Headlines 29 November, 2013
Protest against Mosque may be Defined as Hate Crime (Iceland)
29/11/2013- Three pig heads and bloodied pages of the Koran were scattered across the plot of land allocated to the Association of Muslims in Iceland for the building of a mosque on Wednesday. Professor at the University of Iceland's law department Björg Thorarensen says the incident could be classified as a hate crime but Benedikt Lund at Reykjavík Metropolitan Police told visir.is that it is unlikely that the case will be investigated as they don’t have any evidence. The animal parts and pages of the Koran were discarded by City employees tasked with cleaning up the site after the incident. According to Benedikt, the police officer on the scene said that there was some paper at the site but didn’t know whether it was related to the issue. Óskar Bjarnason, who lives in Sweden, told visir.is that he was present when the incident took place and that a group of 20 people are behind the act. Óskar claimed that prominent figures in Reykjavík are among its members. He mentioned examples of protests by others in Sweden but said that the action taken in Iceland was less radical. Reykjavík City Council formally approved the building site for Iceland’s first mosque in September. The Association of Muslims in Iceland was allocated the plot of land in January. The association is currently run from a building in Reykjavík but this will be the first building built specifically as a mosque in Iceland. The City Council’s decision has raised much discussion in Iceland.
© The Iceland Review
Denmark: When hate speech begins, free speech ends -or does it?-
An artist's conviction for racism has ignited a debate about whether the state should punish people who spread hateful views in public, or if racism laws are even useful at all
28/11/2013- Last week’s conviction of Danish-Iranian artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan for racism, after she claimed on her blog that she was “convinced that Muslim men around the world rape, abuse and kill their daughters”, has led to free speech advocates questioning whether anti-racism laws are fair – or even effective. Bazrafkan was convicted by the Eastern High Court for violating section 266b of the criminal code – the so-called racism law – and fined 5,000 kroner. According to the law, it is illegal to “spread messages that threaten, taunt or degrade a group because of their race, skin colour, national or ethnic extraction, belief or sexual orientation”. The court argued that Bazrafkan in her blog had generalised about Muslims men being criminals, and that because her statement “derided and degraded a group simply based on their faith”, she was guilty.
Bazrafkan argues, however, that her blog post was actually a criticism of Islam and not a racist generalisation of Muslims. “It’s important to remember that I did not write that ALL Muslim men committed horrible acts and used Islamic codes to justify them, I wrote that Muslim men around the world can do these things because it is allowed according to [Islamic] codes,” she told The Copenhagen Post. “It’s not the same thing.” She added that her conviction meant the court had limited her freedom of expression – a right that is guaranteed under article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Conditional free speech
But it’s not as simple as that. While article 10 does indeed protect free speech, it also grants states the right to restrict speech for various reasons, such as public safety or the protection of health and morals. Even though states can limit free speech, Jacob Mchangama, the director of legal affairs at the liberal think-tank Cepos, said that authorities had no business interfering in the public statements of its citizens. “It’s very misguided for democracies to place arbitrary limits both on what can be said and who is being protected. Why is it okay to say degrading things about disabled people but not homosexuals? And how do we judge when something is sufficiently degrading? There are problems defining these limitations.” Mchangama has called for the abolition of section 266b. “I think it’s valid if people want to start a debate about tolerance and our need to be more open toward ethnic and sexual groups. But the state needs to be neutral about statements that individuals make.” Getting rid of section 266b is not simple however. Denmark is a signatory of several international conventions and treaties that obligates it to legislate and enforce against hate speech.
Learning from history
Christoffer Badse, the senior legal adviser at the Danish Institute for Human Rights, argued that these laws have their place given the number of global conflicts that have arisen because of hate between groups. “Racist language can create an atmosphere of hatred,” Badse said. “We have seen this both in modern society and in places with ethnic conflicts such as Northern Ireland and in the former Yugoslavia. There are historic reasons for these laws.” He sympathises with Mchangama’s complaint that the law affords some groups criminal protection that others don’t receive, but argues that anyone can use civil courts to sue if they feel they have been discriminated against. He added that some groups, given the history of discrimination they have suffered, are offered extra criminal protection. “In the case of hate speech against the disabled, we haven’t seen that it is a big enough issue for it to warrant criminal conviction.”
