NEWS - Archive August 2014

Headlines 29 August, 2014

American White Nationalists To Hold Conference With Russian And European Far Right

The white nationalist think tank the National Policy Institute is holding a conference in October in Hungary that will feature Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist thinker who is increasingly popular in Kremlin circles.

9/8/2014- Richard Spencer, the president of NPI and a former writer at the American Conservative, said the conference, which will also feature figures from the ascendant European far right, would be the first of its kind for NPI outside the United States. It’s part of an effort to reach out to “European traditionalists” all over the world, he said, and the relationship with Dugin is just beginning: a publishing arm attached to NPI will publish a book this fall by Dugin, who this week called for Ukraine to be “cleansed” of the Ukrainian “race of bastards.” “I think there are a lot of things happening in Europe that I think would excite people like me and people who want to go to the conference, and would excite Americans who care about their European identity,” Spencer said.

Apart from Dugin, the conference will also host Márton Gyöngyösi, a leader of Jobbik, Hungary’s extremist far right political party. This is not the first time that figures from the fringes of the American conservative movement have built bridges with the right in Europe and Russia. Pat Buchanan has publicly expressed support for Vladimir Putin’s policies, as have others. But this is the first time that Spencer’s crowd of white nationalists, who are no longer welcome in the mainstream U.S. conservative movement, have so publicly joined themselves to their Russian and European counterparts.

Spencer’s thoughts on the Ukraine crisis hew closely to Moscow’s. “I think to a large degree the Maidan revolution was organized and funded by outside powers, I don’t think that’s a controversial statement,” he said. “I certainly understand the position of Ukrainian separatists and nationalists. I think that to a very large degree they are supporting a geopolitical policy of Washington and I myself am more sympathetic towards Russia as a major power entering the world stage. Russia has the opportunity, to put it bluntly, to make the world a better place.” “I’m sympathetic toward Putin in many ways,” he said.

Spencer is a great admirer of Dugin’s, whom he says he knows personally, and will be publishing a Dugin volume about the German philosopher Martin Heidegger this fall titled Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning under the Radix Journal imprint, which is part of NPI. “We’re certainly honored to have him at our conference,” Spencer said. “I think the fact that we’re inviting Dugin is expressive of the fact that we want to have a real healthy dialogue with the major currents of Russian conservatism,” Spencer said.
© Buzz Feed News

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UK: London rally will call for zero tolerance of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia

29/8/2014- Leaders of Britain’s small but vocal Jewish community will call on the government, police and public to show zero tolerance for anti-Semitism and Islamophobia at a rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London on Sunday (Aug. 31). Key speakers will be Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Laura Janner-Klausner, head rabbi of the Movement for Reform Judaism. The rally comes against the backdrop of a worrying rise in European anti-Semitism and the release of a report by the Community Security Trust that monitors attacks on the Jewish community. The report shows incidents of anti-Semitism in the U.K. rising by more than one-third in the first six months of this year. In a pre-rally statement, South African-born Mirvis said: “Whilst we are fortunate to live in a country where the fight against anti-Semitism is being led by the government, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that there will be zero tolerance of anti-Semitism in our society.”

Mirvis is a strong supporter of Israel and has been chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for nearly one year. “There is,” he said, “no doubt that the Hamas-Israel conflict has served as a significant trigger point for the current spike in incidents.” Added Janner-Klausner: “I want to see not only Jews but also Muslims and other British people at the rally. My hope is to broaden the issue. We stand against anti-Semitism but also against Islamophobia and the persecution of all minority groups.”
© Religion News Service

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A man who sprayed six people with a “noxious substance” in a homophobic attack outside a London gay club is expected to face jail.

27/8/2014- One victim, Pariche Frith, said he felt like his face was melting, and that he thought he was going to die, when Jonathan Lynn, 31, sprayed him in the face with a substance at the time thought to be bleach, outside Lightbox, a Vauxhall gay club, the Inner London Crown Court heard. Mr Frith said he started talking to two women, but that Lynn approached him and said the women were with him. After Mr Frith told him he was gay, Lynn responded: “Go away, we don’t like gays.” The court then heard that Lynn was told by Mr Frith that he could have any woman he wanted, if he wasn’t gay. Lynn’s reaction was to spray Mr Frith in the face with the liquid, which caused burns, including ulcers on his eyes. The model said he felt like his face had melted, and that he was going to die. A bystander, as well as two of Mr Frith’s friends were also sprayed with the substance in the attack.

