NEWS - Archive September 2014

Headlines 26 September, 2014

Austria: Fine and jail time for Nazi comments

A 27-year-old man has been handed a €7,200 fine and a one year prison sentence for inciting hatred and re-engagement in National Socialist activities.

26/9/2014- Korneuburg Regional Court convicted the man after he confessed to posting countless Nazi and xenophobic comments and content online. The prosecutor noted that he had trivialised the Holocaust and had an ‘88’ tattoo on his back, which stands for HH, or Heil Hitler. The prosecutor said he would not bother reading out any of the man’s postings as “any normal person would find them disgraceful”. When questioned the 27-year-old admitted that he had extreme right-wing views and said that he had developed an aversion to immigrants, Jews, Muslims and Africans since being at school. He also admitted possessing illegal weapons purchased in the Czech Republic. The 27-year-old already had a criminal record after being involved in violent brawls. His defence argued that he had been unemployed for some time and in his frustration had become influenced by right-wing propa-ganda. He said that he has since had most of his tattoos removed, or altered into Hawaiian symbols, and was a “changed man”.
The Local - Austria

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140,000 refugees flee to Turkey in 3 days

26/9/2014- Last week, ISIS fighters attacked the Kurdish town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, in northern Syria, causing Kobani’s residents to flee towards the nearby Turkish border. Turkey’s initial response was to close the crossing points with Syria saying that humanitarian aid would be provided on the Syrian side of the border. On Friday 19 September, Turkey opened a 30 kilometre section of the border section with Syria and hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurd refugees started crossing into Turkey. However, since Monday 20 September, Turkey has kept only two crossing points open out of nine, as reported by UNHCR. Up until 25 September, 144,000 Syrian refugees, mainly Kurds, have sought refuge in southern Turkey; 80% of the refugees are women and children and the remaining 20% are elderly or disabled. Carol Batchelor, the Turkey representative for UNHCR, said “I don’t think in the last three and a half years we have seen 100,000 cross in two days,” according to Reuters.

The Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly and Mülteci-Der, Turkish NGOs and ECRE members, have criticized that Turkey’s initial response to the arrival of the refugees was to seal off the crossing points with Syria. “Turkey’s decision to allow the arrival of this massive latest wave of Kurdish refugees from Syria 19 September onward was preceded by days of hesitation on the part of the Turkish Government and an effective blockade on crossings by Turkish border units. It appears that earlier the same week Turkey’s new Prime Minister Davutoglu issued instructions for the sealing of the entire Syria and Iraq border stretch before he changed his mind and Kurdish refugees were allowed to cross”, stated Oktay Durukan of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly. “We are pleased that Turkey has now opened the border as it should, but have concerns that opening border to people fleeing war and persecution cannot depend on daily decisions. There must be complete protection for refugees governed by a legal framework respecting human rights and dignity”, stated Piril Ercoban of Mülteci-Der.

Acknowledging the vital role that Turkey and the broader region is assuming by hosting the vast majority of the refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq, the NGOs underine that all States must maintain an open-border policy and call on the European and international community to also play their part by admitting more refugees through resettlement and humanitarian admission. “During the Syrian crisis for the last four years and the recent ones in Iraq and Syria, almost all the responsibility of the humanitarian response has been left to the neighbouring countries. Many countries, including European States are doing very little to deal with the plight of refugees. Just 35,000 places have been provided in response to UNHCR's call for more resettlement from the neighbouring countries. This is indeed amazingly little while there are millions of refugees in the region. While the number of refugees and the need for international solidarity are rising, the neighbouring countries and refugees are increasingly left alone in this grave humanitarian crisis”, stated Ercoban.

“While it is absolutely clear that Turkey needs dramatically more European and international solidarity to help cope with the humanitarian needs of a 1.5 million strong refugee influx, Turkey must not resort to non-arrival measures as the security situation on both the Syria and Iraq sides of the border continues to deteriorate”, warns Durukan. “We are concerned that the rising pressures on Turkey’s resources and administrative capabilities, a growing anti-Syrian sentiment among the public at large and cross-border security considerations appear to have shaken the Government’s resolve on the ‘open borders’ policy to the brink.”