Unlike the disabled, Muslim immigrants have been the focus of intense media scrutiny for decades, particularly since the formation of the anti-immigration party Dansk Folkeparti in the mid-1990s. Statements critical of Muslim immigrants and their religious background are commonplace in the Danish media. Some more recent examples include MP Marie Krarup (Dansk Folkeparti) calling for Muslim women to discard their headscarves, and MP Inger Støjberg (Venstre) demanding that Danish Muslims accept that Denmark is the land of the Danes and that they can find somewhere else to live if they don’t like it here. Badse argued that the harsh tone of the immigration debate demonstrates that it is possible to have a debate about Islam and religion without breaking the racism legislation. “There is a balance between the need to protect vulnerable groups and minorities, and recognising concerns about freedom of speech and expression, which I think the prosecutor in [Bazrafkan’s] case got right,” Badse said. “When people make exaggerated claims and accusations, they can be punished. But it is still possible to discuss all issues of public interest.”
But Mchangama argued that cases such as Bazrafkan’s demonstrate how the law interferes with the public debate. He also questions whether laws preventing racist speech actually protect anyone. “After all, everyone is protected from being the victim of crimes, whether they are based on hate or otherwise,” he said. “I don’t think there is good science showing that if you have hate speech laws in place that they result in less hate crimes,” Mchangama said. “Laws like these have been abused in many different countries as a way to suppress various groups. So we need to be careful and err on the side of liberty.” The laws may even be counterproductive. Following Bazrafkan’s conviction, the statement that a court deemed illegal was published across the Danish media (including The Copenhagen Post). After her conviction, Bazrafkan remained staunch in her opposition to the law. “Section 226b, I’m not done with you,” she wrote on her Facebook profile, suggesting that she will continue to speak out against Islam.
Anti-racism law helps racists
In an opinion piece in Politiken newspaper following Bazrafkan’s conviction, Rune Engelbrecht Larsen, an author who focuses on social issues, argued that the racism law was probably having the opposite of its intended effect. “Each racism case has already become an opportunity to strengthen and defend hate speech, and after this verdict it’s hard to see how the racism legislation can accomplish anything else,” he wrote.
© The Copenhagen Post
Can virtual reality be used to tackle racism?
It's an uncomfortable truth but scientists say most people have an ingrained racial bias. Now a team has shown that a short stint in a virtual world could reduce it, but could this have a longer lasting effect?
28/11/2013- Racism is an issue that still pervades many societies. In England and Wales, there have been 106 fatal racist attacks since the killing of teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993 according to the Institute of Race Relations. It also reports thousands of racist incidents recorded by the police each year. The issue is complicated by the fact that many biases are ingrained over long periods of time. Scientists have now found that this ingrained racial bias was reduced when participants were immersed in a virtual body of a different race.
To test their implicit racism, a team led by Mel Slater at the University of Barcelona gave participants what's called an implicit association test several days before the experiment. They were given the same test again after their experience in virtual reality. It was only the participants who had been placed in a dark virtual body that showed this decrease. Another unrelated study had similar results. A team found that when a dark rubber hand was stroked at the same time as the participant's own (out of sight) hand was touched, implicit racism subsequently decreased. This work was led by Manos Tsakiris at Royal Holloway University of London. Both teams say it's promising that two separate experimental settings show this effect.
It might be surprising to some white people that they show preference for white faces over black faces in the implicit test. This could be for a number of reasons, says Prof Slater. It doesn't mean someone is explicitly racist, he says, rather it reflects how their brain has been wired based on the society in which they grew up. If the media frequently reports negatively on a given "out-group", for example, then somehow the brain picks up these associations which are reproduced in the implicit bias test. He refers to virtual reality as an "empathy generating machine" to give people experiences they can't have in any other way.
The question remains whether or not these findings could ever be applied in the real world. Prof Slater believes they could: "If the effect is shown to be long-lasting this might provide tools for serious immersive games that attempt to foster pro-social behaviour and empathy," he argues. Prof Tsakiris agrees. He believes that achieving similar results could even be possible without an experimental set-up. "It's about the idea of sharing sensory experiences with people that might be different from you. This sharing - especially when there is some kind of synchronicity between people's bodies - it can bring people closer together. "Doing things with others seems to function as a social glue. The obvious thing would be to have no segregation in society, not to have any schools dominated by one ethnic group," Prof Tsakiris adds.
