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Special Report

NEWS - Archive August and September 2005

Headlines 30 September, 2005

Headlines 23 September, 2005

Headlines 9 September, 2005

Headlines 26 August, 2005

Headlines 19 August, 2005

Headlines 12 August, 2005

Headlines week 31, 5 August, 2005

24/9/2005- "How do you achieve greater integration in the climate of suspicion and fear after both 9/11 and the London bombings" was the topic of recent conference organised at Walkers Stadium, home of City Football Club, in Leicester recently. Over 100 Muslim college students attended the seminar. Many were dressed in traditional caps and headscarves and flowing robes. The discussions, according to BBC news, highlighted some real barriers to integration, some surprising attitudes, and a real willingness by young Muslims to try to engage with issues of religious and cultural identity. Most when asked said they did not play football or watch matches. It showed the cultural divide that can exist. The Muslim community in Leicester is large and well established. The football club is well supported in the city. But local Muslim students do not join their fellow white and black students on the terraces. The students broke up in to workshops to discuss: "media and stereotyping", "culture and identity", racism, gender, education, and politics. Difficult issues were confronted head on. The students were reminded of the words of the London bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan, who had broadcast his defiant video message in his strong Yorkshire accent. Questions were direct. What were they to make of this devout, previously law-abiding classroom assistant, who sounded so British, but who brought death and destruction to London? Did they consider him to be a good or a bad Muslim? Was there anything in his religion to justify his actions?

The workshops on terrorism proved lively. No one thought the bombings were either right or effective. There was a lot of talk about the sufferings of Muslims around the world, especially in Palestine. There was sympathy and understanding of Palestinian terrorism. Comments included "they turn to terrorism when no-one else listens to them" and "the only thing they have is terrorism". Much focus was on the media. No one quite blamed the media for the summer's terrorism (although some came close to it) but they were incensed at the way they felt Muslims had been portrayed since the London bombings. They felt it was self-evident that Islam was a peaceful, non-violent religion, founded on respect for others, so they found the tag "Muslim terrorism" to be offensive. They said all media coverage (and they made no exceptions or distinctions between types of newspaper or electronic media) portrayed Muslims negatively. The general view was that there should be more restrictions on the freedom of the media. But there was also general acceptance that Muslims had to be more active in trying to influence the media and the public debate. They felt similarly about politics. Because of their religion they feel apart from the British mainstream. The media and politics made them feel like outsiders. There was very candid admission that the elders followed cultural customs rather than religious rules. On the one hand they were being reminded what the custom was "back in Pakistan" and, on the other, they were under pressure to succeed in, and confirm to, British society. So there were the fathers who were "proud to boast that their son is a doctor" but who would not be so keen if their son wanted to devote himself to the mosque. Or there was the auntie who, at a wedding, hissed, "take your hijab off or they'll all think we're a strict family".
©Hindustan Times

30/9/2005- Muslim prisoners may need extra protection from reprisals inflicted by other inmates following the London bombings, an inquiry into the murder of a teenager by his cellmate is expected to hear today. The chairman of the Zahid Mubarek inquiry, Mr Justice Keith, said in a note to inquiry delegates that Muslim prisoners are now more at risk of attack. "The position of Muslims in prison is now high on the agenda - not simply because Zahid Mubarek was a Muslim, but also because of the significant increase in Muslim prisoners in recent years, and the possibility of reprisals against them by other prisoners in the wake of recent terrorist outrages," he said. "What steps, if any, are being taken to afford Muslim prisoners adequate protection from other inmates?" Mr Justice Keith was addressing delegates ahead of an inquiry seminar, the fifth in a series of six, looking at racism and religious tolerance in prisons. The inquiry is examining the circumstances of the murder of 19-year-old Zahid Mubarek at the hands of his racist cellmate, Robert Stewart, at Feltham young offenders institution, west London, in 2000. Mr Justice Keith asks whether race relations liaison officers in prisons should no longer be prison officers and should be brought in from outside the service. He said specialist professionals from outside the prison service may be able to "get under the skin" of ethnic minority prisoners more effectively and find out what their concerns are. He also asked whether imams who operate in prisons should take on a more pastoral role, as chaplains often do. The seminar will hear evidence from the Prison Service's director general, Phil Wheatley, and Muslim adviser to the Prison Service, Ahtsham Ali. Mr Justice Keith hopes to publish his final report in February.
©The Guardian

Hundreds of Turkish nationalists have been protesting outside a controversial conference on the mass killings of Armenians under Ottoman rule.

24/9/2005- They chanted slogans and booed delegates entering Istanbul's Bilgi University for the two-day event. The conference had been due to open on Friday, at another venue, but was stopped from doing so by a court order. Debate of the killings has been taboo in Turkey but there is outside pressure for greater freedom of speech. "Treason will not go unpunished" and "This is Turkey, love it or leave it," shouted the demonstrators. "The Armenian genocide is an international lie," read a huge banner carried by members of the minor left-wing Workers' Party. Armenians worldwide have been campaigning for decades for the deaths - thought to have been more than a million, around the time of WWI - to be recognised universally as genocide. The conference discussing the issue was due to be held at Istanbul's Bosphorus University, but it was banned by an Istanbul court after complaints by nationalists that the historians behind it were "traitors". The historians challenge official Turkish accounts of the killings, which give a much smaller death toll and link Armenian losses to civil strife in which many Turks also died. The court ruling brought emotionally charged scenes on the Bosphorus campus on Friday, said the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Istanbul. Students, angry that the conference was cancelled, taped their mouths while small groups of nationalists gathered to condemn plans for the forum. Bilgi University stepped in "in the name of freedom of expression and thought", said its president, Aydin Ugur. Government leaders regretted the court ruling which "cast a shadow on the process of democratisation and freedoms", according to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "If we have confidence in our own beliefs, we should not fear freedom of thought," he told separate gathering of academics on Saturday. EU enlargement commissioner Krisztina Nagy said Brussels strongly deplored the court's "attempt to prevent the Turkish society from discussing its history". Turkey begins talks on joining the EU in two weeks' time.
©BBC News

28/9/2005- Czech Television (CT), the public service television in the Czech Republic has broadcasted a report on the increasing number of Roma from Slovakia demanding asylum in the Czech Republic. According to Czech Television, 500 Slovak Roma demanded asylum in the Czech Republic due to their poor economic situation within last three months. Similar news already appeared in the beginning of Summer 2005, when the Czech newspaper Hospodarske Noviny (HN) published information that the majority of asylum seekers in the Czech Republic are from the Slovak Republic, explaining that since the beginning of 2005, 150 Slovak citizens demanded asylum in the Vysne Lhoty Camp, 64 in June alone. The Czech Republic has been an increasingly popular destination for Slovak Roma, especially since the Slovak government instituted social reforms last year drastically cutting welfare benefits to Slovak Roma. With Roma unemployment above 80% in some communities, the cuts resulted in food shortages, and spurred riots in many Slovak cities. The situation has not greatly improved since that time, and the appeal in a neighboring country with a similar language and similar customs is growing. Roma asylum seekers from Slovakia started appearing in the Czech Republic about five years ago. The largest number of asylum petitions was in 2003, with 990 cases. In 2004, the number dropped to 129 cases. As demonstrated by these figures, most Slovak Roma seem to be unaware that as EU citizens they can now move to the Czech Republic without going through the asylum process, although the Czech government estimates that around 1,000 Roma now move to the Czech Republic each year as EU citizens, not through the asylum process.
©Dzeno Association

30/9/2005- Norway's Constitution requires that over half of the government cabinet are members of the state church - the Norwegian Helsinki Committee says this provision is a violation of human rights. "It cannot be so that one has to join a certain religious community in order to be a cabinet minister. Not if there is to be true religious freedom," NHC assistant secretary general Gunnar M. Karlsen told newspaper Dagsavisen. Karlsen believes it is time to revise Norway's Constitution. Lawyer Njål Høstmælingen at the Center for Human Rights at the University of Oslo agrees with this interpretation. "The Constitution's paragraph 12 is in conflict with both the United Nations convention on civil and political rights and the European Council's human rights convention," Høstmælingen said. The new 'red-green' coalition government of the Labor, Socialist Left and Center parties is currently hammering out their common policy platform, but are likely to favor such a change. Incoming prime minister Jens Stoltenberg (Labor) told Dagsavisen that he would await the conclusion of the state-church committee before making a final stance. Stoltenberg is not a member of the state church, but Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen and Center Party leader Åslaug Haga both are.

Culture Minister Brian Mikkelsen retracts his statements on war against Muslims, after causing a stir in his cultural canon committee

30/9/2005- Culture Minister Brian Mikkelsen has apologised for his statements that a canon of the country's cultural heritage would serve as a tool to fight the influence of Muslim culture. The statement upset the work of the canon committee and several members threatened to resign, national broadcaster DR reported. Mikkelsen wrote on his ministry's website, that the cultural canon had no ties to any political party. 'I would also like to reject any attempt to link the cultural canon together with the right-of-centre cultural struggle, which deals with fundamentalism versus democracy. I see the non-political element as one of the cultural canon's finest qualities and have no intention of placing it inside a fixed political frame,' Mikkelsen said. Despite a crisis meeting on Thursday to resolve differences, tensions remained high between Mikkelsen and the canon committee, appointed to create a canon of 84 Danish cultural works in areas such as architecture, film, and literature. Several members of the committee threatened to abandon the project after Mikkelsen's statements at the Conservative Party's national congress. 'In the middle of our country a parallel society is developing in which minorities practice their Middle Age norms and undemocratic mindset. We cannot and will not accept this,' Mikkelsen said in his speech over the weekend, adding that the canon should be used to promote Danish values, 'because not all values are equally good'. One of the committee members who threatened to leave, professor Erik A. Nielsen, said he had decided to stay on after learning of the minister's statement. 'I have put down my gun,' he said. 'Brian Mikkelsen's statement is something as rare as a retraction from a minister. I think this is as far as a minister can be expected to retreat.'
©The Copenhagen Post

The Danish People's Party's mayoral candidate in Copenhagen has been reported to the police for posting a number of derogatory comments on Muslims on her website.

30/9/2005- The Danish People's Party's (DF) mayoral candidate in Copenhagen, Louise Frevert, has been reported to the police for posting derogatory comments on Muslims on her website. Frevert removed the article from her website and apologised after criticism hailed down over her from media, her own political party, and other politicians, one of whom reported her to the police for breaching the anti-racism law. Frevert wrote about young Muslim men that, even if they were born in Denmark and spoke Danish, their fundamental attitudes were incompatible with Danish society. 'Whatever happens, they feel it's their right to rape Danish girls and stamp out Danish citizens,' she wrote. 'Our laws forbid us to kill our enemies in public, so our only remedy is to fill our prisons with these criminals.' Frevert went on to say that it was an expensive solution, and that the most efficient method would probably be to send Muslims to Russian prisons for a fee of DKK 25 per day. 'Even that solution is short-sighted, since when they return home, they would be even more determined to kill Danes,' she said. In another article, Frevert compared Muslims with cancer cells, which could only be treated with chemotherapy or surgically removed. The comments prompted Social Democratic councillor candidate Lars Rasmussen to report Frevert to the police for violating the country's anti-racism law. 'Her comments sound like something she heard from the Nazi Party,' Rasmussen said. 'But they are running for office too, so the People's Party might be on its way to form an election coalition with Jonni Hansen and the Nazis.' The Danish People's Party's leadership did not seem to like the connotation. 'This is not the party's policy, and it never will be,' DF vice chairman Peter Skaarup said. 'We have told Louise Frevert that this isn't the party's policy, and to eliminate any doubt, we think she should confirm that. She understands that.' Frevert seemed to have gotten the message. 'I can understand that these articles have caused a stir. It was not my intention, and I apologise,' she said in a press release on DF's website. 'I will make sure that the comments will be removed from the website.'
©The Copenhagen Post

30/9/2005- Right-wing extremists have killed 41 people in Germany since the country's 1990 reunification, according to an official quoted in a report to be published Friday. The number of neo-Nazi victims has been raised by five after several recent killings were deemed to have had a rightist motive, said the Tagesspiegel newspaper quoting a spokeswoman from the Federal Crime Bureau (BKA). In the latest confirmed killing, a skinhead stabbed a leftist to death in a Dortmund subway last March, said the report. Independent research by the Tagesspiegel and the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper arrive at a far higher death toll. Alone for the period 1990 to 2003 the papers say that 99 people were killed by neo-Nazis in Germany. The difference between the official figure and that reached by the newspapers is partly due to the BKA's demand for convictions or court evidence of rightist motives before adding victims to the list.
©Expatica News

30/9/2005- Underlining her assertion that she runs a "restrictive immigration policy", Minister Rita Verdonk has proposed expelling all newcomers who are convicted of any crime. Under the current law, an immigrant can be stripped of his or her residence permit after conviction for a very serious offence. Verdonk wants to extend the law to cover all crimes, including theft. Verdonk was to bring her proposal to the Cabinet on Friday, informed sources in the Hague told the media. The Liberal Party minister's plan will not apply to people granted asylum or newcomers who become Dutch citizens. Liberal Party MP Arno Visser said the idea was a good one. He has called for such measures in the past, saying it is important that foreigners, or vreemdelingen, adhere to Dutch law at all times. According to him, the immigration service (IND) operates a sliding scale under which the chance of a foreigner being expelled declines the longer the person is in the Netherlands. Labour Party (MP) Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the proposal is too extreme.
©Expatica News

24/9/2005- Approximately two hundred extreme right wingers took to the streets of Lisbon last weekend to join forces in a protest against homosexuality and homosexual ideology ­ namely regarding the topic of child adoption by gay couples. Protesters also focussed action on paedophilia. The demonstration, organised by the National Renovating Party (PNR), also targeted criticism at the national press for the way earlier reports had portrayed the upcoming demonstration, as well as at other political parties who had reportedly given their approval to the protest, but failed to appear on the day. Young men, women, and even children, mainly dressed in black and with shaven heads, paraded throughout the Marquês de Pombal Square waving banners and shouting phrases including `homosexual, immoral, never, never in Portugal', and '80 per cent of paedophiles are gay'. Even so, José Pinto Coelho, president of the PNR Party, claims that the protest, which registered no serious incidents, "wasn't against homosexuals", but against `ideological homosexuality'.
©The Portugal News

24/9/2005- The European Commission has repeated its calls for Portugal to end restrictions on workers from the 25-nation bloc's newcomer states, saying fears of a huge invasion of cheap labour were unfounded. The Commission said that data on labour movement trends since the bloc's May 2004 expansion into central Europe showed that there was no reason for Portugal's curbs to be kept in place. "Free movement of workers is one of the four freedoms of the European Union and should be enjoyed by all", said EU Employment Commissioner Vladimir Spidla while addressing an employment seminar in Brussels. Portugal is the latest in a line of 12 member states to be targeted by the Commission regarding restrictions on the movement of labour between central and western European nations. When the 10 new EU states joined in May last year, only three of the 15 older member states - Britain, Ireland and Sweden ­ opened their labour markets to workers from central and eastern Europe. The other 12 states, including Portugal, imposed restrictions, initially for a two-year transitional period. "Fears of workers from the new member states proving a drain on the welfare benefits systems have been allayed", Spidla said. "Those predicting an `invasion of Polish plumbers' were also off the mark", he added. The "Polish plumber" was used as a bogeyman in the successful campaign by opponents of the planned new European Constitution before the May 29th referendum in France. At the time of the EU's enlargement, three new member states ­ Hungary, Poland and Slovenia ­ imposed reciprocal restrictions on labour flows in the opposite direction. Under rules agreed with the EU newcomers when they joined the Union the labour restriction arrangements are to be reviewed next May. However, much to the chagrin of Spidla, all 12 states that have imposed restrictions will have the right to extend them by a further three years. Spidla said that any nation looking to implement such extensions would be rigorously opposed by the European Commission.
©The Portugal News

26/9/2005- A showdown with the European Union has been averted after Switzerland voted to give citizens of the ten new EU member states the right to work there. The EU had threatened the Swiss with "serious repercussions" — possibly including scrapping trade deals — if they did not extend the right to work to the citizens of the eight former communist countries that joined the EU last May with Malta and Cyprus. After a national debate inflamed by warnings of an influx of cheap Eastern European labour, 56 per cent of those who voted backed the Government in a referendum, giving an equal right to live and work to all EU citizens. More than 1.45 million voters out of a population of about 7½ million were in favour of the proposal, while about 1.15 million voted "no". Switzerland and the old 15 member states of the EU agreed in 1999 to open their labour markets to each other's citizens, but Switzerland had not extended that right to the new member states. The EU had given warning that Switzerland's agreements with the EU — on trade, customers and work rights — could unravel if it did not treat all EU countries equally. Switzerland is now committed to opening up its labour market to Eastern Europeans by 2011, but will be able to keep some protection for its work force until then, just as old EU member states such as France and Germany are doing. Because of Brussels's threats, the referendum debate became a proxy for the debate on Switzerland's relationship with the EU.

30/9/2005- Most EU countries officially welcome the prospect of Turkish membership: albeit at least a decade from now and subject to consistent evidence of Turkey's commitment to democratic values. In contrast, public opinion in most EU countries appears, with varying degrees of intensity, to oppose Turkish membership. Reasons cited for opposition include: Turkey's large population (70 million and rising fast); its relative poverty and doubts about its cultural compatibility with Europe. The French, Germans and Austrians seem especially unhappy with the idea.

Here is a breakdown of attitudes in some of the EU member states:
Germany: Opinion polls say up to three-quarters of the population oppose Turkish membership. Of the two largest political parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) say they want a "modern Turkey in the EU"; the Christian Democrats (CDU) oppose membership - proposing instead a "privileged partnership". Angela Merkel - the CDU candidate for chancellor - has appealed to EU leaders not to "encourage" Turkey.

France: Has the largest percentage of Muslims (7%) in the EU. Officially backs Turkey's membership bid. But Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin says Turkey must first recognise Cyprus. However, Nicolas Sarkozy - leader of the ruling UMP party and likely future presidential candidate - is opposed. Only 20% of public opinion says Yes to Turkey joining. A leading political pundit, Guillaume Parmentier, says: "The Turkish elite has been European for centuries; but the vast democratic expansion of Turkey involves Anatolian peasants, who are not European by culture, tradition or habit". The French have been promised a referendum after the conclusion of negotiations.

Austria: Opinion polls show 75% of 15-24 year-olds opposed to Turkish membership; rising to 82% among people over 55. This is the highest No rating in the EU.

Netherlands: Has the EU's second largest Muslim population in terms of percentage (6%) after France - and is struggling to cope with the issues of religion, immigration and integration - particularly after the murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh. Remains strongly divided over Turkey.

Britain: An enthusiastic supporter of Turkish membership. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says Turkey in the EU would become "a beacon of democracy and modernity"; and a Muslim country providing "a shining example across the whole of its neighbouring region" - ie the Arab world. Turkish membership would disprove the "clash of civilisations" theory.

Italy: Another strong supporter of Turkish membership. The government stresses historical links between Italy and the "Near East"; the need to "anchor" Turkey in the West; and the commercial opportunities offered by the Turkish market. Public opinion, while not particularly hostile, appears less enthusiastic - actual support for Turkish membership standing at below 40%.

Poland: The largest of the 10 "new" EU members, who joined in May 2004 - with more than half of their combined population. 54% of the public support Turkish membership. Officials say Turkey would strengthen pro-American attitudes within the EU and consolidate Western influence on the approaches to the Middle East and the Caucasus. Poles also cite a history of close bilateral relations going back several hundred years.

Spain: A poll showed 33% opposing Turkish membership, but 42% in favour - as is the government. Back in June, following the French and Dutch rejection of the EU draft constitution, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos suggested postponing the Turkish accession talks until a more advantageous time.

Greece: was under Ottoman occupation for more than 400 years. Some Greeks still regard Istanbul as a "Greek" city. Another country where politicians and public opinion diverge. Opinion polls suggest only 25% of Greeks believe Turkey has a place in the European Union. The government, meanwhile, is keen to resolve bilateral tensions through Turkish integration. But it says the fate of Turkey's EU application depends, primarily, on the Turks themselves - especially where recognition of Cyprus in concerned.

Hungary: was under Ottoman occupation for 150 years, in the 16th and 17th centuries. But there is little anti-Turkish feeling - around half the population supporting Turkish membership. However, like Austria, Hungary is also pressing the case of neighbouring Croatia: which, according to Foreign Minister Ferenc Somogyi, is "spectacularly further ahead" than Turkey on most accession criteria.

Denmark: Strong public resistance to Turkish membership. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen - until recently supportive - has been heard talking of "special partnerships" as well.

Sweden: Strong popular resistance. However, the government sees Turkish membership in terms of "supporting Turkey's reform process and increasing contacts with Turkish society" - as well as Swedish business opportunities.
©BBC News

28/9/2005- The European Parliament on Tuesday (27 September) voted in favour of a draft law setting a minimum standard for asylum-seekers across the EU - but agreed several changes in favour of the asylum seeker. With over 100 amendments to a proposed EU law on granting refugee status, MEPs sent a message to national governments that the rules should be tightened up to protect the rights of refugees. Referring to the current situation, UK liberal MEP Sarah Ludford said "The requirement of unanimity among EU governments, and the scapegoating of refugees, have converged to produce shabby 'lowest common denominator' legislation where each state has effectively exported its worst asylum practices". Some of the areas where MEPs called for change include rejecting the concept of "super-safe countries" put forward by governments. Under this idea, member states would be allowed to draw up a list of third countries considered definitely safe so refugee status to all applicants from these countries would not be granted. But MEPs felt this goes against the international Geneva Convention because it would not give the asylum seekers the right to have their cases heard. They also agreed an amendment calling on member states to use detention centres, such as the controversial centre on the Italian island of Lampedusa, only as a very last resort. MEPs called for the rights of potential refugees to be fully respected - so that they have the right of appeal if refused and must be allowed to stay in the member state until any appeal procedure ends. The law, known as the Common Asylum Standard Directive, is one part of an overall programme agreed by governments to tighten up their external borders and stop people trying to claim asylum in several countries. But the House was not as united as appears. The amendments were only agreed very narrowly by 305 votes to 302. Members of the centre-right EPP and the nationalist UEN generally voted against the changes fearing they would leave the system open to abuse. On top of this, the MEPs' view is not binding as they are only entitled to be consulted for their view. Member states, who will now consider the law again, are unlikely to accept these changes. Last year, as part of the same package, the EU agreed a common definition of a refugee and also agreed that asylum seekers' fingerprints can be checked across the 25 countries to see if they have applied more than once.

28/9/2005- President Thabo Mbeki has slammed some European countries for their racist view of the African continent. He was speaking at a fundraising gala dinner, held in Tshwane last night, in support of the preservation of the ancient Timbuktu Manuscripts, discovered in Mali, West Africa. The Timbuktu Manuscripts discovered in the city of Timbuktu and date as far back as the thirteenth century. They cover diverse subjects, including mathematics, chemistry, physics, medicine, Islamic sciences and astronomy. The manuscripts are regarded as priceless documents that hold the key to some of the secrets of the continent's history and cultural heritage and dispel the view that Africa was an oral continent. Addressing the fundraising dinner, Mbeki took a swipe at European countries for not recognising Africa's ancient civilisation. "It may well be because of the fact that much of the African history has been hidden from outsiders, as well as from many other Africans that there developed an idea of Timbuktu as an outlandish place in an unknown location. But of course, this derogatory reference to Timbuktu is consistent with racist view of Africa that has prevailed in Europe for many centuries." The manuscripts are under threat as many were not well protected. A number of them have deteriorate and become illegible. Hence the joint venture between Mali and South Africa to preserve them. President Mbeki revealed that South Africa has trained a team of Malian heritage professionals and conservators, and preparations to erect a new library building and other facilities in Timbuktu are well on course. He said he and his delegation that visited Mali in 2001, felt obliged to ensure that these documents were not lost to the continent. Business people who attended last night pledged a donation of R3 million toward the course. Mbeki was also presented with the Patrice Lumumba Award for African Leadership and a painting of the building where the manuscripts are kept, in Timbuktu.
©South African Broadcasting Corporation

17/9/2005- Spanish police have arrested 20 people in several raids on suspected neo-Nazis in the eastern Valencia province. The 20 were suspected of belonging to an illegal organisation which is alleged to have organised attacks on immigrants, officials said. Earlier this year, more than 20 people were arrested across Spain on suspicion of belonging to the international neo-Nazi organisation Blood and Honour. They are still awaiting trial on various charges. These include crimes against civil liberties, defending the Holocaust, illegal association, and possessing and trafficking arms. Saturday's raids were carried out on several homes and other premises throughout the province, including the city of Valencia. The group, known as the Anti-System Front, is believed to have stored illegal arms in the premises. No details have been announced about Saturday's arrests, and the operation, codenamed Panzer, is said to be still going on. The group has been under investigation for the last two years.
©BBC News

17/9/2005- The Portuguese authorities have given the go ahead for a protest this weekend by an extreme right-wing group against "the adoption of children by gay couples, paedophiles and the gay lobby", the Lusa News Agency reported this week. Geraldo Ayala, spokesman for the Lisbon Civil Government, which vetoes public protests, told Lusa that permission has been given for the National Renewal Party (PNR) to demonstrate on Saturday at the Parque Eduardo XII in the centre of the capital. The PNR, without seats in parliament, says it is will protest at adoption of children by homosexual couples - despite this being illegal in Portugal. The "gay lobby" and "paedophiles" will also come under fire during the far-right demonstration, the PNR says. An upcoming Portuguese television series based on the US programme "A Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", has recently incurred the wrath of PNR supporters for "encouraging homosexual behaviour". Members of the National Front party are expected to join the PNR-organised march. Five people were injured in clashes with police and counter-demonstrators when the two far-right groups protested against immigration in Lisbon three months ago.
©The Portugal News

Based on the principle that lack of money should never stand in the way of education, a German foundation offers children from struggling immigrant families financial aid to help them make the academic grade.

17/9/2005- Germany's federal commissioner for integration, Marie-Luise Beck, never wastes an opportunity to lament the disappointing educational performance of young people from immigrant backgrounds. It's a problem numerous studies can attest to. According to a survey commissioned by the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), some 15 percent of immigrant teenagers leave school without qualifications, compared to a drop-out rate of just 7 percent among mother-tongue Germans. Meanwhile, another survey -- conducted by the Center for Political Education -- reveals that while over 30 percent of children with German parents graduate from high school, only a mere 15 percent of immigrant teenagers do so with them. The discrepancy frequently boils down to money. Language courses and private tuition don't come cheap, and in 2002, the non-profit Hertie Foundation set up a bursary program co-funded by local authorities, businesses and associations designed to help out families who'd like to see their children performing better in school but who lack the funds to pay for some support. First launched in Hesse, "START" is now available to 14-19-year-old pupils in 13 states, and there's certainly no shortage of applicants.

Helping pupils help themselves
Vera Grebe is only 18-years old, but her life's been far from sheltered. After a childhood in Kazakhstan, her family moved to Germany when she was 10. "My father died four years after we moved here," she said. "My mother has also had a lot of health problems, and hasn't always been able to work. They both had cancer. It was hard. And neither of them spoke German, so I always had to go with them whenever they needed to fill out forms at city hall." As a child, Vera herself learned German with relative ease. As she's grown older, she's done well in school, and attributes much of her success to the START program. Today, a total of 130 pupils per year across the country get to benefit from the grant scheme, and the figure is set to rise to 350.

High standards
The program's stated aim is to encourage more immigrant children to attain a high school diploma. The sole conditions are that the applicants hail from immigrant families with proven financial difficulties, have a sturdy academic record, and a demonstrated awareness of social issues. Claudia Schlingermann, who coordinates the program in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said she's well aware how stringent the application criteria can seem. "But enough pupils can meet these criteria," she said. "Germany's long been home to young immigrants just waiting for a chance to tap their potential. All we have to do is identify who they are and encourage them to apply to the program." The scheme isn't restricted to pupils at high schools, known in Germany as "Gymnasium." Pupils at the lower-level secondary schools that are known as "Hauptschule" and attended by those who didn't make the Gymnasium cut, are also eligible for the funds.

Simple, but effective
Roland Kaehlbrandt, who manages the Hertie Foundation, said he is confident the program can change lives. "This is a very simple and modest bursary but it can have major effects," he said. "It improves pupils' confidence and it shows German society just how much potential the immigrant community is harboring. It also proves to the immigrant community itself that it's possible to be successful here in Germany." The bursary is worth 5000 euros ($6000), paid to the recipients in installments of 100 euros a month. The pupils can spend the money on learning aids such as language courses, books and newspaper subscriptions -- all they have to do is submit regular evidence that it's being invested in educational purposes. Vera was also given a new computer, complete with Internet access -- luxuries she could never have otherwise afforded. Even so, she doesn't describe them as the best part of the bursary. "The best thing is the intellectual stimulation," she said. "I can attend seminars, and there's an annual meeting we all get to go to. There's a nationwide network of grant-holders and we couldn't be more different. But that's what makes it so special -- everyone has something special to add. We're like a big family."
©Deutsche Welle

19/9/2005- The far-right parties that scored gains in two regional elections last year were beaten into insignificance in polling Sunday in German federal elections, but still have one card left to play with a delayed vote to be held in an eastern city. The National Democratic Party (NPD), the main rightist group, did not qualify for any seats in the new federal parliament. Under a rule that excludes parties unable to win at least 5 per cent of the vote nationwide, neither the NPD, the allied German People's Party (DVU) nor any other German rightists have ever managed to enter the Bundestag during the post-World War II era. On Sunday, the NPD gained less than 2 per cent of the vote in most western states. In a few eastern states, its support ranged higher, between 3 and 4 per cent. The party has been strongest in the eastern state of Saxony. Some of Saxony's votes have yet to be cast. In its capital city, Dresden, about half the voters will cast their ballots on October 2, due to a two-week postponement for one of Dresden's two Bundestag seats after the death, as it happens, of an NPD candidate. Her name must be replaced on the ballots. The NPD has nominated in her place a nationally-known rightist, Franz Schoenhuber, 82, whose books glowingly describe his wartime service in the Nazi regime's Waffen SS military force. While either a Social Democrat or Christian Democrat is expected to win the Dresden seat, the right is hoping that it will have optimal conditions to achieve perhaps a fourth place, and by doing so win nationwide attention. Over the last year, Dresden has emerged as the NPD's main centre. It is the only capital among Germany's 16 states with NPD members in the state assembly, though they were mainly elected from rural areas of Saxony, not by urban voters.

While agitation by neo-Nazis in Germany often wins worldwide attention, rightist parties have never progressed over the last half century beyond the status of a small minority in German politics. Professor Juergen Falter of the University of Mainz has surveyed rightist views in Germany's population. The political scientist said before the general election that German far-right parties can at best win between 5 and 10 per cent of votes nationwide. The "optimal conditions" for the rightists to achieve that mark at the federal level had never occurred so far, underlined Falter. Europe's far-right is generally seen as having a potential of up to 15 per cent. But unlike rightist movements in Austria, Italy, France and the Netherlands, the German far-right has mainly lacked a single charismatic leader since 1945. The right is also prone to feuds and splits. Strains are already evident in a one-year-old alliance between the NPD - which is known for its anti-Semitism and links with neo-Nazi youth groups - and the DVU, which is bankrolled by newspaper publisher Gerhard Frey. The rightists scored two high-profile victories in last year in the former East Germany. In September 2004, the NPD won 9.2 per cent of the vote in Saxony, and the DVU won 6.1 per cent in Brandenburg, after agreeing that each would be the sole standard-bearer in those states. This followed a series of rightist wins in regional votes since the late 1980s. The extremists have usually only lasted one term in assemblies, with their deputies often proving to be incompetent. The strong rightist showing in Saxony and Brandenburg states may have had more to do with anger over German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's cuts in jobless benefits than with anti-foreigner sentiment. "They won votes from a wave of protest against social-welfare cuts," said political scientist Werner Patzelt of the Technical University of Dresden. Both states are in former communist eastern Germany, where unemployment is high. "But this year there is a new alternative: the Left Party, which advocates a bigger welfare state," Patzelt said. Analysts say the Left Party scooped up most of those protest votes on Sunday, leaving the rightists with far fewer hard-core supporters.

The DVU is not on federal ballots this year. Instead, the better organized NPD included DVU activists in its candidate slate. The NPD houses a range of right-wing views, including young neo- Nazis and skinheads who make no secret of their admiration for Adolf Hitler. But increasingly the rightists are eschewing the clothes and symbols that make them stand out. The party is united, according to Patzelt, by old-fashioned chauvinism, hostility to democracy and an economic system based on market principles, and a rejection of the pluralist idea that a modern society must be tolerant of political and racial differences. Falter says the NPD follows a two-pronged strategy, both running in elections and seeking "extra-parliamentary" power on the streets. One element of rightist street power has been the creation of what neo- Nazis term "liberated zones", which they claim are "purged" of foreigners. "(The NPD) is willing to go into alliance with skinheads who intimidate the police and make life unpleasant for foreigners," says Falter. Thanks to Germany's public financing of political parties, the NPD can count on substantial government funding in line with the number of votes it receives. With the coffers refilled after the election, the party, which only has 5,000 to 6,000 members, will continue to seek support in its most promising terrain, the former communist east, Falter predicts. Grumbling has already been heard from the DVU at the way the NPD ran the 'joint' campaign. Gerhard Besier, who heads Dresden's Hannah Arendt Institute for the Study of Totalitarianism, says things will not stay muted much longer. "After the setback, there'll be friction," said Besier, adding that the DVU and NPD only managed to bury their rivalry and ally in the hope of success. "Powerful ruptures" are likely to follow failure, he predicted.
©Expatica News

18/9/2005- France's minister for overseas affairs provoked outrage this weekend by saying illegal immigrants were giving birth on French territory to ensure their children had French nationality. Francois Baroin called for a debate on France's birthright laws, challenging a taboo at the heart of France's near-sacred republican values. It was a fresh sign mainstream politicians are jumping on France's right-wing anti-immigration bandwagon. A child born on French ground is French, irrespective of parentage. Baroin said on Saturday that parents expecting children were immigrating illegally to France's overseas territories to give birth to French children. "I have seen things that have shocked me and on the basis of these truths on the ground I want to reopen the debate. The law permits it," he told Radio France Outre-mer (RFO) in a rare outspoken interview by a usually low-profile minister. He said that on the island of Mayotte, a French territory in the Indian Ocean Comoros archipelago, "more than 30 percent of the inhabitants are of illegal origin". Some 1.7 million people live in France's overseas territories and departments. The former include French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Mayotte and enjoy more autonomy than departments while retaining certain French rights and obligations. Baroin, whose ministry governs France's relations with those regions, said he did not exclude a review of the right by birthplace that determines who can become French.

Breaking a taboo
In the weekly Figaro magazine, Baroin went a step further and said discussing the law of birthright even on mainland France "should no longer be a taboo". Similar laws apply in other countries, the United States for example. In Germany, children of foreign parentage must decide as young adults whether to take their parents' nationality instead of the German. Baroin's remarks provoked condemnation by the opposition Socialist Party (PS) and the SOS Racism association. Former Socialist Culture Minister and presidential hopeful Jack Lang said it called into question basic republican values. PS National Secretary Malek Boutih said in a statement: "Francois Baroin opens a debate that is dangerous for the future of the republic." He added the discussion would open the door to a change in the French nationality system "clearly aimed at all foreigners and their children, undermining the French republican model". SOS Racism's chairman, Dominique Sopo, said he would mobilise broad French opposition if the goverment attempted to review the birthright law. Christiane Taubira, a left-wing parliamentarian from Guyane, said Baroin's words "endangered France's interests in its relations with the rest of the world". Anti-immigration issues have long been the preserve of the extreme right, such as the National Front (FN), whose leader made it to the runoff of the 2002 presidential elections. Some moderate, right-of-centre politicians are talking tough on immigration to boost their standing as they jockey for position ahead of the next elections. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, the centre-right government's number two, has made tackling illegal immigration a plank of his campaign to become France's next president in 2007. And the cabinet is drawing up laws to reorient French immigration policy at Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's behest.

Switzerland has told a United Nations summit that the creation of a new Human Rights Council must be a priority and that it should be based in Geneva.

17/9/2005- Addressing world leaders in New York, Swiss President Samuel Schmid also insisted that the UN Security Council should become more representative and its working methods reformed. In his speech on Thursday, Schmid covered a wide range of themes from human rights and respect for international humanitarian law through to UN reform and the need to enhance development. The president told the world summit that Switzerland was satisfied with progress towards setting up a Human Rights Council – which stems from a Swiss proposal – and was determined to pursue efforts in order to achieve it. Key decisions on the council's mandate, size and work have been deferred to the 60th General Assembly. "By establishing this council, we should succeed in adapting the UN's architecture in order to make human rights as much a priority as development, peace and security," said Schmid. "In Switzerland's view, this new body will have to be both more legitimate and more efficient, hold a higher place in the United Nations' hierarchy than the current Human Rights Commission, and should hold its sessions in Geneva."

UN reform
Schmid said further reform of the world body was needed in order to bring "more effectiveness, more transparency and more solidarity", and enable the UN to rise to today's challenges. "We also feel that it is necessary that the Security Council become more representative and that its working methods be reformed with a view to increased transparency, in order to allow improved interaction with non-members," he said. Nations are sharply divided over proposals to enlarge the Security Council from the current 15 members – five permanent members (China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States) and ten non-permanent members. Schmid twice referred in his speech to the need to respect international law – both in the context of resolving conflicts and in the fight against terrorism. Switzerland is the depositary state of the Geneva Conventions. He said the use of force should remain the exception in settling disputes and welcomed the creation of a UN Peacebuilding Commission. He also reaffirmed Swiss support for peacekeeping operations as well as the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was highly critical on Wednesday of the failure by member countries to reach an agreement on how to tackle nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

Development aid
On the issue of development, Schmid said increased and coordinated efforts from all partners were needed if the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were to be attained. The MDGs include targets to cut extreme poverty and child mortality by half and to reverse the spread of HIV/Aids by 2015. Ahead of the summit, the Swiss government came under fire from non-governmental organisations for refusing to match the UN target of earmarking 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for official development aid by 2015. Switzerland currently designates 0.41 per cent of GDP. Schmid told the summit that Switzerland planned to increase development aid by 8.0 per cent over the period 2005-2008. He added that the government would consider increasing its aid commitment beyond 2008. "For nearly 30 years Switzerland has made a priority of giving aid to the poorest countries," he said. "Today we devote nearly half of that aid to Africa, and we will resolutely stay the course in the future."

18/9/2005- The notorious euro-fest organized in Greece by the nazis of “Golden Dawn” never happened! The Greek government banned the euro-fest. This ban consists a great antifascist victory for Greece and for Europe. This is also the first time that the Greek nazis faced ban after almost 20 years of unbelievable immunity and non-punishment by the Greek political regime.

The Antinazi Initiative at first put up posters in Athens inviting the government to ban the nazi fest and the political parties to take a stand. Then we addressed an appeal to Greek and European antifascists to sign a protest letter to the prime minister. The response to this appeal was great especially at international level. The Central Jewish Council of Greece, had also requested the ban of the festival ever since the organization of the event became known.

The matter gained publicity day by day and protests were made from the Jewish organizations of abroad like CRIF, Wiesenthal Center, and also from European antiracist organizations and networks. It was made known lately that a representation of OSCE would come to Athens to assure that the government has taken all necessary measures against nazi fest. Furthermore, protests from many sides reached the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Under these very strong international pressures the Greek government shifted its initial position that the nazi fest cannot be banned. On September 6, 2005, a few days before the announced dates for the festival (16-18 September), the governmental spokesman stated that the government bans it. Immediately afterwards, the Minister of Public Order stated that the police will take all appropriate measures to prevent it. The outcome was that the nazis could not find any place in Greece to accept their gathering as there were local reactions. In the meantime on September 13, 2005, as a result of their first great political and moral defeat, their leading member Antonis Androutsopoulos, better known as “Periandros”, wanted and curiously not arrested for seven years now, gave himself up to the authorities and was sent to prison to serve a four years sentence.

On September 15, 2005, the “Golden Dawn” announced at its weekly newspaper that on September 17, 2005 (supposedly 2nd day of the festival) an event would take place at its offices, the subject of which would be: “The bans do not intimidate ideologists!”.

On September 16, 2005 there was no sign of the festival in Greece. At the same night the nazis distributed handouts at the center of Athens informing that the next day, September 17, in the afternoon, they would organize a protest gathering in Athens, a few meters far from their offices.

In the morning of September 17, at their newspaper «Eleftheros Kosmos» (Free World), they announced that actually the festival had already taken place in a town of Italy – Latina and that it was cancelled in Greece due to the ban.

At the same day, in the afternoon, around 18.30, not more than 100 nazis gathered at the announced spot. It was obvious that the government, in order to lessen the defeat of “Golden Dawn”, allowed them this gathering outside their offices. Nevertheless such gatherings were always allowed to them by the governments so far, something that was virtually accepted by the whole official political world.

At the same time, near the location of the nazi gathering, two anti-gatherings took place: one was held by the organizations of non – parliamentary left at Omonoia square and the second by groups of anarchists nearer to the offices of “Golden Dawn”.

Strong police forces closed the roads leading to the nazi gathering preventing those who participated to the anti-gatherings to reach it. About one hour later the nazis went back to their offices and the anti-gathering at Omonoia Square dispersed. It was at that moment that a squad of so-called anarchists, for no reason, dropped petrol bombs and stones against policemen, burnt cars and broke store windows, after having first burnt a Greek flag. Unfortunately, for one more time, the nazi gathering was facilitated morally and politically by the violent acts of the so-called anarchists that, as usually, were tolerated by the police and remained unpunished.

ANI believes that any anti-gathering against the nazis in order to be effective and not to contribute to the vilification of antifascism in front of people, should in the first place denounce those systematic provocateurs, whose activity the whole political regime virtually tolerates and covers.

ANI welcomes the wide international solidarity and thanks all the antifascists that responded to its action alert. A good start has already been made. The next objective is to have “Golden Dawn”, a cancerous nazi tumour within European Union, outlawed.
AntiNazi Initiative

19/9/2005- Roughly 500 people attended a concert of neo-Nazi bands in this South Bohemian town Saturday. Activists say the concert was the largest meeting of supporters of extremist groups in the Czech Republic this year. Hundreds of policemen monitored the event, which was organised by two neo-Nazi organisations, National Resistance and Blood and Honour Division Bohemia Combat 18. "We have not found that the law was violated, so there was no reason for our policemen to intervene on the spot," police spokesman Dusan Klicha said. The concert, officially held as a private celebration of a wedding, ended earlier than planned as only three of the five invited bands played. The last participants left the venue after 1:00 a.m. under the supervision of some 80 armoured policemen. "The organisers must have been warned that if they did not end it, police would intervene. I cannot explain it otherwise," Ondrej Cakl from the Tolerance and Civic Society association told CTK. Cakl added that the participants chanted racist slogans and the name of Nazi boss Rudolf Hess, one of the closest aides to Adolf Hitler. Some journalists even heard the "Sieg Heil" Nazi greeting shouted. Police patrols checked all arriving cars. Further police reinforcements arrived in the village at about 11:00 p.m. Klicha said that the police monitored the concert inside as well and would assess the surveillance next week. Organisers allowed only the invited guests to enter the venue and covered the windows with sheets. After the concert, skinheads left the without incident. Five bands were to play at the concert, including Czech bands Conflict 88 and Blizzard, Oidoxie from Germany, Hungarian group Titkolt Ellenallasa and British cult band Razors Edge. The Blood and Honour Division Bohemia Neo-Nazi organisation is a branch of an international organisation founded in Britain in 1987. The Czech division was set up in 1996. The name Combat 18 is used for an armed branch of the Blood and Honour, operating all over Europe and in the USA. The number 18 symbolises the first and eight letters in the alphabet, A and H - the initials of Adolf Hitler. This militant group openly calls for attack on foreign immigrants, Romanies and Jews.
©Prague Daily Monitor

19/9/2005- Refugees in the Czech Republic receive CZK 360 a month from the state and are not allowed to work in a refugee camp during the first year. "This sum has not changed in the past 13 years," psychologist Vera Roubalova told CTK on Sunday at the conclusion of Refufest, a two-day festival presenting the life of refugees. At the festival, held in the centre of Prague, asylum-seekers sold products and offered dishes from their countries. Most of them are not able to prepare their dishes in Czech refugee facilities. "At present there is only one camp in the Czech Republic where refugees can make meals themselves," Roubalova said. She noted that people feel better in a facility where they can cook and decide on their own when and how to eat, and this helps keep their family life. Such refugees also less suffer from headache and other psychosomatic disorders. Roubalova recalled that the psychological condition of people living in the camp for a long time is gradually worsening, as most of them are aware that they have only a small chance to be granted asylum. In 2004, 5,459 people applied for asylum in the Czech Republic, including 1,600 Ukrainians and 1,498 Russians. Only 142 applications were approved. Fresh asylum seekers usually do not complain. "We finally feel safe somewhere," said one of two Belarussian refugees who requested anonymity. The refugees say they fled Belarus because of religious persecution. In the Czech Republic they lack money and have limited opportunities to earn any. The situation of refugees living outside the camps is worse, Roubalova said. "These people can ask for a state benefit amounting to the subsistence level," currently CZK 4,300 crowns for an adult, "but they can receive it for only up to three months," she said. Refugees can seldom find jobs. Consequently they often work illegally and subject to extortionists who take their personal documents and force them to work for a very low wages, Roubalova noted.
©Prague Daily Monitor

A decent job with a decent income is still the best path out of the crudest forms of racism and fundamentalism
By Gary Younge

19/9/2005- Where race is concerned there are, it seems, some words that just don't go together. No matter how many young drunken white men beat each other up over the weekend, there is no such thing as white-on-white crime. No matter how many non-white people flee inner-city neighborhoods for better schools and services, there is no such thing as "black flight". And no matter how bitter their ethnic divides, white people never engage in "tribal conflict". And so it is that it seems to make no difference how segregated their lives, white people rarely ever seem to live in ghettoes. When a group of white people gather, they call it a country club, boardroom or - for most of the last century - House of Commons. But when non-white people reach a critical mass in any area, they always hit the G-spot - the point at which policymakers scream. The cause of integration has become so fetishised since the July bombings that it has been elevated to the level of an intrinsic moral value - not a means to an end but an end in itself. Later this week the government-appointed task force will make integration a vital component of its report to Tony Blair on how to tackle Muslim extremism. In a speech in Manchester, Trevor Phillips, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, will warn against the country "sleep-walking" into a "New Orleans-style" quagmire of "fully fledged ghettoes". This is fine as far as it goes. The trouble is, unless integration is coupled with the equally vigorous pursuit of equality and anti-racism, it does not go very far. Rwanda had plenty of inter-ethnic marriages before the genocide; Jews were more integrated into German society than any other European nation before the Holocaust. Common sense suggests that the more contact you have with different races, religions and ethnicities, the less potential there is for stereotyping and dehumanising those different from yourself. But even that small achievement depends on the quality and power dynamics of the contact.

Take the American south. Despite preaching segregation in his presidential campaign, the late South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond still slept with black women, like most white southern gentlemen. Black women breastfed and raised white children, and since most slave owners were not that wealthy, many black and white families shared the same roof. The question was not whether the races could mix but what were the ground-rules for them mixing. These relationships were not consensual or mutual but usually coerced and one-sided. The whites-only signs kept African Americans from many a public place; but in the most intimate parts of their lives, black and white people were as integrated as they possibly could be. In other words, the value of integration is contingent on whom you are asking to integrate, what you are asking them to integrate into and on what basis you are asking them to do so. The framing of the current debate is flawed on all three fronts. It treats integration as a one-way street - not a subtle process of cultural negotiation but full-scale assimilation of a religious group that is regarded, by many liberals and conservatives, as backward and reactionary. It is hardly surprising that many Muslims would not want to sign up to that. But they would have a hard time trying even if they did. The racial group in Britain that has the hardest time integrating is white people. A YouGov poll for the Commission for Racial Equality last year showed that 83% of whites have no friends who are practising Muslims, while only 48% of non-white people do. It revealed that 94% of whites, compared with 47% of people from ethnic minorities, say most or all their friends are white. There is no good reason why white people should go out of their way to befriend ethnic minorities. But the truth is some go out of their way not to. A Mori poll for Prospect magazine last year showed that 41% of whites, compared with 26% of ethnic minorities, want the races to live separately.

Britain has a great many qualities where race is concerned. But the image so eagerly touted after the bombings, of an oasis of tolerant diversity that has been exploited by Islamic fundamentalists who hail from a community determined to voluntarily segregate, simply does not square with the facts. If fair play is a core British value, racism is no less so. According to Home Office figures, in 2003-2004 roughly 150 racially motivated incidents were reported every day; of those 100 fell into the serious category that includes wounding, assault and harassment. Some are deadly, as in the case of the black teenager Anthony Walker, a devout Christian and would-be lawyer, standing at a bus stop with his white girlfriend. He looked about as integrated as you can be, but that didn't stop him being killed by a single axe blow to the head, following a torrent of racial abuse. But the most likely victims of race attacks are Pakistanis and Bangladeshis - the dominant ethnic groups among Muslims. And this was before the bombs sparked a significant rise in Islamophobia. All this is compounded by economic deprivation. Bangladeshis have the highest rate of unemployment, reaching just over 40% for men under 25. These people are not segregated; they are alienated. If they need to be integrated into anything as a matter of urgency, it is the workforce and the education system. A decent job with a decent income is still the best path out of the crudest forms of racism and fundamentalism. Polls and studies show a link between wealth and the propensity to integrate.

The reason black people could not get out of New Orleans was not because they were separate but because they were unequal - the wealthier ones left. Equality of opportunity is the driving force behind integration, not the other way round, but their relationship is subtle and symbiotic, not crude and causal. July's bombings blew a hole in assumptions, on the left and the right, about the link between race and desperation. The four young men who created bloody havoc led neither deprived nor segregated lives. Abdullah Jamal (formerly Jermaine Lindsay) was married to a white Englishwoman; Mohammad Sidique Khan was a graduate who helped children of all religions with learning difficulties; Hasib Hussain was sent to Pakistan only after he "went a bit wild" with drinking and swearing; Shehzad Tanweer was a graduate who used to help at his father's fish-and-chip shop. In July 5% of Muslims told an ICM poll that more bombings would be justified. Given the margin of error, this could be at least hundreds and at most thousands of potential suicide bombers. Whether it be Anthony Walker's murderers or terrorists, we know it only takes a few. Liberals must not give an inch to fundamentalism, whether racial, religious, ethnic or national. While its leaders must be ostracised, its followers must be won over. But either collective ethnic and racial identities are universally applicable, or they are not. If so then white people need a taskforce to discuss how to better police "their community" in order to marginalise extremists who kill in the name of white supremacy. If not then we need to move to a more sophisticated place that takes into account the degree to which our prejudices, pain and potential are all interlinked. If integration means anything, then it means we're all in this together.
©The Guardian

19/9/2005- Harriet Harman, the Constitutional Affairs minister, warned yesterday that some of Britain's black and poor communities were sinking into the same underclass exposed in the United States by Hurricane Katrina. Her comments reflect the feelings of Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), who believes the UK must heed the lessons of the Louisiana catastrophe, which highlighted the economic disparity and racial division in parts of the US. Mr Phillips will tell Manchester Council for Community Relations in a speech on Thursday: "We are a society which, almost without noticing it, is becoming more divided by race and religion. Our ordinary schools ... are becoming more exclusive and our universities are starting to become colour-coded with virtual "whites keep out" signs in some urban institutions." Other campaigners agreed that there was increased segregation, but added that the poor white community was feeling equally disenfranchised. Ms Harman said: "We don't want to get into a situation like America, but if you look at the figures, we are already looking like America - in London, poor, young and black people don't register to vote." The Government is to fund a hard-hitting campaign to persuade more young people, the poor and blacks to register to vote in next May's local elections. Ministers fear that the failure of many to register is evidence of their disengagement from civic society - in the same way that the poor of New Orleans lacked a voice or power to improve their position. Latest figures show that 20 per cent of people aged 20 to 24; 20 per cent of all those living in inner London; and 38 per cent of those in unfurnished rented accommodation were not on the register. A Bill to encourage registration is being introduced next month and Ms Harman said she could not rule out compulsory voting.

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said Mr Phillips' warning had to be taken very seriously. "I want to see, as he does, more and more integration right across the board." The chairman of the CRE proposes controversial measures including forcing "white" schools to take larger numbers of ethnic minority pupils to aid integration. In an assessment of the UK after the July 7 terror attacks, Mr Phillips added: "We are sleepwalking our way to segregation. We are becoming strangers to each other and leaving communities to be marooned outside the mainstream." The number of people of Pakistani heritage in ghettos, defined as areas with more than two-thirds of any one ethnic group, trebled between 1991 and 2001. Ashok Viswanathan, founder of Operation Black Vote, said: "We have a less alarmist approach. There are these patterns emerging, but it is important to keep a sense of perspective." He said it was also important to remember the number of communities that continued to coexist happily. "There is an element of disenfranchisement but it is not just the black minority and ethnic community. It is wider than that, young people in general." Mohammed Afzal Khan, of the Muslim Council, added: "We need to encourage better understanding and more interaction but these comments seem slightly over the top. We need to make sure the lower spectrum - and that includes poor white people - have better opportunities provided for them."
© Independent Digital

23/9/2005- Eight Muslim students and graduates today said they were taking legal action against their university on the grounds of religious discrimination. The men said they were challenging a decision made by the University of Birmingham to annul an election in which 14 Muslim students were elected to act as delegates at National Union of Students (NUS) conferences. They said the poll was later declared void amid "unspecified" allegations of voter fraud and intimidation and that the decision to pursue legal action was taken because the NUS had no right of appeal. One of the students, Arafat Ben Hassine, said: "We had strongly urged the university to reverse its decision for the sake of fairness and clarity. "We were the candidates duly elected by the students. Decisions should be based on hard evidence not malicious rumours."

Solicitor Shah Qureshi, from the law firm Webster Dixon, said: "My clients are a group of young Muslim men who decided to follow the democratic route. "As far as we are aware that route was blocked by the university on the basis of rumour and hearsay. In the current climate it is crucial that institutions like Birmingham University are not seen to condone discriminatory practices against Muslims. "Birmingham is a multi-ethnic city and such behaviour, if unchecked, can only contribute to the vilification and marginalisation of Muslims." Mr Qureshi said the October 25 election was declared void by the university registrar on November 30 and new elections held in February this year. He said the NUS changed election rules and ran the new poll under a different system which made it more difficult for his clients to be elected. In a statement the University of Birmingham said it viewed the conduct of free and fair elections as a very serious matter. It read: "Any allegations of racism or discrimination are unfounded and utterly refuted. "Our Charter commits us to a policy of no discrimination and under the Education Act 1994 the university council is further obliged 'to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that the guild of students operates in a fair and democratic manner'. "In this case, the guild elections committee received a variety of complaints which caused considerable concern. "The elections were therefore re-run. Any of the previous candidates were free to stand." Mr Qureshi said legal papers would be served on the university next week.
©The Guardian

Members of the Northern League - a key party in Italy's ruling coalition - are threatening to protest outside a controversial Muslim school in Milan.

23/9/2005- The row over the school - closed down by the authorities - is testing Italian attitudes to Muslim immigrants. Parents of the 500 children who attended the school are continuing to demonstrate outside. Tensions were heightened by the death of a boy, killed by a car as he crossed the road outside the school this week. The Northern League - a regionally-based party that is vitriolic in its criticism of immigrants, especially Muslims - has scuppered a planned prayer meeting for the boy. It plans to demonstrate against any compromise which gives ground to the parents, who want help to set up a school where their children can learn Arabic and the Koran alongside the normal state curriculum.

'Nothing to hide'
The school's supporters are unfazed - although they say they will keep a low profile if the League protest does materialise. The school is in an area of southern Milan known locally as Little Egypt because of its thriving Egyptian community. A volunteer teacher there said the Northern League had been "very provocative". "We have nothing to hide, they can carry out as many checks as they like - they'll never be able to say we are doing anything wrong. "We're here simply to ask for our right to study the Arabic language and nothing more. If they give us this right we won't ask for anything else!" Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, meanwhile, has reiterated that the Italian school system can easily accommodate the needs of practising Muslims - but stressed that all schools must meet legal guidelines. He has also promised that the police will be even-handed with all demonstrators - be they Muslim or members of the Northern League. It is a pledge that has won him the scorn of League members - who have taken to referring to him, disparagingly, as Ali Abu Pisanu.
©BBC News

The Vatican is to ban all gay men from joining the clergy even if they accept a vow of celibacy, reports say.

23/9/2005- The late Pope John Paul II ordered a review of the Catholic church's policy on homosexuality after US priests were involved in child sex abuse. A formal announcement is expected in the coming months, but Vatican sources have confirmed US newspaper leaks. The Vatican has regularly made clear its opposition to gay priests, calling homosexuals "intrinsically disordered". The Papal "instruction" is expected to deal with concerns in Rome about the extent of a latent homosexual sub-culture at Catholic seminaries. Practicing homosexuals are barred from the priesthood, but celibate gay men are commonly ordained, although many keep their sexual orientation secret. Some estimate that more than 25% of US Catholic priests are non-practicing homosexuals.

Cultural shift
An inspection of the 229 Catholic seminaries in the US is due to begin this month. The review, known as an Apostolic Visitation, will examine whether there is "evidence of homosexuality" within the seminary. Speaking to the New York Times, an anonymous Vatican official said the new ruling would address the issue of temptation among those attending seminaries. "The difference is in the special atmosphere of the seminary. In the seminary you are surrounded by males, not females." The BBC's David Willey in Rome says that Pope Benedict is mindful of the splits which have been occurring in the Anglican church over the appointment of gay priests and bishops, and wants to clean up the Catholic church's image. Observers say the Pope's willingness to tackle the issue just months after succeeding John Paul II demonstrates his commitment to a conservative, traditionalist Catholicism.

But some Catholic leaders say there is no proof of any direct connection between the presence of gay clergy in the church's ranks and child abuse scandals. Instead many priests appear to feel threatened by the Vatican's decision. "I've heard straight priests say... they're embarrassed by it," one anonymous gay US priest told the Associated Press. "I've heard priests both gay and straight seriously consider leaving. "They couldn't believe that after centuries of either explicit or implicit welcoming of celibate gay clergy that church would turn its back on them."
©BBC News

The strange anti-gay alliance forged by hardline nationalists and "Christian values" defenders testifies to the fragility of Latvian political discourse.
By Katrina Z. S. Schwartz

22/9/2005- The fair-haired, fresh-faced teen picks me out of the crowd and leans in as close as he can, angling his torso around the impassive policeman marching between us. He is giving me the finger and shouting in Russian, and I am too overwhelmed to catch the words. But his final comment – in Latvian – is clear as day: "Mauka!" (whore!). I am in the heart of Riga's beautiful medieval Old Town on Saturday, 23 July, marching in Latvia's first Gay Pride parade. Some opposition to the parade was inevitable, given that sexual minorities are as little understood and as little seen in Latvia as they are throughout the post-communist world. But the scale of the backlash – as many as 500 active counter-protesters – and the level of hostility directed at the 100 or so marchers that day far surpassed expectations. After all, at least 600 people marched without incident in the first gay pride parade in former Soviet territory last year in Tallinn, and some 400 turned out in mid-August this year despite heavy rain. Two factors may account for the intensity of the Riga protests. For the first time in a European Union member-state, politicians at the national level – including the prime minister – spoke out aggressively against the march. And the anti-gay backlash united two previously distinct and even hostile camps – radical Latvian nationalists and evangelical "Christian values" crusaders – and brought Latvians and Russia-speakers together in a bilingual front against gay rights.

From silence to contempt
There is very little research on the life experiences of gays and lesbians in Latvia or on popular attitudes toward gays, but perhaps the most salient indicator is the degree to which Latvian gays and lesbians remain "in the closet." According to a recent survey of EU accession countries by the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe), over 70 percent of Latvian respondents attempt to conceal their sexual orientation from people other than family and friends (compared to a low of 20 percent in the Czech Republic). And with good reason: gays and lesbians live in a climate of fear as, despite their attempts at invisibility, the incidence of verbal and physical abuse (by police and family members included) remains high, and face employment and housing discrimination. Gay (male) sex was decriminalized in 1993, but Latvia is the only member-state that has not yet implemented the EU employment equality directive banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In recent Latvian opinion surveys, only 16 percent of respondents stated that they personally knew a homosexual person, 38 percent identified homosexuals as undesirable neighbors, and 51 percent strongly disagreed with the statement that "homosexuality is a normal phenomenon in any society." Geographer Gordon Waitt reports that some gay men in Riga feel pressure to be keep the closet door even more firmly shut than during Soviet times. In a journal article on "sexual citizenship" in Latvia, he writes that the private lives of gays "are increasingly under scrutiny by increased public awareness of homosexuality since 1991 and an emerging talk-show culture that presently obsesses over the sexual orientation of Latvian celebrities. … Some informants expressed that they are now more cautious than during the Soviet era about publicly greeting any friend of the same sex by hugging or kissing. … Several lament the passing of the system and its … silence over sexuality that had guaranteed invisibility." While the events of Riga's gay pride week were unprecedented in their scale and intensity, homophobic popular attitudes and statements by public figures, as well as anti-gay activism, are certainly not new to Latvia. Janis Vanags, the ultra-conservative archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church, made headlines in 1994 when he banned practicing gays from receiving holy communion in his church (he is also well-known for banning the ordination of women pastors). Both Vanags and Roman Catholic Archbishop Janis Pujats contributed chapters to a book published in 2002 by the radical nationalist Aivars Garda, entitled Homosexuality: Humanity's Shame and Ruin.

Breaking new ground
But if aggressively homophobic rhetoric had been primarily the domain of church leaders and the extremist fringe, the situation changed with the arrival on the political scene of Latvia's First, a.k.a. the "Preachers' Party." Founded in 2002 by a Lutheran pastor and former Soviet dissident and elected to parliament the same year on an American-style "Christian family values" platform, Latvia's First Party has been explicitly homophobic since its founding congress, and it led the verbal assault on the parade. Its leader, Eriks Jekabsons, is interior minister in the current coalition government. The mainstreaming of homophobia is one consequence of this newcomer's injection of evangelical Christianity into the political culture of this heretofore decidedly secular society. Throughout the 15 years of post-communist transition, battles over diversity and tolerance have been waged – at both the domestic and international levels – almost exclusively on inter-ethnic grounds: first over citizenship, naturalization, and official language policies, and more recently over the transition to Latvian-language teaching in Russophone public high schools. The rage of nationalist extremists and the anomie of the disaffected masses have largely been channeled into hatred of the ethnic other, thanks in no small part to the divisive rhetoric of politicians. Latvia's political parties are rigidly polarized on ethnic lines, heavily controlled by powerful economic interests, weakly rooted in society, and deeply mistrusted by most citizens. Seeking to boost their weak ratings, office-seekers often resort to emotionally based populist appeals. For most parties with an ethnic-Latvian base, these emotional appeals have often focused on anti-Russian nationalism. But Latvia's First explicitly endorsed multiculturalism and ethnic integration during the 2002 campaign, seeking to win support among Russian-speaking voters. Its aggressively anti-gay rhetoric suggests that the party views homophobia as a useful replacement for anti-Russian nationalism. While Latvia has always been a nominally Christian (predominantly Lutheran) nation-state, religion has never been a strong component of national identity (unlike, for example, Catholic Poland and Lithuania or Orthodox Russia). Historically, pre-Christian folklore and agrarian "peasant values" have provided the richest sources of symbolic material for constructions of nation and nationalism. Even after the collapse of communism and its enforced atheism, rates of church-going have remained low. But in Latvia, as in most of Central and Eastern Europe, the chaos and destabilization of post-communist transition has provided fertile ground for the rapid expansion of Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, and evangelical denominations, or "sects," as they are often pejoratively described in the Latvian media. It was perhaps only a matter of time before a political party would attempt to capture this growing segment of the electorate: hence, the arrival of Latvia's First in 2002.

The party was founded by Eriks Jekabsons, a devout Christian who fled the Soviet Union in 1988 due to alleged KGB persecution and spent the following 13 years in America, where he received a master's degree in theology and served for five years as a Lutheran pastor in Chicago (along with operating a martial-arts dojo). Jekabsons' lengthy stay in the United States, during a period of increasing political and cultural de-secularization there, surely played a critical role in shaping his subsequent political agenda. As he observed in an interview shortly after returning to Latvia:
"America is definitely a Christian country. There are ordinary [mainstream] churches, but there are also many Bible-based and evangelical churches. … A lot of incorrect perceptions about the U.S.A. have been created in Europe and Latvia. I have traveled all across that country and seen what happens on Sundays – how America is transformed on these days. Every block or two there is a church, and people are gathered there in their Sunday best. … Many of our parliamentary deputies are not religious, but in America people understand that politics without morality is maimed, and morality without religion is impossible. Latvia's politicians and society don't realize that."

After his return to Latvia in 2001, Jekabsons founded a non-governmental organization called For Spiritual Rebirth in Latvia and then merged it the following year with two existing political parties to form Latvia's First. Since winning 9.5 percent of the vote and 10 seats in the 101-member parliament in 2002, the party has spoken out against abortion and campaigned for including references to Christian heritage in the EU constitutional treaty. It also secured a highly controversial budgetary allocation for church renovations under the rubric of promoting "sacral tourism," which critics have denounced as a transparent effort to win endorsements from the pulpit. As its "Preachers' Party" nickname suggests, many party members at the national and local levels are themselves members of the clergy. The party cultivates connections with all of Latvia's mainstream denominations, but it has provoked widespread skepticism through its close ties with evangelical churches, and particularly the New Generation. This Massachusetts-based charismatic church, with branches in many post-Soviet states as well as Argentina and Israel, has attracted a primarily Russian-speaking congregation at its Riga headquarters, where pastor Aleksey Ledyaev, according to a report by the non-profit think tank (, "promotes the idea of Christian government, mentioning George Bush's administration in the United States as an admirable example."

A united front?
Radical Latvian nationalists have passionately denounced Latvia's First for its association with New Generation. In 2004, the extremist National Front published a lengthy interview with Ledyaev in its newspaper Deoccupation Decolonization Debolshevization, quoting Ledyaev as saying: "You're trying to say that a little country like Latvia, such a small nation as Latvians, can talk to Russia and the U.S.A. as an equal? What are you, crazy? … Small nations must submit to big nations and follow their rules. They must understand that small nations are not equal with the rest. If the little ones don't know their place, and make too much noise, then it's no surprise if they get it on the head." Even more alarming to the nationalists were Ledyaev's claims to close ties with Latvia's First and his assertion that the party and his church both favor the strengthening of bilingualism in Latvia. Commenting on this interview, the chairman of the National Power Union, another radical organization, asked rhetorically whether "a political party with such close ties to a socially dangerous religious sect, whose leader is hostile to the Latvian nation, can legitimately be represented in the Latvian government? … Whom does Latvia's First Party serve…?" The author called on the party's coalition partners to investigate its ties with this "scandalous pseudo-Christian community" and to consider expelling it from the government In this context, it was very interesting indeed to see the ethnically "integrated" scene on the sidelines of the gay pride march. Even the extremist nationalist organization Everything for Latvia remarked approvingly in an online photo essay: "This time Russians and Latvians are standing shoulder-to-shoulder … this time none of that matters because everyone is standing up against a common enemy." This united front is, most likely, only a temporary marriage of convenience. But it should certainly be cause for alarm that ostensibly respectable government ministers are making common cause with extreme xenophobes in attacking a highly vulnerable minority group.

Unfortunately, as Latvia prepares for the next parliamentary elections in September 2006, there is every reason to expect that populist appeals to crude prejudices will only intensify. As a prominent newspaper editor explained it to me, Latvia's First and other parties are terrified of the electorate, because they realize how unstable their approval ratings are. Thus, they are desperate to establish some kind of "emotional connection" with voters. Now that the passionate issues of de-colonization and the "return to Europe" and NATO are already faits accomplis, where will they find that emotional bond? Newspaper commentator Aivars Ozolins is not optimistic:
"Rather than addressing the question of why, for example, Latvia is the poorest EU member-state and why it has the highest level of political corruption, it is easier to set various social groups against each other. But such flirting by the parties of power with a portion of society's prejudices and the readiness of the self-proclaimed 'correct' and 'normal' people to even physically persecute and attack different or 'abnormal' people, threatens to turn the next Saeima elections into a contest between neo-Nazis, racists, Christian fundamentalists, anti-Semites, xenophobes, homophobes and every other subspecies of misanthropes and rejecters of freedom. The bigger the thief, the louder he will appeal to 'family values.' "
©Transitions Online

Forced into a subordinate role in their own community, Roma women also have to put up with blatant ethnic discrimination from Bulgarians.
By Boryana Dzhambazova in Sofia

23/9/2005- "The girl has to be a virgin – it's a must," said 40-year-old Gyula Dimitrova, speaking with conviction in her eyes. She takes her community's marital requirement as a given and can't hide a smile recalling her wedding, and especially the "blaga rakia" ritual, at which the guests drank a pinkish-red liquor to symbolise the bride's virginity. "People don't think well of girls who fail to keep their honour," Roza Noteva, 22, agrees. She represents a younger generation, but she believes and obeys communal traditions just as firmly as Gyula. At her wedding, she and her husband were presented with a house. His parents wanted the munificent gift to demonstrate their pleasure about the fact that she had joined their family as a virgin. "No good man would take a bride who is not a virgin," Gyula continues, explaining that such women are doomed to lead lonely, marginalised lives. Of course, virginity is more optional for the grooms. Although Bulgaria's 24 Roma communities differ in religion and rituals, they unite in upholding highly conservative attitudes towards women. Well into the 21st century, the Roma remain one of the most patriarchal societies in Europe, with men having far more rights than women.

The sexual discrimination Roma women have to put up with is even harder to endure when combined with the ethnic discrimination that is common in many post-socialist countries. For Roma women in Bulgaria, subordinate status in the family and the community, a low standard of living and education, a weak position in the labour market and the negative attitudes of ethnic Bulgarians, can combine to make life grim. Statistics show Roma women without a secondary education are usually doomed to unemployment – which means the majority of them, as United Nations research from 2003 showed only 16 per cent of Roma people in Bulgaria had completed secondary or higher education. There are some signs of change, however. Along with seven other countries, Bulgaria proclaimed this year the start a "Decade of Roma Inclusion". As part its effort to modernise and introduce EU-related reforms, the country has made legislative and other changes aiming to better integrate this minority, which makes up almost a tenth of Bulgaria's population. A number of non-governmental organisations are working on key projects to reduce the social disparity between the communities. The Creating Effective Grassroots Alternative, CEGA, foundation, for example, is working to increase Roma women's participation in public life. But in practice, any real improvement in their lives still seems a distant prospect.

According to the Open Society Foundation, most Roma girls who got to school at all leave well before graduation, in order to take care of younger brothers and sisters, marry, or give birth. Although the average marriage age has been rising over the last 15 years among Roma, some maintain the tradition of marrying off their daughters at 12 or 13. Roza Noteva is one of the minority who didn't drop out of education. But she attended a school in which Roma were segregated from other pupils, and she believes several potential employees rejected her job applications for this reason. She graduated in needlework but has been forced to take work as a part-time cleaner. Her mother-in-law, Silvia Stefanova, nods sadly and adds that prejudice in society towards Roma remains stronger than good will. "When we travel on the bus everybody clutches their purses, as they think all gypsies are thieves," she said. "We are treated as black sheep no matter how much we want to earn our living honestly by working hard." Rumian Sechkov, executive manager of CEGA, says Roma women in Bulgaria lag about a generation behind the rest of society. "They now enjoy about the same level of emancipation as Bulgarian women did during the Second World War," he said. If so, women like Roza Noteva and Gyula Dimitrova have a 60-year wait ahead of them before they can even begin to enjoy the same rights as contemporary Bulgarians.
©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Their carefree grins, candid photos and cold mugshots stare out from a gut-wrenching gallery.

18/9/2004- Untold scores of society's most vulnerable members - young native women - have gone missing across the country only to be forsaken by a jaded justice system and neglectful media. The death and disappearance of aboriginal women has emerged as an alarming nationwide pattern, from western serial murders to little-known Atlantic vanishings. Grim statistics and anecdotal evidence compiled by The Canadian Press suggest public apathy has allowed predators to stalk native victims with near impunity. The record also points to an ugly truth behind the political and legal lethargy: racism. Pauline Muskego's daughter, Daleen Kay Bosse, disappeared after a night out with friends in Saskatoon on May 18, 2004. She left behind a daughter, now four, who was her greatest joy. There was no hint that the aspiring teacher and photographer, just 26 years old, would simply abandon her life, says Muskego. The torment of waiting for answers is only deepened whenever a white woman's disappearance triggers a flurry of national media attention. "My daughter's face has never been shown nationally." Almost everyone has heard that the remains of more than 27 women were found on a pig farm in British Columbia. Lost in the grisly headlines, however, is the fact that many of the victims were aboriginal.

The episode highlighted the cases of at least 68 missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside - an enclave of drug-addicted despair that is disproportionately home to native people. They vanished over a two-decade period, often with scant police or media attention. But aboriginal women are not preyed upon in British Columbia alone. Their deaths and disappearances remain unsolved on reserves, in cities and in small towns across the country. Victims include not only the most exposed drug addicts but also aspiring professionals, university students and devoted mothers with no history of street life. Amber O'Hare has been tracing their stories for years. Posters of missing native women began to haunt her a decade ago as she visited reserves across Canada working as an AIDS educator. Again and again, she saw desperate appeals for help finding loved ones - many of them aboriginal girls and women. O'Hare would check newspapers for details but usually found nothing. It was her first glimpse of the lack of public interest that has contributed to the swelling ranks of murdered and missing native women. She could not accept the general indifference and scant media coverage. "So I started documenting them." O'Hare soon heard from distraught relatives who'd spent years trying to get help from police. "I've had e-mails and phone calls from family members who've said that they've been to the police department three years later and the file's dusty." The Toronto mother of two, herself an AIDS sufferer who narrowly escaped a heroin-addicted street life, began to build an unsettling online catalogue. Today, she has documented hundreds of cases of murdered and vanished native girls and women from coast to coast. O'Hare toiled in obscurity as she built a digital memorial to the losses. Etched in her memory was the chilling case of Helen Betty Osborne, the Manitoba girl whose 1971 beating death at the hands of four white men was a shameful open secret in The Pas for years. Just one of the men was ever convicted - more than 15 years later. A public inquiry exposed the racism and misogyny that led to Osborne's rape and killing. O'Hare's website,, offers stark evidence that little has changed. The pages are filled with more than 200 desperate stories. It's a dispiriting inventory of native girls and women who were killed or have simply disappeared. "Most of them are dead, I believe," O'Hare says with flat resignation. She researches new cases through phone calls, e-mail tips, obituaries and hours spent scanning files in the reference library. Except for help from a couple of friends, she has until recently been a lone crusader. But others with more influence and resources have taken up the cause, lending credence to what O'Hare has long known: the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada has reached epidemic proportions.

Police in British Columbia are probing the disappearance of at least 68 women from Vancouver over two decades. Pig farmer Robert Pickton has been charged with killing 27 of the women, many of whom were prostitutes in the city's crime-ridden Downtown Eastside. An internal federal briefing note obtained by The Canadian Press suggests as many as half of the missing B.C. women may have been aboriginal. Exact figures are hard to pin down because ancestry is not always obvious from the facts known about each victim. An RCMP-led task force in Alberta is investigating more than 80 unsolved murders and missing-person cases - disappearances the police say could point to a serial killer. The bodies of several Edmonton prostitutes have been found discarded in farmers' fields, upping the ante for those who gamble their lives as street workers. In 2003, many in the sex trade began voluntarily providing DNA samples and personal contacts to police. But reliable information is sorely lacking on the extent to which the most vulnerable victims are targeted. The Native Women's Association of Canada campaigned last year for $10 million in federal funds to research what it estimates are at least 500 cases in the last 20 years of murdered or missing aboriginal women. That estimate is based on the group's preliminary research, including extensive interviews with families. "There is a growing awareness of particular problem. It grew out of and it grew out of other reports - particularly the Native Women's Association."till, O'Hare's online archive of continues to expand. She makes no apologies for the exclusive focus on aboriginal women "I don't consider it racism. I consider it exposing exposed." O'Hare and others to a virtual news vacuum when it comes to covering native cases. They cite how the disappearance of 25-year-old Alicioss, from a neighborhood north of made national newscasts and headlines Names vanished aboriginals are rarely beyond their home provinces - if the word of missing native women in Nova Scotia comes through a phone call from the reserves, said Bert Milberg, an addictions or in Halifax. "You don't hear from the news. " There are exceptions, but cases go almost unnoticed. Back in Toronto continues to preserve the many murdered and missing native women.

Bleak scenes on Saskatoon's 20th Street have roots in discrimination
It's mid-afternoon on a Tuesday as a 16-year-old girl paces 20th Street in the heart of The Stroll. Wearing denim shorts and eating an ice-cream bar, she looks like any teenager on a hot summer day - until she starts waving at passing pickup trucks. She is among dozens of native girls and women caught up in a highly visible and racially polarized sex trade. How they got there is a complex question with historic roots reaching back through decades of racist federal policy, says Toronto lawyer Mary Eberts. "What has happened to aboriginal women in this country, by the conscious act of the Canadian state, is appalling." A growing list of murdered and missing native women across Canada includes many who wound up in an increasingly dangerous sex trade. In Saskatoon, the women who sell their bodies and the young girls who are exploited - often under pressure from other girls in their "street families" or from drug-addicted relatives - are overwhelmingly aboriginal. The men who cruise The Stroll come from all income brackets. They range from transient construction workers to professionals in luxury SUVs. They often have wives and families. They are almost always white. Many are regular visitors to this run-down sprawl of motels, businesses and homes near Saskatoon's downtown core. Some are sadistically abusive, and there's little police can do to protect victims as young as 10 who tend to report only the worst beatings. Police are widely distrusted here, and many residents fear arrest for outstanding warrants. A local street outreach agency keeps a "high risk of homicide" registry that typically tracks up to 100 girls and women considered most vulnerable. The grim record includes such identifying information as tattoos and previously broken bones to help police investigate if needed. "The reality of it is that kids turn up dead," says Don Meikle, client services co-ordinator for the downtown youth centre. Saskatoon, like Regina and Winnipeg, has a large aboriginal population saddled with crushing rates of poverty, drug addiction, sexual abuse, domestic violence and prostitution.

Who is responsible for such misery?
Eberts says it's a grossly unfair reading of recent history to blame native communities alone. She traces a succession of federal policies that disrupted sophisticated aboriginal social systems while forcing whole populations on to small reserves. Introduced in 1876, the Indian Act limited economic prospects and even freedom of movement. It especially undercut traditional roles of authority held for centuries by aboriginal women, Eberts says. "Under the Indian Act, Indian women were not recognized as legal persons. They were not allowed to hold land or participate in band governance in any way - either as voters or to stand and hold office. And they were not allowed to inherit property or serve as executors of estates. "They were complete legal non-entities." Moreover, native women who married non-native men lost their Indian status. This especially damaging piece of sexist legislation was only partially corrected in 1985. The political approach to the "Indian Problem" was assimilation, beginning in earnest in the 1870s with residential schools. By 1900, thousands of native children had been placed in institutions where their culture and language were shunned. Many were punished for speaking their native tongue in a system that would erode family structures for more than three generations. Ottawa has admitted that physical and sexual abuse in the church-run schools was rampant. But the federal government has so far refused to pay blanket compensation. Today, the residential school experience reverberates in the form of social dysfunction. Native leaders say it's a key factor in the sexual abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction and domestic violence that have plagued many communities since. Ottawa has committed $5 million over five years to research cases of murdered and missing native women - far short of the $10 million over two years sought by the Native Women's Association of Canada. Indian Affairs Minister Andy Scott says "it's a start." Ottawa is desperately trying to deal with the fallout from years of federal meddling in the lives of First Nation, Inuit and Metis people, he said in an interview. "We're stuck with an awareness of the history of our unilateral interventions. They haven't been a happy story. "I immediately look at these conditions and say, 'I want to do something.' But I have to resist that instinct because I think we have to be more collaborative than that." There is hope that increasing education and sobriety rates will mean a brighter future for many aboriginal kids. But for those pinned down by poverty and addiction, life is a bleak struggle to survive. "To get some money," the 16-year-old girl says with a stoned grin when asked why she's offering herself up to strangers on 20th Street. Already a mother of two, she is obviously high but only admits to smoking "a few joints" of pot. She is living with a girlfriend who also works the streets with two of her sisters. Another older sister, in the sex trade as well, went missing a few years ago and has never been found.

A 20th Street business owner finally hired a private security guard to protect the corner outside her shop for part of each weekday. His main job is to keep away the young women who appear from early in the morning to late at night. Noon-hours are busy as men on lunch breaks cruise for sex. "The politicians have to do something," says the business owner, who asked not to be identified. Police say their hands are tied by lax prostitution laws, while politicians do little but say they're concerned, she says. On the table before her are stacks of newspaper clippings and letters she has written pleading for action. "This place is a breeding ground for drugs, sexually transmitted disease and abductions." She is at a loss to understand why her voice is one of few demanding change. "There are native people out there who don't want it either. Where are the elders?" Ojibwa elder Walter Linklater, 66, says those who truly follow traditional culture can help. But they are rarely asked by the mostly white bureaucrats who run programs in a social-work industry that feeds off native problems, he says. He beat acute alcoholism in his 30s only when an elder helped him reconnect with his aboriginal ancestry. Many native people will remain lost until they do the same, Linklater says. "We must go back to our traditional ways. "We won't give up. We'll go through many tragedies yet before society realizes and goes to the elders." Bert Milberg, a Halifax addictions counsellor who tries to help men deal with their anger, says the aboriginal tenet of holding women sacred has been forgotten. "We've lost that, obviously," he said. "Women going missing, women getting murdered, women committing suicide. "It's time to start reversing this wheel."

Key dates in the recent history of missing aboriginal women in Canada:

  • June 21, 2002: Tree-planter Nicole Hoar, 25, of Red Deer, Alta., vanishes while hitchhiking along northern British Columbia's Highway 16, west of Prince George. Her disappearance garners national headlines. At least six young native women went missing between 1988 and 1995 along the same "Highway of Tears" with comparatively little public focus. All cases remain unsolved.
  • Oct. 4, 2004: Amnesty International Canada issues Stolen Sisters, a major report condemning how racism and sexism taint police and media handling of cases involving missing or murdered aboriginal women.
  • May 17, 2005: Federal government commits $5 million over five years to research cases of missing aboriginal women - far short of the $10 million over two years sought by the Native Women's Association of Canada for its Sisters in Spirit campaign.
  • May 25, 2005: Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farmer Robert Pickton is charged with 12 new counts of first-degree murder, bringing the total to 27. Most alleged victims disappeared from Vancouver's drug-infested Downtown Eastside between 1996 and 2002. Relatives of a growing list of missing women first pressed police to investigate in 1991. Vancouver police agreed to review related files in 1998. Of at least 68 women believed missing to date, at least one-quarter are aboriginal.
  • June 17, 2005: RCMP in Edmonton announce they're looking for a serial killer. Critics ask why it took so long when at least 12 prostitutes have been killed in and around the city since 1988. Several victims were aboriginal. Today, police provincewide are jointly reviewing more than 80 murder and missing-person cases over two decades.

    23/9/2005- A French-led working group has drawn up a draft of a legally binding international convention that cracks down on enforced or involuntary disappearances, diplomats said Friday. The convention would oblige signatory countries to act to prevent disappearances and to prosecute any "arrest, detention, abduction or any other deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the state". Disappearances carried out by people or groups associated with the state, which deny the detained person the protection of the law, are also proscribed. In addition, signatories commit to searching for those missing and to compensate the victims. The 26-page document, entitled 'International Convention For The Protection Of All Persons From Enforced Disappearances' will be submitted to the next session of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), which meets every year in March or April in Geneva, and then at the UN General Assembly in New York. The draft text reads: "The widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity." "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance." A committee on enforced disappearances, made up of 10 experts, will be in charge of monitoring each signatory country's adherence to the convention. Relatives of the disappeared will be able to call on the committee to demand information from countries concerned. However, the committee will only have jurisdiction over cases that occur after the convention comes into force. The working group, appointed in 1980 by the HRC, began compiling the document in 2003 with the cooperation of rights organisations such as Amnesty International, and under the leadership of the French ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Bernard Kessedjian.
    ©Expatica News

    12/9/2005- The long domination of the French far right by Jean-Marie Le Pen has suffered a potentially lethal blow. M. Le Pen, 77, has axed Jacques Bompard, the mayor of Orange - the National Front's most senior elected official - from the party's "political bureau" or governing body. M. Bompard, the only member of the NF still in charge of a French town, denounced the veteran far right leader as a "Stalinist". He said he would leave the NF immediately and might join forces with the rising figure on the nationalist right in France, the Catholic fundamentalist aristocrat, Philippe de Villiers. M. de Villiers, 56, who has attracted a stream of NF dissidents, launched his campaign yesterday for the next presidential election, still 20 months away. He made a series of inflammatory statements on race and immigration, as if deliberately appealing to M. Le Pen's restless electorate. M. de Villiers, president of the Mouvement pour la France, said he would campaign to "stop the gradual Islamisation of French society". M. Bompard has been at odds with M. Le Pen for more than two years, complaining that the NF had become a political vehicle for the the leader and his family. Instead of channelling resources into winnable local campaigns, he said, all the NF's energy and finances were going into M. Le Pen's presidential ambitions, which were doomed to failure. The last straw came when M. Bompard, as mayor of Orange in the Rhône valley, fined NF activists for fly-posting "Non" posters in the town during the EU referendum campaign this spring. M. Bompard was one of four NF members elected to run medium-sized towns in France in 1995 in what was seen as a breakthrough for the far right. Of the other three, in Toulon, Marignane and Vitrolles, all later left the party. Only one is still office, as an independent. M. Le Pen will be almost 79 at the next presidential election but plans to run again. In the past 12 months, he has also quarrelled with his youngest daughter, Marine, who seemed to be a possible successor. Marine Le Pen had been trying to modernise the party and to clean up its image. She was reportedly devastated when her father said in an interview that the Nazis had behaved "correctly" in France during the Second World War.
    © Independent Digital

    14/9/2005- France has always had a hard time dealing with its minorities. Ostensibly, they don't exist under the race, religion and colorblind creed of "liberty, equality and fraternity." The reality, of course, is that they do -- just like everywhere else in the world. Who are they and where do they come from? What forms of discrimination do they face? Such answers aren't easy to find in a country which bans official surveys from having questions on religion or ethnicity. For the same reasons, it's also difficult to target programs to improve their access to better jobs and education; to even the playing field. Indeed, such programs are also officially barred. The idea of affirmative action a l'Americaine is an anathema to France's center-right government. At least on the surface. But today, the debate surrounding minorities -- and discrimination -- has risen to the fore after several deadly Paris fires broke out in hotels housing ethnic immigrants. The incidents have sparked strong differences over just how the country does -- and should -- treat not only its first-generation, but also its second- and third-generation immigrants. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy -- considered a top candidate for president two years from now -- is a strong backer of quotas. Only he has cleverly changed the appellation of affirmative action to "positive discrimination," to make it more palatable in France. The current French president, Jacques Chirac, and French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin are firmly opposed to anything smacking of quotas, however. So for the moment, the French twist on affirmative action instead focuses on low-income zones. Which just happen to be filled with ethnic and religious minorities, many of them ethnic North African Muslims.

    One of the most ambitious initiatives is being spearheaded by Jean-Louis Borloo, junior minister for urban affairs in France's center-right government. His ministry aims to renovate and build new housing for some six million suburban residents by the end of 2008. Attractive neighborhoods, the idea goes will attract a mix of both poor-and middle-class residents, and bring in new businesses and employment opportunities. Another scheme aims to increase the number of low-income students in France's most elite universities. The initiative was launched by the renown Institute for Political Studies, or Sciences Po, in Paris. Now government officials want to include more universities and more students. Another scheme would offer similar opportunities for low-income, middle school students. France's airwaves are also changing, albeit gradually. Last year, France 3 became the first television station to hire a black anchor; others are just beginning to follow suite. Now, Azouz Begag, France's junior minister for the Promotion of Equal Chances, has launched an inquiry to assess just how open the country's private sector is to ethnic diversity. "In this country, we don't dare to pronounce the word 'Arab' or 'black,'" Begag, an ethnic North African, told Le Monde in a recent interview. "Because of political blindness, we're prevented from thinking progress is possible. The multicolored composition will become commonplace in businesses and communities once we're no longer afraid of describing French of color." Just how effective Begag's "diversity" push will be, however, is an open question. He opposes Sarkozy's "positive discrimination" platform and any efforts to assign quotas for minorities. Critics, however, suggest quotas are critical in a country where ethnic North African's represent a sizable (but unnumbered) minority -- and which hasn't one single ethnic North African deputy in its National Assembly.

