Syrian refugee teachers’ training in the Netherlands


This video from the Turkish-Syrian border says about itself:

Syrian Refugees Demolish Barbed-wire Border Fence to Escape ISIS Fighting

15 June 2015

Thousands of refugees poured across the Syrian border into Turkey over the weekend after fighting intensified in the northern Syrian city of Tal Abyad. According to state-run TRT television, around 3,000 refugees arrived at the Akcakale border crossing on Monday.

Journalists at the scene said relatives waited behind fences on the Turkish side of the border for family members to cross on Monday.

More than 16,000 people are believed to have fled from Tal Abyad and surrounding areas into Turkey over the past two weeks.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Training for Syrian refugee teachers

21 January 2016

ICLON and Dutch Academic Services initiate a training for Syrian teachers in the Netherlands about the use of mobile teaching.

Taking into account recent developments in Syria and the Middle East it can be expected that there will be a huge need for education among Syrian refugees. That need can only be addressed by ‘out of the box’ methods: that is using flexible online (or blended) learning programmes.

While understanding this situation ICLON and Dutch Academic Services initiate a training course for professionals with an educational background: The Mobile Educator.

The training is offered free of charge. The trainers work on a voluntary basis and funds are being raised for additional costs for transport and lunch.

The training starts on 16 February.

More information and application: website Mobile Educator

The European Union Wants to Criminalize Volunteers Who Help Refugees on Greek Islands: here.

‘Whites only’ swimming pools in Austria


Racially segregated swimming pool sign in Selma, Alabama, USA

This photo shows a racially segregated swimming pool sign in Selma, Alabama, USA; when there were racist ‘Jim Crow’ laws.

The Wits Justice Project in South Africa writes about its context:

We the People: Policing the Pools

June 15, 2015

At our editorial meeting last week, the Wits Justice Project (WJP) watched a video that has been circulating over social media that depicts a white police officer using excessive force against a group of black teenagers at a pool party in McKinney, Texas. The most shocking frame of the video shows the officer violently manhandling a young black teenage girl of slight build and waving a gun at two black teenage boys who try to intervene on her behalf.

This 6 June 2015 video is about police violence against swimming children in McKinney, Texas.

We reflected on race and spatial exclusion, racist policing in the United States, the role of gender, the policing of juveniles, and South Africa’s own history of segregated pools and beaches. Since the video was first released, Police Corporal Eric Casebolt was suspended and then he subsequently resigned from the department. Whether criminal charges will be filed against him remains to be seen. The Black Lives Matter movement has come to McKinney. The protests have started. A spotlight shines on McKinney and offers insights into the way that race plays out in America. The conversations will continue.

This blog has been written by Beena Ahmad, WJP visiting researcher from the United States. …

In an interview with National Public Radio, Jeff Wiltse, a University of Montana history professor, discussed the racialized history of swimming pools in America. Community pools first proliferated on the eve of segregation, and they were built in working class neighbourhoods as well as more affluent ones. They were noticeably less available in areas that were predominantly African American. During Jim Crow, segregation was enforced by laws, as well as through violence perpetrated by whites against blacks with police acquiescence, even in the absence of an official policy of segregation.

“Wade-ins” were held in a number of communities to protest segregated beaches and swimming pools. In one famous account captured on photograph, a Florida motel owner poured acid into a pool to force black bathers out of the pool. Some credit this story with playing a role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act. According to Wiltse, by the time of desegregation, pool construction had become cheaper. Whites stopped using municipal pools and started building pools in private communities or in their backyards. Many municipalities have since closed public pools, and there is a racial disparity as to who has access to swimming pools in America today.

By Markus Salzmann in Austria:

Austrian municipalities impose ban on refugees using swimming pools

2 February 2016

The Austrian towns of Korneuburg and Mödling have imposed a ban on refugees using their public swimming pools. Refugees are allowed to use these facilities only if accompanied by an “escort.”

In Mödling, Councilor Robert Mayer of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) announced the measure by issuing instructions to the town’s employees. He had an order posted on notice boards stipulating the ban on unaccompanied people “with immigrant backgrounds.”