It is still unclear how long-lasting these effects would be. Prof Slater says this will be hard to pin down, but rolling the technology out into the real world in the first instance is a possibility. "It may be used to help people who have these implicit biases, to recognise they have them but also to reduce them." But Antony Greenwald, at the University of Washington in Seattle, says it's still too early to be optimistic because the negative associations measured by the implicit racism test "are pretty durable". "The best interpretation is that this makes some sort of temporary change in how a person represents the categories [of race]. "We live in a world in which we are surrounded by things that cause us to develop associations that produce stereotypes. It's like the air we breathe; we can't help talking it in," Prof Greenwald adds.
However, Ziada Ayorech, from King's College London says the research shows that a negative racial bias could be detuned over time and could even become positive. "When we think of something as implicit racial bias you think that it's already ingrained and there's nothing you can do, but in reality these studies show that by simply having people relate to someone with a different ethnicity - you can already change that. "New associations will be built. It's a stepping stone, for sure." But outside an experimental setting, tackling ingrained racism remains difficult, especially because it's hidden, says Neil Chakraborti, a criminologist at the University of Leicester who works with victims of racist attacks. "Precisely because it is almost impossible to label it as an offence, latent racism is rarely reported. You see people normalise these kinds of experiences; it's become a routine part of being different," he says.
This issue of prejudice is something Dal Babu feels he has experienced in the police force - an organisation he says should be representative of the society it aims to protect. He was one of the UK's top ethnic minority officers at the Metropolitan Police, and was critical of the lack of black and Asian recruits and how few were in senior positions. "The irony and most commonly quoted phrase by Sir Robert Peel (founder of the Met Police) is that the public are the police and the police are the public," he says. But despite his efforts, the majority of senior police officers "remain stubbornly white", Mr Babu adds. It's clear that there is no one simple way to tackle an issue as complex as racism. Until researchers find that reducing an innate bias can be reproduced and sustained, an awareness of it seems a crucial first step. And while
'Preconceived expectations of black culture'
by Ziada Ayorech
I moved from Uganda to Prince George, Canada - a really small town. I was the first black person that most of my friends had met. They had all these expectations of what black people are, what black culture is, and how a black person should behave. Biases are learnt from a young age and children are very inquisitive. I've had a child ask me, "do you have chocolate on your skin or are you dirty"; to which their parents react in horror, which is where the learning begins because the child sees that response. Instead, it's important to show children that I'm just from a different place. Opening up that dialogue will make a change.
Testing implicit bias
To establish an implicit bias, researchers ask participants to respond quickly to black and white faces paired with positive or negative words
An implicit bias is deduced if participants assign positive attributes more quickly to white faces and negative attributes to black faces
Harvard University's implicit association test indicates that most Americans have an automatic preference for white over black faces
Take the race implicit association test
© BBC News
Jewish groups have criticized the recent removal of the ‘’Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’’ from the website of the Vienna-based Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), the European Union agency tasked with providing advice to the member states on fundamental rights of people living in the EU.
29/2013- The ‘’Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’’was drafted in 2004 on the initiative of the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), the predecessor of the FRA, and was considered a major achievement for the EU in the struggle against anti-Semitism. The document was created in order to provide a practical guide for identifying incidents, collecting data and supporting the implementation of legislation dealing with anti-Semitism at a European level. It was disseminated on the FRA website and units of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concerned with combating anti-Semitism also employ the definition. The US State Department’s yearly report, ‘Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism,’ makes use of this definition for the purpose of its analysis.
Earlier this year, the EU’s ''Working Definition of anti-Semitism'' was used in Britain in a complaint relating to the BBC coverage of comments about Israel made by a British member of te Parliament, David Ward. The BBC Trust, the public broadcaster’s governing body, first upheld the definition in characterizing Ward’s comments as ‘anti-Semitic’ but later reversed its ruling following the removal of the Definition from FRA’s website. In a communication to BBC last month, a press officer at the FRA explained that the ‘’Working Definition of anti-Semitism’’ was a ‘’discussion paper’’ which ‘’was never adopted by the EU as a working definition, although it has been on the FRA website until recently when it was removed during a clear out of “non-official” documents. The removal is seen as ‘’wrongful’’ by the European Jewish organizations who are calling for the republication of the paper.
