NEWS - Archive October 2014

Headlines 31 October, 2014

UK & FRANCE NEWS week 43

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Headlines 31 October, 2014

Netherlands: Zwarte Piet to remain black in most towns and villages: survey

31/10/2014- Only six out of 211 local councils asked about their Sinterklaas parade plans this year say they plan to make changes to the appearance of Zwarte Piet, Nos television reports on Friday. The Zwarte Piet character, Sinterklaas’ sidekick played by white people in blackface make-up, is under fire from anti-racism campaigners. They say Zwarte Piet is a racist stereotype and needs to ditch the make-up. But while in some places the red lips and gold earrings have been dropped, the blackface make-up remains unchanged in most areas, the Nos survey found.

In Amsterdam, however, the traditional parade will include Piets with sooty smudges on their faces instead, reflecting Piet's trips down chimneys. In Gouda, Sinterklaas will be accompanied by cheese Piets and in Haarlem there will be flower Piets. Most places told Nos they are not making changes because there is no debate about the nature of Zwarte Piet in their areas. Others said they were waiting for the outcome of a court case or the storyline in the Sinterklaasjournal, the annual television series for young children ahead of the December 5 festivities.
© The Dutch News


2/3 of Dutch Mosques Attacked: Research

30/10/2014- Reflecting a worrying anti-Muslim trend in the Netherlands, a recent research on anti-Muslim violence in the European country has found that approximately 69% of mosques have experienced at least one attack or more during the last ten years. “I cannot predict a significant growth or decline of attacks against mosques for the near future,” researcher Ineke van der Valk, the author of the book ‘Islamophobia and Discrimination’, told “Many of these attacks appear to be a response to national or international events (like terrorist attacks) and obviously those cannot be predicted by me.” Focusing on the amount and characteristics of attacks on mosques, the Muslims’ houses of worship, the research closely monitor trends and development in relation to multiculturalism and Islamophobia for many years.

According to the research, the Netherlands has approximately 450-475 buildings that are in use as a mosque. It lists information of over 70 mosques in the country, indicating that approximately 69% of those mosques had experienced at least one attack or more during the last ten years. The most common attacks were smashed windows, followed by slurs or anti-Islamic comments sprayed with graffiti and arson. Other types of attacks include aggression against mosque personnel, amounting to death threats to Muslims in general or to a specific Mosque by email or phone. For example, a Rotterdam-based mosque received various letters with content like ‘Death to all Muslims’ and ‘Muslims are vomited pig-hallal’ [SIC]. Other mosques received envelopes containing pornographic content or messages that contain blasphe-my.

Other anti-mosque attacks included putting head or different other body parts or blood of either pigs or sheep at the buildings or on the terrain surrounding it. Relea-sed in 2012, Van der Valk’s book, Islamophobia and Discrimination, has since been translated to English, French, German and Italian. Muslims make up one million of the Netherlands’s 16 million population, mostly from Turkish and Moroccan origin.

New Attacks
Concerns about growing anti-Muslim attacks increased after the latest arson attack, which occurred a few days ago. On the evening of Sunday, October 26, a bag with rubbish was placed outside a mosque in the Dutch city Etten-Leur and set on fire but hasn’t significantly damaged the mosque that has been vandalized before. “I was not surprised by the news of this latest arson attack. Although we don’t know for sure what the motive was, in the light of the current international developments we can unfortunately expect to see these type of incidents,” researcher van der Valk told “Experiences with international terrorism abusing the Islamic religion are generalized to all Muslims. This is how racism operates.” However, many Muslims blamed biased media coverage and Islamophobic politicians for inciting such attacks.

A recent example is the political response from Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party to a statue of two woman wearing hijab and carrying an iPad. The statue is called ‘girl-friends’ and is part of a total number of forty statues in The Hague, showing the city’s residents. According to one member of the city counsel for the Freedom Party, the statue was a work of “shameless Islam propaganda” and proof of the “advancing Islamization of The Hague”. To make sure his stance was clear, he also referred to the statue as a “terrible object of subjugation and oppression” and an “Islamic monstrosity”. The sculptor, who made the statue, Tony van de Vorst, is a non-Muslim who stated he only aimed to show the multiculturalism within his city.

In one of the many previous anti-Islamic slur, the Freedom Party has also tried to blame Muslims for the growing population of seagulls in the city, claiming this was a result of “the rules imposed by Islam” because Muslims feed their old bread to the birds instead of throwing it away. This caused “suffering” to “native” (i.e. non-Muslim) people living in the city, according to the politician. With increasing number of attacks, in which only one third of perpetrators is caught by the police, the government was urged to take these threats more seriously. “The government recently seems to take these types of attacks more seriously,” says Ineke van der Valk, “thanks to both research and the lobby to put them on the agenda of politicians.” “Until recently these aggressive incidents were not recognized as serious problems and not much was done to prevent them from happening at all.”
© On Islam


Belgian Muslims Decry Islamophobia

29/10/2013- Living for decades in Belgium, a growing number of Muslim women have been complaining about being excluded from the society because of their veil, blaming recent anti-niqab law for adding to their turmoil. “I’m looking for a job … and here in Belgium there is a new law we cannot work with our veil,” Hind, a 31-year-old Moroccan woman living in Brussels, told Anadolu Agency. “We have to take it off to work,” Hind, who did not want to reveal her last name, added. Women in Belgium risk a maximum fine of 150 euros if they wear a full face veil in public. Belgium and France both banned the wearing of full veils in public last year. Belgium banned the wearing of face-veil in public places in 2011. In 2012, the Belgian Constitutional Court rejected appeals and ruled that the niqab, or face-veil, ban did not violate human rights. As a result on the new law, if any woman failed to comply with the law, she will be punished with a penalty of 137.50 euros ($195) and up to seven days behind bars in jail as a punishment.

For many Muslim women, the restrictions on niqab and even hijab resulted in excluding them from the Belgian society. “When you graduate from any studies and you want any job, they ask you to not wear it,” Esma, a 31-year-old Moroccan doctor who wears a traditional hijab, said. “It’s not allowed in many activities to wear the headscarf,” she said. Belgian Muslims are estimated at 450,000 – out of a 10-million-population – about half of them are from Moroccan origin, while 120,000 are from Turkish origin. Yet, a very small portion estimated to 200 to 300 of the country’s hundreds of thousands of Muslims wear the face veil in public. While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil. Scholars believe it is up to women to decide whether to take on the niqab or burqa, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women.

The recent Muslim concerns were expressed during a Sunday rally protesting the mysterious death of a Muslim in his prison cell. Youssef Tahriki, a 42-year-old father of eight was arrested Sept. 14 after an alleged family argument. He was found dead in his cell the next day. Police have not revealed the details of his death, which is being investigated by the Charlevoix district attorney in Belgium. Tahriki’s death highlights rising tensions in a country in which Muslims say they feel stereotyped and discriminated against. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation, 614 racist and xenophobic crimes were recorded by law enforcement in the first six months of 2012. Sixty-six people were sentenced to prison for such crimes. Moreover, the recent atrocities committed by the so-called Islamic State (ISIL) have put Muslims under pressure of biased stigmatization of the whole Muslim community.

Elodie, a French-speaking Belgian who attended Sunday’s protest, said the Western media needs to change the way it portrays Muslims in the news and “try to under-stand that being a Muslim is not a problem for anybody.” Esma agreed, noting that those who leave the country to fight took such decision for feeling not accepted in the society they live in. Western media need to be more objective and talk to more people, Esma said. “They have to give the voice to the voiceless,” she said.
© On Islam


Canada: Islamaphobia social experiment leaves actor bloodied by man defending Muslim

A social experiment that ended with an actor posing as an Islamophobe getting punched in the face has shown that Canadians are prepared to defend Muslims in the face of overt racist abuse in the wake of a recent terror attack.

29/10/2014- In an attempt to test whether Canadians feel safe in the presence of Muslims following the fatal shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo by an Islamic extremist last week, director Omar Al-Bach conducted the experiment in Cirillo's home town of Hamilton to see how many people would defend a supposed Muslim from verbal abuse. At the start of the video, Al-Bach introduces two actors, "Devin" as an outspoken racist and "Zack" dressed in a traditional Islamic kaftan with a white cap. The video shows members of the public standing up for the victim – with one even prepared to punch the racist in the face after Devin accuses Zack of being a potential terrorist because of the way he looks.

Since it was uploaded 24 hours ago, the video has garnered nearly 300,000 views and the filmmakers went on Canadian channel Global TV yesterday to talk about their social experiment. The film begins with the two actors standing outside a bus stop. "Are you planning on taking a bus? I suggest you take another ride," Devin tells one bystander in the video. The man instantly defends Zack, telling Devin: "You can't stereotype and judge people by their clothes. Or their nationalities or anything else. "What happened there [in Ottawa] was an incident of fanatics. Everybody cannot be punished like that," he adds before becoming so concerned for Zack's safety that he pretends to be his friend.

"I'm sorry, but this is a friend of mine. I'm with him too," he says, adding "true Muslims do not believe in that sh*t, it's fanatics, it's crazy people."  "But he could be armed with explosives," argues Devin, to which the man exclaims "so could I!" And when Devin tries to escort Zack away from the bus stop, the travellers ask him to leave instead and warn they will call the police. In another scene, a woman hits back at Devin and argues while Corporal Cirillo's death was tragic "I don't think that's any reason to persecute someone just because of what they're wearing." When Devin accuses Zack of "looking like a terrorist," the woman shouts "f*** you man, what the hell?! Why would you call him a terrorist just because he's dressed like that?"

The film culminates in Devin receiving a swift punch to the face after telling Zack to move away from a nearby building as he "believed" he had explosives strapped to him. Another man who was defending Zack against Devin's inflammatory comments says: "Get the **** out of here bud. You're going to get ****** up." The actor then shouts "it's a social experiment!" to ward of his attackers. Devin addresses the camera at the end, with blood running down his face from his nose, to say that he "appreciates" that various members of the public stood up for Zack even though he got assaulted in the process. Al-Bach ends the film with a tribute to 24-year-old Cirillo. The funeral procession for the soldier was held yesterday with 4,500 people led by his five-year-old son Marco.
© The Independent


Spain: 'Swindler' Gypsies slam Spain's new dictionary

Roma rights groups are to protest against the decision by Spain's Royal Language Academy (RAE) to include a definition of a 'gypsy' as a 'swindler' in their new official dictionary.

29/10/2014- Spain's Association of Roma Feminists for DIversity (AGFD) are planning a demonstration in Madrid on November 7th after learning of the new definition, included in the 23rd edition of the RAE's massive new dictionary of the Spanish language. The previous edition was criticized by the Romani Union in 2012 for defining the word 'gitano' (gypsy), also the name for Spain's Roma community, as 'someone who scams or works through deceit'. As a result of the complaints, the RAE agreed to amend the definition but Roma community groups were outraged when they read the updated version. The offending definition had been removed but a new, 5th definition now described 'gitano' as meaning 'trapacero' (swindler). RAE's dictionary in turn defines 'trapecero' as 'From "swindle": deceptive and unlawful artifice used to harm or defraud someone in a purchase, sale or exchange.'

According to Spanish daily ABC, the AGFD described the use of the word 'gypsy' in that way as "obsolete" and added that it would fuel "a series of prejudices and stereotypes that already exist about our people". They claimed that the inclusion of the definition led them to believe that the RAE's directors "like it, given that they have agreed to legitimize it even though only in a linguistic sense". The association said that the definition's inclusion would help with the "manipulation, segregation and marginalization of an entire people and their culture." Spain's Gypsy Secretariat Foundation (FSG) published the 2012 and 2014 definitions on its website in an article lambasting the RAE's decision. "It must be noted that the gypsy community, both in Spain and across the EU, is one of the least valued social groups and one of those most burdened by old, negative stereotypes and prejudices, with serious discriminatory consequences in daily life," it wrote.

"We at FSG believe that it does not help to depict the Roma people and culture in such a negative sense in an educational reference publication as popular as the RAE dictionary," it added. The academy declined to comment on the issue to news agency AFP, but cited the introduction to its dictionary, which says it takes care to avoid "gratuitously slanted or offensive" definitions. It says it seeks definitions that reflect genuine "linguistic usage" and insists that language "reflects beliefs and perceptions that remain present in society". The new Diccionario de la Lengua Española (Spanish Language Dictionary) has a record 93,111 entries, including around 5,000 new words, many of which proceed from English or other languages, often filtered through the great world of variety which is Spanish as spoken across the American continent.

With new words ranging from 'birra' to 'yihad', the dictionary draws from the worlds or culture, politics and technology to provide a snapshot of the language at large.
© The Local - Spain


Foreign partners more likely to be jobless, isolated in the Netherlands

29/10/2014- People who come to the Netherlands to marry a Dutch national often end up without work, particularly well-educated women, according to a new report from the government’s socio-cultural think-tank SCP. At the same time, the percentage of foreign partners brought to the Netherlands by people from the Turkish and Moroccan communities has gone down sharply. In 2001, 60% of people with a Turkish origin found their partner in their country of origin but this has now dropped to 15%. In the Moroccan community, the percentage has fallen from 55% to 17%.

In particular, women who had good careers are likely to be disappointed with their experiences in the Netherlands, the report says. ‘The Dutch language often forms an obstacle and foreign qualifications are often not highly regarded,’ the report states. ‘Following an educational programme in the Netherlands can also be difficult: they are expensive and there is often no time because of the need to work or take care of a child.’

Twice as many women than men come to the Netherlands as marriage migrants. Native Dutch men are most likely to marry people from the former Soviet Union, Thailand, Indonesia, China and Brazil. Broadcaster Nos quotes the example of Russian national Sacha Swyatkyna who married Dutchman Jan Schuurman four years ago. Sacha, who had a good job in Russia, has been unable to find work in the Netherlands, even as a cleaner. ‘I’m getting depressed by all that staying at home. I want to talk to people, learn things,’ she told the broadcaster. Even offering her services as a free intern has not resulted in any takers. In addition, physical abuse, isolation and abandonment are issues which confront foreign partners, the SCP said. The report is based on interviews with partners and experts but does not include the experience of EU residents who marry Dutch nationals.
© The Dutch News


Russians re-write history to slur Ukraine over war

Vladimir Putin has turned the idea of fascism into a political tool, and now Russian historians are adapting to the Kremlin line.

29/10/2014- The trio of German historians, as well as a handful of their colleagues from Eastern Europe, flew into Moscow last week for what they thought would be a conference on the history of Nazi war crimes. It was the fifth in a series of international summits held every other year since 2006, first in Berlin and Cologne, then in Slovakia and Belarus, to keep alive the memory of the towns and villages destroyed during World War II. But the German co-chairman of the conference, Sven Borsche, began to feel that something was amiss in Moscow as soon as he met his Russian hosts. “All they wanted to talk about was the conflict in Ukraine,” he says. Even without the simultaneous translations provided for the foreign guests, they would have gotten the political message. The photographs shown by several of the Russian speakers put the atrocities of the Nazi SS right alongside pictures from the current war in eastern Ukraine. There is not much difference, the Russian historians suggested, between the actions of the Ukrainian military in its war against separatist rebels and the atrocities that Hitler’s forces committed during World War II.

“Right now, fascism is again raising its head,” declared Yaroslav Trifankov, a senior researcher at the state historical museum in the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine. “Right now,” he said from the podium, “our brother Slavs in Ukraine have been so thoroughly duped and brainwashed by their puppet government, which answers only to the U.S. State Department, that they truly have come to see themselves as a superior race.” This rhetoric—calling it an argument would overstate its relation to facts—has recently come into vogue among Russian historians. Under their interpretation of history, the struggle that began with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 continues for Russia today, in a direct line through the generations, with the conflict in Ukraine. That is the connection President Vladimir Putin first presented to the Russian people in March, when he sent his troops to invade and annex the Ukrainian region of Crimea. The Russian-speaking residents of that peninsula, he said in a speech on the day of the annexation, need Russia’s protection from Ukraine’s new leaders, whom he referred to as “neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.” Ukraine’s ensuing war to prevent Russia from seizing any more of its territory has likewise been branded a fascist campaign against ethnic Russians.

Practically every arm of the Russian state, from the education system to the national police, has since taken up this message. The state media have consistently painted Ukrainian authorities as “fascists” in the service of the U.S. government. In late September, Russia’s main investigative body even opened a criminal probe accusing Ukraine’s leaders of committing “genocide” against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. But the more recent involvement of the nation’s historians has marked a worrying turn in this endeavor. It suggests a willingness to reinterpret even the most sacred chapters of Russian history, as the venue for last week’s conference seemed to suggest. With the exception of the Kremlin’s gilded halls and, perhaps, the nearby tombs of Soviet leaders on Red Square, few places in the Russian capital inspire such awed respect among the locals as the Central Museum to the Great Patriotic War. Its curved colonnade stands on a hill near the center of the city called Poklonnaya Gora, which in rough translation means, “the hill where one bows in respect.” In the center of its inner sanctuary, the white-domed Hall of Glory, an enormous statue of a Soviet soldier stands with a sword at his feet; its sheath bears this inscription: “He who comes to us wielding a sword shall die by the sword.”

The vast rotunda, done up in marble and gold, would be something like the Temple Mount if Russian patriotism were a religion, while the official history of World War II that the museum embodies would be at least a portion of its scripture. By various official estimates, between 20 million and 30 million Soviet citizens died during the war against German fascists – more deaths than any single nation suffered in World War II – and the history of Soviet valor in that war still lies at the core of Russia’s sense of identity. But it has, like any dogma, proven malleable in the mouths of its contemporary preachers. “Nazism is again coming to us from Europe,” says Mikhail Myagkov, one of Russia’s leading historians of the Second World War and a professor of history at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where most of Russia’s top diplomats are educated. “The bacilli of Nazism have not been destroyed. Unfortunately, they have infected, among other countries, our brotherly nation of Ukraine,” he told a press briefing on the eve of the conference at the museum on Poklonnaya Gora.

The following day, in one of its auditoriums, Russian historians took the stage one after the other to draw an explicit link between the Hitler’s Reich and today’s Ukraine. None of them mentioned Russia’s military support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine or the encouragement they got from Russia in rising up against the government in Kiev this spring. Nor did the speakers dwell on the fact that the far right is hardly the driving force of Ukrainian politics. The country’s new President Petro Poroshenko is a liberal Westernizer with no links to Ukrainian nationalist parties, and the supposed popularity of those parties in Ukraine was exposed this week as a Russian fabrication; in the parliamentary elections held on Oct. 26, they failed to win a single seat in the legislature. But from the speeches presented at the conference in Moscow, one would assume that Poroshenko and his allies are all just resurrected Nazis in disguise.

As these speeches were translated for the foreign delegates, including guests from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, their faces turned gradually from confusion to disgust. Joerg Morre, the director of Berlin’s Karlhorst Museum, which focuses on the history of the eastern front in World War II, began to fidget in his seat. “I mean, to show the photographs of the Second World War and then switch in the next slide to what’s happening in Ukraine,” Morre told me during a break in the conference, “No way is that right. Now way!” Borsche, the co-chairman, agreed with him: “It’s polemical!” he said.

As the conference drew to a close, the two of them decided to voice their objections. Morre, springing from his seat, took hold of the microphone and told the hall that he did not agree with the final declaration of the conference, which had been written by its Russian organizers. Specifically, he took issue with the clause that declared, “Our generation is facing the task to deter [the] revival of Fascism and Nazism,” a thinly veiled reference to Ukraine, the German delegates felt. “It has become clear that we have different views on what fascism means today,” Morre told the hall in nearly perfect Russian. “Your point of view is not mine. So I call for this part of the resolution to be removed,” he added. “I do not want to sign it, and I am not the only one.”

After some noisy debate, the delegates agreed to put the matter to a vote. Practically all of the foreign participants raised their hands in favor of deleting the reference to a “revival” of European fascism. All of the Russian participants, including a large group of high school students who had been herded into the auditorium about 15 minutes earlier, had the clear majority in voting to leave the text of the declaration unchanged. So the hosts of the conference won out—a small but telling victory for the cause of Russian revisionism.

Outside the hall, Borsche seemed at a loss for words as he waited in the coat-check line. He had served as one of the initiators of the conference and its co-chairman, flying in from Germany for the occasion to discuss a shared history of suffering during World War II. But he says he had no idea that his Russian colleagues would use it as a chance to promote their political agenda against Ukraine. “That’s not correct,” he told me. If there is some lesson to be learned from the experience, it’s a familiar one, he said: “The more people are convinced of their own opinion, the more they become estranged from other opinions. That’s a real difficult problem.” And as Russia sets out to redefine what Nazism means, it is a problem that Western historians will somehow have to face.
© Time Magazine.


Russia: "Project Runway," Nazi Edition

"Aryan Girls" tries to design the best white supremacist logo for its Russian Facebook group 

27/10/2014- VKontakte (VK), Russia’s Facebook, seems to be a breeding ground for creative and looks-conscious Nazis. First the Nazis hold a Miss Hitler pageant. Then they launch a Project Runway-style search for the best Nazi designer. And now a VK group called Aryan Girls, which has close to 7,000 followers, is currently holding an online poll to decide on its new logo. The group is pretty much what you’d guess—women with interests in the White Power movement—and posts images and opinions such as: “A white woman shouldn’t be ashamed of her ancestors, their knowledge, their talents, her naivety [sic] and her own shyness. White girls are the cutest in their natural manifestations.” It also disseminates swastikas and other Nazi imagery along with Ukrainian nationalist statements. The page’s latest development is a logo competition wherein the winner’s design will be used as the group’s official avatar and eventually printed on T-shirts. Proceeds from the branded apparel will go to “prisoners of conscience,” or Nazi prisoners who these users believe are being wrongfully detained.

Despite the pro-Ukrainian imagery on Aryan Girls, VK data shows at least 60 percent of the group’s members are from Russia; one of the group’s leaders wrote on her VK profile that she was born there. This contradicts President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda war against pro-Ukrainians, where he called them Nazis and fascists to justify the Russian rebels’ presence in eastern Ukraine. In a statement to a Serbian newspaper on Oct. 15, Putin likened Nazism to a “virus” and said the “vaccine” of the Nuremberg trials and other denazification efforts of the post-World War II era were losing their effect. “The situation in Ukraine,” he said, “where nationalists and other radical groups provoked an anti-constitutional coup d’état in February, causes particular concern in this respect.”

If this group and Miss Hitler’s community, which VK shut down a few days after Vocativ publicized it, are any indication, Nazism is growing in Russia’s own backyard. The reaction from RT, a Russian state-funded cable and satellite channel, to Vocativ’s article on the Miss Hitler pageant illustrates an attempt by the Kremlin-backed press at portraying Ukrainians as evil by labeling them as Nazis. The RT story, which aired Oct. 22, pretty much denied that the Miss Hitler group was Russian and also said that if VK was Ukrainian the site might not have been taken down. “Hate is a problem in many countries. It’s how you deal with it,” the reporter said. “I’ll tell you one thing: The page was taken down because it’s a Russian site. For a Ukrainian, I’m not sure we could say the same.”

Well, Aryan Girls is not Ukrainian. It is clearly Russian-led, and the majority of its members are Russian. Yet it still thrives on Russia’s watch, along with 300 other pro-Hitler groups on VK. Nazis on VK even have a place to buy expensive Nazi jewelry. A page that sells gold and silver swastika pieces has over 20,000 members. Is Russia declining to shut down pro-Hitler groups such as Aryan Girls because it doesn’t want to draw attention to its own Nazis? The good news is, as long as Aryan Girls is still in business, you can browse the 20-plus entries for best group logo. And boy, are they trashy. Each one looks more like a Hot Topic sale item from 2007 than the next.
© Vocative


Russian actor who called for gays to be put in ovens banned from entering Latvia

A Russian sitcom actor, who had previously proposed burning all gay people alive in an oven, has been banned from entering Latvia to give a one-man show about religion.

27/10/2014- St Petersburg Times reports Ivan Okhlobystin was banned from entering the country on Friday over anti-gay comments. He was due to give his show about religion in Riga on November 7. Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics initially tweeted Friday night that he would issue the entry ban due to statements which he assessed “as ethnic hatred.” In a follow-up tweet he clarified he was referring to Okhlobystin’s claim last year about putting gay people in ovens. “I’d put them all alive in the oven … it’s a living danger to my children,” he was quoted to have said in December, going on to rant about “gay fascism”, and, calling gay people “faggots” and a “physical anomaly”, saying they should be stripped of voting rights. In January, he wrote an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, urging him to restore a Soviet-era law banning homosexuality.

Last week he also said that some victims of the Ebola virus were turning into zombies, explaining that he had heard of many cases in which those who died from the virus mysteriously came back to life several days later. He added he “was not joking” and said he had purchased a crossbow “just in case.” Responding to Rinkevic’s decision, a number of Latvian politicans endorsed the ban. However, Riga’s mayor Nils Usakovs said he felt “very ashamed” for the Foreign Minister. A federal bill banning gay “propaganda” was signed into law by President Putin last year. It prescribes fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under the age of 18 – ranging from 4,000 roubles (£78) for an individual to 1m roubles (£19,620) for organisations.
© Pink News


Finland: Räsänen denies threat to leave gov’t over gay marriage

Christian Democrat leader Päivi Räsänen has said that she will not lead her party out of government over a citizen’s initiative to legalise same-sex marriage. She says a newspaper misinterpreted her remarks, which referred rather to any potential government bill to allow gay marriage.

26/10/2014- Päivi Räsänen, Finland’s Interior Minister and leader of the Christian Democrat party, has denied saying that she would leave the government if a citizen’s initiative to allow gender neutral marriage was passed by parliament. She was quoted by Turun Sanomat as saying that her party could leave government if gay marriage was legalised, but she now says that she would only leave government if the measure was introduced and passed as a government bill. The current attempt to bring in same-sex unions is a citizens’ initiative that received 166,000 signatures and is likely to be voted on by parliament in November. Räsänen says that parliament is free to decide on the matter and her party’s continued participation in government does not depend on the vote. However she notes that the government agreement stipula-ted that the cabinet would not drive through a bill to allow same-sex marriage. “We are keeping our side of the bargain and naturally we trust that our government partners will also keep to our agreement,” said Räsänen. “The government has to concentrate on vital questions about the Finnish economy,” said Räsänen.

Matter of principle
Earlier on Sunday it had looked as though Finland’s four-party coalition government, which has seen the departure of two parties from the original six-party lineup, could come under renewed strain if parliament votes in favour of a bill on gender-neutral marriage that’s due to come before parliament in November. Christian Democrat leader Päivi Räsänen said in an interview with the Turun Sanomat newspaper on Sunday that the issue was especially important to her party. “It’s a matter of principle and it could see us leave,” said Interior Minister Räsänen. Her government colleague, Defence Minister Carl Haglund, was quick to respond in a statement sent out by his Swedish People’s party’s press office.

"Finland needs responsible government"
“Finland is in an unusually challenging economic situation,” Haglund was quoted as saying. “Now there’s a need for responsibility, not political defections from the government. It cannot be that our country’s government’s ability to operate is brought into question just because of a principled opposition to a citizen’s initiative.” There have been several attempts to bring in a same-sex marriage law in Finland. The first to fail was a bill co-signed by National Coalition party MPs Lasse Männistö and Alexander Stubb, who is now Prime Minister—and therefore Räsänen’s boss. When that was rejected at the committee stage, campaigners utilised Finland’s law on citizens’ initiatives. That law means MPs have to consider a proposal that receives at least 50,000 signatures, and the proposal on same-sex marriage received 166,000.

Gov't MPs support gay marriage
The public support was not enough to get the measure through the committee stage, however, and the same Legal Affairs Committee voted against the bill once more. That committee will now prepare a consultation document, but recommend MPs reject same-sex marriage. A full sitting of parliament will consider and vote on the bill at the end of this year, most likely in early November. In February of this year an Yle survey found that majorities of NCP, SDP and Swedish People’s Party MPs said they supported gender-neutral marriage. All six Christian Democrat MPs, meanwhile, said they were firmly opposed to the idea.
© YLE News.


Montenegro Police Brace for Second Gay Pride

Podgorica's second Gay Pride parade, planned for October, will be go ahead on November 2 amid tight security in the capital.

31/10/2014- The Montenegrin capital will host its second Gay Pride parade this Sunday, in spite of the violent attacks on activists that marred the first-ever parade in the country last year. Gay activists will walk the same route as last year, after police estimated that the 1,400-foot-long trail in the centre of Podgorica was easiest to secure. Police have already drawn up a security plan for the event. Some 1,800 police will be deployed in five rings of security in the area near the former government headquarters. Due to the high security risk, the street in the centre of the capital will be closed to traffic several hours prior to the walk on Sunday. Durnig the first Pride march, last October, more than 500 protesters, mostly football hooligans, hurled rocks and bottles in an attempt to disrupt the march by several dozen gay activists.

Queer Montenegro, the organizer of the event, says the march will only cost about 9,000 euros as most of the work is being handled by volunteers. It urged all concer-ned citizens to join the march and to show solidarity with the LGBT community, sending a message that violence, discrimination, harassment and intimidation are not acceptable. "The clear message of this year's Pride implies that the perpetrators of such acts must be appropriately sanctioned and that the responsible institutions need to do their job more conscientiously," the organizers said in a statement. The organisers have described the second gay pride parade in Podgorica, the third in the country, as a test of the country's democratic commitment, and they have asked for more open support from officials, through the participation of the ministers and senior figures in government.

Montenegro's pro-EU government has taken a forward position on gay rights, in spite of the fact that the issue is controversial and unpopular in what remains a conser-vative and patriarchal society. Surveys show that about 70 per cent of Montenegrins still consider homosexuality an illness. Around 80 per cent believe gay people should keep their sexuality private.
© Balkan Insight


Gay Montenegrins Face Workplace Discrimination

Every third LGBT person in Montenegro has been a victim of homophobia in the workplace and almost half have experienced discrimination, a new survey suggests.

27/10/2014- The survey entitled ‘Discrimination Against LGBT People in the Labour Market’, conducted this month by a network of NGOs called LGBT Forum Progres, said that nearly half of the respondents alleged that they had been discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. It says that almost one-fifth of those who work in the public sector that professional advancement became impossible and career opportunities were blocked when their sexual orientation became known. "We have registered dozens of cases in which LGBT people, especially employees in the state or local administration, also suffered from unfair treatment, mostly regarding business trips, the payment of per diem rates, and referral to expert and other training," LGBT Forum Progres said. LGBT Forum Progres estimates that in Montenegro, with its total population of about 650,000, there are 10,000 gay people among the working-age population.

The Montenegrin government has pledged to protect the LGBT community and to adopt anti-discrimination legislation. But NGOs LGBT Forum Proges, Civic Alliance, Queer Montenegro claimed in a statement last month that it has failed to "send a strong political signal" that as a EU membership candidate, all its citizens must be protected and respected by the authorities, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The latest EU progress report on Montenegro said that although the authorities took further steps to strengthen the protection of the rights of LGBT people, hostility against them remains widespread in society. Attacks on LGBT people continued and criminal convictions for these assaults remain few, the report said.
© Balkan Insight


Ireland:: Waterford anti-Roma protests criticised as ‘cowardly and racist’

Families evacuated after scores of protesters demonstrate outside Manor Street home

27/10/2014- Anti-Roma protests in Waterford city over the weekend have been described as “cowardly, prejudiced and racist” by Minister of State for Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. Mr Ó Ríordán was speaking after a number of families, including young children and elderly women, had to be evacuated from their homes in the city after upwards of 60 people gathered outside their house in the Manor Street area on Saturday evening, chanting “Roma, out, out, out”. Windows were smashed and a door was kicked in, it was reported. Over 100 gathered in the same place yesterday evening, again shouting anti-Roma slogans. A Garda spokesman confirmed a number of protests took place “at the Manor Street, William Street and McDermott Road areas” last night. “One male in his 40s was arrested for public order offences. He was later released without charge. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions,” he said.

Protestors said they were concerned about the alleged involvement of some members of the Waterford Roma community in crime. There have been Facebook pages, including one titled ‘Get Roma criminal gypsies out’, where posts included: “Burn the cockroaches out” and “Throw them in the river” and called people “Roma c**ts”. This page was taken down yesterday and a new page was posted, titled ‘Make Waterford a safer place’. It said: “ok lads this page is to be peaceful and not discrimi-nate against anyone because if your found doing this you will be banned from the page as its not about who they are its about what there doing and what the gardai are doing to stop there crimes we need to stand up and show them we will not back down and be victims for there crime while gardai are protecting them (sic)”. Mr Ó Ríordán said it was “completely and utterly wrong to tarnish an entire community” because of concerns about criminality by some.

“This sort of vigilanteism has no place in Irish society. My fear is that genuine concerns about crime are being whipped up and manipulated by unsavoury elements. They are targeting a vulnerable group, a soft target.” Local Labour Party TD, Ciara Conway, called on anyone with concerns about criminality to bring them to the Gardai. “There are many nationalities involved in street crime in Ireland, the Irish chief among them,” she said. “You wouldn’t find mobs gathered outside the house of an Irish framily if they thought they were involved in crime. The Roma are weak and marginalised.” Sinn Féin senator from the area, David Cullinane, said events over the weekend were “completely unacceptable”. “There can be no room in our society for rough justice. If anyone has information relating to allegations of criminality they should bring it forward to the appropriate authorities,” he said. Gaby Muntean, a Roma community development worker, said the community were “very, very scared of what is happening”.

An anti-racism rally will take place in the city on Wednesday evening at 5.30 pm in Railway Square.
© The Irish Times.


Mob Violence Has No Place in Ireland (press statement)

26/10/2014- Pavee Point strongly condemns any actions to intimidate and promote violence against Roma in Waterford. This follows the publication of multiple Face-book pages which openly incite hatred against Roma, and reports of a public order incident on Saturday evening where up to 100 people are reported to have gathered outside the home of Roma living in Waterford. The content on Facebook pages to date have shown huge misinformation and racism towards Roma and have included inflam-matory, dehumanising and violent language. There is a clear link between online hate speech and hate crime and there is an urgent need to address the use of the inter-net to perpetuate anti-Roma hate speech and to organise violence.

European institutions and groups such as the European Roma Rights Centre have raised concerns about rising violence in Europe and the strengthening of extremist and openly racist groups which spread hate speech and organise anti-Roma marches. Attacks in other European countries have included several murders of Roma. We don’t want this to become a feature in Ireland. “Anti-Roma racism does not occur in a vacuum and we now need strong public and political leaders to be visible, vocal and openly condemn anti-Roma actions in Waterford” said Siobhan Curran, Roma Project Coordinator Pavee Point. “At a national level a progressive national strategy to support Roma inclusion in Ireland needs to be developed as a matter of urgency” she continued.

Pavee Point calls on all elements of the media to take on board the recommendations from the Logan Report and avoid sensationalist and irresponsible reporting.
© Pavee Point


Hungarian mayor wants to replace Roma slum with football stadium

26/10/2014- Hundreds of Roma (Gypsy) families in the Hungarian city Miskolc fear they will be evicted and banished in the name of urban development. Local authori-ties have said they want to proceed with a slum demolition drive in order to pave the way for a football stadium and parking lot. About 1,000 Roma live in homes built as workers’ settlements more than 50 years ago, reports The Budapest Times. According to Miskolc’s new mayor, Ákos Kriza, the stadium is important for the city’s urban development. “Both for reasons of public safety and health the existence of slums cannot be tolerated any more,” he said in an interview with the online maga-zine Index. Kriza is not alone. He reportedly has the support of his non-Roma. Some 35,000 residents signed a petition calling for the demolition of the slum, which is located in the so-called “numbered streets” area of the city.

In a televised interview, Kriza said: “We cannot expect more than 10,000 football fans to march through a slum each time they would like to get into the stadium. Of course we will provide the rightful inhabitants with other accommodation. We are working with social sensitivity and we decide separately on each family.” Critics, however, are questioning the “social sensitivity” the mayor is promising. According to The Budapest Times, only Roma tenants with a valid lease will receive compensation. This means the majority are at risk of being evicted without any compensation. Worse still is they will have no where to go since neighbouring towns will not be keen to welcome them. “Miskolc is trying to clear out the Gypsies,” Attila Tamás, an independent Roma activist, told The Budapest Times. “I would be happy if the segregation would end but the goal of the politicians in Miskolc is to send away the poor people instead of looking for a solution.”
© New Europe


Malta: Valletta one of Europe’s most xenophobic capitals

26/10/2014- In what may be oddly appropriate for a city built specifically to fend off foreign invaders, Valletta is one of the European capital cities that is least tolerant of foreigners, an EU survey shows. But Valletta residents' attitudes towards the foreigners in their midst appear to be highly polarised: according to the same survey, they are also the most likely to strongly believe that their city's foreign residents are well-integrated. The European capital that is most hostile to foreign residents - and by a wide margin - is Athens, which is at the top of the list on both counts. A staggering 44 per cent of Athenians absolutely agreed that foreign residents negative-ly affect their city - a proportion far above that recorded in any other European capital. Rome is ranked a distant second, with "just" 16 per cent of Romans arguing that foreign residents are detrimental to their city. Valletta is a close third with 15 per cent.

The most tolerant European capital appears to be Tallinn: just one per cent of the Estonian capital's residents believed foreigners are bad for their city. Just two per cent of residents in Copenhagen and Vilnius feel the same. The figures show that there is little, if any, correlation between the proportion of foreign citizens in a city and the local population's opposition to them. In the capital city with the highest proportion of foreign residents - Luxembourg City, with 63.8 per cent - just three per cent were convinced that foreigners had a negative effect, the same proportion as in the capital with the lowest proportion of foreigners, Warsaw (0.3 per cent). In Athens, 17.6 per cent of residents are foreign, compared to 8.5 per cent in Rome and just 4.1 per cent in Valletta. But a similar question, on whether foreign residents were well-integrated, suggests that the situation in Valletta is not as straightforward as one might think.

The survey shows that 28 per cent of Valletta residents believe that the city's foreign residents are well-integrated, a proportion only surpassed in Ljubljana (35 per cent). In Luxembourg - the only European capital where foreigners are a majority - 22 per cent of residents believed that this majority was well-integrated. As explai-ned above, Athens fares the worst: just three per cent of Athenians felt that foreigners were well-integrated. In six other European capitals - Berlin, Helsinki, Oslo, Rome, Stockholm and Vienna - only four per cent felt the same: but with the exception of Rome, only a small proportion of each city's residents strongly felt that foreigners badly affected their city. The fact that residents of the capitals of Greece, Italy and Malta - three countries on Europe's southern border, and the first port of call for many asylum seekers making their way to Europe - did not escape the European Network Against Racism, which noted that this, along with the economic crisis, has fuelled xenophobia in the three countries.

"These countries are known for their restrictive migration policies and negative media and political discourses about migration," ENAR director Michael Privot said. "As an example, Maltese policies include measures of systematic detention of asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants, who are treated like criminals and as a result often perceived as such by the population."
© The Malta Independent


Gay community hit hard by Middle East turmoil

29/10/2014- Jawad worked in sales in Syria before the war began. When his father found out he was gay, he had him arrested. After five years of hard labour, he emer-ged a broken man, only to find his country at war. Estranged from his family, he found himself dangerously exposed. Soon after his release, he was gang raped at gun point by four men from an armed group. "They could tell I was gay," he told me, through stifled sobs, looking out over the Beirut cityscape. His vulnerability made him an easy target for this brutal weapon of war. Now in Lebanon, where he thought he could start again, he works as a prostitute. "I have nothing but my body to sell. That was my reward for the Syrian revolution."

It might come as little surprise that gay men and women don't have the easiest time in the Middle East. But it was not always so. In many ways modern attitudes to homosexuality in the Middle East are similar to western European attitudes of the 19th and 20th Century - religious zeal and a specific vision of gender roles. Those convicted of committing homosexual acts in Europe faced the death penalty. In the Middle East at this time, same-sex relations were relatively commonplace and accepted. But colonialism brought the influence of Western prudishness and a codification of anti-gay laws. The result was that homosexuality became effectively illegal in every Arab country. From "debauchery" in Egypt, to anti-sodomy laws in Tunisia and "acts against nature" in Lebanon - now all enforced with varying levels of severity. While western Europe became more accepting, the Middle East went the opposite direction. Now in a context of increasingly deeply conservative cultural and religious attitudes, the prospects for change are grim.

Totally alone
But the distant memory of "the Arab Spring" did promise some change. Protests across the region called for "dignity" and "respect" - values long associated with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) movement. From Egypt to Syria, these dreams have turned into nightmares for most - not just the gay community. But meeting with gay refugees in Lebanon demonstrated why their plight is perhaps especially significant - gay people have become refugees from both their country, and their families. This is a region where the family or ethnic network provides not just emotional support, but much of the practical help the state is unable to deliver. In a time of war, where the state begins to break down, these connections become vital for survival. When a Syrian refugee arrives in Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey, they often have someone they can call - a relative, a friend, even just an old neighbour. But without family support, a gay man or woman fleeing the war does so totally alone.

None of the gay men and women I met had anyone to call. And some - even after escaping the regime or Islamic State - had been hunted down by their own families. The very opposite to the kind of care and help they needed. Gay people become targets of the state, the groups fighting it, and their own families. "When you lose the familiarity of your surroundings, you are left exposed and in danger," says Tarek Zeidan, from Helem, a long running LGBT non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Lebanon. "It is secrecy that keeps most gay people alive in the Middle East." That familiarity is totally shattered when a gay refugee arrives in a foreign country, often living in close quarters with people who would do him harm. In some cases - such as Jawad's - they turn to what Tarek calls "survival sex".

It is not known what proportion of the millions of refugees fleeing Syria are gay because most don't register with the UN, but young LGBT men and women escaping the war appear every day at the offices of Proud Lebanon, one of the only NGOs in the region helping the LGBT community. Its director, Bertho Makso, explained what it's like being gay and Syrian in Lebanon: "Well you know he will be carrying all the problems that he was facing in his country. "He'll flee to Lebanon hoping that he will be accepted. It's true that the image of Lebanon is reflecting an open-minded society. "However, it's not the case in all the societies in Lebanon, because Lebanon is many Lebanons. And in every society there is discrimination and trauma. "He faces a double discrimination. First because he is Syrian, and second because he is LGBT." It is perhaps their status as a minority that makes gay people vulnerable in the Middle East.

The rise of Islamist regimes in the wake of popular uprisings may have reinforced already conservative attitudes towards them, but new regimes keen on consolidating power have - whatever their political or religious leaning - found in the gay community an easy target. It is almost impossible to formulate an accurate overview of attacks or arrests of LGBT people. They are rarely recorded on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and often governments simply deny them. Victims are also often too scared to come forward. But in Egypt, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has not reversed the practices of his predecessors. Indeed, the crackdowns have got worse and anal testing - the crude medical procedure to "prove" homosexual activity - still goes on.

Most recently, the security services were accused of infiltrating online dating sites to entrap gay men. One application, Grindr, actually urged users to hide their identities. In Morocco recently a gay British tourist found himself in prison for "homosexual acts" - it was only after an online petition was set up that he was freed. And in Lebanon, the country's mora-lity police have been accused of brutalising the gay men they take into custody, and performing these same anal tests which are supposed to have been outlawed - charges they deny.

Class and freedom
One refuge in the region for some is Israel, one of the most progressive countries in the world for LGBT rights. Same-sex relationships are protected by law, and the only annual gay pride march in the Middle East takes place in Tel Aviv - regarded as an international gay capital. Since 1993 - well before the US and other Western countries - openly gay people have been allowed to serve in the military. Palestinians from conservative homes have also fled to Israel to avoid persecution. And, of course, the experiences of gay people in the Middle East are as varied and contrasting as the region itself. Living an openly gay life in Saudi Arabia, for example, would be impossible and vastly different compared with an open life in Lebanon. But as with so much in the region, socio-economic status dictates relative freedom. Bars and clubs for gay people do exist in Lebanon, for example, but these are only really accessible to those who can afford their expensive drinks.

Ahmed, a successful businessman from Sidon, is "out" to some of his friends. But, he told me, this is because "I can afford to be". When it comes to telling his family, that is a different story. They own the company for which he works, and he fears telling them would remove the very economic freedom that allows him to live at least part of his life as a gay man. Jawad and the men I met at Proud live a very different life. They have become the targets of a nation struggling to support the huge number of refugees coming into Lebanon. Like other minorities, they are easily blamed for problems for which they bear little responsibility. Facing these issues without their families - or even against them - makes their struggle almost impossible to deal with.

Fighting for their rights
Rights groups continue to fight for LGBT freedoms in the region, combating widespread homophobia in society to ensure political leaders can find no willing constitu-ency for their anti-gay views. Gay activism is difficult, and often restricted to the internet because of the lack of public support. was one forum for people to discuss their sexualities and religious beliefs in a safer place - but had to close under constant threat of infiltration by the security services. Boris Dittrich, from Human Rights Watch, explains how the organisation tackles the issue. "Our experience in the Middle East is that singling out LGBT people as a vulnerable group doesn't resonate with the general audience or with decision makers. "They will view LGBT people as a separate category they can neglect. "Best is to embed attention to human rights abuses against LGBT people in a bigger frame. "For instance address the issue of police abuse against several vulnerable groups - migrants, people with disabilities, unmarried women, drugs users et cetera - and include information about abuse of LGBT people.

"Social attitudes might change when the general audience can relate to personal stories of LGBT people. They then will realise their son or daughter, their neighbour or colleague could be gay or lesbian. "The problems of LGBT people thus become concrete and relatable. Usually, straight allies are convincing partners to address discrimination of LGBT people." It may seem as though gay rights come far down the list of priorities in a region plagued by war and violence. As a gay friend in Egypt told me when I asked him if he thought he'd have an easier life after President Hosni Mubarak was toppled: "One thing at a time." But as Sherine el Feki, author of Sex and the Citadel, points out: "Gay rights are human rights. You can't distinguish one from the other." It has been a turbulent few years in a region of people struggling to forge better lives. A truly democratic system, some would argue, is a more pluralistic one. Perhaps one of the true markers of success will be how its minorities come to be treated - including the LGBT community.
© BBC News


Ukraine: Oldest cinema in Kiev goes up in flames during gay film screening

Kiev’s oldest cinema went up in flames this week during the screening of a gay film after a smoke grenade was thrown into the audience.

31/10/2014- A fire broke out in the Zhoten cinema at 21:41 on Wednesday and lasted for roughly five hours, it has been reported. The flames were extinguished when 22 fire department units were called to the scene. Although the building itself, built in 1931, was left badly damaged, none of the 100 people at the screening were injured. Festival coordinator Aleksey Chaschin said: “The film had been playing for 20 minutes already when people in back rows shouted: ‘Smoke!'” One of the attendees wrote on Facebook that an unknown man tossed an “incendiary smoke grenade” into the audience. He said people attempted to escape the building but the emergency exits were locked. Security guards also did not know how to operate the fire extinguishers. He added: “In a country, where street Nazis have become police officers, no one will investigate a crime, committed by the far-right. One hand washes the other.”

It happened during a screening of the French film Les Nuits d’été, as part of an LGBT program at the Molodist youth film festival. Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko has promised the cinema will be rebuilt. He said: “The arson of the premise, which became a subject of debate and legal battles in recent years, can’t be ruled out. “We won’t allow Zhovten, which became a symbol of intellectual cinema among the moviegoers in the capital, to be taken away from us.” Despite a ban by a local court, more than a hundred LGBT rights activists held the first gay pride demonstration in the capital of Kiev last year. In a 2007 poll 5.7% of Ukrainians said that “gay lifestyles” were acceptable and only 4.7% of Ukrainians stated that they thought same-sex marriage in the country was a priority.
© Pink News


Ukraine Rebels Love Russia, Hate Gays, Threaten Executions

There’s a lot the rebel parliament of Luhansk can’t decide, like their form of government. But jailing gays? That passes with a show of hands.
By Anna Nemtsova

25/10/2014- In the breakaway region that calls itself the Luhansk People’s Republic, in what used to be a Ukrainian government administration building, the place where rebels get together to exchange their most radical ideas is the smoking room. In the dense atmosphere of tobacco and conspiracy, one hot topic has been the death penalty. The council reinstated capital punishment earlier this year. But even such basic questions as what sort of political power should be established have not been resolved. Should Luhansk aim to be a Western democracy? A Communist republic? A monarchy? Failing to decide such key questions, the council opted for a law everyone in the smoking room seemed to agree on: punishment of homosexuals. They voted to imprison people convicted of being gay for two years and six months. And they voted the death penalty, no question about that, for the rape of a minor whether of the same or opposite sex. The law did not stipulate execution for homosexuals, as some media reported. But the question of how it will be interpreted, like so much else in Luhansk, remains an open question.

One would think they had more vital issues to deal with. Part of the territory of Luhansk is still occupied by Ukrainian nationalist forces, and fighting continues despite an agree ceasefire. The violence has taken the lives of more than 3,000 civilians. The war has devastated several parts of the city. For weeks, the residents lived in basements under shelling, bringing water to their homes on bicycles during the breaks between explosions. Banks stopped working. To shop for food at newly opened so-called people’s stores or other grocery shops still selling food products, people often had to cross the town. Morgues were filled with hundreds of dead. But the debate went on about gays, with opinion diverging only on the question of what kind of punishment should be given. Alexander Klodchenko, responsible for international relati-ons, told me over the phone he did not agree with the execution part: “The perverts should be treated at psychiatric hospitals,” Klodchenko said.

In fact, the perverse logic of the Luhansk lawmakers is a reflection of their close ties to Moscow and their hunger for old-time religion, old-time politics, old-time strongmen. Klodchenko says he figures that, after the war ends, Luhansk will be a liberal and democratic republic but, personally, he favors a monarchy. "Luhansk needs a strong Tsar,” he said, suggesting that the separatist region’s elections on November 2 may help point the way. (The rest of Ukraine is voting for a new parliament in Kiev on Sunday) Without reservation, Klodchenko said it is important that Moscow control the separatist parliament: “See, most of my colleagues at the Parliament don’t have any education, so without the Russian Duma’s help, without their instruction and financial aid, we would be nothing,” Klodchenko said. This week, the deputy took a “consulting course” with the Russian state parliament’s parties.

We all know how much the Russian parliament under Russian President Vladimir Putin has done to make LGBT people feel uncomfortable, unwanted and unsafe. But the so-called parliament of the self-declared Luhansk republic decided to go one better. Their anti-gay law was passed with a show of hands on September 26, and anyone who failed to take it seriously would do so at his or her own risk. When the law actually will go into effect is unclear, but the rebels are not shy about demonstrating their strict rules and meting out public punishment. Commanders of the Luhansk Cossacks recently flogged militia soldiers for cursing and drinking, then posted a video of the beatings. The Luhansk anti-gay law discussed by the Luhansk parliament was intended to “defend moral, cultural and religious values,” local reports said.

Back in the smoking room, deputies discussed what to name their new legislation, Klodchenko told me on the phone. “The law defends the Christian traditions of Luhansk’s people from harmful influence by enemy states, such as the European Union, Canada and the USA,” he suggested. What about the death penalty? “When the war is over, we’ll most likely cancel the death penalty, “ Klodchenko said. But when the war really will be over is anyone’s guess.
© The Daily Beast


France: Far-right mag's racial slur on minister nets fine

A far-right publication that compared France's justice minister, who is black, to a monkey was hit on Thursday with a €10,000 fine for making racist statements.

30/10/2014- The head of a French far-right satirical magazine was fined €10,000 ($12,500)on Thursday after his publication compared the country's black justice mini-ster to a monkey. A Paris court handed down the fine to Jean-Marie Molitor, boss of the Minute weekly for making insulting racist statements in public. In November, the weekly featured on its front cover a picture of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira with headlines that read: "Crafty as a monkey" and "Taubira gets her banana back". The text was deliberately ambiguous: the term "crafty as a monkey" in French can be used as praise while getting your banana back is roughly the equivalent of recovering the spring in your step. Taubira herself described the newspaper's words as "extremely violent" and "denying she belonged to the human race".

The provocative cover page was an obvious reference to two other cases of Taubira being publicly likened to a monkey, incidents which sparked outrage in France amid a perceived surge in intolerance. Judges ruled that in this context, the magazine must have been aware that they were "reviving the argument rather than calming it" and that "reiterating these allusions to a primate could even been seen as an additional provocation." The comparison was an allusion to a "clearly racist cliche", ruled the court. Molitor, who describes the publication as "free and independent", not far-right, is still deciding whether to appeal, according to his lawyer, Frederic Pichon.

Founded in 1962, Minute was once one of France's biggest-selling weeklies with its appeal based on a cocktail of right-wing politics, initially centred on opposition to France's retreat from its former colony Algeria, cartoons and show business coverage. Its fortunes have declined considerably since the 1970s with its focus narrowing to an exclusively far-right agenda and it has a record of publishing highly provocative articles with the apparent aim of drumming up publicity. A recent brush with controversy was when it described the appointment of a Moroccan-born woman as education minister as a "provocation."
© The Local - France


The French far-right mayor, the pig fest and the halal butcher

Hayange’s National Front leader is supposed to portray a more respectable version of his party
By Roula Khalaf in Hayange

29/10/2014- You’ve probably never heard of Hayange. It’s a town in France’s northeastern steel belt that has fallen on hard times. The Tata steel plant is still a big employer but the ArcelorMittal blast furnace shut down a few years ago. Thanks to Fabien Engelmann, its new far-right mayor, though, Hayange is gaining lively fame, with journalists flocking there as if “on a visit to the zoo”. That’s how Mr Engelmann, who has a passion for animals and a keen admiration for the activism of Brigitte Bardot, describes the media attention. I followed the herd to Hayange, because it’s a sort of laboratory of National Front management in a European political landscape where populist and far-right parties are causing great anxiety. Mr Engelmann is one of more than a dozen National Front mayors elected six months ago. These mayors are supposed to demonstrate a more respectable and mainstream version of the front’s old xenophobic self.

Sadly for party leader Marine Le Pen, Mr Engelmann – a 34-year-old plumber and one-time leftist union activist before he turned far-right official – is doing a poor job at that. Mr Engelmann comes across at first as a serious type, even when dressed in jeans and green vest. He rattles off a list of achievements: better security for a town with 15 per cent unemployment, more flowers on the streets, more festivities and no more drunken youth or aggressive beggars. But then there is the more colourful stuff: the pig festival he staged in town, the battle with the halal butcher, the row over oriental dance and an investigation into his campaign finances. And not to forget the repainting in blue (colour of his party) of an egg-shaped sculpture that he considered “a hideous piece of art that needed refreshing”. As you would expect, Mr Engelmann has strong views about immigration and the supposedly menacing Islamisation of French society.

His problem is the Kosovar and Albanian migrants housed in the town and living on benefits. They are, he says, a “new immigration”, families that produce five to seven children, feed off the French state and want to impose a “middle ages dogma and a religion that is not ours”. He likes the good immigrants, however: Italians and Portuguese, Serbs and Armenians who, he says, have fewer children and find jobs and housing on their own. Mr Engelmann reassures me nonetheless that he has nothing against Muslims. In fact, the September “fête du cochon” was not meant, as I had imagined, as an affront to the Muslim refugees in town, he says. It was simply a revival of a traditional festival in Hayange, which also celebrates a national day of the sheep. Some 2,000 locals showed up to dance, listen to music and eat pork.

Mr Engelmann is a vegetarian so therefore has no preference for a specific type of meat. But he stopped a plan to serve halal meat in schools and says students will have to do with the vegetarian alternative. Unrelated to his sentiment towards halal meat or Islam, however, is his decision to force the halal butcher in town to close on Sundays. “The halal butcher is going to lose,” declares Mr Engelmann, because he’s not a grocer and therefore is breaching the law. After meeting Mr Engelmann, I stopped to see Abdelkader Kharchach, the halal butcher. He sells a lot of groceries in addition to meat and he has a lawyer to fend off the pressure from the mayor. He says the National Front won because people in Hayange have lost faith in politics. Many migrants have left the town since Mr Engelmann took over.

“The mayor can buy me out if he wants,” says Mr Kharchach, but he is neither closing on Sundays nor leaving Hayange. Surely Mr Engelmann has more important things to do than pick a fight with the halal butcher. His campaign finances are being investigated after a former deputy’s claims of irregularity. He denies any wrongdoing and professes not to be worried. This controversy is about score settling, he tells me, by a former colleague who was cast aside. And that’s because she was “a loose cannon” who alienated her colleagues. Among her many offences, apparently, was that she would rush into his office without knocking.
© The Financial Times.


French Muslims Confront Menace Beneath Ban of Veil

For generations France made little effort to include newcomers from its former colonies in North Africa, say critics. Now, two recent bans against religious veiling put French Muslim girls and women at the center of the country's simmering immigration debate.
By Hajer Naili

27/10/2014- Rabha Chatar is scared to walk alone in a big city like this. "I am afraid that I could be attacked, especially if I am with my children," she said. Chatar, 40, who spoke with Women's eNews in a phone interview in September, lives in the small village of Meru, in the Picardie region of France, with her three children and husband. But her fear isn't that of a small-town person in a big metropolis. It's due to her custom of covering her hair with a hijab, part of her way of practicing her Muslim faith. In her town, Chatar feels that her neighbors both know and accept her. But the stories of Muslim women in big cities getting singled out for hate crimes scare her.

Workers at the Paris Opera recently drew international headlines by ejecting a woman wearing a full face veil, or niqab, which Paris outlawed in 2011. But Chatar's fears are not about the niqab, which she doesn't wear. All she wears is a head covering. France began frowning on women in hijab in 2004 when the Parliament passed a ban on the display of religious signs in public schools, which meant schoolgirls could not wear the hijab. In 2012, a similar government rule extended to thousands of older women such as Chatar, forbidding them from escorting their children on school outings. Both bans apply to school settings but for many Muslim women in France today the rulings reach much further, creating a pervasive sense of social prohibition about wearing the hijab that they break at their own risk.

Out of 1,417 Muslims interviewed last year, 2 percent – 30 individuals --reported a physical aggression, found a June 2014 study conducted by the Paris-based Collective Against Islamophobia in France. Women were almost all--97 percent--of those 30 victims. Elsa Ray, spokesperson for the Collective Against Islamophobia, said street aggressions have been more violent in recent years. In the past veiled women were mainly targets of verbal violence, but the aggression has become more physical. "The majority of aggressors are men and we have noticed that some women physically attacked were subjected to sexual touching while they had their clothes ripped off. These are signs of male domination," Ray said in an interview at the collective's office.

Last year, a 16-year-old Muslim woman recounted being attacked by two men in a Paris suburb in a piece published by the Huffington Post. "Then, he grabbed my arms trying to push me to the ground and he started to press his body against mine while he was holding my head. At that moment, the first guy started to touch my breasts. Then, he took a sharp object and started to scar my face with short and quick movements while the second guy was pressing his body against mine and he was blocking my head," the victim, named Aissetou, wrote.

Re-Veiling as Political Act
Ray traces the "re-veiling" trend among younger Muslim women to decades of neglectful treatment by the French government of immigrants from North African coun-tries such as Algeria and Morocco, its former colonial sphere. "We realized that the concessions made in the '70s and '80s didn't help the Muslim community to feel accepted," Ray said, referring to the generations of parents and grandparents who hid their religious practice in order to gain social acceptance and earn livelihoods. Today, younger Muslims born in France are pushing back and claiming their religious identity. The hijab, Ray added, is a piece of cloth worn by women to protect themselves from societal rejection. Ismahane Chouder, co-president of the Paris-based Collective of Feminists for Equality, agrees, citing successive French govern-ments' failure to embrace the children and grandchildren of North African immigrants.

French-born people of North African descent, Chouder said, do not feel accepted as truly French. If they say they are French they will be pushed to describe their family's deeper roots. "Someone who is constantly sent back to their origins cannot feel part of this country, of its history. When you keep emphasizing their origins in an exclusive way, in 8o percent of cases, they will withdraw into themselves," she said. Chouder added that French governments and politicians have been using the principle of "laïcité," or secularism, to impose a specific dress code upon Muslim women. "They keep introducing secularism like a guarantor of gender equality but we are instead witnessing a denaturation of the principles of secularism," Chouder said in an interview in her group's Paris office. "France can't yet tolerate the idea that a woman could define her own identify. They refuse to see women defining themselves and especially in a different fashion from what is seen in the media." Ray, from the Collective Against Islamophobia, added: "France still owns a colonialist and paternalistic spirit."

Two Groups as Highest Risk
Ray said two categories of veiled women are the most vulnerable to incidents: young women aged 13-20 and mothers accompanied by their children. "For young women, it is believed that they are forced to wear the veil, thus they are indoctrinated and it could then be more dangerous," said Ray. "While a mother with her children represents the head of a family along with the values she could pass on to her kids." Two French police unions, Alliance Police Nationale and Synergie Officers, declined to be interviewed about the insecurity faced by Muslim women. "It is a sensitive and complicated issue. And we don't have enough data," Synergie Officers' press person, who didn't want to be identified, said in a brief phone call. Ray said more than 60 percent of the discrimination that veiled women reported came from state-run institutions, citing the findings of her collective's report. "In France, we are mainly facing a 'state-made Islamophobia' practiced by the representatives of the state and public employees."

A veiled woman, for instance, will be asked to remove her headscarf when picking up identification documents at government facilities. She might also be denied access to employment agencies even though no law stands in her way. Ray also cited cases of women who were not allowed to buy gym memberships and restaurants that refused to serve Muslim couples when the women's head was covered. One French town even tried to ban women from wearing hijab on its public beach this summer. The effort was overruled by a French court after two mothers wearing their headscarves were denied access. Ray says the discrimination against Muslim women is spurred by media organizations and politicians who conflate Islam with extremism, fanning Islamophobia across the country. It's been going on for years in two ways, she said; one by the Right and one by the Left.

"Right-wing parties will use a discourse to emphasize the importance of national security. They will use fear, the danger of Islam, the fight against terrorism," Ray said. "Left-wing parties will use discourses promoting the liberation of women, the importance of gender equality, the necessity of freedom, etc." The result is the same: telling Muslim women how not to dress, said Ray.
Hajer Naili is a New York-based reporter for Women's eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa women in Islam.
© Women's E News


Front National councillor urges French far-Right party to convert to Islam

A far-right local councillor shocks Marine Le Pen's party by becoming a Muslim and sending Front National officials a video in which he urges them to embrace Islam

25/10/2014- A Front National local councillor has embarrassed France's far-Right party by announcing his recent conversion to Islam – and urging fellow members to join him. Maxence Buttey, 22, offended officials of the anti-immigration party by sending them a video in which he praised the "visionary" virtues of the Koran and urged them to become Muslims. Mr Buttey, a councillor in the eastern Paris suburb of Noisy-le-Grand, said the Front National and Islam had much in common. "Both are demoni-sed and very far from the image portrayed in the media," he told Le Parisien newspaper. "Like Islam, the FN defends the weakest. The party denounces exorbitant interest rates charged on the debt of our country, and Islam is against the practice of usury." Jordan Bardella, a local party secretary, said Mr Buttey had been suspended from a regional FN committee.

"Religion is a private choice which I respect but it must not enter into the sphere of our political activities. The proselytising video which Maxence sent out is unaccep-table," Mr Bardella said. However, Mr Buttey remains a party member and a councillor. The party has no power to sack him from the post. "Some of my voters will be disappointed by my choice," Mr Buttey admitted. "But I'm ready to explain to them that Islam has a mission to unite all men and women." He said he found it difficult to believe the "official" version of the September 11 attacks, adding that there was doubt about the "Merah affair" -- referring to the al-Qaeda inspired French gunman, Mohammed Merah, who killed seven people in the south of France in 2012. "I am against the niqab [full-face veil]," he said, adding that Islam did not call for believers "to cut off heads as the Islamic State group does."

Mr Buttey said he had decided to convert after lengthy discussions with the local imam, whom he met while campaigning for election earlier this year. "I was Catholic but when I reread the Bible I noticed all its inconsistencies," he said. "When I read the Koran thoroughly, I understood that this religion is more open." The leader of the Front National, Marine Le Pen, has objected to schools serving Halal meat for Muslim pupils, a controversial issue in France, which has banned the wearing of the full-face veil in public and headscarves in state schools. It has Europe's largest Muslim population, estimated at six million.
© The Telegraph


UK & FRANCE NEWS week 43

Le Pen: France needs to take control of borders

National Front leader Marine Le Pen visited the northern port city of Calais on Friday where tensions are high as authorities under increasing pressure to control the influx of illegal migrants trying to get to Britain.

