NEWS - Archive December 2005

Headlines 30 December, 2005


30/12/2005- Behind the sterile white brick walls of Brunnenplatz school, Ahmet Ruhi Cosgun dreams of a professional soccer career - not at a German club, but at Galatasaray in Istanbul. At 15, this son of Turkish immigrants knows just how unlikely that is. But international soccer stardom still seems more feasible than college in his native Germany. "If you didn't have to go to university, I might try to become a lawyer instead - I think I'd be quite good at it," said Cosgun, a black woolen hat pulled low over his forehead, as he leaned forward over a classroom table one recent afternoon. But a university, he added categorically, "is just not an option." Brunnenplatz is in the heart of Wedding, a poor neighborhood that used to mark one stretch of the heavily fortified border with East Berlin. That wall is gone. But with three out of four students here of immigrant origin and at least half of their parents out of work, plenty of barriers remain. Europe's failure to integrate a growing population of immigrants, many of them Muslims, starts desperately early: in education systems that still systematically neglect these and other disadvantaged children, trapping them in uneducated poverty and depriving them of a sense of worth and belonging.

The daughters and sons of Turks in Germany, North Africans in France and Pakistanis in Britain are more likely to do worse in school, drop out and end up jobless than their German, French and British peers. Many are grouped together in poor schools and disproportionately few make it to universities. The result is anger - as the autumn rioting in France so powerfully illustrated - and a waste of youth and potential at a time when Western Europe shows lackluster growth and has an aging population. According to Andreas Schleicher, an education expert at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the precondition for turning Europe's uneasy side-by-side with immigrants into a successful multicultural society is to build an education system that actively fights rather than perpetuates inequality of opportunity. "Immigration in Europe is still considered a problem rather than an opportunity, and nowhere is that more obvious than in education," said Schleicher, who co-authored the recent study by the Program for International Student Assessment, which compared the quality of schooling in OECD member countries. School reform has been on the agenda in several European Union countries in recent years, as a combination of palpable tension in immigrant communities, the rise of terrorism and the need to remain competitive in a global economy has focused governments' minds. Following the violence in its immigrant suburbs, the French government hastily presented an education reform bill on Dec. 1. But with the exception of the Scandinavian countries, where the education system largely alleviates the social inequalities suffered by immigrants, those inequalities are perpetuated everywhere else on the Continent, the student assessment study showed in November.

In Germany, where immigrants now account for 22 percent of 15-year-olds, compared with 9 percent of the population as a whole, the inequalities are actually reinforced by the school system. Mention "integration" to Evelyn Rühle, one of Cosgun's teachers, and she only manages a sad smile. "Disintegration, more like," she says quietly, admitting that she is glad her son does not have to go to school in Wedding. In Wedding, Rühle says, immigrant children today speak poorer German and have less contact with German culture than when she started teaching 20 years ago. Many Muslim students, like Cosgun, go to Koran classes outside of school and speak only Turkish or Arabic at home. Meanwhile, the growth of digital television has made a host of Turkish- and Arabic-language channels available, intensifying language problems and nurturing identities that are informed more by the Israeli- Palestinian conflict or the war in Iraq than by the local German environment. "Some of these kids have never even been to Alexanderplatz," a bustling square in the center of Berlin a 15-minute subway ride away, Rühle said. "They live in a parallel universe that has very little to do with the Federal Republic of Germany." It is a fine line between tolerating, or even celebrating, cultural diversity and indulging a refusal to integrate, teachers here say. Unlike in France, where young Muslim girls are not allowed to wear a head scarf in public schools, girls at Brunnenplatz school carry their religious identity with pride. Deniz Celik, a soft-spoken 16-year-old of Turkish origin, matches the color of her head scarf with her Western garb, from sneakers to nose ring. But as parents multiply their demands to separate girls and boys in sports or take their children out of biology classes, teachers like Rühle worry that too much tolerance could become counterproductive - and that even more German parents will desert schools with high proportions of immigrants. Indeed, she says, the language skills of some of her German students have suffered, with many now routinely dropping definite articles in everyday speech. Some German boys are also imitating their Turkish counterparts in macho gestures. Much of the damage is done by the time the students arrive in secondary school, Rühle said.

