“Politics Can Be Different”: A Conversation with Agnes Osztolykán via OSF blog

by Bernard Rorke

Agnes Osztolykán, the first and only Roma woman elected to parliament in Hungary, recently received the 2011 International Women of Courage Award. At the awards ceremony, U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton paid tribute to Osztojkan: “For overcoming racism and discrimination to emerge a leader in elected office, serving as a proud defender of the Roma people and culture, and tirelessly pressing for equal rights and the inclusion of minorities in society, we thank you for your work, we thank you for your example, and we will stand with you.”

In the following conversation, Osztolykán reflects on her life and career to date as a Roma activist in Hungary, where the personal is acutely political.

Did you expect to win this award? Has it been a long road for you as a Roma woman to national politics and international recognition?

The award came as a total surprise … I assumed it normally went to women active in civil society in Africa and Asia, and I know it was not given to me as Agnes, but rather it was to acknowledge the importance of the whole Roma issue.

It’s been a long road, but not a hard one. I was born in a small village where my parents still live. They were manual workers but always cared deeply about my education. I was an excellent pupil in primary school, and with the encouragement of my teachers and the support of my parents, I was enrolled to attend an elite high school in Budapest alongside the children of the rich and famous in 1989. The first two years were very hard because my level of knowledge was lower than the others, and I spent all my free time in the library to catch up, and I did. My teachers were very kind and encouraging and my parents strongly believed in me. Coming from a small village of 800 people, there were many who assumed I would fail in Budapest and have to come home. I was determined to prove them wrong.

And where did you study in university?

At the time, my parents had jobs and could support me financially, and my first wish was to go to the law university, and they organized special courses for high school students. But this was just a short time after the system change, and I was advised that it would be difficult for someone from my background—as the first generation from my family to pursue third level education—to be admitted to the Law Faculty, which was still the preserve of the offspring of the Hungarian elite.

I was accepted to the newly established Political Science Faculty in the university in Miscolc. I had lived in dormitories with other students before, but the environment was completely different from Budapest—in Budapest, it was not an issue whether I was Roma or not, the only thing that mattered was the possibility to achieve and progress. But in Miscolc, it mattered: the fact that I was Roma mattered very much to staff and students alike.

…in a negative way?

Yes of course, and this was precisely the time when young right-wing people in Hungary started to organize in skinhead gangs and this trend was very visible in Miscolc and Eger. I decided then and recognized that I cannot deny my identity or ignore this issue. It wasn’t the best of times I can tell you, and it was made worse by my father losing his job and my mother falling ill. Many times I offered to quit my studies and go to work but my parents insisted I complete my studies.

How did you first come into contact with Roma activists in Budapest?

During my university years I spent a lot of time with friends and relatives in Budapest and in 1996 I met with Horvath Aladar and the young Roma intelligentsia who had set up Romaversitas, and they invited me to work with them as an organizer. My thesis dealt with the plight of the homeless, and I spent a lot of time among them in homeless shelters, it was hard for the soul to witness such deprivation.

I graduated cum laude in 1998, and faced a choice whether to work in civil society or in government. Fidesz had just won the election and I decided this was not the party and politics not the path. I began teaching in an afternoon school in the 8th district with young Roma students from very deprived backgrounds. I loved this work very much, and it made a lasting impression on me.

In 1998 the Soros Foundation–Hungary hired me as a program manager responsible for Roma law, Roma media, and visual education. At the Soros Foundation I met the most open, most intelligent, and most progressive people in Hungary, and it was the first opportunity for me to deal seriously with the Roma issue.

What prompted the move into politics?

Around 2009, a loose grouping of young non-Roma from civil society who knew my background and experience, approached me for discussion and friendly consultations as they wished to organize and establish an official political party. This became LMP, which translates as “Politics can be different.” They wanted me to join them, and I said OK, let’s see your program and your position on Roma. We began working together, and I drafted a lot for them and invited other young Roma to join. In the 2009 European Parliament elections, I had a symbolic place on the party list but I think it was important for me and for LMP.

