. It leads to mistrust."

What is the antidote, you think?
"I always tell Muslims: you have to show understanding for the fear, but you have to fight against political recuperation of that fear. So tell Wilders: 'you're lying, you're cultivating the fear'. But be open towards others. Explain to them who you are, what you want and that you are willing to contribute. People are frightened, but that doesn't make them racists."

What does your dismissal mean for the integration debate in the Netherlands?
"When I see how mixed the audience was at last Friday's debate in the Arminius church... [A debate organised by the committee to support Tariq Ramadan, Ed.] Muslims and non-Muslims were side by side. When I see that I am not pessimistic. There was an atmosphere of: we're not going to let this happen. If that's my heritage then my dismissal may have some positive sides to it."
© The NRC



Hans Westra is resigning as director of the Anne Frank Foundation after 27 years during which he turned the activist group that manages the Anne Frank house into a professional organisation. "The story needs to be told and told again."

11/9/2009- Hans Westra (64) has announced he will resign as the director of the Anne Frank Foundation next year. He has worked for the foundation that operates the Achterhuis, the Amsterdam canal house where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis, for 35 years, 27 of which as its director. "You shouldn't exceed your own expiration date," Westra said in an interview in his office. From there Westra can see the hiding places where the Frank family lived from 1942 until it was found and deported in 1944, and the yard with the famous tree that is now supported with poles. The rotting chestnut tree Anne wrote about in her diary made headlines two years ago when a court-case prevented it from being felled. But despite international media attention for the fate of a tree, Westra has noticed it has become harder to get the story of Anne across. Young people don't grow up knowing the context of the Second World War, because the generation that has lived through it is disappearing. And because immigrant children don't have the historic connection with the war. "We have to be more active in schools. That's why we're doing a project where Turkish and Moroccan children become tour guides. That really works, but we have to keep feeding it," Westra said.

Puting Anne first
His current activities as director are far removed from what the Anne Frank Foundation focused on when it was founded in 1957 as a "wild lefty action group", in Westra's words. He has turned it into a professional organisation that puts the Anne Frank House and "Anne herself" first. In the 1970s and 80s the foundation was active on different fronts. It spread condoms and pro-abortion leaflets and its members stood front row in all sorts of demonstrations. "We protested against nuclear bombs, against Janmaat [a nationalist politician who spoke out against immigrants]. In those years we were the resistance against all evil, so to speak." Westra remembers how the museum and the foundation were really very different entities. "Americans lined up to see where Anne had lived, we got 200,000 visitors per year." But that was not something the foundation was particularly interested in. "We didn't care, but it brought in the money." When he became the director in 1983 his protesting days were over. "I put the museum first, and I became opposed to politicising Anne. In 1984 agriculture minister Ad Ploeg called us a 'crypto-communist organisation'. That got us thinking about what we were doing."

Trauma on society
And the audience changed as well. "In the 1950s the Americans appropriated Anne Frank. A large number of our visitors are still from there, but we see more Dutch people and other Europeans now. Because of the big trauma on society the Second World War caused, it took years before people who had survived the camps for example were able to deal with the confrontation of other people's stories." Having been born in 1945 Westra grew up in a non-Jewish house where the war was not talked about. "After founding the foundation Otto Frank [Anne's father, the only one of the family who survived the war] said he did not want it to be a Jewish foundation. We have always had prominent Jewish members on our board, but I agree with Otto: it is about the confrontation with the story and that story is for everybody." Westra did run into problems with the Anne Frank Fund, which was founded by Otto Frank in Basel. "That fund manages the diary texts - until 2016 that is, when the copyright expires," he said. "In the 80s they took us to court after we claimed the name Anne Frank. We won that case. The fund wanted to own the brand and said we planned to use it to sell jeans and teacups with her name on it. When all we wanted was to protect the name. Anne Frank is the most famous face of the Holocaust, so we must make sure that her name is not used for commercial purposes."

Disney movie
Westra said he wants to prevent Anne Frank's image from debasing. "Otto himself was more pragmatic about that. In the 50s he agreed to an American theatre production that portrayed Anne as a happy American girl and only touched on the Holocaust. And Disney is making a movie about her now." But can Anne interest future generations? "That will be the great challenge for my successor," Westra said. "The story needs to be told and told again to fight discrimination, racism and anti-semitism. I think more than half of the population of Amsterdam now doesn't know what happened in the war."
© The NRC



9/9/2009- The number of anti-Semitic incidents documented in Holland in January almost equaled the number of attacks recorded throughout the whole of 2008, according to the annual report by the country's watchdog on anti-Semitism. The report by the Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI) presents 98 attacks in January, as the Israel Defense Forces was attacking in Gaza. The total number of attacks in 2008 was 108. Unusually, CIDI criticized the justice system and police for allegedly not acting with sufficient promptness to ensure safety and security, and for not imposing a ban on Holocaust denial. The month of January saw a tenfold increase in anti-Semitic attacks compared to the average nine attacks per month in the previous year. The number of physical attacks during January was nine. Only three such attacks were recorded in 2007, and five in 2008. The remaining attacks were of hate speech and mail. CIDI says the volume of circulation of hate speech and mail was larger than in recent years. Most cases of physical harassment, intimidation and assault were the result of the actions of perpetrators of North African descent, said the report by CIDI, which has in the recent past been involved with dialogue between Jews and Muslims. An analysis of hate-mails revealed most denied or downplayed the Holocaust by comparing it with Israel's attack in the Gaza Strip, which came in retaliation for the targeting of Israeli citizens by Palestinians.

The 43-page report also speaks of an increasing trend of anti-Semitic statements and incidents in schools. This included an incident in an Amsterdam school which suspended lessons after students chanted anti-Jewish slogans. A Rotterdam did the same, after pupils sang: "Hamas, Jews to the gas" and "Jews are murderers." "Something must be done about the numerous holes in the processing of complaints by the police, states the report, which was compiled by Elise Friedmann and released last week. "The many current gaps in the system offer little prospect for effectiveness in the judicial approach to discrimination," she wrote. The recommendations chapter of CIDI's report called for stricter implementation of limitations on hate speech. CIDI also said the police appear to be reluctant to process reports of anti-Semitism. Finally, CIDI said proposals to decriminalize Holocaust denial in the Netherlands encourage Holocaust denial. In May, the leader of the Dutch liberal party, Mark Rutte, said that claiming the Holocaust did not occur "should be made possible."
© Haaretz



9/9/2009- At least eight clandestine camps in Hungary are regularly providing advanced weapons training to neo-Nazis, according to media investigations. The Wiesenthal Center of Europe has called on the Council of Europe, to which it holds consultative status, to place the Hungarian neo-Nazi resurgence on its agenda for an assembly scheduled for Sept. 28-Oct. 2. Revelations of the training program first surfaced in the Hungarian Nepszabadsag and the German Junge Welt newspapers, attracting further intense mass media attention. One subsequent investigation mounted by a Magyar Television news program showed that at least eight training camps are periodically being operated, including one in a countryside in hilly territory near Gyor, near the Austrian border, and others in the Matra and Bukk mountains. The extreme-right Hungarian National Front organization has been quoted in published reports as openly stating that it runs annual weapons training programs for candidates who can demonstrate that they are free of Jewish or Gypsy ancestry. They must also forswear a Jewish, Gypsy or homosexual way of life, by which the organizers mean drug dependence and disorderly behavior. The avowed purpose is the creation of a well-trained and trustworthy military elite. Laszlo Bartha, a specialist spokesman for the National Security Investigation Authority, declined comment Tuesday but indicated that an official announcement was being prepared. Shimon Samuels, director for international relations at the Wiesenthal Center, warned that Hungary is sinking into the abyss of racial hatred that could easily spread throughout this region and urged the 47-member Council of Europe to investigate the neo-Nazi revival. “The contagion must be stemmed,” he said. “It behooves the Council of Europe to seek conformity of its members with its own principles to the point of naming, blaming and shaming those that risk the social health of the entire continent.”
© JTA News



A Muslim basketball player is set to challenge a decision by Swiss sport authorities requiring her to either remove her headscarf or stop competing.

9/9/2009- Sura Al-Shawk has been playing the game with a headscarf for some time at a local level but came to the attention of ProBasket, the northeastern regional basketball association, when she reached the national B-league team, STV Luzern. The association stated that according to International Basketball Federation (Fiba) rules, headscarves cannot be worn during the game, and ruled the 19-year-old would have to choose between the game and her scarf. The federation bans all religious symbols during official games. Failure to follow the ruling will cause the team, which Al-Shawk captains, to forfeit their matches. Although Al-Shawk has decided not to play in the team's next match on September 19, she is angered at what she describes as an "unjust" decision and, determined to appeal, has begun talking to a Geneva lawyer. "This decision has come too late. I've been playing wearing my scarf for almost a year and a half. Many of the players have Christian tattoos and religious symbols on their bodies and nobody objects to that," Al-Shawk, an Iraqi who recently gained her Swiss citizenship, told "In the past few days, a famous Swiss lawyer in Geneva contacted me and gave me specific instructions about the steps that I should follow. I also received a telephone call from a law professor at Bern University, who also works as a lawyer. He told me that a large number of lawyers were concerned about my case and that they have been following the developments."

Raises questions
Fiba has explained that they must show "absolute political and religious neutrality" in the sport and that making an exception would open the floodgates to other requests. "Contrary to athletics or volleyball, basketball is a contact sport, therefore the risks of injury which can result from clothing accessories are higher," spokesman Marco Beltra told the Tribune de Genève newspaper. Al-Shawk's coach, Danijel Brankovic, has countered saying he does not understand the decision as "the Islamic headscarf does not represent any danger to the players nor hinder the game in any way". But in an official statement STV Luzern said it "endorsed and supported" the ProBasket association in its work promoting the sport. The case comes ahead of a controversial nationwide vote in November on an initiative to ban minarets in Switzerland. The Swiss Council of Religions last week came out against the ban saying it infringed the right to freedom of religion. It says Al-Shawk's case raises the question of what freedom of religion means in sport. Markus Sahli, the council's secretary, says there is no easy answer to the question and told the issue should be looked at on a case-by-case basis. "The Council of Religions is of the opinion that the right of individuals to be allowed to express their religious convictions is also protected in public life. One can debate whether limits should already be placed on this right at the sports club level." The Federal Commission Against Racism for its part described the basketball association's decision as "shocking in regard to the religious freedom guaranteed by the Swiss constitution". The Iraqi Islamic Centre in Switzerland spokesman Karim Samaoui has expressed solidarity with Al-Shawk but told that Muslim communities needed to present a unified view of the issue. He urged them to use the channels of the Swiss democratic system to ensure Muslims are not subjected to "racist practices".
© Swissinfo



9/9/2009- The extreme-right Danish People's Party, a key government ally, launched a media campaign Wednesday against the building of mosques, after Copenhagen city council approved the country's first. Full page advertisements published in several daily papers claimed that part of the funds for the new mosque would come from "the terror regime in Iran," while a second mosque planned for the capital would be financed by Saudi Arabia. The ads also contained a picture of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul with a photo montage of two swords on the dome. The party, whose votes in parliament are essential for the survival of the center-right government, linked its campaign to the municipal elections on November 17. The new Copenhagen mosque, approved by the city council late last month, will be built by the city's Shiite Muslim community on the site of a former factory. A 24-meter high blue dome will cover the 2,000-square-meter place of worship flanked by two 32-meter-high minarets in northwest Copenhagen. But no calls to prayer will blare from the towers in order not to disturb the surrounding working-class neighborhood. Denmark has had a tense relationship with the Muslim world since a Danish newspaper published in 2005 satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, sparking anger and protests in several Muslim nations. The mosque, financed through private donations, will cost between 40 million and 50 million kroners ($7.9 million) to build. Denmark's 200,000 Muslims make up 3.5 percent of the population and are the country's second largest religious community after the state-run Lutheran Church.



9/9/2009- Members of Moscow's Protestant Chaplaincy Choir enjoy some peace and harmony. But they say such moments are becoming all too rare for black people in Russia.
Sydney Ocran, Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy:
"I have actually been attacked about six times, two of which I was admitted in the hospital. And so it has not been easy here, but you know, as we live along, you have to adapt to situations. You have to find a way that you can stay out of harm's way."

The Task Force on Racial Violence was set up following a racist attack in 2001. It has just carried out a survey of 200 black people living in Moscow.
Laura Stagl, Coordinator, Task Force on Racial Violence:
"88.5 percent of people say that they change their day-to-day movements around Moscow because of their race. Several of them say that they don't use the Metro at certain times, they avoid certain neighborhoods, they avoid police officers, and they avoid large crowds and events."

The Protestant Chaplaincy offers support to the black community. It even runs a medical clinic, seeing around 20 patients a day.
Dr. Darin Brink, Protestant Chaplaincy:
"I've already today spoken with three people who had attacks... that at least had some of the provocation that was just racial tension, and racial issues."

Daniel Unachukwu, Moscow Resident from Nigeria:
"Harassment, intimidation, everywhere – on the street, in the Metro, even in the magazine (shop) – if you want to buy something, you get to the magazine, and somebody will be pushing you anyhow."

The promise of jobs and an education brings Africans to Moscow. But it seems the opportunities come at a price. Three quarters of those questioned said they'd suffered verbal abuse while almost two thirds have been physically attacked.
© New Tang Dynasty TV



9/92009- Czech police have raised accusations in connection with the contents of election spots the Czech nationalist National Party (NS) released before the June elections to the European Parliament, Stepanka Zenklova, from the Prague State Attorney's Office, said. The accusations concern the NS's clips made submitted to the public Czech Television (CT) and the public Czech Radio (CRo). The accused person who faces between six months and three years in prison has filed a complaint against the accusation that has been rejected by the state attorney in charge of his case, Zenklova said. "Criminal proceedings against one person have started in connection with the contents of the pre-election spots," she said. The suspect faces charges of defamation of a nation, ethic group, race and belief and instigation to hatred towards a group of persons or limiting their rights and freedoms, Zenklova said. CT broadcast one clip but later it withdrew it from broadcasting and its management filed a criminal complaint against the party. The clip included the promise of "the final solution to the Gipsy problem" and the slogans "Stop to Black Racism" and "We do not Want Black Racists Among Us." Apart from CT, Czech Radio also filed complaints over the election spots of the NS and the rightist Workers' Party.
© Ceske Noviny



8/9/2009- Three of the Czech ultra-right Workers' Party's leading candidates to the Chamber of Deputies are supporters of neo-Nazi groups, the public Czech Television (CT) reported on Tuesday, referring to photos showing the three as neo-Nazi fans. Interior Minister Martin Pecina who has received the information plans to include it in the ministry's proposal for the abolition of the party. However, DS chairman Tomas Vandas has rejected the allegation describing it as a lie. CT said that it had photographs at its disposals tha show that DS candidates Jiri Svehlik, Milan Hroch and Patrik Vondrak support neo-Nazism. Svehlik features in the photographs in a t-shirt of the Nazi Skrewdriver band, along with guitarist of the neo-Nazi Hlas Krve (Voice of Blood) band or with a flag in the colours of the German Third Reich. Patrik Vondrak is one of the organisers of a neo-Nazi event in the streets of the former Prague Jewish Quarter two years ago and Milan Hroch features on the photographs giving a Nazi salute together with members of the banned National Resistance group. "If the facts prove to be true it would naturally be an argument we will submit to the Supreme Administrative Court," Pecina told CT. He said he would like to add the information to the proposal for banning the DS that the ministry is going to submit to the court. He said he intended to submit the relevant material on September 16. According to expert on extremism Miroslav Mares, it is necessary to watch whether the party had taken measures to prevent these people from figuring on its lists of candidates for the forthcoming parliamentary elections at all. Vandas said the photographs were a photomontage. "It is absolutely clear that it is a photomontage because I have received written positions of all candidates as early as before last year's regional elections," Vandas told CTK. The Interior Ministry does not want to release for the time being in what its new proposal for the abolition of the DS will differ from the previous one, drafted last year when Ivan Langer (Civic Democrats, ODS) headed the ministry. The Supreme Administrative Court then rejected the proposal pointing out that the government failed to provide sufficient amount of evidence.
© The Prague Daily Monitor



11/9/2009- France's interior minister, one of President Nicolas Sarkozy's closest allies, faced calls for his resignation Friday after he was caught on camera making remarks denounced by critics as anti-Arab. "The French cannot accept that a minister speaks in such a manner," said opposition Socialist leader Martine Aubry in a statement that called for Brice Hortefeux to resign from the job he took up just three months ago.  Hortefeux, a former immigration minister, insisted the comments he washeard making in a short video that has become an online hit were not racistand were taken out of context. But a range of opposition politicians and anti-racist groups lined up tocondemn remarks they say will damage race relations in a country where tensions between police and youths of immigrant origin sometimes end in violence. Hortefeux is heard saying on the video first posted Thursday on Le Monde newspaper's website: "There always has to be one. When there's one, it's OK."
"It's when there are a lot of them that there are problems," he said in the film that Le Monde said shows him getting ready to pose for a photo with ayoung man from France's large community of Arab origin. The young man, referred to as Amine, is seen in the middle of a small group of laughing and joking activists from Sarkozy's UMP party at the party's summer gathering in Seignosse in southwest France on September 5.