As well as those victims, Lynn also sprayed another man with the substance, which he kept in an Evian water bottle, after he accidentally stood on the perpetrator’s foot. Prosecutor James Keely said: “The concern is that the gay community is vulnerable, it’s fair to say that such a serious and premeditated attack will no doubt have a detrimental effect on the community and impact the attraction to the area.” Lynn, who resides in Worcester Park, will be sentenced on Thursday. Having been arrested two days after the incidents, he later pleaded guilty to four counts of Actual Bodily Harm, two counts of common assault, and possession of a weapon for discharge of a noxious liquid.
© Pink News

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The Myth of the Spanish Model of Roma Inclusion

27/8/2014- “Things are different in Spain.” This is a common refrain when discussing Roma integration in Europe. Spain is held up as a model, and not just by media or government officials. Even some Roma activists point to programs in the country as a way forward. But this rosy picture ignores the historical and economic environment, as well as the vital role of Romani families. As Spain’s economic crisis and its effects take root, it’s time to break this myth. Look at education. Spain receives high marks for enrolling Roma children into primary school but performs terribly when it comes to higher education. Only five percent of Roma students complete upper-secondary education—a statistic that is even more shocking when you consider that Spain is significantly behind less-developed European countries[PDF] like Czech Republic (30 percent), Hungary (22 percent), Romania (10 percent), or Bulgaria (nine percent). Roma students aren’t in the classrooms, and their history isn’t in textbooks: 500 years of Roma contributions to Spain fails to merit a single mention in school history books.

Although negative attitudes toward Roma might be higher in other countries, the Roma remain the most despised minority in Spain: 40 percent of the population would be disturbed if they had a Romani neighbor, and 25 percent would not allow their children to attend school with Romani students. This deep suspicion and mistrust carries over to the streets. Roma are 10 times more likely to be stopped by police for identification than those of a Caucasian appearance. In contrast with Roma in Central and Eastern Europe, Spanish Roma are not an officially recognized ethnic minority in the country, and Roma civil society is for the most part in a pitiful state. After decades of state-funded service provisions through nongovernmental organizations, the much-needed voice of Roma organizations has been reduced to a mere whisper. A growing number of Roma university graduates find no incentive in engaging with the work of civil society.

Of course, there has been progress. But the myth of the “Spanish Roma inclusion model” blinds us to the most important point. It was not Roma-specific policies—like the 1989 Spanish Development Program or the Fundacion Secretariado Gitano’s ACCEDER employment program—that contributed the most to inclusion, but rather developments in Spain that had nothing to do with Roma.

In the transition from Franco’s dictatorship to democracy, the new Spanish constitution banned discrimination on ethnic or other grounds. Subsequently, new legislation was passed to repeal still existing discriminatory provisions towards Roma. Roma—along other excluded groups—now had the institutional backing to legally defend themselves and advance some of their rights as equal citizens. In the 1980s Spain adopted a number of welfare policies such as universal health care coverage, compulsory basic education, and social housing designed to uplift the bottom layers of the society. After centuries of persecution and discrimination Spanish Roma found themselves living in a country that wanted to help all of its underprivileged. The welfare state helped to reduce mortality rates, increased life expectancy, improved levels of basic education, and gave hope to all Spanish citizens. This is single-handedly what has made the greatest difference for Spanish Roma.

During the late ’90s, until 2006, Spain benefited from a growing economy which reduced unemployment and improved living conditions for all. Roma also benefited from the economic boom, as they suffer today from the general economic downturn. The final element which contributed to changes experienced by the Spanish Roma is hardly ever mentioned: the hard work and sacrifice that Romani families put towards making the most of the available opportunities. These are the families that opened the way for a Roma middle class in Spain. We are the children of people who, despite tremendous obstacles and discrimination, managed to improve their lives. One of us, Ostalinda, is the daughter of world-renowned Flamenco dancer Mario Maya. Ostalinda’s father comes from a very modest background. He was raised in a cave without running water or electricity. His personal journey is one of hard work and sacrifice to secure a better upbringing for his three children. It was thanks to his perseverance and encouragement that Ostalinda managed to pursue her academic studies. With two degrees in anthropology and law, she has been working to defend the rights of Roma across Europe.

