Magyar Garda inducts 400 new recruits into its ranks

by Michael Smith

The Magyar Garda, the militia arm of the radical right-wing political party Jobbik, inducted 400 new recruits – children, so it has been reported, among them – in a ceremony on October 25, 2008 in down-town Budapest.

Members of the Hungarian Guard, wearing black uniforms and insignias redolent of Nazi symbols, held their fourth national ceremony in Heroes' Square.

Among the members addressing the crowds were Lorant Hegedus Jr, a controversial Calvinist pastor, and Lajos Fur, former defence minister in Hungary's conservative government following the change of political system. Also present was Maria Wittner, an MP of the main opposition party Fidesz.

The Magyar Garda have in the past staged marches against the Romani-Gypsy community in Hungary in recent months, in actions that call to mind those marches of the Hitler's SA in the 1930s against Jews and Gypsies.

I must say that the more I look at Europe of the present era the more I am wondering whether I have entered a time warp, as far as the actions against Gypsies are concerned. Any visitor from outer space could be forgiven if he'd check his calendar just to make sure he is not in Europe of the 1930s and 1940s.

The party Jobbik registered "Magyar Garda" in June 2007 as a "cultural organisation" to "prepare youth spiritually and physically for extraordinary situations when it might be necessary to mobilise the people."

Now why does that sound so familiar? Because we have all heard and seen this before or at least if we were not present in those days then we hear about it.

Since then, however, the Guard has staged several demonstrative marches to intimidate the Gypsy community in several areas and has scared the life out of many of them. Its activity has drawn condemnation both in Hungary and abroad, evoking harsh protest from the parliamentary parties, NGOs and minority organisations alike. But that all means nothing unless we actually are going to see action. Then again, action will but drive such people under ground.

A civil suit in the courts aimed at dissolving Magyar Garda has been under way since March this year. The next court hearing is scheduled to take place in mid-December.

Does anyone really believe that those legal actions are going to get anywhere against such organisations, especially in the current anti-Gypsy climate in the European Union and elsewhere in Europe? I don't and I am sure nor do many of our People who have the slightest notions of how the cookie really crumbles. Personally, I doubt that we will ever get anywhere with legal means against such people as they have the support, in many instances, of people in authority, as we can see by supporters of Magyar Garda that were present at this rally.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Romani ghetto may emerge in Czech village

Ostravice, North Moravia - A Romany ghetto might emerge in the Czech mountain village Ostravice as a company plans to build housing for Romanies from Ostrava there but the residents strongly disagree with the plan, Mayor Jaromir Dobrozemsky told journalists Monday.

The Ostrava-based REALIS-INVEST company that owns the area of the former local social care institution intends to build housing for about 40 to 50 Romany families from Ostrava on the premises.

The municipal authorities met representatives of the company and the local Romany community on Monday, but the talks produced no concrete results, Dobrozemsky said.

The company spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter asking journalists to send their questions in writing.

According to Dobrozemsky, the company has proposed two variants of the use of the abandoned premises. According to the first one, the abandoned buildings will be reconstructed to be used as tenant houses. According to the second one, housing for Romanies will be built there.

"No decision has been made and the talks will continue. The decision will take a long time to be made," Dobrozemsky said.

He said the Romany representatives asked about the ways of solving their social situation on Monday. The questions concerned the payment of security benefits and the capacity of kindergartens and schools.

They were told to send their questions in writing.

Dobrozemsky said that according to the second variant, the company would reconstruct the buildings into housing for Romanies for European Union money that it expects to obtain.

The residents of the village that is located in the Beskydy protected landscape area are unhappy at the prospect of neighbouring a Romany ghetto.

A 72-year-old local resident told journalists Monday he was afraid that many more Romanies than planned could finally move to the premises because Romanies from Slovakia would start joining their relatives.

He admitted that he was mainly afraid of thefts.

He said Romanies would never adapt themselves to the lifestyle of the majority society.

According to him, the appearance of the ghetto would mean the end to the village.

Vratislav Gloziga, who guards the abandoned premises, told journalists Monday that the current situation was a mere escalation of the problems in mutual communication between the area's new owner and the municipality.

Source: ČTK

Editorial Comment: I do not think that we should worry, per se, about a settlement that is just for Romani People for that, by it self, does not make a ghetto, whatever some people may claim. They did the same when the Sinti in Germany wanted to build the Maro Them settlement in Kiel and that is why it took so long before they were allowed to go on with it.