    Still the matter of quotas remains fiercely controversial -- it came to the fore last year, when Algerian-born Aissa Dermouche was appointed as France's first ethnic Arab-Muslim prefect, or regional political leader. "We're completely opposed to ethnic quotas, in the sense it will push people to identify themselves to a particular community," said Dominique Sopo, head of SOS Racism, a Paris-based activist group, in a telephone interview. "One of the biggest strengths of France is the fact that issues of ethnicity and religiosity are extremely porous -- as you can see with the very mixed population that exists in France." At the same time, Sopo added, "the problem with the proposals of Azouz Begag is that he says he wants more diversity in French businesses -- but we don't see clearly how this can come about in concrete terms. " As far as Sopo is concerned France has one of the best programs of integration in Europe -- because of the very fact the country's policy insists on being blind to race and color when it comes to immigrants entering France. But discrimination is another matter. "France isn't a country that's massively racist," Sopo said. "There's an enormous amount of mixing that occurs in France -- unlike a lot of European countries, where mixing is almost nonexistent. That means there's a lot of potential for fraternity and tolerance in France." At the same time, Sopo said, the country has been late to openly tackle the issue of discrimination -- and in finding solutions to it. Fighting discrimination and offering equal chances -- rather than quotas -- for minorities will naturally lead to a more socially equal country, he argues. Le Monde, for one agrees. "The sadly banal reality is that France is decades behind when it comes to integration," Le Monde newspaper wrote in a recent editorial. But like Sopo, the newspaper does not necessarily see Begag's diversity proposals offering any solutions. Indeed, Le Monde wrote, it may well lead to imposing hiring quotas on businesses -- which, it argues, goes entirely against France's Republican model.
    ©World Peace Herald

    14/9/2005- Chairman of the European Democrats (ED) and former Prague mayor Jan Kasl has criticised the conditions at the foreigners' police headquarters at Prague's Olsanska street as undignified and discriminatory in an open letter he sent to Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan yesterday. "I must assure you that I have never come across anything like this at any Czech office in the past 16 years," he wrote. The Interior Ministry received the letter but it will only comment on it after civil servants deal with it, spokeswoman Jana Matejusova said. Kasl asks Bublan in the letter when the Interior Ministry will prepare an amendment to the law on foreigners that will abolish the "nonsensical, humiliating and repeated" registration of foreigners who live in the Czech Republic. He calls for a dignified environment for the processing of foreigners' affairs and for the accessibility of necessary forms on the Internet. "I visited the B building today to fill in and submit a request for a permission to invite to the Czech Republic the future husband of my daughter and the father of my grandson, who comes from Senegal," Kasl says in the letter, explaining how he came into contact with the office. Ombudsman Otakar Motejl said in June that the situation at the foreigners' police is "humiliating and undignified towards foreigners and untenable in the future." The Ombudsman Office pointed to the bad organisation of the Olsanska office that causes foreigners to wait several hours before their affairs are processed. In addition, police officials' knowledge of foreign languages is poor, the ombudsman said. Following the inspection by the Ombudsman Office employees, certain changes were implemented. An information telephone line for foreigners was installed and working hours were extended.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    and the International Organization for Migration
    12 Sep 2005

    Executive summary
    The Roma are the largest and most vulnerable minority in Europe, numbering around 10 million people. Roma populations are found in every country of Europe. During World War II at least 600,000 Roma were killed, many of them in Nazi concentration camps or while being used as slave labour for Nazi states. Now, sixty years later, Roma face difficulties finding an equal place in European countries. They lack adequate access to healthcare and education, and often face discrimination in the labour market. The Roma Holocaust ("Poraimos") has been overlooked or smoothed over in many countries. Even though the Roma have tried to have their own tragic story remembered, many people are unaware that the Roma were even affected by the Nazi regime. There has never been an international compensation programme exclusively for Romany victims of the Holocaust. In the compensation programmes that already exist in European states, Roma have been lumped together with other groups of war victims and veterans without considering the fact that the Nazis planned and partially realized the genocide of the Roma nation. This report is an attempt to bring complete information about International Organization for Migration's (IOM) role in compensation programs on behalf of Roma victims of the Holocaust and forced labour work.

    Our key findings include:

  • The IOM covers up information that must be public knowledge. The information found on the researched websites is unclear and incomprehensible. The websites regarding the various programmes with which IOM is involved are out of date.
  • The IOM has also done an insufficient job informing possible recipients of the various programme benefits, especially among the Roma people.
  • It is still unclear what criteria were used in the selection of IOM's HSP partners. In fact, this response raises another important question: what were the specific "need and age criteria" adopted by IOM's donors for deciding who could receive benefits? Even if IOM is not responsible for such a decision, it is information that should be made easily accessible to the public.
  • It is also not clear how IOM informed Roma people about the compensation programmes, HVAP and GFLCP, or how Roma were expected to manage the application process. Because Roma were expected to navigate the application process without any assistance, Dzeno considers this as being critically ignorant of the current situation of the Roma Nation in Europe. The report proves the authenticity of some of the complaints made by Roma leaders on IOM's performance in the compensation programmes and that Roma people may not have been properly assisted in this matter.

    Recommendations at all Roma Advocacy groups:
  • It is unacceptable to lump Romany holocaust victims together with Jehova's Whitness, homosexuals or disabled persons because Roma constitute a nation as well as Jews.
  • Roma organizations must pressure institutions that claim to assist Roma to provide transparent information on the help they provide, including its costs and its effects so the money addressed to help Roma will not be used incorrectly or inefficiently anymore.

    Recommendations at all Donors of IOM programmes:
  • To demand and publish all reports and financial records related to IOM programmes.
  • Not to support any programs on behalf of Roma if they are administered by IOM.

    Recommendations at the IOM:
  • Make all information accessible and transparent.
  • Thus they should clearly state not only how much money was received for each programme, but also the exact number of people who applied for and received compensation or assistance in each country.
  • Websites should be updated on a more regular basis. The public should be informed through the media of IOM's successes and failures during the implementation of their programmes.
  • To publish all reports and financial records related to IOM programme Poczatek formularza
    ©Dzeno Association

    14/9/2005- The neo-nazi Antonis Androutsopoulos, leading member of "Golden Dawn", better known as "Periandros", turned himself in on September 13, 2005. Androutsopoulos is wanted since June 1998, for leading a team of ten thugs that brutally attacked a student, Dimitris Kousouris who was badly injured, and other two people. At the time, the police was accused for unwillingness to arrest the perpetrators although the incident happened near the courtbuildings of Athens that are guarded by police forces.

    In April 2004, Androutsopoulos was convicted in absentia to 4 years of imprisonment for "organising a criminal gang, illegal possession and use of weapons". Also he was charged with premeditated attempted murder. His trial for this is still pending. The fact that Androutsopoulos was not arrested for seven years had raised questions as to whether he was shielded by the police. The statement of the former minister of Public Order, Mihalis Xrysohoidis, on the matter is indicative. Asked by a journalist of the Greek newspaper "Ta Nea", why the police did not arrest Periandros even when he went to the funeral of the former dictator Papadopoulos in 1999 in Athens, the minister answered that if he excluded foul play, the only reason would be "stupidity" and "incompetence"! He added that he personally never had evidence for foul play.

    It is also highly questionable that Androutsopoulos ever left Greece in order to flee to Venezuela (as he claims now), taking into consideration testimonies of persons that have seen him in Peloponnisos and Athens.

    Irrespective of any expediency that lies behind Androutsopoulos turning in, this is an important democratic victory that, as we believe, is related to the weakening of the political position of nazis following the outcry against their festival. We consider that it is very difficult for the nazis of "Golden Dawn" to go on with this festival since the government is compelled to be consistent with its declaration for a ban, under the international pressure. Already, through their publications, the leaders of Golden Dawn prepare their members for a defeat. These last days they speak of a separate gathering at Meljgalas, and it is also doubtful if they can make it.

    The last location chosen for the festival was the private camping "INTERSTATION" in Styljda of Lamia. The mayor of Lamia, Aleka Karagjorgou, stated that the owner of the camping "returned the advance he had received".

    Nevertheless, we are still on alert in order to denounce any such attempt.
    Antinazi Initiative

    15/9/2005- Greece is braced for the arrival of thousands of right-wing extremists from all over Europe hoping to attend a banned "Hatewave" festival. Those heading for the three-day event, featuring music, sport and speeches at the seaside, include members of Germany's National Democratic Party, Italy's Forza Nuova and Spain's La Fallange. The local ultra-right organisation Golden Dawn has kept the venue secret after the Greek government imposed a ban last month, saying it could incite racism. But organisers have remained defiant: "The festival will go ahead. It will be held on private property and you will find out the location a day before it is due to start," said a Golden Dawn official. Several thousand people from at least nine European countries are expected at the gathering, billed as "three days of comradeship, with live shows, sport activities by the sea and most important, an open congress with speeches on defending our European identity". The event's main slogan is "Our Europe, not theirs. Turkey out of Europe". Initially the event was to be held in the southern Greek town of Meligalas but protests by local authorities and NGOs have forced several changes of venue. A large booking at a campsite on behalf of Golden Dawn was confirmed earlier this week at the town of Stylida, 150km north of Athens. The town's mayor has denounced the festival: "We are furious ... Our people fought against Nazism and they want to come here? We don't want them here and we are asking the government to do whatever possible so that this disgraceful event does not take place."Last night protest groups gathered in the nearby town of Lamia to discuss potential action plans. Takis Giannopoulos from Youth Against Racism in Europe told The Independent: "If the fascists try to hold their festival at the campsite here we will be there to block the entrance and make sure they don't get in. If the location changes we will go and stop them wherever they are." The Greek Public Order Minister, George Voulgarakis, said that the police would intervene if the organisers tried to go ahead with the event.
    © Independent Digital

    16/9/2005- Neo-Nazis from across Europe are gathering in Greece this weekend for a far-right summer festival - but no one is exactly sure where. Organisers Golden Dawn say they will defy a government ban on the Euro-Fest 2005 event, and insist it will go ahead at a secret location. Golden Dawn is relatively small compared to other far-right groups - but it is very militant. Rights campaigners say Greece should do more to condemn such groups. "The most disturbing thing is not the few hundred people following Golden Dawn, but because there is no clear condemnation of their activity," Panayote Dimitras, of the human rights group Greek Helsinki Monitor told the BBC. "They mingle with other people who are not really neo-Nazis in activities like beating Albanians after the football one year ago leading to one death; like having anti-Turkish demonstrations."

    Mr Dimitras says Greece does have an anti-racist law which could provide some deterrent if used. "If you buy the Golden Dawn newspaper you have anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner references that are enough to convict their members every week," he said. He says the government has been embarrassed into taking a stance against the festival this year following protests from Jewish and other international groups. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Public Order and Hellenic Police refused to comment on the festival or what efforts were being taken to stop it going ahead. The Golden Dawn website for the Euro-Fest 2005, decked with "Turkey out of Europe" links has the headline: "The True voice of every European citizen". It offers "Three days of comradeship, with live shows, sport activities by the sea and the most important: Open Congress with speeches on defend [sic] of our European Identity".

    Secret location
    Mr Dimitras says one of the key speakers, Udo Voigt of the German NPD, is not expected to turn up because of elections in his own country. He said Golden Dawn could postpone the event so that the Germans could attend "because without them the glamour is lost." But a spokesman for Golden Dawn told the BBC News website that more than 500 supporters from all over Europe, including England, Germany and Belgium, had already arrived in Athens. He said the government had no legal powers to stop the event. As well as a demonstration in Athens, he said, the festival would still go ahead at a location to be revealed later. He said the main focus of the weekend was opposition to Turkey in Europe.
    ©BBC News

    16/9/2005- The trial of Christodoulos Nicolaides, the man accused of attacking and injuring a Turkish Cypriot and his Greek Cypriot friend at a Nicosia caf? on July 29, began yesterday at the Nicosia Assizes. The 28-year-old former policeman turned salesman made headlines after being arrested for allegedly attacking two men, Greek Cypriot Marinos Kleanthous and Turkish Cypriot Sadik Aktan. The story made bigger headlines when it was reported that Nicolaides was linked to the ultra-nationalist party Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn). Although there is no official Cyprus branch of Chrysi Avgi, there are a reported 28 members on the island, of which, according to police, Nicolaides is the leader. Nicolaides denies those claims. Nicolaides faces eight charges, which include causing actual bodily harm, assault and acting with intent to incite hostility between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. He has so far denied all charges. The court yesterday heard statements by three police officers. Kleanthous, a witness in the trial, also made a statement saying that he did not see Nicolaides involved in the fight. Meanwhile, the prosecution is also charging Nicolaides with the actual bodily harm of Turkish Cypriot Veysel Toksoy, who was attacked in Troodos on March 13. According to reports, Aktan and Kleanthous were with a group of other friends at the caf? when they were attacked and beaten. Nicolaides was later tracked down by police at his home and was arrested. Nicolaides later told police that night that the incident was a misunderstanding which had nothing to do with the fact that one of the victims was a Turkish Cypriot. According to one source, the two groups were sitting next to each other at the caf? when at one point the Greek and Turkish Cypriot pointed and laughed towards the suspect and his friends sparking the fight. The former policeman told the court, "I never hurt anyone. The Turkish Cypriot was not touched. The incident happened after they verbally abused us." Fears that Golden Dawn supporters might turn up for the trial proved unfounded. The trial is set to continue on September 20.
    ©Cyprus Mail

    15/9/2005- Law commissioner and President of Ethnopad, the National Organisation for the Protection of Human Rights, Leda Koursoumba yesterday warned of the fine line between terrorist fears and racism after two Pakistani men were kicked off a Larnaca-Manchester flight last week. For the third time in 12 months, passenger fears resulted in Muslim or Asian travellers being left behind in Cyprus when one of two Pakistanis on an Excel Airways flight was reported to be behaving suspiciously. He had spent around 10 minutes in the toilet before take-off, prompting terrorist fears amongst the flight's 228 British passengers. The pilot, after consulting with the authorities decided it was in the interests of the flight's safety that they be removed. The plane was grounded until it was cleared and the two men were questioned and later released. Last September, a Cyprus Airways (CY) flight to Moscow was delayed for over two hours when Russian passengers refused to fly with what they described as "a suspect-looking" fellow passenger who was "dark skinned". CY staff told the passengers they could not offload the man just because someone didn't like his looks, but some passengers began searching his bags irrespective and in the end the pilot ordered everyone and their baggage off the plane for checks. The Russian passengers were still not satisfied and CY had no option but to offload the suspect. Earlier the same month, a Canadian citizen was left behind at Larnaca airport after an Aeroflot crew member said he looked like a Chechen.

    "Because you see someone with dark skin, it does not mean he is a criminal," said Koursoumba. Commenting on the Excel incident, she said her position would depend on what the airline and the authorities were actually faced with at the time. "But this is a prime example of xenophobia and racism, provided there was no other evidence to make the assumption," she said. "Certainly you have to be careful because of terrorists attacks, and it is a great responsibility to go ahead with a flight if there is suspicion someone might be a terrorist. On the other hand there is this generalisation (that all Muslims are terrorists)." Koursoumba said this attitude, which was particularly strong amongst Britons and Americans, was a product of terrorism and also of anti-terrorism measures taken worldwide. "The British and Americans are much more racist in this respect because they are more afraid due to the fact that it has happened to them," said Koursoumba. "It's the times we live in. Human rights and liberties are something people have gained after struggles for centuries and now people are prepared to give them up or have them compromised because they are afraid of terrorism." Koursoumba said when human rights activists nowadays attempted to raise awareness of liberties at threat from new security measures, most notably in the US, the standard response was that the suspects are terrorists. "This is in fact a flagrant violation of human rights where people are supposedly innocent until proved guilty by a court of law," she said. "This only leads to a presumption of guilt. We've reached this anomaly where instead of having the people behind you in advocating for these rights, you have them almost against you because they are so afraid of terrorism." Cyprus Airways spokesman Tassos Angelis said that when faced with passengers' terrorism fears, the final decision rested with the pilot, but he would also consult with the authorities and the company. "A pilot will never take a decision to go ahead with a flight if passengers are panicking about something. He would never take a decision that would jeopardise the safety of the flight," Angelis said. A spokeswoman at British Airways echoed the CY spokesman. Angelis agreed that the threat of terrorism had increased the frequency of such incidents, which were based on passengers' fears. "People are suspicious of everyone around them," he said. Angelis said CY had not experienced any such incidents involving Cypriot passengers. He said last year's incident involved scared Russian passengers, and that the Cypriots on the plane had not caused any fuss. A Nicosia-based political analyst said yesterday this was perhaps because Cypriots had remained relatively untouched by terrorism. "People here seem to believe Cyprus is immune to terrorism," he said.
    ©Cyprus Mail

    VOCABULARY OF RACISM(uk, Editorial Comment)
    13/9/2005- The Crime and Disorder Act of 1998 means well. It regards a criminal offence as racially aggravated if motivated or accompanied by an expression of malice or ill-will on grounds of race. It was introduced to address two concerns: that racism was not being monitored properly and that racist crimes were not being taken seriously enough by the police and the courts. The broad aim was to make clear that racial crime would not be tolerated. Three cheers to that sentiment. Laws are made to deter as well as punish. To be branded a racist is to acquire a socially undesirable label. The act was framed to curb racist behaviour by making the fear of punishment (the scarlet letter R) greater than the impulse to hurl racist abuse. However, there is growing anxiety that the law is being used in a zealous way that was not intended when it entered the statute book. There have been cases recently of people being convicted of a racially-aggravated crime for applying an adjective based on nationality when using abusive language towards the victim. For instance, boyo, English and Welsh have all been deemed racially aggravating terms and have caused a stiffer sentence than would otherwise have been the case to be handed down.

    In strict terms, a slur based on national identity – or, indeed, citizenship – is deemed racially aggravating if proved in court. Craig Bellamy, when playing for Celtic, was called a "wee Welsh bastard" by a spectator. The policeman who arrested the fan told Glasgow Sheriff Court that it was the adjective Welsh that caused him to take action. Does that constitute racial aggravation? If the adjective had instead been "black" there would be no doubt. The law should apply in such cases. But Welsh? Scottish? EU, even? Many racially aggravated crimes come under the law of breach of the peace, a catch-all offence when alarm is caused to ordinary people and serious disturbance to the community is threatened. People are alarmed when verbally abused but is the harm greater when their nationality is part of it? It is not a theoretical matter. People convicted of a racially aggravated offence, including breach of the peace, are in theory barred from public-sector jobs. The element of deterrence is important. When the law is applied in relatively minor cases in a way that adds to the punishment for the use of language many would not consider racist, the implications are potentially considerable.

    Democratic society must be wary of crossing the line between bearing down on the cancer of racism and interpreting a law in such a way that it possibly curbs freedom of speech. There must be a compelling reason to cross that line. It is perhaps time to look again at the crime and disorder act to establish if it needs to be tightened up to concentrate on the area intended – race hate.
    ©The Herald

    Racist attacks in the Capital soared following the London terrorist bombings, according to new figures released today.

    14/9/2005- The number of racist incidents doubled in Edinburgh in the two months after the suicide bombings, with a total of 169 racist incidents being reported to police during July and August compared with 85 for the preceding two months. This is despite police increasing measures to protect Edinburgh's ethnic minorities after fears of a backlash following the terror atrocities on July 7. A total of 45 racist incidents were logged by police during May and another 40 for June, but the numbers rose steeply to 87 and 82 for July and August respectively. Another 19 were reported between September 1 and 9, with 57 projected for the whole month. But Lothian and Borders Police stressed today that they had also reported a rising success rate in solving race and hate crimes in Edinburgh and the Lothians. The latest figures reveal that 47.6 per cent of racist offences in Edinburgh were cleared up between April and August, compared to 40.9 per cent for the same period last year. And the Safer Communities Unit covering the Drylaw area of the city has more than doubled the number of hate crimes it solves in one year. Police define 'hate crimes' as those motivated by racial, religious or sexual prejudice, although the vast majority are those with a racial element.

    Shami Khan, the Capital's only Asian councillor and a leading member of the city's Pakistani community, said he was convinced the London bombings were responsible for the increase. He said: "It was the same after September 11. The tension between ethnic minorities and the mainstream has definitely increased. "Because of the bombings, there are a lot of Pakistani people living in fear." He added that there may be many more attacks not reported to police. He said: "Some people living in the community, such as shopkeepers, are harassed every day, but they don't always report it. It is only the serious assault cases that go to the authorities. "These people who are attacking are taking out their anger on the ethnic minority communities, but they need to understand that the majority of these communities are peace-loving people." A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: "We experienced a very slight rise in race crimes in the immediate aftermath of the July bombings when, in a 12-day period, we recorded 41 incidents compared to 39 for the same period last year. "We immediately took steps to try and reassure the public. This included having officers visit mosques and other places of worship, as well as businesses such as shops run by the ethnic community." But Ali Jarvis, interim director of the Commission for Racial Equality Scotland, said he was not convinced the London bombings were the real reason for the increase in attacks. He said: "We need to be clear about these figures - there are indications that the numbers of racist incidents in Edinburgh were increasing before July 7 so they cannot all be equated to the London bombings. "We are encouraged by the improvement in Lothian and Borders Police clear-up rates and we hope people from ethnic minority backgrounds will be too."

    Between April and August last year there were 44 such offences recorded in the Drylaw area, of which 31 per cent were solved. In the same period this year, and bucking a city and nationwide upsurge in the wake of the London bombings, the number of offences fell to just 29, of which 69 per cent were solved. Much of the success has been attributed to the council-funded Safer Communities Unit, which was formed in 2003 as part of the local authority's antisocial behaviour division. The specialist team - which consists of one sergeant and five constables and is based at the local authority's housing department offices in West Pilton Gardens - have taken a "victim-centred" approach in the investigation of complaints. Temporary Sergeant Alun Williams, who leads the task force, said: "Because we are funded by the council, our officers are above the head-count already at Drylaw Police Station. "That has allowed us to focus on key issues like hate crimes and begin to specialise in them. We have links with groups such as the Black Community Development project, which has been very useful in building up confidence among residents in coming forward or providing information. "Face-to-face contact with victims has been vital and we carry out full door-to-door inquiries. Officers at Drylaw still investigate around a third of hate crimes in the area, but we are now covering the majority. "In the past year, the community has seen the work the unit is doing and recognised the fact that we are willing to go over the score to solve these crimes. That has built up more confidence. I think some of our work could be looked upon as 'best practice' and could be rolled out across the city." The unit covers Drylaw, Silverknowes, Barnton, Crewe, Granton and Wardieburn, although most of the hate crimes were carried out in West Pilton and Muirhouse. All racist and other hate crimes across the Capital are also being monitored on a daily basis so police can spot any worrying trends if they emerge. Superintendent Ian Burnside, who heads up police partnership working across the city, said: "Hate crime - be it racial, homophobic or sectarian - is appalling. The Drylaw policing example shows just what can be achieved when we work with our partners and the local community towards a common purpose."

    Scot mistaken for immigrant assaulted by teenage gang
    Drunken youths battered a Scottish man over the head with a wine bottle after accusing him of being an immigrant. The victim was punched and kicked by a group of ten teenagers during the city centre attack. The thugs shouted a volley of racist abuse at Innes Wood, 31, calling him "immigrant scum" shortly before the unprovoked assault. Mr Wood needed four staples to close a massive gash on the back of his head which doctors told him had been caused by "blunt force trauma". His shocked girlfriend took him to hospital with blood pouring out of the wound. The youths, who are believed to be aged between 14 and 19, were gathered on the footpath at Elm Row at the top of Leith Walk. Mr Wood was carrying flowers for his girlfriend when he passed them at around 10pm on Saturday night. He said: "I just walking past Leith Walk when they started shouting at me. They called me 'immigrant scum', which I thought was strange, because I'm Scottish. "Some of them were on BMX bikes and they were gathered round drinking from bottles and glasses. They were drunk and kept hurling abuse. "I went inside the Elm Bar nearby for a few minutes because groups like that can be quite intimidating. I came out and they started shouting immigrant insults again. I told them I was Scottish and that's when they attacked me. "I was hit on the back of the skull with a wine bottle by one of them. I don't think it smashed but then the others started punching and kicking me. I was hit several times in the face with bottle and fists. "I managed to get away and ran to Gayfield Police Station along the road. I used the intercom and they sent a police car round." He added: "Some people have remarked that I can look a bit Italian with my dark hair. It felt strange but shocking to be the victim of their racism." Mr Wood, a student from London Road, added: "The police gave me a paper towel to wipe some of the blood from my face. It was pouring down my shirt from the back of my head so I applied pressure to the wound to try and stop it. "I called my girlfriend to come and take me to the hospital. She's a nurse so she's used to seeing that kind of thing, but she was still really shocked. "It was so wide I could fit my fingertips into the wound when I felt it." Mr Wood has been recuperating at home following his ordeal which left him badly shaken. He said: "These kids think it's a great laugh to attack someone and they go back home and tell all their friends about. It was a shocking thing to happen and I still don't feel right." A police spokesman said: "This would appear to be an unprovoked assault which happened just before 10pm on Saturday night on the footpath at Elm Row. The victim was assaulted by a group of people and suffered bruising to his right eye and a cut to his head."
    ©The Scotsman

    15/9/2005- The British National Party has been force to cancel plans to hold a conference at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall. Bosses at the hall, which holds up to 1,875 people, said they had "exercised their right not to proceed" with an attempted booking by the far-right party. The BNP claimed the venue had taken a fee and it has threatened legal action for breach of contract. The party had already advertised the event - described as an "international conference on anti-white racism" - on its website. A spokesman for the Bridgewater Hall refused to confirm the BNP's claim it had put down a booking fee. The spokesman said: "An oblique inquiry was made. Once the nature of the event transpired the hall exercised its right not to proceed." A BNP spokesman said: "They accepted our fee and then the usual suspects have bullied them into changing their mind. We have the same right as anyone else to hold a conference. They have decided to discriminate against us. We have nothing to hide but perhaps they do." The row comes at a time when Manchester is gearing up to edge out Blackpool, Brighton and Bournemouth as the conference capital of Britain. The Labour Party has already confirmed it will hold its main national conference in Manchester next year for the first time since 1917 in an event that could be worth £15m to the local economy. The party "test-ran" the idea last year when they held their smaller spring conference in a walled-off "village" around the G-Mex, Manchester International Convention Centre and the Bridgewater Hall. Earlier this year the same site was used for an "Urban Summit" which attracted delegates from around the world.
    ©Manchester Evening News

    15/9/2005- Five people were present when black teenager Anthony Walker was bludgeoned to death with an axe, police revealed yesterday. Detectives believe they know the identity of two of the group involved in his killing, but are now hunting for the rest. The 18-year-old schoolboy was killed in McGoldrick Park in Huyton on July 29 just minutes from his home. Two people are awaiting trial, accused of his murder. But so far officers have made nine arrests during the massive investigation into the killing, which has involved help from Interpol. Police would not reveal if they have any leads about the identity of the rest of the gang, but are urging anyone with information to come forward. Det Chf Supt Peter Currie, who is leading the investigation, said: "We believe there were five people present at the murder scene at the relevant time. "We believe the identities of two of those people are known and we are anxious to identify the other three." Anthony's death shocked the Huyton community he had grown up in, and the whole of Merseyside. The popular student attended Roby College where he was taking A-levels in IT, media and law and was devoted to his parents, four sisters and brother. After his death, they had to open the exam results he had been so keenly waiting for in the hope they would get him into a London university so he could fulfil his dream of becoming a lawyer. He passed all three. The keen basketball player was also a devoted youth worker at the Grace Family church in Aigburth. More than 1,000 people attended a candlelit vigil at St George's Hall held in his memory, and around 3,000 mourners turned up to his funeral at Liverpool Cathedral to pay their respects. His death also prompted anti-racism campaigners to organise a concert which included local band The Zutons. Yesterday, police also bailed a man over claims he sent racist emails to a website dedicated to Anthony. The keen DJ started, at school with a friend after they formed their own rap group, and it was revived in his memory. Merseyside Police said a 29-year-old man from the Maghull area was arrested and bailed on suspicion of acts likely to incite racial hatred pending further inquiries.
    ©IC Network

    14/9/2005- A gay man in Flanders has been turned down from teaching because he is married to a male partner, it was reported on Wednesday. Gertjan Bikker, a Dutch religious education teacher, applied for a post in the Flemish community in Belgium. To teach about the protestant religion in the region, candidates have to present their applications to a committee made up of representatives of the United Protestant Church of Belgium (EPUB) and the Synod of Evangelical Churches. The committee rejected Bikker's application because a few years earlier in the Netherlands he had married. The decision was taken despite the fact that Belgium was the second country after the Netherlands to legalise gay marriage, in September 2003. In July, the country counted 2,442 gay couples, three percent of the total of Belgian marriages. Priest Kommer Groeneveld told De Standaard, which broke the story, the committee took its decision to protect Bikker rather than to stigmatise him. "Homosexual marriage is too controversial at the moment and it seemed to us we should protect the teacher. "A high number of parents don't accept homosexual marriage and he wouldn't have been any more protected by his pupils. It would have created permanent instability." Michel Dandoy, speaking for the EPUB, said: "We're often talking about optional classes where boycotts can have very upsetting consequences since the teacher could find himself in front of an empty class, which would be very damaging for him." Dandoy added, though, that more evangelical priests were against gay marriage than those from the EPUB. "Individual conscience is essential among us," he said. "Traditional Belgian Protestantism is characterised by a large plurality of opinions. Our church undertook a deep reflection on this social theme at our last synod assembly and that continues at a local level. "It's also a question of community point of views: some are open to female priests, others aren't. You could say the same for coloured priests, etc."
    ©Expatica News

    Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has firmly rebuffed charges of anti-Semitism levelled at his party Forza Italia, but apologised for seemingly anti-Semitic comments made by one of his MP's.

    14/9/2005- MP Guido Crosetto, a member of the House Finance Committee claimed recently that Bank of Italy Governor Antonio Fazio, currently involved in a controversial banking takeover probe, was the victim of a "Jewish, masonic plot." Speaking a week ago Crosetto added: "The liquidity of Italian banks is inviting for a lot of people, especially the Jewish and American freemasons who are already at our doors."

    Communal outrage
    The comments caused great concern both in the Jewish and wider community. Amos Luzzatto, chairman of the Italian Union of Jewish Communities, said he believed Crosetto's comments were similar to views prominent in the pre-war fascist era. "I don't know precisely what financial and legal troubles have led to crisis of the Bank of Italy, but I would never have thought that once again the responsibilities would be sought in a shadowy conspiracy by 'masons and Jews', with words evoking the 30s," Luzatto told the Corriere della Sera, Italy's most influential daily newspaper. He then added: "It strikes me that an MP used such a language and, overall, I hope that this does not mask a world perspective which has caused enough sorrow and tragedy in the recent past." In a further article, published in the Corriere's front page on 13 September, prominent political analyst Gianni Riotta commented on the issue, pinpointing how Crosetto's language recalled the nazi-fascist anti-Jewish propaganda. Riotta wrote : "It is with sadness that one must notice that the government, the majority, Forza Italia, the newspapers and TV channels which support the Premier, as well as the intellectual world have completely ignored Crosetto's comments". Echoing the title of a renowned novel by Italian Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, Riotta concluded urging for an immediate moral condemnation of the MP's declarations with the following words: "If not now, when?"

    Berlusconi embarrassed
    Former prime minister and foreign minister Giulio Andreotti, today an old but lively life-senator, immediately denounced Crosetto's words saying that "some people just cannot lose their racist tale." An embarrassed and disappointed Berlusconi responded on the same evening, stating: "Forza Italia has always condemned, and will continue to do so, even the slightest involuntary remark that fosters echoes and ghosts of an atrocious past. Forza Italia publicly apologises to those who might have been offended by such remarks, underlining at the same time that nobody can doubt the party's liberal nature." However the prime minister then accused the Corriere della Sera of having launched "a totally indefensible accusation against a government which is proud to be among the best friends of Israel."
    ©The European Jewish Press

    14/9/2005- A debate about asylum policy in the Riksdag, Sweden's parliament, had to be broken off on Wednesday morning after a protest broke out in the public gallery. The demonstration started when Barbro Holmberg, Sweden's migration minister, was about to start speaking. She was interrupted by a group in the public gallery who started singing a protest song to the tune of the national anthem. The text criticised the government's asylum policies. Holmberg was criticised for using "the same old racist words." The demonstrators also threw leaflets into the chamber. The public gallery was cleared after the outburst. Holmberg resumed her speech twenty minutes later, but no members of the public were allowed to watch. "What we have just seen is evidence of the incredibly strong feelings awakened by refugee policy," she said, and called for a rational debate. The Riksdag is to vote on whether to introduce a new asylum process, in which the Alien Appeals Board will be abolished, and people who have their asylum applications turned down will appeal to designated district administrative courts. The parliament will also consider proposals for a refugee amnesty, under which asylum seekers already in Sweden will be allowed to stay.
    ©The Local

    14/9/2005- On Friday, September 8, 2005, UEFA announced that it would increase the initial fine for racist incidents against Romanian football team Steaua Bucuresti, and suspend their stadium for their next UEFA game. This is the first time a stadium has been suspended for racist acts. These actions followed President of UEFA Lennart Johannson's courageous declaration: "We are concerned about racism, particularly in Bulgaria and Romania." Racism plagues stadiums all across Europe. However, there is a growing awareness about anti-Gypsyism at the national and European level, and UEFA's officials are interested in finding out more about it and they are ready to look for ways to curb it. The first step has already been taken. UEFA officials made a very strong statement. They made clear that they are serious about stopping racism in the stadiums and sent a chilling message to the European clubs whose supporters are prone to racist behaviour. In Romania the news provoked an open debate about racism, perhaps the first of it kind. Despite an initial defensive reaction, most of the Romanian mass media has responded with articles on the problems of racism in sport, which has been largely ignored until this point. UEFA's action has raised unprecedented awareness and debate on the issue. Steaua Bucuresti was hit hard by the sentence, and some Romanians feel that UEFA has been too harsh on them. It is a painful process for Steaua's supporters, and indeed most Romanians, to accept that Steaua has been punished for racism. During the last three days ERIO has been flooded by phone calls from Romanian TV stations, radios and newspapers in regard to racism and especially anti-Gypsyism in Romania and in the stadiums. For the first time, ERIO has had the opportunity to promote a pro-tolerance message and talk openly about anti-Romani prejudices using major mass media outlets in Romania. UEFA has made a major step forward in stopping racism. ERIO hopes that other public personalities, major politicians and European and international institutions will follow UEFA lead. The Romanian National Council Against Discrimination -CNCD also deserves congratulations for its courage and strong position against racism in Romania.
    European Roma Information Office

    European Roma Rights Centre Submits Written Comments to UN Body Reviewing Hungary's Compliance with International Law on the Rights of the Child

    13/9/2005- Today, the European Roma Right Centre submitted a shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) concerning Romani children's rights issues in Hungary. The CRC will formally review Hungary's compliance with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child in January 2006. Prior to that, in October 2005, a pre-sessional working group of the Committee will meet to assess preliminary issues and main areas of focus with respect to Hungary. The ERRC's comments are intended to provide information on the situation of Romani children in Hungary, to supplement the Hungarian government's report to the Committee.

    The ERRC comments focus on the following issues:
    Anti-discrimination law: Hungary adopted a comprehensive anti-discrimination law in December 2003. The ERRC shadow report addresses areas of concern with respect to the scope of the law, as well as its implementation.

    Ethnic statistical data: The ERRC submission also addresses issues related to the lack of adequate statistical data on the situation of Roma including Romani children in Hungary.

    Child protection: In its discussion of issues related to the best interests of Romani children in Hungary, the ERRC describes the worrying phenomenon of high rates of removal of children from Romani families. The shadow report also notes problematic features of the child protection system in Hungary. The ERRC notes imprecision in the definition of key terms operative in the child protection system, as well as the influence of arbitrary criteria in decisions to remove Romani children from families. The ERRC also calls the attention of the Committee to reports of racial discrimination in adoption and related matters.

    Racial segregation in schools: The ERRC submission notes very high rates of racial segregation in schooling. The ERRC also provides the Committee with statistical data on rates of advancement to secondary education by Romani children, noting differences in rates of advancement between children coming from schools with greater or lesser percentages of Romani children.

    In addition, the ERRC notes a number of areas of concern in which problematic policies and practices in Hungary with respect to Roma generally have pernicious effects on Romani children. These include:

    Health care: According to some studies, approximately 17% of the total Romani population in Hungary lives in settlements where there is no general practitioner. The ERRC shadow report also presents data about discrimination experienced in hospitals and other health care institutions or by general practicioners, as well as worrying statistics concerning the refusal of provision of ambulance service.

    Housing: Forced evictions, racial segregation and refusal to allocate social housing for Roma are practices that dramatically worsen the housing situation of Roma, as well as hindering the ability of Roma to realize a range of other fundamental human rights. In its shadow report to the Committee, the ERRC notes concrete cases concerning the above phenomena, as well as surveys concluding that many Romani settlements in Hungary are manifestly inadequate for living. According to the World Bank,
    -54.9% of Romani households in Hungary do not have access to hot running water,
    -34.7% do not have access to cold running water.
    -More than half of the houses do not have indoor toilets and
    -13.2% have one or more members sleeping on earthen floors in their homes.

    The full text of the ERRC shadow report concerning the situation of Romani children in Hungary to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    15/9/2005- Dozens of students protested over rising racism in Russia on Wednesday after one of their classmates died following an attack they believe was racially motivated. Epassak Rolan Franz, a 29-year-old from Congo, died on Wednesday in hospital after failing to recover from injuries he received when he was attacked on Friday. The students gathered outside their university, holding photographs of their dead friend and showing a letter they had written to officials calling on them to pay more attention to the "rising hatred towards people of different skin colors". Prosecutors said there was no evidence yet that the attack on Franz had been racist, but the protesters saw it as the latest in a string of racist murders in Russia's second city. "We expressed our wish that the authorities and law enforcement bodies deal with this. It is not the first or the second case. Or are they going to wait for all the students to die?" Dezire Defo, a representative of the African Unity group, told Reuters. In March, a U.N. Human Rights Commission investigator said racist attacks were on the rise in Russia and that a growing "skinhead movement" had been responsible for many incidents. Several racist killings -- particularly the murders of two Tajik girls aged 5 and 9, both in St Petersburg -- have provoked widespread revulsion and triggered calls for the government to take action. President Vladimir Putin has called for greater racial tolerance and accused extremists of trying to encourage hatred to hamper the Kremlin's drive against terrorism. Attacks blamed on Chechen separatists have been accompanied by a rise in brutality against people clearly identified as non-Russian, much of it directed at darker-skinned Muslims from southern Russia and neighbouring ex-Soviet states.

    13/9/2005- When a football team is languishing at the bottom of the table, it normally considers changing its tactics. Or changing its players. Or simply firing the manager.But not Terek Grozny. The club from Chechnya, which is currently sixteenth out of 16 in the Russian Premier league, is battling to avoid relegation... by playing politics. It has written to President Vladimir Putin to cry foul about Russian referees. The letter lists all the Terek goals disallowed in recent matches, and all the free kicks and penalties given against the team. It calls on the Mr Putin to intervene and blow the whistle on what the club believes is a concerted campaign against it. "We don't deserve to be bottom," says the letter. "We want honest football and objective refereeing!" "These referees aren't human - they're beasts!"

    Powerful lobby
    Terek's president and Chechnya's Vice Premier Ramzan Kadyrov complained to me by telephone from Grozny.
    "For the last twelve years the Chechen people have been abused, we won't let this happen any more. That's why we've written to the president. He's the fairest man in Russia - he'll find out why there's a campaign against the club." It is a far cry from last season - when Terek came from nowhere to win the Russian Cup. That triumph provided a rare good news story from the volatile North Caucasus - a Russian region racked by conflict. And it earned the team an invitation to the Kremlin to meet Vladimir Putin. "Sending this letter is a very impulsive step," Russian sports journalist Kirill Kiknadze told me. "It's their southern temperament showing through. After getting into the Premier league, Terek is determined to remain part of Russia's footballing elite and to achieve that it'll break down every wall in its way."

    Political football
    But will the Kremlin come running to the defence of a soccer team? Well, it has happened before. In 1939 the head of the Soviet secret police, Lavrenti Beria, ordered a replay of a cup semi-final after one of his organisation's teams, Dinamo Tbilisi, lost the match. And in 1967, a government decree ensured that the Leningrad-based club Zenit remained in the top league. Relegation would have been embarrassing, since at the time the USSR was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, which had started in Leningrad. Terek's president Ramzan Kadyrov has close ties to the Kremlin. His father Akhmad was Chechnya's pro-Moscow leader, until his assassination by rebels last year. The Kadyrov clan continues to play a key role in cementing Moscow's rule in Chechnya. Terek may be hoping that this support will help get the Kremlin on its side.
    ©BBC News

    15/9/2005­ A poll conducted ten days ago by Moscow's Levada Center found that 45 percent of Russians now blame non-Russians for all their problems and 60 percent want the authorities to block new immigration, prompting a senior analyst there to declare that "xenophobia in Russia has never been so high." Boris Dubin's comment was published yesterday in a "Novyye Izvestiya" article by Mikhail Pozdnyaev as part of the latter's discussion of controversies arising from the appearance at the Moscow Book Fair of openly anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant publications. The scandal concerning Elena Chudinova's dystopian novel, "The Mosque of Notre Dame de Paris," which urges Christians to combat the Islamicization of Europe, has only grown over the last few days. (For a summary of the novel, see „Gazeta" for September 12 and the description in the September 12 "Window on Eurasia.") The Moscow section of the liberal party Yabloko has denounced the novel for its anti-Muslim message. But Roman Silantyev, the secretary of the Inter-religious Council of Russia who is close to both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Kremlin, advanced a very different argument. He said that Russia's Muslims themselves were to blame for this book: "For a long time, the Dzhemals, the Polosins, the Porokhovs and their less well-known colleagues have slandered Christianity … If they wanted a Russian Oriana Fallaci, they have achieved their goal". But Silantyev did acknowledge that the appearance of such a book in the current environment could prove dangerous: He said that Chudinova's novel by itself "can turn hundreds of thousands of people into Islamophobes, and there is already nothing that can be done about that." This anti-Islamic novel was hardly the only work at the Moscow exhibition promoting hatred of minorities. Among the books on offer there were the notorious anti-Semitic forgery "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," Hitler's "Mein Kampf," Shafarevich's "Russophobia," and. Yemel'yanov's "Dezionization." The appearance of these books and others like them have generated demands from the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, the Russian Jewish Congress, and the Moscow Human Rights Bureau that the authorities consider prosecuting both the publishers and the promoters of this exhibit, "Novyye Izvestiya" said.

    But other evidence of the rising tide of xenophobia in the Russian Federation has been provided by reports from far beyond the walls of the Moscow Book Fair. Two of the most interesting recent ones concern the rapidly deteriorating interethnic situation in Kaliningrad and a broader survey of changing Russian attitudes toward immigrants old and new. On Tuesday, "Komsomolskaya Pravda ­ Kaliningrad" reported that a majority of its readers had reacted in a sharply negative way to an earlier article in that paper reporting on the plans of the local Muslim community to build a mosque in that non-contiguous part of the Russian Federation. In the past, the paper said, Kaliningrad has not been a place of religious or racial intolerance because almost all of its residents are themselves migrants from somewhere else. But despite that, "attitudes are changing, [and] in place of peaceful assimilation, there is now an aggressive unwillingness to deal with other cultures or faiths." The paper included an interview with a Tatar who currently operates a tour business in Kaliningrad. Aleksandr Shamshiyev -- who said he was not religious but was proud to be a Tatar -- confirmed everything the paper had reported and added some significant new details on his own. He said that in Kaliningrad, many Russians no longer make distinctions among people of other faiths but rather lump them together, viewing all Muslims as Chechen terrorists. And he added that one of the reasons he misses his native city of Kazan is that there one never hears negative comments about "persons of Caucasus nationality."

    But perhaps the most disturbing conclusions of all with regard to the future of interethnic and inter-confessional relations in the Russian Federation were suggested by a survey of the impact of ethnic conflicts on relations between Russians and longtime non-Russian residents by Vladimir Golyzhev posted on the APN website on September 6. In the past, non-Russian immigrants to Russian regions accepted many of the cultural values and norms of behavior of the dominant community, to the point of acculturation if not assimilation, and were viewed by Russians as allies whenever more recent immigrants arrived and violated the rules of the game that the two other groups accepted. That not only limited any inclination to xenophobia among Russians and thus helped to keep many situations under control but also allowed the authorities to present most conflicts not as ethnic ones but rather as the product of of bad behavior by new arrivals who had not yet learned how to behave. But Golyshev found, in many recent cases, including the Yandyki events in Astrakhan last month and several high-profile trials in Moscow, many Russians are breaking with their former allies, the longtime immigrants, and just as Shamshiyev suggested as the case in Kaliningrad lumping them together with the new arrivals. That in turn has lead at least some of the longtime immigrants to feel betrayed and thus to begin to line up with their newly-arrived co-ethnics against the dominant majority. This trend is only beginning to take off, Golyshev suggests, but it is already feeding both Russian xenophobia and presaging more serious ethnic and religious conflicts ahead.
    ©FSU Monitor

    15/9/2005- A former member of Nazi Germany's Waffen SS, Franz Schoenhuber, was formally named Thursday as a right-wing extremist party's candidate for general elections in the eastern city of Dresden. Schoenhuber, who is 82, joined the race following the death of a National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) candidate for the city's 160th election district earlier this month. The district, with 219,000 voters comprising half of Dresden, will not vote this Sunday like the rest of Germany. Ballots will be cast on October 2 and the vote could decide the entire election if - as polls project - there is a neck-and-neck result in the rest of the nation Sunday. Trained in the Waffen SS unit "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler", Schoenhuber saw action during World War II in France, on the eastern front and in Corsica where he was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery. After the war he used SS documents from early 1945 questioning his qualification as an officer to claim opposition to the Nazi system, according to Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung paper. Reacting to Schoenhuber's candidacy, the co-leader of Germany's Greens, Claudia Roth, expressed outrage. "The election chances are low but for the neo-Nazis this is about long-term impact," said Roth, adding: "They want anti-foreigner sentiments and populism to become mainstream." The NPD are not expected to win the district's seat, even with such a prominent rightist as Schoenhuber. Last year the NPD won 9.2 per cent in Saxony state elections and has 12 deputies in the state parliament in Dresden.

    Schoenhuber only became a politician in a roundabout manner. After working briefly as an actor, he became a leading journalist in his native Bavaria where he was editor of the Munich tabloid TZ before becoming a senior editor at the state's public TV network and presenter of a popular talk show. In 1981 he published a book on his years with the Waffen SS titled "Ich war dabei" (I was there) in which he tried to defend some of the Waffen SS's ideals. The book caused an uproar with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung slamming it as "an unacceptable apologia full of personal tastelessness." Schoenhuber was subsequently sacked from his TV job and stripped of his post as honorary chairman of the Bavarian Press Association which he had led from 1971 to 1977. In 1983 he helped found the Republikaner Party, a rightist movement which began as a protest over multi-billion mark credits brokered by the Bavarian government for communist East Germany. Schoenhuber took the helm of the Republikaner which swiftly came to focus on stirring up anti-foreigner sentiments - especially aimed at asylum seekers from poorer countries arriving in Gemany. The Republikaner scored their first election success in West Berlin in 1989, winning 7.5 per cent. Under German proportional representation election system a party needs to cross a 5 per cent hurdle to win parliamentary seats. Schoenhuber swiftly became the closest thing Germany has had in the post-war era to charistmatic rightist, similar to France's Jean-Marie Le Pen or Austria's Joerg Haider.

    His burly figure accentuated tub-thumping speeches flanked by rightist folklore including brass oompah bands of elderly men wearing spiked helmets. The Republkaner rose to 25,000 members nationwide and drew global news coverage and Germany's new far-right threat. Schoenhuber was elected to the European Parliament in June 1989 where he served as a deputy until 1994. Following a firebomb attack on a synagogue in the German city of Luebeck in 1994, Schoenhuber drew outrage for accusing the leader of Germany's Jewish community of being "one of the worst people for stirring up hatred" and partly responsible for rising anti-Semitism. But Republikaner swiftly began to decline and later that year he was ousted as chairman and quit the party a year later. Since then the Republikaner has gone into terminal decline and party membership has fallen to 7,500. Turning again to journalism, Schoenhuber has written numerous books and articles on rightist subjects including a recent column in which he says: "Nazism may have had many bad sides but sports was not one of them. Naturally there was a huge incentive to perform during the 12 brown years and this led to Germany being the most successful nation in the 1936 Olympics ... 'They are fighting for Germany' were not just an empty words but was reality." Although not an NPD member, Schoenhuber backed the party after it won seats in Saxony last year. This past February he made a speech at an NPD-sponsored rally in Dresden marking the 60th anniversary of the city's firebombing in World War II. Marching at the front of the demonstration on a frigid day which drew 5,000 thousand rightists - the biggest neo-Nazi protest in Germany since the 1950s - Schoenhuber looked pale and drawn but as determined as ever despite his advancing years.
    ©Expatica News

    15/9/2005— Police are investigating claims neo-Nazi thugs carved a swastika on the face of a woman. The 24-year-old, who is a member of the communist party, told officers two men cut the Nazi symbol into her skin with a knife. The newspaper 'La Nueva España' reported how the woman was attacked on the doorstep of her house in Oviedo in northern Spain. She went to the door after two supposed friends said they were calling and rang her buzzer. When she opened to door, she came face to face with two men dressed in neo-Nazi uniform who attacked her. A spokesman for the regional government of Asturias, which includes Oviedo, said: "We want to make this public to try to eradicate this type of violent conduct which does not have a place in a democracy like ours." The left-wing party Izquierda Unida in Oviedo said they were "absolutely repulsed" by this type of violence of "fascist aggression". A police investigation is underway. The woman asked for her identity not to be revealed.
    ©Expatica News

    14/9/2005- One month after suspending a provocative display comparing animal cruelty to slavery, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is resuming the traveling show on the West Coast. PETA came under fire after a man began yelling that the exhibit was racist during an Aug. 8 showing in New Haven, Conn. The incident outraged national civil rights groups, who said it demeaned blacks. But after weeks of reviewing e-mail and conducting an online poll, PETA officials are confident the exhibit should continue, said spokeswoman Dawn Carr. "What we kept seeing is that the complaints always boiled down to not wanting to be compared to animals - which is the very bias we're trying to challenge," she said in an interview Tuesday. In a lengthy statement, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk defended the decision, even as she acknowledged the display's unintended impact. "I unequivocally apologize for the hurt and upset that this exhibit has caused some of its viewers," she wrote. "I realize that old wounds can be slow to heal and for not helping them heal, I am also sorry. "That said, I would fail in my duty if I allowed this exhibit to disappear." The Animal Liberation Project is scheduled to resume its tour Tuesday in Portland, Ore, then make stops in Seattle and Spokane, Wash., Boise, Idaho, and Salt Lake City. The display toured the South and Northeast from July 8 through Aug. 11. The project involves a display of panels juxtaposing graphic images of slavery and other human abuse with pictures of chained animals. In one panel, titled "Hanging," a white mob surrounds two lynched blacks swinging from a tree. A nearby picture shows a cow hanging in a slaughterhouse. Newkirk argued the same mind-set that caused slavery has a role in animal abuse. "It is only human supremacy, which is as unacceptable as racism and sexism, that makes us afraid of being more inclusive," she wrote. That message fell flat with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which has called the display an attention ploy. "I'm not surprised," NAACP spokesman John White said of the decision to resume the display, declining to elaborate. PETA, which is based in Norfolk, issued an apology earlier this year after a campaign comparing the suffering of Holocaust victims with that of factory animals. That campaign ran from February 2003 to October 2004.
    ©Associated Press

    14/9/2005- Attorney General Jay Nixon recently filed a lawsuit to prevent a St. Louis man who has captured multiple Web site addresses in the name of hurricane Katrina relief from misleading consumers and redirecting money collected to anti-Semitic and racist organizations. The lawsuit, filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court, seeks to freeze the assets of Frank Weltner - a self-proclaimed white separatist - and prohibit him from soliciting funds under the guise of hurricane relief. Nixon is also asking the court to order the shutdown of the Web site, which serves as a central collection point for at least 10 Weltner-operated Web sites with hurricane relief-related themes. Weltner also operates a Web site known as "Jew Watch," a widely regarded anti-Semitic hate speech site, which collects donations through "It is an outrage for someone to solicit funds from well-meaning Americans eager to lend a helping hand to the victims of hurricane Katrina, only to funnel those donations to something that is nothing more than a racist hate site," Nixon said. "Donors to the thousands of legitimate and worthwhile charities providing hurricane relief need to be reassured that their hard-earned dollars are going toward their intended purpose, and flim-flam artists working this tragedy for personal gain will not be tolerated." From 1992 to January 2005, Weltner was known as "Couch Potato" on his St. Louis radio show that boasted racist and anti-Semetic themes. He is also associated with the National Alliance, listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of the nation's most active neo-Nazi hate groups. Nixon said that Weltner is "taking advantage of the generosity of Americans from coast-to-coast to promote racism and hate." Neither Weltner nor any of his affiliated organizations have ever been registered with Nixon's office to solicit charitable donations in the state of Missouri.
    ©Ozarks Newsstand

    By Antoine Makitou

    3/9/2005- Some institutions - more specifically, the police - can provoke serious outbursts of violence, even when their methods are not openly racist. The results of an official study* reveal that the behaviour of law enforcement officials often increases ethnic and social tension. Incidents that end up in violence, with racism standing out as a key factor, are not infrequent. A large part of the data in the report "Cross-Border Migration and Human Rights Violations" show that racial discrimination, both in the inspection of identity documents by police and in hiring and housing policies, is widespread. In 50 interviews conducted amongst African immigrants, 85% of them claimed to have been the target of xenophobic statements and/or actions by the police. About 75% of those surveyed admitted that police officers had said to them, while checking their identity documents, ·You are scum, and it's time you return to the jungle." Almost all of those surveyed share the opinion that their only major problem in Bulgaria is the attitude of the police, above all towards black immigrants. Human rights activists have documented the case of an African refugee who filed a complaint at a regional police station against skinheads who had nearly beaten him to death. In response to his complaint, the police sent skinheads to him, who told him, ·Don't be surprised by anything you see here or anything that happens to you - it won't be an accident!" Furthermore, 75% of those interviewed admitted to having been attacked by skinheads, some of them two or three times, and said their attempts to ask for help and cooperation from the police had been cut off. They had often heard statements as ·What are you doing in our country?", or other expressions of xenophobia.

    The truth is that there is no state or official institution on earth that admits to having racism or xenophobia. So no matter how much one denies the existence of prejudice and discrimination against immigrants - and especially Africans - the facts demonstrate that the actions of the police are precisely of that nature: prejudiced and discriminatory. Law enforcement officials do not stop foreigners in order to verify their ID documents, but rather because they know that's how they can earn their daily fee! It's got to the point where an officer looks disappointed when a foreigner has the proper documents (·No way anyone can get you, eh..."). According to those surveyed, the ·fine" for not having the proper documents ranges between 10 to 20 euros or more. In a modern democratic society, police officers should have a good understanding of the nature of prejudice and discrimination and the ways in which they are detrimental to the achievement of the common goal - that of fair and equitable service to all.
    ©Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

    5/9/2005- A European TV station has been accused of inciting ethnic intolerance after presenters referred to the Roma population as "cockroaches" and suggested sending them to "camps". Bulgarian TV channel Skat has been charged with disseminating racist propaganda and promoting a "purely fascist agenda" by a local Roma political party and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights. Yuliana Metodieva, a spokeswoman for the BHCHR, said the complaint addresses three of the channel's programmes in particular: "Between the Lines is presented by author Georgi Fandiev, who previously suggested the Armenian genocide was masterminded by Jews and that Bulgaria is being turned into a 'second Palestine' by Jewish property investors. All Bulgarians Together is allegedly devoted to denying the existence of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, and Attack is presented by top Bulgarian journalist and MP Volen Siderov, who heads a far-right extremist party of the same name." The Roma party and the BHCHR have now filed a joint complaint against the channel with the state-run media watchdog, the electronic media council, for "inciting ethnic intolerance", against the Roma and Turkish minorities and for promoting anti-semitic views. Ms Metodieva believes that Siderov poses a threat to Bulgaria's fragile democracy. She said: "His influence is obvious and damaging for our developing democracy. These programmes clearly instigate ethnic hatred and even violence. Siderov's coverage of stories involving Roma are known to have led to violent incidents. "He has referred to the Roma as 'cockroaches and termites', and once said 'police need to use the cruellest measures against Gypsies, including shooting them'." "His party's rallies are also regularly broadcast by Skat, including one where he told cheering supporters that 'Gypsies should be sent to camps and Jews and Turks should go home'." She added that in his book, The Boomerang of Evil, which sold 150,000 copies, Siderov even calls upon "Orthodox believers" to take revenge on the "murderers of Jesus". Siderov, 43, was once considered one of the country's top journalists, praised for his contribution to the rebuilding of a democratic society after the fall of the country's totalitarian regime in 1989. Ms Metodieva said: "He was the former editor of the esteemed paper Demokracija and considered one of the forerunners of the democratic rebirth of Bulgarian journalism. "But he now uses his admittedly brilliant journalistic skills to appeal to common people and manipulate facts into false and damaging theories. Unfortunately, only a small number of people are protected by education and so don't fall victim to his skilfully devised campaigns of defamation and disinformation. "We feel that the authorities must act to enforce our laws against instigating ethic hatred, especially now that Siderov has become an MP and continues to damage Bulgaria on an even greater scale." Tzvetelin Kanchev, the leader of Roma minority party Euroroma said: "Almost all of Skat's programmes are spreading hatred directed against the Roma and Turkish minorities. This is not nationalism anymore, its pure fascism."
    ©The Guardian

    For Belarus' opposition youth movements, the countdown to revolution begins now, a year before presidential elections.
    by Andres Schipani-Aduriz, Argentinian-born journalism student at Cardiff University and Alyaksandr Kudrytski, TOL correspondent in Minsk.

    7/9/2005- To one side, a clutch of listless 16-year-old girls hold sheets of A3 paper at waist height, uncomfortable, it seems, to be bit-part players in a scene played out in front of the Polish embassy in Minsk. Their posters, with slogans such as "Don't break the tradition of Slav brotherhood" typed in identical typography, are dwarfed by the professionally printed banners ("Neighbors should be friends") behind which most of the mass of the pro-government supporters stand. On the other side, penned against a fence and holding slogans such as "Poland Belarus = Solidarity," are a score or more members of Malady Front, arguably the country's largest opposition youth movement. Between the two sides, head to head, stands a group of young men, their faces offering as strong a contrast as their politics. In the center is Zmicier Dashkevich, the leader of Malady Front, a wispy-looking man in his twenties. In the lapel of his jacket is the white-red-white former national flag of Belarus. Opposite him, a head taller stands a leader of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM), his shaved head complementing his camouflage outfit. At this high-noon moment, the exchange is suitably stagey. "Do you have a permit to be here?" asks the man from the BRSM. "We have. A moral one," replies Artur Finkevich, a prominent member of Malady Front. "Are you on the list of participants?" the BRSM man asks. "The Belarusian people have the right to protest. Or is it that you are the Belarusian people, and we are not?" Dashkevich responds. At the end, Dashkevich is arrested. He has apparently assaulted policemen, though there was not the slightest hint of violence in this cameo of political life in Belarus. "This is the policy of Lukashenka, aimed at stifling all of civil society in Belarus," Dashkevich says as he is led away. "If you don't like Lukashenka, then leave Belarus," the BSRM responds. He remains, undisturbed by the police, leading a protest at Poland's protests about the Belarusian government's decision to overrule the results of leadership elections in Belarus' large Polish community.

    Thinking of a revolution
    President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's men have been busy dragging away demonstrators and cutting relations with the outside world these past few years, particularly these past months and weeks. Civil-society groups are being restricted, foreign NGOs are being expelled, even tighter restrictions on foreign funding for NGOs have been imposed, new restrictions on election campaigning, political parties, political advertising, street demonstrations and protests have been set in law, and any perceived solicitation of foreign interference in Belarus' "internal affairs" has been criminalized. Relations with almost all international organizations – from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe to the EU – have worsened. Lukashenka's motivation is clear. "In our country, there will be no pink or orange, nor even a banana revolution," Lukashenka has declared and with a real sense of urgency he has set about the task of preventing his opponents emulating the opposition in Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, countries that have experienced bloodless ‘democratic revolutions' in the past five years. Young opponents are particular targets; in all four countries, youth groups were strong mobilizing forces in the revolutions. At opposition demonstrations, young people are routinely arrested; some have then been sentenced to spells of labor in remote parts of the country. At university or in school, opponents are being summoned to the dean's office and threatened with expulsion. Ordinary students are being urged – coerced and bribed, say teachers – to join the BRSM, commonly known as Lukamol, a compound of Lukashenka and Komsomol, the communist-era Young Communist League. So it could come as a relief to Lukashenka that Siarhiej Sakharau, an editor at Studentskaya Dumka, the only independent youth magazine in the country published in Belarusian, believes that "there will be no Ukrainian-like scenario here." But Sakharau is an exception among Belarusian youth leaders opposed to Lukashenka. "The main conclusion we reached from the events in Ukraine is that the regime can be defeated, and one doesn't need to fire a single shot for that to happen; the only thing needed is to bring people out onto the streets to protect the results of the elections, just as happened in Ukraine," says Barys Garetzky, deputy leader of Malady Front. When presidential elections are held in September 2006, Lukashenka may face a harder task dealing with protestors than ensuring he ‘wins' a third term. But even now, a year before the vote, the opposition youth movements are launching their campaigns. Speaking in August, Garetzky declared that "we will be launching on 1 September [2005] a broad nationwide negative campaign, Hopits! (Enough!) We also plan to organize a number of street actions and to publish a great number of leaflets, about one for every citizen of Belarus [the country's population is roughly 10 million]. After the negative campaign, we will base our actions with what is happening in the country at the time." Another powerful and well-organized group, Zubr, has begun a more positive campaign, posting stickers around the capital.

    They're talkin 'bout a revolution...
    The Belarusian opposition, including its youth groups, has history to overcome. It has traditionally been fractured and key moments of mobilization and protest – including presidential elections in 2001 and parliamentary elections and a constitutional referendum in 2004 – have passed without Lukashenka's authoritarian regime being shaken. What form the protests of groups other than Malady Front will take is still in the process of being worked out. However, for Zubr, the models are the Serbian and Ukrainian revolutions. The outline of Malady Front's plans – a major information campaign and, if there is fraud in the elections, street rallies and strikes – also fits the model. The final form of the plans will depend partly of course on Lukashenka – control of the internet, for example, is such that it is unlikely to be a major tool – and largely on the plans of the rest of the opposition movement. Coordination between the youth groups and political parties will be close. "As in 2001, the activists of these [youth] groups will be the major ‘work force'… for the democratic candidate, the civic mobilization campaign, and the independent [election] observation team… They will be bringing out their supporters to distribute materials and knock on doors, organizing and participating in Get Out the Vote campaigns," says Iryna Vidanava, a former coordinator for the Assembly of Belarusian Pro-Democratic NGOs and the editor-in-chief of Studentskaya Dumka. Vidanava believes youth groups will not just work for the opposition candidate, but will also help shape overall strategy. "In some way they will be mediators between the democratic opposition and young people," she says. "They will have to establish a two-way communication channel between the democratic forces and young people. Youth groups will have to cover all segments of Belarusian youth and coordination of their efforts is therefore crucial. Some groups will focus on the political campaign. Some will conduct a positive youth-mobilization campaign trying to convince young people to go out and vote. Some youth groups will focus on bringing young people out on the streets to protest against [electoral] falsifications. It is only youth groups who will be able to come up with the message, ideas and language that will appeal to young people."

    … it sounds like a whisper
    Some of these initiatives will simply depend on getting bodies out, but grassroots activities on the scale these groups envisage requires money. And the issue of where that money comes from may help determine how the opposition's activities are viewed and their chances of success: the use of foreign funds in Georgia and Ukraine prompted commentators in former Soviet states such as Russia and also in some Western newspapers to question how homegrown the revolution was. Lukashenka has, of course, used this for propaganda purposes, portraying the opposition as a collection of Western lackeys. The source of the youth groups' funding is varied. Yury Karetnikau, leader of Pravy Aljans (Right Alliance), says the money his organization receives comes almost exclusively – 90 percent – from members, with the rest coming from local businessmen. "We made it a condition for our members: if you feel that you are a friend of the organization, then you must pay skladki, donations. That is 3,000 rubles [about 1 euro] a month, but there are people who give more, about 5-10,000 rubles." The leader of Zubr, Jauhen Afnagel, says their funds come "from our friends, in Belarus and outside Belarus." How much comes from within Belarus is unclear. In Ukraine, much of the funding for the opposition campaign came from local patrons, but Belarus has no private businessmen remotely as wealthy as those in Ukraine (or in Russia). Nor is it clear how much is coming from abroad. "All kinds of organizations give us funding," says Malady Front's Garetzky. "For five years we have been cooperating closely with the Swedish Social Democrats […] Through Ukraine, we have big plans for cooperation with the Soros Foundation, which is interested in the Enough! campaign; the Foundation has helped bring together many youth organizations, covering the whole of Belarus."

    The U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has provided some of the most active support. The same has been done by some other private foreign institutions, including a Polish organization, the East European Democratic Centre (IDEE). The U.S. government is also providing help, though the extent and nature of that support is unclear. Marina Shubina of the U.S. Embassy in Minsk would merely say that "the U.S. government supports a broad range of youth groups and believes that the development of democratic values among youth is a priority of U.S. government assistance." U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Zubr representatives in a visit to Lithuania this April. Studentskaya Dumka has in the past received support from the U.S. State Department. The European Commission says that it will not fund political activities in Belarus. It is, though, channeling fresh funds to Belarusian NGOs, through the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights and the Decentralized Cooperation Program. Nor has it excluded "a priori" the possibility of a special fund to help Belarusian civil society. Given Lukashenka's crackdown on civil society, even such apolitical funding may be viewed by the Belarusian president as being political. But aid – from whatever source – is of background importance, activists insist. "If you see the Ukrainian experience – with all this unlimited support of Russia for [defeated Prime Minister Viktor] Yanukovych – then you see that Russian influence is important, but not the main factor," says Afnagel of Zubr. "The United States and the EU will support democratic changes, but their influence is not the main thing. Everything will depend on our people, and not on external factors."

    The 2001 experience
    That may explain why "external factors" have failed in Belarus before. In 2001, the U.S. government offered financial support to the opposition for a campaign modeled on Serbia's street protests in 2000, the model later successfully adjusted in Georgia, Ukraine, and – to a lesser degree – in Kyrgyzstan. But that blueprint produced little in Belarus. The defeat in 2001 sent many in the opposition into a collective depression and convinced them that Lukashenka's position was impregnable. That depression has now lifted. Lukashenka's style of rule is changing. His authoritarian character has always been apparent, but it is now increasingly intrusive and menacing. He has strengthened the security forces, effectively elevated the position of the secret police (giving them authority over defense forces and border guards), increased the legal powers of the KGB (allowing secret servicemen to enter homes at will, and tap telephones more extensively), and has passed a new law allowing police to shoot in peacetime if ordered to by the president. Lukashenka's clampdowns and tightening control may be designed to strengthen his power, but they are eating away at his popular legitimacy. His popularity (rated by independent pollsters) has been falling for some years now and some controversial recent decisions – such as renaming the streets of central Minsk – and has turned some of the apolitical against him. Restrictions on the use of the Belarusian language and the promotion of Russian have been features of his rule, but fresh constraints are upsetting even some Russian-speakers.

    Yury Karetnikau of Pravy Aljans, which emerged only in late 2003, also believes the international community is now willing to pay more attention to the repressive character of Lukashenka's rule. "In 2001 when Lukashenka won, there were those horrible terrorist attacks in America and during the last referendum [in 2004] there was the tragedy in Beslan. The major powers were then distracted from Belarusian events. But now I can see the attention from the West, so they should do what they promised to do about Belarus [regarding democratization]," states Karetnikau. Perhaps even more importantly, there is the experience of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, just two months after the Belarusian referendum. "During the revolution we saw that society could be so politically charged that it would go onto streets, take risks, protect its victory," says Karetnikau. "A hope emerged at that point that we are no worse and that the time will come for our people to show themselves. We are all Soviet children, and there are no great differences – in the appearance of our people, in our way of life – between Belarus and Ukraine." Belarus' youth movements are taking more than inspiration from Ukraine. Youth activists in Ukraine have been training and leading seminars for Belarusian activists. Malady Front, which was founded in 1997, forged particularly close ties with Ukrainian organizations such as Pora, National Alliance, and Svoboda during the Orange Revolution. In visits to Ukraine, its members have appeared in the media numerous times and have met with an influential cross-section of Ukraine's political elite – with regional governors, members of parliament, and with Ukraine's foreign minister. Money from private sources in Ukraine is crossing the border and when members of Malady Front were thrown out of universities in Belarus, Ukraine's foreign ministry opened the doors of Kyiv National University to gave them a chance to continue their studies. Lukashenka has retaliated. In late August, two activists from the Georgian youth movement Kmara, a key moving force in Georgia's bloodless Rose Revolution in 2003, were arrested in Minsk after they made contact with youth organizations. Georgians now have to apply for visas to visit Belarus, a move seen as a direct response to Lukashenka's fear of revolutionaries. This incident follows the arrest in late April of five representatives of Ukrainian youth organizations for taking part in an unsanctioned anti-government protest in Minsk.

    All for one and one for all
    Plans and new hope the youth groups may have, but the revolutions in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrygzstan suggest the opposition will need to unite behind a single candidate if it is to succeed. That will happen, youth leaders insist. "I think all the youth organizations will consolidate, because we have one goal," Zubr's Afnagel says. "We have fewer problems agreeing with each other than with grown-ups." Vidanava emphasizes the "feeling of solidarity" and "common values" shared by all the "youth democratic initiatives." "Of course they [youth groups] will consolidate," says Malady Front's Garetzky. "They have already formed two big groups, the negative and the positive campaigners." Those assertions will be put to the test in within a matter of weeks, when ten Belarusian opposition parties and NGOs meet to choose a single presidential candidate. In conversation, the name that crops up frequently is Alyaksandr Milinkevich, a prominent figure in Belarus' civil society. He has no party affiliation but his bid already has the support of the Belarusian Popular Front, a major opposition party and member of the Permanent Council of Democratic Forces (PDSDS), an umbrella body coordinating the activities of the opposition. "If [Milinkevich] is chosen as a single candidate, the process of consolidation will proceed very fast," Karetnikau predicts. Youth groups will also ensure that the political parties unite, believes Pavel Sevyarynets, the leader of Malady Front before he was given a two-year sentence of forced labor on 31 May. Speaking by phone from internal exile, Sevyarynets said he is convinced that "the youth will form a group, pressing the politicians to work for the victory rather than for satisfying personal ambitions."

    The youth groups' leaders are also convinced that, as the campaign rolls out, young people will follow their lead. They all report a big increase in membership, with thousands joining them across the country. Zubr claims to be growing "particularly in smaller towns," which, if so, would represent a promising advance for the opposition. Members are not just coming from the opposition's traditional recruitment grounds, schools and universities. Yury Karetnikau of Pravy Aljans says many of his activists come from the capital's football clubs Dynamo and Torpedo. He claims that "in my neighborhood – the south-western district of Minsk – I have a person I can turn to in practically every apartment block, to ask to disseminate leaflets or collect signatures." But students remain the cornerstone for the larger, mainstream youth movements. Students could pay a heavy personal cost for joining the opposition. "Belarusian youth live in a society in which schools and universities are closed at whim by the administration, and students arbitrarily expelled," says Iryna Vidanava of Studenskaya Dumka. Zubr's Afnagel believes security comes in number. "As the experience of 2001 shows, when one person stands up in a department of a university, then that person is in danger. When a dozen stand up, then nobody can do anything with them. At that point, people are no longer so scared." Still, Alena Talapila, chairman of the Council of Belarusian Students Association, argues that "it will be very important to ensure that [students] finish the campaign with as little lost as possible. Activists need to know more about the possible punishments they face." Her association is focusing sharply on arranging legal support. "We will try to put pressure on deans, do everything possible so that [punishments do] not pass unnoticed," Talapila promises. For her, "the main question is how much inspiration people will have."

    Springtime of a generation?
    Inspiration may prove largely to be a matter of leadership, but the emergence of politicized youth movements in the former Soviet Union suggests there are new sources of inspiration for leaders to tap into. In Belarus, national sentiment may prove one source. Pravy Aljan's Karetnikau likens the situation in Belarus to Europe's "springtime of nations" in the 18th and 19th century, a process that largely passed Belarus by. Belarus may have re-emerged as an independent state in 1991, but Lukashenka's rule has been explicitly anti-nationalist. For Karetnikau, strengthening Belarusian national identity and breaking with the Soviet past therefore require the same thing: a change of president. "We believe that our country is today occupied by ‘homo soveticus' people, products of the Soviet system, people without a national idea, who don't really associate themselves with the Belarusian nation," says Karetnikau. Pravy Aljans is still a small player and its attitudes are overtly nationalist, but most other youth movements are also adopting the historical insignia of the Belarusian people: the white-red-white flag of Belarus that Lukashenka replaced with the green-red flag of Soviet Belorussiya; and the Pahonia, a medieval knight on a horse with the Slavic cross on his shield. "I'm convinced that at the most crucial moment young people, fighting for Belarus under white-red-white flags, will stand shoulder to shoulder with each other," says Malady Front's Sevyarynets. The decision to adopt the old white-red-white flag banned by Lukashenka and other national symbols is in part a marketing decision. In 2001, Zubr marched under its own emblem – a bison – but it now feels a more unifying symbol is needed. However, that marketing change may mark a deeper social change. Lukashenka has, largely successfully, sought to smear Belarusian nation-building as extremism (‘fascism'), and he has carefully nurtured an alternative Belarusian identity, one in which Belarusians are brothers of the Russians and children of the Soviet experience rather than as a distinct nation with strong historical ties to Central and Eastern Europe. These youth movements appear to believe that while Lukashenka's attacks on those with Belarusian nation-building sentiments may have enjoyed success with older generations, but will now work less well with the young. More generally, the youth movements may be tapping into a generational change in the post-Soviet world. In the Soviet era, opposition was limited to prominent but isolated figures like Andrei Sakharov, people whose ability to act was limited to words. Now, the opposition movements reach a generation whose members, judged by their comments, see themselves as part of a youth movement linking post-Soviet societies from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus and Central Asia and have shown themselves able and willing to protest and explore the limits of their freedom.

    Change, but when?
    If there is a generational change in process, defeat for the opposition in 2006 may not stop the youth movements. But the more immediate question is whether these groups really can help engineer Lukashenka's ouster in 2006. Ethan Burger, an election observer in Belarus' parliamentary elections in 2004, believes that "Belarus is not Ukraine [...] Peaceful ‘regime change' in Belarus is a long-term project." And if the regime is changed, the process will probably be more violent than in other former Soviet republics. In Belarus it is widely felt that Lukashenka will be willing to use the type of violence used by Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov in May, when maybe as many as a 1,000 opponents were killed in Andijan. Karimov remains in power. Youth leaders accept that change may not come immediately. "I would really like the independent candidate to win," says Talapila, "but I believe that our immediate task is to persuade people that the independent candidate can get 30 percent or more of the vote and to protect the real results of the elections." "If not in 2006, then changes will happen in two or three years," says Pravy Aljan's Karetnikau. Siarhiej Sakharau, the skeptical editor of Studentskaya Dumka also believes it is only a matter of years before matters come to a head. "People are not yet being shot in the streets, but if it goes on like this, then in two-three years' time that will already be a possibility," he says. But, while Lukashenka's repression underpins such realism, Lukashenka's response is providing real encouragement to the opposition. "Subconsciously it is more complicated for [Lukashenka]" than it was in 2001, believes Zubr's Afnagel. "You can feel it from what he says. He keeps saying that there will be no revolution in Belarus – why would he say that if revolution is not an option?" Will the color of the revolution be blue? Would Lukashenka's removal go down in history as the Cornflower Revolution, a ubiquitous flower in Belarus and a national symbol? "It is too early to say what color the revolution will have. The color is not important. It is not even important whether it will be a revolution or some kind of a change," Afnagel says. Hopes are high among this new breed of revolutionaries that change or revolution will come, whether in 2006 or only later. "If we didn't believe that, we wouldn't be doing this. Of course, we believe," says Afnagel in comments echoed by other leaders.
    ©Transitions Online

    A coalition of non-governmental organisations and churches has expressed concern about the government's plans to further tighten the asylum law.

    2/9/2005- Just weeks before parliament is due to debate the issue, the groups called on parliamentarians not to forget the country's humanitarian tradition. Parliament will consider amendments to the asylum legislation, which include doubling pre-deportation detention and scrapping all welfare payments for rejected asylum seekers, in its autumn session. At a joint media conference on Friday, the 20 organisations – including refugee and religious groups, as well as charities – called on parliament to pass a constitutional law that was in line with international human-rights legislation. Beat Meiner from the Swiss Refugee Council said that the law's main task was to protect people from persecution. But he said that the proposal to reject asylum seekers who are unable to show valid identity papers did not fulfil this criterion. Some people were simply not able to produce such papers within the two to three days during which they are required to do so, said speakers. Another bone of contention was the move to limit exceptions in the asylum process, which are usually made on humanitarian grounds. At present 23,000 people have been granted leave to stay in Switzerland without being given asylum. According to Walter Schmid from the Swiss Conference for Social Welfare, these people are subject to ever-tightening regulations, making it difficult for them to find work and educate their children. Delegates warned that excluding some people from social security – a move which has been in place for a year - had not led to more asylum seekers returning to their countries of origin. They argued that the move had contributed to poverty and placed an increased burden on cantons, cities and private organisations. The increase in time spent in pre-deportation detention was also questioned, with speakers calling it a "disproportional" measure. The appeal comes a few days after a House of Representatives committee called for tougher measures to reduce criminal acts by asylum seekers. The committee suggested further restricting asylum seekers' movements and possibly banning them from certain places when they first enter Switzerland. Members want to see these measures added to the latest revision of the law.

    3/9/2005- About 140 immigrants and asylum-seekers where evacuated from two squats in Paris yesterday, three days after Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister, announced that all unsafe buildings would be closed. The decision was made after two fires killed 24 people, mainly children, last week. Since April, nearly 50 people have lost their lives in blazes in the capital. The squats, located in two separate districts of Paris, were the first of 60 buildings considered unsafe and closed. Although squatters were expecting to be evicted after Mr Sarkozy's declarations, they did not expect it to happen on the first day of school. "Sarkozy, I don't know if he has children," said one squatter, Aoua Sila. "What he is doing right now, we'd never do this to mothers or fathers of children." The squatters posed no resistance and gathered their belongings as quickly as possible. Two vans were used to evacuate the families, apparently all from the Ivory Coast, to nearby hotels, where they will stay for a couple of weeks. Hyacinthe Marcel Kouassi, the Ivory Coast's ambassador to Paris, said: "They're going to some temporary accommodation. After that, the authorities will have to find them permanent, decent housing." Roger Madec, Mayor of the 19th district in northeast Paris, where the second squat was located, called the evacuation a "miserable operation," and insisted the building was safe. The evictions come a day after the Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, promised new housing to help the poorest. The government announced that 28,000 homes would be built rapidly, some of them on land that was supposed to be used for the 2012 Olympics but only if municipal authorities agree to build 3,000 temporary student housing units on it within 18 months. The socialist Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, said he was "stunned" by the plans and that the 18-month timetable was "simply not realistic". Pressure groups accused the government of not taking the problem seriously and of using the fires as an excuse to throw Paris's poorest inhabitants, as well as immigrants and asylum- seekers, into the streets. Thousands of demonstrators are expected to take to the streets of Paris today in protest at the government's proposals
    © Independent Digital

    3/9/2005- Thousands of protesters have marched through central Paris to demand better housing for African immigrants, after two deadly fires last month. About 5,000 people marched from the site of the first fire in Paris' 13th district, in which 14 children and three adults died on 26 August. Seven people died in a similar blaze just four days later. The French authorities have been criticised for housing poor immigrants in dilapidated accommodation. The marchers, some carrying banners, called for greater investment in housing. They also condemned French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy for ordering the eviction of squatters from the capital's most run-down apartment buildings. Hugh Schofield in Paris says the Parisian authorities have identified more than 1,000 run-down buildings, in which some 13,000 families - the majority of whom are African - are housed or are squatting. Saturday's protest was backed by left-wing pressure groups and political parties, French news agency AFP reported. On Friday, police evicted dozens of African illegal immigrants from two buildings declared unsafe, in line with Mr Sarkozy's orders. There have been calls for better housing since April, when 24 people died in a fire at a Paris hotel housing immigrants. Meanwhile, the city prosecutor opened an investigation into the 26 August blaze on Friday, AFP reported. It quoted officials from the prosecutor's office as saying the "wilful destruction by the use of fire leading to death" was being investigated, suggesting suspicion the fire was started deliberately.
    ©BBC News

    One gets a spectacular view of the French capital from the well maintained Buttes Rouge park perched on a hillside in the heart of Paris. However, its tranquillity has been shattered this week with the erection of three large tents housing African immigrants.

    9/9/2005- Expelled last Friday from the squat they had been living in for four years a couple of streets away, 20 mainly Ivorian families are now camping in a public park. Men sleep in one tent and the women and children are in another. There is one toilet and no showers. If they are lucky one of the park's neighbours will allow them to use their facilities. Life since they were expelled is harsh but Abdoulaye is not complaining. "At least we are still alive, we weren't burnt like our brothers trapped in a building."

    Two deadly fires last month in dilapidated accommodation full of mainly African immigrants, prompted action from the Paris authorities. Evacuations of buildings deemed a fire-risk were ordered, and one of the first was on Friday last week in a dawn raid. About 150 French riot police swooped on the run-down apartments housing the Ivorian group. It all happened so quickly they had to leave the bulk of their belongings behind. After heading to the park, waiting and wondering what to do, they began getting some help from Parisians and then from the French Red Cross. "We've received many clothes," says Abdoulaye, pointing out big piles of trousers, T-shirts, shoes and jumpers, left in bulk. A lot of food has also been donated, he explains while walking towards what's called "the common kitchen". Litres of milk, of water, bags of rice, vegetables and bread are pushed in this corner.

    Mama is five-months pregnant and is standing there smiling, bedecked in orange, distributing bread. She is much better than last Friday she says. The 24-year-old Ivorian woman was dragged to the floor and kicked by French riot police during the raid. "I don't want to speak about that any more," Mama explains with sadness on her face. "I just know that the doctor said the baby is fine and released me from hospital after three days on condition I sleep in a proper house. But I didn't want to part with my husband and my eldest child and the group. So I came back here." Her husband, Fofana, says she has not been sleeping well - being both uncomfortable and unhappy. "Our eldest son Moussa is also having nightmares at night since he saw how his mother was treated by French policeman. During the day all the children have become aggressive. They are just confused, not understanding what's going on." A French Red Cross volunteer says so far the only medical problems have been minor ones with children getting flu. "The fear is that unless the group are re-housed quickly, as winter approaches, things could get a lot worse," they tell me.

    The situation is a lot worse at another African tented camp which sprang up three months ago in a Paris suburb, Aubervilliers. Here, there are 26 smaller roadside tents housing 56 children and 42 adults from varying African countries. Children were being washed using buckets. "This is outside, anybody passing by can see us," explains Hawa. Families are sharing leaking tents with others for everybody to get a roof. "The situation is desperate. We even received threats from social services to come and to take our children away. This is just a shame," Hawa says. At present re-housing falls mainly on the districts, but Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe has urged the government to intervene and help in case the problem mushrooms. Some parents say they may have to reluctantly accept the offer of accommodation in a cheap hotel for two months for the sake of the children, but there is a risk attached. In April, Africans languishing for four years in a hotel died when it burnt down. The Paris authorities have identified more than 1,000 run-down buildings, in which some 13,000 families are housed or are squatting - most of them inhabited by Africans. French Home Affairs Minister Nicholas Sarkhozy has said he intends to close down other squats, but there is a dearth of alternative accommodation. The fear is that as winter draws in, tented camps could become a regular fixture in Paris.
    ©BBC News

    4/9/2005- The story of Tsvetko Mitov is typical of a new wave of employment inequality cases facing Irish companies. Mitov is white, from eastern Europe and claims he was discriminated against on the grounds of race. The Bulgarian physiotherapist lost his case against the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists. But he highlighted the lack of transparency in the organisation's procedures and he was awarded compensation for being victimised as a result. In its judgment, the Equality Tribunal gave the ISCP an apparent clean bill of health, declaring: "Applications are assessed on the basis of their merits, and no distinction is made on the basis of nationality." However, the equality officer added the rider: ‘ ‘Having said that, the respondent's failure to set out its criteria does inevitably mean that there is a lack of transparency in its procedures which can promote claims of discrimination." The society was criticised for its failure to respond to any of the queries by Mitov about why his application was rejected. Simple two-line responses might have sufficed. The society only had to write to Mitov, telling him that he was not entitled to the information but it failed to do so. "This failure by the respondent [the ISCP] led to a very real and understandable frustration on the part of the complainant," said the equality officer. She awarded Mitov 10,000 for the stress arising from the victimisation.

    Human resources expert Carol Ann Casey believes the case highlights how companies are often unprepared for dealing with their obligations under employment legislation. Quoting from the Mitov judgment, she noted that the ISCP was ordered "to examine its procedures to make them more transparent so as to avoid allegations of discrimination under the provisions of the Employment Equality Act'‘. Casey, managing director of CA Consulting in Dublin, believes that most companies employing workers from overseas should heed this advice. She foresees a dramatic increase in a broad range of discrimination cases, in line with the influx of foreign workers from the new European Union member states. "The Equality Tribunal's report for 2004 showed a 46 per cent increase in employment equality cases on grounds of race," Casey said. "The trend will no doubt continue with the rise in the number of workers from the new member states, 100,000 of whom most of them Polish arrived in Ireland in the last 13 months." Philip Watt, director of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI), reckons that there is a "rogue minority'‘ of employers who are breaking employment law by exploiting vulnerable foreign workers. "We need more inspectors at the Labour Inspectorate, the body responsible for enforcing employment law," he said.

    "There are fewer than 20 labour inspectors. It is grossly insufficient, and even the data that is currently collected by the inspectors is seriously inadequate. "They don't know the scale of the problem, because they are not obliged to ask simple questions, such as ‘Are you employing migrant workers?' If they don't ask this question, the most important question of all is not addressed and that is ‘Do you have documentation for this migrant employee?'," said Watt. "The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has recognised that this is a problem, and has committed itself to changing the inspection procedures, but we are still awaiting action on this front." The case of Ronaldo Munck, an Argentinian-born academic, illustrates the dilemma facing companies who find themselves before the Equality Tribunal. Munck was awarded 10,000 after the Equality Tribunal concluded that NUI Maynooth discriminated against him on grounds of his race. The university decided to pass Munck over in favour of an Irish-born academic when it was filling the position of professor of sociology. The key issue in the case as in most successful ones heard at the tribunal was the failure of the employer to provide enough records to support the contention that it had not discriminated against Munck on the grounds of race. The equality officer pointed out that "direct evidence of discrimination on the grounds of race is very often elusive. Rather a decision must be made if an inference of discrimination on the grounds of race can be determined on the facts." The information supplied by Munck "raised an inference of discrimination on the grounds of race, thus shifting the burden of proof onto the respondent," she said. "And I find that the respondent has failed to adequately or satisfactorily discharge that burden." The lack of documentation retained by the college was a central feature in the case. "I note that the respondent [NUI Maynooth] did not retain any notes which may have been made . . .with the exception of the . . . [notes taken by the] . . .chairman. . . "I would hope that this case would again draw employers' attention to the importance of retaining notes made at interviews and the marking of candidates under objective criteria."