The party wanted me to run in the national elections in 2010, and due to personal circumstances it took a lot of persuasion before I agreed. Another Roma woman turned down the opportunity. I argued with her that we always say the non-Roma never make room for us to take a leadership role: “Now we have an opportunity to be in the front row and take our places in the Hungarian Parliament.” I eventually agreed to be placed second on the Budapest list.

I can still remember the evening of the election: one minute huddled over the TV in the party offices, the next minute the party leader grabbed my hand and pulled me into the full glare of the TV cameras and crowds of reporters. At that moment it dawned on me that we had won seats in the parliament. I called my father and told him “Dad, I think I’ve become a member of the Hungarian Parliament.” He was stunned; he said “I see,” wept, and then hung up the phone.

Entering Parliament must have been daunting. In the 2010 elections, the neofascist Jobbik party emerged as the third force in national politics. Do you remember the first day in Parliament?

At the swearing-in ceremony of the new parliament, the men and women from Jobbik were clad in black and white uniforms, and the rest of the MPs were in dark suits. I wore a very special colorful traditional Roma dress with vivid floral patterns, made by a Roma fashion designer. This not only provided photo opportunities for the media and a strong contrast to the black and white uniforms of the far right, but was acknowledged by Roma and non-Roma as a very important symbolic message.

And what is it like in Parliament, sharing the opposition benches with a radical racist party whose election campaign was first and foremost an anti-Roma hate campaign? How difficult is it for you, as a women of undoubted courage?

After the election I chose education as my expert brief. I was not going to be just “the Roma MP,” but of course in a situation with far-right people sitting close to us in the Parliament it became inevitable that I would deal with Roma issues as well.

Sometimes it’s very hard for me personally to listen to them when they speak of “gypsy criminality,” and basically use parliament to spread hate speech. And very painful for me when they began to organize with hate groups and paramilitaries outside of Parliament, going to the villages declaring that they will create order and intimidating Roma communities. When it started in Gyöngyöspataa, I was actually in Washington but returned to witness the same thing in Hejőszalonta.

I was there and what was particularly chilling was to see that so many of these people marching and screaming “gypsy killers” and “gypsy criminals” had brought their children with them. Of course I get a lot of abusive and threatening emails, especially after Hejőszalonta because I made a speech in Parliament calling on Zoltan Balog and the government to halt these racist provocations engineered by Jobbik, and asked if they were waiting until somebody is killed, or the conflict escalates before they intervene. It was the first time I heard Balog speak harshly, but his remarks were directed not to me but to Jobbik, and he demanded that they bring a halt to this because maintaining law and order is the task of the government and the police and not Jobbik.

In parliament Jobbik are relentless in their crude hate speech. At the outset I thought that there must be some intelligent people in this party that through discussion could be cured of their prejudice. Now I see that there is no possibility and that the majority are hard core racists. We recently had a week of argument and debate in a parliamentary committee to modify the criminal code to deal with hate groups.

The other day, after four hours listening to rubbish about “gypsy criminals” and how they will kill the whole Hungarian people I told my fraction leader; “Andris, I don’t have enough energy to listen to any more of this.” Like any human being I have my good days and bad days, and on a bad day it’s much harder to tolerate this—but I always face them and would never show weakness—I face them and smile to show I am stronger than they are.

It’s funny but they have a grudging respect for me; they are racists and use foul words, but not when they speak to me. When they speak ill of Roma leaders, they tell me that I am the exception. I smile and remain courteous, but this is not an easy time in my life.

Fidesz, the ruling political party in Hungary, has come under fire and attracted international criticism on a range of issues, but has made Roma integration a priority of their EU presidency. What’s your opinion?

I will acknowledge the achievements of Fidesz when I see progressive Roma people in their party. I cannot imagine how Roma people of good will and self-respect, can sit silent in parliament, just listening to concrete hate speech. I argue with them in the corridors afterwards about why they don’t speak up. They say it’s not their task. When I contacted the Fidesz Roma after Gyöngyöspataa and called on them to make a joint statement, their reply was that they have read the papers, listened to and watched the news, and that nothing happened! Fidesz Roma guys—how can I work with them when they say nothing happened in Gyöngyöspataa?