People like us are not the majority among Roma but we are a growing minority. We owe what we have and what we are to the hard work of our Romani parents and grandparents and not to projects done in the name of Roma. The Spanish experience demonstrates that Roma projects alone cannot make a difference. The social distance between Roma and everyone else remains and can grow even bigger in a period of economic and social crisis. Roma-specific projects are only useful and sustainable if governments change the way they support all people, especially in the domain of equality, welfare provision, and economic development. This way everyone can get a chance. When real opportunity is provided to all, Roma in Spain are the living example that it can work.
This article was originally published in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
© OSF - Roma Initiatives Office

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Spanish mayor compared to Hitler over immigrant claims

Javier Maroto accused of stirring up tensions by saying North Africans abuse system

26/8/2014- The mayor of a town in northern Spain has been accused of racism and even of aping Hitler, after he claimed that immigrants are sponging off the state. Javier Maroto, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), has been known for his tough stance on immigration ever since becoming mayor of the Basque city of Vitoria in 2011. However, in recent weeks he has been even more outspoken, targeting North Africans in particular. “A majority of some communities – Moroccans and Algerians to be precise – live off our land, especially the social support that we all pay for,” he told reporters earlier this month. “I know it’s not politically correct to say so, but as it’s so obvious I’m saying it so that things change and improve.” He added that he had “never had so much support from people on the street on an issue”. Politicians from several other political parties have accused Maroto of populism and needlessly stirring up racial tensions. Xabier Agirre, of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) went even further, warning that the mayor’s comments made him “the Hitler of Vitoria”. “It’s important to remember that Hitler won elections by deepening the confrontation against Jews and that had the consequences it had,” he said. Ander Rodríguez of the radical nationalist coalition Bildu said the mayor was in danger of creating “a hotbed of fascism”, while the NGO SOS Racismo called for him to be investigated for inciting racial hatred.

Maroto’s criticism of North African immigrants focuses mainly on a monthly handout by the Basque regional government of €616 for those who have no other source of revenue and who have been residents for over three years. The Basque Country has more control over its finances than other regions of Spain, where the handout is €426. About 65,500 people received the Basque aid in July, a new record. According to Maroto this is proof that the region’s relatively generous social handout system is attracting immigrants who do not want to work. His party colleague, Javier de Andrés, has supported the mayor, claiming that Nigerians were also sponging off the system. However, official data seems to contradict their accusations. In both 2012 and 2013, the number of foreigners in the Basque region dropped, with nearly 8,000 leaving last year. Immigrants make up 6.4 per cent of the total Basque population, the fifth lowest of Spain’s 17 regions. “We came to the Basque Country because there was more work here than in the rest of Spain, not because of the handouts,” Mohammed Satglarhezal, a Moroccan who lives in Vitoria, told El País newspaper. “How attractive can the handout be if you have to spend three years paying €500 a month before you even qualify for it?”
© The Irish Times.

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First gay couple in Italy allowed to adopt child

A woman whose partner gave birth has been allowed to adopt the child in the first case of stepchild adoption involving a same-sex couple. It's been described by a rights group as an historic step for Italy.

29/8/2014- The five-year-old is the daughter of one of the two partners, who were married abroad. It is the first case of a “step-child” adoption involving a gay couple in Italy. The girl was born after her biological mother underwent fertility treatment in another European country and has since been raised by the pair at their home in Rome. The two mothers have shared the care and upbringing of the child “with excellent results” and have provided her with “a solid emotional foundation”, Maria Antonia Pili, the Pordenone-based lawyer involved in the case was quoted in the newspaper as saying. Although adoption by gay couples is illegal in Italy, a stepchild adoption law for same-sex couples forms part of a draft bill on civil unions by Matteo Renz’s government.