    Casey said that companies should avoid trying to pay lip service to the equality legislation. "Employers must treat all employees, including contractors, comparatively fairly and reasonably to avoid perception of bias of any sort," she said. "Ireland is an increasingly multicultural society, and employers need to select the best person for the job without discrimination factors. "Discrimination can happen at any stage of the employment process, from the selection of candidates for interview to the way the employee is treated in employment." Ideally, staff policies should be communicated in each of the different languages of the employees of a company, she said. "However, this is a challenge when you have many different nationalities employed," Casey said. "For example, in McDonald's restaurants in Ireland, they have their opinion survey information sheets translated into 12 different languages for their staff to increase awareness and communication with staff." According to Michele Ryan, head of human resources and training with McDonald's, the company's staff are trained with "different training tools to accelerate learning. Policies and procedures are covered in detail at orientation to assist mutual learning for all national and non-national staff. "When writing policies, a company should consider whether there is any reason to believe that their policies affect people differently, according to their racial group, for example in terms of access to a service, or the ability to take advantage of proposed opportunities." Casey added: "This is all simple commonsense. But it can save a company a lot of time, money and embarrassment. And it's good for business."
    ©The Sunday Business Post

    The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and human rights organisations have sharply criticised the Greek government over its treatment of thousands of asylum-seekers who cross illegally into Greece every year from Turkey.

    5/9/2005- Since the so-called War on Terror began, the Greek authorities have been granting asylum to less than 1% of all those claiming to be fleeing from persecution - one of the lowest rates in the European Union. But the BBC has learnt that even the majority of those who can prove they are the victims of torture are initially being rejected. Sub-Lieutenant Christos Nanos, captain of patrol boat 150 of the Greek coastguard, exudes the night. The hours of darkness have cast a permanent shadow across his face. Whilst most sleep, he and his crew scour the Aegean Sea off the island of Lesbos hunting for unwanted men, women and children. He uses all the sophisticated gear on board his powerful boat, including hi-tech radar and night-vision equipment. But at times he resorts to the hunter's basic instinct - switching off the engines and lights, to wait and listen.

    Refugee season
    The sound of another boat's engine breaking the stillness of the night prompts a sudden surge of activity to determine whether this is a "target" or not. A target for Captain Nanos and his crew means a boat filled with migrants trying to reach Lesbos from the coast of Turkey, just a few kilometres away to the east. Every year, thousands of migrants from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Georgia try to make the illegal crossing in the hope of reaching the European Union. And the summer is the peak season, with on average 12 people spotted every day. In response, the Greek coastguard in this region has in recent years been bolstered with more boats, more personnel, more patrols and most significantly a policy of "zero tolerance". "Our strategy here is to patrol continuously along the sea-border and prevent the boats that come from Turkey from entering Greek territorial waters", says Captain Nanos. "If we find them before they cross the line then we push them back. "We manage to send back about 60% of the people who try to cross." But the problem with this policy is that it is indiscriminate. Whilst many making the crossing are economic migrants, there are also people who have fled their countries due to a genuine fear of persecution. But the only way an asylum-seeker would be allowed through during a mid-ocean confrontation with the Greek coastguard would be by shouting in clear Greek or English that he or she wanted to claim asylum. "We've never had anyone asking," says Captain Nanos. Human rights groups accuse the Greek government of violating international treaties on the treatment of asylum-seekers. "Unfortunately, in the past two years we've had an increasing number being forcibly sent back before they get a chance to apply for asylum," say Gerasimos Kouvaras, director of Amnesty International in Greece. But this is not the only alleged violation. For those migrants who do manage to get across the border and reach Greek territorial waters, their ordeal is far from over when they reach the sun-drenched islands of the Aegean.

    Detention centre
    Most, if not all, are immediately locked up in detention centres which have been built on the islands lying close to the Turkish coast. International organisations including the UNHCR say there is no screening beforehand to check whether there are genuine refugees amongst them. And once inside, they say the migrants are often not properly informed of their rights. We applied for permission to visit the detention centre on Lesbos, but the authorities refused. Later, local human rights activists handed us rare photographs showing conditions inside the detention centre, which perhaps explain the sensitivity of the authorities. "In the detention centres there is a failure of following fundamental human rights. In terms of unhygienic and overcrowded conditions... prolonged periods of detention and detention of unaccompanied children put together with adults," says Mr Kouvaras. Mohammed, a Sudanese refugee, spent three months in the Lesbos detention centre. He told me it was similar to the prison in Sudan from which he had managed to escape.

    Trouble with papers
    We met Mohammed in the Greek capital, Athens, at a medical clinic where he was being examined to check out his claim that he had been tortured by the Sudanese authorities. The examination confirmed his story and yet, he says, the Greek authorities have been blocking his attempts to apply for asylum. "It's very complicated, they want many documents I don't have," he says. "For example, they want a paper which has to be stamped by the police, but every time I go to the police, they say come back tomorrow, they won't stamp it. They also want my address here, but I don't have one... I have no hope." Mohammed's despair is shared by many others in Greece. It is estimated there are currently 50,000 asylum-seekers who have not even been able to officially register with the authorities, which leaves them vulnerable to arrest and deportation as illegal immigrants. Doctor Maria Piniou-Kalli, head of the Greek branch of the Medical Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims, has examined hundreds of asylum-seekers at her Athens clinic. "If you see the statistics for asylum in 2004, you see that about 4,500 people applied," she says. "But they [the authorities] only recognised 11 people and gave asylum to them. "But I certified 120 [as torture victims]. That means more than 100 people identified as torture victims were rejected. Who has the right to do this?"

    Athens squalor
    Later, Mohammed took us to the squalid, abandoned house in central Athens where he has been sheltering for the past 10 months with more than 20 other refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. Some walls have collapsed entirely, others are on the verge. The air is thick with the stench of human excrement - there is no water, electricity or sanitation. One man lifts up a mattress which is teeming with bedbugs and squashes one with his finger. It is full of human blood. All of them say they get no help from the government and depend on charity for one proper meal a day. Some have already been living here for years, still waiting for an answer from the government about their requests for asylum. The minister of public order who is ultimately responsible for deciding whether a person is granted asylum or not, was not available when we asked for an interview with him. Instead George Maris, a legal adviser to the minister was put forward. He denied any suggestion that the government was deliberately blocking asylum applications as part of a broader policy of deterrence, saying there had just been a temporary administrative problem. "There was a delay... as you know 2004 was the year of the Olympic Games. The preparations for the Olympics demanded most of our personnel. Thus procedures regarding refugees and issues like political asylum were postponed, delayed."

    Fortress Europe
    According to Mr Maris, the wheels of Greek bureaucracy are now moving much faster and by May the number of people granted asylum had already gone up to 5%, compared to less than 1% for the whole of last year. "Within this year, things will be so improved you'll be impressed," he added. But according to the UNHCR, the latest figures are already down again to less than 4%. And asylum-seekers we spoke to said nothing had changed. "I've lost 10 years of my life," said one Iraqi Kurd who has been in Greece since the mid 1990s, trying to get asylum. "People are very, very disappointed. Every day is a death. Just waiting, waiting, waiting." Human rights activists are also sceptical. They believe the government is implementing a "fortress Europe" policy in which the focus is on control and deterrence.
    ©BBC News

    5/9/2005- Three young people attacked a Romany couple in the centre of Prague on Saturday night, the iDnes Web site reported. The youths, probably skinheads, first assaulted the couple verbally and then physically attacked an 18-year-old pregnant young woman and her 21-year-old boyfriend. Both suffered light injuries. Police have detained the assailants, iDnes said. The men aged 24, 21 and 19, have been charged with inflicting bodily harm and support and propaganda of movements aimed at suppressing people's rights and freedoms, Prague police spokeswoman Iva Knolova told i-Dnes. The couple was attacked near a refreshment stall. The perpetrators first assaulted the young man and when his girlfriend started to defend him, turned against her. The attacked were taken to hospital where they received a treatment and were released afterwards.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    7/9/2005- Garrisons of three police cars had to come on Saturday, September 3rd to cosolidate a conflict which occured during a football match in Olomouc. The match was part of a minority festival entitled „We can understand each other". A football team consisting of clerks from the office of municipal government of Olomouc and a team consisting of Roma were involved in the conflict. The municipal government is not likely to punish anyone invovled in the brawl. The two main actors of whole case were a Roma and a Non-Roma player, who lost their nerves and started kick and slap each other during the match. Roma witnesses of the event accused the clerks of being drunk although there is no clear evidence whether the players had been drinking or not. The clerks denied a breathilizer test. Minority football matches do not necessarily lead to better understanding between people of different ethnic backgrounds. As illustrated by the case of the Minority football tournament in May 2001 in the Czech city of Pribram, where members of Greek minority team and Vietnamese minority team got in brawl during their match. The conflict was mitigated by two gunshots from a gun of one player.
    ©Dzeno Association

    7/9/2005- A bill allowing homosexuals to register as legal partners was supported yesterday by the petition committee of the Chamber of Deputies. The lower house may vote on the bill in autumn. The bill is the fifth attempt at passing the legislation as the four preceding ones have been rejected. The last bill was only short of passage by one vote in February. The law on registered partnerships is among the few legislative proposals that has support across the political spectrum, as only the Christian Democrats are against it. In general, the legislation tends to be supported by left-wing deputies, as confirmed by today's vote in the petition committee. The opponents of the legislation say they are afraid of it weakens the status of a traditional family. But the bill's supporters say that there is no reason for some citizens not to have the same rights as the rest due to their different sexual orientation. One of the spokesmen for the Gay and Lesbian League yesterday tried to convince the deputies of the necessity of the law. Moreover, he gave a petition, advocating the bill and signed by almost 2400 people, to the committee. The bill defines the start and demise of the partnership union. The partnership is to be written in the identity card. The partners are to acquire the right to information about their counterpart's health condition and a chance to inherit in the same way partners in marriage do. The law also introduces bilateral obligation to pay maintenance. Homosexual couples may conclude marriage in the Netherlands and Spain. They conclude unions in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Germany, Sweden, Iceland, France, Belgium, Portugal and Switzerland. They can be also registered in London.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    7/9/2005- On 7 July 2005, the anti-discrimination Unit of the European Commission published its 2005 Annual Report on Equality and Discrimination, reports ILGA-Europe. The report examines how the EU member states implemented the requirement of the two EU directive agreed in 2000 - the Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC), banning discrimination in most areas of everyday life on grounds of race or ethnic origin, and the Employment Equality Directive (2000/78/EC), banning discrimination in respect of employment and training on grounds of religious belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. According to the Report, Latvia is the only country which has not fully transposed the requirement of the Employment Equality Directive and did not explicitly ban sexual orientation discrimination. Sexual orientation discrimination in employment was banned in all other 24 EU member states and in Romania and Bulgaria, which are still EU candidate countries. All previous proposals by the Latvian government to ban sexual orientation discrimination in employment were rejected by the Human Rights and Public Affairs Commission at the Latvian Parliament. On 19 July 2005, the Latvian government approved yet another amendment to the Labour Law to include sexual orientation in the anti-discrimination provisions of the Labour Law but the amendment has to be approved by the parliament. It is expected that the Human Rights and Public Affairs Commission of the Latvian Parliament will discuss this amendment in September 2005. On 29 April 2005, the Latvian court ruled that denying employment to a gay man because of his sexual orientation was illegal (case of Maris Sants pret Rigas Kulturu viduskolu, Nr. C32242904047505, C-475/3). However, the EU law requires Latvia to explicitly mention sexual orientation among prohibited grounds of discrimination. In case Latvia fails again to comply with the EU directive, the European Commission might take a legal action against Latvia at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg for not fully transposing the directive and Latvia might face significant financial penalties.
    ©Gay Law Net

    8/9/2005- The Belgian gay and lesbian federation feels insulted by Cardinal Godfried Danneels, claiming that he gave the impression gay marriages are objectionable. The holebifederatie has also demanded the Catholic Church stop interfering in civil affairs, news agency Belga reported on Thursday. "Cardinal Danneels fails to make a distinction between a civil marriage and [the sacrament of] a religious marriage. The religious marriage remains intact," the federation said. Danneels had said in a press conference that he will not attend the Saturday demonstration 'March for the Family', which is a protest against gay adoption rights. He said protesting was the responsibility of lay apostolates. However, he backed the intentions of the march and pointed to the statement that bishops made in spring in which they expressed concern about the opening up adoption rights. Cardinal Danneels also stressed that the march was not directed specifically against gay adoption, but was instead a pro-family demonstration. Bishops also said last week that they give thanks and encouragement to those who work "in the spirit of our declaration" for the values of the family. The bishop of Namen, André Leonard, is part of the demonstration's supporting committee. However, the holebifederatie has focused it criticism on Danneels and raised concerns about the church interfering in civil affairs. It said the church was also thwarting non-church goers from complete legal privileges.
    ©Expatica News

    7/9/2005- Anti-racism movement MRAX is taking legal action in the Belgian Council of State to overturn school regulations banning the wearing of a Muslim veil. French Community Prime Minister Marie Arena approved on 26 August a regulation implemented by the state secondary schools Gilly and Vauban (in Charleroi) banning the wearing of any form of head garment. The French-speaking MRAX — which is demanding discussions about the wearing of a veil — has lodged a legal objection in the Council of State. MRAX director Didier de Laveleye said the movement wants to demand respect for religious liberty, which is guaranteed in the Belgian Constitution and international treaties. He also pointed to equality and anti-discrimination laws. The anti-racism group claims that banning girls from wearing a veil at school is xenophobic and displays cultural ignorance, newspaper 'Het Laatste Nieuws' reported on Wednesday. Besides the legal action, MRAX chairman Radouane Bouhlal also said the movement wants to stimulate debate and put forward five proposals for consideration. He said a neutrality principle should be re-employed by schools, urged the prevention of 'ghetto schools' where girls study because they are not welcome elsewhere and called for comparable philosophy and religious education so that cultural diversity could be taught, MRAX also wants to boost participation rates at schools and improve teacher education to include cultural, ethnic and religious diversity. MRAX said 80 percent of schools in the French community in Belgium ban the wearing of head garments, including the Muslim veil.
    ©Expatica News

    7/9/2005- The SGP should not continue to receive state funding of EUR 800,000 a year because the small religious party discriminates against women, a court in The Hague has ruled. The Clara Wichmann campaign fund and seven other organisations also asked the court to declare the party's statutes in relation to limiting the membership of women null and void. The court refused to do this as no female SGP supporters backed the legal action. In deciding the Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij (Reformed Political Party) should lose state funding, the court noted that the Netherlands ratified the UN Convention on Discrimination against Women in the late 1980s. "By this the Netherlands committed itself to taking appropriate steps to prevent discrimination of women in politics and public life. The Netherlands has not made good on the obligations arising out of the treaty," the court said. "The government has not taken any steps to end the discrimination against women by the SGP, but has even supported the SGP by granting a subsidy," the court said. The judge ruled the SGP should not receive state support as long as the party does not give women an equal standing with men in terms of membership. The SGP also do not allow women to stand for election. The leadership issued a statement expressing "amazement and disappointment" at the ruling. It said the loss of the subsidy would be a drain on resources but could not gauge the full impact at this stage. The party has two MPs in the Lower House of Parliament and two Senators.
    ©Expatica News

    Since the July 7 bombings much attention has been focused on the Muslim community, while attacks on Hindus and Sikhs have been largely ignored. Shivani Nagarajah* talks to non-Muslim Asians about feeling under siege

    5/9/2005- If you travel on London's public-transport system you may have spotted them: stickers and T-shirts with "Don't freak, I'm a Sikh" written across them. On the tube, they tend to be greeted with wry smiles, but they have sparked heated debate on Sikh online message boards. "Don't wear these T-shirts, they're anti-Muslim," writes one contributor. "We should wear the T-shirts," says another. "We need to think of ourselves first - let the Muslims take care of themselves." In the weeks following July 7 it was widely reported that hate crimes against Asians had increased dramatically. They were not just attacks on Muslim Asians, of course: they were attacks on Asians of all faiths. The fact is that your average hate-crime perpetrator isn't going to stop and ask what religion you are before attacking you - or even care, for that matter, about such distinctions. But this point seems to have been lost on the media. There's been a huge focus on the impact on Britain's Muslim community, but the plight of Britain's 560,000 Hindus and 340,000 Sikhs has been largely ignored. So to what extent have non-Muslim Asians been the victims of hate crimes? On July 7, as speculation grew that the London bombs were the work of Islamist extremists, the first reported hate crime took place in Erith, Kent: a Sikh gurdwara (place of worship) was firebombed. Since then the Sikh Federation (UK), a lobby group which represents more than 150 Sikh organisations, has recorded five further attacks on gurdwaras and two serious assaults on Sikh individuals. And as Jagtar Singh, of the federation's national executive council, points out, there is a huge problem of under-reporting, particularly in the case of less serious attacks. "For every crime reported to the authorities, we estimate another 30 to 40 that go unreported," he says.

    Dal Singh Dhesy, a community worker with the Sikh community and youth centre in Handsworth, Birmingham, thinks that Sikhs have had a worse time of it than Muslims - because of their turbans. There is a grim irony to this: turbans are a potent symbol of Sikh identity, but, somehow, certain sections of the white population have come to (wrongly) associate them with Islamist extremists. "The turban-wearing Sikh community is under siege," he says. He experiences name-calling and stares from white people on a daily basis, and describes other Sikhs facing physical attack and intimidation. This doesn't mean that Hindus have had an easy time of it. "There are issues of security for Hindu temples, Hindu students at university and Hindus walking on the streets who risk being assaulted," says Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, which speaks for 240 Hindu organisations.

    Ishvar Guruswamy is a Hindu who has lived in Kent for 32 years. He had never experienced racism until shortly after the attempted bombings in London, when a group of teenagers spat at him while shouting, "Bomb, bomb, bomb." A few days later, a family at his local supermarket shouted the same thing at him. When he told his sister what had happened, her advice was simple - to shave off his beard and wear a large crucifix so no one would mistake him for a Muslim. He has not followed her advice, but others are making an effort to advertise their faith. Ratnes Kandiah, a Hindu grandmother from east London, says: "When I go out I'm very ashamed because people don't know if I'm Hindu or Muslim." She has started wearing an extra large pottu, the red spot that Hindu women wear on their forehead, in the perhaps optimistic belief that people will understand its significance."I try to order pork and make sure that people hear me," says Mital Pankhania, a Hindu optometrist in his late 20s who lives in Derby. "If there are strangers around I make a point of saying that I drink. It's a bit like being a Canadian and always having to tell people you're not American."

    Tariq Modood, professor of sociology at Bristol University, says it's understandable that Sikhs and Hindus should attempt to distance themselves from Muslims. "If a group has bad press or is seen as likely to drag you down in terms of your social status or the way you are perceived by the rest of society, then you want to distance yourselves from that group," he says. "At the moment, Muslims are certainly playing that role for other south Asians." Does he blame non-Muslims for backing away from Muslims? "Their motives are not good, they're selfish, but on the whole ... I don't deplore it, I regret it."

    Of course, the divisions between different Asian groups didn't start on 7/7. In Derby, Pankhania says that although he has a mixed circle of friends, including Sikhs and white Christians, there are no Muslims among them. "I went to university in Bradford," he says. "I really grew to despise them [Muslims]. It didn't come from my parents but from my first-hand experience of living with them." Such attitudes are not uncommon. It wasn't always this way. Many of the older generation of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims speak with real sadness about how things have changed. They describe how the early south Asian settlers to Britain saw one another as brothers and sisters, unified by a common heritage and shared sense of isolation. Until the 1980s, Asians organised collectively, with groups such as the Bradford Asian Youth Movement cutting across religious divisions. All this came to an end with the Salman Rushdie affair and the subsequent development of a distinct British Muslim identity. "Muslim identity rocketed off with one controversy after another, post-Rushdie," says Modood. "It became very difficult to develop an Asian identity which included other faiths."

    According to Roger Ballard, director of the Centre for Applied South Asian Studies at Manchester University, this polarisation on religious grounds, particularly between Muslims and non-Muslims, is growing. He thinks that young Asians don't hang out together as much as they used to, especially at university. "They've been educated in barmy notions of political identity," he says. Where the immigrant generation saw a common tie to south Asia, these young Britons focus on religious differences, and often get their information from extremist sources. "They have no access to their history, no appreciation of their culture, so instead they embrace a very crude form of identity politics." Ballard believes that this is as true of young Sikhs and Hindus as it is of Muslims. For example, he is concerned by how the ultra-nationalist VHP (World Hindu Council) is exploiting the London bombings to gain support, particularly among young Gujaratis. "Its line is, 'We Hindus are entirely different from Muslims. We've been victims of terrorism by Muslims and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the Brits.'"

    According to Jagtar Singh of the Sikh Federation, there are a number of towns and cities in the UK with tensions between Sikhs and Muslims, "especially among the youngsters.". He mentions Birmingham and west London; others mention Leicester, Slough and Derby. The scale of the conflict is difficult to quantify, but Gurharpal Singh, professor of interreligious relations at the University of Birmingham, says that it is a real problem. Professor Singh believes that the main cause of these tensions is a rise in the numbers of Muslims in areas that have traditionally had large Sikh and Hindu populations. However, he says, other factors - including events in India and concerns about the activities of radical Muslim groups - play a part.

    There are non-Muslim Asians prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community in its time of need. "Most people I know are proud to be British Asians," says Amar Singh, editor of the multi-faith Eastern Eye. He believes that "if anything, the backlash against the Asian community since 7/7 has reinforced the idea of a collective British Asian identity". But I hear a different story time and time again from Sikhs and Hindus across the country. Mahendra Dabhi describes an event he held recently for sixth-formers in Birmingham: their main concern was to establish a Hindu identity before going to university. "They felt that if they didn't differentiate themselves, they would be at risk of social stigma. They wanted to say, 'We are Hindus, we are not with them [Muslims]. We play cricket with them and we mix together fine, but we are different.' "

    *The author is writing under a pseudonym. Some other names in the article have also been changed
    ©The Guardian

    6/9/2005- People in Britain are more likely to discriminate against you because of your age than the colour of your skin or your gender, new research showed on Tuesday. The first national survey of age-related prejudice, carried out among 1,843 people, showed 29 percent reported suffering age discrimination -- a higher proportion than for any other kind of prejudice including sexism and racism. "Ageism is the most pervasive form of prejudice experienced in the UK population and that seems to be true pretty much across gender, ethnicity and religion -- people of all types experience it," said Dominic Abrams, professor of Social Psychology at the University of Kent. Speaking in Dublin at the British Association for the Advancement of Science annual Festival, Abrams said the findings of the poll were particularly relevant given recent estimates that by 2041 nearly 40 percent of the British population would be over 60. The survey, compiled for the University of Kent and Age Concern, showed that on average people see youth as ending at 49 and old age beginning at 65.

    Youth ends at 49
    Women, however, judge that youth ends almost five years later and old age begins three years later than men do. The poll revealed that older people are perceived as being friendlier than younger people, but younger people are seen as more competent and capable. "Older people are seen basically as doddery but dear, and young people perhaps as clever but callous," said Abrams. He said society needed to guard against "the essentially sympathetic but actually patronising forms of ageism" which treated older people as incompetent but loveable. Younger people in the poll reported experiencing prejudice of all types more than older people, but ageism dominated experiences of prejudice in all ranges except between the ages of 35-44. And while respondents tended to believe organisations avoided employing older people to protect their image, nearly half of those between the ages of 25 and 65 said they would not be happy with a boss under the age of 30. Abrams said ageism was a significant problem in British society. "The bottom line is that government legislation on equality and human rights which is currently being formed needs to ensure ageism is treated at least as seriously as all of the other forms of prejudice that it is tackling," he said.

    8/9/2005- The number of children charged with race crimes in Scotland has soared by 74 per cent in the past three years. Some 197 youngsters were referred to the Children's Reporter for race-related offences in 2004-5 compared to 113 in 2002-3. The figures, released by the Scottish Executive in a written parliamentary answer, have sparked accusations that schools are not doing enough to tackle racism in the playground. Last night, anti-racism campaigners called on teachers to take "proactive" measures to stamp out racism in schools. Morag Patrick, a senior officer with the Commission for Racial Equality Scotland, said: "The increase in the number of children reported for racist crimes is concerning. They clearly indicate that racism remains a problem. "They also reinforce recent CRE research in which ethnic minority participants expressed anxiety about the effect on their children of racist abuse in schools and said that schools were not doing enough to tackle the issue." Bill McGregor, the general secretary of the Headteachers Association of Scotland, said he recognised that racism among children was "a problem", but insisted that "the great majority of schools, if not all, are working hard to do something about it". He also suggested the rise could partly be explained by an increased willingness to report crimes of racism. The Scottish National Party's social justice spokeswoman, Christine Grahame, said: "In just three years, we have seen the number of children accused of racial offences almost double. That indicates a very serious problem, not just for the victims of such offences but also for the wider communities in which these children live."
    ©The Scotsman

    Scotland Yard are refusing to suspend an armed officer who shot a man five times in the head. Azelle Rodney died instantly after police opened fire on a north London street.

    8/9/2005- 24-year-old Mr Rodney was looking forward to the birth of his child when an SO19 officer shot him seven times. His daughter was born the day after his funeral. It is believed witnesses saw Mr Rodney attempting to surrender and leave the passenger seat of a silver Volkswagen Golf when he was killed. An independent post-mortem recorded five bullet wounds to Mr Rodney's head, one in his back and one to his shoulder. The revelation that the armed officer aimed shots at Mr Rodney's head will shock civil rights groups still reeling from the killing of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes. But while Scotland Yard initially justified their shoot-to-kill policy claiming they thought Mr de Menezes was a suicide bomber, when police stopped the car containing Mr Rodney they were not looking for terrorists.

    Armed officers 'hard-stopped' the VW Golf in Hale Lane, Edgware in north London, after cops followed it in what was described as a pre-planned operation. The two other occupants, Wesley Lovell, 26 and Frank Graham, 23, were arrested and are each facing four charges of carrying guns and ammunition. No shots were fired at police during the incident. Mr Rodney's mother, Susan Alexander, told Blink that her sports-fanatic son was a friendly and popular young man whose dreams of being a top footballer were shattered by a serious hip injury at 15. Mr Rodney, who won a host of medals in amateur football, even played in midfield for the Metropolitan Police soccer team and was known on and off the pitch as 'speedy' for his pace. Ms Alexander wrote to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair a month ago demanding the suspension of the SO19 officer who killed her son but his reply did not address that question.

    The officer remains at work but has been moved to desk duties while the Independent Police Complaints Commission carry out an investigation. Ms Alexander said: "Friends and family are devastated and cannot understand what has happened to Azelle. We just want some answers. We, as a family, are still in shock. "I won't be able to grieve properly until some action is taken and to suspend that officer would be a sign that something is happening and that the authorities are taking responsibility. "No mother ever imagines their child dying before them. No mother expects to bury her son. All I want is the justice that he deserves so he can rest in peace." Deborah Coles, co-director of campaign group Inquest, said: "We have grave concerns about the increasing number of fatal shootings by police. "Since 2000 there have been fourteen fatalpolice shootings, three of which have been black men. This deeply controversial death once again raises serious questions about the disproportionate number of young black men who die following the use of force by police."
    ©The Black Information Link

    8/9/2005- In the aftermath of the July bomb attacks in London, senior politicians are now warning that EU citizens will have to accept curbs on their civil liberties in the fight against terrorism. Addressing the European Parliament on Wednesday (7 September), UK home secretary Charles Clarke said the 50-year old European Convention on Human Rights had to be reviewed. "European Union states may have to accept an erosion of some civil liberties if their citizens are to be protected from organised crime and terrorism", said Mr Clarke. "The reality of the convention's founding fathers is different from that of today", he stated in his opening address. Mr Clarke said citizens' right to privacy had to balanced with their right to be protected from terrorism, and that the convention was imbalanced - in favour of the terrorist. The British politician said that the results of the French and the Dutch referendums on the EU constitution before the summer were proof that the citizens of Europe feel that the EU is doing far to little to tackle problems to do with terrorism, organised crime and asylum. His comments received a mixed response from MEPs. UK liberal MEP Graham Watson said that he welcomed the commitment to fight terrorism, but added the fight could never be at the cost of human rights. "We do not agree ... that the human rights of the victims are more important than the human rights of the terrorists." "Human Rights are indivisible. Freedom and security are not alternatives, they go hand in hand", he stated. Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, on the other hand, said that the EU must use new technologies available to track down terrorists "otherwise the terrorists will be ahead of us like they have in the past, in crime and violence", he said.

    Controversial data retention law
    One of the central planks of the UK's anti-terror measures will be discussed by justice ministers on Thursday (8 September) involves a data retention law, which calls for increased surveillance of electronic data, such as phone calls and emails. This particular proposal has caused huge friction between member states and several MEPs, who fear an erosion of individuals' privacy. But yesterday, Mr Clarke again called for more "effective and intelligent" use of intelligence in deep collaboration between member states urging pan-EU harmonisation on data retention rules. The home secretary said he hoped to see the new legislation and anti-terror measures in place by early 2007.

    'Nationalism, identity and conflict resolution'

    7/9/2005- In the end of August 2005 the annual summer school of the network of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly under the title "Nationalism, identity and conflict resolution" took place. The choice of the summer school venue has been symbolic - on left bank of the river Dniestr in the village Kochiery close to the Transnistrian town Dubossary, where military actions occured in 1992. The collapse of the Berlin Wall and the new global political context this created gave rise to a new peace movement called the "Helsinki Citizens' Assembly". From October 19th to 22nd 1990, peace activists from all parts of Europe (chaired by Vaclav Havel, then president of Czechoslovakia) held a meeting. They agreed on the "Prague Appeal" and founded the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly as a permanent forum, within which peace and civic groups, as well as individuals and institutions representing a broad spectrum of views, could exchange experiences, discuss common concerns and formulate joint campaigns and strategies. Today the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly (hCa) is one of the largest non-governmental peace-making organizations in Europe. In Moldova hCa operates since 1993 and on its account there are many peace-making, human rights and antiracist actions including the first round tables discussions on the Transnistrian conflict resolution with participation of politicians, legal experts and representatives of the Council of Europe and OSCE in 1993-1994. hCa in Moldova also publishes multilingual antiracist magazine "Collage" oriented mainly on young people.

    This time the meeting has gathered old members of hCa, famous peace and political activists, such as Bernard Dreano, co-founder and co-chair of hCa (France) and Natalia Belitser, co-founder of hCa (Ukraine), also the representatives of hCa offices in Moldova, France, republics of South Caucasus, Turkey, etc. This summer school has gathered young activists of hCa branches and their partner organizations from 14 countries - from Tunis to Turkey. Moldova has been presented by 25 young activists in the meeting. And, as it was mentioned by Natalia Sineaeva-Pankowska, one of the main representatives of hCa in Moldova and coordinator of the summer school, for the first time in history Moldova has been presented in all its diversity, without any ?onoethnic preferences as it usually happens at the conferences in the former Soviet republics. Activists from Gagauzia and Transnistria, representatives of Jewish, African, Bulgarian and Roma communities contributed to the summer school. The most important is that all them participated on an equal basis, as citizens of the republic of Moldova. Annual summer schools not only help to train young activists of the movement, but also promote its development.

    This summer school included a more regional focus on Eastern Europe and participants discussed the topics of possibilities of peaceful resolution of frozen conflicts, including the Transnistrian conflict, positive and negative aspects of recent ‘revolutions' in Eastern Europe, a problem of growth of antisemitism and xenophobia in Europe, rights of Roma and other minorities in Eastern Europe. Grigory Volovoi, the editor of the "Novaya gazeta" (the only independent newspaper in Transnistria) from Bendery shared the memories of events of 1992 and presented his book "Bloody summer in Bendery ". Special attention has been paid to the issue of history teaching at the special session of the summer school "History as a cause of conflicts in Europe". It is widely recognized that teaching of history should contribute to interethnic tolerance and respect not only for one's own nation, but also for the others'. Unfortunately, in Eastern Europe such approach has not been developed yet and history textbooks quite often use ‘hate speech' and ‘enemy' images.

    The Moldovan participants noted the necessity of introduction of the course of integrated history of Moldova which should develop respect for both the Moldovan state and for other countries among the young, even for the countries with which Moldova once was at war (for example, towards Turkey), towards minorities, living in this territory for centuries. The integrated history course should tell youth about the Catastrophe of Jewish people in this country and the extermination of Roma by the Romanian ally of Hitler Marshal Antonescu during the Second World War. Until nowdays Moldovans learn „History of Romanians" (history of an ethnos) in the schools, from where the representatives of minorities such as Jews are excluded. It is also important to mention that this summer school became historical for the future destiny of hCa, a decision on the revision of the Charter of Assembly in which realities of today should be considered was taken. According to the Polish participant Rafal Pankowski, the ideas of interethnic tolerance should be especially included in the Charter, considering the growth of xenophobia, antisemitism and islamophobia in the world. Participants from Moldova noted at the final session that after bloody events of 1992 people in Moldova have learned to appreciate the value of human life and war will not repeat itself any more. But it is still very important to promote tolerance, especially among youth, and not only on a nongovernmental level.
    ©I CARE News

    7/9/2005– The percentage of immigrants in certain Moscow neighborhoods has risen to the point that many indigenous Russian residents now want to move away, a situation that sociologists sometimes refer to as the „tipping point" and one that may create ethnic ghettos there and generate new support for nationalist and anti-immigrant groups. That is the judgment of Ol'ga Vendina, a specialist on social and political geography in the Russian Academy of Sciences and the author of a book entitled „Ethnic Moscow." And it is one that has lead the Kremlin to consider organizing a new commission to integrate non-Russian ethnic groups there. According to the Russian edition of „Newsweek" this week, President Vladimir Putin will soon form this commission under the chairmanship of Vice Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov. And that body will try to come up with ways to integrate non-Russian migrants into the Russian capital and thus prevent the formation of ghettos. One official told the news weekly that Moscow „needs migrants. But only those," he said, „who will come to Russia forever and can have children. Those who come in that way in the second generation will be converted into Russians. Not Russian by nationality but in the broadest sense." To achieve those goals, he said, the government needs to consider what it must do now and in the future: „how [best] to settle them, how to adapt them, and how to teach their children in order that they will mix together with the indigenous population and not be converted into an isolated society." Those are laudable goals, but the evidence gathered by Vendina and other researchers suggests that the Russian authorities are already behind the curve and that migrants in the Russian capital are ever less interested in such a transformation – all the more so because at least some ethnic Russians do not want them to. Since the late 1980s, the percentage of non-Russians in the Russian capital has risen from 10 percent to 15 percent, according to official statistics which many say understate the number of migrants. But compared to the end of Soviet times, the non-Russian share of the city now consists of people from the Caucasus instead of Jews, Germans, or Balts.

    And the number of such non-Russians in the city is likely to continue to grow regardless of what the authorities do: In 2000, ethnic Russians formed 70 percent of the babies born there, while four years later, they formed only 55 percent, a figure that reflects both ethnic and age structure differences between the indigenous and immigrant populations. But the most important reasons for thinking that Moscow will not be able to assimilate the new arrivals, the experts cited by the Russian weekly, are rooted in the needs of Moscow employers, the attachments of many non-Russians to their national cultures and homelands, and the attitudes of the Russian majority, the Moscow journal reports. For assimilation to happen in the way that the authorities say they would like, Moscow would need to attract the most educated and socially mobile strata from abroad, but in fact, as Vendina points out, employers in Russia and especially in its capital city „now need unqualified workers," precisely the group least likely to adapt to the new situation. Moreover, even though Moscow's housing stock is such that few people are able to move easily, non-Russians there have tended to cluster, on the one hand, because of their dependence on friendships to make their way in what is for many an alien landscape and on the other, because it provides a defense against skinheads and other groups that dislike them.

    The generally lower income levels of non-Russian immigrants and the fact that they typically send as much as half of their earnings home mean that the non-Russians often move into the very poorest neighborhoods, the ones in which housing and other infrastructure is in a particularly bad state. Such residential patterns also help to explain, the Russian experts say, why many ethnic Russians believe that non-Russian migrants are more heavily involved in crime, even though researchers like Emil Pain have demonstrated that widespread assumptions about „ethnic crime" are overstated or just plain wrong. But those views have helped power anti-immigrant actions, sometimes in the form of skinheads and at other times in the form of radical political groups like the Movement Against Illegal Immigration. And both of these developments in turn are leading many non-Russians to conclude that they will do better if they live in ethnic enclaves. As one ethnic Azerbaijani told the Russian edition of „Newsweek," his co-ethnics who live in areas with few other Azerbaijanis are often subject to attacks by such groups, but Azerbaijanis who live together generally can avoid such problems. The skinheads know, he said, that in those places, „we can respond" to any attack. Consequently, „Russian Newsweek" concludes, while „there are still no ghettos" in the Russian capital, „there is already a folklore about them," a clear indication that the Russian capital may soon face precisely the kind of ethnic divisions and their consequences that other cities around the world have long had to cope with.
    ©FSU Monitor

    5/9/2005- In the year since the Beslan tragedy, North Osetian security officials have sought to close down all independent Muslim organizations there, a campaign that has caused at least some members of historically Islamic nationalities to announce their conversion to Orthodox Christianity. Prior to the terrorist attack, 70 percent of the residents of that city considered themselves to be Muslims, according to a report in „Nasha versiya" this week. But now, their number has declined significantly as officials have indicated that they view anyone who „actively practices" Islam as „an enemy". Earlier this year, Taymuraz Kasayev, the North Osetian minister for nationality affairs, said that officials had decided that they must take steps in order to ensure complete „transparency in the work of every social organizaation [and maintain] closer contacts with all religious and national communities." The meaning behind Kasayev's words quickly became clear. A local paper indicated that the authorities planned to shut down the activities of all Muslim groups which were not prepared to subordinate themselves to the government-financed and controlled Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD), a body that in North Osetia is headed by a former policeman. Over the next months, the authorities in Beslan and across North Osetia arrested numerous independent Muslim leaders, sometimes even planting evidence on them and sentencing them to confinement in prison camps. And fearing arrest, other Muslim leaders either stopped preaching in public or fled the republic, „Nasha versiya" reports.

    But this police campaign against „unofficial" Islam – which had been the more dynamic part of the Muslim scene in Beslan as it has been elsewhere – intentionally or not has had the effect of undermining the position of the official Islamic establishment and its followers as well. On the one hand, this campaign led the local authorities to take an even harder line against official mosques. Plans to build a mosque in Beslan appear to have been put on permanent hold. Moreover, republic officials reportedly are considering closing down the main mosque of North Osetia in Vladikavkaz and converting it into a museum of some kind. And on the other, many members of historically Muslim nationalities are having themselves baptized, either as a result of their horror at what the Islamic radicals did at the school or, what is more likely in today's climate, their recognition that being identified as a practicing Muslim in Beslan is potentially dangerous. According to „Nasha versiya," „many children who survived the terrorist act and the parents of those who did not have been baptized despite the fact that earlier they considered themselves to be Muslims. And those residents of Beslan who died -- including Muslims -- have been buried according to Orthodox custom, and none of their relatives has complained." Russian Orthodox priests in Beslan have confirmed this development, Russian news agencies reported this week, with one priest reportedly saying that the number of people seeking baptisms in his parish alone had gone up 500 percent over the year before and in the republic as a whole risen by at least a third.

    Father Vladimir attributed these conversions -- which he said involved many who had been hostages -- to the activities of Bishop Feofan of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz, who took an active role in the hostage crisis and in the treatment of the bereaved and wounded after the authorities ended the standoff. But such conversions, however welcome they may be to the Church, are not the end of the story. Many of these newly baptized may quickly fall away from their new faith. And at least some of those who had been the followers of unofficial or official Islam may now be driven to listen to underground Muslim activists with a more active and more radical message. To the extent that happens – and the experience of Muslims in both Soviet and post-Soviet times suggests this is the most likely outcome – the crushing of Islam in Beslan over the past year may set the stage for more rather than less Islamist radicalism not only there but across the north Caucasus in the future.
    ©FSU Monitor

    The European Roma Rights Centre filed a request on 2 September 2005 for criminal investigation into the continued danger to human life being caused by the placement and retention of approximately 550 Roma people in three camps contaminated by lead poisoning in Northern Mitrovica, Kosovo.

    6/9/2005- In 1999, following the cessation of military action by NATO against Yugoslavia, Roma and others regarded as "Gypsies" in Kosovo were ethnically cleansed by ethnic Albanians. In Mitrovica, while KFOR units looked on, mobs of ethnic Albanians took the Romani quarter to pieces, chased out local inhabitants, and plundered wholesale their possessions. Those Roma who did not escape Kosovo to other countries or to rump Serbia and Montenegro were placed in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP), Chesmin Lug, Kablare and Zitkovac. At the time, this arrangement was purportedly supposed to last for 45 days. It was known at the time that these camps were in toxic areas, situated near the tailings of the Trepca mine complex. More than 6 years later, the Roma concerned are still living at the contaminated sites. In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) undertook a report on the issue, noting extremely high levels of lead in the bloodstreams of a number of camp residents. The WHO recommended to UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) officials, that the Roma be immediately evacuated. No action was taken. In July 2004, WHO again tested a number of persons and subsequently stated that there was now a medical emergency and recommended immediate evacuation. In spite of a number of expressions of goodwill by UNMIK officials, the Roma are still there today. At least one death - that of Dzenita Mehmeti, a 2-year-old child -- can be directly attributed to the lead contamination. The deaths of several other persons living in the camps may also have been caused by toxicity arising from heavy metals in the camps. The health consequences of lead poisoning are irreversible, and the harms suffered by the remaining several hundred camp inhabitants mount daily. The original placement and retention of the Roma in this extremely dangerous environment implicate Kosovos criminal law.

    The complaint filed by the ERRC under Article 291(5) of the Provisional Criminal Code of Kosovo asks for the general prosecutor to identify any culpable persons and to bring criminal charges against them. If the perpetrators are international personnel who have immunity, then immunity must be lifted in order to bring justice to those who have suffered from these criminal acts.
    Further information
    A copy of the complaint
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    8/9/2005- Uefa are ready to act against the growing blight of racism in European football. Lennart Johansson, president of Uefa, told me: "We are concerned about racism particularly in Bulgaria and Romania." In Romania the situation is so alarming that the authorities have asked Uefa to step in and control blatant displays of racism during matches. This includes 40-metre high banners proclaiming "Jews and crows [gypsies] out of Romania" and spectators coming to the ground carrying large portraits of Hitler, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the pre-war leader of the fascist Iron Guard, and General Ion Antonescu, the wartime leader of Romania who allied his country with the Nazis. William Gaillard, Uefa director of communications, said: "It is a very serious problem. We have told the authorities we cannot do anything in their domestic league matches but we will not allow it in our Uefa club competitions." Steaua Bucharest have experienced ugly scenes and Uefa are appealing against the apparent leniency of a 16,000 (£10,800) fine imposed on the club for racist behaviour by their fans during a match with Shelbourne. Greek MEP Manolis Mavromatis has urged Uefa to use televised Champions League matches to broadcast anti-racist messages. Meanwhile, at the weekend, Johansson was subject to an extraordinary attack by the Bulgarian coach Hristo Stoichkov following Bulgaria's 3-0 loss to Sweden in a World Cup qualifier in Solna, Johansson's home town. Stoichkov said: "Johansson could not wait until the end of the game and walked out at 2-0, when it was all clear. He showed to the whole world once again that he does not love soccer. He is just interested in how to make more money." According to Swedish newspapers, Stoichkov also made comments to Bulgarian media strongly suggesting that Johansson had influenced Sweden's qualifying results. In fact, Johansson left early to escort his wife out of the stadium ahead of the rest of the crowd. His wife walks with the aid of crutches. Johansson said: "I get pretty angry that a man in his position can make statements like this. It's sad. We're dealing with a very unskilled leader and careless man." The Bulgarian Football Union have apologised and Fifa are to hold an inquiry into the Stoichkov incident.
    ©Daily Telegraph

    7/9/2005- The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has sent a letter to Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu urging him to take action against a recent outburst of racist speech in Romanian media. The recent announcement by the European Court of Human Rights of two judgments concerning the 1993 pogrom in the village of Hadareni, and subsequent measures by the authorities taken against the perpetrators of the pogrom, have been seized upon as an opportunity by a number of politicians and journalists to launch verbal attacks against Roma in Romania, significantly degrading the public space.

    The European Court of Human Rights ruled twice in July in connection with the 1993 pogrom in the village of Hadareni, Mures County, central Romania, and its aftermath. The case involved the killing by a mob of three Romani men and the subsequent destruction of fourteen Romani houses in Hadareni, as well as the degrading circumstances in which the victims were forced to live after the event. The Court issued two decisions on the matter in July, the first affirming a friendly settlement between the Romanian government and 18 surviving victims of the pogrom, and the second finding Romania in violation of multiple provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and awarding damages to 7 victims who had declined amicable settlement. Following the ruling, and in the wake of measures by authorities to seize property belonging to the perpetrators of the pogrom in order to award damages to victims, prominent public figures have spoken out to provoke, reinforce and incite popular anti-Romani sentiment. Major media outlets have provided such persons with space to air their views. The ERRC letter calls the particular attention of Prime Minister Tariceanu to one very extreme example of anti-Romani hate speech undertaken by the prominent politician Mr. Corneliu Vadim Tudor, and currently still available to the public on an Internet website. In the letter sent, the ERRC also urges Prime Minister Tariceanu to ensure that the Romanian Government takes all necessary measures to provide full redress to the victims of the pogrom, as well as to swiftly prosecute those persons responsible for inciting and participating in the pogrom who have not yet been brought to justice. The latter category includes a number of police officers. The ERRC also urges that legal action be brought against those authorities responsible for the deficiencies of the criminal investigations in the 1993 events as found in the judgments by the European Court of Human Rights. Finally, the ERRC letter notes the detailed commitments undertaken by the Romanian government as part of the friendly settlement decision to alleviate the very extreme conditions of the Roma in Mures County, as well as to dampen the very high levels of hatred against Roma there. The letter urges Prime Minister Tariceanu to take an active role in supervising the measures set out in the friendly settlement decision.

    In related development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied accusations by the head of the Human Rights Office at Pro Europe League, Istvan Haller, who said the ministry had tried to become involved in the Hadareni Roma discrimination case the night before the 1994 judgement in Romania.. According to Haller, since Romania ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in May 1994, the ECHR Court ruling had stipulated that the damages for the Roma community in Hadareni should be paid from then until the present time, because ECHR articles had not been respected. "Internal rulings refer strictly to what had happened in September 1993," said Haller, adding that it is a grave abuse for a ministry to become involved in the act of justice and to suggest to a court what ruling to give. "We can clearly show that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs used its power to intervene in this case," said Haller, explaining that he had talked to international lawyers who confirmed that both the ruling in Romania and the ruling of the ECHR are applicable. The head of the prefect's office in Mures, Marius Ichim, denied that there had been interference in the case, saying he had talked to the Ludus Court (where the case was first heard) whose judges said they never received a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, suggesting to them how to handle the trial.

    7/9/2005- Although racial discrimination is a crime in Austria, the owner of the tourist campsite in Tassenbach posted a sign last August reading "No Gypsies Allowed". This sign was intended to inform his customers that Roma people are not welcomed at his campsite. Camp owner Johann Weiser justified his actions by explaining that if he accepts Roma in his campsite, his camp will be rated poorly by camping guidebooks. Mr Weiser alleged that the guidebooks Dutch Publishing House and German Club for Motorists have previously degraded his camp for accepting campers who are in fact not campers at all. Mr Weiser has recently removed the sign from his camp and is in danger of receiving a penalty for racial discrimination. The Zara association for fighting racism was informed about the case at the beginning of this week. The case in Tassenbach is the most recent in a series of similar instances of discrimination against Roma by accomodation providers throughout Europe. Further evidence of racial discrimination against Roma in Europe is stated by Sweden's English Newspaper, The Local. An investigation by Swedish Radio's Ekot programme has revealed that Roma people with Swedish citizenship face discrimination at the country's campsites. Of 20 camp sites called by Ekot, 10 said they did not allow Roma guests. The programme called a couple of campsites to establish whether or not there were places free. Ten minutes later, the producers sent a Roma family to the site. In both cases they were refused entry. Sweden's Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination has already identified people of Roma origins as common targets of discrimination in Swedish society. Indeed, DO is already investigating five cases where Roma Swedes have reported camp sites. "It makes me sad and concerned," Keith Palmroth told The Local, himself of Roma origin, at the anti-discrimination office in Gothenburg. "Now you see the truth in black and white, that it is actually the case that Roma do not have a place in society on the same terms as everyone else." Keith Palmroth concisely states the contemporary condition of Roma throughout Europe.
    ©Dzeno Association

    History marches on at SNP ceremonies
    By Beata Balogová

    5/9/2005- This year, the local media gave considerable space to the August 29 state holiday commemorating the Slovak National Uprising (SNP), the day when Slovaks turned against the pro-Nazi regime of Jozef Tiso. However, the media lavished most of its attention not on the significance of the event, but rather on an extremist group using the anniversary to promote its xenophobic and racist attitudes. There are differing opinions on whether the nation should continue celebrating the SNP. For example, the Communist Party has co-opted the SNP for its own purposes, recasting it as an armed rebellion by anti-fascist party members. In fact historians point out that many of those involved in the anti-fascist resistance movement suffered greatly under the Communist regime because they refused to yield to another flavour of totalitarian regime.

    The gathering of about 300 people in Bratislava to commemorate the SNP's 61st anniversary apparently offered few tasty sound bites to Slovakia's media. Coverage of the various meetings and speeches given by celebratory participants was meagre. Obviously, in the center of attention was the Slovenská pospolitost, an extreme right-wing group, now registered with the Interior Ministry as a valid political party. Pospolitost marched through the streets of Banská Bystrica and Zvolen carrying torches and dressed in dark blue uniforms decorated with symbols resembling those of the wartime fascist Slovak state. About 50 members of the so-called "skinhead" movement joined the group's procession. Pospolitost made no effort to hide its sympathy for Slovakia's wartime state and Tiso's Nazi puppet government. Some party members presented the opinion that German forces entered Slovakia in 1944 to clean the country of criminals and partisans. Though the group rejects being described as sympathetic to fascism, they call the boss of the group "leader" (essentially "fuhrer" in Slovak) and shout slogans typical for Hlinka's guards, the anti-Semitic militia that enforced the policies of Tiso's government. The "leader", Marian Kotleba, said that the SNP initiated the end of the Slovak Republic (1939-45). "This is the responsibility of several renegades who organised this putsch. The president of the Slovak Republic, Dr Jozef Tiso, has been the only Slovak president," Kotleba added.

    The group imprinted itself in the minds of the public earlier this year when, dressed in the same uniforms, celebrated the anniversary of the rise of the fascist wartime state. Precisely at this time, the world was grieving over the victims of the Holocaust on the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz. As leader of the wartime state, Roman Catholic priest Jozef Tiso and his government largely excluded Jews from public life, basing his decision on the Nuremberg Decrees of 1935. Slovakia was the only Nazi collaboration state that covered the deportation costs of its own Jews. While Pospolitost toasted the rise of the Slovak fascist state, debate opened up on whether these young people could be criminally prosecuted for dressing in uniforms resembling Hlinka's guards. The police's answer was no; the uniforms were not exact matches to those worn by the Hlinka militia. Activists with the People Against Racism filed a complaint with the Interior Ministry and called for the dissolution of the group based on the torch marches in Banská Bystrica and Zvolen. Some historians and political analysts say that registering the party was a mistake on the ministry's part, as Pospolitost conducts activities based on the oppression of human rights and freedoms. The ministry says it registered the party on January 18 as it met requirements set by the law. However, based on the appeal of the People Against Racism, the Prosecutor General is taking a look at the party's registration file. Some state officials expressed disappointment that the party is registered, but they have not done anything concrete about it. So far no political party has been banned in Slovakia. Parties have filed complaints against other parties in an attempt to ban them, but to no end. For example, the Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS) has tried several times to ban the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK).

    Slovak law states that the Interior Ministry must reject the registration of any political party that could potentially restrict personal, political or other freedoms of citizens. It must also reject a party involved in illegal activities. Pospolitost's programme could hardly be called democratic or peace loving. It calls for the dissolution of parliamentary democracy, the ban of churches and the reduction of the influence of minorities. The party even supports the acquisition of a "weapon system of high destructive power with the possibility of liquidating the enemy on its own territory," the daily SME reported. What many find shocking is that the "leader" is a high school teacher. His colleagues told the press that they had no idea what Marian Kotleba was advocating, even though he taught at the school for four years. After the latest pospolitost march the director of the school said he was shocked. He added that the "leader" did not demonstrate discrimination against the Roma, Jews or Hungarians at the school. Though pospolitost is a small group with limited influence, many say authorities need to take a closer look at the activities of the group. According to historian Ivan Kamenec, Pospolitost is "an extreme right-wing nationalistic movement with an ideologically clear fascist tendency". The group openly declares its sympathies towards the wartime fascist Slovak state and its representatives. Yet Kamenec touches on one of the sorest parts of Slovak history and highlights Slovakia's refusal to take full responsibility for that segment of its history. All that is fine for the young party members. They seem to care little about history and truth telling. The march is an opportunity for them to demonstrate their hate and aggression towards anyone who they neither know nor comprehend.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    General elections are less than two weeks off. Neo-Nazi parties have practically no chance of exceeding the five percent clause to get into parliament, but nevertheless the fight against the right goes on.

    6/9/2005- In the small Brandenburg hamlet of Altlandsberg, Ravindra Gujjula has taken on the task of fighting radicals from the right-wing scene. But then, that's partly his job. Born in India, Gujjula is now the mayor of Altlandsberg, and the head of the anti-right club "Brandenburg against rightists." Gujjula is aware that he sticks out in the eastern German village he governs, but he keeps a cool head to counteract the xenophobic rhetoric of the local adolescents. "Did you know that 7,000 foreign computer specialists with German green cards, created 33,000 new jobs for Germans within six months?" he frequently asks young people in the region. Gujjula told the Märkische Oderzeitung that the club concentrates on getting the message against neo-Nazism out to youths between the ages of 14 to 17. To help, he decided to use the same medium often employed by neo-Nazis to reach disenchanted youths -- music. Together with prominent German rock bands, Gujjula has produced a CD called "Hörbar tolerant" (Audibly tolerant). "Lots of the kids just make foolhardy, far-rightist comments without understanding what they say. We have to convince them that that is nonsense. We can't ostracize them otherwise we'll lose them to the rightist scene," the 50-year-old said.

    National politicians concerned
    The increasing confidence of violence-prone rightists has become a source of great discomfort to parliamentary president and Social Democratic vice-chairman Wolfgang Thierse. He has never shied away from confrontation but what he has witnessed at some campaign stops in the east has troubled him. Radicals are speaking more aggressively and skillfully without restraint. "Fortunately lots of people, and I'd like to point out many young people in our country, have the courage to stand up to the far-right scene. Even to the point that they risk being beaten up or attacked. It is imperative that we support and encourage them," Thierse said. In some parts of Eastern Germany, the radical right is a part of everyday life. Since 2001, the federal government has supported some 4,000 projects with a total of 154 million euros ($192 millio) to counteract the ever-increasing acceptance of neo-Nazis in mainstream society.

    Not just a protest vote
    To ensure the success of these projects, a network of groups and individuals is being established to stand up to the rising trend. The success of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) in Saxon state elections last autumn, for example, can't be considered a mere protest or manifestation of youthful angst. One in five 18-to-25 year olds voted NPD then. "Studies have shown that many first-time voters have internalized right-wing attitudes. Politicians were asleep while extremists cultivated young people systematically with music, youth clubs and activities," Thierse criticized. The sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer has pointed out that more and more people are accepting the right-wing mentality as normal. "There is a rise in the population as a whole, particularly in when it comes to sensitive things like xenophobia. It's less among youths than among older people," Heitmeyer said, warning that right-wing extremism shouldn't be considered a problem solely amongst adolescents. Meanwhile, Ravindra Gujjula's group has distributed over 16,000 of 20,000 "Hörbar tolerant!" CDs to the under-20 set, in the hope of turning their ears away from the hate-filled rhetoric of the far-right.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    2/9/2005- The EU has announced a major package of proposals aimed at harmonising member state rules on illegal immigration and the returning of failed asylum seekers. Presenting the proposals on Thursday (1 September), EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini said that the EU needed "coherent, efficient and credible" common EU-standards immigration and asylum rules. In order to bring 'asylum shopping' and illegal immigration to an end, the commission called upon member states to adopt stricter common rules governing the return of illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers to their home countries. At the moment sharp differences in national legislation encourage immigrants to move from one EU country to another to seek the safest haven. The proposals would see a Europe-wide ban placed on any illegal immigrant convicted of terrorist acts or judged a threat to national and public security from entering a member state for a minimum of five years.

    Expelling illegal immigrants
    But they would also ensure that illegal immigrants could only be kept in custody for six months. Immigrants would also have the right to appeal against decisions to expel them. The commission underlined the principle of voluntary return by establishing a general rule that a "period for departure" should normally be granted. After this period, a removal order should be issued and executed. "People who reside illegally in Europe should be sent back to their countries of origin", Mr Frattini said, and presented figures showing that out of the 650,000 illegal immigrants who were ordered to leave last year, two-thirds of them avoided expulsion and stayed in the union. The commissioner said that the measures were a "balanced" initiative that guaranteed illegal immigrants legal entity, while at the same time counteracting the "popular scepticism" which can feed extremist anti-immigration movements across Europe. He underlined that the EU did not equate illegal immigration with terrorism, and that the proposed measures were not drawn up to combat terrorism, although he believed they could become useful for member states when dealing with terrorism.

    Oath of allegiance
    Raising concern over extremist groups and undemocratic view amongst immigrant groups across Europe, the commissioner also suggested that immigrants swear an oath "of faithfulness" to European values. "One can get every immigrant to somehow declare they will respect national law, EU law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights," he said, and referred to a French chart that immigrants are asked to support, as a model for an EU loyalty vow. "I personally feel it is something worth exploring at European level", he said. Reactions to the proposals have been diverse. Eurosceptics ridiculed the idea. Mike Nattrass, deputy leader of UKIP said that the idea was absurd. "An allegiance to something with no single culture, no agreed history, no common language and packed with fraud and corruption? The EU must be joking". Meanwhile, a coalition of NGOs, among them Amnesty International Europe, Caritas Europa, Human Rights Watch and Jesuit refugee Service Europe, expressed serious concern about the plans to expel illegal immigrants. "Detention of irregular migrants should not be a systematic part of any common asylum policy in Europe: alternatives to detention should always be the absolute exception and last resort, and persons belonging to vulnerable categories should never be detained", the coalition announced. A British government source told UK daily The Guardian that Britain was likely to oppose one of the key proposals yesterday - that temporary custody under immigration laws should not last longer than six months. Of the 2,155 people detained under Immigration Act powers in Britain, 195 have been detained for six months or more. Of these, 140 are failed asylum seekers Britain is also likely to be opposed an "oath of faithfulness". "I do not think that we would see any particular need for anything at EU level on this. We have our own citizenship system and that is how it should be", the government official said.

    OOPS! WE FORGOT THE NIGGERS [AGAIN]!(usa, opinion)
    "When I interviewed a survivor of the Rwandan genocide a few years back, she placed the lack of world response to her people's suffering in a context of world racism. "We are Black and we have no oil", she stated, as a way of explaining the indifference to the deaths of one million people in only ten weeks (100 people every twenty minutes, as the Hutu supremacist militias boasted they would do, before they even began)."
    By Frank M. Afflitto, Ph.D , is proud to be a Muslim revert and university professor. He specializes in research on war crimes and victimized civilians' perceptions of justice. He contributed this article to Media Monitors Network (MMN).

    3/9/2005- The United States government has, once again, manifested its massive, chronic insensitivity to the plight of the poor, disenfranchised and descendants of African slaves, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The same administration which purports to uphold the sanctity of life in the womb has been the perpetrator of massive losses of life in Iraq, a fact well-known to all, whether one supports or detracts from such a policy. Now, however, the US cannot explain away its neo-genocidal policies of lack of prevention, indifference to needed pre-storm evacuation (it should have been forced at gunpoint if necessary) nor indifference to timely and adequate relief efforts, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, by attributing its policies to its mythical "war on terror".

    While the Federal government has participated in and orchestrated massive international airlifts, such as the Berlin airlift during the Cold War, apparently persons of African descent do not need rescue. Heck, park rangers in my home state of Massachusetts would air-drop bales of hay to starving deer in the snow-covered winter. While the word is not to be used in polite Euro-descendant company, (in front of African Americans anyway), persons of African descent in the United States are still "niggers" - worthless, chump change, pieces of flesh who do not merit respect nor courtesy nor the satisfaction of minimum and dignified needs, not even as victims of a man-made disaster termed "natural". I read an article by a U.S. scientist less than six months ago, in which he detailed the archaic and decrepit state of the New Orleans levee system. In that article, the author aptly predicted the disaster which occurred in New Orleans in the wake of the rainfall brought by Hurrican Katrina, stating that even a tropical storm or moderate hurricane could have caused such a disaster, never mind a Category Five. I could not believe that I was seeing this with my own eyes, several months later, having been blessed with only a Category One experience here in South Florida. But putting what has occurred and is occurring in Louisiana in the context of U.S. history and racism, and chalking it up to the fact that the niggers in New Orleans are Black, even though they do have oil, I painfully understand. In this light, it is still crushingly heart-breaking but not difficult to comprehend this man-made /government-made disaster and how the warning signs were ignored when prevention would have been feasible and effective.

    Who were those who stayed behind and what resources did they have? While no scientific study has yet been done, I am going to add my (hopefully) educated two cents to the mix - mainly African American, mainly poor, many living in the projects or economically blighted neighborhoods, many who receive government assistance or are employed in low-wage positions - this means many persons who are unable to afford the stockpiling of flashlights, batteries, gallons of water, radios, canned goods, medicines and other products in their homes necessary to prepare for such a disaster. This, because they are forced to live week to week and month to month by an indifferent government and an indifferent money-hungry market system which could not even send enough buses and enough muscle to evacuate completely the city so that people would have lost homes, not lives; so that people would never have had to hear their children yelling "Daddy, I am so thirsty"; so that no woman would be gang-raped by groups of drunken psychopaths; so that no father would be shot trying to protect his babies' gallon of water. Black America - my heart grieves for you... your sons and daughters are still sent to kill and die in rich people's wars, so many of you have been felonized and cannot even vote for the president who will send your sons and daughters here and there to those wars, you still live in the poorest most decrepit housing in urban America, your children still go to the worst schools in urban America, and despite the token Colin Powell's and Condoleeza Rice's in high office, you are still largely expected to be janitors instead of CEO's or surgeons.

    Slavery was abolished on paper, but the lives of the people I live and work with, who are called "Black" instead of just "human", are enmeshed in a slavery of poverty, thwarted hopes and official disrespect. How I pray that for each and every child who suffered, for each and every woman raped due to man-made insecurity, for each and every dead Black body, a law suit against the White House will be filed, along with a call for impeachment of the current President of the United States of America.
    ©Media Monitors Network

    New York churches leader Dr Calvin Butts says if Katrina had hit middle-class white areas, the relief effort would have been quicker, better planned and more effective
    Interview by David Smith, 4/9/2005

    'President Bush is not a strong leader. There's something wrong with him and it comes from two places. First, a lack of concern for poor people, and certainly poor black people. Second, like his father, he's probably not even aware that these people exist. Even if he knew they existed and even if he were concerned, I'm not sure [he would know] what to do, whom to call. If this hurricane had struck a white, middle-class neighbourhood in the north-east or the south-west, his response would have been a lot stronger and I think he would have had more of those people around him who are supposed to know what to do moving a lot more quickly. If you can call Dick Cheney and say: "We're going to Iraq", and Cheney can say: "I can get Halliburton - for the right amount of money of course" and we can move thousands of troops in there overnight and get them set up so we can wage an offensive thousands of miles away in the desert, you mean to tell me that there aren't people there who could say: "We know how to solve this, Mr President; we'll help you"?

    The response to 9/11 was strong and immediate and people knew what to do, and the recovery, except for the redevelopment of the property, has been nothing short of miraculous. And now look at this and you can see the stark difference. In New Orleans, there was a criminal lack of preparation. We have known about the weakness of the levee for a long time; we've known that hurricanes would increase in number and intensity for a long time; we knew this hurricane would gain strength after it passed the east coast of Florida and moved across Florida to the west coast and then into the Gulf; we knew that evacuations should have come a lot earlier; we knew that New Orleans is below sea level. The population in those areas most vulnerable is poor and largely black, and race and class are huge issues since the conservative takeover of US politics. The urban policy of this administration is terrible, but this has been going on for a long time, so it's not just this particular Bush. It's the conservative backlash we have witnessed maybe since Nixon, or certainly Reagan. This president is just the stark epitome of it all.

    Racism had become subtle and amorphous. You'd hear about it in the law suits, you'd see it in the change of the judges, you'd see it in the backlash against affirmative action. It was cloaked under Clarence Thomas and upfront people, puppets like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, who hide a multitude of sins in the administration, but black people were catching big hell, and poor people were catching big hell. This dramatises it, this lifts it up and says: "See? There were many of us who've been trying to say, this is the reality." The last person who was able to really lift us out of the trickbag of race was Martin Luther King. He said: "Look, poor black people and poor white people, we're all catching hell, so let's get together in this poor people's campaign and march up to our government and say you can no longer fool us by turning us on each other with race." I am shocked and I am not shocked by what is happening now. It is instructive to a lot of people that we really have not been concerned about the poor and certainly about the blacks in this nation. When you look at who is in control of the politics, when you look at who the appeal has been to from the conservatives, you see that whole racial element coming up again. Louisiana is pulling the sheath off the nation.'

  • Dr Calvin Butts is pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City and president of the Council of Churches of the City of New York. He has led boycotts against several New York institutions for their perceived racist policies and employment discrimination, including a successful campaign against negative billboard advertising in central Harlem. He has received more than 1,000 honours and commendations.
    ©The Observer

    The latest natural disaster to hit the Gulf Coast has a message for the entire U.S.
    By Joe Klein

    4/9/2005- As the floodwaters rose in New Orleans last week, a group called Columbia Christians for Life announced that it had discerned God's purpose in the storm: the destruction of the five abortion clinics in the city. The proof was a radar photograph showing that the hurricane "looks like a fetus facing to the left (west) in the womb, in the early weeks of gestation." A photo of a 6-week fetus was helpfully provided for comparison. At the other end of the political spectrum, environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was blaming the hurricane on ... Haley Barbour, the Governor of Mississippi, who played a "central role ... derailing the Kyoto Protocol" on global warming. Kennedy's larger point was defensible—global warming may well cause extreme weather patterns—but the implication that one man and one (flawed) treaty might have prevented this storm seemed a bit much.

    Foolish reactions are inevitable in moments of disaster. But in the primal enormity of the Gulf Coast tragedy, these two risible and annoying responses almost seemed to have a purpose. They were a reminder of our vestigial selves, of how humankind has rationalized catastrophe through most of its history. The whims of nature were either God's will or our fault. Happily, the two institutions that arose from these explanations—religion and government—proved to be civilizing impulses. Religion provided the moral basis for human interaction; government provided the forum for common action against external threats.

    The aftermath of the hurricane brought these rudiments of humanity to mind. It was a case study in why societies exist—which may be the one good thing to emerge from this mess. We have grown accustomed to best-case scenarios in the U.S.; we have come to assume that we will always have electricity and fresh water and an endless pipeline of goods and services. We assume that we can always control our fate, that we are exempt from chaos, and that governance is a necessary evil rather than an essential good, the ultimate civilized defense against the rudeness of nature.

    The Chinese believe that natural disasters signal the fall of empires, a shift in the "Mandate of Heaven." The 1976 Tangshan earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, for example, was said to portend the end of Mao's reign. This may be akin to seeing a fetus in the shape of a hurricane, but the Chinese do have a point: we have had two catastrophes in the past four years—9/11 and Katrina—and taken together, they send a signal that America's remarkable late-20th century run may not be perpetual. Modifications in the way we live may be necessary. Certainly, the terrorist attacks have changed little things, like the way we ride airplanes, and profound things, like the basic assumptions of American foreign policy. And now there is New Orleans, which, at the very least, should spark a reconsideration of what has become a casual disdain for the essentials of governance and our common public life.

    There was, last week, an immediate and furious debate about the racial implications of the tragedy, since most of the victims we saw on television were poor and black. There were recriminations about the lack of preparedness for the disaster, the corroded infrastructure, the mind-boggling swiftness of a city's collapse into anarchy. But those arguments can be neatly folded into a larger discussion about the radical turn toward what is inaccurately described as "conservatism" that American politics took in the late 20th century. There were good reasons for the turn: a new understanding of the inefficiencies of socialism and initiative-stifling government bureaucracies. But there were terrible reasons as well. Starting in the 1960s, Republicans exploited Southern opposition to integration, as the G.O.P. National Committee chairman, Ken Mehlman, recently admitted. This implicit racism evolved into a tacit unwillingness to rethink problems of poverty and race—an unwillingness shared by Democrats, who clung to old bureaucratic solutions and cosmetic remedies like affirmative action—and worse, to the denigration of a basic governmental role: the need to plan for the future, to anticipate crises. The new philosophy of governance was stated most crudely in 1987 by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: "There is no such thing as society ... There are individual men and women, and there are families."

    There was no such thing as society in New Orleans last week.

    Government cannot prevent hurricanes, of course, but the prevailing haplessness reflected 25 years of distorted priorities. In a civilized community, there is a need for collective thinking and preparation—not just for immediate risks like a natural catastrophe but also for more abstract concerns like the environmental issues that worry Robert Kennedy, as well as for eternal problems like poverty. Having celebrated our individuality to a fault for half a century, we now should pay greater attention to the common weal. As Kennedy's uncle said in his 1961 Inaugural Address, "Here on earth God's work must truly be our own."
    ©Time Magazine

    Bishop blasts slow response to hurricane; donations pour in

    5/9/2005- In an emotionally charged Sunday service, Bishop Larry Trotter of Sweet Holy Spirit Church on Chicago's South Side tied the slowness of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts to racism, contending that when it comes to aiding African-Americans, the only people they can count on for help is themselves. "We have got to come to the rescue of our own people," Trotter said. "I've learned that nobody is going to take care of us but us." Five trucks loaded with water and supplies donated by parishioners from Sweet Holy Spirit and other churches were scheduled to depart for Mandeville, La., on Sunday night, bringing the total number of trucks filled with goods from Chicago-area black churches to 12, Trotter said. Relief efforts poured in from churches throughout the area. On Chicago's West Side, New Mt. Pilgrim Church loaded supplies for three churches in Covington, La. New Life Community Church on the Southwest Side gathered supplies totake to Ocean Springs, Miss., and volunteers from Amor de Dios United Methodist Church in Little Village left for New Orleans with goods Sunday.

    Meanwhile, the Islamic Society of North America, meeting in Chicago for its annual convention, announced a pledge to raise $10 million in humanitarian relief for hurricane survivors. In his homily Sunday in St. Sabina Catholic Church on the South Side, Rev. Michael Pfleger echoed Trotter, saying racism was to blame for the government's slow reaction time to the tragedy. "It is a shame when people last week died in the richest country in the world because they couldn't find clean water," Pfleger said. "What an embarrassment to our society. We have learned to save the whales, exotic birds. ... But we still let people die." At a special service dedicated to Hurricane Katrina survivors, Trotter delivered a sermon that arched from anger to redemption to forgiveness. He cited other events in the last week involving prominent citizens in the African-American community and said the delayed response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster was one more sign of the country's racial prejudice. He pointed out the sentencing of former Bishop William Ellis to 18 months in federal prison for stealing from collections at his Far South Side church. He also mentioned the Chicago Police Department's ruling that state Sen. James Meeks was not a victim of racial profiling during a July incident where a white police officer pointed a gun at him. "It is clear that racism is alive all over America," Trotter said.

    Then he lambasted President Bush and the federal government's response in helping those stranded by the hurricane, the majority of whom are black and poor, especially since the country's response for international disasters, such as the tsunami relief effort in Asia, were assembled more quickly. "Had it been NYU instead of Tulane? Had it been Yale? They would have got the folks out of there by Monday," Trotter said. He also criticized officials who made statements following the disaster. "When the stupid man from FEMA got up on TV and said, `Why didn't they evacuate?'" Trotter said. "Don't you understand that it's the end of the month, and when you live on a monthly check, you're trying to stretch out that last $3 to $4? Everybody doesn't have a car, everybody doesn't have relatives outside of where they live." Trotter added to criticism of labels applied to hurricane survivors, asking why those left behind are called refugees, the same terminology applied to people who have left their home countries to seek sanctuary in the U.S. "I don't understand how one day we can be described as tax-paying citizens and the next day they call us refugees," Trotter said. "A refugee is an escapee from out of the country."

    But as the sermon progressed, Trotter's tone moved from anger to forgiveness. "When folks have messed over you, there are days when you want God to take them out," Trotter said. "We have to take the spirit of Jesus and forgive them." In between gospel hymns, Trotter asked people to approach the pulpit who either fled the hurricane or have family still there for a moment of prayer. Nearly 100 people came forward. He encouraged them to stay strong and hold onto the belief they will overcome their hardships in the future. "This is not the end of the story," Trotter said. "Sit down for a minute to cry if you have to, but after you've cried, what's coming? I see myself in the future, and things are getting better."

    Dianna Lowery of Durant, Miss., joined the group at the front of the church and cried, thinking about the relatives who could not flee with her to Chicago last week. Lowery, 43, split her time growing up between Chicago and Mississippi. She drove 10 1/2 hours to her mother's house on the South Side on Wednesday with her 96-year-old grandmother, an uncle and two cousins after their house lost power and water. Her grandmother worries about losing their family home, which sits on a 2.5-acre farm. Lowery said attending the service helped ease her worries. "I felt comfortable, I felt that everybody was supportive," Lowery said. "I truly believe that it's going to be all right." At the end of the service, parishioners jumped out of their seats and circled the church, pulling out $1 bills to place in front of the pulpit. Bills were gathered into a green plastic bin and added to the church's relief efforts. "Let this be more than enough to do all that we need to do," Trotter said.
    ©Chicago Tribune

    Ziauddin Sardar, travelling around several Muslim countries, finds that thinkers, activists, political leaders and ordinary Muslims across the globe are refusing to be defined by the ideology of violence and intolerance, but their responses are diverse.
    By Ziauddin Sardar, Presenter BBC Two's Battle for Islam

    5/9/2005- This has been a terrible year to be a Muslim. But, revolted by what is being perpetrated in the name of Islam, the Muslim world is bringing a whole range of new debates to the fore. For decades the core debate in the Muslim world was about establishing an ideological "Islamic state" and returning to the Sharia, the historical body of Islamic law. This debate, often led by so-called "Islamic movements", produced a narrow, intolerant, obscurantist, illiberal, brutal and confrontational interpretation of Islam. It is this interpretation that gave rise to what we now know as "Islamic fundamentalism". But the fixed simplistics of fundamentalists never were the whole of the debate - even though the fundamentalists shout the loudest and dominate the globe through violent expression.

    Sharia debate
    Now, fundamentalism is being challenged by emerging and alternative visions of Islam, each taking shape in different ways in different countries. Pakistan was founded as the first modern Islamic state. But it was only in 1978 under the military regime of General Zia ul Haq that Sharia was made the law of the land. What followed was a series of cases where the implementation of the law acquired a notorious reputation for practical injustice, especially towards women. And it is women who are really standing up to this law. The essence of the argument against the Sharia is much more than the fact that its interpretation and application is illiberal and contrary to contemporary ideas of human rights. The fundamentalist position is that the Koran is the source of all legislation in Islam and therefore the Sharia is an immutable body of sacred law. It is this concept itself that is now being challenged. Sharia, it is being widely argued, is not divine but a "jurists' law", that was formulated and socially constructed during the early phase of Islamic history. It can be changed, modified and reformulated - in its entirety. Thus the Sharia, as an inherited body of rulings and precedent, is being reclaimed in Pakistan. Muslim scholars are demanding the same right as their forebears to investigate the sources for alternative interpretations, new ways of framing and operating precepts and law.

    Activists' agenda
    We can see this activism not just in Pakistan but also in Morocco. In Morocco an entirely recast family law aspect of Sharia has been produced by Islamic scholars. It was promulgated by the King in response to widespread public demonstrations by women and, when published, became an instant best-seller. While it has its opponents, including women, its impeccable Islamic intellectual credentials - advancing the case for gender equality, poverty eradication, economic advancement and the development of free expression through civil society - are now the agenda of debate. The irony is that neither Pakistan nor Morocco are democracies: one a thinly veiled military regime, the other a near-absolute monarchy. But the activist proponents of this alternative interpretation of Islam are clear that it can never be fully realised without democracy; indeed that democracy is an essential hallmark of a genuine Islamic society.

    Separation from state
    Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population. Eight years ago, it threw off 30 years of dictatorship backed by the military. Democracy has led to a great outpouring of new thinking. Established organisations such as Mohammadiyah and new civic society organisations such as the Liberal Islam Network - which have followings in the tens of millions - are revising the conventional views of Islam and the state. In seeking an interpretation of Islam that is both authentic and moderate, liberal, tolerant, open and democratic, they stress the importance of separation between religion and state. And thus they come to a vision of modernity for Muslims that is rooted in, and inspired by, Islam, yet does not lay claim to being an infallible expression of religion and therefore closed to debate. It is these agents of civil society that are setting the pace of change.

    Diverse solutions
    The demands they make on governments are producing a response. But it is no longer a case of seeking one solution. There is a diversity of responses according to the particular circumstances of different countries, with different histories and different experiences of modernising and modernity. The extremists have one all-embracing, all-constraining ideology. But the reality of the Muslim world is its immense diversity. The new ideas battling for the soul of Islam have a clear set of common principles but they are varied and must be heard in their own context and place. A journey around the populous periphery of the Muslim world clearly demonstrates that the extremists are not only a minority but that the fossilised traditionalism from which they derive their legitimacy is also on the retreat. There is a new air of optimism and confidence in many places that an Islam that is moderate, tolerant and democratic not only should - but will - actually be the future. This new spirit, and the new ideas it is producing, is not tentative. But it would be too soon to assert that the ideas are carrying all before them and have secured their dominance. It is, however, beyond question that to understand the changes taking place in the Muslim world, and appreciate how Islam is being reformed, one has to listen to these voices from the edge.
    ©BBC News

    Evangelical schools might be a godsend for fundamentalist Christian families, but is their single-minded approach fostering intolerance in society? Natasha Walter reports

    27/8/2005- Alastair Kirk stopped going to school when he was 11. He is now 20, and not exactly a dropout - he went on being educated at home, and every day he sat down and worked his way through booklets of maths, English, science, history, geography, all couched in a unique style. "Here are examples of interrogative sentences," states one grammar booklet in the curriculum he used, Accelerated Christian Education. "Do you know Jesus as your personal Saviour? Can you ever praise Him enough?" I ask Alastair what was the best thing about being educated in this way. "I could study the word of God every day rather than defending it every day," he states. What did he feel he missed by not being in school? "Temptation," he says, and stops. Alastair is now a tall, formally dressed young man with a direct gaze and a firm handshake, who works for Christian Education Europe. The organisation aims to encourage more families to do as Alastair's parents did and withdraw children from state schools to bring them up as passionate Christians. "Reaching the world for Christ, one child at a time" is its motto.

    Although few people outside evangelical churches have even heard of it, more than 500 families in Britain are currently educating their children at home with the curriculum that Alastair's family used. Accelerated Christian Education was developed in the 1970s by American fundamentalists, but its popularity is now growing in the UK, and not only among home-schooling families - more than 50 schools in Britain are using it. The main teaching tools are booklets relating to each subject - the children read a section and then fill in a questionnaire. When I visit the office for Christian Education Europe, in Swindon, I meet one of the directors, Arthur Roderick, who tells me with great gusto that they are getting more and more inquiries every year. "More people understand why we do this now. Black is getting blacker and white is getting whiter," he says, with the rolling rhetoric that betrays his long experience as a preacher. Roderick points to two big maps on his office wall, one dotted with red stars to show the location of ACE schools and one studded with blue pins to show ACE home-schooling families. They are like the maps of a military manoeuvre and the stars and pins are everywhere. "They go from the wilds of Scotland to the middle of London," as Roderick puts it. But he isn't yet satisfied, feeling that too many people are choosing this kind of education just because they dislike the state system. "The flood will come," he says, "when God touches more people to do it for positive reasons."

    Much concern has been expressed about independent faith schools in Britain lately, but the anxiety is always concentrated on independent Muslim schools and what children are learning there. Independent Christian schools, on the other hand, are pretty much ignored. The chief inspector of schools, David Bell, for example, recently criticised independent Muslim schools for failing to teach tolerance of other cultures. But after he had made that speech, his office released information that showed evangelical Christian schools are actually even less successful at that task. Legislation lays down that independent schools can go their own way in many things - they do not have to abide by the national curriculum - but they must "assist pupils to acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures, in a way that promotes tolerance and harmony", and of the 40 evangelical Christian schools that were not yet fully registered by Ofsted, 18 had failed on that count. The evangelical schools that I visit have, in fact, been deemed to succeed in that requirement, even though they do not see it as their brief to talk about other faiths at all. Where other faiths, or even branches of the same faith, are discussed in the ACE booklets, the tone is telling. One social studies booklet on Martin Luther and the Reformation, for instance, is critical of the Catholic church in the 16th century and also, by implication, today, using such words as "idolatry" and "superstitious nonsense" to characterise supposedly Catholic teachings, and inviting children to underline the "correct" Protestant beliefs. At the Maranatha Christian School near Swindon, 60 children are taught with ACE, which emphasises at every turn that evangelical Christianity is the only route to the truth. In this way it differs fundamentally from the education provided at state faith schools, which put religious education alongside the national curriculum - and can accept children from other faiths and employ teachers from other faiths. At Maranatha, all the families and teachers are literally singing from the same hymn sheet.

    The school building is an old farmhouse near Swindon, in a picture-postcard village on the hills. If you wandered into any of the classrooms here during an ordinary weekday, the first thing to strike you would simply be the absolute quietness that reigns under the big posters stating: "God loves the sparrow," or "God made everything in heaven and earth." The children in these classrooms, who are aged all the way up to 18, are sitting at individual desks facing the wall, with high dividers between them so that each has to work alone. This is a characteristic of ACE - discussion with fellow students or a teacher is not encouraged and the pupil studies, in silence, the booklets which begin with Bible verses and thread homilies on good Christian morals through every subject. Leah, a 13-year-old girl with a ready smile and her hair in pretty clips, moved from a state school to this establishment three years ago. "I had mixed feelings but now I like it a lot," she says. "Sometimes I miss my old friends but I don't think I'd like it at their school - the peer pressure and everything." I pick up from her desk a booklet bearing the word "science" on its cover and open it at random. "I'm certain that you will be very interested in learning about God's creation of Earth for human existence. In his loving kindness our Heavenly Father has provided for all your needs from His earthly creation," reads the first paragraph I see. Some British state schools have been criticised for putting the creation and evolution as equivalent viewpoints in religious education lessons, but for children at ACE schools the literal interpretation of Genesis permeates everything they are taught. And for the parents who choose schools like this, such literal use of the Bible is the draw. Tom Price has five children at the school, and loves that they are being taught that the six-day creation story is a fact. "Evolution removes God from the world. But I see God's hand in everything. I see purpose and design," he enthuses. Price is a lay preacher in a Pentecostal church, Assemblies of God. "I don't want to have to undo and unpick what they are taught at school."

    In addition to frequent incursions of the Bible, ACE also delivers a pretty solid, old-fashioned grounding in other areas. It begins with reading based on the newly fashionable synthetic phonics, and moves on to other core school subjects - maths, history, geography, physics, languages and so on. What stands out is the traditional delivery of the information with none of the role-play and speculation of current mainstream curricula. This is all about getting your head around the "facts" then retelling those "facts" in multiple choice and fill-in-the-blanks tests. Although that means children learn the basics in a way that many state-educated pupils may not, it also means they do not learn to question anything they are taught. Harry Brighouse, professor of philosophy and education policy studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has watched the expansion of ACE in America with distaste. "It is a crude curriculum. It doesn't encourage questioning or individual thought - it is very much based on rote learning." What is undeniably attractive about this curriculum - even for the sceptical observer - is the way that it moves at the same pace as the child. With ACE, children are assessed on entry and progress at their own speed, working through booklets and doing the tests at the end of each one before they can move on to the next. They work mainly alone, but if they get stuck they put a little flag up in their cubicle and a supervisor will help out. This flexible pace with its built-in checks can clearly work for children who have fallen through gaps in the state system. One of the parents I meet at Maranatha, Sharon McGowan, has four children at the school. It was the experience of her nine-year-old son that made her turn to Maranatha. During his first year at state school he had a new teacher who had no idea how to teach; during the second year his teacher was off sick and he had a succession of supply tutors. He began to fail. "He really struggled," Sharon says. "He was a proud little boy and when he had to start special classes it had a real effect on his self-esteem. I was worried that he would compensate with difficult behaviour, and I could see that starting to happen." Within one year of starting at Maranatha he had caught up. "He's blossomed." Although Sharon's husband's work is now likely to take them away from Swindon, Sharon is so keen on ACE that she intends to educate all her children at home with it.

    Another parent, Des Starritt, tells me that one reason he wanted to withdraw his children from state school is that they were given books about witchcraft there. At first I don't understand, but then I click - he means books by JK Rowling or Philip Pullman. "We would not put Harry Potter in the school library," says Paul Medlock, the Maranatha headmaster. "It is a book without proper values," says Ben Pike. "It treats witchcraft lightly." Pike is one of the trustees of the school, a 32-year-old who works for an IT training company and has three sons at the school. He emphasises that the parents support the school's message. "We come from a range of backgrounds here," he says, "but we have all put our trust in Christ to be our Lord and saviour." The range of backgrounds is not actually that great at Maranatha; almost all the families are white, tending to the less affluent end of the middle class. In London, ACE schools tend to be established by independent churches with Afro-Caribbean congregations. One such school, the East London Christian Choir School, in Hackney, was set up just a year ago and has a very different setting from the bucolic beauty of Maranatha. An apparently derelict old council building has been carefully done up to provide a small church, offices, cybercafe, and three classrooms, inside which 30 children are working in the distinctive ACE style. "Good morning, Pastor George. Good morning, Miss," they chorus, turning as I come through the door with their headmaster. This school, church and community centre are the creation of two pastors, Maxine and George Hargreaves, who have a vision for this deprived community. George Hargreaves is a charismatic, articulate man in his late 40s, who recently stood for election for the fundamentalist Christian political party, Operation Christian Vote. He recognises that one of the main reasons children are finding their way to this school is that the state system is failing them. "The fact that even Diane Abbott, our MP, had to take her son out of the state schools shows you what it is like for black children in Hackney," he says.

    ACE schools are much cheaper than other independent schools: the reliance on pen-and-paper learning cuts out the need for big investment in resources - they tend not to have science labs, for instance - and the staff (who are often not qualified teachers) are propelled by belief in God to work for very little. By keeping their fees low - this school charges less than £4,000 a year - they provide an alternative to the state system for people who might otherwise have no alternative. Undoubtedly it works for some. One 14-year-old boy here had behavioural problems that had led to his exclusion from a previous school. "But when we actually got the report from that school," says Maxine, "which followed him quite late, we couldn't believe it. He had only been with us for a few months, but it was as though they were describing a different human being. I believe he could go to university." Later I meet the boy she is talking about, working through a booklet giving him comprehension and handwriting practice. "I like working like this," he says of the solitary space around him. "It helps me to concentrate. It was hard to work at my old school." A couple of the parents are in the classrooms on the morning I visit, and they talk about the way the children are kept free of the peer pressure and low expectations that can have such a negative effect on black children in state schools. Connie Solwah, a former lawyer who works in beauty consultancy, tells me that she moved her nine-year-old daughter out of a state faith school because she felt her potential was not being recognised. "I think it was partly about racism. It isn't easy for me to meet the fees here but it's worth it for what will come out eventually. I want her to develop herself and get the chance to spread out her potential and character." I can see that here the staff strive to give children a sense of pride. But their learning is shaped by the narrowest interpretation of the Bible with all the preconceptions of this religious bias, including a very particular approach to sex education. Maxine responds first when I ask the Hargreaves about the subject. "We talk to the older girls about virginity," she says. George takes up the theme. "We tell them that the blood shed when virginity is broken on the marriage bed is part of the blood covenant made between you and your husband under God, and if the blood is shed elsewhere it will weaken the covenant." A few moments later, George reaches into his pocket for a tiny pink plastic doll foetus, and drops it into my hand: "180,000 babies like that are killed every year in Britain. That is what happens when you take sex out of God's order."