For further information
UNHCR, Number of Syrian Kurds fleeing to Turkey nears 140,000; humanitarian needs mount, 23 September 2014
UNHCR video: Refugees Continue Flowing into Turkey, 24 September 2014
UNHCR, UNHCR airlifts urgent aid into Turkey to help refugees fleeing ISIS, 25 September 2014
The New York Times, ISIS Forays Send Waves of Refugees Into Turkey, 21 September 2014
The Guardian, Kurds call on 'all Middle East' to help defend stronghold from Isis, 21 September 2014
Reuters, More than 130,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing Islamic State crossed into Turkey - Deputy PM, 22 September 2014
Al-Jazeera, Turkish forces fend off Kurdish protesters, 22 September 2014
BBC, Turkey clamps down on Syria border after Kurdish unrest, 22 September 2014
The Washington Post, Turkey breaks up crowds at Syrian frontier protesting Islamic State, border closings, 22 September 2014
World Bulletin, UN calls for aid for refugees in Turkey, 22 September 2014
TIME, Photos Show ‘Unprecedented’ Shift of Refugees Into Turkey, 23 September 2014
European Council on Refugees and Exiles

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School discrimination against Roma: EU gives strong signal by taking action against the Czech Rep.

The European Commission yesteerday announced that it would initiate legal action (so-called infringement proceedings) against the Czech Republic for discrimination against Roma children in schools. The European Roma Policy Coalition welcomes this long-awaited move. It sends a strong message that discrimination on racial grounds is unlawful and violates the European Union’s (EU) basic values.

26/9/2014- “We have been calling for this for a long time”, said Michael Privot, representative of the European Roma Policy Coalition. “There has been ample evidence of widespread school segregation and discrimination against Roma children in Czech schools for years. The European Commission is now finally playing its role of guardian of EU law and values and taking action against Member States who breach EU anti-discrimination law.” Anti-Gypsyism is a prevalent and serious concern across Europe, not just in the Czech Republic. This infringement procedure is a good first step, however it must be followed by further concrete action to end discriminatory practices in Member States.

The European Roma Policy Coalition (ERPC) is an informal gathering of non-governmental organisations operating at EU level on issues of human rights, anti-discrimination, anti-racism, social inclusion, and Roma and Travellers’ rights. Its members are Amnesty International, European Network Against Racism (ENAR), the European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network (ERGO), the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the European Roma Information Office (ERIO), Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG), the Open Society Institute (OSI), Policy Center for Roma and Minorities, the Roma Education Fund.
EUropean Network Against Racism

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Gay couple in Azerbaijan forced to flee after engagement vow makes local news

Small ceremony with friends sparks homophobic death threats after being reported by several media networks.

26/9/2014- A gay couple in Azerbaijan have received death threats and been forced to go underground after getting engaged in a small ceremony. Javid Nabiyev and his partner exchanged vows in presence of a handful of friends earlier this week in Sumqayit on the Caspian sea, a year after they first met. But when several news networks in Azerbaijan picked up their private pictures on Facebook, they were inundated with hate mail from people who said they deserved to die. “We received homophobic verbal attacks,” said Nabiyev, who is the head of the Azerbaijani gay rights advocacy group, Nafas Azerbaijan LGBT alliance. “Some people said ‘You should die, I’ll kick you in the street, I’ll kill you’,” he told the Guardian on phone from Baku. The 25-year-old said he had had to leave home because people had gathered outside and shouted homophobic abuse. “We were engaged; not in a big ceremony. It took place between our friends at my home and only eight people were invited,” he said. “At midnight yesterday, I had to change the place I was living in. People in my apartment building had heard about the news and I heard people gathering outside my house and ridiculing us,” he said. “It was very terrible. But I’m now in a safe place in a friend’s house.”

