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Headlines 16 October, 2015

Bulgaria: UNHCR Condemns Incident with Migrant near Border

16/10/2015- The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has strongly condemned the shooting which resulted in the death of a migrant near Bulgaria's border with Turkey, its local spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov, has announced. "We condemn the fact that the death of an asylum seeker from Afghanistan occurred and that it happened while he was trying to reach safety in Bulgaria and to exert his universal right to seeking asylum," Cheshirkov told the Bulgarian National Radio, also urging an "immediate, thorough, transparent, and independent" investigation into the tragic event. Earlier, the Bulgarian Interior Ministry's Chief Secretary, Georgi Kostov, warned that migrants from Afghanistan (such as the total of 54 people of which the victim's group consisted) arrested at the borders are to be extradited to their homeland under FRONTEX regulations.
© Novinite


Finland: Parliament condemns racism, mulls over its definition

15/10/2015- All parliamentary parties signed on Wednesday a declaration against racism and demonstrated the same solidarity while engaging in a topical discussion initiated by Member of Parliament Nasima Razmyar (SDP). The impetus for the discussion stemmed from the budding climate of intolerance and increasing incidence of hate speech. “We've witnessed too many times how few steps there are from hate speech to hate acts,” Razmyar stated. She urged her fellow Members of Parliament in her emotional speech to send out a clearly-worded message: “There is no room for racism and hate speech in Finland.” Her colleagues embraced the message but also emphasised that whipping up solidarity in the session hall is not enough without appropriate actions. Each and every one of us can demonstrate by ourselves that tolerance can overcome hate, Razmyar summarised, stirring up an emotional response even from veteran lawmaker Eero Heinäluoma (SDP).

While the session hall was full to bursting with goodwill, Members of Parliament also examined the definition of racism. Sampo Terho, the chairperson of the Finns Party Parliamentary Group, reminded that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights defines racism as discrimination based on race, colour, birthplace or national or ethnic origin. Petteri Orpo (NCP), the Minister of the Interior, estimated that some have been too eager to brand their fellow citizens racists. “You can be critical of the immigration policy or concerned about how Finland can cope with the high number of immigrants without being one bit racist,” he said. “It's tolerance to appreciate the concerns and different opinions of people under such difficult circumstances. Branding someone a racist is a harsh accusation.”

Tarja Filatov (SDP) defined racism as the subjugation of another population group. “You consider your own group of people superior to the other group.” Some make racist statements, while others advocate “an open-door policy,” said Peter Östman (Christian Democrats). “The Christian Democrats don't like either line. We don't tolerate racism, but we don't like decisions that include coercion [such as the obligatory re-settlement of asylum seekers].” Certain members of the opposition took the opportunity to criticise the spending cuts proposed by the Government. Outi Alanko-Kahiluoto (Greens) warned that the cuts in education funding will hinder the integration of immigrants. The chairperson of the Left Alliance, Paavo Arhinmäki, estimated that people have a just reason to feel disoriented and anxious about their jobs, homes and livelihood.

“However, this is not because of immigrants but because of the spending cuts and economic policy pursued by the Government that were drawn up before the number of asylum seekers arriving in Finland started to grow,” said Arhinmäki. Razmyar estimated that it is also time to update the assessment of the risks posed by extremist movements and determine carefully how the legislation can be improved to prevent violent acts by extremist groups. Estimates drawn up by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) suggest according to Orpo that a few hundred people are currently affiliated with extremist groups. Finland, he added, has beefed up the monitoring of extremist groups and is currently updating the national action plan for preventing violent extremism.
© The Helsinki Times.


Belgium charges French comedian over racist remarks

15/10/2015- The Belga press agency reports that controversial French comedian Dieudonné has been charged with using anti-Semitic, discriminatory speech during a performance in Belgium and faces prison time of up to six months without parole should he be convicted. "His performance is full of so many defamatory, offensive expressions that it makes one want to vomit," said Damien Leboutte, the prosecutor in Liège, when reading the indictment. Leboutte is also seeking to fine the comedian EUR 5 000. The verdict is expected on 25 November. According to the Belgian authorities, Dieudonné, a 49-year-old whose full name is Dieudonné Mbala Mbala, committed his offense during a performance in March 2012 in Liège. His words allegedly incited racial intolerance and expressed negativistic, revisionist ideas. Belgian daily Le Soir reports, for example, that the comedian called Adolf Hitler a "good-hearted braggart". Dieudonné is the son of a Cameroonian man and a Frenchwoman and was actively against racism during the 1990s, when he became famous as part of a duo with the Jewish humorist Elie Semoun. Later, however, he began to spend time with representatives of the French ultra-right and doing solo performances featuring speech that primarily took heavy swipes at Jewish people. He has faced several prosecutions, his performances have been cancelled, and the doors of the mainstream media have gradually been closed to him.

© Romea.


EU Countries Not Meeting Commitments on Migrant Redistribution, Official Says

14/10/2015- European governments are failing to live up to their commitments to tackle the continent’s migration crisis, a top European Union official said on the eve of a summit on Thursday here where leaders will debate the issue anew. Thousands of people continue to arrive every day in Greece, even as temperatures drop, adding to the 710,000 refugees and other migrants that the EU border agency Frontex says have arrived in the bloc this year. Last month, after vitriolic debate, EU governments approved the redistribution of 160,000 asylum seekers across the bloc. But so far, only a handful of capitals have given precise indications of how many people they will take in and when.

Governments in September also pledged to donate more money to aid organizations dealing with refugees, but have so far done little, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, told the European Parliament on Wednesday. “The European institutions have delivered quickly, all we were supposed to do, we did. But member states have not done it to the same extent,” he said. Mr. Juncker said the commission, the bloc’s executive, has cobbled together a total of €9.2 billion to cope with the refugee crisis, a sum that national governments last month pledged to match. Out of that, so far only the U.K. has come forward with €225 million for the United Nations refugee agency.

Governments have also failed to live up to their pledges to dispatch border guards, asylum officers and translators to Italy and Greece to help with registration and fingerprinting of migrants. Out of the more 1,000 staff needed, only 130 have been put forward so far by member states. “I would have liked to see that what was promised in September will be delivered tomorrow. It is not enough to make promises; deeds are what count,” Mr. Juncker said. Thursday’s summit will discuss revamping the bloc’s asylum policies, improving control over the bloc’s external borders and relations with Turkey, the main transit country for refugees.

Mr. Juncker, who was the architect of the controversial refugee redistribution plans, admitted to shortcomings in making the program work. Among the challenges is finding people who are willing to go to countries they have never heard of. “It seems hard enough to find people in Greece willing to come to Luxembourg, even though it is one of the richest countries in the EU,” Mr. Juncker said. “Still, I don’t think it is outrageous to invite people fleeing from war to come to Luxembourg.” Greece—which has seen 450,000 migrants arrive this year—aims to transfer just 30 refugees to Luxembourg sometime this month. But “it was hard to find them,” a Greek official said.

Last week, Italy struggled to find the 19 Eritreans it eventually sent to Sweden, say officials and migrant aid groups involved in the process. Another problem is convincing migrants to remain in the country they are sent to. Most want to reach Germany or Scandinavia, but tens of thousands are earmarked for other countries where they may not want to settle. Indeed, France and Belgium last month tried to help Germany by taking 1,250 refugees from German reception centers. But many of them soon returned to Germany on their own. “This plan may have been too hopeful [in expecting] that people will go and stay where they’re told. But it’s early stages; it may still work,” one senior EU official said.

Securing the bloc’s external borders is another area in which nearly no progress has been made, as Athens opposes an idea floated by Mr. Juncker to set up joint Turkish-Greek border patrols. “I proposed joint Turkish-Greek patrols in the Mediterranean. Turkey was fine with it, but Greece rejected the idea,” Mr. Juncker said. “This is about Europe, not bilateral relations. I ask Greece to revise its position.” Konstantinos Koutras, a spokesman for the Greek foreign ministry, said this week that Greece had never considered using its navy to confront war refugees “nor can it even discuss the novel ideas expressed lately, such as that of joint Greek-Turkish patrolling of maritime borders.” Mr. Juncker added that the Turkish route—where more than 450,000 people have come this year, according to the International Organization for Migration—needs to be closed “in a reasonable manner.”

But convincing Turkey to stem the migration flow in exchange for visa-free travel and other EU incentives is still a distant project. Mr. Juncker dispatched two of his deputies to Ankara on Wednesday to continue talks on the matter. Diplomats in Brussels say they are skeptical this will succeed. “Turks don’t feel treated very well by the EU. This has been an issue for years and has not changed. I have no illusions that there will be a very difficult bargain with Turkey on that,” said one official familiar with the discussions.
© The Wall Street Journal*


Switzerland: Populist right seen boosting number of MPs

The Swiss head to the polls Sunday to vote in a new parliament, with the populist right seen as likely to strengthen its already dominant position amid concerns over migrants and asylum rules.

14/10/2015- The surging numbers of migrants and refugees moving through Europe have heightened the focus on the issue in Switzerland, even though the wealthy Alpine nation has yet to be significantly affected by the crisis. The last poll from the gfs.bern polling institute showed that 48 percent of those questioned thought migration was the most important issue facing the country. Power-sharing and consensus rule are the norm in Switzerland and elections rarely lead to major shifts in parliament or the makeup of the government, which does not directly reflect the power balance in the house. But the latest polls suggest the scale is tilting from the centre-left towards a centre-right majority in parliament, which has 200 seats in its lower chamber and 46 in the upper chamber.

"That could clearly impact future decisions," Andreas Ladner, a political scientist at Lausanne University, told AFP, suggesting a centre-right tilt in parliament could lead to "stricter immigration policies." About a quarter of Switzerland's eight million inhabitants are foreign nationals, and immigration and asylum policies tend to figure among voters' top concerns. Pollster gfs.bern said the country had not seen a campaign so dominated by a single issue for decades, with only nine percent choosing the runner-up issue — Switzerland's relationship with the neighbouring European Union — as the most important. Ties with the EU were badly hit by a narrow Swiss popular vote in February 2014 in favour of restricting immigration from the bloc.

Migration crisis boosts right
Switzerland's largest party, the populist rightwing anti-immigration Swiss People's Party (SVP), appears to be benefiting from the increased focus on its pet issue, mainly at the expense of the Greens and other smaller parties. The latest poll handed SVP nearly 28 percent support — up from the 26.6 percent it managed in the 2011 election and close to the record high 28.9 percent it won in 2007. "SVP is clearly benefiting from the European crisis," Ladner said. Pascal Sciarini, a political scientist at Geneva University, however noted a heightened feeling of solidarity towards the migrants moving through Europe, which "may not benefit SVP".

He suggested the party, which in 2007 sparked outcry with posters of three white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag, had toned down some of its anti-immigrant rhetoric. The SVP, which championed the vote to restrict immigration from the EU, has demanded a new referendum aimed at tightening Switzerland's already strict asylum laws. The centre-right Liberal Party, Switzerland's third largest party, holds a very different view. The party, which has also seen a significant hike in support in the latest polls to 16.7 percent and which could help push the overall balance of parliament rightwards, stresses instead the need for more immigration to keep Switzerland's economy strong.

Lack of qualified labour
"There is no migration problem . . . the main problem facing Switzerland today is economic," Liberal parliamentarian Fathi Derder told AFP, warning the country, where unemployment stands at just over three percent, "is facing "a dire lack of qualified labour." The Socialists, Switzerland's second largest party, which in the last poll inched up slightly from the 18.7 percent of the vote they won in 2011, also want to broaden the debate to include cleaning up the Swiss banking sector and improving ties with the EU. Socialist vice-president Roger Nordmann warned a shift to the right in parliament could have dire consequences, especially if it hands more influence to SVP, who he accused of "playing to xenophobia". And politicians may have a hard time convincing voters that Sunday's vote is important — with major shifts in power a rarity, Switzerland's parliamentary elections generally fail to inspire much enthusiasm and turnout has not passed 50 percent since 1975.

Moreover the Swiss can have a more direct impact in referendums held every three months on different issues as part of the country's direct democratic system. But experts insist the stakes are high this time. In December the new parliament will elect Switzerland's Federal Council, or government, with the seven posts traditionally shared among the major parties from right to left under a tacit decades-old agreement dubbed "the magic formula". Despite being the largest party, SVP currently holds just one government post, but has its sights set on securing a second seat. "One out of seven seats may not seem important, but it is in fact, since that will determine the balance of power," Sciarini said.
© The Local - Switzerland


Spanish archbishop warns against 'Trojan horse' threat from refugees

A Spanish archbishop has called into question whether Spain should be welcoming refugees, asking "are they completely trustworthy?"

14/10/2015- The Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, sparked controversy on Wednesday when he questioned whether welcoming refugees to Spain from Syria was such a good idea. "What’s happening in Europe?" the Catholic bishop asked. "This invasion of immigrants... are they completely trustworthy? Where will it leave Spain in a few years?" Cañizares was speaking during a forum on Europe and the Mediterranean organized by the New Economic Forum. He also raised the question of whether refugees were coming to Spain "because they were being persecuted" arguing that "many are not". He called for "clarity" and to see "who is behind all this". "We must be clear headed and not let everyone in, because today it could be someone who gets along very well, but it is in fact the Trojan horse for European societies and specifically Spain." Cañizares is so stranger to controversy and was criticised in 2009 for claiming abortion was worse than child abuse when he said:
"What happened in some schools cannot be compared with the millions of lives that have been destroyed by abortion. It has legally destroyed 40 million human lives."

Poverty in Spain
The Spanish archbishop also played down reports of increased poverty in Spain, arguing that "you don’t see any more people than before on the streets or living under bridges." He said claims were "exaggerated" and that Spaniards needed to "recognize the economic recovery" in Spain. The cardinal's words contradict those of his boss. Pope Francis recently urged "every Catholic parish in Europe" to take in a refugee family, setting the ultimate example by putting up a Syrian refugee family in a Vatican apartment.
© The Local - Spain


Almeria Province political parties are urging councils to declare their towns ‘refugees welcome’ zones.

14/10/2015- Nijar and Almeria City have already done so and they are now joined by Mojacar, where a plenary session voted unanimously to assist refugees from war zones. “Conscious of the grave situation, the town of Mojacar should remain true to its tradition as a meeting place where different nationalities and cultures live in harmony as well as its tradition of unquestionable humanitarian goodwill and international cooperation,” the council declared. The town hall will create a register of families who wish to take refugees into their homes or other properties that they own and support them during the time they are in Mojacar. Residents interested in collaborating are asked to contact the town hall’s Social Services department. Nijar Town Hall voted in September to become part of the network of ‘refugees-welcome’ towns. The motion proposed by Alexis Pineda, Deputy Mayor and IU party spokesman, was approved by all parties on the council. “This is least we can do when faced with the destabilisation and destruction of prosperous countries like Syria or Libya,” Pineda said at the time.
© Euro Weekly News


New reports on combating racism and intolerance: AUSTRIA, CZECH REPUBLIC and ESTONIA

13/10/2015- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published monitoring reports on Austria, the Czech Republic and Estonia, analysing recent developments and outstanding issues and providing recommendations to the authorities. Despite certain positive developments, ECRI notes, there are challenges ahead.

ECRI reports, among the main problems, antipathy towards migrants and online hate speech at worrying levels, despite integration policies and awareness raising. 
Fifth report on Austria

ECRI expresses serious concern over the lack of progress in eradicating segregation of Roma children in schools and the prevalence of anti-Roma hate speech in political discourse.
Fifth report on the Czech Republic

Concerns remain, such as higher unemployment in regions which are predominantly Russian-speaking, or the unsatisfactory implementation of the new linguistic policy in the upper secondary school 
Fifth report on Estonia
© The Council of Europe - ECRI.


EU Commission concerned by Hungary's migration laws

The EU Commission has expressed concerns over Hungary's new and amended migration laws in a letter sent last week which asked for clarification.

13/10/2015- The letter, published earlier by Hungarian media and now on Statewatch, a non-profit organisation committed to transparency, was sent on 7 October and was signed by the Commission's director general for migration and justice. The letter challenges recent Hungarian legislation that seems to fast-track people seeking refuge back to Serbia with a ban on entering the EU for a year. "Applications for international protection made at the border in a border procedure are systematically declared inadmissible on the basis of the fact that applicants have transited through Serbia," the letter states. It asks the Hungarian authorities to explain how the new border management is compatible with EU law, as reportedly only around 100 people are registered at the transit zone daily along the Serbian border and a decision dismissing their request can be made within an hour.

The Commission is concerned that asylum seekers are not interviewed by the authorities, their story is not being heard and they have no means to challenge the concept of Serbia being a "safe country". The EU executive is also worried about reports that people are not given proper information free of charge and have difficult access to free legal assistance, or interpretation. It also questions the circumstances of detention for asylum seekers, who are not told why they are being detained and how can they appeal against their detention. The Commission expresses serious concerns over how asylum seekers can fully exercise their right to challenge the rejection of their application, given the lack of information, legal assistance and short deadlines. The letter also asks for figures on how many requests for international protection were dismissed, how many of them were appealed, and how many concern children and other vulnerable asylum seekers.

The Hungarian authorities have two weeks to reply, and further communication is expected before the Commission could open an official investigation into whether the Hungarian legislation is in line with EU law. The Commission is concerned about the lack any specific procedure or safeguards for children, and whether illegal border crossings are not dealt with unproportionally, with the possibility of up to eight years prison sentence for damaging the border fence. The Commission is also concerned about the use of military in managing the borders and says that their conduct must respect EU rules. Hungary's government tweaked legislation in July and September to set up and protect the border fence along the Serbian frontier, sped up asylum procedures and gave extra rights to police and military in border management.

More than 320,000 people fleeing war and persecution have crossed into Hungary so far this year, with most headed to Austria and Germany. Since Hungary put up the razor fence in August, hundreds continued to climb over or crawl under it even after the new legislation came into force on September 15. There have been more than 400 fast-track trials of migrants since then, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, charged with the crime.
© The EUobserver


European Parliament Set to Lift Immunity of Hungarian MEP

12/10/2015- The European Parliament on Wednesday is set to take an unprecedented step and lift the immunity of one of its members accused of spying for Russia. Hungarian prosecutors over a year ago asked the European Union’s parliament to waive the immunity of far-right politician Béla Kovács, so he can be put on trial for espionage, facing up to eight years in prison if found guilty. At a parliamentary hearing behind closed doors on Monday, members in the legal affairs committee overwhelmingly voted in favor of lifting Mr. Kovács’ immunity. The full assembly of the 751-strong European Parliament on Wednesday is expected to endorse that decision.

Mr. Kovács, 55, hails from the far right Jobbik party in Hungary and was re-elected last May as member of the European Parliament. A Hungarian parliamentary committee in May 2014 found there was “solid” evidence he spied for Russia, an accusation which he strongly denies. Hungarian security services tracked Mr. Kovacs for four years, Hungarian government officials say, during which time they said he met covertly with Russian diplomats and traveled to Moscow on a monthly basis. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, Mr. Kovács was one of a handful of MEPs who traveled to Crimea, at the invitation of local pro-Russian authorities, to observe the so-called independence referendum. The U.S., the EU and the United Nations condemned the vote as illegitimate.

Péter Krekó, director at the Political Capital Institute, a Budapest-based research center looking at party funding, says Mr. Kovács made his fortune in Russia and Japan and was instrumental in turning Jobbik into a pro-Russia party. “In its early days, Jobbik was quite anti-Russian. But after Mr. Kovács joined, in 2005, and became one of the main donors, the party gradually shifted in favor of Russia,” Mr. Krekó says. Mr. Kovács has not hidden his pro-Russia sympathies throughout his political career, but says they are benign, not a sign of spying activities. “The least we can say is that he was a strong lobbyist for Russia and possibly brought Russian money into Jobbik… But I am not sure he is a real spy, because as an MEP you do not have access to important information,” Mr. Krekó says.

Political machinations by the conservative government of Viktor Orban also complicate the matter further. The timing of Mr. Kovács’ being exposed as a spy, just before the EU elections last year, “had certainly political motives, to cause some reputational damage to Jobbik,” says Mr. Krekó. Kremlin’s ties with the far right are not a Hungary-specific phenomenon. Similar suspicions of Russian money bankrolling the anti-EU, xenophobic parties exist in several EU countries, notably in France where Marine Le Pen’s Front National is being investigated about its party funding. None of its MEPs — neither Ms. Le Pen nor her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen — have been accused of spying for Russia, however.
© Wall Street Journal - Real Time Brussels Blog


Archive, 2005 News

Special News Edition: Protect freedom of speech and human rights in Poland

Headlines 9 December, 2005

Headlines 2 December, 2005

Special News Edition: French riots

Headlines 25 November, 2005

21/11/2005- On 19 November 2005, another peaceful demonstration in support of equality and tolerance was banned in a Polish city of Poznan. The march was organised by a number of Polish women’s and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organisations.
Despite the ban the march went ahead but was blocked by the police, the participants were arrested and interrogated. ILGA-Europe is deeply disappointed and concerned about the level of continuing and blatant discrimination by the Polish authorities. ILGA14
Europe calls upon European organisations and the European states to immediately denounce such intolerable actions by the Polish authorities. By joining the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe (CoE) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE), Poland agreed on the principles of nondiscrimination, equality and freedom of peaceful assembly. ILGA-Europe calls upon European organisations and the members of the EU, CoE and OSCE to voice their protest and take immediate actions to urge Poland to comply with its international obligations. Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe said:
“We are deeply concerned with the development is Poland for the last few months. Such discriminatory acts by the Polish authorities as banning peaceful demonstrations in Warsaw earlier this year and in Poznan last weekend, closing down the Poland’s equality body are sending very worrying messages that Poland completely disregards its obligations it agreed to implement by joining various European organisations. It is time for the European organisations and states to send their firm message to the Polish authorities that such behaviour is not tolerable and contradicts European agreement and values.”
© ILGA Europe

New Kind of Totalitarianism descends on Poland

24/11/2005- The President and Officers of the Lesbian and Gay Rights Intergroup are shocked by the passed week's events in Poland. They are deeply concerned about the breach of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms within the EU Member State. Despite the Mayor of Poznan and the Regional Authorities banning the Equality March, on Saturday 19 November 2005, the Equality March took place in Poznan in the light of the celebrations of the International Day of Tolerance. "We believe that the celebration and March create a space for discussion on tolerance, solidarity and anti-discrimination through several cultural, social and educational activities.". The event was incorrectly called "Gay Pride" and argued as a danger to public safety and property. The peaceful March only tried to promote the values of tolerance, antidiscrimination and human rights. During the March several extreme right protestors
attacked the peaceful Marchers, the Police decided to arrest around 60 of the marchers. It is unacceptable to see that the practice of such discriminatory behaviour, and comments by politicians and authorities of EU Member States, is tolerated within the EU. Preaching only one way of thinking and excluding minorities is a step backwards. Poland as signatory of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights should respect its obligations under the Charter, which enshrines the non-discrimination principle in the national laws.

Michael Cashman, President, European Parliament's Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights
Sophie in 't Veld , Raķl Romeva, Alexander Stubb Vice Presidents, European Parliament's Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights
© ILGA Europe

Following letter has been sent to the President of EU Commission Barroso, President of the European Parliament Fontelles, EU Commissioners Spidla and Frattini:

22/11/2005- We are witting to you to express our deep disappointment and serious concerns regarding the continuing and blatant homophobia and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Poland. We understand that you are to meet the Prime Minister of Poland this week and urge you to immediately denounce such intolerable actions and take concrete actions against the discriminatory acts and homophobic attitudes by the Polish authorities. For the last few months LGBT people in Poland have been subjected to unacceptable expressions of hate by the leading Polish politicians, including Poland’s Prime Minister. On 19 November 2005, another peaceful demonstration in support of equality and tolerance was banned in the Polish city of Poznan. The march was organised by a number of Polish women’s and LGBT organisations. Despite the ban the march went ahead but was blocked by the police, many of participants were arrested and interrogated.

By joining the European Union Poland agreed to the principles of non-discrimination, equality and freedom of peaceful assembly. Eliminating various forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation, is one of the fundamental principles of the European Union. Article 21 of the Charter on the Fundamental Rights of the European Union provides that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation will be prohibited in the EU. The 2000 EU Employment Equality Directive 2000/78/EC specifically requires EU member states to ban sexual orientation discrimination in employment. Moreover, Article 12 of the Charter on the Fundamental Rights of the European Union guarantees everyone the freedom of peaceful assembly.

Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees everyone the right to peaceful assembly and the European Court of Human Rights on many occasions declared that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is in breach of the Convention’s provisions. Moreover, the Court confirmed that there is a positive duty and obligation on a state to protect those exercising their right of freedom of peaceful assembly from violent disturbance by counter-demonstrators.

We urge you to raise the issue of homophobia and discrimination against LGBT people in Poland during your meeting with the Polish Prime Minister and to send a firm message to the Polish authorities that such behaviour is not tolerable and contradicts European agreements and values. We urge you to remind Poland’s Prime Minister and the Polish authorities that as a member of the European Union and according to the Article 6 of the Treaty of Nice, Poland is under obligation to respect and protect minority rights. Paradoxically, just a few days ago the Polish Prime Minister announced the closure of the country’s equality body which dealt with the issues of discrimination on the grounds 16 of gender, disability, race and sexual orientation. Given the extremely high level of
discrimination and hateful comments against LGBT people, we find this decision unhelpful, to say the least. From our experience, national equality bodies dealing with protection of minority rights are an extremely useful tool to eliminating various forms of
discrimination and increasing respect towards and understanding of minority groups.

Therefore we urge you to raise the issue of re-instalment of the equality body to ensure the country effectively deals with various forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation. We would be very happy to meet to discuss this matter in greater details or provide more background information.
Sincerely yours,
Patricia Prendiville
Executive Director of ILGA-Europe
© ILGA Europe

25/11/2005- As the Catholic fundamentalist prime minister of Poland Kazimierz Macinkiewicz visited the UK, Liberal Democrat European Justice spokeswoman and London MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford pressed the European Commission to take firm action against the increasingly homophobic attitudes being fostered in Poland under the new right-wing government. A peaceful equalities march last weekend in the city of Poznan was violently broken up by police and marchers arrested, while Mr Macinkiewicz, who believes that homosexuality is unnatural, apparently intends to abolish the equalities enforcement body the 'Office of the Plenipotentiary for Equal Status' which enforces equality for women and gay people, a body required under EU law. Sarah Ludford, a member of the European Parliament' Gay & Lesbian Rights intergroup, said:
"Repressive and intolerant behaviour is quite rightly condemned when it takes place in a country seeking EU membership, but when it occurs in an existing member state, a blind eye seems to be turned. This is gutless hypocrisy."

When Sarah along with other members of the intergroup asked the Commission in June to say whether the ban on an Equality Pride march in Warsaw in by the then Mayor of Warsaw Mr Lech Kaczynski breached EU human rights principles, the Commission said it was a matter for national law. The Council of Ministers, representing EU governments, said 'The Council has never discussed this matter which is not within the competence of the EU institutions." Worryingly, Mr Kaczynski is now President of Poland.
Sarah Ludford commented:
"The Polish situation shows the need for 3 things: wider EU gay equality laws going beyond the current coverage of employment rights; a political willingness from Brussels to treat homophobic speech and actions as a severe breach of EU human rights principles; and infringement proceedings for failure to implement specific EU laws on workplace equality."
© Sarah Ludford

Colected and translated by Rafal from witnesses's accounts on the Internet

In PoznaŮ there are about 300-400 people. There are banners saying: "Democracy - freedom of speech and freedom to gather", "Tolerance yes, discrimination no", "Freedom of speech, freedom to love", "Free women, free men". Statements were made by the Anarchist Federation, the Greens, the Konsola association, and by Patyczak. Jaros≥aw UrbaŮski of the ZZIP (Workers' Initiative Trade Union) talked about excessive policing and workers' rights, flyers from the Anarchist Black Cross (ACK) about demonstrators' rights are being distributed. The demonstrators called out: "The streets of PoznaŮ are ours", "Freedom, equality, mutual aid", "Everyone different, all equal", "Every authority kills freedom", "Freedom of speech, freedom to gather". Despite some negotiations, the police did not permit a march to take place. There are a few "football-hooligans", but they are just observing from some way away from the demonstration. 

In Krakůw, the solidarity demonstration with the PoznaŮ Equality March: There are about 300 people, accompanied by the city security guards. The weather's not so good, there's some light rain. Some people from political parties gave speeches as well as people from women's organisations and those supporting LGBT rights.
© I CARE News


More photo's from Gdansk here and here
© I CARE News

28/11/2005- Liberal Democrat European Justice spokeswoman and MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford has called on the EU to take legal action against Poland and press for it to drop its homophobic practices. The move comes after a violent clash between protestors and police last week in the city of Poznan, when officers broke up a peaceful march and reportedly failed to offer adequate protection from far right counter demonstrators. Another march was held over the weekend in cities across the country, with hundreds of campaigners calling for more equality. They fear a rise in homophobia after a series of apparent anti-gay acts in the government. These have included the banning of a series of gay demonstrations in the country, the use of anti-gay language by senior politicians and the closing of the government office responsible for promotion of equal treatment for sexual minorities. This comes despite the EU warning Poland about its stance on LGBT issues both before its accession to the bloc and since a Pride event was barred in Warsaw. However, Baroness Ludford says more needs to be done. “Repressive and intolerant behaviour is quite rightly condemned when it takes place in a country seeking EU membership, but when it occurs in an existing member state, a blind eye seems to be turned,” she said today.

“This is gutless hypocrisy.”
She called for the EU to show an active concern on homophobia in order to stamp out anti-gay sentiment in member states. As part of the European Parliament’ Gay & Lesbian Rights intergroup, she was told earlier this year that the decision by the then Mayor of Warsaw Mr Lech Kaczynski to bar the Pride parade was a matter of national law. Now that Kaczynski has been elected as President, she said more concrete action needs to be taken. Her comments have been echoed by global human rights group Amnesty International, which has also voiced its “concern about a climate of intolerance in Poland”. “Amnesty International calls on the Polish authorities to fulfil their obligations under international human rights law, including by explicitly prohibiting discrimination against sexual minorities, and investigating and penalising all public expressions of incitement of hatred and intolerance against sexual minorities,” the group said in a statement. The EU has already warned that Poland could be stripped of its voting rights if it makes no moves to protect its LGBT citizens in the coming months. The country has yet to respond to the criticism.
© UK Gay News


© photographs "Never Again" Association, Warsaw, 2005.


By Alicja Kowalska

27/11/2005- Very interesting is the fact that a significant role in organizing the mass meeting in Warsaw was played by activists of women’s unofficial groups, such as Women’s Coalition 8 March and Lesbian Coalition (LBT). In cooperation with LGBT, left-wing and human rights organizations they arranged all necessary acoustic equipments and painted banners with slogans calling for reanimation of democracy. Special badges with “Equality March goes on”, “Article 57 of the Constitution - freedom of assembly” and “Stop promoting Fascism” have been prepared and sold on the Square of Constitution. Many journalists, artists and politicians have been invited to give a speech during the event. The Lesbian Coalition (LBT) brought its violet flags and a huge banner “Stop homophobia”. One thousand leaflets explaining what homophobia is and urging to fight it have been given out. At the end of the meeting the words “Article 57” was formed in candles and people were singing “The Wall”, a very popular song during the fight against communist repression.
© I CARE News


© Copyright photos: Lodz Branch of the Campaign against Homophobia, 2005

Reports from manifestations and demonstrations on Sunday 27 November all around Poland.

19:30 Elblag - Reporter Michal
Events in Elblag really got out of control. Immediately after the protesters started to gather for the demonstration, the neo-nazis attacked them. Police on the scene didn't do anything to stop the attack and seemed afraid themselves. Everybody fled in different directions, chased by the extremists. Michal is safe for now, but can not reach any of the other demonstrators. We're afraid something has happened to them. Will keep you posted on what's going on.

14:30 Gdansk - Reporter Tomas
Initially the demonstration in Gdansk didn't get a permit, organisers managed to get a permit for a manifestation. The neo-nazis have organised themselves very well to try and stop the pro human right demonstrators. At this time the situation in Gdansk is unclear. We called our reporter Tomas at 14:10 he told us that the demo went very well, lots of people. Most people didn't want to leave and could we call back in a while because he had to talk to the police...
Called back 14:25. Tomas told us 'things are heating up again' 'my god' and then we were disconnected. We have not been able to connect to Tomas again, but will keep on trying.

15.30 Connected to Tomas again! He is alright. After the manifestation ended, police escorted demonstrators to the station. All the streets around the station were blocked by groups of extremists. Tomas was in a group of about 30 people without police protection, this group was attacked by neo-nazis, that started throwing bricks and explosive devices. The police did show up after a while and and managed to bring the human rights activists into the station, however at the train platforms again neo-nazis were waiting. Finally Tomas managed to get a taxi to get away safely. So far it is not known if and how many people have been hurt. In the centre of Gdansk there is still rioting going on as the police is trying to arrest the neo-nazis.
Listen to the soundfile from Gdansk

14:00 Lodz - Reporter Tom
In Lodz the organisors choose to hold a one hour manifestation and not to march. This because they couldn't get permission from the authorities in time to be allowed to march. The organisers are very happy with around 200 people that participated, they had expected only about 50 people to come.
Listen to the soundfile from Lodz

13:00 Warsaw - Reporter Rafal Pankowski
Around 500 people gathered in the city centre to demonstrate. Although the police was keeping an eye on the demonstration, they didn't try to stop it or break the gathering up. Neo-nazi groups were also seen, 1 report of violence from neo-nazis against somebody on his way to the demonstration. 
Listen to the soundfile from Warsaw
© I CARE News

By Brian Dixon and Alex Nowacki

25/11/2005- Police arrested 85 protesters in Poznan on Saturday as the new government showed its will to quash a series of pro-equal rights marches by Poland’s environmentalist, feminist and gay rights groups. Police expertly hemmed in the group of around 250 demonstrators outside the city’s Stary Browar shopping mall, before forcibly breaking up the protest, making media headlines and drawing wide criticism from the country’s left wing. They worry the police’s behaviour and treatment of the protesters – given little
protection from dung and eggs thrown by a rival far-right and skinhead protest – is evidence that the government will do whatever it must to suppress protests that do not fit its Catholic-inspired agenda. “I was beaten in the kidneys with a baton by police,” one protestor told NWE. “When they were taking us away we could hear dozens chanting ‘faggots, faggots,’ outside and they did nothing.” In Warsaw’s Equality March in June, police concentrated on protecting the peaceful protestors from skinheads and the far-right All Polish Youth (Mlodziez Wszechpolska). “I think the ban was definitely a political decision. The mayor of Poznan and the
police were under pressure from some higher authority, such as the Interior Ministry or maybe even the prime minister,” organiser Monika Serkowska said. A wave of similar protests will now take place this weekend in Poznan, Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz, Gdansk and Elblag. The government argues that ordinary Poles do not accept homosexuality and do not want gay rights promoted in public. Ministers have drawn fire from the European Union for saying gays should not be allowed to teach in Polish schools. Protesters also point to the European Court of Justice’s ruling that says the chance of violent counter-demonstrations cannot be used to deny the right to demonstrate – an argument used by Poznan mayor Ryszard Grobelny to ban the march. “Poznan today became a city with no
democracy,” said Greens leader Darek Szwed as riot police began taking protesters’ details and horse dung and eggs fell around him. Media reports say some protesters may face short prison sentences.
© New Warsaw Express

27/11/2005- For a second day Polish gays and lesbians demonstrated in several cities on Sunday demanding that the government abide by European civil rights laws. The marchers denounced last weekend's mass arrests of gays in the city of Poznan, where riot police detailed 65 gays and lesbians who refused to disband when they attempted to hold a gay pride march. Protestors are concerned that the country's new Parliament, dominated by the far right Law and Justice party is embarking on a major crackdown on gay rights.
During September's election campaign Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, the new Prime Minister, said that if gays try to "infect others with their homosexuality, then the state must intervene in this violation of freedom." Warsaw mayor Lech Kaczynski elected this fall as Poland's President under the Law and Justice banner also has a long history of homophobia. In June, he refused to grant permission for a gay pride parade in the capital. Nevertheless, more than 2,500 people ignored the order and marched anyway. Opponents threw eggs and stones at the marchers, and police detained 29 people. Kaczynski is still the mayor until December 22 and there were concerns he would attempt to have police break up today's protest. As police looked on, hundreds of gay rights activists, human rights groups from across Europe, left-wing political parties and others marched under the slogan "The resuscitation of democracy - The Equality March goes on." About a dozen far-right counter-demonstrators briefly taunted participants with insults, but there were no reports of the violence that marred the June rally. Smaller demonstrations were reported in Gdansk, Lodz and Torun. Gdansk was the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union movement that led to the downfall of Communism in Poland. The local Solidarity chapter backed backed today's protest. Yesterday, dozens of gay rights activists braved near freezing temperatures and heavy rain to march through the streets of Krakow. The worsening situation for gays in Poland has led the European Union to issue a stern warning to the government. Last month the European Commission said that if the government continues to oppose gay rights Poland risks losing its voting rights in the EU. Last week Marcinkiewicz went to Brussels and London to try to ease EU concerns. In London, he was met with protestors when he arrived for a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

24/11/2005- Poland’s homophobic Prime Minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, made an undignified entrance via a side street to avoid gay rights protesters picketing his lecture at Chatham House in London this afternoon (24 November). Instead of entering Chatham House via the grand entrance in St James’s Square, Mr Marcinkiewicz was bundled in via a side entrance in a nearby backstreet, Duke of York Street. Outside Chatham House, London-based Poles joined a picket organised by LGBT human rights group, OutRage!, with the support of the European Region of the International Lesbian & Gay Association. Martin Canerai and Swietlana, from Warsaw, were among the Poles who took part in the protest. They expressed their horror and fear at the rise of Mr Marcinkiewicz and his homophobic, right-wing Law and Justice party:
"We appreciate this protest in London," said Swietlana. "Polish lesbians and gays need international solidarity."

Shortly after being named Prime Minister, Mr Marcinkiewicz declared homosexuality "unnatural," adding: "The family is natural, and the state must stand guard over the family." Mr Marcinkiewicz, a Catholic fundamentalist, went on to say that if a homosexual "tries to infect others with their homosexuality, then the state must intervene in this violation of freedom." "This protest was very necessary, especially following last weekend’s violent police arrests of gay marchers in the Polish city of Poznan," said David Allison of the LGBT human rights group OutRage!. "We want the Polish Prime Minister to know that homophobes are not welcome in the UK," said Mr Allison.
© ILGA Europe

25/11/2005- Amnesty International is concerned about a climate of intolerance in Poland against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, characterised by the banning of public events organized by the LBGT community, openly homophobic language used by some highly placed politicians, and incitement of homophobic hatred by some right-wing groupings. Against this backdrop, Amnesty International also notes with concern the recent abolition of the government office responsible for promotion of equal treatment for sexual minorities.

On 15 November 2005, the mayor of the city of PoznaŮ, Ryszard Grobelny, banned a public event known as the Equality March which had been organized by a number of Polish feminist and LGBT organizations and was set to take place on 19 November. According to the organizers, the Equality March was intended to provide a platform for discussion about tolerance, anti-discrimination and respect for the rights of sexual minorities.

The mayor issued the banning order due to "security concerns" and an alleged "threat to the PoznaŮ residents". However, it has been reported that security issues, including changing the route of the march in order to comply with security requirements, had already been agreed between the municipality and the march organizers. Amnesty International is concerned that the decision to ban this march, as with other previous instances, was dictated by intolerance towards the members of the LGBT community in Poland rather than purely security considerations.

Despite the ban, a few hundred people gathered together on 20 November for a demonstration. They were reportedly harassed and intimidated by members of a right-wing grouping known as All Polish Youth (Mlodziez Wszechpolska), who allegedly shouted "Let's gas the fags" and "We'll do to you what Hitler did with Jews". The police intervened towards the end of the march in order to disperse it, reportedly roughly handling several individuals, and arrested and interrogated over 65 people, who were later released.

Amnesty International is concerned that the events in PoznaŮ are not a one-off event, but part of a series of bans on events by the LGBT community. The Equality March in PoznaŮ in November 2004 was also banned, as was Equality Parade in the capital, Warsaw, in June 2004 and again May 2005.

When he refused for the second year running to authorize the Equality Parade in Warsaw in May 2005, the then mayor of the city, Lech KaczyŮski of the Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwo∂c) party - who was later elected the President of Poland - held that such an event would be "sexually obscene" and offensive to other people's religious feelings. The improvised parade still took place on 10 June, gathering more than 2,500 participants. Less than a week after that, the mayor authorized the so-called 'normality' parade, during which members of the All Polish Youth reportedly demonstrated on the streets of Warsaw and shouted slogans inciting intolerance and homophobia. In September 2005, a Warsaw court ruled that the mayor's decision to ban the Equality Parade was illegal.

During the year other political figures were also reported to have made openly homophobic statements, including that that if a homosexual "tries to infect others with their homosexuality, then the state must intervene in this violation of freedom", calling for "no tolerance for homosexuals and deviants" and: "Let's not mistake the brutal propaganda of homosexual attitudes for calls for tolerance. For them our rule will indeed mean a dark night."

Given this climate with regard to the LGBT community in Poland, Amnesty International is concerned about the recent abolition of the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for the Equality of Men and Women, which was responsible for promotion of equal treatment of sexual minorities. The abolition of the Office makes Poland the only European Union (EU) country without a statutory equality watchdog and puts into question its compliance with the EU legislation on prohibition of discrimination. In 2004, the UN
Human Rights Committee had welcomed the appointment of the Plenipotentiary and "the extension of the Plenipotentiary's competence to issues relating not only to discrimination on the basis of sex but also on grounds of [.] sexual orientation." This was in the context of the Human Rights Committee's concern that the right of sexual minorities not to be discriminated against was not fully recognized in Poland, and that discriminatory acts and attitudes against people on the ground of sexual orientation were not being adequately investigated and punished. The Committee recommended providing adequate training to law enforcement and judicial officials in order to sensitize them to the rights of sexual minorities and called for explicit prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the Polish law.

International law prohibits discrimination on any grounds and encourages states to introduce legislation that protects individuals from incitement to hatred. In particular, both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms oblige states parties to guarantee all individuals the enjoyment of their human rights without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Poland is a signatory to both these instruments and is fully bound by their provisions.

Amnesty International calls on the Polish authorities to fulfil these obligations under international human rights law, including by explicitly prohibiting discrimination against sexual minorities, and investigating and penalizing all public expressions of incitement of hatred and intolerance against sexual minorities. Members of the government and other leading politicians should not only refrain from public homophobic remarks, but exercise leadership to ensure that the fundamental rights to freedom from discrimination, freedom of expression and freedom of association are actively promoted, and work to build a society where they can be enjoyed by all.
© Amnesty International

REANIMATION OF DEMORACY THE MARCH OF EQUALITY GOES ON!(press release National Committee "Solidarity with Poznan")
Demonstrations of solidarity with the city of Poznan all over Poland
November 26th (Saturday) and 27th (Sunday) 2005 Elblag, Gdansk, Krakow, Lodz, Poznan, Rzeszow, Warsaw

24/11/2004- The "Poznan events" - first the cancellation of the March of Equality by Poznan authorities and then the brutal pacification of the peaceful demonstration by the police - have shown that Poland is definitely not a place where law is fully respected. Public authorities have proved their disregard for constitution and the citizen rights. In this case, the decision-making bodies have been clearly motivated by ideological criteria and vested political interests. This way, not only are citizens deprived of the possibility to express their beliefs and ideas, but the authorities let the fascist groups and the police get away with attacking innocent people. If the authorities have not broken the right to organize public assemblies, the attack on the participants of the peaceful demonstration would never have happened. Let us remind you, that on the 11th of November, an aggressive demonstration of a Neo-Nazi Radical and National Camp was legal and protected by the police. If you take into account the participants of the cancelled Poznan march
who got beaten up, there the police definitely was not interested in protecting anybody at all.

Polish democracy requires resuscitation. On the next weekend - November 26th (Saturday) and 27th (Sunday), in some Polish cities - among others, in Elblag, Gdansk, Krakow, Lodz and Warsaw peaceful demonstrations as a sign of solidarity with Poznan will take place. Those demonstrations are happening because we want to protest against an escalating process of limiting and violating human rights in Poland.

This is the very moment to show the newly elected government that we do not agree to the new restrictions that reserve freedom only for the chosen citizens who represent right wing ideas.

In Poznan, exactly one week after the cancelled demonstration, at the same place, we are organizing a march in defense of democracy and freedom to demonstrate. The March of Equality goes on!

The March of Equality did not just get stopped at Polwiejska street in Poznan, the site of November 19th demonstration. The March of Equality goes on and spreads democracy all over Poland.

We say NO to discrimination based on age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, skin color, religious or political beliefs
We say NO to the violation of basic human and citizen rights.
We say NO to the ban on peaceful demonstrations and the possibility to express our beliefs freely.

We say YES to democracy, tolerance and solidarity with discriminated groups.
We say YES to the freedom of assembly.
We say YES to the freedom of speech.

The National Committee "Solidarity with Poznan" is comprised by the following organizations: Democratic Union of Women (Gdansk), The Anarchist Federation (Gdansk), The Youth Federation of Labour Union (Gdansk), eFKa Foundation (Krakow), Culture for Tolerance Foundation (Krakow), Spaces for Dialogue Foundation (Gdansk), Campaign Against Homophobia, Academic Association of Gender Studies, Gdansk University, informal group Lodz Gender (Lodz), Women's Rights Centre (Lodz), Young Centre (Gda?sk), Democratic Party (Gda?sk), The Alliance of Women of March 8th (Warsaw), Lesbian (LBT) Coalition, The New Regeneration Movement, Polish Social Democrats (Gdansk), Young Socialists (Gdansk, Rzeszow), The Leftist Union (Gdansk), The Greens 2004.
© Campaign Against Homophobia

By Szymon Niemiec

20/11/2005- A demonstration held in the city of Poznan today disintegrated into violence as police moved in on peaceful protesters. According to organizers including civil rights, LGBT and other left-wing organizations, the demonstration was held to protest Poznan Mayor Ryszard Grobelny's decision to ban organizers from holding an Equality march, and to demonstrate against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, race, and disability. The police initially surrounded the demonstrators to separate them from opponents of the march and militiamen, who outnumbered the activists approximately ten to one. After about two hours of peaceful protest, one activist was dragged out of the circle by the police while his companions cried "We're in Poland, not in Belarus" and his fellow activists sat down to protest his removal. Police thereupon began detaining marchers, only stopping when police cars grew too full.According to witnesses and protesters, those detained were dragged face-down along the pavement; some were bludgeoned by police or struck open-handed on the kidneys. In all, some 80 activists were detained for questioning, while those from the opposition crowd who were heckling and assaulting protesters were allowed to continue their activities unmolested. In a slogan reminiscent of Nazi era propaganda, one placard carried by the opposition group proclaimed "One leader, one faith, one truth."

Facing aggression from far-right militia, Poland's fledgling LGBT community has stopped organizing gay pride events and switched to Equality Parades, bringing minorities together under the rainbow flag. Feminists, gays and lesbians, the handicapped, and ethnic and national minorities of this Eastern European country have attempted to champion tolerance and equality on the streets of Polish cities. However, in this 99% Roman Catholic nation, home of the late Pope John Paul II, the idea of loving thy neighbor appears once again to be confined within the walls of its numerous churches. In 2004 the mayor of Warsaw, the nation's capital, banned the Equality March, which in previous years had come under repeated attacks from counter-protesters and right-wing militia. The same year in Poznan and Cracow, participants were pelted with eggs, stones and glass bottles while the police, unable to deal with aggressive youths, simply stopped the march. In 2005 ten thousand supporters of tolerance and equality marched peacefully — though illegally — through the center of Warsaw while police provided equally illegal protection. Minor incidents occurred only after the event, as the those opposed to the march chose passive methods of interrupting the parade and sat on intersections rather than resorting to violence. The mayor of Warsaw expressed his extreme displeasure at the actions of law enforcers; two weeks later he allowed far-right groups to organize a "Normalcy Parade", which brought approximately 300 shaven-headed youths and far-right politicians to Warsaw.
© The Interactivist Network

Catholic ultra-conservatives bash their way to victory.

10/11/2005- Poland has hit the homophobic jackpot: the new President, the new Prime Minister and the boss of the conservative Catholic party which now controls a big chunk of Parliament, are all virulent, card-carrying queer-haters. And for the first time in Polish history, the "gay question" was a centerpiece of an electoral campaign. Right-wing candidates, pandering to a traditionally homophobic electorate, openly used insulting terms such as "pederasta" and "pedal." These words, which not too long ago would have been deemed unsuitable to utter in polite company, are now heard in parliamentary debates and even on television. During the electoral campaign, and in the months leading up to it, lesbians and gay men were often depicted in the Polish media as abnormal, asocial and abject. They were accused of being a cultural and even biological threat to the Polish nation, lowering the birth-rate, and imperiling what ultra-conservatives lovingly call "natural law marriage and family." Poland's Catholic fundamentalist Radio Maryja dubbed recent developments in Spain and Poland "homosexual terror" "sodomitical unions" and "totalitarianism of sin." The Radio station, which also has an anti-Semitic bent, has an audience of three million. It supported the Kaczynski brothers' party, Law and Justice, in the recent electoral campaign. Homophobia works. On October 23, Lech Kaczynski captured the presidency in the second round of an election marked by massive abstention (49 percent of voters stayed home). A month earlier, the Kaczynskis' Law and Justice party, with 27 percent of the votes, managed to secure the biggest single bloc of seats in parliament (155 out of a total of 460 seats).

A Family Affair
The new President and the new governing party boss are as close politically, ideologically, and genetically, as anyone can get: they are identical twins (the French daily Le Figaro recently called Poland the first monozygotic republic). They are also both former, and famous, child actors. There seems to be only one difference between them: Lech Kaczynski, the President, is married, with one child; at 56, brother Jaroslaw, the Law and Justice party boss, has never married and lives with their mother. The word in the gay street here is that Jaroslaw Kaczynski is a closet case whose homophobia is fueled by fear. The Kaczynski twins gay-hating credentials are impressive. As mayor of Warsaw, now President Lech banned the gay pride parade in 2004 and 2005, while this year allowing a homophobic, far-right counter-demostration, the "Parade of Normality." Not to be surpassed by his twin brother, Party boss and presumed closet case Jaroslaw recently announced that "homosexuals should not be allowed to teach." Earlier he had told the weekly Ozon: "The affirmation of homosexuality will lead to the downfall of civilization. We can't agree to it." The twins have quickly installed a faithful crony, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, as their Prime Minister. He is the guy who recently told Newsweek (Polish edition) that homosexuality is "unnatural" and also threatened lesbians and gay men with "state intervention" if they tried to "infect others with their homosexuality." It was a "violation of freedom" to "infect" others with homosexuality, he explained, adding, "The family is natural, and the state must stand guard over the family." Homophobia is just one of the reasons Poland ended up in the Kaczynskis' lap.
Fear and Loathing
With an 18 percent unemployment rate, the highest in the European Union, crumbling health and education systems, widespread corruption and a growing underclass of "new poor," Polish voters were frightened by the austerity measures espoused by the moderate conservative Donald Tusk and his Civic Platform, who ran a lackluster campaign. The Kaczynski twins promised voters to protect whatever is left of the welfare state and to save them from all the evils, real or imaginary, that besiege Poland: corrupt former Communists, German, Russian and European Union meddling, crime (they support the death penalty, which is outlawed in the European Union), and queers. Their mix of nationalism, populism, and militant Catholic conservatism proved irresistible to voters, particularly those in rural areas. Although defeated, Donald Tusk and his Civic Platform hold 133 seats in parliament, the second largest bloc. They have refused to form a coalition government with the victorious twins, who need a 2/3 majority to govern effectively. The Kaczynskis have turned even further to their right, to the rabidly extremist League of Polish Families and to the conservative populist party Samoobrona (Self-Defense), both of which are going to demand their pound of flesh, particularly on social issues. On the eve of Warsaw's pro-gay Equality Parade, on June 10, the League of Polish Families ran a prime-time election ad on the government-owned State TV featuring a young male supporter who intoned: "I have the courage to say that two 'pederasts' (sic) are not man and wife." A week later, on the eve of the homophobic "Parade of Normality," an All-Polish Youth activist said, also on State TV, that homosexuality is a disease that can and should be cured. All Polish-Youth, a militia of the League of Polish Families, organized the "Parade."

Tyranny of the Majority
The current Polish trend of seizing on queers as scapegoats is more than a cultural or religious question: it is also a symptom of Poland's difficulty in making a transition from Communist single-party rule to democracy in the midst of social and economic ills. Instead of embracing democracy, and respecting the rights of everyone equally, Poland is rapidly developing as a tyranny of the majority. Political scientist Jon Elster's analysis of Eastern Europe accurately describes what is happening in Poland today: "In this region, majority rule is being adopted across the board. At the same time, individual rights have a precarious existence. To exaggerate somewhat, there has been a shift from the despotism of the [Communist] Party to the despotism of the majority, both inimical to the protection of minority rights. Although there has been progress of a sort, since the Party did not care for the rights of the majority either, the achievements are decidedly limited. In most countries, constitutional democracy is still in the future." Poland is also in the throes of a nationalist backlash, after joining the EU last year. The far-right equates EU membership with a loss of national identity. Nation, faith, and family in danger! Queers are regarded as part and parcel of Western "degeneracy" and "moral relativism." In these circumstances, queers, decidedly not in the majority, are seen as a real social and political threat.

Stealing Minority Thunder
Ironically, the tyrannical majority, in Poland and elsewhere, has learned to make its homophobic case using the argument of minorities. Conservatives construct a state of siege, feel their ideas threatened, and entrench themselves. Discrimination, in their minds, is not against lesbians and gays, but against themselves. Christian fundamentalists and neo-cons in the U.S. have written the definitive book on the subject. Their power-grabbing success is a source of awe and inspiration to others worldwide, including the Polish right. Take Rocco Butiglione, an Italian politician whose candidacy as EU commissioner was dropped because of his overt homophobia. He regularly calls Christians an endangered minority, and along with other far-right Europeans uses the arguments of human rights, freedom of expression, and tolerance to defend his right to oppress queers. Unsurprisingly, Buttiglione was feted in Poland; his heterosexist lecture at the Catholic University of Lublin was interrupted with bursts of enthusiastic applause. Swedish pastor Ake Green, who was convicted in his country of inciting hatred of gays after he delivered a graphic homophobic sermon, was also warmly welcomed in Poland.

Queer activists are resisting the right's growing strategy of queer-baiting and oppression. Defying then mayor Lech Kaczynski's two-year ban on gay pride, 2500 lesbians, gay men, and their straight supporters marched in Warsaw's Equality Parade on June 11. "Let us be seen!" they shouted, evoking a 2003 visibility campaign in which lesbian and gay couples were portrayed on billboards. Banners read, "No to homophobia!" "Right to love" and "Gays are no pedophiles." Counter demonstrators responded by pelting banners with eggs and crying, "Deviants!" In the midst of the overheated electoral battle, the sixth Queer Studies Conference took place in Poland in September. The Campaign against Homophobia, Poland's main LGBT rights organization, has tried to widen support for the beleaguered community. In a statement signed with a few other groups, it recently declared: "We are afraid. Anguished by the escalation of hatred toward homosexual persons by right-wing parties, we call on all who hold dear the values of democracy, freedom of thought, and tolerance to take a firm stand and take concrete and effective action." On September 20, a hitherto unknown group that identified itself as Gay Power reacted to the Kacsynskis' imminent victory by planting thirteen dummy bombs in the heart of Warsaw. Poland's capital was paralyzed for several hours. The Campaign Against Homophobia distanced itself from this action. The bomb scare made headline news in Poland and abroad, where some journalists wondered if it was an act of agents provocateurs. Either way, the bombs are the perfect metaphor for Poland's increasingly embattled gay community, and the explosive impact of the queer issue here.
© The Gully

This article by Rafal Pankowski was written in november and will be published by Searchlight Magazine in December 2005.

The extreme-right wing League of Polish Families (LPR) won 8 per cent of the vote and 34 seats in parliamentary elections on 25 September. In addition, it won 7 seats in the Senate. Though this result fell short of the party’s expectations, it proves the League is well established on the political landscape. With the left almost completely wiped out, the new parliament represents mostly different shades of the right. The LPR’s parliamentary faction today is much different from last term. In recent years, the majority of the old guard’s elderly leaders have fallen out with Roman Giertych, the 34-year-old de facto party leader. Also, the new contingent of MPs is packed with young and disciplined 20-something activists of the All-Polish Youth (Mlodziez Wszechpolska), the largely skinhead dominated nationalist organisation set up by Giertych in 1989 and modelled on a same-name antisemitic youth organisation which existed in the 1920s and 1930s. In early November, after coming under media fire, the LPR considered replacing the MW with a new youth organisation. The MW has been a source of organisational strength for the LPR, but also a constant embarrassment because of frequent exposťs by anti-fascists and the mass media of its dishonest recruitment of children, racism, violence, and heavy drinking among its leaders. The most recent blow came in November when national newspapers published a series of photos of senior MW members giving the well-known stretched-arm “Sieg Heil” salute.

Another curiosity in the newly elected parliament is debutant MP Mateusz Piskorski – a nazi-black-metal-pagan activist turned politician – elected in Szczecin on the slate of the populist Self-Defence (Samoobrona) party which won 11 per cent of the national vote. Piskorski has been known to anti-fascists for years, not least as a regional leader of the pagan New Right association Niklot. Niklot’s leader Tomasz Szczepanski lost a court case that he had launched against Searchlight’s sister magazine Nigdy Wiecej for calling his activities antisemitic and chauvinistic. The resprayed, rebranded, LPR has proved it can exist even without the backing of Radio Maryja, the mass-audience Catholic nationalist radio station which switched its support in the elections to the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party. The PiS, campaigning largely on law and order issues including support for death penalty, won the election with 27 per cent of the vote. In a surprise victory, the PiS leader, Lech Kaczynski emerged as the winner of the presidential race, too, narrowly beating the liberal Donald Tusk in a run-off on 23 October. It is widely believed that Kaczynski owes his success to the last minute backing of Radio Maryja and Andrzej Lepper, the leader of Samoobrona. Though Kaczynski is not an ultra-rightist himself, earlier this year he achieved international notoriety because of his anti-gay position as mayor of Warsaw.

Gay-bashing and nationalistic rhetoric helped the PiS outdo the LPR on the right. It should be noted that a number of politicians in the PiS leadership circle, for example two PiS MEPs, Michal Kaminski and Marcin Libicki, have long-standing connections with the extreme-right. At the time of writing it seems the new Polish government will be formed by the PiS with support of the LPR and Samoobrona. The leader of the liberal Civic Platform party, Donald Tusk – 24 per cent of the parliamentary vote – has vowed to oppose “the extreme right-wing coalition of Kaczynski, Lepper and Giertych”.
© Searchlight

25/11/2005- Ludwik Dorn, Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration, said the police acted properly in breaking up an Equality March in Poznan. He expressed hope that the police will act similarly in the future. Nationalists and skinheads were separated by police from demonstrators calling for equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity. Dorn said a few arrests were made, but the police did not use force against either group. Dorn also said that Poznan government officials were right in not giving March organizers a permit, citing it was an issue of public safety and not discrimination against free speech rights. Dorn added that 253 people were stopped by police, 75 for participating in an unlawful demonstration. March organizers accuse police of rough treatment of peaceful demonstrators. The EU has expressed concern that Poland is not doing enough to protect the rights of homosexuals.
© The Warsaw Voice

[On November 19 in the Polish city of Poznan, an entirely peaceful March for Equality organized by gays and lesbians and left-wing groups, which had been banned, took place anyway -- but it was brutally broken up by the police, who arrrested 68 of the marchers. Demonstrators protested against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, race, and disability. In banning the march, the mayor of Poznan, Ryszard Grobelny, surrendered to the demands of far-right parties (including the ruling Law and Justice Party and the League of Polish Families) and the Catholic clergy, who believed the demonstration was "immoral," the independent Radio Polonia reported. On October 23, Poland had elected a virulently homophobic new president -- the Law and Justice party's Lech Kacyzynski, who in his previous job as Mayor of Warsaw had banned that city's Gay Pride march. The 68 arrested marchers could face fines of up to 5,000 zlotys (US$1500) or up to one month in prison, according to Miroslaw Adamski, spokesman for the district prosecutor's office in Poznan. Poznan's repression of this gay-organized march signals that the gloves are off under the new homophobic government, and provides a frightening picture of the climate in Poland today. What follows is a first-hand account of the repression of the Poznan march by Tomasz Szypula, Secretary-General of the Polish Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), which the KPH e-mailed me this morning -- Doug Ireland.]

21/11/2005- I'm 25. I was born four months before the Solidarity began its revolution in August 1980. The only Poland I can remember is time after 1989. The time of democracy. At least until last Saturday. In the ' conference and the Equality March. Already on Friday I learned that the leftist voivode [A voivode is one of Poland's 16 regional governments--D.I.], or a central government representative, had agreed with the mayor of Poznan and upheld his ban of the march. But I had confidence in the Constitution, the EU laws -- for sure the police would protect us. There were some 100 people at the conference, university students, mainly girls. Most of them had no affiliation, while the rest were feminists from the Konsola Women Association, the Greens 2004 activists, several people from gay organizations from all over Poland. We're talking about exclusion of not only gays and lesbians, but news media and politicians referred to the Days of Equality as 'the Gay Parade.'

At 3 p.m., we're walking out of the Bookarest bookstore and we're going down the Polwiejska Street. We're just several hundred meters away from the Old Market Square. There may be several hundred of us. Maybe three, maybe five hundred. After just several minutes the police stand in our way, both in front of us and behind us as well. We're surrounded and can't move. We're shouting: "Let us through! Freedom! Equality! Tolerance!" The people behind the police officers yell: 'Faggot! Perverts!' Eggs begin to fly. I get one on the ear. I wipe it off. The ear hurts a little, but it's nothing -- I continue: 'Tolerance!' After a moment we realize that the police will not let us go anywhere. So we begin walking around between the police cordons and shout: 'Democracy all around!'