In this case, the non-biological parent was allowed to adopt the child due to a clause in Article 44 of Italy’s adoption law of 1983, which prioritises “the best interest of the child in order to maintain the emotional relationship and cohabi-tation with the ‘social’ parent,” Pili added, such as the person who has raised the child other than the biological parent. “This particular article of adoption law does not discriminate between heterosexual and homosexual parents,” she said The court ruling was described as an “historic step for our country” by the gay rights group, Mario Mieli Society for Gay Culture.

“We would like to send our very best wishes to the Rome couple who, while aware of the legal risks, chose to claim their rights, and the rights of their child, in Italy,” Andrea Maccarrone, the organization’s president, said in a statement. “Stepchild adoption for gay couples is part of the draft civil union bill by Renzi’s government, which we expect to soon be made State law,” he added. “We applaud the court which, with this ruling, has anticipated the law and recognized that this child, born to a gay cou-ple, has the same rights as any other child.”
© The Local - Italy

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26/8/2014- Since the beginning of the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, Moscow has repeatedly denied sending troops or weapons to help the rebels. Nevertheless, many Russian fighters have crossed the border into Ukraine to fight what they call “Kiev’s fascist junta”. Recruited by far-right nationalist movements, these men are ideologically driven to fight what has been nicknamed “the Russian Jihad”. FRANCE 24 joined a group of these would-be fighters as they headed for the combat zone.

‘Russian imperialist nationalists’
Evgeny Mazepin is a recruiter for the self-styled “Russian Volunteer battalion”. He works out of an office in the city of Voronezh, 500km south of Moscow and 150km from the Ukrainian border. “Ideologically we are all Russian imperialist nationalists, descendants of the White Guard,” he explains, in reference to the anti-communist forces that waged a civil war against the Bolsheviks in the years immediately after the 1917 Russian Revolution. “Every day we receive about 10 applications from candidates who want to join the battalion,” he says. “Our aim is to liberate the land we call Novorossiya – New Russia – and its Russian people from the enemy, the Kiev junta.” Novorussia was the 18th and 19th century name for the region of Imperial Russia that now comprises Ukraine.

‘Mentally I am ready to die’
FRANCE 24 talks to a group of the battalion’s volunteers heading for the border and into Ukraine. Among them is a Russian calling himself Norman. “I'm a nationalist and my priority is protecting the Russian people,” he told FRANCE 24. “Despite what many in Ukraine think, the Russian state is not involved in this mission. If Russia was involved, this war would have been over in four days.” The group head for Luhansk, in Eastern Ukraine, with food and other supplies for their comrades across the border. On arrival in Ukraine, they are each handed an AK47 rifle and a few magazines’ of ammunition, and waited at a camp for orders to join the fight. “Mentally, I am ready to die,” says Norman. “This war will be won by our sacrifice.” “For me this territory is Russian, the communists gave it away unfairly,” he argues, referring to a decision by Stalin’s successor Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 to cede parts of Russian territory, including the Crimean peninsula, to Ukraine. “This land must be returned to the Russian people.”
© France 24.

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Italy: Sicily Recovers 24 Bodies as Boat Sinks in 'Migrant War'

26/8/2014- Italian authorities have recovered 24 bodies from the waters south of Sicily where a migrant boat capsized, as the official Vatican newspaper compared a series of disastrous incidents involving would-be refugees fleeing northern Africa for Europe to a war. The Italian navy said that two of its patrol boats managed to pull 364 people alive from the water, after a fishing boat used by human smugglers overturned en route from Libya to Italy on Sunday night. Rescue teams initially said six migrants had drowned, but later found more bodies. Their remains, as well as the survivors, were being carried to the city of Augusta on Sicily's east coast, the navy said. It was the third such incident to be reported by Italy's search and rescue services in two days. Up to 170 migrants were feared dead after a boat sunk off the Libyan coast on Saturday, while a few hours later 18 died as an inflatable dinghy sunk south of Italy's southernmost island of Lampedusa.

