NEWS - Archive December 2011

Headlines 30 December, 2011

Headlines 23 December, 2011

Headlines 16 December, 2011

ITALY: THE FLORENCE MURDERS

Headlines 9 December, 2011

Headlines 2 December, 2011

Headlines 30 December, 2011

EUROPE’S SQUANDERED MINORITY (opinion)

By Zeljko Jovanovic, Director of the Open Society Roma Initiatives.

31/12/2011- Today, millions of Europeans are afraid and frustrated as they face unemployment, loss of savings and pensions, radically reduced social benefits, and other economic hardships. Their fears are warranted, because the current financial crisis is undermining the very union that was established to heal Europe’s wounds at the end of World War II. But, in the midst of the general suffering, one group – the Roma – has been ignored. Europe’s largest and most disadvantaged ethnic minority, with a population equal to that of Greece, millions of Roma are trapped in extreme poverty and ignorance, compounded by widespread discrimination. Indeed, the 2009 European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey found that Roma experience more severe discrimination than any other ethnic-minority group in Europe. Hard times provoke aggressive, vindictive, and intolerant attitudes, and Roma have become scapegoats in this economic crisis. In fact, Roma-bashing is helping far-right political parties to mobilize and nationalist leaders to win votes. Even some mainstream political parties have resorted to using anti-Roma rhetoric that would have been inconceivable a decade ago. But the Roma have refrained from reciprocating the sometimes lethal violence inflicted on them.

Six years ago, the Open Society Foundation, the World Bank, and nine national governments addressed the issue by elaborating a step-by-step plan to integrate the Roma into European society. Known as the “Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-15,” the program prioritized four areas: health, housing, education, and employment. This year, the European Commission has requested that all EU member states develop and implement strategies to promote Roma social inclusion in these areas. The Decade of Roma Inclusion provides a blueprint for how to achieve integration and equality, and to eliminate unlawful discrimination. But these goals can be achieved only if the EU resolves its financial crisis, embarks on a sustainable recovery, and, above all, becomes an inclusive economy.Otherwise, Roma will inevitably serve as the EU’s convenient scapegoats. Social exclusion is not only morally and legally repugnant; it also defies economic sense. Roma are Europe’s youngest and fastest-growing population with an average age of 25, in contrast to the European average of 40. According to recent World Bank research, Roma comprise approximately 23% of new entrants into Bulgaria’s labor market. In Romania, the figure is 21%. The vast majority of working-age Roma, however, lack the requisite education to compete successfully in the labor market.

By continuing to shunt Roma children into “special” schools, where expectations are low and results still lower, EU member states are squandering hundreds of millions of euros annually in productivity and tax revenues. The message is simple: improving opportunities for Roma is morally right and economically smart. Integration is possible. I grew up in a small, impoverished town in central Serbia, where my parents lifted themselves out of extreme poverty and deprivation. My father obtained a high school diploma and became a taxi driver, while my mother attended university and worked in a state office. We were proud of the two-room house my parents managed to build before we moved into a larger home in an ethnically mixed area. Having grown up in a family that struggled to rise from poverty to the middle class, I went on to study law and completed an NGO-management training program at Harvard University. Thousands of Roma have made similar journeys. And hundreds of thousands more are capable of doing the same.

Europe cannot continue to marginalize one of its own minorities; anti-Roma prejudice and unlawful discrimination must not go unchallenged. The status quo is damaging the lives of millions of Roma, but it is also hurting Europe economically and morally. The historical truism applies here – Europe’s greatness will be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members.
© Project Syndicate

up  

FRANCE MAKES IT HARDER TO BECOME FRENCH

France will be making it harder for foreigners to seek French citizenship as of January. Critics say the new requirements, which include tough language tests and allegiance to “French values”, are an electoral ploy that panders to the far right.

30/12/2011- Foreigners seeking French nationality face tougher requirements as of January 1, when new rules drawn up by Interior Minister Claude Guéant come into force. Candidates will be tested on French culture and history, and will have to prove their French language skills are equivalent to those of a 15-year-old mother tongue speaker. They will also be required to sign a new charter establishing their rights and responsibilities. “Becoming French is not a mere administrative step. It is a decision that requires a lot of thought”, reads the charter, drafted by France’s High Council for Integration (HCI). In a more obscure passage, the charter suggests that by taking on French citizenship, “applicants will no longer be able to claim allegiance to another country while on French soil”, although dual nationality will still be allowed. Guéant, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, described the process as “a solemn occasion between the host nation and the applicant”, adding that migrants should be integrated through language and “an adherence to the principals, values and symbols of our democracy”. He stressed the importance of the secular state and equality between women and men: rhetoric perceived largely as a snipe at Muslim applicants, who make up the majority of the 100,000 new French citizens admitted each year. France’s interior minister has made it clear that immigrants who refuse to “assimilate” into French society should be denied French citizenship. Earlier this year, Guéant intervened personally to ensure an Algerian-born man living in France was denied French nationality because of his “degrading attitude” to his French wife. That followed an earlier push by France’s former Immigration Minister Eric Besson to revise existing laws in order to strip polygamists of their acquired citizenship.

Pandering to the far right?
Guéant has come under criticism numerous times over the past year for allegedly pandering to the whims of far-right voters in his efforts to secure a second term for Sarkozy in 2012. The UMP has edged progressively further right over the course of Sarkozy’s term, even as the far-right National Front party continued to bite into its pool of voters. Marine Le Pen, the popular leader of the anti-immigration National Front, has been campaigning in favour of a ban on dual citizenship in France, which she blames for encouraging immigration and weakening French values. While several UMP members have endorsed her stance, Guéant has stopped short of calling for a ban on dual nationality, largely because of the legal difficulties such a move would entail. But the interior minister has taken a hard line on immigration, announcing plans to reduce the number of legal immigrants coming to France annually from 200,000 to 180,000 and calling for those convicted of felony to be expelled from the country. François Hollande, the Socialist Party’s candidate in forthcoming presidential elections, described Guéant’s stance as “the election strategy of a right wing ready to do anything in order to hold on to power”, adding that his own party would tackle all criminals “irrespective of their nationality”. Under further proposals put forward by the ruling UMP party, non-French children who would normally be naturalised at the age of 18 (those who are born in the country and have spent most of their childhood there) would instead have to formally apply to the state. Should Sarkozy and his party secure a second term in 2012, analysts predict a return to an immigration stance that hasn’t been seen in France for almost two decades. They point to a case of déjà vu: in 1993 Charles Pasqua, then France’s interior minister, coined the slogan “zero immigration” and introduced a bill that made it virtually impossible for children born in France to non-French parents to be naturalised.
© France 24

up  

CZECH MEDIA EXAGGERATED REPORTING OF BRAWL THAT UNLEASHED ETHNIC UNREST IN THE NORTH

29/12/2011- News server Aktuálně.cz has revealed more detailed, precise information from the police investigation into a brawl earlier this year that was reported by the media as a racially motivated attack committed by Romani people against ethnic Czechs. Sensationalist reporting of the incident was a factor in sparking the subsequent ethnic unrest that took place in the Šluknov foothills this past fall. Four months later, the facts of the case differ substantially from the initial media reports of it. As it turns out, there is a high probability that the brawl was part of an ongoing battle between two local criminal gangs of drug dealers. "From the investigation conducted by Aktuálně.cz and from the police investigation it is evident that this was a violent incident between two groups of residents of Rumburk and the surrounding area who already knew one another, who had encountered one another more than once that same night prior to the brawl, and who mutually provoked one another," the news server reports.

Aktuálně.cz also describes the event as a brawl between four or five people on each side of the conflict. The others who were present are said to have been onlookers or to have even done their best to prevent the violence. The news server reports that this updated version of the events has been confirmed not only by witnesses, but by people familiar with the police investigation file. Moreover, with one exception, the persons involved were already of interest to police. News server Romea.cz warned at the start of September that the media were reporting the incident in an unethical way because they were not giving the Romani participants in the conflict any room to present their side of the story, which made it likely that the public was receiving significantly biased reporting. The version of the story which Romea.cz published at the time as a possible alternative description of the course of events corresponds in many aspects to the findings now published by Aktuálně.cz: "We were walking home from the discotheque. There were 12 of us, not 20. A local guy ran up to us and said six white guys were beating up a Romani man. We ran over there and five of us, not all 12, got into it with some white guys. During the fighting, both sides were cursing each other as black or white swine. The version of events the media has reported is completely out of touch with reality," a Romani participant in the incident told us at the time.

The distorted publicity given to this incident and to other violent clashes between ethnic Czechs and Romani people unleashed social unrest in the region which lasted for several weeks. Every weekend, several towns in the Šluknov foothills experienced anti-Romani demonstrations, some of which were attended by the neo-Nazi Workers' Social Justice Party (DSSS).
© Romea

up  

CZECH COURT CONFIRMS STIFF SENTENCES FOR RACE HATE ARSON

The Czech Supreme Court has confirmed exemplary sentences on four Czech who atacked the house of a Roma family with Molotov cocktails

28/12/2011- The Czech Supreme Court (NS) has confirmed sentences of between 20 and 22 years in prison for four Czechs who took part in an arson attack on a Roma family that left a two-year-old nearly dead and scarred for the rest of her life from burns. Court spokesman Petr Knötig said on Wednesday it had found the appeal on behalf of the men “unsubstantiated,” without giving further details. The attack took place in April 2009 when the four threw Molotov cocktails into the family’s house at Vítkov in the north-east of the country. Three people were injured in the attack, the most serious the two-year old who suffered burns to around 80 percent of her body and only survived thanks to her own will power and top medical help. An earlier appeal in March against the sentences for attempted murder with racial motivation said that the original court verdicts, described as exemplary at the time, were tough but not excessive. The original verdict from an Ostrava court said it was clear that the attackers knew that their victims could be killed. A final appeal is possible to the Constitutional Court, but it rarely accepts appeals against sentences handed down for criminal violence.
© Czech Position

up  

WOMAN DIDN'T WANT HELP FROM 'DARK-SKINNED' CLERK (Sweden)

A woman's refusal to be served by a "dark-skinnned" clerk at the local office of a public agency is not a crime, a Swedish court has ruled.

28/12/2011- On two occasions within the span of a few days, the woman simply refused to go up to the desk at which the clerk in question sat, the local Nerikes Allehanda (NA) newspaper reported. In explaining her decision, the woman explained to other clerks as well as a manager at the office that she didn't want to be served by a black person. The incident resulted in the woman being charged with harassment, with an alternative charge of insulting behaviour. In an initial review of the case, the Örebro District Court acquitted the woman, noting that she had never directly confronted the clerk in question about her reasons for not wanting to be served. As the derogatory remarks were only mentioned to the clerk's colleagues, the court ruled that the woman had no intention of insulting the clerk. The case was nevertheless appealed to the Göta Court of Appeal, which on Tuesday ruled as well that the woman wasn't guilty of committing any crime, even if he behaviour could be viewed as insulting by the clerk.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

WEBSITE POST PROMPTS FEARS OF ONLINE ANTI-SEMITISM IN ROME (Italy)

27/12/2011- Posts targeting Italian Jews on a virulently anti-Semitic website have prompted alarm. The website HolyWar.org late last week ran photographs of nine prominent Italian Jews, calling them “Nazi-Jewish members of the Italian Jewish mafia cupola” and “slaves of Satan” who want to destroy the Roman Catholic church. The pictures were copied from a list of contributors to the website of the Rome Jewish community. A statement from the Rome Jewish Community said it had reported the matter to the Italian postal police. HolyWar subsequently removed the page. For some time, anti-Judaism, especially that expressed online, has assumed ever more aggressive tones,” the community statement said. “HolyWar is one of the most virulently anti-Jewish websites, full of sections that are all built around one theme: a fierce anti-Semitism that is exuded from every page.” Among other things, the site includes numerous anti-Semitic cartoons, the text of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and documents accusing Jews of ritual murder. The Rome Jewish Community statement said that HolyWar is run by a Norwegian, Alfred Olsen. Renato Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, called the HolyWar posts “disgusting and unacceptable ravings” that had made “dark threats” against contributors to the Rome Jewish community website. He warned that “a dangerous campaign of hatred and criminal incitement” was under way.
© JTA News

up  

MUSLIM WAR GRAVES ATTACKED (France)

27/12/2011- Thirty war graves of Muslim soldiers who fought in World War I have been attacked and defaced in the southern city of Carcassonne. Racist insults and swastikas were painted on the graves, which are identified by the Islamic symbols of the star and crescent. Slogans including “France for the French” and “Arabs out” were painted on some of the gravestones, reported daily newspaper Le Figaro. The graves of Muslim soldiers in the same graveyard were attacked earlier this year in September. Abdallah Zekri, president of a body that monitors Islamophobia, condemned the attacks on the graves of soldiers who “died for France.” He pointed to a “significant and very worrying increase in Islamophobia in France.” He said such attacks are up by 34 percent in 2011. In November alone, these included six fires at mosques in the country. The graves were cleaned and a religious ceremony to honour the dead is planned for Tuesday morning.
© The Local - France

up  

SWISS VILLAGE IN UPROAR OVER ASYLUM CENTRE

Local officials from Bettwil, in northern Switzerland, have collected almost 10,000 signatures against federal plans to build a refugee centre in the village of 560 inhabitants.

27/12/2011- Bettwil has been mobilizing for weeks against federal plans to accommodate up to 100 asylum seekers in a former military barracks in the village, located in the canton of Aargau. The federal government plans to host between 80 and 100 refugees for a period not exceeding six months. In the village, cars carry protest stickers and streets are covered with posters that read: “Yes to solidarity, no to the asylum centre”, or “Massive asylum centre, no,” the Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports. Before Christmas, both the mayor and a committee representing Bettwil citizens travelled to Aargau to bring the signatures and convey their opposition to the government’s plan. According to Jacqueline Wiederkehr, one of the members of the committee, the Federal Council failed to give the people of Bettwil a chance to voice their opinion prior to the decision.

The mayor of the remote village, Wolfgang Schibler, went further, saying cantonal and federal authorities had acted with “arrogance.” Schibler has denied accusations of xenophobia, and is seeking to distance himself from extreme right-wing groups supporting his cause. According to Weiderkehr, the asylum centre will bring crime to a village that boasts a single restaurant and a shop. “We have zero criminality now, but if, all of the sudden we get 100 young North Africans with nothing to do, criminality will inevitably rise,” she said. Protesters have decided to lie low until the next meeting with federal and cantonal authorities, set to take place on January 5th. Between January and November this year, more than 20,000 people have requested asylum in Switzerland, 41.5 percent more than the same period in 2010. The country is suffering from a shortage of accommodation for asylum seekers. In recent weeks, the Swiss press has reported that several refugees have been forced to sleep on the street due to a lack of beds in official centres.
© The Local - Switzerland

up  

PROTESTS OVER RUSSIAN 'GAY PROPAGANDA' BILL

27/12/2011- Gay rights activists staged protests in the central Russian city of Kostroma Monday against plans to impose fines for the promotion of homosexuality. Last month, a similar ban was shelved in St. Petersburg, Russia's second city, after MPs questioned its "legal definitions". The bill, pushed by the ruling United Russia party and widely expected to be passed by Kostroma's Duma in the first of three required readings Tuesday, would outlaw any gay pride events. It would also allow authorities to impose fines of up to 50,000 rubles ($1,600) for "public activities promoting homosexuality (sodomy and lesbianism), bisexualism and transgender identity" as well as pedophilia among minors. The promotion of "religious sects" would also be punishable by fines. Eight campaigners staged protests in Kostroma's city center Monday holding posters demanding equal rights and condemning the treatment of gays and lesbians in Russia.

The authorities claim the bill was "aimed at preventing sex crimes against minors," but Yelena Kostyuchenko, a journalist with the liberal Novaya Gazeta and gay rights campaigner, said homosexuality was a "biological quality" and could not be promoted. She also warned against the danger of the bill's "vague criteria", saying it was not clear quite what was to be defined as "gay propaganda". Igor Kochetkov, head of the St. Petersburg LGBT group Coming Out, said the bill was being ostracized to divert public attention from "real political and social problems" as the Kremlin tries to appease anti-government protesters. Russia has seen its largest protests in some two decades over alleged vote fraud in favor of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party at recent parliamentary polls.
© Zeenews

up  

BULGARIA TO FINALLY RATIFY DISABLED PEOPLE RIGHTS CONVENTION

26/12/2011- Bulgaria is finally set to ratify the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, a high-ranking MP has announced. "Bulgaria is about to ratify the Convention for the rights of disabled people at the beginning of 2012," MP Svetlana Angelova from the ruling center-right party GERB, a Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Labor and Social Policy Committee, said in Ruse Sunday, as cited by BTA. In her words, the ratification of the UN document has been expected for a long time by the disabled people in Bulgaria, which is one of the few states in the world that has failed to ratify it. The Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 December 2006 and opened for signature on 30 March 2007. Following ratification by the 20th party, it came into force on 3 May 2008. As of December 2011, it has 153 signatories and 107 parties, including the European Union. Angelova explained that once the Convention is ratified it will lead to a number of legislation amendments in order to protect disabled people in Bulgaria against discrimination in education, healthcare, and environment. She added that the Bulgarian Penal Code will be amended in 2012 to criminalize the evasion of social security payments.
© Novinite

up  

TURKISH RIGHTS GROUP: UNITE AGAINST GENOCIDE DENIAL, NOT AGAINST FRANCE

25/12/2011- On Dec. 22, the Committee Against Racism and Discrimination of Turkey’s Human Rights Association issued a press release and initiated a signature campaign calling on Turks to unite against genocide denial, not against the French Parliament. Below is the full text of the release. The Turkish version is available on the group’s website.

Broad segments of Turkish society seem to be united against the bill penalizing the denial of genocide, which will be discussed on Dec. 22, 2011 in the French Parliament [Editor’s note: The bill has since passed]. The Turkish state’s denial and threats are supported by business and consumer associations and civil society. Turkey’s intelligentsia is also speaking against the bill. The common argument for all these sectors against France is “freedom of expression”; they are arguing that banning the denial of the Armenian Genocide undermines freedom of expression.

We, the Istanbul Branch of the Human Rights Association of Turkey’s Committee Against Racism and Discrimination declare that the denial of a crime against humanity such as genocide has nothing to do with freedom of expression.

The denial of the annihilation of a nation—with its entire social fabric, professions, works of art, and historical heritage—by the state itself, intentionally and in a planned manner, means endorsing the crime and justifying such violence. Therefore, denial of genocide cannot be considered within the boundaries of freedom of speech. It constitutes violence against the grandchildren of genocide survivors in Turkey and elsewhere in the world and against the memory of the genocide victims. The European Court of Human Rights in many cases has ruled that freedom of expression is not applicable to expressions of violence.

The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention for Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in December 1948 and the Convention came into force in January 1951. Since that day, Holocaust denial has been punished in many countries with fines and prison sentences.

The punishment of Holocaust denial entails fines and prison sentences of up to 20 years in Austria, fines and up to 1 year imprisonment in Belgium, 6 months to 2 years imprisonment in the Czech Republic, a fine and 5-month prison sentence in Germany, a fine and 1 month to 2 years imprisonment in France, a 3-4-year prison sentence in Italy, and a fine and 1-10-year prison sentence in Lithuania. In other words, punishment for genocide denial is neither new nor specific to France.

On Feb. 1, 2011, the Reis-ul Ulema (Grand Mufti) of Bosnian Muslims, Mustafa Cerić, during a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp together with a group of 150—comprised of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish delegations—said that those who denied the Holocaust or the genocide of Muslims in Srebrenica should be treated as accomplices in the crime.

One argument progressive intellectuals use against the French bill banning denial is the memory of Hrant Dink, who was opposed to the passage of such laws. We believe it is wrong to base one’s opinion on today’s French bill on the views expressed years ago by Hrant Dink, who was assassinated as a result of collaboration between the state’s special war apparatus and fascist elements. Not only is it absurd to speculate on what Hrant Dink would think today, but it is fundamental to the freedom of thought—something the intellectuals uphold as sacred—that people should have the right to develop their own independent opinions, free of others’ guidance.

In conclusion, we invite the NGOs, the business organizations, such as the Union of Turkish Chambers and Commodity Exchanges and Association of Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen, opinion makers, and intellectuals to stop campaigning against the French Parliament and work for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the Assyrian Genocide, and the ethnic cleansing of the Greeks by the state and society.

Human Rights Association, Istanbul Branch
The Committee Against Racism and Discrimination
© The Armenian Weekly

up  

GERMANY REOPENS LUDWIGSHAFEN FIRE CASE ON NEO-NAZI MURDER LINKS

25/12/2011- German police reopened an investigation into the Ludwigshafen fire incident, which claimed the lives of nine Turks in 2008, on suspected links to neo-Nazi murders, which led to a growing debate on the rising extreme-right threat in Germany. The Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), a Turkish civil-society organization based in Germany, took the initiative to give assistance to the victims’ families due to the reopened case. Kamil Kaplan, who lost four relatives in the fire, hired Erdođan Demirci, a UETD attorney from the Bavarian branch, to represent his case. Fikret Özdemir, UETD Bavaria branch president, stated that they are waiting for more families to retain lawyers, advising victims’ families to not give up their claims stemming from the incident. Özdemir claimed that Germany officials did not fulfill their monetary promises to the victims’ families after the incident in 2008 in order to prevent them from claiming their legal rights. He also asked for support from Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutođlu in their struggle to shed light on the incident, which is suspected to have targeted Turkish immigrants.

Nine Turks, including five children, were killed in the apartment-building blaze on Feb. 3, 2008, which German authorities said was the biggest fire post-World War II in the western German city of Ludwigshafen. German-Turkish relations were strained subsequent to the incident as suspicions were raised that the fire was an arson attack directed at Germany’s Turkish community. Allegations had surfaced that Germany would not launch a probe into the case; however, debates on the neo-Nazi threat have risen during the last months in Germany. German police officials have detained Malte R., who is thought to be the culprit behind the fire. Malte R., a German neo-Nazi, is thought to have links to the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which is a crime squad that allegedly committed the murders of nine immigrants between 2000 and 2007.

In a related development, German police started to investigate links between unsolved murder cases to the neo-Nazi cell NSU in the cities of Hamburg and Bremen. Because of intensified measures taken against the neo-Nazi threat in Germany, German police raided the houses of 10 neo-Nazis, seizing many weapons and ammunition. In Bremen, German police forces seized the weapons of people suspected of having links to the NSU. Uwe Schünemann, interior minister of Lower Saxony, called on the government to take extra measures throughout Germany for preventing extreme rightists from having gun licenses.
© Today's Zaman

up  

GERMANY'S ORGANIZATION FOR BINATIONAL FAMILIES TURNS 40

It has been forty years since the Association of Binational Families and Partnerships was founded in Germany and despite some changes in attitude, mixed raced families are still seeking support.

27/12/2011- Since marrying a Haitian man in the early seventies, Renate Michaud-Rustein has often experienced discrimination. The trick is "not to get angry," she says. When people were dismissive of her husband, co-workers whispered behind her back, or when her child's pediatrician described her son a "half-breed" in his medical file, Renate tried to remain matter-of-fact. She sometimes responded with a humorous retort. But one thing she couldn't do was keep quiet. "I was always ready to fight back," says the 73-year old. "I never let anything go." It was this fighting spirit that drew Renate to the Association of Binational Families, which was known as the Community of Women Married to Foreigners when it was founded in 1972. Renate turned to the organization for legal advice about her binational marriage. "Back then it was incredibly difficult just to find information," she says. She immediately warmed to the dedicated women who made up the organization and went on to become a member. "It was just nice to meet others who lived in similar situations." At the time, children with German fathers were entitled to German citizenship, but those with foreign fathers were often classified as stateless. The Association of Binational Families organized demonstrations against the citizenship system and even addressed a petition to the Bundestag.

Growing organization
Forty years on, it isn't just Germany's nationality law is which has changed. Multiculturalism is now a part of everyday life in Germany. Every fifth resident is from an immigrant background and one in every fifteen marriages is binational. The organization has also become increasingly influential. "It was a slow process," says Michaela Schmitt, who heads the organization in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. As more and more women sought advice from the organization, it developed clear structures and standards. The Association now has 22 branches across Germany, employing eight full-time staff, and 2,000 members as well as representations of the children's generation. And one of its key roles is to provide legal advice to binational couples, who can face numerous bureaucratic hurdles. It also organizes self-help groups, training days and playgroups for children. It is largely financed by Germany's regional and national family ministries. "Life today is globalized, transnational and multilingual, but our society hasn't got to grips with it yet," says Michaela Schmitt.

Slow progress
Natascha Fröhlich, who works for the organization, says multiculturalism is not a standard in Germany. She is still regularly asked where she comes from. "Am I Iranian? Am I German? Even if I don't consider my nationality an issue, it is a concern which I feel is imposed upon me," says Natascha. But she also says there is also a lack of non-white role models in German society. It is a problem when she tries to teach Afro-German children about their identity. "Try to find a single black doctor or policeman," she says. Renate Michaud-Rustein agrees there has been little improvement, despite the work of the association. "The German mentality hasn't really changed," she says. When Renate and her grandson recently went to a doctor, she found the experience very much like the ones she had had with her own children a generation ago. In her grandson's file, the doctor wrote "slender, colored, mucous at the back of the throat."
© The Deutsche Welle

up  

SKIRMISHES AS PROTESTERS CONFRONT NEO-NAZI MARCH (Germany)

Violence has broken out has in the German city of Bielefeld, where a march by neo-Nazis was confronted by anti-fascists. Stones were thrown by a breakaway left-wing group, while others tried to storm a police cordon.

24/12/2011- Violence flared after a neo-Nazi march was met with counter demonstrations by ant-fascists in the German city of Bielefeld on Christmas Eve. Some 6,500 people in total protested against the march, many of them outside Bielefeld Youth Center - a rallying point for left-wing activists and a flash-point for decades between left and right. Rallies also took place at the main railway station and along the route of the march. Police made efforts to separate the two groups, with anti-fascist demonstrators vastly outnumbering the far-right march members, who were fewer than 70 in number. However, trouble broke out as breakaway group of protesters pelted the neo-Nazi march with stones from a railway bridge that crossed the route. No injuries were reported.

Tear gas and batons
Some 30 masked activists also tried to break through police lines, with fireworks being lit by some of the demonstrators. Police countered the attack successfully using tear gas and batons, arresting four. The main contingent of the anti-fascist demonstration - including churches, unions and political groups - staged peaceful rallies under the banner "Bielefeld stands in the way." "Bielefeld remains a multicultural, cosmopolitan and tolerant city where different cultures and nationalities could live together peacefully as neighbors," said Mayor of Bielefeld, Pit Clausen. Dean of the Parish of Bielefeld, Regine Burg, called the march a "deliberate provocation" and said the march should be countered "non-violently but strongly." The officially approved march, which stretched only about one kilometer (0.6 miles), had been requested by members of the far-right from the state of North-Rhine Westphalia. It was held after a similar march, over the summer, had to be called off by the police on security grounds.
© The Deutsche Welle

up  

ANUJ BIDVE SHOOTING TREATED AS HATE CRIME BY POLICE (uk)

Indian student shot dead on Boxing Day may have been victim of a racist hate crime, say detectives

29/12/2011- The murder of an Indian student who was shot in the head at point-blank range on Boxing Day is being treated as a suspected racist hate crime, police have revealed. Micro-electronics postgraduate Anuj Bidve, was murdered in the early hours of 26 December as he made his way with nine friends from his hotel in Salford to central Manchester to queue up early for Christmas sales. Investigators say that although there is no specific evidence of the crime being racially motivated they are responding to those affected by the crime who believe it to be a hate crime. Five people aged between 16 and 20 remain in police custody on suspicion of murder, including a 17-year-old who handed himself in to police on Tuesday evening, in what police have described as a fast-moving investigation.

Police have found no previous link between 23-year-old Bidve and those involved in the killing, believed to be two white males, which took place at 1.35am. The "straight-A" student from Pune, India who was studying at Lancaster University, had a "very short conversation" with the two males before a gun was drawn and aimed at Bidve's head. The gunman and his associate are thought to have fled to towards the Ordsall estate near the scene of another fatal shooting in September and which has been described by locals as rough. A Home Office pathologist has confirmed that Bidve died after suffering gun trauma to the head. Police also said they were working with the Indian high commission and other agencies to help fly the victim's family from India to Manchester in the next few days.

Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan, divisional commander for Salford, said: "We have not established a clear motive for the senseless murder of Anuj, and there is no definitive evidence pointing to it being racially motivated. However, we are treating this as a hate crime based on the growing perceptions within the community it was motivated by hate. "What I want to stress is that regardless of the motive, it does not change the way detectives from our major incident team are investigating this murder and from day one we have pursued every possible line of inquiry to identify who is responsible for this despicable crime, including CCTV trawls, detailed forensic and ballistic investigations, witness statements and house-to-house inquiries.

"Thanks to the work of staff across the whole of Greater Manchester police, we have made five arrests and all five remain in custody. I cannot comment for obvious reasons about the progress of the investigation but I would like to again take this opportunity to thank people in our community who have come forward and given us information. " Police said they were duty bound to investigate crimes as hate crimes if they are reported as such. A police source added that the classification also allowed officers to pursue other avenues and leads which would not otherwise be open to them later on in the investigation. Mulligan confirmed that no murder weapon has been recovered. "We really need that support to continue and I want to urge anyone who knows something to call us. As yet, we have not recovered the murder weapon and I want to implore people to be brave and come forward if they know the whereabouts of that weapon."

Dr Bharati Kar, the general secretary of the Greater Manchester Bengali and Hindu cultural association, said racism was far less of a problem now that it was two decades ago and that her own children had not reported any racist incidents to her recently. Kar said that she was very pleased that Greater Manchester police were taking the reports that the crime was racially motivated seriously. "I'll be glad if the actual cause is discovered [along with] the killer," she said. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, local resident Susan Wilson, 57, said: "This lovely young man has come here to further his education and people whose lives revolve around violence have killed him. For this to happen in our neighbourhood is devastating and we're all very upset about it. It's like the whole country is looking at Ordsall now because of this. "The area doesn't have a great reputation but we want people to know what's happened doesn't represent this area or the people living here."
© The Guardian

up  

UK POLICE DOES NOT RULE OUT RACISM AS MOTIVE BEHIND INDIAN STUDENT'S KILLING

27/12/2011- British police investigating the killing of Indian student Anuj Bidve by a white man is not ruling out racism as a motive for the incident. The unnamed white man had a brief conversation with Bidve, 23, when he and his other Indian friends were moving towards the Manchester city centre. The white man then pulled out a handgun and shot him in the head. Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan, divisional commander for Salford, said a racial motive for the killing was not being ruled out. "We are investigating every possible aspect." Bidve was a postgraduate student at Lancaster University studying Microelectronics. The police said the students, who had not been drinking, were walking towards the city centre and became aware of two men on the other side of the street. The gunman, a white male in his 20s who was wearing a grey top, was accompanied by another white man who the police said was of a heavier build and was wearing a black jacket. Post mortem results are expected to confirm today that Bidve died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Initial witness statements have been taken from the other eight students who are now "in a safe place" being cared for by the police until they return to Lancaster university, Mulligan said. A spokeswoman for Lancaster University said counselling and support has been organised for Bidve's friends who were described as "deeply upset".
© The Economic Times

up  

SDL VOWS BIGGER DEMO IN EDINBURGH (uk)

26/12/2011- The Scottish Defence League has sworn to return to Edinburgh for a demonstration twice as large as this year’s – with the support of ultra-far right groups.  In September, the SDL staged a static demo at Waterloo Place, which attracted a counter demonstration by United Against Fascism. And on May 28 next year, the SDL – who describe themselves as standing against the rise of Islamic extremism – plan to stage a march and say they will be supported by radical groups, the North West Infidels and North East Infidels. Ahead of September’s demo in the city, the North West Infidels threatened to tear their opponents “limb from limb”, prompting a heightened police presence. A post on the North West Infidel’s Cumbria Facebook page read: “Britain is ours to fight for. Stand proud if your white & British, if your UAF or an ethnic type, get away to f***, you ain’t welcome on these shores!!!” The North West Infidels are thought to be a splinter group from the English Defence League, and its members were reportedly involved in violence in April when they clashed with EDL members during a protest in Blackburn, Lancashire.

The three groups have put up a united front with a new page of the website called the Nei/Nwi/Sdl Coalition. It states: “The north has come as one to destroy militant islam we will be protesting all over great britain and will be protesting our way not the police or goverments way keep the faith keep it casual and NO SURRENDER.” The SDL staged a static demo after the city council refused them permission for a march amid fears it would create a “flashpoint” of violence. James Smith, an SDL council member, from Edinburgh, said: “We are expecting twice as many members. We will be getting support from the North West Infidels and the North East Infidels. “We are a single issue pressure group and we want to pressurise the government into taking the appropriate action against terrorism.” Mr Smith added that the static demo in September had passed without incident. SDL East Coast regional organiser, Graham Walker, said: “We are looking to go for the full-scale march next year. Talks are ongoing with the police and the council. “The SDL is not against normal Muslims – it’s extremist Islamic people who are the people who hold up offensive placards and burn poppies on Armistice day. We are branded racist, but we are not – extremists are not a race.”

An council spokesperson said: “The council has been notified of an intended procession and this will be considered in due course, working with the police and other organisations as appropriate.”
© The Scotsman

up  

RACISM IN ENGLISH SOCCER BECOMES A CRIMINAL MATTER (uk)

24/12/2011- For the first time in the long history of English soccer, a player is being prosecuted over words spoken on the field. Prosecutors said Wednesday that John Terry, one of the country’s best-known athletes, racially abused an opponent during an October match. Though the potential penalty — a $4,000 fine — is relatively small, the case throws soccer’s decades-long struggle with racism onto a high-profile stage with deep ramifications for both the sport and Terry, who captains Chelsea and the English national team. England has largely eradicated the abuse against black players that blighted the game here in the 1970s and ’80s, but recent incidents have raised questions about how far the Premier League has to go. On Tuesday, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez received an eight-match ban and 40,000-pound ($62,000) fine from England’s Football Association for racially abusing a Manchester United player during another match in October. The sport’s international governing body has a mixed record on the issue. FIFA has launched anti-racism campaigns but its president, Sepp Blatter, set off a wave of outrage last month by claiming that racist abuse does not exist on the soccer field and suggesting that any incidents could be settled by a handshake at the end of a match.

Prosecutors decided on Wednesday to charge Terry after studying video of him apparently hurling abuse at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand toward the end of the Oct. 23 match, which was broadcast around the world. The video appears to show him yelling two obscenities and the word “black.” Prosecutors declared that Terry had committed a “racially aggravated public order offense.” Terry denies wrongdoing, though he doesn’t deny saying the words after a verbal clash with Ferdinand. He said the words were taken out of context because he was repeating an accusation he felt had wrongly been made against him. “I have never aimed a racist remark at anyone and count people from all races and creeds among my closest friends,” Terry said. “I will fight tooth and nail to prove my innocence.” Ferdinand has not commented directly on the case, and the Football Association has yet to issue a ruling, saying it will wait for the police investigation to be completed. Police and prosecutors became involved after a member of the public made a complaint against the defender, having seen footage of his comments. “After careful consideration of all the evidence I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case,” Alison Saunders, the chief crown prosecutor for London, said in a statement.

Terry will have to appear at West London Magistrates’ Court on Feb. 1 in a case that could threaten both his public image — worth millions in endorsements — and his international career. If he is found guilty, it will be difficult for him to represent England at next summer’s European Championship — especially since he often partners with Ferdinand’s brother Rio in central defense. Terry already lost the England captaincy once, ahead of the 2010 World Cup, after being embroiled in a sex scandal, but he regained the armband this year. Anti-racism campaigners are hailing prosecutors’ announcement and the FA’s punishment of Suarez as evidence that new weapons are being deployed against racism in soccer. “It’s a very important point in the history of campaigning against racism in football,” said Herman Ouseley, chairman of the group Kick It Out. “People who are very cynical — and a lot of black footballers have been right up until I think yesterday — think it’s a waste of time because the campaign hasn’t stopped these things from happening. It goes on, it’s quiet, it’s subtle and nothing ever gets done. “It’s quite important that (players) now feel a bit more confident that, although it has taken a while, due process with decisive action could well make a change.”

Suarez was found by an independent FA panel to have directed racist abuse at Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, who is black. However, unlike the Terry case, Suarez’s abuse was not caught on camera and there has been no complaint to the police to trigger a criminal investigation. Liverpool players issued a statement Wednesday saying they were “shocked and angered” by Suarez’s punishment, and that they support their Uruguayan teammate. “We know he is not racist,” they said. England is far from alone in European soccer in having to combat discrimination. Most high-profile cases have involved abusive chants by fans against players, but there have been several on-field incidents as well. The French soccer league has opened an inquiry after claims from Morocco midfielder Kamel Chafni that an assistant referee racially insulted him during Auxerre’s 1-0 defeat at Brest on Saturday. Bulgaria’s national federation was fined euro40,000 (about $52,000) by UEFA after its fans directed racist abuse at England players during a Euro 2012 qualifying match in September. But Luis Aragones held onto his job as Spain coach in 2005 after making racist remarks about French striker Thierry Henry, landing a fine of just euro3,000 ($3,900).

“I think the problem has never gone away — it’s just become more subtle and less obvious,” said Ouseley, a member of the House of Lords. “I think there is an awareness that more has to be done.” Ouseley pointed out that Poland and Ukraine, the co-hosts of Euro 2012, have also had problems with racism in the past, and that next summer’s tournament will be a good indicator of whether they and other countries are taking the matter seriously. “We know from the reports we’ve had back (that) there are going to be problems there,” Ouseley said. “They will make the right noises but will they do they right thing? Will they stop abuse?”
© The Associated Press

up  

LABOUR PARTY TO 'CONFRONT' ANTI-ISLAM PVV IN 2012, SAYS LEADER (Netherlands)

30/12/2011- The PvdA (Labour party) will go out of its way to confront the anti-Islam PVV in 2012, party leader Job Cohen says in an interview with Friday's Telegraaf. The new round of government spending cuts will force Wilders to choose between power and his supporters, Cohen said. The PVV is not officially part of the government but has agreed to support the minority cabinet on economic policy in return for tougher immigration controls. However, cuts in student grants and a reduction in mortgage tax relief - two options for spending cuts which pundits believe are likely to be seriously considered - have both been rejected by the PVV leader already. 'Wilders screams to mask things,' Cohen told the paper. 'He is masking everything that is going on and that he is responsible for.' PVV voters should realise their interests are better served by the PvdA than the PVV, Cohen said, adding that Wilders is not interested in his political promises but keeping a position of power. Cohen admitted that attacking the PVV was not the answer to the PvdA's problems. The party is languishing in the polls, despite narrowly losing to the VVD Liberals in the July 2010 general election. Labour has been hit by its support for the pension agreement and the eurocrisis, Cohen said. Wilders refused to back the cabinet on both pension reform and Europe. Wilders dismissed Cohen's attack on the PVV using the microblogging service Twitter. He is worried about his job as leader of the PvdArabs, Wilders stated.
© The Dutch News

up  

SOMALI ASYLUM SEEKERS BREAK UP THEIR CAMP (Netherlands)

30/12/2011- A group of some 45 Somali asylum seekers have agreed to break up their impromptu camp outside the Ter Apel refugee centre and reapply for asylum, Nos television reports. The group of men and women had all lost their claims for asylum but argue it is too dangerous to return to the African country. The immigration service IND had said the group could reapply for asylum to see if there are new circumstances which would allow them to stay. After initially rejecting the IND offer, the Somalis have now agreed to have their cases looked at again, Nos said.
© The Dutch News

up  

PROTESTING SOMALI ASYLUM SEEKERS ARE TOLD TO MOVE THEIR TENTS (Netherlands)

29/12/2011- A group of protesting Somali asylum seekers will not be forcibly removed from their impromptu camp in front of a refugee centre in Ter Appel, despite missing the deadline to move, local mayor Leontien Kompier said on Thursday afternoon. The tents were put up outside the centre on December 26. The group of some 45 Somalis say they have been refused refugee status in the Netherlands but are unable to return to the African country because Somalia won't let them in. According to Trouw, Kompier says it is not 'desirable' that the Somalis remain in the tents in the current weather conditions. Nor can she guarantee their safety because fireworks are now on sale, the paper quoted Kompier as saying. The immigration service has offered to look at their cases again, but the Somalis are campaigning for full residency rights. A spokesman for the group said the IND offer is 'nothing new' and only applies to the protestors rather than the 2,000 Somali nationals faced with deportation. Kompier told Nos television she hopes the group will still accept the IND's offer.
© The Dutch News

up  

DUTCH POLICE ARREST AND 'ASSAULT' EX-FOOTBALLER

An investigation is being launched into allegations of assault made by former Dutch-Surinamese football player Edu Nandlal while being held by police in the city of Utrecht.

26/12/2011- According to Nandlal, he was stopped by police on Christmas Eve and was pulled from his vehicle. He subsequently fell to the ground on his face. He was then taken to a police station and held there on Saturday night in connection with a burglary. Nandlal says he was further assaulted during the questioning. Police say he refused to cooperate, but that there was no question of assault. After spending a night behind bars, Nandlal claims a catheter was inserted in the wrong way, causing him to pass blood. When he was released on Sunday morning, he went to a hospital, which, according to Nandlal, confirmed he had a haemorrhage in his bladder.

Arrest a mistake
Police have since confirmed Nandlal had nothing to do with the burglary. Nandlal had been packing some belongings of his daughter into his car, which a neighbour mistook for burglary and reported it to the police. The mayor of Utrecht, Aleid Wolfsen, said he had requested the public prosecutor to investigate the incident. Nandlal said he still intends filing a report for assault. Radjindernath "Edu" Nandlal was born in Paramaribo. He moved from Suriname to the Netherlands in 1980 at the age of 17. During his football career, he played for FC Utrecht, FC Emmen and Vitesse. He was one of the footballers that survived the Surinam Airways Flight PY764 air crash in Paramaribo on 7 June, 1989, in which 176 people died.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

up  

WILDERS WANTS TO KICK BULGARIA, ROMANIA OUT OF EU (Netherlands)

24/12/2011- Far-right Dutch "Freedom Part", led by controversial politician Geert Wilders, wants to kick Bulgaria and Romania out of the EU, according to its deputies. During a plenary session in the Dutch Parliament's Chamber of Representatives on Saturday, Ino van den Besselaar, a Freedom Party deputy, declared his formations position regarding Bulgaria and Romania's EU membership, as cited by bTV. Ino van den Besselaar spoke on the free movement of workers in the EU. In his words, Bulgaria and Romania became EU members in 2007 without having fulfilled the membership criteria. He said that should not have been allowed to happen, and that if it were up to the Dutch Freedom Party Bulgaria and Romania would be kicked out of the Union immediately because of their severe problems with corruption and organization crime. In the past Dutch parliamentary election, the PVV (Party for Freedom) won 24 seats, making it the third largest in Parliament, which paved the way for it to become an important partner of the ruling coalition, albeit without ministerial seats.
© Novinite

up  

FEARS AS FAR RIGHT GAINS FRESH FOOTHOLD IN POLAND

Two decades after the fall of communism in Poland, extreme-right organizations have gained support, and violent attacks on minorities are not uncommon. Critics claim more needs to be done to tackle the threat.

24/12/2011- In the past three decades in Poland, there have been more than 50 murders committed against victims whose ethnicity, religion or sexuality made them different. Particularly brutal however, was one incident in August 1999 when three Warsaw skinheads trampled to death a 25-year-old student, Piotr Wozniak, on a Baltic Sea beach. The reason for the attack was the victim's appearance. Wozniak had dyed blond hair. This was not deemed manly enough by the attackers, who also disliked his alternative clothes. This and other far-right motivated crimes carried out between 1987 and 2009 have been documented in the "Brown Book," by the "Never Again" organization, which campaigns against intolerance and xenophobia. "We are continuing to collect information about crimes like this," says Never Again chairman Marcin Kornak. "Someone has to do it." Existing institutions - the ones that should be doing something about the problem - are not doing as much as they should, according to Kornak. "Racist violence is a real phenomenon in Poland," claims sociologist Rafal Pankowski, who has examined the topic extensively in his book "The Populist Radical Right in Poland: The Patriots." However, the victims are not only targeted for their ethnicity, religion or sexuality. Some have been targeted for political beliefs such as feminism, or even because they are homeless, says Pankowski.

'Poland for the Polish'
In Poland there is no precise definition for the notion of a far right, some experts complain. Often, it is fairly difficult to distinguish between parties on the right of social and political discourse in the country, and those on the extreme right, says Pankowski. The sociologist points to the participation of lawmakers from the Law and Justice Party of the opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in the latest "March of Independence" as indicative. For years, the march has taken place on November 11, the Day of Polish Independence, organized by the National Radical Camp (ONR), a far-right party, and the All Polish Youth nationalist movement. The pursuit of a "mono-ethnic society" is what unites the various right-wing extremist groups in Poland, Pankowski explains. Such ideas are propagated by members of groups like ONR, the All-Polish Youth, and the National Rebirth of Poland (NOP) - all of which have their foundations in the national radicalism movement of Poland in the 1920s and 1930s.

Members from many backgrounds
The activists who are members of these groups are mainly young people. But they are not just the kind of young people who lack any perspective for the future - many are from wealthy backgrounds. "The members include the unemployed as well as students. One also finds there are militant football fans, and skinheads," adds Pankowski. There are no exact figures on how many members these groups have, although information is available on the internet as to their popularity. On Facebook for example, the NOP has several thousand sympathizers. "The extreme right has clearly gained importance in recent years," says Pankowski. Alongside movements such as the NOP and ONR, with their pre-war history, there are an increasing number of groups with ideologies directly related to that of Nazism. These are mostly the Polish offshoots of foreign far-right groups such as the British "Combat 18" or "Blood and Honor." Connections to German neo-Nazi organizations are not so strong, says Pankowski, with links to Italian and British groups seemingly more important. The Polish manifestations of Combat 18 or Blood and Honor are mostly active only in an underground capacity, says Kornak. "The biggest danger comes from parties such as the ONR," he explains, where the party is officially licensed and has an open membership.

Forbidden, but not pursued
In recent years, a so-called "death list" was published on the internet site of one neo-Nazi group, with photos and addresses of alleged "enemies of the white race." Included on the list were left-wing, anti-fascist and feminist activists. In spite of this very public incitement to violence, only a few people were ever sentenced to prison. The website was blocked, at least temporarily. "This incident shows just how much the Polish judicial system is stalling. Neo-fascist groupings are difficult to control," says Pankowski. In fact, though, the activities of nationalist and fascist groups are prohibited by the constitution. The problem is putting the law into practice, claims the sociologist. The law has only ever been used on one occasion, when an ONR center was closed in 2009 for the distribution of fascist material.

A concern for the state
Extreme right parties such as the ONR or the NOP are not mass organizations with widespread public support, explains Pankowski. "In spite of this, they should not be underestimated, because in recent years they have developed in a very dynamic way," said. Apart from this, there is increasing aggression and violence at events such as football matches or at rock concerts. However, some feel the far right is no real threat to the political order as a whole. Among them is Jan Zaryn, a historian from the Institute of National Remembrance. "There are no parties in Poland that would include terrorism as a form of struggle," said Zaryn. In addition, he points out, no radical right-wing party has, so far, gained a seat in parliament.
© The Deutsche Welle

up  

EZRA POUND'S DAUGHTER AIMS TO STOP ITALIAN FASCIST GROUP USING FATHER'S NAME

CasaPound, named after the American poet, was supported by a racist who killed two African men in Florence

24/12/2011- Ezra Pound, the 20th-century American poet who wrote The Cantos, was known for his fascist sympathies and antisemitism. But his daughter is now taking action to defend his reputation after an Italian fascist organisation named itself after the poet. Mary de Rachewiltz, 86, has launched a lawsuit to force the far-right group CasaPound, which has about 5,000 members, to change its name. "A politically compromised organisation like this has no business using the name Pound," said De Rachewiltz, who lives in a hilltop castle in northern Italy where she reads The Cantos to students. She said she had first planned to act two years ago "when I understood CasaPound had spread outside Rome", but had redoubled her efforts after a CasaPound sympathiser went on a shooting spree in Florence on 13 December, killing two Senegalese men and wounding three others before killing himself. "This affected me terribly. It was the last straw," she told the Guardian. "I studied in Florence which makes it that much more painful."

Pound was a leading light on the London poetry scene before the first world war, helping launch the career of TS Eliot. Having moved to Italy, he developed a passion for Benito Mussolini's brand of fascism, defending him in radio broadcasts to the US during the second world war. He was captured by US troops in 1945, then declared insane and locked up for 12 years. Taking a lead from Pound's fascist ideals and denouncement of usury, CasaPound campaigns for cheap public housing but has been accused of attracting violent supporters. A Rome member was arrested last month on suspicion of assaulting leftwing activists. Gianluca Casseri, the Florence killer, was not a member but spoke at CasaPound meetings in Tuscany. The group has since distanced itself from him. An official said Pound's daughter had no reason to object to CasaPound's name. "We are very sorry about this. She doesn't really know about us. We are not racist or violent," said Simone di Stefano. "We would like to resolve this out of the courts – Pound is not a trademark and anyone can refer to his ideas." De Rachewiltz responded: "Pound was not leftwing or rightwing and you have to understand The Cantos to understand that. It is also a question of style. I have seen pictures of their shaven-headed leader and it does not impress me."
© The Guardian

up  

Headlines 23 December, 2011

KISA VOICE CONCERNS OVER ILLEGAL DETENTION (Cyprus)

23/12/2011- Anti-Racism organisation KISA yesterday spoke out against what it described as the government’s illegal detention of third country nationals. “I consider it a lack of respect to justice if the Supreme Court issues a release decision and then it is not carried out,” said KISA director Doros Polycarpou. According to the announcement, Cyprus recently adopted legislation to comply with an EU directive involving the return of third-country nationals staying illegally. The law states that detainees can only be held for six months then they must be released or deported. However, Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis said that they have the right to detain illegal immigrants for up to 18 months if they do not cooperate, meaning if they are not forthcoming with travel documents. “Unfortunately, the attitude and behaviour of the Cyprus government, especially of the Interior Ministry, shows that they have continued the policy of illegal detention,” KISA said. The announcement referred to three recent cases that where the Supreme Court judged the detention of persons was illegal because of their long duration. Despite the decision of release, police proceeded to arrest them again inside the court based on a decision by the Interior Ministry and lead them back to the detention centre, KISA said. Polycarpou who described the detentions as a ‘form of torture’ said that all other options must be exhausted first before turning to detention.
© The Cyprus Mail

up  

RISING INTOLERANCE IN TURKISH SOCIETY

22/12/2011- Incidents of religious and ethnically based violence continue to sow unease in Turkey, raising the question of whether a country that pitches itself as a cultural and religious mosaic is becoming more and more intolerant. The most recent example occurred in Izmir at the weekend. Gazi Akbayir, a young man originally from Tunceli, was brutally murdered by a group of men after he requested that musicians in a bar sing a folk song in Zaza Kurdish, his native language. In October, a Turkish-Armenian woman was exposed to verbal and physical abuse by a taxi driver after being asked about her ethnicity. Intolerance in Turkey has been the subject of several studies, which point to a worrisome trend of increasing xenophobia and racism.

An August poll by Yizmaz Eser of Bahcesehir University showed that Turkish society is becoming more nationalistic and intolerant, with the majority of respondents saying they do not want to live next to non-Muslims. Another survey, conducted in June by the polling company Konda, revealed that 57.6% of ethnic Turks would not marry a Kurd, while 47.4% do not even want a Kurd as a neighbour.
Analysing the trend, Nilgun Tutal Cheviron, a sociologist at Galatasaray University, says that identity structures have hardened in Turkey, as in elsewhere around the globe. "With the expansion of global boundaries, some communities or individuals feel global trends are a threat to their own values and ideological conceptions, leading them to close up into their identity shells where they feel themselves to be much more comfortable," she explains.

According to some analysts, today's intolerance is a reflection of the failure of the Kemalist revolution -- and in particular secularism -- to take root in all sectors of society in the early Republican period. "The ruling elites of Turkey had expected that religion would be diminished and be limited only to the private lives of people in the 1920s and 30s, but their expectations did not materialise," explains Professor Ali Murat Yel of Marmara University. He argues the state privileged Sunni Islam -- followed by the majority of Turks – and denied other religious minorities even very basic religious rights and freedoms. The "Turkish nation-state assumed that Turkey is for Turks only," argues Yel. According to that conception, those who did not feel themselves to be "Turk" don't belong in the country.

However, at the same time there is a common view of Anatolia as a cultural mosaic in which different cultures and religions have lived side by side in peace over the centuries. "But, it is a myth," explained Yel, "because living side by side does not mean living together." "Now, Turks face a new challenge of living with the other for the first time in their history and their initial reactions are understandable to some extent," he notes, pointing to the rise in urbanisation over the past several decades.

But why the violence?
Sociologist Nilüfer Narli argues that the rise of violence in urban areas is very much related to the increased number of semi-educated, professionally unqualified and frustrated young men who are angry with themselves, and use violence as a tool. And as wealth distribution in Turkey has become more unequal, sociologists say politicians use nationalism as an antidote to render society incapable of questioning the unequal distribution of wealth. "In Turkey, the authoritarian structure of the state and its anti-democratic inclination is re-produced via a populist nationalistic discourse labeled as Sunni-White-Turk," explained Cheviron, adding that such a patriarchal and nationalistic structure gives legitimacy to ethnic, religious and gender-based violence.

At present, Turkey is on track to harmonise a number of laws on the rights of minorities within the EU accession process and began to criminalise some of the most flagrant forms of discrimination. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance constantly warns Turkey about the need to strengthen its criminal law provisions. "There is a need for comprehensive revision of the existing legislation and to establish protection mechanisms or specific bodies to combat racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance," noted the European Commission's 2011 Progress Report for Turkey.
© The Turkish Weekly

up  

TURKEY CURBS TIES WITH FRANCE AFTER 'GENOCIDE' VOTE

23/12/2011- Turkey has responded angrily to a French legislative vote on criminalizing genocide denial by halting some military cooperation with France, highlighting Ankara's long-standing refusal to recognize the mass killings of Armenians at the twilight of the Ottoman Empire as genocide. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had warned of repercussions ahead of the French lower-house vote, said Turkey will abandon standing permission for French military planes to land and instead decide on a case-by-case basis, and it will refuse French warships access to Turkish ports effective immediately. "Efforts to gain votes using Turkophobia and Islamophobia just to win the presidential elections in France and for personal ambitions raises concerns, not only about France, but also about all of Europe and the universal values of Europe," Erdogan said. Earlier in the day, Turkey announced it was recalling its ambassador to Paris for consultations.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe urged restraint from Ankara, saying "there was a parliamentary initiative, which we take into account, and what I hope now is that our Turkish friends do not overreact about the French National Assembly decision." Turkish ministers have also warned that French companies could pay a heavy price. The moves come after passage by the lower house of legislation that would punish the denial of any genocide recognized by the French state with up to one year in prison and a fine of $58,000. France currently recognizes the mass murder of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994, the Holocaust carried out against Jews and Roma by Nazi Germany during World War II, and the mass killing of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turkey in 1915.

Thousands of Turkish residents waving French and Turkish flags protested against the genocide-denial bill outside France's National Assembly before the vote. But the demonstration had no visible effect on deputies in the lower house, who passed the bill easily in a show-of-hands vote. It still faces an uncertain vote in the Senate before it can become law. "It was necessary to have this vote on this issue of genocides, which are recognized by French law, so that we are able to legally punish those who deny the existence of these crimes and those who insult these crimes," the initiator of the bill, Valerie Boyer, said after the lower-house vote. Leading members of Turkey's Armenian minority have also criticized the French bill. Lawmakers in the French National Assembly approve the so-called genocide-denial bill on December 22.

"It's really absurd, because it's not ethical for an Armenian," said Etyen Mahcupyan, columnist and former editor of "Agos," a leading newspaper serving the Armenian community in Turkey. "As an Armenian, I want the recognition of genocide or the historical facts, but acceptance is only valuable if there is a choice. On the other hand, I don't find the reaction of the [Turkish] government very credible -- I am amazed why they take it so seriously and so on." Semih Idiz, a diplomatic correspondent for the Turkish newspaper "Milliyet," says "large French companies [could be] sidelined in terms of strategic investments in Turkey, nuclear power plants, thermal power plants, fast-train projects, and this sort of thing."

Paris has said any such moves would be restricted by international trade agreements that Turkey has committed itself to, including the European Union customs union. Ankara has suggested it could end all diplomatic cooperation with Paris. Murat Bilhan, a former Turkish ambassador and teacher of international relations at Kultur University, said that could have consequences for the Middle East. "Strategic talks between Turkish and French government and bilateral meetings of cooperation in various fields could be suspended," Bilhan said. "So Turkey might not like to cooperate with France on Syria or any other matter in the Middle East." The two countries are centers for Syrian opposition groups and have increasingly coordinated efforts in opposing Damascus's crackdown on dissent.

The French draft bill has reopened a simmering dispute dating back to 2001, when the French Parliament passed a bill recognizing the1915 mass killing of Armenians by Turkey's then-Ottoman rulers as genocide. Historians say up to 1.5 million Armenians died, although that number is fiercely contested by Turkey. Ankara denies genocide, claiming the deaths occurred during civil strife in which many Turkish Muslims died as well. It argues the controversy should be resolved by historians, not politicians. In what is seen as a gesture to Ankara, the new legislation was amended to remove any direct reference to the Armenian killings. French lawmaker Christian Jacob called for Turkish restraint and stressed the bill was not aimed at Turkey.

"We have to stay calm. Everyone knows the friendship that links us with Turkish people," Jacob said. "But at the same time, the French National Assembly is sovereign here, just as the Turkish assembly is sovereign there, too. And so this bill has nothing to do with the other law, the 'memorial' one that was voted in 2001, and it was honorable for our country to vote it in. Today we are simply implementing a law which will allow us to put criminal sanctions on the failure to respect the laws." Such sentiments have done little to cool anger in Turkey over the bill, which leading Turkish political parties have condemned.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared ahead of the December 22 vote to be carefully calibrating a possible response, saying that sanctions against France would be introduced in three steps. After the vote he announced the checks on military cooperation with France. Some observers suggest the French Senate, which is controlled by the center-left, is likely to support the bill. Turkish parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee head Volkan Bozkir, who led a delegation to Paris earlier this week to lobby against the bill, expressed hope it could still be blocked by what he called "administrative steps" in the Senate. Bilateral relations were already strained over French President Nicolas Sarkozy's opposition to Ankara's bid to join the European Union.

Much of Turkish criticism has targeted the French president directly, with the Turkish prime minister accusing him of using the bill to support his reelection bid next year. A presidential election is due in France next year and the country's Armenian minority -- which numbers around 500,000 -- is seen as an important voting bloc.
© RFE/RL

up  

FRANCE APPROVES HALFWAY ARMENIAN GENOCIDE BILL

22/12/2011- France's National Assembly has approved a bill making it a crime to deny that Armenians suffered genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War 1. The bill, which punishes denial of genocides by a year's imprisonment and a fine of EUR 45 000, was adopted by a large majority of parliamentarians in a show of hands after a nearly four-hour debate, DPA reported. To become law it must also be approved by the Senate. Turkey, which rejects the categorization of the mass killings of Armenians between 1915 and 1917 as genocide, had threatened "grave consequences" if the vote passed. The French parliamentary debate was also broadcast live in Turkey. Thousands of French people of Turkish origin demonstrated outside the assembly as the French parliament considered the proposed law of French deputy Valerie Boyer, transposing Community law on the fight against racism and punishing the denial of the genocide recognized by law.

They denounced the bill, which they claimed was an attempt by the government to woo voters of Armenian origin ahead of next year's presidential and parliamentary elections. "It's not because a powerful lobby says it (genocide) that I will say it," Halil Karayel, who travelled from the north-eastern city of Strasbourg to take part in the demonstration, told DPA. Armenians say up to 1.5 million Armenian citizens of the Ottoman Empire were either killed or died of neglect during the war. Around a dozen countries have recognized their deaths as genocide. Ankara says between 300 000 and 500 000 Armenians died, and argues that it was largely the result of unrest during the war following the invasion by Russian forces of eastern Ottoman Turkey. DPA stresses that the standoff is the latest to rock Franco-Turkish relations, which have already soured over French President Nicolas Sarkozy resolute opposition to Turkey joining the European Union.
© Novinite

up  

FRANCE PROBES NAZI-THEMED PARTY ATTENDED BY BRITISH MP

French prosecutors said Thursday they had opened a probe into a Nazi-themed party attended by British Conservative MP Aidan Burley that led to him losing his post as a parliamentary aide.

22/12/2011- "A preliminary investigation started yesterday," local prosecutor Patrick Quincy told AFP, as authorities opened a case file on a drunken night out by a group of British men in the French Alpine ski resort of Val Thorens. The investigation was launched after a complaint from French anti-racism group SOS Racisme. Quincy said he had been unaware of the incident beforehand. A lawyer for the restaurant where the party took place, La Fondue, said the establishment was also planning to file a complaint and that investigators had been to the restaurant on Thursday. "We are preparing to hand in a complaint tomorrow," the lawyer, Julien Andrez, told AFP, adding that two charges were possible: "inciting racial hatred" or "glorifying crimes against humanity". Burley, 32, was sacked from his role as a parliamentary private secretary to Transport Secretary Justine Greening after pictures and video taken at the party earlier this month were published in the British press. Burley, a lawmaker from Prime Minister David Cameron's centre-right Conservatives, represents Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, central England. "They are launching a preliminary investigation and I understand I am not the focus of it," he told the BBC. "I do not believe I have broken any French law and have distanced myself from the behaviour of other people on the stag." British stag parties, held before a man gets married, are typically jovial, boozy nights out, often with the groom-to-be in embarrassing fancy dress.

Burley was photographed sitting next to the stag, who was wearing the uniform of a World War II-era German SS officer. A video showed a guest raising a toast to the Third Reich at the party and reports said the group had later chanted "Mein Fuehrer!" and the names of Nazis Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann, who were responsible for the Holocaust. The Conservative Party said in a statement that Burley was removed from his post because of his "offensive and foolish" behaviour at the party. Cameron also asked for a full investigation. In a message to his constituents on Wednesday, the MP voiced his "deepest regret", adding: "There are no excuses for my foolish behaviour which, over the past two weeks, has caused so much distress to so many people. "I made a bad error of judgment and you deserved better from your local MP. "Being involved in a stag party where an SS uniform was worn was wrong and offensive. It was the wrong decision on my part; crass and insensitive. "I am deeply sorry, and want to take this opportunity to offer the people of Cannock Chase an unreserved, wholehearted and full apology for the terrible offence this incident has undoubtedly caused."

Mr Burley said his family had "been through hell" as a result of the publicity surrounding the party. And he insisted: "I have no sympathies whatsoever with Nazism, racism, or fascism... I personally did not participate in any alcohol-fuelled attempted toasts by other guests to the Third Reich. "Nor did I participate in any chants, offensive or otherwise. As the video showed, I left the restaurant immediately when that inexcusable behaviour by other guests started." Under French law it is a crime to make anti-Semitic statements or exhibit Nazi uniforms or emblems in public, unless required for a film, play or other cultural production. Earlier this year, British fashion designer John Galliano was convicted of anti-Semitism for hurling abuse at bar patrons in Paris's Jewish quarter and given a suspended fine of 6,000 euros ($7,800).
© EJP News

up  

GAY COUPLE WANTS THEIR SPANISH MARRIAGE RECOGNIZED BY FRANCE

23/12/2011- A gay couple has filed a legal challenge to have France recognize their Spanish marriage, France's Liberation reported. Manuel de Aguirre, a Spanish engineer living in France since 1969, and Antonio Damieta, who holds dual French and Spanish citizenship, were married last February in the Spanish consulate in Cape Town, South Africa. Spain legalized gay marriage in 2005. The couple attempted to have their union recognized upon their return to Paris, but were denied. Gay marriage is not legal in France. However, the government does recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian foreigner nationals. Damietta's dual citizenship disqualified the couple. “France recognizes any foreigner who is married according to the law of the country where the spouses were married” except in cases where the marriage is considered an “affront to public order,” de Aguirre said. “This is a denial of my marital status,” he added. An attempt to legalize gay marriage was blocked by President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP Party in June. De Aguirre told Spanish new agency EFE that he has written to presidential candidates about the issue, raising the possibility that gay rights could become a factor in next year's national elections.
© On Top Magazine

up  

STRACHE PLANS STRONGER RIGHT-WING ALLIANCES (Austria)

21/12/2011- Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) chief Heinz-Christian Strache discussed immigration issues with high-ranking representatives of Italy’s rightists. The Eurosceptic joined members of the European Parliament (MEPs) of the far-right Lega Nord party and former Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni to speak about asylum issues and Islamism in a platform discussion in Milan on Monday. Strache said yesterday (Tues) he intended to strengthen his party’s ties with right-wing movements in Italy. The politician, who has headed the FPÖ since 2005, engaged in creating alliances among right-wingers across Europe in recent years. The FPÖ organised several summits attended by political representatives of right-wing circles in Denmark, the Netherlands and other countries. Strache was harshly criticised and accused of trying to create conflicts when he headed a delegation of European politicians meeting with nationalist Israelis last year.