After half an hour of walking like that, waving rainbow flags, and shouting 'Equal, but Different,' we take out candles and light them. Several hundred people hold the candles and shout: "This is a funeral of democracy." After a moment, the girls who lead this demonstration enter a podium and begin thanking people for coming to the march. We're all wondering how to get out. And that's when it began.

I turn around and see disguised police offices with shields, running to get us. I grab my friends and we all sit on the street. The policeman tries to pull a girl out of the crowd. She's screaming, but the guy is two meters tall and she gives up. I'm holding on to the other people and then a disguised police guy grabs my leg. Someone's holding me' but he's trying to pull me out. He's shoving me around on the street and I say: "Let me go!' When I get up, the police office grabs my hands, takes them behind me, and pushes me in the direction of a car. I'm scared. There's some eight people at the prison van. 'Name!' the police officer wants to know. 'Szypula,' I'm trying to answer. The girl next to me is weeping. Another one is vomiting. The crying one bursts out in tears. I hold her, her name is Dabrowka. 'Don't worry, they won't do anything to us,' I say. Dabrowka is 20 and she was at the march with her sister, who was also detained. They're both college students who came to show their solidarity with the march.

They're speeding us to the police station, the siren's on. There are some nine people in the van. I call my boyfriend and say: 'They're driving me to a police station. Love you, call you later.' A dread-haired guy turns pale. We stop, the door opens. The police officer reads out our names. We're taken to the third floor. There are 22 people in the room, including us. I don't know where I am. Somebody from Poznan looks out the window and says that it's the Poznan-New City police station. The pale dread-haired guy asks for water.

During the interrogation, I learn I'm suspected of breaking Article 50 of the Misdemeanors Code. I reply that I don't understand. The policewoman answers: 'taking part in an illegal concourse.' She's asking me how I plead to the charge. I can't stand it any longer: 'What about the Constitution, what about the EU laws, what about the freedom of gathering?' She replies that it's her job. A phone interrupts the interrogation, it's her boyfriend on the phone. 'Honey, we won't make it to the movies -- I still need to hear from six of them," she says. I'm angry. I plead not guilty. I'm starting a speech about the Constitution blah blah, the EU blah blah, citizens' rights. She writes it all down unemotionally.

I sign in the box that states 'Suspect.' I get out of the station. I feel horrible. I wonder what is less horrible -- to be beaten by a far-right fanatic All-Polish Youth [the attack-dog militia of the League of Polish Families party-- D.I.] or to go through the police procedure. I think I prefer to get a beating.I get back to the Old Town. At Cafe Miesna, there's a concert going on as part of the Days of Equality. We share our stories with other demonstrators. My friends were taken to a different station. We try to calm down.

Seven brave girls my age organized this march. It wasn't a gay demo, and there were more girls there. But the mayor, the voivode, and bishop concluded that we pose a threat. The police treated us like they treat football hooligans. If that's the beginning of the 'New Republic' as Law and Justice' Party politicians say, then yes, we're a big danger to it. Because we believe in democracy.
© Direland

Photos taken by Jarek Marek Spychala, Ewa Aleksandrzak and Beata Ziemowska

© Women's Association KONSOLA

19/11/2005- Several dozens of people, participants of Equality March in Poznan, were detained by the police. Despite the decision of the mayor of Poznan, who banned the Equality March, several hundred people gathered at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov.19 to demonstrate against descrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, race, and disability. The police surrounded the demonstrators with a double cordon. At 4.15 the police units headed for the demonstrators. The policemen beastly pulled sitting demonstartors from the group and dragged them along the sidewalk."Gestapo" - shouted demonstrators. Several dozens of people-participants of the demonstration- were detained by the police . Among them are Agata Teutsch and Iza Kowalczyk- organizors of Tolerance and Equality Days and women activists.
© NEWW Polska

22/11/2005- On Wednesday there was a violent dispute between two socialist Member of the European Parliament Veronique De Keyser (Belgium) and Ana Gomes (Portugal) and anti choice MEPs over an exhibition against abortion ‘Life and Children in Europe’. The League of Polish Families/ Liga Polskich Rodzin (LPR), a nationalist ultra right wing populist party, organized a photo exhibition in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. A poster in display compared abortion to the Holocaust. The two Socialist MEPs urged the organisers to take off the pictures and after a heated discussion started taking down the photos themselves. This led to a violent confrontation that ended with the intervention of the security. Among the controversial images that upset the socialist parliamentarians there was a picture of a child in a Nazi extermination camp and another child in a Albanian camp with the emotional slogan: ‘If a mother can kill her own child, how can one avoid that men don’t kill each others?’ After the row Mr GIERTYCH, the vice chair of the LPR organised a press conference calling for freedom of speech in the parliament and complaining about the censorship of the photo exhibition by the EP authorities because it caused "controversy".
© NEWW Polska

Between the 17th and the 21st of November the Equality and Tolerance Days took place in Poznan. They were organised in connection to the International Tolerance Day (16.11) by the Orgainising Committee which was made up of the Women’s Association KONSOLA, Lambda Association Poznan, Zieloni 2004 (Polish Greens 2004), Nowa Lewica (New Left) The program included lectures, equality workshops, an evening screening of films in Kisielice, an academic conference and the already famous Equality March, which however de facto only managed to march about 100-200 metres.                                                                      Written by: Agata Teutsch, Agnieszka Kozłowska, Zofia Stanecka and Izabela Kowalczyk transl.: Milka Stępień

17.11. – The mechanisms of discrimination in the form of a course: “Introduction to Gender Studies.”
About 100 people came to the meeting concerning the mechanisms of discrimination and exclusion. The lecture hall was filled to the brim. After showing fragments of a very moving documentary “Niebieskoocy” (“The Blueeyed”), a heated discussion erupted. There was talk of what discrimination and exclusion mean in terms of gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, race, being disabled and others and also about what examples of discrimination and exclusion we encounter in our society. The words of Jane Elliott were extremely important for the course and discussion. Jane Elliott created one of the best anti-discrimination workshps and her words were: “We learn how to be a racist, which means we can also learn how not to be one. Rascism is not genetic. It is only a question of power.” . A lot of people who are involved in working for the equal treatment of women and men, working in organisations which deal with issues of human rights, women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights are convinced that they are free from prejudice and do not discriminate against others. However, we are never free from prejudice and stereotypes as we have been brought up in a culture which is strongly discriminatory (sexism, racism, heterosexism, ageism, etc.). The most important thing is to be aware of this and to accept the responsibility of working against discrimination. The message to be sent accross, in Elliott’s terms, is that those who remain indifferent to discrimination are also agreeing to such a state of affairs.

18.11 – Evening screening of films, “Kisielice”
During the evening screening in Kisielice two documentaries were shown: One Nation Under God (dir. Francine M. Rzeźnik i Teodoro Maniaci, USA 1993) and The Amazons 2000 (dir. Florence Fradelizi, France 2000). Many people attended, the films made a huge impression on the audience and after the screenings people were fervently discussing their contents.

19, 20.11 – conference: ‘Democracy in Poland and the Problem of the Minorities’
In the course of the two-day conference, which took place in the Centre of Culture ‘Zamek’ (Castle), we were attempting to establish what democracy looks like in contemporary Poland and to what degree the constitutional rights to individual freedom are being respected: the right to freedom of belief and religion, the right to be treated equally by the law and also the freedom to express ones beliefs. Questions were also raised about how we percieve words and ideals 15 years after liberation from a totalitarian regime; ideals, which we fought to achieve not so long ago. We also discussed what has been done with this suddenly gained ‘freedom’ and what conclusions we can extract from our past. Dr Krzysztof Podemski (UAM – University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznan) and Lech Mergler (Zieloni 2004 – Polish Greens 2004) discussed what minorities we have in Poland and how they are defined. Marta Abramowicz (Campaign Against Homophobia) talked about the mechanisms which lead to crime in a presentation entitled: ‘Euthanasia for gays, work camps for lesbians and Jews into soap.’ She described the process of learning to hate and the mechanisms which lead from prejudice to committing crimes.

During the panel on minorities in culture, Bartosz Żurawiecki discussed the negative reception by some social groups of Almodovar’s ‘Bad Education,’ while dr Tomasz Sikora talked about the need for a more sensitive approach to the problems of minorities in school teaching programs. We considered also what the approach of politicians was to the problems of minorities (however only representatives of the “left side” of the Polish political scene came: Unia Pracy – the Labour Union: Karolina Kaczmarek, Nowa Lewica – New Left: Maciej Roszak, APP Racja: Szymon Niemiec and Zieloni 2004 – Polish Greens 2004: Magda Mosiewicz and Darek Szwed). Next, there took place a discussion panel concerning the external and internalised discrimination of women and this topic was discussed by: dr Sławomira Walczewska, Małgorzata Tarasiewicz, dr Izabela Desperak and Agnieszka Gajewska.

Another discussion panel was concerned with anti-semitism and the following people took part in it: dr. Aliny Całej from the Jewish Historical Institute, Jan Beryt from the Martyrology Museum in Żabikow, Jan Gebert from the Polish Union of Jewish Students and Andrzej Bałys from Zieloni 2004 (Polish Greens 2004). Some of the topics discussed were the following: the increase of anti-semitism both on the left and right side of the political scene in connection to the events of the II World War, Jedwabne and the conflict in the Middle East.

To end the conference, Izabela Kowalczyk presented a paper about Artur Żmijewski’s film “The Art. Of Loving,” in which she discussed the rejection of the Other in our psyche and also she talked about how, in order to open ourselves up the the Other, we must first learn to love the Other in ouselves. During the discussion, we talked about the mechanisms of discrimination and about how closely they are connected to each other in terms of all minorities. These minorities do not have their own representation, their own strong voice, are weaker and are more prone to have their rights violated. We noted that it is very necessary that different minority groups cooperate with each other.During the second day of the conference, professor Roman Kubicki of the University of Adam Mickiewicz presented some philosophical thoughts about why we need minorities and what the genesis of establishing gender roles is in the evolutionary process on the basis of ‘The World of God” according to St. Augustine. Marzena Lizurej explained the assumptions of Queer theory, while dr Maria Solarska from UAM discussed the processes of constructing minorities, stigmatisation and acquiring “difference”. Activists of the Lambda Association in Warsaw –Michał Pawlęga, Yga Kostrzewa, Adrian Szatkowski and Agata Anacik discussed the difficult creation in Poland of legal regulations concerning the estalishment of legal homosexual relationships and the activities of the European Union in terms of acting against discrimination. The last topic which was discussed during the conference was Antoni Adamowicz’s campaign entitled “T-shirt for freedom.” The author presented the course of the campaign, its assumptions and the ideals behind it and invited the participants of the conference to purchase the t-shirts, which were being shown at an exhibition in the Centre of Culture “Zamek” throughout the two days of the conference.

Equality March
The academic conference was an attempt at a theoretical approach to the problem of minorities and their rights in Poland. In practical terms, these issues became apparent half an hour after the conference ended, when eggs, stones and insults were thrown in the direction of the participants of a peaceful march (meant to be a show of solidarity with people discriminated against for various reasons). The march moved out from under the centre of Culture “Zamek” at 3 p.m. and about 500 people participated in it. The main slogans were: “Different, but Equal,” “Everyone Belongs to a Minority,” “Enough Discrimination!.” After moving foward about 100-200 metres the March was stopped by a group of aggressive pseudo-footballfans, while the police asked us to dissolve the demonstration. We agreed to return to our starting point and also to change the demonstration into a picket. We had to face the reality that today in Poland ignorance, bllindness and hate are more powerful than knowledge, learning and culture.

21. 11 – Difference Workshops
To end the Equality and Tolerance Days, a 6-hour long workshop on difference took place in the Centre of Culture ‘Zamek.’ 20 women and 2 men participated in the workshop (we are mentioning this as it is meaningful, especially since the workshops did not only discuss the subject of gender discrimination) Participants took part in exercises and discussions pertaining to their identity, the perception of others, human differentiation, stereotypes and discrimination. At the end, we all discussed what each of us can do to fight against discrimination, we exchanged ideas and specific plans of action were created. Preparing and leading: Monika Serkowska, Agata Teutsch.
© Women's Association KONSOLA

15/11/2005- Authorities in the city of Poznan have banned a gay pride parade that had been scheduled for Saturday. The move comes as members of Poland's LGBT community come under increasing discrimination. Poznan's city administrator said that the parade would “be a serious danger to social order and property.” He said that the Gay and Lesbian Equality Parade could only be held in a remote area of the city, marked by warehouses. The offer was rejected. Organizers of the parade said that the city administration had bowed to pressure from the ruling Law and Justice Party and from the League of Polish Families and Poznan's Roman Catholic Archbishop. Last year's parade was disrupted by skinheads and members of the All-Polish Youth, an extreme right organization connected to the League of Polish Families. In June, Warsaw mayor Lech Kaczynski refused to grant permission for a gay pride parade in the capital. Nevertheless, more than 2,500 people ignored the order and marched anyway. Opponents threw eggs and stones at the marchers, and police detained 29 people. Last month Kaczynski was elected Poland's President. In September his ultra conservative Law and Justice Party, controlled by his twin brother, won control of Parliament. The election was marked by frequent homophobic attacks, prompting the European Union to issue a stern warning to the government not to try to limit the rights of gays and lesbians. The European Commission said that if the government continues to oppose gay rights Poland risks losing its voting rights in the EU. The commission in a strongly worded letter reminded Kaczynski that all member states must abide by European Union regulations which protect minorities. If, Poland refuses, the letter said, the EU would invoke the Treaty of Nice which deprives member states of their voting rights for refusal to comply with the Union's constitution.

Statement of The Committee of Days of Equality and Tolerance in Poznan in reference to the decision of President of Poznan to stop the Equality March.

15/11/2005- To celebrate International Day of Tolerance (16th November), as last year, Days of Equality and Tolerance will take place in Poznan (16-20 November 2005). Days of Equality and Tolerance are a initiative of several people who formed The Committee. The idea of Days of Equality and Tolerance is to create a space for discussion on tolerance, solidarity, and ani-discrimination. The Days consist of movies projection and discussions, conference, workshop, beneficial party and Equality March. Unfortunately today we were informed that the President of Poznan decided that the March can not take place.

The representative of the Committee delivered the appropriate information about our plans to organize the March to the City Council on 21th October 2005. Then the rumors against our initiative started. Politicians, representatives of the Catholic Church and others started to protest against the March as they called it "Gay Pride". They arguments were that homosexuality is immoral and should not be demonstrated in the street. Others said they do not want the fights as it happened last year. Our arguments that we do not organize "Gay pride", but the Equality March, that homosexuality is not forbidden by law, that we have rights to demonstrate and that it was not us, who caused the fights last year but our opponents, were not heard.

On 18th November our representatives were called for a meeting to the City Council were they were pushed to change the planned rout of the March and they say that it is possible. On 21th November our representatives met the Poznan Police officers (the meeting was set for our request) where the safety of the March was discussed. At first officers tried to convince us to give up the whole idea of the March, when we did not agree they tried to convince us to change March into stationary demonstration, when we did not agree to that also they tried to convince us to shorten the route and we actually agreed. At the end of the meeting officer assured us that they accept the agreement and that the Police will protect us the best they can.

On 22th November the media brought the news that President of Poznan decided that the March can not take place as it puts public safety and property into danger. The President also mentioned that The Committee did not agree to the changes in the March route. It is not true, as mentioned above on the meeting on 18th November at the City Council our representatives said that it is possible.

In our opinion the President took his decision under the pressure of politicians from right wing parties like Law and Justice and Polish
Families League, organizations like All-Polish Youth and The Catholic Church whose ideas and opinions are completely against tolerance and equality. We consider this decision as illegal according to the constitutional law of free demonstration.

We are going to appeal against this decision as we consider it as a danger to the Human Rights in Poland.
The Committee of 'Days of Equality and Tolerance in Poznan' 

Campaign against Homophobia Appeal on the International Day of Tolerance (open letter)
Warsaw, November 16, 2005

Speaking for all members of the Campaign Against Homophobia, we wish to protest against the decision of Ryszard Grobelny, the mayor of the city of Poznan, who issued a ban of the peaceful March of Equality. The right to gather is a fundamental right of every citizen. The Polish Constitution leaves no doubt about this.

Its Article 32 reads: "All are equal before the law. All have the right to equal treatment by public authorities. Nobody can be discriminated against in the political, social, or economic life for any reason."

Unfortunately, the Mayor of Poznan followed in the footsteps of the current Mayor of Warsaw, who banned demonstrations staged by gays and lesbians. The Warsaw Mayor, who is Poland's future President, a defender of the Constitution, said he would never agree to a march of gays and lesbians even before the organizers of the Warsaw's Equality Parade began the process of registering the demonstration.

In Poznan, a year ago already politicians of the Law and Justice (PiS) party objected to the March of Equality. The chairperson of the City Council of Poznan, PiS councilor Przemyslaw Alexandrowicz, said at that time: "I don't want Poznan to see manifestations of different sexual orientations, that is homosexuality, pedophilia, necrophilia, or zoophilia." A prosecutorial procedure against those remarks is still pending. In the spring of 2005, another PiS politician Kazimierz Michal Ujazdowski, who now is the Minister of Culture, said during an election meeting in Torun: "Let's not mistake the brutal propaganda of homosexual attitudes for calls for tolerance. For them, our rule will indeed mean a dark night." Today, PiS, with the support of the far-right League of Polish Families (LPR) and the ultra-catholic media of Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, have their president, prime minister, and the speaker of the lower house of Parliament. Is there any place in their Fourth Republic for people who think differently than the ruling party?

Yesterday, on the day when the Mayor of Poznan was banning a peaceful demonstration, a very important anniversary for Polish gays and lesbians has passed. Exactly 20 years ago, on November 15, 1985, on the orders of General Czeslaw Kiszczak, the communist Minister of Internal Affair, the communist police began the Hyacinth action. For two years, the militsiya registered thousands of homosexuals. That action was designed to infiltrate and destroy the gay and lesbian movement, emerging at that time, and intimidating potential supporters of that movement. Until this day, the National Remembrance Institute holds 11,000 files on Polish homosexuals in its archives.

On this special day, the International Day of Tolerance created by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 12, 1996, we appeal to the Mayor of Poznan and the politicians of the ruling Law and Justice party to observe the rules of democracy, to offer equal treatment for all citizens of Poland regardless of their sexual orientation or their beliefs. The freedom of expression and gathering is a fundamental human right.
The Board of the Campaign against Homophobia

6/12/2005- The President Viktor Yushchenko expressed his anxiety with the cases of anti-semitism in Ukraine and called upon the public, cultural, journalist circles and creative intelligentsia for their solidarity in condemnation of any manifestations of anti-semitism and xenophobia, and stated that the state will stay on the very tough positions in this matter. URA-Inform was informed of that by the President’s press service. In particular, the President condemned the policy of the Kiev-based Inter-regional Personnel Management Academy (MAUP) as the institution that systematically allows itself publications that can be valued as the ones of the anti-semitic contents. Yushchenko stressed that some time ago protesting against MAUP’s inhuman policy he left the supervisory board of their publication, Personnel. The President called upon the MAUP management urging them to respect the rights of citizens of all nationalities and faiths and to stop fomentation of inter-ethic discord. The President of Ukraine stressed that the authority’s obligation is to defend the rights of citizens of any nationality and faith. Therefore, the Ukrainian authority, according to his words, will further be consistent in its position of struggle towards any manifestations of discrimination of people on ethnic, racial or religious grounds. “A European country should not have any ethnic problems,” noted the President. To remind you, Ukraine aspires to join EU as soon as possible. According to Yushchenko, the process of European integration started 7 months ago looks today “as clear as never before”. “There is the clear Ukraine-EU action plan aimed for three years. On its basis the “road map” is outlined that schedules the nearest 15 months of co-operation between Ukraine and the EU. First of all, this “road map” includes granting the Market Economy Status for Ukraine and joining WTO,” Yushchenko previously noted.

5/12/2005- Haarlemmermeer Municipality is willing to give the Ministry for Justice a month to move all detainees out of the cell complex at Schiphol. This was the local authority's opening offer as it entered negotiations with the ministry in Haarlem on Monday morning. "This month is one of the possibilities that we can offer the ministry," a spokesperson for the council said. "The time limit cannot be extended after that". The council is insisting that extra personnel are assigned to the complex until it shuts down to guarantee safety. Last week, the council, which has responsibility for the Schiphol area, demanded that the cell complex close by Wednesday this week at the latest. Eleven illegal immigrants awaiting deportation died in a fire at the cell complex in late October. Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner wanted to keep the undamaged wings of the centre in operation, but Fire Department inspectors reported that the complex still did not meet the required safety standards. Harry Borghouts, the Queen's Commissioner for Noord Holland Province, is mediating between the council and the ministry. The executive council of Haarlemmermeer Municipality on Thursday demanded the closure of the detention centre at Schiphol within 36 hours. Mayor Fons Hertog wanted to give the national government the opportunity to improve the complex first. But the executive council - consisting of the Hertog and the aldermen - sent a letter to the councillors on Thursday to say the complex must close within 36 hours. This followed discussions with Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner. The executive council said Donner had failed to convince it that the ministry would implement the necessary safety improvements in a timely fashion. Previous agreements on safety measures were only implemented by the ministry after repeated inspections and the threat of financial penalties. "This has damaged our confidence in the manner in which the ministry deals with safety at the cell complex," the letter said. Donner insisted that the detention centre meets safety standards and should remain open at least until the finding of the investigation into the fire are published. The executive council said it is not prepared to change the temporary licence for the centre into a permanent one. The licence runs until April. Haarlemmermeer is prepared, however, to discuss moving the centre to another location in the area.
© Expatica News

The unprecedented attempt by a black player to stop a match after being abused by visiting fans in Italy highlights the rising tide of racism in football

4/12/2005- Football matches in Italy this weekend are starting five minutes late. Leaving aside the observation that in a country which sometimes struggles to begin its season within a fortnight of the scheduled start, the gesture may pass unnoticed, the hope is that a portion of those attending games will use the time to reflect on why a professional in Italy’s top division decided to break one of the sport’s more widespread omertas last weekend, to make a spectacle out of racist abuse. His name is Marc Zoro, he comes from Ivory Coast and lives in Sicily. He earns a living there with Messina as a full-back, tough and popular with supporters. Seven days ago Messina were visited in their neat stadium by one of the country’s giants, Internazionale. After 67 minutes Zoro went to retrieve the ball from in front of the away section. The monkey noises some of them had directed at him throughout the match became louder, so he picked up the ball and marched towards the players’ entrance with the idea of asking the fourth official to halt the match. He was visibly emotional, and it required some persuasion from two of Inter’s players to make him change his mind. The game continued. By the next day Zoro regretted some aspects of his action. “If I could go back, I would do and say everything differently, but I’d like to be sure that one day racism will be beaten. With these chants you feel horrible, like your humanity has been offended.”  It was a courageous thing to say. Professional athletes are trained to imagine they can close off the peripheral sounds of their work, to believe their concentration can be impermeable, or at least to give that impression to their peers, to their managers, to their opponents, to the fans. The experience was not new to Zoro, but he had reached breaking point: “I couldn’t accept people coming to my home stadium to abuse me.”

The groups that monitor racism in football suggest that it is on the rise across Europe. Certainly it gets more noticed. Television shows more matches from different places, and although the medium has a tendency to under-represent the individual sounds audible from the grandstand and the pitch, its pictures talk. What Zoro did has been seen worldwide. So has what Samuel Eto’o, the Barcelona forward, had done the previous weekend. Eto’o, who is from Cameroon, had been subjected to sporadic monkey chants from around Real Madrid’s stadium, where they often turn the south end into an ape-house, during the most widely broadcast club match of the year. Eto’o scored a goal and, celebrating it, assumed an iconic posture, his right arm raised, hand clenched into a fist, his left hand in a fist at the small of his back, like the American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medal podium after the men’s 200m at the 1968 Olympic Games. Eto’o has made a spectacle out of racism before. In a match at Real Zaragoza he celebrated a goal by jumping up and down, curling his arms under his armpits and making an “Uuh, Uuh, Uuh” noise, like a cartoon monkey. He would appreciate a little more solidarity. A few Sundays ago, after an evening of sustained abuse at the Madrid club Getafe, he overheard an opposition player telling reporters he hadn’t thought the chants too bad. “Thanks, brother,” said Eto’o.

There is an argument that to make a spectacle of racism is an unproductive way of combating the problem, that ignoring the offenders is more likely to convince abusers of their impotence. It is followed, with tiresome frequency in southern Europe, by the argument that to call a black footballer a monkey is no different from asking a portly one who’s eaten all the pies. The Manchester City player Kiki Musampa has an answer. When he played in Spain, he broke the omerta that says you don’t report what opponents say on the pitch. He named a player who abused him on the basis of his colour. Musampa admits he’s capable of calling people names when he’s angry, but racist abuse disarms. “What can you say back to a white person?” he asks. “‘Whitey’?”
© The Times Online

4/12/2005- A clear message needs to be broadcast – that discrimination and racism will no longer be tolerated. Integra Foundation announced yesterday at a press conference that it is organising a walk called “Together against Hatred and Discrimination” next week. It will be held in Valletta on Monday 12 December and will start from near the statue of Christ the King at 7pm. The objective of the walk is to bring together all marginalised sectors of society including refugees and asylum seekers, gays, people with a disability, the elderly and people suffering from mental illness. Representatives from the three political parties, several NGOs and local personalities were also present at the press conference. All individuals and organisations are invited to participate in order to deliver the message that hatred and discrimination, and the organisations expressing these sentiments, will not be tolerated. Shaun Grech, co-founder of Integra Foundation, said that after the walk, Integra Foundation will start lobbying to introduce provisions in Maltese legislation against hate crime and hate speech. A set of proposals related to these will be forwarded to Members of Parliament for any form of hate-related speech or crime to be punishable by law. All forms of hate speech in public should be monitored especially if it incites prejudice against any individual or group. Unfortunately, hate speech is widely disseminated through various sources of information, Mr Grech said. “Hate speech is extensively propagated through the print media, television and public addresses. The Internet is also used extensively and no one is trying to stop it.” Racism and xenophobia rear their ugly heads because there is lack of knowledge, he explained.

The aim of the walk is to emphasise that differences should not separate but bring people together, said Mario Gerada from Integra Foundation. “However, this often has the opposite effect. People are afraid of diversity when there is nothing to be afraid of,” Mr Gerada said. A possible way of fighting discrimination is changing the education system in Malta which still encourages certain prejudice, according to TV presenter Peppi Azzopardi. He mentioned last week’s programme on Xarabank, which was not broadcast in the afternoon because it discussed gay couples. “This is not reality,” he said. “ We are not showing children that there are other types of families apart from the traditional one.” Labour MP Marie Louise Coleiro agreed, adding that training should be offered to student teachers at university not to label people. Education needs to start in the home, said Nationalist MP Clyde Puli. More coordination is needed between all the different sectors so the final result will be a more knowledgeable and less prejudiced society. However, sometimes education at home is not enough said Maria Pisani, coordinator of Integra Foundation. “While children are taught to be open-minded about diversity, these beliefs are challenged when they mix with other children – at school for example.” If stereotypes and stigmas are not eradicated through education, the school syllabus or through ignorance, the affected people are marginalised and isolated from society. No effort is being made to teach children that there are different ways of life to their own.

Another popular TV presenter, Alfred Zammit spoke out against the growing hatred against irregular immigrants and asylum seekers. “Instead of tackling the issue and problem of immigration in Malta, many people are attacking the immigrants using hate speech,” he said. Mr Azzopardi pointed out that in this year’s edition of Istrina, a small percentage of the collected funds will be donated to help the refugees in Malta. “I know this decision probably means that less funds will be collected, but I still think the right decision was taken by the committee.” Fear must not be used as a tool to use people for their own ends said Ralph Cassar from the Green Party (Alternattiva Demokratika).
© Malta Independent

6/12/2005- Two Glasgow council managers who won race discrimination claims when they were turned down for promotion have had tribunal rulings confirmed by the Court of Session. The Employment Appeal Tribunal had found in favour of Glasgow council on appeal, but now the inner house of the Court of Session has quashed that ruling and confirmed the decisions of the original Glasgow tribunals, that Kuldip Dhesi, 44, and Clarence Bvunzai, 56, were discriminated against on the grounds of race. Glasgow-born Mr Dhesi, who is of Indian origin, accused the council of racism and victimisation after he failed to get a key post with the asylum seeker's project in the city, claiming he was better qualified and the most experienced. The Glasgow tribunal found he was treated unfairly and the council fell seriously below the standard to be expected of it. In another ruling, Lord Hamilton ruled that the Employment Appeal Tribunal had erred in law in interfering with the original tribunal's decision and found Clarence Bvunzai's non-selection for a job was influenced by racial factors. Zimbabwe-born Mr Bvunzai had accused his employers of discrimination after he failed to get a job as unit manager at a residential care home for the elderly. Last night equality campaigners demanded that the city review its employment procedures. Ali Jarvis, interim director of the Commission for Racial Equality Scotland, said: "The court's findings should be a wake-up call to every public authority in Scotland. "In not one but two cases, Glasgow city council, which covers the most ethnically diverse region of Scotland, has been found to have discriminated against potential employees on the grounds of race." He said the council should undertake a full review of its employment procedures "to reassure people that, regardless of their ethnicity, they will get fair treatment".
© The Scotsman

6/12/2005- Who speaks for young British Muslims? This is the question the BBC News website put to eight young Muslims living in cities and towns across the UK. We asked whether they felt they were being accurately represented by Muslim organisations, what they felt about media coverage of their religion and how it feels to live as a young Muslim in the UK today.

Amran Majid, Birmingham, IT manager, 28
I don't feel that any of the organisations I know represent me, for several reasons. Firstly, they are all low key, they do not say "we're making a stand". It's also difficult to see how something like the Muslim Council of Britain represents me. The spokespeople are older and not in touch with the issues we face. They project an older generation which, at the time, was new to the UK. We have a different view. My parents are Pakistani but I was born and brought up here. I was brought up on Spiderman and the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. I have a different education and different interests to my parents. They represent an old way of life. In a way it is our fault, we should stand up more. The people I see in the media who supposedly represent us younger people are not particularly eloquent or do not come from a professional background. This suggests we are all ill-educated or extremist. But it is the way the media grabs people's attention. It would be nice to see more informative programming on what Muslims do and how they live their lives. When was the last time Muslims were shown in a positive light on the BBC or another channel? There is also, I think, a general defensiveness from Muslims who feel anything they say will be taken out of context. They are scared of holding an opinion. We need to take ownership of issues and deal with this problem. We need to see more positive things about ourselves. Young Muslims feel disenfranchised, but as more and more get a better education they can integrate and be valued.

Nejim Gakenyi,  Leeds, IT consultant, 23
After the terror attacks in London there was a knee jerk reaction. There was this emphasis on Muslim community leaders to expose extremism within communities. But you cannot paint every Muslim with the same brush. I have friends of all ethnic backgrounds. I think the big problem is affiliation in people's minds. If they think of someone Muslim, they assume someone is Pakistani or Bangladeshi or whatever. But, of course, the people of Pakistan are of a very different origin to people from Bosnia, where my family are from. I think education would help - people should be able to learn about other religions from various sources. But what certain extreme minorities do should not be put down to Islam or Islamic beliefs. I'm a young Muslim and I have strong opinions. But no-one represents me and no-one has ever spoken to me. I disagree with US foreign policy and UK policy. I'm against the Iraq war and I feel for the Palestinians - but that does not make me an extremist. My own family were persecuted, driven out from their homes and taken to concentration camps just for having a Muslim name. But I could not put my religion before my nationality, because my faith has nothing to do with my nationality. The two cannot be compared and there should not be a relationship between the two. Now, the government and the media are fuelling problems by using phrases such as "Islamophobia" or "extremists" without any context. By talking to specific community leaders, just because they lived near where the bombers came from, they presume that everyone who lives there is of the same background. It puts the blame on everyone who lives there. But if the families did not know, how can the community know?

Sima Ajam, London, Solicitor, 25
The majority of Muslim people in the UK are immigrants from Asia, from countries such as Pakistan and India. They have a different way of life to someone like myself, who is of Syrian, Armenian and Turkish descent. Cultural traditions infiltrate into religion. It is a different way of life to those with a Middle Eastern background. I feel that some of the people who speak under the banner of Islam do not represent me. We may follow the same religion, but sometimes cultural issues overtake this. Sometimes, I do feel there is prejudice between Muslim people, that if you do not practice certain elements, they look down on you. My parents are from Syria and are liberal about many issues. But when I was at school, some of the Pakistani children in my class would be confused and ask "why aren't you covered up? Why aren't you wearing a skirt?" But then, when I am in Syria, people assume I am Christian because I look Westernised. It is not really a problem, but they have stereotyped me. We complain about being stereotyped by whites but we stereotype each other, too. When the media make programmes about Muslims, they invariably go to socially deprived areas. A new generation came here in the mid-1980s and early 1990s to seek education and go into respected professions. However, we are portrayed solely as unemployed, working class poor. People need to see that a new generation of teachers, doctors and lawyers is contributing to British society. Education is the most important thing. Our community leaders need to be more encouraging to Muslim youth. At the moment they just make them hard-hearted, when the imams should teach them to know about the importance of achieving.

Shahed Alam, Oldham, Trainee auditor/volunteer worker, 26
In a nutshell, the media do not represent us. The problem is that we have a minor section of young Muslims with extreme views, of whom some are taking drastic action. People talk of improving integration - but the July bombers were British with good jobs. So, how do we make sure these people do not get captured by extremists? The first thing would be to treat everyone as individuals. We cannot blame all Muslims in this country for what a minority think. Also, every time a bombing occurs, the media ask us about what happened. It does not matter how hard we work, we are always branded as different. As a Muslim - of Bangladeshi descent - I always feel a sense of belonging to the Muslim brotherhood. So, when injustice is done - for example the riots in France - you feel it.
But at the same time, when David Beckham broke his foot before the World Cup, I worried as much as any other British person did. All these loyalties - religious and cultural - run parallel and I think that is good. Two years ago, I would have said I felt no affiliation with Muslim groups, but this has improved. Many young Muslim organisations are now affiliating themselves with the Muslim Council of Britain to present their viewpoints. But there is still a long way to go. Young Muslim people need to be seen on the frontline of British politics. Society needs to help but the younger generation need to take the initiative, too. We have to wake up and make our voices heard. 

Saima Hanif,  London, Barrister, 25
I think we do have a voice, after all many of us are young professionals and are articulate. However, there are too many individuals doing their own thing. We have no central organisation to represent the views I was taught, as a more liberal and progressive Muslim. We need a third voice who can say: "We're in the 21st Century - this is what it means to be a Muslim today." But this progressive body of thought is not represented in mainstream media. Whenever the media wants a Muslim representative they talk to an elderly cleric in Birmingham. What mandate does he have to speak for us? There are several complicated reasons for why this representation has not happened. Some are historical reasons. In Bolton - where I am from originally - we have a large Pakistani Muslim community. They came from rural backgrounds and they came here to work in the textile industries. They were not educated, they came over to work. Then all the factories closed down, socio-economic problems developed and they became frustrated. Now there is a group of people who cannot articulate what they want to say and the situation makes it worse. But it is a two way street. We have to ask why we are not represented in the mainstream press and how we address this ourselves, on a grass roots level. We tend to get overly simplified views, when Islam is much more sophisticated than people think. It frustrates me people think all Muslim woman have to wear the hijab - if I do not it does not mean I'm not a Muslim. We also have to show that there is nothing inconsistent between being Muslim and British. The two work together. This "clash of values" idea is nonsense. 

Shahban Aziz,  Manchester, University student, 19
I think as Muslims we have been a very united community. The media makes out we are having problems with fanaticism but I think we have just been misrepresented. The main community leaders are moderate and blend in. But all we hear about are the radical clerics. We have one of the largest mosques in the UK here in Manchester and our cleric is very learned. He says Muslims should have an education. Yet you never see the media listening to him. At university, I have met people from all over the world. It is much better than having a single-minded view. If you are not educated, you probably do not realise that everyone's views are different. You have to take on board that most people are not out to get you. I think the media has actually worsened issues by taking things out of context. As a result, people I know have had comments. I know of a Muslim girl who wears a headscarf here who got called a terrorist. It creates bad feeling, a sense of persecution, that people are out to get you. I was born in Britain and I will always feel British, but I feel my Pakistani origins and traditions. If asked whether I consider myself Muslim, well, I am Muslim. But my generation were born here - we all support the England football team and all the young lads here cheer for David Beckham. Recently, in politics, we are getting more Muslim MPs and we are beginning to realise we can have a real say. It will help put Muslims in a better light and stop us being pushed to the edges. 

Arfan, Bradford, Analyst, 23
I come from a multicultural society but the 9/11 attacks damaged us severely. I feel discrimination. You know what other people think of you. It's like bullying, all these negative attitudes we get. I am not extreme - I am educated and have done a degree. But since 9/11 I have begun to realise who I really am. If I see myself as British I would not see myself as discriminated against. But once I see myself as Muslim, I can see the pain. People used to respect us here in Bradford. Now, they think, "he goes to a mosque, I don't trust him." I understand those who take it to the extreme. If you came to a typical street in Bradford, you would be amazed at the hatred many people feel now. Maybe there is a war against Muslims here, with the incidents and arrests going on nowadays. There is a way out, and that is when Muslims leave this country and take their money with them so the economy goes down. That is when the government will wake up and realise: "We pushed them out." We helped make this country - we came over as labour and we worked hard. I'm from Bradford, I remember the riots, when the [far right group] National Front came we stood up for ourselves. People came from the outside to cause trouble in Asian areas - but the media never reported that. When I went to university I woke up. People had an attitude about us. They thought we were gangsters. I had a lot of white friends, but after the riots most of them did not want to know. They felt all Asians caused trouble. 

Mediehah Bashir, Glasgow, University student, 20
We have to integrate, to get more involved in events and politics. Young Muslims need to involve themselves more to get their message across. I think it is definitely possible to be both British and Muslim. If you are living in a country, you have to comply with its laws to integrate and be beneficial to society. You cannot alienate yourself. Ultimately, the underlying values of both concepts are very similar. Being British and Muslim does not mean two opposing things. Personally, I try to dispel the negative images many Muslims have, especially as women. Often people think we are subjugated or patronised. They think we are dictated to by male members of the community or made to wear the veil. But we wear it out of choice. It is just ignorance. I am also a member of the Glasgow University Muslim Students Association. It is a main port of call for other Muslim students, helping them to know where local mosques are, where prayer rooms are on campus and where to meet other Muslims. Many first year students and internationals feel out of place. By helping them through fundraising and raising issues relevant to us we can make a difference for us and the entire community. I think the media creates negativity because of ignorance. Education is needed on both sides. The situation is fairly positive in Glasgow. I grew up here and people are perhaps more understanding than in London, especially after the bombings. I have not experienced a change in atmosphere, other than the occasional feeling that I'm being treated differently. I think many Muslims are beginning to work with the media, involving themselves more in the community and helping to improve the image of Muslims. Hopefully, in 20 years time, we will be in a better position, with more of us willing to get involved. That way we can make a positive change. 

A special week of features about Islam in Britain and Europe on the BBC website
© BBC News

Hundreds of gay couples are preparing to form civil partnerships in the coming weeks as the law changes after decades of campaigning.

5/12/2005- At least 1,200 ceremonies are confirmed as being scheduled already, according to figures from councils compiled by the BBC News website. Registrars are preparing for the first ceremonies, with couples permitted to register from Monday morning. Campaigners says the law ends inequalities for same-sex couples. The first ceremonies under the Civil Partnerships Act can take place in Northern Ireland on 19 December, followed by Scotland the next day and England and Wales on 21 December. Under the law, couples who want to form a partnership must register their intentions with local councils. Unlike marriages, the signing of the legal partnership papers does not need to happen in public.

Bookings coming in
Hundreds of couples are expected to go ahead quickly, with Brighton conducting 198 ceremonies before the end of the year. Overall, the city has taken 510 bookings for the coming months, thought to be the highest in the country. Other cities which have seen strong interest include London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Edinburgh. Meg Munn, minister for equality, said the government expected 4,500 couples to get "partnered" in the first year. "This is an important piece of legislation that gives legal recognition to relationships which until now were invisible in the eyes of the law," Ms Munn told the BBC News website. "It accords people in same-sex relationships the same sort of rights and responsibilities that are available to married couples. "We know there are people who have been together maybe 40 years and have been waiting for the chance to do this kind of thing, because of the important differences it makes to their lives. "They have the same concerns as married couples - tenancy, ownership, pensions and inheritance."  Alan Wardle, of gay campaign group Stonewall, said the importance of the change should not be underestimated. "Our view is that civil partnerships are transformative for the lives of individual couples and their rights, but also for society more generally. "Society now legally recognises gay relationships for the first time. "It's a big day but 21 December, when the first partnerships take place, will be even bigger because that will see gay and lesbian people removing discrimination." But a spokesman for the one of the UK's major Christian groups told the BBC they believed same-sex couples should not get the same rights as married couples. "If you transport something unique, like marriage, into a different context, there's always a cost. And the cost here is in terms of reduction of marriage and the undermining of it," Don Horrocks of the Evangelical Alliance said.

Reticent councils
Retailers are already beginning to cash in on the new partnerships. A range of "Mr and Mr" and "Mrs and Mrs" cards will hit Asda supermarkets this week. And sets of "Darling, Dearest, Queerest" embroidered towel and soaps went on sale at Superdrug stores on Friday. Meanwhile, three short advertisements were published in the Births, Marriages and Deaths columns under the heading Civil partnerships in Monday's Times newspaper. The heading is a new addition to the paper, which has carried family announcements for nearly 221 years. Campaigners have focused on councils which have been equivocal about the new law. Bromley in south-east London had initially planned not to offer public ceremonies. Lisburn in Northern Ireland also overturned a proposed ban. Ms Munn said any councils dragging their feet needed to comply with the both the spirit and letter of the law. "The legislation requires that every authority must offer a civil partnership. The basic level of that is a simple signing of a register - some couples may just want that alone. "But if any councils are saying they won't allow [public] ceremonies, for couples who want that kind of celebration, then it's time they came into the 21st century."

Provisional bookings
Brighton and Hove: 510
Westminster: 140
Manchester: 88
Newcastle: 80
Birmingham: 70
Leeds: 60
Edinburgh: 76
Sheffield: 58
Nottingham: 50
Glasgow: 30
Cardiff: 24
Belfast: 20
Liverpool 20
Londonderry: 6
Aberdeen: 5
Source: Councils; not all ceremonies booked for December
© BBC News

4/12/2005- The Archbishop of York yesterday condemned government policies that leave asylum-seekers homeless and with no financial support as "inhuman". Dr John Sentamu, Britain's first black archbishop, who was enthroned last week, led a number of UK religious leaders in calling for the Government to change policies that they said "victimise" asylum-seekers. The archbishop and 44 bishops and church leaders claimed that the threat of destitution was being used as a way of pressurising refused asylum-seekers to leave the country. Asylum-seekers are not allowed to work for the first 12 months of their application and those refused asylum are not entitled to benefits. Their letter said many asylum-seekers were refused the right to stay in the UK and had no way of returning home. Others, they say, are "unfairly denied" asylum. The letter also spoke of our "international, moral and legal responsibilities to welcome those fleeing adversity from other parts of the world and provide social security". "All those within our borders, including people seeking asylum, whatever their status, should have the opportunity to help themselves and society through paid employment. Where this is not possible, people seeking asylum, whatever their status, should be given the necessary rights to 'food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services' (UN Declaration of Human Rights)," the church leaders wrote. A Home Office spokesman insisted that there was support available for failed asylum-seekers who had been left destitute.
© Independent Digital

'RACISM? IT'S ENDEMIC HERE'(uk, comment)
On the streets of Huyton, scene of Anthony Walker's shocking murder, Mark Townsend discovers a lingering subculture of venom and violence

4/12/2005- They may never view it as justice. Hours earlier, news had filtered onto the uncompromising streets of Huyton that two of their own had been jailed for life. As the first flecks of rain fell upon east Liverpool's sprawling estates, a young white man spat his fury at the prison sentences handed to those who had murdered Anthony Walker with an ice-axe. 'It's a bit fucking heavy,' he scowled, his features hidden beneath a tracksuit hood. 'People have murdered and got away with a couple of years.' He glanced up St Johns Road to the bus shelter where Anthony was called a 'nigger' by 17-year-old Michael Barton on the night of 29 July. The abuse would precipitate one of the most high-profile race murders in Britain, one that would open old wounds in a city with a tangled multicultural history. As with most hate-crime, a complex meld of causes and entrenched bigotry had been grotesquely articulated in a single, horrific moment. And such factors do not disappear overnight. Although Barton and Paul Taylor may be gone from the bleak streets of St Johns estate, their supporters remain. Among the huddled, hooded groups there seemed little remorse for Anthony, murdered at the precise spot in McGoldrick Park where the local teenagers had once congregated. Today a small pile of flowers on a narrow footpath marks their favourite hangout.

Beside the bouquets, the Tarmac seems strangely darker. It was here that the council poured the chemicals that washed away the word 'nigger' sprayed there in the hour after Barton and his cousin, Taylor, were found guilty of murdering Anthony. It is as if the very ground where Anthony died is stained by racism. 'Racist around here? It's endemic, ground into the fabric,' said musician Neal while waiting for the 217 bus last Friday. 'The pro-killer brigade have already been up to where he was axed to protest with police at the length of the sentence.' He sighed and jabbed his finger at the Huyton Park, the red-bricked pub from whose car park Barton unleashed his stream of venom against Anthony moments before the attack. 'Go in there and you'll find out. But you'll end up in a plastic bag.' Tony Excell, who has monitored the city's race relations since the Toxteth riots of 1981, admits a brooding, malevolent racism exists among a disenfranchised white minority in Huyton. 'It's a massive problem,' he said. Others believe that Barton and Taylor would attack anyone they felt was an 'outsider'. At school, they bullied William Eborall because he was deemed too posh and Lee Caldwell, confined to a wheelchair during his childhood. Anthony defended them both. Kneeling at the spot where his best friend Anthony was murdered, 19-year-old Caldwell nodded to the grass behind where they had once played in more innocent days - Anthony, his two murderers and the rest of the lads. To the softly spoken Caldwell, Anthony may always remain the 'best person I ever met'.

That most people in Huyton adored the black athlete who dreamt of becoming a lawyer is no secret. As night fell on Friday, a family entered McGoldrick Park and stopped in the gloom. Their young daughter ran forward and placed a statue of the Virgin Mary among the wreaths. It was a fitting gesture. Anthony's mother, Gee, had turned to God to forgive the murderers of her child. The killers, in turn, had only believed in a God-given right to terrorise. Three days before Barton and Taylor were found guilty, Daniel Taylor had wondered aloud whether Britain's cities could overcome the culture of violence among their disaffected youth. Exactly five years had passed since his 10-year-old-son Damilola was killed in south London. Speaking in the capital's Barbican Centre, Taylor described how 'Damilola lost his life because of enormous problems in our society'. Although Damilola's death is not officially classed as racially motivated, both murders possess striking parallels. Both victims were young, gifted and black. Both were stabbed in crime-ridden, poor communities; both families wanted the best for their sons. In doing so, one had moved from Nigeria to London, the other just three miles from Toxteth to Huyton.

But long before Taylor made his speech, experts were warning that Huyton was edging towards a flashpoint. In the week before Anthony's death, race relation experts had met Merseyside police and Knowsley Borough Council, which covers Huyton, warning of a 'serious problem' brewing. Police logs reveal that, in the weeks around Anthony's death, racially motivated attacks had doubled in Knowsley compared to the previous summer. In the same week that Anthony was murdered by a 60cm ice-axe embedded 7cm into his skull, Angie Ncube was racially abused and stabbed in the eye by a burglar in her Liverpool home. That both attacks came within a month of the London bombs surprised no one. Between 7 July and 8 August the number of racially and religiously motivated attacks quadrupled in Merseyside with more than 200 calls. During the same period, Merseyside police reported an 87 per cent increase.

Two months ago the Liverpool Daily Echo asked readers what they thought of the council's slogan 'world in one city'. One mother-of-six described how her family had endured 50 years of racial harassment. Another claimed Liverpool was more racist than the apartheid South Africa where he was raised. He had called police more than 180 times in six years as 'marauding, baying mobs attacked and stoned our home'. Excell is among those who remain baffled at the faltering progress of integration since the Toxteth riots. Liverpool's role in the slave trade cannot be overlooked, he concludes. In the hysterical hours that followed Anthony's death, Excell decided enough was enough. Within a week the articulate 40-year-old from Toxteth had helped form the Campaign Against Racial Terrorism. The idea had been with him for years. 'Every time I go into the city centre it never ceases to amaze me: I don't see black faces working in the department stores. I don't see anybody looking like me,' he said. Other facts support his case. Of Liverpool's 5,500 teachers, fewer than 40 are black. The city has just a single black councillor; few council workers have key decision-making jobs, according to Excell.

Securing influential positions in the civic interest was never likely to have seduced Barton and Taylor, but what had inspired them to commit such a murder? Although the two must be viewed as part of an unrepresentative minority, some point to Huyton's reputation as a white ghetto. Just 2,100 of the 150,600 residents of the Borough of Knowsley are from ethnic minorities. While that eradicated competition for jobs and housing between the two communities, those like Anthony became both highly vulnerable and visible. Deprivation, too, inevitably played its part. Huyton is found within the third most deprived area of the UK. Unemployment among its young men stands higher than one in four. Odds are stacked high against young men from the St Johns estate. Barton was universally considered slow; Taylor was expelled from school aged 14. Both had accepted theft as their principal vocation. And they liked a fight. Locals speak of 'Asbo central', where men 'put their title on the line' after a few bevvies.

Just two miles from McGoldrick Park lie the suburbs of Gateacre and Woolton. Here, residents talk of a mixed harmonious community. Sheila Hanlon, 48, smiled: 'We've got no problems around here. Everyone gets on regardless of colour.' Even on the St Johns estate, a number of homes have neatly tended flower beds and colourful hanging baskets. The Butty Box does a roaring trade with its its clientele of disarming, chatty residents who, though sickened by the murder, remain too scared to be named. An Irish mother wept so hard her shoulders began heaving as she tried to describe how she knew Anthony. The police are roundly praised for their efforts, but tension remains. Those who scrawled 'nigger' in the park are still at large. For now, the only words at the murder scene are within a note buried among the flowers. Its message, delivered in shaky, smudged Biro, says: 'It's not black, it's not white. A young boy lost his life here. For God's sake will they understand?'
© The Observer

The tensions between a dispossessed underclass and the comfortable majority have only been repressed, not solved
By Immanuel Wallerstein, senior research scholar at Yale University and the author of The Decline of American Power: the US in a Chaotic World.  

3/12/2005- Last month France had a rebellion of its underclass that lasted for about two weeks. Groups of young people, mostly of north African or sub-Saharan descent, set fire to cars and hurled rocks at police. In some ways, this was the kind of uprising that has been occurring throughout the world in recent decades. But it also had particular French explanations. It emerged violently, like a phoenix. It has been suppressed by the force of the state. It is far from over. The immediate story is very simple. Three young men saw police stopping other youths and asking for identity cards. This happens routinely in France to young people of colour who live in the de facto segregated high-rise, dilapidated housing of the banlieues (where France's ghettoes are located). These housing complexes are home to largely unemployed, undereducated youths who have few prospects for jobs, for upward mobility, or even for non-work activity (sport, or cultural centres). These young people run away from identity checks primarily because they are often pointlessly taken into custody in police stations, where they are often harassed, and where they remain for hours until their parents come to take them home. In this particular case, the youths jumped a wall and landed in an electricity substation, where two of them were electrocuted. This was the spark to the rebellion. It was a rebellion against poverty, joblessness, racist behaviour by the French police and, above all, lack of acceptance as the citizens they mostly are and as the cultural minority they feel they have the right to remain. The French government seemed primarily concerned with repressing the rebellion, and eventually succeeded in this. The fact that the prime minister and the minister of the interior are fierce rivals for the future candidacy for the presidency ensured that neither was going to seem soft on rebellion and thereby give an advantage to the other.

It amazes me that people are surprised when underclasses rebel. The surprising thing is that they do not do it more often. The combination of the oppressiveness of poverty and racism and the lack of short-term, or even medium-term hope is surely a recipe for rebellion. What keeps rebellion down is fear of repression, which is why repression is usually swift. But the repression never makes the anger go away. Dominique de Villepin, the prime minister, says that this uprising was not as bad as those of Los Angeles in 1992, when 54 people died and 2,000 were hurt. Perhaps not, but that's hardly a basis for boasting. Throughout the world today, metropolitan areas are filled with people who match the profile of the rebels in France: poor, jobless, socially marginalised and defined as "different" - and therefore angry. If they are teenagers they have the energy to rebel, and lack even the minimal family responsibilities that might restrain them. Furthermore, the anger is reciprocated. Those in the more comfortable majority fear these young people precisely for the characteristics they have. The better-off feel that the poor youths tend to be lawless and, well, "different". So, many of the better-off (but perhaps not all) tend to endorse strong measures to contain these rebellions, including total exclusion from the society, even from the country. France is in some ways an exaggerated version of what we find everywhere, not only in North America and the rest of Europe, but throughout the south in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, India and South Africa. Indeed, it is hard to think of a country where this issue does not exist. The problem with France is that too many of its citizens have long denied to themselves that this is a French problem as well.

France defines itself as the country of universal values, where discrimination cannot exist because everyone can become a French person if they're ready to integrate fully. The reality is that France has always (yes, I said always) been a country of immigration. In the days of the ancien regime, and even in the first half of the 19th century, the non-French speakers (50% up to the French revolution) migrated to Paris and other northern cities. Later it was the Italians, the Belgians and the Corsicans. Then came the Poles, and then the Portuguese and Spaniards. And in the past 40 years or so, massively, north and sub-Saharan Africans and immigrants from what was French Indochina. France is a multicultural country par excellence still living the Jacobin dream of uniformity. The number of practising Catholics is zooming down while the number of practising Muslims is increasing daily. The major consequence of this has been a hallucinatory debate for more than a decade on what to do about Muslim girls who wish to have their hair covered when they go to school. The racist right saw the wearing of the foulard (headscarf) as an affront to Frenchness and, if truth be told, to Christianity. The classical left (or at least a large part of it) saw it as a challenge to sacrosanct laÔcitť. Both sides combined to outlaw the foulard (and, in order to be balanced, Christian and Jewish "large" symbols too). So a certain number of Muslim girls were expelled from school. And the matter was thought to be solved somehow.

What was remarkable about the rebellion in France this time is that it did not focus on religious issues. For example, it did not result in anti-semitic tirades. Because France has a large number of poor Jews who live in the same housing complexes, there have been Muslim-Jewish, or rather Palestinian-Israeli, tensions for the past two decades. But that issue was shelved. The French rebellion was a spontaneous class uprising. And like most spontaneous uprisings, it could not be sustained for too long. But also, like most rebellions, the possibility of recurrence will not disappear unless the gross inequalities are overcome. And it does not seem that too much effort is being made by the French authorities (or, for that matter, by authorities elsewhere in the world) to overcome inequalities. We are in an epoch of accentuating, not alleviating, inequalities. And therefore we are in an epoch of increasing, not decreasing, rebellions.
© The Guardian

6/12/2005- An unknown man recently refused to let a group of Romanies in a club in Ostrava, advised them to seek Gypsy entertainment instead and grossly offended them over their colour of skin, the local police told CTK today, adding that the case is being investigated. A group of Romanies aged between 16 and 23 wanted to visit the Ta Magica club on Saturday shortly before midnight. At the entrance, however, they faced a man who refused to let them in and offended them. He called them "Gypsy dirt" and other swearwords with a racial subtext. The man later disappeared and the police are searching for him. The police are investigating the incident on suspicion of defamation of a nation, ethnic group, race and conviction and of breach of the peace. The perpetrator faces up to two years if identified and found guilty. If it turned out that the man worked for the club, the club's owner could face troubles as well. The Ostrava regional court discussed a similar case last week. Three Romanies complained about the staff in the local wine bar Rubin having refused to attend to them in 2001. The court verdict granted a compensation of 50,000 crowns and a written apology to each. In another case, the owner of the now defunct Diablo club had to apologise to three Romanies whom the club staff refused to serve in March 2004. The club owner also has to pay 30,000 crowns to each of the complainants and cover their court costs. In January 2003, the Ostrava regional court ruled that the owner of the Club Vegas restaurant must apologise in the press to a Romany whom a local waiter refused to serve. The court, however, did not qualify the incident as racially-motivated and turned down the Romany's claim for 50,000 crowns in compensation.
© Prague Daily Monitor

About twenty right-wing extremists from the National Resistance Silesia movement today established patrols to monitor security in the streets of Orlova- Poruba, a neighbourhood where a large number of thefts and robberies occurred recently.

