ICARE Hate Crime News - Archive August 2013

Headlines 30 August, 2013

Headlines 23 August, 2013

Headlines 16 August, 2013

Headlines 9 August, 2013

Headlines 2 August, 2013

Headlines 30 August, 2013

Eastern European cars targeted in Bognor hate crime (UK)

More than a dozen cars with eastern European number plates have been vandalised in a hate crime.

29/8/2013- Fourteen vehicles parked in various residential roads in Bognor on Tuesday night were covered in yellow paint in an incident Sussex Police are treating as a hate crime. Sussex Police said the majority of the cars had eastern European number plates or were owned by Eastern European residents. Police in Bognor are investigating after numerous vehicles in Bognor were damaged with yellow paint in what is being treated as a hate crime. The force has now increased street patrols in the area to reassure the Eastern European community. Arun has the second biggest eastern European population in the South East. Temporary Chief Inspector Pip Taylor, District Commander for Arun, said: "Sussex Police takes incidents of this nature very seriously and a thorough investigation to identify those responsible is taking place. "We are examining CCTV in the area, have stepped up patrols and carried out house to house enquiries to see if anyone saw or heard anything suspicious. “We've also had leaflets delivered in both English and Polish to offer reassurance to residents.”
© The Argus

up  

Muslim sisters' 13-year race hate ordeal as old meat thrown into Herne Bay garden

30/8/2013- Two Muslim sisters have spent almost £4,500 stepping up security at their home over fears they are being targeted by racist thugs. Sheena Ahmet, 68, and her 80-year-old sister Eve said they have had pork fat, fish heads, chicken bones and mincemeat thrown into their garden - along with flowers cut from their stems and furniture broken. They claim to have suffered abuse ever since they moved into their house in Reculver Drive, Herne Bay, in 2000. Now the pair have told their story in a desperate appeal to get the culprits to stop. They said: "We are so fed up here. We feel insecure. We are both very frightened." In an attempt to catch the vandals, the sisters installed £2,000 of CCTV at their home in 2011 and spent another £1,400 earlier this month after the abuse stepped up. Now they have erected barbed wire fencing around the roof of their shed, costing £500, after they say they saw intruders jumping on it. They have spent another £500 on security lighting.

Among the lengthy list of repairs over the years, the pensioners have spent £50 fixing guttering, which was ripped down, £80 on shed repairs and £50 fixing a satellite dish, which an engineer said had broken through "third party intervention". Retired nurse Sheena, who started working in NHS hospitals in 1973, said: "We don't sleep and we are helpless. We cannot lead a normal life. It's been a very long time and I want it to stop now. "Sometimes I wake up at 1.30am and run downstairs thinking there is someone in the garden. "Every morning I go to the garden and wonder what's been damaged next." Retired sewing machinist Eve said: "We have had enough. I feel sad. We have had to spend all our money on expensive cameras and lights. We are scared every night." Sheena said the pair feel let down by the police, who they feel have not taken the issue seriously enough.

The Turkish-Cypriot sisters have written scores of letters to the force as well as local councillors, action groups and MP Sir Roger Gale. In one letter to the police, Sir Roger said: "In this instance there would certainly appear to be an ingredient of racial harassment that is unacceptable." Sheena added: "We don’t know what else to do. I want them to take us seriously and give us a bit of dignity." Ch Insp Mark Arnold said: "We have done considerable work with Miss Ahmet. "This work has involved our neighbourhood officers as well as officers experienced in dealing with allegations of hate crime including racial abuse. "Kent Police, the local authority and mediation service have had and will continue to have ongoing discussions to try and find a solution to the issues Miss Ahmet feels she is having to endure. "We can reassure her that her complaints have been taken seriously and have been fully investigated."
© Kent Online

up  

Three anti fascists receive payout three years on from suffering police brutality at Bolton EDL protest (UK)

Three anti fascists who suffered violence, abuse and dog attacks from police at a Bolton EDL protest in 2010 have finally received compensation after waiting for more than three years.

30/8/2013- Police recently began an investigation into the events of the rally which saw Jason Travis, Dane Kelly and Paul Sutcliffe compensated after being subjected to reckless police abuse in March when anti fascists and EDL members clashed. The news comes just days after an EDL protest in Bolton on Monday in which Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd praised residents for their restraint. “The EDL is neither wanted nor welcome in Bolton or Greater Manchester and it’s really about time they realised that. They have repeatedly tried to provoke and have repeatedly failed,” he said.

However Mr Travis, who was seriously injured by a police dog, questions UK policing of rallies particularly using the example of New Zealand protester Blair Peach who died at a London demo in 1979 as a result of a blow to the head by a suspected rubberised police radio. “Over 30 years since the murder of Blair Peach, has policing fundamentally changed? It seems not,” Jason said after receiving compensation for false imprisonment, human rights breach and assault. Mr Kelly, who was subjected to homophobic abuse and false imprisonment, added: “Despite paying me compensation, the police officer that arrested me has had no reprimand for his violent and bigoted actions against me. “Furthermore, the police have offered no adequate justification for their reckless, unprovoked aggression and violence at the Bolton demonstration.”

After the demonstration in 2010, Justice4Bolton was set up to defend anti fascists who were arrested that day in an attempt to open a people’s enquiry into what happened and defend those who were manhandled by police. “Justice4Bolton discovered footage of my arrest and, after viewing the footage and ‘having a word with the officers’, the prosecution solicitor at the Court decided to offer no evidence,” Mr Sutcliffe said after his arrest by a ‘snatch squad’ saw him falsely imprisoned. “The police have had to confront the reality that surveillance is a two way street, even if currently the state’s side of the street is a good deal wider.” The men have waited more than three years to receive compensation but other protestors, such as Alan Clough, whose assault at the hands of the police on that day led to two Tactical Aid Unit officers from GMP’s riot squad being charged with perverting the course of justice, are still waiting.

Michael Oswald of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, who acted for the men, said: “It is a reflection of the bravery and tenacity of our clients that, more than three years after the attempts made to criminalise their peaceful opposition to the racist EDL, they have by way of these settlements finally been able to achieve the accountability and vindication they have sought.”
© Mancunian Matters

up  

New investigations, compensation for Roma murders in Hungary

The investigations into a series of murders against members of Hungary's Roma community in 2008 and 2009 have been re-opened, with a focus on investigators' failures and potential wrongdoing in the case.

27/8/2013- Pressure put on Hungary's government by human rights activists and lawyers has apparently worked. Hungary's National Bureau of Investigation (NNI), the country's central police investigation office primarily dealing with terrorism and other national security threats, is reopening its investigation into a series of Roma killings that took place in 2008 and 2009. One or more suspected conspirators remain free. During the two-year murder spree, right-wing extremists undertook nine arson attacks and other crimes, resulting in six deaths. In addition, 55 people, nearly all of whom were Roma, suffered life-threatening and other injuries. A handful of suspected murderers were apprehended in August 2009, and their trial began in early 2011. Recently, in early August, they were sentenced. Three received life in prison, and an accomplice was sent to prison for 13 years. Each of them has since appealed the rulings.

A gesture for the victims
Hungarian public prosecutors have demanded investigations into the military due to suspicions that Hungary's military intelligence service helped facilitate the Roma murders. Hungarian Roma activist Aladar Horvath and others say these announcements represent "late, but welcome gestures" from the government to the victims. Hungary's minister in charge of human resources, Zoltan Balog, had already announced his government intended to compensate survivors of the attacks and the families of the victims, explaining that the Hungarian state bore part of the responsibility for the series of murders. Balog also said government offices neglected their duties during the investigations. That marks a severe reprimand for the former Socialist-Liberal governing coalition. Balog's announcement is significant: It represents the first time that a minister has admitted the Hungarian state's complicity in a crime while concluding that such missteps demand some sort of restitution program.

Police failures
During and just after the conclusion of the series of murders, it became clear that the Hungarian government was responsible for many scandalous misdeeds during its follow-up on the crimes. For example, the investigation wasn't centralized until four Roma, including a four-year-old boy, had already been murdered. For months, authorities neglected to consider seriously that right-wing extremists could be behind the attacks, and police officers had a hand in intentionally destroying evidence at crime scenes. DNA analysis also went on to show that there were likely further culprits in addition to the four arrested suspects. If that's true, they continue to roam free today. The investigation has brought up further signals that there are numerous other confidantes and supporters involved in the murders. What's more, Hungary's domestic intelligence agency had surveilled two of the right-wing extremists later convicted of the murders, but ceased surveillance activities just before the series of murders began. It remains unclear how much the intelligence agency knew about the perpetrators thereafter, and whether its members intentionally withheld information from those investigating the crimes against the Roma. A case officer from the country's military intelligence service, on the other hand, even had contact with one of the accomplices during the crime. Just recently, it became known that the case officer in question was pressured by his superiors to give false testimony during the Roma trial.

Moved by an open letter
Liberal politician Jozsef Gulyas, who led parliament's 2009-2010 investigative committee into the string of murders, welcomed the reopening of the case and hopes "the authorities' misdeeds can finally be uncovered." Gulyas also expressed approval for the decision to compensate victims, noting that it "is not popular in Hungary" to show support for the Roma victims. The government announced its plans to compensate victims after human rights activists and attorneys repeatedly drew attention to the devastating living conditions faced by survivors and victims' families in recent months. Lawyer Laszlo Helmeczy, who represented the widow of a victim killed in 2009, Jenö Koka, wrote a moving open letter to Hungarian head of state Viktor Orban. Helmeczy described the anguish of several surviving victims and called upon Orban to quickly provide better support for those affected. "It seems like an honest gesture from the government to now provide compensation to the victims," said Roma activist Aladar Horvath. "In light of the election next year, it could offer a clear signal that this government wants to set itself apart from the right wing's discrimination toward Roma people."
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Nazi Hardcore Porn DVD Sent to Mosques in Fresh Islamophobic Attack (UK)

27/8/2013- Terror police are investigating a DVD featuring Nazi propaganda and hardcore pornography which was sent to mosques and Muslim centres in London and around the UK. Disturbing footage shows a fake skull crawling with rodents, worms and insects. The phrase "Prophet Mohamed" is scrawled on the forehead. At the foot of the skull is an offensive slogan written on paper. Also on the hour-long film named 'The Finale' are graphic depictions of sex acts and footage portraying Muslims as bloodthirsty. Adolf Hitler features at the end of the video. Copies of the DVD were posted to the Muslim Council of Britain, as well as Islamic centres in Walthamstow and Acton in London. They were addressed to "His Immaculate Holiness, the Divine Prophet", a respectful greeting which masked the actual content. The video is the latest attack on Islam in Britain, which is creating a siege mentality for some Muslims. It followed an arson attack on a mosque in Harlow, Essex, which police were treating as a suspected hate crime.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said of the video: "Officers from So15 counter terrorism command and investigating a linked series of malicious communications in London and other parts of the United Kingdom. "It follows a number of complaints from individuals and religious organisations who received a DVD containing offensive material in the post. There have been no arrests at this stage and an investigation has been launched." The Muslim Council of Britain's assistant secretary general, Ibrahim Mogra, told IBTimes UK: "As a society and as a country we should all be deeply concerned that these attacks are targeting just one group. "Like in the Holocaust when Jews were picked on, the attacks went up in number because decent people did not do enough to stop them. "More and more people are expressing their concern and I'm having to assure them and comfort them because of the worry that they have." Baroness Warsi, the government's minister for faith and communities, was not available for comment. A spokesman said: "Ministers have been clear they condemn Islamophobia."
© The International Business Times

up  

A French teenager has attempted suicide after reportedly being assaulted by skinheads for wearing the Muslim veil. The 16-year-old jumped from the fourth floor of her apartment building outside Paris and was “seriously injured” in the fall

27/8/2013- A 16-year-old girl, who filed charges against a pair of skinheads for what she said was an Islamophobic attack on August 12, attempted to commit suicide on Monday by jumping from a window in her apartment block. According to a police report, the girl was assaulted on August 13 in the troubled town of Trappes, 35 kilometres west of Paris. Two men with shaved heads approached the Muslim girl with a “sharp object,” ripped off her headscarf, shouted Islamphobic insults and hit her on the shoulder before fleeing by car, a judicial source told French media. The girl made a first attempt to take her life on August 23 by ingesting a dangerously-high quantity of medicated drugs, police said. After jumping from a window on the fourth floor of her apartment building on Monday evening she was said to be “seriously injured” but still conscious when taken to hospital by paramedics. She was then transferred to a hospital in Paris during the night. Local authorities described her condition as “worrying”.

Riot police deployed
The town of Trappes suffered three nights of violent clashes in July following an altercation after the police questioned a woman who was wearing the full-face veil – illegal in public in France since 2011. The woman’s husband, a converted Muslim, intervened and was subsequently restrained and arrested, sparking an outcry from locals who then besieged the police station. Police said that the situation in Trappes was calm on Monday night after news of the girl’s attempted suicide spread, but eight riot police squadrons were still deployed to guard a police station in the most restive part of town. One resident told French press agency AFP that he was disappointed at the police’s response. “It’s deplorable that after an event which has rocked a local family and the neighbourhood in general, we get sent riot vans and not a counselling service,” he said. “In sending the police, it’s as though we are all considered potential enemies,” he added.
Another local resident said, “It would have been better to do nothing than to do that.”

Devisive veil debate
The unrest in Trappes has provoked a fresh debate on relations between Muslims and police in France’ deprived suburbs, which have seen sporadic clashes in recent decades. France’s infamous “burqa ban,” which refers to the prohibition of the full-face veil in public places, has exacerbated strains in areas with large Muslim populations. Ultra-secular France has long fought a battle to keep religious symbolism out of the public eye, but Muslims feel that recent legislation has been designed specifically to target Muslims. University heads spoke out against a government proposal in early August that headscarves and other religious symbols be outlawed in universities, as they are in schools and colleges.
© France 24.

up  

Georgia's Melting Pot Tested by Xenophobia (opinion)

By Paul Rimple, journalist in Tbilisi.

25/8/2013- Tbilisi is perhaps most renowned for its melting-pot legacy, where in a few short blocks in the Old Town you will see an Armenian Apostolic Church, Georgian Orthodox Church, mosque and synagogue. Some Georgians don't understand just what this implies, like a taxi driver who recently told me: "These people have lived in our country in peace. Georgia is a tolerant country." "Our country" represents the chauvinistic conviction that Georgia's first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, used to divide and destroy his country in the early 1990s. The Georgian Orthodox Church adopted the same archaic nationalistic orientation after the yoke of communism vanished. Instead of continuing Georgia's proud traditions of tolerance, political and religious leaders are repeating past mistakes by dividing Georgia along ethnic and religious lines.

In June, a local Muslim religious leader, Hajji Suliko Khozrevanidze, was forced to leave his community in east Georgia because he feared for his life. For weeks, up to 200 local Georgians calling themselves Christians would block the prayer house each Friday to prevent the Muslim community from holding prayers. At one point, the so-called Christians went to the Muslim leader's house and beat his wife. Such anti-Muslim hysteria has been observed nationwide. Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II said he would not let Muslims be oppressed. But not everybody heard him. Last week, a fight broke out in Pankisi Gorge allegedly between Muslim and Christian youths. This would be the first known religious confrontation between local Georgians and Kisti, ethnic Chechens who settled in the region 180 years ago. If this is the kind of behavior we are seeing between Georgians, what kinds of intolerance should we expect as more Asians, Africans and Middle Easterners settle in the country?