In Germany, kindergarten and other preschool activities rarely start before the age of 3. In school, classes tend to finish at lunchtime, sending students back to their families for substantial amounts of time instead of organizing activities during the afternoon as in most other countries. In addition, the educational fate of students is often decided between the ages of 10 and 12, when teachers recommend which of three tracks of secondary schooling they should attend. Only the top branch, called the gymnasium, paves the way to a university. The proportion of immigrant children who make it to this top track stood at 18 percent last year, compared with 47 percent for German students, government statistics show. The share falls to 12 percent for children of Turkish origin, the biggest immigrant group. Only 3.3 percent of immigrants who go through the German school system make it to universities. Meanwhile, 40 percent of immigrant children attend the lowest branch of secondary school, twice the German proportion. An estimated 19 percent end up in special-needs schools and another 19 percent leave school without diplomas, compared with only 8 percent of German students. "We are basically creating an army of long-term unemployed," said Dagmar Beer-Kern, who is in charge of education in the government's office for integration. "Rather than forcing teachers to find ways of maximizing the potential of immigrant students, the system has inbuilt mechanisms to offload problems to a lower level." Many policy makers in Germany acknowledge that the system is not delivering the results it should. The assessment study was damning on Germany's school performance overall and particularly damning on its inability to provide equal opportunities to underprivileged Germans and ethnic minorities. "If we were to sit down now to devise a school system for our society today, it would be a no-brainer: The three-track system is inappropriate," said Klaus Böger, senator for education and youth in Berlin's city administration. "But education reform is an ideological minefield in Germany, so it's more productive to focus on reform within the system."

While German politicians shy away from a bitter three-decade-old debate about introducing an integrated high school system, Cosgun and his friends in Wedding tell of the shame in being stuck in the lowest school track, the Hauptschule. "It's embarrassing - it's like you have a sign on your forehead that reads 'stupid,"' said Cosgun. Outside the school, ask a group of his friends whose parents are out of work, and every single one raises a hand. Their own fate? "Our destiny," says Süleyman Karaman, 16, matter-of-factly, "is Hartz IV," shorthand for the welfare category for the long-term unemployed in a country with 4.5 million jobless. At the nearby Theodor-Plivier school, the headmistress, Angelika Prase-Mansmann, gazes through her office windows into a dense curtain of falling snow. "Snow is tempting - we had four teachers supervise during break today to break up fights," she said. "Luckily no one got hurt today." Fights are common, snow or not. Accumulated frustration and aggression will come out, Prase-Mansmann said. Eerily, the worst insult among boys in Wedding these days is "opfer," or victim. Teachers say the term, which emerged about two years ago, has replaced more traditional invectives. "Are they victims? Yes. But it doesn't help that they think of themselves as victims," Prase-Mansmann said. "It's a vicious cycle," she added. "They know there are no jobs and that as foreigners they are the last ones to be hired, so they don't really try and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy." German pupils completing the lowest school track are competing for apprenticeships and jobs with those from the middle track at a time when both are scarce. Unemployment runs at 10.9 percent, but for immigrants it is almost twice as high. The share of immigrants among those holding apprenticeships fell from 8 percent in 1994 to 5 percent in 2003.
In some cases, teachers say, students are offered opportunities they do not take. Rühle tells of language tutoring sessions and educational trips that end up half-empty. Prase-Mansmann says her school has a teacher 15 hours a week to counsel seniors on jobs and apprenticeships, but few ever show up. Yet both agree that schools need still more funds and human resources to provide more individualized educational attention to immigrant children.