It sounds good that the Hungarian EU Presidency launched the Roma Framework and that the government wants to deal with Roma integration, but I would like to see concrete steps taken when it comes to budgeting time. During the negotiations from October to December last, I made several amendments related to education, LMP made several recommendations related to Roma—all were ignored, nothing we submitted surfaced.

Beyond declarations I have yet to see anything concrete. They speak of two priorities in the media: to increase the number of Roma students in the high-school system; and to create 100,000 job placements for low-skilled Roma. I don’t see where or from what budget line these jobs will be created because no provision has been made for it. There’s money for scholarships and that’s it.

So it’s very good that we can begin to speak about a European Framework for Roma Integration. I know that this situation is so thanks to the Decade, because I remember how for years we pushed the EU to take the issue seriously and respond as an institution to Roma inclusion. But when you read the Communication, which I am absolutely sure will be accepted by the Council, the tone is that “we should,” “we encourage”—what’s missing is strong words about what we must do. I am sorry to say it but I think this is just going to be another piece of EU paper.

Looking to the future, do you imagine it will be better or worse for your son and other Roma children growing up in Hungary?

Sometimes I felt that I should flee the country and that I don’t want to bring my son up here. I don’t think the future looks too good for our children, but of course it depends on your standard of living and lifestyle. Its easier for my son; he has the opportunity to go to a good school, lives in a nice environment and of course with my circle of friends and their children he never has to experience prejudice. It’s totally different for Roma kids from poor families in the countryside. The situation is so bad. There needs to be a strong and clear message from civil society concerning anti-Gypsyism and a show of solidarity with Roma in the countryside.

Every country to some extent reflects the attitudes of its elites and as long as the Hungarian elite is incapable of taking action to counter this, then the wider non-Roma population will do nothing. And just yesterday I read the latest research from Katalin Klaus, which finds that anti-Roma prejudice is stronger and more common among the better educated and better-off parts of society than it is among the least educated and poorest people in the villages.

This is all very disturbing, and these are not the best of times, but I do believe that “politics can be different” and will continue the struggle to make it so, and to convince more young progressive Roma to take an active part in LMP to make that difference.

To go to the original interview: http://blog.soros.org/2011/06/politics-can-be-different-a-conversation-with-agnes-osztojkan/


via Index: Bloody Fight in Gyöngyöspata

On Tuesday evening, a fight broke out between the local Roma and supporters of Véderő, who sneaked back to Gyöngyöspata. The Roma say the extreme right wingers in uniforms were prvoking them all day and hit one of them in the end. The leader of Véderő said, around 100-120 loval Roma attacked four men, who were walking peacefully without uniforms. Four are injured, one is badly hurt. Hundreds of police have arrived.

A fight burst out around 9 pm at Gyöngyöspata on Tuesday night. The local Roma – recently known because of the trainings held there by the extreme right-wing group, Véderő– said to Index that something snapped for good in this town, where many are fleeing from. The representative of the National Ambulance service told index, four people were taken to hospital in Hatvan, one with severe and three with less severe injuries. Hundreds of police have arrived to Gyongyospata.

János Ladó, representative of the Roma Civil Rights Foundation who was on the ground, said to Index that more and more uniformed Véderő members were sneaking back on Tuesday. They, and their local Gyöngyöspata supporters were provoking those Roma who live not in the Roma neighbourhood, but in the central areas of the town. Allegedly, they also threatened them with a gun during the day.

By the evening, in the middle of a birthday celebration, the provocation increased, and more and more gathered on both sides. The Roma called the police, first one patrol arrived, then more policemen.

