NEWS - Archive September 2015

Headlines 25 September, 2015

Czech Republic: Attacks on Muslims rising

Women with headscarves have become targets of abuse

25/9/2015- The number of incidents provoked by hatred of Muslims has been rising in Czech Republic, In Iustitia organization director Klára Kalibová has told the Czech News Agency. Last year, the organization registered 10 such incidents, this year it has been 23 already, which is more than a 100-percent rise, while most of them have occurred sine June, that is roughly since the beginning of the refugee crisis, she added. The assaulters have been motivated by racism rather than by their fear of Islam, Kalibová said. “Since June, we have also monitored a number of attacks on non-Muslim women who where wearing a scarf on their heads for some reasons and who have become a target of verbal and physical violence, such as ripping of the scarf,” she said.

In connection with the refugee crisis, the number of attacks on and threatening of the organizations aiding refugees or linked to foreigners in general has been rising. “No one has become a target of physical violence yet, but the offices of the Prague Multicultural Centre have been assaulted,” Kalibová said. Arab studies scholar Milos Mendel said in an Internet interview last week that almost anything can be said about Islam and its followers in the CzechRepublic without risking a criminal prosecution on suspicion of defamation of a nation or group of persons and their faith as well as incitement to hatred. If similar defamatory statements were uttered on Judaism and its followers, the perpetrators would be brought to court for promoting ant-Semitism, he added.

Kalibová said she considered this view speculative. “However, it is true that we are culturally more sensitive to manifestations of anti-Semitism than to symptoms of any other hatred,” she admitted. In Iustitia, which has been monitoring expressions of racial and religious hatred, registered ten attacks on Muslims and three on Jews last year. None of them has ended up in penal proceedings yet. This year, it registered also three attacks on Jews, apart from 23 on Muslims. Kalibová pointed out that the Muslim community settled in the Czech Republic traditionally did not want to make problems and draw attention.

A certain breakthrough in its approach was last year's police raid on the Muslim centre in Prague. “The religious freedom of the people gathered there was violated. They sought support in legal mechanisms inspecting the police steps, but failed. It considerably affected their trust in the police,” Kalibová added. The Muslim Communities' Headquarters filed a legal complaint over the raid by the Squad for Uncovering Organized Crime (ÚOOZ), but it at the same time asked for court proceedings to be held behind closed doors.
The Prague Post


Italy far-right files 82 million changes to constitutional reform bill

23/9/2015- Italy's far-right, anti-euro Northern League party on Wednesday submitted more than 82 million computer-generated amendments to a draft constitutional reform in a bid to trump the bill. The immense list could still be rejected in one clean sweep by the Senate president. Italy's upper house currently enjoys extensive powers to block and delay legislation. If passed, the reform -- initiated by Northern League's arch-foe Prime Minister Matteo Renzi -- would replace the Senate with a much less influential second chamber comprising regional representatives. "Today I submitted 82,730,460 amendments to the constitutional law being studied by the Senate: every means are permitted, including this one, when it comes to saving democracy," said Roberto Calderoli, a Northern League leader and Senate vice-president. "I am pretty sure I've beaten all the records," he beamed.

The idea is simple: a computer programme creates millions of versions of the same sentence by changing a full-stop or a letter, producing each time a new amendment designed to smother the reform bid. Senate President Pietro Grasso may declare all the submissions inadmissible in the coming days. Even so, the rules require the authorities to print out each submission on a separate sheet of paper. According to the Italian news agency AGI, this would mean the waste of 412 tonnes of paper. The constitutional reform bill, which supporters say will ease Italy's notorious political gridlock, is currently in its third review in the Senate. It must then return to the lower house of parliament before it is put to a referendum, likely in 2016.


Italy: A politician likened a black minister to an 'organ-utan' and escaped racism charges

Senators voted not to bring racism charges against Roberto Calderoli 

22/9/2015- Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has called a meeting of senators after they voted against bringing racism charges against a politician who likened the country's first black minister to an "orangutan".Prime Minister Renzi told L’Unita: “There will be a meeting of the group at the Senate after the Calderoli-Kyenge vote,” the Local reported. Kyenge, a member of the Democratic Party, was serving as integration minister at the time of the slur and is now an MEP. Following the result of the vote, Kyenge said the Democratic Party showed “serious incoherence” by allowing Calderoli to escape racism charges. 