In July, parliament passed a law forbidding the sale of agriculture land to foreigners in response to the 2,000 Punjabi farmers that have immigrated and bought land in east Georgia. The same month, Levan Vasadze, a religiously conservative millionaire, became head of the Demographic Renaissance Foundation of Georgia, which was established to prevent an oncoming "demographic disaster." Vasadze fears the Georgian gene pool is threatened. In their zealous craze to protect Georgia's traditions from outside influence, Georgian leaders are trampling its most distinguished heritage of tolerance, forgetting that justness, liberalism and understanding are the virtues of the tolerant society they claim to be safeguarding.
© The Moscow Times

up  

Czech Republic: Hundreds of rampaging neo-Nazis attempt pogrom against Roma in Ostrava

25/8/2013- An anti-Roma march by neo-Nazis attended by between 600 - 800 people ended in clashes with police today in Ostrava. Police arrested more than 60 people and both neo-Nazis and police officers were injured. The most serious incidents took place at the intersection of Mariánskohorská and Nádražní Streets. Police officers halted neo-Nazis there who had been doing their best to reach Svatopluk Čech Square, where a Romani demonstration had taken place before noon. Bottles, firecrackers, garbage cans, rocks and smoke bombs were sent flying through the air. Police used tear gas several times.

Around 600 - 800 neo-Nazis, according to police, met on Prokešovo Square in front of the New Town Hall in Ostrava just after 14:00, from where they then set out on a march through the town which other people joined. By that time, most of the approximately 600 Romani residents who had gathered on Svatopluk Čech Square were no longer there. Organizers of the neo-Nazi event had supposedly reached agreement with representatives of the centrally-located Moravská Ostrava a Přívoz Municipal Department on the route the march would take. However, they abandoned that route once they were several dozen meters away from the town hall; instead of heading down Zborovská Street, they headed down Sokolská Street toward Svatopluk Čech Square in the Přívoz quarter.

Jana Pondělíčková, spokesperson for the municipal department, told the Czech News Agency that the local council had been unable to do anything about the fact that the marchers deviated from the announced route because the assembly as such had been officially ended before the march began. According to Regional Police Director Tomáš Kužel, police had no reason to intervene because the march was calm at the start and no one was committing any illegal behavior. On Sokolská Street the neo-Nazis attempted a pogrom against the residents of the Halfway House (Dům na půli cesty), which is occupied by Romani people and others. "The demonstrators started throwing bottles and rocks, damaging the building and threatening the health and lives of the people living there, so police began to organize an intervention that last several hours," Kužel said.

The rampaging neo-Nazis continued on their way, and what had been a united mob until then broke up into different groups at Božena Němcová Orchard. The neo-Nazis began running in an effort to reach Svatopluk Čech Square, and some succeeded, but police then pushed them back. Police held most of the demonstrators in the orchard, where clashes occurred. The mob finally moved toward the intersection of Mariánskohorská and Nádražní Streets, where several dozen more neo-Nazis who had been hiding in a nearby courtyard joined them. The neo-Nazis then began assaulting police and destroying property. The most hard-core Nazis finally ended up on the outskirts of a local housing estate.

Neo-Nazis overturned garbage containers near the local supermarket and used bottles and rocks to assault police. However, the number of right-wing extremists involved began to gradually decline. Just before 17:00, police officers used vehicles to barricade the intersection of Mariánskohorská and Nádražní Streets. Most of the demonstrators therefore fled toward the town center. After 17:00, police officers called on the remaining dozens of protesters to vacate the scene. Police officers from an anti-conflict team did their best to negotiate with them. Police subsequently arrested the radicals, several of whom were taken out of a restaurant on Nádražní Street, where some of the protesters had ended up. Public transport was disrupted during the protests, but service was restored in full at around 18:45.

According to Kužel, about 300 police officers directly participated in the security operation. The arrested right-wing radicals are suspected of bodily harm, rioting, and violence against public officials. Kužel said many automobiles were damaged in the town, both civilian cars and the vehicles of police who participated in the intervention. The police director also said three police officers were injured as well as several right-wing radicals, although he was unable to give an exact number of protesters injured. Kužel is of the opinion that police handled the intervention well. The situation in the town was calm by evening. "The situation in Ostrava is totally calm, there are no groups of people committing illegal behavior anywhere," he said after 19:00.

An anti-Romani demonstration entitled "Stop racial attacks" had originally been officially permitted to begin at the memorial in the Komenský Orchards. Pavel Matějný of the neo-Nazi "Czech Lions" (Čeští lvi) organization had attempted to organize a similar gathering, only to have it banned by authorities, but he eventually held his protest on Prokešovo Square. Matějný joined forces with the organizer of the "Stop racial attacks" demonstration, and those attending that event moved to Prokešovo Square. There they signed petitions "For the rights of the decent citizen in the Czech Republic", demanding politicians harshly stamp out abuse of the welfare system.

Romani people had gathered on Svatopluk Čech Square before noon. Jolana Šmarhovyčová, an organizer of that event, said a total of six buses brought Romani residents to the scene of the protest from residential hotels around Ostrava. There were several organizers wearing yellow vests and so-called security coordinators at the Romani event. "My task is to keep watch and make sure people don't leave the square for the side streets, but that they stay here," one of them told the Czech News Agency before the event began. The regional capital was besieged by municipal and state police several hours before the event began. Officers checked vehicles, including buses, traveling along the access routes into town.

Police used riot units, officers with dogs, and mounted police during today's security operation. Anti-conflict teams were on the move around town and a police helicopter monitored the situation from the air. Both municipal and state police officers also used mobile video camera systems.
© Romea.

up  

Russia: Racism and Xenophobia in July 2013

The following is our monthly review of incidences of xenophobia and radical nationalism, along with any government countermeasures, for June 2013. The review is based on material gathered by Sova Center in the course of our daily monitoring.

24/8/2013- Since the beginning of the year, eight people have been killed and 79 injured by racist violence in 23 regions of Russia. Two people received death threats. In July 2013 we registered no fewer than two acts of vandalism, in as many regions of the country, where there is reason to suspect xenophobia. Nizhny Novgorod’s St. Peter and Paul Cathedral and a Volgograd region Yazidi churchyard were targeted. As such, since the beginning of the year, we have recorded 30 acts of neo-Nazi or otherwise racist or xenophobic vandalism in 23 regions of the country.

July saw several household conflicts that, due to the involvement of nationalists, took on an interethnic character. The main was the now-famous incident in Pugachev, in the Saratov region, but there was also a noteworthy gathering in Sredneuralsk in the Sverdlovsk region.

Nationalists continued to conduct what can only be described as anti-migrant raids. This month there were reports that members of the Bright Rus and Shield of Moscow groups took part in an operation called “Zaslon-1” (Barrier-1). Far-right activists not only participated in the raids but also conducted searches and reviewed migrants’ documents.

On July 27, St. Petersburg nationalists affiliated with the Slavic Force of Dmitri ‘Rabid’ Yevtushenko conducted raids on shops in the north of the city; Nikolai Bondarik of the Russian Party is also known to have participated, among about 30 other people. As a result fruit stands were wrecked at six points of sale, a fruit storehouse was evacuated and police arrested three migrants for insulting members of the raid group. In the area where the raid took place, a fruitmonger from the Caucasus was shot to death. Despite police and riot squads at the scene, no participants in the raid were arrested. Similar incidents followed in Moscow, where at the Matveyevskoe Market police broke the skull of a suspected rapist. The raids in Moscow were carried out under the guise of a bid to ‘decriminalize’ such markets.

This month saw no fewer than two indictments against five individuals for racist violence where a court recognized a hate motive – in the Moscow and Sverdlovsk regions. As such, since the beginning of the year there have been at least 22 such convictions against 37 individuals in 18 regions of Russia.

In terms of xenophobic propaganda, July 2013 saw 12 indictments in 11 regions of the country against 13 people. Since the beginning of the year there have been 62 such convictions against 63 people in 40 regions of Russia.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated five times in July, with the incorporation of entries 1921-1989. New items include videos and xenophobic comments posted to Russian social network VKontakte and to blogs; deleted articles about Pussy Riot; xenophobic pamphlets; articles from the websites of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) and RONS; homophobic and anti-Semitic books by Grigory Klimov; the books Strike of the Russian Gods and Racial Hygiene, which are now featured in the list four and three times, respectively; a new article by Boris Stomakhin; materials from Ufa Tatars; various Islamic materials; a book by Said Nursi; a Kavkaz Center mirror site, and Imam TV website.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis

up  

Headlines 23 August, 2013

The Horrific Plight of Hungary's Roma

A recent trial of neo-Nazi thugs exposes widespread mistreatment of the minority group.

22/8/2013- The chamber in the Municipal Court of Budapest was packed, observers crammed into sweaty overflow rooms staring at closed circuit television screens and anxiously awaiting the verdict. As these rooms filled, an unwieldy queue formed outside as an incongruous gaggle of journalists, victims' family, and some skinhead supporters of the accused implored court officials to let them in to hear the verdict. Arpad Kiss, his brother Istvan, their friend Zsolt Peto, and accomplice Istvan Csontos stood dead-eyed in front on the judge, flanked by masked policemen. Today Peto wore a buttoned-up collared shirt that covered up his "88" tattoo -- a numerical reference to "Heil Hitler." Four years ago in a bar in Debrecen in eastern Hungary, fuelled by the neo-Nazi skinhead underground culture, these men devised a plan to commit a series of violent attacks on the country's Roma minority, who comprise around 8 percent of the population of 10 million. Using a combination of guns and Molotov cocktails, the gang killed six Roma, including a four-year-old child, and injured over 50.

Relations between Roma and non-Roma have been historically tense, particularly since the fall of Communism, when the factories where many Roma were employed closed, and they descended to a new level of grinding poverty. In the 2010 elections, the far-right nationalist movement Jobbik won 17 percent of the popular vote by stirring up anger and distrust of Roma, repeating the mantra of "Gypsy crime" to the point where many voters attribute theft to be one of their genetic traits. During the trial, it was suggested by the prosecutors that the killers intended to provoke Roma communities into retaliating violently, thus triggering an inter-ethnic conflict.

Judit Lang, a journalist for the Nepszava newspaper surmises the problem:
"These victims were not the usual unemployed, criminal Roma stereotype. They were honest, hard-working families who didn't live on handouts. In everyday Hungarian slang, the phrase 'don't gypsy' is very common -- it means don't lie or cheat. This country is divided on every topic, except hatred for the Roma."

As life sentences were handed down to Peto and the brothers Kiss, a small cheer and ripple of applause rang out among the victims' family and supporters in the viewing rooms, shortly followed by a thunderous exclamation of disbelief and anger as Csontos was let off with just 13 years for his part as the getaway driver. A case defined by the blundering behavior of the police, Istvan Kiss was being monitored by the security services but had his surveillance dropped a couple of months before embarking on their killing spree. Csontos was working as an informant to military intelligence even while he chauffeured the death squad around the country.

Sitting in a café on Budapest's main thoroughfare Rakoczi ut, Roma civil rights activist Jeno Setet's voice rises above the roaring traffic:
"In Hungary, we like to point to the far right, but that is too easy. The politicians and journalists from left to right are responsible for whipping up this Roma sentiment in the country, and they are not in court. These killings could happen again but, in a way, it happens every day. Nobody talks about the economic genocide taking place here; some parents have not worked in the last twenty years, their children are excluded from a good education, and so their fate is sealed."

In a bar a few meters around the corner from the court, posters of the uniformed Hungarian Guard -- the banned vigilante group known for conducting violent and intimidating marches in Roma neighborhoods -- adorn the walls, and nationalist rock music blares out of the stereo. A man wearing a t-shirt saying "Freedom for the National Socialists" was, earlier that morning, queuing up outside the courthouse to show solidarity with the killers. He doesn't want to give an interview but ends up sharing some thoughts about the case anyway. "This trial is biased, it's all based on the statement of the driver, none of the accused acknowledged the deeds, and everyone knows the secret service was involved. There are more poor Hungarians than Roma, and they fear these Gypsies who are always stealing and living off welfare from taxpayers' money. Racism is a natural thing, and they are racist, too, but if I said my opinion out loud, I would probably be taken to court for hate speech."

This last point is questionable in Hungary. Recent years have seen vitriolic racist sentiment, historically only voiced by the extreme right, become steadily tolerated by everyday society. Under the Communist regime, racism and anti-Semitism, like most other expression, was forbidden. Nowadays, characters like Zsolt Bayer, a key ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, can opine in a newspaper how "a significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence" and "one should retaliate rather than tolerate." As one of the founding fathers of the ruling party, Fidesz, the government was put into a tricky position over rebuking Bayer.

Wandering through Budapest's tumbledown district VIII, colloquially referred to as the "Roma ghetto," Richard, Attila and Roland are greeted on every street corner. Young, educated, and Romani in a country where only one percent of Roma go to university, they may well be future politicians, though they are humbly wary of the label, due to the "decoration Gypsy" and "political puppets" that comprise, in their view, the current range of characters who represent them. They bemoan the daily tribulations they face with gallows humor. Richard is studying computer programming in Nyiregyhaza, in North-Eastern Hungary. "On the first day at university, I was the only Roma in my class, and people thought that I was the cleaner. I actually have lots of friends who support Jobbik, but they tell me that I am the exception, the good Gypsy." Roland points out that in very rural areas, it is not unknown for Roma to vote for Jobbik, the very party that advocates their removal from society. "They didn't even know what the party stood for, they were attracted by the name, 'for a better Hungary', and I don't blame them, they don't have any access to information."

In the village of Alsozsolca in northeastern Hungary, dozens of Roma children pad around the threadbare Methodist church, newly constructed with the help of funds from sympathetic American NGOs. Villagers pass in and out of the nearby haphazard Roma dwellings, where plastic sheets serving as windows flap in the breeze and children fill up water buckets from roadside pumps. One can stroll the vast Parisienne-style boulevards of Budapest, stopping into a terrace bar overlooking the Danube for a glass of beer or taking a dip in one of the many cities' ornate bath houses and never guess at the depths of squalor that exists upstream. Behind the settlement, Roma children laugh and splash in a nearby river. On the adjacent river-bank, mounds of detritus attract swarms of flies, and in the distance loom the Soviet-era factories of neighboring Miskolc. It is on this riverbank five years ago that 19 year-old Krisztian, gathering wood for his family at dusk, was shot in the pelvis by Arpad Kiss, who lurked amongst the reeds on the other side. His injuries were life-threatening, but ultimately not fatal.

"That was at the beginning of the rampage, when the killers were still learning," says Tibor Derdak, a man who knows this region very well. A former MP in the now-defunct Liberal Party, these days he runs an improbable-sounding project 30 kilometers away in Sajokaza. As the headmaster of the Dr. Ambedkar Buddhist High School, Tibor aims to break the cycle of Roma poverty by teaching annually around 400 children and adults math, reading, and human rights. The school also aims to deter Roma women from getting married and pregnant at young ages -- which is typically in the teenage years. Segregation in schools between the majority and the minority is a fact of life in Hungary, and it is a common practice for Roma children to be placed in special needs classes, which further hampers their educational development.