The FPÖ is given good chances to overtake the People’s Party (ÖVP) for second place in the next election. The coalition factions of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the ÖVP are trying to avoid a collapse of their cooperation despite stark differences in opinion regarding the future of the Austrian army and the country’s school and education system. The parties are aware of surveys that the FPÖ might even come first if elections were to take place earlier than planned. The next federal ballot is scheduled for 2013. The FPÖ is currently seen neck and neck with the SPÖ – which won the ballot of 2010 – by pollsters while the ÖVP tries to sharpen its profile. The Greens struggle to benefit from the corruption scandals members of their political rivals are entangled in. The left-wing party also failed to become more popular following Europe’s farewell to nuclear energy. The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) is currently unable to compete with the FPÖ neither. The right-wing party headed by ex-FPÖ member Josef Bucher could experience difficulties getting over the four per cent hurdle into parliament in the next vote, according to analysts.

The FPÖ formed a coalition with the ÖVP for five years until 2005 when the BZÖ was founded. Strache focused on a strict anti-European Union (EU) course recently as an increasing number of Austrians allegedly disagree with the government’s decision to fully engage in supporting debt-stricken Portugal and Greece. The FPÖ caused a stir last year by running a poster campaign showing a tanned man lying in a hammock. The party said on the poster that money earned in Austria must be spent on Austrians only. The Styrian FPÖ’s campaign poster was just the latest series of initiatives which confronted the FPÖ with accusations of being a xenophobic movement. The ÖVP decided to hold talks about a possible debt limit accord with FPÖ leaders despite criticism of its coalition party. However, the SPÖ scaled down its attacks on the ÖVP regarding the occurrences in the past few days – a development which made commentators speculate that the party had nothing against the negotiations.

SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann is reportedly glad that ÖVP boss Michael Spindelegger and the conservative party’s whip, Karlheinz Kopf, decided to check the chances for green light from the FPÖ for the government’s debt brake plans. The ÖVP leaders’ decision saved Faymann from party-internal feuds with left-wing backbenchers about whether the FPÖ should be approached to debate important political issues like a constitutional debt limit.
© The Austrian Independent

up  

BOMB THREAT REPORTED AT BULGARIAN NATIONALISTS HQS

21/12/2011- An alert for a bomb threat at the headquarters of Bulgaria's far-right, nationalist Ataka party in downtown Sofia was reported Wednesday. A male voice called the emergency 112 hotline at 10:40 am and announced explosives were placed inside the building on Vrabcha street. Police have sealed the area, but nothing has been discovered so far. The building also has offices of the Files Commission – the special panel investigating the secret files of the former Communist State security. It is guarded by a unit of the National Security Services (NSO) and security video cameras are mounted. The arrival of a team from the Directorate of Operational and Technical Information (DOTI) at the Interior Ministry is expected any moment now and there is strong police presence in the area. The Ataka party is scheduled to hold its congress inside the building Wednesday and the forum was to begin at 1 pm. Meanwhile, it was reported that 4 more Members of the Parliament have left the party's Parliamentary group, reducing the number to 10 – the bare minimum it needs to survive.
© Novinite

up  

BULGARIA TO POUR EU, STATE FUNDS INTO ROMA INTEGRATION PLAN

21/12/2011- Bulgaria's government has adopted the long-anticipated National Strategy for Integration of Roma in Bulgaria (2012-2020), and a respective Action Plan, the Cabinet press service announced. The formal rationale for the adoption of the document says it is supposed to overcome the "existing negative socio-economic characteristics" of the Roma which would be a "prerequisite for the successful and sustainable development of the entire Bulgarian society." The program is expected to provide equal opportunities and access to "rights, amenities, goods, services" in all public spheres based on equality before the law and non-discrimination of the Roma and other minority citizens of Bulgaria. The National Roma Integration Program focuses on education, healthcare, and housing; other major integration areas are employment, rule of law and non-discrimination, and media.

The strategy Action Plan of the Bulgarian government is to be realized in two phases ? the first one is 2012-2014, when Bulgaria's particippation in the international initiative for a Roma Inclusion Decade 2005-2015 will be completed, and the second is 2014-2020, coinciding with the next seven-year EU budget framework. Bulgaria's Roma integration measures are to be funded with EU money and funds from the state budget, the government points out. It also stresses that the two documents for Roma integration were drafted based on the involvement of the civil society and several public discussions including on the website of Bulgaria's National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues. Bulgaria's Roma population estimated at several hundred thousand remains largely in a destitute condition, with the reasons for that ranging from outright discrimination in the Bulgarian society to the role of Roma clan structures themselves.
© Novinite

up  

THE FAR-RIGHT UNDERTONES OF ROMANIAN POLITICS

After the fall of the Romanian dictator Ceausescu all that was left of his national-Communist system was nationalism. DW takes a look at how old-fashioned, chauvinist cliches emerged from the rubble of a dictatorship.

20/12/2011- Romania in January, 1990: In the opaque power politics that followed the execution of Communist state and party leader Nicolae Ceausescu, the nationalism of the old guard quickly developed into an ideology that spanned the entire political spectrum. Above all, this new environment found its militant and radical expression in several of the country's far-right organizations.

Nationalist delirium
The fatal similarity between the "new" slogans and the nationalist agitation propagated during the Ceausescu era was not apparent to the members of these organizations. They sung traditional songs concerning mythically transfigured folk heroes as if they were the warrior songs of fascist legionaries of the 1930s. In the end, the xenophobic undertones of these songs brought those that sang them into a delirium of nationalism. The political changes of 1989 enabled the reemergence of the long lost clerical-fascist legionary ideology. Even today, there is a widespread tendency among Romania's far-right organizations to deny the Holocaust and the anti-Semitic pogroms carried out by the legionaries. During the Antonescu fascist military dictatorship from 1940 to 1944, around 400,000 Romanian Jews were executed in Nazi-esque concentration camps. Romania's nationalists continue to reject such allegations until the present day.

Claims to exclusive agency
The right-wing extremist parties that emerged after the fall of Communism are, however, hopelessly divided. Radu Sorescu, founder and head of the Party of National Rights, rejects the existence of all other ultra-nationalist organizations and describes them as "organized traitors of the Romanian Fatherland." Of these, though, there is one group that he finds worthy of imitation: the legionary movement founded by the notorious Hitler-admirer Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. In Sorescu's ideal state there is no place for national minorities. Thus he and his party members have set out to fight against what they call the "Gypsy danger," to confine all Roma on "Reservations" and to erect an "ethnocratic state" to be ruled exclusively by pure-bred Romanians. The "leaders" of each of Romania's right-wing groups claims an exclusive right to represent the ideals of the Romanian nation. This is why they are so divided - and why they have been unable to draw up a mutual political manifesto. This was the case even with the Greater Romania Party, which until 2008 was represented in parliament and whose leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor is currently a member of the European Parliament. Tudor's nationalist-populist speeches carry the stamp of right-wing extremist demagogy; he propagates absurd fears of xenophobia that, in a political climate like that in Romania, often draw significant audiences.

European alliance preferred
The organization Noua Dreapta (New Rights) is also against working together with its ultra-nationalist competitors. This group, led by the attorney Tudor Ionescu defines itself as "radical, militant, nationalist and Christian Orthodox." The New Rights call for a strong Romanian nationalist state, for the unconditional union of Romania with the republic of Moldova, for the stiff punishment of what they call "Gypsy crimes" and for an absolute ban on abortion. At the same time, however, the nationalist-oriented group defines itself as euroskeptic and as an opponent of multiculturalism and NATO. Their political manifesto also includes the fight against "Hungarian separatism" and homosexuality. In order to avoid being accused of inciting national hatred the Noua Dreapta group - as well as many others - also practices a kind of camouflaged anti-Semitism. Without being concrete - yet with enough innuendo to get their point across - the party makes public reference to the dangers of "occult forces" to the survival of the Romanian nation. The perpetually anti-Jewish prejudices against Freemasons, secretive alliances and the representatives of the "New World Order" are simple enough for the public to decipher. They serve as a way to propagate a form of veiled anti-Semitism. The Noua Dreapta, which has links to Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), is part of the European National Front, a federation of far-right radical groups that was founded in 2004. The group pushed for the founding of a political party in 2010 and has claimed that it will attempt such an undertaking at parliamentary elections in 2012 under the name Partidul Naţionalist (Nationalist Party).

Far-right rhetoric accepted?
There is no danger that any of Romania's ultra-nationalist organizations will come to power in present-day Romania. This does not mean, however, that nationalist and populist undertones aren't present. Such rhetoric is tried and trusted fare on the campaign trail, even for democratic parties. But it tends to cast the individual politicians who resort to it in a bad light - and raise justified questions about their democratic competence.
© The Deutsche Welle

up  

DUTCH MAGAZINE APOLOGISES FOR RIHANNA RACIAL SLUR

20/12/2011- The editor of Dutch magazine Jackie has published an apology on Facebook after a fashion item in the latest issue called pop star Rihanna the ultimate N****Bitch. The racist slur has caused a slew of angry reactions on fashion and music blogs, particularly in the US, where the singer, originally from Barbados, is based. In the statement, editor Eva Hoeke says the magazine crew is shocked by the reactions to the article, which was part of a piece on how to dress your daughter like a pop star. 'This should never have happened,' Hoeke wrote. 'The author did not mean any harm - the headline was meant as a joke - but it was a bad joke, to say the least.'  There was no racist motive in the piece, Hoeke said. 'It was stupid and naive to think this was an acceptable form of street talk - you hear it all the time on the radio and tv - then your ideas about what is normal shift.' 'She's got street cred, a ghetto ass and a golden throat,' the item said. 'Rihanna, the good girl gone bad, is the ultimate N****Bitch and happy to show it'.

Daycare
The article also wrongly stated Rihanna is from Jamaica before recommending mothers dress their daughters in tiger print and everything that glitters and then 'hope they don't beat someone up at daycare.' On Tuesday, Rihanna herself weighed into the debate, using the microblogging service Twitter to comment that 'I find you disrespectful, and rather desperate!!'. 'Well with all respect, on behalf of my race, here are my two words for you...F*** You,' the singer said in a second Tweet. The word bitch is commonly used in the Netherlands. Women who work on the doors of nightclubs are referred to as doorbitches in the mainstream media, while a top prize for women who work in radio is known as the RadioBitch award. Jackie is published by the Gijrath Media Groep, which also publishes JFK Magazine and is responsible for the Miljonair Fair - a trade fair for the very wealthy.
© The Dutch News

up  

DOUBLE LIVES FOR GAY TEACHERS IN IRELAND

21/12/2011- Schools in Ireland can be hostile places for gay people, particularly the staff rooms. Gay, lesbian or bisexual teachers in many Irish schools -- which are still dominated by the Catholic Church -- risk discrimination or even the sack if they reveal their sexuality, thanks to a law that permits religious employers to penalize employees for actions undermining their religious standards. "When you are in the school system, you are caught up in the ethos of the school, you are caught up in the silence," said Leo Kilroy, 34, who used to teach in a Catholic-run primary school in Dublin's inner city. "You are aware that if you come out as a gay or a lesbian you may experience discrimination. Your very existence in that post is up for challenge." The Church has been toppled from its once pre-eminent position in Irish life thanks to rising prosperity, membership of the European Union, the shift from farm to city and wave after wave of sex abuse scandals. Ireland's recent decision to close its embassy in the Vatican brought relations to a historic low. But the Church's influence is still profound in two key areas -- schools and family law, which is governed by a constitution still bearing the legacy of Ireland's Catholic past.

More than nine in ten primary schools and half of all high schools are run by the Church. The boards of such schools are typically chaired by a parish priest and, although the state pays the teachers' salaries, the Church still has a say in enrolment and recruitment. Kilroy came out as a gay man in his late 20s after he left his teaching post. He now lecturers trainee teachers and is treasurer of a group representing lesbian, gay and bisexual primary school teachers. It has 45 members out of a sector with an estimated 31,000 employees. "One of the reasons that I was freer to come out was because I was free of the school system. A gay and lesbian person in a staff room has to censor themselves," he said. "I know of gay teachers who have been passed over for promotion, they have been verbally abused and discriminated against and had to suffer jokes about gay or lesbian people."

Changing Attitudes
Up until 1993, it was a crime to commit a homosexual act in Ireland -- anal sex could land you in prison for life. Before that, most people opted to hide their sexuality. Gay pride parades in 1980s Dublin were paltry affairs, attracting a few hundred people and the odd bigot shouting taunts about AIDS. Attitudes have changed dramatically since then. This year's gay pride event attracted 25,000 people, the second-largest procession in the country after the St. Patrick's' Day Parade. Polls show a majority of the public are in favor of gay marriage, including many practicing Catholics. "The Lord made them that way. They should have equal rights," said Ita Phelan, 91, on her way into Sunday Mass at Dublin's main Roman Catholic church. But in many classrooms, where about half an hour of daily religious instruction and a crucifix on the wall are the norm, not much has changed. Patrick Dempsey used to pretend to be sick to avoid going into school in Dublin's south inner city. "From first year right up until I left I had to deal with bullying, name-calling, being afraid to walk down a corridor. "When you know someone is going to call you a faggot or a queer and you know you are going to be embarrassed in front of 30 or so odd people you are going to want to avoid that at all cost." The 19-year-old eventually dropped out of the Catholic-run school in his final year in frustration at how the staff was ignoring the problem. "I think it came down to the ethos of the school because it was a Catholic school they didn't have a specific policy towards homophobic bullying," he said. "It was so open in the school it was unbelievable. Homophobic language was used by one of the teachers."

Relatively Religious
While it has followed other European countries in legislating for divorce and contraception, Ireland is still a relatively religious country with church weddings and funerals the norm and baptism still considered a natural rite of passage. The Irish government consulted the archbishop of Dublin in 1937 when drafting the constitution. A clause recognizing the special position of the Catholic Church was removed in the early 1970s but the first line of the charter still reads "In the name of the most Holy Trinity" and there is a reference to the role of the woman in the home. "Whilst we are becoming more liberal and there is a growing appetite for a more secular approach to policymaking we still don't see very strong secularism coming out of the main political parties," said Theresa Reidy, a lecturer in politics at University College Cork. "They are slow in moving in a completely secular direction."

Prime Minister Enda Kenny's ruling coalition has pledged to look at the possibility of constitutional change to allow for gay marriage, which opinion polls show is favored by a majority of the public, and wants to reduce the number of schools that fall under the Catholic Church's remit. But with the government focused on trying to steer Ireland out of financial crisis, the last thing Kenny wants to do is tackle contentious social issues, and the idea of cutting back on the church role in schools is likely to suffer from a shortage of funds. His government has yet to introduce a law clarifying when abortion is legal in Ireland, a year after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the lack of legislation was violating women's human rights. And it has made only a vague reference to examine the threat hanging over gay and lesbian teachers from the employment legislation, which allows religious employers to take actions which are "reasonably necessary" to ensure employees or prospective employees do not undermine their religious ethos.

A Quiet Revolution
Nowadays, teenagers are more comfortable about coming out. Most of the callers to Dublin-based gay youth services group BeLonG To are aged between 14 and 15 compared to 19 and 20 when it was first set up nearly nine years ago. "There is a quiet revolution going on out there. The numbers of young people coming to BeLonG To have more than doubled each year for the last three. It's quite phenomenal," said Michael Barron, the group's co-founder. More than 2,500 people got involved with the organization's youth group this year and tens of thousands contacted it via email. Barron works with schools to raise awareness about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and to campaign against homophobic bullying, which he describes as a huge problem. The attitude of the schools' management boards and principals, the vast majority of whom are no longer nuns or priests, is key. "Some of the best schools we have worked with have been religious schools but it certainly poses a barrier overall," said Barron. It is not unheard of for teachers to tell pupils homosexuality is sinful. "The educational system still has that Catholic legacy and in some cases it's more than a legacy it's still how things are taught," said Barron. "We would know of many gay teachers who aren't out in schools. It is an issue. Those gay teachers could provide vital role-modeling for young people, particularly a young person who is struggling, who thinks they are the only gay or transgender young person in the world."

Love but no marriage
For Feargha Ni Bhroin, being a lesbian isn't an issue at the non-religious vocational college where she teaches. The problem is at home. Ni Bhroin and her partner, Linda Cullen, are stuck in legal limbo since becoming parents to twin girls. Under Irish law, Cullen has no relationship with her daughters because she is not their biological mother. She cannot adopt them or be their guardian and she is not named on their birth certificates. "If we separated I would have no rights, and more importantly the children have no rights on me, so I wouldn't have to pay maintenance or anything if I didn't want to," said the Dubliner, who runs a television production company. Legislation unveiled last year gives same-sex couples who register as civil partners the same financial entitlements as married heterosexual couples but not full equality. That means children of same sex couples, even those who chose to enter a civil partnership, are not protected by the law. "The children know I am their mother. I am up with them at 3, 4, 5 in the morning. But the law doesn't."
© Reuters

up  

FAIR PLAY FOR MIGRANTS (Ireland, editorial)

20/12/2011- Anyone who has witnessed racial abuse in the street will have some inkling of the distress it can cause. Just as people are reluctant to complain about poor food or inadequate services, however, there is an unfortunate tendency to ignore the incident rather than challenge the abuser. Such behaviour allows the canker to grow and poison society. Individual courage and civic spirit are required if society is to cherish its residents equally.The Immigrant Council of Ireland has warned of an increase in racial incidents because of a misconception that migrants are benefiting unfairly from Irish jobs, entitlements and public services. Racist abuse ranges from spitting, pushing and beating people to shouting and verbal abuse. Former president Mary Robinson cautioned of the dangers these actions posed to a civilised society and said racist abuse did not arise from a real threat to jobs or livelihoods but represented an effort to find someone to blame for things that had gone wrong.

More than half a million workers came here during the boom years and contributed significantly to the growth and wealth of the economy and to social diversity. Even then, when unemployment was a fraction of what it is today and jobs were readily available, racist attitudes became a cause for concern. In response, all political parties signed up to an anti-racist programme while the Government established structures to provide for migrants’ requirements, their integration and additional school places for children. It has not been enough. Sr Stan Kennedy complained of a lack of clarity on immigration policy and described the system as “chaotic, bureaucratic, cumbersome and lacking in transparency”. It appears that some official and public attitudes will have to change.

A long-term benefit from the Celtic Tiger has been the creation of a multicultural society, with 35,000 newly naturalised citizens and 500,000 immigrants. The great majority are very hard working and wish to make a positive contribution to their adopted country. A relatively small number lack work visas and are vulnerable to exploitation and ill treatment. In that regard, they are no different from the tens of thousands of undocumented Irish in the United States who live in fear of repatriation. At home, the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland deals with an estimated 30,000 people and favours the introduction of an earned regularisation scheme. It would not be an amnesty. People would register for the scheme, pay a fine and receive temporary residency status. Individuals could then work their way towards earning permanent residency status through regular employment, paying taxes and contributing to the community. A similar scheme is being sought for Irish emigrants in the United States. Such an approach is both practical and enlightened, offering benefits to society as a whole and to the individuals concerned. Migration will remain one of the few certainties in life. We should learn to live with it and benefit from it.
© The Irish Times.

up  

“THE MOOD TOWARDS FOREIGNERS HAS WORSENED” (Switzerland, interview)

Attitudes towards foreigners have toughened in recent years, according to Georg Kreis, chairman of the Federal Commission against Racism.

19/12/2011- As he prepares to step down after 16 years in the job, he tells swissinfo.ch that part of the reason is the neoliberal climate with its emphasis on competition and where every person is encouraged to be out for themselves. The job of the commission is not to change people’s beliefs, but rather to ensure that they do not act in racially discriminating ways, he says.

swissinfo.ch: What has been your greatest success in your 16 years as chairman of the Federal Commission against Racism?
Georg Kreis: Our greatest success was, and certainly still is, that the problem of racism has been taken more seriously since 1996. But to a certain extent taking it seriously has been manifested in the wrong way, that’s to say, from a superficial angle: what am I allowed to say? how far can I go without getting into trouble? What we should really be thinking about is what is good for coexistence, what is reasonable to expect from other people and what is not.

swissinfo.ch: One of the tasks of the commission is to monitor attitudes in the country. So what is the mood towards the foreign population?
G.K.: The mood towards foreigners, towards “others”, has definitely worsened. The distinction between “me and them” or “us and them” has become sharper. It is quite clear that denigrating others is a way of making yourself feel more important.

swissinfo.ch: Why has this happened?
G.K.: I’m very sceptical about all the explanations. People talk about globalisation, an increase in immigration, uncertainty about the future. But all these explanations bother me, because they all contain justifications. What we really need to explain first of all is why there has been such an upsurge in nationalism, because denigrating people who are regarded, rightly or wrongly, as being “different” is connected with an archaic tribalistic way of thinking that seems to be coming back into vogue and which is a guiding principle even for much of the conservative middle class.

swissinfo.ch: According to your latest report, there have been slightly more racist incidents reported, mainly anti-black racism and Islamophobia. What have you done wrong?
G.K.: I won’t say categorically that we have not done some things wrong. But you can’t use these figures to measure the achievements either of authorities whose task is prevention, or of those whose task is enforcement. We don’t know how many cases there would have been if we weren’t there. And don’t forget that racism in the private sphere is not covered. We simply don’t know how many cases there are of racial discrimination when it comes to applying for apprenticeships or jobs for example, or in looking for an apartment.

swissinfo.ch: Do you see a connection between the political climate and racist behaviour in ordinary people?
G.K.: There are certainly connections. It’s become more acceptable to put the emphasis on what’s “mine”, and to behave brusquely towards other people. These things are even seen as a virtue. This development is part of neoliberal competition: the race goes to the strong, no room for kid gloves. And all of this is combined with so-called freedom of opinion. What I am most worried about is the pseudo-democratic opinion that is gaining ground which claims that defining racism is just a question of interpretation. Of course there are marginal areas where it’s hard to draw clear lines, but to regard the issue in general as simply something a person is free to judge as they see fit, is cause for alarm. It’s not our job to work on what people feel. Of course it would be desirable for people not to be anti-Semitic, or not to regard travellers as inferior. But the main thing is that they shouldn’t show it openly.

swissinfo.ch: Does the rightwing People’s Party with its anti-foreigner posters, for example against Muslims, bear some of the responsibility for the xenophobic climate in the country?
G.K.: Of course it does, but that doesn’t mean one should attach too much responsibility to it. It is always individuals themselves who are responsible. I can’t use as an excuse the fact I was encouraged by the People’s Party posters, but it is clear that they do tend in general to provide such encouragement, even if the posters themselves don’t meet the definition of racism.

swissinfo.ch: You want ordinary citizens to get more involved in situations where people are discriminated against or treated in a racist way. Is there not enough awareness of racism in our society? Has your commission not done enough to make people sit up and take notice?
G.K.: Sure, but what does that mean? I would be happy if people concluded that we are not responsible for that. The commission must point things out, must issue warnings, but in the last resort it’s not an education commission. We don’t pretend to be able to do everything, we don’t want to be responsible for everything. What we want is for civil society to do more. We have enough non-governmental organisations in this country who do good things with a minimal amount of money. I would like to see more individuals supporting these organisations.
© Swissinfo

up  

ERRC AND GLOC CALL FOR ACTION ON EVICTED ROMANI FAMILIES IN ROMANIA

19/12/2011- The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and Grupul de Lucru al Organizaţiilor Civice (GLOC) today sent a letter of concern to the Romanian authorities highlighting the ongoing problems of the Romani community based in Pata-Rât. On 17 December 2010 almost 60 families were forcibly evicted from their homes close to the centre of Cluj-Napoca. They were moved to Pata-Rât, an industrial area close to the city’s rubbish dump. One year on, new ERRC research shows that living standards for the community have declined. The ERRC conducted participatory research between September and November 2011 and found that housing conditions, access to work, education and healthcare have all been badly affected. Romani individuals face increased discrimination and are at risk from environmental health hazards.

Key findings include:
Almost a fifth (19%) of individuals lost their main source of income from formal and informal work, mainly due to the destruction of social networks and the distance from work.
The average monthly family income per capita has dropped by 33%. Families have less to spend on basic commodities including food, while transportation costs are much higher.
Only 5% of the respondents reported cases of discrimination and degrading treatment before relocation, rising to 25% after relocation.
89% of respondents described their health situation as well or very well before relocation, while only 46.5% reported themselves to be well after the eviction (none said very well).
In 2011 all the children due to be enrolled in primary school for the first time (that the ERRC is aware of) were rejected by mainstream schools on the basis of alleged insufficient space in the classrooms.

“Romanian authorities are failing their citizens at Pata-Rât by forcing them to live near a rubbish dump in substandard housing conditions,” said Dezideriu Gergely, ERRC Executive Director. “It is unacceptable to treat a community as if they’re rubbish, and this is a gross violation of human dignity.” “We need national and local authorities to express clear political will to implement projects offering an inclusive urban development plan with an integrated housing project for marginalised Roma communities,” said Enikő Vincze, Founder Member of GLOC. “Besides providing decent housing, this would empower Roma citizens to become full members of our society.”

The ERRC and GLOC are making a number of recommendations to the local authorities. These include the need to plan and implement an alternative integrated housing project involving members of the community. The authorities should also conduct an eviction impact assessment to calculate the economic costs faced by the community members and provide compensation for all losses. In addition, the organisations are calling for an integrated approach from schools, the school inspectorate, doctors and the municipality to respond to the community’s needs.
© European Roma Rights Center

up  

NEW 'MYTHBUSTER' WEBSITE TO FIGHT RACISM IN SWEDEN

The Swedish government has launched a new website to combat the proliferation of inaccurate and racist myths about minorities and immigrants in Sweden.

19/12/2011- “Extremism has found a new forum which is also very effective when it comes to spreading myths and prejudice,” integration minister Erik Ullenhag of the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) writes in an opinion piece published Monday in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper. Ullenhag cites a report issued earlier in the year by the Forum for Living History (Forum för levande historia) which found there had been a dramatic increase in the number of racist websites in Sweden in recent years. While racism is hardly a new phenomenon, writes Ullenhag, racist myths and stereotypes have found a new foothold on the web, and must be addressed there. “Prejudice will be met with the facts that exist,” he writes. The new site, regeringen.se/tolerans, attempts to debunk a number of “common internet myths about immigrants and minorities”. “One always needs to engage in debates about xenophobia and prejudice,” writes Ullenhag, who also warns of the dangers of “the silence of forces for good”. Among the myths addressed on the website are claims that Sweden will soon be a Muslim country, that Swedes are on their way to becoming a minority in their own country, and that Swedish children are no longer allowed to eat pork in school. In announcing the launch of the new website, Ullenhag goes on to explain that a number of the myths addressed on the site have “even found their way into debates in the Riksdag”. “We can therefore see how internet prejudices can be found in the political debate,” writes Ullenhag.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

MEIN KAMPF TAGGED AS 'PERFECT CHRISTMAS PRESENT' BY WATERSTONE'S (uk)

Adolf Hitler's antisemitic manifesto included among Christmas picks by Huddersfield branch

23/12/2011- The UK's biggest book chain, Waterstone's, has apologised after one of its branches pushed Adolf Hitler's manifesto Mein Kampf as the "perfect" Christmas present. Amid the glossy hordes of titles by Jeremy Clarkson, Lee Evans and Jamie Oliver for sale this Christmas, the Huddersfield branch of Waterstone's used a festive sticker to describe Mein Kampf (My Struggle), the antisemitic diatribe written by Hitler in prison before he rose to power in 1933, as the "perfect present". A staff recommendation described it as "an essential read for anyone seeking to understand one of history's most despicable figures. A shocking read and a vital warning for future generations." According to the Jewish Chronicle, Waterstone's shops in Manchester, Liverpool and Cheshire were also pushing the book by displaying the front covers of multiple copies to shoppers. "When challenging one of the staff in Manchester's Deansgate branch, I was told that it was 'a Christmas bestseller which sold really well'. A dubious justification indeed for selling this hateful work," Jewish travelling salesman Jonathan Levine told the paper. "I would be most obliged if Waterstone's would explain what lies behind the apparent zeal on their part to promote this disgusting work." A spokesman for the bookseller told the Guardian that that the Huddersfield shop had "used an inappropriate point of sale" sticker on the book. "That has now been remedied and won't happen again, and we have apologised," said the spokesman. "Usually it is kept in with books on world war two or German history. One shop did put it in with politics which is not appropriate. We have dealt with that too."
© The Guardian

up  

ALARM OVER COVENTRY BNP LEAFLET CALLING FOR SCRAP METAL DONATIONS (uk)

22/12/2011- A British National Party leaflet calling on Coventry families to donate scrap metal has raised alarm. It follows a police clampdown on unlicensed dealers amid a surge in scrap metal thefts – from drain covers to lead in church roofs – for sale in a growing black market. Now far-right party has posted leaflets to Coventry homes calling for people to donate unwanted metal to its “Scrap Metal Free Zone” scheme – rather than leaving it for “rogue traders”. The leaflet states: “If you leave out scrap metal for these rogue traders you are only encouraging them. It is like leaving bread out for the birds and complaining when the rats move in.” But Coventry city councillors are considering calling in the police to investigate or monitor the scheme. Scrap metal merchants need to hold a waste carriers’ licence and be registered with a local authority. The leaflet states the party will collect metal, which would then be weighed by a registered waste operator. It continues: “All money raised will go to British charities only, such as ‘Help for Heroes’ and other similar good causes.”

But Councillor Ed Ruane (Lab, Henley) claimed the leaflet was unclear about exactly where the proceeds would go. He said: “One mother contacted me to say ‘Does the BNP really think people will be so stupid to take part in a scheme which is exploiting this issue for political gain?’” The leaflet from BNP Coventry branch states receipts will be kept and updates are available on request. It says a police clampdown had discovered rogue traders were using “dangerous un-roadworthy vehicles” and arrests had been made for benefits fraud and drugs possession, and continues: “Remember these are often the same criminals who are responsible for fly tipping etc. "However the surge in metal prices has also seen a rise in the depths some will stoop to get metals such as lead and brass.” Dozens of scrap wagons were stopped in Coventry during a recent police blitz on metal theft.

Officers visited scrap yards and conducted roadside checks alongside colleagues from the Environment Agency, BT, Western Power and councils. More than 25 motorists were handed fixed penalty notices for motoring offences, including vehicles not insured for carrying waste materials. Some vehicles were also seized. Mark Badrick, of Coventry BNP, said a party member conducting the scheme was a registered waste carrier, adding: “This is sour grapes from councillors because we’ve got in there first and devised a simple scheme using volunteers, after residents complained to us.”
© The Coventry Telegraph

up  

RACISM IN ENGLISH SOCCER BECOMES A CRIMINAL MATTER (uk)

22/12/2011- For the first time in the long history of English soccer, a player is being prosecuted over words spoken on the field.
Prosecutors said yesterday that John Terry, one of the country's best-known athletes, racially abused an opponent during an October match. Though the potential penalty — a $4,000 fine — is relatively small, the case throws soccer's decades-long struggle with racism onto a high-profile stage with deep ramifications for both the sport and Terry, who captains Chelsea and the English national team. England has largely eradicated the abuse against black players that blighted the game here in the 1970s and '80s, but recent incidents have raised questions about how far the Premier League has to go. On Tuesday, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez received an eight-match ban and 40,000-pound ($62,000) fine from England's Football Association for racially abusing a Manchester United player during another match in October.

The sport's international governing body has a mixed record on the issue. FIFA has launched anti-racism campaigns but its president, Sepp Blatter, set off a wave of outrage last month by claiming that racist abuse does not exist on the soccer field and suggesting that any incidents could be settled by a handshake at the end of a match. Prosecutors decided on yesterday to charge Terry after studying video of him apparently hurling abuse at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand toward the end of the Oct. 23 match, which was broadcast around the world. The video appears to show him yelling two obscenities and the word "black." Prosecutors declared that Terry had committed a "racially aggravated public order offense."

Ferdinand has not commented directly on the case, and the Football Association has yet to issue a ruling, saying it will wait for the police investigation to be completed. Police and prosecutors became involved after a member of the public made a complaint against the defender, having seen footage of his comments. "After careful consideration of all the evidence I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case," Alison Saunders, the chief crown prosecutor for London, said in a statement. Terry will have to appear at West London Magistrates' Court on Feb. 1 in a case that could threaten both his public image — worth millions in endorsements — and his international career. If he is found guilty, it will be difficult for him to represent England at next summer's European Championship — especially since he often partners with Ferdinand's brother Rio in central defense. Terry already lost the England captaincy once, ahead of the 2010 World Cup, after being embroiled in a sex scandal, but he regained the armband this year.

Anti-racism campaigners are hailing prosecutors' announcement and the FA's punishment of Suarez as evidence that new weapons are being deployed against racism in soccer. "It's a very important point in the history of campaigning against racism in football," said Herman Ouseley, chairman of the group Kick It Out. "People who are very cynical — and a lot of black footballers have been right up until I think yesterday — think it's a waste of time because the campaign hasn't stopped these things from happening. It goes on, it's quiet, it's subtle and nothing ever gets done. "It's quite important that (players) now feel a bit more confident that, although it has taken a while, due process with decisive action could well make a change." Suarez was found by an independent FA panel to have directed racist abuse at Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, who is black. However, unlike the Terry case, Suarez's abuse was not caught on camera and there has been no complaint to the police to trigger a criminal investigation. Liverpool players issued a statement yesterday saying they were "shocked and angered" by Suarez's punishment, and that they support their Uruguayan teammate. "We know he is not racist," they said.

England is far from alone in European soccer in having to combat discrimination. Most high-profile cases have involved abusive chants by fans against players, but there have been several on-field incidents as well. The French soccer league has opened an inquiry after claims from Morocco midfielder Kamel Chafni that an assistant referee racially insulted him during Auxerre's 1-0 defeat at Brest on Saturday. Bulgaria's national federation was fined euro40,000 (about $52,000) by UEFA after its fans directed racist abuse at England players during a Euro 2012 qualifying match in September. But Luis Aragones held onto his job as Spain coach in 2005 after making racist remarks about French striker Thierry Henry, landing a fine of just euro3,000 ($3,900). "I think the problem has never gone away — it's just become more subtle and less obvious," said Ouseley, a member of the House of Lords. "I think there is an awareness that more has to be done."

Ouseley pointed out that Poland and Ukraine, the co-hosts of Euro 2012, have also had problems with racism in the past, and that next summer's tournament will be a good indicator of whether they and other countries are taking the matter seriously. "We know from the reports we've had back (that) there are going to be problems there," Ouseley said. "They will make the right noises but will they do they right thing? Will they stop abuse?" Terry denies wrongdoing, though he doesn't deny saying the words after a verbal clash with Ferdinand. He said the words were taken out of context because he was repeating an accusation he felt had wrongly been made against him. "I have never aimed a racist remark at anyone and count people from all races and creeds among my closest friends," Terry said. "I will fight tooth and nail to prove my innocence."
© The Associated Press

up  

ESSEX: THE NUMBER OF PRIMARY SCHOOLS REPORTING RACIST ABUSE DOUBLES IN SEVEN YEARS (uk)

The number of Essex primary schools reporting racist abuse incidents has virtually doubled over the last seven years, it has been revealed.

19/12/2011- Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show 105 schools reported an instance of abuse in 2010/11, compared with 53 in 2003/4. Critics argue the increase is simply down to schools getting better at reporting incidents. Yet the number of both Essex secondary and infant schools reporting racist abuse dropped over the same period, from 49 to 45 and 15 to 12 respectively. Last year, the 105 primary schools reporting racial incidents recorded a total of 164 cases – which is an increase on the 139 reported in 2003/4. Figures peaked in 2009/10 when there were 164 incidents reported. Jean Quinn, of the north Essex National Union of Teachers, rejected the idea racism had gone up, arguing reporting had just got better. She said: “I’d say the number of schools who could get to grips with the legislation and feel confident of carrying it out has increased as time has gone on.”

Reporting racist incidents in schools was made a requirement by the Government following the fatal stabbing of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. Vibha Osbon, a development worker at Tendring and Colchester Minority Ethnic Partnership, was concerned by the figures and said the underlying problem could be even worse. She said: “We are concerned because people are not always reporting racist incidents – in some cases they might not even know how to report them.” She believes some incidents are classified wrongly, such as racism being reported as bullying instead. “I think we need better promotion of education and training for everyone, concerning how to recognise racism and report it.”

She continued: “The demographics have changed too – there’s more ethnic minorities in Colchester for example. Councillor Stephen Castle, cabinet member for education at Essex County Council, said: “We take racism very seriously and during the past year we have been holding race equality sessions with headteachers across the county. “These sessions have highlighted the need to act on issues of racism within our schools and encouraged a greater level of reporting, which is why we have seen an increase in the number of incidents. “We will continue to work with schools to ensure that such issues are reported effectively.”
© The East Anglian Daily Times

up  

HOSPITAL COMPENSATES ROMANI WOMAN FOR FORCED STERILISATION (Czech Rep.)

20/12/2011- Czech Romany woman Iveta Cervenakova has reached agreement with the Municipal Hospital in Ostrava on compensation for unwanted sterilisation she underwent in 1997, spokesman for the hospital Jiri Maler told CTK yesterday. Courts were dealing with Cervenakova's case for many years. Both sides agreed not to disclose the level of compensation, but it is probably half a million crowns that the regional court formerly awarded to Cervenakova. Cervenakova underwent sterilisation on July 9, 1997. She claimed she was not properly informed about the treatment and its consequences. She said she only signed agreement with a Caesarean on the operating table when she was being delivered of her second child. The first was also born by a Caesarean section. Cervenakova learnt that she cannot have any more children only seven years later when she wanted to have another child.

Courts were dealing with the case several years. The case eventually ended at the Supreme Court that decided in the middle of the year that the High Court in Olomouc did not look into whether the statute of limitation may be at variance with good morals. This is not the only case in the Czech Republic. The issue of Romany sterilisations has been discussed in the country since the autumn 2000 when the European Roma Rights Centre mentioned the suspicion of forced sterilisation of Romany women. European Romany activists said involuntary sterilisations were also carried out in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romany, but they claimed that the biggest number was in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia.
($1=19.399 crowns)
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

HAVEL'S MEMORY HONORED BY HUNDREDS IN THE CENTER OF PRAGUE (Czech Rep.)

19/12/2011- Hundreds of people came to Prague's Wenceslas Square on Sunday evening to honor the memory of former Czech President Václav Havel, who passed away earlier today. At 18:00, chapel and church bells were rung throughout the entire Czech Republic. People lit candles on Wenceslas Square at the foot of the statue of St. Wenceslas and laid bouquets there, mostly of red roses, as well as photographs and portraits of Havel, one of which was partially covered with black fabric. A black flag was also hung between the statues of the other saints in front of the mounted figure of St. Wenceslas. The participants in the mostly quiet gathering ranged from infants to senior citizens. A moment of silence was held.

Those assembled unfurled a Czech flag above them that was 20 meters long and 10 meters wide. One of the main songs of the Velvet Revolution ("Modlitba pro Martu" - "A Prayer for Marta") was then played from a sound system. Havel was the leading figure of the 1989 movement. Economist Tomáš Sedláček then gave a speech in which he noted that even though Havel had passed away, his motto - "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hate" - will remain immortal. Havel "drew people to him who did not want to reconcile themselves to a professionally cynical world," Sedláček said.

As the music played, many people spontaneously raised their fingers in the shape of the letter "V". Many had tears in their eyes. They then shook bunches of keys, as they had in November 1989, and chanted "Long live Havel". People then sang the Czech national anthem and another song from the Velvet Revolution, "Jednou budem dál" ("We Shall Overcome"). The weather this evening was similar to that of 22 years ago, with a light snowfall.

When the gathering was over, small groups of people set off down Národní třída for the Kampa Park. Some waited in line to light candles at the arcade on Národní, where the fall of the communist regime began with the brutal suppression of a student demonstration on 17 November 1989. A bonfire was lit in Havel's honor on the banks of the Vltava. The organizers also unfurled an enormous tarp there featuring Havel's signature with its characteristic heart. In Kampa Park, people lit candles in honor of the former president and sang songs with songwriter Vladimír Merta, including songs by Plastic People of the Universe. Speakers at the gathering included Pierre Lévy and the chair of the Ján Langoš Foundation, Gaba Langošová. "In Václav Havel we have lost a person who not only took his own life seriously, but also the lives of other people. We still do not have another politician like him," she said.

Traffic police closed off part of Wenceslas Square to vehicles when the gathering moved to Kampa Park, although some people remained behind at the statue of St. Wenceslas to keep lighting candles. Havel's texts and texts about the former president were read aloud there.
© Romea

up  

VÁCLAV HAVEL DIES AT 75 (Czech Rep.)

Václav Havel, the Communist-era dissident and playwright turned president and global human rights advocate, died Sunday morning

18/12/2011- Václav Havel, the first post-Communist president of both Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, known worldwide as a promoter of human rights, died on Sunday morning, likely due to complications from a recent bout of his chronic respiratory illness. Havel, who turned 75 in October, had been in a fragile state since checking in to the Central Military Hospital in Prague in early March, and was seldom seen in public in recent months, though he did appear with his old friend, the Dalai Lama, last Saturday. His wife, actress Dagmar Havlová, and a nun were at his bedside when he died at his country villa, Hrádeček, Czech public television reported. “Václav Havel became the symbol of the modern Czech state. He is honored for his brave fight against communist totalitarianism, as the leader of our Velvet Revolution and first president of our free country,” his successor, President Václav Klaus, said in a televised statement Sunday afternoon. “His character, name and work significantly helped the Czech Republic quickly integrate into the community of free and democratic nations.”

A former chain smoker until he had half of his right lung removed in 1996 due to a malignant tumor, Havel’s health had suffered during the years he spent in jail in the 1980s for his opposition to Communist rule. He underwent a colostomy in 1998 after his colon ruptured while on holiday in Austria. Havel was considered the father of the Charter 77 (Charta 77) civic movement that criticized the Czechoslovak government for failing to implement human rights provisions of the country’s Constitution, and a number of international treaties to which it was a signatory — including United Nations covenants on political, civil, economic, and cultural rights. The famously humble politician was more closely associated than any other Czech with the Velvet Revolution — the non-violent movement that began with a peaceful student demonstration in Prague on Nov. 17, 1989 and ended less than six weeks later in the end of the Communist government in Czechoslovakia. On his doctor’s recommendation, Havel did not attend this year’s state celebrations in the Czech capital marking the start of the Velvet Revolution, a state holiday known as “Freedom and Democracy Day.” This summer, fearing the worst was at hand, his wife canceled plans to attend the closing ceremony of the 46th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF).

Statesman, writer, humanitarian
Havel was the tenth and last president of Czechoslovakia (1989–92) and the first president of the independent Czech Republic (1993–2003) after its split with Slovakia (which he opposed). During his time at Prague Castle, the anti-communist his country joined NATO and began negotiations for membership in the European Union, which was attained in May 2004. In an interview with Karel Hvížďala (also included in Havel’s memoir To the Castle and Back), the former statesman said he felt his most important accomplishment as president was the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. After leaving office, he remained an outspoken advocate for human rights and democracy in Cuba, Russia, China and Belarus, in part through the Forum 2000 foundation, which he cofounded in 1996 with Japanese philanthropist Yohei Sasakawa and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel. As co-founder of the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation Vize 97, he has supported humanitarian, health and educational projects.

The Czech statesmen was also a respected writer, whose more than twenty plays and numerous non-fiction works were translated internationally. His articulation of “Post-Totalitarianism” (“Power of the Powerless”) — a term used to describe the modern social and political order that enabled people to “live within a lie,” as he put it — is often singled out as being especially noteworthy. Havel last year also directed his debut film “Leaving” (Odcházení) — he had wanted to study film at university but was banned from doing so. The theater of the absurd style film recounted the struggle of a former top statesman to come to terms with his departure from power, though he insisted it wasn’t autobiographical. Among his many honors, the human rights campaginer — whose motto was “Truth and love will win over lies and hatred” — received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the International Gandhi Peace Prize, and Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award for his work in promoting human rights.

Havel was also nominated many times for the Nobel Peace Prize and was awarded multiple honorary doctorates from various universities around the world. He was also voted 4th in Prospect magazine’s 2005 global poll of the world’s top 100 intellectuals. Now under construction, the Václav Havel Library, located in Prague’s Hradčany district, was established in 2007 to collect works from various stages of his life – dissident, playwright and as the last president of the former Czechoslovakia and first president of the Czech Republic. Havel, then 74, told reporters that the library should serve not to build his personal memorial but to create “an epicenter of spiritual, social and literary life in Prague.” Czech billionaire Zdeněk Bakala is funding the project, which was inspired by presidential libraries in the United States. “The Czechs can be quite cynical about their leaders, and their cynicism is oftentimes exploited in day-to-day politics because it facilitates the sort of mud-slinging that pervades Czech politics,” Bakala told Forbes magazine.

“The Library will attempt to portray President Havel and his time in a factual manner, free of the politically charged interpretations and reinterpretations of his deeds and thoughts that we witness today,” he said.
© Czech Position

up  

NEO-NAZI WEBSITE POSTS BLACK LIST, ROME TO INVESTIGATE NEO-NAZI GROUP (Italy)

20/12/2011- The neo-Nazi website Stormfront, the Italian offshoot of the organization led by the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, Don Black, has posted a list of politicians, judges and priests who look after immigrants. This initiative started with a member of the forum called Costantino saying, "We are accused of racism against immigrants, and that we hate them for no reason, but Italians too commit crimes. I want to prove that I do not hate foreigners, but that I hate some Italians much more. This is why I wish to open this debate and collect the names of Italians who commit crimes, who help immigrants and profit from this." The long list was drafted with help from other members of the on-line forum .

Rome to investigate neo-Nazi group
23/12/2011- Rome prosecutors opened an investigation Friday into a neo-Nazi group that allegedly compiled a blacklist of religious figures, politicians and journalists. The organization, called Stormfront, is described as a branch of the international body founded by Don Black, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, Italian news agency ANSA reported. The blacklist created by Stormfront reportedly includes the Bishop of Turin Monsignor Cesare Nosiglia; Riccardo Pacifici, the president of the Jewish Community in Rome; Adel Smith, the president of the Muslim Union of Italy, and journalists Gad Lerner and Maurizio Costanzo. The daily La Repubblica reported those on the list have been targeted because of their support for immigrants.
United Press International
© AGI News

up  

SOLIDARITY DISSOLVES TENSION AFTER MURDER OF TWO AFRICANS (Italy)

18/12/2011- It could have triggered a violent reaction, like the riots in London earlier this year, or in the Parisian suburbs in 2005, where the violent death of two immigrant youths sparked a riot that put the city on fire. But that is not how the murder of two Senegalese men in Florence, at the hands of a right-wing extremist, played out. Instead, the city’s immediate response was of solidarity toward the victims and their compatriots, which had the effect of calming angers and creating a climate of reflection and dialogue. On Dec. 13, Gianluca Casseri, 50, a man linked to the extreme right, killed two men from Senegal— Samb Modou, 40, and Diop Mor, 54—and injured another three in two different parts of the city, before killing himself. News of the event quickly spread and local Senegalese came together in a spontaneous demonstration in the city center. Overcome with emotions of anger and disbelief, the mood was initially tense. But reaction from the people of Florence channeled energies in a different direction.

The mayor called a press conference, condemning the attack on behalf of the entire city and declared a day of mourning for the following day. Flags flew at half-mast, market stalls in San Lorenzo and Dalmatia squares, where the attacks took place, shut down and shopkeepers hung signs reading “No to racism! Closed in solidarity with the victims of racism.” And the squares filled with flowers to make a statement that Florence is not a racist city. Local and national authorities made statements condemning the racist acts. “A xenophobic killer not only destroyed lives, but it has sown despair not only in the Senegal community but in all the Florentine one,” Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi told reporters. The strong show of support surprised the entire immigrant community. “We really calmed down,” Nasira from Mali, who was just steps away when the men were killed, told The Epoch Times. “Because we saw Florence people cry for us, come out to help us calm down, and then express their solidarity, this has given us incredible pleasure.”

The Senegalese community also convened a rally and a parade, on Saturday to remember the victims and to make suggestions for the future. One banner leading the parade read, “The fate of humanity is brotherhood.” Organizers had expected 3,000 participants, but 12,000 came from all over Italy. Italians and immigrants of all nationalities marched together. “One can always express the pain in a calm way,” said Pape Diaw, representative of the Senegalese community in Florence. “You cannot reply to something so cruel with a violent action. Florence has given an extraordinary response. This is the Florence that we know well.” The events in Florence are not isolated cases of violence against immigrants in Italy. Just a few weeks ago, a nomadic camp was set on fire in Turin. The issue of immigration and integration are at the center of political debate and are hot and controversial issues that divide public opinion in the country.

Even in Florence itself, which in the past has shown itself to be tolerant and welcoming to immigrants, in recent years there have been moments of tension between the Senegalese community, that has grown enormously over the past 20 years, and far-right groups such as Casa Pound, which the Florence killer belonged to. Yet this episode, so violent and unexpected, is being seen as an opportunity to tackle the problem seriously. “From this day we want to open a very deep thinking in the country,” Diaw told The Epoch Times at the Dec. 17 rally. “We have to start a process of peace between us. [A process] where the values of human beings are in the center: to die in 2011 because of the color of skin has shaken the conscience. That’s where we have to start, without demagoguery or many speeches, but trying to work together for dialogue, coexistence and integration.”

The tone was similar from other participants in the parade, who expressed awareness of the situation and the expectation of a better future. “I think that every day they [immigrants] experience this country’s hospitality, and at the same time the difficulties,” said one Florentine woman who took part in the parade. “I hope that from this event today they will feel particular solidarity, the sharing of the pain, but also a true, strong commitment to build a new Italy, which won’t be possible if we are not able to build it with them,” she added.
© The Epoch Times

up  

THOUSANDS MARCH IN FLORENCE AFTER RACIST SHOOTINGS (Italy)

17/12/2011- Thousands marched against racism in Florence on Saturday after a far-right activist killed two Senegalese vendors in a shooting spree that shocked Italy and ignited a row over immigration. "We want today to be the dawn of a new hope so that our brothers did not die in vain," said Pape Diaw, a spokesman for the Senegalese community. "We really have to work for peaceful coexistence and respect of people but it has to be a real struggle, not just a facade," he told reporters. Around 10,000 people took part in the demonstration, according to police, while organisers put the number at some 12,000. Participants carried Senegalese flags and placards including one that read: "Racism? Not in my name." "Our brothers were martyred. Obviously not martyrs of war but martyrs since they were killed while they were working for their daily bread," Florence imam Izzedin Elzir told the crowd in the historic Santa Maria Novella square.

The city is still reeling after Gianluca Casseri, a Holocaust denier and author of fantasy novels, went on the rampage on Tuesday with a Magnum revolver at two local markets including the tourist-heavy San Lorenzo in the centre. Two Senegalese street vendors were killed and another three wounded before the 50-year-old killed himself when police began closing in on him. Senegalese authorities have called for a full inquiry into the killings. Dozens of Senegalese immigrants and white Florence residents gathered ahead of the protest at the Dalmazia Square market where the spree began, reading passages from the Koran and leaving flowers and messages at a street shrine. A large makeshift sign at the square in honour of the two victims -- Samb Modou, 40, and Diop Mor, 54 -- read simply "Modou and Mor: Two of Us." After a Muslim rite on Monday, their bodies will be flown back to Senegal the following day.

"There needs to be a strong commitment against racism by everyone and we need to put in place an immigration policy in line with our constitution," said Vannino Chiti, a senator from the centre-left Democratic Party. Chiti, one of several left-wingers at the protest, said Italian law should be changed before the next elections to allow the children of immigrants to obtain citizenship -- echoing a demand made by President Giorgio Napolitano. Several members of the Senegalese community have also called for the immediate closure of Casa Pound, a national right-wing social group that Casseri belonged to but which has been quick to denounce the violence. Claudio Morganti, a lawmaker from the anti-immigration Northern League party, said the protest had been "ruined by left-wing politicians who have manipulated it and made it part of their political propaganda." "The Senegalese have to understand that whoever comes here has to respect the rules and respect the people who are hosting them," he said.

There were several smaller marches in other major Italian cities too. At one in Milan, some immigrants shouted "Racists!" and "Murderers!" at police officers. Bologna, Genoa, Naples, Padua also saw protests. Many street vendors in Italian cities, who sell everything from African sculptures to tourist trinkets to fake designer accessories, are Senegalese. Their makeshift stalls are popular but they are often selling without official licences and are forced to run off whenever police approach. In an interview on Saturday, International Cooperation and Integration Minister Andrea Riccardi warned attacks like the one in Florence and an arson attack on a Roma camp in Turin last Saturday were "a warning bell".

"We can't dismiss these as one-off events. They are a risk for the integration and the solidarity of our country. And they show that the crisis is not just economic but much deeper," he told La Stampa daily. Responding to criticism from the Northern League, Riccardi -- the founder of the pro-integration Catholic community group Sant'Egidio -- was scathing. "Contempt has been preached for too long, ethnic minority groups have been spoken about harshly for too long. "There has to be security for all Italians, for all immigrants and for all those who work in Italy. This is the first thing I told the Senegalese community in Florence: 'There needs to be security for you too.'"
© AFP

up  

WHY DID ANTWERP’S IMMIGRANT GHETTO GET SO BAD? (Belgium)

By Doug Saunders

17/12/2011- It is an early Saturday evening on Handelstraat, a busy and somewhat dishevelled boulevard in the north of this historic Belgian port city, its sidewalks lined with outdoor cafés and tea shops, fish restaurants, butchers and bakeries, all of them buzzing with customers. It's a typical European street scene, except that most of the people have olive-coloured skin, many women sport head scarves and the throaty sounds of Arabic and Turkish mix with brusque Flemish. Suddenly there is violence: Chairs are flying, punches are being thrown and people are surrounding a young man who is accused of selling hashish, pummelling him and pushing him away. Spilled tea pools on the sidewalk, and mothers drag their children away. As the street calms and the crowd dissolves, I approach the overturned tables and start asking questions. A teenager wearing a shalwar kameez approaches me. His name is Jamal, he says, and his family owns one of the cafés. “Look,” he says in good English, “I know this looks really bad to you. But trust me, this is good for us. It means we're taking back our street.”

I have not come to this dense 19th-century neighbourhood at random. Few people do: While it is a five-minute walk north of Antwerp's diamond district and central train station, and is quite a lively shopping destination for Muslims from neighbouring countries, this dense cluster of streets, known across Belgium by its postal code 2060, is rarely visited by middle-class, white Europeans. It is a Moroccan-dominated immigrant district, a place one leaves but rarely enters. I have come in an effort to solve a European puzzle. Earlier this year, I met the mayor of Antwerp, a youthful and optimistic politician named Patrick Janssens, who was familiar with my writings on poor immigrant neighbourhoods in many countries. He wanted me to spend a few days inside the 2060, to watch it with a fresh set of eyes, see what makes it tick and try to find the roots of its malaise. In exchange, he would give me access to the city's information and employees, allowing me to speak to scores of families, including the deprived, who are usually inaccessible to outsiders. It was a unique opportunity to peer deep inside a place that is at the explosive intersection of Europe's simultaneous demographic and economic crises.

“We really don't know how to talk about the 2060,” Mr. Janssens says. “We only know it as a set of problems, not as a place with a story.” Europe's new immigrant neighbourhoods – such as Tingbjerg in Copenhagen, Slotervaart in Amsterdam and Kreuzberg and Wedding in Berlin – have become flashpoints of conflict this year, as they face the dual challenge of devastating youth-unemployment rates and outside threats in the form of new far-right, anti-immigrant movements that have spread quickly, targeting these districts as hotbeds of alien religion and anti-European thought. The economic crisis has left many of the newest Europeans trapped – in many cases, in neighbourhoods like the 2060. The severe labour shortages of the 20-year boom that began in the 1990s attracted millions of immigrants, many from poor places. But many European countries never bothered to give them full citizenship, and pretended they were “temporary” workers (an approach that never works) or simply ignored them. Now, at the worst possible moment, their children are in trouble.

Ghetto, or parallel society?
This Antwerp neighbourhood is at the centre of the new tension. So far this year, there have been four riots or major street fights in the 2060 involving young men of Moroccan or Turkish ancestry, the most recent a knife-wielding clash between Kurdish and Anatolian Turks in early November. Reports of drug crime have also been on the rise. The large and powerful far-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) party has targeted the troubles in the 2060 as evidence of their belief that Muslims can't or won't be assimilated into European society and are instead creating isolated “parallel societies.” Conversely, some on the left claim that the racism of such parties is forcing migrants into ghettoes. Neither theory, once you're inside the neighbourhood, quite fits the reality.

A decade ago, many of the second-generation immigrants of the 2060 were becoming successful Europeans, a new immigrant-offspring middle class visible in business, politics and the media. All evidence suggests that the current residents very much want to become full-fledged Belgians, albeit with different religions and sometimes skin colours: A survey this year by the Soros Foundation found that a strong majority of Muslim immigrants and their descendents in Antwerp – almost 70 per cent – said that they identified themselves as Belgian first, a better rate than among many other immigrant communities. For politicians such as Mr. Janssens, the failures of places like the 2060 are a frustration and an embarrassment, as well as a policy challenge. If some migrant enclaves, like many in France or Germany, are ignored and neglected by their governments, the 2060 is doted upon.It is the subject of scores of important interventions and projects.

There are new parks, community centres and libraries; an impressive public-transit system; a robust adult-education program; and even a city-run temporary slaughterhouse to allow Muslims to sacrifice sheep on the first day of Eid in sanitary conditions. (This year, they offered a “humane” option, in which the sheep could be anesthetized first, for those devout Muslims who also happen to be animal-rights proponents.) “We are really determined to make this a successful neighbourhood,” Mr. Janssens says. “But this is proving to be a challenge in these economic conditions.”

An escape from nowhere
As an outsider, my first response to the 2060 is to wonder what the big deal is. A few minutes' walk north of the diamond district, the geometry of the streets becomes tighter, the scene a mix of thriving commerce and tight-packed houses, many of them tile-fronted 19th-century row houses not unlike those you would see around the canals of Amsterdam or the Hague. Some streets are verdant and pleasant; others have uglier, public-housing apartments. But this is hardly the isolated, tower-block wasteland I have seen in Paris or Glasgow. Still, it is very much an immigrant landing pad – what I've elsewhere called an arrival city. Half the people living here were born in a foreign country outside the European Union, and in the densest blocks of the 2060, a third of the population is Turkish or Moroccan.

A majority of these people come from rural villages: The Moroccans are mainly from the Rif Mountains, the Turks from the villages of Anatolia and the southeast, and even the Poles (the largest current group of immigrants) are mainly from the rural villages of Silesia and the southwest. This is a very typical European mix – indeed, it is similar to the rural-born mix that flooded Canada's immigrant neighbourhoods after the Second World War, raising similar fears of giant immigrant families and alien beliefs swamping the population.

Jamal Elboujddaini came here as an infant in the 1970s. He was born in “the middle of nowhere,” a remote village in northern Morocco, where his family were subsistence farmers and life was often desperate. His father joined thousands of other Arab men in boarding ships to Western Europe to fill the labour shortages of the late 1960s and early 1970s. His father had expected to stay a couple of years, save some money and go home. But it rarely works out that way: His industrial employers, having invested in training, wanted to keep him on, and other migrant Arabs became his social network. In 1974, he brought his family over, including the newborn Jamal.

The 2060 was, in many respects, ideal. The houses may look small and tightly packed to middle-class Antwerp residents, but to a North African they are spacious and dignified, offer quick access to the street – and are cheap enough that a few years' savings made it possible to buy one. With a little more money, often borrowed from fellow immigrants, you could start a small shop. Everyone sent money back to the villages and helped neighbours and relatives make the move.

Mr. Elboujddaini started school as one of a small cluster of Moroccans in a largely Belgian classroom. By the time he was in his final year of secondary school, he was the only Moroccan boy – the others had dropped out, with the school's encouragement. “Ninety per cent of these immigrants, they are not educated at all in their home country – not even in their own language,” Mr. Elboujddaini says. “My father never had any idea about my school, my friends – he had no way of knowing what I was doing outside the house. I was the one who translated the documents to buy the house. It was just luck and coincidence that I made it.” Through cleverness and perseverance, he was able to join his Belgian-born classmates in university, and eventually wound up in education.

It's not hard to find other second-generation Turks and Moroccans of his generation who became successful, but almost all have moved out of the 2060. Mr. Elboujddaini is a rare exception, but he still sends his children to a school in a more prosperous postal district. This became the pattern: Europe's immigrant neighbourhoods can provide an excellent bottom rung on the ladder, but the second and third rungs are broken or missing, so those who succeed go elsewhere, and those who fail stay behind. I met a new wave of villagers from Turkey, Poland and Morocco, often renting the houses owned by people like Mr. Elboujddaini. They weren't having an easy time.

Hasan Touzani, 36, came here eight years ago, worked at a series of odd jobs, mainly in shops selling knockoff brand-name clothing, and has five children, aged 8 to 18. Mr. Touzani very much wants them to become good Belgians, but has no idea how. Like many Moroccan villagers, he speaks only a very rough Arabic – never mind French or Flemish. He fears that his kids don't have any positive influences, and tries to keep them inside. “We are very afraid of drugs and crime,” he says, “and we are constantly looking for activities to keep the children off the street. I am stuck in the 2060 because of my language – but if I had the choice, I'd live in a different neighbourhood to give my children a proper education.” The toxic combination of the economy, hostile politics and abandonment by the more successful has turned this neighbourhood into something of a trap. It has created a lost generation of teens and young men who seem to have nothing to do but hang out on Handelstraat and get into trouble.

“I think the young people, when they make some money, they leave,” says Karim Barhdadi, another educated, successful Moroccan I met. “The older people, first generation, they will stay and improve their houses. But most of the people I knew when I was in secondary school, I don't see them around any more. … If you want your children to progress, you have to get them out.”

More than the sum of its stats
A frequent error in looking at a neighbourhood like the 2060 is to treat it as a set of fixed statistics: Its population density is five times higher than the city average; its population is much younger; its poverty rate, 15 to 20 per cent, is 60 per cent higher; three times as many people, or 6 per cent of residents, are dependent on government benefits. Chronic joblessness is very high: Among people 18 to 64, almost half are long-term unemployed, and there is fear that the economic crisis will return that rate to an alarming 61 per cent, where it stood a little less than a decade ago. But that disguises what actually happens here: Past immigrants move out and new immigrants move in. In the core of the 2060, almost a quarter of the population leaves every year. Of the people who moved to this district in 2004 and didn't return to their home countries, an extraordinary 63 per cent had moved to other postal zones by 2010.

The downside is that, for many poor villagers who have arrived in Europe in the past 10 years, their only encounters have been with other poor villagers. That wasn't the pattern before. Part of this is rooted in Europe's web of immigration policies, which are both too open and too restrictive. There are a great many unaccompanied, single, immigrant men moving around the European Union, largely either economic migrants or refugee claimants whom the system will neither deport nor make citizens. As well, most countries have tightened up their family-reunification policies, making it much harder for those single guys to become part of families (which, by every measure, are better for integration).

Some of the violence in the 2060, like the incident I witnessed, is simply established immigrant families fighting back against the criminal activities that sustain these young men, who are seen as alien outsiders. But I also saw a lot of things that are blocking the path to integration. Most of the neighbourhood's institutions are imported: Almost no teachers or police have made it up from the streets. Belgian police and other officials become frustrated with the workload and try to transfer out. Few are devoted to fixing the district. “When you work with those few officers who do come from around here, they know everything,” says Jan Michiels, a senior police officer in the 2060. “They know who to follow. They know how to see things, and how to control the situation. We need more people like that. I believe that when they can give me 50 or 60 people from around this neighbourhood, we can clean up the neighbourhood.”

Moroccan and Turkish neighbourhoods in places like Amsterdam have had success with locally cultivated security forces. Underlying it all is the central problem of education: Schools in immigrant neighbourhoods are often the worst, attracting the least ambitious teachers, in what becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of failure. School officials are inclined by reflex to place immigrant students, especially boys, in the lowest educational streams. Only 8 per cent of Belgian Muslims are placed into the university-bound stream – and as many as 70 per cent of those are girls. As many as 85 per cent go into the technical steam. And 20 to 25 per cent of minority students are leaving school without a degree.