While the crowd was gathering in the central areas of the town, some threw stones at the windows of one of the houses in the Roma neighbourhood, some 10 minutes walk from there, then assaulted a 14-year-old local Roma boy. A serious fight in the Roma neighbourhood followed; according to Ladó some were seriously injured, he saw three. Police called for more police backup. This was also confirmed by representative of TASZ [HCLU- Hungarian Civil Liberties Union] who saw a group of police cars on the highway, on their way to Gyöngyöspata.

Captain Bálint Soltész, spokesman of Heves Megye Police Headquarters, confirmed to Index that the two groups really ’got across’ on Tuesday night. According to Soltész, some were injured, at least the ambulance was called, but he could not report any details, such as how many police arrived and whether they asked for backup.

Ladó claims that the situation is very tense in the town. After Tuesday’s fights panic is palpable, the situation got worse even compared to the recent days.

A local Roma activist said to Index that he cannot report as he is about to evacuate his family from the village. He says that there was no peace even in the recent days: many villagers hosted extremists of Véderő, who were ‘hiding out’ there in the recent days after having been sent away from their camp during the weekend. There is news spreading in the town, that an armed attack happened, but there is no information about shootings. We must remember that upon the return of the local Roma women and children on Sunday, after they fled on Friday, Janos Farkas, local Roma leader said after the next incident the minority will leave the town for good.

Tamás Eszes, leader of Véderő who bought land in Gyöngyöspata and organised the military training during the weekend, said after 11pm that he was on his way to Gyöngyöspata, where – according to him – 100-120 Romas attacked four civilian, peacefully walking men with pegs. He says that one of them was a member of Véderő, but others were locals, and all of them had to be taken to the hospital.

Political catastrophe tourism

Laszlo Horvath, county government representative said to MTI: it is impossible to handle the situation now. He says the ‘catastrophe tourism’ must end, this is where the political festival that started in March has led. The politician walk around a few streets in Gyöngyöspata and the locals told him “they are tired of being threatened as Hungarians in their own homes” and “there are a lot of policemen here, where have they been?”. There were some who said the video recordings of on the ground events will disappear again – the fight was recorded. Many criticized the party LMP [Politics Can Be Different], because they are said to turn up after such incidents and give money and such to the Roma, who then feel what they do is right.

What has happened so far?

Members of Véderő arrived to Gyöngyöspata 16th April, according to the local Roma only to intimidate them. The right-wing group planned to organise a training camp at a wine-cellar that they were provided by the villagers. The self-appointed guards planned to invade the area at the weekend.

The series right-wing organisations’ marches started when a local inhabitant committed suicide in the end of February. According to the local Jobbik president, the elderly man killed himself, because some Roma, whose houses were damaged by floods, were to move in as his neighbours. The topic was snapped up by Jobbik, members of For a Better Future Civil Guard group appeared, then Véderő bought a land on the hillside above the Roma neighbourhood.

The camp was dismantled by the police 22nd April. Red Cross and and American entrepreneur took the Roma women and children from the village in the morning: some 300 hundred left Gyöngyöspata by bus. They were taken to a camp in Csillebérc, but have gone back home by now.

Members of Véderő appeared in Gyöngyöspata on Monday again, where they still plan on holding their military camp about self-defense and weapon use.

To go to the original article: http://index.hu/belfold/2011/04/26/verekedes_gyongyospatan/
Translated by L.B.

via Euronews: Vigilantes Force Hungarian Roma out of village

To go to the original article: http://www.euronews.net/2011/04/23/vigilantes-force-hungarian-roma-out-of-village/

Attack of the Guardist Clones

Original article here:  http://index.hu/belfold/2011/04/18/kelet-magyarorszag/
Translation by Orsi Virág.

A Hungarian paramilitary extreme right wing group called Véderő (“Force of Protection”) is building a training camp in Gyöngyöspata next to the Gypsy row while in Hajdúhadház surrounded by the uniforms of the “Society of Civil Guards for a Brighter Future” Gábor Vona sais that it is not Viktor Orbán, but only the Jobbik (Vona’s extreme right party) that knows the solution for “Gypsy Crime”


It is still not clear at what time Véderő has arrived to Gyöngyöspata last Saturday. According to János Farkas, representative of local minority self-government, it was in the morning when the men in military appeared marching down the Gypsy row. The Roma in the street remember that members of the society showed up around one p.m., while the “commanding officer”, Tamás Eszes sais it was already late afternoon when they went up to the cellar at Kecskekő hill.