Countries like Finland and Sweden, which performed well in the student assessment both overall and in integrating minorities, spend more money on schools and equip them with more and better-trained staff than their bigger European neighbors. They also teach all students together until at least age 14 and give students verbal assessments, rather than grades, in the early years. In Germany, some schools are trying to emulate some of these features. At Brunnenplatz, for example, the headmaster, Karl Reismüller, fought long and hard to get special permission for a dual-track setup that blurs the line between the lowest and middle secondary tracks. He also wants to get parents teaching other parents German in casual conversation groups to "anchor the school in the community."  Many reforms in Germany's decentralized education system have concentrated on the preschool and primary school levels. The number of all-day primary schools is rising and language training at the preschool level has intensified, especially in places like Berlin and Hamburg where immigrants are numerous. A growing number of primary schools also offer bilingual tracks to nurture native languages alongside German. And the central government is trying to establish more specialized teacher training and quality control for schools across the boundaries of the 16 states, which are responsible for education. At Erika-Mann, an all-day primary school, small groups of students are huddled over different tasks - a math problem, biology and reading exercises - with two teachers moving swiftly between them. Eighty-five percent of students here are of immigrant origin and about 40 percent of them come from unemployed households. But a full one-third of Erika-Mann students go on to the academic track, one-third to the middle track and only one-third to the bottom track. "If we can do this, anyone can," the headmistress, Karin Babbe, said. "All children want to learn. You should see the excited faces of the first-graders on their first day of school. The trouble is that all too often this motivation is killed off." According to Babbe, an energetic 51-year-old who seems to know the names of all her pupils, the key is self- confidence.

Mahmod Hejazi, a shy 12-year-old whose Lebanese parents speak hardly any German, arrived at Erika-Mann 11 months ago, along with a fat file explaining that he suffered from learning disabilities and required special instruction. His new teacher, Heidemarie Tandel, worked hard to integrate him, bringing him up to speed with the class material in afternoon tutorials. The breakthrough occurred onstage last spring. "Suddenly he was no longer Mahmod, who is too shy to say or do anything, but a self-confident and feisty toad that saves a little girl," Tandel recalled. Late last month, her petition to remove his special-needs status was finally granted by the authorities and Mahmod published his first article in the student newspaper. But so far schools like this remain scarce. One reason is that such efforts rely largely on the energy and tenacity of staff.
International Herald Tribune



An Islamic cultural organisation warns that 51 Muslim states will boycott Denmark unless an official apology is offered for the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed printed in national newspaper Jyllands-Posten

28/12/2005- An Islamic cultural organisation has called upon its 51 member states to boycott Denmark in response to cartoons of the prophet Mohammed printed three months ago in national daily Jyllands-Posten. The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) stated on its webpage that it sought a condemnation of 'the aggressive campaign waged against Islam and its Prophet' by Jyllands-Posten. Abdulaziz Othman al-Twaijri, the organisation's secretary general, reportedly told Arabic TV station Al-Arabiya that member states would impose a boycott until an apology was offered for the drawings. 'We encourage the organisation's members to boycott Denmark both economically and politically until Denmark presents an official apology for the drawings that have offended the world's Muslims,' al-Twaijri said.  Egypt's ambassador to Denmark, Mona Omar Attiah, warned against not taking the boycott seriously. 'The organisation has a broad appeal among the world's Muslims, and if the government doesn't make new efforts, Muslims around the world will follow the boycott and international pressure against Denmark will increase,' she told daily newspaper Information. Tensions have run high between Muslims and official Denmark since the newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons in September that depicted the prophet Mohammed. The newspaper said printing the cartoons was a way to ensure the freedom of speech in the face of intimidation from radical Islamists. Trade organisation Danish Industry said that so far, none of its members had reported feeling the effects of a boycott, however.
The Copenhagen Post



30/12/2005- Italy has complained to Morocco about a large increase in the number of immigrants entering Italy illegally. The Moroccan ambassador to Italy was summoned to the foreign ministry in Rome to receive the complaint. Italian police said the number of Moroccans and other Africans getting to Italy had increased in recent months. They say the rise is due to the erection in September of razor wire barriers around the Spanish north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. People prevented from entering the EU illegally through Spain now cross the Mediterranean in small boats to Italy with the help of people smugglers via Algeria and Libya, the Italian government has alleged. Italy's Interior Minister, Giuseppe Pisanu told a cabinet meeting in Rome that one third of all illegal immigrants seeking to enter Italy during the past two months came from Morocco. This was 15 times as many as were intercepted during the same period in 2004, he said. The minister gave no details as to the numbers involved. According to Medecins Sans Frontieres, the police, and charitable aid organisations between 100,000 and 250,000 people, try to enter the EU illegally each year through Italy. Tens of thousands are regularly deported to their home countries under a stiff new immigration law passed there two years ago.
BBC News