    For parents who mistrust mainstream education, the ACE system provides the means to avoid it completely. The curriculum is easy for parents to use at home because all the information is contained in the booklets, which also provide self-tests and which progress neatly from level to level. And by withdrawing children from school altogether, of course, parents can exercise even more control over what their children think and read and say. I watch Arthur Roderick play to that desire for control when he speaks at a seminar for ACE home-schooling families. "The deepest temptation is up here," he says fiercely, pointing to his forehead. "Philosophical pollution is all around them." Beverley England, who is in the small audience of parents, has already made the choice to save her family from such pollution. She has educated her six children, aged from 20 to two, at home with ACE. Beverley, who found Jesus as a teenager, never wanted her children to leave her home in order to enter the secular system. "I didn't worry that they might be isolated," she tells me. "I knew that if God wanted us to do this he would provide, and he has brought friends to us." Sean, Beverley's second oldest child, is wearing a baseball cap and jeans, playing jazz piano in another schoolroom while keeping half an eye on some of the younger children. His parents made sure that music and sport went alongside the core ACE curriculum - and he is very positive about his education. "It helped me to motivate myself - I'm a really competitive person and learning to set goals for yourself was really good for me," he says easily. Sean has a ready smile and an easy articulacy; there is a confidence about him that I also pick up from other older children in this system. Although there is clearly a danger that children educated with ACE, especially at home, could end up unsocialised, it seems to me after meeting a few of them that they are no less socialised than the average product of a mainstream education system that tips a whole lot of 13-year-olds into a classroom together and expects them to get on. Sean, for instance, found friends in his neighbourhood through church and sport and music - the way that adults make friends, through shared interests.

    Although ACE-educated children do not take GCSE or A-levels, their own qualification, the International Certificate of Christian Education, is now recognised by more and more universities and colleges, so they have the chance to enter mainstream further education. Aside from Sean, who is planning to become a professional musician, I meet other successful ACE alumni, including the son of the headmaster of Maranatha School, Matthew Medlock, a graduate from Durham University who wants to work as a sports journalist. And I hear of ACE children who go on to enter various mainstream occupations, from nursing to IT - or, of course, to "do the Lord's work" themselves, like Alastair Kirk. But I am mindful that, as a journalist, I am unlikely to be introduced to the children who lost out in this system, who rebelled against it, or who felt trapped within it. Because the question still burns about how this kind of education can possibly prepare children to make their own intellectual choices. In the US, where ACE is a much bigger force, that is really what exercises its critics. One American educationalist who is hostile to fundamentalist Christian education, David Berliner of Arizona University, has complained that in ACE schools "nearly all speculative activities about the world and the human condition have been purged from the curriculum and so, therefore, have all of the teaching methodologies that promote speculation."

    A style of education that discourages doubt and debate clearly poses a question for the rest of society. As David Berliner says to me, "Their educational system is closer to ultrafundamentalism than is healthy for a democracy." Yet ACE schools are independent, they ask for no state support, and families who choose to educate their children at home do so in the face of indifference or hostility from local authorities. Aren't they just exercising their own right to free choice as to how their children should be educated? So long as their children reach a reasonable standard of learning, has anyone the right to interfere? Ben Rogers, the associate director of the thinktank Institute for Public Policy Research, produced a recent report, What Is Religious Education For? which argued that discussion of atheism and agnosticism should be included within religious education for all children. "There is this view that parents own their children," he says. "Nobody owns kids. Children aren't yours to control, you hold them in trust, and you should cultivate certain qualities in them, including the ability to understand the value of different points of view." The future is likely to see more of this debate, since most of the people I interviewed believed that independent fundamentalist education is set to spread in the UK, partly because of the inspiration evangelical Christians seem to take from what's happening across the Atlantic. Ben Pike talked wistfully to me at Maranatha School about the way that evangelical churches in the US have managed to bring so many children into their independent schools and home-schooling networks. "America provides us with a vision for the future," he says.

    In the US evangelicals have effectively created a parallel system of education which has schooled hundreds of thousands of pupils in its messianic world view and the evangelical social and political agenda has moved into the mainstream. Evangelical Christianity is far from being such a force in Britain, but it is clearly the desire of many of those I met that it should become so. They are being inspired by the growing confidence of other faith groups. Supporters of ACE talked admiringly of Muslims who make it clear they do not wish to join the mainstream. Fundamentalist Christians point enviously to the fact that more children are currently educated in Muslim independent schools than independent evangelical Christian schools - about 14,000 compared with about 5,000 - and independent Muslim schools are growing more quickly. Rather than confronting this sectarianism with a call to inclusiveness, they would like to react with further sectarianism of their own. The goal is a more, rather than less, divided society. "Christians have been leaving it to the government to decide on their values, while Muslims have said, 'This is mine, this is my culture, this is who I am'," says Maxine Hargreaves. "Now we Christians are saying that we want to defend our culture, too. We want to take back our children."
    ©The Guardian

    29/8/2005- The Church of England is infected with institutional racism and is still a place of "pain" for many black Anglicans, according to its first black archbishop. Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop-designate of York, has used the foreword of a new book implicitly to criticise fellow Church leaders for failing to deal properly with discrimination in the organisation. Though a long-term critic of the Church's "monochrome" white culture, his comments will now carry far more weight as he is soon to be enthroned as the second most senior cleric in the hierarchy. They signal his intention to place racism at the heart of his agenda in office and will reopen soul-searching over one of the Church's most sensitive issues. Another black bishop, the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, complained of racism when an unnamed cleric dubbed him a "Paki papist" while the Church was selecting a successor to Dr George Carey at Canterbury in 2002. The book to which Dr Sentamu has contributed, Rejection, Resistance and Resurrection, Speaking out on racism in the Church, is a hard-hitting account of the rejection felt by many black Anglicans. Written by Mukti Barton, the adviser on black and Asian ministries to the Bishop of Birmingham, Dr Sentamu's present post, it describes racism as a "deadly poison" often unconsciously spread by white Christians. It also claims that black people are significantly under represented in the clergy, even in the diocese of Birmingham.

    Dr Sentamu, who is to launch the book in Birmingham cathedral next month, said in the foreword: "The stories in this book speak of the pain of what it is to undergo institutional racism. "The cost is in terms of the lives of people who are hampered in their growth into the image of God created in them." He referred to his role as a member of the Macpherson Inquiry into the death of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence, which branded the Metropolitan police as "institutionally racist." Quoting the inquiry report, he said that institutional racism persisted in organisations because of their failure "openly and adequately to recognise and address its existence and causes by policy, example and leadership". The archbishop-elect, whose promotion was announced in June, said that institutional racism was found in all the Churches to some degree. He added, however, that there were signs of encouragement for the future, and various anti-racism programmes had been effective. The former Ugandan high court judge who fled the regime of Idi Amin to become Bishop of Birmingham has been an outspoken scourge of racism for decades. In 2000, while Bishop of Stepney, he complained bitterly of being stopped and searched outside St Paul's cathedral by a police officer who did not spot his clerical collar under his scarf. He first accused the Church of institutional racism the previous year, when he said in a General Synod on the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report that the Church suffered from many of the same sins as the police. The then Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Dr George and Dr David Hope respectively, subsequently attended a "racism-awareness course".
    ©Daily Telegraph

    30/8/2005- The number of racially and religiously motivated attacks has quadrupled in Merseyside since the London bombings, the Daily Post can reveal. The shocking increase is evidence of a backlash against Muslims in the region following the terrorist atrocity. New figures show more than 200 calls were made to the Merseyside Racial Monitoring Unit helpline in the six weeks following July 7, compared with 48 in the preceding six weeks. The sickening attacks include gangs hurling stones at people and cars and excrement being smeared on people's windows. In one incident, an Indian man was verbally abused and had a brick thrown at him in his own front garden while his 31/2-year-old daughter played next to him. Last night, anti-racism campaigners urged city leaders to wake up to the fact that racism was a real issue on Merseyside and move to tackle the problem head-on.

    The MRMU helpline had recorded eight attacks in the week before the London bombings. But the number of people being attacked rose to 32 calls in the next week. Latest Merseyside Police figures show a similarly alarming 87% rise to 170 incidents reported in the month from July 7 to August 8, compared with 91 in the same period in 2004. The MRMU helpline log contains shocking examples of abuse against people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds including people of Turkish, Indian and Afro-Caribbean origin. This week saw the formation of a new black-led anti-racism group, following the murder of Anthony Walker. The 73-strong membership of the new Campaign Against Racial Terrorism (CART) has vowed to root out racism and encourage the authorities to promote multi-culturalism in the city's economy. Donna Bernard, spokeswoman for CART, said: "There has always been a race issue in Liverpool right up from slavery times to the modern day, and these figures just illustrate what is going on. "It's time to face up to it, Liverpool people have got to stop being in denial and saying this is a multi-cultural city because it's just not true. "If you walk down the street in certain areas, you won't see a black face. "The city council is very good at capitalising on the idea of the 'world in one city' slogan for their Capital of Culture title, but they aren't facing up to the reality. "There is a real lack of support for victims of race crime." The attacks do not appear to be confined to one geographical area. Police logs show there were 63 racially or religiously-motivated attacks in Liverpool North between July 7 and August 8 this year, compared with 39 for the same period in 2004. In the same period, there were 21 incidents reported in Knowsley (compared with 10 in 2004); 25 in Wirral (11); 15 in Sefton (6), 16 in St Helens (7), and 30 in Liverpool South (18).

    Supt Rowland Moore, who heads the force's community relations team, said: "It is a significant increase in percentage terms, but we expected it. "We knew this was going to happen when the first news headlines rolled on July 7 saying the bombings might be linked to Islamic terrorists. "As soon as something like this happens, we get the backlash from the idiot brigade who think it's OK to go round and use the terrorist attacks as an excuse to abuse, damage and assault. "It is people who are already likely to carry out this kind of attack who see the bombings as some kind of justification to step up their operation." Supt Moore said: "The most significant increase has been in what you might call low-level verbal abuse, with people being called things like 'P-ki bomber', as opposed to physical attacks. "Some of it is more serious with damage to vehicles and property and threats being made." "We have been very proactive in going out to the Muslim community and letting them know we are there to support them. "But it's not always straightforward, sometimes people say they don't want us there in high-visibility jackets because they don't want to be seen as a 'grass'. "A lot of people think if they get called P-ki that it comes with the territory and they have to put up with it, but actually the message is that they don't." He added: "The message is we have to tackle this on all levels, we have to address the low-level incidents in order to stop it escalating into something more serious if it is tolerated." Liverpool City Council's new racial harassment hotline has also recorded an increase in calls, but a spokesman said the figures would not be released until after a review next month. MRMU helpline staff have identified significant problem areas in Dovecot and Croxteth, but say incidents are spread through the region including several repeat incidents in Huyton and Halewood. The charity's spokeswoman, Margaret McCadam, said she hoped the level of violence was beginning to slow after the Helpline logged 10 calls last week. But she said: "We are still very concerned. There is definitely an increased level of fear among the communities whose people have been at the receiving end of the harassment, and that is a major problem because people are scared to leave their own homes. "Its people who are perceived to be Muslim who are being targeted, so it's basically anyone who's not white. "A lot of people have said they are frightened and they think they are being targeted because of the bombings and that people think they are terrorists."

    Supt Moore agreed with campaigners and said the number of attacks was likely to be being "significantly under-reported" - people were either too afraid, or believed there was little point in asking for help. But he said the problem could be worse, if it weren't for continued efforts by the police, ethnic minority and community leaders to work together to raise awareness. A number of measures have already been implemented, including increased use of CCTV, and professional witnesses who shadow repeat victims and are willing to go to court to reveal undercover evidence. Alec McFadden, president of Merseyside TUC, welcomed the formation of CART, following what he described as a "massive increase" in race hate crime. A Liverpool City Council spokesman said: "There has been an increase in the number of incidents reported to the city council's racial harassment helpline since 7/7. "We are encouraging more people to come forward to report incidents. "The city council is putting in extra resources to help tackle race hate crime. A new worker to improve community cohesion is being appointed. "Their main role will be to make sure all the organisations involved in tackling racial attacks - such as the police,, city council, housing, etc - are working together to make sure hate crime incidents are dealt with quickly and effectively."
    ©IC Network

    27/8/2005- The French government came under increasing pressure Saturday to build more low-cost housing in the capital after a fire killed 17 people, mainly children and African immigrants, in the second incident of its kind in four months. The French press condemned the government, saying it had a policy of neglect that allowed the existence of pockets of deprivation in the midst of a speculative housing market. Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe meanwhile said though the government had requisitioned the building gutted by Friday's inferno in 1991, no solution had been found in the 14 years since to rehouse the large families living there. "I intend, with city officials in charge of public housing, to ensure that concrete proposals are made within the coming days" to find decent housing for the survivors, the mayor said. Officials Saturday were still trying to determine the cause of the blaze that swept up the stairwell of the rundown century-old, seven-storey building, home to 130 mainly African immigrants, in the 13th district in southeastern Paris. Police said Saturday "no traces of hydrocarbons", such as petrol, had been found, suggesting the fire had not been set deliberately. Survivors said the building was dilapidated, infested with rats, riddled with cracked walls and had no fire extinguishers. "That families -- and not just immigrant familis -- live in France today in conditions straight out of Zola is simply inadmissible," Le Monde newspaper railed. The Liberation daily said the blaze highlighted a general shortage of low-cost housing, particularly for those whose positions in society were most precarious. According to municipal authorities, 100,000 families on modest or low incomes competed for just 12,000 available subsidised homes last year in Paris. The others lived where they could, such as in the now-charred building that was run by a charity called Emmaus. The provincial newspaper, the Nouvelle Republique du Centre-Ouest, said it was difficult to justify the co-existence "of thousands of dilapidated buildings and a scandalously speculative housing market," particulary in Paris.

    The blaze broke out while residents slept before dawn. "It was horrible to hear the children's screams," said building supervisor Oumar Cisse. The death toll Saturday stood at 14 children and three adults. Six of the 30 injured remained in hospital, two of them in a serious condition. It was the second major fire in Paris this year in a building housing immigrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa. In April, a hotel near the capital's old opera house and major department stores went up in flames, killing 24 of the 79 residents, again mostly children. In a biting remark, Liberation's editorialist Gerard Dupuy asked if it was possible the April deaths "have served for nothing". On Saturday, about 50 survivors and supporters held a solemn procession through the capital to remember the victims, holding aloft a banner reading: "Republic, we only ask you for a roof." This followed a street protest by some 300 people late Friday who called for new homes for those who escaped from the blaze and denounced the government for allowing such hazardous housing to exist. Jean-Louis Borloo, French minister for social cohesion who visited the site of the fire, said Friday he would act within the next few days to propose a program for creating public lodging. The sizeable families in the burned building, many from the former French colony of Mali, said they were crammed into small apartments, often 12 people in three-room places. But they said they had no choice, with many having previously resided in squats after unsuccessfully applying for susbidised state housing for years. "We lived like dogs," said one man, Sekou, who learned that the wife and children of his cousin died in the blaze. "Nobody would dare put up whites in those sort of conditions."
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    28/8/2005- Hundreds of demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans gathered Sunday outside the Paris apartment building where 17 people, 14 of them children, died in a fire two days before. Most of the protestors were from Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal, in west Africa, the birthplaces of most of those who were killed in the blaze. They shouted slogans accusing Jean-Louis Borloo and Nicolas Sarkozy, ministers of social solidarity and the interior, of murder but also attacked President Jacques Chirac and Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe. They left flowers outside the building, in the south of Paris, with its fire-blackened windows. The demonstration was organised by bodies campaigning for the homeless and those living in substandard conditions with the backing of anti-racist and human rights groups. Paris city authorities said that families that had escaped the blaze could start visiting new apartments in Paris Monday. "We hope four to six families will be rehoused tomorrow (Monday) by city hall and the same number by the state," Jean-Yves Man, who has responsibility for housing, said after a meeting with the families at a gymnasium where they have taken up residence. Priorities would be established by the refugees from the fire themselves. But everyone would be rehoused, he said. Each family hit by the fire has been given between 350 and 400 euros (430 to 490 dollars) by the Paris municipal authorities, officials said. The gymnasium was supposed to accommodate those who had fled the flames for a single night but many have decided to stay on there rather than move to hotels and a community spirit has begun to emerge. Counselling is available and the men, almost all Muslims, pray together in the basketball court. Clothing is on offer and the Red Cross distributes milk and bottled water. Food is also provided but the families prefer to prepare and eat their own meals.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    30/8/2005- A fire has killed seven people - including four children - in a building housing African immigrants in Paris, just days after a similar lethal blaze. Officials say about 12 families from Ivory Coast were living there in deplorable conditions. The blaze happened in the central Marais area. On Friday, 17 West Africans died in another Paris apartment block fire, and a similar blaze killed 24 in April. The government has now ordered a review of housing policy for immigrants. President Jacques Chirac expressed sadness at the latest fire and ordered an inquiry. It broke out at 2200 (2000 GMT) on Monday and firefighters took 90 minutes to control it. A child who jumped from a window in the building died in hospital. Six other bodies were found in the ruins. Friday's deadly fire - also in a building used by African immigrants - provoked street protests in Paris. Fourteen of the 17 who died in that blaze were children. Members of the African community took to the streets over the weekend, urging the authorities to provide better housing for immigrants. They were joined by left-wing activists and pressure groups who accused French leaders of neglect. Some 100 firefighters and 30 vehicles were used to control the latest fire, which is said to have started in the lower part of the building - reportedly an old squat. Fourteen people were injured, three of them seriously, fire officials said. The cause of the fire is not known. Pierre Aidenbaum, the mayor of the third district, said that "for years, people had been saying the living conditions there were dreadful," the French news agency AFP reports. He said the building's 40 residents were to have been relocated in September to allow for renovation work. In all three lethal blazes that hit African immigrants the flames spread quickly from the stairwell to the dilapidated wooden interiors of the apartments, AFP reports.
    ©BBC News

    31/8/2005- A second deadly blaze in four days in Paris - this time killing seven African immigrants - has triggered protests demanding decent housing for the poor, and promises from the French government to crack down on people living illegally in the country. The fire on Monday in the central Marais arrondissement, popular with tourists, swept through a dilapidated building squatted in by some 40 Ivory Coast nationals. Four children - one a six-year-old thrown from a fourth-floor window by a desperate mother - died, along with three adults. Police said faulty wiring apparently installed by residents was probably to blame. The tragedy followed a similar blaze last Friday, in which 17 Africans - 14 of them children - lost their lives in another Paris apartment block, also badly run down. In April, 24 immigrants died when their dingy hotel caught fire, allegedly because the supervisor's girlfriend lit candles in his room. The series of tragedies has focused France's attention on the pitiful conditions in which immigrants - many of them from former African colonies - often live. Survivors of Monday's blaze said they shared just one lavatory for the whole building, and had to do their washing in the street because they had no water. President Jacques Chirac expressed his horror at the latest fire, as he did for the last two. But he also vowed that his conservative government would take "strong initiatives" to prevent similar accidents in the future.

    Although Mr Chirac did not elaborate, the Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, blamed the loss of life on immigration policies. "By accepting these people who, unfortunately, we can't offer work or housing, we find ourselves in a situation where we have these tragedies," he said. " All these squats and all these buildings have to be closed to stop these tragedies and that's what I've asked the police commissioner to do because we're talking about human beings living in unacceptable conditions." Mr Sarkozy, who is expected to challenge Mr Chirac for the presidency in 2007 elections on a platform of tough security measures and economic liberalism, is spearheading a policy which aims to deport this year 23,000 of the estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants living in France. But that tough position is being challenged by immigrant groups, civil rights activists and unions, which are calling for proper housing to be provided to prevent further fire deaths. They held two protests yesterday and are planning a rally in Paris on Saturday to press their demands. The groups stressed that immigrants face hurdles to finding homes, ranging from racist landlords and a lack of money to an absence of visas for the paperwork. High property prices in France also force them into unsafe housing, they say. According to one French charity, the Fondation Abbé Pierre, more than three million people in France live without basic amenities such as running water or heating. Paris City Hall has started to renovate 1,000 residential buildings to increase the amount of low-cost housing available. It bought the fire-ravaged building in the Marais six months ago but had not started work because squatters remained despite an eviction order obtained in 2000. City Hall has asked police to give visas to the surviving Ivorians so they can get other accommodation in the city and the gutted building can be made habitable.

    Fatal fires in the French capital

  • February 1998 Eight people, including a pregnant woman and her nine-year-old daughter, die in two separate apartment fires in Paris.
  • December 2001 Four people die in tourist hotel fire in the heart of the city.
  • 15 April 2005 Twenty-four people, including 10 children, are killed when their temporary accommodation in a budget hotel in the Opera district catches fire. Most are African immigrants.
  • 26 August 2005 Seventeen west African immigrants die when their apartment block in the 13th arrondissement goes up in flames. Overcrowding is blamed.
  • 29 August 2005 Seven immigrants, including four children, die when fire breaks out in a building where Ivory Coast nationals are squatting. Police believe faulty wiring may be to blame.
    © Independent Digital

    2/9/2005- The European Network against Racism (ENAR) expresses its concern about the reaction of the French authorities after 24 Africans, 18 of them children, died late August when the dilapidated and dangerous buildings they lived in caught fire. The two incidents, not the first of their kind in the French capital, again drew the attention to the often appalling living conditions of the immigrant community in the city. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy blamed the tragedy on too lenient immigration policies, arguing that if France had a tighter immigration policy it would be able to better provide for those who live in the country legally. The Paris authorities reportedly identified more than 420 dilapidated flats and squats, many of them fire-traps, in the city. The Interior Minister has ordered the closing down of these uninhabitable buildings, while restating his plans for tougher security measures, including the deportation of some 23,000 of the estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants living in France. Although President Chirac has called for urgent measures to build more social housing, ENAR supports the call of civil society organisations for immediate measures to provide proper housing to immigrants. French immigrant groups, civil rights activists and unions have protested the current situation and pointed to the real reasons for the current unacceptable housing condition of many immigrants – both legal and illegal – including exploitative and racist landlords, experiences of residential racism, high property prices and the absence of the necessary paperwork.

    "Immediate measures need to be taken by the French authorities to redress the current housing situation of the immigrant community. Tougher immigration policies are not the answer, and the recent events should not be used as an excuse to introduce them," said ENAR's chairman Bashy Quraishy. The right to adequate housing is a basic human right for all, however it is well documented that minority ethnic groups are often vulnerable to sub-standard housing conditions. France is a party to the European Social Charter in which it undertook to "promote access to housing of an adequate standard". In addition, Article 5(e) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination obliges states to "prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in particular . . . the right to housing." Recent incidents demonstrate that France is failing to live up to its international human rights commitments.

    A new comic book launched in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia hopes to encourage youngsters to have the strength to oppose far-right extremism in their everyday lives.

    30/8/2005- What is the significance of the figure 88? What is the attraction of the Lonsdale brand for far-right extremists? Curious youngsters can now find out the answer to these and other right-wing related questions and discover how "uncool" neo-Nazis are: It's all in "Andi," a new comic that's been launched by the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The comic intends to address important questions regarding right-wing extremism. It features Andi, the star of the stories, and his friends Murat and Ben in situations where they face skinheads and the problems that arise from their attitudes and actions. There is of course a villain, the skinhead Eisenheinrich, who dresses in classic neo-Nazi fashions, hates foreigners and distribute CDs of far-right bands at the local school. In the first edition, Andi and his friends challenge Eisenheinrich and his gang to a game of basketball, which the skinheads lose. "It 's hard to find enough people to play with when you only want to play with 'real Germans,'" says the hero Andi.

    Exposing hatred and hostility
    An initial print run of 100,000 "Andi" comics is being distributed to 3,500 schools in North Rhine-Westphalia in what the state's inerior minister, Ingo Wolf, called "a unique project in Germany" at the launch. He added that the cool "Andi" should help to expose the propaganda of the extreme right "as it is; hatred of people and hostile to democracy." The anti-Nazi hero was developed by the NRW State Office for the Protection of the Constitution. "Pupils are often approached by far-right groups and are confronted with their propaganda," said author Thomas Grumke. "We want to do something against that."

    Manga design carries important messages
    To make the intended impact on the audience, the comic is designed to mirror the lives of 14- to 16- year olds and appeal to their tastes. "We have asked the youngsters what they find exciting and hip," Grumke added. The result is a flashy comic in the Japanese Manga style. This has not proved to be a problem for Düsseldorf comic draftsman Peter Schaaff who was awarded the contract for the project. "It tackles a sensitive subject which appears in entertainment culture too little," Schaaff said, adding that the biggest challenge for him was to meet the needs of the young readers. "Is it cool enough for them? What shoes should the characters wear?" Schaaff took the original black and white first draft to the youngsters at a number of schools to get feedback. The result surprised him. "They agreed with the style and the drawings but they had problems with the content," he said. "Many asked: 'Why is nobody getting beat up here? '" Of course, in the case of an educational comic there are always compromises, says author Thomas Grumke. "We want to appeal to the target group without having to take anything away from the content," he said.

    Information and education, not glorification
    The compromise was a story that was not too theoretical or dry but still contained the most important information in text boxes on the side of the main action. These include facts about the signs and symbols of the extremist right, the German constitution and migration in the Ruhr area. The appendix explains Nazi emblems, abbreviations and far-right numeric codes such as "88", the eighth letter in the alphabet side by side -- HH: Heil Hitler. The mission of the publication is to be "a comic for democracy and against extremism" and not a textbook with instructions on right-wing extremism, Wolf said. That's why it is distributed to pupils in schools as part of a lesson and discussion on the dangers of extreme right-wing politics. "The comic is read together with the teacher, as a part of the lesson," Ingo Wolf said. To keep the pupils in the loop, future editions will call on the help of youngsters to keep the storylines of "Andi" going. All students in North Rhine-Westphalia will be encouraged to take part in a competition to write for the comic with the best entries being illustrated by Peter Schaaff and published on the Internet.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    30/8/2005- Arsenal captain Thierry Henry today urged community groups in Ireland to apply for grants from a 1.46m fund to tackle racism. The money is coming from the sale of five million Stand Up Speak Up wristbands, black and white interlocking bands which have been modelled by sports stars including Henry. Money raised by the wristbands for the Stand Up Speak Up fund is being distributed by independent Belgian fund the King Baudouin Foundation to support anti-racism projects across Europe. The Football Foundation – the UK's biggest sports charity – has been awarded 1.46m from the King Baudouin Foundation to hand out to organisations in the UK and Ireland who will use it to tackle racism. The Arsenal and French International striker welcomed the new partnership with the Football Foundation and urged groups to apply for funding. "Football has made great strides to combat racism within the game but there is still more work to be done," he said. "I urge organisations throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland to get in touch with the Foundation to apply for funds to enable them to continue or create projects within their communities. "We need to drive home the message that racism in football and in society is unacceptable – together we can make a difference," Henry said. Simon Taylor, a spokesman for the Football Foundation, said the charity was excited about working in Ireland for the first time. He said the funding would be available to any group who was working to combat racism, but the foundation wanted to see an element of soccer in the schemes because the sport was a good way of engaging with young people and getting them to open up. "It could be local community groups, local anti-racism groups, right down to schools or a football club – we welcome any group's application," he said. Applications can come from voluntary organisations, community groups, football clubs, housing associations, small charities, youth clubs and fan groups based in Ireland. But individuals, profit-making organisations, commercial businesses, statutory bodies, Government departments and local authorities are not eligible for funding, the Foundation said. Under the scheme, initiatives lasting one year and costing up to a maximum of 7,300 can claim up to 100% funding. For projects lasting 1-3 years the Foundation will provide funding from 7,300 to 44,000 but will not exceed 50% of the total project cost.
    To apply for funding, groups should visit for more information. The deadline for submissions is Friday 28 October 2005.
    ©Ireland On-Line

    30/8/2005­ Police have arrested a 25-year-old man after a 16-year-old girl of Ethiopian origin was showered with domestic bleach in a racist attack in the Friesian town of Buitenpost. She was out with two female friends on Monday afternoon when the walked by a group of young people near the town's library. One of the group threw the bleach and shouted "I'll wash you and then you will be whitened". Racist comments were also shouted at one of the girl's friends. A police spokesperson said on Tuesday that the incident is being taken very seriously and later in the afternoon it was announced a suspect had been arrested. He confessed to carrying out the attack, a police spokesperson said. The 25-year-old man who threw bleach at a teenager of Ethiopian origin has been released from custody. The man admitted to police on Tuesday that he also shouted racist remarks but police believe he acted on an impulse. He had not appreciated the consequences of his actions and there was no reason to hold him in detention any longer, a police spokesperson said on Wednesday.

    The incident was part of a row between two groups of young people which has been ongoing in Buitenpost for 18 months. The culprit is not part of either group but was with some of the protagonists outside the library in the town on Monday. A shouting match broke out when the victim and two friends - part of the second group - walked by. The 25-year-old man threw the bleach at the Ethiopian girl. She was not injured. The police say the man got caught up in the atmosphere and did not think before he acted. He will not face a charge of discrimination but could be prosecuted for a breach of the peace and an attempt to commit a serious assault. The police spokesperson said the two groups need to sit down together to discuss their differences. Their dispute has nothing to do with racism, the spokesperson said. "It is more that boredom leads to them to quarrel."
    ©Expatica News

    MORE ANTISEMITISM(Ukraine, Editorial)
    31/8/2005- Aug. 28 marked another sad day for Ukraine. That's when latent, often ignored and frequently tolerated anti-Semitism in Ukraine appeared to have shown its repugnant face. A local Jewish student was beaten and left for dead in the center of the city. On Sunday evening two Jewish students went out to buy some food and, on their way back to their synagogue, were accosted by some drunken hooligans. At first, the young thugs threw empty beer bottles, but then they started using their bottles to beat and stab one of the students while the other ran for help. Now 32-year-old Mordecai Molozhanov, bludgeoned and lacerated, lies in a coma, clinging to life in a Kyiv hospital. It's not clear whether he'll survive. Police are saying there's no evidence the assault was inspired by anti-Semitism and, at the moment, no one can say for sure what motivated these boys to attack the two individuals. Given the assault was perpetrated by drunken teenagers, it probably wasn't meticulously planned after a close reading of the "Protocols of Zion" or David Duke tracts. But anti-Semitic materials are readily available in Ukraine, courtesy of a number of organizations, media and so-called institutions of higher learning. Jewish leaders routinely point to them as the cause of the anti-Semitism that exists in Ukraine. The Jewish community has for years attempted to raise public awareness of the specter of anti-Semitism, calling on government officials, including President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, to disassociate themselves from colleagues who condone anti-Semitism or are affiliated with the aforementioned organizations. Meanwhile, the government seems content to repeat the same old rhetoric. On Aug. 30, Yushchenko, reacting to this latest barbarity, reiterated the standard response - that Ukrainians should promote respect for people of all cultures, nationalities and religious beliefs. "We condemn racism and xenophobia. Such incidents are inadmissible for Kyiv and Ukraine and I will persistently ask all authorities to prevent shameful disgraceful occurrences," he said. Good. Now it's time to translate those words into action. What Yushchenko should do is make this case another "matter of honor" and then follow up on it, making sure that the assailants are identified, apprehended, and convicted. Historically, as Jewish leaders again point out, the nation's judicial system has seemed less than willing to punish violent bigots. Yushchenko himself hasn't proven that he's any better at making sure cases are solved, "honor" or not. This time, though, things have started off well: Three men have already been arrested in connection with the beating. Let's hope all the perpetrators are arrested and brought to justice after a fair and speedy trial.
    ©Kyiv Post

    31/8/2005- Three people were arrested Tuesday night in connection with the brutal Sunday beating of two yeshiva students in downtown Kiev, Army Radio reported. One of two young Jewish men beaten in downtown Kiev on Sunday evening was reportedly in "very serious condition" on Monday, the latest victim of anti-Semitism in Ukraine. The man was identified in an Israel Radio report as 28-year-old yeshiva student Mordechai Ben-Avraham and by Interfax as Mordekhay Molozhenov. According to one report, he and/or his colleague is an Israeli citizen. A police spokesman told The Associated Press that Ben-Avraham/ Molozhenov was in a coma after undergoing brain surgery. "The doctors say he is between life and death," Eduard Dolinsky, executive vice-president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, said on Monday afternoon. The two yeshiva students were reportedly beaten and struck with sticks and glass bottles by seven or eight assailants whom police classified as teenagers associated with a nationalistic "skinhead" group. Dolinsky said no suspects had been arrested, despite the fact that skinheads were reportedly seen perpetrating the attack and that their whereabouts were known. "We in the Jewish community believe that the police know who did it and, if they want, they could catch them any time. The [skinheads] hang out in a public square every day, and the police know them," he said. Anti-Semitic attacks have occurred frequently of late, he added. "We have had seven attacks in the past month - from verbal attacks to physical attacks [causing] light injuries. This case is very difficult and tragic for the whole community. People are frightened."

    Anti-Semitic rhetoric in Ukraine has also grown increasingly violent. Earlier this month, Ukrainian nationalists asked President Viktor Yushchenko to open criminal proceedings against "Judeo-Nazis," singling out Chabad rabbis and the main work of Chabad hassidic literature, the Tanya. In an open letter to Yushchenko, members of the Conservative Party and several far right-wing editors demanded that Jews be prevented from teaching the Tanya in Jewish schools and synagogues, so as to stop the spread of "this misanthropic religious system." Dolinsky said this latest attack would likely receive the same kind of attention that others had, explaining, "We never saw results in previous cases, so we are pessimistic about anything happening now. Without a government showing the political will to fight it, we will not survive this wave of anti-Semitism." Spokesmen for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry were unavailable for comment about the attack or about the police's response to it. In Jerusalem, the Jewish Agency announced on Monday that it would provide aid to the two young men who were wounded in the attack.
    ©The Jerusalem Post

    From Mina Sodman for Antifasistskiy motiv and Antifa-Net in Saint Petersburg

    September 2005- A freelance war game involving 30 competing teams from all over Europe – including fifteen from Estonia – started on 2 August in the Baltic state of Estonia. The exercise, the twelfth event of its kind and called Erna Retk 2005, is a long-range reconnaissance event in which contestants have to navigate by day and night in a territory of around 150 square kilometres and complete a range of military tasks. The name of this annual war game has a history of its own. The Erna group was a band of Estonian terrorists created and supervised by Nazi reconnaissance experts. It landed in the rear of Soviet forces occupying Estonia in the summer 1941. Trained by the Nazis in Finland, thirty-eight soldiers and four officers of the group attacked Soviet forces far inland in the Kolga gulf region in northern Estonia. In their assault, they blew up a section of the Tallinn-Leningrad railway line. Two days after landing, however, they were surrounded and destroyed by the Red Army in the swamps of northern Estonia. Capt. Meelis Rätsep, the organiser of this year's event, said teams – mainly recruited from professional military units – from Belgium, Britain, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States have signed up to take part. And, the exercise, which glorifies the name of a terror organisation which, it has been claimed, was formed on an order by Adolf Hitler, is being supported by the Estonian Ministry of Defence of Estonia, Estonia's central military HQ and a number of major local firms.

    1/9/2005- Twenty-five suspects detained after an attack on National Bolshevik Party activists this week were members of a Spartak football fan club known as the Gladiators, Kommersant reported Wednesday. The newspaper said the suspects were released after a telephone call from a high-level official. Police refused to comment on the report. Vladimir Grishin, head of the official Spartak fan club, said he had spoken to the Gladiators and that they could not have been involved in the Monday night attack. He acknowledged, however, that the Gladiators were involved in politics. He did not elaborate. The fan web site says the Gladiators have recently "been noticed at a number of political events." The Gladiators are one of numerous hooligan groups that support Spartak. Members of the National Bolshevik Party who were beaten and shot at with rubber bullets in the Communist Party headquarters in southern Moscow have accused the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth organization of being behind the attack. Some said the attackers wore Nashi T-shirts under their coats. A number of football hooligans attended Nashi meetings earlier this year, national newspapers have reported. Nashi has denied the reports. Political parties have often used football fans for their own ends. The Liberal Democratic Party has long had close ties to CSKA and Dynamo fans, said Vasily Petrakov, the head of the Moscow Fans Organization, which itself is partially funded by the Moscow city government. Meanwhile, State Duma Deputy Ivan Melnikov, a Communist, demanded an investigation of what he called a "well-planned and organized action." National ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said he would press for an objective investigation. "If [radical groups] violate the law, one should apply the law against them, not baseball bats," he said, Interfax reported. National Bolshevik Party activists, known for their theatrical acts of political protest, advocate socialist ideals and protection of the rights of ethnic Russians. Authorities have increasingly cast the group, which says it disavows violence, as a dangerous extremist group, and 39 of its activists are currently on trial for briefly seizing a presidential administration reception office in December.
    ©The Moscow Times

    28/8/2005- A rally to express solidarity with the National Bolshevik Party members arrested for staging an unauthorized demonstration at the presidential reference office in December 2004, is being held in Moscow's Lubyanskaya Square. About 500 representatives of left and right-wing movements and parties are participating in the rally, police said. Demonstrators are carrying the National-Bolshevik Party's flags, as well as Rodina and Communist party flags, an Interfax correspondent reported. "They have been held in prison for over eight months and their trial lasted for two and a half. They've taken everything away from us - our future and our children," the father of an arrested National Bolshevik told the rally. The Communist Party's First Vice Chairman Ivan Melnikov said, "I would like to express our solidarity with the men and women from the National-Bolshevik Party who are struggling for their rights!" United Civil Front leader Garry Kasparov said, [the National- Bolsheviks'] "actions look appalling to the authorities." "These guys have demonstrated that they don't need [authorized] rallies on Lake Seliger. They attach much more importance to defending their rights and positions," Kasparov said. National-Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov, said that 49 National Bolsheviks are serving prison terms. "This is an appraisal of our party's work by the state," Limonov said. The rally is being guarded by policemen. Experts with sniffer dogs are checking the perimeter of the area where the rally is being held. The area has been cordoned off. No incidents have been reported.
    ©FSU Monitor

    By Masha Gessen

    1/9/2005- It is a bad sign when headlines start to get confusing. Didn't I read this before, a couple of weeks, or maybe a month, ago? Did an underpaid hack, suffering from a hangover on a slow news day, decide to do some creative recycling? Or are news stories starting to run together in my head for some other reason -- perhaps because certain things are happening over and over again? I had that feeling of deja vu when I read about the Monday attack on National Bolshevik Party activists. As many as 30 people, armed with baseball bats and, according to some eyewitnesses, with gas pistols firing rubber bullets, attacked a meeting of opposition youth groups attended by NBP members. At least three people were seriously injured. I felt like I had read this news item a couple of times before. No wonder: well-organized thugs had already attacked NBP activists three times this year, in March and in January during their meetings and once, in February, when a group of activists was returning from a rally. To be fair, though, the NBP story was initially reported as a bit of random street violence. Wire agencies at first cited police claims that this was a fight between a group of skinheads and a group of ethnic Azeris. Then a police source told journalists it had been a street fight. But wait; this too had happened before. In late January, there was a fight near Belorussky Station when mysterious infiltrators broke up a protest against social reforms by left wing-radical groups. In late June, about 200 people wielding metal rods and other blunt objects had it out on Granatny Pereulok in the center of Moscow. The latter incident, it appears, stemmed from a hostile takeover of a business.

    But none of this was as confusing as the three different, but in essence identical, stories of Polish citizens being beaten up in Moscow. First, there was a Polish Embassy employee, who was beaten by two men in the very center of Moscow, on Ulitsa Klimashkina near the embassy compound, in broad daylight on Aug. 7. Four days later, on the same street and again in the middle of the day, the embassy's second secretary was beaten. The following evening a Polish newspaper correspondent was beaten near his office on Kutuzovsky Prospekt. The stories of all three incidents read virtually the same: the victims were approached by a stranger in a public place, knocked over, then beaten and kicked. The general assumption in the coverage of all three incidents was that they were somehow connected to the attack on three teenage sons of Russian diplomats in Warsaw, who were beaten and robbed by a gang of thugs at the end of July. What, besides repetitiveness, ties these stories together? There are credible claims, made both by eyewitnesses and by analysts, that at least some of the attacks on the NBP and the Polish citizens were inspired by the Kremlin, and possibly carried out by members of the Nashi youth movement. That may or may not be true, but at this point it does not strike me as the most important common denominator. The most important one is this: it is violence as a way of doing business, violence as a way of settling scores, violence even as a way of conducting international relations.

    The next time I scroll through the news wires and see a headline about NBP activists getting attacked, or about a Polish citizen or another non-Russian getting beaten up in broad daylight, or even about a huge gang fight in the middle of the city, I will not be very likely to click on the items: I feel like I already know these stories. And I think this is how I will remember summer 2005 in Moscow. It was when stories of violence blurred into each other and became old hat. It was the summer when violence stopped really being news.
    ©The Moscow Times

    Anna Lepadatu, Chairwoman of Roma Students Association of Chisinau, informs that Amnesty International in Moldova has start an Urgent Action to support Roma people after the police raid in the city of Yedintsy, in the north of Moldova.

    31/8/2005- On or around the 18 of July, during the investigations for several murders in Chisinau, the Moldavian police beat Roma men, women and children. More than 30 Roma people were detained, among them several 12 years old boys. Most of the men were held for two days in Yedintsy before the release. During this period, they were allegedly beaten in order to force them to incriminate themselves or others for the Chisinau murders. Mikhail Kaldarar, 21 years old, was one of the Roma deteined. He was supposed to be released on the 25 of July because of lack of evidences against him. On the 27 of July, police officers told Mikhail Kaldarar's mother and representatives of the United Alliance of Roma in Moldova NGO, that Mikhail had been released that day. His mother had waited all the day outside the temporary holding facility in Chisinau without seeing him. On the 3 of August, an official of the Ministry of the Interior confirmed to Mikhail Kaldarar's father that his son was still being detained and that he would be released only if the real killers were handed over by the Roma community. On the 5 of August, the police detained another Roma, Vasilii Kodrian, because his son is suspected for the murders. Vasilii Kodrian is supposed to be detained with Mikhail Kaldarar in the temporary holding facility of Chisinau. Torture and ill-treatment in police's custody are common in Moldova, and the members of the Roma community are frequent targets of the police. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in its report on Moldova of April 2003, raised concerns about discrimination against Roma in the country and highlighted the frequent ill-treatment of Roma by members of the police.
    ©Dzeno Association

    A House of Representatives committee has called for tougher measures to reduce criminal acts by asylum seekers, not long before a crucial debate in parliament.

    30/8/2005- The committee has suggested further restricting asylum seekers' movements and possibly banning them from certain places when they first enter Switzerland. It presented its conclusions after reviewing a report issued in April on restrictions placed on asylum seekers over the past ten years. "We could, for example, ban asylum seekers from entering certain urban areas, or even from leaving the centre where they are based during their first six months in the country," Christian Democrat parliamentarian Lucrezia Meier-Schatz said on Tuesday. Besides restricting freedom of movement, the committee also wants to force asylum seekers to take part in occupational programmes. "These measures are aimed at dissuading people who want to use the asylum procedure to enter Switzerland and commit crimes," added Radical Jean-Paul Glasson. According to Glasson, these restrictions would not constitute "huge obstacles for those who are truly seeking help and protection". He added that the crime rate among asylum seekers - especially during the first 12 months in Switzerland - was higher than among the resident population.

    Asylum law revision
    The committee wants to see these two measures added to the latest revision of Switzerland's asylum law, which is due to be debated in parliament in October. But the committee voiced scepticism about other planned measures, such as a doubling of the detention period before expulsion. Committee members questioned the sense in locking someone up for 18 months because they had refused to cooperate with the authorities. The committee also complained about how the cantons handled rejected asylum seekers, saying that after ten years of experimentation, it was time for a unified approach. In canton Geneva, only seven per cent of those who are to be expelled are locked up, while in Zurich it is 95 per cent. Yet the number of asylum seekers who face expulsion is the same in both cantons. Asylum rules were already tightened more than a year ago after parliament decided to strip rejected asylum seekers of the right to claim social security benefits. Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher said last week requests for asylum had fallen by 42 per cent since parliament's decision. Blocher, who is a member of the rightwing Swiss People's Party, added that fears that large numbers of rejected asylum seekers would turn to crime had proved unfounded. The rate did double from 3.7 per cent to 7.4 per cent, but this had to be balanced against the large drop in asylum-seeker numbers, according to the justice minister. But the Swiss Refugee Council criticised the tougher measures introduced last year as an infringement of basic human rights. The NGO said the government's restrictive asylum policy compromised human dignity.

    The country's Muslim may soon be able to take bank loans that do not offend their religious beliefs

    31/8/2005- Jyske Bank is considering offering the country's 200,000 Muslims special interest-free 'sharia' loans. Orthodox Muslims believe that the Koran forbids them to pay rents, imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen told daily newspaper Politiken. 'That means we can't go into a Danish bank and take a loan to buy a house or a car,' he said. In fact, a 'sharia' loan costs customers the same as a regular loan, but instead of interests, clients pay additional fees to cover the costs. Jyske Bank district director Hans Barth said the bank was considering the option. 'I would like to consider offering interest-free loans,' he said. 'One year ago we discussed it openly, and we found it just fine to recalculate our interest rate income as a fee.' The country's biggest banks, however, Danske Bank and Nordea, rejected the idea. 'We don't like to discriminate between our customers,' said Christian Bagger, Danske Bank spokesman. 'Our products should appeal to the broad population. Otherwise, we would be forced to offer special products to scores of groups.' In Britain, sharia loans have become common after the country's first Muslim bank opened in 2004, prompting more traditional banks to offer loans without interest rates. Bank expert Bjarne Jensen said he found it likely that the development would spread to Denmark, too. 'If the demand is there, somebody will be there to supply it,' he said. 'It could be something to do good business on.'
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    Copenhagen has been chosen to host the World OutGames, the gay Olympics, in 2009. The decision has raised the city's hopes of hosting the more ordinary Olympics in 2024

    31/8/2005- Thousands of gay athletes from around the world are to compete in disciplines like swimming, badminton, and volleyball in the city's sports facilities in 2009. Daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende reported that the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association(GLISA) had decided to hold the World OutGames in Copenhagen, raising the city's hopes to host the more straight Olympics in 2024. The event is expected to draw upwards of 16,000 homosexual athletes. 'This is extremely good for the city as a way to indicate tolerance. If we are to have any hopes of hosting the Olympics in 2024, then there are some obstacles we need to overcome, and this is a good way to practice,' said Martin Geertsen, the city councilman in charge of cultural and recreation in the capital city. The dream of hosting the Olympics surged after a delegation of city officials visited London earlier this month, where preparations for the Olympics in 2012 are already well on way. 'OL in Copenhagen in 2024 is a realistic goal,' one of the officials, Erik Jacobsen, said after the tour. The gay Olympics, however, are a more achievable goal, as they do not require any large-scale investment in new sports facilities. The World OutGames are expected to cost DKK 50-60 million, but the funding of the event remains to be organised. The World OutGames are to be held for the first time in Montreal, Canada, next year. They are expected to draw 16,000 athletes from 100 countries and an audience of 250,000.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    28/8/2005- The new Pope faces his first controversy over the direction of the Catholic church after it was revealed that the Vatican has drawn up a religious instruction preventing gay men from being priests. The controversial document, produced by the Congregation for Catholic Education and Seminaries, the body overseeing the church's training of the priesthood, is being scrutinised by Benedict XVI. It been suggested Rome would publish the instruction earlier this month, but it dropped the plan out of concern that such a move might tarnish his visit to his home city of Cologne last week. The document expresses the church's belief that gay men should no longer be allowed to enter seminaries to study for the priesthood. Currently, as all priests take a vow of celibacy, their sexual orientation has not been considered a pressing concern. Vatican-watchers believe the Pope harbours doubts about whether the church should publish the document, which has already been the subject of three drafts. 'Inevitably, such a directive will be met with opposition,' said John Haldane, professor of moral philosophy at the University of St Andrews. The instruction tries to dampen down the controversy by eschewing a moral line, arguing instead that the presence of homosexuals in seminaries is 'unfair' to both gay and heterosexual priests by subjecting the former to temptation. 'It will be written in a very pastoral mode,' Haldane said. 'It will not be an attack on the gay lifestyle. It will not say "homosexuality is immoral". But it will suggest that admitting gay men into the priesthood places a burden both on those who are homosexual and those they are working alongside who are not.'

    The instruction was drawn up as part of the Vatican's response to the sexual abuse scandal that surfaced in the American church three years ago, which has seen hundreds of priests launch lawsuits against superiors whom they accuse of abusing them. As the former head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican body charged with looking into the abuse claims, Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was made acutely aware of the scale of the problem. He is thought to have made clearing up the scandal one of the key goals of his papacy. Next month the Vatican will send investigators to the US to gauge the scale of the scandal. More than 100 bishops and seminary staff will visit 220 campuses. They will review documents provided by the schools and seminaries and may interview teachers, students and alumni, then report directly to the Vatican, which could choose to issue the instruction barring homosexuals from entering the priesthood as part of its response. Studies show that a significant proportion of men who enter seminaries to train for the priesthood are gay. Any move signalling that homosexuals will not be allowed to join the seminaries, even one couched in the arcane language of the Vatican, could reduce the number of recruits to the priesthood. In a further sign of the instruction's deeply controversial nature, it is expected the document would be signed by a cardinal rather than the Pope himself if the Vatican decides to publish it. The Vatican has been carefully trying to soften Benedict's image since he was elected earlier this year. In recent weeks he has reached out to the Jewish and Muslim communities as well as young Catholics during the church's World Youth Day. The initiatives have been seen as a significant PR success. A decision to publish an instruction that would underscore his religious conservatism would be detrimental to Benedict's standing as he enjoys his 'honeymoon period' on the world stage.
    ©The Observer

    1/9/2005- One of Turkey's best-known novelists faces three years in jail for making controversial comments on his country's killing of Armenians and Kurds. Orhan Pamuk has been charged with insulting Turkey's national character. He was quoted in a Swiss paper as saying that only he had dared to say that Turkey killed 30,000 Kurds and a million Armenians. Turkey accepts thousands of Armenians were killed by Ottoman Empire forces in 1915-17, but strongly denies genocide. The "30,000 Kurds" referred to by Mr Pamuk are those who have died since 1984 in the conflict between Turkey and Kurdish separatists. Turkey - which is keen to improve its human rights record ahead of European Union entry talks next month - is sensitive over both the Armenian and Kurdish issues. Mr Pamuk's comments angered Turkish nationalists and politicians when they were quoted in the magazine of Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger in February. A prosecutor in Istanbul has now indicted Mr Pamuk on charges the remarks amounted to a "public denigration" of Turkish identity. This is a crime under the newly country's revised penal code, criticised by freedom of speech advocates. The author, whose works including My Name is Red and Snow have been translated into 20 languages, is expected to stand trial on 16 December, his publisher Tugrul Pasaoglu said. "We have to wait for the court. Then he [Mr Pamuk] will make his speech in the court," he said. The EU has said Turkey must meet European standards on freedom of expression. The row over the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1917 has festered for decades. Armenia alleges that the Ottoman Empire systematically arranged the deportation and killing of 1.5 million Armenians. Fifteen countries, including France, Switzerland, Russia and Argentina, have classified the killings as genocide. Turkey says up to 300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died during civil strife in eastern Turkey during World War I, but rejects the term "genocide".
    ©BBC News

    2/9/2005- Malta raised the alarm today (2 September) over a surge in illegal immigration to the island, demanding EU assistance and tougher repatriation policies. At the special request of the Maltese, the issue was discussed at an informal EU foreign ministers' gathering in Newport, Wales. The Maltese government has this year witsessed a substantial upsurge in illegal immigration. Around 1,200 illegal immigrants, primarily from North African and sub-sahara African states, have landed in Malta since January. This is already twice as much as during the whole of 2004, a Maltese spokesman told EUobserver. "That means that for every two people born in Malta, there is one illegal immigrant", the spokesman said. "If the trend continues at the current pace, this ratio will be three to two by the end of this year", he added. The densely-populated mediterranean island says it faces considerable problems absorbing the migrants, particularly in terms of social conditions and security. Amnesty International in a report this year criticised conditions in Maltese detention centres where illegals are held as being "well below international standards".

    During his intervention at the foreign ministers' meeting, Maltese foreign minister Michael Frendo called upon his colleagues to take over some of the refugees that were granted asylum by Malta in order to ease the pressure on the island. "Malta accepts 53 percent of applications for asylum, which is one of the highest rates in the EU", the Maltese spokesman said. He added that several EU countries - not only in the mediterranean - had offered to admit some of the refugees with asylum status from Malta, but he declined to name the states concerned. The Maltese minister also called upon the EU to pressure African states more strongly to re-admit illegal immigrants once they have been expelled from the EU. He suggested that the prime economic development aid agreement that the EU has with the region - the Cotonou agreement - should be used as a pressure tool to achieve better co-operation with African countries. Malta claims the paragraph on migration in the Cotonou text - stating that African states should readmit their nationals residing illegally in the EU - should be read as a condition for these states to receive EU development aid. The issue of illegal immigration was already in the spotlight earlier this week when commissioner Franco Frattini presented proposals calling upon member states to adopt stricter common rules governing the return of illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers.

    30/8/2005- The European Commission is planning this week to propose a set of immigration rules which could contradict the UK's anti-terrorist measures. The EU executive will debate four new bills on returning illegal immigrants and failed asylum applicants at its first meeting after the summer break on Thursday (1 September). The new rules will set minimum common European standards, aiming to put an end to the phenomenon of illegal immigrants moving around the EU in a bid to reach countries with the highest human rights provisions. The regulations are expected to give details on how long people can be detained before being sent back to home countries and under what conditions deportations should be carried out. According to a commission spokesman, the provisions will be based on international agreements, which state that deportees should not be sent to countries where they could face persecution or torture.

    In breach of international law?
    This point has been the main bone of contention between the UN and several human rights groups over the UK's plans following the July bombings in London. Earlier this month, the British government unveiled its anti-terrorist agenda, including a proposal to expel radical individuals who provoke violent and negative sentiments which could lead to terrorism or gather support for terrorist acts. London also suggested that a global database should be set up to list foreigners with "unacceptable behaviour", such as radical preachers and publishers of extremist websites and articles. Such people should be vetted automatically before entering the UK, the proposal says. According to Amnesty International "The vagueness and breadth of the definition of 'unacceptable behaviour' and 'terrorism' can lead to further injustice and risk further undermining human rights' protection in the UK. Instead of strengthening security, they will further alienate vulnerable sections of society". The organisation has argued that the UK government's claim to seek "diplomatic assurances" for the expellees is not a sufficient guarantee, and maintains that the right not to be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, or to be sent to a country with such a risk, applies to everybody, no matter what the charges against them may be. Britain will have three months to decide whether to opt out from the proposed EU legislation or to go ahead with it.

    1/9/2005- The European Commission has proposed new EU-wide rules to establish common standards on illegal immigrants and failed asylum-seekers. Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said the aim was to have a uniformly transparent repatriation policy. The UK Home Office has said the new rules will "only affect the UK if we opt in". The London bombings prompted the UK to rethink deportation policy. The EU proposals have to be approved unanimously by all 25 EU governments.

    If accepted, the proposals would:

  • Limit the temporary custody of illegal immigrants to six months
  • Give a third-country national facing deportation the right to appeal
  • Prevent the return of anyone - even terror suspects - to countries where they might face torture
  • Allow individual member states to ban people, deported for security reasons, from re-entering any of the 25 EU states.
    Mr Frattini said offering financial incentives could be used to try to ensure that countries did not persecute returned nationals. He also suggested the creation of a permanent forum to discuss the challenges linked with immigration and an annual report by the Commission charting the progress made on integration. UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke last week published the grounds on which foreigners considered to be promoting terrorism can be deported or excluded. The Home Office is to begin proceedings to remove those who fall foul of its unacceptable behaviour list. Following the 7 July London bombings Mr Clarke specified the "unacceptable behaviour" deemed to indirectly threaten public order, national security or the rule of law. The grounds include provoking and glorifying terrorism, but civil liberties groups fear deportees could be tortured in their homelands.
    ©BBC News

    29/8/2005- A 10-year-old Iranian boy has launched a landmark legal case against the Australian government. Shayan Badraie claims his time in refugee detention camps caused catastrophic mental health problems. He is the first refugee to seek compensation for the experience of being detained in Australia. Nearly 4,000 children have been held in Australia's refugee detention camps in the past five years, and this case is likely to be the first of many. Through his father Mahommad Saeed Badraie, Shayan is suing the Immigration Department and two detention centre operators. "This case is not about the policy of mandatory detention," his lawyer Andrew Morrison told the New South Wales Supreme Court in Sydney on Monday. "It is about the way in which it was carried out, and the permanent injury inflicted on a young child by a regime which failed to provide for his medical needs," Mr Morrison is quoted as saying.

    Harsh conditions
    The Badraie family arrived among a boatload of illegal immigrants in early 2000, when Shayan was five. Authorities put the family behind the razor-wire fences of a remote detention camp in the outback. According to his lawyers, Shayan saw riots broken up with tear gas and water cannons, watched as people tried to commit suicide and was exposed to hunger strikes at the camp. He endured conditions that no child nor human being should be expected to cope with, his lawyers say. His parents claim Shayan has a condition which leaves him sitting in silence for days, refusing to eat or drink, and he frequently needs hospital treatment to survive. Three years ago, the Australian Human Rights Commission ruled that Shayan's detention was unjust. The body recommended the government pay compensation and the costs of psychiatric treatment - but the government declined.
    ©BBC News

    29/8/2005- The scenes are graphic. The charred body of a Black man is juxtaposed with a burning chicken. A shackled Black leg is shown next to the leg of a chained elephant. A woman is branded next to a panel of a chicken getting branded. The message is unmistakable: animals are suffering the same fate as African-American slaves. That's the point of a controversial campaign by the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The online exhibit has been placed on hold amid a flurry of protests. The central question in the emotional debate is: Do animals deserve the same respect and rights as Black people? To William H. Horton, associate professor history and philosophy, Grambling State University in Louisiana, the answer is an emphatic no. "When you compare slavery to animals, it sends a negative message," he explains. It's not what you say, it's what you don't say that's communicated. In essence, you're saying that slaves and animals are equivalent." Dawn Carr, director special projects for PETA, defends the online exhibit. "Animal Liberation project is about many cruelties: slavery, child labor, oppression of women and Native Americans," she says.

    But some see that as a stretch. "NAACP is opposed to animal cruelty, but valuing chickens over people is not a proper comparison," says John C. White, director of communications for the NAACP. "PETA shows that it is willing to exploit racism to advance its cause. Is PETA saying that as long as animals are butchered for meat, racists should continue lynching Black people?" PETA officials rejects the charge that it is exploiting racism and says the idea for the campaign came from an unlikely source – Dick Gregory. The Black comedian serves on the board of PETA and gave a knowing grin when asked whether this was his idea. Regardless of who came up with the idea, it's still a bad one, according to Cassandra Newby-Alexander, associate professor history at Norfolk State University in Virginia. "Comparing humans and animals is like the apples and oranges analogy," Newby-Alexander states. "You can't compare the systematic deprivation of people's rights, their culture and heritage to animals that don't have an understanding of things. Doing so belittles the legacy and horrors of slavery." There is also the issue of historical accuracy – or inaccuracy. "Horses and dogs were treated better than Blacks," says Horton, the Grambling professor. "The psychological presupposition was that a slave was less than an animal. Slaves were considered property. They were shipped like sardines in a can…worked for years without pay and Black women were violated." An estimated 12 million Africans were enslaved imported to the new world, one-third of them died before they were placed on ships. The panels display nameless victims from the past who didn't get a chance to tell their stories and now they are lowered to the status of animals.

    This isn't the first time PETA has found itself in the middle of a fierce debate. PETA offended the Jewish community recently with a "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign that showcased photos from slaughterhouses and Nazi death camps together. Apparently, they didn't learn their lesson – or didn't care that the latest campaign would similarly offend Blacks. In fact, Carr, the PETA spokesperson, said: "Any group or community that is aware of bigotry and oppression is more sympathetic of others." Critics say that holds up in people-to-people relations, not when a group of people is equated with animals. While the "Animal Liberation" campaign has been postponed indefinitely PETA officials are hopeful that once they meet with the NAACP they will move forward with the tour. "We are planning to meet with local NAACP president…we will discuss details…we hope that we can discuss what's at the root of any objections to our exhibit," Carr said. In the meantime they are reviewing e-mails and other feedback they have received. "We have had a full range of feedback, from outraged people to thankful people," Carr said. "This exhibit is bringing up a big issue for people to face…animals have rights and it's a supremacist view to think otherwise. The mindset that led to these cruelties is the same mindset that is alive and well now…the mindset is the same, only the victims have changed." "PETA is opposed to all cruelty and bigotry…[we're] asking people to open their hearts and minds to the concept that chains, whips and abuse of any living being can end, just as the shameful abuses of our past have ended," Carr said in an e-mail following an interview with the NNPA News Service. "There is embedded dehumanization in comparing Blacks to animals," Newby-Alexander said. Racism is still a touchy issue in the U.S. The last known lynching was less than 40 years ago. Almost 4,000 Blacks were lynched between 1882 and 1968 according to the archives at Tuskegee University. It's been a little more than 140 years since the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Just six years ago 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to his death on a rural road in Jasper, Texas. "Every time someone makes an unwarranted analogy or statement it needs to be addressed, Newby-Alexander said. "This campaign showcases how some people don't understand the impact of what happened and the long term predispositions."
    ©BlackPress USA

    20/8/2005- A major illegal immigration network, operating from within Lisbon's Immigration Office (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras/SEF) has been dismantled. Hundreds of illegal immigrants are thought to have been legalised for a period of over 18 months by the network, lead by a Portuguese lawyer and operating through corrupt officials within SEF. Initial reports show that the majority of the immigrants legalised are of Arab states, predominantly from Pakistan and Egypt. The network is believed to have had several "agents" operating across the country and is also thought to have assisted illegal immigrants in gaining residence in a number of European Union member states. In total 21 people have been detained for their involvement in this network and include two lawyers, three police officers, three SEF employees and a number of foreigners. Their trial is scheduled to start on September 26. Investigations into this network found that other suspects could have been involved, including members at the foreign ministry responsible for the issuing of visas and other SEF workers, but were not charged due to technicalities and lack of evidence.
    ©The Portugal News

    De Menezes death forces review of controversial tactic

    20/8/2005- Britain's top police officers are reviewing the controversial shoot to kill policy after its first use ended in the gunning down of an innocent man, the Guardian has learned. The review by the Association of Chief Police Officers comes amid a continuing dispute around the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, over his handling of the killing of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes. A senior police source and member of Acpo said: "The review is not theoretical, it is looking in great depth."

    Among the issues to be considered are:

  • Whether any other non-lethal weapons exist or are in development that could rapidly incapacitate a suspected suicide bomber
  • How much intelligence is needed before officers are authorised to shoot to kill
  • How to assess intelligence rapidly when under massive pressure
  • How to ensure effective communications between commanders at base and those pursuing a suspect.

    The review will also look at the bomb attacks on London on July 7 and 21, seeking to draw lessons from them. The two attacks will also be examined to provide "real-time" scenarios to help develop the best way to implement the policy. In addition it will focus on the lesser-known Operation Clydesdale, which covers tactics on a planned raid against a suicide bombing suspect and which also authorises officers to shoot to to kill. The policy which claimed Mr de Menezes's life is known as Operation Kratos. Senior officers who support the policy have privately said there is anxiety about whether using the tactic again would result in another innocent being killed. "There were big agonies before and Stockwell has just emphasised that," the source said. Asked whether there was confidence in Kratos, he replied: "It's very hard to view something like Kratos and use words like confidence."

    Mr de Menezes died on July 22 at Stockwell tube station after being mistaken for a suicide bomber. The case is under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. A string of blunders have emerged, including the white Brazilian man being misidentified as a black African terrorism suspect. Senior officers have met in the past month to learn early lessons from the Stockwell incident. Senior officers believe that the shoot to kill policy must be retained, but they have been discussing ways in which the risk of killing innocent people can be minimised. Part of the review will look at intelligence. The police source said: "In any firearms incident the most crucial bit is the intelligence you receive. One question is how much intelligence do you need to shoot to kill. What systems are available to check out the intelligence quickly?" An Acpo spokeswoman said: "We constantly review our guidance." With questions continuing to be asked about the handling of the investigation into the shooting, the family of Mr de Menezes yesterday demanded Sir Ian's resignation. Alessandro Pereira, a cousin of Mr de Menezes, said: "He now says he didn't know. If he didn't know, why didn't he know? Why did he tell the world my cousin was a terrorist? Why did he lie to us?" "I say that those responsible should resign. Ian Blair should resign. The police knew Jean was innocent. Yet they let my family suffer. They let us suffer. Ian Blair let us suffer."

    Next week Brazilian investigators will arrive in London to press for answers. Two Brazilian officials, Wagner Goncalves and Marcio Pereira Pinto Garcia, will meet representatives from the IPCC and Scotland Yard's deputy assistant commissioner, John Yates, and other British officials. "The Brazilian government anticipates receiving clarification regarding a number of matters, including the information released by the press in recent days," its embassy said in a statement. The IPCC said it was "looking forward" to welcoming the Brazilian officials. In their search for non-lethal weapons that could provide an alternative strategy, chief officers will study the role of electric stun-guns, known as Tasers. These were used to subdue a suicide bomb suspect who fled to Birmingham. But some officers believe they are dangerous, as the charge could set off a detonation. The Met has already reviewed the application of the shoot to kill policy and Sir Ian told the Evening Standard: "The methods that were used appeared to be the least worst option [for tackling suicide bombers] and I remain persuaded of that and we still have the procedure in use. "We have reviewed it very thoroughly in conjunction with the IPCC and we have made one or two small changes, but the operation remains essentially the same."
    ©The Guardian

    Met chief was told of 'difficulty' over fatal shooting · Police offer to pay de Menezes family £15,000

    21/8/2005- Police officers from the team involved in the fatal shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes did not believe he posed 'an immediate threat'. Senior sources in the Metropolitan Police have told The Observer that members of the surveillance team who followed de Menezes into Stockwell underground station in London felt that he was not about to detonate a bomb, was not armed and was not acting suspiciously. It was only when they were joined by armed officers that his threat was deemed so great that he was shot seven times. Sources said that the surveillance officers wanted to detain de Menezes, but were told to hand over the operation to the firearms team. The two teams have fallen out over the circumstances surrounding the incident, raising fresh questions about how the operation was handled.

    A police source said: 'There is no way those three guys would have been on the train carriage with him [de Menezes] if they believed he was carrying a bomb. Nothing he did gave the surveillance team the impression that he was carrying a device.' Last night, Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair admitted he was told that shooting created 'a difficulty'. In an interview with the News of the World, Blair said that an officer came to him the day after the shooting and said the equivalent of 'Houston, we have a problem'. 'He didn't use those words but he said "We have some difficulty here, there is a lack of connection". 'I thought "That's dreadful, what are we going to do about that?".' The Observer can also reveal that the de Menezes family was offered £15,000 after the shooting. The ex gratia payment, which does not affect legal action by the family or compensation, is a fraction of the $1 million (£560,000) reported to have been offered the family. Police yesterday denied they had made the offer, which the family has described as 'offensive'. Members of the firearms unit are said to be furious that de Menezes was not properly identified when he left his flat, the first problem in the chain of events that led to the Brazilian's death. Specialist officers with the firearms team active that day had received training in how to deal with suicide bombers. A key element was advice that a potential bomber will detonate at the first inkling he has been identified. They are trained to react at the first sign of any action. The Observer now understands that seconds before the firearms team entered the tube train carriage, a member of the surveillance squad using the codename Hotel 3 moved to the doorway and shouted: 'He's in here.' De Menezes, in all likelihood alarmed by the activity, stood and moved towards the doorway. He was grabbed and pushed back to his seat. The first shots were then fired while Hotel 3 was holding him.

    The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is to investigate if the firearms officers, with only seconds to decide whether to shoot, mistakenly interpreted de Menezes's movement as an aggressive act. For the firearms officers involved in the death to avoid any legal action, they will have to state that they believed their lives and those of the passengers were in immediate danger. Such a view is unlikely to be supported by members of the surveillance unit. For reasons as yet unclear, members of the firearms team have yet to submit their own account of the events to the IPCC. The two members of the team believed to have fired the fatal shots are known to have gone on holiday immediately after the shooting. In one case, the holiday had been pre-booked, in the other the leave was authorised by Blair, who yesterday received the backing of the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke: 'I am very happy with the conduct, not only of Sir Ian Blair, but the whole Metropolitan Police in relation to this inquiry.'

    Meanwhile, questions have been raised about the accuracy of the police intelligence that led to the raid on the block of flats occupied by de Menezes. It was initially suggested that the flat was connected to the man known as Hussein Osman, who was arrested in Italy. On the Saturday after the shooting, officers raided the flat in a high-profile operation watched by the world's media. As a result, a man, identified only as 'C', was arrested 'on suspicion of the commission, instigation or preparation of acts of terrorism'. But he was released on 30 July with no charge, raising the possibility that the flats had no connection with the bombings. The IPCC is also expected to look into selective briefings to the media over the days following the shootings. The parents of de Menezes said they have rejected all financial offers made by the police. 'I feel hurt and offended,' Jean's mother, Maria Otoni de Menezes, told The Observer this weekend. 'I didn't think it was right to talk about money so soon after my son's death.' One document seen by The Observer and handed to the family on 1 August by the Met's assistant deputy commissioner, John Yates, sets out a final settlement, on top of an agreement to pay repatriation and legal fees. 'The MPS offers £15,000 by way of compensation to you for the death of Jean Charles,' says the document, dated 27 July. 'This ... extra gratia paymen ... means it is paid without any consideration of legal liability or responsibility.'
    ©The Observer

    23/8/2005- Britain should be "deeply ashamed" it does not grant more people asylum, a leading campaigner for immigrant welfare said today. Habib Rahman, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants , launched his attack on UK immigration policy ahead of the publication later today of the latest home office figures on the number of asylum seekers coming to Britain. The data shows the number of asylum applications in the second quarter of 2005 as well as the overall figures year on year. Last year's statistics showed there was a 22% fall in the number of asylum seekers coming to the UK, putting the figure 68% lower than the peak of October 2002. Legislation was introduced last year to removes benefits from families who do not leave the UK voluntarily. An Iranian Christian family from Bury, Greater Manchester, have faced action under section nine of the 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act and will find out today if they are to be evicted from their home. The Khanali family also face losing their benefits and having their two children taken into care if they fail to defend the Home Office application. Mr Rahman said the latest changes, including the refusal to guarantee indefinite leave to remain to bona fide refugees, "will doubtless ensure that the numbers keep plummeting" but added it was "really is no cause for celebration". "We should be deeply ashamed that more people do not claim asylum in the United Kingdom, given that one in 300 of the world's people is fleeing persecution, violence or war," he said. "JCWI believes that many potential asylum seekers may have been driven underground by the UK's harsh asylum regime. The inability to obtain legally aided immigration advice, and the enforced destitution, detention and forcible removal of asylum seekers may act as powerful disincentives to make a claim."
    ©The Guardian

    26/8/2005- Four policemen sacked for exchanging a racist text message have lost a bid to win back their jobs. Greater Manchester Chief Constable Michael Todd upheld the decision to dismiss the officers when they appealed against the original punishment. Their barrister argued that while their actions were abhorrent they should have been punished in another way, for instance a fine, rather being dismissed. Paul Kelly, of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: "The officers involved have clearly done wrong and their actions were abhorrent. However, what we were seeking was proportionality in the sanctions imposed on these individuals. "We don't believe what they did merited them getting the sack. They could and should have been punished in some other way which allowed them to keep their jobs."

    It is understood other examples of alleged racism by officers who were allowed to keep their jobs formed part of the argument made to Mr Todd. The four sacked officers may now take their case to an independent police tribunal. Mr Kelly said: "We are considering an appeals tribunal." The offensive text found on the four officers' private mobile phones was written in the form of a joke. A police inspector reported it to his bosses after one of the men showed him the message. A 10-month investigation was held and the four were sacked after an internal disciplinary tribunal. They were the first serving officers to be dismissed by the force over a racist text message. Three of them were based in Salford and the fourth was based in south Manchester. The officers - who have not been named - admitted "sending, receiving or showing a racist text message to colleagues." The Manchester Evening News revealed in October last year that two of the officers had been removed from frontline duties after the text message emerged.

    Investigations into the two other officers were launched after the text's origins were traced. We reported how all four were sacked last month. A statement from GMP said: "A hearing was held at Chester House last Tuesday, August 18. "The Chief Constable's review found that the decision made at the original tribunal should stand." The sacking happened just weeks after Mr Todd admitted an anti-racist letter sent to the homes of 11,000 GMP staff to reinforce force policy had been poorly worded and badly managed, although he stood by its message. In April, the Manchester Evening News revealed how a GMP civilian who sent a racist e-mail showing a picture of a South African beauty queen with a monkey's head superimposed on her body was given a written warning but allowed to keep his job by the force's personnel department. The e-mail was found during a routine trawl of the force's computers.
    ©Manchester Evening News

    The country's youngest immigrant women are well on way to turn the tide and break away from traditional gender roles. Their families, however, remain an obstacle

    22/8/2005- The key to integration of immigrants lies with the women, experts say. Encouraging Muslim women to rebel against repressive gender roles is the only way to have their families become an integral part of Danish society. Poul Christian Matthiesen, a professor of demographics and population consultant for the national statistics bureau, told daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten that many immigrant women were doomed to isolation because they did not dare to challenge their role as housewives. 'I don't believe that you can live in Danish society without accepting that there is equality between men and women here. You can't hold on to your former culture if it is one that promotes gender role patterns that are harmful to the family's economic prospects, forcing the family into a lower class,' Matthiesen said. Immigration consultants, however, said the rebellion was already well on way. 'It's happening out there,' said Sükrü Ertosun, chairman of the Ethnic Minority Council. 'Many young Muslim women are creating different frames for their existence than their mothers had.' Ertosun said the women often had to pay a high price for their independence, and warned against pushing them too hard. Increased pressure might have the opposite effect, he said. 'It has to take its own time. Maybe it happens too slowly, but it's happening. Nobody disagrees that it would be better if Muslim women were more visible,' he said. The United Nations said in a recent population report that economic and social development in Middle Eastern countries had stagnated. The report also found that a lack of gender equality was a decisive barrier to societal development. In Denmark, less than half of all immigrants from non-Western countries are employed. For women of certain nationalities, such as Somali and Palestinian, the employment rate is less than ten percent. Nina Smith, an economics professor who studies immigrant employment, said that taking up the issue was important, as a mother's employment status was crucial for whether her children eventually also began working. 'It is difficult to hold on to an old-fashioned gender pattern in a welfare society that is financially built upon both men and women working. It is a problem for equality to say that this is a cultural issue,' said Smith.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    Immigrant women should be forced into mother support groups after having babies. The idea was one of many hatched at a top leader integration summit over the weekend

    22/8/2005- Attending support meetings for new mothers should be obligatory for immigrant women, in order to force them out of their homes and into society, integration experts and the Social Democrats agree. The idea was one of many conceived and presented as a number of top leaders isolated themselves for two days in a hotel to identify new ways to improve integration of the country's immigrants, national broadcaster DR reported. The event, labelled 'Integration Summit 05' was organised by the Confederation of Danish Industries (DI) to address faltering efforts to integrate immigrants. Forty-eight business and community leaders were split up into five groups and given the task of finding ways to better integrate immigrants. The results of the summit were presented on Saturday to DI's Director General, Hans Skov Christensen, and Minister of Integration Affairs Rikke Hvilshøj. The conference's proposal to create summer schools that keep immigrants connected to the education system caught the attention of Hvilshøj. Other proposals offered by the conference included creating family contracts; establishing meeting places at the country's schools, where cultural and social clubs could meet local business leaders; and creating an internet portal that would break down prejudices about immigrants and help more immigrants find a job. 'There are many exciting ideas that we will continue working with,' said Hvilshøj, Danish-Pakistani journalist and author Rushy Rashid presented the idea that immigrant mothers should be obligated to join mother support groups, organised by local authorities but currently voluntary for women to attend. Rashid said meeting other mothers of new-born children would give immigrant mothers better understanding and insight into Danish society. Social Democratic spokesman on equal rights issues Kirsten Brosbøl said she found the idea interesting. 'It's a good idea, which would clearly establish contact to women who often live in isolation from society,' she said.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    22/8/2005- The Armed Forces of Malta on Saturday evening rescued two men whose boat had capsized around 70 nautical miles south of Malta and who claimed to be the sole survivors of a voyage of 28 irregular immigrants. However, no other immigrants were seen. According to an AFM statement, the AFM Rescue Coordination Centre was informed that a patrolling Italian military aircraft had sighted a capsized boat and that two people were seen grasping to it. The AFM assumed coordination of the rescue mission and immediately dispatched an AFM Islander aircraft to the site in order to supervise and coordinate the initial recovery of the two persons by MV Comet, a Maltese registered ship which was in the vicinity and requested to assist in the operation. An Italo-Maltese jointly crewed AB212 helicopter was also dispatched to the scene to recover the two people who were winched onto the aircraft and transported to St Luke's Hospital for medical treatment. Preliminary investigation revealed that the two men, who claimed to be Sudanese, were also claiming that they were the sole survivors of a voyage of 28 irregular immigrants. However, an extensive search and rescue operation proved negative. In another rescue operation, the AFM rescue boat Melita1 was dispatched 30 nautical miles south east of Delimara to recover a seaman who had sustained an injury to his hand on board the South African registered MV Skanderborg. The 42-year-old Polish seaman was taken to hospital for treatment. Yesterday afternoon, the AFM was also called to assist a man who was injured on a cabin cruiser.
    ©Malta Independent Daily

    22/8/2005- Sport is not always synonymous with violence in the stadium and hooligans' racism. In the football stadium of Suel, near the Spanish city of Malaga, Roma and police teams were the protagonists of the manifestation ‘Football Match Against Racism'. On Sunday, August 21, the stadium hosted the sixth edition of the games. The idea for ‘Football Match Against Racism' in Spain comes from the Roma man Juan Soto, and took place for the first time in 1994. After the death of Soto, the manifestation stopped for three years. Now it is annually organized by the police association Asociación Unificada de Guardias Civiles (AUGC). The game is composed of two football matches: the first between Roma youth and the sons of policemen, and the second between the Roma and policemen themselves. The children's match was included to give an example of peaceful integration between two groups who have always been considered as enemies. In addition to the games, the public was invited to the final celebration where the Spanish traditional dish paella was served. Roma readers of our web-site will be happy that the Roma teams won both matches. The football match between Roma children and the sons of policemen ended 8 – 4, and the Roma adults won against the policemen 3 – 1.
    ©Dzeno Association

    20/8/2005- Pope Benedict XVI warned yesterday of rising anti-Semitism and hostility to foreigners, winning a standing ovation from members of Germany's oldest Jewish community during a visit to a rebuilt synagogue that had been destroyed by the Nazis. With the shrill sound of a ram's horn and a choir chanting in Hebrew "peace be with you", Benedict became only the second pope to visit a synagogue, praying and remembering Holocaust victims. "Today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners," he said. Benedict said progress had been made, but "much more remains to be done. We must come to know one another much more and much better". He did not elaborate on his warning except to call for more vigilance, receiving loud applause from the audience after his remarks. Earlier, Benedict stood quietly with his hands clasped during a Hebrew prayer before a memorial to the six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany. Rabbi Netanel Teitlebaum called his visit "a step toward peace between all peoples". The Pope underlined his commitment to continue in the path of his predecessor, John Paul II, who made the first papal visit to a synagogue in Rome in 1986 and improved relations between Catholics and Jews. "Today I, too, wish to reaffirm that I intend to continue on the path toward improved relations and friendship with the Jewish people ," said Benedict, who did much of the theological groundwork for John Paul's outreach while serving as a Vatican official. Outreach to Jews and Muslims is one of the themes of Benedict's first foreign trip since his election as Pope on April 19 in conjunction with the World Youth Day festival that has drawn over 300,000 young people to Cologne. The German-born Pope did not discuss his own personal experience of World War II being unwillingly enrolled in the Hitler Youth as a teenager and deserting the German army at the end of the war. Benedict's visit appeared to have helped smooth over a dispute between the Vatican and Israel that arose after the Israeli Government faulted Benedict for not mentioning attacks on Israelis in a recent condemnation of terrorism. The Vatican responded with a terse statement asking the Israelis not to tell the Pope what to say.
    ©Irish Examiner

    23/8/2005- Czech and German neo-Nazis are in a dispute over the Sudetenland border regions. The Germans demand the return of the lands to Germany and Austria, the weekly Tyden reported in its latest supplement. German neo-Nazis conditioned the participation of a Czech representative in a meeting marking the death of Nazi leader Rudolf Hess in Bavaria last weekend on the Czechs explicitly giving up the former Sudetenland in favour of Germany and Austria. In the end German authorities, however, banned the march in Bavarian Wunsiedel which was to commemorate Hess, one of Hitler's close aides who died in prison in 1987. In July the Czech neo-Nazis released a statement on the Internet in which they distanced themselves from the post-war deportations of Sudeten Germans from then-Czechoslovakia, mainly Sudetenland, on the basis of the decrees issued by then-Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes. "The National Resistance...wants to build up a new Europe along with their German friends. Let us overcome the old wrongs and step side by side towards the new future," Tyden quoted an anonymous author as writing on the Czech neo-Nazi website. However, this was apparently not enough for the German neo-Nazis. At the beginning of August the organiser of the march, Juergen Rieger, told Czechs that they could give a speech at the meeting only on condition they pronounce the sentence: "We Czech nationalists agree with the return of Sudetenland to Germany and Austria." The Czech side called this requirement "outrageous and absurd" and the talks ended up in a stalemate. In reaction to it, a faction of Czech neo-Nazis decided to boycott the march, while others took a more accommodating approach and called on other adherents to join the march "to pay homage to Rudolf Hess and not to Juergen Rieger," Tyden noted. In the end, the German authorities resolved the controversy, as the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe banned the march last Wednesday. Consequently, Czech extremists supported their German friends at the weekend's demonstration for the German ultra-right NPD party in Nuremberg. Tyden recalled that Czech skinheads had to solve similar conflicts in the past. In February and March 2002, for instance, a sharp dispute was provoked by leaflets "Sudetenland was and will be German again," spread by some members of the Czech National Resistance organisation.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    20/8/2005- Hundreds of German far right extremists marched through Berlin and gathered for a rally in former Nazi hotbed Nuremberg on Saturday after a meeting to honor Adolf Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess was banned. Around 350 supporters of the NPD, a party the government has likened to the early Nazis and tried unsuccessfully to ban, gathered in Nuremberg, scene of Hitler's huge rallies after the Nazis came to power in 1933. Police said about 300 anti-Nazi protesters had sought to disrupt the election rally held on Nelson Mandela Platz, a square behind the city's main railway station. In the German capital, over 500 right-wingers marched from the central Alexanderplatz to the eastern suburb of Lichtenberg. Police arrested around 10 people after scuffles between the marchers and left-wing activists. The city of Nuremberg had sought to stop the meeting there, arguing it was simply a relocation of a banned march neo-Nazis had planned to mark the 18th anniversary of Hess's death. Neo-Nazis have met in previous years in the southern town of Wunsiedel, where Hess is buried, but new laws to limit demonstrations allowed a court to block the gathering. However, a separate court allowed the Nuremberg rally to proceed. Hess was found hanged in his prison cell in the Spandau district of Berlin in 1987. Many of Germany's small band of neo-Nazis believe he was murdered by his British military captors rather than committing suicide as is generally believed. Hess was captured in 1941 after parachuting into Scotland in an apparent personal bid to broker peace with Britain.

    23/8/2005- Germany's divided far-right parties thought unity would bring success, but they are unlikely to make their mark in September's general election as the hard left wins over many of the frustrated voters they once wooed. A year after making headlines for winning seats in two eastern state assemblies, the National Democratic Party (NPD) and German People's Union (DVU) have made few waves despite ending decades of hostility and forming an alliance. By targeting protest voters angered at Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's labour reforms, they believed their combined might would earn them seats in parliament after a wretched showing in 2002, when no far-right party won even 1 percent of the vote. A year on, only the new Left Party has managed to tap into lingering voter dissatisfaction over high unemployment and may have dented the right's chances even further by flirting with far-right rhetoric ahead of the election scheduled for Sept. 18. "It's hard to establish how many potential right-wing voters may have moved to the left, but the Left Party has consciously targeted them," said Manfred Guellner, director of the Forsa polling institute. Left Party leader Oskar Lafontaine, a former Schroeder ally and finance minister, was accused of stirring racism by calling foreign workers "Fremdarbeiter" - a term used by the Nazis to describe slave labourers. He later appealed to far-right voters to switch camps and vote for the Left Party. Itself an alliance of former communists and disaffected Social Democrats (SPD), the new party has firmly established itself as the party of protest, notably in the east where voters are far more fickle than in the west.

    "The far right has struggled to find a theme to mobilise voters, while the Left Party has become the focus for the frustrated," said Oskar Niedermayer, a political scientist at Berlin's Free University. Even the NPD acknowledges the left may have stolen some of its thunder. "What Lafontaine says is partly right in relation to issues such as Turkish EU entry and foreign workers. He knows what the voters want to hear," said NPD spokesperson Klaus Beier. Pollsters say the right-wing partners may fail to win even 2 percent of the vote, far short of the 5 percent required to win a seat in the Bundestag lower house. No far-right party has reached that threshold in postwar Germany. After the atrocities of the Nazis, the far right has been pushed to the margins, more so than in some other European states, although it can still grab attention with rallies. In May, there was extensive coverage of its plans to march past Berlin's new holocaust memorial on the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two. Analysts say the lack of a charismatic leader, such as Austria's Joerg Haider or France's Jean-Marie Le Pen, has hampered their prospects. By contrast, the Left Party has two of Germany's most charismatic politicians in Lafontaine and reform communist Gregor Gysi. "There's no one who is well-known, who is good with people, who can appeal to people beyond their core supporters," said Niedermayer. Like other small parties, the NPD and DVU have struggled to organise their campaign after Schroeder's shock call for early elections on May 22. Nevertheless, there are those who believe the far right is content to focus on long-term goals for now, targeting young people, particular males in Germany's depressed eastern states. "You should not underestimate the NPD. They are not the stupid thugs they are portrayed as," said Toralf Staud whose recent book Modern Nazis warns against ignoring them. "I would warn against looking at the far right only in terms of voter percentages."