The European Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global Jewish human rights organization that confronts anti-Semitism in the world, has called on the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, to launch an investigation into the disappearance of the Working Definition. Arguing that the FRA carries responsibility for the documents of its predecessor, Shimon Samuels, the Centre’s Director for Internatonal Relations, also asked to return the Definition to the current FRA website and to ensure that the appropriate EU bodies endorse it in its entirety. Shimon Ohayon, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, who chairs the Knesset Lobby for the Struggle against Anti-Semitism, told a visiting delegation of the European Parliament that Europe needs to deal more seriously with the rise in anti-Semitism and hatred. He highlighted that there are many anti-Semites who have been fighting against the ‘Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’ for many years so they can continue their attacks on Jews and Israel.
‘’Europe needs to deal more seriously with this rise in hate which is creating an untenable situation for the Jews of Europe. However, to really fight anti-Semitism, the European Union first needs a fundamental definition which law enforcement agencies and judicial bodies can use to prosecute those who target Jews and Jewish institutions,’’ Ohayon told the MEPs. The European Jewish Parliament (EJP) has joined other Jewish organizations in their efforts. “The Fundamental Rights Agency released a report about anti-Semitism two weeks ago, but there is a lack of coherence between the publication of this report and the deletion of the Definition of anti-Semitism. It is like identifying a disease and afterwards throwing the medication away”, said Joel Rubinfeld, Co-Chairman of the EJP.
Contacted by the European Jewish Press about the issue, a FRA official in Vienna confirmed what the body told earlier to the BBC and said : ‘’We don’t foresee adding the working definition to our webpage. The FRA is not a standard-setting body and creating definitions is not part of our mandate. The EUMC working definition of antisemitism is not an official EU definition and has not been adopted by FRA.’’
© EJP News
Growing number of attempts from far right groups to hijack pro-EU rallies in Ukraine
26/11/2013- Up to 150 supporters of the Ukrainian opposition and people who back Ukraine's integration with the European Union are holding a rally outside the government headquarters in central Kiev demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. The demonstrators are holding EU and Ukrainian flags, flags of the Batkivshchyna, or 'Father', opposition party and pro-EU banners. Maxim Eristavi, Head of the Voice of Russia bureau in Kiev, shared his opinion about the crisis with the VoR's world service correspondent.
Maxim, good to hear you. First of all, what is happening in Kiev now? And what about the current security situation in the Ukrainian capital?
We saw quite turbulent 24 hours in Kiev. Clashed broke out this night between the police and protesters. A couple of protesters got injured, but thankfully not so badly. The incident started when the local MPs and protesters at the Kiev rally had found out a suspicious car filled with spying equipment. As it turned out, it was a national security services’ car. And no the prosecutors say that they are thinking about opening a case against some protesters for blocking the work of security service.
Do you think that in the next few days the protest will actually vanish? Or you think it will increase, if we hear no more good news for those who support EU integration?
It is actually quite hard to say at this time. Yesterday and today we saw a little bit of increase in the size of the protest. Of course, they were not as big as this Sunday, when it was a weekend day. But it is still tend of thousands of people around the country. We saw a very interesting thing. As a part of a bigger trend of growing legal war between the Ukrainian Government and pro-EU protesters, not only Kiev but many other big cities across the country courts are trying to block the rallies that are popping up every day. And in some cities it goes with the success, but in others protesters just ignore the courts’ decisions. But the other thing that worries everybody is the growing number of attempts from the far right groups to hijack the pro-EU rallies or to provoke violence, as we saw this night. All violent incidents that broke out since the start of protest were provoked by this kind of tactics. And that’s why so many activists are urging right now to abandon any symbolic associated with any political party, to keep is more grassroots-style.
In general, if we talk about the situation and the mood in Ukraine, can we say that the country is actually split on the issue or you’d rather say it is unified?