28/12/2005- A hockey player has been banned for life from Italy's national team after repeatedly shouting racist slurs at a rival skater during a league game, hockey officials said on Wednesday. Daniele Veggiato, a forward for the top hockey league's Alleghe team, was banned from "all future activities of the national teams" after a match against Cortina on Monday during which he insulted rival defender Luca Zandonella, the Italian Federation of Ice Sports said in a statement. Zandonella's father is Italian and his mother is from Mauritius. During the game, Veggiato repeatedly addressed the 18-year-old Zandonella in Italian with slurs, said Franz Sinn, the head of the federation's hockey section. The lifetime ban is largely symbolic since Veggiato, 27, hasn't played with the national team since 2003 and is not on Italy's roster for the Turin Winter Olympics in February. But hockey officials said the ban was significant. "He's not worthy of wearing the jersey of the Azzurri," Sinn said. In addition to the ban, Veggiato was expelled from the rink during the match and will serve a five-match suspension for upcoming league games. "After the match he apologised (to Zandonella) and he did well, but this didn't change our decision," Sinn said. "We have already seen this kind of escalation in soccer and we cannot accept it."

Overpaid heroes
Although the case involved a sport which has a relatively minor following in Italy, national media hailed the decision as being in sharp contrast with the way soccer officials have dealt with a recent string of racist incidents in the country's most popular game. Turin-based newspaper La Stampa called the ban "an exemplary punishment" and daily Corriere della Sera pointed out that the speed of the decision "doesn't belong to soccer, fearful to seriously face it's problems and always ready to defend the negative behaviours of its overpaid heroes."  Last month, Messina's Ivory Coast defender Marc Zoro was reduced to tears and threatened to walk off the soccer field during a Serie A match after Inter Milan fans insulted and booed him. Lazio forward Paolo Di Canio has been at the centre of controversy after appearing to give a fascist salute to fans during recent games with Juventus and Livorno. Di Canio was given a one-match ban and a fine for the Juventus incident. He has appealed against the decision and insists the gesture was not racist but "a gesture of belonging." The Italian league must still rule on Di Canio's actions in the Dec 11 match with Livorno.



Turkey's foreign minister has suggested that a controversial law against insults to the state or its institutions could be changed.

28/12/2005- Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk is currently being tried under the law, while lawyers are also threatening to use it against a Dutch legislator. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said: "There may be need for a new law." "We're trying to make Turkey a country in which democracy and human rights are as valid as in any EU country." On Tuesday Turkish prosecutors launched an inquiry into whether Joost Lagendijk, a member of the European Parliament, should stand trial for insulting the country's armed forces. He allegedly said that Turkish troops were provoking clashes with Kurdish separatists. He was speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the trial in Istanbul of Mr Pamuk, who is charged with insulting his nation's identity, for raising the subject of Kurds and Armenians killed in Turkey. The Pamuk case is seen as a litmus test of Turkey's commitment to free speech and its EU membership credentials. The novelist is one of more than 60 writers and publishers to face charges under Article 301 of the penal code. Mr Gul told the NTV news channel he thought the prosecutions - brought after complaints by a group of nationalist lawyers - were not "good for Turkey". He said the government could not intervene in the judicial process, but could change the law. "We cannot interfere with the courts, but we can monitor how laws are implemented and interpreted and whether that is the direction Turkey wants to take," he said.
BBC News



