Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fascism rears its ugly head again

In the heart of Europe, the beast of fascism rears
its ugly head, the Roma fear for their lives

With the horrors of Kristallnacht fresh on the minds of many, only days after the seventieth anniversary of the violent night that ushered in the Holocaust, it is evident that in the heart of Europe the beast of fascism is awake, rearing its ugly head again, causing some to be afraid for their lives.

Last year on the day of the Kristallnacht pogrom anniversary, some 400 Neo-Nazis were blocked from marching in Prague's Jewish Quarter by police and three thousand [1] anti-fascist activists who gathered in front of a Prague synagogue dedicated to the memory of some 77,000 Jewish victims of the Holocaust from the former Czechoslovakia.

This November, the commemoration on the anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass in Prague took place without any calamities. But the epicenter of recent neo-Nazi activity has shifted 70 miles northwest of Prague to the town of Litvinov where on October 18 and November 17 of this year, right-wing extremists staged large-scale, violent demonstrations, targeting the Roma minority. The Roma, like the Jews, had been targeted, deported and nearly exterminated in a genocide perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II. [2]

Today, all across Europe [3] and the U.S. [4] right-wing extremism and hate crime is on the rise.

On November 17, stones, firecrackers, bottle rockets, gas bombs, pepper spray and people's screams filled the air of Litvinov. A battle ensued between a thousand police in riot gear and seven hundred to fifteen hundred (depends on the source) right-wing extremists, waving Nazi flags and wearing Nazi arm-bands and colors. They shouted racist slogans and tried to incite the Roma to violence. The locals joined in, clapping, cheering and cursing the Roma. [5]. This was named the "toughest clash of police and far-rightists since 2000" in the Czech Republic. [6]

Where were the anti-facist and human activists last Monday? Only a handful of allies showed up to peacefully protest with the Litvinov Roma, though Green Peace [7] and Amnesty International [8] issued statements condemning the recent wave of extremist actions targeting the Roma.

In the Czech society [9], and in Europe as a whole [10], racism runs deep. So deep that Czech Roma community members and leaders have voiced fear that the demonstrations, which have so far been reigned in by the police who bore the brunt of the violence carried out by the extremists, could spill over and cause "mass killings of innocent people" in the minority communities. [11]

And the instigator, the Workers' Party, which the Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek agrees should be dismantled [12], has promised to return to Litvinov with a vengeance, very possibly before the end of November. [13]

Though last year, the European Union's Parliament adopted a new resolution on combating the rise of extremism in Europe, [14], Roma rights activists have criticized the Czech government as well as the European Union [15] for not condemning extremists' actions [16] and for not doing enough to address the needs of the Roma communities across the continent.

Study after study has shown that the approximately 9 million Roma living in the 27 countries of the European Union suffer widespread poverty, social exclusion, poor health, low educational levels and high unemployment. [17] The Czech Republic, it must be noted, is the only one of all the EU states that has yet to implement an anti-discrimination law. Such law is required by an EU directive. However, last May, President Václav Klaus vetoed the government-proposed anti-discrimination bill, with the words: "I consider the proposed bill useless, counterproductive and low-quality." [18]. There has been no follow-up on the bill since other than the European Commission threatening to file a lawsuit or impose a high fine on the Czech government for failing to adopt anti-discrimination legislation. [19]

Numbers of watchdogs and prominent political figures warn that the situation is only bound to get worse as the recession deepens and unemployment skyrockets. [20, 21] Some have even speculated that "Eastern Europe's slavish appropriation of neoliberalism is leading to a big increase in extreme rightwing crime." [22].