Homosexuality is legal in Azerbaijan, but Nabiyev said discrimination against the gay and lesbian community and homophobia was rife. “After the news agencies published articles on the basis of my private Facebook posting, people showed very homophobic reaction,” he said. Nabiyev’s 19-year-old partner, whose identity is withheld to protect his safety, particularly, is facing a dilemma at home. His father threatened to send him to the army instead of university after hearing the news. “I don’t know what has happened to my partner. He is with his parents now,” Nabiyev said. “He sent me a brief message that his dad wants to send him to the army. His parents have also confiscated all our documents, which we would need to produce a passport if we were ever to leave the country.” Nabiyev said that his partner’s mother had thrown gasoline on him and tried to set him on fire last month, but the attack did not succeed. Despite rising homophobic attacks, Nabiyev said the police does not listen to their demands for safety.

Nabiyev’s organisation have tried to lobby members of the parliament to raise the LGBT issues with Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, but they haven’t gone too far. “Our government is also homophobic,” the campaigner said. “We created a campaign to raise LGBT issues with the president and one MP asked him about the situation of LGBTs in Azerbaijan, but he didn’t mention the LGBT community at all in his answer.” The 2012 Eurovision song contest, which took place in Baku, drew a great deal of attention towards human rights abuses, including those concerning the LGBT community, in Azerbaijan. The former Soviet republic has a notorious track record on human rights and freedom of expression.
The Guardian

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Olympic Committee Adds Anti-Discrimination Clause for Host Cities

The move comes after the much criticized Sochi games, which took place against a backdrop of Russia's staunchly homophobic policies

24/9/2014- The International Olympic Committee announced on Wednesday that they will add an anti-discrimination clause to host city contracts. So in order to host the 2022 Olympic Games, cities must pledge to adhere to a principle of the Olympic charter which prohibits discrimination. The move is a result of the pushback the IOC faced from human rights organizations following the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, where homophobic policies and incidents were rampant. The updated clause calls for the prohibition of “any form of discrimination,” under the rules of Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which bans “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise.” LGBT rights organizations All Out and Athlete Ally championed the Principle in an effort to get athletes and fans to speak out against the anti-LGBT laws in Russia. Organizations like Human Rights Watch also urged the IOC to add a human rights provision to its host city contract for future games. Co-founder and executive director of All Out, Andre Banks, called the IOC’s announcement a “significant step in ensuring the protection of both citizens and athletes around the world.”
Time Magazine.

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City of Ylivieska in Finland awards anti-Semite with distinction

Juha Kärkkäinen, who was fined by a Finnish court in the fall of 2013 45,000 euros for publishing anti-Semitic writings of the likes of David Duke and others, was awarded a distinction from the city of Ylivieska, according to Oulu-based Kaleva. Dan Kantor, executive director of the Jewish Community of Helsinki, told Migrant Tales that he was “surprised that in this century” such things happen in Finland today.

24/9/2014- Kärkkäinen is owner of a company based in Ylivieska that owns shopping centers in the cities of Lahti and Oulu. The Pro Ylivieska distinction is awarded to a person or association who has distinguished himself or herself in the community and nationally. A Ylivieska city official whom Migrant Tales spoke to said that the award was given only for Kärkkäinen’s accomplishments as a businessman. “What he thinks (about Jews) is his personal opinion and we have nothing to do with with,” the official said. Even if Kärkkäinen isn’t editor of Magneettimedia, the publication is still owned by J. Kärkkänen Oy.

Kärkkäinen appealed the sentence and 45,000 fine he got in the fall to a the court of appeal, which is expected to give legal validity to the lower-court ruling in the next two months. “In the meantime Kärkkäinen has been able to publish his anti-Semitism on Magneettimedia (which is today an online publication),” said Kantor. The decision to give Kärkkäinen a distinction by the city of Ylivieksa reveals a lot of matters, according to the executive director of the Jewish Community of Helsinki .

