Civil society resistance to Nazis rising in Hungary
First joint protests held by anti-racism NGOs
Last Saturday the Hungarian opposition Jobbik party held a demonstration against alleged "Gypsy terror" in the settlement of Hejoszalonta, roughly 150 km to the east of Budapest. Hungarian civil society confronted the demonstration.
Roughly 600 sympathizers and MPs of the neo-Nazi Jobbik party met in Hejoszalonta. The party won 17 % of the votes in last year's parliamentary elections, the first time it has ever held seats in the Hungarian Parliament. Some demonstrators were wearing uniforms of the Hungarian Guard, an organization which the courts have dissolved for its similarity to the Hungarian fascist brigades in operation at the end of the Second World War. The Hungarian Guard, like the dissolved Workers' Party in the Czech Republic, has been exacerbating inter-ethnic relationships in society for years. Their agitation eventually led to homicidal attacks against Roma people during which a minimum of nine people, some of them children, died and dozens of people have been injured, some of them severely. After the Hungarian Guard was dissolved, alternative organizations immediately sprang up with names such as the "New National Guard" or "Hungarian Crew".
At the rally, Jobbik representatives also criticized the government's economic policy. The governing Fidesz party, in their view, has become the party of the rich. Hungarian MP Marton Szegedi (Jobbik) told the rally: "They take absolutely no care of the ordinary farmer in this country.”
Organizations for the protection of civil and human rights, such as Amnesty International, organized a counter-demonstration last Saturday. In their call for a counter-demonstration, they declared that "it is not possible to pronounce Roma people the generators of all evil. It is unacceptable for various extremists to attempt to take justice into their own hands." They also demand an end to the discrimination of Roma in the country.
Agnes Daroczi, a Roma political writer and chair of the Roma association Pralipe, speaking in front of roughly 150 counter-demonstrators on Saturday, said: "Many of us are terribly poor only because we were born Roma. We need a color-blind policy that will reach those on the fringes of society."
Ilonka Balogh, a Roma woman from Hejoszalonta, was aghast at the fact that police did not prevent the neo-Nazi gathering from taking place near her home and feared for her family's safety. Jozsef Anderko, the mayor of the village who unwillingly permitted Jobbik to hold the gathering there, admitted that pickpocketing is a problem in Hejoszalonta, but generally evaluated relations among people in the village as good.
A tutor from the local school who is an ethnic Hungarian also participated in Saturday's neo-Nazi march. Roma women from the village are now drafting a petition to have her removed from her position. "At the nursery school, 90 % of the children are Roma. It is not appropriate that she teach there now," Ilonka Balogh said.
The Jobbik party is demanding that authorities keep files on so-called Roma criminality. According to party representatives, members of the Roma minority are the main cause of increased crime in the countryside. Other parliamentary parties have now jointly taken a strong exception to the Jobbik demands for the first time ever.
Hungarian Guard brigades also recently marched through Gyöngyöspat, a village in the northeast of the country. For more than two weeks they literally terrorized Roma inhabitants there, who stopped leaving their homes or sending their children to school as a result. Under pressure from police and protests from abroad, they eventually had to end their marches. This is the first time representatives of various civic associations have met to protest these racist actions.
Amnesty International and other organizations from around the world demanded of the Hungarian government in March that it better ensure security for members of the Roma minority. At the end of March, the trial began in Budapest of four men charged with organizing a minimum of nine homicidal attacks on Roma families throughout the entire country in 2008-09.
This coming Saturday, the Czech political party DSSS is organizing a similar march in the North Bohemian village of Krupka. Various civic associations are organizing counter-demonstration
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