24/10/2014- For months the port city, where around 2,500 migrants are camped out in dire conditions, has been struggling to cope with a tide of migrants, each of whom are despe-rate to try to get onto trucks and cross the Channel to Britain. Authorities have been under pressure to deal with the crisis, which worsened this week as migrants fought pitched street battles between other other. With tensions high and anti-immigration sentiment in the city growing, the far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen chose to visit the city on Friday. Le Pen blasted the government's handling of the crisis. “We need to regain control of our borders and remove all possibility of allowing illegal immigrants to stay. We must wage war on this phenomenon,” Le Pen was quoted as saying by Le Figaro. “Migrants belong in the country where they come from. Of course, we can be sensitive to the plight of migrants, but first I see the plight of people from Calais.” Le Pen’s visit comes the day after France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced that 100 extra police officers had been dispatched at the port, bringing the total to 450. However Le Pen slammed Cazeneuve’s approach as “soft”, saying that the extra police were not sufficient to handle the crisis. Needless to say, Le Pen’s presence was not welcomed by the city’s mayor Natacha Bouchart, from the centre-right UMP party, who described her visit as “uncalled for”.
© The Local - France


France sends more cops to quell migrant unrest

After more violence at camps filled with UK-bound migrants around the French Port of Calais, France's top cop is sending more police to try to quell the desperate and tense situation there.

23/10/2014- France's interior minister said on Thursday he had dispatched 100 extra police to the port of Calais --bring the total to 450 -- where an influx of illegal migrants trying to get to Britain is causing more and more havoc. The town has been struggling for months to cope with a tide of migrants trying to slip onto trucks and cross the Channel to Britain, despite a slew of recent measures to tighten security. And this week, violent fights between migrants in an industrial district where many have taken refuge, saw police fire tear gas and seal off the area to try and restore calm. The migrants -- many of whom are from Eritrea and Sudan but also from Syria and other conflict zones -- have several times mobbed a zone in the port where trucks wait to be checked before they board ferries. They are desperate to scramble onto the vehicles to make their way illegally to Britain, which some see as a place where migrants have more opportunity.

In an interview with local daily La Voix du Nord, France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he had decided to send reinforcements to Calais by dispatching "100 additional police officers, of whom 70 will secure the port permanently 24 hours a day, and 30 others will secure the town centre." This brings the total number of police mobilized to keep order in the port to 450, he added in the interview published Thursday. "The aim is for trucks to be able to move more freely, to avoid them being mobbed, and to strengthen controls while also ensuring the security of migrants who are themselves in danger," Cazeneuve said. On Monday night, a 16-year-old Ethiopian girl was killed after being hit by a car while crossing a motorway in the area, police said, highlighting the dangers involved.

The problem in Calais is not new -- illegal camps of migrants have sprung up in the area since French authorities closed down the infamous Sangatte immigrant detention centre in 2002. But the crisis has spiralled, prompting the city's mayor Natacha Bouchart to threaten last month to shut down the port entirely in protest at London's perceived lack of action or help over the problem. Cazeneuve has said that Britain had since agreed to contribute up to €15 million (£12 million, $19 million) to help deal with the problem.
© The Local - France


French police seal off Calais district after migrant fight

21/10/2014- Police in Calais said Tuesday they sealed off an industrial district of the French port city after a fight between illegal migrants, in the latest incident to hit the northern gateway to Britain. The port has for months been struggling to stem a tide of migrants trying to slip onto trucks and cross the Channel to Britain, despite a slew of recent measures to tighten security. In the latest incident Tuesday, police closed off an industrial area of the city where migrants from Ethiopia and Eritrea were battling each other with sticks, after firing tear gas to try and break up the fight.

The district in the Dunes industrial zone has recently become a refuge for migrants pouring into the port city, and unrest flared up Monday evening and continued into Tuesday. One migrant was detained and dozens were slightly injured during the night, police said. Adding to the general unrest, a 16-year-old Ethiopian girl was killed overnight Monday after being hit by a car while crossing a motorway in the area, police added. On Monday, security forces had already fired tear gas at hundreds of migrants trying to force their way onto trucks waiting to be checked before they boarded ferries bound for Britain.

The problem in Calais is not new -- illegal camps of migrants have sprung up in the area since French authorities closed down the infamous Sangatte immigrant detention centre in 2002. But the crisis has spiralled, prompting the city's mayor Natacha Bouchart to threaten last month to shut down the port entirely in protest at London's perceived lack of action or help over the problem. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said that Britain had since agreed to contribute up to 15 million euros (£12 million, $19 million) to a fund to help deal with the problem. Migrants in Calais mainly come from Sudan or Eritrea but also from Syria and other conflict zones, desperate for an opportunity to get to Britain which they see as having a favourable asylum policy, or where they already have family. French authorities have arrested at least 7,500 illegal immigrants trying to cross the Channel this year.
© Expatica News


France: Marseille's culture clash 3: An old hatred acquires a new face

Part 3 of 3: Anti-Semitism has a long history in Europe. But Jews are feeling increasingly threatened by what they see as a new wave of prejudice – brewed in part by burgeoning extremism in Muslim communities.

24/10/2014- France, like much of Europe these days, is in a period of social tumult. Far-right parties like the National Front are gaining ground and influencing local governments. Muslims face worsening Islamophobia. And the outrage that many Muslims feel about Western and Israeli policies in the Mideast is fostering a very old problem: anti-Semitism. Marseil-le, a multicultural city on the Mediterranean, offers a vantage point onto these related issues. Today, the Monitor reports on how anti-Semitism is rearing its head again in Europe, but now more connected to Muslims than neo-Nazis.

After a Jewish-owned pharmacy was set on fire outside Paris, in a blaze of anti-Israel protest that swept across Europe this summer, Hagay Sobol, a local Jewish leader in the port city of Marseille, reached out to an unlikely ally: a pro-Palestinian Muslim leader.Mr. Sobol, a red-headed father of four, published a joint letter with Nassera Benmarnia in the local media. It stated that the two city councilors were putting aside their differences – without abandoning their respective positions – amid fear that radicalization was growing on both sides. Their move was criticized by some Jews and Muslims alike, when positions were hardening at a time of war. But he says their attempt to find common ground, even if just a small example, is informative across Europe, where Jews feel increasingly threatened by what they perceive as a new wave of anti-Semitism and fear some of the extre-mism brewing in Muslim communities. "We come from very different positions, and we don't agree on what is going on in the Middle East, but we are French and we both want peace,” he says. Even in Marseille, he says, where religious groups have worked harmoniously in the past, Mr. Sobol worries that extremists are testing the limits. “The model of cohabitation in Marseille, that is ancient and that has until now worked, is starting to break down with radicalization,” he says.

'A watershed summer'
Anti-Semitism has a long, grim history in Europe. Jews have faced frequent, often government-led hatred and expulsion for centuries. More recently, political anti-Israeli senti-ment, stemming from policies toward the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has grown as well. But this summer, it was the fact that many European Muslims were at the forefront of anti-Israel protests that signaled a shift. Jochen Bittner, a political editor for the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, wrote in a New York Times opinion piece in September, that in Germany the "new anti-Semitism does not originate solely with the typical white-supremacist neo-Nazi; instead, the ugly truth that many in Europe don’t want to confront is that much of the anti-Jewish animus originates with European people of Muslim background.” As Europe grapples with radicalization of Muslims, some of them converts, Jewish leaders worry about a more virulent strain of anti-Semitism emerging, especially through the help of social media that easily incited crowds this summer.

“This summer was a watershed moment for us,” says Shimon Samuels, who directs the European office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris, a Jewish human rights organiza-tion. Jews in Europe have been troubled by “lone wolf” terrorists, including of a gunmen that killed three children and a rabbi outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, in 2012, and the deaths of four at a Jewish museum in Brussels this May, by a French suspect who had returned from Syria. France, like other European nations, has braced for more attacks, and while Jewish leaders stress that all Europeans are at risk by attacks on the West, Jews are the natural target of radical Islamists. "The risk is not theoretical, it is unfortunately real,” says the Grand Rabbi of Paris, Haim Korsia, speaking with foreign journalists last month.

Newly vocal migrant communities
Such fears come as anti-Semitic acts have surged this year. In France, recorded incidents of public anti-Semitism, including vandalism or violence, rose by 91 percent from January to the end of July, compared with the same period the year before, according to figures cited by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France. In Britain, the Jewish charity Community Security Trust reported that July had more anti-Semitic acts than any other month on record. And Germany was so shocked by the anti-Jewish rhetoric on its streets this summer that German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a rare appearance at a peace march. “It hurts me when I hear that young Jewish parents are asking if it's safe to raise their children here or elderly ask if it was right to stay here,” she told the crowd.

Anti-Semitism has flared in Germany, like elsewhere, in the 70 years since World War II, but what was new this summer was the widespread presence of migrant populations at the marches, says Peter Ullrich, an expert on social movements and anti-Semitism at the Technical University of Berlin. “A new quality is that migrant populations are becoming more [apt] to organize and address the general public sphere and not just their own communities." Muslim protesters in Germany reflect the changing demographics of Europe, where the framing of the German government’s unbending support for Israel doesn't resonate for many new Muslim immigrants. “A Palestinian family here, who doesn’t subscribe to historic responsibilities [of World War II], feels burdened by Germany’s framing of the conflict,” Mr. Ullrich says.

Islamophobia and anti-Semitism
In Marseille, the city has attempted to mitigate inter-religious tensions through an organization called Esperance, which fosters cooperation among religious groups. And many say it’s worked. But some Muslims in Marseille say they resent that anti-Israel protest gets labeled anti-Semitic. They say Islamophobia is a far greater societal problem than antisemi-tism. “France is against Islam,” says Omar Djellil, a Muslim activist in Marseille. He criticizes the actions of Ms. Benmarnia, who declined to be interviewed. Still, he says, he agrees with her and Sobol that radicalization everywhere is growing. “We live in a moment in which it’s the extremists who are winning,” he says.

And for that reason alone, Sobol says that any attempt to bridge divides is worth it. Radicalization in Muslim communities is a real concern for Europe's Jews, he says. Some of them have responded by fleeing France. Some 5,000 Jews are expected to leave the country for Israel this year. But Sobol says he considers that a form of radicalization that does not address the real issues. He says that if more moderate voices don’t emerge to address the discontent, extremism will be victorious. It’s especially worrisome in France, which has Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim communities – and the largest European contingent of jihadis fighting in the Middle East. “In Germany in the [1930s], not everyone was a Nazi,” and yet they were still able to set the country on course towards the Holocaust, Sobol says. “If we don’t act, the radicals could get stronger.”
© The Christian Science Monitor


France: Marseille's cultural clash 2: Will a tide of Islamophobia produce more jihadis?

Part 2 of 3: Fears of radicalized European jihadis returning home to commit acts of terrorism are fueling Islamophobia across France and the Continent. Some say that is further disillusioning Muslim youth – making them more likely to radicalize.

23/10/2014- France, like much of Europe these days, is in a period of social tumult. Far-right parties like the National Front are gaining ground and influencing local governments. Muslims face worsening Islamophobia. And the outrage that many Muslims feel about Western and Israeli policies in the Mideast is fostering a very old problem: anti-Semitism. Marseille, a multicultural city on the Mediterranean, offers a vantage point onto these related issues. Today, the Monitor reports on how Europe's fear of radical Islam appears to be feeding extremism.

During the Bosnian War, Omar Djellil, a Muslim activist in Marseille, joined scores of Muslims and others from around the world who traveled to support Bosniaks against Serb forces. In 1993, after a six-month stint doing what he calls "humanitarian work," he returned home quietly and back to his life in France. But if he had made a similar trip today to Syria to fight against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – something he contemplated doing – he’d likely be locked up as a potential terrorist risk to the nation. The potential of terrorist attacks by returning jihadis have especially spooked Europe, as hundreds of Europeans have left to join the ranks of radicals in Syria. Only a fraction of them might come home with intent to kill. But authorities are rushing to pass new anti-terrorism laws to crack down on Europeans who attempt to leave for Syria or Iraq and to track those who come home.

For Muslims, in a generalized environment of anxiety over homeland security, many worry about another era of Islamophobia being ushered in across Europe. Though hundreds of Muslims have left Europe to fight in Syria, their numbers are dwarfed by the thousands of radicals from across the Middle East who went to Syria as well. Farhad Khosrokhavar, author of the soon to be published book “Radicalization,” says that the number of non-European jihadis is artificially fueling Europe's fears of radicals coming back home. And should some ex-jihadis decide to immigrate to Europe after they leave Syria, they'll be labeled as part of the homegrown jihadi problem. “Lots of people will say, ‘Once again Muslims are acting against democracy and their own country.’”

A disillusioned generation
Here in Marseille, Muslims makes up roughly one quarter of the city’s population, dispersed throughout all parts of the city. They’ve long been considered better integrated in the urban fabric than in other cities of France. When Muslim, Arab and black youth torched cars in the infamous riots that began in the the projects outside Paris in 2005, Muslim Marseille did not erupt. But for many French Muslims, discontent is brewing. Amid the rise of anti-immigration parties in France and now fears about terrorism in Europe, many say they are worse off than their first-generation immigrant parents. “They got more respect than we do,” says Nordine Benguerroud, who works with youths at the Social Center Rouguiere in Marseille. "This is not a cosmopolitan city, it's a racist city." In fact, while many European Muslims are deeply opposed to US foreign policy, they envy the status of American Muslims, who they say have fared better than their European counterparts.

Since 9/11, many have been increasingly disillusioned by the political system – a double-edged problem that not only leaves Muslims disaffected but contributes to the problem of radicalization, says Mohamed Dahmani, who ran for the French legislature as an independent in 2012 but lost. “Many are self-excluding from the system,” he says. “In that vacuum, radical Islam endures.” In many ways this is a generational problem, says Magnus Ranstorp, an expert on extremism at the Swedish National Defense College. In marginalized communities across Europe, there is a unique world view among today's Muslims, who grew up post-9/11 and only know polarization and the rise of Islamophobia. “We do have a new generation whose view of what it was like before 9/11 isn’t there,” he says.

'Thousands of dead Muslims and no one cares'
Now with the Islamic State, many fear things could get even worse. The raft of IS beheadings of Westerners in Syria proved to be a turning point for many European Muslims – for the worse. In the first place, it exposed a kind of inherent indifference of the West toward the real plight of Muslims, says Mr. Djellil. “We have an impression that there are thousands of dead Muslims [in Iraq and Palestine] and no one cares," he says. "And one Westerner is killed and the whole world mobilizes in a coalition.” He understands the fear incited by the group. But he also says that cracking down on Muslims, as does an anti-terrorism law passed in France last month that doesn't distinguish between Europeans who are extremists and those leaving for Syria for humanitarian reasons, only causes anger at the West to grow. The fallout from IS terror also divided Muslims in France, who already have trouble organizing. While a British NGO made headlines for its #NotInMyName campaign by Muslims directed at the Islamic State, many French Muslims went on the defensive, saying they shouldn't have to speak out for acts that have nothing to do with the religion of Islam.

Hamza Bensatem, a soft-spoken but determined high school student in Marseille, has tried to bridge those divides. When he heard the call of the IS for Muslims to kill their own countrymen, which culminated in the beheading of a French tourist in Algeria, he was perplexed. “What is this religion? This is a religion I don’t not know,” he says. So Hamza, who wants to be a social worker, adopted the #NotInMyName hashtag and translated it into French – #PasEnMonNom – in a local Facebook campaign. He held a peace march in early October but only a couple hundred attended, he says, far less than a similar march against the far right that he held this summer. He says his actions garnered criticism. “People said to me that I shouldn’t have to justify my religion to say I’m not a terrorist,” says Hamza. “I’m saying, I’m French, I’m a citizen, and I’m Muslim, and I condemn this barbarity.” He says he does worry about the prejudices that he feels growing around him, something he says he feels each day when he commutes on the metro and watches a woman tense up as he sits down next to her. “I want to say, ‘I am scared too,’” he says. He adds as an afterthought: “I have the feeling that I was born in a bad era for Muslims.”
Tomorrow: European Muslims' outrage over Western foreign policy is stirring up an old problem: anti-Semitism.
© The Christian Science Monitor


France: Marseille's cultural clash 1: Far right gets unlikely lift in Muslim quarters

Part 1 of 3: In Marseille, one of France's most multicultural cities, the anti-immigrant National Front is moving from the fringes into the mainstream with the support of disenfranchised Muslims, amongst others.

22/10/2014- France, like much of Europe these days, is in a period of social tumult. Far-right parties like the National Front are gaining ground and influencing local governments. Muslim immigrants face worsening Islamophobia. And the outrage that many Muslims feel about Western and Israeli policies in the Mideast is fostering a very old problem: anti-Semitism. Marseille, a multicultural city on the Mediterranean, offers a vantage point onto these related issues. Today, the Monitor reports on the National Front's rise and its unlikely supporters.

Marseille has always stood out as an atypical French city. In many ways, that’s been a criticism. A port city in every sense, it’s poor and scrappy, rough around the edges. But where Marseille has always fared well is in inter-religious and -ethnic relations. An amalgam of peoples, from the Greeks who settled here 2,500 years ago, to Italian refugees escaping fascism, to Algerians after independence from France, "Marseillais" have always been forced to live together, giving rise to a multiculturalism that seems more harmonious, at least on the surface, than in other French cities. And yet it is in this region where the anti-immigrant, far-right National Front (FN) party finds one of its strongest bases. Last month the party managed to break through a national barrier, sending two party members to the French Senate, both of them from the South of France. It marks a key victory for a party that seems increasingly mainstream.

But it has caused worry in this Mediterranean enclave that the careful balance of “cohabitation” that has defined Marseille living will tip. Across Europe, political parties sharing the FN's positions have gained ground, promising to kick out immigrants and say “no” to the free flow of people that is a cornerstone of the European Union. And these groups are tapping into the growing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism that are testing the limits of European tolerance. “They talk about who is French and who is not, even for people who were born here,” says Norya Amezza, as she walks through the city’s main North African market in the center of Marseille. “They create divisions." Ms. Amezza, a cheerful tour guide who was born in Algeria but raised in France since she was a year old, works with the volunteer organization Provence Greeters. “Marseille until now has been relatively peaceful. But with what is happening in Syria or with Palestine and Israel, you can have the beginnings of a problem even here.”

Far right ascendant
To understand why a region that is promoted as the epitome of French multiculturalism is drawn to the FN, head to troubled northern Marseille, a mixed area of middle class French families and newly arrived immigrants, mostly of Muslim descent. On a recent day, the groups mingle easily, at the bus stops and local bakeries that dot the community. But this is the city's 7th sector – one of the eight subsections of Marseille, each with its own municipal government – that voted in a FN mayor in this year's elections, one of the more shocking political stories of the year.

Resident Louis Fornerone, who is of Italian descent, explains why he was drawn to the party after voting for years for the center-right UMP. “The National Front is winning here because of immigration, it's that simple," he says, blaming immigrants for increased crime and being a drain on social spending. These are old laments, especially with Marseille’s historic ties to Algeria, a former French colony. What has changed, say Muslims here, is that the FN is no longer considered fringe, but a viable political option for French who once would have been hushed about voting for the party.

The FN isn't only capitalizing on anti-immigrant sentiment, which can often appear anti-Muslim because the two groups usually coincide in France. It’s also public disgust with mainstream parties on the right and left. Surprisingly, even many Muslims voted for the FN – not unlike Mexicans in the US who have become zealous anti-immigration advocates. Though Muslims largely voted for President François Hollande, a Socialist, in 2012, many felt deceived by his government's weak economic performance and legalization of gay marriage, which the FN condemns.

“I still can’t understand how the National Front pierced the (7th sector) where there are so many Muslims,” says Ali Timizar, a long-time leader of the Algerian community in Marseille. “It shows that neither the right nor the left has responded to the citizens of these neighborhoods.” The mayor of the sector, Stephane Ravier, who is also one of the two new FN senators of France, says that his victory does not mean an institutionalization of of discrimination or intolerance in Marseille. “That is a fear,” he told the Monitor. “But that has been stoked by adversaries.” His message is that immigrants living in France should adopt and live by French values.

A broad appeal
But others say his victory could signify divisions. The 7th sector “should be a model of multicultural France but instead it elects the FN's Stephane Ravier as mayor,” says James Shields, an expert on France’s far right at Aston University in the United Kingdom. “It now faces a six-year period of FN local government challenging any multicultural narrative that might have gained ground in Marseille.” Just like Britain's populist United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the FN appeals to both sides of the political spectrum, from well-heeled conservatives to former leftists in post-industrial France, says Sylvain Crepon, an expert on the party. That's the main reason both are such a threat to the mainstream political establishment. A recent poll showed its leader Marine Le Pen would easily win a presidential election if one were held today.

Upon Mr. Ravier’s senate victory, he expressed his party’s upbeat mood to the local media: "Now there is only one more door to push open, that of the [national government in] Elysee," he said. But for the minority communities of Marseille, the future looks dimmer. Hamza Bensatem, a young high school student of Algerian descent, staged a protest of young students in Marseille after the FN won the most votes in European parliamentary elections in May. “The party makes me afraid,” he says. And with all the tensions in the Middle East, especially the Islamic State, he says, he fears worse is ahead. "Each time there is a beheading, it's another vote for the FN."

Tomorrow: How Islamophobia is alienating Marseille's Muslims.
© The Christian Science Monitor


Banned Comedian and Incendiary Essayist Form New Political Party in France

23/10/2014- Former comedian Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala, whose shows were banned in France earlier this year, and incendiary essayist Alain Soral, who is currently under investiga-tion for publishing anti-Semitic texts, have joined forces to launch a new French political party, according to information published on Tuesday on Mediapart, an online French investigative and opinion journal. According to Mediapart, which obtained a copy of the organization's bylaws, the new party is to be named Réconciliation Nationale (National Reconciliation) and will be jointly headed by M'Bala M'Bala and Soral. The party will be based in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, where it will share an address with Kontre Kulture, the publishing houseSoral founded, which was convicted in 2013 of publishing anti-Semitic pamphlets. Also housed at this address is Soral's political association, Égalité et Réconci-liation (Equality and Reconciliation), created in 2007, and originally a puppet for the Front National (NF), France's far-right nationalist party, before distancing itself from NF to pursue its own anti-Zionist agenda.

An article published Tuesday on Égalité et Réconciliation's website does not refute Mediapart's claims, but stresses that the organization's bylaws had "not yet been filed," and that the party is still "in development." The article also takes the opportunity to accuse Mediapart and French intelligence of collaborating to "optimize the power of oppression of the powers [that be]." Sources close to M'Bala M'Bala and Soral declined to provide VICE News with comments, stating that all forthcoming information would be disseminated by Égali-té et Réconciliation's website and other channels. As with all political parties in France, the proposed new party could have access to public funding, provided it passes the thres-hold of 1 percent of votes and presents candidates in at least 50 electoral districts. Financing could be made available as early as the next legislative elections in 2017, or sooner, in the event of a premature dissolution of the National Assembly.

The two men, who come from very different backgrounds, had previously attempted a joint foray into politics in 2009, when they presented an anti-Zionist list for the European elections, collecting 1.3 percent of the total votes. Soral's political association, Égalité et Réconciliation, claims officially to be "on the Left for the workers and on the Right for values." According to the biography on his website, M'Bala M'bala, who is also known by his first name, Dieudonné, or Dieudo, was born in France in 1966 to a Breton mother and a Cameroonian father. The comedian launched a successful career playing alongside Jewish comedian Elie Semoun. A skit from December 2003 on French television Channel France 3 first sparked controversy around his character. He has since created several shows, one of which was banned by a ministerial order in January 2014. According to his biography, Soral is a past member of the Communist Party, which he joined in 1990. He then joined the National Front in 2007, only to leave in 2009 to start an anti-Zionist list with Dieudon-né. He has since appeared in videos posted online, which he uses as a growing platform for his controversial ideas. According to Mediapart, Soral's political organization today counts over 12,000 members.

Mediapart's article also makes public the "recruitment protocol for new Égalité et Réconciliation militants," a series of guidelines that are allegedly distributed to the group's regional directors. One of the recommendations states that, "It is unnecessary to integrate members who are mere ideological consumers, and who have come to mingle for two hours before returning to their computers." The protocol also describes the organization's goal to instate "a series of networking activities that allow [one] to step out of the traditional system […] such as bulk purchases, French lessons or boxing lessons." The group is also very cautious: "an infiltrator can always slip through the nets. Therefore the leader will need to be on his guard at all times."
© Vice News


'France's new anti-terror law is just anti-Roma'

Human Rights campaigners and immigrants' support groups have sounded the alarm about the small print in France’s new anti-terrorism bill, which they say will allow Paris to stop the freedom of movement of EU nationals, specifically members of the Roma community.

23/10/2014- The bill is currently being rushed through the parliamentary process to give France new powers to combat a perceived increase in the threat from terrorism. But an article was added to the bill in the Senate this week is greatly concerning human rights groups and immigrants' support organisations in the country. The clause would give France the power to refuse entry to “undesirable” nationals of EU states and their families if they posed a threat to public order or safety. In full it reads: “Any national of an EU member-state ... or any member of the family of an individual will be banned from entering the French territory if their presence causes a serious threat to a fundamental interest of society, in terms of public order or security, because of their personal behaviour.” It comes at a time when countries like the UK are talking of imposing a cap on EU migrants and talk in France of a need to restore its borders with European neighbours. Critics say the wording of the clause is so vague it could be used to prevent EU migrants from entering France, notably those from Eastern Europe.

Human Rights specialist and lecturer in law at Paris Nanterre University Simon Slama told The Local that the French government has simply taken advantage of the increased fear around terrorism to increase its control over its frontier. “This is certainly not designed to fight against terrorism, it is simply to stop people they consider as undesirable from entering France freely,” he said. Slama questions France’s motives by pointing out that EU law already allows member states to restrict free-movement of EU citizens on grounds of security or order. Claudia Charles from the French immigrants support group, GISTI, told The Local the powers are simply a way for French authorities to prevent members of the Roma community from being able to enter the country. “The purpose of this law has been completely twisted,” Charles said. “It's simply to allow French authorities to remove so-called “undesirables”, not because they are terrorists but because they are poor, notably the Roma." She says a similarly worded article has been included in an immigration bill, but the anti-terror legislation gives the government the best chance of getting it passed into law.

Charles points to an example of a Roma woman who was recently deported because she was caught trying to trick money out of people in a charity fundraising scam. “Under this so-called ‘anti-terrorism’ bill French authorities will therefore be able to prevent this lady from coming back, because she was not a resident in France and was considered a threat to public safety,” she said. “But she is far, very far, from a being a terrorist or someone who threatens society.” Members of the Roma community are regularly subject to mass deportation in France, with authorities bulldozing makeshift camps before putting them on planes in the direction of Romania and Bulgaria, where most come from originally. Up until now those same Roma people have been able to return of their own will thanks to the fundamental law of the EU that allows nationals of member states to move freely within the border of the 28 nation bloc. However with this new anti-terrorism bill, that will no longer be the case.

The bill represents a complete “shift” of France away from this fundamental EU right, Charles argues and “European Commission – the guardian of the treaties and enforcer of EU law has not reacted.” France’s Interior Ministry reacted to the criticism by insisting the measure will be judged on a case by case basis for individuals who "endanger the fundamen-tal interests of the nation, not those who engage in begging”. However recently EU leaders in Brussels have made it perfectly clear what they think of any attempt to prevent freedom of movement of European citizens. Speaking in the UK recently, outgoing European Commission president Manuel Barroso said any attempt to impose caps on migrants would never be accepted by the EU. The anti-terrorism bill comes as France is on increased alert for potential attacks. With hundreds of French nationals fighting a jihad in Syria and Iraq, the French government fears they may return home to plan attacks on French soil. Security has been increased at transport hubs, tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and shopping centres.
© The Local - France


French suicide: 'Racist' author taps into malaise

21/10/2014- A controversial new book by French polemicist Eric Zemmour is flying off the shelves and shows no sign of stopping. The notorious right-wing writer and polemicist appears to have struck a chord with a French public feeling disillusioned and "lost".

Who is Eric Zemmour?
He’s a journalist, author and TV personality whose new book “Le Suicide Français - Ces quarante années qui ont défait la France” (The French suicide - the 40 years that defeated France) has been selling an average of 15,000 copies per day, since it was released on October 1st. He is seemingly everywhere at the moment with appearances on radio, TV and in person with his book's on track to sell 500,000 copies. In France's that's considered a lot of books.

So what's the gist of his book?
As France struggles under record unemployment, historically unpopular leadership and increasingly angry populace, Zemmour's tome claims to provide an explanation for what’s wrong with the country. And right now everybody wants to know what’s wrong with France. In the book Zemmour argues the May 1968 student rebellion set France on a path to failure and impotence, which is now being exacerbated by immigration. Though he is Jewish and born to immigrant parents from Algeria, Zemmour says one of France’s fatal errors in the past 40 years was the 1974 immigration law that allowed for immigrants to bring over their close family members.

So why all the buzz around the book?
In a country where the anti-EU, anti-immigrant National Front party has won historic election victories this year, Zemmour’s far-right ideas are tapping into the zeit-geist of the moment. His book decries the ‘halalization’ of France, which is characterized by the creation of “Islamic republics in certain neighborhoods in France.”
He also charges that masculinity, as he has in previous books, has been undermined in France to great negative effect. He believes French society has become too feminine. “'(There is) sexual hopelessness among young, white men in comparison with their Arab and black competitors...Virility is valued in African and Arab-Muslim families. White men have been symbolically castrated.”

What does the book's popularity say about France?
Bruno Cautres, a political expert at the research institute at France's prestigious Sciences Po university told The Local the sales reveal a French populace looking for answers and clear messages. "Things in France are not going well at the moment. We are in some collective syndrome of depression. Between the bad economic results, there is feeling of being lost at the moment in France," said Cautres. But Zemmour is unafraid--whether you agree with him or not--to speak his position clearly and unapologetically. “Even people who think that Zemmour is an unbearable racist at least recognize that he states his ideas clearly and knows very clearly who he is,” said Cautrés. “When one buys his book there is no risk of being surprised, like after having voted for the “enemy of finance” and ending up with the brilliant Emmanuel Macron,” Cautrés said, referring to President François Hollande’s campaign theme of battling financiers, before eventually choosing an ex-banker to fix the country’s economy.

What did he say about the Holocaust?
As if the general tone of the book wasn’t controversial enough, Zemmour also took on one of the thorniest subjects in modern France: its role in the Holocaust. Zem-mour claims General Philippe Petain, whose government collaborated with the Nazis, saved French Jews by sending foreign Jews in their place to the Nazi-run death camps. Of the 76,000 Jews sent on French-state owned trains to the deaths, about a third were French and the rest were foreigners. Many historians have disputed Zemmour’s account argument, noting that Petain’s government aided in genocide regardless of the nationality of the people it helped the Nazis kill.

Has he ever been in trouble with the law?
Zemmour has long been known for his controversial stances on sensitive topics, like gender equality, race, gay rights and immigration. In 2011 his comments on national TV that black and Arabs are rightly profiled by police because “most traffickers are blacks and’s a fact,” earned him a conviction for racist speech and a €2,000 fine. The conviction came despite numerous people speaking up for him, such as Reporters Without Borders co-founder Robert Menard. Some three years later Menard has won the mayorship of the southern France town of Béziers on a National Front-backed candidacy. Ménard and Zemmour appeared together on stage in Béziers in front of a crowd of some 1,600 people.
© The Local - France


UK: Far-right group Facebook posts prove costly for Skye Councillor

A Skye Councillor has been stripped of two senior council positions, after sharing the online postings of the far right group Britain First.

24/10/2014- As a result of the complaints over two posts on his Facebook site, Drew Millar has now resigned his membership of the Liberal Democrats. The long serving Portree-based councillor had chaired Highland Council’s community safety, public engagement and equalities committee, and was also leading the customer services board examining the future of the area’s service point network. Councillor Millar has pledged to serve the remainder of his term in office as an independent. The posts from his Facebook site have now been removed, but speaking to the Free Press today (Friday) Councillor Millar was unrepentant. He said many would share the sentiments contained within the online messa-ges. One of the posts had urged: “Nick Clegg says teaching British values in schools could offend moderate Muslims — share if you think Nick Clegg is a cretin.”

On its website, Britain First — an offshoot of the British National Party — describes itself as a movement of British “nationalism, patriotism and democracy,” which views Islam as an “alien and destructive” doctrine. Councillor Millar said he had been stripped of the committee posts before he had been given a chance to explain himself. As a result, he had decided to leave the party. “I served as an independent for 15 years before joining the LibDems, so it won’t make a great deal of difference to me or the constituents,” he added. Mr Millar said it had always been his intention to step down as councillor at the next election in two years’ time.

A statement released today by the Highland Liberal Democrat Council group said: “In early October, the group was made aware that Councillor Drew Millar of Skye had shared with friends on his Facebook page images and comments which came from Britain First, an extreme right-wing organisation. This was anti-Islamic material used by Britain First to stir up religious hatred. “The group immediately acted to make the convener of the Scottish Liberal Democrats aware of this and he initiated the process of investigating the complaint. Under party rules this is a matter for the office bearers of the National Executive, who have an obligation to follow due process and conduct the investigation in a thorough and impartial manner. “Due to the nature of the material, Councillor Millar was given the opportunity to voluntarily stand aside from his position as Chair of the Community Safety, Public Engagement and Equalities Committee while the investigation was underway. “He declined to do so and has subsequently resigned from the LibDem Group on Highland Council and resigned his membership of the Liberal Democrats.

“The group will now nominate a new chair of the CPE Committee. This is a formal decision for the full Highland Council which meets on 30th October.” The statement added: “In the strongest possible terms, the Liberal Democrat Group condemns the dissemination of such material as utterly reprehensible and wholly unacceptable. It has no place in our free and tolerant society and any councillor, from any political party, should face swift and appropriate action when found to be in breach of stringent regulations governing the conduct of members.”
© West Highland Free Press


UK: Britain First 'tricks' Facebook users with Lynda Bellingham post

Thousands of Facebook users 'liked' the post, featuring a picture of Lynda with All Creatures Great and Small co-star Christopher Timothy

24/10/2014- Lynda Bellingham’s tragic death has been exploited on Facebook by far right extremists, it emerged last night. Britain First encouraged people to like and share a picture of the Loose Women star minutes after her death was announced on Monday. Thousands of Facebook users 'liked' the post, featuring a picture of Lynda with All Creatures Great and Small co-star Christopher Timothy. However, many would not have been aware that the photo was being spread by Britain First, an ultra-right campaign group. Its supporters use the Britain First Facebook page to call for British Muslims to be “wiped out” and non-whites deported. Formed from former BNP and EDL members, Britain First made headlines this year by invading mosques and threatening imams.

Men in the group’s paramilitary-style uniforms pushed their way into several mosques in England and Scotland. Founder of Britain First, Jim Dowson, later quit the group over its “unchristian” paramilitary-style “mosque invasions”, saying they were “provocative and counterproductive”. He added that they were attracting “racists and extremists” to the organisation, which has taken over from the British National Party and the English Defence League as the biggest far-right threat in the UK. Mr Dowson, from Belfast, left the BNP in 2010 to form a “Christian” group opposing the rise of radical Islam. But he told the Mirror he had pulled the plug on the group’s funding, closed their office in Belfast and severed all links.

He described the mosque invasions as “unacceptable and unchristian”, adding: “Most of the Muslims in this country are fine."They are worried about extremists the same as us. So going into their mosques and stirring them up and provoking them is political madness and a bit rude.” Matthew Collins, of anti-racist group Hope not Hate, said: “It is the most dangerous group to have emerged on the far right for several years.” But a Britain First spokesman told The Sun: “We do this regularly when British celebrities pass away. We pay our respects.” Brave Lynda lost her battle with cancer at the weekend after the disease spread from her colon to other parts of her body. She died in her husband Michael's arms on Sunday, aged 66.
© The Daily Mirror


UK: Nine out of 10 gypsy and traveller children have suffered racial abuse

Discrimination against gypsies and travellers is the last bastion of "acceptable" racism in Britain, according to research published today.

22/10/2014- Nine out of 10 gypsy, traveller or Roma children in the UK have suffered racial abuse, a study from the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and Anglia Ruskin University shows. Two thirds of children from itinerant groups have also been bullied or physically attacked and many are too scared to go to school, researchers say. The report is the first comprehensive review of what life is like for those communities across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Dr Pauline Lane, Reader in the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “In order to improve the lives of people from gypsy, traveller and Roma communities, there is an urgent need for the UK to address discrimination against these communities. At the moment, it is the last bastion of ‘acceptable’ racism and that needs to stop.”

A lack of appropriate caravan sites is having a significant detrimental impact on the community, the report says. Gypsies and travellers have been encouraged to purchase their own land but 90 per cent of planning applications made from these groups fail. The infant mortality rate of gypsies and travellers is three times higher than the national average and life expectancy is an estimated 12 years less than the general population. Despite the fact itinerant groups are significantly more likely to have a long term condition and suffer poorer health, gypsies and travellers use mainstream health services less than other members of the population because of practical difficulties, such as complex procedures for registering and making use of services. The study says the Government’s failure to have a comprehensive strategy to address the groups’ specific needs means that an estimated half a million people are being excluded from wider society. The report’s co-author, Siobhan Spencer, co-director of the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and PhD student at Anglia Ruskin, said: “We need a concrete strategy with a timeline of goals with achievable and measurable outcomes.”
© The Independent


UK: "Execute them" - Councillor proposes shocking solution for removing travellers

A councillor's shock solution for removing travellers from sites is to 'execute' them.

22/10/2014- Conservative councillor for Cox Green Alan Mellins made the offensive comment at a planning and housing overview and scrutiny panel meeting in Maiden-head Town Hall on Monday. The panel was discussing how to respond to the Government's consultation on planning and traveller families. The consultation deals with changing planning policy so it applies 'fairly' to both traveller and settled communities. Councillors were discussing how long it can take to evict travellers who do not have planning permission. The members referenced a traveller site in Shurlock Row, where travellers first settled in 2009. The borough's head of planning, Simon Hurrell told the panel that Cllr David Evans, who was not at the meeting, had asked for suggestions on how to speed up the process to evict travellers. Cllr Mellins then said: "Execute them."

The Cox Green councillor said afterwards that he apologises for the offence caused. He said: "The remark was an ill judged remark, which I did not intend to be taken seriously. It doesn't reflect my views." When asked if it is appropriate for him to sit on future panels, Cllr Mellins said: "I do not have any prejudices. I do not consider myself to have any anyway." Roma Gypsies were targeted during the Holocaust and it is estimated that up to 500,000 may have been killed by the Nazis. Joseph Jones, spokesman for the Gypsy Council has called for Cllr Mellins to think about resigning. He said: "It's not something that should be taken as a joke. “If his judgement is that poor he should seriously consider his position as a councillor.” He added: "All the people he's representing should consider if they want him to actively represent them."
© The Maidenhead Advertiser


British youth soccer player facing suspension for anti-Semitic taunts

A player in a British youth soccer league is facing a possible five-match suspension for anti-Semitic taunting in a game.

22/10/2014- The Curzon Ashton player in the under-16 league was charged this week with “discrimination on the grounds of religion” by the Football Association, the governing body for soccer in Britain. Players from Manchester Maccabi said they had endured anti-Jewish taunts and jibes about Palestine in a game against Curzon Ashton earlier this month. With 10 minutes left in the game and his team losing 9-2, Manchester Maccabi coach Anthony Dennison led the players off the field after an argument between two players drew in other players, coaches and spectators. Along with charging the player, the Football Association also charged the Curzon Ashton team with a “failure to ensure players/spectators and/or club officials conducted themselves in an orderly fashion (aggravated by discrimination),” the Jewish Chronicle reported.

A Manchester Maccabi player was charged as well with discrimination on the grounds of color or race and is facing immediate suspension of at least five matches if found guilty. The players and team have until Oct. 31 to respond to the charges. “We’re used to anti-Semitism, we play with the Star of David on our shirts, we wear the kippah, but in the past we’ve had managers apologize profusely and have a word with their players,” Dennison told the Manchester Evening News at the time of the incident. “On this occasion everyone was clapping and laughing at these racist insults, and it was only one or two of their boys who seemed quite embarrassed and apologized to my players.”
© JTA News


UK: Luciana Berger targeted by antisemites after jailing of abusive internet troll

The jailing of an internet troll who sent antisemitic messages to MP Luciana Berger has sparked a wave of copycat abuse targeting the Labour shadow cabinet member.

24/10/2014- Merseysider Garron Helm was handed a four-week prison term on Monday after admitting sending an “obscene” Hitler-related tweet to Ms Berger. It featured a photo-graph of the Liverpool Wavertree MP superimposed with a Holocaust yellow star and the wording: "You can always count on a Jew to show their true colours eventually". Helm’s incarceration was widely welcomed, but Ms Berger has subsequently been targeted by similar messages on Twitter. One sent her a message containing only the word “jude” – the German word for Jew. Another bombarded Ms Berger with messages on Thursday evening, and also targeted fellow Jewish Labour MP Louise Ellman. In one tweet the user wrote: “Two Jews in a shtetl. Family tree is a knot. #InbredJews #ExpelLucianaBerger #ExpeltheJews #JewOwnedBritain” And in another: “Only two places for Jews. The desert or in hell with their father the devil. #ExpelLucianaBerger” Other messages are too offensive to reproduce. A series of tweets have been posted since Monday using the hashtag #FreeGarronHelm. BNP members are among those to have sent the messages.

Colleagues across Parliament have reacted to the abuse. Lord Wood, a Labour peer and adviser to party leader Ed Miliband, wrote on Twitter: “The vile antisemitic abuse of Luciana Berger online only succeeds in uniting everyone in her support and in revulsion against those behind it.” The official account of Labour’s frontbench House of Lords peers posted: “Hoping many across our party are sending support to fantastic colleague Luciana Berger after the latest online racist attacks against her.” Baroness Royall, Labour’s leader in the Lords, tweeted: “Luciana Berger is a terrific MP, friend and colleague – a very fine woman. The racist abuse against her must stop. It’s abhorrent.” Ms Berger has not responded to the latest abusive messages. Earlier this week she welcomed the decision to jail Helm, saying it sent a “clear message that hate crime is not tolerated in our country”. Elected as Britain’s youngest Jewish MP in 2010, Ms Berger is a former director of Labour Friends of Israel. She is climbing the party ranks and is Ed Miliband's current shadow public health minister. She is widely tipped for a cabinet role if Labour win next year's election.
© The Jewish Chronicle


British man gets jail time for sending lawmaker anti-Semitic tweet

22/10/2014- A 21-year-old British man was sentenced to four weeks in jail for sending an anti-Semitic tweet to a Jewish member of Parliament. Garron Helm pleaded guilty Monday to sending the offending message to Labour Party member Luciana Berger. In addition to the jail sentence, Helm was ordered to pay Berger $128. The tweet, which called Berger a “communist Jewess,” showed a photograph of her with a Holocaust yellow star photoshopped onto her forehead and the words, “You can always count on a Jew to show their true colours eventually.” It had the hashtag “Hitler was right.” Helm’s home contained Nazi memorabilia and a flag for an extremist right-wing group called National Action. “This sentence sends a clear message that hate crime is not tolerated in our country,” Berger said in a statement. “I hope this case serves as an encouragement to others to report hate crime whenever it rears its ugly head.”
© JTA News


UK: Gay couple ‘thrown off London bus for kissing’

Transport chiefs investigating incident where driver reportedly shouted: ‘It’s disgusting. Get off the bus’ at kissing couple

20/10/2014- Transport chiefs have launched an investigation after a gay couple were reportedly thrown off a bus for kissing. Jack James, 23, said he and his partner were ordered off a number 89 bus near Blackheath in south-east London by the driver, who subjected them to a volley of abuse. James, an event co-ordinator from Greenwich, told the Evening Standard: “We were chatting away when my partner gave me a peck on the lips. “The bus driver shouted: ‘Oi, you two, don’t do that on my fucking bus or you can get off, I don’t want to watch that’.” James said that, initially, the couple thought the driver could not be speaking to them. He added: “When the bus stopped at our stop I walked up to the driver and politely asked the driver if he was talking to us. His reply was: ‘Yes, it’s my bus, it is my rules, and I don’t want to watch that. It’s disgusting. Get off the bus.’ “Once we got off the bus we were fuming and I was shaking.

The bus stopped again and he shouted and told us we were not real men and we should fuck off.” The alleged incident happened on 8 August at around 10.30pm. Ken Davidson, Transport for London’s head of bus operations, said: “All customers have the right to use our services without fear of being abused and offensive behaviour is completely unacceptable. “We would like to reassure Mr James that this matter is being taken very seriously and that a thorough investigation is being conducted by [bus company] Go-Ahead.” This month, hundreds of people took part in a “big consensual kiss-in” at a Sainsbury’s store in Brighton in protest at the treatment of two women who were threatened with ejection from the store a few days earlier for kissing.
© The Guardian


UK: newspaper editor denies ‘gays will destroy society’ column was incitement of hatred

The editor of a Devon newspaper has denied claims that publishing an anti-gay column was hate speech, saying “the only incitement of hatred was directed towards me” from angered readers.

21/10/2014- The original remarks were made in the South Molton News by an anonymous columnist known as ‘Grave Turner’. In the column, he claimed that homosexu-ality is an “aberration”, and that it is “worth recalling” that homosexuality used to be criminalised.” These comments were condemned by Stephen Gilbert MP, Devon MP Sir Nick Harvey, Ex-Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, and Senior Tory MP Sarah Wollaston. The South Molton editor, Paul Henderson, has said the column has since prompted 39 email complaints, seven face-to-face complaints, three phone complaints, and one letter. He even said one “worrying” complaint from the US led him to call the FBI.

Speaking in this month’s edition, Mr Henderson reacted to the controversy. He said: “The first thing is to apologise unreservedly to anyone who was offended by the content of the September Grave Turner column. “I have already stated (picked up by the world’s media), the article was very close to the mark in terms of my decision to allow it to be published. “It’s been claimed the content could be viewed as an ‘incitement to hatred’ by a number of individuals but I fundamentally disagree with those statements. “We live in a democracy that allows freedom of expression/speech within accepted boundaries.” He added: “The only incitement of hatred was directed towards me with many posts on these web sites which could never be published in any newspaper.”

In a previous statement to PinkNews, Mr Henderson said: “I’d like to assure you I personally do not share Grave Turner’s views in this particular article. “If I did, then my nephew whom I’m very close to and who is in a long-term same sex relationship with a rugby player wouldn’t forgive me and neither would my own children as they care for him deeply.” Last month, the South Molton News invited PinkNews reporter Nick Duffy to submit a reply for this month’s issue of the paper. Mr Duffy said: “As Mr Grave Turner can’t stomach the thought of ‘coming out’ by putting his name to his own words, he can’t begin to understand the struggle of the teenagers coming to terms with being what he terms ‘an aberration’. “A column like Mr Grave Turner’s doesn’t just perpetuate tired old stereotypes about gay people, it feeds the bigotry that makes our towns, our neighbourhoods and even our families less safe.”
© Pink News


UK: Ukip song featuring mock Caribbean accent 'racist', Farage tips it to hit no1

A song performed in a mock Caribbean accent which Ukip leader Nigel Farage has backed to top the charts today sparked accusations of racism. The song, by former Radio 1 DJ Mike Read, was endorsed by Mr Farage when he called on his Twitter followers to "help get the Ukip Calypso by The Independents to Number 1."

20/10/2014- It criticises mainstream political parties for allowing "illegal immigrants in every town", and warns listeners against trusting the Prime Minister's pledges on EU reform. "The British people have been let down, that's why Ukip is making ground. From Crewe to Cleethorpes, from Hull to Hendon, they don't believe Cameron's referen-dum," sings Read. Mr Farage's endorsement of the song sparked a backlash on Twitter, where one user deemed it "ill-judged, offensive and downright awful." Michael Abberton posted: "The UKIP Calypso... a song about immigration by a party claiming not to be racist, sung by old white man with fake Jamaican accent." Others poked fun at the party's attempts to tackle allegations of racism. One posted: "Because the perfect way of making your party seem not racist is releasing a song sung in a mock Jamaican accent.." Another wrote: "A white guy singing about immigration in a bad Caribbean accent probably isn't the best way to prove you're not racist."

Read currently hosts an afternoon show on BBC Berkshire having previously spent more than a decade at Radio 1. A BBC spokeswoman said he had not breached guide-lines on impartiality by recording the song in support of the anti-EU party. And responding to criticism on social media, the former Conservative supporter dismissed accusations of racism and insisted the song is "political satire". Responding to one user who asked if he planned to "black up" while singing the number, he wrote: "tha a [sic] how we sing calypso with my Jamaican pals when I'm out there. Love calypso music & working with Jamaican tourism." Speaking on Sky News, he added: "It's a satire and a bit of fun. It's not terribly serious. It wouldn't have sounded very good sung in a Surrey accent." Ukip has previously attempted to highlight its ethnic minority members with a rally in Croydon, during which a steel band left after realising who they had been booked for and local party candidate Winston McKenzie branded the area a "dump".
© The London Evening Standard.


UK: Ask any gay person in London: homophobia is alive and well (opinion)

Gay people still suffer abuse in all areas of their life – from strangers, neighbours, workmates and even family
By Ruth Hunt, Acting Chief Executive of Stonewall  

20/10/2014-  For many young lesbian, gay and bisexual people growing up it’s a mecca. A safe haven of acceptance where same-sex couples hold hands in public and everyone is just more at ease with ‘the gay thing’. But ask any Londoner who is lesbian, gay or bisexual whether this is the case and you’ll be met with a pause. In recent days a male couple has claimed that they were subjected to horrific abuse on a bus, simply because someone took offence at their public display of affection. At Stonewall we know that incidents like this continue to blight the lives of too many gay people.

In the 25 years since Stonewall was founded it has sometimes felt that progress has been an unstoppable march forward, carried on a wave of overwhelming public support. Britain’s 3.7 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people can now marry their same-sex partner, enjoy an equal age of consent, serve in the military and live free from being sacked simply because of their sexual orientation. We hear from supporters and opponents alike that now is the time to declare ‘mission accomplished’ whilst standing triumphantly aboard the decks of our Pride floats. Despite this progress homophobic and biphobic hate crimes and incidents remain rife in our villages, towns and cities.

Across Britain some 630,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual people were the victim of a homophobic hate crime or incident over just the last three years. And in the workplace 2.4m people of working age witnessed verbal homophobic bullying in the last five years. Gay people still suffer this abuse in all areas of their life – from strangers, neighbours, workmates and even family. The abuse ranges from verbal insults and harassment to devastating physical assaults. In London alone some 19 per cent of lesbian, gay or bisexual people say they’ve been the victim of a homophobic hate crime or incident in the last three years. While the legal landscape has been transformed since Stonewall was established 25 years ago, it’s clear that there’s still much work to do to win over hearts and minds to support lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

The picture’s little better in schools. When we asked teachers about their willingness and ability to tackle homophobic abuse in schools, it was London’s educators who reported the lowest score of any across the nation when it came to even knowing whether they could talk about issues like same-sex parents. In recent years schools and local authorities working with Stonewall have driven down physical homophobic bullying in schools by ten percentage points. But the use of anti-gay language in school is almost endemic with 99 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people hearing phrases such as ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’.

So for gay couples scared to show affection in public, for a young bisexual person worried out being out at work and for a same-sex family scared to use public transport with their children, we’re far from ‘mission accomplished’. To create a world where everyone feels able to be themselves will require all of us to stand up to abuse and challenge prejudice. We can’t be bystanders when our friends, neighbours, colleagues and families are made to feel less worthy and their lives less valid. It’s time to show it’s the end of the line for homophobic hate crime.
© The Independent -Voices


British Hero Defies Anti-Muslim Sentiments

19/10/2014- An East London Muslim politician, who has been named as the Hero of the Year in the European Diversity Awards, aims to correct the negative image of Muslims, defying the soaring anti-Muslims attacks in the British community. “If you watch Theresa May’s [UK’s Home Secretary] speech at the Tory conference, she talks about extremism and then refers to a large Muslim community in Tower Hamlets,” the hero of the year, Tower Hamlets councilor Rabina Khan, told East London Line on Saturday, October 18. “She doesn’t exactly accuse us of Sharia law, but she puts them in the same sentence. “Comments like these are enough to damage the whole Muslim community.” The councilor's comments come amid increasing anti-Muslims attacks in Tower Hamlets, prompted by the distorted media coverage coupled with remarks by influential politicians that convey a negative image of Muslims.

Moving to Tower Hamlets in the 1990s, Khan has been promoting gender equality and incorporation between different groups in the borough over the past 15 years. The Muslim woman was titled the “Hero of the year” in thcoe European Diversity Awards earlier this month for her work as “an independent councilor and community worker promoting equality and diversity”. Khan's award coincided with an Ofsted inspection of an Islamic primary school over extremism allegations, putting the politician under attack from “negative media coverage”. “I think that the media have a wrong perception of the borough. It has been covered in a negative light,” Khan said. An earlier report by think-tank Chatham House identified a considerable Islamophobic sentiment in Britain, detecting a “wide reservoir of public sympathy for claims that Islam and the growth of Muslim communities pose a fundamental threat to the native group and nation.”

A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims, estimated by 2.7 million. A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.

Negative Image
Challenging the negative image of Muslims, the Muslim diplomat asserted that no single terrorist has been arrested in Tower Hamlets. Khan said: “When it comes to facts, I haven’t heard about one extremist being arrested in this borough, or being challenged and finally jailed.” Along with promoting equality and diversity, the Muslim councilor has been ecouraging Muslims students integration by visiting schools, clubs and arranging summer camps. “We use their energy in a positive way, not to teach them to go out and bomb people,” Khan said. Explaining her struggle as a veiled Muslim politician in London, Khan recalled a meeting where she was discrimina-ted against because of her Islamic appearance. “The assistant took all the others to their seats but I was left there. They were all white, middle-aged men. I didn’t go and said I was a part of the meeting, I just sat there and waited,” she said. “The assistant finally came, looked at me and said that the meeting was about to start. He thought I was a secretary.”

Despite the incidents of Islamophobia in east London, Khan still optimistic to see positive change in politics, media and people’s mood. “Younger people go out there to find information because they want the truth, they don’t want the lies. If they have the truth, then they will challenge the Muslim community and they will challen-ge me,” Khans said. “They have the right to do that: if we don’t get challenged, we can can’t bring about positive changes.” In September 2013, about 15 anti-Muslim hate crimes were recorded, compared with three in the same month in 2012 and nine in 2011. Hundreds of anti-Muslim hate offences have been carried out across UK in 2013, with Britain's Metropolitan police recording an increase of 49% than last year. The Metropolitan Police recorded 500 Islamophobic offences from January to mid-November this year, compared with 336 offences in 2012 and 318 in 2011.
© On Islam


Cameron warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration, bid to bring in quota on migrants illegal

David Cameron’s plan to restrict the amount of time that EU migrants can spend working in Britain will never be accepted by the other EU governments, Europe’s highest ranking official, Jose Manuel Barroso, has warned.

19/10/2014- He insisted that the right of EU citizens to look for work anywhere in the EU is one of its fundamental principles, and not open to negotiation. He also poin-ted out that David Cameron had urged him to uphold the principle in the past when the Spanish government was obstructing people from Gibraltar trying to cross the border into Spain to work. David Cameron is considering an annual cap on the number of low-skilled immigrants from Europe permitted to work in the UK, which would involve issuing them with national insurance numbers that would expire after a limited time. Without a valid NI number, the immigrant would be unable to work legally in the UK. But Mr Barroso, a former Prime Minister of Portugal whose term as President of the European Commission is coming to an end, denied that the British Prime Minister would be able to get this measure agreed by other EU governments. “There is no possibility of the UK reducing the number of immigrants from EU to the UK. It is not up for negotiation,“ he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme.

“I don't think you can say there is a huge problem with immigration - there are 2 million British citizens in the rest of EU. “In principle arbitrary caps seem to me in contradiction with EU laws. That is quite clear from my point of view.” Mr Cameron’s plan to restrict immigration is designed to reduce the threat to the Conservative vote posed by UKIP, which has successfully tapped into fears about migrants taking jobs and housing that could have gone to British workers. The Conservatives not to lose next months’ by-election in Rotherham and Strood, where the sitting MP, Mark Reckless, has defected to UKIP. Mr Cameron is also committed to trying to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership prior to calling a referendum, if the Conservatives are still in office after next year’s general election. Mr Barroso warned that if the British voted to leave the EU, the government’s influence in Europe would be reduced to “zero.” He added that he was sure that David Cameron wants Britain to stay in.

Labour’s Shadow immigration minister David Hanson said: “Labour is in favour of reform to European free movement rules and we will examine any proposals the government comes forward with to manage immigration with interest. But why should anyone believe the Prime Minister when he has a record of making big promises on immigration and not delivering, when everyone knows he wants headlines for the Rochester and Strood by-election, and when the briefing from the Government keeps changing every couple of days?”
© The Independent


Headlines 24 October, 2014

Data collection gaps continue to hamper efforts to combat antisemitism (FRA)

Antisemitism remains an issue of serious concern that needs to be tackled. This is shown by the latest report on data collected about antisemitic incidents across the European Union, published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

24/10/2014- “Antisemitism continues to blight Europe today, affecting the everyday lives of Jews across the EU,” said FRA Director, Morten Kjaerum. “Despite the efforts made by many EU Member States over the years, targeted responses are still needed to seriously tackle this persistent problem, as this latest FRA report underlines. Policy makers and civil society must continue to work together to support the victims of antisemitism and effectively combat such hate crime.” This latest report, ‘Antisemitism: Summary overview of data available in the European Union 2003–2013’, points to large gaps in data collection on antisemitism in EU Member States. In addition, each Member State collects different types of data, preventing any meaningful comparison of the data collected.

FRA’s survey of discrimination and hate crime against Jews in EU Member States, published in November 2013, revealed how 64% of those who experienced physical violence or threats of violence did not report the most serious incident to the police or to any other organisation. Yet, 66% of all respondents considered antisemitism to be a problem in their country. This latest report on antisemitic incidents – coupled with the survey findings – underline the need for policy and civil society actors at all levels to remain vigilant and pursue their efforts in combating the ongoing problem of antisemitism. This includes addressing the problem of under-reporting by victims and the accurate recording of such hate crimes.

The updated report compiles available data on antisemitic incidents collected by international, governmental and non-governmental sources, from 1 January 2003 until 31 December 2013. No data on antisemitic manifestations were available for Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia at the time the report was compiled.
This is the 10th in a series of yearly reports on data collection on antisemitism published by FRA and its predecessor, the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).
© EU Fundamental Rights Agency


Austria: Vienna inaugurates monument to World War Two deserters

24/10/2014- Austria inaugurated a monument on Friday to thousands of its nationals who deserted Hitler's army during World War Two, marking a new step in efforts to acknowled-ge the nation's wartime past. Germany annexed Austria in 1938, making it part of Hitler's Third Reich that wrought destruction across the continent and slaughtered millions of Jews in the Holocaust. The Nazi military justice system executed thousands of deserters and opponents of the war effort. Austria's parliament voted in 2009 -- over the objections of far-right parties -- to clear the reputations of those who met disdain and abuse for refusing to follow the Nazi line. "If they were the good ones in Hitler's army, then we deserters were of course the evil ones, the bad ones that you could take action against," said activist Richard Wadani, 92, one of those who deserted. Austrian President Heinz Fischer said it was outrageous for people to have been treated this way in a democratic post-war Austria. "This is something for which one has to apologise and be ashamed," he said.

Austria -- which has been struggling to escape a reputation for glossing over its wartime history -- for decades maintained that it was Hitler's first victim, overlooking the enthusiastic welcome he got from many Austrians. The monument, designed by German artist Olaf Nicolai, depicts a three-level form in the shape of an X, meant to symbolise the plight of the individual pitted against society's power. It stands in the Ballhausplatz in central Vienna, near the presidency and chancellery. Seen from above, an inscription carved into the monu-ment spells out "all alone". Despite criticism from some veterans that not all deserters deserve to be honoured, other monuments to soldiers who laid down their arms and fled have already been erected in Austria and Germany.
© Reuters


Homophobic Hooligans go on Rampage in Macedonia

About 20 hooligans caused mayhem on Thursday night at the LGBT centre in Skopje, where the country's gay community was holding an anniversary party.

24/10/2014- Around 20 hooded hooligans tried to wreck the second birthday party of the centre for support of the LGBT community on Thursday in Skopje, vandalizing the “Damar” cafe in the Old Bazaar area, where the event took place. A woman was injured after the hooligans threw a bottle at her head. Witnesses said the attack only lasted around 10 minutes but had devastating effects. “The hooligans entered the cafe and started throwing everything, like bottles, crates… It was a stampedĺ. One girl was injured and was taken to the accident and emergency centre. She is fine, but still recovering,” Uranija Pirovska, director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Macedonia, a host of the event, said. The victims of the homophobic rampage said they could not see the faces of the hooligans because they wore hoods. “They were well organized. They had an exact plan of how to enter, what to demolish and when to leave, before the police came,” a witness said.

This is not a first attack on the LGBT Centre in Skopje. On October 24, 2012 when it first opened, the building was attacked and the windows broken. Last year, a policeman was injured after 10 hooligans in masks threw rocks and bottles at the building. The centre is financially supported by the Dutch Embassy. The outgoing Dutch Ambassador, Marriët Schuurman, in an interview for BIRN on Tuesday, expressed grave concerns about the rule of law in the country. The failure of the authorities to react to violence "creates a perception that this is sponsored, or tolerated in the best case, by the government and used as an instrument to make people afraid and try to shut people up”, she said. Pirovska repeated the same allegation of official complicity to BIRN. “I will meet representatives of the EU delegation in Skopje and with all the ambassadors. The attackers responsible for previous events were never found - and that means that the institutions tolerate violence," she said. "In Macedonia, the fundamental rights of the LGBT community have no value. Their right to live is endangered,” Pirovska added.
© Balkan Insight


Switzerland: Hitler coffee cream pot company faces closure

The company that designed the coffee cream pot lids featuring images of Hitler and Mussolini is facing bankruptcy after Swiss supermarket chain Migros said it planned to terminate its contract with the Bern-based outfit.

24/10/2014- Karo Versand designs and prints creamer lids which are attached to mini cream pots produced by Migros subsidiary ELSA. The company, which employs four people, is the only one in Switzerland to keep a record of the limited edition creamer lids which have a cult following among collectors. The offending series of 55 designs based on vintage cigar wrappers was destined for these collectors only, but some pots ended up being distributed to around 100 restaurants and cafés in German-speaking Switzerland, provoking shock among coffee drinkers. Migros subsequently recalled the pots and ended its contract with Karo Versand. Speaking to newspaper 20 Minutes on Thursday, Peter Wälchli, direc-tor of Karo Versand, said: “If Migros really does decide to put an end to our contract, that will be the end of a traditional Swiss hobby.” Collectors have been calling him concerned about the future of the company – and therefore their hobby – ever since the designs made international headlines earlier this week, he said. “Every five minutes worried people call me,” Wälchli told 20 Minutes. “We are the only company in Switzerland to keep a record of these cream pots. If we can no longer do it then 5,000 people will have to find another hobby because they will no longer know if a series is complete or not.”