He justified the measure by saying that young refugees from two nearby facilities had jumped into the pool in underwear or sweatpants. …

The situation is similar in Korneuburg. Because bathers allegedly felt harassed and molested, a general ban on refugees was imposed. …

The web portal Vienna.at cited police officials who claimed that eight Afghan asylum-seekers had misbehaved, making noise and jumping from the edge of the pool, which is forbidden. It was also claimed that a man had gotten lost and wandered into the women’s changing room. The police acknowledged that there had been no criminal assaults and no charges had been filed.

On the basis of these flimsy pretexts, the city imposed a blanket ban on refugees and hired a security service to enforce it.

On social media, thousands have reacted angrily to the ban and the right-wing officials who imposed it. Many have drawn parallels to the methods employed by the Nazis against the Jews. However, ÖVP Mayor Christian Gepp has defended the racist measures.

Such discrimination against refugees is not limited to Austria. In Bornheim near Bonn in Germany, the town’s social affairs department, which is controlled by the Green Party, has banned adult male refugees from using the public swimming pool. Here too there have been no legal complaints.

In Koksijde in Belgium, the mayor almost succeeded in banning all refugees from the local swimming pool because one Iraqi refugee had helped a little girl distressed by a whitewater whirlpool; leading to a false accusation of padeophile sexual assault.

The same week in which the bans were imposed, the Austrian government closed the country’s borders to refugees. At a refugee summit, leaders of the governing parties—the Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the Austrian Peoples Party (ÖVP)—agreed to introduce a ceiling for refugees. As Chancellor Werner Faymann (SPÖ) told the press, Austria will take in only 37,500 asylum-seekers in this year. This number, added to the 90,000 refugees who have remained in the country in the past year, brings the total to the limit of 1.5 percent of the population set by the government.

The ruling parties are now following the line of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ). The Greens, who are closely linked with the government parties at the provincial and district level, are joining in the witch-hunting of refugees.

Green Party politician Efgani Dönmez, who until last year was a member of the Federal Council, the upper chamber of parliament, appeared Friday as a guest speaker at an FPÖ event in Linz. …

Burgenland, where the Social Democrats are in an alliance with the far-right FPÖ in the state government, has announced that it intends to set up neighbourhood watch groups in its municipalities. According to the state premier Hans Niessl (SPÖ), “security partners” will carry out a broad range of tasks. The details of the powers they will have are currently being negotiated, but they will definitely include the power to check identity cards. Even arming the civil militia is under discussion.

The deputy state premier Johann Tschürtz (FPÖ) announced that the project would initially be introduced in nine municipalities. The municipalities selected include Schattendorf, where, on January 30, 1927, members of the fascist Veterans Association shot into a Social Democratic meeting, killing a worker and a six-year-old child.

The introduction of neighbourhood watch groups evokes memories of this dark chapter in Austrian history. The acquittal of the murderers by the judiciary in 1927 led to a mass demonstration in Vienna, against which the police carried out a massacre, killing 89 workers.

Tschürtz explained that the makeup of the “security partners” remained unclear, but might involve private security companies. It is likely that the FPÖ will use its close ties to the neo-Nazi scene to recruit thugs from this milieu for the neighbourhood watch groups. Last year, FPÖ politician Ralph Schäfer tried to establish a neighbourhood watch group in the city of Wels that included right-wing extremists known to the police.

The links between the FPÖ and the extreme right are well documented. In his book Strache: The Brown Swamp, author Hans-Henning Scharsach details “many, many points of contact with the neo-Nazi scene.” Heinz-Christian Strache is the leader of the FPÖ.

Refugee and civil liberties news update


This video from France says about itself:

France: Several thousand attend pro-refugee rally near Calais camp

23 January 2016

Several thousand protesters marched through Calais on Saturday, in a demonstration organised by Paris-based humanitarian and social groups who rallied to support of migrants living in squalid conditions in Calais’ infamous ‘jungle’ camp.

Activists started their march from the ‘Jungle’ camp and carried on towards the city’s town center. A high police presence were monitoring the march as authorities have bolstered security in the region.