3/12/2005- The self-named guards want to monitor the observance of public peace and hand the possible culprits over to the police. A higher number of police officers are to monitor the extremists' action aimed against Romanies, in order to prevent possible violence. "We want to express our disagreement with the work of the city management and of the state and municipal police in the neighbourhood," the movement's representative who would not give his name, told journalists today. He said that elderly people were attacked in Orlova-Poruba streets and metal objects were regularly stolen. "Permanent pressure has been exerted on younger fellow citizens by Romany inhabitants," the representative said. He said the patrols will remain in the streets throughout December at least. Orlova Mayor Vladimir Farana said he disagrees with the extremists' plan. No attack occurred here since the perpetrators were placed in custody three weeks ago, he said, citing police statistics. Jirina Kubatova, a Romany adviser at the Orlova Town Hall, called the planned action unnecessary. "It only foments unpleasant reactions. We are often in contact with Romanies. The local Romanies are not the perpetrators," Kubatova told CTK. Romanies would not comment on the situation.
© Prague Daily Monitor

5/12/2005- Vladimir Putin has instructed the head of the Kremlin administration to prepare amendments to a bill on non-commercial organizations in five days, RIA Novosti reported Monday. The president gave the instructions during a meeting with the government and officials Monday. The amendments should include recommendations from Europe, and reflect the concerns of the Russian Public Chamber and non-governmental organizations. Putin said the bill is essential for ensuring security from the threat of hateful or terrorist ideology. “Unfortunately, we encounter extreme trends in various directions and confessions, and this, being like the tip of an iceberg, forces us to tackle them with forceful means using law enforcement bodies,” Vladimir Putin said. Putin said he had sent Russian Justice Minister Yury Chaika to Strasbourg to hold consultations on the issue. The bill, given preliminary backing by Russia’s lower house of parliament two weeks ago, would severely restrict all NGOs, and foreign-funded groups in particular. It would require local branches of foreign NGOs to reregister as virtual Russian entities, subject to stricter financial and legal restrictions. The legislation also would give government officials greater control over the operation of both foreign- and local-funded groups, allowing authorities to oversee their financial flows and activities. Critics have said the measure would solidify Kremlin control of Russian society. Human Rights Watch and Greenpeace have said they may have to shut their Russian operations if the legislation becomes law.
© MosNews

4/12/2005- Officials at Russia’s Domodedovo airport have confiscated the national (internal) passports of 17 Chechen human rights activists heading to Strasbourg for a European Council summit, Interfax quoted the head of the delegation as saying Sunday. Officials at the checkpoint in Domodedovo confiscated the internal passports and demonstrated disrespect towards the delegation, including women, Nurdi Nukhazhiyev said. Nukhazhiyev, who heads the Chechen Council of Human Rights Organizations of Chechnya, said after the incident he considered canceling the trip, but Chechen authorities asked him to continue the mission. “Considering the importance of the planned Strasbourg meeting, the Chechen Republic authorities asked me to continue the trip,” he said. Nukhazhiyev added he made it clear to officers at the checkpoint that they were acting against the all-Russian policy of presenting equal rights to all ethnicities within Russia. He said on arriving in Strasbourg he would definitely make the incident known to the Council of Europe.A delegation of 17 Chechen human rights officials has been invited to Strasburg by Alvaro Gil-Robles, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe. Officials at Domodedovo airport have not yet commented on the incident.
© MosNews

5/12/2005- The Supreme Court late Friday upheld a lower court's decision to bar Rodina from the City Duma elections, a ruling that the nationalist party denounced as politically motivated and liberal opposition parties called a mistake. Supreme Court spokesman Vyacheslav Shulenin said the count had rejected Rodina's appeal of the Moscow City Court ruling to strike the party off the ballot for a campaign commercial that likened dark-skinned migrants to garbage. Shulenin said the decision did not bar Rodina candidates from running in single-mandate districts. The lawsuit against Rodina was initiated by the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and backed by the city elections committee. Rodina leader Dmitry Rogozin lashed out at the Supreme Court's decision as "politically motivated" and accused the Kremlin of being behind it. "The attempt to deprive Rodina voters of their right to have representatives in the City Duma is a rude violation of the constitutional rights of Russian citizens," he said, Interfax reported. He said the ruling was a sign that the authorities were afraid of Rodina, which is widely seen as a Kremlin-created party that was set up to steal votes from the Communists in the 2003 State Duma elections. "A real political opposition was born today in Russia," Rogozin said. He urged voters to mark the box next to Rodina's crossed-out name Sunday. Boris Nadezhdin, deputy leader of the liberal Union of Right Forces, said Rodina's commercial was "terrible and incited xenophobia," but it was a mistake to bar Rodina from the ballot. "This will not help fight against xenophobia, but just make Rodina more popular," Nadezhdin said. Senior Yabloko official Alexei Melnikov called the court decision "ridiculous." "We are against that clip and what Rodina does, but it is ridiculous to bar it because of a case started by LDPR, a party very similar to Rodina," he said. Opinion polls had suggested Rodina would take second place in the elections, after the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. Rodina had 44 people on its party list, which was headed by City Duma Deputy Yury Popov. Striking Rodina off the ballot will not help fight growing prejudice toward ethnic minorities and migrants, said Vladimir Pribylovsky, the head of the Panorama think tank. "The authorities should have opened a criminal case against Rodina, and someone should have been held responsible for that commercial," he said. "They have lost the City Duma elections, but now they will become very popular," he said.
© The Moscow Times

4/12/2005- Muscovites voted on Sunday in a city council election which polls show is likely to cement the Kremlin‘s control over the capital and Russian political life. United Russia, which pledges loyalty to President Vladimir Putin , is expected to take most of the 35 city council seats. A nationalist party, Rodina (Motherland), which opinion polls suggested had the most hope of denting United Russia‘s win, was banned from the race after a campaign advertisement that judges said incited racism. The problem of illegal immigration has played a key part in the election campaign with emotive calls to clean up the city, whose shadow economy is dominated by migrant workers. Mayor Yuri Luzhkov will step down in 2007 and the city council will have a say in who will then run Moscow, a city of both ostentatious wealth and poverty. "Moscow is a whole state in itself and the atmosphere in the whole country depends on the situation in Moscow," Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party, said after voting, RIA Novosti reported. Of 35 seats on the council, 20 are elected on party lists. At least 20 percent of the 6.9 million registered voters must take part for the election to be valid. Polling stations close at 17:00 GMT.
© Reuters

2/12/2005- Demonstrations in Pakistan have escalated into death threats against Danish illustrators who drew pictures of the prophet Mohammed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned Danish travellers to Pakistan of increased hazard after a Danish newspaper's decision to publish cartoons of Muslim prophet Mohammed escalated into a bounty being placed on the heads of the cartoonists. Daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoon drawings of Mohammed in September, sparking angry reactions from Denmark's Muslim population and a number of Muslim countries. A bounty of DKK 50,000 had been put on the head the cartoonist responsible for the drawings, daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende reported on Friday. The Pakistani group offering the reward mistakenly believes that the 12 cartoons were created by just one person. Danish Ambassador to Pakistan Bent Wigotski said the bounty had been promised by religious party Jamaat-e-Islami and its youth organisation, which had also demanded Danish representatives expelled from the country. Danish authorities immediately informed the Pakistani government about the death threats and bounty promised by the party, which is described as nationalistic and fundamentalist. Ever since the demonstrators marched through the streets of Islamabad, the party has been spreading its message through the media and flyers. Wigotski said he had no plans to leave Pakistan, despite hundreds of angry protest letters from Muslims around the world. 'But the situation is of course serious,' he said. 'They might want to get to the Danish illustrators, but if they can't reach them, they could make to with a scapegoat.' That scapegoat could be anybody, the embassy warned, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a new travel advisory for Pakistan warning Danes not to visit the country, given that the Jyllands-Posten cartoons were 'seen by many Muslims as derogatory and blasphemous'. Pakistani Ambassador to Denmark Javed Qureshi denounced the death threats. 'No Pakistani government would ever support such a thing, I'm sure that the current government will take action in the case. I can't imagine that a bounty like that doesn't violate Pakistani legislation,' said Qureshi, who was one of the 11 Muslim ambassadors in Denmark to sign a protest letter to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen about the cartoons. Jyllands-Posten had no comment about the bounty placed on the cartoonists' heads.
© The Copenhagen Post

2/12/2005- European Union interior ministers backed an international plan against illegal immigration being promoted by Spain. But several nations criticized mass amnesties or "legalizations" such as the one carried out by Madrid earlier this year. The plan, submitted by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and French prime minister Dominique de Villepin at a recent informal summit in Britain , spelled out concrete measures and called for increased financing by EU member states. Spanish interior minister Jose Antonio Alonso proposed that EU nations spend "no less than 3 percent of the Neighborhood Financial Instrument for immigration-related expenses". This would amount to roughly EUR 400 million (USD 469m) and represent an increase from the current 1.5 percent. Alonso said at a press conference that, with regard to immigration plans, "political statements are credible if, in addition to being intelligent and containing sound analysis of the reality, they contain financial proposals that make them possible". That money is necessary to develop concrete measures that are essential to attract the support of European public opinion, added Alonso. He said if these measures are not put in place, or if there is a perception among the public that not enough is being done, intolerance toward immigrants could rise and their integration into society would be made more difficult. The plan, which must be approved by EU leaders during their next meeting between 15-16 December, recommends tightening immigration controls while simultaneously increasing cooperation with African immigrants' countries of origin and of transit. In terms of increased immigration controls, the plan suggests creating a Mediterranean coast guard, which would be run by the EU's border control agency, Frontex. This plan is a "first step" toward an EU-wide immigration policy, which currently does not exist, EU commissioner for security, freedom and fustice, Franco Frattini, said. However, the member states remain resistant to the idea of the EU taking charge of border control, or even acting in a supervisory capacity. During the meeting, the interior ministers of Germany, Italy, Cypress and France also expressed opposition to mass amnesties for illegal immigrants and called on their colleagues to reconsider the negative consequences of these processes. Mass legalizations, they said, could lead to a increase in illegal immigration and also encourage the growth of people-smuggling gangs. Last Spring, Spain "regularized" the residency of some 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were able to demonstrate that they had been in the country for at least six months, and that they had a job.
© Expatica News

No-one living in Spain can have missed the issue which is dividing the country: Catalonia's bid to become a 'nation' and gain greater independence from Madrid. But this nationalist mania is starting to become ridiculous, says Graham Keeley.

30/11/2005- I was asked the other day by a Spaniard for my opinion of Catalonia's 'statute'. (If you need any reminding, this is the bid drawn up by Catalan politicians for 'nation' status and greater control of their taxes so this rich part of Spain pays less to poorer regions. To boot, they also want more control over the police, the judiciary, the prison service, ports and airports. If they get their way Catalonia, will administer European Union funds and Madrid would have to ask permission if international issues affected the region.) I was diplomatic and tried to explain that to most foreigners, even those who live in Catalonia and are more than aware of nationalist sensibilities, this region is just another part of Spain, not a nation in itself. What I really wanted to say, however, was this was to me just the latest episode in a modern version of Hans Christian Anderson's classic The Emperor's New Clothes. This is the tale of the vain emperor who is so obsessed with his appearance that he lets a couple of conmen make him a suit out of thin air. But no-one has the courage to pipe up and say how stupid he looks parading through the streets naked in his 'suit'. It takes a child to point out the obvious.

It seems the same has happened in Catalonia; the nationalist mania has got such a hold on the political scene here, that some Catalans cannot see how ridiculous they appear to the outside world. Just a few examples to back this up: the linguistic Thought Police of Catalonia's Generalitat or the regional government have banned star Catalan writers like Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of The Shadow of the Wind from appearing at the Frankfurt book fair – a major literary showcase – because he writes in Spanish. Yet Zafon's book is about Barcelona and he grew up in the city himself. Major fashion designers, who for years have put the Barcelona Fashion Show on the map, like Lydia Delgado, will not be allowed to exhibit as – wait for it – they do not live in Catalonia. Thousands upon thousands of Catalan books are produced each year but never bought, to keep the 'quota' of books up and the language supposedly alive. Who pays? In many cases, the taxpayers. Perhaps most importantly, many public sector jobs in Catalonia require applicants to have Level C in the Catalan language. It is a complex examination which does not have an obvious equivalent. This seems perfectly sensible when applicants want jobs in areas where the day-to-day language is Catalan. But what about the Escuela Official de Idiomas, the excellent public language school in Barcelona? In one case, a Jordanian Arabic teacher lost out to another applicant from Tarragona, in Catalonia, because she did not have good enough Catalan – essential, of course, for teaching Arabic. Now before you protest, I am all for preserving a national identity, language and heritage. I should know – my family is from the West coast of Scotland, where Gaelic and many other traditions associated with it are fast dying out. And I know very well that there are sound reasons why Catalan nationalism has been on the rise since Franco's death almost 30 years ago. The dictator's ban on Catalan and the region's culture provided the seeds on which today's nationalism have thrived. But things here have gone from the reasonable to the ridiculous.
© Expatica News

2/12/2005- An asylum seekers group has asked the prosecution service to launch a criminal investigation into Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk in relation to the fire at the detention centre in Schiphol. The foundation 'Een Royaal Gebaar' (A Royal Gesture) said on Friday that the fire at the end of October, which killed 11 deportees, was no mere chance but a logical consequence of the policies persuaded by the ministers. It has asked the public prosecutor in Haarlem to launch an investigation into the ministers for alleged negligence leading to death, inflicting serious bodily injury and subjecting people to cruel and inhumane treatment. Writer Marion Bloem is the driving force behind the foundation, which was originally set up to campaign for pardons for rejected asylum seekers to coincide with Queen Beatrix's 25th jubilee. The foundation said it is taking the action against the ministers on behalf of the survivors of the fire, the relatives of those who died and 8,000 Dutch people who have signed a petition on its website. Former minister Jan Pronk, cabaret star Freek de Jonge and writer Geert Mak are among the celebrities who have signed the petition. Donner and Verdonk, the foundation said, are not only politically responsible for the deaths. They also refused to sanction the necessary improvements to the complex despite two requests to do so, 'Een Royaal Gebaar' claimed. Separately on Friday, Haarlemmermeer Municipality - which is responsible for the Schiphol area - said the detention centre must close by Tuesday or Wednesday next week at the latest. Inmates are still be detained in the wings of the complex unaffected by the fire and Donner wants the centre to stay open at least until the results of the investigation into the fire are made known. But Haarlemmermeer announced on Thursday that it had lost confidence in the minister's assertions that safety would be improved.
© Expatica News

2/12/2005- Hundreds of Roma (Gypsy) people who have spent six years in a makeshift Kosovan camp contaminated with lead are to be relocated and built new homes. The 560 Roma have lived next to an old lead smelter in Mitrovica since the Nato bombing campaign in 1999. Sweden is to donate 320,000 euros (£216,000) to help the Roma, with a similar sum donated by Germany. Officials now hope to move the Roma to a new camp by the end of the year. They will remain there until work has finished on rebuilding their original homes in the region around Mitrovica during 2006. The Roma were driven out of their homes in nearby Mahalla at the end of the 1999 conflict by ethnic Albanians who viewed them as collaborators with the Serbs.

Medical 'emergency'
"These people were driven away from their houses and have been living on waste ground for the last six years and no-one really cares about them," Per Byman, Sweden's humanitarian director, told the BBC News website. Work is due to begin next week on temporary homes at a former French military base, Mr Byman said. The aim is to move the Roma away from the lead smelter, which they blame for a series of health problems, especially among children. "Children are being born dysfunctional, with limbs missing and so on," Mr Byman said. "Now we hope their quality of life can be improved." Once they have moved, the Roma will have access to hot water, electricity, job training and medical assistance. Levels of lead poisoning among Roma in camps at Zitkovac, Kablare and Cesmin Luq are currently classed as an "acute medical emergency" by US medical authorities.
© BBC News

30/11/2005- Roma press agency Slovakia (RPA) released a report that the local council of Slovak village Nizna Mysla in the district of Kosice wants to build fencing surrounding Roma settlement. Around 15 shanty houses have arisen in the neighbourhood of three housing units that had been built for Roma citizens by the village council in 1989. The shanties are occupied by young families with children. Up to fifteen people are estimated to share one house. „It is a time bomb. The local council will have to build fencing around the whole Roma settlement otherwise Roma people will keep expanding their dwellings. They have to realize they are situated on somebody else’s property,” said the mayor of the village Jozef Veber for RPA. He added that the village authorities have already discussed the idea of asking the Ministry for Construction and Regional Development for funding of 6 million crowns. The money is to be spent on building extentions to already existing housing units. However, they have to face the problem of property settlement’s completion. “ The council is not able to negotiate with all the owners because there are too many of them. Some of them are already deceased and their land has been going through inheritance proceedings for a long time,” the mayor commented. In his opinion the problem of Roma living in the village has to be tackled as a whole. The educational level of Roma is very low as there is aparently only one Roma who has finished secondary school in the village. What is more, Roma, who according to RPA represent 15% of village poplation, don’t even have a cultural or community centre.
© Dzeno Association

29/11/2005- Nicolas Kalinin, a Roma ctivist and the Head of the Belarussian Roma Lawyers Group and chairman of the Belarus Roma Organization Ekhipe (Unity) informed Dzeno Association about a biased documentary movie entitled "Without a limitation period: The Roma Camp is going to Prison" that was broadcasted on a Belarussian TV Channel ONT this month. In November 2005 on the governmental TV channel ONT the documnetary was shown, which comprises large amounts of the negative information on representation of Roma people. It seems that the director of the film, Victor Chamkovsky, intended to collect all negative information regarding the representatation of Roma people in order to present it for general viewing. The disclaimer at the beginning of film states that the journalist does not present a subjective purpose to discredit all Roma community as a whole, but this film leads to an exclusively objective result. The film conintues on to say that all Roma people in Belarus are criminal and that all Roma children are selling drugs since childhood. The director of this film tells all the citizens of the Republic Belarus that all Roma people are enemies of law, although this is far from the truth. We, Roma lawyers, disagree with this opinion. It is necessary to point out that Chamkovsky's task has not only been successful , but has also exceeded it's expectations by 100%. Roma people have not yet seen this film. Chamkovsky has collected all the negative information about Roma people which could possibly be found. Film of journalist Chamkovsky contains all the attributes and stereotypes of discrimination of Roma people. A person who goes against the status-quo mentality or who dissents in Belarus runs the risk of receiving an invitation from the Office of the Public Prosecutor. Roma people also have the right to equally take part in political life of the country and we shall do it, not without regard to enormous pressure, we the national diasporas will support further democracy in Belarus. On November, 17th, 2005 Belarusian Roma Lawyers Group prepared the reference to the Head of Committee on affairs of religion and nationalities, and to the Chairman of the Commission of Human Rights in the parliament of Belarus in which we asked our authoritites to prosecute the authors of the film who were responsibile.
© Dzeno Association

2/12/2005- The parliament of Belarus has passed a law intended to stop mass protests - ahead of 2006 presidential elections. The law will make it a criminal offence to "discredit" the Belarusian state both within Belarus and abroad - with a three year jail term for offenders. The new law was passed overwhelmingly by the lower house of the Belarusian parliament on Friday. Officials say it will help prevent protests similar to those that led to Ukraine's so-called Orange Revolution. The new law makes it a criminal offence to deliberately make available to foreign states or organisations, false information on the political, economic or military situation in Belarus, or to discredit Belarus or its government. Anyone found to have done so could face between six months and three years in prison. The bill broadens the scope of existing legislation - it is already illegal in Belarus to criticise the President, Aleksandr Lukashenko, or any top officials. The head of the Belarusian KGB, Stepan Sukhorenko, said the law was intended to stop a wave of protests like those in Ukraine last year during the Orange Revolution. Belarus will have presidential elections in 2006, when President Lukashenko - who has been in power for 11 years - intends to stand for re-election. The Belarusian government is accused by human rights organisations and Western governments of rights violations, and for preventing freedom of speech. The United States and the European Union have barred top Belarusian officials from entering their territories, and threatened tougher sanctions if next year's election is found to be neither free nor fair.
© BBC News

2/12/2005- According to a report published Wednesday, Portugal is improving the way it handles its ethnic minorities. While there is still room for considerable improvement the progress to date is encouraging, the report states. However, the report by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), which was presented to the European Parliament in Brussels, says that not all EU countries are pulling their weight in safeguarding the interests of ethnic minorities. It also insists that Europe must do more to combat racism and xenophobia and work to end discrimination in employment, housing and education. The report, which was par tially based on crime statistics across the 25-nation bloc during 2004, identifies Roma gypsies and Muslims as being especially targeted. "This report clearly shows that much work is still ahead of us", said the chairwoman of the Vienna-based Centre, Anastasia Crickley, in a statement. The EUMC found that: "The Roma emerges as the group most vulnerable to racism in the European Union. They face discrimination in employment, housing and education ≠ as well as being regular victims of racial violence". "Muslim groups face particularly challenging conditions in many member states", said the report, which assessed racially motivated crime developments in 2004 and also took into account race riots in Britain and France this year. The authors of the report recommend the full implementation of EU anti-discrimination laws, national employment strategies to target minorities, more equitable access to education and state housing schemes as well as a crackdown on racist incidents. Crickley said a number of EU nations were making good progress and singled out Portugal, Belgium and Sweden for special mention saying: "Portugal is improving its race relations record as are Belgium and Sweden". But she pointed out that: "On the other hand, some member states are very slow in implementing key directives. We need to speed up the process of integration of minority communities ≠ and we can do so". The majority of immigrants entering the EU are from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, according to the report. It says that while most racial abuse is directed at these immigrants there is a growing tendency of racism against Russian and Ukrainian workers and their families now domiciled in the EU. The report calls for further development of legislation, criminal justice initiatives and data collection of racist incidents to provide a basis for policies that protect victims and deter perpetrators of racial discrimination.
© The Portugal News

29/11/2005- Franz Schoenhuber, a leader of Germany's far right for two decades, has died at the age of 82, an associate said Monday.
Schoenhuber, who served in the Waffen SS, the Nazi Party's private army, during World War II, founded a new far-right party, the Republicans, in 1983. There was shock worldwide in 1989 when it won German seats in the European Parliament. The party also secured seats in the parliament of the city-state of Berlin. It had no further successes and fell into disarray. Schoenhuber then refused to lead it, leaving the party in 1995. He came to renewed prominence last month when he stood in a federal parliament by-election in Dresden on behalf of another far- right group, the Nationalist Democratic Party (NPD), and won a handful of votes. Schoenhuber had had a distinguished career in journalism before veering into far-right politics, and his more polished style stood out in a political neighbourhood where unsophisticated manners and neo-Nazi jargon usually set the tone. His death Sunday, of a pulmonary embolism after a respiratory infection, was confirmed by Johann Gaertner, an associate and state chairman of the Republicans in Bavaria, southern Germany. Bavarian born, Schoenhuber was editor of a Munich daily newspaper, TZ, then moved to local broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk as an executive editor. He was fired in 1992 for publishing a book glorifying his Waffen SS experiences. In 1983, he founded the Republicans with other right-wingers. After leaving the party, he vainly attempted to establish a pan- European rightist movement and in 1998 campaigned for another German far-right party, the German People's Union DVU. The various far-right groups have vainly tried for decades to win seats in Germany's federal parliament, but have always failed to achieve the minimum 5 per cent of the vote to qualify.
© Expatica News

2/12/2005- The Belgian Parliament approved legislation early on Friday morning granting gay couples the right to adopt children. The vote — at 12.15am on Friday — followed a tense debate in the Parliament. However, the final tally of 77 votes for and 62 opposed (with seven abstentions) was a bigger majority than expected. Every Socialist MP voted in favour of the proposal, except for Mohammed Boukourna, who abstained despite repeated attempts by party colleagues to convince him otherwise. Among the Liberal MPs, there were more votes for the legislation than earlier expected. Just two VLD MPs abstained. Some 18 Movement Reform Liberals voted against the proposal, five backed the bill and two abstained. The entire Democrat Humanist CDH party was opposed to gay adoption rights, as was the extreme-right Flemish Interest. Among the Flemish Christian Democrat CD&V, there were two abstentions as expected. The four green Ecolo MPs voted in favour as did the New Flemish Alliance NV-A MP, but the only Front National MP voted the other way. There were four MPs not present for the vote. The legislation has not been officially passed, but will now head to the Senate for further debate. In the meantime, the gay and lesbian lobby group Holebifederatie was exceptionally pleased with the passing of the legislation. "A lot of gay couples wanting children are now very pleased," federation spokeswoman Mieke Stessens said. Stessens also said the federation will continue lobbying to ensure the legislation is not delayed in the Senate.
© Expatica News

30/11/2005- The Council of State is to investigate whether extreme-right party Flemish Interest still has a right to public funding following recent inflammatory comments from party leader Filip Dewinter. The necessary quorum of one-third of the commission of inquiry for election spending has requested the investigation after Dewinter said his party was "Islam phobic" in a recent interview with the US newspaper 'Jewish Week'. The Socialist PS asked Parliament speaker Herman De Croo on Thursday to examine the possibility of having the Council of State initiate proceedings to cut a percentage of the Flemish Interest's finding. The Francophone Socialists were responding to calls from multicultural youth group Kif Kaf and the French-speaking anti-racism organisation MRAX. In the election expenses commission of inquiry, the Socialist SP.A and Spirit have backed the PS demands. The French-speaking Democrat Humanist CDH had earlier sided with the PS party also. A head count indicated one-third of the commission supports the complaint, allowing for the dossier to be handed over to the Council of State. The council will now investigate whether Dewinter's comment breached the European Convention of Human Rights. The Flemish Interest risks losing part of its public funding for a period of three months to a year, newspaper 'De Tijd' reported on Wednesday. The SP.A stressed that legislation states that breaches of the European convention must be assessed by an independent organisation, the Council of State. It said the same should apply to the current complaint against the Flemish Interest. However, the Christian Democrat CD&V and Liberal VLD have refused to back the procedure. They said it would be better to confront the Flemish Interest in a parliamentary debate.
© Expatica News

French anti-racist organizations are planning to sue Jean-Marie Le Pen, the French extreme-right party leader after he again dismissed the Nazi gas chambers as “a detail”.

30/11/2005- Le Pen made the renewed comments during an interview on the BBC’s Hardtalk show which focused on the recent riots in France’s suburbs. He had originally caused anger amongst Jews and anti-racism campaigners alike when he first made a similar comment in 1987.

Mere detail
During the one-on-one interview Stephen Sackur, the show’s host, recalled that less than a year ago Le Pen “described the Nazi occupation of France as ’not particularly inhuman’" and “the holocaust as a mere detail of history,” Le Pen jumped to his own defence. "That’s not the same thing. No, I didn’t say that. I shall tell you exactly what I said. I said the gas chambers were a detail of the history of the World War," he replied. "And this is true. None of the leaders - Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin or De Gaulle - ever mentioned the gas chambers in their memoirs," the far right leader added. In 1987, Le Pen stated on RTL radio that the Nazi gas chambers were "detail of WWII history." At the time he was condemned by a French court to pay a 183,200 euros fine, because of the mistake he made in "trivializing" the persecutions perpetrated by the Nazis.

Racist tendancies
Speaking about immigrants in France and their difficulties of finding jobs, Le Pen pointed out that "these people have a reputation for being fairly incompetent in work, being aggressive, and often being hostile.” Le Pen added that there was no need of being "surprised to find that employers tend not to recruit them, in preference to people of French descent." When Sackur replied to him that when he would "say things like that it’s not hard to see why a majority in France see you as a racist and an Anti-Semite."

SOS Racisme, UEJF, the French Union of Jewish Students, the Licra, the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism, and the MRAP, the Movement against Racism and for Friendship among the peoples sued Jean-Marie Le Pen for maintening his gas chambers comments being a "detail of WWII history." "We are scandalized, it is unbelievable that the leaders of the Front National continue to declare that gas chambers are just a detail of history," Marilou Jampolsky, SOS Racisme spokesperson told EJP. "The fact that it is a repeat offence and that he had been condemned in the past for such statements, this affaire will go quicker and the condemnation will be heavier," she added. "Le Pen confirms and validates the anti-Semitic and revisionist nature of the Front National. These statements are not only extremely grave but they were held abroad in order to avoid the French legislation and to send a European message to all the revisionists in Europe," Mouloud Aounit, the MRAP Chairman said.

BBC response
Bridget Osborne, Hardtalk producer told EJP that the BBC did not want to do a sensationalist show, "we interviewed Le Pen because he was the second most important candidate in France during the 2002 presidential elections," she said. "I do not see the difference between saying ’the Holocaust was a detail of history’ and saying that ’gas chambers was a detail of history’," she added. "Through the interview, Stephen tried to show the inconsistency of Le Pen rhetoric and I think he has done a pretty good job." On Tuesday, the French socialist party expressed its "indignation" in regard to Le Pen’s gas chambers statement. Contacted by EJP, the CRIF, the French Jewish umbrella organization, refused to comment on Le Pen statement, "in order not to give him publicity."
© The European Jewish Press

Minister of Refugee, Immigration, and Integration Affairs Rikke HvilshÝj says foreigners get a better welcome after the Liberal-Conservative government came to power. There are just not as many welcome as before

29/11/2005- Denmark is not receiving as many refugees and immigrants as it did before Anders Fogh Rasmussen's Liberal-Conservative government came to power in 2001. It is, however, giving them a better welcome than ever before, Immigration Minister Rikke HvilshÝj believes. Since Rasmussen's government came to power and closed the door on many of the immgrants that had access before 2002, the number of annual residence permits granted to asylum seekers each year fell from 5156 in 2000 to 2447 in 2003. Residence permits for family reunification fell from 10,021 in 2000 to 4791 in 2003, according to national statistics office Statistics Denmark. HvilshÝj, whose slight build and girlish voice belie her importance as the minister in charge of the government's most hotly contested policies, said there was no doubt in her mind that recent years' restrictions on immigrant influx to Denmark had proved positive. 'One of the things we have accepted is that the number of foreigners coming to the country makes a difference,' she said. 'There is a reverse correlation between how many come here and how well we can receive the foreigners that come here.' HvilshÝj said she herself remembered how the country's towns and cities had fought to accommodate all the immigrants and refugees let into the country before the Liberal Party defeated the Social Democrats in the 2001 national election by announcing 'changing times'. Backed by the immigration-adverse Danish People's Party, the government implemented stricter rules for who could receive residence permits, slashed social benefit payments to newcomers, and introduced ways to force rejected asylum seekers out of the country, depriving them of benefit payments and granting them only a box of bare necessities to sustain themselves.

'I often say that previously, we received many people, but we couldn't give them a good welcome. Now we can receive new citizens in style, and find a place for them in Danish society,' she said. HvilshÝj said, however, that high unemployment rates and low education levels remained the biggest problem posed to Danish residents with foreign backgrounds. Only 46 percent of immigrants from third-world countries hold a job, compared with 73 percent of Danes. Sixty percent of youngsters with foreign backgrounds drop out of high school. HvilshÝj said the government was pushing to get more foreign women to leave the sanctity of their homes and enter the Danish labour market. The best tools to increase immigrant labour participation included Danish language courses, increased economic advantages for work, and job training courses to help newcomers on the labour market qualify for the jobs on offer. The responsibility, however, could not be placed on immigrants alone. Employers must also open their doors to foreign workers. 'The able and willing should not meet a closed door because they have a foreign-sounding name,' HvilshÝj said. 'We have seen a lot of that in the past, but I think it has become a smaller problem than it used to be. We have talked with many companies that say they would like to hire workers with other ethnic backgrounds, but they never apply for vacancies.' HvilshÝj added that with Denmark's current economic boom and low unemployment, the time was ripe for immigrants to seize the labour market.

Touching on a more sensitive subject than the matters of fact of the Danish economy, HvilshÝj said integration was also about convincing newcomers in the country to embrace Danish values. In some cases, they must discard cultural and political notions from the countries they left behind. 'In my view, Denmark should be a country with room for different cultures and religions,' she said. 'Some values, however, are more important than others. We refuse to question democracy, equal rights, or freedom of expression.'
After last months' debates about press freedom, sparked by a daily newspaper raising hell in the Muslim community by printing caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, HvilshÝj's comments came as a confirmation of the government's stance that the newspaper was free to provoke the anger of Muslims around the world. It was simply not the government's business. Nevertheless, she found it difficult to answer whether the newspaper's taunting of Muslims contributed to a hateful tone towards immigrants in the country. 'Speaking for myself, I try to be careful how I say things,' she said. 'There have been comments in the Danish debate that I do not like at all. I don't think the tone has been growing more hostile towards immigrants. On the contrary. Compared with other European countries, we have come a long way. Talking about some things can be painful, but keeping our mouths shut doesn't solve any problems.'
© The Copenhagen Post

29/11/2005- Trade union representatives in several northern Italian regions with large immigrant populations are to take part in an pilot training programme to raise awareness of racism in the Italian workplace, its causes and remedies. The one-day anti-racism workshops, organised by Italy's equal opportunities ministry and local trade unions, are taking place in December in the cities of Trieste, Trento, Treviso and Verona. "Given the growing number of immigrants living in Italy, racial discrimination at work is an ever-more topical problem that now affects the lives of millions of people and their employment prospects," said Italy's equal opportunities minister, Stefania Prestigiacomo "Co-operation between the equal opportunties ministry and Italian workers' and employers' associations is an essential step towards workplaces where equal treatment for all workers, of whatever ethnicity, becomes an accepted common value, that prizes diversity and uses the workforce efficiently and effectively," she emphasised. Italian factories, workshop and offices have become "multi-ethnic realities" where people work side by side from all over the world, Prestigiacomo noted, adding: "Often, language barriers and different customs make work difficult and adversely affect productivity." The anti-racism workshops will take participants through Italy's current anti-racism legislation and tools, the demographic and social dynamics of immigration, and trade unions' role in preventing racial discrimination in the Italian labour market, studying the findings of the International Labour Organization (ILO)'s most recent report. The workshops commemorate Romanian labourer, Ion Cazacu, whose employer doused him with petrol and set him on fire on 16 April, 2002, after he asked to be legally hired rather than working illegally. Cazacu died of his injuries one month later. His employer, Cosimo Iannece, was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
© Aki

30/11/2005- European lawmakers and UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, warned clubs, players and national associations Wednesday that they face expulsion from the game if they are found guilty of sustained racism. The vice president of UEFA, Per Ravn Omdal of Norway, said clubs should not tolerate racism in any form, and that "clubs, players and associations who are found guilty will be punished severely and will be thrown out of the game if necessary." "We are prepared to implement the necessary sanctions, from fines and closure of stadium," he said, "and even to not allow teams to participate at all." UEFA officials met Wednesday with members of the European Parliament to seek support of their proposal for firm action against racism. Omdal was to join five members of Parliament and the former Chelsea defender Paul Elliot in urging lawmakers to sign a written declaration on racism in soccer. If at least half of the members of Parliament to sign the declaration, it will become a binding EU resolution. Said Emine Bozkurt, a Dutch member of Parliament, in arguing that stadiums are the prime workplace for soccer players: "European legislation forbids racism in general and discrimination in the workplace in particular." Assessing a series of incidents over recent weeks, Omdal said referees had to be much more aware of taunts and not hesitate to interrupt or abandon matches. "Those who did not wake up, you have to wake up - because the referee can do a lot in a specific game," he said. "Referees will be given the necessary power to abandon or cancel matches if necessary," Omdal said. "We need referees and match officials to be tough on this issue."

Soccer in Italy and Spain is particularly affected by racism. On Sunday, Marc Andre Zoro, a Messina defender from the Ivory Coast, was subjected to racist chants in a match against Inter Milan. Zoro picked up the ball and planned to hand it to an official as he walked off, but Adriano and Obafemi Martins, Inter's Brazilian and Nigerian forwards, calmed Zoro down and apologized for the fans' behavior. They persuaded Zoro that to leave the field to the racists was a precedent soccer could not afford. In response, the Italian Cup match Tuesday at AC Milan started five minutes late so a "No to Racism" banner could be unfurled on the field. The Italian soccer federation's message is to be displayed at all Italian Cup and Serie A matches this week. Players across Belgium are to wear a black-and-white stripe on their faces this weekend as part of an antiracism campaign, the Belgian FA said Wednesday. The initiative, which was postponed last weekend because of bad weather at most matches, is part of a joint antiracism project by the King Baudouin Foundation and the Belgian FA. "Football is a universal language spoken by everyone, regardless of nationality, religion or social background," a Belgian FA spokesman said. "That is why we have asked all teams to play with a black-and-white stripe as an act of solidarity." The Spanish FA was fined last year for racist chants by home fans directed at two players for England, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole, during a friendly match. And Spain's coach, Luis Aragones, was also fined for racist remarks about the Arsenal striker Thierry Henry during a training camp. The Serbian striker Nenad Jestrovic became the first player to be dismissed in a Champions League game for alleged racist remarks he made playing for Anderlecht against Liverpool last month. UEFA banned him for three matches.
© Reuters

29/11/2005- Members of the European Parliament will add their voice to the drive to tackle racism tomorrow (30th November) as problems in European football hit the headlines again. MEP’s will launch a Declaration in Brussels commending the work of the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network and calling for action by FA’s, Leagues and Clubs across the continent. The Declaration will achieve the rare status of a motion if a majority of the 732 MEP’s in the parliament give their backing. The launch will come as the Italian FA announced yesterday that all midweek Italian cup fixtures along with next week's league games, at all levels down to amateur football, would be delayed by 5 minutes with the players taking to the field holding banners declaring 'No to Racism'. The decision was sparked by Messina's Ivory Coast defender Zoro, who picked up the ball in the 66th minute and headed off the field in protest at monkey chanting from visiting Inter Milan fans in a Serie A match on Sunday. As part of events in the parliament the FARE Network will be hosting a public ‘Hearing’ on the issue later in the day to present the development of the FARE network over the last five years and identify the challenges and priorities for future action. The Hearing will feature speakers including former Chelsea, Bari and Celtic defender, Paul Elliott, and former FC Schalke 04 midfielder, Yves Eigenrauch. They will be joined by leading European Politicians and prominent campaigners against racism from across the continent. Piara Powar, Director of UK campaigners Kick It Out, and prominent members of the FARE network commented, “In the 5 years the FARE network has been campaigning against racism and discrimination in football good progress can be reported, but as events at the Messina v Inter game in Italy this weekend highlighted – we still have a lot of work ahead of us. “There are no easy solutions to tackling racism within Europe but we are hopeful the declaration can be a significant step in moving forward the issue and gaining political support for campaigners across Europe”.
© Football Against Racism in Europe

29/11/2005- In case it escaped anyone's attention, the color of Ronaldinho's skin was irrelevant to the coaches, players, and writers who have honored the Brazilian as the outstanding player in the world. Sport is colorblind. History taught us that when Jesse Owens embarrassed Hitler's racist theories at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. And last week, it surprised nobody when Brian Lara, the West Indian batsman, eclipsed Allan Border, the Australian, as the all-time leading run maker in test cricket. Yet still, in soccer, bigotry abounds. In Italy and Spain last weekend there were two examples of racism in the stadiums. Marc Zoro, a defender from the Ivory Coast, was reduced to tears after being subjected to racist chants while playing for Messina against Inter Milan. Zoro, justifiably proud that he is going to the World Cup with his nation next summer, took matters into his own hands. He picked up the ball and planned to hand it to the fourth official, the reserve referee, as he walked off. He was intercepted by Adriano and Obefami Martins, the Brazilian and Nigerian forwards for Inter. They calmed Zoro. They apologized for the foul-mouthed Inter fans. They persuaded Zoro that to quit the game, to seek to abandon the field to the racists, was a precedent soccer could ill afford. "I agreed when I was calm," Zoro said. "But I want respect, only respect." Zoro has played in Italy for three years. He is 21. He has been abused before. But previously it was away from Messina, in Sicily. This was a case of Inter fans traveling down and targeting a player "in my own house," as Zoro put it. Italy has responded with many decent words from leading figures in the sport. "The Inter fans have insulted human nature," said Marcello Lippi, the national team coach. "There is only one race, the human race." But the Italian soccer federation has decided to respond with only the most futile of gestures. It announced Monday that all matches in the Italian league and cup this week will start five minutes late as a mark of protest against racism.

In Spain, two Espanyol of Barcelona players, the Cameroon goalkeeper Carlos Kameni and the Brazilian midfielder Fredson, were subjected to racist chants in Madrid by Atletico fans. The match ended 1-1, and the Espanyol coach, Miguel Ńngel Lotina, claimed that his goalkeeper's concentration was broken by the noises behind his goal. Atletico was fined 600, or about $700, for similar abuse last year. Puny fines and meaningless five-minute delays to the games will not deter the racists, but what will? In Brussels on Wednesday, a gathering of legislators, soccer administrators and representatives of players, clubs and the group Football Against Racism in Europe united at the European Parliament to launch a written declaration on tackling racism in the sport. Unless the declaration has the teeth to impose real sanctions on racists, it will amount to merely words. Two and a half years ago, UEFA, the European body governing soccer, held a conference, Unite Against Racism, in London. A second conference is scheduled for Barcelona in February. Given Ronaldinho's example on the field, it is the right place and the right time. Alas, it will be a meeting of like minds preaching to the converted. The 2003 conference exposed and emphasized the gulf between governments across Europe. In England, for example, it is a specific offense to make racial chants at a sporting ground, punishable by arrest and either fines or jail. In Spain and Italy, currently the two most troubled places in Western Europe for black players, the will does not seem nearly so strong, in sport or in the judiciary. Gifted and black pioneers like John Barnes, the Jamaican-born winger who played for Liverpool, and another Englishman of West Indian descent, Laurie Cunningham, who went from England to Real Madrid 25 years ago, bore the brunt of racist stupidity. They did not walk off. They changed attitudes by their skill. The applause for Ronaldinho when Barcelona beat Real in Madrid a week earlier, contrasted to the jeers for Kameni in the same city, suggest that society is far from united on basic human responses to the game.

Complaints arise in Hungary
Representatives of the Jewish community in Hungary asked soccer officials to take action on Tuesday after anti-Semitic chanting during a match, The Associated Press reported from Budapest. Ujpest fans chanted the insults during a 2-0 victory on Saturday over MTK Budapest, a club founded by and still identified with Hungarian Jews. Ujpest officials condemned the slurs, saying they were made by "one or two unrestrained people." Ujpest also criticized MTK fans for responding by calling its fans Nazis and said it would ban anyone proven to have made anti-Semitic remarks.
© International Herald Tribune

30/11/2005- A new independent department that will keep an eye on discrimination has been set-up by the government in Latvia. And the National Human Rights Office will be embracing the gay and lesbian community as well as other sections of society as well as racism and other forms of discrimination. The department will oversee national issues regarding tolerance and will also provide help to individuals who find themselves victims of discrimination. According to the department, there no large-scale hatred towards minority groups in Latvia. However, it is admitted that there are low-tolerance levels against gays and lesbians. Additionally, the department will have a “watchdog” role on the government and Parliament and will be able to initiate inquiries Last July’s Riga Gay Pride saw high levels of homophobia from a small section of right-wing demonstrators, who were encouraged by the remarks of political leaders. While homosexuality is legal in Latvia, politicians are often homophobic in their rhetoric, saying what the electorate want to hear them say. Tomorrow (December 1), the Latvian Parliament is scheduled to discuss the ‘second reading’ of a bill would change the country’s constitution to include the banning of same-sex marriage. It is expected that this Bill will pass through the legislative process, which requires a 75% or better vote in favour to pass.
© UK Gay News

29/11/2005- The number of reported hate crimes against homosexuals in Sweden soared 117 percent from 2003 to 2004, Swedish intelligence service Sšpo revealed in a report published on Tuesday. Sšpo's crime report for 2004 disclosed that 614 hate crimes against homosexuals were reported to police last year, up from 326 such crimes reported a year earlier in Sweden. Most of the crimes against gays consisted of verbal abuse and threats, closely followed by physical abuse, although only seven of the cases involved aggravated assault. The report comes on the day that Sweden's Supreme Court cleared a Pentecostal minister of hate crimes after he described gays as being "like a cancer". While the sharp jump in the number of cases can to a large extent be explained by a change in Sšpo's methodology last year and by the fact that gays increasingly appear willing to report hate crimes, the agency said there also seemed to be an actual hike in the number of crimes committed. Statistics show crimes against homosexuals steadily rising since 2000. "The increase of reports (of hate crimes against homosexuals) is far greater than the number of reported (crimes) with xenophobic or anti-Semitic motives," the report stated. Hate crimes motivated by anti-Semitism rose 44 percent last year to 151 reported incidents, while xenophobic crimes jumped 27 percent to 2,263 cases, according to the report, which emphasized that its methodology change, including computerizing all of its statistics, largely explained the increases. According to preliminary figures comparing the period January-September 2004 to the same period in 2005, "the increase is moderate when it comes to homophobic crimes, weak when it comes to xenophobic crimes and clearly down when it comes to anti-Semitic crimes," Sšpo said. While the report does not specifically look at hate crimes against Muslims, a poll published last week by Swedish public radio revealed that four out of 10 Muslim congregations in the country had at some point received threats or been subjected to physical attacks.
© The Local

29/11/2005- Sweden's Supreme Court has acquitted a Pentecostal pastor accused of inciting hatred against homosexuals. In a sermon two years ago, Pastor Ake Green told his congregation that homosexuality was a "deep cancer tumour" on society. He was convicted in 2004 under Sweden's hate crimes law. But on Tuesday the court upheld an appeals court verdict that Pastor Green's remarks did not constitute incitement to hatred. In a 16-page ruling, the Supreme Court said his sermon was protected by freedom of speech and religion. Mr Green was the first cleric convicted under Sweden's new hate crimes law, which was amended two years ago to include homosexuals. He has shown little regret for his comments when addressing the media. He has also said his comments referred to a homosexual lifestyle, rather than individuals. But after his acquittal, he said that everyone now knew what he thought about homosexuals and he would keep his mouth shut in future. In the sermon, Mr Green told a congregation on the small south-eastern island of Oland that homosexuals were "a deep cancer tumour on all of society" and that gays were more likely than other people to rape children and animals. He was sentenced to one month in prison in 2004, but was released on appeal. Pastor Green told Swedish media he was relieved over the supreme court ruling and that he now would be free to preach the word of God. His case has fuelled a heated debate in Sweden, a country where both freedom of speech and tolerance are highly prized virtues, the BBC's Lars Bevanger reports. The case has also attracted widespread international attention. Some religious groups have argued that a conviction would be a threat to freedom of religion and speech. Others said an acquittal would open the door to fiercer attacks against Jews, Muslims and gays by right-wing extremists.
© BBC News

The Vatican has published long-awaited guidelines which reaffirm that active homosexuals and "supporters of gay culture" may not become priests.

29/11/2005- But it treats homosexuality as a "tendency", not an orientation, and says those who have overcome it can begin training to take holy orders. At least three years must pass between "overcoming [a] transitory problem" and ordination as a deacon, the rules say. All Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy, regardless of orientation. The guidelines make no reference to current priests, but only to men about to join a seminary. They are the outcome of a review ordered by the late Pope John Paul II following highly damaging abuse scandals in the US in which several men accused priests of having abused them as teenagers. No link has been established between homosexuality and the abuse of children.

'Duty to dissuade'
The Vatican document describes homosexual acts as "grave sins" that cannot be justified under any circumstances. "If a candidate practises homosexuality, or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination," it says. "Such persons in fact find themselves in a situation that presents a grave obstacle to a correct relationship with men and women." But the paper also stresses the Church's deep respect for homosexuals, who, it says, should by no means be discriminated against. Some Catholic theologians feel the document is not sufficiently clear, the BBC's Peter Gould says. That it refers to "tendencies" rather than orientation "has left many people scratching their heads," Jesuit scholar Father Thomas Reese told him. The 18-paragraph document was published with little fanfare on Tuesday morning. The Vatican is not offering further explanation.

The chairman of a Roman Catholic evangelical group in Nigeria, Godwin Ukachi, welcomed the publication as overdue. "I think it is right for the Church to take a stand on certain issues, especially the issue of homosexuals. Here in Africa and Nigeria... we are not at home with such attitudes," he told the BBC's World Today programme. "Something had to be done. I think they think that the Church is taking a step in the right direction." Critics have long objected that gay seminarians might feel they have no choice but to lie about their sexual orientation. The guidelines specifically address this issue, urging candidates for the priesthood to tell the truth. "It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality," the document says. Observers say the new rules might lead to a dramatic drop in the number of priests, especially in the West. The guidelines, "Instruction Concerning The Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons With Homosexual Tendencies In View Of Their Admission To Seminaries And Holy Orders", were drafted by the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education and approved by Pope Benedict on 31 August. Canon law experts note that they were not issued in forma specifica , meaning the Pope has not officially invested it with his personal authority, according to the National Catholic Reporter. That might mean there is room for further interpretation or revision. Homosexuals had already been barred from priesthood in a 1961 document.
© BBC News

A bloody clash between Romanians and the Romani minority in 1993 left their common village divided. Now, local people are working to restore harmony.
By Petru Zoltan, Bucharest-based journalist and contributor to the national daily Jurnalul National. He is the nephew of Mircea Zoltan, one of the three Roma killed in the events in Hadareni.

29/11/2005- In 1993, one of the bloodiest interethnic conflicts between Romanians and the Romani minority in post-communist Romania erupted in a village called Hadareni. Twelve years later, legal cases continue to come before Romania’s courts. The latest, due to open on 23 November in a local court, is an appeal against a ruling ordering the seizure of property that would then be sold to compensate the Romani victims of a night of violence that left three Roma dead and 14 houses burned to the ground. One of those lynched was my uncle, Mircea Zoltan. I was 10 at the time, and knew only that my father had left by train that evening to Hadareni after a call to say that his brother had been killed. Ever since, for more than half my life, legal cases have slowly passed through local, national, and international courts. Though the events of that night – 20 September 1993 – now seem clear, the topic remains highly sensitive and only now are local people truly beginning to work to build bridges between their communities.

The events
The events of that evening began when three Roma from Hadareni – Aurel Lacatus, his brother Rapa Lacatus, and Mircea Zoltan – tried to strike up a conversation with a young non-Roma woman, Liana Bucur. Subsequently, in court, Bucur declared that “the remarks of the Gypsies didn’t annoy me at all … I didn’t even react to them.” But that seemingly innocuous conversation had been seen by an elderly villager, Gligor Chetan, who approached the men, spoke with them, and then pulled out a whip and struck them. They responded, witnesses say, by punching Chetan in the face. Several ethnic Romanian villagers waiting nearby for their cattle to return from pasture then intervened. In the ensuing fracas, my uncle, Mircea Zoltan, and Aurel Lacatus managed to flee. Surrounded by a clutch of angry villagers, Rapa Lacatus then stabbed Craciun Chetan (no relative of Gligor). He died the same day in hospital in the neighboring town of Ludus. At the time, the village of Hadareni – home to 900 people, of whom 200 were Roma and 130 were ethnic Hungarians – was not noted for ethnic tensions. But soon after Chetan’s death was announced, a crowd of 50 villagers gathered and, carrying clubs, hatchets, pitchforks, and bottles of gasoline, they then converged on the Roma settlement. The three men were soon found in a deserted house where they had taken shelter. The police chief of the neighboring town of Chetani, Ioan Mega, arrived on the scene, but – as a report by the European Roma Rights Center found – just as the men were negotiating to be taken into custody in return for police protection, the house was set alight. Within minutes the three men were dead: Rapa Lacatus was lynched after he had already been handcuffed by Mega; Pardalian Lacatus was killed as he tried to flee the burning house; Zoltan burned to death in the house after he had been attacked with shovels during an unsuccessful attempt to emerge from the house. During the night, another 13 houses in the Romani settlement were torched, and another five were ransacked. This despite the arrival of more police from the region’s capital, Tirgu Mures, at around 9 p.m. Later, witnesses would testify in a Tirgu Mures court that the police had not just failed to intervene to stop the arson, but had even urged the crowd on to set more houses on fire.

The court cases
A judicial investigation of the incident began the next day, but progress was to be slow. The cases against two policemen implicated in the events – Ioan Moga and Sergeant Alexandru Susca –were, as Romanian law requires, sent before a military court in October 1994, 13 months after the events. In 1995, the military prosecutor dropped charges against them, saying the two policemen had not incited the violence and had been unable to influence the behavior of the villagers and could not in that case be considered to have taken part in the events. Eventually, in 1997, civilian prosecutors in Tirgu Mures indicted five men – Nicolae Gall, Severius Ioan Precup, and three cousins, Pavel Bucur, Petru Bucur, and Vasile Dorel Bucur (none of whom are related to Liana Bucur) – on a charge of “extremely serious murder,” the highest degree of murder in the Romanian criminal code. Six others were indicted for destroying property and incitement to violence. In 1998, four of the five charged with murder were found guilty and sentenced to terms of between three and seven years. The fifth defendant, Petru Bucur, escaped a conviction for murder but was later sentenced to six years in prison for damage to property and incitement to violence. The court handed down jail terms of between two and five years to the six other defendants charged with lesser crimes. Though the sentences for those convicted of destroying property fell within the range of one to five years typical for such crimes, the lightness of the murder sentences prompted questions: under the Romanian criminal code, murder can carry a punishment of 15 to 25 years. The judges justified their decisions on the poor quality of the investigations and the argument that not all those who had contributed to the violence had been charged. “The culprits judged must not be held accountable for all the crimes committed,” the Tirgu Mures judges ruled.

Those initial doubts about the court’s judgment were compounded over the next two years, when the sentences were lightened still more. In 1999, Romania’s supreme court acquitted Nicolae Gall and reduced the convictions of the other three, downgrading the crime from extremely serious murder to homicide. Then, in 2000, then-president Emil Constantinescu pardoned two of the three men still in prison and reduced the punishment of the third. Salt was poured into the reopened wound by the government’s decision to pay Gall 3 billion lei (85,000 euros) in compensation for the nearly three years that he had spent in detention and in prison. That sum dwarfed the 100 million lei (2,800 euros) that Mircea Zoltan’s widow is supposed to receive in compensation (that award is now subject to an appeal). “The discrepancy shows the extraordinary cynicism of the judges who consider that the suffering for losing a family member killed in a bestial manner is worth 100 million lei, and the unlawful arrest of Gall is worth 3 billion lei,” said Meda Gama, a lawyer who has represented the Roma since 2003.

The situation now
For nearly five years, court cases produced no major change in the overall picture. “No court has officially recognized the pogrom or done anything to hold responsible the authorities [the local police] that participated in the events,” Gama says, highlighting some of the main outstanding issues. Events have, though, moved fast in recent months. In 2003, a regional court in Mures ordered seven local people found guilty of involvement in the arson to pay those whose property was torched compensation of 1.3 billion lei (roughly 37,000 euros) plus moral damages of 580 million lei (around 16,000 euros). The ruling was later confirmed in May 2005 by the High Court of Justice and Cassation, the new name for Romania’s supreme court. In the meantime, a case brought by in 2000 by 25 people from the Hadareni settlement was passing through the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. The group argued that the Romanian state was guilty of discrimination, tolerating torture, breaching the right to a fair trial, and breaching the right to a private and family life, all of which fall under the European Convention of Human Rights. Both cases climaxed in mid-2005. In July, in two separate rulings, the ECHR ordered Romania to pay a total of 500,000 euros to the 25 applicants. Eighteen of them have since received a total payment of 262,000 euros in a “friendly settlement” with the state. The other seven, who argued the settlement was too small and chose not to accept the terms, were awarded a total of 238,000 euros. And in summer, the Mures Court of Appeal ordered the police to start seizing the houses of the seven people obliged to pay compensation for their role in the violence. The possibility that properties might be seized raised tensions in the village, with extra policemen (and also firemen) being drafted into Hadareni. To date, the properties have not been seized.

Perhaps galvanized by recent developments and the ECHR’s criticisms, the National Agency for the Roma (ANR), created by the government last year to replace the former Department of Romani Affairs, is now sponsoring projects to improve relations among local ethnic Romanians, Hungarians, and the Roma that remain in the village. One ambitious scheme put forward by the agency got off the ground in September, when representatives of local and governmental authorities, Romanian NGOs, and Romani and non-Romani people from Hadareni met to find ways to fight discrimination in the village. They formed specialized teams to work on anti-discrimination campaigns for schools and the wider community and to look into ways to upgrade the local health system, housing, and infrastructure and to create more jobs in the area. The meeting was put together by the Partners for Local Development Foundation (FPDL), an independent NGO. For two days, Roma and non-Roma people from the village talked and planned – the first time in 12 years the two sides had worked together. By the end of the year, the ANR and the FPDL plan to have drafted a long-term government strategy to improve the situation in Hadareni, a strategy based on the community’s own needs and targeting the community as a whole. “The situation not only of the Roma, but of the entire community in Hadareni should change and the authorities should treat them all equally,” says the FDPL’s program officer Simona Pascariu. Projects worth 1 million euros have already been set up to improve the village’s infrastructure and health and education systems. “The central government should fulfill its promises and … initiate real changes, not cosmetic changes,” Pascariu said. The FDPL and ANR believe Hadareni will have to undergo profound change if it is to become a “European village,” a prosperous village in which the ethnic groups live at peace with each other. They hope this will be the case by 2008, one year after Romania is due to join the European Union.
© Transitions Online

The police found things with fascist motives and explosives during the home searches by the organisers of the extremist concert held in Zlata Olesnice on November 11, local police spokeswoman Ludmila Knopova told CTK today.

28/11/2005- They were charged with incitement to racial hatred and infringement on rights and freedoms. The extremist from the East Bohemian town of Semily is also being prosecuted for illegal arms possession. If convicted, the men can be sentenced to three years in prison, Knopova said. During the Thursday home searches, the police also confiscated video cassettes, digital video cameras, posters, lyrics, CDs and sticks with racist motives, a camera with shots from an extremist celebration and a computer, Knopova said. "First of the accused men is 30 and lives in the Mlada Boleslav region. The second is 27 and lives in Semily. The police found the explosives by him," Knopova said. A few days after the concert, the police brought charges against two Dutch who drove things and documents with fascist and Nazi motives to the concert in Zlata Olesnice. The foreigners may be sentenced to three years in prison for the support to the movement devised to suppress the rights and freedoms. "The Dutch, 25, drove in his car fascist emblems and his fellow citizen, aged 40, had CDs, printed documents, clothes and T-shirts with Nazi and fascist motives. They wanted to distribute them among the participants in the concert," Knopova said. On November 12, the investigator charged a visitor to the concert, 24, from Sokolovo, North Bohemia, with incitement to hatred for a group of people and infringement of their rights. He may be sent to two years in prison. Another nine extremists are being prosecuted for minor offences and a national search was started for another one. The concert was ended shortly before Saturday night by a special police unit.
© Prague Daily Monitor

2/12/2005- Yabloko has included five leaders of nongovernmental organizations on its ticket for City Duma elections on Sunday, even while NGOs are at odds with the Kremlin over a bill that would tighten state control over their finances and activities. Yabloko's main rivals in the elections, meanwhile, have also packed out their lists with particular professions. A dozen city officials dominate United Russia's ticket, while the same number of State Duma deputies prop up Rodina's. The Communists are putting their bets on a number of professors, and the ultranationalist LDPR is tapping a similar number of unemployed youth. The NGO candidates on the Yabloko ticket include prominent human rights activists Andrei Babushkin of the Committee for Civil Rights, Daniil Meshcheryakov of the Moscow Helsinki Group and Svetlana Kuznetsova of the Soldiers' Mothers Committee. Yabloko's other two NGO candidates are Mikhail Komarov of Initiatives in Health Care and Alexei Yablokov of the Center for Russian Ecological Policy. Kuznetsova is also a leader of the United People's Party of Soldiers' Mothers and Yablokov is a leader of the Green Russia party. Meshcheryakov's and Kuznetsova's NGOs drew small grants from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy in 2004 to research police misconduct and provide legal assistance to conscripts respectively, according to the NED web site.

Tensions between NGOs and the authorities increased last month after a cross-party group of State Duma deputies submitted a bill seeking to prevent NGOs from using foreign grants to fund political activity. The Kremlin has accused Western countries of helping to bankroll last year's Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia through financing NGOs. While the bill would not prevent members of NGOs running for political office, civil society advocates fear the bill will put the onus on NGOs to prove their activities are nonpolitical. NGOs have said the bill is unconstitutional, runs contrary to Russia's international agreements and would muzzle civil society. After the State Duma approved the the bill in a first reading last week, President Vladimir Putin supported its intended aim of preventing foreign funding for political activity, but said he would make sure that it did not "damage" civil society. In a campaign broadsheet inserted in the liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta on Thursday, Yabloko did not directly address the bill, but said it was in favor of strong NGOs so that civil society could hold the security services and police accountable.

Boris Makarenko, an analyst at the Center for Political Technologies, said the inclusion of NGO candidates would attract liberal voters to Yabloko. "NGO candidates would put off only those who weren't going to vote for Yabloko anyway, but for Yabloko's electorate they are landmark figures," he said. Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, said NGO activists were some of Yabloko's most active members. Yabloko, which is sharing its ticket with the Union of Right Forces party, the Green Russia party and the United People's Party of Soldiers' Mothers, is fielding 27 candidates on its party list in the 35-seat legislature. United Russia packed its ticket with low- and mid-ranking city officials, including four prefects of Moscow's administrative districts and five lower-ranking officials. The city officials would likely give up their City Duma seats in favor of the candidates that occupy lower spots on the list, including several businessmen, Pribylovsky said. United Russia is also fielding the largest number of current City Duma deputies, compared to the party's four main rivals -- Yabloko, the Communists, LDPR and Rodina.

It was not clear Thursday if Rodina would be removed from the ballot over a controversial television campaign ad, as the Supreme Court was still considering an appeal by the party against a ruling that the ad incited ethnic hatred. Rodina's ticket contained 13 State Duma deputies, mostly occupying the lower spots, and 12 business representatives. The State Duma deputies were on the ticket to attract attention to the party, Pribylovsky said. The Communists ticket contains eight professors and researchers, more academics than any of the other four major parties in the race. They include Vladimir Yevstropov, chief engineer at the Kurchatov Institute, and Yelena Lukyanova, a professor at Moscow State University. LDPR's ticket, meanwhile, stands out for its inclusion of eight unemployed candidates. Makarenko said that the candidates might represent unpopular businesses, such as banks and real estate companies. Four students are running in the race, including three for LDPR and one for the Communists.
© The Moscow Times

30/11/2005- The Moscow Central Election Committee has asked to bar the nationalist Rodina party from the elections into the city parliament just days before the Sunday vote, arguing that one of its campaign ads, which called on Muscovites to "take out the trash," was inciting racial hatred. The Moscow City Court upheld the committee's request. With just days before Sunday election, the ruling must now make it through the Supreme Court to go into effect. Rodina, which won about 9 percent of seats - 38 deputies - in the State Duma in 2003, has been gaining momentum during President Vladimir Putin's second term as a populist party that some are saying could constitute a viable opposition during the next federal level parliamentary elections. Indeed, in the city elections, Rodina presents one of the most formidable adversaries to the pro-Kremlin United Russia. In an interview with the online daily, Rogozin claimed that United Russia "is scared to death of us." Friday's unexpected decision came after the management at a state-owned television channel asked experts earlier this month to examine Rodina's campaign add, which featured two stereotypical Caucasus nationals throwing watermelon rinds on the sidewalk and Rogozin urging Muscovites to "get rid of the trash." The ultra-nationalist LDPR party, which has a similar voter base with Rodina, had filed a complaint against the rival party - also for inciting racial hatred.

After Rodina came under fire for its controversial campaign ad, it immediately made allegations against a similar LDPR ad that had not yet been aired. LDRP responded with a complaint of its own. Not only did it implicate Rodina for the controversial campaign ad, it also accused the party of abuse of power, for printing the phone number of the current Moscow City Duma speaker in one of its pamphlets. Now, in order for Rodina to be taken off the ballot, the Supreme Court, where Rodina filed an appeal countering the Moscow City Court ruling, has to make a decision. Judges are also awaiting a final decision from experts evaluating the ad at the city prosecutor's office. By Tuesday, Muscovites began circulating petitions to keep the party on the ballot. That day, Rogozin also filed a complaint with the Supreme Court because the Moscow City Court has not yet given him a copy of its ruling. If Rodina is indeed taken off the ballot, voter turnout could drop, something that Rogozin believes may also deal a serious blow to other opposition parties like the liberal SPS and Yabloko. Parties with more political clout, such as the Communist Party, would only gain more votes, however. Earlier this week, as attention was drawn to an anti-Fascist rally right in the center of Moscow where dozens of people were detained by police, nationalist groups such as ROD and the Movement Against Illegal Immigration also staged protests in support of Rodina.
© Moscow News

29/11/2005- Police in Rostov prevented local skinheads from firebombing a foreign student dorm, according to a November 24, 2005 report in the local newspaper Vecherny Rostov. Six skinheads were detained by police as they gathered near the dorm on November 19 armed with Molotov cocktails. All are students at other technical schools and colleges. Charges of “terrorism” have been filed against the skinheads. A local police colonel was quoted in the article complaining about the passivity of university rectors who have neo-Nazis within their student bodies. “Police officials inform rectors about students who belong to extremist gangs… but rectors for some reason don’t rush to tell us about their students. Didn’t anybody at the Rostov college see that three students [who were among those detained by police] were wearing swastika head bands?” The article added that a 19 year old city resident was recently arrested near a foreign student dorm. The suspect allegedly set an ambush for foreign students and shot at them with a BB gun.
© FSU Monitor

28/11/2005- Police physically prevented human rights activists from attending a City Hall-approved rally against fascism near Belorussky Station on Sunday, and when demonstrators rallied instead at City Hall, dozens were promptly detained and whisked away to a police station. Liberal politicians, who organized the demonstration in response to a march by thousands of nationalists and skinheads through central Moscow earlier this month, accused authorities of encouraging nationalism and quashing a civil initiative aimed at curbing it. "We are outraged at how the authorities are playing games with fascists and not allowing us to say a word," Nikita Belykh, leader of the liberal Union of Right Forces party, or SPS, said outside the Tverskoi police station, where riot police brought 52 protesters. "We are very alarmed by the authorities' actions that allow fascist marches and prohibit us from providing an adequate response," Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the Moscow branch of the liberal Yabloko party, said just minutes before police dispersed the rally. "Authorities need to keep the fascist genie tight in the bottle. Instead, they keep letting it out of the bottle." The showdown occurred at 2 p.m., when about 200 people carrying Russian flags, anti-fascist signs and posters of crossed-out swastikas converged on Tverskaya Ploshchad, across from City Hall. Scores of riot police tried to block the crowd, but dozens of protesters managed to seep through police lines to the Yury Dolgoruky monument. They then unfolded large posters and began chanting, "Fascism will not be let through."