On Wednesday Migros apologized for the distribution of the pots, blaming it on a breakdown of internal control procedures within ELSA. Migros spokesperson Trisan Cerf told 20 Minutes that after producing the cream pots, most are returned to Karo Versand to sell on to collectors, but that any surplus is distributed to restaurants and cafes to prevent waste. “This series was only meant for collectors. It’s not our fault the images were distributed to a hundred restaurants,” said Wälchli. But Migros holds no truck with that. “To say that these designs would not have caused a problem if they were only destined for collectors is an argument we cannot accept,” said Cerf. “Whether the pots were destined for collectors or for Migros, it’s unacceptable. Hitler has no place on a cream pot lid!” Wälchli told 20 Minutes: “Of course it’s terrible what happened at the time of Hitler, but awful things happen today too. People are being decapitated in Syria.”
© The Local - Switzerland


Sweden's far-right tells mainstream to negotiate or risk new election

24/10/2014- The leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats, who hold the balance of power in parliament, said on Friday that mainstream parties should negotiate with them before the government's centerpiece budget vote or risk a new election. All parties have refused to talk to the Sweden Democrats despite them taking 13 percent of the vote in last month's election, giving them the power to bring down the government. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's Social Democrats has formed a minority government with the Green Party and with support from the Left Party they put forward a budget bill this week. The four-party Alliance grouping, now in opposition, will make its budget proposal in the coming weeks. Whichever budget gets the most votes wins and traditionally parties only vote for a budget they helped negotiate. But the Sweden Democrats have said they may vote for the Alliance budget meaning the opposition would win, bringing down the government. That could spark the first snap election since 1958.

"In budget matters we have significant influence," the Sweden Democrats' acting leader Mattias Karlsson told Reuters. "If they really want to avoid new elections they should talk to the winners of the elections, Sweden's third largest party and the party who hold the balance of power in parliament." Karlsson, leader in the absence of Jimmie Akesson who is on sick leave for stress-related exhaustion, called for more funding for law and order, defense and pensioners in the budget. His party wants to cut asylum seeker numbers by 90 percent. "We owe it to our constituents to try to get as much as possible of our policies into reality," he said during an interview in his parliament office. "We have said that we are compromise-friendly and humble to the fact that we have 13 and not 51 percent. Therefore, we are willing to cooperate and negotiate and engage in dialogue with all parties, but no one has responded."

Sweden is used to minority governments. A willingness to make deals on individual issues with opposition parties has made it easier for minority governments to survive. Political scientists doubt that the Sweden Democrats would vote against the government and bring it down as that might hurt their carefully cultivated image of respectability. Polls after the election show support increasing for the Sweden Democrats. Even if the budget passes, the opposition may still be able to scupper some of the measures it contains. The Sweden Democrats have said they may try to stop a plan to halt nuclear power development and plans for trainee jobs in welfare. In the longer term, they could also make plans to cut the role of for-profit welfare companies tough to push through.
© Reuters


Sweden: Neo-Nazis cleared of knife attack on Nigerian

A Stockholm court has cleared three neo-Nazis of stabbing a Nigerian man in an unprovoked attack. But two of the men will face jail after they were convicted of racial agitation at a riot.

24/10/2014- Södertörn district court said it could not prove that the three members of the Swedish Resistance Movement (SMR) had carried out a knife attack in the Stockholm suburb Hökarängen, despite witness testimony from a man they knew. But the court did find two of the same suspects guilty of racial agitation and rioting at an anti-racism demon-stration in another suburb, Kärrtorp, a week later. The pair were each sentenced to seven months in prison.

News of the demo last December shocked Swedes, as neo-Nazis attacked a crowd that included families with small children. Four other SMR members were jailed earlier this year for their part in the clashes, which left several people injured. In the Hökarängen stabbing, the three suspects were charged with attempted murder and assault. Two people were injured in the attack. One of them was struck by his assailants. The other victim, a visitor from Nigeria, received serious stab wounds. The prosecutor said his attackers targeted the man because of his skin colour.

When questioned, one of the suspects, an 18-year-old SMR member, said he had used force “in self-defence” but denied taking part in a knife attack. “You know, that really would be a very strict breach of our rules, to use violence unprovoked,” he told the court. He said SMR was “absolutely not” a racist group. He agreed they were national socialists but said, “there’s a big damn difference”. The two other suspects denied involvement in the attack. The Nigerian victim said he was stopped by the men while out walking in Hökarängen. “So I took out my earphones to listen to them and hear what they had to say. Then I was stabbed here, so deeply, in my stomach,” he told SVT’s Uppdrag Granskning, an investigative news programme.

The court said the only evidence tying the suspects to the attack was the testimony of an acquaintance, a man who was also previously a suspect in the case. Testimony of this kind “has to be treated with special care, and it alone is not sufficient for a guilty verdict,” said Judge Sara Rosén in a statement. The court said it also took into account the fact that the witness only stepped forward after seeing pictures of himself on the television show, and his testimony could be viewed as an attempt to protect himself. The court sought to contact him again but was unable to find him.

The three men were also cleared of involvement in an attack on another man on the same night in December 2013. Surveillance footage showed the suspects following a man and beating him on the platform at the Hökarängen metro station. The events shown in the video were partially obscure, however, and the men were able to argue they had acted in self-defence after the camera caught the alleged victim striking one of them on the head with a bottle.
© The Local - Sweden


After Twitter ruling, tech firms increasingly toe Europe’s line on hate speech

23/10/2014- A little over a year after a French court forced Twitter to remove some anti-Semitic content, experts say the ruling has had a ripple effect, leading other Internet companies to act more aggressively against hate speech in an effort to avoid lawsuits. The 2013 ruling by the Paris Court of Appeals settled a lawsuit brought the year before by the Union of Jewish Students of France over the hashtag #UnBonJuif, which means “a good Jew” and which was used to index thousands of anti-Semitic comments that violated France’s law against hate speech. Since then, YouTube has permanently banned videos posted by Dieudonne, a French comedian with 10 convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews. And in February, Facebook removed the page of French Holocaust denier Alain Soral for “repeatedly posting things that don’t comply with the Facebook terms,” according to the company. Soral’s page had drawn many complaints in previous years but was only taken down this year.

“Big companies don’t want to be sued,” said Konstantinos Komaitis, a former academic and current policy adviser at the Internet Society, an international organization that encourages governments to ensure access and sustainable use of the Internet. “So after the ruling in France, we are seeing an inclination by Internet service providers like Google, YouTube, Facebook to try and adjust their terms of service — their own internal jurisprudence — to make sure they comply with national laws.” The change comes amid a string of heavy sentences handed down by European courts against individuals who used online platforms to incite to racism or violence.

On Monday, a British court sentenced one such offender to four weeks in jail for tweeting “Hitler was right” to a Jewish lawmaker. Last week, a court in Geneva sentenced a man to five months in jail for posting texts that deny the Holocaust. And in April, a French court sentenced two men to five months in jail for posting an anti-Semitic video. “The stiffer sentences owe partly to a realization by judges of the dangers posed by online hatred, also in light of cyber-jihadism and how it affected people like Mohammed Merah,” said Christophe Goossens, the legal adviser of the Belgian League against Anti-Semitism, referring to the killer of four Jews at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012.

In the Twitter case, the company argued that as an American firm it was protected by the First Amendment. But the court rejected the argument and forced Twitter to remove some of the comments and identify some of the authors. It also required the company to set up a system for flagging and ultimately removing comments that violate hate speech laws. Twitter responded by overhauling its terms of service to facilitate adherence to European law, Twitter’s head of global safety outreach and public policy, Patricias Cartes Andres, revealed Monday at a conference in Brussels organized by the International Network Against Cyber Hate, or INACH. “The rules have been changed in a way that allows us to take down more content when groups are being targeted,” Cartes Andres told JTA. Before the lawsuit, she added, “if you didn’t target any one person, you could have gotten away with it.”

The change went into effect five months ago, but Twitter “wanted to be very quiet about it because there will be other communities, like the freedom of speech community, that will be quite upset about it because they would view it as censorship,” Cartes Andres said. Suzette Bronkhorst, the secretary of INACH, said Twitter’s adjusted policies are part of a “change in attitude” by online service providers since 2013. “Before the trial, Twitter gave Europe the middle finger,” Brokhorst said. “But they realized that if they want to work in Europe, they need to keep European laws, and others are coming to the same realization.”

According to Komaitis, the Twitter case was built on a landmark court ruling in 2000 that forced the search engine Yahoo! to ban the sale of Nazi memorabilia. But the 2013 ruling “went much further,” he said, “demonstrating the increasing pressure on providers to adhere to national laws, unmask offenders and set up flagging mechanisms.” Still, the INACH conference showed that big gaps remain between the practices sought by European anti-racism activists and those now being implemented by the tech companies.

One area of contention is Holocaust denial, which is illegal in many European countries but which several American companies, reflecting the broader free speech protections prevalent in the United States, are refusing to censure. Delphine Reyre, Facebook’s director of policy, said at the conference that the company believes users should be allowed to debate the subject. “Counter speech is a powerful tool that we lose with censorship,” she said. Cartes Andres cited the example of the hashtag #PutosJudios, Spanish for “Jewish whores,” which in May drew thousands of comments after a Spanish basketball team lost to its Israeli rival. More than 90 percent of the comments were “positive statements that attacked those who used the offensive term,” she said. Some of the comments are the subject of an ongoing police investigation in Spain launched after a complaint filed by 11 Jewish groups.

But Mark Gardner of Britain’s Community Security Trust wasn’t buying it. “There’s no counter-speech to Holocaust denial,” Gardner said at the conference. “I’m not going to send Holocaust survivors to debate the existence of Auschwitz online. That’s ridiculous.”
© JTA News


Italian town plans separate bus for Roma

A mayor in north-west Italy has backed a controversial plan to create a bus route only for Roma people, a move which has been likened to the segregation policies of Apartheid South Africa, Italian media reported on Friday.

24/10/2014- The proposal to separate members of the Roma community from other Borgaro residents won the mayor Claudio Gambino's support at a town hall meeting on Thursday, La Stampa reported. Under the plans, a new bus will be put on to parallel the 69 route and end at a Roma camp, in the town north of Turin. The idea came after reports of passengers being robbed and abused on the bus line. “This way we will resolve the problem without anyone losing out,” Gambino was quoted as saying. “Two lines, one for us and one for them. I will talk to the police commissioner about it, it seems to be the only solution.” Luigi Spinelli, Borgaro’s transport councillor, described it as "the best solution for everyone". But the move bears a stark resemblance to Apartheid policies carried out in South Africa, when black and white people were separated on public transport, Rai News noted. Despite this, the measure won overwhelming support in an online poll by La Stampa, with just 15 percent of voters disagreeing with the policy. Eighty-three percent of Italians protect their wallet if they see a Roma person on the bus, according to figures compiled by Avvenire, a Catholic newspaper.
© The Local - Italy


Italy: Men face charges over 'passionate' public kiss

Two Italian men who engaged in a "long and passionate" kiss during a demonstration have been charged with breach of the peace following a police report which claimed their act had "disgusted" passersby.

23/10/2014- The men are among six lesbian and gay activists who were formally charged with the public order offence on October 7th following a police investigation into a pro-test held in the city of Perugia in March. Human Rights Watch on Thursday described the charges as reflecting prejudiced attitudes and urged Perugia's prosecutors to drop them. "They would be laughable if they didn't reflect exactly the anti-gay sentiment the activists are fighting," said HRW's Judith Sunderland. The demonstration which landed the six in trouble was a counter protest to one by a group called Sentinelle in Piedi (Standing Sentries) which is opposed to gay unions and the extension of anti-discrimination legislation to include homosexuals. The police report on which the charges are based accuses the activists of calling their opponents "fascists" and "bigots" and highlights their "colourful" clothing as well as the kiss. It states that after being asked to move on, the two men had engaged in "a long and passionate kiss on the front of many families with children and teenagers, many of them minors, leaving passersby disgusted at such a display." Four of the six activists have also been charged with staging an illegal demonstration.

"Gay men and lesbian women kissing public is not a crime," HRW's Sunderland said. "The activists' actions are clearly protected by their right to peaceful protest." The Perugia case comes against a background of heightened tensions in Italy over the treatment of same-sex couples. The Sentries movement staged prayer vigil-style demonstrations in dozens of towns and cities on October 5th over government plans to authorize civil unions for same-sex couples. Counter-demonstrations led to scuffles and arrests in a number of cities but no charges were brought. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has promised to introduce legislation to allow gay couples to have legally-enshrined partnerships by January. The govern-ment has no plans to follow other European countries by according homosexuals the right to marry, which a majority of Italians oppose. A number of towns and cities have registered the marriages of gay couples married outside of Italy but Interior Minister Angelino Alfano ordered them to stop the practice earlier this month, saying it had no legal basis. Some mayors have vowed to defy the order, including Rome's Ignazio Marino, who registered 16 gay marriages on Saturday.
© The Local - Italy


Italy: Outrage over politician's ironic 'host a migrant' ad

A Northern League politician has sparked controversy after saying migrants could just be “fed bread and water” in a video mocking a proposal to pay Italians €900 a month to host a migrant in their home.

23/10/2014- In the video, intended to attract activists to a protest in Milan last Saturday against the “invasion” of migrants in Italy, Umberto Bosco, the party's councillor candidate for the Emilia-Romagna region, asks viewers: “Having difficulty paying the rent? Then take Abdullah home and Alfano [Angelino Alfano, Italy’s Interior Minister] will give you €900 a month.” The video was made weeks after Domenico Manzione, undersecretary at the Interior Ministry, put forward the proposal to pay Italians €30 to host a migrant. “Having trouble paying your mortgage? Then put Fatima up on the sofa,” Bosto went on to say, as a woman in a headscarf appears on the screen. “She’s pregnant, so the payment will soon double.” He then addresses the concern people might have with “spending all the €900 on the migrant”. “Just put them in a cellar and give them bread, water and a bucket for their needs.” At the end, he says: "Until yesterday, the immigration business was reserved for smugglers and exploiters, but thanks to Renzi’s government, you too can make money from the African continent."

The video was soon shared by thousands of extremists, and branded “racist” by those on the left, the website, reported. Bosco argued that the video was “ironic” and intended to reflect “the absurdity of the proposal from Renzi’s government". “It doesn’t take a genius to work out that such a proposal (which was withdrawn) would trigger a system of systematic exploitation of new arrivals.” The demonstration last Saturday also called on Italy to stop Mare Nostrum, the sea rescue operation launched after hundreds of migrants died in two shipwrecks last October. The number of people making the treacherous crossing to Italy from north Africa so far this year has reached some 118,000, triple the number last year, while more than 2,500 people have drowned or gone missing attempting the crossing.
© The Local - Italy


Don't hurt migrants: Spain to border police

Spain said on Wednesday it would order police guarding its borders with Morocco to take care to prevent injuries when tackling migrants who scramble over the fences into Spanish territory, after evidence of abuse by officers sparked outrage.

23/10/2014- A video filmed by a rights group on October 15th showed Spanish Civil Guards beating an African migrant as he hung on the fence separating Morocco from the Spanish territory of Melilla, and then carrying him apparently unconscious back to the Moroccan side. The video sparked cries of outrage from rights groups and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, while the EU on Tuesday warned that Spain could not use force stop migrants from trying to enter the country. The Spanish government insisted its officers had acted legally and complained that the border fence is under intense pressure from the flow of migrants. In a statement late on Wednesday the interior ministry said it had drawn up new instructions for border guards that will be included in a forthcoming immigration reform.

It said the guards' mission is to "prevent the illegal entry of people" into Melilla and Spain's other north African enclave, Ceuta, which together have Europe's only land borders with Africa. The ministry said surveillance and coordination with Moroccan security forces would be stepped up to provide early warnings of attempts by migrants to scale the seven-metre (23-foot) triple-layer fence. "In cases where migrants' violent behaviour obliges officers to use equipment to keep order, their actions will conform to the principles of timeliness, coherence and proportionality, taking care at all times to minimize injuries," the statement said. It said officers must take care to avoid migrants and police falling from the fence and must call for medical assistance for any migrants who get hurt.

On-the-spot deportations
The government has been criticized for so-called illegal "on-the-spot deportations" of migrants who have stormed the border fence in groups of hundreds over recent months. The government denies that migrants who climb the fence should be considered as having reached Spanish territory and says it has the right to return those intercepted while perched there. It said the new guidelines would consider an immigrant to have illegally reached Spain if they "get completely past the perimeter security system". In those cases, the immi-grants will be taken to a police station to be registered. Spain has demanded more help from the European Union to deal with the flow of migrants trying to get into Melilla and Ceuta, which has swelled over recent months. In the latest attempt, two migrants were taken to hospital after about 200 of them tried to storm the fence into Melilla on Wednes-day morning, Spanish government officials in the territory said in a statement. About 20 made it across and dozens of others sat perched on the top of the fence for hours. Nearly 2,000 African immigrants have managed to enter Melilla, a city of about 80,000 people, so far this year, the statement said.
© The Local - Spain


European Soccer Has a Racism Problem. Its Solution: Sexism.

When Manchester City played CSKA Moscow on Tuesday in the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious soccer club competition, the 18,600-capacity stadium was mostly empty. It was the first of three games the Russian club has to play to a closed stadium as punishment for its fans’ racist behavior.

Forcing sanctioned clubs to play in closed stadiums has become standard protocol of late, but on Wednesday UEFA, European football’s governing body, announced that it is considering an alternate solution: allowing only children under the age of twelve and women into sanctioned matches. This policy isn’t without precedent: Turkey adopted a women-and-children-only rule in 2011 for problematic club matches, a move that a UEFA spokesperson said “had a really positive effect on football” and was lauded by The Guardian at the time as being “good for football” by encouraging more female fandom. But if UEFA did adopt this policy, which would encourage organizations like FIFA to do the same, they would be doing the sport a disservice. Yes, racism is a problem. But sexism is not its solution.

Sports culture is overwhelmingly male, and fan violence is generally perpetrated by male fans. But the point here isn’t to deal with male aggression or machismo; this is about racism, and the violent behavior it often elicits. And racism isn’t male. By banning men and bringing in women, UEFA would be implying that women cannot be racist—that women could not possibly be capable of foul-mouthed, virulent racism, and must be brought in to save men from themselves. Even when gender stereo-typing depicts women in a positive light, it still removes agency and forces women to assume a specific identity. What's more, whenever there is a violent incident, UEFA cautions against generalizations, stressing that the regrettable behavior of a tiny minority has caused all fans (usually male) to be punished. But by adopting the women-and-children policy, UEFA would be doing the exact opposite to women—making a blanket assumption about how they behave. If UEFA doesn’t believe that men are the problem, then they shouldn’t advocate women as the solution.

Gender aside, the proposed policy would also defeat the purpose of sanctions: to punish the clubs and make them change their behavior. It's less about money—these clubs, valued in the hundreds of millions, can survive a few matches without ticket sales—and more about the embarrassment of playing to empty stadiums and losing the home-field advantage. It sends a very clear message. Allowing these teams to have an audience, however small and well-behaved, would complicate that message. The new policy would either lessen the force of the punishment, or, if we're to believe it's still a punishment, imply that women and children are not real fans. UEFA has been aggressive in recent years about combatting racism in soccer, and it should be applauded for that. But this latest idea would be a step back. Racism and sexism already plague the sport. Don’t make one worse while trying to fix the other.
© The New Republic


Czech authorities alarmingly unwilling to prosecute online hate crimes

Ill-will, incompetence or indifference. In which category does the inactivity of the Czech Police with respect to racist threats and verbal attacks belong?

22/10/2014- The failures of the criminal justice authorities result in making it possible for incitement to racism and threats to be made with impunity in the virtual realm, especially on social networking sites. Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of the ROMEA organization, recently became the target of such threats. More and more Czech citizens are personally experiencing this every day. People are becoming the victims of online threats because of their alternative opinions, religion, skin color, or - in the case of the director of ROMEA - because they refuse to agree with incitements to racism or to participate in disseminating xenophobic opinions.

When people fear for their lives, it is natural for them to turn to the police for help and protection, as the police motto goes. However, after experiencing bureaucratic obstacles and the time it takes to write up various documents and requests or make official statements, many realize the futility of seeking such police assistance; while rank and file detectives in the police departments do their best to help, their dependency on the often absurd instructions given them by police command ties their hands.

Incitement to murder
On 17 February a Czech-language Facebook page was launched with hateful content and an unambiguous name: "We Demand the Public Execution of the Executive Director of Romea, o.s., Zdeněk Ryšavý" ("Požadujeme veřejnou popravu výkonného ředitele Romea o.s. Zdeňka Ryšavého"). In addition to other texts inciting violence against a particular group, on 28 February the following discussion post also turned up there: "Not only will Zdeněk Ryšavý and his daughter have to pay with their blood, but so will Tomáš Bystrý, Jarmila Balážová and the dubious artist and perverted homosexual David Tišet" [sic, the correct spelling is Tišer - editors]. A Facebook user appearing under the name Gabriel Zamrazil then posted: "I totally agree. He deserves death.... Let me do it."

This commentary indicated a readiness to personally commit a crime or to otherwise ensure its realization. Ryšavý reported the page to Facebook as hateful and demanded that it be removed. "We immediately reported the page and called on our fans to do the same," Ryšavý told news server Facebook sent a response within moments. "We have checked the page you reported as containing hateful language or symbols and found it does not violate our Community Principles," read the answer. This is the automatic reply that Facebook sends out within just a few minutes in such cases.

Publicity helped
Ryšavý, afraid for his own life and for the security of his family, filed a criminal report on 5 March about the facts indicating that the making of criminal threats (Section 353 Act No. 40/2009, Coll.), incitement to commit a crime (Section 364) and approval of a crime (Section 365) had all been perpetrated. The presumption also exists that the people who supported these Facebook threats by clicking the "like" button (another 27 people) have committed the felony of approving of a crime. The police response that followed could have been a model for an absurd tragicomedy about how the rule of law works, one that should be screened in police academies as an example of how police officers and the state prosecutor are definitely not supposed to proceed when fulfilling their obligations. Ultimately, what helped the case was publicizing it; most probably, when the perpetrator learned from the media that a criminal investigation was underway, he got scared and erased the Facebook page himself.

Lost in translation
"The unwillingness of the Police of the Czech Republic to pursue serious verbal crimes like this is alarming," said Klára Kalibová, a lawyer who directs the In IUSTITIA organization, which participated in writing up the criminal report. The correct URL address of the Facebook page was included in that communication. Police had to first have the text of the report translated into English, and it then underwent approval according to a so-called Telecommunications Service Monitoring protocol, in accordance with the Czech Criminal Code, after which it was sent by the Police Presidium to the country at issue. In the first phase, that was Ireland, which is where Facebook has its European branch.

Not only did that entire procedure take several months, but the Czech Police sent the wrong URL address to Ireland. "Understandably, they wrote back from Ireland that the URL address was wrong and needed correction," Kalibová comments, adding, "but [the Czech Police] didn't correct it - instead they issued an absurd decision that was not based on the truth, claiming that they had not managed to find the perpetrator and that the case was being postponed." After some time, there was nothing left to do but to resubmit the motion to the police, again with the correct URL address. The police were repeatedly called upon to communicate with Face-book.

In the interim, however, an internal methodological instruction for the Police of the Czech Republic took effect according to which officers must first consult every-thing with the state prosecutor, who will decide on how to proceed. This, of course, meant that the excruciating process of the criminal investigation was far from over. "One state prosecutor, whom I will not name, but who is presented as a leading specialist in extremism, by the way, has already shelved several cases of verbal crimes, saying they are allegedly not serious and are covered by freedom of speech protections," Kalibová said. Those cases have involved, for example, right-wing extremists from the National Resistance, or Patrik Banga's criminal report filed against a journalist who invented and published a "news" story about Romani people allegedly robbing a collection that had been taken up for flood victims. "In Zdeněk Ryšavý's case, a police officer consulted it with [the state prosecutor] and she decided not to file charges. She allegedly insisted in her decision that in her experience, the Americans would not pursue this," Kalibová said.

The excuse of freedom of speech in the USA
What is absurd about the state prosecutor's approach in this context is the fact that she has argued in her decision that freedom of speech is extensive in American legislative practice. The state prosecutor's interpretation of that information is that US law tolerates these kinds of threats. That claim is dubious to say the least, because death threats against a specific individual are prosecutable in the USA, just as they are in the Czech Republic. It is mainly dubious in another sense: The state prosecutor either does not know or does not want to know that she was supposed to have been turning in this case not to the USA, but to Ireland, where EU legislation applies.

She is, therefore, involuntarily participating in creating de facto impunity for verbal crimes committed in a racist context in the Czech Republic. What is paradoxical is that according to our information, the Irish branch of Facebook responsible for Central Europe is friendly and helpful when it comes to intervening against such excesses, but of course they need the correct information to do so, and the Police of the Czech Republic, and indirectly the state prosecutor, basically were incapable of supplying it. "I was in contact with Irish Facebook's head of public relations for Central Europe, who said that if the police can prove this to her, she would cooperate with them. She told me: Have them write it up properly and we will be happy to oblige," said Kalibová, "but the Czech police officers, of course, did not respond to that."

Calls for murder illegal in US too
Kalibová believes this points to a serious systemic problem in addressing hate crime in a cybercrime context, because Europe cannot be toothless in its cooperation with the United States, and the clarification of specific crimes should not have to depend upon whether Czech police officers speak English or not. The state prosecu-tor's key argument, that the case of Zdeněk Ryšavý falls under the protection of freedom of speech as it is interpreted in the United States, is doubly moot. Even if the case were to fall under American legislation (and not Irish law, as it actually does), any call for the specific murder of a specific person is clearly illegal in all of these systems. "This is extremely serious misconduct by the criminal justice authorities and it is endangering the security of a specific person and his family," Kalibová stresses; she is considering using her final enforceable procedural tool, that of a complaint to the supervising Prosecutor's Office, which could order the state attorney to proceed in accordance with the Criminal Code.

Grist to the mill of the xenophobes
Giving the excuse that threats to publicly execute a Czech citizen and his family cannot be prosecuted by referring to the practically unlimited freedom of speech in the United States of America is unacceptable for two reasons: Such an excuse not only contravenes the facts, it mainly contributes to a false legal analysis and reinforces Czech racists and other extremists in the illusion that their behavior is tolerated by society and the state. This is particularly dangerous in a situation where blogs, the media, and social networks are abuzz with incitements to hatred.

Such lack of action further disseminates the feeling that calls for violence against ethnic minorities, or against those whose opinions differ from ours, are generally tolerated. In this context, the futile, long-term, strenuous efforts of this author to contact those responsible at the Police of the Czech Republic for a statement on this issue is symptomatic of a bigger problem; if the Czech Police provide us a statement after this piece is published, we will be glad to publish it.
© Romea.


A neo-Nazi resurgence is bad news for all (opinion)

by Menachem Z. Rosensaft

22/10/2014- One of the most insidious, and perhaps ultimately one of the most dangerous, manifestations of neo-Nazi resurgence may well be its steady subversive infiltration of contemporary popular and consumer culture. Rabidly bigoted, modern-day neo-Nazi parties and movements such as Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece are relatively easy to identify and fight through political, judicial, and legislative means. Modern-day fascists such as Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, who combine reactionary views with a calculated strategic effort to make themselves appear more palatable to the political mainstream, are also relatively easy to identify and expose for what they are: anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, and generally xenophobic.

But below the radar screen, there are nefarious attempts to legitimize Nazism and all that Nazism stood for in the popular psyche under the guise of cutting-edge fashion, perverse home decoration, and even crass, prurient sexual exploitation. Consider:
• The peddling of silver “Swastika Rings” on Sears’ on-line marketplace. Faced with consumer outrage, Sears quickly yanked this example of what had been described as “gothic jewelry” and removed the offending vendor from its site.
• The sale on the Walmart, Sears, and Amazon websites of a “home decoration” poster featuring the “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work makes you free”) gate of the Dachau concentration camp. All three retailers pulled this item after their attention was called to it.
• The Spanish retail clothing chain Zara was forced to apologize for marketing a striped concentration-camp-like tee shirt complete with a six-pointed yellow star.

The latest, and possibly the most nausea-inducing, example of this particular fad is an ever-so-sexy beauty pageant out of the former Soviet Union. Before it was apparently suspended by the Russian social media site Vkontakte, a page on that website solicited women who consider themselves Nazis to submit photos of themselves and statements on precisely why they admire Hitler. The winner of this revolting pageant was to be crowned Miss Ostland — the name given by the Nazis to the German-occupied territory covering Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and part of what is today western Belarus. She was to receive a piece of jewelry featuring one of the Nordic runes that were popular with Heinrich Himmler and his SS. Granted, there is no indication that this particular beauty contest ever had a mass or even large-scale following. Nevertheless, it is a timely and potent reminder that neo-Nazism in its vilest form is enjoying a significant revival among at least some segments of society. The Vkontakte page in question purportedly had more than 7,000 Russian and Ukrainian followers.

In Kentucky, a white supremacist write-in candidate for Senate named Robert Edward Ransdell posted signs proclaiming “With Jews We Lose.” Ransdell also took advantage of his participation in the University of Kentucky’s Constitution Week to spew his anti-Semitic bile to college and high school students. And in Sydney, Australia, a neo-Nazi group is sending out flyers declaring that “It’s time for all White Australians to stop being blinded by political correctness and Jewish lies about equality, multiculturalism, and the need for so-called diversity.” To be sure, much of the virulent present-day anti-Semitism emanates from radical Islamic and leftist pro-Palestinian sources. But these are increasingly finding disturbing common ground with the extreme right.

Cries of “Gas the Jews” are suddenly being heard once more in demonstrations in Germany and elsewhere. “The fear is that now things are blatantly being said openly, and no one is batting an eyelid,” Jessica Frommer, who works for a nonprofit organization in Brussels, told The New York Times. “Anti-Semitism has always been, histo-rically, the inability to make space for differences among people, which is the essential foundation of a free society,” Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Britian’s emeritus chief rabbi, wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “That is why the politics of hate now assaults Christians, Bahai, Yazidis, and many others, including Muslims on the wrong side of the Sunni/Shia divide, as well as Jews. To fight it, we must stand together, people of all faiths and of none. The future of freedom is at stake, and it will be the defining battle of the 21st century.”

As we approach the 70th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust and the liberation of the Nazi death and concentration camps by Allied troops, we must bear in mind that while the Third Reich was defeated at the end of World War II, the ideology that made possible the genocide of European Jewry is very much alive throughout much of the supposedly civilized world. We ignore or dismiss its presence in our midst at our peril.
Menachem Z. Rosensaft is Adjunct Professor of Law at Cornell Law School and Vice President of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.


UK/Poland: Ukip's far-right Euro partner attacks 'Holocaust industry'

Nigel Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group has recruited an MEP from the Congress of the New Right (Poland), whose leader, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, uses racial slurs and questions the Holocaust.

21/10/2014- In a recent interview with the JC, Korwin-Mikke said that Jews’ efforts to win back property stolen during the Second World War often amounted to a “Holocaust industry”. Korwin-Mikke said: “If somebody tries to get property which doesn’t belong directly to him, he should not get it. We are against returning property that belonged to one Jew to another Jew. It is a Holocaust industry.” The 71-year-old MEP also claimed that the only Jews left in Poland were “Jewish communists”, adding: “Jews are very talented people, and therefore are our worst enemies, because they are talented communists. “This is why the Poles have a specific image of Jews. They don’t know the real Jews, only the Communists ones who stayed here.” His colourful character and provocative remarks about the European Parliament, the gay community, Jews and world leaders marked him out as the “bad boy” of Polish politics.

But he surprised everybody. His party gained more than seven per cent of the vote in May's European election, amounting to four seats. He claimed that he would have seen even more success had it not been for “the state, Catholics, communists, the media attacking me all the way”. While Korwin-Mikke claimed he was “against any restrictions on minorities”, he explained this by saying: “For us there are no minorities, there are only Polish citizens. We are against special rights for minorities. The same with Jews.” Korwin-Mikke has detailed his views on Jews in previous interviews published in the Polish media.

In an interview with weekly magazine Najwyzszy Czas in 2008, he said: “[Jews] are so proud of the six million murdered in the Holocaust, that it sometimes seems to me that if Eichmann had objected to sending the Hungarian Jews to the death camps, he could have been accused of antisemitism because it would have decrease the number murdered, which is brought up at every occassion. “Maybe I am exaggerating a little, but don’t you see the sick carping on the left and right that so many Jews were murdered — even four times more than in reality? “That the more victims there were, the better?”

A Ukip spokesman said Polish MEP Robert Iwaszkiewicz was the only member of Korwin-Mikke's group who would be joining the European grouping. "Korwin-Mikke is not a member of our group. Both Ukip and the EFDD group abhors and rejects any scent of antisemitism. "All groups in the European Parliament have very odd bedfel-lows. The rules to get speaking time and funding are set by the European Parliament, Ukip." Shneur Odze, who was Ukip's only strictly Orthodox candidate in May's European elections, said: "We have invited one person to join and not the leader. The man that has joined us said he wanted Hitler dead, he is no closet fascist. "I understand for some people that this is a difficult pill to swallow, and people do not understand the nuances and intricacies of European politics."

Board of Deputies vice-president Jonathan Arkush said: “The Board is gravely concerned by reports that Ukip may sit in the same parliamentary grouping as a far-right Polish MEP in a bid save its funding. "Robert Iwaszkiewicz belongs to an extremist party whose leader has a history of Holocaust denial, racist remarks and misogynistic comments. "For UKIP to choose such a figure as Robert Iwaszkiewicz as a bedfellow, apparently for money, is beyond belief. Nigel Farage now has some very serious questions to answer. He has placed in issue the credibility of Ukip."
© The Jewish Chronicle


Poland: 'Hatred' Developer Creative Destruction Denies Accusations Some Members Are 'Neo Nazis'

20/10/2014- On Friday a story by F*ck No Videogames alleged that the some of the developers behind the "mass murder" action game Hatred might be tied to extremist groups in Poland. Another report from Player Attack reiterates these allegations and expands on much of the information contained in the first report. We reached out to Poland-based developer Creative Destruction on early Friday afternoon and CEO Jarosław Zieliński responded this morning, calling the accusation that members of his team were extreme-right and Neo-Nazis "simply really stupid."

Before we give you that statement, here's a little background on why the two aforementioned publications have reported that Creative Destruction has ties to an extremist and racist group; according to both reports, a group photo of the studio shows one member wearing a Żołnierze wyklęci (also called "cursed soldiers") t-shirt. The "cursed soldiers" were an anti-communist military group formed during World War II. While seen as important historical heroes in Poland, they are also admired by extreme right-wing activists in country. According to the reports, the person wearing that t-shirt is Jakub Stychno, who also allegedly supports "Obóz Narodowo Radykalny" ("National Radical Camp"), an "extreme-right" anti-communist group. Creative Destruction CEO and Animator Jarosław Zieliński also allegedly has associations with extreme-right causes; his Facebook page at one time showed that he is a supporter of the "nationalist, anti-Muslim hate group Polska Liga Obrony (Polish Defence League)."

FX artist Marcin Kaźmierczak is also a supporter of "homophobic, racist, unpleasant Facebook pages" (according to Player Attack's report), as well as a supporter of the "nationalistic, homophobic youth organization Młodzież Wszechpolska (All-Polish Youth)." Both Polska Liga Obrony and Młodzież Wszechpolska are considered right-wing nationalist groups, and Obóz Narodowo Radykalny has been identified by the European Human Rights Association as an organization that engages in hate speech. But Creative Destruction CEO and Animator Jarosław Zieliński says that all of these accusations about he and members of his staff being involved in (and supporting) extreme right and Neo-Nazi groups is "simply really stupid." "These accusations are simply really stupid. :)," Zieliński told GamePolitics in an emailed statement.

"'Żołnierze Wyklęci' were an underground polish army, who were fighting Nazis and after the fall of [the] Third Reich, they were treating communists who came to Poland as the same kind of enemy that Nazis were. They were fighting with those new occupants after the war is over. They were never associated with Freikorps, it's bullshit and I don't know where from people get their historical informations. 'Żołnierze Wyklęci' are considered a national heroes of Poland, but their memory is obviously a pain in the ass for all commie-lovers and their supporters, so they try to defame all those who remember. TL;DR - if someone considers people who were fighting Nazis and another totalitarian regime as Nazis themselves, are really fucking stupid."

He also addressed allegations that he supports Polska Liga Obrony on Facebook:
"As for me supposedly 'supporting' Polska Liga Obrony on Facebook. Well, I've liked this page, because it's source of an information what is going on right now in the
middle-east and Europe (and a lot of evil shit is going on - those are REAL problems, not our game). Some things media would not show, nor tell. So: no, I'm not any kind of 'supporter.'" "I hope it clears everything out," Zieliński said in closing. "The truth is - when you'll make a controversial game (or any other type of controversy), there will be some people who will spread false propaganda about you personally. Do not believe them, they feed on naivety. We are group of nice, normal guys, you don't have to be some sick bastard to make a game like this." Zieliński also posted a statement on his personal Facebook page to speak out about the accusations.

Zieliński, according to a very rough translation from Google, says on his Facebook page that he "does not feel depressed" by all of the "hate" and the questions about "Nazis," and that he cares more about things going on in the real world than any shit storms on the Internet. He also said that about "five percent" of the emails have been about "non-production" of the game and "hate," with the rest being supportive. You can read his entire post here.

Hatred was announced last week to a mixed reaction by the community and press. The launch trailer for the game shows a nameless protagonist who "hates the world" going on a mass murder spree against innocent civilians. Creative Destruction says that it will be for PC only and will be distributed by Steam and if it can receive approval from both platforms. A Rep. from GOG had no comment on the game Friday, only saying that it had not had any contact with Creative Destruction. Last week after the trailer for the game was released, Epic Games asked the company to remove its logos from it saying it "isn't involved in this project." The game is being built using Epic Games' freely available Unreal Engine 4.
© Game Politics


Dutch nazi party museum hoax puzzles Utrecht daycare centre

24/10/2014- A hoax letter has been sent to families and companies located on the Maliebaan in Utrecht to tell them that a museum focusing on the Dutch nazi movement NSB is about to be opened in their street. The letter, on headed paper, says the museum will be located at the former NSB headquarters at number 35, which is currently home to a daycare centre. Police are investigating the origins of the letter and say it is unclear what the letter writer hoped to achieve. ‘The chills ran up my spine,’ one recipient told local broadcaster RTV Utrecht. Daycare centre director Judith Geenen told the broadcaster the incident is extremely odd. Creche staff have hung up notices saying that no museum is being located in the building.

The letter states the museum will cover the history of the NSB from its founding in 1931. It will also focus on what happened to children and grandchildren of NSB members. It ends with a plea for people to search their attics for old diaries and NSB regalia. The Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (national socialist movement) was founded in 1931 by Anton Mussert and became distinctly anti-Semitic in 1936 under the influence of Meinoud Rost van Tonningen. The party sided with Germany in World War II and at its height, in 1943, had over 100,000 members. The party was outlawed when Germany surrendered in May 1945. Mussert was executed in 1946.

[I find it rather strange nobody makes this connection: the hoax is a protest against the discussion in the Netherlands in recent years about how we conduct the war remembrance day. Last year a big scandal broke out about a poem to be read at the official remembrance ceremony in Amsterdam, the poem was made by a boy who remembered his colaborating grantfather who died while serving in the SS during the war. Also in several places city councils wanted to include references to German WW2 soldiers buried in the Netherlands. Part of the museum letter reads: "Amongst historians 'the war' is no longer an unambiguous moral benchmark. They no longer think in terms of 'right'and 'wrong' , but do more research into motives, including of Dutch colaborators". Suzette Bronkhorst, ICARE News]
© The Dutch News


Dutch papers: Is cancelling jihadi passports counter productive?

24/10/2014- Questions are being asked in the Dutch press about whether cancelling the passports of Dutch jihadis to stop them travelling to join Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq is counter productive. The questions come in the wake of two incidents in Canada in which three people were killed by radical Muslims whose passports had been confiscated to stop them travelling abroad. The Canadian government considered them ‘high-risk travellers’. Justice minister Ivo Opstelten said at the end of September, the Netherlands has cancelled the passports of 49 dual nationals, 41 of whom were planning to head to Syria or Iraq and eight who are already there. But questions are now being asked about the wisdom of such a move. Volkskrant commentator Raoul de Pre asks if stopping potential jihadis going abroad might not lead them to take out their aggression on the Netherlands. PVV leader Geert Wilders, he points out, has already said government policy is ‘incredibly stupid’. ‘Now they’re walking around on the streets. People who want to wage jihad, chop off heads, carry out terrorist attacks are now walking around among us thanks to the minister’s decision,’ Wilders said several months ago.

Cancelling passports, tracking, stopping benefits and freezing financial assets are some of the measures taken by the Dutch state to discourage potential jihadis. The cabinet is also looking into removing Dutch citizenship from jihadis for ‘volunteering to fight abroad with a terrorist group’. The AD on Friday carried several quotes from Dutch jihadis currently in Aleppo, who also warn that cancelling people's passports could be counter-productive. ‘Stopping potential jihadis from leaving will make an attack more likely. I don’t think you want hundreds of angry jihadis in your backyard,’ one told the AD.

'Legitimate’ targets could include the military and politicians, they told the paper. ‘Politicians are the ones who decide to go to war, soldiers are mere pawns. (..) Give these noble Islamic freedom fighters back their passports and let them leave’, the AD quotes another as saying. Terrorism expert Beatrice de Graaf told Elsevier magazine the advanta-ges and disadvantages of confiscating passports are not clear but in spite of this she supports the measure. ‘If you let them go they will come back trained and even more determined to fight their cause,’ Elsevier quotes her as saying.

Legal grounds
Meanwhile, Hilversum mayor Pieter Broertjes was forced to apologise after telling a radio programme passports shouldn’t be cancelled without good reason, by comparing Syria with post-WWII Israel. Broertjes was asked about a family from Hilversum which travelled to Syria to join the jihad with their four young children. ‘You have to make a very good case for taking away someone’s passport’, Broertjes said. ‘There have to be proper legal grounds. We can’t be sure if people are actually going there to fight.’ When asked if jihadis should simply be allowed to travel to Syria and fight Broertjes said: ‘These people are adults. The Dutch went to Israel after the war to fight the British and we didn’t stop them then.'
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: Six Questions With Geert Wilders

A defender of Western civilization speaks.

21/10/2014- Geert Wilders is the founder of the Dutch Party for Freedom, the fourth largest in that country’s parliament, and perhaps the Netherlands’ most controver-sial political figure. Wilders, whose 2008 film Fitna confrontationally opposed the encroachment of Islamic culture into Europe, has become an international figure while being prosecuted for “hate speech.” Calling himself a “right-wing liberal,” Wilders advocates curbing immigration into the Netherlands and other Western countries from Islamic nations, closing radical mosques, denaturalizing violent Muslims, and reducing the power of the European Union, among other things. In America this week for a one-week tour, Wilders chatted with The American Spectator about Islam, the civilizational conflict, and what must be done to keep the West free.

How big is the threat to the West from Islamic civilizational jihad? Is our focus on terrorism overlooking other, perhaps more insidious means?
Islam is a totalitarian ideology aiming for world domination. It wants to establish a worldwide caliphate, ruled by Sharia law — undemocratic, intolerant, barbarian, inhuman. Terror and violence are just one method which is used in order to achieve this aim. There are other methods, such as conquest by hijra (immigration). Muhammad himself gave this example of hijra when he conquered Medina. This town, which was originally a tolerant and partly Jewish oasis, became Islamic after Muhammad and his followers settled there and took it over. Western leaders focus solely on terrorism, but fail to see the purpose which terrorism is serving: Islamic word dominance. They should focus on fighting the global imperialist plans of Islam and treat terrorism as one of the means used to achieve this goal.

How would you characterize the Dutch experience in assimilating Muslims?
The Netherlands failed to assimilate Islam. So did the other European nations. Western Europe is in the grip of cultural relativism. It no longer believes in the superiority of its own Western Judeo-Christian and humanist values. These Western values have brought Europe peace, prosperity, liberty, and democracy. But, unfortunately, European political leaders no longer seem to understand this. The newcomers were not asked to assimilate. On the contrary, the Europeans told newcomers settling in their nations: you are free to violate our norms and values because your culture is just as good, and perhaps even better, than ours. Muslims were allowed to build enclaves on European soil, where Western values are despised and hated. The Islamization of Western Europe is a direct result of this. European nations did not assimilate Islam but rather encouraged it to continue to live according to its culture, which is intolerant, inferior, and totally incompatible with Europe’s culture and civilization.

How do you resuscitate traditional Western culture in the face of the encroachment we're seeing? Or is Europe inevitably lost?
The European nations need to rediscover and reassert their identity. If Europe fails to stand up for its own culture and identity, it, will, indeed, be lost to Islam. Time is running out. Islam is assertive and aggressive. Europe should be assertive in countering Islam. Europe needs to turn the tide of Islamization and start a de-Islamization process.

Here are five things which should be done:
1) Europe should close its borders to all immigration from Islamic countries.
2) It should stimulate voluntary re-emigration;
3) and it should expel all criminals with a dual nationality to the country of their other nationality.
4) It should demand that everyone with a passport from an Islamic country, who wishes to remain living in Western Europe, sign a declaration in which he or she distances himself or herself from Sharia law and the violent commands of the Koran.
5) People who join the jihad have to be expelled, even it they only have our nationality. They can go and live in the Islamic State and no longer belong here.

What message can you offer Americans about the threat posed by Islam and efforts to stifle freedom of speech critical of Islam?
Americans are more patriotic than Europeans. That is a good thing. Europe would be in a better shape if it were more patriotic. Americans should cherish their pride in being American. They should insist that everyone who settles in America accept its values, which are based on its Western Judeo-Christian heritage. America should close its borders to immigration from Islamic countries. There is more than enough Islam in America already. Freedom of speech is a very important American value. In many European countries, people criticizing Islam are prosecuted. Telling the truth about Islam is considered to be offensive, because Islam feels offended by it. But the truth can never be offensive and people should never refrain from speaking it. America should recognize that ISIS is an offspring of Islam. What ISIS does is what Islam commands. The Koran is full of commands such as sura 47 verse 4 “When ye meet the unbelievers, smite at their necks and cause a bloodbath among them.” When Obama, John Kerry, the British Prime Minister David Cameron, and others say that “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam” they are talking politically correct nonsense.

Is Dutch public sentiment actively opposed to the Islamist threat, or are your countrymen still largely unconcerned? Is this a situation where the political class is being unresponsive to the concerns of the citizenry as well as oblivious to a societal threat to your country?
I never use the word “Islamist”, because there is only one Islam: the Islam of the Koran and of Muhammad. Growing numbers of Dutch people are aware that Islam does not belong here because Islamic values are incompatible with our own. A poll last June showed that two thirds of the Dutch say that the Islamic culture does not belong in the Netherlands. The political class, however, does not voice the concerns of the people. This phenomenon can be seen elsewhere in Europe, too. It is the reason why the traditional political parties are rapidly losing the support of the people.

Are reforms to free speech controls needed in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe to avoid further prosecutions of Islam’s critics? Is such reform possible?
Islam is currently the greatest threat to the survival of our civilizations. People who warn against this threat, such as myself, are both threatened by Muslims who want to kill them for speaking the truth about Islam, and are at the same time prosecuted by the European authorities who want to silence them because they speak the truth about Islam. This is ridiculous. People should be allowed to speak the truth about the biggest danger that is currently threatening the survival of our Western civilization and the future prosperity and freedom of our children.
© The American Spectator


Malta: Moas rescues another 274 migrants

21/10/2014- Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas) yesterday rescued 274 people, including 200 Syrians, from a 15-metre wooden boat in distress. MY Phoenix , the 40-metre vessel being used by MOAS, was directed to the migrant boat by Rome’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre. The rescued migrants were 236 men, 21 women and 17 children. One of the women was nine months pregnant. The group also included 24 Pakistanis, 18 Moroccans, 12 Nigerians, six Eritreans, four Ghanians, three Malians, two Gambians, two Bangladeshis, one person from Ivory Coast, one from Mauritania and one from Tunisia. The migrants were transferred to an Italian navy ship for disembarkation in Italy. MOAS thanked the Italian authorities for assisting the rescue and taking the migrants to Italy. “MOAS has been extremely successful in saving lives at sea but we need more funding to conduct future missions. We are also dependent on the excellent cooperation we are finding from Rome’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and Mare Nostrum, which will unfortunately soon come to an end. We must all work together to ensure that lives continue to be saved,” said founder Christopher Catrambone.

Before being transferred to the Italian boat, the migrants were sheltered on Phoenix for around six hours during which they were provided with medical assistance, food, water and blankets. The MOAS team treated the migrants for seasickness, asthma, an ankle fracture and other conditions. The temperatures of all the migrants were also taken. Since it began operating on August 25, MOAS rescued more than 2,500 migrants from distressed boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In the past five days, MOAS rescued 371 migrants. Phoenix is now on its way back to Malta for restocking before it continues on its third and final mission this year, ending on October 31. MOAS is a private NGO initiative to save lives in the Mediterranean Sea, one of the world’s deadliest border crossings. Its aim is to provide assistance at sea in co-ordination with the Rescue Coordination Centres in the region.

To monitor the progress of the vessel and keep up to date with the latest news, follow MOAS on twitter @moas_eu and use the hashtag #MOAS to enter discussions about migration. Donations can be made on
© The Times of Malta


Revealed: Europe’s capital cities where it’s hardest to be a foreigner

21/10/2014- Athens, Rome and Malta’s Valletta are Europe’s least tolerant capital cities towards foreigners, a euronews study of official data reveals. Nearly half of those surveyed in Greece’s capital ‘strongly agree’ foreign citizens are a bad thing for the city, according to figures from Eurostat. The proportion of foreigners in central Athens is 17.4 percent, around one-in-six. In Rome, where foreigners make up just 8.5 percent of the population, 16 percent of those surveyed believe they are not positive for the city. In Valletta – where those without Maltese citizenship make up just 4.1 percent of the population – nearly one-in-seven think foreigners are a bad thing.

European Network Against Racism (ENAR) says xenophobia has been fuelled in Greece, Italy and Malta by the economic crisis and their position as the doors to Europe for asylum seekers. Michael Privot, director of ENAR, said: “These countries are known for their restrictive migration policies and negative media and political discourses about migration. “As an example, Maltese policies include measures of systematic detention of asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants, who are treated like criminals and as a result often perceived as such by the population. “They are also countries (in particular Greece) which have been hardest hit by the economic crisis and austerity measures, which has also fuelled xenophobia. In Greece for instance, issues relating to immigrants and refugees featured heavily in the campaigns of all the major political parties during the 2012 election.

“This allowed far-right groups to exploit the economic crisis to increase their popularity and recruit members in the poorer areas of the city, and led to an explosion of anti-migrant rhetoric and violent attacks against Asian and African migrants. This media and political discourse has largely contributed to a negative public perception of migrants, asylum seekers and ethnic and religious minorities, who are perceived as stealing job opportunities, working for less pay, benefiting from social services and perpetrating violent crimes.”

It comes after a damning report on Greece’s treatment of “irregular migrants”. The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) said the condi-tions in which irregular migrants were held in Greek police stations were “totally unacceptable”. The report reads: “In one station, two or more women were held for months in a dark, mouldy and dilapidated basement cell of a mere 5m² with no access to outdoor exercise or hygiene products. The CPT calls upon the Greek authori-ties to take urgent steps to transfer detained irregular migrants to specially-designed centres and to no longer hold them in police stations.”

Mr Privot added: “Greece has also been condemned repeatedly by the European Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights for systemic failures in abiding with its obligations under EU and international law as regards asylum seekers, refugee protection and respect of human rights. “Instead of scapegoating minorities and migrants, decision makers and politicians should send the message that migration and diversity contribute to European social, political, cultural and economic prosperity. There is a need for courageous political leadership, with leaders who understand the value of migration and are willing to speak out on this.”

Figures from Eurostat show Greece approved just four percent of initial asylum applications in 2013. Euronews’ expert on Greece said: “Citizens in Athens, and especially in the centre of Athens and areas like Omonoia, Agios Panteleimonas and Patisia, where most immigrants live, usually protest against foreigners because they believe – after being brainwashed by Golden Dawn – they are taking their jobs and that they are responsible for robberies and other crimes. “These areas used to be the most elite areas of Athens during the 60s, 70s and 80s but later Greeks left the centre for the suburbs. So the rents became cheaper than other areas and immigrants moved in. At the beginning of 90s they were mostly Albanians but after 2000 mostly Arabs and Africans.

“The same problem can also be seen in the city of Patra, a big Greek port, where most immigrants try to escape and go to Italy. Greeks in Patra say immigrants are responsible for most of the robberies that happen. “Even immigrants who are working in Greece have problems with their employers. The most “famous” incident was in Manolada where a Greek employer allegedly shot foreign strawberry pickers​​.
© Euronews


Montenegrin Serbs Allege Language Discrimination

Serb organisations in Montenegro urged the authorities to end what they said was discrimination against the Serbian language in the country.

20/10/2014- The Serb organisations adopted a joint declaration in Podgorica on Saturday which urged Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia’s Serb-led entity, Republika Srpska, to act to protect the Serbian language and the Cyrillic alphabet which they said was under threat in the country. Momcilo Vuksanovic, the president of the Serbian National Council, a state-funded organisation which represents the rights of Serbs in Montenegro, said that he was fighting to preserve the Serbian language and its status in the country "with great difficulties". He alleged obstruction from the authorities and pro-Serbian opposition parties in Montenegro. After the country’s split from Serbia, the 2007 constitution stipulated that Montenegrin was the sole official language. In 2010, the government then ruled that Montenegrin grammar must be used in schools. This confirmed Serbian as a minority language, Vukasnovic said. "It is a great injustice. Changing the name of the language in schools, which was supported by the Serb representatives in the parliament, was also an injustice," he added.

An agreement in 2011 between the government and the pro-Serbian opposition parties envisaged changes to education law so that pupils in Montenegro’s schools would study “Montenegrin-Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian language and literature”. The 2011 census revealed that over 40 per cent of people in Montenegro say they speak Serbian, even though less than 30 per cent declared Serb to be their ethnicity. According to the census, around 36 per cent of citizens claimed Montenegrin as their native language. Vukasnovic said that although Serbs in Montenegro could not ever be a minority, he would be happy if they had the rights that the minority ethnic Albanian community enjoys - the right to education in their own language and in their own schools, with proportional representation in the state administration. "Our national interest is to fight for the right for our children to be able to learn the Serbian language and use the Cyrillic alphabet in schools," he said.
© Balkan Insight


Slovakia: Neo-Nazi fined EUR 400 for kicking victim in the head

20/10/2014- The Slovak news server reports that the first sentence has been handed down in the scandal of the aggressive neo-Nazis who assaulted customers of the Mariatchi Bar in the Slovak town of Nitra last year. Professional soldier Tomáš Spišiak has been fined EUR 400, which he must pay the state for having kicked a defenseless, prone person twice in the head. Spišiak must also reimburse the victim's health insurance company EUR 12.60. If he does not pay the fine, he will go to prison for four months. Because the settlement was reached out of court, the decision has now taken effect. Spišiak confessed to committing the crime and concluded the agreement with the Public Prosecutor regarding his culpability and punishment. The District Court in Bratislava has now approved the arrangement. The other perpetrators involved face up to 12 years in prison.

How the assault took place
Last October a group of skinhead youth visited the Mariatchi bar in the town center. They provoked people and then said they wanted to buy cigarettes. When the bar refused the skinheads service, they began to shout and would not leave even after the owner asked them to. The other customers pushed them outside, but the right-wing extremists returned with reinforcements. Bar owner Radovan Richtárik exited the bar in order to stop the skinheads. "I wanted to tell them to drop it, but they wasted no time," he said. The skinheads immediately began to beat him and some of his customers up. When people fell to the ground, they brutally stomped on them, kicking some in the face and head without mercy. When the barmaid tried to chase away a neo-Nazi who was jumping up and down on a man lying limp on the sidewalk, another attacker slapped her. The attacks against the bar were not random, as the neo-Nazis are aware that Richtárik is an activist with the People against Racism initiative in Slovakia. The usual customers of his bar are students in particular. "People with dreadlocks come here too, which bothers [the neo-Nazis] also," Richtárik said.

Kotleba's people
The violent thugs usually gather in the private Walhala Club across the street from the bar and are part of the entourage around Slovak Fascist Marián Kotleba. He was voted Governor of the Banská Bystrica Region in the latest elections. Members of the Walhala Club have created a closed group for themselves on Facebook. Its profile photograph is a drawing of two skinheads shaking hands against a backdrop of the Slovak flag. One of the men in the drawing has an abbreviation for the international neo-Nazi network Combat 18 tatooed on his neck. The Walhala Club Facebook group has four administrators. Three of the Facebook administrators previously ran in the Parliamentary elections for Kotleba's LS-NS party. The page is also administered by Jakub Škrabák, the current boss of the Fascist association Slovak Solidarity (Sloven-ská pospolitost), which was previously led by Kotleba; the courts have already dissolved Slovak Solidarity as a political party. Škrabák is not from Nitra. He ran for Kotleba's LS-NS party in 2012 and 2012. Two of the Facebook administrators are from Nitra. Anton Baťovský and Dušan Sobolič were once activists with the National Resistance organization and Baťovský has the name of that organization tatooed on his back; both ran for Kotleba's party in 2010.

Last year's attack not the only one
Last year's attack was not the only conflict sparked by neo-Nazis in the bar. The right-wing extremists opened up the Walhala enterprise across the street from it, officially as a private card-playing club. They used to gather there on Saturday evenings, and Richtárik said there were times when he had problems with them every week. They broke windows, kicked in doors, and threatened the customers. The neo-Nazi attacks came to a head on New Year's Eve. "First, before midnight they had broken five windows," a customer recalls. "It was probably around 3 AM when they returned and kicked in the door. Rádo ran out after them with a camera. They saw him photographing them and started to beat him up, pushing him to the ground, kicking and stomping him. We wanted to help him, but one of the skinheads grabbed me and held me back. When I tried to get away he tore my coat," the customer said. The bar owner ended up in the hospital with a broken leg after the assault. On New Year's Day he was operated on.

Leading figures horrified
Juraj Malíček, a teacher at Nitra's University of Constantine the Philosopher, said he had experienced similar battles as a student. "The video footage was terrible, but it was not surprising. I have lived in Nitra since 1993 and I know the neo-Nazi community here has always been strong. When I was at college we always preferred to walk to the dormitory in the evening as a group rather than alone. In reality this is much more common than just that video," he said. Actress Eva Pavlíková and painter Karel Félix believe neo-Nazism is not just a problem of Nitra. "I don't believe that Nitra is exceptional, rather, this case has drawn attention to everything. Naturally I condemn this and the claims that this is not about extremism have upset me," Félix said. The head of Nitra's theater company, Ján Greššo, called the attack brutal, hateful and inhuman. "I am always appalled when I see anger that harms people not just physically, but also psychologically," he said. Former Slovak presidential candidate Pavol Hrušovský also lives in Nitra and has demanded harsh punishment for the perpetrators since the beginning. "Such brutal violence is deplorable. I am sorry it took the police so long to investigate given the video footage," he said.

Neo-Nazis in Nitra have long committed assaults
Neo-Nazis in Nitra have been attacking people for quite some time now. For example, in 2008 they assaulted a group of young people in front of the Old Theater and have established a branch of the militant neo-nazi National Resistance movement network there. In the past neo-Nazis have organized a "March against Drugs" in Nitra on the anniversary of the founding of the Fascist Slovak state. That entity collaborated with Nazi Germany during the war.
© Romea.


Greece: Youth vote for Golden Dawn for racist/supremacist reasons, study finds

Debunking myth that the swing to Golden Dawn is due to exclusively to the economic crisis, researchers at Athens Panteion University show that young voters agree with racist-supremicist position of the neonazi party.

20/10/2014- Young people who voted for Golden Dawn in 2012 did so out of ideological conviction and not for reasons stemming from the economic crisis, a new study from a leading Athens university shows. Conducted by researchers at the Panteion University, the study also found that the level of identification among Golden Dawn’s young voters with its aims was higher than for youth who backed other parties. These voters generally view Golden Dawn as a “nationalist party”, rejecting as “despicable” its description as “fascist” or “neonazi” even though they recognise that there are ideological affinities between it and fascism. For them, Golden Dawn is a “patriotic-nationalist” party, which “puts the Greeks above everything else”. The almost total identification with the party’s “nationalist” ideology, expressed through the pride these young voters feel as Greeks pride, stems from the belief that Greeks are superior to other people historically and culturally. “When we had civilisation, others were living in trees,” one male voter aged 24 told the researchers, repeating a phrase often found in Golden Dawn’s “theoretical” texts.

In the June 2012 elections, Golden Dawn was the second most popular party in the 18–34 age group. The research was carried out by sociology department at Panteion University within the framework of a European programme called MyPlace (Memory, Youth, Political Legacy and Civic Engagement), which was conducted in 14 European countries (UK, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Georgia, Finland, Denmark, Russia, Estonia, Slovakia, Croatia, Latvia, Hungary). The quantitative survey was conducted in 2013 and involved 1,200 questionnaires being sent to young people aged 16–25 in the Attica region, which includes Athens. The researchers also conducted 60 semi-structured interviews with young voters and facilitated 15 intergenerational group discussions. “As the data from the survey makes clear, the widespread argument that young people (and not only) turned to Golden Dawn due to the economic misery is very debatable,” says Panteion professor Alexandra Koronaiou, who coordinated the research in Greece. “The research brings to light a number of other parameters that show Golden Dawn’s impact on a part of the youth and it highlights the strong ideological identifica-tions of new voters with the ideology that the party represents.

“This ideological positioning stems from the stereotypical perception of the glorious history of ancient civilisation and the (supposed) unbroken historical continuity and superiority [of the Greeks] over the centuries,” Koronaiou said. “This ‘cultural’ racism is complemen-ted by ‘biological’ racism, when it comes to the issue of attitudes and perceptions towards foreigners,” she added. “For example, only a small minority of these young voters accept that second- and third-generation immigrants could be considered Greek citizens. “The majority insists on the cultural and biological superiority of the Greeks and the corresponding inferiority of other ethnicities. However, this pride is accompanied by feelings of national humiliation, resentment and self-pity when faced with the decline that the country is experiencing,” said Koronaiou. The report shows that these feelings are accompanied by contempt for and rejection of democracy, procedures and institutions, encompassing hatred and anger towards political figures in parliamentary system and a clear preference for authoritarian and totalitarian systems.

Left rejected
The study reveals interesting findings as to why these young people are not turning leftwing parties, which some consider to be anti-systemic. Some of these voters say they reject the left, and specifically Syriza, because of their stance on immigration. The vast majority, however, argues that the only true “antisystemic” party is Golden Dawn and they describe the other parties, especially those on the left, as “hypocritical”. This view is summed up best by this comment from one young female Golden Dawn voter: “Politicians are only interested in their own well-being, their wealth; they are responsible for what we spend because the only things that matters for them are votes and money.” Koronaiou believes that Golden Dawn has reaped the benefits of targeting the youth at various levels. “Golden Dawn’s systematic infiltration and propaganda in schools and other spaces frequented by young people in their leisure time (such as fitness studies, soccer, camping, musical bands) has paid off. The youth is a tremendous force, whose ‘conquest’ all fascist and Nazi movements and parties gave great importance.”

She quotes from Golden Dawn’s own website to show the importance the neonazi party places on younger generations. In November 2012, one article said: “A generational battle is certain in the next election, with the vast majority of new voters supporting Golden Dawn.” Another proclaimed: “We have taken the youth from you, once and for all.” “Golden Dawn’s ideological influence over the youth is a very serious phenomenon in terms of the country’s social cohesion in the future and it highlights the urgent need for policies to combat racism and fascism among young people,” according to Koronaiou. “Why? As François Mitterrand once said: ‘If young people are not always right, the society which ignores and knocks them is always wrong.’”

Golden Dawn’s young voters in their own words
“Maybe nationalists” - Harilaos, 22
“I don’t know if it’s a neonazi party. I know that some officials have such views, but I don’t think it’s a problem ... I don’t think you can label the party, as it’s not a
something uniform. Let’s say that some are neonazis, some are nationalists, some are nazis, and others are just rightwing. I would say it’s more a nationalist party even though this doesn’t describe it.”

“They’re uncivilised” - Marios, 25
“If the those guys, the Somalis, cut people’s heads off in their country for breakfast, it’s because they are uncivilised, because we are talking about immigrants who have no culture. Cameroon, Angola. What are they? The best of them would kill their own mother. You can’t talk to these people. You just can’t, because they’ll draw a sword and do you in. You have to draw yours first.”