One woman can be heard saying about the man, who is also seen laughing and apparently enjoying himself: "He eats pork, he drinks beer." To which Hortefeux replies: "He doesn't correspond at all to the prototype." He then goes on to make his comment that "when there are a lot of them that there are problems." Moulou Aounit, president of the MRAP anti-racist group, said that "withthat sort of remark he is trading in prejudice" and was making a statementthat was tantamount to "incitement to hatred." The controversy came just days after Hortefeux put an end to a top French official's career after the man was accused of a racial slur at a Paris airport. Socialist leader Aubry said that Hortefeux should now "apply that same rule to himself" and step down. Hortefeux late Thursday denounced what he called "a vain and ridiculous attempt to create a controversy" and said that not a single word he uttered made "reference to the supposed ethnic origin of the young activist." He said he had been referring to people from the Auvergne region of France in his remarks. And the young activist himself, 22-year-old Amine Benalia-Brouch who was born in France of an Algerian father and a Portuguese mother, told AFP that the minister's comments had been taken out of context and were not racist. "There is no need for a controversy because this video does not warrant the buzz that it has caused because it has been taken out of context," he said. "He had had his photo taken with Auvergnats just before, and I asked forone more. That's what he wanted to say," he said.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon stepped into the row to stand by his minister, declaring that Hortefeux "was the "victim of a fairly scandalous campaign of defamation." When Sarkozy came to power in 2007, he made much ado about appointing to his government several ministers from a range of ethnic backgrounds. France has several million people of immigrant stock, many of them from former colonies in north Africa, but only a small number have made it into the business, political or social elites.
Hortefeux was immigration minister from 2007 until early this year. During that time he increased the numbers of illegal immigrants forcibly expelled from France and developed the network of detention centres for illegal migrants.



Significant rise of anti-Semitic threats and verbal remarks

10/9/2009- French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux discussed with a Jewish community leader the security issue for Jewish sites in France ahead of upcoming Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. During the meeting, the minister also raised the arson attack against a Jewish school which happened on the same day in the southern France’s port city of Marseille. No one was injured in the attack which caused minor damage to the school’s dining hall. The arson attack on the ORT Leon Bramson school on rue de Forge happened in the morning while the 400 students were in classrooms approximately 100 metres away. A row of tinder dry Cypress trees was set ablaze, the heat damaging four parked cars and melting a metal roller blind on the outside of the cafeteria building. The fire service quickly contained the blaze. Three aerosol cans believed to have been used as incendiary devices were reportedly found by police at the scene and taken away for forensic tests. The school handed over tape from security cameras to investigators of the police department’s urban violence squad. School Principal Maurice Cohen-Zagouri said that while the fire was definitely arson there was no evidence to suggest it was an anti-Semitic attack. “In our street, only 400 metres away, is a public school a fifth of whose students are Arab. Every day, all year round, they pass by the entrance to our school and we have never had a problem,” he said.

However, Marseilles Prosecutor Jacques Dallest emphasised at a media conference that “fire is never trivial” and said the perpetrators of the “gratuitous” attack faced up to 10 years in jail. He said such incident is rather rare in Marseille. The Mayor of Marseille, Jean Claude Godin, denounced the incident as “an unconscionable act”. Police chief Philippe Klayman said he had ordered patrols to be increased around schools and religious institutions and added that “particular attention” would be paid to Jewish institutions during the upcoming holidays. Around 80,000 Jews live in the southern French city. The city's deputy mayor for security, Caroline Pozmentier, recalled that a synagogue was set ablaze in 2002 and a Jewish school in 2005. During his meeting with the French minister, Richard Prasquier, head of CRIF, the umbrella group of French secular Jewish organizations, expressed his concern over the increase of anti-Semitic threats and verbal attacks in France. “After the peak observed during the first two months of this year following the Israeli operation in Gaza, there is an important diminution of the gravest anti-Semitic acts but we have recorded a persisting high level of threats and verbal attacks,” Prasquier has told AFP.  “It shows that residual anti-Semitism under its modern forms still exists in our country,” he added. During the five first months of this year, 573 anti-Semitic incidents have been recorded in France, the Interior ministry reported. Among them, 101 were physical aggressions and vandalism and 472 anti-Semitic threats, remarks and inscriptions. Around 600,000 Jews live in France, the largest community in western Europe.



10/9/2009- Her voice trembling with emotion, the leader of an advocacy group for Muslim women and girls urged a French parliamentary panel on Wednesday to press for laws that would ban the wearing of Islamic body- and face-covering veils. Sihem Habchi appeared as the first witness before a newly created parliamentary group studying Islamic clothing such as burqas and niqabs — part of France's effort to integrate its growing Muslim population while preserving its heritage and secular roots. The panel, chaired by a Communist Party lawmaker, will hold months of hearings before issuing a report, likely by January. It has no power to draft laws but could recommend legislation restricting or banning women from wearing head-to-toe Islamic robes that mask facial features in public. The panel was announced in June, a day after President Nicolas Sarkozy all but prejudged the debate, saying that the robes make "prisoners" out of women and won't ever be welcome in France. A ban could spur a backlash. A 2004 law in France banned wearing Muslim headscarves at public schools, along with Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses. That law sparked fierce debate both at home and abroad.

Habchi spoke passionately of her family roots in the former French colony of mostly Muslim Algeria, and how France needs to do more to protect women and root out feelings of segregation. "The survival of many young women depends on" new laws to protect them, she said. "They get around with their ghetto on their backs." She said such full-body veils contribute to "the separation of populations." Habchi heads Ni Putes, Ni Soumises — Not Prostitutes, Not Submissive — an outspoken group fighting to improve the lot of Muslim women and girls in poor areas. The group's founder Fadela Amara, now the government's urban affairs minister, supports a ban on full-body veils. The parliamentary panel is also to hear from supporters of the veils, though the list of witnesses has not yet been completed, the panel said. Some Muslim leaders interpret the Quran to require women to wear a headscarf, niqab or burqa in the presence of a man who is not their husband or close relative.

France is home to Western Europe's largest population of Muslims, estimated at about 5 million. A marginal but growing group of French women wear veils that either cloak the entire body or cover everything but the eyes. Le Figaro newspaper, citing a confidential Interior Ministry report on Islam, reported Wednesday that it estimates no more than 2,000 women in France wear the niqab or burqa. A ministry spokeswoman contacted by The Associated Press for comment declined comment.
© The Associated Press



Jean-Marie Le Pen, the veteran French far-right leader, has indicated he will step as leader of the National Front party, probably next year.

8/9/2009- The 81-year old firebrand has led the FN party since 1972 and long pledged only to vacate his post "feet first". But in an interview on Tuesday, Mr Le Pen said he was "not eternal" and that it was "probable" he would not run in the 2012 presidential election. "It's reasonable to hand over to young people to allow the FN to continue," he said on France 2, the state TV channel. He would probably step down "in 2011 or 2010," he added. Mr Le Pen, who has made no secret of his desire to see his daughter, Marine, take over the reins of the party, said it would be up to the party faithful to choose a new leader between Miss Le Pen and his long-standing lieutenant, Bruno Gollnisch at a party congress. Mr Le Pen, an MEP, said he would run, however, in regional elections next March in the FN stronghold of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, southeastern France. He shocked France and Europe in 2002 by beating Lionel Jospin, the Socialist candidate, to qualify for the second round of the presidential election on an anti-immigration ticket. He was trounced by Jacques Chirac, the incumbent. Following this high point, support for the party dwindled after Nicolas Sarkozy, now president, successfully wooed the FN electorate in the 2007 presidential and legislative elections. The party is in dire financial straights and hopes to sell its vast and costly historic headquarters.
© The Telegraph



8/9/2009- Bulgaria is to restrict to a minimum the issuing of work permits to foreigners, Social Minister, Totyu Mladenov, declared Tuesday. The proposal is to be officially approved by the National Council for Employment Encouragement, along with other amendments of the Decree for Issuing, Denial, and Revocation of Work Permits for Foreigners in Bulgaria. Mladenov explained the measure was made necessary by the increase of unemployment levees in Bulgaria. Currently the country has registered over 1,100 work permits for foreigners. One of the amendments provides for the extension of the market test - the period during which the employer is mandated to seek Bulgarian citizens for the job - from 15 to 30 days. A labor negotiator is to take part in each hiring process to verify that there isn't any discrimination against Bulgarians. The second amendment mandates that sectors with increased levels of unemployment should not allow foreigners to take jobs, while the third one will ban employers, who had notified about mass dismissals, to hire foreign citizens for a period of 6 months. A recent checkup of the Main Labor Inspectorate and the Employment Agency had revealed that Bulgarians are discriminated against in favor of foreigners. For example, the Turkish "MAPA-CENGIZ" company, working on the Lyulin highway, which employs 310 Bulgarian and 367 Turkish workers pays Turkish workers EUR 4,5 an hour while Bulgarians make two times less, according to the Social Minister.

© The Sofia News Agency



Controversial historian causes outrage by calling the Nazis' mass murder a 'commercial phenomenon'

6/9/2009- Eminent historians have condemned a Spanish newspaper's decision to interview the controversial historian David Irving as part of its coverage to mark the 70th anniversary of the Second World War. The Hitler specialist Sir Ian Kershaw, whose interview last Monday launched El Mundo's commemorative series, said he – and most historians – would have pulled out had they known of Mr Irving's participation. In the interview published yesterday, Mr Irving once again played down the slaughter of millions of Jews during the Second World War, despite having served time in an Austrian jail for his extremist views. "The Holocaust is just a slogan, a product like Kleenex or Xerox printers. They've turned it into a commercial phenomenon, and succeeded in making money out of it – producing films about it which have made millions," said the 71-year-old Mr Irving, prompting fury and dismay in Israel. Israel's ambassador in Madrid, Raphael Schutz, condemned the interview as an insult to readers, to legitimate historians and to the concept of free speech. Mr Schutz said: "Everyone who knows anything about the issue knows that David Irving is nothing but... a con man."

El Mundo justified publication on the grounds of freedom of expression and because Mr Irving was at the centre of a wider debate about the criminalisation of opinion. But Avner Shalev, the director of Israel's Holocaust Museum, responded in a letter published by El Mundo: "There are subjects about that don't permit a 'for' and 'against'. The paper gives legitimacy to a man who doesn't deserve it... It is inconceivable that a serious newspaper should provide a platform for anti-Semitism." The notion of the Holocaust was built up decades after the event, Mr Irving argues. "Until the 1970s it was just a speck of dust on the horizon," he tells El Mundo. "The proof is that it doesn't appear in any of the biographies of the great leaders of the Second World War. But from then on it became fashionable. The Jews turned it into a brand, using the same technique as Goebbels. They invented a slogan... and repeated it ad nauseam." Asked if he continued to believe that the figure of six million Jews exterminated was an exaggeration, Mr Irving replied: "I'm not interested in figures. I don't count bodies. I'm not all that interested in the Holocaust." How come, the interviewer persisted, you are the only historian to deny that the concentration camp at Auschwitz contributed to the Holocaust? "Because they all copy each other. To jump off the rails would condemn them to jail and poverty, which is what happened to me."

Mr Irving served 11 months in an Austrian jail in 2006 for denying that the Nazis killed six million Jews. He insisted yesterday that Hitler was not responsible, being merely the dupe of smarter collaborators. "Hitler was a simple man constantly deceived by his subordinates." The allegation that the Nazi leader sought to exterminate the Jews was, he said, "a propaganda lie. In Hitler's speeches there is only one anti-Semitic sentence. Something about 'when the war begins, I want the Jews to suffer'. But that's just a stereotypical expression." Goebbels and Himmler were more to blame, he said, but Churchill – "a corrupt politician" – was responsible for the war: "He pushed the UK into the war and destroyed the British empire. Churchill was in the hands of the Jews, and if he'd surrendered he'd have gone down in history as a failure. People would have laughed at him." So should he have made a pact with Hitler? "Of course. We were very close to ending the war in 1940."
© The Independent



11/9/2009- Gordon Brown has said he is sorry for the "appalling" way World War II code-breaker Alan Turing was treated for being gay. A petition on the No 10 website had called for a posthumous government apology to the computer pioneer. In 1952 Turing was prosecuted for gross indecency after admitting a sexual relationship with a man. Two years later he killed himself. The campaign was the idea of computer scientist John Graham-Cumming. He was seeking an apology for the way the mathematician was treated after his conviction. He also wrote to the Queen to ask for Turing to be awarded a posthumous knighthood. The campaign was backed by Ian McEwan, scientist Richard Dawkins and gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. The petition posted on the Downing Street website attracted thousands of signatures. Mr Brown, writing in the Telegraph newspaper, said: "While Mr Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him."

National legacy
He said Mr Turing deserved recognition for his contribution to humankind. In the statement he said: "So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work I am very proud to say: we're sorry, you deserved so much better." A niece of Mr Turing, Inagh Payne, said at the time she has no idea about his contribution to the war effort because he kept his work "hush hush". She was also unaware of his sexuality and his prosecution as the family "kept mum about that sort of thing". She said she was "very grateful" for the apology. "We realise now that he was gay and we think he was treated abominably", she said. Welcoming Mr Brown's move, Peter Tatchell of gay rights group Outrage! said a similar apology was also due to the estimated 100,000 British men who suffered similar treatment. "Singling out Turing just because he is famous is wrong", he said. Alan Turing was given experimental chemical castration as a "treatment" and his security privileges were removed, meaning he could not continue to work for the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). He is most famous for his code-breaking work at Bletchley Park during WWII, helping to create the Bombe that cracked messages enciphered with the German Enigma machines. However, he also made significant contributions to the emerging fields of artificial intelligence and computing. In 1936 he established the conceptual and philosophical basis for the rise of computers in a seminal paper called On Computable Numbers and in 1950 he devised a test to measure the intelligence of a machine. Today it is known as the Turing Test. After the war he worked at many institutions including the University of Manchester, where he worked on the Manchester Mark 1, one of the first recognisable modern computers. There is a memorial statue of him in Manchester's Sackville Gardens which was unveiled in 2001.
© BBC News



8/9/2009- The government is attempting a "fresh start" in its £61m campaign to challenge support for violent extremism in Britain in the face of continued scepticism in parts of the Muslim community about the two-year-old programme. John Denham, who has replaced Hazel Blears as the communities secretary, will ensure that funding goes to a wider range of organisations and the Prevent programme focuses more explicitly on rightwing racist extremism as well al-Qaida inspired ideology. Denham has even acknowledged that the title of the programme, Preventing Violent Extremism, may be alienating the groups the government is trying to work with. The shift in approach follows renewed complaints that cash has been given to organisations with little credibility among British Muslims or been used to fund community groups to spy on potential extremists.