“My concern,” says Mariete Smeyers of School in Zicht (School in Sight), a group that tries to attract parents back to the schools of the 2060, “is that in these neighbourhoods are a lot of migrants who are coming here with high expectations – they want to give their children every opportunity possible. And then they are in this place where these poor Moroccan families are the example. And after five years, they lose a lot of ambition.” Teachers leave because they have no idea how to work with unengaged parents, while engaged parents move away in search of higher standards. “It's a pity we can't keep these families in the neighbourhood, because they would serve as examples,” Ms. Smeyers says. “Instead, the one-income family dependent on welfare has become the norm. “The ambition of this group is living on the edge of poverty. That's enough for them.”

Black flight and white flight
The core problem is the social mix. The quiet secret of the 2060 is that it has historically served as a fairly successful machine for social and economic integration. But “black flight,” as Belgians call the departure of successful immigrants, combined with the “white flight” of ethnic Belgians, has hollowed out the lower middle class of the 2060. There has been good reason to expect this to improve. The attractive 19th-century houses of the 2060, especially around the new parks, are becoming desirable properties for middle-class Belgian couples to renovate; those streets are becoming filled with coffee shops and boutiques, a nice mix of yuppies and lower-middle-class immigrant families. Of course, none of them send their kids to school here, but the rising property values help North African homeowners too.

“This is a good neighbourhood. The houses are nice, the customers are nearby, there are a lot of people here who want to be successful, who are starting small businesses,” says Husiyan Aslan, a businessman who came here from Turkey in the 1970s and whose industrial success has helped finance an unusually successful primary school here. “But there are just too many things making people want to move out when they become successful, and those who are left behind need a lot of help. The image of the 2060 is preventing us from attracting customers, and it should be easy to change.”

After several days here, watching the mix of immigrant commerce and rough-and-tumble conflict, I was reminded of the East London districts of Whitechapel and Spitalfields, when I first lived there in the 1980s. Those 19th-century immigrant blocks were regarded as the country's most dangerous places, with near-weekly street battles between skinheads and Muslim gangs, religious extremism among local Bangladeshis, and drugs and crime. They were places I avoided at night. Today, that area of London remains an immigrant neighbourhood, but it's the place to be for artists, restaurateurs, technology entrepreneurs and especially members of the new Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrant middle class. This transformation was the product of economic growth, but also of careful government programs. I had a vision of the 2060, in two decades, turned into a Flemish Spitalfields: People would get off the train at Antwerp's spectacular central station and head a few blocks north, into the labyrinthine streets of Handelstraat, to have a good time.

Prescription for transformation
That is almost certainly the 2060's future. But meanwhile, what is standing in the way? I told the mayor that three things seem to be missing:
First, a way to turn its thousands of tiny immigrant-owned businesses into medium-sized businesses – by attracting consumers northward from the diamond district, by eliminating the typically strict Belgium business regulations, by creating symbolic landmarks to lure pedestrians and by making Handelstraat less like a planned shopping street and more like a Moroccan souk.
Second, a top-quality secondary school, one that is not just up to the standards of the city's middle-class neighbourhoods (which is a distant enough ambition) but far better. It would be something like Britain's “academy” schools, which are funded directly by the national government in order to turn around troubled neighbourhoods. In other words, the 2060 needs a model institution that will not just bring children back, but make middle-class families from outside compete to get in
And third, more yuppies: By demolishing the pockets of dismal high-rise public housing, Antwerp could create mixed-income developments that would include condominiums, loft apartments and artists' spaces (sales would finance the redevelopments).

This diversity would recreate the social mix that has made North America's immigrant neighbourhoods (New York's Lower East Side, Toronto's Spadina Ave.) so successful. This mix of incomes, occupations and educational aspirations tends to inspire people, and turn troubled places into upward-mobility success stories – as long as there's economic growth. There's no growth at the moment – certainly not in Belgium, one of the harder-hit countries in the euro crisis. Once growth returns, if other immigrant-driven countries are any model, it will be these new Europeans who lead the way. But in the meantime, there's a simmering political force that sees them as nothing but a threat: A deeper economic crisis could turn the pressure on Handelstraat into something far darker. Here, at the bottom of the continent's melting pot, it is going to be a difficult decade.

Doug Saunders is a member of The Globe and Mail's European bureau and is the author of Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World.
© The Globe and Mail

up  

SERBS TOP ASYLUM SEEKERS IN GERMANY

More Serbs seek asylum in Germany than anybody else Serbia topped the list of people seeking asylum in Germany, the country’s Interior Ministry has said. 

23/12/2011- The numbers of Serbs seeking asylum in that country is increasing, from 286 requests in September 2011, to 620 in October and 904 in November. In all three months, Serbia was ranked first by the number of requests for asylum in Germany. A total of 4,825 requests were filed in November. Afghanistan and Iraq were second and third, with 624 and 507 requests respectively. Kosovo, which is included in the statistics of another ministry, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, is ranked tenth. There were 133 asylum requests in November from residents of Kosovo. According to a report from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, Serbia was the top country of origin for asylum seekers in 2010 in the world, sending more applicants to the industrialized world than Afghanistan and Iraq. Serbia was responsible for 28,900 applications, or eight per cent of the global total, and moved up the rankings from 2009, when it ranked sixth. The number of asylum applications in 2010 was similar to 2001, soon after the Kosovo conflict. The last time Serbia was at the top of the list was in 2005, when close to 25,000 citizens sought asylum in the industrialized world.
© Balkan Insight

up  

ANTI-FASCISTS BRICK UP NEO-NAZI POLITICIAN'S FRONT DOOR (Germany)

Anti-fascists in Lower Saxony bricked up the front door of a top member of the extreme-right National Democratic Party's (NPD) home to protest against his presence at a city council meeting on Monday.

20/12/2011- The front door was neatly walled in overnight, and sealed with a poster reading, “House arrest for Nazis.” An antifascist spokeswoman said the action was a symbolic attempt to stop him leaving the house. Police were called to the house in Oldenburg where Ulrich Eigenfeld, treasurer of the NPD, lives, after other people living there opened the front door and found their exit blocked. “The line is crossed for us when they leave the house with their misanthropic thinking,” said a spokeswoman for the group in an email, according to the Oldenburger Lokalteil website. She said that although anti-fascists were against walls in society, naming nationalism, racism, sexism and the class system as examples, this was a different case. “We say – tear down walls! But for Nazis we make an exception,” she said. Eigenfeld made it to the meeting of the Oldenburg council, but his speech was disrupted by a group of around 50 protesters who shouted while he tried to talk, and held up banners against the NPD, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Tuesday. So many Social Democrat and Green politicians left the meeting in protest at his presence, that it could not be continued, the paper said.
© The Local - Germany

up  

GERMANY TO RAZE NEO-NAZI KILLERS' HOME TO AVOID BECOMING SHRINE

19/12/2011- The home of a trio of neo-Nazis believed to have killed nine immigrants and a policewoman will be razed at public expense, civic authorities in the eastern German city of Zwickau said Monday. The city council want to cleanse all traces of the gang to thwart ghoulish tourists and neo-Nazis who have so far gathered at the site in a leafy affluent suburb where the trio rented the apartment using false names. Beate Zschaepe, the sole survivor after two men in the gang killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact, is in custody on charges of starting an explosion and fire that gutted the 120-square-metre, first-storey apartment on November 4. The private landlord later had the roof and entire upper storey removed, preliminary to restoring the building. Zwickau protested that the block would still be recognizable due to extensive media coverage.

It entered a contract last week to purchase the site from the landlord and will demolish and remove the entire building in the new year, said city council spokesman Mathias Merz. German neo-Nazis habitually make pilgrimage-style visits to homes or graves they associate with the rule of the Third Reich. The trio - Zscaepe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt - are believed to have lived for three years in number 26, Fruehlingsstrasse, Zwickau, posing as law-abiding citizens and occasionally dining in a Greek-cuisine restaurant at street level in the building. Between 2000 and 2006, the racist gang is believed to have roamed Germany, shooting dead eight Turkish and one Greek shopkeeper in attacks which baffled police. A policewoman was also killed, in 2007.
© DPA

up  

Neo-Nazi Terror Investigation: INTELLIGENCE AGENCY REPORTEDLY SABOTAGED POLICE (Germany)

The police investigation of what is now known as the Zwickau neo-Nazi terror cell was likely hindered by domestic intelligence sabotage, a media report said on Monday. Intelligence agents in the state of Thuringia allegedly disrupted and betrayed police surveillance to those under observation. 

16/12/2011- The Zwickau neo-Nazi trio of Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt went underground in 1998. Police tried to find them, but new information indicates that state intelligence agents sabotaged their efforts. Unnamed security officials told daily Berliner Zeitung that the domestic intelligence agency in the state of Thuringia told neo-Nazi leader Tino Brandt about police surveillance of his activities. At the time, Brandt was an active informant for the intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Brandt was also told that the Thuringia police had rented an apartment near his Rudolstadt house, the paper reported. The neo-Nazi leader's contacts described which vehicles were being used by the police observation team. Things went so far that at one point intelligence agents in cars were following the police observation team's cars, which were following Brandt, the paper said.

The latest details in the case -- already plagued with tales of police and intelligence errors -- come after daily Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday that the intelligence agency had given Brandt some 2,000 deutsche marks to help the terrorist cell to acquire new passports. Though agents also arranged a middleman, the money never reached the trio, who are now believed to have formed a group called the National Socialist Underground (NSU) and were allegedly responsible for at least 10 murders over seven years, including nine men of Turkish and Greek origin and a police officer. The case, which came to light in early November after Mundlos shot Böhnhardt and himself in a camping vehicle in Eisenach following a botched bank robbery, has shocked Germany and sparked a new debate over whether the country is doing enough to stop the activities of neo-Nazis. It has also led to renewed calls to ban the NPD.

Suspect Refusing to Talk
Another report from daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on Sunday cited a former unnamed intelligence agency informant saying that he had been told to buy at least four copies of a board game created by the Zwickau cell called "Pogromly." The "tasteless" game was a neo-Nazi themed version of Monopoly, reportedly produced and sold by the group to support their underground activities. Meanwhile prosecutors may have trouble charging the only surviving member of the Zwickau cell, Beate Zschäpe, with murder, complicity in murder or belonging to a terrorist group, daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday. According to high-level sources within the German interior ministry, they may only be able to accuse her of arson for burning the group's apartment before turning herself in after her alleged accomplices were found dead. Zschäpe has refused to tell officials about her involvement in the group. She is expected to remain silent, giving law enforcement officials no way to prove her involvement in the far-right group's allegedly murderous activities, or that the NSU was indeed a terrorist organization, the paper said. Federal Public Prosecutor General Harald Range has already said in interviews that he will not invoke a rule that could mitigate Zschäpe's sentence in exchange for her testimony. The crimes of which she is accused are too serious, he said.
© The Spiegel

up  

Headlines 16 December, 2011

HERE'S HOW HUNGARY'S FAR-RIGHT IS SLOWLY TAKING OVER THE COUNTRY'S CULTURE

16/12/2011- As the far-right gathers more support in Hungary, permeating the country's politics, Der Spiegel reports that other aspects of everyday life are being penetrated. In particular, the appointment of György Dörner and István Csurka as directors of the country's respected New Theatre has some worrying that Hungarian culture is being dictated by the far right. Despite opposition to the pair from senior officials, the mayor of Budapest put the two in charge of the theatre.

So are the pair suitable directors? Der Spiegel writes:
"As great a poet as he is, Csurka is an even greater lunatic. He is convinced that the Zionists are planning to establish a second Jewish homeland in Hungary.
It was simply inconceivable that Dörner could succeed with his application in the middle of Europe and in an EU country. An eight-member panel of experts reviewed his application. Six of them, all theater professionals, recommended tossing it into the wastebasket immediately. The two others -- the envoy from the Culture Ministry and a representative of the City of Budapest -- abstained. Nevertheless, the mayor chose Dörner. Why? There are rumors that he received a recommendation from higher up the political ladder and, in fact, that the order to hire Dörner and Csurka came from the very top.
"
© The Business Insider

up  

BULGARIAN FAR-RIGHT ATAKA LEADER SIDEROV TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED FROM PARLIAMENT

16/12/2011- Volen Siderov, leader of Bulgaria’s ultra-nationalist Ataka party, has been banned from Parliament for three sittings after being at the centre of an uproar in the House on December 16 over the May incident at a Sofia mosque in which his supporters clashed with Muslims during Friday prayers. The incident began when Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov was answering a question about the mosque incident, which saw street tussles outside the Muslim house of worship after Ataka supporters protested about loudspeakers broadcasting the call to prayer and Muslims - who lack sufficient space inside the historic mosque - praying outside in the street. Tsvetanov was defending the actions taken by the police and giving details about who had been arrested, when Siderov repeatedly interrupted him from his seat. As Siderov continued heckling, Deputy Speaker Atanas Atanasov ordered him to leave the House and ordered the sitting suspended for 20 minutes. When business resumed, with Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva presiding, Siderov resumed shouting. After Tsacheva ordered him to behave properly and declined to allow him to speak, he accused her of censorship and shouted that before 1990, she had been a member of the Communist Party. Siderov came up to the podium but Tsacheva switched off the microphone. Tsacheva ordered Siderov to be banned from sittings of Parliament for the maximum permissible period and suspended business for a further 10 minutes.

Bulgarian media quoted Siderov as telling journalists in the lobby that Tsvetanov’s account of the May events at the mosque was without foundation. The Ataka leader accused police of double standards for not arresting a knife-wielding man who, Siderov said, had been threatening the public and the police. It was the May mosque incident that led to Siderov and Ataka breaking with Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s ruling party GERB. Until then, Ataka – which first won seats in Parliament in 2005 and returned in 2009 – had supported the GERB Government that came into office in 2009. Relations deteriorated steadily and plummeted during the October 2011 presidential elections, where Siderov was soundly defeated while his party took a drubbing in the simultaneous municipal elections. Ataka was among minority parties that joined in a failed attempt to have the elections overturned by the Constitutional Court. After the 2011 elections, Siderov reiterated that his party would no longer back the GERB Government. Soon after, a number of MPs quit Ataka, citing policy differences over the Budget and other issues, while Siderov himself was caught up in a political drama widely seen as linked to his marital troubles, when his stepson called on Siderov to step down as leader after the party’s abysmal election performance.
© The Sofia Echo

up  

ITALIAN AUTHORITIES URGED TO INVESTIGATE DESTRUCTION OF ROMA CAMP

15/12/2011- The European Roma Rights Centre, the Federazione Romanì and the Idea Rom Onlus sent a letter of concern today calling on Italian authorities to investigate violent incidents that destroyed a Roma camp in Turin last weekend. Hundreds of people marched to the informal Roma camp at Via Continassa, and started setting fire to shacks, caravans and cars. The attack was apparently sparked by a rape allegation against two Romani men. The individual who made the accusation later reportedly retracted her accusation. The whole camp was destroyed, including the homes and property of the 46 Romani individuals living there. Eyewitnesses also reported that a flyer was posted before the attack, calling on residents to ‘clean up’ the area of Roma. Local media and eyewitnesses confirmed that a public official, the president of the fifth district, was present at a demonstration that preceded the violence.

The incident is part of an ongoing pattern of attacks against Roma in Italy, exacerbated by a culture of impunity for hate speech by public officials. Violent actions against Roma may be fuelled and legitimised by the increasingly hostile and biased language adopted by local politicians and the mass media. The ongoing precarious housing situation for Roma is also a matter of concern, as camps are vulnerable to attack. The ERRC, the Federazione Romanì and the Idea Rom Onlus are calling on Italian police and prosecutors to investigate all crimes committed, promptly and impartially, and to ensure that racial motivation is considered.

The full text of the letter
© The European Roma Rights Centre

up  

ITALIAN GIRL'S RAPE CLAIM SPARKS ARSON ATTACK ON GYPSY CAMP

Sixteen-year-old confesses she made up story that prompted mob to torch camp in Turin district

11/12/2011- A 16-year-old Italian girl whose claim that she was raped by Gypsies prompted a furious mob to launch an arson attack on a Turin Roma camp has admitted to police that she invented her story. Hundreds of residents of the deprived Turin suburb of Vallette took to the streets on Saturday to protest after the girl, who has not been named, claimed she had been dragged behind a building and raped by two Gypsy men. A splinter group of around 50 residents then marched towards a nearby camp where they reportedly called for all women and children to leave before throwing firecrackers and setting fire to caravans, shacks and cars. Police officers evacuated the camp moments before the group arrived and no injuries were reported, but fire crews were unable to prevent the camp being destroyed.

The girl's brother, who initially backed her story, arrived with police as the flames grew to announce his sister had confessed to inventing the episode, but his appeal to call off the attack came too late. Italian daily La Repubblica reported the girl had promised her family she would remain a virgin until she married and lied about the rape after sleeping with her boyfriend. Built during Italy's postwar boom years to accommodate southern Italian migrants arriving to work in Turin's factories, the Vallette neighbourhood is fringed by fields and sits next to a new football stadium opened this season by Juventus. Beside the stadium is the site of an old hunting lodge once owned by Italy's former royal family, the Savoys, where Roma people have set up camp, incurring the hostility of locals.

Paola Bragantini, Turin secretary for Italy's centre-left Democratic party, said the mob that attacked the camp at the weekend was made up of hardcore, or "ultra", Juventus supporters, who recently gained notoriety for yelling racist abuse at black Italian footballer Mario Balotelli. Piero Fassino, the mayor of Turin, denounced the "lynch mob" mentality of the arsonists, but Bragantini suggested they were feeding off resentment of Gypsies, which has become widespread in Italy. "Those who know only violence and seek any excuse for fighting have exploited the exasperation of the people who have wanted to close down the Gypsy camp for years," said Bragantini, who added that the mob shouted football chants as the camp burned.
© The Guardian

up  

POLICE ARREST ROME FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISTS (Italy)

14/12/2011- Police in Rome have arrested five neo-fascists on charges of plotting violence against the Rome Jewish community. The accused also plotted to attack Rome's Jewish community president, Riccardo Pacifici, as well as the city's mayor, Gianni Alemanno; the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini; and the president of the Senate. Police said 11 others were under investigation. The charges include criminal association to spread racial hatred, incitement to violence, and discrimination for racial, ethnic and religious reasons. Those arrested Wednesday included five members of the neo-fascist Militia group, including its longtime leader, Maurizio Boccaci, who is in his 50s. Police raids were carried out in several cities across the country. According to Italian state television, the accused wanted to foment a “revolutionary war” against the official Italian institutions. Alemanno and Fini both are mainstream right-wing politicians who had their political roots in the neo-fascist movement but now demonstrate strong support for Israel. Alemanno has been the target of neo-Nazi Militia banners and graffiti. Alemanno and Pacifici made a two-day visit to Israel this week to meet with freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
© JTA News

up  

DELAYS TO ANTI-RACIST TRIAL CONDEMNED BY INTERNATIONAL GROUPS (Cyprus)

14/12/2011- A four-member delegation – the second of its kind and representing eight NGOs in total – has been sent to Cyprus to monitor the trial of anti-racism NGO KISA’s director Doros Polycarpou, which was scheduled to begin on Monday. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) and Migreurop-Frontline Defenders sent representatives to attend the trial and hold meetings with relevant officials. The trial, whose first hearing has yet to be held, was postponed for a second time and is now set to begin on February 6. The case was first taken to court in July. “We regret that the hearing was postponed for unclear reasons while the cancellation of our meetings with several authorities reflects the unwillingness of the authorities to discuss the issue,” a statement issued yesterday by the NGO delegation said.

Meetings had been arranged with the Attorney General and the police. Polycarpou is being accused of rioting during the Rainbow Festival 2010 in Larnaca on November 5, in which the festival’s participants and demonstrators opposing the government’s immigration policies clashed. Several police officers and civilians were injured during the clashes, while a total of 14 people were arrested. A Turkish Cypriot musician and two foreigners, who were not participating in the clashes, were among the injured. Political parties condemned the violence and questioned KISA’s decision to move its festival from Limassol – where it was originally scheduled – to Larnaca to coincide with the anti-immigration demonstration. The police appeared unable to control the situation.

The delegation lamented the fact that no independent investigation had been carried out on the conduct of the police during the clashes while it insinuated that the postponements of the hearing was also a political move to drive KISA to the ground financially. “The accusations are a political set-up. The authorities have launched five criminal cases against me and this is yet another example of the systematic problem we face in Cyprus with regard to human rights,” Polycarpou said. The delegation reiterated their support for Polycarpou and warned they would strive to mobilise as much possible support from the European and international community through their extensive network relations.

According to the delegates, they were already gathering signatures from the European Parliament while both the UN and the Council of Europe had apparently expressed their concern over the trial. “The criminalisation of human rights defendants seems to be a serious issue in Cyprus and the attention for the Polycarpou case will only heighten with Cyprus’ EU presidency next year,” said PICUM representative, Nicola Flamigni. “We are taking a political stance against right-wing extremism and the authorities’ efforts to silence human rights defenders,” said a KISA representative.
© The Cyprus Mail

up  

EU ACTION URGED ON ‘UNLAWFUL’ IDENTITY CHECKS IN SPAIN

14/12/2011- llegal incidents of racial profiling by the police are contributing to a climate of racism and xenophobia in Spain, human rights organisation Amnesty international has warned. “This is an unlawful and discriminatory practice,” Amnesty International European Campaign Co-ordinator for Migration Carmen Dupont told New Europe. “Basically, on the colour of their skin, that is, people who don’t look Spanish, can have their identity checked maybe four times a day.” This appears to be particularly the case in Madrid, where much of the research was carried out and “a lot of identity checks take place outside metro stations and other public places”. Her comments came as Amnesty published a report on racial profiling and immigration control in Spain, Stop Racism, Not People, which calls on the Spanish interior minister to “publicly acknowledge the real extent of identity checks by police based on ethnic and racial characteristics, condemn racial profiling as discriminatory and illegal, according to international law, and state clearly that it is also illegal to select individuals for identity checks or detention based on their real or perceived ethnic or racial characteristics”.

In addition, the organisation has also written to the polish presidency of the EU, and to the European Commission, urging action to be taken against what it sees as continued violations of human rights. In a letter addressed to Jack Chichoki, the Polish minister for the interior and labour and social policy minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamys, it asks “the EU institutions to confront this reality in Spain and other EU countries”, and “to ensure migration policy goals comply with the EU acquis on the right to non-discrimination”. According to Dupont, such indiscriminate identity checks are being carried out under the guise of security concerns. “The are basically abusing existing legislation, and acting as if a crime has already been committed in the area,” she said. “It is contributing to the criminalisation of migrants. The state is linking migrants with criminal actions. It is adding to the climate of racism and xenophobia in Spain.” While the report only covers Spain, she says that the EU has a legal obligation to fight racism throughout all of its member states under existing anti-discrimination and race equality laws, but adds that is should take “a more consistent approach” to ensuring the laws are applied.

“What we want is for the European Commission, when it is monitoring the member states, for example, Spain, in implementing the race equality directive, to also take a look at how the police is carrying out this kind of practice. We want them to take a more bold approach. The Commission has a strong basis to act.”
© New Europe

up  

DUTCH BAN ON RITUAL SLAUGHTER IN DOUBT AS SENATE CONSIDERS JEWISH, MUSLIM OBJECTIONS

13/12/2011- Political support for a proposed ban on slaughtering animals without stunning them first appeared to crumble Tuesday as the Dutch senate debated legislation that Muslim and Jewish groups say violates their religious rights. The ban — proposed by an animal rights party and widely supported by Dutch voters — passed Parliament’s lower house by a 116-30 margin in June, raising an international outcry from religious groups. Although senators will not vote until Dec. 20, it appeared from Tuesday’s debate that several parties that initially backed the ban in parliament — including the Netherlands’ two largest — have changed their mind.

If the Netherlands does outlaw the slaughtering practices that make meat kosher for Jews or halal for Muslims, it will be the second country after New Zealand to do so in recent years. It would join Switzerland, the Scandinavian and Baltic countries, whose bans are mostly traceable to pre-World War II anti-Semitism. Speaking first, Labor senator Nico Schrijver said his party now has “many questions” about the bill, including asking why it “so specifically aims its arrows at the rather small number of ritual slaughterers and why not large-scale industrial slaughter, which involves 500 million animals per year?” “It seems to me that there may be much more effective, and less far-reaching methods that achieve the same goal” of improving animal welfare, Schrijver said, citing better education for slaughterers and better conditions in slaughterhouses.

Muslims, mostly immigrants from Turkey and Morocco, represent about a million of the 16 million Dutch population. The once-strong Jewish community numbers around 50,000 after most were deported and killed by the Nazis during World War II. In both religions, tradition prescribes that animals’ throats be cut swiftly with a razor-sharp knife while they are still conscious, so that they bleed to death quickly. Support for the ban comes both from left-leaning voters who see this technique as inhumane, and from social conservatives who see it as foreign and barbaric.

Outside the debate, Esther Ouwehand of the tiny Party for the Animals, which proposed the ban, said it was unjust to inflict “extra suffering on animals to satisfy religious opinion.” The ban’s most influential backer has been the Netherlands’ anti-Islam Freedom Party. “Do we want such practices in a civilized country as ours?” asked Freedom senator Marjolein Faber, after describing a worst-case scenario of a panicked animal taking six minutes to lose consciousness after a botched ritual slaughter. The Royal Dutch Veterinary Association says it believes slaughtering cattle in particular while still conscious inflicts unnecessary suffering.

But Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, said there is “no scientific evidence” that religious slaughter, performed properly, is more painful for animals than stunning. He said the law should be voted down in the name of freedom of religion. “If this law is passed in a country known for its tolerant and open society, it could result in a very dangerous domino effect that could spread to other parts of Europe,” he said.

Among the two parties in the Netherlands’ governing coalition, the Christian Democrats opposed the ban from the beginning out of concern for the rights of religious minorities. The pro-business VVD party, the country’s largest, also now appears unlikely to support the ban. VVD senator Sybe Schaap slammed the bill for “ethical absolutism” and said offering incentives for slaughterhouses to improve their practices would have a more positive effect than a ban. The Dutch undersecretary for Economic Affairs Henk Blekers has said the Cabinet will only take a position on the bill after the Senate vote.
© The Associated Press

up  

JEWISH COMMUNITY WANTS PROTECTION IN NEW CONSTITUTION (Turkey)

13/12/2011- One of Turkey's most prominent Jewish groups, the Quincentennial Foundation, has called for provisions against racism and anti-Semitism in the new charter at a meeting yesterday with members of Parliament's Constitution Conciliation Commission. According to Hurriyet Daily, foundation Chairman Naim Guleryuz said Jewish people in Turkey did not see themselves as ''minorities'' and wanted to be included in the future constitution as equal citizens of Turkey. The main emphasis of their presentation was on a ''liberal and inclusive'' constitution that does not marginalize anyone. The main concern of the Quincentennial Foundation was ''racism and anti-Semitism,'' Gueryuz reportedly said, and Jewish people did not intend to open a debate into the controversial 1942 wealth tax that stripped many members of Turkey's non-Muslim communities from their fortunes. Guleryuz said the new charter should lead to amendments in the penal code article that punishes incitement of hatred on the basis of social, religious and racial differences that would ensure full protection for minorities. Hate crimes should be prosecuted directly, he said. The Foundation, established in 1992, takes its name from the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Sephardic Jews, who were exiled from Spain and found refuge in the Ottoman Empire in 1492.
© ANSAmed.

up  

RISE OF THE GREEK FAR RIGHT RAISES FEARS OF FURTHER TURMOIL

Economic crisis has brought politicians like Makis Voridis, a former rightwing activist, into government and increased anxieties over extremism

16/12/2011- Twenty-five years ago Makis Voridis was an axe-wielding fascist who patrolled the streets of Greece in hot pursuit of leftist fellow students. Not much later, after his expulsion from Athens University's law school, he headed the youth wing of Epen, the far right party founded by the imprisoned former dictator Georgios Papadopoulos. With a seat in the European parliament the group enjoyed close ties with Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former leader of the National Front in France, openly espousing many of his extremist views. Today Voridis is a senior member of Greece's coalition government, embraced by the business community as the near-bankrupt country navigates its worst crisis in modern times. "Some bad things were done in the past but we've all put water in our wine," says Alexandros Xenakakis, who has long worked with the politician. "We're not Nazis. We're patriots who care about our nation."

In an interview with the Guardian, Voridis said: "I was a rightwing student activist and, yes, it's true that when I was the head of the Epen youth I had ties with Le Pen who we brought to Greece and, yes, I agreed, not with all but with some of his views. "But am I a crypto-fascist, with a hidden agenda who wants to abolish democracy and human rights? The answer is no. And do I have a problem with Jews and homosexuals? No, I don't. I'm terribly OK [about that]. Sexuality for sure is a personal choice," insisted the politician whose best man, Carl Lang, was deputy president of the National Front before he parted ways with Le Pen.

The rise of the far right – in government for the first time since the collapse of military rule almost 40 years ago – led to opponents taking to the streets and leftist politicians decrying the development as a "historic mistake". Jewish groups have called the inclusion of the extremist Popular Orthodox Rally (Laos) in the three-party administration "deeply troubling". Voridis' party boss, Giorgos Karatzaferis, a former bodybuilder who formed Laos in 2000, has been criticised for making a succession of anti-Semitic remarks on his own television channel, Telecity. At the founding congress of his party, he said: "They say that to get ahead you have to be one of three things: a Jew, a homosexual, or a communist. We are none of these ... Vote for a parliament without Masons, without homosexuals, without those dependent on Zionism."

Karatzaferis, a high-school dropout who ran a modelling agency before going into politics, has denied being anti-Semitic and has attributed his inflammatory remarks to getting carried away in his dealings with an insistent media. "[His] participation besmirches the respectable image of a country known for being the birthplace of democracy," said Serge Cwajgenbaum, general secretary of the European Jewish Congress. "I am not dogmatic," the 64-year-old said after the new government headed by Lucas Papademos, a technocratic economist, was sworn in last month in an attempt to save Greece from default. Unlike the maverick Karatzaferis, whose ability to flip-flop on policies has seen him increasingly being dubbed a political opportunist, Voridis is disarmingly open about his past.

Now 47 and greying at the temples, the minister of infrastructure and transport, one of four Laos deputies in the government, does not deny he is a reconstructed fascist. He describes himself now as a "national liberal", and says the enemy is not so much the liberal left but the hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants who have either succeeded, or will try, to get into the Mediterranean country, now seen as the easiest backdoor entrance into the EU. But with Laos (which means the people in Greek) also playing on the fears and insecurity of an austerity-weary nation struggling to make ends meet, there are mounting concerns the ideologically eclectic party, which garnered 5.6% of the vote in the 2009 elections, will add to the turmoil stalking the eurozone's weakest link.

Just as Greece's crisis has enabled Voridis to escape his past – and also resulted in the spectacular rise of the left – there are fears it will allow extremists of every hue to extol their dangerous ideas. Tellingly, an MRB poll released this week revealed the fascist Chrysi Avgi (golden dawn), a party to the right of Laos, picking up 1% of the national vote for the first time.
© The Guardian

up  

RACISM IN ATHENS (Greece)

12/12/2011- In recent years there have been a lot of immigrants migrating to Greece. With the economic crisis effecting the rest of the world, people from third world countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan come to the nearest country which is Greece. This migration craze is also stirring up controversy in Athens, immigrants in Athens mostly live in the center if the city such as Omonia and Agio Pantelemonas. Greek residents that are living there have negative reactions because they are scared that there won’t be any jobs left for the Greek natives. Two men and one woman were expected to go on trial on Monday, December 12, 2011, for attacking a 24 year old Afghan man in Athens earlier this year. On September 16, 2011, Ali Rahimi was beaten on the head with a bottle and stabbed in the chest and back. There were others involved in the attack on that day. About 15 people surrounded Rahimi and two other Afghans on the Athens neighborhood of Agio Pantelimonas before being attacked.

According to Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch says ‘The prosecution of this vicious attack sends an important message but it is the tip of the iceberg.” In April 2011 a large group attacked the Somali community center injuring 10 Somalis and destroying the center. The Pakistani Community if Greece has documented attacks on 60 Pakistani men in the first three months of 2011. A recent poll was done on Racism in Europe by BBC News in the U.K. France topped the Euro racism poll by 38% of the French people describing themselves as racists. In Germany 23% described themselves as racists and 22% of Spaniards had similar views. The survey was published in a French newspaper in Paris and said that racism was found mainly among farmers, shopkeepers and tradesmen. But among the young French groups there is a strong support for integration in France.
© The Greek Reporter

up  

HATE CRIME TRIAL OPENS IN GREECE

Two men and one woman were to go on trial on Monday charged with attacking a 24-year-old Afghan asylum seeker in Athens earlier this year.

12/12/2011- The three are accused of brutally beating and stabbing Ali Rahimi on September 16, in what Human Right Watch Monday described as a “sobering reminder of increasing racist violence” in the country. They were allegedly part of a larger group of about 15 people who encircled Rahimi and two other Afghans before assaulting them in the central Athens neighborhood of Aghios Panteleimonas, where racial tensions have been running high over the past couple of years due to some residents and extremist opposing the large presence of immigrants. “The prosecution of this vicious attack sends an important message, but it is the tip of the iceberg,” said Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch on Monday. “If the authorities responded properly to racist violence, this trial would be one of many instead of a rarity,” Sunderland added. According to the organization, the Pakistani Community of Greece documented attacks on 60 Pakistani men in the first three months of 2011. In April, a large group of people allegedly attacked the Somali community center, injuring 10 Somalis and destroying the center. And in May, a man from Bangladesh was found dead after foreign immigrants were accused of killing a Greek man in central Athens. But the circumstances surrounding his death have not been determined. Rahimi, the victim of the September 16 attack, was hit on the head with a bottle and stabbed in the chest and back, HRW said. Two more Afghan men managed to flee, and one later identified two of the alleged suspects to the police, it said.
© Kathimerini

up  

GRISLY MURDER IN RUSSIA SPURS ACTIVISTS TO SPEAK OUT (Russia/Tajikistan)

Tired of seeing their countrymen return from Russia in body bags, sometimes ferociously disfigured, a concerned group in Tajikistan is taking their outrage online, petitioning presidents and parliaments in both countries to take action.

11/12/2011- Hundreds of Tajik migrant laborers in Russia die each year, falling victim to dangerous working conditions and, some fear, bloodthirsty Russian nationalists. According to Tajikistan’s migration service, between January and August this year, over 600 Tajik nationals died in Russia: Of those, 67 were murdered and another 238 succumbed to disease; the rest were presumably accidents. Rights activists estimate that over a million Tajiks work in Russia. Every few months, it seems, another brutal case prompts renewed attention, offering some macabre déjà vu. Bakhtiyar Rasulov’s headless body was found in his burned-out taxicab near St. Petersburg on November 16. He had been stabbed repeatedly and his head stuffed into the trunk.

Responding to popular indignation, Tajikistan’s parliament urged Russian police to carry out a fair investigation. The Foreign Ministry noted the attack occurred at the height of a diplomatic row between Dushanbe and Moscow over the fate of two ethnic Russian pilots sentenced to long prison terms in Tajikistan on bizarre charges of smuggling airplane parts. The scandal enflamed nationalist passions in Russia, where authorities began rounding up Tajiks for deportation and fueling xenophobia with claims that Tajiks carry disease and are responsible for rising crime.

The petition urges Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, and their respective parliaments to do something meaningful like take migrants’ safety into consideration in their sometimes tense relationship, and asks Medvedev to tone down the chauvinistic rhetoric coming out of his administration.

It is possible that such a grave and barbaric crime during the Russian-Tajik political crisis over the detained pilots is just another coincidence, as coincidental as the accelerated deportation of Tajiks from Russia […but] Bakhtiyar Rasulov was killed on November 16 in the midst of a campaign that even the Russian media called the "Anti-Tajik Hysteria.” […]

We believe that ordinary citizens of Tajikistan and Russia -- Tajik and Russian inhabitants in both countries -- should never become victims and hostages of your electoral, political and geopolitical games. We base our belief on the principle that, in a civilized country, there is no collective responsibility for certain individuals’ acts. We encourage you to be more responsible in your words and deeds as radical groups can see these as directives against ethnic minorities.

In Russia, Central Asian migrants are, as the airplane scandal showed, a political lever; they can be insulted and scapegoated when convenient. With nationalists showing themselves to be a political force and the ruling United Russia party occupied with concern for its own survival, it’s unlikely -- despite promises to devote special attention to the case – that Russian authorities will take the murders too seriously.

The petition, open to signatories from anywhere, can be found here. (Russian only)
© Eurasia Net

up  

GAY MARRIAGE OPPONENTS IN SCOTLAND CRITICISED FOR DOCTORED PETITION (uk)

Scotland For Marriage, the campaign against same-sex marriage, have come under strong criticism for wrongly including the names of equal marriage supporters on an online petition that opposes equality.

16/12/2011- Scotland For Marriage, the campaign against same-sex marriage, have come under strong criticism for wrongly including the names of equal marriage supporters on an online petition that opposes equality. Lothians MSP Kezia Dugdale has written to Nicola Sturgeon asking that the petition be discounted after having been contacted by "furious" constituents raising their concerns that their names had been wrongly added. Both the police and the Information Commissioner have been informed of the incident. Equal Marriage campaigners are now concerned that the 28,000 signed postcards submitted by Scotland For Marriage to the Scottish Government consultation on same-sex marriage may also have included false signatures. Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said: “We are very concerned to hear that names have been falsely added to this petition. Officials will now have to consider whether they can trust the validity of the petition and the recent postcard campaign run by Scotland For Marriage. "This is another good reason why the Scottish Government should make a decision on legalising same-sex marriage based on the strength of the arguments, not on a numbers game.”

Stephen Donnelly, a second year politics student at the University of Edinburgh, said: “I was surprised and distressed to find my name so publicly associated with a homophobic campaign that seeks to restrict the rights of LGBT citizens across Scotland. "It throws into question the whole Scotland for Marriage campaign; who knows what other support may have been falsified? For instance, were the 28,000 'signed' postcards they submitted all signed by real people? If they are to salvage any credibility, they need to provide answers fast.” Paul Meredith Gray, a medical student at the University of Edinburgh, added: "I received a message yesterday on Facebook informing me that names of same-sex marriage supporters were on the Scotland for Marriage homophobic petition. I searched for my own name and was shocked to find it was also included. "I have been campaigning for Equal Marriage and attended the recent heated protest outside Parliament, it’s easy to see why I was targetted. I am disappointed that the opposition would resort to such shameful measures just to deny LGBT people the liberties and freedoms we all deserve. Their whole campaign has been about spreading homophobic lies and trying to force their views upon other people. We only want love and equality for all, why should they be so against that?”

The Scottish Government public consultation on same-sex marriage closed on the 9 Dec. at least 24,000 people responded in favour of same-sex marriage according to the Equality Network.The consultation responses are currently being analysed and the Government is expected to make a decision on whether to take forward legislation in March 2012 once the analysis is published. Opinion polls suggest a majority of Scots support equal marriage, including the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2010 which indicated 61% support versus 19% opposition. This included a majority of respondents following all the major faiths and political parties in Scotland.
© The Pink Paper

up  

STEPHEN LAWRENCE MURDER SUSPECT ADMITS LYING TO POLICE (uk)

Gary Dobson admitted to an Old Bailey jury that he lied to police and used violent, racist language around time of the murder

13/12/2011- Gary Dobson, one of the men suspected for 18 years of killing the black teenager Stephen Lawrence, admitted to an Old Bailey jury that he had lied to the police and used violent, racist language as a youth. Dobson, who was 17 when Lawrence was killed, gave evidence in his defence after the court was played video footage from police surveillance of his flat in 1994. Dobson told the jury in his evidence that he was "ashamed, disgusted and embarrassed" by the footage from the surveillance tape. Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, who both deny murder, craned their necks from the dock to watch the footage, which was played to the jury over 30 minutes on Tuesday. In the film both men and their friends Neil Acourt and Luke Knight are heard repeatedly calling African-Caribbean people "niggers" and threatening violence against them. At one point in the video, filmed by a secret camera hidden in the skirting board of the living room, Dobson describes how a "black cunt" at work annoyed him so much he threatened him with a Stanley knife, saying "I'm going to slice this down you seven times". In another extract Norris threatened to skin a black man alive. Asked by his barrister, Tim Roberts QC, whether he had anything to do with the events that led to the death of 17-year-old Stephen Lawrence in 1993, he replied: "No, I did not."

Dobson admitted under cross-examination, however, that he had told a barefaced lie to the police when he said, while being questioned in 1993, that he did not know David Norris. The men were in fact close friends at the time. He told the jury that he had not worn the jacket which the Crown says carries a spot of Lawrence's blood on the collar, and said the cardigan which holds other crucial forensic evidence suggesting he was present at the murder was his father's and he had never used it. Under cross examination by Mark Ellison QC, for the prosecution, Dobson was repeatedly challenged about the views he displayed on the police surveillance footage. "The Dobson today is ashamed and disgusted at the Dobson in 1994, is that a fair summary?" asked Ellison. "Yes", Dobson replied. "I think it speaks for itself if you look at it, the language and the terminology is disgusting." "Racist?" "Yes," said Dobson. "And it envelops violence with racism?" said Ellison. "Yes," said Dobson. Ellison asked whether this was the "real" Dobson. "I can only say that was the way I was speaking around the time, I can't defend or justify it," he said. "It was an idiotic young fellow talking like an idiot," said Dobson.

The jury has been told Lawrence was set upon by a gang of white men, who shouted "what, what nigger" before attacking him in Well Hall Road, Eltham, south London, in April 1993. Ellison asked Dobson whether he might have used similar racist language to that he displayed in the video when he walked with his friends down Well Hall Road. "No," Dobson replied. "Were you accustomed to calling most black people niggers?" asked Ellison. "I think so, to be honest," Dobson replied. He added: "It was probably just terminology. I didn't see it as such a bad word, to be honest. It's like when I used to banter with people outside school." Dobson said the words and actions in the police footage were banter, the "moronic" actions of a young "idiotic" man and a "horrible joke". But Ellison asked again: "However you try to excuse it now, back then you held racist views. Did you hold racist views?" "I don't think there's no denying that with the words I am using," said Dobson. "As for racist views the way that that seems I am using terrible words, as a terminology, but I have still got black, Asian and Chinese friends to this day. "I don't dislike someone because of the colour of their skin contrary to how it looks and sounds."

The jury was told by Mr Justice Treacy that the crown would say the video extracts showed racist behaviour. He warned the jury that they might consider the material "shocking", but they must set emotion aside and decide the case on the facts. The video was made by police in 1994 at a flat Dobson was renting with another youth, Charlie Martin, in Eltham. The video showed Dobson handling a knife, and others in the flat handling the weapon. One youth, who has not been charged, left the flat accompanied by Norris with the knife secreted on them. The trial continues.
© The Guardian

up  

RACE HATRED INCIDENTS SOAR BY ONE FIFTH IN JUST A YEAR (uk)

12/12/2011- Race hate in the Lothians has soared over the last three years despite a sharp fall in recorded crime overall, new figures reveal. The number of victims of racial incidents, including verbal abuse and physical attacks, has leapt by 19 per cent in the last year alone and by a quarter since 2008. Figures released under Freedom of Information laws show the Pakistani community suffers more racial prejudice than any other ethnic group – accounting for almost 20 per cent of all victims. Perhaps surprisingly, people described as “white Scottish” were the fourth most victimised group in 2010/11, behind “white other” – likely eastern European and Polish migrants – and Indian communities.

The statistics are at odds with Scottish Government figures for the Lothians and Borders showing a 15 per cent drop in recorded offences in 2010-11. Foysol Choudhury, chair of Edinburgh & Lothians Regional Equality Council, said statistics for race hate often spiked during periods of economic uncertainty. He added: “Public authorities like the police are getting better at recording hate crime, but unfortunately we receive regular complaints from victims that they feel the police and other public authorities are not doing enough. The victims are also telling us that they are being told not a lot could be done because those who commit offences are often children. “We urge all victims of hate crime to report all incidents.”

Shami Khan, secretary of the Pakistan Society of Edinburgh, said Islamophobia was often manifested on the streets by verbal or physical attacks on the Pakistani community. “If anything happens in a Muslim country overseas, the Pakistani community here gets victimised and abused,” he said. “We get a backlash here.” Mr Khan said the solvency rate for race crimes was “very low” and called on the police, judiciary and politicians to take the issue “more seriously”. And he added: “At night time when you have young people going about in groups, you don’t see our elderly people or women walking in the street. They are scared to go outside.”

Councillor Paul Edie, chair of Edinburgh Community Safety Partnership, said: “When you consider that crime has been tumbling in the city by 21 per cent over the last four years it’s very depressing that these figures are on the way up.” A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “Hate crime will not be tolerated, and the force treats such incidents with the utmost seriousness.”The number of victims of racial incidents, including verbal abuse and physical attacks, has leapt by 19 per cent in the last year alone and by a quarter since 2008. Figures released under Freedom of Information laws show the Pakistani community suffers more racial prejudice than any other ethnic group.
© The Edinburgh Evening News

up  

TYCOONS BACK NEW FAR-RIGHT GROUPING (uk)

12/12/2011- A property tycoon and a former investment fund manager have been named as the driving forces behind a plan to create a new force on the far-right of British politics. The Independent revealed last week that the English Defence League plans to run candidates for the first time in local elections, after a deal with another far-right group, the British Freedom Party, formed by former members of the British National Party. Ann Marchini, who runs a buy-to-let property empire, confirmed to The Sunday Times that she is a member of the British Freedom Party and a friend of its chairman, Paul Weston. Alan Ayling, also known as Alan Lake, was a director of Pacific Capital Investment Management until earlier this year. In October, he was named by a prosecutor in Oslo as someone Norwegian police wanted to question about the murders of 77 people by Anders Behring Breivik in July. Mr Ayling was thought to have been one of Breivik's sources of inspiration. Both are said to have been at a "pivotal" meeting of EDL activists held at Mr Ayling's flat in London in 2009.
© The Independent

up  

FACEBOOK TOLERATES RACISM DISGUISED AS HUMOR (Czech Rep.)

15/12/2011- News server Lidovky.cz is reporting that a Czech-language group calling itself "Crude racist jokes with racist and xenophobic content" ("Drsné a rasistické vtipy s rasistickým a xenofobním obsahem") has launched on Facebook. Almost 40 000 Facebook users have joined the profile, which may soon become one of the top 100 most popular Czech-language pages on the social networking site. The Facebook profile officially presents itself as entertaining. “This page, which contains crude jokes, serves only for entertainment," the introductory page reads. The content, however, is not very amusing. “You are the winner of a young Gypsy. If you don't pick him up within 14 days, he will be delivered to you together with his family," reads one of the "jokes" users of the page can entertain themselves with. Page administrators also victoriously posted that “88 people like this page :) a magic number :)". The number 88 stands for the Nazi greeting "Heil Hitler" in neo-Nazi circles. In addition to numerous insults against Romani people, the page also attacks black people, gay people, Jewish people and transsexual people. “What purpose do such beings serve on earth?" the page operators ask underneath a photograph of a transvestite. "...to be shot and set on fire..." one user comments.

The profile has already been reported to Facebook by many people as problematic but continues to operate undisturbed for the time being. “It is striking that as of today this page has not yet been banned and the administrators are not prosecuting anyone for it, because this behavior is illegal," one Facebook user complains. Lawyer Klára Kalibová says the offended Facebook user is correct. Kalibová says that from a legal point of view, the content posted by the operators of the page is not as problematic as the comments posted by some users, which both explicitly and implicitly call for violence. "Those comments meet the necessary criteria to be classified as felonies, such as defamation of a race, nation or faith, or incitement of hatred against members of a particular group," she said. "The internet, from a legal standpoint, is the same kind of space as a book. It just differs with respect to how the perpetrators of the felonies can be prosecuted. There are cases of people being convicted over making racist posts on Facebook," the lawyer warns. Individual users are, moreover, easily apprehended thanks to being identified by name. There are several Czech-language racist pages on Facebook with dozens or hundreds of users. However, the "Drsné a rasistické vtipy" profile is by far the most popular.
© Romea

up  

18 FELONY CHARGES RESULT FROM POLICE OPERATION AGAINST NEO-NAZIS (Czech Rep.)

15/12/2011- Czech Television has reported that detectives with the Organized Crime Detection Unit (Útvar pro odhalování organizovaného zločinu - ÚOOZ) have announced the completion of "Operation Power", their most recent strike aimed particularly against ultra-right extremists in the Czech Republic. The operation was performed during the previous government of Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer and has resulted in charges being filed against 18 people for advocating neo-Nazism. The operation was the country's most extensive raid against ultra-right extremists ever. It lasted two years and, according to political scientists, has significantly weakened the ultra-right community and other causes of neo-Nazism for the time being. "We handed over many files to the state attorney and recommended a total of 18 people be charged," ÚOOZ spokesperson Pavel Hanták said. Political scientists see the results of the operation as having been a significant weakening of those promoting already-banned neo-Nazi groups such as the National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO) in particular. "The ultra-right scene has understandably responded by retreating into secrecy," said lawyer Klára Kalibová, who has long followed manifestations of hate violence. Political scientist Miroslav Mareš said the operation has primarily weakened the leadership structure of the ultra-right movement.

The main evidence of these crimes to be presented in court will be objects with racist motifs that were confiscated by police when searching suspects' homes. Those charged face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. "We are recommending they be charged with supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms," Hanták said. Klára Slámová, an attorney for several of the accused, has refused to comment on their cases. According to some experts, however, ultra-right extremists have begun waking up once more. "Once the ultra-right realized the current government is not interested in the fight against extremism, they started to gradually revive their activities - this has started happening during the past six months," František Kostlán told news server Romea.cz. Kostlán has long monitored right-wing extremism and reported on cases of racism. Experts also say the fact that the investigation of these cases has taken so long is playing into the hands of the ultra-right extremists. In recent months increased ultra-right extremist activity has taken place primarily in North Bohemia.

Police began "Operation Power" in the spring of 2009 when they noted an increase in the distribution of audio and video recordings and other commodities with racist motifs both at concerts and through the internet. In June and September of that year, police officers immediately raided several locations in the Czech Republic and detained the alleged bosses of the neo-Nazi music scene.
© Romea

up  

DOZENS PROTEST HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN PRAGUE (Czech Rep.)

10/12/2011- Several tens of people took part in a protest meeting to highlight shortcomings in human rights observance in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in the world, staged in Prague centre on the occasion of the Human Rights Day Saturday. After a one-hour meeting, the demonstrators marched to the Government Office, they passed the Chamber of Deputies and the U.S. Embassy and ended the march at the U.N. Office. The event was organised by the Real Democracy Now movement. The participants carried banners reading "Human rights must be observed", "Solidarity with the Occupy movement" and the flag of the "No to Bases" group.
People could sign petitions, for instance, for new elections and for the dismissal of the Czech Television Council and the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting during the protest meeting. Speakers at the meeting stood up against the violation of human rights. A high number of policemen watched the event.

The protest followed up a similar event on October 15, which up to 300 people attended in Prague. The demonstrators then expressed disagreement with the policy of the centre-right coalition government, the state debt and corruption. They also supported similar events against the immoral behaviour of big financial corporations and government cuts that were held all over the world on the same day. The Amnesty International (AI) NGO traditionally organised a marathon in writing letters in support of victim of injustice to mark the Human Rights Day. The marathon is this year held in six Czech towns, Prague, Brno, Olomouc, north Moravia, Hradec Kralove, Chotebor, both east Bohemia, and Plzen, west Bohemia, on December 6-10. The letters will be sent, for instance, to Iran, Mexico, North Korea, Turkey and the United States. AI says the writing of such letters has really helped the victims. "Thanks to the regular publication of information on human rights violations and the persistent writing of letters to responsible authorities, the situation has improved in a significant number of cases," said Lenka Pitronova, from the Czech AI branch.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

CASE OF ANTI-WHITE RACISM ON TRIAL IN FRANCE

14/12/2011- As protesters massed outside, the spokeswoman for a movement representing immigrants from France's former colonies went on trial Wednesday for allegedly insulting white French in what may be the first anti-white racism case in France. The verdict, expected Jan. 25, may turn on a hyphen. The trial grew out of a legal complaint from a far-right group, the General Alliance Against Racism and Respect for French and Christian Identity, Agrif, against Houria Bouteldja for using a word she invented to refer to white French that she claims was misconstrued. She was charged with "racial injury" and, if convicted, risks up to six months in prison and a maximum €25,000 ($32,500) fine, though courts usually issue far lighter sentences.

Bouteldja, of the movement Indigenes of the Republic, called native white French "souchiens" in a TV interview. The word derives from "souche," or stock, as native white French are commonly called, but could sound like a hyphenated word meaning "lower than a dog." Bouteldja's remarks on France-3 television station four years ago caused a clamor in large part because they cut straight to long-simmering issues over inequity between white French and French whose origins are in former North African and African colonies — some of whose families took up arms to help France fight during the world wars. Her Indigenes movement, now a tiny political party, tries to fight racism and promote equal rights for people with roots in "post-colonial immigration."

The TV interview and media stories that ensued put Bouteldja's remarks on center-stage. Brice Hortefeux, serving at the time as immigration and national identity minister, said he was "injured" and "shocked" by what sounded like an insulting play on words but took no action. Security at the twice-postponed trial was high as about 150 protesters gathered outside, some representing the Indigenes movement and others from several extreme-right groups such as Bloc Identitaire (Identity Bloc), fighting what they claim is the Islamization of France and Europe by Muslim immigrants. Riot police kept the two sides apart.

Prosecutor Patrice Michel stressed the ambiguity of the word used by Bouteldja in the TV interview, but also said that her use of the word appeared aimed at "purposely hurting and outraging a certain category of French." He added, however, that doubt persists and that his interpretation did not constitute proof. There was no doubt for Bernard Antony, president of Agrif and formerly a European lawmaker for the far-right National Front party. He denounced before the court what he claimed is the "racist folly" of Bouteldja and "an anti-white racism that exists and is growing." "I'm thinking of my 14 grandchildren," he said.

Bouteldja claims she never meant to refer to native white French as being "lower than a dog." She told the court that she spoke of "souchiens" ''to criticize the French expression 'French of stock,' which prevents me from feeling fully French." In an interview ahead of the trial, she said the French expression "allows one to believe there are two categories of French, those of stock and the others, which creates two-speed citizens." Defense lawyer Henri Braun, asking the court to acquit his client, said Bouteldja was really denouncing "the rise in hate and racism and tensions over the mythical French identity which propagates the idea that there are real French," and other French who are not real. "They want you (the court) to judge that French of stock exist and strengthen the legitimacy of this ridiculous notion," he said.
© The Associated Press

up  

FRONT NATIONAL, BETTER KNOWN FOR ANTI-SEMITISM, COURTS JEWISH VOTERS (France)

France's far-right party, the Front National, is breaking from its anti-Semitic past and courting Jewish voters.

12/12/2011- France's far-right party has traditionally been linked with xenophobia and anti-Semitism. That may be changing. The party, now under the leadership of its founder's daughter, Marine Le Pen, is reportedly looking to court the Jewish vote. Le Pen, who took over as head of the Front National party in the beginning of 2011, has been working to modernize the party and purge it of its most anti-Semitic members, according to Tablet Magazine. She has "made a series of dramatic overtures to the Jewish community," including posing for a photograph with Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations when she hosted a gathering at the UN, University of Houston professor and author Robert Zaretsky wrote in Tablet, which covers Jewish news and culture. Le Pen will have to work hard to distance herself from her family's anti-Semitic reputation. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, famously called the Nazi's concentrations camps “a detail of World War II history.”

The Jewish community in France is reportedly split on whether to view Le Pen as someone who genuinely wants to engage with French Jews, or as a politician working to disguise her party's latent anti-Semitism. Zaretsky writes that a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in France may be pushing the Jewish community to the political right. Against this background, Le Pen’s effort to seduce the French Jewish community takes on even greater significance. It is only by channeling popular fear and loathing at Muslims that the Front National has made room under its “republican” umbrella for its previous bête noire: the Jews.

GlobalPost's Isabelle Roughol wrote last month that Le Pen is "striving for a softer image" as she tries to bring her party into mainstream French politics ahead of the presidential election. Marine Le Pen is presenting a softer, more modern face, in an attempt to capitalize on widespread discontent over France’s conservative alternative, incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy. “Her whole strategy is to ‘un-demonize’ the Front National,” Mael Thierry, a journalist for the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur who covers the Front National, told Roughol.
© The Global Post

up  

FRENCH FAR-RIGHT GROUP HAS MESSAGE IN MENU

10/12/2011- They feasted in the verdant back country of picture-postcard Provence, the delight of tourists and the pride of France. But it was no ordinary country idyll. The extreme right Bloc Identitaire, or Identity Bloc, was lashing out at Islam while dining on pork roast and local wine — off limits to practicing Muslims. The group, an emerging force on France's far-right scene, likens Muslim immigrants to invaders threatening the identity of the French heartland and menacing European civilization. The movement — with a wild pig as its logo — is gaining traction through its blend of Islam-bashing and romanticizing of French rural culture. Increasingly, it is being used as an "idea box" for the National Front, a well-established far-right party and force in European politics that could play a crucial role in French presidential elections five months away.

The Bloc's campaign against mosque building and its wine-and-pork strategies are also finding a more mainstream audience in the country with western Europe's largest Muslim population, estimated at 5 million, the majority with origins in France's former colonies in North Africa. A group of lawmakers from President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative UMP party has formed a hard-right wing, the Popular Right, that berates immigration and has espoused anti-Muslim themes in a low-key echo of Bloc Identitaire. "The combat is urgent. We don't have the choice," said Bloc Identitaire member Jean-Christophe Oberlaender, whose arms are tattooed with what he said are ancient religious sayings. He was among some 50 people attending a daylong Bloc meeting outside this small Provencal town whose origins date from Roman times.
"These products will soon be very rare in France," he said of the pork and wine being served at lunch.

Bloc Identitaire, also opposed to multiculturalism and globalization, has the largest footprint of myriad groups on the extreme-right fringes of France, and appears to be harnessing influence beyond its numbers. Bloc officials put membership at some 4,000 — a figure experts say is exaggerated. Regional alliances with other "identity" groups in France and their heavy use of the Internet to spread their word to the mainstream public make a real count difficult. The movement opposes violence in its bid to erase all traces of Muslim culture in France. But violence has been known to follow its members — something they blame on neo-Nazi hangers-on. Earlier this year, a rally in Lyon called the "march of pigs" turned into a clash between Bloc Identitaire supporters and extreme leftists — kept apart by hundreds of police called in ahead of time. Several local businesses were damaged, including a kebab restaurant.

Bloc Identitaire militants ferret out plans by Muslim communities to build mosques and campaign to stop them. An "identity guerrilla" pamphlet spells out how to raise awareness of Muslim initiatives, from mosques to halal food restaurants, and infiltrate culture or sports clubs popular with Muslims. A mosque project in the village of Tourrette in southern France was their latest target and, they claim, success. After discovering plans by a Muslim association to convert a villa into a mosque, Bloc Identitaire militants flooded the area with protest fliers, met with the mayor and organized a demonstration. The mosque project was scrapped in October, days before the rally was to be held. Nourreddine Benzirar, a dentist with Moroccan origins who led plans for the mosque, claimed the project collapsed over funding, not because of Bloc Identitaire, and vowed to press forward with a mosque once money is available. "Pressure doesn't scare us," he said by telephone.

France has passed laws in recent years banning Islamic headscarves in schools and banning Islamic face veils anywhere in public, laws embraced by the mainstream left and right as upholding secular French traditions but that many see as stigmatizing Muslims. The recent gathering of Bloc Identitaire revealed an ideological and religious mix, from pagans who worship the gods of the ancient Norse peoples, to devout Catholics and others simply searching for a voice that reflects their worries about France's future. "Masters at home" is their motto, but "revolution" was the watchword at the gathering near the city of Brignoles, where a National Front member is mayor. The Bloc Identitaire denies any formal alliances with the National Front. Unlike the bigger movement it is pro-European and wants to keep France in the 27-nation EU. It spins ties with other European far-right groups in Britain and some other European cities. The national treasurer, Dominique Lescure, recently traveled to Russia, with its burgeoning and violent extreme right, to meet with groups in cities as far away as Vladivostok on the Pacific coast.

National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, meanwhile, is trying to tame her party's image to appeal to a broader public after decades under the helm of her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, a scrappy, charismatic figure repeatedly convicted for racist and anti-Semitic remarks. He stunned the world by reaching the runoffs in 2002 presidential elections, before being trounced by a rare coalition of France's mainstream parties, assuring victory for incumbent Jacques Chirac. Marine Le Pen has told Jews they have nothing to fear from the National Front and even briefly met Israel's ambassador to the United Nations during a recent trip to the United States. Instead, she has pointedly targeted Muslims and the spread of Islamic culture, in the name of the French principle of secularism — mimicking the message of Bloc Identitaire.

The Bloc "uncovers the themes for the National Front," said Erwan Lecoeur, a sociologist who studies the extreme right. The National Front has for years played the role of spoiler in French elections, and candidates from the mainstream right typically try to woo voters away from the extreme party. Polls put Marine Le Pen in third place behind Sarkozy, in second, with Socialist Francois Hollande in the lead. Bloc Identitaire, born in 2003, raised its profile several winters ago by dishing out pork soup, so-called "identity soup," for the homeless. It thrives on evoking the legends of France's history. "For me, France has a reason to exist because of its past ... its knights, its chateaux, the France of the Gaulois, the France of the Romans," said Michel De Susanne, a 34-year-old computer technician who heads the Bloc's Marseille chapter.

The bloc has held street parties featuring aperitifs of wine and sausage. Some were canceled by authorities, but last year, chased from a heavily immigrant Paris neighborhood, they managed to recamp on the famed Champs-Elysees, near the Arc de Triomphe. Bloc officials claim their group is neither racist nor anti-Muslim but contend that the Muslim population in France has reached an unacceptable critical mass with designs on supplanting the local culture. "We're here to make a revolution ... We're not here to scare our grandmothers or the candy salesman," Richard Rudier, a member of the Bloc's executive board, said in a speech before the crowd at the Provence gathering. "We want to scare the establishment." For Oberlaender, the target isn't just Muslims. "Today, it's the Arabs. If it's the Chinese tomorrow, I'll combat the Chinese."
© AFP

up  

FAR-RIGHT DEMO CREATES CHAOS IN STOCKHOLM (Sweden)

Right wing extremist groups are clashing with counter protesters at Mynttorget in Gamla Stan, as the annual demonstrations were moved from Salem to Stockholm.
10/12/2011- Chants and slogans could be heard as the right wing protesters were escorted outside the riot fence at Mynttorget. Police scattered one of the counter protest droves where groups such as Brittans damgympa and Aktion mot deportation participated. Eggs, bottles and firecrackers come flying through the air as hundreds of counter protesters have come to interrupt the right wing protests. "Right now it's quite chaotic. Several people have tried to get past the riot fence," said police spokesperson Diana Sundin, adding that several people have been arrested. The atmosphere is very tense, news agency TT reported, and aside from the yelling and chanting, at least one boom has gone off. According to police the boom came from Riksbron, but was caused by some form of firework, and nobody was harmed.

Police are doing their best to avoid direct confrontation between the two forces, but have allowed the counter protesters to stay temporarily at the Mynttorget before dismissing them. "We might need to move them if they don't go voluntarily, but that's usually not necessary," police spokesperson Anders Gillander told TT. Hundreds of counter protesters are gathered outside the Riksdag next to Mynttorget, and police have formed a human wall to control the crowd. The first dozen right wing extremists marched right through the masses of counter protesters and were faced with chantings and pushes, which they responded to by yelling their own chants. About thirty police officers rushed to the site to avert fights.

The anti nazi network "Vi är 94 pro cent" (Literally: We are 94 percent) gathered hundreds of followers in Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm. The arrangers have held speeches and musicians have performed from a trailer. Later the crowd of 500-1000 people started moving towards the Raoul Wallenbergs torg plaza, carrying placards saying for example "Stop right wing extremism". Some are masked, but a majority are not. The crowd is under control, and a large number of police officers are following the march.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

BEING MUSLIM IN MOLDOVA

The leaders of the country’s first official Islamic organization keep a low profile amid an Orthodox backlash.
by Zakhar Koretsky, reporter for daily Moldavskie Vedomosti in Moldova.


10/12/2011- In March, a group called the Islamic League was registered with Moldova's Justice Ministry, becoming the country's first official Muslim nongovernmental organization. That bit of paperwork kicked up quite a fuss. The Moldovan Orthodox Church lashed out at the government for supposedly encouraging the "Islamization of a traditionally Christian country," and for approving the Muslim group without prior public discussion. Led by the church, hundreds of people demonstrated in parishes across the country, carrying signs with messages like “Moldova – an Orthodox country,” “The Orthodox Church is the mother of our people,” and “Don’t register the Islamic League.” “Our ancestors’ idea of cleansing the land of pagans is under threat now,” said Bishop Marchel of northern Moldova, referring to the church's 16th-century struggle with Ottoman rule, in an April interview with the AllMoldova.com news website.