“We’re going forward” - Nikandros, 21
“It is the only party that I hear talking about the word “Greeks”, the only party I hear talking about promoting Greece, the only party I hear talking about solving the problem of illegal immigrants ... Golden Dawn supports nationalism; nationalism in each country means moving your country forward, to make it the ruler of the whole world and let the rest poke their eyes out.”

“I’m a Greek, not a Golden Dawner” - Nikodimos, 25
“Why do not I believe that a Greek should vote? A Greek patriot doesn’t vote; he doesn’t have a party. And something that’s misunderstood in Greece: whoever says he is a Greek is a fascist. So if you wear a shirt with the Greek flag, you’ll be called a fascist or Golden Dawner. I don’t view myself as a Golden Dawner; I’m a Greek.”
“We’re degenerates” - Marios, 25
“Where the Greeks are superior, where we could be superior is culturally. We could be ‘the’ country and be the centre of the world. I really believe it. Why isn’t one of us Obama, the ruler of the world? You fucking start from here. We could be from the cradle; but we are not because we are modern Greeks. For me, modern Greek is the biggest insult you can say to someone. And I say it, we modern Greeks, fuck it. We’re degenerates.”

“It’s all from us” - Domna, 25
“Compared to other nations, we are far more superior. Because we gave birth to democracy, which of course has now been abolished by everyone, but what examples can I give ... let’s say astronomy, I don’t know, all science, it’s all from us, it’s all from is ... Everything started from here, they’ve even taken some ancient names and are using them. Everything is from us.”

“I’m racist” - Voula, 25
“Yes, I say it, I’m a racist. Let’s be clear. No bullshit or anything, I’m very sorry ... Yeah, I have been forced to become one because I can’t be ashamed and afraid to move around areas in the country where I was born and raised ... Or be afraid to get into a public transport, which previous generations have paid for, to be able to move around comfortably ... Why do we not put them on a ship and sink it somewhere in the Aegean sea?”

“It’s like if was elected” - Mario 25
“[Golden Dawn] is not a party. And it’s not party like those parties that have become degenerate nowadays. The difference is probably that it’s not made up of politicians. Now a politician has become a profession, I don’t know if you can study it somewhere, to grow up to become a politician and learn to lie. These people [Golden Dawn MPs], are from around the corner, who have been really up against it. They haven’t from America to pretend that they know Greece. They haven’t come from France. They are people from [the Athens districts of] Kypseli, Agios Panteleimonas who have really been up against it. People who before becoming MPs were probably one or two years unemployed, who had nothing to eat. That’s the difference; it’s like if you or I entered parliament.”
* Translated from an article by Giorgos Kiousis that appeared in the Sunday edition of Eleftherotypia on 19 October 2014
© Enet English


Ukraine's politicians face mob attacks

Over the past few weeks, Ukrainian political activists have carried out a series of sensational actions, seizing politicians and local officials and throwing them into big bins.

20/10/2014- The activists, many from far-right groups, accuse the politicians of various offences, and call their actions "trash bucket challenges" - echoing the "ice bucket challenges" that were recently an internet viral hit. They even have a hashtag: #trashbucketchallenge. The Ukrainian version, also accompanied by video footage, has been eyecatching - and often brutal. In one, Viktor Pylypyshyn, a politician trying to register as a candidate for the 26 October parliamentary elections, was tossed into a large waste bin, or dumpster, outside Kiev's Central Electoral Commission. He was a member of former President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

The footage shows Mr Pylypyshyn sitting forlornly on a pile of garbage, covered in red paint, as activists continue to hurl rubbish and curse him. "Bitch, you think that the Maidan is over? It's just begun," one man shouts, off-camera, referring to the February "Euromaidan" revolution, which drove President Yanukovych from power and delivered a new pro-Western government in his place. The "binning" supporters say these actions are necessary because, eight months after the country's revolution, the government has done nothing significant to tackle corruption. Outrage has not ebbed over revelations of immense wealth and conspicuous consumption among former President Yanukovych's inner circle - including an opulent estate owned by Mr Yanukovych himself, and a massive collection of gold bars belonging to one of his ministers.

Fragile economy
All this is unfolding against a backdrop of rising economic discontent. The fighting in the east has shut down much of the steel and mining industry, which is at the heart of Ukraine's economy. There are also fears of a frigid, gas-less winter, owing to a lengthy dispute over prices with Moscow. This year, the country's economy may shrink by 10%. A feeling of malaise is palpable: Kiev is dotted with empty shop fronts, and political protests are constant. The trashings have spread across the country. Many of these look like pre-election campaign stunts - video cameras and journalists always seem to be close by and in full supply. But they have definitely touched a nerve. The actual number of incidents is unknown, but it appears to be growing. "People are tired of waiting; people are disappointed," said Boryslav Bereza, a member of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector, which has carried out a number of the trashings. "And when the government is unable to take the law into its hands, then the street takes matters into its hands."

Mr Bereza and others also call the binnings "people's lustrations". A lustration was a sacrificial cleansing ceremony in ancient Rome, but has come to refer in Eastern Europe to a vetting process to filter out former communist officials. The country's own lustration law, now signed by the president, was passed on 16 September - the day of another trashing. Vitaliy Zhuravsky, a member of parliament and Yanukovych ally, was tossed into a waste bin as he was entering the legislature. His exact offence is still unclear. Not all the victims have been linked to the Yanukovych government, however. Police have opened investigations into a couple of the incidents, but so far no charges have been levelled. Oleh Lyashko, the head of the Radical party, which is polling in second place ahead of Sunday's parliamentary elections, violently threw an official in the waste bin when he could not find his intended target. He said the official was "lying" and therefore deserved his abuse.

Some observers say the attacks are less about grassroots justice, or sending a message to those in power, and more about mob rule - pointing out that the February revolution was presumably about introducing "European values" to Ukraine. They have condemned the incongruity of carrying out vigilante justice in order to strengthen the rule of law. "Europe is not some giant shopping-mall or a high-class resort, as some imagine," wrote Alyona Getmanchuk, the director of the Kiev-based Institute of World Policy. "Trash is no substitute for judgement. Fists are no substitute for judgement," she added. "The real Europe ends not where the EU ends. It ends where the law ends." The binning incidents also raise concerns over the lustration law.

Supporters say it helped sweep away the vestiges of communism and strengthen democracy in countries where it was introduced, like the Czech Republic. Still, human rights activists say Ukraine's version is too broad. According to the legislation's authors, more than one million people will be vetted. "If all these people are dismissed, who will replace them?" asked Yevhen Zakharov of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. "The country's main problem is an insufficient number of modern educated people."

Second Maidan
Mr Zakharov also said the law was passed under questionable circumstances, and that it did not provide for an independent body to oversee the process. "This is being perceived as a great victory for democracy, but in fact it's a great defeat," he wrote. Nevertheless, as the country's economy deteriorates and anger in the country grows, many Ukrainians are speaking of a "second Maidan" if things do not change soon. Already the political confrontations have taken an even more violent turn: Nestor Shufrych, another Yanukovych ally, was taken to hospital after a throng badly beat him as he tried to enter a building in the southern city of Odessa to hold a news conference. Boryslav Bereza of Right Sector has called the binnings a "soft form of lynching", though he warns the real thing could be not far off. "We have seen people thrown into bins and now they are being beaten up. It's frightening for me to think of what could come next."

Ukraine's lustration law - or law on the "cleansing of power"
A key demand of pro-EU demonstrators who ousted Viktor Yanukovych from power in February 2014, the law bans:
@ Those who served for at least one year when Viktor Yanukovych was in power (25 February 2010 - 22 February 2014)
@ Those who held office during protests against him (21 November 2013 - 22 February 2014)
@ Those who helped him "usurp power", undermined Ukraine's security, promoted separatism, ethnic discord or violated human rights
@ Police officers, prosecutors and judges involved in the prosecution of anti-Yanukovych demonstrators, or in the obstruction of such protests
@ Senior Soviet Communist Party functionaries, KGB agents and officials with more assets than their income would allow
Source: BBC Monitoring
© BBC News


Hungarians march to celebrate ‘Roma Pride’

Members of Jewish community join in solidarity rally for minority group known by some as ‘Gypsies’

19/10/2014- Hundreds of Hungarians took part in a “Roma Pride” march in Budapest Sunday to celebrate the country’s largest ethnic minority, a community scarred by widespread prejudice. Around 500 people walked through the city center chanting “Opre Roma!” (Up Roma!) and holding placards of famous figures of ethnic-Roma background like British actor Charlie Chaplin and Spanish footballer Jesus Navas. “This day is about everyone, Roma and non-Roma, showing pride in our community, and our positive contributions to Hungary,” main organizer Jeno Setet of the “We Belong Here” civil group said. The Roma, also known as Gypsies, make up about seven percent of Hungary’s population of 10 million and the minority group is one of the largest in central Europe, according to the Council of Europe. “It’s usually impossible to hear anything positive about us in the media however, or anywhere else,” Setet told AFP.

The European Union member state’s Roma trail in practically every indicator from living standards to health, as they do throughout eastern and central Europe. Wide-spread unemployment and poverty has also fueled mistrust against the Roma, and deputies of the far-right party Jobbik — the country’s second-biggest party — often make anti-Roma statements. “A majority of Hungarian society doesn’t want anything to do with the Roma,” Mihaly Simon of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union rights group told AFP. Gusztav Loli, 58, said Hungarians either forget or don’t know about the sacrifices made by many Roma through history. “My father was jailed in 1956 after fighting for Hungarian freedom [during the failed anti-Soviet uprising],” Loli said.

Setet said he planned to give the Hungarian government a petition urging it to include lessons about the Roma Holocaust in the school curriculum. An estimated half a million European Roma perished in Nazi German death camps during World War II. Other groups taking part in the march included those representing gay rights, the Jewish community and homeless people.


Hungary: Your number is up, unless you’re a football fan

About 25,000 Roma live in the north Hungarian city Miskolc. Their largest closed settlement is the so-called “numbered streets”. About 1,000 live in the houses built as a workers’ settlement in the 1960s. Their future is unsure however. The city council wants to demolish the slums for the sake of urban development, including enlarging the neighbouring football stadium and replacing the Roma homes with parking.

19/10/2014- Miskolc Mayor Ákos Kriza, who was re-elected at the municipal election on Sunday, sees the plans as critical for urban development. “Both for reasons of public safety and health the existence of slums cannot be tolerated any more,” he told online magazine Kriza, of Fidesz-KDNP, says the citizens are backing him up – with the help of Fidesz he has collected 35,000 signatures for the termination of slums. The numbered streets are special due to the renewal of the stadium, he told Hír TV: “We cannot expect more than 10,000 football fans to march through a slum each time they would like to get into the stadium. Of course we will provide the rightful inhabitants with other accommodation. We are working with social sensitivity and we decide separately on each family.” Kriza said numerous unauthorised people have been using the community apartments for years. “Since we are responsible for the economical operation of the community, we cannot allow people who have not been paying rent for years to live there or destroy the real estate, so that the children have to grow up among rats and cockroaches,” he said. His office did not respond to questions submitted by The Budapest Times.

Who are we talking about exactly? Sociologists Gábor Havas and Gabriella Lengyel asked around the inhabitants of 112 apartments in the numbered streets. The result: about 90% of the inhabitants were Roma and 85% were born in Miskolc. Fifty-eight apartments had unlimited rental contracts and 38 had fixed terms. This is not irrele-vant: the inhabitants say the city now no longer automatically extends the contracts once they have expired. Also, only those tenants with a valid current contract receive compensation. With these conditions, the majority are in danger of being put on the streets without any compensation. Attila Tamás, an independent Roma activist, draws a clear conclusion. “Miskolc is trying to clear out the Gypsies,” he said. “I would be happy if the segregation would end but the goal of the politicians in Miskolc is to send away the poor people instead of looking for a solution.”

Indeed, you can’t help getting this impression: the Fidesz majority on the city council voted on 8 May that the compensation offered to tenants of community apartments would be subject to strict conditions: only those tenants may receive up to HUF 2 million compensation who purchase real estate outside Miskolc and commit themselves not to sell it in the following five years. So the inhabitants have to answer the question: where to? Many of the families have been living in Miskolc for generations and do not want to leave. In addition they have financial difficulties. Most of them are working in the factories nearby – how could they make their living in the villages in the countryside? They want a fair solution and have already demonstrated for one. Some activists lived in tents in front of the city hall during the summer to call attention to the situation. “We are staying in Miskolc,” the slogan of the Magyarországi Cigány Párt (MCP, Hungarian Gypsy Party) said in the election on Sunday.

They put up their own candidate, Gábor Váradi, because many Roma feel that they are not represented by the large parties. He scored a dismal 414 votes, 0.7%. Fidesz tried to snatch votes from the radical-right party Jobbik by campaigning against Gypsies and Kriza polled 25,231 votes against Jobbik’s 12,225. Albert Pásztor, the com-mon candidate of the left parties, is mistrusted because of his former role as police director, and he polled 18,808 votes. “He is known for being hostile towards Gyp-sies for years,” Tamás, the activist, said. MCP’s aim above all is to draw attention to the situation of Roma in Miskolc but this is not easy. “Our financial situation only allowed hanging a few posters,” Váradi said. “Besides that our only opportunity is to go around and talk to people.” Their only chance is to stay united, he believes. So far no one had taken the compensation offered by the city council to leave their homes. “Miskolc is my home,” he added.

The neighbouring communities are not welcoming the Roma – they are afraid that Miskolc will push its poverty problems over to them. The town Felsőzsolca and five other communities announced: “We are not supporting the export of social problems and we will use every available lawful method in order to prevent it.” Opposition to Roma is already reality in Sátoraljaújhely at the Slovak border, although the town is 86 kilometres from Miskolc and it seems unlikely that many Roma would move there. Those people “who move to the territory of Sátoraljaújhely with the help of financial resources received from another community” will not be entitled to any social benefits in the first five years, according to a new rule issued by the authorities. They also cannot rent or buy apartments in public ownership and will be excluded from the public work program for three years.

A local notary doubts the legality of such regulations because communities in Hungary are obliged by law to pay out social benefits. However, Sátoraljaújhely passed the regulation nonetheless and says it is willing to fight legal action if it must. If the Roma from the numbered streets are unwelcome both in Miskolc and the surrounding area, might they move to Budapest? Attila Tamás thinks that before it comes to that, Miskolc must find a solution that is socially acceptable. “If Miskolc wants to termi-nate the slums, then the city needs to offer the people new apartments all around the city, with a similar value to the present ones. This way they could end the segre-gation as well.”
© The Budapest Times


Anti-Semitic Jobbik Party Gains Power; Hungarian Jews Frantic

Hungarian Jewish community alarmed after election results reveal Jobbik is second largest party in Hungary.

19/10/2014- The Jewish community of Hungary has expressed great concern in recent days, following the results of local elections, where far-right party Jobbik has become the second largest party in Hungary, after winning control of fourteen cities and towns. This represents a significant achievement for the party - which, in the previous local elections four years ago, received control of only 3 cities. Just two months ago, during Operation Protective Edge, Mihaly Zoltan Orosz, mayor of Erpatak in eastern Hungary, held an anti-Semitic ceremony in the city's main square. During the ceremony, effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres were "hung" in a mock execution. One week later, police raided the home and offices of the anti-Semitic mayor and brought him in for questioning. Another Jobbik party member and parliament representative caused an uproar when he called on the government to make a registry of all of Hungary's Jews.

The Conference of European Rabbis sees these election results as further proof of the rise of anti-Semitism in Hungary. "We are concerned and we expressed our concerns to the heads of the European Union (EU) as well as to the leaders of European governments, who see eye to eye with us on the need for a war to eradicate rising anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic manifestations. We will continue our activities to increase and glorify Torah and Israel in Europe, because we all believe that Light rejects Darkness." In Hungary's last parliamentary elections, which took place in April, Jobbik already showed a marked increase in power. The party won 20.3% of the vote, with most of the support coming from poor areas in the east of the country. Jobbik's biggest achievement during last week's elections was recorded in the northeast city of Ozd, which holds 35 thousand inhabitants. The new mayor of Ozd, David Janiczak, 27, took a victory lap around the city, shaking the hands of cheering residents.
© Arutz Sheva


Hungary: Jobbik extends influence in municipalities

18/10/2014- Jobbik managed to hold on to the majority of its mayoral seats Sunday. Except in one county, it is the second-largest party in county general assemblies. Fourteen of its mayoral candidates won and in six municipalities independent candidates, enjoying the far-right party’s support, came in first. Researcher Political Capital offers this analysis. After the closing of the polls, party president Gábor Vona positioned Jobbik as the challenger of the governing party in 2018. Jobbik is still far from its target; it failed to capture the much-coveted mayoral seat in Miskolc and in Budapest it had to be content with coming in before green party LMP.

Gaining strength in cities
In light of a puny leftist opposition, Jobbik’s performance was one of the hottest issues of the municipal elections. Data on fielding candidates already indicated that the party had made an effort to consolidate its position in major urban areas, for in the past its presence was limited primarily to small towns and villages. In 2010 it managed to capture mayoral seats in only two small villages and one mid-sized town (Tiszavasvári), and later it took over in 12 municipalities in part when independent mayors joined Jobbik and in part by winning by-elections. This time, Jobbik’s mayoral candidates won in 14 municipalities, including in a number of mid-sized towns, such as Tapolca, Tiszavasvári, Ózd and Törökszentmiklós. In addition, in six municipalities independent candidates also supported by Jobbik came in first. As a result, a policy of strict law and order, discriminating welfare policies and school segregation may gain new momentum in a number of municipalities.

In a number of cities with county-rank, Jobbik mayoral candidates came in second and the party’s representatives will be present in larger numbers in the city assem-blies. However, Jobbik failed to win the top prize, the post of mayor, in Miskolc, where eventually its candidate, Péter Jakab, was soundly defeated by both the incumbent mayor from the governing party and the leftist candidate. Importantly, in most municipalities where Jobbik ran, it managed to hold on to its leading position, disproving the commonly held view that once in power the far right tends to lose appeal.

Second place in county assemblies
From its vantage point, Jobbik politicians are right to emphasise the party’s achievements in the assemblies of cities with county-rank and the victory of Békéscsaba’s independent candidate supported by the party. However, when it comes to county assemblies, it must be taken into account that residents of the 23 cities with county-rank are excluded from voting for the members of county assemblies. Thus 1.6 million citizens living in the largest cities outside Budapest do not have the option of expressing their party affiliation directly. Only people living in smaller settlements vote for county party lists, which offer Jobbik a disproportionate repre-sentation. In the 19 county assemblies Jobbik gained 81 mandates, 23 more than in 2010. The distribution of the new mandates is even among the counties. In other words the party’s second place in 17 county assemblies is rather misleading, and its resurgence in urban centres is a significantly more relevant development. The case of Békéscsaba should not be seen as an unequivocal victory for Jobbik either. While the far-right party supported the winning independent candidate, Péter Szarvas, he can thank the local Fidesz organisation, rent by infighting, for his victory.

Budapest is Jobbik’s Achilles heel
The capital continues to be the weakest point for Jobbik. Despite its efforts to show a more moderate face, Jobbik has failed to make any significant headway in Budapest. The poor result is also highlighted by the fact that despite Jobbik having a mayoral candidate in all 23 districts, they got only 40,590 votes. This is far less than Jobbik received in the April 2014 parliamentary election (111,129), and even worse than the European Parliament result in May, when Jobbik got only 51,995 votes on the party list. In Budapest, Jobbik’s mayoral candidates typically received 4-10%, although in some districts 10-12%. The over 40,000 fractional votes earned a single Jobbik seat in the Budapest assembly. With 42,093 votes (1700 fewer than four years ago), the party’s Budapest mayor candidate, Gábor Staudt, received 7.1% and finished third, far behind its two major rivals. The party’s only consolation is that it managed to finish ahead of LMP, which was in a stronger position in 2010.
© The Budapest Times


Germany: Now Berlin turns to tents to house refugees

Berlin has turned to huge tents and shipping containers to shelter growing numbers of refugees. With winter approaching, city politicians have called on the federal government for help.

23/10/2014- City chiefs approved accommodation for 200 refugees “in particular need of protection” in air-inflated tents on sports grounds on Wednesday. They will be housed in two tents on Lehrter Strasse in central Berlin. As well as tents, Berlin's Senate also wants to construct six "shipping container villages" before Christmas to shelter 2,400 people. As in Munich, authorities are struggling to deal with the number of refugees arriving in the capital. Authorities in Munich and in the central state of Hesse have already resorted to tents to house those seeking asylum. Another 12,000 refugees are expected by the end of the year in Berlin and the city's 47 existing shelters and overloaded bureaucracy are unable to cope. The single centre which conducts medical examinations for tuberculosis and other infectious diseases is becoming a bottleneck, as refugees aren't allowed into large shelters until they are cleared.

One worker there told Tagesspiegel newspaper that they have been cutting corners for two or three years to manage the numbers, with both the numbers and language barriers to treating refugees slowing things down. Barbara Schwemmer, from the Berlin branch of NGO Caritas, which has provided legal contacts, food and medical supplies to refugees in the capital, said poor bureaucracy was driving the city's response to the growing numbers. “Not every individual case has been treated adequately,” she told The Local. “The authorities only check where the refugees are from, what status they have, and who's responsible. “We'd rather they checked the humanitarian background, whether they're traumatized for example.” A lot of the time the priority is to find out which other EU countries or German states refugees have travelled through to reach Berlin so that they can be returned there, Schwemmer said. Under EU rules the country where asylum seekers first arrive is responsible for taking care of them, meaning many refugees who report to the authorities in Germany can be sent back to Italy.

Help us!
Berlin and other German states have called on the federal government to do more to support housing and care for refugees, which until now has been paid for by states and local governments. Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff Peter Altmaier met the leaders of state chancelleries in Berlin on Thursday to discuss the problem. A central requirement is faster processing of refugees' cases through the bureaucracy, Lower Saxony interior minister Boris Pistorius told Norddeutsche Rundfunk radio. “We have a jam of 140,000 unpro-cessed applications,” he said. Local governments especially say they need financial help and for federally-owned buildings to be converted for use as accommodation centres, as well as easing construction regulations to speed up those conversions.
© The Local - Germany


United against Salafism, right-wing scene surges in Germany

Violent hooligans, backed by right-wing extremists, have teamed up against a new enemy: Salafists. For months now, they have lashed out online - and now they're taking to the streets.

18/10/2014- It began on Facebook, where anti-Islam soccer fans have been venting their anger in online forums for months now. But lately, in German cities, like Essen, Nuremberg, Mannheim, Frankfurt and Dortmund, hostile and extremely violent hooligans, usually at odds with each other, have united against a new enemy: Salafists - a radical and militant branch of Islam. Their initiative, currently known as Ho.Ge.Sa. - "Hooligans gegen Salafisten" ("Hooligans against Salafists") - has seen its profile repeatedly blocked by Facebook, but it always reappears under another name. It's here that the group is stoking the flames against the hard-line Salafist movement. Next stop: a demonstration planned for October 26 in front of the Cologne Cathedral.

The current mood and the protests organized by Kurds across Europe are giving hooligans and right-wing sympathizers the chance to "apparently demonstrate against the Salafists, but really only to express their own Islamophobia," Olaf Sundermeyer, a journalist and author, told DW . "We are 'hooligans against Salafixxxx.' Together, we are strong," reads the group's Facebook page. They see themselves as "a movement that has brought together hooligans, ultras, soccer fans and ordinary citizens in a common fight against the worldwide 'Islamic State' terror campaign and the nationwide Salafist movement." In Facebook posts and on banners at their demonstrations, they call their group the "resistance" against "the true enemies of our shared homeland." The latest protest in Dortmund drew around 400 people. "On 26.10.2014 in Cologne, we will significantly increase this number of participants," a moderator recently announced on the site. "Peaceful, unmasked and without rioting."

'Salafists are the greater evil'
These slogans have actually served to bring together opposing hostile fan bases, who usually meet up before and after sports events to fight each other. Gunter A. Pilz, an expert on fan behavior from the Sport University in Hanover, calls this phenomenon "a temporary fighting alliance." However, he said that this coalition will only last as long as the common enemy: the Salafists. Sundermeyer, who points out that anti-Islam attitudes are widespread in the soccer fan scene, said there's a risk that extreme right-wing groups will be tolerated because the brutality of "Islamic State" militants in Syria and Iraq is proof to many that Salafists are the greater evil. In an interview with German public radio Deutschlandfunk, Sundermeyer said that "Hooligans against Salafists" is still a relatively small group, but stressed that it could attract more followers - even those with less radical viewpoints. Soccer, he said, is the ideal environment to radicallize and recruit young people to the extreme right-wing cause. Officially, though, the league has distanced itself from the right-wing extremist movement.

Mobilizing apolitical hooligans and soccer fans
But there's an obvious overlap with the neo-Nazi scene: Ho.Ge.Sa. is backed by Dominik Roeseler, a member of the right-wing Pro NRW party who sits on the Mönchengladbach city council. He plans to be at the demonstration in Cologne. Roeseler is considered to be quite extreme and is, like all right-wing party members, under observation by German security officials. And there are further connections: At the protest in Dortmund, many shirts, jackets and banners were adorned with neo-Nazi symbols. The next day, a post on the Facebook group backtracked, saying that "unfortunately, we have found out that many neo-Nazis came to this event. We want to once again make it clear that we are not political."

There doesn't even seem to be a consensus over Dominik Roeseler among the Ho.Ge.Sa. members. A few days ago, they announced that they had parted ways with him. But one thing is certain: the Cologne demonstration is being organized by right-wing political officials. Is Ho.Ge.Sa., therefore, an attempt by right-wing extre-mists to drum up new members from within the ranks of hooligans and extremist soccer fans? At the most recent count, the number of Ho.Ge.Sa. fans had risen to more than 16,000. "We continue to grow, the media can hound us all it wants. This time, you will not be able to stop us," wrote a follower on the site. Until recently, soccer associations, clubs and other fans had been able to keep the hooligans in check, said Sundermeyer. Now, however, faced with the threat posed by the Salafists, the cause of the right-wing extremists is seeing increasing support.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Video shows Spain police beating, expelling migrant

18/10/2014- A video of Spanish police beating an African migrant with a truncheon and carrying him apparently unconscious back across the border to Morocco caused outrage in Spain on Friday. The man was one of about 100 migrants who tried to climb from Moroccan soil over a six-metre (20-foot) fence into the Spanish territory of Melilla on Wednesday. The local humanitarian group Prodein which filmed the video identified the man as a 23-year-old Cameroonian named Danny. In the video, an officer of the Spanish Civil Guard police force is seen hitting the man with a truncheon as the migrant hung barefoot from the fence on the Spanish side. Danny is then seen dropping from the fence into the hands of a group of Spanish officers and lying on the ground. Spanish officers later carry him by the arms and legs as he lies limp, through a gate in the fence and back to the Moroccan side of the border.

Jose Palazon, the leader of Prodein who made the video, accused officers of "a high level of violence". He said the migrant "should have had medical assistance but did not get it". "The whole thing was absolutely illegal. It is a monument of contempt for the law, morality and ethics," Palazon told AFP on Friday. Rights groups accuse the Spanish police of illegal "on-the-spot deportations" of migrants who have stormed the border fence in groups of hundreds over recent months. A spokeswoman for the Spanish government delegation in Melilla, Irene Flores, said the migrant on Wednesday was not injured and had offered "passive resistance". Spain's government denies that migrants who climb the fence should be considered as having reached Spanish territory and says it has the right to return those intercepted while perched there. "The Civil Guard acted in scrupulous fulfilment of the law," Flores told AFP. "We do not consider these to be cases of deporting people on the spot, but of turning them away at the border."

On February 6 about 15 migrants drowned in Moroccan waters while trying to swim from a beach in Morocco to Ceuta, the other of Spain's two north African territories. Witnesses accused Spanish security forces of firing rubber bullets at the migrants in the water. The government admitted using rubber bullets but denied its forces had targeted the migrants directly. The conservative Popular Party government drew fire over Wednesday's video, with opposition parties accusing it of lacking clear protocol for border guards. "This is one more example of absolutely intolerable behaviour by members of the security forces and inhuman treatment of people," said the parliamentary spokesman for the United Left party, Joan Coscubiela.


Monkey chants in Moscow: Is Russia making any progress in its fight against racism? (Analysis)

As CSKA Moscow prepare to play Manchester City behind closed doors, Goal analyses what Russian football is doing to solve the problem of racism in their country
Analysis by Andrew Wychrij

21/10/2014- A year after CSKA Moscow supporters were found guilty of racially abusing Yaya Toure, Manchester City will return to the Russian capital on Tuesday for another Champions League fixture. This time, however, the English champions should expect no repeat of monkey chants directed at the Ivorian. The game will be played in front of empty stands at the Arena Khimki after CSKA received their third Uefa sanction in less than a year, following the latest racist behaviour of their fans. CSKA’s most recent punishment, after violent clashes and displays of racist banners by supporters in Rome last month, has once again left Russian football under a cloud. Monkey chants made by Spartak Moscow supporters against Hulk in September, and similar abuse from Torpedo Moscow fans towards Christopher Samba have also served to reinforce the impression that Russian authorities have neither the desire nor ability to address the issue of racism.

However, with the 2018 World Cup fast approaching, the impetus to act is starting to grow. The simple fact is that Russia’s authorities cannot hide from the problem anymore. The overwhelming weight of evidence, coupled with international pressure, means that denial, which has been the typical response to allegations of racism, is no longer a viable option. A Russian Spectator Law introduced in January 2014 prohibits political propaganda, namely the presence of neo-Nazi and extremist symbols, in stadia and is a positive step in acknowledging that legislation can help curb racist behaviour. However, implementation is sporadic, punishments are often soft and, moreover, tackling individuals alone will never be enough to solve such a pervasive issue.

“There’s been no real desire from the Russian football authorities to address the issue of racism until recently,” Pavel Klymenko, the Eastern Europe development officer for Football Against Racism Europe (FARE) told Goal. “That’s one of the reasons why it’s so much worse than in Western Europe. But the Russian Football Union (RFU) has now recognised the problem, though they haven’t understood it yet. “They treat racist behaviour and neo-Nazi propaganda in stadiums as isolated incidents, not as a problem in society. By prosecuting just one person, you’re not solving the problem. “Russian clubs also have a lot of influence within the RFU and can sometimes escape responsibility. Clubs are still in the initial stages of understanding the issue; they have no educational programmes and don’t work with their fans.”

Russian clubs have appeared unwilling to accept the seriousness of the situation, generally following the dismissive attitude often displayed by officials. Wealthy club owners can wield an unhealthy amount of influence in official circles, challenging the impartiality of the RFU’s disciplinary process. The prevalence of neo-Nazi ideolo-gy in ultra groups means there is a risk of fuelling a poisonous atmosphere from within. However, the prevailing sense is that sanctions like those against CSKA are beginning to bite, both financially and reputationally, and clubs are realising that there is value in educating and helping change the attitudes of supporters. Simultane-ously, the example of CSKA Fans Against Racism, an anti-racism fans’ campaign that has attracted widespread social media attention, demonstrates that not all Russian supporters are content with the status quo.

“We don't want to be afraid to send our kids to the stadium, even if they choose to be part of the ultras,” CSKA Fans Against Racism told Goal. “Our main ‘fight’ is for the young generation of CSKA fans. If we create an alternative role model for them, that would be the greatest long-term achievement of our campaign. We want our stadium to be clean of political, racist or any other prejudices. “We want to show the international football family that those CSKA fans that are described as racist hooligans are in the absolute minority.” Initiatives like the one above mark definite progress but understating the size of the challenge is dangerous. For instance, FARE’s soon-to-be-published Russian monitoring report, prepared alongside the SOVA Center (a nonprofit organization that conducts research and informational work on nationalism and racism) in Moscow, describes numerous instances of racist and far-right displays and violence at Russian games over the past two years. Russia has work to do in order to mend its international image and meet the deep-rooted issues within its own society head on.

“The main issue is whether the Russian football authorities will be strong enough, determined enough and clever enough to understand the problem properly and address it correctly,” Klymenko added. “Of course, the problem is massive. It’s not just football, it correlates with xenophobic attitudes in Russian society and organised fan groups in Russia are often connected to the neo-Nazi underground. “We all understand that racism doesn’t come from football. It’s a problem of society. Football cannot solve all of society’s problems but it can definitely contribute to the solution.” While you cannot defend the indefensible, it will take time to see the changes in Russia that we have witnessed, for example, in England over the last 30-40 years. The Soviet Union was not a diverse society in terms of race and less than 25 years after its dissolution some significant issues remain in this respect.

It must be made clear, though, that this can never be a justification for any of the disgraceful scenes in Russian stadia over recent years. Racism needs to be tackled forcefully and severe sanctions for offenders must be part of the solution, but so must education. Football can be a transformative force in Russia, a vehicle for social change, but that will not be instantaneous. Russia is far from the only country where discrimination exists but it clearly needs to improve. Any hints of progress are encouraging, but not enough; there is an extremely long way to go.
© Goal


Russian social network hosts Miss Hitler 2014 contest

Competition being hosted on the Adolf Hitler group page of the popular VKontakte Russian language web-site.

18/10/2014- An anti-Semitic beauty contest is currently underway on the Russian social networking website VKontakte, the local equivalent of Facebook. Called Miss Ostland 2014 (Ostland was the name Nazi Germany gave to the occupied Baltic states and eastern Poland), the contest is hosted on the site's Adolf Hitler group page, which has more than 7,000 followers, according to the vocative website. Women interested in participating in the competition are asked to send in sexy photographs of themselves, as well as to write about their love for Hitler. The candidate who receives the most likes will be declared the winner.

Leading the competition right now is Katya Shkredova from Belarus, who “adores Adolf” for his philosophy on the “ideal society,” according to the report. The thing she loves most about him is his will to “experiment on people.” Shkredova’s picture has 37 likes so far. Just behind her is Irina Nagrebetskaya from Ukraine, who wrote “Don’t forget! Adolf is his name, he’s our eternal race, he has been given eternal life.” Similar sentiments were expressed by Ekaterina Matveeva of St. Petersburg, who believes that “Adolf Hitler’s position is genius and true, that races are different not only in appearance, but also in intelligence.”

The contestants
First prize in the competition is a piece of jewelry from a company called “Magic Workshop,” featuring one of the Nordic runes that were so beloved of Heinrich Himmler and the SS. Second prize is a pendant combining the classic German Iron Cross and Third Reich heraldry. The creators of the Miss Hitler pageant are not the only ones allowed to express their intense anti-Semitism on VKontakte. There are several other pro-Hitler communities with thousands of followers on the Russian social media site, vocative reports.
© Haaretz


Russian football still in denial over racism

Manchester City return to Moscow a year after Yaya Touré was abused by CSKA fans and the problem is still not solved

18/10/2014- When Manchester City travel to Moscow to face CSKA in the Champions League on Tuesday there will inevitably be memories of the same fixture last year, when Yaya Touré was racially abused from the stands. The incident highlighted the problem of racism in Russia, which is to host the World Cup less than four years from now, and Touré even suggested that, if such incidents were to continue, African players should simply not attend the 2018 tournament. It is a fairly safe bet that Tuesday’s match will not see a repeat of the racist abuse. This, however, is not because the club’s fans have cleaned up their act so much in the past 12 months but because the game is being played behind closed doors, after CSKA were handed a Uefa punishment for violent clashes between their fans and police at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome last month. There were also accusations that the fans had unfurled racist banners and the Uefa punishment is the third time the club has been sanctioned in the past year.

Last season Touré said he had heard racist chants from the stands and, although CSKA vehemently denied any such thing had happened, Uefa confirmed the reports and penalised the club with a partial stadium closure. The blanket denials from CSKA did not help calm matters. Sergei Aksyonov, the club’s spokesman, still maintains the incident was blown out of proportion while also claiming that he heard racist chants from City fans at the return fixture three weeks later. “We are absolutely certain that there was nothing there,” Aksyonov says. “Maybe one or two people were shouting things but it was nothing big. And why do they pick on us? During the return match in Manchester we heard similar things against one of our black players, we told the officials and they refused to do anything about it.”

The club have appealed against Uefa’s punishment after the Rome violence and Aksyonov said it was the responsibility of the Italians to ensure adequate policing, adding that one of the Russian fans had been attacked by Italians with a knife before the match. He also denied that the banners unfurled were racist: “We think there should be a presumption of innocence, and instead we often find there is a presumption of guilt.” Stanislav, 26 and a CSKA fan who attends most home games, says there is a problem among “a small minority” of fans but he believes that the punishments are far too harsh. “Yes, there is a problem but there is no need to draw so much attention to it,” he says. “You don’t want to believe it but, if I’m honest, it looks like it’s all a political response given the current anti-Russian feeling in the world. It’s not a big enough issue to justify these punishments.”

For the rest of the world, though, as the countdown to Russia’s World Cup begins in earnest, the issue of racism is a vitally important one. “There are huge challenges with Russia,” Fifa’s vice-president Jeffrey Webb said earlier this month, highlighting that more needs to be done at the top level in Russia to address the issue. “It must start with education and really it must come from the top down that diversity is good, that integration is good and there’s nothing to fear,” said Webb. But for a long time it has seemed as though Russian officials are part of the problem rather than the solution. The issue of racism in the stands was taken as nothing more than banter or simply denied altogether. When Lokomotiv Moscow fans unfurled a banner with a banana on it, and the words “Thanks West Brom”, after the English side bought their Nigerian winger Peter Odemwingie in 2010, the head of Russia’s World Cup bid committee denied it was racist. Instead he claimed dubiously, “to get a banana” is a slang term meaning to fail a test.

Even when bananas started raining down from the stands at black players, there was denial among officials. The Brazilian Roberto Carlos, who had bananas thrown at him on more than one occasion when playing for Anzhi Makhachkala, said he was so upset by the incidents they made him consider retiring. The response from officials was hardly reassuring. “It’s true that they give out bananas to the players and to the match delegates and to the referees,” said Alexander Meitin, the official responsi-ble for fan behaviour, two years ago. “Bananas are a nutritious fruit and a yellow fruit, which always makes you happy.” Now, it seems, perhaps with the help of international threats, Russian officials are somewhat more on message. Nobody from the Russian Football Union was available to speak to The Observer but Meitin’s recent public statements have struck a somewhat different tone, though it still sounds as though fear of international punishment rather than a belief that racism is actually wrong is what is driving the agenda: “These incidents will bring serious punishments for clubs, because Fifa and Uefa are following all these incidents, and there is even more attention on Russia ahead of the World Cup. Everyone is looking at us and it does not show our clubs in a good light.”

The incidents continue. Just this month Zenit St Petersburg’s Brazilian striker Hulk reported abuse from away fans when Spartak Moscow came to St Petersburg. “During the game racist abuse was directed toward me from the Spartak section of the ground,” Hulk told Russia’s Sport Express newspaper. “In the first half I clearly heard monkey chants shouted in my direction and this was not only on one occasion. It was coming from a large group of people … I take this as a personal insult for me and my club.” The Russian football union confirmed Hulk’s accusations and banned Spartak fans from attending their next away match. Given the game was against Ural Yekaterinburg, a 24-hour train journey from Moscow, it is unlikely that many fans missed out.

In the past Zenit fans have been some of the worst offenders, with the club’s largest fan group even issuing a manifesto demanding that the club sign no black players. “Nationalism has been a part of football fan culture since it took on its current form in the late 1960s in Britain,” says Vladimir Frolov, author of a book on Russian fan culture. “In Russia sometimes it crosses the line and becomes racism but most of the time it doesn’t. Overall the situation in Russia isn’t all that different from other European countries.” Indeed, at a Serie A match between Milan and Juventus at San Siro last month, a large group of away fans made repeated and coordinated monkey noises every time one of Milan’s black players committed a foul. The chants, which were clearly audible in the away end, were completely ignored by stewards, suggesting they are a regular occurrence.

As with Russia the problem is not just in the stands: the Italian FA president, Carlo Tavecchio, was banned for six months by Uefa earlier this month for making a banana reference when talking about foreign players. Many Russians feel aggrieved that the problem receives so much attention in Russia but not in Italy or Spain. “I don’t really see it as such a big problem as the Western media is trying to show it,” says Artur Petrosyan, editor in chief of Russia’s Sport Express website. He says the majority of fans are not racist and that racist incidents happen much more rarely than before. But he concedes that part of the problem lies in the way that the issue is dealt with. “There are hooligans and racists in every country; the difference is how you handle them,” he says. “Russia still has visible difficulties in doing so. That’s why rare incidents with monkey taunts or similar things still happen.”

When it comes to many issues of race, gender or sexuality, Russia can often resemble the Britain of two or three decades ago, and the problem of racism on the foot-ball terraces can hardly be seen in isolation from the rest of society. Casual racism is rife in Russia, even sometimes within government. A youth group with tacit Kremlin support beamed laser images of Barack Obama eating a banana on to the wall of the US embassy in Moscow earlier this year, on the US president’s birthday. Last year Irina Rodnina, a former champion Olympic figure skater and now an MP with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, tweeted a doctored photograph of Obama last September. The image, which showed him chewing while in the foreground a banana was waved at him, caused uproar internationally.

When the US ambassador accused her of “outrageous behaviour”, the MP simply said it was her right to tweet it as it constituted “freedom of speech”. She was later selected to be one of the flag bearers at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. One of Russia’s top television hosts said the international reaction to the photo-graph was ridiculous and was the sort of wrong-headed political correctness that would lead to people having to order “an African-American coffee, not a black coffee”. With such attitudes in government, it is hardly surprising that some football fans still find it hard to see the problem with racist abuse, seeing it as part and parcel of stadium banter. “It’s natural that you try to unsettle opposing players in any way you can,” says Artyom, 29 and a CSKA fan. “Monkey noises are just a way of putting black players off their game. I never do it but I don’t see how it’s any different from any other kind of abuse.”
© The Guardian


Bishops scrap landmark 'welcome to gays'

Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays Saturday, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Pope Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families.

18/10/2014- The bishops approved a final report covering a host of issues related to Catholic family life, acknowledging there were "positive elements" in civil hetero-sexual unions outside the church and even in cases when men and women were living together outside marriage. They also said the church must respect Catholics in their moral evaluation of "methods used to regulate births," a seemingly significant deviation from church teaching barring any form of artificial contraception. But the bishops failed to reach consensus on a watered-down section on ministering to homosexuals. The new section had stripped away the welcoming tone of acceptance contained in a draft document earlier in the week. Rather than considering gays as individuals who had gifts to offer the church, the revised paragraph referred to homosexuality as one of the problems Catholic families face. It said "people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity," but repeated church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman. The revised paragraph failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

Two other paragraphs concerning the other hot-button issue at the synod of bishops - whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion - also failed to pass. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the failure of the paragraphs to pass meant that they have to be discussed further to arrive at a consensus at a meeting of bishops next October. It could be that the 118-62 vote on the gay paragraph was a protest vote of sorts by progressive bishops who refused to back the watered-down wording and wanted to keep the issue alive. The original draft had said gays had gifts to offer the church and that their partnerships, while morally problematic, provided gay couples with "precious" support. New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group, said it was "very disappointing" that the final report had backtracked from the welcoming words contained in the draft. Nevertheless, it said the synod's process "and openness to discussion provides hope for further development down the road, particularly at next year's synod, where the makeup of the participants will be larger and more diverse, including many more pastorally-oriented bishops."

A coalition of small pro-life groups, Voice of the Family, said the outcome of the meeting had only contributed to "deepening the confusion that has already damaged families since the sexual revolution of the 1960s." The gay section of the draft report had been written by a Francis appointee, Monsignor Bruno Forte, a theologian known for pushing the pastoral envelope on ministering to people in "irregular" unions. The draft was supposed to have been a synopsis of the bishops' interventions, but many conservatives complained that it reflected a minority and overly progressive view. Francis insisted in the name of transparency that the full document - including the three paragraphs that failed to pass - be published along with the voting tally. The document will serve as the basis for future debate leading up to the October 2015 meeting of bishops which will produce a final report for Francis to help him write a teaching document of his own. "Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn't been these ... animated discussions ... or if everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace," Francis told the synod hall after the vote.

Conservatives had harshly criticized the draft and proposed extensive revisions to restate church doctrine, which holds that gay sex is "intrinsically disordered," but that gays themselves are to be respected, and that marriage is only between a man and a woman. In all, 460 amendments were submitted. "We could see that there were different viewpoints," said Cardinal Oswald Gracis of India, when asked about the most contentious sections of the report on homosexuals and divorced and remarried Catholics. German Cardinal Walter Kasper, the leader of the progressive camp, said he was "realistic" about the outcome. In an unexpected gesture after the voting, Francis approached a group of journalists waiting outside the synod hall to thank them for their work covering the meeting. Francis has rarely if ever approach-ed a scrum of journalists, except during his airborne press conferences. "Thanks to you and your colleagues for the work you have done," he said. "Grazie tante (Thanks a lot)." Conservative bishops had harshly criticized journalists for reporting on the dramatic shift in tone in the draft document, even though the media reports merely reflected the document's content.

Francis also addressed the bishops, criticizing their temptation to be overly wed to doctrine and "hostile rigidity," and on the flip side a temptation to "destructive do-goodness." His speech received a four-minute standing ovation, participants said. Over the past week, the bishops split themselves up into working groups to draft amendments to the text. They were nearly unanimous in insisting that church doctrine on family life be more fully asserted and that faithful Catholic families should be held up as models and encouraged rather than focus on family problems and "irregular" unions. Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of South Africa, who helped draft the revised final report, told Vatican Radio the final document showed a "common vision" that was lacking in the draft. He said the key areas for concern were "presenting homo-sexual unions as if they were a very positive thing" and the suggestion that divorced and remarried Catholics should be able to receive Communion without an annul-ment. He complained that the draft was presented as the opinion of the whole synod, when it was "one or two people." "And that made people very angry," he said.
© The Malta Independent


Danish immigrant party challenges populist right

The National Party is fronted by three brothers of Pakistani heritage who want to challenge the right-wing's seeming lock on "Danish values".

18/10/2014- A political party targeting the immigrant vote by advocating looser immigration laws and "a ban on banning" religious symbols has launched in Denmark amid record support for the populist right. "The prevailing discourse has taken a marked shift to the right. We stand here more than 40 years after our parents arrived, still discussing whether this is where we belong," National Party (Nationalpartiet) leader Kashif Ahmad said at a press conference on Thursday. With a logo sporting the Danish flag, the party claims "Danish values such as respect, tolerance and peaceful coexistence" had come "under attack" as more politicians adopt the rhetoric of the hugely successful rightwing Danish People's Party (DF). "We are Danish. I feel in Danish, I think in Danish and I dream in Danish," said Ahmad, who is of Pakistani heritage and co-founded the organisation with his two brothers.

DF was one of the first anti-immigrant parties in Europe to enter the political mainstream as conservative governments in Denmark between 2001 and 2011 relied on its support in parliament in return for ever tighter rules on immigration. A shaky economic recovery helped it become the country's biggest party in this year's European election, gaining more than one in four votes. "Every election since 2001 has been with foreigners as a central theme," said Ahmad. "Through the years, many of the parties have gone in the same direction and with time it has become difficult to distinguish political statements from the right... and the left," he added.

"Unwanted guests"
Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt's Social Democratic party campaigned on a platform that included more humane immigration policies, but since taking power in 2011 her government has done little to roll back the restrictive rules imposed by DF. Last month she said her government would introduce a new, temporary type of residence permit and delay family reunifications for asylum seekers fleeing civil wars such as the Syrian conflict after a steep rise in the number of applications. Leftist politicians also appear to have been influenced by the rhetoric of their opponents. A leading Social Democratic politician was this week quoted as saying that asylum seekers were "unwanted guests" in Denmark. A lawmaker for the main opposition party, Venstre, in June suggested that immigrants be treated differently depending on whether they were "Christian Americans, or Swedes, or Muslim Somalis".

The National Party denied that its main constituency would be Danes of foreign descent, but in more than a nod to Denmark's immigrant communities, it has made abolishing the contentious "24-year rule" one of its six key issues. The rule prohibits foreign spouses from living in Denmark with their Danish partner util they have reached the age of 24. It was meant to reduce the number of forced marriages, but critics say it violates international norms. Other planks include scrapping the so-called "connection requirement", which means family reunifications can only be granted if the family's "combined connection to Denmark is greater than their combined connection to another country". The National Party also wants to ensure there are no restrictions on wearing religious symbols, such as the Muslim veil, in public, and says it wants to "look closer" at how the Palestine conflict could be resolved. Neighbouring Sweden recently declared its intention to recognise a Palestinian state.

Ahmad said Denmark's modest birth rates meant a fall in the number of foreigners coming to the country could jeopardise its high living standards. "Economic analysis shows that we will lack 250,000 [people in the workforce, ed.] if we want to maintain the same level of welfare as the Swedes have in 2030," he said. To stand for the Danish parliament a political party has to collect about 20,000 signatures from the public, a target even well-known politicians have struggled to reach. The National Party claimed to already have 7,000. Still, experts were doubtful the party would gain any seats in the next election, which has to be held by September next year. Peter Nannestad, a political science professor at Aarhus University, said there were already parties that supported most of its policies, they just weren't among the more powerful players in parliament. "The only possibility I see for the National Party is that they mobilise the many immigrants who so far haven't been voting," he told daily Berlingske. "But even if they do, I doubt it's enough," he added.
© The Local - Denmark


Headlines 17 October, 2014

Web retailers accused of selling Nazi-related paraphernalia

B’nai B’rith says Etsy, Ebay, Amazon, Sears and Yahoo! guilty of allowing users to sell offensive items

17/10/2014- International Jewish organization B’nai B’rith demanded several online retail outlets Wednesday to enforce policies against users selling “hateful parapher-nalia,” The Times of Israel reported Thursday. According to B’nai B’rith web retailer Etsy had “456 swastika-themed items...available for sale, as were 479 Hitler-themed items, 13 Ku Klux Klan-themed items, and one racist, Jewish caricature candlestick listed specifically under the topic ‘anti-Semitic.’” B’nai B’rith said Ebay, Amazon, Sears Marketplace and Yahoo!, were also guilty of allowing users to sell offensive items on their sites. Sears then removed a swastika ring from the roster of items offered for sale, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. The item description quoted in the report read "this Gothic jewelry item in particular features a Swastika ring that’s made of .925 Thai silver.” It then featured the following curious disclaimer: “Not for Neo Nazi or any Nazi implication. These jewelry items are going to make you look beautiful at your next dinner date.”

According to JTA, the item also was for sale on, though it is listed currently as unavailable. Sears issued an apology in a statement and on Twitter:
“Like many who have connected with our company, we are outraged that more than one of our independent third-party sellers posted offensive items on Sears Market-place,” the company said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize that these items were posted to our site and want you to know that the ring was not posted by Sears, but by independent third-party vendors.”
© i24 News


Swedish far-right leader takes sick leave

17/10/2014- The leader of a far-right party that made strong gains in Sweden's election last month is going on sick leave, saying he's burned-out from battling the country's political and media establishment. Jimmie Akesson's announcement was unexpected even though the 35-year-old had looked tired following the Sept. 14 election in which his anti-immigration Sweden Democrats more than doubled their support to 13 percent, becoming the third-biggest party in Parliament. The surge of the Sweden Democrats, a party with right-wing extremist roots, has unnerved many Swedes and tarnished the country's reputation as a bastion of tolerance. The party is alone in Swedish politics in criticizing the country's liberal immigration laws.

Despite Akesson's efforts to soften the party's image and expel openly racist members, other parties, from left to right, have refused to work with the Sweden Democrats in Parliament. Wherever they campaigned, Akesson and his colleagues were met by protesters booing, turning their backs or yelling anti-racist slogans. Last year a left-wing activist smashed a pie in Akesson's face. Meanwhile, Swedish media have closely scrutinized the party, exposing members with racist views or neo-Nazi sympathies. In a statement published on the party's website, Akesson said his workload and frequent travels had sapped his energy. But he also said he felt drained by the mental and physical stress of constantly being a target of criticism and abuse.

"Our opponents' persistent attempts to stop our successes, the media's often sickening campaign journalism and the immoderate hatred of extremists are some examples," he said. Other political leaders expressed sympathy for Akesson, while some celebrities and commentators quipped on social media that being a "racist" was emotionally draining. It wasn't immediately clear how long Akesson would remain on sick leave. The Sweden Democrats said Mattias Karlsson, a senior party official, would stand in for him.
© The Associated Press


Belgian government under fire in its first week

In his first week as prime minister of Belgium, Charles Michel has had to condemn collaboration with the Nazis in World War II following controversy over two of his cabinet members.

16/10/2014- Jan Jambon, minister of security and home affairs for the pro-devolution Flemish party N-VA, was heavily criticised for a recent interview in which he was asked about his presence at a meeting of former collaborators in 2001. Although Jambon first said that he never defended collaboration with Nazi Germany and called it “a mistake”, he then went on to say: “The people who collaborated with the Germans had their reasons. I did not live in that period.” Another N-VA member of Michel's new cabinet, Theo Francken, also came under fire. Francken is deputy minister responsible for asylum and migration. In a social media message in 2011, he questioned “the economic added value” of “Moroccan, Congolese and Algerian” immigrants. Francken was also present at a controversial birthday party on Saturday (11 October). Together with fellow N-VA politician, a minister in the Flemish government, he visited the 90th birthday of Bob Maes, who founded the Order of Flemish Militants in 1949, which in the 1980s became a paramilitary group targeting immigrants.

Maes had also been a member of the Flemish National Union, a political party that collaborated with the Nazis after they invaded Belgium in 1940. The largest opposi-tion party, the French socialist party, is demanding that Michel ask Francken and Jambon to step down. “These persons are not worthy of carrying the large responsi-bility you have given them”, said French socialist member of parliament Laurette Onkelinx. She said “the sound of boots” is present in the government, a reference to [neo-] Nazism. Onkelinx also criticised an old e-mail from Francken in which he made a “homophobic” remark, which Francken had said was a joke. MEPs have also entered the fray.

Gianni Pittella, head of the centre-left S&D group, said the fact that Francken and Jambon, "who openly frequent former Nazi collaborators and their associates", have government positions is “worrying”. Michel defended his centre-right government, which consists of his French liberal party and three Flemish parties, including the N-VA. “My two grandfathers both lived through the Second World War. One of them emerged ill from the camps and died shortly afterwards”, Michel said during a debate in parliament on Wednesday (15 October). “I can tell you without ambiguity that I and the whole government with me condemn the collaboration.” During the debate, which lasted 21 hours until 7am local time on Thursday, opposition parties also fiercely criticized government plans for spending cuts.
© The EUobserver


Eurosceptic MEP group collapses

A Eurosceptic group in the European Parliament (EP) that includes Britain's UKIP and Italy's Five Star Movement has collapsed after an MEP withdrew.

16/10/2014- The development means a loss of funds and less influence for the parties in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group. The EFDD accused EP President Martin Schulz of engineering Latvian MEP Iveta Grigule's exit from the group. Speaking to BBC News, Mr Schulz's office denied any wrongdoing. The office said that after meeting Mr Schulz on Wednesday, Ms Grigule had brought her letter of resignation from the group to his office on Thursday morning. Consequently, leaders of the European Parliament decided that the EFDD had to be dissolved, the office told the BBC. To qualify as a group, parties must represent at least seven countries and Ms Grigule's departure had reduced the EFDD to six.

'Massive blow'
Ms Grigule, an MEP for the Latvian Farmers' Union, has applied to Mr Schulz to become an independent MEP. According to one source in the European Parliament, the EFDD group was due to get just over 4m euros (£3.2m; $5m) in funding in 2015 - more than 80,000 euros per MEP in the group. For UKIP, with 24 MEPs, that's more than 2m euros of revenue hanging in the balance. Half of it usually goes to the communications budget - a valuable resource in an election year. If Mr Farage is no longer the leader of a group, he will also get less speaking time in the parliament, and fewer opportunities to make speeches on big set-piece occasions. UKIP alleges that the Latvian MEP who has left the group was bullied into submission by parliamentary leaders but she is so far unavailable for comment. A UKIP statement accused the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, of acting like he was running the parliament of a "banana republic". But without a formal political group, UKIP will be a less powerful voice in Brussels. Nigel Farage said his party had been the victim of a back-room stitch-up and he accused Martin Schulz of "effectively blackmailing" Ms Grigule by offering her the leadership of an overseas delegation.

That, he said, was how the British got treated in Brussels. The EFDD's collapse has also forced MEPs to postpone a decision on the winner of the Sakharov Prize for 2014 until next Tuesday, for administrative reasons. UKIP's 24 members made up half of the 48-strong EFDD group. They were followed by Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement which had 17 MEPs. Other members included the Sweden Democrats, one French independent, and MEPs from the Czech Republic and Lithuania. Eurosceptics made major advances at the European elections in May, with the EFDD gaining an extra 17 seats. News of the EFDD's fall was welcomed by the largest group in the parliament, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), which tweeted: "First defeat for Eurosceptics! EFDD group disappears with departure of Latvian Iveta Grigule." The leader of the UK Labour Party at the European Parliament, Glenis Willmott MEP, said Nigel Farage had suffered a "massive blow". Mr Farage has predicted UKIP could hold the balance of power in the UK following the general election next year after his party gained its first elected MP last month and narrowly failed to take a seat from Labour at a by-election. 

Why being in a group is better
@ Non-attached MEPs - collectively called "NI" in the parliament - cannot be heads or deputy heads of EP committees or delegations
@ Groups have more power than NI members to draft legislation and steer it through parliament
@ NI members cannot table group amendments or motions for resolutions at full EP sessions
@ MEPs in groups have more staff than NI members, who are excluded from the total 59.8m euro (£48m; $76m) pot allocated to groups to cover their administrative expenses
@ Average budget for NI members is 43,000 euros each.
© BBC News


After Zara's 'Holocaust tee,' Mango shirt deemed 'Nazi chic'

Twitter users say lightning-like pattern on clothing giant's new top resembles SS insignia.

16/10/2014- A new shirt marketed by the Spanish fashion chain Mango has sparked derision online over what social media users have describe as a striking resemblance between its lightning symbol and the insignia of Nazi SS units. The shirt is advertised as a white shirt for women with a lightning-like symbol, under a label heralding it as “the total look," but Twitter users think it is more in the line of "Nazi chic." Consumers who noticed the likeness have been flooding Twitter and Facebook with their protests in recent days. The German politician and satirist Martin Sonnenborn, who heads The Party, posted a photo of the shirt on his Facebook page, asking, “Why does Mango market this shirt only to women? There are also male Nazis.”

Others called it “The SS shirt” or the “Eva Braun Collection”. According to the magazine Bild, some consumers have pointed out that the new shirt's promotional tagline, "I want a total look," also carries an unflattering association to Nazi bigwig Joseph Goebbels, who famously called out in a 1943 speech: "Do you want a total war?" to a cheering crowd. Last August there was an uproar on social media when the Zara chain sold a children’s shirt that looked like the uniform worn by concentration camp inmates, including a yellow star that looked like the yellow badge on these uniforms. Zara removed the shirt and apologized.
© Haaretz


USA: Sears apologizes, removes swastika ring from Marketplace website

13/10/2014- Sears has apologized and removed a men’s swastika ring that was briefly for sale on its Marketplace website. The “.925 Thai silver Swastika ring” was listed under the “men’s punk rock style” jewelry category. “Not for Neo Nazi or any Nazi implication. These jewelry items are going to make you look beautiful at your next dinner date,” description read, Haaretz reported. Sears tweeted personalized responses to dozens of outraged customers, apologizing for the mistake and explaining that sometimes third-party vendors slip through the cracks. “We certainly understand the upset and regret this occurred. The vendor is being reviewed and the item remo-ved,” Sears tweeted. “This item is a 3rd party Sears Marketplace product that does not abide with our guidelines and is being removed,” the company said. The item was also briefly for sale on, though it is listed currently as unavailable, Haaretz reported. The Jewish parenting website Kveller posted an image of the Sears page with the swastika ring before it was removed.
© The Washington Times


Slovak Plan To Give Gypsies Free Flights To UK

16/10/2014- A group of local Slovak politicians who wear cowboy hats and call themselves the magnificent seven are campaigning on a promise to solve crime and clean up the area by putting gypsies on flights to the rest of Europe, and sterilising those that remain. Vladimir Guertler, 41, who is head of the Magnificent Seven Party that promises to restore law and order by getting rid of the gypsies with one-way tickets abroad, has backed up his plan with TV spots interviewing gypsies admitting they would welcome the chance of a free ticket out of the country. Those that remain, he said, would be eligible for free sterilisation operations for which they would get incentives, including the advantage that with fewer children they would have more money for other things. Before the region split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, Czechoslovakia routinely sterilised Roma women to curb the birthrate of people regarded as "undesirables" but it was thought to have ceased after the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

It was later found out however that doctors had continued the practice not just for months but for years. And now the subject has been raised again in Slovakia together with the idea of encouraging Roma to go to other places in Europe with free one-way tickets. The "7 statocnych" party, which means the magnificent seven, is campaigning in the city of Kosice in the impoverished east of Slovakia, a region split by ethnic tension. Guertler, who is a lawyer, has already put up posters promising the sterilisations and the tickets if he is elected to the local council in the upcoming elections on November 15. And he has rejected critics who called his campaign "amoral" and "racist". He said: "My campaign is deeply moral and there are no marks of racism. It is human to Romas and also to major population of Slovakia. "All points of my election program are based on my knowledge of the situation following several visits to the borough of Lunik IX in Kosice and discussions with its residents."

Guertler claimed his plan of free flight tickets would be viable, saying: "Free movement of persons in EU countries is guaranteed. And every European citizen has right to live, work, study or to run business there." He said the Roma he had spoken to did not say which country they would want to go to but that the UK would for sure be one of those offered. And with regards to the sterilisation he said: "Roma women who live in poverty don’t have the possibilities to protect themselves and to control the number of children they have, what with a lack of money for contraception and generally their partners’ unwillingness to use it. "My plan is to financially support women of a certain age with a certain number of children who decide to undergo the sterilisation voluntarily. "The financial support would give a better life for her and for her children." Posters stuck up around the city show him wearing a white shirt and white western hat and repeat his claims made in local newspapers and on television of flights and sterilisations for Roma.

The billboards contain sentences as "Lunik IX to Brussels. Flight tickets for free" or "Voluntary sterilisation for Roma women". Lunik IX is a borough in the city of Kosice which houses Slovakia's largest Romani community. Although originally built for 2500 inhabitants, there are now at least three times that number living there. Most basic amenities have been cut off because of the failure of those using them to pay. Guertler wrote on the website of the political party: "I have spoken to Romas from Lunik IX about the possibility of leaving Slovakia. That’s why I want free flight tickets for them." The candidate made a short video in the borough and asked Romas if they would like to leave Slovakia. One of the Lunik IX residents Jozef Conka, 39, said: "Yes, I would like to leave right now." Guertler offered to organise a public money collection for the flight or bus ticket for Conka. Another resident of Lunik IX Miroslav Horvath, 26, was not very impressed by Vladimir Guertler's plan. He said: "You care about those who want to leave. But what about people who want to stay here? Why don’t you try to solve the problem with housing here."

Meanwhile local police have confirmed they have had a complaint and are investigating whether the billboards can be regarded as racist. Police spokesman Alexander Szabo said: "Kosice police has registered a complaint. We will investigate the case and pass on a report to prosecutors." Meanwhile some of the billboards have been defaced by people who have pasted on Ku Klux Klan images, a move which Guertler condemned as an attack by "human-rights extremists". Activist Laco Oravec from the Milan Simecka Foundation that is fighting to get a better situation for Roma people said: "This campaign benefits from the appalling situation of Roma in the country who are forced to live in a really primitive way. "The idea of moving people who are not convenient for us may be welcomed by voters, but it is totally amoral. The problems have to be solved and not to be moved elsewhere. This candidate is clearly a racist."
© The Croatian Times


Far-right extremists plan Upper Austrian meeting

A gathering of the far-right group Arbeitsgemeinschaft für demokratische Politik (AFP) is due to take place in the Wels-Land district of Upper Austria from Friday to Sunday - but several of the speakers may be stopped from making an appearance.