Revised official Whitehall guidance issued last week, however, stresses that funding should go to a wider range of faith and non faith-based organisations to support activities that lead to shared values and build the cohesion of local communities. It also acknowledges that some local authorities have refused to use the terms "prevent" or "preventing violent extremism", arguing that they damage relationships with the local Muslim community. The government now says that these titles can be dropped as long as the objectives of the programme remain clearly in place. These include disrupting the activities of those who promote violent extremism by denying funding and public accommodation to groups or individuals involved in violent extremism But it also includes a more controversial area of identifying and supporting individuals at risk of being or who have been recruited to violent extremist groups.

In many areas this is operated through a local "channel" programme which includes mentoring and counselling, theological guidance and discussion, and helping them find education and a job. This part of the programme raises complex questions about information sharing. A recent National Audit Office report found that local counter-terrorism police officers were reluctant to share local intelligence with senior local authority executives and community leaders. The new Whitehall guidance stresses to local authorities that their activity must have "clear objectives, measurable impacts and comprehensive arrangements for monitoring and evaluation". It stresses that the funding is not intended to go to a single ethnic or faith community and needs to be delivered through a wide range of local groups. It stresses that it is not the role of government to intervene directly in matters of faith but adds that "where theology purports to justify and legitimise violent extremism, the government will work with communities and institutions best placed to refute it and provide a coherent response to the questions posed".

Among those being backed with Prevent funding are the Cambridge University-led "contextualising Islam in Britain" project, the "Radical Middle Way" roadshows which involve prominent Islamic scholars, and the Islam in Citizenship education project which provides material to be used in madrassas. But Denham is also keen to stress that the programme also focuses on the violent threat from racist and fascist groups. More than 100 council wards are in the process of being identified of being at risk after the British National Party's success in the European elections in June.
© The Guardian



Judge hands Neil Lewington indefinite sentence and says he was 'in process of embarking upon terrorist activity'

8/9/2009- A neo-Nazi who planned a racist terror campaign in Britain was today given an indefinite prison sentence at the Old Bailey. Neil Lewington wanted to emulate the Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh, and the Soho nail bomber, David Copeland, and kept videos detailing their attacks at his home. The 44-year-old unemployed electrician, of Tilehurst, Reading, was found out after being arrested at Lowestoft railway station, in Suffolk, for drunkenly abusing a female conductor. When he was stopped and searched in October last year, police found he was carrying components for two "viable improvised incendiary devices". Police then discovered a bomb factory in his bedroom. Anti-terror officers found evidence that he planned to make shrapnel bombs in tennis balls and use them to target Asian families. Their discoveries included nearly 9lb (4kg) of weedkiller, pyrotechnic powders, fuses and igniters. They also found a notebook entitled Waffen SS UK Members' Handbook, with a logbook of drawings of electronics and chemical devices. The link between Lewington's extremist views and his interest in explosives was illustrated by a note which said: "Compressed thermite grenade vs Paki front door." He also wrote a "mission statement" in which he boasted of two-man hit squads attacking "non-British people" at random. He told one woman that "the only good Paki was a dead Paki", the court heard.

Lewington was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection and told he must serve at least six years after being convicted of having explosives with intent to endanger life and preparing for terrorism. He was also found guilty of two charges of possessing articles for terrorism including weedkiller, firelighters and three tennis balls, two counts of having documents for terrorism, and one allegation of having explosives. "This man, who had strong if not fanatical rightwing leanings and opinions, was on the cusp of embarking on a campaign of terrorism against those he considered non-British," Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said. "In addition to his extreme views on race and ethnicity, the defendant had an unhealthy interest in bombers as well as bombings. "He admired, and might soon have emulated, the bombers about whom he possessed two compilation videotapes had he not been captured, albeit quite fortuitously." Judge Peter Thornton said Lewington was "a dangerous man, somebody who exhibits emotional coldness and detachment You would not have been troubled by the prospect of endangering somebody's life." Thornton said the devices Lewington was found with at Lowestoft were made "to a very high standard", and the igniters and timers only needed wiring up for them to be set off. "These were dangerous firebombs, meticulously constructed, all set to go," he added.

Thornton said that while Lewington had selected no specific target to attack, he "clearly had in mind" Asian and black people. "You were in the process of embarking upon terrorist activity," he said. "You were going to use or threaten action involving either serious violence to people or serious damage to property. "This action was designed to intimidate non-white people and it was for the purpose of pursuing the ideological cause of white supremacy and neofascism, albeit in a rather unsophisticated way."
© The Guardian



A mysterious group has been leading "anti-Muslim extremism" demonstrations around England this summer - who are they and what do they stand for?

11/9/2009- The crowd of men surges forwards from the pub doors and is repelled by the police. The chant goes up in the heart of Birmingham's shopping centre. "Muslim bombers off our streets, Muslim bombers off our streets!" Then comes the response from about 50 equally mobilised people 200 yards away. "Nazi scum out of Brum, Nazi scum out of Brum!" Amid the increasingly chaotic scenes, someone throws a bottle - I don't see who - followed half-an-hour later by a rain of rubble from young Asian men who have turned up to join a stand-off. This was Birmingham city centre last Saturday afternoon, in what is getting to be a monthly fixture. Over the summer the English Defence League has staged about half a dozen demonstrations around England. In Birmingham, about 200 pretty fired-up young men came to the city to protest against "Islamic extremism and terrorism".

It looks like the bad old days of pitched battles between skinheads and the Anti Nazi League. At one point, the English Defence League's supporters charge down a side-street after the various sides goad each other to "come and have a go". The police floor the most troublesome, including one man I speak to as he sits on the kerb, handcuffed. "I'm from Birmingham, mate, I live here. I'm sick of Muslim extremists slagging down our soldiers, thinking they can build up their mosques and call us scum" "Oi! I don't like racist people," comes the response from another Brummie, passing by. "Sit down! Sit down!" shouts a police officer. "I've got a mate who's just come back from Afghanistan - he's in the Army - he's an Asian man," continues the bystander. "You're giving me a bad name as a white person." The scenes are pretty terrifying for those who've popped out for a coffee in a New Street cafe. But despite 90 arrests (not all of whom were EDL supporters), this isn't anything that the city's police are unable to contain.

Genesis of protest
But the emergence of the English Defence League is worrying many people - not least because it's very difficult to work out who they are. The BBC has learned that four specialist national police units are investigating the EDL, including detectives with a background in watching hooliganism - but also extreme violence and terrorism. Those units are building up a picture of what the organisation is doing with the help of the British Transport Police and constabularies who have policed the demonstrations to date. This week the BBC secured exclusive interviews with some of the organisation's leaders. At a building site north of London, we meet "Tommy". He won't give his real name because he says he will be targeted by extremists. Joining Tommy is an older man called Alan, from London. Later, a young man from Luton turns up with a mixed-race teenager from north London, who Tommy says is the head of the "youth wing". "There are town centres now that are plagued by Islamic extremists," he says. "There are women who don't want to go shopping because there are 20 men in long Islamic dress shouting anti-British stuff and calling for a jihad and stirring up religious and racial hatred. Those are our town centres, and we want them back. "We want them back, not from the Muslims, but from the jihadist extremists that are operating in the Muslim communities. And the Muslim communities need to deal with their extremists. "They need to drive them out - we have had enough of it."

'Soccer casuals'
The English Defence League emerged from the angry scenes in Luton last March when a group of Muslims protested as the Royal Anglian Regiment paraded through the town on its return from Afghanistan. When a counter-demonstration under the name of United People of Luton led to arrests, local football supporters decided something should be done. They found common cause with other "soccer casuals" and "firms" associated with major clubs. The chatter concluded that this was a national problem and they had to put aside club rivalries. Things really took off after the same Islamist group "converted" an 11-year-old boy in Birmingham city centre in June. That incident caused a minor tabloid furore - but a greater reaction on the net, particularly on websites and forums associated with football violence and far-right activity. By the summer there were English Defence League "divisions" run by football supporters in Luton, north London, Bristol, Portsmouth and Southampton, Derby, Cardiff and the West Midlands. The EDL turned its attention to Birmingham in August with a march, but found itself outmanoeuvred by anti-racist protest groups in ugly scenes that led to 35 arrests. A similar march planned for Luton was banned.

The EDL has now organised around 15 principal figures loosely based around the football firms providing the most support. Not all of those involved are from a football background, and many of the men have yet to meet each other face-to-face. But they are mobilising for each other on trust, using websites including Facebook and YouTube. The British National Party has distanced itself from the EDL, but anti-racism campaigners have named party activists they have photographed at demonstrations. They add that some demos have included people with a record of football violence. Each demonstration has led to confrontations. But leaders like Tommy are appealing for demonstrators to avoid drink because they don't want to be written off as racist thugs. In Birmingham last week, the BBC filmed black and white men alongside each other on EDL's lines. So if it's not exclusively white, is it just a cover for a wider Islamophobia? "People aren't against Islam, they aren't against anything else other than the funders of terrorism, the sworn enemies of Britain," says Tommy. "For 10-15 years these groups have gone unchallenged in our towns and cities. Those days have gone now. We will challenge them. Wherever there are terrorists, we will be there."

Street army
Nick Lowles is the editor of Searchlight, which campaigns against far-right extremists. He says that the English Defence League should not be written off because it poses two risks. "What we are seeing is the formation of a street army, people who will travel around the country to fight," he says. "Into this mix you can get [far-right] organisations winding them up - let's go here or there, here's some money - giving them some organisational support, that kind of thing. "But the risk is what happens if they go into areas where there are existing tensions. All those places are potential flashpoints. That's the explosive mix that we have got here. "I'm not saying that every leader of the EDL is a fascist or hardcore racist but as you have seen with the signs, chanting and actions, it's anti-Muslim - and that's incitement."

Born and bred
Muslim groups are increasingly concerned about the EDL - and they say it's blatantly Islamophobic. In Birmingham, young Muslim men vow to "defend" the city if the EDL turns up again. "This is our home - where exactly do they want us to go, we were born here," says Amjad, a 19-year-old from Alum Rock. "These guys are coming here because they hate us. Well, I'm not going to stand for it, and the police are wrong, the council are wrong, to let this go on." As the sun dips beneath the horizon on our building site, Tommy gets fidgety. He wants to leave for the England-Croatia kick-off. We put Nick Lowles' accusations - and the fears of Muslims - to Tommy. We also cited EDL supporters' own words, including a video on YouTube describing them as "the most organised and ruthless street army in the country". Tommy says: "We know that the Muslim community may come under some heat from this, but the Muslim community of Britain needs to understand that our community is under heat from these fanatical jihadists. "The hatred is affecting us. It's a disease sweeping the country, and it needs stopping."
© BBC News



11/9/2009- Riot police intervened Friday to quell clashes between Muslims and anti-Islamic extremists protesting outside a London mosque on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, an AFP correspondent said. Police moved in after a crowd of angry Muslim youths, some wearing masks over their faces, threw sticks and stones at a small group of anti-Islamic protesters near the mosque in Harrow, northwest London. "This is England, I should be able to demonstrate," said one of the group of about a dozen mostly shaven-headed anti-Islamic protesters. "I have got two sons in the army. They are out in Afghanistan fighting, but the police doesn't (sic) want to defend us here today," said the man in his late 40s, who declined to give his name. In a tense atmosphere after initial clashes subsided, police surrounded the white demonstrators, to shield them from the angry Muslims some 500 metres (yards) from the mosque. The demonstration near Harrow Central Mosque was organised by Stop Islamification of Europe (SIOE), which said ahead of the demo that it planned to remain peaceful. Stephen Gash of the SIOE -- whose motto is "Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense" -- said before the demo: "We don't want any more mosques until all this hatred is sorted out." Concerns about violence have been heightened by clashes last weekend at a rally against Islamic fundamentalism held by a right-wing group, the English Defence League (EDL). More than 30 people were arrested in Birmingham, central England, when the demonstrators fought with anti-fascist campaigners.



Anti-Islam demonstrators plan to protest outside one of London’s largest mosques on Friday, the anniversary of September 11, raising the prospect of violence.

8/9/2009- Large numbers of anti-fascists also intend to descend on the site of the new Harrow central mosque to show solidarity with Muslims. Tensions are inflamed after riots in Birmingham over the weekend during an anti-Islamic rally by the English Defence League. There were dozens of arrests after clashes between the supporters of the right-wing EDL and Muslim activists. The EDL, which also clashed with Muslim groups in Birmingham a few weeks ago, leading to 35 arrests, is affiliated to Casuals United, former football hooligans who want to “fight Jihadists in the community”. Both groups have promoted Friday’s protest on their websites. It is being organised by a third right-wing group calling itself Stop Islamification of Europe. SIOE, which claims that “Islamophobia is the height of commonsense”, says it is planning a peaceful protest. However, fears of more ugly clashes were raised when Unite Against Fascism announced that large numbers of its demonstrators would also attend. Weyman Bennett, UAF’s joint national secretary, accused the anti-Islam groups of trying to start “ethnic conflict”. He told The Times: “These self-confessed hooligans will attack people, I’m absolutely convinced about that. What will happen then? There will be a response. They know exactly what people will do, and they want a picture of people charging out of a mosque.”

Although the building is not yet being used, hundreds of Muslims will be praying next door on the site of the existing mosque. The protest is being held during Ramadan and a large number of worshippers are expected. Ghulam Rabbani, the general secretary of the mosque, told The Times that extra security had been hired and worshippers had been urged to ignore provocation. A similar protest was planned late last month and, although it was cancelled, groups of young Asian boys gathered at the mosque, apparently to defend it. Mr Rabbani said that the Muslim community was upset at being targeted. “We don’t know why they are singling us out. They say we are planning a Sharia court but we have never had such a plan. This community is mixed with Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Jews. We have had very good relations for 25 years.” The EDL said that it was not sponsoring the Harrow protest and took down information about it from its website yesterday. However, it was still pointing supporters to it on its Facebook forum. Tommy Robinson, an EDL organiser, said that the group had yet to decide whether to join the SIOE for the event. He said: “Our issue is with the mosque. It is near enough the size of Wembley. Five floors. That’s not good for community cohesion.”

David Ashton, the leader of Harrow Council, said it was a “great shame” that both groups of demonstrators felt they had to import their “extreme views” into the borough. The Metropolitan Police said it was aware of the protest and would ensure an “appropriate response”. A spokeswoman said: “The borough has been working closely with the mosque and other faith communities to ensure their concerns are taken into account in the planning of the policing response. “We will attempt to work with the organisers of all protests to provide a proportionate and appropriate response, to ensure the safety of both local people and the protesters.”
© The Times Online



6/9/2009- A rally against Islamic extremism in the ethnically mixed English city of Birmingham turned violent Saturday as protesters clashed with counter-demonstrators. Police reported more than 30 arrests. Trouble broke out when protesters from the English Defense League, a group which says it is opposed to militant Islam in Britain, were met in Birmingham's downtown area by anti-fascist activists and counter-demonstrators. Sky News television footage showed police confining members of the English Defense League inside pubs as counter demonstrators held up placards and shouted slogans nearby. The broadcaster said many of the protesters were loaded onto buses and subsequently arrested. It also showed footage of counter-demonstrators of South Asian descent throwing objects, running down streets and clashing with police. One clip showed passers-by screaming and running for cover as they overran a downtown street. Police were able to quell "pockets of disorder by several groups of 20 to 30 men," West Midlands Police spokeswoman Det. Chief Inspector Sue Southern said. About 200 people were involved in the clashes, she said in a statement. Television footage showed lines of officers separating groups of shouting demonstrators. Sky News said riot police from across the area had been mobilized in anticipation of violence. Birmingham, a city of about 1 million where nearly a third of the population is nonwhite, had seen similar scenes last month when a demonstration by the English Defense League turned ugly. The group blames counter-demonstrators for inciting violence at its rallies. It has promised protest marches in other cities, including one next month in Manchester.

