Gangs of Greeks are regularly attacking immigrants with impunity across the country and authorities are ignoring or discouraging victims from filing complaints, advocacy group Human Rights Watch said in a report.
"Migrants and asylum seekers spoke to Human Rights Watch of virtual no-go areas in Athens after dark because of fear of attacks by often black-clad groups of Greeks intent on violence," the report said.
"While tourists are welcome, migrants and asylum seekers face a hostile environment, where they may be subject to detention in inhuman and degrading conditions, risk destitution and xenophobic violence."
The country is a major gateway into the European Union for undocumented migrants from Asia and Africa and a fifth straight year of recession and unemployment at a record high has helped fuel anti-immigrant sentiment, with migrants blamed for rising crime levels and accused of eating into a shrinking pot of subsidised services from the state.
Human Rights Watch said the true extent of xenophobic violence in Greece was not clear given many victims do not report the crime and since government statistics are unreliable. (via Athens News)
Germany should reinstate its monarchy to speak to people’s emotions, make them proud of their country and even encourage them to have babies, according to Prince Philip Kiril of Prussia, great-great grandson of the last Kaiser.
Speaking in Thursday’s edition of Die Zeit newspaper, Philip stressed that a monarch would be financially independent – and so would not be likely to accept presents from friends, such as those which led to Christian Wulff’s resignation from the presidency.
"A king is invulnerable to such cases," Prince Philip said. "Either he would have old family property or an Apanage – and it would be beneath his dignity to accept presents from friends."
"And there are no reporters on the level of sniffing around European ruling families,” added the prince, who is a Protestant minister.
Prince Philip said that although successful presidents made their mark with their statements, mentioning Roman Herzog and Richard von Weizsäcker as good examples, he said that words were not enough.
“This level of words is necessary, but they do not move people inside,” he said. “When our hearts are touched, we change. During the past football World Championship there emerged so much uncomplicated national consciousness that nose-wrinkling intellectuals no longer understood their country.
“Emotions are the field on which a royal family can play,” he said. “They do not have to think up some programme, it goes to the hearts that they are simply there.”
He said the personal and family lives of politicians were regarded as private – but that those of royals were legitimately public. (via The Local)
The Sweden Democrats’ Women’s Association (SD-Kvinnor) presented a new internet commercial last week, meant to “highlight honour related violence”, an issue they feel is not getting enough media attention.
“Today when we speak about equality we speak a lot about equal pay and affirmative action, but there are women out there who are dying, who can’t leave their homes,” said SD Kvinnor spokesperson Therese Borg to The Local.
The film, which was released to coincide with International Women’s Day last Thursday, shows a young immigrant woman who is beaten by what appears to be members of her family and other relatives while a mournful tune is played.
The violent scenes are concluded by a blonde and pale-skinned woman wiping up blood from the floor.
The narrative, which is all in rhyme, poses questions such as ”what if tolerance is just naivety” and ”what if culture kills”.
The film was quickly slammed by influential feminists like former leader of the Left Party and later of the feminist party Feminist Initiative (Feministiskt Initiativ, FI) Gudrun Schyman.
“SD is trying to hijack the equality question, just like they have done with other issues before. It is just that when you look at their own politics it is the most racist, homophobic and anti-feminist to be found in the Swedish Riksdag,” Schyman said to newspaper Metro.
Borg, on the other hand does not agree. (via The Local)
France’s Muslims hit back at Nicolas Sarkozy’s policy on halal meat
Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to make the labelling of halal meat pivotal to his re-election campaign has infuriated, alienated and dismayed France’s Muslim community, which may number as many as six million, and the backlash is growing. Members of the booming educated and entrepreneurial Muslim middle class say they are tired of being cast as scapegoats in Sarkozy’s wooing of the extreme right and have accused him of dangerous and divisive election tactics.
The phoney war over halal meat erupted in February when Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National, claimed consumers were eating halal unknowingly. Sarkozy, trailing the Socialist frontrunner François Hollande, accused her of whipping up an artificial controversy. Shortly afterwards, with Le Pen snapping at his heels in the opinion polls, Sarkozy performed a volte-face. In spite of surveys showing that voters were less concerned about halal meat than they were about the weather and football, he announced it was “the issue that most preoccupies the French”.