16/10/2014- The organisers say that they want to "present a clear, alternative model to the EU capitalist corporations", with speakers from across Europe “standing up for freedom and sovereignty" and attendees gathering in the evenings to sing “folk and freedom songs". The Austrian Press Agency reports that representatives from Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party are expected to attend, as well as from Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, and the right wing publicists Pierre Krebs and Richard Melisch. The planned gathering, entitled ‘Europe - Rebirth or Demise’, is scheduled to take place at the Gasthof Lauber in Offenhausen. Upper Austrian police said that the meeting was “on their radar” but that they would not be banning it. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is looking into the background of all the speakers and will not allow them to make an appearance if there are any criminal proceedings pending against them. Austria’s Mauthausen Committee (MKÖ) and the Upper Austrian Antifa anti-fascist network have called for the AFP to be banned.

Golden Dawn is "a neo-Nazi party, whose head has been formally charged with belonging to a criminal organization,” said MKÖ chairman Willi Mernyi. "Given the known facts, it is incomprehensible that security agencies and the judiciary are happy to sit back and watch the machinations of the AFP," criticized Antifa spokesman Robert Eiter. The AFP was founded in 1963, as the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Politik, and was connected to Manfred Roeder, a prominent German Holocaust denier and convicted extreme-right activist, who died in July. Its publications often carry items about neo-Nazi and revisionist agitation and one of its main aims is to fight Austria’s National Socialist Prohibition Law. Constitutional expert Heinz Mayer has stated that the AFP continues to "overtly and covertly glorify Nazi ideas and actions, cynically denies any Nazi violence, and uses hateful language with a clearly aggressive tone towards foreigners, Jews, and ‘strangers’”. The AFP has few defenders but is connected to members of the far-right both in Austria and abroad. It supports the right-wing FPÖ party at elections.
© The Local - Austria


Greek Prosecutor Seeks Trial for 70 Far Rightists

16/10/2014- A prosecutor heading a yearlong investigation into Greece's extreme right Golden Dawn party recommended Thursday that its leader, 17 other lawmakers, and dozens of party officials and supporters stand trial on a range of charges, including running a criminal organization and murder. In a 700-page report, seen by the Associated Press, prosecutor Isidoros Doyiakos describes Golden Dawn as a staunchly hierarchical organization that aimed "to propagate and impose its political beliefs and theories through violence." The party, founded in the mid-1980s as a fringe Neo-Nazi group, saw a huge increase in support since the start of Greece's financial crisis five years ago and won 18 seats in the 300-member parliament in 2012 elections. Doyiakos wrote that Golden Dawn's ideology was of "no criminal interest" but argued that it organized assault squads "armed with bats iron bars, brass knuckles, and knives" to carry out frequent attacks against immigrants and left-wing activists.

The report, based largely on testimony from a protected witnesses and material from computer hard drives seized in multiple police raids, is the most damaging to the party since a crackdown was launched by judicial authorities last year. The investigation was launched after an alleged Golden Dawn volunteer was arrested for the murder of a left-wing rap singer, Pavlos Fyssas, in a knife attack. Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and eight other lawmakers are currently in jailed for pre-trial detention, while the others regularly attend parliamentary sessions. A panel of judges is expected to issue final indictments next month. If it upholds Doyiakos' recommendations, the lawmakers face a maximum 20-year prison sentence if convicted. Speaking from prison in Athens late Thursday, party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris described the report as "laughable" and politically motivated by the conservative government seeking to regain votes lost to the far right. "There are 700 pages and not one with any real evidence," he said. "Obviously the government is panicking."
© The Associated Press


Attacks on Albanian Shops in Serbia Condemned

A wave of attacks on Albanian businesses in Serbia has occurred in the wake of the disastrous Serbia-Albania football match earlier this week.

17/10/2014- Serbian police have arrested one person, following a series of attacks on Albanian-owned shops in Serbia that came after a football match raised tensions to boiling point in the country. An 18-year-old man was arrested on Friday on suspicion of having taken part in attacks on two bakeries in the town of Banovci owned by ethnic Albanians. Attacks on Albanian-owned businesses in the northern province of Vojvodina started after a football match between Albania and Serbia on October 14 ended in chaos and fighting on the pitch. The UK referee called off the match. A day later, two shops in the towns of Stara Pazova and Sombor were set on fire while another in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad was stoned. The attacks continued on October 15. During the night a bakery in Novi Sad was burned, while hooligans damaged five more shops in Novi Sad and Vrsac.

Bajram Temaj, the owner of Novi Sad bakery that was torched on Thursday night, said police turned down his request for protection, which he had made after attacks started a day earlier. He said the police had answered that they did not have enough patrol vehicles or the capacity to respond to his request. Serbia’s Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, condemned the attacks and stated that all citizens and their properties were entitled to protection. “These are our citizens who work and pay taxes regularly and we will guarantee them full security,” he said. “These are criminal acts and the government will respond by protecting its citizens,” Vucic added.

Aleksandar Nikolic, State Secretary of the Interior Ministry, said Serbia would not tolerate the spread of religious and ethnic hatred, and that all those who destroyed property in this fashion would be punished. “The ministry is working intensively to identify the individuals who have attacked facilities owned by our citizens of Albanian nationality,” Nikolic said. He also stated that the police would guarantee the security of all the country’s citizens. “We are doing everything in our power to prevented these and similar attacks, despite the brutal provocation at the football match”. The “provocation” referred to was a drone that flew over the stadium in Belgrade bearing a map of Greater Albania. Fighting then erupted on the pitch and some Albanian players were assaulted by Serbian fans who had invaded the field.
© Balkan Insight


Serbia: Belgrade chaos fed off centuries of rivalry between Serbia and Albania

Abandonment of European qualifier is the latest chapter in a long history of grudges and conflict in the Balkans

15/10/2014- In the Balkans, more than anywhere else, football is the continuation of war by other means. There is a long history of violence underlying the chaos in the Belgrade stadium – this is just the first time it has taken the very 21st-century form of a drone conflict. Every scene on Tuesday night was freighted with centuries-old grudges and rivalries that last erupted into armed conflict in the 1998-9 war between Serbia and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, which left 10,000 people dead and was halted only by a Nato bombing campaign. The map suspended from the drone showed a map of a “Greater Albania” including Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. On either side were portraits of two heroes from Albania’s war of independence against the Ottoman Empire. The country that the Albanians thought they were going to get after the collapse of the Ottomans was cut in half at an international conference in London in 1912-13, and the Albanians have never forgotten.

Similarly, the Serbs have not forgotten, or accepted, the loss of Kosovo. Serbia, and its Russian allies, have not recognised Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. Serb nationalists regard Kosovo as the birthplace of their culture, and the most important date in the Serb nationalist calendar commemorates the loss of a 1389 battle to the Ottomans in Kosovo, seen as the beginning of the end for greater Serbia. The notorious Serb hooligan who led the pitch invasion on Tuesday night, Ivan Bogdanov, is not just part of the hardcore Red Star Belgrade fans, the Ultra Boys. He is also part of Movement 1389, a far-right nationalist group which has been involved in rioting against Kosovo Albanians and their western backers.

In that sense, Bogdanov is continuing a tradition of mingling football hooliganism with ultra-nationalist politics. The first really violent incident leading up to the bloody wars of the 90s was a 1990 clash between Zagreb and Belgrade fans in the Croatian capital. The most violent paramilitary leader of the Croatian and Bosnian wars, Zeljko Raznatovic, known universally as Arkan, was the leader of the most violent Red Star fans, the delije, who he recruited to form the core of his paramilitary group, the Tigers, who murdered and pillaged their way across the wreckage of Yugoslavia, before Arkan was assassinated in Belgrade in 2000. Bogdanov is sometimes described as Arkan’s heir apparent, ideologically if not militarily.

It was left to the respective team captains to remind people that it was supposed to have been a football match rather than the latest skirmish in the Serbian-Albanian territorial struggle. The Albanian captain, Lorik Cana, went out of his way to thank his Serbian counterpart, Branislav Ivanovic, for protecting his team on the field. Ivanovic said after the game: “What’s most important to us is that we stood by the Albanian representation as a team and supported them. We regret that football was presented as a secondary issue here.”
© The Guardian


Ukraine far right battles police in Kiev

Ukrainian nationalists have hurled smoke canisters and stones at riot police during clashes outside the parliament in Kiev.

14/10/2014- Violence erupted when the protesters demanded that MPs pass a law to recognise a World War Two nationalist group which opposed Soviet forces. Fifteen policemen were injured and at least 50 protesters had been arrested, the Ukrainian interior ministry said. Meanwhile, shelling in east Ukraine reportedly killed seven people. Seventeen people were also injured when shells hit a funeral in the village of Sartana, near the disputed port city of Mariupol in Donetsk region, local officials said. Pro-Russian separatist forces are active near Mariupol, which is under government control. A fragile ceasefire has been in place since early September between government forces and the separatists, who control large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Election tensions
MPs did not vote to recognise the wartime Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). Most of the crowd has now dispersed. Police used batons in the clashes and linked arms to protect the parliament. At least one petrol bomb was thrown at the parliament building in the unrest and there are unconfirmed reports that some bullets were fired. Reporting the injuries and arrests, interior ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook that "the clashes at the Supreme Rada [parliament] have just ended" and "the police used a degree of force allowed by law". Among the many Ukrainian flags in the crowd there were also flags of the far-right Svoboda and Right Sector groups. Both groups later denied that their supporters had been involved in the violence.

UPA members fought for Ukrainian independence in the war, but recognising their role is highly controversial, the BBC's David Stern reports from Kiev. At times they were allied with the Nazis and are said to have carried out atrocities against civilians. In Kharkiv, Ukraine's largely Russian-speaking second city, nationalists held a torch-lit rally on the main square on Tuesday evening, under far-right banners. The event was meant to commemorate Ukrainian soldiers killed fighting the rebels in the east. Tensions are mounting in Ukraine ahead of elections scheduled for 26 October. There are some doubts whether Svoboda will pass the 5% threshold necessary to get parliamentary seats.
© BBC News


Bulgaria: Levski fined for mocking UEFA's anti-racism campaign

15/10/2014- Levski Sofia have been fined 19,000 levs ($12,419) after fans mocked one of the anti-racism campaigns launched by European soccer's governing body UEFA in a Bulgarian league match last month. The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) imposed the relatively small fine on Wednesday after several Levski supporters held up a banner stating "Say yes to racism" and doctored UEFA logo during their 3-2 league win over champions Ludogorets. The ugly incident caused outrage in the Black Sea state. Bulgarian soccer authorities have long been criticised by anti-racism campaigners, local media and fans for not cracking down hard enough on discrimination in sport. Levski, 26-times Bulgarian champions and one of the country's two most popular clubs along with bitter city rivals CSKA, have a history of racism at their matches. The BFU fined the club 37,500 levs after their supporters displayed a banner showing a swastika and another one marking what would have been Adolf Hitler's birthday during their game at Litex Lovech in April 2013. In 2012, Levski were fined 30,000 euros ($38,328) by UEFA for racist behaviour by fans during a Europa League match against Bosnia & Herzegovina's Sarajevo.
(1 US dollar = 1.5299 Bulgarian lev)
© Reuters


Kyrgyz MPs pass 'anti-gay' law in first reading, ignore U.S. criticism

15/10/2014- Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to pass a bill on first reading that bans "gay propaganda," ignoring a call by the United States opposing the discriminatory changes to the Central Asian state's legislation. The bill, condemned by human rights bodies as homophobic and allowing police to take arbitrary action against sexual minorities, was passed by a 79-7 vote. It has to be approved on three readings and be signed by the president to become a law. "We supported this bill, because it reflects the hopes and expectations of our voters willing to protect the traditional family," Kurmanbek Dykanbayev, one of the initiators of the bill, told Reuters. "And from now on, there will be no possibility to arrange gay clubs, gay cafes or to hold gay rallies." The draft law proposes imposing fines or prison terms of up to one year on those "forming a positive attitude to untraditional sexual relations" among minors or in mass media. Dykanbayev said that penalties might toughened in the following readings.

Critics say the bill resembles a law banning "gay propaganda" that Russia's parliament passed in June last year. Russia, a close ally that provides Kyrgyzstan with financial assistance and keeps a military airbase in the country, came under a barrage of Western criticism after it adopted that law. The U.S. embassy in Kyrgzystan has criticized the new bill, saying that people should not be silenced or jailed because of who they are or who they love. It said that laws discriminating against one group threaten the fundamental rights of all people. The parliament retorted with a statement that said the new bill was in line with the country's constitution and its international commitments. It said the rights of those practicing "untraditional sexual ties" would not be violated. "This draft law aims not to trample on someone's rights, but to protect and defend traditional family, human, moral and historic values of society, taking into account the mentality of the people of Kyrgyzstan," it said.

Kyrgyzstan is a mainly Muslim nation of 5.5 million which borders China. It is struggling to build the first parliamentary democracy in authoritarian Central Asia, but popular revolts have toppled its two presidents since 2005 and it struggles with widespread poverty and regional and ethnic divisions.
© Reuters


UK: Social media should not descend into a tool for far-right (opinion)

These days social media allows strangers and their opinions into our homes at all times of the day or night – but only if we allow it to
By Jade Wright

17/10/2014- It’s not every morning that I’m described as a fascist and ‘a silly young hack who resorts to insults at the first provocation’. Not before before I’ve finished my toast, anyway. Admittedly I am quite strict about separating my vegetarian fry up from my boyfriend’s carnivorous version, but most mornings are fairly peaceful in our house – until either of us picks up our phones and looks at Twitter. This week I spotted a message from a bloke (at least I think it’s a bloke, but there was no picture), which read: “Just read your June article in the Echo about Britain First. You are the reason people re-post their stuff. Wake up!” That one story, which I wrote in response to people sharing Britain First’s D-Day posts on Facebook, is still the best-read column I’ve ever written. I don’t know why, but it still gets re-posted and read every week, and I still get plenty of abuse from far-right supporters about it, as well as some nice comments too.

This bloke had clearly taken exception to me pointing out that Britain First are a right-wing political party and street defence organisation who encourage people to share their posts to spread their message. He didn't like me warning people against re-posting things without checking what they are. He said: “The issue is that people like YOU are wilfully ignoring why people like me turn to the far right. Only they give us a voice... We agree with your multicultural hogwash or you dismiss us as fascists. YOU are the fascist.” I laughed so hard I almost spat my tea out. Boyfriend looked crossly across the table, briefly distracted from his plate full of sausages and bacon. We try not to spend our rare time at home together arguing with strangers on Twitter. We have a no-phones-at-mealtimes rule.

But this was too funny for me not to respond. The man, who said he was part of the far right, was using fascism as an insult. That’s like me accusing someone of being a ‘lefty’ as a bad thing. He didn’t seem to realise that fascism is a form of authoritarian nationalism – the very thing he claims to support. Presumably he thought it was just a catch-all insult for anyone whose opinions he disagreed with. My response was probably a bit mean, looking back. I made fun of his insult and his poor use of grammar. I told him to come back and debate when he’d read his history books. This prompted the “just a silly young hack who resorts to insults at the first provoca-tion” tweet.

He’s not that far wrong – I am silly and I quite liked being described as young – but then I came to my senses, put down my phone and picked up my knife and fork. Time was when I had to leave the house to be insulted by a stranger (rather than insulted by someone I know, which happens all the time). These days social media allows strangers and their opinions into our homes at all times of the day or night – but only if we allow it to. I’m putting down my phone.
© The Liverpool Echo


UK: Hundreds hold ‘kiss-in’ at Brighton Sainsburys after ‘disgusting’ lesbians asked to leave

Hundreds have taken part in a gay ‘kiss-in’ at a Brighton branch of supermarket chain Sainsburys, after a lesbian couple were told the sight of them kissing was “disgusting”, and could harm children.

16/10/2014- University of Sussex student Annabelle Paige said she gave her girlfriend a light kiss while the store last week, when a security guard approached and told them to either stop kissing or leave. Paige said the security guard told her they were sorry to have said it, but that a customer had complained that they were concerned about the welfare of their children, and thought it was “disgusting” to see two women kiss. Around 200 people gathered at the store, before kissing one another, and holding up banners supporting LGBT rights.

Couples same and opposite sex were welcomed at the kiss-in
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson later pointed out that the guard had been employed through a third party, and said: “This should never have happened – it is clear that Miss Paige and her partner were not behaving inappropriately and we are very sorry that they were treated in this way.” The supermarket chain added: “We have called Miss Paige to apologise and will be making a [£100] donation to a charity of her choice.”
© Pink News


UK: Goldsmiths University Row As Holocaust Motion Voted Down Over 'Colonial' Fears

16/10/2014- A row has erupted between students at a London university after a proposal to commemorate the Holocaust was voted down, with students expressing concerns over "colonialism" and "Eurocentric" links. Students at Goldsmiths University refused to back the motion on Wednesday, which suggested organising commemora-tive events for students on Holocaust Memorial Day, as well as other genocide remembrance days. Former UKIP member and Goldsmiths student Colin Cortbus proposed the motion, which asked the student union to "organise commemorative events for students and members of the public on Holocaust Memorial Day, on the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, on the Holodomor Genocide Memorial Day Act and on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day".

On the same day the proposal was defeated, Sarah El-alfy, education officer at Goldsmiths, tweeted a message congratulating students for rejecting the "Eurocentric" motion: Wonderful support from Goldsmiths' students on preventing Eurocentric motion going through.

Defy cisnormativity @drcab1e
One student present at the debate makes clear their opposition against the motion: This is a colonialist motion. Vote it down. #gsuassembly
Defy cisnormativity @drcab1e
White people should not be proposing motions condemning genocides without a lot of thought. This does not have that thought. #gsuassembly

The row emerged following an article Cortbus co-wrote for his student website The Tab on the issue, which has been criticised for misgendering and factual inaccura-cies. According to the union, student officer Sarah El-alfy offered to help Cortbus redraft the motion and bring it to the next student assembly. However Cortbus still insists the motion was wholly rejected, telling HuffPost UK: "To see a students' union reject this tolerant, inclusive motion for remembrance on the basis of spurious arguments.. is very sad for democracy." Goldsmiths president Howard Littler assured HuffPost UK the student union had previously held commemorative events on Holocaust Memorial Day and would do so in future. The news follows the voting down of a proposal to condemn Islamic State, over fears the motion was "Islamophobic".
© The Huffington Post - UK


UK: NUS refuses to condemn IS over fears of 'Islamophobia'

15/10/2014- The National Union of Students has refused to condemn brutal Islamic State terrorists over claims of 'Islamophobia'. A motion calling for the union's National Executive Council was rejected amid claims it would represent a "justification for war". Students backing the motion denied it was racist and hit out at "identity politics" in universities. Muslim groups from around the world have condemned Isis and denounced it as "un-Islamic" using the hashtag #notinmyname. The motion, tabled at London's Derbyshire House in September, vowed to "condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention". But a group of students blocked it, claiming that "condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamaphobia". Daniel Cooper, who tabled the original motion, hit out at the rebels who blocked it. "I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism," he said. "There is a stranglehold of "identity politics" on the student movement."

The NUS said in a statement: "At our most recent NEC meeting, a motion on this issue was presented and voted on by all members. "Some committee members felt that the wording of the motion being presented would unfairly demonise all Muslims rather than solely the group of people it set out to rightfully condemn. "NUS does not support ISIS and a new motion will be taken to the next NUS National Executive Committee meeting, which will specifically condemn the politics and methods of ISIS and offer solidarity for the Kurdish people."
© The London Evening Standard.


UK: David Cameron in race row after posing with blacked-up Morris dancers

David Cameron has courted controversy by posing with a group of blacked-up Morris dancers at a folk festival in Banbury.

13/10/2014- The Prime Minister was on a day out with his family when a group of Morris dancers asked him to pose for a picture with them. The image was immediately shared on Twitter, with the Prime Minister drawing widespread criticism. One tweet described his decision as “crass and insensitive.” Another read: “If you're a Morris dancer and you want to black up, ask yourself if it's really appropriate. If the answer is yes, you're wrong.” Another suggested: “Maybe Cameron could organise an im-promptu photo shoot with Morris dancer to show Putin who is real man.” Martin de Vine, founder and Squire of the Foxs Morris dancers, said: "David Cameron was having a coffee and we saw him and just asked if he would have a picture taken," The Telegraph reported.

"They blacked their faces with soot because it was illegal to beg and they didn't want to be recognised. It was a disguise, in the same way that the leader of the troupe wears a top hat and is called the squire to take the mickey out of the local squire. "It's not racist and offence is never taken. People from other cultural backgrounds don't see it as that at all. We have had an Arab person dancing with us in the past - it's not seen as racist." It is not the first time such an image has provoked criticism. In April, a Labour Parliamentary candidate defended a photo he shared online which showed him with a pair of Morris dancers with their faces painted black. Will Straw, the son of former Home Secretary Jack Straw, was criticised by anti-racism campaigners who said that so-called "blacking-up" was "out of date" and "unaccep-table in modern day Britain".

Mr Straw said at the time: "Accusers [should] mug up on their history before making false accusations. The dance, which marks the return of spring, is believed to trace its roots to Moorish pirates who settled in Cornwall and became employed in local mining. "As more mines and quarries opened in Lancashire in the 18th and 19th centuries, a few Cornishmen are said to have headed to the area, taking with them mining expertise and the costume of red and white kilts, breeches, bonnets and blackened faces." To many people, a blacked-up face evokes a racist music hall tradition in which white performers pretended to be black. In the 1960s, one of the most popular shows on British television was the Black and White Minstrel Show.

Morris dancers who black up their faces claim that there is no racial connotation at all. They say they are reviving a tradition associated with Border Morris dancing, in which Welsh Morris dancers on the English border used black cork to disguise themselves as they went begging in the streets.
© The Independent


UK: Criminals' money hands anti-racism charity a Ł10k cash boost

Show Racism the Red Card has received £9,250 from the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent’s Partnership Fund

13/10/2014- Show Racism the Red Card has been awarded a share of cash seized from criminals in Gwent. The charity was awarded funding of £9,250 from the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent’s Partnership Fund, which is funded by the proceeds of crime awarded to the police and from the sale of unclaimed found property. The Commissioner’s Partnership Fund was made available in May 2014 for charities, voluntary organisations and community groups in Gwent involved in activities that have a positive impact on their communities. Following a rigorous process of assessing each bid on its merits, a total of 40 organisations or groups have been notified that their bid has been successful. Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston said: “Show Racism the Red Card do a fantastic job in Wales and play an essential role in stemming the tide of racism. “It’s taking the messages into schools and using role models in the world of sport to spread the word and highlight that racism is poisonous and needs to be eradicated.”

Sunil Patel, from Show Racism the Red Card, added: “We are pleased to have been selected as one of the recipients of the award and look forward to visiting pupils across the area. “Former footballer Steve Jenkins and Christian Roberts will be part of the Education team delivering workshops to over 1,000 pupils in the coming months.” The projects funded contribute to delivering the Commissioner’s priorities for Gwent which include reducing and preventing crime; taking more effective action to reduce anti-social behaviour and protecting people from serious harm. A total of £157,000 was awarded to projects from Mr Johnston’s Partnership Fund earlier this month. The Commissioner has also decided to refer a number of projects which submitted applications – amounting to nearly £100,000 in total – for consideration.
© Wales Online


PS MP of Finland ready to patrol streets and take law into his own hands

Remember what people said when the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* won their historic election victory in 2011? ”Nothing is going to happen you’ll see…they’ll soon implode like the Rural Party did in the 1970s…” some said playing down the whole matter. After almost four years, the PS continues to polarize society by instilling fear and fueling racism but has now opened a new terrifying chapter in its strategy to gain power: mob rule.

PS MP Tom Packalén, who falsely claimed on a blog entry that only migrant youth gangs in East Helsinki attack white Finns, has unleashed the darkest and most racist side of Finland. Not only are MP Pakclaén’s claims false, they have been disproven by the police. "And let’s not forget the publication, Uusi Suomi, where MP Packalén’s blog entry and many others by the PS have been published. They are just as responsible as the PS for spreading racism in Finland". In this latest bout of xenophobia in Finland, it’s the silence of the political parties and the media that doesn’t surprises us once again.

Making racist claims and victimizing migrants and minorities has become such a “normal” activity in this country that not even the PS leadership cares what some of their members say or will do. The aim of parties like the PS and far-right associations like Suomen Sisu is to keep Finland white like the graffiti that reads “white power.” Suomen Sisu is a far-right association chaired by PS MP Olli Immonen whose aim is to keep Finland white. In a statement, Immonen warned that “if officials don’t have the will or resources to protect the security of its citizens,” Suomen Sisu will take matters into its hands. Yes, no translation mistake since what you read is correct. A PS MP, a lawmaker, of a far-right association is ready to patrol Helsinki’s streets against real or imagined youth gangs.

While the PS has always shown its ugly and hostile side to migrants and minorities, the suggestion by one of its MPs to patrol streets with others like neo-Nazi Kansallinen Vastarinta and other PS members, which MP Packalén’s blog entry has encouraged, is totally unacceptable in a democracy such as Finland and should be condemned. The blog entry by MP Packalén shows the desperate state of the party, which needs a big boost to come close to their 2011 election victory since the last three elections have been disappointing. "Finland needs the PS, the silence of other parties and a media that is blind because it is white like a hole in the head. The lack of leadership that we are witnessing today in the face of such racism and hostility is shameful".

Far-right and nationalistic parties in Finland, as is Europe, have become a grave threat to democracy and to the right of minorities to live in peace. It’s clear that matters will get worse as these parties, like the PS, get more power since the scapegoating won’t stop but get worse. Such intolerance has the danger of destroying our society. We must do everything to stop the menace that is placing Finland in harm’s way and that danger is the PS and our shameful silence. Leadership is needed more than ever now.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.Thank you Pia Grochowski for the heads up!
© Migrant Tales


France: Marine Le Pen plan to change Front National name angers father

Front National confirms questionnaire will be sent to party members, despite founder Jean-Marie Le Pen calling name change idea "completely moronic, scandalous, indecent"

14/10/2014- Marine Le Pen is considering changing the Front National's name, in a move designed to move the far-Right party away from its xenophobic roots which is likely to prompt a new clash with her father Jean-Marie. According to her party's number two, Florian Philippot, Miss Le Pen may include the matter in a questionnaire that will be sent before the end of the year to the party's 75,000 members, The move, just weeks after Miss Le Pen's cat was reportedly mauled by her father's Dober-man, is expected to shown new divisions within the family at the helm of the Front National. Jean-Marie Le Pen has previously described as "completely moronic, scandalous, indecent". Miss Le Pen herself was more guarded when asked about the plan, saying only: "The idea of sending a questionnaire has been agreed upon but its content has not been decided."

But she said late last year that the question of a name change was "not taboo" and that if the question arose "it would be thrown open to party members to see what they think". That comment drew a furious response from her father. Miss Le Pen took over the official leadership from her firebrand father in 2011 and since then has sought to sanitise the far-Right group as she prepares to run for the French presidency in 2017. Her strategy appears to be working. After strong showings in municipal and European elections, the Front last month won its first ever seats in the French Senate, and a recent opinion poll said she would win the French presidency in a run-off election against the incumbent Socialist François Hollande. There was no indication of what any new name might be, but for parliamentary elections in 2012 Front National candidates ran on a Rassemblement Bleu Marine (Marine Blue Rally) ticket.

The Le Pen family usually presents a united front, but there are signs that the 48-year-old daughter is increasingly seeing her 86-year-old father, who is the party's honorary president, as a liability. In June Miss Le Pen described as a "political mistake" a joke made by her father, who has several convictions for racism and anti-Semitism, that appeared to be mocking the Holocaust. He angrily hit back, saying "the real political fault" was to turn the Front National into a "bizarre", insipid, and conformist party like any other. Earlier this month it was reported that Miss Le Pen had moved out of the opulent chateau estate she shared with her father after one of his Doberman dogs savagely killed one of her Bengal cats. Her party declined to comment on the report that Miss Le Pen had taken her remaining cats and fled the Montretout domain to move to a new residence nearby.
© The Telegraph


The EU-sponsored man hunt “Mos Maiorum” is discriminatory and costly

A two-week EU-wide police operation, dubbed ‘Mos Maiorum’, was launched on 13 October to detect, detain and possibly deport irregular migrants. This massive control operation is extremely worrying both in terms of discriminatory stop and search practices and protecting the basic rights of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

16/10/2014- The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) condemns this ‘Fortress Europe’ approach to migration and the disastrous consequences it has for migrants, as well as ethnic and religious minorities as a whole, across Europe. This operation is leading to hundreds of random identity checks at train and bus stations, on highways and in public spaces, and anyone looking ‘foreign’ is being targeted. The use of racial, ethnic, national, or religious characteristics as a way of singling out people for identity or security checks - racial profiling - is discriminatory. This adds to existing racial profiling practices, confirmed by research showing that Black people are 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people in England & Wales and 6 times more in Paris.

This operation is also fuelling xenophobia in Europe, as it is reinforcing the myth of a criminal invasion to Europe, further stigmatising and criminalising migrants. In reality, most undocumented migrants in Europe are fleeing war-torn countries including Syria. During a similar police operation last year, 36 percent of the 10,459 migrants intercepted were Syrians, and the second and third-largest groups were Eritrean and Afghan nationals, according to an EU document.

In times of austerity, we are also concerned by the significant amounts of financial and human resources mobilised for such poor EU-wide results. The populist rationale of such operations is highlighted by the fact that the official communication around them does not take into account their real impact on European economies: for two weeks, thousands of migrants do not go to work for fear of being controlled and have even less access to health support, further impeding on their ability to sustain themselves and their families. All this has a cost for European economies, which is not compensated by any of these security measures. It’s a lose-lose approach, heavy on the tax-payer’s money.

“Instead of favouring a security agenda at all costs, the EU should focus on respecting the human rights of migrants and refrain from fuelling xenophobic sentiments”, said Sarah Isal, ENAR Chair. “The results of the European elections have shown the dangers of tacitly encouraging negative discourses about migrants. We call on the European Commission to undertake an in-depth fundamental rights and cost-benefit impact assessment of this operation.”
© EUropean Network Against Racism


Police launch EU-wide crackdown on migrants

14/10/2014- A two-week massive EU-wide border control and police crackdown on irregular migrants was launched on Monday (13 October) by the Italian EU presiden-cy. Thousands of police officers from the 26 countries in the EU’s Schengen border-free zone will be dispatched to border crossings, railway stations, bus depots, and elsewhere in a joint-police operation called Mos Maiorum. The Schengen zone includes 22 member states as well as Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland. But one unnamed Schengen country has refused to participate. Latin for "laws of the elders", Mos Maiorum’s objective is to seize and possibly deport people without proper documents in an intelligence gathering exercise which the EU presidency says is necessary to “identify, prosecute and disrupt organised crime groups.”

Police will be required to fill out colour-coded forms of those intercepted. A red form is for people caught at the external borders and a blue form for those intercepted inside the Schengen states. Details such as age, nationality, date of birth, place and time of interception, means of transport, migrant routes and asylum applications, if any, will be included. Fake documents will be seized. Police will also try to obtain information on how much money a migrant has paid to enter the EU, their final point of destination, and the names of people who may have helped them along the way. The operation was revealed when an internal EU document was leaked to press.

It follows statements made last week by Angelino Alfano, Italy’s minister of interior, when he announced an imminent end to the Italian-led naval search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum. Mare Nostrum is credited with saving over 100,000 boat migrants since the start of the year. But a separate and much smaller EU-led operation Triton will take over with a primary mandate to carry out border surveillance. The new Mos Maiorum police crackdown is co-ordinated by the central directorate for immigration and border police of the Italian ministry of interior along with the EU’s border agency Frontex. Frontex itself was quick to distance itself.

In a carefully worded statement, Frontex executive director Gil Arias Fernandez said the agency “would like to stress that it has not had any role either in the planning or in implementation of this operation.” Fernandez noted it only provides the Italians with statistics and data analysis of migratory flows. “Its [Mos Maiorum] goals and way of execution is of ‘intra-Schengen’ and ‘police co-operation’ nature, which are not within the mandate of Frontex,” he said.

Estimates suggest there is anywhere from 150,000 to 450,000 people without proper documents are in the EU. Thousands are likely to be people and families that have fled war-torn Syria and oppressive countries like Eritrea. “Only a minority come with a visa valid for entry to the European Union,” said German Green MEP Ska Keller.
Mos Maiorum’s final results will be discussed by the "Working Party on Frontiers", a special committee in the Council – representing member states – on 11 December.
© The EUobserver


Germany: Anti-Semitism was limited to Nazi period, judge says

Statement in lawsuit brought by Green Party founder against far-right journalist triggers outrage.

17/10/2014- A regional judge in Munich is embroiled in a highly charged dispute over her statement in a civil case that German anti-Semitism was limited to the Nazi period of 1933-1945, suggesting that post-Holocaust anti-Semitism is not a factor in Jew-hatred. The Munich regional judge, Petra Grönke-Müller, sparked outrage on October 8 with her courtroom assertion during a civil case that “a fiery anti-Semite is someone in Germany who talks, with conviction, in an anti-Semitic way and, with conviction, does not condemn the Third Reich and cannot view the period 1933-1945 as separate from the background of history.” The case, which goes to the heart of a modern understanding of anti-Semitism in Germany, pits a co-founder of the German Green Party, Jutta Ditfurth, against an extreme nationalistic journalist, Jürgen Elsässer. During a 3Sat television interview in April, Ditfurth called Elsässer a “fiery anti-Semite.”

In response, Elsässer wrote that she had “defamed“ him and engaged in “character assassination,” and filed a lawsuit against her. He further claimed that her accusa-tion threatened his livelihood as a journalist. In a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Ditfurth said she had called Elsässer a “fiery anti-Semite” because he worked together with anti-Semites and traffics in anti-Semitic demonstrations and organizations. She also claimed he used “many forms of disguised anti-Semitism.” She said Elsässer worked with Ken Jebsen, a former radio host who wrote: “I know who invented the Holocaust as PR.” Jebsen’s station, RBB, fired him over the criticism leveled against him for denying the Holocaust. Efforts to reach Elsässer at his publishing address in Leipzig were not successful.

German journalists and legal experts on anti-Semitism quickly weighed in on the judge’s comment. Speaking to the Post on Thursday, Nathan Gelbart, a leading Berlin attorney, said Grönke-Müller lacked an understanding about anti-Semitism, calling this “very dangerous.” He said the comment meant that “other forms of Jew-hatred” cannot be considered anti-Semitism. A telling example, he said, is when Muslims at anti-Israel demonstrations over the summer yelled “Gas the Jews.” Gelbart, who won a legal case in which a judge attempted to strictly limit the definition of anti-Semitism, said Grönke- Müller’s definition ignored anti-Semitism before and after the 12 years of National Socialism. Henryk M. Broder, a Die Welt columnist and leading German expert on anti-Semitism who testified on modern expressions of Jew-hatred at a hearing in the Bundestag, wrote in his column on Wednesday that the judge was attempting to legally restrict anti-Semitism to the Third Reich period. “That is as logical as if one would only accept a gangbang as rape,” he stated.

Uwe Habereder, a spokesman for Grönke-Müller, told the Post on Thursday that he could not comment on the matter because the case was still being heard. He said the judge’s decision will likely be issued on November 19. In 2009, Elsässer defended the annual Al-Quds Day rally in Germany, which calls each year for the destruction of Israel and attracts Hezbollah activists, supporters of the Iranian regime and neo-Nazis. Prior to the rally he wrote in his blog – with the headline “Demonstration of Islamic groups against imperialism and Zionism” – that he could not find anything anti-Semitic about the event. This year, Green Party lawmaker Volker Beck termed the rally “a hate event” that denies Israel’s existence. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency lists the Al-Quds Day event under the section of “Islamism/Islamic terror-ism.” Elsässer’s attorney, Michael Hubertus von Sprenger, did not immediately respond to email and telephone queries from the Post. Ditfurth, who is also a sociologist and known for her anti-fascism work, has posted a notice on her website seeking donations to cover her mounting legal costs.
© The Jerusalem Post


Germany: 'Neo-Nazi' magistrate quits Bavarian post

A magistrate in Bavaria resigned on Tuesday after police discovered that he was a former singer in a neo-Nazi band and had long standing links to the far-right scene.

15/10/2014- The young lawyer, who was working in a court in Lichtenfels, Upper Franconia, met the president of the higher state court in Bamberg on Tuesday and resigned. After studying in Brandenburg, the lawyer was named as a magistrate on a provisional basis by the Bavarian judiciary in November 2013. While a student, he had been under observation by the Brandenburg security services between 2003 and 2013 due to his alter ego as “Hassgesang” (“hate song”), his neo-Nazi one-man music project. Although the Brandenburg security services informed their colleagues in Bavaria of the man's change of address, they neglected to mention that he was a lawyer interested in entering public service. But a police officer noticed that his name matched that of the reported extremist when he reported a minor crime.

Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann and justice minister Winfried Bausback told a state cabinet meeting on Tuesday that they now aim to introduce rules calling for a mandatory check on new magistrates, judges, prosecutors and police officers by security services in Bavaria. The plans echo the former “radical decree”, which saw all applicants for public-sector jobs investigated by until 1991. Many people were prevented from taking up jobs by the rules, which were directed at preventing Communist infiltration of the West German state. “The question is, don't we need this tool for applicants to especially security-relevant state activities, such as when someone wants to become a judge?” Bausback asked.
© The Local - Germany


Germany: Bavarian court employs far-right magistrate

A magistrate in Upper Franconia is proving an embarrassment for the Bavarian justice system after it emerged he sang in several far-right bands while a student.

14/10/2014- One of the bands the man, named only as Maik B., sang in was called “Hassgesang” - or “song of hate” - a one-man project whose lyrics included praise of Adolf Hitler. “There is no place for right-wing extremism in Bavaria or in the Bavarian justice system,” state justice minister Winfried Bausback said following the revelations. Like every would-be magistrate, Maik B. would have been asked if he was a member of any anti-constitutional organisation when he was appointed, Bausback added. If he concealed a far-right background then it would be grounds for dismissal, Bausback said. Police in Bayreuth said that they had looked into B.'s background before informing the state justice and interior ministries and there was almost no doubt that he and the singer of “Hassgesang” were one and the same.

B.'s far-right past was only spotted after he reported to police that his locker had been broken into. A sharp-eyed policeman remembered that intelligence services in the state of Brandenburg had notified their colleagues in Bavaria of an extremist of the same name changing his address to the town of Lichtenfels, Bavaria, in February. Bavarian state security services had investigated B. when he moved from one state to the other, but found that he was no longer active in the right-wing scene – and completely overlooked his taking up of a public office. The Bavarian justice system and security services have been under intense scrutiny due to their failure to properly investigate murders committed by the National Socialist Underground (NSU) far-right group. A surviving NSU member remains on trial in Munich.
© The Local - Germany


Xenophobia drops in Europe: Swedish study

A new Swedish study has found that xenophobia is decreasing around Europe, despite a rise in support for anti-immigrant political parties.

14/10/2014- The nationalist Sweden Democrats more than doubled their support in September's election, winning 12.9 percent of the country's vote. Despite this, and the fact that similar parties around Europe have enjoyed comparable successes, researchers from Umeå University say that talk of increasing xenophobia around Europe is a "misinterpretation". In a paper published on Monday, sociologists Andrea Bohman and Mikael Hjerm found that there were a variety of other factors that contributed to rising success at the polls - such as the parties being more organized and better at delivering their messages in ways that make people more comfortable voting for them. "In theory you'd expect that the presence of radical right parties would bring out anti-immigrant attitudes, but they haven't - and this was surprising," Hjerm told The Local.  He added that the pair studied statistics measuring people's attitudes to immigrants, especially at the time of elections, and measuring the effect that the far-right parties had on the public.

How the Sweden Democrats went mainstream
The researchers looked at 16 European countries and various survey results from between the years of 2002 and 2012. They determined that there is no correlation between an anti-immigrant sentiment and the appearance of far-right parties on the political stage. "Our studies led us to the conclusion that political parties on the radical right don't automatically influence people's attitudes towards immigration," the researchers wrote in an article in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper on Monday. They added that such parties are just getting better at attracting voters who already sympathize with their policies. Hjerm told The Local that Swedes tended to be more tolerant than their European neighbours. "The level of anti-immigrant attitudes was much lower in Sweden than in other countries, but that's nothing new, we've known that for a long time, and we weren't interested in specific countries," he said.

As for what's likely to happen in Europe in the future:
"That's the million-dollar question," he responded. "Tolerance towards immigrants has been increasing in the 20th century and we've seen it flatline somewhat in the 21st century. But for these parties, there are more people to convince and they can definitely grow. "But they haven't been able to convince people who don't support such politics. They can only grow (at the moment) if they get a larger proportion of those with aversive attitudes to vote for them."
© The Local - Sweden


Hungarian far-right party tells Roma to conform or leave

The far-right Jobbik party took control of an industrial town in northeastern Hungary after an election campaign in which it promised to issue an ultimatum to the Roma minority - follow our rules or leave town.

13/10/2014- The town of Ozd, with 35,000 people, is the biggest prize won by Jobbik in a nationwide round of municipal elections on Sunday in which it increased the numbers of City Halls it controls from three to fourteen. The party is accused by critics of being anti-Semitic and racist. Though still a long way behind the ruling centre-right Fidesz party, in Sunday's elections it overtook the Socialists to become the second biggest opposition force. The new mayor of Ozd, 27-year-old David Janiczak, on Monday morning took a walk around the main square, receiving congratulatory handshakes from townspeople. He said he would crack down on crime and poverty on behalf of all residents, whatever their ethnic background.

Yet the programme on which Janiczak ran in the election is explicit in singling out the Roma community. The manifesto, posted on the Jobbik Internet site next to a photograph of Janiczak, states: "We think there are two ways to solve the Gypsy question...The first one is based on peaceful consent, the second on radical exclusion." "Our party wishes to offer one last chance to the destructive minority that lives here, so first it will consider peaceful consent. If that agreement fails, then and only then the radical solution can follow." The programme threatens to "chase off people who are unable to conform".

Measured Language
Jobbik has denied that it is racist or anti-Semitic. One of its members of parliament caused a storm of outrage when he proposed drawing up lists of Jews, but he later apologised and said he had been misunderstood. The municipal elections give clues as to what Jobbik would actually do if it ever took power nationwide. Interviewed on Monday outside his new office in City Hall, the mayor-elect of Ozd used much more measured language about the Roma than his election manifesto. "Conditions are horrid on the outskirts of town where most Roma live," Janiczak told Reuters. "This is not only the Roma's fault but the leaders who wanted nothing from them but their vote - locally as well as nationally." "We need to create jobs and enforce order for Roma and Hungarians alike. The voters trust we will do that."

He said he would revamp public safety using civilian law enforcement volunteers and jump start the local economy through projects including animal husbandry and growing crops in greenhouses on land around the city. In Ozd, unemployment is endemic. Around a quarter of the city's population are Roma, and most of them live in dire poverty, receive state welfare payments, and have frequent run-ins with the police. Conditions are so bad that for the Roma community, fear about the persecution Jobbik might bring is mixed with hope that a radical new party might finally do something to improve their lot where all others have failed. "Like most Roma we are afraid what might happen to us, because the news was always that some people wanted us dead and they would ship us off in trains like Hitler did with the Jews," one local woman, Szilvia Orosz, told Reuters.

She was speaking in the centre of one of the town's toughest Roma slums, which has no water or sewer system. "But if this kid Janiczak can act the way he talks about work, honour and peace, and gives us long-term employment, then there won't be racial discrimination." However, many of the people who voted for a Jobbik mayor said they did so at least in part because Jobbik had promised to tackle what the party describes as "Gypsy crime". Mihaly Balo, a 70-year-old pensioner, said he did not believe Jobbik would persecute the Roma community. But he said: "In the 1970's I walked from one end of the city to the other at midnight, no problem. I wouldn't dare do that today... The problem is with not all Gypsies, but some of them."
© The Irish Independent


Hungary's Fidesz widely dominates voting

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party has been declared the clear winner in nationwide municipal elections.

13/10/2014- The party's candidates won the mayor's post in the capital, Budapest, and in 20 of Hungary's 23 largest cities. Speaking to supporters after preliminary results were announced on Sunday, Orban vowed to "make Hungary great" and boasted of winning elections for the third time this year, after victories in the national elections and for the European Parliament. The far-right Jobbik, trying to distance itself from earlier anti-Roma and racist statements, finished mostly far behind Fidesz but ahead of the left-wing opposition in most rural areas. Jobbik won in nine smaller cities, up from three in 2010. The splintered left-wing opposition, led by the Socialist Party, was projected to win five of Budapest's 23 districts, at least two more than four years ago. With 83 per cent of the votes counted, turnout was about 42 per cent, 4 percentage points less than in 2010.

Orban won re-election in April when Fidesz secured a new two-thirds parliamentary majority. A July speech expressing his desire to turn Hungary into an "illiberal state" sparked international criticism. Western nations are alarmed at the way Orban has been trying to consolidate power, including cracking down on rights groups. However, he has defended his stance against a range of causes, from women's and gay rights to media freedom and anti-corruption campaigns. In his July speech, he called them "paid political activists attempting to assert foreign interests".
© The Australian


Netherlands: Government opposes special refugee ruling for army interpreters

15/10/2014- The cabinet has decided there is to be no new ruling to protect foreigners who act as interpreters for the Dutch army on foreign missions, despite opposition calls for action. MPs on Tuesday night debate the safety of interpreters in light of the case of Abdul Ghafoor Ahmadzai. He worked for the Dutch army in Uruzgan and first fled to Norway in 2010 after his brother was murdered. He came to the Netherlands when his asylum claim there was rejected. Junior justice minister Fred Teeven had planned to deport Ahmazai to Norway, where he faced being returned to Afghanistan but has now relented and told the immigration services to investigate his case.

Opposition MPs had called on the government to come up with proper rules to cover interpreters but Labour MPs said this is unnecessary. Defence minister Jeanine Hennis told MPs during the debate interpreters and other locals who work for Dutch missions are not abandoned. ‘They deserve full support,’ she said. There are, she said, sufficient options to protect interpreters. Military chiefs can request protection – which may lead to refugee status – and interpreters can request it themselves, although many are not aware of this option. Around 120 locals worked for the Dutch as interpreters in Uruzgan between 2006 and 2010.
© The Dutch News


Netherlands: CoE- End 'legal limbo' for immigrants who can't go home

14/10/2014- Illegal immigrants in the Netherlands are in a legal limbo and urgent action needs to be taken to end the impasse, the Council of Europe’s high commissio-ner for human rights said on Tuesday. Nils Muiznieks said in a new report by the Strasburg-based body that if it is impossible or extremely difficult for people to return to their country of origin, they must be allowed to remain in the Netherlands. A large number of undocumented immigrants live in poverty on the streets or in camps without access to emergency provisions. ‘This situation must be dealt with urgently, because anyone, regardless of the residence status, has the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing and shelter,’ Muiznieks said. Several hundred failed asylum seekers are currently squatting and living in temporary accommodation in Amsterdam.

‘The Netherlands has a solid human rights protection system, but in practice there are shortcomings that need to be addressed, in particular in the case of migrants and children,’ the commissioner said. The commissioner said he welcomed moves to give residency rights to people who cannot return to their country of origin and the amnesty for child refugees, introduced for youngsters who have put down roots in the Netherlands. Nevertheless ‘a humane and human-rights compliant approach is needed,’ he said. ‘Where return is impossible or particularly difficult, the relevant person should be authorised to stay in the Netherlands.’

The council’s social rights committee said last year the Netherlands must continue to provide failed asylum seekers with food, clothing and a roof over their heads. The Netherlands has a policy of evicting failed asylum seekers from refugee centres if they refuse to cooperate with their deportation. Refugee organisation Vluchtelingen-werk estimates some 5,000 would-be refugees are put on the street every year.
© The Dutch News


Dutch abandon 'black Pete' Saint Nicholas tradition over racism row

16/10/2014- Black Pete, the jolly sidekick of the Dutch Saint Nicholas, is finally getting a facelift after years of bitter debate including death threats against those calling for change. An Amsterdam court's ruling in July that Pete - traditionally dressed in a gaudy medieval costume with a blackened face, red lips and an afro wig - is a 'negative stereotype' encouraged many to try to change the deeply rooted custom. 'It's the beginning of change, it will continue for years to come because more and more people agree it should change but it's going to take a long time,' said historian Gabor Kozijn, author of a study on Black Pete for the Dutch Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage. With less than two months before Dutch kids' favourite day, December 5, when Saint Nicholas and Pete hand out presents, the debate has reached fever pitch, with Black Pete's defenders refusing to admit there is anything racist about the playful character.

In Gouda, where Saint Nicholas and dozens of Petes will 'arrive' on November 15 with a gift-filled boat from Spain in a national event broadcast live on television, the mayor on Tuesday decided to introduce some new colours. Besides a number of Black Petes, there will also be 'Cheese Petes' with yellow faces and 'Stroopwafel Petes' with striped, light brown faces resembling the traditional Dutch syrup biscuit of the same name. 'There is no simple way to find a solution that everyone can identify with,' said Gouda Mayor Milo Schoenmaker. Gouda's Black Petes 'changed several years ago to dark brown without stereotypical big red lips and earrings,' the city hall added. Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan has said that a 'substantial' number of this year's Petes will not be black but will have some 'soot marks' on their faces, ostensibly from climbing down the chimney. And a White Pete will for the first time be present during a daily televised 'news bulletin' on Saint Nicholas's activities.

Dutch shops will have fewer Black Petes this year, although discount retail chain Hema in August denied rumours that it planned to remove him entirely by next year. Customers at supermarket Albert Heijn will have different coloured Petes to choose from, including black: 'Saint Nicholas is for everyone,' the chain said in a state-ment. Despite compromising on Black Pete, the two chains are being threatened with boycotts. Many people in The Netherlands do not want to see the national tradition changed because what they consider a minority of people see it as racist. Last year's debate about Pete's skin colour was particularly heated amid a UN rights probe of the matter. The UN working group released its findings in July, concluding that Black Pete is indeed a racist figure and that many Dutch did not recognise him as a throwback to colonial times and slavery.

This year, Dutch celebrities who called on Facebook for a 'Pete makeover' have received death threats. After investigative journalist Peter R. de Vries entered the debate on Facebook he received an email saying: 'If I meet you you'll get a bullet through your head.' A 'Pietitie' (Pete-ition) on Facebook calling for action against changing Black Pete's face has more than two million likes, in a country of 17 million. Populist Geert Wilders, who heads the anti-immigration PVV party, tweeted: 'Black Pete must stay black!' 'What children want is presents. Whether the person who hands them out is Black or White Pete, a woman, yellow or bald is of no importance,' actor and presenter Paul de Leeuw said on Facebook. 'It's a popular family event, celebrated by millions of people who want their kids to experience what they experienced as children: it's more of an emotional than a rational debate,' historian Kozijn told AFP. Even if it is the beginning of the end for Black Pete, Kozijn said the character will be around for a while yet. 'If the average life expectancy of children who now know Black Pete is 80, then he will in any case remain a figure that people know,' he said.
© The Daily Mail.


Netherlands: Albert Heijn supermarkets hit back at Zwarte Piet row with poem

13/10/2014- Supermarket chain Albert Heijn published a poem in all the main national newspapers on Monday in response to the row about its decision to phase out the use of ‘black face’ Zwarte Piet characters. Last week, the Dutch market leader said Zwarte Piet, played by white people in blackface make-up, will not be used in advertising either in the media or in the stores themselves in the run up to the Sinterklaas celebrations. ‘We have customers from all walks of life and are taking every sentiment into account,’ a spokesman told broadcaster Nos. ‘Sinterklaas is a fun celebration for everyone and we are taking that into account.’

The news prompted calls for a boycott of the company and analysts said there would be a knock-on effect on sales. In the six-line poem, Albert Heijn says that reports that Piet has been banned from its stores are ‘absolutely not true’ and that Piet will ‘be on the shelves like every year’. ‘We think you are fabulous in black and other colours, but let everyone in the Netherlands make their own choice’, the poem concludes. Poems poking fun at people or scoring points are a traditional part of the Sinterklaas festivities.
© The Dutch News


Russia: Moscow Tear Gas Attack Shows Rise of Anti-Semitism in Putin Era

Rosh Hashanah Battle Points to Disturbing Trend.
By David E. Fishman

12/10/2014- On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, a group of five or six men disrupted a Jewish concert in the Great Hall of Moscow’s International Music House with a tear gas attack. A half-hour into the program, the men, who were seated in the first row, began shouting menacing insults at rock star Andrey Makarevich, the featured performer of the evening, and hurled canisters of pepper gas into the hall, forcing the audience of 400 to evacuate the building teary-eyed and coughing. To the Russian Jewish Congress, a major national Jewish organization, this was a clear anti-Semitic attack. In a statement after the onslaught, the group condemned the incident as a desecration of the Jewish holiday, which many members of Russia’s largely nonreligious Jewish population celebrate through cultural rather than religious observance. The use of gas against Jews was especially hurtful, the RJC said, conjuring up painful memories of the Holocaust.

But state-controlled Russian TV networks presented things otherwise. NTV, for example, described the attack as a legitimate expression of outrage at Makarevich “for his friendship and support of the fascist junta in Ukraine,” where pro-Russian rebels, with Russian military aid, are battling government forces. Television and the mainstream Russian press coverage have made no mention of the Jewish nature of the occasion (Rosh Hashanah), the concert program (“Yiddish Jazz”) or the makeup of the audience. In the media’s reading, the incident had nothing to do with anti-Semitism; it was all about Makarevich’s politics.

The truth lies somewhere in between, but closer to the RJC position than to that of NTV. Over the past year or two, Makarevich, lead singer of the iconic Russian rock band Time Machine (Mashina Vremeny), has been on two journeys. One has been an exploration of his Jewish roots: His mother is Jewish and reportedly lives in Israel, while his father is Belarusian. That journey took him to the American Yiddish swing music of the 1920s and ’30s, to songs such as “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn,” made famous in America by the Barry Sisters. He produced a CD of “Yiddish Jazz,” which brought Yiddish music (sung mainly in English and Russian translation) into the mainstream of Russian popular culture.

The other journey has been Makarevich’s increasingly vociferous condemnation of the Putin regime and of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He has marched in protest rallies in Moscow and traveled to Ukraine to perform, and his latest song is called “My Country Has Gone Insane.” (“My country has gone insane, / and there’s nothing I can do to help. / What should you do, how should you live, / if everything is topsy-turvy? / You don’t have to grow the wings of an angel; / just don’t be a shit. I’m sure of one thing: / it’s time to choose. / I’ve decided not to be a shit / and to live and die with a clear conscience.”)

Makarevich hasn’t connected his Jewish and dissident journeys, other than to say that he wants to be a more open person. But the xenophobic Russian extreme right, which the authorities have elevated to a legitimate position on the political spectrum, has connected the dots. For them, Makarevich represents an age-old paradigm: the treacherous kike. At a protest demonstration in the spring, a right-wing heckler shouted out at him, “Look at Andrey, the zhid has sold himself to Bandera.” That was a reference to Stepan Bandera, leader of the ultra-nationist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists during World War II.

A group called the National Bolshevik Party took credit for the attack on his Rosh Hashanah concert. The assailants — who called out “Makarevich is a traitor of the homeland” in deep menacing voices for a full minute before hurling their tear gas canisters — didn’t shout anti-Semitic slogans. But the National Bolsheviks have a long-documented history of anti-Semitism. And ethnically Russian performers have not been vilified, nor have they had their concerts disrupted. Makarevich is not alone; there are several activists of Jewish heritage in the Anti-War/Anti-Putin Movement, which attracted 30,000 to a protest march in September. Several were targeted in the recent propaganda film “The Junta’s Thirteen Friends,” which aired on NTV. At least five of those featured were Jewish in a country where Jews constitute an estimated 0.25% of the population. The film is a classic Soviet hatchet job, a genre now making a revival in Russia. In it, ominous background music accompanies secretly filmed videos and unrelenting character assassination. Among the Jews accused of treason, fascism and acting as paid agents of the Ukrainian junta were Makarevich, journalist Viktor Shenderovich, author Dmitryi Bykov and economist Stanislav Belkovsky.

But when the film came to activist Mark Galperin, who has helped organize several recent protests in downtown Moscow, it went out of its way to point out his Jewishness. Galperin himself has shown no particular interest in Jewish affairs or his Jewish identity, but he did write a Facebook post a year and a half ago, calling upon Jews not to work for the Putin regime or to receive honors from it. The film lashed out at him for his “unpatriotic” appeal. It then quoted a non-Jewish “expert” commentator: “Galperin is a disgrace to the Jewish people. We’ve seen many times in history how provocateurs like Galperin have been the catalysts and stimulators of the terrible phenomenon of anti-Semitism.” So here we are again: Jews are “the catalysts and stimulators” of anti-Semitism. The charge was a not-so veiled warning by the state-controlled propaganda machine: Jews should be quiet and not join the protests, or they will face an anti-Semitic backlash.

The emotional statement issued by the Russian Jewish Congress after the Makarevich concert suggests the organization is worried that the backlash has begun, and that it will grow if it isn’t nipped in the bud. Meanwhile, the other major Jewish umbrella organization, the Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, known by the Russian acronym, FEOR, did not react to the tear gas attack. The federation has been a loyal ally of the Putin regime and presumably didn’t want to appear to be defending a Jewish “Fascist and Banderist,” even against a tear gas attack while playing apolitical Yiddish music. In other words, FEOR decided to heed the propaganda film’s advice. (A third major group, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, issued a condemnation of the attack, without the RJC’s rhetorical flourishes.)

In September I tried to console a colleague of mine in St. Petersburg who complained in a Skype conversation about the “difficult moral and psychological conditions” under which he and other intellectuals are living: “Come on,” I said to him. “You lived through Soviet times, you should be used to this kind of stuff.” He replied: “This time it’s much more aggressive. And it’s not just talk.” The next day, an unknown assailant splattered a bucket of green disinfectant on Galperin, when he left his home on his way to a demonstration. Galperin attended the protest covered in green gook from head to toe. The police have not apprehended Galperin’s or Makarevich’s assailants. Don’t hold your breath.

Just a few weeks ago, I sent Jewish New Year greetings by email to another colleague in St. Petersburg. I wrote to him in Russian, but he responded in Hebrew — which surprised me, since we usually corresponded in Russian. But it dawned on me as I read on that his choice of language was intentional. The chances that the Russian security services would bother to scan Hebrew-language email messages were lower. “All my hopes for the future of my beloved country have been crushed,” he wrote. Then he quoted a poem by Chaim Nachman Bialik: “Now my well is like a wound; it only drips sometimes. And my heart smokes in secret, rolled in dust and blood.” That sums up the mood of many. There is a war going on in Ukraine. And Jews face difficulties there as well. But friends tell me that the line in front of the Israeli Consulate is much longer in Moscow than in Kiev.
David E. Fishman is professor of Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He directs JTS’s program in the former Soviet Union, Project Judaica.
© The Forward


Italy: Rome Mayor Denounces 'Vulgar' Tribute to Nazi War Criminal Erich Priebke

source: JTA
Killer Died at 100 Exactly One Year Ago

12/10/2014- The mayor of Rome condemned a public commemoration in the city for the late Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke. Ignazio Marino called Saturday’s event downtown a “vulgar provocation” that “wounds the entire civic community and represents a real slap in the face to the city of Rome, which played a fundamental role in the Italian Resistance.” Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, thanked the mayor and called on all civic authorities to be vigilant against any similar episodes. At the commemoration, which was organized by Priebke’s lawyer to mark the first anniversary of Priebke’s death at the age of 100, an improvised Mass was celebrated at a makeshift altar made of flowers and placards set up against a lamppost on the Sant’Angelo Bridge. Posters reading “Ciao Captain” — Priebke was a Nazi SS captain — were plastered on some walls in Rome. Priebke died on Oct. 11, 2013 while serving a life sentence under house arrest for his role in the 1944 massacre of 335 Romans, about 75 of them Jews, in the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome.
© The Forward


Italy's mayors go to the barricades to defend same-sex marriages

Italian cities are leading a rebellion against the state over its hard-line stance on gay marriage.

12/10/2014- The mayors of Rome, Milan, Bologna and Naples are openly defying an order by the coalition government's right-wing Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano, to remove from city registers any gay and lesbian unions performed abroad. Italy is the last major Western nation not to allow even civil partnerships for gays and lesbians. As a result, hundreds of same-sex couples have travelled to the US or other EU countries to tie the knot. Mr Alfano says that the inclusion of same-sex couples on marriage registers contravenes Italian law. The minister insists he is trying to protect the traditional family but the edict has sparked a major backlash as campaigners, centre-left politicians and even some on the centre-right say that Mr Alfano and the state are desperately out of touch with the rest of Europe.

Corriere Della Sera reported last week that, among centre-right voters, eight out of 10 now support the introduction of civil partnerships and Rome's mayor, Ignazio Marino, dismissed the diktat, saying he would continue to register same-sex couples. "Anyone looking today for conflict over love probably lives in the wrong century," Mr Marino told a gathering on Rome's Capitoline Hill. "I believe that a discussion of this type in 2014 on any civil union reflects the feelings and visions of the 1900s." Last Friday, Giuliano Pisapia, the left-wing mayor of Milan, in effect stuck two fingers up at the Interior Minister by declaring that he had just "personally signed, as an official of the civil state, the transcription of seven marriages of persons of the same sex who were married abroad". Such registrations, while largely symbolic, do allow gay couples equal access to municipal benefits.

Hours after Mr Pisapia's declaration, police arrived at Bologna's town hall to seize the city's register, which contains the names of four same-sex couples married abroad. But Bologna's mayor, Virginio Merola, was defiant. "I will not annul the registrations," he told reporters. "Italian cities, and in particular Bologna, wish to be part of Europe and not have first- and second-class citizens."
© The Independent


Czech Rep: Government to compensate forced sterilization victims by 2015

17/10/2014- The Czech government is planning to compensate victims of forced sterilization by 2015, the news agency ČTK reported quoting the government’s response to the UN Committee for Human Rights. The cabinet says it will next year put forward legislation that should comprehensively address compensation and other claims of the victims towards the state. In 2004, several dozen mainly Romany women approached the authorities with complaints there were forcibly sterilized. The government apologized to the victims in 2007 but the issue of compensation has not since been resolved. The UN committee has repeatedly criticized the Czech Republic for its failure to compensate the women as well as other issues including the wide-spread discrimination and segregation of Romanies.
© Radio Prague


ERTF reproaches Czech Republic for being too restrained in combating racism

The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) is reproaching several European states, the Czech Republic included, for their "restraint" in combating anti-Romani racism and improving everyday life for Romani people. Agence France-Presse reports that the ERTF named the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and four other countries in a report published yesterday as examples.

11/10/2014- "The situation of Romani people is no better today than it was 40 years ago. In some aspects it is even worse," says the organization, which is headquarter-ed in Strasbourg and has a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe. The ERTF is complaining that many recommendations about Roma issued by the Council of Europe to its member states have not been implemented. "What is even more serious is the restraint of certain member states when it comes to implementing legally binding judgments," issued, for example, by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the ERTF report complains. "There is a lack of political will - most countries do not consider the Romani issue a priority, or they say they don't have enough money to improve the situation," the ERTF says. The report points to persistently "high levels of intolerance" or even "racism" toward Romani people, whom politicians frequently use as "scapegoats".

The ERTF report says the situation is "problematic in each of the 47 Council of Europe countries". However, the group believes it is especially disturbing in six countries: the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania and Slovakia. Agence France-Presse reports that the ERTF is reproaching the Czech Republic for the "segregation" of Romani children in the schools. The report recalls that Prague was found responsible for the practice by the ECtHR in 2007, but says "nothing has changed since then." The ERTF says the same problem exists in Slovakia. Roma there are reportedly also treated unequally when it comes to housing conditions.
© Romea.


Headlines 10 October, 2014

Italy: Arrest of ‘fake’ Hitler shows muddled Italian take on Fascism law

A man dressed as Charlie Chaplin’s parody of Adolf Hitler was detained, but neo-Nazis unchallenged by police in northern Italy.

