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June 26, 2022



Commentary: Czech counter-intelligence report on anti-Romani marches is racist

Prague, 28.12.2014 0:25, (ROMEA)
Mikuláš Vymětal (right)
Mikuláš Vymětal (right)

Evangelical parson Mikuláš Vymětal has written an open letter to the Security and Information Service (BIS) of the Czech Republic regarding its report on the anti-Romani events of 2013. "I am calling this a public letter and I believe that if you publish it, it will increase the hope that the BIS will respond proportionately. It's not much of a Christmas topic, but I view this as a way to take care of unfinished business before the year ends," he wrote to news server, which is publishing the letter in full translation below:


I don't know whether the Security Information Services system facilitates discussions with citizens, but I would like to attempt a discussion, and I appreciate the fact that the Security Information Service is endeavoring to communicate with the citizenry. I have read the BIS report about last year and I would like to express my view on the section entitled "Increased interethnic tensions and anti-Romani marches".

In the introduction to the report, this topic was called "the most significant risk factor to the democratic order of the Czech Republic". It can be presumed, therefore, that you also worked the most on it.

One would not think so, however, from the text itself, especially the close to this brief chapter, which is so abbreviated (not to mention racist and untrue) that the text itself might pose a risk to the democratic order of our homeland. It assails the police for their "aggressive attitude", which sparked the feeling among some local citizens that the police "only protect the Roma"; it criticizes the media for speaking of these events as involving extremists - here "some local citizens" just become "locals", and we also read that "some local municipal authorities or police characterized the situation in these places of interethnic tensions as calm when the feelings of the local inhabitants were exactly the opposite"; and it also takes to task "pro-Romani activists and non-governmental groups" for their "very often one-sided statements that lack objectivity", "which labeled only the majority society as the cause of this dismal situation and absolved the Roma of any responsibility for the given state of affairs."

I am of the opinion that the police, who intervened aggressively only in exceptional cases and who, in the beginning, did not manage to keep control of the situation with the marches (several times they were unable to bring the marching mob to a halt) did have, on the other hand, a well-thought-out long-term strategy - they gradually arrested aggressive hooligans, most of whom today are already convicted and are not participating in marches that way any longer. Certainly this strategy, too, contributed to the fact that during this year (2014) anti-Romani marches on such a mass scale have not occurred.

The BIS report pits the so-called "local citizens" the against Romani people and the-non Roma who are on their side. This perspective is, of course, a false one, as I will now demonstrate.

I work as an evangelical pastor for minorities, so I follow with great attention how human righs are upheld in the Czech Republic. I was in some of the places where the so-called hate marches took place last year at the time of the marches (repeatedly in České Budějovice and in Duchcov) and I also followed the situation in other places with great attention and corresponded with eyewitnesses to the events.

In the place where I spent the most time (České Budějovice), I personally spoke with many "local citizens of various skin colors" living in the locality of the Máj housing estate. They, too, evaluated the overall situation at the housing estate as calm - the pretext for the marches had been that a non-Romani mother (who is known throughout the entire housing estate for her hysterical, overreacting behavior) had assaulted two children who were fighting in the sandbox, after which the conflict transformed itself into a physical dispute between several adults.

The courts ultimately sentenced several people in relation to that brawl, and the longest sentencing was given to the "white" woman who achieved such fame in the media at the time as a supposed "victim". As is now evident, the entire situation was distorted by the media and became a pretext for the marches.

The report completely lacks any mention of the negative influence of the media on the rise of the marches - which did not occur as a usual reaction to these various petty incidents, but were a reaction to the media's treatment of them, which gave them a racist interpretation and subsequently led various extremists to convene protest marches (e.g., by the most infamous Czech con artist Lukáš Kohout). Another factor that contributed to the marches and goes unmentioned in the report are the many years of badly done work by several municipalities on the issue of impoverished populations and socially excluded localities, the result of which has been a deterioration in those situations and a growth in tensions.

Once such a protest assembly takes place, it can catalyze completely inappropriate reactions from local representatives. The director of the "state" Agency for Social Inclusion, Martin Šimáček, has clearly described this situation in the case of Duchcov, for example.

As for the "statements by various pro-Romani activists and non-governmental groups" that were allegedly "one-sided and lack[ed] objectivity", that characterization is so general it is impossible to respond to it. The report does not say which statements are at issue.

The closing sentence of the report on the anti-Romani marches - "statements...which labeled only the majority society as the cause of this dismal situation and absolved the Roma of any responsibility for the given state of affairs" - is, of course, highly dangerous and racist. The Roma in the Czech Republic are not an homogeneous group that bears collective responsibility for its members.

The racist thought process indicated by that sentence and the overall amateurish, racist level of the entire section of the report on the anti-Romani marches contravenes the way the BIS presents itself on its website, where it is written that the aim and mission of the BIS's work is to predict, suppress and eliminate the most serious risks to civilization that are threatening the state and thereby each of its citizens. Those seeking to work at the BIS must undergo demanding background checks focusing on their behavioral models in various situations, their competence, their personal characteristics and their reliability, as a good intelligence service must know how to acquire information from all sides and evaluate it properly.

The report at issue is, of course, itself very one-sided, and its authors clearly lack the capacity for a more objective reflection on the specific situation or for deeper insight. The closing sentences of the report seem to have been written only in the interest of the anti-Romani marchers against whom police intervened (who represented, of course, only a fraction of the residents of the towns where the marches took place).

If the BIS is interested in provided more objective information, then it must also acquire some "from the other side" - i.e., from the Police of the Czech Republic or from institutions striving for the inclusion of the socially excluded (e.g., the Agency for Social Inclusion). The next step would then be a correct, thorough analysis of the information.

It is clear from this letter that I consider the published section of the BIS report on increased interethnic tensions to be dangerous to society. If the Government of the Czech Republic, the media, and the Police of the Czech Republic were to take it as a guideline, tensions would not be reduced in the Czech Republic, but on the contrary, would be increased.

Approximately one page of the 20-page BIS annual report is dedicated to the anti-Romani marches. The increased interethnic tensions are called "the most significant risk factor for the democratic order of the Czech Republic in the year 2013."

I would, therefore, presume that the BIS, which has an annual budget of more than one billion Czech crowns, would pay the requisite attention to this issue, at least in the 5 % of the text that is about the anti-Romani marches. If, however, the result of what must be fifty million Czech crowns' worth of work devoted to this "most significant factor for the democratic order" is amateurish, childish, racist and, as a consequence, produces a dangerous text, it would be appropriate to hold its authors accountable for that, as there is no doubt that they have not achieved the demands of neutrality expected by the BIS of its members.

Of course, if the BIS is not capable of this, its superiors should do it, i.e., the Government and President of the Republic. Since the BIS report for 2013 is a public document, I have also chosen to respond through this public letter.

I bid farewell to the readers of this letter with wishes for better service in 2015 and for your personal satisfaction,

Mikuláš Vymětal 

Mikuláš Vymětal, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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