After several weeks of debate and media pressure, church leaders and spokespeople toned down their rhetoric, but they continue to press for laws that place Christianity first among faiths in officially secular Moldova, arguing that what they term newer sects should have less leeway to build houses of worship and promote their religion. “[Other] European states’ experience shows that it’s a mistake to introduce overly permissive laws that contradict a dominant religion,” Petru Pruteanu, a priest and professor at the Orthodox Theological Academy of Moldova, said on the Fabrika public-affairs program in April. “[David] Cameron and [Nicolas] Sarkozy said last autumn that the attempt to put everybody in one place and try to assure everybody's rights has failed.” Orthodox officials contacted for this article either could not be reached or refused to comment. Bishop Marchel hung up the phone when a reporter asked about Islam.

Approval of the Islamic League’s registration came three years after it applied for official status. Former Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin turned down several applications from Muslim organizations during his tenure from 2001 to 2009. Amid the Orthodox protests, the government said at mid-year that it would reconsider the league’s status, but it has said or done nothing on the matter since. It seems unlikely to revoke the registration, a move that would be both legally questionable and politically unwise, putting at risk the flow of European Union aid and the prospect, however distant, of Moldovan accession. At the same time, government officials say further moves toward Muslim accommodation, such as allowing women to wear the hijab in passport photos, are not in the cards for now.

Tension and tolerance
The organization at the heart of the debate aims to represent and monitor treatment of Moldova’s Muslim population – officially about 2,000 people in a nation of 4.3 million. (The Islamic League estimates the true number at 10,000 to 15,000, most of whom it says have lived in the country since the Soviet era.) It provides a place for worship, celebrations, and meetings, and offers psychological support to Moldovan Muslims and charitable services such as meals for refugees from Central Asia. Reports of physical violence against Muslims have been rare, but Sergiu Sochirca, the league’s chairman, said the Orthodox campaign has kept tensions in the small community high. “[Church leaders] tell people that Islam is equal to terrorism, that it’s a religion that wants war,” he said. “We’re worried for our children,” added Abdullah, the league’s executive director, who asked that his full name not be used. He said women who wear the hijab feel particularly vulnerable.

Abdullah recalled that in the spring, when the organization’s office in Chisinau was undergoing construction, a Christian group called Pro Ortodoxia picketed the site. Non-Muslim builders stopped working, saying they feared excommunication. “We explained to them, ‘You’re not converting to Islam, you’re just doing your job!’ ” he said. “But people [in Moldova] are traditionally afraid of the church because it is famous for the severity of its reactions.” In contrast to the organized hostility, Sochirca and Abdullah say ordinary Moldovans are tolerant in everyday life, even in rural areas where tradition and Orthodoxy run strong. Abdullah said he has “no problems” when he visits the village from which his wife, also Muslim, hails. “The neighbors are fine that I’m Muslim,” he said. “We don’t see fertile ground for the natural spread of anti-Muslim views. It is sown from elsewhere.”

Navanethem Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, drew a similar conclusion when she visited the country last month. “From my experience, both personal and as high commissioner, I think that there is great respect and tolerance for diversity here in Moldova,” she told reporters at a press conference. “What we have to address is some extremist views or one particular religious group trying to dominate the others.” Nonetheless, the Muslim leaders say they and their group maintain a relatively low profile. They believe they make an easy target for politicians seeking to align themselves with the church, which claims an overwhelming majority of Moldovans as adherents – although its favored political group, the Humanist Party, garnered little support in last year’s parliamentary elections. “The church started it for its own political reasons and some politicians picked it up as a trump card in their fight for power,” using coded phrases such as, “We’re against constructing mosques,” Abdullah said.

“We avoid appearing on television and talking about ourselves because we don't want to provoke limited people like the ones who protested in the streets and cried, ‘Get out of Moldova!’” he added. “We don’t see the point of conflict.” For similar reasons Moldovan Muslims have no plans to build minarets. “We don’t want to provoke anybody or strain relations with people” of other faiths, Sochirca said. To those who invoke the touchy question of assimilation, which has caused conflict in Western European countries with sizable Muslim minorities, league officials maintain Moldova’s situation is different. Most Muslims here are not new immigrants but have lived in the country for at least 20 years and put down roots. “We’re as much citizens of Moldova” as anyone else, Abdullah said. “Muslims have the same traditions,” Sochirca added. “We didn’t come from somewhere outside.”
© Transitions Online

up  

NEO-NAZI TERRORISTS LINKED TO ZURICH RABBI MURDER (Germany/Switzerland)

Investigators suspect that a neo-Nazi terror group responsible for a series of murders in Germany may also have been behind the unexplained killing of a 70-year-old Israeli rabbi in Zurich a decade ago.

12/12/2011- The prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe has tasked a special investigator with examining links between extremists in Switzerland and the National Socialist Underground (NSU), the German neo-Nazi terrorist group responsible for at least ten murders from 2000 to 2007. According to the Basler Zeitung newspaper, so far there is no hard evidence that the NSU had a hand in the killing of Rabbi Abraham Grünbaum. But the group is known to have had contact with Swiss extremists and the 2001 shooting coincided with a short burst of deadly NSU activity. Additionally, the methods used in the slaying resembled those favoured by the Zwickau-based German terrorist group. Though police declined to confirm on the record that they suspected the NSU was involved in the killing, a Zurich police spokesman told the Basler Zeitung they were looking into the matter. “Whenever similar crimes happen we, of course, examine whether there could be links to unsolved homicides in our jurisdiction,” the spokesman said.

The Israeli orthodox rabbi was shot twice in the upper part of his body on June 7, 2001 from a range of less than two metres. At the time it was suspected that anti-Semitism could have been a motive but that could never be proven. However, nothing was stolen from the rabbi. Police briefly detained one man on suspicion of committing the killing, but he was released without charges. That summer also saw similar killings by the terrorist cell of three Turks: a tailor in Nuremberg, a fruit seller in Hamburg and the owner of a small business in Munich. The terrorists also met with like-minded people in several cantons in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, the Basler Zeitung reported. Witnesses reported they drove a vehicle with Swiss number plates during their travels across northern Germany. Additionally, the weapon they allegedly used to kill eight Turks and one Greek over the course of the last decade, a Ceska 83, was purchased in canton Solothurn in Switzerland, the newspaper said.
© The Local - Switzerland

up  

GERMANY CREATES NATIONAL AGENCY TO INVESTIGATE NEO-NAZIS

16/12/2011- Germany opened a new national agency Friday charged with tracking subversion by neo-Nazis, in response to criticism that police overlooked a trio of neo-Nazi serial killers for more than a decade. The self-styled National Socialist Underground (NSU) allegedly killed nine immigrants from 2000 to 2006 and a police officer in 2007, but all the crimes remained unsolved until the gang collapsed with the death of two members and the survivor turning herself in. The Joint Counter-Intelligence Centre Against Right-Wing Extremism, or GAR, will initially employ 130 to 140 staff. Most will be on secondment from the national counter-intelligence agency and the national police agency BKA, with the rest from other espionage agencies and security authorities in Germany's 16 states. The splitting of police work between the states and turf wars between agencies that work in parallel have been blamed for Germany's failure to notice the existence of the killer trio, who did not issue terrorist-style claims of responsibility. 'This has to be fixed,' said Heinz Fromm, head of federal counter-intelligence. He said there was now a risk that other neo-Nazis would copy the NSU. 'From experience, this is something you have to keep a close eye on,' he said.

The new agency will operate from two sites in Cologne and Bonn, joined up by daily video-conferences. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said the agency's first task would be to help bring together data on how the NSU functioned. The new agency is modelled on a similar office set up to track Islamist terrorism in Germany. Meanwhile, the father of one of the two neo-Nazis who died last month in an apparent suicide pact told an interviewer that he hopes to apologize to the families of the victims for his son's 'unbearable' acts. The news weekly Der Spiegel issued parts of the interview with Siegfried Mundlos, an eastern German professor whose son, Uwe Mundlos, vanished into the neo-Nazi underground more than a decade ago. The son died November 4 in an apparent suicide pact. The father, who has previously refused interviews, said he would ask to meet the families of nine immigrants and a policewoman as soon as questions had been cleared up. He said he was aware that right now, any contact would upset the families. The father said the family had vainly tried during the 1990s to stop their son joining the neo-Nazis in the eastern city of Jena. 'I did everything I could think of, but nothing worked,' said the father, who described his son as an 'almost shy' person.
© DPA

up  

NEO-NAZI’S SECRET WEAPON: WOMEN (Germany)

A shocking crime spree highlights the quiet, insidious role of Germany's women neo-Nazis.

16/12/2011- “I’m the one you’re looking for,” announced Beate Zschaepe when she reported to the police in Jena, eastern Germany, on Nov. 8. Four days earlier, Zschaepe had blown up her apartment, apparently to hide evidence. Her two live-in companions had died of gunshot wounds, after botching a bank robbery. Authorities contend that one of the men, Uwe Mundlos, shot the other, Uwe Boehnhardt, before killing himself. In mugshots seered into the German consciousness by non-stop media coverage, Zschaepe, 36, appears exhausted, her dark hair disheveled and smudged mascara ringing her eyes. Officials quickly determined that she and her two dead companions were members of a far-right trio, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), that had been on the run for 13 years. Evidence emerged linking the group to a series of brutal murders of nine immigrant shop-owners and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007 — a hate crime spree that has unnerved Germany. Zschaepe, it now seems, is an extreme example of a phenomenon that researchers have been warning of for years: Women are playing an increasingly prominent, and at times violent, role on the extreme right. They now account for an estimated one in five neo-Nazis. And because women are viewed with less suspicion, they have quietly infiltrated many mainstream organizations where they can spread their ideas — even targeting children.

It is too early to say exactly how much Zschaepe knew about her companions’ alleged racist killing spree. Prosecutors admit they have no evidence that she herself killed anyone. She has been charged with arson and membership of a terrorist group. She is so far refusing to cooperate, and if she continues to maintain her silence the terrorism charge may have to be dropped. When the story first broke, the tabloid press had little interest in examining Zschaepe’s political convictions, preferring to focus on the lurid details her sex life, speculating on a possible ménage-a-trois with the two men. She was described as the “Nazi bride,” “a hot vixen” or the “strange one with the bedroom eyes.” Yet, the picture that has since emerged is one of a young woman who from an early age was a committed neo-Nazi. Born in 1975, she grew up on a high-rise estate in Jena with her unemployed single mother. As a teenager she was drawn to extremist militant groups like Kameradschaft Jena and the notorious Thüringer Hemaitschutz, both of which also counted Mundlos and Boehnhardt as members.

The intelligence authorities began monitoring the trio from 1995. In 1998, the police raided a garage Zschaepe had rented and found four pipe bombs and 1.4 kilos of explosives. The three fled before they could be arrested and it was only when the two men died and Zschaepe gave herself up that their whereabouts and the full extent of their crimes in the intervening years emerged. The titillating press coverage was a dangerous distraction from the trend that Zschape represented, according to Rena Kenzo and Michaela Koettig of the Research Network into Women and Right-Wing Extremism. They wrote an open letter, complaining about the press coverage. “Beate Zschaepe was being presented as a harmless follower,” Kenzo told GlobalPost. “That is something we objected to because at the time it was not yet at all clear what role she had in this group.” “There are enough factors that point to the fact that she didn’t go underground because she wanted to go to bed with the two men, but that this was about political participation,” said Koettig, a professor at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. Koettig argues that this focus is typical of the approach of the media and authorities when it comes to women on the radical right. “Generally women are not noticed. We have pleaded with the intelligence agencies to also look at the participation of women.” Instead, she explains, they are dismissed as being of marginal importance, particularly because they are regarded as less violent than far-right men.

Women are only responsible for 5 to 10 percent of far-right crimes, according to the state police forces’ statistics. However, that could underestimate their role, argues Johanna Sigl, a researcher into women who have left the far-right scene. “There is the cliché of the peaceful woman, so the police and press often minimize the possibility that women have actively participated,” says Sigl. “And even when they don’t commit acts of violence themselves, we find that far-right women know about the violence and tolerate it, and they often have a so-called ‘gallery function’ in that they are present during the violence and they egg on the men.” The cliché of the non-violent woman is something the far-right National Democratic Party (NDP) is keen to capitalize on as it attempts to make itself seem less threatening to voters. Currently women account for 27 percent of the party members and at the most recent party conference in November three women were elected to the party’s executive committee, the highest ever representation. It’s a development encouraged by an NPD-affiliated women's organization, the Ring of Nationalist Women (RNF), which formed in 2006.

Women are also joining and often playing leading roles in another extremist movement, the so-called “national anarchists.” A fairly recent phenomenon, these groups of young people dress similarly to the far-left anarchists, wearing hoodies and scarves, and deliberately seek out violence at demonstrations. In fact, there has been a flourishing of extreme-right women’s groups since reunification. Between 1950 and 1988, eight women’s organizations were established in the former West Germany, whereas 39 new groups have formed across the country over the past 20 years. Germany is far more advanced than other countries in developing specific female neo-Nazi structures. “It is the only country with so many women’s organizations, so many new groups and with such diversity on the right,” Kenzo explains. In addition to those who choose overt political activity, many women push the neo-Nazi agenda in other insidious ways. The far-right uses women to hide the political nature of certain activities. Female members, for example, are often the ones who register demonstrations, rent venues for meetings, or go to anti-Nazi marches to take photographs.

Women are key to the far-right strategy of infiltrating different parts of society, such as sports clubs, community organizations or parent associations. And far-right women often pursue careers such as teaching, child care or social work which gives them access to younger generations. Often employers find out too late that the nice woman they hired is actually a neo-Nazi. While these women may not be skinheads in jackboots, they share the same extremist racist and anti-Semitic ideology. Experts warn that the fact that they don’t fit the stereotypes can make this kind of political activity all the more dangerous. “Women are wonderfully suited to this,” says Koettig. “Because people don’t give them credit for having a political position, never mind believe that they would strategically infiltrate a group in order to spread a particular set of politics.”
© The Global Post

up  

DOUBTS GROW IN CASE AGAINST NEO-NAZI GROUP (Germany)

Prosecutors in Germany are worried the most serious charge against the sole surviving member of a murderous neo-Nazi group may collapse. Beate Zschäpe's refusal to speak about the alleged crimes is complicating efforts to prove she was a part of a terrorist organization, sources say. That could leave her facing far less jail time if convicted.

14/12/2011- At first the evidence against Germany's Zwickau terror cell appeared to be overwhelming. Police found the weapons used in a seven-year killing spree in the trio's burned-out trailer and apartment, as well as a DVD claiming responsibility for at least 10 murders. But now doubts are growing over whether Beate Zschäpe, the sole surviving suspect in the killings, can be successfully prosecuted on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization. According to a report in the Wednesday edition of the national Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the case against Zschäpe and four suspected accomplices is on shaky ground. The suspects are accused of membership in a terrorist organization and of supporting a terrorist group. But Zschäpe, who is alleged to have formed the far-right, neo-Nazi terrorist group National Socialist Underground (NSU) together with Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, is refusing to answer questions from police and prosecutors about the alleged crimes. If she refuses to provide information, it will be difficult, or perhaps impossible, to prove the existence of a terrorist organization, sources close to the investigation told the newspaper. If it cannot be proved that Zschäpe was a member of a terrorist organization, then the terrorism charges would have to be dropped, an unnamed, high-ranking law enforcement official told the newspaper. According to German law, a terrorist organization must by definition consist of at least three members. If those charges are dropped, then it is possible that Zschäpe could only be prosecuted on arson charges. On Nov. 4, Zschäpe is alleged to have set the Zwickau apartment where she had lived together with Böhnhardt and Mundlos on fire after police closed in on the trio following a bank robbery. According to the authorities, Mundlos had shot Böhnhardt in a recreational vehicle in Eisenach earlier that day before shooting himself.

Lack of Evidence
The case against the group's alleged supporters is also threatening to collapse, the Süddeutsche reported. The suspected terror helpers are accused of having supplied the trio with documents, places to live and weapons after they went underground in 1998. But so far, it has been impossible to prove that any of the four individuals who are currently in custody actually knew about the Zwickau cell's criminal activities, sources told the newspaper. Three of them, including Ralf Wohlleben, a former official in the far-right National Democratic Party who was arrested on Nov. 29, are now refusing to make statements. No new evidence was obtained during any of the previous interrogations, sources said. It is also unclear how long the four men can be detained in custody if they cannot be proved to have supported a terrorist organization. The revelations about the string of murders attributed to the Zwickau cell have come as a shock both in Germany and abroad. The neo-Nazis are believed to have killed nine men of Turkish and Greek origin as well as a police officer during a seven-year killing spree. The discovery of the cell has sparked a renewed debate in Germany over whether the country is doing enough to fight neo-Nazi groups and if the government should launch a fresh effort to ban the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party (NPD), which holds seats in parliament in the eastern German states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony. A previous effort to ban the party failed in 2003 after it was revealed that informants for Germany's intelligence agencies held senior positions in the NPD.
© The Spiegel

up  

GERMAN INTELLIGENCE HAS 130 INFORMANTS IN EXTREMIST PARTY

Following revelations about a neo-Nazi terror cell believed to have murdered at least 10 people, Germans want to see the right-wing extremist party NPD banned. But new figures reveal just how hard that would be. SPIEGEL has learned that German intelligence has fully 130 informants in the party.

12/12/2011- The detection of a neo-Nazi terrorist cell in Germany last month sparked fresh calls for a ban on the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). But before any attempt to ban the party can be carried out, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, will first have to deactivate its informants within the party. A previous attempt to ban the party failed because of the presence of paid informants within the NPD. Now, the scale of the challenge that such a move would pose has become clear. SPIEGEL has learned that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution has over 130 informants active within the controversial party, some of them in senior positions. The magazine arrived at the total by analysing information about sources that the authorities have released over the past few weeks. The total includes officials in leadership positions on both the state and national levels, as well as ordinary members of the party. In the event of a new attempt to ban the party, the domestic intelligence agency would have to deactivate over 100 of these informants.

Failed Attempt
Germany has already tried, and failed, to ban the party. In 2003, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court rejected a move to outlaw the party when it was revealed that intelligence agency informants held senior positions within the NPD. The court argued that it was possible that the party's policies had partly been shaped by informants working for the intelligence agency. Following the failed 2003 attempt, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution reacted by reducing the number of high-ranking informants within the party, so as not to be vulnerable to criticism that the NPD was being controlled by the state. SPIEGEL has learned, however, that the agency still has over 10 active informants who are members of executive committees in the party. More than half of the 130 informants are neo-Nazis who are active both in the NPD and in small far-right militant groups known as Kameradschaften (literally "comradeships"). Authorities consider deactivating these informants to be particularly problematic, as it would deprive law enforcement agencies of information about these secretive groups.

States Are Split on Issue
The question of what to do with paid government informants in the NPD is a point of contention between Germany's various state-level interior ministries, who are responsible for the state branches of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. States which are governed by Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) have already deactivated their informants in leadership positions, and at least some of them are prepared to stop using informants all together. In states which are run by the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), however, such as Bavaria, Hesse and Lower Saxony, there is significant resistance to such moves. Following the Constitutional Court's 2003 ruling, a new attempt to ban the party would only have hopes of success if it could be guaranteed that informants had no influence on the party or on the banning procedure itself. Calls to outlaw the NPD became loud after the recent discovery of the so-called Zwickau cell, who are thought to have murdered nine people of foreign origin and a policewoman. Support for a ban increased after the Nov. 29 arrest of former NPD official Ralf Wohlleben, who is suspected of providing a gun for the neo-Nazi trio.
© The Spiegel

up  

NEO-NAZI ARRESTED IN GERMANY

Prosecutors charge the 36-year-old man helped the Nationalist Socialist Underground by renting apartments for its members, helping them live anonymously.

11/12/2011- German police arrested a man on Sunday they suspect of assisting in six murders and one attempted murder committed by a neo-Nazi cell uncovered last month, a case that has renewed debate about banning a far-right party. Prosecutors said the 36-year old, named as Matthias D., was arrested in the early morning at his home in Erzgebirgskreis, an area in the eastern state of Saxony. Police were now searching three flats in the area, including the suspect's and another possible female supporter. Investigators believe the cell, which called itself the "Nationalist Socialist Underground" (NSU), has killed nine Turks and Greeks and a 22-year-old police woman since 2000. The cell is also suspected of two bomb attacks and 14 bank robberies across the country, prosecutors say.

A statement by the Federal Prosecutor's Office said the suspect was believed to have assisted the group in two cases. He is believed to have shared the right-wing views of the cell and at least to have assented to its crimes, the statement said. "He is suspected of providing two flats in Zwickau (Thuringia) to the members of the NSU as permanent accommodation," the statement said. The case has received widespread media attention and has prompted a second bid to outlaw the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) after reports suggested security services had informants among neo-Nazis and the NPD. A previous attempt in 2003 failed after witnesses were exposed as intelligence agency informants. The NPD, which has condemned the crimes, is represented in two state assemblies and gets about 1 million Euros in taxpayer money each year.

The domestic intelligence service describes the party as racist, revisionist, anti-Semitic and inspired by Nazism. Prosecutors have said the "Nationalist Socialist Underground" cell was "motivated by xenophobic and subversive thinking" and that its goal was to kill citizens, mainly those with foreign roots and those representing the state's authority. Their aim was to create a climate of fear and insecurity among the population, prosecutors say. The case has already led to other arrests, such as of a 36-year-old senior NPD official in Thuringia.
© Reuters

up  

GERMANS FORM HUMAN CHAIN TO DENOUNCE NEO-NAZI SERIAL KILLINGS

10/12/2011- More than 3,000 people joined hands in the German city of Kassel Saturday, forming a human chain in a peaceful protest against serial killings of immigrants by a neo-Nazi gang. One end of the chain formed outside an internet cafe where a Turkish man, Halit Yozgat, was shot at point-blank range in 2006, one of nine immigrants killed over a seven-year period. The crimes went unsolved until the gang of three was uncovered last month. The other end of the chain reached the Kassel town hall, where the father of the dead man was invited to speak to the crowd. Organizers from the city council and the minority affairs board said 5,000 people attended, but police put the number at 3,500. Police are still investigating the crimes claimed by the so-called National Socialist Underground. Two of the gang died November 4 in an apparent suicide and the third member turned herself in. On Friday, Germany's state and federal interior ministers appointed a panel of experts to seek a legal way to ban the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), a small party that uses neo-Nazis to canvass for votes. A previous attempt to ban it was ruled invalid in 2003 by Constitutional Court judges because evidence had been obtained by paid informers. Any new attempt would require a way to be found to clear that legal obstacle.
© DPA

up  

GERMANY’S NOT SO NEW EXTREMISTS (opinion)

The police, belatedly, solve a series of racist murders. 
By John Rosenthal

"It seems . . . that we are in fact dealing with a new form of right-wing extremist terrorism,” German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich announced last month, following the revelation that a trio of neo-Nazis from Jena had been responsible for the murder of nine “foreigners” in Germany, as well as a police officer. But the only thing new about the case is the fact that it is now​—​no thanks to German authorities​—​finally solved. The first of what came to be known in Germany as the “kebab murders” dates back to the year 2000. The last murder attributed to the trio​—​that of policewoman Michèle Kiesewetter​—​occurred in April 2007. Moreover, the three neo-Nazis​—​Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt, and Uwe Mundlos​—​first came to the attention of law enforcement in the mid-1990s. They were then budding members of a well-known regional neo-Nazi organization in their native Thuringia: the Thüringer Heimatschutz or the “Thuringian Homeland Defense.” They began their careers in racist crime with an anti-Semitic prank, when Böhnhardt, then a teenager, hung a mannequin with a Star of David painted on it from a highway overpass in April 1996. By January 1998, the three friends were wanted by the police on suspicion of preparing a bomb attack. Four detonation-ready pipe-bombs had been found in a garage rented by Zschäpe.

Somehow the trio managed to evade arrest at the time and remain at large for nearly 14 years while committing 10 gangland-style murders and, it would seem, detonating a bomb packed with nails on a busy commercial strip in a Turkish immigrant neighborhood in Cologne. (Miraculously, no one was killed in that Cologne attack; 22 people were injured, 4 seriously.) More troubling, there are numerous indications that Zschäpe, Böhnhardt, and Mundlos had contacts with Germany’s domestic intelligence services and may even have been informants for those services. The trio began their reign of terror on September 9, 2000. On that day, the Turkish-born florist Enver Simsek was shot eight times in Nuremberg. Over the next six years, the trio​—​perhaps with the aid of accomplices​—​would execute another seven “Turkish” shop owners and employees across Germany, as well as a Greek shop owner whom they appear either to have mistaken for a Turk or regarded as equivalent for their purposes. The last victim of the gang, Halit Yozgat, was in fact born in Germany and was a German citizen. Yozgat was shot twice in the head at his Internet café in Kassel in April 2006.

It is common in Germany to describe people as foreigners according to their ethnic origins, regardless of whether they were born in Germany or how long they have lived there. The practice is by no means limited to the “extreme right.” It is grounded in German law, which continues to distinguish between “ethnic Germans” (deutsche Volkszugehörige) and other, so to say, “non-German” German citizens. As the largest immigrant community, Turkish immigrants and their families have long borne the brunt of racist and xenophobic violence in Germany. Attacks on German residents of Turkish origin in the 1990s included the infamous arson attacks on Turkish family homes in Mölln and Solingen. Eight people were killed in these attacks, including five girls aged 4 to 14. Another 23 people were injured. Turkish family homes in Germany continued to go up in flames at an alarming rate in the intervening years. No matter how suspicious the circumstances, German authorities almost invariably claimed either to be able to “rule out” criminal causes or, at any rate, to have no evidence of racist motives. The causes of the fires have typically been left undetermined. This is the case, for instance, of the February 2008 fire in an apartment building in Ludwigshafen that took the lives of 9 people, all of Turkish origin. Another 60 people were injured. As in the cases of Mölln and Solingen, all of the dead were women or girls. Two young girls who survived reported seeing an intruder setting fire to a baby carriage in the entryway. Distinctive Nazi SS runes found spraypainted on the building were dismissed by investigators as merely coincidental​—​so too was the fact that the same building had been attacked with Molotov cocktails two years earlier.

A recent series of 11 fires in five years in family homes in the western German town of Völklingen (population 40,000) received similar treatment from the authorities. The residents, as the Saarbrücker Zeitung put it, were “Italians, black Africans, Algerians, but, above all, Turks.” In this case, police have acknowledged that the fires were deliberately set. Three houses were torched on the same day in 2007. The house of Recep Ünsal and his family was set on fire, then rebuilt, and then set on fire again. Though the area is a well-known hotbed of neo-Nazi activity, police again refused to acknowledge any evidence of xenophobic motives. Instead, they cast suspicion on the residents, opening an ultimately fruitless investigation of Recep Ünsal and even tapping his phone. As the murders of “foreign” shopkeepers and employees piled up during the last decade, the crimes came to be known as the Dönermorde​—​the “kebab murders”​—​an allusion to döner kebabs, a Turkish specialty and a popular fast food in Germany. The designation is itself indicative of the prejudice to which persons of Turkish origin are commonly subjected in Germany. Only two of the victims in fact worked at kebab stands. All the murders displayed the same gangland-style modus operandi and a common murder weapon was used. If German authorities did not recognize that they were confronted by xenophobic terror, it was only because they averted their gaze and insisted on entertaining every hypothesis but the most obvious one. Thus a recent review of the cases in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung notes:
The victims are kiosk-owners, run kebab stands or work at locksmiths. They are all shot in broad daylight and the same weapon is always involved: a Czech “Ceská,” 7.65 caliber, Type 83. Otherwise, the police are not able to establish any other connection among the murders. The scenes of the crimes are strewn all across Germany. Up to 60 officers assigned to the “special unit Bosphorus” [Soko Bosporus] investigate in the organized crime milieu, there are speculations about protection money, money laundering, human trafficking, and a possible involvement of the Turkish drug mafia. But the country’s longest and most mysterious series of murders remains unsolved.

But the other relevant “connection” was quite obviously the ethnic origins of the victims​—​as the very name given to “special unit Bosphorus” indicates. If the Frankfurter Allgemeine report is to be believed, it simply never occurred to the police to look for the killers in Germany’s closely monitored and virulently xenophobic neo-Nazi milieu. Showing remarkable docility, the German media typically played along with the pretense that the murder series was somehow “mysterious” and that investigators had “no clue” about motives. Just how taboo it was even to bring up the possibility of racist or xenophobic motives can be gauged by Kassel police officer Helmut Wetzel’s painfully diffident observations in a radio interview with German public broadcaster ARD in 2010, some four years after Yozgat’s murder:
My theory, my very personal theory, I must emphasize​—​it is always a bit risky going public with such a personal theory​—​but I believe that the perpetrator is someone who sought out the victims according to their ethnicity and milieu. This is to say, he does not see the individual victim, but he sees here someone from a southern country [einen Südländer], a Turk in a Turkish shop.

Like so many other prima facie racist crimes in Germany, the murders might have remained unsolved, were it not for the blundering of the perpetrators in an unrelated affair. Since 2007, the neo-Nazi trio appear to have wrapped up their murder spree and moved on to a less ideologically driven form of crime: namely, bank robbery. On the morning of November 4, Böhnhardt and Mundlos, wearing a ski mask and gorilla mask respectively, robbed a bank in the small eastern German town of Eisenach. After making an initial getaway on bicycles, the two men packed the bikes into a rented camper and prepared to drive out of town. A police dragnet appears, however, to have cut off their escape routes. According to investigators, as police moved in on the vehicle around noon, Mundlos shot his younger colleague, then set fire to the camper and turned his weapon on himself. The two men’s corpses would be recovered from the burnt-out shell of the vehicle. Around three hours later, a second fire broke out in a rented apartment in a semi-detached house in Zwickau some 100 miles away. The apartment was the residence of Zschäpe, Böhnhardt, and Mundlos. The three neo-Nazis, who allegedly “disappeared” in 1998 and whom German police reportedly suspected had left the country, were in fact living less than an hour’s drive from their hometown of Jena. After leaving her cats with a neighbor, Zschäpe appears to have set fire to the apartment and fled. She would turn herself in to the police in Jena a few days later.

In the ashes, investigators discovered the 7.65 caliber Ceská used in the murders. They are also reported to have discovered DVDs containing a video in which a so-called National Socialist Underground (NSU)​—​apparently consisting of Zschäpe, Böhnhardt, and Mundlos​—​takes credit for the nine döner murders, as well as for the 2004 bombing in Cologne’s Keupstrasse. Despite the fact that the street is so well known as a Turkish commercial center that it is commonly referred to as “Little Istanbul,” the Keupstrasse bombing represents yet another major “unsolved” crime with respect to which German police had previously claimed to have “no clue” of xenophobic motives. The video also contains an image of the murdered policewoman, Michèle Kiesewetter. Excerpts from the NSU video that have been broadcast or posted online combine animated images from a Pink Panther cartoon and pictures of the group’s victims​—​including grisly crime scene photos that appear to have been taken by the perpetrators themselves. According to initial reports, the NSU had been planning to distribute the video to a list of recipients. Some copies of the video had in fact already been sent, although it is not clear when. This could explain how the newsweekly Der Spiegel obtained a copy. One of the copies was addressed to the regional offices in Saxony of the post-Communist PDS or Party of Democratic Socialism. The party​—​which is today known simply as Die Linke or “The Left”​—​abandoned the name PDS in 2007, just a couple of months after the murder of Kiesewetter. The address on the package was also no longer current. This suggests the videos were prepared for sending already in 2007, presumably shortly after the Kiesewetter murder.

Another interesting discovery in the ruins of the Zwickau apartment was what the German media have described as “legal illegal” identity papers. The German parliamentarian and security expert Hans-Peter Uhl explained to the tabloid Bild that “normally the only people to receive such papers are covert investigators who work for an intelligence agency and are handled by an intelligence agency.” This is to say that one or more of the neo-Nazi trio appear to have been informants of the German domestic intelligence service known as the “Office for the Protection of the Constitution” or Verfassungsschutz. (There is both a federal Verfassungschutz office and regional offices in several German states.) In 2001, it was revealed that Tino Brandt, the leader of the Thuringian Homeland Defense, was a Verfassungsschutz informant. Brandt is reported to have received around 200,000 Deutschmarks​—​or nearly $140,000​—​for his services. According to Bild, despite public denials, security officials have privately confirmed that Beate Zschäpe continued to have contact with Verfassungsschutz informants​—​including Tino Brandt​—​after she allegedly “disappeared” in 1998. The Leipziger Volkszeitung reports that investigators have evidence she may herself have been serving as an “occasional” informant right up until this year. Moreover, it is known that a Verfassungsschutz officer​—​not a mere informant​—​was present in Halit Yozgat’s Internet café in Kassel when Yozgat was shot to death in 2006. This was discovered weeks after the crime by police investigators examining the hard drives of the computers in Yozgat’s shop.

The intelligence officer​—​who in German media reports has been identified only as “Andreas T.”​—​left the Internet café after the murder without notifying the police. He would subsequently be suspended from his job at the regional office of the Verfassungsschutz in the German state of Hesse and transferred to a new government job with the district administration of Kassel. According to news reports, he continues to be employed by the district administration of Kassel​—​this despite the fact that, as it turns out, Andreas T. is himself a Nazi sympathizer. Indeed, Andreas T. was so open about his politics that in his hometown of Hofgeismar he was known as “Little Adolf.” There is now additional reason to believe that the German intelligence officer could have been implicated in the murders. According to a report in Bild, while working for the Verfassungsschutz Andreas T. was the official “handler” of an informant with connections to the Thuringian Homeland Defense.

Whatever the significance of the connections between the neo-Nazi trio and German domestic intelligence, one thing is already clear: The wave of racist and, above all, anti-Turkish violence that afflicted Germany in the 1990s in fact continued unabated in the new century. It would appear that political pressure to spare Germany’s “good reputation” (as a recent report on German news channel N24 put it) led both the authorities and virtually all of the German media to avoid the obvious. It remains to be seen whether, after the dramatic self-outing of the “National Socialist Underground,” the German establishment will deal more candidly and effectively with Germany’s by no means “new” problem of neo-Nazi terror. It will be a sure sign that Germany is not dealing more frankly with the problem if investigators​—​after refusing to see racist motives in racist crimes for over a decade​—​now attempt to pin their entire backlog of “unsolved” cases on the trio of Nazis from Jena.

John Rosenthal writes on European politics and transatlantic security issues. You can follow his work at www.trans-int.com.
© The Weekly Standard

up  

DEVILISH PACT WITH EUROPE’S RIGHT WING (opinion)

Israeli Nationalists Form Common Cause With Anti-Islamists 
By Liam Hoare

16/12/2011- Economic upheaval and strife in Europe have historically begat fierce nationalism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. Faced with a serious debt crisis, severe budget cuts, grim austerity, rising unemployment and creeping inflation, the current depression is no exception. Since the fall of 2008, reported incidents of anti-Semitism have risen across the continent. In Britain, a record number of anti-Jewish crimes was noted in 2009. This year in the Netherlands, the number of Jews who reported being verbally harassed, and even physically attacked, climbed. More recently, a restored Jewish cemetery in the Republic of Kosovo was desecrated with Nazi grafitti. What is fundamentally different about Europe’s current condition, however, is that anti-Semitism has been largely superseded in the organized far-right by suspicion at best, and hatred at worst, of the continent’s growing Muslim community. As Australian writer Antony Loewenstein puts it: “Yesterday’s anti-Semites have reformed themselves as today’s crusading heroes against an unstoppable Muslim birth rate on a continent that now sees Islam as an intolerant and ghettoized religion.”

More curious still is that via this Islamophobia (for lack of a better term), Europe’s extremist parties have entered into a disturbing marriage of convenience with sections of the Israeli right. In December 2010, politicians including Heinz-Christian Strache of Austria’s Freiheitliche Partei and Filip Dewinter of Vlaams Belang in Flemish Belgium visited Israel and signed the Jerusalem Declaration, “guaranteeing Israel’s right to defend itself against terror.” On a separate occasion, Members of Knesset Aryeh Eldad (National Union) and Ayoob Kara (Likud) met with members of a Russian neo-Nazi delegation that also toured Yad Vashem. The English Defense League — not a political party but, rather, a thuggish and violent mob made up of the same sort of white working-class males who formed the rank-and-file of Mosley’s Blackshirts — has described the bond between themselves and Israel in the following terms: “In many ways there are parallels to be drawn between the radicalization that has infected the Palestinians and their supporters and the radicalization that continues to breed in British mosques. In this way at least, the people of England and the people of Israel have a great deal in common.”

Don’t be fooled. In the discourse of the European right, “extremism” and “radicalism” with regard to Islam are terms used to couch deeper concerns and prejudices, so as to broaden the movement’s appeal. Overtures to the existential security of Israel as a bulwark in the Middle East are in one respect an extension of this desire for wider acceptance and a detoxification of the far right brand. But mutual cooperation between the Israeli and European fringes can perhaps best be attributed to a shared obsession with blood, soil and demography, as well as an opposition to multiculturalism and a desire to fashion mono-ethnic and mono-religious states. The number of Muslims in Europe has grown, from 29.6 million in 1990 to 44.1 million in 2010. Muslims now represent 10% of the overall population in France. The fear, as expressed here by the British National Party (BNP), is that because the Muslim world’s “excess population” is “currently colonizing” the continent, the “indigenous British people will become an ethnic minority in [their] own country well within 60 years — and most likely sooner.”

Rightist factions thus demonize Muslim immigrants as the inculcators of any national maladies. The BNP again blame immigration for “higher crime rates, demand for more housing, longer hospital waiting lists, lower educational standards, and higher unemployment.” At a time when Jews are diminishing as a total share of Israel’s wider population, Avigdor Lieberman rails against a two-state solution that calls for “a Palestinian territory with no Jewish population and a Jewish state with a minority group comprising over 20% of the general population,” the Arabs. His party, Yisrael Beiteinu, has described Israeli Arabs as a fifth column “likely to serve as terrorist agents on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.” The religious right in Israel also has courted the European fringe, with MK Nissam Ze’ev (Shas) arguing that, “At the end of the day, what’s important is their attitude, the fact they really love Israel.”

On the one hand, it is tempting to argue that such parties as Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu are flirting with the far right as a facet of their strategy to garner any friends it can, at a time when the policies of Netanyahu’s government are alienating allies across Europe. This would certainly explain the recent photo op of Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, with Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Front National. Given Le Pen’s father’s propensity for Holocaust minimalization, the grubby axiom “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” has rarely been more apt. Speaking in general terms, this might be a fair assessment, but it also is evident that for certain members of the Knesset, something altogether more sinister is at work. These representatives have entered into a Faustian pact with the dregs of Europe in hopes of eliciting support for a Jewish state cleansed of its Muslim population; and for those on the religious right, for a state grounded in an extreme form of Orthodox Judaism. It is a deal out of which no good can possibly come.

Liam Hoare is a freelance writer and graduate student at University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies.
© The Forward

up  

OLDER ETHNIC MINORITIES AND MIGRANTS ARE ALSO PART OF THE EU’S AGEING POPULATION (press release)

Frequently the ‘migrant’ factor is forgotten in discussions on Europe’s ageing population. But older migrants and ethnic minorities face specific challenges in Europe in accessing care, the labour market, and securing their livelihoods. Targeted measures are needed to address these shortcomings, say the European Network Against Racism and AGE Platform Europe ahead of International Migrants’ Day on 18 December.

16/12/2011- Older migrants share the same difficulties that any ageing person may encounter in access to healthcare and long term care, but with additional factors, including premature ageing due to harsh working and housing conditions, as well as a loss of command of their host country language, particularly if they suffer from dementia/Alzheimer. In addition, long term care facilities are often not adapted to the cultural, religious or linguistic needs of older migrants and ethnic minorities. They face the same problems of access and opportunity in the labour market as any older worker, but these are compounded by discrimination, lack of access to training and lifelong learning, as well as non-recognition of qualifications obtained in their home country. Retired migrants often live in sub-standard conditions and tend to lack pension contributions because of incomplete employment records.

Europe’s ageing population now includes significant numbers of ethnic minority people and migrants, which will continue to grow with current demographic trends and continuing migration to Europe. For instance, in the United Kingdom one in three ethnic minority people will be aged over 50 by 2028. Yet governments across Europe continue to consider migration as a temporary phenomenon and do not take migrants’ needs seriously in terms of addressing adequate pension entitlements, healthcare, housing, etc.

Chibo Onyeji, ENAR Chair, said: “Migrants and ethnic minorities in Europe have contributed to European society as workers and deserve consideration as they grow older. But so far, little attention has been paid to thinking about how their specific needs can be met. Decision makers and public authorities need to acknowledge this reality and deal with it so that older migrants can age in dignity.”

Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Secretary General, added that: “It is so important today, in a time of crisis when welfare schemes are at risk, everyone's pensions are being cut and older people become even more vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion, that measures are taken so that all people, including migrants and ethnic minorities, can age in dignity. Solidarity between generations and among our communities needs to be actively promoted so that an age-friendly EU can be created for the benefit of all in society.”
© EUropean Network Against Racism

up  

RACISM ALIVE AND WELL AS EU SITS ON ANTI-DISCRIMINATION BILL (opinion)

By Georgina Siklossy

13/12/2011- It seems that the European Commission has just about given up on getting a progressive EU anti-discrimination law adopted. This draft law, which would ban discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in areas such as education and access to goods and services, has been blocked in negotiations at member state level for over three years. So far, minorities (with the exception of ethnic minorities) are only protected against discrimination in employment but not in other fields of life. If this bill indeed ends up being "forgotten," as one EU diplomat says in the above-mentioned article, the consequences will be dire. Not only has hope been raised that all people in Europe will finally enjoy the same rights in housing, schools, access to services and healthcare, this directive would also ensure legal protection against discrimination in these areas, not only in their own country but also when they visit or move to other EU countries.

An EU-wide survey by the European Fundamental Rights Agency on Muslims' experiences of discrimination clearly demonstrates the need for such protection: some of the highest levels of discrimination occurred in private services (at a bar, restaurant, shop, by a landlord, when trying to open a bank account etc. - total 14 percent).
Muslim North Africans in Italy stood out as experiencing a very high level of discrimination: 1 in 3 experienced discrimination in shops, cafes, restaurants or bars, while 1 in 4 experienced discrimination in banks. By burying the directive both EU Member States and the European Commission, who initiated the proposal, are sending the message that the need to respect our human rights and to be protected against discrimination is unimportant. In particular in the current climate of growing intolerance against minorities across Europe, we need EU member states to show political will to improve this situation and the European Commission to create political pressure to put the proposed law back on the agenda now, not later.

It is urgent that these government actors follow the advice of the European Parliament, who has repeatedly called for the draft law to be adopted. After all, we are living in a democracy and this requires that more institutions than just the parliament should be concerned about protecting the rights of minorities, LGBTers, disabled persons, and other groups facing discrimination.

The writer works for the European Network Against Racism (ENAR)
© The EUobserver

up  

UN ISSUES FIRST REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS OF GAY AND LESBIAN PEOPLE

15/12/2011- The first ever United Nations report on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people details how around the world people are killed or endure hate-motivated violence, torture, detention, criminalization and discrimination in jobs, health care and education because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The report, released today by the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, outlines “a pattern of human rights violations… that demands a response,” and says governments have too often overlooked violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Homophobic and transphobic violence has been recorded in every region of the world, the report finds, and ranges from murder, kidnappings, assaults and rapes to psychological threats and arbitrary deprivations of liberty.

LGBT people are often targets of organized abuse from religious extremists, paramilitary groups, neo-Nazis, extreme nationalists and others, as well as family and community violence, with lesbians and transgender women at particular risk. “Violence against LGBT persons tends to be especially vicious compared to other bias-motivated crimes,” the report notes, citing data indicating that homophobic hate crimes often include “a high degree of cruelty and brutality.” Violent incidents or acts of discrimination frequently go unreported because victims do not trust police, are afraid of reprisals or are unwilling to identify themselves as LGBT. The report – prepared in response to a request from the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year – draws from information included in past UN reporting, official statistics on hate crimes where there are available, and reporting by regional organizations and some non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

In the report, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calls on countries to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality, abolish the death penalty for offences involving consensual sexual relations, harmonize the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual conduct, and enact comprehensive anti-discrimination laws. In 76 countries it remains illegal to engage in same-sex conduct and in at least five countries – Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen – the death penalty prevails. Ms. Pillay recommends that Member States also promptly investigate all killings or serious violent incidents perpetrated because of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and to establish systems to record such incidents.

The High Commissioner also calls on countries to ensure that no one fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is returned to a territory where their life or freedom is at threat, and that asylum laws recognize that sexual orientation or gender identity is a valid basis for claiming persecution. Public information campaigns should be introduced, especially in schools, to counter homophobia, and police and law enforcement officials should also receive training to ensure LGBT people are treated appropriately and fairly.

Charles Radcliffe, the chief of OHCHR’s global issues section, told UN Radio that “one of the things we found is if the law essentially reflects homophobic sentiment, then it legitimizes homophobia in society at large. If the State treats people as second class or second rate or, worse, as criminals, then it’s inviting people to do the same thing.” He stressed that all UN Member States have an obligation under international human rights law to decriminalize homosexuality, adding it was important to persuade rather than lecture States to change their laws. “I think we have seen the balance of opinion amongst States really shifting significantly in recent years. Some 30 countries have decriminalized homosexuality in the last two decades or so.”

Mr. Radcliffe said that while all people have freedom of religion, “no religious belief or prevailing cultural values can justify stripping people of their basic rights.” The report, which will be discussed by Council members at a meeting in March next year, has been released as top UN officials have increasingly raised concerns about human rights violations against LGBT people. Last year, in a speech marking Human Rights Day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that “as men and women of conscience, we reject discrimination in general, and in particular discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” Ms. Pillay, during a public conversation last week on social media, also called for an end to bullying and other forms of persecution of LGBT people.
© UN News service

up  

ITALY: THE FLORENCE MURDERS

FINNISH POLICE PROBE POSSIBLE FINLAND LINK TO FLORENCE GUNMAN

15/12/2011- The Finnish Security Police said Wednesday they would investigate possible links between Tuesday's shooting in Florence and a Finnish extreme-right group.
"One should not draw any conclusions about the incident in Florence having anything to do with Finland, but having said that we are interested in possible [Finnish] contacts," Kari Harju of the Security Police told the Finnish News Agency. Harju added that members of Italian far-right group Casa Pound, linked to the Florence shooter, were believed to have attended a seminar hosted by the Finnish Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi group, in October. According to Italian authorities Gianluca Casseri shot dead two Senegalese street vendors and seriously wounded three others before turning the gun on himself.
© AFP

up  

ITALY KILLINGS UNDERSCORE EUROPEAN EXTREMISM PROBLEM

The murders of African street vendors by a right-wing extremist writer in Florence have shocked Italy. Questions are now emerging about whether the gunman acted alone. But one thing seems certain, he was close to a right-wing radical group that has a pop culture appeal admired even by Germany's neo-Nazis.

15/12/2011- Gianluca Casseri doubled parked his Volkswagen Polo near the Piazza Dalmazia in Florence before approaching three Senegalese street vendors selling handbags, lighters and shirts there on Tuesday. There the overweight man with a crew-cut paced back and forth in front of the salesmen before saying: "Now it's your turn." The 50-year-old then allegedly drew a Smith & Wesson revolver from his pocket, firing four or five times. Samb Modou, 40, and Diop Mor, 54, were dead at the scene. Moustapha Dieng, 34, survived with severe injuries. Some three hours later, Casseri wounded two people from Senegal just a few steps from the cathedral before fleeing into a parking garage. There, pursued by police, Casseri killed himself, leaving behind weeping and screaming witnesses, shocked relatives and a bewildered public. The next day Italian President Giorgio Napolitano spoke of "brutal murder," while Florentine Mayor Matteo Renzi sought to provide reassurance. The killings were not perpetrated by a group, but rather a "clear-headed, mad and racist killer," he said according to Italian news agency ANSA. "Florence is weeping," he added. Renzi also called on Italian authorities to "nip in the bud every form of intolerance and reaffirm the tradition of openness and solidarity in our country."

Racism or Insanity?
Since the slayings, Italy has been trying to understand the killer, asking whether he was a disturbed lone wolf or a member of a right-wing extremist network who acted out of conviction. Casseri was born in 1961 in the small village of Cireglio "when man conquered outer space and the biggest lunar eclipse of the 20th century darkened the sky," according to his profile on his homepage soronel.it, a site dedicated to author J.R.R. Tolkien. At age 12, he read the supernatural horror stories of American author Howard Lovecraft, which sparked an interest in fantasy literature. He became a bookkeeper, also founding his own magazine in 2001. It is in his writings that his worldview comes into focus. In an essay entitled "The Protocol of the Wisemen from Alexandria," he rails against what he describes as a Jewish world conspiracy and denies the Holocaust. Online he carried on about the "Aryan race." "When one reads his texts, it's easy to recognize that he was at risk, but no one recognized it," psychoanalyst Stefan Pallanti told the Florence daily La Nazione. But Italian sociologist Chiara Saraceno warned the national newspaper La Repubblica: "This is not madness, it's racism." Casseri's colleagues and girlfriends have described him as introverted, secretive and depressive. "He's the classic lone wolf," said Saverio Ferrari, an expert in right-wing extremism and head of the anti-fascist watchdog blog Osservatore democratico. "These kinds of criminals nurture their crude ideas in silence, at some point deciding to act. Then they believe that they are acting on behalf of a group to express their hatred of the circumstances."

'Fascist Delirium' Online
Meanwhile, Casseri has been become a hero of the right-wing extremist scene in the country, praised as a true Italian and a "white hero" worthy of renown and respect on the racist website stormfront.org. Casseri "cleaned up," a task for which he deserves thanks, a statement on the website read. A support group on Facebook entitled "Gianluca died for us" has already been "liked" by more than 6,000 users. Comments include this one: "Florence was only the beginning. We'll clean up all of Italy." A "fascist delirium" has broken out in the country, daily La Stampa wrote on Wednesday. For right-wing extremists, the reasons behind the killings are obvious. The situation has long been unbearable, the multi-ethnic society ticking "like a time-bomb about to explode," anti-Semitic website NonConforme wrote. Old-school fascism in Italy has been replaced by even more radical and dangerous symbols of neo-Nazism, said right-wing extremist expert Ferrari. "In the last 10 years we've observed a big leap in right-wing currents across Europe," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE. One of the newer neo-fascist groups, where Casseri is alleged to have found his ideological home, is called Casa Pound. Named after American poet Ezra Pound, who was an avid admirer of fascist Italian leader Benito Mussolini, the group has gathered a number of new members over the last two years, boasting some 50 offices nationwide. Casa Pound has a reputation for being young and trendy, squatting in houses and demonstrating against high rents, in addition to staging plays and running its own student organization.

In Germany, right-wing extremists are reportedly very interested in the up and coming group. According to Patrick Gensing of public broadcaster Norddeutsche Rundfunk, the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) in northern Saxony held a talk about the group in 2010. The neo-fascist group has also been the topic of interest at the NPD's "Institute for Homeland and National Identity," where they are exploring ways to construct a "cultural revolution from the right" that appeals to young voters. "Casa Pound has managed to create an attractive setting for young people by combining pop-culture and neo-fascism," said Hamburg historian Volker Weiss. "Along with this comes linking aesthetics and violence, which has a tradition in Italian fascism."

'A Dog Without an Owner'
But on Wednesday Casa Pound distanced itself from the killings. Though the group clearly rejects "mass immigration," a statement on its website noted that it opposes xenophobia and discriminatory violence. The group also downplayed Casseri's role within the organization. "Gianluca Casseri was a sympathizer of Casa Pound Italia, like hundreds of other Tuscans," the site reads. They acknowledged that he had visited the group's office in the province of Pistoia, but said he had not been militant. "We ask no one for proof of their mental integrity," it added. "He had nothing to do with us, that was a dog without an owner," said one of the group's activists on Wednesday. But Casseri did write for Ideodromo, a site run by Casa Pound, though on Wednesday at least five of his articles were no longer accessible online. "Casa Pound wants to erase evidence, that is clear," said right-wing extremism expert Ferrari. "The connection between Casseri and the organization was not accidental." Casseri also reportedly took part in the Milan opening of a new Casa Pound location. "It was his environment, he was indoctrinated here," Ferrari added.

'Policies of Hatred'
The question of whether Casseri may have been inspired by recent reports on the murderous neo-Nazi Zwickau cell in Germany remains an open one. "That is possible, but not documented," Ferrari said. "What is certain is that European right-wing radicals are well-networked. There are always NPD members coming to Italy for exchanges with like-minded people locally." In recent years, Italy has often been criticized for its approach to non-European foreigners. The shootings that took place on Tuesday are "the result of policies made of hatred, fascism and racism," said Izzedine Elzir, a Florentine imam. But the attacks seem to have motivated Italian authorities. On Wednesday, police in Rome arrested five right-wing extremists who allegedly belong to the banned fascist organization Militia. Investigations into at least eight suspects are underway and a number of home searches have been carried out, authorities reported. "The terrible murders could be the impetus to finally think about this and draw some conclusions," Ferrari said. "Either way, Italy will react."
© The Spiegel

up  

FLORENCE MURDERS – CRISIS DISTILLS ITS POISON (opinion)

The murder of two Senegalese traders in Florence is the latest manifestation of an upsurge of hatred in Europe. With the Utøya massacre, the vehement reactions to the Greek crisis, British isolationism and the rise of the extreme right, this trend has many forms — all of them equally alarming.
By Gianni Riotta


14/12/2011- Is there a link between the euro crisis, the powerlessness of political leaders and the murder of two Senegalese street traders, perpetrated by a far right extremist in Florence on 13 December? At first glance, the answer appears to be no. On the one hand, you have a wealthy continent ruled by incapable leaders that are unable to restart their countries’ economies in the wake of half a century of success: on the other, an armed racist neo-fascist. But, take a closer look and you will see how, in the wake of the psychological turmoil prompted by the recession, the worst poisons of our history are returning to the surface. When he returned to London following the divorce with Europe, British Prime Minister David Cameron was criticised by observers of the City, which he claims he wants to defend. But he was also acclaimed by conservative MPs who hailed his return to Westminster with shouts of “Bulldog spirit!” – a reference to the British bulldog much loved by Winston Churchill. In the last few months of debate on the euro, we have been treated to a nauseating collection of snapshots from an album of bad memories that we assumed would be forever closed. In Greece, there were demands “for war reparations for the German occupation of the country during the Second World War,” to be handed over in exchange for the payment of Athens’ debt. German newspapers, led by Bild, described Greeks as lazy and us Italians as spendthrift orgyists.

Playing with the fire of populism and nationalism
In response to Berlin economists’ criticism of our public finances, Italian websites have been flooded with anonymous comments that confine what they have to say to “Germans = SS.” Cameron’s performance has prompted references to “perfidious Albion” – a term much cherished by Mussolini. Hatred, resentment, racism, contempt for others, intolerance: all of these incidents have been marked by the same DNA which manifests itself in time of crisis. And this is also true of the 13 December murders in Florence. In 2003, on the eve of the war in Iraq, a disagreement between the United States and Europe – that is to say the allies who 15 years earlier encountered no resistance when they won the Cold War – degenerated into an exceptionally vehement exchange of insults. Remember Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus… ? The nonsense that poisoned the atmosphere at the time highlighted a sense of unease and a remoteness that has persisted ever since. In the spring of 2003, the United States Congrees invited four European witnesses to a hearing that was supposed to bridge the gap that had opened up between Washington and Brussels. I was one of this group, as was the current Foreign Minister of Poland, Radek Sikorski. At the time, we highlighted the perils of playing with the fire of populism and nationalism in the difficult economic climate that prevailed at the beginning of the century.

Florence, a European capital of culture
And today, serious European observers, like Gideon Rachman and Martin Wolf, and even Economics Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman, are saying that they see in the hatred that is proliferating on the Internet, and the recession that is being triggered by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy’s failure to make the right choices, the beginnings of a season of tragedy similar to the 1930s in Europe, when we had totalitarian fascism in Italy, Spain and Germany, and Stalinist purges in Moscow. Krugman writes that “the recession” has made – ... many Europeans furious at what is perceived, fairly or unfairly (or actually a bit of both), as a heavy-handed exercise of German power. Nobody familiar with Europe’s history can look at this resurgence of hostility without feeling a shiver. The Nobel laureate was writing before the killings in Florence, but he was already raising the issue of the neo-Nazis connections of the Freedom Party in Austria, the xenophobia of the True Finns in Helsinki, the anit-semitic and anti-Roma group Jobbik and the authoritiarian tendencies of the Fidesz government in Hungary. To this list we can add the neo-fascists in England and France and our own Italian racists, who were responsible for the bloodbath in highly civilised Florence, a European capital of culture for more than five centuries.

Fear of the demons to come
Is Krugman exaggerating? I hope he is. Unlike my Anglo-saxon colleagues, I do not believe that we will see a repeat of the 1930s with brown shirts once again marching in the streets: history does not progress mechanically, and evil demonstrates proof of imagination and a capacity for metamorphosis. However, I believe that in response to the difficult economic times we are now facing, attacks on new arrivals in the name of supposed national identities, on Europeans in London and the English on the continent, along with a systematic hostility to “others” justified by “our” defence will be increasingly commonplace. In this context, political leaders who want to take advantage of this epidemic to gain an extra vote, along with journalists who sow hatred to sell an extra copy or an extra click, are preparing a potion that could be very harmful. It is not the fear of a return to an authoritarian past that should encourage us to defend well-being, growth, dialogue and tolerance. It is the fear of the demons to come that intolerance will invoke: they are not yet in blackshirts, but events ranging from the student massacre near Oslo to the killing in Florence have already shown their horrible faces.

Greece
Far-right attacks immigrants
Amid the financial crisis, Greece has been struck by an upsurge in violence against foreigners. In a feature report, De Volkskrant recounts how immigrants have come to be treated as scapegoats: “increasing unemployment and painful austerity appear to have stimulated violent attacks on foreigners.” Greece’s status as the main point of entry into the EU via Turkey brings an influx of 40,000 migrants per year to Athens. On arrival in the city, they squat in disused buildings or sleep in public parks which, according to Dutch daily, boosts feelings of resentment against them. “Anyone who might pass for migrant runs the risk of being beaten up, regardless of their legal status or level of integration,” remarks Judith Sunderland of the NGO Human Rights Watch Europe, quoted by De Volkskant. Several racist attacks have been reported, but the perpetrators, some of whom are suspected of belonging to extreme-right groups, have not been prosecuted since 1999: “Combating this phenomenon is clearly not a priority for the government.”
© Press Europe

up  

ITALY: YET ANOTHER RACIST MURDER – HOW MUCH MORE BEFORE THE EU TAKES ACTION? (ENAR press release)

14/12/2011- The murderous attack against Senegalese street vendors by a far right supporter in Florence, Italy, yesterday reveals the extent of the climate of intolerance and hatred against migrants and ethnic minorities across Europe. The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) strongly condemns this attack and are deeply concerned that European countries have failed to tackle the rising influence of xenophobic attitudes and of the far right over the last decade. We urge Italian authorities to take all necessary measures to stop racially-motivated attacks against ethnic minorities in their country, and call on governments and decision makers across Europe to condemn and prevent hate crimes in their own countries. Indeed, as from January 2012, ENAR will be counting the number of racist murders across Europe to document the extent of the phenomenon and the destructive impact of xenophobic and far-right ideas in European society. ENAR Chair Chibo Onyeji said: “This attack did not appear in a vacuum: when language promoting hatred and cultural differentiation becomes ‘normal’, it can only lead to violence. After the deadly attacks in Norway and revelations about killings by neo-Nazi groups in Germany, how much more is needed for European society to finally react?”

© EUropean Network Against Racism

up  

FAR-RIGHT AUTHOR KILLS TWO, THEN SELF IN FLORENCE (Italy)

14/12/2011- An Italian far-right author shot dead two Senegalese vendors and wounded three in Florence on Tuesday before killing himself in a daylight shooting spree that prompted outpourings of grief in the historic city. Witnesses said they saw the gunman calmly getting out of a car at a street market on Piazza Dalmazia, north of the city centre, and firing off three shots that instantly killed two vendors and seriously wounded a third. The white assailant, identified by authorities as 50-year-old Gianluca Casseri, then moved on to the San Lorenzo market in the centre -- a popular destination for the thousands of tourists who visit Florence every day -- where he wounded two more vendors. Casseri then turned the gun -- a Magnum Smith & Wesson revolver according to news reports -- on himself after he was surrounded by police. Around 200 Senegalese marched through the city in an angry protest after the shootings, shouting "Shame!" and "Racists!" Hundreds of immigrants were later seen praying on their knees in tears in front of Florence's famous cathedral.

"The heart of Florence is crying today," Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi said in a Twitter message, declaring the city would hold a day of mourning Wednesday and would pay to repatriate the bodies to Senegal. "I think the pain for the lives that have been cut short is not only for the Senegalese community but for all the citizens of our city," Renzi said. International Cooperation and Integration Minister Andrea Riccardi and a Senegalese imam will attend a ceremony at Florence city hall on Wednesday. "The Senegalese are good people, people who never get into trouble, who work every day," one Senegalese man told news channel SkyTG24. Another man said: "These lads who were killed were only earning money for their wives, their fathers, their children." Roccangelo Tritto, a spokesman for local Carabinieri police, told AFP that the man wounded at Piazza Dalmazia would live but remain paralysed for life. The other two men were also in a serious condition -- one with a wound to the abdomen and another shot in the chest.

Casseri was the author of fantasy novels including "The Key of Chaos" about a wizard, a mathematician and an alchemist, which enjoyed some popularity. He also wrote an academic paper about Dracula folklore and was the editor of a niche magazine about fantasy and horror fiction and comics. Casseri lived on his own in the Tuscan countryside near Pistoia. He was also a member of Casa Pound, a right-wing community group that is seen as more intellectual than other far-right organisations. "He was a bit strange, a bit of a loner but he didn't seem crazy. He was living in his own world," said Fabio Barsanti, a regional coordinator for Casa Pound. "He didn't seem capable of doing something like this," he said, adding: "We are against any type of violence. We consider the Senegalese humans like us." Barsanti said Casseri was known locally mostly as a World War I buff. While Casa Pound distanced itself from Casseri's actions, left-wingers were quick to pin the blame on a climate of racism in the country. Walter Veltroni, a lawmaker from the centre-left Democratic Party, said the shootings were "a terrorist attack by a right-wing extremist." "What happened in Florence is the product of a climate of intolerance against foreigners that has grown over the years," he said.

Nichi Vendola, leader of the Left, Ecology and Liberty party, condemned what he said was "a racist and fascist Italy that sows hatred." At the scene of the first shooting in Piazza Dalmazia, eyewitnesses quoted by Italian media said they were in shock and a newspaper seller said the gunman told him: "Get out of the way or I'll bump you off next." "I heard the shots but I thought they were fireworks. Then I turned around and I saw three men on the ground in a pool of blood," one vendor said. Another man said: "There are often Senegalese guys here who sell the usual stuff, they don't bother anyone and no one was expecting this." African vendors can be seen on the streets of Italy's main cities selling sculptures, trinkets and fake designer handbags. They are often selling their wares illegally but are popular with tourists and local residents.
© AFP

up  

Headlines 9 December, 2011

SWEDEN UNVEILS PLAN TO CURB VIOLENT EXTREMISM

9/12/2011- Sweden unveiled a plan Friday aimed at curbing militant extremism among groups promoting white supremacy, radical left-wing organizations and militant Islamists. The 15-point 'Action plan to protect democracy against violent extremism' offered support to organizations helping individuals leave radical left-wing or militant Islamist groups - similar to the existing Exit organization for defectors from neo-Nazi groups, said Birgitta Ohlsson, minister for democracy issues. Ohlsson said the government would allocate 62 million kronor (9 million dollars) to various agencies in the next two years. An open democratic society such as Sweden's 'was vulnerable,' Ohlsson said, citing various events in recent years such as riots in 2001, during a European Union summit hosted in the Scandinavian country. Another example was the country's first suicide attack, which took place in Stockholm a year ago, in which the perpetrator was the sole fatality. Ohlsson also referred to neighbouring Norway, where self-confessed attacker Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in July, after publishing a tract railing against multiculturalism and Islam. Other points in the plan were to 'strengthen awareness of democratic values' and engage civil society and faith groups, she said. In addition, there was need for more research and exchange with other countries that have launched similar plans, including Britain, Ohlsson said. Swedish security police estimate that several hundred individuals could be considered to be part of an extremist hard core in these respective groups.
© DPA

up  

WOMAN LOSES FLAT 'BECAUSE SHE WAS ROMA' (Sweden)

A woman from Sweden claims to have lost her rental property after the contract was already signed and keys had been exchanged, following pressure from the other tenants to not let a member of the Roma people live in the building.

