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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 1:23 pm on April 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Pro Igual has a new website 

    Dear friends,

    We have just finished restoring the Pro Igual website after it was maliciously hacked a few weeks ago. For technical reasons, it was easier to start from scratch than to try and save the pieces of the compromised site. So, please update your bookmarks and help share the new link among your contacts who you think might be interested in our work:


    We also welcome your feedback on the site´s “new look.”

    Thank you and kind regards,

    Pro Igual team

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 10:36 pm on March 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Not a very good day for equality in Germany 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    Last week the highest appellate court in Germany ruled that hotels could turn away right-wing extremists on grounds of the latter´ political views.

    The case that received considerable domestic attention concerned a hotel in the state of Brandenburg which, in 2009, refused to provide a room to the former head of the extreme right-wing National Democratic Party (NPD), Udo Voigt. Voigt sued the hotel for discrimination, for banning him on the grounds of his political opinions. The hotel argued that the right-wing extremist´s presence was detrimental to the hotel´s image and reputation. The lower instance courts found in favor of the hotel.

    The Federal Court of Justice ruled that while the hotel could not retroactively cancel the booking, because it failed to demonstrate how Vogt had previously upset other guests with his presence, the hotel was fundamentally “free to decide whom it accepts and whom it does not.” The highest Court admitted that the case raised extremely difficult legal issues, including whether hotels (and by extension restaurants, discos, shops, etc.) are public spaces open to everyone. The case also pitted personal freedom/autonomy against equality. Article 3 of the German Basic Law bans discrimination, inter alia, on the basis of religious or political views. However, the Court stated this principle may not apply between private people and companies.

    This is where the Court, in my opinion, was monumentally wrong. First of all, the principle of discrimination does apply in both public and private sphere. Although the concept may be still new and even somewhat alien in Germany, the EU Race Directive, which Germany had to transpose, extends prohibition of discrimination to both public and private sector. Article 3.1(h) of the Race Directive specifically stipulates non-discriminatory “access to and supply of goods and services which are available to the public, including housing.” Second, the German Basic Law (Article 18) contains a clause whereby persons abusing their constitutional rights could forfeit those rights. The German Court chose instead to conclude that private establishments are free to choose whether and to whom render their services.

    So, before we yield to the temptation to celebrate that neo-Nazi thugs would from now on sleep in the streets instead of hotels, let´s consider implications of the ruling. In reality, what is more likely to happen and in fact happens practically on a daily basis: that private service establishments would turn away white right-wing extremists, or unpopular immigrants/minorities? This was a rather unique case involving the known neo-Nazi, that is, someone a priori rejecting the very principle he tried to invoke. But with this ruling, the Court has handed German private establishments a legal license to discriminate.

    All in all, not a very good day for equal treatment in Germany.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 11:03 am on February 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Germany´s neo-Nazi terrorism: time for reflection 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    In February 2012, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had apologized to the families of the victims of apparent hate crimes for the failure of the German state to find and prosecute perpetrators. The so-called “döner murders” of mostly ethnic Turkish entrepreneurs had taken place between 2000 and 2007, but had remained unresolved until a recent and accidental discovery of the neo-Nazi link.

    “Most of you were abandoned in your time of need. Some relatives were themselves for years suspected of wrongdoing. That is particularly oppressive. For this, I ask for your forgiveness,” stated Ms. Merkel.

    Establishing the neo-Nazi connection to the murders had prompted soul-searching among the German authorities trying to understand how and why so many hate crimes against immigrants could have been overlooked for so long. The answer to this mystery may be closer than many think, as Ms. Merkel´s apology stands in a stark contrast with her earlier speech on the failure of multiculturalism in Germany. Then, in no uncertain terms, the German Chancellor suggested that the immigrants bore at least partial responsibility for failing to integrate… or to leave:

    “We kidded ourselves a while, we said: ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone,’ but this isn’t reality.”

    That is the crux of the problem, isn´t it? Immigrants would not leave. Immigrants would not put their lives on hold while giving their best years and energy working in host countries. Immigrants would go on to have families and children. Immigrants would not abandon their identity, culture, religion, food, or dress code. And so they are charged with being responsible for inspiring distrust, hate, or envy, or all of the above. The long tradition of xenophobia and blaming (perceived) outsiders for political, economic, or social failures of the country is carefully omitted.