Police video of the protest
© The Associated Press



6/9/2009- The BBC has provoked controversy by giving the British National party a platform for the first time on Question Time, its top current affairs programme. Nick Griffin, the BNP leader who was elected to the European parliament in June, is expected to be on the show in October. The corporation has decided that the far-right party deserves more airtime because it has demonstrated “electoral support at a national level”. The move has caused consternation among politicians, with some Labour MPs and at least one cabinet minister pledging to boycott Question Time. They fear the BNP will use the publicity to promote a racist agenda. The change in policy has also triggered dissent within the BBC. One senior correspondent, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s barmy ... Public servants can be sacked for membership of the BNP and yet the BBC wants to give them airtime with the main political parties.” The BBC changed its position after the party won two seats at the European elections. Its share of the national vote at that poll was 6.2%. “They got across a threshold that has given them national representation and that fact will be reflected in the level of coverage they will be given,” said Ric Bailey, the BBC’s chief adviser on politics. “This is not a policy about the BNP. It’s a policy about impartiality.”

 The decision was approved by Mark Byford, the deputy director-general. David Dimbleby, the show’s host, backed the change. This weekend the mainstream political parties were divided in their reaction. The Tories and the Liberal Democrats have told the BBC they are prepared to share a platform with the BNP, arguing that its policies must be confronted. Labour is considering its position. “The custom is that Labour does not share a platform with the BNP, but given the impact of the BBC’s guidelines on our and other mainstream political parties’ position, we are reviewing this,” it said. One cabinet minister said he would refuse to sit alongside Griffin or other BNP representatives on any BBC panel show: “Nobody’s happy about this. I don’t imagine anyone would be content to go on with them.” John Mann, Labour chairman of the all-party group on anti-Semitism, said: “It’s absurd to give the BNP any space. This is how Hitler came to power and these people have got the same objectives. It’s typical BBC intellectualism giving them airtime.”
© The Times Online



Question Time invitation for Nick Griffin leads party to review boycott as Tories agree to appear

6/9/2009- The BBC has forced the Labour party to review its policy of not sharing the same platform as rightwing extremists by inviting the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, to appear on Question Time. Alan Johnson, the home secretary, is one of a number of senior Labour figures approached by the programme who have already refused to appear alongside Griffin for fear of lending him greater legitimacy. Labour aides said that no minister would be forced to debate with him, but admitted the party would have to reconsider the long-standing convention that senior Labour politicians do not debate head to head with the BNP. The Tories, meanwhile, said they would be "very happy" to field a senior member of the shadow cabinet to confront Griffin, whose invitation follows his election to the European parliament in the spring. "The question for the BBC is whether they should be putting him on the panel, but otherwise we are going to treat it like any other programme," said a Tory spokesman. "We have seen the BNP do well in areas where people haven't been prepared to tackle them and now they are elected we have got to face up to that reality. We will take them on in argument and debate."

Although Griffin has been interviewed before on flagship programmes such as Radio 4's Today programme, being asked to appear on the Question Time panel is a coup that the BNP is likely to exploit to argue that it has now entered the political mainstream. The BBC said its guidelines require it to treat all parties impartially, adding the invitation was "consistent" with similar approaches to Green and Ukip MEPs. The broadcaster recently opened negotiations with the major parties about a programme to be taped this autumn in London involving Griffin. Concerns are said to include the balance of not only the panel but also the audience, with BNP members likely to be keen to apply and ask questions. However, BBC sources signalled that any boycott by mainstream politicians would not stop Griffin appearing, warning that parties are not allowed to dictate who is included. The move marks the latest stage of the BNP's entry into the political mainstream, following a row this summer over the BNP's London Assembly member, Richard Barnbrook, being invited to a Buckingham Palace garden party.

And it has reopened divisions between and inside parties over how best to respond to the threat from the BNP, with Griffin threatening to stand for a Westminster seat at the next election. He has been selected as a candidate in Thurrock, where Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay is retiring and the BNP already has a council seat. The party is also likely to oppose John Bercow, the new Speaker, in his Buckingham seat in a high-profile contest following Ukip's decision to stand, in defiance of the convention that the Speaker is not opposed at an election. A Labour spokesman said: "The custom is that Labour does not share a platform with the BNP, but given the impact of the BBC's guidelines on our and other mainstream political parties' position we are reviewing this." A BBC spokeswoman said: "The BBC is obliged to treat all political parties registered with the Electoral Commission and operating within the law with due impartiality. "By winning representation in the European parliament, the BNP has demonstrated evidence of electoral support at a national level. This will be reflected in the amount of coverage it receives on BBC programmes such as Question Time."
© The Guardian



'Frutiless meetings' over workplace discrimination ended when treasury refused to back action

6/9/2009- An influential government race adviser threatened to resign after being frustrated by ministers who held "endless, fruitless meetings" to discuss race in the workplace over the past three years while failing to take any action. Iqbal Wahhab, chair of the Ethnic Minority Advisory Group, offered to step down after the Treasury refused to back government plans to ask companies bidding for public contracts to disclose employees' ethnic backgrounds. After making his stand, "noises were made to look into it further". The revelation, in an article by Wahhab in the Observer, will embarrass the government after Alistair Darling pledged to eradicate employment disparity between races within 25 years. Wahhab, founder of the Cinnamon Club and Roast restaurants, was invited to chair the group in 2006 and come up with ways of reducing the growing numbers of black and Asian people discriminated against as they look for work. Despite being given access to seven ministers, including Jim Knight, the welfare and employment minister, at quarterly "taskforce" meetings, he has been frustrated by lack of progress.

"Every three months a ministerial taskforce meets for an hour with me, the TUC, the CBI, the London Development Agency's diversity works for London programme and the Equality and Human Rights Commission," he writes. "In all that time, we have never been able to convince ministers to take a single step forward. "Last year the chancellor backed the recommendations of a business commission report that called on the government to eradicate the employment rate disparity for ethnic minorities within 25 years and this taskforce was charged with ensuring that happens. I doubt we will even come close." Wahhab's frustration came to a head in July, he said, after the office of government commerce, a Treasury department, scuppered plans to ask companies to disclose the racial makeup of their workforce while bidding for public contracts. Similar plans have been enforced in the United States and Northern Ireland to stamp out discrimination in the workplace. Some public bodies, such as Transport for London, are already asking suppliers to develop action plans if minorities are under-represented, Wahhab said.

"One by one, ministers agreed this was required and we were on the verge of making a major breakthrough and then the Treasury threw in a wobbly: one of their subsidiary departments, the office of government commerce, would not co-operate with such an initiative," he writes. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, 76% of white people of working age have a job, while only 60% of people from ethnic minorities are in employment. Afro-Caribbean people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white people. Knight said he was looking for ways of helping companies applying for government contracts to monitor the number of black and Asian employees. "Iqbal Wahhab is doing a valuable and important job. I am looking forward to meeting him later this month," he added. A spokesman for the office of government commerce said: "The OGC strongly supports initiatives that lead to fairer and more equal treatment of citizens. The work of the taskforce will play an important part in shaping this improved guidance."
© The Observer



British neo-Nazis are luring young who used to back paramilitary loyalist groups

6/9/2009- A former National Front member turned anti-fascist campaigner has warned police officers that Northern Ireland faces a race war in place of the Troubles unless racism is confronted now. The warning was issued during the first training programme for PSNI officers on the nature and make-up of British neo-Nazi groups. Matthew Collins from the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight said this weekend that while the presence of neo-Nazis in Northern Ireland is exaggerated, there is a real threat that they could eventually fill a vacuum left by mainstream loyalists exiting the paramilitary scene. "There is a danger of a new war to replace the old one," he told officers. Up to 30 PSNI members took part in the pioneering anti-fascist training seminar at a south Belfast hotel late last month. It was the first time anti-racist campaigners had held educational sessions for the police in Northern Ireland on the strengths and weaknesses of the British far right. An expert on British neo-Nazis, Collins said yesterday that the training programme included explaining to the PSNI the two basic forms of racism that exist. "I outlined the difference between socio-economic based racism and the scientific/biological racists. In the first case, these are people who are brainwashed into racist beliefs, people at the lower end of the socio-economic scale who start to think their problems can be laid at the door of people of different colour or religion. I explained that it is possible to win people away from these racist attitudes and change minds.

"I believe that it is within the first group that the attacks on the Roma last June in Belfast emerged. The second group are the hardcore racists who through bogus scientific/biological thought think whites are superior to all other races. This group form the nucleus of the far-right parties ranging from the BNP across to Combat 18." Collins said he was sceptical that Combat 18 had an organised presence within Northern Ireland. The pro-Hitler terrorist group was blamed for the upsurge in violence two months ago that resulted in more than 100 Roma fleeing their Belfast homes and returning to Romania. However, attacks are becoming more frequent with two Indian families homeless this weekend after properties were attacked in loyalist areas of Portadown late on Thursday evening. "There is no organised Combat 18 unit here in Northern Ireland," said Collins, "but there are kids who are being influenced by their ideas. They are the socio-economic racists who are easily led by the ideologues. "The danger is that kids who looked to loyalist groups to give their lives meaning may now turn to the far right. My message to the police and to wider community is that there is still time to educate those vulnerable to the neo-Nazis' message against their lies. "There is still a chance to prevent them getting organised but if they do there is a real potential, particularly in loyalist working class areas, that they can start to stir up trouble and eventually create a new kind of communal conflict Northern Ireland hasn't seen before."

Last weekend the BNP distributed 2,000 recruitment leaflets in Larne, a former stronghold of extreme loyalism. During a recent visit to Belfast, Collins held talks with the head of the Ulster Defence Association Jackie McDonald during which they discussed the attitude of mainstream loyalists to the far right. McDonald has called on loyalists to inform on those behind racist attacks. A spokesman for the PSNI said: "The PSNI will continue to tackle the scourge of all forms of hate crime. Every individual, regardless of race, colour or creed, has the right to live free from fear in a democratic society."
© The Observer



8/9/2009- Top footballer Andrei Arshavin is the latest high profile celebrity to back the Council of Europe's "Speak out against Discrimination" campaign. "I want everyone to support the campaign against discrimination," the 28-year-old Arsenal and Russia midfielder declared. "Football gives every player the opportunity to express his or her talent and contribute to the team, regardless of race, religion, or social origin," he added. "It is also a sport which gives every player the chance to compete on the basis of ability. This is how life should be." Arshavin’s endorsement is a timely boost for the Council of Europe's Moscow campaign, which will be launched officially on Sept. 16. It also cements Arsenal’s reputation as a club active in the fight against bigotry and prejudice. Arshavin's club manager Arsene Wenger has also supported the Council of Europe’s campaign. "I believe everybody who loves football should just enjoy how great the players are and nothing else," Wenger said last June. Footballer turned activist Lilian Thuram, Montpellier rugby lock Mamuka Gorgodze, 2009 Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak, and a host of other sporting and cultural celebrities have also given public backing to the 47-country campaign. The Council of Europe, the region's oldest and largest assembly of nations, is focusing attention on Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-gypsyism in Europe. The organization believes the media can play a lead role in the promotion of dialogue in a multi-ethnic and multi-faith environment. The campaign also encourages the media to adopt fairer recruitment policies, which would allow more ethnic minorities to enter the profession. "The support of well-known personalities like Andre Arshavin is very important to the progress of this campaign," said a Council of Europe spokeswoman. "Thanks to high profile supporters, campaign launches, conferences and cultural events, we are building the campaign’s momentum and mobilising opinion against discrimination in Europe."
© The Bleacher Report



Some romanticize Islamic women's dress as liberating; the case of Lubna Hussein is a reminder of the dark side of the veil.
By Meghan Daum

10/9/2009- On Monday in Sudan, Lubna Hussein, a 34-year-old journalist, was convicted and jailed for wearing pants (long, loose ones) on the streets of Khartoum. Though she was released the next day and, moreover, avoided the 40 lashes with a plastic whip that is considered a standard sentence under Sudanese law for wearing "indecent clothing," her case made international headlines and attracted protesters outside the courthouse, many of whom were women who wore trousers in solidarity (and some of whom were arrested). Hussein, who was entitled to immunity because she worked for the United Nations, quit her job and used the arrest as an opportunity to spotlight the punishment for dress code violations in Sudan. Having refused to pay the $200 fine, Hussein said she was glad to go to jail and seemed disappointed when she was released after a journalists union paid her fine. "I am not happy," she told Reuters. "I told all my friends and family not to pay the fine. ... [T]here are more than 700 women still in the prison who have got no one to pay for them." Hussein isn't the only rabble-rousing feminist journalist who has made waves in sartorial politics. In a column that was published a year ago but has grabbed widespread interest on the Internet in recent days, America's own Naomi Wolf had a revelation. Islamic dress protocol, she says, can be empowering and is infused with feminist dimensions that Westerners, in their Islamaphobia, are too quick to deny. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald in August 2008, Wolf talked about visiting Muslim countries and meeting with women in their homes and realizing that "Muslim attitudes toward women's appearance and sexuality are not rooted in repression, but in a strong sense of public versus private, of what is due to God and what is due to one's husband."

Noting (with apparent surprise) that in the privacy of their homes Muslim women avail themselves of body lotions, attractive clothing and Victoria's Secret lingerie, Wolf wonders if Western sexual liberation, at least when it comes to how women are expected to look and dress, offers its own kind of tyranny. In fact, when she donned full-body covering and a chador and visited a Moroccan bazaar, she had something of an epiphany. "As I moved about the market -- the curve of my breasts covered, the shape of my legs obscured, my long hair not flying about me -- I felt a novel sense of calm and serenity," Wolf wrote. "I felt, yes, in certain ways, free." Clearly, Wolf, who is nothing if not a master of taking obvious, not- exactly-original ideas and disguising them as radical inquiry (her name-making and "groundbreaking" book, "The Beauty Myth," offered up the ostensibly novel idea that obsession with physical appearance was damaging to women's progress in other areas) must never have dressed up as a ghost (or a nun or a cereal box for that matter) for Halloween. If she had, she could have saved herself the plane fare to Morocco and figured out what I thought most women -- actually, most human beings -- already know: Invisibility (or at least plainness) has its good points. Sure, it can be fun to get attention -- sometimes for showing skin, if that's your thing -- but it also can be tremendously liberating to bow out of the whole "am I hot?" enterprise altogether.

Given that for the last several years, American fashion trends have taken a skimpy (some might say sleazy) turn, it's easy to look at "repressive" dress codes in the Islamic world and attempt to make counterintuitive arguments about how it's potentially easier for women to thrive under a veil than in a miniskirt. And Wolf, for her part, is hardly the first Westerner to find a kind of romance in the idea of being covered. A significant percentage of Western Judeo-Christians who convert from Christianity to Islam are women, many of whom enthusiastically embrace the protocol for modesty and speak about the relief of no longer being seen as sex objects. It's not difficult to understand how demureness and chastity can be a source of fascination, even a kind of fetish, for all kinds of people. After all, some young women still dream of becoming nuns, Lanz of Salzburg flannel nightgowns still abound and "repressed" eras like the Victorian are in many ways imbued with more eroticism than even the hyper-sexual world of today. There's a reason the lingerie company didn't call itself Madonna's Secret -- maybe because she doesn't appear to have any.

But if equating the hijab with patriarchal oppression is reductive and reactionary, romanticizing it is even more so, and the case of Lubna Hussein is a reminder of that. As Wolf's experience suggests, it's fun to dress up if you're truly dressing up, if the fabric that covers you feels more like a fun costume than a state- enforced shield against arrest or worse. Miniskirts may represent their own kind of tyranny, but in this country we have a way of fighting back: We can wear something else.
© The Los Angeles Times



10/9/2009- The next European Commission is likely to have a commissioner responsible for fundamental rights and civil liberties, it emerged after negotiations between Jose Manuel Barroso and liberal deputies in the European Parliament. Trying to drum up support for a second term as commission president, Mr Barroso has this week appeared before political groups in the parliament to discuss his policies for the next five years. Summing up the meeting on Wednesday (9 September), liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt said the hearing had given rise to many "clarifications" after the group had been "unconvinced" by his proposed policies, published last week. According to the Liberal, Mr Barroso, a centre-right politician, promised that he would "create a separate portfolio for fundamental rights and civil liberties."  Currently the commission has a justice, freedom and security commissioner, but critics have long argued that it is too broad to give enough attention to data protection issues as well as the pressing problem of immigration and the rights of migrants in member states - an issue that has come to the fore recently after Italy's controversial handling of Roma and immigrants from Africa. A second post is expected to focus on interior security.

