Hungarian Watch

Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

TRAFÓ House of Contemporary Arts in Danger!

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2011 at 10:13 am

All of TRAFÓ’s international partners and Gyuri Szabo’s colleagues across borders and disciplines should be up in arms about this:

(From a Facebook posting earlier this morning…)
“The Hungarian goverment is trying to take away TRAFÓ, the contemporary art house of Budapest, from the founders, the people without whose hard work, dedication and insight, Trafó would have never become what it is now. The goverment asked two artists to take over Trafó and make it their own house. It’s a dirty political game. They are trying to corrupt the contemporary art scene from the inside. Trafó is an internationally acclaimed art house where many international artists perform. We call upon all our international contacts, fellow artists and institutes, to support TRAFÓ. And we hope that the two companies ( Yvette Bozsik and Iván Markó ) that are asked to play along with this dirty political game, are stong and wise enough to say no.”



Roma Residents Under Neo-Nazi Siege: So Where’s the Press?

In Uncategorized on March 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm

More and more details are emerging on the dreadful situation for Roma residents in the Hungarian town of Gyöngyöspata, although, you’d never know it from the complete dearth of coverage coming from the international media. Searching around on the internet finds that, as of this afternoon, NO major international media outlets have picked up this story.  Please pass this information far and wide and encourage any local, regional, and national media contacts to begin covering this unfolding story.

Some of the most detailed reporting on the events in Gyöngyöspata is being done by the Roma Buzz Aggregator website:

According to the local representative of the Jobbik party in the Heves County village, crimes against property have become unbearable to the locals, who have therefore called the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future to protect them. Gábor Vona, the president of Jobbik said in Gyöngyöspata[1] that „those are not willing to integrate should leave the country.” More than 2,000 members and sympathizers of Jobbik and the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future held a protest in the village, which counts 2,500 citizens, against „Gypsy terror”, fearing that „crimes committed by the minorities could create a civil war situation.”

The Roma were astonished. According to them, generalizing and exercising arbitrary control over the whole village because of a few trouble makers is not a solution. Nearly 2,500 persons marched in black military-like clothing on 6th March 2011 in Gyöngyöspata, after the rally supported by the Jobbik party, through the village’s Roma neighborhood, chanting slogans about the restoration of public safety. The police arrived on the scene on the day of the demonstration but did not interfere in any way, regardless of the “abuse caused to the rights of the local Roma residents, which could have been a ground for the authorities to break up the protest”, as mentioned in the letter written by the members of Gyöngyöspata’s Roma community to the Hungarian Minister of Home Affairs.

After the end of the protest the activists wearing the black uniforms of the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future, the “Defense Guard” or the “gendarmerie” did not leave Gyöngyöspata. They are there to this day and still terrorize the local Roma population. They stand in lines and surround the neighborhood. Because of their threatening appearance, the Roma do not dare leave their houses or send their children to school. Their stated goals and behavior clearly questions the state monopoly on the legitimate use of force. The village has a local police chief who had earlier initiated investigations into some thefts and closed some cases. However, many local residents considered it necessary to strengthen public safety by calling on the civil guards to protect their village. While the police doubled their presence on the scene two days after the protest, the members of the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future and its sympathizers are still forming a human chain around the houses of Roma residents and say they are there to stay. The police, while present in large numbers, still do not interfere in any way, regardless of the fact that there is reasonable suspicion that offenses such as harassment and bodily injury are occurring on a day to day basis against many of the village’s Roma residents. Some of the protesters have vowed to stay on and guard the village until the local Roma self-government does not sign a declaration stating that the Roma will stop committing crimes. Attila Laszlo, the leader of the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future said that he had heard about the municipality requesting that the Civil Guard should leave but that this was later retracted by the mayor. The mayor’s office confirmed his statement. According to their initial plans, they intend to stay until they train and organize a local branch of the organization made up of local residents…

“We went to Gyöngyöspata on Thursday, 10th March, and found we had to cross two checkpoints reminiscent of war movies to enter the Roma neighborhood.” wrote the website. At that point tension was intense between the Roma and the people clad in black uniforms surrounding them. “During our interviews, local Roma inhabitants told us about the psychological terror and humiliation they are suffering, the constant fear they are feeling. It is not safe for them to leave their homes, even to go to work.” In their declaration, the local Rona draw attention to the fact that the members of the Hungarian Guard hidden behind “Civil Guard Association for a Better Future” and “gendarme” uniforms and openly supported by the Jobbik party have kept the Roma residents of the village in a state of constant fear for the past two weeks. The situation has come to a point where the Roma are terrified to leave their houses, stopped sending their children to school and do not even feel secure inside their own homes.

The Hungarian Democratic Charta and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ), two NGOs, have expressed their shock at the lack of response of the Hungarian authorities: “We are shocked by the inaction of the police, which could encourage others to take similar actions and could deepen the loss of trust of the Roma minority in the authorities and the administration.” While many representatives of European governments and journalists from all over the world are currently in Hungary for the EU Presidency summits, neither the events, nor their statement have made it into the international press.

Watch video of the ultra-nationalist website on the events in Gyöngyöspata:

Neo-Nazis Terrorize Roma in Hungarian Village

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Members of the "Civil Guard Association for a Better Future" are terrorizing the Roma citizens of Gyöngyöspata.