Minutes later, about 50 riot police officers swooped down onto the crowd, pulling people out one by one and dragging them to three police buses parked nearby. "It is forbidden by Moscow authorities to stage a rally here," a police captain shouted through a megaphone into the struggling crowd. "It is allowed by the Constitution for citizens to gather," someone shouted back from the crowd. Aides of Belykh and Mitrokhin pulled the two out of the crowd seconds before the police closed in. "Why weren't you as tough with the fascists on Nov. 4?" several protesters asked police officers. On that day, the new holiday People's Unity Day, about 3,000 nationalists and skinheads marched across the city center, making Nazi salutes and carrying xenophobic signs, as police quietly looked on. One march organizer told The Moscow Times then that the event had been cleared with the deputy prefect of Moscow's central district, Sergei Vasyukov. Police cleared the square in about five minutes Sunday. A police officer picked a large paper sign reading, "The Mayor's Office Encourages Fascists" from the wet street and tore it into pieces. Vasyukov said police broke up the rally because it had not been authorized. Speaking to reporters on Pushkin Square -- where a rally by the nationalist Rodina party had been scheduled but was not held because activists failed to show up -- Vasyukov said organizers of the anti-fascist rally had submitted requests for two rallies at the same time and that City Hall had granted approval for only one, in front of Belorussky Station. The second rally was to be held on Tverskaya Ploshchad. "According to the law, you cannot be in two different places at the same time," Vasyukov said. Moscow OMON chief Vyacheslav Kozlov said the same thing. He also said no one had been injured on Tverskaya Ploshchad. "No one was hurt, the Lord spared us," he said, Interfax reported.

The square in front of Belorussky Station was tightly sealed off by police at the time the rally was due to begin. No one was allowed to breach the perimeter. Asked why demonstrators were not being allowed into the square, a police officer, who did not give his name, said police had been ordered to prevent provocations. Belykh, the SPS leader, said activists from his party and Yabloko had applied on Nov. 16 for permission to stage a rally at Belorussky Station and then march down Tverskaya Ulitsa. He said the request for the march was turned down a week later -- even though authorities, by law, must reply within three days -- and the reason given for the decision was that it would inconvenience Moscow residents. He noted that the nationalists had been allowed to march on Nov. 4 and that Communists had been allowed to march on Nov. 7. Belykh said the organizers had then asked to rally on Tverskaya Ploshchad instead of at Belorussky Station, but that the request was rejected. Among those detained Sunday were leading human rights activists Sergei Kovalyov of the Institute for Human Rights, Dmitry Orlov of Memorial and Svetlana Gannushkina of Civic Assistance. Also detained were Alexander Osovtsov, the leader of Open Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky's human rights group, as well as prominent liberal activists Alexander Ryklin and Yevgenia Albats. Several detainees brought to the Tverskoi police station were allowed outside to smoke and to chat with journalists. They had to turn over their passports before going outside, they said. Ryklin said over a cigarette that the police officers were treating the detainees not aggressively but in a "businesslike" manner. He said detainees would be required to pay a small fine and then be released. Ekho Moskvy radio reported later that all 52 detainees had been released.

In addition to the human rights activists and Rodina, ultranationalists had planned large rallies Sunday, but apparently few people showed up. In a statement posted on its web site, the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, or DPNI, said it had held small demonstrations at 37 open markets across Moscow on Sunday afternoon under the banners "Moscow Belongs to Us!" and "Russians, Arm Yourselves!" Participants passed out more than 10,000 leaflets with information on how to legally obtain firearms, despite the fact that police tried to break up the demonstrations and detained several participants, DPNI said. The claims could not be independently verified. There were no signs Sunday of any demonstrators at two markets in northern Moscow where DPNI said it had organized rallies. Ekho Moskvy reported that several young men were passing out leaflets at a market next to the Universitet metro station in southwest Moscow but that no demonstration had taken place. Policemen did not allow the young men to wear DPNI armbands or unfurl DPNI banners, it said.
© The Moscow Times

On 27 November a non-authorised antifa meeting was to be be held in Moscow in response to the 4th of November fascist march and several fascist activities of the Against Illegal Immigration Movement planned for today. However, Moscow administration which authorised all mentioned right wing manifestations, refused to give the antifascists the right to say NO although among the signatures of the appeal were the most prominent Russian democrats, journalists, writers and human rights defenders (such as Yavlinski, Albaz, Kovalev, Orlov, Gannushkina...) and some famous musicians (Makarevitch from "the Time Machine") and others. In response to this obvious priorities of the Moscow administration (and it's also clear that taking itno account the famous names of participants, this order was quite high-leveled) the antifa-organisers called people to come anyway despite the prohibition. "Our grand parents
didn't let Moscow to fascists in 1941 why shall we do so in 2005? It is NOT your city yet !" said the appeal published on the web-sites if democratic organisations and of the one of Memorial signed again my many prominent democratic names. Only about 200 people dared to come because police promised to "act according to the law". Police was quite rude and tens of people were arrested. Among them - about 6-7 people from Moscow Memorial and many our personal friends. One of them has just sent an SMS from the police station that he refuses to sign the arrest papers because he wants to make a declaration on the way his arrest was conducated but police doesn't let him claiming not to have enough paper. That's wahy he is kept already more than 3 hours which is illegal according to Russian law.

We will let you know later how the situation develops.
© I CARE News

28/11/2005- On 21 November 2005, a ‘restorative’ congress of the Union of Russian People was held in Moscow. The Union declared itself the successor of an organization which existed in the early 20th century under the same name, but was widely known as The Black Hundred. The new organization elected the Chairman, sculptor Vyacheslav Klykov, a man with openly ethno-nationalistic views. A total of 800 people coming from 70 cities of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Abkhazia attended the Congress and adopted the founding documents of the newly formed organization – its Charter and declarations on a wide range of issues. The overall attendance, including guests, exceeded 1,000. The congress was attended by the Deputy Speaker of the Russian Federal Duma Sergey Baburin (‘Rodina’ National Patriotic Union), the Duma member from a different (Dmitry Rogozin’s) ‘Rodina’ [Motherland] Party Sergey Glazyev, and the Duma member from the Liberal Democratic (Zhirinovsky) Party Nikolai Kuryanovich (famous for his proposal of a bill about stripping Russian women marrying foreigners of their Russian nationality for ‘damaging the gene pool’, as Mr. Kuryanovich put it).

The congress elected the governing bodies consisting mostly of veterans of the Russian ethno-nationalist, Orthodox Christian, monarchy-oriented movement that have been actively promoting their nationalist views since late 80ies, and some – such as Vladimir Ossipov – since Soviet times. Virtually all of them have been vocally anti-Semitic, and some have been sued – though in most cases unsuccessfully – for publishing explicitly xenophobic books and newspapers. In particular, the board of the Union includes Mikhail Nazarov – the author of an anti-Semitic appeal to the public prosecutor demanding a ban on all Jewish organizations in Russia; Konstantin Dushenov – the publisher of the said appeal; Boris Mironov - a former co-chairman of the National Power Party of Russia, who is currently wanted under charges of incitation of ethnic hatred; Leonid Ivashov – a retired General, leader of the Military Power Union bringing together retired military officers with ethno-nationalist views, plus a panoply of leaders of Orthodox Christian, monarchy-oriented, openly anti-Semitic, ethno-nationalist groups. The congress marked the first attempt, in a number of years, to build a broad coalition of groups sharing this part of the political spectrum. Until recently, internal differences and personal agendas kept potential members of the coalition apart, but apparently, lengthy negotiations – preparations for the congress took one year, since November 2004 - helped the parties to overcome their differences.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis

Voronezh is a frightening place after dark, especially if you're a foreigner.

26/11/2005- The southern Russian town has been playing host to British and other foreign students for decades, but now, mirroring a national trend, it is seeing a dramatic rise in racism and racist attacks. Two foreign students have been murdered there in the past two years - the last victim a Peruvian, just a few weeks ago. Enrique Hurtado was at a sports complex when he was set upon by a gang of skinheads. The 18-year-old was beaten to death, another Peruvian and a Spanish student who were with him were left unconscious. The horrific attack has thrown the spotlight on a problem that the authorities seem reluctant to confront. When I met a group of British students who have been sent to Voronezh by their universities back home as part of their Russian language degrees, they were all very disturbed by what had happened.

Local frustration
They no longer go out alone at night, worried that they could be targeted. Rosie Anderson told me that she was now much more aware of people around her on the streets. "I look into their eyes and wonder what they are thinking," she said. "I no longer trust them and know that anything could happen. Enrique was as white as I am but he still got murdered. The Russians here, obviously, don't like foreigners very much." Shireen Quayum, another British student, told me that she was afraid because her skin is quite dark. It's marred my enjoyment of being here because I'm now much more nervous. The number of attacks on foreigners has doubled over the past year here to over 100. The figures are very worrying." It is not hard to find Voronezh citizens who are willing to voice anti-foreigner sentiments. I spent a few minutes walking around a market in the centre of town. There, amidst stalls selling cheap clothes and vegetables, almost everyone that I spoke to was quite open about their views. One man said: "Russia should be for Russians." Another told me: "All foreigners want to do is bring down Russia, they should go back to where they came from." It is hard to pinpoint the precise reason why racism is on the rise. Since the collapse of communism in the early 1990s, Voronezh's economy has suffered with many factories closing. This may have left people feeling frustrated and they take out their anger on what they perceive to be the wealthy foreigners who come to the town to study.

Safety first
Another cause could be President Vladimir Putin's campaign to make Russians feel proud of their country. The president is no racist, but his message may have been misinterpreted by some who have translated it into an excuse to dislike foreigners. Anti-racism campaigners in Voronezh say whatever the cause, the authorities are reluctant to acknowledge the problem. They worry that their town will get a bad reputation and the local economy will suffer even more. It is true that without the 1,000 foreign students who are here at any one time and who pay fees, the town's university would be in a poor financial state. "Voronezh needs new jobs and foreign investment, the local mayor and the governor know that if they start admitting that there's racism here, no one will want to come to Voronezh," says anti-racism campaigner, Alexei Kozlov. "They won't want to study here or invest. That's why they choose to refer to the attacks as 'hooliganism' - not 'racism'." The local police say they are doing what they can, putting more officers out on patrol and giving advice to students about how to stay safe. The British students that I met are not reassured, though. Rosie Anderson told me that she will carry on being cautious. "I'm not going to take my safety for granted, for the rest of my time here I'm going to be very aware that I'm a foreigner and take the necessary precautions." Voronezh's troubles are replicated in many other Russian towns, raising questions for British and other foreign universities about whether it is really safe to carry on sending students to Russia.
© BBC News

26/11/2005- President Vladimir Putin said that foreign financing of political activities in Russia needs closer monitoring, but vowed moves by parliament to tighten controls on non-governmental organizations would not undermine civil society in Russia, the AFP news agency reported. “I will definitely talk about this with the leadership of the Duma,” Putin said in a meeting with a top advisor on human rights, Ella Pamfilova. “We will certainly consult with them and examine this situation so that any steps taken in this area do not undermine civil society in Russia,” he said in comments broadcast on state television. His comments came a day after the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, gave preliminary approval to a bill to tighten government control on domestic and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Prominent international NGOs have sharply criticized the moves, saying they could effectively put them out of business in Russia, and the United States said Wednesday shortly after the vote in the Duma that it had “made our concerns known to the Russian government on this issue.” The issue of funding from abroad for causes labeled as “political” is a highly sensitive one in Russia, where the Kremlin and much of the political class are anxious to avert the kinds of popular uprisings that have shaken other ex-Soviet republics and that they say were financed from abroad. Russia took a particularly dim view of the role that NGO’s, funded in part by Western governments, played in last year’s “orange revolution” in Ukraine, where groups set up to promote democracy were seen by Moscow as de facto backers of one of the candidates in a disputed presidential election. “Political activities in Russia must have maximum transparency,” Putin said. “This means that maximum transparency must apply to all issues connected to financing of political activities in Russia.”The state must keep an eye on the ongoing financing of political activities in Russia from abroad,“ Putin said.

The draft now being considered by the State Duma would force foreign organizations — including some of the world’s most prominent human rights and environmental organizations — to close their offices and seek to reregister as purely Russian organizations, also under new controls over their activities, The New York Times reported. Officials in Washington have expressed concern about the legislation, but stopped short of publicly demanding that Russia back down. In 2004, the United States donated $45 million to groups in Russian that promote democracy and civil liberties — money that the United States State Department’s said was intended to address ”Russia’s inconsistent transition toward a democratic system.“ If interpreted strictly, as many here fear it would be, the legislation would prohibit Russian organizations from accepting such grants. Even some of Putin’s advisers have publicly complained the legislation goes too far. Still it was passed on Wednesday by a vote of 370 to 18. Ella Pamfilova said she had requested the meeting with the president to discuss the legislation’s most restrictive provisions. In a telephone interview to the New York Times after Thursday’s meeting, she said that the president had promised to address her concerns as the legislative process proceeds. ”The president was concerned by the quality of the document and stressed not a single of provisions of the law should violate either our constitution or international law,“ she said. ”He also said it was inadmissible if the work of civil organizations is damaged.“ The legislation’s critics, however, said the Kremlin was intent on cracking down on one of the last parts of Russia society not already under state control. They cited the Kremlin’s fear of foreign and domestic support that could lead to political upheaval like that that toppled Ukraine’s autocratic government after fraudulent elections a year ago. ”One hundred percent of NGOs in Russia will be under the control of the government,“ Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent parliamentary deputy who voted against the legislation, said in a telephone interview after the vote. ”It is one more authoritarian step by the authoritarian regime.“
© MosNews

Barton and Taylor to serve at least 17 and 23 years

2/12/2005- Two cousins were jailed yesterday for the murder of the teenager Anthony Walker in what the judge described as "racist thuggery of a type that is poisonous to any civilised society". Michael Barton, 17, will serve at least 17 years and eight months for the murder of the promising A-level student. Barton's 20-year-old cousin, Paul Taylor, who delivered the fatal blow with a mountaineering ice axe which was left embedded in Anthony's head, will serve at least 23 years and eight months after he pleaded guilty to murder moments before his trial started. Jailing them yesterday at Preston crown court, sitting in Liverpool, Mr Justice Leveson said: "You took from Anthony Walker his most precious possession - that is to say his life and all it held for him. He was a young man of enormous promise, lost in a moment. You have damaged for ever the lives of those who loved him." He told the pair, from Huyton, Merseyside, that the sentence was aggravated by elements of race hate and premeditation. While Barton did not wield the axe, he was jointly responsible for the murder as he had "crept into the park with evil on your mind". The judge said: "Nobody should underestimate the size of these sentences. Both exceed the length of time that these defendants have lived to date." Before passing sentence, the judge heard Taylor was horrified at what he had done and had written letters of apology to Anthony's family. His barrister said he had been a heavy drug user at the time of the attack in July. David Steer, Barton's barrister, described him as "slow and dim", with limited intellectual capacity. The guilty verdict had only just been returned by the jury on Wednesday afternoon when "nigger" was daubed on a path at McGoldrick park, close to where Anthony was attacked. The graffito was found by two community police officers. Forensic science evidence has been taken from the scene and footage from CCTV cameras is being examined. Members of the Walker family later held a vigil at the park, and cards and bunches of flowers were left near the spot where Anthony was murdered. A note left by a waste bin said: "It's not black, it's not white. A young boy has lost his life here. For God sake when will you understand? Wake up. Be with Gee. You are amazing." Another card read: "To Gee and family, at last justice has been done. May you find the inner strength to move on with your life. Rest in Peace Anthony. God bless, love all the decent people in Huyton and Merseyside."

Racial attacks have increased threefold in two years in Knowsley, according to Merseyside police figures. In 2003, there were 50 incidents. This increased to 109 last year and there were 156 incidents up to November 21 this year. Chief Superintendent Peter Currie, who led the murder inquiry, blamed the graffito on friends or associates of Barton and Taylor. He said: "It's so close in time to the verdict, you can only assume it is either friends or associates or supporters." Gloria Hyatt, of the Campaign Against Racial Terrorism, said: "There is a significant problem on that [St John's] estate - not only with racism but with other kinds of incidents" A resident of the estate said Barton and Taylor used to play football outside the parade of shops, using passers-by as targets. "They'd be kicking the ball at people trying to walk along to do their shopping," she said. "People were too scared to go to the shops. They even worked out a points system according to whereabouts on their bodies people got hit." Outside the court, Gee Walker, Anthony's mother, said she admired Taylor for showing remorse. "I hope and pray he takes this time to reflect on what he's done, what both of them have done," she said, adding that she did not believe the sentences were long enough.
© The Guardian

Labour MP has drawn a furious response from a group campaigning for asylum seekers after he called for its funding to be reviewed.

27/11/2005- Glasgow South MP Tom Harris said Positive Action in Housing (PAH) went too far in urging direct action to stop failed asylum seekers being removed. He has called on the Scottish Executive to look at the anti-racism body's future funding. That provoked a furious response from director Robina Qureshi. Positive Action in Housing has been vocal in condemning dawn raids on the homes of failed asylum seekers - an issue which came to a head when the Vucaj family were removed from their flat in Drumchapel in September and subsequently deported. The Scottish Executive and Home Office have been involved in long-running controversy over the reserved issue, with Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm speaking out in condemnation of "heavy-handed" tactics. Last week First Minister Jack McConnell met with Immigration Minister Tony McNulty in what was seen as an effort to present a united front. Speaking on the BBC's Politics Show, Mr Harris said: "First of all I want to make it clear that I have absolutely no problem at all and I think it's absolutely right that charitable organisations should campaign and there's nothing wrong in anyone campaigning on a particular policy. "My problem with Positive Action in Housing is the kind of language that they use. "They accused the Home Office, for instance, of furthering the aims of the far right, they call on Strathclyde Police to arrest immigration officials as they carry out their legal duties and this kind of language does nothing to ameliorate the situation, all it does is heighten tensions." Ms Qureshi said PAH has a wide remit in helping the victims of inequality in Scottish society.

'Ethnic minorities'
She said: "Calling for our funding to be cut by the Scottish Executive is like going to the water board and asking for the gas to be cut off, he's going to the wrong place. "Like Shelter, we get money from the Scottish Executive but not for campaigning. We get money to do case work with homeless people, with people who are victims of racism, with people who are the victims of destitution. "Is Tom Harris calling for our funding to be cut off? Because many of the people he's talking about are ethnic minorities and refugees living in his constituency." Mr Harris said some of PAH's activities were "to be applauded" but he added: "If they receive money from any public source, in other words from the tax payer, they should not therefore be allowed to campaign to provoke violence against immigration officers, to suggest that immigration officers should be arrested. "And also the circulation of rumours and innuendo as fact as regards some of the removals that have happened in the past few weeks, none of it adds up to a responsible charity." Ms Qureshi responded angrily and told Mr Harris: "We are acting extremely responsibly, we are acting to end dawn raids." She accused Mr Harris of launching a personal attack on her, which he denied, and said: "We're a charity, we've never in our lifetime been anything other than cross party political. "What I will say is we are trying to end dawn raids and that is what this debate is about. "Get back to the debate Tom Harris, you, you're the people who are pro-Iraq War, the ones who are creating asylum seekers in this country, how dare you."
© BBC News

28/11/2005- A pupil is racially abused every hour in Birmingham's schools, according to shock figures obtained by The Birmingham Post. A total of 1,498 racist incidents against pupils were reported to the local education authority during the 192-day academic year. A further 142 cases of racism against teachers were recorded during 2004/05 - equivalent to more than three each week. The figures represent an increase of 199 on the previous year. Last night Birmingham's only ethnic minority MP, Khalid Mahmood, described the figures as "hugely disturbing" while the Commission for Racial Equality said they confirmed "the urgency" with which racism in schools needed to be tackled. But Birmingham City Council insisted the number of children affected was relatively small. Mr Mahmood (Lab Perry Barr) said: "To see that kind of reporting in schools is hugely disturbing. It is difficult for me to comprehend. I think we need to look more into where that racism is. Whether it is purely black and white or inter-community racism as well. "All these factors need to be looked at. The underlying trend is very worrying and I would like to see proper programmes undertaken by the LEA in conjunction with schools and the Department for Education and Skills to address these issues." Mr Mahmood said he was seeking a meeting with Birmingham's Cabinet Member for Education, Coun Les Lawrence (Con Northfield), to discuss what action the authority was taking. The Commission for Racial Equality said: "These statistics confirm the urgency with which racist incidents in schools need to be tackled. "It is important for schools to collate details of racist incidents so that they can develop a co- ordinated approach to ensure pupils and school staff can learn and work in a safe environment." Birmingham City Council was unable to provide a breakdown of victims, perpetrators and which schools had the highest incidents of racism. But the raw data reveals 475 cases against pupils reported during the 2004 autumn term. The majority were likely to be pupils against pupils, said the authority, though a minority may be parents against pupils and even teachers. During the same period, 55 episodes of racial abuse were recorded against teachers. For the 2005 spring term, there were 507 cases of racial abuse against pupils and 47 against staff. And in the final summer term last year, there were 516 incidents against pupils and 40 against staff. A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said: "We have zero tolerance to racism in schools and every incident involving race is investigated and necessary action is taken in all cases." He added: "While we are determined to reduce the number of incidents, any interpretation of the statistics needs to recognise that in Birmingham we have 180,000 pupils, 10,000 teachers and almost 500 schools." During the 2003/04 academic year there were 1441 racist incidents recorded in Birmingham's schools. Of these, 1,308 were against pupils and 133 against staff.
© icBirmingham

Widening social divisions in one of the world's richest countries have triggered conflict

26/11/2005- Beside the grotto of porcelain saints in a corner of her spotless caravan, Biddy McDonagh described the rats that plague her Traveller halting site. "They're the size of cats and move like greyhounds," she said. They were a four-legged memento of the local dump that once sat on this stretch of land on Dublin's bleak north-western outskirts. Mrs McDonagh, 61, grandmother of 39 and great-grandmother of 10, had just learned to write her name and address. "It's not much," she sighed. "But it makes a difference to my life." This state-run site, with its outside toilets, sporadic electricity cuts, graffiti and passing joyriders, is supposed to be the "paradise" of Traveller residences, said Winnie Kerrigan, another resident waiting for a house. But the Celtic Tiger boom is not obvious around here. "We live like the rest of Ireland lived in the 1930s," Mrs Kerrigan said. Last October the 80 Traveller families living along Dunsink Lane in Finglas woke up to find the council had sealed them off with a 20-ton concrete barricade to prevent illegal dumping. Divided from the non-Traveller community nearby and stopped from walking to schools and shops, the Travellers said the barrier was a racist act of discrimination and staged protests. Riots ensued in which petrol bombs were thrown, a local observatory building was burned and golfing greens dug up. Likened by the media to struggles in Gaza and Derry's Bogside, the "Battle of Dunsink" polarised the Republic, exposing the frustrations of a marginalised minority and the depth of anti-Traveller feeling.

A year on, Ireland's troubled relationship with its nomadic people is at its worst. PŠdraig Nally, a Mayo farmer who killed a Traveller and was cleared of murder and convicted of manslaughter, was this month sentenced to six years. The judge described it as the "most socially divisive case" he had ever tried, and the furious outcry has split Ireland. Nally, 61, lived alone at his farm in Cross. In October last year he found John Ward, 42, a Traveller, at his farmhouse and believed he was breaking in. Nally shot him in the hip and the hand. A struggle followed in which Mr Ward was beaten repeatedly with a piece of wood. Nally told police: "It was like hitting a stone or a badger. You could hit him but not kill him." As Mr Ward hobbled away into the road, Nally went to reload his gun, followed him and shot him dead at close range. Nally's supporters believe he was treated too harshly by the court and that Travellers must face up to their involvement in crime which is "driving a wedge" between them and the rest of society. But Ian O'Donnell of the Institute of Criminology at University College Dublin said the belief that Travellers were disproportionately involved in rural crime was unsubstantiated. "There is very little research into Traveller involvement in crime," he said. "I think there is scapegoating going on." Last week a rally in support of Nally was postponed amid accusations that it was racist against Travellers, an allegation its organisers denied. But the Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins furthered the controversy when he called a radio phone-in to say Ireland's "tinkers and Gypsies" were not liked anymore. The divide between Travellers and the rest of society was "growing, festering and reaching volcanic proportions", and unless it was tackled, there would be more deaths.

Traveller groups say their community is now living in fear. In Dublin this month a 26-year-old Traveller was chased into an ally, beaten with a pool cue and stabbed to death by men who believed he had broken into a house. As the anger mounts, Pavee Lackeen (The Traveller Girl), a film based on real events about a family who live on the side of the road in one of Dublin's best postcodes, has won praise at international film festivals. Audiences were shocked that a single mother of 10 had been forced to live for years in a freezing caravan with no electricity, water or toilet while the United Nations ranks the people of the Republic of Ireland as the second richest in the world. Despite the film's success, its stars, the Maughan family, still have no house. They live in a caravan with no toilet, forced to squat among rats on a grass verge. There are roughly 30,000 Travellers in Ireland, less than 1% of the population. Native to Ireland, they are distinct from the Roma of Europe but share a nomadic tradition. In Great Britain and Northern Ireland Irish Travellers are recognised as a distinct minority ethnic group, but in the Republic they are not. Martin Collins, assistant director of Travellers group Pavee Point, said this stops the hatred they face on a daily basis being properly recognised as racism. He said the Nally case revealed "blatant" and institutionalised racism" against Travellers. No Traveller sat on the jury. "I am the first to admit that John Ward had no right to be where he was, but this was cold-blooded murder," he said. "And now the farmer is being glorified and portrayed as a national hero. This is akin to what once happened in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi." Mr Collins said Travellers were not surprised by the depth of feeling against them. Mr Ward's widow had received hate mail saying "one down, 30,000 to go". In Dublin Travellers spoke of having to change their names to get jobs. Some 73% of Traveller men are unemployed and one survey by an employment firm found one in four people would not want to share a workspace with a Traveller. Back in Finglas, Winnie Kerrigan said the message sent by the Nally case was that it was "OK" to kill a Traveller. "We don't want pity. We want human rights," she said.

Travellers have been a part of Irish society for centuries. Indigenous to Ireland, they are distinct from Roma in Europe but share a tradition of nomadism and large extended families. Although little spoken today, Travellers have their own language, Cant. Traditionally metal-workers, horse traders and seasonal farm workers, many are now concentrated in urban areas. There are about 30,000 Travellers in Ireland, 15,000 in Britain and 10,000 in the US. In Ireland 63% of Travellers are under 25 and life expectancy is about a decade less than the general population. Pavee Point say 800 families in Ireland live on the side of the road, without piped water, electricity or sanitation, and hundreds more are waiting for accommodation.
© The Guardian

Spanish coastguards are searching for 22 people who fell out of a boat carrying migrants from north Africa.

27/11/2005- The vessel was intercepted off the coast of Almeria with 40 people aboard. A dead body was also found on the boat. Hopes of finding any survivors are faint after so long in the water, a rescue official is quoted as saying. Every year, thousands of people from Africa attempt the illegal and highly dangerous crossing, seeking a better life in Spain and the European Union. Many who make it to Spain are detained and eventually deported. The Spanish authorities have not revealed the nationalities of the people found in the boat. The rescued migrants told the authorities 22 of their fellow passengers had fallen out of the boat in stormy seas. "After so much time in the water, there is little chance of finding anyone alive," a source in Almeria's rescue service told the AFP news agency. The Mediterranean sea route from North Africa to Spain is commonly used by migrants.
© BBC News

27/11/2005- David Irving's recent life has made him look more like an outlaw than an historian. Broke, shunned and declared "persona non grata" across half the planet, it's been quite a comedown for the world's most notorious Holocaust denier. His latest comeuppance has been an episode as shabby as any and may force him to spend years in prison. The 67-year-old writer and polemicist - who, in his younger days won lavish praise from mainstream historians for his exhaustive study of the Second World War from Hitler's point of view - essentially rolled the dice and lost by daring to visit Austria, one of a handful of countries to put him on notice that he risked being arrested on sight. Denying the existence of the Nazi Holocaust is serious business in the country of Hitler's birth, and what was initially intended as a below-the-radar visit to a far-right student group in Vienna has turned into a legal nightmare. Not only was Mr Irving arrested and charged on two counts of Holocaust denial following a brief game of cat-and-mouse with the Austrian police on the road between Vienna and Graz but on Friday a judge in Vienna also denied him bail pending trial. Mr Irving has a number of opportunities to challenge the judge's ruling, starting with an appeal, expected to be heard in the next couple of days. But if he fails to argue against the judge's opinion that his release would expose the world to the risk of him re-offending - by denying the Holocaust all over again - Mr Irving is likely to stay behind bars until his trial, expected sometime next year. If found guilty he faces up to 20 years in prison. In the past, Mr Irving railed against any limitation on his activities as an infringement of free speech - not an unreasonable argument, although he has been known to lard it with dark hints about Jewish conspirators being out to get him.

But in Austria, perhaps in recognition of the gravity of the charges he faces, he has taken a different tack. His Viennese lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, insists he has changed his mind about "the views he is so famous for" after an examination of Soviet archives led him to accept the Nazi gas chambers existed. That line of argument may surprise Mr Irving's white supremacist friends in the United States, more accustomed to his view that "more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz". They have extended numerous invitations and organised frequent books sales for him in the past few years. Among his Stateside sponsors, according to the anti-racist Southern Poverty Law Center, have been the former Ku Klux Klan leader and one-time candidate for the Louisiana governor's office, David Duke, as well as the leading US neo-Nazi organisation, the National Alliance. Mr Irving's US friends have been a lifeline since he brought a ruinous libel suit in 2000 against Deborah Lipstadt. She had characterised him as anti-Semitic and racist; the High Court found that the criticism was just and ordered Mr Irving to pay court costs estimated to be about £3 million. Since then, he has reportedly moved out of his home in Mayfair into rented accommodation. He has continued to organise annual so-called "real history" conferences, but his room for manoeuvre has been significantly constrained: he is banned from entering Austria, Germany, Canada and Australia. Even his trips to the States have been less than comfortable. In 2003, a restaurant in rural Idaho chose to cancel an event of his and close down for the day after finding out who he was and what sort of people his local fans might be. This summer he received a rare invitation to address a left-wing group in Alabama, the Atheist Law Center, only to provoke outrage among the membership and, this week, the resignation of the group president, Larry Darby. Mr Darby described Mr Irving to his membership only as "an expert on World War Two, the Nazi era and the erosion... of free speech". In an interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mr Darby made some pointed remarks about Jews and suggested that attacking them was consistent with his general anti-religious worldview. "I think it's easy in this country to speak out on Christianity and even Islam," he said. "I think it's more difficult to speak out on things of a Jewish nature." Mr Daby now plans to run as a candidate for attorney general of Alabama.
© Independent Digital

6/12/2005- The storm aroused by French-Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut refuses to subside. On Sunday, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy threw his full weight behind the beleaguered philosopher, who has been forced to remain cloistered at home following the sharp reactions to an interview he gave to Haaretz. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Sarkozy said: "Monsieur Finkielkraut is an intellectual who brings honor and pride to French wisdom ... If there is so much criticism of him, it might be because he says things that are correct." The minister was asked about Finkielkraut because several reporters saw similarities between the conservative views the philosopher expressed about the recent riots in France and the tough stance the minister took in dealing with the agitators who took to the street night after night. The liberal weekly Nouvel Observateur devoted its cover story to what it called "the new neo-reactionaries." Alongside Finkielkraut's picture on the cover was a title stating that Finkielkraut and his colleagues had worsened the social chasms in the country. Others mentioned as supporters of similar ideas were Sarkozy, philosopher Andre Gluksman and historian Pierre-Andre Taguieff (who coined the phrase Judeophobia). They are described as belonging to a right-wing wave that is now prominent in France. Sarkozy appeared ready to take on the media. He had been following the attacks on Finkielkraut for two weeks and was waiting for a suitable opportunity. "What do you want of him?" he asked the media representatives. "M. Finkielkraut does not consider himself obliged to follow the monolithic thinking of many intellectuals, which led to Le Pen winning 24 percent in the elections. The philosophers who frequent the salons and live between Cafe de Flor and Boulevard St. Germain suddenly find that France no longer bears a resemblance to them."

This is an unprecedented attack on the left wing by the very person who is seen by many French as being the only one capable of preventing the disintegration of the republic. The cafes and bistros of Boulevard St. Germain and the narrow alleyways of St. Germain-des-Pres were traditionally frequented by members of the left, led by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, who would take their morning coffee and read the newspapers there. When the socialists came to power under Francois Mitterand in 1981, the celebrations there were legendary. But of late, the area has lost some of its left-wing color. While Sarkozy has won popular support for his stronghanded policies, he has been criticized in the media for his autocratic manner and his lack of sympathy for the social causes behind the rioters' behavior. Finkielkraut appeared to be mouthing his words. Finkielkraut's apologies printed in Le Monde, a few days after the Haaretz interview, disappointed many. His supporters felt he had retracted his words for fear of a media boycott, as had happened to others. As a result of his apologies, Finkielkraut was able to maintain his radio programs on the prestigious France Culture channel and the Jewish radio channel and even increased his audience. The weekly Le Point also devoted a four-page report to the Finkielkraut affair this week. While the interviewees stressed his intellectual acumen, they almost all felt Finkielkraut had slipped up by mentioning the ethnic identity of the rioters - he had described them as blacks, Arabs and Muslims. Nevertheless, to date, all the organizations and bodies that threatened to sue him for racism have changed their minds. The trials of the rioters, however, will begin shortly. There are 785 detainees, of whom 83 are illegal residents. Seven will be deported in the next few days.
"They are on their way out," Sarkozy told the reporters.
© Haaretz

28/11/2005- CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour spoke to the French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin. The following is a transcript of the interview.

Amanpour: Firstly, thank you very much for joining us Mr. prime minister, would you accept that France has a very serious social malaise, a very serious social problem that requires dramatic solutions, actions?
De Villepin: Yes, indeed. Important and severe social unrest; we have had more than 9,000 cars that were burned. We had approximately 130 policemen that were injured and approximately 100 of public buildings that were damaged during this period, during these two weeks of unrest.

Amanpour: You know, many people, after hurricane Katrina struck the United States said, that it exposed the poverty and racism that exist in the United States. Many people in France said that ... around the world said it. Many people also said that the riots in the ghettos if you like... in the suburbs ...
De Villepin: I am not sure you can call them riots. It's very different from the situation you have known in 1992 in L.A. for example. You had at that time 54 people that died, and you had 2,000 people wounded. In France during the 2 weeks period of unrest, nobody died in France. So, I think you can't compare this social unrest with any kind of riots.

Amanpour: What do you call it then?
De Villepin: Social unrest, you have to understand also, there were no guns in the streets. No adults; mostly young people between 12 and 20 ... so it is very special movement.

Amanpour: Many people say that special movement or social unrest is fueled by mass unemployment especially in the youth...
De Villepin: It's approximately the double of the rest of the country.

Amanpour: Which is dramatic ...
De Villepin: Yes, of course.

Amanpour: ... By poverty and by racism ...
De Villepin: Feeling of discrimination: very often, you have people coming from the second generation of immigration, they don't know their country of origin. They don't have the same link with France as their parents who chose to come and work here. So, as Jacques Chirac, the President of the Republic said, there was some kind of a lack of identity.

Amanpour: In terms of Identity, many of them told us, that they are asked to be French in spirit of the republic, but the French government doesn't love them, doesn't care about them, doesn't do enough to make sure that they have equal opportunity in a country that is all about egalitť.
De Villepin: I think we should recognize that we have not made enough during all these years and decades. We need to be conscious of this situation. We have to say that, and it is important to also understand the real nature of these movements, there is no ethnic or religious basis of this movement, as we can see in some other parts of the world. But it is true that the feeling of discrimination, the feeling of maybe not having the same equal chance... but what is interesting, is that most of these young people, they want to be 100 percent French. They want to have equal chances. So, it is really our goal now to answer their demands and to move and to put as a priority a lot more that needs to be done on housing, on education, on employment and this is going to be on the agenda of our government during the next weeks and months.

Amanpour: The majority of these people who are in the banlieus are blacks or of North African origins. And they feel that not only there are no opportunities, but there are no role models for them. There no minorities in your parliament, none in your news organizations, ...
De Villepin: But they don't want to be recognized.... They don't want to be recognized as Muslims, or as blacks, or as people coming from North Africa. They want to be recognized, as French and they want to have equal opportunity during their lives.

Amanpour: So what do you say then to somebody whose name is Mohammed, who knows that even if he has the best grades from the Sorbonne, his resume, his c.v., will be rejected 5 times more often than somebody who's called Francois, that's a fact.
De Villepin: Well, the first question is to everybody in this country. We have to answer the question and try to solve it. Nobody can accept that. This cannot be a fatality. We want to change this mentality. And already we have seen so many initiatives. Take for example, a lot of companies, French companies that have decided to have a more diverse recruitment in their own companies. So we should change, we have many decisions that have been taken during the last years. As for example, a Curriculum Vitae anonymous which allows the company to choose people without knowing which race or which religion. So I believe that it is a matter of mobilization in the country in order to make sure that discrimination is not going to be accepted. President Chirac has decided to create a high authority against discrimination and for equality. And this authority is going to be able to give sanctions to people who are not going to comply with our Republican rules.

Amanpour: Is that like positive discrimination? Is that affirmative action?
De Villepin: No, there is a difference between... what we stand for in our republic, which is: equal chances and affirmative action.  Affirmative action is mainly aimed in taking into account the race and the religion. In our republic: everybody is equal and we don't want to take into account the color of the skin or the religion. But we want to take into account the difficulty that one may have. So we want to help the individuals on the basis of their own difficulties. That's why we are going to have an important program in order to help more this neighborhood that has been facing difficulties in terms of education for example. That means we are going to help all the different schools in these neighborhoods, in order to help all the young people that maybe cannot master as well the French language or do have problems in schools. It means very intense program in order to give them equal chances.

Amanpour: How can you help these people if you do not take into account that they are discriminated against because of their color.
De Villepin: We are going to triple the scholarships giving to the children. We are going to triple the boarding schools in order to answer to the best students in these different neighborhoods, in order to help them going to university and to have a good career. But the difference between the system you have and the one we have is that we are going to help as well any young children in France facing difficulties but not taking into account the fact he is black or coming from Maghreb or being Muslim. Every one who is having difficulties is going to be taken into account and helped individually.

Amanpour: It was your government that cut quite a lot of money and quite a lot of programs to these areas that we just saw explode in spasm of violence...
De Villepin: That's not absolutely true.

Amanpour: There were quite a lot of cuts...
De Villepin: Well, we spent differently in different programs and we have put the emphasis mainly on housing. We have decided to have a 30 billion program in order to renovate the whole urbanism. One of the big problems in these neighborhood, is that in the sixties and the seventies in order to answer to the crisis of housing, it has been created a lot of high-rise buildings with a lot of people living there in very difficult way. So we have decided to build residence on a smaller scale and we are doing that in a very very fast programs: 18 months between the demolishing of these big buildings and the reconstruction of these new residences. This is of course very expensive programs. What is true is that we have decided to re-allocate a certain amount of money for the social organizations working in these cities.

Amanpour: But some people also said that the labor laws here need to be changed. That because it is so difficult to hire young people... without being able to fire them because of your very strict social and labor laws, that that is a double negative against those people.
De Villepin: Well, first we want to make a very special effort in direction of the young people of these neighborhoods. That's why we've decided to have our national agency of employment to receive all the young people in these neighborhood during the next month. In order to either propose either a job, either a training program or an internship. In order to really answer to their demands. We are really willing to take into account that their very specific difficulties and individually to answer these difficulties.

Amanpour: How long do you have to get it right?
De Villepin: Well, it is an emergency matter. We want to deal with these matters very very fast. I am going to present a full program on Thursday in order to have a better justice, better education in these neighborhood. So, we are taking this very seriously. We want to have very fast answer, global answers. In order to really comply with our obligations. We are facing, this is the difficulty, problems of very different nature. Problems for example of employment. We want to attract more companies into these neighborhoods. And we have created tax free zones, we want to increase the numbers of these tax free zones in order to have more companies creating jobs but we also want the people of these neighborhoods being able to accept the jobs outside of these neighborhoods, because we need a social mix in order to have a real equilibrium now in our society. So it is a challenge, it is a challenge for these neighborhoods, it is a challenge for the whole French society. And I think it is very important that we succeed in this, because whatever happened in France can happen as well in other countries, in Europe or else where. It is a part of a new phenomenon of globalization. So we need to be successful and I think France has to show that its society has a vitality, has a capacity, has a willingness to make and to deal with the challenge.

Amanpour: France, and you yourself when you were Foreign Minister, was very vocal about the Iraq war. You obviously did not support it and you raised many of the issues that are currently unfolding there right now. What do you think? Do you feel vindicated when you look at what Iraq is going through right now?
De Villepin: No, I think it is of course a very difficult situation; we have gone a long way to begin to establish democracy in Iraq, but still there is a long way to go. And I think the effort should be important in terms of including all the political forces. After the referendum on the constitution, we are going to have general elections in Iraq on the 15th of December, and I think it is a very important moment in order to try to put together all the political and social forces of the country. We know that there are two risks in Iraq still today. One is the division of Iraq which is of course a nightmare for the region. And the second one is a growing role of terrorism. So I think it is very important for the international community to try to put all these forces together to solve the matter and I think we should support the initiative of the Arab League: try to support a better regroupement, coalition of the different political forces, and also make sure that all the countries of the region work together in order to go forward.

Amanpour: But you can see there is a huge amount of difficulty with that...
De Villepin: We knew since the beginning that it was very easy to go to war, but very difficult to get out of Iraq, because of the fragility of the country, because of the sensitivity of the situation in this region. So now we have to face the situation as it is, and it is the responsibility of all the international community to help the process, to make sure that we go forward all together.

Amanpour: Do you believe the United States should set a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops?
De Villepin: I believe that anything should be done coordinated with the local situation in Iraq and the regional situation. I think that the timetable should be a global timetable. The real timetable is the Iraqi situation. We should avoid at all cost the chaos in Iraq which of course would be disastrous for the whole region.

Amanpour: Iran. France, Britain and Germany have taken the lead in trying to make sure Iran does not get its hands on nuclear weapons. And they have also been very clear in not wanting Iran in engaging in the uranium enrichment cycle, those talks broke off, there is a new Iranian president, there is word that the EU3 is ready to start negotiations again, is that true?
De Villepin: No. We have made an offer. And Iran has decided to resume the enrichment of uranium, the conversion of uranium, and I think it is very important now today to put pressure on Iran to make sure that they accept this offer, if they don't accept... then we will have to go then to the Security Council.

Amanpour: Do you believe that the new presidency sees it that was, since they have restarted and said that they won't stop?
De Villepin: As always, in any negotiations, it is difficult to make any prediction, but I think that there is a deal possible, there is an offer that has been made by the Europeans and I think it is in the interests of the international community, in the interests of Iran, to accept these proposals

Amanpour: What sanctions can you imagine?
De Villepin: You see there is one key factor of diplomacy, never tell what you will do before.
© Cable News Network

29/11/2005- French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin today announced tightened controls on immigration, part of his government’s response to France’s worst civil unrest in four decades. Legal immigrants who ask for a 10-year residency permit or French citizenship should show that they have integrated and mastered French, he said. France will crack down on fraudulent marriages that some immigrants ue to acquire residency rights and launch a stricter screening process for foreign students, de Villepin said. Both de Villepin and his Interior Minister and rival Nicolas Sarkozy have announced law-and-order measures since the rioting broke out this month in depressed suburbs where many immigrants live. The two men – both members of President Jacques Chirac’s conservative party – are expected to vie for the presidency in 2007, and both want to appear firm in response to the violence and France’s broader social problems. Marriages celebrated abroad between French people and foreigners will no longer be automatically recognised in France, de Villepin said. Consulates must screen couples first before foreign partners can be granted French identity papers, he said. “It’s not an attempt to undermine the right to marry, but to check that all the conditions for a true marriage are in place,” de Villepin said, adding that the measure would be adopted by parliament in the first half of 2006. The prime minister also said the government should have the ability to enforce a law outlawing polygamy. There are 8,000-to-15,000 polygamous families in France, according to official figures.

Some French officials cited polygamy as one reason that youths from underprivileged immigrant households joined the rioting – a suggestion that outraged opposition politicians and human rights groups. They warned against fanning racism and anti-Muslim sentiment. The violence broke out on October 27 near Paris and spread throughout France. While promising to ease unemployment for youths and fight racial discrimination, the conservative government also promised tighter controls on crime and immigration. About 50,000 foreign students come to France each year to study. Foreign students will be screened in their home countries by centres run by officials from France’s Education Ministry, de Villepin said. “We want to channel our efforts to receive the best students, the most motivated, those who have a high-level study project,” he said. The French president said two weeks ago that France also must be stricter in enforcing regulations that govern whether immigrants can move their spouses and children to France. De Villepin said legal immigrants who want to move their families to France should wait at least two years before they can apply, up from the current one year. So-called family reunions are the second biggest source of legal immigration to France, affecting about 25,000 people in 2004. Marriage is the largest: About 34,000 French people married foreigners from beyond the European Union last year. De Villepin later told parliament that the number of illegal immigrants sent back has more than doubled over the past three years, with France on target to deport more than 20,000 people this year.
© Ireland on-line

26/11/2005- A number of French NGOs launched on Friday, November 25, into a diatribe against intellectual Alain Finkielkraut for calling rioters a bunch of "rebels" with Muslim identity. "Finkielkraut will be sued for inciting hatred," vowed the chairman of Movement against Racism and for Friendship between People (MRAP), Mouloud Aounit. "There will be no dialogue with racists," he said in a statement, adding that Finkielkraut and his ilk should know their limits. Finkielkraut said in an interview with Haaretz last week that the problem with rioters is that they are "blacks or Arabs, with a Muslim identity." "Look, in France there are also other immigrants whose situation is difficult - Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese - and they're not taking part in the riots. Therefore, it is clear that this is a revolt with an ethno-religious character," he said. The rioting began on October 27 with the accidental electrocution of two youths fleeing police in Clichy-sous-Bois outside Paris. The government has then come under increasing pressure to halt the riots, sparked by frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police. Many feel trapped in the drab suburbs, built in the 1960s and 1970s to house waves of immigrant workers. Their French-born children and grandchildren are now out on the streets demanding the equality France promised but, they say, failed to deliver

The racist remarks by Finkielkraut further drew vitriol from other French NGOs. The Audio-Visual Council (Le Conseil supťrieur de l'audiovisuel) urged the France Culture radio to sack Finkielkraut and keep his weekly program from the airwaves. The Jewish Union for Peace in France also censured the writer, issuing a strongly-worded statement blasting the Finkielkraut's blatant racism in the interview. The interview's headline "What Sort of Frenchmen are They?" is a case in point, it said. SOS Racisme also joined the chorus of condemnation, demanding the intellectual to reconsider his statements hoping that it was just a slip of the tongue. Senior government officials have frequently said that the recent turmoil has nothing to do with religion. Chief of Interior Intelligence Service Pierre de Bousquet told French RTL channel on Wednesday, November 23, Islam should by no way take the blame for the work of angry youths. "We must address the roots and real reasons behind the unrest," he said. Bernard Bessingere, the chief of a Saint Denis municipality, lauded last week the key role played by the leaders of the Muslim minority in Saint Denis to calm down a furious generation. On November 20, Muslim leaders in the Saint Denis's District 93, where the first sparkle of riots started, have put their heads together with government officials, clerics and party leaders to tackle how to avoid a repeat of the riots. Better known among the French as "District 93" Saint Denis has a Muslim population of 500,000 out of 1,200 million people, making it the largest Muslim residential area in the country. Muslims make up some five million of France’s 60 million people, the biggest Muslim minority in Europe.
© Islam Online

26/11/2005- Sixty French associations for black people formed a federation on Saturday to fight racial discrimination in the aftermath of a flare-up of violence in poor suburbs across France. Named the representative council for black associations, or CRAN, the federation aims to involve political parties, unions and other bodies in fighting discrimination. Prejudice and exclusion have been cited among reasons youths from immigrant families spent three weeks rioting in the outskirts of French cities blighted by poverty and unemployment in late October and November. The federation chose Patrick Lozes, leader of the Capdiv body that promotes diversity in France, as its chairman. "Before the suburbs burn again, we have to take stock of ethno-racial discrimination in France," Lozes said. Stephane Pocrain, a former Green party spokesman, said integrating black people in French society was key. "What's really at stake is how to find greater social cohesion by reintegrating, both in the national story and in the national community, those who are permanently excluded from it because they have black skin," he said after a meeting organised at France's lower house of parliament, or National Assembly. He said CRAN aimed to hold talks with bodies like France's employers federation, Medef, about diversity in companies. The singer Manu Dibango, former footballer Basile Boli and Fode Sylla, the former president of anti-racist organisation SOS Racisme, are all members of the federation.
© Reuters

25/11/2005- European Commission President Dur„o Barroso came under a hail of vociferous criticism last week after announcing that Brussels plans to give riot torn France millions of euros in aid. He pledged nearly 950 million euros after 18 nights of street riots, car burning and armed attacks on police. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Barroso said: "These riots are a European issue. We are ready to examine the possibility of immediately remobilising and redirecting certain funds". The proposed aid would be in addition to a 100 million euro grant already handed over by the EU for the redevelopment of the kind of impoverished French towns where the riots broke out. During the disturbances, 300 cities and towns were hit and nearly 3,000 people arrested. More than 8,000 vehicles have been set on fire and at least 72 public buildings destroyed, including schools and colleges. However, Barroso's proposed grants have rankled with parties across the political spectrum. The UK Tory party described them as "unbelievable and a waste of taxpayers' money". Tory spokesman Graham Brady told BBC TV: "We all sympathise with the French people who have suffered from the riots, but France is already one of the biggest beneficiaries of EU funding. It would be hard to justify taking still more cash from those who pay the most into the EU, like hard working British taxpayers". Brady expressed surprise that a country as wealthy as France was not able to finance solutions to its own domestic problems, especially as policies for dealing with immigrants such as isolating them on rundown estates, have been the main cause of the riots. Barroso has so far refused to respond to criticism of his planned aid programme and if anything appears to be deter mined to press ahead with further grants if deemed necessary. He was warmly congratulated by the French European Minister Catherine Colonna who went on to say: "It's a good start ≠ it's a good thing". Attempting to allay the fears of French citizens over the threats of more riots, President Jacques Chirac said in a TV speech: "These events bear witness to a deep malaise. We will respond by being firm, by being fair and by being faithful to the values of France".
© The Portugal News

25/11/2005- The prime minister of France is playing down comments made by other members of his party, who earlier this week claimed that rap music helped fuel the recent suburban riots. In an interview with French radio Friday, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin dismissed the claim, spearheaded by MP Francois Grosdidier, that songs by French rappers helped drive the three weeks of rioting in poor suburbs. The wide-ranging civil unrest began in late October, when two teenagers were electrocuted at a power sub-station in Clichy-sous-Bois, north of Paris. Local youths allege the pair were being pursued by police, a charge officials deny. In the aftermath of the riots, which abated last week, Villepin said, "it is one of my primary responsibilities to avoid any sort of confusion or finger-pointing." He continued: "Is rap responsible for the crisis in the suburbs? My answer is no." However, he did acknowledge that certain artists must claim responsibility for the content they create. "When one writes a song, when one writes a book, when one expresses oneself, do we have a responsibility? Yes," he said.

Rapper Monsieur R the main target
Approximately 200 French MPs and senators are backing a request for the country's justice ministry to investigate and possibly prosecute seven rap groups over what the MPs believe are provocative lyrics. Earlier this week, Grosdidier argued that music by certain rappers "conditioned" listeners to violence. He alleged that songs like FranSSe by rapper Monsieur R incite racism and hatred and should be banned from the airwaves. Though other musical artists were mentioned in the request, Monsieur R (whose real name is Richard Makela) has been the central target, particularly because of FranSSe. The song – in which the rapper calls France "a prostitute" and disparages historical figures – is not a call to arms against the country but a rant against government leaders who neglect ethnic minorities, Makela told French TV. "Hip hop is a crude art, so we use crude words. It is not a call to violence," he said. Makela is also facing a separate court case for "outrage to social decency" over the song. In recent years, French rappers have predicted that many of the country's suburbs – where poverty abounds – were set to explode in violence.
© CBC News

23/11/2005- Seven French rap outfits could face legal action following a complaint lodged by some 200 lawmakers on Wednesday, accusing them of helping to provoke the country's recent riots through their song lyrics. "Sexism, racism and anti-Semitism are no more acceptable in song lyrics than in written or spoken words," the deputy behind the initiative, FranÁois Grosdidier of the ruling centre-right UMP, told AFP. "This is one of the factors that led to the violence in the suburbs," he said, arguing that rap music "conditions" listeners into a violent frame of mind that can spur them on to action. In a petition co-signed by 152 deputies and 49 senators, the deputy drew the attention of justice minister Pascal Clement to seven rap singers and bands whom he accuses of inciting racism and hatred. The complaint singled out the song 'FranSSe' by the rap artist Monsieur R, whose lyrics describe France as a "bitch" to be "screwed until she drops". Its author, Monsieur R, whose real name is Richard Makela, is already facing a separate court case for "outrage to social decency" over the song, brought by another ruling-party deputy. The complaint also targets the singers Smala, Fabe and Salif and the rap groups Lunatic, 113, and MinistŤre Amer. French rap artists have been using hip hop music as a medium to protest about conditions in France's tough suburbs since the early 1980s. References to police harassment, drugs, inequality, violence and "a day of reckoning" for the injustices of life all litter their songs. Following the weeks of violence that broke out in poor, high-immigration French suburbs in late October and early November, their lyrics warning of violence and railing against discrimination have appeared eerily prescient.
© Expatica News

24/11/2005- Maimouna Djitte and her six brothers and sisters speak French among themselves, but their West African-born parents speak to the children in the Senegalese dialect of their homeland. Like other immigrant families, the Djittes feel stuck between two worlds. "I've lived here longer than in Senegal, but I don't feel French," said the father, Massy, 60, who moved here in 1972 and quickly found construction work. He returned to Senegal in 1977 to marry Aby, a cousin chosen by his father, and they came back to France nine months later and moved into subsidized low-rent public housing. Back then, he dreamed of his sons becoming physicians, professors or engineers - hopes, he says, all but shattered now. He and his sons say racism and discrimination against jobseekers from troubled suburbs like this one northeast of Paris make finding decent work tough if not impossible. Massy said racism was not a problem when he arrived. "Strangers gave us a ride in their cars. It was incredible. They liked blacks in those days because we were honest and hardworking," he said. Now, "even if you work well, they would still hire someone with white skin," he added, tugging the skin on his arm for emphasis. "I thought France would open its arms to my children as it did to me. But it didn't. I want to go back" to Senegal, he said, and plans to when he retires sometime in the next 18 months from his job as a cleaner. Lamine, 26, the eldest son, has a high-school diploma in business, but has secured nothing better than the occasional telemarketing job. "No one says, 'I'm not hiring you because you're black.' But we always feel it's there," said Lamine. He says prospective employers sometimes ask for immigration papers, even though he is French. "Why? Because I'm black?" he asks.

His brother, 21-year-old Boubaka, said their suburban zip code dooms job applications. "When I'm looking for work, my origin becomes more important. My name becomes a barrier," he said. Unlike their father, the children cannot imagine living anywhere but France. Lamine has been to his parents' West African homeland once, in 2000. "I prefer to live here, we have access to a lot of things. Senegal has a lot of development problems, it's poor. People there dream to go to Europe and the United States," he said. "It is crazy that I'm French and would want to live there while they want to leave." Since the riots, President Jacques Chirac's government has vowed to make a priority of combating discrimination and finding work for youths from depressed neighborhoods where unemployment and frustrations run high. Chirac has told companies, unions and media executives that France must encourage diversity, but said his government will not impose hiring or educational quotas based on race. Massy said he had not expected to stay longer than the time it took to earn some money to take home. But jobs were so abundant that he switched plans. "I was ready to do all kinds of work so my kids would have a decent life, better jobs than me, a better future," said Massy. He works as a cleaner, making $1,500 a month. Rent for their three-bedroom apartment, utilities and phone bills swallow about half of that, leaving $700 for groceries and the family car, Massy said. His two eldest sons also have cars. A knee injury forced Aby, 43, to give up her $700-a-month job cleaning a hotel at Disneyland Paris. "I can't say we are poor because there are poorer people than us, but we don't have any money left at the end of the month," Massy said. He plans to move to a house he has built in Senegal, Aby and the children will stay in France. Massy hopes Lamine will find steady work so he can care for them. "My father wanted a lot of things. He came from a country where people didn't have a lot," Lamine said. "I just want to get ahead and do my best - be a good son, maybe a good father and have a job that would give me enough money to pay the bills."
© Associated Press

20/11/2005- More than two-thirds of French people support the government's decision to extend emergency measures after three weeks of France's worst civil unrest in almost 40 years, a poll showed on Sunday. Sixty-eight percent of French people surveyed were in favour of the extension of the government's special powers, which include house-to-house searches and curfews, while 27 percent were opposed, according to a CSA-le Parisien poll. Parliament extended the measures for another three months on Wednesday as a precaution against a resurgence of urban violence that began on Oct. 27 after the accidental deaths of two youths electrocuted while apparently fleeing police. The unrest was the worst since student riots of 1968. The riots, which included the torching of about 9,000 cars, were declared over on Thursday. Unrest died down after the government adopted emergency measures, although few areas used the special powers. Pollsters surveyed 957 people over the age of 18 on Nov. 16. Fifty-six percent also supported more restrictive rules on allowing the families of immigrant workers to join them in France, which some conservative leaders said was one of the causes of the riots in the suburbs. The rioting has been blamed mostly on youths who feel excluded from mainstream society and are frustrated by racism, harsh police treatment and high unemployment. Many of the rioters are of Arab and African origin but some are white. The poll showed 55 percent were in favour of expelling foreigners found guilty of urban violence, compared with 40 percent against. That bodes well for presidential hopeful and Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, criticised by rioters and politicians for his tough language but whose popularity has risen since he pledged tough action including expulsions to counter the unrest.
© Reuters

18/11/2005- French Equal Opportunities Minister Azouz Begag has urged the government to overturn a ban on collecting data based on ethnicity or religion. Government bodies and private companies are barred from gathering such data - which is deemed potentially divisive.  But Mr Begag told Le Figaro newspaper it was important to assess the presence of minorities in various professions. Job discrimination was a key complaint voiced by many youths who rioted in immigrant suburbs in recent weeks. "We need to see France's true colours," Mr Begag said. "To do that, we need to measure the proportion of immigrant children among the police, magistrates, in the civil service as well as in the private sector." Mr Begag stressed such surveys could be used to overcome racial discrimination, which he said lay at the root of the rioting. He said he hoped to see more politicians from ethnic groups elected into parliament in 2007. At present not a single member of parliament from mainland France is of African or Arab origin - although an estimated 10% of people are. "The place of birth of the parents and grandparents could give us an idea of this diversity, and a basis for action," Mr Begag told Le Figaro. Levels of violence in France's poor immigrant suburbs have decreased in recent days, following three weeks of unrest.
© BBC News

The French Senate is set to pass emergency laws a day after the lower house of parliament voted for a three-month extension.

16/11/2005- The laws allow local authorities to impose curfews, conduct house-to-house searches and ban public gatherings. Violence continued across France overnight but fewer cars were set on fire than during previous nights. Nationwide, 163 cars were burnt - almost down to the levels seen before the riots began last month. At the height of the violence, more than 1,400 vehicles were destroyed in a single night. A church was badly damaged by fire in the south-eastern town of Romans. But it is not yet clear if the blaze was linked to the wider unrest. Three mosques have also been hit by firebombs during the 20 nights of violence.

'Polygamy problems'
French police say 8,973 cars have been burnt in the past 20 nights of violence, while 2,888 people have been arrested. National Police Chief Michel Gaudin said on Tuesday the decline showed France was "getting back to normal". But Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin told parliament "we cannot accept that more than 200 cars burn each night". The violence has spread from Paris across French towns and cities, mostly in areas with a high concentration of ethnic minorities. Residents of housing estates, where unemployment can reach 40%, complain of racism and heavy-handed policing. The riots began when two boys of North and West African origin were electrocuted in a Paris suburb after running from police, believing they were being chased. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told the BBC that France has been going through a "very deep crisis due to the crisis of immigration and the failure to integrate". He also pointed to the problem of racism. Meanwhile, senior officials from President Jacques Chirac's centre-right party have suggested that polygamy is one factor in the riots, arguing children of polygamous families have less of a father figure and are more likely to live in overcrowded conditions. "Polygamy... prevents people being educated as they should be in an organised society. Tens of people cannot live in a single flat," Bernard Accoyer, leader of the Union for a Popular Majority (UMP) in the National Assembly lower house of parliament, told French radio. Polygamy is illegal in France but until 1993, it was possible for immigrants to bring more than one wife from their home country to join them. The Senate is dominated by the UMP and is expected to pass the three-month extension to the emergency laws. The lower house passed them by a 346-148 majority. The laws date from the Algerian war of independence in the 1950s. The Socialist opposition attacked plans to extend the state of emergency, pointing out that few local governors had chosen to impose it. Mr Chirac told cabinet ministers the extraordinary powers are "strictly temporary and will only be applied where they are strictly necessary".
© BBC News

14/11/2005- The French government said on Monday it would ask parliament to grant a three-month extension to emergency powers it invoked to help curb the worst urban violence in almost 40 years. Although the violence dropped again overnight, police said youths destroyed 374 vehicles in petrol bomb attacks in the 18th straight night of unrest in poor suburbs in the Paris region and major provincial cities. Disturbances erupted on Oct. 27 after the deaths of two youths apparently fleeing police but grew into a wider protest by youths of African and North African origin at racism, poor job prospects and their sense of exclusion from French society. Government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope told Europe 1 radio that Monday's special cabinet session would send to the National Assembly a bill extending the 12-day emergency powers act by three months from November 21, when the current measures expire. "The bill allows the government to end them by decree before the expiry date if that is compatible with the goal of restoring public order," Cope said. On Nov. 8 the government of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin revived a 50-year-old colonial-era law to grant prefects, the government's top local officials, broad powers to impose curfews and other restrictions on designated areas. The conservative government decree named 38 towns, cities and urban areas around France, including the capital Paris. However, few prefects have made use of the new powers. It was unclear how the substantial extension of the life of the emergency powers would be greeted by the opposition Socialists, who invoked the same 1955 law when in government in the 1980s. Some local mayors have already criticised the measure as an overreaction and potentially inflammatory. The government has a comfortable majority in parliament and the measure should pass with ease.