Last year on the country's version of the singing show X-Factor, Hungarians voted in millions for a young Roma singer named Gergo Olah. Despite their marginalization in society, it would seem that Hungarians can tolerate the Roma as long as they stick to performing. The situation could be compared to African Americans' civil rights struggle, but Hungary still lacks a Roma Martin Luther King.
© The Atlantic

up  

Swedish women stand up to Islamophobia

22/8/2013- Hundreds of Swedish women have taken to Twitter to post pictures of themselves with traditional Muslim headscarves. The campaign, which began on Monday, is to show solidarity with a woman, six months pregnant, who was attacked in a Stockholm suburb last Saturday, apparently for wearing a hijab. The police are now investigating the incident as a ‘racially motivated attack’, prompting activists on Facebook to urge women from across Sweden, regardless of their faith, to wear a headscarf this week to protest against violence towards Muslim women and to show support for religious freedoms. A number of Sweden’s well known faces including TV presenter Gina Dirawi, singer Sibille Attar and also Green Party MP Asa Romson have joined the campaign, posting hijab clad photos of themselves under the dedicated hashtag #HijabUppropet, which means ‘hijab outcry’ in Swedish. And men are also rallying to the cause, keen to voice their solidarity with victims of Islamophobic harassment or attacks. In an article published in Swedish daily Aftonbladet, the instigators of the movement say the number of Islamophobic incidents in Sweden is on the rise and demand the government does everything in its power to ensure the safety of veiled Muslim women. The activists also met with Sweden’s Justice Minister Beatrice Ask on Tuesday to discuss the problem, and a rally is being planned in Stockholm for this Thursday to support Muslim women’s right to wear the hijab in public, in safety, in Sweden.
© France 24.

up  

Montenegro Charges 32 Over Gay Pride Violence

Police have charged 32 persons with 'indecent and reckless behaviour' at Montenegro's first Gay Pride parade in the coastal town of Budva. 

21/8/2013- Montenegrin police charged 32 persons on Monday with indecent and reckless behaviour during the country's first Gay Pride march. Police said the majority of those charged are aged 16 to 30 and six are minors. Montenegro’s first-ever gay rights parade, named Seaside Pride, was attended by an estimated 120 people in Budva on July 23, despite being attacked by anti-gay protesters. Two persons received light injuries during the event, but the large police presence prevented incidents from escalating. Officers intervened against rioters who hurled rocks, glasses and bottles against the participants of the parade who were also showered with insults. The small crowd attending the parade was easily outnumbered by the several hundred opponents of the parade. Since the event, Zdravko Cimbaljevic, the organiser of the parade, said he had received death threats.
© Balkan Insight

up  

19/8/2013- Anti-Semitic incidents in the Swedish city of Malmö have almost tripled in the past 18 months, compared to the two previous years, the ‘Jewish Chronicle’ reports, unlike in the rest of Sweden. Local authorities say the increase reflects the fact that the police are taking the problem more seriously and that there is growing confidence in the police. Police recorded 60 hate crimes against Jews in the city in 2012, up from an average of 22 in 2010 and 2011. During the first six months of 2013, police reported 35 such attacks in the southern Swedish city, the third largest in the country, putting it on a pace to break last year’s record.

Malmö’s new mayor, Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, has vowed to fight hatred against Jews. “As a politician in Malmö, I will in any way I can work against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, in word and in deed,” she was quoted by the 'Jewish Chronicle' as saying. Stjernfeldt Jammeh’s predecessor, Ilmar Reepalu, faced widespread criticism for failing to address Malmö’s problem with anti-Semitism. The new mayor says she has been in contact with the Jewish community and is looking forward to cooperating with them. Thomas Bull, head of the Malmö police’s hate crime unit, says hate crimes are being taken more seriously. He expresses hope for convictions in at least five cases currently being investigated.

About 30 percent of Malmö’s 300,000 residents belong to families of immigrants from Muslim countries. Radical members of that population were responsible for most of the attacks against Jews, the local Jewish community said. Reepalu, who left his post in February after 28 years in office, at one stage blamed the rise in anti-Semitism on Jews publicly supporting Israel, and he advised them to distance themselves from Israel's action in order to remain safe. Since Reepalu's departure, police are more alert to hate crimes, said Fred Kahn, chairman of the board of the local Jewish community.
© World Jewish Congress

up  

Hate crime probe as transgender woman barred from shopping centre toilets (UK)

22/8/2013- Police have launched a hate crime investigation after a transgender woman was barred from female toilets at a Scots shopping centre. River Song, 18, who is waiting for sex swap surgery to complete the change from man to woman, was told by a security guard: “You are a male and always will be.” River, from Edinburgh, made an immediate complaint to Police Scotland who confirmed yesterday (Thu) they had started a hate crime enquiry. The incident happened at the St James Centre in central Edinburgh on Monday this week when River used the female toilets. River, who is engaged to a transgender man also awaiting sex swap surgery, said she had never been treated so badly or felt so humiliated. Equal opportunities groups said the case amounted to unlawful harassment and warned that shopping centre staff could face criminal charges.

River said she and her fiance, Jake Wood, 18, were shopping at the St James Centre on Monday afternoon when she used the female toilets – as she has done without problems for the past two years. River said: “A security guard pulled me aside and asked me if I had had a sex change. “I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing but I answered him saying, ‘no’. “He then asked me, ‘Why have you used the female bathrooms if you haven’t had a sex change?’ “He asked for my ID which I showed him and as he glanced at it he said, ‘This is a male, you are a male and always will be a male’.” River said this reduced her to tears and she rejoined her fiance in the food court. She added: “As we were walking down to service desk we noticed him following us. River added: “He continued to make comments aimed towards me and one point he said ‘it’s got a penis’ which is so offensive. “We get abuse on a daily basis but I have never in my life been treated so badly and felt so humiliated.”

James Morton, Scottish Transgender Alliance manager, said: “We are very concerned to hear another report of a security guard unlawfully harassing a trans woman while she was trying to use a female toilet. “There is no requirement in UK law for a trans woman to undergo any surgery in order to be legally recognised as female. “Verbally abusing a trans women by calling her “it” and demanding to know whether she has undergone genital surgery is unlawful harassment under the Equality Act 2010 and could even result in criminal charges against the security guard for threatening or abusive behaviour.” LGBT Youth Scotland has called the incident “disappointingly common”. A spokeswoman said: ““Incidents of this nature are disappointingly common amongst the experiences of transgender people whom we work with. Gender specific public toilets, as well as a whole range of gender specific services, continue to be a major barrier in the day to day lives of transgender people.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police in Edinburgh attended at a shopping centre in the city-centre on Monday 19th August following reports of offensive comments made by a security guard towards an individual within the complex. “Enquiries are ongoing in relation to this incident. “Police Scotland treat all reports of hate crime seriously and work alongside our partner agencies to provide a range of support, advice and guidance to anyone who believes they have been a victim of such an offence.” The St James Centre declined to comment.
© Deadline News

up  

Polish philosopher Bauman rejects honorary degree over anti-Semitic attacks

19/8/2013- Polish-British philosopher Zygmunt Bauman rejected an honorary doctorate from a Polish university because of anti-Semitic attacks against him on the Internet. Bauman, who agreed in January to accept the degree from the University of Lower Silesia in Wroclaw, asked the school in a letter to cancel the honor, according to the Gazeta Wyborcza. Bauman, 87, lost his professorship at the University of Warsaw following a 1968 anti-Semitic campaign against him organized by the Communist Party of which he had been a member. He first immigrated to Israel, where he taught at Tel Aviv University, then moved to England to serve as the chair in sociology at the University of Leeds.

Following the announcement of the honorary doctorate at the University of Lower Silesia, Bauman was attacked in Internet forums and social media. Among the more mild anti-Semitic comments were “I cannot stand the Jewish Bolshevik,” “Death to the Zionist plague of mankind” and “Down with Judeo-Communism,” according to the Gazeta Wyborcza. The ceremony was scheduled for Oct. 24; the university Senate had already passed a resolution approving the granting of the honor. In his letter, Bauman said he based part of his decision on his desire not to harm the reputation of the university with the “unnecessary uproar,” according to the Gazeta Wyborcza. University Rector Robert Barberry called Bauman’s rejection of the honorary doctorate “a capitulation to the extreme right.”
© JTA News

up  

Racism figures paint disturbing picture in Scotland's schools

Almost 1300 racist incidents have taken place in Scotland's schools over the last two years, according to new figures.

18/8/2013- 730 of the incidents took place in primary schools with a further 544 taking place in secondary schools, prompting one MSP to warn Scotland still has "a long way to go" when it comes to tackling racism. The information was obtained following a freedom of information request from the Liberal Democrats. It showed Edinburgh City Council recorded 279 racist incidents in primary schools over the two years, with a further 114 incidents in secondary schools in the capital. But the party was only able to obtain figures from three-quarters of all local authorities, with Scotland's largest local authority, Glasgow City Council, being one of those that did not provide information.

Lib Dem Education Spokesman Liam McArthur said: "Over the past five years we have made real progress in tackling racism but the fact that progress seems to have stalled is a concern. "I do not doubt the commitment of ministers and teachers to battling racism, but these new figures show that we have a long way to go.
"Addressing these issues starts with education. The fact that so many racist incidents have been reported at Scottish schools over the past two years is a reality check for those who thought that the fight against prejudice was already won."
© STV

up  

British teen arrested for assaulting elderly Sikh man

18/8/2013- The video of an 80-year-old Sikh man being punched in the face and shoved to the ground by a 19-year-old British woman has triggered outrage amid fresh concerns over hate crimes. Closed circuit television (CCTV) in the British city of Coventry in West Midlands has captured shocking footage of the woman attacking the elderly man, who can be seen making feeble attempts to defend himself. The man's turban fell off and the attack left him with a bloodied nose and black eye, British media reports said.

The woman abused the man and spat on him before walking off following the apparently unprovoked attack near a bus station in Coventry's Trinity Street at 8.30pm on August 10. The police arrested the woman after a video of the attack, recorded by a passer-by on a mobile phone, went viral online and was shared on Facebook. The police are treating the attack as "serious malicious wounding", which is punishable with up to five years in prison. The video of the attack triggered a wave of revulsion after it was circulated widely on the social media, The Coventry Telegraph reported.

Coventry Police chief Andy Nicholson was quoted by the paper as saying, "This was a despicable, violent attack on an elderly man in broad daylight. The victim is an 80-year-old man, he was left with a bloodied nose and a black eye."

Police name arrested woman
The West Midlands Police have identified the arrested woman as Coral Millerchip. The unemployed 19-year-old is due to appear at Coventry Magistrates Court on Monday, the police said in a press release on August 17. Millerchip, from Attoxhall Road in Wyken, was arrested from an address outside of the West Midlands.
© The Hindustan Times

up  

EU collects 'too little' data on anti-Muslim attacks

British organization Tell Mama collects statistics on incidents of violence and hostility against Muslims. Some experts now accuse EU countries of not running a similar, large-scale database.

17/8/2013- "I've had multiple attacks: I was spat at, I was punched and I was brutally attacked," reported a female victim who wishes to remain anonymous. "I was punched from the head to the shoulders and then deliberately run over when I was six months' pregnant in front of my son and my husband." The woman, clad in a headscarf, portrays her experience in a video on the website of Tell Mama - a UK organization that registers attacks on Muslims in real life and online. The incidents are reported by the victims themselves, either by telephone, text message or via the Internet. "Mama" is an abbreviation for "Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks."

Since January 2012, Tell Mama has been offering assistance to victims via a telephone helpline. It is supported by a network of volunteers and its Internet site is maintained by a religious foundation. According to Tell Mama's director, Fiyaz Mughal, the organization registered nearly 1,200 attacks in England and Wales over a period of 18 months. He pointed out that the rate of such attacks tends to spike following a major national or international conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims. After a British soldier was brutally murdered by two Islamists in London on May 22, the number of anti-Muslim incidents and attacks on mosques increased eightfold.

Widespread online abuse
An overwhelming number of the attacks do not take place on the street but online, Mughal told DW. People who appear to be Muslim, such as women in headscarves, are often targeted and insulted on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. This includes serious death threats. The far-right English Defence League protest movement is particularly active in anti-Islam Internet campaigning. "The activity online is huge," said Mughal. "The street-based activity happens, but it's not significant right now, whereas the online activity of anti-Muslim prejudice is very significant. It's a very concerted, determined effort by far-right followers, anti-Muslim individuals and racist individuals, but also people who generally dislike Muslims."

Attacks on Muslims are also on the rise in France, wrote Elsa Ray in online newspaper EU Observer. She is involved in a pan-European program to counter Islamophobia in Europe. In June, a pregnant Muslim woman was attacked by two men in a Paris suburb, which resulted in rioting among local Muslim youth. Ray and her organization accuse French and European politicians of turning away from the problem and simply accepting anti-Muslim sentiments among the public. The debate about the French ban on full-face veils has only created more tension, according to Marwan Muhammad from the Collective Against Islamophobia in France.

No reliable statistics
The UK and France currently seem to be the hotspots of anti-Muslim attacks. However, there are no precise statistics covering the European Union, according to Katya Andrusz from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. "Far too few EU member states collect data about such offences," Andrusz told DW. "The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has for a long time been calling on European governments to collect and publish such data." Only six of the EU's 28 states keep a record of Islamophobic incidents. Some put them in the same category as other "hate crimes" - including those against Jews, Christians, homosexuals and various minority groups. "It's actually in the interest of the member states to know what incidents take place and against which groups, so that the problem can be dealt with," said Andrusz, but added that the awareness of this problem is gradually increasing. Nevertheless, at this stage she could not issue any specific statements on the situation of offenders, victims and incidents in EU countries.

In Germany there is no specific category for anti-Muslim attacks and, as such, they are not reported to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. Not long ago, Wilfried Albishausen, deputy chairperson of the Association of Germany's Criminal Investigators (BDK), called for the creation of such a register. It would be based on the way records of attacks on Jews are kept, Albishausen told Germany's "Die Welt" newspaper. According to Germany's latest Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution, hostility towards Islam has been increasingly apparent on the far-right scene in the past few years.

Growing conflict, silent victims
Fiyaz Mughal of Tell Mama has observed that right-wingers no longer spread anti-Jewish hate messages but rather anti-Muslim. He points out that this switch has been particularly evident on the Internet. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany there are small political parties that warn of "foreign infiltration" by Muslim immigrants. In Norway, mass-shooter Anders Breivik has made numerous references to the perceived threat posed by Islam when justifying his killing spree on the island of Utoya and in Oslo in 2011. Not all victims report the offences committed against them. Tell Mama estimates that 60 percent do not contact the police or any aid organizations. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights confirms these observations. "The great majority of the Muslims surveyed did not report anything," said Andrusz. "This is a problem because what the authorities don't know is also not reflected in statistics."

"Stand your ground," appeals the anonymous Muslim woman in the Tell Mama video. "If you don't do it, then the next generation will suffer and it will continue. It happened to me as a child, and because I don't want it to happen to my children I'm doing this for them." When an incident is reported, whether online or in real life, Tell Mama hands over the information to the police. According to Mughal, while the British police are effective in investigating violent attacks, the number of prosecutions in the online world is very low. "Most of it is done symbolically because of big public-interest cases," said Mughal. "That's wrong, because the common man and woman in the street need to have results - rather than the very famous footballer who gets abuse on Twitter."
© The Deutsche Welle.

up  

Headlines 16 August, 2013

Anti-Semitism attacks in Belgium highest since 2009

16/8/2012- The number of anti-Semitic attacks reported last year in Belgium reached its highest level since 2009, according to an annual report. Anti-racism volunteers registered 80 anti-Semitic incidents throughout Belgium in 2012, according to a report released this month by the Antisemitsm.Be watchdog group. The figure represents a 23 percent increase over 2011. The 80 attacks was the most recorded by the group since 2000 with the exception of some 100 attacks in 2009, when an Israeli military campaign against Hamas triggered a massive leap in anti-Semitic attacks worldwide. The authors of the report wrote that the number of incidents reported last year constitute a 34 percent increase from the per annum average of the past 12 years. The increase, the authors wrote, owes to a noticeable spike in attacks following the murder of four Jews by a Muslim extremist in Toulouse, France, in March 2012. Five of the incidents involved physical attacks, three of which occurred in Antwerp. Thirteen incidents were acts of vandalism against Jewish institutions, and 30 incidents involved threats made online.