“First: That Finland’s laws are helpless and that such a thing (publish anti-Semitic stories on Magneettimedia) can continue to happen for such a long time (even if Kärkkäinen got sentenced by a lower court for ethnic agitation),” he said. “Second: Even if we’re waiting for the court of appeals ruling, anyone with a little common sense could tell that what was (and continues to be) published is wrong.”
Migrant Tales

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Croatia: Anti-Fascist Victims of WWII Honoured in Zagreb

A new temporary memorial was unveiled in a park in the Croatian capital to honour thousands of people who were executed there by Zagreb’s wartime Ustasa pro-Nazi regime.

23/9/2014- “This monument is to honour the anti-fascist victims of the Ustasa regime [during WWII in Croatia] and the Nazi occupiers who were killed here,” Vesna Terselic, the director of Croatian NGO Documenta - Centre for Dealing with the Past, told the unveiling ceremony in Zagreb’s Dotrscina park on Monday. The park was the scene of mass executions by the Ustasa authorities, beginning in May 1941 and continuing until the end of the war. Around 18,000 people were killed in total, according to the Dotrscina memorial website. Several thousand of them were executed “simply because they were Jews, Serbs or anti-fascists”, Terselic said. The new monument, a sculpture made of tree trunks by contemporary Croatian artist Slaven Tolj, entitled ‘Freezing Rain’, was created as part of the Dotrscina Virtual Museum, a memorialisation project supported by Documenta. Sasa Simpraga, the head of the virtual museum, said that its main objective was “to bring Dotrscina back into the collective memory, from which it disappeared during the 1990s”. There are already several other memorials in the park, including monuments created by distinguished Croatian artists such as Vojin Bakic and Josip Siessel during the 1960s and 1970s.
Balkan Insight

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Far right violence in Greece (background)

By Maria Alvanou

23/9/2014- 5th Century BC: In Greece the principle of democracy is born, and perfected in Athens.
21st Century AD: Greece faces a severe economic crisis; its political institutions are challenged and violent incidences take place against immigrants, people of different race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, as well as against those who support their rights.

Experts who try to analyse this violent phenomenon from a political standpoint, as well as the media, correlate it with the existence and rise of 'neo-Nazism', 'the far right', 'fascism', 'the extreme right', or 'the populist right' in Greece. These terms are used interchangeably, and though there are ongoing academic debates both on the accuracy and historical correctness of the terms, as well as their scholarly application, this does not change the facts.

Violence is being perpetrated in Greece and it has special characteristics: organised violent attacks, groups that operate as quasi-military units and the use of hate speech, Nazi totalitarian regime symbols and gestures. Foreigners and people of 'non-Greek blood' are targeted because they are conceived as subhuman and a menace to the 'purity' of the Greek nation. In addition, there is an ongoing judicial investigation against members of the Greek parliament belonging to a certain political party (characterised by the press, scholars and other political groups as far right or neo-Nazi), who are accused of involvement in violent criminal activity. Despite the accusations and the pre-trial detention of the party's members, its electoral support is rising. As in other European countries, violent extremist crimes inspired by far-right neo-Nazi principles in Greece don't occur out of the blue. Relevant social, economic, and political developments have taken place and the country has undergone changes. Greek society was silent and neglected or refused to see the problem of extremism. Even politicians, one could say, were blind to the danger.

One reason for this was that such extremism is a strange development in the country's history, culture and tradition. Neo-Nazi salutes and support in a country that paid one of the highest victim tolls during World War II, that had whole villages destroyed and burnt to the ground with their population massacred, seemed absurd. Violently attacking and killing immigrants in a country where nearly every family has an immigrant relative living in the US, Canada, Australia, Germany or Sweden seemed an unlikely eventuality. The rhetoric of hate against people who are different in race, colour, religion, political ideas, or sexual orientation in a society that has been traditional, but where part of this tradition has been tolerance, solidarity, sacrifice and collaboration, did not appear feasible. Against all the odds, what seemed absurd and a dim possibility, actually happened, and it is taking on new dimensions that pose a threat to public security.