A single financial supervisor
Mr Barroso also committed to being more ambitious in tackling the aftermath of the economic crisis promising a review of the situation in three years time. Mr Verhofstadt reported Mr Barroso as saying: "I shall then come forward with more ambitious ideas to create a European financial supervisor." The idea has been floated for several months but a recent commission-sponsored report on dealing with the economic crisis rejected the idea because it felt it would not be accepted by member states. In addition, Mr Barroso also promised to have a "big fight" with member states on what is known in EU jargon as "own resources" or the creation of some sort of EU tax when the club's multi annual budget is next up for discussion. Mr Verhofstadt, who along with the socialists was instrumental in postponing a planned July parliamentary vote on Mr Barroso in order to win policy concessions, indicated he was satisfied with the hearing. He said the three issues were contained in the five-point list that the liberal group wanted from Mr Barroso.

No decision until Tuesday
However, the liberal chief said his group would not decide on whether to support Mr Barroso until he made the same three commitments before the entire plenary next Tuesday (15 September). The decision means that both the liberals and the socialists, as third and second largest groups in the parliament respectively, will only make their positions on Barroso clear on Tuesday evening, just before the plenary vote, due on 16 September. While he can count on the support of most the centre-right EPP deputies as well as those in the anti-federalist ECR group, Mr Barroso needs wider cross-party backing to secure the post. But as the ballot is secret and Mr Verhofstadt as well as the Socialists' Martin Schulz will have difficulty finding a unified group line on Mr Barroso - who remains a divisive figure for both political families - the result is likely to be close.
© The EUobserver


Headlines 4 September, 2009


3/9/2009- Police warned yesterday that irresponsible reporting of the events surrounding the Omeriye Mosque in Nicosia could help fuel racial hatred. Police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos, commenting on press reports which made unsubstantiated references to Islamic “extremists” and talked of the “madness of an enraged mob”, said: “We are living in a European country which needs to deal with multiculturalism, in both its positive and negative aspects. We must accept differences relating to skin-colour and religion, for example.” “If what is published does not stand up to scrutiny, then we will start to cultivate racial hatred and racism,” he added. Katsounotos said that getting to grips with multiculturalism is a two-way street, pointing out that “immigrants also need to respect the laws and rules of the host society.” Yesterday’s Phileleftheros carried an article under the headline “Extremists ready to act”, which described those taking part in the recent disturbances as “fanatical Muslims”. The article said: “The police are afraid that the incidents might spread to other towns, while there is information about activity by extremists, although this has not been confirmed.” “Of course the police have concerns, but we don’t want to overinflate the matter, nor understate the possibilities. Reporting must be serious and objective, as exaggeration does not help in any way,” said Katsounotos.

Another example of overblown presentation was to be found in yesterday’s Simerini, which carried a piece headed “Nightfall brings hell to old Nicosia”. The piece quoted three residents of the area around the Omeriye mosque, two of them shopkeepers. All of them used measured terms to express concern about their property and comment on the commercial decline of the area. One said: “I have never had problems with the migrants and they have never bothered me.” Another said: “They have never bothered us, but with the disturbances I was afraid the windows of my shop might have been broken; thankfully, though, they did not bother us.” The third said: “Nobody bothered me, they are fighting among themselves. … In any case, up to now they have not bothered anyone [of us], but who knows?” The exception was a fourth interviewee, who was reported to have refused to give his name or have his photo taken. This person said: “When I saw them during last two days, but also all the other times they set about each other, I said to myself that they wouldn’t think twice about killing us. They are fanatical.” The piece carried a subheading which said: “Shopkeepers in the area are wondering: ‘Up to now they are fighting among themselves and haven’t bothered anyone of us. But who can know where the madness of the enraged mob could lead?’”

This tendency to exaggerate can also find its way into official statements. During CyBC radio’s lunchtime news bulletin on Wednesday, Nicosia police chief Kypros Michaelides was heard to say that “if any migrant is found to be acting outside of the law, he will be pursued and deported to his home country.” At the very least, one questions how a police officer can state with such certainty that a migrant arrested for an alleged offence will ultimately be deported. Nicos Trimikliniotis, Professor of Law and Sociology at the University of Nicosia and director of the study centre which serves as the Cyprus National Focal Point for RAXEN (European Information Network on Racism and Xenophobia), said that his own studies show how the press often inflate issues containing a racial element in their attempt to sell papers. Trimikliniotis said he welcomed Katsounotos’s call for objective reporting, as we seem to be witnessing the importing of Islamophobia, which usually is to be found in extreme right-wing politics. “This expression of Islamophobia is being reported by the press on a very populist basis, which is a short step away from inciting racial hatred”, he said, adding: “Things need to be placed in context, and the press should assume their responsibilities.”
© Cyprus Mail



Germany's neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) stands to gain a taxpayer-funded windfall for being re-elected to Saxony's state parliament on Sunday, according to daily paper Die Tageszeitung. 

2/9/2009- The paper reported this week that the NPD is set to receive €100,000 of Saxon state money to fund its political foundation Bildungswerk für Heimat und Nationalstaat. The money would come from an already budgeted €800,000 set aside for the foundations of political parties represented in the legislature, said Stefan Schönfelder, the managing director of a foundation linked to the Greens party in Saxony. The NPD set up its foundation in 2005, but it has had little impact, according to the paper. But that could soon change with the injection of state funding enabled by the neo-Nazi party winning more than five percent of the vote in Saxony on Sunday. The NPD says the foundation's far-right message aims to educate people about the German homeland and nationalism. “This [re-election] shows the NPD has a core voting public,” Anetta Kahane, chairwoman of the Amedau Antonio Foundation in Berlin, told Die Tageszeitung, adding it was “sheer luck” that the NPD didn’t also win seats in the Thuringia state parliament at the weekend. In Thuringia the NPD fell just below the five-percent limit with 4.3 percent of the popular vote.

The right-wing extremists will certainly welcome any taxpayer money they can get their hands on, since the party's finances are in a dismal state. In 2008, the NPD treasurer was jailed for embezzling €700,000 of party funds into his kitchen studio company. And in May the party had to pay almost €1 million in fines after an investigation uncovered accounting irregularities from the late 1990s. Schönfelder said the Saxon government could attempt to withhold the money from the NPD with the argument its foundation would propagate unconstitutional activity. "But the NPD would undoubtedly sue all the way to the Constitutional Court," he said. Schönfelder said the government's criteria for political party foundations was so imprecise the NPD would almost certainly win any legal battle. There is no regulation enforcing that the party support democratic values and it must only back a particular brand of politics with "continuity and relevance."
© The Local - Germany



2/9/2009- The Interior Ministry yesterday vowed to boost funding and recruitment at several migrant reception centers on the country’s land and sea borders with Turkey, where overcrowding has created serious tensions prompting protests and hunger strikes by detainees. Officials from the local authorities on the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos and from the northern prefecture of Evros were told that they would receive 4 million euros between them to cover outstanding operation costs and to hire additional staff. The pledge was made by the ministry’s general secretary, Patroklos Georgiadis, following a meeting between the local authority officials and other members of the Union of Prefectural Authorities of Greece (ENAE). Georgiadis noted that two of the country’s migrant reception centers – one at the Evros land border and the other on Samos – had been built to humanely accommodate large numbers of migrants. “But nevertheless, as the influx (of immigrants) continues, there are constant social and financial problems,” he said. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and several human rights groups have expressed shock at overcrowding in some Greek reception centers, with the UNHCR last week calling for the closure of a center on Lesvos that had held more than 900 people, including unaccompanied minors, in very cramped conditions. Local authorities on Lesvos said earlier this week that they had secured ferry tickets for hundreds of migrants to come to Piraeus. But it is unclear what the fate of the migrants will be when they arrive at the country’s main port, particularly in view of the ongoing police sweeps around Omonia, in central Athens, where most newly arrived migrants tend to end up. Meanwhile, the centers on the islands are reportedly refilling as quickly as they are being emptied, as fresh boatloads of migrants arriving from neighboring Turkey are admitted to the facilities.
© The Kathimerini



City tells private schools to accept children from immigrant families or risk council funding cuts

4/9/2009- A City Council majority backs a proposal to cut funding for private schools that do not adhere to Copenhagen’s integration policy of equal distribution of children from non-Danish ethnic backgrounds. The integration policy involves spreading children with refugee and immigrant backgrounds across schools in the city to help them assimilate to Danish life and prevent ghettoisation.
Social Democrat councillor Jan Andreasen said it was fine that the independent schools received subsidies as they had made some excellent education innovations. ‘But their subsidies are a bit too much and at the same time we have the problem of well-off parents choosing private schools ahead of public schools,’ he told Berlingske Tidende newspaper. The Social Democrats, Socialist People’s Party and Red Green Alliance are behind the proposal to cut 10 percent of a school’s council subsidies if it fails to accept children of non-Danish ethnicity. On the flipside, if schools accept these children, they will receive extra contributions in acknowledgement of the cost of educating children from socially vulnerable backgrounds. The proposal will be debated next week, then go through parliament for ratification as a special Copenhagen policy.
© The Copenhagen Post



The rumour had been circulating for years: Geert Wilders is an 'Indo' (an Indonesian-European, an ethnic mix that originated when the Dutch colonised Indonesia).

4/9/2009- In June a genealogist said he had found several Indonesian ancestors of the populist Dutch politician known for his rabid anti-immigrant and anti-Islam ideas. Now anthropologist Lizzy van Leeuwen describes how his roots can be seen as the driving force behind his outspoken views. In an article in the left-wing weekly De Groene Amsterdammer Van Leeuwen asks: "Is it possible that the post-colonial and family history have made Wilders what he and his politics are today?" The article is an intellectual attempt to analyse what drives Wilders to say that "all immigration from Islamic countries should be halted" and that "all fundamental problems in the Netherlands are related to immigration". The conclusion reached by Van Leeuwen is that these statements - plus the fact that he dies his hair peroxide blond - are indeed related to his genealogical link to the largest Islamic country. Geert Wilders' increasing popularity made his Party for Freedom the second largest Dutch party in European parliament in June. Known for his anti-establishment and anti-immigration politics, Wilders has been calling himself a 'Dutch freedom fighter'. But given that his mother's roots lay outside of the Netherlands, Van Leeuwen says a sense of 'displacedness' is the recurring, underlying motive in his statements.

The 6-page article reveals that Wilders' grandmother, Johanna Ording-Meijer, came from an old Jewish-Indonesian family and that Wilders lied about this in his 2008 biography. However, Van Leeuwen, an expert on the position of Indo-Dutch people in the post-colonial age, goes beyond the notion that a politician known for judging others on their ethnic roots can himself be traced to foreign ancestors. Van Leeuwen went into the national archives to find the sad story of Wilders' grandfather on his mother's side. Johan Ording was a regional financial administrator in the Dutch colony who suffered several bankruptcies and was fired while on leave in the Netherlands in 1934. He was reduced to begging when the government refused to give him a pension, but later made it to prison director. Van Leeuwen suggests that Wilders is out to avenge the injustice done to his grandfather. But more than anything, he was defined by his Indo-roots, she says. Indonesia was a Dutch colony until 1949 and many mixed-race people moved to the Netherlands after the Indonesian independence. Van Leeuwen describes how these people were put in the same 'cultural minority' box with labour immigrants from Turkey and Morocco, whom they felt no connection to at all. More so, they had always felt very patriotic about the Netherlands and harboured strong sentiments against Islam, the dominant religion in their motherland.

Van Leeuwen explains how this group has long been part of extreme-right movements (many supported the Dutch Nazi party NSB in Indonesia in the 1930s) while others belonged to the far-right of the right-wing liberal party VVD. She puts Wilders' statements in the conservative and colonial tradition of this group, which strongly believed in patriotism and "European values". Van Leeuwen's analysis goes beyond the personal level: "The fact that Wilders obviously operates in a post-colonial political dimension, without it being recognised, says a lot about how the Netherlands dealt with, and still deals with the colonial past. Keep quiet, deny, forget and look the other way have been the motto for decades. Because of that, no one could imagine that what happened in Indonesia 50 years ago could still have its impact on modern-day politics." And the hair? Van Leeuwen says his died mop is a "political symptom not taken serious enough". She thinks it was a brilliant move to step away from his Indonesian roots and hide his post-colonial revanchism. Although this may also be an example of his "classic Indo identity alienation." Wilders has not responded to the publication.
© The NRC



Dutch public prosecutors have charged the Arab European League (AEL) for publishing a cartoon that suggests that Jews invented the Holocaust.

3/9/2009- The prosecutor in Utrecht said on Tuesday that the cartoon on AEL's website insults Jewish people as a group and is therefore an illegal form of discrimination. The cartoon shows two men wearing yarmulkes near a pile of skeletons and a sign 'Auswitch' [sic]. One, looking at the remains, says: "I don't think they are Jews." The other, looking at a piece of paper, says: "We have to get to the 6.000.000 somehow." The Arab-European advocacy group said the cartoon was posted to show the "double standard" when it comes to freedom of speech and discrimination. Dutch AEL chairman Abdoulmouthalib Bouzerda initially agreed to remove the image, but republished it after a decision last month not to charge anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders for putting the famous Danish cartoon of the prophet Mohammad - with a bomb in his turban - on his website. The prosecutor's office decided that cartoon was about the prophet only and therefore not an insult to all Muslims. The AEL said neither of the cartoons should lead to prosecution and it therefore rejected the offer to have the case dismissed if the picture was removed. "It would go against the feeling of injustice that rules in our community," Bouzerda said in a statement. He would like the case to come before the court. The Utrecht prosecutor's office said the cartoon case is complicated. "There is no doubt that the Danish cartoons can be offensive," a spokesperson said. "But according to us, the Holocaust cartoon crosses the line." Because that line between offensive and discriminatory is so thin, the prosecutor thinks it is up to a judge to decide.
© The NRC



3/9/2009- Virulent anti-Semitic content thrives on a Dutch social media website used by nearly half of the entire population of Holland, according to a report released Thursday. Yet, many of the online instigators appear to be Dutch-speaking Arabs. The report, produced by investigators from Yad VaShem, the Dutch-language Israel Facts Monitorgroup and the Network on Anti-Semitism based in the Netherlands, was provided to all the political parties in the Netherlands, as well as to members of the Dutch government. As the Internet is becoming an increasingly important and influential facet of Dutch life, the investigators are hoping to provide some insight into how it is used in the Netherlands to propagate anti-Israel rhetoric and anti-Semitic views. "Anti-Semitism and hatred toward Israel containing anti-Semitic content is a common phenomenon on the Internet in the Netherlands," the report declares. "Remarks which were unthinkable only ten years ago are now common practice and do not seem to raise eyebrows anymore." In fact, after three months of regular monitoring, the investigators concluded, "The climate in which the public debate about Israel and the Middle East conflict is taking place on the Internet is deteriorating." Titled "Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity on the Internet in the Netherlands", the report presents examples and trends of anti-Israel blood libels, violent anti-Semitic hate speech and, simultaneously, Holocaust denial, smearing Israelis as Nazis, and calls for returning Jews to the death camps. For the purpose of gauging online Dutch social media, the investigators monitored closed and open groups on the Facebook-like Hyves social networking website, which can claim around nine million members, and the talkback section of de Volkskrant, one of the leading newspapers in Holland.

Open Praise for Suicide Bombings
Among the public groups on Hyves, there are 35 groups that the report defines as either "pro-Palestinian" or "anti-Israel". The majority of these groups, according to the investigators, "are run by young Arab immigrants or descendants of Arab immigrants living in the Netherlands." While the most popular anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian groups have several thousands of members, the largest pro-Israel Hyves forum has 900. "Posts which call for killing Jews are quite common. Others contain calls to burn Israeli flags. We also noticed public calls for Hitler to 'finish his job' or 'to gas the Jews'," the report explains, adding that the forums also host various libels against Israel and Jews. Perhaps more seriously, a pro-Palestinian group called "The Jihad Fighters" openly praises suicide bombers who target civilians. While Hyves user rules forbid racist remarks and abuse can be reported, the report concludes that "the alert system that is supposed to stop racist comments does not stop anti-Semitic remarks and posts, nor does it stop outright hatred towards Israel."