In neighboring Holland, the Anne Frank Foundation released a report last month that said one in every three teachers in higher education has witnessed anti-Semitic incidents in the past year. The report was based on the answers of 973 teachers to a survey conducted this year. Many incidents are soccer-related, the report indicated. Anti-Semitic acts in connection with Israel and Holocaust denial also were common, the report said. Last May, the Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, reported a significant rise in reports of soccer-related anti-Semitism. In February, CIDI urged the Dutch education ministry to research anti-Semitism in high schools.
© JTA News

up  

Hungary to Pay Compensation for Roma Murder-Probe Shortcomings

16/8/2013- Hungary will compensate the families of victims of one the country’s worst racially motivated serial murders since World War II, citing shortcomings in a probe into the deaths of six ethnic Roma, including a five-year-old boy and his father. An inquiry will “probably find” that law enforcement officials “committed errors or omission,” including ones for which they may bear “criminal responsibility,” Human Resources Minister Zoltan Balog told reporters yesterday. The murders in 2008 and 2009 took place in four different locations and focused attention on racism against the mostly impoverished community of Roma, or Gypsies, Hungary’s largest minority. Three Roma were initially arrested in 2008 for one of the crimes and spent 11 months in custody before charges were dropped, Index news website said on Aug. 6.

“We know specifically that the life of the last victim may have been saved had the secret service and the police worked together properly,” Balog said. A Budapest court on Aug. 6 sentenced three men to life imprisonment without parole for murder while a fourth was sentenced to 13 years. The sentences can be appealed. The crimes took place in rural areas, several of them during the night. The father and son were murdered while they were trying to escape their house after it was set ablaze with Molotov cocktails. Another was shot in bed. A fourth person was shot to death while leaving for work, while the fifth and sixth victims were shot in an attack while their home was set ablaze.

A team of 120 police officers hunted the perpetrators before arresting the suspects in August 2009. Police said the killers had been planning three other attacks. The radical nationalist Jobbik party became the second-largest parliamentary group in 2010 after campaigning against what it billed as “Roma crime” as inter-ethnic tensions escalated during the country’s second recession in four years.
© Bloomberg Businessweek

up  

An abortive ban on some information and speech is part of an intensely anti-gay environment.
by Onnik Krikorian

15/8/2013- Proposals to introduce legislation to ban the promotion of “nontraditional sexual relations” in Armenia have concerned human rights activists in the small former Soviet republic. The bill, posted on the website of the Armenian police, came a little over a month after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into force similar legislation to prohibit “propaganda” that might cause the “distorted understanding” that gay and heterosexual relations are “socially equivalent.” Fines of up to $4,000 for “propagating nontraditional sexual relationships” in order to protect the “traditional Armenian family” against “phenomena alien to national identity” were included.

“We live in Russia’s shadow,” Mamikon Hovsepian, head of the PINK Armenia organization was quoted by media as saying. A few days later, Radio Free Europe reported that the bill was withdrawn by the police due to undisclosed “shortcomings” and because such issues are “not a priority” for them at present. Others, such as prolific Armenian LGBT blogger Mika Artyan, were not convinced. “I didn't even manage to write a post on the already withdrawn gay propaganda bill, but will do so post factum as this is not the end of story,” he tweeted. He also told Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso that he believes only international media coverage of the proposed legislation, as well as domestic ridicule, prevented it from being taken further.

Alarming Level of Homophobia
Of concern to Artyan and other gay-rights activists in Armenia is the alarming level of homophobia in the country and the wider region. According to a 2011 household survey by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers, as quoted by local media, 96 percent of Armenian respondents said they did not approve of homosexuality. In neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia that figure was 84 and 87 percent respectively. But given events in Tbilisi, Georgia, on 17 May when thousands of Orthodox believers disrupted an event to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, that will hardly come as any comfort.

Taken as a whole, the South Caucasus remains highly intolerant and inherently homophobic. But at least Georgian LGBT activists did attempt to hold such an event in downtown Tbilisi. In Armenia, on the same day, a small group of activists from PINK Armenia gathered in a park on the periphery of the city center to release rainbow-colored balloons into the air. Photographs were posted on their Facebook page only after the short flash mob was over, and likely for good reason. A year earlier, although marking the 21 May International Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, nationalists disrupted an event staged by PINK Armenia and the Women’s Resource Center in downtown Yerevan.

Endorsing Anti-Gay Violence: The D.I.Y. Issue
Police intervened, but did not prevent the counter-protesters, who alleged the march was a cover for gay rights, from later heading for a gay-friendly bar fire-bombed weeks earlier to wreck what little of the premises remained. D.I.Y., a small basement bar, had been a relaxed hangout for heterosexual and homosexual citizens and foreigners alike, but its owner, punk rocker Tsomak Oganesova, had irked nationalists in Armenia after attending a gay pride rally in Istanbul, Turkey. The fire-bombers, caught in the act on closed-circuit television, were bailed out by members of parliament from the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The government also appeared to support the crime.

“As an Armenian citizen and member of a national-conservative party, I find the rebellion of the two young Armenian people against homosexuals, who have created a den of perversion in our country and have a goal of alienating society from its moral values, completely right and justified,” ruling Republican Party Spokesman and Vice President of the Armenian National Assembly Eduard Sharmazanov told journalists. Despite endangering the lives of residents of the apartment building above the bar, the fire-bombers received suspended sentences in July this year. “Now you know it's OK to attack gays and gay-friendly venues in Armenia,” Artyan wrote on his blog.

Alarmingly, none of this is likely to concern most citizens. In 2011, Pink Armenia held its own poll and discovered that 71.5 percent of respondents in Armenia supported the idea of the government actively campaigning against homosexuality. In the same survey, 78.1 and 71.8 percent of respondents also said they would cease communicating with friends and relatives if they discovered they were gay. Nearly 90 percent said they wouldn’t even use the same crockery if they suspected it had been used by a gay person beforehand. Education and raising awareness might be key to changing perceptions, but even there the environment is hostile.

No Parada in Armenia
In October last year, plans by the German Embassy to screen Parada, a film about gay rights by Serbian film director Srdjan Dragojevic, were cancelled following protests. Those behind the demonstration had also organized the disruption of last year’s diversity march as well as International Women’s Day events in previous years. This time, another target was Ruben Babayan, artistic director of the Puppet Theater, a venue for the film screening. “This is a feature film, which has been shown at many festivals,” Babayan told the media in response. “By the same logic, I think you can ban the showing of films by Sergei Parajanov [an ethnic Armenian cultural icon who was convicted of homosexuality in the Soviet era],” he continued. “One should […] decide – either we turn this country into Iran and feel happy about that, or we just come to the realization that there are things like tolerance, feature films, and the arts.”

Although the constitution provides for the protection of sexual minorities, with homosexuality decriminalized in 2003 and the government having signed a still-pending UN resolution on gay rights five years later, there is no legislation that specifically prohibits hate speech or protects members of the LGBT community from discrimination. Indeed, argue activists such as Artyan, playing on the phobias of the population can be convenient for the government in distracting attention from other problems. The proposed legislation came in the wake of successful public protests to prevent a rise in bus fares. “Armenia decriminalized gay male sex only because of that requirement by the Council of Europe,” he told Osservatorio, “but it was the last South Caucasus state to do so even if the first to sign some other groundbreaking documents in support of LGBT rights. The potential is there, […] but change will depend on the development of democracy and human rights in general.”

Onnik Krikorian is a journalist and photographer in the South Caucasus and former Caucasus editor for Global Voices Online.
© Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso

up  

'I thought that's it, my life's over,' paintball attack victim tells (USA)

12/8/2013- For a few frantic seconds, Josef Margaretten thought he was going to die when he collapsed Wednesday from a drive-by shooting, covered in a dark liquid he thought was blood. The 35-year-old Hasidic resident of Spring Valley had visions of his wife and five children, and wondered when he might take his last breath. “I thought that’s it, my life’s over,” he told The Journal News on Monday. “I thought this was the last minute of my life.” Pausing slightly, he added, “I didn’t know anything about a paintball gun.” The three young people who fled in the car were later arrested for what turned out to be a paintball attack. They were charged with several felonies, including assault as a hate crime. Margaretten said he heard one of them shout, “(expletive) Jews!” “I’m very angry about it,” he said. “I didn’t do anything to anyone.” But he said his only concern Wednesday night was for survival after the car pulled up and someone pointed a gun at him. At the time, Margaretten was standing outside a friend’s house on Rita Avenue, chatting with his buddy Shlomo Pinkasovits about a meeting that just took place.

“I saw the car pull up next to us, like two feet away, and the gun sticking out the window,” he recalled. “Then I heard the shots. ‘Pop! Pop!’ It sounded like a real gun. Five shots. As they were popping, someone was screaming something about Jews. I didn’t concentrate on that because I was busy with the shots.” The final shot to his abdomen knocked him to the ground, Margaretten said. While lying on the pavement, he felt pain and a burning sensation. “My hand was so dark, I thought it was blood,” he said. “I was screaming for my friend, ‘Help me, I’m shot!’ ” Then someone shined a flashlight on him. “I then realized it was only paint, not blood,” he said.

Margaretten, who was treated in the hospital, still has burn marks. He continues to be upset over the incident, especially that it may have been prompted by anti-Semitism. “If it’s anti-Semitism, it’s a problem,” he said. “I have neighbors who are not Jewish, and I have no problems with anybody, black or white. If someone needs help, I will help anyone.” “If I need something, they come help us,” he said. “We like to live with our neighbors in peace.” As for the criminal case, Margaretten said, “I leave it for the judge to decide.” The shooting suspect, Shashi Ramsaroop, 23; his pregnant fiancee Lindsey Peaks, 20; and friend Demetrius Latrell Torain, 19, are due in Ramapo Town Court at 11 a.m. Tuesday for a preliminary felony hearing on the charges.

If they are indicted by a grand jury, the case will be moved to Rockland County Court in New City. The circumstances of the ride that led to the attack are unclear. The trio, all of whom have local ties, had been held in Rockland County jail after the arrests but were no longer in custody as of Monday evening, an official said.
© The Journal News

up  

Greece: Horrific knife attack targets migrants in Crete

15/8/2013- The Greek authorities must act immediately to curb the growing spate of xenophobic and racist attacks Amnesty International said today. It follows a brutal knife attack by a mob of around 20 men on two Pakistani migrants on the island of Crete in the early hours of yesterday morning. The two young men approached Amnesty International for help, saying they were too scared to report the matter to the police or seek medical attention for fear of being deported. “At the same time as we’ve seen a spike in xenophobic violence around Greece, the lack of laws to protect victims with irregular status has meant that reporting such crimes can result in the victims being deported while their attackers walk free,” said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International. “This only contributes to the general climate of impunity for the perpetrators of such attacks and it allows for an acceptance of these horrific crimes.”

Hours before Tuesday’s attack, the far-right political party Golden Dawn held a meeting in Irakleio. The party’s anti-immigrant message has grown in popularity at the same time as xenophobic and racist attacks – some of them deadly – have been proliferating across Greece. The victims of the attack told the organization they were walking along a street in the town of Irakleio in the early hours of Tuesday morning when around 20 men dressed in black surrounded them with cars and on motorbikes. After asking where the migrants were from, the mob attacked them without any provocation, stabbing them before throwing them to the ground and kicking them. Amnesty International members arranged medical help for the victims after they sought assistance from the organization on Tuesday afternoon. “We found ourselves in a tragic situation where we could not report the incident to the police or get the victims to the hospital because they were scared of being deported due to their irregular status,” said Katerina Chasouraki, an Amnesty International coordinator in Crete.

The men received medical treatment and are recovering from the incident, but photos show the deep gashes they sustained – to the forearm and chin – as well as bruise marks along their sides where their assailants kicked them. At the end of last year, special police units were set up to tackle racially motivated crimes in Greece, but there is still no provision that would protect victims who are in an irregular situation from arrest and deportation during the investigation of such crimes. “The Greek authorities must do more to bring an end to these racist attacks, and to ensure that migrants are not further victimized by being at risk of detention or deportation when they report crimes or seek medical assistance,” said Jezerca Tigani.
© Amnesty International New Zealand News

up  

14/8/2013- A 16-year old girl was attacked in Paris suburb and had the Islamic veil she was wearing torn from her face. As anti-Islamic attacks in France soar, a French Muslim leader condemned the ‘climate of Islamophobia’ and urged the government to act. The teenager was leaving a friend’s house in Trappes at about 5:45 pm, when she was attacked by two “European looking” men, one of whom was also described as having a shaven head. Her assailants then shouted anti-Muslim and racist abuse at her while brandishing a box cutter, before tearing off her veil, pushing her to the ground and hitting her. A third man intervened saving the girl and the attackers fled by car. The victim was driven to hospital in Trappes, the same blighted suburb of Paris that saw violent clashes between police and mainly Muslim youths last month. A source told the newspaper le Parisien that she was treated for “light scratch marks” on her face and throat. She reported the incident to the police on Tuesday.

The French Interior Minister Manuel Valls was quick to condemn the attack. “I severely condemn this newest demonstration of anti-Muslim hatred and intolerance. Police services have been fully mobilized so that the authors of this unacceptable attack are identified, found, arrested and handed over to the courts,” he said. This latest attack is one of many anti-Muslim incidents in France, which have risen by 60% in recent months. There were two days of rioting in Trappes in July after a woman in full Islamic head gear was stopped by police. While in June, a Muslim woman allegedly had a miscarriage after being assaulted by skinheads in Argenteuil, although it was not clear if the attack was the direct cause of the loss of her baby. This came just three weeks after another attack on a veiled woman in Argenteuil.
© RT

up  

Air force sergeant accused of planning mosque attack as Muslim leader denounces 'Islamophobic' France

23-year-old arrested over plot as violent incidents rise

13/8/2013- A Muslim religious leader has denounced France’s “climate of Islamophobia” after an air force sergeant with alleged links to the extreme right was placed under investigation for attempting to carry out a terrorist attack against a mosque near Lyon. The 23-year-old, who was arrested at a military base last week, has been placed under investigation on charges including possessing a weapon with terrorist intent. Islamophobic attacks have risen by between 35 and 50 per cent in France this year according to data from Muslim associations. The country is home to five million Muslims. The French interior ministry said the sergeant is believed to be “close to the radical far right” and had allegedly planned to open fire on the mosque at Vénissieux in the Bordeaux region on Thursday last week, when Muslims celebrated the end of Ramadan. A rally was held outside the Vénissieux mosque yesterday to encourage solidarity with the local Muslim community.

According to investigators, the soldier confessed to planning to attack the Vénissieux mosque and also admitted responsibility for firebombing a mosque in Libourne, southwestern France, in August last year. Some of the soldier’s relatives reportedly tipped off police about his most recent plans after finding him with extremist literature. Kamel Kabtane, the rector of Lyon’s main mosque, expressed shock that the arrested man was a soldier “who is tasked with defending France”. Mr Kabtane said the arrest revealed “that a climate of Islamophobia reigns in France today, we cannot delude ourselves.” He added: “It’s been going on for some years, but now people are turning their words into acts.”