The world reacted with outrage in 2013 when Roberto Calderoli, a member of the far-right Northern League party, made the slur against Cecile Kyenge, at the time serving as integration minister in Enrico Letta’s cabinet. “When I see Kyenge I can’t help but think of an orangutan,” Calderoli told supporters at a rally in Treviglio. He subsequently refused Letta’s calls to resign and held onto his senate seat. Fellow senators - including members of Kyenge’s Democratic Party (PD) - last week voted against Calderoli facing racism charges. Renzi did not directly condemn the outcome, but said his PD senators would discuss what had happened. “There will be a meeting of the group at the Senate after the Calderoli-Kyenge vote,” he said, quoted in L'Unità.

Minutes before the prime minister spoke at the PD meeting on Monday, Kyenge expressed her “bitterness” over the vote. By “pardoning” Calderoli of racism charges, she said the PD demonstrated “serious incoherence.” Now an MEP, Kyenge said last week she will take the case to the European Court of Justice.
The Local - Italy


Russia: Book aimed at gay children becomes symbol of defiance in Moscow

25/9/2015- Samuel Leighton-Dore was five years old when he realised he was gay. "When I was playing Lion King with the boys up the street I always wanted to be the cub that got licked by the dad," he said. "I was always interested in boys, but there was no presence of gay protagonists or characters in what I was reading or the films I was watching so I didn't really have a word for it." Over the next decade Leighton-Dore would go through the confronting and often brutal experience of school in Sydney. In and out of counselling, "I felt isolated by my sexuality long, long, before I'd ever been sexually active", he said. "I couldn't walk across the playground in Homebush without being called a 'gaylord' or 'faggot'. "I wish I could go back and tell my seven-year-old self that these 10 years are going to be hard, but there is light at the end of the tunnel."

Now the 23-year-old has done just that, self-publishing a children's book titled I Think I'm a Poof. Leighton-Dore and illustrator Lucy Adelaide take readers on the journey of Johnny – a child struggling with his sexual identity. "Johnny woke his dad in the middle of the night," the book's opening lines read. "He had tears in his eyes, something wasn't right. Johnny's dad sat up and whispered, is something aloof? Johnny looked to ground and replied, I think I'm a poof." Meetings with publishing powerhouse Hardie Grant were productive, but ultimately landed the 27-page picture book in the "too risky" basket. The publisher declined to comment on why it didn't proceed to press. Leighton-Dore's friend Henry Gelbart ultimately stumped up the cash to get it to print, but that was only half the battle.

Nervous bookshops would not stock the small initial run of 2000 books, said Leighton-Dore. Among them, Better Read Than Dead, a book store in perhaps Sydney's most progressive enclave, Newtown. "There is no way that I would give that book to a child," said the store's manager, Amelia Lush. "It plays with stereotypes of sexuality which I wasn't really comfortable with, particularly as a queer person. "At the moment gay kids are being bullied across the country. I'm not going to stock any material that is likely to increase that through using words like poof, queen and fairies." Despite the relatively small circulation, copies of the book have been smuggled into Moscow, where LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transexual) groups are forced underground to discuss politics under the guise of learning English.

In the cobbled streets by the Kremlin, Leighton Dore's book has become a small symbol of defiance. "What we're doing is completely illegal," one of the Moscow group's leaders, Tatiana, tells Leighton Dore in an email. "We are constantly terrified that the police will come for us – that they'll beat and arrest us." Leighton-Dore said he wanted to empower the gay community through taking back ownership of terms like "poof". He hopes that one person in particular sees it that way too – the British actor, presenter and activist Stephen Fry. "Getting Stephen Fry to read the book out loud has always been the dream," he said.
The Sydney Morning Herald


Russia bans five online LGBT youth groups under anti-gay law

21/9/2015- Five online LGBT youth groups have been added to a banned list by the Russian watchdog. The watchdog, Roskomnadzor, banned the groups, all registered on the country’s most popular social network VKontakte. The district court in the city of Barnaul imposed the ban. It did so, accusing the groups of containing “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” Those included in the ruling were prominent Children-404, which is organised by journalist Yelena Klimova. The group provides counselling to LGBT young people. The controversial law under which this ruling was made, which caused an international outcry, was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
Pink News


Germany: Roberto Hilbert: 'Racism has grown' (interview)

25/9/2015- Monkey chants, insults hurled from the stands, personal attacks: Racism in sport is a big problem and for Bayer Leverkusen's defender Roberto Hilbert, the problem is even more personal.