Sophisticated Anti-Semitism
De Volkskrant is a respected left-leaning Dutch newspaper which publishes Israel-related opinion articles online on a fairly regular basis. The report on Netherlands anti-Semitism noted that "an average of 300 [talkback] reactions is normal for these articles, compared with fewer than 100 for other articles." The newspaper's website, visited by more than 200,000 visitors each month, has an opinion section that is fairly "evenhanded", according to the investigators. While there were no outright calls for death to the Jews or similar talkbacks, the report said, anti-Semitic content was found in eight out of nine online discussions. Unlike Hyve, De Volkskrant was careful to follow up on complaints and often removed openly anti-Semitic or hate content. As a result, the investigators found, "most anti-Israel activists seemed to be careful not to express straight anti-Semitic remarks. Jargon from the time of Nazi Germany however, was often used, as well as comparisons between Israel's actions and those of Nazi Germany." Other threads in some anti-Israel comments were various permutations of Holocaust denial, and lies about Israeli history or Jewish culture, the report said.

Utrecht Prosecutors Go After Online Hate by Muslim 
The report on anti-Semitism in Dutch online social media comes on the heels of prosecutors in Utrecht deciding to charge an Arab group for publishing a caricature on its website that insults the memory of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. The caricature, according to the prosecutors, insults Jews as a group and is therefore banned for publication in the country. The case came to the attention of Dutch prosecutors after Ronny Naftaniel of the Center for Documentation on Israel filed a complaint with police, saying that the picture was discriminatory and racist. The Arab group says it placed the cartoon on its website to show the "hypocrisy" of European officials.
© Arutz Sheva



With the second half of ‘football diplomacy’ just weeks away, Turkish and Armenian leaders are pledging to sign protocols that will usher in a new era of open relations between the two countries. The future isn’t certain, however, as the parliaments and presidents on both sides of the border will need to ratify the agreements before they can come into force

1/9/2009- After decades of tension between the neighbors, Turkey and Armenia are set to sign protocols that promise to shape a broad common ground for establishing good ties and undertaking joint projects important for future development. The two countries are expected to ink two protocols in six weeks, likely just before the World Cup qualifying match that will take place in Bursa on Oct. 14 between Turkey and Armenia’s national teams. The first protocol, covering the establishment of diplomatic relations, and the second, on the development of relations, are accompanied by an annex that sets a clear timetable for the implementation of both. Though uncertainties remain, the agreements envision the opening of the Turkey-Armenia border within two months after the second protocol goes into force, which requires approval from both parliaments and presidents. “[Turkey and Armenia] reconfirm their commitment, in their bilateral and international relations, to respect and ensure respect for the principles of equality, sovereignty, non-intervention in internal affairs of other states, territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers,” the first protocol reads. The initial part of the agreement also touches on the issue of regional stability without making direct reference to the ongoing dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenian forces. Refraining from the use of threats or force, promoting the peaceful settlement of disputes and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms are also key provisions in the protocol.

Borders to be recognized
Under the agreement, the two countries will also affirm their mutual recognition of their existing border, as defined by relevant treaties in international law, a provision that directly refers to one of Turkey’s most important demands, Armenia’s acknowledgement of the 1921 Treaty of Kars that delimited the border. This aspect of the protocol can be seen as Armenia’s confirmation that it will no longer make any claims on Turkish territory. The next item of the protocol once again affirms the countries’ decision to open the common border, which was sealed by Turkey in response to Armenia’s occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh. Previously, Turkey had said it would not move toward reconciliation with Armenia unless the country removed its forces from Azerbaijani lands. “Condemning all forms of terrorism, violence and extremism irrespective of their cause, pledging to refrain from encouraging and tolerating such acts and to cooperate in combating against them,” are among the other terms of the protocol. As Turkish intelligence services believe that Armenia is one of the countries providing support to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, Turkey will press Armenia to severe any links with the banned organization.

The protocol on the development of relations lists a number of fields in which the two countries will work to launch joint projects. In addition to political and economic ties, Turkey and Armenia will set up sub-commissions to work on energy- and transportation-related efforts, as well as other scientific, technical and cultural issues, that will foster a common future based on mutual interests. Projects set to be launched in the short term include the reactivation of existing railroads and joint electricity production. In another reference to the peaceful settlement of regional disputes, the protocol text says the countries are “reiterating their commitment to the peaceful settlement of regional and international disputes and conflicts on the basis of the norms and principles of international law.” Under the new agreements, Turkey and Armenia will also work together to stop transnational organized crime, including the illicit trafficking of drugs and arms.

Initiating a historical dialogue
In addition to the main aims of the two protocols, the neighboring countries have also agreed to set up a sub-commission to deal with the mass killings that occurred during the World War I era. The sub-commission will be able to invite foreign experts to contribute to its work. It is charged with implementing “a dialogue on the historical dimension with the aim to restore mutual confidence between the two nations, including an impartial scientific examination of the historical records and archives to define existing problems and formulate recommendations.” The two countries will also cooperate in the fields of science and education by encouraging relations between appropriate institutions and promoting the exchange of specialists and students, and will act to preserve the cultural heritage of both sides by launching joint cultural projects.

The timetable
After negotiations are completed, the protocols are expected to be signed in the first half of October and will then be sent to Parliament for further discussion. The final approval of the protocols must be made by President Abdullah Gül. It is not yet known how long it may take to complete the ratification process. The protocol calls for the border to be opened within two months of the documents’ entry into force, meaning that if Gül approves them on Nov. 1, for example, the border would have to be opened before the New Year. The two countries will also establish a working group headed by their respective foreign ministries to prepare an intergovernmental commission, along with a number of sub-commissions, that will be convened within three months after the protocol goes into effect. The sub-commissions will convene a month after the initial intergovernmental meeting.

Uncertainty over Karabakh
Though a key step in the reconciliation process, the protocols do not address all the questions marks in the relationship between the two countries. After Turkey and Armenia declared their initial “road map” for reconciliation on April 22, Baku’s strong reaction caused Ankara to backpedal and declare that it would only move forward if Armenia withdrawals from occupied Azerbaijani lands. The current protocol does not address this issue. Turkish diplomats say there are still two parallel tracks, but thus far, the implementation is not showing that to be the case.
© Hurriyet



31/8/2009- The ruling Socialist Party called upon the main opposition Fidesz party to recall its representative, Ilona Ekes, from Parliament's human rights committee because of her recent homophobic remarks, Socialist MP Zsolt Torok told MTI on Sunday. Ibolya David, leader of the conservative MDF party, said that attacks launched against any minority are "unacceptable". Ekes on Friday asked police to ban this year's Gay Dignity March planned for September 5. She insisted the "provocative event endangering law and order, and public morals," should be scrapped and replaced by "social and expert dialogue" on homosexuality. Ekes also said that homosexuals should be converted into heterosexuals by medicinal treatment. Fidesz press chief Bertalan Havasi said that Ekes had voiced her private opinion at a press conference organised by herself, and that the party did not want to make any comment. The human rights group Helsinki Committee on Friday addressed public letters to the president and the parliamentary party leaders, asking them to declare their support for the equal rights and human dignity of lesbian, gay, bi- and transsexual people, and condemn initiatives to intimidate these minorities. Police earlier in the week agreed with the organisers of the march to keep potential counter-demonstrators at a safe distance from participants. Sandor Steigler, head of the organising Rainbow Mission, said police planned to close off all side streets and even parallel ones to Andrassy Boulevard, the main route for the parade, where last year's participants met pelting eggs, stones and even petrol bombs from violent anti-gay groups.
© Politics Hungary



2/9/2009- The needs and wellbeing of children are too often overlooked when implementing the asylum and foreigner law, according to a report presented in Bern on Tuesday. The monitoring body for the rights of asylum and alien law said that children's rights were being pushed aside by a "restrictive" immigration policy. "Children's rights are in a bad way," said Yvonne Zimmermann, director of the organisation. Switzerland, despite having ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), has consistently failed to pay it much heed, the report added. For example, when families are separated because a mother or father is forced to leave the country, far-reaching consequences for the children are seen as "collateral damage". Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, organisation president and a parliamentarian from the centre-left Social Democratic Party, said the report showed where official action clashed with children's rights. "If families receive assistance only in emergencies, that doesn't include the provision of healthy food. This contravenes article 24 of the CRC, under which children have the right to the highest standard of health," she said. Zimmermann said the CRC was also contravened when children who have grown up in Switzerland and are well-integrated are forced to move to another country with which they have no connection. She said this reflected the fact that foreign children lack rights that Swiss children take for granted – and are therefore discriminated against.

Cantons' decision
Jonas Montani of the Federal Migration Office rejected the accusation. "The new foreigners law – under which rejected asylum seekers who refuse to leave the country face detention – has been in force since January 1, 2008, but between then and the middle of 2009 not one person under 15 was taken into custody," he told "The basic position is that minors follow their parents – their stay [in Switzerland] is dependent on their parents' permits. But children aged 14-17 who have spent a large part of their adolescence in Switzerland and are well integrated will be tested specially." Montani explained that an article in the foreigners law says the subsequent immigration of family members may be approved if important familial reasons can be presented. "It's important to point out however that it's not the Federal Migration Office that decides whether people should be deported but rather the cantons. "We issue instructions to the cantons which explicitly refer to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Human Rights Convention, which is binding for Switzerland."

Lack of awareness
Susanne Meier, a lawyer from the Swiss Children's Advocacy organisation, said the main problem is that children aren't aware of their rights. "Often no one listens to the children – instead a case is considered from the parent's point of view," she said. Vermot-Mangold said children are seen only as an accessory – "and not as individuals, as the convention demands". She pointed out that the federal constitution also provides for the protection of the integrity of children and teenagers and for the promotion of their development. However, the children of asylum seekers and migrants are deprived of these guaranteed rights. "Children should not become victims of a restrictive immigration policy. The CRC should not only be observed but consistently implemented in the decision-making process." The report was based on cases collected in western and eastern Switzerland and in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. Zimmermann admitted that while it was not representative - certain issues came up more frequently in some regions than in others - it nevertheless highlighted problem areas.

Harsher measures
The monitoring body for the rights of asylum and alien law was created after a referendum in September 2006 in which Swiss voters approved tougher regulations on asylum and limited immigration for citizens from outside the European Union. Two-thirds of voters were convinced by the government's arguments that harsher measures against asylum abuses were necessary to avoid social tension and provide protection for those fleeing persecution. A coalition of centre-left parties, trade unions, churches and aid organisations had forced the vote, arguing that the reforms went against Switzerland's humanitarian tradition. They added that the new law, approved by parliament in 2005, would make the country's rules among the most restrictive in Europe. The aim of the body is to observe the application of the law and to document problematic cases.
© Swissinfo



1/9/2009- Thousands of ethnic Hungarians have demonstrated in Slovakia, to protest against a new law that limits the use of minority languages there. Only Slovak can now be used in public offices, and in institutions like schools and hospitals. Slovakia says the move is in accord with European standards, but protestors argue it breaks international laws. The Hungarian government says it has turned to international human rights organisations for help. The Hungarian and Slovak prime ministers are due to meet next week, to try to defuse worsening relations. More than half a million ethnic Hungarians live in Slovakia, who regard the new law as the latest in a series of crackdowns by the Slovak government against their culture. Peter Pazmany, of the opposition ethnic Hungarian Coalition Party in Slovakia, said the law: "makes no sense... [it] only creates tension between people who have lived peacefully side by side".

Anyone found to be regularly misusing the Slovak language in public office now faces a fine of up to $7,000 (£4,300), the equivalent of nearly a year's average pay in Slovakia, reports say. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said the new law respects the rights of minorities, but has noted the concerns and risks related to its enforcement. Ties between Slovakia and Hungary have long been strained over Bratislava's treatment of its ethnic Hungarians, who make up about 10% of the population. For its part, Slovakia has previously voiced its distaste over what it sees as efforts by Budapest to promote Hungarian culture within its own borders. The protests over the new law follow a row last week, when Slovakia barred the Hungarian president from making a controversial visit. President Laszlo Solyom had planned to visit a part of Slovakia with a large ethnic Hungarian population, to unveil a statue of the first Hungarian king, Saint Stephen. Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said the plans were a provocation to his nation. The BBC's Nick Thorpe in southern Slovakia says relations between the two countries are at the lowest point for many years. Hungary once ruled Slovakia, within the then Austro-Hungarian empire, until the end of the First World War and the eventual break-up of those territories.
© BBC News


THEIR LIES, OUR STRENGTH (uk, editorial)

2/9/2009- BNP leader Nick Griffin went on air last month to distance the BNP from the hooligan protests. As usual what he did not admit was that many of the leading figures in the Luton protest are BNP supporters. Just like Oldham in 2001, Griffin denied responsibility while his own followers were inciting hatred and violence. When the English Defence League announced its intention to hold a protest in Luton we were faced with two options. We could have called a counter-protest and mobilised the local community and anti-fascists to occupy the streets or we could call on the authorities to ban the march.

In normal circumstances we would have preferred the first option. Mobilising communities can be an empowering process but these are not ordinary times and the stakes are too high. There was a very serious risk of major disorder in Luton if the march had gone ahead – be it from the hooligans and fascists or the local community, which quite understandably wanted to defend its neighbourhoods. We decided that any disorder would have been a disaster. It would have driven a firm wedge between communities in Luton and also had national ramifications. With the strength of the BNP and Islamophobia it is trouble we could least afford.

Anti-fascists must accept that we too have a responsibility to the people we claim to represent. Yes the fascists must be challenged wherever they raise their heads but it is also important that we are sensitive to the con-sequences of our actions. Stopping the fascists holding a meeting is pointless if we then have to endure three days of adverse publicity which leaves local people – the very people we want to keep away from the BNP – feeling sympathy for them. Likewise, burning the Union Jack in a city centre is hardly likely to win over ordinary shoppers.

It was precisely because of our concerns over the consequences of a march that we called for the protest to be banned. However, the manner in which we did it mobilised and empowered people. The Home Office banned the march because of the actions of thousands of people who got involved in our campaign. Over the coming months the hooligans and BNP will again try to whip up hatred and division. They need to be opposed but in a responsible manner which gives thought to the consequences and empowers people along the way.
© Searchlight Magazine



Nicholas Winton rescued 669 children from the Nazis. Yesterday 22 of them returned to Prague to thank him

2/9/2009- Watching a steam train full of waving passengers pull out of Prague station yesterday, the Meisl brothers recalled the wartime journey that had changed their lives forever. Peter Meisl was evacuated from Czechoslovakia by a British stockbroker, Nicholas Winton, on the eve of the Second World War along with 668 other children, 22 of whom were on board the commemorative train yesterday as it left Prague in a cloud of steam to begin its four-day trip to London. Czechoslovakia's Nazi occupiers declared Peter's brother Jiri too old for evacuation and, as Peter lived out the war quietly in Wales, Jiri and their parents were forced on to a prison train and sent to Auschwitz. Their father, like the relatives of scores of "Winton's Children", perished there. The Meisls' story is just one of dozens of extraordinary tales from the now elderly men and women who owe their lives to Winton. As the former evacuees gathered in Prague for their train journey, they hailed his compassion and determination, celebrated their survival and mourned for those children that were not able to escape.

In December 1938, 29-year-old Winton was packing for a skiing holiday in Switzerland when his would-be holiday companion told him to come urgently to Czechoslovakia instead. Adolf Hitler's forces had occupied the country's Sudetenland, and Winton was appalled to see the conditions in which the refugees were living. In other parts of central Europe, "kindertransporten" were already evacuating children, but Czechoslovakia had no such programme. Winton immediately started raising money and organising trains to save the children, and on his return to Britain began finding homes and organising visas for them, all while holding down his day job in London. Word of Winton's audacious plan quickly spread throughout Prague. When he returned to the Czech capital and set up office in his hotel room on Wenceslas Square, long queues soon formed outside of parents who would plead with him to take their children to Britain. "Those parents were desperate – it was heartbreaking to listen to their stories," Winton, now Sir Nicholas Winton, recalled in a 2007 interview. "They knew all too well what their fate was likely to be. Their first thought was for the little ones. Never themselves. Practically all those parents perished in the camps."

