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Monday, 21 March 2011

Roma in Hungarian village terrorized by racist "National Guards"

They march through the village every morning in heavy boots, tight pants, black vests and white shirts. It's not a carnival parade, but a patrol by the nationalist and racist Hungarian National Guard, which has its own vision of what "order" is. This past week the Guard wanted to introduce "national order" in the North Moravian village of Gyöngyöspata, where they are making life very unpleasant for local Roma.

"In Parliament they told me I'm a disaster tourist," says Gábor Vóna, chair of the opposition Party for a Better Hungary (Jobbik), which is radical, devious, and very far-right. On 15 March the party made the decision in Budapest for the Guard to target the village of Gyöngyöspata. "I don't deny that I was there with them. I both saw and heard a catastrophic situation," Vóna says.


The first person this reporter encountered in Gyöngyöspata was Piroska, an approximately 35-year-old woman standing by a house in the center of the Roma quarter. The Roma minority in this village lives in a separate section, in homes that are a bit more shoddy than the houses where the Hungarian majority lives, but there is neither chaos nor squalor there. Conditions overall are fairly orderly, at least as far as the houses and yards are concerned.

Piroska tells me that "THEY" march here every morning, singing their songs, and that at night "THEY" shine floodlights into her windows. This happens even though her family is considered one of the most proper in the village.

Who are "THEY"? They usually wear boots, and some are in camouflage, but the majority are in those black pants, white shirts and a black vest with "For a more beautiful future" inscribed across the back of the uniform. That is the name of their club for "protecting citizens", but in reality they are just ordinary fascist Guards, who have come here to terrorize the Roma population.

The leader of one such group, Tamás Eszes, claims they just wanted to see for themselves what was going on in the village, because they were receiving complaints that the Roma were stealing in large numbers and are impossible to live with. He and his people should have left town by now, but the Hungarian population allegedly demanded they stay. He claims the non-Roma people were glad some soldiers finally showed up.

When I ask Piroska what the local Hungarians think of the Guard, she says her fellow citizens are of two kinds: Those who are glad the Guard is there, and those who have had enough of them. Whether people are going to the store, to the doctor, or waiting for the bus, wherever they go, the "Guardists" are there in large numbers.

"I am not exaggerating: This is a state of apartheid," insists Aladár Horváth, the outraged head of a well-known Hungarian civic association for Roma rights and freedoms. He is surrounded by about 500 people, half of whom are members of various civic associations from Budapest, the other half of whom are local Roma people.

The aim of the gathering is to draw attention to the license being taking by the Guards and to the fact that the police - the only authority with the right to use force when crimes are being committed - is taking no action. To be more precise, the police are active when it is necessary to prosecute Roma people, let's say, for theft - then, they take action - but when an illegal squad of racists has been marching through a village for two weeks, the police do nothing.

The owner of the local bed-and-breakfast, Magdolna Bernáth, invites the activists from the capital to spend a year - or at least three days a week - in the village. If they come for just an hour or two, she says, they will not get a trustworthy image of the real situation in the village of Gyöngyöspata. When asked what the solution is, she has a simple answer: Everyone must work.

If you want to eat, you must make money - that is the local businesswoman's recipe. She doesn't say the "Gypsies" don't want to work, she just says there is a lot of fertile land in the village that would produce for anyone for free, but it continues to lie fallow.

The Roma children in the village, however, are enthusiastically reciting the most revolutionary work of Hungarian poet Sándor Petőfi, because at this time of year the whole country marks the anniversary of the 1848 revolution. Everyone in Hungary knows these lines, even Roma children:

"God of Hungarians, we swear unto Thee, We swear unto Thee - that slaves we shall no longer be!"

See the full Radiožurnál report in Czech: Maďarskou vesnici terorizují nacionalistické gardy.



With 86 percent of votes counted, Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the president's center-right supporters had won 32.5 percent of the vote, with left-wing parties totaling 48 percent and Le Pen's anti-immigrant party polling 15 percent. However, polling institutes said Sarkozy's own UMP party scored just 16 percent, barely ahead of the National Front. The interior ministry did not issue any separate score for the UMP. The opposition Socialist party won about 25 percent with the hardline Left Front on 9 percent, ecologists on 8 percent and unaffiliated left-wing candidates with another 6 percent. "This may be the best result we have ever recorded in cantonal elections, which are not traditionally favorable to the National Front," Le Pen said on France 2 television. The vote showed people were turning their backs on decades of look-alike policies of center-right and center-left governments that had driven France into economic and social decline, she said.

The local elections, the last popular vote before next year's presidential election in which Sarkozy is expected to seek a second five-year term, confirmed Le Pen's breakthrough to stand neck-and-neck with other likely mainstream contenders. The decisive second round of the departmental elections for some 2,000 local councilors will be held next Sunday. Because the voting system favors alliances, the National Front is unlikely to win many seats since UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope reaffirmed that the mainstream conservatives would not back any far-right candidate. Turnout in the first round was at a record low of 45 percent, according to the interior ministry. One of the most unpopular presidents in recent history, Sarkozy has trailed left-wing rivals in opinion polls for months but he has now also fallen behind Le Pen in three surveys.

Typically, the National Front scores poorly in departmental elections, and Sunday's results were another indication that the far right is eating into Sarkozy's support due to exasperation over unemployment, living standards and immigration. Marine Le Pen, elected leader in January, has given the party a less abrasive image than her father Jean-Marie, who was convicted of inciting racial hatred and minimizing the Nazi Holocaust. While popular Socialist IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is keeping France guessing over whether he will run and Sarkozy has yet to formally announce his candidacy, Le Pen is already on the campaign trail. Her overtaking of Sarkozy has put conservatives on the defensive, insisting he is their best candidate.

Sarkozy's personal popularity ratings have slumped to around 29 percent in recent surveys taken before he put France in the vanguard of an international coalition to stop Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces attacking civilian protesters. A CSA poll this month credited Strauss-Kahn with 30 percent support in the first round of a presidential election, with Le Pen on 21 percent and Sarkozy 19 percent. A second, more recent Ipsos survey gave Strauss-Kahn 33 percent versus 19 for Le Pen and 18 percent for Sarkozy.


Anti-Racism Week Starts in Finland

Finland is celebrating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today, on Monday, with several cities holding events to celebrate. The day kicks off an action week against racism.

The Red Cross is campaigning against racism in schools, workplaces, on the streets and on Facebook. They are handing out anti-racist pioneer awards and ’I am opposed to racism’ badges. An electronic version is also available on their Facebook page.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination can trace its roots to March 21 1960, to commemorate the Sharpeville massacre in which Apartheid-era South African police killed 69 people demonstrating peacefully against repressive laws.

Six years later the United Nations General Assembly declared the first International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.


March 21st is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid "pass laws". Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination (resolution 2142 (XXI)).

Since then, the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and we have built an international framework for fighting racism, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Convention is now nearing universal ratification, yet still, in all regions, too many individuals, communities and societies suffer from the injustice and stigma that racism brings.

The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reminds us of our collective responsibility for promoting and protecting this ideal.

United Nations Website