The Federation Council on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a controversial bill placing restrictions on nongovernmental organizations, a move critics say will set back the development of civil society.  Senators backed the measure by a vote of 153-1 with one abstention. The bill received final approval in the State Duma last week and will enter into force after it has been signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.  Several human rights and other nonprofit groups protested the legislation in a letter sent to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.  The letter, signed by Memorial and the Moscow Helsinki Group among others, complained that despite amendments ordered by Putin in the face of foreign and domestic criticism, the latest version of the bill did not incorporate many recommendations of the Council of Europe, a continent-wide human rights body.  It said the legislation enabled a new licensing agency to interfere in the activities of foreign NGOs and created "an onerous system of control and supervision" that offered unfounded criteria for denying registration and closing down civic groups.  The bill provides for the new agency to oversee the registration, financing and activities of NGOs. The agency, not the courts, will determine if an NGO should be dissolved. Putin ordered lawmakers to water down the bill slightly after vocal protests from Russian and foreign NGOs as well as from Western governments. Subsequently, a proposed requirement for foreign groups to reregister their Russia branches as local entities, subject to stricter controls, was dropped. But Memorial, the country's leading human rights organization, and other nonprofit groups warned that the bill remained draconian and could force them to close. Sponsors of the legislation said it was necessary to stem terrorism and extremism. Critics and supporters alike say the bill has grown out of the Kremlin's increasing displeasure with NGOs that criticize the government, advocate democracy and promote human rights before parliamentary and presidential elections in 2007 and 2008.
Associated Press



28/12/2005-  About 150 Africans and Russians gathered Tuesday outside the city administration building in St. Petersburg to protest the weekend killing of a student from Cameroon, the latest in a wave of apparently racially motivated attacks. The student was stabbed to death, and another student was seriously wounded in a separate attack on the same street on Saturday night. The students were attacked by a group of youths as they walked from a metro station to their university dormitory. In the first incident, the attackers slashed the student but he managed to escape, said Aliu Tunkara, head of African Unity, an advocacy group for African students. The Cameroonian student, who was stabbed about two hours after the first attack, died on the spot, Tunkara said. His friend, a Namibian, managed to run away uninjured. All three students were studying at St. Petersburg's Water Transport University and shared the same dormitory. "The silence of city authorities and law enforcement bodies encourages skinheads," Tunkara said at Tuesday's rally, which was also attended by members of the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi and self-declared anarchists. "Authorities say hooligans stage those attacks, but this is not true. This is racism and genocide." Police spokesman Sergei Zaitsev said investigators were looking into a variety of motives. No arrests have been made. "It could be hooliganism, a settling of scores, extremism," Zaitsev said on NTV television. However, Yelena Ordynskaya, a spokeswoman for the city prosecutor's office, said that investigators considered racism the most probable motive. More than 10 assailants were involved, said Andrew Suberu, deputy head of African Unity. He said the two African students in the second attack had been out celebrating Christmas. An African interviewed on NTV said the Cameroonian and his friend had telephoned him for help. "While we were going to help ... we didn't get there in time," Toni Dukimo said. "We don't know who the next victim will be, maybe it will be me, when I am going home tonight." Dozens of African and Asian nationals have been targeted by neo-Nazi groups which have mushroomed among young Russians humiliated by defeat in the Cold War and still recovering from post-Soviet political and economic instability. In St. Petersburg alone more than 10 Africans and Asians have been killed in such attacks in the past two years. In murders that shocked the nation, racists killed two Roma, or gypsy, girls aged five and nine.



25/12/2005- A Cameroonian student of a Russian university was killed and another received severe injuries in St. Petersburg on Saturday night, news agencies reported Sunday. Several Cameroonians were walking to their hostel when they were attacked by about 10 men. One of the students died of a throat wound, another was rushed to hospital in a severe condition, the press service of the local Interior Ministry department told Interfax. The murdered student only arrived in Russia two months ago for his higher education program. Law-enforcement agencies are investigating the incident, but no criminal proceedings have been launched so far. Racial hatred is among the versions being looked at. Foreign students in St. Petersburg are considering holding a protest rally in response to the killing. “It is especially terrible that such a thing happened on Christmas Eve,” one of them said. In 2005, more than 800 crimes were committed in St. Petersburg against foreigners, but in only 20 cases did the law-enforcement agencies suggest ethnic hatred was behind the crimes.