Between March and August 1939, eight Winton trains carried 669 children – most of them Jewish – to safety in Britain. Seventy years on, as the steam train whistled its impending departure, they recalled parents telling them that they were just going on a short holiday, the excitement of the older children and the bewilderment of the younger ones. They remembered their strange first impressions of Britain, spitting out a first sip of milky tea and their wonder at white sliced bread. "Our parents put a brave face on things, and of course they didn't know that they wouldn't see their children again," said Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, who was sent to a family in Lancashire and still lives in Preston. "It is very unreal and very emotional to be here today. It's like a film set," she said, as Czech government ministers prepared to unveil a statue to Sir Nicholas. The former evacuees also remembered how a ninth train had been due to leave Prague on 1 September 1939 and how, after war broke out, the Nazis stopped it leaving the city. Most of the 250 children on board were never seen again. "My brother was supposed to be on that train. He and my parents were all killed," said Eve Leadbeater, who lives in Nottingham, where she was taken in by a teacher at the age of eight. "Being in Prague again brings a whole mix of emotions: sadness at what happened and joy at being alive. What Nicholas Winton did was a great example of what one man with compassion and determination can do."

The scale of Sir Nicholas's achievements is almost matched by his reticence to discuss them. "I was never really in danger," he has said. "I simply saw a need and I filled it. I wasn't anyone special. I just saw what was going on and did what I could to help." He did not even tell his wife about his exploits until the late 1980s, when she found a scrapbook of clippings in the attic of their home in Maidenhead. The scrapbook was passed to a Jewish historian and, before long, he was being introduced to some of the people he had saved, on Esther Rantzen's That's Life. Having previously been awarded only the Freedom of Maidenhead, Winton was now described as "Britain's Oscar Schindler" and the "Pied Piper of Prague" and he was knighted in 2003. Four years later, the Czech Republic gave him its highest honour and nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. After unveiling a statue of Winton with two children at Prague station, Barbara Winton said that her father was still an uncompromising man of action – even at 100 years old. "What he did 70 years ago is totally in keeping with how he is now. He believes that, if something needs to be done, you must do it. Looking back doesn't get people anywhere. But if this event makes people more aware of what we should be doing now, then he will see it as a good thing."

Sir Nicholas intends to be at Liverpool Street Station in London on Saturday, when the train arrives from Prague. "What will I say when I see Nicholas?" said Eve Leadbeater as she boarded the train. "I will say 'thank you'. What else is there to say?"
© The Independent



3/9/2009- Yesterday 21-year-old neo-Nazi Jaroslav Kořínek, who brutally attacked a 22-year-old Roma man on New Year’s Day at a disco in Frýdek-Místek, was given a three-year conditional sentence to be served on parole. The verdict said the attack, during which Kořínek broke the victim’s rib, was racially motivated, Dení reports. The attack occurred at approximately 3 AM on New Year’s Day. The two-meter-tall racist began his indiscriminate assault on a randomly selected Roma youth, whom he did not know, yelling that he hated him and that he was a “black gob”. “Black pig, you are not welcome here,” the neo-Nazi raved. During the brutal attack he also yelled the Nazi slogan “Sieg Heil” at least twice and gave the Nazi salute. Kořínek was wearing armored boots and a jacket with a white eagle and a swastika on it at the time. After the verbal attack he is said to have kneed the much smaller Roma man in the face and thrown him to the ground, where he kicked him at least once in the head and several times in the chest. Kořínek was sentenced for attempted mayhem, rioting, and supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. “The accused was looking for trouble. His behavior was serious, this is really an extreme matter,” the presiding judge said. Dení reports that the court considered a four-year prison sentence for the youth, who has no prior record and is resuming his high school studies. “In the end we are of the opinion that we should give him a chance,” the judge said.

The judge emphasized that Kořínek will have to follow appropriate restrictions during a five-year probationary period. “You will not visit gaming parlors, bars or discotheques for the next five years,” he told the convict. Kořínek will be allowed to order food in commercial establishments but will not be permitted to consume alcohol in public. A probation officer will monitor his behavior during this time. “You will either correct your behavior by the time you are 26 or you will go to prison for three years,” the judge said, adding that the slightest infraction on Kořínek’s part would result in a public hearing, “the purple bus and departure for Ostrava.” Kořínek agreed with the decision. The state prosecutor, who wanted to send him to prison, will consider whether to appeal the verdict. “The relationship of this attack to his Nazi and neo-Nazi opinions is completely obvious and significant. We see similar people on our television screens every day,” the prosecutor warned. In his view, the rising numbers of racist attacks are increasing tension in society and are completely unacceptable. Kořínek will have to pay the victim CZK 2 400, Dení reports.
© Romano vodi



Two years after a breakthrough verdict by the European Court for Human Rights which denounced racial segregation in Czech schools, Romany children still face widespread discrimination. That’s the conclusion of a group of Czech NGOs that say the Czech Education Ministry has shown good will but has introduced few practical measures to improve the situation.

2/9/2009- A group of Czech NGOs called Together to School has accused the country’s Education Ministry of inaction in the face of persisting discrimination of Romany children in Czech schools. Two years after the European Court for Human Rights ruled that placing Romany children in “special” schools or schools with special education programmes constitutes unlawful discrimination, the Together to School initiative points out that according to a survey carried out by the Education Ministry, the practice has not changed. Kateřina Hrubá is a lawyer for the Brno-based NGO Z§vůle práva.
“The situation in schools remains the same according to our experience directly in the field. In the first half of 2009, the Institute for Information on Education carried out a very important survey in Czech standard and practical schools, and the result shows that almost 27 percent of all Romany children attend practical elementary schools, while only two percent of non-Roma pupils attend these schools. We find these results very alarming.”

Although “special schools” as such were abolished in 2005, Romany children are often being placed in “practical schools” that follow syllabi designed for children with light mental disabilities. The NGOs blame standard elementary schools for failing to provide assistance to Romany children with special education needs, and instead transfer them to the “practical schools”. While the ministry has shown goodwill in dealing with the situation, non-governmental experts say little has been done in practical terms to stop discrimination. They would therefore like to address the issues with a series of measures.
“We would like to propose that the ministry launch an information campaign focused on the general public to draw attention to the importance of the issue of discrimination of Romany children. We would also like the current minister, Ms Kopicová, to state publicly that it is illegal to discriminate against Romany children and enrol them into practical schools, and to put a moratorium on the transfers of Romany children into practical schools.”

Apart from a moratorium on the transfer of Romany children to practical schools, a national information campaign and other measures, NGOs suggest the ministry outline an ethical code for psychologists who often choose to transfer Romany children to special programmes because it seems the simplest solution. The ministry acknowledges the seriousness of the situation but strongly denies accusations of inaction. Tomáš Bouška is the spokesman for the Czech Education Ministry.
“We have a section for social programmes here at the Education Ministry which has been functioning for no longer than one year. And in this one year, we have carried out an overwhelming list of attempts to change the situation which is painful, and we admit that it is painful.”

The list includes a national action plan to support inclusive education, a project of support centres, and a plan to improve counselling at schools. Mr Bouška says that these and other steps will be carried out, regardless of who takes over the ministry after the next elections. “These measures will be compulsory for the Czech Republic and will be implemented regardless of the political situation and of who will be in charge of the ministry. The Education Ministry will distribute to all counselling organisations and schools its recommendation with ethical principles for working with socially and culturally disadvantaged children. This will take place this month, in September 2009.”

The Education Ministry will take time to study the proposals and says it is ready to work with the Together to School initiative to eradicate discrimination of Romany children in schools. For their part, NGOs say that the problem is now so serious it requires a concerted effort on the part of all involved and top priority treatment.
© Radio Prague



2/9/2009- Czech neo-Nazis eye the neo-Nazi scene in neighbouring Saxony as an example to follow, and there are also close relations between German and Czech extremist parties and groupings, experts from the two states say in a joint study on rightist extremism in the small cross-border contact. The study, the first of its kind, has been worked out by the specialists from the police and NGOs at the request of the Heinrich Boell Foundation. It was subsidised by Germany's Remembrance, Responsibility, Future Foundation and the German-Czech Fund for the Future. The study says the more extensive Saxon neo-Nazi scene is especially attractive for Czech neo-Nazis as it has managed to achieve representation on the institutional level. The far-right National Party of Germany (NPD) managed to enter the Saxon parliament for the second time in a row in the regional polls on Sunday. One of the authors of the study, Friedemann Bringt from the Kulturbuero Sachsen organisation, points to a paradoxical aspect of cooperation between the German and Czech neo-Nazis.

"After all the Czechs are mostly of Slavonic origin which the 'Aryan ideology of races' views as 'inferior', Bringt says, cited by the daily Nibelungen Kurier. Despite this, most right-wing extremists among Czechs view themselves as members of the allegedly superior "Aryan race," he adds. For a long time now German and Czech neo-Nazis have been visiting each other's meetings in the respective country. The Czechs are more active in this respect, says Bringt. The Czechs attend big events of Saxon neo-Nazis, such as concerts, commemorative marches and feasts organised by the NPD's weekly Deutsche Stimme in order to gather inspiration for their own activities at home. In the past years, Czech neo-Nazis' presence was most visible at the demonstration marking the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden by the allied air force on February 13, 1945. German neo-Nazis, for their part, praise what they call the Czech police's "relatively soft approach to the Nazi symbols and slogans [used by neo-Nazis], says Bringt.

The Saxon institute for the protection of the constitution has also noticed cooperation between local and Czech neo-Nazis on the level of parties and groupings. "There exist close ties between the Saxon members of the NPD and the Czech far-right extremist National Resistance (NO) and Workers' Party (DS)," Nibelungen Kurier writes, citing a source from the institute. According to the institute, a group of NO extremists met NPD leaders right in Saxon Landtag. In August 2008, foundations for a German-Czech "seminar" were reportedly laid in the Czech Republic. The seminar is to take place alternately in the Czech Republic and Germany, using the languages of both. The NPD has also reportedly established closer cooperation with the DS, sources from the institute said. "The Czech neo-Nazis learn from their local counterparts to base [their campaign] on themes that are sensitive and can address the majority," says Bringt.

At present they mainly focus on problems with the integration of Romanies, rather than Jews, the Third Reich or Hitler. This helps them address a larger part of the Czech population, which need not necessarily identify itself with national socialism, says Bringt. Last autumn's anti-Romany marches in Janov, a Romany-inhabited housing estate in Litvinov, north Bohemia, are an example of this strategy. The Czech co-authors of the study, including Ondrej Cakl and Klara Kalibova from the Tolerance and Civic Society group, say the Czech Republic is short of experts dealing with far-right extremism. Czech neo-Nazis have started to follow their Saxon counterparts' practice of intimidation of anti-fascists, local politicians and journalists, the Czech experts say.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


CLASS OF TRAITORS (Turkmenistan)

As students around the world prepare for the academic year, some from Turkmenistan hoping to study abroad find themselves enemies of the state.

31/8/2009- Although North Korea gets all the credit for being the most undecipherable country in the world, Turkmenistan would have to rank a close second. Take the government’s recent crackdown on students seeking to study abroad. Since 13 August, neweurasia, a TOL-affiliated site, has been reporting on severe travel restrictions placed upon hundreds of Turkmen students. They have been turned away by security officials on the border and in Ashgabat airport, even forcibly removed from their airplane seats. Attempts to leave the country via a tourist visa or private invitation have proven futile, and even bribery, that most reliable of options in Central Asia, avails nothing. The students have been denounced as “unpatriotic” and “traitorous” by Turkmenistan’s Education Ministry. Such harsh words, unusual even by this totalitarian state’s standards, give the impression of a government intent upon browbeating a generation. But is that really the intention?

The truth is always difficult to get to in Turkmenistan, but a picture is quickly emerging from neweurasia’s reports. To begin with, as of 13 August, students intending to attend state-run universities throughout the region encountered problems but were allowed through; only those intending to study in private universities were said to be barred. Additionally, the authorities are said to have been specifically promoting universities in Romania and Russia, two countries with which Turkmenistan enjoys good relations. By 22 August, however, neweurasia’s blogger covering the story, Orazdurdy, learned of a possible revision to the immigration rule apparently permitting students to study overseas without having to secure an exit permit beforehand. Orazdurdy is seeking confirmation, but if true, it would signify a swift and significant redirection of policy to actually make studying abroad easier.

Indeed, after an initial blanket restriction on all students, it now appears that the real target was young people going to one private university in particular: the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Neweurasia even quotes one Education Ministry official saying to a group of AUCA students, “You won’t leave! Quit your studies at AUCA and look for something else in Russia or Romania.” For their part, AUCA officials believe their students are being singled out. In support of that theory, in another interesting turn of events MobileTeleSystems, the Russian mobile phone operator in Turkmenistan, blocked outgoing text messages on the Kyrgyz Beeline and Megacom GSM providers, prompting one observer to remark, “The Turkmen government has well-prepared for this unannounced war with AUCA, and so far it’s winning the war.”

But why?
This campaign against AUCA, if that is what it is, remains inexplicable. But in trying to explain the crisis it would be good to keep several things in mind:

First, it would be a mistake to infer automatically that the government’s behavior has actually anything to do with either the students themselves or the apparent target of the campaign, the AUCA. As with so many things about Turkmenistan, outward appearances should always be treated cautiously as symptoms rather than the illness itself. The real reason may have nothing to do even with education. Even the vile denunciations from ministry officials directed against the students should not be taken at face value. They could simply be an effort to intimidate the students into silence.

Second, Turkmen media have so far been silent on the issue. This is perhaps characteristic of news agencies in the country (or what can be said to qualify as news agencies in a state without a free media). Yet the total lack of an official line could also indicate that the situation, whatever it is, remains unresolved.

Third, there is no obvious evidence indicating a secret rupture between Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, or between Turkmenistan, and one of the AUCA’s grantors, the United States.

If something has gone awry in Turkmen-Kyrgyz relations this could be the first sign. However, Turkmen students wanting to study at Kyrgyz state universities have been permitted to do so. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine what on Kyrgyzstan’s side could have instigated Turkmenistan’s actions. In total, it seems more likely, albeit strange, that the AUCA ban arises from dynamics within Turkmenistan. The question, again, is why?

Several possibilities spring to mind, some banal, some sinister. On the one hand, perhaps some faceless bureaucrat is seeking vengeance for his son or daughter getting rejected by the university. Or the army is running low on young people for recruitment to the military services (most students traveling abroad are male). On the other hand, perhaps this is some kind of ill-conceived purge of Western influence from the intellectual life of the country. If so, it’s been fixated upon the most symbolically American institution in the region, one that touts its “American liberal arts tradition that develops enlightened and impassioned leaders for the democratic transformation of Central Asia.” That motivation would be more in line with the Turkmenistan government’s established program of mutating the mentality of their rising generation, encouraging narrow-minded parochialism over a broader, more worldly outlook.

In 2007 a neweurasia blogger, Maciula, remarked, “One of the most striking things about Turkmenistan is the difference between the older and the younger generation. […] While for the young people Turkmenistan is the entire world, for the older ones it is the former Soviet Union, where they were born and grew up.” Whatever the shadowy motivations for the government’s apparent moves against AUCA, it’s heartbreaking to see the potential symbolized by young students smacked down arbitrarily. The country’s leaders are playing with more than just individual lives, but their society’s future.
© Transitions Online



1/9/2009- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday threatened to block European Union decision making unless EU commissioners and their spokespeople were barred from speaking publicly, Italian media reported. Berlusconi appeared to object to Italian newspaper reports suggesting that the European Commission was implicitly criticizing Italy by requesting information from it and Malta after a boat of African migrants was returned to Libya. Dennis Abbott, Commission spokesman for regional policy, confirmed that a request had made. "The request for information is a normal process in situations like this," he told a regular news briefing. "The Commission wants to help but, if it's to help, it needs accurate information." But Berlusconi said the Italian media reports were the result of the words of Commission spokespeople being "manipulated." He told reporters in Gdansk, Poland, where European leaders were marking the 70th anniversary of the start of World War Two, that he would bring up the issue at the next EU summit and demand that errant commissioners be fired.  "My position will be unequivocal and precise: we will not give our vote anymore, effectively blocking the functioning of the Council (meetings of EU governments) unless it is agreed that no commissioner or spokesperson of a commissioner can publicly weigh in on any topic," Berlusconi said, according to Italian agency reports from Poland.