    25/8/2005- An appeals court in Germany Thursday ruled that construction can go ahead on a Jewish community centre, dismissing neighbours' claims that their property values would go down. Saxony State Superior Administrative Court ruled there were no grounds for halting construction, saying the presence of a Jewish centre posed "no discernible deleterious impact" for the neighbouring property owners. During proceedings a group of people marched outside the courthouse accusing the plaintiffs of anti-Semitism. Leipzig Mayor Wolfgang Tiefensee, in welcoming the ruling, condemned what he called "some rather oddly construed" arguments put forth by the neighbours. Leipzig Jewish community head Kuef Kaufmann said he was relieved that the court had ruled against the claim. The city of Leipzig issued a construction permit in late 2002 for the USD 4 million (EUR 3.3 million) project. But it has been stalled ever since by objections from neighbours. Speaking in court on behalf of other co-plaintiffs, one man rejected claims that he and the others are anti-Semitic. He claimed some of his ancestors were Jewish. He insisted the only concerns were for property values amid fears that the centre could be a potential terrorist target.
    ©Expatica News

    26/8/2005- The leader of Germany's extreme-right NPD party was given a four-month suspended jail sentence on Thursday for inciting violence. Judges in the northeastern town of Stralsund ruled that Udo Voigt's call in a 1998 campaign speech for voters to engage in "armed combat" could be interpreted as incitement to violence against the leaders of the main political parties. Voigt had been cleared by a different court in an earlier trial in 2002 after the videotape of his speech was destroyed in a fire, but federal prosecutors lodged an appeal. The former captain in the German airforce is no stranger to controversy. He was placed under investigation in 2004 for suggesting that the concrete blocks of the new Holocaust memorial in Berlin could be used as the "foundations for a new Reich chancellery." The NPD is the most radical of Germany's handful of far-right parties and caused shockwaves among the country's established parties last year when it scored more than nine percent of the votes in the economically depressed eastern state of Saxony, giving it seats in a regional assembly for the first time since 1968.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    24/8/2005- The Prosecutor General's Office said Tuesday that it was considering an appeal by an ultranationalist State Duma deputy to shut down the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights, which the deputy accused of using foreign funding to wage a political war against the state. The NGO's director, Alexander Brod, said that Liberal Democratic Party Deputy Nikolai Kuryanovich was trying to settle a personal score and to curry favor with the Kremlin. The Moscow Bureau of Human Rights presented a report titled "Racism, Xenophobia, Ethnic Discrimination and Anti-Semitism in Russia" on Aug. 15 that identified Kuryanovich as one of several politicians who consistently used xenophobic language. The report also named Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky. On Aug. 16, Kuryanovich sent a letter to Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, Kremlin chief of staff Dmitry Medvedev and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov that accused the NGO of "living off of money from U.S. intelligence" to portray Russia as a "Nazi society." The opening paragraph of the letter quoted President Vladimir Putin's statement at a meeting with human rights activists in the Kremlin last month that Russia would not tolerate foreign funding for the political activities of NGOs. Kuryanovich called on Ustinov, Medvedev and Ivanov to "take all necessary measures to liquidate" Brod's organization, which he described as "extremist" and "seditious." A Prosecutor General's Office spokesman said Kuryanovich's complaint was being examined and that a decision on what action, if any, to take would be made by Sept. 16. Brod said Kuryanovich was upset about the report. "Kuryanovich is riding on that ideological wave and doing everything he can to make the powers that be like him," he said by telephone. Brod said his organization was completely transparent and that it received funding from the European Commission, the Dutch Embassy and the St. Petersburg Mayor's Office, as well as from private Russian donors. Kuryanovich insisted on Tuesday that his rhetoric did not promote xenophobia. "We are supporting Russian patriotism, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with racism and xenophobia," he said by telephone. Kuryanovich made headlines earlier this year by co-authoring legislation that would exile Russians and strip them of their citizenship if they married foreigners. "Our women, the most beautiful and best in the world, are going abroad. By doing this, they are wasting the most valuable thing we have -- the gene pool of our nation," Kuryanovich said on Ekho Moskvy radio in June.
    ©The Moscow Times

    26/8/2005- Leading Russian rights activists have accused the authorities of indifference to abuses and torture they said were rampant in Russian jails. They called for legislation allowing public oversight of detention facilities. They also called on Russian leaders to dismiss the country's top prison official, Yuri Kalinin, claiming he has allowed systematic violations of convicts' rights. Lev Ponomaryov, the head of the All-Russian Public Movement for Human Rights, likened Russia's prison system to the Soviet Gulag. "Without doubt, the policy of [prison officials] is aimed at making punishment more severe, crushing each convict ... and morally and often physically destroying them," he told a news conference. In an annual report based on monitoring prisons in 40 out of Russia's 89 regions, his organisation said prison officials routinely beat and tortured inmates. The report said the convicts also were subjected to cruel punishment for no reason and systematically humiliated. Such treatment by prison authorities prompted several revolts by inmates in the past year, the activists said. In the most dramatic protest, hundreds of convicts in the western city of Lgov in January slashed themselves after several inmates allegedly were beaten by jail officials in the presence of prison chiefs. Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group rights organisation, accused Russian authorities of denying rights activists access to jails and prisons. "Until there is public control over [detention facilities] these kinds of atrocities will continue," Ms Alexeyeva said, urging Russian lawmakers to pass the necessary legislation. The criticism came amid concern about the treatment of jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev. Khodorkovsky went on a hunger strike to protest after Lebedev, who lawyers say is ill, was moved to an isolation cell last Friday. Prison officials told the Interfax news agency he was moved back to a regular cell yesterday. Leading Russian rights activists have accused the authorities of indifference to abuses and torture they said were rampant in Russian jails. They called for legislation allowing public oversight of detention facilities. They also called on Russian leaders to dismiss the country's top prison official, Yuri Kalinin, claiming he has allowed systematic violations of convicts' rights.

    Lev Ponomaryov, the head of the All-Russian Public Movement for Human Rights, likened Russia's prison system to the Soviet Gulag. "Without doubt, the policy of [prison officials] is aimed at making punishment more severe, crushing each convict ... and morally and often physically destroying them," he told a news conference. In an annual report based on monitoring prisons in 40 out of Russia's 89 regions, his organisation said prison officials routinely beat and tortured inmates. The report said the convicts also were subjected to cruel punishment for no reason and systematically humiliated. Such treatment by prison authorities prompted several revolts by inmates in the past year, the activists said. In the most dramatic protest, hundreds of convicts in the western city of Lgov in January slashed themselves after several inmates allegedly were beaten by jail officials in the presence of prison chiefs. Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, accused Russian authorities of denying rights activists access to jails and prisons. "Until there is public control over [detention facilities] these kinds of atrocities will continue," Ms Alexeyeva said, urging Russian lawmakers to pass the necessary legislation. The criticism came amid concern about the treatment of jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev. Khodorkovsky went on a hunger strike to protest after Lebedev, who lawyers say is ill, was moved to an isolation cell last Friday. Prison officials told the Interfax news agency he was moved back to a regular cell yesterday.
    © Independent Digital

    22/8/2005- The most recent population estimate for the European Union is 460 million. At least 8 million of these people are of Roma ethnicity. This is large enough to make Roma the biggest minority group in Europe. However, 8 million people is seemingly not enough to merit political representation. Roma are shockingly underrepresented in the parliaments of almost every country in Europe, and most disturbingly, in the EU system. This is nothing new. As a historically oppressed minority, Roma have never had a chance to participate in their own governance. However, the current problems date back to the waves of democratization that surrounded the fall of the Soviet system in 1989. While other nations and international bodies were searching for ways to make Europe more democratic, Roma voices were strangely lacking. The absence of a political tradition in Roma culture has prevented them from quickly orientating themselves, and they have subsequently been alienated from the new system. As a result of this inactivity, Roma in Europe continue to lack access to the political realm on every conceivable level, aside from the limited experiments in self-government that have taken place in Hungary and the former Yugoslavia.

    Representative bodies that do exist to enable Roma to participate in decisions concerning their future are not effective. What is worse is that these bodies do not communicate directly with the Roma people, but only with Roma NGOs: only NGO members can vote, and only NGO candidates can be elected to these representative bodies. The European Roma and Traveller's Forum (ERTF) is a prime example of this inequity on the European level, and the Governmental Council for Roma Community Affairs is an example within the Czech Republic. While the Czech Governmental Council for Roma neither helps nor harms this situation, bodies such as the ERTF are dangerous because they create the harmful illusion that they are a democraticly established Roma representation. In fact, they are only an NGO blessed by Euro-bureaucrats and "experts on Roma" – lead by Roma who believe that consultative status to the Council of Europe makes them legitimate Roma representation. Legitimate representatives of the Roma people can only be chosen by democratic, free and open elections. All Roma people should be able to vote in such elections, and all levels of local government should recognize the need for Roma voices to be heard in the political process. One might object that "there are democratic, free and open elections", which is the truth. However, it is also the truth that these elections, due to the model that they follow, do not produce legitimate Roma representation. This is a situation that must be changed. We have to cast a model that will allow the establishment of a democratic and legitimate Roma representation.

    Dzeno believes that such elections should be based, for example, on the Croatian model that resulted from the Constitutional Act on Rights of National Minorities of Croatia, which states:
    If to the representative body of the unit of local self-government on the basis of universal suffrage at least one member of the national minority, which on the territory of the local self-government unit participate with more than 5% and less than 15% is not elected, the number of members of representative body of the local self-government unit will be increased for one member, and considered to be elected will be that member of national minority who is not elected as first in order according to the proportional success of each voting list on the elections, if by means of the law on the election of members of representative bodies of the local self-government units has not been regulated otherwise.

    The Croatian Constitutional Act provides every national minority whose population meets the specific constitutional requirements with the right to set up and elect Minority Councils for each unit of self-government (local, regional, and national). Under this model, these councils are legal entities who work with corresponding governmental bodies to, among other things, nominate candidates for elected office, propose agenda items to governmental authorities, submit proposals for state television and radio programing, propose economic and social measures on behalf of their constituencies, and to nominate representatives to international bodies.

    Dzeno believes that such councils, set up on every level of government, is the only way to truly create a legitimate and effective representative system for Roma on a pan-European level, and to formulate and advance Romany interests. The fact we do not have legitimate Roma representation is disappointing. The fact we have not yet started a serious, open, and honest discussion is tragic.

    Truly meaningful discussion is completely lacking. For this reason, Dzeno is creating a new section on our website called Roma & Elections. In this section we will publish information and articles that will help to inform you on current means of representation, and will hopefully stimulate discussion on this important issue. We are asking you, our readers, to write to us with your ideas and suggestions on how Roma can best be represented in elected bodies on all levels. We will accept letters and articles on any topic relevant to the political representation of Roma. For example, why you think Roma need elections, how elections should be organized, or if you think there is any other way to secure the democratic participation of Roma.
    Please send your opinions to

    Ivan Vesely,
    Dzeno Association
    ©Dzeno Association

    22/8/2005- Bajram Haliti, a member of the Roma world parliament, and in charge for the issue of the Roma in Kosovo and Metohija, evaluated Kosovo still suffers from personal, property and general legal uncertainty for all citizens, especially the ones of Serbian and Roma nationality and that not enough efforts has been made in resolving the Kosovo crises, especially when it comes to standards for return of dispersed and finding of the missing. Representatives of the Roma community in Kosovo and Metohija have asked that when it come to resolving of Kosovo problem, their voice be equal with those of the Serbs and the Albanians, that genocide committed against their community after the arrival of the UN mission in the province be officially recognized, and that issue of forceful deportation of the exiled Roma from the EU countries be resolved. During a Sunday press conference held in Tanjug press center in Belgrade, they sent Kai Eide and Belgrade authorities a message that they have to seriously tackle the issues related with the Roma Bajram Haliti, a member of the Roma world parliament, and in charge for the issue of the Romas in Kosovo and Metohija, evaluated Kosovo still suffers from personal, property and general legal uncertainty for all citizens, especially the ones of Serbian and Roma nationality and that not enough efforts has been made in resolving the Kosovo crises, especially when it comes to standards for return of dispersed and finding of the missing. He said he is worried over the fact that in Serbia and world public discussions regarding Kosovo and Metohija have gradually more and more focused on the protection of the so-called minority issues of the Serbs in the province, while there is a full neglecting of the issue of the future position of Kosovo as part of Serbia and Serbia and Montenegro. Serbian government has not come out with concrete defined proposal on what level of autonomy Serbia offers Kosovo and Metohija as part of its territory.

    Instead of opening a discussion on the position of the Albanian community as part of Serbia public is only talking about the protection of the rights of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. Even more, certain government and independent experts in Belgrade openly suggest different models of such protection, almost like we are already talking of an independent entity. In the public this creates the impression that essential stated strategy of Belgrade is to find a mechanism for protection of minority right of Serbs, instead of coming out with suitable state concept for protecting Serbian and S-M sovereignty. If Belgrade does not compile such a concept by the opening of the discussion on the final status of Kosovo, Romas in Kosovo and Metohija should make their own plan based on the decentralization which is not necessarily connected with the ethnic rights, said Haliti. Nexhmedin Neziri, a president of the Kosovo and Metohija society of Roma, emphasized that up until 1999, more then 150,000 Roma lived in the in the province, as well as that exact number of exiled and one still living there is not known, so these numbers are subject of manipulation by the representatives of the international community. I am from Kosovska Mitrovica, and I know that there were 1,024 Roma families and houses there, while the OSCE claims that there were 400, said Neziri and accused UNMIK and the OSCE of covering up the crimes committed against the Kosovo Roma. As an example Neziri used the Roma Mahala in the Southern part of Kosovska Mitrovica which in 1999 was destroyed by Albanian extremists of the KLA and Albanians from Albania, who killed, raped, and exiled its citizens, who have documents confirming they owned that land for ages. Neziri states that under orders from UNMIK, Kosovo police are using bulldozers and dynamite to remove remains of this Roma settlement so that a sport center can be built there.

    Representatives of the Roma ask that official Belgrade helps them in opening an information center which would gather information on missing and dispersed Roma, at the same time pointing out to the problem of assimilation of Roma victims which because of their names are being shown as Serbs or Albanians. On Sunday it could be heard that there are no conditions for the return of the Kosmet Roma exiled to the West European countries, even tough UNMIK, Belgrade, and EU member countries signed an agreement on this back in 2002. It was also demanded that Belgrade and Podgorica airports open offices which will register forcefully deported Roma, because the ones which return of their own free will are being taken care of by the International migration organization There is a commission for protection of interest of Roma in Kosovo and Metohija, but its members are not being called upon by anyone, nor is anyone talking with them. Roma representatives currently participating in Kosovo institutions which claim everything is all right cannot represent our interests. Kosovo Roma must have their own representatives, pointed out Jovan Damjanovic from the World Roma parliament. Dragoljub Ackovic, a member of the presiding body of the Congress Union of Roma pointed out to the problem of media silence when it comes to the suffering and the humanitarian exodus of the Kosovo Roma.
    KiM-Info Newsletter

    By Kujtim Paku, Editor of Roma service of Radio Yeni Donem in Prizren, publicist and writer (

    24/8/2005- Unfortunately Roma in Kosovo and elsewhere have been facing for a long time the same problems, which are negatively reflected in terms of their integration into a healthy and civil society. No political, social or cultural institution, had dealt seriously with their problems. In fact there were some attempts, but without any significant result. Roma continue to be marginalized in the society. First of all they lack education, because they had no economic conditions for that. In addition to Roma community itself, the majority is to be blamed as well, because there have been created some stereotypes about Roma population in general. However it should also be emphasized the positive side here. Thanks to the work of local and international institutions, a great progress has been achieved in Kosovo in terms of security and freedom of movement. Prizren is the best example, where the security, freedom of movement, multi ethnicity, the freedom of speech even in Roma language is in good level and the people from different communities socialize with each other. This example should be followed in other municipalities, as well.

    One of the problem that Roma community is facing with is the issue of their return to their properties. When speaking about it, we cannot bypass the collective shelters in Plemetin village, Obilic municipality, and those in Zitkoc and Qeshmin Llug in Northern Kosovo, as well as those in central and southeastern Serbia, where Roma live under in extremely difficult conditions, far from normal life. Currently 122 families with 500 members live in the collective shelter only in Plemetin. During a visit to this shelter, one of the residents angrily told us: "Why you do not gather us all and put in a trailer and dump us wherever?! We cannot live like this any longer. There can be no worse thing, when I see my six-years-old daughter sick and I cannot help her!" Even worse is the state of Roma displaced in Mitrovica north. E.B one of the resident there says: "Many people here are sick from high concentration of lead in the blood. Three children have died. Some international doctors have concluded that the residents there are at high risk from the infectious disease."

    Roma have a long tradition in many areas of arts and culture. They recognize Kosovo's reality. But Kosovo on the other hand should also accept them as its part. The majority in Kosovo should ensure a positive discrimination for them, so as they be able to attend the primary, secondary, and high education, what will be an asset for their integration into municipal and central institutions. Employment is one of the preconditions for further existence of Roma, because the current difficult economic situation that Kosovo is facing with, is affecting Roma most, as most of them do not own any private business and can hardly survive. Now majority of Roma, same as the members of other communities, do not enjoy the right of social aid. In the recent years, the number of Roma receiving social assistance is declining significantly. An answer for this should be sought within the International Administration, because it has approved a Regulation, which outlines: The right on social assistance shall enjoy all unemployed Kosovars. But one of the set criteria to gain this right (to receive 40 to 50 euro a month) is to have at least one of the family members younger than 5 years encourages birthrate, which affects Roma the most, most of whom do not enjoy social assistance, because they rarely have children younger than 5 years.

    We should think in designing a genuine plan, which would put the problems of Roma on the right track. Establishing a central Kosovar institution, which would deal with Roma issues, and would take many initiatives, as well as would oversee all achievements and identify the stagnation of Roma community, in particular in the area of culture and education. To this end, the contacts and cooperation with experts from Inalco University, France, should continue. Roma should be ensured preschool education, secondary schools, as well as higher and superior education, and should be provided scholarships for their education and schoolbooks, what would be a great push for the capacity-building of Roma in the area of education. Media should play its role as well in promoting Roma identity, but currently there is no any newspaper in Roma language, not even a weekly one. We also need magazines dedicated to women, children, and so on. However, there are some TV shows in Roma language, broadcasted mainly in some local televisions. Among these TV shows are some that last one hour, while the one broadcasted in the public broadcaster the Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK), lasts 20 minutes.

    The establishment of an institution that will deal with the problems of Roma would also be in charge of organizing different seminars and lectures on the human rights, children rights, small economy, journalism, health, women rights, risks from drugs, tobacco, and from alcohol. It will also deal with publication of textbooks, books, poetry, folk songs, and with protection of the cultural heritage, organization of cultural festivals etc. Roma should also be included in various commissions of Kosovo's Ministries, when the Roma-related issues are discussed, not only because of the democratization, but also because of the rooting out of prejudices as well. And because of the fact that in many cases the right for employment of Roma in Ministries or other institutions is not respected, whereas participation of this community in these commissions was not implemented till now. I think that the projects funded by different donors for the employment of Roma community should be reviewed, because current donors grants were not enough efficient. Majority of the projects for Roma were implemented in cooperation with majority population. Failures may also be a result of misuses and personal gains. A one-hour concert or cocktail, funded by a donor cannot be called as a success.

    The current position of Roma is very difficult in all aspects, including political, social, economic and cultural one. In order to achieve progress in improving Romas' position, now it is a good opportunity for the local and international institutions in cooperation with intellectual forces of Roma community to seek the ways for signing the Roma Decade Document. The projects outlined in this document for improving of Roma position, are funded by Foundation SOROS and the World Bank. It is signed by the countries of Southeastern, but not by Kosovo, pending to the transitional stage it is going through. After many post war endeavors, Kosovo is on its consolidation stage. The culture is the most needed element, especially for the Roma community, because it represents a fundamental step towards coexistence, which is a condition for a democratic and a multiethnic Kosovo. This can be done by a joint work of many communities, and by different projects, including Roma as well. Because Roma are human as well, with equal rights as all the others.

    At the end I want to emphasize also that it is a great misfortune that the Roma community did not have a good fate for centuries, but it is a great fortune that Kosovo can finally build its own fate, including building the fate of Roma and other communities in Kosovo. What can Roma offer to Kosovo? Of course, they do not possess any financial capital, but they can give a great assistance in intellectual, spiritual and cultural aspect. In one word Kosovo will be even richer with Roma.
    KiM-Info Newsletter

    By Luan Koka, politicologist, journalist and chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Council of the Roma Ethnic Minority in Serbia-Montenegro (

    24/8/2005- The Roma are definitely the biggest collateral damage of the conflict in Kosovo and Metohija. Their present position and the problems they are facing are so difficult and complex that no reliable data can be found in any segment of their life and existence, which one could start from in describing the problems, even in a simple list, and in setting a strategy for solving them. The Roma are nowadays jeopardized in political, welfare, social and economic terms, and even as an entity so, when one speaks about their political position in Kosovo and Metohija, one must explain the problem of their participation in the political life of the province even before laying it out. Therefore, the Roma in Kosovo are presently divided into Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians. In their reports, international organizations are more frequently using the abbreviation RAE when referring to them, which could have various social, welfare and political implications on the body of the nation that is called the Roma. Thus, presently there are three communities in Kosovo which are, maybe, confronted and which exist in Kosovo's political life as nothing but political folklore. Namely, when needed, this national body is called Roma. On the other hand, when certain political interest groups in Kosovo want it to be divided, various political and national bootlickers emerge as representatives of different ethnic communities. It is clear that the Ashkali and Egyptians are subgroups of the Roma people. The people should be permitted to declare their ethnicity freely. The problem of the Romas' ethnic identity is the one that the international organizations do not want to deal with at this moment. It remains to be seen whether this would further widen the gap between these ethnic communities in Kosovo. The Ashkali do not recognize the Egyptians, the Egyptians do not recognize the Ashkali. In the final instance, the Ashkali are recognized as a subgroup of the Roma. The problem of the Roma in southeastern Europe is such that they are identified with the majority population, and there is a division into Albanian Roma, Serb, Romanian, Hungarian, Turkish Roma, etc. The Ashkali and the Egyptians speak the Albanian, mainly non-literary language. They speak the Roma language badly or not at all, and very little Serbian. Therefore, such a group is interesting for utilization in the political life in Kosovo and Metohija. Although at least 100,000 Roma have lived in Kosovo, they now have the same number of representatives as other, much smaller ethnic communities in the province.

    The temporary authorities in Kosovo are rushing to return the Roma to the position of before 1999. There are Roma TV and radio broadcasts, there are some representatives in the highest bodies, but we all know that this is not only insufficient, but also no guarantee that the Roma in Kosovo and Metohija would live freely and safely. Let alone in equality with the others. According to the internal population count in the province in 1997, 98,770 people said they were Roma. Nowadays, there are 18,727 of them in Kosovo. Other figures can be added to these grim numbers. Until June 1999, 22,000 Roma lived in Pristina and now there are 2,750, in Pec 20,000 and now 2,500. In Gnjilane, the number of the Roma has dropped from 7,000 to only 850. Of 22 municipalities in Kosovo and Metohija, the Roma lived in 21. Although they were not listed in the municipality of Dragas, the Roma used to live there, too, primarily in the village of Mljike. In Kosovska Mitrovica, there was a Roma quarter - Rasadnik - which used to be one of the biggest Roma settlements in Europe. It does not exist anymore. A similar fate was that of the Moravska quarter in Pristina. There are three camps built for the Roma around Kosovska Mitrovica - in Zitkovac, Cesmeluk and Kablar - in an area poisoned with lead. The people living there are poisoned with this metal. There are 63 children living in these settlements, in whose blood the concentration of lead of 650 micrograms per liter was found, which, according to the figures of the World Health Organization, is a unique case in the world. Physicians recommend that patients with 100 micrograms should be removed from the contaminated area. And yet, they are still living there. Therefore, only around 10 percent of the Roma have remained or returned to their centuries-old homes. During the first couple of years of international management in the province, the so-called political representatives of the Roma have been trying to explain that the Roma enjoy all the rights in Kosovo and Metohija. Life has proven them wrong. These representatives have emerged in a situation burdened by a serious war psychosis and fear, dictated by the Albanian extremists, and they not only failed to present the problems of the Roma on the political scene, but have skillfully hidden them and deceived the international public.

    In the period from 1998 to 2000, Albanian extremists and gangs have murdered and kidnapped at least 150 Roma. According to some information, this number is much higher. The problem is that nobody has managed to record and identify the victims and the missing Roma. The fate of some is not known even now. Presently, there are around 60,000 Roma refugees and displaced from Kosovo and Metohija in Serbia, around 12,000 in Montenegro, several thousand in Macedonia, and many have sought refuge in other countries. Only in Germany, according to the figures of the relevant ministry there, there are around 50,000 Roma from Kosovo and Metohija. Germany recently signed a contract with UNMIK about the return of the refugees from Kosovo and Metohija, primarily Ashkali and Egyptians this year, and the Roma next year. The return of 10,000 refugees from Kosovo and Metohija who are presently staying in Germany is planned. While not commenting on the legal and ethical context of this contract (which divides people into nations and assumes that it is safe for one and not safe for the other), I only wish to reiterate the claim mentioned at the beginning of the text - that the Roma ethnic body is deteriorating and is being divided or united whenever there are certain social and political pressures against them. With this contract, the Ashkali and the Egyptians are now forced to return to Kosovo and Metohija. They are now claiming that they are Roma, creating great difficulties to the German authorities in their plan to return the refugees to Kosovo and Metohija.

    The displaced Roma from Kosovo and Metohija are living a hard life in Serbia. More than half of them had to leave the country and are now staying in western European countries. The majority of them had to sell their property, houses and apartments in Kosovo and Metohija below the market price, and leave to third countries with this money. The Roma who remained in Serbia are living in very difficult economic, social and health conditions. A vast number of the displaced do not have even the basic identity documents, and thus cannot exercise their right to health and welfare protection as refugees. Their basic human rights are also often in jeopardy. Therefore, any discussion about the political position of the Roma, about the missing, the return of the Roma to Kosovo and Metohija, the return of their property, about their safety, economic strengthening, employment and the damaging contracts signed, can only begin after the forming of a delegation of Roma representatives, who would conduct talks with the temporary government of Kosovo in the presence of international organizations. These representatives must be those who are living with the majority of their people as refugees, and who have represented their people in Kosovo and Metohija. Only a delegation formed in such a way would have legitimacy to talk about the political and other issues of the Roma in Kosovo and Metohija.
    KiM-Info Newsletter

    Has Poland's policy toward Belarus failed? No. The real failure is the European Union's policy.
    By Vitali Silitski, long-time contributor to TOL. He has just completed a Reagan-Fascell fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy in the United States.

    25/8/2005- In the eyes of Polish critics, the bruising diplomatic clash between Belarus and Poland over the past month has underscored the failure of the Poland's policy towards Belarus. In fact, the real reason might well have been that this policy was better, and better-reasoned than others. Of one thing there is no doubt: the conflict between Minsk and Warsaw that broke out after President Alyaksandr Lukashenka overturned the results of a leadership election in the Belarusian Union of Poles (ZPB) ended in yet another small, victorious war for Lukashenka. Not only did it once again demonstrate the regime's unlimited power within Belarus, but it also confirmed that the outside world is effectively impotent in its dealings with Lukashenka. During the diplomatic brawl, the Belarusian government tamed a potentially disloyal organization, gave a drubbing to a big neighbor, enhanced its propaganda machine's image of Belarus as a fortress encircled by the enemies, and gained very favorable assessments in Russia, the only neighbor that currently matters much to it. It suffered no consequences bar one: a drastic curtailment of diplomatic ties with Poland and a deepening of the country's international isolation – but this is a consequence that the authorities in Minsk will gladly welcome. But in Poland it was not just Minsk's behavior that caused uproar, but also the inability of the Polish government to do much in this situation. Critics of Poland's left-wing government attribute the predicament directly to the failure of the government (and particularly of former Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz) to have any plan of action ready for a situation such as this, and, in a broader sense, to an overemphasis on the need of constructive engagement with Belarus in the past. This criticism is not altogether unwarranted, but to understand why Lukashenka won and once again emerged unscathed from a diplomatic battle, this episode should be seen in the broader picture of Poland's – and Europe's – policy towards Belarus in the past. But first, what the conflict was all about needs clarification.

    What the conflict wasn't
    What the attack on the Union of Poles was not was an ‘ethnic conflict.' Nor was it even an attempt to stir up suspicion against ethnic Poles. To start with, the nearly 400,000-strong Polish ethnic minority is by and large almost indistinguishable from the rest of Belarusian society. Most of the Poles live in rural areas and are fairly intermixed with all other ethnic groups; not all of them are even fluent in Polish. The Poles are Catholic – but so too are over a million Belarusians; and most other Belarusians are just happy that the Poles provide them with an opportunity to celebrate two Christmases and two Easters. Affiliation with the Catholic Church is their mark of national identity, but, beyond religion, those Poles who take national identity seriously do not really face discrimination: in fact, in many areas there are more opportunities to get schooling in Polish than in Belarusian, a language deliberately relegated by Lukashenka in favor of Russian. And, like the rest of society, most ethnic Poles are deeply apolitical; many barely even noticed this conflict. (The ZPB itself still has around 20,000 members, barely one in 20 Poles in Belarus.) Indeed, a fair number of Poles are Lukashenka supporters: in some areas near Minsk with large Polish populations, the residents apparently support Lukashenka and pro-government ‘alternative' head of the ZPB. That is not to say that there are no tensions between Poles and Belarusians. Especially among the Orthodox population in the Western Belarus, there is still small residual suspicion based on the history of discrimination against Belarusians in inter-war Poland. Bututonce again, this creates the basis for a family squabble rather than an interethnic, or international conflict: the popular mentality largely identified ‘Poles' with the upper crust of society and locals with the underprivileged common folk. Nor, in all probability, was the attack instigated by Moscow. Yes, given the state of the Russian-Polish relations, the Kremlin has every reason to be glad about the spat. But it is high time people stopped thinking of Lukashenka as a kolkhoz simpleton and a puppet of Moscow. Here is a shrewd, experienced, and masterful politician who knows what he is doing and who weighs up the external environment carefully in his considerations. Lukashenka uses Russia's internal politics in his advantage in masterful fashion. By way of very public example, the Belarus strongman immediately seized on the massacre in the North Ossetian town of Beslan in September 2004 to favorably contrast his regime's stability with Russia's chaos during a referendum campaign to change the constitution. No, the most credible conclusion is that the real target of the attacks against the ZPB is not Belarus' Polish community, but Poland itself. Lukashenka's reasons are not reducible to Russia's issues with Warsaw; Lukashenka had his own reasons to take on Poland.

    Target: Poland
    There are two reasons for this conclusion. First, Poland offers a rather attractive antithesis of the Lukashenka's Belarus. It therefore needs smearing, which Lukashenka duly does routinely. In most opinion polls, Belarusians rank Poland among the top two or three countries whose example of economic and political success they would like to emulate (the other two are usually Germany and Sweden). Several million Belarusians have traveled to Poland over the past 15 years, as "shuttle trade" tourism offered a realistic way of keeping their families alive. Of course, this positive perception of Poland is not overwhelming. Official propaganda routinely broadcasts horror pictures, selecting the most negative aspects of post-communist Poland, such as high unemployment, income inequality, the plight of the poor, and the grievances of farmers subjected to the European Union's stupendous regulations – and since this propaganda portrays the social groups (such as the urban lower classes, farmers, and pensioners) whose equivalents in Belarus constitute the backbone of Lukashenka's social base, the smear campaign is not entirely ineffective. Its impact is, however, limited. Consider, for example, the hints in the official media that Poland and Belarus' ethnic Poles might, under certain circumstances, raise demands for territorial autonomy and even secession. That possibility was, for instance, raised just four days before the 2001 presidential elections, when the largest official daily Sovetskaya Belorussiya published a hoax report called ‘Operation White Stork,' in which it claimed that victory by the opposition would be followed by the dismemberment of Belarus by its neighbors, including Poland, acting under the guidance of the United States. Few take these allegations too seriously: Poles in fact constitute a majority in just one of the 120 districts in Belarus, and that district does not even border Poland. Lukashenka therefore needs tools other than propaganda with which to limit the attractive pull that Poland offers Belarusians.

    The second reason is that while Poland's policy towards Belarus is often criticized as weak and accommodating, it is undeniable that Poland is far more involved in promoting change in Belarus than any other country in the Western world, including, perhaps, the United States. Polish civil society is taking a clear lead. Over the past 15 years, it has invested huge efforts in promoting democracy, building up civil society, assisting democratically minded groups, and promoting ‘civic Belarus' in the West. This interest and involvement is driven partly by pragmatic interest (Poland has a vital interest in the preservation of Belarus as an independent state and in its eventual democratization: it does not really want to see the Russian tanks cross the River Bug in the future) and partly by a sense of solidarity and memory. The West greatly assisted in Poland's fight for democracy in the 1980s, and many Poles now feel a moral obligation to continue the work further east (not only in Belarus: Poland's involvement in strengthening civil society made many headlines during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, for example). Unlike many of the efforts made by others in Belarus (particularly initiatives from Western Europe), Polish organizations have been particularly conscious and supportive of the Belarusian national revival. Many Belarusian-language historians and social thinkers have been published in Poland. Belarusian-language rock groups banned in the country find supporting and enthusiastic audiences in Poland. Even the largest annual festival of Belarusian rock music – Basovishcha – is held near Bialystok, in eastern Poland. And Poland is extremely supportive of the National Humanities Lyceum, the only specialized Belarusian-language high school in Minsk, which was closed down by the government in 2003. (Its students now take study vacations in Poland, for example.) Civil society may be taking the lead, but that does not mean that the Polish authorities are uninvolved. In fact, many of the Polish groups and foundations active in Belarus are funded by the Polish government. Poland's commitment to promoting democracy in Belarus cannot be doubted, though its consistency may be (some argue that the level of commitment has varied from government to government, whether left or right-of-center).

    The challenge for Polish policy-makers is how to champion democracy while at the same time building up relations with a neighboring state important for Poland's security and foreign policy. Warsaw has based its eastern policy on the premise that isolating Belarus would only strengthen Lukashenka. The policies have had different names – ‘critical dialogue' (criticizing but still talking to Minsk); a ‘dual-track policy' (promoting democracy and pressuring the Belarusian regime on one hand, and, on the other, cooperating on issues of mutual interest such as the economy); and, finally, the ‘small-steps approach' (doing whatever is possible one step at a time) – but the premise is the same. In practical terms, all these policies tried to reach beyond the hard core of opposition and civil-society activists and engage those representatives of the officia, officials of Lukashenka-controlled Belarus with whom cooperation is possible. Warsaw has thus been keen on promoting trans-border cooperation, arranging visits by local officials and entrepreneurs in order to foster bilateral ties, and spreading training and capacity-development programs to middle- and lower-level officials, a group that, conventional wisdom said, would be important actors in Belarus' eventual democratic and market transformation. In short, Poland has emphasized the ‘soft power' approach, in which influence, assistance, and its own good example will hopefully promote – or, at least, assist in – political and economic changes in the future. For many, this policy was naïve and effectively amounted to an accommodation of Lukashenka's regime. But the underlying dilemma – to deploy hard or soft power when dealing with non-democratic regimes – merely reflects a much broader quandary about how to promote democracy. It is hard to spot any real impact that soft power has on dictatorial regimes, while the attempt to use it inevitably leads to engagement with and possibly even legitimization of authoritarian rule. And, for many, attempts to engage Minsk in ‘critical dialogue' indeed went too far; too many ‘small steps' were taken. Prime examples are the surprise visit of then-Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller to Belarus two years ago, and the active wooing of Miller's Belarusian counterpart, Siarhej Sidorski, by the Polish political and business elite. (Lukashenka, however, put an abrupt end to that in April 2004, when at the last minute he cancelled Sidorski's planned visit to Warsaw for a conference conducted as a part of events celebrating Poland's accession to the European Union.)

    In critics' eyes, though, the problems with soft power extend beyond the symbolic. One, soft power can be wasteful: officials, critics say, simply use visits and training in Poland as an opportunity to go on a shopping spree to a hypermarket in Bialystok or Gdansk, and on their return to Belarus simply continue fulfilling Lukashenka's orders. Two, doing business does not necessarily promote a market economy: businessmen would rather sponsor government-controlled organizations and official holidays than promote market consciousness in the masses. And third, apolitical, ‘vegetarian' – rather than ‘red meat' politicized – civil-society groups, active in community projects but not keen on taking on the powers-that-be, simply contribute to the public's withdrawal from political life, providing a safe haven for those a little unsatisfied with the opportunities afforded by the state but still willing to live a quiet and problem-free life. Yet, in the case of Belarus, the debate between hard and soft power advocates is purely theoretical. President Lukashenka is a master of preemptive authoritarianism; that is, of attacking and eliminating political and social threats that do not necessarily exist at that particular point. The logic of his preemption assumes that these threats will become real if he complacently allows them to develop to a reasonable scale. Characteristic examples of Lukashenka's preemption are: the closure of the European Humanities University, which was ostensibly apolitical and generally cooperative with the regime (it promoted Western knowledge but was still willing to teach courses in Lukashenka's ideology); attacks on the independent press (which had in any case subjected itself to self-censorship long ago); and the removal from the political scene of opposition leaders, such as the former ambassador to Latvia, Mikhail Marynich (even though they would not really have stood a chance against Lukashenka). It is in this context of preemption that the conflict around the Union of Poles, and, in a broader sense, the clash between Minsk and Warsaw, should be analyzed.

    To start with, the ZPB is not the object of exceptional treatment; it is just one of a number of Belarusian NGOs that the government has decided to rein in. It is not a very politicized NGO, but someone probably decided that its mere independence and its strong ties to a sympathetic government in Warsaw might eventually make it one. The takeover of the ZPB may even have been part of a two-step plan: first to destroy the Union and, then, to pick a fight with Poland and use that to bolster anti-Western propaganda and curtail ties with the neighbor that was, by some distance, the most active promoter of democracy in Belarus. That interpretation may be going too far. Lukashenka's government is not full of geniuses of strategic thinking, but it is packed with good tacticians – with Lukashenka the best of them all. So it may be that, once the opportunity to take over the ZPB emerged, Minsk realized it had a good pretext to minimize Poland's ‘soft' influence in Belarus by curtailing the ties of every kind. In other words, the scandal was used to justify a typical act of preemption: the ZPB's educational, professional, and personal contacts with Poland may not have endangered the regime in Minsk, but Minsk apparently decided to cut those links just in case. Indeed, the preemptive nature of the attack is not really concealed. Two weeks ago, I participated in a discussion about the conflict staged by the Belarusian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. My opposite number in the discussion was Pavel Jakubovich, editor-in-chief of Sovetskaya Belorussiya. In his opening remarks, Jakubovich linked the conflict directly to the danger of a spread of Orange-style revolutions to Belarus. Of course, it is not the Union of Poles that is seen as the cause of such fear. Instead, the greatest threat that these ethnic Poles posed Minsk was that their existence provided another reason for Warsaw government's and Polish society's major efforts to engage with any Belarusians who desire a democratic change, be they Belarusian, Polish, Russian, or Ukrainian. The opportunities for such engagement will be far more restricted now.

    Failed policies?
    Does that mean that Poland's policy towards Belarus was a failure, as opponents of the government in Warsaw insist? Would it have been better to find other ways to pressure and leverage Minsk right from the outset? This criticism itself represents wishful thinking. First of all, outsiders' chances of leveraging Lukashenka out of power are few in number; some would even say they barely exist. Second, for such pressure to have any meaningful force, Warsaw would have needed to coordinate a more consistent foreign policy with the larger European Union – and Brussels has shown almost no interest in doing anything of that sort over the past decade. (Indeed, I suspect that, before engaging in this diplomatic war, the decision-makers in Lukashenka's entourage counted on several western EU members implicitly overlooking the conflict because of their somewhat strained relations with Poland. I am not suggesting EU member-states reacted like that – but it is undeniable that the EU effectively lacks a policy towards Belarus and is unable to react to situations like this.) The criticism also fails to recognize that, for all their idealism and perhaps even naivete, Poland's attempts to open up a critical dialogue and make small steps in relations with Belarus was invariably more sound and far-sighted than the EU's own policy. In 1999, the European Commission decided that the way forward was through a ‘step-by-step' approach under which the EU takes steps towards Belarus if Belarus makes progress in democratization: if not, the EU does nothing. Since he is neither interested in democracy nor in the EU, nothing suited Lukashenka better than this ‘policy.'The criticism is also flawed for a third reason: Lukashenka's policy of preemption may involve taking action even against those who pose no threat, but it is not entirely born of paranoia. Minsk cracked down on the ‘soft' elements of the Warsaw's overall policy only because it feared they might have worked eventually. So what the Minsk-Warsaw conflict shows is not that Warsaw's policy was wrong. What it highlighted is that the range of policy options towards Lukashenka's Belarus is severely limited, and that European policy is not coherent, proactive, or sustained. Without a European policy with those virtues, Poland could do little. What, then, can the EU do? It needs to collectively commit itself to promoting democracy (and not just offering technical assistance through government-approved programs). It needs to act in situations such as the ZPB affair, and not just react by issuing declarations of disapproval and regret. It needs to find ways of ensuring that Minsk loses something from these actions. It cannot wait (as it does now) for Belarus to make steps in the right direction before engaging, since Lukashenka will not take steps towards democracy. And, most importantly, it needs to demonstrate sustained, long-term commitment to promoting change in Belarus, rather than reacting to crisis situations on an ad hoc basis. Perhaps, then, the stakes for official Minsk would be raised. That might not stop it engaging in small propaganda wars, but it would make it think twice.
    ©Transitions Online

    25/8/2005- The European Commission is to support radio and internet broadcasting in Belarus in a bid to increase the country's awareness about democracy and human rights. The programmes - initially provided in Russian, and later possibly in Belarusian - will be channelled through Deutsche Welle Radio, which has been granted a 138,000 contract for a one-year long project, starting this November. The coverage will include daily 15-minute news items on current affairs in Belarus, prepared by the Radio's own correspondents, as well as an internet version. The commission has previously criticised Minsk for repressing independent media and freedom of expression in the country, but played down calls from the European Parliament to provide support for an independent radio station broadcasting from Poland, Lithuania or Ukraine. The MEPs' scheme was not in line with the rules binding the EU's executive, according to its representatives.

    Deutsche Welle project
    The funding for the Deutsche Welle project was announced on Wednesday (24 August), along with notification for other civil society-related initiatives financed by Brussels. External relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the commission will continue to "closely monitor" Belarus' human rights obligations, adding "we are using all the means at our disposal to support those striving for the development of a democratic and pluralist society in Belarus. We are ready to take additional steps should the situation deteriorate further." The commission is currently trying to set up its representation in the eastern European country, but ministerial-level contacts are restricted and an EU visa ban is in place for some high-ranking Belrusian officials. Belarus is also listed as a potential participant in the EU's neighbourhood policy, which is aimed at fostering closer ties with the bloc's direct neighbours. The neighbourhood scheme includes several economic incentives but is tied to democratic development in participating states, with Minsk failing to qualify so far. On top of this, Brussels started a process in July which could lead to the cutting off of existing trade links with the country by late 2006 by placing EU tariffs on Belarusian exporters.

    22/8/2005- Icelanders hold positive views of immigrants shows a recent Gallup poll done for the Icelandic Red Cross. Morgunbladid reports that 76% of those surveyed believed that their standard of living had neither increased nor decreased with increased numbers of immigrants to Iceland. 19% said that their standard of living had increased somewhat to substantially while 5% said that they had decreased. 52% believed that immigrants had a good effect on the economy but 16% believed they had a bad effect. 57% of those surveyed said they were in favor of their child marrying a foreigner but 16% were against it. The poll showed that recent international terrorist attacks have effected Icelander's view towards Muslims. Results from the survey show that one out of every five Icelanders do not wish to live next door to a Muslim. 1000 Muslims are living in Iceland according to the Icelandic Broadcasting Service. The leader of the Association for Muslims in Iceland, Salmann Tamimi, said that it was important for people to read the Koran because people often misunderstood it - he also encouraged everyone to get to know Islam and Muslims. According to the survey, the higher the education level of the respondent the lower level of prejudice, nevertheless education does not factor in when it comes to prejudice against the mentally disabled. According to the survey one of every seven surveyed did not want to live in the vicinity of the mentally disabled. The survey was done as part of an awareness campaign that the Red Cross is promoting under the slogan "Build a Better Society". The Red Cross hopes to promote discourse on how to make a good society better with with the "various changes ongoing in society including the increased number of immigrants in the country".

    Results are based a survey of 1,350 Icelanders aged 16 - 75, conducted in July and August. The response rate was 61.6%.
    ©Iceland Review

    16/8/2005- If you're one of those people who thinks all lesbians are sexually frustrated or all animal rights activists aggressive, then a Swedish library project that allows you to "borrow" a real live human being rather than a book may provide some useful insight. The Living Library project will enable people to come face-to-face with their prejudices in the hopes of altering their preconceived notions, Ulla Brohed of the Malmö Library in southern Sweden told AFP. "You sometimes hear people's prejudices and you realize that they are just uninformed," she said. This weekend, nine people, including a homosexual, an imam, a journalist, a Muslim woman and a gypsy, will be available at the Malmö Library for members of the public to "borrow" for a 45 minute conversation in the library's outdoor cafe. "Maybe not all journalists are know-it-all and sensationalist, just unafraid and curious. Maybe not all animal rights activists are angry and intolerant, but intelligent and committed," she said. The nine "items" on loan were not hard to find, Brohed said, but admitted that they would be paid "a small sum" for their efforts. If the project is a success, the Malmö Library may run it again later this year.
    ©The Local

    26/8/2005- Two schools in Wallonia have won permission to ban pupils from wearing headscarves from September. The French Community education minister Marie Arena agreed on Thursday to allow Athénées royaux in Gilly and Vauban, near Charleroi, to outlaw pupils from wearing any ostentatious religious symbol. The schools had requested a change to their rules to become effective from the start of the new school year. A statement from Arena's cabinet said: "The minister, having checked that these projects don't breach the rights and liberties in our country, believes educational teams should be trusted. It's them who, on a daily basis and on the ground, are best at acting on the interest of pupils and for the good organisation of schools." Arena believes the two schools have changed their rules after thoughtful consideration and proper consultation. The texts were approved by the schools' councils which include parents, teachers and pupils. However, Arena doesn't intend to introduce a blanket headscarf ban in all francophone schools. The minister said there should be a mix of educational establishments to allow parents to choose. Now more than 70 percent of schools in the French Community have already outlawed religious symbols. Arena's decision on the Gilly and Vauban schools comes the day after Charleroi's interim tribunal dismissed the case of parents who want the ban overturned. Jean-Paul Jacques, the lawyer representing the parents, complained that there had never been a process of dialogue between the schools and the parents and pupils concerned by the ban. He also said he had not been granted a meeting between his clients and Arena to discuss the matter.
    ©Expatica News

    Swiss towns and cities have criticised Switzerland's asylum policy, calling on the federal authorities to fund emergency assistance to rejected asylum seekers.

    26/8/2005- At a conference on asylum and migration on Friday the mayor of Zurich, Elmar Ledergerber, also spoke out in favour of a less restrictive migration policy that would allow the job market to recruit workers from non-European countries. Representatives of the country's town and cities gathered in Zurich called on the government to cover all the costs of providing emergency aid to those asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected outright. They also requested federal support in deporting those with no right to remain in the country. "We demand rapid procedures and a humane attitude in dealing with the problems. We also call on the federal authorities to assume their responsibility," said Lucerne city councillor Ruedi Meier.

    Benefits withdrawn
    Under tougher legislation introduced last year, asylum seekers whose applications are not considered are no longer entitled to social benefits. This places a big financial burden on the towns to care for those with no means of support, Meier said. According to Meier, the cities also opposed plans by Justice Minister Christoph Blocher to withdraw welfare benefits from asylum seekers whose applications are considered and subsequently rejected. He said this could apply to up to 15,000 people, many of whom are well integrated in society. During the debate Monika Stocker, in charge of social affairs in the city of Zurich, said she hoped Switzerland would not follow the example of the Netherlands which has suppressed all support to rejected asylum seekers. Jörg Schild, a member of the Basel City council, criticised the federal authorities for making the cantons bear the cost of providing for asylum seekers. He said the government was trying to save money at the expense of the cantons.

    Controlled migration
    Zurich mayor Ledergerber told the conference the authorities should consider introducing "controlled migration" from non-European countries to meet the economy's need for skilled workers. Ledergerber said that by admitting more immigrants to work in the country, Switzerland would reduce the number of asylum requests. He said a quota of work places could be fixed every year, depending on the needs of the economy. He spoke in favour of a migration policy which would "give migrants autonomy and the means to prevent them sliding into petty criminality". The key to this was better integration, he said.

    26/8/2005- The construction industry in the Netherlands rarely invites Moroccans to interview for internships, according to the green-left party GroenLinks. The party commissioned the University of Utrecht to carry out an investigation into how internships are awarded. The research indicates only 15 percent of students from a Moroccan background seeking an internship have a chance of being offered an interview by a construction company. In contrast, 41 percent of applicants with a Dutch surname are invited to an interview. The difference is far smaller in the retail and hospitality or catering sectors. A student from a Moroccan background is just about as likely as a native Dutch student to get an interview for a work experience position in the cafe, restaurant and hotel industry. Native Dutch students have only a small advantage when it comes to the retail sector, GroenLinks said on Friday. The researchers suggested the reluctance among construction companies to take on Moroccan interns stems from the relative unfamiliarly with employees of a non-western background. About 97 percent of construction workers in the construction industry are native Dutch. The researchers contacted 336 companies and pretended to be students in secondary vocational education (MBO). In some cases the researchers gave a Dutch name and in others gave a Moroccan one during the initial telephone call.
    ©Expatica News

    23/8/2005- The first encyclopedia of gay men in the Netherlands is published on Thursday. Publisher Ambo/Anthos say the Dutch-language encyclopedia may also be the first of its kind in the world. The book features 25 authors — almost all of whom are gay — discussing the history and culture of gay men in the Netherlands. The encyclopedia contains 1,300 entries spread across 24 chapters. The chapters deal with gay history in the Netherlands, politics, the law and rights, philosophies, as well radio and television. Ambo/Anthos said on Tuesday that the book is aimed at a wide audience and is written in a accessible way. "There are things in here that outsiders would not know about," a spokeswoman for the publisher said. The idea of the encyclopedia has been around for years but the book could only be published after Ambo/Anthos got subsidies from the Hartenfonds and VSB Fonds foundations. The first edition will comprise of 3,000 copies and Mayor Geert Dales will be presented with the first copy on Thursday. The Liberal Party (VVD) politician was chosen in recognition of his "conspicuous efforts" to protect gay people, Ambo/Anthos said.
    ©Expatica News

    26/8/2005- Fourteen children and three adults, including a pregnant woman, died in an inferno that gutted a Paris apartment block housing African immigrant families, raising questions over the city's low-cost housing. The blaze, one of the worst in the capital since the end of World War II, swept up the stairwell from the ground floor of the six-storey building in the 13th district in the southeast of the French capital overnight. The rundown residence built nearly a century ago was packed with the many children of immigrants from Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Gambia. Officials said there were 100 children and 30 adults living at the address, which is located on a busy boulevard. Most of the victims died asphyxiated by the smoke, but police said they had found seven charred bodies whose ages and identification would take some time to determine. "It was horrible to hear the children's screams," Oumar Cisse, the building's supervisor, told AFP. He and firemen said some of the panicked residents jumped from their windows before firecrews arrived with ladders. It took more than 200 firefighters three hours to extinguish the flames. Twenty-seven people were hurt, six of them seriously. "This ghastly catastrophe has sent all of France into mourning," President Jacques Chirac said in a a statement.

    The cause of the blaze was being investigated, and arson was not ruled out. The state prosecutor in charge of the inquiry, Jean-Claude Marin, said: "We are not favouring any one theory at this time, even if there doesn't appear to be any reason for a fire to break where it did." The tragedy prompted Interior Ministry Nicolas Sarkozy to order a review of all similar buildings posing a fire hazard in Paris, and fuelled a wider debate over the access and quality of housing for low-income families in France. A similar fire in a downmarket Paris hotel that killed 24 other African immigrants on April 15 this year had already pushed the issue into the public's view. Residents who survived Friday's blaze said the building was dilapidated, infested with rats, had cracks in the walls and no fire extinguishers. Their sizeable families were crammed into small apartments, often 12 people in three-room places. But they said they had no choice, with many having previously resided in squats after unsuccessfully applying for susbidized state housing for years. "We lived like dogs," said one man, Sekou, who learned that the wife and children of his cousin died in the blaze. "Nobody would dare put up whites in those sort of conditions."

    According to municipal authorities, 100,000 families on modest or low incomes competed for just 12,000 available subsidized homes last year. The others lived where they could, such as in the now-charred building that was run by a charity called Emmaus. "We were desperate," said one resident, Ali Toure. Another, who refused to give his name, cast a rueful eye at the news media covering the fire. "Today, everyone's here: the charities, the politicians, the journalists. Because people got killed. But it's too late. They should have come before to find solutions. Let us cry in peace now," he said. Serge Blisko, the deputy mayor of the 13th district, denied that the building was poorly looked after. "It was a building requisitioned by the state and run by Emmaus. It was old but not dirty," he said. French groups lobbying for minority rights urged authorities to take urgent measures to lodge the survivors in "decent" accommodation. One of them, the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples (MRAP), said the tragedy was predictable given the "humiliating and discriminatory practices of private and public landlords" against African immigrants in Paris. Psychiatrists, meanwhile, tended to the shocked residents who made it out, often after seeing people close to them die. "I saw a young girl who's gone mute because one of her friends and several members of her family perished in the fire. Another won't move because she was unable to stop someone jumping out a window," said the head of the 40-strong psychiatric team, Louis Crocq.

    22/8/2005- Democratic youth movements from Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have joined forces to form the Transnational Democratic Network, the chairman of the central council of the Russian Miy (We) movement, Roman Dobrokhotov, told Ekho Moskvy radio. The united structure will comprise Russia's Miy, Ukraine's Pora, Kyrgyzstan's Birge! and Kazakhastan's Kakhar organizations, he said. Dobrokhotov promised that starting from Aug. 19, marking the 14th anniversary of the 1991 coup attempt, they will coordinate their activities and stage joint actions. According to him, the new organization will "hold political actions to exert pressure on the authorities when and where they commit crimes," he added. The partners intend to set up a broad network of various groups, including rights and environmental ones, which "will be based in different countries but in permanent contact with each other in virtual space," he said. Many people have reacted positively to the plan, Dobrokhotov said. Negotiations are being held with a number of public organizations which may join in later, he said. The first coordinated action held in all four countries will be a fund-raising campaign for orphanages, Dobrokhotov said. In downtown Moscow money will be collected every Sunday. More coordinated actions of a social as well as a political nature are planned for the future. Members of the movement from all four countries will attend events held in a particular state, he said. The Miy movement positions itself as liberal-democratic and Ukraine's Pora (High Time) is a revolutionary group that supported Viktor Yushchenko in his struggle for power. Kyrgyzstan's Birge and Kazakhstan's Kakhar are similar to Pora, established in the revolutionary euphoria that has spread to a number of CIS states following events in Ukraine and Georgia.

    By Rafal Pankowski

    Abbreviations such as ECRI (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, set up by the Council of Europe), CERD (Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, set up by the United Nations), and EUMC (European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia) are generally familiar to anti-racists Europe-wide. Especially the first two above mentioned bodies already have a long history of successful cooperation with anti-racist non-governmental organizations (for some more details see the info-leaflet 'Two Anti-Racism Watchdogs' published by UNITED for Intercultural Action. Not many NGO activists are aware of new possibilities for strengthening anti-racism in Europe that have recently appeared on the horizon thanks to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE in itself is a well-known interstate organization with roots going back to the famous Helsinki process which eased the Cold War back in the 1970s. It is mostly known for its role in armed conflict resolution and monitoring elections. Lesser known are its efforts to promote human rights more broadly, not least through the Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

    Antiracists should certainly become familiar with its new Department: The Tolerance and Non-Discrimination(TND). OSCE is in the process of redefining its role in European politics. "Our TND Unit is one of the results", said Floriane Hohenberg of the Warsaw office. It started as a program at ODIHR in 2004 and became a fully-fledged department within ODIHR only this year. "The idea is to assist OSCE members states in implementing their commitments in the field of tolerance and non-discrimination", explains Floriane's colleague Dennis van der Veur . Jo-Anne Bishop, the acting head of the Unit, adds that "NGOs are our number one partner, next to the governments". "Our role is not to be a donor supporting NGOs with grants, but we involve NGOs in our activities, so they can put forward their issues" says Dennis. ODIHR tries not to multiply the work of the other bodies already mentioned in the first paragraph of this article.

    It has chosen a few main fields for its TND Unit, namely:

  • monitoring of and reporting on hate crimes,
  • tolerance education,
  • training law enforcement officials,
  • legislative assistance,
  • civil society capacity building.

    Already at first glance it is obvious the scope is, nevertheless, huge. Despite the scale of the unit's activities is so large, and so are the expectations, amazingly all this work is done by a small team of two people with additional support of consultants). It is yet another reason for the TND unit to reach out to the antiracist NGO community. NGOs have participated (and cooperated in the conducting of) workshops on monitoring and reporting hate crimes, combating hate on the Internet (in cooperation with the International Network Against Cyber Hate).

    "We would like to collaborate with and to assist already existing networks of anti-discrimination NGOs", asserts Dennis, "as well as our OSCE missions that exist especially in South - Eastern European countries and in Central Asia" . The unit is preparing a needs assessment report to see what assistance can be given to anti-discrimination NGOs. A large number of NGOs has already been contacted for information on their specific activities and study visits have been conducted in several countries in Eastern Europe. "It is sometimes necessary to visit an organization in their office and discuss issues in depth to really appreciate their hard work and the impact they are having on the surrounding environment" , explains Natalia Sineaeva, who has recently visited Ukrainian and Moldovan NGOs working in the field of minority rights and anti-racism. "We provide NGOs not only with training but also with an important platform to address governments, to hold them accountable" , stresses Jo-Anne Bishop. The next such high-level opportunity is the so-called HDIM (Human Dimension Implementation Meeting) in Warsaw in the second half of September. "NGOs sit there at one table with governments", adds Jo-Anne Bishop. Side-events run by NGOs are planned too. Topics include Football against racism and discrimination in Europe proposed by the Polish anti-racist organization Never Again Association
    For more information about NGO participation in HDIM see:
    You can be sure to hear more about OSCE/ODIHR/TND in the months to come!
    ©I CARE News

    TIME Vatican correspondent Jeff Israely, traveling with the pontiff, reports that terrorism is the focus of his dialogue with Muslims

    20/8/2005- We didn't know it at the time, but when John Paul II stepped into Warsaw's Victory Square on June 2, 1979, he was about to change history. It was only the second of his 104 papal trips, but perhaps the most moving ­and momentous. His inspiring, but carefully chosen words were credited by many as opening the first crack in the edifice of communism. John Paul's deft diplomacy and his experience of life behind the Iron Curtain made the Polish pontiff uniquely placed to tackle the defining political issue of the day. But Benedict XVI has assumed the papacy at a moment where the Cold War has been replaced by the challenge of Islamic extremism ­ an issue very much on his mind even when he was a leading official in John Paul II's Vatican. And as long ago as 1997, he wasn't particularly optimistic: Islam features "a very marked subordination of woman to man," he says in his interview book Salt of the Earth. Islam "simply does not have the separation of the political and religious sphere that Christianity has had from the beginning." Just a few months before being elected Pope, he spoke out against predominantly-Muslim Turkey's candidacy to join the European Union, insisting that Europe is defined by Christian values. His views of religious fundamentalism, regardless of the faith, are also worthy of note. Faith "was intended precisely for the simple," he says in Salt of the Earth, but "the quest for certainty and simplicity becomes dangerous when it leads to fanaticism and narrow-mindedness. When reason as such becomes suspect, then faith itself becomes falsified." So, what impact can the Pope have on terrorism that claims to be inspired by Islam? He said last month that he wanted "to try to find the best elements to help." To that end, on Saturday he met with moderate German Muslims, and offered them blunt words on terrorism. "Those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful, fair and serene life together," Benedict said. The Muslims he met wholeheartedly endorsed the Pontiff's concerns and desire for inter-faith dialogue, urging that it be extended to a permanent forum to discuss issues such as poverty, globalization, the loss of values, racism and terrorism. The fact that the Pope made no mention of the other issues and only wanted to discuss terrorism suggests that the Vatican may be toughening its line. Vatican sources say Turkey is on top of the list of prospective destinations for the pontiff's next voyage. Benedict would like to accept the invitation from the Patriarch of Constantinople for the Nov. 30 Feast of St. Andrew. The Turkish government, however, has not yet extended an invitation. They no doubt remember Cardinal Ratzinger's views about the European Union.
    ©Time Magazine

    By Abdou Filali-Ansary, Director of the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations at Aga Khan University.

    August 2005- It is remarkable that some of the most critical concepts of Muslim religious terminology have now become part of the international language of current affairs. Questions drawn from Islamic theology are discussed freely by the world public, engaging specialists and non-specialists, Muslims and non-Muslims. Theological disputation has moved far from Islam's religious academies. For example, the term jihad, commonly translated as "holy war," has become nearly ubiquitous. Though conceived in early Muslim history as a means of spreading God's word, Muslim scholars today distinguish between two kinds of jihad – one being an internal struggle against temptation, and the other a physical conflict against an aggressor who threatens the survival or the fundamental rights of a Muslim community. In this context, there is widespread rejection of the fundamentalists' use of the term. Numerous Muslim scholars have raised their voices to challenge the terrorists' defense of suicide bombings or attacks on civilians, offering long citations from centuries of religious jurisprudence. In itself, this approach represents a worthy expression of collective conscience in opposition to the terrorists. But many among the public and in the media want more. Muslim intellectuals are being encouraged to press the religious argument against fundamentalist violence in order to deprive the terrorists of their most fearsome and potent arguments. If Muslim scholars can somehow disprove these arguments, it is thought, then the terrorists' ability to sustain their violent underground will be reduced.

    Is this right? A quick survey of the history of religious conflict shows that theological controversies have never been resolved by theological arguments. Looking more closely, one finds that while these controversies were often framed in religious terms, they were not at all about religion. The range of opposing interpretations of religious texts is virtually unlimited, and disputes are seldom resolved by rational argument. In earlier times, such controversies were decided by political authorities, which used military force to impose one particular point of view at the expense of all others. Muslim history is full of such cases. Recently, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he found scholars who raised theological arguments on his behalf. The coalition confronting him had no difficulty finding religious arguments that led to precisely the opposite conclusion.

    Today, it is clear that fundamentalists and their supporters are completely closed off to even the most elaborate theological refutation of their views, even when produced by distinguished religious authorities. The first reflex of the fundamentalists is to withdraw from the mainstream, to build around themselves a shell that is impervious to any logic other than their own. The most essential questions that humans face today – those that engender the deepest conflicts – have nothing to do with theology. They concern disputes over territory, political power, definitions of rights, and distribution of wealth. The means of discussing these questions is known to all and is expressed in all religions and all languages. The evils most deeply resented – in all societies – are injustice, despotism, corruption, and poverty. We all understand what these mean, and how certain people must live with them on a daily basis. Why, then, do we follow the fundamentalists to the very heart of their madness? Allowing them to frame these problems in religious terms legitimizes the perspective that they are attempting to impose, particularly in their own societies.It also allows them to camouflage their very worldly thirst for power.

    Repeatedly, the Muslim religious establishment has been urged to issue statements denying fundamentalists the right to use religious terms like jihad. But experience has proven that this approach leads nowhere. In fact, debates about the use of religious terms lend credibility to fundamentalist efforts to apply these ideas to conditions in the modern world. Such debates concede that these religious concepts are generally valid, even when, as in the fundamentalists' case, they simply do not apply. As a result, the entire discussion could easily backfire. Invariably, fundamentalists dismiss religious critiques of their views as evidence that religious authorities have been corrupted by hostile influences. In this way, the terrorists oppose the "purity" and "authenticity" of their arguments to the compromises presumably forced upon religious establishments. Speaking to Muslims exclusively in their own religious terms also excludes them from broad ethical frameworks that defend essential human values, most notably the protection of innocent civilians. These values are the foundation upon which all religious and cultural traditions rest.

    To be sure, it is important to understand the discourse of those who are making war on societies – their own societies first and foremost. But adopting the terrorists' interpretation of events conceals the reality of this conflict. Instead of fighting on behalf of political and religious liberty, we risk engaging in a conflict with the false images that the terrorists have created. Worse still, we would bring this conflict into our own societies, where different religious and cultural traditions are now inextricably mingled. There is simply no need to look to theology to call a crime by its proper name. The revulsion provoked by the murder of innocents is deeply felt by all, and it is reprehensible by any standard, religious or not. It may even be that religious language does not adequately express the repulsion we all feel toward the terrorists' actions. No feeling of victimhood can justify, under any conditions, such crimes against innocents, and no theology can accept the negation of the human essence that we all share.
    ©Project Syndicate

    There is nothing that prevents us from praying alongside Christians, or fasting alongide Jews, or even sitting next to atheists in silent contemplation.
    By Yakoub Islam, a British Muslim who runs the weblog
    Anarcho Akbar

    21/8/2005- One of the late, great postcolonial Muslim thinkers, Eqbal Ahmad, pointed out that 19th and 20th century Muslims living on the Indian subcontinent were utterly opposed to nationalism. The believed, unashamedly, that nationalism was anti-Islamic. Most of the religious scholars of pre-Independence India were opposed to the idea of Pakistan. The people who bought nationalism to the masses of the colonial nations were those with European educations, but who were largely excluded from being truly 'British' or 'Dutch' by racism. Despite the fact that racism is often individualised and psychologized, racism is better understood as an integral facet of nationalist and patriotic ideologies. Patriotism and nationalism were used to justify colonialism, but the educated elites of the conquered nations were quick to spot the massive hypocricy of colonial powers celebrating their 'freedom' whilst they enslaved millions. And the educated elites of the colonial nations were also well placed to exploit one of the key tools in perpetuating nationalism taught them by their masters - print capitalism. Europe is adept at massaging its history, but contemporary European nations are really inventions, thought up largely by politicians rather than ordinary people, beginning with the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. Nationalism was further boosted by bloody events such as the French revolution and its imperial aftermath. The European wars of the 20th century would have been inconceivable without nationalism - whether it be Churchillian or fascist.

    The problem is that, particularly in contintental Europe, cultural realities have rarely coincided with the political fantasies of nationalist ideologues. The Basque, with their unique linguistic heritage sprawling from Southern France to Spain, are perhaps the prime examples of this contradiction. But few if any have been able to resist the sweet smell of patriotism's poison. The Balkan wars, which led to the massacre of Srebrenica, simply awakened a slumbering nationalism which had been frozen in time by the cold hand of communism. Today, nationalism in Northern Europe is less about nations and borders, and much more about culture. This understanding was at the heart of the thinking that led Hazel Blears, who currently leads a government commission on "integrating minorities", to suggest that Britain's ethnic communities should "rebrand" their identities in an attempt to inspire greater patriotism. Muslim leaders could only respond by presenting a different version of nationalism and patriotism because the ideology of nationalism is now almost normative. The deepening inculturation of nationalism signals that questioning its sentiments is almost as dangerous as questioning the illegality of paedophilia. This paranoia is aided and abetted by the stalwarts of popular nationalist sentiment - the tabloid newspapers. This is the place where corporate interests and public manipulation meet and marry. It is clearly in the best interest of the neocons to perpetuate nationalist sentiment and thinking. The last thing they want is for people of the global North to feel anything more than a passing sense of fellow feeling for folks like themselves living in the global South. Their nightmare scenario is human unity fuelled by a sense of social justice.

    Nationalism, despite its claims to unite, always divides - the 'natives' from the 'foreigners', the whites from the blacks. Its divide people into groups like a farmer seperates out different breeds of cattle. Islamophobia is simply a reformulation of this colour-based racism. Nationalism is a virus of hate, and now it has infected Muslims. Those fanatics who support the London suicide bombings of 7/7 follow a mutated genus of this disease - one which swears allegiance to a reified ummah and a king-god, whilst rejecting other 'nations' as the spawn of Satan. Indeed, extreme Islamic nationalism is at the heart of the debased theologies informing all global khalifa movements. Islamic nationalism needs to be challenged. This does not mean that we should stop feeling the pain and suffering for our brothers and sisters in Palestine and Chechnya. It means extending this empathy to include all of humanity. Someone asked me, on hearing about the famine in Niger, whether it was a 'Muslim country'. Does a Muslim child starve to death differently from the child of a Christian or an animist? Nor does challenging Islamic nationalism mean opposing the unity we feel when praying in Jummah or other forms of Ibadah. There is nothing that prevents us from praying alongside Christians, or fasting alongide Jews, or even sitting next to atheists in silent contemplation. If we seek to unite the world, it should surely be in thought and remembrance of Allah. Nations do not exist as communities in the same way as a rural village. They are, as Benedict Anderson says, imagined communities, created by appeal to a central script language and a material conception of temporality, and perpetuated by print-capitalism. But English is now a world language; time, like all meta-concepts, is open to challenge within the critical methodologies of poststructuralism; print capitalism has been subverted by cyberspace. As the Qur'an says, we were created so that we might know people different from ourselves. By Allah, let's do it!

    23/8/2005- Today has been designated International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition by the United Nations. It has been done in an effort to make the slave trade "part of the world's collective memory". Director General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura, in a letter to the Ministry of Education, said that the day provides an opportunity for "common reflection" and an understanding of not only the historical causes and events of the slave trade but also the continuing impact upon Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean and the world. "They enable us to comprehend a present marred by racism and discrimination handed down from that tragic chapter in history," wrote Matsuura. He added that the day would also cause reflection on the need for "new forms of citizenship" and dialogue in increasingly multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies. Matsuura noted that the date was chosen as a reference to the insurrection in Saint-Domingue (present day Haiti and Dominican Republic) on the nights of August 22 and 23, 1791, an event that played a pivotal role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the emancipation of Latin American and Caribbean peoples.
    ©Trinidad & Tabago Express

    By Rafal Pankowski

    14/8/2005- More and more often we hear about a break-down of multicultural society in Western Europe. Islamophobia, fundamentalism, racism, terrorism, antisemitism, xenophobia against refugees have taken their toll and traveled from the margins of the political debates to the very centre. At the same time trust and solidarity between ethnic groups has turned into isolation, at best, and violence, at worst. The current extension of the European Union cannot bring desired results in terms of securing interethnic respect, if this respect is already scarce in countries such as the Netherlands or France. However, if you look eastwards, you will discover that multiculturalism, defined as more or less peaceful coexistence of diverse ethnic groups, has been a feature of life in Eastern Europe for ages and the East of the continent has generally speaking faired not worse than the West.

    Take the Crimea. This peninsula on the Black Sea is inhabited by 89 nationalities, according to modest estimates. Another estimate is 125. I bet you never even heard of many of them. Despite most of them have their own languages or dialects, three main languages are spoken in public, namely Ukrainian (the peninsula is formally part of Ukraine, with broad autonomy), Tatar, and most commonly Russian. Not quite idyllic, the landscape has been far from peaceful, marred by events such as the forceful deportation of the whole population of Crimean Tatars by Stalin in the wake of World War II. Since the late 1970s the Tatars have been returning to their land and claiming it back. The question of the 'right of return' (which includes familiar questions of property ownership, compensations and so on) has proved controversial, to say the least. One occasionally hears about racist incidents against the Tatars, involving the right-wing paramilitary groups known as Cossacks as well as nazi skinheads. The situation in Crimea can be characterized as stable tension. "Sometimes a match is enough to ignite a conflict" your ICARE correspondent heard from a representative of the unrecognized Tatar Parliament 'Mejlis'. "And we, Tatars, have a tradition of fighting back". Characterized by certain level of tension, the situation in the Crimea is nevertheless stable. As Neil Ascherson wrote in his memorable book 'The Black Sea', it is precisely on those shores that cultures have met already for thousands of years, most often peacefully. Also the proto-racist notion of 'barbarism' as opposed to 'culture' was born there. We can all learn from the history of the Crimea, hoping the best for its future.
    ©I CARE News

    13/8/2005- Russia and Poland are on the brink of a serious crisis in relations after accusations that a Moscow gang of nationalists were "hunting" Poles in the city to dole out punishment beatings. The attacks are thought to be revenge for an assault on three Russian teenagers in a Warsaw park at the end of July, an event which saw 15 Polish skinheads viciously beat the trio and steal their mobile phones. The three teenagers were children of Russian diplomats and Moscow claimed their attackers shouted anti-Russian slogans. Russia blamed Polish politicians for voicing anti-Russian sentiment too frequently and vocally. Unusually, the attack attracted the attention of President Vladimir Putin who said it was "an unfriendly act that cannot be characterised as anything other than a crime". Russian nationalists' response has been less measured. Three Polish nationals have been beaten on Moscow's streets in the past week and the embassy pelted with rotten tomatoes and paint. The first victim was Marek Reszuta, a second secretary at the embassy, the second was Andrzej Uriadko, a technical worker at the embassy, the third victim was Pawel Reszka, a Polish journalist. In all three cases the scenario was the same. A group of five or six well-built men hit the victim on the head knocking him to the ground before kicking and punching him. All three attacks were unprovoked and often began with an apparently innocent request for a cigarette. All three were so badly beaten that they were admitted to hospital. Yesterday, Poland's President, Alexander Kwasniewski, appealed to Mr Putin to put an end to the "well-planned" attacks and protect Polish nationals because relations between the two countries, never the best of friends, were slipping towards the abyss. "The attacks seem to be organised and directed towards accredited representatives of the Polish diplomatic mission and media," Mr Kwasniewski said. "These dangerous incidents have increased tensions in Polish-Russian relations and escalated feelings of enmity." Russia has expressed its "deep regret" over the attacks and vowed to do everything in its power to find and punish the gang. Russian-supplied security at the Polish embassy has been substantially beefed up. Ordinary Russians appear to have little sympathy with the attackers. A poll on Ekho Moskvy radio station yesterday found that 75 per cent of respondents felt "shame" that the Poles were being targeted for punishment beatings by Russians.
    © Independent Digital

    The 7 to 10 August 2005 the Kuban Youth Tolerance Camp "Camelot" has been successfully carried out by Youth Group for Tolerance "ETHnICS' for the third time in Krasnodar territory in the south of Russia.

    14/8/2005- This year it brought together 18 campers of different ethnic background: turks, Armenian, Adygs, Jews, Kurds, Osetians and Russians. The summer camp is realized in the partnership with Kasnodar krai ombudsman. The camp itself provided the opportunity not only to delve deeper into the legend of King Arthur, his glamorous knights, round table and the Holy Grail, but also to get in closer touch with the peers representing different cultures and discuss the burning issues of nowadays - "is the tolerance an almighty remedy in this seething with nationalistic views world?", " how shall we combat negative stereotypes that has been incumbered on us since our childhood?", "can we sacrifice the interest of the minority for the sake of the majority?", "what are the strategies of conflict resolution?", "what are the human rights about?", etc. The palpable result of the camp is the whole stock of artifacts created by the campers: an outline of the research work about symbols and their reflection on our lives, the scenario of the antifascist action that will be carried out in September, photo session devoted to stereotypes, a methodological exercise "Responsibility", etc. As already a solid tradition, the campers will take the most active part in the recent activities of the Youth Group for Tolerance "ETHnICS' throughout the coming year.

    16/8/2005- The Moscow Center for Human Rights on Monday released a report on the growth of racial, ethnic and religious discrimination in the first half of 2005. But human rights activists at a news conference called to discuss the report expressed as much concern over the self-professed anti-fascism of the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth movement as they did over ultranationalist groups. The report, titled "Racism, Xenophobia, Ethnic Discrimination and Anti-Semitism in Russia," estimated that there are currently 50,000 teenage skinheads in the country. An additional 10,000 to 15,000 adults are active in radical nationalist organizations such as Russian National Unity, two of whose members were suspected in the bombing of a Grozny-Moscow train in June. Though no one was killed in that bombing, hate crimes claimed 10 lives and injured at least 200 people between January and June, according to the report. MCHR member Semyon Charny said that among the general population, levels of xenophobia remained "high but stable," with 70 percent of those polled wanting official immigration support for ethnic Russians and limits on the immigration of other nationalities. Forty percent of those polled doubted that immigration would help either the economy or the demographic crisis, which has seen the country's population fall by 5 million since 1993. Activists also called attention to a recent poll by the independent Levada Center indicating that 58 percent of ethnic Russians support the slogan "Russia for the Russians," a variation on the slogan under which the Nazi regime forced Jews to emigrate.

    But the activists seemed particularly troubled by the rapid growth of Nashi, the well-funded pro-Kremlin youth movement that claims 150,000 members nationwide. Nashi, or Us, bills itself as "a democratic anti-fascist youth movement," but the activists said this was a serious misnomer. "I'm convinced that Nashi is a fascist organization acting under the banner of anti-fascism," said Vladimir Ilyushenko, a political analyst. He said that he considered the group's role in supporting Kremlin interests comparable to that of the Hitler Youth. "Look at whom they condemn as fascists: Irina Khakamada, Vladimir Ryzhkov; Gary Kasparov -- the whole row of liberal politicians," he said. In speeches and pamphlets, Nashi has attacked liberal politicians as agents of Western influence and has blamed them for a decline in Russia's international prestige. Nashi has also targeted oligarchs and bureaucrats. Ilyushenko attributed the appearance of the movement to political inactivity by the cultural elite. "Our intelligentsia, our artists, our writers, are all in such a fearful state that they won't speak out against the threat of fascism themselves," he said. "Against that background, pseudo-intellectual fascist organizations like Nashi appear." Alla Gerber, president of the Holocaust Foundation, said, "What is most frightening about Nashi is the implicit division of the population into who is 'us' and who is not. That can take a dangerous turn at any time." Nashi's press secretary, Ivan Mostovich, denied that the movement had ever labeled particular politicians fascists. "When we say 'us,' we mean anyone who lives and works for the good of our country," he said.
    ©The Moscow Times

    19/8/2005- Police troops were dispatched to a village in the south Russian province of Astrakhan to ease tensions that blew up the area a day earlier evolving into clashes between ethnic Chechens and Kalmyks, the Itar-Tass news agency reports. Some 400 police officers from the neighboring Saratov and Volgograd regions arrived in Astrakhan Friday, following the clashes in the village of Yandyki, outside Astrakhan. Around 300 people took part in disturbances Thursday. According to preliminary reports, five homes were burnt down and about ten cars were damaged. No-one was killed but six people sustained injuries. Official information from the Astrakhan Region administration says the disturbances in the village occurred after residents of the town of Lagan in Kalmykia came to Yandyki for the funeral of a local resident, Nikolai Boldarev who was killed in a fight between local Kalmyks and Chechens three days earlier. A team of investigators including prosecutor's office officials, police and security officers are working on the scene probing the incident.

    More than half of Russians have xenophobic views -- that is the charge coming from Russian human rights campaigners today. In a new report, rights groups say that -- despite progress in some areas -- racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism remain rife in Russia. But what worries watchdogs most are recent moves by nationalist-patriotic movements to form paramilitary groups.

    15/8/2005- Russian human-rights advocates gathered in Moscow on today to assess the level of racism, ethnic discrimination, and anti-Semitism in the country for the first half of 2005. The results, they told reporters, are not encouraging. Semyon Charny is an expert at the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights and the author of the new report. He said xenophobic feelings remain widespread in Russia. In a recent nationwide poll, Charny said over half of the respondents espoused nationalist views. "The level of xenophobia remains stable and high," he said. "Between 50 and 60 percent of the population sympathize, to various degrees, with nationalist slogans such as 'Russia for Russians'. The first people to inspire irritation are the Caucasians, Central Asians, and Chinese. Jewish people rank third or fourth." According to the report, Chechens continue to top the list of the most-hated people in Russia. It is a hostility human rights advocates largely attribute to the war in Chechnya that has been claiming lives daily on both sides for most of the past decade. But there was also encouraging news. The report said the number of racially motivated murders has dwindled in the first half of this year, with 10 foreigners killed. That number was three times higher during the same period in 2004. The number of such attacks and killings, however, still remains much higher than in European countries. The report comes just days after two Polish diplomatic personnel and a Polish journalist were beaten up and hospitalized in Moscow, sparking a diplomatic row. Human rights groups say some progress has also been made in recognizing racially motivated attacks and punishing assailants on charges of incitement of ethnic and religious hatred. Russian law-enforcement agencies have long angered watchdogs by dismissing racial attacks as mere hooliganism. In the first half of 2005, however, five people have been sentenced for inciting ethnic and religious hatred. Only one person was sentenced on the charge for the same period last year. Despite these positive trends, rights advocates expressed strong concerns over recent moves by Russian nationalist- patriotic groups to form their own armed groups.

    Alla Gerber, who heads Russia's Holocaust Foundation, said these political organizations are rapidly trading propaganda speeches for weapons. "The most deadly for me is the transition of national patriotic parties and movements from propaganda to calls for terror," she said. "This is the latest and most important development. Before, there were words, propaganda, but now there are calls for an open, organized terror." Charny said Russia's numerous nationalist-patriotic movements are beginning to openly state their plans to form armed paramilitary groups and seize power by force. Some of these groups, Charny added, organize forums during which they explain to their members how to get hold of weapons. Slavyansky Soyuz (Slavic Union) is one of these groups. It is known to have called for an armed uprising and broken into the websites of Russian human-rights organizations. Slavyansky Soyuz's own website features the group's insignia, a symbol approximating the Nazi swastika. It offers links to a prominent skinhead website. It also displays pictures of youths with their right hand raised in the air in imitation of the Nazi salute, and a series of articles disparaging various ethnic and religious groups. In parallel, Charny says skinhead groups are also on the rise and are now active in all Russian regions: "Concerning skinheads, their numbers are definitely growing, they are spreading to more and more cities. Now, we can say there is not a single region that does not have a band of skinheads." According to official figures, there are 10,000 skinheads in Russia. But human rights groups and experts contend the real figure is more than five times higher. According to the report, skinheads were responsible for most of the racially motivated attacks and killings this year.

    Russia's Supreme Court has lifted a ban imposed by a lower court on the National Bolshevik Party (NBP). The radical youth movement, whose provocative antigovernment protests have long riled the Kremlin, had been outlawed in June for violating registration procedures. The party's controversial leader, Eduard Limonov, hailed the decision, saying it gave him new hope for the future of Russia. Is the decision a sign of better times to come for the country's many radical groups?

    17/8/2005- Eduard Limonov, the ultranationalist writer at the helm of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), did not conceal his elation yesterday (16 August) after the Supreme Court overturned a ban on his movement. Speaking to RFE/RL's Russian Service, he hailed the judges' decision as fair and impartial. "I think the Supreme Court has shown honesty, dignity, and impartiality in carrying out its direct responsibilities," Limonov said. "It has confirmed our right to exist -- the right of a dissident political organization to exist. These [Supreme Court judges] are dignified, elderly, intelligent people and they did not want to stain their names with an unlawful decision." A Moscow court had banned the NBP in June, ruling it had no right to call itself a party since it was not registered. Prosecutors had also accused the group of being involved in extremist activities. A spokeswoman for the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, Natalya Vishnyakova, said it would appeal yesterday's decision in the Supreme Court's presidium. "The Prosecutor-General's Office respects court decisions, but we disagree with today's ruling by the Supreme Court and will appeal it," she said. "The Moscow regional prosecutor's office uncovered specific violations of federal legislation by the National Bolshevik Party public organization, and it was because of those violations that this public organization was disbanded."

    National Bolsheviks have largely gained fame by staging provocative protests. They are notorious, for instance, for peacefully seizing government offices and throwing eggs, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and juice at some of their foes. This radical youth movement started as a neo-fascist organization. Today, however, National Bolsheviks prefer describing themselves as an opposition group that supports democracy. The movement, whose emblem combines the Nazis' red-and-white flag with the Soviet hammer and sickle, also regularly denounces the Kremlin's policy in Chechnya. As recently as yesterday, NBP activists distributed leaflets calling Russian President Vladimir Putin the "butcher of Beslan" to denounce what they perceive as the government's botched handling of the Beslan hostage taking by armed militants in September 2004. Such protests have, of course, riled the Kremlin. And in what many see as a Kremlin-led political crackdown, law-enforcement agencies have targeted the NBP on several occasions, arresting activists and closing down their office. Thirty-nine NBP activists are currently facing trial. Limonov himself has served time in prison for illegally possessing firearms, a charge he denies. For Limonov, the lifting of the ban on his party is therefore a major victory. He said the decision gives him "great hopes" for Russia's future. He hopes the decision will persuade courts to adopt a milder stance toward the NBP, and other political movements as well.

    "I think all future court rulings on our cases will be subconsciously influenced by [yesterday's] Supreme Court decision during all future trials linked to our activities. This is why I see this decision as crucial not only for the fate of our political party, but also for the fate of all political organizations in Russia," Limonov told RFE/RL's Russian Service. But Limonov said the ruling is unlikely to put an end to what he branded the "repression" of his movement. Center for Strategic Studies Director Andrei Piontkovskii agrees. NBP activists claim to be frequently beaten up, and Piontkovsi said the lifting of the ban is unlikely to put an end to the reported attacks. "There was much talk about the beating of two [Polish] diplomats and one journalist," he said. "But dozens of very similar attacks have occurred according to exactly the same scenario: some well-organized and physically trained young men attacked NBP activists and beat them up. No Supreme Court decision can stop this kind of pressure." On the contrary, Piontkovskii predicts the decision will only fan the anger of NBP foes and provoke further beatings. Sergei Markov, a political analyst close to the Kremlin who heads the Institute for Political Studies in Moscow, told RFE/RL that the Supreme Court's decision was not influenced by the Kremlin and does not indicate a softening of its stance towards radical opposition groups. The government, Markov said, is still intent on disbanding Russia's mushrooming radical opposition groups. "I think the authorities will not leave it at that decision. It will continue to try to outlaw the National Bolshevik Party, and will eventually succeed in doing so," he said. "This is due to the fact that the NBP is seen as a serious danger, the germ of a future fascist party." The NBP is registered not as a party but as a regional organization, meaning it cannot present candidates for parliamentary elections. It counts some 17,000 members.

    18/8/2005- The 25,000-strong Muslim community in Kaliningrad may finally be able to build a mosque, but only if the authorities in that non-contiguous part of the Russian Federation this time stand up to opposition from those living near where the mosque is scheduled to rise, some local officials, and the region's Russian Orthodox bishop. Earlier this month, after more than a decade of trying, Muslim leaders in Kaliningrad, the capital of the non-contiguous portion of the Russian Federation, have been given a plot of land on that city's Dzerzhinskiy Street for the construction of a mosque, Moscow's „Tribuna" newspaper reported on Wednesday. As approved by the city's municipal property and planning commision, the new Kaliningrad mosque will be a two-story structure 46 meters in length and 36 meters in width, accommodate up to 400 of the faithful for prayer, and have a minaret rising some 28 meters above street level. But whether a mosque will in fact be built in Kaliningrad anytime in the near future in fact is far from clear. In 1994, the Muslims of that city first asked for permission to build a mosque. The city authorities gave their blessing for the construction of an Islamic center not far from the Moscow rayon administrative center. Officials there, however, spoke out against its construction, saying that they planned to expand the administration's buildings and „a mosque would interfere" with that. Then the city authorities agreed that a mosque culd be built in a resort area, but local officials there argued that there was no place for an Islamic institution where city residents took their ease. Then, for a third time, the city officials offered a place, this time on Peace Prospect, and even got the oblast's governor, Vladimir Yegorov, to sign off on that decision. But again local people complained, and this time Russian Orthodox Bishop Seraphim of the Baltic added his voice to theirs. „What the Muslims are planning to build is not just a mosque but a spiritual center as well," the bishop said. He specified that he and his flock were not against the construction of a „modest" mosque located „somewhere on the edge of the city," a position „proportional to the number of believers in Allah" in Kaliningrad. And once again, the city authorities backed down and now are offering up to the Muslim community the same location near the city's center that they first suggested ten years ago. But opposition to the construction of a mosque there appears to be on the upswing, at least from some quarters.