EU aid offer
Rioters, who also include white youths, torched 1,400 cars across France last Sunday but violence has dropped sharply since that peak. Police said 10 youths were arrested in the southwestern city of Toulouse after youths burned 10 vehicles on Sunday and damaged a school, driving a burning car against its gates. The disturbances are the worst in France since student riots in 1968 and have shaken the government of President Jacques Chirac, sparked a debate on the integration of immigrants and caused ripples throughout Europe. In a bid to help tackle problems in French suburbs, the European Union has offered France 50 million euros ($58.5 million), EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Europe 1 on Sunday. The main problem behind the unrest was youth unemployment but the challenge of integrating immigrants was shared by many European cities, he said. "The best social politics is to create employment. That is the main thing. When you have 60 percent of youths unemployed in suburbs it is a problem," Barroso said. An editorial in Monday's Midi-Libre newspaper said the riots had hurt France's image abroad. "Even if the violence isn't racial in origin the crisis in the suburbs brings the failure of France's social model ... to the fore and has highlighted the country's social sickness," it said in a signed editorial. The Socialists accused Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday of acting tough to increase his chances of becoming president in a 2007 election. Sarkozy has said he would throw out foreigners caught rioting. Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Front party, called the unrest on Sunday a "a social atomic bomb" caused by immigration and said the rioters were "Chirac's children".
© Reuters

His name appears scrawled among the graffiti on housing estate walls in untranslatable terms.

15/11/2005- Young people cite him as the cause of their troubles and demand his resignation. He was pelted with bottles and stones in one Parisian suburb. On the Champs-Elysees he was jostled, booed and insulted. Political opponents, religious leaders and newspaper columnists have accused him of aggravating the tension on the streets. A fellow minister was scathing about him. His two bosses, the most senior men in France, are political rivals seeking to block his progress. Nicolas Sarkozy's language and tough stance on law and order have made him many enemies. Yet the interior minister says he does not feel politically weakened. Last weekend an opinion poll in one Sunday newspaper suggested that more than half of French people had confidence in his ability to bring solutions to the problems in the suburbs. Another survey found many voters, even on the left, thought him "realistic" and "more than ever a potential presidential candidate".

Stolen thunder
To some extent Mr Sarkozy has stolen the thunder from Jean-Marie Le Pen. The Front National leader has looked on smugly while the government enacts measures that he himself has called for: curfews to quell the violence, and the expulsion of foreigners who take part in it.  Compared to the "Sarko Show", the spectacle close to the Louvre on Monday was a sideshow. Mr Le Pen had called for a large turnout for his rally. In fact only a few hundred die-hard supporters braved the cold to wave their flags and listen as he blamed "mad and criminal" mass immigration for the unrest. People hurried home from work, ignoring the drone of the familiar themes as they echoed across the square.  There are signs though that the far right leader's message is striking a chord with the wider French public. Mr Le Pen's popularity jumped five points in a recent poll for Paris Match. "The Front National's strategy is to wait for the media to repeat every day that these are ethnic riots, that most of the rioters are Muslim, and that the problem is with integration, not a social problem," says political scientist Jean-Yves Camus.

Waning star
While the debate over the troubles raged, President Chirac remained largely silent. For some people, his first direct address to the nation on Monday night was notable for two things. Firstly, that it came two and a half weeks after the start of the violence. And secondly, that he was wearing glasses. Far from being a nod to retro fashion - Mr Chirac wore even thicker rims in the 1970s - they took it as a sign that the president was losing his grip. Ten years ago he came to power promising to heal France's social divisions and the sense of "exclusion" felt by many young people. Mr Chirac's acceptance now that there still existed a "profound malaise" in the country's poor suburbs was, for his critics, proof of his own failure.
© BBC News

13/11/2005- The far-right leader of France's National Front Jean-Marie Le Pen is to speak at a rally of party supporters in central Paris Monday evening. The rally, organised under the banner 'Immigration, Riots, Explosions in the Suburbs – Enough', is planned for 6:30pm at the Palais Royal near the Louvre museum. Le Pen on Sunday blamed the rioting which has spread across the country on massive immigration into France, and criticized the government response as insufficient. The riots "result from massive, uncontrolled immigration from the Third World," he said on the private radio station RTL1. "We knew it was a global time bomb." France has been rocked by two weeks of car-burnings, arson attacks and rioting carried out mostly by young Arab and black residents of poor suburban high-rise estates, who complain of economic misery and racial discrimination. Le Pen, 77, criticized government efforts to address such concerns as "not corresponding to the real problem." However the leader of France's National Front party said he said he supported the introduction of emergency measures which allow municipalities hit by violence to impose curfews Last week Le Pen called the rioting the "warning signs of civil war." Le Pen was due to speak at a rally of party supporters in central Paris Monday evening.
© Expatica News

The French riots should be a wake-up call: what is 'normal' is no longer sustainable.
By Christopher Dickey

13/11/2005- The car-body count dropped dramatically in France toward the end of last week. So vast was the orgy of auto incineration—more than 1,000 vehicles burned night after night as gangs ambushed firefighters and police, raging against French government and society—that when "only" 15 cars were torched one night in the administrative department of Seine-St-Denis, where the violence began, the head of the National Police said that things there had returned to "normal." Statistically true, perhaps. But "normal"? In hundreds of French housing projects and ghettos populated by mostly Muslim Arab and African immigrants and their French children and grandchildren, "normal" has been for years a sort of chronic intifada, even if it was invisible to most of France and the rest of the world. According to research conducted by the government's domestic-intelligence network, the Renseignements Generaux, French police would not venture without major reinforcements into some 150 "no-go zones" around the country—and that was before the recent wave of riots began on Oct. 27. In France's "immigrant" neighborhoods, to borrow a phrase from the American military, it's "situation normal, all f—-ed up." Belatedly, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin invoked a law left over from the French fight to hold onto Algeria 50 years ago that allows local governments to declare curfews. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to deport foreigners convicted of participating in the violence, which sounded much tougher than it was, since at least 92 percent of those arrested were French citizens. Chillier weather, marches calling for peace and the fact that no rioters or cops were killed in confrontations also helped reduce the scope of the violence. But a new turn for the worse was feared as police intercepted telephone text messages encouraging riots in the largely untouched center of Paris last weekend.

The shock of the conflagrations has raised questions not only about France but about the shaky status quo in cities throughout Europe. If most were spared for the moment (there were only minor incidents in Berlin, Brussels and Athens), few governments could rest easy. In Italy, opposition leader Romano Prodi told reporters, "We have the worst suburbs in Europe. I don't think things are so different from Paris. It's only a matter of time." Similar refrains were echoed by social workers in Spain and Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany. The core of the time bomb is demography, and the detonator is racism. The native populations of Europe—let's say it, the white populations—are reproducing slowly and aging fast. Without continued immigration, according to the European Union and United Nations statistics, by 2050 the number of Germans will have shrunk from 83 million to 63 million; Italians will go from 57 million to 44 million. In the same period, among the North African and Middle Eastern countries surrounding Europe, the population will double. Already, on the southern fringes of the European Union, would-be laborers sometimes storm the gates. In September and early October, Africans who had walked for weeks through the Sahara charged hundreds at a time toward the double rows of chain-link and razor-wire fences around the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coast. At least 14 were killed and thousands of others expelled by Moroccan security forces. Those who make it often do find work. Europe's demographic deficit demands them: for Spain alone to keep its economy growing at the robust rate it has seen for the last decade, it has to have 1 million new immigrant workers per year. And despite some right-wing backlash by locals who feel threatened—or overwhelmed—first-generation immigrants cause relatively few problems. They tend to compare their life in Europe with the much harsher one they came from, and typically they take jobs few Europeans want.

But the great waves of immigration to France, Germany and Britain came more than 30 years ago, and the problems seen there are the shape of things to come. Second- and third- and even fourth-generation descend-ants of immigrants have grown up thinking they should have exactly the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, only to discover that the color of their skin or the sound of their surname still walled them out of the European dream. Not until five years ago did Germany ease naturalization for people who weren't of German blood. Since then, almost a third of its 2.6 million "Turks" have taken citizenship. The British favor multiculturalism, encouraging citizens with roots in former colonies to maintain their ethnic and social identities. The French insist that citizenship requires complete linguistic and cultural assimilation. Yet all have created large underclasses of profoundly disaffected minorities. Strong economic growth that creates jobs plus an open business environment that makes room for small-time entrepreneurs can ease tensions. (France is notably weak on both fronts.) But addressing the problem of racism is more complex. Already East European immigrants are competing in some areas with people from African and Asian backgrounds who thought they'd found their niches in the job market. Trevor Phillips, chairman of Britain's Commission for Racial Equality, warned recently that Britain is "sleepwalking... to segregation" as its different ethnic groups become more insulated within their own communities. To acknowledge the problem may not be to solve it, but to ignore it is to court disaster. In France, where the state claims to be colorblind, society still is not. As successive governments refused to look squarely at the issue of racism, ghettos became no-see zones, then no-go zones, where anger and violence that came to seem "normal" led straight to the nights of rage that have shaken a continent.

With Stryker Mcguire in London; Eric Pape in Clichy-Sous-Bois, France; Tracy Mcnicoll in Paris; Stefan Theil in Berlin; Barbie Nadeau in Rome; Jacopo Barigazzi in Milan, and Mike Elkin and Jenny Barchfield in Madrid
© Newsweek

A Swiss integration expert tells swissinfo the violent unrest that has shaken a number of French cities could not happen in Switzerland.

13/11/2005- But Thomas Kessler, who is the brains behind a Basel-based integration project, says the Swiss government has made mistakes in the past in the way it deals with foreigners. Riots flared in France at the end of October when youths in the suburbs of the capital, Paris, took to the streets following the accidental deaths of two teenagers. Consecutive nights of unrest followed during which cars and buildings were set alight. The crisis has led to national soul-searching about France's failure to integrate its African and Muslim minorities.

swissinfo: The violence in France has been followed with alarm in neighbouring Switzerland. Is it possible that something similar could happen here?
Thomas Kessler: Without a doubt, the answer is no. In Switzerland the foreign population taken as a whole is totally unlike what you see in France or other countries with a colonial heritage. Foreigners who live in Switzerland are of many different nationalities. The sort of ghettos that exist in the French suburbs don't exist here.

swissinfo: Before the outbreak of the violence did you imagine something like this could happen in France?
T.K.: When I was last in Paris I visited the areas [where rioting has taken place] and realised that this was likely to happen at some point. And the French authorities also knew this. The police presence was unusually high in the weeks leading up to the start of the troubles.

swissinfo: It all started in Paris, but the situation in Mulhouse across the border from Basel has also been very tense...
T.K.: Mulhouse is small but it's also the case there that you have a city divided between affluent residential areas including the inner city itself, and poor ghetto buildings which are home to African migrants. The key point here is the division of the city and this is the case outside the French capital in other parts of the country. Things are different in Switzerland, which since the moment it was founded has been a multicultural place... there is no single Swiss language and no Swiss religion. It is only in political terms that Switzerland can be defined as a single entity. The problems we have are also [more] tangible. In the 1980s there was an influx of people from the Balkans and from Turkey. Our integration policy for them has not been without its problems, but we are working on putting these right.

swissinfo: You once said that the lack of efforts to integrate people and give them equal opportunities was like a ticking time bomb...
T.K.: Yes, and it's true that Switzerland made mistakes in its policies towards foreigners, particularly in the 1980s and early 1990s. The concept of equal opportunities for all was ignored and the focus was very much on seasonal workers [who would spend some time here before leaving and being replaced by others]. But Swiss society can only function if the successful principle of equal opportunities is adhered to. The rot would set in if we allowed the country to be divided into winners and losers.

swissinfo: The integration programme you developed in Basel is considered by many to be a model for other places. What is so special about it?
T.K.: The programme is wide-ranging and extends as far as the issue of city planning. We want to have a positive influence on the social make-up of the local population and we seek to ensure that the city is not divided into rich and poor areas. One example is the way we have been renovating former employment districts by buying cheap buildings, restoring them at low cost and then putting them back on the market. This costs absolutely nothing because the project pays its way. What then happens is that middle-income families move into districts which are home to poorer residents of the city.

swissinfo: And this has proved to be successful?
T.K.: The strategy is very clear [but] when it is put into practice the plans are subject to the laws of economics and business. It's fair to say that there are parts of the city which do not yet have the social mix we would like to see and not all nationalities are benefiting from equal opportunities.

swissinfo: Amid all the talk of integration, Switzerland also has a policy of zero-tolerance when it comes to so-called "preachers of intolerance".
T.K.: Yes, and there should be absolutely no tolerance shown here because these preachers are an affront to our basic morals and our constitution. Switzerland as a country of minorities has come up with strict rules which are founded on the notions of respect, protection of minorities and accommodation of conflicting interests. Hate, propaganda, feelings of superiority and the spreading of inequality are all a direct attack on our identity and constitution. We shouldn't accept this under any circumstances. Anyone [who expounds such views] should be brought before a judge immediately.
© Swissinfo

The French riots have been a godsend for those who oppose integration and progress.                                                                   By Jason Burke

13/11/2005- Analysts and commentators often seek to find evidence to support their well-established ideas in any given event. So while critics of the 'French social model' have gleefully seen evidence of its failure in the recent violence in France, its supporters have seen evidence of the damage done by right-wing policies in the country. But little compares with the extraordinary way in which the disturbances of the last two weeks have been hijacked by those who appear set on either finding, or creating, a 'clash of civilisations' between Islam and the West. Take one particularly egregious example. Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, described the riots in France as 'a French intifada, an uprising by French Muslims against the state'. I covered the intifada in Israel and Palestine and, beyond the fact that thrown stones look much the same wherever they are, saw little that resembled the Gaza Strip in the autumn of 2000 in Clichy-sous-Bois in the autumn of 2005. In the course of her article, Phillips spoke of how 'night after night, France [had] been under attack by its Muslim minority', how the country was being 'torched from Normandy to the Mediterranean', how it had 'sniffed the danger that had arisen in its midst' and quoted a little-known writer called Bat Ye'Or who is a favourite of the more unsavoury right-wing American websites and believes that the European Union is a conspiracy dedicated to creating one Muslim-dominated political entity that will comprise most of the Middle East and Europe.

Phillips also conflated Arabs (a race), and Muslims (a global religion of 1.3 billion, some devout, some not). This is dangerous nonsense, but needs to be studied. First, the facts. According to the French intelligence services, the areas where radical Islamic ideologies have spread furthest in France have actually proved the calmest over recent weeks. Second, characterising the rioters as 'Muslim' at all is ludicrous. Most were as Westernised as you would expect third-generation immigrants to be and far more interested in soft drugs and rap than getting up for dawn prayers. Indeed, a high proportion was of sub-Saharan African descent and not Muslim at all. Others were white and so, following Phillips's description of the darker skinned rioters as 'Arab Muslims', should presumably be referred to as 'Caucasian Christians'. Also, it is clear that the rioters were not seeking to destroy the French state but were demanding a greater stake in it. Otherwise, there would have been many more direct confrontations with the security forces. The point the rioters made again and again was that they felt rejected by 'the Republic', not that they wanted to tear it down. With all other channels of communication blocked, they sent, literally, smoke signals instead. To dismiss claims that the violence was Muslim in origin, rooted in simple racism or in cultural representations of 'the Turk' or the satanic, scimitar-wielding Saracen, would be wrong. Instead, it should be seen as part of a strand of conservative thought that, though varied, has many common traits and which deserves far more attention than it has so far received. Phillips says that to confront the menace of Islam, we need to 'reassert British identity and British values', though she does not define what they might be. This rhetoric, married to trenchant if somewhat unspecific statements about threats, is typical. In France, a significant proportion of the population is falling back on an inchoate but powerful amalgam of zealous republicanism, Gallic exceptionalism, fear of a supposed flood of migrants and last-ditch resistance to an 'Anglo-Saxon conspiracy' apparently intent on imposing bad food, worse films and long working hours.

In the USA, religious fundamentalists who strive for a return to the 1950s and a society where everyone - women, blacks, whites, children - knew their place now wield unprecedented influence. In Russia, there is a virulent and widespread racism and a yearning for the good old days of the gulag. In India, a popular demagogic concoction of Hindu-Indian nationalism is still strong, exacerbating sectarian divisions. And then there is Islamic radicalism. The modern contemporary Muslim militant discourse is rooted in a rejection of change, a twisted vision of history, a belief that modern 'Western' societies are decadent and a hoped-for return to what is certain and true. These strands all depend on a nostalgia for an imagined ideal society, an emphasis on racial or religious difference, a powerful sense of injustice, a sense that weakness threatens moral corruption and a sense of imminent invasion. They unite into a sort of negative version of the largely left-wing, anti-capitalist, anti-globalisation movement that is rarely noticed. This discourse is potentially dangerous. The conservatives, be they French republican diehards, extremist mullahs or newspaper columnists, are likely to find in the age of the budget airline, the internet, satellite television, communities of second- or third-generation immigrants that number in their tens of millions, not to mention massive and growing pressure from migrants beyond European borders, huge flows of capital and even greater movements of cultural exchange that it is impossible to try to turn back the clock. Pulling up the drawbridge will not work. History is flowing in the wrong direction. This means their actions are likely to get more desperate, their logic more twisted, their conspiracy theories more barmy and their rhetoric more rabid. The paradox is that the faster globalisation moves, the more radical and possibly more numerous they'll become. The real clash of civilisations is not between East and West but between those who believe they stand to gain from the steady coming together of communities, nations and religions that globalisation, if not simply used as an excuse for rampant free market capitalism, can bring and those who see this continued integration as a menace to everything they hold dear.

The rearguard is doomed to perish eventually, wrapped in the flag and out of ammunition, but it will go down fighting.
© The Observer

Violence moves out of the suburbs for the first time while Paris prepares for the worst.

13/11/2005- Riots spread to the centre of a French city for the first time last night as police clashed with youths in Lyon. Officers in the city's famous Place Bellecour moved in with tear gas to disperse rioters vandalising vehicles. Police said they had been attacked by groups brandishing bottles, stones and dustbins. The confrontation, which led to two arrests, happened shortly after the local prefect had announced a weekend curfew on minors. Meanwhile, Paris was under siege yesterday as thousands of police guarded key tourist sites such as the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysťes and enforced emergency laws, including a ban on groups of people gathering. The capital's prefect of police, Pierre Mutz, said the record deployment of some 3,000 officers was in response to a barrage of text messages and weblogs thought to have come from youths linked to the previous 16 nights of unrest in the city's suburbs. They called for 'the biggest riot ever seen'. 'The police and gendarmes have been ordered to be very firm,' said Mutz. 'It's time to say, "That's enough" to those who might be envisaging provoking riots in Paris.' While arson attacks on buildings and cars were reported to have declined around Paris, violence in other cities - including Toulouse, Dunkirk, Amiens and Grenoble, remained intense. Elsewhere across France, mayors organised silent marches to call for peace on troubled housing estates. About 350 people marched in Stains, in the suburbs of Paris, and up to 600 marched in Toulouse. In Montpellier, a 500-strong march was organised by members of a mosque in the troubled area of La Paillade.

In Paris, police were most visible on the railways serving suburban trains - at Gare du Nord and Les Halles - and around the Champs-Elysťes. Under the terms of the 1955 state of emergency law, the authorities have the right to ban 'any meeting of a nature likely to incite or maintain disorder on the street or in public places'. The offence carries a maximum punishment of two months in jail and a fine of €3,750 (£2,520). Police attempting to seal central Paris were helped by bylaws in the suburbs, including a curfew on unaccompanied minors in Seine-et-Marne and a ban on the sale of petrol in jerry cans - an attempt to prevent anyone making Molotov cocktails. The ban on gatherings, which took effect yesterday at 10am and expires at 8am today, is coupled with a state of emergency and covers all of Paris within the ring road. The only demonstration permitted in the capital yesterday was staged at Saint-Michel by anti-racism groups protesting against the emergency laws and the 'colonial mentality' of the government. A march with a similar theme was held in Toulouse, the scene of some of the worst violence outside Paris. So far, the clashes with police and attacks on cars and buildings have been the work of small gangs who have communicated by text message and travelled by scooter and in stolen cars. Today, the National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is due to appear on RTL radio in advance of a demonstration in central Paris by his supporters tomorrow. Many believe the riots have played into the hands of extremists such as Le Pen.
© The Observer

Police in the French city of Lyon have used teargas to disperse youths throwing stones and attacking cars, the first rioting in a major city centre.

13/11/2005- The unrest, which followed more than two weeks of violence in France's poor suburbs, occurred hours before a curfew for minors came into force in Lyon. In Paris, a ban on public meetings has ended, with no reports of unrest. Police overnight said the situation across France was "much calmer" than on previous nights. More than 370 cars were burned overnight, down from 502 the previous night. A further 212 people were arrested. In the southern town of Carpentras, a nursery school was torched and a burning car was pushed up to an old people's home, causing panic among residents. There were disturbances in the cities of Toulouse and St-Etienne, and two riot police were injured.

Shops closed
The trouble began at about 1700 (1600 GMT) on Saturday on Place Bellecour, where a large number of riot police were on duty as a preventative measure. About 50 youths attacked market stalls and damaged vehicles, witnesses told Reuters news agency. Two people were arrested. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy blamed the Lyon violence on a "demonstration by anarchists", but did not elaborate. Officials in Lyon and 10 towns to the east of the city earlier announced a curfew to bar unaccompanied minors from the streets over the weekend between 2200 (2100 GMT) and 0600 (0500 GMT).

Paris curbs
The government last week declared a state of emergency in Paris and more than 30 other areas to help quell the unrest, which has lasted 17 consecutive nights. The Paris ban on meetings "likely to start or fuel disorder", imposed under new emergency measures, was announced after police reports of e-mails and text messages calling for "violent acts" in the city. Meeting with Paris police on Saturday night, Mr Sarkozy repeated a pledge to throw out foreign nationals caught rioting. "If you want to live in France with a residency permit, you have to abide by the laws... Immigration laws allow expulsions. I am the interior minister and I will apply the law," he said. There was no sign of trouble, and peaceful demonstrations were allowed to go ahead with several hundred people rallying close to police headquarters in central Paris to protest against alleged discrimination against youths of immigrant origin. The country's unrest was triggered by the deaths in the run-down Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois of two youths, who were accidentally electrocuted at an electricity sub-station. Locals said they were fleeing police but the police deny this.
© BBC News

12/11/2005- Some 3,000 police fanned out around Paris on Saturday to prevent any attempts to attack high-profile targets such as the Eiffel Tower after a 16th straight night of unrest and arson. Police were posted in suburban trains and at strategic points around the capital, where public gatherings considered risky were banned until Sunday morning. The ban followed calls for ``violent actions'' posted on numerous Internet blogs and in text messages on cell phones. ``This is not a rumor,'' said National Police Chief Michel Gaudin. The famed Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees avenue were among potential targets, he said. ``I think one can easily imagine the places where we must be highly vigilant,'' he told reporters Saturday. Paris police banned gatherings of ``a nature that could provoke or encourage disorder'' from 10 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday. On Friday evening, two Molotov cocktails were tossed into a mosque in the southern city of Carpentras, slightly damaging the porch, local officials said. It was not immediately clear whether the attack was linked to the unrest that has wracked the poor suburbs and towns of France since Oct. 27. President Jacques Chirac asked investigators to find those behind the incident in Carpentras, a town grimly remembered for a 1990 neo-Nazi attack on a Jewish cemetery that sparked national outrage.

Some two weeks ago, in Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois where the recent violence started, fumes from a police tear gas grenade spread into a mosque and heightened the anger that has fueled the worst suburban unrest in the country's history. The riots have forced France to confront the touchy issue of the poor suburbs ringing big cities populated by immigrants and their French children. They face soaring unemployment, poverty and routine discrimination. Authorities have acknowledged the roots of the problem are deep-seated, perhaps linked to the French approach to immigration which works to fit immigrants, whatever their origins, into a single mold. The violence was triggered by the accidental electrocution deaths of two Muslim teenagers in Clichy-sous-Bois on Oct. 27 and has spread around France. The riots have been marked by hundreds of nightly arson attacks on vehicles. Schools, gymnasiums, warehouses and public transport also have been favorite targets for arsons. A furniture store and a carpet store were burned overnight in Rambouillet, southwest of Paris, police said. The number of vehicles burned overnight across the country climbed slightly to 502 from 463 the previous night, police said Saturday. The recent figures are down sharply from the peak of the violence. ``We returned to an almost normal situation in Ile de France,'' said Gaudin, referring to the Paris region. He said that 86 vehicles were burned, which he said was about normal.

As unrest abated, calls for peace were mounting. Peace marches were planned Saturday in Lyon and Toulouse. The anti-racism group known as MRAP planned a demonstration Saturday afternoon in Paris, at Saint-Michel, a Left Bank student haunt, to protest the state of emergency. MRAP said the demonstration was not forbidden despite the ban on meetings - limited to those deemed risky. France imposed a state of emergency Wednesday in a bid to curb the spiraling violence. Overnight, two police officers were injured, one burned in the face by a firebomb while trying to put out flames of a burning vehicle in the Aisne region, Gaudin said. Arson attacks were counted in 163 towns around France, he said. Another 206 people were detained overnight, bringing to 2,440 the number of suspects picked up for questioning in just over two weeks of unrest. Authorities have imposed curfews on minors in seven towns - one of the state-of-emergency measures that also empowers police to conduct day and night house searches and take other steps to quell violence.
© Associated Press

12/11/2005- Molotov cocktails were hurled at a mosque in southern France last night in an apparent attempt by far-right militants to reignite the smouldering embers of a fortnight of urban riots. Earlier, the Paris police of chief ordered a ban on all large gatherings in the French capital from 10am today, following a series of internet appeals to young, multi-racial suburban rioters to invade the centre of the city. Although police say that they have no definite warning of an assault on the capital, police reinforcements have been assembled and "potentially troublesome" gatherings banned as a precaution. Both the attack on the mosque in Carpentras in the Rhone valley - a known hot-bed of ultra-right activity - and the internet calls for an attack on Paris run contrary to a clear reduction in the level of violence over the last four nights. It appears that there some militant elements would like to see the violence continue. The French authorities also made it clear yesterday that they would take a harsh line with violent police officers. One policeman was placed in custody and four others put under investigation following the alleged assault on a 19-year-old alleged rioter in police custody at la Courneuve near Paris onThursday. Police unions reacted furiosly to the decision.

Yesterday afternoon, 300 residents of troubled suburbs of Paris demonstrated against violence on the Champ de Mars, close to the Eiffel Tower. The multi-racial demonstrators, carrying white handkerchiefs or flags, urged the gangs, who have left a trail of arson and destruction in poor suburbs all over France in the past fortnight, to bring their violence to an end. However, the demonstrators, organised by a group called Banlieue Respect (respect for the suburbs), also urged the government and wealthier French citizens to heed the warnings of the past two weeks. The riots "express the frustrations of 30 years of denial or recognition to [people] who are French by law but treated in reality as second-class citizens," read a statement issued by the marchers. Although the attack on the mosque in Carpentras, during Friday prayers, caused no injuries, it was clearly intended to provoke the rioters. Many, but by no means all, of the youths who have rioted in the past two weeks come from Muslim backgrounds. The Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, described the attack on the mosque as "discraceful and utterly unacceptable". He sent a message of regret to the Muslim community in Carpentras. For the past three nights, there has been a marked reduction in the level of rioting across France. Poorer districts in the Lyons, Toulouse and Bordeaux conurbations continued to be hit by arson attacks and clashes between rioters and police last night. However, the greater Paris area, where the riots began more than two weeks ago, was once again relatively calm.
© Independent Digital

10/11/2005- President Jacques Chirac for the first time directly addressed the inequalities and discrimination that have fueled two weeks of rioting across France, saying Thursday that the country has "undeniable problems" in its poor neighborhoods. Violence continued to slow under state-of-emergency measures and heavy policing, with far fewer skirmishes and fewer cars burned. Police, meanwhile, suspended eight officers, two of them suspected of beating a man detained during the riots. "Things are calming," Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on France-2 television. "But that doesn't mean it won't restart." Chirac had kept largely silent about France's worst unrest since the 1968 uprising by students and workers, speaking publicly about the crisis only once in a brief address focused on security measures. But on Thursday, he said that once order is restored, France will have to "draw the consequences of this crisis, and do so with a lot of courage and lucidity." "There is a need to respond strongly and rapidly to the undeniable problems faced by many residents of underprivileged neighborhoods around our cities," he said at a news conference held with Spain's visiting prime minister. "Whatever our origins, we are all the children of the Republic, and we can all expect the same rights," Chirac said. But he also pointed a finger at parents, saying "too many minors" have joined the violence, some "pushed to the fore by their elders."

The unrest started among youths in Clichy-sous-Bois angry over the accidental electrocutions of two teenagers, but it rapidly grew into a nationwide wave of arson and nightly clashes between rioters armed with firebombs and police retaliating with tear gas. The crisis has led to a collective soul-searching about France's failure to integrate its African and Muslim minorities. Anger about high unemployment and discrimination has fanned frustration among the French-born children of immigrants from former colonies. One 20-year-old who grew up near Paris in Clichy-sous-Bois said he had stopped looking for a job and joined the rampage. "Maybe I burnt cars. I know it's not very nice of me but, to be honest, I am happy that things heated up everywhere to let everybody know that we are sick of it," said Ahmed Zbeul, hanging around a courthouse Thursday to support friends on trial for theft. Sarkozy, the interior minister, said fear was the worst factor in the troubled areas, and vowed to dismantle gangs and bands of drug traffickers that he said make up a tiny minority, but ruin life for everyone else. "If we get rid of those poisoning the lives of others, we will have taken a first step," he told France-2. The government has taken a tough stance on rioters, with Sarkozy saying previously that local authorities were instructed to deport foreigners convicted of involvement.

The anti-racism group SOS-Racisme said it filed a complaint over the order with the Council of State, France's highest administrative body. "Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal is illegal," organization president Dominique Sopo said, calling the measure a "mass deportation." In La Courneuve, north of Paris, two police officers were suspected of dealing "unwarranted blows" to a man taken in for questioning, the Interior Ministry said. The officers were suspended along with six others suspected of witnessing the incident Monday. The victim had "superficial lesions" on the forehead and right foot, the ministry said. A 12-day state of emergency went into effect Wednesday, paving the way for cities to impose curfews. But the vast majority of regional governments have not seen a need to use them. The Mediterranean resort region of Alpes-Maritime ordered curfews for minors in 21 towns Wednesday, but a day later lifted the measures in seven places, including Cannes. In Paris itself and much of the rest of the country, the state of emergency had no perceptible effect. Justice Minister Pascal Clement said only two people had been arrested for violating curfews. National Police Chief Michel Gaudin reported a "very sharp drop" in violence. On Wednesday night, the number of vehicles burned dropped to 482 from 617 the previous night. At the height of the violence last weekend, rioters torched nearly 3,000 cars in two nights. The number of incidents has dropped every night since then. Police have arrested more than 3,000 people during the violence. Some 364 people, including 73 minors, have been convicted and jailed, the justice minister said. Police said the worst unrest now appeared concentrated in a few cities away from the Paris region, including Toulouse, Lille, Lyon, Strasbourg and Marseille. The French capital has seen little trouble, although Paris police banned the sale of gasoline in cans.
© Associated Press

10/11/2005- French president Jacques Chirac called on Thursday for parents to act responsibly towards their children, after thousands of minors took part in the rioting that has gripped poor city suburbs. Calling on "all to fulfill their responsibilities," Chirac appealed at a press conference in Paris to "the parents of the minors, too many of them, who often pushed by their elders took part in the urban violence". The unrest that has wracked poor city suburbs around France for two weeks showed signs of being on the wane Thursday, as police reported another decrease in the number of overnight incidents.
© Expatica News

10/11/2005- When Amir Ben Merzoug began studying at the university in Creteil to obtain a degree in public administration, he thought he was well on his way out of this grim working-class suburb east of Paris. Four years later, after dozens of unanswered job applications, Merzoug, 23, is no longer applying for office jobs or even restaurant work, where he would be in direct contact with clients, but has resigned himself to targeting telemarketing companies to finance the end of his studies. "At least call centers don't care if you have Arab or African features, because nobody ever sees you," Merzoug, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, said matter-of-factly. "But some ask you to introduce yourself with a French name." Two weeks of rioting have exposed an explosive cocktail of poverty and exclusion in the poor suburbs around France's major cities. But the violence has also highlighted mass unemployment that affects a generation of descendants of immigrants - and that in its extent is unique to France in the Western world, immigration experts say. France is home to an estimated five million Muslims, most of them of North African origin. Their children face a triple handicap: They suffer disproportionately from youth unemployment, their foreign names and faces make it even harder to find work, and many grow up in neighborhoods that are largely devoid of job opportunities. "These young people are caught in the cross-section of several groups that struggle with disproportionately high unemployment," said Jean-Pierre Garson, an immigration specialist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. "Many of them are stuck in quasi-ghettos with no job prospects."

According to a study published by the national statistics office Insee in September, the jobless rate among French-born children of immigrants aged 19 to 29 stands at 30 percent, more than three times the national average. The contrast is even starker in the 751 neighborhoods in France that were identified by the Labor Ministry as trouble spots and included those that have been the scene of the rioting: For those among their 2.7 million inhabitants under the age of 25, unemployment reached 36 percent last year, compared with the 21 percent for the same age group in France as a whole. The current crisis is playing out against the backdrop of an immigrant baby boom from 1975 to 1990, a result of the fact that many immigrants who came to France to work in the 1960s decided to stay, Garson said. "We're seeing the arrival of a massive group of young people of immigrant origin on the labor market at a time when the rest of the population is aging and unemployment is a national concern," Garson said. "It's a recipe for tension." With immigrants' children accounting for 14 percent of all births in France - a proportion far exceeding their percentage of the population - descendants of immigrants today account for 9 percent of all children under 17 in France, but for only 4 percent of those younger than 65. If greater poverty and lower education levels among immigrants and their descendants help explain their high jobless rates, that is only part of the story, argues Guy Desplanques at Insee. Anecdotes abound of youngsters not being invited to job interviews because their rťsumťs - including a photograph - give away their heritage and color.

Merzoug, frustrated with his many failed applications, arranged with a friend named Pierre Morisot, who has similar qualifications, to apply to the same restaurants. While Merzoug was told there were no jobs, Morisot was offered a position. "I knew it already, but that's when it really hit home: This is not a level playing field," said Merzoug, who also works as a volunteer for SOS Racisme, an organization fighting discrimination. His goal is to one day work for a municipal government and improve opportunities for the next generation in the suburbs. SOS Racisme inaugurated a pilot program three years ago aimed at raising the number of ethnic minorities in white-collar jobs. A dozen well-known French companies - including the insurer Axa, Schneider Electric, and Pierre et Vacances, a travel agency - have agreed to let the organization pick out rťsumťs that correspond to the job description for job openings and committed themselves to inviting the youths in question to interviews. The program has since lead to more than a hundred jobs being given to members of ethnic minorities, said Dominique Sopo, president of SOS Racisme, and employers have expressed satisfaction with their new recruits. "If kids from the suburbs make it to university, you can be sure that they are motivated and hard-working," Sopo said. "What big business needs to understand is that immigrants are a source of dynamism and economic wealth." One problem is that the French education system produces an army of as many as 150,000 unskilled dropouts every year, or about 13 percent of all those between the age of 20 and 24, said Raymond Torres, an unemployment specialist at OECD. Those youngsters have even fewer chances on a labor market that at a monthly 1,300, or $1,530, has one of the highest minimum wages in the world. In addition, a lack of job counselors means that young job-seekers are given very little guidance.

On Monday, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced measures aimed at overcoming some shortcomings. He pledged to increase the number of scholarships for those growing up in difficult neighborhoods and promised to set up a system of apprenticeships for failing students starting at 14 years old. He also said unskilled youths would be presented with clear job proposals by the unemployment agency. As some organizations expressed cautious hope that the debate sparked by the riots might force politicians to pay more attention to the festering problems, many youngsters took a more gloomy view. Pressi Ladji, 20, who lives in Champigny-sur-Marne, a suburb east of Paris, said she was convinced that the violence had tarnished her future job prospects. "Those who are burning the cars are not representative," said Ladji, whose parents came to France from Ivory Coast. "But the riots will only reinforce the stereotypes of the suburbs and make it harder for the rest of us."
© International Herald Tribune

"What is it, what is it you're waiting for to start the fire? / The years go by, but everything is still the same / Which makes me ask, how much longer can it last?"

16/11/2005- The words are from the 1995 song They Don't Understand, by one of France's best-known rap singers, Joey Starr of the group NTM. He was far from alone in providing a grim prophecy of the events of the last three weeks. Take these lines from the song In Front Of The Police, by the group 113: "There had better not be a police blunder, or the town will go up / The city's a time-bomb / From the police chief to the guy on the street - they're all hated."

Or this from Don't Try To Understand, by Fonky Family:
"The state is screwing us / Well you know, we are going to defend ourselves / Don't try to understand."
Or this - uncannily accurate - from Alpha 5.20: "Clichy-sous-Bois, it's gangsta gangsta / And Aulnay-sous-Bois, it's gangsta gangsta."

Ghetto culture
The violence began on 27 October after the accidental deaths of two teenagers - in Clichy-sous-Bois. Rap and hip-hop have been part of France's immigrant youth scene for so long that many of the original artists - like Joey Starr, MC Solaar and the group IAM - are now regarded as respected old-timers. The new stars are men and women in their 20s - almost all of black African or Arab origin - such as Disiz La Peste, Diam's, Monsieur R, and the groups La Rumeur and Sniper. Like the pioneers who featured 10 years ago in the hit film La Haine, their work continues to cast a revealing light on life in the citťs and the conditions which helped provoked the sudden outpouring of violence three weeks ago. Song after song dwells on the same themes of hopelessness, rejection by France, police harassment and the rage that follows. Disiz La Peste, a 27-year-old of mixed Senegalese and French parentage whose real name is Serigne M'Baye, has just released his third album, entitled The Extraordinary Stories Of A Youth In The Banlieue. The chorus of the title song goes: "For France it matters nothing what I do / In its mind I will always be / Just a youth from the banlieue".
"Few people in France have a normal attitude towards us. People are either fascinated or they are frightened. There are two worlds crashing against each other. People have a problem with us, and we do with them," he said in a recent interview.

Shock factor
It is undeniable that some of the lyrics of French rap songs - as in America - are shocking to the conservative-minded. In Brigitte - Cop's Wife, Ministere A.M.E.R indulges in a pornographic fantasy which will not be to most tastes. Other groups including Sniper and La Rumeur have been taken to court - unsuccessfully - for provocative lyrics. And the rapper Monsieur R - whose real name is Richard Makela - was criticised for a recent song called FranSSe, in which he described France as a "chick ... treat her like a whore!"  But most French rap songs show a deep urge to articulate what would otherwise go unexpressed in words, and - whatever your feelings about the genre - many do so with invention. The French language, with its repeated end of word inflections, is widely recognised as lending itself to rap, and even masters of the form in the US have been complimentary. Today many French rappers are saying that if only their words had been listened to, the suburban violence might never have occurred. "Instead of sleeping in the national assembly, government ministers should have listened to our albums. It's the youth of France talking," said Rim-K of 113.

Plea for calm
Some, such as Disiz La Peste, have called openly for an end to the rioting. "Burning cars and schools - it only harms ourselves because it's happening in front of our own homes," he said. "And we risk turning the working people, the poor of our neighbourhoods against us - because not unnaturally they are going to be afraid," La Peste said. Maybe because of his mixed background, he takes an unusually balanced view of the trouble and of how to end it. "First of all France must learn to say sorry - for history, for the colonies, because there is no equality of opportunity, because we can't get into nightclubs, because there are none of us on television or in the national assembly. "But the youth must also learn to say thank you. It may be shocking for them - but in France at least people can still demonstrate and speak out," said La Peste.
© BBC News

9/11/2005- Interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday issued orders for non-French rioters convicted in the wave of urban violence to be deported -- a measure directed at youths of Arab and African background living in the high-immigrant neighbourhoods involved in the unrest. Sarkozy told prefects, or regional governors, to apply the order to foreigners including those who have valid French residency visas. He told parliament that "120 foreigners, not all of whom are here illegally, have been convicted" of taking part in the nightly rampages that have occurred since October 27. "I have asked the prefects to deport them from our national territory without delay, including those who have a residency visa," he said. Sarkozy's order followed a decision by the government to declare a state of emergency allowing prefects in certain regions to impose curfews and widen police search-and-seizure powers. The tough city suburbs that have spawned the violence are predominantly home to immigrant families from France's former colonial interests in north and west Africa, including Algeria, Morocco, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Tunisia. Though most of the youths from there are French citizens, born and educated in the country, some are non-French, given residency papers to stay with family members.
© Expatica News

9/11/2005- A state of emergency in riot-areas of France failed to prevent a 13th night of rioting in poor city suburbs Wednesday as youths torched more than 600 vehicles. But police said the violence appeared to be waning, with fewer incidents pitting rioters against the security forces and no reports of shots fired. The government Tuesday declared a state of emergency covering the worst-hit parts of the country under a decree, which came into force Wednesday after it was published in the official journal, allowing regional authorities to declare curfews to combat the violence. The first to act under the new powers, the city of Amiens north of Paris, declared an overnight curfew for unaccompanied persons under 16 and a ban on petrol sales to minors, even before the decree came into force. Mayors have already declared separate, local curfews, in Orleans and Savigny-sur-Orge, both south of Paris, and in Raincy northeast of the capital. Across the country, 617 vehicles were torched overnight, compared to 1,173 on Tuesday, said Claude Gueant, a senior aide to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. He said 1,800 people had been arrested since the riots erupted. Despite the car-burnings and arrests, police said the overall situation was calmer than on recent nights, when dozens of police officers were injured, two by gunshot. "There has been a marked decrease (in violence), particularly in the provinces, and the downward trend is continuing in Ile-de-France (the greater Paris region)," a national police official said.

Sarkozy, visiting police Tuesday in southwestern Toulouse, a flashpoint of unrest in recent days, said there had been a "fairly significant fall" in the violence. Earlier, on the outskirts of Toulouse, police charged a gang of youths who had attacked them with stones and firebombs. A gas-powered bus exploded after it came under attack with a Molotov cocktail in the Bordeaux suburbs, also in the southwest. In southeastern France, Lyon's entire public transport network was shut down after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a train station. And around 50 youths tried, unsuccessfully, to ram their way into a supermarket in the Mediterranean city of Marseille, where 25 people were arrested and 38 vehicles and dustbins torched overnight. In Arras, in northern France, a fire ripped through a shopping centre, spreading from a furniture store to a carpet retailer next door. The situation was relatively calm in the northeast Paris suburbs where the violence began, police said, with isolated cases of arson and a dozen arrests. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Belgium, a dozen cars were set alight, although police downplayed concerns about serious violence spreading over the border.
The French government's emergency measure was the toughest response to date to rioting in high-immigration suburbs which has left more than 6,000 cars burned, dozens of policemen injured and one civilian dead. It invoked a 1955 law, enacted at the start of troubles that triggered the war of independence in French-controlled Algeria, which permits the declaration of curfews, house searches and bans on public meetings.

Seventy-three percent of French people support the government's curfew decision, according to a poll to appear in Le Parisien/Aujourd'hui newspaper. But some have charged that the measure recalls one of the worst moments in the country's modern history and has painful associations for Algerians, the original law's main targets. Sarkozy vowed on Tuesday that the curfews would be implemented "in a manner proportional to the threat", insisting the French people wanted the government to show "firmness". The violence, set off by the accidental deaths of two teenagers on October 27 who were electrocuted in a sub-station where they had hidden from police, spread across the Paris area and in recent days to the rest of the country. More than 1,500 people -- mainly Arab and black youngsters -- have been detained and 106 people handed firm jail sentences. The crisis has thrown into stark relief the failure of French policies for integrating millions of immigrants and their children from its former colonies. Acknowledging the hardships faced by the Arab community, the government also announced Tuesday a series of measures to ease access to the job market and stamp out racial discrimination.
© The Tocqueville Connection

There is unease as the authorities encourage Muslim activists with megaphones to calm tensions

8/11/2005- Muslim activists have been wading into the night-time mayhem of the housing estates, megaphone in hand, and addressing the rioters “in the name of Allah”. Far from inciting the violence, they have been urging the rioting teenagers to stop destroying property and go home. For the Government, the Muslim mediators have been playing a useful role calming youngsters from the mainly Arab estates who respect their authority far more than that of the police and local officials. However, the Muslim mentors, who style themselves “big brothers”, are also causing unease in France because they symbolise what many see as a root of the unrest: the isolation of the ethnic Arab and black minorities into ghettos where Muslim law and outlook prevails. There is also a widespread belief — denied by the authorities — that the unrest is being fostered by the Islamists. The mediators were bolstered yesterday by a fatwa issued by one of the main Muslim organisations, the Union of Islamic Organisations of France, quoting the Koran as saying that “God abhors destruction and disorder and rejects those who inflict it”. The fatwa sparked a dispute with the mainstream Muslim Council, which said that the edict equated Islam with the current vandalism. Some on Left and Right were angered when police withdrew one evening last week from Clichy-sous-Bois, where the rioting started, in order to let Muslims keep the peace. “The supposed mediation of big brothers crying out Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest) is one sign among many of the capitulation of the legitimate authorities,” said Bruno Gollnisch, a senior figure in Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front party.

Non-Muslim mediators who are active on the estates also disapprove of the presence of the Islamic brothers as peace-keepers. Magid Tabouri, 29, who leads a team of municipal, secular, big brothers at Bondy, in the troubled Seine-Saint-Denis dťpartement, said: “It is a scandal that they have asked imams to calm down the kids. You can’t apply a religious response to a social revolt.” The authorities are also concerned because many of the estate militants are part of the radical networks who preach the extremist cause and recruit potential jihadists, according to police. A street version of radical Islam permeates the youth culture of the estates, where Osama bin Laden is a hero, George Bush and Israel are evil and President Chirac’s State wants to stifle their religion and identity by banning Muslim headscarves in schools. The young wreckers refer to one another as brothers and they cite the “disrespect” of the State for their religion as part of the origin of their revolt. The chief target is Nicolas Sarkozy, the tough-talking Interior Minister, who has so far refused to apologise for an incident in which a police teargas grenade was thrown into a Clichy mosque. However, the radicals are not behind the present violence, say experts such as the Renseignements Gťnťraux, the police intelligence service that keeps close tabs on the prayer rooms and mosques on the estates. Yves Bot, the Paris chief prosecutor, said that the attacks were co-ordinated locally among the young wreckers using mobile telephones and text messages but there was no central command. The Muslim mediators are exploiting the unrest to enhance their authority among the alienated youths who go out to smash at night, say the police. “They are playing a clever game,” one police officer said. “They are preaching peace but profiting out of the mess to promote their ideology.”
© The Times Online

8/11/2005- Unrest was witnessed in various cities across Belgium on Monday night as fears grew that 12 nights of successive rioting in France might jump the border. In total, seven cars were torched across Belgium, six in Brussels and one in the Flemish city of Sint-Niklaas. In Brussels South, police were pelted with stones. A Molotov cocktail was also thrown at the office of extreme right party Flemish Interest on the Canada Square in Brugge at about midnight. No injuries or damage was reported, but three suspects were arrested after a witness noted the number plate of their car, newspaper 'Het Laatste Nieuws' reported on Tuesday. In the Belgian capital, police reported several clashes with immigrant youth, including an incident in which a car was overturned on the Bergensesteenweg in Anderlecht. Vandals set fire to two cars in Sint-Gillis, also in Brussels. Both vehicles were quickly removed by towing firm Da-car. "We have not yet been able to identify the culprits of these fires. There were no witnesses. But we have certain clues to find the culprits," acting Sint-Gillis Mayor Martine Wille said. Elsewhere in Brussels, two cars were torched in Vorst and two in Dilbeek, known as one of the capital's wealthier city districts. Anderlecht Mayor Jacques Simonet said tension was also witnessed on the "difficult" Lemmensplein, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported. There were also reports of unrest in the Brussels districts of Schaarbeek, Sint-Joost and Molenbeek, prompting police to suggest groups of youths had reach prior agreements with each other. Police had stepped up patrols in the area around the Brussels South train station on Monday night after five cars were torched in the immigrant-dense district on Sunday night. Meanwhile, the third successive night of unrest in LiŤge was also reported on Monday night.
© Expatica News

The riots now sweeping France are the product of years of racism, poverty and police brutality
By Naima Bouteldja, French journalist and researcher for the Transnational Institute

7/11/2005- In late 1991, after violent riots between youths and police scarred the suburbs of Lyon, Alain Touraine, the French sociologist, predicted: "It will only be a few years before we face the kind of massive urban explosion the Americans have experienced." The 11 nights of consecutive violence following the deaths of two young Muslim men of African descent in a Paris suburb show that Touraine's dark vision of a ghettoised, post-colonial France is now upon us. Clichy-sous-Bois, the impoverished and segregated north-eastern suburb of Paris where the two men lived and where the violent reaction to their deaths began, was a ticking bomb for the kind of dramatic social upheaval we are currently witnessing. Half its inhabitants are under 20, unemployment is above 40% and identity checks and police harassment are a daily experience. In this sense, the riots are merely a fresh wave of the violence that has become common in suburban France over the past two decades. Led mainly by young French citizens born into first and second generation immigrant communities from France's former colonies in north Africa, these cycles of violence are almost always sparked by the deaths of young black men at the hands of the police, and then inflamed by a contemptuous government response.

Four days after the deaths in Clichy-sous-Bois, just as community leaders were beginning to calm the situation, the security forces reignited the fire by emptying teargas canisters inside a mosque. The official reason for the police action: a badly parked car in front of it. The government refuses to offer any apology to the Muslim community. But the spread of civil unrest to other poor suburbs across France is unprecedented. For Laurent Levy, an anti-racist campaigner, the explosion is no surprise. "When large sections of the population are denied any kind of respect, the right to work, the right to decent accommodation, what is surprising is not that the cars are burning but that there are so few uprisings," he argues. Police violence and racism are major factors. In April, an Amnesty International report criticised the "generalised impunity" with which the French police operated when it came to violent treatment of young men from African backgrounds during identity checks. But the reason for the extent and intensity of the current riots is the provocative behaviour of the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy. He called rioters "vermin", blamed "agents provocateurs" for manipulating "scum" and said the suburbs needed "to be cleaned out with Karsher" (a brand of industrial cleaner used to clean the mud off tractors). Sarkozy's grandstanding on law and order is a deliberate strategy designed to flatter the French far right electorate in the context of his rivalry with the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, for the 2007 presidency.

How can France get out of this political race to the bottom? It would obviously help for ministers to stop talking about the suburbs as dens of "scum" and for Sarkozy to be removed: the falsehoods he spread about the events surrounding the two deaths and his deployment of a massively disproportionate police presence in the first days of the riots have again shown his unfitness for office. A simple gesture of regret could go a long way towards defusing the tensions for now. The morning after the gassing of the mosque, a young Muslim woman summed up a widespread feeling: "We just want them to stop lying, to admit they've done it and to apologise." It might not seem much, but in today's France it would require a deep political transformation and the recognition of these eternal "immigrants" as full and equal citizens of the republic.
© The Guardian

Paris Riots Attract Much Needed Attention to Immigrant Suburbs But For the Right Reasons?

7/11/2005- In his sparkling white galabayya, the long flowing robe favored by North African men, and an ornately embroidered green cap perched jauntily on his head, Coulibaly Djogou looks the picture of imperturbable poise. But the 47-year-old father of three is far from serene. "I'm scared," says the former social worker, making a sweeping gesture toward the bleak urban landscape around him. "I'm scared for my children, I'm scared for my property, I'm scared for me." As if to prove his point, an enormous city truck stacked with burned-out cars pulls up behind him. With a gentle whirring, a gigantic metallic arm emerges from the truck and pulls up another singed car carcass parked on the street. Nobody seems to notice the clean-up operation. Mothers and grandmothers, many of them veiled, go by with the evening's shopping. The neighborhood kids in track suits and sneakers hang around the street corners and fathers watch their little ones romp around the barren public compounds unperturbed. This is Clichy-sous-Bois, a bleak suburb north of Paris. It's been Djogou's home for the past 21 years, since he left his native Mali for France. Clichy, as it is popularly known, is about 15 miles from downtown Paris, off the "peripherique" freeway that rings the city.

So Near, and Yet So Far From Paris
But Clichy-sous-Bois is a world away from Paris, the magnificent "City of Lights" of the tour guides. It's one of the bleak banlieues -- or suburbs -- around the French capital that few Parisians enter, or even want to enter. It's often called one of the "lost territories of the Republic," that an alarmingly high percentage of Parisians complain are inhabited -- even infested -- with hoodlums. This, after all, is Paris, the romantic capital of the world, the bon vivant of European cities. Every night, the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde that frame the magnificent Champs-Elysees are lit up in a glorious pageant of architectural splendor. For 10 minutes on the hour after dusk the Eiffel Tower winks, glitters and glows in a spectacular display of illumination guaranteed to steal a visitor's breath away. But in the northern banlieues, a very different sort of illumination has been lighting up the night skies. For more than 10 consecutive nights, angry youths have been torching cars, buses, retail stores, showrooms, schools and police stations across the city's banlieues. Against the angry orange flames of discontent, the flashing lights of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances provide a blue strobe flicker of a state infrastructure shocked, almost paralyzed, by this display of urban wrath.

Accidental Electrocution of Two Teens Sparks Trouble
The troubles began in Clichy-sous-Bois on the night of Oct. 27, when two French youth of North African descent were accidentally electrocuted at an electricity sub-station. The families of Zyed Benna, a 17-year-old resident of Tunisian descent, and Bouna Traore, a 15-year-old student of Malian descent, say the teens were fleeing the police. French authorities however deny the claim and an official inquiry is currently under way. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, Djogou, like most residents of Clichy-sous-Bois, believe the boys were chased by the police. It's the characteristic lack of trust between banlieue residents and law enforcement officials that added fuel to the flames of widespread discontent. As rumors of a police tear gas attack on a Clichy mosque made the rounds, the riots spread to neighboring and far-flung Paris suburbs as well as other French cities such as Nice, Lille, Marseille and Toulouse. By Saturday night, the unrest had reached Paris, when several cars were torched in the 17th district. The toll is staggering: more than 4,300 vehicles have been burned, about 1,000 people arrested and 34 police officers injured, according to French Interior Ministry figures. Stunned, the state machinery, the media, politicians and pundits struggled to understand this senseless destructive violence.

Horrified, But Not Surprised
But Marilou Jampolsky, a spokeswoman for the Paris-based pressure group SOS Racisme, says she isn't stunned by the recent mayhem. "I'm not surprised," she says the morning after French police said rioters in the suburb of La Courneuve fired live bullets at them. "I'm horrified of course," she adds. "But I'm not surprised. There's been a high level of tension in the banlieues. SOS Racisme has warned the government about this a lot of times, but no one pays attention." Indeed, the French shock over the recent banlieue burnings is surprising. Experts, community activists and immigration rights advocates -- of which there are plenty in France -- have been warning that the French Republic is failing its poor, mainly Muslim immigrants of North African descent at the risk of grave social upheaval. By most accounts, the current violence is a manifestation of the inherent problems facing France's dearly-held and passionately defended integration policy.

Racism: Illegal, But Widespread
Racial discrimination is banned in France. But in practice, it's widespread across the nation. Accurate discrimination figures are hard to come by in France since ethnic origins of employees, residential societies, even hate crime complainants cannot be recorded under French law. The estimated figures that do exist however are desultory. While the overall unemployment rate for French university graduates for instance is 5.0 percent, the unemployment rate for "North African" university graduates is a whopping 26.5 percent. According to CIA estimates, Muslims constitute between 5 to 10 percent of France's 60 million population. Yet all the members of parliament from mainland France are white. France has innumerable governmental and nongovernmental organizations working on racial integration and immigrant rights issues. And yet, a subliminal, pervasive racism is apparent in the streets, upscale cafes, restaurants, housing blocks and business enterprises across Paris.

Muslims in French Corner Shops, Not Boardrooms
While French entrepreneurs of North African descent run a plethora of corner shops and halal stores in the downtrodden districts of Paris, unlike the United States and Britain, non-white businessmen are barely represented in corporate boardrooms across France. According to a recent SOS Racisme report, discrimination is rampant in the French workplace, particularly for jobs involving contact with the public, such as the critical hospitality and retail industries. "Some companies believe that to be responsible for marketing you must have roots in mainland France over several generations to understand the French consumer attitudes," the report said. Discrimination is also rampant in housing, says Jampolsky. Landlords and real estate brokers routinely fail to rent or provide information to non-white buyers and renters. SOS Racisme receives innumerable complaints from victims of housing discrimination, many of which are dragged through the courts by the organization's voluntary lawyers. "People think Arabs and black people make a lot of noise, that they have 25 children, that they're dirty," says Jampolsky. "It's amazing. They still have this old, outdated, racist image in their brains."

How French Is French?
Some experts believe the crux of the problem lies with France's integration policy. While countries such as the United States, Britain and Canada have embraced the "salad bowl" or "mosaic" metaphor, France -- like most of continental Europe -- has little patience for the "multiculturalism" of the "Anglophone" world, as it's known here. Faced with mounting evidence of social discontent among its Muslim immigrant groups, political parties in European countries such as France, Germany and Denmark have been pushing for minority "integration measures." At stake, integration proponents say, lies the very "Europeanness" of Europe. The combination of rising Islamic fundamentalism in recent times and the lack of women's rights in tradition-bound immigrant groups have fused to provide popular support for the integration model. Despite widespread international condemnation of the ban on the hijab (veil) and other "conspicuous" religious symbols in public schools last year for instance, the measure enjoys popular French support. Social workers and activists working with France's Muslim immigrants however warn that the problem is not the "Frenchness" of the banlieue youth. Most, if not all, are born in France, have French citizenship, indeed they know of life in no other country besides France. In the face of widespread economic and racial discrimination, the problem appears to be French society's failure to integrate its citizens of non-white descent. In the Clichy housing complex of La ForestiŤre where Djogou lives, the very geography of the Soviet-style, graffiti-ridden complex belies the claim that France's integration policy is working. Marc Couturier, 42, a longtime resident of La ForestiŤre, remembers a time when Clichy-sous-Bois was considered a pleasant suburb to live in. Literally translated as "Clichy under the woods," Couturier remembers how his friends from Paris used to be impressed by the surrounding woodlands. The current urban malaise, he believes, is a result of civic and administrative neglect. "There was a time when we could take the bus directly to Paris," he says. "Now we don't have that. We have to take two buses to reach the city. The only bus that comes here, the 147, shows up once in 45 minutes if you're lucky. There's no train station, there are no garbage cans, no playgrounds. When I take my children to Paris they stare, silent and slack-jawed, at the splendor of the city. For them, it's another world."

Attention at Last, But the Wrong Sort
But in the Hotel de Ville de Clichy-sous-Bois -- the French equivalent of a municipality -- Stephane Le Ho, the director general of services, says the administration is struggling to provide civic services. "Ten years ago when I came to this city, it was bankrupt. The city was in debt," he says. "This used to be a middle class area, but the middle class has left. This city is poor, its inhabitants are poor, they don't have money to pay taxes for the services they require, there's been no corporate investment here since we find it difficult to attract investment, it's a vicious circle of poverty." Out in the municipality yard, a media jamboree is slowly unfolding. Satellite trucks ring the grounds, TV reporters touch up their makeup and camera crews focus on the story du jour. Finally, Clichy-sous-Bois is getting the French public's attention. But Couturier and the other residents of La ForestiŤre worry that it's the very wrong sort of attention. Couturier notes that even the French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has publicly called the residents of the banlieue "racaille" -- a derogatory French word for scum -- and has called for the banlieues to be cleaned up by an industrial powerhouse. After these riots, he says, it's going to be even more difficult for "people to see us as human beings worthy of dignity." Behind him, a graffiti message on a crumbling wall says it all. "Clichy-sous-Jungle," says the sign. The pleasant woods have given way to an urban jungle.
© ABC News

7/11/2005- France will give local government officials the authority to impose curfews in areas hit by rioting to try to halt almost two weeks of unrest, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced on Monday. Villepin ruled out army intervention in an interview with France's TF1 television but said the cabinet would meet on Tuesday to clear the way for government officials known as prefects to impose curfews. "Wherever it is necessary, prefects will be able to impose a curfew," Villepin said, adding that procedures for such action were set out in a 1955 law. He said 1,500 police and gendarmes would be brought in to back up the 8,000 officers already deployed in areas hit by unrest that began in a poor Paris suburb on October 27. Dismissing growing calls for army intervention, he said: "We have not reached that point." The government has struggled to formulate a response that could halt the unrest, which was sparked by frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police and has spread to cities and towns across France.
© Reuters

French youths have been turning to weblogs to express their anger and frustration over the violence that has hit some of the country's poorest suburbs.

7/11/2005- As the rioting has spread, so has the debate between bloggers and their readers. The deaths of two teenagers of African origin, which helped spark the riots, inspired a number of online tributes. Bouna Traore, aged 15, and Zyed Benna, 17, "died for nothing", said one blogger, Bouna93 - the number is a reference to their home department of Seine-Saint-Denis. "We love you guys... All of Clichy is with you," he added, referring to the town of Clichy-sous-Bois where the two teenagers died. "We are all tense, we are all irritated and we are all mourning." The blog Clichy-sous-Bombe prints photographs of the two teenagers, captioned "RIP". One visitor commented: "Too young to die, they didn't deserve this!"