Unfortunately, we don’t have any fresh polls to base any assumptions on. But still, there is a split, of course. It is more like 50 to 50 or 60 to 40, with 60% of pro-EU rallies and 40% of those who oppose the EU deal. But right now, it is hard to say. Of course, a lot of young people are among the supporters of pro-EU rallies. Actually, today we saw the Ukrainian students became major game changers for pro-EU rallies across the country. The student organization went on strike until the trade deal with the EU is signed. This happened after Yulia Timoshenko – the jailed ex-Prime Minister – went on hunger strike with the same demand.
What about the authorities? Can you say that they in any way changed the rhetoric after those protests?
Yesterday night we saw President Yanukovich to make the first public attempt to speak on this matter. He said yesterday that he’d answer any question on the subject through the TV appearance in the nearest future. Our assumption is that it could happen this night. And also he emphasize that there is no other option, he doesn’t see any deal signed in the future Vilnius summit.
Do the media have any certain angle or are they objective on that?
It was quite a surprise for me to see a lot of the Ukrainian media trying to take sides in all this conflict. It is a lot easier for protesters to get a different kind of information right now, to have more balance in information they are getting. So, Twitter is huge right now and it is the main tool for organizers.
© The Voice of Russia
Few Roma families take part in elections in Georgia
The Meliasanovs, a Roma family of nine, did not participate in the last presidential elections, because they are registered far from where they actually live.
27/11/2013- However, they don’t believe that the elections would improve their hard social and financial situation, which has stayed unchanged for more than 10 years. The family consists of a middle aged couple and seven children. They are a rare exception of Romas, in that they have ID cards and birth certificates. The lack of formal registration among people from a Roma, or gypsy, background is the reason why it is so hard to figure out the exact number of Romas living in Georgia. A census conducted by the National Statistic’s Office in 2002 indicated that there were only 472 gypsies living in Tbilisi. In 2008, the National Center for Minority Issues registered 1 500 gypsies in the whole of Georgia. The most recent data about the number of gypsies was provided by the Ombudsman’s office about 3 years ago and found that there are 1 000.
Nino Andriashvili, a lawyer at Human Rights Center, considers gypsies the most disadvantaged minority in Georgia, as they mostly don’t have even ID cards and can’t participate in the elections, go abroad or get a job. Romas in Georgia are divided into two branches: Krim and Vlakh. The Krim branch is made up of Muslim from Crimea, South Ukraine and South Russia, while the Vlakh are made up of Orthodox Christian gypsies from Ukraine and Russia. The Meliasanov family are Christians and on the question about their nationality, Alena Meliasanova, a mother of seven, answers that they are Georgian Roma, citizens of Georgia. “We were born here, we respect and love Georgians, and we know the language. If we move somewhere, we won’t be treated like we are here,” says Alena. She says negative stereotypes about gypsies does not affect her. “Our housekeeper is a Georgian woman. She gave us furniture, helps us. Sometimes when we are hungry, she brings us food.”
Two small rooms, that the Meliasanovs rent for 5-6 lari (3-3.50 USD) per day, is on the second floor of a house at Gudarekhi, a district in uptown Tbilisi that is mostly inhabited by Romas. There are only three beds, and the parents sometimes have to sleep on the floor. Early in the morning they go to the market. Alena and her husband Vasil are street vendors at Lilo Fair, one of the largest flea markets in Tbilisi. They sell shoes and clothes, mostly. “We receive a small social assistance from the government, but it’s not enough… Sometimes we don’t have money to buy goods and beg money,” Alena says. Alina, the oldest daughter of the Melisianovs, is 13. She takes care of the house and her siblings, cooks, washes and has no time to spend with her friends.
“Other girls wear nice clothes. I don’t. I like staying at home,” Alina says. Sometimes she has to leave house and beg money too. “They often ask me why I don’t attend school. I say, because I have to take care of my brothers and sisters, I have no time, and my family does not have money for it. I attended three classes in school, but then my brother got ill with meningitis and I had to leave school.” Alena is the only child in her family who has attended classes. The mother says her children need books, notebooks and other items for school and they even don’t have enough clothes to go out.