What we must watch though is the fenced and walls that are being built, that have been cerated and that are being proposed, which are intended to separate Romanies from the general public, in a couple of instances with walls and gates and guards to “protect them from attacks”. Whoever believes the latter has never read history and how things were for the Rom just before the Romani Holocaust began. <>Ed.<>

Vsetín officials threaten to take houses away from Roma

Vsetin, Czech Republic, Oct 2008 - Most of the Vsetin Romany families whom the Town Hall resettled to the Jeseniky and Prostejov areas and to whom it provided interest-free loans for the purchase of houses have failed to meet their commitments, Town Hall spokeswoman Eva Stejskalova said.

She said if the Romanies failed to repay their loans properly they could lose the roof over their head.

The Town Hall as the owner of the new houses could order their distraint and sell them, Stejskalova said.

The Romany families were moved out from a dilapidating house in the centre of Vsetin, mostly populated by rent-defaulters two years ago when Jiri Cunek, current Czech Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), was Vsetin mayor.

He was sharply criticised for his step.

According to the contracts the Romanies signed with the Town Hall they are to repay the loans in monthly installments of 1500 to 2330 crowns.

"The interest-free loans worth between 350,000 and 557,000 crowns were provided to eight Romany families although they were not entitled to alternative housing and the Vsetin court confirmed this," Stehlikova said.

However, only one family is repaying the debt properly while the others have failed to pay the installments by the due dates set out in the contracts, she said.

There is a several months delay in the payment, Stejskalova said.

She said the town authorities had appealed on the Romanies to repay the loan arrears within a fortnight.

If they fail to do so, the matter will be taken to court, the Romany families will be faced with execution and the town will sell the houses, Stejskalova said.

"The Town took an accommodating step when it provided the loans to the families because that had no legal right to alternative housing," Vsetin Deputy Mayor Lubomir Gajdusek said.

Of the 64 families resettled two years ago, 22 have found new housing in the town and several families were moved to the Jesenik and Prostejov areas.

The remaining families were moved to container-like flats on the town's outskirts.

Stejskalova said a mere 42 resettled families were paying the rent on time.

The resettlement of Romanies from the centre of Vsetin was criticised by Romany associations and human rights activists.

Czech ombudsman Otakar Motejl also criticised the Town Hall saying that it made a mistake.

However, Vsetin officials have dismissed the criticism from the very beginning and defended their decision as correct.

Source: CTK

Municipal police snatch blankets from the Roma sleeping outside

Florence, Italy, Friday, October 10th, 2008: Florence, at three o'clock in the morning the municipal police snatch blankets from the Roma sleeping near the station and send them to be destroyed: "sleep on cardboard instead!"

Indignation from everyone group and aurora association who are requesting an urgent meeting with the mayor, Leonardo Domenici, and appealing to the people of Florence to help the Roma fight off the cold.

Over the last few days the voluntary association Aurora ONLUS in Florence handed out fifty blankets received from various donations to the Romanian Roma. Over recent months the Roma have been sleeping in the cold (with only cardboard to protect them) in Piazza Adua in front of the Santa Maria Novella railway station. The Roma families have never received any socio-medical assistance from the Florentine authorities or been offered any alternative lodgings. Most of all they need a warm place to stay seeing people below the age of 48 are barred from entering the centres set up by the authorities to shelter from the night cold.

At about 3 a.m. on Tuesday October 7th some municipal police patrols arrived in Piazza Adua where the Roma have set up their makeshift beds with some trucks owned by Quadrifoglio - the company that deals with the disposal of waste material from the city of Florence. After waking them with a start, the Municipal police ordered them to hand over all their blankets, and to those who objected saying it was too cold, they replied: "You can sleep on the cardboard instead!" All fifty blankets were confiscated and the Roma looked on as the blankets were thrown into the Quadrifoglio truck and taken away to be destroyed.

"This action is unacceptable" say Stefania Micol, president of Aurora, and Matteo Pegoraro, co-president with Roberto Malini and Dario Picciau of EveryOne Group. "It shows how the authorities of the City of Florence are following the racist, xenophobic current that is spreading throughout Italy, abandoning the path of tolerance and respect for human rights and resorting to hunting down the foreigner and criminalizing poverty.

"It is a civil disgrace" continue the activists "that in a city like Florence no programmes have been set up to help these people, leaving them to wander around the city centre without any kind of sustenance or social integration. Instead they have had the few means they possessed for bracing themselves against the cold brutally taken from them.

"We have already reported the episode to Viktoria Mohacsì, the Hungarian Euro MP of Roma origin" - explain the leaders of EveryOne, Malini, Pegoraro and Picciau. "She has already brought it to the attention of the European Parliament and the EU Commission. With this episode Florence becomes the sad symbol of racial hatred, along with another city, Pesaro (in the Marche region) which has recently announced the imminent clearance of a derelict building where a small community of Romanian Roma families have taken shelter. They were naturally not offered any alternative lodgings. There are many small children in the group and people suffering from serious health problems: malignant tumours, heart problems, physical handicaps, all living in conditions of extreme hardship. Pesaro and Florence are therefore under observation by the European institutions: they are modern cities that have fallen prey to the evils of racism, which is at the root of this persecution, mingled with the indifference shown by the local authorities and institutions. If they fail to take a step backwards and rediscover the values of solidarity and welcome, it will result in the cruel eradication of innocent human beings who have been offered no hope of integration, and, at the same time, it will result in the triumph of intolerance".