Addressing this phenomenon can be tricky for many reasons and lots of problems seem to arise. First of all, extremist violence must be countered, but at the same time freedom of ideology and speech should remain intact in a democratic state and society. Violence as a criminal activity is dealt with through the jurisdiction of law enforcement and justice. This means in-depth police investigations, successful operations, and speedy (and fair) trials, so that criminal cases are solved, and perpetrators arrested and convicted without delay. The message must be that the Greek legal order does not tolerate violence and responds accordingly, and at the same time the legal response must be independent from the political arena and expediency.

Perpetrators of assaults should be punished for their violence (physical or verbal) and breaking the law, not for their ideas (regardless of their absurdity). Political party competition as well as electoral interests must be distanced from the justice system. This will ensure that the prosecuted do not present themselves as 'heroes', persecuted for their beliefs, and that citizens will trust the justice system in its integrity. However, apart from prosecutions, the response to extremism must also take a political form. The whole spectrum of political parties should work to re- establish trust in Greece's institutions and should approach citizens with care regarding their needs and their serious problems.

In addition, the Orthodox Church is a very influential institution and its appeal is wide-reaching in the Greek population. Debunking and deconstructing the ideology of hate, discrimination and violence using the Church's authority and validity (putting forth the humanistic, non-nationalistic teachings of the Gospel and the non-discriminatory practice of orthodox life) can have an impact. Especially considering that far right movements set out to lure and recruit members from 'conservative' parts of the population, who traditionally attend church and are religious.

The phenomenon of far-right extremism is complex and it should be addressed on several levels. It is important to look at the people behind the phenomenon. There are those who perpetrate violence either as a result of their extreme right ideological affiliation, inspired by it or using it as an excuse. These people must be stopped and the role of the police, the law, prosecution authorities and the judiciary is crucial in these cases. Then there are those who believe in the extreme right ideology (and may not even strongly condemn incidents of extreme violence), but themselves would never cross the line and take illegal action; these people cannot be classified as criminals and their political views cannot and should not be a matter of concern for the justice system.

Nevertheless, they may be considered the oxygen of the violent far right, and are the platform that supports their existence. This group of people poses the biggest challenge for the democratic state. While far right and Nazi ideology opposes every aspect of democracy, the very essence of democracy is to avoid criminalisation and persecution simply because of (even adverse) ideologies. Freedom of thought and ideology are the essence of democracy. The weapons against extremism must be political education, dialogue and the re-enforcing of social bonds. This is the path we must take to address a final category of citizens: the circumstantial voter or supporter. These are citizens who feel trapped inside the political system, who suffer real grievances and vote for or support far right or neo-Nazi parties as a form of protest.

They do not agree with the far right rhetoric, and they do not see themselves as affiliated to the ideologies, yet they choose such parties as an alternative and a protest against (in their eyes or objectively) the failed political system. In their case too, more democracy and power to the people is a good starting point. Demo-cracy is not weak or defenceless in Greece. As the meaning of its name tells us (demos means 'people', cratos means 'power') it is the power of the people and in those people rests its power. Greek citizens who know their history, who are a living part of the social tissue, who are active in building a better future for Greece and aware of the country's developments, are the best defence and combat mechanism against any kind of violent extremism. It is time for Greeks to awaken, take responsibility and realise that in democracy there is no place for any type of extremism and fascist violence.
*Maria Alvanou is a criminologist and an expert on terrorism and extremist violence.
Neos Kosmos

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Ukraine: Nazi truth that West refuses to recognise

23/9/2014- In an era of diminished news budgets, foreign reporting is skimpy at best. We know there is fighting in eastern Ukraine along the border with Russia. But we get few details about Ukraine's fiercest warriors, the 500-strong Azov Battalion. Are they heroes fighting Russian aggression? Or antisemitic, neo-fascist nationalists on a glory hunt? To find the answer, follow the Wolf's Angel. This symbol of the Waffen SS was adapted by the Social National Party in Ukraine - the words 'Social' and 'National' are intentional - when it was founded in 1995. In 2004, the party changed its name to Svoboda and began to publicly moderate its extreme nationalism. That did not stop its leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, from making speeches excoriating the "Muscovite Jewish mafia". Ukraine's neo-fascist right wing, like most extremist political movements, is prone to splits. The three main parties representing this segment of the Ukrainian electorate still got 10 per cent of the vote in last May's elections for the Verkhovna Rada [parliament]. The leader of the Radical Party, the largest of these groups, is Oleh Lyashko, who is also one of the leaders of the Azov Battalion. The Wolf's Angel is now their symbol.