Racism most probable motive for attack on foreign students
Racism is the most probable motive for an attack on African students Saturday night that killed a Cameroonian and injured another one from Kenya, the St. Petersburg prosecutors said Sunday. "Racism is the main version being studied by prosecutors. It could also be armed robbery and hooliganism," a representative of the St. Petersburg prosecutor's office said. So far, there been no detained or suspected persons, he said. The students were attacked near the dormitory of the St. Petersburg Water Transport University where they studied. (RIA Novosti)



27/12/2005- Like thousands of Africans every year, Kanhem Leon came to Russia in search of the education that would give him a better life back home in Cameroon. Instead, the devout Christian was stabbed by a gang of skinheads in St Petersburg on Christmas Eve and left to die in the snow. Elsewhere, such a brutal attack might be regarded as a random act of violence. But not in Russia’s picturesque second city. Mr Leon, 28, was the second African student in as many months to have been murdered by skinheads in St Petersburg, and dozens more have been beaten or injured in knife attacks. Foreign students have accused the Government of turning a blind eye to neo-Nazi “death squads” who openly patrol the city in combat fatigues and carry out regular attacks on non-Slavs with knives and clubs. Several hundred African, Arab and Asian students are expected to stage a protest in St Petersburg today to demand that local authorities punish Mr Leon’s killers and prevent further racist attacks. They have little cause for optimism, however, in a country where the police treat such assaults as “hooliganism” rather than racially motivated crimes, which carry a heavier penalty. Aliu Dumkara, head of African Unity, a pressure group for African students in St Petersburg, said that many foreign students would be too scared to attend today’s protest. “The Government is doing nothing. It seems to me they have no interest in this theme at all,” said Mr Dumkara, who has lived in St Petersburg for more than 20 years. “Racism is getting worse. The skinheads walk through the streets openly in groups of ten or more, wearing combat uniforms.”

Racist attacks were rare in Soviet times, when hundreds of thousands of Africans and other foreign nationals studied in Moscow, St Petersburg and other educational centres. But since the Soviet Union’s collapse, unemployment and mass immigration from its former republics have led to a proliferation of neo- Nazi and other right-wing extremist groups. Russia now has an estimated 60,000 skinheads, compared with about 70,000 across the rest of the world. In the past two years they have carried out increasingly audacious, violent attacks on foreigners and non-Slavic Russians. According to the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, a non-governmental organisation, there were 44 racist killings in Russia in 2004, more than double the number in 2003. The problem has become so acute that President Putin, who is from St Petersburg, apologised for the spate of racist attacks during a nationwide telephone call-in this year. “We will do everything to remove skinheads and fascist elements from the country’s political map,” he said. Valentina Matviyenko, the Governor of St Petersburg, issued a statement yesterday in which she promised an “adequate response” to Mr Leon’s murder. “Xenophobia and racism are no lesser threats to society than terrorism,” she said. “Groups of aggressively minded young people must not be allowed to walk around freely, with impunity.”

Many critics doubt that the Government will back up its words with action for fear of losing the support of the strong Russian ultra-nationalist lobby. Nikita Chaplin, the head of the Russian Students’ Union, demanded that Mr Putin oversee the investigation into Mr Leon’s death. “The Foreign Minister should personally go to St Petersburg and supervise the investigation of these crimes because it is unlikely that local authorities have the ability,” he told the radio station Ekho Moskvy. Student leaders also criticised the agencies that bring foreign students to Russia for not warning them about the threat of racist attacks. There are about 100,000 foreign students in Russia, a third from the former Soviet Union. Most choose it because tuition fees and living costs are much lower than in Europe or America They have little idea of the risks of, say, travelling on the Metro or talking in public with a Russian woman, said Mr Dumkara. Mr Leon, who was paying £1,200 a year for his studies, was attacked by a dozen skinheads as he walked with a Namibian colleague through central St Petersburg on Saturday night, according to police. The Namibian managed to escape unharmed, but a Kenyan student who was walking near by, Mwango Addie Maina, was also stabbed and seriously injured. Another Cameroonian student, who gave his name only as Theo, said of Mr Leon: “He was a good Christian, very calm, and had no conflicts with anyone. He did not drink or chase girls. He just went to university and to church.” He added: “It’s very dangerous here now. Before, they only beat us: now they kill.”