Budapest, London, New York, 18 March 2011: Yesterday, the European Roma Rights Centre, Amnesty International and Human Rights First sent a letter urging Hungarian authorities to intervene and protect the Romani residents of Gyöngyöspata from the intimidation and harassment they have been subjected to by the vigilante organisation, Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület (Civil Guard Association for a Better Future), since 1 March.

The Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület have been patrolling the town of Gyöngyöspata day and night. They reportedly prevent the Romani residents from sleeping by shouting during the night, threaten them with weapons and dogs and follow them every time they leave their houses, unimpeded by local police. The desperate Roma residents are afraid to go to school, to work or even to buy food. Finally, the Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület indicated that, having successfully established their presence in Gyöngyöspata, they will also set up chapters in other towns to expand their “patrols”.

The Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület patrols have been supported by the far-right political party Jobbik, which organised a march of thousands through the village in black military uniform on 6 March. According to the ERRC’s monitoring, there were at least 48 attacks against Roma in Hungary between 2008 and 2010, which resulted in at least 9 deaths. The presence of anti-Roma vigilante groups in Roma neighbourhoods adds to growing inter-ethnic tensions and fuels a climate of violence.

The organisations called for Hungarian authorities to fulfil their domestic and international human rights obligations in Gyöngyöspata, to intervene immediately to ensure the situation does not escalate into physical violence and to protect the Roma from intimidation and harassment.

Robert Kushen, Executive Director of the ERRC, said: “On April 7-8, Hungary will play host to a major European Union meeting to address Roma exclusion.  It is critical that the Government of Hungary lead by example, and protect Roma within its borders from intimidation and harassment.”

For further information, contact:
Sinan Gokçen
ERRC Media and Communications Officer

Orban to Artists and Intellectuals: I Don’t Like You, So Shut Up

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Germany’s Deutsche Welle recently reported on the deteriorating situation for artists and intellectuals under the Orban regime in Hungary in their online article: Hungarian intellectuals face government pressure.

Bela Tarr's "The Turin Horse" won The Jury Grand Prix at the Berlin International Film Festival

Hungarian Filmmaker Bela Tarr felt persecuted by the Hungarian government.  So, he told the German daily Der Tagesspiegel:

“The government hates intellectuals because they are liberal and oppositional. It has insulted us as traitors.”  Apparently, he also suggested that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s administration was reducing overall support for the arts and driving film production companies to bankruptcy.

Then, within 48 hours, Tarr retracted his statement and completely disassociated himself from the paper and the interview.  Hmm…interesting. Government intervention, anyone?

Concert pianist and conductor Andras Schiff is also feeling the punishment of making public anti-Orban statements.

“I am absolutely persona non grata in Hungary now. I don’t believe I’ll ever perform in Hungary again, or even visit, ” Schiff said.  “A lot of the attention has focused on the new media law but the problems run far deeper. Even more worrying are changes to the national constitution that are being drafted and the rise of anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia in Hungarian society.”

Then we have the five anti-Orban Hungarian philosophers who are being dragged through the mud and accused of misappropriating grant funds.

One thing can be said of Orban: he is smart enough to know that revolutions are often stoked by the courage, insight, daring, and dissidence of artists and intellectuals. And he is using the age old weapon of censorship against Hungary’s finest.

Hungary’s Sleeping Liberal Giant, Maybe Not So Sleepy?

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Tuesday, March 15th marked the 163rd anniversary of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution in which freedom fighters lashed out against Hapsburg rule wielding a list of 12 demands, not the least of which included freedom of the press and the abolition of censorship.

It’s funny how history repeats itself.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban marked the occasion with an impassioned speech in front of the National Museum.  As he is want to do in most of his addresses to the Hungarian public, Orban compared his party’s 2010 mandate to the populist uprisings of 1848 and 1956. He also didn’t miss an opportunity to demonize the EU or the US or any of those darn “outsiders” who dare point out the more dangerous aspects of his authoritarian rule.

“The real free Hungary of  ‘48 and ‘56 cannot be found in the world of ideology or theory, and nor will we find it in the examples of Brussels or other metropolises; neither will party deals lead there…We should look within rather than to the outside to find the Hungary we’re looking for.”

Problem is, many people aren’t falling for it anymore.

Just down the street from Orban’s pep rally, one could find tens of thousands of members of a new era of Hungarian freedom fighters (the largest group of demonstrators since 1989) standing up and saying, “enough is enough.” They were there to protest the new media law, they were there to protest the stripping away of their individual rights and civil liberties, they were they to send a message to their prime minister–our Hungary is not YOUR Hungary.

Is there a trend here? Is the Hungarian left close to a tipping point?  The Economist thinks this might just be so.

In the article Budapest’s liberal awakening?, The Economist makes a prophecy that both excites and gives those of us at Hungarian Watch some hope for Hungary’s future:

“Tuesday’s demonstration was not linked to any specific party, but showed that as the old left-right paradigm fractures, especially under a government which combines a robust patriotism with statist rhetoric, substantial numbers of Hungarians are seeking civic engagement on their own terms. From the conservative blogosphere to the salons of Budapest’s chattering classes, there is increasing talk of the need for a new party, one that combines tolerance, diversity and, most of all, modernity. If and when such a grouping is born, March 15th 2011 will likely be seen as the date of its conception.”

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