Traces of their worldview are all over the internet. It is pure Aryan Nation fantasy. So why, at a time of heightened awareness about antisemitism's return to Europe, has there been so little about the Azov crew? The internet era is all about rapid flow of unverified, uncontextualised "information", much of it inaccurate. Journalism has changed its rules to keep up. Normal verification procedures have gone out the window; objectivity now means correcting an earlier rumour reported as fact. Ukraine has been the place where all of these changes exploded. Reporters with agendas and language skills make up the West's primary lens on events. But they have left truth in A&E. In the middle of this are the Jews - or the idea of the "Jews", since there are relatively few Jews left in the borderlands. Ukrainian ultra-nationalism, a powerful force, has never really shed its antisemitism. Its heartland is western Ukraine in places whose names are familiar to all Jews: Tarnopil, Berdichev, Lemberg (today L'viv). The ultra-nationalist parties annually honour those Ukrainians who helped the Nazis eliminate almost 100 per cent of the Jewish population during the Holocaust.

From the beginning of the conflict last February on Kiev's Maidan [Independence Square], there have been neo-Nazi elements at the sharp end of the conflict. The Azov battalion evolved from these groups. Their influence has been consistently denied or underplayed by spokespeople for the Ukrainian government but also by Western reporters for outlets such as the Economist and Washington Post, for whom this is a story about a resurgent imperialism in Russia led by the odious and slightly deranged Vladimir Putin. For some of them, war with Russia - with its massive nuclear arsenal - is something the West must anticipate out of this crisis. This view was articulated by Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum last month, in an article headlined: "War in Europe Is Not An Hysterical Idea." In making her case, Ms Applebaum did not mention the fascist elements in Ukraine - although she linked Putin to Mein Kampf in the same sentence. As for Ukraine's 70,000 Jews, most live in Kiev and are staunch backers of the government. But when the fighting is done with Russia and the ultra-nationalists turn on parliament to battle for an ethnically pure Ukraine - as they have sworn they will do - what will Ukrainian Jews think then?
The Jewish Chronicle

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Serbia Says Gay Pride March May go Ahead

Officials say Sunday's Gay Pride Parade may proceed as planned - although the march could still be banned if current security assessments change.

26/9/2014- Serbia’s Office for the Coordination of Security Services on Friday said the Belgrade Gay Pride march, scheduled for September 28, may proceed as planned. However, Nebojsa Stefanovic, the Interior Minister, stated that the match could still be called off if the security situation changes in the meantime. “The Office reserves the right to do so if, in the coming days, the authorities estimate that the safety of the citizens would be endangered,” Stefanovic said on Friday. He also urged people opposed to the march to refrain from violence. "Do not destroy our country or our city, and do not attack those in charge of security, because they are here to ensure the right of everyone to live freely,” Stefanovic said. Some far-right and religious organisations have already announced that they will hold protests against the march.

The nationalist movement Dver has scheduled a protest for September 27 in defence of “family values.” Another group, Istinoljublje, led by a former Orthodox Church cleric, Dragan Davidovic, has scheduled a protest for the same day. In 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, the authorities banned the parade altogether just days before it was scheduled to take place, after police declared they could not safeguard marchers from right-wing violence. Serbia's first Pride march was brought to a halt in Belgrade in June 2001, when protesters clashed with police. The march went ahead only in 2010, but several thousand young people, including football fans and members of right-wing organisations, caused mayhem on the streets of the capital, throwing stones and missiles, injuring police and setting buildings and vehicles on fire.
Balkan Insight

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