Though primary education is mandatory in Georgia, no-one seems to be interested in the violation. The Meliasanovs say that for more than 10 years, no social workers or government representatives have visited them. “Often, parents don’t understand the importance of their children’s education and prefer that they beg in the streets. Generally, the reason is their hard social conditions,” according to a report by the Public Defender Office published in 2010. “Sometimes the police calls us, asking to take the children home,” said Alena. She and her husband have had several incidents with the police, when, according to them, the police confiscated their goods, as street vending is forbidden in Georgia. “A young guy came and asked if I had shoes. I showed one pair worth 5 lari (3 USD) and at this time the police approached and took my bag. I asked them to return it, but they never did,” recalls Vasil.
The Meliasanov family has lived this way for more than 10 years, after they left their house in Kobuleti, a seaside resort in Adjara, in western Georgia, and moved to Tbilisi. The government does not have a special program for Romas and they mostly don’t ask for anything from the government, because, according to the Ombudsman report, they have no information, don’t know their rights, where and what to ask. That makes it hard to involve Romas in civil and political life in the country. The Melisianov family is not interested in politics. They wake up early every morning and go out to earn their own money.
© Balkan Insight
Italy's gay union ban allows Russian adoption
Italians are allowed to adopt Russian children because their country has a ban on gay marriage, the Kremlin's official for children's rights has said.
29/11/2013- Pavel Astakhov’s comments come shortly after the Italian parliament passed an anti-homophobia bill and Rome’s mayor said he was open to same-sex marriage. “Italy is the only country whose citizens have the possibility to adopt Russian children, because it does not recognize gay marriage,” said Astakhov, quoted in Italian media. His comments come after Russian President Vladimir Putin in June banned adoption by gay couple in the country and foreigners from nations that sanctioned same-sex marriage. The legislation was enacted to protect children from “distress”, Russia Today reported. The decision limits Russia’s options to have children adopted abroad, as countries across Europe are legalizing gay marriage. France was the seventh EU country to legalize gay marriage earlier this year, while the first same-sex wedding in the UK will take place in 2014. But this appeared inconsequential to Astakhov, who said “our priority is to have children adopted within the country” rather than abroad. Earlier this year, the Kremlin banned adoption by US citizens in response to the US government’s Magnitsky Act, which blacklisted Russian officials implicated in the death of an anti-corruption lawyer.
© The Local - Italy
27/11/2013- An Italian journalist has achieved unexpected internet fame after he posed for a photograph in front of St Basil's Cathedral holding a banner saying “Love is Love”, and was quickly confronted by Russian police. Enrico Procentese, a photographer and travel blogger, was reporting from Red Square on behalf of Conde Nest Traveller at the end of last month when he paid homage to Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton’s July protest against the country’s anti-gay laws. Despite the fact that the Italian’s poster was only identifiably pro-gay because of a tiny rainbow-coloured heart dotting the “i” of “is”, Moscow police officers responded almost instantly, demanding he hand the banner over. Though Mr Procentese’s protest only received muted coverage initially, it has now touched a chord with social media users and been shared thousands of times online after it was picked up by La Repubblica, one of Italy’s largest newspapers.
Speaking to Russia’s English-language Moscow Times, the journalist said: “Unfortunately, taking the photograph was not easy, since the police immediately stopped me and asked me to give them the flag I was carrying. The officers made their demands in a torrent of Russian which Procentese did not understand, he said, and spoke no English when he tried to ask for an explanation. “People are astonished by the fact that the police intervened to confiscate the flag in such a peaceful situation,” he said. It remains unclear exactly what drew the attention of the Russian police, when there are thousands of tourists taking photographs outside the Kremlin every day. The Moscow Times nonetheless reported that the authorities have had little patience with anyone openly opposing the new law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, which banned so-called “gay propaganda”.
According to the new legislation, a protest like Mr Procentese’s or Ms Swinton’s is punishable by 15 days in prison, a fine and deportation from Russia. The “Love is Love” campaign started in June after US President Barack Obama tweeted a message in support of gay marriage ending in #LoveIsLove. Within minutes the hashtag became the most popular on Twitter. Procentese said he hoped other people would follow his lead to support gay rights through peaceful means such as posing for a picture on Red Square. “I believe promoting awareness through messages like 'Love Is Love' is the only way to change this attitude in Russia as well as in other countries of the world,” he said.