Tribute website Bouns93 gathered 1,700 comments from readers before it was shut down by its host for not following regulations. Another, Banlieue93, has elicited more than 300 responses to its post calling for readers to pay their respects to the two teenagers. But on many blogs, alongside messages of condolence were insults targeting police and threats of more violence. "Clichy is avenging you," wrote blogger Les K1-Fry. "France should be ashamed of the rotten police, and anyway France should be ashamed of herself with such a bad government," wrote a visitor. "We burned shops last night, believe me the cops aren't safe," wrote a reader of the Banlieue93 blog. "We're going to destroy everything," wrote another. "All the departments should unite... and screw justice," wrote a third.

But there is also considerable anger aimed at the rioters, who have caused damage to thousands of cars and dozens of buildings. "They are angry at the police and yet they burn the cars of factory workers who aren't involved and who will have to work hard for the rest of their lives to pay for it," a visitor to Clichy-sous-Bombe wrote. "Our neighbourhoods are already dilapidated, why destroy them even more?" wrote a visitor to Banlieue93. "What do the rioters want, do play the [extreme right-wing anti-immigration political party] Front National's game, to have Baghdad in the 93?" asked a visitor to Les K1-Fry. "Guys, stop destroying everything, it's pointless, I don't think Bouna and Zyed would be proud of you, avenging them by burning everything, by attacking innocent people," said another. Others also said they had sympathy for the police, who have been blamed by some for the boys' deaths. Bouna and Zyed "shouldn't have run away from the police", wrote a visitor to Banlieue93, and their deaths were "not the fault of the police... or of Sarko [Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy]". "You have to be stupid to hide in an electric generator," wrote another.
© BBC News

7/11/2005- French Muslim leaders on Sunday, November 6, issued a fatwa banning Muslims from joining the unlawful riots raging across the country. “It is not acceptable to express feelings of desperation through damaging public properties and carrying out arson,” read the religious edict issued by the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF)’s Fatwa Body. “Under Islam, one cannot get one of his/her rights at the expense of others,” stressed the fatwa, a copy of which was obtained by The fatwa cited noble verses that read: “Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. (The Cow:190), “Eat and drink of that which Allah hath provided, and do not act corruptly, making mischief in the earth. (The Cow: 60) and “Lo! Allah loveth not the corrupt.” (The Table: 64). Sheikh Ahmad Jaballah, member of the Fatwa Body, said that the fatwa sends a strong message to the French that these riots are un-Islamic. “It came to counter allegations by rightists and extremists who maliciously tried to link the arson to French Muslims,” he told IOL. The fatwa further underlined that minorities in France should live in dignity and suffer no racial discrimination or maltreatment. The rioting began with the accidental electrocution of two youths fleeing police in Clichy- sous-Bois outside Paris. Chirac's government has come under increasing pressure to halt the riots, sparked by frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police. Many feel trapped in the drab suburbs, built in the 1960s and 1970s to house waves of immigrant workers. Their French-born children and grandchildren are now out on the streets demanding the equality France promised but, they say, failed to deliver.

Police Shot
The riots intensified Sunday for an 11th night despite a vow by President Jacques Chirac to defeat it. An Interior Ministry statement said 839 more vehicles were torched only overnight. Thirty-four police were injured in clashes and 186 rioters detained, Reuters reported. “They really shot at officers,” said one officer after about 200 youths attacked his colleagues in Grigny, south of Paris. “This is real, serious violence. It's not like the previous nights. I am very concerned because this is mounting.” The head of France's main business group, Laurence Parisot, warned of the consequences of the violence for the French economy, notably on tourism and investment. “France's image has been deeply damaged,” she told Europe 1 radio. The violence came shortly after Chirac broke a long silence with his first public comments since the unrest began on October 27. “The republic is quite determined, by definition, to be stronger than those who want to sow violence or fear,” he said after a domestic security council met to respond to the violence in which thousands of cars have gone up in flames so far.

Further violence was reported in other cities, including Nantes, Rennes, Strasbourg, Lens and Toulouse. Youths seized a bus in Saint-Etienne in central France, ordering passengers off and torching the vehicle. The driver and one passenger were hurt. In the eastern city of Strasbourg, rioters lobbed Molotov cocktails into a primary school. In Toulouse in the southeast, a blazing car was pushed into a metro entrance. At Lens in the north, a firebomb was thrown at a church. In Lille, about 50 cars were torched and a Belgian television reporter was beaten up as he filmed. The police union Action Police CFTC urged the government to impose a curfew on the riot-hit areas and call in the army to control the youths. “Nothing seems to be able to stop the civil war that spreads a bit more every day across the whole country,” it said in a statement. “The events we're living through now are without precedent since the end of the Second World War.”
© Islam Online

7/11/2005- They move in packs at night, burning and wrecking. Their anger is both blind and targeted. They torch their own neighborhoods as well as symbols of the French state that some feel oppresses them. Whatever their motivation, youths leading the violence that in 10 nights has spread across France sow fear, anger and frustration among their fellow residents of “Les Cites” — grim, public housing estates on the outskirts of French cities heavily populated by poor Arab and black Africans. Some officials suspect the unrest that reached into Paris proper early Sunday has in part been instigated by gangs hoping to turn their neighborhoods into no-go zones for police so drug trafficking and racketeering can thrive. But the roots are broader than that. Racism and widespread joblessness among minorities have left young people of the slums languishing in hopelessness and despair, creating the tinderbox of anger that has exploded. It is not just the riots, though. Many in the gritty inner suburbs live in fear of young thugs who roam the streets at night, robbing, selling drugs and intimidating residents, particularly women. “People here are bad. I don't want to live here anymore,” Rebab Khalil, an 11-year-old whose divorced parents came from Tunisia, said when asked about the gangs. She lives in Saint-Denis, northeast of Paris, but she dreams of life “in a big house, on a quiet street. I want to live in the country, where it is calm.” Mounir, a 14-year-old who would not give his name fearing his father's wrath, also wants to leave, saying he does not like that other boys burn cars and steal. “I want to go somewhere calm,” said Mounir, who suffered burns on his left hand — apparently from a projectile thrown during clashes between youths and police in nearby Clichy-Sous-Bois on Oct. 27, the first night of rioting that erupted after two teenage boys were electrocuted while hiding from police in the suburb.

The violence is forcing France to confront the long-simmering anger in its suburbs. They are fertile terrain for crime of all sorts as well as Muslim extremists who recruit frustrated youths. France has some 5 million Muslims, the biggest Islamic population in western Europe. Sonia Imloul, who works with troubled teens in Seine-Saint-Denis, the northeastern Paris suburb hit hardest by the unrest, said youths often feel trapped. “It is very, very difficult to leave this place,” she said. “There is a stigma attached to being a resident of this place.” Families break down in the pressure-cooker of crime, poverty and unemployment. Many single mothers are left to fend alone, said Imloul, a single mother herself whose Algerian parents divorced before her father's death. “Fathers do not play any role in their children's lives. The father doesn't exist at all. French justice gives full rights to mothers,” Imloul said. Coming to France has given some Muslim North African women new freedoms. “They want to lead a similar life as their French counterparts,” Imloul said. “But it is very difficult to leave a patriarchal culture all of a sudden. Women take on the responsibility of both mother and father while they are not at all suited for it. In the end, it is their children who suffer.” She estimated 40 percent of families in the suburbs where she works are dysfunctional, causing a high rate of school dropouts, drug use, petty crimes and aggressive behavior. Police records for petty crimes burden youths, making it harder to build a productive life, she said. “Those who set fire to cars and buildings are not criminals. They are young kids. What are 12-year-olds doing in the streets at midnight? Parents have no control over them,” Imloul said. She the absence of fathers causes some boys to become apathetic, while girls often rush into unsuitable marriages that often lead to divorce and some turn to drugs and prostitution. “There's so much of this in this community,” Imloul said. “Death of love has destroyed a whole generation.”

Suburban youths often show little will to improve their lot. Rawa Khalil, 15, has no interest in education. “No motivation,” she said simply. It is easier to become a hair stylist and marry and have children, she said. Mounir, the 14-year-old with the burned arm, claims no desire to go to college, though in a perfect world he sees himself as a banker. “But with the way things are now, the future is not certain. There's no point in studying. I'm never going to get a job,” he said. Defeatism hits parents, too, and some are accomplices to their children's crimes. Some mothers hide the drugs their sons peddle in their homes, Imloul said. Most parents, however, are law-abiding and fear for their children, she said.
© Reuters

7/11/2005- The biggest explosion of street violence in France since the late 1960s has jolted the country into confronting its failure to include its seven million residents of Arab and African origin in the national mainstream. President Chirac and Dominique de Villepin, his Prime Minister, seem at a loss, however, to propose anything beyond the “republican” strategy that successive governments of Left and Right have followed since the first riots erupted on the immigrant estates 15 years ago. M de Villepin has promised a “major plan” to ease the plight of the immigrant communities — the latest of many over the past two decades — but, meeting community leaders on Saturday, he made clear that this would be more of the same: a mix of tax incentives for business in “difficult districts” plus more money for schools, police, other public services and better counselling for jobseekers. Under the ethnically colour-blind “French model”, the immigrant workers who came in the 1950s and 1960s from the former colonies in North and black Africa were to be regarded as equal citizens. They and their descendants would take advantage of the education system and generous welfare state to assimilate with “white” France. To promote the idea of assimilation, neither the State nor any other body publishes statistics on ethnic or national origin. In practice, France turned its back on the minorities, shunting them into suburban citťs denying access to the so-called ascenseur social (social elevator) that was supposed to lift immigrants into the mainstream. Unemployment on the estates is up to three times the 10 per cent national average. Laws supposed to promote integration and oppose multiculturalism, such as the ban on Muslim headwear in schools, have often heightened resentment and the feeling of exclusion. This has in turn fed the rise of Muslim radicalism, which has now become the dominant creed of the young in the French ghettos.

France has always deemed its model superior to the Anglo-Saxon approach of diversity, which has enabled ethnic minorities to retain strong bonds in cultural and religious communities. France calls this “comunitarism” and says that it promotes ghettos, exclusion, poverty, race riots and religious extremism that can ultimately lead to actions such as the London bombings. Three decades on from the big inflow of immigrants, everyone now agrees that the French model has not worked, although almost no one says that the American and British approach has produced better results. Some, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, the iconoclastic Interior Minister who is at the centre of the present crisis, have provoked outrage by saying that France should copy aspects of the Anglo-American model, starting with policies to favour the entry of ethnic minorities into education and jobs. M de Villepin slapped down M Sarkozy last week for promoting dangerous “un-French” ideas that could encourage the Muslim extremism that has recently infected Britain. Mainstream Muslim leaders who have been consulted by the Government have all hammered home the message. “The young have the feeling that they have been abandoned, left at the roadside,” Larbi Kechat, rector of the rue de Tanger mosque in Paris, said. Some change in the French approach has been appearing over the past couple of years. Proposals are afoot to take a firmer hand with the racial discrimination that is still widely applied with impunity to jobseekers. Paradoxically, the figure most associated with a radical new approach is M Sarkozy. His proposals for a break with the French model have received little welcome. Both Left and Right see them as a breach of France’s republican tradition and believe that affirmative action would play into the hands of the anti-immigrant Far Right, led by Jean-Marie Le Pen.
© The Times Online

7/11/2005- A senior Russian lawmaker has put the string of riots spreading across France, Germany and Belgium down to the failure of Europe to implement programs for social integration of migrants. Commenting on the alarming developments in France, Mikhail Margelov, head of the upper house of parliament’s international affairs committee, told the RIA-Novosti news agency that any attempts to blame the crisis on radical Islamists and terrorists are aimed at concealing the truth. In Margelov’s opinion, what attracts migrants from third-world countries in Europe is satiety, not democratic values. “But nobody welcomes them there, they are low-skilled, they are subject to discrimination by employers and they respond with an unwillingness to adjust, turning to drug trafficking, larceny and banditry,” the Federation Council official said. Not only do immigrants fail to assimilate, they also fail to adapt to French culture and way of life. Konstantin Kosachyov, Margelov’s opposite number in the lower house of parliament — the State Duma — agreed. “The situation in France is undoubtedly of a system-defined nature,” he said. “The French have failed to ensure the necessary conditions for the social integration of national minorities. ”It is enough to recall that France rejects the concept of ethnic minority as such and has so far refused to ratify the Council of Europe convention on the protection of national minorities,“ Kosachyov said in a telephone interview with RIA.
© Moscow News

7/11/2005- The Dutch embassy in Paris has warned its citizens to avoid the Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-d'Oise districts in the evening and at night after 11 days of rioting in the French capital. The embassy singled out the Argenteuil in the north east and Trappes to the south east as areas of particular concern in the Paris. Similar precautions should be taken in other French cities that have experienced rioting, officials said. The embassies of the US, UK, Japan, Poland and Russia have issued similar warnings to their citizens. The US embassy has cautioned people flying into Charles de Gaulle Airport to take a taxi into the city and not to use the metro. The metro runs through suburbs which have witnessed serious unrest as North African youth battle the police and set fire to cars and buildings. Police are now accompanying all train services through the troubled districts in Paris after the driver of one train was attacked and the passengers robbed. Similar precautions have been taken in other parts of France.

Following the unrest in districts in Paris and other French cities, the question has arisen whether the same could take place in the Netherlands. Urban sociologist Leon Deben at the University of Amsterdam doesn't think so. "The Netherlands does not have the type of suburbs there are in France," he said on Monday. Deben said the enormous concrete buildings in French suburbs cannot be compared to the situation in Amsterdam. "We have them in the Bijlmer but they are currently being demolished." In comparison the Bijlmer suburb in the south east of Amsterdam is a "charming district. We don't have the toughness that exists in some French suburbs," Deben contended. He said problems have been brewing in France for 20 years. "If you went south back then you already saw burnt out flats. The French government has to some extent been in denial and is now clearly reacting far too late," Deben said. He claimed Dutch politicians are keeping a far sharper eye on developments in the more disadvantaged districts in the Netherlands. There are about 80 different groups of "problem youth" living in various parts of Amsterdam, but they will not quickly become so extreme as their counterparts in France. "We had of course the riots on the Mercatorplein in the Baarsjes district but there were like a flash in the pan and were over quickly," Deben said. Meanwhile, five cars were destroyed in arson attack in an immigrant-dense Brussels city district, but the federal government has dismissed the possibility French rioting will spread to Belgium. Extra police patrol have been ordered onto the streets of Berlin after cars are set on fire in a poor district, fuelling fears of copycat violence like the rioting sweeping France.
© Expatica News

6/11/2005- As France's urban violence flared again for its 10th night straight, police become more robust in arresting trouble-makers, signalling the government's resolve in ending the rampages. Here is a timeline of the unrest:

  • Wednesday, October 19: 

  • Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy declares a "war without mercy" on violence in the suburbs.

    Tuesday, October 25: 

  • During a visit to the Paris suburb of Argenteuil, Sarkozy is pelted with stones and bottles. He describes rebellious youths in such districts as "rabble".

    Thursday, October 27: 

  • Two boys in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, Bouna Traore, a 15-year-old of Malian background, and Zyed Benna, a 17-year-old of Tunisian origin, flee a police identity check. They scale the wall of an electrical relay station and are electrocuted as they try to hide near a transformer. 

  • Youths in the suburb, hearing of the deaths, go on a rampage, burning 23 vehicles and vandalising buildings and hurling stones and bottles at riot police.

    Friday, October 28: 

  • Four hundred youths clash with police in Clichy-sous-Bois, throwing stones, bottles and Molotov cocktails. Twenty-three officers are hurt and their colleagues are forced to fire rubber bullets to push back mobs. Thirteen people are arrested and 29 vehicles are burned.

Saturday, October 29: 

  • Five hundred people hold a silent march through Clichy-sous-Bois in memory of the dead teenagers. 

  • Violence resumes at night. Twenty vehicles are burned. Nine people are detained, some of them for carrying hammers or petrol cans.

    Sunday, October 30: 

  • Clashes occur on the outskirts of Clichy-sous-Bois. Six police officers are hurt, 11 people are arrested and eight vehicles are torched. A police teargas grenade hits a mosque, prompting anger among the suburb's large Muslim community.

    Monday, October 31: 

  • Running clashes between youths and police take place in Clichy-sous-Bois and in surrounding suburbs. Nineteen people are arrested and 68 vehicles are torched.

    Tuesday, November 1:

  • Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin meets the families of the dead teenagers. 

  • Riots and clashes erupt in several suburbs to the north and west of Paris. Altogether, 180 vehicles are torched and 34 people arrested.

    Wednesday, November 2:

  • President Jacques Chirac tells ministers "tempers must calm down." 

  • Villepin and Sarkozy cancel overseas trips to deal with the spreading violence. 

  • Trouble erupts in 22 suburban towns north, south, east and west of Paris. A handicapped woman suffers severe burns when youths set a bus on fire. Police say 315 vehicles are torched and at least 15 people arrested.

    Thursday, November 3:

  • A criminal investigation is opened into the deaths of the two teenagers.

  • Villepin vows the government "will not give in" to the violence. 

  • Sarkozy says more than 140 people have been arrested since the violence began. 

  • The riots resume at night, but for the first time spread to other areas around France, in Dijon, Marseille and in Normandy. Seven cars are also set alight in central Paris. In all, 517 vehicles are torched in and around the capital and another 78 people are arrested.

    Friday, November 4:

  • Arson hit-and-run attacks take place in suburbs around Paris and other French cities. A total of 897 vehicles are torched and more than 250 people arrested.

    Saturday, November 5:

  • Paris prosecutor general Yves Bot says "we can see organised actions, a strategy" in the violence. 

  • The rampages again take place in suburbs outside Paris and other cities. Some 349 people are arrested and over 1,300 vehicles burned. Police use seven helicopters with lights and cameras to chase fast-moving youths who set fire to property then flee.

© The Tocqueville Connection

A French rapper speaks out for second-class citizens

6/11/2005- People like me — the descendants of immigrants, whether Arab, black or Asian — are turning to our roots and embracing our heritage, just the opposite of what our parents did when they arrived. My grandparents, for example, who came to France from Algeria to live, work and build a better life, accepted the role of guest. They did all they could not just to fit in, but to become invisible. Calling attention to themselves usually meant trouble — endless ID and visa checks from police, racist remarks and insults — so they avoided that. They tried as much as possible to integrate, and in doing so shut away their customs, language and heritage.

I certainly don't belittle their choice. But people of my generation are not shy about embracing their heritage, and far from seeking invisibility we're standing up to denounce the prejudice and injustice we face. In my case, Islam is an enormous part of who I am, just as being French is. The two aren't in opposition, or even mutually exclusive. Yet when you hear the debate in France today, you'd swear they must be.

The people who live in projects like those where last week's riots raged are treated as second-class citizens. We have less access to the rights and services of the republic — schools are run down; job opportunities are remote. What we do have is a supermarket, a mall for low-cost shops, a few fast-food joints and maybe a movie complex. That's it. The idea is to create just enough diversion so we stay where we are. The message is: Don't come in to mix with the people in the city centers. That's what the police tell you when they stop you on a bus coming into town: "You have no business in the center? Then you have no reason to be there. Go back where you belong."

Before Sept. 11, I would have said this was a kind of residual racism. The problems people had with us were due to our ethnicity, our skin color. Today, with many young people returning to religion as they start searching for their own identities, faith is becoming the difference that's most often pointed out. I'm not just a black guy or an Arab anymore; I'm a Muslim. And that's a code word for alien, someone who's determined not to fit in.

But I was born and raised in France. I've been a citizen since birth. How much more "French" can I be? And there are many more people like me, not just Muslims but blacks, Asians and South Asians. It's time for the French to reject these outdated labels. And it's time for minorities to reject the cult of victimization, too. Things aren't perfect. There are a lot of problems. Those problems exploded last week, unleashing the long-held resentment of people who feel unwanted, scorned and swept into the margins like so much trash. To change that, the gap between the banlieue and the rest of France must be bridged. We need to make peace with the things that make us different. I'm French, I'm Muslim, and there are millions like me. We live here, and we're not going anywhere. So let's start getting used to it.

Mťdine, 22, is a Muslim rapper from Le Havre. His latest record is Jihad: The Greatest Struggle Is Within Yourself
© Time Magazine

The 1996 hit film showed a French capital in flames as its underclass rioted. That was fiction. This time it's for real. Hugh Schofield reports from the streets of a suburb its inhabitants now call Baghdad-sur-Seine

6/11/2005- France's worst urban violence since 1968 spread this weekend, with riots in Toulouse, Marseille, Lille and Rouen after more than a week's unrest in the deprived areas around Paris. On Friday there were attacks on schools, a town hall and a synagogue, and more than 750 cars were burnt out. At least 250 people were arrested. At Aulnay-sous-Bois, one of the worst-affected towns in the eastern Paris suburbs, a group of five or six adolescents in baseball caps and hooded sweatshirts lounged last week in the parking lot of the notorious estate known as the City of the 3,000. Across the dual carriageway that fronts the grim complex, a Renault garage lay in black cinders. Police and passers-by took photographs with their mobile phones. Elsewhere in the town, which is in most parts a safe and genteel area not far from Charles de Gaulle airport, burnt-out cars littered the pavement. A faint smell mixing tear gas and smoke still lingered in the air. Among Abdelkarim and his friends, no one bothered to deny that they were in the thick of it the night before. "In the olden days this used to be a huge forest. It was called the ForÍt de Bondy. In those days there used to be highwaymen who cut the throats of the people in the carriages when they came through. That's what we are - like pirates," laughed Abdelkarim, 20. His story was of poverty, discrimination, dreams of his ancestral homeland of Morocco - and also of anti-Semitism, regular consumption of hashish and a swaggering satisfaction with his record of car theft, prison and violence. "Look around you - there is nothing here. We live four to a room. Our parents go to work like zombies. But we have nothing. Even the jobs around here go to people from elsewhere. This parking lot is like our living room," he said.

The surroundings are indeed grim. The City of the 3,000 consists of a series of long low-rise buildings made of the cheapest 1970s materials and painted an unsavoury off-white. Patches of scrubby grass are covered in rubbish and upturned wheelie bins. "The police know us all by name. But when they come they still beat down the door and order our parents to lie on the ground. And when they ask where we are from, we give our addresses, but they say: 'You're not from here. You're from Africa,'" he said. Though he modestly declined the appellation, Abdelkarim is the local "caid" - the Arabic word means leader - and he happily boasted of the €2,000 which he makes from each car stolen. "You want prostitutes, DVD players, jewellery? I can get anything you want," he said. One of his friends, Karim, aged 15, pulled back his sleeves to reveal gold bracelets and then opened his shirt to show a gold chain. Both nicked, he winked. Another boy held a mobile phone. "Come and look," he gestured, laughing. It was a short film of a Chechen guerrilla cutting off the head of a Russian soldier. These are the people who since 27 October have had the French government running scared. Their grievances - racism, poverty, lack of jobs - have changed little since the first disturbances in the banlieues broke out more than 15 years ago, later portrayed in the 1996 film La Haine (Hatred). But where before protesters demanded financial aid and change within the system, many of today's rioters seem motivated more by a nihilistic rejection of all that surrounds them. "I hate France, and the French hate us," said Abdelkarim. "The wicked get punished. See what happened after the Americans made war on Iraq? Allah sent the hurricane. We are getting our revenge." For President Jacques Chirac - and his uneasy cabinet tandem of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy - this stark aggression is proof of the colossal failure of past policies to integrate France's five million-strong Arab minority. Successive governments have invoked the mantra of republican equality to block special measures to favour immigrants, arguing that the country's system of integration would work in time.

But in practice Arabs continue to suffer from widespread discrimination in employment and housing. Unofficial statistics - there are no official ones - show that a hugely disproportionate number of young Arab males are in prison or out of work. Alienation has been fed by the almost total absence of Muslim or African leaders in politics and the media. While Britain has dozens of MPs and other public figures of African or Asian origin, France has virtually none. Meanwhile, there is the constant affront of being obliged to live in the bleak out-of-town estates that have become synonymous with deprivation and violence. Even before this latest wave of rioting, some 28,000 cars were burnt in small-scale riots in France in the first 10 months of the year. "From my window I can see the Eiffel Tower," said Abdelkarim. "But Paris is another world. This is Baghdad." Britain has had a different experience of immigration. Communities have been encouraged to maintain their identities - anathema in France - and moved into the inner parts of the main towns and cities. There is poverty, but employment. In Birmingham two weeks ago the riots were between two groups competing for space. In France the target is different: wealth, authority, the nation. enyahya Makhlouf, a 53-year-old taxi driver who emigrated from Algeria 20 years ago, said that he sympathises with the protesters. "They packed them into these estates and it was like living in a cage. Of course they were going to explode," he said. "The children just give up." But Mr Makhlouf also supported the hardline policing ideas of Mr Sarkozy. "How am I supposed to inculcate the work ethic in my son, when his friends have Nikes given to them by their drug-dealer fathers? At least Sarkozy wants to restore order." The name evokes different emotions among the rioters. "Ever since Sarko came into the government, life has been merde," said Kamel, 16. "He treats us like dogs - well, we'll show him how dogs can react." On this point, he and the outspoken minister, who talks of "cleaning out" the "racaille" (riff-raff), are speaking the same language. He sees the riots as a clear attempt by the caids to take back control, and is determined to stop them.
© Independent Digital

After a week of riots during which a Renault showroom was destroyed along with the hundreds of cars inside, the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois has become known around the world as a place of violence and poverty.

5/11/2005- And yet just a mile or so from where the menacing, dilapidated tower blocks have seen nightly clashes between angry youths armed with petrol bombs and the police, is the Vieux Pays (Old country) district of Aulnay which has the feel of picture-postcard France. People walk down narrow, tree-lined streets, past quaint houses with wooden shutters and window boxes full of carefully-tended flowers to pick up their baguettes from the bakers. Teacher Elisabeth Jallon told the BBC News website that Aulnay used to be a quiet little country town until it was swallowed up by urban sprawl in the 1960s and the tower blocks were built. In the town's richer neighbourhoods, some understand the frustration and anger of the rioters but the patience of others ran out long ago. "It's been a week now, it's too much. They should send in the police or even the army to stamp it right out," said one man. "It's crazy," said another. "Aulnay used to be a beautiful town and they've wrecked it." "All this only means our taxes will have to go up to pay for the damage," said an old woman taking her poodle for a walk. None of them wanted to give their name for fear of reprisals.

'Separate world'
They all vehemently denied there was any racism in Aulnay but walking around the town's richer areas like Vieux Pays and especially Aulnay Sud, divided by the railway lines from the riot-hit areas, it is noticeable that there are far fewer black and Arabic faces. This overlap of ethnic, economic and physical divisions only makes it more difficult for the different groups who live in Aulnay to understand each other's problems and work together to solve them. One woman said that she used to live on the "hot" estates. "It's a different world over there - completely separate," she said. While most of the violence - except for the burning of the Renault showroom - has been taking place on the estates, the effects are being felt across the town. Some are now afraid to go out at night, while one man lost a day's work clearing out his garage so he could park his car there in case the trouble spreads. The woman walking her poodle said she was worried that the firefighters and ambulance drivers would be too busy having stones thrown at them as they tried to put out the fires to attend to other emergency calls. "I live opposite the police station and I haven't slept in the past week because of all the sirens," said another woman. Paul Coste, 52, who has lived in Aulnay all his life, had to drive around the town to find a cash machine which was still working after those near his house had been wrecked. His 84-year-old mother lives on the estates and is too afraid to go out on her own, so he was taking her shopping - once he managed to get hold of some money. "There could be war," he said. "If they come to burn my car, I'll be waiting with my gun." One of the solutions he wanted was to tighten immigration control, saying it was a shame that the rioters were born in France "or they could be sent back home, where they wouldn't be allowed to cause trouble like this".

Boost for Sarkozy?
Interior Minister's Nicolas Sarkozy has outraged many inhabitants of the estates by saying they should be "pressure-cleaned" of all the "rabble" who live there. But such comments may go down well with a part of the electorate ahead of the 2007 elections which are already dominating French politics. Mrs Jallon's husband, also a teacher, was not sure of the exact mathematical relationship between the numbers of cars burnt and votes for the right-wing but said the violence would definitely help candidates calling for tougher law-and-order and immigration policies. Some young rioters in Aulnay said the violence would continue until Mr Sarkorzy resigned for his insulting comments and what they see as racist policing. It could be that on the contrary, they are actually helping his election campaign.
© BBC News

4/11/2005- Walid was born in France and went to a French high school. He will show you his French driving license and even his French identity card. But ask him what his identity is and he will say "93." "Nine Three" - the two first two digits of the postal code spanning the roughest suburbs on Paris's northeastern fringe - stands for unemployment and endless rows of housing projects. It stands for chronically high crime rates, teenage gang wars and a large immigrant community. Since Oct. 27, when the accidental death of two teenagers set off nightly riots across the region, "93" also stands for angry youths burning hundreds of cars, setting fire to shops and attacking the police with anything from rocks to real bullets. Theirs is a defensive identity, an identity by default that has sprouted in a vacuum of any real sense of belonging. These youths may not be representative of the suburbs their nightly rage has catapulted into the headlines: Many fellow residents condemn the violence and yearn for a return to normality. But their anger at a system that has excluded them from jobs, opportunity and a sense of identity is widely shared. "The question of being French is irrelevant - what's in a piece of paper?" said Walid, 19, who is of Algerian descent, dismissively putting his identification card back into his jeans pocket. "I'm from the ghetto, I'm from 93, end of story."

In the northern housing projects of La Courneuve, a menacing place littered with burned-out cars and small groups of youths lingering in entrances, the frustration is palpable. Like Walid, whose parents came to France from southern Algeria in the 1960s and still have Algerian nationality, many young second- and third-generation immigrants here feel neither North African nor French. They have spent their whole life in France, but for their whole life they have felt trapped in a cultural no man's land: their experience in 21st-century France clashes with the traditions and history of their parents' countries - mostly former French colonies in Africa. Formal citizenship in France aside, they feel their North African names and their skin color still firmly set them apart. According to Mamadou, 24, who like most youths here declined to give his last name for fear, he said, of being pursued by the police, everyday reality in the suburbs belies the noble idea of equality before the law. "We are French, but we also feel like foreigners compared to the real French," said Mamadou, whose father came to France from Mali decades ago and married his mother, a French woman. Who, according to him, are the "real" French? The answer comes without hesitation and to vigorous nodding by a groups of his friends: "Those with white skin and blue eyes."

Tales of being treated as "second-class" citizens abound. Many youths feel targeted by a predominantly white police force that conducts regular checks in their neighborhood. As Walid put it bitterly: "If you are black or Arab, chances are you have something to hide." Leaving the afternoon prayer at a makeshift outdoor mosque, Hocine, 23, a soft-spoken young man of Algerian descent in religious attire, said he was resigned to never having his culture and his religion truly accepted in France. "How many times have I gone into Paris and have been shouted at 'Go home!" he said. "Home is here," he added. "But it doesn't really feel like home." Beyond racism and daily routines of hostility with the police, one complaint frequently repeated in interviews in several of the smoldering suburbs north of Paris is that none of the youths in question feel they are given a real chance to leave the ghetto. After quitting school early, Mamadou recently found a job in a supermarket in La Courneuve, one of the suburbs at the heart of the recent rioting, stacking boxes. But it took two years, scores of applications and several humiliating moments of being sent away after interviewers caught a glimpse of his African features. Near a tall wall of graffiti in La Courneuve, telling the government and police to stay away, a group of young men pass their Friday afternoon talking, laughing and occasionally shouting at passers-by. They all of Arab or African origin and they are all either unemployed or working in low-skilled maintenance jobs. "We are all janitors here," said one young man, who appeared to be the leader of the group. "It's our destiny."

The man, who would only identify himself as Awax, said looking Arab in France was more than just having darker skin: It was also a ticket to a societal pigeon hole from which there was no escape. "Looking Arab means you either spend all day at the mosque or you are criminal scum," he said. "People generalize all the time, but you can't. Nobody talks about white French people as Christian." In few places is the separation of religion and state as strict as it is in France, where all conspicuous religious garb like the Muslim head scarf is banned from schools. The law has intermittently prompted some Muslim groups to complain, and last year many cases of Muslim girls refusing to take their scarves off made headlines. While sociologists and immigration specialists say that the religiousness of immigrants is often exaggerated, they say it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. "Many of these guys are no more Muslim than other French people are practicing Christian," said Christophe Bertossi at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. "But if they are given no other identity the Muslim label risks becoming the thing they fall back on."
© International Herald Tribune

4/11/2005- Talk to people outside the Bilal mosque in this rundown suburb north of Paris and they will tell you what has gone wrong: why rioters for the past week have confronted the police in overnight bursts of anger in the streets, torching cars, hurling rocks and even firing bullets in the worst civil disobedience in France in more than a decade. Beyond the poverty and despair of life in the shoddy immigrant communities ringing the shining French capital, local Muslims say, there is no one left with any sway over the rioting youths. Parents, the police and the government have all lost touch, they say. On Thursday, after rioters disregarded an appeal for calm by President Jacques Chirac, firing bullets at the police for the first time as the rioting spread for a seventh consecutive night, the government held emergency meetings throughout the day. But despite Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's vow that "law and order will have the last word," the police were bracing for more violence as night fell.

In Clichy-sous-Bois on Thursday afternoon, outside the entrance of the Bilal mosque - a converted warehouse where a tear-gas grenade landed on Sunday, stoking fury against the police - celebrations of the end of the monthlong Ramadan fast were overshadowed by the widening disturbances. Opinions about the riots among people gathered at the mosque differed, but everyone from the deputy imam to local council workers and men leaving the midday prayer agreed that the trouble has been compounded by a vacuum of moral authority. "If you want authority over these kids you need their respect - but all the normal channels of authority lost their respect a long time ago," said Ali Aouad, 42, who has lived in this northeastern town for two decades. "They feel neglected by the government, and the police just provoke them." Even the government's minister of equal opportunity, Azouz Begag, who himself grew up in an immigrant household outside Lyon, carries no authority here, residents said. "Where has he been? He is representative of nothing and nobody," said a young man of Algerian descent, who identified himself only as H2B. "He has done nothing for us and now he is trying to compensate by criticizing Sarkozy," the French interior minister, "but it's too late."

The crisis has penetrated the top level of the French government, where Nicolas Sarkozy and Villepin, the two most senior ministers, are sparring over how to deal with the violence and have both come under fire for failing to bring the violence under control. The trouble erupted in Clichy-sous-Bois on Oct. 27 after two teenagers, apparently thinking they were being pursued by the police, fled and were electrocuted when they hid in an electrical transformer. The disturbances have since spread to at least 20 neighboring towns. In the early hours of Thursday, rioters torched 315 cars, burned a car dealership and a local supermarket, and attacked two commuter trains, the police said. Nine people were wounded. But as appeals for calm by the government fell on deaf ears and a heavy police presence across the northern suburbs only appeared to provoke more violence, a number of local organizations seem to have quietly taken on the task of cooling tempers.

Abderamane Bouhout, president of the cultural organization that manages Bilal mosque, mobilized small groups of young believers during recent rioting to go between the rioters and the police and urge the disaffected youths to express their anger in nonviolent ways. Aouad, who witnessed one such intervention on Monday night not far from the mosque, said it was impressively effective. "It worked," he said. "They went right between the two sides and a lot of the kids listened to them. The damage the next day was a lot less serious than the previous nights." At the local city hall, Lamya Monkachi says the role of religious personalities along with that of young locals recruited from the suburbs to mediate for the city authorities has been key to reducing the violence in Clichy-sous-Bois in the past two days, even as it intensified in other suburbs. "What helped us here in Clichy to calm nerves was that we work a lot with people who know the local youths and speak their language," she said.

There are eight Muslim organizations in Clichy alone that have been mobilized to participate in starting a dialogue with the rioters. In addition, a group of youths, working closely with city hall, have formed an association in response to the riots last week called Beyond Words. Their representatives - young North African men dressed in white T-shirts with the names of the two dead teenagers printed on the back and the words "Dead for Nothing" on the front - have campaigned for peaceful dialogue. But, says Marilou Jampolsky of SOS Racisme, a non-governmental organization fighting discrimination, the current government has made such informal mediation efforts more difficult by cutting back public funding for them. "The number of neighborhood organizations that organize sports, help with school work and just generally check up on these kids has significantly declined since this government came to power" in 2002, she said. SOS Racisme, which also has local branches in suburbs, has lost half its money, she said.

One of the most prominent young mediators is Samir Mihi, 28, who has become an informal spokesman for the various groups that have stepped in to calm the violence and mediated between the rioters and the government. According to Mihi, who grew up in Clichy, the key ingredient for restoring peace in this and other suburbs is to build relationships with the local youths and give them the feeling that their concerns are being heard. "If they listen to us it is because we give them what they most want: respect," said Mihi, who organizes sports activities for teenagers at city hall. "If you respect them, they respect you." One reason politicians fail to make themselves heard in the suburbs is that successive governments have failed to tackle disproportionately high unemployment and crime rates in the suburban housing projects, leaving youth with few opportunities. That feeling of exclusion is exacerbated by a lack of political representatives of North African origin and other role models, Mihi said. The lack of moral authority is perhaps most flagrant with the police, locals said, because the interaction between officers and residents is often reduced to frequent and random identity checks that are perceived to be humiliating in the mainly North African communities in the suburbs. At the local market, Muhammad, 24, who declined to give his last name, said such checks sometimes happen even outside his own apartment. He recounted how the police stopped him as he was walking home the night before. "They grabbed me and touched my hood to see if it was hot or sweaty," he said, describing what he called a regular practice. "If you're caught with a sweaty hood, it means you've been running and that you have probably committed a crime." Meanwhile, the parents of the teenagers in question lack authority because poverty has often made family life more difficult, says Jampolsky. Neither do they share the quest for identity so prevalent among the younger generation.
© International Herald Tribune

Germany's incoming grand coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats plans to pay more attention to the integration of immigrants as a result of the ongoing violence in neighboring France.

8/11/2005- Both parties -- currently in the middle of fine-tuning their coalition treaty that is expected to be completed this week -- want to place more emphasis on integration, Volker Kauder, the secretary general of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told reporters without giving any further details about concrete plans. German politicians meanwhile called on people not to overreact while viewing the riots as a clear warning sign. "We also have areas with a high percentage of foreigners who withdraw more and more from the rest of society," incoming Interior Minister Wolfgang Schšuble (CDU) told Bild tabloid. "We have to improve integration, especially that of young people." Others such as CDU parliamentarian Hermann GrŲhe, said that Germans had sometimes been too tolerant in the past. "If our society has not been interested or kept quiet about female circumcision and forced marriages in parallel societies, about people -- almost always women -- getting murdered because the family's honor requires it, that has nothing to do with respecting other cultures," GrŲhe told German public broadcaster RBB. "It's rather a shameful lack of respect for the victims of inhumane traditions."

Violence subsides a little in France
In France, meanwhile, police said Tuesday that 1,173 vehicles were burnt and 330 people arrested overnight as France experienced its 12th straight night of urban violence. Twelve police officers were lightly hurt, mainly by thrown projectiles. Some officers were the target for people firing buckshot, though none was hit. A dozen buildings were hit by arsonists. The number of vehicles torched and arrests made were slightly lower than for the previous night, possibly signaling a tapering off of the unrest that has raged since Oct. 27. Overnight Sunday, more than 1,400 automobiles were gutted by flames and 395 people were detained. President Jacques Chirac was to hold a cabinet meeting Tuesday which was to give regional authorities the power to impose curfews if necessary to restore public order.

Curfew law first used in Algeria
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said late Monday he was invoking a 60-year-old law first brought in as an unsuccessful attempt to quell an insurrection in Algeria, at a time when the north African country was a French colony. Villepin, speaking on national television, said regional authorities would be given the power to impose curfews "where necessary." The measure -- effectively a state of emergency for areas around cities and towns -- would ban night time movements of people and vehicles and allow police to set up roadblocks around certain zones. Government ministers were to adopt the measure by decree in the cabinet meeting early Tuesday and it would be applicable from Wednesday, Villepin said. The prime minister ruled out an army intervention to stop the violence, but said that 1,500 police and gendarme reservists would be deployed as reinforcements for 8,000 officers already on the ground.
© Deutsche Welle

France is facing the worst racial unrest in decades. Could the same happen in Germany, home to a large immigrant population which has been spared violence so far? Experts are skeptical.

4/11/2005- In a ninth night of rioting which saw violence spread to towns beyond the French capital, rioters torched hundreds of vehicles in impoverished suburbs of northeastern Paris as France grappled with the worst race riots in decades that have made headlines around the world. Amid the charred wreckage and mounting anger over what is seen as the government's slow response, many in France are trying to come up with an explanation. Those allegedly responsible -- groups of young Muslim men of largely North African and black African origin -- have said that they are protesting economic misery, racial discrimination and provocative policing. But while some blame the government's recent hardline law-and-order policies, others see the root of the problem in broken promises by the French government to its immigrant communities: The French integration model insists that all citizens are equal before the state, but some say cultural minorities are being left without a voice. In Germany, on the other hand, immigrants have so far lacked any sense of entitlement. Unlike France, Britain or the Netherlands, Berlin has only recently opened up citizenship and loosened naturalization laws. Some say this might be one of the reasons why similar riots have not taken place in Germany so far. The country is home to Europe's second-largest Muslim population -- an estimated 3.7 million -- after France and has a two-million-strong Turkish minority. The only thing in Germany that even comes close to the kind of violence raging in France currently, is the traditional Labor Day demonstration in Berlin that often ends in cars being set ablaze and clashes between the police and youth.

"Immigrants feel like guests"
"Immigrants (in Germany) still feel like guests," said Ruud Koopmans, a sociology professor at Amsterdam's Vrije Universiteit, who previously worked at Berlin's Center for Social Research. "Turks still see themselves to a large extent as Turks and not Germans. Only once they start seeing themselves as (citizens), they start making demands on the society in which they live." Koopmans added that violence among immigrants in Germany is actually more common than in France, but still tends to be related to conflicts in their countries of origins. He named aggression between Turks and Kurds and between different ethnic groups from the former Yugoslavia as examples. "In France, you find almost no political violence that is related to homeland violence," Koopmans said, adding that he expects the situation in Germany to change as more immigrants start to feel like citizens of Germany. "Only then will they start making demands and there will be an increase in the kind of conflicts that you seen in France," he said.

No immigrant ghettos
Others disagreed, saying that since immigrant ghettos like the ones in France, Britain or the Netherlands didn't exist in Germany, riots were less likely to happen. "We don't have these closed clusters of immigrants," said Klaus J. Bade, who directs the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies at OsnabrŁck University. Immigrant-dominated neighborhoods such as Berlin's Kreuzberg and NeukŲlln are undoubtedly social hot spots, but Bade pointed out that they were still far from being ghettos. "I don't see any parallel societies developing there," Bade said. "These are relatively mixed areas." But he added that Germans had to realize that they would have to shoulder major costs in the long run if they do not improve existing integration programs. Bade said Germany should set up a three-tier system of intergration: Helping those willing to come to Germany learn the language before they arrive, supporting them once they've immigrated and looking after those who have failed to get on their feet once they're in the country. "That costs a lot of money, but if we don't do it, we'll pay for it dearly in the long run," he said.
© Deutsche Welle

Days of rioting in the bleaker suburbs of Paris have highlighted discontent among many French youths of North African origin.
As part of a series on French Muslims, the BBC News website's Henri Astier looks at the issue of discrimination, a leading source of frustration in France's unemployment-riddled ghettos.

2/11/2005- Sadek recently quit his job delivering groceries near Saint-Denis, just north of Paris. He was tired of climbing stairs with heavy bags. Sadek, 31, has a secondary school education and aspires to something better. But he knows his options are limited: "With a name like mine, I can't have a sales job." Telemarketing could be a possibility - his Arab roots safely hidden from view. Of course, he would have to work under an assumed name. Sadek's story sums up the job prospects of the children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants. They may be French on paper - but they know that Ali and Rachid are much less likely to get ahead than Alain or Richard. racial discrimination is banned in France. But a quick look at the people working in any shop or office suggests the practice is widespread. The impression is confirmed by official statistics. Unemployment among people of French origin is 9.2%. Among those of foreign origin, the figure is 14% - even after adjusting for educational qualifications.

Closed doors
The pressure group SOS Racisme regularly highlights cases of employers discarding applicants with foreign names. It says such discrimination is particularly rife in the retail and hospitality industries - but also for jobs involving no contact with the public. "Some companies believe that to be responsible for marketing you must have roots in mainland France over several generations to understand the French consumer attitudes," according to a recent SOS Racisme report. "Doors are closed when you are an Arab," says Yazid Sabeg, a businessman and writer. For many young people, the first time they notice the closed door is when they try to go clubbing. "The first time the guy at the entrance says: 'You're not coming in', you accept it," says Nadir Dendoune, a journalist from Saint-Denis. "But after two or three times, you go home carrying a bag of hatred on your shoulders." And when you can't find a job, Mr Dendoune adds, despondency turns to paranoia. "Every rejection - even those that may not be racially motivated - undermines your self-confidence. You feel you will never make it because you are Arab."

Failed approach
France has countless bodies dedicated to helping immigrants - a High Council for Integration, a Directorate for Populations and Migrations, several regional commissions for the insertion of immigrants, and so on. Despite this, France's integration policy has failed, the Court of Accounts, a government watchdog, concluded last year. The situation could lead to "serious social and racial tensions", the court warned prophetically. According to some, the concept of "integration" itself is flawed. "People always talk of the need to 'integrate' Muslims. But the youths are French. Why should they need integrating?" asks Samia Amara, 23, a youth worker near Paris. Mr Sabeg agrees that "integration" is just hot air. "What does it mean? Are some French people supposed to integrate and others to be integrated?" Some politicians argue that France should admit this failure and try something new. Manuel Valls, an MP and mayor of Evry, a town south of Paris where half the population have foreign roots, says France "cannot lecture Britain or the US" on immigration issues. His country, he points out, has no black or Arab TV presenters, and all MPs from mainland France are white. Mr Valls is a firm believer in "positive discrimination" - a very un-French concept that is beginning to gain acceptance. The broad idea is extra help based on geographical and social - but not racial - criteria. Mr Valls points to an example of such action in his own constituency. The Lycee Robert Doisneau is a secondary school surrounded by some of the country's worst housing estates, with unemployment in excess of 30%. About 70% of pupils have foreign parents or grandparents. Despite such a challenging intake, the school offers a way out of the ghetto. "The students come here to study and to succeed," says head teacher Genevieve Piniau. She has pioneered partnerships with elite schools, whose high-fliers groom local pupils to develop their aspirations. The school also takes part in a scheme run by Paris' Political Sciences Institute, providing special access for students from deprived areas. The result is 89% success in school leaving exams - well above the national average - and a record of success at university level for former students.

Distant dream
Of course, youths from poor suburbs need more than an education - they need jobs. Efforts are being made to encourage employers to take them on. Unlike the failed legislative approach, the emphasis is now on voluntary pledges by employers. Mr Sabeg is among the sponsors of a new "diversity charter" encouraging companies to "reflect the diversity of French society" by hiring qualified non-whites. It remains to be seen how this will be implemented. Mr Sabeg is looking across the Channel for inspiration, noting that the head of Vodafone, one of Europe's largest companies, is an Indian, Arun Sarin. "When this happens here, we will know France has changed," he says. Meanwhile in Saint-Denis, Sadek would settle for a temp job at the post office - but that remains a distant dream.

Unemployment woes
9.2% unemployment rate for people of French origin
14% unemployment for people of foreign origin (adjusted for education)
5% overall unemployment for university graduates
26.5% unemployment for "North African" university graduates
Source: Insee
© BBC News

Rioting in a Paris suburb has highlighted discontent among French youths of foreign origin, many of whom define themselves through Islam. As part of a series on French Muslims, the BBC News website's Henri Astier reports on the impact of the headscarf ban.

1/11/2005- Every morning headteacher Genevieve Piniau stands guard at the gate of the Lycee Robert Doisneau in Corbeil-Essonnes near Paris. She is there to ensure no rules are broken, including a ban on Muslim headscarves and other "conspicuous" religious symbols in French state schools. Dozens of girls duly take off their hijabs as they approach the gate. But when one student tries to sneak past Ms Piniau with hers still on, the headteacher immediately spots her: "Off with it!" Despite this rare incident, Ms Piniau says the ban is now widely accepted. The collective baring of heads at the school gate testifies to that. However the acceptance is often grudging. Asma Boubker, 16, says she feels targeted as a Muslim: "Christians have crucifixes, why can't we have headscarves?" But other Muslim girls support the ban. "Some teachers would not see beyond the scarf and judge us - it's best if we have to take it off," says Siham, 15. Rama Kourouma, 18, agrees that religion should not be advertised in schools. "Faith is in the heart," she smiles.

The compliant students of Lycee Robert Doisneau are no exception. "All conspicuous religious signs have gone," says Marie-Louise Testenoire, the top education official for the Essonne department - which includes Corbeil-Essonne and other areas with large Muslim communities. This development is remarkable given the controversy that surrounded the introduction of the ban last year. French Muslims marched against a move that many condemned as intolerant. Many pointed out that the bill reversed court decisions that had allowed students to wear religious signs, as long as they did not amount to "proselytising". The first blow to the anti-ban campaign came in August last year - ironically at the hand of militants who abducted two French reporters in Iraq, demanding the law should be withdrawn. Protests died down, as French Muslims refused to be associated with the hostage-takers. But the key to the ban's success has been its enduring popularity. All political parties endorsed it. And a recent Pew think-tank survey indicated that secularist France was the country where restrictions on religion symbols had the strongest support - a full 75% backed the school ban.

Soft approach
At Robert Doisneau, Ms Piniau says that during the last academic year she secured co-operation through discussion, rather than discipline. Even at the height of the controversy in early 2004, when 30 girls defiantly came to school with headscarves, she never expelled anyone. "I took them into my office and explained to them what secularism meant," Ms Piniau recalls. "I said I had the deepest respect for their faith, but I did not want to know what their religion was - any more than I wanted them to know what mine was." The message was accepted by all but one of the girls - most of whom, according to Ms Piniau, had been pressured by relatives. The clearest sign that the 2004 law is now accepted is that no Muslim group is fighting for its repeal - not even the Organisation of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF), which is closest to grass-roots opinion in the country's poorer suburbs. "The law is unfair to Muslims, but we've put it behind us," said Rachid Hamoudi, the UOIF director of a big mosque in Lille, northern France. The building also houses one of France's Muslim schools, the Lycee Averroes, which Mr Hamoudi offers as "an alternative for those who want to wear a veil".

Lingering tensions
But the wide acceptance of the ban does not mean the scarf issue has been settled once and for all. It remains contentious, not so much for the French Muslim community as a whole - which includes many secularists - but for youngsters with North African roots who have found a sense of identity through religion. To get an idea of the lingering tensions, it is worth looking at what happens to these young Muslims beyond secondary school. At university level, the law on religious signs does not apply. Nevertheless Teycir ben Naser, a second-year student at Creteil University near Paris, has opted for a discreet bandana. The 19-year-old feels the headscarf she wears off campus could become a liability during oral exams. Not that it would influence examiners, she says, but "they might say things or look at me in a certain way, and that would undermine my confidence".

Veiled ambition
The main challenge, however, will come after university. "We are studying to be able to work later," Ms ben Naser says. "And we all we know that if you wear a veil all the doors will close." She says her mother, who has a PhD in philosophy and wears a headscarf, does not have a job as a result. Sonia Benyahia, a student who wears a headscarf on campus and wants to be a schoolteacher, fears her future could be equally blocked. "I don't know if I'll be able to take off the scarf, so I think I'll remain a housewife," she says. Ambitious Muslim women will no doubt enter the French workforce in the coming years. But many will have to choose between their careers and wearing their religion proudly.
© BBC News

Rioting by youths in a Paris suburb has highlighted the discontent among sections of France's immigrant population. The BBC News website's Henri Astier explores the sense of alienation felt by many French Muslims.

31/10/2005- When Nadir Dendoune was growing up in the 1980s, his home town of L'Ile Saint-Denis, north of Paris, was a fairly diverse place. "We were all poor, but there were French people, East Europeans, as well as blacks and Arabs," says Mr Dendoune, 33, an author and something of a celebrity in his estate. Two decades on, the complexion of the place has changed. "On my class photos more than half the kids were white," he says. "On today's pictures only one or two are." L'Ile St-Denis is among the "suburbs" around French cities where immigrants, notably from former North African colonies, have been housed since the 1960s. Blighted by bad schools and endemic unemployment, the suburbs are hard to escape. The immigrants' children and grandchildren are still stuck there - an angry underclass that is increasingly identified through religion. Ten years ago these youths were seen as French "Arabs". Now most are commonly referred to, and define themselves, as "Muslims".

Many countries have ethnic and religious enclaves. But in France they cause particular alarm, for three reasons. First, they are not supposed to exist in a nation that views itself as indivisible, and able to assimilate its diverse components. Separatism, the French are told, is a plague afflicting the Anglo-Saxon multicultural model. The government bans official statistics based on ethnicity or religion. As a result, no one knows exactly how many Muslims live in the country - at least five million is the best guess. Ghettos also threaten another tenet of French identity - secularism. As the country celebrates the centenary of the separation of Church and State, Islam is seen as the biggest challenge to the country's secular model in the past 100 years. Thirdly, the worldwide rise of Islamic militancy strikes fear in the heart of a country that is home to Europe's biggest Muslim community. French police know that there is no shortage of potential jihadis in the country. The assertiveness of French Islam is seen as a threat not just to the values of the republic, but to its very security.

A different view
Is such alarm justified? The view from the suburbs invites a nuanced, and ultimately sanguine, assessment. Some groups do advocate cultural separation for Muslims - but they do not speak for many. Far more common is the attitude of Nour-eddine Skiker, a youth worker near Paris: "I feel completely French. I will do everything for this country, which is mine." Mr Skiker's Moroccan origins mean a lot to him. But, like many youths in the suburbs, he sees no contradiction between being French and having foreign roots. The main problem is that many French people do, says writer Nadir Dendoune. "How am I supposed to feel French when people always describe me as a Frenchman of Algerian origin? I was born here. I am French. How many generations does it take to stop mentioning my origin?" And crucially, the suburbs are full of people desperate to integrate into the wider society. "I do not know a single youth in my estate who does not want to leave," Mr Dendoune says. France's Muslim ghettos, in short, are not hotbeds of separatism. Neither do they represent a clear challenge to secularism - a doctrine all national Muslim groups profess to support. "We have no problem with secularism," says Lhaj Thami Breze, president of the Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF). He argues that by establishing state neutrality in religious matters, the doctrine allows all religions to blossom. Islam has adapted to local laws - from Indonesia to Senegal - and is adapting to France, says Azzedine Gaci, who heads the regional Muslim council in Lyon. This is not just the leaders' view. A 2004 poll suggested that 68% of French regarded the separation of religion and state as "important", and 93% felt the same about republican values.

Suspicious minds
All observers agree that jihadism does pose a direct threat to the country. The fact that - in France as elsewhere - the militants speak for a tiny minority of Muslims does not make the threat less severe. But as Islam expert Olivier Roy notes, bombers should not be seen as the vanguard of the Muslim people. Jihadis everywhere, he says, are rebelling both against the West and their own community. The great majority of Muslims resent the extremists in their midst - although many in France do not recognise this. Yazid Sabeg, an industrialist and writer, says the French have "a real problem" with both Arabs and Islam and equate both with extremism. The most worrying aspect of the separation between French Muslims and the rest of society is that it breeds suspicion on both sides. "We must tell youths that France does not want to hold them down," says Rachid Hamoudi, director of the Lille mosque in northern France. "We must ensure that the community trusts its country, and vice-versa. If you get to know me, you will get to trust me. If I get to know you, I will trust you."

French Islam
Second largest religion
Five million Muslims (estimate)
35% Algerian origin (estimate)
25% Moroccan origin (estimate)
10% Tunisian origin (estimate)
Concentrated in poor suburbs of Paris, Lille, Lyon, Marseille and other cities
© BBC News

France's Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to step up security after violence flared for a fourth night in a Paris suburb.
31/10/2005- Six policemen were hurt and 11 people arrested in the latest clashes with youths in Clichy-sous-Bois, although it was calmer than on previous nights. Police said somebody not yet identified had fired tear gas into a mosque. Mr Sarkozy met police in Clichy, but the parents of two youths whose deaths sparked the riots refused to meet him. On Saturday, hundreds of mourners paid homage to the teenagers by holding a peaceful procession in the north-eastern suburb, which has a large immigrant population. The authorities have denied rumours that policemen were chasing the two boys, who were electrocuted on Thursday after entering an electricity sub-station. Flowers now lie near the spot where Ziad, aged 17, and Banou, 15, died. An official investigation into the boys' deaths is under way. A third young man is seriously ill in hospital. The BBC's Alasdair Sandford in Paris says many in the suburb do not believe the authorities' account that the two boys were not being chased by police. Mr Sarkozy has promised to send special police units into difficult suburbs around France to stamp out violence. Residents will be given "the security they have a right to", he said while speaking to senior police officers in Clichy. He promised to find out who had hurled one or more tear gas canisters into a mosque on Sunday night, but added "that does not mean that it was fired by a police officer". Rumours that the tear gas was thrown by the police into a place of worship fuelled the unrest. Mr Sarkozy also met the president of the Muslim community in the Clichy area. Local people in Clichy have accused Mr Sarkozy of heightening tensions by using inflammatory language. During Saturday's march in memory of the dead teenagers, there were calls for the government to tackle discrimination against immigrant communities such as theirs. Mr Sarkozy told police on Monday that "for 30 years the situation has been getting worse in a number of neighbourhoods". "It's not a story that's three days, three weeks or three months old," he said.
© BBC News

Violence has flared for a fourth night in a north-east Paris suburb, but not on the same scale as before.

31/10/2005- Six policemen were injured and 11 people arrested in the latest confrontations between angry youths and police in Clichy-sous-Bois. Police said one or more teargas canisters were hurled into a mosque from an unidentified source. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is to meet the parents of two teenagers whose deaths sparked the riots. Saturday saw hundreds of mourners pay homage to the teenagers by holding a peaceful procession in Clichy-sous-Bois, which has a large immigrant population. The authorities denied rumours that policemen were chasing the two boys who were electrocuted on Thursday after entering an electricity sub-station. Flowers now lie near the spot where Ziad, aged 17, and Banou, 15, died. An official investigation into the boys' deaths is under way. A third young man is seriously ill in hospital. The BBC's Alasdair Sandford in Paris says many in the suburb do not believe the authorities' account that the two boys were not being chased by police. Mr Sarkozy has promised to send special police units into difficult suburbs around France to stamp out violence. But local people in Clichy accuse him of heightening the tensions with inflammatory language. During Saturday's march in memory of the dead teenagers, there were calls for the government to tackle discrimination against immigrant communities such as theirs.
© BBC News

A day after the World Health Organization published a report revealing that domestic violence is a global problem, the world marks White Ribbon Day, or the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

25/11/2005- Thursday saw the publication of a report by the World Health Organization based on surveys of 24,000 women in 10 countries showing one in six women have suffered from domestic violence. The first-ever global study on gender violence was conducted by the World Health Organization in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Path, a global health organization. Former United Nations commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson hailed it as a seminal document. "We don't actually know, unless we have studies like this, how serious and pervasive violence by intimate partners really is," she said. "For the first time, this study has used consistent means to measure violence across countries, so that we can now reasonably compare."

The unforgettable butterflies
Its publication tied in with International Day of Violence Against Women, a date that commemorates the lives of the three Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic, who became known as the Inolvidables Mariposas (unforgettable butterflies). In 1960, during the Trujillo dictatorship, they were murdered for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government. Their story was claimed by feminists and catapulted into the public consciousness in the early 1980s. Then, in 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Since then, Nov. 25 has become a day of a global recognition of gender-based violence and the victimization of women, from domestic battery, rape and sexual harassment, to state violence including torture and abuses of women political prisoners.

A global issue
According to estimates, one in five women in Germany suffer physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner. Domestic violence happens at all levels of society, and takes a number of forms, pointed out Claudia Schrimpf, president of the association "Women Helping Women" and director of the Autonomous Women's Refuge in Cologne. "The definition of 'violence' can be very broad," she said. "Women who come to us are not necessarily just being beaten, they're being isolated, refused money, kept at home. Intimidation can be psychological as well as physical." Most of Germany's women's refuges are funded by churches and private associations. They serve as a safe haven for battered women who often have no money and no network of support. And they're all fleeing violent partners.