Italian authorities said they rescued almost 4,000 migrants altogether over the weekend, adding to the more than 100,000 who have reached the Mediterranean country so far this year. Fuelled by the increasing instability in Libya, where human smugglers operate, migrants' arrivals have exceeded the previous yearly record of 62,000 set in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings. Hundreds have died in the perilous crossing. In an article headlined: 'Like a war', the Holy See newspaper L'Osservatore Romano described the situation as an "endless massacre". "A new silent war is being fought in the Mediterranean. That of immigration," the paper wrote. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has renewed calls for the European Union to help Italy's search and rescue operations. He is due to discuss the issue at a meeting with EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstroem later this week.
© The International Business Times - UK

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Czech Ombudswoman Anna Šabatová has stirred heated debate on the Czech political scene by standing up for two students who were banned from wearing headscarves at a medical school in Prague. Politicians across the political spectrum as well as President Miloš Zeman have criticized her move, arguing that foreigners should respect Czech cultural traditions.

29/8/2014- Two young women from Somalia and Afghanistan who were studying at a Prague nursing school left the institution last year after the headmistress refused to allow them to wear headscarves in class. While the headmistress claimed that the dispute was not about religious freedoms but about adhering to the rules of a given institution, Ombudswoman Anna Šabatová has now defended their right to do so:
It was indirect discrimination. The girls were, in effect, denied access to education. A school principal cannot use an internal regulation to decide if someone can cover their head with a scarf, which in this case happened to be a religious symbol.”

The Ombudswoman’s stand immediately sparked heated debate about whether students should be allowed to wear headscarves and other religious symbols. Radko Hokovský from the Prague-based European Values think tank argues that the Ombudswoman’s verdict does not reflect the broader situation in Europe: 
The veil is not only a religious symbol. According to a verdict by the German Constitutional Court and other international institutions in Europe, including the European Court of Human Rights, it is also perceived as a form of exclusion within schools and also as discrimination against women.”

Politicians from the Social Democratic Party and TOP 09 have expressed sentiments along the same line, with President Miloš Zeman arguing that allowing women to wear headscarves will eventually lead to allowing burqas as well. Muneeb Hassan Alrawi, head of the Czech Muslim community, says such reactions are absurd:
If the head of state makes such a statement regarding Islam and Muslims, then we can only expect a rise of intolerance and hate. We hope that this will not go further, but of course we do have worries.”

A heated discussion about headscarves is also underway in the north Bohemian spa town of Teplice, where the locals complain about Muslim visitors being too noisy and not respecting local customs. The town is currently debating a plan to introduce a regulation that would ban women from covering their face in public. Meanwhile, Czech human rights organizations are ringing alarm bells and warning against growing xenophobia among the Czech public.
© Radio Prague

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26/8/2014- Seventy-one years ago, the Nazis transported the largest group of Romani prisoners from the so-called "gypsy camp" at Hodonín u Kunštátu to the extermination concentration camp of Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Few returned from there alive. A commemorative ceremony is held annually in August at the departure point for those transports to honor the memory of the Romani Holocaust. The ceremony is convened by the Museum of Roma Culture in collaboration with the J.A. Komenský National Pedagogical Museum and Library. After a mass in the reconstructed prisoners' barracks was said by priest Martin Kopecký, those assembled went to the nearby memorial at Žalov. There a cross, symbolically covered by the spokes of a wheel (the dominant symbol of the Romani flag) stands at the site of the mass grave of the prisoners who died in the camp.

Wreaths were laid at the memorial. Organizers closed the ceremony with a visit to the cemetery in the nearby town of Černovice, where the first 70 victims of the camp at Hodonín were buried. The cemetery features a plaque in their honor designed by Romani sculptor Božena Přikrylová. The memory of the Roma and their tragic fate during WWII will also be preserved there in future by a new building at the site of the former camp.

The Czech Government decided to entrust the J.A. Komenský National Pedagogical Museum and Library with construction of the building, which should begin next year. On the occasion of the commemorative ceremony, detailed project documentation for the Hodonín Memorial, designed by Richard Pozdníček of the Architecture Faculty at Czech Technical University, who won last year's student contest for its design, was displayed to the public in the prisoners' barracks that were reconstructed in 2012. The planned facility will not just serve as a memorial to the victims of the Romani Holocaust. It will also be a place for educating representatives of nonprofit organizations and schools who visit the memorial.
© Romea.

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