Neo-nazi violence
February 2004 - Gang of teenage skinheads stab to death a nine-year-old Tajik girl in St Petersburg
February 2004 - A 24-year-old medical student from Guinea- Bissau is stabbed to death by skinheads in Voronezh                            June 2004 - Nikolai Girenko, one of Russia’s leading anti-skinhead experts, is shot dead through the door of his flat
October 2004 - A 20-year-old Vietnamese student is stabbed to death by skinheads in St Petersburg
September 2005 - Peruvian student beaten to death by skinheads in Voronezh
October 2005 - A Congolese student is stabbed to death by skinheads in St Petersburg
November 2005 - Timur Kacharava, an anti-fascist philosophy student and musician, is stabbed to death by skinheads in St Petersburg
December 2005 - A Cameroonian student is stabbed to death by skinheads in St Petersburg
The Times Online



27/12/2005- An African student was stabbed to death and another seriously wounded in St Petersburg over the Christmas weekend, raising fears that hate crimes are spreading across Russia. A Cameroonian student was killed just hours after another two Africans were slashed with a knife on the same street. All three victims were members of St Petersburg's Water Transport University, where many foreigners study and live together in dormitories. Many are now terrified to go out onto the streets of St Petersburg. "We don't know who the next victim will be," said Toni Dukimo, an African student who was a friend of the murdered victim. "Maybe it will be me, when I am going home tonight." Russian police, who have been criticised for a muted response to a spate of similar attacks, were reluctant to describe the stabbing as racially motivated. "It could be hooliganism, a settling of scores, extremism," said Sergei Zaitsev, a local police spokesman. But human rights groups in Russia say the murder has all the hallmarks of a rise in racially motivated attacks by skinhead groups over the past few years which has been "practically ignored" by authorities and police. Andrew Suberu, deputy head of African Unity, a support group for African students in St Petersburg, said skinheads were definitely involved. "According to my information, the attackers looked like skinheads. Now such attacks are a usual story in St Petersburg," he said.

According to the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights (MBHR), 59 people have been killed in racist attacks in Russia in the past two years. In October, an 18-year-old Peruvian student was murdered in a southern university town popular with British students. Enrique Urtado was set upon by a gang of 20 youths who beat him and his friends with metal poles and wooden stakes. Researchers have warned that Voronezh, a depressed city with high unemployment rates 300 miles south of Moscow, had become the country's main skinhead recruiting ground, labelling the city a "crucible of race hatred". Russia is estimated to be home to more than 50,000 skinheads, with 10,000 in Moscow and 5,000 in St Petersburg alone. Critics argue the lethargic attitude of the police in chasing and prosecuting racist attacks has encouraged neo-Nazi groups to flourish. Using names such as "Blood and Honour", "Moscow Hammer Skin" and "Skin Legion" some observers fear their numbers could rise to over 100,000 within a few years. It is not just extremist racism on the peripheries of society that is worrying observers. A leading racism monitoring website in Russia surveyed opinion in the first half of 2005 and found up to 60 per cent of Russians held some type of xenophobic viewpoint. Among the least-liked ethnic minorities were Chechens, Azeris and Armenians. Much of the neo-Nazi literature circulating among extremist groups in Russia has concentrated on insisting Russia is a purely white country.

Political parties have also increasingly resorted to tough immigration policies and xenophobic rhetoric to win votes. The MBHR recently published a report monitoring xenophobia during the Moscow local elections and found "a number of political parties adhering to xenophobic slogans in their election campaigns". Slogans such as "Russia for Russians" and "Russian faces in the Russian capital" were increasingly popular, they said. In June this year, public figures from St Petersburg wrote an open letter to President Vladimir Putin warning him of the rise of neo-Nazism in Russia. "You certainly know that in the last years along with traditional anti-Semitism and xenophobia another kind of racism is thriving in Russia," they wrote. "The racism of Nazi nature is the ideological basis for crimes sweeping over our country."
Independent Digital


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