Headlines 20 February, 2009
ATTACKS AGAINST MINORITIES UP IN RUSSIA
19/2/2009- Russian police are reporting a significant surge in racial crimes in the last year, directed primarily at people from the Caucasus and Central Asia who come to Moscow and other cities in search of jobs. Human rights groups are warning of a new wave of xenophobia in Russia, especially as the country's economy sinks deeper into recession. 27-year old Noel Maganga from Gabon was stabbed in the back seven times and left to die on a freezing street as he walked out of the Moscow subway in late January. A student at Russia's Peoples Friendship University, he is now being treated at Moscow clinic, undergoing a painful recovery. He suspects his attackers belonged to one of Russia's ultra-nationalist groups, and he wants the government to do something about it. "Safety is not 100 percent guaranteed in any country, that's clear," Maganga said. "But what I would ask from the Russian government, I would ask that the government understand and know about what's going on, the aggression against the foreigners, the Africans, Asians, etc. The government should explore why there is such an aggression, and find a way, maybe by recruiting more people, to put them in place to assure the safety of foreigners in the country." According to the Moscow-based race-relations research center "SOVA", 96 non-Russians were killed last year and more than 400 wounded in attacks by members of various nationalist organizations.
Alexander Verkhovsky is the director of "SOVA." He says the number of hate crimes far outweighs the number of prosecutions and convictions. "It's a very serious disproportion. There are many reasons for that: there's not enough legislation, not enough professional skills of investigators, sometimes some police officers sympathize more or less with these neo-nazis, prefer not to cooperate with them, but to investigate something else instead of these crimes." Still, some do get punished. Members of a group who uploaded video of their attacks were convicted in December of killing 18 people, all minorities. Nationalist groups often post videos of their crimes on the Internet using anonymous access from Internet cafes. One video, for example, shows the apparent murders of two migrant workers from Central Asia. The rise of hate crimes in Russia comes amidst an influx of migrant workers. Analysts say 5 - 12 million migrants from the former Soviet republics are working in Russia today, most of them illegally. Some think the migrants are taking the jobs of Russian citizens.
Alison Gill is the head of the Human Rights Watch office in Moscow. She says authorities are having a difficult time curtailing the activities of nationalist groups. "I think it's simple enough to say that to a certain extent the government is at a loss on how to deal with the rise in nationalism and the rise in neo-nazi groups and skinhead groups," she said. She says that in January alone, 16 hate-motivated crimes in Moscow were identified in Moscow. And she says this figure may grow as the Russian economy sinks deeper into a recession. "We need to hear loudly and clearly from the government that pride in the country, pride in Russia is not the same as violence or hatred against others," Gill said. "The government needs to say that crimes, that murders, and attacks on foreigners is not going to be tolerated." But the Russian government has remained largely silent on this issue. Instead, in December, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recommended the number of migrant workers from the former Soviet states working in Russia be cut in half, in response to the global financial crisis.
© VoA News
ATTACK SPARKS FEAR OF RISING NEO-NAZI VIOLENCE (Germany)
A vicious attack at a motorway rest stop after a huge neo-Nazi march in Dresden last weekend has sparked alarm across Germany. As David Wroe reports, some believe the country’s far-right scene is undergoing a dangerous transformation.
17/2/2009- Trade unionist Holger Kindler has been to at least 20 rallies to protest neo-Nazi gatherings in various German cities and towns. But he says he's never seen anything like what happened last Saturday. Kindler was among the 80 unionists and leftists who were having a break at a motorway rest stop in the eastern German state of Thuringia on Saturday when a busload of 41 far-right extremists pulled in. He and his colleagues had just joined some 10,000 people demonstrating a major neo-Nazi march in Dresden. ''One of my colleagues who was in the car park called me on my cell phone and told me they had arrived and were aggressive,'' he said. ''I just went into shock. It was a Nazi crew that was very political, not just sub-cultural. They weren't satisfied with walking through Dresden.'' Five anti-fascist demonstrators were left injured, including one with serious skull fractures. The neo-Nazis weren't bumbling skinheads, Kindler said. They were autonome Nationalisten or free nationalists – a radical, political segment of the far-right scene in Germany who are growing in number and, experts fear, poised to create a new wave of neo-Nazi violence. The attack at the rest stop follows recent figures showing a 30 percent rise last year in far-right crime and the shocking knife assault on Alois Mannichl, police chief in the southern town of Passau. Though investigators have yet to find Mannichl’s assailant, they are looking for a man described as a tall skinhead.