Anonymity guararanteed
"Whatever religion women are, wherever they come from, we'll take in all women seeking help," said Sylvia Arndt, who is in charge of a women's refuge that takes in mainly immigrant women. "They have to be over 18, and they have to be homeless." The refuges tend to be completely cut off from the outside world. "The women have to get in touch with us," explained Schrimpf. "We advertise our phone number, but not our address."We arrange a meeting place with the women, which will usually be close by. We don't reveal the address until the last minute to minimize the risk of their partners locating us. The women telephones us from their arranged meeting place and we send one of our staff out to pick her up." As well as providing protected accommodation, the refuge helps put women in touch with lawyers. And according to the Autonomous Women's Refuge, 80 percent of the women who arrive as victims of domestic violence succeed in building a new life for themselves.
© Deutsche Welle

25/11/2005- Austrian authorities have refused bail for British historian David Irving, who is facing Holocaust denial charges. Mr Irving, 67, was arrested on 11 November in connection with two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989. Mr Irving's lawyer has said the historian now no longer denies that gas chambers existed in Nazi death camps. Mr Irving can appeal against the charges under Austrian law. No trial date has been set yet. He could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty. A court in Vienna ruled on Friday that Mr Irving must stay in custody as there was a risk he could abscond. His lawyer Elmar Kresbach had offered to post bail. Mr Irving is accused of having denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz in two speeches he made in Vienna and Leoben in 1989. Mr Irving sued US historian Deborah Lipstadt in London in 2000 for labelling him a Holocaust denier. He lost in a comprehensive verdict. Despite the mortal blow to his reputation in 2000, he remains a showman and may well relish the opportunity to grandstand before a wider audience if put on trial, BBC legal affairs analyst Jon Silverman says. In his books, Mr Irving has argued that the scale of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis in World War II has been exaggerated. He has also claimed that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler knew nothing of the Holocaust. Mr Irving was previously arrested in Austria in 1984.
© BBC News

25/11/2005- British historian David Irving now acknowledges that Nazi gas chambers existed but admits that some of his past statements could be interpreted as denying people were gassed, his lawyer said yesterday, on the eve of a court hearing. Prosecutors this week charged Irving, 67, under an Austrian law that makes denying the Holocaust a crime. The charges stem from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he allegedly denied the existence of the chambers. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Irving's attorney, Elmar Kresbach, said yesterday the historian has told him he now believes that Nazi gas chambers existed. "He changed some of the views he is so famous for," Kresbach said. "He told me: 'Look, there was a certain period when I drew conclusions from individual sources which are maybe provocative or could be misinterpreted or could be even wrong."' He said additional research Irving carried out after Soviet archives were opened to scholars persuaded him that his former beliefs were "not really worthwhile to hold up," Kresbach said. Irving's new position was met with skepticism from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which works to track down former Nazis before they die. It "is an admission designed to extricate himself from imprisonment and in no way truly reflects his views," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Los Angeles-based center. Zuroff said Irving has simply learned from previous legal battles and was "trying to minimize the danger." Austrian law does not allow Irving to be interviewed while in custody. In the past, Irving has claimed that Adolf Hitler knew nothing about the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews, and has been quoted as saying there was "not one shred of evidence" the Nazis carried out their "Final Solution" to exterminate the Jewish population on such a massive scale. He is the author of nearly 30 books, including "Hitler's War," which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.
© Associated Press

23/11/2005- A huge stage and soup kitchens were set up in downtown Kiev this week to make the city’s central square look the way it did a year ago. Part of official festivities as Ukraine marks the anniversary of the “Orange Revolution,” the props are intended to remind Ukrainians of the days when tens of thousands of them braved freezing temperatures in a two-week protest over rigged presidential elections in which Viktor Yuschenko was deprived of victory. Wearing orange, the color of Yuschenko’s campaign, the protesters helped force new elections that brought him to power. But a year later, the official celebrations are doing little to improve the mood of most Ukrainians — including Jews — who now believe the revolution made little difference in their lives. Regardless of whom they backed in last year’s elections, local Jews today seem to agree that Yuschenko’s government has not shown enough political will or ability to implement economic and political reforms and combat anti-Semitism. This has been a year of “grand but useless declarations,” sighed Yevsey Kotlyar, 70, a Kiev retiree, as he visited a Kiev Jewish community center one recent morning. “How can I trust this government if it only makes declarations?”

Yuschenko’s rise to power was built on promises of rapid economic improvement and measures to root out corruption that permeated Ukraine under his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma. But in September Yuschenko fired his own government in response to allegations of corruption in his inner circle. On the economic front, his government has been blamed for scaring off investors and prompting an increase in food and gas prices. A year ago, the country’s estimated 250,000 to 450,000 Jews, like other Ukrainians, found themselves split between supporters and opponents of the Orange Revolution. Today people from both camps seem to share the disappointment over the lack of achievement in Yuschenko’s first year. Yet some still believe the revolution was the right thing for Ukraine. Reaction in the Jewish community is mixed, said Rabbi Azriel Haikin, one of Ukraine’s three chief rabbis. “Some Jews say it’s too early and we should give the government more time, but others say that the government has no direction,” he said. “It would be wrong to talk about the failure of the Orange Revolution,” said Georgy Tseitlin, a professor from Kiev. It’s quite normal in human history “when a revolution devours its own children,” he added, referring to the failure of Yuschenko’s first Cabinet, which was replaced this fall by a more moderate government of technocrats.

To Yuschenko’s credit, many agree that Ukraine has more free speech and other political freedoms as a result of the Orange Revolution. Some in Washington believe so as well. Over the weekend, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to graduate Ukraine from the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment, a piece of Soviet-era legislation that linked trade with the United States to a country’s willingness to let Jews emigrate. The sour mood of Ukrainians, including Jews, stems from the country’s lack of economic progress. Yuschenko promised to introduce liberal economic reforms, but the country’s economic growth has slowed during his first year in office. The economy has grown by less than 4 percent this year, a drastic decline from last year’s 12 percent growth. “Revolution does not mean changes, but the beginning of changes,” said Aleksandr Pashver, a Jewish economic aide to Yuschenko, though he acknowledged that economic improvement has yet to occur. A government source told JTA on condition of anonymity that the current government “has lost the positive dynamic of the Orange Revolution. There are no deep positive changes, and probably the situation will become even worse” for the Ukrainian economy. U.S. philanthropist George Soros, long a supporter of post-Communist life in Eastern Europe, agreed. “Ukraine faces a very difficult transition from what might be called ‘robber capitalism’ to ‘legitimate capitalism,’ ” Soros said on a visit to Kiev earlier this month. At least the Jewish community feels as safe today as it did before the revolution. “There are no changes for the worse for the Jewish community,” said Mikhail Frenkel, head of the Association of Jewish Media in Ukraine.

But some believe Yuschenko should do more on this front as well. He has made several strongly worded statements against anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitic propaganda continues to emanate from MAUP, a business management school in Kiev that is believed to be the country’s largest private college but which also has become the major purveyor of anti-Semitic ideology and publications in Ukraine. “There is no strong reaction to xenophobia and anti-Semitism in the country,” Haikin said. Despite their disappointment in the results of the revolution, many Jews, like human-rights activist Mila Milner, still prefer Yuschenko to Kuchma. Yet Milner calls the past year “a year of wasted opportunities” for Yuschenko. “He failed to make use of the colossal degree of trust that Ukrainians had put into the Orange team,” she said.
© JTA News

Russia's lower house of parliament has backed in principle a bill that will give the state greater control over non-governmental organisations.

23/11/2005- In a 370-18 vote, the State Duma approved in the first reading the bill that would require all NGOs to re-register with a state commission. The bill's sponsors say the aim is to prevent money laundering and improve financial oversight. NGOs say it will significantly curb their activities. More than 1,000 NGOs have been urging the house to reject the bill. It is clear that the Kremlin is determined to crack down on politically-active NGOs who receive foreign money for fear they might help foment Ukraine's style Orange Revolution in Russia, the BBC's Emma Simpson reports from Moscow. The debate in the Duma comes just months after President Vladimir Putin announced that he would not allow foreign funding of political activities in Russia. Procedurally, the bill will have to go for further readings in the Duma and will require presidential signature to become law. Some 1,300 NGOs on Tuesday issued a statement said the bill "hinders the development of civil society" in Russia. The statement said that the proposed legislation would particularly target human rights organisations. Lawyers for the big foreign groups - like Human Rights Watch - believe international organisations will no longer be able to have branch offices in Russia, our correspondent says. Instead, they would have to register as independent Russian legal entities, a condition that many NGOs will find difficult to meet, she says. But the authors of the bill reject such criticism as unfounded, saying they simply want to extend checks standard for political parties to NGOs. "This is an absolutely fine and an absolutely sane law. All these cries from its opponents have no relation to the actual law because the law does nothing but establish order," MP Andrei Makarov told Reuters news agency. There are about 300,000 NGOs currently operating in Russia.
© BBC News

22/11/2005- Russia’s parliament should reject legislation that would tighten government control over Russian civil society groups and force foreign organizations in Russia to close, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper today. On Wednesday, November 23, the State Duma is scheduled to consider the draft law in first reading. The bill has been sponsored by all four factions in the Duma. If adopted, the law would have far-reaching consequences for Russia’s already severely weakened civil society. It would require all nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to re-register ahead of the upcoming national elections, would prohibit foreign NGOs from operating in the country, and would give the government wide discretion to interfere in the work of Russian NGOs. “This law signals a new chapter in the government’s crackdown on civil society institutions,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Now that the Kremlin has neutralized other checks and balances, NGOs remain among the last independent voices that can criticize the government and demand accountability in Russia.” In the new briefing paper, “Managing Civil Society: Are NGOs Next?” Human Rights Watch analyses how the Kremlin eliminated most independent media, destroyed regional elites as a political force, installed a pliant parliament, and undermined the independence of the judiciary. The draft law comes against the backdrop of these deliberate attempts to dismantle the system of checks and balances to President Vladimir Putin’s power. Although NGOs continued to operate relatively freely when Putin came to power, the government began to systematically harass NGOs that work on issues related to Chechnya after Putin lashed out against NGOs in his 2004 state-of-the-nation speech. Since then, officials have instituted spurious criminal charges against activists, threatened them, sought to close down NGOs or refused to register them, and intimidated victims who have spoken up. The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, for example, has been under sustained attack over the past year. In early November, the Nizhnii Novgorod Department of Justice unsuccessfully sought to close down the organization through the courts. Stanislav Dmitrievsky, the director of the organization, is on trial on charges of inciting hatred for publishing interviews with two Chechen rebel leaders, and faces a five-year prison term if found guilty. The tax inspectorate has claimed 1 million rubles (roughly US$35,000) in back taxes—a claim that the organization is contesting. The working environment for many other NGOs in Russia has deteriorated significantly with officials increasingly launching into angry tirades against them. For example, officials have repeatedly and vehemently attacked the Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers.

“The express purpose of this law is to emasculate the NGO community,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The State Duma should kill the bill.” The bill bars international organizations from having representative or branch offices in Russia. Such groups would have to re-register as local NGOs and be financially independent from their head offices. It would render them ineligible for most sources of foreign funding. The bill also prohibits anyone who is not a permanent resident of Russia from working at an NGO. Among the organizations threatened with closure are international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, think-tanks, foundations, social welfare and humanitarian aid organizations. Moreover, the bill drastically expands government oversight over local NGOs, giving the Justice Department the right to demand any financial and other papers from them at any time. In other countries, such as Uzbekistan, similar strictures have been used to harass NGOs on political grounds. Information from sources in the State Duma indicates that the bill has been fast-tracked. A joint second and third reading could be held on December 9, after which it would go to the Senate for approval. If approved, the bill could become law before the end of the year. “It is deeply worrying that such an important bill be rushed through the Duma without any meaningful public discussion,” said Cartner. “NGOs hardly have the opportunity to carefully consider it and put forward their objections.” Human Rights Watch called on the international community to take urgent steps to stop or, at least, delay passage of this legislation. It should make it clear to President Putin that enactment of this bill would have serious consequences for Russia’s standing in the international arena. “The international community needs to act immediately,” Cartner said. “The short timeline makes it critical that steps are taken now.” In its current form, the legislation violates numerous obligations under international law, including the rights to freedom of expression and association, and provisions prohibiting discrimination.
© Human Rights Watch

23/11/2005- A bill on nongovernmental organizations going before the State Duma on Wednesday would violate not only the Constitution but also international rights conventions by putting NGOs under state control, rights activists warned a day before the session. The bill would force all NGOs to reregister next year under tighter rules. The bill appears to have a good chance of passing, as it is sponsored by a group of deputies from all four Duma factions. "This situation is the hardest and the most acute in all the 15 years of existence of civil society in Russia," said Yury Dzhibladze, president of the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, at a news conference on Tuesday. The bill would prohibit convicts, suspects in money-laundering or terrorism cases and foreigners who have lived less than one year in Russia from founding NGOs, the bill's sponsors and rights activists have said. It would also prohibit foreign NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, from having branches in Russia, activists said. Thus, it would violate Article 20 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Dzhibladze said.
© The Moscow Times

20/11/2005- In a multinational, multifaith and unevenly populated country such as Russia, racial and religious intolerance can create a threat to territorial integrity. But more than anything else, such attitudes hurt the national economy. Demographic trends in Russia are very troubling. World Bank data indicate that the population will shrink from 144 million to 119 million by 2050. Raising the retirement age, a remedy being tried in some countries, will not help here, where work is heavy and people do not live that long. Russia clearly needs a steady flow of immigration, or work force shortages will slow economic growth. The World Bank estimates this need at 1 million immigrants per year, close to the figure of 1.1 million reached by the Center for Strategic Research of the Volga Federal District. This is three times the average annual immigration rate for the years 1989-2002. People will not come to Russia in these numbers by themselves: The country must stimulate the inflow through immigration policy. The countries of the former Soviet Union should be a natural source for Russia: They share a common language, similar educational standards and the experience of living together as one country. But Russia is not using these advantages. Draconian citizenship and migration laws, developed under the leadership of presidential adviser Viktor Ivanov, are a definite policy mistake. Strict procedures, bureaucratic red tape and corruption do not simply make the lives of potential immigrants more difficult, they drive them into the criminal-controlled, non-taxpaying gray economy. Lack of housing and labor market information plus the onerous institution of registration also hinder migration from depressed regions of Russia to faster-developing ones. The end result is that immigration flow is not simply decreasing, but a "negative selection" is at work: Qualified, educated and more easily assimilated residents of neighboring countries do not want to put up with the inhuman conditions in Russia, so they go elsewhere. Certain politicians are making the situation worse by playing on latent nationalism and fears of an immigrant rebellion like the one in France. These nationalists are distorting the French situation for their own ends. The uprising there was caused by high unemployment among immigrants and their isolation from the rest of society. Having a job, and especially being able to own a business -- these are the key factors in integrating immigrants into a host society. In Russia, lack of work is not a danger for immigrants. Why then are the Russian authorities so slow to correct their immigration policy and so reluctant to set strong sanctions against nationalist appeals? Their delay has a very high price.

This comment first appeared in longer form as an editorial in Vedomosti.
© The Moscow Times

22/11/2005- Mobilized by the local diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), thousands of residents of Maloyaroslavets (Kaluga region) have written the mayor's office in a successful bid to halt the planned construction of a mosque, according to a November 17, 2005 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. The local mayor says he has received between 5,000-10,000 letters of protest, along with collective letters from local factories, hospitals and even hair salons. “Half of our guys have gone through Chechnya,” the Mayor Vladimir Pechenkin explained. “People don't get drafted too often in Moscow, more and more [draftees] are from the provinces! And people fear mosques. They fear that the city will be filled with people from the Caucasus.” Showing a strong disregard for the law, the mayor said: “On the one hand, we have a law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations, but on the other hand we are obligated to listen to the opinions of our city residents.” He went on to express satisfaction with the fact that the construction has stopped. The local ROC diocese led the charge against the mosque construction. A local priest, Father Igor, was quoted as saying that Islam had become “aggressive” in recent years and quoted a Russian Islamic extremist (former “Pamyat” activist Geidar Dzhemal) as saying that: “In 50 years, the Islamic factor will dominate [Russia].” Pointing out that Orthodox attempts to build a church in Saudi Arabia would be blocked by the local population there, Father Igor asked rhetorically, “Are we somehow worse than the Arabs?” A local ROC parishioner was even more strident in denouncing the mosque construction, saying that: “Maloyaroslavets is a Russian city, the people here live in an Orthodox way, and it's up to us to decide which temples can be built and which cannot!”
Ironically, the Muslims who want to build the mosque are not primarily migrants from the Caucasus, but rather the local 900-strong Tatar community, which traces its roots in the city back to 1922. “We even have a Tatar cemetery here,” a local Tatar activist explained, adding that a decorated World War Two hero serves as the community's mullah, and a Tatar businessman born in the city is the primary sponsor. “We don't have any Wahhabis here! We even keep in touch with the FSB. They come to us regularly.” Therefore, he is amazed at the scope of the opposition: “We would understand it if migrants wanted to build a mosque… I never though that the Orthodox would go to such extremes. These leaflets and proclamations. Firecrackers have been thrown into our yard.” Local Pentecostals, who themselves often face demonization in other parts of Russia, tried to take a middle ground. One of their leaders was quoted as saying that a mosque should be built, but not near the entrance to the city, as originally planned.
© FSU Monitor

22/11/2005- Security officials here in Karachayevo-Cherkessia, a restive republic on Russia's mountainous southern border, have a secret list of people who are kept under scrutiny. Those on it have committed no crimes, but are considered suspect because they are Muslims who practice Islam outside of the state's sanctioned mosques. Ovod Golayev is on that list. He lives in Karachayevsk, a city nestled in the foothills of the Caucasus, where he works for a tourism company that organizes skiing and hiking excursions. He wears his hair and beard long. He prays five times a day. He fasts during Ramadan, which is unusual here. In recent weeks, he said, the police have detained him four times, twice in one day. Mr. Golayev, 36, said the Islam he observes is opposed to violence, but he warned that the mistreatment of believers was driving men like him to desperation. "They will pressure me enough," he said, "and then I will blow somebody's head off." Here in the northern Caucasus, and across all of Russia, Islamic faith is on the rise. So is Islamic militancy, and fear of such militancy, leading to tensions like those felt in Europe, where a flow of immigrants from the Muslim world is straining relations with liberal, secular societies. And so the government has recreated the Soviet-era system of control over religion with the Muslim Spiritual Department, which oversees the appointment of Islamic leaders. But the Muslims of Russia are not immigrants and outsiders; they are typically the indigenous people of their regions. "These are Russian citizens, and they have no other motherland," President Vladimir V. Putin said in August, when he met with King Abdullah of Jordan.

In Russia, the struggle over Islam's place is not seen as a question of whether to integrate Muslims into society, but whether the country itself can remain whole. The separatist conflict in Chechnya, more than a decade old, has taken on an Islamic hue. And it is spilling beyond Chechnya's borders in the Caucasus, where Islam has become a rallying force against corruption, brutality and poverty. On the morning of Oct. 13, scores of men took up arms in Nalchik, the capital of the neighboring republic, Kabardino-Balkariya. They were mostly driven, relatives said, by harassment against men with beards and women with head scarves, and by the closing of six mosques in the city. In two days at least 138 people were killed. In Dagestan and Ingushetia, militants have been blamed for unending bombings and killings. Followers of a Chechen terrorist leader, Shamil Basayev, have claimed responsibility for the deadliest attacks, including the one in Nalchik, and before that a similar raid in Ingushetia and the school siege in Beslan in September 2004. In Beslan, 331 people were killed, 186 of them children. All have been part of Mr. Basayev's declared goal to establish an Islamic caliphate, uniting the northern Caucasus in secession from Russia. That goal has little popular support in the region's other predominantly Muslim republics, but discontent is spreading as the government cracks down. Not all involved in the attacks are hardened fighters of Chechnya's wars. More and more oppose the hard-line stands that the Kremlin takes against anyone who challenges its central authority.

In places like Nalchik and here in Karachayevo-Cherkessia, "official" muftis and imams have themselves been accused of acting to preserve their own status by tolerating the Kremlin's efforts to repress anyone practicing a "purer" form of Islam. Larisa Dorogova, a lawyer in Nalchik whose nephew Musa was among those killed in the fighting, said Muslims had appealed to the authorities, both religious and secular, to end the abuse of believers, only to be ignored. "If they had listened to the letters we wrote - from 400 people, from 1,000 - maybe this would not have happened," she said. Officials have denounced those who took up arms in Nalchik with the same broad brush they have used to describe Mr. Basayev's forces. Mr. Putin linked the Nalchik uprising to international terrorists, whom he called "animals in human guise." But in the Caucasus, where Islamic-inspired violence has killed far more people than terrorists have in Western Europe, the prevailing view is quite different. "They were all good guys," Ms. Dorogova said of Nalchik's fighters. The paradox of Islam in today's Russia is that Muslims have never been freer. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of its repression of all faiths led to an Islamic revival in the past 14 years. Islam is officially recognized as one of Russia's four principal religions, along with Orthodox Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism. Russia has applied to join the Organization of Islamic States.

The number of Muslims is estimated at 14 million to 23 million, 10 percent to 16 percent of Russia's population. They are spread across the country but congregate in several Muslim-majority republics. Thousands of mosques have been rebuilt and reopened, as have madrasas, including one here in Cherkessk, where 66 young men and women learn the fundamentals of their faith. Among their teachers are four Egyptians. "We could pray on Red Square and no one would care," the imam of Cherkessk's mosque, Kazim Katchiyev, said after evening prayers recently. This tolerance, however, has been strained. Believers outside of the state's Muslim departments are increasingly viewed with suspicion because of the radicalization of Chechnya and other republics. They are denounced as Wahhabis, followers of the puritanical sect from Saudi Arabia, a word that has become Russian shorthand for any Islamic militant. There has also been a violent backlash. On Oct. 14, for example, a group of young men ransacked a prayer house in Sergiyev Posad, near Moscow, badly beating an imam. They shouted, "There is no place for Muslims in Russia," according to the Council of Muftis, which represents the spiritual departments in Russia. Mufti Ravil Gainutdin, the council's chairman, said the government needed to do more, complaining that state television routinely depicted Muslims collectively as radicals waging holy war against Russia, rather than as members of Russian society.

"If we educate Muslim children to be rebel fighters, ready to do battle, and meanwhile teach Russians to be against Muslims, then we do not have the right policy," he said. "And so the leadership of this country, the government, must see this and respond to this."
He warned that government policy in the Caucasus, and its failure to overcome deep social and economic problems, was pushing some to seek refuge in what he considers improperly radicalize forms of Islam. "If people see social injustice, corruption in the authorities, the unfair assumption of wealth among some and the impoverishment of others, then that is a cause of unhappiness, of a radicalization of moods, of something that leads to conflict and revolution." In Nalchik, many Muslims blamed the republic's former president, Valery Kokov, for the seething tensions that exploded in violence last month. His Interior Ministry had responded harshly against those who observed Islamic rituals. Arbitrary arrests and beatings were common. Many of those killed in Nalchik were not hardened fighters, but local residents acting out of what appeared to be desperation. Many were not armed, according to officials, but were hoping to seize weapons from police stations. Among the dead was Kazbulat B. Kerefov, 25, a lawyer and former police officer. His parents, Betal and Fatima, refused to believe he was a militant, but like many there understood what set off the attack. "It was not a terrorist act," Betal Kerefov said in an interview in the family's apartment. "It was a revolt." Ali Pshigotyzhev, 55, worked as an announcer on state radio for 30 years until he was dismissed, he said, for praying. His son, Zaur, was arrested on Oct. 29 in a wave of detentions that followed the fighting. Mr. Pshigotyzhev accused the local imams in effect of endorsing the repressions, for fear of losing their status. "People were patient in this republic, but patience has its limits," he said in Nalchik's only mosque. "And a tragedy occurred. And it is only the beginning of the tragedy." Such sentiments are what the authorities fear most. Mustafa Batdiyev, the president of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, said his region openly supported Islam. A businessman, he paid for the construction of a mosque in his native village. The republic pays for people to make pilgrimages to Mecca. The last day of Ramadan is a holiday in the republic. But Chechnya's separatists, he said, had hijacked Islam to wrest control of the Caucasus from Russia, instilling an insidious version that is not widely accepted among the region's comparatively secular Muslims. Rebel leaders like Mr. Basayev, he added, were actively recruiting militants across the region, including in his republic, justifying the compilation of the list of suspects. The people on the list "have not yet broken any Russian laws, so no measures, no force have been used against them," he said. "But we have talked and are talking to the population and explaining about them, so as to warn any of their possible supporters and to deny them the opportunity to attract more of our young people to their ranks." He added, "We cannot accept and cannot agree with the way these people worship." In May, security officials raided an apartment here in Cherkessk, killing six people accused of terrorism. Five were local residents. Among the dead were two women, one eight months pregnant, according to Mukhammat Budai, a neighbor of the woman's mother. Mr. Batdiyev said the raid had disrupted a plan to seize a school, as happened in Beslan, but evidence was never detailed. A similar case happened in February, in Karachayevsk, the city in the foothills where Mr. Golayev lives under scrutiny and suspicion. He adopted Islam after serving in the Soviet Army in East Germany. The authorities, he said, fear Islam because they fear the discipline it demands, the defiance it offers in a corrupted society. "Who needs a person who does not drink, who does not smoke, who has freedom?" he said of the official attitude. "If I am lying drunk on the ground, I am easier to control."
© Rusnet

Muslims exiled by Stalin are to be legally entitled to go back at last, but convincing many Georgians this is a good idea is likely to be a difficult task.
By Fati Mamiashvili in Tbilisi

23/11/2005- After almost six years of wrangling with the Council of Europe, Georgia is finally taking steps to allow the Muslim Meskhetians to return home after a 60-year exile. However, convincing Georgians to welcome back the community – deported by Stalin towards the end of the Second World War – will prove difficult. Many local people are suspicious of what they regard as an alien group who will not be easily assimilated. There is also the more pragmatic consideration of absorbing extra immigrants for a state already beset by numerous economic and social problems. Making provision for the Meskhetians is a condition of Georgia’s membership of the Council of Europe, CoE, since it joined in 1999. In March 2005, the CoE issued a statement urging the government to comply with the request. But although the government is clearly keen to keep its promises to the CoE, many Georgians think it has gone too far in bending to the pressure on the Meskhetian issue. In line with the CoE’s minorities programme, by the end of this year, Georgia will complete preparations to enable tens of thousands of descendants of Meskhetians to return to their motherland, if they want.

One of Stalin's "punished peoples"
The deported Muslim group used to live in the Meskheti area of southern Georgia, now the Samtskhe-Javakheti administrative region. They are also known as Meskhetian Turks, as there is some dispute about whether the majority are basically Turkish or Georgian in origin. Stalin took against them, as he did with many ethnic groups across the Soviet Union. In this instance it was probably because the tide of the Second World War had turned in his favour, allowing him to consider aggressive action towards Turkey, and suggesting a need to clear away possible Turkish sympathisers. Most of the deportations took place on the night of November 14, 1944. Almost the entire population of Meskhetian Muslims was rounded up and packed on to freight trains by security forces. By dawn, more than 92,000 people had gone, bound for a harsh life of exile in Central Asia. Historian Marat Baratashvili, who runs a group called the Union of Meskhetian Repatriates, recalls, “My father Latipsha Baratishvili, a village teacher, helped his fellow villagers on the night of the deportation, because he thought he was carrying out [Communist] party orders. But then he was put into one of the railcars himself along with his Christian wife.” The Meskhetians are thought to be the last of the peoples deported wholesale by Stalin to be given the right to return to their motherland. The Chechens, Ingush, Karachay and Balkar of the North Caucasus and the Kalmyks of southern Russia were allowed back after the dictator’s death in 1953; the Crimean Tatars and Volga Germans were permitted to leave Central Asia only in the latter years of the Soviet Union – the former going home to Ukraine and many of the latter emigrating to Germany.

Implementing the repatriation plan
As a condition of its membership of the CoE, which it joined in 1999, Georgia is required to facilitate the return of the Meskhetians by 2011. Teimuraz Lomsadze, an adviser to the Ministry of Conflict Regulation who is working closely with the CoE minorities committee for protecting ethnic minorities, told IWPR that the repatriation will start next year. Last month, a government commission headed by the minister of conflict regulation, Georgi Khaindrava, travelled to the Central Asian republics to assess the possible scale of repatriation. Accommodating tens of thousands of new settlers - no one really knows how many will opt to come - will be extremely hard for a country whose economy is weak, and which has already received tens of thousands of refugees as a result of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “It is a complicated process,” admitted Lomsadze. “But the biggest problem is money. We are hoping for aid from the governments of various countries, from international organisations, and from the state budget.” The repatriation will be made possible by a law which is currently being drafted and which according to Khaindrava will come into force in 2006. In its statement earlier this year, the CoE’s Parliamentary Assembly noted that the law was supposed to have been adopted two years after Georgia joined the international body in 1999. The first task for the authorities is to establish how many people are likely to come. Khaindrava’s Central Asian trip in mid-October was intended to inform a more accurate assessment of the numbers involved. According to a 2004 report from the European Centre for Minorities, ECMI, most of the diaspora live in Kazakstan – up to 100,000 people – and Azerbaijan, which may have as many as 110,000. In addition, there are up to 30,000 in Kyrgyzstan, and perhaps 15,000 in Uzbekistan, and 5,000-10,000 in Ukraine. Most of the once large community in Uzbekistan left after ethnic violence there in 1989, and moved to Russia, Azerbaijan or other countries. A further group, estimated at more than 25,000, now lives in Turkey, which they are unlikely to want to leave. Khaindrava’s team talked to Meskhetians in Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and examined files on deported individuals, which are held in the state archives of these countries. “In the Bishkek archive alone there are up to 75,000 personal files relating to various deported nations,” said Lomsadze. “And then we will have to compare all the information there with what we find in the Georgian archives. We have to prevent a situation where people unrelated to the Meskhetian Muslims decide to come to our country.”

After the trip, Khaindrava concluded, “Our overall impression is that the descendants of the deported Meskhetians know almost nothing about Georgia. But most of them want the right to live in their motherland.” At home, the government is now planning the practical steps that will make repatriation possible. Two centres will be opened in west and east Georgia where the families of returning Meskhetians will stay for at least three months, learning about the country’s culture and history and studying the language. The foreign ministry is already talking to the European Union about funds for this part of the programme. Then the authorities will need to identify the areas where the returnees are to be settled, allocate land to them and provide jobs or pensions. They may also open bilingual schools where teaching will be conducted in Georgian and Turkish. Another area that the government plans to address is encouraging public opinion to be more receptive, and that is likely to prove an uphill task. Apart from natural concerns about providing for the incomers, the Meskhetian issue is highly emotive. “Mass repatriation of the Muslim community is dangerous because the majority of them have no intention of identifying themselves as Georgians,” Nodar Natadze, leader of the nationalist Popular Front party, told a press conference in August. “They want to come here and live as Turks.” The majority of people whom IWPR asked for their opinion of the repatriation programme expressed doubt and in some cases outright hostility to the issue. “Settle the Meskhetian Turks in Georgia on a large scale? Tbilisi is already overflowing with refugees from Samachablo [South Ossetia] and Abkhazia,” said Tbilisi resident David Gachechiladze. “Let Georgians living abroad come back! Why bring in Muslims who differ from us in every way?” At the same time, Gachechiladze said he feels “sincerely sorry for this unhappy people”. In the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, some local people harked back to the ethnically-tinged conflicts in the southern Caucasus that followed the 1917 Russian Revolution. Local Georgians told stories of Muslim attacks on Christian villagers in 1918-19 to justify their present hostility. By contrast, Baratashvili insists that “in days gone by, there were absolutely normal, good-neighbourly relations with the Meskhetian Muslims, so their return does not pose the slightest danger to anyone. In actual fact the danger comes from possible provocations and the political games played by bigger countries”.

Immigration a mixed success to date
Baratashvili is one of the small number of Meskhetians who quietly settled in Georgia before there was any talk of repatriation. His Union of Meskhetian Repatriates collects information on the approximately 600 returnees now living in various parts of Georgia. Such groups as have returned have settled in Samtskhe-Javakheti and other areas. Baratashvili ended up in the capital Tbilisi after finding life untenable in Akhaltsikhe, the main town of Samtskhe-Javakheti, in the Eighties. Others have clustered together in newly-built hamlets in various parts of the country. IWPR reported the difficulties facing one such community in 2003 in a report entitled Meskhetians Make a New Life in Georgia. Many of these people talk of the discrimination they faced when they tried to settle in Georgia. Gular Khutsishvili, who brought his family to live in Akhaltsikhe a few years ago, told IWPR, “At first they really persecuted us. They threw stones at our windows and shouted, ‘Get out of here, Tatars!’ “We had small children and they were really scared. But gradually everything calmed down and now everything’s alright.” Gular’s relative Mamuka Khutsishvili, who moved to Akhaltsikhe in 1997, considers himself a Georgian and sends his children to a Georgian school, but his neighbours still call him a Turk. “I am a Georgian, but other people find this hard to accept,” he said. “When they call us Meskhetian Turks, they don’t understand that it’s very offensive.” Some Georgians cite a difficult relationship with the existing settlers as an argument for preventing more from coming. Lali Kopaliani lives next to the Meskhetian-inhabited village of Akhali Ianeti in the west Georgian province of Imereti, and regards her neighbours as too different to be assimilated easily. “The only thing they have is Georgian surnames,” she said. “We live by different rules and we have a different religion. I don’t want the number of mixed families to grow. What will the Georgian people turn into?”

Location a key factor
Right now it is unclear where the government plans to put the repatriated Meskhetians – either in Samtskhe-Javakheti region alone, or spread across Georgia. The government appears to have opted for the second of these options. “The question we heard most often during our visit to Central Asia was whether they would be resettled in Meskhetia itself,” said Khaindrava. “These people have experienced many misfortunes and humiliations, they were forced to resettle outside Georgia, and it is our duty to return them to their historical homeland. “However, for those to whom Georgia is dear, as it is to all Georgians, the motherland is the whole country, not just one part of it. So the repatriates will be put wherever it is possible.” Baratashvili counters this proposal by quoting the Georgian constitution, which says every citizen has the right to live where he or she wants.

How many will actually come?
In reality, it is unlikely that anything like the entire diaspora will want to return. The estimated 18,000 Meskhetians living in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region might be keen to move as they have been given a hard time by unwelcoming local authorities. But around 2,000 have already been allowed to settle in the United States, and there is talk of granting US residence to virtually the whole group in the next year. A second group - the 100,000 or so in Azerbaijan - have found it easy to assimilate into the local population as they are close in language, culture and religion. Ibrahim Burkhanov, the local leader of Vatan, a Meskhetian association, said on November 15 that repatriation was now a realistic prospect given the positions of the Georgian government and CoE. But it is unclear how many of the Azerbaijani community will opt to exercise this right. After his Central Asian trip, Khaindrava said that “in Kazakhstan, for example, they have a good life - they live peacefully and have their own smallholdings. Judging from our meetings with them, probably not more than 20 or 25 per cent will want to come to Georgia”. Members of the investigating commission would not be drawn on precise figures, but they believe that many of those who decide to come back will be the poor, and the elderly people who still remember the country. Although Khaindrava suggested that about 30 per cent of the Meskhetians abroad might return, it was unclear what figure he was using as a total. “It will all become clear once we have looked at individual cases in the archives in Central Asia,” said Lomsadze. “We need several months just to do that.”
© Institute for War & Peace Reporting

The people who run Kosovo are starting to heed mounting evidence of severe lead contamination in Romani refugee camps.

24/11/2004- Heedless of the admonition “Warning, dangerous chemicals” posted nearby, four-year-old Sebastian Hajrizi and his younger brother Luan play in the mud just a few meters outside the shack in which they live. This is the Zitkovac camp for people made homeless by the Kosovo conflict in 1999, a camp created near a disused lead mine and a site that has been the two children’s home all their lives. However, after six years, calls for the Roma people living in Trepca in northern Kosovo to be moved to better housing may finally be gathering pace. Activists have for several years asserted that camp residents are being poisoned and dying from lead in the ground, water, and air of the camps. Now, Kosovo's UN administrators and elected government have finally promised to re-house the camp dwellers. About 560 people in 125 families live in Zitkovac and two other nearby camps, Kablare and Cesmin Lug, on the northern outskirts of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica. The UN refugee agency UNHCR established the camps after NATO troops entered Kosovo in 1999, in urgent need to house some of the people fleeing the Romani neighborhood, or mahala, in the predominantly Albanian southern part of Mitrovica. Activists speaking for the local Roma claim the mahala, where some 7,000 people lived, was torched under the eyes of NATO troops. At the time hundreds of thousands of Serbs and Roma were fleeing the province as Serbian troops and paramilitaries withdrew. The return of the Roma has been hampered by the international community's focus on the tense relations between the Albanian and Serbian communities in the province.

The Roma may now become the beneficiaries of the increasingly urgent need of UNMIK and Kosovo's elected government to place Kosovo's transition process in a good light as talks on the province's future begin. UNMIK spokesperson Neeraj Singh said in early October that the 100 days would see a vigorous effort to improve the situation in the camps. Discussions about Kosovo’s final status began this week. “An urgent health mitigation program is underway in the camps to improve sanitation and provide milk and food, as well as blood testing, medical treatment, and health education,” Singh said. Activists say that adults in the three camps show signs of lead poisoning, including chronic fatigue, depression, heart problems, and hypertension, and children show signs of neurological disorders and attention deficit problems as well. According to the World Health Organization, children up to the age of six are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning because of the metal's ability to damage organs in the primary stages of growth and development. The death last year of a four-year-old girl, Gjenita Mehmeti, was said by doctors to have been linked to lead exposure. Nor have the suspected victims all been young children. A 26-year-old man, Vehbi Selimi, died earlier this year in the Kablare camp. Before he died, tests showed a very high level of lead in his blood.

Wheels start to turn
The plight of the camp dwellers rose higher on the agenda in the space of just a few days in October. The German government stepped in with a promise of 500,000 euros for the relocation of Roma from the three camps. In a statement released on 12 October, the UN Secretary General's special representative in Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen, thanked Germany and went on to describe the situation in the camps as one of the worst humanitarian problems in the Western Balkans. “The living conditions experienced by the Roma families in those camps are an affront to human dignity,” he said. Jessen-Petersen's words came just as the UN gave the long-awaited green light for talks on Kosovo's future to begin. UN special envoy Kai Eide's report said that Kosovo had made sufficient progress on meeting political, economic, and human rights standards for talks to begin among negotiators from Kosovo, Serbia, and the international community, despite the continued poor relations among ethnic groups in the province. Eide said the picture for the Serbian and Romani minorities was grim. “Regrettably, little has been achieved to create a foundation for a multiethnic society," he wrote. Eide called the continued existence of the Mitrovica camps a disgrace for the provincial government structures and the international community. Although some money is flowing in the direction of the camp dwellers, still unanswered are questions about when they can leave the camps, and where will they go. Jessen-Petersen said that the German contribution brings the total amount of money donated to fund the relocation of the camps to half of the 1.3 million euros needed. UNMIK spokesman Singh said that talks will begin soon with the Roma in the camps on "voluntary relocation" to a new site. However, he would give no details. The signs are the camp residents have some time to wait before they can go back home to the mahala. In April, the international caretakers of Kosovo and the Mitrovica municipal authorities agreed in principle that the Roma refugees should return to their former neighborhood in Mitrovica. They did not put a time frame on the returns. An optimistic prediction is next summer, according to the website of Get the Lead Out, an umbrella group of civil society groups working with the Roma in the camps.

The prime issue
Paul Polansky, a poet and Roma-rights activist, says UNHCR officials told him six years ago the camps would be used for a month or at most a month and a half. “I told them not to build the camps near the mine and smelter, but they wouldn't listen,” he recalls. The claims of lead poisoning in the camps made by Polansky's Kosovo Roma Refugee Foundation, the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center, and Amnesty International are backed by Rohko Kim, author of a World Health Organization report on lead contamination in the camps. When blood tests were carried out on camp residents, two children registered a level of 65 micrograms per deciliter of blood, so high they had to be hospitalized, Kim wrote. Four other children also had extremely high levels of lead, and one pregnant woman had a level of 40 micrograms. Kim's report stated that he had never seen such high levels referred to in the professional literature and that the lead contamination in the Mitrovica camps represented one of the worst cases of environmental poisoning on record. The UNHCR, however, disputes the linkage between lead and the poor health of the camp residents. “According to the information we have received, there are no specific numbers on illnesses and deaths clearly linked to the lead contamination," UNHCR spokeswoman Myrna Flood says. "Some Roma have died due to chronic bronchitis for example, but the medical services cannot say it was, in fact, due to lead contamination," she says. The agency's "prime issue" when building the camps six years ago was the security of the displaced people, she says. "UNHCR could not place them in an area where they might be at risk.” In May, UNMIK and Kosovo government officials briefed the missions of the United States, Britain, France, Germany and other potential donors to the slow-moving project of rebuilding the mahala. Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi pledged 200,000 euros, and Jessen-Petersen promised that UNMIK would "more than match" that amount. But even if UNMIK chips in with a million euros, the donor community will be left to fill a very big hole in the budget. The coordinator of the Kosovo government's efforts to meet international standards, Avni Arifi, says rebuilding the Romani neighborhood could cost eight million euros.
© Transitions Online

24/11/2005- The extreme-right Flemish Interest refuted media reports on Thursday that it was appealing for foreign workers to fill unwanted jobs in Belgium. Party chairman Frank Vanhecke and party spokesman Joris Van Hauthem said the claims were "as wrong as lying", newspaper 'De Tijd' reported on Thursday. Belgian media earlier reported that a new party leaflet indicated the Flemish Interest was in favour of allowing foreign workers from non-EU countries to immigrate to Belgium. This was despite the fact party leaders were planning to visit Morocco next month in an attempt to reduce the inflow of Moroccans into Belgium. The Flemish Interest will hold on Saturday an economic congress called 'Enterprising Flanders'. However, it is not the party's long-awaited social-economic congress. Debate will not be held over the party's social policies. However, the party's social policies can be found in three brochures that Flemish Interest MPs Koen Bultinck and Guy D'Haeseleer presented last month. In one of the brochures, called 'Aging and the Labour Market', a proposal to allow foreign workers to immigrate into Belgium from non-EU countries can be found. "It is possible that in the long-term, non-EU nationals could help fill 'troublesome job vacancies," the brochure said. These vacancies are jobs that prove difficult to fill because there are no or insufficient candidate employees. This is often because the jobs have unfavourable workplace conditions. Flemish workers are not willing to take them on or do not have the right qualifications. The Flemish employment agency VDAB said there are thousands of such job vacancies, newspaper 'De Morgen' reported. It was not certain what nationalities the Flemish Interest — long associated with its anti-immigrant stance — had in mind for its foreign workers policy. But the brochure said foreign workers would have to undergo a Dutch-language exam in their country of origin. They would also be tested on trade skills and awareness of Flemish culture before being allowed into Belgium. "People with a criminal record or political extremists are not welcome," the brochure added. However, the Flemish Interest later stressed that its stance on foreign workers remained unchanged. It said the brochure only contained several conditions which would make it possible in future for highly educated foreign workers to temporarily stay in Belgium.
© Expatica News

24/11/2005- Party leaders with the extreme-right Flemish Interest plan to visit Morocco next month in an attempt to reduce the immigration of Moroccans to Belgium. However, a different message is being pushed in a new party leaflet, in which the Flemish Interest says the immigration of foreign workers from non-EU countries into Belgium should be allowed. The party will organise on Saturday an economic congress called 'Enterprising Flanders'. However, it is not the party's long-awaited social-economic congress. Debate will not be held then over the party's social policies. However, the party's social policies can be found in three brochures that Flemish Interest MPs Koen Bultinck and Guy D'Haeseleer presented last month. In one of the brochures, called 'Aging and the Labour Market', a proposal to allow foreign workers to immigrate into Belgium from non-EU countries can be found. "It is possible that in the long-term, non-EU nationals could help fill 'troublesome job vacancies," the brochure said. These vacancies are jobs that prove difficult to fill because there are no or insufficient candidate employees. This is often because the jobs have unfavourable workplace conditions. Flemish workers are thus not willing to take them on or do not have the right qualifications. The Flemish employment agency VDAB said there are thousands of such job vacancies, newspaper 'De Morgen' reported on Thursday. Meanwhile, it is not certain what nationalities the Flemish Interest — long associated with its anti-immigrant stance — has in mind for its foreign workers policy. And while it remains opposed to immigration in principle, the party said the foreign workers would have to undergo a Dutch-language exam in their country of origin. They would also be tested on trade skills and awareness of Flemish culture before being allowed into Belgium. "People with a criminal record or political extremists are not welcome," the party brochure added.
© Expatica News

22/11/2005- Multicultural youth organisation Kif Kaf and the anti-racism group MRAX have lodged a complaint against extreme-right Flemish Interest leader Filip Dewinter. The complaint is in response to Dewinter's comment in a recent interview with the US daily newspaper 'Jewish Week' that the Flemish Interest is an "Islam phobic" party. The Dutch-language Kif Kaf and Francophone MRAX have requested the public prosecutor press charges against Dewinter for inciting race hate, newspaper 'De Tijd' reported on Tuesday. Both organisations are demanding Dewinter be deprived of his parliamentary immunity. They also said the Flemish Interest should lose its public subsidies. Dewinter made his comments in the US newspaper on 28 October. Upon questioning why Jews should vote for a xenophobic party, Dewinter denied the assertion the Flemish Interest was xenophobic. Instead, he said if the party had to be described as having a phobia, he said the party should be known as having "islamophobia". "Yes, we're afraid of Islam. The Islamisation of Europe is a frightening thing. If this historical process continues, the Jews will be the first victims. Europe will become as dangerous for them as Egypt or Algeria," Dewinter said. "So, I return your question. Should Jews vote for a party that wants to stop the spread of Islam in Europe?"
© Expatica News

22/11/2005- Asylum seekers who have been waiting for years for Belgian residence status should not be deported, Socialist PS leader Elio Di Rupo has said. The statement was an important signal on the eve of a federal government debate on reforming the nation's asylum procedures. "It is inhumane to order deportations if the decision to refuse [residence] comes years after the application for asylum," Di Rupo said. Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has refused to grant a general amnesty for everyone who has been waiting long-term for their application for asylum to be processed. Some of these people are still being deported. However, whoever wants to avoid being repatriated has a chance of staying if they lodge an individual request for official residence status, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Tuesday. The Francophone Di Rupo is otherwise in agreement with Flemish Liberal VLD Minister Dewael and his plans to reform asylum procedures. Flemish refugee lobby group Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, Amnesty International and the Minderhedenforum (Minorities Forum) have backed Dewael's plans. However, they were highly critical of plans to make conditions for granting asylum stricter. The government wants to reduce the number of asylum seekers entering Belgium. "For several years, we had 40,000 applications for asylum, now there are 15,000, but that is still unacceptably high for the minister," Vluchtelingenwerk
director Pieter De Gryse said. "He thinks that Belgium must be just as unattractive as neighbouring countries and is placing investigations [of applications] in danger with his asylum [procedure] reforms."
© Expatica News

St George's Day should be celebrated and the English should reclaim their national identity and culture, Dr John Sentamu says, a week before his enthronement in York

22/11/2005- Britain's first black Archbishop has made a powerful attack on multiculturalism, urging English people to reclaim their national identity. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said that too many people were embarrassed about being English. “Multiculturalism has seemed to imply, wrongly for me, let other cultures be allowed to express themselves but do not let the majority culture at all tell us its glories, its struggles, its joys, its pains,” he said. He said that the failure of England to rediscover its culture afresh would lead only to greater political extremism. The new Archbishop also strongly criticised the Terrorism Bill, showing that he is likely to be even more robust in his criticism of the Government than the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Dr Sentamu has consistently denied speculation that his was a political appointment and, as a former judge in Uganda, his attack on counter-terrorism legislation carries particular weight. “The moment you make your laws so tough, even the most law abiding will say, this is a chance to break them,” Dr Sentamu said. He called for the English to rediscover their cultural identity by properly marking celebrations such as St George’s Day on April 23. “I speak as a foreigner really. The English are somehow embarrassed about some of the good things they have done. They have done some terrible things but not all the Empire was a bad idea. Because the Empire has gone there is almost the sense in which there is not a big idea that drives this nation.”

The Ugandan-born Archbishop, who fled Idi Amin’s regime in 1974, said he would not be where he was today were it not for the British Empire and the English teachers and missionaries who worked in Africa. Dr Sentamu was speaking to The Times before his enthronement as the Church’s new No 2 at York Minster on November 30. As the most senior black churchman, who during his time as a bishop in London acted as an adviser to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry that found institutional racism in the police, he received racist and abusive letters, some covered in human excrement, after his appointment was announced earlier this year. But as a direct product himself of the British Empire, he intends to make mission and a passion for English culture, and the Christian roots of that culture, driving forces of the next decade or more that he will spend as primate of England’s northern province. “What is it to be English? It is a very serious question,” he said. “I think we have not engaged with English culture as it has developed. When you ask a lot of people in this country, ‘What is English culture?’, they are very vague. It is a culture that whether we like it or not has given us parliamentary democracy. It is the mother of it. It is the mother of arguing that if you want a change of government, you vote them in or you vote them out. “It is a place that has allowed reason to be at the heart of all these things, that has allowed genuine dissent without resort to violence, that has allowed all the fantastic music that we experience in our culture.” Multiculturalism as a concept failed to convey the essence of what it meant to be English. “England is the culture I have lived in, I have loved . . . My teachers were English. As a boy growing up, that is the culture I knew.” He disliked the word “tolerance” when used in reference, for example, to people of different cultures. “It seems to be the word tolerance is bad because it just means putting up with it,” he said. “I was raised in the spirit of magnanimity. That is a better word than tolerance. If you are magnanimous in your judgments on other people, there is a chance that I will recognise that you will help me in my struggle.” He described English culture as rooted in Christianity and, in spite of attempts by secularists to marginalise it, the Church still had a central role to play. “I think the Church in many ways has to be like a midwife, bringing to birth possibilities of what is authentically very good in the English mind.”

He will work closely with Dr Williams, and disclosed the precise nature of that relationship. “We come from a similar stable,” he said. “He is my Moses. I have chosen in that analogy to try and be a Jethro to him. Jethro was Moses’s father-in-law who was always very practical, making suggestions. In the end it was Moses who had to put them out [into practice]. “People say to me, ‘are you going to play second fiddle to the Archbishop of Canterbury?’ That is not helpful. This is going to be a partnership.” Referring to Dr Williams’s “incredible gifts of intellect” and deep spiritual life, he described him as “a person of prayer and a person who listens to God, a person who wants to be magnanimous about everybody, which some people don’t like. He is a Welshman, I know, but still his behaviour is the kind of tradition I was raised in.” A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed Dr Sentamu’s comments. He said: “I’m only embarrassed about being English when we lose a cricket match in the way we’ve just lost one.”
© The Times Online

Ken Livingstone today warns the government that its policy of merging the Commission for Racial Equality with other bodies could undermine attempts to stamp out racism.

21/11/2005- Ministers are planning to merge the CRE with other equalities watchdogs into a single super-equalities body. Under the proposed legislation, a new body governing disability, gay and lesbian rights, gender equality and human rights will be established. But the London mayor suggests that the move could be a serious setback to race relations in the UK. He warns that the provisions in the Equality Bill fail to give the successor organisation, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, any security of Black and ethnic minority representation. Livingstone, who is calling on minority groups to lobby against the government, has also intervened to warn the move could mean a reduction in funding for race relations projects. Under the legislation only spending for disability rights will be ring-fenced, critics of the Bill have warned. Livingstone says the provisions in the current legislation should not be "acceptable" to Black and Asian Londoners. "Racism is still very real in the UK. The BNP vote grew eight-fold at the last general election," he warned on Monday. "Given this, it is deeply disconcerting that the government is seeking to establish a new commission that in its current form offers Black, Asian and ethnic minorities a poorer deal than that on offer at the existing CRE. "Those directly affected by discrimination and inequalities should be able to speak for themselves. "There should be an explicit requirement that there be proper representation. The current proposals could end up creating an equality commission where all the commissioners are white men." Livingstone insists that a number of CEHR commissioners must be drawn from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.
© ePolitix

20/11/2005- Fifteen failed Iraqi asylum seekers have been forcibly sent home, the Home Office confirmed. The refugees are being flown out to the northern city of Irbil, according to leaked Home Office documents obtained by Channel 4 News. A Home Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that fifteen Iraqi nationals with no leave to remain in the UK were removed to Iraq on November 20. "The Government announced its intention to commence enforced returns to Iraq in February 2004 and these removals bring Iraq into line with arrangements we have with other countries. "All those removed were informed in advance of this action and have been given assistance to help re-establish themselves in Iraq enabling them to contribute to the re-building of their country. "It is important for the integrity of our asylum system that any individual who is found not to be in need of international protection should be expected to leave the UK." The Home Office first announced its intention to resume enforced removals in February last year but previous attempts have foundered because the situation in Iraq was judged to be too dangerous. But over the past two years more than 1,000 Iraqis have returned home voluntarily and hundreds more are currently preparing to return, the Home Office said. Voluntary returns are always preferable to enforced returns but if people do not leave voluntarily, we will enforce their return. "There is clearly a difficult position in those parts of Iraq most affected by insurgencies, but we do not accept this is the case in all areas. "As such, enforced returns are taken forward on a case by case basis and only to areas assessed as sufficiently stable and where we are satisfied that the individuals concerned will not be at risk," the spokesman said.
© The Scotsman

20/11/2005- Racism among Irish toddlers will be tackled at a conference for childcare providers in Dublin later this month. International research shows that children can form prejudices against other races even as babies and pre-schoolers. Workers in creches and childcare facilities will be shown how games and activities can prevent such discrimination forming. The anti-racism initiative is being organised by childcare committees in south Dublin and Fingal who hope it will provide a blueprint for child carers across the country. Julia Hackett, a co-ordinator on the south Dublin committee, says it is important for children to acknowledge the differences between people at an early age and learn to accept them. “Children from a very early age acknowledge the difference between people. We want to bring together the childcare professionals that are working on the ground to develop practical anti-bias approaches that are active, indeed activist, so that we can challenge prejudice, stereotyping and bias,” she said. “Childcare professionals want activities for the children to encourage them to feel comfortable with the differences and similarities between themselves and others.  “By listening to the professionals we will be able to find the best way to integrate these activities and plans into the existing curriculum rather than just having them as an add-on.”  Hackett says the group hopes to be able to provide guidelines to childcare facilities about the inclusion of different nationalities — including providing halal meat on menus. The conference will be opened by Brian Lenihan, the minister for children, on Saturday. A special report looking at barriers to accessing childcare for lone parents, parents of children with special needs, travellers, asylum seekers and refugees will also be launched. The research carried out by Fingal County Childcare Committee is expected to show how difficult marginalised groups find it to get their children into pre-school childcare.
© The Times Online

“They were dragging us around on the street” - Demonstrator

19/11/2005- The police in PoznaŮ today briefly detained and interrogated 65 demonstrators during the March of Equality organized by organizations of leftist and gay activists in PoznaŮ, western Poland. Demonstrators protested against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, race, and disability, the organizers said. The march was banned by the mayor of PoznaŮ, who cited security reasons. A year earlier, a similar legal event led to street riots with far-right activists. The organizers of the march claimed that the mayor of PoznaŮ, Ryszard Grobelny, surrendered to the demands of far-right parties and the Catholic clergy, who believed the demonstration was immoral. Riot police surrounded the demonstrators shortly after they began their march. 65 demonstrators, who sat on the street, were pulled out of the crowd, detained, and interrogated at police stations. “They were dragging us around on the street,” a demonstrator told the Warsaw Independent news agency. “I was put in a police car, driven to a police station, and charged with taking part in an illegal gathering,” the demonstrator said, adding he will be tried for a misdemeanor. “The police surrounded the demonstrators with a double cordon,” the Campaign against Homophobia, a non-governmental organization, said in a statement following the march. “Police units headed for the demonstrators. The policemen brutally pulled sitting demonstrators from the group and dragged them along the sidewalk.” Tadeusz IwiŮski, an MP of the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), said he had filed an official interpellation to the government, alleging the violation of Polish domestic and European Union regulations regarding the freedom of expression and gathering. Neither the police or governing politicians were not available for comment when Warsaw Independent news agency posted this news item.
© Warsaw Independent News Agency

The viewers and organisers of Prague's gay film festival Mezipatra have joined the protest of the Czech Gay and Lesbian League against the police crackdown on a gay rights demonstration in Poznan on Saturday. They handed in a protest letter yesterday to the Polish Embassy in Prague.

22/11/2005- The Poznan police used force to suppress the banned demonstration of Polish homosexuals staged against sexual and racial discrimination. Over 60 out of the total 500 participants were detained and face charges of attending an illegal gathering. The detained activists have complained against police brutality. "We perceive the problems and discrimination which our Polish neighbours meet with more frequently than us," said organisers of the film festival, which ended on Sunday. They stressed that the events in Poznan must be condemned. They compared the Polish police steps to the practices of the former Communist regime. Last year, ultra-Catholic and right-wing radicals prevented a similar rally in Poznan and police had to interfere to calm down fights in the streets. This year, the Poznan authorities did not permit the event, arguing that police would not be able to protect safety of the participants and inhabitants.
© Prague Daily Monitor

Foreigners applying for long-term residence permits in Prague allegedly received false information from the Foreigners Police staff and were asked to produce documents and certificates that the law does not require, the daily Pravo reported yesterday.

22/11/2005- For example, Pravo reports that some of the office staff of the Foreigners Police in Prague claimed that foreigners are allowed to register as long-term residents only if they reside in apartments or houses that they own. According to Pravo, that was the information given to an American for whom an employer had been processing a visa and long-term residence permit. The American therefore could not register his long-term residency in the home of his Czech fiancee who had been living in a privately-owned tenement house. After the couple married and the American applied for permanent residence, a different member of the Foreigners Police staff requested that he first get the approval of the tenement house's owner. The head of the foreigners department at the directorate of the Foreigners and Border Police Service, Miloslav Smetana, told Pravo that the conduct of the staffer was incorrect. "It is redundant to request that a tenement house's owner approve whether a foreigner can move in with his wife," Smetana told Pravo. Smetana also described as nonsense the report that a foreigner can only be registered for long-term residence in an apartment or house in one's personal ownership. Pravo notes that Smetana could not explain the conduct of the Foreigners Police Prague office.
© Prague Daily Monitor

18/11/2005- The far-right National Party is preparing to launch its own Internet radio station called Homeland for several months, Pavel Sedlacek from the party told CTK Wednesday. The station will be on air round the clock and will broadcast music, commentaries on political developments in the Czech Republic and in the world and information about the election campaign of the National Forces coalition of extremist parties as well as invitations to their events. "If the large media ignore us what can we do about it? We will establish our own! We must start with something and experience from abroad shows that it is possible to break through the media favourites and politically succeed," National Party chairwoman Petra Edelmannova said on the party's Website. The National Party is running in the mid-2006 elections to the Chamber of Deputies jointly with two other nationalist parties. The Republicans of Miroslav Sladek and members of the Czech Movement of National Unification are to be on its lists of candidates. The grouping that calls itself the National forces rejects the European constitution, criticises generous welfare benefits, demands a ban on the use of all drugs and seeks the renewal of the death penalty. It presents itself as a distinctly anti-communist entity and organises demonstrations of protest against the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft. Initially, the coalition included five parties. The Workers' Party was the first to withdraw from it in protest against the participation of Miroslav Sladek in the project. The National Unification left the grouping due to ideological discrepancies. The National Party is not the first party to have its own Internet radio station. The Communist Internet radio station Radio Halo Futura (RHF) has been broadcasting for several months. It works round the clock and its programme mainly includes music as well as news programmes and interviews with communist politicians and left-orientated personalities from public and cultural life in the afternoon.
© Prague Daily Monitor

Poland's new government may find it hard to keep its backers, the Polish electorate, and its western and eastern neighbors happy.

21/11/2005- After all the talk of a strong coalition of conservatives and liberals, what Poland now – finally – has is a minority government backed by small parties mistrusted by many within and outside Poland. Such is the political landscape since 10 November, when a new government headed by the nationalist and conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) took office after winning a confidence vote with the help of two populist parties, Self-Defense and the League of Polish Families (LPR). “We have only been working a few days, give us time,” Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said in response to questions about his cabinet’s economic program. But with an unstable hold over parliament and the questions continuing to come about its economic and foreign policy, the new government may not have much time.

Raise benefits, cut taxes
In an attempt both to ease the concerns of the financial markets and to please those parties who supported his government, Marcinkiewicz has already presented an economic program combining populist causes with more economically mainstream proposals. The government wants to spend a lot, especially to support families. Its flagship proposals here are a one-time payment to families for each child born and meals for poor pupils. Tax relief for families with children, longer maternity leave, and higher welfare payments for the poor are also in the pipeline, Marcinkiewicz says. At the same time, Marcinkiewicz’s government has also promised to cut and simplify taxes and to hold the budget deficit steady at 7.5 billion euros throughout its four-year term in office. Some observers are skeptical. "Increase spending, lower taxes, and curb the deficit? It is possible, as long as there’s fast economic growth. One needs to show, however, what the tools with which to achieve that growth actually are,” commented economist Witold M. Orlowski in Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s leading daily. So far, the most visible tool is a spanner in the works. Attracting foreign investment to boost growth looks certain to be more difficult if ministers continue to make remarks like those of Finance Minister Teresa Lubinska earlier this month. “Hypermarkets like Tesco are not investments. I mean they are not vital for economic growth,” Lubinska said. That comment was picked up by British papers in particular, with the Financial Times noting in its front-page report that Tesco was the largest British investor in Poland. But, far from distancing himself from such comments, Marcinkiewicz backed his minister's skepticism about hypermarkets as growth generators.

The Polish way of conservatism
Lubinska's words have merely fueled the doubts that businesses in Poland and abroad already had about the new government. Her comments also raised questioned about the price that PiS is willing to pay for political support. Many commentators interpreted Lubinska’s statement as a thank-you for the support the new cabinet received from Radio Maryja, the conservative and traditionalist Catholic station that has been crusading against foreign retail investment for years now, claiming it will doom the Polish economy. Marcinkiewicz and other ministers are already making regular appearances on Radio Maryja and its sister television station, TV Trwam. In comments that will have gone down well with Radio Maryja’s audience, Marcinkiewicz told the station on 17 November that his government would stand firmly against abortion, in-vitro conception, and contraceptives. “I am not afraid of the European Union’s pressure to liberalize abortion policy,” Marcinkiewicz said. Another move welcomed by conservatives across the country was doing away with the position of gender-equality ombudsperson. The government said it would assign an anti-discrimination brief to a lower-ranking official. The creation on an anti-discrimination watchdog had been required by the European Union and this, and Marcinkiewicz’s comments on abortion are likely to underscore the concerns felt by many outside Poland. Statements and acts like these could do harm to Poland and lead to the country becoming marginalized and isolated in the EU, the political scientist and head of the Batory Foundation Aleksander Smolar told Gazeta Wyborcza on 15 November. The new foreign minister, Stefan Meller, has downplayed the suggestion that the government would make euroskepticism the basis of its foreign policy. “I don’t know of a single statement from PiS politicians questioning our presence in the EU. But our position there does need to be stronger, and our negotiations tougher, where possible and necessary,” Meller told Rzeczpospolita on 19 November.

