Far-right vigilante’s “take over” town in Hungary

29 03 2011

The Hungarian far right looks set to roll out a campaign of Roma intimidation after meeting little resistance to its vigilante “law and order” mission in Gyongyospata, a Hungarian village of 2,800 people 80km north-east of Budapest.

For A Better Future, a paramilitary organisation deriving its name from a Nazi youth movement slogan, entered the village at the start of the month. It conducted foot and car patrols, followed Roma around and stopped them from entering shops.

On March 10, the intimidation reached its peak when 1,000 black-uniformed neo-Nazis marched through the village, some reportedly armed with dogs, whips and chains.

Many Roma were afraid to leave their homes or take their children to school. The local mayor, Laszlo Tabi, who is not officially allied to a political party, allegedly offered his seal of approval, while the police sat on their hands.

“I cried when I saw them marching,” says Janos Farkas, the spokesman for the village’s 450-strong Roma community which centres around a dirt road in a shallow valley at the edge of the village. Many of the dilapidated homes do not have mains water and few of their occupants jobs.

“I can’t see how this could happen in a democratic country? The police are now present, but why did they let it go on for three weeks?” asks Farkas.

Nothing has been done to stop the vigilantes from restarting their activities here or to prevent them springing up elsewhere.

“Roma have lived here for 500 years and have always stuck to the law. Only one or two youngsters have done anything wrong,” says Farkas.

There is no evidence that even petty crime has risen in Gyongyospata, but the financial crisis has driven up the significance of people’s everyday possessions and the far right is only too happy for the chance to profit from the heightened sensitivity.

Care of Al Jazeera.  Read the full version here.





Racism against African migrants in Libya

2 03 2011

Revolutions are notoriously fickle creatures.  All too often would-be revolutionaries turn out to be what they hate.  The introduction of violence on the scale seen in Libya only serves to prompt revolutionaries to push back.  Gaddafi’s practice of importing mercenaries has also inflamed the situation, with innocent African migrants being caught up in the mix.  Likewise, the overarching narrative that has been spun in the international media, and often, by the revolutionaries themselves, has taken a particularly nationalist bent and no doubt, this is fall out.

But then the character of the Libyan revolution has been wholly different to that of Egypt and Tunisia.  The institutions and regimes in these countries have been unique.  While Mubarak and Ben Ali had maintained ties with their international counterparts during their presidency and sought to maintain some kind of democratic responsibility through the pretence of elections, Gaddafi, is a different animal entirely.

Words to live by: do not become what you hate.





Arab Egypt vs African Egypt

24 02 2011

Azad Essa, writing for Al Jazeera, has made an excellent point regarding the uprising’s in African and the Middle East.  In his piece, he points out that what occurred in Tunisia and Egypt and what is now taking place in Libya has been constructed into a story of Arab and Middle Eastern rebellion, even when it says more about the African continent than anywhere else.  It is worth noting that, with the exception of Yemen and Bahrain, the most successful revolutions to have taken place so far have been African nations.

Not only are these uprisings throwing off dictators and autocrats but the people of these post-colonial nations are standing up and establishing an identity which can stand, proudly, despite decades of humiliation by colonial powers and the tyrants who, typically, made themselves out to be saviours.

Anyway, read the full article for an entirely different perspective on what is unfolding.

The African Egypt versus the Arab Egypt

Egypt was suddenly a sexy topic. But, despite the fact that the rich banks of the Nile are sourced from central Africa, the world looked upon the uprising in Egypt solely as a Middle Eastern issue and commentators scrambled to predict what it would mean for the rest of the Arab world and, of course, Israel. Few seemed to care that Egypt was also part of Africa, a continent with a billion people, most living under despotic regimes and suffering economic strife and political suppression just like their Egyptian neighbours.

“Egypt is in Africa. We should not fool about with the attempts of the North to segregate the countries of North Africa from the rest of the continent,” says Firoze Manji, the editor of Pambazuka Online, an advocacy website for social justice in Africa. “Their histories have been intertwined for millennia. Some Egyptians may not feel they are Africans, but that is neither here nor there. They are part of the heritage of the continent.”

And, just like much of the rest of the world, Africans watched events unfold in Cairo with great interest. “There is little doubt that people [in Africa] are watching with enthusiasm what is going on in the Middle East, and drawing inspiration from that for their own struggles,” says Manji.

He argues that globalisation and the accompanying economic liberalisation has created circumstances in which the people of the global South share very similar experiences: “Increasing pauperisation, growing unemployment, declining power to hold their governments to account, declining income from agricultural production, increasing accumulation by dispossession – something that is growing on a vast scale – and increasing willingness of governments to comply with the political and economic wishes of the North. “In that sense, people in Africa recognise the experiences of citizens in the Middle East. There is enormous potential for solidarity to grow out from that. In any case, where does Africa end and the Middle East begin?”








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