9/12/2011- “The other tenants would move out if I moved in,” said Tuija Svart to Sveriges Television (SVT). Svart and her teenage daughter had returned to Sweden after staying for a year in Finland, and had been looking for a flat near her other daughter. She went to look at an advertised apartment and decided that she liked the flat. According to SVT, she then signed a contract, got the keys and changed her address over the internet. But while in the moving van, the landlord rang her and said that she couldn’t move in after all. “He said that I had a different background,” Svart told SVT. Svart told SVT that it was the first time she felt discriminated against in Sweden for being a member of the Roma people. Her daughter Samira was also upset about what happened. “Mainly I felt angry. And sad as well. It felt a bit like if my dreams were crushed,” she told SVT. Fearing what would happen otherwise, Svart returned the keys to the landlord. But she also reported the incident to the police and to the Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, DO).

Then the landlord changed his tune and said that the reason he didn’t want to accept her as a tenant was that she didn’t have a valid passport, that her car was registered in Finland and that she had no previous address in Sweden, according to SVT. However, despite the legal experts at the local authority finding in Tuija Svart’s favour, their hands are tied as Svart sent back the keys without coercion. However, police are still investigating if Svart has been the victim of discrimination. “We have spoken to the landlord and he has been allowed to present his side of the story. I have read the statements and see no reason to drop the preliminary investigation at this point,“ said prosecutor Niclas Wargren to SVT. At the Equality Ombudsman they are also currently looking into the matter. “We’re investigating it right now and are collecting witness statements from those involved," said Lars Tornberg at DO to SVT.
© The Local - Sweden

up  

FRENCH SENATE SET FOR TOUGH DEBATE ON VOTES FOR FOREIGNERS

A long-running issue over whether to let non-EU immigrants vote in French local elections is to be considered in the Senate on Thursday, with conservatives vowing to stamp out a left-wing initiative five months before a presidential election.

8/12/2011- Posturing before what was billed to be a heated parliament debate shows how both sides are using the argument to gain favor with their supporters on a tricky and sensitive question of identity. The vote in the left-controlled Senate, the upper house of parliament, is more about making a point than changing the law to allow foreign residents to vote. The bill has no chance of passing in a right-controlled lower house, pollsters say. It was abandoned once before, in 2000 for similar reasons. Socialists and other left-wingers, emboldened by a historic victory over the right in Senate elections in September, say that letting non-European Union citizens vote and get elected in municipal elections would bring more immigrants into the fold of French republican values and soothe community tensions. A change would also bring French law into line with EU members Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. Britain, Spain and Portugal let some non-EU foreigners, most of them from former colonies, vote in some elections, while Italy, Germany and Austria share France's more restrictive current approach.

To France's ruling right, allowing a foreign and largely Muslim constituency to influence local policy would usher in halal meals at school cafeterias and women-only days at municipal swimming pools, controversial issues they say endanger the nation's secular tradition and which have knee-jerk resonance with far-right voters. "The government is resolutely against this proposal," Interior Minister Claude Gueant told parliament on Wednesday. Even though the proposal is unlikely to become law, the subliminal issues are important. "The Left has a historical attachment to this bill, even if it's only symbolic, to signal their sympathy to certain segments of the population," said Stephane Rozes, head of political consultancy CAP. By definition France's population of EU and non-EU foreigners, estimated by the INSEE statistics office at 3.7 million in 2008, will not weigh on the outcome of next April's election. However, the pool of voters sympathetic to them - from youths to descendants of immigrants - is far wider. "The difference is that public opinion has shifted clearly in favor of this initiative," Rozes added. "And that, paradoxically, is a consequence of the government's tougher stance on illegal immigration."

Indeed, a BVA poll published on November 28 showed 61 percent of French people were in favor of voting rights for foreigners who have lived in France for five years. Support had grown quickly since January - a period in which President Nicolas Sarkozy tightened citizenship requirements and ramped up expulsions of illegal immigrants. EU citizens have been allowed to vote in local and European elections since the Maastricht treaty was passed in 1992.

"Not in my backyard"
Sarkozy's camp is against the idea - despite him expressing public support for it in 2005. Their opposition is rooted in the need to guarantee support from far-right followers of Marine Le Pen, head of the National Front Party, in the presidential election's final round. "Nicolas Sarkozy has only one concern on this issue and that is to appeal to the hard core of the right wing," Rozes said. Rarely have their ideas been so closely aligned. To whip up opposition to the voting rights bill, Le Pen has pulled out all the stops, printing more than 100,000 posters and 1.4 million pamphlets, in addition to an online petition. Opposition runs deep, extending even to conservative elected officials who operate in immigrant-heavy communities. "In some towns the foreign population can make up half of the total," Xavier LeMoine, mayor of Montfermeil, a troubled suburban town northeast of Paris, told Reuters. "With the vote they could radically change the way of life in those towns." While EU citizens shared a "common identity, a common culture" with the French, he added, "in the other countries where many of our foreigners come from, there is nothing in common culturally, much less any common political system." Georges Lemaitre, an immigration expert at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, disagreed. "Anything that gets people more involved in the life of a country is positive - we need more of that," he said. "It does make a certain amount of sense."
© Reuters

up  

“WE WILL NOT LEAVE”: MUSLIM REFORMERS TO EXTREMISTS (Netherlands, press statement)

8/12/2011- Twenty radical Muslims hijacked an event featuring Muslim reformists, Irshad Manji and Tofik Dibi in Amsterdam last night. The extremists repeatedly declared “Takfir!”, thereby ordering the execution of Manji and Dibi. After threatening to break Manji’s neck, they demanded that the event, sponsored by the European Foundation for Democracy, be stopped. The speakers refused to leave the stage. Their discussion on the modernisation of Islam resumed after thepolice arrested a number of the extremists. Stated Manji, “I never felt afraid. Not once. Neither did Tofik. In fact, all of us refused to leave, even when the police asked. We wouldn’t play on Jihadi terms. Some things are simply more important than fear.” Emphasized Dutch MP, Tofik Dibi, “the disruption shows that even in the Netherlands it is necessary to continue the debate on reforming Islam.” Roberta Bonazzi, Executive Director of the European Foundation for Democracy, added “The voice of democratic Islam will not be silenced by extremism. We are united and will continue to support inspirational Muslim reformers across Europe.” By bringing together two such reformers at the Amsterdam event, the European Foundation for Democracy is pursuing its mission of empowering liberal Muslims who advocate the values of open societies. Irshad Manji is in Europe to promote her latest book, Allah, Liberty and Love. Manji, a practicing Muslim, is also the author of The Trouble With Islam Today. As part of her tour she is meeting fellowMuslim reformists, youth activists and parliamentarians in the Netherlands,Belgium and Germany. The radicals are believed to be members of Sharia4Belgium, one of several Islamist groups seeking to enact Sharia law throughout Europe.

*****
IRSHAD MANJI: SeniorFellow with the European Foundation for Democracy, Irshad Manji also directs the Moral Courage Project at New York University . In those countries that have banned her books, Prof. Manji is reaching readers by posting free-of-charge translations on her website, irshadmanji.com. To date, the Arabic, Urdu and Farsi translations have been downloaded more than 2 million times.
ALLAH, LIBERTY AND LOVE: Written by the dissenting yet faithful Muslim Irshad Manji, Allah,Liberty and Love advances a 21st-century reformation within Islam. As a Muslim who bridges East and West, Prof. Manji addresses people of all faiths – and none. What she teaches is “moral courage,” the willingness to speak up when everyone else wants to shut you up. Calling out both the fatwa-flingers and the mute moderates, Allah, Liberty and Love is the ultimate guide to becoming a gutsy global citizen.

EUROPEAN FOUNDATION FOR DEMOCRACY: Based in Brussels, EFD  is a non-profit organisation which promotes universal human rights, individual liberty, freedom of conscience and pluralism of peaceful ideas. Its accomplishments include the support of Muslims in several European countries who advocate democratic values within their communities.
© European Foundation for Democracy

up  

ROMA SCAVENGE THROUGH BINS IN WEALTHY NORWAY

7/12/2011- It is a cold autumn Friday morning and a stream of people are already forming outside Fattighuset (The Poor House) in downtown Oslo. They range from babes-in-arms to pensioners, and the queue only ends when the charity closes its doors to the public at 3.30pm. While Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, recent statistics show that 9.68 per cent of people living in Oslo are now defined as living in poverty. Some 85,000 children are living in poverty in Norway but it is more severe in the poorer and more ethically diverse east side of Oslo. A family of three living on an annual income of NOK273,000 (€35,330) is considered to be living below the poverty line. In another part of the city, another group is gathering to face the day. In Frogner Park, some Roma are huddled together on a bench as Japanese tourists pose by the world famous Vigeland sculptures that line the main bridge. A middle-aged Roma woman plays a colourful accordion as the tourists pass by. Others in the group, armed with large plastic Ikea bags, begin the daily scavenge through the bins, scouring for refundable mineral and beer bottles.

Frogner is home to some of the wealthiest citizens. The average income is increasing as the divide between the rich and the poor widens. During the summer, it was also a home of sorts for some of the Roma, who lived in a makeshift camp, hidden from view, in a wood at the edge of the park. All that remains now is the shell of an improvised wooden structure. In July, the camp, along with others in the city, was dismantled without warning by city council officials. Problems associated with the Roma have been brewing for some time, with issues ranging from sanitation to criminality. The topic has engaged both sides of the political spectrum. There seems to be consensus that, while they are living in poverty, dealing with them is more problematic than other groups. On one side of the political divide, they are viewed as a health and sanitary hazard, mainly because they do not have access to toilets and showers. On the other side, they are seen as victims of xenophobia with human rights advocates appealing for tolerance and compassion. Marianne Borgen, of the socialist left party (SV) and church charity Kirkens Bymisjon, would like the Roma to be provided with basic facilities such as showers and toilets.

The authorities, on the other hand, feel that offering toilets and showers is a dangerous enticement that will open the floodgates to the arrival of more Roma. Kari Helene Partapuoli, of the Anti-Racist Centre, is used to such official rhetoric, often used to discriminate against the Roma: “They want to handle them the same way as the rest of Europe, as ‘rubbish’ so that more ‘rubbish’ will not follow.” But it was the media depiction of Roma apparently barbecuing rats, dogs and wild pigeons which infuriated both the Roma community and their supporters. One newspaper photograph depicted the remains of a Roma barbecue, with some animal bones claimed to be those of a rat. This report was later revealed to be unsubstantiated, and the bones were identified as chicken bones. Long-time Oslo resident and gypsy musician Raya Bielenberg reacted angrily to such media speculation. “We are a proud people and would rather die than eat rats and dogs,” she said. “And when they have a right to come here and beg, they should at the very least have somewhere to go to the toilet and have a wash.”

Kari Gran, spokeswoman for Oslo Kirkens Bymisjon, agrees, and feels the situation is reaching a crisis point. She says she meets the Roma on a daily basis in Bymisjon’s meeting place, as they are the only organisation actively involved in helping the Roma. “We provide a place for them to meet others, eat, offer advice and use our toilet facilities,” she said. “But we do not have showers or laundry facilities.” Kirkens Bymisjon is the only place where the Roma are being cared for, but the charity can only do so much. One problem is that since the Roma, mainly from Romania, are living here on tourist visas, they cannot avail of social welfare or access services such as a place to sleep overnight, have a shower or use laundry facilities. They do not fit comfortably into the same category as other marginalised groups. Gran and others are very concerned about the Roma, particularly as the harsh winter approaches. Some Roma will go home for the winter, but most face the bleak prospect of sleeping outdoors.
© The Irish Times.

up  

BLOOD AND HONOUR ‘WHITE SUPREMACISTS’ CHARGED OVER STRING OF ASSAULTS ON MINORITIES (Canada)

9/12/2011- Two Vancouver men alleged to be members of a violent white supremacist group face multiple charges after a string of assaults dating back three years, police announced Friday. Robertson de Chazal and Shawn Macdonald, both 25, belong to an international hate group called Blood and Honour, said New Westminster Det.-Const. Terry Wilson. The detective-constable is one of two full-time police officers attached to the B.C. Hate Crime Team, a joint policing unit in the province.
Arrests were made after a review of investigative files began in February, he said.

Mr. de Chazal is accused of setting fire to a Filipino man sleeping on a couch left at a Vancouver intersection in 2009. The victim suffered burns to his arms, neck and head. He is also accused of assaulting a black man in 2009, rendering him unconscious. At the time, Vancouver Police said the victim had been out drinking with friends when he came upon the couch and fell asleep on it. The attackers were seen spraying some kind of fluid onto the victim about 11:40 p.m,. and then lighting him on fire. “Three men were observed by a witness allegedly lighting the victim on fire,” Det.-Const. Wilson said. “The suspects allegedly fled the scene before the arrival of police. The victim sustained burns to his arms, neck and head. The initial investigation was unable to surface suspects at the time.” Mr. Macdonald is alleged to have assaulted three individuals — a black man, an Hispanic man, and an aboriginal woman — in separate incidents in 2008 and 2010.

Blood and Honour is a loosely knit white supremacist group with around 15 followers on B.C.’s lower mainland, Det.-Const. Wilson said. He said membership in white supremacist groups is not illegal in itself. But if they incite violence, it is a criminal offence. If the men are convicted, the Crown could ask for a hate crime designation in the case, which is used as an aggravating factor at sentencing. Det.-Const. Wilson said the B.C. Hate Crime Team, which is a joint RCMP-municipal police unit, is the only one of its kind in Canada. “If you belong to an organized hate group in B.C., we will know about you and if you commit crimes we will come and get you,” Det.-Const. Wilson said.

At the news conference, police displayed white supremacist and neo-Nazi flags, shirts and literature seized by the unit, though they said the items weren’t directly connected to the assaults in which charges have been laid. Det.-Const. Wilson said both men have been released on undertakings until their next court appearance. Mr. De Chazal is due back in Vancouver Provincial Court December 23 He has no apparent criminal history in B.C. Mr. MacDonald is not due back in court until October 2012.
© The National Post.

up  

RELIGIOUS GROUPS OPPOSE REQUIRED GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCES IN SCHOOLS (Canada)

'What does this have to do with bullying?' Christian advocate asks

7/12/2011- The religious right in Ontario is taking exception to an Ontario law that will force schools to al-low gay-straight student alliances. Several representatives from Catholic, Evangelical Christian and Orthodox Jewish communities said they cannot accept legislated sexual tolerance laid out in the province's new anti-bullying law. "When you are forcing teachers, Christian teachers, Jewish teachers, Muslim teachers to teach things that are contrary to the values that they hold, to teach that there are six genders and that you are not attached to the gender of your anatomy - that may be an offence to many Ontarians," says Charles McVety, president of the Canada Christian College in Toronto. "To force especially Christian classrooms or schools to have homosexual clubs would of course be an affront to their family values. And what does this have to do with bullying? Nothing."

Openly gay Ottawa teenager Jamie Hubley, who suffered from depression, killed himself in October after being bullied. Hubley's parents say the 15-year-old was crushed when students at his high school ripped down posters for a Rainbow Club he was attempting to form. Hubley saw the club as a place for gay students and anyone else who self-identified as an outsider. Last week, Premier Dalton Mc-Guinty cited Hubley's death as one inspiration for surprise anti-bullying legislation that includes the clause on gay-straight alliances. Those student clubs have been frowned upon by several publicly funded Catholic school boards across the province. Catholic doc-trine holds that homosexual behaviour is a sin. But McGuinty says the law will force the clubs into Catholic schools. "Catholic schools will have gay-straight alliances," he told reporters in Windsor Tuesday. "What they call them is up to them.

"Are there gay children attending Catholic schools in Ontario? Yes. Are there gay teachers teaching in Catholic schools in Ontario? Yes. The purpose of our Accepting Schools Act is to send a strong signal to all Ontarians of all faiths, of all backgrounds, all places of origin, all culture, all traditions, all ethnicities: in our province and in our publicly funded schools, schools are going to be warm, welcoming, and accepting of all our children - regardless of their sexual orientation," McGuinty said. It is unclear how Catholic boards will respond to the new legislation. A spokeswoman for the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.

Jack Fonseca, of the Campaign Life Coalition, said McGuinty can't override the wishes of the Catholic Bishops. "That's in violation of Catholic school rights in Ontario," he told reporters. Constitutional expert Ed Morgan, a law professor at the University of Toronto, says the Catholic schools will likely be forced to accept gay-straight alliances under a different name. "I can't imagine that a Catholic school could genuinely say that this kind of support group runs afoul of Catholicism," he said. "I don't think the courts would buy that." The religious leaders who gathered Monday at Queen's Park are anticipating a public backlash similar to one that killed an updated sex-ed curriculum in April 2010. "This legislation proposes that children be indoctrinated to reject their parents' faith and their parents' family values, and that's an affront," said Rabbi Mendel Kaplan of Chabad Flamingo Synagogue in Toronto.
© The Ottawa Citizen

up  

YES TO REFORMING THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS. NO TO OVERRIDING IT (uk, opinion)

Urban myth mustn't be allowed to undermine the ECHR 
By Sigrid Rausing

6/12/2011- Remember John Hirst? In 1979 he killed his landlady with an axe and soon became Britain's most litigious prisoner. Finding that he couldn't vote, he took a case to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg, and won. The court ruled that the UK's indiscriminate disenfranchisement of prisoners was, indeed, illegal. The issue proved controversial, to say the least. Jack Straw delayed dealing with it for three years while in government. Last January the former Labour home secretary and the Conservative MP David Davis secured a Commons debate on the subject. Davis, according to the BBC, said: "We've got a crisis here which has been brought about by the court extending its own power, trying to overrule in effect a parliament." The Conservative MP Dominic Raab agrees. He has presented a case for fundamental reforms of the relationship between parliament and the European court in a recently published paper for the think-tank Civitas (2011). In it, he questions the Strasbourg Court's supremacy over British Parliament. He argues that the Hirst ruling risks triggering a constitutional crisis, because parliament voted against it. He claims that the Strasbourg judges are pursuing a political agenda – the enfranchisement of prisoners – that undermines the rule of law and democratic accountability. He suggests amending the Human Rights Act so that "adverse" Strasbourg rulings can be debated, and voted on, in the Commons: so-called democratic override.

For people in favour of democratic override the Hirst case is a convenient reference. He is guilty of a heinous crime, and few people are interested in prisoners' right to vote. If, as Raab says, non-compliance has no serious consequences, why should we comply? There are two answers to this: about human rights principles, and how we act within the Council of Europe. Human rights is about principles, and the most important one is this: we are all equal before the law. In practice this can be controversial because there will always be people whose rights we would prefer not to defend. How, then, do we in practice make distinctions? The deportation of foreign-born criminals, for example, is an issue people do care about. Lawyers and judges in deportation cases usually refer to article 8 of the Human Rights Act: "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." A very small minority of foreign-born criminals up for deportation are in fact violent criminals. Judges will want to discriminate between violent individuals and individuals who pose no threat to the community, and in fact they can – because the article is hedged to allow for exactly that. In other words, the law is not at fault, but the interpretation may sometimes not be sufficiently robust.

Interpretation is everything. Even in America, where no one disputes the supremacy of the law, liberals and conservatives argue, increasingly bitterly, over the interpretation of particular amendments. In Britain, by contrast, a debate that should be about the interpretation of the law often ends up questioning our obligation to comply with the law, and the authority of the Strasbourg court. The reason is that human rights law is commonly associated with a European system of thought and law, transplanted on to British common law. The layers of overlapping jurisdictions and bodies of law complicate the landscape, and make it vulnerable to attack. We have, in essence, transformed a number of aspirational principles (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948), to a legally binding instrument (the Human Rights Act 1998), via the European Convention of Human Rights (1952) and the European Court of Human Rights. The Conservatives pledged to repeal the HRA in their election manifesto; the Liberal Democrats are committed to keeping it. As a compromise, a Commission has been appointed to consider whether we need a Bill of Rights for the UK, and, separately, to advise on how to reform the Strasbourg court, which currently has a backlog of over 165,000 cases.

There is no question that the court needs reform. We need to resolve the issue of the backlog of cases, discourage or disqualify trivial claims, and make sure that the judges elected are sufficiently experienced and qualified. It's complicated because of the number of parties concerned, but it can be done. The need for reform, however, should not be used as evidence that we need to fundamentally transform the relationship between the court and parliament in the UK. The Russian government has long lobbied in the Council of Europe on the issue of democratic override, in their case that the Duma should have supremacy over the Strasbourg court on Russian matters. Given the state of Russia's democracy that is obviously a bad idea. But if we too claim democratic override, on what grounds can we argue it is a bad idea for Russia? Arguing for democratic override sets a bad example in Europe and, in a context that is all about patient negotiation, hampers the reform process of the court. The recently elected British President of the Strasbourg Court, Sir Nicolas Bratza, has warned of the dangers of British xenophobia in relation to on-going political intervention in the court. He is right to do so. Like health and safety, human rights is becoming entangled in a web of urban myths and populist conservative attacks. An important debate to be had about the efficiency of the Strasbourg court should not be confused with the debate about the relationship between the court and parliament.
© Comment is free - Guardian

up  

ITALY: BLOOD AND HONOUR FASCISTS FORM POTENTIAL PARLIAMENTARY LINK

The news that Blood and Honour have opened their first branch in Italy has come as a surprise, but only because the neo-nazi organisation was thought to be sufficiently well represented already in ideas and deeds by the local Veneto Fronte Skinheads, active since 1987, some of whose members have been arrested over the years for incitement to racial hatred.

November 2011- The significance of this "official" opening rests in the fact that it reveals the possibility of links that would take Blood and Honour not a million miles away from contact with Members of Parliament. The story goes back to 2007 when the so called "fascists of the Third Millennium" of Casa (Ezra) Pound took over a house in Colleverde Guidonia, near Rome, part of the squatting strategy that has enabled this neofascist organisation to spread to every major town across the country in the guise of a cultural association helping the homeless to live in empty buildings. The house was subsequently handed over to the neo-nazi SPQR Skin, and the idea of locating Blood and Honour in the premises appears to have come from them (they call themselves "Italian Division of Blood and Honour" on Facebook, 1,600 friends) rather than from Casa Pound, which denies any involvement. The distancing however is more likely to be part of a parallel strategy that enables Casa Pound to widen its phalanx of foot soldiers while pursuing its plans to spread its network and seeking political legitimacy, even crossing the threshold of Parliament.

An entry has already been secured. A couple of months ago the MP Domenico Scilipoti chaired a meeting in the House under the heading "Usury, Ezra Pound lands in Parliament, a topic discussed by the Responsabili, Forum Anti-Usury and Casa Pound". A member of Silvio Berlusconi's Party (PdL), Scilipoti achieved prominence after he helped save the Prime Minister's skin in a crucial vote of confidence by joining a group of staunch supporters called the "responsibles". He drafted the group's manifesto by doing a cut and paste job from a document written for Benito Mussolini in 1925 by the then Minister of Education, Giovanni Gentile. At the "usury/Ezra Pound" meeting Scilipoti promised to bring the ideas and legislative proposals put forward by Casa Pound into the House.

He may have made a similar promise to other fascists who visited him last September. His guests then were from the Partito dei Nazionalisti Italiani (linked to MSI-Destra Nazionale), led by Gaetano Saya, who dresses its members in Nazi-style uniforms and has reportedly drawn up his manifesto by means of a cut and paste job from another document dated from 1925, this time written for Adolf Hitler's National Socialist German Workers' Party. With such friends in Parliament it should not come as a surprise if sooner or later Blood and Honour receive an invitation to enter the building, accompanied or not by Casa Pound, who have already done plenty of cut and paste jobs from the poet's fascist speeches.
© Searchlight Magazine

up  

THOUSANDS SIGN CALL AGAINST ROMA INCLUSION STRATEGY (Czech Rep.)

5/12/2011- A protest statement against the Czech government's strategy of Romany inclusion, initiated by the Association of Special Teachers, has been signed by about 23,500 people, the association's head Jiri Pilar told CTK Friday. The strategy for 2011-2015 favours only a single group of citizens, Pilar said. According to the strategy, Romany children from socially excluded locations should attend kindergarten compulsorily and for free and receive subsidies for transport fee, food, aids or school trips. "Paradoxically, the strategy further escalates the tense atmosphere between individual groups of citizens in effort to improve social problems," the statement says. The strategy prefers Romanies at the expense of other kids that need similar support. The association calls on Prime Minister Petr Necas to have the strategy reworked. The government approved the strategy against social exclusion in September. The strategy for the next four years includes tens of measures that are to improve employment, housing, education, social and healthcare services and security. The strategy also reckons with the closing of practical schools for children with learning difficulties and various disorders, at which special teachers work. The pupils of practical schools are to be gradually included in regular schools. A high number of Romany children end up in practical schools who have no mental disability but only bad family backgrounds and often fail to keep up the pace in regular elementary schools.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

up  

VLADIMIR PUTIN SET TO LOSE MAJORITY AMID COMPLAINTS OF ELECTORAL VIOLATIONS (Russia)

Opposition leader condemns 'theft of votes' after reports of pre-filled ballots, invisible ink and multiple visits to polling booths

4/12/2011- After more than a decade of unwavering popularity, Vladimir Putin's United Russia party was on Sunday nightpredicted to lose its majority in parliament, as voters used a national election to register concern at authoritarianism and corruption. Early exit polls showed United Russia would lose its majority in the Duma, or lower house, and fail to win an absolute majority of votes as in the past. VTsIOM gave it 48.5%, and the Public Opinion Foundation gave it 46%, when polls closed in Russia's westernmost region of Kaliningrad. These numbers are liable to change, not least because they were accompanied by widespread reports of polling irregularities. Four hours after the polls had closed, the central elections commission on Monday said that United Russia had won 50.07% of the vote, with 61.64% of ballot papers counted.

Through the preceding day of voting, voters had taken to social media to report apparent violations, at times marvelling at their creativity. A YouTube user in east Moscow illustrated how the pens at booths in school #1114 were filled with invisible ink. In the Siberian city of Novokuznetsk, a user showed how ballot boxes had arrived at a polling site one-third filled with votes. A Moscow user filmed an election official at polling station #2501 filling out ballots as he sat at his desk. Several users filmed buses, nicknamed "carousels", which appeared to be carrying the same people to various stations so they could vote over and over again. "Today we have witnessed the dirtiest, foulest elections of the last 20 years," one opposition leader, said Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy premier. "We can't even call them elections – it's the theft of votes from the Russian people."

Liberal media outlets faced hacker attacks. The website of radio station Ekho Moskvy, web portal Slon, and weekly journal Bolshoi Gorod were inaccessible all yesterday. The website of Golos, the only independent election monitor, was brought down by a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack, after days of government pressure; it complained its volunteer monitors were not admitted into polling stations around the country. "The government is losing popularity, so they're using the filthiest methods of theft," Nemtsov said.

Some 51,500 interior ministry police and troops in camouflage manned the streets of central Moscow, and riot police prevented access to Red Square. More than 100 people were arrested at an unsanctioned protest in Triumfalnaya Square, dragged away by police in riot gear into waiting lorries. Another 50 were held in St Petersburg. More protests are planned for today. The show of force came even though United Russia was set to continue to be much the largest single party in parliament, vis a vis the government-approved opposition, albeit it may no longer command a majority on its own. Early exit polls gave the Communist party 19 to 21%. The Just Russia party, seeking to present itself as independent following years of collusion with the Kremlin, came in third with 12.8 to 14.1%, and the far-right LDPR had 11.4 to 13.2%.

The early exit polls also showed that the liberal-leaning Yabloko's votes could fail to break the 7% barrier to win seats, while the government had refused to register a new liberal group, Parnas. The election is seen as the most serious test for Putin, currently prime minister, since he announced his intention to run for the presidency once more in March 2012. He is widely expected to win, having repressed or co-opted all opposition during his tenure as Russia's most powerful politician. Yet the announcement of his intention to return to the Kremlin, at a United Russia congress in September, appeared to touch a nerve inside Russia, allowing growing private discontent to spill over into the public. United Russia had won more than 64% of the vote when the most recent parliamentary elections took place in 2007.

"I hope something will change," said Nina,60, as she voted in central Moscow. She gave her vote to the Communists, and said furthermore she would not being voting for Putin in March. "I used to think politics was far from my life," said student Marina, 23, explaining why she had decided to vote for the first time. "Now, I can see what's happening around me." She, like several voters at polling station #701 in north Moscow, said her aim was to use her ballot in such a wayas it could not be manipulated by United Russia. State employees attempted to attract voters by decorating polling stations with balloons and offering cheap food. Early figures from the central elections commission gave a turnout of just over 50%.

Kadyrov, the brutal leader of the federal republic of Chechnya, said that 99.51% of its voters backed United Russia, out of a 94% turnout; in the past it has been reported as 100%, while he himself had promised "more than 100%" this time. The poor showing could put into question the position of President Dmitry Medvedev, expected to swop roles with Putin after the March election. Medvedev, standing alongside Putin on a visit to United Russia HQ shortly after polls closed, said the vote illustrated "democracy in action", adding that: "The current result reflects the real mood in our country … United Russia is the leader at the moment, and represents the strongest political force."
© The Guardian

up  

THE TWILIGHT OF ZHIRINOVSKY (Russia)

The aging standard-bearer of Russian nationalism appears to be on his last political legs.
by Aleksander Kolesnichenko, reporter for the Novye Izvestia newspaper.

3/12/2011- Elena Chinkova is a graduate student in political science at Moscow State University. Her thesis is on Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the old lion of Russian politics, and she is planning to defend it next year. But Chinkova says she is being urged to hurry. “Wrap it up quickly,” she recalled her adviser saying. “Vladimir Volfovich was on TV today. He doesn’t look well at all." Zhirinovsky, the longtime leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, started his career in the Gorbachev era and has stayed on the scene through the leadership of Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, and Dmitry Medvedev. He has promised to outlast Putin's next presidency. But his popularity is waning, his health is apparently deteriorating, and political observers are virtually unanimous in predicting that the country’s 4 December parliamentary elections will be his last, even if his party, long the political standard-bearer for Russian nationalism, succeeds in entering the Duma for the sixth time.

At 65, Zhirinovsky is the oldest among the country's political leaders. Responding to an interview request, Yuri Rizhov, his press secretary, warned a reporter not to bring up his boss's age and health. “He doesn’t like talking about it at all,” Rizhov said. Zhirinovsky might not talk about it, but many on Russia’s political scene do. His imminent departure from the public stage is widely expected. Since suffering a heart attack three years ago, he has become noticeably heavier and less cheery, and his once-quick tongue has slowed. Online news site Novopolitika reported last month that he has a serious illness of the digestive tract; his party issued a denial. Zhirinovsky himself has yet to announce whether he will stand in the March 2012 presidential election, saying only that the Liberal Democrats will pick a candidate at this month's party congress. A July report by the Agency for Political and Economic Communication in Moscow noted the party’s “inertia” and said insiders view Zhirinovsky’s “forthcoming resignation” as a death blow for the organization.

Though he has never held an office higher than deputy in the Duma, the twilight of Zhirinovsky’s career marks the end of an era in Russian public life. Capturing the nationalist vote, he finished third in the 1991 presidential election. Two years later the Liberal Democrats entered parliament as the biggest-single vote-getter, with 23 percent of the vote; it currently holds 40 of the 450 seats in the Duma. The party does not have a clear successor. As much as for his politics, he is notorious for his pronouncements and pranks. He would throw money into the crowd at demonstrations and pick fights at TV debates. In his presidential campaigns he has offered voters free vodka, promised to find a man for every single woman, and pledged to deploy the Russian army as far as the Indian Ocean. During the avian flu epidemic, he called for Russian men to be armed, stationed at the borders, and ordered to shoot every bird flying into the country. “Zhirinovsky gets the votes of those who want to spit in the face of the political class,” said Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow.

Never a minister, ever the entertainer
When Zhirinovsky turned 40, he recounted in an interview with the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, his wife and son hung a poster on the wall with pictures of him and the words, “40 years without accomplishments or victories.” After graduating from the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University and earning a law degree, he was stuck in the mid-level of the Soviet apparatus, serving on various state committees and heading the legal department at the Mir publishing house. Zhirinovsky promised his spouse she would soon be a minister’s wife, but his early attempts to enter higher politics failed. He was unable to secure a nomination to run for a seat in the short-lived Congress of People’s Deputies in 1989 and lost bids for seats on the Supreme Council of the Russian Socialist Republic and a Moscow district council.

As the Soviet regime weakened, Zhirinovsky – who was not a Communist Party member – cast about for a political grouping to join. He took part in the founding congress of Democratic Unity, an unofficial opposition group founded by dissidents, but, according to Chinkova, who is also a reporter for Komsomolskaya Pravda and has extensively researched his career, he left it with the words, “I can't earn money with you.” Zhirinovsky flirted with monarchists and social democrats, even writing a draft program for the latter, but soon joined the initiative that became the Liberal Democrats, the first sanctioned opposition party in the Soviet Union. The new party’s ideology had little to do with liberalism and democracy and much to do with populism and nationalism – paradoxically, for a group whose leader was half-Jewish. (Zhirinovsky’s father, Volf Eidelstein, emigrated to Israel shortly after his son was born. In the early days of his political career, Zhirinovsky famously said of his origins, “My mother is Russian, my father is a lawyer.”) In the 1990s the party campaigned on the slogan, “I will lift Russia from its knees!” In the early 2000s, its motto was, “We are with the poor, we are with the Russians!” For the current election that has been shortened to “With the Russians!”

The Liberal Democrats are “a nationalist party that advocates for Russia’s return as a great power, without its division into national republics,” said Moscow State University political scientist Elena Shestopal. “The party doesn't have any program of social reforms. They only suggest individual steps, such as a state monopoly on alcohol and tobacco or a ban on the export of capital.” Zhirinovsky never fulfilled his promise to his wife, although not for lack of trying. Chinkova said he “begged Yeltsin for any position. Minister of labor, or head of the state committee on fisheries – it didn’t matter which. He later said he wanted to become head of that committee because he liked eating fish a lot.” Today Zhirinovsky says he has long since lost his ministerial ambitions. “A minister’s job is very narrow, technical; it is connected with figures. A deputy’s activity is more interesting. You always get to travel around the country. Every day you meet new people, participate in new projects, feel emotion up to your eyeballs.”

To political analyst Dmitry Oreskhin, Zhirinovsky is “the highest-paid artist in Russia.” His public appearances are theater – a Soviet-style motorcycle escort through Moscow for his 60th birthday, arrival for a 2008 presidential meeting of party leaders in a Maybach luxury car. His speeches are widely viewed as performances that enliven dull Russian politics. Last month at a Liberal Democratic roundtable, he blamed the Greek financial crisis on the Orthodox religion: “All the Orthodox are lazybones. They love to have long celebrations of weddings and funerals. Unlike Catholics and Protestants, who work day and night.” In a political environment dominated by problems and fears, “here comes Zhirinovsky, always ready to hector and amuse,” said Jana Dubejskaya, director of the Center of Applied Psychoanalysis in Moscow. Zhirinovsky bristles at the notion. “Have they read a single one of my books? Have they been to a single event organized by my party?” he said of those who dismiss him as an entertainer. “How can they judge a person they’ve never talked to?”

“A miserable old man”
Oreshkin does credit Zhirinovsky with a signal service to Russia. In the 1990s, he said, the Liberal Democratic leader, by virtue of his style, helped prevent civil war. “There could have been another [nationalist] leader in his place, with other ambitions, and who knows what could have happened? Zhirinovsky led the people like a pied piper, but he led them only to the cash desk.” Zhirinovsky peaked politically amid the economic shocks of the Yeltsin era; his and party’s popularity waned with the relative stability of the Putin and Medvedev years. Still, last month the Russian Public Opinion Research Center pegged the party’s support at 9 percent, and the independent Levada Center polling agency said 11 percent of voters back the Liberal Democrats – up from their ratings over the summer, and enough to usher the party back into the Duma along with Putin’s United Russia and the Communists. Still, Oreshkin is convinced the balloting will be Zhirinovsky’s last. “He is a miserable old man who has troubles in the family and with his health,” the analyst asserted. “He has had enough of acting like a clown.”

According to Makarkin, of the Center for Political Technologies, that would spell the end of his party as well. “[The Liberal Democratic Party] and Zhirinovsky are the same in the public mind, and the party’s prospects are tightly connected with its leader’s,” he said. Zhirinovsky contends the party is not a “theater of one actor.” He reeled off the names of other party leaders: deputies Alexei Ostrovsky, Igor Lebedev, Maxim Rohmistrov, and Iaroslav Nilov, and Sergei Kalashnikov, deputy secretary of the Russian-Belarusian Union. “But they aren’t asked for interviews, and everyone comes to me with the very same stupid question: ‘Where are the rest?’ ” Lebedev, Zhirinovsky’s son and the head of the party’s parliamentary delegation, would be the most logical successor, but he appears ill-suited for the role. In an interview, Lebedev said the only job he has held outside his father’s party was as a teenage assistant at a clinic, where he took patient files to doctors. He said he does not remember the field in which he earned his university degree and does not know how many cars and apartments are registered in his name. (All party assets, including offices and vehicles for party use, are registered to Zhirinovsky’s immediate family and relatives.)

If the Liberal Democrats do fade away, Oreshkin predicted, the Fair Russia and Patriots of Russia parties will seek to fill Zhirinovsky’s nationalist niche. They are polling at 5 percent and 1 percent, respectively, according to the Russian Public Opinion Research Center. But Zhirinovsky insists he isn’t going anywhere. “What sources tell you that I have health problems?” he demands. Lately he has been visibly more attentive to his health. Long a heavy smoker who often seemed drunk at public events, he has given up tobacco and claims that the Liberal Democrats are now the “party of non-smokers and non-drinkers.” “I will continue working as I have been working before. No retirement!” he added. He promises to outlive Putin just as he outlived Yeltsin – both “random people,” he said, “who did not plan or know that they would end up in politics. But I dreamed of that.” The party is “my love,” he continued. “Shakespeare wrote his sonnets out of love, [revered Russian poet and singer Vladimir] Vysotsky wrote out of love, and I practice politics out of love.”

But Putin, at 59, with up to two more six-year terms in the Kremlin awaiting him, continues to demonstrate he is in good condition: practicing judo with the Russian national team members, riding a motorcycle, scuba diving in the Black Sea. Campaigning last month, Zhirinovsky joined a game of indoor “mini-soccer” with a group of teenagers in a Moscow sports complex. While the boys ran around him, the Liberal Democratic leader walked up and down the field, trying to score at whatever goal he was closest to, then appointed himself referee and gave himself penalty kicks. Afterward Zhirinovsky lay down on a bench and tried to lift a weight but changed his mind after one attempt. Sports is an “abuse of the body,” he said. “You should do whatever your body demands. So if you body wants to sleep – sleep.”
© Transitions Online

up  

RIGHT-WING EXTREMIST VIOLENCE ON THE RISE IN BULGARIA

Since the 1990s, nationalism has become a major part of politics and society in Bulgaria. Racist violence, too, is becoming more and more a part of everyday life. The state, however, is doing little to counteract this.

4/12/2011- Soccer hooligans beat up Roma youth after a game. An Afghan refugee is assaulted just because he has dark skin. Following a protest march of the openly xenophobic party Ataka against a mosque in Sofia, violence breaks out between members of the party and practicing Muslims. Members of another right-wing party together with hooligans attack a Jehovah's Witnesses prayer house and beat up the people inside. These are just individual incidents of extremist violence that have occurred in the past year in Bulgaria, an alarming escalation of violence against ethnic and religious minorities that was pointed out by the Bulgarian section of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in their latest report.

No new phenomenon
Racist- and xenophobic-tinted nationalism, however, is nothing new for Bulgaria. After the fall of the Iron Curtain it spread throughout the former communist state in the 1990s, said Krassimir Kanev, president of the Helsinki Committee. He said that already at the beginning of the decade, extremist groups like neo-Nazi skinheads were becoming apparent. "The state, however, has yet to react to this kind of violence in an adequate way. With regard to this form of toleration there has already been a ruling issued by the European Court of Human Rights against Bulgaria," Kanev told Deutsche Welle. That ruling in 2007 concerned the Bulgarian authorities' handling of the murder of a Roma. The court found that the investigation was conducted in a sloppy manner and that the racist background of the crime wasn't taken into proper consideration. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) points out the fact that such racist crimes are often officially described as simply "hooliganism" or even "normal" assault.

Anchored in politics
Even in politics, Kanev said nationalism has been a major force since the democratic turn in Bulgaria. "When the constitutional committee gathered in 1991, there were protests outside the building by members of the Bulgarian National Radicals Party who chanted against the parliamentary representation of Bulgaria's Turkish minority," he said. This racist party was never able to materialize, but that's only because the country's major parties already propagated nationalist sentiments.

Pressure from the EU
Only after the European Union began to exert some pressure did Bulgaria's major parties "clean" their ranks of nationalist elements, said Kanev. The Bulgarian socialists and the conservatives wanted to be accepted in the European parliament, and they were forced to make changes to their respective platforms in order to be accepted. "This gave room to the more extreme nationalist movements. In 2005 Ataka was founded, a party that is far more extremist than Jörg Haider's Alliance for the Future of Austria," Kanev stressed. The party's leader mobilized voters during campaigns with slogans such as "Convicted Gypsies belong in work camps!" or "Bulgaria for Bulgarians!" Two months after being founded, Ataka made it into the Bulgarian parliament as the country's fourth most popular party. Ever since, the group has routinely used racist slogans directed against ethnic, religious and sexual minorities to gain the interest of potential voters. Even in Brussels, an EU parliamentarian from Ataka dared to verbally assault one of his Roma colleagues. The party was expressly criticized in the latest ECRI report, with the Commission calling for "appropriate behavior."

No threat yet
The established liberal and democratic parties, however, are too weak to counteract the nationalist trend in Bulgarian politics, said Daniel Smilov, program director at the NGO Centre for Liberal Strategies. "At the moment the entire political class can't resist nationalist ideas," said Smilov, adding, however, that the movement currently poses no threat to the state. But this is no reason to bask in false security, Smilov warned. "Many believe that just because Bulgaria is in the EU and has reached a certain sense of stability that the system is strong enough to withstand deviations," he said, adding that this may not be the case. There is little reason to expect resistance to such extremism from the population, but despite this, there have been protests against right-wing violence and xenophobia in Bulgaria. This is a sign that a democratic culture is growing in the country, according to sociologist Svetla Encheva of the Center for the Study of Democracy.

Simmering resentment
In the past months an apparent change has been witnessed in the way politicians approach the subject of extremism. Following the death of a 19-year-old Bulgarian who was run over by a Roma driver, Bulgaria was overtaken by a wave of anti-Roma protests. Most of these took place in a peaceful manner, apart from a few individual exceptions. Above all, young demonstrators marched through the streets chanting racist slogans. In response, Boris Velchev, Bulgaria's chief prosecutor, announced that cases of "racially motivated agitation must be treated with priority." At the beginning of October a 27-year-old man was sentenced to 10 months of probation because he called for the "slaughtering of Gypsies" on Facebook. Human rights activist Krassimir Kanev welcomed that ruling, adding, however, that the Helsinki Committee would keep a close eye on whether the Bulgarian prosecution would remain consistent when it came to cracking down on extremist violence. It's precisely this that's been lacking in the past years.
© The Deutsche Welle

up  

STANDING UP TO DISCRIMINATION AGAINST MUSLIMS (Germany)

Know Your Rights!

9/12/2011 - Since 2010, a Berlin-based network has dedicated itself to opposing discrimination against Muslims by providing information and legal advice to the Muslim community. As Sabine Ripperger has been finding out, Muslims are often unaware that discrimination is illegal in Germany. Germany is not immune to the blight of discrimination in its various guises. People often find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to looking for work or accommodation simply because of the colour of their skin or their ethnic origin. Despite the introduction of an Equal Treatment Act in 2006, which was intended to put a stop to this kind of discrimination, the problem persists. Many of Berlin's Muslims are still largely unaware of their rights and require assistance when it comes to exercising them.

Making Muslims aware of their rights
The Netzwerk gegen Diskriminierung von Muslimen (Network against discrimination against Muslims) is a cooperative effort between the Muslim association Inssan, which means "human being", and the Turkish Union in Berlin-Brandenburg. It has been actively engaged in providing greater information and assistance in this area since August 2010 and receives financial support from the Berlin Commissioner for Integration and Migration, with additional funding coming from the Open Society Foundation in London. In the first year of the project alone, almost 1,000 people took part in anti-discrimination events in mosques and other Muslim institutions – no mean feat given that many of those who attended were initially sceptical about the effectiveness of taking action. But it was a perception that soon changed, says Lydia Nofal, coordinator of the network and director of Inssan. "People really became interested and aware of the fact that they do actually have rights. Perceptions have really been changed."

Discrimination in schools
The network has documented a total of over 220 cases of discrimination since it started work. Nofal cites education as a particularly problematic area with regard to discrimination against Muslims. "School pupils tell us about Islamophobic remarks they hear being made by teachers, especially to girls who wear headscarves." Very often it is because of problems that have arisen with sport or swimming lessons. Nofal relates one case where a girl was not allowed to take part in sports because she wore a headscarf. "And when she did not turn up for classes, she found to her dismay that she had failed the course." When it comes to the experiences of Muslim women on the job market, Nofal sees very similar kinds of problems. It's not unusual for a girl with a headscarf to be told that she has the best qualifications, that she can have a job, but that she can only take up the offer if she gets rid of her headscarf. The girls are then asked to remove their headscarves, "and this is done without any sense that it is wrong in spite of the fact that it is a clear violation of the Equal Treatment Act," explains Nofal. This kind of reaction and prejudice often makes it very difficult for girls to find jobs or training opportunities, she says. Such girls often end up seeking opportunities within their own community because they feel that they will not be accepted elsewhere.

Islamophobia in the public sphere 
Islamophobia is something that can be experienced anywhere, even in public spaces such as the underground, where Muslim women and girls often find themselves subjected to insults such as "Islamist slut" or are even spat on. One of her own employees, says Nofal, was beaten up on the underground by right-wing extremists, though she does concede that this particular incident took place some time ago. According to Nofal, "it is those women who tend to wear longer headscarves or who dress most conservatively, who are most likely to be accosted, or even jostled, on the street." Nofal also personally knows women who are now afraid to go out alone after having had such an experience. It is this sort of thing that makes "increasing people's self confidence, making them aware of the fact that they too are citizens of this country and as such have the same rights as everyone else, such an important aim of the project. And, of course, no one should be afraid to make use of those rights."

The fact that the project has thus far succeeded in training 20 anti-discrimination volunteers is a source of pride. The volunteers go out into the Berlin mosques and establish important contacts with the community there. As members of those communities themselves, they can provide initial and valuable assistance to those experiencing problems. Given the current debate on right-wing activities in Germany, Nofal believes it is particularly important that "there should be acknowledgment of the fact that this is not just a problem caused by a lunatic right-wing fringe. Racism is deeply rooted in this society, and we have to do something to combat it." In her role as project coordinator of this network, Nofal also warns of the danger of underestimating the effects of inciting racial hatred via the Internet: "Such Islamophobic websites are contemptuous of humanity," she says, adding that this fact is, unfortunately, still too often ignored and that such ignorance is dangerous.
© The Deutsche Welle

up  

‘FEAR IS THE WEAPON GERMAN RACISTS STILL CLING TO’

8/12/2011- A series of murders committed by neo-Nazis targeting immigrants, which came to light last month in Germany, continues to stir debate in Europe and in Turkey, with experts saying that creating fear in society is the number one method the extreme right relies on for its hateful propaganda. Ayten Kýlýçarslan, a migration consultant and a founding member of the Germany Muslim Women Action Union, says far-right groups often pump fear into society by employing discourse that is centered on “changing demographics,” claiming that Turks will one day outnumber Germans. “Their propaganda is a manufactured problem based on a huge lie,” Kýlýçarslan said in an interview with the Anatolia news agency on Thursday. She said as of 2005, there were 15 million immigrants residing in Germany, with 1.7 million of these being of Turkish origin. Kýlýçarslan noted that the actual number of people of Turkish origin residing in Germany was 2.7 million when those who have obtained citizenship through birth or after becoming permanent residents are added to the total. Kýlýçarslan said hateful propaganda against foreigners mainly emphasized those foreigners that “look” different, especially in terms of outer appearance. She said that Turks in Germany have failed to earn an important standing among Germany's middle class, but added that this has been changing.

She noted that the number of employers of Turkish origin and the total turnover of these companies have been steadily rising, but said that a general tendency on the part of Turkish academics, who are already too few, to leave Germany and a large amount of debt by immigrants of Turkish descent partially shadowed this improvement in figures concerning Turkish businesses. One problem that stands in the way of Turkish integration, Kýlýçarslan said, was the chronic problem of the limited success shown by Turkish children in German schools. “The fundamental factor behind the low grades of Turkish children is the discrimination they suffer,” she asserted. Kýlýçarslan noted that the percentage of population at retirement age in Germany is continuously increasing, adding that the total population is projected to fall to 74 million in 2050, from 82 million today. “This means that retirement funds will be gone and that there will be too many old people and not enough young working people to support them. She said not even admitting more immigrants could help remedy the problem of an aging population. “Because the standard of life is also increasing. The expected life-span in Germany is expected to reach 83.5 for men and 88 for women in 2050.”

Kýlýçarslan said demographic data was enough to refute racist fear mongers' claims that Turks will outnumber Germans. “The fertility rate of Turkish women in Germany is 1.9 and increasingly closer to the German average of 1.4.” She added: “In fact, one can even talk about reverse-migration when one compares the numbers of those returning and the newcomers. The racists continue to build their arguments on fear and not on facts because using the fear that Turks and other Muslims will takeover fits their thesis. Their demographic argument, however, is a manufactured problem based on a huge lie.” She also criticized German politicians, particularly the government, for fostering the racist threat by making statements, when talking about the threat from the extreme right that draw parallels between the far-right threat and “the Islamists.” She said integration policies of the government were highly problematic because they were based on the understanding that, “If we can't stop the problem of declining population by any other mans than admitting more immigrants, then we need to turn these people into a more harmonized aspect of society and stop them from being a threat to society.” Kýlýçarslan said perceiving foreigners as a threat in the first place made them feel unwanted, therefore hindering the integration process.
© Today's Zaman

up  

GERMANY FACES TOUGH BATTLE TO BAN FAR-RIGHT NPD

The discovery of a neo-Nazi terrorist cell in Germany has triggered new calls for a ban of the rabidly far-right National Democratic Party. But there are major legal obstacles to outlawing the party. And even if politicians prepare a new case to shut the extremists down, the proceedings could take years. 

7/12/2011- Who visited Patrick Wieschke? Who slept at his apartment on the night of Nov. 3? Was it the alleged terrorist Beate Zschäpe? The question has preoccupied senior investigators at Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), agents at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and government security experts. Who visited Wieschke? Who stayed in his apartment in the eastern city of Eisenach two days before the so-called Zwickau terrorist cell robbed a savings bank on Nordplatz, a square in Eisenach? The answer could seal the fate of the far-right NPD, because Wieschke, 30, is the party's "national organization director." At the end of last week, there appeared to be one missing link in a chain of evidence that investigators throughout Germany have been working tirelessly to assemble: Proof of a connection between a top party official and the crimes committed by the Zwickau terrorist group, which stands accused of 10 murders stretching back over decade -- the group allegedly killed eight Turks who ran shops or stalls, one Greek man and a German policewoman. BKA Director Jörg Ziercke announced that his agency was "declaring war on all right-wing extremism, down to its very roots," and that radical steps would be taken to investigate everything. Is the NPD the root of the problem? Can the despicable crimes committed by the neo-Nazi terrorists be pinned on the reviled right-wing extremist party? Answers to these questions are urgently needed, now that a majority of national and regional politicians are upping the pressure to convince the Federal Constitutional Court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe to ban the NPD, following a failed first attempt in 2003. A panel of experts from 14 states is meeting to explore the prospects of a new case. The 16 state interior ministers will also meet this week to discuss the matter.

Terrorist Link Would Spell Party's Downfall
The opportunity is there. "If there are indications that a party is using terrorism, directly or indirectly, to reach its political goals, that party must be banned," says Holger Stahlknecht, the conservative interior minister of the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, summarizing in a nutshell what many of his counterparts in other states believe. If the NPD is indeed the intellectual or even operational headquarters of right-wing extremist acts of violence, its days are numbered. But is it? BKA investigators questioned senior NPD official Wieschke for almost five hours last Wednesday. He vehemently denied the allegation that Zschäpe stayed in his apartment on the night in question. In fact, he told the authorities that he barely knew the presumed terrorist, and showed them photos on his mobile phone depicting him in the company of a different woman at 1:08 a.m. in the early morning hours of Nov. 3. The police are much further along in their case against Ralf Wohlleben. The former deputy chairman of the NPD branch in the eastern state of Thuringia is in custody on charges that he provided the Zwickau terrorist cell with a weapon.

Holger G., from the town of Lauenau in Lower Saxony, is also in custody, because of his alleged support for the Zwickau cell, which called itself the "National Socialist Underground" (NSU). In 2001 or 2002, after the series of murders had begun, G. allegedly received a gun from Wohlleben, and was told to bring it to Uwe Mundlos at an apartment on Polenzstrasse in Zwickau, where Mundlos and the two other members of the neo-Nazi group had lived. Holger G.'s attorney would not comment on the allegations. Under criminal law, Wohlleben's alleged activities can easily be classified as support for a terrorist organization. But what does this mean for the assessment of the NPD and its goals? Is a lower-ranking provincial official's involvement in terrorist activities enough to condemn an entire party as unconstitutional? Not necessarily. According to the German constitution, the behavior of a party's "supporters" can be an indication that the party "aims to impair the liberal democratic system." What is of interest, says Martin Morlok, a leading expert on political parties, is "the unconstitutional behavior of the party, not that of other individuals."

High Hurdles to Banning Parties
Experts like Hans Peter Bull, the attorney who represented the German government in the first legal effort to ban the NPD, are skeptical as to whether Wohlleben's possible support for the NSU "can be attributed to the party as a whole." According to Bull, prosecutors would have to prove that Wohlleben's behavior was "typical for the party." Only if the support of radical right-wing thugs by NPD officials can in fact be linked to the party does an attempt to ban the NPD stand a chance. The sharp weapon of banning a political party is not intended as an instrument of punishment or a defense against terrorists, but instead is meant to prevent parties from destroying the very same fundamental values of democracy that enable them to enjoy many privileges. If top NPD officials like "national organization director" Wieschke were indeed involved in acts of terrorism, it would be easy for the courts to classify right-wing extremist terrorism as a barbaric tool of party policy. But when it comes to the actions of lower-ranking party officials, the important question is how the party addresses the accusations against such people. The NPD's official position is clear: The party leadership distances itself from acts of violence whenever possible. On its website, the NPD characterizes the Zwickau terrorists as "crazy criminals." Party leaders in Berlin, however, make a more outrageous claim, questioning whether "the alleged terrorist cell is not in fact a creation of the domestic intelligence agency, the sole purpose of which is to establish a basis for banning the unwanted national opposition." But it isn't that easy. In fact, over the years a sinister symbiotic relationship has developed between elements within the NPD and violent right-wing extremist groups. And it is difficult to determine who is actually controlling whom.

Weapons Offenses
NPD members contradict the NPD's official position against violence, not just in isolated instances but in fact with horrifying regularity. There can be no doubt that they face charges of illegal weapons possession far more often than members of other parties. In January, police confiscated a submachine gun and 400 rounds of ammunition from Sven Krüger, a council member in the Nordwestmecklenburg administrative district in eastern Germany. A court convicted Krüger of receiving stolen goods and illegal possession of firearms, and sentenced him to a prison term of four years and three months. In August 2009, police discovered a Swiss assault rifle, a loaded handgun and a large collection of materials for making pipe bombs in the home of the "base commander" of the NPD youth organization in Lörrach, a town in southwestern Germany. But there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction for "preparation of a crime involving explosives," and the matter was referred to another court. The authorities have also collected evidence against Thorsten Heise, a member of the NPD national leadership. In 2007, investigators seized a machine gun and an automatic pistol at his home. There is plenty of evidence of overlap between militant far-right groups, or "Kameradschaften," and the NPD. The presumed leader of "Sturm 34," a neo-Nazi organization that had named itself after a unit of Hitler's Sturm Abteilung (SA) organization, was put on trial in Dresden in 2008. He had been a member of the NPD until 2007.

One of the most important events at which NPD officials and hard-core Nazis with violent leanings have formed a common front, at least temporarily, was the so-called Rudolf Hess Memorial March, long a social high point in the neo-Nazi community. In 2002, for example, members of the banned "Blood & Honor" network attended the march. Members of the group had published their own "underground magazine" called Totenkopf (Skull), which included precise instructions on how to wage an underground terrorist war. According to Lorenz Caffier, interior minister of the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, there are "conspicuous ties between the NPD and neo-Nazi Kameradschaften groups" in his state. A building called the "Thinghaus," in the town of Grevesmühlen, is one of the places where such ties are indeed evident. "Thing" in this case appears to be a reference to the old Norse term for assembly. The building looks like a fortress in enemy territory. It is surrounded by a high fence topped with barbed wire, there are bars on the windows, and a sign on the wall, written in the local dialect, reads "Lever dood as Slaav" -- "Better Dead than Enslaved." According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the building is a venue for concerts by neo-Nazi bands. Members of a violent, right-wing extremist group of skinheads called the Hammerskins are also reportedly regulars at the "Thinghaus." This doesn't seem to trouble Stefan Köster, regional head of the NPD in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, who maintains a "citizens' office" at the Thinghaus. So does Udo Pastörs, the chairman of the NPD group in the state parliament and deputy leader of the national party.

New Emphasis on Non-Violence
The party's new chairman, Holger Apfel, who managed to unseat his longstanding rival, former leader Udo Voigt, three weeks ago, supposedly wants to solidify the NPD's position within the democratic spectrum of parties. The doctrine that has been formulated for this purpose is called "Serious Radicalism." Apfel's insistence that the NPD, "based on its deepest inner convictions," rejects "all forms of violence in political debate," has made him the target of extensive criticism from other party members, who ask: Is it really necessary to make this commitment? In fact, this cautious strategy could enable the party to thwart its persecutors. Officials in the interior ministries of both eastern and western states are increasingly concerned about the overly blind zeal of the NPD's persecutors. "Of course an NPD ban is preferable," says Dietmar Woidke, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the interior minister of the eastern state of Brandenburg. "The issue is whether it is sufficiently likely that the Federal Constitutional Court will classify the NPD as unconstitutional. I think that's an open question." Experts at the interior ministry in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia tend to agree, at least unofficially. And Boris Rhein (CDU), interior minister of the neighboring state of Hesse, has even publicly opposed efforts by his counterparts in other states to make a new attempt to outlaw the NPD. He is against the withdrawal of informants from within the leadership that this would entail, out of fears "that then we would more or less blind."

In its 1956 decision to ban the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), the Federal Constitutional Court made it clear just how high the bar is set by the German constitution for anyone seeking to prove that a party is unconstitutional. According to the court, the "intent" of the party to "fundamentally and continually" fight the liberal order must be demonstrated. The court also argued that this intent must be expressed in actions, programmatic speeches and the like, in such a way "that it becomes recognizable as the political method systematically being pursued by the party." "The basic problem with banning parties is always the same," says Wolfgang Löwer, the attorney for the German parliament, the Bundestag, in the first attempt to ban the NPD. "How do you prove the party's active combative stance?" Of course, says Löwer, one of the arguments to support a ban of the far-right party, an argument that was also used in the first trial, involves the "similarity in nature" between the party and right-wing extremist groups, and even a terrorist cell like the NSU. If prosecutors managed to tie the NPD to militant groups, "it might be enough." Insiders familiar with the Constitutional Court say that the most important thing is to make sure that any new case against the NPD is watertight. A new petition to ban the NPD only makes sense "if the material submitted to the court is pretty self-evident," says a source close to the high court. Unconstitutionality practically has to be "written on the party's forehead," he adds. On the other hand, say sources close to the court, if it were forced to "meticulously and painstakingly gather the evidence, the question would be whether a petition to ban the party is the right instrument." They argue that precisely because advocates of a ban are using the NSU terrorist group as evidence, they will have to establish a "valid connection"-- otherwise the case will turn into a "balancing act."

Informants Pose Risk to New Ban Attempt
According to constitutional law expert Bull, those who intend to take the plunge and make a new attempt to ban the NPD, despite the obstacles, will be entering "a vicious circle." Only with the help of informants will it be possible to secure enough evidence to paint a true picture of the party, but it was precisely the large-scale use of informants that led to the failure of the first effort to ban the NPD in 2003. The court stopped the proceedings at the time. The judges argued that intelligence contacts between government authorities and leading members of the party amounted to a "serious impairment" of its freedoms enshrined in the constitution. In addition, the judges ruled, the party could not be banned based on statements made by members who were on the government's payroll as informants. Now the state interior ministers are grappling with the question of how a similar disaster can be avoided in a second attempt. Most either hesitate or roundly reject pulling the intelligence agencies' informants out of the party to pave the way for a new trial. It is also unclear how the Constitutional Court now views the issue. If a ban were submitted today, it would be to a completely new court. The last judge who was involved in the 2003 decision, Udo Di Fabio, retires on Dec. 19. "No one knows how the judges view the matter today," says Winfried Hassemer, the vice-president of the Constitutional Court at the time of the first NPD trial.

Today's judges wouldn't be bound by the 2003 decision. The court expressly noted at the time that the decision in the case had "no binding effect." In addition, four of the then judges, in a dissenting vote, did not view the use of informants as an obstacle. The fact that the minority of three judges prevailed with their concerns about the informants was purely the result of legal technicalities. But all proponents of a new ban attempt know that anyone who wants to avoid the risk of the Constitutional Court judges rejecting the bid should stick closely to the requirements set forth by the judges in the first trial. On the one hand, this means removing informants from within the party's leadership by the time a trial to ban the NPD begins. On the other hand, it also means practically doing without testimony from informants in the case to ban the party. "It has to be clear," says Hassemer, "who is the author of documents that supposedly incriminate the NPD." In a classified document, the panel that has been charged by the majority of German states with looking into the chances for the success of a new trial has pragmatically proposed ignoring the issue of informants for the time being. It argues that if a promising petition to ban the party cannot be assembled with the existing material, which is "burdened" by the use of informants, a petition will be "highly unlikely" to succeed without the informant material.

It will be difficult to take the bold step to launch a ban. "If we do pursue this path," Chancellor Angela Merkel promised, "we will do it with determination." But few of those who are now adamantly calling for a petition to ban the NPD realize what a long path it will be. The Interior Ministry anticipates that it could take up to three years just to prepare the case, while the court could take as long as that again to reach a decision. Besides, realistically speaking, the trial could only begin once the criminal proceedings against the Zwickau cell have been concluded, and the Constitutional Court can be confronted with final sentences issued by criminal courts -- and that too can take years. These would be years in which the NPD could close ranks and gain strength. Among radicals, the knowledge of being persecuted always triggers the comforting feeling of being in the right.
© The Spiegel

up  

WESTERN NAZI NETWORK AIDED TERROR TRIO (Germany)

The neo-Nazi terrorist trio based in the eastern German town of Zwickau were aided by western counterparts in choosing their locations for murders, one far-right extremist has told investigators.

9/12/2011- According to a report in Friday's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, a neo-Nazi has told police that he and other local extremists helped terrorists Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos look for a place to carry out one of the ten murders they are suspected of committing over a seven-year period. He said that he bailed out before a location was agreed on, but shortly afterwards a Turkish small business owner was shot and killed by the two men, who died in early November. He also said that the Zwickau trio, which also included Beate Zschäpe, now in police custody, were not only well-known in the hardcore far-right scene in western Germany, but it was known that they were responsible for the murders. Investigators said the western German neo-Nazi, whose identity has been kept secret, can no longer be prosecuted for his part in the murder.
© The Local - Germany

up  

GERMANY'S NEO-NAZI UNDERGROUND

Ten murders blamed on a neo-Nazi underground cell have raised fresh fears about far-right extremism in Germany. BBC Radio One Newsbeat's Sima Kotecha went to investigate.

7/12/2011- It is difficult to digest that places like this still exist in modern-day Germany. Jamel - a tiny village encircled by fields - sits in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on the coast of the Baltic sea, and is believed to be home to a group of right-wing extremists. "I think you should not be here because you don't look like the people from this area". Not the most reassuring words from my German companion, Horst Krumpen, the Chairman of the Network for Democracy, Tolerance, and Humanity in the neighbouring town of Wismar. There was no disguising his concern for my safety because of my racial origin. As we began our walk into Jamel, the trepidation set in. Attack dogs behind fences barked incessantly, while the wind whistled loudly. The large metal shutters on most of the windows relayed the message - this is a private place. It felt sinister. The Nazi-era propaganda became visible inside a cul-de-sac of only ten houses or so. We were met by a mural of a rock with the words: "Jamel village community - free, social, national".