Investigators said that the serviceman had sought three times to contact Maxime Brunerie, a neo-Nazi who attempted to assassinate President Jacques Chirac in 2002 during the annual Bastille Day parade. The soldier was also a supporter of the radical historian Dominique Venner, who committed suicide in Notre-Dame cathedral in May. His suicide was ostensibly in protest against the legalisation of gay marriage in France, but in a blog post, he also warned that France and Europe were going to be brought under “Islamist control” and sharia law. The rector praised the interior ministry for the arrest as a sign that France “treats all these matters equally.” French authorities have been accused in the past of failing to investigate anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim attacks with the same zeal, an accusation which the Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, has described as false and “insulting.”

Mr Valls has been criticised by Muslim community leaders for playing down Islamophobia and for suggesting that some Islamic institutions in France were in the hands of radical Salafist factions which are stirring up sectarian friction. Many anti-Muslim attacks have been linked to the debate on legislation which banned the wearing of the full-face niqab from April 2011, and which caused a spate of violent incidents. Riots erupted last month over a police identity check of a veiled woman in the Paris suburb of Trappes. In May, a 17-year-old identified only as Rabia told reporters she was attacked by “skinheads” who knocked her to the ground while calling her a “dirty Muslim”. In June, a pregnant Muslim woman lost her baby after an attack in which her veil was ripped from her by two men who taunted her with anti-Islamic slogans.

Tensions were further fuelled in March, when a French soldier was stabbed in a Paris suburb. Judges placed 22-year-old Alexandre Dhaussy, believed to be a recent convert to Islam, under formal investigation for “attempted murder linked to a terrorist enterprise”. Last Saturday, the wall of a Muslim prayer room in Lesparre-Medoc, in the south-west, was daubed with swastikas. Mr Valls has had several meetings in recent weeks with Muslim representatives, most recently in Ozoir-la-Ferrière, east of Paris, where he had a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner. The mosque in that city was sprayed with extremist slogans earlier this year.

5m The number of Muslims in France, out of a total population of 65 million
40 Mosques were attacked last year, twice the number in 2011
469 Islamophobic attacks were reported in France in 2012
54% The proportion of respondents to a Le Monde poll in February who said they believed France awarded too many rights to followers of Islam
© The Independent

up  

French soldier arrested for planning mosque attack

11/8/2013- A 23-year-old French soldier was arrested at his air force base near the city of Lyon for planning an attack on a local mosque, the French interior ministry said on Sunday. The soldier held views "close to those of the radical extreme right" and had already attacked a mosque in the Bordeaux region last year without causing much damage, the ministry said, without giving further details. Security services are grappling with an increase in far-right militant activity in France, home to Europe's largest Muslim minority. The government closed down half a dozen far-right militant groups in July after the death of a left-wing student in a brawl between fringe groups.
© Reuters

up  

Twitter slammed over '#Gays Must Die' hashtag (France)

A French gay rights group announced on Monday it plans to file a law suit against Twitter on the grounds of violating hate speech laws, after the emergence of the hashtag “#Gays must die”, which topped the "trending topics" on the site over the weekend.

12/8/2013- Shocked French Twitter users and gay rights groups have reacted angrily to the emergence of the hashtag “#LesGaysDoiventDispaîratreCar” (“Gay people must die/disappear because”), that trended over the weekend. The organisation SOS Homophobie, which fights anti-gay speech and violence, has launched a parallel campaign online, encouraging users to point out and report instances of the phrase. The French committee of IDAHO (the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia), announced on Monday that it would be filing a legal complaint against the US-based microblogging site for allowing “the diffusion of a call for hatred against gay people.” “This is a completely blatant call for the death and murder of gay people. It is totally unacceptable,” Alexandre Marcel from IDAHO told The Local. “We support free expression, and we understand that there are some people who simply don’t like gay people, but this is a call for the extermination of the gay community,” he added. “Twitter hasn’t deleted a single homophobic tweet, nor removed a single homophobic hashtag from its list of most popular trending terms.”

“Could you imagine being a 17 or 18-year-old gay person logging on to Twitter, which, remember, is most popular among young people, and seeing messages that call for you to be killed?," Marcel added. A second hashtag, #TeamHomophobes also appeared over the weekend, and on Monday, the hashtag #BrulonsLesGaysSurDu (“Let’s burn gay people”) appeared to be gaining momentum on Twitter. For her part, official government spokeswoman and Minister for Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem took to Twitter herself on Saturday, to denounce the trend. “I condemn homophobic tweets. Our work with Twitter and groups against homophobia, is essential,” she said.

Earlier this year, Vallaud-Belkacem joined French gay rights groups in meeting with representatives from Twitter, to discuss a recent spate of hateful trending topics on the microblogging site. This isn’t the first time in recent months that Twitter has been embroiled in a controversy in France surrounding hateful messages. In July, The Local reported how the US website was forced by a French court’s ruling to hand over information identifying Twitter users who had published anti-Semitic comments, including under the term #UnBonJuif (A good Jew). Speaking after the court’s decision in January, lawyer Philippe Schmidt told The Local that remarks made on Twitter should be treated the same as if they were made in any public forum. “Having freedom of speech does not mean you have a right to say what you want and a right to hide behind your anonymity. People on Twitter do not need to be anonymous. They should not have special treatment. It should be the same as if they said it on the street,” he said.
© The Local - France

up  

Report.ie has seen 60 reports detailing racism in less than one month, said ENAR Ireland.

11/8/2013- An online system for reporting racism in Ireland has logged 60 reports in less than a month. The site, iReport.ie, is an online racist incident recording system, said anti-racist organisation ENAR Ireland. Shane O’Curry, director of ENAR Ireland, said that this “is a significantly higher rate than our previous recording system, and a much higher rate than An Garda Siochána, who recorded just 19 incidents in the first three months of 2013”. O’Curry said that the reports received by iReport.ie show that migrants and minority ethnic groups, including Travellers, “are being subjected to worrying levels of racism and discrimination”.

People are reporting all kinds of racism, from subtle forms of discrimination to concerted social exclusion, from shouting and name calling in the street to intimidation, spitting, sexual harassment and organised violent assault with weapons. But these are being perpetrated by a minority, and although there have been some high profile cases of public figures expressing racist sentiments, the majority of the public in Ireland reject racism. He said that this anti-racist sentiment is reflected in the fact that almost half of the reports were logged by witnesses, a majority of whom were unrelated to the people targeted.

O’Curry described one report, where a woman who had gone out for a pub meal with her husband said they had been told to pick any of the empty booths they liked. She said a Traveller family with young children who took their own booth just afterwards “were asked to leave by a manager, who claimed that the booths had been reserved for a party”. The Traveller family challenged the manager on this and left after protesting. The woman and her husband then offered to vacate their booth if, as the manager said, the area had been reserved for a party, only to be reassured by an embarrassed waitress that they didn’t need to. The settled woman and her husband cancelled their order and left as well.

Findings
Other findings from the first four weeks include:
# In 46 per cent of the incidents recorded, women and girls were the targets of racism.
# A quarter of the incidents recorded racism against people who are black.
# In 20 per cent of the incidents recorded, children under 14 were targets.
# Out of the five reports of racism against Muslim women, all five were targeted because of their veil.
# In one case a group of Muslim men wearing their prayer hats were attacked by a gang of men with sticks.
# 49 per cent of the reports were made by witnesses or third parties.
# 68 per cent of these were made by people who were unrelated in any way to the target(s).
# 89 per cent of the reports recorded interpersonal, rather than institutional racism.

“It is a good thing that so many Irish people take racism seriously,” concluded O’Curry. In one case an Irish family were horrified when their visiting relatives and other tourists were racially abused in a restaurant, so they reported the incident to iReport.ie. iReport.ie is the work of Enar Ireland, which is a network of over 30 organisations working against racism in the country. The information that it collects will be used to understand the frequency and type of racist incidents that occur in Ireland, with the aim of devising strategies to tackle the problem.
© The Journal Ireland

up  

Czech Republic: Neo-Nazis repeatedly assault Romani social worker in Duchcov

10/8/2013- Jan Dufek and Jindřich "Pinďa" Svoboda, two antigypsyists known for having said they want Romani people to be murdered off, have been targeting Štefan Horvát of Duchcov, who works for the Květina (Flower) civic association as a field social worker. Horvát says these men have been the protagonists in two incidents of both physical and verbal assault against him. The persecution began during an anti-Romani event earlier this summer, when neo-Nazis threw a plastic bottle at the social worker. In mid-July about 70 Romani people had gathered on Karel Čapek Street in Duchcov in response to a neo-Nazi gathering supported by several local "whites". Some of the right-wing extremists set out for Karel Čapek Street after gathering on the main square. Police prevented them from marching into the Romani neighborhood.

"A small group of neo-Nazis and locals from Duchcov came here and started cursing at me. Then a black car drove up with four people inside, two guys and two females. One guy pulled out a plastic bottle half full of beer and threw it at me," Štefan Horvát told news server Romea.cz at the time. Social worker Zlatuše Tomášová confirmed Horvát's account, adding that "police detained the Nazis and took them in for interrogation along with the victim." Police had to address two such incidents related to the assembly in Duchcov that day. "Those incidents are currently qualified as misdemeanors against civil coexistence," police spokesperson Veronika Hyšplerová has told news server Romea.cz. Horvát says he has also been informed that the man who threw the bottle at him will be fined, primarily thanks to his testimony.

Assaults on the street
Initially it seemed possible that the bottle-throwing incident was random and not worth taking too seriously. However, a second, more serious assault on Horvát soon followed. "A week ago I was walking home from work after 18:00. On the way, Jan Dufek saw me as he was riding his bicycle. He headed straight for me on the sidewalk. Luckily I heard him coming and turned around right when he was about to crash into me, so he only clipped the bag on my shoulder. I was terribly startled," Horvát told news server Romea.cz. Horvát has filed an official complaint against Dufek and requested a misdemeanor proceeding. Jana Víchová, the staffer in charge of misdemeanor hearings at the town hall, is currently on vacation, so news server Romea.cz will report on the state of the investigation into this matter when she returns.

Assault at the swimming pool
Last Saturday Štefan Horvát took his three children to the swimming pool. When they went to buy some refreshments at a stand, about eight neo-Nazis, all of whom had attended the anti-Roma march, began to harass them, led by Jindřich Svoboda, who organized one of the recent anti-Roma events there together with Dufek. Svoboda used a tablet to photograph Horvát and his children from a distance of about five centimeters away, laughing at them the whole time. "They shouted racist insults at us the whole time, 'black fucks', 'Gyppos', etc. Dufek started to shout that I was the gypsy thief who snitched on him. They evidently wanted to spark an argument. I stayed calm and told them to leave us alone. We went back to the water but the children were terribly afraid and wanted to leave immediately. When the other Romani people there saw we were leaving, they also packed up and left too. The Nazis shouted after all of us derisively. We took an indirect route home, just to be sure they couldn't follow us," Horvát said. He intends to file criminal charges over this incident.

Roma refuse to negotiate with neo-Nazis
This week representatives of the Romani community in Duchcov rejected an offer from Mayor Jitka Bártová to participate in round table negotiations with the neo-Nazi Svoboda (Dufek was most probably invited to participate as well). Svoboda is a member of the Workers' Social Justice Party (DSSS), convened at least one of the recent anti-Romani events in Duchcov together with Dufek, and is organizing more for the future. Bártová tried to calm the situation after the first neo-Nazi demonstration was held in her town this year by convening a public discussion. When that meeting was over, Míra Brož of the Konexe association held the following exchange with Dufek and Svoboda, which was captured on video:
Brož: "Really, gentlemen, every march exacerbates the situation and makes it worse."
Dufek: "That's good, the people will finally rise up and murder them all off."

It can be deduced from this statement that Dufek and Svoboda are holding anti-Romani demonstrations in order to deteriorate and exacerbate the situation to such a degree that non-Romani people begin to murder Romani people. Even though only Dufek was captured saying this on camera, news server Romea.cz previously reported that Svoboda expressed himself in those same words on his Facebook profile, as follows:
"So finally it's out! The secret video of the assault in Duchcov! Those black fuckers! They should all be massacred! How much longer will we tolerate this? I propose that it is time to unite and fucking give them what for! I'm going to go throw up and then I'm going to sharpen my knives...."
Bártová: The DSSS has not been banned, so it's ok

Mayor Bártová has expressed astonishment that someone would be opposed to attending a round table together with DSSS representatives, as the party is not banned. "I can believe whatever I like about various political parties, but that doesn't mean I won't negotiate with them," the mayor said. Posting to a Facebook discussion about the incident at the swimming pool, the mayor was duplicitous: At first she made no statement about the reported behavior of the DSSS members, instead claiming that Romani children really do bother people and that some citizens believe Roma get free entry to the swimming pool (a rumor she herself has already refuted).

The Anti-Fascist Action organization has reported that both of the men convening anti-Romani events in Duchcov are neo-Nazis. "Dufek is a longtime neo-Nazi activist. He has been previously convicted of giving the Nazi salute, weapons possession, and welfare fraud. He has reportedly also previously participated, along with a larger group of people, in attacking a group of Romani people in Slovakia. While standing on the main square in the town of Krupina there, he first insulted Romani people, gave the Nazi salute, threatened to shoot them in the head, and then physically assaulted them," Antifa wrote in a press release earlier this year. Svoboda recently faced the possibility of spending between two and eight years in prison for fraud. He was eventually sentenced by a court in Teplice to three years in prison and five years on parole.

The case marked the first time the court has upheld a plea agreement reached between a defendant and a state prosecutor. "I claimed reimbursement for costs related to my travel to Thomayer Hospital in Prague for chemotherapy without authorization," Svoboda told the court as part of the plea agreement. From April 2008 until February 2012, Svoboda was paid almost CZK 950 000 by the VZP public health insurer as reimbursement for trips related to his cancer treatment - trips which either never took place or for which he was not entitled to reimbursement. He will have to return the money to the insurance company. Svoboda is unemployed, so paying the money back will not be easy. "Momentarily I am unemployed and on disability. I have been promised a job in Duchcov as an electrician and maintenance man. Once that begins I would like to start payments," Svoboda promised the listeners of Czech Radio this past February.

Members of the Duchcov cell of the DSSS described the incident at the swimming pool as follows on their Facebook page:
"Today the local organization of the Workers' Social Justice Party, together with several other dissatisfied citizens of the town of Duchcov, visited the local swimming pool to determine what was actually going on with the oppression of majority-society citizens by the Romani minority. Immediately after arriving, we noticed an unusual disturbance among the Romani people there, who began to immediately warn one another that some guys with short hair had come to the swimming pool... We properly followed everything going on at the swimming pool and fortunately did not notice any conflicts or assaults being committed by the Roma (evidently thanks to our presence). After about a half an hour the Romani families began to pack up and leave the swimming pool en masse, for which two majority-society citizens came over to thank us. After most of the Roma had left the swimming pool, we determined that there was basically no one left there to keep an eye on, so we set off for our homes... At the exit the lady at the cash register informed us that several Roma had demanded their entry fees back, claiming they had to go home because of 'Nazis', that they had not had time to swim, and that they did not feel safe at the swimming pool. What would it look like if every majority-society citizen of Duchcov said they want their money back because they don't feel safe when gypsies are at the swimming pool...?"