For France’s Muslims – already feeling victimised by a burqa ban, by controversial government-sponsored debates on national identity and by the outlawing of Muslims praying in the streets, a sight Le Pen likened to the Nazi occupation – it was a low blow. (via The Observer)
UK: what does being British mean to you? - interactive
From Stratford, east London to Stratford-upon-Avon, via Belfast, Caernarfon, Perthshire, Devon, Bradford, Coventry, Hastings and Edinburgh, 100 Britons explain how they feel about their national identity. Click through to select people by their portrait or location (via The Guardian)
Is Europe setting up clash between Muslims and the West?
Europe and the Muslim world seem to be on a collision course that could have major political, economic and ideological ramifications. January 23, 2012, may well come to be remembered as the crucial date when Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis, which many of us believed discredited beyond repair, was reaffirmed. (via CNN.com)
Hungary’s Roma clash with far-right paramilitary group - video
In 2011, members of a uniformed and armed rightwing paramilitary group moved into Gyöngyöspata, a small Hungarian village, ostensibly as a ‘neighbourhood watch patrol’. The village’s 450 Roma claim the real motive was to terrorise and drive out their community. The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union filmed the rise of the far-right Jobbik party, the group’s political wing (via guardian.co.uk)
India and Norway in diplomatic spat over children taken into care
India and Norway are embroiled in a diplomatic row after Norwegian social workers took two young Indian children into care because they slept with their parents and their mother fed them with her fingers - both widespread and normal in India.
The parents were told the children will remain in foster care in Norway until they are 18 and that they will only have occasional contact with them.
Norwegian officials have so far resisted calls for the children to be reunited with their grandparents in India pending an inquiry, and now India’s external affairs minister has called for the children to be repatriated.
The case has provoked an outcry in India, where mothers constantly push food into their toddlers’ mouths and children often sleep in their parents’ bed until they are six or seven.
Sushma Swaraj, parliamentary leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, suggested the decision betrayed an ignorance of Indian culture.
"I do not know the logic behind the Norwegian laws. One thing is clear – they do not know the Indian culture and sensibilities. The snatching of two little kids from their parents in Norway is shocking. I cannot imagine what parents and kids must be going through," she said. (via Telegraph)
There must be much more to this story, but because these cases are confidential, we will only hear what the family and their supporters release to the media. Regardless, it’s a shame that such drastic action had to be taken. I understand that the parents’ visas run out in March, so they may have to leave the country without their kids.
A government-appointed committee is set to make recommendations that will allow police and judges in Norway to wear clothing and personal effects with religious overtones, including the Muslim hijab.
Tasked with setting out a new religious affairs policy, the committee believes that religious symbols like the hijab and the Christian cross should be granted a place in Norwegian public life, Christian newspaper Vårt Land reports.
“We need to able to tolerate being exposed to other people’s religion, whether we meet an imam in a hospital corridor or a police officer with a hijab,” one committee member told the newspaper. (via Islam in Europe)
The Russian Orthodox Church continued what appeared to be an effort to get the authorities to address Russians’ grievances over the political system, with Patriarch Kirill I, the church’s leader, saying in a televised interview that it would be “a very bad sign” if the country’s leaders failed to heed recent protests over perceived electoral fraud.
The church, a powerful force in Russia, made a point of announcing that the patriarch would be speaking on Saturday, which is Christmas Day in Russia.
The announcement, made on Thursday, came just 15 minutes after the Interfax news agency released a report on an essay by a senior church official, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, that made the same point as the patriarch, but in starker terms: it said that the authorities could be “slowly eaten alive” if they did not respond to Russians’ concerns.
Church leaders have been walking a careful line since the parliamentary elections on Dec. 4, nudging the government to respond to the protesters and affirming their right to demonstrate, but Patriarch Kirill I has not questioned the legitimacy of the elections or criticized Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.
Still, the drumbeat of implicit criticism has been surprising from the church, which has been a strong supporter of the government, and the patriarch’s statements on Saturday appeared to keep the pressure on. (via NYTimes.com)