From a rock sprouted a sign pointing to the former German cities of Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad in Russia), and Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland). The latter was the last Nazi stronghold during the Second World War. There have been reports of pro-Hitler parties here during the summer months where guests sing "Hitler is my Fuehrer", and chant "Heil" around a bonfire. The village is in one of only two states where the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) has a seat in parliament. It is places like Jamel that are increasingly worrying the German Bundestag - especially after recent revelations of a neo-Nazi terror cell in the eastern town of Zwickau which operated under the name "National Socialist Underground" (NSU). Investigators believe it was behind a string of racially motivated murders between 2000 and 2006 in which eight Turks and a Greek were killed. A policewoman was murdered in 2007.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the murders brought "shame" on the nation and were a "disgrace". Intelligence agencies are under fire for failing to spot the cell and are being accused of turning a "blind eye" to the threat from the far-right. A recent poll has revealed that 74% of Germans want the NPD outlawed, but an attempt to do that in 2003 failed when the case was rejected in the Federal Constitutional Court. There is scepticism over whether a second attempt will be successful.

Icy stare
On a chilly day in Berlin, the Christmas spirit is in full swing with the local community setting up festive markets along the main roads. But tucked away from the hustle and bustle is a 34-year-old former neo-Nazi who has agreed to meet us on condition that we do not reveal his identity. "We stirred up discontent and unrest. Violence was part of the scene, the whole ideology of the movement is based on violence, and it is seen as a legitimate means to reach political targets. "The inhibition threshold to go as far as killing people is very low," he says. With a solid, icy stare he tells us he never killed anyone but came close to it. "I still cannot say to this day if I would have killed, but I realised later that just by punching someone in the face, or hitting them with brass knuckles, I could have killed them," he says. This man escaped the tight-knit underground community that glorifies Hitler's Third Reich but anti-fascist charities are worried a growing number of young men are being lured into the far-right, especially amid tough economic times. Bernd Wagner is the CEO of EXIT-Germany, an organisation that helps right-wing extremists leave the movement. "We are seeing a decrease of right-wing extremists in general but at the same time there is an increase of neo-Nazis and organised right-wing extremists. "Plus there is a tendency in the population of sympathising with their ideas and ideology which is also increasing," he says.

"People are frightened"
Kreuzberg in Berlin is renowned for its vibrant outdoor Turkish markets - and authentic Arab cuisine. But people here are anxious. Dervis Hizarci works as a guide in a local Jewish museum, and is also an active board member of the Turkish community. "We are not sure what happened in the past, why the media didn't show the mistakes of the intelligence agencies and tell the Turks what happened, but this makes all the Turks very uncertain," he says. His friend Sayin Alim is an estate agent, and joins us for some Turkish potato bread and tea in a brightly lit coffee shop. "People are frightened. The people are now determined to keep among their own community. "They are not open to other communities now or the German culture," he says. But the threat from the far-right in cosmopolitan Berlin seems remote. It leaves investigators questioning whether places like Jamel are a one-off or whether they illustrate a wider sickness in the state of Germany.

Action plan
Measures outlined by German interior ministry against right-wing extremism

# Police and intelligence services to plan and work in close, daily co-operation
# Data on violent individuals and organisations to be collected and stored
# Federal prosecutor to have a stronger involvement in serious cross-border criminal cases
# Legal deadlines for the deletion of personal data to be extended
# Right-wing websites and content on the internet to be observed more thoroughly
© BBC News

up  

NEO-NAZI KILLERS SOLD FASCIST 'MONOPOLY' (Germany)

The members of the extreme-right terrorist cell suspected of slaying at least 10 people in Germany between 2000 and 2010 sold a neo-Nazi version of the board game 'Monopoly' in order to finance their murderous activities, authorities said.

5/12/2011- Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe supposedly made several dozen copies of their gruesome invention "Pogromly" in 1997, selling it in the neo-Nazi scene for 100 Deutsche marks (€50), according to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. Photos of the game provided to The Local by the Thuringia state office of the German domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, show the starting point of the game has a giant swastika on it. Rather than train stations there are concentration camps on sale, complete with burning Israeli flags. The currency used is Reichsmarks. The game also includes gasworks and depictions of Hitler and evil-looking Jews.

Mundlos killed Böhnhardt and then shot himself after being confronted by police last month and Zschäpe later turned herself in. At least three different suspected far-right extremists have since been arrested on suspicion of association with the cell, which is believed to have killed nine people of foreign background between 2000 and 2006 as well as a police officer in 2007. Authorities have been in possession of the 'Pogromly' since at least 1998, after confiscating professional looking copies of the board game game when they uncovered a bomb-making operation the cell was running, according to the FAZ. The trio later turned to armed bank robberies to finance their lives and terrorist activities.
© The Local - Germany

up  

BAN GERMANY'S RIGHT-WING NPD? NEO-NAZI REVELATIONS SPARK DEBATE.

Neo-Nazi enclaves like Jamel, Germany, are closed to foreigners and minorities – and supportive of the hard-right NPD party. Last week, 74 percent of Germans said the NPD should be banned.

4/12/2011- The mural is 2 meters (6.6 feet) high, several meters long, and looks as if it came straight from a 1935 German schoolbook: a young family in farmer’s clothes, the mother cradling a baby, the father putting his arm protectively around his older son’s shoulders. Next to the painting in old German font, it reads: “Village community Jamel: Free – social – national.” Jamel is what neo-Nazis in Germany call a “nationally liberated zone,” a no-go area for foreigners, ethnic minorities, and overt left-wingers. It is one of the places where the National Democratic Party (NPD), Germany’s legal far-right party, has won the battle for hearts and minds – and probably did not have to fight very hard. In some villages and towns of this region, the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the NPD easily reached 20 percent in regional elections earlier this year. “The authorities have given up on Jamel,” says Horst Krumpen, chairman of the Network for Democracy, Tolerance, and Humanity, a campaign group in the nearby town of Wismar. “We don’t have problems with right-wing violence here – there hardly is any. Our problem is the widespread support for the NPD in the region and the impotence of the state.”

For years, places like Jamel were more or less ignored by the German authorities. In a speech this summer, Germany's Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich called right-wing extremism a phenomenon on the decline, and stressed the threat of Islamic terrorism. But the shocking revelations a month ago about a terrorist cell of neo-Nazis, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), which is alleged to have killed as many as 10 ethnic-minority citizens as well as a policewoman and carried out several bombings and bank robberies over the past decade, have put such enclaves back in the focus, along with a debate about whether the NPD, which gives a legal voice to extreme right-wing sentiment, should be banned. Jamel is a tiny village of only a dozen houses, close to the Baltic coast in northeast Germany. It is surrounded by idyllic landscapes, but there are metal shutters on most windows, attack dogs behind fences, a shooting range outside a collapsed barn with a playground in front of it. Everywhere you look there are manifestations of the inhabitants’ world: a tall cross with the words “Better dead than a slave” on it, flags with Germanic runes and symbols, and signposts pointing to various places in Russia and Poland which used to belong to Germany before World War II. A placard reminds people: “NPD – we keep our promises.”

The NPD, which is represented in the regional parliaments of two German states but has never played any role at the federal level, has tried for some time to shed its extremist image. “People can come to their party offices and get help filling out welfare application forms,” says Mr. Krumpen. NPD members are running youth clubs and local soccer teams, and sitting on local councils. Just last month, the party elected a new leader, Holger Apfel, who is regarded as less radical than his predecessor. In a poll last week, 74 percent of Germans were in favor of banning the NPD. “A ban would destabilize the right-wing scene, throw it back for decades,” says Bernd Wagner. The ex-policeman is Germany’s foremost authority on right-wing extremism. He runs “Exit,” an organization that helps neo-Nazis leave the scene and reintegrate in society. “We need to act,” says Mr. Wagner. “The official statistics show a decline in the number of right-wing extremists. But we at Exit see a core of neo-Nazis that is better organized and more radical than before.” But the German government needs to show a concrete and direct link between the NPD and the terrorists of the NSU. Otherwise it risks a repeat of the embarrassment of 2003, when an attempt to ban the NPD failed, because Germany’s constitutional court rejected the case. Back then, the NPD was so heavily infiltrated with informers of the domestic intelligence service that the court decided most of the evidence brought against the far-right party would be inadmissible.

The arrest of a former NPD official who is accused of actively supporting the NSU last week could make the case for a ban and push the informer problem into the background, politicians hope. “If we can produce a watertight link between NPD and terrorists, we have an important argument on our side,” the Interior minister of Lower Saxony, Uwe Schünemann, told a German newspaper. Bavaria’s Interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said the support for a ban was growing on a daily basis. Not everybody agrees, though. Hartfrid Wolff is an MP for the Free Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government. He sits on the Parliamentary Oversight Committee that controls Germany’s intelligence services. “The failure of the domestic intelligence agency to stop this terrorist gang was a disaster,” he says. “But we should not in a knee-jerk reaction try to ban a party that has a considerable electorate. It would be much better to dry up its voter base, win over its supporters.” Mr. Krumpen has a more practical approach. “If we ban the NPD, we don’t get rid of a single right-winger,” he says. “What we lose is a target whose structure and weaknesses we know well enough to fight. Ban it, and the neo-Nazis just go underground.”
© The Christian Science Monitor

up  

DAVID DUKE ARRESTED PRIOR TO ADDRESS AT GERMAN NEO-NAZI EVENT

4/12/2011- Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was arrested as he was about to speak at a neo-Nazi event in Germany. Duke, who was discovered during identity searches of those attending the event on the outskirts of Cologne, was ordered to leave the country, according to the Die Welt newspaper. In 2007, a ruling originating from Switzerland banned Duke from entering and staying in the contiguous states of Europe, but the 61-year-old Holocaust denier reportedly was living in Austria since then and came to Germany for the event last week. Duke returned to Austria the day after his arrest, according to Karl Ollinger, an Austrian member of parliament with the Green Party, who according to the Austrian Daily Kurier watches the far-right scene in Austria and takes a special interest in Duke's activities.

The two neo-Nazi organizations sponsoring the event had advertised Duke's appearance. According to Die Welt, he only held a special transit pass through Germany. Approximately 100 police officers reportedly surrounded some 60 men and women on their way to the event and conducted thorough identity searches when Duke was discovered and arrested. Ollinger told the Kurier that Duke has lived in the resort area of Zell am See since 2007 and said he was planning to question Austria's Interior Ministry as to why "a leading international figure from the far-right extremist movement can take refuge in Austria when another Schengen country kicks him out." Duke in recent years has been promoting his racist and anti-Semitic views primarily in Eastern European and former Soviet countries.
© JTA News

up  

FAR-RIGHT CELL LINKS TO SAARLAND ATTACKS PROBED (Germany)

There may be links between the far-right terror cell and a series of crimes in the western state of Saarland, including a bomb attack on a controversial exhibition and arson attacks on foreigners.

3/12/2011- The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Saturday that the neo-Nazi terror group from Zwickau could have carried out the 1999 bomb attack in Saarbrücken on an exhibition on war crimes committed by the German army during World War II. It may also be behind a series of arson attacks in the town of Völklingen that only ended in September 2011, the paper suggested. According to information obtained by the newspaper, a Turkish organization in Völklingen received a copy of a DVD which the group produced, claiming responsibility for the murders of nine men with migrant backgrounds between 2000 and 2006.

The group, calling themselves the National Socialist Underground (NSU), are alleged to have killed eight Turks and one Greek man in a killing spree across the country, as well as a policewoman in 2007. The crimes were only linked to them when police found the weapons used in the shootings and the DVDs boasting of the murders, following the deaths of two of the gang. Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt died - one shooting the other and then himself - following a botched bank robbery on November 4. Their alleged accomplice Beate Zschäpe, is alleged to have sent DVDs to various media outlets and organizations that day before blowing up the flat in Zwickau that the trio shared. She then she turned herself into the police and has since been charged with arson and membership of a terrorist organization. Three men suspected of supporting the group have since been arrested.

Now investigators are looking again at the series of 10 arson attacks carried out in Völklingen between 2006 and September 2011 to see if they were carried out by the group. The attacks, in which 20 people were injured, were aimed at buildings which housed Turkish immigrants, as well as Arabs and sub-Saharan Africans. The orginal investigations were suspended and the police said at the time that they did not suspect any xenophobic motives. Saarland is one of Germany’s smallest states, bordering France and Luxembourg. Völklingen, a town of 40,000 inhabitants, is a stronghold for the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), which has seats on the city council. Other far-right groups, known as Kameradschaften, are also active in the town.

One of the Turkish victims of the arson attacks has accused the authorities of conducting a one-sided investigation. The cases will now be reopened and possible misconduct on the part of the police will also be examined. Saarland's chief prosecutor Ralf-Dieter Sahm told the FAZ that “a far-right background cannot be excluded, rather it is probable.” He said that the investigation would also probably involve asking the domestic intelligence agency “one or two questions.” The FAZ also reported that the authorities received a threatening letter after the bomb attack on the Wehrmacht exhibition in 1999, which included phrases which indicated that the writer was from the former East Germany.

The exhibition, which travelled to many towns and cities across Germany and Austria, showed how ordinary German soldiers took part in the murder of Jews during World War II. It was deeply unpopular with neo-Nazis, who staged protest marches in various cities. The exhibition sparked a deep debate about the crimes of Nazi Germany and the way Germany had dealt with its past.
© The Local - Germany

up  

JEWISH TEENAGERS IN BELGIUM QUIT THEIR SCHOOLS BECAUSE OF ANTI-SEMITISM

4/12/2011- Like every Friday, as part of the day school activities, 13-year-old Oceane Sluijzer goes to the sport training center in Neder-Over-Hembeek, a Brussels suburb, where she plays football. There she meets other girls from the same nearby secondary public school. Many of them are from Moroccan origin and Oceane feels sometimes difficult to be integrated and to be treated well. She was in fact excluded from the group because of her look, she is blond, and because she is not of Arab descent, she says. Two weeks ago, the shy Jewish girl came as usual at the center and found again the same situation. But this time she started a discussion. “Why don’t you respect me?,” she asked a group of four girls. “Is it because I am not Arab?”. Then, after the discussion heated up, one of the Muslim girl, the group leader, shouted at her: “Dirty Jew, shut up and return to your country,” words that she repeated. Oceane didn’t know how to react to the anti-Semitic insult but responded: "I will not shut up and I am already in my country." She then received two slaps in the face before being badly beaten by one of the girl for several minutes. It was only thanks to her Indian girlfriend that she could get out of the situation. "If she would not have been present, my daughther would maybe have been killed," explained her father, 44-year-old Dan Sluijzer.

Suffering a head concussion and face injuries, she went to hospital. She talked on the phone to her father who told her to go straight to the police station to fill a complaint. Since then she didn’t return to her school and was so scared that she even didn’t went out of her home. But she decided to change of school. The Jewish school was one option, but she felt Hebrew and religion were “too much” for her in the middle of the year. In an joint interview with Israel’s daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot and European Jewish Press, last Thursday, along with her father, the girl said policemen told her that the four girls would be questioned, would be told that this was not permitted and that if they do it again the complaint would go further. Police reportedly asked the girl and her father not to say that this was an anti-Semitic act. "I feel better today than when it happened but it is still difficult for me psychologically because I cannot understand this violence, that such things can happen. I would never imagine that things can go to that point." "The problem is that the other youths, who are not Muslims, are scared and don’t want to react or intervene," Dan Sluijzer, a professional actor, said.

She even didn’t heard from her school after the aggression, not from the headmaster nor from teachers or classmates. "I only received support phone calls facebook messages from fellow comrades of the Hashomer Hatsair youth movement." Already before the event took place, the father went to see the school principal to make him understand that there was a problem of anti-Semitism in his school. "He told me: Mr Sluijzer, they are kids. Don’t generalize what happens." Oceane and her 16-year-old sister Salome are the sole Jewish students of the “Athenee Les Pagodes”, a school in a quiet neighborhood of mixed social population. Oceane’s father believes that the new school, located in a different area of the city, will be able to protect her this time . "Jewish religion is teached. This didn’t exist in the other school." Oceane doesn’t feel that her attackers are the "winners" because she left. One of the girl was expelled definitively from the school and two others for three days. They were told to prepare a research work on the Holocaust and the deportation of Jews. The school principal declined any comment to Yediot Aharonot and EJP "because there is an appeal from the sanctioned girls still pending," said Faouzia Hariche, who is in charge of public instruction in the city of Brussels.

Dan Sluijzer deplored the indifference of the Belgian authorities "like it was in 1940." . "They prefer to let people fight each other." Only Brussels Jewish parliamentarian Viviane Teitelbaum reacted and was to first to inform about the aggression. In the beginning Sluijzer felt "hatred towards the Muslims but also towards the authorities because nobody say or do something." "I would have expected from political parties to tell my daughter: we understand what happened and we will act so that this could not happen again." "Unfortunately nothing happened," deplored Dan Sluizer, whose father’s family members in Holland were deported to Auschwitz. Only two of them survived. Sluijzer thinks that Israel "doesn’t protect Jews in the world enough." and "that’s why Arabs attack Jews." "Jews in the world are fighting for Israel. When people attack Israel, it’s like they attack me. So when somebody attacks me I want also Israel to be next to me."” But he thinks that the responsibility to protect the Jews lies more in hands of the local authorities.

Besides the aggression against Oceane Sluijzer, Jewish groups also reported the case of a 16-year-old Jewish student at the upscale European Brussels School where boys of the same age repeatedly called her “Dirty Jew” and harassed her because they disagree with Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians. Her mother complained to the school but the reaction was rather unsatisfactory. Camille left for the Ganenou Jewish secondary school. "It is unfair, the victim must leave," commented the mother. "Why are Jews in Belgium scared?," titled a Belgian magazine.
© EJP News

up  

NOT YOUR GRANDMA'S POLAND ANYMORE

Letter From Warsaw by Don Snyder

4/12/2011- When Poland’s new Sejm, or Parliament, was seated recently, the nationally televised event showed something never before seen in this conservative nation: a transsexual woman and an openly gay man being solemnly sworn in along with other parliamentarians. The seminal event was a consequence of the emergence of Palikot, a new, explicitly anti-clerical, libertarian-oriented party that garnered 10% of the national vote in Poland’s election last October. Both new parliamentarians were members of the emergent party, which, among other things, seeks to terminate tax exemptions for priests, public funding for religion classes in state schools and state subsidies of churches. Palikot, which won 40 parliamentary seats in the 460-seat body, also advocates same-sex civil unions, a universal low flat tax and the legalization of cannabis use. Palikot is not part of the centrist ruling coalition that came out of the October elections. But its breakthrough into parliament is seen as a marker for wider changes sweeping Poland these days. On many fronts, longstanding challenges to the country’s traditional understanding of itself appear to be coming to a head. The historic primacy of Poland’s Roman Catholic Church is being shaken as never before. Controversial issues, once avoided, are now out in the open. Even the country’s stance toward its own history, including its relationship to the Holocaust, is cracking under the pressure of contemporary challenges.

“Poland is a much more mature society after 22 years of democracy, allowing people to talk about issues that weren’t discussed before,” said Barbara Engelking-Boni, director of the Center for Holocaust Research at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. It remains to be seen just what this will mean for Poland’s relationship with its remaining Jewish community of some 15,000 and with Jews worldwide, who recall Poland as both the centuries-long home of Europe’s largest Jewish community and as European Jewry’s Holocaust graveyard. But in an interview with the Forward shortly after the election, Rafal Pankowski, a sociologist and expert on the radical right in Poland said, “What is very positive in Poland is that there is a growing number of people who are willing to challenge anti-Semitism.” Recent studies lend support to Pankowski’s view. But Konstantin Gebert, an author and a columnist for Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s largest daily newspaper, warned that even as social changes have enabled the rise of a party such as Palikot, “the church has become more and more reactionary.” According to Gebert, Palikot’s gains may not be good for the nation’s Jews. “Public expression of anti-Semitism will increase because anti-Semites see Palikot as part and parcel of the ultimately Jewish-driven offensive against the Catholic Church,” said Gebert. “There is this concept quite popular on the right wing, that there has been for ages a Jewish plot against Poland because Poland is the bastion of Catholicism.”

In 1989, then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who was raised in Poland and whose family perished there in the Holocaust, voiced a rude stereotype held by many Ashkenazi Jews of his generation. “Poles,” he said, “suck in anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk.” But today, despite resistance of the sort Gebert notes, developments are rebuking this view. Among other things, Poland is engaged in a candid examination of its past. New histories call into question the established self-image whereby Poles have always viewed themselves as either heroes or victims during World War II. Now, say some historians, they must also see themselves as murderers. This evolution in self-understanding has been catalyzed by Jan Gross, a Polish-American historian based at Princeton University, whose books “Neighbors” and “Fear” have forced Poles to re-evaluate their recent history. Among other things, Gross has documented pogroms in the cities of Jadwabne, where Poles murdered 1,600 Jews on July 10, 1941, and in Kielce, where more than 40 Jews were murdered in 1946 —after World War II was over. Books by Polish historians such as Engelking-Boni have forced painful self-examination. Her history, “The Murder of Jews by Poles in the Polish Countryside,” claims that Poles killed thousands of Jews in rural areas, many of whom were seeking to hide from the Germans.

“Young educators and historians are doing an incredible job of coming to terms with this difficult and dark past,” said Jolanta Ambrosewicz-Jacobs, director of the Center for Holocaust Studies at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. “We have to deconstruct our identity as victims and innocents which was created during Communist times.” According to Warsaw University sociology professor Antoni Sulek, the publication of these histories has had a positive effect. “It has removed a taboo, and that has made the public atmosphere healthier,” he said. Sulek is author of “Ordinary Poles Look at Jews,” which was published in August. “The majority of Poles know all the reasons to be proud,” he writes in this analysis, “but not to be ashamed.” During an interview at the university, Sulek said Polish self-esteem is strongly linked to the established image of Polish behavior during World War II. As a result, many Poles seek to hide Polish behavior toward Jews during the Holocaust. Engelking-Boni, interviewed in her office at the Center for Holocaust Research, said that the passing of generations has made a re-examination of this image easier. Families now feel more comfortable talking about the Holocaust because the generation of grandparents is disappearing. “The subject is no longer as emotional a family problem. We don’t have to think of grandparents doing anything wrong,” she said.

The passing of generations is also tied to the rise of the Palikot party, which has special appeal for young voters. Polls show that one of three Palikot voters were under 25. And these include some young members of Poland’s remaining small Jewish community. “Major parties and the Catholic Church never want to discuss changing attitudes on gays, abortion and legalizing marijuana,” said Magda Koralewska, 29, who campaigned for Palikot and is president of Beit Krakow, a 30-member Reform Synagogue in Krakow. “The Palikot party is confronting all these issues head on. That’s why I decided it’s the party for me,” said Koralewska. “All my Jewish friends voted for the Palikot movement. This is the first time I voted for someone I really wanted.” Koralewska is a graphic computer designer and a convert to Judaism. Like Koralewska, many young Poles say they feel abandoned by the governing centrist parties. Much of Palikot’s success stems also from anger with the Roman Catholic Church’s rightward tilt during the past 10 years and its powerful political clout. The Church’s clout has helped sustain a murky relationship between Church and state that Palikot has successfully targeted. For example, catechism lessons are given in public schools, and paid for by the government. There are also charges that taxpayer money subsidizes Church pension funds.

“The nation’s poor are not getting the government support because the money is going to the church,” said Michal Kabacinski, 23, a Palikot member of Parliament, in a telephone interview. Kabacinski, the Sejm’s youngest MP, also said the presence of a crucifix in Parliament was a violation of the constitution, which is neutral on religion. In keeping with its egalitarian platform, Palikot has also vowed to punish the blatant anti-Semitism that often flares at football matches. In September, a huge banner inscribed with the word “Jihad” was unfurled when an Israeli team from Tel Aviv played the Legia team from Warsaw. “The display of the Jihad banner was an expression of hatred for Jews,” said Pankowski, the expert on Poland’s radical right and deputy editor of “Never Again,” a website that exposes racism. According to Pankowski, who teaches at Collegium Civitas, a private college in Warsaw, the word “Jew” is still used as a curse word. An anti-Semitic newspaper, Tylko Polska (Only Poland), is available at newsstands in downtown Warsaw. A recent article in it charged that Goldman-Sachs is “a Jewish machine that profits from manufacturing financial bubbles.” Newly elected Palikot M.P. Armand Ryfinsui said in an interview that Tylko Polska should be banned and the editor punished. “We must clamp down on hate speech,” he said.

The Polish Foreign Ministry, which is waging a campaign to promote tolerance and multiculturalism, has been a proactive force on such issues. To this end, it spearheaded a “Poland for All” day on October 14, encouraging Poles from all segments of society to focus on projects devoted to multiculturalism. According to Maciej Kozlowski, director of the Middle East and Africa department of the Foreign Ministry, there are competing visions of Poland’s future. Like the current government, many young, well-educated Poles envision a multicultural Poland consistent with the country’s often unacknowledged multicultural past. The country’s nationalists reject this vision for one of a Poland only for ethnic Poles, which has historically bred anti-Semitism. But the multicultural vision suffers because the 3.2 million Jews that lived in pre-war Poland are virtually gone, and the country no longer has any significant numbers of minorities. Many people know little about the Jews who lived in Poland for 1,000 years.

Jacek Kozlowski, a member of Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform Party, is governor of Masovian Province, a region in northeastern Poland that includes Treblinka, the notorious death camp where 900,000 Jews and Poles were killed. During our interview at a school in the small town of Kosow Lacki, six miles from Treblinka, he stressed the importance of collective memory. Before the war, Kozlowski noted, 40% of Kosow Lacki’s population was Jewish. Today, no Jews remain, he said. Olga, a clearly anxious 18-year old Warsaw University student who asked that her last name not be used, told me she never knew growing up that the village in which she lived near Lublin was 80% Jewish before World War II. “My first hint that Jews lived in my village came when I discovered a neglected Jewish cemetery with only two tombstones left. This is something that changed my life. I became aware that other people lived here and now they are gone.” Kozlowski stressed what the passing of the generational torch to young people such as Olga meant. “My parents tried not to remember. They tried to erase those traumatic memories. Not remembering were those who moved into Jewish houses and who witnessed the deportations and benefited. But if we do not remember, our children will force us to remember by asking questions,” he said. “Who was here? Where did they go?”
© The Forward

up  

RIGHT WING HOOLIGANS AND SKY HIGH PRICES AWAIT ENGLAND FANS AT EURO 2012

3/12/2011- England fans ­travelling to Ukraine for Euro 2012 have been warned they will be heading into a cauldron of neo-Nazi violence. And the 100,000 supporters expected to follow the Three Lions in eastern Europe next summer will also face hugely inflated travel and ticket prices. Many will have little chance of getting into games after sponsors and corporate clients have taken the lion’s share of seats, leaving fans at the mercy of black ­marketeers. The grim warnings come after Friday’s draw meant supporters will have to travel hundreds of miles on poor transport into the depths of the Ukraine to watch group matches against the co-host country, France and Sweden. Euro 2012 chiefs are desperate for police to clamp down on the Nazi thugs expected to turn up after a series of ugly incidents.

Last year a fan was stabbed to death by Dynamo Kiev extremists as others chanted “Heil Hitler”. Last December, hooligans in Lviv paraded with SS banners calling for “a white Europe”. Fans who travelled to watch Fabio Capello’s men take on Ukraine in a World Cup qualifier in 2009 know only too well what they’ll face. Flares were thrown on to the pitch in the city of Dniproprtrovsk as England lost 1-0. Black and Asian fans had been warned by the Foreign Office to be on their guard. Two years on, nothing has changed. Black players are ­routinely taunted throughout matches. Ku Klux Klan symbols are a common sight in crowds. Rafal Pankowski, author of a report by Ukraine’s Football Against Prejudices and Poland’s Never Again organisations, said: “We urge extreme vigilance by authorities over far-right groups. We believe they will be active and visible during the Euros.”

The ticket fiasco will only add fuel to the fire as thousands are forced to watch games in bars. Tournament seats allocations will mean fans of both teams are limited to 16 per cent of capacity. The FA will get just 8,000 tickets for the opener against France at Donetsk; 9,600 seats for the clash with Sweden at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium and 8,000 tickets for the match against co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk. Nearly 543,000 tickets were sold via UEFA’s website before the draw, fanning fears of a busy black market. To add to fans’ misery, travel firms and airlines are cashing in. Budget carrier Whizzair has bumped up its prices to Kiev from £133 in February to £464 in June. Once there fans will then need to get to and from Donetsk twice, which takes 12 hours by train or a flight costing an extra £278.

Supporters at England’s base in Krakow, Poland, will have even worse journeys to games. It makes watching the matches at home or down the pub a very attractive, and safer, option.
© The Mirror Football

up  

FROM PORTRAYAL TO REALITY: EXAMINING THE RECORD OF THE EDL (uk)

How can we marry the English Defence League's professed liberalism with the reality on the ground?
By Ryan Erfani-Ghettani


8/12/2011- There is something of a disjuncture between how the EDL portrays itself as an organisation and how it actually operates. Though it states on its website that '[t]he English Defence League (EDL) is a human rights organisation' that opposes an Islam that 'runs counter to all that we hold dear within our British liberal democracy',[1] the actions of some of its members suggest otherwise.

A tolerant organisation?
In order to evaluate how far the actions of EDL supporters differ from the organisation's official mandate, it is useful to examine the mission statement on its website. The text explicitly states that the EDL is a tolerant organisation: 'Everyone ... is supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law. The EDL is therefore keen to draw its support from people of all races, all faiths, all political persuasions, and all lifestyle choices.'[2] The EDL, it is implied, does not house racism; it is only against a particular form of Islam. It is even supportive of those Muslims who are suffering oppression under a radicalised Islam: 'British Muslims should be able to safely demand reform of their religion ... Radical Islam keeps British Muslims fearful and isolated'. However, by simply looking at EDL Facebook pages, it becomes apparent that the nuances laid out in its manifesto are lost on some of its members and supporters. Muslims are blanket-labelled as 'ragheads', the middle-East referred to as 'p**iworld', Barack Obama, it is suggested, 'should be a slave'.[3] These comments are even put forth by those posting as the representatives of official divisions, such as the 'EDL English Defence League Jewish Division (Official)'. This suggests that for some within the EDL, including some of those who hold relatively high-status positions, a candid form of racism exists, under which the ideological nuances laid out in the mission statement are lost, and indicates that racism is sometimes directed towards the black community as well.

One of the contentious issues raised in evaluating the EDL is the extent to which the content of Facebook can be used as a source. In the wake of the massacre in Norway on 22 July 2011, EDL leader Stephen Lennon appeared on the BBC's Newsnight in order to dismiss claims that Anders Behring Breivik had links to the organisation (for more information, read the IRR's briefing paper, 'Breivik, the conspiracy theory, and the Oslo massacre' [pdf file, 444kb]). In the interview, Lennon said that the material on Facebook did not indicate facts about the organisation. He states: 'That's not our website ... that's on Facebook. If we keep reverting back to Facebook where ... anyone can go under any name and put anything, that is no evidence against our organisation in any way. You will not find them sort of things on our website'.[4] This suggests an anxiety over the loss of control of the EDL's image which the use of social media brings. However, the organisation relies on Facebook to an extent in providing an administrative framework for connecting its members. Lennon's claims that the evidence of racism on the EDL Facebook pages are at the hands of an unaffiliated rabble with no real links to the organisation proper are countered by those instances of racist messaging posted under the usernames denoting official divisions (unless those posting are imposters). So, on the one hand, while the EDL's outreach is furthered by the use of Facebook, the ability of social media to reveal the private voice of the organisation's constituent members is countered with a distancing and delegitimising of the public forum and the public voice.

Take, for example, Facebook's role in EDL recruitment. In March this year, it became clear that children from Stafford Borough's Blessed William Howard High School had set up the EDL's Stafford division Facebook page, and used it to recruit other pupils.[5] This is not an isolated case. The Dover division page features a recruitment call, urging people to 'tell your friends and family to take a stand', in order to protect 'OUR town'.[6] While Facebook operates as a way of getting an unfiltered message across to a potential audience, it is also denigrated as invalid and not credible by Casuals United (CU),[7] a group comprising of members of football 'firms' who are sympathetic to the EDL's mission and share a very similar set of values with regards to Islam and British democracy, although they firmly state that they are not the EDL.[8]

It is worth noting that the awareness that Facebook is being monitored has led to a different mode of use. In a post on the CU blog from 6 September 2011, it is claimed that 'The Casuals United FB group is used only for posting links, and occasionally to post disinformation.'[9] While it certainly functions as a way of disseminating information to a potential audience, Facebook may also be being used as a tactical tool to divert the attention of outsiders towards irrelevant or false material.
A human rights organisation?

Another form of distancing that occurs on the blog is from individual members or supporters of the EDL who have become involved in cases that challenge the credibility of its public image as a human rights organisation. The CU blog denies having explicit links to the EDL, although their output suggests otherwise. The blog provides regular information and comment on EDL related activities, and is to some extent responsible for portraying the way in which the individual is related to the organisation as a body. As the EDL has developed, it has come under heavier public scrutiny and Stephen Lennon has been asked to explain and take responsibility for the actions of its members and supporters, and for its contribution to the social and cultural makeup of the UK.[10] The line now is that any violence that occurred during formative demonstrations was not down to people who shared an ideological and moral affinity with the EDL, but was the result of the interference and involvement of rogue players: 'The EDL has come a long way since the early days when large numbers of people with no interest in our cause used to come to our protests and try to cause trouble.'[11] Any violent parties or troublemakers are recast as people with no interest in the cause, their connections to the movement are denied and their allegiance to the EDL is rejected.[12] The CU blog attempts to convince its audience (largely supporters of the cause) that violence at EDL demonstrations and marches happens despite attempts from the top to prevent it.

Despite the attempt to portray the organisation as fundamentally peaceful and acting out of a moral necessity, there are well-documented cases of violence being used both spontaneously and tactically, at an individual and organisational level. Organisational flash-mob violence occurs in two distinct forms; one stems from Islamophobic motives, and is aimed at the supposed roots of Islamist organisations. The other form is aimed at those who are perceived in EDL circles as being opponents - organisations concerned with opposing racism and supporting those targeted by it.

Examples of attacks aimed at Muslim-affiliated or Asian targets include the following incidents:
The sustained attack and desecration of mosques, of which the IRR has gathered information of sixteen attacks on mosques and Islamic institutions between February and July in 2011.[13]
On 15 June 2010, 100 EDL members clashed with the Muslims Against Crusades group in Barking, shouting 'scum', 'Muslim bombers off our streets' and 'Allah, Allah, who the fuck is Allah'.[14]
On 4 October 2010, forty supporters descended upon a KFC in Blackburn trialling Halal meat. The action was intended to send a message to the chain to stop selling Halal products.[15]
On 9 October 2010, during a planned demonstration, a breakaway group of EDL members attacked the Asian-run Big John's Restaurant in Leicester, smashing the shop's windows and threatening customers.[16]
On 2 July 2011, forty people carrying EDL banners surrounded the home of Muslim MEP Sajjad Karim and attempted to intimidate him (this from the CU blog: 'Sajjad Karim who voted against the labelling of Halal meat produts thought he was going to have a quiet sunny afternoon with his family in the family home but little did he know that just around the corner the EDL were gathering'[17]).[18]
On 15 July 2011, EDL members racially harassed young Asian men, trying to start a fight on a football pitch in Blackburn usually used by the Asian community. Nicholas John Smyth, 26, later pleaded guilty to using racially-aggravated threatening behavior.[19]
On 31 July 2011, a Kurdish family were forced to barricade themselves inside their kebab shop in Plymouth after four men shouted abuse while chanting 'EDL'. The men, aged 27, 28, 33 and 43, threw a glass at the family. They were arrested at the scene, two on suspicion of affray, one for threatening behaviour and one for suspected criminal damage.[20]

Such violence and intimidation is entirely at odds with the values of a 'human rights organisation', as supporters of the EDL aim their efforts at physically breaching the personal safety of individuals and organisations. While the EDL may be adamant of its dedication to human rights in its official statements, these attacks suggest that this protection towards vulnerable individuals may not be the reason for the actions of a number of its supporters.

In addition, there are examples of tactical attacks on organisations of the Left, anti-racist groups, and groups supporting Palestinian rights. These include the following incidents:
On 12 June 2010, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign stall in Birmingham was attacked and peace activists physically assaulted by members of the EDL who shouted racist and Islamophobic abuse. Fifteen members of the EDL were made to leave Birmingham city centre.[21]
On 22 September 2010, ten EDL members attacked a Socialist Worker Party stall in Newcastle city centre. They have since appeared in court charged with affray and unlawful violence.[22]
On 5 April 2011, between thirty and forty people chanting EDL slogans and carrying an EDL flag attacked a meeting on multiculturalism in Brighton.[23]
On 7 May 2011, fifteen men carrying an EDL flag descended upon News From Nowhere, a trade union and labour movement book shop in Merseyside, and attempted to intimidate the staff.[24]
On 19 May 2011, around twenty people, with their faces covered, chanting 'EDL' attacked an office hosting a Unite Against Fascism meeting in Barking, smashing windows.[25]
On 19 June 2011, a group of around fifteen people chanting 'EDL' attacked a Rage Against Racism gig in Leeds. Three men were arrested for affray after rocks and bottles were thrown at the crowd. Two people were injured, and one man had his teeth knocked out.[26]

Clearly, more recent EDL attacks have been against those groups and organisations it sees as acting as an obstacle in the way of the EDL's primary target. There is also evidence of implicit and explicit threats sent to organisations that the EDL perceives as undermining the cultural homogeneity of Britain. Stephen Lennon for instance sent the following message to city councils: 'Any council that does not keep the word Christmas in the annual celebrations and opts for Winter Festival, out of the politically correct appeasement of others to the detriment of our traditions, will have their town/city visited by the English Defence League throughout the following year.'[27] There were similar warnings to the Ammerdown Centre in Somerset after it put on a course entitled 'Understanding Islam'. The Centre published the text of a letter in its August 2011 newsletter: 'The EDL have requested that unless you cancel this course the EDL will rally all its members together, 10,000, and hold a peaceful protest at the venue, whilst the course is being held.'

As well as such pressure in the organisation's name, there are also numerous instances of freelance direct action at the hands of individual supporters. Such instances include:
On 27 July 2010, John Broomfield, who described himself as the head of the EDL in Dorset, was arrested with six others connected to the EDL. The group were arrested in Bournemouth for planning to construct a bomb. The men were allegedly planning to blow up a mosque. Police were forced to open fire on Broomfield's vehicle.[28]
On 26 September 2010, Ashley Wilson threatened staff at an Indian restaurant in Bridgewater. After asking if they were Muslim, he said 'I'm going to cut your face ... because I'm EDL'. Wilson was ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and was fined £250 in total.[29]
On 24 October 2010, Bryan Kelso, Christopher Long and Brian Bristow assaulted Muslims at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park after attending an EDL rally.[30]
On 11 November 2010, Steven James Vasey and Anthony Donald Smith received year-long jail sentences after daubing racist graffiti on a mosque and two Asian run businesses. 'EDL' was among the terms sprayed onto the buildings.[31]
On 15 February 2011, a memorial bridge in honour of a girl who died crossing the road in Detling in Kent was defaced with graffiti such as 'EDL kills Muslims'. The EDL were asked to comment by Kent News, but failed to respond.[32]
On 19 September 2011, Wayne and Darren Edwards caused a scene in a Turkish kebab shop and began chants of 'EDL'. The incident backfired when the Turkish staff chased the men out into the street.[33]
On 24 September 2011, there was an instance of public disorder and threatening behaviour on a train from Sheffield to Norwich. The group were chanting 'EDL'.[34]

These cases appear to show an indiscriminate violence against Muslim targets in general rather than specifically targeting those perceived to be 'radical Islamists' - as the EDL's programme states that as 'a human rights organisation ... we must always protect against the unjust assumption that all Muslims are complicit in or somehow responsible for these [radical-Islamist] crimes.' Violence is not, however, simply connected to unimportant, low-ranking members and supporters. There are a string of violent incidents connected to high-ranking members of the EDL. Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (EDL founder, aka Tommy Robinson) was charged with assaulting a police officer in November last year,[35] has been convicted for football-firm-related violence outside Liverpool Street station,[36] and has also been convicted of assaulting a fellow EDL member.[37] Joel Titus, leader of the EDL's youth wing, was charged with affray after a pre-arranged brawl between Brentford and Leyton Orient fans in Central London in May.[38] He was given an ASBO and banned from future EDL marches.

The violence of EDL members is not simply a new tactic against minority ethnic communities and the institutions that support them; it is part of a tradition of violence associated with 'football firms', and history of organised clashes. The EDL has a strong affiliation with CU, an organisation made up of people with a commitment to bringing organised violence to football matches. There are reports by Matthew Taylor in the Guardian of the EDL even attempting to bring together rival 'firms' to put aside their differences and unite for the greater good of the cause: 'The pub was packed with rival football gangs from across the Midlands and the north of England. Twice, fighting broke out as old rivalries failed to be subdued by the new enemy - Islam.'[39] And there are parallels between the organisation of football firm violence and the way the EDL conducts itself: a group of men willing to travel the length and breadth of the country in order to prove their loyalty. This commitment to football is then applied to an arena where the clash is not regional but racial and cultural. Alan Lake, a Christian fundamentalist businessman who has bankrolled the EDL, has admitted his admiration for the strategic use of football fans: '[they] are a potential source of support. They are a hoi polloi that gets off their backsides and travels to a city and they are available before and after matches.'[40] The ranks of people with a history of hooliganism in the EDL are admitted to openly in EDL and CU circles.[41] With such commitment, the EDL presents a mobile, readily available threat.
Democratic values in the EDL

A recent development has been the targeting of anti-cuts movements, the Occupy movement and trade unions. According to a recent Guardian article, the Infidels, an EDL splinter group, have stated that 'We have decided to put all our efforts into opposing everything you do regardless of the issue at hand, it's your organisations we oppose ... Every event you hold will be a potential target along with your meetings, fund raisers and social events'.[42] This stated opposition suggests that for this faction of EDL sympathisers, the freedom of people to carry out democratic rights is not particularly important. This is despite the EDL's declaration of its commitment to democracy in its mission statement, and its pledge to 'Promot[e] Democracy And The Rule Of Law By Opposing Sharia'.[43] These attacks are not against Sharia, but on members of the Left that are also taking part in democratic processes, but to different ends.

Examples of these recent attacks include the following incidents:
On 29 October 2011, a group of supporters of the EDL, the Infidels and the National Front gathered in Newcastle city centre to harass the Occupy Newcastle camp. At 4am around twenty to thirty members returned to physically attack the occupation.[44]
On 11 November 2011, police arrested 179 EDL members in Central London after repeated threats against the anti-capitalist Occupy London camp.[45]
On 11 November 2011, ten EDL supporters attempted to attack the north-west regional headquarters of Unite in Liverpool.[46]
On 19 November 2011, Occupy Bristol claimed its camp was attacked by Bristol's EDL.[47]

Those people attacking these organisations are acting illegally, attempting to enforce their idea of the law on people exercising their democratic right to protest. The announced direction of attacks against left wing protestors not only contravenes that right, but is also condemned by the EDL itself in its mission statement: 'If ... cultures promote anti-democratic ideas and refuse to accept the authority of our nation's laws, then the host nation should not be bowing to these ideas in the name of "cultural sensitivity".' Although written explicitly about 'foreign' cultures, the statement condemns anti-democratic vigilantism. The statement could just as easily be levelled at the organisation's own supporters who, it could be argued, see themselves as doing a job that the police won't do.
Tensions

There has, of late, been a tension growing between the public front and private core of the EDL. As the group has gained notoriety, earning public appearances and platforms in the national media, there have been orders from on high to clean up its image in an attempt to appear respectable and appeal to a broader audience (see CU blogs above). This has involved orders to refrain from violence and explicit racism, alienating a core of more openly violent and racist members who see the changes as a softening of the EDL's mandate. The following comment was posted on the EDL Merseyside Division's Facebook page, under the username of the division proper: 'This is Merseyside Division, not the EDL's. We write our own rules and vote for our own! We do not follow the EDL's rules on Multiculturalism as we fully understand its all S**TE and has failed and will continue to fail!'[48] So, while their insistence on wishing for peaceful protests led their publicity team to decry violence as being at the hands of a few rogue players, there is recent evidence to suggest disenchantment in some of the EDL's core supporters. The EDL Merseyside division has reportedly split from the rest of the organisation because of a perceived loss of racist values, demanding the right to be more honest about their motivations and goals, and joining more openly extreme-Right organisations.[49]

This reaction responds to the EDL's attempt to showcase its openness and liberal values. It promotes the existence of its Jewish Division, its LGBT Division, and has even carried out a failed attempt to open a Sikh Division in order to prove that its aversion is not to brown skin but to radical Islam, not to race but religion. In order to establish its tolerant credentials, the EDL had Guramit Singh as its Sikh spokesman.[50] However, this measure is openly criticised by the Sikh community.[51] If such attempts at showcasing diversity have alienated certain constituents of the organisation, this should not lead to the conclusion, as it has for some commentators, that 'the far right is not on the rise in the UK'.[52] Rather, these splinter groups are showing the increased disregard of some EDL supporters for the public multicultural face of the far right, choosing instead to join organisations in which they can express racist beliefs more openly. This has resulted in some of the EDL's Facebook admin to abandon the public image that their mission statement dictates, attempting to bring the alienated constituents back into the fold by embracing the rhetoric of white supremacy.[53]

Recent reports have suggested that the EDL is in trouble, with factional divisions threatening the unity of the organisation and members joining other nationalist groups, leaving the current state of the organisation unclear. What is clear, however, is that the EDL has a significant number of members who are willingly mobile, with a record of violent behaviour, and a less nuanced approach towards Islam than that which the EDL promotes publicly. Whether the EDL grows or implodes remains to be seen, but the violent targeting of the Muslim community and members of the Left that some of its members have demonstrated could remain a threat.

Footnotes:
[1] Mission Statement , English Defence League.
[2]ibid.
[3] 'President Obama's State Visit 24th May 2011', in the Screenshot Database on EDL News.
[4] >'Transcription of Stephen Lennon's appearance on Newsnight - 25th July 2011'.
[5] 'EDL website link to area's schools', IC Stafford, 9 March 2011.
[6] 'Far-right English Defence League recruiting for Dover division on Facebook', This is Kent, 8 March 2011.
[7] 'Commie fools still chatting shit about how we use Facebook to organise haha', Casuals United Blog, 6 September 2011.
[8] 'About this blog', Casuals United Blog.
[9] 'Commie fools still chatting shit about how we use Facebook to organise haha', Casuals United Blog, 6 September 2011.
[10] See, for example, this transcript of an interview on the: BBC 3 Counties radio .
[11] 'Telford demo update reblogged from Telford Casuals blog', Casuals United Bog, 31 July 2011.
[12] See, for example, this post which affiliates any Nazi connections to the EDL with rogue UAF members, on the Casuals United Blog, 12 October 2011.
[13] 'Attacks on Islamic institutions increase', Jon Burnett, IRR News, 28 July 2011.
[14] 'Muslims and far-Right extremists clash as soldiers march through Barking', Rahid Razaq, This is London, 15 June 2010.
[15] 'EDL targets Blackburn KFC in protest over Halal chicken' Lancashire Telegraph, 4 October 2010.
[16] 'Surge of a "hardcore element" before trouble during EDL protests', This is Leicestershire, 12 October 2010.
[17] 'Report of Northern flash demos', Casuals United Blog, 3 July 2011.
[18] 'MEP Sajjad Karim "threatened" over EDL protest by home', BBC News, 5 July 2011.
[19] 'EDL and Asians brawled on Blackburn football pitches', Lancashire Telegraph, 15 July 2011.
[20] 'Takeaway targeted by mob', This is Plymouth, 31 July 2011.
[21] 'EDL attack Palestine peace vigil in Birmingham', photographs by Geoff Dexter, 12 June 2010.
[22] 'Accused extremists face court over affray', Chronicle Live, 11 March 2011.
[23] 'EDL "attempt to attack" multiculturalism meeting', Brighton and Hove Free Press, 5 April 2011.
[24] 'EDL thugs target trade union and labour movement bookshop', Unite Against Fascism, 9 May 2011.
[25] 'Hooded thugs attack office before meeting in Barking', Barking and Dagenham Post, 26 May 2011.
[26] 'Arrests after Yorkshire anti-racism gig stormed', Yorkshire Evening Post, 28 November 2011.
[27] 'EDL accused of council "blackmail" in Christmas letter', BBC News, 26 November 2010.
[28] 'EDL members arrested over Bournemouth mosque bomb plot fears', Bounemouth Echo, 27 July 2010.
[29] 'Restaurant workers fear "racist" attacks', This is West Country, 16 November 2010.
[30] 'Surbiton man faces charges over anti-Islam demo fight', Kingston Guardian, November 8 2010.
[31] 'Racist-attacks pair are jailed for a year', Sunderland Echo, 28 November 2011.
[32] 'Yobs daub racist graffiti on memorial crossing', Eastern Daily Press 24, 16 February 2011.
[33] 'Two EDL supporters jailed over attack on kebab shop', Islamophobia Watch, originally on Kent Online, 19 September 2011.
[34] 'Vile train hooligans need tackling now', letter in the Grantham Journal, 25 September 2011.
[35] 'EDL founder Stephen Lennon charged with assaulting police officer following poppy burning clashes', the Metro.
[36] 'English Defence League founder convicted of leading street brawl', the Guardian, 25 July 2011.
[37] 'EDL leader Stephen Lennon convicted of assault', BBC News, 29 September 2011.
[38] 'EDL member jailed for Liverpool Street football brawl', BBC News, 20 April 2011.
[39] 'English Defence League: Inside the violent world of Britain's new far right', Matthew Taylor, in the Guardian, 28 May 2010.
[40] 'Businessman bankrolls "street army"', HOPE not hate, 17 October 2009.
[41] 'The Persecution of Tommy Robinson', English Defence League, 26 September 2011.
[42] 'EDL splinter groups may target public sector strikers, unions warn', the Guardian, 19 November 2011.
[43] 'Mission Statement', English Defence League.
[44] 'Fascist EDL thugs attack Occupy Newcastle protestors', Unite Against Fascism, 30 October 2011.
[45] 'Police arrest EDL members to "avert planned attack" in London', the Guardian, 11 November 2011.
[46] 'EDL fascists attempt attack on trade union Unite's North West HQ', Unite Against Fascism, 11 November 2011.
[47] 'Probable EDL attack', Occupy Bristol, 19 November 2011.
[48] 'EDL lose Merseyside Division', EDL News.
[49] ibid.
[50] 'Police arrest EDL protest's leader', Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 22 December 2010.
[51] 'Sikhs prove EDL wrong', Asian Image, 7 February 2011.
[52] 'Far from growing, rightwing extremism in the UK may be on the wane', Matthew Collins and Sunder Katwala, in the Guardian, 16 November, 2011.
[53] 'EDL openly embrace white supremacism', EDL News.
© The Institute of Race Relations

up  

EDL GANG JAILED FOR ATTACK AT NEWCASTLE IRISH CENTRE (uk)

3/12/2011- Far-right thugs who stormed a Newcastle club in a display of violence were today behind bars. Members of the English Defence League (EDL) turned up at the Tyneside Irish Centre looking to infiltrate a meeting of political rivals. FAR-RIGHT thugs who stormed a Newcastle club in a display of violence were today behind bars. Members of the English Defence League (EDL) turned up at the Tyneside Irish Centre looking to infiltrate a meeting of political rivals.

It turned out their targets – the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) – were not even in the building after the EDL group were spotted in a nearby pub and officials called the meeting off fearing trouble. But that did not stop a pack of up to 20 thugs, many wearing EDL hooded tops, from forcing entry, attacking door staff and setting off a fire extinguisher inside the Irish Centre in scenes captured on CCTV. Now six of the gang have been locked up while three others received suspended jail terms.

Judge Roger Thorn, at Newcastle Crown Court, said: “This was a group attack on the democratic rights of others to have free association and exercise their freedom of speech. “This behaviour cannot be tolerated, no matter how much you might dislike the views of the socialist party. “These sentences must ensure a tit-for-tat revenge can be no option. Violence and threats of violence will not be tolerated by the EDL, SWP or indeed any other factions or groups of any kind.” The SWP had been holding weekly meetings at the Tyneside Irish Centre, on Gallowgate, in the months before the incident.

On September 22 last year, yobs, described in court as being ‘aligned to the EDL’, met at nearby Rosie’s Bar. That led to officials cancelling the proposed SWP meeting, fearing there would be trouble, and staff at the private members Irish Club were told not to let anyone in. When one of the men in the EDL group, Peter Duffy, turned up, he was eventually let in so he could be shown none of his rivals were there. Once inside he was pushed in the back by a member of staff and he retaliated by hitting the man.

Duffy was then bundled outside, where he was joined by a large group of other EDL sympathisers, who suddenly stormed the club, attacking two door staff. Jonathan Devlin, prosecuting, said: “One witness said around 20 people were outside Rosie’s Bar and they were staring across towards the Irish Centre. “He said they ran towards the centre and when they came out he said there was a real sense of tension on the street and one man was rubbing his knuckles as if he had just punched someone.” Mr Devlin said: “On September 22 last year several persons thought to be aligned with the EDL met at Rosie’s bar situated on the opposite side of the road. “They forced themselves into the club foyer, a melee ensued and door staff were attacked.”

Peter Duffy, 44, of Elgin Avenue, Seaham, Colin Bell, 36, of St Oswalds Road, Hebburn, Anthony Burn, 48, of Lecondale Court, Leam Lane, Gateshead, Michael Garriock, 23, of Gibson Street, Wallsend, Barry Keddy, 34, of Deneholm, Wallsend, Alan Spence, 46, of Gerald Street, Benwell, Steven Spence, 27, of Wickham View, Denton Burn, Newcastle, and Paul Starr, 45, of Telford Street, East Howdon, North Tyneside, all admitted affray. Nicholas Mills, 25, of Drumaldrace, Blackfell, Washington, and Colin Burton, 28, of Woodhave Court, South Shields, admitted public order offences.

Duffy was jailed for 10 months, Keddy got eight months, Garriock eight months, Steven Spence eight months, Alan Spence seven months and Burton seven months. Burn and Bell were sentenced to three months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with four week curfews. Starr was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with a similar curfew. Mills’ case was adjourned until later this month. Robert Adams, defending, said the EDL had targeted the meeting after it was advertised on the internet under the heading “smash the EDL”. Judge Thorn said he was not sentencing the men for their membership of any political party but for the premeditated violence.
© The Chronicle Live

up  

GIRL GANG WHO KICKED WOMAN IN THE HEAD WHILE YELLING 'KILL THE WHITE SLAG' FREED (uk)

Judge hears 'they weren't used to drinking because they're Muslims' Three sisters and cousin escape with six-month suspended sentences Maximum term for assault occasioning actual bodily harm is five years' jail Judge: 'Those who knock someone to the floor and kick them in the head can expect to go inside, but I'm going to suspend the sentence'

6/12/2011- A gang of Muslim women who attacked a passer-by in a city centre walked free from court after a judge heard they were ‘not used to being drunk’ because of their religion. The group – three sisters and a cousin – allegedly screamed ‘kill the white slag’ as they set upon Rhea Page as she waited for a taxi with her boyfriend. Miss Page, 22, was left with a bald patch where her hair was pulled out in the attack and was left ‘black and blue’ after suffering a flurry of kicks to the head, back, arms and legs while motionless on the pavement. Ambaro Maxamed, 24, students Ayan Maxamed, 28, and Hibo Maxamed, 24, and their 28-year-old cousin Ifrah Nur each admitted actual bodily harm, which carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. But Judge Robert Brown gave them suspended jail terms after hearing mitigation that as Muslims, the women were not used to being drunk. The Koran prohibits Muslims from consuming alcohol, although Islamic teachings permit its use for medicinal purposes. After the sentencing, Ambaro Maxamed wrote on her Twitter account: ‘Happy happy happy!’, ‘I’m so going out’, and ‘Today has been such a great day’. Yesterday Miss Page, a care worker, called the sentence ‘disgusting’ and said the gang deserved ‘immediate custody’.

‘It’s no punishment at all,’ she said. ‘And for them to say they did it because they were not used to alcohol is no excuse. If they were not supposed to be drinking then they shouldn’t have been out in bars at that time of night. ‘Even after the police came and they all ran away, one of them came running back to kick me in the head one last time. ‘I honestly think they attacked me just because I am white. I can’t think of any other reason.’ Miss Page was treated for bruises and grazes after the attack in June last year as she walked to a taxi rank with boyfriend Lewis Moore, 23, in Leicester city centre. At the time she worked caring for people with autism and learning difficulties but gave up the job after repeated absences because of stress and flashbacks. She is still having counselling and suffers panic attacks. She said: ‘We were just minding our own business but they kept shouting “white bitch” and “white slag” at me. When I turned around one of them grabbed my hair then threw me on the ground. ‘They were taking turns to kick me over and over. I thought they were going to kill me.’

None of the defendants was charged with racial aggravation. Nur claimed Mr Moore, a fence builder, had been racially abusive, but this was not accepted by the prosecution. Gary Short, mitigating for Ambaro Maxamed, said the attack was down to alcohol. He said: ‘Although Miss Page’s partner used violence, it doesn’t justify their behaviour. ‘They’re Somalian Muslims and alcohol or drugs isn’t something they’re used to.’ The four women, who all live in Leicester, were each sentenced to six-month jail terms, suspended for 12 months, at Leicester Crown Court last month. Hibo Maxamed also received a four-month curfew between 9pm and 6am, while the others were ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work. Judge Brown said that ‘those who knock someone to the floor and kick them in the head can expect to go inside’. But he said he accepted the women may have felt they were the victims of unreasonable force from Mr Moore as he tried to defend his girlfriend, and handed the defendants a suspended sentence. Speaking at her home, Hibo Maxamed said: ‘I’m not proud of it, it’s not something I want to talk about. I just want to get on with my life.’ When asked if she wanted to apologise, she replied: ‘What, to the public? I really don’t care.'
© The Daily Mail

up  

ANTI-RACISM PROTEST IN ATHENS (Greece)

An anti-racist protest was held in the center of Athens. About 1500 immigrants and Greeks participated, protesting for immigrant rights and against racist attacks of Neo-Nazis.

3/12/2011- An anti-racist protest was held today in the center of Athens. About 1500 immigrants and Greeks participated, protesting for immigrant rights and against racist attacks of Neo-Nazis. The main banner of the protest march wrote: "Fascists out of the ministries". Refers to recent new government that includes two ministers from the far right-wing party. For those two ministers (Georgiadis and Voridis) there have been already international reactions and reports on newspapers like Bild-Zeitung, stating their opposition to their previous xenophobic actions.
© Demotix

up  

A HATE CRIME CASE FROM HUNGARY, RETRIED AND REVISITED

"Six perpetrators of a “hate crime” were released last week in Hungary, after having served two years and eleven months in jail for attacking three passengers of a car passing through Miskolc. Considering that the crime targeted the victims on the basis of their ethnicity, the combined sentences of the eleven individuals convicted totaled over 41 years. At that time, the court was satisfied with the prosecution’s claim that the accused, all of whom are Roma, committed the crime out of racist motivations.

9/12/2011- Theirs is a peculiar case demonstrating the idiosyncrasies of Hungarian law originally designed to punish hate crimes. To be pedantic about legal distinctions, the Hungarian penal code does not designate a legal category for “hate crimes” or “hate speech.” Instead, a supposed legal equivalent -”közösség elleni izgatás” or “incitement against a community” – covers bias-motivated acts that intentionally perturb an atmosphere free of prejudice. Two subclasses compose this unusually defined crime: crimes inciting before the greater public to hate against a) the Hungarian nation or b) a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, or a particular group of the population. To be sure, subclass a is much more frequently used in Hungarian legal proceedings than subclass b. The hate crime recently retried is a perfect point in case.

On the night of March 15, 2009 (a national holiday in Hungary) rumors were spreading that skinheads and the Hungarian Guard, an extremist paramilitary organization of the far-right party Jobbik, were to march to the Muszkás side, a Roma neighborhood of the city of Miskolc. With the community in upheaval in anticipation of a pogrom, the regional online news portal mentioned the news and the local police was placed on a state of alert. Preparing for a possible attack, the residents built a bonfire. A conspicuous car, a red Peugeot, had appeared several times in the neighborhood, driving slowly by on each approach. Eventually, the group of perpetrators stopped the car and attacked it with sticks, baseball bats and iron pipes. The three passengers of the car suffered injuries from the broken glass of the windshield. The damage in their car was approximately 100,000 Hungarian forints (at current exchange rates, 447 US dollars).

The incident took place only three weeks after the infamous killings in Tatárszentgyörgy. In this small town only about 40 miles from Hungary’s capital, Budapest, unidentified perpetrators threw a Molotov cocktail into the house of a Roma family during the dark of the night, and opened gunfire on the family as it was trying to escape the flames. A five-year-old child and his father died in the attack; the mother of the family, their six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old child were injured. The police did not notice the bullets or the gunshot wounds during the first phase of the investigation: until civil rights activists monitoring the investigation pointed these out to them, they were investigating an electric fire resulting from an illegal connection to the power grid. The perpetrators of this series of murders were not apprehended until well into the summer of 2009.

The court trying the case of the assault in Miskolc, however, did not consider the resulting mindset of the Roma an attenuating circumstance. To the contrary, the group that attacked the car was charged, in addition to truculence, with “incitement against community.” Originally, the indictment even stipulated that their hate crime was pre-mediated. “False rumors were disseminated that the Roma minority population had been physically assaulted, or that they would be, citywide by armed right-wing radical groups,” described the document. “An atmosphere hostile to Hungarians evolved for this reason in the above mentioned locales; the Roma population formed groups, and taking possession of various stabbing, beating and cutting devices, they were preparing for a clash with Hungarians.” The court’s original verdict, from 2010, that the car was attacked because of racist hatred against Hungarians relied on two facts. A wooden stick, with the words “death to Hungarians” carved into it was recovered from the crime site. In addition, one of the witnesses at the scene heard shouts of “Stinky Hungarians, beat them!”

Nevertheless, the verdict passed produced absurdly paradoxical consequences. The judge’s ruling over the proceedings determined the victim of the crimes to be “the Hungarian nation.” Following this logic, one could also conclude that the Hungarian Roma are not a part of the Hungarian nation. In May 2011, the appeals court discovered several mistakes in the judicial proceedings of 2010 and ordered a retrial. By this time, however, five of the perpetrators were already serving 4-6 year prison sentences. Even the lesser sentences were unusually severe: one of the group convicted, who did not actively participate in the attack on the car but was heard yelling, was sentenced to two years and eight months.

It was widely known at the time of the attacks that the victims of the crime were far-right sympathizers. On the retrial of the case, two out of the three accusers failed to show up, despite subpoenas. Evidence, however, was presented of their personal background: a photograph of one of them posing in the company of his brothers with a Hungarist flag (i.e. the flag of Hungarian neo-nazism), their hand extended in a Nazi salute. On a social networking site, the same individual listed a number of skinhead bars as his favorite hang-out places. The stick carved with the sentence “Death to Hungarians” was also presented, for the first time during the second trial, to the court. According to the indictment used during the first trial, it belonged to one of the perpetrators who received a lesser, suspended sentence – in an expert’s examination, he is “feeble-minded” to a mild extent, and even his own words demonstrated that he had a child-like understanding of the events surrounding him.

This stick is a key exhibit: the only physical evidence establishing that the accused were driven by anti-Hungarian sentiments into the commitment of the crime. But, as noted by the defense, the actual craving in the stick is so difficult to make out that already at a distance of 2 meters (6 feet) one could not even discern that there is writing on the stick. Since its election to the Hungarian parliament, representatives of the Hungarian far-right Jobbik party regularly exert pressure on the government, demanding that the Hungarian government crack down with the same vehemence on hate against Hungarians as it uses for fighting hate crimes in general. In the meantime, civil rights activists in Hungary are not impressed by the judicial system’s “vehemence” to bring justice to minority victims of hate crimes. The standard of evidence required to establish that assaults on minorities are motivated by bias is so difficult to meet that hate crime prosecutions regularly fail to lead to legal consequences. Besides cases brought on behalf of the Hungarian Roma, members of the Hungarian LGBT community are also unable to find protection under the Hungarian hate crime clause (note that the above definition of “incitement against a community” does not even make reference to sexual orientation – their complaints therefore must be brought as hate crimes committed against a “particular group of society”).

It is a well-known fact that Hungarian legal practice has yet to be brought in line with international standards for hate crime prosecutions. As an OECD report put it – highly recommended reading, even though it only covers the wave of crimes against the Roma up to 2009 - in Hungary “the weakness of legislation specifically addressing hate crimes and limited capacity to investigate or prosecute such crimes”continually hampers efforts to stem the tide of bias-motivated criminal acts. In the current political atmosphere, however, improvements in this regard are hardly on the horizon."
© The Contrarian Hungarian

up  

NGO: HUNGARIAN PUBLIC WORKS PLAN 'TERRORISING' ROMA

8/12/2011- Hungary's government will launch a major public works programme in January but in the village of Gyongyospata, the project is being used to terrorise the Roma minority, rights groups charge. The small village in northeastern Hungary whose mayor Oszkar Juhasz comes from the anti-Roma Jobbik party already gained notoriety earlier this year after a far-right militia began patrols to "restore order". In August, the mayor launched a customised version of a government scheme aimed at getting the unemployed back to work employing about 80 locals, predominantly of Roma origin. "The government's public works programme is a shame in itself, paying 47,000 forints (152 euros, $205) per month for eight hours of work daily, not enough to live on," Peter Juhasz, of the NGO Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, told AFP. "But what makes it especially harmful in Gyongyospata is the attitude of the municipality." "They use the public works programme as a means to terrorise the Roma minority."