These disparate events, according to observers, are explained by upheavals in the far-right scene caused by the breakdown of old alliances and the emergence of new, aggressive splinter groups. ''It's a trend,'' said Matthias Adrian, a former skinhead who now helps extremists quit the scene. ''We've noticed more threats against those getting out and attacks on democratic activists by right-wing extremists. The atmosphere has changed and it is now more aggressive. This is the tip of the iceberg.'' Jewish organisations are also deeply concerned. The Central Council of Jews in Germany and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Berlin believe the violence reflects the emergence of groups who had been aligned with extremist parties such as the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) but have become frustrated by democratic politics. ''It's not a coincidence,'' said Deidre Berger, director of the AJC in Berlin. ''There's a trend towards very loosely organised cells which use modern means of communication and are therefore harder to keep track of. It also means they can work across borders so you have more communication between these cell-like structures in different countries in Europe.'' As if to confirm this, police are looking for three Swedish neo-Nazis in connection with the Thuringia assaults, as well as home-grown extremists from western Germany. ''These cells are becoming more established and that's definitely a major factor in the escalating violence. It's a tremendous concern to us,'' Berger added.
The NPD loses its sway
In the 1990s, the NPD courted neo-Nazi groups known as Kameradschaften, or Brotherhoods, using them as grassroots muscle to win seats in state and local elections. The NPD, radical though it is, curbed the most violent impulses of the Brotherhoods because violence turned away voters. But with the NPD now riven by internal fighting and an embezzlement scandal that has implicated its leader Udo Voigt, many of these Brotherhoods have become disillusioned and are splitting away, experts say. ''A lot of them are angry now because they're seeing these NPD politicians with nice jobs and cars and drivers and they're wondering, 'What did we get out of this?''' a government intelligence official from North Rhine-Westphalia told The Local. In early January, a leading neo-Nazi, Thomas ''Steiner'' Wulff, called for the dissolution of the Volksfront, an alliance between the NPD and independent far-right extremist groups. Wulff, who gets around in a peaked cap and greatcoat and took his nickname from the Nazi tank commander Felix Steiner, was instrumental in unifying neo-Nazi groups in the 1990s. ''The situation with Thomas Steiner Wulff is very interesting,'' said Dr. Esther Lehnert, who runs a federally funded counselling service to combat the far-right scene in Berlin. She said if key autonomous nationalist leaders continue to leave the NPD it could mean more violence is in store without the party to keep them on a short leash. “At the moment, no one can say what they're going to do. They are unpredictable,” she said. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency charged with watching extremists, is naturally cautious about drawing conclusions from the latest data and incidents such as the rest stop attack, but an official from the agency admitted the government was worried by the growth of the skinheads, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists seemingly operating independently. They are a new phenomenon in the scene and they are more interested in confrontation,” he told The Local. “At demonstrations, you notice they are less willing to take the orders of the police and more willing to fight the left-wing counterdemonstrators. Even most of the right-wing scene says they are too aggressive.”