The Aurora Association and EveryOne Group are requesting an urgent meeting with the Mayor of Florence, Leonardo Domenici, in an attempt to find a speedy solution for these people, who, as the days go by, risk catching serious illnesses and infections due to the conditions of hardship they live in - as well as the low temperatures against which they have no way of defending themselves. The two associations are also appealing to the people of Florence to show their solidarity towards these unfortunate and persecuted families by coming to the Aurora offices in Via Macci, 11 and simply bringing a blanket - which will become the symbol of brotherhood, and also represent a civil response to the indifference of the local authorities and the inhumane treatment shown by the Municipal Police and the police force.

Source: EveryOne Group

St John's Wort “as good as Prozac”

by Michael Smith

Despite many claims made to the contrary by what one could called “standard mainstream medicine” and their representatives, especially and including the pharmaceutical industry, as regards to herbal medicines, a recent study by German scientists has found that St John's Wort (Hypericum) may be as good as an anti-depressant as Prozac.

According to this study the herbal extract is as effective as the drug and has fewer side effects. As far as my own experiences go with herbal medicines there are very few, if any, what could be called side effects, whatever claims to the contrary are being made by the ordinary practitioners mainstream medicine and especially the pharmaceutical industry.

German researchers found that St John's Wort is also a match for other old and new anti-depressant pills.

While, I am sure, we can all understand the reasons for the pharmaceutical industry poohpoohing herbal and other alternative medicine why this is being done by the general practitioners in countries such as the UK and the USA is something that should give food for thought. In other countries, such as in the Netherlands, it is common for a GP to prescribe homeopathic and herbal alongside the conventional treatments.

There is but one problem, however, and that is the fact that products containing Hypericum perforatum vary greatly. This means that some may be more effective than others. Is that a good reason, though, to take the standard drugs and to be faced with the side effects, such as those of Prozac that seem to be rather dangerous? Personally, I think not.

Many of the readers, I am sure, will not surprised as to the fact that Hypericum has been “cleared”, so to speak, and has even, to some degree, elevated above the drugs, like Prozac.

So, let's her it for plant extracts and herbal medicines...

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

German Sinti Alliance against use of Sinti and Roma in the same breath

by Michael Smith

German Sinti Alliance (Sinti Allianz Deutschland), under Mrs. Natascha Winter, has called for an end to use the term “Sinti und Roma” (Sinti and Roma) as the single term for all Gypsies.

Mrs. Winter expressly asks that the term “Sinti”, which is, so she says, the exclusive name for the German Gypsies, not to be used together with the term “Roma”, the latter who are basically immigrants from the East.

The Sinti Alliance made this request in a press statement in which they condemned the attempt of censorship by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, under Romani Rose, of a German TV program that made mention of criminal activities and criminals amongst the Gypsies. We have to admit, and Mrs. Winter and the SAD does just that, that there are criminals amongst our People, the Gypsies, in the same way as there are criminals amongst Jews and other peoples and while we may wish to condemn the idea of using the ethnic term in the same breath when mentioning the criminality amongst Gypsies – something that would not be done when it comes to Jews, for instance – this is neither here not there.

We had similar attempts of keeping things out of the public eye when the media, some years ago, made mention, and also films were made on this subject, as to the selling of children by the Roma, predominately the Kalderash and others from the former Yugoslavia to Italy for the sole purpose of being uses as beggars and thieves (and worse even). In this case misguided “leading” figures of the Romani organizations and academics tried to claim that this was not the truth and just something invented to discredit the Romani. The unfortunate truth is, however, that that was and still is the truth.

There are operations that are going on the United Kingdom presently where children are being brought in by criminal elements amongst the Roma communities and if the children are used just for begging and pickpocketing then that is the most benign activities they are being used in. In fact in Glasgow what is happening is worse and as a Rom I loath to even to mention it.

For this very reason one can also understand the call of the Sinti Alliance as to the separation of the two terms, namely “Sinti” and “Roma”, and one can but support it.

While we are all of the Romani People, also known as the Gypsy People (and I have not problem with that term and neither have many Rom that I know), we are not all Roma, for instance. The Roma are a part of the Romani in the same way as the Sinti are but the Sinti are not part of the Roma.

© M Smith (Veshengro) - (World) Gypsy Union - October 2008