DSSS leader Vandas has posted his thanks to the cell for their successful action.
© Romea.

up  

Headlines 9 August, 2013

Bosnian Serbs Attack Zvornik Muslims on Eid

A 73-year-old was among four Muslims attacked by young Serbs in the town of Zvornik while they were on their way to a mosque to pray on the Eid religious holiday

9/8/2013- Seventy-three-year-old Nezir Dardagan suffered facial injuries when three young Serb men attacked the Muslims who were on their way to the mosque in the eastern Bosnian town at around 5am on Thursday, according to witnesses. Media reported that the three men, who the police identified as Serbs, asked the Muslims to offer them an Orthodox greeting instead of saying ‘salaam’. Zvornik police said they had arrested a 25-year-old, identified only as ‘R.Z.’, on suspicion that he attacked Dardagan, who is the head of the mosque council in the town. The head mufti in Zvornik, Mustafa Muharemovic, said that Muslims felt humiliated by the violence. “People who were heading to the mosque were intercepted, provoked and attacked,” Muharemovic said. “They were sworn at, and in the end, a man who was the weakest among them was attacked and now feels very bad. His son resisted after he too was attacked,” he said.

The mayor of Zvornik, Zoran Stevanovic, condemned the fact that the attack took place on a Muslim holiday “whatever the motives were”. But while local media in the Serb-dominated town reported that the incident was simply a fight between the two groups, Muslims expressed concerns that it was another one of many attacks intended to force out Muslims who returned after the 1992-95 war. Zvornik is one of several formerly Muslim-dominated towns in east Bosnia, along with Bijeljina, Srebrenica and Bratunac, where many were murdered or expelled during the conflict.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Serbian Activists to File Hate Speech Charges

Serbian rights activists who were prevented from commemorating victims of Croatia’s 1995 military Operation Storm say they will file charges after allegedly being insulted.

8/8/2013- The Veritas Documentation Centre, which collects information about wartime persecution of Serbs on Croatian territory, said it would file charges after its activists were insulted while trying to lay wreaths to mark the anniversary of Operation Storm. Veritas said its activists tried to cross the border from Bosnia and Herzegovina into Croatia and lay a wreath on the bridge on River Una, marking the mass expulsion of Serbs from that area in 1995, but were insulted by an unknown man in a car who shouted at them: “What are these cattle doing here? What are they are doing? Do they think they can still make a state within a state?”

Savo Strbac, the director of Veritas, said that this was classified as a hate crime in Croatia and as a crime of national, religious and racial hate and discrimination in both Republika Srpska and Bosnia. He said the car had licence plates from the Croatian town of Sisak entered to Bosnia and Herzegovina so could easily be identified. “As soon as we get this data, we will file charges,” Strbac said. The activists were not allowed to lay their wreath on the bridge because it is a restricted border area.

Operation Storm began on August 4, 1995, in Croatia and part of Bosnia and Herzegovina as both countries’ armies tried to take back territories that had been under Serb control since 1991. About 700 Serbs are believed to have been killed and about 200,000 forced from their homes. The UN war crimes court in The Hague last November acquitted Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac of killings and deportations carried out during the military operation.
© Balkan Insight

up  

Gay Muslims in Turkey: torn between religion and sexuality

7/8/2013- "When I was a child, I was told that homosexuals would burn in hell," said Ertugrul, a Muslim fighting for greater freedom for gays in a country where homosexuality remains taboo. Ertugrul, who did not want to give his last name, is president of the group Muslims and Gays, which he says wants to "break taboos" in Muslim-majority Turkey, where gays are still subject to violence and abuse. "There are still regions where people kill gays and lesbians to keep the honour of the family intact," he said. "For religious clerics, homosexuality is a test. If you succumb to temptation, you will go to hell. If you resist, you will be pardoned and go to heaven," explained the 39-year-old, a practising Muslim. Homosexuality and trans-sexuality are not illegal in Turkey but police regularly swoop -- with or without authorisation -- on parks, bars or hammams they believe gays frequent to check for prostitution. People are then taken to police stations where officers check their identities and if they have a criminal record. Critics say the checks are a way of putting pressure on the gay community.

In 2010, the Turkish minister for Women and the Family, Selma Aliye Kavaf, fell foul of gay rights groups when she classified homosexuality as "a biological disorder" and a "disease" which needed to be "cured". When anti-government protests swept Turkey in June, members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) association used the demonstrations to try and highlight their cause, but in vain, as violent attacks and even murders continue. Gulsen, a 24-year-old who is gay, told AFP that, just the previous day, a transsexual friend had been found dead. "We have lost count of the number of attacks, there are so many of them," he said. He was attacked in Istanbul's Gezi park, the site made famous after controversial plans for its redevelopment sparked the June protests. "I was talking to a young guy the other evening in the park when I was attacked by two guys who stabbed me in the face with a knife," said Gulsen, who like Ertugrul, preferred that AFP did not use his last name.

But reporting the attack is out of the question. "Why would I?" he said. "We know that there will be another version of events and that the attackers will never be punished." As gay Muslims struggle to reconcile religious teaching and sexuality, some prefer to try and get rid of their feelings, eager to believe that being gay is merely a phase. "I couldn't stay gay -- my family and friends could not accept it," said Mustafa, 26. He underwent therapy to "better understand himself" and to "try to desire a woman's body". Convinced that he could change, Mustafa married a woman in June. "She knows that I am not in the least attracted to women but that I'm working on it," he said. He wants "to be normal", he said, "like everyone else whose lives are simple".
© AFP

up  

Once a melting pot, Polish city sees uptick in ethnic violence

Source: Radio Free Europe 
6/8/2013- A local prosecutor in Bialystok -- a once majority Jewish city in northeastern Poland -- recently dismissed charges against vandals, calling the swastika they allegedly painted on a building an Asian "symbol of luck." Prosecutor Dawid Roszkowski's words should have shocked, but they came amid a string of racist, often violent, incidents directed against the town's non-Slavic minorities, who make up less than 1 percent of the local population. Since the beginning of the year, violence has included a physical assault on a black radio and TV host, an arson attack on a Polish-Indian couple, and several assaults on Chechen families. Vandals have sprayed swastikas throughout the town, including on historically Jewish sites.

And activists warn that the incidents in the city of 300,000, which appear to be at least indirectly connected to the hard-core fans of a well-heeled local soccer club (known as "ultras"), indicate that there is growing acceptance of the far right in Poland. "In our view, spraying walls is like a [fascist] brown-shirt kindergarten," says Konrad Dulkowski, a local community organizer and the director of the Trzy Rzecze Theater. "If you don't stop it immediately these groups turn into criminal organizations." If vandalism is for kindergartners then 24-year-old Humid has met the graduates.

As a Chechen asylum seeker who wears a long, red beard consistent with his Muslim faith, it is perhaps not surprising that he has attracted the attention of extremists. Late one night in April, someone sprayed a propane-like substance under his apartment door and lit a match. Humid's mother awoke to the smell of smoke and the family -- including Humid's wife, brother, and two children -- hustled into the corridor and outside to safety. When Humid called the police, he says they came, surveyed the damage, and told him to call the next morning when his landlord would be available.

Constant Harassment
An investigation started only after the local press began reporting on his story. "To be honest with you, we don't sleep at night anymore," he says. "Every night there are these drunks, these skinheads in the hallways. We think it will happen again." Humid, who left Chechnya four years ago after his brother was involved in an unspecified conflict with the local government and who has asked for his full name not be used, says his family faces constant harassment. He was recently involved in an altercation with a group of Polish teens who shouted xenophobic insults as he walked with his mother from the grocery store. When his brother was attacked by a group of skinheads on a public bus, he said the driver did not do anything to stop the assault. "I can tell you with a 1,000 percent confidence that if it had been a Chechen [assaulting a Pole] they would have stopped the bus immediately and called the police," he says.

In Bialystok before World War II, Humid's presence in the town square, where he met with RFE/RL, may not have even raised eyebrows. The city, over 60 percent Jewish, also included Poles, Germans, Tatars, and Belarusians. Its ethnic diversity played a role in inspiring native son Ludwig Zamenhof to invent Esperanto in hopes of creating an artificial language that could unite distinct cultures. But the Nazi occupation ghettoized the city in 1941 and, despite an uprising in 1943, the Jewish population was annihilated. According to the most recent census information, the city is 97 percent Polish, with Belarusians making up another 2 percent of the population.

Racism On The Rise
Official statistics from 2002 show that non-Slavic minorities, including Roma and various migrant groups, number in the hundreds, but an influx of asylum seekers from Chechnya over the last five years has likely increased the share of non-Slavs. The string of attacks in Bialystok drew condemnation from Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and local authorities were embarrassed when Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz issued a warning on the incidents after a visit to the town. Tusk, who in April helped open a new Jewish history museum in Warsaw, has vehemently rejected accusations of Polish bigotry and both officials said cracking down on skinheads would be a priority. Racist incidents have not been limited to Bialystok, however. According to a survey from Never Again, a Warsaw-based antifascist watchdog, there were over 600 reported cases of xenophobic or racist acts from 2011 to 2012 -- a 40 percent increase over the previous two-year period.

Jacek Purski, an analyst with Never Again, says that, when the far right is given a media platform, its ideology spreads. Independence Day marches, which have become de facto nationalist rallies, are covered widely by national media, and radical right-wing political leaders are invited onto popular television programs. Although Polish far-right parties currently poll in the single digits, their leaders have told RFE/RL that they were inspired by the recent electoral successes elsewhere in Europe of groups like Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece. And in academic settings, nationalist leaders have recently encouraged supporters to heckle at least two influential Jewish lecturers, calling them "leftists" or "communists." In June, up to 100 nationalists interrupted a lecture at Wroclaw University by Zygmunt Bauman, who escaped the Holocaust, but was expelled from Poland during an anti-Semitic purge in 1968.

According to Purski, soccer clubs serve as the key organizing and fundraising arm for extremists at the local level. "Building such structures at the basis of fan culture and fan movements and fan associations creates enormous possibilities," he says. "Because, you know, you have people in each single big Polish city who are ready to spread leaflets, ready to put up posters, ready to vote. And also to gather more votes by interrupting other election meetings."

Soccer Skinheads
Conversations about bands of skinheads in Bialystok inevitably lead to the local soccer team, Jagiellonia, and its notorious "ultras" club, Children of Bialystok. Activists say the fan club's charitable ventures and even its name are a cover for its promotion of organized skinhead hooliganism. In September, Children of Bialystok was briefly banned after fans spat on and verbally abused a Nigerian player on their own team. Members are frequently photographed waving racist and xenophobic banners. Jagiellonia's chairman is the brother-in-law of Bialystok Mayor Tadeusz Truskolaski. A local public official, who asked not to be identified for fear of his personal safety, said top city leaders, the soccer team, and the fan club work in tandem to get financial and political support.  In July, the city awarded the team $500,000 for players to wear a promotional logo on their uniforms -- the latest in a series of financial contributions from the local government. A June investigative report by Polish "Newsweek" claimed that despite numerous acts of violence by Children of Bialystok's head, he had seemed to miraculously escape serious charges until the attacks drew national attention.

According to the prosecutor's office, 70 percent of cases involving racist incidents have been dismissed, but publicly, at least, the city has recently taken steps to address racism. Dulkowski, the local activist, says that the prosecutor's office has suddenly opened several investigations, including the case of the swastika that was originally dismissed as an eastern symbol of luck. In June, the city council put aside $33,000 o promote tolerance and a Jagiellonia spokesman promised that the team would take action against racist fans attending games. Nonetheless, Children of Bialystok appears to still have a close relationship with the soccer team, which did not respond to repeated requests for comment. According to a statement from the club, it recently held a meeting with the fan organization to reinforce "their openness and willingness to establish broader cooperation." Far from the soccer field, Humid, the Chechen arson victim, says he wants to move his family but cannot. Prospective new landlords tell him he is bait for property damage.
© HOPE not Hate News

up  

Oxfordshire hate crime helpline used 47 times (UK)

A dedicated 24-hour helpline set up in Oxfordshire to report hate crime has been contacted 47 times in its first six months.

6/8/2013- Stop Hate was set up last October in response to under-reporting of hate crime. Spokeswoman Una Morris said the charity was happy with the figure but she hoped the number of contacts would increase. The helpline was set up with £10,000 from police and councils and is funded until March 2014. The charity has been working with police, council workers and voluntary organisations to raise awareness of the helpline and hate crime.

'Name calling'
The 47 contacts include calls to the helpline, text messages and online contact. Ms Morris said: "We know that there are people who are experiencing incidents who do not yet know about our service. "There are others who are still building up the confidence to talk about what has happened to them." Hate crimes are offences against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity. The number of hate crimes recorded by Thames Valley Police in Oxfordshire fell by nearly 20% over the past year. From July 2012 to June 2013 the force logged 264 crimes compared to 327 the year before. However, Dan Harris from My Life My Choice, a charity working with people with learning difficulties in Oxfordshire, said he did not believe there had been a drop in hate crime. "I don't get the sense that anything much has changed. The vast majority of people we spoke to had experience of hate crime, from name calling to persistent behaviour such as bullying." Mr Harris said he hoped better publicity would lead to more people calling the helpline or police.
© BBC News

up  

Hungary: Murder convictions are 'wake-up call' over hate crimes against Roma

6/8/2013- The Hungarian authorities must do more to protect minority groups from hate crimes, Amnesty International urged today after four people were found guilty over the racially motivated murders of six Roma in 2008 and 2009. A Budapest court today handed life sentences to three of the convicted quartet, all known for supporting far-right ideology, over a spate of attacks between March 2008 and August 2009 in the northeast of the country. The fourth man received 13 years in prison for collusion. However, research by Amnesty International suggests hate crimes against Roma remain a serious concern in Hungary, while police lack the guidelines to thoroughly and effectively investigate them. "Five years after these cold-blooded killings, Roma in Hungary still do not receive adequate protection from hate crimes," said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia Programme.

"This horrific case should have been a wake-up call about the continuous, often violent discrimination faced by the Roma community, but the perpetrators of such acts are still not being brought to justice." The court found Zsolt Peto and brothers Arpad and Istvan Kiss guilty of carrying out nine attacks using firearms and Molotov cocktails targeting Romani houses in nine separate villages. The fourth member of the group - Istvan Csontos, who acted as a driver - was also jailed. Six people were killed and five injured in their year-long spree of violence, including a father and his four-year-old son who were shot dead as they tried to flee their home as it burned down. Another woman was shot dead in her sleep. Amnesty International's research shows there is still a lack of support for victims of hate crimes, such as counselling and legal assistance.

Hungary's Criminal Code does not explicitly include hate crimes in murder cases, with judges instead granted discretion when ruling on offences committed against minority groups such as Roma. Statistical data showing the scale of these crimes is not collected. "Today's verdict is a positive step, but Hungary has yet to learn the lessons from these killings. The authorities are still not doing enough to prevent and respond to violence against Roma," said Jezerca Tigani. "The government needs to introduce new measures to tackle hate crimes, such as procedures that clearly outline how such crimes should be investigated, police officers trained to recognize and investigate hate crimes and disaggregated data on hate crimes collected and made public."

Roma in Hungary are demonized by politicians and media, while communities continue to be harassed and attacked by far-right vigilante groups who march through their villages. Far-right party Jobbik and several vigilante groups held a march in the village of Devecser in August 2012. They reportedly threw pieces of concrete and other missiles at Roma homes, with the police officers present failing to intervene. The same month, a group dressed in black uniforms reportedly intimidated Romani residents in the village of Cegléd by chanting anti-Roma slogans and making death threats. In March 2011, the village of Gyöngyöspata was patrolled by vigilante groups for almost a month after a Jobbik march.
© Amnesty International News

up  

U.S. adds Sikhs, 6 other groups to hate crime stats

3/8/2013- The federal government will begin keeping numbers on hate crimes committed against Sikhs and six other groups in connection with Monday's one-year anniversary of the killing of six Sikh worshippers. Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement in a blog post Friday. The country's top lawyer said FBI Director Robert Mueller had approved a recommendation from the agency's advisory policy board to track hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus, Arabs, Buddhists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Orthodox Christians. "Having accurate information allows law enforcement leaders and policymakers to make informed decisions about the allocation of resources and priorities -- decisions that impact real people, and affect public safety in every neighbourhood and community," Holder wrote.