British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn was also present in the region on Saturday where he visited the temporary homes that cater to around 4000 migrants who seek to cross over into the UK in search of a better life.

Divisions mount in German government over refugee policy: here.

By Tom Hall:

Human Rights Watch report documents attack on democratic rights in US and Europe

1 February 2016

Last week, US-based watchdog group Human Rights Watch warned of mounting attacks on democratic rights throughout Europe and North America, which governments have justified as a response to the migrant crisis.

The group’s annual report warned that the arrival of refugees fleeing war and repression in the Middle East is “driving many Western governments to roll back human rights protections,” adding, “these backward steps threaten the rights of all” sections of the population, not just refugees.

In the report’s lead essay, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth notes, “In Europe and the United States, a polarizing us-versus-them rhetoric has moved from the political fringe to the mainstream. Blatant Islamophobia and shameless demonizing of refugees have become the currency of an increasingly assertive politics of intolerance.”

“Public discourse,” Roth continues, “has been filled with voices of hatred and fear of Muslims, for whom the refugees [arriving in Europe] are surrogates.” This climate contributes to “the persistent discrimination, hopelessness, and despair that pervade neighborhoods on the outskirts of some European cities.”

2015 saw a dramatic rollback of democratic rights throughout Europe and America. In France, the Hollande government pushed through sweeping expansions of government surveillance and curtailing freedom of speech, seizing upon the attacks in Paris this November and the Charlie Hebdo attacks at the beginning of the year. In the United States, the military was deployed to Baltimore to crack down on peaceful protests against police brutality at the beginning of the year, while mass government spying continued unimpeded.

The report contains comprehensive summaries for more than 90 countries for the year of 2015. By far the largest single section, with 24 pages, is on the European Union, more than Saudi Arabia, whose absolute monarchy beheaded record numbers of people last year, including many political prisoners, and countries currently embroiled in civil wars such as Syria and Libya. The United States came in second place, with 17 pages.

The report notes that at the time of writing 850,000 people had crossed into Europe by boat in 2015, mainly from war-torn countries in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, especially Syria. Of these, more than 3,770, one third of whom were children, drowned. By far the most common route for migrants was from mainland Turkey to Greek islands in the neighboring Aegean sea.

Previous agreements by European governments to resettle asylum seekers throughout the continent remain a dead letter as countries throughout Europe close off their borders to refugees. Only 159 asylum seekers have been relocated from Italy and Greece in spite of an agreement last year to resettle 160,000 asylum seekers from these countries.

Attacks on Muslims rose sharply last year, as far-right and neo-Nazi groups are emboldened by the discriminatory policies of European governments. Such attacks have grown by 46.7 percent in London in the first half of 2015. However, racist attacks are by no means limited solely to Muslims; reports of anti-Semitic attacks are also on the rise, and discriminatory evictions of Roma by governments throughout the EU continue. Widespread discrimination also exists in the Baltic countries against native Russian speakers.

As Roth notes, Europe is joined in its persecution of refugees by the United States. Last year 30 US governors tried to prevent Syrian refugees from entering their states, while current Republican front-runner Donald Trump floated the idea of banning Muslims from entering the country altogether. The United States, the report declares, also “continued the dramatic expansion of detention of migrant mothers and their children from Central America,” many fleeing violence in their home countries, over the course of last year. …

The report also notes with concern the continued drive to expand state repression and surveillance in the United States and Europe, justified in the main by the supposed threat of terrorism. Citing the Paris terror attacks last November, the report warns that “past experience of major attacks in Europe raised concerns that human rights protections would again be weakened in the name of security.” According to the report, 298 people had been charged in France with the “broad and indefinite” crime of “glorification of terrorism” within less than three months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks last January.