© The Independent
Putin Seems to Think Russia is Welcoming for Gay People
26/11/2013- Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that violence against gay people is unacceptable and that Russia does not discriminate against the LGBT community. This makes us wonder if Putin knows which country he is in? At a meeting with junior political parties this month, Putin brushed off criticism concerning Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, saying, “You know how much criticism I had to listen to, but all we did on the government and legislative level [was] to do with limiting [gay] propaganda among minors.” At the same time he seemed keen to at least touch on the wave of prejudice and violence against the LGBT community that began to arise shortly after Russia’s national law against promoting gay rights in the public sphere passed in the summer, saying, “In the meantime we should not create a torrent of hatred towards anyone in society, including people of non-traditional sexual orientation.” Putin has previously said that all people are welcome at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
While these most recent statements came couched in a wider political discourse that attempted to assuage fears that Putin is systematically outlawing peaceful protest and making life harder for other political parties, it was also clearly meant to answer criticism that Russia should not be hosting Sochi 2014. Unfortunately, a wider look at Russia’s human rights landscape speaks to a different reality. Human Rights Watch notes that, since May 2012, Russian lawmakers have passed legislation that specifically restricts public assemblies, adding restrictions on internet content, and also broadening how Russia defines treason. The gay propaganda law has been used to condemn media outlets that have dared to publish pro-gay articles, and recently signed legislation means that all forms of protest at the site of the Sochi Olympics will be banned. At the same time, Russia passed legislation that has resulted in raids and closures of foreign nongovernment groups (NGOs). This has even led to Russian officials reportedly bugging an LGBT rights group meeting between domestic activists and groups such as Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Campaign.
What the meeting was in reality was a discussion about how to peacefully protest the Sochi Olympics and put pressure on Sochi’s sponsors to speak out about Russia’s gay rights situation. These views were presented by host Alexander Buzaladze as “massive LGBT propaganda” and an attack on Russia that is “in full-swing.” The report also called the human rights groups “homosexualists” that it said were attempting to “infiltrate” the country. The violence against Russia’s LGBT community also appears to be escalating. While attacks against individuals by so-called vigilante groups continue apace, organized attacks against gay clubs have now started to make the headlines, with gas attacks, a shooting at a Moscow club and a violent attack against an HIV group’s headquarters among recent incidents.
Despite all this, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it is satisfied that Russia fulfills the demands of the Olympic Charter and that the games should go ahead. Sochi 2014 sponsor Coca Cola has also refused to use its influence to rally against Russia’s gay propaganda law beyond reciting its own general policies that it doesn’t support discrimination of any kind. With Russian lawmakers on record as saying they wished they had waited until after the Sochi Olympics in order to pass the propaganda law, and hints that further laws are in the works, the focus for LGBT rights groups is changing to what will happen once the world’s gaze leaves Sochi after the Olympics and Russia’s LGBT population is left without a media spotlight to help them in their fight against Russia’s anti-gay crackdown.
© Care 2
British PM's calls for EU migration restrictions are 'interesting': Asscher (Netherlands)
29/11/2013- Dutch social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher thinks British calls for limits to EU migration are ‘potentially interesting’ and plans to study them further, the Telegraaf reports on Friday. British prime minister David Cameron has suggested a raft of measures to limit inter-EU migration ahead of the end of restrictions on people from Bulgaria and Romania at the beginning of next year. The Telegraaf says Asscher plans to raise the ‘negative impact’ of free movement for people from Eastern Europe at the next EU leaders’ summit on December 9. The minister is also making agreements with Poland, Romania and Bulgaria to stop workers being exploited. According to the Independent newspaper, the Netherlands and Austria back Britain’s call for tighter restrictions.
In August, Asscher made his own plea for restrictions, issuing a ‘code orange alert’ for the European labour market. The resettlement of so many people from eastern Europe in the west has had a 'disruptive effect on some of our poorer and less well educated citizens in the richer EU states like the UK and the Netherlands,' the article, written together with British commentator David Goodhart, stated. According to the national statistics office CBS, some 600,000 people from other EU countries currently live in the Netherlands and 20,000 of them are claiming jobless or welfare benefits.
© The Dutch News