The populist centre-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has slashed unemployment benefits to around 80,000 forint (280 euro, $377) per month, to be paid out only for 90 days instead of a previous 270, provided applicants participate in public works. Sample projects of the much criticised scheme were launched in several settlements, but the situation is especially grim in Gyongyospata, with workers subjected to rigorous checks and unjustified harassment during and after work. "The workers are scrutinised and bothered by the police or other supervisors hired by the municipality several times every day," said Jozsef Farkas, director of Matraaljai Water Management firm, who hired 22 Romas from Gyongyospata to clean ditches. "They check on these people, search them as if they had any authority to do so on a site that does not even belong to Gyongyospata," he noted, adding that such problems did not occur with any other municipality from which he hired workers.

Peter Juhasz, who has spent a lot of time with the village's 450 Roma, confirmed that the Jobbik-led authorities used the public works scheme to intimidate the minority. "In the summer, the Roma were forced to walk 3.5-4 kilometres (more than two miles) to the hillside where they were to clear the bushes with machetes, without any water." "Now, with winter here, the police always stop those when walking home, checking if they steal wood for heating," he said. The police also slap fines of 10,000-15,000 forints for trivial offenses like missing bells on bicycles or crossing the road at an unmarked spot, he said. The fines would then be deducted from the workers' meagre monthly payment. "It is evident that the goal of the municipality is to make life impossible in Gyongyospata for the Roma, to chase them away," Peter Juhasz concluded. "This is a Jobbik mayor, his goal is to blame the Roma for everything."

For his part, Oszkar Juhasz, who refused to talk to AFP, blamed tensions between Roma and non-Roma on the minority's alleged criminal activities, at a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday. The community, largely uneducated and living in poverty, is often linked to so-called "gypsy crimes", a term used in far-right circles to describe offences typically linked to Roma, like stealing hens. But while the Roma in Gyongyospata complain of regular police harassment and malaise in the municipality, their leader Janos Farkas opted to concentrate on the bright side while acknowledging the difficulties. "We've got a chance now, after the problems that occurred here, to prove to the world that the Roma people do work." "We are not criminals; we don't just live on (subsidies for) children. Even without good tools, we can do the job."
© AFP

up  

HUNGARY'S FAR RIGHT ENJOYS SURGE IN SUPPORT AS CRISIS BITES

Hungary's far right has long viewed the Roma as being to blame for many of society's ills. With foreign capital considered a new enemy at a time of economic crisis, the extremist Jobbik Party is gaining support.

7/12/2011- Until recently, so-called "criminal Gypsies" had essentially been singled out as the main enemy of Hungarian society by the country's extreme right. Every week, members of the far-right Jobbik party, or its military arm the "Hungarian National Guard," march in different parts of the country to demonstrate against the Roma and spread antagonistic slogans about the minority group. More recently, with the country in the grips of a financial crisis, the far right has discovered another enemy: Foreign capital, which as it says "sucks Hungary dry and destroys the Hungarian nation." The new slogan of the Jobbik public demonstrations is, "The tanks have gone, the banks have come." The words are loosely used to refer to a far-right notion that, instead of being dominated by the former Soviet Union, Hungary is now dominated by Jewish capital. But Jobbik politicians are by no means only hiding behind vague allusions. Parliamentary representatives of the extreme right insist that both the populist nationalist conservative governing majority and the opposition socialists and liberals represent the interests of Israel and Jews rather than those of Hungary itself.

Such a message appeals to a significant portion of the general public - all the more so since, in recent years, about one million Hungarians have taken foreign currency loans. With the collapse of the national currency, the forint, these loans have become increasingly difficult to pay back. The party's latest theme has struck a chord with many. In recent opinion polls, they have secured about 20 percent of the vote, making them for the first time the second strongest political force in the country - after the ruling party Fidesz (Alliance of Young Democrats) and well ahead of the opposition Socialists. The deputy leader of the Jobbik parliamentary faction, Marton Gyongyosi, is keen to celebrate the trend. "We are getting stronger and stronger, nobody can stop us," he said. "The people can see through the lack of credibility of the government and its policies and they realize that we alone are honest." The rise of the extreme right is unprecedented in the history of post-communist Hungary. However, the reasons for it lie not only in the present financial and economic crisis.

Tough transition, corruption scandals
Even before Hungary had completed the difficult transition from a planned to a market economy, it was confronted by the effects of globalization and its accession to the European Union in 2004. The Socialist liberal coalition that ruled the country from 2002 to 2010 failed to tackle many pressing economic and social problems. Instead, it became more commonly associated with corruption scandals. The failure of the coalition eventually led to the landslide victory of Fidesz in parliamentary elections in April last year, when the current ruling party gained two-thirds of parliamentary seats. In those elections, Jobbik received almost 17 percent of the vote and became the third strongest political force in the country. Their success came on the backs of an extremely xenophobic and antagonistic election campaign with the slogan "Hungary for the Hungarians." Jobbik's rise started with a nasty incident, when a man was lynched by Roma who believed he had run over a child. The party caught the public mood and held all Roma responsible for the actions of a few.

Nationalist rhetoric
The current high poll showing for the far right can also be attributed to the fact that the government is losing support because it has taken a series of unpopular decisions in order to stabilize the Hungarian economy. Last autumn, for example, people paying into private pensions were forced back into the state scheme in order to bridge the budget deficit. Prime Minister Viktor Orban and various other Fidesz politicians have tried to put an end to the loss of support by employing nationalist rhetoric, which, to a large extent, had been copied from the extreme right. Orban has nurtured a populist, ant-capitalist and anti-EU rhetoric and has warned Brussels several times in the past months that it should not take the same liberties that Moscow once did with the country. "It is mendacious rhetoric," said Jobbik's Gyongyosi, "because it is not followed by deeds. The ruling party constantly hijacks the topics from us that we, for the most part, were the first to speak about." The majority of political observers do not freely believe that the Jobbik party will come to power, at least not in the foreseeable future. "Its rise in the polls is a temporary phenomenon," said prominent publicist Jozsef Decbreczeni. "In Hungarian history, extreme political forces could only come to power with the support of foreign powers, such as Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union."

A temporary phenomenon?
Nevertheless, many observers and civil activists view the intellectual influence of the far right with concern. "We know from history how dangerous a breakthrough by the far right can be in times of crisis," said Annamaria Vamos, coordinator and co-chairperson for the initiative "Civil Control - One Million for Democracy" (EMD), which demonstrates periodically against anti-democratic tendencies. "We need to win back for the forces of democracy those voters from the far right who are not themselves of the far right but who saw no alternative," said Vamos. Such voters can be found in the town of Tiszavasvari. In May last year they voted for the Jobbik party candidate, Erik Fulop. Only 29 years old, the lawyer won 53 percent of the vote. After the election, Jobbik party leader Gabor Vona dubbed the place "the capital of our movement," adding the motto, "Today, Tiszavasvari, tomorrow Hungary." In the small town, Fulop is eager to demonstrate how Hungary would look under the rule of the Jobbik Party and its "Movement for a Better Hungary." Jewish investors are not welcome, while Iranian diplomats and businessmen are frequent visitors to the town. Prostitution has been banned and a city guard established to patrol areas of the town - especially the Roma districts - and report suspected criminals to the police. "We do not tolerate deviant forms of behavior anymore," said Fulop. "Anyone who commits crimes should now be shaking in his boots."
© The Deutsche Welle

up  

FAR-RIGHT MAYOR IN SHOOTING MYSTERY (Hungary)

The far-right mayor of northern town Gyöngyöspata informed police on Monday evening that he had been shot at outside his office. Oszkár Juhász of the nationalist party Jobbik won a mayoral by-election in summer, after Gyöngyöspata had spent several months on the front pages because a nationalist vigilante group patrolled its streets with Jobbik’s support, ostensibly to prevent “Gypsy crime”.

3/12/2011- A lawmaker from the governing right-wing party Fidesz condemned all forms of violence on Tuesday but warned Juhász against using the alleged attack as an “excuse” to bring such “guard” groups to the town. Following an outcry over the presence of uniformed vigilantes in Gyöngyöspata in March and April, the government pushed through legislation outlawing such activities. Police spokesman Bálint Soltész told state news agency MTI on Tuesday that an investigation into Juhász’s complaint was under way. He would not confirm whether any cartridges or gunshot had been found. Jobbik deputy leader Tamás Sneider said: “We are not the types to be stopped by a few bullets.” Juhász told the Heves County news website heol.hu on Tuesday that he had recently had an application for a gun permit rejected. He said he needed a weapon for self protection and would be filing another request after the shooting. “It seems in Hungary today that written and verbal threats are not enough, they’ve already thrown stones, and Tamás Eszes has beaten me up,” Juhász said. The latter was a reference to a far-right rival in the recent mayoral election who has since killed himself.
© The Budapest Times

up  

EUROPE'S NEW RIGHT-WING RADICALS FOCUSE ON ISLAMOPHOBIA INSTEAD OF WHITE SUPREMACY

7/12/2011- As daylight broke on June 4, worshippers found a mosque in southern Denmark defaced with drawings of the Prophet Muhammad and slogans urging Muslims to "go home." In late October, a dismembered pig was buried on the planned construction site of a planned mosque on the outskirts of Copenhagen. Both acts were the work of the Danish Defence League, a year-old far-right group that claims it's not opposed to foreigners in general, just Muslims. "We are not racists. We are not Nazis," insists Bo Vilbrand, the group's 24-year-old spokesman. As if to prove his point he says the Danish Defence League welcomes blacks and Jews. The group and its larger English forebear represent a new crop of right-wing radicals who don't fit the mold of the boot-stomping, Jew-hating neo-Nazis. This movement claims its fight is against Islam, and uses crusader symbols instead of swastikas. It frames its mission as a cultural struggle, although opponents say it is little more than old-fashioned xenophobia hiding beneath anti-Islamic rhetoric.

European authorities were just starting to consider the far-right, anti-Muslim movement's potential for violence when Norwegian militant Anders Behring Breivik took it to unimaginable extremes on July 22, massacring 77 people in the name of an anti-Islamic revolution. "Oslo was an eye-opener," says Hajo Funke, an expert on European right-wing extremism at the Free University Berlin. Norway's PST security service highlighted the rise of the anti-Islamic groups in its annual threat assessment in March, although chief analyst Jon Fitje says the movement in many ways remains uncharted. "There seems to be many people who share Breivik's general views, even though they of course condemn his actions," Fitje told The Associated Press. "But we don't know much about this. And we don't know how much we should know about it," because PST is not allowed to register people based on their political views.

Anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe is nothing new. Since the 9/11 terror attacks in the U.S. it has boosted anti-immigration political parties from Scandinavia to France. However, it started taking a more radical form in recent years, mostly online, but also with small groups organizing street protests against a perceived Islamization of Europe. In France, the anti-Muslim Bloc Identitaire has emerged as one of the loudest voices on the extreme right fringes. A key development came in 2009 with the creation of the English Defence League, which claims to be peaceful but whose anti-Muslim protests have ended in clashes with police and left-wing demonstrators. Two years after counting about 50 members, the group boasts its ranks have swollen to 10,000, though authorities say its fluid nature makes it hard to measure.

What is clear is that hundreds of people, including soccer hooligans, have turned up for the EDL's protests, and European police agency Europol in 2010 said its quick rise had raised the profile of right-wing extremism in Britain. The EDL has spawned offshoots across northern Europe, with varying success. Most are Facebook groups only. A handful of people showed up for a Norwegian Defence League rally in April, and a Dutch version was disbanded earlier this year. The Danish Defence League appears to have been more successful. Vilbrand says it has 200-300 active members and more than 1,000 supporters who pay membership fees but don't take part in activities. Denmark's PET security service declined to comment on the group. Danish experts on right-wing extremism say the Danish Defence League exaggerates its size, but is growing — unlike many traditional far-right group.

Danish blogger Margrethe Hansen, who spent three months infiltrating far-right groups online, says the Danish Defence League probably counts about 100 active members — a considerable number considering the group was founded last year — and has the potential to become the strongest far-right group in Denmark. Last year, she spied on the Facebook pages of Scandinavian anti-Muslim groups, including the Danish Defence League, by creating a fake profile. Posing as a rabid nationalist, she says she found the anti-Muslim community has more in common with white supremacists than its leaders admit. "Under the facade, when I was undercover on the Internet, I participated in closed groups where they are talking like racists: 'Immigrants are stealing our money, our women,'" she says. "But it's an easier message to sell if you say 'we are against extreme Islam.'" Hansen says she lives at a secret address after receiving death threats from anti-Muslim extremists who see her as a traitor for embracing multiculturalism.

Using her fake profile, she even became Facebook friends with Breivik but says his rhetoric wasn't particularly extreme and that he didn't drop any hints of his plans to set off a bomb in Oslo and gun down youths at a left-wing party's summer camp. "When I found out it was Breivik, I was totally shocked," she says. "I sometimes think, why didn't I see it coming?" Hansen says Danish police have questioned her on behalf of Norwegian police about Breivik's online communication and her insights into the anti-Islamic community. The anti-Islamic movement's ideological roots can be found in the so-called "counterjihadist" community of American and European bloggers who on sites such as "Gates of Vienna" and "Brussels Journal" say Muslim immigrants are colonizing Europe with the tacit approval of left-wing political elites. In his online manifesto, Breivik cited many of those bloggers, including a fellow Norwegian using the pseudonym "Fjordman" — who wrote chillingly that if governments don't stop Muslim immigration, Europeans must act to "protect our own security and ensure our national survival."

Breivik, who was recently declared criminally insane, also praised the English Defence League and other anti-Muslim groups, and reveled in the symbolic crusader imagery they use. The "Knights Templar" resistance movement he claims to belong to appears to be a figment of his imagination, investigators say. Some of the American bloggers cited in Breivik's manifesto won devoted followings during the controversial 2010 attempt to base a mosque near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York. But despite the bloggers' high-profile roles and a recent surge in anti-Islamic hate crimes in the U.S., there is no clear evidence that dangerous U.S.-based extremist groups have pursued strong anti-Muslim agendas, experts in domestic extremism say.

"The main focus of American extremists like neo-Nazis and the Klan is still aimed at African-Americans and Latino immigrants," said Heidi Beirich, director of research for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. In Europe, "counterjihadist" blogs as well as defence leagues and other anti-Islamic groups have rejected Breivik as a deranged psychopath. Investigators believe he plotted and carried out his mayhem alone. Still, some analysts believe the rhetoric used in the anti-Islamic community is so aggressive it should come as no surprise that, eventually, someone would leap from words to action. "There is something in the ideology itself which makes violence a logical result," says Oeyvind Stroemmen, a Norwegian Green Party member and writer who warned of violence from anti-Muslim extremists before the July attacks.

British researcher Toby Archer, who has also studied the anti-Muslim movement, said it wasn't surprising that sooner or later "there would be people seeing themselves as the movement's special forces or shock troops." Others caution against drawing far-reaching conclusions from what happened in Norway. Breivik's violence was unprecedented in the anti-Muslim movement, and it's rare in terms of the far-right in general. The last European attack on a similar scale blamed on right-wing extremists was the 1980 bombing of a railway station in Bologna, Italy, that killed 85 people. Islamist terrorists are still considered the biggest threat to European security. Yet many experts say the anti-Muslim groups have a greater potential to grow than traditional far-right extremists, who are struggling to boost their numbers.

That realization has led some political fringe groups, like the British National Party and Belgium's Vlaams Belang, to shift from blanket opposition to immigration to a focus on Islam. The manifesto of the BNP, whose leader has a conviction for racial hatred and has denied the Holocaust in the past, includes a "counterjihadist" chapter, saying Europe is being invaded by Muslims. Even hardcore white supremacists are debating whether to stress the anti-Muslim message as a marketing tool. In Sweden, where neo-Nazis committed a series of murders in the 1990s, the white power movement is split between those who say "Holocaust denial" won't boost their following and hardline racists who stick to their old ways, says Johan Olsson, an analyst at the Swedish Security Service.

Vilbrand, who uses the alias "Bo Rightwing" on the Internet, claims his group focuses on radical Islam, like when it patrolled an immigrant neighborhood in Copenhagen where a handful of fundamentalist Muslims said they wanted to introduce Islamic law. But its "blitz mission" in June targeted a mosque that hasn't been associated with radical Muslims. It belongs to a small community of Ahmadiyya Muslims, who are considered heretics by some mainstream Muslims and have faced persecution in many countries. The mosque's imam, Naimatullah Basharat, says that next to the Muhammad drawings were stickers with a Latin inscription saying "If you wish for peace, prepare for war" — the Danish Defence League's motto. Basharat says he would like to explain his view of Islam to the group. "We show our patience, also to those who do this kind of thing," he says. "Our motto is 'love for all, hatred for none.'"
© The Associated Press

up  

EU LACK OF SUPPORT FOR RACISM YEAR CRITICIZED

7/12/2011- The international year to spotlight racism against people of African descent is ending, and the head of the organizing committee lashed out Tuesday at many countries, especially the 27 European Union members, for their lack of support. Macedonian human rights expert Mirjana Najchevska, who chairs the committee, said the year's activities were held mainly in Latin American countries. The goal in 2011 was "to fight the invisibility of people of African descent" and acknowledge discrimination against them dating back to slavery, she told the closing high-level General Assembly meeting. "I do not think that the commemoration activities matched either the importance of the goal or even the proposed extensive list of possible activities," Najchevska said. "Especially concerning is the very poor support from the EU countries and the absence of more significant contribution of some regional organizations" like the Council of Europe.

When the 2011 International Year for People of African Descent was launched last December by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, she said, very few countries were in "a small and half empty hall." "Today, we are closing the year, without the presence of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in an even smaller hall and in front of even less countries," Najchevska said. Mutama Ruteere of Kenya, the U.N. independent expert on racism, told the closing session that people of African descent continue to be marginalized and discriminated against in virtually every area. "Furthermore, people of African descent are often among the poorest of the poor as a consequence of racism and racial discrimination," he said.

Verene Shepherd, a Jamaican history professor and member of the expert planning group, said many people of African descent were disappointed that the meeting wasn't taking place in the General Assembly hall and that the secretary-general and the high commissioner for human rights couldn't be there. She singled out those countries that held events and activities, including Brazil, Bosnia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Lithuania, Mauritius, Serbia, Trinidad and Ukraine. But some countries didn't do enough, "and we are still dissatisfied with the treatment of black minorities in many parts of the world," Shepherd said.
© The Associated Press

up  

DEALING WITH EUROPE’S SOUL, NOT JUST ECONOMIES (opinion)

It is time for European leaders to deal with issues of intolerance, because while their economies will eventually be restored, Europe’s soul may not.
By Moshe Kantor

6/12/2011- Many times in the recent and distant past, history has witnessed examples of tolerance being one of the first victims of any economic downturn. It has been argued by historians that many of the most extreme ideologies of the 20th century acquired power specifically at a time of national or international depression and recession. Unfortunately, on too many occasions over the years there has been a tendency for racist, anti-Semitic and intolerant forces to find greater interest and popularity on the back of a nation or a region’s poverty. The economies in certain European nations have become dangerously untenable, and riots and demonstrations have become a feature in many of the continent’s capitals. However, beyond the headlines of the debate over solutions to the economic crises we are already witnessing a rise in intolerance toward minorities in Europe.

A recent national commission of experts in Germany presented a report to the Bundestag showing a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism, not only in extreme right-wing, left-wing and Islamic extremist circles but also in mainstream society. Since the economy started spiraling downward in 2009, many prominent European officials have felt the freedom to express very troubling anti- Semitic views. These include former German Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin in his book on immigration issues, Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade, in an interview with a local radio station, and the Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, a Greek Orthodox Church leader, who blamed his country’s financial problems on the Jews.

I have termed this phenomenon “respectable anti-Semitism,” and this form of intolerance has become more prominent even as an atmosphere that has relaxed the borders on acceptable discussion has become more pervasive. Obviously this atmosphere is not confined to Jews, or confined to mere words, as the number of recent attacks on Roma; Muslim and African immigrants have also risen. Recent research on far-right groups in Europe showed that almost two-thirds were aged under 30, three-quarters were male, and most tellingly, more likely than average to be unemployed.

Even more troubling is the rise and success of extremist political parties in Europe on the back of the economic decay. In France, Finland, Switzerland, Denmark and Austria, to name but a few, xenophobic, racist and intolerant parties have made considerable political gains in recent elections or are rising in opinion polls ahead of upcoming votes. Perhaps most disturbing is the inclusion of parties with problematic views and platforms into government. Most recently, after former Greek prime minister Papandreou’s government collapsed under the weight of economic austerity, the new government includes the extreme right-wing party LAOS, headed by Georgios Karatzaferis, who has made outrageous statements about the Jews and questioned the historicity of the Holocaust.

While none of these events or attitudes is comparable to the ascent of the Nazi Party in 1933, we can not afford to be anything less than vigilant. Italian philosopher Giacomo Leopardi once suggested that, “No human trait deserves less tolerance in everyday life, and gets less, than intolerance.” To defeat intolerance, xenophobia and racism, we need to show it no lenience and certainly no tolerance. Outbreaks of intolerance must be judged severely and we need now more than ever tough laws and punishments against those who target minorities. European Union and European nations need to strengthen existing legislation against racism and anti- Semitism even at this time while the focus is on rescuing or saving their economies, dealing with rising unemployment and austerity measures.

In 2008, the EU Commission called on all EU member states to adopt model legislation to combat hate and intolerance in their own legal systems. However, three years later none have done so. In many ways this will be a great test for the European Union to demonstrate whether the unification of Europe is based on moral and just grounds (and will therefore succeed in its mission), or whether it is merely a commercial union (and as such will not stand the test of time). While the great debate in Europe is today over the future of the Eurozone, a debate on the future of the European Union should be based on its common purpose as set out in the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights which took on full legal force at the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009.

The charter’s preamble opens with its self-defined mission as being “founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity” before laying out the legal prohibition against discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion. It is time for European leaders to deal with these phenomena, because while their economies will eventually be restored, Europe’s soul may not.

The writer is president of the European Jewish Congress and co-chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation.
© The Jerusalem Post

up  

Headlines 2 December, 2011

MGRM WELCOMES HATE CRIME LEGISLATION (Malta)

2/12/2011- The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) welcomed Justice Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici’s announcement on plans to extend the grounds for which hate crime legislation will apply to also include homophobia. This generally refers to aggression and violence targeting people because of their belonging or perceived belonging to a particular group or category. Homophobic hate speech and hate crime are obstacles to the possibility for individuals to exercise rights in a non-discriminatory manner, MGRM said, advocating the inclusion of transphobic crimes under this proposal since transgender persons are also vulnerable to such crimes. There was also a need for accompanying non-legislative measures, such as raising awareness among the police and the authorities, promoting adequate training curricula, establishing systems for recording such crimes, and fostering targeted cooperation in order to protect LGBTI communities from hate violence and to support victims. MGRM said such measures are essential and form an important part of more comprehensive strategies that are needed to achieve social change. Building inclusive societies, free from prejudice and hatred, is the only way to eliminate homophobic and transphobic attacks.
© The Malta Independent

up  

PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT’S EXPERIENCES OF RACISM NEED TO BE RECOGNISED (press release ENAR)

On the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, ENAR calls for recognition of the specific forms of racism and discrimination suffered by people of African descent.

2/12/2011- The slave trade inflicted huge moral and material damage on African peoples and set in motion a unique form of systematic discrimination against people of African descent, which continues to this day. The dehumanisation of black people and racist theories devising a hierarchy of races based on skin colour were the ideological foundations of slavery in Europe and still shape the prejudices of the majority population towards black people today. The fact that our grandparents might have visited human zoos (2 million visitors to the last human zoo in Paris not even a century ago) shows the extent of the damage done and of the challenge of changing mentalities in the majority population.

Indeed, discrimination and exclusion still affect too many people of African descent in Europe. They are, for example, disproportionately subjected to incarceration and violence by the police compared to other groups and fall victim to racial profiling in many countries. They suffer disadvantageous treatment in all walks of life such as the labour market, housing, education and access to services. A survey by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency shows that 41% of Sub-Saharan African respondents had been discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity at least once in the previous 12 months. ENAR’s 2009-10 report on racism in Europe highlighted that in Malta, for instance, 66% of African immigrants interviewed had experienced discrimination. Worse, contemporary forms of slavery in Europe, including human trafficking and sexual and labour exploitation, continue to affect a significant number of migrant populations, and amongst them many people of African descent.

Chibo Onyeji, ENAR Chair, said: “In particular in this Year for People of African Descent, we need to address the specific experiences of racism, discrimination and exploitation they face. Just as anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and anti-gypsyism are recognised as specific forms of racism in Europe, so should afrophobia. Given Europe’s role in the slave trade and colonisation, European leaders have a special responsibility to ensure real equality for people of African descent in their countries.”
© EUropean Network Against Racism

up  

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DESECRATED IN KOSOVO

Kosovo police are investigating who sprayed swastikas on dozens of tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in Priština.

2/12/2011- “Jews out” was spray-painted on a memorial for Jewish families who perished during World War II. Police Spokesman Brahim Sadrija said Thursday that police had sealed off the cemetery in Priština and were looking for clues. The vandalism is believed to have happened Tuesday, AP has reported. ”Kosovo police went to the scene and have taken the necessary steps. An expert from Priština’s Monument Directorate has also been contacted. The investigators are conducting an investigation in order to find out who the perpetrator of this act is,” Sadrija told Radio Free Europe. He said he could not disclose more details pending the ongoing investigation. Kosovo Albanian President Atifete Jahjaga and PM Hashim Thaci have condemned the act. The U.S. Embassy in Priština was the first to condemn the incident and called on the Kosovo authorities to thoroughly investigate the case and bring the persons responsible for it to justice. Kosovo's Jewish community left for Israel and Serbia during and after the 1998-99 Kosovo war.
© B92

up  

AUSTRIA A SAFE HAVEN FOR KKK ICON AFTER ARREST

1/12/2011- A former Ku Klux Klan (KKK) spearhead banned from entering Europe’s free travel zone is living in Austria unaffected by domestic authorities despite his racist activities in past decades. The Kurier, a Viennese newspaper, reports today (Thurs) that David Duke did not face interrogations or any kind of sanctions after he returned to Austria after being arrested in Germany. The daily reveals that the former top-tier representative of the KKK – a far-right organisation founded in the United States – was detained by police in Cologne as he headed for a gathering of neo-Nazis last week. Officials acted after getting hold of a list of speakers and guests of the gathering. They decided to release Duke from custody after a short while after he had agreed to leave the country immediately.

Karl-Heinz Grundböck, a spokesman for the Austrian interior ministry, confirmed that Duke was a registered citizen of Zell am See in the province of Salzburg. He confirmed that the US American was banned from entering the Schengen free travel zone – but claimed that Austrian police and judicial authorities could not take any action against him as long as he was not caught breaching the country’s anti-Nazi propaganda law. Karl Öllinger of the Austrian Green Party did little to disguise his anger about authorities’ decision-making. "It seems that an American Nazi is welcome here anytime. Duke would have no chance to mutter a word before he was thrown out of the Schengen zone were he a migrant worker," the member of the federal Austrian parliament (MP) said today.

Twenty-five European countries are part of the Schengen travel agreement which theoretically allows citizens to move within this area without ever having to show a passport or other ID documents. With Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, three Schengen treaty participants are non-European Union (EU) states. EU members Ireland and Great Britain are not part of the Schengen zone. Speaking to the Kurier, Grundböck explained that Italy and Malta permitted Duke to enter the Schengen area. This decision allegedly forces federal authorities to withdraw from issuing sanctions against the infamous right-wing extremist. Asked why German police put Duke in custody before ordering him to leave the country, Grundböck argued that their actions were "preventive" as they came shortly before a meeting of neo-Nazis.

Duke’s most recent arrest occurred two years after he had been detained in the Czech Republic before he had a chance to get on the stage in front of right-wingers. The 61-year-old, who denies the Holocaust, controversially launched a private business in Zell am See two and a half years ago when he started to photograph rare birds and sell the images. Interior ministry official Alexander Marakovits said at that time: "As a US citizen, he can, as a tourist, stay three months at a time without a visa. And currently there is no evidence of criminal acts." It is unclear whether Duke has applied to Austrian immigration authorities for a permanent right to stay in the meantime. He told the Austrian Times in 2009: "I'm not in Austria for any political activities. When I'm in Europe it's usually in Italy or Ukraine but I also spend a lot of time in Russia." He added: "I just come to Austria to relax. The mountains are beautiful. I am a writer, photographer, a speaker. I do all sorts of things."

Austrian officials in charge of protecting the constitution took Duke's homepage – artbyernst– offline in May 2009, shortly after it emerged that he was running a prospering internet shop for nature photography.
© The Austrian Independent

up  

FIRST PERSON CHARGED FOR HATE CRIME DURING SPLIT GAY PRIDE PARADE (Croatia)

1/12/2011- A court in Split has issued the first guilty verdict in the case of hate crimes committed during the gay pride parade in this coastal Croatian town earlier this year. Damir Roso, 34, received a suspended sentence of one year with a trial period of three for violent behaviour and the violation of the right to assembly. During the gay pride parade, Roso yelled "Kill the fag, motherfu…, all of you should be killed," from a bench, all of which was recorded on tape. Roso said he did not feel guilty, but he admitted he had yelled at the participants of the parade carried away by the crowds that behaved in the same way as he had done. He said, however, he was sorry for what he had shouted as he had nothing against people of different sexual orientation. He also said he had no problems with a friend of his who had openly declared himself as gay. "I am a member of Torcida [Split football club Hajduk’s fan club] and we made plans to go to the Riva as though we were going to the game. That’s how we were behaving – just like we yell at the opponents at the games, we also yelled at the protesters. I am sorry and I do regret it, I was not aware of the gravity of the situation, I saw everything as a football match and not as protest against homosexuals," Roso said in his defence. This, however, was not enough for the court who found Roso guilty on both account, but took his regret and good behaviour in trial as mediating circumstance. Twenty-three people were charged with hate crimes during the gay pride parade in Split that turned violent. In the end, some 14 people were indicted while five are still under investigation. Roso’s verdict is the first sentence in these cases. The prosecution of crimes relating to the expression of hatred towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) individuals is under the special supervision of the European Commission, daily Jutarnji List writes.
© The Croatian Times

up  

MINISTER GOES BALLISTIC AGAINST FAR-RIGHT MEP IN CARICATURE ROW (Turkey/Netherlands)

A gathering of Turkish and European parliamentarians in Brussels turned eventful on Tuesday when a far-right Dutch deputy lambasted Islam and Turkey and then attempted to present a caricature deemed criminal by Turkish prosecutors as a “gift” to a Turkish minister.

29/11/2011- Barry Madlener, a Dutch politician from the Party for Freedom (PVV), first caused tensions when he said at a meeting of the European Union-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee that Turkey did not belong to Europe because it has a “backward Islamic ideology” that does not fit with European values. “Islam and freedoms cannot coexist,” Madlener said before accusing Turkey of restricting freedom of the press and Internet and criticizing increasing violence against women and homosexuals. He said even caricaturists were being put on trial and walked towards Turkish State Minister Egemen Bađýţ, one of the panelists at the meeting, saying he wanted to present him an illustration by a Turkish cartoonist as a “gift.” The cartoon, published in Turkish humor magazine “Penguen,” reportedly landed cartoonist Bahadýr Baruter in court, with a state prosecutor charging him in September with “insulting religious values” and demanding a one-year jail sentence.

The cartoon depicts an imam and a group of believers praying in a mosque, distracted by a man talking to God on his cellphone and asking if he can be excused from the last part of the prayer because he has things to do. The words "there is no Allah" and "religion is a lie" are seen written on the walls of the mosque. When Madlener attempted to present a framed copy of the cartoon to Bađýţ, Turkish lawmaker Akif Demirkýran, who was chairing the meeting, received the cartoon as Bađýţ was heard shouting, "Don't take it!" Bađýţ, who is also Turkey's chief negotiator for EU talks, then told Madlener: “I have enough cartoons at home. Put it in your appropriate place.”

EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle attempted to calm down Bađýţ, who was visibly angry. Members of the European Union-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee protested Madlener by clapping, and Demirkýran accused Madlener of using the parliamentary platform for the purpose of “provocation.” He also said Madlener had told some members of the committee a day ago that he would come back on Tuesday to fight with Bađýţ. “Let him come, he can't dare it,” Bađýţ said.
“Discriminating against Islam as it was done today only aims for propaganda for national political purpose. I would like to remind Mr. Madlener of the current situation of the Arab Spring and the brave and pacific demonstrations of the people [in Arab countries] for dignity and human rights,” Helene Flautre, co-chair of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, said after the eventful session.

Commenting on the “gift,” Flautre said: “Giving a gift is normally [done with] a pleasant and respectful attitude. In that sense, Mr. Madlener did not offer anything to Minister Bađýţ, neither to the debate regarding EU-Turkey relations.” Ţaban Diţli, a Turkish lawmaker who said he was also a Dutch national, said Dutch society did not approve of people like Madlener. Bađýţ later said during the session that Turkey was ready to offer “[psychological] treatment” for Madlener, asserting that some in that session were “suffering from an illness called racism.” This is not the first time Madlener has caused tensions during a parliamentary gathering. In a previous session of the European Union-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, held in May 2010, Madlener stormed out after saying Turkey's real friend was Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not Europe.
© Today's Zaman

up  

NORWEGIAN FAR-RIGHT MASS-MURDERER BEHRING BREIVIK INSANE, REPORT

29/11/2011- Norwegian far-right gunman Anders Behring Breivik may escape a prison sentence after court-appointed psychiatrists declared him criminally insane on Tuesday. Their findings may mean that he cannot jailed but must undergo psychiatric care in a closed mental institution. Breivik killed 77 people at a Labour Party youth rally and a bombing outside a government building four months ago. The two psychiatrists, Synne Serheim and Torgeir Husby, delivered a 240-page report
to the Oslo district court Tuesday morning. They concluded that Behring Breivik, 32, was suffering from "psychosis", a mental state that could alter his judgement leading up to and at the time of the attacks.

They conducted 13 interviews with Behring Breivik at the high-security Ila prison near Oslo where he is being held. And a social welfare inquiry into Anders Behring Breivik's family situation conducted 28 years ago when he was four years old hinted he may have been sexually abused, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said, quoting two independent but unnamed sources. That evaluation has no connection to the report submitted Tuesday. Tuesday's psychiatric evaluation will be examined by a committee of forensic experts in order to ensure that it meets professional requirements. The court will have the final say on whether Behring Breivik can be held responsible for the crimes, although courts generally follow experts' recommendations.

Behring Breivik's trial is scheduled to open on 16 April 2012 and last for about 10 weeks. The maximum prison sentence for the type of attacks he committed is 21 years, but he could stay behind bars longer if he is still considered a threat to society. Behring Breivik has admitted committing the attacks but refused to plead guilty, claiming he was waging a war against multiculturalism and the "Muslim invasion" and that his actions were "atrocious but necessary”.
© RFI

up  

JOBBIK MEP MORVAI BARRED FROM HOLDING LECTURE AT SECONDARY SCHOOL (Hungary)

29/11/2011- Krisztina Morvai, a member of European Parliament who was the “face” of Jobbik during the far-right party’s breakout 2009 MEP election campaign, was asked to leave a secondary school for Roma student in Pécs before she could deliver a speech on the European Union, a local website reported. Morvai, who had been invited to tell students about how the European Union works, was reportedly talking to the school staff when she was asked by parents not to deliver her speech and leave the school. Morvai said she was going to hold a special history class and was eager to hear the students’ opinion on the problems of Roma and Hungarians living together, but agreed to leave when she was asked by the school director on the parents’ behalf.
© Politics Hungary

up  

BLOCKING ILLEGAL INTERNET CONTENT MAY LEAD TO MIRRORING (uk)

1/12/2011- Blocking access to illegal internet content such as hate-speech and hate crime, may lead to the reproduction and mirroring of the same content internationally, a HoC joint committee has heard. The notion follows an increasing debate by freedom of expression activists on the UK's international jurisdiction in attempting to block illegal content. Questioned by the joint committee on the relevance of international jurisdiction and content blocking, Professor Andrew Murray of the London School of Economics said: "You can, we do this for certain material, we do block child abuse images where ever they are held in the world." But he argued that not all illegal content could be blocked. A balance should be reached as "you don't want to end up looking like the Chinese government; you want to look like a fully functioning democracy," he said.

It was pointed out that the UK government could only regulate and take down content within the UK. Websites hosted abroad could continue making illegal content available to UK users. Witnesses at the joint committee argued that in some cases illegal content should be allowed to avoid "mirroring" and reproduction to a wider audience. Murray said: "If you block access to a website posted on one server that is probably read by less than 20 people in the UK in any one year, what will happen is that it will be mirrored in several locations by freedom of speech activists, mostly in the United States, who see the UK as trying to block freedom of speech." "It will be promoted through social networking sites and something which at the moment is read by less than 20 people per annum will become the next CTB case, where everybody wants to know about it, it's on social networks and it's mirrored. It happened when they tried taking down Wikileaks – Wikileaks was just mirrored and shared elsewhere"

Murray likened internet regulation to a virus, adding: "The internet sees attempts at regulation a bit like a virus affecting the body and very quickly white blood cells are created which attack what they see as this invasion." "Sometimes, it's better to leave well alone, rather than pick at the scab and see what comes out. Yasmin Qureshi MP called for an international agreement or treaty to enable prosecution of cyber-criminals beyond UK jurisdiction.
© Public Service UK

up  

RACIST RANT VIDEO ON LONDON TRAM GOES VIRAL (uk)

29/11/2011- A video of a woman onboard a London tram swearing and ranting racist abuse at other passengers, while voicing her disgust at Britain’s ethnic diversity has gone viral on the video sharing and social media sites. The video, labeled “My tram experience,” shows a woman with a toddler sitting on her lap firing repeated expletives and racial slurs at passengers of ethnic minorities. “What’s this?” she said, looking around the tram. “A load of f***ing black people and Polish.” She screamed at the travellers: “get back to your own f***ing countries … My Britain is nothing now!” A female passenger told the ranting woman to respect the children on board in an attempt to stifle her expletive rants. But the riled woman angrily pointed out that she herself was sitting with a young child on her lap. She continued, questioning the same female passenger where she was from and if she was really British. “Are you British?” she shouted. “You ain’t British, you’re black.” The passenger gave an angry reply, saying she was British. The shaky but coherent footage appeared to have been taken covertly by a passenger standing opposite the woman, most probably by a mobile phone camera.

On Monday, a 34-year-old woman was questioned by police on suspicion of a racially aggravated public-order offence. The woman was from South London’s Croydon area and is believed to match the description of the woman who had boarded the tram from Croydon to Wimbledon. Before the arrest, a statement from a British Transport Police spokesperson read: ‘The video posted on YouTube and Twitter has been brought to our attention and our officers have launched an investigation. “At present it is not entirely clear which tram stops the offence took place between and when it occurred. As a result we need anyone who witnessed this incident, or with any information that could assist our investigation „ź including the identity of the woman „ź to contact us. “We will not tolerate racism in any form on the rail network and will do everything in our power to locate the person responsible.” The video has racked up nearly 1.9 million views on YouTube, where it was first posted, and more than 65,000 comments so far, with many expressing dismay at her views and prompting debates on racial multiculturalism in Britain.

One commenter wrote: “This woman makes me sick, you will always find some people in every nation who are like parasites. That doesn’t mean you label all legal immigrants the same. She is ridiculous. Imagine the British economy without outsiders! I just hope this doesn’t tarnish the image of Brits as unthinking and prejudiced people. And yes, I pity her child.” Another remarked: “About to welcome the world for London 2012 and this is the attitude of some of our citizens? A disgrace to our country.” A new video emerged on Tuesday of a different woman, seemingly British, spouting racism on a train also to fellow passengers, who were speaking a foreign language. “You’re in my country now, speak my (expletive) language!” she screamed at people sitting next to her. Twitter users are encouraging the spread of the second video on social media sites so that it can be brought to the attention of the British police and for this woman to be traced.
© Al Arabiya

up  

RACE VARIATION IN JAIL SENTENCES, STUDY SUGGESTS (uk)

• Minorities more likely to be jailed for certain crimes • Differences remain the subject of contention

26/11/2011- Offenders from ethnic minorities are more likely than their white counterparts to be sentenced to prison for certain categories of crimes, according to an analysis of more than one million court records. The study, carried out by the Guardian, found black offenders were 44% more likely than white offenders to be sentenced to prison for driving offences, 38% more likely to be imprisoned for public disorder or possession of a weapon and 27% more likely for drugs possession. Asian offenders were 41% more likely to be sent to prison for drugs offences than their white counterparts and 19% more likely to go to jail for shoplifting. The findings, which accord with a history of academic research into disparities, suggest wider variations in sentencing than in some previous studies and also show variation between courts.

Frances Done, chair of the Youth Justice Board, who is working with the Magistrates' Association on disparities in sentencing, told the Guardian that she fears the "disproportionality appears to be getting worse". She added: "As the numbers in [youth] custody have gone down, the proportion of those from black and ethnic backgrounds has gone up. We don't get the view that this is about deliberate discrimination but because of practices that have not been thought through." One cultural difference, Done said, is a "greater propensity for black young people not to plead guilty than white young people". Black youths consequently received longer sentences because credit is given for early guilty pleas.

Differences in sentencing between ethnic groups have been a subject of academic contention for a while. Some explanations suggest offenders from different ethnic minorities commit more serious offences in particular categories or have longer criminal histories; others speculate they could be indicative of prejudice in areas of the criminal justice system. The Ministry of Justice this week released details of all 1.2 million sentences passed by English and Welsh courts between July 2010 and June 2011, including information on the age and ethnicity of defendants, if available.

The Guardian used that information on offences where ethnicity information was available – a huge sample of more then 596,000 individual judgments – to compare the outcomes for different ethnic groups. The smallest variance found was in shoplifting, where black defendents were just 1.7% more likely than white to be imprisoned, while the largest was driving offences, for which black defendents were jailed 44.3% more frequently than white. The Judicial Office said it was worth noting that last year's Race and CJS report found data on out-of-court disposals and court proceedings showed differences in the sanctions issued to people of differing ethnicity and also in sentence lengths. These differences possibly related to a range of factors including types of offences committed and the plea entered, and should be treated with caution.

The difference in racial sentencing between courts was also considerable. Haringey magistrates court, which dealt with many of the Tottenham riot cases, sentenced – before the summer disturbances – 11 of the 54 black defendants it dealt with for public disorder or weapons offences to prison, as compared to 5 of 73 white defendants. While West London magistrates court sentenced 17 of 107 black defendents to jail, versus 21 of 237 who were white – meaning at that court black defendents were 79% more likely to be jailed. By contrast, at Wolverhampton Crown Court, which dealt with a similar number of public disorder cases, the difference was just 4%.

A previous study investigating the sibility of discrimination in patterns of sentencing was carried out by Roger Hood in the West Midlands in 1992. It also found variations across courts, with one recording that black male defendants had a 23% greater probablity of a custodial sentence than a white male. The government's official statistics on "Race and the Criminal Justice System", published by the Ministry of Justice last month, reveal that for all indictable offences in 2010, black offenders are 17% more likely to receive immediate custodial offences than white offenders. – but a breakdown for offences was not available.

John Fassenfelt, chairman of the Magistrates' Association, said that JPs had been trying to get behind the disparityto see whether it is due to magistrates sentencing black people harder or whether there's more criminality [in certain communites]." In some inner city areas with large black communities, he said, there might not be sufficient diversity on magistrates' benches. Professor Mike Hough, of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck College, said the latest statistics showed a possibility of discriminatory sentencing practices but the statistics on their own did not prove it. He extracted the figures for those sentenced for indictable offences. The percentage of those given immediate custody was 24% for white defendants, 27% for black defendants and 29% for Asian defendants.

"They are a worrying set of statistics," he said. "At face value they suggest that defendants from minority groups face a somewhat higher risk of going to prison than similar white defendants. In some areas the difference in risk may be quite large. "For youth justice, the picture is that over-representation of minority groups as they enter into the criminal justice system is largely preserved (rather than amplified or reduced) as young people pass through. But black defendants were more likely to be remanded in custody, and more likely to end up sentenced to custody".

Many explanations have been advanced for the disparity, he said, including the possibility of different patterns of charging by police or the crown prosecution service, different patterns in remand decisions, 'over-policing' of ethnic groups or social deprivation. Others suggest that ethnic groups are concentrated in inner cities where they are more likely to come up before district judges, formerly stipendiary magistrates, who may sentence more heavily.

Dr Coretta Phillips, at the London School of Economics' Mannheim Centre for the Study of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said: "The raw figures [in the MoJ] data are unable to take account of all the relevant legal factors which might explain these patterns. "The research evidence on the sentencing of young offenders is complex, but there is some indication that racial discrimination plays a part in conviction, remand, and possibly sentencing patterns, in some areas, some of the time. "[But] on the basis of the data published yesterday, it would be hard to conclude anything about prejudice and discrimination from the magistracy or judiciary or that there is greater criminality among minority groups."

The Ministry of Justice said: "Sentencing is entirely a matter for the courts, where decisions are taken by independent magistrates and judges based on the individual circumstances of each case. There are many factors behind sentencing decisions, including the seriousness of each offence and the impact of guilty pleas which lead to reduced sentences."
© The Guardian

up  

ITALY NEEDS TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT FOR THE ROMA

29/11/2011- The Italian authorities must act immediately to combat discrimination against Roma and provide redress for those affected by the widespread human rights violations perpetrated under the illegal state of emergency. Amnesty International's call comes after the Council of State, the highest administrative court in the country, ruled unlawful the 2008 decree declaring a state of emergency in relation to nomad settlements (the “Nomad Emergency”). Amnesty International’s report 'Zero tolerance for Roma’: Forced evictions and discrimination against Roma in Milan, released today, describes how under the “Nomad Emergency” the authorities have been able to close down authorized and unauthorized Romani camps in Milan in derogation of laws that protect human rights.

“Declaring a baseless state of emergency targeting an ethnic minority and maintaining it in force for three and half years is a scandal. The nomad emergency was illegal and discriminatory under international human rights law; it should have never been declared,” said Valentina Vitali Amnesty International’s researcher on Italy. “Under the “Nomad Emergency” the authorities were able to carry out forced evictions with impunity. Now Mario Monti’s cabinet must make things right. They have to provide remedies for all those affected by forced evictions and other human rights violations. They must put human rights at the top of their agenda.”

In May 2008, the Italian government declared a state of emergency in relation to the settlements of nomad communities in several regions including Lombardy, of which Milan is part, to address what they considered a “situation of grave social alarm, with possible repercussions for the local population in terms of public order and security”. The emergency referred to nomad settlements but in reality it targeted Roma communities, the vast majority of whom are not nomadic. On 16 November 2011, the Italian Council of State declared the “Nomad Emergency” unlawful. As of today, the Italian government has yet to announce how it intends to comply with this judgement.

The “Nomad Emergency” allowed the authorities to unleash a wave of forced evictions from unauthorized camps in Milan that made hundreds of Roma families homeless. These evictions were carried out in the absence of any proper procedure and without any offers of adequate alternative housing. The consequences for Roma families have been devastating, particularly for hundreds of children whose schooling has been disrupted.

A mother of five children who has been evicted several times with her family from a number of unauthorized settlements in Milan told Amnesty International:
“The evictions hurt us; they take away our rights and our happiness. The police treat us like thieves; they shout at us, they push us. It is traumatic, my eight-year-old son did not speak for months after an eviction because of the shock.” Under international law, evictions may be carried out only as a last resort, once all other feasible alternatives have been explored and only when appropriate procedural and legal safeguards are in place. These include genuine consultation with the affected people, prior adequate and reasonable notice, adequate alternative housing and compensation for all losses, safeguards on how evictions are carried out, and access to effective legal remedies and procedures, including legal aid where necessary.

Governments are also required to ensure that no one is rendered homeless or vulnerable to other human rights violations as a consequence of an eviction. To date Italy has failed to adopt and enforce a clear prohibition on forced evictions in line with international human rights standards. “The authorities in Milan must immediately stop all forced evictions. They must provide adequate alternative housing, without discrimination, to all people being evicted who are unable to provide for themselves; in particular, the office of the Mayor must ensure that emergency shelter is offered to all persons who require it, without separating families,” said Valentina Vitali.
© Amnesty International

up  

SWEDEN DEMOCRAT’S ANTI-MUSLIM HYSTERIA (opinion)

Ethnic discrimination and vilification of Muslims in Europe show that European democracy is declining while racism and repressive policies are taking root and becoming the natural order of mainstream politics in many European countries.
By Barzoo Eliass, PhD and researcher at the Centre for Middle-Eastern Studies at Lund University.

28/11/2011- Sweden is a world-leading democracy and few would doubt the impressive ambitions of the Swedish state to reinforce the civilised accommodation of ethnic and cultural differences through extensive support for integration policies and multiculturalism. Despite this official version, the discourse of assimilation has started to take root within different political parties and public spaces in Sweden. A newly assertive assimilation ideology that has come to dominate the public spaces of Sweden emphasises the ways in which a monolithic Swedish national identity and national core values should be nurtured as a 'cure' for a plural society.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Sweden has gradually adopted more exclusive stances towards migrants from non-western countries and in particularly, Muslims. Today, Sweden is like many other western countries: Muslims are viewed in a wide range of political spaces as the problematic multicultural 'other' and radical right-wing populist parties are sowing profound sentiments of hatred toward Muslims among the population as part of their project to intensify the political boundaries between the “West” and “the Muslims.” This mobilization also involves the construction of negative discourses about Muslims as a disruptive force threatening the imagined white and Christian ideals of Europe. In this vein, the radical right-wing populist party, Sweden Democrats (henceforth, SD), which entered the Swedish parliament in 2010 and now holds 19 parliamentary seats, presents itself as the only political party to defend the rights of Swedes vis-à-vis Islamic immigration and a supposedly destructive multiculturalism. Folkhemmet (the people’s home), was once a central political concept in the politics of the Social Democrats, implying a strong welfare state based on universalism and class equality. This notion has now been integrated into SD’s nostalgic political language and imbued with dreams about the restoration of a glorious past, untouched by political, cultural and social antagonism - an antagonism to which Muslim immigrants have putatively contributed.
Sweden Democrats: a Sweden-friendly party

SD was founded in 1988 and was a direct successor of the Swedish party Bevara Sverige Svenskt (Keep Sweden Swedish). SD has its roots in Swedish fascism with direct links to anti-democratic, Nazi and fascist groups. In order to present itself as a respectable democratic party, it openly rejected Nazism in 1999. The terminology shifted to this new self-definition as a Sweden-friendly party. Lately, there have been attempts to define SD as a socially conservative party, a position that has encountered resistance within SD for forsaking nationalism as the main ideology. The other political parties in Sweden or the establishment as SD calls them, are accused of conducting Swedish-hostile politics through their immigration policies.

European debates concerning asylum-seekers are notorious for deploying metaphors drawn from nature, such as “natural disasters”, “big waves” or “floods”. In the case of SD, these metaphors are extended to the military domain, where Muslim immigration will result in an “occupation”, “invasion” and “war”. Sweden is invoked as a state under siege threatened by an imagined Islamisation of Swedish society. In the same vein, the SD leader Jimmy Åkesson has argued that, “Muslims are Sweden’s greatest foreign threat since the Second World War”. Further, he has attacked mosques and veils for being markers of Islamic cultural imperialism, and sites of terrorism, gender oppression and fundamentalism. SD presents itself as democratic when it refers to Swedish law and the right to exercise one's faith. But this democratic stance remains purely rhetorical because what SD goes on to add is that freedom of religion, however, does not entail building mosques or wearing veils, or any other tangible example of the exercise of freedom of religion.

In SD’s representations of immigrants, Muslims are 'othered' in cultural and religious terms regarded as incompatible with Swedish and western “core values”. These are limited to Judeo-Christian values, values of enlightenment and humanism that Muslims allegedly lack. When Muslims are discussed by SD, a variety of negative collective attributes are generalized and assigned to them such as gender oppression, forced marriage, animal abuse, social welfare abuse, criminality, rape, anti-democracy, intolerance, terrorism, and fundamentalism. The birthrates of Muslim immigrants are also viewed as a great threat by SD which forewarns that with current levels of Muslim immigration, Swedes will be a minority in their own country outnumbered by fertile Muslims. All these distorted and ill-informed provocations are used as argumentative devices to persuade and enhance anti-Muslim racism and justify exclusionary practices against Muslims.
What is “genuine anti-racism” ?

For SD, integration and multiculturalism are nefarious means by which the established political parties attempt to dissolve and undermine Sweden. National identity is seen in this worldview as a negation of multiculturalism and integration. Besides, the question of integration as a mutual process is resolutely rejected. According to SD, one-sided adaptation should be the absolute rule and if the immigrants cannot assimilate, then they should be repatriated to their original homelands. Historical examples such as the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia are regarded as evidence for the fate of every multicultural society. Of course one might wonder instead if the opposite is not the truth: that ethno-nationalisms claimed purity and distinctive boundaries within the former multinational Yugoslavia and that it was these ethno-nationalistic claims that gradually led to genocidal acts and ethnic divisions.

When SD attacks a multiethnic or multicultural society, it starts by denouncing any accusation of being a racist political party:
SD is often blamed for being racist. That is not true. We think that all people are equally valid, but that does not mean that everybody should have the right to move to Sweden. A “multicultural” society does not serve peace and democracy. Therefore we want among other things to limit greatly immigration from culturally distant countries. The starting point for our attitude is every people’s right to their own country.

SD combines in a peculiar way equality ideas such as “all people are equally valid” with segregationist ideas that “people from culturally distant countries are too different to assimilate”. In this way, the culturalist discourse adopted by SD neither needs to describe itself as racist nor as hierarchical in intent. On the contrary, it argues that in order to sustain peace, promote democracy and fight racism, different cultures and nations should stay put in their places of origin. Limiting immigration from Muslim countries is regarded as an anti-racist policy by SD. Culture or cultural identity as fixed entities function in this way as a useful surrogate for race and blood ties in SD’s discourse about belonging and difference. Another effective strategy that SD has adopted is recruiting party members with immigrant/Middle Eastern backgrounds that are ready and willing to dismiss criticism of SD as a racist party and thereby validate the “truthfulness” of SD’s discourse about Muslims. SD has also called upon Christians from the Middle-East in Sweden to vote for SD in order to restrict Muslim immigration to Sweden as a form of revenge against the maltreatment of Christians in certain parts of Iraq. In this respect, SD declares itself as the only responsible political voice capable of expressing the true and inner beliefs of the Swedish people about Muslims:
There is only one party that does not tremble in front of the task to claim traditional Western and humanist values in Sweden and with pleasure takes the responsibility for stopping the spread of intolerant and narrow-minded Muslim dogmas in the Swedish society.

Note well, how SD appoints itself as the owner of the truth and shoulders this responsibility through taking upon itself the sole task to blast through the hypocrisy which will not speak the truth - that Muslim immigrants are indeed a burden for Sweden and the west. SD alone will denounce the ostrich policies that refuse to give a name to those plagues that “Swedish people” experience due to Muslim immigration. Frequently, SD reveals the “uncomfortable truths” about Muslims (such as the social costs, criminality and rape) claiming to be the only political party that shoulders the responsibility and dares to “lift the lid” and break the silence that supposedly dominates the politically correct Swedish public spheres with regards to immigration issues. At the same time this heroic SD claims that along with the “Swedish people” they are the victims of a censoring political establishment. Of course, SD does not cite all the scholarly works in Sweden about the mass media and the political representation of immigrants that show indisputably that immigrants or Muslims are often discussed in relation to social problems or as a problem. In other words, these “uncomfortable truths” to which SD makes sole claim, have been circulating continuously in the Swedish press, radio and TV-debates, and they have been doing that for some time.

To sum up, SD has made it its national mission to define Muslims as a problem that should be solved and cured through repressive policies such as assimilation, ethnic and religious discrimination or expatriation. It is time for Europeans of conscience to speak up and find some viable antidotes to the emergence of these racist parties that are appearing in public spaces, smartly dressed in their suits and ties, and with no sign of swastikas. Apparently the mantra has not convinced many Europeans that “it should never happen again” because ethnic discrimination and vilification of Muslims in Europe show that European democracy is declining while racism and repressive policies are taking root and becoming the natural order of mainsteram politics in many European countries.

A more just representation of Muslims will describe them neither as angels or as demons, but allow them to represent themselves and/or be represented beyond the dichotomies of “good” or “bad” that so often imprison their subjectivities as they are portrayed in European public spaces. We don’t lack knowledge about these racist developments in Europe but the political will to impede them. Sadly enough, the Swedish liberal party, once committed to anti-racism, is intensifying its illiberal discourse against migrants in order to neutralize SD and fish for the anti-immigrant votes. Ironically, this can only validate the position of SD as the true representative and spokesman of anti-Muslim politics.
© Open Democracy

up  

LUCERNE DENIES FOREIGNERS RIGHT TO VOTE (Switzerland)

Foreigners living in Switzerland had reasons to be cheerful and discontented after two separate votes on Sunday.

28/11/2011- In Basel, an SVP initiative to toughen naturalisation requirements was rejected, even though foreigners will now have to prove to the authorities that they have an adequate command of German. In Lucerne, meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of voters rejected an initiative to grant foreigners the right to vote in local elections. The initiative, launched by the second-generation immigrants' organization Secondos Plus, resulted in 83,773 ‘no’ and 16,006 ‘yes’ votes. 39.3 percent of registered voters participated in the referendum. The Lucerne parliament, which is dominated by conservative parties, had rejected the initiative and recommended citizens to vote against it. Foreigners have the right to vote in local elections in eight different cantons: three in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and five on the French-speaking side. In cantons Neuchâtel and Jura, they even have the right to vote in cantonal elections. In the Basel City cantonal referendum, an initiative proposed by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) to tighten language requirements for naturalisation was rejected by 24,978 votes to 17,653. 43 percent of the electorate turned out to vote.

The SVP wanted foreigners seeking naturalisation to take a written test to prove a high level of German equivalent to the international standard B2. Voters instead approved the cantonal government's counter-proposal, which will require foreigners seeking a Swiss passport to pass a language exam at the less difficult B1/A2 level. People who have been resident in Switzerland for 12 years may apply for naturalisation. The Federal Migration Office examines whether applicants are integrated into the Swiss way of life, are familiar with Swiss customs and traditions, comply with the Swiss rule of law, and do not endanger Switzerland's internal or external security. This examination is based on cantonal and municipal reports, before naturalisation proceeds in three stages. Full Swiss citizenship is only acquired by those applicants who, after obtaining the federal naturalisation permit, have also been naturalised by their municipalities and cantons.
© The Local - Switzerland

up  

SWISS FAR-RIGHT VOTE SUPPORT DROPS IN NEW VOTE

28/11/2011- The second round of Swiss legislative elections Sunday dealt another blow to the far-right SVP, results showed, with smaller and moderate parties like the Green Liberals once again the beneficiaries. The biggest political party in Switzerland saw its president and father figure both fail as the five seats which were too close to be decided in last month's first-round vote went back to the voters. This round of voting covered Zurich, the most populous canton in the confederation, as well as St-Gall, Argovie, Uri and Schwytz, representing the last six seats to be filled in the upper house, the Council of states. The SVP, opposed to all moves towards European Union membership, ran a campaign in which its stance against immigration was a central plank. It lost ground in four of the five cantons, winning only the central seat of Schwytz, the ATS news agency reported.

The party's president Toni Brunner was beaten in St-Gall by socialist Paul Rechsteiner. In Zurich, the SVP's father figure Christoph Blocher lost to the Green Liberals and the centre right Radical Free Democratic Party. The SVP has already fared badly in the larger first round of voting last month. The party was returned as the biggest political party in Switzerland, although it ceded ground to the breakaway party BDP, as well as the Green Liberals. Since the 1950s, the seven government ministerial posts have been allotted to the country's four biggest political parties -- two seats each for the centre-right Radicals, Christian Democrats and the Socialists, with the remaining portfolio going to the SVP. Most other major parties represented in the cabinet also saw a drop in support at the polls. But all of these other key parties have said that they would not cede their cabinet seats.

The SVP won 25.9 percent support in the first round, down from 28.9 at the last elections in 2007. The Socialist Party obtained 18.1 percent, the Radicals 15.3 percent, while the Christian Democrats got 13.1 percent. The next government will be elected by parliament on December 14, to face a difficult economic situation. While Switzerland is relatively cushioned against the kind of debt problems that have beset eurozone nations it is suffering from the ricochet. The Swiss economy is highly dependent on exports, which are suffering as demand drops in Europe. This trend is exacerbated by the relative strength of the Swiss franc.
© AFP

up  

SPANISH CHURCH WILL NOT PUSH FOR GAY MARRIAGE TO BE SCRAPPED, BISHOP SAYS

The Spanish Episcopal Church will not ask the country’s new conservative government to overturn gay marriage legislation introduced by the previous socialist regime, one of its leading bishops has said.

27/11/2011- The Spanish Episcopal Church will not ask the country’s new conservative government to overturn gay marriage legislation introduced by the previous socialist regime, one of its leading bishops has said. There was concern from gay rights groups that laws permitting gay marriage in the country could be scrapped following the conservative People’s Party (PP) election victory last weekend, but the Church has allayed fears that it will lobby the new government on the issue. As reported by El País newspaper, Juan Antonio Martínez, the spokesperson for the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) said: “The CEE never tells any ruler what to do. It has not done so with previous governments, and it will not do so with this one.” Responding to questions on mass demonstrations from churchgoers following the implementation of gay marriage legislation in 2005 and pro-abortion laws, Martínez added: “We state the position of the Church. And we have said that there are laws that are clearly unjust. Governments will know what they have to do if they want to have just laws, ones that do not violate human rights.”
© The Pink Paper

up  

RESIDENTS DEMAND TOWN TAKE CARE OF "WHITES" ONLY, NOT ROMANI RESIDENTS (Slovakia)

27/11/2011- The Romani Press Agency in Slovakia reports that non-Romani residents of the Podsadok quarter in the town of Stará Ľubovňa have sent an open letter to the town leadership expressing their bitterness over activities undertaken to address the situation of local Romani residents. The letter was sent in response to the town's decision to purchase a building in Podsadok to serve as a school for local Romani children. The total population of the town is 16 400, 2 000 of whom are of Romani origin. The town council approved the purchase of the EUR 16 600 property in October. Mayor Michal Biganič told the RTA the building will be run by the Private Technical High School (Soukromá střední odborná škola) in Kežmark and will make it possible for Romani children who have not completed their elementary educations to acquire skills as masons and seamstresses.

Some non-Romani residents of Podsadok disagree with the town's position, writing the following in the open letter: "We absolutely disagree with the town buying real estate in our neighborhood and literally building a paradise on earth for the Roma there. We have already lost the House of Culture, which once was used for funeral receptions, neighborhood meetings and weddings, but which is now being used as a youth club. We used to have a cinema and a library as well. The town has decided to gift that space, which was built by our (white) fathers and forefathers, to the Roma for a community center - naturally, without anyone taking any interest in the opinion of the white residents in the neighborhood. We unequivocally disagree with this and now, since we do not have a single representative on the Municipal Council to take an interest in us and defend our interests, we will very firmly defend ourselves against any accommodating steps toward the Roma that might be to the detriment of us, the white residents."

The authors of the letter warn the town leadership that they will vocally oppose helpfulness toward the Roma: "We believe there has been enough indolence and that we must take action against the people who are slowly but surely pushing us out of our homes. How many young people have been forced to resolve their housing situations by taking out mortgages, or subletting expensive rentals, even though they own single-family homes that they cannot use thanks to their dark fellow-citizens? No one is asking where we the money for our housing comes from. Only the Gypsies' affairs are dealt with."

The signatories have called on the town leadership to start doing something "for us, the white people" too: "We, the citizens of the local area of Podsadok and Mýtna street, unequivocally disagree with the establishment of a school at the bakery in our neighborhood, and we are also against the town bringing Gypsies from the surrounding area into Podsadok. We further demand that the House of Culture be given back to the white residents of Podsadok, and if cannot be returned, then the bakery should be turned into a supplementary House of Culture for white people, as a youth club for white youth. We are warning you, Mr Mayor, and we are warning the members of the town council that as of now, we will put up great obstacles to your activities aimed at improving the standard of living of the Gypsies if those activities target the territory of Podsadok and are to the detriment of the standard of living of us, the white minority."