© The German Local
Headlines 13 February, 2009
RIGHTS GROUP SEES SLIGHT RISE IN RUSSIA HATE CRIME
11/2/2009- The number of hate crimes rose in Russia last year as the global economic crisis fueled xenophobic feelings but higher conviction rates kept the number from going higher, a human rights group said Wednesday. Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy head of the Sova group, which monitors hate crimes in Russia, said 97 people were killed and 525 wounded in apparent hate crimes. The rise in xenophobic attacks seems to have slowed in recent years thanks in part to more convictions but the problem threatens to become more deeply entrenched because of Internet organizing, she said. Neo-Nazi groups are growing and co-ordinating their often fatal attacks with the help of the Internet, she said. Ultranationalist thugs enlist thousands of supporters in cyberspace — via Internet forums and chat rooms, she said. "Neo-Nazis and skinheads are a subculture that has turned into a movement," Kozhevnikova said at a news conference Wednesday. Most victims in 2008 were dark-skinned, non-Slavic migrant laborers from Central Asia and the Caucasus. The previous year saw 86 killed and 599 wounded in a spike from years past, according to the report. Most attacks involve multiple stabbings. Nationalist and neo-Nazi groups mushroomed after the 1991 Soviet collapse as a dramatic economic decline spread social frustration, particularly among youths. Kozhevnikova praised police for a crackdown on nationalist groups that resulted in 114 convictions for hate crimes last year.
In the past, Russian police have been criticized for downplaying the issue and classifying many race-related attacks as simple acts of hooliganism. Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said Tuesday that some 200,000 members of "extremist youth groups" in Russia are increasingly involved in committing violent crimes and organizing terrorist attacks, Russian news agencies reported. The Moscow Bureau for Human Rights estimated there were 70,000 neo-Nazis in Russia today, compared with a few thousand in the early 1990s. Kozhevnikova said the ongoing economic crisis stokes latent xenophobia and nationalist sentiments among average Russians. The nationalist groups will "use the crisis as an excuse to justify their crimes," she said. She also expressed concern about pro-Kremlin youth groups that use openly racist and nationalist messages in their government-sponsored campaigns. Hundreds of members of Young Guard, a youth wing of the dominant Kremlin party United Russia, rallied in Moscow in recent months to demand expulsion of millions of non-Russian labor migrants and called on authorities to ban them from entering Russia in 2009. "They legalize racist slogans and practices," Kozhevnikova said.
© The Associated Press
RACIST VANDALS ATTACK HALL LEASED BY MUSLIMS(uk)
10/2/2009- Vandals have scrawled racist graffiti on a community sports hall which is due to be leased to a Muslim group. The slogan Muslim People Suck was daubed on the side of Woodfarm Sports Hall in Thornliebank, which is to be converted into an after-school education centre. The council-owned venue had been previously leased to the care charity Quarriers but has been empty since last summer. It's emerged the Woodfarm Education Trust, a group backed by Muslim business leaders and professionals, is now in advance talks over a long-term lease. The new facility would host language and maths classes, social events and be open to the entire community, regardless of race or religion. Local East Renfrewshire councillor Alan Lafferty said: "This graffiti is clearly the work of some misguided local person as no-one outwith the community was likely to have known about the plans. "I am calling on the local community to join me in condemning this criminal action and to let the police know who did it. "Otherwise, it is a stain on the reputation of the entire area." Council leader Jim Fletcher said: "This is a facility for local people and we were approached by local Muslims living in Thornliebank, Orchard Park and Giffnock. "The terms of the lease are very specific and the Woodfarm Education Trust is equally clear the facility will be open to the whole community to play its part in further promoting the good community relations which we already enjoy in East Renfrewshire."
Chief Inspector Kenny Graham, deputy divisional officer for East Renfrewshire, said: "I condemn this act utterly. We pride ourselves on our excellent community relations and will not tolerate behaviour of this kind." Residents living near the centre, who are objecting against the lease proposals on road safety grounds, also condemned the vandalism. Neighbour Sharon Kenny said: "The graffiti is downright wrong. There is a great deal of concern locally but that's purely because Woodfarm has far too many educational facilities. "The traffic is a nightmare and the centre will only add to the congestion and parking problems." Mohammed Rashid, 52, a resident who is part of the five-man Woodfarm Education Trust, said: "We want to offer something positive in the area for young people. "Instead of having them run round the streets, or sitting in front of a computer, they can attend after-school classes. "The vast majority of classes will be held between 5pm and 7pm. The main hall will be available to all members of the public."
© The Evening Times