The addition had long been sought by members of the Sikh community. A year ago Monday, Wade Michael Page, who had ties to white supremacist groups, walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and opened fire. He killed six priests and worshippers and wounded five others, then fatally shot himself after he was wounded by a police sniper. Holder called the attack a "heinous act of hatred and terror." Pardeep Kaleka, son of former temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, who died in the massacre, said he appreciated anything that can draw attention to people being victimized for things like their race, religion or gender. "Progress is sort of a climb, and it takes a step at a time. This is one of those steps toward progress," he said.

Amardeep Singh, program director of the Sikh Coalition, said that while he welcomed the announcement as a "critical first step," the underlying conditions that caused the killings remain. "The last year has once again seen violent shootings and beatings of Sikhs throughout the country," he said. "It will take more than tracking hate crime statistics to stem the tide." Holder wrote that since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Justice Department has investigated more than 800 incidents involving violence, threats, assaults, vandalism and arson targeting Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs, South Asians and those perceived to be members of these groups.

Federal officials in Wisconsin held a remembrance Friday for the local Sikh community that drew several hundred people, including the six victims' families, temple members and the state's two senators. Dr. Kulwant Dhaliwal, the temple president, said his community was grateful for the chance to raise awareness of Sikh values and honour those who lost their lives. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said she was inspired by way the Sikhs reacted in the shooting's aftermath -- with gentleness and peace, not with calls for vengeance. "You've reminded us of the American values that hold us together as one community," she said. "You've reminded us of the values that define us as one people."
© The Associated Press

up  

Georgian court acquits priest accused of anti gay violence

3/8/2013- Tbilisi City Court on Thursday ruled that there is not enough evidence to prove the guilt of priest Tamaz Bichinashvili in the incidents of May 17, when clerics and their supporters dispersed a peaceful LGBT rally in Tbilisi. When a few tens of human rights activists that day tried to hold a previously announced half-hour protest against homophobia, thousands of counter-activists appeared in the streets and prevented them from carrying out the event. The police rescued the LGBT activists from the spot, but there were several incidents, which resulted in almost 30 people being injured. Police detained several people; two of them were priests. The court hearing, which was postponed several times, was eventually held on Thursday, and judge Merab Jorbenadze decided that there was not enough footage to prove the guilt of Priest Tamaz Bichinashvili. The Prosecutor’s Office accused him of illegally interrupting a demonstration through use of violence and threats. Other suspects are the cleric Irakli Basilaia and three civilians. Their trial will start on August 15.
© Democracy & Freedom Watch

up  

Headlines 2 August, 2013

Race hatred query on 'go home' vans (UK)

The Unite union has said it is seeking legal advice about whether the Home Office "incited racial hatred" by sending vans around London encouraging illegal immigrants to "go home".

2/8/2013- Its leader, Len McCluskey, called the poster-covered vehicles "vans of hate". Nick Clegg has criticised the pilot scheme, but the Home Office has said the message was not racist. Meanwhile, new peer Doreen Lawrence has said police stop-and-check operations focus "mainly on people of colour". The Labour-supporting mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, told ITV's Daybreak she thought "racial profiling" was involved - a suggestion rejected by ministers. The controversy comes after it was revealed that nearly 140 people had been arrested in a wave of raids aimed at tackling people working illegally in the UK and firms employing them.

'Free advice'
The Home Office's week-long immigration publicity pilot scheme involved six vans driving around north London, carrying a board asking: "In the UK illegally?"
The poster continued: "Go home or face arrest." It supplied a text messaging number for those seeking "free advice, and help with travel documents". The Metropolitan Police told the BBC it had received a complaint from a person in the London borough of Hounslow. A spokesman added the complainant had been spoken to and advised that the matter had been "recorded as not a crime". Speaking on Wednesday, the deputy prime minister said he was "very surprised" to see vans "driving aimlessly around north London" telling illegal immigrants to go home, and that they were not a "very clever way" of tackling the issue.

Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 5 live that no Liberal Democrats - including Home Office minister Jeremy Browne - had known about the pilot scheme in advance. Downing Street had said the vans had been approved by the "Home Office team". No 10 also said on Monday that the pilot scheme using the vans had worked, although the Home Office said it was too soon to make a final assessment as a poster and leaflet campaign was continuing.

Arrests
Separately, Mrs Lawrence - confirmed this week as a Labour peer - spoke out against a scheme where spot checks have been carried out near railway stations as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration. She said: "Why would you focus mainly on people of colour? "I'm sure there's illegal immigrants from all countries, but why would you focus that on people of colour, and I think racial profiling is coming into it." Some 139 people were arrested at locations including London, Durham, Manchester, Wales and Somerset. The Equality and Human Rights Commission said it was writing to the Home Office to ask whether any "unlawful discrimination" had taken place. A spokesman added: "The letter will also ask questions about the extent to which the Home Office complied with its public sector equality duty when planning the recent advertising campaign targeted at illegal migration."

'Reasonable suspicion'
Labour said enforcement operations must not be "based on ethnicity" while the UK Independence Party said the raids appeared to have been "heavy-handed". But immigration minister Mark Harper rejected claims of racial profiling, saying operations were intelligence-driven and officers had to have reasonable suspicion that an offence had been committed to arrest someone. "We don't have the legal power...and we don't have the inclination to just stop people at random," he said. "I am confident everything we have been doing has been both lawful and proportionate to the offences we are trying to deal with." The rules of engagement for immigration officers were published on the Home Office website, he added, and he was confident that officials were complying with them. He added: "The public want us to take firm action against people who are in the country illegally and have no right to be here."

Analysis
By Louise Stewart Political correspondent, BBC News

The pilot scheme only ran in six London boroughs and lasted for one week, but the political fall out has been much wider. Unite leader Len McCluskey wasn't alone in condemning the vans. Labour branded the scheme "stupid politics from a government not getting the basics right on immigration". The coalition is split on the issue. Nick Clegg criticised the scheme and was clear that no Liberal Democrat had given it their approval. But Number 10 defended the pilot, which it insisted was working. UKIP leader Nigel Farage, in favour of a tougher stance on immigration, described the message on the vans as "nasty and unpleasant". He said it was clearly aimed at encouraging people not to vote UKIP. The Home Office insists the "go home" message is aimed directly at illegal immigrants. But perhaps the wider message it wants to convey is that this government is serious about tackling illegal immigration, which is likely to be a key battleground in the run-up to the next election.
© BBC News

up  

Recent Neo Nazi Victim Dies. Anti-Nazi Activists in Danger! (Russia)

2/8/2013- According to the human right activist, Dr. Valentin Degtyarev, MD, who closely monitors infamous Neo Nazi group "Occupy Pedofilyaj", the Uzbek victim shown on these photo's tragically died as a result of numerous tortures. No arrests have been made and no charges were pressed. Putin's law enforcement seems to fully condone these actions. Moreover, Dr. Degtyarev's numerous written complains to the authorities only resulted in his own persecution and threats directed at him and his 72 years old mother. In the official correspondence from the local District Attorney office and Governor's office it was explained that Russian authorities do not see any wrongdoings in the video clips or photographs posted by Neo Nazi group "Occupy Pedofilyaj." Actually, the authorities referred to this group as one of the "civil movements fighting the sins of the society." Dr. Degtyarev diligently collects every piece of evidence and correspondence and records all phone conversation with direct threats to him and his mother. Yet, no actions from authorities have resulted so far. Dr. Degtyarev is routinely approached and offended on the street, receives numerous threats via mail, phone, SMS and email. He is not alone in his fight though.

Another brave activist dared to stand-up to this gang. His name is Artem Gorodilov. This LGBT rights activist was kidnapped in the middle of the night and brought to the local cemetery in Kamensk-Uralsky city (Sverdlovsk district). He was tortured and bullied there for being gay, spreading "gay propaganda" on the Internet and complaining about this hate group to the authorities. Eventually this Nazi group dismantled a huge wooden cross from one of the graves nearby and made Mr. Gorodilov to run with it for his life while being chased by their car. This incident caught attention of the local branch of the Russian Orthodox church who thought that the Nazi group displayed a disrespect to the Holy Cross and offended feelings of their believers thus the church representatives complained to the police. As a result, these Nazi group was brought by the police for questioning and immediately released.

Here is a full video of the horrific night at the cemetery. Mr. Gorodilov was brought to the grave of another victim of this Neo Nazi group that was driven to the suicide by them. One of the perpetrators was glad to point out this fact on the video. After being questioned by the police and released the same Neo Nazi group found Mr. Gorodilov, bullied him again and poured urine on him. We can only admire this young man bravery and attitude toward his tormentors.

Again, charges were pressed and nobody was arrested so far ...
© Spectrum Human Rights Alliance

up  

1/8/2013- St. Petersburg police stopped an anti-migrant “Russian raid” late Wednesday and detained its alleged organizer, cracking down on a campaign described by participants as a “pogrom” after three days of ignoring it. About 20 people, many wielding baseball bats, were detained in the center of the northern Russian city ahead of a planned raid, local police said in a statement Thursday. Most were soon released, but ultranationalist Dmitry “Mad” Yevtushenko was detained and faces hooliganism charges, which carry up to seven years in prison, BaltInfo.ru regional news website reported. The “Russian raids” have been targeting street vendors, who are accused by the raiders of being illegal migrants without work permits.

Though the raiders denied violence at their events, speaking only about checking documents and reporting violators to the police, some media reported incidents of nationalists smashing fruit stands with baseball bats, and a video posted on newsru.com website showed the raiders hurling crates of fruit to the ground. Raid co-organizer Nikolai Bondarik repeatedly referred to the campaign as a “pogrom” in semi-ironic messages on his Twitter page. Though the raids began Monday, St. Petersburg police only opened a case late on Wednesday, citing unspecified reports about wrongdoing at the raids. Fontanka.ru city news website said police were pushed into action after the nationalists almost clashed with a group of migrants during one of the raids, where only a police patrol on the site prevented a mass brawl.

Anti-migrant raids are an increasingly popular tactic with Russian nationalists. This week’s attacks were triggered by an incident at a Moscow market at the weekend, when a man from the southern Russian republic of Dagestan – whose residents are often seen as similar to foreign migrants by Russians outside the North Caucasus – smashed the skull of an on duty policeman who was attempting to detain another market worker on suspicion of sexual assault.
© RIA Novosti

up  

Police: Suspects fire on Roma family with machine gun (Slovakia)

1/8/2013- Unknown suspects allegedly fired 22 shots from a machine gun into the courtyard of a Roma family home in Horná Kráľová near Šaľa while shouting “dirty Gypsies come out” on July 31. Nobody was hurt during the attack. Police officials said they are not considering it a hate crime, but rather a case of causing damage to private property, according to the daily Sme. According to witnesses, at approximately 3 a.m. two cars stopped in front of the house with angry men who firstly poured inflammable liquid at the gates and then started firing at the house and car of the 35-year old resident. Some reports are linking the incident to an earlier fight at a local pub over a broken glass, according to TV Markíza. There are two generations of people living in the house who were hiding under the beds during the attack, Sme reported.

The suspects damaged a car, the gate and windows of the house; and the crime scene technician detained 22 cartridges from type-58 machine gun, Božena Bruchterová, the Police Department in Nitra spokesperson told the SITA newswire. Police are still investigating a motive. The suspects allegedly left the scene before police arrived and were not masked, according to Sme.
Source: Sme, TV Markíza, SITA
© The Slovak Spectator

up  

Anti-Gay Riot In Tblisi Tests Balance Between Church, State (Georgia)

30/7/2013- While gay rights have been gaining ground in the West, they've been facing a strong backlash in many countries of the former Soviet Union. Russia recently that makes it a crime to give information about "non-traditional sexual relationships" to minors. Gay-rights advocates say the wording of the law is so vague that it can be used to or, in fact, any public discussion of same-sex issues. Homosexuality was a crime in the former Soviet Union, and it remains so in former Soviet republics such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The former Soviet republic of Georgia is contending with the aftermath of an episode of mass violence that took place in May. In Georgia's capital city, Tblisi, a mob of thousands attacked a small group of people who were staging a protest against homophobia. The leaders of the attack? Georgian Orthodox priests. The episode raised issues about human rights in a religiously conservative country, as well as questions about the balance of power between church and state.

Priests Among Violent Attackers
The incident began when members of Georgia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and their supporters obtained a permit to hold a vigil on the steps of parliament. They planned to mark the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17. When some leaders of the Georgian Orthodox Church heard about it, they urged their congregations to come to a counterdemonstration, which was promoted as a peaceful and family-oriented event. When the day came, it was anything but peaceful. Led by Orthodox priests, the crowd overwhelmed the police barrier around the small group of anti-homophobia demonstrators. Video from the clash shows a priest brandishing a stool as a weapon; other priests are heard to curse and yell "Kill them! Kill them!"

Nino Kharchilava was part of a small group of demonstrators that never even made it to the parliament steps. They were surrounded by counterdemonstrators and threatened until police hustled them into a minibus in an effort to get them away from the mob. Kharchilava is a project assistant for the Women's Initiatives Supporting Group in Tblisi. She says the bus, too, was overwhelmed by attackers, who smashed most of the windows and thrust their hands through the broken glass to get at the demonstrators inside. "One guy was like, hitting [at] me, and I just tried to communicate and tried to say 'What are you doing?' " she recalls. "And when I saw the blood around, and I couldn't figure out whether this blood is mine, or not, and then I realized it's not my blood, it's their blood." "You know, they were ready to kill themselves [in order to kill] us," Kharchilava says. "It was really insane."

Church Does Not Punish Participants
The Rev. Mikael Botkovali, a spokesman for the Orthodox Church, brought members of his own congregation to the demonstration. On a recent day, he sits in the calm baptistery of his church, surrounded by saints painted in the Byzantine style. Botkovali says the church opposes homosexuality, but it doesn't seek to interfere with what gay people do in private. Where the faithful must speak out, he says, is when LGBT people seek to spread what he calls "homosexual propaganda." "Religion obliges us to talk to these people and to show them that they're wrong, they're sinners," he says. "Even in the Bible, it's written about these people that, all of them, they will go to hell." But Botkovali condemns the violence and says the priests who led it were rightly punished under civil and church law. When pressed, he concedes that the church punishment consists only of suspending the priests from serving for a while and sending them to a monastery outside the city until they confess their errors. After the violence, Georgia's prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, said that those who promoted the violence would be punished.

A Test For The Rule Of Law
But gay-rights activist Irakli Vacharadze says that so far, the civil punishment hasn't been strong enough to show that Georgia's new government is willing to apply the rule of law to such a popular and powerful institution as the church. Vacharadze is the executive director of an LGBT organization called Identova, or "Identity," and he was at the May 17 demonstration. He says that key members of Georgia's parliament, including the head of the Committee on Human Rights, have declared themselves subservient to the patriarch of the Orthodox Church. "What does it mean," Vacharadze asks, "when the chair of the human rights committee says that 'our statement on the human rights violations will not go over what the patriarch has said'? It's a theocracy. It's quite dangerous. We don't want to turn Georgia into next Iran."