    Residents near the proposed construction site have received anonymous letters against such a step, "Tribuna" reported.. „We are not against the building of a mosque in the city," these letters said, but because the region's population „is overwhelmingly Orthodox, the construction of a Muslim prayer building in the center of the city is impermissible." Moreover, these letters said, the mosque's size „must be proportional to that small number of religious (namely religious!) Muslims" and not to the much larger number of members of Muslim nationalities who may have other purposes in getting together than religious ones. And concluding with references to the terrorist attacks in Buinakst and Volgodonsk, the anonymous letters asked rhetorically, would a mosque in Kaliningrad „really be [only] for prayers?" The letters concluded with a call to „gather our forces and not ask but demand that such an evil not be allowed to occur in our city!" Along with other officials, Kaliningrad Mayor Yury Savenko said he was appalled by such arguments and said he do whatever he could to bring the anonymous authors to justice „if they can be found." But up to now, he acknowledged, none of them has been identified or charged. The Muslims of Kaliningrad clearly hope that they will be able to go ahead, but given this record, those opposed to the construction of a mosque in the westernmost region of the Russian Federation appear likely to do whatever they can -- politically and possibly otherwise -- to block the Muslims there from having their own place for prayer in the city of Kant.
    ©FSU Monitor

    17/8/2005- In a remarkable step forward, FARE partner Never Again, have worked with a Polish club to ban a group of racists from its ground following some disturbing scenes of racism. During the opening match of the season between Kolporter Korona Kielce and Cracovia Kraków, a group of racists abused their own team's player - Brazilian born Hernani. The incidents provoked a huge national debate within the Polish media. Never Again, who have been working tirelessly in Poland and Eastern Europe, lobbied players, officials and famous personalities to make a stance against racism. They also contacted Korona Kielce to assist them in the future with practical steps that the club could take to combat the problem. At the following match against Odra Wodzislaw, pictures of the Neo-Nazi thugs were displayed on Kolporter Korona Kielce's stadium gates with security under strict instructions to deny them access. All the players emerged onto the pitch wearing Never Again's campaign slogan "Let's kick racism out of football" T-shirts. The once silent majority fans now sang anti-racist chants and supported their Brazilian star, Hernami. This action is a massive step forward in Polish football, where racist and anti-Semitic chanting and banners are common place at matches. Racist and often violent hooligan groups have infiltrated many clubs' fan bases. Previously, most football clubs would rather deny that the problem existed. Hopefully, these anti-racist initiatives are the beginning of Polish fans reclaiming the terraces from the racists.
    ©Football Against Racism in Europe

    Poland ponders how to defend human rights in Belarus without provoking the Lukashenka regime into putting more pressure on the Polish minority.
    by Wojciech Kosc

    18/8/2005- "Sorry, we have orders not to let you in," a smiling Belarusian border guard officer tells a group of Polish deputies from the European Parliament. The lawmakers return smiles: an act of courtesy that cannot disguise the growing diplomatic tension over the Belarusian regime's treatment of Poles living under "Europe's last dictatorship." "We had food rations for Union of Poles in Belarus activists imprisoned there. And we also wanted to have a look at the situation so as to prepare a report for the EP," Barbara Kudrycka, one of those turned back at the border on 8 August, told TOL. Another parliamentarian denied entry, Bogdan Klich, had hoped to spread the word among Belarusian non-governmental organizations that the European Commission is offering 8.7 million euros to support democratization and civic society.

    ZPB wars
    The current tension between nations that share hundreds of years of common history has once again inspired hopes and ideas about EU member Poland's role in influencing the democratic process in a Belarus ruled by the autocratic Aleksander Lukashenka. The tension began to rise in May, after Belarusian authorities annulled the result of an election among members of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), removing newly elected chair Andzelika Borys and reinstating the previous leader, Tadeusz Kruczkowski. Belarusian police also briefly arrested the editor of the ZPB newspaper and two ZPB activists. Kruczkowski told TOL that Borys and her associates had fiddled the voting to ensure her election. "Rubbish" was his reply when asked if his reinstatement meant he was Lukashenka's favorite. But Borys believes the upcoming convention, due on 27 August, will seal the fate of the ZPB as an independent organization. "The regime will have its own Union of Poles now," Borys said on 16 August. Kruczkowski, though, says he will resign after the convention. "I'm tired of all this. It's unacceptable that the ZPB is used for political purposes with a view to igniting ethnic tensions between Belarusians and Poles in Belarus," he said. The ZPB is based in Hrodna (Grodno in Polish), a town of 300,000 people about 60 kilometers from Bialystok, the closest city on the other side of the border. The organization has about 25,000 members and – until the authorities' intervention – was one of the biggest organizations in Belarus fully independent of the state. Its funding, some $200,000 a year, comes almost entirely from the Polish Senate, but its activities are "as far from politics as you can imagine," Borys said, concentrating on cultural and educational work for the Polish minority, such as organizing children's holidays in Poland and running Polish-language libraries. "But here, being Polish and doing what the ZPB is supposed to, which is promoting Polish culture, has proved enough to get us accused of being an enemy [of Belarus]," she added.

    Expulsions and beatings
    As soon as the conflict over the Union erupted, official Belarusian media started describing the Polish minority and Polish diplomats as nothing short of secret enemies working to undermine the stability of the state. In reaction, the Polish foreign ministry said Poland will bar those responsible for persecuting the Union from entering Poland. Minsk responded with a series of expulsions of Polish diplomats, most recently on 26 July, setting off tit-for-tat expulsions by Warsaw. The conflict with Belarus, alongside tensions with Russia that have surfaced recently over attacks on Russians in Poland and what looked like retaliatory beatings of a Polish diplomat and embassy staff in Moscow, has inspired yet more discussion about Poland's – and the EU's – eastern policy. After Poland's moral and political backing for Viktor Yushchenko's bid for the Ukrainian presidency in late 2004, hopes are again flying high among Poles that there will be a similar change of regime in another neighboring ex-Soviet republic. Leaders of the main parties were expected to meet Prime Minister Marek Belka around 18 or 19 August to discuss the issue. According to political scientist Grzegorz Kostrzewa-Zorbas, however, this is not a propitious time for them to treat the issue as seriously as it should be. "The outgoing president, government, and parliament are not thinking about it during the transitional period we're going through," Kostrzewa-Zorbas told the daily Rzeczpospolita on 12 August, referring to parliamentary elections due in September and elections in October to replace the outgoing president, Aleksander Kwasniewski. "We have to think what vital interests Russia and Belarus have that Poland can influence, and downplay those interests. Secondly, we should use our NATO and EU membership. Third, we have to influence public opinion in both [Russia and Belarus]," Kostrzewa-Zorbas advised.

    Lukashenka's secret weapon
    The last option is the one discussed most often. After years of debate, the Polish government has now set aside about $300,000 to launch a radio station to spread the democratic message to Belarus. It will probably take over the broadcasting concession of the now-defunct Radio Racja, a station that broadcast news into Belarus, although its technical capabilities to reach deep beyond the Polish-Belarusian border were limited. "The only thing we can really do is to run an information campaign. Ignorance and obscurantism are the greatest allies of Lukashenka the kolkhoz director," wrote Maciej Rybinski, a commentator with Rzeczpospolita, on 8 August with a sly reference to the Belarusian leader's job as manager of a collective farm in the 1980s. The big question is, however, whether Lukashenka's position can be undermined easily. According to Jerzy Chmielewski, editor-in-chief of the Belarusian-language monthly Czasopis, based in Bialystok, the Belarusian economy is not doing as badly as Poles think. Nor is Lukashenka unpopular on a truly mass scale. "People are faring better and better, and Lukashenka uses this as an argument for his rule," Chmielewski told Gazeta Wyborcza on 5 August. "He destroys the myth that authoritarian government cannot offer any possibilities of development.

    " The challenge in taking on Belarus is to find a strategy that targets Lukashenka, but not the Belarusian people, says Michal Kaminski, a European Parliament deputy and member of the Polish right-wing Law and Justice Party. He suggests banning Belarusian athletes from competing in the international arena, something the international community tried in the case of apartheid South Africa. According to Miroslaw Czech, an activist of the Ukrainian minority in Poland, Poland should now avoid two things: severing relationships with Belarus and transforming the Belarusian minority into a hostage of the conflict between two countries. "Under no circumstances should repressions and discrimination of the Polish minority in Belarus justify similar moves against Belarusians in Poland," Czech opined in the 5 August edition of Gazeta Wyborcza. Warsaw is hardly likely to engage in copy-cat arrests of Belarusians and crackdowns on their organizations in Poland, but it can wield much leverage through its control of state funds earmarked for the Belarusians and other national minorities. Apart from the Germans, the Belarusians are the most active minority community in Poland. Numbering somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000 depending on who is counting (as compared to 400,000 Poles in Belarus), they are represented by two deputies in the lower house of parliament, the Sejm, and by one senator, publish several newspapers, and enjoy Belarusian-language radio and television. Most such activities would simply cease without funds from national and local authorities. This makes the community acutely sensitive to any moves by Warsaw that could threaten their autonomy. Such was the case in 2003, when state auditors investigated the finances of Niwa, a state-subsidized weekly Belarusian paper. The auditors alleged that the paper's management embezzled state money by falsely inflating its publication costs. Belarusians charged the auditors with orchestrating an anti-minority campaign.

    Whistle-stop tours over the border
    The ticklish situation over the Poles and Belarusians living on each other's territory has provided an unexpected campaign bonus for Polish politicians. In the midst of parliamentary and presidential campaigning, some candidates raced across the border to Hrodna hoping to lift their poll ratings as well as the spirits of Poles there. The tactic paid off for Donald Tusk, until then a relatively strong presidential contender who nonetheless consistently trailed Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, on his left, and Lech Kaczynski, on the right. After Tusk's visit to ZPB's main office in Hrodna on 1 August, images of local Poles welcoming him with patriotic anthems or even kneeling in gratitude adorned the front pages of newspapers and opened television news programs. Since his visit, Tusk has seized the lead, with about 25 percent of respondents saying he is their choice for president. Another politician who tried his luck in Hrodna was Roman Giertych, leader of the far-right League of Polish Families, a party still looking for the decent showing in parliamentary elections that would give it something more than the few dozen seats it now holds.

    Wait-and-see tactics
    President Kwasniewski has chosen to remain largely silent on the problems of the Polish minority in Belarus, earning praise from some quarters and contempt in others. His silence proves his inability to face the real issues Poland faces beyond its eastern border, some opponents charge. The president ought to have supported Poles in Belarus with a clear "we are with you," wrote commentator Zdzislaw Najder in Rzeczpospolita on 8 August, adding, "We never heard it, though." Backers claim the president is right to stay out of the fray for as long as he can in order to keep open a channel of last resort should the government exhaust all other avenues of reaction and mediation. Kwasniewski has said that the Polish side has consistently tried to interest Minsk in a serious discussion of the situation and ways to end its harassment of Polish organizations. He also said that Poland was awaiting the European Union's reaction to the situation in Belarus. "We are in a classic trap that results whenever universal human rights and dictatorships that violate them collide," wrote Rzeczpospolita's Rybinski. As a democratic state, Poland "cannot retaliate. … There is no way we could arrest a Belarusian in Bialystok in return for the arrest of a Pole in Grodno. Debasing your country's law cannot be the answer to debasement by your neighbors."
    ©Transitions Online

    Black officer targeted after race film

    14/8/2005- Greater Manchester Police secretly targeted a black officer who co-operated with a BBC documentary that exposed racism at a police college, The Observer can reveal. While senior officers pledged to root out the racism revealed in the 2003 film The Secret Policeman, the force's internal investigations unit was told to find the officer who worked with the BBC team. He has since left the force. Several senior detectives are now under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the police watchdog. Paul Atkinson, a former Greater Manchester sergeant, who worked as a producer on the programme, alleges he was accused of murder so detectives could get into his home to seize material that identified his sources. The investigation, by Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Chamberlain of South Yorkshire Police, began last week. It could lead to criminal charges against officers in Greater Manchester and neighbouring Cheshire, who were also allegedly involved. The Observer has now seen the video diary of a black officer, seized in a raid on Atkinson's house on 17 January 2004. The officer had already been questioned about his links to Mark Daly, the undercover reporter who infiltrated Bruche police college near Warrington to make the film. Atkinson believes this diary allowed the police to confirm beyond doubt the black officer's involvement. The man was obliged to confess to having worked with the programme during an interview with Greater Manchester Police (GMP) investigators on 19 January 2004. He claims he was ostracised by fellow officers as a result of co-operating with the programme and left the police force last October. He has asked The Observer to keep his identity secret as he is trying to rebuild his life. The diary, recorded during his time as a recruit at the GMP's training school at Sedgley Park, describes the systematic racism he encountered. He reports one anti-racist trainer admitting a dislike for gypsies and says he was given the nickname 'Token' as he was the course's 'token black'. His colleagues are reported as talking openly of their racist beliefs, and two Asian officers are ignored by fellow recruits. The revelations will put further pressure on the force's Chief Constable, Michael Todd, who has refused to discuss whether he ordered the mole hunt following the programme.

    The Greater Manchester Police Authority, which oversees the force, has refused to record Atkinson's complaints against Todd and his deputy Alan Green. Without this, the complaints commission is unable to investigate their actions. Long discussions between the force and the authority about the terms of the inquiry have led to months of delay. When the film was shown, on 21 October 2003, Deputy Chief Constable Alan Green said: 'This is a big wake-up call for us and I know Michael Todd is determined we will leave no stone unturned in rooting out these people.' Behind the scenes, however, the force was spending substantial resources on the investigation into Atkinson and was attempting to 'root out' any officers who had helped the BBC investigation. It is not known who authorised the raid on Atkinson's house or whether Todd and Green were aware it was happening. The raid was carried out by officers from Cheshire who were investigating the torture and murder of the drug dealer, Brian Waters. As a result information was passed to Greater Manchester. The investigation into Atkinson was later dropped. The IPCC is investigating whether Greater Manchester officers colluded with Cheshire police to organise the raid in order to seize his files, notebooks and videos. The Observer has obtained a confidential letter written by Todd on 11 September 2003 to the then BBC director-general Greg Dyke demanding 'a full apology to the men and women of Greater Manchester Police' and asking him to provide information to help with his investigation. 'I cannot see how, assuming senior members of the BBC were told the truth, this operation can ever have been justified or authorised for the purposes of public entertainment'. He asks for co-operation: 'If the BBC is in possession of reliable prima facie evidence of misconduct or criminal conduct against any GMP officer, I would be obliged to receive it forthwith, so that I am able to investigate any possible criminal offences or misconduct ...' The programme, which won several awards, showed a recruit from North Wales Police, Rob Pulling, praising Hitler, saying he would target Asians for arrest and dressing in a mock Ku Klux Klan hood. A statement by the GMP said no officers had 'ever been disciplined for any involvement in the making of The Secret Policeman'. It 'would be inappropriate to comment further' while the IPCC inquiry was going on.
    ©The Observer

    15/8/2005- The Muslim Council of Britain has set up an investigation into mosques, women's organisations and Islamic youth centres across the country to root out extremism. Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the council, told The Independent that the council, which has more than 400 affiliates and is the most powerful Muslim body in the country, had set up the focus groups to locate and combat the terrorist threat. Its early findings will be revealed in a national conference in September, he said. The move comes amid allegations that the council is failing mainstream Muslims and has its roots in extremist politics. Sir Iqbal dismissed the reports of alleged extremist links as "absolute nonsense". Sir Iqbal, who was knighted this year and is regarded by the government as the voice of moderate Islam, said the efforts to discredit the organisation were born from an "Islamophobic agenda". A report in The Observer claimed yesterday that Sir Iqbal and the council's spokesman, Inayat Bunglawala, had expressed admiration for the late Maulana Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-i-Islami party, which is an elected religious party in Pakistan.

    Sir Iqbal defended Mawdudi, saying he had a huge following among the Muslim intelligentsia. "We agree with many of his views and disagree with some. The Jamaat-i-Islami party happens to be a perfectly legitimate and democratic party, which through an alliance with other parties, is in power in the North-west Frontier province of Pakistan," he said. He added The Observer had provided no evidence for the claim that the Jamiat-ahl-I-Hadith, a council affiliate based in Birmingham was "separatist". Sir Iqbal said: "The Jamiat-ahl-I-Hadith are respected among British Muslims for their educational and outreach programmes. It is absolute nonsense to describe them as separatist. They are not an extremist sect but a national body." The dispute comes in the wake of a warning by American intelligence sources that al-Qa'ida could be plotting another terrorist attack around the fourth anniversary of the 11 September attacks onWashington DC and New York. The warning that terrorists were planning to hijack fuel tankers and blow them up inside petrol stations for maximum casualties was contained in a bulletin issued by the Department for Homeland Security. Britain's level of security had already been heightened after the July 7 bombings in London and the Department for Transport has issued guidelines ordering that security around the fleet of UK road tankers be tightened.

    Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain said it stood by its claim, contained in a letter to the BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, that a Panorama documentary about British Muslim organisations had a "pro-Israeli agenda". The letter stated: "The BBC should not allow itself to be used by the highly placed supporters of Israel in the British media to make political capital out of the July 7 atrocities in London." Mr Bunglawala said he thought that the maker of the documentary, John Ware, had "an axe to grind" in the wake of the London bombings. The organisation has also sent a letter to the Home Office minister, Hazel Blears, that calls an independent judicial inquiry into the events of July 7
    © Independent Digital

    By Kate Holton

    15/8/2005- Abu Hasan was born in Britain. He has never broken the law and was disgusted by the suicide bombers who killed over 50 people in London last month. As a young Muslim living in Britain however, he says he feels constantly under suspicion, with people eyeing his beard and clothing and keeping their distance on the street. "These bombers do not speak for me or my community but suddenly we are all under suspicion," Hasan told Reuters, standing near the Bury Park mosque in Luton, a slightly shabby town north of London where 35,000 Muslims live. "I didn't want this, I've always lived by the law but that counts for nothing now. Suddenly I feel totally alienated." Four British Muslims, three of Pakistani origin, killed themselves and 52 others in blasts on three underground trains and a bus on July 7. An attempt to repeat the attacks two weeks later failed. In the days that followed, the government met with Muslim leaders to discuss the scale and root of extremism. Hasan, 27 and of Pakistani origin, said he had always lived happily in England but felt the atmosphere had changed since the September 11 attacks on the United States. "It is going quickly downhill for us all here," he said, referring to the 1.6 million Muslims who make up just under three percent of Britain's population. The vast majority hail from the Indian subcontinent. "These are very bad times to be a Muslim living here. We have lived harmoniously in this country for decades but since 9/11 we have been under suspicion. We have done nothing wrong." Not everyone agrees. In the wake of the bombings, the Muslim community faced charges that it had not properly integrated into Britain, leaving young Muslims trapped between two cultures.

    Muslim culture
    Russell Razzaque was in his late teens when he first experienced the radical interpretation of Islam. The writer and filmmaker believes that this historic lack of integration has helped militants spread their word. "Growing up in a Muslim home is a completely different world to a Western home," he said. "Then, when you get older and step out into the Western world, it is like stepping out into a different planet. "You get literally smacked in the face. And it is then that the radicals swoop." Razzaque was approached by extremist groups when he was at university and hassled when he did not go to their meetings. Razza Jaffrey agrees that integration is an issue and in 2001 helped set up a telephone helpline for young Muslims. "They face a whole internal battle in being both Muslim and in trying to integrate into society," Jaffrey said. "They are growing up in a society where it's okay to be non-religious. "And then there is also the generation gap, where their parents don't really understand them ... or their problems." An incident of racism or rejection could suddenly interrupt the integration process, both men said. "You can be left feeling pretty sore and suddenly these extremists appear and deliver a whole mass philosophy about how you are someone great, special and different to these people who are persecuting you," Razzaque said. "They always know what age group to recruit and they are very effective. It's like a hidden world but it is so prevalent."

    Genuine anger
    Some young Muslims want the government to do more to address their specific worries and fears. "We (Muslims) have grown up here and been educated here," Hasan said. "We are in every walk of society yet no one listens to us. No one will listen to my concerns," he said, expressing anger over Britain's role in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mahmud Ahmad, 27, said the violence in Iraq was all the more distressing because he related to the people there. "I relate to them because that is all I am, a simple Muslim struggling in life. It doesn't make me any less British if I relate to people in Iraq or Palestine." In much of the country, the British-Asian culture is still in its infancy as the majority of Muslims only moved to Britain in the last fifty years. Unlike the black community in America, there are very few role models for younger Muslims to look to. "Muslims who look to their parents see them as more Pakistani Muslim or Bangladeshi Muslim than British Muslim," Jaffrey said. The helpline chairman said the government had to act. "What we need to do is marginalise and minimalise these people (militants) and push them to the boundary of society so they eventually become extinct," Jaffrey said. "In order to do that you need to keep the mainstream Muslims on side." All the men agreed that the problem was urgent. "There are people out there now who believe the same as the kids who killed themselves. It just takes a few people to see the suicide bombers as role models and you will start getting waves of attacks," said Razzaque, "We need to act now."

    17/8/2005- A teenage member of a white gang which attacked three Asian schoolboys, beating two of them unconscious, has been detained for 16 months by a judge who likened the attack to "wolves seeking, stalking and chasing their prey". James Peters, 18, was in a gang of up to 100 youths who hunted and cornered the children, aged 11 and 14, who were playing close to their school. Two 11-year-old boys were beaten to the ground and a boy of 14, who had stepped in to help his friends, was punched, hit with a log, stamped on and kicked unconscious. The attackers kept shouted racist abuse throught the assault. Peters, 17 at the time, was convicted of the beatings with four accomplices, but had fled court during a break in earlier legal proceedings. Jason Brassington, 17, was said to be the catalyst and recruiting officer for the attack. Brassington was not a pupil at Counthill school in Oldham, Greater Manchester, which the Asian boys attended, but he had gone there and threw stones at Asian pupils. He then got into a fight with one pupil who was trying to defend others. The next day, Brassington, who has two brothers of mixed race, assembled a mob of up to 100 youths from the local, predominantly white Moorside estate and at lunchtime arrived at the school, and shouted racist abuse and waved sticks. Raza Ali and Aadil Nabil, both 11, and Raza Shan, 14, were playing football in the playground. They fled but were caught and beaten. Peters told police he punched one of the children then head-butted a second. Despite these admissions, he denied three counts of racially aggravated assault.

    Ali and Shan, now 12 and 15 who are cousins, have changed school. Witness statements read in court revealed how the older boy's class grades dropped and said he was frightened to play outside. The younger boy's father, Asgher Ali, 40, said it was the family's first experience of racial violence since they arrived from Kashmir in the early 1980s. District Judge Alan Berg condemned the "unbridled racist thuggery", saying Peters had shown "no mercy". He added: "You behaved like a pack of wolves; seeking, stalking and chasing your prey. You showed no mercy. Indeed, you have showed little or no contrition or remorse." The judge rejected claims that the Asian children had provoked the gang as an "utter distortion". "You were part of a gang, an important and active part, who attacked the students simply because they were Asian," he said. Brassington, 17, Brandon Crossley 16, Stephen Lees, 16, and Michael Culkin, 16, all from Oldham, had also denied charges of racially aggravated violence. Brassington, Crossley and Lees were detained in young offenders' institutions and Culkin was given a community-based punishment. Oldham has tried to foster racial harmony since race riots in the town four years ago, though the Ritchie Commission set up to investigate those disturbances questioned how committed it was to the process. Asian taxi-drivers still bear the brunt of white racism and many have been lured into the town's Abbeyhills district by hoax calls, only to find themselves on the receiving end of racial abuse and stone-throwing. Mosques in the town have been sent hate mail.
    © Independent Digital

    Garvagh targeted by fascist group

    16/8/2005- A sinister right-wing group is targeting homes and property in a Co Londonderry village with a poster campaign, it was last night warned. SDLP Assembly member John Dallat said residents of Garvagh had complained that notices announcing the return of the ultra-right wing Combat 18 had been pasted around the village. The East Londonderry MLA said Combat 18 was linked to loyalist elements in the Coleraine and Bushmills areas. "Catholic homes and businesses have been specifically targeted, but these sinister stickers have also appeared on traffic islands and are similar to others which were erected in areas of Coleraine last year where black people are known to work," he said. "Recently, a nurse from the Philippines fled the village of Garvagh after her flat was broken into and money stolen." Mr Dallat said he had alerted the PSNI to what was a sinister form of racism and intimidation. "While I don't regard those involved as having any support among the intelligent population I do believe the Hate Crime laws should be applied and those involved prosecuted," he said. "We need to be very mindful that there is a sizeable population of people from many parts of the world now living and working in this area. "While there isn't a pattern of racist attacks it is important that no opportunities are afforded to anyone who would want to reintroduce Combat 18 or any other corrupt elements bent on causing division and distrust." A Police spokesman said they took such incidents extremely seriously, and added: "The PSNI would appeal to anyone who is aware of such hate literature or knows of anyone distributing such literature to contact their local police station immediately."
    ©Belfast Telegraph

    Under pressure from the European Commission, police in Romania during four days of hyper activity seized the passports of more than 3,000 citizens suspected of living and working illegally in Western Europe. Many of them are believed to have become domiciled in Portugal during the past four years, living in Oporto, Lisbon and the Algarve.

    13/8/2005- The Romanian government, which is driving the country's bid to become a member of the European Union in 2007, introduced an emergency decree on August 1st to stamp out illegal immigration and tighten up on travel rules. The decree came into force as thousands of Romanians returned for their summer holidays, with many discovering that they are now banned from leaving the country for up to nine years. According to the new legislation, Romanian citizens are not allowed to spend more than 90 days abroad in any six-month period. Violators are automatically deprived of their passports for five years and forbidden to return to the country where they were illegally residing for 10 years. The decree has been described by human rights groups as "degrading and humiliating". Diana Calinescu, director of the Romanian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, told the AFP news agency: "This measure is excessive. A person who exceeds the legal sojourn in Portugal, for example, should not be deprived of the right to travel to Bulgaria or Serbia". Under the new law a Romanian citizen wishing to travel to the border-free Schengen zone, of which Portugal is a member, must produce a return ticket, an invitation or other document justifying the reason for and duration of the trip, and 100 euros for each day spent abroad. The International Organisation for Migrations says that around 900,000 Romanians work abroad, half of them illegally. According to the Romanian National Bank, emigrants sent home two billion euros in 2004. Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu said the measures are necessary because the large number of Romanians who leave to work in Western Europe "forget to come home". Commenting on Romania's pending membership of the EU he said: "As a future frontier country of the European Union, Romania is under an obligation to attack illegal immigration and wipe out human trafficking". Countries that have attracted the most Romanian workers are Italy, Spain and Germany, followed by Portugal, Britain and France.
    ©The Portugal News

    As Spain experiences one of the fastest rising rates of immigration in Europe, the World Migration 2005 report challenges many of the pre-conceptions about the impact of international migration.

    August 2005- The rapid expansion of the European Union eastward seems to have been one of the many factors that persuaded the public in France and The Netherlands to reject the EU Constitution in referendums in May and June. Indeed, conscious of concerns cheap labour would flood their local jobs markets, most established EU member states introduced restrictions on labour mobility prior to the 'big bang' in May 2004 when 10 Eastern and Central European states joined the EU. This is hardly surprising: Europe is already host to over 55 million of the estimated 192 million people the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says are living as migrants in the world. In Spain the number of foreigners has increased five-fold since 1999 and immigrants now make up over eight percent of the country's total population of 44 million, according latest census figures.

    The Right
    Jean-Marie le Pen's Front National in France, Belgium's Vlaams Belang and smaller parties in Spain linked to the late dictator General Francisco Franco, have for years played up what they say are the negatives associated with migrants. More mainstream parties have increasingly moved towards the need to control migration as they see concerns about the issue rising among the electorate. Coastguards and naval patrols boarding boat-loads of would-be immigrants from north Africa is a daily occurrence of the Spanish coast or the Canary Islands. Many who avoid the authorities end up falling victim to leaky boats, called 'pateras' or unscrupulous human traffickers. Since the meteoric rise and followed by the murder of anti-immigration populist Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch government has considerably toughened migration laws in the Netherlands and decided future immigrants will have to undertake special courses to help them integrate into Dutch society.

    But the overriding perception of migration as a problem and nothing more is misleading, according to the World Migration 2005 report by the International Organisation for Migration. The IOM says the first ever comprehensive benefits study of international migration provides ample evidence that migration brings both costs and benefits for sending and receiving countries, "even if these are not always shared equally". "We are living in an increasingly globalised world which can no longer depend on domestic labour markets alone. This is the reality that has to be managed," IOM director Brunson McKinley says. World Migration 2005, for instance, cites a Home Office study in the UK which revealed migrants there contribute the equivalent of more than USD 4 billion (EUR 3.3 billion) more in taxes than they receive in benefits And in the US, the National Research Council estimated that national income expanded by USD 8 billion (EUR 6.6 billion) in 1997 because of immigration. IOM's study also noted that there is rarely direct competition in a wide variety of jobs between immigrants and locals. Migrants occupy jobs at all skills levels but with a particular concentration at the higher or lower ends of the market, "often in work that nationals are either unable or unwilling to take". The report also talks about the better-known benefits for sending countries. Remittances by immigrants through official channels surpassed USD 100 billion in 2004, and now seriously rival development aid in many countries, the IOM found. Morocco, for instance, received USD 2.87 billion, or 8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), from remittances by migrant workers in 2002. Moroccans are the largest immigrant group in Spain. Remittances to the Philippines came to almost 10 percent of its GDP. Some sending countries are seeing a shift from brain drain to brain gain as a result of increasingly pro-active policies to attract back émigrés with newly acquired skills and education.

    Reviewing the situation in Europe, the World Migration report says despite the long-standing preoccupation with asylum issues, the focus has recently shifted to economic immigration, irregular migrants and the integration of newcomers. "The latter, in part, reflects an often ignored reality in Europe: many immigrants are not fully integrated, some not at all." The report looks at the new measures being introduced in the Netherlands, Germany and Austria to foster integration among immigrants. Referring to worries about a flood of immigrants from the new EU states, the report says that the data shows about one percent of the population of the new EU member states (i.e. some 700,000 people) firmly intend to migrate to a western country. This would put the total migration potential over the next 20 years at 3 to 4 million people. "Experience from earlier EU enlargements suggests, however, that emigration is more likely to decrease than increase after EU accession of countries with below-average GDP and a negative migration balance. "This has been demonstrated by Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. It is therefore likely that new immigrants from Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria will fill some of these jobs."

    What needs to be done
    The World Migration 2005 report emphasises the need for effective policies of socio-economic inclusion of migrants into host communities, even on a temporary basis to maximise productivity. "These measures have a cost but can ensure social cohesion in the face of cultural diversity and enable migrants to be productive for themselves, their host and home communities." Migrant-sending countries would greatly benefit, the report says, from engaging in "dynamic and broad-based" development, combining job creation and economic growth with a fairer distribution of income. This would create a general optimism about the future of the country. At a time of growing resistance to migration in some receiving countries, governments have to work together and make the right policy choices to steer migration more in the direction of benefits than costs.

    Myth and reality

  • Migrants represent 2.9 percent of world population
  • Half of 192 million migrants are women
  • Migrants are a financial asset rather than burden
  • International migration doubled in 1970-1990
  • Migrant political visibility is sometimes greater in industrial countries than the percentage suggests
    ©Expatica News

    Reactions were swift and strong after the populist Progress Party's new election campaign brochure appeared, its cover featuring a man wearing a balaclava and brandishing a shotgun alongside the quote: "The perpetrator is of foreign origin ...!"

    16/8/2005- "For the Fr. P (Progress Party) a stricter immigration policy and a stricter crime policy is about safety. ... Safety for people to walk the streets without fear of being raped or robbed," the brochure reads, and the Fr.P argues they have facts on their side. Olaf Thommessen, a deputy leader of the Liberal Party called the leaflet "absolutely appalling" and Nadeem Butt, the head of The Anti-Racist Center in Norway, said it was "not worthy of a Norwegian political party". The Progress Party (Fr.P), one of Norway's most popular, is no stranger to controversy, and took a calculated risk by flirting with its more nationalistic past. "This is a low and places the Fr.P on the outermost right-wing in European politics," Thommessen said. The prominent Liberal politician compared the brochure's content with the arguments of Le Pen and Haider and believed the approach would repel voters. Butt particularly addressed Fr.P leader Carl I. Hagen's charge that no other Norwegian politicians were willing to take the up the issue of immigrant criminality. "Carl I. Hagen underestimates other politicians. I have not met a single Norwegian politician who doesn't take criminality seriously, but no one overdramatizes and mixes immigration policy and crime the way Hagen and the Fr.P do," Butt said. Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik also expressed dismay over the party literature. "The Progress Party plays on the fear of foreigners. I expected that this would happen during the election but I think it is sad," Bondevik told newspaper Dagsavisen.

    Carl I. Hagen rejected Bondevik's accusation of spreading fear. "Bondevik is wrong here. The brochure says that very many immigrants are law-abiding citizens that do a fantastic job for Norway. But unfortunately there are all too many who are not law-abiding. Statistics show that clearly that criminality is growing among immigrants," Hagen told Dagsavisen. The Fr.P stance is likely based on the last figures from Statistics Norway (SSB) that calculate crime rates and ethnicity from 2002. The rate of non-Western immigrants convicted of crimes then was 30 per 1000, compared to 14 Norwegians per thousand. SSB noted that the higher percentage of young males in the immigrant population was a contributing and explanatory factor behind the high representation. "What we are focusing on is that we have had an immigration policy with a lack of integration and a lack of demands on immigrants. Many youngsters with an immigrant background end up in a route to crime ... and we think it is important to focus on that. But if others want to put a lid on the problem and not debate it, we won't solve these problems," said Per Sandberg, Fr.P immigration policy spokesman.

    17/8/2005- A radio station in Copenhagen has had its broadcasting licence taken away for three months after calling for the extermination of Muslims. In the controversial broadcast, Radio Holger presenter Kaj Wilhelmsen said: "There are only two possible reactions if you want to stop this bomb terrorism - either you expel all Muslims from Western Europe so they cannot plant bombs, or you exterminate the fanatical Muslims which would mean killing a substantial part of Muslim immigrants." Following the London bombs on 7 July, at least three extremist websites have warned that Denmark could be the next target. The reason for such threats is the 500 Danish troops working alongside US and British troops in Iraq. Danish police have warned people to be more vigilant and have put more police officers on patrol. Police are particularly visible in the centre of the Danish capital, Copenhagen, and around the Metro train system.

    Internet option
    On Tuesday, the Danish Radio Licence Commission ruled the programme in breach of the Broadcasting Act and decided to withdraw the station's licence for three months. But Kaj Wilhelmsen has vowed to fight on. He says he will continue to broadcast on the internet, for which no licence is required. "Local radio is only one type of media and we will use the media available," he said. The radio presenter also said he would sue the members of the Radio Licence Commission for blocking freedom of speech. In a separate development, Copenhagen Police charged Kaj Wilhelmsen with breaking the anti-racism law which makes it illegal to incite hatred against groups on the basis of religion, race or sexual orientation. Henning Koch, a legal expert from Copenhagen University, told Danish Radio he believed Kaj Wilhelmsen was in serious breach of the anti-racism law and faces a possible prison sentence.

    'Exterminate your rulers'
    Since the bomb attacks in London, there has been an increased focus on extremist groups in Denmark. Only last week, the spokesman for the Danish branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Fadi Abdullatif, was charged with calling for the killing of the Danish government. On a flyer distributed in Denmark, Hizb ut-Tahrir said: "So, travel to help your brothers in Falluja and exterminate your rulers if they block your way". Danish Justice Minister Lene Espersen is looking to find a legal way to ban the organisation. Those kind of remarks "have no place in our society", said Mrs Espersen in November. Hizb ut-Tahrir has already been banned in neighbouring Sweden and Germany. Copenhagen Police is also investigating another extremist group, according to Politiken newspaper. The paper says the group is linked to a Copenhagen mosque and its website provides links to an al-Qaeda recruiting video showing Osama bin Laden calling for the killing of non-Muslims and demonstrating how to build a bomb.
    ©BBC News

    A new wave of rap music is sweeping Germany: sexist, violent, often racist - and adored by neo-Nazis. Ruth Elkins reports on the alarming advance of the shock troops of popular culture

    17/8/2005- "If it doesn't work out with hip hop," shrugs Bushido, Germany's most notorious rap star, "then I'll just sell drugs." It probably won't come to that. The 26-year-old half Tunisian Berliner is turning the world of German hip hop upside down. The child of a German mother and an immigrant father is attracting, against all normal logic, a massive audience of neo-Nazis who love his hard-edged, racist and nationalistic lyrics. There has never been any doubting Bushido's bad boy credentials. He is currently, and not for the first time, in an Austrian jail, waiting to see if he must stand trial on GBH charges. Earlier this month, an unfortunate 20-year-old Austrian man made the mistake of wandering too close to Bushido's pimped-up 7 Series BMW. It is alleged the rapper and his two bodyguards suspected the man had punctured the tyres, and beat him senseless. Bushido could face 10 years in jail. Bushido's latest brush with the law was par for the course for a true gangsta rapper. 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Snoop Dogg: all the American rap stars worth their platinum discs and pimped-out Hummers have had run-ins with the law or spent time behind bars. But there is something different about Bushido, a beefy man with five tattoos. He has sparked a huge debate in Germany, a country still new to gangsta rap, about how racist and offensive song lyrics can be before they become outright neo-Nazi propaganda.

    The police and the German equivalent of special branch have monitored the ultra-right rock scene for years. They have secretly recorded concerts of groups such as Kraftschlag, Ayran Duo and Reichsfront, banned their CDS and raided distributors. These kind of bands, who offer up songs called " White and Full of Hate" have lyrics such as: "We are clansmen, of white race and clean blood; we are clansmen, watch out black man, be on your guard" and are seen as dangerous propaganda tools in the hands of Germany's neo-Nazis as they attempt to reach out to teenagers and school children. Bushido, though, is different. Gangsta rap has at last become a home-grown German product. Tame German rap has been popular here for years: groups such as Die Ärtze released non-controversial hits like: "Claudia's Got an Alsatian", but it was the kind of music that made 12-year-olds giggle. Until very recently, true gangsta rap had been strictly an American import. Spotty German teenagers would don baseball caps and baggy jeans and listen to the likes of Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent rap about things that seemed to come from a different world - the streets of the American inner city ghettos. They were pretty offensive, of course, their songs laced with profoundly sexist content: all men were pimps; all women were bitches. Now Germany has its own gangsta rappers. A country, which until recently was renowned for its affluent, stable economy and inclusive welfare net, (something those who came from the ghettos such as Compton and South Central just didn't have) is hearing about a new harsh German reality. Bushido is to the fore, joined by his foul-mouthed colleagues: Fler, Sido, B-Tight, Kool Savas, Eko Fresh, Brainless Wankers and a collective calling themselves Der Frauenartzt (the Gynaecologist.)

    In the past year, these rappers who once could only dream of minor fame on the fringes of the Germany's parochial music industry have made it to the mainstream. Their CDs regularly top the charts, their loves lives are followed by the tabloids, their concerts are sold out. Yet they are declaring open warfare on Germany's safe and comfortable consensus society. The new wave of German gangsta rap, says Aggro Berlin, the most successful and notorious of the Berlin independent record labels representing German rap stars, is simply reflective of the hard times in Germany, a country whose economy continues to dip in and out of recession and where unemployment nudges 5 million. But Germany does not have ghettos or race riots, it is, say panicked politicians, in no way comparable with US culture. Germany's new found gangsta rap is glamorising a fantasy of American ghetto life which should be banned, not encouraged. Still, the likes of Bushido seem to want to polarise society. Even the titles of his raps are upsetting the authorities. "Gang Bang" is a nauseating account of violent group sex. " Dreckstück" (Piece of Dirt) is entirely misogynistic and features the lyrics: "Just because you're a woman, doesn't mean I won't beat you till you're blue." Again and again the lyrics of Bushido and his gangsta rapper homies openly flirt with fascism. "Salutiert, steht stramm, Ich bin der Leader wie A," (Salute, stand to attention, I am the leader like 'A'), raps Bushido. The 'A', of course, stands for Adolf. A rap collective called Mor were heavily criticised for rapping lyrics where " Wack MCs" were sent to the "gas showers" and "children to the concentration camps."

    Fler, 24, another Berlin bad boy went one further. His latest hit, " Neue Deutsche Welle" (New German Wave) which went gold within two weeks of its release, features the ultra nationalistic lyrics: "That is black, red, gold, hard and proud, you might not see it in me, but believe me, my mom (sic) is German". The CD was advertised with an adapted pre-Polish invasion Adolf Hitler quote: "From May 1st, we will shoot back". His name on the CD cover was written in Third Reich style gothic print. The video to "Neue Deutsche Welle", constantly played on Germany's rolling music channels is set in a deprived high-rise East Berlin estate and features German flag waving, a complete taboo, as well as the ultimate Nazi symbol, an eagle, landing on the rapper's shoulder. The video's director said he would have liked to have lots of skinheads march through the estate with Fler, but worried, "that it might have pushed us into a bit of a corner." But Fler wasn't done with his neo-Nazi antics. Rumours flew recently that he had called his producer, DJ Ilan a " money grabbing Jewish pig." Germany's newspapers were outraged, but Fler didn't bother to deny it. Germany's far-right party, The NPD has even recommended "Neue Deutsche Welle" to party members. No wonder the German ultra right is so enthralled. "Though I think it is wrong to over-exaggerate the problem, the far right are definitely getting more interested in German hip hop, more so since the genre become so popular in mainstream culture," says Hannes Loh, 34, a former anti-fascist rapper and co-author of the book, Kanak Planet: Hip Hop Between World Culture and Nazi Rap.

    As early as 2001, the far-right rock magazine, Rocknord published an article headlined: "Hip Hop Is Going White Faster Than You Think". The neo-Nazi readership responded with hungry interest. "National Socialism always based itself around the masses," commented one reader. "If the masses are listening to hip hop, then why not?" Another said: " I hate hip hop like the plague, but I'd welcome it, if the raps went along with 'right' way of thinking." And no wonder so much of Germany's new brand of gangsta rap is being banned. Bushido's 2001 album, King of Kingz, and his more recent releases, Electric Ghetto and Vom Bordstein bis zur Skyline are all on the banned Index produced by Germany's Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young People, mostly it says: "because they discriminate about women and advocate violence". Similarly, Aggro Berlin composition sampler albums Ansage Nr.2 And Ansage Nr.3 which feature titles by Fler, Bushido and Sido such as: "call-a-Nigger", " Pussy" and "Oh Shit!" have also been banned. Although it does not prevent them being sold to those over the age of 18, they cannot be advertised and once they are on the Index, most large record stores don't bother to stock them.

    Bushido and his colleagues say they don't know what the fuss is all about. " I've always distanced myself from this far-right rubbish," Bushido said recently of the neo-Nazi fans who beg him to autograph their skinheads. " There is no trying to understand Nazis, but what are you going to do? If that guy is cool with me during the hour in which I'm giving my concert and respects the other people, then I think I've done a good job." Mor, the rap collective, were outraged at accusations they were right wing. " We're No Nazis and have no intention of promoting nationalistic German rap," it wrote, incensed, on its website. "In fact, there is no such thing as German nationalistic hip hop!" Perhaps just as worrying, is German gangsta rapper's similarly laissez faire attitude towards the violence and sexism their lyrics promote. "That's just how group sex is, you know," shrugged Bushido when one journalist accused him of misogyny regarding his song "Gang Bang". Bushido has a young daughter and maintains he only hits people who insult his mother, but does not think his rap promotes violence. "I say to the kids, when you press 'play' and listen to my CD, then you spend 70 minutes in my life. When you press 'stop', then you're back in your life, with your parents, your teachers and the police who will arrest you if you make trouble."

    Many arts commentators agree that Germany's new gangsta rap is nothing to worry about. "Fler is no Nazi," says Dennis Kraus of hip hop magazine, Backspin. "He's just unbelievably stupid." Even the ultra-conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says German rap's newfound offensive, nationalist tone is merely a ploy to sell records. "Fler just got what was left in Aggro Berlin's bag of tricks to get it noticed," it sniffed last month. "The 'crass nigger' character role was given to B-Tight, Sido got to wear the silver death mask. The only thing that was left for Fler which would cause any kind of outrage was the German flag." "German gangsta rap is easy to deconstruct," says Hannes Loh, who runs seminars for school children to educate them about the genre. " Usually within about 10 minutes of discussion, you can get them thinking objectively." He, too, is not overly worried. "Ok, you could say this rap music is affecting children at a sensitive age; most fans are between 12 and 16 years old. But the truth is it's not really like that." He pauses for a while, then sighs. "The thing is, this kind of music is mostly listened to by white, middle-class kids who just want shock their parents. By the time they're 16, they've lost interest." German gangsta rap, he says, is just a phase. "It'll pass in time. Then maybe some of the really good stuff will replace it."
    © Independent Digital

    Moves underway to ban a small far-right party on the grounds that its members are racist and xenophobic are unlikely to succeed, according to experts.

    17/8/2005- The Party of Nationally Orientated Swiss (PNOS) has made it clear that it will vigorously defend all legal attempts to undermine the right to "freedom of expression". Last month four PNOS members were found guilty of racial discrimination by a district court in canton Aargau. The individuals concerned are appealing against the ruling. But this has not stopped the Swiss section of an international peace organisation from launching legal action aimed at banning the party outright. Heinz Kaiser, a project leader with World Citizens, confirmed that legal proceedings had been launched. "I am also asking for the party's internet site to be shut down," he told swissinfo. But experts question whether there are any legal grounds for banning PNOS, which has enjoyed limited success after two of its members were elected to serve in local government.

    No legal grounds
    Hans Hirter, a political scientist at Bern University, said he could see no justifiable grounds for forcing the party to disband. "It's one thing to indict individuals if they are breaking criminal law... but there is no legal reason to ban the party because of this," he said. "Historically speaking, bans of this kind have only happened during exceptional times. The government prohibited the Nazi party and also the Communist party during the Second World War. But just after the war these bans were lifted." According to Hirter, since 1945 there have been no precedents for banning a political party in Switzerland – and he believes this is unlikely to change in the near future. "One reason for this is that there is no registration of parties in Switzerland. Anybody can make a party, which in principle is just an association of at least three people. "The federal administration neither officially registers nor prohibits parties... so [attempts to ban PNOS] will certainly fail in the courts."

    Mixed reaction
    Of the four parties in government, only the centre-left Social Democrats have come out in favour of a ban on PNOS. Spokesman Nicolas Galladé told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper that prohibiting the party was justified on the grounds that it does not have a "democratic platform". But the centre-right Radicals argue that a ban would achieve nothing, because "two weeks later the party would simply reappear under a new name". The rightwing Swiss People's Party is against a ban, arguing that the existence of PNOS helps to "prove that we [ourselves] are not on the edge of the political Right". Hans Stutz, a journalist who monitors far-right activity on behalf of the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism, is also against imposing a ban on a party which he believes will in any case pick up few votes in future. "[PNOS] will try to put forward more candidates for local parliaments and local councils. But I doubt whether the group will be very successful," he said.

    Fringe party
    Hirter agrees that PNOS – with or without the publicity surrounding the ongoing legal wrangling over its existence - is not destined to be anything more than a fringe party. "I don't expect the party to pick up many more votes. They could have some success on a very local level in small villages where the People's Party isn't present, but that's about it," he said. Analysts believe that one explanation for the lack of support for PNOS is the fact that the Swiss do not have to wait for federal elections to vent their anger or frustration at the ballot box. "[Far-right parties] have never really become strong because the Swiss system of direct democracy gives voters the chance to express their anti-government or anti-immigration feelings on a regular basis. "In other words, there's no need to condense all those feelings into one [particularly rightwing] vote for a party every four years... when people can cast their ballots on a variety of referendums throughout the year." Hirter adds that voters who lean towards the right of the political spectrum are also far more likely to support an established party, even if its views are more moderate than their own. "Anyone who wants to make a political career on the rightwing will go to the People's Party. They are not going to go to the trouble of establishing a new party. "It's also much more attractive for young people to vote for a strong party with well-known politicians... than for a small obscure party that nobody really knows."

    Two corporals and two recruits at a Swiss army training camp have been suspended for using Nazi salutes and racist as well as far-right expressions.

    19/8/2005- The suspensions come shortly after other cases of misconduct within the ranks were revealed in the media. The defence ministry announced the suspensions on Friday, adding that the misconduct was confined to a small group of soldiers. Officers and recruits at the training school in Isone, canton Ticino, witnessed the incident last week. The two recruits and one corporal admitted to their behaviour, while eyewitnesses identified the second corporal as having taken part. The army has launched an administrative procedure against the four men, according to spokesman Felix Endrich. Further investigations will determine whether the soldiers were rightwing extremists before beginning their service. Background checks will also be carried out to see if the men had prior criminal convictions or had been investigated by the police. "These checks have been business as usual for the army for the past three years," Endrich told swissinfo.

    Zero tolerance
    The defence ministry statement pointed out that while the army cherishes freedom of expression, it does not tolerate extremist language, gestures and actions within its ranks. The army will decide how to proceed after the investigation is concluded. A wide variety of sanctions could be imposed on the four men, ranging from fines to an expulsion from the military. Expulsion from the ranks would however depend on a court conviction, either by civilian or military judges. Endrich said this type of incident is rare, occurring only a handful of times per year. He said the army tries to avoid calling up known extremists, although it's hard to keep them out. "There are approximately 800 rightwing extremists within the army's ranks, according to the government's extremism watchdog," Endrich told swissinfo. This is around half the estimated number of neo-Nazi activists or sympathisers in the country.

    President heckled
    Extremist behaviour has been making headlines across the country since August 1. Neo-Nazis heckled President Samuel Schmid during his National Day speech in central Switzerland. The government said this week it condemned such behaviour, but would leave it up to the local authorities to deal with extremist incidents. Endrich reckons the media coverage of the Rütli events has been positive for the army. "Soldiers and other members of the army are probably more receptive to extremist issues since August 1 and are probably more likely to report certain types of behaviour," he added. Other types of reprehensible behaviour within the army ranks have also been picked up by the media this week. On Tuesday, the 20 Minuten newspaper published pictures of recruits in Thun simulating torture. The images were similar to those taken in Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, showing Iraqi prisoners in degrading positions. While the former recruits claim it was never their intention to mirror the Iraqi events, the army has condemned their behaviour. "These pictures are disgusting," army spokesman Daniel Reist told the Le Matin newspaper on Wednesday. "It shows a lack of respect for the victims of torture." "These recruits obviously did not realise what they were doing," he added. No disciplinary measures will be taken, as the event took place more than a year ago. But the recruits' commanding officer has asked the military justice office to consider other action.

    18/8/2005- Austria is to extend a ban for workers from new EU countries for another three years, with a possibility of applying a maximum transition period of seven years until 2011. According to the Austrian economy minister Martin Bartenstein, who confirmed the postponement until 2009, the next decision will depend on his country's employment situation, APA agency reported. Vienna is one of 12 West European capitals applying the allowed measures against the free movement of newcomers to their labour markets. But while some countries – like Germany - announced right away that they would use the whole seven years period, Austria chose to evaluate its job situation gradually and move along the scheme agreed at the EU level (2-3-2 years of the transitional measures). On the other hand, the UK, Ireland and Sweden have opened their borders to new member state workers, and have seen quite a significant increase of migrants from new member states. Their numbers have been higher than expected by the respective governments, according to a recent report, but although they use the social benefits where possible, they tend to be temporary, so do not bring their family, and take jobs that others cannot or will not do. The European Commission is set to launch a thorough review of the employment situation in the "old" EU countries next year, and plans to draw recommendations concerning the existing restrictions on its findings.

    17/8/2005- Asylum seekers across Belgium protested on Tuesday against surprise deportations being carried out by Belgian immigration authorities. In Brussels, some 100 protestors demonstrated outside the refugee shelter Klein Kasteeltje, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Wednesday. Asylum seekers have also stopped sleeping at the Brussels refugee centre. The residents claim that more than 60 refugees with appeals still pending with the Council of State have been deported from other refugee centres since the start of August. And some 50 asylum seekers staying at the refugee shelter in Jumet sought sanctuary in the Saint-Christophe basilica in Charleroi on Tuesday. Among the asylum seekers seeking refuge were children, including a baby just several weeks old, footage from French-language broadcaster RTBF showed. The asylum seekers abandoned the refugee shelter after police entered the centre last Friday to deport a rejected Togolese asylum seeker, newspaper 'Het Laatste Nieuws' reported. The man's application for asylum had been rejected. Although he had lodged an appeal, policed deported him anyway. A new agreement between the federal refugee agency Fedasil and the immigration service DVZ allows deportations prior to the Council of State hearing an asylum seeker's appeal. The new measure has been in force since the start of this month. And the immigration service DVZ rejected all criticism on Tuesday and stressed it was only applying Belgian law. It said appeals lodged with the Council of State cannot prevent deportations. However, refugee lobby group VAK accused the DVZ of hypocrisy. "Why leave the possibility open to appeal if you eject people out of the country in the meantime," official Ruben Vandevyvere asked. Asylum seekers are opposed to the deportation procedures and are demanding that they be scrapped until such time as their application for asylum has been completely exhausted.
    ©Expatica News

    13/8/2005- Hopes of stemming the growing number of illegal African immigrants into the European Union were dealt a serious blow last week when the Maltese government announced it was no longer prepared to act alone in the fight against people trafficking gangs operating in the Mediterranean. It called upon the European Commission to direct the Portuguese, Spanish and Italian governments to contribute security personnel as well as military surveillance equipment to Malta's uphill struggle in fighting illegal immigration. Prior to Malta's accession to the EU last year, the Iberian Peninsula and Italy had been the main points of entry into Europe for illegal African immigrants. Malta said it will unilaterally reduce its international search and-rescue zone of responsibility saying it cannot continue accepting large numbers of immigrant boats which daily pervade the country's territorial waters.

    The announcement came only two weeks after Malta and Libya had agreed to set up a joint naval and air surveillance programme to track down people trafficking gangs who are smuggling illegal immigrants mainly from the Sudan and Eritrea via Libya into Malta. A government spokesman told reporters in the capital Valetta that Malta's tiny navy is currently tasked by the EU with patrolling a vast area of the Mediterranean stretching from North Tunisia to Crete, which covers the direct route taken by people traffickers looking to unload immigrants into the 25nation bloc through Malta. "We know that Libya has an enormous problem with illegal immigration", Malta's Interior Minister Tonio Borgi, said. He pointed out that human traffickers take advantage of maritime law under which vessels in distress in the Crete­North Tunisian sea zone, once rescued are taken to Malta.

    The commander of Malta's armed forces, Brigadier Carmel Vassallo, said the army, which is running detention centres for illegal immigrants, was "at breaking point". Last Sunday the army opened a warehouse to accommodate 206 immigrants who arrived on the island over the weekend, as the established detention centres are bursting at the seams. The country's hospitals are also packed to overflowing with immigrants who have either sustained injuries during their sea journeys from Libya or are suffering from a range of infectious diseases. The Maltese Foreign Minister Michael Frendo, called on Portugal, Spain and Italy for assistance and improved cooperation over the influx of illegal immigrants. "We cannot wait indefinitely. This is not only a phenomenon but also a criminal racket. Southern EU member states and Libya should assist Malta and cooperate with us," he added. A spokesman for the Libyan government said last Wednesday that there are an estimated two million illegal immigrants from other African nations in the country awaiting passage to the EU.
    ©The Portugal News

    14/8/2005- This study confirms that the Maltese are generally xenophobic and that the recent phenomenon of illegal immigration, now developing to unforeseen proportions, has made us increasingly suspicious of anybody who decides to settle permanently in Malta. In fact, in reply to the first question on whether everybody should have a right to come and settle in Malta, only 2.3% are prepared to accord this right to anybody. A staggering 97.3% simply said No, while the remaining 0.3% did not know. An analysis of the various breakdowns shows that there was a high consistency in this view, except for those aged 16-25, among whom those who said Yes goes up to 7.8%. Strikingly perhaps, persons in the lower social classes appear to be more open to extend this right than those in the AB socio-economic group (AB: 0%; C1: 1.8%; C2: 3.3%; and DE: 3.3%). Neither do the Maltese willingly accept anybody to live next door. This study sought to elicit the extent to which traditional Maltese hospitality extended willingness to accept persons from different nationalities as neighbours.

    Not as neighbours
    All participants were accordingly asked whether they preferred persons from a number of countries and races to be their neighbours. The races so asked about are: Europeans; Chinese or similar; Jews/Israelis; Palestinians; Africans, Americans, Arabs and Indians or similar. The findings clearly prove that the Maltese are generally very unwilling to accept non-Maltese living next door. The only major exception is in respect of Europeans, in which case 95% are willing to accept them as neighbours. Next come Chinese or similar (at 32%), Americans (at 27%) and Indian or otherwise (at 22%), but the jump from Europeans to these three nationalities is quite significant. The level of unwillingness to have people of different nationalities as neighbours in respect of most nationalities tested is quite high. It is highest for Palestinians (at 95.3%) and for Arabs (93.7%). Next come Africans (at 90%) and Jews (at 89%). The level of rejection for the remaining nationalities was recorded at: Europeans: 5%; Chinese or similar: 67.7%; Americans: 73% and Indians or similar: 78%. Once more, one notices that younger persons are more willing to accept foreigners living next door than their elders, while some differences were noticed when the data were analysed by socio-economic groups. Thus, C2 members register a higher than average willingness to accept Chinese or similar as neighbours (36%); DE members register a higher than average willingness to accept Jews/Israelis as neighbours (14.3%); while C1 members register a higher than average willingness to accept Palestinians and Arabs as neighbours (at 9% in each case).

    Political asylum
    Political asylum accords shelter and protection to persons who cannot go on living in their native country. In this study, the Maltese were asked whether they thought that Malta should accord political asylum to persons who try to escape from their native land because of four different circumstances, namely (a) political persecution; (b) war; (c) civil war; and (d) hunger or mass poverty. The findings show that the majority of the Maltese are not very forthcoming in extending asylum in any of the four cases tested. Only about 20% of the population appear to be willing to use this legal provision to help persons from other nationalities escape dramatic calamities in their own country. When the data are analysed by gender, it appears that females are slightly more forthcoming than males: 35.5% females vs. 17% males are prepared to offer asylum in cases of political persecution; 25.5% vs. 15.6% are prepared to offer asylum in cases of war; 22.9% vs. 15% are prepared to offer asylum in cases of civil war; and 24.8% vs. 19% males are prepared to offer asylum in cases of hunger/mass poverty. In all four cases, members of the AB socio-economic group were more forthcoming than any of the other groups. These data collected for this study clearly prove that DE members are significantly more xenophobic than other socio-economic groups.

    Xenophobia is so extensive that only 16.7% are willing to give shelter to those who have been officially recognised as having fled from their country of origin and been accorded refugee status; 8.3% are definitely against, while the remaining 75% preferred not to express an opinion, thus showing that they are doubtful about this procedure. No significant differences emerge when this set of data is analysed by age, but socio-economic groups once more show significant differences. Thus 29.7% of those in the AB socio-economic group favour giving shelter to officially declared refugees, in contrast to 21.6% of the C1; 12.1% of the C2 and only 6.6% of those in the DE socio-economic groups. Significantly, this is reflected in the type of newspaper read. Of those who read The Sunday Times 23.7% are in favour of providing shelter for officially declared refugees; in contrast to 9.7% of those who read The Independent on Sunday; 13% of those who read KullHadd/it-Torca and 20% of those who read Il-Mument.

    Skin colour
    The colour of one's skin and the religion one professes are two of the main factors that are often found to be the basis of racism and xenophobia. To see the extent to which these are important factors operating in Maltese society, participants in this study were asked whether the colour of a person's skin affect what kind of treatment be accorded to him/her when being considered for political asylum and shelter? Only 17.3% unequivocally stated that everybody should be treated the same. As many as 76.3% preferred not to offer an opinion while the remaining 6.3% stated that preference should be given to persons with white skin, clearly exhibiting a bias in favour of Caucasians. A more detailed analysis shows that the largest number of those who favour equality of treatment was registered among females (19.6% vs. males 15%), by those aged 51-65, at 18.3%; by persons in the AB socio-economic group, at 32.4%, and by readers of The Sunday Times, at 24.6%.

    In respect of religious tolerance, the study sought to collect information on what the Maltese think on whether it should be possible for persons of a number of world religions to be given political asylum. The belief systems so tested are: Islam, Christianity, Judaism, African religions and atheism. The resultant data suggest that the same level of intolerance was shown to persons adhering to different religions. Of all the religions, Islam receives the highest level of absolute No, at 79.3%, while Judaism registered 76.7% No; African religions registered 15.7% No and Atheism registered yet again a high 78% No. Only Christianity appears to be perceived slightly less of a threat, and registers a relatively low level of No, at 67.3%. However, the fact that all religions, Christianity included, received such high levels of No suggests that religion on its own is not the most important ingredient underlying the high level of racist intolerance among the Maltese confirmed by this study. Even so, differences by socio-economic group are clearly noticeable: 35.1% of AB register a Yes for Islam, in contrast to only 6.6% among DE; again AB register 45.9% for Christianity in contrast to only 16.4% among DE. Similar trends apply to all the other religions: Judaism: AB: 37.8% vs. 8.2% among DE; African religions: 37.8% among AB vs. 8.2% among DE and Atheists: 32.4% among AB vs. 9.8% among DE. These findings are consistent with earlier findings that lower socio-economic groups are more xenophobic than the higher ones. Ninety-two per cent hold that illegal immigrants should not be entitled to seek employment in Malta until their case is decided. Only 4.7% agree that this right should be accorded to them, while the remaining 3.3% did not offer an opinion.

    A more detailed analysis of the figures shows that agreement on this aspect is widespread among the various sectors of Maltese society, except that females are more inclined to accord this right than males (females 7.2% vs. males 2%). This study sought to discover what the Maltese think about a set of three 'conditions' to be imposed on persons who decide to settle in Malta: learning Maltese; becoming a Christian and, negatively, denial of Maltese citizenship. Interestingly, learning Maltese and converting to Christianity were not seen as necessary conditions to be imposed on persons who decide to settle in Malta permanently. In fact nobody thought that learning Maltese should be a necessary condition, and only 1.3% believed that becoming a Christian should be enforced. But denying Maltese citizenship to such persons received a very solid endorsement. Only 6.1% were of the opinion that citizenship should not be denied, while 86.3% unequivocally said it should. The remaining 7.3% were in two minds and did not offer an opinion on the matter.

    A final question in this study sought to enquire about the support among the Maltese population for the request for help made by the government to European Union countries to shoulder the burden of illegal migration. A strong majority, 94.7%, agreed that the EU should indeed help Malta in this matter; 4% did not offer an opinion while just 1.3% do not think that the EU should have been brought into the matter at all. Strikingly, this last percentage goes up to 4.3% insofar as persons over 65 years of age are involved.

    Socio-economic groups
    AB - professional, managerial, administrative
    C1 - higher clerical, clerical, supervisor, skilled craftsmen and technicians, owner/manager of small business
    C2 - skilled manual workers and foremen
    DE - semi-skilled, unskilled, labourers, casual workers and persons whose income is provided by the State.
    ©Times of Malta

    A RACIST SOCIETY(Malta, Editorial)
    14/8/2005- The findings of our latest public opinion survey, published elsewhere in this issue, should come as a shock - or perhaps not. By huge margins, those interviewed - a representative sample of Maltese society, of people in various age brackets and socio-economic groups - have shown an astonishing degree of intolerance to foreigners generally, but especially to non-whites. Undoubtedly, the recent spate of landings by illegal immigrants from North Africa, which have seen a surge this summer, could have influenced respondents' opinions. The survey was carried out towards the end of last month, when such landings had intensified. Also affecting the way people replied were last month's terrorist attacks in London by members of Britain's "home-grown" Muslim community. The xenophobic bias in Maltese society is evident from the answers to various questions asked to the 300 respondents. For example, a staggering 97.3 per cent were not prepared to give anyone the right to settle in Malta. But even more telling was how people reacted when asked whether they would welcome members of other ethnic groups as neighbours. It is a sign of our underlying racist sentiments that only five per cent said they would object to having other Europeans as neighbours, but those objecting to members of other ethnic groups - from Palestinians and Arabs, Africans, Jews, Chinese, Americans (!) and Indians - ranged from 95.3 per cent to 67.7 per cent.

    The negative replies received must be quite surprising, given that, for example, Malta has for decades had a small - albeit very well integrated - Indian community who got along, and still get along, very well with their Maltese neighbours. And so it goes on. Only about 20 per cent, for example, are willing to grant political asylum in Malta to persons fleeing political persecution, war, hunger and poverty. Three-quarters of those interviewed did not reply when asked whether they are prepared to give shelter to those who have already been accorded refugee status. Only a sixth were ready to do so. Clearly, the colour of a person's skin has a lot to do with our attitudes to foreigners. Only 17.3 per cent said that all persons should be treated the same; 76.3 per cent declined to answer, while 6.3 per cent said point blank that whites should be preferred. When respondents were asked whether illegal immigrants should have the right to work in Malta until a decision is taken on their case, an overwhelming 92 per cent said they should have no such right.

    The survey found that anti-foreign bias was more marked among the older generation, and among members of the lowest socio-economic groups. However, on the whole, the figures paint a worrying picture of racism in Malta. This is ironic in an island which - at least since the arrival of St Paul on our shores 2,000 years ago - has been proud of its hospitality to foreigners. Indeed, at least a quarter of our economy depends on such hospitality - Malta now simply cannot afford to do without the 1.1 million foreigners who visit us annually. The difference, of course, is that these are transitory visitors who stay an average of eight days or even less, and spend good money here. The widespread xenophobic attitude is also at variance with the overwhelmingly generous response which the Maltese have always given to people, independently of skin colour, hit by natural calamities in other parts of the world. If we had to take our response to the Boxing Day tsunami disaster as an example, Malta and Gonzi contributed some Lm8 per head of population to the relief and reconstruction effort in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and elsewhere, putting these islands in the top league of donors per capita.

    And it is also strange that the Maltese, generations of whom have migrated to foreign lands where they have settled and integrated themselves well in the local community, providing many individual success stories, should display such intolerance to the foreigners among us. For decades too, Malta has sent hundreds of its sons and daughters as religious or lay missionaries to third world countries where they have served people of all races with selfless and untiring dedication. So how could one account for the awful amount of prejudice displayed in the responses to our survey? Anti-racist propaganda, local and foreign, undoubtedly plays a part, but it is more likely that such attitudes are the result of ignorance, prejudice and fear of the unknown. It is a shame that our Christian upbringing should manifest itself in spurts of generosity to other, diverse, members of the human race but only if they are kept at a distance, as it were, and not to these same fellow-humans when they find themselves on our doorstep.
    ©Times of Malta

    THE PIOUS AND THE RACIST(Malta, opinion)
    By Marisa Micallef

    15/8/2005- As more and more people land on our shores illegally (and we cannot even decide what to call them, irregular, illegal or just plain unwanted), and the debate rages on, only two points of view seem to be aired. Those who are totally pious about the situation and describe people trying illegally to get into another country as victims of war, hunger and oppression, and those who are being portrayed as totally racist who are expressing views, in private at least, that make Norman Lowell seem rather tame, but are essentially about going back to where you came from. With close to 2,000 apparently unwanted visitors here, what is this island going to do? Perhaps sensing the public's mood of near unified anger on this issue, the Libyan ambassador was apparently summoned and urged to call on his government to stem the tide. Yet Libya clearly already has taken in more than its fair share and probably cannot police better without a lot more help. What happened to that idea of having camps where applications could be sorted out of the North African coast so that the genuine could get through and those with a simple desire to live a better life would have to be turned back? Many pious people thought these would be reminiscent of WWII camps but is it any better to have young men, women and kids hanging on to dear life in a boat, hoping to land in Italy and coming into Malta by mistake?

    There are, I believe, close to 2,000 here or coming through. Does government have a number at which it will say no, or could it be 5,000 or 10,000 or whatever, within the next five years? Where will these people live? Where will they work? And how prepared are we for a massive cultural change that this will bring? The general profile of these visitors is of a young man – so you have to ask, who will they partner, who will they marry and how will their kids cope, and which culture will predominate? Recent events in London have not helped the cause of many who are genuine refugees. The very idea that suicide bombers could be the kids of those the UK accepted as refugees simply makes a lot of people's hair stand on end. After all kids of refugees, brought up in a climate where they feel useless and alienated are not going to feel grateful for any country's social security safety net, are they? One of the most worrying surveys of British Muslims I saw on Sky News in the wake of the London bombings was the one where five per cent of Britain's 1.6 million Muslims apparently felt sympathetic with the motivations of these bombers. Less than one per cent would be understandable but a full five per cent of British Muslims is pointing to a time bomb which has already exploded and will continue to explode. It is simply too late for Britain now. Deporting 10 or 20 or 50 radical clerics is not going to stop anything if tens of thousand of British Muslims feel that essentially Britain's invasion of Iraq explains young men killing themselves and injuring and killing hundreds of others in a Tube train.

    What are we doing to be culturally prepared for the changes that even a few thousand immigrants more are going to bring to Malta? There are already many Arab Muslims marrying Maltese girls and our laissez faire approach may be regretted in years to come. What will have priority? Muslim rules or the Maltese way of life for the many Muslim Maltese children we will have, particularly for the girls? Are our girls going to face the same pressures as so many Asian British girls face caught between the demands of two cultured? The new visitors in boats are not all going to remain in camps for ever are they? Many will stay here. How are we going to not be embarrassed to say we have a way of life here and you are welcome, but our way predominates. You need to adapt to us too. We need to say and implement this in policy terms without the fear of being called racist. Britain is today full of areas where as a woman you feel like an alien even walking down the streets in jeans and a crop top (weather permitting). We must also think of this aspect too. But of course we cannot shoot them in their boots or do any of the other nasty thoughts and deeds that people are talking about.

    We will have to take in our fair share as will other European countries. But we have to be more prepared. We have to help them integrate to our way of life and not maroon themselves in ghettoes. In other words we have no choice but to overcome our strong racism in the short-term to protect our way of life in the long-term. We, the whole country, have to be less racist to defeat those who are being over pious and impractical about this whole issue. We are not doing this. Right now we are just behaving like the rabble who thought they could storm Bastille and make everything better. But neither can we be too pious like Marie Antoinette and pretend, via few pieces of cake, that we can make this island a massive reception centre. We must find the middle way between the pious and the racist. The majority are racist. The pious minority have no solutions either apparently. Where are the middle men and women who are going to protect our way of life while offering a home to those who cannot go back ... Or is it just beyond us?
    ©Times of Malta

    Scientists, politicians and religious leaders met at a conference in Berlin to discuss the issues of Muslims living in western societies, stressing that better integration would be pivotal in curbing Islamic extremism.

    16/8/2005- Europe is home to some 25 million Muslims, accounting for 5.5 percent of the overall population. Since most of these Muslims are here to stay, the question of their integration is gaining in importance. But so far, progress on this front has been sluggish, to say the least. Berlin is currently hosting an international conference that looks into ways of improving the integration of Muslims into western societies, not least against the background of the recent terrorist attacks in London. The two-day event which is being organized by Germany's Liberal Democrat-affiliated Naumann Foundation is seeking to reduce misconceptions that Europeans have towards the religious and political objectives of Muslims on the continent. Particularly Europe's younger Muslims feel themselves increasingly alienated from the western societies they live in, as they do not want or do not have the opportunity to take an active part in shaping these societies. More often than not, ongoing seclusion is the result which, in its turn, is believed to be the ideal breeding ground for radical ideas and terrorism. Mahmoud Gaafar, a spokesperson for the Egyptian embassy in Berlin, maintains though that current problems are being blown out of proportion by both politicians and the media. "Muslims living here are like you, exactly," Gaafar said. "They are law-abiding people. If we have some extremists among them, that that doesn't mean that all of us are the same," he said.

    Islamic world is itself diverse
    Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, former president of Indonesia, said at the conference that there was no reason to believe that Muslims and native westerners should be at loggerheads for all time. He said both groups should concentrate on their common values, advising Europeans to stop thinking about Muslims only in the context of the Middle East conflict. "People always make this mistake: they consider Islam by studying and looking at how the Middle East acts, especially the Arabs," Habibie said. "But there are different Arabs. The Middle Eastern problem, the Palestine problem, for instance, is not an Islamic problem, it's a problem of character," he said. Count Otto Lambsdorff, who heads the Naumann Foundation's board of directors, left no doubt whatsoever that Muslims living in Europe had to understand that people here would never tolerate actions being done in the name of Islam, such as genital mutilation, forced marriages, intolerance towards other religions and vendetta-type killings. He also called on Muslim citizens to accept the separation of state and religion in western societies. Lambsdorff criticized that only a small proportion of Muslims living in Germany were entitled to take part in elections at regional and federal level which made it so much harder for them to feel that their integration was really wanted.

    Unrealistic numbers
    The conference is also dealing with the prospect of Muslims outnumbering native Europeans in a few decades from now in countries such as France and Germany. But Siegfried Herzog, who works for the Naumann Foundation, says such projections are unrealistic. "Those are the projections that are based on the so-called dog-tail theory," Herzog said. You're projecting existing birth rates into the future even though you see that minority birth rates within Europe tend to come down in line with the society around them. Making a projection based on present birth rates is not very serious. This is a scare-mongering tactic that is not going to help us in this debate," he said. German politicians have called on Muslims in Germany to reorganize themselves with a view to having a joint political representation rather than a dozen different umbrella organizations. A single representation, they argued, would put Muslims in a better position to make their demands heard.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    Group rethinks images comparing animal abuse, slavery

    14/8/2005- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is reconsidering a campaign comparing images of animal abuse with those of slavery after complaints from civil rights groups and others. PETA's "Animal Liberation" campaign included 12 panels juxtaposing pictures of black people in chains with shackled elephants and other provocative images.

    Tour's on hold
    PETA wrapped up the first leg of a tour in Washington on Thursday, visiting 17 cities before deciding to put the tour on hold. "We're not continuing right now while we evaluate," said PETA spokeswoman Dawn Carr. "We're reviewing feedback we've received -- most of it overwhelmingly positive and some of it quite negative." One panel showed a black civil rights protester being beaten at a lunch counter beside a photo of a seal being bludgeoned. Another panel, titled "Hanging," showed a graphic photo of a white mob surrounding two lynched blacks, their bodies hanging from tree limbs, while a nearby picture showed a cow hanging in a slaughterhouse. The controversy erupted Aug. 8, when the display was in New Haven, Conn. "There was one man who began shouting that the exhibit was racist," Carr said. "Then there was a lot of shouting." Carr said PETA wanted to use the shocking images to prove a point: Whether it's humans harming animals or each other, all point to an oppressive mindset. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People isn't buying it. "PETA operates by getting publicity any way they can," said NAACP spokesman John White. "They're comparing chickens to black people."

    'Disgusting' exhibit
    Mark Potok, director of the Alabama-based Intelligence Project with the Southern Poverty Law Center, called the exhibit "disgusting." "Black people in America have had quite enough of being compared to animals without PETA joining in," said Potok. Earlier this year, PETA officials apologized for a campaign that compared the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust with that of factory animals.
    ©Ottowa Sun

    17/8/2005- Over the past few weeks, Andrew Fraser, an associate professor in the department of public law at Macquarie University, has advocated his views from a number of public platforms. He has claimed, among other things, that Africans are congenitally inferior in terms of their intellectual capacity and naturally prone to violence. He has exhorted Australians to stop further African and Asian migration to Australia, as he believes this nation is at risk of what he terms "national suicide". In the flurry of media coverage that Fraser's views have received, his supporters and many of his critics have sought to legitimise his views by accommodating them under the rubric of free speech. Free speech, like motherhood, is held to be one of the inalienable truths of Australian society. As a community of academics, scholars and educators, we wish to make these essential points about the ethics and limits of free speech:

  • The freedom to speak is not absolute. Racism, specifically in the form of racial vilification of particular groups, is not free speech. It is proscribed by law and cannot be sanctioned in any quarter.

  • Some people are freer to speak than others. Free speech is not an abstraction. In practice it is exercised by some and not by others. The freedom to speak is enjoyed by those who have access - through linguistic, educational, institutional and economic power - to the various forums that disseminate or silence our speech. Witness the number of column centimetres that Fraser and his supporters have received, in contrast to the fewer than a handful of articles in which the communities he racially vilifies have had the opportunity to respond.

  • It is dishonest to suggest that free speech is equally available to all. Some of us are entrusted with the ability to speak authoritatively, and to be listened to, because of the roles we occupy in society. This is why it is imperative for other academics to denounce Fraser's continuing capitalisation on his academic title and institutional affiliation. Fraser has no academic research history in the field of race and ethnicity studies.

  • As much as sticks and stones, words break bones. Sudanese-Australians have been bashed and attacked. In Toowoomba, in southeastern Queensland, a Sudanese-Australian family was driven out of town by repeated assaults from a neo-Nazi gang. The gang has warned that it will intensify its race-hate campaign (The Australian, July 23).

  • Free speech is not a matter for the individual alone. We can see the limitations of this position as soon as we place students, largely ignored in the debate, at the centre of the issue. We are not just dealing with the sentiments of an individual but with the practices of a figure who exercises power and authority, vested in him by an institution, over students. His assessments help to determine their life chances in the future as well as their capacity to learn effectively in the present. How does a person who believes that people are unequally genetically endowed with intelligence and a capacity for violence undertake to fairly and equally assess students who come from different parts of the world? If a teacher holds such views, how can they treat students fairly on the basis of merit?

  • It is timely to begin to talk about an ethics of speech founded on principles of responsibility and accountability. An ethics of speech demands that as speakers we take responsibility for unequal relations of power and resources, such as those that mark the relationship between a university professor and Sudanese refugees fleeing violence, poverty and persecution.

    If free speech is not to become the last refuge for race fanatics and hate-mongers, in the context of an already volatile climate, it needs to be articulated hand-in-hand with an ethics of responsibility. Join us in denouncing the travesty of a free speech free of ethics.
    The letter is undersigned by 143 academics for the list see here
    © The Australian

    13/8/2005- A Tokyo education board adopted a right-wing history book yesterday, drawing angry protests from Japanese liberals and inflaming a nationalist controversy three days before the 60th anniversary of the country's defeat in the Second World War. After weeks of lobbying, for and against, and angry demonstrations by opponents of the textbook, the education authority of Tokyo's Suginami ward approved it for use in 23 junior high schools from next year. The book, published by the outspokenly nationalist Japanese Society to Create New History Textbooks, or Tsukurakai, will be used by 6,400 students in the ward. It is the first time that the controversial book has been adopted in one of Japan's main cities, and represents an important victory for the Tsukurukai, an organisation of right-wing academics determined to foster patriotism among Japanese children and counter what they regard as "masochistic" views of Japanese history.

    The book, produced by the Fusosha publishing house, omits reference to "comfort women" ­ mainly Korean and Chinese sex slaves forced to service Japanese soldiers ­ and refers to the Nanking massacre as an "incident", saying that "many" Chinese died there, rather than citing historical estimates of the numbers who died, which range from tens of thousands to 300,000. The Tsukurukai propagates the view that, far from the cruel and rapacious invasion described by many historians, Japan's occupation of China, Taiwan, Korea and South-East Asia liberated them from oppressive Western colonists. After Otawara, a small city to the north of Tokyo, adopted the book last month, Hidet-sugu Yagi, the society's head, called it "a historic step that shows efforts to bring history education back on the right track have begun to take root." Suginami ward is the third and largest education authority to choose the book, which has been designated for use in 65 schools nationwide. Formerly the number of students who would have studied the book next year was around 5,000; yesterday the total more than doubled. By the end of this month the Tsukurukai hopes to see the book adopted by 10 per cent of the country's 583 education boards. Fujioka Nobukatsu, the nationalist historian and the society's founder, was present yesterday at the hearing of the Suginami educational committee, which attracted about 400 people. He declined to comment on the decision. "Among the people queuing were old men in black suits, holding placards that read ‘Adopt the textbook'," Kaoru Matsuno, a local parent and an opponent of the decision, said. "The scene reminded me of one of Hitler's meetings." Mrs Matsuno's group, the Society of Mothers, gathered a petition against the new book that bore 28,000 names. "The reason we have done this is because we want to avoid a misunderstanding of history and a glorification of war," she said.

    The book has provoked the greatest outrage in China, where thousands of demonstrators stoned the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai after Tokyo approved it for use in schools. Events in Tokyo yesterday set the stage for tension across Asia on Monday, when Japan remembers its surrender in 1945 and its former colonies celebrate the anniversary of triumph and national liberation. Emperor Akihito and Juni-chiro Koizumi, the Prime Minister, will join politicians, veterans and war-bereaved family members for an annual ceremony of remembrance for the dead. There, he is expected to use the form of words first uttered by Tomiichi Murayama, the former Prime Minister. In 1995 Mr Murayama offered "sincere condolences" for the "huge pain and sorrow" caused in the war "to many nations, especially those in Asia". Like his predecessor, Mr Koizumi is likely to speak of his hansei or deep remorse, rather than shazai, meaning an unambiguous apology. A few hundred yards away, in the nationalist Yasukuni shrine, rightwingers will gather to celebrate the opposite point of view: that Japan has nothing to be sorry for and should speak proudly of its wartime record as Asian "liberator". Mr Koizumi has infuriated China and South Korea by making an annual visit to the Shinto shrine, a practice that he has insisted he will continue. The question this weekend is whether he will do so on Monday, thus causing maximum offence to Japan's neighbours. On balance, that seems unlikely; but there has never been a Japanese prime minister less predictable than Mr Koizumi.
    ©The Times Online

    18/8/2005– The United Nations expert panel monitoring governments’ efforts to ensure racial equality and non-discrimination has approved a recommendation outlining ways to prevent racial discrimination in national criminal justice systems and encouraging States to wipe out bigotry in their law enforcement ranks. Acting just before it wraps up the second of its two annual sessions tomorrow, the Geneva-based Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its 80 signatories and 170 State parties, approved the “general recommendation” yesterday. The 18-member body of independent experts is mandated to comment on thematic issues under the Convention, and in this case, they outlined steps to be taken by States parties in order to better gauge the existence and extent of racial discrimination in administration and functioning of criminal justice systems. The Committee recommends searching for indicators attesting to such discrimination, as well as strategies to be developed to prevent discrimination in criminal justice systems and the steps to be taken to prevent racial discrimination with regard to victims of racism and to accused persons who are subject to judicial proceedings. Bearing in mind figures which show that persons held while awaiting trial include an excessively high number of non-nationals and persons belonging to vulnerable groups, the experts recommended that States parties should ensure, among other things, that the mere fact of belonging to a racial or ethnic group or a vulnerable group was not a sufficient reason to place a person in pre-trial detention. With regards to the trial and court judgement, States parties should ensure that persons enjoy all the guarantees of a fair trial and equality before the law, specifically, including, the right to the presumption of innocence; the right to the assistance of counsel and the right to an interpreter; the right to an independent and impartial tribunal; and guarantee of fair punishment.
    ©UN News Centre

    9/8/2005- The Belgian immigration service (DVZ) will be strengthened with 15 'expulsion public servants' from 1 September to uncover the identity and nationality of detained foreigners. The new DVZ recruits will be entrusted with accelerating deportation procedures and boosting the number of people voluntarily returning to their land of origin. "Someone can only be ejected from our country if he or she has been identified," the private secretary of Interior Minister Pattrick Dewael said. However, there are also asylum seekers who wish to hide their identity and nationality in order to stay in Belgium. While their land of origin remains unknown, Belgium cannot deport them. On 1 September, a detainee identification service will be established with a staff of 15 focused on identifying detained foreigners. The DVZ ­ known in French as l'Office des étrangers ­ wants to deport the detainees as quickly as possible after their release from prison and transfer to the immigration service for repatriation. A DVZ spokeswoman said the ex-detainees are not popular with the regular residents of asylum seeker shelters either. She said they sometimes stay up to two months in a centre prior to repatriation. The task of the new expulsion officials will be to reduce that time period, newspaper 'De Morgen' reported on Tuesday.
    ©Expatica News

    12/8/2005- Double the amount of asylum seekers in Belgium were recognised as political refugees in the first half of 2005 compared with the same period last year. If the trend continues, a record number of refugees will be recognised, the Commissionership-General for Refugees and the Stateless (CGVS) said. The asylum seekers gaining official recognition as refugees primarily come from Chechnya, Rwanda and Serbia and Montenegro, newspaper 'De Tijd' reported on Friday. After a wave of asylum seekers were recognised in 1999, the Belgian government strengthened its asylum policies. The CGVS was processing 35,000 dossiers at that time. By abolishing financial help for asylum seekers and offering material assistance instead, the number of applications for asylum lodged in Belgium declined markedly. There were 42,000 requests for asylum in Belgium in 2000, compared with just 15,357 last year. But despite the decline in asylum applications, the number of asylum seekers recognised as refugees has continued to rise. In the first six months of this year, some 1,704 asylum seekers were allowed to stay, compared with 839 in the same period last year. The CGVS recognised 2,275 political refugees in the full 12 months of 2004, compared with 1,201 in 2003, some 1,164 in 2002, a total of 896 in 2001 and 1,198 in 2000. The refugees admitted to Belgium this year were primarily Russians (736), most of whom were Chechens. They were followed by 263 Rwandans and 93 refugees from Serbia and Montenegro and there were also 93 Congolese, 71 Iranians, 71 Burundians and 54 Chinese. CGVS director Dirk van den Bulck said the processing of backlogged cases from previous years is the main reason for rising number of refugees being allowed to stay in Belgium. At the start of January 2005, the CBVS had an arrears of some 20,000 dossiers to process, but this had declined to 14,029 by the end of July. Van den Bulck predicts that the arrears will be totally removed by the middle of next year, at the latest. He also expects the high number of asylum seekers being awarded official status will continue in the second half of this year.
    ©Expatica News

    THE NEW CHAUVINISM(uk, comment)
    I'm not ashamed of my nationality, but I have no idea why I should love this country more than any other
    By George Monbiot

    9/8/2005- Out of the bombings a national consensus has emerged: what we need in Britain is a renewed sense of patriotism. The rightwing papers have been making their usual noises about old maids and warm beer, but in the past 10 days they've been joined by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, Tristram Hunt in the New Statesman, the New Statesman itself and just about everyone who has opened his mouth on the subject of terrorism and national identity. Emboldened by this consensus, the Sun now insists that anyone who isn't loyal to this country should leave it. The way things are going, it can't be long before I'm deported. The argument runs as follows: patriotic people don't turn on each other. If there are codes of citizenship and a belief in Britain's virtues, acts of domestic terrorism are unlikely to happen. As Jonathan Freedland writes, the United States, in which "loyalty is instilled constantly", has never "had a brush with home-grown Islamist terrorism". This may be true (though there have been plenty of attacks by non-Muslim terrorists in the US). But while patriotism might make citizens less inclined to attack each other, it makes the state more inclined to attack other countries, for it knows it is likely to command the support of its people. If patriotism were not such a powerful force in the US, could Bush have invaded Iraq?

    To argue that national allegiance reduces human suffering, you must assert that acts of domestic terrorism cause more grievous harm than all the territorial and colonial wars, ethnic cleansing and holocausts pursued in the name of the national interest. To believe this, you need to be not just a patriot but a chauvinist. Freedland and Hunt and the leader writers of the New Statesman, of course, are nothing of the kind. Hunt argues that Britishness should be about "values rather than institutions": Britain has "a superb record of political liberalism and intellectual inquiry, giving us a public sphere open to ideas, religions and philosophy from across the world". This is true, but these values are not peculiar to Britain, and it is hard to see why we have to become patriots in order to invoke them. Britain also has an appalling record of imperialism and pig-headed jingoism, and when you wave the flag, no one can be sure which record you are celebrating. If you want to defend liberalism, then defend it, but why conflate your love for certain values with love for a certain country? And what, exactly, would a liberal patriotism look like? When confronted with a conflict between the interests of your country and those of another, patriotism, by definition, demands that you choose those of your own. Internationalism, by contrast, means choosing the option that delivers most good or least harm to people, regardless of where they live. It tells us that someone living in Kinshasa is of no less worth than someone living in Kensington, and that a policy which favours the interests of 100 British people at the expense of 101 Congolese is one we should not pursue. Patriotism, if it means anything, tells us we should favour the interests of the 100 British people. How do you reconcile this choice with liberalism? How, for that matter, do you distinguish it from racism?

    This is the point at which every right-thinking person in Britain scrambles for his Orwell. Did not the sage assert that "patriotism has nothing to do with conservatism", and complain that "England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality"? He did. But he wrote this during the second world war. There was no question that we had a duty to fight Hitler and, in so doing, to take sides. And the sides were organised along national lines. If you failed to support Britain, you were assisting the enemy. But today the people trying to kill us are British citizens. They are divided from most of those who live here by ideology, not nationality. To the extent that the invasion of Iraq motivated the terrorists, and patriotism made Britain's participation in the invasion possible, it was patriotism that got us into this mess. The allegiance that most enthusiasts ask us to demonstrate is a selective one. The rightwing press, owned by the great-grandson of a Nazi sympathiser, a pair of tax exiles and an Australian with American citizenship, is fiercely nationalistic when defending our institutions from Europe, but seeks to surrender the lot of us to the US. It loves the Cotswolds and hates Wales. It loves gaunt, aristocratic women and second homes, and hates oiks, Gypsies, council estates and caravan parks.