One thing is certain: Sunday afternoon when we look out the window of János Farkas’ home members of Véderő are already on the hill side wearing boots and uniforms watching the Gypsy row through their binoculars. According to Farkas they just came to scare the Roma marching several times a day up and down the Roma streets to the village and back. The mayor “doesn’t know” about their presence, and, together with a leader of local Jobbik, denies that there would be any kind of extremists marching on the Gypsy row when we call them on the phone.

All photographs by: István Huszti

A police vehicle passes by and Farkas sais that police is present only in order to prevent that the Gypsies attack the hill and they rather escort the neonazis instead of protecting the Roma. We hear a scream from the street, Véderő has started marching from the hill. When we step out the door self-appointed roma civil guards wearing high visibility waistcoats are trying to get women and children back into the houses with little success. Fear is suppressed by curiosity and anger. Eight Véderő members march in a rudimentary “formation” down the street, some Roma scream “we are not afraid of you” while others are trying to silence the loud ones. People in the formation remain silent marching through the curses with a superior smile.

“Last night an other house was attacked at the end of the Gypsy row, they threw stones at a window” – sais Farkas, while Roma civil guards are trying to get themselves together after the shock. A police vehicle arrives and a motorbike decorated with a nazi flag slowly rolls in. Police checks the identity of the bearded biker dressed in leather while there are more and more people gathering around, some swearing at the biker some at the police. Everybody is taking pictures, Roma civil guards take photos of the police action from several angles but Véderő members are also documenting the scene.

We head off to visit the house that is said to have been attacked. There are children playing in the creek full of trash next to the Gypsy row. Someone screams angrily “Lunch!” from a hut and one of the kids answers “Just a minute”.  The hut that was attacked stands in the end of the row, a little further it’s already the modern, pink and orange houses shining on us. The owners are waiting in front of the house to show the broken window and the two stones that the police took out of the house but of course didn’t send them to the lab.

“I asked when they were going to come but the police didn’t even answer” – sais the owner of the house. “Luckily my kids were sleeping elsewhere so nobody got hurt”

“I have recognized two of the aggressors but the police didn’t interrogate them” – complains the man adding that he didn’t believe the threats that there would be Gypsy blood spilling but now he knows that enraged Hungarians were not joking.

The broken window

We walk back via the Gypsy row and start climbing up the hill where Véderő is cooking on open fire. When they get to know that we are journalists of index.hu one of them immediately sais “ah, zsindex” playing on the words “zsidó” (Jew) and “index”.

Nobody is allowed to talk to the press, we have to wait for the commanding officer who is currently doing an “operative job” in the village in his special vehicle. Soon Tamás Eszes, the commanding officer of Véderő, proud new owner of the cellar arrives in his jeep.

Eszes claims that they don’t mean to intimidate the Roma with placing their campsite so close to the Gypsy row, they don’t want to guard public security either: they simply haven’t found a better site for the training.  The organization will also lease the land around the cellar (bought for a symbolic price) as “the owners don’t use it because of the Gypsies so they are happy that someone uses it for a good cause”, adds the leader.

Closed formation

According to Eszes they are not provoking the Roma they just cleaned up the raunchy cellar and its surroundings in order to train there from next week.

“We are organizing military trainings like MHSZ (Hungarian Defence Federation) used to organize, we train the youth how to protect themselves. There will be a formation training too, of course, so that they get familiar with discipline and subordination, so that they don’t only sit in front of their computers at home all the time” – sais Eszes in the uniform of Véderő with arms crossed, in the circle of members of the organization gathering around us. The “commanding officer” thinks that Véderő is not attached to any political parties, though he admits that the head of local Jobbik, Oszkár Juhász has already been to see them “up here”.  He tells us that members of Véderő can not be members of other organizations either, there are no members of the Hungarian Guard nor other extremist groups among them. However, we see many people wearing T-shirts of the “Society of Civil Guards for a Brighter Future”.