10/10/2014- A man was arrested in the northern Italian city of Bergamo last Sunday for showing up at a protest dressed as Adenoid Hynkel, Charlie Chaplin’s parody of Adolf Hitler in the 1940 anti-Nazi movie “The Great Dictator.” His alleged crime was apologia del Fascismo (literally, “apology of Fascism”). However, on the very same day the openly neo-Fascist group Forza Nuova demonstrated in another northern city, Bologna, undisturbed by the authorities. Publicly expressing sympathies to Nazism and Fascism is explicitly prohibited by Italian law since the 1950s. But the application of such law is so arbitrary that it may well defy the purpose. “I find it quite puzzling that I got arrested while people from Forza Nuova and CasaPound can walk freely with all their Mussolini paraphernalia, and can even have authorized demonstrations,” said Giampietro Belotti, 29, referring to the country’s two largest far-right groups. Belotti, a self described “fervent anti-Fascist,” says all he wanted to do was use movie references in order to mock homophobes.

As the Italian parliament is discussing a new “anti-homophobia law” that sanctions discrimination based on sexual preferences, an umbrella of right-wing groups called the Sentinels organized protests against it in several towns. Belotti showed up to one of these demonstrations wearing the Hynkel costume (that resembles a Nazi uniform but has a fictional “double-cross” symbol instead of a swastika), holding a copy of “Mein Kampf” and the sign “Illinois Nazis support the Sentinels,” a reference to “The Blues Brothers.” Within 10 minutes he was taken to the police station and his “Illinois Nazis” sign confiscated as evidence. However, the police could not confiscate his copy of “Mein Kampf,” notes Belotti, since it is not a banned book (you can buy it online on numerous Italian websites). Belotti was held for three hours and then released. Charges against him were dropped by the examining magistrate on Wednesday.

Also Sunday, Forza Nuova – a far-right nationalist group founded in the 1990s from the ashes of two disbanded neo-Fascist parties – joined another protest against the “anti-homophobia law” in Bologna. Although Forza Nuova and the Sentinels have no official ties – FN has accused the Sentinels of being “too moderate,” while the Sentinels describe themselves as “nonpolitical” even though their founder belongs to the ultraconservative Catholic Alleanza Cattolica movement – they share the same anti-gay-rights agenda. No one was arrested in the Bologna protest, although police intervened when clashes erupted between Forza Nuova’s militants and left-wing activists leading a counterprotest. Forza Nuova has announced a new anti-gay-rights protest in Bologna on October 18. The city police say they do not rule out the possibility of prohibiting it, but only on security grounds. “Everyone is free to express his or her opinion, even if we do not agree with them,” said Vincenzo Stingone, head of the local police. Unless, perhaps, he’s dressed as a Charlie Chaplin character.
© Haaretz


Netherlands: Defence ministry denies jihad recruitment claims at airbase

10/10/2014- A former soldier who converted to Islam has not been trying to recruit former colleagues at the Volkel airbase to take part in jihad, the defence ministry said on Friday afternoon. The Telegraaf said on Friday morning a former member of the armed forces had made threatening overtures to people serving at the base, and that the matter had been reported to the security services. The military security service MIVD investigated the claims and, according to the defence ministry, 'found no reason to assume this was about recruitment for violent jihad'. The MIVD said the man had 'normal contacts' with some of his former colleagues. The Netherlands has sent eight F-16 fighter jets, normally based in Volkel, to take part in the allied bombardment of Islamic State militia in Iraq.
© The Dutch News


Dutch far-right populist Wilders could face racism charges: prosecutors

9/10/2014- Dutch authorities moved closer toward prosecuting far-right politician Geert Wilders on Thursday, naming him as a suspect and summoning him for interrogation over alleged racist remarks he made in March. Wilders will be questioned on suspicion of insulting a group on the basis of race and inciting discrimination and hatred, prosecutors said in a statement. If convicted, he could face up to a year in prison or a fine of up to 7,400 euros ($9,400). Wilders, whose controversial brand of anti-immigration, anti-Muslim populism has propelled his Freedom Party to second place in opinion polls, provoked widespread condemnation when he called for "fewer Moroccans" at a campaign rally in March. Interrogating a suspect is the final step in the process of bringing charges, prosecutors said. A spokeswoman stressed no decision had yet been taken about charging Wilders but said there was a "significant chance" he would end up in court.

"I'm furious ... that I am being investigated by prosecutors and will probably end up in court," Wilders told journalists in parliament after learning of the summons. Prosecutors received over 6,400 complaints and several of his party's most prominent lawmakers resigned from the party after Wilders asked supporters at a rally in The Hague if they wanted "more or fewer Moroccans in this city?" The crowd chanted: "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!" Wilders smiled and responded: "We'll take care of that." In a later interview with broadcaster RTL Z, he said "Moroccan scum" should leave the Netherlands. Moroccans were over-represented in crime statistics and in the number of people receiving social benefits, he argued. Wilders, who has lived for many years under 24-hour police protection after receiving death threats because of an anti-Islamic film he made, called the decision to interrogate him "incomprehensible". "I'm combative and angry. I said what millions of people feel," he told reporters. "It's a scandal that when the world is in flames, prosecutors choose to focus on a lawmaker who points out problems." Prosecutors should focus on the phenomenon of Dutch citizens going to fight in Syria, "more than three quarters of whom are Moroccans," he added.

Wilders has a history of statements that upset Muslims and Eastern European migrant workers. He was prosecuted for hate crimes and discrimination in 2007 for calling Islam a fascist ideology but acquitted four years later when a judge ruled that criticising a religion was not the same as racism. "This time the remarks were directly aimed at a certain population group - all Moroccans are put in the same box," said prosecution spokeswoman Nicolette Stoel. The Netherlands, which long prided itself on its liberalism, admitted millions of immigrant workers from Morocco and Turkey to fill jobs in an expanding economy after World War Two. But attitudes have hardened as growth has slowed and jobs have become scarce, propelling a string of anti-immigration politicians to the top of opinion polls over the past decade.
© Reuters


Q&A: Wilders summoned as a suspect

9/10/2014- Press prosecutor Alexandra Oswald answers questions about the Geert Wilders case.

Geert Wilders has been invited for questioning by the Prosecution. Does this mean that you are planning to prosecute him?
It means that we want to question him as a suspect because we believe that he has made remarks which may constitute a criminal offence. The suspicion is such that prosecution stands to reason. At this time, the investigation has been concluded for the greater part and this interrogation is one of the last steps in the investigation. After that, the Prosecution will take the definitive decision whether or not to prosecute him.

What is Geert Wilders exactly suspected of?
Geert Wilders is suspected of insult based on race and of incitement to discrimination and hatred. This is based on remarks he made on 12 and 19 March 2014. First at a market in The Hague and after that on election night in a bar in The Hague. The Prosecution sees both similarities and differences between those remarks. At this time it is too early to go deeper into this matter.
How did the Prosecution come about this suspicion?

In total more than 6400 persons filed a police report and over 15,000 discrimination reports were filed as well. These were studied. In addition, an extensive legal analysis of the remarks was carried out, involving various experts. The resulting conclusion was that Geert Wilders’ remarks constitute a criminal offence. That is why we have decided to question him.

When do you expect to disclose whether or not Geert Wilders will be prosecuted?
The investigation is in its final stage. After the interrogation, it will be largely completed and the definitive decision concerning prosecution will be made. At this time I cannot give you an exact date.

Why is this case different from Samsom’s and Spekman’s case?
Geert Wilders’ remarks are directly related to a population group without a link to behaviour. So in that sense they differ from the remarks made by Diederik Samsom and Hans Spekman.
© The Public Prosecution Service


Netherlands: Schools struggling to cope with rise in refugee children

6/10/2014- A number of Dutch schools are struggling to cope with the rise in the number of refugee children, Nos television said on Monday. A special work group set up to monitor education provision for refugee children is phoned by worried school heads and council officials on a daily basis, the broadcaster said. ‘Schools are not only struggling with paying for the rise in pupil numbers but with language issues,’ said spokeswoman Marieke Postma. ‘They want to know how to deal with traumatised children and how to make sure they have enough teaching staff.’

Children in refugee centres have the right to education within eight weeks of their arrival. There has been a surge in refugee numbers, particularly from Syria, in recent months. In the first six months of the year, the some 12,300 people have requested asylum in the Netherlands, double the 2013 figure. For example, 1,400 asylum seekers are soon to move into a holiday village in Drenthe and local school chiefs don’t know how many children to expect. ‘We’ve been told to base ourselves on a figure of 10% when it comes to the under-12s. That means we may have to find primary school places for 140 children alone,’ spokesman Jos van Kimmenaede told the broadcaster. By the beginning of September, there were some 21,600 people living in Dutch refugee centres, of whom around 20% were school age children.
© The Dutch News


Contrasts: Estonia approves same-sex partnerships; Kyrgyzstan considers anti-gay legislation

Estonia on Thursday became the first former Soviet nation to legalize gay partnerships, while Kyrgyzstan - another ex-Soviet republic thousands of kilometers east - considers anti-gay legislation.

9/10/2014- The parallel moves reflect starkly divergent paths taken by the countries that once were parts of the Soviet empire. In Estonia, lawmakers voted 40-38 vote to approve a partnership act that recognizes the civil unions of all couples regardless of gender. Twenty-three lawmakers were absent or abstained in the third and final reading of the bill. The new law will gives those in civil unions - heterosexual or gay - almost the same rights as married couples, including financial, social and health benefits provided by the government and legal protection for children. It does not give adoption rights for couples in such unions but does allow one partner to adopt the biological child of the other. It comes into force in January 2016, after it has been signed by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves who supported the bill.

The Estonian Human Rights Center hailed the vote as "historic," saying it would send a strong message to neighboring Russia, which passed what it called "a draconian anti-gay law" last year. "Estonia (has) made a leap toward a society that is freer, more equal and values human rights for all," the group's director, Kari Kasper, said. The United States also wel-comed the new law. "The U.S. government supports equal treatment under the law for all groups and believes the new cohabitation bill extends important rights and protections to unmarried couples and their families," the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn said in a statement.

In contrast with Estonia, lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian nation about 3,500 kilometers (some 2,170 miles) east, on Thursday began considering a bill that would make gay "propaganda" punishable by a prison term of up to one year. Kyrgyz rights activists saw the bill as a copycat version of a Russian law adopted last year that prohibits vaguely defined propaganda to minors of "non-traditional sexual relations" and has provoked international outrage. Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished mostly Muslim Central Asian nation on China's mountainous western border, has cultivated close ties with Russia and aspired to become a member of a Moscow-led economic bloc. The bill's authors have described it as a necessary measure to support "traditional family values."

Estonia, which like Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union for almost five decades, is considered the most Western-oriented of the former republics, with a long history of cooperation with its liberal-minded Nordic neighbors. However, there has been little tolerance of gays in the small Baltic nation of 1.3 million, particularly among the sizeable ethnic-Russian minority and in rural areas where traditional values prevail. The law has been under preparation for years and stirred one of the fiercest public debates since the country regained independence in 1991.
© The Malta Independent


Macedonia Court Throws out Abortion Challenge

Judges reject claim NGOs’ complaint about changes to abortion law, saying they merely regulate the procedures.

9/10/2014- Macedonia’s Constitutional Court has rejected a challenge to the changed law on terminations, adopted in September 2013, saying the changes do not prohibit abortion but only regulate the procedures. Several NGOs had submitted complaints to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the new requirements put undue physical, administrative and time-related pressure on pregnant women. The changes oblige women to file requests for abortions, attend counselling, inform “spouses” of their intention and meet a gynaecolo-gist. The change to the law further prohibits women from having a second abortion within a year. However, the court made clear its lack of sympathy with the NGOs’ complaints. Judge Sali Murati told the court on Thursday that he was “totally against abortion”, maintaining that it was “not an exclusive right of the mother. “It also concerns the father, the wider family and the society,” he said. “We should protect the unborn child, whose life begins when the embryo is formed,” he added. Noting that there were more terminations than births in Macedonia 30,000 as opposed to 24,000 - he added: “If this trend continues, the mankind will come to an end.”

Judge Natasha Gaber Damjanovska, on the other hand, criticized the changes made to the law, saying it placed new limits on the women’s right to choose. “This law discriminates against pregnant women,” she said. “They should not need to seek permission from committees on such a very intimate and sensitive question.” Her vote was not enough, how-ever. The majority of the judges in the court voted for the law to stay as it is, guided by article 42 of the constitution, which says the state has a duty to protect motherhood and children. NGOs opposing the law include the Association for Health Education, HERA, the think tank REACTOR – Research in Action, and the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.

On Thursday, at a joined press conference the NGOs said that they will not stop fighting against this law. Igor Jadrovski from HERA said they "will use every international mechanism in order to protect the women who want to terminate their pregnancy”. “The secondary commission formed by the Minister for health is the one that decides who can terminate the pregnancy. After the initial counseling, the women are asked not to kill their unborn children, they are judged and aggressively told to keep the baby. "All these procedures delay the abortion, and afterwards they do not have time to terminate the pregnancy”, says Jadrovski. In 2009, the government of Nikola Gruevski launched a media campaign against abortion, which was backed by the influential Macedonian Orthodox Church.
© Balkan Insight


Latvian Archbishop: not anti-gay, but gays are destroying human identity

A Latvian Archbishop has claimed that homosexuality is destroying human identity – but denies being anti-gay.

8/10/2014- Catholic Archbishop Zbigňevs Stankevičs made the comments in an interview with American Christian news website LifeSiteNews. He claimed: “Homosexual relationships are destroying our identity. Not only our Christian identity, but also our human identity, the identity of man and the identity of woman. “We are not against homosexuals, we are for these persons. We are invited to disarm a lie and let in the truth in such ways.” Last year, Latvia was condemned by Amnesty International for lacking protection against homophobic and transphobic crime. The Catholic Church is currently holding a meeting of over 200 Catholic bishops, which is expected to reaffirm the church’s teachings on homosexuality. The ‘extraordinary synod’ follows up on a worldwide consultation earlier last year, which found the Church was out of touch with ordinary Catholics on issues involving sex and sexuality. However, bishops are expected to focus on small-scale reforms pertaining to contraception and divorce, rather than risk changing the Church’s policies on homosexuality.
© Pink News


Greece: Clashes in Parliament as vote of confidence debate begins

8/10/2014- The debate leading up to Friday’s confidence vote got under way in Parliament on Wednesday, with New Democracy and SYRIZA attacking each other straight from the opening exchanges. “The opposition did not engage in constructive criticism over the past two years,” said Health Minister Makis Voridis, who opened the discussion due to Premier Antonis Samaras being at a European Union leaders’ summit. “I remind you of the swearing, the threats, the terrorizing and the nooses when the coalition MPs were trying to keep the country standing.” Voridis also accused SYRIZA of engaging in “hate speech,” which stoked political tension and, according to the minister, played a part in the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn member and the assassination of two members of the neo-Nazi party, Argyris Kapelonis and Giorgos Fountoulis. His comments prompted an immediate response from SYRIZA’s opening speaker, economic spokesman Yiannis Dragasakis.

“Isn’t Mr Samaras the architect of the theory of the two extremes?” he asked. “And who was it that was in contact with the criminal organization [Golden Dawn]?” he added in reference to the revelations earlier this year that the prime minister’s former aide Panayiotis Baltakos had a secret meeting with Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris. Dragasa-kis then accused the government of succumbing to pressure from businessmen to change laws. “Today it just takes a powerful businessman, a major publisher, sometimes even a medium-sized publisher, a shipowner, a friend of the prime minister to call up and have a law abolished or a fine scrapped,” said the SYRIZA lawmaker. State Minister Dimitris Stamatis challenged Dragasakis to provide some examples to back up his allegations. “Of course we will name names but I am not ready to do so now,” said the opposition MP. “I will decide when to do so. Until then, check the amendments that were made by Mr Baltakos and after that we can speak again.”

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos and another five extreme-right lawmakers who are in pretrial custody are to lodge appeals with the Greek judicial system and the European Court of Human Rights after a prosecutor rejected their requests to appear in Parliament ahead of Friday night’s vote of confidence in the government. Apart from Michaloliakos, requests were made by the party’s second-in-command Christos Pappas, spokesman Kasidiaris, the MPs Nikos Michos and Panagiotis Iliopoulos, as well as Stathis Boukouras, who quit the party in March and is now an independent lawmaker. In a statement released via his lawyer, Michaloliakos condemned the decision as “unprecedented” and “a blatant violation of the Constitution.” Of GD’s 16 MPs, nine are in custody pending trial on a series of criminal charges.
© Kathimerini


Greece: jailed neo-nazi MPs will not vote for confidence

Prosecutor rejects their request to attend the proceedings 

8/10/2014- A prosecutor on Wednesday rejected a request by six jailed Golden Dawn MPs to attend ongoing parliamentary proceedings for a vote of confidence, as Kathimerini online reports. The request was made by party chief Nikos Michaloliakos, as well as Christos Papas, Ilias Kasidiaris, Yiannis Lagos, Giorgos Germenis, and Nikos Kouzilos who remain in custody pending trial of belonging to a criminal organization. The 3-day debate is set to conclude on Friday with a vote. The conservative-led coalition government holds a narrow majority of four seats and is expected to win the vote in the 300-seat Parliament.
© ANSAmed.


Austria: Neo-Nazi Waves Knife Outside Vienna Synagogue

Biker shouts anti-Semitic curses while threatening with a knife outside the capital of Austria, birthplace of Hitler.

7/10/2014- The rampant anti-Semitism that has been ratcheting up worldwide spilled out in another incident targeting Jews this week, this time in the Austrian capital of Vienna. A neo-Nazi biker stopped in front of a synagogue where he began to shout out anti-Semitic epithets and curses while waving a knife, reports Kol Yisrael (Israel Radio) on Monday, in an incident shortly after Yom Kippur which occurred on Saturday. Police arrived to arrest the man, according to the report. It should be pointed out that the incident of neo-Nazism occurs in Austria, the birthplace of genocidal Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Austria has been the scene of shocking anti-Semitism, including one incident during Operation Protective Edge in late July when pro-Palestinian protesters physically attacked Israeli soccer players from the Maccabi Haifa team as they were playing a pre-season friendly match. The protesters, who were holding up Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) flags and were reportedly of Turkish origin, stormed the field as the game against the French soccer team Lille was going on. They proceeded to spit at, curse and kick the Israeli players. Some of the players retaliated, as a brawl erupted on the field - fortunately no one was injured in the clash. Anti-Semitism has been skyrocketing internationally in recent months, as evidenced in a recent survey that found incidents of anti-Semitism rose 383% worldwide in July compared to the previous year. In Europe, where Austria is located, that rise was even higher at 436%, with many arguing the climate of anti-Semitism has reached epidemic proportions.
© Arutz Sheva


Roma ‘slums’ face demolition in Orban’s Hungary

Municipality says Miskolc, home to 168,000 people, should be made more ‘liveable’

10/10/2014- With bulldozers at their doorstep, beginning to tear down their homes, it is hard to imagine life could get worse for the Roma of Miskolc, Hungary’s impoverished third-largest city. But with the far-right Jobbik party possibly about to win the Miskolc mayorship in local elections on Sunday, it could. In May, the city council — which, like Hungary’s parliament, is run by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing Fidesz — voted to demolish 13 areas inhabited predominantly by Miskolc’s 20,000-strong Roma, or Gypsy, community. The wrecking machinery arrived in August. So far only around a dozen homes have been razed — but this is just the start. “We have nowhere to go, we will be left homeless,” Eva Molnar, a 50-year-old Roma whose respiratory problems mean she can’t work, told AFP as she clutched an eviction letter giving her until October 20 to vacate her home.

The area where she lives, squeezed between a derelict communist-era metalworks and a football stadium slated for an upgrade, is quiet, since many of her neighbours have already left. “They’ll not be happy until we’re all gone,” Molnar said. The municipality says Miskolc, home to 168,000 people, should be made more “liveable” and rid itself of slums that are “unsuitable for normal life”. One Fidesz official called the Roma areas “hotbeds of crime”. Many local residents support the move. “About time,” one shopper at a bus stop told AFP. “Slums have no place in Miskolc.” The mayor claims that 35,000 signatures have been collected in support of the demolitions. “The Roma have to leave Miskolc as around 70-80 percent of Hungarian society simply doesn’t not want to see them or have anything to do with them,” Mihaly Simon of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union rights group told AFP.

Four years after Orban was elected, and despite his promises to improve their misery, the European Union member state’s Roma trail in practically every indicator from living standards to health, as they do throughout eastern and central Europe. Under Orban, 51, who has been accused at home and abroad of eroding democracy, many Roma — who comprise eight to nine percent of Hungary’s 10 million population — have been forced into “workfare” schemes, doing menial work in order to continue receiving welfare payments. But not all of the properties in Miskolc are tumbledown shacks or Hungarian versions of the favelas of Brazil. Many are one-storey houses — lots of them crumbling, but some of them well-maintained. And where Miskolc’s Roma are supposed to go is unclear. Several nearby villages have warned they have no money to provide work or benefits to any newcomers, and are collecting petitions opposing the “export” of the poor.

“It’s barbaric, there were no impact studies for this, nobody spoke to the Gypsies,” Gabor Varadi, head of a local Roma political grouping, told AFP. “The council is spending billions of forints [millions of euros (dollars)]... on the new football stadium instead of social housing for poor people,” he said. A few of those being evicted in Miskolc — those with indefinite-term leases — are being offered money or flats elsewhere, but Jobbik’s candidate in Sunday’s election, Peter Jakab, says he will scrap even this if elected. Jobbik, which won 21 per cent of the vote in general elections in April, sparking alarm throughout Europe, says it will flatten the houses immediately and force the Roma to cover the demolition costs. “They knew when they signed the lease that it would expire one day, that the owner might kick them out,” Jakab told AFP.

Jobbik, which has sought to soften its image in recent years, still says it wants to stop “Gypsy crime”, create ghettos for Roma “deviants” and create a rural “gendarmerie” of the sort last seen in Hungary before Second World War. The local elections are expected to see Orban’s party remain firmly in control. But nationwide, Jobbik is forecast to more than double its control of municipalities, from 12 currently to around 30.


Hungary's far-right faces hard slog despite prospect of winning town halls

10/10/2014- Hungary's far-right Jobbik party is on track to take over dozens of city halls in a municipal election on Sunday, handing it new powers that, critics say, it will use to persecute ethnic minorities. Already the second biggest force in parliament, Jobbik is one of Europe's most influential far-right parties. Its rise has drawn international concern, notably when one of its lawmakers suggested that lists of Jews should be drawn up -- a comment for which he later apologized, saying he had been misunderstood. But the experience in one town where Jobbik is already in power is that even the most hardline agenda ends up running aground in the swamp of budget shortfalls, petty squabbles and failed schemes that make up local politics in Hungary.

Erik Fulop, the 32-year-old Jobbik activist who since 2010 has been mayor of Tiszavasvari, came to power on a promise to tackle "Gypsy crime" -- a rallying call for Jobbik supporters who resent Hungary's large and mainly poor Roma minority. But two years after he took office, the local militia he created to implement that promise -- made up of 10 men, two cars and an electric scooter -- had to abandon its patrols because he ran out of money to fund it. For the town's Roma, many of whom live in a slum of mud huts where half-naked children play in a trash-strewn ditch, the budget shortfall meant at least they did not have to add harassment by a far-right militia to their list of problems. "There's been no trouble so far, thank God... there's been nothing," Andras Rezmuves, a 40-year-old Roma man, said in the slum, known to locals as Narrow Street.

A think tank, Political Capital, forecasts that in Sunday's election Jobbik has a good chance of winning in 41 municipalities -- out of 3,200 in Hungary -- where it came a close second in this year's parliamentary election. Those places include Miskolc, Hungary's second-biggest city. Yet to date, Jobbik has been a party of opposition, with eye-catching and divisive policies, tough rhetoric, and little to show how it would behave if it won real power. It has insisted that Roma would not be persecuted on its watch, pledging in its election program a "color-blind" crackdown on crime and a nuanced approach toward minority issues.

Red Mud
Tiszavasvari, a town of 13,000 and by far the largest Jobbik-controlled municipality, is the nearest thing the party has to a track record. In the four years since Fulop took office, there has been little lasting improvement in the lives of the town's Roma. One initiative to help turned into a farce. Zsolt Raduly, a deputy principal at a local school, said the town authorities filled potholes in the slum neighborhoods with red brick dust from a nearby factory. "The first winter washed out all of it," said Raduly, who ran unsuccessfully against the Jobbik mayor. "The Roma called it the red mud disaster. Their shoes were all red, so were cars that passed through there. It was a slum stigma." Asked by Reuters about the Roma community, Fulop said he had an action plan to improve conditions for people living in the slums. "But we also demand that they conform to the minimal rules of coexistence," he said. "Improving the living standards for Gypsies is primarily a state function... Municipalities, mayors are just cogs in a machine - but of course we try to do the best we can."

Twin Towns
The mayor's record has been mixed on another part of his manifesto: bringing jobs and investment to Tiszavasvari, about 200 km (125 miles) east of Budapest. A list of European-funded projects on the town's web site shows Jobbik secured 170 million forints ($700,000) for education, 160 million forints for drains and about 100 million forints to fix up the municipal building. The mayor had pledged to invigorate the local economy through international business ties to countries like Iran, China and Turkey. All that has materialized so far on that front are a handful of symbolic twinning agreements with foreign towns, and a half-finished upgrade at a factory owned by a local businessmen that won new business from Iran and added a few dozen extra jobs.

Another mundane detail of local politics -- infighting -- grew so bad the Jobbik-led administration dissolved itself in 2012, though it won the subsequent election and so held on to power. Despite the missteps, the mayor is still popular. A straw poll Reuters conducted among residents suggests Fulop has a good chance of winning a new term in Sunday's vote. The Socialist opposition is so weak it has not fielded candidates in the town, and Jobbik strikes a chord with voters as the only party proposing to solve the "Roma issue", even if experience shows it is not that simple. "Erik may have a hard time bringing jobs to everyone but if he doesn't get support from the powers that be, he really cannot be blamed," Julianna Kiss, a 54 year-old hairdresser, said of the mayor. "I'll stick with Jobbik."
© Reuters


Hungary: Far right holds secret congress

The atmosphere beneath the arches of Budapest South railway station was reminiscent of a 1980s, communist-era protest meeting rather than a far-right European get-together banned by the Hungarian government as a "racist conference".

6/10/2014- Older men with wispy beards, young men in black shirts sporting crew cuts, secret policemen in the shadows, uniformed policemen, and a small huddle of journalists, all wondering what was going to happen next. In true dissident style, small groups peeled away one by one to the secret meeting place nearby. But the world has changed. This was meant to be the European Congress of the National Policy Institute (NPI), based in the US state of Montana, a nationalist think-tank which billed the Budapest event as a "forum in which groups and individuals throughout Europe… can come together to compare notes, discuss ideas, and perhaps prepare the ground for collective action". Despite his nationalist reputation, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban ordered Saturday evening's event to be banned as "an attempt to breathe new life into Nazi and… fascist ideology".

Even Hungarian far-right party Jobbik which won over 20% in April's general election stayed away. Jobbik's rhetoric has softened this year, as it tries to court both conservative and former Socialist voters. Local elections take place next weekend. In a traditional Hungarian restaurant just around the corner, about 70 participants from a dozen countries gathered around long tables laden with meat and wine. The atmosphere was tense. NPI President Richard Spencer was taken away by police the previous evening from a Budapest bar. He had initially evaded a ban on the eight planned speakers entering the country by arriving by train from Vienna. Earlier in the week his colleague, William Regnery, was arrested on arrival at Budapest airport from London. After a night in detention, he was expelled the following morning.

Standing ovation
Jared Taylor, head of American Renaissance, a webzine which champions "racial difference", gave the main after-dinner speech. He congratulated those present for the commit-ment they had shown for reaching the meeting "despite the threats that we have received, despite the oppression". He called for "a world brotherhood of Europeans", of white people around the world, who regard Europe as their motherland, who should defend themselves from the "dilution" which immigration was causing in the European race. "And the greatest threat to Europe is this poisonous ideology of diversity that my country wants to force upon you," he added. "Men of Europe, my brothers, stand together and we will prevail," he concluded, his voice cracking with emotion. He was rewarded with a standing ovation.

The participants came from many countries of Europe, as well as the United States. Many were supporters of the "identitarian" movement, popular among radical right-wing circles in Europe. "Identitarian means to stand up for your own identity, against globalisation, against liberalism, and against multiculturalism," said Jens Derycke of the Flemish NSV student movement in Belgium. "I don't think we have anything in common with National Socialism. That was a modernist ideology of the 1930s based on racial supremacy, whereas we don't consider ourselves superior to other races. We just want to defend our own culture." Sitting at the same table, Robert from the Netherlands, a campaigner for an independent Flemish state, also dismissed the neo-Nazi label: "Today there are new, different dangers in Europe."

There were several dividing lines between participants. Much of the debate focused on Russia, and the figure of President Vladimir Putin. There is admiration in nationalist circles in Eastern and Western Europe for Mr Putin as a Russian nationalist and strongman, who has made his people proud to be Russian again. The lead speaker at the Budapest congress was due to be Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist thinker who has championed the annexation of Crimea and Russian intervention in Ukraine. He stayed away after allegedly being warned through police channels that he would not be allowed to enter Hungary. Originally billed as a speaker, Jobbik MP Marton Gyongyosi told the BBC he had pulled out because of other commitments, and because he disagreed with the views of the US hosts.

America was another point of contention. While Jared Taylor lambasted his own country as "a monstrous mix", allowing its whites to be outnumbered by Hispanic and black people, another speaker, Tomislav Sunic from Croatia, praised the United States for bringing the bloodshed in Bosnia to an end in 1995. All participants opposed widespread immigration, but some insisted on white supremacy, which others rejected. Apart from the waitresses rushing between the tables, I counted only four women present at a very male gathering. Beneath a display of traditional painted plates from rural Hungary, a young man with a guitar sang from a booklet of nationalist songs from across Europe, printed in Gothic script.
© BBC News


Portugal: First gay Catholic congress to press pope for change

Gay and lesbian Catholic groups are holding an international congress in Portugal this week as they seek to make their voices heard by the Vatican.

5/10/2014- Opening on Monday in the southern resort of Portimao, the three-day event aims to formally federate some 30 associations representing homosexual Catholics from around the world. Together they intend to press for an "urgent change of attitude from Catholic authorities" towards gay parishioners, said Jose Leote whose group Rumos Novos (New Directions) is organising the event. Their congress coincides with an extraordinary synod which began at the Vatican on Sunday to review the Church's attitude to marriage, cohabitation and divorce. Fifteen to 20 delegates will meet in person in Portugal, with the same number joining in by videoconference, to draw up a statement to send to Pope Francis and the nearly 200 bishops meeting for two weeks in Rome. "Jesus began with 12, and look at what that has become," said Francis DeBernardo, head of the US-based "News Ways Ministry" which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics.

DeBernardo intends to act as a bridge between the congress and the synod that opened Sunday in Rome, where he will also be holding a seminar on the place of gays in the Church. The US group wrote to the pope a few months ago, thanking him for his openness to discussing LGBT issues and urging him to go further. "I think this will be a major question of the synod," said DeBernardo. "The topic of homosexuality is so widespread in so many societies and it affects so many people, not only those who are LGBT, but their families, friends, co-workers." The Catholic synod could potentially lead to change in attitudes to marriage, cohabitation and divorce. While the Roman Catholic Church is certainly not about to embrace gay marriage, it could send out a signal of compassion by making it clear priests should be ready to baptise the children of same-sex couples.
© Expatica - Portugal


Russia Risks Spread of Extremist Islam, Prosecutor General's Office Warns

8/10/2014- With thousands of Russian Muslims pursuing religious education abroad, the country faces a proliferation of extremist Islamic ideology and increased ethnic tensions, the Prosecutor General's Office has warned. "If in the 1990s, this [the import of nontraditional forms of Islam] was carried out by foreign preachers, now more and more frequently it is done by our own youth who have gone overseas to receive a religious education," Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin warned in comments carried by the Interfax news agency. Grin referenced data made available by the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service. "Foreign Islamic educational institutions not only offer significant funds from charity donations, but also receive direct government support," Grin said, noting that Russia's own educational institutions must become more competitive in this sphere.

These religious study-abroad programs likewise contribute to ethnic tensions at home by importing social norms and behavior that are considered abnormal in Russia, Grin said. "Migrants' negligent attitudes toward local practices and traditions is frequently aggravating for the native [Russian] community, provoking a growth in ethnic friction," Grin was cited as saying. Many young people from Russia's predominantly Muslim republics Chechnya and Dagestan have studied Islam abroad, in the United Arab Emirates, Syria and Egypt. Likewise, Islamic clerics from these countries have visited Russia to offer workshops and lectures. Although Grin did not elaborate on what specific educational themes were thought to be worrisome, Dagestan has seen numerous radical Salafi preachers emerge in recent years advocating the implementation of sharia law.

Their growing popularity is believed to be a factor in fueling the militant insurgency in the region, a phenomenon that has made shootouts between police and extremists a regular occurrence. The expansion of the Salafi movement has also pitted hardline militants against the more moderate Sufi Muslims in the region, who have increasingly become targets in guerilla-style attacks by insurgents.
© The Moscow Times


FIFA VP: 'Huge challenges' with racism in Russia

8/10/2014- FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb warned Wednesday that eradicating racism from Russian football ahead of the 2018 World Cup will be a major challenge. The latest episode of fans' racism has led to CSKA Moscow being ordered to play its next three UEFA competition matches in an empty stadium, following several incidents in domestic games where players have been abused. "There are huge challenges with Russia," Webb, who heads FIFA's anti-racism task force, said Wednesday. "It must start with education and really it must come from the top down that diversity is good, that integration is good and there's nothing to fear." Webb also dismissed calls to get the Women's World Cup in Canada to be played on grass instead of artificial turf, following legal action from players. "Artificial pitches are the future," said Webb, who heads the CONCACAF confederation that covers Canada. "They have been well regarded. If you have the best artificial pitches in the world I think that's much better than having bad grass." Webb was speaking at the Leaders' Sport Business Summit in London.
© The Associated Press


Why Bulgaria and Uefa must act over ‘yes to racism’ banner

Last week Levski Sofia fans mocked the governing body with a banner saying ‘Say yes to racism’ but if the club, the Bulgarian FA and Uefa do not react then the problem will only get worse.

7/10/2014- Ten days after supporters of Serbian Partizan Belgrade displayed a banner “Only Jews and Pussies” in the Europa League game with Tottenham, another disgraceful incident occurred 400km further to the east. In the Bulgarian capital Sofia supporters of Levski held up a banner saying “Say yes to racism” during their team’s dramatic 3-2 win against Ludogorets, rivals of Liverpool in the Champions League group stage. Not only did they mock one of Uefa’s most famous anti-racism campaigns, but to make things worse they changed the logo of European football’s governing body. The map of the European continent was replaced by a pistol with the words “Uefa Mafia” around it.

The disciplinary body of the Bulgarian Football Union opened an investigation but a spokesman at Uefa told the Guardian on Friday that it was unaware of the incident. Possible sanctions from the Bulgarian federation vary from a fine of €19,000 to a couple of games behind closed doors. Levski’s next home game is on 25 October against rivals CSKA, which means that for the first time in its 66-year history Bulgaria’s best known football game could take place without any spectators there to witness it. Officials from Levski have so far not commented publicly on the incident and that not only fails to solve the problem but actually becomes part of it. And as time goes on it will only exacerbate the matter. The only official statement came from Levski Sofia National Fanclub whose members explained the incident as “idiotic behaviour from a few masked boys who don’t want to become part of our organisation”. Given the fact that some of the supporters are stewards during the home games and help police with the security issues their reaction towards the incident against Ludogorets could have been stronger.

This is not the first time Bulgarian football has been involved in such shameful scandals. Back in 2012 Levski played Bosnian FK Sarajevo in Sofia ,in the first leg of their Europa League second-round match, and supporters of The Blues displayed a banner “Ratko Mladic and Arkan have fucked you. Now it is our turn”. Uefa fined the Bulgarian club €30,000 and the incident almost led to a diplomatic scandal between the two countries. Playing with history is often like playing with fire – it is dangerous and somebody will almost certainly get hurt. And mixing the massacre of Srebrenica, one of the greatest tragedies in recent history, which was led by general Ratko Mladic in which 8,000 Bosnians lost their lives, with football is not merely a display of bad taste. It is sick and pathetic and the only appropriate punishment for such inappropriate behaviour is a lifetime ban from attending football games.

A few weeks back, Ludogorets were told by Uefa to close a section of their stadium as a punishment for racist behaviour during their game against Steaua Bucharest. “A group of Ludogorets fans chanted anti-Roma slogans targeting Steaua supporters,” fans’ discrimination monitoring group Fare said. Unfortunately, those kind of tough sanctions are yet to become a part of Bulgarian football. Part of the problem lies in the poor football infrastructure in the country. Although cameras are required by the regulations of the Bulgarian federation, some of the stadiums are still without them – making it impossible to identify the fans upon whom the sanctions should be imposed. Even the national stadium, Vasil Levski, one of Bulgaria’s most modern football venues, has not been free of this type of incident. This is where Bulgaria played Denmark in a World Cup qualifier in October 2012 and made headlines for the wrong reasons after the Danish defender Patrick Mtiliga was subject to racist abuse from Bulgarian fans during the game.

Every time the left-back touched the ball there were monkey chants from the stands. A month later Fifa ordered Bulgaria to play its next home game behind closed doors and that was the first time football’s world governing body made such a decision based on racist remarks. If it is true that a football match could reflect the problems in one society, then there is a long road in front of Bulgaria as a nation. A source at the Bulgarian FA said that the governing body held a meeting with representatives of the United orgnisation of football fanclubs in Bulgaria recently. The FA gave them handbooks from Fare in an attempt to educate fans and to avoid these incidents happening in the future.

The problem of racism is, however, not restricted to football. Two weeks before the unsavoury incident during the LevskivLudogorets game residents of a village near Sofia refused to let their sons and daughters go to school because 10 children of refugee families from Afghanistan and Somalia were due to attend the school. In the end the refugees were relocated to Sofia to start their education there. It is fair to conclude that the message these Bulgarian children received from the incident was … say yes to racism. It simply is not good enough and there is much still to be done to stamp out these sinister events in society and on the terraces of Bulgarian football.
© Talking Sport - Guardian Blog


I Went on a Spa Date with One of Europe's Right-Wing Extremists (interview)

Driven by an agenda that's anti-corruption, anti-Zionist, anti-homosexuality, anti–European Union, and anti-Roma, Hungary's far-right Jobbik party won 20 percent of the vote in the country's April general elections. This coming weekend, Hungary is holding a municipal election and it looks as though Jobbik's popularity is likely to grow
By Pierre Sautreuil 

7/10/2014- Twenty-six-year-old Ferenc Almassy—his name has been changed at his request—has been living in Hungary for the past four years working as a liaison of sorts between Jobbik and French nationalists, who have similarly gained power in recent elections as part of what seems like a general rightward drift in Europe. Budapest has more than 100 thermal spas in its area, so I thought it'd be fitting to meet Ferenc in one and try to understand how he had come to work for such an extremist group.

VICE: Why did you leave France for Hungary?
Ferenc Almassy: Paris was driving me insane. In Hungary I found a healthier environment and, above all, a country that doesn't ask for qualifications to give me a chance at a job. Before I moved to Hungary, I used to visit a month every year. When I was 22, I fell in love with a girl here, and she persuaded me to move.

Have you always been interested in politics?
I've never been affiliated with any French movement. Like any angry teenager, I was an anarchist for a while. Working on construction sites, I came face to face with corruption, to such an extent I never thought possible. It nourished in me a disgust for globalized capitalism. I spent a lot of time on the internet, and I've had my Islamophobic, xenophobic, and racist phases. Eventually, I took interest in racialism, the scientific study of human races. I think that's what got me to stop being a racist.

Why did you choose to affiliate yourself with Jobbik?
It's a unique movement in Europe. It opposes the liberal world, economically as well as politically and morally. There's nothing like that in France. As far as I know, no party in Europe has such an intelligent, ideologically strong, and—most importantly—realist position. In France, this kind of movement would only gather 20 or so suckers. Here, Jobbik is the second most powerful political force, while still speaking a discourse that would have Marine Le Pen [the head of France's far-right National Front party] crying in fear.

Can you describe what your role as a consultant to Jobbik entails?
I started last year as an interpreter, when a French guy came to visit Marton Gyöngyösi, Jobbik's number two. Gyöngyösi manages international affairs, and I gained his confidence, and he told me it would be interesting if a half-French, half-Hungarian guy “kept an eye” on what happened in France. I do press reviews in French when there is press on Jobbik, and I explain to them certain French social phenomena that are hard to understand from a Hungarian point of view.

And you're also looking for Francophone Hungarian nationalists to rally to your cause.
It's at the heart of my action. I'm using social networks, and I meet up with people each time I'm in France. Without trying to form official bonds, I'm closely following the French nationalist milieu, and I scout the talent. It's a small world; everyone knows each other. Besides, if a guy wants to spend a few days in Budapest, I host him, I tour the city with him, and I introduce him to the people he needs to know in Jobbik. I cannot give you names, but in total, I've hosted a good 50 or so people from the great French nationalist family.

With which French movements would Jobbik like to cooperate?
The problem with France is that the parties we're interested in don't want to associate with us. On the other hand, those who want to associate with us aren't serious enough partners. The National Front doesn't want anything to do with us since Marine Le Pen took charge. There are other groups, like the Bloc Identitaire, but we don't want to associate with them.

Why doesn't the National Front get along with Jobbik?
In Hungary, you can say things that in France you cannot. Here, we can proclaim ourselves openly anti-Zionist, against immigration, say that democracy is full of shit and that Hungary is a Christian country. The National Front is secular, they can't say they're anti-Zionists, and they're for regulated immigration. Jobbik is for re-migration, which is the return of immigrants and their descendants to their origin countries. Before Marine Le Pen took charge of the National Front, Jobbik was considered a young movement but appreciated by the party's old guard. Nowadays, [French nationalists] are conducting a type of de-demonization; they have to show they are clean, and that implies keeping Jobbik at a distance. It's understandable, but it's a pity.

How do you see the evolution of the nationalist movement in France?
Since the Dieudonné affair and the death of Clément Méric, there is not a single nationalist in France who doesn't think, It stinks for us here. The social stigma we face is harder and harder to bear, but it leads to us getting tougher. Still, there are many who want to stop the fight. Some have even gotten in touch with me to help them leave France and settle in Hungary.

Can you tell me more about it?
In the past four years, I've been nourishing this kind of crazy idea to create a community of French nationalists in Hungary. Four years ago, I was still told that it wouldn't work, but now people are starting to show interest—people who went through a grieving process over France and don't see any future there for them or their children. This organization's aim would be to help French nationalists move to Hungary. Hungary has really flexible politics toward communities. If it reaches 1,000 members, this community will be recognized as a French minority in Hungary.

What will that community look like?
I imagine villages whose economy is based on crafts, cooperative farming, and energy autonomy. Hungarian population numbers are down, with many villages starting to depopulate to the capital. It would be fantastic for French patriots to settle in those villages. Of course, Hungary is neither a paradise nor an El Dorado, but for these people, it will always be better than France. Eight people, including a young family, are settling in Hungary as part of this project. Some of them have already sold their house in France.
© The Vice


France: Racism Alleged as Police Arrest Guinean Students for Using €500 Bill

8/10/2014- Authorities in northern France are facing accusations racial prejudice over a Kafkaesque case involving two Guinean students arrested for paying with an authentic banknote. The troubles began for the pair, a man and a woman in their 20s, as they handed a €500 bill to a cashier at a E. Leclerc supermarket in Douai district, off the Belgian border, to pay for purchases worth a total of €210 (£165). Suspecting the rare note could be a fake, the cashier alerted her boss, who in turn called police - all without previously checking the bill with one of the store's counterfeit detection devices. "We have some fake note detectors but they are not 100% reliable," a store manager later explained to local newspaper La Voix Du Nord. "There were some major doubts about this bill."

The two Guineans, who had recently arrived in the area to study law at the nearby Artois University, were subsequently arrested and taken to the local police station. There they were detained for more than 20 hours, until a bank eventually confirmed to police the note was indeed authentic. One of the two students told newspaper Nord Eclair she was "revolted" by police treatment. The woman claimed police gave them almost nothing to eat after they refused pork and asked them a series of questions unrelated to the case, including if they had Ebola. Douai procurator Eric Vaillant later apologised for the arrests, which he said came against the backdrop of an increase in fake notes in circulation in the area.

A spokesperson for Leclerc dismissed the incident as human error: "We were suspicious of the bill, not the clients". Anti-racism activists urged authorities to issue a stronger public apology. "They were humiliated," Aggeex Hutin, chairman of non-profit group CEDYFART-Africa International, told France Info. "We also feel insulted, because this assumes that any African who goes to a store with a €500 bill is suspected of using counterfeit money". €500 notes - the highest denomination in the Eurozone - are a rare sight in Europe and are infamously popular among criminals as they make it easier to smuggle a small package of high-value dirty money. In 2010 the bill was withdrawn from circulation in Britain after the Serious Organised Crime Agency found that the vast majority of such bills were handled by criminals.
© The International Business Times - UK


France: Thousands expected in 'family values' demo

Tens of thousands were expected to take to the streets in Paris and Bordeaux on Sunday to demonstrate for what protesters see as "traditional family values".

5/10/2014- The demonstrations are organised by the "Manif pour Tous" ("Protest for Everyone") group that waged an ultimately unsuccessful grassroots movement against the adoption of same-sex marriage in France last year. Their target this time is medically assisted procreation techniques for lesbian couples and surrogacy, which must be "fought at all costs," according to the group's president Ludovine de la Rochère. The group says they are hoping for a "slightly better" turnout than for their last protest in February, which attracted around 100,000 people according to police. Seeking to calm passions ahead of the rally, Prime Minister Manuel Valls stressed that surrogacy "is and will remain banned in France."

Manif pour Tous mounted a vigorous campaign against same-sex marriage -- at one point claiming to have 1.4 million on the streets of Paris -- but President Francois Hollande defied the protests and in April last year, France became the 14th country worldwide to legalise same-sex marriage. An Ifop poll for the Atlantico website on Sunday showed that less than a third (31 percent) of French people were behind the values of the demonstration. And the "All Out" gay rights organisation has called for a counter-demonstration "for equality of all couples and families". They have launched an Internet petition that had attracted more than 200,000 signatures by Sunday morning.
© The Local - France


Asylum-seeker sets fire to himself in France

A Chadian suffered serious burns after setting himself alight on Friday inside a French courthouse when his final chance at obtaining asylum was thrown out, the court said.

4/10/2014- The 38-year-old man, who was carrying a bottle, doused himself with petrol before setting himself on fire and suffered serious burns to his scalp and torso.
Pascale Girault, the secretary general of the National Court of Asylum, said the man's first demand for asylum was rejected by the Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People (OFPRA) a few months ago. "He filed an appeal which was rejected" by the court, Girault said. On Friday the man returned to the asylum court in the eastern Parisian suburb of Montreuil "for information on how his situation could be re-examined." When staff at the front desk explained the decision he "doused himself in fuel and set fire to his clothes," said Girault. Security guards used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames, said a police source.

In theory a request for asylum cannot be examined a second time unless the person furnishes new information, said a spokesman for OFPRA. A police source said the man had arrived in France via Syria. "He was two metres from the front desk, looked at the notice board and doused himself with a large bottle filled with a transpa-rent liquid," said Maya Lino, who witnessed the scene. "His eyes were glazed. He pulled out a lighter, tried a first time, it didn't work and everyone screamed," she added. "He tried again a second time and burst into flames all the way to his head. He began running." Every year some 40,000 asylum seekers appeal to the court after their cases are denied by OFPRA. If the court rejects an appeal, the asylum seeker is usually expelled from France.

"Often the decisions of the court are perceived as dramatic and I understand that because they can end someone's life plans," said Pierre Henry, director of an organisation which supports asylum seekers. "But this was a desperate act, which fortunately is an exception. We should put our feelings aside and not exploit this tragedy to challenge an entire process," he said. Of the 38,540 decisions taken by the court last year, 108 concerned Chadians. It found in favour of only 17 of these applicants.


Czech Republic: Neo-Nazis hack websites of human rights NGOs

8/10/2014- The website of the Czech Helsinki Committee (ČHV) has been targeted for attack by "nationalist" hackers from the White Media group. The hackers publicly announced on their own website that they attacked the human rights organization as part of their annual "Week against Anti-Racism and Xenophilia", which began on 28 September. In addition to the ČHV's website its Facebook profile was attacked, as was the personal Facebook profile of director Lucie Rybová and her personal email account. The Brno branch of Amnesty International in the Czech Republic was hacked as well.

"It's alarming how defenseless you are in such a situation," Rybová told news server While negotiations with Facebook regarding the blocking of the profiles and creating new slogans took place fairly quickly, negotiations with the operator of her email account and the operator of the ČHV website are remarkably problematic, according to Rybová. "The operator of the Czech Helsinki Committee's website, the Forpsi server, says it has never encountered such a situation. We reported the hacking to them and asked them to post a text on the site explaining why the pages are not available, but all that shows up there is the message "inoperative", thanks to which we seem unreliable. It looks like we haven't paid for the domain, and it is also harming us in other areas, including our clients - they can't access our contact information so they can't call the counseling center," Rybová said.

In addition to the organization not being able to fully focus on some of its activities because of its non-functioning website, ČHV also cannot now report online about those activities, which is usually a frequent obligation with respect to projects. Addressing the situation with the stolen email account is even more complicated. The hackers have stolen Rybová's password to her personal email account on Seznam and have changed it. "I have to prove the email is actually mine, using the same online form as when you forget your password. I have done it three or four times and nothing happens. When I call the hotline they refer me back to the online form and are unable to connect me with anyone who can handle my situation or even temporarily block the account," she explained to

While Seznam has taken a passive approach to the situation for several days already, the neo-Nazis have continued to enjoy unfettered access to Rybová's personal email account. ČHV is considering filing a criminal report against the hackers. Even that, however, will not be easy, because while the racist and xenophobic content of the White Media website violates Czech law, its domain is registered with a web hosting company in California and is subject to the laws there. Those laws are much more benevolent when it comes to freedom of speech, including the dissemination of hate, than are laws in the Czech Republic.
© Romea.


Czech Rep: Advocate says Roma want to be part of society

4/10/2014- Prague has hosted yet another Roma Pride parade. Along with Romani people, rather a lot of people from the majority part of society, migrants living in the Czech Republic and tourists enjoyed the event as well. Almost 300 people walked from the Old Town Square across the Charles Bridge to the Church of the Infant of Prague, where they prayed together for good coexistence and reconciliation. Romani people from many towns across the country attended, with the Brno contingent running a Roma Pride stand. The event began with a program on the Old Town Square where the main musical attraction was the Hradec Králové band Terne Èhave and an Indian temple dance. People clapped, danced and sang along to the rhythmic Romani music. The stage, decorated with flowers and signs reading "Hate is No Solution" and "Roma Pride", also was home to the reggae music of Michal Šepse. During the Terne Èhave concert more than 500 people were in attendance, but only around 300 participated in the march.

Ivanka Mariposa Èonková of the convening organization Konexe greeted the participants, as did Božena Fílová, the coordinator of Romani advisors in Prague, Margita Rácová from Brno, and Jožka Miker from Krupka. "We are here together, blacks, whites, and that's how it should be," the speeches between the musical performances emphasized. Romani representatives thanked those present for showing through their attendance they will not tolerate for any form of racism. "Until the pig farm erected on the site of the Romani Holocaust is removed there will be no tolerance in this country. First get rid of that pig farm and then you can talk about 'inadaptables'," Miker said in his remarks. The event focuses on Romani people sharing a feeling of pride in their identity and on being open to people from the majority society. It celebrates Romani culture and identity and does its best to draw the public's attention to topics such as the existence of the industrial pig farm on the site of the former concentration camp for Roma at Lety by Písek.

Roma Pride marches are taking place this weekend in 15 European countries. In Prague the parade was led by a horse-drawn wagon carrying musicians from Terne Èhave and singer Veronika Kaèová who sang Romani folk songs the whole time. Romani youth marching in the parade shouted slogans like "Black, White, Together We Fight" and "Stop Racism". Romani marchers also called out "Gadje, come with us!" to bystanders, some of whom actually did join the march, clapping and dancing to the Romani rhythms. People were carrying Romani flags and banners reading "Black, White, Together We Fight", "Strength in Unity", "Roma Pride", "Stop Ghettos", and "We Want Schools for All". According to Ivanka Mariposa Èonková, the main motto of Roma Pride is "Towns without Racism and Schools for All Children". She also said Romani people want to be part of Czech society. "All of Europe can see that antigypsyism in the Czech Republic is a problem. There is a need to stop segregating people," she said.

The activist believes it is necessary to work on getting the majority society to open up to Romani people. "We are proud Romani people who have our place in the Czech Repu-blic," she said. Saturday's program ended with with a workshop on traditional Romani dance and song and a discussion with Paul Polansky and his guests regarding the genocide at Lety. What was originally a disciplinary labor camp at Lety was transformed by the Nazi Protectorate administration into a "gypsy camp" in 1942, through which 1 308 Romani people had passed by May of the following year, 327 of whom perished there and more than 500 of whom were transported to Auschwitz, where most of them were murdered. Survivors of the camp and their relatives are insisting the pig farm be removed, and its existence has reportedly been criticized by the UN and other intergovernmental institutions. The Czech Government, however, claims to have no money to purchase and remove the agricultural campus.

This evening, at the Podnik club in the Bubenská quarter of Prague, traditional Romani music will be performed, the Romani dance ensembles Cikne Èhave and Gypsy Kubo will perform, and the young political hip hop and dance group De La Negra from Krupka will perform. At 22:30 a program called Romano Jam - Musicians of the World, Unite! will begin, culminating at midnight with an item called "Anyone Can DJ".
© Romea.


Danish parties seek deal to block Eurosceptic party from policy

10/10/2014- Denmark's mainstream parties, ruling and in opposition, are rushing to conclude an agreement governing their policies towards the European Union before an election next year in which a far-right Eurosceptic party is expected to make strong gains. The Danish People's Party, which like others around Europe won strong support in May's elections to the European Parliament, said this week Denmark should hold a referendum on its EU membership if Britain went ahead with its own vote. British Prime Minister David Came-ron has promised his voters an in-out referendum on continued EU membership in 2017 if his ruling Conservative Party wins next year's UK election. In response to the Danish People's Party pledge, larger Danish parties have said they want to forge a formal written agreement on EU-related issues.

Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard from the Danish Social Liberal Party, a junior partner in the Social Democrat-led coalition government, said the Danish People's Party should be excluded from all decision-making on EU issues. "The government is very interested in a new EU political agreement as soon as possible to create stability in Denmark's EU politics, preferably a long-term agreement covering both this election period and the next," Lidegaard told Reuters. Earlier this week Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt called for a referendum on whether Denmark should adopt EU justice rules, from which Denmark - like Britain - has a legal "opt-out". Along with Britain, Denmark is also the only member of the 28-nation EU with a legal opt-out from having to adopt the euro currency. Danes voted resoundingly against joining the euro in a 2000 referendum and remain opposed today.

Liberal Party Silent
Lars Barfoed, spokesman on EU issues for the opposition Conservatives, said his party was also interested in joining the planned agreement. "Such an agreement should of course include a referendum to remove Danish reservations about defense and police cooperation (with the EU). The question of the euro has to wait," he said. However, the Danish People's Party may yet gain an influential voice at the table. Opinion polls show the main opposition centre-right Liberal Party with the highest support ahead of the 2015 election, ahead of the governing Social Democrats, but with only 24 percent. The Danish People's Party is now the third most popular party on 20 percent and the Liberals may yet need their support to form a new coalition government. The Liberals have declined to comment on whether they would join the EU policy agreement.

Mainstream political parties in Denmark, which joined the EU with Britain and Ireland in 1973, have had a decades-old tradition of striking cooperation agreements on EU policies. But Danish People's Party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl told Reuters the party would no longer toe the line. "It is obvious that if David Cameron succeeds with a referendum on leaving or changing EU membership in 2017, Denmark should also have a similar referendum," Thulesen Dahl said. Denmark's growing scepticism about the EU was on display in the European Parliament elections, when the Danish People's Party received the largest share of the vote with 26.6 percent, doubling their number of seats in the assembly to four. "We just can't ignore the fact that so many people gave us their vote because of our EU scepticism," Thulesen Dahl said.
© Reuters


Is art the ultimate refuge of racism in Denmark? (opinion)

The controversial decision to sell and display Dan Park's art in Denmark is emblematic of Europe's history of dehumanising black people, the head of the European Network Against Racism argues.
By Sarah Isal, chairwoman of the European Network Against Racism

9/10/2014- This week sees the start of the latest in a series of trials against Swedish self-declared artist Dan Park, convicted in August of defamation and incitement to racial hatred. The controversial art pieces – banned by several galleries in Sweden following the indictment – are now on sale online in Denmark, where the Danish Free Press Society will also display the pictures at an art gallery in Copenhagen later this month. The society seems to pursue what looks increasingly like a tradition of swapping a responsible use of freedom of expression with some sort of ‘entitlement racism’, therefore claiming a ‘right’ to insult and bully ethnic minorities. Dan Park notably created and distributed posters with a picture of the human rights defender Jallow Momodou, Chair of the Pan African Movement for Justice (Afrosvenskarnas forum för rättvisa) and Vice-Chair of the European Network Against Racism, superimposed on the image of a naked slave in chains. Park's posters were distributed around Malmö and also included Momodou's name and contact details. Other pieces by the ‘artist’ include a picture of three black men hanged on a bridge, one of whom is Jallow Momodou and the other is a victim of racially motivated violence, with the caption ‘hang on Afrophobians’.

This questions the extent to which art can be used freely to offend minority groups, in this case the millions of people of African descent living in Europe, and in the most extreme cases, incite to racial hatred. Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy, in particular for artists and journalists. Extensive and vibrant case-law by the European Court of Human Rights shows that the balance between freedom of expression and other individual or collective rights is a matter of careful analysis. However, it is clear that when art or freedom of expression crosses the line into incitement to, or the promotion, of hatred, we need to set certain limits. The glorification of violence by the Swedish artist against identifiable individuals is clearly incompatible with fundamental rights. Hate speech can be perceived as an authorisation to take action and often does lead to violence. This case reveals a worrying underlying problem: the denigrating and dehumanising portrayal of black people. These representations are not isolated incidents and are the result of a long European history of negation of Africans’ and black people’s humanity, rooted in the legacy of slavery and colonialism.

Some 150 years after the abolition of the slave trade, black people continue to be perceived and constructed as second class citizens in European societies. The fact that our parents or grandparents might have visited human zoos, in which Africans were exhibited in cages, is but one indication of the bedrock of racism that underlies the mentality prevalent in European societies. Human zoos are still a reality today, albeit in a slightly more subtle format: an installation that replicates the ‘human zoo’ has been touring different European cities this year. Such representations of black people reinforce deeply ingrained negative stereotypes and perpetuate power structures within European societies, leading to high levels of discrimination. They also send the message that racist prejudices are socially and legally acceptable. It is therefore essential that everyone acts responsibly to redress these twisted representations, in particular through intelligent and sensitive art. In addition, European states must show political will to combat the specific form of racism that is Afrophobia. They must recognise the severe and ongoing impact of Europe’s history of hostility and violence towards blacks, and develop effective strategies to counter the structural and everyday racism that prevents the inclusion of many blacks in European society.
Sarah Isal is the chairwoman of the European Network Against Racism, a Brussels-based group that connects local and national anti-racist NGOs throughout Europe
© The Local - Denmark


Danes cautioned about visiting Muslim countries

In a rare move, the Foreign Ministry has changed its travel recommendations to 28 countries with large Muslim populations.

4/10/2014- The Foreign Ministry has changed its travel recommendations to 28 Muslim countries in light of Denmark’s military campaign against Isis in northern Iraq. While the Foreign Ministry's citizen services department (Borgerservice) is not explicitly telling Danes to avoid travelling to the countries, it warns Danish travellers to use caution in the Muslim countries. Among the advice is to be aware of risky situations, and to avoid being either the only foreigner in a particular area or spending a lot of time in areas that have a high concentration of Westerners, such as airports. Borgerservice spokesman Ole Egberg Mikkelsen told Politiken that the sharpened travel guidelines are due both to Denmark’s participation in the coalition fighting Isis and the general security risks in the affected countries.

“This affects Muslim countries or countries with large Muslim populations. We are doing this because we have seen beheadings in some of the countries and we want to make people aware that that if they choose to travel there, there could be a specific terror risk and a focus on Danes,” Mikkelsen said. Mikkelsen said that although it is rare that Borgerservice changes its travel guidelines for so many countries at once, it has happened before. The affected countries are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Palestine, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
© The Local - Denmark


Germany: 'I was at anti-Semitism rally. Now what?'

Berlin writer Donna Swarthout has been left frustrated by the lack of openness of Jewish groups in Berlin. September's landmark anti-Semitism rally in Berlin should have focused more on the positives of Jewish life in Germany, she argues.

10/10/2014- “It’s a fortress mentality,” said my friend as we sat outdoors over a glass of wine on a mild September evening after attending a back-to-school night at the John F. Kennedy School of Berlin. “Jewish organizations in Germany are closed, restrictive organizations that don’t seek volunteers and don’t have the transparency of Jewish groups in the States.” Punkt. “But I want to do something to address the rise in anti-Semitism and promote cross-cultural unity,” I said. Silence. A sympathetic nod. Time to move on, I thought. Less than a week earlier I had attended a rally against anti-Semitism organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany. About 6,000 people, a rather disappointing turnout, gathered around the slogan “Steh Auf – Nie Wieder Judenhass” (Stand up – Never again hatred of Jews). I had simmered with disgruntlement over this slogan in the days leading up to the rally. Why couldn’t they have chosen something more positive and inspirational? I’ve lived in Berlin for more than three years and never felt hated.

Yes, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, but let’s rally for a more just society for Jews, Muslims, and other minorities. Our freedom is intertwined with every legiti-mate group that encounters hatred. The rallying cry “Nie wieder Judenhass” was the cry of a persecuted minority, one whose dark history is never far from mind. But the last seven decades have brought significant changes to Germany, not the least of which is a thriving Jewish population. How can our response to present acts of hatred and intolerance be informed by the past and yet account for the different circumstances of today? Anti-Semitism remains a stubborn stain on German society, but consider “the Pew Foundation 2014 Global Attitudes survey which suggests that in Europe unfavourable attitudes towards Roma and Muslims are more prevalent than those toward Jews.” In the months prior to the rally and during a summer of street demonstrations in Berlin over the Gaza conflict, I had been looking for a way to get involved in interfaith or cross-cultural awareness programs.

I searched the web and sent numerous emails, but I found little to no information about social action and volunteer opportunities in Berlin’s Jewish community. My hopes were raised when I met with a prominent Jewish leader who welcomed my offer of help but has since not answered any of my messages. I’m used to being bombarded with online invitations to join campaigns, contribute resources, and help make a difference. This is not the case with regard to the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Jewish community of Berlin. Perhaps I’ve missed something, but I cannot determine how the Jewish leadership in Germany would like me to help build a society that is free of hatred and intolerance towards Jews. Standing up to rally against hatred should be just the starting point.

Germany has become one of the world’s most democratic nations. Most observers praise the German government’s efforts to memorialize Holocaust victims and provide accurate education about the past. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet have taken a firm stance against anti-Semitism. Jewish life and culture is on display in many parts of Germany, lending affirmation to Merkel’s statement at the rally that Jewish life belongs in Germany and “is part of our identity.” It’s time for Germany’s Jewish organizations to shed some of their protective layers and show more leadership in community action for social justice. These organizations already provide valuable religious, cultural and social services to Germany’s growing Jewish population. Their websites list many great programs and resources and I hope to soon see some new outreach and education initiatives as well. In the meantime, I’ve just agreed to work with two Berlin churches to form an interfaith youth group. Perhaps I’ll be able to convince the Jewish community to participate.
Donna Swarthout is a freelance writer in Berlin, Germany.
© The Local - Germany


Muslims in Germany fear fellow Germans' wrath

German Muslims are horrified by the "Islamic State" extremists, but by the same token, they also fear the potential effects of a new wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in Germany.