DW: Roberto Hilbert, you were recently appointed refugee representative at Leverkusen. What are your tasks?
Roberto Hilbert: It's well known that we are taking in a lot of refugees at the moment, or that many are coming to Germany. A club like Leverkusen is ready to help these people 100 percent, to make life easier for them and make sure they are happy. With clothing and food donations, the club is trying to support them and give them a welcome feeling here.

You are personally affected by this topic as your wife comes from Eritrea. How have you and your family dealt with the situation?
It's a huge topic at home. Around the corner from us, refugees have been put up in a sports hall. One of my sons, who is at the school who offered the hall, has experienced it first hand and we talk about it as a family. My wife also arrived as a refugee and knows what it is like to flee home because of war. The current Germany-born generation isn't even aware of these dangers.

What kind of experiences has your wife had in Germany?
Sadly, there have been plenty of people who have insulted my wife and my children as "damned negros". Once on an airplane, my daughter was crying and the man sat in front of my wife, said "negros" would only drink alcohol and bring disease to the country, and that screaming children of "negros" are a "catastrophe." These are sadly experiences that my family has had to endure.

Did this incident change your family?
I was very shocked and felt it particularly terrible that my wife was left alone in this situation. No one else on the plane helped - the opposite in fact! The steward even asked my wife to move seats. There are people who insult foreigners, but I think it is worse not to help a woman with three children. It's very upsetting she was left alone in this situation.

So there's a lack of social courage?
I can understand people who aren't brave. There have sadly been enough negative examples where people have shown social courage and lost their life as a result. I still think more people can intervene against an individual though.

How difficult is it for a foreigner to find their feet in Germany?
It's not easy. I have a lot of Turkish friends in Germany who haven't fully been accepted in Turkey or Germany. I struggle to understand that. I think if someone is born in Germany then their origin, skin or hair color is irrelevant. They grow up here, adapt and accept the culture, then how can they not be accepted by society?

You played for Besiktas in Turkey between 2010 and 2013. You were a foreigner there. What differences did you note when you returned to Germany two years later?
Honestly, when I returned after three years in Turkey I was shocked at how racism had developed here. In terms of xenophobia, things have got worse. I was never insulted as a foreigner in Turkey, but I should add that my wife and children picked up Turkish relatively quickly. We couldn't speak the language perfectly, but could communicate well. That was greatly appreciated by the people of Turkey and we were accepted as we were.

A football team is full of different people from different countries and cultures. Why does racism remain such an issue?
This is an excellent question, and one that I too have considered. I have yet to find an answer because I can't understand it. When I look at our team for example, we have Brazilians, Mexicans, Greeks, Germans and players from Turkey - there are a lot of cultures that come together. The players are celebrated in the stadium and then insulted as foreigners on the streets. It just doesn't make any sense.

Following the news and the burning of refugee accommodation, how do you feel about it all?
I find it harrowing. I simply cannot understand how people can act that way. You have to remember there are people in that house and if they die then that's on your conscience. A great deal has to have gone wrong in your life to accept having someone on your conscience. With all due respect, I cannot understand that.

How do you see the topic of refugees continuing?
I hope that it develops in a positive direction. I think our politicians are doing a great deal to handle the matter. I think it is not a Germany problem though, but a European problem. The European countries should work together to find a solution. People should be spread out and welcomed so as to make it possible for them to start again anew. They have to have the chance to lead a normal life again.

Roberto Hilbert plays for Bayer Leverkusen. The 30-year-old began his career at Stuttgart before moving to Turkey in 2010. Two years ago, he returned to the Bundesliga. Hilbert is also involved in projects against right-wing extremism, and is a part of the 'Show Racism the Red Card' campaign, as well as the sponsor of the Hannah charity, which helps children who have been subject to abuse.
This interview was conducted by Thomas Klein.
The Deutsche Welle.