In the United States, spy agency leaders seized upon the Paris attacks last year to renew their calls for a “back door” to online encryption, despite the fact that the Paris attackers did not encrypt their communications. Meanwhile, Guantanamo Bay’s detention center remains open despite years of empty promises by Obama to close it. …

Many of the worst human rights violations elsewhere in the report were committed by allies of the United States or the European imperialist powers. In discussing the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen, for example, in which civilian infrastructure has been deliberately targeted, the report argues that by virtue of providing “intelligence, logistical support and personnel” to the Saudis the United States would be “potentially jointly responsible for laws-of-war violations by coalition forces.” The report also cites continuing US aid to Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as well as the Obama administration’s waiving of provisions of the Child Soldier Prevention Act to continue supporting the militaries of several African countries.

World imperialism has justified countless criminal wars over the past quarter century under the fraudulent pretext of “humanitarian interventionism.” Now, a leading human rights group is compelled to admit that these same powers are responsible for major human rights violations within their own borders. This not only exposes imperialism’s professed concern for “human rights” as a fraud, it is also an indication of the growth of police-state forms of rule within these countries, directed above all against their own working classes.

A leading Australian doctor has dared Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Labor Party leader Bill Shorten to prosecute him for condemning conditions of “torture” in the country’s refugee detention centre on Nauru, where the doctor worked in December 2014: here.

Swedish women against racist pseudo-feminism


This video says about itself:

Anti racist demonstration in Stockholm, Sweden

3 September 2014

Swedish women taking to the streets to protest against racism in Sweden.

From The Local in Sweden:

Swedes tell racists: ‘We are not your women’

Published: 01 Feb 2016 07:46 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Feb 2016 14:46 GMT+01:00

Swedes are hitting back following a series of far-right violent marches over the weekend which targeted asylum seekers and migrants.

Swedes took to social media to hit back after violent far-right groups attacking refugee youths in Stockholm over the weekend handed out flyers and posted online messages claiming they acted to protect “Swedish women”.

The hashtag #inteerkvinna (#notyourwoman) was trending in Sweden on Sunday, with women posting pictures of themselves on Twitter alongside messages saying “not in my name”.

“I’m not your woman. I don’t want your protection. You’re the ones making me scared, worried, angry and sad,” tweeted one.

“No racist will use me as an alibi to commit their acts of violence,” wrote another.

The campaign came in response to a series of violent weekend incidents in the Swedish capital which began on Friday evening when gangs of up to a hundred masked men marched through the city, beating up non-Swedes and handing out leaflets threatening further attacks. …

According to Aftonbladet newspaper, men were distributing leaflets on Friday evening with the slogan “It’s enough now!” which threatened to give “the North African street children who are roaming around” the “punishment they deserve.”

On Saturday there were also reports of violence linked to an anti-immigration protest in Stockholm, where at least three people were arrested for assaulting counter-demonstrators after members of neo-Nazi groups and hooligans gathered in the capital’s central Norrmalmstorg square.

Meanwhile, refugee teenagers living in the city’s 16 homes for teens and underage asylum seekers arriving in Sweden alone without their parents were told to stay inside following the violence.

“It’s of course sad that we have to do this. But it’s still important that we put the young people’s safety first,” Alexandra Göransson, social services manager in Stockholm, told the Expressen newspaper.

The Friday evening attack on refugee children was organised by the Swedish Resistance Movement, a neo-nazi group.

A group of some 100 neo-Nazi thugs marched through the centre of the Swedish capital Stockholm Friday evening, carrying out a series of brutal attacks on refugees and foreign-looking bystanders. The action was claimed soon afterwards by the fascist Swedish Resistance Movement in a statement advocating vigilante “justice” against what it termed the “criminal” actions of refugees: here.

Artist Ai Weiwei poses as drowned refugee child Aylan


Chinese artist Ai Weiwei imitating the lifeless body of Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi on the Greek Island of Lesbos (photo by Rohit Chawla for India Today)

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei poses as drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi

‘The image is haunting and represents the whole immigration crisis’

Maya Oppenheim

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has staged a photo in which he poses as the drowned Syrian refugee toddler whose picture sparked an international outcry last year.

The image emulates the photo of the lifeless three-year-old boy Aylan Kurdi, who was washed up on the shores of Turkey last September.

The picture came to symbolise the tragic plight of the refugee crisis.

Since then, European countries have increasingly turned their backs on those fleeing war-torn countries.