What is needed, says Cyril Koky, member of the government council for Romany affairs, is "for the Roma to be able to work." [23]

"The government should, for instance, institute tax incentives for businesses willing to hire so-called problematic citizens (as the Roma are often referred to)." Koky went on to say that he believes affirmative action laws would be effective in combatting inequality. Though the "regional governments are the ones who bare the main responsibility for improving the situations in the ghettos," Koky said, "the state government body should work on changing the laws to make it more difficult for extremists to assemble." [24]

The Council of the Regional Roma Representatives (GRRP), however, urges that the situation is so dire that lofty ideas about what the Czech Republic should do to better the situation of the Roma regarding education, housing, and employment have become secondary. "It is of utmost importance now," they say in their statement regarding the November 17 extremist provocation, "that the Czech state prevent the massacring of Roma children, women and men."[25]

"For the Roma population, the 17th of November marked the collapse of all human rights and civil liberties that are possible in a civilized society and guaranteed to all human beings. In the Czech Republic, anti-Roma sentiment has turned into a life threat." [26]


1. http://romove.radio.cz/en/article/21674 - "Neo-Nazis fail to march through Prague's Jewish Quarter,: Czech Radio, November 12, 2007

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust - "Holocaust," Wikipedia

3. http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/media/disc/2007/alert/268/index.htm - "New Report Finds Hate Crimes on the Rise in Many Parts of Europe," Human Rights First, June 6, 2007

4. http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=762 - "The Year in Hate," Southern Poverty Law Center, Spring 2007

5. http://www.romea.cz/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_5217 - "Lidé neonacistům tleskali. A bude hůř, soudí odborník na extremismus," iDNES.cz, November 18, 2008

6. http://www.romea.cz/english/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_1100 - "CzechRep sees toughest clash of police, far-rightists since 2000," Romea.cz, November 17, 2008

7. http://www.romarights.net/content/czechs-greens-want-govt-discuss-extremists-actions - "Czechs Greens want govt to discuss extremists' actions," Roma
Rights Network, October 30, 2008

8. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/czech-anti-roma-demonstrators-clash-with-police20081119 - "CZECH ANTI-ROMA DEMONSTRATORS CLASH WITH POLICE," Amnesty
International, November 19, 2008

9. http://www.romea.cz/english/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_1096 - "Czech Romanies' position on society margins not changing much," Romea.cz, November 10, 2008

10. http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=518&langId=en - "The
European Union and Roma," European Commission.

11. http://www.romea.cz/english/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_1097 - "Czech Republic faces great civic disturbances-Romany activist ," Romea.cz, November 19, 2008

12. http://aktualne.centrum.cz/czechnews/clanek.phtml?id=622501 - "PM Topolánek to back up ban of Workers' Party," Aktualne.cz, November 19, 2008

13. "Neonaciste hrozi dalsimi akcemi," Pravo newspaper, Zpravodajstvi section, page 5, November 20, 2008

14. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?Type=TA&Reference=P6-TA-2007-0623&language=EN - "European Parliament resolution of 13 December 2007 on combating the
rise of extremism in Europe," European Parliament, December 13, 2007

15. http://www.romea.cz/english/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_1060 - "EU criticized at first European Roma summit," Romea.cz, September 17, 2008

16. http://www.romea.cz/english/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_1097 - "Czech Republic faces great civic disturbances-Romany activist," Romea.cz, November 19, 2008

17. http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/fundamental_rights/policy/aneval/stureps_en.htm
- "Studies and reports on discrimination-related issues," European Commission, July 2008

18. http://www.praguepost.com/articles/2008/05/28/klaus-vetoes-crucial-anti-discrimination-bill.php - "Klaus vetoes crucial anti-discrimination bill," The Prague Post Online, May 28, 2008

19. http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/news/index_view.php?id=339920 - "Debate on Czech anti-discrimination law put off," Ceske noviny, October 21, 2008

20. http://uk.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUKL128784320080901 - "Recession could spark rise in crime and extremism," Reuters UK, September 1, 2008

21. "Clen vladni rady Koky: Hrozi obcanske nepokoje," Pravo newspaper, Zpravodajstvi section, page 5, November 20, 2008

22. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/may/07/graveerrors - "Grave errors," Guardian UK, May 7, 2007

23. "Utoku na Romy bude pribyvat," iDnes newspaper, page A5, November 20, 2008

24. ibid

25. http://www.romea.cz/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_5223 - "GRRP: Český stát musí zabránil masakrování romských dětí, žen a mužů," Romea.cz, November 19, 2008

26. ibid