Only the European Commission president and his spokesperson should be able to speak publicly, Berlusconi said. "I'll ask that the commissioners and the spokespeople of commissioners who continue the trend of all these years be fired in a definitive manner," he said. "This is something that cannot be accepted any more because it gives the opposition in every country weapons that don't exist." The government is particularly sensitive to attacks on its refugee policy. In May, Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa called the local spokeswoman of the U.N. refugee agency an "inhuman" or "criminal" leftist over her criticisms. The spokeswoman, Laura Boldrini, on Monday accused Italy of sending back the boat of refugees from Italian waters without giving them a chance to request asylum, calling the case "very serious." Italy says the boat was in international waters.
© Reuters



31/8/2009- The Roma (Gypsy) families who lived in a ramshackle settlement under a Belgrade bridge have been relocated this Monday. They left behind the remains of a dump that was piling up next to the settlement, dubbed “unhygienic”, which the city services are now working to clean up. 114 families that were registered in Belgrade, who until today lived in the vicinity of the Gazela bridge over the Sava River, have been moved to 13 Belgrade municipalities. Each family was given a housing container that has furniture, and is connected to the sanitary infrastructure. The settlement children who did not go to school will not have to attend classes, and the city previously promised to provide them with gratis schoolbooks and transport. At the same time, 53 Roma families who were living near Gazela but are registered in eight southern Serbian municipalities, have returned to their towns. An agreement was made with local self-governments that those who have nowhere to stay be provided with temporary housing until a permanent solution. The relocation on Monday went without any incidents. Earlier today, Roma Decade coordinator Osman Bali said particular attention must be paid precisely to those who have not been registered in Belgrade, but told B92 that he is satisfied that the problems of several hundred people will be solved. The move by the city authorities comes because the reconstruction of the bridge cannot not take place until the settlement is dismantled. The works have already been postponed several times for this reason. The European Investment Bank said one of the conditions for its loan, funding the reconstruction, was that “this job be done properly”, said reports.
© B92



Around 1,500 people gathered in the West Flemish town of Diksmuide for the annual Ijzer Pilgrimage. Among them were the Flemish Prime Minister Kris Peters (Christian democrat) and the Flemish Minister Philippe Muyters (nationalist). The Ijzer Pilgrimage is now in its 82nd year.

30/8/2009- The pilgrimage remembers the Flemish soldiers who died during the First World War and was first organised in 1920. It is at the same time a political meeting striving for Flemish political autonomy. The aims of the annual meeting are no more war, autonomy and truce of God. In its heyday the pilgrimage attracted many thousands of people from all parts of the Flemish movement. However, the route of progressive and inclusive nationalism pursued by the committee that organises the pilgrimage eventually led to a split. Right-wing nationalists launched their own event, the Ijzer Vidual. The Ijzer Vidual is held a week earlier than the Ijzer Pilgrimage in the village of Steenstrate, near Ieper (West Flanders).

“Flanders is for everyone”
The slogan of this year’s Ijzer Pilgrimage was “Flanders is for everyone”. The Chairman of the Ijzer Pilgrimage Committee Walter Baeten called for the scrapping of the federal elections. Mr Baeten added that the Flemish Government is the only legitimate government in Flanders. He also called for social expenditure to be spared from any cuts that are to be made as a result of the current economic crisis. Mr Baeten stressed that greater devolution offers the best way out of the economic crisis for Flanders. In a response to last Sunday’s controversial speech by the journalist Frans Crols at the Ijzer Vidual, Mr Baeten said that there was no question of Flanders surrendering its capital Brussels in order to achieve independence. However, this doesn’t mean that Brussels shouldn’t be given a blank cheque.
© Flanders News



1/9/2009- Foreign nationals forced to flee their homes in the wake of racist attacks in the North have been left without a roof over their heads after being denied access to state support, a new report claimed today. Migrant workers who have fallen victim to domestic abuse have also been unable to access temporary government accommodation due to restrictive immigration laws, the investigation by the NI Human Rights Commission found. While UK nationals and citizens from certain EU countries qualify automatically for homeless assistance from the NI Housing Executive, workers from other parts of Europe and the rest of the world are being frozen out of the support system due to stipulations on their work visas, the commission’s ’No Home from Home’ study discovered. While the state is able to provide emergency lodgings in the immediate aftermath of an incident – such as in the case of the 100 or so Romanians who fled their homes in south Belfast after racist attacks earlier this year - immigrations rules mean some non-UK nationals are not eligible for medium term temporary housing in the days and weeks that follow. Faced with the option of sleeping on the street, some have had to turn to charities to put them up, the commission said.

Co-author of the report Roisin Devlin said in the course of their investigation they had interviewed a number of individuals who had found themselves in that situation. “Their experiences included domestic violence, ill-health and racial intimidation,” she said. “In many instances, they did not have access to the basic means of shelter or subsistence. Often charitable organisations were called upon for help because, under various laws, individuals were not entitled to State support.” Fellow author Sorcha McKenna said staff within state agencies were often curtailed from providing assistance by the regulations. “During this investigation we found that immigration legislation severely restricts what each of the agencies can do to assist homeless non-UK nationals,” she said. “Whilst the investigation found largely good practice among agency staff there is still room for improvement particularly in the area of training and inter agency co-operation. These recommendations are aimed at supporting staff and to ensure that where a person is homeless all options for assistance are explored.”

The report examined the practices of the NIHE, the Social Security Agency and the Health and Social Care Trusts in Belfast, Cookstown and Dungannon. NIHRC Chief Commissioner, Professor Monica McWilliams said the state had to make sure no individual was left homeless, regardless of where they came from. “Overall, the investigation demonstrates how those in extremely vulnerable situations are often excluded from even the most basic levels of homelessness and financial support,” she said. “We have made a wide range of recommendations; the most pressing of these is that government should ensure that regardless of nationality or immigration status no one is allowed to fall into destitution.” Stormont Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie acknowledged there were problems with the system and urged the British Home Office to amend immigration rules to ensure that everyone could access support when they were in need. “This is an issue that we as an Executive need to make representations to the Home Office about,” she said. “It is not acceptable that there are some who are not eligible for housing and other benefits through no fault of their own.”
© Breaking News



A criminal investigation is under way in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania following a riot in the small town of Bützow on Saturday night involving around 50 neo-Nazis and police officers.

30/8/2009- According to police reports, some of the right-wing extremists were extremely drunk, chanted anti-semitic slogans, and then deliberately provoked the clash with police. Matthias Knöchelmann, chief of police in the area, spoke of "a successful major operation" to suppress the violence, which also involved federal police officers. Six people were arrested at the scene on suspicion of "serious breach of the peace." The six men, who Knöchelmann said were "clearly ring-leaders," are believed to have attacked officers with iron bars and parts of a ripped-up park bench. Initial reports suggest there were no serious injuries and no instances of serious property damage. Two of those arrested are known to the police as particularly violent members of the local right-wing scene. The fights began after midnight, and several dozen police officers were called to Bützow, where an annual folk festival is currently being celebrated. Some witnesses said that reinforcements arrived too late. The same folk festival also witnessed extremist right-wing violence two years ago, when a stand belonging to a Pakistani and several policemen were attacked. "We were prepared for violence last year, because of those incidents, but nothing significant happened." Knöchelmann said. "This time we received information in advance that certain people would look for a confrontation with the police." Around 70 police officers were on duty until Sunday morning, some brought in from neighbouring districts.
© The Local - Germany



31/8/2009- Nearly 60% of black and African people living in Russia's capital Moscow have been physically assaulted in racially motivated attacks, says a new study. Africans working or studying in the city live in constant fear of attack, according to the report by the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy. A quarter of 200 people surveyed said they had been assaulted more than once. Some 80% had been verbally abused. But the number of assaults was down from the MPC's last survey in 2002. The report's clear conclusion was that Africans living in Russia exist in a state of virtual siege, says the BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes in Moscow.

Extreme violence
Many of the African respondents said they:
* Avoided using the Moscow metro
* Were also careful to avoid crowded public places
* Did not go out on Russian national holidays or on days when there were football matches
Many of the attacks on Africans were pre-meditated and extremely violent, the report found. One Nigerian migrant interviewed by the BBC had been repeatedly stabbed in the back and then shot. Another man said his attacker had attempted to remove his scalp. Officially there are some 10,000 Africans living in Moscow, but far more are believed to live there illegally - many as economic migrants. The Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy is an English-speaking interdenominational Christian congregation that has ministered to Moscow's foreign community since 1962.
© BBC News



Neo-Nazi National Alliance Falls on Hard Times

1/9/2009- When National Alliance (NA) chairman Erich Gliebe appeared on a list of extremists banned from entering the United Kingdom that was released earlier this year, the online white supremacist world was abuzz with ridicule. It was the first time that Gliebe's name, or that of his deeply troubled and increasingly criminal-infested organization, had surfaced in recent memory. The consensus among neo-Nazis and other racists posting to a variety of online forums was that the Home Office (roughly the U.K. equivalent of the State Department) had wildly overrepresented Gliebe's clout by listing him in the company of suspected Muslim jihadists and more accomplished U.S. extremists, like radio shock jock Michael Savage and Don Black, a former Klan leader and founder of the dominant racist online forum Stormfront. According to his many critics on the radical right, Gliebe, a 46-year-old former boxer, has almost single-handedly wrecked what was once America's most influential white supremacist organization.

Today, the number of dues-paying National Alliance members is well under 100 — down from more than 1,400 in 2002. Outside of a 2007 Holocaust denial conference, the group has not held any major events or published any significant propaganda in years. The NA headquarters compound in West Virginia is seldom visited by anyone except two part-time staffers who come in a couple of times a week to fill book orders and answer correspondence. Gliebe, who lives in Cleveland, has not been there in months. The buildings are said to be run-down, and the grounds overgrown with weeds. Meanwhile, Gliebe's personal life is equally in disarray. He separated from his wife and moved back home with his mother in July 2008, then filed for divorce last December. Earlier this year, Gliebe was taunted online for living in his mom's basement and trying to run what is left of the Alliance from a computer at the local library, since his elderly immigrant mother does not have an Internet connection. An E-mail circulating in response to reports of the Alliance chairman's U.K. travel ban joked that Gliebe was "so broke he couldn't travel to London, Kentucky, let alone London, England."

On the Skids
If Gliebe could scrape together enough gas money for a drive to Kentucky, he would find what could very well be the last public sign in America of the National Alliance's shrinking presence. In May, the state of Kentucky ordered the removal of a small metal road sign that a local NA member had arranged for the state highway department to install in exchange for members picking up trash along a section of roadway. After consulting with attorneys, however, state officials reconsidered this decision and, for now, the sign remains. By comparison, at the height of its power, the National Alliance had sufficient funds to purchase advertising space on billboards and buses all over the country. The inflammatory content of those advertisements generated headlines from Las Vegas to St. Louis to Tampa, Fla. Today, all of those billboards are gone, along with the members who paid for them. Similarly, the National Alliance once could afford to purchase airtime for a weekly radio address that was broadcast on half a dozen powerful AM radio stations across America. The group also bought airtime each week for its worldwide shortwave radio broadcast of "American Dissident Voices" (ADV). Today, there are no radio stations carrying the NA message and no global shortwave broadcasts. Instead, once a week, Gliebe drives to a friend's house in Parma, Ohio, where he reads and records his notoriously dull, 10-to-15 minute ADV monologues, which are then "broadcast" on the NA website.

Crime and Punishment
Although the National Alliance under Erich Gliebe is smaller, has far less money and is dramatically less effective in promoting racist ideology, there is growing evidence the group is nevertheless attracting an increasingly volatile and violent criminal class into its ranks. Since the July 2002 death of Alliance founder and longtime leader William Pierce, Alliance members and former members have been charged with a number of serious violent crimes, including kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault and at least seven murders. They include:

* A former National Alliance headquarters staff employee, Jason Samuel McGhee, who's awaiting trial for the 2006 shooting and stabbing murders of four young people in Georgia. If convicted, McGhee would face the death penalty. (McGhee and another Alliance member had previously been arrested for shouting racist slurs and firing guns in front of a school bus full of Latino children in September 2001.)
* National Alliance Maryland state coordinator Craig Jackson, who in late 2002 was charged with smuggling contraband into a state prison where he worked as a guard. In February 2003, Jackson crashed his truck into a tree while driving to a plea hearing. He died almost instantly. Police investigators at the scene noted the absence of skid marks and said there was no explanation for the crash, leading to speculation that Jackson may have caused his own death to avoid prison. If so, he wasn't the only senior NA member to die by his own hand. In October 2003, NA compound security guard Kenneth Springer, 23, shot and killed himself with one of William Pierce's handguns.
* National Alliance Georgia state coordinator Chester James Doles, who was sentenced to federal prison on weapons charges in March 2004.
* Another former NA staff employee, Thomas Martin, who was arrested by the FBI in 2007 and charged with kidnapping and robbing several Florida drug dealers. Officials say Martin and an accomplice posed as police officers in the robberies. They're awaiting trial in Orlando.
* NA Florida unit member and Army Special Forces soldier David Kellerman, who was indicted in October 2006 after allegedly attempting to smuggle automatic weapons and a large amount of explosives into the U.S. from Afghanistan.
* NA New York state organizer James Leshkevich, who beat and strangled his wife to death before hanging himself in his garage in 2007.
* Former NA Media Director Kevin Alfred Strom, who was convicted of possession of child pornography and sentenced to federal prison in April 2008.
* Former NA chairman Shaun A. Walker, who's serving a seven-year federal prison term for targeting and assaulting minorities in Salt Lake City along with that city's NA unit leader, Travis D. Massey, who's serving four-and-a-half years for the same offenses. Among other crimes, Walker, Massey and a third NA member dragged a Hispanic bartender outside and beat him unconscious after he ordered them to leave an establishment where they were distributing NA literature.

The Alliance Today
In addition to the prominent NA members who have been arrested or convicted of committing serious crimes since he took over the organization, Gliebe has recently promoted into positions of authority within the organization several NA members with criminal records and histories of violence that predate the death of William Pierce. They include:

* The leader of the NA Boston unit, a skinhead who goes by the name of Scott Clarke. Clarke also uses the monikers "Berserkr," "Hedge" and "85475" online in racist forums like Vanguard News Network, where he brags about how tough he was in prison a few years ago. He writes that he was serving time for striking and killing an elderly pedestrian with his car while fleeing the scene of an armed robbery several years ago. Clarke, who claims to be affiliated with the violent Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, is also a moderator on, an official National Alliance online discussion forum.
* National Alliance Las Vegas organizer Aaron Trumbo, who stabbed a young Latino man to death after a confrontation at a public lake in 1995.
* South Carolina unit leader Ian S. Gale, 70, a notorious convicted burglar who went to prison in the 1980s for robbing more than $700,000 from homes in the state. Gale published a book on his cat burglar exploits in the 1990s. Today, he writes for the NA's propaganda magazine, National Vanguard. Gale is also registered as a lobbyist for the National Alliance in South Carolina.

From a public safety perspective, the good news is that infighting, corruption and incompetence seem to be causing what's left of the National Alliance to gradually fall apart. The downside is that while the NA no longer publishes books or generates much income or attention, it's become a magnet for outcasts, convicts and sociopaths, many of whom, like Gliebe, have been almost universally rejected by the established white supremacist subculture. The era of polite, well-dressed young men circulating National Alliance literature at gun shows and other public events is long gone and shows no signs of coming back. It's been replaced by the era of skinhead thugs, career criminals and spastic violence, apparently operating with little top-down leadership. More unstable than ever before, the NA is also more dangerous. It has little left to lose.
© The Southern Poverty Law Center


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