Being tougher with Brussels did not include, Meller said, renegotiation of Poland's accession treaty. This is one issue on which the PiS clearly differs from Self-Defense and the LPR, who both believe Poland is an underdog in the Union and should review the terms on which it joined the EU. Meller called such statements “very unfortunate” and said renegotiation of the accession treaty was not possible. As though to acknowledge the importance of the EU, Marcinkiewicz made Brussels the destination of his first official trip as prime minister. But Marcinkiewicz will also have to pay close attention to the eastern dimension of Poland’s foreign policy. Just after taking office, Marcinkiewicz and Meller had to deal with a Russian ban on Polish agricultural and meat imports because of allegedly forged health documents. The step immediately hit many Polish farmers, and Meller flew to Russia for talks, saying he hoped the problem was “really about meat gone bad, not politics gone bad." Another problem for the government may be that its ideological position is poorly understood abroad. Typical of many analysts' assessments was that of Piotr Buras, an expert on Germany from Wroclaw University. He argues that Poland’s new ruling elite is viewed with “distance and mistrust” in Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe. “Polish conservatism has a popular and Catholic character, while German [conservatism] is bourgeois and civic, where liberalism is not the enemy, but a more and more important partner,” Buras wrote in Gazeta Wyborcza*. Law and Justice, with its – in Western eyes – peculiar version of conservatism, founded on socialist economic thought, anti-liberalism, euroskepticism, and dislike of Germans, will find little sympathy in Germany, and the rest of the “old” EU, Buras wrote.

Liberalism as the enemy
Opposition to "liberal" thought, especially that promoted by its electoral rival Civic Platform (PO), bolstered PiS's campaigns in this autumn's parliamentary and presidential elections and it seems likely to remain one of the party's guiding principles. Even as negotiators from the two parties tried to fashion a coalition program following parliamentary elections narrowly won by Law and Justice, that party's presidential candidate Lech Kaczynski again and again bashed the vision put forward by Donald Tusk, the Civic Platform’s candidate and eventual loser, saying it would turn Poland into a “liberal experiment that will benefit only the rich.” Law and Justice then delivered a series of slaps to the face of PO, rejecting PO's candidate for the post of speaker of parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski – citing Komorowski’s unfavorable comments about PiS – and then doing the same to the liberals' candidate to become speaker of the Senate. PiS politicians ended up winning both posts. Perhaps most humiliating of all to the second-most powerful party in parliament was PiS' move to reinstate Jacek Kurski, the head of Lech Kaczynski’s electoral campaign, as a party member. He had been ejected for saying shortly before Kaczynski and Tusk faced off in the second round of presidential voting that Tusk’s grandfather had voluntarily served in the Nazi Wehrmacht. Back then, his own party blasted Kurski’s behavior as “reprehensible and deserving retribution.” But on 15 November, saying Kurski had been punished enough, the party allowed him to rejoin its ranks. “Only now can I truly enjoy [Kaczynski's] victory,” Kurski said.

Powerful and vunerable
Such post-election snubs and the debate ahead of the confidence vote on a government without Civic Platform raise questions about whether Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother and PiS leader Jaroslaw were speaking in good faith when they assured Poles before the parliamentary elections that Civic Platform was their party's most likely coalition partner. In parliament, Jaroslaw Kaczynski condemned what he called PO's advocacy of allowing free-market principles to penetrate into all spheres of life. The liberal party "assumed a quick expansion of capitalism … without questioning the origins of the new [wealthy] class,” Kaczynski said in a reference to the early post-communist political careers of PO politicians as well as those of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the party booted out of government by the conservatives and liberals in September's elections. The SLD and the liberals of PO alike have often faced accusations that they improperly reaped the fruits of the early years of capitalism in Poland. Jaroslaw Kaczynski told parliamentarians that Civic Platform wished that "only those with access to money would be decision-makers. And there are only so many political formations in Poland that have that access.” How strong the PiS government will be is now the crucial question. The party won 155 seats in the 460-seat parliament (Sejm) in September's elections. With the unofficial support of Self-Defense and LPR, it can count on another 90 votes. Civic Platform won 133 seats, and the former governing Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) won just 55 mandates. While Law and Justice may only have a minority government, their partners share their fierce criticism of the post-1989 "liberal" order associated with the SLD and PO. If that support holds, Jaroslaw Kaczynski has a chance to carry out all he envisioned. His party has the presidential and prime ministerial offices, the most deputies in the parliament, and the majority in the Senate. It may take a guiding role in the public media too: the party wants to change the media law to give it sole right to select members of the National Radio and Television Board, the watchdog for public television and radio. Jaroslaw Kaczynski himself holds no official position in the government. “He’s a classic example of a politician who uses ideas in a purely instrumental way exclusively in order to achieve particular political goals, nothing more,” political analyst Waldemar Kuczynski told TOL. That so many reins of power come together in his hand creates grounds for concern, Kuczynski said. Yet Law and Justice is also in a very vulnerable position, exposed to the populists’ caprices, Kuczynski added, saying that the moment Self-Defense and the League of Polish Families sense that their support for Law and Justice is damaging their poll ratings, "they will jump right at its throat."
© Transitions Online

21/11/2005- The murder of young philosophy student Daniel Tupż by alleged skinheads not only incited massive protests against neo-Nazism but it also resulted in the ousting of two top police officials. Interior Minister VladimŪr Palko sacked authorities in Bratislava and Trnava, citing a lack of resolute police action against skinhead attacks in November. Palko dismissed the head of the Petržalka district police, Štefan BožŪk, for failing to ensure sufficient order in the area where Tupż was stabbed. The 21-year-old from Žilina was attacked at Tyršovo nŠbrežie, a traditional outdoor venue for rock concerts on the right bank of the Danube River near Starż most by a group of about 15 skinheads on November 4. Six other people were seriously injured and taken to the hospital. A few days later, on the morning of November 12, eight skinheads on an express train heading to Bratislava threatened five high school students from TrenŤŪn. The skinheads and students boarded the same train in the western Slovak town of Piešany. According to a TASR news agency report, the skinheads chose a compartment next to the group of students. During the journey, two of the skinheads started to disturb the students by knocking on their compartment door. Alarmed, the students locked the door, at which point the skinheads started kicking the door and yelling, "Open up, anti-Fascists!" The whole incident lasted around 30 minutes. One of the students accused the conductor of running away. When the train made a routine stop in Leopoldov, the students shouted from their window for help but were ignored. Finally, one of the students managed to contact the railway police on his mobile phone. In Trnava, four policemen boarded the train, at which point, the two most aggressive skinheads ran off. Police caught the remaining six skinheads. The students were shocked when the skinheads directed a death threat at them in the presence of police and the police did not respond. The police are investigating the incident and assured the public that if any failure is found on the part of the police, the officers will be penalized.

The night previous, on November 11, 19 young men espousing extremist ideas and dressed in the skinhead style, attacked patrons at a bar in Piešany with stones, knives and burning trashcans. As a result of these incidents, the Interior Minister sacked the head of the Trnava police section. The minister said that the police officials failed to impose tough enough penalties on the offenders. Palko met with top police officials from around the country and stressed the need to take tougher measures against the skinhead movement. Meanwhile, the prosecutor in Trnava charged the 19 men who ransacked the Piešany bar with violence against a group of people and individuals, rioting and supporting and promoting organizations that oppress human rights and freedoms. According to Martina KredatusovŠ, spokesperson of the Trnava regional police, three of the young men are likely to be charged with assault causing bodily harm. If the accused are found guilty, they could be jailed for up to five years. The human rights group making the loudest call for action against the growing neo-Nazi movement is People Against Racism. "We asked Minister Palko and the police to take a responsible approach to the problem of neo-Nazism. It needs a prompt solution, as it is an increasing problem with the number of attacks on the rise. We appealed to the police to intensify their patrols in cities," People Against Racism's spokesperson, Jaroslava FarkašovŠ, told The Slovak Spectator. People Against Racism is a member of the ministerial commission for the elimination of racially motivated crime, a body created within the Interior Ministry. So far the group is satisfied with the cooperation of the various police divisions within the commission. Political groups are also involved in the commission. Says FarkašovŠ: "It is a challenge for politicians, not only because elections are nearing, but because neo-Nazism is a serious problem." FarkašovŠ's organization wants to see concrete steps taken by the parties to eliminate hate crimes. "There is no evident sign that someone [the political parties] is determined to solve the problem," FarkašovŠ added. People Against Racism continues to record increasing number of attacks by skinheads and neo-Nazi groups within Slovakia.
© The Slovak Spectator

Ma bisteren! project educates on the little known Roma Holocaust

21/11/2005- "When we talk of the Holocaust today we have in mind the historical period when Jews and other ethnicities were killed. But we forget there are similar attempts directed on other religions, nations and other groups, also today," said Pavol Mešan, director of the Museum of Jewish Culture in Bratislava. He was speaking on November 9, when Slovakia mourned the death of the 21-year-old student killed by neo-Nazis and when the Jewish museum opened its doors to educate on the Roma Holocaust. The Slovak Roma Holocaust 1939-1945 exposition in three languages, including English, is part of the Ma bisteren! (Don't Forget! in Roma) project aimed at reminding and educating on the horrors committed on the Roma population during World War II. Along with the educative role, the project also marks the locations connected with the Roma Holocaust with memorial plaques. Housing the exhibition in the Jewish museum is more than just a symbolic gesture. Though the Holocaust was first of all directed at the Jewish population, the terrorizing genocide did not spare other ethnicities, including gypsies, as they were called at that time.

Several hundred Roma died during the Holocaust in Slovakia. Overall, up to half of the then Roma population in Europe was killed during WWII. Slovakia and Croatia were the only two nations who offered to pay to have each Jew deported to concentration camps, Mešan says, and the same legislation used against Jews was enforced on the Roma. Jews often bring attention to the fact that other ethnicities also died in concentration camps during the WWII Holocaust. But in general, ethnographers say, the Slovak public tends to associate the term with Jews. The Roma Holocaust is something that is new to them, an unknown landscape. Not only the general population but also the Roma themselves have an insufficient knowledge of the Roma Holocaust. Ma bisteren! is one of the few attempts in Slovakia lately to try to raise awareness of the historical facts. "One of the reasons it's come so late are the Roma themselves, as they haven't attempted to make the subject more visible," said the cabinet plenipotentiary for Roma communities KlŠra OrgovŠnovŠ, who understands the exhibition to be about Slovaks' mutual history. "It's about people who've been living on this territory for a long time, including Roma."

The number of victims might not be as important as was the suffering all these people went through and the serfdom they were subjected to. It was all based on principles of ethnic superiority, which was enough of an argument to enforce laws that resulted in the killing of millions. For the Jews it also took time to spread the word, to build first memorials and then open expositions illustrating the WWII horrors. The first exposition in Slovakia, dedicated to the Jewish Holocaust, was opened in Nitra last September, 16 years after the collapse of Communism. "Western Europe has been talking about the Holocaust for entire decades. Eastern Europe, including Slovakia, was quiet. This changed in the 1990s, when [Slovak] Jews who survived began to talk about the six million dead. They felt the need to share the horrors, to let them out. The Roma didn't have this need," said Mešan, reminding us that the process of revealing this part of history is very slow in general. "But here is the beginning. And anything more we do in the matter would help a better understanding of the issue and better relationships with one another."
© The Slovak Spectator

25/11/2005- In the playground of the disused school building Ibrahim Ali now calls home, surrounded by wire netting, he is talking about the four-month journey that brought him to Malta in search of a livelihood after fleeing civil war in Somalia. "I can't say too much because it makes me cry," he said. "There were 28 of us on the small boat that we hired in Libya. I had to pay more than €1,000 (£680). We spent six days in rough seas with no food. Three people died." His voice trails off. "Can you help me?" The people who can help 25-year old Mr Ali, and the 400 other illegal economic migrants from Africa in the camp who have ended up by accident on this tiny Mediterranean island, will be meeting in Malta, a few miles away at the five-star Golden Sands hotel for three days from today. The closed-door meeting of Commonwealth leaders from 53 countries should provide a unique forum for the rich countries, which have become the destination of the migrants and asylum-seekers from the developing world, to hold a meaningful dialogue with the poorer countries which are losing their most talented human resources. Thousands of nurses, doctors and pharmacists from such Commonwealth countries as Ghana, Uganda, Botswana and Malawi have been poached by the rich Commonwealth states of Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, severely straining the medical services of the African countries struggling with the HIV/Aids pandemic. Now, the mounting problem of illegal migration is putting a further strain on developing societies as the middle classes rush for the exit as they try to lift their families out of poverty. But yesterday, as foreign ministers debated the summit's draft final communiquť, it looked unlikely that the issue, which has become a pressing problem for the summit's host government, will merit more than a line.

Leaders such as Tony Blair and John Howard of Australia see the migration issue through the prism of terrorism, and, in short, the North-South divide remains a dialogue of the deaf. As Africans stormed the fringes of "Fortress Europe" - arriving in Spain's Moroccan enclaves, Malta and Sicily - to get a toehold in the EU, the European Union responded in July with "emergency measures" consisting mainly of financial incentives to help Malta, Italy and Libya start joint patrols and early warning systems. But the measures do not address the root problem causing the mass population shift, and the migrants have continued to risk drowning in ever larger numbers. For Malta, the smallest EU country which joined only last year, the arrival of 1,600 illegal migrants since the beginning of 2005 has overwhelmed the island's resources and brought a racist backlash against the "Arabs". But Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth secretary general, has said lowering trade barriers is a more effective way of eradicating the poverty that drives people to set sail for distant shores. That is why he backs the call from the Commonwealth's developing countries in Africa and the Caribbean for the US, EU and Japan to drop the trade barriers and open their markets as part of the trade talks culminating at the World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong next month. "If they dropped their tariff barriers, you would take 150 million people out of poverty," Mr McKinnon said. "Despite the increases in aid, greater economic opportunity will bring people out of poverty."
© Independent Digital

22/11/2005- At least 10 percent of France's population is of African and Arab origin and many of them settled in France many decades ago. However, even members of the second generation within this immigrant community choose to change their names on their official documents to avoid discrimination as Arabs and Muslims. This has emerged from a study published on Tuesday on the Islamic Internet site The posting from Paris on the Muslim portal features a series of testimonies by young Muslims of Arab origin who decided to change their names on their identity documents. One of the testimonies is that of Abdel Rahim, 23, a French citizen of Moroccan descent who changed his name on his identity card to 'Peres'. "No one in my family in Morocco knows about this change and neither do any of my colleagues," said Rahim. "This new name has given me the possibility to find work, putting me at the same level as my colleagues who do not know my history or my past," he added. Rahim said that his Muslim name was an obstacle to his career, while with his new name, he could tell his employer that he was of Spanish origin. "When I called myself Abdel Rahim, I never received any response from the five companies from which I had applied for a job, while Peres has been accepted by two of these companies, so much so that my only problem now is choosing between the two." Abdel Rahim maintains that up until now, thanks to his new name, he has nothing to fear when he's stopped by the police and he feels like a first-class citizen. A similar story was told by Karim, 22, who decided to call himself 'Christophe'. "I remained unemployed for four years and I found [a job] only now," he said. Even Nigma, a young woman of Moroccan origin, said that she only found a good job and an apartment after she changed her name to 'Marianne'. Many other Arab families search to resolve the problem at the root, covering their Islamic identity and giving their children French names. Ahmad Gaballah, a member of the European Council of the Fatwa (religious edits), said that he is concerned about the situation in which Muslims in France live and according to him, this system will not resolve the problem of racism in the country. "We have to confront the problem of racism at its source," said Gaballah. "The fact of changing the name, and choosing one that will not offend Islam, is not forbidden per se by the religion," he said. According to the site islam-online, it was the ostracism of Muslims in France and the wrong policies of preceding governments that provoked the riots of the past few weeks. France was hit by weeks of unrest by urban youths across the country. The violence spread from Paris across French towns and cities, mostly in areas with a high concentration of ethnic minorities. Residents of housing estates, where unemployment can reach 40 percent, complain of racism and heavy-handed policing. The riots began when two boys of North and West African origin were electrocuted in a Paris suburb after running from police, who were said to have chased them.
© Aki

22/11/2005- EU lawmakers refused Tuesday to grant immunity from prosecution to a French far right-wing deputy for remarks about the Nazi gas chambers, in a case threatening to embarrass the EU assembly. After four times delaying a vote on Bruno Gollnisch, number two in France's extreme right National Front, the parliament's legal affairs committee voted overwhelmingly not to give him protection as a member of the European parliament (MEP) from court proceedings. Gollnisch was charged over his comments at a press conference last year which trod a fine line on the edge of French laws against calling into question crimes against humanity. The committee chairwoman, British MEP Diana Wallis, said her panel felt that the way Gollnisch had acted "was not fairly and fully and squarely within the member's exercise of his duties as a member of this parliament." "We are not in any way entering into a debate on the nature of the charge in France or the nature of the law in France," she said. Speaking in Lyon, France, in October 2004, Gollnisch said: "I do not deny the existence of deadly gas chambers. But I'm not a specialist on this issue, and I think we have to let the historians debate it." He did not contest the "hundreds of thousands, the millions of deaths" during the Holocaust, but added: "As to the way those people died, a debate should take place." Four days later, then French justice minister Dominique Perben, who is now transport minister and intends to run against Gollnisch in 2007 municipal elections, ordered police in Lyon to launch an inquiry. They found he had no case to answer but Perben insisted charges be laid. The trial of Gollnisch, who claims he is being persecuted by Perben, was scheduled for September but was pushed back until November 29 so that parliament could rule on his immunity. The EU assembly will vote on the committee's recommendation in full session next week. In the unlikely event that it votes against the committee's advice, the case against Gollnisch would probably have to be dropped.
© Expatica News

23/11/2005- Roma minorities are the group most vulnerable to racism in the European Union since the bloc expanded into central Europe, an EU watchdog said on Wednesday. In its annual report, the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia said Roma -- also known as Gypsies -- faced discrimination in employment, housing and education, as well as being regular victims of racial violence. "The particular histories and population characteristics of the new Member States mean that the Roma and people from the former (Soviet Union) are often the targets of racist sentiments and acts," the report said. It said segregation in housing was particularly acute for the Roma population in the Czech Republic, Spain and Hungary. Roma children were disproportionately concentrated in special education classes in several countries with an over-readiness to label them as educationally disabled or with learning difficulties. The Vienna-based center said the ethnic diversity of the EU had changed with enlargement in 2004. While western Europe had big ethnic minority communities of labor migrants and their descendants, who have been targets of racism, xenophobia and discrimination, eastern Europe did not have the same diversity. By contrast, large Roma communities were found in the new member states of central and eastern Europe, notably the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. "It is for this reason that so many of the...reports on the 10 new member states focus primarily or solely on issues of Roma ...When concerns of racism and discrimination are raised in the new member states, this is often the only group for which there are available and significant facts to relate," it said.

The executive European Commission pressed the newcomers to improve the legal rights and treatment of Roma minorities as a condition for joining the EU. Now they are members, they are subject to the same monitoring as old member states. In Western Europe, the report highlighted waves of violent incidents mainly against Muslims in the wake of the March 2004 train bombings in Madrid and the murder of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh. Both attacks were carried out by suspected Islamic militants. It said a rise in both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic attacks in France was reported in the period after the Madrid bombs, which killed nearly 200 people. There was a wave of violence against Muslims and mosques in the Netherlands after the Van Gogh killing, but the report also noted death threats against politicians in Belgium and a strong impact on public and political debate on immigration and religion in Denmark and Germany. In a separate report published earlier this month, the EU watchdog said Britain had successfully put an end to a spasm of anti-Muslim violence after last July‘s attacks by Islamist suicide bombers on London‘s transport system. The annual report, compiled before this month‘s riots in France‘s heavily-immigrant suburbs, laments the absence of adequate data from several member states, such as France, which do not record "race," ethnic or national origin or religion in statistics. Such figures are important to identify indicators of discrimination and to develop and measure the impact of anti-discrimination policies, the EU center said.
© Herald News Daily

1. Summary of Recommendations
24/11/2005- Amnesty International’s recommendations to the EUROMED Summit stress that human rights must finally be given real priority within the Barcelona Process. The 35 partner countries gathered in Barcelona should reaffirm human rights as a cornerstone of their vision for the future of the EURO-Mediterranean partnership. Countries should ensure that their efforts to enhance the security of their citizens and co-operation on all aspects of ‘illegal immigration’ will be based on full respect of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Amnesty International calls upon all the leaders of the 35 states that comprise the EUROMED partnership to renew their commitment to promote human rights in their own countries and across the wider region by ensuring that the work plan for the next five years includes: 

  • a special focus on safeguarding human rights when countering terrorism and managing migration; 

  • new mechanisms for human rights that enable partners to monitor regularly and effectively the ratification and application of international human rights instruments and to collaborate in securing their implementation; 

  • unimpeded participation of civil society in the EUROMED process, by ensuring freedom of expression and association and by fostering independent civil society organisations; 

  • an imperative that human rights within the EUROMED partnership are applied unequivocally to all 35 partner countries without distinction or favour.

2. Political context
When the Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers met in Barcelona on 27-28 November 1995 and launched the EUROMED Partnership, the new regional framework for co-operation was set against a political context of hope for peace and stability in the region. After the end of the Cold War and with the recent signature of the Oslo Peace Accords, the region seemed set towards a path of renewed political endeavour and rapprochement.
In Barcelona, the Ministers set forth three main objectives of co-operation: 

  • to achieve peace and stability by strengthening human rights and democracy; 

  • to promote prosperity through the construction of an economic and financial partnership; 

  • to facilitate mutual understanding between peoples through a social, cultural and human partnership.

These three cornerstones of the partnership were to give the necessary impetus to reinforce the positive political trend.

Ten years later, the political environment has altered dramatically. Not only has the partnership been changed by EU enlargement and the introduction of the broader European Neighbourhood Policy, but the political agenda in 2005 is dominated by conflict and by the increasing pressures of counter-terrorism and fighting ‘illegal immigration’. The achievement of the original objectives, in particular those of peace, stability and mutual understanding between peoples, seem more remote than ten years ago. It is widely recognised at both political and institutional levels that human rights are essential to the partnership. As the Commission stated in its communication, advancing political reform towards human rights and democracy is key to achieving sustainable security and stability. However, there is common agreement that the Barcelona Process has failed to improve the human rights situation in the region.

In 2005, human rights continue to be violated on a serious and systematic scale in most of the Mediterranean partner countries. At the same time they are under growing pressure within the EU as responses to the challenges of countering terrorism and irregular migration increasingly infringe on basic rights, against a troubling backdrop of racism, xenophobia and intolerance.

Instead of addressing the fundamental problem of the Barcelona Process’ human rights deficit in its plan for the future, the Commission’s proposals appear to relegate human rights to conferences and educational efforts. Though important, these can only be effective if they are deployed alongside, not instead of, concrete efforts to ensure respect for human rights and good administration of justice throughout the EUROMED countries.
In order to revive the original promises of the Barcelona Process, Amnesty International considers that the following conditions should be met: 

  • human rights must be placed firmly and squarely on the political agenda, underpinned by adequate implementation mechanisms and a clear time frame; 

  • counter-terrorism measures must be based on principles of human rights and democracy; 

  • efforts to control migration must be in accordance with international standards of refugee and migrants’ rights protection; 

the EUROMED human rights agenda being essentially reciprocal, both sides must confront their shortcomings on a basis of shared responsibility.

3. The EUROMED partners: human rights deficit
Over the past ten years Amnesty International has produced numerous reports detailing the gross human rights deficit of the Barcelona Process. In the Southern Mediterranean countries, this deficit includes the continuing use of arbitrary detention, unfair trials, torture and the death penalty in most countries; sharp curbs on freedom of expression and association, targeting of human rights defenders, unresolved "disappearances", and extrajudicial killings in a number of countries and violations of the rights of women and widespread impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations throughout the region. In EU Member States, the human rights deficit has been exemplified by patterns of excessive use of force, ill-treatment and even torture by state agents, often marked by discriminatory elements and with impunity for perpetrators; unlawful detention and refoulement of asylum seekers and compromising important human rights principles when devising counter-terrorism measures. In spite of the EU’s stated commitment to further the "respect for human rights and democratic principles" in its international co-operation with third countries, it has failed to intervene and to effectively apply the human rights clause of Article 2 common in the agreements to either the partner countries or to its own Member States. Furthermore, the failure to address human rights violations by individual EU Member States makes the EU as a whole complicit and can only undermine its political and moral authority to raise human rights concerns with third countries. Within the Barcelona Process, Amnesty International notes with concern the paradox that while the EU develops frameworks and allocates significant resources to promote human rights, it tolerates or turns a blind eye to practices which have undermined human rights protection in partner countries. Similarly EU Member States export their restrictive agendas on countering terrorism and ‘illegal immigration’, effectively undermining human rights protection in the partner countries, as well as their own ambition to provide durable solutions to the challenges posed by terrorism and irregular migration.

4. Combating terrorism: human rights eclipsed
The parties to the Barcelona Declaration expressly declared that "the peace, stability and security of the Mediterranean region are a common asset which they pledge to promote and strengthen by all means at their disposal". They further committed to "strengthening their co-operation in preventing and combating terrorism, in particular by ratifying and applying the international instruments they have signed, by acceding to such instruments and by taking any other appropriate measure." The Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs held in Brussels in October 2001 was the first after the 11 September tragedy in the United States. In their conclusions, the Ministers "express their total condemnation of terrorism everywhere in the world (…) and welcome the adoption of Res.1373(2001) of the United Nations Security Council aimed at eliminating all forms of support for terrorism and pledge rapidly to take the measures needed to implement it." Amnesty International unconditionally and unreservedly condemns attacks on civilians and calls for those responsible to be brought to justice. States have an obligation to take measures to prevent and protect against attacks on civilians; to investigate such crimes; to bring to justice those responsible in fair proceedings and to ensure prompt and adequate reparation to victims. Amnesty International recognises that in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks and other attacks in several EUROMED countries, it was incumbent upon the EU and its Mediterranean partners to review legislative and other measures with a view to ensuring non-repetition of such attacks and protection of those under their jurisdiction.

However, within the EUROMED context, counter-terrorism measures have eclipsed other agendas and human rights in particular. With the political and security partnership in disarray by the flaring crisis in the Middle East, the fight against terrorism appears to provide the only common ground for advancing the political dialogue between the EU and its Mediterranean partners. This is reflected in the agendas of the annual meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and by the fact that all recent Association Agreements (as of 2000) contain a specific clause on terrorism. This increased focus has culminated in the European Commission five-year work programme put forward to mark the 10th anniversary of the EUROMED Partnership, which turns the fight against terrorism and irregular migration into primary elements of the partnership. The absolute necessity for states to ensure that all counter-terrorism measures be implemented in accordance with international standards of human rights, humanitarian and refugee law has repeatedly been made clear by the UN Security Council, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, among others. In official pronouncements, the EU too has consistently subscribed to the principle that there can be no security without human rights, and distanced itself from portraying human rights as a barrier to effective protection from terrorist acts rather than as a pre-requisite for genuine security.

However, amid the flurry of recent counter-terrorism initiatives both in the EU and beyond, the concept of human rights and the rule of law as the basis for genuine security is almost invisible. As the political focus on counter-terrorism measures has increased, the human rights agenda has fallen victim to a wrongly perceived ‘Realpolitik’, side-stepping not only countries’ international obligations but also ignoring the vital role human rights play in conflict resolution and establishing long term stability. Amnesty International is deeply concerned that in its policies and legislation on counter-terrorism the EU has failed so far to properly address the serious issue of protecting fundamental rights. In practice the EU and its Member States have a habit of ignoring breaches of rights protection within the EU, while too little attention is given to human rights abuses that may result when suspects are returned to their countries of origin or third countries. These include EUROMED partner countries.

In surveying the multitude of counter-terrorism initiatives at EU level since 11 September 2001, Amnesty International established that there are serious human rights deficiencies in the EU’s criminal law response to terrorism, while a blind eye is turned to the questionable laws and practices on counter-terrorism in EU Member States as well as in EUROMED partner countries. Many of the EUROMED partners have used the pretext of the ‘war on terror’ to reinforce or introduce repressive measures against political opponents, minorities and citizens in general. Anti-terrorist legislation contains broad definitions that are used to criminalise legitimate exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association, and to clamp down on political opposition and human rights activists. Mechanisms applied to combat terrorism not only threaten human rights standards, but also thwart important democratic processes and initiatives. Within the EU, there is a real risk that counter-terrorism policies, in the way they are applied in practice, may lead to a sense of alienation within certain sectors of society that may feel as though they are being unfairly targeted. The common values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law are a cornerstone of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. Failure to address significant human rights deficiencies internally undermines the EU’s credibility when trying to promote human rights externally. Unless the EU takes active steps to address its own shortcomings and Member States’ failure to comply with their international human rights obligations, it not only loses credibility and authority on human rights issues with its EUROMED partners, but it also seriously undermines the key objectives of its Common Foreign and Security Policy as a whole.

5. Managing migration: the human cost of Fortress Europe
In light of the tragic incidents in recent months in the Mediterranean area, Amnesty International has documented evidence of a consistent pattern of human rights violations in this region linked to interception, detention and expulsion of foreign nationals, including persons seeking international protection. The string of incidents at the Southern European borders is tangible evidence that the integrity of the international refugee system is put at risk by EU Member States’ practices. Despite a sharp decline in asylum applications in most EU Member States, these same countries are increasingly tempted to withdraw from their international commitments regarding refugee protection and to shift responsibility to neighbouring third countries where responsibility, enforceability and accountability for effective protection are likely to be minimal at best, and where states’ practices towards refugees and migrants have also often been abusive of their human rights. These include EUROMED partner countries. Beyond this ‘protection crisis’, these events have shed light on a major ‘migration crisis’ within the context of the continuing gross imbalance between Northern and Southern countries. In assessing the impact of EU policies on neighbouring countries, there can be little doubt that the manner in which the ‘fight against illegal immigration’ is conducted risks exacerbating rather than alleviating the problems associated with irregular migration. The lack of real solidarity, combined with abusive practices puts a strain on the EU’s stated goal of seeking durable solutions and tackling its root causes. It undermines the EU’s credibility and legitimacy in asking others to carry burdens that it is not prepared to accept itself.

Amnesty International acknowledges recent initiatives such as regional protection programs undertaken by the EU to enhance refugee protection in regions of origin and countries of transit. However, while keeping refugees close to their regions of origin is seen as a panacea from the perspective of European governments, the presence of large numbers of refugees may have a detrimental impact on the political stability of the host societies. The Barcelona Process should be used as a framework to develop a sustained and open dialogue on ‘regional protection’. Central to the debate is the definition of what constitutes effective protection and who will be in charge of assessing refugee needs. However, the EU’s contribution to enhancing the refugee system should not be limited to legal, financial and technical assistance to third countries. It should also be translated into practice by concrete solidarity measures with countries that are facing severe difficulties to develop proper reception facilities and integration schemes and are often hosting large numbers of refugees. In this context, expanded resettlement opportunities within EU countries would constitute a welcome development for the EU and a significant contribution to international protection. Another significant step would be to develop emergency tools that would allow the EU to intervene promptly and efficiently when a neighbouring country is faced with a massive humanitarian or migration crisis. Such tools could range from adequate financial instruments to a joint team of experts who could assist in processing asylum claims and identifying vulnerable groups. Such tools should be geared towards the protection of people rather than focussing on border controls. Central to the debate is also a renewed commitment towards the United Nations and the need to increase its capacity to prevent and solve humanitarian and political crises. Greater financial and political support to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is a key element in enhancing refugee protection and developing durable solutions.

The recent crisis has highlighted the need for EU Member States to enhance the protection of migrants’ rights. Migrants working illegally in the EU are suffering economic exploitation and are the victims of discrimination and xenophobia. The EU policy to fight irregular immigration has so far primarily targeted individuals through a control-driven approach, and there is as yet no coherent approach to labour exploitation. Amnesty International believes that the starting point for a discussion on economic migration management must be the rights of migrant workers which should be firmly grounded in principles of non-discrimination and of equality before the law. Furthermore, the EU’s policy on economic migration should seek to prevent and eliminate the exploitation of all migrant workers and members of their families, and provide mechanisms to ensure that those responsible for abuse are held to account. Whereas most of the non-EU states party to the Barcelona Process have already ratified the 1990 UN Convention on the rights of migrants and their family members, this convention has not been acted upon by most EU Member States. In order for migrant workers to receive comprehensive protection, Amnesty International calls on the EU to encourage the Member States to ratify the Migrant Workers Convention, including the optional provision of article 77 regarding individual complaints.

6. The way forward: renewed focus on human rights and democracy
The governments of the EUROMED Partnership committed themselves to act in accordance with the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their signature expressed a political will to develop the rule of law and democracy, and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression and freedom of association. In the current political climate it is more important then ever that the EU acts as a strong proponent of human rights standards in its relations with the EUROMED partners, and that it applies those standards scrupulously and systematically in its own conduct.

Respect for human rights in all EUROMED countries
To revitalise the human rights dimension of the EUROMED partnership as a matter of priority, human rights must be placed firmly on the political agenda of all relevant fora, with concrete mechanisms to be developed and applied consistently without favour to implement the human rights clause of the Association Agreements and the human rights commitments of the Action Plans under the European Neighbourhood Policy. The November EUROMED Summit should task the proposed Euro-Mediterranean conference on human rights and democratisation in 2006 to ascertain progress and problems to date and to design a framework of action for the next five years to include:

  • an annual review of the situation of human rights in all countries of the partnership; 

  • priorities for corrective action on the basis of agreed benchmarks; 

  • full participation of civil society based on unimpeded enjoyment of freedom of expression and association; 

  • mainstreaming of human rights in all areas of co-operation including trade, education and security. 

  • The EU should end the bias in the Barcelona Process to date by which the focus is on human rights violations in the Mediterranean partner countries only.

Respect for human rights in combating terrorism 

  • All partner countries should ensure that all measures to enhance security and combat terrorism are in full compliance with international standards of human rights, international humanitarian and refugee law.

Respect for human rights in managing migration

  • The EU should develop a comprehensive approach to migration and ensure respect of the integrity of the international refugee protection system as well as of basic human rights of all migrants, regardless of their legal situation.

© Amnesty International USA

19/11/2005- Hitler memorabilia has become a multimillion-pound business with autographs routinely fetching £2,000. Reams of writing paper embossed with the Nazi eagle and the intials AH were liberated by American soldiers from a warehouse near Hitler’s mountain retreat on the Obersalzberg. It can now be bought on the internet for £30-£50 a sheet. Calling cards from the same source, usually marked “Adolf Hitler, Deutscher Reichskanzler”, are also available. Hitler’s ink blotting pad — a signature is revealed if it is held to a mirror — fell into the hands of Gerdy Troost, his interior decorator. A single authenticated autograph dated February 18, 1936, is on offer for thousands of pounds. It is one of perhaps tens of thousands that Hitler scribbled during his political career. Maria Zeldovitch, a Russian interpreter at the postwar Nuremberg trials, has sold thousands of copies of a photograph she took of the wedding certificate of Hitler and Eva Braun, signed in the Berlin bunker at the end of the war. The bride started to write “Braun” then, realising her mistake, scratched it out and wrote her husband’s name. The photographs sell for £25. Hitler watercolours are the probably the safest investment. A signed sketch of a German postman sold at auction for £5,200 in Cornwall this month. It is said to have belonged to Otto GŁnsche, Hitler’s personal adjutant, who remained with him in the Berlin bunker in May 1945 and who supervised the burning of Hitler’s body. France, Germany and Austria ban the sale or display of Nazi memorabilia.
© The Times Online

19/11/2005- Many pupils in Norway use a neo-Nazi website when they look for answers for questions regarding Second World War, writes the Norwegian daily Dagbladet. The website belongs to a small extreme-right group, Vigdis. Tore W. Twedt, the group’s chairman, openly declares his sympathy to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, denies the Holocaust and notoriously attacks anything that has to do with Jews or Israel. In a recent interview with Dagbladet, Twedt said his group had stepped up its activities among schoolchildren and students “to supply them with answers they won’t get in school”. He said the website receives an average of four to five questions a week, most of them about the Holocaust.

Legality questioned
“We tell youngsters not to believe the vicious propaganda about the six million Jewish victims, who supposedly lost their lives during the war. These are all lies and fabrications by international Jewry, who rule the world by controlling world finance and media,” he said. When asked if such information would not be dangerous to be used by pupils in their schoolwork, he answered that he warns pupils to use this kind of information “in a subtle way”. Norwegian police have opened an inquiry into the legality of the Vigdis website, but Norwegian human rights’ organisations doubt whether this stream of propaganda can be stopped. Two years ago the Norwegian Supreme Court gave permission for similar propaganda to be disseminated, “as long as it is a general point of view, and does not personally point at a certain individual”.

Website must be banned
Ole Melboye Petterson, the head of SOS Racism, a Norwegian watchdog against racism, said he was worried about the Vigdis’ activities, but added that there was little hope of stopping the organisation through legal means. “I am shocked and terrified about the damage such false information can do to young people. It must be stopped. The problem is that in Norway we have little experience of how to [stop such activities],” Petterson said. Halvard Holleland, the chairman national pupil’s organisation, also hopes that the website which he says “spreads ideas which are totally foreign to the values of most Norwegians”, will be banned. Academic authorities at the University of Oslo on Wednesday refused to approve a doctoral thesis about the Second World War. The paper, “Race war”, written by Olav Bergram, 66, failed on the grounds that it provided insufficient documentation to prove its premise that the WWII was justified. It argued that Nazi Germany had had no other choice but to react against Communist Soviet aggression and that the Norwegian Nazi dictator Vidkun Kvisling was “the most brilliant and visionary politician of his time”.
© The European Jewish Press

21/11/2005- Aaron Freeman plays "Halo 2" online under the name Black Jesus — so he expects to get some flak. He gets cursed at. He gets run over by his teammates. And he is frequently told, by the anonymous gamers from miles away that he is connected with via his Xbox and microphone-enabled headset, that "Jesus wasn't black, you stupid n---er." "I think I've come to tune it out," Freeman said. A film media major at Hunter College in New York, Freeman, 23, has been playing games online for several years and can more than hold his own in "Halo." While he admits his gaming moniker can be provocative, he says racism online is uncalled for and all too common. "Sometimes you get the feeling [people] go online not even to play, just to bother other people," he said. "It's kind of disturbing." Gamers who have racked up a few kills or won a few races on any online games that can be played with strangers already know that prejudicial remarks are a regular part of the chatter they'll encounter. "If you play every day, you will hear it every day," said 20-year-old Chris Buddha from Queens, New York. "The first time it happened I was a little shocked," said 23-year-old Chris Scott of Brooklyn. "It's different from the racism I encounter in person." In the real world, people can react. "If I said something to someone else, they can punch me in the face for that," he pointed out, "but when it's over the Internet and Internet games it's a little bit harder. Because you wonder who it is. You wonder more of 'Why?,' like 'What's the point?' "

Some gamers, and even some in the industry, say unsavory types are unavoidable anytime you're dealing with huge numbers of people, such the 2 million Xbox Live players or the thousands who play "SOCOM" nightly on their PS2s. "If you have this large a community, you're bound to have some problems," said Larry Hryb, director of programming for Xbox Live. A Sony PlayStation representative had no comment at press time. Aaron Greenberg, group marketing manager for Xbox Live, said Microsoft has a zero tolerance policy for any racist remarks made by users of its online system. "We shoot to eliminate it completely," he explained. To that end, the upgraded version of Xbox Live launching this week with the Xbox 360 will include several new safeguards. They include "Gamer Zones" that allow subscribers to only interact with, say, those who have chosen a kid-friendly area. The new Live will offer an improved feedback system that allows gamers to file complaints about other gamers directly through their system and it will introduce an eBay-style five-star rating system, which may help indicate who is worth playing against. But Microsoft reps also say that, numerically speaking, racism has not been a major issue on their network. "We've banned over 10,000 people, but that's not just for racial remarks," Greenberg said.

"I game a lot," said Hryb. "I'm not saying this doesn't exist, but from what I've seen it really hasn't crossed my desk that much." That might be because gamers don't complain about online racism to Microsoft or Sony with nearly the frequency they experience it. Gamers interviewed by MTV News said protesting to game makers about prejudiced players would be futile. "They could ban their accounts, suspend them, but there's loopholes around that," Buddha said. Freeman thinks the prevalence of online racism can be attributed to the anonymity of playing online. "It's a godlike power Microsoft gave everybody," he said. That freedom seems to breed a culture where taboos are readily broken. "I've heard mention of all kinds of things you just can't bring up in person," he said "The word 'rape' is pretty much dulled now because of that." He admitted that the freedom of online chat, combined with the vicarious thrill of online action gaming, can be intoxicating. He recalled one time — the only time, he said — when he let loose on another player. "I just picked out someone and I said, 'You did awful, you should kill yourself, blah, blah blah,' " he said. "I'll admit it was kind of fun." Having now recognized the inability of Microsoft or Sony to eradicate racism from online gaming, some players have explored other ways of turning the tables. If Freeman discovers that the players he's matched with on a "Halo" team are racist, he'll slip off to make an offer to rival forces. "I'll sneak up to an opposing player with a powerful weapon or rocket launcher and I'll go, 'Hey, kill racists!' and I'll hand it to them and run off," he said. "They say, 'Black Jesus is a freedom fighter. He's a civil-rights worker.' "

For 29-year-old Victor De Leon of Long Island, the solution was to find a narrower playing field. De Leon often games with his 7-year-old son, a "Halo" whiz kid who games as Lil Poison. He used to eagerly engage in worldwide matchmaking games that could net completely unknown gamers as online opponents. But the comments from other players got to be too much, and one incident provided the breaking point when players with a Southern drawl verbally attacked him and his son. "They just kept on saying 'sp--' and 'stupid n---ers,' " he said. "I was like, 'How can you say this to a 7-year-old kid?' " Now De Leon keep their gaming more restricted, playing primarily against people they know. Others have taken their gaming offline. Kia Song, 25, and Brian Tang, 24, founded a New York-based offline gaming group called NYClan in part to appeal to gamers beleaguered by online prejudice. "We've had gamers travel to be in our events," said Song, noting that the group offers an alternative "for anybody who is frustrated with people screaming racial slurs at each other and just deteriorating the quality of the game." NYClan late-night gaming parties have attracted 250 gamers since June. Scott, who has played in NYClan events, said he can't let racism ruin his ability to play online. He's not going to be chased off. "My strategy for this now that it's become commonplace is I just crush them," he said. "That's it. I crush them and let them talk."

Through a small act of defiance, Rosa Parks set in motion an irreversible process of racial equality and non-discrimination in the American society
By Arif Azad

20/11/2005- Rosa Parks died quietly on October 25, 2005. Before her death she had changed America forever as far as the issue of racial equality was concerned. By refusing to vacate her bus seat for a white passenger on December 1, 1955, she had triggered a civil rights movement which successfully campaigned for the end to segregation of blacks from whites in most parts of the American society. Rosa Parks was born in 1913, to politically conscious parents who themselves had been the victims of age-old racism and discrimination formalised in the laws and social life of the American South. They instilled in her a determination to challenge racism and discrimination that had reduced a whole people to a life of poverty and dehumanisation. She briefly attended school -- a rare feat for a black child in those days -- before dropping out on account of illness in the family. Being politically precocious, she did not take long in signing up to the Montgomery chapter of National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) where she progressed to become its secretary by 1943. This position exposed her to leading civil rights campaigners which polished her political and moral outlook further. Armed with a greater awareness of political rights, she began to mount daily challenges to discriminatory acts perpetrated upon her on account of her colour by the white supremacist system. Before being catapulted into the eye of a storm, she was known to the bus drivers for being a 'difficult customer'. Her finest hour came on December 1, 1955 when, asked to surrender her seat to a white passenger, she refused point blank. Police were called in and Rosa Parks was arrested for violating the racial segregation system operating on the municipal transport. Twelve years earlier she had been ordered off the bus for flouting segregation laws.

The age-old racially segregated bus system required the blacks to be relegated to the rear of the bus, at the same time requiring them to relinquish seats to white passengers when asked by the driver. Rosa Parks' act of defiance lit the fire of stored up resentment that had built up among the blacks as a consequence of discriminatory laws and regulations applied to them for centuries. What this act of defiance, however, started went beyond the wildest dreams of the civil rights campaigners: Unprecedented solidarity and coming together of the whole black community in a state-wide bus boycott which lasted 381 days. The then unknown 26 year old Baptist minister Martin Luther King led the boycott under the banner of the Montgomery Improvement Association. This was the beginning of the rise of King who went on to play a sterling part in the American civil rights and etch himself in the memory of the US, and the wider world beyond, through his speech "I have a dream..." which continues to reverberate among those fighting for the right to a dignified and non-discriminating world. Although Rosa Parks was fined for her disobedience, her defiance was instrumental in getting segregation on the bus transport outlawed. The emergent civil rights movement had won its first major battle in a long drawn out war which saw the birth of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. In some sections of the liberal press, Rosa Parks' act of defiance has been put down to her fatigued state rather than an inborn fierce political and moral outlook. The fact is that Rosa Parks was a highly politicised feminist who had adopted the stance she adopted out of deeply held political convictions. The largely held view about Rosa Parks acting out of fatigue has been given short shrift by Herbert Kohl in his book entitled She Would Not Be Moved in the following words:

"To call Rosa Parks a poor, tired seamstress and not talk about her role as community leader and civil rights activist as well, is to turn an organised struggle for freedom into a personal act of frustration." Speaking to a gathering in 1992, Rosa Parks too went out of her way to put the record straight by saying that "the real reason of my standing up was I felt that I had a right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of thing for too long."

But the centuries old racial attitudes were too entrenched to be rooted out by legislation alone. During this seminal, and uncertain, period of the civil rights movement, wide-spread harassment and racial violence was perpetrated upon the black activists by the white robed adherents of Ku Klux Klan which advocated undiluted white racial supremacy. It was not long before this atmosphere of pervasive racial intimidation forced Rosa Parks to relocate to Detroit in 1957. In Detroit, she went back to her seamstress job, before settling into a black congressman's Detroit office where she worked till her retirement in 1988. The period between her retirement and the death was filled with public engagements in the right-oriented projects and campaigns. Upon her retirement, she expended considerable energy and time on building Rosa and Raymond Institute for Self Development that is devoted to developing leadership among Detroit's young people. As late as 1995 she addressed One Million March organised by controversial Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. In 1999 she was awarded the Medal of Honour by the US congress -- the highest civil award in the United States. The Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, voiced the feelings of many when he said in his tribute that "she stood up by sitting down. I am only standing because of her." This tribute stands out among a flood of plaudits that her dignified death provoked. The fact that her funeral was given presidential status shows how far and how deep her influence spread. This perhaps sums up Rosa Parks' legacy for the future generations of minority and civil rights activist. By her quiet dignity, backed up by heighten understanding of race, class and civil rights, she set in stone a pattern of resistance which has been copied all over the world. At a time, when a renewed assault on civil liberties has been launched by security-oriented governments the world over, the non-violent and sustained spirit of resistance displayed by Rosa Parks is needed more than ever before.
© News on Sunday

By Morgan Campbell, Leslie Scrivener and Catherine Porter, staff reporters

20/11/2005- Jeffrey had just finished a Grade 11 math quiz Monday morning, when his class was interrupted by knocking. The principal, Jim Matthews, was at the door. He told Jeffrey to step into the hall. The 16-year-old boy had no idea what was about to happen — to him, the school and the community. He had no way of knowing that the next 24 hours would change his future, shatter the reputation of his school, batter a tentative peace between police and his neighbourhood, and ignite charges of racism. "When I came outside, I saw so much cops," the bony teen said from his home in an interview last week. (His name has been changed in compliance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act.) While his teacher watched through the open door, the young man was handcuffed by officers and marched down to the school's office.  Along with another 11 boys and two girls, he was loaded into a cruiser and carted to the police station, where he spent the night confused and uncomfortable, being searched, fingerprinted, and locked in a cell until the next morning. Jeffrey still doesn't know why he was arrested. "I asked what they were arresting me for, and they said `criminal harassment,'" he said. But he knows that it had to do with two similar arrests at the school the week before and the chilling allegations by a 16-year-old student that she had been sexually assaulted and harassed by a group of young boys for more than a year.

In total, police arrested 16 students from James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School over six days. Two were charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement, having to do with two alleged assaults. In one, police say a 17-year-old boy forced the girl into both a school stairwell and washroom where he sexually assaulted her last month. In the other, a 15-year-old student is alleged to have followed the girl into the washroom of a fast food restaurant, locked the door and then demanded sexual favours before a restaurant employee arrived and the girl was able to escape.  Police haven't released details about the reported involvement of Jeffrey and the other students, other than to say that the two young women threatened the girl with bodily harm and the other young men criminally harassed her — which, according to the Criminal Code, could include taunts, threats, verbal abuse or following her. But Jeffrey and others maintain their innocence. "I don't know how I got caught up," said Jeffrey. "I don't even talk to her."

Lesson 1: Race is a factor even if it isn't
The subtext to the uproar that followed the arrests is colour. The victim is white. All of the accused are black. Instead of feeling pity for the girl, the surrounding community has reacted with rage.  They call the police ham-fisted, and worse a racist. They wonder: If this had been a black girl and white boys, would police have reacted with charges so quickly? Would they have arrested the youth in their school, not allowing their parents the courtesy of taking them to the police station without the glare of flashing cameras and the wide eyes of their peers? "I don't think if it was a black (accuser), it would have reached that," said Jeffrey's mother. "And take 14 white people out of school? I don't think so." Some even say police broke the law. "One of the most important things, especially in dealing with young offenders, is anonymity. For the police to go into the school, arrest them in front of other students and basically out them in front of other peers... that flies in the face of the Youth Criminal Justice Act," said Royland Moriah, a policy research lawyer with the African Canadian Legal Clinic. The police explanation of why they arrested the students at school comes down to logistics. The concern was that the youths, many of them friends, would have notified one another on cellphones or pagers, and fled before police could arrest them. Then the safety of the victim and witnesses would be jeopardized.  "We believe we made the right decision, and we stand by that," said Inspector Tom McIlhone, the second in command of 31 Division. "Everyone knows everyone anyways. Where in the world could we arrest somebody and be sure not to breach (their) identity?" Police have gone into schools to make arrests before, he said. In 1991, Metro police swooped into a southeast Scarborough high school and arrested three 17-year-olds after a mob swarming and robbery at a local flea market. In that case, all of the officers were in uniform — to make a point, McIlhone said.

In this case, police tried to be as discrete as possible, he said. They parked their cruisers away from the school. They arrived after the beginning of the second period, around 11 a.m., so there wouldn't be many students in the hall to witness the arrests. "We could have done this another way. We could have came and dropped 20 police cars in front of the school and everybody rushing around and grabbing them out of class. That's just the inappropriate way to do it. We tried to do this with as little embarrassment as possible for the people involved," he said. The method would have been the same given the charges at any school across the city, McIlhone added. And the treatment wouldn't have altered if the victim was black, and her alleged tormentors white, South Asian or any other colour. Before the arrests were made last Monday morning, the officers had names only they didn't know the ethnic background of the students before each one stepped into the hallway to be arrested, he said. "We're here to protect the public, in particular the youth, they're the most vulnerable. It matters not to us what the race culture is," McIlhone said. Outspoken community members and the mothers of the accused think otherwise. "Race does play a factor in it as far as I'm concerned," said Toronto District School Board trustee and local community activist Stephnie Payne. "It begs the question."

Lesson 2: Bad things can happen in good schools
James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School stands near the corner of Jane and Keele Sts., in the shadow of what is known as the Jane-Finch corridor. As the only Catholic school in the area, many of the teenagers from the highrises on San Romanoway at Jane and Finch make the two-kilometre trek to McGuigan each morning. Windswept and anonymous, the corner is a postcard of the ailments that plague Toronto's inner suburbs. Giant paved roads whiz with traffic, separating towering brick apartment buildings and small, desolate malls. Tucked between York University and Downsview Park, green spaces in the area are lined with electricity towers. People line up for the bus — distances here are too far to walk. Added to the sprawl is crime and poverty. The median household income is $37,000, $18,000 below the city's average. Unemployment is high, education levels low, the teen pregnancy rate almost double the city's. The area also claims many of the city's most rundown buildings. More than half of the people who live in them are visible minorities, many of them black. Given the desperate conditions, it's no surprise that gunfire flashes around the neighbourhood. From early July to the end of October this year, there were four shootings in the area. Just last week, a man was shot on the residential streets southeast of the school. As a result, the Jane-Finch area has become a hot spot of resentment toward the police. It's a spot where many grieving black mothers are interviewed about the death of their sons, and angry black residents lash out at their treatment at the hands of officers. Despite outside tensions, the orange brick walls and adjacent portables of Cardinal McGuigan have offered a sanctuary.

Opened in 1982, the school was started by Franciscan Fathers and named after the first cardinal in English-speaking Canada. Its motto is Ambulate in Dilectione - walk in fraternal charity. One of the founding principles of the school was the teaching of St. Francis, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant who cast off his life of privilege to live in poverty and loving sacrifice. All students interviewed by the Star said they felt safe in its halls and adjoining portables. "Nobody in our school is part of a gang. This year we had one fight, and those people aren't allowed in the school any more," said a Grade 11 student named Nicki. "There are no weapons, there is no violence. This is really a good school." Inside its crowded halls, the student body reflects the surrounding community. Flipping through the pages of last year's yearbook, about 40 per cent of the faces are black. An almost equal number are white. The rest are Latino, Middle Eastern, Asian and South Asian. At the school's multicultural day last year, 67 cultural groups were represented. Students and teachers at McGuigan said race has never been an issue. Outside the school, students gather in clusters segregated only by gender,  black girls, white girls, Hispanic girls all giggle together on their way back from lunch. Most of the staff is white, with Italian names. But even one of the few black teachers there said he's never encountered racism in the school. Others agree.

"We've dedicated our careers to this community," said Paul Bergin, a social science teacher who has taught at McGuigan for 18 years. "Obviously it's a neighbourhood with many different cultures, and that's why we're here — because we want to be." But the wall that had separated the culture of the community and the culture of the school came crashing down last week. A school meeting hosted as a debriefing for parents turned into an angry venting session, with black mothers shouting down white officials on a stage with cries of "racism." "We're not animals, we're human beings," yelled one woman. Much of it was aimed at the police for the way they handled the arrest. "I saw my classmates humiliated and degraded," said Grade 12 student Dianne Escobar. When a white woman took the microphone and claimed that her 14-year-old son had been offered sexual favours from the young victim, the gym went wild. People jumped to their feet and danced in the aisles, shouting "racism" the underlying implication that it was only because the boys were black that they were facing criminal charges. The tension was so high, one white mother found herself shaking in her seat. "I felt like what it must have been like to be black 30 years ago, when you were told to sit at the back of the bus," said Catherine Burger. "I am really afraid for my daughter — not just her emotional safety, but her physical safety."

Given the background, police should have been more sensitive, said legal-clinic lawyer Moriah. "We've had problems of racial profiling, of overpolicing, of harassment, harsher sentences, harsher bail conditions and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. All of this should be in their minds when they're going through these procedures and thinking how they should go about arresting these children. You have to think about what the history is and take that into account when you make these decisions." The local division has been working to bridge relations with the community. Officers play hockey and soccer regularly with the local youth, McIlhone said. They've implemented mentoring programs. And, before making the arrests last week, they did look at the broader situation. But at the end of the day, "we have to police up here," he said. "Given all the circumstances, I don't believe there's anything else we could have done. I don't think things would have turned out good no matter what we did."

Lesson 3: A victim can make noise and still be unheard 
In all the din and outrage over the last week, the one voice that has been deafeningly silent is that of the victim: the 16-year-old girl, who after more than a year of allegedly being assaulted, finally came forward. In the classroom, vicious rumours abound. Many students are saying the same things as their parents. That the boys were only arrested because they are black. That there hadn't been any assaults. And, most of all, that the girl wasn't a victim at all. "That girl, she has so much attitude," said one girl, surrounded by friends outside the school. No one but police has publicly taken her side. Parents of the accused say she was a willing participant. Judgments are made about why she waited for so long to come forward. Some of her classmates said she was outspoken and a sports groupie. "Why did she hang around all those black guys?" asked Jeffrey's outraged mother. "What was her purpose?" "There's a lot of name-calling going on," said one female student of the school, referring to teenage slang that casts some students as "freaks" or "brainers." In the warped logic of teenage slang, the latter term has evolved from meaning someone who is studious to someone who doles out oral sex. "People are saying bad stuff about the girl. Some people think she wanted it. One disgusting thing somebody said was, `Look at the way she dresses.'"

The girl hasn't returned to the school since the arrest, although police said she initially wanted to. When reached at her family's condominium, she told a Star reporter she didn't want to speak. While students say she had friends, they aren't willing to talk. One contacted at home denied associating with her. One acquaintance said the intimidation factor has been overwhelming. "I've had people asking me if I was friends with her. It's intimidating," said the 16-year-old girl. "If they hate her so much, they may hate you, too." In the middle of the raucous parent meeting at the school last week, McIlhone reminded the crowd: "Keep in mind we have a victim and witnesses who can't come to school." He pointed out that no one knows why the girl hadn't come forward sooner; no one knows her situation, or whether, under the surface, she has self-esteem issues. "You can't really understand unless you've walked into somebody's shoes, and thank God, there's very few people who have walked in this young girl's shoes," he said. "I've had almost zero support for the victim," he added. "This victim has made a huge step, she's very courageous, she should be very proud of herself." The message the community is sending to future victims is damning, he said. "They're going to be afraid they're going to get this backlash. The community is almost passing sentence on the victim before we even have a trial," McIlhone said. The 16-year-old acquaintance worries about the same thing. "Now I'm scared that if something like this happens again, some kind of harassment, people will be scared that people won't believe them, and they won't be able to come back to school."

Lesson 4: Teachers don't know everything
In the blame game that has erupted since last Monday's arrests, few people have been spared. The principal was targeted by parents, including a group of mothers who started a petition, demanding he resign. "Mr. Matthews didn't support and protect us," one student declared into the microphone at the public meeting. The teachers have been lambasted by students, parents, and even politicians. "There's a serious supervision problem in that school," Frank Klees, the conservative education critic announced in Queen's Park last week, linking the event to decreased funds in the provincial education budget given to supervision. The Catholic school board's director of education also questioned whether teachers had the skills to recognize the signs of distress among their students. "Are all our staff properly prepared to identify situations that could in fact be harassment or assault?" Kevin Kobus asked last week. "I'm not convinced of that at this stage." If this kind of behaviour were happening in their school, right under the administration's noses, how could they not see it? How could this happen at the school, period? Those are questions that many have been mulling all week. "People here are obviously quite hurt by everything. We're still trying to cope with what's gone down," said Bergin, the staff union representative for the school's 63 teachers and support staff.  "I can't explain it. I really can't." Even Matthews, the school's principal, was baffled. "I'm greatly saddened. I'm confused. I didn't like the situation one bit," he told angry parents during the public meeting. "I was taking my direction from the police." Teachers contacted by the Star who taught the victim said they knew her as a confident woman, not susceptible to peer pressure. There was no sign. I had a good rapport with her in class. And there was no sign of anything. All of the staff are asking ourselves...," said one veteran teacher. "There's no way, if anybody had known this was happening, we'd let it go on." Some of the incidents are said to have taken place after school hours, when students no longer require passes to venture the halls, and most teachers are no longer present. "How would we know?" said Bergin. "Obviously, if we see bullying, we approach kids to address it. But if a kid doesn't come to us and basically tell us... " Most of the school halls are equipped with cameras. Police have said they examined videotapes before making the arrests. But the tapes are checked only after a suspicious occurrence is reported, and the cameras are there to protect the students from intruders. "They're not there to spy on the kids," Bergin said.

Lesson 5: Perception is reality
Cardinal McGuigan is not the first choice of many families in the northwest part of the city, teachers and the school trustee admit. It has a reputation as a technical school. Special education and ESL students form a large part of the population; 22 percent have special needs. It doesn't have a strong academic record. Only nine percent of McGuigan's Grade Nines reached the provincial standard in applied math, compared to 20 percent in the Catholic board in Toronto, and less than half the Grade 10 students passed the province-wide literacy test. "There are other schools they'd prefer," said Catholic school trustee Mary Cicogna, referring to local parents. "Parents felt St. Basil's, for example, had more to offer. If a student is doing well, that's the school they'd send them to."  The school has also had to contend with the stigma of its surroundings. "It's determined by our geography," said Angela Convertini, a former principal who left two years ago after being seconded to Loretto College at the University of Toronto. "People have a perception of Jane-Finch that is so skewed. There are decent, hard-working people striving to make a living. We tried to celebrate that, and I tried to get media to come in and change the perception of geography we were up against. I couldn't even get the local paper to come in. Now you can't get them to go away." The precise location of the school is important to some students: "It's Finch and Keele, not Jane and Finch," one boy said emphatically last week.

A successful effort has been mounted to dispel the school's reputation. New neat uniforms were introduced last year to give a good impression. "Perception is important," Cicogna said. She's been visiting feeder elementary schools and speaking to Grade 8 students, promoting the school. This year, enrolment increased. And the school is preparing for a $10 million expansion, to eliminate surrounding portables. But in the shadow of last week's events, will anybody care? "In the last five to six years, we've tried to do a lot to improve the image of the school," said one veteran teacher. "Something like this has kicked us right back to the bottom." That's not all the school has had to contend with. Three days after the arrests, Grade 12 student Anna Zarnock was found dead with her boyfriend inside a parked car, apparently the victim of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. The school's awards ceremony was postponed, and instead of proud parents, a fleet of grief counsellors rushed into the building. Meanwhile, the teachers have to continue teaching; the school year isn't even halfway over. Cicogna hopes to stage some morale-boosting events at McGuigan. There's talk of a community mass and visits by local celebrities and basketball stars. As early as this week, most of the 16 accused will have been placed in other Catholic schools, awaiting their trials. The victim is also heading to a new school. "I hope some good will come out of all this bad," said Burger, the mother of a McGuigan student. "That's why I didn't want to pull my daughter out of the school. With all this media focus, they'll try to fix this school up, hopefully."
© The Toronto Star

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