The town of Stará Ľubovňa is involved in several projects to aid Romani residents and has raised money for that purpose from various sources. According to Mayor Biganič, the town will receive EUR 90 000 as part of the Community in Motion project for the activities of the community center in Podsadok. The project is part of a larger one linked to the introduction of E-pay cards. All 15 of the representatives present at the town council meeting on the project voted to approve it. The head of the municipal authority, Anton Karni, told the Slovak daily Korzár that the residents of Podsadok don't have it easy and that the town is willing to discuss their problems with them. However, in his view the purchase of real estate for the purposes of running a school, as the representatives decided, is a good solution. "Some pupils will be able to re-qualify there and learn a profession. It is always better for them to spend time at school, otherwise they could get involved in bad things," Karni said.
© Romea

up  

GERMAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE SLAMMED FOR DESTROYING FILES ON NAZI PAST

Germany's BND foreign intelligence service faces criticism for having shredded files on the Nazi past of some of its employees. A parliamentary committee wants more information on the sensitive matter.

30/11/2011- The German foreign intelligence service BND on Wednesday explained how it had come to destroy personnel files on about 250 employees - some of whom had been former Nazi officials. A historians' commission researching BND history reported on Tuesday that it had found out that the intelligence service had destroyed the files in 2007. The agency said in a statement that the files amounted to about two percent of documents that might have been relevant to the commission's work and were regarded at the time as "not worth archiving." From a current point of view, their loss was "lamentable and annoying" all the same, the BND said. The Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, has demanded clarification of the matter, and summoned the BND to report to the parliamentary committee responsible for Germany's intelligence services.

No deliberate cover-up
The commission is made up of four independent historians who had been asked by the BND last year to shine a light into the service's Nazi past. Commission spokesman Klaus-Dietmar Henke said the documents shredded four years ago included some on spies who had held "significant intelligence positions in the SS or the Gestapo." But he added that the BND had not purposefully destroyed the files of all employees with a Nazi past. In future, the researchers expect to be consulted before the BND shreds potentially significant historical documents. Henke said he knew the service had destroyed files many decades ago. "But it is alarming that documents of such value were destroyed in 2007," he said.
© The Deutsche Welle

up  

FEDERAL COURT RULES AGAINST MUSLIM PRAYER IN BERLIN HIGH SCHOOL (Germany)

A federal court overturned a ruling that allowed a Muslim student to perform his daily prayer on school grounds during his break from class. The student can now take his case to Germany's Federal Constitutional Court.

30/11/2011- A federal court in Leipzig ruled on appeal Wednesday that a Muslim student's religious freedom to pray should be restricted during school hours in order to preserve "peace" at his Berlin high school where many different religions are represented.
In 2007, the student Yunus M. sued his high school in the Berlin neighborhood of Wedding after the principal forbade him from praying on his knees in the school hallway. The highest court in the region Berlin-Brandenburg had ruled in 2009 that the now 18-year-old Yunus had the right to pray on school grounds during his break from class. His high school subsequently granted him a special room for midday prayer, one of the five required daily prayers in Islam. But the state of Berlin appealed the ruling out of concern that daily prayer would disturb the high school's routine and jeopardize its religious neutrality. Although the federal court in Leipzig overturned the original confirmation of M.'s religious rights, it said the ruling was based on an individual case and that the state normally has to allow religious freedom in schools. Because the case concerns fundamental civil rights, the court permitted Yunus M. to lodge an appeal in the Constitutional Court. M.'s lawyer said they would wait until they had seen the written judgment.
© The Deutsche Welle

up  

ARRESTED IN GERMANY, DAVID DUKE BEGS FOLLOWERS FOR MONEY

28/11/2011- Globetrotting white supremacist David Duke is asking supporters to send money, and fast, to help him fight unspecified charges stemming from his arrest last Friday in Cologne, Germany. In a message “composed in a moving Car!” and posted this morning on his website, the former Klan leader claims that he was on his way to deliver a “message of heritage and freedom” when German authorities arrested and imprisoned him “by a gross twisting of travel laws.” Now, he says, he’s desperate.

“To fight this case will cost a lot of money, time and effort,” he wrote. “The legal system is just as money-driven as it is in the U.S. and I must support myself far from my home during this period, never knowing from one minute to the next when shall come the proverbial knock upon the door. … While most of you will be getting ready for the warmth and love and friendship and family of Christmas, I will be far from home fighting the good fight.” “My dear friends, I believe you will come through with great generosity even sacrifice at this time, even with all your personal needs during the Christmas season. … Perhaps you could copy this letter and post it on this and other threads so my message is heard by all those who have the inclination to help me in this pressing matter at this difficult time for me.”

Duke has butted heads with European authorities before. In 2009, he was arrested in Prague on suspicion of denying the Holocaust, a crime in the Czech Republic. He was expelled from the country, but charges against him were eventually dropped. Yet despite the ease with which he avoided punishment for his Prague adventure, his newest plea for help should come as no surprise – for Duke is a veteran scam artist with a long history of persuading supporters to send him a buck. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and mail fraud for ripping off hundreds of thousands of dollars from white supremacist donors who thought they were helping save the white race – money that actually went to finance Duke’s gambling habit. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $10,000.

That was just the splashiest case. In the late 1970s, Duke lost the support of many comrades after he allegedly stole money from the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, (the “kinder, gentler” Klan group he founded in 1975) and used it to refurbish his Louisiana home. In 1987, facing charges of reckless conduct after engaging in a shouting match with a black man, he raised at least $8,000 from backers who mistakenly believed they were helping 62 other white supremacists. He ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was fined $55. In 1995, the state of Louisiana fined him $1,111 for using illegal fundraising techniques during his unsuccessful run for governor four years earlier.

In 2000, even after federal authorities raided his home and carted away nearly two dozen boxes of papers, computer discs, credit card records and other documents – material that would be used to put him away three years later – Duke insisted on his innocence. “[T]his probe is nothing more than a political assassination on the part of government officials who are seeking to silence my voice on our European heritage and rights,” he wrote from his temporary home in Russia, where he was far beyond the reach of U.S. authorities.

His language today is nearly identical. “I am free now, but a desperate fight is ahead of me for my rights and the rights of the people of Europe to hear me,” he wrote this morning. “They truly do want to hear me and they need to hear me and my message. I think by now that you know my spirit, that I simply cannot back down from aiding our brothers and sisters [sic] efforts for their heritage in our ancient homelands of Europe any more than I could cease the fight for America. This a global effort to destroy our people, and it requires a global effort on our part to win it.” He closed with a plea: “Please remember me and this sacred struggle for our people at this beautiful time of year that is such an expression of our exquisite culture and values. … If you would use this link and send something right away because you are so much needed at this time.”
© Southern Poverty Law Center

up  

THE KREMLIN'S DANGEROUS FLIRTATION WITH NATIONALISM (Russia)

Ahead of Russia's parliamentary elections on Sunday, the pro-Kremlin parties are using nationalist rhetoric in a bid to exploit growing right-wing sentiment in the country. But it's a dangerous game. If the far right gets stronger, it could pose a threat to Vladimir Putin. 

1/12/2011- Khotkovo is a small town in Russia, 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Moscow. The current mayor, Rita Tikhomirova, as is fitting for a government official, belongs to Vladimir Putin's party, United Russia. With parliamentary elections coming up on Dec. 4, United Russia has certainly put up its share of campaign posters in Khotkovo. Using slogans pledging to "build" and "preserve," it promises prosperity and stability throughout the country. Khotkovo itself would hardly deserve a mention, if it hadn't made a name for itself last year as Russia's first "foreigner-free" city. Here, as in all of Russia, workers from Central Asia did the dirty and low-paid jobs, working for the city sweeping courtyards and shoveling snow -- until last fall, when young men from Tajikistan stabbed a drunk Russian to death during a fight.

Furious residents blockaded the city's main street and demanded the deportation of all foreigners. That same night, the mayor expelled several hundred Tajiks, including women and children, from the city. They'd barely left town before a mob set fire to their residences. Half-horrified, half-impressed, Moscow's newspapers spread the news of the newly "white" and "pure" city. "Russia for Russians" -- this slogan is making its way from Moscow to the Russian Far East. Polls show 60 percent of the population supporting the sentiment, a result that must be unsettling for the Kremlin, since it will certainly influence Sunday's vote. This is the sixth time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that Russians will elect their representatives to the State Duma, the country's lower house of parliament. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) called Russia's last elections, in December 2007, "unfair." This time, the assessment isn't likely to be any more favorable.

Exerting Pressure
The Kremlin has exerted pressure on governors, electoral commissions and the media in the run-up to the election to make sure United Russia will once again receive a majority of votes. The election results are already clear. In Volgograd, the city government enlisted priests to see to it that the city's Orthodox Christians vote for Putin's party. "You know all about psychology, after all," as one official put it. Russia's strongman Vladimir Putin has also resorted to psychological pressure. In his last speech in front of the current State Duma, he called on the opposition not to stir up unrest around the elections, saying that stability in the country was the most important thing. The opposition, Putin added, is simply there "so that the governing party can lead more decisively and show society the right path." It sounded like a threat. Putin and Dmitry Medvedev -- who holds the country's presidency for another five months, but is also United Russia's top candidate in the upcoming election -- have suffered considerable losses in popularity. Putin was even booed at a martial-arts event last week. Support for United Russia, which received 64 percent of the vote four years ago, currently stands at just 40 percent. Unpublished polls show dramatic drops in approval ratings in some regions, with a 20 percent approval rating in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and even less in the exclave of Kaliningrad. Still, the Kremlin is determined to surpass the symbolic 50 percent mark.

Non-Russians as Scapegoats
Meanwhile, non-Russians serve as scapegoats for anything and everything going wrong in the country. The Russian government continues to pump massive subsidies into regions on the geographical fringes of its territory, for example, sending the equivalent of several billion euros to the northern Caucasus alone, while funds are lacking for education and healthcare in the center of the country. At the same time, more and more impoverished people from the Caucasus, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are pouring into Russia's major cities, where they are trying to make a living. Nationalists complain that the Russian people, the "titular nation," are increasingly put at a disadvantage. If elections in Russia were allowed to unfold freely and fairly, those standing to gain would not be the politicians generally favored by the West or free-market liberals such as former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. The real gains would belong to the radical nationalists. "A revolution in Russia wouldn't be orange and democratic, as it was in Ukraine in 2004, but brown," says Nemtsov, referring to the symbolic color of the far-right. Looking to halt United Russia's slipping popularity and to take the wind out of the extreme right's sails, Putin has fashioned a nationalist rhetoric for his party this election season as well as for other parties controlled by the Kremlin. Alexander Torshin, deputy chairman of the Federation Council of Russia, the upper house of parliament, and a major player within United Russia, has threatened to send immigrants who don't behave agreeably to the "monkey house," a vernacular term for the police station cell used to hold detainees immediately after arrest.

Dangerous Game
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the so-called Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which is actually nationalist in its stance, is using the "Russia for Russians" slogan to drum up support for an end to the billions in subsidies to the Caucasus. Zhirinovsky, who also serves as vice chairman of the State Duma, distributed 12 million copies of a brochure in which he castigates the supposedly anti-Russian stance of the current government, which "takes money from the pocket of the working Ivan and gives it to the bandit Mohammed, who cuts Ivan up in pieces and buys himself a third Mercedes." The country's public prosecutors, usually eager to prosecute Kremlin detractors on charges of "extremism," have left Zhirinovsky alone since he and his party, founded by the KGB in the 1990s, are actually working for the benefit of the Kremlin. The idea is that the experienced populist will collect the right-wing protest vote, then, once back in office, he will continue to vote obediently in favor of the Kremlin's bills, as he has for the past two decades.

It's a dangerous game. If the seed sowed by the extreme right-wing bears fruit, Russia -- as a multi-ethnic state with over 15 million Muslims and more than 100 different ethnic groups -- is in danger of eroding. At the same time, the country's economy has come to depend on cheap labor provided by migrant workers as its own population shrinks. Gennady Zyuganov, leader of Russia's Communist Party, is similarly making a name for himself as the "national liberation struggle flares up." His plan to reinstate ethnic affiliations in Russian passports has the support of 48 percent of the population. The Soviets, too, used this "nationality" category to facilitate their discrimination against Jews, Chechens and ethnic Germans in Russia.

'I Only Rent to Russians'
This across-the-board lurch to the right even surprises Dmitry Rogozin. In 2005, Rogozin, then Russia's ambassador to NATO, was barred from elections because of his agitation against immigrants. Now, he's very much officially part of the process, bringing in right-wing votes for United Russia. "Back then, I was seen as a terrible nationalist. Now, my views are more liberal than most," he says. Rogozin has tapped into something many Russians are feeling. Apartment-building doors in Moscow bear signs that read, "I only rent to Russians." One celebrity hairdresser wants to move her daughter to a different preschool because there is a Chechen child in the daughter's playgroup. And when Brazilian soccer player Roberto Carlos takes the field with Anzhi Makhachkala, a Russian Premier League team, fans from the opposing team throw bananas onto the field. Russia is going through the often-painful process of developing into a nation-state that its Western European neighbors went through centuries ago. The country is torn between newly awakened nationalism and a centuries-old claim to an identity as a multi-ethnic empire.

'Pack of Rogues'
A new generation of activists is carrying these radical ideas into mainstream society. No one has achieved greater popularity than lawyer and blogger Alexey Navalny, a self-proclaimed "national democrat," who uses his website to denounce corruption and nepotism among high-level government officials. The charismatic Navalny, 35, has quickly become the Kremlin detractors' new hope. One online poll asking who should serve as Moscow's next mayor showed him in first place. Navalny didn't shy away from linking himself with right-wing extremist organizations at the nationalist "Russian March" in Moscow in early November. "Down with United Russia!" was his greeting to the crowd at the mass demonstration. "We must annihilate this pack of rogues who have been drinking our blood," he continued. In response, the right-wing crowd chanted, "Putin on trial!" That was a warning to Russia's future president. Putin may still control the country's elections, and he may well be able to reclaim his spot in the Kremlin in May. But the nationalist wave he's so happily riding may one day wash him away.
© The Spiegel

up  

HOW STRONG ARE RUSSIA'S SKINHEADS?

Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article from theOxford Analytica Daily Brief.' Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.

1/12/2011- The Kremlin knows how to manage elections. No major surprises are expected this weekend. The main uncertainty is how many seats Vladimir Putin’s ‘United Russia’ party will lose from its current substantial majority. Most Russians are disenchanted with their politics. But there is one enduring ‘joker in the pack’ seen as having the potential to upset the system: more extreme Russian nationalism. How serious, organized and potent is it? Observers have repeatedly warned of the possible rise of organized fascism in Russia, going back to the small Pamyat movement in the late 1980s, and continuing through the chaotic 1990s. However, it is not clear that such a movement really exists today, even in embryonic form.

Local skinhead groups form the backbone of the street nationalists in Russia. Their numbers are estimated between 10,000 and 70,000, but no systematic data collection lies behind such figures. Individuals drift in and out of the gangs, which vary in interests (from rap music to the occult) and which are intensely local. Territory is violently defended. In societies like Britain’s, similar gangs are embedded in a highly structured class system. No such social anchoring exists in Russia - making it easier to interpret the gang phenomenon wrongly as a primarily political movement. Generally speaking, these groups to date have no leadership, organizational structure or unifying ideology. A handful of intellectuals claim to speak for the ‘movement’ but they are not capable of leading one. The gangs are more social deviations than an emerging political movement.

However, one characteristic in common is their racism and antipathy to ethnic minorities. A prominent case was the many assaults on Asian persons following a football defeat by Japan in 2002. The Sova Centre’s data shows that hate crime peaked at 97 killings in 2008, with more than 500 injured. This time last year, the killing of a soccer fan triggered unprecedented protests in central Moscow that left two ethnic-minority migrant workers dead. Racism against those from the Caucasus has become mainstream even among liberal opposition figures such as economist Vladimir Milov and blogger Aleksei Navalny. The perception of these ethnic groups as corrupting, undesirable elements is widely accepted in Russian society and has deep cultural roots pre-dating the skinheads. This demonization of ethnic Caucasians causes problems for the Kremlin’s efforts to define Russian identity. The peoples of the North Caucasus are citizens of Russia, and their territory is integral to the Russian sense of state. After all, the region is why Moscow fought the Chechen wars and continues to expend its blood and treasure combating the region’s secessionist insurgencies.

The Kremlin has been good at shutting down potential leaders of hardline nationalist opposition. Examples are ex-generals Lev Rokhlin and Aleksandr Lebed in the late 1990s, and more recently political activist Dmitry Rogozin, packed off as ambassador to NATO when his influence was deemed too risky. The one movement that has proved itself capable of organizing significant protests was the Movement Against Illegal Migration, but its record since 2006 has been poor, and it was shut down by Moscow prosecutors in February on the grounds of inciting racial hatred. In the year since the soccer riots, the Kremlin has redoubled its efforts to prevent xenophobia from gaining political traction (in October, court delivered verdicts in two cases linked to the unrest). These efforts have been largely successful: an illustration is last month’s ‘National Unity Day’, a holiday first introduced in 2005. It had previously been hijacked by nationalists who mount an annual 'Russian march' to 'celebrate Russian ethnicity.' But this year it passed without incident, attracting only 5,000 participants.

The Kremlin keeps a tight grip on mass media and the electoral process. So far this has made it virtually impossible for would-be nationalist leaders to channel angry youth gangs into a viable political movement. The irony is that extreme nationalism and fascism are more likely to flourish in the more open democratic systems to Russia’s west. Nonetheless, nationalism will continue to complicate the Kremlin's faltering efforts to come up with a compelling national narrative if it is to reassure and assimilate the 20% (and rising) share of citizens who are not ethnic Russians.
© CNN - blog

up  

IN RUSSIA, NATIONALISTS TURN ON PUTIN

Jonibek Kosimov had been missing for nearly a week when his cousin found his body in the morgue. Kosimov, 24, had been discovered in the early autumn sunlight of a forest clearing near the monastery city of Sergiev Posad outside Moscow. His throat had been slit, his face slashed by 21 knife wounds.

1/12/2011- Turning to relatives and friends -- migrant laborers, mostly -- the dead man's cousin Shaukatulloh Makhmudov collected the nearly 25,000 roubles ($810) he needed to pay the morgue and send his cousin home. Three days later, on September 10, the corpse was laid in a zinc-lined box, loaded into the cargo compartment of a Boeing 757 and flown to the family's native Tajikistan, on the southern fringe of the former Soviet Union. "It's not the first time they killed a relative," said Makhmudov. "I've already sent three or four bodies back to Tajikistan. Who do I turn to for help, Medvedev or Putin?" Nearly three months on, investigators say they have no clue who committed the murder. For migrants and human rights groups, the crime has become the latest symbol of Russia's violent and angry racism. Rights groups cited it in an online petition to the Kremlin demanding an end to such crimes. Tajikistan, which says more than 50 of its citizens have been murdered in hate crimes in Russia in the first nine months of 2011 alone, wrote to Russia's Foreign Ministry to demand a proper investigation into the killing.

The truth is, Moscow might be doing all it can. Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin is now clamping down on Russian nationalism. Vladimir Putin, who is likely to retake the Kremlin in an election next March, tapped the nationalist fervor during his first two terms as president to feed his vision of a great Russia. But Russia's nationalists now feel he has betrayed them by welcoming migrant laborers and sending billions of dollars to the majority Muslim North Caucasus. Ultra-right groups have refused to back any political party ahead of parliamentary elections on December 4. They openly mock Putin and his fellow leader Dmitry Medvedev with almost the same vigor as they do migrants. Tapping popular anger over migration, corruption and failing social services, extremists say the leaders they once backed have turned against Russia's 80 percent white Slavic population. "There is more than just massive dissatisfaction with the state," said Valeriy Solovey, an academic at the elite Moscow State Institute of International Relations who is considered by many to be the ideologue of the nationalist movement. "It's hatred. That hatred is directed at all organs of the state and it's directed at the very top -- I mean the prime minister and the president."

Crackdown
Russia has a long history of fighting invaders. For more than a century, its people paid tribute to the descendants of the Mongol Empire which invaded Slavic lands in the 13th century, until in the 15th century a series of battles helped throw off the "Mongol Yoke." After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, nationalism again proved powerful. In a country stripped of the ideas of Marx and Lenin, belief in the Russian nation filled an ideological void. In 1993, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a colonel in the Russian army, and his Liberal Democratic Party of Russia won around 23 percent of the popular vote in parliamentary elections. Western politicians were initially alarmed by the perceived threat to peace and stability but quickly came to see Zhirinovsky as part of the system. But nationalism never disappeared. Putin tapped it during his 2000-8 presidency. A Kremlin-backed political party, Rodina -- Motherland -- gave voice to anti-immigrant sentiment in the Russian parliament. Pro-Kremlin youth groups such as Nashi led demonstrations in support of Moscow at home and abroad. For many, Putin embodied the idea of Russia reasserting itself, emboldened by rising oil revenues and growing confidence on the world stage. In an interview in 2000, he said Russia's fundamental values included "none other than patriotism, love of one's motherland, love of one's own home, one's people." The interview was conducted only months after federal troops had toppled a rebel Chechen government.

Violence against non-white minorities and migrants rose dramatically, peaking in 2007-9 when hate groups killed almost 100 people a year, according to Moscow rights group Sova, which tracks racist violence. When more than 700 violent incidents were recorded in 2007, the authorities became convinced that nationalism was spinning out of control. In 2009 the Kremlin abandoned its policy of controllable and moderate nationalism as "useless," said Aleksandr Verkhovsky, Sova's director. "Since then, the only policy is suppression." A law against extremism had been passed in 2002. Of all the closures of nationalist organizations since then, more than half have been in the past year and a half, Justice Ministry data shows. In 2010 Russian courts handed down 93 convictions to ultra-right criminals, around 50 percent more than the year before. This year at least 160 people have been convicted of racist violence.

Russian spring?
But the violence continues. Anton Mukhachev, known in neo-Nazi circles as "the Fly," was convicted in September for helping form an extremist gang, the Northern Brotherhood. They started a project called "Big Game: Break the System," in which participants committed criminal acts and sent their fellows pictures to prove it. Participants moved up through "levels," which culminated in filming a migrant shopkeeper being shot. Sova has recorded at least 103 racist attacks over the first nine months of this year, including 15 deaths, although the organization says the real number is probably higher. The nationalists' biggest complaint is that millions of people from post-Soviet Central Asian and Caucasus countries migrate to Russia's traditionally Orthodox Christian and Slavic heartland every year. Official statistics put the number of legal immigrants who are given work permits at around one million annually, but Fund Migration XXI Century, a Moscow-based non-governmental organization supported by the World Bank, estimates that 4-8 million people also enter illegally every year to work.

Even though they may be unwelcome, migrants help to offset Russia's demographic crisis. Birth rates and life expectancy plummeted amid the chaos of the 1990s. The shrinking work force has hurt the economy, which U.S. bank Goldman Sachs has predicted will grow by 1.5-4.4 percent a year between 2011 and 2050, roughly half the pace of China and India. That doesn't impress far right groups, who were buoyed by demonstrations in central Moscow late last year that included some of the bloodiest ethnic violence the city has seen since the fall of the Soviet Union. Some also point to the uprisings that helped bring down leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and say they want to challenge their own leaders. Few analysts believe Russia's nationalists can bring down Putin. But Pavel Baev, at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, says that's not the point. In a country without real political opposition, he said, nationalism is a movement gaining momentum "in an arena that the political regime is trying to close." In a survey by independent pollster the Levada Center earlier this year, 58 percent of Russians agreed with the motto "Russia is for Russians" and almost as many believed more blood will be spilt in nationalist conflicts across Russia.

Swimming in luxury?
Vladimir Tor, a stocky man with a black goatee whose speech is peppered with quotes from Rudyard Kipling and Aleksandr Pushkin, is part of a campaign called "Stop Feeding the Caucasus!" The movement unites many smaller groups, some of which are reincarnations of previously banned organizations. Tor was a member of the Movement Against Illegal Immigrants (NAII), which was closed earlier this year. He and other nationalists now meet weekly at Vladimir, a restaurant in southeast Moscow. Catering to working class Russians, it is decorated with chiffon and fake flowers. On a mid-November visit, the television on the wall played Russian pop music videos. "I am deeply convinced that Russia has entered a grey zone of catastrophe. Everyone understands that the situation is delicate and it can fall at any moment and all at once, like a bridge or the Twin Towers. Bang!" he said, hitting his fist on a table. Tor said he does not agree with racist violence. His main target, he said, are the subsidies Moscow sends to the North Caucasus, where Russian troops have fought two separatist wars in Chechnya since 1994. Government sources show the money -- around $2 billion a year officially, or officially 91 percent of Chechnya's budget -- is necessary to boost the impoverished region. Authorities believe it helps undercut support for an Islamist insurgency that killed more than 600 people in the first nine months of this year alone.

In comparison, though, Russia's Kirov Province in the Volga region, which is nearly equal in population with Chechnya, receives only about a third of its 41.4-billion-rouble budget ($1.33 billion) from federal funds, Russian Finance Ministry figures show. In a Reuters interview earlier this year, the Kremlin's envoy to the North Caucasus region, Alexander Khloponin, said the money was crucial to beating the insurgency: "We can keep endlessly killing bandits but we need to create an economic platform to stop the swelling of the ranks of armed groups," said Khloponin, a former businessman and regional governor appointed by Medvedev. Tor disagrees. Though he offers no hard evidence, he points to increasingly glamorous displays of wealth by Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov as proof that something is wrong with Moscow's funding. Kadyrov is a former rebel who fought against federal troops before joining Moscow's side. In October, he celebrated his 35th birthday by inviting Belgian action star Jean Claude Van Damme and Hollywood actress Hillary Swank to a party in his regional capital of Grozny. Singer Seal and violinist Vanessa Mae played for the young leader. His office has said there is nothing wrong with its use of funding.

"Chechnya is swimming in luxury, thanks to the Presidential administration for that," says Tor. "We want the authorities to be occupied more than anything with the problems of Russians. We don't want money to be spent on cities like Grozny, but spent on regions that are on the verge of collapse -- Vladivostok, Kaliningrad, Arkhangelsk." Medvedev, who will likely revert to the role of prime minister under Putin, has criticized groups like Tor's, arguing they could help trigger the dissolution of the Russian Federation much as the Soviet Union fell apart. In a meeting with students and members of pro-Kremlin youth groups in October, Medvedev fielded questions from mixed-race couples and praised the virtues of multi-culturalism. He also took aim at Tor's movement itself. "Stop feeding the Caucasus? What will come of that?" Medvedev said. "I remember the slogans -- stop feeding Central Asia, stop feeding Ukraine, stop feeding Belarus, the Baltic states. And what happened? Our country fell to pieces."

Nothing to do with Putin
Last December, after a street brawl in which a Muslim migrant from the North Caucasus killed an ethnic Russian football fan, between 5,000 and 10,000 young men swarmed at the gates of the Kremlin, chanting nationalist slogans. Since then, nationalists have held more rallies, more often. Earlier this year on Russia's National Unity holiday, around 7,000 skinheads, neo-Nazis and ultra-right groups gathered on the outskirts of Moscow to hold an annual demonstration they call the "Russian March." In the biggest gathering of its type so far, young men walked behind a giant wooden cross and priests singing Orthodox hymns. Wearing hooded sweatshirts, surgeons' masks and leather jackets, they gave Nazi-style salutes and chanted offensive slogans about Islam. Dmitry Yakovlev, 21, who helps put people in touch with the funders of nationalist groups, told Reuters some are funded by politicians and bureaucrats who are tired of Putin's rule and want different policies.

The Kremlin's failure to prosecute perpetrators of racist crimes has for years drawn accusations from human rights groups that some extremists work with its tacit approval. Yakovlev said that for his movement the notion is nonsense. "The authorities -- they're not homogenous," he said. "It consists of different groups. There is the faction made up of security officers who support Putin, there are those who are more or less liberal, and there are those who are nationalists." His light blue eyes lit up with excitement. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had never heard of allegations that any nationalist groups were supported by the Kremlin: "I can't comment on this," he said. On December 4, when poll booths close across Russia, nationalists plan another demonstration in central Moscow, in sight of the Kremlin. "We're angry," said Dmitry Dyomushkin, whose Slavic Union was banned last year. "We want to show that this is an election without choices."
© Reuters

up  

ST. PETERSBURG PREPARES TO PASS BAN ON ‘HOMOSEXUAL PROPAGANDA’ (Russia)

28/11/2011- As the lead singer of a St. Petersburg rock band, Gena Bogolepov has seldom taken an active interest in politics. But a bill working its way through the city's Legislative Assembly that would outlaw so-called “homosexual propaganda” has changed all that. With the legislation on the verge of passage, Bogolepov, a 26-year-old homosexual, has cast off his political apathy and begun to actively protest what he sees as the authorities' latest move to marginalize sexual minorities. “The problem is that [this law] can be used in any way that they want to use it. The term ‘propaganda’ is very wide," Bogolepov says. "Any person who is homosexual may actually qualify as the ‘propaganda’ itself. This legislation unties the hands of the government [to act] against all transgendered, bisexual, and homosexual people.” The bill, which equates openly professing homosexuality with promoting pedophilia, sailed through its first reading in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly by a vote of 37-1. If the bill passes in its current form, individuals could be fined between 3,000 to 5,000 rubles ($100 to $160) for publicly promoting their homosexuality. Organizations could be fined up to 50,000 rubles ($1,600) for “public activities promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transsexuality.”

Gays As Scapegoats
Russian gay rights groups see the legislation as the latest step in a longstanding -- and disturbing -- trend in Russia, where gay pride marches are consistently prohibited and violently broken up by police and where prominent politicians regularly make transparently homophobic comments. Nikolai Alekseyev, the founder of Moscow Gay Pride, says the St. Petersburg authorities have proposed the new legislation in order to pander to homophobic attitudes in society ahead of the State Duma elections on December 4. “In my view, this is a topic that appeals to the majority of the electorate ahead of elections," Alekseyev says. "Gays are being used as scapegoats in this electoral campaign as people who are responsible for all the problems in the country -- social, economic, and so on. That’s why I think they are implementing this law now in particular.” Bogolepov, meanwhile, says the legislation has driven him and his friends toward activism. He has started blogging to raise awareness of the issue, has signed several petitions submitted to the local authorities, and intends to join public demonstrations against the legislation. Elena Babich, a local lawmaker from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party who voted in favor of the bill in its first reading, told RFE/RL that the crucial second reading was due to have taken place on November 23. The vote was postponed until an “unspecified date,” however, because some legislators thought it was too vague in defining what constitutes “propaganda.” She also said that promoting pedophilia should carry a much more severe punishment than a fine and that “gay rights” should also be protected in the clause prohibiting “homosexual propaganda.”

'What Kind Of Rainbow Is This?'
In comments to the daily "Izvestia," however, Babich appeared less concerned with gay rights, saying homosexual “propaganda” had to be outlawed to prevent Russia’s demographic crisis from worsening. In those comments, Babich also made the questionable claim that Germany is facing a demographic crisis due to that country's embrace of gay rights. Additionally, she disparaged the rainbow symbol used by gay rights advocates. “In Germany, it’s long been clear that the nation is dying," she said. "On City Day across the whole of St. Petersburg, we hang the picture of Peter the Great and a bright rainbow. What kind of rainbow is this when it is the symbol of gays? We have it all over the city – whether it’s the 'Rainbow Kindergarten' or the 'Rainbow Drug Store.' We’re all happy about it. Soon we’ll be so happy that we’re all dead.” Valentina Matvienko, St. Petersburg's former governor who is now speaker of the Federation Council, proposed on November 17 that the provisions in the bill be implemented Russia-wide. "Tough laws need to be introduced against everything that destroys the mind and health of a child. If this law is going to have its positive impact, then we can look at the question of implementing the initiative on a federal level,” Matvienko said. Alekseyev, however, said he doubts Russia will seek to implement the bill on a federal level, which would potentially cause a confrontation with the European Court of Human Rights. He notes that a similar federal law, proposed by a member of the ruling United Russia party, was shelved back in 2009. Bills similar to the one pending in St. Petersburg, however, have already been implemented in other Russian regions. Ryazan Oblast, 200 kilometers southeast of Moscow, implemented a similar law in 2006 and Arkhangelsk Oblast on the White Sea did so in September of this year.
© RFE/RL

up  

CULTURE MINISTRY BILL WOULD BAN MOVIES ABOUT EXTREMISTS (Russia)

26/11/2011- The Russian Culture Ministry has drafted a bill that, if passed, could ban movie theaters from showing films that so much as mention “extremist” organizations, Kasparov.ru reports. In accordance with the document, films could be banned from theaters if they “contain scenes containing public calls to carry out terrorist activities or that publically justify terrorism or other extremist activity, or scenes that propagandize pornography or a cult of violence and cruelty.” The ministry will also reserve the right to ban screenings of films found to include “information on ways or methods of developing, producing, or using narcotics, psychotropic substances, or their precursors, or about places where they can be purchased, as well as scenes propagandizing any sort of advantages of using particular narcotic substances, psychotropic substances, or their precursors.” The draft is posted on the Culture Ministry’s website for public discussion from November 25 to December 8.

The vague wording of Russia’s law against extremism is often abused by government authorities to ban materials or persecute groups or individuals that it deems undesirable to the regime. Democratic oppositionists often find themselves victimized by the law, whereas ultranationalist groups that publically promote xenophobia are given sanction by the authorities to hold mass rallies. Ekho Moskvy journalist Vladimir Varfolomeyev featured the bill on his blog, noting that it could prevent any movie with “incisive social or political content” from making its way into Russian theaters. “There won’t be any more films like Russia 88, Trainspotting, or even Kill Bill or Shattered,” he said. Russia 88, a 2009 award-winning docudrama about neo-Nazis in St. Petersburg, has suffered both from lawsuits and self-censorship on the part of theaters that refuse to screen the film.

Commenting on the Culture Ministry bill, Russia 88 director Pavel Bardin said: “We already have effective mechanisms for film censorship. The federal law against extremism allows any movie to be banned (true, along with the effect of an unnecessary scandal). The theaters wait for telephone calls signaling if they can or cannot show a certain film and basically never show any incisive movies. This order is simply the final accord.”
© The Other Russia

up  

ARE THE IRISH RACIST OR JUST REALISTIC ABOUT IMMIGRANTS? (Ireland, editorial)

Ex- Naas Mayor Darren Scully refused to represent African immigrants

1/12/2011- The outraged media reaction to Naas, Co. Kildare Mayor Darren Scully’s comments on refusing to represent African immigrants as part of his job has occupied much space in Ireland in the past few week. Scully resigned from his mayoral position and was later fired from his job according to reports. He apologized abjectly on the Marian Finucane Show on RTE. "I didn’t put enough thought into it Marian," he added. "Obviously I was expressing my own personal view of dealings I had with regards to council workings with some people but I knew what I said was wrong. "You cannot, you just cannot paint an entire continent with one brush by saying something like that. You just can’t do that. That’s unforgivable." Scully surely realizes too late where his prejudice landed him, but there is every indication that there are many like him in Ireland.

Around the same time as the Scully incident, a Nigerian taxi driver was killed in an altercation in Dublin. It is unknown whether race played a part in the death, but the two incidents led to African community leaders holding a press conference to denounce what they called rampant racism. A Nigerian diplomat, Dr. Georges Alabi, told the conference that he had no choice but to break diplomatic ranks and speak out after a Nigerian born taxi-driver was killed on the streets of Dublin. “I’m foreign office. I should not comment,” Alabi told the Irish Examiner. “My family and I have personally experienced the stark reality of racism, with people repeatedly phoning our house and calling us niggers. “We just need to do more in the area of political leadership. The silence is too much."

Until comparatively recently there were very few African immigrants in Ireland. That changed during the economic boom, but now that those times have faded. In times of recession, of course, it is always outsiders, especially black outsiders, who are more likely to be scapegoated. There have been a slew of racial incidents in Ireland, mainly involving back taxi drivers, but also some serious threats to families moving into previously white areas. There will be a sense of déjà vu about that for many Americans.

Almost missed in the media coverage is the reality that Scully apparently received close to a thousand letters of support for his comments from Irish people from all walks of life. Are they all racist? Hardly, but it goes to the Nigerian diplomat’s point that a much bigger effort has to be made in Ireland to try and bring new understanding to this very fraught area. Good race relations, even in country as diverse and tuned in to diversity as the U.S., are difficult to maintain and need constant attention and direction. The fact of an African American in the White House has shown what can be achieved here. Such an idea would have been preposterous just a few years ago. Ireland may well need a government member who takes specific responsibility for ethnic issues as an immediate step to ease the tensions that are clearly simmering. An elected representative from a minority community could also play a large role towards achieving this worthy goal.
© Irish Central

up  

BLACK IMMIGRANTS SAY THEY ARE NOW UNDER SIEGE IN IRELAND

Point to taxi driver killed, politician ripping black families

26/11/2011- Racial tensions are rising in Ireland and the government under attack, after black community leaders claimed immigrants are "under siege," while a Nigerian embassy official was critical of attitudes to West Africans. The comments came at the end of a week that saw a black taxi driver murdered in Dublin and the mayor of Naas forced to resign over racist remarks. Leaders from across the black community told a Dublin press conference that racial abuse is now at an all-time high in Ireland. Their sentiments were echoed by Dr Georges O Alabi, deputy head of mission at the Nigerian embassy. Dr Alabi told the conference that he had no choice but to break diplomatic ranks and speak out after a Nigerian born taxi-driver was killed on the streets of Dublin. “I’m foreign office. I should not comment,” Dr Alabi told the Irish Examiner. “My family and I have personally experienced the stark reality of racism, with people repeatedly phoning our house and calling us niggers. “We just need to do more in the area of political leadership. The silence is too much.”

Journalist Chinedu Onyejelem, the editor of the Metro Éireann newspaper aimed at the immigrant community, also addressed the conference. He said: “There is a widespread regime of verbal, physical and psychological attacks on immigrants and black Africans in particular. “The Irish Government has to live up to its responsibility to protect all residents and to introduce strong measures to end racism in Ireland.” A statement from the group who organized the press conference said: “Immigrants in Ireland are under siege - there is evidence of widespread attacks against them. “We now have a regime of verbal, physical and psychological attacks on immigrants and Black Africans in particular. “There is evidence of the growing boldness of bigots. We have called this meeting to discuss the racism that has been felt by immigrants, non-native Irish and black Irish folk as a result of unprecedented levels of racist attitudes, attacks, and a lack of leadership by the government and the institutions of the state.”

The group, which included community leaders Eric Yao of the Africa Centre, Salome Mbunge of Akidwa, a network of African and migrant women living in Ireland, and Clement Esebamen of the Ireland West Africa Business and Economic Council, called on the government to act to end racism in Ireland. “We demand the Irish government live up to its responsibility to protect all residents in the Republic of Ireland and to take strong measures to end racism,” the statement added. Akidwa leader Mbunge said later: “Racism needs to be taken seriously from the top level. I call on people to speak out against racism.” The conference also heard that a recent Gallup survey found that 73 percent of black Africans in Ireland believed that discrimination based on ethnicity or immigration is "widespread" in Ireland.
© Irish Central

up  

FIFA'S SEPP BLATTER IS OUT OF TOUCH ON RACISM

His comments denying that racism exists, despite an almost immediate apology, have players and officials incensed.
By Kevin Baxter

26/11/2011- It was one of the most memorable moments from the FIFA World Cup last year: Before the semifinal matches, players from both teams stood alongside a huge banner that read "Say No to Racism" as their captains read statements condemning prejudice to a television audience numbering in the tens of millions. That it took place in South Africa, a country whose recent history bears testimony to the pain and futility of racism, made the scene all the more moving. Too bad FIFA President Sepp Blatter didn't get the message. Because if he had fully believed the context and importance of the anti-discrimination campaign FIFA launched a decade ago, Blatter never would have made the comments he did this month. Asked by CNN World Sport about racism in international soccer, Blatter said: "I would deny it. There is no racism. There is maybe one of the players towards another, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one. … "He should say that this is a game. We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination."

Huh?

During his more than three decades as a FIFA executive, Blatter has earned a well-deserved reputation for spouting half-baked personal opinions before fully considering their impact. (He once suggested female players should "wear tighter shorts and low-cut shirts … to create a more female aesthetic." And his comments on homosexuality have gone well beyond simple ignorance.) The reaction to Blatter's latest blathering was predictably swift — and incredulous. Former English captain Rio Ferdinand wrote on Twitter that he felt duped by FIFA. "I feel stupid for thinking that football was taking a leading role against racism ... it seems it was just on mute for a while," wrote Ferdinand, whose brother Anton was the target of alleged racist comments made by current national team captain John Terry. Terry plays for Chelsea, Anton Ferdinand for Queens Park Rangers, whose manager, Neil Warnock, called for black players around the world to boycott their next international match to protest Blatter's remarks.

Prime Minister David Cameron called the comments "appalling," adding that "now is not the time for complacency" in the battle against racism. Others went further, demanding the FIFA president resign. Resignation may be a bit tough, but Warnock and Ferdinand are right. How sincere can Blatter's stand against racism be when he clearly doesn't understand the topic? Racism cannot be erased with a handshake or eradicated by campaigns and platitudes alone. Officials of U.S. Soccer declined to take questions on the matter but issued a statement calling the comments "inappropriate," adding that "FIFA has long demonstrated a commitment to limiting racism and we fully support their efforts." And, as U.S. Soccer noted, moments after Blatter realized his comments had sparked international outrage he offered a series of apologies.

Well, sort of.

In a statement issued by FIFA, Blatter said he was misunderstood and that he knows "racism unfortunately continues to exist in football and I have never denied this." Never mind the fact that, about an hour earlier in a taped interview, he had clearly denied racism in soccer. Later the FIFA chief said he "deeply regretted" using "unfortunate words" but didn't correct his view that racial insults could be forgotten with a handshake. If anything, his apology showed just how out of touch Blatter is since he admitted he "couldn't envisage such a reaction" to his comments. But then Blatter's controversial and dictatorial 12-year reign as the chief executive of the world's most popular sport — the 75-year-old was Swiss was re-elected to another four-year team in June — has been dogged by spectacularly misguided decisions and repeated charges of corruption, financial mismanagement and back-room deal-making.

Most recently former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar was accused of trying to bribe Caribbean officials to vote for him in his presidential run against Blatter last summer. As part of the same scandal Jack Warner, a member of parliament in Trinidad and Tobago and a longtime soccer official, was forced to resign as FIFA vice-president and as president of the North American, Central American and Caribbean region, or CONCACAF. That Blatter has done much good for international soccer is indisputable. Taking the World Cup to once-isolated South Africa, for example, was a noble gesture. But his time as president has also been marked by a lack of transparency and malfeasance — both real and imagined. So this isn't the first time Blatter's leadership has been questioned. What may be different, though, is this time Blatter appears to have few defenders and few excuses. What he does have is a lot of angry players.

"I have no power with who goes and who stays in FIFA. But there obviously is and has been racism throughout soccer. And life," said David Beckham, another former English captain. "And it can't just be swept under the carpet. And it can't be just sorted out with a handshake. "That's not the way of the world and it's not how racism should be treated. It's out there and we need to work hard to keep it out of the game and keep it out of life in general." Perhaps enough has finally become enough. That the players themselves have reacted so forcefully and swiftly to Blatter's latest blunder suggests that while the president himself may not have understood the point of FIFA's "Say No to Racism" campaign, others have gotten the message.

No means no.
© The Los Angeles Times

up  

BULGARIAN RENEGADE NATIONALIST MP LEFT OVER DISAPPOINTMENT

26/11/2011- Kalina Krumova, who became Friday the latest Member of the Parliament, to leave the ranks of the far-right, nationalist Ataka party, explains her move with professional motives. Speaking for the TV channel bTV Saturday, Krumova said there was nothing personal in her decision; she had thought for a while now about it, and the latest developments around party leader, Volen Siderov, simply accelerated it. The MP, who is now independent, promised to not get involved in revealing any more dirt about the nationalists. She explained she had disagreements with Siderov even before the October local and presidential elections related to Ataka's election campaign. According to Krumova, she had received more support in her parliamentary work from other parties than from her colleagues from Ataka. The MP gave as example the surrogate mothers' bill, saying she was left absolutely alone to work on it. She also informed that she did not sign the nationalists' request to recall election results from the October 23 and 30 vote, where Siderov ran for president and suffered a crucial defeat. "It is only normal to leave when one does not see any understanding," Krumova concluded.
© Novinite

up  

13 MPS PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO EMBATTLED BULGARIAN NATIONALIST PARTY (Bulgaria)

26/11/2011- 13 of the total of 15 MPs of nationalist party Ataka MPs, Volen Siderov included, have pledged unwavering allegiance to the formation in a Friday media statement. "Dear journalists, we would like to spare you the efforts you are wasting on searching proof of a rift in the parliamentary group. We declare that we have no intention to leave the group or the party," the letter reads. Ataka's statement has not been backed by two of its MPs- Borislav Stoyanov and Kalina Krumova. According to information from the nationalist party's press office, Stoyanov and Krumova do not agree with their colleagues' stance. At the beginning of the week, the two denied allegations that they were leaving the ranks of the political formation.

Ataka was gripped by a scandal after its leader Volen Siderov was asked to step down by MEP Dimitar Stoyanov. Stoyanov, who happens to be Siderov's stepson, explained his demand with the crushing defeat Ataka suffered at the end-October elections. Stoyanov was subsequently removed from the party on the grounds of "tarnishing" and "undermining" Ataka's image with his media statements. On November 06, Tsveta Georgieva left the parliamentary group of Ataka. Prior to Georgieva, the nationalist entity parted ways with Kamen Petkov, Valentin Nikolov, Kiril Gumnerov, Ognyan Peycev and Stoyan Ivanov. Georgieva explained her decision with the inconsistency demonstrated by Ataka, which had backed last year's budget, but had decided to oppose this year's.

Georgieva, the sixth MP to split from Ataka, left the party with a total of 15 MPs in Parliament. Under parliamentary rules of procedure, if Ataka's MPs drop below 10, the group falls apart. (Update, 17:00) On Friday afternoon, Kalina Krumova announced her decision to quit Ataka, thereby reducing its parliamentary headcount to a total of 14. Borislav Stoyanov assured that he was not planning to withdraw from Ataka but nevertheless continued to insist that Siderov step down as leader According to news portal dnevnik.bg, Siderov may resort to pre-emptive action and expel Stoyanov.
© Novinite

up  

BITS FROM THE NETHERLANDS.

Minister: Universities, colleges should avoid teaching in English; PVV lawmaker likens Green MPs to followers of Pol Pot; Gay rights movement has won the political battle, now for the rest; Most refusnik registrars will fight sacking in court; Dutch border camera plan angers Germany

MINISTER: UNIVERSITIES, COLLEGES SHOULD AVOID TEACHING IN ENGLISH
2/12/2011= English should only be used in Dutch university and college lecture theatres if it is necessary, junior education minister Halbe Zijlstra said in parliament on Thursday. During a debate on the education ministry's budget for next year, Zijlstra was asked by Christian Democrat MP Jack Biskop what he thought about the shift towards English. Many lecturers are not up to the job but English is growing in popularity because it is 'chic' and because of globalisation, Biskop is quoted as saying by the Telegraaf. Zijlstra told MPs 'if the subject requires teaching in English, it is logical to do so.' However, if English is not necessary it is not beneficial to 'pour an English sauce' over a lesson, he said. Three years ago, magazine HP/De Tijd reported that the English language skills of lecturers and students at Dutch universities are often not up to standard. In 2008, up to 70% of master's degrees were taught in English. Since then, several universities have taken steps to improve the level of English spoken by professors. It is up to individual universities to monitor the quality of English-language education and no formal action can be taken against lecturers who do not make the grade.

PVV LAWMAKER LIKENS GREEN MPS TO FOLLOWERS OF POL POT
2/12/2011- Harm Beertema, an MP for the anti-Islam PVV, has likened the left-wing green party GroenLinks to supporters of Pol Pot, leader of the Khymer Rouge, which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 and is held to be responsible for over two million deaths. Beertema and GroenLinks MP Jesse Klaver clashed in parliament on Thursday over Beertema’s announcement earlier this week that he is drawing up a motion to force pupils to address their teachers using the formal U form, rather than the familiar je. That idea was heavily criticised by MPs who said PVV parliamentarians should first improve the way they address their colleagues in parliament.

GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT HAS WON THE POLITICAL BATTLE, NOW FOR THE REST
1/12/2011- The political battle for gay rights has been won, according to Henk Krol, editor of gay newspaper Gay Krant in free paper Spits on Thursday. ‘We have fought for equal rights before the law and won them,’ the paper quoted Krol as saying. 'We can get married. The days of storming parliament are far behind us.' However, this does not mean the gay rights movement can be broken up, Krol said. ‘The emphasis is no longer on equal rights… The movement must focus on social questions such as anti-gay violence and raising the acceptance of homosexuality within certain circles.' Several months ago, the Gay Krant set up a hotline for gay people to report incidents of violence and bullying. So far, 200 cases have been reported. According to research by the government's socio-cultural planning office last year, just 9% of the Dutch population still have 'serious objections' to homosexuality, down from 15% in 2006. Anti-gay sentiment is particularly prevalent in fundamentalist religious groups. Nevertheless, one in five people don't think gay people should be allowed to adopt children and one in 10 thinks same sex marriage should be abolished. Some 40% of the population feel uncomfortable if they see two men kiss in the street.

MOST REFUSNIK REGISTRARS WILL FIGHT SACKING IN COURT
1/12/2011- Almost two thirds of the country’s refusenik registrars – civil servants who refuse to carry out same sex marriages – will fight their eventual sacking in court, according to research for television programme De Vijfde Dag, due to be broadcast on Thursday night. Broadcaster EO questioned 69 of the estimated 100 refuseniks identified by gay rights lobby group COC. Of them, 97% said they would rather be sacked than oversee a same sex wedding. MPs want the government to remove a clause allowing civil servants to opt out of gay weddings if they have religious objections. Civil servants who still refuse would then be sacked. The cabinet, which wants to keep the opt-out, has asked the Council of State for its recommendations. The survey showed the average refusenik is a man aged 50 plus from a small local authority area. The earlier COC research said most are fundamentalist Christians.

DUTCH BORDER CAMERA PLAN ANGERS GERMANY 
1/12/2011- Germany is angry at plans by the Netherlands to hang cameras at border crossings, which will record the number plates of cars crossing into the country, Nos television reports. Germany says the plan conflicts with European free movement principles and has made a formal complaint to the European Commission. The cameras are currently being tested at several locations but the Netherlands plans to formally install them at 15 border crossings in January. According to Nos television, the camera system alerts the border police to vehicles it would be worth controlling. This could be a car listed as stolen or a type of van often used in people smuggling, Nos says.
© The Dutch News

up  

CZECH OMBUDSMAN TO STUDY DISCRIMINATION IN THE "PRACTICAL SCHOOLS"

1/12/2011- The Czech Public Defender of Rights, Pavel Varvařovský (the ombudsman) will be investigating whether children of various ethnicities are receiving equal treatment in elementary education in the Czech Republic. Speaking to journalists today, the ombudsman said the research will focus on more than 50 elementary-level "practical schools" throughout the country. The findings of the research, which began this week, will be published by his office next May. The Czech Republic is frequently criticized from abroad over discrimination in access to education. In 2007, the European Court of Human Rights found that Romani children had been disproportionately enrolled into what were once called the "special schools" (today the "elementary practical schools"). Human rights activists say that as many as 30 % of all Romani children in the Czech Republic are still being enrolled in such schools, often only because of their poor social backgrounds.

"Four years after the judgment, we want to verify whether the situation has changed. We want to determine what percentage of Romani children are being educated at schools designed for intellectually disabled persons," said Michal Čermák of the ombudsman's office, who said there is still a lack of research that is extensive enough to provide the relevant data. "Some claim that in our - I will use the older term - 'special schools', the percentage of Romani children is so high that it cannot actually correspond to the criteria according to which children are meant to be enrolled in such a school, which is mental disability. That is why we are studying this," said Varvařovský.

The ombudsman said his office randomly selected 52 schools in which to conduct the research out of a total number of 170. A certain number of schools per each region are represented in the sample. In Southern Moravia, for example, the research will be conducted in four schools. Varvařovský said his office has already encountered a certain amount of commotion around the planned research. The problem is said to be that the research will be based on ethnic data. The ombudsman said no one need be concerned that this data might be abused, as it will be complete anonymous. Researchers from the ombudsman's office will visit classes in the selected schools and evaluate how many Romani pupils there are. "The second pillar of the research will be questionnaires completed by the teachers regarding how many Romani children they believe they have in their class," Čermák said. "No one's name will be linked with any of the numbers," he added. According to ministerial decrees, as of this September the "practical schools" are no longer permitted to enrol children without a diagnosis of light mental disability.

Representatives of the nonprofit associations in the Together to School coalition (Společně do školy) have repeatedly criticized the situation of Romani pupils in the Czech schools, most recently in November. In their view, Romani children remain discriminated against and are still being unnecessarily sent to the "practical schools".
© Romea

up  

CZECH SUPREME COURT: NAZI SALUTE NOT ILLEGAL WHEN EVERYONE DOES IT

1/12/2011- A man who gave the Nazi salute at a costume party organized by the ultra-right National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO) has been acquitted. The Czech Supreme Court has rejected an appeal filed by Supreme State Prosecutor Pavel Zeman, who has now failed to have first and second-instance acquittals handed down by courts in Prague overturned. The courts have ruled that the giving of the Nazi salute in this case was not an example of the public commission of this crime because it was committed at a closed event where everyone else present was also engaging in the same behavior. The event at issue occurred last year just before Christmas. The NO organized a Christmas costume party at a bar in Prague, to which one guest came dressed as Adolf Hitler. When the other guests saw him, they started greeting him with the Nazi salute and shouting the Nazi greeting "Sieg Heil". An expert witness later evaluated video footage of the event. Most of the 15 people giving the salute could not be identified.

The prosecution originally claimed the man had publicly committed the crime of supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. According to the Czech Penal Code, this crime is considered to have been committed "publicly" only if more than two persons are present whose views differ from the perpetrator's. According to the Czech Supreme Court, that condition was not met in this case because, according to the evidence available, everyone present was also giving the Nazi salute. There was no one present at the scene of the crime who could have been influenced or shocked by the behavior. "The perpetrator has not committed the crime of such behavior publicly if he has committed it in front of persons who are committing the same behavior together with him, i.e., de facto in front of accomplices," reads the verdict handed down by a panel of judges chaired by Justice Michal Mikláš. The verdict was issued at the end of this summer without oral arguments and has only now become accessible in the database.

In his appeal, the Supreme State Prosecutor asserted it had been the defendant's clear intention to communicate his positive attitude toward the neo-Nazi movement in front of the other people attending the event. The prosecution believes it was irrelevant whether those present also sympathized with the neo-Nazi movement or not. The crime allegedly presented a sufficient level of danger to society to warrant prosecution. The defendant's response to the appeal argued that the Supreme State Prosecutor wanted to criminalize mere attendance at the event, adding that in that particular situation everyone attending was an accomplice, which meant no one was committing the crime publicly. The giving of the salute was said to have been spontaneous and to have lasted about seven seconds. The defendant was said to have spoken only part of the "Sieg Heil" greeting and was, moreover, completely obviously under the influence of alcohol. The defendant also pointed out that he has a clean criminal record. With hindsight he called his behavior inappropriate. He also claimed that he strictly condemns the Nazi movement and does not identify with its ideals at all. While the Supreme Court verdict did not reveal the defendant's name, it is clear from the titles listed that he is a lawyer by education.
© Romea

up  

FIVE CZECHS CHARGED WITH PROPAGATING NAZISM VIA FACEBOOK

The five you Czech men now on trial in Kroměříž are also charged with inciting racial hatred through the internet

1/12/2011- The trial of five young men accused of propagating Nazism and inciting racial hatred by posting videos containing Nazi symbols and music clips with neo-Nazi content on their Facebook pages has begun in the Moravian town of Kroměříž. If found guilty the accused could face from three to ten years in prison. All of the accused have pleaded not guilty. The accused are Tomáš Čermák (age 26), Antonín Pohanka (28) Jan Chudárek (20), Tomáš Pospíšilík (20) and Antonín Cápek (19), all from the Kroměříž district. They allegedly committed the crime of propagating Nazism from February through November of last year. According to the state prosecutor, Robert Hanuš, the videos published by the five accused include music with lyrics which incite hatred against people of “non-Arian” ethnicity. The computers of all of the five accused were confiscated by police. Pohanka and Pospíšilík also face breach of copyright for using counterfeit software.

The five deny the charges, claiming they did not understand the texts of the foreign groups whose videos they posted, and in the case of the extreme right-wing Czech and Slovak music clips they say they liked the music and did not pay attention to the lyrics. “I like hard rock music. I found it on You Tube and it seemed interesting to me,” Čermák told the court, while Pospíšilík said that as far as he understood, the bands “only sung about having fun and against the police,” the news server lidovky.cz cited the accused as telling the court. However, all of the accused have admitted that they took part in extreme right-wing demonstrations and gatherings. Police found 60 stickers of two ultra-nationalist organizations at Pohanka’s home.

The next hearings in the trial are scheduled for February 2, 2012. “The videos published and photographs shared on Facebook will be shown to the court. I consider it necessary to provide translations of the foreign texts because nobody here knows the exact content, and print the texts of the Slovak and Czech bands which are available on the internet,” said the Kroměříž district court head, Karel Rašín. Assessments by experts on political extremism of the symbols published by the accused are due to be submitted to the court in time for the next hearing.
© Czech Position

up  

CZECH FAR-RIGHT FOLLOWERS ATTACK U.S. SINGER GRAVES (Czech Rep.)

Followers of the ultra-right Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS) physically and verbally attacked U.S. singer Tonya Graves who lives in the Czech Republic in a restaurant in Vimperk, south Bohemia, on Saturday, Graves told CTK today.

28/11/2011- DSSS chairman Tomas Vandas dismissed the accusation and wrote in a statement that it is "part of a campaign aimed to disredit" the party. He wrote that the matter should be immediately investigated. If any criminal act was committed, it should be duly punished, Vandas added. Afro-american Graves said she been exposed to racist insults by the DSSS activists who staged a rally in Vimperk on the day. She is a singer for the Czech band Monkey Bussines that performed at a disco on that day. "In the restaurant, I met some people from the DSSS," Graves said. "I was alone and it was an unpleasant encounter. They resented my being there," she added. "They started shouting racist slogans at me, drawing my hair and spitting at me," said Graves, who has been living in the Czech Republic since 1995. She said there had been two police officers in the restaurant, but they were off-duty and did not help her. Graves said she had only been helped by some restaurant guests and a waiter. "The police who only came to the scene when everything was over said they could not do anything because the assailants were not locals," she added.

Roughly 300 people attended the DSSS rally at the Vimperk square. Speakers headed by party leader Tomas Vandas warned of problems with the "unadaptable" (Romanies) and the worsening security situation in the town. Disco operator Tomas Koska said one of the DSSS followers verbally attacked the singer in the restaurant. Koska said there had not been any physical attack. "Some locals tried to defend me. There were two police in the neighbouring room, but they were off-duty and did not help me," Graves said. "Some of the locals and boys from the band called in the police. I was mainly helped by the old people from a table for regulars and a waiter," she added. "The assailants then put up a fight among themselves and chairs were flying through the air," Graves said. Graves, 41, said she had come across such an incident for the first time in the Czech Republic. She said she was O.K. and considered the affair closed. Along with singing for Monkey Business, Graves has featured in some Czech films, including Jiri Menzel's I Served the King of England from 2006. The DSSS is a successor to the Workers' Party (DS) that was outlawed over racism, xenophobia and chauvinism in February 2010.
© CTK

up  

CZECH FAR-RIGHT PARTY´S RALLY WITHOUT INCIDENT, ATTENDED BY 300

About 300 people attended a rally that the far-right Workers´ Party of Social Justice (DSSS) held in Vimperk today in order to criticise alleged problems with unadaptable people and positive discrimination against Romanies.

26/11/2011- The speakers, including DSSS chairman Tomas Vandas, also pointed to the deteriorating security situation in Vimperk, a town with 8,000 inhabitants, situated in the Sumava mountains. The police previously said the crime rate in Vimperk is among the lowest in the south Bohemian region. No incident accompanied the extra-parliamentary DSSS´s meeting today. The police banned the meeting on Monday over an anti-Romany discussion on Facebook headlined Movement for Vimperk without unadaptable Romanies. The regional court, however, cancelled the ban based on the DSSS´s lawsuit. The party argued that an anonymous Internet debate cannot be a reason for a party meeting to be banned. Vimperk Mayor Bohumil Petrasek said up to 150 Romanies live in the town, but only four claimed their Romany ethnicity in the latest census. Of the Romany inhabitants, a seven-strong group is problematic, he admitted. Earlier this year, tension between the majority population and Romanies escalated in north Bohemia after repeated attacks of Romanies on local residents. A series of anti-Romany demonstrations was held mainly in towns of the Sluknov area where people blame the recent crime rise on Romanies.
© CTK

up  

BEYOND UTOYA AND ZWICKAU: TOWARD A EUROPEAN RESPONSE TO EXTREME RIGHT TERROR (opinion)

by Cas Mudde*

27/11/2011- After the horrific terrorist attack in Norway this summer Europe is shocked again by the uncovering of the mysterious National Socialist Underground (NSU), a group of two men and one woman allegedly responsible for at least 10 murders and 14 bank robberies. Probably most shocking of all, the group operated in Germany, a country particularly vigilant toward the extreme right. While various media have responded with predictable sensationalist coverage -- the new issue of Der Spiegel speaks of a “Braune Armee Faktion” (Brown Army Faction) -- and left-wing politicians are expressing their long-standing conspiracy theories of an extreme right (infiltrated) security apparatus, it is critical to stay cool and collected in the coming months and get to the core of this bizarre situation, before important new responses to the “brown danger” are implemented. Let one thing be absolutely clear: Both dramas should be wake-up calls to those who see terrorist threats as coming exclusively from so-called Jihadists or the extreme left. While there are no solid indications that there are organized extreme right terrorist groups in Europe, individual and now a small group of extreme right terrorists have occasionally caused havoc in various European countries -- mostly lone wolves, like the Austrian letter bomber to the Soho bomber -- but also more or less organized groups within skinhead and neo-Nazi circles from Germany to Sweden. In addition, significant violence comes from loose extreme right subcultures ranging from the English Defense League (EDL) to various groups in Russia.

Although many European countries are very aware of the potential of terrorism and violence “on the extreme right,” some states seem indeed “blind in the right eye” or have become so obsessed with the “Islamic threat” that other sections of their intelligence services have become understaffed. That said, in many cases the problem is practical rather than legal; throughout Europe, and particularly the European Union, anti-discrimination and (since 9/11) anti-terrorism legislation provides states with (more than) enough powers to effectively fight threats from all parts of the political (and religious) spectrum, including the extreme right. If anything, the problem is resources (disproportionally devoted to Islamism and economic espionage). But simply creating a “Terror Center of the Right,” as has already been suggested, might not be the best first step. As is becoming increasingly clear, the secret service was fully aware of the existence of the NSU, at least its three members and the larger extreme right structure (such as the Thuringia Home Protection) they operated within. The problem was: Who was watching whom? As in the embarrassing case against the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) several years ago, the boundaries between the extreme right and the security service were blurred. This doesn’t mean that the secret service was infiltrated by the extreme right as some conspiracy theories claim, but that extreme right informers were playing them. This is nothing unique to investigations into the extreme right; there is an abundance of examples of investigations of ordinary crimes as well, but it does call for a fundamental review of the current operations before they are substantially expanded through a new Terror Cell of the Right.

Another notorious problem of intelligence services is their secretive and secluded nature, which is understandable but nevertheless problematic. While the German Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution is quite open in comparison to similar services in other EU member states, they could have profited from insights from both academic and intelligence experts from other countries. As there are (fortunately) still so few cases of deadly extreme right terror, it is difficult for national intelligence services to learn from past mistakes and develop best practices. What has happened in Germany and Norway could happen in any European country. This is not to say it will or has to but that it could, and countries that so far have not been confronted with a significant extreme right threat would do well to consult with experts in less fortunate countries (like Austria, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom). No country is immune to terrorism and no state can guarantee the absence of political violence. No matter how repressive and restrictive the legislation! But that should be no excuse to wait for the extreme right to attack or to focus exclusively on those groups that have attacked in the past. Even if extreme right terrorism today is not of the same threat level as that by Jihadists and perhaps the extreme left (even if that seems increasingly difficult to argue), it deserves a concerted effort from European states to keep its threat minimal. This effort should find the right balance of freedom and security, based on cool and collected analysis and international collaboration.

*Cas Mudde is the Hampton and Esther Boswell Distinguished Professor of Political Science at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana (US), and the author of “Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe” (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
© Todays Zaman

up  

RSS feed
Suggestions and comments please to info@icare.to