    Two weeks ago, the Telegraph published a list of "10 core values of the British identity" whose adoption, it argued, would help to prevent another terrorist attack. These were not values we might choose to embrace, but "non-negotiable components of our identity". Among them were "the sovereignty of the crown in parliament" ("the Lords, the Commons and the monarch constitute the supreme authority in the land"), "private property", "the family", "history" ("British children inherit ... a stupendous series of national achievements") and "the English-speaking world" ("the atrocities of September 11 2001 were not simply an attack on a foreign nation; they were an attack on the Anglosphere"). These non-negotiable demands are not so different to those of the terrorists. Instead of an eternal caliphate, an eternal monarchy. Instead of an Islamic vision of history, an Etonian one. Instead of the Ummah, the Anglosphere. If there is one thing that could make me hate this country, it is the Telegraph and its "non-negotiable components". If there is one thing that could make me hate America, it was the sight of the crowds at the Republican convention standing up and shouting "USA, USA", while Zell Miller informed them that "nothing makes this marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators". As usual, we are being asked to do the job of the terrorists, by making this country ugly on their behalf.

    I don't hate Britain, and I am not ashamed of my nationality, but I have no idea why I should love this country more than any other. There are some things I like about it and some things I don't, and the same goes for everywhere else I've visited. To become a patriot is to lie to yourself, to tell yourself that whatever good you might perceive abroad, your own country is, on balance, better than the others. It is impossible to reconcile this with either the evidence of your own eyes or a belief in the equality of humankind. Patriotism of the kind Orwell demanded in 1940 is necessary only to confront the patriotism of other people: the second world war, which demanded that the British close ranks, could not have happened if Hitler hadn't exploited the national allegiance of the Germans. The world will be a happier and safer place when we stop putting our own countries first.
    ©The Guardian

    7/8/2005- Tony Blair's crackdown on extremism in Britain has already started to unravel amid a storm of protest from moderate Muslim groups and MPs. Less than a day after he unveiled his sweeping 12-point anti-terror proposals, there was evidence of serious internal divisions over key elements. The Prime Minister said he was ready to amend the Human Rights Act in order to enable the deportation of foreign nationals who come to the UK to foment terrorism. He also named two radical groups ­ Hizb ut-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun ­ which are to be banned, and said he would consult on new powers to close mosques, bookshops and websites that are used to promote the terrorist cause. But Muslim parliamentarians warned that the measures risked fuelling extremism. Shahid Malik, the MP for Dewsbury, said he was concerned that Mr Blair's proposal to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir would prove counter-productive. " It's going to be very difficult to ban because you are trying to ban an idea. We need to defeat that idea by argument. People are going to ask: why not ban the BNP?" The question was echoed by Baroness Uddin, a Labour Muslim peer, who urged the Government to wait for a Commons vote before banning any organisation. " Whatever is done now must be done with full parliamentary legitimacy," she said. Home Office officials say they were against the measure to outlaw the group that expressly opposes the use of violence but were over-ruled by Downing Street. Charles Kennedy, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said he feared crackdowns on preachers, mosques and groups could drive extremism underground. "The Prime Minister talks about how the mood has changed. He is correct, " said Mr Kennedy. "But you can't just legislate by mood." Even Michael Howard, who has said the Tories broadly support Mr Blair's measures, signalled unease yesterday. Mr Blair was backed by Khalid Mahmood, the Muslim Labour MP for Perry Barr, Birmingham. "The first thing the Hizb ut-Tahrir website talks about is that it's there to bring the downfall of any democratically elected government," he said. Mr Blair is also already preparing for the first confrontation with Britain's most senior judges. It is understood that ministers will authorise the first deportation to Jordan next month in a move that is bound to be subject to a court challenge. But Gareth Peirce, one of Britain's most prominent human rights lawyers, said it would be immediately challenged in court. The Government's "memoranda of understanding" with these countries not to use torture were legally worthless, she said. "The very fact ministers are seeking these assurances is an acknowledgement that torture is their modus operandi."
    © Independent Digital

    OUR (HUMAN) RIGHTS DEFINE US(uk, comment)
    By Jeffrey Jowell QC, Professor of Public Law at UCL and a practising barrister at Blackstone Chambers

    7/8/2005- When a nation's safety and security are under dire threat, the duty of any government is to do all it can to safeguard the lives and property of its citizens. But in the heat of battle, we must equally be careful not to compromise the cornerstones of our liberties. For it is they that ultimately distinguish the values of a constitutional democracy from those of the merchants of terror.

    Just seven years ago, Tony Blair oversaw a fundamental change in the nature of British democracy by introducing a Human Rights Act, incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law. It enshrined a principle that has particular importance to a country such as ours, which lacks a written constitution: that even in times of crisis - and even amid popular pressure for urgent and eye-catching action - there are aspects of our democratic culture that should not be eroded. Slavery or torture should never be permitted, and free expression should never lightly be subverted.

    The Prime Minister's suggestion last Friday that he would be ready to amend the 1998 Human Rights Act to override potential challenges to new anti-terror steps is all the more regrettable because it is unnecessary. Almost all of the measures he envisaged against those who promote or sanction terror could be taken under existing British law. In those areas where Blair suggests genuinely new responses to new threats, there is within the European Convention flexible provision for limiting rights where there is a pressing need to protect democracy in times of clear emergency.

    One explanation for the Prime Minister's readiness to chip away at the Human Rights Act probably lies in his frustration at senior judges' objection to some of the government's earlier anti-terror acts. Last year, the Law Lords declared incompatible with the European Convention the statute that permitted the detention without trial of foreign terror suspects at Belmarsh Prison. Yet it is worth recalling the result of the judges' challenge: the government drafted an alternative means of dealing with the Belmarsh internees - control orders. This still allowed for effective constraints on the suspects, but with sufficient legal provisions to avoid breaching the Convention. No one would reasonably deny the need for the government to act firmly against anyone who might promote or plan the kind of attacks we saw last month in London, or the need for governments to reassure the public that they are 'doing something' about terrorism. But the reality is that no society, liberal or oppressive, is immune from increasingly inventive forms of assault from those who live and happily die for terror. Accepting that unfortunate fact is by no means an argument for inaction. It is, however, an argument against the temptation to unravel the rights-based model of democracy introduced by Blair just a few years ago, and which should be recorded as one of his most impressive legacies.
    ©The Observer

    9/8/2005- Britain's ethnic communities have been dismayed by a suggestion from a government minister that they should "rebrand" their identities in an attempt to inspire greater patriotism. The Home Office minister, Hazel Blears, said that Muslim and minority groups should be asked if they wanted to be referred to by terms such as Asian-British, Pakistani-British or Indian-British, rather than simply as "Asians". She would be floating the idea at a series of meetings with Muslim leaders this summer, she said. But a Downing Street spokeswoman emphasised yesterday that this was not something the Government was actively promoting, after the idea received a cool response from Muslim leaders. "This is something that has been put to Hazel Blears in meetings. It is not something she suggested. It is not something that the Government is proposing or suggesting," the spokeswoman said. In an interview with The Times, Ms Blears, who was appointed head of a government commission on integrating minorities, said that it might be useful to adhere to an American US-style identity system. "In America, they do seem to have the idea that you're an Italian-American or you're an Irish-American, and that's quite interesting," she said. "I am going to talk to people and ask how does that feel? It is about your identity and I think it's really important. "I think it's really important, if you want a society that is really welded together, there are certain things that unite us because you are British, but you can be a bit different too."

    Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, was irritated by Ms Blears' suggestion. "What of the second generations? Why should they be defined as other than British?" he asked. "These forms of identity based on ethnic background have been tried in the past and have failed," Sir Iqbal said yesterday.

    Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, of the Muslim Parliament, said: "Nobody cares for labels. We have to create a stakeholding society and an inclusive society."

    Manzoor Moghal, chairman of the Muslim Forum, said that the idea would be deeply divisive. "It would create a lower strata of British. "It gives people labels and dilutes their citizenship compared to original, white British people. It is not helpful in creating the togetherness that they have been talking about," Mr Moghal said.

    Inayat Bunglawala, senior spokesman from the Muslim Council of Britain said "it makes no sense" to re-categorise British citizens in this way and that it could only be reductive. Mr Bunglawala said he would be more inclined to support a faith-based label, such as "British Muslim".

    How we want to be described
    Sarah Joseph, editor of the Muslim magazine EMEL
    "I think we should decide ourselves what to call ourselves. Are we trying to create grades of being British? I'm sure Hazel Blears has good intentions but the Government has been faced with a problem and it's grasping at straws. The issues we are facing are complicated and we can't spin ourselves out of the present dilemma or rebrand ourselves. We are not a margarine. Instead of rebranding ethnic minorities, the Government should be fostering a sense of belonging."

    Ayesha Hazarika, award-winning comedian at the Edinburgh Festival
    "I don't think anyone including Hazel is suggesting this idea is a simple solution to the complex issues about race today. But the idea is an interesting one. The term Asian includes a lot of different types of people. Just because race is a highly sensitive issue at present I don't think we should avoid these kinds of discussions. I feel I have a triple Scottish British and Asian identity. I feel I'm an Indo-Glaswegian Scot. People should be able to define themselves in whatever way they like."

    Suman Bhuchar, theatre promoter
    "I'm very clear about my identity and I don't need a government minister to tell me who I should be or what I should call myself. South Asian theatre has tackled issues of identity for decades. In the early days, we thought about whether to define ourselves as British or Indian but in contemporary times, it's looking at belonging to two different cultures. This is part of a larger issue in which the state tries to put us in categories, whether it's for a quota, for political correctness or anything else. I don't approve of it and I don't think it's helpful."

    Nitin Sawhney, musician
    "I have a massive problem with people focusing on nationality. In the present climate where people's civil liberties are being undermined and people are being specifically targeted for their ethnicity and skin colour and religious beliefs, it's dangerous to be bringing these things into their profile. It breeds insecurity and paranoia. If you are going to focus on nationality then you should refer to everyone as British if that person is born here. Why is it necessary to specify an origin, especially in this climate?"

    Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty
    "I think Hazel Blears' heart is in the right place but the idea that you can rebrand people from above is so disconnected to how people are feeling. This is the whole problem: you have people feeling patronised and alienated and then a white minister comes along and says, 'Don't worry, I'm going to rebrand you and everything will be all right'. Perhaps she would like to teach us how to bake fairy cakes too. It would be humorous if it were not so sad. It is the dark comedy of enforced integration. You can't do it this way."

    Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester East
    "I understand what Hazel is trying to do but the British Asian community know precisely who they are. We know who we are and we are comfortable in being able to identify ourselves without the need for external labels. What we should be doing rather than rebranding is doing more to positively encourage young people from the Asian community to become more involved in the mainstream. That means ministers like Hazel and others ought to appoint more Asians to positions of responsibility through quangos, for example."
    © Independent Digital

    10/8/2005- The majority of British people think multiculturalism makes the country a better place, a BBC poll suggests. But 32% think it "threatens the British way of life" and 54% think "parts of the country don't feel like Britain any more because of immigration". The Mori poll for the BBC also suggests the 7 July bomb attacks have not led to an upsurge in racial intolerance. The survey questioned 1,004 people in the UK. A booster survey of 204 British Muslims was conducted for comparison.

    The overwhelming majority of Muslims - 89% - said they feel proud when British teams do well in international competitions, a similar figure to the national population. And the survey suggests broad agreement between the two groups on immigrants being made to learn English and accept the authority of British institutions.

    Ben Page, director of Mori's social research institute, said: "The survey shows that despite 7/7, the majority of both white British people and Muslims share a common level of allegiance to Britain and its institutions and seem very tolerant of each other, in contrast to media reporting following the London bombing. "They support the expulsion of those who promote terror, and the use of measures like house arrest, but both groups are more divided over any fundamental changes to civil liberties as a reaction to 7/7, such as trial without jury, or detention with trial." But the survey suggests a more "confused" attitude to the concept of multiculturalism, Mr Page added.

  • Some 62% of the national population believe "multiculturalism makes Britain a better place to live", according to the poll.
  • At the same time, 58% thought "people who come to live in Britain should adopt the values of and traditions of British culture".

    'Terrorists failed'
    Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis said the findings about racial tolerance were "extremely positive". The poll showed terrorists had failed to drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims, he argued. The MP said people wanted different cultures in the UK but did not want a "multiculturalist policy" of encouraging some communities to stay separate and shun integration. Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said the poll showed the terrorists and "race hate mongers" did not represent Britain. She added: "Those who thought it fashionable to bash multi-culturalism have good cause to think again."

    Among Muslims, 87% thought multiculturalism improved British society, but only 28% thought people coming from abroad should adopt British culture and values. Both groups disagreed strongly with the suggestion that the policy of multiculturalism had failed and should be abandoned.

    But on the issue of Muslim students wearing headscarves opinion was more divided, with 35% of the national population saying they should be made to remove them, compared to 16% of Muslims. Only 2% of the national population described themselves as "very racially prejudiced", but Mr Page said the survey's other findings suggest a "substantial minority of British people are not tolerant".

    A third said they thought Islam was "incompatible with the values of British democracy". Asked if Britain should stop all asylum, the figures for the national population and the Muslim community are almost identical with just over a third of the population agreeing. The survey also showed young Muslims were less racially tolerant than their parent's generation, Mr Page said. According to the survey, 74% of Muslims think Britain should deport or exclude foreigners who encourage terrorism, compared with 91% of the population as a whole.

    Poll results were based on a nationally representative sample of 1,004 GB adults aged 16 and over, with the data weighted to reflect the population profile. In addition, 204 interviews were conducted among Muslims - 112 with people who had agreed to be re-contacted from previous surveys and 92 using random digit dialling - with the data weighted to reflect the Muslim population profile.
    All interviews were conducted on 8 and 9 August 2005.
    ©BBC News

    10/8/2005- The editor of a Scottish weekly newspaper is facing possible prosecution under Britain's anti-racism laws, following the publication of an article claiming that a massive refugee camp could be built in Scotland. Alan Buchan, the publisher and editor of the North East Weekly, a free sheet based in Peterhead, was arrested by officers from Grampian Police in connection with the publication of an editorial in the latest issue of the newspaper, headlined "Perverts and Refugees". Mr Buchan was charged under a section of the Public Order Act which gives the police powers to arrest any person whom they suspect of publishing or distributing written material that is threatening, abusive, or insulting and intended to stir up racial hatred. His newspaper had previously claimed that the redundant military base at RAF Buchan, near the village of Boddam, could become the site of Scotland's first refugee camp. The article in the latest edition states: "Three months ago Buchan's only locally owned newspaper exclusively broke the story that the Scottish Prison Service intended to close Craiginches in Aberdeen, sell the land for housing and turn Boddam and Peterhead into a huge prison and immigrant centre. "The people of rural England have been in massive rebelling [sic] over the establishment of refugee centres holding upwards of 5,000 immigrants because they were fully aware that their communities would be swamped and turned into cesspools. "The reason that the people of rural England have rejected this is that they know their communities would be turned into ghettos where murder, rape, robbery, assault, break-ins and numerous other crimes become prevalent."

    Mr Buchan, a former fisherman who stood for the Scottish People's Alliance in the last general election, has now been arrested and charged in connection with the allegedly inflammatory content of the article. He told The Scotsman yesterday: "What precisely I am charged with I don't know, but they were questioning me about the article in the paper. The police phoned me up on Saturday and asked me to come to the police station for a chat and that is when they arrested me. I was questioned for about two hours." Mr Buchan claimed: "In my opinion, what they were trying to do was make me say something racist to get a lot more against me. But if you read the article, there is absolutely nothing there that says black refugees or Asian refugees. This is just a whole problem that affects the whole world, not just here. "At the moment we have got no way of discriminating what type of refugees are allowed into the country." Mr Buchan declared: "The North East Weekly see the police action as a move against press freedom and free speech. We intend to mount a stout defence of the freedom of speech, as this is the only way to defeat the extremists who are bringing blood and carnage to the streets of our towns and cities." A spokesman for Grampian Police said: "Grampian Police can confirm that, following a complaint, they are making inquiries regarding the content of an article published and distributed recently in the North East Weekly publication. "A male has been charged in connection with the inquiry and a report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal." Mr Buchan, 46, has been cited to appear at Peterhead Sheriff Court on 1 September.
    ©The Scotsman

    7/8/2005- A lesbian couple will this week launch a landmark legal bid to get their Canadian marriage recognised in Britain in a move that threatens to undermine the Government's civil partnership legislation. If the High Court bid is successful, gay and lesbian couples would be able to marry in one of the growing number of countries that offer same-sex ceremonies and have it legally recognised in Britain. Celia Kitzinger, 48, and Sue Wilkinson, 51, will lodge their petition at the High Court on Friday and promise to take their fight to the European Court of Human Rights if they are unsuccessful. They will be able to register their relationship under the new Civil Partnership Act, which comes into force in December. While it is not a marriage in name, it offers the same package of rights and responsibilities that a civil marriage does. But Ms Kitzinger and Ms Wilkinson believe they should be allowed to be married and will argue in the High Court that a failure to recognise the validity of their marriage constitutes a breach of their human rights. The move raises the prospect of gay and lesbian couples taking "marriage holidays" abroad. Same-sex marriage was last month legalised across Canada. Three European countries - the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain - have also passed legislation allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Ms Kitzinger, a sociology professor at York University, said: "Our relationship is not a civil partnership, it is a marriage. Any different-sex couple who did what we did would have had their marriage recognised. I feel insulted about being treated differently than a heterosexual couple." The couple, who now live in Yorkshire, got married in British Columbia, Canada, in 2003. Ms Wilkinson, a psychology professor at Loughborough University, was living and working in Vancouver at the time. British Columbia was the first place in the world to allow same-sex citizens and non-citizens to marry.

    Ms Kitzinger said they are in favour of the introduction of civil partnership, but believe both partnership and marriage should be available to different- and same-sex couples. "Civil partnerships are a fabulous advance in human rights for same-sex couples," she said, "but it is a compromise. It is marriage in all but name. That name marks a symbolic difference between same-sex and different-sex couples. Marriage is the golden seal of a relationship. A civil partnership is not imbued with those same symbols." A marriage that takes place overseas is recognised in Britain if it is legal, is recognised by the country in which it took place, and nothing in the country's law restricted either person's freedom to marry. Ms Kitzinger and Ms Wilkinson believe their marriage fulfils all these requirements and should, therefore, be legally recognised in Britain. Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, said it would be "outrageous discrimination" if the courts refused to recognise the marriage of Ms Kitzinger and Ms Wilkinson. "The ban on same-sex marriage in the UK is institutional homophobia," he said. "All other marriages conducted lawfully abroad are recognised here. Why should same-sex marriage be an exception?" The new civil partnership legislation has been criticised by some campaigners for not insisting that councils have to offer a ceremony. While the legislation ensures that local authorities are obliged to offer couples a registration service, two councils have already said they will not allow ceremonies. Individual registrars opposed to civil partnership have threatened to refuse to preside over the ceremonies. Hundreds of hotels and banqueting halls are also refusing to allow gay and lesbian couples to hold a ceremony at their venue, according to "gay wedding" organisers.
    © Independent Digital

    Many gays and lesbians feel bullied and discriminated against on the job, a new survey finds

    8/8/2005- Harassment, firings, lacking promotions, nasty comments, and social exclusion are some of the costs many gays and lesbians feel they have to pay for being open about their sexual orientation in the workplace. A new Catinét Research poll, the first to be conducted among the country's homosexuals about their workplace conditions, reveals that 40 percent of gays and lesbians feel bullied and discriminated against on the job. Although many homosexuals do not experience discrimination, being gay remains problematic enough to keep 15 percent of the homosexual workforce from telling their colleagues about their sexual orientation, daily newspaper metroXpress reported on Monday. Nine percent said they regretted being outspoken about their homosexuality. Peter Ussing, spokesman on labour market issues for the National Association for Gays & Lesbians (LBL), said sexual orientation should become a bigger focus in the national discussion on equal rights. 'It's like many people feel that we in Denmark are so liberal and equal, that there's nothing to talk about, but there is,' Ussing said. He added that while there should be room for a free tone as long as homosexual workers did not feel humiliated by their co-worker's remarks. 'We don't care if someone tells a gay joke. But there is a good and a bad sense of humour, and it's problematic if the limit is crossed,' Ussing said. Employment Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen pointed out that harassment was illegal, and said he would update guidelines about the equal rights legislation in light of the poll's results. 'I think it's both sad and problematic that so many people have experienced discrimination in their workplace,' he said. The poll also showed that one in every 20 homosexual have met employers, who broke the law by asking about their sexual orientation during a job interview. Ussing said, however, that the poll's results contained some good news as well as the bad ones. 'The really good news is that a large majority of gays and lesbians talk openly about their sexual orientation to most of their colleagues. Some are still cautious, but telling your colleagues about being gay or lesbian seems to have become the norm. That's really positive,' Ussing said.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    8/8/2005- The Danish national TV network, DR TV, broadcast a story this Saturday, August 6th, characterizing Danish Roma as terrorists and smugglers, according to information that Dzeno received from Danish NGO Romano. The news broadcast featured a segment on recent reports by the Matas Drug Store chain of unusally large purchases of sulphuric and nitric acid, amounting to more than 1 or 2 litres of each. These chemicals, often found in household cleaning products, can be used in large quantitites to create explosives and small bombs. Possibly practicing increased vigilence after the London terrorist attacks, the Matas Drug Store chain reported two or three such purchases to the Danish Secret Police. The television segment showed a police inspector praising this vigilent reporting, and ended by revealing that the purchases were made by a group of ‘gypsies.' The end result of this news report was the portrayal of Roma as internal terrorists. There was no documentation or proof provided in the segment that the Roma were indeed the purchasers of the materials, or that they are linked to terrorists. No Roma seem to have been interviewed for the report either. This seems especially odd considering that Roma have always been a peaceful people, and have never been found to be involved in any sort of terrorist activities. There are currently more than 20,000 Roma living in Denmark. This news story seems to be a violation of the human rights of these individuals, as well as contrary to Council of Europe norms against racism, and the Danish penal code barring racist propoganda.
    ©Dzeno Association

    11/8/2005- The government's attempts to change the results of a critical report from UN's Human Rights Committee have been thwarted. A Ugandan refugee should not have been deported. Denmark did in fact breach international conventions on human rights by deporting a Ugandan man, the United Nations' Human Rights Committee declared on Thursday. The government attempted to appeal the committee's ruling from December 2004, which slated Denmark for violating international conventions when the National Refugee Board deported the man back to his home country. The UN committee found that Danish authorities failed to consider the man's risk of facing persecution and torture if returned to Uganda. The National Refugee Board ordered man's deportation because of a prior conviction on narcotics charges. But the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that because of his past political activities in Uganda, which included a stint as a soldier under Idi Amin, the man was at heightened risk for inhumane treatment if forcibly repatriated. The man, who lives in Copenhagen with his wife and children, has been living in the country on a so-called tolerated residency status, which forbids him to work, receive social benefits or medical help. 'I think the government should compensate me for the situation I have been brought in,' the man told national broadcaster DR. 'I have been unable to provide for my family since 6 August last year, when I was released from prison.' Despite his prison sentence for drugs-related criminality, the man maintains his innocence.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    8/8/2005- Members of the Ukrainian Conservative Party and editors of several of the country's media have called on the president to launch a criminal case against "judo-Nazis" from the Chabad movement, Interfax news agency reported. Khabad is a trend in Hasidism (Chassidism), a Jewish religious movement founded in Poland in the 18th century. It stresses the mercy of God and encourages joyous religious expression through music and dance. Hasidism spread rapidly in Ukraine, Galicia, central Poland, Belarus and Hungary. In the 20th century its stalwarts became the staunchest defenders of tradition against increasing secularism in Jewish life. Since the Holocaust, the main centers of Hasidism are in the U.S. and Israel. In an open letter to Viktor Yushchenko, the public figures described the Chabad members them as 'judo-Nazis' and demanded persecution of several rabbis for distributing their holy book Tania and teaching it in Judaic schools and synagogues, a practice which the signatories said would mean "children's retraction in this misanthropic religious system." Earlier this year, a group of 500 Russians, including parliamentarians, published a letter calling for a ban on Jewish organizations in Russia. It called the Jewish religion anti-Christian and inhumane, accusing it of promoting ritual murders. Many facts of such religious extremism were proven in courts, the letter read. It said that many anti-Semitic acts in Russia had been caused by the anti-Christian behavior of Jews or even committed by Jews themselves as grounds to take punitive measures against patriots. A short time later one of the deputies who signed the open letter retracted the petition.

    Gwladys Fouché reports on a radical effort in Norway to enforce equality in the boardroom

    10/8/2005- Get more women on the board or we will shut you down. This is the Norwegian government's stark warning to companies in an attempt to break the glass ceiling holding back female executives. Like their British counterparts, Norwegian women have had a tough time getting seats at the boardroom table. In Britain, figures from a Guardian survey on executive pay last week showed that less than 10% of directors are female. In Norway the figure stands at over 15% in private sector firms but in a nation where over a third of MPs and eight out of 19 cabinet ministers are female, it is still a low number. But that could all be about to change. Last year, the Norwegian parliament passed a bill forcing private firms to have at least 40% women on their boards. Companies had until July to boost participation of their own accord. If the numbers are insufficient, which the state will decide by August 15, sanctions will be applied and they won't just be a slap on the wrist. "If they don't follow the rules, at the end of the day, they will be dissolved," said Ansgar Gabrielsen, the 50-year-old conservative politician who initiated the law when he was trade and industry secretary. "Companies will find the candidates they need long before they head to the courtroom," added the current children and family affairs secretary, Laila Dåvøy, who is in charge of gender equality. "It's not a demand they can't fulfil. They have hundreds of women they can recruit from."

    From September, new companies that do not comply will not be able to register, while existing firms will have another two years to find women for their boards. If they do not, they will be closed down. Unsurprisingly, the law has sparked a hue and cry in the business community. "It is science fiction to think that the government is going to shut down a company that employs thousands of people over this," said Sigrun Vågeng of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO). "No one would say today that it's good to have only men in the top jobs, but it would have been better that companies were engaged in a positive manner, not through negative legislation." NHO favours a more flexible approach by, for instance, organising networking events where private owners can meet potential candidates. The organisation says that out of 400 women on their lists, a quarter have been offered management or board positions. It also run training courses in public speaking or how to present oneself. "Some men have asked us whether they can take them, because they find it would be useful," says Ms Vågeng. "The law is full of holes," said Tore Bråthen, a law professor at the BI Norwegian School of Management. "For instance, it does not say whether a lawsuit can be brought against a company that does not apply the quota." The law affects around 600 firms, many of them large public limited companies that between them employ around half of the Norwegian workforce.

    The law has already caused ructions in some quarters. One recent case involved Norwegian tycoon Stein Erik Hagen, at the time he became the major shareholder in industrial conglomerate Orkla. As he wanted to sit on the board, one of the men he wished to keep had to leave, in order to meet the quota law. This loss of flexibility to over board appointments is tough to accept for many business owners and investors. "Many people had to be kicked out of boards because they were men, even though they were competent," said Mr Bråthen. "It's already difficult to have shareholders agree, and the law has now made it even more so." Mr Gabrielsen, who is now health secretary, proposed the law because he felt drastic action was required. "I could not see why, after 25 years of having an equal ratio of women and men in universities and with having so many educated women with experience, there were so few of them on boards. "To me, the law was not about getting equality between the sexes, it was about the fact that diversity is a value in itself, that it creates wealth," he said. "From my time in the business world, I saw how board members were picked: they come from the same small circle of people. They go hunting and fishing together, they're friends." Even before the law was passed, the number of women on boards increased dramatically. The number of women board members in private companies jumped from 8.5% in July 2003 to 15.7% in May this year. In state-owned companies, which had to comply earlier, the figure stood at 45% as of March 2003. This push from state firms means that nearly one in four board members in all Norwegian companies is a woman. Already more than halfway to its goal of 40%, Norway has the highest female participation in boards in the world, ahead of Sweden and the US. Now yet more cracks are set to appear in the country's glass ceiling.
    ©The Guardian

    By one of our reporters
    Commotion has arisen in the Polish press and at the museum of the former death camp Auschwitz. The Auschwitz museum lodged a complaint via the Dutch embassy in Warsaw on Tuesday. ADL, the Jewish Community of the Netherlands and others are urging Dutch Government to take action.

    11/8/2005- A Dutch video clip on the Internet, published on a server in the Netherlands advertises a dance party called Housewitz on 4 May 2005. No such dance party actually took place. The video plays upon the slogan at the entry of the Auschwitz camp, turning "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes free) into "Tanzen macht frei" (Dance makes free). It also shows images of the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau where 1.1 million people were killed, mostly European Jews. The name of the clip, ‘Housewitz' was meant as a sickening pun combining the name of the concentration camp with house music. The film begins with a scene of the electric fence that surrounded the concentration camp, against the backdrop of trumpets and repetitive chants of "Sieg heil." Later, the names of the artists who ‘appeared' at the party came on the screen, against the background of photographs of SS officers. The film says that revellers will "light themselves on fire… literally… Ha Ha," and goes on to say that the desired image for guests is a "skinny Jews" look, while photographs from the Holocaust showing starving Jews in concentration camps appear in the background. There are also images of a gas chamber, represented as "free showers" for partygoers.

    MDI, the Dutch agency that deals with complaints about cyber hate, is taking action. The MDI, part of the International Network Against Cyber hate, has filed a complaint with the Prosecutor's office and rallied her members, resulting in an open letter by the Anti Defamation League to Dutch Minister of Justice Donner and support from the Belgian and Polish agencies.

    One and a half months ago the MDI already received complaints about the video clip, and all 3 websites that had it online removed it voluntarily. The maker of the clip, a 22-year-old economy student, apologised for the offence caused by his video. Unfortunately the popular Dutch 'schock-log' GeenStijl grabbed it from the Net before it was gone, and published it again. In a sickening parody on Holocaust Education, GeenStijl writes on its site: "The movie is here for archiving only (and to learn about the big gaps in Dutch WWII history education)." For GeenStijl, a raunchy web log that thrives on ‘shocking people', it's not the first time it runs into trouble with the MDI. In the past the MDI filed charges against the web log for discrimination and incitement to violence against the Moroccan community in the Netherlands and for threats against the MDI and it's staff members.

    Meanwhile the Amsterdam Public Prosecutor's office is dragging its feet, claiming that the video is harmless.

    MDI Director Marco Hughes: ‘I fully expect that the Public Prosecutor will change his opinion now and will take legal action. We have second opinions on this case from two legal experts in this field and they both say the clip is illegal under Dutch law". Of course the political pressure that is brought in place will also help. We appreciate the support of the Anti Defamation League, who wrote a letter to the Justice Minister, and the support of the Dutch Jewish Community, which did the same. Meanwhile our Polish colleagues at the Never Again Association are closely monitoring what is happening with this over there."

    Asked what his opinion is of GeenStijl, Hughes says: "their actions and the noise they make about this matter are not surprising, as per usual they're loud, totally subjective and single-sided. For now we'll ignore that and just do our work. GeenStijl claims that it wants to give attention to the Holocaust. That's fine, but you don't do that by a video clip like that, which defames the victims. They are disseminating illegal material and perpetuating this defamation. I really question their ‘motivation'; we have never caught GeenStijl on having any social conscience. They are interested in generating lots of traffic to their site, they want to be popular, period."

    Yesterday GeenStijl moved the video clip to another location, since it generated too much traffic from abroad. On the old location it now says: "Housewitz - Go steal your own bandwidth!" The Geenstijl site was down for most of today, possibly because of Denial of Service attacks launched by angry users. Fact is that the link to the video clip was posted on many sites around the world, including sites of Israeli newspapers. In a reaction on their website the owners of GeenStijl claim that they went down ‘because of enormous traffic coming from the Holy Land' Also they state that the Housewitz clip ‘will stay online, despite all the pressure that is being put on us'.

    Their users happily cheer them on and post comments on GeenStijl that are quite revealing:

  • "Tssk. That whiny lobby of disgruntled Jewish compatriots, they commit the most foul crimes against Palestinians, and when you say something about that they start crying that you are an antisemite. One almost would become one".
  • "The Jews club finally takes us serious! Where can I get money to hire a good lawyer before the Jewish Council does it?"
  • "I sometimes wonder why the Jews get so angry when you touch ‘their' Holocaust."
  • "The figures of the Holocaust are only interesting for the lobby when it is 6 million, as you all know. Then it is useful".
  • "The Holocaust, a great way to better your position when you're an underdog".
  • "Orthodox Jews thank God every day that they are male and Jewish, that gives them a feeling of superiority. The last one who had that feeling died in a bunker and lost his father when he was 13 years old."
  • "Jew, get out of your hypocrite victim slot!" "The circumcised police rides again!"
    Sources: Expatica News, Jediot, AFP, MDI website.
    ©I CARE News

    8/8/2005- The hunger strike by five Iranian men who have been denied asylum in the Netherlands has reached its 39th day. Two of the men have written a letter threatening to take legal action if the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) does not respond positively by noon on Tuesday to their demand to have access to the files of their cases. The five went on hunger strike in the Ter Appel holding centre 39 days ago to protest at the way the IND handled their cases. Although they have been refused permission to stay in the Netherlands there seems little prospect at this stage that they can be returned to Iran. The men argue they should be granted residence permits and they want to highlight that there is no clear procedures the IND must follow in such cases. A lawyer for two of the hunger strikers wants to examine the internal IND files that outline the decision-making process in their cases. The men claim there are discrepancies between their initial questioning and the final report into their requests. The five have been existing on water and sugar and 40 days is considered by doctors to be the point of no return, after which permanent damage is caused by the fasting. A doctor with the GGD health centre, assigned to monitor the group, says they are "more determined than ever to continue with their action". They are in a very bad way. "Some can only move around in a wheelchair. They can barely stand or walk," the doctor said. Although the five have been separated and moved to different centres, they continue to have regular contact with each other. The IND has declined to comment about the request to see the internal files and a spokesperson said the letter will be studied when it is received. Several organisations for asylum seekers have organised a demo outside parliament buildings in The Hague on Wednesday to draw attention to the plight of the hunger strikers. The organisers expect about 200 people to gather in het Plein in The Hague at 1.30pm on Wednesday.
    ©Expatica News

    10/8/2005- Minister Rita Verdonk faces a storm of criticism from two government parties over her 'unfeasible' plans to compel newcomers to take integration courses. As Verdonk returns from holiday this week she will have to respond to criticism from MPs of her Liberal Party's coalition partners ­ the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Democrat D66. The two parties are angry that the Immigration and Integration Minister stuck to her plans to make some 750,000 newcomers, aged 16 to 65, sit integration exams despite clear signs the scheme was unfeasible, newspaper 'De Volkskrant' reported. Her critics charge that her abstinence means the integration system cannot yet be implemented despite the need for it. The issue came to a head on Tuesday when newspaper 'NRC Handelsblad' reported that only half the original number of newcomers earmarked for integration would now have to take a course. The paper based its story on a confidential memorandum prepared by the director of legislation at the Ministry of Justice. The NRC said Verdonk will have to radically rework her plans for an integration course and exam because the Council of State has ruled the current plan is discriminatory. Under her original proposal everyone up to the age of 65 with less than eight years of schooling in the Netherlands would have been obliged to pass an integration exam. Certain categories of newcomers ­ including EU citizens ­ were to have an exemption. Now her officials suggest further limiting the obligation to undertake an integration course to people who moved here after 1975, the year Suriname gained its independence from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Her spokesperson refused to comment on the NRC report because it is based on an internal government document.
    ©Expatica News

    12/8/2005- The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands dropped slightly last year, according to a report published 11 August. The Netherlands-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel recorded 326 cases of discrimination against Jews in the country in 2004, down from 334 registered cases the previous year. The number of incidents qualifying as "serious" - including physical aggression, violent threats or desecration of synagogues - increased, however, rising to 26 from 25, according to the group's annual report. The organization stated that "the number of incidents in educational establishments remains high," with 18 registered cases of anti-Semitism in schools in 2004. It said many Dutch students had become "radicalized" after the November 2004 killing of Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh. Van Gogh, a virulent critic of multiculturalism, was murdered in November by a Dutch man of Moroccan origin who said he carried out the assassination in the name of radical Islam. Van Gogh's killing triggered a wave of backlash attacks against the Muslim community, and also Christian churches, but did not leave any dead. The report suggested that the study of World War II and the Holocaust could help combat racism by showing that "to what racism can ultimately lead." The organization also called for stronger national and international controls on mass media, especially in the Middle East, "from which these anti-Semitic stereotypes originate."

    By Suzette Bronkhorst

    6/8/2005- An all white boat with a huge enlarged picture of the two young Iranians (16 & 17 years) the moment the noose is put around their necks. In front of the picture a flower arrangement made with pink flowers. This year's canal parade, the highlight of the four-day Gay Pride festivities in Amsterdam, started on a serious note. "Of course Gay Pride is mostly about having a good time, but it also has an emancipation function and you can't just overlook what is happening outside your own comfort zone" says Siep de Haan, director of Gay Business Amsterdam, organiser of Gay Pride. The canal parade was held for the 10th time this year, and over the years it went from an all out screaming queens happening to a parade where human rights, in particular gay rights, have found their rightful place. Amnesty International has had a boat for the past few years now, last year the emphasis on all the countries where homosexuality is illegal, this year's slogan: 'Gay rights, human rights'. Another theme that was expressed on several boats is the growing intolerance towards the GLBT community world-wide, be it opposition to same sex marriage or beating up people for walking hand in hand in public. A particular Dutch theme was the emancipation of gay Muslims. Although the weather didn't really co-operate, rather cold with some heavy rain showers, 350.000 people came to take a look at the floating display.
    ©I CARE News

    10/8/2005- The Dutch Immigration and Integration service (IND) has been accused of ignoring evidence a gay man faced the death sentence if deported back to Iran. Rejected asylum seeker Korosh Pashaei Majdi, 27, was about to be deported two weeks ago from the Netherlands. He has already been condemned to death in Iran for being gay, the Dutch gay organisation COC said on Wednesday. COC chairman Frank van Dalen said the IND refused to incorporate this information into the man's immigration file. Instead the immigration service deiced there was on the possibility the asylum seeker might be prosecuted in Iran. A lawyer for Pashaei Majdi has insisted that deporting a person who has been sentenced to death is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. Pashaei Majdi is currently being held at the deportation centre at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. The IND decided to temporarily hold off from deporting him after Iran executed two young men, aged 16 to 18, for being gay. Photographs of the executions caused an outcry around the world. Meanwhile, about 70 people gathered in het Plein in The Hague on Wednesday to protest at what they claim is Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk's "heartless" asylum policy. The protest was instigated by the decision by five failed asylum seekers from Iran to go on hunger strike. The demonstrators handed Klaas de Vries, immigration spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, a petition in relation to the hunger strikers' demands. A spokesperson for the group said the IND did not adhere to its own rules and he said the Parliament was not exercising proper control of the asylum process. The IND was not available for comment on Wednesday afternoon when the COC made the claim.
    ©Expatica News

    If parades are what you are after, this is the place to be - marching is so much a part of life here, they have a season named after it.

    6/8/2005- And if your cause happens to be not local politics but the right to be gay, does the culture not dictate banners, bands and your best foot forward? Throw in coloured balloons and boas, disco floats and a posse of superheroes on mini motorcycles, and you have the 2005 Belfast Gay Pride, dancing its way around the city centre this Saturday. Bar a homophobic joke or two, there was little sign of indignation - and much good humour - among the crowds lining Royal Avenue to see the carnival in its 15th year, among them many families. Where outrage did surface was among the organised protesters, facing down the avenue from the City Hall with a show of placards like shields in this city famous for the strength of its religious feeling. It must be hard to keep a straight face, no pun intended, when a glam guitar man on stilts in a giant pink Afro wig staggers by to the strains of Madonna's Like A Prayer, but the hugely outnumbered Stop The Parade (STP) activists stood their ground, bearing witness with dignity to their Christian faith in the teeth of what, for them, is a celebration of sin.

    'Never again'
    So strong has their feeling been that this year they tried to have the Pride march banned through Northern Ireland's Parades Commission - a body more used to causes coloured Orange and Green, not Pink. Their bid was rejected but the application made a live issue of an established event, publicising "sensitivities" around the Pride that its organisers had barely noticed in past years. "It had become more of a carnival, more of a party, but now it has almost turned on its head and become political again," Belfast Pride's Andi Clarke told the BBC News website. "Because there is opposition, people are actually getting up and saying 'No, hang on, there is a case here, people are not going to be suppressed anymore, not here in Northern Ireland in 2005'. While most parade-goers are gay men or women or transexual/transgendered, a large number are heterosexual, he adds, and he was hoping to top the 2004 turnout of 3,000. One thing you hear repeatedly among the local gay community is that the Pride is one of the few genuinely cross-community events in Northern Ireland, transcending barriers between Protestants and Catholics. But there is also a perception that the easing of the Troubles has led to a search for new scapegoats. "The old sectarian tensions aren't an excuse anymore," said Andi Clarke. "I feel people are channelling their anger to the ethnic minorities, to sexual minorities instead." Gays, as another Pride organiser put it, are "probably the most discriminated-against group in Northern Ireland". Tattooed on the torsos of some of the 2005 paraders were the words "forbidden fruit", playing on a local term of abuse for homosexuals.

    Protesters 'pigeon-holed'
    Many believe the term "gay" was coined as a happy abbreviation for Good As You - something the BBC News website put to STP's Jonathan Larner. "I most definitely do not regard myself as any better than a homosexual on a moral level - Good As You is quite correct," he replied. His group's aim, he said, was to make gay people aware of the Bible's teachings on homosexuality and their "need of repentance from sin and faith alone in Jesus Christ". STP was, he said, "pigeon-holed as hateful and homophobic" but, in the view of Christians like himself, "the far greater hate would be shown by staying at home and doing nothing". If preaching was one aim of the protesters - and they do believe they may have convinced at least two gay people at the 2004 Belfast Pride - then another was to uphold public decency. "To us the sexual gesturing, nudity and innuendo are post-watershed [late evening TV] stuff and not acceptable," Jonathan Larner said.

    Talking, not shouting
    Some costumes at the 2005 Pride may have been a bit risque but probably no worse than at the cabaret in the old French comedy La Cage Aux Folles. And certainly not a patch on the outfits I saw earlier this summer on a weekend in Cologne which coincided with its vast Pride events. Yet at the German event, straight people on the streets did not appear to bat an eyelid as gay men and women thronged the Old City where every other cafe or pub displayed rainbow flags. There was a feeling that these gay people were accepted as an organic part of the community, free to live differently but equally in modern Europe. By contrast, furious protests accompanied Prides in Riga and Bucharest while Warsaw banned its event, although Polish gays marched anyway. And a major test for gay rights is looming in May 2006, if Russia's gay community presses ahead with the first Moscow Pride - something the mayor has vowed to ban. In the event, Belfast's parade passed off without incident but its organisers remain determined to maintain public awareness of their pride in their orientation and their rights "Society is finally being trained that discrimination is unacceptable, that we live in a very diverse world and that people need to accept others," Andi Clarke said. As the balloons drift out over the Irish Sea, this year's dispute in Belfast may be remembered for one positive aspect. During the Parades Commission's mediation, the Pride committee sat down for talks with the Christian protesters - a first according to both sides. If they did not reach much agreement, at least the flags and placards were down.
    ©BBC News

    7/8/2005- Hundreds of people have taken part in the annual gay pride parade in Belfast. Although a number of protesters turned up, the parade passed off peacefully. A small number of protesters gathered outside the City Hall a short time before Saturday's parade began. Jonathan Larner, from the group, said they wanted to see the procession banned from taking place in future. "There is no parity of esteem with the treatment of other parades," he said. "We believe that the offensive nature of this parade, what it promotes, and the display we are going to see, justifies the banning of this parade." But the parade, now in its 14th year, went ahead. Activists said the annual event was vital for young gay people. PA MagLochlainn, of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association, said: "A lot more people are coming out because they see our visibility and that we can walk the streets here. "That gives these young, shy people - who have no other sorts of information - the courage to say who they are."
    ©BBC News

    12/8/2005- A Spanish judge has challenged the legality of gay marriage, saying same-sex marriages are against the country's constitution. Francisco Garcia, from Gran Canaria, lodged the query at Spain's Constitutional Court. Mr Garcia has blocked three homosexual weddings since the new laws legalising such unions were introduced. Earlier this month a judge in the town of Denia also blocked two marriages and presented a court query. Both judges questioned whether the new marriage law was compatible with the constitution, which refers to marriage only between "a man and a woman." Mr Garcia's query said, "heterosexuality is the fundamental and identifying element of the institution of marriage," according to Spanish news agency, Efe. The predominantly Roman Catholic country was the third country in the world to legalise gay marriage, after the Netherlands and Belgium. Canada has since become the fourth.
    ©BBC News

    [Message through Searchlight, UK: Antinazi Initiative (ANI) in Athens is organising a campaign to have the camp banned and is looking for anti-fascist contacts in Spain and Italy to urge them to support their campaign, exchange information and hopefully coordinate activities.
    Please e-mail your contacts in these countries immediately and ask them to contact ANI direct ]

    10/8/2005- Greece's far-right party has refused to cancel a September festival of European rightists despite mounting opposition from local authorities, Jewish groups and the Turkish government."We're determined to go ahead with it," said Dimitris Eleftheropoulos, a spokesman for the party, Chryssi Avgi, or Golden Dawn. "No one can deny us our democratic right to assemble in public." Billed as Eurofest 2005 and backed by some of the Continent's leading neo-Nazi groups, the event promises "racial rock music," and "inspiring messages," according to the Chryssi Avgi Web site. It is to be held Sept. 16 to 18 in southern Greece. Members of the far right, including Udo Voigt, who leads the National Democratic Party in Germany, and Roberto Fiore of Forza Nuova in Italy, are to address the festival. Organizers said Tuesday that they were hoping for an appearance at the event by Jean-Marie Le Pen, the French rightist who once called the Nazi gas chambers a "mere detail" of history. The festival is tentatively scheduled to be held in Meligalas, 240 kilometers, or 150 miles, southwest of Athens, the Greek capital. It is described by Chryssi Avgi as "a camping trip to Hellas, land of the heroes." The event coincides with one of Greece's grimmest anniversaries: the 1944 massacre of 1,400 women and children by Greek Communist insurgents in Meligalas. Organizers said the choice of dates for the event was intentional. The town's mayor, Eleni Aliferi, has vowed to block the festival for fear of violence between the rightists and protesters. Opponents are calling for government action. "This is hair-raising," said Moses Constantides, a Jewish leader. "We've never seen any gathering of this scale being planned in Greece." Critics argue that the real goal of Eurofest 2005 is to foster hate and racism and recruit a new following of far rightists in Europe. In addition, they say, the event, with the call "Turkey, out of Europe" as one of its main slogans, may create problems for Greece's shaky relations with Turkey.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    The vast majority of Swiss believe rightwing extremists on the Rütli had a negative effect on Swiss National Day but they are against scrapping the celebrations. Hans-Jürg Fehr, president of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, said cabinet colleague Christoph Blocher from the rightwing Swiss People's Party had to take some of the blame.

    7/8/2005- Eighty-three per cent of Swiss thought extremists had spoilt the Rütli celebrations, according to a survey for the SonntagsBlick newspaper, however 88 per cent were against discontinuing the event. About 700 militants – twice as many as in 2004 – had turned up on the Rütli meadow on August 1 and heckled Swiss President Samuel Schmid. They seriously disrupted Schmid's National Day speech with lengthy chanting – especially whenever mention was made of foreigners or integration with other cultures – and personal insults such as "Judas" and "pig". Twenty-four per cent of the 1,001 people questioned across Switzerland said rightwing extremists should be banned from the Rütli. Two-thirds thought access should only be denied if a law – such as the anti-racism law – had been broken. Thirty-four per cent of respondents said the celebrations should only go ahead with sufficient police protection, but 31 per cent wanted the event to take place as it always has and without any special measures. Only 6 per cent said the Rütli celebrations should be discontinued. Seventy-four per cent said August 1 is "Switzerland's birthday" and should be celebrated accordingly. As for the danger to Switzerland posed by the far-right movement, 12 per cent of respondents thought it "very big", 38 per cent "quite big" and 39 per cent "quite small". Seven per cent of Swiss asked believed the far-right movement posed no danger to the country.

    Political reaction
    The public appearance of Neo-Nazi skinheads during the National Day celebrations has put the issue of extremism back in the spotlight. Adolf Ogi, a former cabinet minister, called for "a proper festival on the Rütli". In an interview with SonntagsBlick, Ogi said he wanted to see "a celebration of the four cultures, the four languages and the 26 cantons". He said a Rütli ban was unnecessary. "We must counter the Neo-Nazis with our values." When asked whether the rightwing Swiss People's Party had prepared the ground for the Neo-Nazis, Ogi said it would be wrong "to condemn only the People's Party and to tar them all with the same brush". However minister Moritz Leuenberger indirectly criticised his cabinet colleague Christoph Blocher and Blocher's People's Party. Leuenberger said expressions such as "characterless" and "half a minister" - which the militants used on August 1 - were clearly the language of a certain government party. Hans-Jürg Fehr, president of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, told the Matin Dimanche newspaper that Blocher's silence made his co-responsibility even greater. Fehr said Blocher must at least declare his solidarity with Schmid and explicitly condemn the Neo-Nazis' activities.

    A convicted Nazi criminal sentenced for his role in a 1944 massacre near Rome has returned to his house arrest in the Italian capital after outrage over his court-approved vacation in a lake resort town.

    12/8/2005- According to Reuters news service, 92-year-old Erich Priebke cut short a vacation in the village of Cardana di Besozzo near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy after local residents had threatened to stage a protest march against his stay. "We are happy that he's gone and hope he'll never come back," said Giovanni Martina, a local politician. "Many here have sacrificed their lives fighting for liberty and democracy and against fascism. The presence of this former Nazi officer is an insult to them." In 1998, Priebke, a former SS officer, was sentenced to life in prison for participating in a 1944 massacre of 335 men and boys at the Adreatine Caves south of Rome. The slaughter is considered the worst war crime in Italy during the Nazi occupation of Rome and was carried out in reprisal for an Italian resistance attack in which 33 German soldiers were killed. The 92-year-old was placed under house arrest due to his ailing health one year later. But a Roman judge had now allowed him to travel to Lake Maggiore for a summer vacation. According to left-wing daily La Repubblica, he was currently staying at the home of a German sculptor friend. The house once belonged to Herman Bickler, the head of the Gestapo in Paris between 1943-45.

    'An act of injustice'
    Rome military prosecutor Fulvio Salvatori said he had allowed Priebke to move "temporarily" to Varese, near Milan. "Priebke asked to spend some time in a different place," Salvatori told the Il Sole 24 Ore station, according to AFP news service. "I see no reason not to grant him a temporary transfer." The decision had angered Italians, who say Priebke should not be granted leave from his house arrest. "It's an act of injustice," Marco Reguzzoni, president of the lake region, told AGI news agency, according to Reuters. "It isn't any old man. After being a fugitive of justice all his life, he gets house arrest, but giving him holiday on Lake Maggiore is too much." Priebke spent most of his life in South America and was caught in a town in southern Argentina in 1994. He has repeatedly managed to make headlines. In 2001, he unsuccessfully demanded a settlement from two journalists, who Priebke claimed had defamed him by calling him "executioner." In 2003, he applied for clemency, but Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi rejected the request. In July, Rome's police chief Marcello Fulvi banned a march by right-wingers calling for clemency for Priebke. "The march would have represented an intolerable affront to the Jewish community, to the whole city and to its memory," Fulvi said at the time. "If there is a demonstration, it should be for the victims of the Fosse Ardeatine, and certainly not for their executioner."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    11/8/2005- Uefa has indicated it will take action against CSKA Sofia if the racial abuse aimed at Liverpool's Djibril Cisse is included in the delegate's report. Cisse, who scored in Liverpool's 3-1 Champions League win, was subjected to monkey noises from the Bulgarian fans. Reds boss Rafael Benitez said after the match that Uefa's official delegate Trygve Borno had heard the abuse. "Uefa is aware incidents of a racist nature have taken place," a Uefa statement said. The report is expected to arrive at Uefa headquarters in Geneva later on Thursday. And European football's governing body added that any disciplinary case would probably be dealt with at a meeting on 18 August. "Always it is a pity to hear such things but the Uefa official has heard and it has gone in his report," said Benitez. "The atmosphere in terms of support was good but the monkey noises are a pity." On a claim from a Bulgarian journalist that Cisse provoked the crowd, Benitez said: "That is stupid. To score goals is not to provoke the fans." Liverpool press officer Ian Cotton confirmed: "The Uefa official has told our secretary Bryce Morrison that he has heard the monkey noises and he will include that in his report."
    ©BBC News

    9/8/2005- A recent spate of violent attacks against Roma citizens in Serbia has raised concern that racial hatred is growing. B92, the Serbian news agency described the attacks against residents of the Roma neighborhood "Tosin Bunar" in Belgrade. The first attack happened as the city was celebrating the gold medal win of the Serbian national team SCG at the World Championships in Canada. Sometime during the evening, a Molotov cocktail was thrown onto a Roma house. Although that fire was quickly put out, the attackers have returned every night to continue their harassment of the Roma. Members of the community say that the attacks pose a derious threat. They have organized night watches in an attempt to protect themselves and their families. "Above all, they need police protection, but they have to go to the Police and ask for protection. Only if the Police fail to take the proper and adequate action, which we can't conclude as yet, will the State have obligation towards them in terms of compensation", said Marko Milovanovic from the BHRC, the Bar Human Rights Committee Other human rights groups have denounced the city for its lack of action. The Roma NGO the Center for Minority Rights issued a statement stating that authorities have failed to respond adequately to the increase in violence against the Roma. "The Roma in New Belgrade live in constant fear of violence. Women and children rarely leave their homes."

    Serbia is not the only country in which Roma are suffering from violent attacks and harassment by their non-Roma neighbors. Last July, Roma in the Czech Republic experienced a similar episode. On July 10th, gasoline was poured over the door and shutters of the house where 2 Roma families were sleeping, and the house was set on fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the house was only damaged, not destroyed. In 1998, in the city of Krnov, a burning bottle of gasoline was thrown into the apartment of 6 sleeping Roma. A 48-year-old Roma woman living in the house was severely burned. In both the cases the police neglected to investigate the crimes or to make arrests. In May 2005, the Center on Empirical Research (STEM) in the Czech Republic published the results of their latest research showing that for Czechs, Romany is the least popular nationality out of sixteen possible choices. The results of STEM's research shows also that only 13% of Czechs would feel perfectly happy living next to Roma. One third of Czechs finds the idea of Roma neighbors to be totally unacceptable, while 28% would find it very difficult, and 27% expect it would be unpleasant.
    ©Dzeno Association

    Mostly chained to the stove and the cradle, some women dare to dream of education and paid employment.
    By Hajrudin Skenderi, trainee attending IWPR's Primary Level Journalism Course and Zana Limani, project coordinator for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, IWPR's partner in the Balkans.

    10/8/2005- Merita, a Roma woman from Laplje Selo, starts her long day at around 5am, the first job being to cut wood for the stove to prepare meals. From that point, she will be kept busy until late into the night. "I am employed but work at home," she said. "I wash, cook and babysit. After this I have no time for anything else." Her routine is normal for most Roma women, who are brought up to do housework and look after their husbands and children. Hatixhe, aged 46, from the village of Preoce, doubts she could do much now with a formal education. She never had a chance to go to school. "I had to take care of all my brothers and sisters and was always expected to work at home," she said. "How can a woman find a job if she's never even attended a class? "I wanted to enrol my daughter in primary medical school so she would have more opportunities than I had, but her father wouldn't agree to it. He said the only thing her husband will ask of her is to cook, clean and give birth." With such attitudes prevailing, it is not surprising that few Roma girls even enter a classroom. "Statistics are hard to find because it's difficult to keep track of how many women drop out of school," says Gjyzele Sheljoni, a Roma woman biologist who runs Foleja, a non-government organisation, NGO, that combats illiteracy. Among the 5,500 Roma community in Prizren, Sheljoni believes only three women have university degrees and only seven girls attend high school. Roma tradition dictates that girls should start to learn how to bake at the age of five or six. By 12 they will be looking for husbands, and will be taught to seek nothing more than what the men will offer them. Their principal duties from then on are to bear children and to pass on their household skills to the next generation of daughters. If anything, Roma women have fewer chances now than before to obtain salaried work outside the home. Since the war ended in Kosovo, many Roma have been driven from their homes and even those who have remained have often lost their jobs. The dismal state of the economy has resulted in Albanians taking over menial occupations that were once left to Roma, such as cleaning the streets.

    Sheljoni says Roma women seeking education encounter prejudice from several angles. On the one hand, their own menfolk see it as a waste of time. On the other, Kosovo Albanian society tends to be dismissive of all Roma. "Even those [Roma] women who manage to fight their way into education run into prejudice in society at large," said Sheljoni. "We are seen as good enough only to clean their homes." Maksut, a 45-year-old Roma from Laplje Selo, is a typical Roma traditionalist. "I am the boss at home and everything has to be as I say," he said proudly. "My wife has to take care of my children. There's nothing wrong with that. I treat her the way that my father and grandfather treated their wives." Maksut's wife is expected to carry out many tasks that would appear very old-fashioned in other communities, including washing her husband's hands and even his feet when he comes in to eat his dinner. He says that is as it should be, although he is open to the idea that life might turn out differently for his daughter's generation. "My wife and I could take care of my daughter's children, so that she could work," he says. "But what would people say if she spent more time outside than at home?" Although Merita is interested in the prospect of finding a job outside the home, she says traditions are slow to change. "Change requires time and struggle and this situation has existed for centuries," she says. "The most important thing is that they [the men] understand that we too have needs and are not made out of stone."

    Gradual changes in the position of Roma women are occurring, however, mostly as a result of pressure from internationally supported NGOs. Emsal Merhaxholli, who runs the Roma Women's Centre in Prizren, is helping Roma women become more active. "Roma women are as capable as other women," she says. "One of them [in Prizren] runs her own internet cafe. Another runs a factory and employs 16 other women," she adds. "These are just some examples that show change has begun. But a lot more has to be done to improve the situation." Merhaxholli says the lack of education is the biggest obstacle blocking the further emancipation of Roma women. "Mothers have to support the education of their daughters," she says. "And women have to follow their dreams in spite of the traditions mainly imposed by men. Roma women don't exist only to give birth to children." Saskia Marsh, who coordinates "catch-up" classes for Roma children for the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe, OSCE, agrees that attitudes are shifting, albeit slowly. "Traditional views and early marriage keep most Roma girls out of school," she said. "But there is far more interest now for them to attend catch-up classes than there was before," she adds.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    9/8/2005- With the exception of Adolf Hitler's birthday (April 20), no day in Russia is marred by racist violence as much as the professional holiday of the Russian military's Airborne units (August 2). A report that day by the Sova Information-Analytical Center collected three stories from across the country, all of which involved the by now traditional attacks by Airborne soldiers and veterans on market traders from the Caucasus. In Moscow, four Airborne veterans attacked market traders at the Petrovsko-Razumovsky market. The attack turned into a mass brawl that resulted in 40 arrests and one woman and one man ending up in the hospital with knife wounds. In Ufa, a similar confrontation took place—this time the targets were Azeri watermelon vendors. Police acted quickly and arrested the assailants before the violence turned serious. Finally, in Saratov around 30 Airborne troopers attacked a group of people from the Caucasus on Kirov Prospect. On Azeri was seriously injured before police arrived to break up the assault.
    ©FSU Monitor

    10/8/2005- Tartu, August 8 – The leader of the Don Cossacks – who also serves as vice governor of Rostov oblast – is demanding that the Russian government allow Cossack forces to restore their version of law and order in ethnically Russian areas he says are threatened by a rising tide of unwelcome non-Russian immigrants from across the northern Caucasus. In an interview posted on a Russian nationalist website on Saturday, Viktor Vodolatskiy said that the situation in these areas was now critical, that local Russians were pressing for Cossack intervention, and that his Cossacks could restore order and „quickly teach the new arrivals" how to behave. Vodolatskiy added that he believes Russian officials must stop saying that members of non-Russian groups who are citizens of the Russian Federation have be given the right to live wherever they want. Instead, he said, officials should limit the percentage of non-Russian migrants in any particular locale to no more than two percent of the total population. His remarks came at the end of a week of rising tensions in that southern Russian region. On Wednesday, a group of Chechens reportedly raped the daughter of the Cossack leader in Remontnoye. And when local officials did not move fast enough against the perpetrators to satisfy him, Vodolatskiy called for his Cossacks to intervene. The following day, some 500 Cossacks converged on the village in a convoy of cars and buses ready to enforce their brand of justice not only against the Chechens suspected of the rape but more generally against other non-Russian migrants from the northern Caucasus who live there as well. But on their arrival, the Cossacks found themselves blocked by nearly a thousand Russian Interior Ministry troops who, in the words of another nationalist website, had been hurriedly dispatched by the authorities to prevent the Cossacks from punishing „bandits who have been terrorizing the population".

    That prompt and welcome action by the authorities did succeed in preventing the situation from immediately getting out of hand, but it did not mean that the Cossacks sat on their hands or that there are not compelling reasons to believe that this story is far from over either in Remontnoye or more generally. In that village, the Cossacks succeeded in convening a meeting of the indigenous Russian population which called for the general expulsion of the immigrants, the seizure of their property and either its destruction or transfer to ethnic Russians. Under pressure from the Interior Forces, however, the Cossacks applied this „decision" to only one non-Russian family. But at the request of local Russians, the Cossacks said that they will be back if any of the non-Russian migrants now allowed to remain for time being commit any future outrages. In the words of the extremist Russian nationalist Movement Against Illegal Immigration, the Cossacks would then carry out „the final solution" of the Chechen problem there. Moreover, in addition to enjoying support from some of the population and in the upper reaches of the Rostov oblast administration, the Cossacks apparently have the backing of at least some of the members of the Interior Ministry force sent there to prevent them from carrying out their original plans. That government force, which includes at least 150 of the notoriously indisciplined and often violent OMON operatives, has agreed to conduct joint patrols with some 50 Cossacks who have remained in Remontnoye after the departure over the weekend of the majority of this Cossack host. Members of these joint patrols reportedly are are searching the residences of non-Russian arrivals from the northern Caucasus for contraband and checking their documentation in order to determine whether any of them are there illegally and thus constitute a threat to the residents of this village. Human rights groups, including the Moscow Human Rights Bureau, have called on Russian officials at all levels to prevent the Cossacks from taking the law into their own hands, reported Saturday. But the Cossacks and their backers appear unmoved by such appeals, an indication that the Cossacks may cause even more problems in the future.
    ©FSU Monitor

    10/8/2005- The City Prosecutor's Office is siding with extremist groups that promote racial hatred in St. Petersburg and has ignored warnings about their activities from local anti-fascist organizations, a group of human rights advocates said Thursday. The advocates have tried to prevent the publication of a number of extremist newspapers and books that openly call for violence against non-Russian ethnic groups but have been met by deaf ears at the Prosecutor's Office, the activists said. "The St. Petersburg Prosecutor's Office is simply covering up Nazi organizations. The police don't react in a proper way," Ruslan Linkov, head of the St. Petersburg branch of the Democratic Russia party, said at a briefing held in St. Petersburg on Thursday. "It could happen that soon the authorities will not be met by an 'Orange Revolution', which is what scares them, but a 'Brown' one, with a wave of fascism crushing Russian society", Linkov said.

    Extremist books are sold openly in the city center, including in Dom Knigi, located on Nevsky Prospekt, the city's main street, Linkov said. "I went to the store together with the police, pointed at certain books and they bought them to conduct an investigation. I haven't heard anything from them for months", he said. Earlier this year the City Prosecutor's Office declined to initiate a criminal case against a number of extremist papers publishing in the city. At the same time the prosecutor's office issued an official warning to the newspaper's editors recognizing the fact that the papers are spreading racial hatred. The weak reaction of the Prosecutor's Office to extremist literature and newspapers can be explained by the influence of a pro-extremist wing within the law enforcement system at both local and federal levels, Linkov said. "One problem stems from prosecutors increasing affiliation with the Russian Orthodox church, despite the constitutional separation of church and state", said Yury Shmitd, a St. Petersburg-based lawyer. Earlier in this year the prosecutor general [Vladimir] Ustinov said that it would have made sense to organize praying rooms in regional prosecutor's offices across the country in order to increase the moral level of employees. "What are they going to pray for there? Maybe they're going to atone for their sins", Shmidt said at the briefing. The City Prosecutor's Office representatives slammed the remarks made by the human rights advocates.

    "This is an absolute bucket of rubbish", said Yelena Ordynskaya, the spokeswoman for the City Prosecutor's office in a telephone interview on Friday. "What evidence do they have? Can they find any other arguments besides this? What is this? Do they name any particular people that these groups contain? There are only groups of investigators, each responsible for a particular field of work and no other groups in the City Prosecutor's Office", she said. "As for a praying room, we don't have one in the St. Petersburg Prosecutor's Office", Ordynskaya said. Opposition movements operating in St. Petersburg said the work of the Prosecutor's Office is selective with the clear aim of burnishing the authorities image rather than prosecute real crimes, representatives of Yabloko party said at the briefing. "Just try to imagine if literature or publications were on sale on each corner in St. Petersburg with bad words about President Vladimir Putin? How long would they stay on sale?" said Boris Vishnevsky, a member of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly.
    ©St. Petersburg Times

    11/8/2005- Leading Russian rights activists have accused authorities of fabricating criminal cases and falsely prosecuting people on Islamic-extremism charges in an attempt to show successes in fighting terrorism. The campaign, launched after September's school hostage seizure, targets mostly Russian Muslims as well as Uzbeks, Tajiks and Kyrgyz residing in Russia, Vitaly Ponomaryov, head of the Central Asia program for the rights group Memorial said Tuesday. Activists accused Russian agencies of illegally allowing Uzbek security officers to operate on Russian territory and to detain suspects. "If one fights against terrorism ... by placing innocent people in custody, the number of terrorists and extremists will not decrease, and most likely it will encourage recruitment of additional forces into their ranks," Memorial activist Svetlana Gannushkina said. A spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office declined to respond to the accusations, saying a statement would be issued later. Russia has been hit by a series of terrorist attacks in recent years, including a simultaneous bombing of two passenger jets, a suicide bombing outside a Moscow subway station and the hostage seizure at the school in Beslan.

    Gannushkina said Russian and Uzbek authorities had detained 14 people in the central Russian city of Ivanovo in June on charges of involvement in the May unrest in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan. Uzbek troops violently suppressed an uprising in Andijan on May 13, later calling it a revolt by Islamic radicals. Since then, Uzbek authorities have been seeking the extradition of suspects from Russia and Kyrgyzstan. Gannushkina contended, however, that only one detainee was in Andijan during the uprising, while the rest were acquaintances or business partners. One detainee is a Russian citizen, while another one is a Kyrgyz citizen who traveled to Ivanovo from Turkey to trade textiles, she said. Citing unnamed officials close to the investigation, Ponomaryov also said that Uzbekistan issued extradition requests nearly one month after the men had been detained, meaning they were held in custody unlawfully. Ponomaryov said a Memorial study conducted in some of Russia's 89 regions showed at least 23 extremism cases involving some 80 people have been fabricated since last fall. But he said the real number is estimated to be much higher. Yelena Ryabinina, an activist with Civil Assistance, a group advocating refugees' and migrants' rights, said a man in the Siberian city of Nizhnevartovsk was sentenced to two years for being a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic organization outlawed in Russia. The man was arrested after he sent open letters to Prosecutor General and Chairman of the Supreme Court saying he believed Hizb ut-Tahrir was a peaceful organization, she said. Prosecutors later appealed for a harder sentence and the Supreme Court ordered a retrial. Gannushkina warned that such a campaign was highly dangerous for a country, in which approximately 20 percent of the population describe themselves as Muslims.
    ©Associated Press

    10/8/2005- Thousands of Croats in the town of Knin, Croatia gathered this week to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Croatian offensive that crushed a breakaway Serb republic in 1995. The breakaway republic, called Krajina, had been established in 1991 during the mass confusion of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Krajina's republican hopes were crushed in August 1995, when the Croatian army ‘cleaned' out the area with Operation Storm. The military campaign destroyed the secessionist republic, and resulted in 300,000 refugees fleeing. One of the leading generals who commanded Operation Storm, Ante Gotovina, is now wanted for alleged war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. The celebration of this anniversary seemed a bit controversial, and ended up possibly creating more tension in Croatia's already ethnically sensitive population. The controversy surrounding the event didn't phase Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanadar, however, who called the Operation Storm offensive magnificent and liberating. President Stipe Mesic was slightly more conciliatory, using his speech to call for Croatia to follow a path of tolerance between its ethnic groups. The crowd wasn't in a mood for tolerance, however, and responded to Mesic's words with cries of "Tzigan! Tzigan," a derogatory word for Roma. Neo-nazis in the crowd started to call out "Ante! Ante!" both in honor of the wanted General Ante Gotovina, responsible for the murder and expulsion of Serbians, Roma, and Muslims during the conflict; as well as Ante Pavelic, the Fascist leader of Croatia from 1941 to 1945, responsible for the genocide of Roma, Jews, and other minority groups. The situation of minorities such as Roma has not yet stabilized in the republics of the Former Yugoslavia. Part of this is symbolized by the continued refusal of these nations to hand over war criminals and to cooperate with other reconciliation programs. The EU has made the extradition of Ante Gotovina to The Hague a condition for Croatia's inclusion in the enlargement process.
    ©Dzeno Association

    Karol Gierliñski, deputy of International Roma Parlament, headquartered in Vienna, Austria, has opened the promotional game of a Second Anti-Racist Football Championship of Poland, during the Station Woodstock music festival in Kostrzyn.

    11/8/2005- The final match between /Kostrzyn Representatives & FC Station Woodstock/ was won 5:2 by a host team, cheerleaded by members of local Roma community. During the Championship, run under /Kick racism out of football/ programme, all previous records were broken: 300 participants played in 40 soccer teams, watched by nearly 10.000 football fans. The Anti-Racist Football Championship of Poland was won by Celuloza Kostrzyn team, which also gained Fair Play Cup, funded by EU campaign For Diversity, Against Discrimination and Never Again association. Members of many football fanclubs, including premier league, were present at the Championship and took part in the games. The new antiracist & football magazine "Stadium" also had its premiere during the matches. "Both championship and the magazine gained wide interest among the public, which proves that such antiracist initiatives for football fans are welcome" - said Leszek Naranowicz, manager of the Games. "Racist at football games is a serious problem. It is completely against the idea behind sport games. Hopefully this opinion is shared by growing number of football fans, including Station Woodstock participants" - added Jacek Purski, head of 'Kick racism out of football campaign." Volunteers of Never Again and Anti-Nazi Group from all over Poland were promoting anti-racist ideas among participants of "Station Woodstock'. The public concern in these ideas as well as publications dedicated to tolerance of different cultures, nationalities and religions, rose above the expectations. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nearly 100.000 people visisted the anti-racist information point. 10.000 of them signed an open letter for ceasing distribution of nazi press to chairman of Ruch S.A. During the final of Station Woodstock football matches volunteers of Never Again entered the main festival scene with short antiracist show. Karol Gierliñski, deputy of International Roma Parlament, handed in the commemorary sculpture and a tome of Roma poetry to Jurek Owsiak in acknowledgement of his longterm volunteering for tolerance and fight with stereotypes and prejudice. The Destroy Racism! motto was shouted many times by the participants of Station Woodstock.

    The football championship organised by Never Again was backed by Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity fundation, antiracist network Football Against Racism in Europe FARE , EU campaign For Diversity, Against Discrimination, Townhall of Kostrzyn and local Centre of Sport and Recreation.
    Football Against Racism in Europe

    7/8/2005- Every country in the European Union will be asked to accept a fixed number of asylum seekers each year under a programme to be introduced by the European commission. The "resettlement" scheme, to be launched next month by Franco Frattini, the European Union justice commissioner, is intended to make it easier for vulnerable refugees to reach safety in Europe without risking their lives on dangerous and illegal journeys. Victims of war and natural disaster will be handpicked from refugee camps and rehoused in EU countries under the programme, which is also intended to help to control illegal immigration. Commission sources have indicated that a pilot project to be launched at the end of this year will bring in the first refugees from Africa's Great Lakes region and from "transit" countries such as Ukraine on the EU's eastern borders. The commission also hopes to set up "regional protection programmes" to help developing countries to cope with increasing numbers of refugees living in temporary camps. The commission's initiative has been welcomed by aid agencies. Seven European countries, including the United Kingdom, are already experimenting with limited resettlement schemes. Between them the UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden accept 5000 refugees every year. As the holder of the EU presidency, Britain is expected to play a prominent role in getting the resettlement programme established. Critics believe the prospect of a free ticket to Europe will lure more people to overcrowded refugee camps. Timothy Kirkhope, the Conservative MEP leader and home affairs spokesman in the European parliament, described the plan as "cruel, inhuman and contrary to the concept of refuge". Kirkhope said that refugees should be settled as close to home as possible, allowing them to return quickly after a regime change.
    ©The Times Online

    8/8/2005- The third annual Report on Equality and Discrimination created by the European Commission is now available online. The report examines the progress that has been made over the past year in anti-discrimination legislation and policy both at EU and Member State level, and features an in-depth look at some of the actions supported by the EU intended to help eliminate the widespread discrimination faced by Roma communities throughout Europe. The report outlines the existing EU legislation against discrimination, and evaluates several programs designed to help reduce discrimination, including the PHARE program, the European Social Funds, and the Community Action Programme. Several examples of successful projects the programs have funded are also given, including a project that Dzeno is helping to produce on Roma in the Labour Markets. This new report relies heavily on data gathered from a report released in November 2004: The Situation of Roma in an Enlarged European Union The new report reveals, however that a new Inter Service Group has been created in response to that report, to help insure that the recommendations are implemented, and that the situation continues to be monitored.
    The Annual Report on Equality and Discrimination (English )
    ©Dzeno Association

    Many believe European newcomers make more positive contribution, poll shows

    11/8/2005- In a country that prides itself on embracing multiculturalism, a new poll finds a large number of Canadians say immigrants from Europe are far more likely to make a positive contribution to Canada than those from Asia, India or the Caribbean. One leading race-relations organization said the findings show that Canada has a particular problem with anti-black racism, while others say they're largely a reflection of the increasing difficulties immigrants face. Immigration has become a controversial issue since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and recent surveys show Canadians' attitudes have hardened. A Globe and Mail/CTV poll released yesterday found a large majority of Canadians supporting the deportation or jailing of anyone supporting terrorists. The new Globe/CTV poll, conducted by The Strategic Counsel, found Canadians are generally in favour of the government's current immigration policy and say it strikes the right balance in terms of numbers and countries of origin. But 41 per cent of Canadians believe the country an immigrant comes from is linked to their likelihood of success in Canada. Among those polled with such views, there were also clear notions of which immigrant groups are more likely to make a positive contribution. European immigrants -- who tend to be predominantly white -- topped the list with 76 per cent, followed by Asians at 59 per cent. Less than half of that subsection of Canadians, at 45 per cent, believed Indians make a positive contribution and West Indians were viewed favourably by only 33 per cent. In Quebec, where the province's Haitian community is celebrating the recent appointment of Michaëlle Jean as the next governor-general, West Indian immigrants are viewed more favourably than in the rest of Canada, with a difference of 46 per cent to 28 per cent. University of Toronto Professor Jeffrey Reitz says that while he suspects the findings do reveal some racial bias, his studies of census data show European immigrants are in fact more economically successful than visible minorities. "Then it wouldn't necessarily reflect anything other than a knowledge of income levels in different groups, but some people say the reason why some groups make more than others is racism," said Prof. Reitz, who teaches ethnic and immigration studies. Karen Mock, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, says steps need to be taken to address anti-black racism in the media, police and justice system. "It needs to be acknowledged and named," she said. "Time is long overdue for people to stop using language like 'it's only their perception.' " Ms. Mock said the appointment of Ms. Jean, who has openly discussed her experiences with racism, is a welcome move that could lead to improvements.

    Most of Canada's immigrants today come not from Europe but from Asia. In 2004, the top 10 source countries for immigrants, meaning where they most recently lived, were: China, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, the U.S., Iran, Britain, Romania, Korea and France. Historically, immigrants who came here 40 years ago -- many of whom were European -- did as well or better financially than their Canadian-born counterparts. However a number of studies have found that recent immigrants of all backgrounds are unable to catch up to native-born Canadians, despite their high levels of education. Experts suggest part of the problem is related to a bottleneck preventing professional newcomers from having their credentials recognized. This is especially true for foreign-trained doctors, engineers and other regulated professions. This spring, Ottawa launched a $239-million strategy to help newcomers enter the job market and obtain recognition for their foreign credentials. The poll also found Canadians are overwhelmingly in favour of abandoning the "mosaic" approach to multiculturalism that has long been a defining feature of the nation's identity, according to the survey of 1,000 people conducted from Aug. 3-7. A sample of 1,000 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Nearly seven in 10 Canadians say immigrants should be encouraged to integrate and become part of the broader society rather than maintaining their ethnic identity and culture. Claudette Legault, the executive director of the Metropolitan Immigration Settlement Association in Halifax, says her experience has shown first-generation immigrants will have a strong connection to their home country but subsequent generations are fully integrated in the Canadian culture.

    Immigration opinions
    Question: Do you think Canada accepts too many, too few or about the right number of immigrants per year?

  • Don't know: 12%
  • Too few: 10%
  • Too many: 32%
    ©Globe and Mail

    7/8/2005- As they lay dying amid the ruins of their city, the victims of the Hiroshima bomb craved one thing above all - water. Yesterday morning cups of water were brought as symbolic offerings as, 60 years to the day after the city was vapourised, Hiroshima remembered its dead. At 8.15 am, the exact moment the bomb exploded 600 metres above the city in 1945, the 55,000 packed into the peace memorial park bowed their heads in honour of the 240,000 who died. Passengers on streetcars fell silent, a temple bell tolled and a thousand doves were released into the skies from which the horror had fallen. Peace activists held a 'die-in' at the A-bomb dome, the remains of a local government trade promotion office near the centre of the blast. The ceremony began with the addition to the cenotaph of the names of the 5,375 people who died in the past year. The total now stands at 242,437.

    Hiroshima's mayor, Tadatoshi Akiba, said the day was a 'time of inheritance, of awakening and of commitment, in which we inherit the commitment of the hibakusha [A-bomb survivors] to the abolition of nuclear weapons and recommit ourselves to take action.' But that commitment has produced few results. In the days leading up to the anniversary, negotiators from the US, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea were fighting a losing battle to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme, and yesterday Iran rejected the EU's proposal for ending the stand-off over its own nuclear programme.

    Even in Japan, the message from Hiroshima is becoming marginalised as the events of 60 years ago lose their resonance - the number of visitors to the peace park has dropped significantly in the past 15 years. In a low-key address, Junichiro Koizumi, Japan's most hawkish Prime Minister for years, paid tribute to the victims. But his LDP colleague Yohei Kono, a former Foreign Minister, said the anniversary was a reminder that Japan should never revisit its militarist past. 'We made a mistake in choosing our path in Asia and followed a road to war,' Kono said. 'We took away the independence of Korea and we intervened in China using the military. One of the results of fighting against the international community was the dropping of the atomic bomb.' About 40,000 people in Hiroshima died instantly when the B-29 Enola Gay dropped 'Little Boy' (by the end of 1945, another 100,000 had died). Three days later, a plutonium bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing 80,000.
    ©The Observer

    31/7/2005- A gang of men who murdered a black teenager with an axe in an unprovoked racist attack in a park near his home in Huyton, Liverpool, were being hunted by police last night. Anthony Walker, an 18-year-old sixth form college student, was killed by a single blow delivered with such force that the axe was left embedded in his forehead. Just minutes before the attack the teenager, his girlfriend and his cousin had been subjected to a 'torrent of racial abuse' by a man in a hooded top. Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Currie, who is leading the inquiry, said Anthony had spent the evening at home with his girlfriend, who is white and a fellow student at college in Huyton. Shortly before 11.30pm, they walked to the bus stop outside the Huyton Park pub on St Johns Road so that Anthony's girlfriend could get a 10 minute bus ride home to Kirkby. But as they waited with Anthony's male cousin, who is also black, they were racially abused by the man, who was standing outside the pub. They left to find another bus stop because they 'didn't want any bother or trouble'. But minutes later, as they walked through the park, they were attacked by three or four men and Anthony was dead. Bernard Lawson, assistant chief constable of Merseyside, said: 'Our first thoughts go out to his family and we have met his mother and his sister and they are bearing up tremendously. 'Anthony was a young Christian studying for his A-levels and wanting to be a lawyer. Those dreams for him and his family are now dashed.' Anthony's girlfriend and cousin saw him hit and ran to get help. Minutes later they returned to find him slumped on the ground with the axe embedded in his head. He was taken to Whiston hospital before being transferred to Walton Neurological Centre, where he died at 5.25 yesterday morning. Lawson said that there had been a number of other incidents of racial abuse in the area in recent weeks and appealed for local people to come forward with information on the attack. 'We believe that the offenders are local and we believe that it is the responsibility of the local community to give these people up. 'If they do not do so it is not only a stain on the offenders but also a stain on the community itself. 'There are a lot of decent people in the local area who are absolutely shocked at what has happened.' Walker's death will revive memories of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager stabbed to death by racists in 1993 at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London. The investigation into Lawrence's death became one of Scotland Yard's longest and biggest murder cases, but the trial collapsed in 1996 amid accusations of institutionalised police racism. Last year the Crown Prosecution Service announced it had failed to find enough new evidence to proceed. No one has ever been convicted of Stephen's murder.
    ©The Observer

    British family asks witnesses to come forward

    1/8/2005- The family of a black teenager killed in northwest England with an ax to his head in an attack police say was racially motivated urged witnesses to the brutal murder to come forward. Anthony Walker, 18, an honors student who was a keen soccer and basketball player and aspired to be a lawyer, died at a hospital Saturday after being attacked by a gang shouting racist taunts at him, authorities said. An 18-year-old suspect was arrested Sunday in connection with the murder, and police said they were searching for others involved in the killing. Police did not release the suspect's name. "I need to find out who did this to my brother ... my little brother," Dominique Walker, 20, said in an appeal Sunday. Her brother was waiting for a bus with his white girlfriend and a cousin at a bus stop near his home in Liverpool late Friday when a man started shouting racist insults at them, police said. The three did not retaliate, and walked away to find another bus stop, police said. But a group of three or four men followed them through a park, and Walker's companions saw someone bludgeon him with an ax, police said. They ran to get help and returned a few minutes later to find him with the ax embedded in his skull, police said. "All his family and friends are devastated," Dominique Walker said. "If anybody knows anything, they have got to talk to police. Talk to them because we need the information." Dominique Walker described her younger brother as studious, kind and loving, "the perfect son" and a "fun brother." "You couldn't think of Anthony without smiling. Everyone who came into contact with him loved him. He blessed so many lives in his unique way," she said. Well-wishers left piles of flowers around the scene of the killing Sunday. A lawmaker who lives just yards from the murder scene said there had been some incidents of racial abuse in other areas of the city recently, but the brutal slaying was unprecedented in his neighborhood. "It is entirely untypical of this area. The ethnic community, although small, is well-integrated," said legislator Eddie O'Hara. "We are all totally devastated that this young lad was the victim of what seems to have been a racist attack," O'Hara said. "It is so terrible and sad that he was murdered in this way." Violent racially motivated attacks have been relatively rare in Britain in recent years, although increased assaults on Muslims have been reported since the July 7 bombings in London. The highest-profile race attack in recent years was the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993. Lawrence, 18, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by white assailants at a London bus stop. Five youths shouted racial insults at the teenager and then stabbed him in the arm and chest. Bleeding heavily, Lawrence ran more than 100 yards (meters) down the street for help, but collapsed and died.
    ©Associated Press

    1/8/2005- Anthony Walker played basketball from daylight to dusk under a net that hung from the flat roof of his family's garage. He was no mean player, winning trials for England youth and had recently formed a local team to keep children off the streets. Yesterday, though, the net was gone and so was Anthony. The 18-year-old, who had planned a career in law, was murdered in what police described as a racist attack, during which his head was split open with an axe. While waiting for a bus at Huyton, Liverpool, with his white girlfriend and a cousin on Friday night, he was subjected to a "torrent of racial abuse" , according to police. He took a short cut across a park to avoid confrontation but was followed there by his assailants and hit with such force that the axe embedded itself into his forehead. He died in hospital early on Saturday morning.

    The murder carries chilling echoes of the death of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993. Both were 18-year-old black students killed while waiting with friends at a bus stop. Stephen's death was marked by a catalogue of police failings that changed the way that British police forces deal with race-hate crime. Merseyside Police have evidently learned from past mistakes. Within 12 hours of the murder, Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Lawson was leading appeals for help. A 17-year-old from Huyton was arrested last night. Meanwhile an 18-year-old man arrested yesterday morning on suspicion of murder was released on police bail last night, pending further inquiries. The devastation caused by both deaths was the same though. The Walker family's sense of loss was graphically communicated by Anthony's sister, Dominique, 20, who shook with anger as she pleaded for help in catching the individual responsible for killing "my brother, my 18-year-old brother, two years younger than me". In a gazebo that had been hastily erected to accommodate the scores of family and friends who flocked to the family's small three-bedroomed house in Huyton's Mellor Close, Miss Walker detailed how Anthony had sacrificed his basketball career to concentrate on his life as a youth leader at the Grace Family Church in south Liverpool. "He is a devoted Christian. He danced, he sang, he played in the band and gave much of his life to others," she said. Outside in the garden were reminders of Anthony's 18 years at this unprepossessing house: a rusting yellow swing, a mountain bike and a football. Miss Walker clutched handwritten notes which her mother, Gee Verona, 49, a gospel choir singer and teacher of children with learning difficulties, had intended to read but, in the final reckoning, just could not summon the strength. Gee Verona made her feeling towards her son's killer evident four hours earlier, describing it as "on a level" with that of Stephen Lawrence. By late afternoon, the sound of gospel hymns was issuing from the Walkers' tiny kitchen and members of the Grace church joined the family for an informal service of thanksgiving in the gazebo. Their prayers were for a young man who was one year into A-level courses in law, IT and media at the Carmel College in St Helens and awaiting the results of his AS levels. He was anoutstanding sportsman, playing football as well as basketball, and an avid Arsenal fan. His great ambition was to attend law school. By virtue of his height and his huge smile, Anthony was also an unmistakable figure on the Barratt estate in Huyton's Tarbock district.

    Though the colour of his skin confined him to a "statistically insignificant" minority - to quote his family's local MP, Eddie O'Hara - it never affected the way he lived. A longstanding previous local girlfriend, Genna, had also been white and they had evidently only separated at Christmas because their intense relationship had run its course. " They just spent too much time together," said a friend. Anthony spent most of Friday evening at home in Mellor Close with his girlfriend and cousin, both 17, before leaving at 11pm to walk three quarters of a mile to a bus stop near the Huyton Park pub on St John's Road, from which his girlfriend was to take a bus home to Kirkby. The council estate is rough but Anthony would have known many of the youths who circulated it. He attended primary and secondary schools on the estate. But at about 11.20pm, his group was approached by a group of white men, who verbally abused them. They did not retaliate and instead sought a short cut to a different bus stop through the local McGoldrick Park - where Anthony played much of his basketball. The attack took place after the men appeared out of some bushes. The girlfriend and cousin ran around local houses, apparently banging on doors for help, but when they returned to the park they found Anthony lying on ground with the axe in his head. He was taken to Whiston Hospital, then transferred to Walton neurological centre where he died at 5.25am on Saturday.