Zazzle responds about anti-Gypsy T-shirt

23/9/2015- News server reported yesterday that the German-language pages of the Zazzle online retailer were offering a T-shirt reading "GYPSY HUNTER BADGE - WE KILL THE GYPSIES". The item was no longer for sale approximately two hours later. Customers wrote indignant protest letters to the company and shared them through Facebook. News server also contacted the firm with questions. Communications Director Diana Adair responded to yesterday evening as follows: "Thank you for contacting us regarding the matter of this motif. We are working to remove it. Zazzle provides an open market where users can create a broad range of products themselves. Whenever we ascertain that a product violates our norms because of hateful or violent content, we immediately remove it."


Germany/UK: T-shirt reading "WE KILL THE GYPSIES" for sale online by Zazzle

22/9/2015- At 15:12 CET today the Czech edition of news server reported that the German-language pages of the Zazzle online retailer were offering a T-shirt reading "GYPSY HUNTER BADGE - WE KILL THE GYPSIES". Zazzle is one of the biggest, must progressive firms in its field, offering customers the opportunity to create their own logos for placement on T-shirts or other items and then to sell their creations through the firm's online store. There are probably problems with controlling what turns up on the firm's website in terms of customer designs. News server sent questions to the media department of Zazzle about the T-shirt and their control process which have yet to be answered. Zazzle was established in 1999 and has won many awards. It has been invested in by John Doerr, a Google investor and member of a panel of independent experts who advises US President Barack Obama and by Ram Shriram, another Google investor and manager. At approximately 17:30 CET the T-shirt disappeared from the website. We do not know to what degree the questions sent to Zazzle by news server affected this because we have yet to receive a response from the retailer.


Greece: 26 Cretan Villages Give Zero Votes to Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn

4/9/2015- An island that suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany immensely during World War II doesn’t forget the past too easily. In the September 20th Greek national elections, the historic town of Anogeia— burned to the ground by the Nazi Germans during the Second World War and twenty-five other villages throughout Crete didn’t give a single vote to the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. Golden Dawn scored its lowest voter totals in Crete, than anywhere else in Greece. On islands like Kos, besieged by the refugee crisis, the anti-immigrant nationalist party saw huge increases in new voters. The town of Anogeia had 1604 people casting votes, which were split between the two leading parties of Syriza and New Democracy, as well as a dozen smaller parties— without a single vote for Golden Dawn.

Two dozen more entire villages on the island gave Golden Dawn zero votes. The names of the villages are below:
Kamari Malevizi
Kamariotis Malevizi
Polythea Minoa Plain
Perry Phaistos

Apokoronas Melidoni
Sebronas Platania
Skaloti Sfakion

St. Basil
St. John Kali Sykia
Agios Mamas, Avdella

Louma municipality Agios Nikolaos
Gdohia Ierapetra
Lower Glebe
Lastros Sitia
Rousseau Churches
A similar phenomenon occurred in the January 2015 national elections.
Pappa Post


Greek government minister resigns over anti-Semitic, homophobic tweets

A minister in the new Greek government has resigned less than 48 hours after being appointed over an outcry about a series of anti-Semitic and homophobic tweets.

24/9/2015- Dimitris Kammenos of the Independent Greeks Party had been appointed deputy transport minister following Sunday’s election. The Independent Greeks are the junior coalition partner in the government of the far-left Syriza party. Among the tweets on his page, which have since been deleted, were some that referred to a conspiracy theory alleging that Jews did not show up to work at the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11. Another mocked the Athens pride parade. Kammenos resigned late Wednesday, reportedly following pressure from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, saying he was doing so to allow the government to “function in an orderly way.” He also released a statement denouncing anti-Semitism and homophobia, and claimed his social media pages were hacked.

This is not the first time Kammenos has been in trouble for social media posts, however. Earlier this year he sparked outrage by posting a picture on Facebook of the Auschwitz death camp gates with the pro-Europe slogan “We stay in Europe” replacing the sign on the gate, “Arbeit macht frei,” a German phrase used during the Holocaust that translates to “work makes you free.” The post came as Greece was locked in crisis talks with the European Union. Kammenos is not related to party leader and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who also caused an outcry last year when, during an election campaign, he said Jews don’t pay taxes. A recent ADL poll found that anti-Semitic stereotypes are widespread in Greece and that the country had the highest percentage of anti-Semitic views in Europe.
JTA News


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