Having already accepted more than a million migrants, Germany has announced plans to tighten its asylum rules. The Nordic countries have also markedly changed their stances with Finland and Sweden confirming they will start to deport thousands of people. Denmark has also been heavily criticised for passing a law that allows it to confiscate refugees’ cash and valuables if necessary.

In the attempt to raise awareness about the crisis, Ai set up the shoot with India Today.

The political artist is on the Greek island of Lesbos working on an art project on the refugee crisis.

Ai and his team “actively helped in staging this photograph for us,” explained Rohit Chawla, a photographer at India Today.

Chawla added: “I am sure it wasn’t very comfortable to lie down on the pebbles like that. But the soft evening light fell on his face when he lay down”.

The image has been exhibited at the India Art Fair as part of an exhibition titled “The Artists” this weekend.

Sandy Angus, the co-owner of India Art Fair, said: “It is an iconic image because it is very political, human and involves an incredibly important artist like Ai Weiwei.

“The image is haunting and represents the whole immigration crisis and the hopelessness of the people who have tried to escape their pasts for a better future.”

Gayatri Jayaraman, the magazine senior editor who interviewed him, also spoke fondly of Weiwei.

“He is such a great artist, but to me he also appeared to be a Mahatma Gandhi-like figure. He is very warm and humble, but his very presence there in that situation as tired, cold, wet refugees arrived was colossal. And very political.”

The photo will be featured in the art activist’s interview with India Today next week.

See also here.

‘Kill refugee women and children’, German far-right politicians say


This video says about itself:

Germany: AfD leader calls for right of border police to shoot at illegal migrants

30 January 2016

Frauke Petry, one of the leaders of right-wing German opposition party Alternative for Germany (AfD), has sparked outrage with provocative comments about refugees.

“Border guards must prevent illegal border crossings and even use firearms if necessary,” Petry told German newspaper ‘Mannheimer Morgen’, in an interview published on Saturday. …

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to be trying to be try to appease critics of her open-door policy on refugees.

“I hope that during the winter time, when refugee numbers are low, we will make visible progress. The numbers need to be reduced further, and they must not increase again in spring,” she said during an address at a regional Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party conference in Neubrandenburg on Saturday.

Merkel also repeated calls for a Europe-wide solution to address the crisis.

Ms Merkel, whether refugee numbers increase or decrease depends on the warmongering policies of NATO countries, including your Germany, and their allies, like Saudi Arabia. Eg, if NATO ally Erdogan of Turkey will invade Syria, then the bloody war in Syria will get still much bloodier, and refugee numbers will increase.

Now, the AfD party.

On the extreme right of German politics, there is the NPD party, open admirers of Adolf Hitler.

And there is the AfD, the so-called ‘decent’ extreme right, supposedly not admiring Hitler, ‘only’ hating Muslims and refugees.

A bit like in the USA. Some of the supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are open nazis; like the Daily Stormer Internet site, called after the German Third Reich anti-Semitic paper Der Stürmer. However, if you would ask Trump himself, or most of his supporters whether they are nazis, they would say no. But that does not stop them from being dangerous racists.

Like the AfD are.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

The chairperson of the German party Alternative for Germany (AfD), Frauke Petry, has caused commotion with statements about refugees. Petry would step up border surveillance and if necessary prevent refugees from illegally crossing the border with firearms. …

A few months ago AfD politician Marcus Pretzell also advocated in extreme cases opening fire to “defend” the border. Pretzell is the partner of Petry.

The vice chairperson of AfD, Beatrix von Storch, responded on Facebook about the fuss. Asked if she really believes that German border guards should stop refugee women and children from crossing the border through open fields with firearms she answered ‘Yes’.

From daily The Independent in Britain today about this:

The comments have been strongly condemned by the head of the police union GdP.

“No policeman would be ready to fire” at refugees, Joerg Radek said. “We have already seen that over the course of German history and we don’t ever want to go down that road again.”

The call by extreme right wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD) for the use of firearms by border police against refugees marks a new stage in the all-party political offensive against refugees in Germany: here.