4/10/2014- A young woman wearing a headscarf sits behind the counter of her decoration shop surrounded by ribbons, bows and piles of colored paper in the western German city of Cologne. The scent of oriental perfume fills the air, and the sound of traffic creeps in through the open door. "We see something coming," Meral Sahin said. "And it's not for the first time." The advance of "Islamic State" militants in northern Iraq and Syria, the brutal expulsion of Christians, Yazidis and Muslims and the savage slaughter of human beings has shocked her to the core. "Islamic State has nothing to do with religion," she told DW. "They are terrorists who misuse Allah's name." To what extent can Germans differentiate between vast majority peace-loving Muslims and the tiny minority that comprises the barbaric radical Islamists? Meral said she hopes they can disentangle the two, but admitted to being afraid of what she described as "another round of alienation."

Just four months ago, Sahin, who is also chairwoman of Cologne's Keupstrasse community interest group, walked down the street with German President Joachim Gauck. It was the 10th anniversary of a nail bomb attack carried out by the far-right National Socialist Underground group (NSU), and the German president's presence was seen as a symbol of multi-cultural understanding. At the time of the attack, the police initially suspected it to be the work of a foreign group. Many living in the district where it happened were Turkish, and there was a general sentiment that they had been unfairly placed under suspicion. Ten years on, 70,000 Cologne residents took part in a major cultural festival bearing the slogan, "Birlikte," which is Turkish for "standing together."

Preventing conflict
The festival was a major success for Maria Fichte. As a community manager, she co-ordinates the activities of various organizations, associations and religious groups. Part of her remit is to ensure that the multi-cultural district is a place of harmony. "There are a lot of Turkish residents here, as well as Germans and people from Africa," she told DW. "We try to prevent problems from arising." Ahmet Erdogan's mosque shares a courtyard with a Turkish food shop. Sitting cross-legged on the carpet of the prayer room, he said he doesn't believe the majority of Germans will paint Muslims and terrorists with the same brush - despite a rash of polarizing media reports'. But he does have other concerns. As a father, he is worried about the fate of younger Muslims who are being radicalized. "We should be worried," he explained, with a tremor in his voice, "it can happen in any family."

He said those who spread hatred know exactly where and how to find children susceptible to their false promises. "They seem to give them a feeling of friendship, a feeling of 'we're in it together', a feeling of being strong," he said. But all of that, Erdogan said, is followed by the ideology, by the growing of the beard, and by the asking of certain questions. Erdogan has his own questions, and is not afraid to put them to himself. "Are we doing something wrong? Are families doing something wrong? Is everyone doing something wrong?" he asked, his voice filled with lament. "We have already lost a lot of children, and I feel compelled to do something about it."

"Murderers not Muslims"
While many pedestrians in the neighborhood don't want to speak openly about politics, others are glad for a chance to make their views known. One woman, who describes herself as a "Turkishified German," a Muslim with Turkish roots and a German passport, said fear is widespread. "We are afraid of being put in the same category as the terrorists, and we worry that people don't look to see that these terrorists are not Muslims, but terrorists and murderers," she said. She added that all they want is power and money, not God's peace and blessings. "I am sure that we Muslims will have to start justifying ourselves again," she said. For her part, Meral Sahin said she likes to think back to June and the success of the Birlikte festival that brought so many people together. But now she, like many others, is now left wondering what happens next.
© The Deutsche Welle.


A men-only UN conference on gender equality? If only it was a joke (opinion)

Has feminism advanced so far that women’s voices no longer need to be heard? The decision not to invite any female speakers to a forthcoming meeting in Iceland smacked of missing the point
By Erica Buist

6/10/2014- How do you feel about the fact that Iceland planned to hold a conference on gender equality, feminism and sexual violence – without a single female invitee? “It will be the first time at the United Nations that we bring together only men leaders to discuss gender equality,” Iceland’s foreign minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, announced to the UN last week. The organisers later backtracked and said women would be involved, although it seems they will be barred from some sessions. It might sound somewhat counter-intuitive that, so soon after feminism became cool enough for Beyoncé to silhouette herself against the word “feminist” at the MTV Video Music awards, women should be ushered out of the room to let the men talk. My gut says this is, overall, a terrible idea. But has my gut considered the potential pros?

Traditionally (read: stereotypically), feminism was something about which women talked and men rolled their eyes. If male leaders are planning to talk about it among themselves, perhaps the discussion is no longer something women are expected to teach, explain and drag men into. As the journalist Robyn Pennacchia puts it: “The tendency many well-intentioned men have of derailing conversations with easily Google-able questions and then asking: ‘Well, how can I learn feminism if you won’t teach me?’, tends to be frustrating for many of us.” The writer Leigh Alexander points out the uniquely frustrating issue that stalks online comment boards beneath reports of women experiencing online harassment in a blog entitled, “But what can be done: dos and don’ts to combat online sexism”. Women experiencing online harassment often also have to contend with the question: “But what solutions would you recommend?” She describes this as being “akin to walking up to a person who is on fire and asking them to bring you a bucket of water so that you can ‘help’”.

Perhaps this conference is an encouraging step towards male leaders joining the fight, and well-intentioned men working out where they can source buckets of water as needed. While in many ways men benefit from a world that values them over women, one of the strongest recent messages in the feminist movement is that misogyny adversely affects men, too. If a dislike, distrust and disgust of the feminine weren’t baked right into the culture, it wouldn’t be shameful to do things deemed “girly” such as talking about emotions and problems before they spiral into the horrifically high rate of male suicide. If it weren’t shameful to be unmanly, the country with the greatest number of gun deaths wouldn’t market guns as a way to demonstrate manliness.

What’s your gut saying so far? Wrong as it often is, mine isn’t fully convinced that removing either gender from a discussion on gender equality is a smart move. First, it assumes that women are feminists by default, even though some have enough internalised patriarchal teachings to say things such as, “I’m a woman so I can’t drive as well as my husband” without a trace of irony. Second, Emma Watson only just managed to convince many people that men should be involved in the fight for equality before this was quickly followed by the suggestion that men should be the only ones in the room. There would be no doubt that a conference on racism with only white invitees would be inappropriate, unhelpful and more than a little gross, so why are we stroking our chins over whether a conference on gender equality with no female voices is a good idea?

It has taken until 2014 to even get the argument that there is no position between sexist and feminist into mainstream discussion, just as there’s no position between racist and not-racist. Doesn’t an all-male conference on gender equality smack of “We’ll take it from here, sweetheart”?
• This article was amended on 8 October 2014 to include the information that the organisers later said some women would be involved in the conference.
© The Guardian - Women's Blog


Ireland: Migrant women experience high level of domestic violence

One in three new Women’s Aid clients were migrants, agency says

8/10/2014- Migrant women experiencing domestic violence continue to feature significantly in calls made to Women’s Aid, director Margaret Martin has said. “One-third of the new clients Women’s Aid saw last year were migrant women.” The issue of domestic violence in migrant communities is “no different” from in native communities, she said, “but some-times more recently arrived women are living at significant risk because they are very isolated.” Women’s Aid’s Telephone Interpretation Service guarantees that a caller can speak to someone in their own language within a minute. “You need to be able to say, or to get someone to say, what language you speak, you are put on hold and we ring an interpretation service based outside the State. They will be on the line within 60 seconds.” Following contact via the helpline, a women will be seen by her key worker with an interpreter if she so wishes.

In 2013, 67 per cent of callers who used the Women’s Aid telephone service spoke a range of EU languages including Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Slovak. Polish speakers were the biggest group. They are also the largest minority in the Irish State at 2.7 per cent of the population. The non-EU languages included Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Dari, Farsi, Georgian, Kurdish, Mandarin, Russian, Somali, Thai and Yoruba. “The language issue is huge,” Ms Martin said. “We were looking to get the service up and running for a long time. It’s about breaking down barriers. You need to be able to talk to a woman directly in a language she understands, is comfortable with and can make herself understood. It reduces confusion and means we can treat every woman as an individual.”

Women’s Aid were surprised by the range of languages they encountered, said Ms Martin. “We were told we needed five or six languages, so we made sure we had access to them, then our first call was in Albanian, and we didn’t have it,” added Ms Martin, who believes all languages are now catered for. Ms Martin points out that domestic violence is not culturally specific. “It cuts across cultures and it is not the case that any particular sector is more likely to experience domestic violence.” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) research found that in Ireland in 2012, 14 per cent of women have experienced physical violence by a partner (current or ex); 6 per cent of women have experienced sexual violence by a partner (current or ex) and 31 per cent of women have experienced psychological violence by a partner (current or ex).

Some newly arrived women are encouraged to find there are legal protections here to which they are entitled. Difficulties arise, however, when a woman flees her country of origin to escape partner violence and her partner follows her here, Ms Martin said. “Women who don’t meet the conditions of Habitual Residency may go to a refuge, but that refuge will not be entitled to any payment for her, so she can’t remain there.”
Women’s Aid Telephone Interpretation Service can be accessed via the National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 from 10am - 10pm, seven days a week. It is a confidential service and is free.
© The Irish Times.


Nigel Farage: Ban HIV positive migrants from entering the UK

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been accused of “a new level of ignorance”, after proposing a blanket ban on people with HIV entering the UK.

10/10/2014- Farage made the comments in a Newsweek interview, and when asked which kinds of people should be allowed to enter the UK, he said: “People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start. And people with a skill.” When challenged by Newsweek interviewer Robert Chalmers on the issue, he said: “There are 190 countries in the world that operate like that. That is what Britain should do. I have never said that we should not take refugees. We have a proud record of accepting refugees.” Then, on the Today Programme on Radio 4, Farage suggested that a similar ban was in effect in the US and Australia, and said those with “life threatening diseases” should not be allowed to migrate to the UK because the NHS would have to treat them. He said: “We should do what America does, what Australia does, what every country in the world does. We want people who have trade and skills. But we do not want people with criminal records and we cannot afford to have people with life threatening diseases, “We have leading cancer experts in Britain saying the burden now of treating overseas people is leading to huge shortages in the system. I do not think those (immigrants) with life threatening diseases should be treated by NHS”.

There was previously a blanket ban on people living with HIV entering the US, which operated between 1987 and 2009. Farage said he would also ban those with murder convic-tions from entering the UK, as well as that he would like to be appointed as minister for Europe at next year’s general election. He said he would like to be remembered as the man who secured independence from the EU for Britain. Dr Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, condemned Farage for bracketing people who had tested positive for HIV with murderers. She said: “The idea that having HIV should be used as a black mark against someone’s name is ridiculous and shows an outrageous lack of understanding of the issue. “It is to the UK’s credit that for more than three decades successive governments, no matter their political stamp, have refused to put in place border controls against people living with HIV. “Major international organisations, including the United Nations, agree that such draconian measures would have no impact on the epidemic. “In bracketing those living with the condition with murderers, and suggesting there is no place for them in his vision of Britain, Mr Farage has stooped to a new level of ignorance. He should be truly ashamed.”

The comments by Farage came as Douglas Carswell, who defected to UKIP earlier this year, won at the Clacton by-election last night. :Labour’s candidate in the Heywood and Middleton by-election only beat UKIP by just over 600 votes.
© Pink News


UK: Salman Rushdie condemns 'hate-filled rhetoric' of Islamic fanaticism

Salman Rushdie says all religions have their extremists but "the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam"

9/10/2014- Accusations of 'Islamophobia' are being levelled at anyone who dares to speak out against the "hate-filled rhetoric" of Islamic fanaticism, Salman Rushdie has claimed in a speech condemning Isil and "this new age of religious mayhem". Rushdie voiced his fears that the language of "jihadi-cool" is seducing young British Muslims, many via Twitter and YouTube, into joining the "decapitating barbarianism" of Isil, the group also referred to as Islamic State or Isis. In his PEN/Pinter Prize Lecture, the author said all religions have their extremists but "the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam". Last week, Isil beheaded taxi driver and charity worker Alan Henning, the latest Western hostage to die at their hands. The so-called "jihadi-cool" image romanticises Isil, using rap videos and social networking to recruit followers - posing with AK-47s and bragging about their "five star jihad" in videos showing fighters lounging around in luxury villas as they urged the destruction of the West.

Rushdie defined "jihadi-cool" as "the deformed medievalist language of fanaticism, backed up by modern weaponry", saying: "It's hard not to conclude that this hate-filled religious rhetoric, pouring from the mouths of ruthless fanatics into the ears of angry young men, has become the most dangerous new weapon in the world today". He said: "A word I dislike greatly, 'Islamophobia', has been coined to discredit those who point at these excesses, by labelling them as bigots. But in the first place, if I don't like your ideas, it must be acceptable for me to say so, just as it is acceptable for you to say that you don't like mine. Ideas cannot be ring-fenced just because they claim to have this or that fictional sky god on their side. "And in the second place, it's important to remember that most of those who suffer under the yoke of the new Islamic fanaticism are other Muslims...

"It is right to feel phobia towards such matters. As several commentators have said, what is being killed in Iraq is not just human beings, but a whole culture. To feel aversion towards such a force is not bigotry. It is the only possible response to the horror of events. "I can't, as a citizen, avoid speaking of the horror of the world in this new age of religious mayhem, and of the language that conjures it up and justifies it, so that young men, including young Britons, led towards acts of extreme bestiality, believe themselves to be fighting a just war." The author said members of other religions have distorted language, but to a much lesser degree. "It's fair to say that more than one religion deserves scrutiny. Christian extremists in the United States today attack women's liberties and gay rights in language they claim comes from God. Hindu extremists in India today are launching an assault on free expression and trying, literally, to rewrite history, proposing the alteration of school textbooks to serve their narrow saffron dogmatism.

"But the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam, and much of it has its roots in the ideological language of blood and war emanating from the Salafist movement within Islam, globally backed by Saudi Arabia." For these ideologues, "modernity itself is the enemy, modernity with its language of liberty, for women as well as men, with its insistence of legitimacy in government rather than tyranny, and with its stroninclination towards secularism and away from religion." We live in a time when we are "too frightened of religion in general, and one religion in particular - religion redefined as the capacity of religionists to commit earthly violence in the name of their unearthly sky god... in which the narrow pseudo-explications of religion, couched in the new - or actually very old - vocabulary of blasphemy and offence, have increasingly begun to set the agenda".

Rushdie's publication of The Satanic Verses in 1989 led to him being placed under a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, who deemed it to be blasphemous. The author spent years in hiding under police protection. In his speech, delivered at the British Library, he said of the reaction to his novel: "People are entitled to judge a book as kindly or as harshly as they choose, but when they respond to it with violence or the threat of violence, the subject changes, and the question becomes: how do we face down such threats? We have all been wrestling with the answer to that question on many fronts ever since." Rushdie was speaking as he accepted the PEN Pinter Prize, established by the writers' charity English PEN in 2009 in memory of the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter. The prize is awarded annual to a British or British-based writer who "exemplifies the spirit of Harold Pinter through his or her engagement with the times". Each year the winner shares the prize with an international writer who has risked their own safety in the name of free speech. Rushdie chose Mazen Darwish, a Syrian journalist and lawyer who is currently in prison.
© The Telegraph


British ISIS-Supporter Expresses Support for Hitler

Prominent British Islamist and founder of 'Sharia Patrols' says rise of ISIS marks 'the end of Zionism' in anti-Semitic lecture.

9/10/2014- The anti-Semitic lecture was delivered by Muslim convert Abu Rumaysah, also known as Refi Shafi, who focused significantly on the 19th century anti-Semitic forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and encouraged listeners to look to it as proof of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy - as well as a justification for the Nazi Holocaust. Rumaysah is a close confidante of infamous British Islamist cleric Anjem Choudary, and a founder of vigilante "Sharia Patrols" phenomenon, in which Islamist thugs attempt to impose Islamic law (sharia) in neighborhoods with Muslim populations. The phenomenon has since spread to other European countries, most recently Germany. Ironically, while attacking Jews and Zionists for "trying to take over the world", Abu Rumaysah expressed his support for ISIS's objective for Muslim world domination, and ended his address by expressing confidence that Islam will soon take over the world.

Other ironic snippets include a claim by Rumaysah - a vocal supporter of Al Qaeda and ISIS - that "Zionists" have "no regard for human life", bizarrely citing as proof the prominence of Jews in the medical profession, which in his words includes some drugs which have "adverse side-effects". He also claimed that the founder of Shia Islam - which Sunni Islamists such as himself consider as heretics - was a Jew. Anti-Semitism in the UK has seen an alarming rise in recent months, fueled largely by incitement from Muslim extremists, on the heels of Israel's 50-day war with Islamist terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
© Arutz Sheva


UK: New powers for victims of hate crime and anti-social behaviour

Victims of hate crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB) have new powers to trigger case reviews if they feel the authorities are not taking them seriously.

8/10/2014- From this week, anyone who feels that a hate crime or ASB incident is badly handled can use the ‘community trigger’ to spark a review of the case. All agencies involved must then report back within 10 working days. Marc Turczanski, hate crime officer for Hastings Voluntary Action, welcomed the changes, but said it was too early to say how effective the community trigger would be. “It’s not a bad thing to make more accountability, but a lot depends on how well it is communicated and managed,” he said. “We won’t know how successful this measure is till further down the line.” Reports of hate crimes in Hastings have nearly doubled in the past year, with 56 offences being reported compared to 37 the year before. Police say this jump is not a concern, as new initiatives have lead to more victims speaking out: “we believe that these crimes were being vastly under-reported in the past,” said chief inspector Paul Phelps, Hastings District policing commander.

Hastings Borough Councillors (HBC) voted unanimously to adopt the new measure in a cabinet meeting on Monday (October 6). National legislation - the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime, and Policing Act 2014 - says community triggers must be adopted by all local authorities by October 20. Anyone can use the trigger, but there is a threshold. An individual must have made three complaints about ASB or hate crime within a six month period before a review can begin. These complaints can be to any relevant agency - police, clinical commissioning group, or local authority, for example. Paris Nolan, a committee member of the Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance and co-leader of that organisation’s Trans Sub-Group, was surprised by the three-complaint threshold, saying that any one serious incident should be enough to spark a review if necessary.

Speaking more broadly about hate crime in Hastings, Paris said: “In the trans group we experience it more than our gay group now. We stand out more. And Hastings has quite a lot of transient people on holiday who may have been drinking. You do get abuse but to be honest it’s not too bad. It’s unpleasant when it happens, but is usually dealt with well by the police.” Chief inspector Phelps said: “Anti-social behaviour isn’t a major problem in Hastings and this is in no small way down to the way it is dealt by a number of agencies who meet weekly to tackle the issue. “Not everyone is comfortable reporting hate crime to the police for a variety of reasons. We are working hard to increase trust and confidence of victims and to make it easier for them to report directly to us.”
© The Hastings Observer


Muslims ‘fearful’ amid row over UK hate-crime stats

5/10/2014- Like many victims of hate crimes against British Muslims, Asma Sheikh never reported what happened to her to the police. It was the summer of 2013, and anti-Muslim sentiment was at a high following the violent killing of British Army soldier Lee Rigby, who was stabbed to death in a London street by two Islamic extremists. The murder saw dozens of apparent reprisals against innocent UK Muslims, including acts of vandalism and women having their veils ripped off. In the week following the killing, there were seven Islamophobic offences recorded per day in London, compared with the average of one a day. Sheikh, 35, was one of the victims. Shortly after Rigby’s murder, she was walking to her car when she noticed that all four tires had been slashed.

“It was no coincidence. There was a note on the windscreen saying ‘go back home’,” said the mother-of-two from northwest London. “There was a lot of hate going on at that time, a lot of name-calling.” Sheikh, whose mother runs a shop in Kilburn selling traditional Islamic dress, says that most of her Muslim friends have fallen victim to some kind of hate crime. “Nearly everyone has faced something, whether it was just name-calling or whether someone pulled their hijab off,” she said. Sheikh said her son attends an Islamic school, and once had his uniform ripped by an assailant on a commuter train, while one of her friends had her veil torn off. “After that day, she didn’t come out of her house for about a month. And when she did, she didn’t wear her veil,” Sheikh said.

Hate crimes
Sheikh is not alone as a victim of UK hate crime. And nor is she alone in not having reported it to the police. “I thought it would be investigated further, police would come down, and matters would get worse. The community would know that I called the police, and things would get nastier,” she told Al Arabiya News. Such a reluc-tance to report incidents is seen as a factor in an emerging row between London’s police service and community groups over trends in Islamophobic crime. According to a BBC report this week, hate crimes against Muslims in London have “risen by 65 percent” in the last 12 months. The BBC cited figures from the Metropolitan Police. But when contacted by Al Arabiya, London’s police service disputed this, saying the BBC did not cite its latest statistics, and that the report did not reflect the trend on the ground.

The number of hate crimes against Muslims has in fact declined by 5.9 percent in the last year, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said. Harassment makes up the majority of the hate crimes against Muslims, but offences also include criminal damage and graffiti, police said. “Our most recent set of figures show a fall in Islamophobic crime from 512 offences in the year to August 2013 to 482 in the year to August 2014,” the spokesperson told Al Arabiya News. The police service said the numbers used by the BBC refer to the last two financial years, rather than the year-to-date as stated by the BBC. But the BBC stood by its coverage, saying that it had used figures supplied by the Metropolitan Police late last month.

‘Politicizing’ the issue
Despite the assertion by the Metropolitan Police that Islamophobic attacks are on the decline, several experts said the opposite is true. Fiyaz Mughal, director of the Islamophobia monitoring group Tell MAMA, said that the police statistics do not reflect the trend on the ground. While he said a 65 percent increase would be on the high side, Mughal estimates that hate crimes against Muslims have increased by about a third in the last 12 months. “Over the past two years, Muslim communities have told us that they feel anti-Muslim incidents have got worse. And that’s a fact, there’s no getting away from it,” he said. While the Metropolitan Police statistics may be technically accurate, they do not account for unreported crimes. And the figures are skewed because of the spike in attacks last year after the murder of Lee Rigby, Mughal said.

“The Met can say ‘Islamophobic crimes are dropping’ – but it’s dropping from a point that was significantly high last year after the murder of Lee Rigby. That’s what they’re not telling you,” he said. “They’re comparing it to a peak. They’re so cheeky… For their own political reasons, they’re saying it’s going down. It’s not factually incorrect, but it doesn’t show us the wider picture.” The Metropolitan Police did not specifically respond to that allegation. It did say however that it “takes all hate crime seriously and would urge London’s Muslim communities to come forward and report hate crime when it happens.”

Reluctance to report
Other spikes in anti-Muslim sentiment followed this year’s revelations of sexual abuse against children in Rotherham, England, as well as international events such as the beheadings by the violent extremist group Isis, community groups say. “Islamophobia is there, and unfortunately it affects people’s lives on a daily basis. It really shows itself where there is a national or international incident,” Mughal said. But a reluctance to report hate crimes to the police – especially among women such as Asma Sheikh – is a “major problem”, Mughal added. “A lot of women say ‘we don’t need the hassle, it will affect my family’,” he said.

Talha Ahmad, chair of the membership committee at the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), agreed that the official numbers on Islamophobic attacks are lower than the reality. “Many people are not reporting crimes,” he said. “One of the issues is a lack of confidence that anything will happen. There’s an ongoing issue with trust in the police force.” Not all police forces in the UK record Islamophobic attacks as a separate category, as the Metropolitan Police does. Ahmad urged the government to make this compulsory across all forces. “The government should also invest in a strategy and campaign to encourage people to report these crimes,” he added.

Ahmad blamed media coverage of Muslims as being a major factor behind the claimed rise in hate crimes. “Much of the coverage is very negative and some of it could be viewed as the demonization of an entire community. And once a community is demonized, it becomes a very easy target,” he said. “We have seen mosques coming under attack after Rotherham. And we are seeing a rise in attacks after Isis… The perception is that incidents against Muslims have increased.”

‘Too fearful to speak’
Standing outside her mother’s abaya shop on Kilburn High Road in London, Asma Sheikh says she is certain that Islamophobia is on the rise. Despite the street being thronged by people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, including many women wearing the hijab and other forms of Islamic dress, Sheikh says she believes the rise to be even greater than the 65 percent cited by the BBC. That’s partly due to a reluctance to report such incidents, Sheikh said: “Off the top of my head, I know 100 people who are too fearful to say anything,” she said. Sheikh said she too has noticed an increase in hate crimes when there is a national or international incident involving Muslims.

“It yo-yos. When something happens, it becomes more heated. And suddenly Muslims say, ‘we have to be careful – don’t go out after Maghrib, the last prayer… Don’t go through Richmond, don’t go through Camden’. It’s depressing,” she said. “The media has a big part in all of this… It needs to be shown that it’s not all about war. There are some [Muslims] out there that just want peace.” Despite her concerns, Sheikh has anything but a fearful demeanor. She is something of a character on Kilburn High Road, chatting confidently to passers-by and a local café owner like old friends. Sheikh may not have reported the crime against her to police – but is determined not to keep quiet now. “Unless there’s a change in the way the media portrays us, it will continue. People like me need to be heard,” she said. “Somebody’s got to speak out.”
© Al Arabiya


UK: Ukip Defend Controversial Ex-Christian Party Leader Joining Party

Ukip has been forced to defend the fact that controversial ex-Christian Peoples Alliance leader Alan Craig, who once dubbed gay rights activists the "Gaystapo" in a reference to Nazi Germany's secret police, is joining their party.

7/10/2014- Craig, who has described same-sex marriage as "social vandalism" and tantamount to "child abuse", revealed in a recent blog post that he had been campaig-ning in Clacton for Tory defector Douglas Carswell in his bid to become Ukip's first elected MP, and had himself applied to join the party. The ex-Newham councillor told the Huffington Post UK that he was joining Ukip because he wanted Britain to leave the European Union and to break up the "Lib/Lab/Con cartel and the suffocating grasp of the metropolitan political class". He said he also admired "Ukip's courage in standing against the gay marriage tsunami that [David] Cameron et al. hit us with last year". In controversial comments published in the Church of England Newspaper in 2011, Craig compared gay marriage to the "invasion of Poland", warning that it could be a "catalyst for war and a cultural fight-back". The “Gaystapo”, he said, “want to change our language, manipulate our culture and thereby impose their world-view on us all. Cultural domination is their aim and fascist-type intolerance of politically-incorrect dissent is their weapon.”

A Ukip spokesman admitted that Craig had used more "ripened" language about same-sex marriage, telling the Huffington Post UK: "We're not prejudiced against traditional, old-school Christians just as we're not against homosexual people. I'm very wary of joining in a witch-hunt against somebody who holds those views, that the vast majority of the world would also hold." The spokesperson expressed sympathy for the ex-Newhan councillor's call to "rise up" against the "cultural domination of the 'Gaystapo'" in a swipe at "the more excitable parts of the gay lobby". "It's not about tolerance, it's not about tolerating other people's points of view. It's actually about dominating, control and refusing to allow anybody else to have a point of view," he said. The news that Craig, who stood as a London mayoral candidate in 2008, was joining Ukip sparked fury on Twitter.

Craig told HuffPostUK that he did know if he was officially a Ukip member yet, as he had applied less than a fortnight ago. He was nominated "Bigot of the Year" by the gay rights group Stonewall over his controversial attack on the "Gaystapo". In response, Craig said: “By attempting to bully, intimidate, humiliate and generate hatred of individuals through the award, Stonewall fully justifies the Gaystapo tag which I gave the organisation and for which apparently I have been nominated." The former councillor recently wrote: "Whatever you think of the issue itself, the gay marriage legislation last year was a democratic disgrace. Faithful one man/one woman marriage has been a defining and enduring bedrock of our society and culture – and the preeminent place of nurture for the nation’s children – for a millennium and a half.”

“Yet without warning, electoral mandate, Green or White Paper consultation or intelligent debate, and egged on by media, the PR industry, Hollywood celebs and the all-powerful gay lobby on both sides of the Atlantic (the UK perennially follows where the US leads), our political leaders like lemmings rushed off the marriage cliff and into the gay sea while emoting loudly and stupidly that it is ‘all about love’. “Overnight, unitedly and unnecessarily they redefined, enfeebled and wrecked a hugely beneficial social institution.” Craig's former party, the Christian Peoples Alliance, has garnered its own share of controversy. Current leader Sid Cordle drew laughter from fellow studio guests when he told the BBC that it was pretty likely that gay marriage caused flooding in England. "I think all Christians believe that God does, and can do, things with nature," he told the Daily Politics. "A lot of Christians believe God is angry over gay marriage and God can show that anger." Cordle previously told the Huffington Post UK that Christians needed to "take to the streets" to protest against same sex marriage.
© The Huffington Post - UK


UK faces 'nuclear option' if it scraps European rights charter

The European Commission may seek to suspend the UK's voting rights at the EU level should it withdraw from the European convention of human rights.

6/10/2014- The threat surfaced after a Tory policy document issued last week by the UK’s justice secretary Chris Grayling revealed plans to downgrade the jurisdiction of the European court of human rights to that of an advisory body. UK conservatives want to renegotiate the decades-old pact with the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, should the court's judgments remain binding. “In the event that we are unable to reach that agreement, the UK would be left with no alternative but to withdraw from the European convention of human rights,” notes the eight-page position paper. EU member states also have an “explicit obligation” to the convention under the EU treaty rules. Should a Conservative-led UK government decide to scrap it, the commission could invoke article seven of the treaties. “Such a situation, which the commission hopes will remain purely hypothetical, would need to be examined under articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union,” a commission source told this website.

Article 7 is commonly referred to as the ‘nuclear option’ of the commission’s enforcement arsenal and could lead to the suspension of a member state's voting rights. It has never been used. Austria was once threatened over fourteen years ago when the centre-right party went into government with the far-right Freedom Party. Invoking the article is also not easy. A large backing of member states and the European Parliament must “determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach” of values outlined in the charter of fundamental rights. London-based think tank Open Europe says making such a legal argument for a values breach, should the UK withdraw, would be difficult because there is a commitment to enshrine the convention in Britain’s domestic law. Prime minister David Cameron had mooted the policy move earlier this month when he pledged to scrap the UK’s human rights act. “Let me put this very clearly: we do not require instruction on this from judges in Strasbourg,” said Cameron in a speech at a party conference in Birmingham. Critics describe the Tory policy brief and Cameron's pronouncements as an attempt to attract Ukip voters in the lead up to the elections and possible referendum to leave the EU.

Few case rules against UK at Europe court
The origins of the Tory grief is rooted, in part, in three disputed judgments handed down by the Strasbourg-based court on prisoner voting, life sentences for prisoners, and the deportation of alleged terrorist Abu Qatada. All three decisions are unpopular in the UK, sparking complaints against the overall binding nature of the European court judgments on British law. While the judgments are binding, their enforcement is limited to exerting peer pressure from the council of ministers, a political body. The UK wins most of the cases brought against it. Last year, the court dealt with 1,652 applications concerning the UK - 1,633 or 98.8 percent were declared inadmissible or struck out. Only in eight cases – or 0.4 percent - did the court find at least one violation of convention rights. The UK has had a total of 499 judgments passed onto it between 1959 and 2013. By comparison, Turkey has had 2,994, Italy 2,268, Russia 1,475 and France 913.

There are four possible scenarios for the UK and the Council of Europe. First, it can remain a member. Second, it can withdraw after a six-month notice and join Belarus as the only other European nation not in the body. Greece, while under military dictatorship rule, is so far the only country to have ever withdrawn membership. Third, the Council can either accept specific arrangements for the UK, which don’t apply to the other 46 states running the risk that Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, possibly others may also make similar demands. Fourth, the Council can accept in principle that the court’s judgement just becomes advisory. The UK was among the first to ratify the European convention of human rights in 1950.
© The EUobserver


Spain's Catalonia region passes 'world's most pioneering laws against homophobia'

The person accused of homophobic acts will have to prove his or her innocence, rather than being presumed innocent until proven guilty as is usually the case.

4/10/2014- Spain's autonomous region of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital city, on Thursday passed a controversial law to protect lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGTB) from homophobic attacks. Calling it the 'world's most pioneering laws against homophobia', the state-run Catalan News Agency (ACN) reports that it includes fines for homophobic behavior at the work place and positive discrimination measures, such as having to prove one's innocence if accused of homophobia. 'This positive discrimination measure is already in place for other offenses, such as domestic violence against women, in instances when it is very difficult to prove,' the ACN report said. The new provisions will punish those who attack gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals with fines of up to €14,000 ($17,700).

The report says 80% of the Catalan Chamber has backed the new law and the only group who voted against the law was the conservative Spanish nationalist People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, while the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, which runs the Catalan Government, split its votes. One of the most vocal defenders of the new law, Catalan Socialist Miquel Iceta said, 'I feel furious when someone appears to deny or play down the discrimination that we gays have suffered or run the risk of suffering.' 'They speak derisively of a gay lobby. But look at this room! This is not a group of people working undercover to achieve illegitimate goals. This is a group working to defend the rights of everyone.' Said Iceta who is one of the first Spanish politicians to come out as gay.

Spain is one of the more progressive countries in the world on gay rights. It legalized same-sex marriage in 2005 under the former Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The country is however seeing a rise in homophobic attacks yet only a fraction are reported to the authorities, according to gay rights groups. According to a study on hate crimes, the first of its kind, published by the government, it showed that out of the 1,172 hate crimes recorded in 2013, a majority (452) were based on the victim's sexual orientation, followed by race (381) and disabilities (290).

hate crimes

© Gay Star News

Brazilian striker Wellington suffers racist abuse in Romania

4/10/2014- Concordia Chiajna striker Wellington has complained he was the victim of repeated racist abuse from a section of visiting Rapid Bucharest supporters during their Romanian league match on Friday. Wellington accused Rapid fans of throwing a banana at him while TV footage clearly showed a number of supporters making monkey gestures and racial slurs against the Brazilian forward during the tense goalless draw, featuring 10 yellow cards. "It's incredible what happened... my wife and my child were in the stands," Wellington told local media on Saturday. "I wanted to get out of the field, I'm not a monkey." The ugly scenes caused outrage in the Black Sea state. "I told the referee (about the incidents) and he gave me a yellow card!" added Wellington, who burst into tears at the end of the match. "Those who did that are idiots, I hope the federation will do something about it." The Romanian football authorities were not immediately available for comment.

The incidents occurred less than two months after champions Steaua Bucharest were hit with partial stadium closure by European football governing body UEFA following racist behaviour from their fans during a Champions League match in July. Rapid boss Marian Rada, who began his sixth stint as the Bucharest-based club's coach in the match against Concordia, made an extraordinary statement afterwards. "Was he crying? Don't you see what's happening in theatres? Maybe Wellington should have cried because he didn't score," said Rada. "How do we know it was a Rapid fan? Maybe a banana just slipped out of someone's hand in the stands." At the same time, the Romanian police said an investigation has been launched after a Rapid Bucharest fan entered the stadium in Chiajna with a flag with Nazi symbols printed on it. Police said they will use video evidence when tracking the offender who could face from six months to five years in prison. Concordia are 14th in the standings with nine points from 10 matches, just behind the three-times Romanian champions Rapid who also have nine points.
© Reuters


Just Because a Hate Crime Occurs on Internet Doesn't Mean It's Not a Hate Crime (opinion)

Let's talk about nude photo leaks and other forms of online harassment as what they are: civil rights violations
By Danielle Citron

7/10/2014- Over the past few weeks, a prominent—and nearly all female— group of celebrities have had their personal accounts hacked, their private nude photos stolen and exposed for the world to see. Friday brought the fourth round of the aggressive, invasive, and criminal release of leaked photos. Whether the target is a famous person or just your average civilian, these anonymous cyber mobs and individual harassers interfere with individuals’ crucial life opportunities, including the ability to express oneself, work, attend school, and establish professional reputations. Such abuse should be understood for what it is: a civil rights violation. Our civil rights laws and tradition protect an individual’s right to pursue life’s crucial endeavors free from unjust discrimination. Those endeavors include the ability to make a living, to obtain an education, to engage in civic activities, and to express oneself—without the fear of bias-motivated threats, harassment, privacy invasions, and intimidation. Consider what media critic Anita Sarkeesian has been grappling with for the past two years. After Sarkeesian announced that she was raising money on Kickstarter to fund a documentary about sexism in video games, a cyber mob descended.

Anonymous emails and tweets threatened rape.
In the past two weeks, Sarkeesian received received tweets and emails with graphic threats to her and her family. The tweets included her home address and her family’s home address. The cyber mob made clear that speaking out against inequality is fraught with personal risk and professional sabotage. Her attackers’ goal is to intimidate and silence her. Revenge porn victims face a variant on this theme. Their nude photos appear on porn sites next to their contact information and alleged interest in rape. Posts falsely claim that they sleep with their students and are available for sex for money. Their employers are e-mailed their nude photos, all for the effort of ensuring that they lose their jobs and cannot get new ones.

Understanding these attacks as civil rights violations is an important first step. My book Hate Crimes in Cyberspace  explores how existing criminal, tort, and civil rights law can help combat some of the abuse and how important reforms are needed to catch the law up with new modes of bigoted harassment. But law is a blunt instrument and can only do so much. Moral suasion, education, and voluntary efforts are essential too. Getting us to see online abuse as the new frontier for civil rights activism will help point society in the right direction.
Danielle Citron is the Lois K. Macht Research Professor & Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. She is an Affiliate Scholar at the Stanford Center on Internet and Society and an Affiliate Fellow at the Yale Information Society Project. Her book, Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, was recently published by Harvard University Press.­­­­
© Time


Headlines 3 October, 2014

Ukraine: Neo-Nazi Right Sector fighters attack pro-Russian MP

3/10/2014- Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov addressed an emphatic warning to neo-Nazis from the Right Sector organization on 1 October. In response to an attack committed Tuesday by right-wing radicals against a pro-Russian MP, Avakov declared that America and Europe could turn away from supporting Ukraine if similar incidents persist. The victim was Ukrainian MP Nestor Shufrych (Party of the Regions), a famous critic of the current regime's military campaign against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country. On Tuesday he was beaten up in the Black Sea port city of Odessa by a Right Sector commando unit who broke his nose, bruised his eye and bloodied his face.

Ukrainian media report that the MP is hospitalized in Odessa with a concussion. "A few more beat-up Shufryches and Europe will turn away from our victorious revolution. I am afraid America will as well," Interior Minister Avakov posted to Facebook on 1 October. "Mister Radicals, unless you want to be taken for insignificant morons, stop lynching people," Avakov wrote. The Unian press agency reported that the reason for Tuesday's incident was a lustration law now being intensively discussed in Ukraine. Shufrych is an opponent of lustration, and the Right Sector activists wanted to throw him into a garbage bin, which has become a widespread form of protest recently in Ukraine. The MP, however, is said to have defended himself proficiently and to have not succumbed until he was soundly punched.
© Romea.


Netherlands: Prosecutors preparing cases against up to 10 jihadists: lawyer

3/10/2014- The public prosecution department is preparing a case against up to 10 suspected jihadists from The Hague, a lawyer for one of them has told broadcaster Nos. André Seebregts, who represents Azzedine C, says his client faces charges of membership of a terrorist organisation but has not yet seen the evidence, the broadcaster reports. A number of other men face similar charges, Seebregts said, estimating their total at between five and 10. C is suspected of trying to recruit people to fight in Syria and of spreading dissent and hatred via social media and news sites. He has been in custody for the past month. In June, he appeared on television show Nieuwsuur and congratulated Muslims in the Netherlands on the formation of the Iraqi and Syrian caliphate.

Freedom of speech
Seebregts said he expects the eventual trial to revolve around freedom of speech issues and how far that goes. ‘It remains open to question if you are committing an offence by saying on social media you oppose democracy and support a caliphate,’ Seebregts said. The trial is set for spring 2015 but there will be a preliminary hearing in early December. C, who is 32 and also known as Abou Moussa was arrested in southern Germany at the end of August and extradited to the Netherlands.
© The Dutch News


Just over half the Dutch population say they are religious

2/10/2014- Last year, 53% of the Dutch considered themselves to be religious, down slightly on 2012, according to new figures from the national statistics office CBS. One in four people consider themselves to be Catholics, 32% are a member of one of the various Protestant churches in the Netherlands and 5% are Muslim, the new CBS figures show. Members of orthodox Protestant groups are most likely to go to church - half of them go at least once a week. Almost 27% of Muslims say they attend a mosque service once a week, but just 6.3% of Catholics do so. The former island of Urk has the highest percentage of churchgoers - nearly 94% of the fishing port's population go to church at least once a week. Muslims account for the largest religious population in The Hague (14%) and Amsterdam (11%). However, the number of active Muslims is just a tiny fraction higher than the percentage of Catholics in both cities, the CBS said.
© The Dutch News


Facing fears over extremism, Austria unveils new law on Islam

2/10/2014- Austria called on Thursday for standardized German-language translations of the Koran and moved to prohibit foreign funding of Muslim organizations on its soil in a draft law aimed in part at tackling Islamic extremism. The bill will overhaul a 1912 law governing the status of Austrian Muslims, prompting concern from a major local Islamic body, which saw it mirroring widespread mistrust of Muslims. The initiative comes at a time of robust support for the far-right in Austria and also alarm over reports of Muslims from the small, neutral country joining Islamist militant forces fighting in the Middle East. "The clear message should be that there is no contradiction between being a faithful Muslim and a proud Austrian," said Foreign Affairs and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz, a member of the conservative People's Party. "If you don't have orderly legal regulation ... this can always bring dangers (of extremism).

In this sense, if you like this is maybe a part of prevention," he told reporters. He added that Sharia, or Islamic law, had "no place here". Roughly half a million Muslims live in Austria, representing about 6 percent of the total population, which is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. The Christian and Muslim communities have co-existed for years and relations have been relatively unproblematic by comparison with friction seen in other European nations. For example, unlike France, Austria has not moved to ban Muslim women from wearing full-face veils in public. However, tensions have grown with the rise of the anti-immigration and Islam-critical Freedom Party, which is backed by roughly a quarter of Austrians according to opinion polls.

"Not a Gift"
Under the terms of the draft bill, state-recognized religious organizations will have to offer a unified German-language version of their doctrine and sources of faith, including for the Muslim holy book, the Koran. At present, there are only two officially recognized Islamic organizations in Austria. The legislation would also forbid Islamic teachers employed by any foreign states from working in Austria and stop outside funding for any Islamic organizations. "Among the Muslim base, the law is not seen as a gift for the Eid holiday," said Carla Amina Baghajati, spokeswoman of the Islamic Community of Faith in Austria (IGGIO), referring to Eid-al-Adha which Muslims will celebrate in the coming days. "(The bill) mirrors in its overtone the spirit of the times we currently perceive, which is marked by blanket suspicion and mistrust against Muslims," she said, adding that she was optimistic the legislation might still be amended. Specifically, the IGGIO was worried about the law appearing to bundle together various Sunni, Shi'ite and Alawite sects and also about the ramifications of trying to agree on a unified German-language version of the Koran.

The Arabic version of the Koran is generally thought of as the word of Allah in Islam, with any translation including an element of interpretation. "If a version of the Koran (in German) comes along as the codified, ultimate (version), then this would contradict the self-conception of Islam," Baghajati said. Foreign minister Kurz told Austrian radio last month that numerous translations of the Koran had generated countless interpretations and said it was in the interests of local Muslims to eliminate possible misunderstandings. The Austrian government warned in August that Islamist militancy was on the rise and officials have said around 140 people have left Austria to fight with the likes of the Islamic State, which has grabbed control of swathes of Iraq and Syria. Last month, Austria said it would ban militant Islamist groups' symbols and strip citizenship from people who travel abroad to fight with jihadists. On Thursday Kurz dismissed suggestions that a unified translation would pose a problem. "Am I skeptical when I hear this is difficult or not easily done? Fundamentally no," said Kurz, adding that it had previously been possible to create unified teaching material for Islamic religious studies at schools across Austria.
© Reuters


New task force to police Austria's border areas

A new border patrol team called Operation Fox seized two people smugglers and a family of six in Burgenland on Thursday, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP) announced.

3/10/2014- The task force has been set up in order to help police the current influx of refugees arriving across Austria’s borders. Several provincial governors have been calling for the introduction of temporary border patrols. Mikl-Leitner said that Operation Fox had been active in the Neusiedl am See and Eisenstadt area, and had stopped and searched around 600 vehicles. Two men aged 28 and 53 were arrested for people smuggling. They were found in a carpark near to the A4 motorway in Zurndorf. A Kosovan family was hidden in their station wagon, including three children aged two, three and six years old. One of the men had been thrown out of Hungary for not having a residence permit and another was due to appear in court.

Mikl-Leitner said that Austria would not be introducing border controls across the country "in the coming weeks", but said that she could not rule out that it might happen at some point. She added that Austria must "accurately prepare and plan" for such a scenario. Mikl-Leitner said a more effective strategy is "unannounced, hard to predict priority checks in border areas". She said it would be a long-term strategy that would initially focus on identified ‘hot spots’ as well as borders with woods and streams. Operation Fox "is not directed against people seeking protection, but people who are trying to make money by smuggling others over the border," Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundböck stressed.

Some 50 police officers were involved, including uniformed personnel with sniffer dogs as well as plain clothes police and human trafficking specialists. As well as being on the lookout for people smugglers they are also focussing on preventing evening burglaries. "Currently, we have a lot of refugees from Syria, but also people from Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, who have handed over large sums of money to traffickers," Gerald Tatzgern, head of the central office combating human trafficking said. Syrians are also being forced to hand over money, Tatzgern said, often between €5,000 and €15,000, but usually their preferred destinations are “Sweden, Norway and Germany”. He added that traffickers often force families to be separated on the journey, to make sure they pay up. Operation Fox had interpreters on hand on Thursday, to speak with the victims and try and find out any useful information.
© The Local - Austria


Austria: Teenager (15) convicted of Nazi offences

A 15-year-old boy from Salzburg has been convicted of Nazi offences, libel, and attempted coercion. The judge gave him a ten month sentence, and said he must serve two months of that in prison.

2/10/2014- When the boy was 14 he chose an image from Quentin Tarantino's film Inglourious Basterds, which featured Nazi symbols including the swastika, as his profile picture on the social networking site Facebook. He also posted lyrics from former German neo-Nazi rock band Landser, and between December 2012 and January 2013 he regularly left comments on the social networking site which glorified Nazism. He got a swastika tattoo and posted photos of himself wearing typical ‘skinhead’ clothing. He also threatened a classmate of Somali origin with a knife. In court he confessed to the allegations and said that he now viewed his actions “with disgust”. He said he had wanted to impress friends and gradually fell into believing right-wing ideology, even though he knew it was illegal. He had not had an easy childhood, having had to endure several eye operations, change schools repeatedly as he was considered a ‘problem child’ and had been thrown out of home on several occasions. The jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty, but didn’t find the teenager guilty of an additional charge of assault. The 15-year-old has already served eight months of his sentence in pre-trial detention. Austria’s Prohibition Act aims to suppress any potential revival of Nazism.
© The Local - Austria


Austria: Former brothel to house asylum seekers

A former brothel in Styria, which closed just last week, has been made into temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.

2/10/2014- The conspicuous blue building, next to the busy motorway 67 in the village of Weitendorf, is now home to two Serbian Roma families, including seven children. A sign outside reads ‘Studio 6’ (six, or sechs in German, sounds like sex). “The last lady left the place on Friday,” the building’s owner said (she did not want to be named). She said the building will be able to accommodate up to 50 people “in new and luxuriously furnished apartments,” and that she plans to renovate the rooms. But the two families are not happy and have already threatened to go on hunger strike. “It stinks, the bed linen is dirty, and the older children have to share a bed. You can’t bring children to live in a brothel,” one refugee complained to the Kleine Zeitung paper. “We can’t leave these people on the streets,” the owner said. She has to provide the families with three meals a day and receives €19 per day, per asylum seeker, from the government.

If the building were to house 50 people she would be taking in around €28,500 a month. More refugees are expected to arrive this week - to the annoyance of mayor Franz Plasser (ÖVP). He said that he had wanted to allow only three refugee families to live in the 1,500 strong community but had only discovered on Wednesday that 50 people were expected to arrive. “This can’t be - how will it work? What are people expected to do in this former brothel?” he said. He added that it would be much harder for 50 people to become properly integrated into the community and that as the accommodation was directly on a busy road it was not suitable for families. He feels that the owner and politicians have gone over his head, and should have consulted him.
© The Local - Austria


Italy: No end in sight to tide of migrant tragedies

A year after more than 360 Africans perished on a burning, sinking ship off Lampedusa there is no end in sight to the stream of migrant tragedies in the Mediterra-nean, or the political row over how to stop them recurring.

2/10/2014- The victims of the Lampedusa disaster, many of them fleeing conflict and persecution in Eritrea or Somalia, were within sight of the Italian island on October 3rd 2013 when the tiny fishing boat they had been crammed onto in Libya developed engine trouble and began to tilt alarmingly. The hellish nature of what ensued left the survivors plucked from the sea by the Italian navy scarred for life, and alerted the world to the humanitarian crisis unfolding. In an attempt to draw attention on shore to the vessel's distress, someone on board set fire to a blanket. Soon a whole section of the boat was on fire. Some threw themselves overboard while others stampeded to the opposite end of the vessel to escape the flames. Fatally unbalanced, the 20-metre boat capsized, condemning those trapped in the hold to death by asphyxiation.

Pope Francis called on Twitter for people around the world to pray for the wretched victims. It was described as a wake-up call, a tragedy that must never be repeated and a stain on Europe's conscience. But a year on, Lampedusa is no longer even the worst incident of its kind, the horrors of that October morning having been surpassed in the last month by the death of 500 people off Malta in a shipwreck triggered by the vessel being deliberately rammed by traffickers trying to force its human cargo onto another, smaller boat. The tragedy of Lampedusa prompted Italy to launch a rapid-reaction search-and-rescue mission known as "Mare Nostrum" ("Our Sea") which has, for the last year, picked up an average of 380 people a day from the Mediterranean surf, a total now nearing 140,000.

How many others have perished is impossible to know but bodies such as the International Organization for Migration put the death toll at over 3,000 this year alone. The implosion of Libya, civil war in Syria and renewed Israeli-Palestinian hostilities have helped push the flow of would-be refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe to unprecedented levels. Humanitarian organizations say new tragedies are inevitable and have accused Europe's leaders of closing their eyes. Cash-strapped Italy has lost patience with its European Union partners' refusal to help shoulder the financial burden of patrolling its lengthy coastline (estimated at between €6 and 9 million a month) and has said it will end Mare Nostrum patrols from November 1st.

EU governments 'a disgrace'
A new operation, dubbed "Triton" and run by the European borders agency Frontex will take its place, but both aid groups and rescue specialists suggest it will provide nothing like the cover that the Italian navy does. "Triton will never replace Mare Nostrum because Frontex is not a rescue body," said Mauro Casinghini, the national director of the Italian branch of the charitable Order of Malta's sea-rescue operation. "Instead of crisis management we need long-term planning for dealing with migratory flows," Casinghini said. Organizations such as Amnesty International have slammed the EU for failing to accept it must increase the number of refugees it welcomes when the world around it is in flames.

European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who has tried in vain to persuade EU governments to adopt a coordinated approach to the issue, on Thursday blasted the attitude of some countries in the 28-member bloc. "When it comes to accepting refugees, solidarity between EU member states is still largely non-existent," she said. "In some countries, the number of yearly refugees barely exceeds a few handfuls. This is nothing short of a disgrace." Italian lawmaker Mario Marazziti says a potential way of easing the numbers of boat people heading to Europe would be to allow refugees to make asylum applications in transit countries, rather than having to get to Europe first. "If the requests could be registered with European consultants based in countries like Libya, then at least we could organize safe sea crossings in ferries, which would cost a lot less," the human rights activist said.
© The Local - Italy


Italy: Extreme right threatens hoteliers over migrants

The extreme-right Forza Nuova party on Thursday threatened to release a blacklist of hoteliers hosting migrants, which the group described as a threat to “health and security”.

2/10/2014- Forza Nuova (New Force) said the list would name managers of hotels that are hosting migrants in the Emilia-Romagna region, La Repubblica reported. With immigration centres over capacity across Italy, local authorities pay hoteliers €30 a day to host migrants. But the move puts “the health and the security of the popula-tion” at risk, Forza Nuova’s Emilia-Romagna branch claimed. “The use that these hotels unscrupulously make of immigration is deplorable and humiliating. “Stop immi-gration and fight for the total repatriation of all the immigrants in the country, it’s no longer a right but a must,” the party said. The extreme-right group has long been vocal about its anti-immigration views, recently carrying out controversial stunts in Italy.

Last year, the party hung nooses around a town ahead of a visit by Cecile Kyenge, then integration minister, followed weeks later by bloodied mannequins targeting the minister. More recently, members of Forza Nuova marched on a swimming pool in north-east Italy, to protest against a women and children swim slot aimed at integrating Muslims. While the party is strongly anti-foreigner in many respects, it has kindled relationships with fellow extreme right groups across Europe. Its international partners include Nordic Youth (Nordisk Ungdom), a Swedish extreme-right youth movement, and Flemish nationalist group Outpost (Voorpost).
© The Local - Italy


Kazakhstan gay kiss poster hit with lawsuits

Human Rights Watch says 'homophobia masked as cultural concern' must not be allowed to triumph after lawsuits have been brought over a poster showing a same-sex kiss.

2/10/2014- A series of lawsuits have been brought over a poster showing a same-sex kiss in Kazakhstan. The poster, created by an advertising agency, shows two significant historical figures kissing – the Kazakh composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbaiuly and the Russian poet, Aleksandr Pushkin. Today, a judge in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, will begin initial proceedings in a case brought against the agency by 34 people who work at a national conservatoire and in an orchestra named after the famous 19th century Kazahk composer. The plaintiffs are seeking approximately US$186,000, (£115,000) in damages from the Havas Worldwide Kazakhstan advertising agency. The picture - and advert for a gay club - sparked controversy on social media after the agency posted it to Facebook on 24 August.

The human rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, has now said that “respect for freedom of expression should lead to dismissal” of the lawsuits in a statement. “The poster is no doubt provocative, but provocation is a legitimate part of freedom of expression and arguably an inherent part of creative design,” said Mihra Rittman, the Europe and Central Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Kazakhastan’s judiciary should ensure that freedom of expression trumps subjective discomfort about a particular image, and that homophobia masked as cultural concern is not allowed to triumph,” Rittman said.

The poster was designed for the Central Asian Advertisement Festival where it won an award in August. The picture references the intersection of the Kurmangazy and Pushkin streets in Almaty, which is also where the gay club, Studio 69, can be found. One of the artists involved, Valery Volodin, wrote on Facebook: “One can be proud of this work. First of all because it works: people understand and remember the address. Secondly, it is a brave work, and in the case of the gay movement, traditionally living on the edge, it is more than accurate and justified," EurasiaNet reported. The plaintiffs say that the poster is “unethical” and offensive not only to the “honour and dignity of the composer’s and poet’s descendants, but to all people not indifferent to their art.”

In early September local media reported that Nurken Khalykbergen, who claims to be a descendant of the composer, has also filed a lawsuit for “moral damages” of about US$55,000. After the social media stir was caused by the poster the country’s Bolashak (Future) national movement organised a roundtable against homosexuality. The movement’s leader called for Kazakhstan lawmakers to criminalise LGBT “propaganda.” A statement which Human Rights Watch has also criticised saying: “Kazakh officials should firmly reject any attempts to introduce such legislation.”
© The Independent


'Non-existent' EU cooperation on refugees

Sweden's EU commissioner Cecilia Malmström has criticized European Union countries for a lack of solidarity when it comes to taking in refugees.

2/10/2014- Malmström was speaking ahead of the first anniversary of the Lampedusa disaster. In September 2013, 366 people died when a boat sank off the coast of the Italian island. She argued that EU countries should take more action to share the burden of taking in refugees from outside the European Union, suggesting that nations should work more closely together "to develop a responsibility distribution mechanism between all EU countries". The commissioner said that solidarity within the EU when it came to taking in refugees was "on the whole non-existent" at present. Some countries receive only "a handful" refugees even though "the world around us is on fire," she argued. Sweden has one of the world's most open and tolerant approaches to immigration and is  expected to welcome a total of 100, 000 refugees in 2014. It currently takes in more asylum seekers than any other European country.
© The Local - Sweden


Karadzic Proclaims Innocence in Trial’s Closing Arguments

Former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic began his closing arguments at his war crimes trial in The Hague by insisting he was not guilty of masterminding atrocities including genocide.

1/10/2014- Karadzic told the Hague Tribunal on Wednesday that there was no evidence to support the prosecution’s claims that he masterminded genocide, ethnic cleansing and military terror, and that the court had put the entire Serb people on trial. “The prosecution characterised me as a thief and a criminal. I will not use that kind of language, and I am certain that it was difficult for the prosecutor Alan Tieger to do that, since he has no single piece of evidence,” Karadzic told the UN-backed court. The 69-year-old is charged with masterminding genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 and in seven Bosnian municipalities in 1992, the persecution of non-Serbs, terrorising the besieged population of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage. Prosecutors have demanded a life sentence for the former Bosnian Serb leader.

But Karadzic said the prosecution had based its case on allusions, chit-chat and statements from its own employees. He argued that the allegation that he was part of a Serb-led ‘joint criminal enterprise’ to commit war crimes was a fabrication. “The joint criminal enterprise is an invention of this prosecution. If it wasn’t for that, there would be no indictment. Apart from the joint criminal enterprise, why should I be guilty, because I only did good for the Serbs and the other two peoples [Bosniaks and Croats],” said Karadzic. Karadzic said that Bosnia’s Serbs sought only to protect what they already had and they didn’t intend to impose their will on anyone else. “My defence is not to accuse anyone, but to establish what happened. Civil war happened,” he said.

Media have reported that the wartime Bosnian Serb president is also expected to argue during his summing-up that he should be found not guilty of genocide in Srebrenica because he did not personally order the killings of some 7,000 Bosniak men and boys, and did not know that civilians were being massacred. The prosecution claimed however in its own closing arguments earlier this week that Karadzic was liar and a criminal with genocidal intent who was the driving force behind the ethnic cleansing of the non-Serb population in Bosnia during wartime. It also accused him of being responsible for terrorising the population of Sarajevo during the 1992-95 siege of the city. His trial began in 2009 after he was arrested in Serbia and handed over to the Hague court following more than a decade on the run. After the closing arguments, the verdict is expected to be delivered in the summer of 2015.
© Balkan Insight


Fascist Party Wins in Swedish Election Likely to Increase Religious Freedom Constraints

30/9/2014- After eight years of center-right rule that championed the free-market approach – and which saw Sweden’s economy recover faster than any other in Europe – the Swedish voters recently turned their backs on the governing coalition in favor of left-leaning parties. The darling of the September 14 elections, however, turned out to be the Sweden Democrats who captured 13% of the vote – good for third place – doubling their seats in the Parliament. More importantly, the Sweden Democrats are now in a position of power as both the center-left (43.7%) and center-right (39.3%) blocs lack a clear majority.

The Sweden Democrat party has a far-right nationalist platform that has its roots in a white supremacist organization (‘Keep Sweden Swedish’) and a xenophobic populist movement. In 1988, when the party was founded, its members wore Nazi uniforms to meetings. In a quest for mainstream recognition, the party toned down its radical elements – purportedly rejecting Nazism outright in the late 1990s. It has since aligned its interests with nationalist parties of Europe considered more moderate, such as the National Front party, which currently stands at the precipice of power in France.

Still, the Sweden Democrats have retained some of their radical origins, and local journalists and historians describe the party’s ideology as fascist. The party’s most distinguishable policy proposals are comprehensive restrictions on multicultural activities as well as a 90% cut in immigration numbers – a central feature of its campaign. Although its members are careful to portray a polished, conformist image, there is an occasional glimpse into the party’s dogma. Such was the 2012 video of three Sweden Democrat MPs threatening – with a metal bar – Swedish-Kurdish comedian Soran Ismail, exclaiming that Sweden was “my country, not your country.” This election cycle saw immigration at the forefront of the country’s political agenda.

According to the UN, Sweden received the most per-capita asylum applications in the world from 2009 to 2013. The current influx of immigrants into Sweden is at its highest level in two decades with refugees primarily from Syria, Somalia, and Iraq. In 2014, approximately 80,000 people will apply for asylum – up about 33% from the previous year. The number of foreign-born Swedes has now reached 15% of the total population, compared with 11% in 2000. Polls have shown that a quarter of Swedes would like to see more immigrants while a full 50% would prefer that the number be reduced. Rather than remaining a fringe issue, the governing party inadvertently made immigration a central focus.

In an attempt to fend off a challenge from the left promising increased welfare spending, the reigning Prime Minister, Frederick Reinfeldt, warned that such spending could not be “financed responsibly.” That was so, he continued, due to the “vast cost” of integrating tens of thousands of refugees. The Sweden Democrats immediately capitalized on the Head of State’s nexus between spending and immigration, buttressing their platform around the 90%-cut policy. Conventional election concerns, such as schools and housing, became intertwined with the rising anxiety about immigration numbers – an issue fraught with prejudicial inclinations. Although skinheaded neo-Nazis have been a constant political presence in Europe, their parliamentary representation has been nominal. The Telegraph’s Jake Wallis Simons sees “the boots of the 1930s marching through Europe” – not in the form of Nazi uniforms but through a subtler, more sanitized version of the same message.

Scandinavian far-right parties still maintain a preoccupation with Nordic ethnicity and culture, welcoming only those newcomers that strip all semblances of their identity to embrace the “Swedish way.” But their representatives look, sound, and act mainstream. Less threatening logos have been adopted. Public exposure of anything perceived as “racist” is handled internally with swiftness. The Norwegian far-right official that spoke of “the flow of beggars from outside Norway,” was summarily banned from government. The Sweden Democrat politician who suggested that “ethnic Swedes should be armed” to counter the “immigrant threat” was ousted from the party. Any appearance of bigotry has been carefully whitewashed.

Prior to 2010, the Sweden Democrats failed to crack the 4% threshold to gain Parliament seating. The 2010 election saw the party gain 5.7% of the Swedish vote for 20 of the 349 Parliament seats. In addition to the 49 seats Sweden Democrats will occupy in the upcoming Swedish Parliament, the party also netted 9.7% of Sweden’s seats in the European Parliament. The evolution and progression of the far-right is part of a wider trend in the region. Far-right parties in neighboring Norway and Denmark are part of the respective coalition governments where they are able to directly assert their influence to set policy. Some of their far-right counterparts in the rest of Europe, such as the National Front party’s Marine Le Pen in France, are poised to assume majority control in upcoming elections.

For minorities in Europe, the trend of far-right influence is disconcerting. As demonstrated by the rise of overt European anti-Semitism during the summer’s Israel-Hamas conflict, Jews – in particular – are in the line of fire. Generally viewed as one of the most tolerant nations in the world, Jewish life in Sweden is already effectively restricted. Safety issues persist with direct and indirect threats against the Jewish community as well as verbal and physical attacks on Jewish individuals. Permanent security personnel are needed at the Jewish school, camp, and synagogue. Shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) has been effectively banned since 1937. With the law requiring stunning prior to slaughtering, any kosher meat must be imported. In recent years, ethical considerations around Brit Mila (circumcision) have gained steam, this year culminating in Swedish medical groups calling for its ban. With the emergence of the far-right as a serious participant on the political scene, advocates are unlikely to reverse the prevailing conditions constraining religious freedom.
© The Algemeiner


France: The Far Right Wins Again as France Elects Its Youngest Senator Ever

1/10/2014- After unprecedented success at both the municipal and European elections in spring, France's far-right party, the Front National (FN), broke another record on Sunday. The FN won representation in the senate for the first time in its history, and two seats in France's upper house are another step in the party's establishment in the country's political landscape. Two days after his election, with a smile high on well-rounded cheeks and a sparkle in his eyes, David Rachline walks towards the pack of journalists waiting for him in front of the senate. The battle for the presidency of this house is still raging inside but this new senator is answering questions with the confidence of an experienced politician. Rachline also has a catchy line on his resume. Also the mayor of Fréjus in southeast France, Rachline is only 26, the country's youngest senator ever, when his colleagues are usually in their mid 60s.