Eszes Tamás sais that they were attacked by thirty drunken Gypsies last Saturday and in the end he had to call the Gyöngyös Central Police himself to ask for protection. According to his story police could only stop the Roma with a warning shot. Gyöngyös Central Police denies this version. A lot of local Roma also say that there was no shot at all, some say they heard it but they think it was members of Véderő who fired it.

Tamás Eszes (ironically “eszes” means “bright” –as smart, clever– in Hungarian)

Tamás Eszes sais that they haven’t attacked any Roma houses but the Gypsies are screaming at them all the time, threatening them, spitting on their cars when they cross the Gypsy row to get from the cellar to the village. After this no one should imagine that they are going to bring them cookies, sais Eszes, and will introduce themselves politely to the neighbors.

Police patrol arrives again under the hill, Roma civil guards send a woman into her house (she is screaming angrily), while Véderő is arriving back from the “corner store”. The village seems peaceful.


Units of neonazi organizations have been patroling for a week in Hajdúhadház. We arrive to the town at four p.m. Policemen in white service caps control the traffic on each intersection where normally there is just one police patrol for 3 towns and villages. In the back-streets riot control police are smoking in small groups while people rush with Jobbik flags on the tip of fishing rods.

Jobbik is holding a grand assembly in the market square, traffic is controlled not only by police, members of the ”Society of Civil Guards for a Brighter Future” are also trying to make themselves useful. The “National Garrison” (Nemzeti Őrsereg) is also present: a few dozen elderly following a silk flag slouching up and down.

The high spirits of the event couldn’t be described better than by “To arms! To arms” (Fegyverbe! Fegyverbe!) chants at regular intervals when the speeches have hardly begun winning a modest ovation and some applause.

Tamás Schneider is giving a speech

After the national anthem it’s time to scream the regular “Lord, give us a brighter future!”. The whole field is chanting together. The last syllabe is still hanging in the air when a voice replies clearly “To you too, rats!”. After a minor confusion a local MP of Jobbik suggests to repeat the chant about the “brighter future” just to make sure, perhaps they didn’t hear well, but the reply comes again “To you too, losers!”

The “Civil Guards for a Brighter Future” are immediately ready to report to duty trying to find the saboteur but somehow there is noone to enforce the action. The crowd is taken over by confusion, people are pointing at each other and the story is soon forgotten because on the stage Tamás Schneider, vice president of Jobbik begins to speak about that Hungarians have finally awaken and they are going to protect themselves from Gypsies and “Gypsy Crime” because certainly, there are good, hard working Gypsies as well, if only we could see them at last. However, for the majority of Gypsies crime, children as means of subsistence and unemployment benefits are the meaning of life and if it goes on like this then Hajdúhadház falls (in the battle) within 20 years and will even be barbarized.

Gábor Vona, president of Jobbik, starts a similar reasoning in the protecting circle of the “Civil Guards”. He mentions the need for sending problematic children to boarding schools and the benefits of self sustaining prisons. The leader of Jobbik also urges the transformation of family aid into a tax refund after the third child, in order to encourage childbirth only into families with a decent income.

According to Vona Jobbik is not being racist as they have no problem with decent Gypsies and all their bills are presented in a way that it equally applies for all Hungarian citizens. It’s not their fault that in the end these bills affect a certain group in a bad way.

The president of Jobbik then attacks Viktor Orbán who is just sending messages from Brussels like ‘nobody can be marching around scaring the public’ instead of finally making an order in East Hungary. In Vona’s opinion if Fidesz keeps destroying democratic institutions it will be impossible to replace the party even if they lose the elections which also means that only public anger will be able to overthrow their power. At this point the rhythm of the “To arms!” chant is increasing in the crowd.