    Of course, immigrants are still needed, just as they were needed after the WWII rebuilding their host country from the ruin in which extreme xenophobia and racism had left the entire continent. Today as ever Germany depends on the immigrant labor to power its economy. This is why Ms. Merkel´s belated apology, albeit welcome, seems somewhat disingenuous and self-serving. But genuine or calculated, this is a high time for reflection, in Germany and elsewhere, as to who their real enemies are.

    There is poignant symbolism in the “döner murders” affair. The law-abiding, entrepreneurial immigrants were slain by German criminals that hardly made any contribution to German society. However, even the reputably efficient German police could not escape the usual stereotyping and by default looked for perpetrators among the immigrant community. That, despite the growing evidence that the threat of violence emanates not only or not as much as from immigrants or minorities, as from poorly educated, disenfranchised, racist and increasingly extremist majority youths falling prey to clandestine yet highly organized right-wing organizations. Suffice it to mention the Breivik´s killing spree in Norway and his ideological influences to underscore the reality of the threat.

    While even mainstream politicians across Europe try to score cheap victories by engaging in demagogic populism and indulging public intolerance with myths about immigrants “stealing jobs,” “scamming welfare,” or “engaging in terrorism,” the much deadlier threat comes to fruition: the neo-Nazi terrorism.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 10:33 pm on December 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Looking Back at 2011: From Arab Spring to Occupying Indignation and Winter of Russian Discontent 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    It has been one tough year: tsunamis, earthquakes, nuclear calamities, not to mention suffocating economic crises across the world. Yet 2011 has also witnessed remarkable awakening of human social consciousness which seemed dormant if not atrophied after decades of dumb self-centered consumerism and prevailing political apathy.

    Spring started with revolutions in several Arab countries, putting out of business long-term dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, as well as putting to shame “old” European democracies. The stereotypes of radical Islam and autocracy-leaning Muslims hostile to human rights have been shaken, while the self-proclaimed “beacons of liberty” – France, the UK and the USA – were exposed for their cozy dealings with the dictators at the expense of oppressed populations.

    The effect of the Arab Spring has been so powerful that it would spill over into the West. The movement of the indignant started in Spain, catching on in other European countries; various Occupy offshoots – from Wall Street to DC to smaller communities — started in the USA; and demonstrations for social justice swept Israel.

    Anti-corruption protests have also taken place in India and even in parts of China, where the affluent and increasingly vocal middle class has demanded bigger say in the countries´  affairs.

    Last but not least social awakening of the year happened in Russia where allegations of blatant election fraud proved too much even for proverbially patient and politically disengaged public. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators showed daily to protest corruption and demand new elections, ultimately forcing grudging concessions – if not of the elections rerun, then at least of cleaner elections next time around.

    While concrete and positive outcomes of new social movements across the globe remain to be seen, this unprecedented in recent history awakening of public social consciousness gives hope for the new 2012 year: the year when political accountability, financial transparency, social justice and human rights may be a touch closer.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 6:14 pm on July 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    When hate kills 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    In the first place, sincere condolences to the victims and families who endured or lost their loved ones in the massacre in Norway. Then comes reflection on this heinous crime of hate.

    There has been considerable coverage of the terror attack itself and of the perpetrator, some coverage bigoted (especially before any facts came to life), some thoughtful and balanced. In a nutshell: an extreme right-wing Christian terrorist took out his hatred of immigrants and especially Muslims on scores of innocent people. The response of the Norwegian government has been noble: so far, it has pledged to respond to terror with more democracy, not with hunting ´em down. But how long and how effectively can democracy withstand attacks on democracy itself?

    Breivik, Wilders, LePen, Griffin, and Co. enjoy talking about “Western” values which are presumably “threatened” by immigration (read: Muslims). But their demagogy is ridiculously plain to see when they call to stop that mythical “threat” with as undemocratic means as could be. Banning mosques and minarets means not only restricting freedom of religion but doing so in a discriminatory fashion; outlawing headscarves and dictating personal dress codes amounts to violating not just religious expression but privacy and personal integrity; deporting foreigners is often breaching not only freedom of movement but elementary, non-derrogable due process. And now merciless mass killing.