    Mr O'Hara, the Knowsley South MP, said that recent racist incidents in Huyton had been "low level" and limited to youths of school age. But evidence of endemic racism in the district came from a former Liberal Democrat borough councillor, Fred Fricker, who said that during elections to the council in May 2004, the decision to field candidate Mahmood Surti had prompted racist hate mail. Mr Fricker produced an anonymous letter sent to Mr Surti which stated: "Listen Paki, you and the other Paki women are taking the piss now trying to get elected. You are lucky to still have a shop and home around this area so [we] are giving you a chance for once." Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Currie, who is leading the investigation, said Anthony had not reported any racial attack to police in the past. His other siblings - Donna, 28; Stephanie, 26; Angella, 16, and Daniel, 14 - have also made a strong contribution to the community. Stephanie is a talented hurdler who reached the 100m final of England's AAA athletics championships. Anthony's father, Steve, 55, an electrician, was a boxer who won amateur competitions and Gee Verona, 49, is believed to have studied computing at Liverpool Hope University. But as the investigation continued, the people of Huyton remained palpably stunned. Ann Fall, 43, a neighbour, was close to tears as her daughter described how Anthony had taught her how to play basketball. "He rigged up that net and anyone was welcome from around the estate. He had more white friends than black."
    © Independent Digital

    1/8/2005- It is difficult to ignore the similarities between the death of Anthony Walker, killed in a horrific attack in Liverpool on Friday, and the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. Both men were 18-year-old, black students. Both were set upon in vicious and unprovoked attacks. And both killings have raised profoundly troubling questions about the state of modern Britain. The investigation into the killing of Anthony Walker is ongoing, so we do not yet know the full circumstances of his death. But what we do know is terrible enough. He was sitting at a bus stop in Huyton at 11.30pm with his girlfriend and his cousin when a man in a hooded top approached and - police say - racially abused them. Without responding, the three walked in the direction of another bus stop through a nearby park where they were attacked by a group of men. Walker was left on the ground, an axe embedded in his skull. He died early on Saturday in a specialist medical centre. The police have treated the case as a racially motivated attack. Walker was a promising student from a good home. He was not involved in any criminal activities. The appalling reality seems to be that this young man - like Stephen Lawrence before him - was killed, police believe, because of the colour of his skin. It is tempting to take the view that we have made little progress in the 12 years since Lawrence was stabbed to death at a bus stop in south-east London by a gang of white youths. But, despite the sickening nature of this latest crime, there are signs that our society has learnt some of the lessons from the Lawrence murder. The most obvious area of improvement can be seen in the response of the police. The operation to hunt down those responsible is entirely professional. They were quick to make an appeal to the public for information. And yesterday they arrested a man. In short, there is no indication that they are not treating the case with the seriousness it so manifestly deserves.

    This is a far cry from the manner in which the police responded to the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. The Macpherson report into that investigation was damning. It found that the police's unwillingness to follow up leads let those responsible for the murders evade justice. It put this failure down to a mixture of incompetence and "institutional racism". To their credit, the police have implemented many of the recommendations of the Macpherson report. And the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon, accepted the need to root out racism from the force. But there are still problems. A worrying number of black men still die while in police custody. A BBC undercover documentary two years ago exposed some shocking examples of racism in the modern police force. This murder also raises worrying questions about wider society in Britain. How can we - a stable country that prides itself on its values of tolerance - continue to produce this hatred? And why is there even a hint from the police that the predominantly white Liverpool community where Walker lived might be loath to come forward with information about who might have committed this grotesque crime? We are entering a dangerous period with respect to race relations in this country. The threat from Islamic suicide bombers has prompted an upsurge of attacks on Muslims. Even the most unprejudiced of people have found themselves wary of their fellow passengers on trains and buses. As the reaction to the murder of Anthony Walker shows, these are unsettled times. It is vital that all Britons, of every ethnic background, maintain a sense of perspective and confront extremism whenever it appears with a united voice of condemnation.
    © Independent Digital

    1/8/2005- A second suspect has been arrested in connection with what police say was the racially motivated murder of black student Anthony Walker. The 18-year-old A-Level student was attacked by a gang of up to four white men in Huyton, Merseyside, on Friday. Mr Walker died in hospital after he was bludgeoned with an axe. Police said a 17-year-old male was being held. On Monday, local MP Edward O'Hara dismissed comparisons of the attack with the murder of Stephen Lawrence. He also spoke of his "sense of pride" at the way residents had responded to the murder. Mr O'Hara said a "steady stream of people" had laid floral tributes near to where the attack happened. The Labour MP for Knowsley South said there were important differences between Mr Walker's killing and the murder of Mr Lawrence in Eltham, south-east London in 1993. He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "There is a certain surface comparison but this act was random, exceptional and representative of absolutely nothing." Mr O'Hara said it was a racist attack but "entirely untypical of the community in which it happened". Mr Walker's mother Gee has said her son was killed "purely because of the colour of his skin". "This was an entirely racially-motivated attack," she said. Mr Walker's sister Dominique, 20, has made an emotional plea for people to help catch the gang who attacked her brother in McGoldrick Park on Friday night.

    'Talk to police'
    "If anybody knows anything, they have got to talk to the police," she said. "Talk to them because we need the information. I need to find out who did this to my brother." Miss Walker said her brother loved playing football and was an Arsenal fan, but his main sport was basketball and he had trials for the Liverpool and England basketball teams. "He was a very kind, loving, caring, young man. He gave so much of his life to help other people." Mr Walker had spent the evening with his white girlfriend before the attack. Merseyside Police said that as the couple waited for a bus outside the Huyton Park pub with Mr Walker's 17-year-old cousin they were subjected to a "torrent of racial abuse" by a man in his 20s wearing a hooded top. They did not retaliate to the abuse and left to find another bus stop. But they were followed and, as they walked through a park, they were attacked by a gang of up to four men. Mr Walker's girlfriend and cousin ran to get help. When they returned Anthony was slumped on the ground with massive head injuries. An axe was found embedded in his skull. He was taken to Whiston Hospital and later transferred to Walton neurological centre where he died at 0525 BST on Saturday. An 18-year-old man arrested on Sunday has been freed on police bail. Police are still appealing for information and are asking people to contact either them or Crimestoppers, where they can leave information anonymously.
    ©BBC News

    Black communities in the Huyton area of Liverpool are living in fear after the horrific axe murder of teenager Anthony Walker.

    1/8/2005- 18-year-old Anthony Walker was bludgeoned with an axe at a bus stop after being racially abused by a gang of white men on Friday. Police have made two arrests and are treating the murder of the popular 'A' level student as racially-motivated. The case has drawn comparisons with the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence in Eltham, south-east London. Speaking today Liverpool MP Eddie O'Hara sought to play down race hate elements claiming the killing was "entirely untypical of the community."

    But Blink can reveal that just a week before the murder a local panel monitoring racial incidents expressed alarm about escalating attacks against black and Asian families. Despite having a tiny Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) population of just 1.4% Huyton suffered 25 recorded incidents of race attacks in the last two months. The figures for May and June mark a doubling of racial incidents compared to April. Tony Vaughan, head of the Merseyside Racial Harassment Prevention Unit, said the shocking murder of Anthony Walker had taken place in a neighbourhood rife with racial tensions. He said: "Black families were already fearful. This murder is going to have an impact on them.

    "I'm not saying that everyone in the community is racist but it would be naive to say that there is not a problem here or that there is not an element of jubilation amongst groups of youths up there." While press reports about the whole community pulling together in the wake of the Anthony Walker were encouraging it did not reveal the whole picture of a Black and Asian families "terrorised" by gangs of racist youths. One local community leader, who did not want to be named, described Huyton as "dog-rough" and said there was a determination that issues of racism should not be swept under the carpet.

    Blink has learnt that the Knowsley Race Hate Steering Group was so concerned about the level of racism in Huyton it was trying to put the issue at the top of the agenda for the local council and police. Local MP O'Hara dismissed comparisons of the attack with the murder of Stephen Lawrence and praised the "sense of pride" at the way residents had responded to the murder. But black community leaders in Liverpool believe questions need to be asked about why more was not done by authorities to combat racism. In a press conference Anthony Walker's sister, Dominique, 20, made an emotional plea for people to help catch the gang who attacked her brother in McGoldrick Park. She added: "his family and friends are devastated. He was a very kind, loving, caring, young man. He gave so much of his life to help other people.

    "Anthony had so many friends. Everyone who came into contact with him loved him. He blessed so many lives in his unique way. His life was stolen from him. His family and friends are devastated and their lives shattered." The victim came from a well-loved church-going family. He was studying law, IT and media at Carmel College in St Helens and wanted to be a lawyer. An avid football and basketball fan, he had trials for the Liverpool and England basketball teams. But he sacrificed a basketball career to spend more time at the Grace Family Church where he was a youth leader, dancer and singer, and played in the band. Anthony Walker was waited for a bus outside the Huyton Park pub with his girlfriend, who happens to be white, and his 17-year-old cousin. The group suffered a "torrent of racial abuse" by a man in his 20's wearing a hooded top. They were then followed through a park, they were attacked by a gang of up to four men. Anthony Walker's girlfriend and cousin ran to get help. When they returned they found him slumped on the ground with massive head injuries. An axe was found embedded in his skull. A 17-year-old man is current in custody. Another 18-year-old man arrested on Sunday has been freed on police bail. Police are appealing for witnesses. Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Currie, who is leading the Merseyside Police investigation, said: "This man has been killed because of the colour of his skin. There is no doubt that was the motive."
    ©Black Information Link

    1/8/2005- More than any other racist crime, the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence proved a catalyst for change. It led to the Metropolitan Police being accused of institutional racism and an overhaul of the way forces across the country treat race-related crimes. On an April evening in 1993, the 18-year-old A-level student and his friend Duwayne Brooks were rushing to catch a bus home in the south-east London suburb of Eltham when they were confronted by a gang of white youths. The gang stabbed Stephen as Duwayne watched in paralysed silence, before he was chased off by the young men. Driven by fear and adrenaline, Stephen managed to scramble free as Duwayne urged him to "just run". But he was bleeding profusely and died 200 yards away. The police investigation, or rather lack of it, led to a public inquiry that put the police and British justice system on trial. On the night of Stephen's killing, a passing off-duty officer was at the scene within minutes. But, despite numerous tip-offs within hours of the murder, officers adopted a lacklustre approach. Three months later, charges against two youths were dropped because the Crown Prosecution service insisted that there was insufficient evidence to proceed. Eventually, a senior Scotland Yard officer, Superintendent Roderick Barker, was drafted in to conduct an internal inquiry into the investigation. He reported that the probe had "progressed satisfactorily and all lines of inquiry had been correctly pursued".

    But as evidence mounted against the police, both in terms of their handling of the investigation and their treatment of Stephen's parents, Neville and Doreen, it became clear that a more far-reaching investigation would be required. The Lawrence family began a private prosecution, which collapsed when identification evidence against three youths was ruled inadmissible, and a second internal inquiry, led by Kent Police, was ordered by the Police Complaints Authority. An inquest into Stephen's death in February 1997 concluded the death was an "unlawful killing". The five main suspects - Jamie and Neil Acourt, Gary Dobson, Luke Knight and David Norris - refused to answer any questions but were publicly named in the media. By the time the Kent force reported back its findings, concluding the police had been well-organised and effective, and that there was no evidence of racist conduct, a public inquiry was already in the offing under the chairmanship of Sir William Macpherson. Shocking evidence before the inquiry included secret police tape of the suspects brandishing knives and expressing violent racist views as well as Sir Paul Condon, then the Metropolitan Police commissioner, apologising for "our failure" to Mr and Mrs Lawrence. Again the five suspects were evasive, continuing to protest their innocence. As they emerged from the inquiry, they reacted angrily to being pelted by onlookers in an iconic image of its time. In February 1999, Sir William's report offered 70 recommendations to break down institutional racism and Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to implement radical reform. Over the years many reports of new evidence and potential breakthroughs have surfaced, but none has led to anything. More than three years after the inquiry David Norris, then 26, and Neil Acourt, 27 were sentenced to 18 months in prison for assaulting an off-duty black policeman in the same road where Stephen was stabbed to death almost a decade earlier.
    © Independent Digital

    2/8/2005- The tragic murder of teenager Anthony Walker has focused attention on the serious issue of racist incidents in Liverpool according to a help centre; despite the local MP saying otherwise. As Merseyside police investigate the brutal racist murder of 18 year old A Level student Anthony Walker, differing accounts of community relations in the Huyton Park area have emerged. On Monday, Edward O'Hara, Labour MP for Knowsley South denied on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme that any significant racial tensions existed in the area. While he admitted it was a racist attack, he said it had been "entirely untypical of the community in which it happened". He said "this act was random, exceptional and representative of absolutely nothing." However this has been disputed by Anthony Clarke, a representative of the Liverpool 8 law centre. He told Black Britain that Huyton was a middle class area with a small number of black families living there, but the number of complaints he dealt with was disproportionately high in comparison. "There is only a small pocket of people of ethnic origin living in that area, but the actual proportion of racist incidents compared to the black population there is fairly high," he said. "It's more common than the police and MPs are supposing." Mr Clarke also added that on the same night Anthony Walker was killed, another family in the area was also subjected to a racially motivated attack.

    Statistical evidence
    The statistics also bear out Mr Clarke's experiences on the ground. According to figures published on the Liverpool City Council website, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of reported race crimes in the city between 2001/02 and 2003/04. Merseyside police received a 72 per cent increase in the number of race crimes reported to them, while there was a 324 per cent increase in crimes reported to the city council over this period. Nationally there has also been an increase in racially aggravated offences. Home Office figures show that between 2003/04 and 2004/05 there has been a 28 per cent increase in the number of racially motivated assaults where a person was wounded, and a 10 per cent increase in cases of racial harassment. But only one third of racially or religiously aggravated assault cases have been cleared up. Official records also show that in England and Wales there were 22 murders classified as being racially motivated between 2001/02 and 2003/04. Of these there are five where no suspect has been identified. As with the attack on Mr Walker, in 38 per cent of cases involving a black murder victim, a sharp instrument was used.

    Comparison with Stephen Lawrence
    Similarities between the murder of Stephen Lawrence in south London in 1993, and that of Anthony Walker have been drawn by several people including Anthony's mother, Gee. She said, "This was an entirely racially motivated attack. "This is on a level with the Stephen Lawrence case. My son was killed purely because of the colour of his skin. We cannot change our colour." Superintendent Ali Dizaei of the National Black Police Association told the BBC's Today programme that the murder was "an unequivocal indication that the cancer of racism is still here, 10 years after the Lawrence inquiry. "Unfortunately, young, innocent black children are subject to it, and I think it is a sad day." However, unlike the outcome of the Stephen Lawrence case, where nobody has ever been convicted of his murder, Supt Dizaei said he was confident Mr Walker's attackers would be brought to justice. "I have every confidence that the police will catch these people and put them before the courts and demonstrate to the black community that we will not tolerate these abhorrent acts of racism on young, innocent people," he said.

    Bludgeoned to death
    Anthony Walker died in the early hours of Saturday morning after being subjected to a torrent of racist abuse by a gang of up to four white men, as he, his white girlfriend and cousin were waiting at a bus stop outside the Huyton Park pub in Merseyside on Friday evening. Rather than retaliate they chose to walk to another bus stop but were attacked as they did so. Mr Walker's cousin and girlfriend saw him being physically assaulted and ran to get help, but when they returned they found him collapsed on the floor with serious head injuries. He was taken to the Whiston Hospital where he was found to have an axe embedded in his head. He was later transferred to the Walton Neurological Centre where he died at 5:25am. Mr Walker's cousin, Marcus Binns told the Liverpool Daily Post; "We just ran and ran, but Anthony didn't get away. We asked someone for help and they took us back to where it happened but just left us. "We got there too late. I have got to live with that for the rest of my life." Police have named two men wanted in connection with the murder as Paul Taylor and Michael Barton, who they believe may be abroad. Three men aged 17, 26 and 29 are currently being questioned by police over the attack.
    ©Black Britain

    3/8/2005- - Two men wanted by Merseyside police over the racist killing of black teenager Anthony Walker have been arrested on suspicion of murder at Liverpool airport, police said. "Merseyside police can confirm that two men from Huyton, aged 20 years and 17 years, have been arrested at Liverpool's John Lennon airport on suspicion of the murder," a spokeswoman said on Wednesday. Police had said they wanted to speak to Michael Barton, 17, and Paul Taylor, 20, over the murder which shocked the local community and evoked memories of the 1993 high-profile racist killing of Stephen Lawrence. Police said the two men would be taken to a local station for questioning. Media had previously reported the two men had left the country and the police said earlier on Wednesday they had arranged for them to be returned to Britain with a solicitor. Police have also bailed four other men over the death. Barton is the younger brother of Manchester City footballer Joey. The premier league player made a televised appeal for his brother to turn himself into police on Tuesday. All those arrested or wanted over the case are from the Huyton area in Merseyside where Walker was beaten to death with an ax by a gang on Friday evening. He was killed just minutes after he had been taunted with racist abuse while standing at a bus stop with his white girlfriend. The murder inquiry has received high media coverage and more than 1,000 people turned out to a vigil on Tuesday evening in Liverpool city center to remember Walker and protest against racism.
    ©Cable News Network

    2/8/2005- Anthony Walker's death is one of the 50,000 race-hate offences that will be investigated by police this year. Given that many cases of intimidation and abuse are likely to go unreported, the true scale of the problem is probably far higher. The British Crime Survey estimates that there are more than 200,000 racially motivated incidents every year. Official figures suggest that the country is in the grip of a rapidly growing crime wave aimed at ethnic minorities. The numbers of racially-motivated incidents in England and Wales have quadrupled since Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death in 1993. In 2003-04, police examined 52,994 racist incidents, a 7 per cent increase on the previous year and four times as many as in 1996-7. More than 35,000 fell into the more serious category, including wounding, assault and harassment. Only 2,520 of those ended in a conviction or a caution. About one-third of the offences were committed in London, with large numbers also in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Lancashire. However, the grim statistics disguise a more complicated picture. The damning Macpherson report in 1999 into police failings in the Stephen Lawrence investigation included a recommendation that a racist incident should be defined as any "which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person". The recommendation was accepted by the Government and the number of offences defined as racially-motivated immediately soared. The Home Office puts the increase down to better recording by police and the fact that community groups encourage people to report attacks and abuse. However, there is no disguising the increase in anti-Semitic assaults in recent years or the surge in attacks on mosques and individual Muslims since the attacks of 11 September 2001. Richard Garside, director of the Crime and Society Foundation, said: "It's hard to tell whether the sharp rises in racially motivated offences reflect a real increase in such incidents, better police recording, or both. Whatever the truth of the matter, people are being targeted because of the colour of their skin. There is a deeply-rooted culture of racism which pervades British society from top to bottom." The charity Victim Support will this week disclose that it helped 22,000 people who had been the target of racially-motivated attack or abuse in the last calendar year. For much of the 1990s it dealt with about 3,000 victims of race crime a year, climbing to 10,000 by the end of the decade.

    Racist incidents reported to police in England and Wales

  • 1996-97: 13,151
  • 1997-98: 13,878
  • 1998-99: 23,049
  • 1999-00: 47,814
  • 2000-01: 53,092
  • 2001-02: 54,370
  • 2002-03: 49,078
  • 2003 -04: 52,694
    © Independent Digital

    3/8/2005- Figures released today by the Institute of Race Relations show that there have been forty-five murders with a known or suspected racial element since the publication of the Macpherson report in February 1999. With its similarities to the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the racist murder of Anthony Walker in Huyton, Liverpool, on 30 July 2005 resonated strongly in the national conscience. But there have been forty-five murders with a known or suspected racial element since February 1999 and most have received little publicity; in many cases, too, the response from the criminal justice system was inadequate. While many of these cases were investigated by the police as possible racial crimes, the racial element was, on occasion, not acknowledged in the trial or in the sentencing. In many cases, the murders received scant attention in the national media and the families of the victims were left to campaign for justice without the wider support that media attention brings. The IRR's research also shows that the victims of fatal racial violence are increasingly those who are most marginalised in British society: asylum seekers or foreign nationals working in the UK. In the last year alone, one asylum seeker has been murdered (Kalan Kawa Karim) and four foreign nationals have been murdered in attacks with a known or suspected racial element.

    Following the bombs in London on 7 July, there has been evidence from police forces and community organisations across the country of an increased number of racist attacks. Just days after the London bombings, a 48-year-old Pakistani man, Kamal Raza Butt, was murdered; he was allegedly taunted with the word 'Taleban' as he was punched to the ground by a gang of youths in Nottingham. In London, police figures show a six-fold increase in crimes motivated by religious hate, mostly against Muslims, since the bombings. There were 269 'religious hate crimes' in the three weeks after 7 July compared with forty in the same period in the previous year. On 30 July 2005, Anthony Walker, a 17-year-old Black student was brutally murdered as he walked home with his girlfriend and a cousin in the Huyton area of Liverpool. The group was subjected to racist abuse before a vicious gang of thugs embedded an axe in Anthony's head. Liverpool police have promised not to make the same mistakes as the officers investigating the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. That investigation failed to result in a conviction against those accused of his murder. The Macpherson inquiry into the murder and its investigation made far-reaching recommendations into the investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crimes.

    The forty-five people who have been murdered since February 1999 are
    Andrea Dykes, John Light, Nicholas Moore, Stelios Economou, Harold (aka Errol) McGowan, Liaquat (aka Bobby) Ali, Joseph Alcendor, Ben Kamanalagi, Hassan Musa, Zardasht Draey, Jason McGowan (1999), Zahid Mubarek, Santokh 'Peter' Singh Sandhu, Kombra Divakaren, Jan Marthin Pasalbessi, Glynne Agard, Mohammed Asghar, Abdi Dorre, Tariq Javed, Khaliur Rahman, Sarfraz Khan (2000), Gian Singh Nagra, Fetah Marku, Shiblu Rahman, Shaun Rodney, Sharon Bubb, Firsat Dag (2001), Peiman Bahmani, Shah Wahab, Derrick Shaw (2002), Mohammed Isa Hasan Ali, an unnamed Asian man, Paul Rosenberg, Johnny Delaney, Awais Alam, Quadir Ahmed (2003), Kris Donald, Shahid Aziz, Akberali Tayabali Mohamedally, Bapishankar Kathirgamamathan, Kalan Kawa Karim, Lalji Joshi, (2004), Marek Smrs, Kamal Raza Butt, and Anthony Walker (2005).

    Racially Motivated Murders (Known or Suspected) Since 1991
    The IRR has been documenting murders with a suspected or known racial element since 1991. Additional information on these cases is available on request.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    Sick racists have targeted a website dedicated to murdered black teenager Anthony Walker.

    9/8/2005- One message on the tribute diary mocked the death of "another n****r". Another threatened to kick the s**t out of hundreds of floral tributes laid in memory of the 18-year-old axe victim. Anthony, an A-level student, had started the site at school with friend Jamie Sullivan after they formed their own rap group. Jamie, 18, revived it in memory of Anthony, who was bludgeoned to death in McGoldrick Park, Huyton, Liverpool, 10 days ago. He has now removed the vile insults. "I just thought, 'What kind of people can do this?'" he said. "They are cowards who are not brave enough to say anything to anybody's face. They are just using the internet to hide behind." Jamie added: "I was walking through McGoldrick Park the other day, just a few feet from where Anthony was murdered, when two youngsters rode by on their bikes. As they went past, one said to the other, 'Hey look, there's Nog's mate'. I was stunned. "I couldn't believe somebody could be so close to the spot where all the flowers were laid and still have so little feeling for what's happened." Jamie was a classmate of Anthony at Knowsley Hey School. He said: "Even though Anthony and his brother were the only black lads, there was no history of racism." Police are investigating the abuse on the website. It has had messages of support from all over the world. Anthony's sister Angela said the family were dreading picking up his A-level results in Media, Art, Drama and Law next week. Her brother, a committed Christian and talented basketball player, hoped to study law at university. Angela, 16, said the family's faith was helping them cope as they tried to carry on as normal, which Anthony would have wanted. Two men have been charged with murder.
    ©the Mirror

    Mother of Stephen Lawrence attacks education system as a Liverpool suburb agonises over axe murder

    7/8/2005- The mother of Stephen Lawrence, whose racially motivated murder became a cause célèbre, has launched a damning attack on Britain's education system, in which she accuses white teachers of failing to tackle racism in schools and argues that there has been little improvement in race relations since the Sixties. Doreen Lawrence's comments, made in a new book, are likely to spark a national debate on the causes of racism in Britain's schools. Since her son's death in 1993 she has become an increasingly vocal and respected campaigner on race issues whose views are sought by politicians and education experts. Lawrence and her former husband, Neville, led a campaign calling for an investigation into police inaction and discriminatory behaviour into the murder of their son The campaign led to the publication of the Macpherson report in 1999, which called for wide-ranging reforms aimed at tackling institutionalised racism in the public services. Now, Doreen Lawrence, who regularly visits schools and has worked as a learning mentor, says little has changed in the education system since the Sixties. The claim is likely to reinforce fears that sections of British youth are becoming increasingly polarised along racial lines, a trend that has been blamed for helping to perpetuate racism. In an introduction to Supporting Black Pupils and Parents, she writes: 'The problems in our schools are not new for black pupils' parents because they too had the same experiences when they faced racism and discrimination as pupils. There have been few changes since the early 1960s... when black children were made educationally subnormal by racism and the collective failure of the education system.' Lawrence writes that black pupils face 'soul-destroying' barriers on a daily basis which 'sometimes can seem to come from the teachers themselves. The negativity of many white teachers leads the way and can impact on black children as a whole and that in turn leads to underachieving.' However, she calls on black parents to do more for their children. 'In order for black children to gain access to all levels of the British workforce, parents and members of the black community must make it their duty to play an active part in their children's education.' The author of the book, Dr Lorna Cork, an education adviser in Birmingham who has set up a series of organisations to help black parents support their children's learning, said her research painted a 'somewhat bleak picture' of relations between schools and black parents. Black parents, Cork argues, feel teachers indulge in racial stereotyping and have a tendency to talk to black parents about their children's behaviour rather than their schoolwork. Her research showed there was no single solution to the problem. 'The study recognises that the job we are asking the teacher to do is a highly complex and demanding one. 'Motivating and educating young people across the cultural and socio-economic spectrum, preparing them to be principled and responsible citizens of a diverse society, cannot be attained by one party alone,' Cork said. 'Cultural co-operation between parents, school and local communities is a difficult but very necessary route to achieving these goals.'
    ©The Observer

    Anthony Walker's murder in Huyton was a harsh slap in the face for people who date interracially
    By Zoe Smith

    7/8/2005- This week's headlines reporting the death of Anthony Walker were a shock to the system. That a teenage boy could be axed to death by racists just because he chose to date a girl of a different race seemed to me like news from a bygone era. How far have we progressed from the days of slavery if a black man can still be lynched simply for being seen in the company of a white woman? I probably found the news of Anthony Walker's murder particularly disturbing because, more by circumstance than choice, most of the people I've been out with have been white. Growing up in London my circle of friends resembled a Benetton ad. Inter-racial dating was never an issue for us. When people have asked me what it's like to date 'outside of my race' it always struck me as a glaring non-issue. It's not as if I date Klingons, for Pete's sake. In an age when inter-racial couples are regularly seen in television soap operas and appear in ads selling everything from sofas to cereals I had forgotten that mixed relationships could even be a subject of debate in Britain. When the public was subjected to images of Anthony and Makosi getting jiggy in the Big Brother pool the problem wasn't that they were of different colours, it was more that it was stomach-churningly icky viewing.

    So the events in the Liverpool suburb of Huyton were a harsh slap in the face. I must consider the possibility that the relaxed attitude towards my boyfriend and I in the capital may not be mirrored in other parts of the country. That is not to say that London is a Utopia. There are certain areas of East London that I would never step foot in (there's no point in asking for trouble in areas which have a history of racial violence) and I avoid trips to the south London suburb of Brixton with my boyfriend as much as possible. I can't help feeling pissed off when, as happens all too often, black men mutter comments including the word 'Bounty' (meaning a black person who is white on the inside) as I saunter down Coldharbour Lane with my guy. However, we no longer live in the dark days of the Fifties and Sixties when lack of familiarity with different cultures and races and ignorance about the lives and backgrounds of newly arrived immigrants, bred contempt. For the most part, black and white have been living side by side for half a century now. Young adults of my generation (I was born in 1980) who have been brought up in metropolitan areas have been mingling with people from a rainbow of backgrounds since nursery school. By the time we were of university age, integrating with people from different ethnicities should have become second nature.

    Race relations in Britain are advanced compared to the situation in other European countries. For the past eight years I've been a regular visitor to Italy, usually visiting the country four or five times a year. Last year I moved to Milan, a city which, by Italian standards, is both multicultural and progressive. Yet people would still stare in disbelief at an inter-racial couple walking down the street. A number of my black male friends dating Italian girls received both verbal and physical abuse. Once on holiday in Lake Garda, with an Italian guy, we passed a group of school kids. One boy - he couldn't have been more than 13 - pointed his finger at me like a gun and made the noise of machine gun fire. His teacher did nothing to stop him and my boyfriend and I just stared at each other in open-mouthed astonishment. In Italy, I'd put their behaviour down to ignorance rather than racism.

    America, though, is a different kettle of fish. I've never understood why we black British look to America as the land of openness and tolerance. From my experiences and conversations with the American side of my family it seems to me to be one of the most segregated places in the world. A private university in South Carolina has only just - last month - reluctantly abandoned its policy that students had to have written parental permission to have an inter-racial relationship. For years the president of Bob Jones University had insisted that 'genetic blending', as he referred to relationships between people from different races, went against the Biblical order and was not to be encouraged. I was surprised to see that even in the debauched city of Miami Beach, while blacks, whites and Hispanics work comfortably alongside each other by day, at night it was a different matter. Clubs, bars and even the beach were divided unofficially along racial lines.

    My current boyfriend is a patriotic Frenchman born in Paris. However, he agrees with me that the ease with which an inter-racial couple can exist in London reflects well on the progressive nature of our society. We must hope that we do not lose this in the response to the racial tensions awakened by the events in Huyton and the prejudices brought to the foreground by the London bombings, and that people do not withdraw into their own communities. Living segregated lives cannot lead Britain to unity. Embracing our country's diversity offers the securest defence against racists, fundamentalists and bigots. I'm endlessly thankful that I've grown up within a society where I and my friends have been able to choose to mix freely with people from different cultures and I fervently hope that recent events don't stop the next generation from feeling equally free.
    ©The Observer

    3/8/2005- The Denmark Radio Broadcast Central Committee has decided to hold an emergency meeting to cancel the broadcasting license of the Radio Holger, a local Danish radio station, which called on people to kill Muslims in order to combat terrorism. The Committee moved quickly on the issue, since the decision about the racist broadcast of the Copenhagen Radio Council of which Radio Holger is bound would take a few months. Committee Chairman Christian W. Scherfig said they could not wait a few months to reach a decision on such a significant issue. The Copenhagen Radio Council's decision was open for appeal; however, if the Central Radio Council reaches a decision on the issue, there is no other authority to object the decision. Furthermore, the Copenhagen police launched an investigation on whether Radio Holger's announcement had violated the Penal Code that punished racism. Owner of the Radio Holger Kaj Vilhelmsen had last week called on people to kill Muslims in order to combat terrorism. Vilhelmsen, who holds all Muslims responsible for the London blasts, used the expression "supporters of Mohammed" instead of "Muslims". "Muslims should be expelled from Western Europe in order to fight against terrorism. We can only prevent their bombings in various places using this method. Fanatic Mohammed supporters should be terminated as well. The meaning of this is to kill some of them," Vilhelmsen had claimed.
    ©Journal of Turkish Weekly

    RACE AND FAITH POST 7/7(uk, debate)
    Paul Gilroy and Herman Ouseley discuss whether our traditional thinking on race needs to adjust to the new realities
    Paul Gilroy is Anthony Giddens professor of social theory at the London School of Economics and author of After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture;
    Herman Ouseley is former chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and author of the Community Pride Not Prejudice report into race relations in Bradford in 2001.


    Dear Paul,
    There was a time when race relations in Britain could be symbolised by the very simple reference to there being "no black in the union jack". White people had the power, control, resources and the empire; black people were perceived as exotic immigrants doing the low-grade jobs and disfiguring the landscape as well as the labour and housing markets. But no longer can a simple analysis be made of the state of race relations, as Britain's changed demography reflects new generations of multi-ethnic origins and heritage. Over the decades different groups of people have had to assert themselves to get their grievances heard, sometimes engaging in uprisings. The last significant disturbances occurred in the northern English towns of Bradford, Burnley and Oldham in 2001. They highlighted resentment, hatred and ignorance, and the gulf between poor white and deprived Muslim communities. This forced a redefinition of the race equality project, and faith, belief and religious identity are now regarded as issues warranting explicit consideration in all equality debates. This has weakened some antiracist strategies. But now, with some of the anti-religious discrimination laws in place, with the proposed outlawing of incitement to religious hatred and with a new equality and human rights commission on the horizon, most people in those communities believe their concerns are, at least, being acknowledged. However, there is now a whole new ball game: the terrorist atrocities of July 7 have created enormous uncertainties and deep fears across all communities and suspicions abound, despite the best efforts of the police and community and political leaders for calm and cooperation.
    Yours, Herman

    Dear Herman,
    I do not agree that Muslim assertiveness is a primary source of our difficult new circumstances, or that the "race equality project" can, or should, be redefined in terms of faith. To rely on outlawing incitement to religious hatred would be way off the mark. Surely that was just a convenient governmental gambit for separating "good" from "bad" Muslims, an ill-thought-out bit of diversity management judged to be a price worth paying in order to isolate the hotheads and agitators. Bolting official religious sensitivity on to the apparatuses of "antiracism" only helps to reproduce exactly the sort of closed and stratified communities that might otherwise be withering away. Processes, identities and feelings that are fluid, complex and internally differentiated become fixed, naturalised and spiritualised. Re-describing cultural minorities more accurately will not be enough, in itself, to make Britain's official race equality strategies suddenly start to work better. This is a different political game from the one played during the 1970s, but debate over the recent terrorist bombings has underlined many continuities with that period. It seems as though every asylum seeker is now a potential mass murderer. The old logic of expulsion/repatriation remains intact, and one of the bombers was even identified as a former mugger. Blair's belligerent revival of empire and the occupation of "Muslim lands" are obvious factors, but another hatred seems to have festered in Beeston and other dead zones of England's postindustrial economy. Transposing these large cultural, political and economic problems into the language of faith and religion is a counterproductive oversimplification recycling the "clash of civilizations" idea. The fantasy of Britain as a beleaguered country perpetually fighting Rourke's Drift against an invading horde must be explicitly opposed. We need leaders who will be brave enough to say not that we should stop apologising for the lost empire, but that it was the empire that made this country what it is, and that we are still dealing with the consequences. We need to know what varieties of injury promote the absurd belief among young British people that an austere, political Islam can be a viable vehicle for their hopes for an improved world. But it is now unlikely that we will be able to explore those issues without inviting the accusation of sympathy with the perpetrators of mass murder. It may be more important to ask what social, economic and cultural conditions can promote solidarity and mutuality across fluid cultural lines. Perhaps now might be a good time to see the struggle against ignorance as a civilising element that is also a means of building democracy and citizenship.
    Yours, Paul

    Dear Paul,
    The media-generated fears of "invading" asylum seekers, gypsies desecrating the countryside, Muslims flexing their political muscle and international terrorists breaching our national defences make it even harder to achieve the much desired inclusive British identity. Timidity and fear prevented our politicians from taking on the populist right, the tabloids, the Islamophobes and the Europhobes. In the eyes of our leaders there is a straight choice to be made by everyone. "Diversity, equality and integration" encourages and requires you to conform, compromise and comply in order to gain a level of acceptance. That is supposed to demonstrate successful management of ethnic relations as we see more and more non-white people penetrate the bowels of our institutions. Two main actions are necessary to counter the bigotry, ignorance and misinformation that characterise race debates in Britain. The first is for political, corporate and community-based leaders to challenge all forms of misinformation and sensational media reports that demonise particular groups of people. This is more difficult to achieve in the present climate of real fear as well as paranoia. The second concerns what should be happening in our places of learning. Parents are educating and influencing their children with their perceptions, attitudes and limited knowledge, so there is a huge gap to be filled by our nurseries, schools, colleges and universities. Given that "antiracist education" is regarded in official quarters as unacceptable indoctrination ("political correctness"), how would you suggest that we might persuade our leaders and educationists to help build democracy and citizenship? Surely that is beyond our reach with the present levels of fear and vulnerability.
    Yours, Herman

    Dear Herman,
    I applaud your frankness in saying that your associates in the Blair government are more scared of being called politically correct than they are of the consequences of demonising incomers and spreading fear. If you are right, it is going to be impossible to persuade them of anything that might undermine their grip on power, which comes courtesy of mainstream floating voters in contested constituencies rather than from minority ethnic electorates. It might help if we appreciate that the problems that derive from unacknowledged colonial crimes and unresolved imperial histories are not Britain's alone: similarly divisive issues exist in other post-imperial nations, from France to Japan. The first things our leaders might gain from this shift are increased moral authority and political credibility, locally and beyond. Secondly - and here we can turn back towards the issue of Islam in Britain - political leaders might also gain loyalty and support from disenchanted and excluded people who might otherwise be tempted to dismiss all this chat about diversity and human rights. The national solidarity you aspire to can only be built upon trust and an acknowledgement of the damage done by racism. Racism is a key source of the double standards in international affairs that feed local disenchantment and hopelessness. This probably sounds like the dreaded "political correctness", but it is only racism that holds all British Muslims responsible for the wrongs perpetrated in the name of their faith by a tiny minority.
    Yours, Paul

    Dear Paul,
    The disturbances of 2001 revealed the paucity of intermixture, interdependence and intercultural relations between groups inhabiting the same spaces in their local neighbourhoods. Later explorations showed that young white people and young Muslims in those areas were crying out for better teaching, more learning and the opportunities to mix with people different from them. There is a large comprehensive school in the East End that has pupils from every conceivable impoverished background. Good communications between staff, pupils, parents and local communities as well as information-sharing and intercultural mixing combined with effective leadership give them self-esteem and confidence, and facilitate their respect for others. It works. We need to see this replicated elsewhere and to rid ourselves of the notions that people must compromise, conform and comply in order to gain acceptance. We should not allow the terrorism crisis, with its evil ideology and global influences, to blow off course the progress we have made.
    Yours, Herman

    Dear Herman,
    You sound as though you are groping your way back towards a class-based politics. Of course, the intercultural contacts I am interested in are not evenly spread across the whole country: London may be the world, but it is not all of Britain. My point is that these changes need to be recognised and accorded political significance. Let us agree that we need a map of Britain's new political and cultural geography. The 2001 riots took place before the US-led "war on terror". Residential segregation and postindustrial economic resentment were not their only triggers. On one side, there were the old conflicts: with police, with the BNP and with the white working class in the labour market. On the other, there seems to have been a new kind of antagonism based on envying the identity, cohesion and solidarity of the post-migrancy generations. Excluded whites may even have experienced an "identity deficit", as well as a shock, when they discovered that whiteness has lost its prestige and is now worth next to nothing. That is when they become susceptible to the idea that there is a clash of civilisations going on with a long frontline that runs from Burnley to Basra.
    Yours, Paul

    Dear Paul,
    We can certainly agree on the need for a map of Britain's new political and cultural geography. I also cannot disagree with your analysis about triggers for conflicts. If I am groping for anything it is to hang on to those fundamental things that work for disadvantaged communities, including demonised communities such as Muslims and asylum seekers, while we await the emergence of the political leadership with the necessary bottle to challenge the status quo. I am encouraged enormously by the community and political leadership in the present circumstances. Out of such adversity often emerges real benefit, and that would be a special legacy in memory of all those who have been the victims of evil and hate.
    Yours, Herman

    Dear Herman,
    These are very dangerous times. The British history, which our generation helped reshape, now offers valuable lessons about how to get along convivially in a multicultural polity. The shrine at King's Cross and the crowd at Stockwell station conveyed this vividly. I know you do not want to wait for our leaders to find the courage to act. Perhaps we need an infusion of courage, too. In the meantime, Britain's jails are brimful of Reids and Moussaouis. A few young people from all backgrounds will respond to the siren call of political Islam because it offers them an ascetic and strongly ethical response to the erotic dazzle of consumer culture from which they are excluded, and exclude themselves. What healthier, secular alternatives can we offer them? Fundamentalism's over-simple solutions harness the disenchantment that grows with marginalisation and hopelessness. There must be more to British citizenship than bullying asylum seekers to get their grammar right and swot up on their kings and queens. Education is fundamental. Another key is cultivating a political outlook that does not counterpose solidarity and diversity so that more of one means less of the other. That, for me, was one positive aspect of wounded London's response to the recent outrages. Can that spirit - which is not the resilience of the blitz and the flipside of hating Germans - now take root outside London? Yours ever, Paul
    ©The Guardian

    Home Office initiative to focus on shared challenges

    1/8/2005- Home Office ministers yesterday launched an initiative to foster relations with Britain's Muslim community in the wake of the London bomb attacks as a row broke over "racial profiling" in the use of stop and search by the police. The counter-terrorism minister, Hazel Blears, said she would be holding eight meetings with Muslim leaders around the country during the next few weeks to "discuss the challenges they share with the government", including engaging with young Muslims and tackling extremism. At the same time Ms Blears appealed to MPs across the country to take soundings from local communities on how to tackle the issues. The home secretary, Charles Clarke, is to come up with "concrete proposals" on how to improve community relations at the end of the summer. The Home Office outlined seven areas for debate yesterday, including how to work most effectively to track down criminals, particularly increasing reporting and information to the police, monitoring and tackling race crime effectively, and stopping terrorist activity in all its forms. "At the end of the eight meetings the home secretary will host a talk with Muslim leaders on September 20 to discuss concrete proposals," a Home Office spokesman said. The initiative was announced as the British Transport police revealed it was to target specific ethnic minority groups for stop and search as part of the security response to the London bombings. Ian Johnston, the British Transport police chief constable, told the Mail on Sunday that his officers would be targeting groups most likely to present the greatest threat. "Intelligence-led stop and searches have got to be the way ... We should not waste time searching old white ladies." The chief constable said he was confident there was every sign that the Muslim community understood the predicament the police faced and they would continue to receive the support of the community, even if young Asians were to become the focus of most police searches on the London transport network. But the human rights group Liberty said such "racial profiling" could prove a disaster: "If you search people of a particular race or description while letting others through, it doesn't take long for a terrorist group to learn ways of placing their lethal cargo with those that don't meet the profile," said Liberty's director, Shami Chakrabarti. "The chief constable has just played into the hands of those who want to recruit terrorists." But Ms Blears defended Mr Johnston: "What it means is if your intelligence in a particular area tells you that you're looking for somebody of a particular description, perhaps with particular clothing on, then clearly you're going to exercise that power in that way. "That's absolutely the right thing for the police to do."

    Areas for dialogue

  • Tackling extremism and radicalisation
  • Engaging with women
  • Imam accreditation and the role of mosques as a resource for the whole community
  • Education services that meet needs of Muslims
  • Security: protecting Muslims and community confidence in policing
  • Engaging with youth
  • Supporting local initiatives and community actions
    ©The Guardian

    3/8/2005- Religious hate crimes, mostly against Muslims, have risen six-fold in London since the bombings, new figures show. There were 269 religious hate crimes in the three weeks after 7 July, compared with 40 in the same period of 2004. Most were verbal abuse and minor assaults, but damage to mosques and property with a great "emotional impact" also occurred, police said. Met Police Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur said he had never seen so much anger among young Muslims. Communities were particularly frustrated by the increased use of stop-and-search and the new "shoot-to-kill to protect" policy of dealing with suicide bombers, he said. "There is no doubt that incidents impacting on the Muslim community have increased." And he warned: "It can lead to these communities completely retreating and not engaging at a time when we want their engagement and support." Mr Ghaffur revealed that in the first three days after suicide bombers killed 52 people and injured 700 more, there were 68 "faith hate" crimes in London alone.

    Racial profiling
    A spokesman for the Muslim Safety Forum, an umbrella group which works closely with the police, said the figures reflected the increase in calls to their members about abuse and attacks since the London bombings. "It's something we've been saying for a few weeks now but it's good to see senior police managers like Tariq Ghaffur have got up and actually said it," spokesman Tahir Butt said. "Although police are talking about a zero tolerance policy the test is how effective that is at ground level when you go in and report a crime," Mr Butt added. Faith hate crimes are currently prosecuted under anti-racism legislation, but a bill to create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred is currently going through the Houses of Parliament. The bill, which has attracted criticism from many quarters, has passed its Commons stages but is set to get a rocky ride in the Lords. The alarming figures emerged as Home Office minister Hazel Blears held the first in a series of meetings on Tuesday with Muslim community groups across the country. Those meetings come amid increasing concerns that young Muslims are being targeted by police in stop-and-search operations. Ahead of the meeting, Ms Blears pledged that Muslims would not be discriminated against by police trying to prevent potential terror attacks. She insisted "counter-terrorism powers are not targeting any community in particular but are targeting terrorists". She also opposed police use of racial profiling, saying stop and searches should be based on good intelligence, not just skin colour. Mr Ghaffur also revealed that the specialist unit dealing with serious and organised crime had lost 10% of its staff to the bombings inquiry.

    Between 300 and 473 of Specialist Crime Directorate detectives have been seconded at any one time since 7 July. As a result Mr Ghaffur said key leads would be followed up but proactive work on major murder inquiries had "slowed to a trickle". These include the 2004 murder of Amelie Delagrange, linked to five other attacks on women in south-west London, and the 1992 murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common. "The Met is stretched," he said. "There may be longer term implications if this level of activity continues." Last week Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair revealed the anti-terrorism investigations were costing £500,000 a day.
    ©BBC News

    3/8/2005- The frontrunner to lead the Conservative party, David Davis, today said multiculturalism was "outdated", and that ethnic and religious minorities should respect "the British way of life". Criticising the government for appearing to promote "distinctive identities" over the "common values of nationhood", the shadow home secretary said the UK should learn from the US model of pride in the nation's values. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Davis said he now agreed with the opinion of the chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, that multiculturalism was out of date. Mr Davis, who is the bookmakers' favourite to succeed Michael Howard as Tory leader this autumn, has a track record of opening up controversial policy debates. A year ago he called for Britain to repeal the Human Rights Act - the UK's incorporation of the European convention on human rights. That call was echoed by his main challenger for the Tory crown, David Cameron, yesterday.

    In his piece for the Telegraph, Mr Davis writes: "Britain has pursued a policy of multiculturalism, allowing people of different cultures to settle without expecting them to integrate into society. "Often the authorities have seemed more concerned with encouraging distinctive identities than with promoting common values of nationhood. "Britain has a proud history of tolerance towards people of different views, faiths and backgrounds. But we should not flinch from demanding the same tolerance and respect for the British way of life." "We should learn lessons from abroad - from the United States, where pride in the nation's values is much more prevalent among minorities than here," Mr Davis said. In fact, the government, under former home secretary David Blunkett, has already taken a leaf out of US practice, bringing in "citizenship ceremonies" for immigrants granted British citizenship. Mr Davis, who is widely regarded as the more rightwing, socially and economically, of the two main rivals for the Tory crown, singled out the chairman of Birmingham's central mosque, Mohammed Naseem, for criticism. Mr Naseem hit the headlines after suggesting the London suicide bombers may not have been Muslims. The shadow home secretary said: "People such as Mr Naseem do no favours to the Muslim community. After all, Muslims too are in the sights of the Islamic extremists." He went on: "Above all, we must speak openly of what we expect of those who settle here, and of ourselves. "Let us be clear. Non-Muslims have obligations to their Muslim fellow citizens to strive for equal opportunities for all, to accept the mainstream version of Islam as part of society, and to reject the vile racism of the BNP and its like. "But Muslims in turn have obligations: not simply to condemn terror, as one Labour MP put it, but to confront it."

    Meanwhile, Mr Davis's colleague, the shadow defence secretary, Gerald Howarth, called on British-born Muslims who did not feel an allegiance to the UK to leave voluntarily. In an interview with the Scotsman, he also said Muslims who saw the war with Iraq as a conflict against Islam were akin to Soviet sympathisers during the cold war. Mr Howarth said the majority of Muslims adhered to British values and he described how the union flag had been flown at a meeting he had with Muslims over the weekend. But the Aldershot MP said that if some Muslims "don't like our way of life, there is a simple remedy - go to another country, get out." When it was put to him that some of those people were born in Britain, Mr Howarth replied: "Tough. If you don't give allegiance to this country, then leave." Mr Howarth went on to criticise remarks by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and his own Tory colleague, Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general. Mr Howarth was apparently incensed by suggestions from Mr Straw yesterday that the presence of British troops in Iraq was "part of the problem". And he criticised Mr Grieve, who said yesterday that the London attacks were "explicable" because of the deep sense of anger felt by Muslims in the UK about various issues, including Iraq and the state of the Islamic world.
    ©The Guardian

    Confusion reigns over stop and search after British Transport Police chief Ian Johnston announced that his officers would be targeting ethnic minorities as potential terrorists.

    2/8/2005- But while he said one thing yesterday the government minister for policing Hazel Blears said another just hours later. By this morning it was unclear what stop and search policy was being used. Even police authority members and a senior Scotland Yard figure were sending out different signals to Commander Johnson as they stressed the need to for intelligence-led policing. By contrast Johnson appeared to be stressing the need to stop anyone from communities associated with terrorist attacks based on their appearence or skin colour. Johnston said stop and search powers would mainly be used on the transport network against young people of a Muslim appearance. He said: "We should not bottle out over this. We should not waste time searching old white ladies." With terror suspects from the 21 July failed attacks coming from east Africa, and one London suicide bomber, Germaine Lindsay, of African-Caribbean heritage, his remarks open the door for more random searches of African and Caribbean people. Johnson's comments mark a departure from intelligence-led policing where stops and searches are carried out only when officers have received information linking the description of a person to a crime or suspicious activity.

    Home Office minister Blears appeared to distance herself from Johnston as she said that intelligence-led policing was "absolutely the right thing" for officers to do. Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei commented: "Stop and search must be intelligence lead, [it] mustn't be indiscriminate." Abdal Ullah, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said Johnson's remarks were "ill thought through" and ran against efforts to improve community relations in the wake of terrorist attacks in London. He said: "The comments were very unhelpful when we are working with forces up and down the country to try an engage with British Muslims, with young people, particularly who have been in the backlash since 9/11. "It has not been given due care and consideration about race relations, and in terms of community relations more importantly, and I think it's about targeting a group of the community who themselves feel vulnerable." Former London deputy mayor Jenny Jones added: "Although I might fall into the British Transport Police Chief Constable's category of "old white lady", and am therefore safe from stop and search, I am extremely unhappy at the idea of the police targeting young ethnic-looking males instead. I don't believe that is fair or rational, as it presupposes that terrorists are all of one kind."
    ©Black Information Link

    2/8/2005- Home Office minister Hazel Blears said today that she had never endorsed racial profiling by police, as she began a summer-long series of meetings with Muslim community leaders. Speaking before talks in Oldham this morning, Ms Blears said that officers needed to explain to communities that controversial stop-and-search operations were "intelligence led"; racial profiling, she said, was something she had "never, ever" endorsed. And Ms Blears emerged to tell Sky News that she had repeated the message that where British Muslims are angry, "that should be channelled through the democratic process". The Oldham meeting was the first of eight regional summits aimed at improving relations with the Muslim community following last month's London bombings. Despite criticisms from some sections of the Muslim community, Ms Blears insisted that she had met a "fair spread of background voices", and confirmed that both Iraq and Palestine had been voiced as grievances. But she said that disagreements over foreign policy could be "no justification for mass murder", when the "ballot box and legitimate protest" offered a democratic alternative. Oldham councillor Riaz Ahmed - who was mayor of Oldham during the 2001 race riots - said the police powers of stop and search had been mentioned at the meeting, but that "Ms Blears accepts that there is a lot more good than bad elements of the Muslim community". "We want to work together to get rid of this evil among us."

    Mohammed Miah, a 30-year-old community activist in Oldham, said Ms Blears had spoken about Muslims working to rid extremists from their communities. He said: "She was saying that Muslims need to take more of a role in the mosques and that they need to take more responsibility so extremists do not get involved and are wiped out. "She is right, because we do have a responsibility to act." Mr Miah added that it was not just the responsibility of the mosques, but should be addressed in schools as well. Some Muslim leaders have complained at Muslims being unfairly targeted by police following last month's London bomb attacks, which were carried out by Islamist extremists. This morning Ms Blears told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I don't think you should be ruling out anybody in terms of how you exercise stop-and-search powers. You can equally have white people who could be the subject of intelligence." She said that her consistent guidance to police was that "you exercise this power on the basis of the intelligence available to you and you explain that to communities. That is the way you get their trust and confidence". Ms Blear's rejection of racially profiled police stop-and-search exercises comes despite her telling the Commons in March that Muslims had to accept as a "reality" that they would be stopped and searched more. The tactics are again attracting controversy after the British Transport police chief constable, Ian Johnston, suggested in a newspaper on Sunday that his officers would not "waste time searching old white ladies".

    Ms Blears was criticised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission earlier this year after saying that Muslims would have to accept that they may be stopped and searched more. She told the home affairs select committee at the time: "If a threat is from a particular place then our action is going to be targeted at that area ... it means that some of our counter-terrorism powers will be disproportionately experienced by the Muslim community." Today Lord Ouseley, the former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, told the Today programme he accepted that police may need to use racial profiling when conducting stop-and-search operations. But he warned that "sensitivity" should be shown to avoid causing resentment among ethnic minority communities. Lord Ouseley welcomed the Home Office initiative to meet with community figures, saying that Muslim and African communities felt as if "all eyes are upon them" in the wake of the bombings. The home secretary, Charles Clarke, will hold follow-up talks with Muslim leaders on September 20 when he is expected to outline "concrete proposals" to improve relations and fight extremism. The government has already announced that a taskforce or network will be created to go into Muslim communities to take on what the prime minister, Tony Blair, has described as an "evil ideology" based on a perversion of Islam. Meanwhile, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, today told the Financial Times that he had been talking to Muslim leaders at home and abroad about the Guy Fawkes plot, to remind them that the UK has faced a long history of religious-based terrorism. He said it was important Muslim leaders realised religious-based extremism was not unique to Islam.
    ©The Guardian

    3/8/2005- A leading British Islamic scholar has advised Muslim women not to wear the traditional hijab head scarf to protect themselves from attack after the July 7 bombings. Professor Zaki Badawi, head of the Muslim College in London and chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams, made his call amid fears that wearing the hijab would make women more vulnerable to attack or abuse. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan police released figures showing a 600% rise in faith-hate crimes in London directed at Muslims since the bombings. In his fatwa, or religious ruling, Professor Badawi wrote: "In the present tense situation, with the rise of attacks on Muslims, we advise Muslim women who fear being attacked physically or verbally to remove their hijab so as not to be identified by those who are hostile to Muslims. "A woman wearing the hijab in the present circumstances could suffer aggression from irresponsible elements. Therefore, she ought not to wear it. Dress is meant to protect from harm not to invite it." According to some with knowledge of police intelligence, the backlash since the bombings has not led to a noticeable rise in attacks on Muslim women wearing the hijab. But since the attacks on the US on September 11 2001 - and particularly since the London bombings - Muslims have reported greater fear of Islamophobic attacks. Dr Badawi's ruling provoked a mixed reaction among British Islamic groups. Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "It is not Muslim women who need to change their behaviour, it is those thugs and the far right who may target them who need to change." Massoud Shadjareh, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: "Muslim women are being attacked without wearing the hijab, non-Muslim Asians are being attacked. We need to address the issue of Islamophobia." A Guardian poll last week found that one in five Muslims said they or a family member had suffered hostility or abuse since July 7.
    ©The Guardian

    4/8/2005- A Muslim women's group has criticised a suggestion they should stop wearing headscarves for fear of hate attacks. The Assembly for the Protection of the Hijab said wearing the traditional Islamic scarf was a duty and compromising was giving in to violence. But chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams Dr Zaki Badawi said removal was justified, as wearing it in the present climate might invite harm. Dr Badawi's ruling comes after a huge rise in faith hate crimes in London. The Metropolitan Police said on Wednesday that there were 269 crimes in the three weeks after the 7 July bombings, compared with 40 in the same period of 2004. Dr Badawi, who is seen as a progressive Muslim leader who advocates integration, warned that "a woman wearing the hijab... could suffer aggression from irresponsible elements". "In the present tense situation, with the rise of attacks on Muslims, we advise Muslim women who fear being attacked physically or verbally to remove their hijab so as not to be identified by those hostile to Muslims." The hijab was designed to identify women as Muslim and thus protect them from molestation, he said, so if it led to harassment it ought not to be worn. "Dress is meant to protect from harm, not to invite it," he added. Dr Badawi said he had sought to clarify the situation after being approached by a concerned woman. His ruling did not mean that women should not wear the headscarf, but simply gave them the choice to remove it if they felt threatened, he said. But Rajnaara Akhtar, of the Assembly for the Protection of the Hijab, said women should not abandon the key outward symbol of their faith. To remove the headscarf denies women's "identities as Muslims", she said. She added that the Koran only allowed woman to remove the hijab if they feared for their lives. "It's not about life and death. It's not so extreme that if we step out of our house with our hijab we are going to get attacked." She added that most people in Britain understood that those who attacked London were not Muslims.

    Giles Keppell, a Middle East academic expert who advised the French government on its move to ban Muslim headscarves in schools, said Britain was a very multi-cultural society where differences between groups had been encouraged. But he pointed out that: "for the time being the situation in Britain is very peculiar". Met Police Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur said there was no doubt that incidents "impacting on" the Muslim community had increased. Communities were also frustrated by the increased use of stop-and-search and the new "shoot-to-kill to protect" policy for suicide bombers, he said. "It can lead to these communities completely retreating and not engaging at a time when we want their engagement and support," he warned. A spokesman for the Muslim Safety Forum, an umbrella group which works closely with the police, said the figures reflected a recent increase in calls to their members about abuse and attacks. The figures emerged as Home Office minister Hazel Blears held the first in a series of meetings with Muslim community groups. Ahead of the meeting, Ms Blears pledged that Muslims would not be discriminated against by police trying to prevent potential terror attacks. She also opposed racial profiling, saying stop and searches should be based on good intelligence, not just skin colour.
    ©BBC News

    Huge rise in race attacks on all ethnic minorities across Britain. Senior Tory MP tells Muslims: 'If you don't like our way of life, get out'. Senior Muslim tells women not to wear veils in public for fear of assault
    By Terri Judd, Nigel Morris, Ian Herbert and Paul Kelbie

    4/8/2005- Increasing evidence has emerged of a backlash against Muslims and members of ethnic minorities in the wake of the London bombings. Police forces across Britain have recorded a dramatic rise in racist assaults and abuse in the aftermath of the July 7 suicide attacks. Four weeks after the explosions in the capital, a survey of forces by The Independent yesterday found a substantial increase in racially motivated crime, particularly in inner cities. Experts said as many as one in six of those abused or attacked were not Muslim but were simply of an Asian appearance. As community leaders expressed alarm over the surge in race-hate crimes, a Conservative frontbench spokesman was accused of stoking racial tension by calling for Muslims to get out of Britain if they did not like its way of life. The increased tension was further highlighted last night by a moderate cleric who suggested that Muslim women should shed their traditional veils in order to prevent themselves becoming targets. The survey of police forces, carried out the day after the Metropolitan Police reported that faith-hate crimes had risen by 600 per cent compared with last year, showed that other large forces, such as West Yorkshire and West Midlands, had seen significant increases in race-hate crime. It also indicated that, far from being centred on London, such incidents have been recorded across Britain. The biggest rises were in forces with urban areas with large ethnic minority populations. The number of attacks in South Yorkshire, which includes Sheffield and Doncaster, leapt from 48 in the previous July to 137. Attacks reported by West Yorkshire Police, which covers Leeds and Bradford, leapt from 195 to 366. In the West Midlands, including Birmingham, attacks increased by 46 per cent, while Merseyside saw an increase of 76 per cent. Nationally, the figures rose by 24 per cent, from 3,355 to 4,160. In Scotland, the level of racist attacks rose from 359 to 438. The Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland said 64 could be directly linked to the London attacks "because of what was said or written at the time of the incident". The Islamic Human Rights Commission said it had received 320 complaints of attacks on Muslims since the 7 July bombings. Before that, the average was about five a week. Beena Faridi, a case worker, said: "It seems to be happening all over the country. There is a feeling of fear on the streets."

    Gerald Howarth, a Tory defence spokesman, meanwhile sparked uproar as he suggested that extremist Muslims should leave the country. "There can be no compromise with these people," he told The Scotsman. "If they don't like our way of life, there is a simple remedy - go to another country, get out." Asked "what if those people were born in Britain?" he replied: "Tough. If you don't give allegiance to this country, then leave. There are plenty of other countries whose way of life would appear to be more conducive to what they aspire to. They would be happy and we would be happy." His party leader, Michael Howard, last night said he stood by Mr Howarth's comments, stressing they were aimed at people who so despised Britain they wanted to bomb it. Anas Altikriti, spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, responded: "Mr Howarth must realise that his own statement will have a real and serious bearing on the street. There are people who will take his words and understand them in a particular way and this will induce further harm rather than good." Women in particular have become victims of abuse, being spat at and threatened in what campaigners called cowardly attacks. Dr Zaki Badawi, head of the Muslim College in London and chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams, said: "In the present tense situation, with the rise of attacks on Muslims, we advise Muslim women who fear being attacked physically or verbally to remove their hijab so as not to be identified by those who are hostile to Muslims." In what will be viewed by many as controversial advice, Dr Badawi said: "Dress is meant to protect from harm, not to invite it. The preservation of life and limb has a much higher priority than appearance, whether in dress or in speech."

    Some of the most severe attacks have been in the Midlands. Two Asian restaurant workers were injured after being racially assaulted at an Indian restaurant in Atherstone, north Warwickshire. One man was stabbed and another suffered cuts. In Edinburgh, two Asians, aged 18 and 20, were attacked by a gang of 10 men who made comments about the London bombings as they kicked the car in which the victims were travelling. They also threw a hammer through the window, smashing the glass and hitting the passenger on the shoulder. Suresh Grover, of The Monitoring Group, said: "We have had calls from South Americans, Eastern Europeans, Hindus and Sikhs. Ten to 15 per cent are people who are a different religion to Muslims. We have one very serious case of a disabled Hindu man who was beaten up by his neighbour and left with severe head injuries while being called al-Qa'ida." In its 26-year history, he added, The Monitoring Group had never witnessed such a level of attacks, either in number or severity. "We have received over 200 per cent more calls since 7 July. I have dealt with 83 emergency calls alone. It is not just abuse, a frightening level is actually attacks. "We have restaurant owners receving visits from people threatening to burn down the building, a 24-year-old Turkish guy who was senselessly beaten in a park, an Iraqi schoolgirl in Devon who was beaten and an old woman who was attacked by boys outside her house in Ealing, west London." Mr Grover said that he had been shocked by the spread of intolerance, adding: "Other drivers have started putting two fingers up and calling me a terrorist. I have never experienced anything like that before."

    'I am too scared to go out walking'
    Frail and frightened, Siham Kadoura emerges from her flat just once every few weeks to visit her local mosque. After years of peaceful co-existence with her neighbours, the 67-year-old former headmistress does not even dare venture out to visit her 10 grandchildren. But it is hard to hide from the racists when bricks come through your window and dog faeces are left on your doorstep, which is daubed with a swastika. "It was the night, about three o'clock. I heard smashing. I was alone and I was very scared," said the mother of three children. "I have tried to live with it, but I have got very, very depressed. It makes me feel I am a target. It is traumatic. "I used to go out walking in the park and visiting my family. But I am too scared now. I have no life. I only go out once or twice a month to the mosque and the shops." Mrs Kadoura, who lives alone, has recently had a hip operation and has heart problems. She has had her car repeatedly vandalised, despite its disabled sticker. She is not alone. Attendance at her local mosque, she explained, has halved because people were afraid. She had never experienced racism until the 11 September terrorist attacks. Then, suddenly, groups of boys began swearing and spitting at her in the hallways. After a while, the racists faded away but, she said, they are back with a vengeance since the attacks on London.

    'Look at what you have done'
    Aman Moradi, a shopkeeper, 45, was racially abused by David Parritt, a postman, who pushed her in the face before calling her a "fucking Muslim". He was given a community sentence yesterday. "No one in London would feel safe in the presence of any one Muslim," he said to her. The attack took place on 7 July, the same day as the London bombings. "Today you fucking put the bomb on the train. Look at what the fuck you have done, you fucking Muslims," he said. Parritt, age 45, spat outside the shop on Fulham Road, pushed the shopkeeper in the face and sent a display of chocolates flying inside. In mitigation for Parritt, his solicitor at West London magistrates' court said: "I think there is no reason an individual should not feel anger but it is entirely regrettable it was directed at this individual who had no association with the events." Parritt was sentenced to 200 hours community service with £70 compensation and £85 costs after previously pleading guilty to racially aggravated common assault and racially aggravated criminal damage. Speaking after the case, Parritt said: "I regret what I did and I shall not do it again. I regretted it straight afterwards, to be honest, and I hope no one else innocent gets injured from either community."
    ©Belfast Telegraph

    5/8/2005- Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed strict anti-terror measures Friday that would allow Britain to expel foreigners who preach hatred, close extremist mosques and bar entry to Muslim radicals. ``The rules of the game are changing'' following last month's bomb attacks, he declared. The proposals, which also target extremist Web sites and bookshops, are aimed primarily at excluding radical Islamic clerics accused of whipping up hatred and violence among vulnerable, disenfranchised Muslim men. ``We are angry. We are angry about extremism and about what they are doing to our country, angry about their abuse of our good nature,'' Blair said. ``We welcome people here who share our values and our way of life. But don't meddle in extremism because if you meddle in it ... you are going back out again.'' The July 7 suicide attacks on London's transit system and the failed July 21 attacks stunned Britons, and raised fresh concern about the freedoms Britain offers to individuals and groups known for extremist activities. Blair said the focus of the anti-terror proposals was on foreigners because authorities believe ``the ideological drive and push is coming from the outside.'' But some members of Britain's 1.8 million-strong Muslim community expressed concern that moderate Muslims would be subjected to new prejudices and restrictions. Britain has been criticized for lagging behind its European neighbors in responding to the growing threat of terrorism. Since last month's attacks, France has expelled two extremist Muslim prayer leaders and plans to ship home eight others. Italian authorities deported eight Palestinian imams.

    Some British officials feel human rights legislation has hampered Britain's ability to deport foreigners. As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Britain is not allowed to deport people to a country where they may face torture or death. Blair is hoping that by winning pledges from countries that deportees would not be subjected to inhumane treatment, Britain can take a tougher line. An agreement has already been reached with Jordan, and London is talking to Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. The prime minister said some of the measures will require legislation and that he would consider asking Parliament to reconvene next month - rather than October - to take up the proposals. Other measures, such as broadening the grounds for deportation, can be enacted immediately, but likely will face court tests. Blair said the government was prepared to amend human rights legislation if legal challenges proved insurmountable. Under the proposals, anyone who preaches hatred or violence could be deported, those linked to terrorism would be automatically refused asylum and steps would be taken to make it easier to strip naturalized citizens of their British citizenship if they preached violence. The government also will consider a request from police and security services to hold terror suspects for three months without charge. The limit is 14 days. The measures also would extend the use of home arrest for Britons who can't be deported. New powers would be created to allow the closure of mosques that foment extremism. Authorities will draw up lists of radical preachers who will not be allowed to enter Britain, and a list of radical Web sites and bookstores. Any foreigner who ``actively engages'' with those places could face deportation. Membership in extremist Islamic groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir would also become a crime, as would glorifying terrorism.

    It isn't immediately clear how the measures would have affected those suspected of carrying out last month's attacks. Three of the suspected July 7 bombers, who killed 56 people including themselves, were Pakistani Britons; the fourth moved from Jamaica as a child. At least three of the four men in custody for allegedly carrying out out the botched attacks July 21 were immigrants from East Africa. The proposals, however, could affect their ideological leaders, as well as people such as jailed Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who allegedly encouraged the killings of Jews and other non-Muslims and is wanted in the United States, and Omar Mahmoud abu Omar, a Palestinian Islamic extremist better known as Abu Qatada. Sheikh Omar Bakri, who has frequently shrugged off allegations that he preaches extremism, criticized Blair's proposals, particularly suggestions that he could be targeted for remarks made years ago. ``If they believed what I said was illegal, why didn't they arrest me at the time, they know my work well,'' he told The Associated Press. ``However, I feel I've done a great service for Muslims. I've addressed the anger and frustration so many youth feel.'' He said if asked to go, he would return to Lebanon rather than challenge the decision. Iqbal Sacranie, who heads the Muslim Council of Britain, said the group would be seeking more details from Blair, but his early response was concern. ``Our democratic values need to be upheld, not undermined,'' he said. ``No one should have the right to close down an institution such as a mosque, it will only ignite further anger and frustration in the hearts and minds of Muslims,'' Ajmal Masroor of the Islamic Society of Britain told The Associated Press. Other Muslims called the proposals long overdue. ``Day after day these lunatics on our behalf ... are really messing up our lives here,'' Omar Farooq, also of the Islamic Society of Britain, told the British Broadcasting Corp.
    ©The Guardian

    5/8/2005- The family of one of the London bombing dead has become the latest victim of the racial abuse backlash against muslims which is sweeping the country. The Bhatti family, who are muslims, today told how their son had been set upon in the street by a man shouting anti-muslim taunts and accusing him of being like one of the bombers. Fiaz Bhatti, 29, lost his fiancée Benedetta Ciaccia, 30, in the 7/7 attacks just four weeks ago. He was left devastated by her death and spent days scouring the streets of London. It was only last week that Fiaz and many of his relatives attended the funeral of Italian-born Miss Ciaccia in her home city of Rome. Now Fiaz's brother, Imran, has found himself the target of racist abuse. The 25-year-old was shouted at as he walked along Brunswick Road, near his father's newsagent's shop where the family lives. Imran and Fiaz's father Mahmood today said: "He came back very upset and we called the police straight away." The attack comes as police reveal an increase in hate crimes against muslims in the wake of the London bombings on July 7 and the attempted bombings on July 21. Figures show religious hate crimes have risen six-fold in London since the attacks. In Norwich, 62 hate crimes have been reported to police in the past year. Police today confirmed they were treating the assault against Mr Bhatti as a racially motivated.

    Investigating officer PC Sophie Nicholas said: "The abuse was very distressing for the victim and was caused by ignorance and prejudice. This kind of abuse will not be tolerated in Norwich and investigations are continuing to find the person responsible." Imran today said he had been upset by the abuse from the man, who was on the old hospital site, on Monday afternoon. He urged people to come forward to help find the person who was shouting at him and to make sure attacks against muslims did not escalate. Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "I regret that this is by no means an isolated incident. Since July 7 we have seen a very large increase in abuse and faith hate crimes being committed. "In this particular incident the fact that the muslim subjected to this kind of abuse lost someone close to him in the bombings makes it even more dismaying. This person is not unconnected to the bombings himself in that he is a victim of them. If it will make people think more before taking out their anger then hopefully some good will have come of it." Anne Matin, director of the Norfolk and Norwich Racial Equality Council, said: "This is another example of the ignorance in Norfolk about racism. It is very sad and I have confidence that the constabulary are doing everything they can in dealing with this." Miss Ciaccia worked in London as a business analyst and was on her way to work when she was caught in the blast at Aldgate station. The couple lived together in Riverside, Norwich.They were to have been married on September 11 this year. At the time of her death, Fiaz said: "She was strong and independent and she loved to travel and socialise. We hadn't had a chance to travel together, the honeymoon was to be our first trip."
    ©Evening News 24

    By Fizza Qureshi

    2/8/2005- Doctors met recently to discuss the right to health of detained asylum seekers and their invidious role as gatekeepers to health care. The conference held on 25 June 2005 on the right to health of detained asylum seekers and migrants, organised by Doctors for Human Rights, focused primarily on a report produced by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID). The report 'Fit to be detained? challenging the detention of asylum seekers and migrants with health needs', published in May, had analysed medical assessments of sixteen detainees - men, women and children - in different detention centres and highlighted areas of concern with regards to their health rights.

    Ensuring health standards
    Concerns of the conference centred on the lack of follow-up treatment for those detainees who required further health treatment, and the disruption to treatment as detainees were moved to different centres. Most worryingly, privately-run removal centres such as Harmondsworth and Colnbrook are not obliged to implement health care to NHS standards and, therefore, contract out services to GPs and other health professionals. Health professionals at the conference were aware that such actions ran the risk of downgrading the quality of care and discussed the suggestion that NHS Trusts take over responsibility of centres within their catchment area. (At present, to ensure quality of care, contract monitors are employed as independent assessors of those centres. However, it is alleged that such contract monitors sometimes resemble 'employees' rather than impartial examiners, thereby calling into question the independence of the monitoring process.)

    Illness and bail
    Although asylum seekers are at risk of suffering or having suffered from ill health, Sarah Cutler, author of the BID report, highlighted that health was not considered as a significant factor in bail decisions on detainees. Ill health was not given importance within bail hearings even though it could be a vital reason for granting bail, particularly in cases of mental illness in those who had fled their countries because of fear of persecution or who had been tortured. It was also found that those asylum seekers who had increased health complications and therefore more of a financial 'burden' on the health service were more at risk of deportation. The third focus point for the conference was the internment without trial of over ten foreign 'terror suspects' in Belmarsh high security prison. After varying lengths of detention, psychiatric and psychological assessments of the detainees found that they suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and a host of other psychological ailments. Internment without trial had led to at least three of the internees being transferred to Broadmoor - a secure psychiatric hospital. The most disconcerting aspect of the conference was the underlying issue of health professionals becoming the 'gatekeepers' of health care to vulnerable individuals. For doctors could become implicated in violating not just their own Hippocratic oath but the right to medical care enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    Campaigners fear framing of law will allow 'conscientious objector' registrars and local authorities to boycott civil partnership ceremonies

    4/8/2005- Registrars opposed to civil partnerships for gay couples are threatening to plead "conscientious objection" and refuse to preside over partnership registrations when they are introduced later this year. Critics of the new legal status, often dubbed gay marriage, believe the law paving the way for civil partnerships will allow them to opt out of conducting the services. Gay rights campaigners and the professional body representing registrars yesterday warned that individual boycotts would be difficult to prevent, but could pose problems for gay couples - particularly in areas with only a few registrars where it would be more difficult to cover for objectors. The Association of Registrars and Celebratory Services (Arcs) called on all registrars to officiate at the services, which it said should be "conducted universally up and down the country". Stonewall, the gay and lesbian pressure group, said the partnerships, coming into force from December 21, should not be overshadowed by "homophobic registrars". Concern about the likelihood of self-styled conscientious objectors in some register offices comes amid a row over moves by Bromley council in London not to allow gay couples to hold ceremonies on municipal property when they register their partnerships.

    The Civil Partnerships Act 2004 hands local authorities responsibility for delivering civil partnerships, which give gay couples the right to apply for joint state pensions, have shared parental responsibility and gain recognition under inheritance laws. But while the law obliges authorities to provide for registrations, it does not compel them to permit or host ceremonies. Conservative-run Bromley council, whose leader, Stephen Carr, was quoted as saying "gay marriage undermines our society and family values", appears to have rowed back on a planned ban, saying it will decide on the issue in October. Gay couples also face another obstacle in the form of reluctance on the part of many non-municipal wedding venues, including hotels and banqueting halls, to hosting civil partnership celebrations. According to Pink Weddings, the UK's biggest gay wedding company, 35% of wedding venues are not prepared to host ceremonies for same-sex couples. Val Gilfillan, the chair of Arcs and superintendent registrar, said the fact that the legislation lays responsibility for the civil partnerships with local authorities, rather than with registrars themselves, meant the potential existed for some registrars to opt out of conducting services. "Obviously Arcs would want to encourage registration professionals to offer this service in parity with marriage, with no discrimination, but there may be some individuals with conscience issues," she said. "It is something that is being discussed." She predicted it would "only be an odd one in an office" who might object, and suggested that would be likely to be "a management issue" in which colleagues without objections were assigned to preside at civil partnership services. Nevertheless, it was not up to registrars to judge couples, she said. "There are a number of marriages where I feel a couple are very ill-suited, but I don't consider it is my position to make a judgment on that." A Stonewall spokesman, Alan Wardle, said the organisation was pressing the government for rapid introduction of legislation banning discrimination in the provision of goods and services, which would prevent venues blocking gay ceremonies and should also compel local authorities to offer gay couples the same right to a ceremony as straight couples.

    How to tie the knot

  • Civil partnership, though often referred to as "gay marriage", is a new legal relationship, distinct from marriage and exclusively for same-sex couples.
  • The Civil Partnerships Act comes into force in December. Couples can give notice of their intention to register from December 5, and to hold a service, in which they sign an official document, and ceremony from December 21.
  • Couples who register broadly gain parity of treatment. They can apply for joint state pensions, gain recognition under inheritance laws and have shared parental responsibility.
  • Every local authority has to provide a facility for registration of a civil partnership, but couples will also be able to register in other venues, such as hotels, providing they are approved.
  • The new law also introduces "gay divorce". Known as dissolution, it will be a court-based process in which arrangements will be made for division of property, financial relief, residence and any child contact.
  • Civil partnerships have been preceded by partnership registration, an essentially symbolic process introduced by the Greater London Authority in 2001 and then extended to other cities.
    ©The Guardian

    1/8/2005- English Gypsies and Irish Travelers will make a last-ditch effort tomorrow to avert what could be the largest and most violent eviction of Traveler families ever to take place in the United Kingdom. The attempt will be made at a meeting of the Basildon local council, which decided on June 21 to evict 86 Traveler families from the Dale Farm settlement in the County of Essex. Temporary planning permission for the 86 families- roughly 600 Travelers- was granted by the British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott two years ago, but expired on 13 May 2005. If the evictions go ahead, the 600 Travelers will be forced out on the road, where they will be liable for arrest under British vagrancy laws. Advocates for Gypsies and Travelers warned of serious violence if the evictions go ahead. Over the past 18 months, a number of Travelers have been assaulted and even injured by bailiffs as they tried to resist expulsion from encampments at Hovefields, Twin Oaks and Bulkington. Catherine Beard, Project Coordinator for the UK Association of Gypsy Women, told the Advocacy Project that the eviction would create enormous hardship for those affected. Children will be forced to leave schools, and the sick and elderly will lose their medical treatment. "It is just beyond belief," she said. As well as being a leading member of the UK Association, Ms. Beard is also Campaign Coordinator for the International Roma Women's Network (IRWN), a group of 18 Roma women activists from East and West Europe which receives support from the Advocacy Project. The Dale Farm confrontation stems from the fact that the 86 families have legally purchased the land, but have not been granted planning permission to settle on their plots. A 2003 survey of homelessness among Travelers in the UK found that 96% of those who apply for planning permission are turned down. More than 300 private plots owned by Gypsy-Travelers have been razed following the withholding of planning permission.

    The Council has called the July 14 meeting to vote on release of four million euro (USD 4.8 million) that has been earmarked for the evictions. An additional 600,000 euro (5,000) has been set aside for legal fees to ensure that the Travelers do not settle elsewhere in the county. Some estimate that the Council could also face claims for damaged property of up to eight million euro (.6 million). Travelers argue that these large sums would be better spent finding them alternative housing. They have offered to abandon their homes in Dale Farm, which are valued at one million euro (.2 million) and purchase other land if the Council can guarantee that they will receive planning permission. The Council has refused this offer, saying that it has provided several legal sites and that responsibility for finding further sites rests with the central government in London. The Gypsy-Traveler communities have mounted a sophisticated campaign to mobilize local and international support for their cause. Catherine Beard and her colleagues at the UK Association have lobbied members of the British and European parliaments. They have also appealed to the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, and Alvaro Gil-Robles, the European Human Rights Commissioner. After meeting with Ms. Beard in London, Mr. Gil-Robles criticized Britain's policy on evictions, in a November 12, 2004 report. The UK Association has also prepared a detailed question-and-answer document in advance of the Basildon meeting which has been sent out to all members of the IRWN. Ms. Beard said that she hopes that the IRWN will make multiple protests to British embassies around Europe. As a testament to the effectiveness of this campaign, twenty individuals, including a British MP Nick Harvey, have agreed to monitor for human rights abuses during the planned evictions. There has also been a groundswell of support for the Travelers among the Basildon community. Over 400 residents have signed a petition against the evictions. In spite of their impressive advocacy, Britain's Gypsies and Travelers remain painfully vulnerable and disempowered. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, has yet to respond to the Association's April 8 appeal.
    ©Dzeno Association

    3/8/2005- A Mayo traveller is leading a major campaign for a Traveller Flag or symbol for their community. The work which Bernard Sweeney is currently putting all of his time into and which he is hoping will result in something positive for his community, will be decided in September when the community will vote around the country for the acceptance or disregard of a national symbol for travellers. A native of Ballinrobe, Bernard has been travelling around the county for the past number of weeks in the hope of convincing his comrades their community should have an overall symbol which he is hoping will be a flag. As he explained, the idea came when a group of travellers got together to form a group called "Mincheir Whiden" or ‘Travellers Talking'. They were initially set up to discuss traveller's issues and rights and this idea was then brought up within the members present. Bernard said they felt, "there was a need to have a traveller only space within the community development area because all other involved organisations are partnerships between the traveller and settled communities." The idea has now advanced onto a much broader platform and it has been decided that a vote should be taken within the community on September 15th next on a national level. "We decided to organise a vote which will take place in September in which people will decide on a symbol, a flag, or nothing at all. The democracy around it is very even handed. It will include travellers all over Ireland aged 15 and over."

    Despite much of the traveller community feeling this is a good idea, they have met opposition towards a symbol. "Some travellers feel we are diluting their Irishness, we already have one flag and why have another. Others have used tactics of scare mongering. People have been told they will lose their passports, driver's licence, etc, to turn them against it." Bernard has now moved to live in Castlebar and works with Mayo Traveller Support Group. He is one of two workers who travel the county full time. "We need all the voluntary help we can get and we want travellers to get involved. It is low self esteem and confidence that plays a big part in it." He himself is 100% for the idea. "There are flags everywhere. There are town, county, boyscouts, club flags, etc, up to the National flag and it is all part of one's identity. So we are just saying why not have a flag that represents travellers. It would identify us as Irish travellers. Other ethnic groups around the world all have flags. Personally I think it would be a mark of respect for travellers who have died over the years. For me, we would have it on anti-racism days, celebrations as a badge of pride. It is nothing more than that and will never take away our Irishness." Bernard has his own theory on why people are against the concept. "People are against it because they are feeding off their own fear a lot. Being an ethnic minority group, even though we are not recognised by the Government as an ethnic minority group, we are recognised throughout England and the North but not the Republic. It think it is fear of identifying ourselves at all due to racism and discrimination. Maybe travellers are not ready for it yet." Despite this, there have been 30,000 voting cards printed and being distributed throughout the country with support groups holding the polling stations. "It's like nothing that has been done before and is the most inclusive piece of work."

    Getting the community to vote for the idea on a majority basis, Bernard feels, is going to be difficult and will cause problems. "I don't think we will get it. The scare mongering and fear is being put into it and we are a very vulnerable community in terms of what has happened in the last number of years through opression, etc." Members of the "Mincheir Whiden" group in Mayo include Rose Mary Maughan from Ballinrobe and Bernadette Commiskey who is part of the Traveller Support Group. In total there are 16 members but, "Those who are 20 years or 20 minutes involved have an equal say. The group themselves have decided not to take a stance on the flag because there are people within the group who are for and against it. "It will be the travellers themselves who will decide." On September 5th in The Linenhall Arts Centre, travellers are being invited to an information evening on the whole issue. "We have asked Martin Collins from Pavee Point and Rose Mary or Bernadette to give a speech on what the whole voting system is about and also the consequences of voting for and against. We are calling on anyone who is against the flag to come forward and speak about it and to put their points forwards. There is no settled influence on this. " The response in his home county, Bernard says is good and he has not come across anyone, as yet, who is against it. Despite this the community in Sligo are 50/50 and some people in Galway are against it. "Why have any flag if it is not a badge of honour and pride. We are asking support groups to help us out. If it goes ahead it will be a badge of pride which marks our identity. There is nothing political involved in it. We are not going away, this is who we are and we are proud of who we are," Bernard concluded.
    ©Western People

    Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia who arrived in the 1990s say they are still victims of local hostility.
    By Robert Vizi, editor with Gradjanski list, a Novi Sad daily.

    3/8/2005- "We say ‘hello' to the locals and that's about the sum of relationship. They've never accepted us and never will." So says Zora Cvijic, a Serb refugee from Croatia, as she wipes her hands on her apron, cutting fat from fresh pork in her backyard in the town of Veternik. Once a small settlement of only a few thousand people, Veternik has mushroomed in size to around 20,000 in recent years, party because of an influx of refugees like Zora Cvijic, who came from Tenj, eastern Croatia. Though many are relieved to be living in the relative security of Serbia, relations between the incomers and the host community are far from rosy. There is distrust on both sides and many of the refugees resent the attitude of both the state and of the locals towards them. "A refugee has no right to anything," Zora added, bitterly. "No one has helped us. No one asks if you need something." Vojvodina was the destination of the greatest number of Serb refugees from the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina in the 1990s.

    According to local officials, some 350,000 refugees were registered as living in Vojvodina in 1996, of whom 200,000 remained in 2001. By 2004, only 140,000 refugees were left in the whole of Serbia. But that does not mean the others all went home. Many lost their refugee status by becoming citizens of Serbia and Montenegro. Others left for third countries. The 140,000 who remain can only in the countries that they came from. Zora Cvijic says no one would even offer them a basic shelter when they arrived in the mid-Nineties. "My husband and I dug a hole in the ground as our future cellar, laid the bricks and covered them with nylon," she recalled. "This was our first home in Serbia." They then earned the money to build a proper house by working illegally in Austria. Radenko Popic, president of the regional committee for assistance to refugees in Vojvodina, says complaints about local hostility are well founded. He says there is still a good deal of animosity towards the newcomers, though the authorities conceal this fact, "It is a consequence of a lack of proper media coverage of the refugee problem." There is no factual reporting, he continued, about "how living standards are not falling because of the influx of refugees". Popic says the media neglect to mention that refugees are net financial contributors to Vojvodina, paying about a million euro in total every month in rent alone, for example. In reality, Vojvodina has always been a destination for migrants, its proverbially rich soil attracting wave upon wave of merchants and farmers. In the 18th century, the Habsburg Empire settled a colourful mixture of Hungarians, Germans, Serbs, Croats, Slovaks and many others on the territory. Many of their descendants are there today, still maintaining the customs, languages and religion of their forefathers. After the Second World War, the government of Yugoslavia, which had obtained Vojvodina in 1918, settled landless peasants from Bosnia. The older natives called them "colonists" and "newcomers" and these terms are still used for the migrants who arrived in Vojvodina in the late 1940s.

    Ranko Koncar, a historian, told the Balkan Crisis Report, BCR, that around 350,000 people moved to Vojvodina after the Second World War, mostly from Bosnia and Montenegro. "There was a so-called ‘colonisation plan' in post-war Yugoslavia," he said. "People from war-torn, devastated areas were moved to Vojvodina and the first to go were families that had been Partisans between 1941 and 1943." Their arrival was preceded by the forced exodus of several hundred thousand ethnic Germans and some Hungarians. In the course of the Balkan wars in the Nineties, Vojvodina received a new wave of incomers, this time comprising refugees from Croatia and Bosnia. As before in Vojvodina's history, their arrival was accompanied by forced expulsions, though this time it was not Germans but ethnic Croats who were sent packing. About 30,000 Croats were expelled from the southwestern area known as Srem, according to the Democratic Union of Vojvodina Croats. Of the peak total of 350,000 refugees in Vojvodina during the Nineties, less then 100,000 remain today. Katica Bengin, a local official dealing with refugees, says numbers are dwindling. Some, she said, had gone on to third countries, while the others had either returned home or taken out citizenship of Serbia and Montenegro. "The local residents still perceive the refugees as newcomers and intruders," she added. Bengin says bad feelings are not a question of personal animosity but stem from poorly managed integration and from the fact that some abused the system. To illustrate this point, she refers to cases of refugees who have remained in collective centres though they clearly do not meet the criteria for free food and shelter, having obtained jobs. "In the first wave of refugees in 1991, some got employment through their old work connections, getting exactly the same positions in Vojvodina that they had held elsewhere," recalled Bengin. "Managers got new jobs as managers, officials as officials, public servants as public servants and so on." Bengin believes this trend stirred feelings of resentment among the locals who felt they were losing out in the jobs market.

    After the Croatian military offensive of 1995, codenamed Oluja (Storm), fresh columns of refugees streamed into Vojvodina, many of whom illegally constructed houses, some of sumptuous proportions, further irritating locals. Dragan, a local man from Veternik, says the old Vojvodina people still look on the settlers of the 1940s as colonists and newcomers, so it is natural that refugees from the Nineties should also be viewed in the same way. "Many refugees still speak ‘ijekavica', (the wester