Flags and sympathizers

After the speech of Vona everybody is sent home quick by the organizers, the Leader gives a few autographs and shakes hands with a few sympathizers, and the “National Garrison” marches away into the bleeding sunset or at least towards their microbuses.

There is hardly anyone left in the market square when one of the participants remembers that after all they got together to commemorate the late Ms. Margit so those who have a candle might as well lit it in front of the stage. For a memory.

via The Washing Post: Roma families evacuate village in Hungary to escape far-right vigilantes’ training camp

GYONGYOSPATA, Hungary — The Hungarian Red Cross evacuated hundreds of Roma women and children from their homes Friday because they were frightened of a far-right vigilante group that was setting up a training camp near their village.

The 277 evacuees from the village of Gyongyospata were taken by bus to other parts of Hungary because the local Roma are concerned about potential confrontations with members of Vedero, or Defense Force.

“We are afraid and we have reason to be,” said Janos Farkas, chairman of the local Roma council. “For the past nearly two months, Gyongyospata has been practically a battlefield.”

Several far-right vigilante groups, usually dressed in camouflage gear and heavy boots, have been patrolling the village, and others in eastern Hungary that have large Roma populations, with the stated purpose of defending the non-Roma residents from “Gypsy crime.”

To read the original article go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/roma-families-evacuate-village-in-hungary-to-escape-far-right-vigilantes-training-camp/2011/04/22/AFrtWyME_story.html

Easter in Gyöngyöspata

by Dorottya Karsay

This year we will miss our regular family Easter with ham and the well deserved rest. Today we are heading to Gyöngyöspata. We are civilians called by the local Roma who are afraid: police won’t protect them this weekend.

Véderő is organizing a three-day military training in the village. Last week they just “cleaned up” and did some “landscaping” which in fact meant two days of terrorizing the local Roma. However, tomorrow paramilitary forces will start the training. Their time table contains, among other things, use of firearms, target-practice, night tactics. After the passivity of police last weekend locals are afraid for a reason and they immediately accepted a private offer that allowed them to evacuate the majority of women and children for a few days.

Still Life in Gyöngyöspata. Photo by Péter Harkai.

We find it very important in the current situation to express our solidarity with the local Roma constantly harrassed by extremist groups marching in the village since early spring. We also want to be there so that the police protects the Roma and that they take action against the racist and hate-mongering manifestations of Véderő – at least this, if they won’t stop them from organizing their military training.

This Friday, on the Day of Earth, we are going to clean the creek next to the Gypsy neighborhood and the street. Saturday we will continue the work, we will dig canals in the gardens for excess water and dig up some gardens too so that potatoes and vegetables can be planted. Saturday afternoon we will celebrate with cooking together and music. Sunday we will play soccer, show a movie and, as requested by locals, organize a great game of cards. All this organized by civilians, of civil money, just because we want to be there – and because we need to be there.

Join us any time you wish, stay for as long as you want! You will get tools for the work and if you stay for the night it’s an extra cool thing because we will probably have to do nightshifts and it’s important that there is a lot of us. Bring a sleeping bad, clothes to get dirty and food! A photo or video camera can always come in handy!

Everybody is welcome!

The Nights in Gyöngyöspata Team

To read the original article: http://www.commmunity.hu/2011/04/22/husvet-gyongyospatan/
Translated by Orsi Virág

“Hungary’s ‘Society of Civil Guards for a Brighter Future’ should be disbanded”

 Minority ombudsman urges to suspend the activities and disband the “Society of Civil Guards for a Brighter Future” (Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület). In his report “on the events in Gyöngyöspata” Ernő Kállai came to the conclusion that locals have probably witnessed and suffered political manipulation.

Like a well planned scenario after a few days-weeks of marching the extreme right is provoking new conflicts between the Roma and non-Roma in the next village. They are reaching their goal: the majority’s discontent with the police is growing, prejudices against the Roma are stronger and stronger, increased police presence and extra media attention are guaranteed – writes Kállai Ernő in his analyzis on the emergence and the effects of the ethnic conflict in Gyöngyöspata.