Lasha Bakradze, the head of the Georgian Literature Museum in Tblisi, helped organize an online petition against homophobic violence. He says more than 12,000 people signed the petition in its first two days online. The mass violence on May 17 isn't just about sexual orientation and traditional values, Bakradze says, it's a demonstration of power by extremists who have made their way into the higher levels of the church. "I think that the church in Georgia has shown to the government how powerful [it is] ... and it's dangerous, and it's against Georgian statehood," he says. But Archil Kbilashvili, Georgia's chief prosecutor, says the case is not over, and that priests who were involved in the violence still face charges that could require them to serve jail time. And, he says, no matter what the outcome, the case will serve as a key precedent. "We cannot remember when our prosecution office introduced charges against some spiritual leaders," Kbilashvili says. LGBT rights groups say they're still waiting for proof that the government will hold those spiritual leaders to account under the law.
© NPR News

up  

Czech intelligence service: Ordinary citizens' anti-Romani sentiments more dangerous than right-wing extremists

30/7/2013- The Czech Republic's Security Information Service (Bezpečnostní informační služba - BIS) has released its quarterly report on developments in the extremist scene on its website. The report says anti-Romani sentiment among a segment of the public could pose a greater problem for state security than small groups of right-wing extremists do. The report points out that ordinary citizens have recently participated in anti-Romani demonstrations in České Budějovice and Duchcov. The intelligence service believes inter-ethnic tensions must be resolved immediately and pragmatically. The report is available online (in Czech only) 

Most of those participating in the recent demonstrations in České Budějovice and Duchcov were ordinary citizens. At these events they have been venting their dissatisfaction with what they view as the insufficient resolution of problems they are experiencing with members of the Romani minority. "Even though many right-wing extremists were among those participating in these events, their dominant component was comprised of ordinary citizens venting their dissatisfaction with what they view as the insufficient resolution of problems they are experiencing with members of the Romani minority and the approach taken by the public bodies responsible for that area," the BIS report reads. The BIS has also pointed out that these ordinary citizens are the ones most affected when disturbances of public order or petty crime is insufficiently addressed in their neighborhoods.

"Even the slightest impulse, combined with latent antigypsyism, means these people want to vent the frustration generated by their everyday problems, and that venting leads to even more radical manifestations," the report reads. BIS believes such anti-Romani posturing by ,this segment of the public could, in the long term, pose a greater threat from a security point of view than activities that might be more extreme but are committed by the less numerous and relatively well-mapped groups of right-wing extremists in the country. "There is a need to begin resolving inter-ethnic tensions immediately, pragmatically, and without emotion. Otherwise, in the long run there is the risk that this problem will gradually escalate, along with the skepticism of part of the public regarding the value of the democratic principles of the Czech Republic," the authors of the report warn.

The BIS further noted that the ultra-right Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) attempted to exploit the anti-Romani sentiment felt by that segment of society during the past quarter when it held a demonstration in Duchcov on 22 June. The event was attended by roughly 1 000 people, of whom about one-half were DSSS members. "Despite this relatively high attendance, however, the party did not succeed in exploiting the situation to increase its own popularity. The party was not involved in the demonstrations in České Budějovice," the intelligence service pointed out. "The demonstrations in České Budějovice mainly involved small informal groups of hooligans and right-wing extremists, often from various places all over the country, many of whom initiated the clashes with police officers," reads the BIS report. The intelligence service also reported that the DSSS convened a 1 May assembly in Přerov that was attended by between 300 - 400 people and did not involve any disturbances of public order.
© Romea.

up  

Anti-Semitism in Sweden Forces Jews to Question their Future

Rampant anti-Semitism in Sweden's third-largest city causing serious concern for local Jews. Perpetrators primarily Muslim immigrants.

31/7/2013- Attacks against Jews in Malmoe, Sweden's third largest city, have left members of the community questioning their future in a place known for its "multiculturalism." Jewish people have lived in Malmoe for over two centuries, often arriving in the south Swedish port city - a safe haven for generations - after fleeing persecution and intolerance in other parts of Europe. But though waves of immigration over the past two decades have made the area more diverse, hate crimes appear to be on the rise and many people - paradoxically - say they feel less secure. Highlighting a problem many Swedes had thought long relegated to history, the US special envoy for anti-Semitism even visited Malmoe last year.

Typically, but not exclusively, the perpetrators of anti-Semitic hate crimes are "young men with roots in the Middle East", according to Jehoshua Kaufman, a member of Malmoe's Jewish congregation. Parents are especially worried about their children being subjected to abuse at school. Bullying has been a problem "not for everyone, not always, but very often", said Kaufman, as he took part in a regular march known as the "kippah walks" - referring to the Jewish skullcaps worn by the demonstrators - organised to battle anti-Semitism.

Around a third of Malmoe's 310,000 residents were born abroad, with the largest minorities coming from the Balkans, Iraq and neighbouring Denmark. The total number of Jews in the city is estimated to be around 2,000, with around 600 that are members of its synagogue. In 2012, 66 anti-Jewish hate crimes were reported, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention. According to figures from Malmoe police, 60 reports were made, compared with just 31 in Stockholm, with more than three times the population. Thirty-five have already been reported in Malmoe so far this year. The figures seem to be on the up -- in 2010 and 2011, a total of 44 reports were made over the two years combined.

Shneur Kesselman, a US-born orthodox rabbi, has had insults and objects hurled after him on the streets of Malmoe more times than he can remember. With his traditional Hasidic black clothing, redora hat and beard, he cuts an incongruous figure in the traditionally working-class, immigrant-heavy eastern half of the city. But he insists on staying. "It's a little hard to explain. My wife and I have made Malmoe our project. We feel a sense of responsibility for Jewish life here," he said. The response by local authorities has been patchy at best.

Malmoe's former mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, gained notoriety after suggesting members of the Jewish community had themselves to blame when a rally they organised during the 2008-2009 Gaza War was attacked with bottles and eggs. "I wish the Jewish congregation would distance itself from Israel's violations of the civilian population in Gaza," Reepalu told a local newspaper. Last year, the social democratic mayor courted more controversy by saying the Jewish community had been "infiltrated" by the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats - a claim he later retracted. The Sweden Democrats have sought to use the attacks on Malmoe's Jews for political gain, framing them as a by-product of Sweden's generous immigration laws. "It's clear that misguided skinheads aren't the major threat against Jews in Sweden today, but the imported anti-Semitism from the Muslim group," parliamentarian Kent Ekeroth wrote in an op-ed.

Taking action
But members of Malmoe's Jewish community say that anti-Semitism is not just the preserve of immigrants. In an incident in 2010, local youths in Vellinge, a middle-class town with few immigrants on the outskirts of Malmoe, shouted Nazi slogans at people attending a weekend event for children at a Jewish recreation centre and threw eggs at the building. "But in Malmoe it's the young Muslim guys that are the problem, that has to be said. They come from countries where there are racist, anti-Semitic TV programmes," said Barbro Posner, a member of the Jewish community.

The authorities not appear to be addressing the problem. Ilmar Reepalu's replacement Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, who assumed the mayorship this month, told APF the city's schools were trying to combat racism by providing special training for teachers. The city has also invited community leaders to a "dialogue forum" tasked with "combating religious and ethnic discrimination". Ala-Eddin Al-Qut, head of the local chapter of Sweden's Islamic Association, said the group had been able to change people's attitudes after getting Muslim organisations to address anti-Semitism in their Friday sermons. The Malmoe Palestine Network had also banned some signs and slogans from its anti-war demonstrations, he said. "You have to distinguish between Jews and Israelis," Al-Qut said - though such a sweeping comments about "Israelis" is hardly likely to reassure local Jews either.

Sofia Nerbrand, co-founder of the kippah walks, said the rest of Sweden viewed Malmoe as a litmus test for whether multiculturalism could work in the once homogenous country, especially in the wake of a series of gang-related shootings involving immigrants. In late 2011 and early 2012, five people were shot dead in Malmoe in less than six weeks. At least some of the killings appeared to be linked to organised crime, prompting Reepalu to call for stricter gun laws. "If we fail here, people will say: 'Look what happens when you bring in too many Muslims'," said Nerbrand. Jehoshua Kaufman said the racism he and other Jews had encountered was not limited to just Malmoe but simply more visible there than in places like Stockholm due to the city's compact and less segregated centre.
© Arutz Sheva

up  

Violent anti-women website taken down by MDI (Netherlands)

30/7/2013- The website ikhaatmijnleven.nl (IHateMyLife) on which incitement to hatred and violence against women ran rampant and which caused a lot of commotion, is no longer online. Following action by the Dutch Cyber Hate Watchdog MDI (a part of Magenta Foundation), the owner removed the site.

Recently the MDI received several reports about hateful material on ikhaatmijnleven.nl. This non-moderated site consisted entirely of contributions from visitors and served as an outlet for anyone who wanted to post anything. With obvious consequences; verbal abuse, pornography and incitement to violence and hatred against women. Last Monday, July 29th, things reached a pinnacle of horror with the publication of several very extreme images of women who were being raped and a photo of a woman who had been cut open, accompanied by calls for rape.

Given the criminal nature of the material the MDI decided to ask the owner to remove it, but this was not possible due to his well-shielded anonymity. Instead, the MDI started a so- called 'Notice and Takedown' procedure with the webhost of the site. Following contact between the host and the owner of the site, the latter chose to remove ikhaatmijnleven.nl completely.

Normally the MDI is very reluctant to use the Notice & Takedown procedure (NTD) simply because we believe that Internet Service and Hosting Providers are not in the first place responsible for the material on their machines. Primarily because of the severity of the material we found it necessary to use NTD. It is only the third time in our 16-year existence that we have chosen to do this.
© Dutch Cyber Hate Watchdog MDI

up  

Twitter Hate Crime: Is Prevention Better Than Cure... Or Even Possible? (UK,opinion)

By Mark Wilson, Writer and tech enthusiast

30/7/2013- There is barely a week goes by without one website, social network or other coming to prominence, and this time it's Twitter hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons once again. Caroline Criado-Perez campaigned to have Jane Austen featured on a bank note, and the Bank of England agreed that the author should replace Charles Darwin on £10 notes. There are two reasonable reactions to this - congratulating the Bank of England on responding to a campaign to commemorate the female novelist, or becoming upset that another prominent figure wasn't chosen over Austen. One could also have no reaction at all... after all it is perfectly possible that you care not a jot who appears on the front and back of notes and coins.

But there are also a few who react in a bizarre, inexplicable, incomprehensible manner. Over a 12 hour period Criado-Perez was subject to not only the expected tweets of support and derision but also something rather more sinister - threats of rape. Quite what would compel anyone to react in such a way to a woman's successful campaigning is something for psychologists to look into. The fact is it has happened, and it is despicable. These are two indisputable facts. Oddly, it has been Twitter that has come under fire just as much as those posting the hateful comments. Why? Again, it's a case of 'why isn't someone doing something about this'? Should - and indeed, could - Twitter really be responsible for the policing of the content of the millions of tweets that are made each day?

Events such as this open up question about how people view the internet. We already know that tweets can be libellous. Really this should not come as a surprise, but for many people this is quite an eye-opener. We now all have the ability publish anything we want online, free of charge, in an instant. While many users of Twitter and other social networks manually filter what they say, this is far from being the case for everyone. It is very easy to fire off an acid-tongued response to something you disagree with online - particularly when shrouded in the virtual anonymity the internet affords us - but most reasonable internet users till put some thought into what they type, and will frequently self-censor having furiously typed out an angry tirade.

But of course there are those that don't. Witless fools frequently troll online forums and message boards. Hiding behind a keyboard it's easy for someone to succumb to the belief that they are free to say whatever you to whoever they want. The bully mentality has moved from the playground to the online arena with seemingly no consequences. What many internet users fail to understand is that publishing online - even if it is only a personal blog or website - is little different to publishing in a national newspaper and that it is subject to much the same laws. Threats of rape or violence published in a newspaper would be unimaginable - threats of or incitement to cause violence are illegal. There is no reason for online content to be treated any differently.

So what's the solution? Dredging of user data produces an unmanageable amount of information as the NSA has discovered, and the internet operates on a global level, not just a national one. It is not really feasible to consider having preventive measures in place - it would just not be practical to have every single published article, post, tweet, forum discussion etc vetted for illegal content before it was allowed to go live - so, just as with most crimes, the majority of online crimes can only be dealt with as and when they occur.

It is possible to report objectionable and illegal content to Twitter - users can be reported for posting spam, and the support section of the website can be used to complain about other abuses. There is currently a petition running calling on Twitter to implement a 'Report Abuse' button to make it quicker and easier to voice concerns about tweets - but is this the answer? If such a button was added to each and every tweet, I think it is likely that it would be subject to abuse itself. See a tweet you disagree with? Report it as abuse. Fallen out with someone and want to get back at them? Report all of their tweets as abusive. This seems petty, but it's very likely that this is exactly how things would pan out.

And if the abuse reporting button is to be of any use at all, Twitter would have to spend time and money properly investigating every single report - regardless of whether it was a report of a serious crime, or a petty squabble between two people. But if something is a crime, or is considered to be so, it should be the police - national or international as appropriate - who are dealing with things. Companies such as Twitter do not have the infrastructure in place to prevent illegal messages from appearing and nor should the company be expected to proactively seek out illegal content.

Yes, it should be easy to report content that breaks the law, but whatever system is put in place needs to be very carefully implemented or it will be as good as useless. Education of internet users is also important. It needs to be made clear that the web is not a free-for-all where anything goes. Laws that apply to the land, apply to the web. This is something that needs to be unambiguous. Prevention of disgusting attacks like those on Criado-Perez is practically impossible, but if complete prevention is not possible and cleaning up after the fact is going to be seen as being too late, ensuring that the discouragement of the full weight of the law is hanging over web users might at least help to stem the flow of hate.
© The Huffington Post - UK

up  

Black Italian minister Kyenge suffers banana insult

Italian politicians have reacted with anger after the country's first black minister had bananas thrown at her during a political rally.

27/7/2013- Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, who has suffered racial abuse in the past, dismissed the act as "a waste of food". But Environment Minister Andrea Orlando said on Twitter he felt the "utmost indignation" over the incident. Earlier this month an Italian senator apologised after saying Ms Kyenge reminded him of an orangutan. Congolese-born Ms Kyenge was speaking at a Democratic Party (PD) rally in Cervia on Friday when an unidentified spectator threw bananas towards the stage, narrowly missing her. Italian police say they are trying to find the culprit.

'Courage to change'
Responding on Twitter, Ms Kyenge called the incident "sad" and "a waste of food". "The courage and optimism to change things has to come above all from the bottom up to reach the institutions," she added. Italian politicians rallied behind her on Saturday with messages of support and condemnation. Education Minister Maria Chiara Carrozza praised Ms Kyenge for her courage and determination in such a hostile climate. Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia from the anti-immigration Northern League also spoke out against the incident, saying: "Throwing bananas, personal insults... acts like these play no part in the civilised and democratic discussion needed between the minister and those who don't share her opinion." Correspondents say the slurs and threats suffered by Ms Kyenge have highlighted the extent of casual racism in Italian society. Senate vice-president Roberto Calderoli, of the Northern League, faced calls to quit earlier this month after making the orangutan remarks. He told parliament he had made a "serious mistake" with his "offensive" comment and he would send Ms Kyenge a bunch of roses.
© BBC News

up  

RSS feed
Suggestions and comments please to info@icare.to