Passing the massive doors of the Palais du Luxembourg (a.k.a. the senate) for the first time, the two new senators represent a party that actually wants to abolish the upper house. Yet Rachline told reporters today: "There has always been an interest from the Front National in the senate. This doesn't mean that we can't start a debate on institutional reform. Marine Le Pen [the FN leader] is asking for such reform. We are not in government yet. But it will come soon, very soon. And when this time comes we will put an institutional reform to the agenda. What shape will this reform take? This will be in the hands of the President of the Republic." Are these two seats a real sign that the FN is on its way to the French presidency? Alain Mergier, a sociologist who has studied the party, told VICE News: "There are only two [senators], it won't fundamentally change things. As they won't be able to form a group in the senate, their influence will be really limited. But it's a symbol and an interesting clue. It's symbolic of institutional legitimacy being built step by step. This evolution has to pass through the institutions, this is another institutional element indicating that the FN has become a party like the others, using the same tools of legitimacy."

Stéphane Ravier, the other new FN senator, is mayor of the 7th district of his hometown of Marseille. He also told reporters today: "We will come to the senate to work. We will do it seriously." Rachline added that the new representatives want to add to "new debates" and stand for a "political alternative." Mergier said of the FN's growth: "We've witnessed this rise for a while now. The news event is that this strategy is working. Who can now say that this party is marginal and non-institutional?" However, Mergier added that the timing is not particularly strange: "Both traditional parties, the UMP and the PS are in a terrible shape, in very deep ideological, political and organizational crisis. The two parties that polarize French politics are in a state of advanced decay. Their ideas are blurred: The right-wing doesn't come up with new ideas and it has become impossible to identify the left-wing's ideas."

In recent years, FN strategy has been to attempt to renew both its ideology and its public figures. This process, launched by Marine Le Pen, runs counter to her father's time at the head of the FN, who founded the party in 1972 and led it until 2011. This new tactic has been characterized by the media as "dédiabolisant" or "de-demonizing" the FN. Le Pen has pushed the party's young figures into the spotlight. Jokingly referred to as "the Republic's pension," the senate also lowered the minimum age of eligibility in 2011 from 35 to 24. But while 26-year-old Rachline is France's youngest ever senator, he is not new to the FN and has been a member of the party since he was 15. Fréjus, the town that elected him mayor in March 2014, is currently the biggest city ruled by the FN. This gave him a new public stature, but a profile in the newspaper Liberation tells many chapters of his career as a young active member of the far-right movement. He was a big fan of Jean-Marie Le Pen (and now Le Pen the daughter), and was once close to Alain Soral, the polemical far-right essayist.

Pascal Perrineau, political science professor at Sciences Po in Paris, told VICE News about the effects of these new tactics: "Thanks to this strategy shift, Le Pen has changed her party and focused on local officials, something her father did not do. She realized that in France no political force could neglect a strong local presence. Until now, the FN was mainly a protest party, but now it shows its capability to be rooted locally, in little-known territories and small villages. The FN is starting to look like a respectable, local and 'de-demonized' party."
© The Vice


France: National Front nabs third 'historic' poll victory

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Survivors Can’t Get Justice In Hungary: Lawyers

1/10/2014- In April, Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party — described by the president of the European Jewish Congress as an “unabashedly neo-Nazi party” — won more than 20 percent of the vote in Hungary’s parliamentary election. A poll by the Anti-Defamation League in 2012 found that 63 percent of Hungarians agreed with three out of four anti-Semitic statements. That same year, Jobbik’s deputy parliamentary leader called for the registration of all Jews in Hungary as well as an evaluation of all Jews in the government to determine the “potential danger they pose to Hungary.” And in August, as a protest to the Gaza conflict, the far right-wing mayor of the Hungarian city of Erpatak called Israel a “Jewish terror state” and ordered the hanging in effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres. Now, the anti-Semitism rampant across Hungary is emerging as the central argument in a federal appeals court in Chicago that is hearing what is believed to be the only Holocaust restitution case pending in the U.S.

On Tuesday, that court heard lawyers for Hungarian survivors say that increasing anti-Semitism in Hungary makes it impossible for their clients to win their Holocaust restitution case there. “A virulent strain of anti-Semitism has been spreading at an alarming rate within Hungary … and these dangerous sentiments have found increased acceptance among mainstream Hungarian politicians and parliamentarians,” lawyers for nearly 100 Hungarian survivors said in court papers filed ahead of their arguments to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. U.S. federal courts have jurisdiction in this case because it is against agencies of a foreign government, in addition to which there are alleged violations of international law. The citizenship of those bringing such cases is irrelevant as long as one of the plaintiffs is an American.

The lawyers were appealing a ruling of a lower court — the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois — that dismissed their suits against the Hungarian National Railroad and the Hungarian National Bank on the grounds that they had failed to exhaust their legal remedies in Hungary. In their court papers, the lawyers said the “threats against the Jewish population continue to grow, creating a situation in which it would be completely unreasonable to require the plaintiffs in this case to pursue their remedies against the Hungarian state in Hungary.” The suits were filed in 2010 on behalf of Hungarian survivors who allege that both the bank and railroad “were indispensable participants in, and aiders and abettors of, the execution of the Hungarian genocide of the Jews.” It said Hungarian authorities made the Jews pay for their train ride to the death camps. “These funds were seized either from illegally confiscated private Jewish bank accounts or from the conversion of Jewish personal and real property … as well as from individual Jews as they boarded the trains,” the suit said.

One of the plaintiffs, Edith Eva Eger of San Diego, Calif., told The Jewish Week that she was 16 in 1944 when she was ordered onto a train to Auschwitz with her parents, grandparents and a sister. “They herded us onto the train and I think my mother had things sewn into her clothes and stuffed into a bag, like expensive jewelry,” she recalled. “They were taken by railroad employees. We had to leave it behind before we were put on the cattle car. My parents and grandparents died in the gas chamber the first day they were in Auschwitz. My sister and I survived.” The plaintiffs’ lawyers contend that the “continued retention of these assets without restitution by the present day bank is itself a perpetuation of the act of genocide as the Hungarian Jewish community is being denied the means to fully reconstitute itself to this day.”

Lawyers for the bank and railroad insisted that the plaintiffs did not have to bring a suit in the U.S. because they are free to file suit in Hungarian courts. They argued in their court papers that to “determine whether the decades-long chain of successorship alleged by plaintiffs has any validity whatsoever, a court will need to examine complex issues of Hungarian law” and the impact of “Communist expropriation and reprivatization. … “The Hungarian courts are patently more capable of deciding these issues than U.S. courts, and … . The risk of adversely affecting U.S./Hungary foreign relations by determining these issues is clear,” they argued.

But the survivors’ lawyers argued that pursuing their claims in Hungary would be fruitless. They cited: 
# Growing anti-Semitism.
The fact that Hungary denaturalized and disenfranchised Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust, stripping them of any rights accorded Hungarian citizens.
Compensatory laws defendants said would redress survivors’ injuries expired more than 15 years ago, were available only briefly and were inadequate.
The statute of limitations on these claims expired.

In addition, the lawyers pointed out, the new Hungarian Constitution exempts Hungary from responsibility for actions committed during the Holocaust. “Plaintiffs here could even face prosecution in Hungary for daring to ‘denigrate the state’ by accusing the government of being complicit in the Holocaust when the Hungarian Constitution disclaims such responsibility,” they said. But in its ruling dismissing the suit, the lower court wrote: “Plaintiffs offer mere speculation and unsupported fears that they may not be treated fairly in the Hungarian court system, contending that the ‘Hungarian judicial system is not fair or independent.’”

James Lowy, a Tampa, Fla., lawyer who represents other Hungarian Holocaust survivors who are considering filing a similar suit against the Hungarian railroad and bank, told The Jewish Week that his clients “are afraid that if they openly join the claims in Chicago — without some form of protection — then the Hungarian government will retaliate against them individually, their organization and the broader organized Hungarian Jewish community. … All of them are afraid of the rise in anti-Semitism in Hungary.” He said they complained to him that the “the idea of having to first make the claims in Hungary before being able to come back to make the claims in the United States is crazy. … Holocaust survivors will never be able to make and prosecute claims in Hungary and they will never get a chance of a fair hearing before a judge who is not prejudiced against Jews.”

But attorneys for the bank said the lower court had considered the plaintiffs’ claims that they feared for their safety in Hungary and “explicitly considered and then disregarded this argument” as having “ insufficient evidence as to their safety concerns.” Lowy said he believes that once the Court of Appeals rules, survivors from such countries as Romania and Ukraine may file similar restitution claims. But what may be unique about the Hungarian suits is the claim that virulent anti-Semitism in Hungary makes pursuit of claims there impossible. The plaintiffs contend that although anti-Semitism “continues to be a scourge throughout Europe and the world, what seems different in Hungary is the growing acceptance, tolerance and, in fact, integration of these sentiments into the mainstream.”

They cited a February 2012 survey by the Anti-Defamation League that found that 73 percent of Hungarians believe Jews have too much power in the business world, 75 percent believe Jews have too much power in international financial markets, and 55 percent believe Jew are more loyal to Israel than to Hungary. And the suit quoted Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, as saying that Hungary is experiencing the most worrying anti-Semitic trends in Europe in which “barely a week passes without an attack on minorities or outrageous comments from far-right politicians.” Ken McCallion, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, told The Jewish Week that the president of Hungary fired the chief judge for objecting to judicial reforms that caused Jewish judges to resign. He said those and other political changes in Hungary have prompted the European Union to consider expelling Hungary as a member. He added that he is unable to “find a lawyer in Hungary to work with because they are all afraid of their lives.” He noted that there have been numerous attempts by survivors over the years to sue the national bank and railroad for restitution but they have “gotten nowhere.” “In the last 50 years, no family has received more than $200 in reparations,” he said.
© The Jewish Week


Hungarian PM bans extremist-sponsored conference

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

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


Bulgarian elections 2014: NGO lodges complaint over far-right party’s poster

1/10/2014- An election campaign poster by the far-right Bulgarian National Union-New Democracy party in the country’s early parliamentary elections on October 5 has led to a complaint by an NGO for its depiction of black people in an anti-foreigner message. The poster has a photograph of three people, a man, woman and child, wearing Bulgarian traditional dress. The text says, in translation, “No thanks! I choose (ballot) number three – Bulgarian National Union-ND”. The party, led by Boyan Rasate – who in 2013 was in the headlines for his involvement in anti-immigrant “civil patrols” in Sofia – has been campaigning on an ultra-nationalist platform. No opinion poll sees it winning seats in Bulgaria’s 43rd National Assembly. In a letter to the Central Election Commission, Antoaneta Tsoneva of the Institute for Public Environment Development said that the institute believed the poster was contrary to article 183, paragraph 4, of the Election Act. This forbids the use of promotional materials that threaten the lives and health of citizens, private, municipal and state property and traffic safety, as well as materials which violate the decency, honour and reputation of the candidates. She said that she had contacted Rasate by phone to ask whether it was his political group that was distributing the poster. She said that she had been told that the poster was being distributed from October 1 until October 3. “We urge the CEC to take the action provided for by law to stop the distribution of this election poster,” Tsoneva said.
© The Sofia Globe


Bulgaria's GERB Far Ahead of BSP in Sova Harris Poll

30/9/2014- Six parties are expected to enter the Bulgarian National Assembly after early elections on Sunday, polling agency Sova Harris predicts. A survey ordered by the daily Presa shows that conservative Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) will be the clear winner at the vote, with 98 MP seats, 32 seats ahead of the Bulgarian Socialist Party BSP, coming second with 66 seats. Liberals from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) are expected to get half as many lawmakers (33) and Bulgaria without Censorship will likely have two time less than this (15-16). The Reformist Bloc, which until recently was considered to have a result close to the threshold of 4-percent support, looks now as certain to enter the Parliament, with the votes of about 200 000 people helping it to jump over the barrier, the pollster says. Another group to the right of the political spectrum, the Patriotic Front (a VMRO-NFSB coalition) will also make it into the National Assembly with 13 lawmakers, according to Sova Harris. Far-right Ataka, which was part of the former Parliament, has seen support plummet, with many of its voters drained by the Patriotic Front. The poll's results suggest Ataka will most likely stand below the election threshold. The figures show that a center-right majority is the most evident option to forge a coalition after the snap vote, Sova Harris believes. The agency stresses voter turnout has seen a five-percent increase in the last month, with 58% (3.4-3.6 million) of those eligible to vote saying they will cast a ballot.
© Novinite


Russia ends US student exchange in part over 'friendly relations' of gay men

Longstanding study abroad program ends as Kremlin official claims student was persuaded to ask for US asylum by Michigan couple.

2/10/2014- Russian authorities have cancelled a long-running foreign exchange program with the United States, alleging that a gay couple persuaded a young man to stay with them and apply for asylum after he was meant to return home. In announcing the end of Russia’s participation in the US government-run Future Leaders Exchange (Flex) program, children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov claimed that two gay men became the legal guardians of a Russian student, after the student left his original host family and stayed in America when the school year ended in May. “One of the reasons [for the decision] was the gross violation by the host country, the United States, of the obligation to unconditionally return students from Russia who travel there to study,” Astakhov wrote on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

US ambassador to Russia John Tefft said in a statement the Russian government had canceled its participation in Flex, the largest educational exchange program between the two countries, for 2015-16. Since it was founded in 1992, the state department-financed program has brought 23,000 students aged 15 to 17 from former Soviet countries to study in American schools and live with local families for one academic year, including about 8,000 students from Russia. Astakhov said in an interview with the official government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta that the student, who was born in 1997, moved in with two men in Michigan, “and they gradually developed – how can I say this carefully – close friendly relations.” “The men wanted to register their guardianship over him and have him live with them, and he agreed,” he said.

Russian state news agency Itar-Tass reported that the student met the gay couple, elderly veterans who had previously adopted two American boys, in church, quoting legal representatives of the Russian embassy in the United States. The couple offered to become his immigration sponsors and pay for him to study at Harvard University, it reported. “Under their influence and with the permission of his American host family, the young Russian turned himself in to US immigration authorities and asked for asylum, saying that he was gay,” Itar-Tass reported. Human rights organisations have accused the Russian government of promoting discrimination following a 2013 law against gay propaganda, and this year the country passed legislation banning the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples or single people in countries where same-sex marriage is legal. Previously, Russia also banned all adoptions by US citizens.

Foreign ministry human rights commissioner Konstantin Dolgov said in a statement on Wednesday that the Flex program had “created conditions for getting around Russian law, such as the ban on adoptions by American citizens, including those of non-traditional orientation … Such an incident unfortunately took place.” Itar-Tass reported that the student met with his Russian mother in the presence of local lawyers to tell her he was seeking asylum. “As far as the embassy knows, these lawyers themselves observe a non-traditional sexual orientation,” the agency wrote. During the meeting, his mother “at times cried and took medicine, at other times was happy for some reason”, it quoted embassy representatives as saying.

David Patton, executive vice-president of American Councils for International Education, which administers the Flex program, said the Michigan student had been placed in a “traditional home stay”. If students refuse to leave after the program, it becomes an “immigration-naturalisation issue”, he said. “Over years of the Flex program and 8,000 participants, the non-returnee rate is less than 1%, but human beings are human beings and can’t always be controlled, and there are occasions when people decide to stay,” Patton said. “At that point we are unable, we have no authority to put them on a plane.” According to Astakhov, at least 15 Russians have stayed in the United States over the years after traveling there on various exchange programs.

Anton Meshkov, a 2012-2013 Flex participant, said the fact that 15 young people stayed was not a “serious reason to take away the chance to travel from hundreds of kids”. “It’s absurd to suppose that the program could facilitate the seduction of young Russians,” Meshkov said. “As a participant in this program myself, I know what a serious selection process host families go through.”
© The Guardian


Russian Media Ignores Olympic Non-Discrimination Standards Added After Sochi

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

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

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


Move to Ban Gay Unions Alarms Macedonia NGOs

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

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

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

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


Thousands march across Spain to celebrate end of abortion reform

Pro-choice campaigners also hail resignation of ex-justice minister over failure of law.

29/9/2014- Women’s groups marched across Spain on Sunday to celebrate the government’s recent announcement that it was dropping plans to toughen the country’s abortion law. The demonstrations, which coincided with a global abortion rights campaign called March for Choice and took place in 40 Spanish cities, also hailed the resignation of the minister who championed the changes. The largest march took place in Madrid, where around 3,000 people stood in the rain and chanted slogans such as “Yes we can!” and “Gallardón has been left without a seat!” There were several well-known faces in the crowd, including Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez, who said he would be “watching” to ensure the government did not curtail women’s rights in any way. Smaller marches took place in Barcelona, Seville, Bilbao, Valladolid, Alicante, Málaga, A Coruña and Vigo, among other cities.

Organizers had initially called the marches to protest the conservative Popular Party (PP) government’s plan to revoke existing legislation, which allows abortion on demand in the first trimester. The PP wanted to take Spain back to an earlier law that prohibited pregnancy terminations except in a few specific cases, such as rape or serious and accredited fetal deformities. Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón had planned to take the new law further and eliminate even this last possibility, a notion that created widespread opposition among political and social groups. The deeply divisive reform had even affected the PP, some of whose leading officials openly expressed opposition to it. After softening up parts of the draft, a week ago Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy confirmed that the reform was being scrapped altogether, a decision that prompted the resignation of Ruiz-Gallardón just hours later. He has since been replaced by Rafael Catalá.
© El País in English


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

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

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

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


Migrant deaths crossing Mediterranean top 3,000 in 2014

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

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


Greece: Demolition of uninhabited homes at Roma camp goes ahead

1/10/2014- Authorities on Wednesday went ahead with the contentious demolition of 12 uninhabited residences at a Roma camp in the northern Athenian suburb of Halandri but have postponed the relocation of dozens of residents to a new site west of the capital amid reactions. Residents of the camp, which was established behind the present-day Nomismatokopio metro station over 40 years ago, on Tuesday defied evacuation orders and staged protest action the included roadblocks on Mesogeion Avenue. The Roma at this particular location are protesting a decision by authorities to have them relocated to a mountain in Megara, west of Athens, arguing that it is too isolated and vulnerable to the elements. After several meetings between municipal and regional authorities with representatives of the Roma residents, it was decided that the demolition of the 12 uninhabited residences would go ahead on Wednesday morning, but the relocation would be postponed until a more suitable site is found.

Speaking on Skai TV on Wednesday morning, the Interior Ministry’s general secretary of decentralized administration, Manolis Angelakas, said that it will take up to two months for the residents of the camp to be relocated. Halandri Mayor Simos Roussos said that an agreement was reached on Tuesday for the demolition of 12 uninhabited residences with the approval of the community's president, Stelios Kalamiotis, who supervised Wednesday's operation. The objective, Roussos said, is to "meet the decisions of the courts which have to be executed at the smallest possible cost to the people." The mayor also said that his intention when backing the Roma protesters on Tuesday and calling for more dialogue was to "avert police intervention, which would have put the Roma, their neighbors and the entire area at risk." "The Roma need to be relocated under conditions that ensure a dignified quality of life, with access to healthcare, education and all the necessary infrastructures," Roussos added.

The Roma camp in Halandri was established in the early 1970s by trespassers on privately owned land. The owners of these plots have secured several court orders for their evacuation over the past 15 years, yet all efforts to clear the camp have so far failed.
© Kathimerini


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

© The Malta Independent


Czech Rep: Roma Or Away As Teams Refuse To Play Gypsy Soccer Side

2/10/2014- A Roma gypsy football cub just promoted to the Czech football league is being boycotted by other teams who say they are too scared to play them. The club - FK Junior Roma - has won two games by default already this season because teams refused to play them at home, and two others have also said they will not be turning up to the team's home ground in the town of Decin in the northern Czech Republic's Bohemia region. They shot to notoriety during a pre-league amateur game in 2011 when the Roma team members from Decin attacked the referee, and the other team - and then turned on rival supporters. The club was banned after they refused to pay a fine following the fight but were allowed to come back to the country's nine league this year as FK Junior Roma. But many teams in the league have reacted strongly against their return with one Czech player - who refused to be named for fear or reprisals - told local media: "If their players don't get you their fans will. They are the most violent team in the league." He added: "We are a small, friendly division but the last time we went there we were threatened."

But teams refusing to play the side will not only lose matches by default, they will also be fined 500 GBP per missed match. Football league spokesman Ondrej Synek said: "We cannot have teams picking and choosing which games they play. This may end up with FK Junior Roma winning the division by default while barely kicking a ball." General secretary of Czech Football Association Rudolf Repka added: "This is not racism, teams are just scared of the club's fans." But the goalkeeper for the FK Junior Roma side Patrik Herak said: "The guys from those teams told us openly: 'You're gypsies, we're not playing against you'. It seems we are too black for them." FK Junior Roma's coach Pavel Horvath said: "We insist on politeness and fair play on the pitch at all times. Every team can play against us without worrying." But one rival team member Martin Pilecky from Prysk FC said: "We've agreed to play against them - but only because our club doesn't have enough money to pay the fine."

To try to encourage solidarity among the teams, the Swedish ambassador to Prague, Annika Jagander, arranged for a friendly match to be played between embassies and FK Junior Roma, which surprisingly ended with a 6-5 penalty shoot out win for the diplomats. Horvath later described the solidarity match as "extremely pleasant not only for the footballers, but for all Roma in Decin".
© The Croatian Times


Czech Roma Under the Swastika

This article won the best reportage category in the 2013 Czech journalism competition organized by the Open Society Fund-Prague. It originally appeared in Respekt magazine. Awards were handed out in a ceremony in April. – TOL

Only a tenth of Roma survived extermination during the Nazi protectorate. Some even thanks to ‘white people.’ 
by Silvie Lauder

1/10/2014- Seventy years ago Czech and Slovak Roma embarked on a grim path to nearly complete annihilation. In the spring and summer of 1943, 4,500 Roma were shipped off to the so-called Gypsy camp in Auschwitz: one-third were from camps in Lety and Hodonin, in the south and southwest of the country, and two-thirds were taken from their homes. The fates of local Roma remain one of the least investigated chapters of the war, and one part of this story is completely unknown – that some Roma survived the Nazi attempt at extermination thanks to the help of “white people.”

The Train That Left
Even after decades 87-year-old Emilie Machalkova’s voice shakes and tears fill her eyes when she recalls those scenes. The spring sun was not yet very warm when one Monday afternoon she stood, a 16-year-old girl, at the railway station in Nesovice, a village 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Brno. She, her parents, two brothers, grandmother, and 3-year-old cousin were waiting for a train to take them to the stables of the protectorate police in Masna Street in Brno, where they had been told to report. Nearly all their neighbors accompanied them to the station, Machalkova recalls: all her childhood friends and family friends came. Someone brought a traditional Czech pork dish, others bread. “All of us were crying a lot because we thought that we wouldn’t come back.” They were right to be afraid. A few weeks earlier much of Machalkova’s extended family in Moravia had been summoned to Masna Street. Lugging a suitcase, her grandfather Pavel had left, along with three of her uncles, some cousins, and other relatives – all together 33 members of the large Holomek family, a known clan of Moravian Roma. Even though it was not until after the war that they found out the whole truth, at the time everyone suspected that Roma, just like Jews, were being sent to their deaths. “In ’42 they took away the entire Jewish Fischer family, who had an estate and a restaurant in Nesovice. We knew our time was coming too,” Machalkova says.

Last year Machalkova and her husband, Jan, celebrated their 50th anniversary in a comfortable apartment in Brno. On the walls and shelves is a flood of smiling photographs of their three daughters, son, grandchildren, and great grandchildren – reminders that thanks to the bravery of some, they were among the few protectorate Roma who escaped the extermination machine. In March 1943 during the farewells at the Nesovice station, suddenly Josef Kilian, the town’s mayor, appeared. Pale and exhausted, he had just returned from Brno, where, he told the terrified family, he had vouched for them in the office of the Gestapo and had them “exempted from the transport,” – a status later inscribed on their protectorate identification cards. “Apparently for three days he negotiated at the Gestapo. He probably didn’t just negotiate, since he told us afterward that even Germans can be bribed,” Machalkova says. “When we asked him why he did it, he said, ‘I have to protect my citizens.’ ”

Although the mayor could not save the Fischer family, for the only Roma family in his city he took advantage of the existing legal instruments. According to documents of the Central Office of Reich Security, members of the police could exempt people from many categories from the list, including “Gypsy individuals who are socially adjusted.” Kilian convinced the Brno officials to do it in the case of the Holomeks, even though he put the whole city at risk in doing so, as afterward the Gestapo regularly checked on the family. There are other stories like Machalkova’s, but first a little history is in order.

Against Roaming Gypsies
Special laws against Gypsies started to spread across Europe as early as the Middle Ages (the first Czech one was promulgated in 1549). In the first third of the 20th century the “fight against the Gypsy tide,” as it was commonly called, was a firm part of the law of many states. “When Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they inherited a number of already existing anti-Gypsy laws,” historians Donald Kenrick and Grattan Puxon write in their 1995 book Gypsies under the Swastika. In 1927 the parliament of Czechoslovakia passed the “law on roaming Gypsies,” requiring them to register and be fingerprinted and prohibiting them from entering certain areas. “This statutory regulation was among the most restrictive in Europe and in the 1930s it was given as a model at international criminal conferences,” historian Petr Lhotka says. Later, Czechoslovak officials would cite the law when returning Austrian and German Roma who fled to Czechoslovakia back to those countries. Furthermore, the decision to establish disciplinary labor camps for men who did not have “a proper way of life,” into which later entire Roma families would be herded, was made even before the German occupation in March 1939. Although this measure did not lead to the mass murder of Roma, it did prepare the ground for it.

Later, first in Germany and then in other countries, the Nazis broadened and toughened the existing laws. Along with Jews, in 1935 Roma were included in the Nuremberg Racial Laws, which later established so-called preventive detention, into which anyone considered “anti-social” or “whose conduct, even if not criminal, … makes clear a lack of desire to conform to society” could be put indefinitely. People were sent from preventive detention for an indefinite time to concentration camps. From the end of 1939 Roma could not migrate within the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Those who did so were sent to the disciplinary labor camps that had been established in Lety and Hodonin. At the same time the Nazi persecution of the Roma was contrary to their ideology celebrating the Aryan race, to which Gypsies – with their Indian origins – belonged. Robert Ritter, the head of the Research Institute for Racial Hygiene, helped to fudge this issue. “Ritter claimed that he found only one-tenth of Roma, if not less, were pureblooded. The rest were mixed,” writes historian Guenter Lewy in The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies.

Himmler’s Decisions
Until 1942 Roma were dying in concentration camps; Jewish ghettos in Poland, where the Nazis had moved them until the beginning of the war (Austrian Roma were put into the Lodz ghetto); or in the East, where the SS Einsatzgruppen murdered them along with Jews. Only in the fall of 1942 – half a year after the Wannsee Conference, where the decision was made to exterminate Europe’s Jews – did the Nazis reach a decision on “the final solution” to the “Gypsy question” as well. “Who decided about the extermination of the gypsies along with the Jews has not been confirmed with certainty,” Kenrick and Puxon write. “The available evidence suggests that it was the personal decision of Himmler.” Gypsies did not interest Hitler, although he knew about the policy change and authorized it. There is not a single word about Roma in Mein Kampf and in all the 12 years of his rule he mentioned them publicly only twice. However, Himmler stood behind most of the steps concerning Roma, including the first plan to move them to the East, or to expand the murderous work of the Einsatzgruppen to the Roma.

In 1942, 250 Roma were sent to Auschwitz in 10 trainloads that carried mostly whites whom authorities deemed “anti-social.” The first exclusively Roma mass transport to Auschwitz left Germany at the end of February 1943. Because a large Roma community lived on the territory of the protectorate, the protectorate offices were under pressure to get the transports running as soon as possible. As early as 8 March, more than 1,000 Roma had been sent to Auschwitz from Brno and its surroundings. Another 2,000 followed from Prague and Olomouc. A shift had occurred. While in 1941, only individual Roma who had violated some law were sent to concentration camps, a year later it was the turn of whole families, even the law-abiding, “assimilated” ones. That could be why some “whites” helped Roma when things started to get rough – they were their neighbors, classmates, and friends.

Unsung Heroes
We know little about those who helped Jews. One hundred and fourteen Czechs have been recognized as Righteous Among Nations, an honor bestowed by the Yad Vashem remembrance organization in Jerusalem to those who saved or helped Jews during the Holocaust. “I dare to say that there are tens, maybe hundreds of cases where those who helped Jews didn’t get any prize or recognition,” says historian Miroslava Ludvikova, author of Darovane Zivoty: Pribehy Ceskych a Moravskych Spravedlivych Mezi Narody (The Gift of Life: Stories of Czech and Moravian Righteous Among Nations). Of course, Roma have no state to represent their interests as the Jews now have, but in the decades following the war, their situations in communist Czechoslovakia were similar: no one talked about their fate. During this time the victims died out, as did their potential rescuers – and with them, their stories. “We won’t find it in the archives. The majority of Roma eyewitnesses didn’t survive and non-Roma eyewitnesses are dead,” says historian Michal Schuster of Brno’s Museum of Romani Culture.

Some stories were saved thanks to Ctibor Necas, a historian who found eyewitnesses and recorded their stories in the late 1980s. Among them was Vincenc Daniel, who fled from the Auschwitz transport and survived in the forests around Brno until the end of the war thanks solely to residents of surrounding villages who gave him sustenance and did not expose him. Many Roma musicians, among them Jozka Kubik, a legendary bandleader from the southeastern Hornacko region, managed to avoid the transport thanks to the persuasion of the little-known Moravia Ethnographic Association. The Brno Gestapo chief, an inspector Boda, saved other members of the Holomek family. First, he warned Tomas Holomek, the first of the local Roma with a university education, who hid with one of his university friends. Later, he saved six of the children of Tomas’ brother Stanislav from the transport. They survived the war hidden with friends and acquaintances.

Bozena Danielova, an 8-year-old prisoner of the Hodonin camp, escaped from the Auschwitz transport and was hidden until the end of the war by a non-Roma family in Olesnice, a town north of Brno. In their book, Kenrick and Puxon mention Barbara Richterova, who fled from the camp in Lety to Prague, where she got help from a “transport inspector who gave her a dress and a hat so she could hide her shaved head.” After a re-arrest she went through Auschwitz and other camps, one from which she managed to escape again and to hide with a man in Prague whom she later married. Many secret heroes did not manage to change the unhappy fate of their Roma compatriots, but at least they tried to help them. For example, Bozena Valdova’s family hid for months with the knowledge and aid of unknown residents of the village of Lidecko in eastern Moravia but in the end someone exposed them.

Houses, Horses, Equipment
Although we don’t know how often the persecuted Roma got such help, the numbers suggest it was rare. Of more than 6,000 protectorate Roma only one-tenth survived. In many places, Nazi plans were welcomed as a way to get rid of the Roma. For example, the municipal council of Svatoborice at Kyjova, a town southeast of Brno, addressed a letter to the government even before the German occupation calling for the need to “clean the roots of the nation from such parasites as the Roma.” (It is no surprise that it was from here that the ill-fated members of the Holomek family disappeared before someone could stand up for them, as happened later for their relatives.) “It was the same as with the Jews; it was about property,” Schuster says. “People say they didn’t leave much behind, but that isn’t true – they had houses, crafts, or workshops. Horse traders had horses.” Archives show that the Roma’s neighbors either took their property directly or attained it through public auctions. For example, in March 1943 one city council announced the auction of belongings of “the Gypsy Tomas Daniel.” Six beehives with the bees were up for grabs along with a goat, a rabbit, a blacksmith’s anvil, and “home furnishings.” The owner was in Auschwitz at the time.

Some Roma witnessed the theft of their homes and belongings. “They hadn’t even taken us away yet and already they were robbing us,” recalls Antonia Angrova from Straznice, a town southeast of Brno. Roma property, which unlike Jewish property was not reserved for Germans, was plundered mercilessly. Many Roma who survived the war were shocked to find that even their houses, inherited from their parents, had disappeared, stick by stick. An overwhelming majority, around 5,500, of Czech and Moravian Roma ended up in Auschwitz. Most were transferred to the so-called Gypsy camp, which was special in allowing families to stay together. In that respect it was similar to the family camp of the Czech Jews. Historians are still investigating why the Nazis, in the middle of mass murder, decided to have a milder model in these two camps. Kenrick and Puxon suggest it was an “experiment in how to handle other unclean races in the continuation of German expansion.” This experiment lost its point as the war’s end – and Soviet troops – drew near, and the inmates of these camps were quickly murdered.

Twenty thousand of the 23,000 European Roma who went through the Gypsy camp did not survive. Czech and Moravian Roma, after German and Austrian Roma, made up the second-largest group and on them the Nazi persecution fell with the most terrifying strength. “The majority of adults were killed along with entire families and clans, and with them their family traditions, customs, music, songs, and stories were lost,” notes Vlasta Kladivova in the book, The Last Stop: Auschwitz-Birkenau. “There was no one left to pass them on to.”

To the Stables and the Slaughterhouses
In March 1943 the officials of the German police and the protectorate gendarmes gathered more than 1,000 Roma from Brno and other places around Moravia in the stables of the gendarme in Brno’s Masna Street. The stables were located near the city slaughterhouses, to which the railroad led, and transports did not elicit much attention here. All the Roma had their hair cut off, which caused the women, who were proud of their long hair, to cry. Some eyewitnesses also spoke of the tearing out of gold teeth. Their documents and valuables were confiscated; because people suspected they may not return home, they had taken with them their jewelry, savings, cash, and checkbooks. They slept on piles of hay on the ground, freezing in unheated spaces with only minimal rations of food. For the overwhelming majority, who had lived in their own homes, this was a shock. Later, they were moved to the Brno slaughterhouses, from where 1,038 Moravian Roma in 23 cattle cars were taken to Auschwitz. Czech-Moravian railroad, a protectorate railroad company, organized the transport, so we can assume that some Czech or Moravian drove the train as well as threw coal in the furnace of the train. Whoever he was, he left a chilling and terse report, unearthed in the archives by historian Michal Schuster, that the “transport and conferral of the Gypsies was carried out without a single fault.”
Silvie Lauder is a reporter for the Czech magazine Respekt, where this article originally appeared. Translated by Anna Kotlabova.
© Transitions Online.


Czech NGO releases exclusive survey by and about Romani women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Serbia: Belgrade Braces For First Gay Pride Parade Since 2010

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

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

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

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


Serbia: Belgrade gay pride a 'milestone'

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

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

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


Serbia: Belgrade gears up for first Gay Pride since 2010

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


GERMAN & UK NEWS week 40

Germany: Berlin: Anti-Semitic Attack on Tourist over Rosh Hashanah

Tourist insulted, robbed of Star of David necklace amid concerns of rising anti-Semitism in Germany.

1/10/2014- A 31 year-old tourist was attacked in Berlin last week, according to the Judisches Forum fur Demokratie und gegen Anti-Semitism (Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism), during the Rosh Hashanah holiday. At about 6:00 pm Thursday, the organization stated, an attacker shouted anti-Semitic insults at the tourist and mugged him, snatching the Star of David necklace he wore around his neck. The attack occurred in the Kreuzberg district, local De Welt added, in Gorlitz Park. Germany's national police have launched an investigation into the incident, it said.

Anti-Semitism throughout Europe reached record highs during the past few months as incitement and attacks against Jews - mostly led by Muslim the extremists, but also elements from the far-right and far-left - left Jewish communities throughout the continent in a state of shock. Germany's Jewish community in July, at the height of the fighting between Israel and terrorists in Gaza, condemned an "explosion of evil and violent hatred of Jews" at pro-Palestinian rallies where some demonstrators chanted that Jews should be "gassed".

The spate of ugly incidents that deeply unsettled Germany's resurgent 200,000-strong Jewish community also saw a petrol bomb hurled at the facade of a synagogue in the western city of Wuppertal. Three people, described as "Palestinian" nationals, have been arrested in connection to that attack. Anti-Semitism has become so high recently that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with Jewish leaders, spearheaded a rally in a central Berlin square against Jew hatred earlier this month.
© Arutz Sheva


Germany: An affront to the constitution(opinion)

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution may have some success fighting religious fanatics, but it's been an utter failure in coping with the right-wing NSU, writes DW's Marcel Fürstenau.
By Marcel Fürstenau

2/10/2014- What else will come out? How deep do the troublesome roots run? These questions still need to be posed almost three years after the far-right extremist National Socialist Underground (NSU) became known to the general public. The terror group is accused of 10 race-related murders and numerous bombings and bank robberies. The alleged offenders disappeared in 1998, even though the Thuringia branch of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, Germany's domestic intelligence agency) kept them under surveil-lance at the time. The series of murders began two years later and only ended in 2007. Now the public has learned that the BfV received a CD marked NSU/NSDAP (the abbreviation for Hitler's Nazi Party) all the way back in 2005. According to the Cologne-based BfV, the CD was recently discovered "while looking through files for ongoing preliminary proceedings." If this is true, it's another reason to be concerned as it would mean that the office responsible for protecting the German constitution is not able to filter its own material in this digital age.

How else could it be explained that undiscovered information is collecting dust in the archives of a highly technical intelligence agency, when it should become visible with a simple keyword search?

No more embarrassing excuses
Did anyone at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution think it might possibly be a good idea to search their own files for "NSU"? No more excuses, please. They are sometimes embarrassing, sometimes ridiculous, but mostly: implausible! Here's a sad reminder: a few days after the NSU revealed itself in November 2011, files relating to the terror group were destroyed. In light of scandal after scandal, who is still willing to believe in coincidence or incompetence? Heinz Fromm, then president of the BfV, stepped down. Shocked by the NSU, Germany's federal interior minister and his colleagues from Germany's 16 states vowed to push through extensive reforms in the intelligence agency. But they have hardly more to show for it than a central database for informers who are part of their respective scenes and report back to the BfV. In the past, handling rightwing extremist and other informers was the dominion of each state's authorities. This practice was based on vanity and jealousy and facilitated the murderous actions of the rightwing extremists. The parliamentary inquiry committees in Berlin and Frankfurt concluded as much.

Which secrets did "Corelli" take to his grave?
The same accusation was recently made by a lawyer for the victims' relatives in the Munich-based NSU trial, which has been going on since May 2013. The timing for his accusation was perfect: after the questioning of neo-Nazi and longtime informant Tino Brandt and his handlers in the BfV. The alleged NSU-murderers Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos radicalized in the orbit of these murky relationships between rightwing extremists and intelligence agents. But the questionable state of things in Thuringia is not the only factor contributing to rising doubts about the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The NSU-CD that has supposedly only now been checked in Cologne comes from another highly questionable informant from the rightwing extremist scene. Thomas R., also known as "Corelli" was found dead in his apartment a couple of months ago. It is to be feared that the public will never learn the secrets he took to his grave.

No source protection when it comes to murder!
And then there's former BfV agent Andreas T., who was proven to have been on the scene when the NSU murdered Halit Yozgat. The investigation against him was dropped after a short time. The case files remained sealed to the public as per orders of Volker Bouffier, then interior minister of Hesse. The conservative politician has been promoted; he is now governing the state together with the Green party. A few months ago, an NSU inquiry commission has been instated in Hesse's parliament as well. This commission, too, will come to conclusions that everyone is already aware of: state authorities, and especially those protecting the constitution, have failed. As long as all files with relations to the NSU remain closed, however, there won't be more than this finding. Pointing to the duty to protect sources, who are shady informants from the right-wing extremist scene, is more than cynical towards the families of the victims. The fact that the background of a race-related series of murders could remain undetected for years is scandalous enough. But the lack of willingness from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and some politicians to illuminate things is topping it of. And it makes you wonder, what else will come out?
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: New allegations against German intelligence over NSU murders

When allegations came to light in 2011 that a right-wing terrorist group had committed murders unchecked in Germany for years, domestic intelligence was under the gun. Now there are more questions being asked.

1/10/2014- Over five years before the NSU members were caught, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution - German domestic intelligence - was in possession of a CD labeled "NSU/NSDAP" [National Socialist Underground/National Socialist German Workers' Party, the latter of which was the party co-founded by Adolf Hitler, eds. note]. The CD had been in the intelligence archive since 2005, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday, adding, however: "It was only found last Monday during an archive search for another investigation in process."

Politicians outraged
"This is yet another setback in a long line of mishaps on the part of our intelligence when it comes to rightwing terrorism," said Irene Mihalic, Green party politician and member of a parliamentary committee on internal affairs, in response to the finding. Other members of the committee asked Wednesday whether this simply represented incompetence, or whether there were motives behind the CD not being "found" all this time. "Now it's clear that we have to turn over every single stone in the intelligence archive," said Burkhard Lischka, Bundestag internal affairs spokeswoman. Officials at the intelligence office said the CD contained "rightwing extremist" material and the NSU tag, but that it offered no conclusive evidence suggesting the existence of a terrorist group.

Unchecked for a decade
The NSU trial, which is in its 144th day, concerns the murders of nine Germans of foreign descent (eight Turkish, one Greek) and a police officer, as well as bank robberies and bombings, all of which are believed to have taken place between 2001 and 2007. German intelligence was aware of the NSU while the murders were taking place. Officials say they withheld their knowledge under the assumption that the murders were reactions to disputes with other groups. Only when Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt committed suicide in November 2011 did the existence of the rightwing terror trio come to light. Soon after, the third member, Beate Zschäpe, set fire to the group's hideout, an apartment in Zwickau. Authorities found weapons, rightwing paraphernalia and a CD with pictures linking the trio to the murders. The trial against Zschäpe began at a Munich court in 2013.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Led and misled: Neo-Nazi informant Tino Brandt in NSU trial

In the ongoing proceedings against the National Socialist Underground, federal agents have described how they recruited spies from the far-right scene. It is clear they were walking on thin ice.

1/10/2014- At times, the trial - now on its 144th day - against the National Socialist Underground (NSU) cell at Munich's OLG court can be tiring. But it can also be informative and shocking. That was the case last week when Tino Brandt was called as a witness. Brandt, a former neo-Nazi activist, worked as an informer for the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's domestic intelligence agency. This week, three of his so-called handlers from the regional authorities for the Protection of the Constitution in the state of Thuringia are called to testify. From the mid-1990s until media reports blew his cover in 2001, they worked with Brandt. The 39-year-old founder of the so-called Thuringian Homeland Protection (THS) was a key figure in the group when Beate Zschäpe, the main defendant, and fellow NSU members Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos were involved in the neo-Nazi scene about 20 years ago. Brandt's former handler, Reiner B., didn't mince words: "From head to toe, he was a rightwing extremist." And that hasn't changed, he said. Coming from an agent who dealt regularly with Brandt for about four years, this is a notable statement. After all, Brandt gave a completely different portrayal of himself a few days ago. He said he was opposed to violence and had plans to become a lawmaker for the rightwing party NPD.

Big shot in the far right scene 
But that's not how the handler remembers dealing with Brandt as an informer. They weren't interested in having him be omnipresent, B. said, adding that it was difficult to stem Brandt's influence as THS initiator and officer of the far right NPD party. In fact, B. said, the Thuringian Office for the Protection of the Constitution was not pleased to see the informer was a "big shot" on the rightwing scene. From a current perspective, he said, keeping Brandt in check was "quite an impossible task." Meanwhile, the handler at the time finds it regrettable in hindsight, "to have only had one source." Intelligence wise, it is always better to have two in order to confirm the information, B. emphasized. He did not believe, however, that the human source named "Brandt" was a complete failure from the perspective of the federal office. They had successfully forbidden him to take part in the so-called Wednesday get-togethers of the far right scene, while they had threatened to cancel his spying bonuses. At the time, Brandt was "obedient" and had done, "what we wanted and not what he wanted."

'Federal agents enabled the NSU to commit serious crimes'
Joint plaintiffs' attorney Thomas Bliwier is certain after Brandt's testimony and that of his handler B, that the questionable cooperation was "a complete failure" of the intelligence agency. In his statement at the end of the 144th day of proceedings in the NSU trial, Bliwier spoke of an "entanglement" of federal agents in the buildup of the THS. He also blamed the Thuringia Office for the Protection of the Constitution for the failed attempt to find the alleged NSU murderers Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe, who went underground in 1998. The questionable roll of the Thuringia authorities, but also other government agencies, have already been sharply criticized by the NSU examination committees of the Bundestag and the Thuringia state parliament. Bliwier, who is representing the interests of the family of NSU victim Halit Yozgat, draws a devastating conclusion. The Thuringia Homeland Protection group would "never" have achieved its national relevance without the state office for constitutional protection. Even more serious is Bliewier's accusation that the Thuringia federal agents had prevented the capture of the people in hiding and "enabled the NSU to commit serious crimes."

Unsuccessful "tracking technology"
The account of the former handler B. appears to be the exact opposite. He had supposedly fitted Brandt's car with "tracking technology," in order to be able to locate the hidden trio. But this measure did not help in tracking down the NSU trio. In 1998, Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe were able to escape the grasp of the security authorities. Two years later, a series of murders occurred, targeting nine men of Turkish and Greek descent as well as a female police officer. In the view of the joint-plaintiffs attorney, the neo-Nazi and informer Brandt played an important role in the radicalization of the alleged NSU murderers. His nickname had supposedly been "the arsonist," Bliwier claimed, drawing on evidence from the testimony of another far-right extremist.

Defense claims testimony "useless"
Meanwhile, Zschäpe's attorney Wolfgang Stahl assessed Brandt's eyewitness testimony and his former handler as exonerative for his client. Brandt is a "nearly notorious liar," Stahl said. Brandt had admitted to having lied to his comrades and the state authorities. The claims against his client were "fruitless" and "contradictory." According to Stahl, Brandt's testimony is "useless" for the evaluation of Zschäpe's potential guilt.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Germany: Refugee abuse guards 'nicknamed the SS'

A group of guards who allegedly abused refugees in an asylum centre in western Germany were nicknamed “the SS” after Hitler's stormtroopers, according to one of their colleagues. Photos of guards abusing refugees have sparked a backlash in Germany against security firms.

1/10/2014- Speaking anonymously to his local paper, the Siegerlandkurier, the man, who was a security guard at a refugee centre in Burbach, said there was a “legal vacuum”, at the former barracks which houses 700 people. Refugees were constantly abused and security guards were overworked. The man added that some of his colleagues "clearly" had a far-right background. Groups of guards, who looked for refugees flouting rules against smoking and drinking, were named internally after the SS, he added. The guards also had a special room for refugees who caused them difficulties, known as the “problem room”. It was furnished only with mattresses and refugees would have to spend eight hours locked inside without access to a toilet.

Police are now investigating 11 guards at three different centres for refugees in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photos released of the abuse have been compared to Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. One video shows a refugee being forced to lie in vomit on a mattress. Another photo shows a man from Algeria bound by two security guards with one of the guards' boot on his neck. Some of the guards being investigated had criminal records and North Rhine-Westphalia’s interior minister Ralf Jäger announced on Tuesday that all security workers would face more stringent tests.
© The Local - Germany


Germany: 'Neo-Nazis' Firebomb the Reichstag in Berlin

30/9/2014- German police say they suspect a neo-Nazi group was behind a firebomb attack against the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin. An unidentified person threw a Molotov cocktail onto the entrance steps of the German parliament building early on Monday morning. No one was injured and the flammable liquid burnt itself out, without spreading, in a short time. Police say the attacker, who managed to flee from the scene, left a number of flyers ascribable to extreme-right ideology. Local media reported the leaflets contained xenophobic slogans. The incident might have a symbolic dimension. In 1933, an arson attack against the Reichstag allegedly perpetrated by a Dutch Communist was seized on by Adolf Hitler to launch a crackdown on communist lawmakers and pass restrictive laws that gave him absolute powers, eventually transforming the government into a Nazi dictatorship. Communal tensions have been on the rise in Germany in the wake of deteriorating security in the Middle East. The Reichstag firebombing came as police launched an investigation into allegations that refugees were abused by private security guards at an asylum centre, in Burbach, near Bonn, after images of torture emerged. Home to approximately 4.5 million Muslims, Europe's largest economy has recently experienced a rise in asylum applications, partly because of the war in Syria. Reports on home-grown radicals fighting with Islamic State jihadists have helped fuel far-right anti-immigration rhetoric. Germany's domestic security agency said that almost 400 German nationals have travelled to the Middle East to join the jihad.
© The International Business Times - UK


German police investigate alleged refugee abuse

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


German minister compares far-right party to neo-Nazis

Schäuble brands Alternative für Deutschland "demagogical"

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

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

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

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


The German Muslim community's protest against extremism

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

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

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

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

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


UK: #MuslimApologies witty and informative response to Western Islamophobia

As an increasing number of people fail to see the difference between Isis and peaceful followers of Islam, Muslims have been sarcastically apologising for their religion.

3/10/2014- Islam is the religion of almost 2bn people from all over the world, all with different backgrounds and cultures. But it has come under a lot of scrutiny and suspicion recently due to the atrocities committed by Isis in Iraq and Syria. When it hasn't been misinterpreted and corrupted by fanatics, Islam is a religion based entirely on peace, tolerance and respect. Such values can be found in all faiths, from Judaism and Christianity to Buddhism and Hinduism. And as the religious scholar Reza Aslan pointed out during a debate on CNN debate this week, all of these religions, including Buddhism, have their violent fundamentalists who wreak havoc in the world. Since some Western Muslims decided to follow this path, and join the terrorist group Isis abroad, Muslims the world over have been forced to publicly defend their beliefs, out of fear of association. 

It is against this backdrop that the hashtag #MuslimApologies has emerged. It is has been appended to a number of sarcastic and informative tweets, highlighting the contributions Muslims have made to the world. One great example came from the Huffington Post journalist Medhi Hasan, who tweeted "I’m so sorry for coffee, cheques, parachutes, chemistry, inoculations, soap, shampoo, cameras, etc #muslimapologies".

Like the hashtag #NotInMyName, #MuslimApologies part of a growing trend of Muslims getting fed up of being discriminated against because of their religion. Such tweets are important because, although sarcastic, they still show a different side of Islam which many are unaware of, such as the obligation on every Muslim man and women to seek knowledge. This is something Muslims have always been obliged by the Qu'ran to do, and has led to coffee, cameras, chess and distillation being introduced to the world. With so many Islamophobic remarks thrown around on social media at the moment, and Islam constantly being portrayed negatively by the media, it's reassuring to see Muslims fight back in a witty and informative way, and raise awareness about the history of the religion.

Mehdi Hasan  @mehdirhasan 12:15 PM - 24 Sep 2014
I'm so sorry for coffee, cheques, parachutes, chemistry, inoculations, soap, shampoo, cameras, etc: … #muslimapologies

Abdullah al Andalusi @AbdullaAndalusi 12:11 AM - 27 Sep 2014
We're TRULY sorry that we took Europeans out of dark ages & let them study our science, our books & attend our universities #MuslimApologies

Fatima Barkatulla @FatimaBarkatula 1:37 AM - 24 Sep 2014
We apologise for inventing Algebra and Algorithms- which laid the groundwork for thousands of modern day advancements #MuslimApologies

Ammār ibn Aziz Ahmed @Ammar_Ibn_AA 4:30 AM - 24 Sep 2014
I'm sorry to let you know that Isaac Newton learned about gravity from the the books of Ibn al-Haytham #MuslimApologies

Safwan Shaikh @safwanshaikh92 1:23 AM - 24 Sep 2014
I apologize for LeBron leaving Cleveland, then returning to Cleveland. Bonus: Apologies for his hairline #MuslimApologies

Sulطan Al Masroori @Soli2022 12:55 AM - 26 Sep 2014
We are sorry for the kabsa, biryani, masala, shawarmas, kebabs and all that good stuff #MuslimApologies
© The Independent


UK: As Jews, We should stand up for Roma rights (opinion)

By Daniel Macmillenactivist and writer.

3/10/2014- October 5th is Roma Pride Day, when events will take place across European cities to celebrate Roma culture and denounce racism and discrimination. Given this occasion, it is perhaps worth reflecting a bit about Jewish-Roma relations in the past and their state today. At first blush, there is an instinctive sense of kinship between these two groups, emanating from a number of cultural resemblances and historical coincidences. Both Jews and Roma share Eastern origins, have maintained ancient customs and traditions, and place essential emphasis on family and community life. Both developed their diasporic cultures in contexts of unease and hostility, and accordingly, Gypsies have a term for non-Gypsies (Gaje), just as Jews have one for Gentiles (Goyim). Laws of ritual purity play fundamental roles in both societies, from kashrut in Judiasm to marimé in Romani culture.

There is also a rich history of co-habitation and interaction. In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, Jews, Gypsies and Turks lived together in an inter-ethnic quarter at the turn of the 20th century. Shtetls such as Ştefăneşti in Romania were constantly visited by Roma traders and blacksmiths. In Hungary, Jewish musicians played so frequently in Roma orchestras that composer Franz Lizst called these bands Jüdische Zigeunerkapellen (Jewish-Gypsy orchestras). In pre-WWII Bessarabia, Gypsy musicians played at local Jewish festivals and balls. Perhaps most saliently, there is also a painful shared past of persecution and suffering, characterised by wild prejudices, ostracization, xenophobia, scapegoating, pogroms, ghettoization, and genocidal horror.

In 15th century Spain, the deportation of Moors and Jews coincided with the attempted expulsion of Gypsies. Across the rest of Renaissance Europe, Jews and Roma were repeatedly banished, accused of banditry, disproportionately taxed, and portrayed as inferior and unhygienic. Whilst the narrative of “two peoples bound by mutual suffering” appears clichéd and simplifies the marked differences of policies effected towards Jews and Gypsies, the parallels remain poignant, nowhere more so than during Nazi rule. The infamous Nuremburg Laws of 1935 targeted Jews and Gypsies. In 1941, Reichskommissar Hinrich Lohse ordered that Gypsies “be given the same treatment as Jews” in the Baltic region. Otto Ohlendorf, commander of Einzatsgruppe D along the Russian front, testified during his trial that he saw no difference between Jews and Roma.

Both were perceived as equivalent threats, and were jointly decimated throughout the Ukranian Babi Yar valley and Crimea. Across Poland, Gypsies were relocated to Jewish quarters, including the Łódź and Warsaw ghettos. In Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Treblinka, and other Polish camps, Gypsies shared the unspeakable fate of Jews. In Yugoslavia, Jews and Gypsies were both targeted by the Ustaše, and hundreds were executed together outside Belgrade. This tragic tangling of fates prompted Holocaust activist Simon Wiesenthal to write that “we Jews, including Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, have by no means shown the Gypsies the understanding or sympathy to which, as brothers in misfortune, they are entitled.” Wiesenthal gestured at a distinct responsibility held by Jewish people in relation to the Roma, one rooted in a sense of empathy and historical affinity. Yet despite this bond, questions affecting the Roma arouse sparse attention in Jewish communities.

How often do we think about the marginalized reality of Europe’s largest minority? How much do we really know or learn about the Porajmos (the Romani Holocaust; literally “the devouring” in Romani)? How often do we speak up about the Anti-Ziganism (prejudice and discrimination against the Romani people) pervasively peddled in the media? How aware of are we of the systematic poverty, exclusion, educational disadvantage, and discrimination faced by Roma across the continent? There have a number of principled initiatives by Jewish organisations over the years, but these have been limited and are restricted to a few countries. As support rises for far-right political parties in Europe, and Anti-Ziganist attitudes surge, it is ever more vital that Jews express their outrage against all expressions of racism, and work to combat the social exclusion of Roma. Let us use this celebration to recognize the vibrant and extensive contributions imparted by the Roma to the world, but also recall our necessary solidarity with the plight of Romani people today.

Note: An inevitable problem that arises when discussing ethnic groups is appropriate nomenclature. The “Romani people”, and designations like “Gypsy” or “Tsigani”, are umbrella terms which encompass a heterogeneous array of smaller groups, such as the Horahane, Kalderash, and Ursari. There is no agreed-upon categorisation which is fully precise or unobjectionable, which is why I have interspersedly used “Gypsies”, “Romani”, “Roma”, and “Rom” to collectively refer to the cohesive population of Romani groups. For clarification on this topic, see this instructive piece by Filip Borev,“ “What is in a word? ‘Gypsy’: pride or prejudice” 
© Jewish News UK


UK: Two Celtic fans given one-year ban from stadiums

Two men arrested during a protest by a group of Celtic fans against a crackdown on hate crime have been banned from football matches for a year.

3/10/2014- Nicholas Diplacito, 29, admitted behaving in a threatening manner while Mark Glancy, 24, admitted a charge relating to the obstruction or assault of a police officer during the incident on March 16 last year. Trouble flared after ­officers moved to halt an unauthorised march to Celtic Park ahead of a match against Aberdeen. The event had been called by the Green Brigade group in response to the implementation of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, which some fans have claimed led to heavy-handed policing. However, the police response provoked some criticism amid claims the 200 officers who responded to the trouble had used the controversial "kettling" method. At Glasgow Sheriff Court yesterday, Diplacito was ordered to carry out 135 hours of unpaid work and Glancy was fined a total of £630.

The men, both of whom also admitted charges in relation to possession of drugs, were handed football banning orders for one year each, which forbids them from attending any matches in the UK for 12 months. Stephen Ferguson, ­Football Liaison Prosecutor for the west of Scotland, said: "These men were part of a disorderly crowd and seemed intent on causing trouble, such shameful behaviour will not be tolerated. "Police officers carrying out their important role in maintaining public order should not be subjected to assault and abuse or hindered and obstructed."
© The Herald Scotland


UK: Tories threaten to leave ECHR unless Britain can defy human rights rulings

The Conservatives have threatened that Britain will leave the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), unless it is allowed to flout rulings on human rights issues.

3/10/2014- Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced today that the ultimatum will be delivered to European judges, and that the courts will need to come to terms with working in an advisory capacity with Britain. The proposals, condemned by human rights groups as “nasty, spiteful and shameful”, suggest that the Human Rights Act, which was introduced under Labour in 1998, and which enshrined the ECHR in British law, would be nullified. Prime Minister David Cameron also announced the proposal in his keynote address to the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham earlier this week, saying: “As for Labour’s Human Rights Act, we will scrap it once and for all.” In its place, a Bill of Rights would be brought in, including the principles of the convention, which initially was drawn up following World War II. The difference under the new proposals is that the new legislation would specify the British Supreme Court as the “ultimate arbiter” on human rights issues.

Mr Grayling today said: “We can no longer tolerate this mission creep. What we have effectively got is a legal blank cheque, where the court can go where it chooses to go. We will put in place a provision that will say that the rulings of Strasbourg will not have legal effect in the UK without the consent of parliament.” On what would be said to the European judges, he continued: “We hope you can accept this. If you don’t accept it or you can’t accept it then we will withdraw from the [ECHR].” Article 14 of the Human Rights Act, which affords protection from discrimination, has been used in many legal cases to argue for protection for LGBT people. The calls to scrap the Act and leave the ECHR has been met with reservation from rights campaigners. Kate Allen, the head of Amnesty International, said: “Disappointing to hear the PM vowing to scrap the Human Rights Act when it has done so much good. We should be defending it.” Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, added: “Shame on the Prime Minister for citing Churchill, while promising to trash his legacy.”

Also see: Ed Miliband: UK leaving the ECHR would be a disaster for gay people
© Pink News


UK: Anti-Semitic crimes in Barnet treble

Anti-Semitic crimes have more than trebled in Barnet.

2/10/2014- A total of 46 crimes took place in the borough between April 1 and September 14, compared to 15 during the same period last year. Barnet has seen the largest increase in London this year, with more than a quarter of all anti-Semitic crimes in the capital taking place in the borough. Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green, said: "Whenever there is conflict in the Middle East there is a jump in anti-Semitism. These figures are worrying as they seem to accompany anti-Semitic undertones on attempts to boycott Israeli goods, have kosher food removed from supermarkets and support for terrorist organisations at recent demonstrations. “That is why I took a delegation of colleagues to see the Home Secretary to discuss the issue. She agreed that the anti-Semitism witnessed is abhorrent, and confirmed new guidance has been issued to police forces to tackle it."

A total of 182 anti-Semitic crimes have been reported in London since April, compared with 69 offences last year. Harassment constitutes for two-thirds of the crime figures. The majority of the remaining offences are for criminal damage, which has seen an increase to 31 crimes since April, compared with seven in 2013. There has also been one anti-Semitic sexual offence reported, compared to none last year. Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, said: “This increase in anti-Semitic crime in Barnet is shocking and unacceptable. “I was encouraged that police patrols were stepped up in various parts of the borough to provide reassurance to the Jewish community. I will continue to highlight my concerns on this problem and urge the police to do all they can to prevent anti-Semitic crime.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “We will take positive action to investigate all hate crime, support victims and their families and bring perpetrators to justice. “If anyone feels that they are the victim of hate crime, including anti-Semitic abuse, we would urge all victims to come forward and report any incident or crime as soon as possible.”
© This is local London


UK: Nick Griffin expelled by BNP

The British National Party says it has expelled its ex-leader Nick Griffin.

1/10/2014- In a statement, the BNP accused him of trying to "destabilise" the party and "harassing" party members. In a tweet, Mr Griffin took issue with the decision, accusing the party leadership of "plastic gangster games". Mr Griffin stepped down as party leader in July after 15 years at the top. The party saw its vote collapse in May's elections, in which Mr Griffin lost his seat in the European Parliament. The BNP said the decision to expel Mr Griffin had been taken by its conduct committee following an investigation after he stepped down as leader.

It accused him of seeking to "destabilise" the party and "embroil it in factionalism". Specifically, it claimed Mr Griffin prepared and leaked "damaging and defamatory" allegations about senior members of the party and its finances. It also accused him of "harassing members of BNP staff and in at least one case making physical threats" as well as publishing e-mails giving a false account of his own financial affairs after he was declared bankrupt in January. "Although we all appreciate that Nick has achieved a lot for our party in the past, we must also remember that the party is bigger than any individual," the BNP said. "Nick did not adjust well to being given the honorary title of president and it soon became obvious that he was unable to work as an equal member of the team and alarmingly his behaviour became more erratic and disruptive." In response, Mr Griffin accused the party of "operating outside the constitution", adding that he would "ignore their plastic gangster games".
© BBC News


1,000 racist incidents recorded in nine Scottish council primaries

A sickening catalogue of racist abuse in Scottish primary schools has been unveiled by education chiefs.

29/9/2014- Nine of Scotland’s biggest councils confirmed there had been almost 1,000 racist incidents serious enough to be recorded in primary schools in the past three years. The worst last year was Edinburgh – with almost three incidents reported on average every week. Fife Council was the only council to give specific information about the 94 incidents recorded in the area’s schools since 2011. In one case, a pupil talked about putting another “in the washing machine to turn him white”. And a child from an ethnic minority was taunted that “he looked like he had chocolate on his face”. Ten of Scotland’s biggest councils were asked to provide details under the Freedom of Information Act. Nine councils revealed a total of 971 cases since 2011 but the figure is likely to be much higher because the country’s biggest council, Glasgow, did not provide figures.

Since 2011, Edinburgh has seen 428 racist incidents, ranging from verbal to physical assaults.
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “The children involved in these incidents are extremely young, and will be saying these things without knowing their potential consequences. “As a result, it’s important the solution is education rather than simple punishment. “If we can make children realise at a young age that such remarks are unacceptable, this will reduce the chances of them being repeated in later life.” A spokesman for BEMIS (corr), a charity which empowers Scotland’s ethnic and cultural minority community, believes more needs to be done to tackle racism in schools. He said: “Our Schools do not exist in a social vacuum and while it is naturally a concern that these attitudes have been reflected across 32 local authorities it does not wholly surprise me. “As communities and citizens we must empower people to utilise the legislation at their disposal in fighting racism. “Schools should be accountable to their duties but equally to be supported by us all in advancing their effort in addressing such serious issues.”

Craig Munro, Executive Director of Education and Children’s Services for Fife Council said: “The welfare and well-being of all our pupils is our number one priority. “We take a proactive approach to multi-cultural education and to valuing all diversity. Racism is an issue we take very seriously within our very well developed and robust approach to equalities and inclusion. “This means that all incidents are reported and meticulously recorded.” “In Fife we have implemented a range of approaches to ensure children and young people develop positive attitudes to support an inclusive society.”
© Deadline


UK: UKIP still on the defensive over racism question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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