According to the report of the minority ombudsman the events in Gyöngyöspata can not be separated from the socio-economic events of the past 20 years. The Hungarian state has abandoned multiply disadvantaged groups often living in segregation in various parts of the country. Instead of professional action against poverty, public speech is characterized by a fight against the poor.

Problems have started several years ago in Gyöngyöspata according to an investigation on the spot. The ruination of the cellars on Kecske-kő hill was mentioned by everyone but opinions differ on who is responsible. The majority is certain that it was done by the Gypsies, while local Roma say that materials were carried away by mostly non-Roma contractors.

Offences: truth and imagination

Allegations stemming from the world of legends are hard to set apart from real offences. A number of people complained about Roma youth gathering in the church garden scaring the elderly and tourists with their behaviour. The headmaster of the school who supposedly knows the life of local youth well does not know about such a thing. He only mentioned an old incident: a fight in the church garden – years ago.

It is rumoured that Roma students of the local school only let their schoolmates enter the washroom if they pay. The headmaster said that there was such an incident about eight-ten years ago but it doesn’t happen anymore.

It is a real case, on the other hand, confirmed by local Roma and non-Roma too, that last December the son of a local politician was severely assaulted by Roma children at school. The mother of one of the Roma boys personally apologized the following day publicly and personally from the family. The assaulted child was withrawn from the school.

The ombudsman’s report does not contain names of persons or political parties but the politician mentioned is probably the head of the local branch of Jobbik (a Hungarian extreme right party). According to some opinions this unfortunate event was perhaps the trigger of the extreme right’s demonstration.

However, the official reason given by Jobbik is the story of an elderly who committed a suicide. According to majority opinion the man killed himself because the Red Cross wanted to buy a flat for a flood victim Roma family next to his home. Rumors also say that he visited all his neighbours before his death and complained that he couldn’t take it anymore, the Gypsies took all that he had: the only way out that he saw was suicide.

The Roma, on the other hand, know about a different story: the elderly man killed himself because of family matters and health issues. The head of local police has verified this version referring to the statement of the family of the deceased.

In the past there had been no tension between the Roma and the rest of the population in the village

Despite the conflicts investigation on the spot has revealed that before the appearance of the extreme right there had been no serious tension in the village between the Roma and non-Roma. The head of the Heves County Central Police Station talked about similar experiences. The school’s headmaster estimated that there are at most three to five families with members involved in criminal activities: the majority of the Roma community has never committed any crime at all.

Conflicts have escalated right after the extremists marched in. Although part of the non-Roma locals talked about an increasing sense of security, the Roma reported enormous fear, pressure, disstress and feeling of persecution. The “men in uniforms” created a severe atmosphere of tension and fear in the village.

The “occupation” of Gyöngyöspata can repeat itself any time, (it has already begun) as there are several villages in Hungary where the State is not present anymore – warns Kállai. Any political party may take advantage of the situation to grow its own popularity by promulgating the notion of Roma and crime in its rhetoric. According to the ombudsman, from the events and circumstances in Gyöngyöspata it is probable that locals are in fact witnessing and suffering a political manipulation.

Public prosecutor should request disbanding of  ‘Society of Civil Guards for a Brighter Future’

Ernő Kállai has written more than thirty recommendations and proposals. He urges the Attorney General to examine: has there been a (cime) case of hate-mongering against a community and a criminal offence of violence against a community member in Gyöngyöspata. The minority ombudsman is initiating a legal supervision process against the ‘Society of Civil Guards for a Brighter Future’ at the attorney’s department. Kállai also urges the Attorney General to request disbanding of the Society and to suspend their activities until court decision.

The minority ombudsman requests legal refinement and stricter laws. He calls for the Home Secretary to prepare the amendment so that a civil guard organization may perform crime prevention activities only with a valid agreement on collaboration with local police and the municipality.