    Even though not every right-wing leader has explicitly called for violence, the fact of the matter is that terrorism as a weapon against immigration in general and against Muslims in particular has been in place for some time now, undeniably inspired by the toxic populist rhetoric. Just last Autumn a “lone gunmen” terrorized the immigrant community in a Swedish town of Malmo. Muslim mosques had been burned in the Netherlands just a few years before that. Daily verbal if not physical harassment against ordinary Muslims in Europe is as common as it is impunible. But these things do not get reported and speculated about as much as alleged attacks by “Islamic terrorists”, who are about as representatives of Muslims as breiviks are of Norwegians.

    Hate kills, we have just witnessed that, yet again. Moreover, there are concerns that the massacre in Norway can be a template for others. And while the intention of responding to terror with more democracy is respectable, it is useful to remember that even democracy has its limits, if it is to survive. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany — a country that knows these things first hand — stipulates: “Whoever abuses the (basic rights) in order to combat the free democratic basic order shall forfeit these basic rights.” Norway, and the rest of Europe where right-wing terrorism has taken hold, must resist to protect their democratic values. That means restricting rights of breiviks and especially people in the position of power who influence breiviks with their hate speech (Dutch courts that last month let Wilders off the hook should take note). Hate does not just speak, it kills.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:50 am on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Freedom of intolerance 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    As was to be expected, Geert Wilders was acquitted of hate speech against Muslims. The media reported that the case tested limits of freedom of speech in a “traditionally liberal” country. But could it be that the case merely tested the limits of intolerance?

    Indeed, The Netherlands has been traditionally considered a “liberal” country. But perhaps we should specify what we mean by “liberal”, as it may mean different things to different people. For some, the US democrats are “liberals”; for others, staunch free marketeers are “liberals”. Some assume that not killing opposition members is a sign of “liberalism”; yet others might mean something completely different. Let´s face it: for many people outside of The Netherlands, its “liberalism” essentially equals the red lights district plus permissive soft drugs policies (a propos, something that the Wilders´ party has vowed to do away with).

    But if you belong to the first, second, third or other generation of non-European immigrants, especially if you look Muslim (whatever that might mean to different people), and especially if you insist on doing “Muslim things” (whatever that might mean to different people), then you are entitled to have your doubts about the Dutch “liberalism.” The Volendam girl expelled from a school for wearing a headscarf is certainly entitled to have her doubts.

    Many critics point out that freedom of expression, including religious expression, is applied inconsistently across Europe; The Netherlands is no exception. For example, Muslim women are not permitted to wear headscarves in a number of countries, even though nobody has any issues with the nuns´ outfits. Holocaust denial is outlawed in several countries, but speech that offends Muslims´ religious feelings is permitted (remember the Danish cartoons?) And now hate speech against Muslims as a group has also been upheld in the Dutch court.

    In my opinion, there is formidable consistency of Dutch, or for that matter European, attitudes towards Muslims. This consistency is manifested in two clear patterns. Pattern I: religious expression of Muslims is curbed. Pattern II: anti-Muslim expression is protected. To put it bluntly, intolerance against Muslims is not intolerance, it is freedom.

    So, it appears that the Netherlands has just got itself a new right: freedom of intolerance. But this is hardly an achievement to be proud of.

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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:55 am on May 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    When Spanish spring turns violent 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    Friday, 27 May 2011. Violent clashes between protesters and police — or shall we say unprovoked attacks by the police on the peaceful demonstration — took place in Barcelona, with some 120 people injured and scores arrested. Could this become the last straw that would break the camel´s back?

    It is not surprising that this sort of violence occurred in Spain, but it is amazing how it has been avoided so far considering people are utterly fed up and protests are regular. For a self-proclaimed “estado de bienestar” the level of social injustice and inequality is staggering. Nearly half of young people (aged between 16-25) are out of jobs. Small businesses are strangled by banks who no longer issue loans but nevertheless continue paying their bosses multi-million bonuses (with a bit of state support). Large corporations fire people by thousands (shifting them onto social security of the near bankrupt state) — to cut costs, we a re told — but still manage to find resources to reward their top management. The government continues to lie about the true state of affairs, either being in denial or in hopes to push the can further down the road and avoid responsibility and repercussions for just a bit longer. Arrogance and short-sightedness of the so-called “elites” is of epic proportions.

    Apparently, people do not want to take it anymore, especially people who may have nothing left to lose — no job, no home, no future — which means any spark can trigger a massive social explosion. The question is: can violence in Barcelona spark a conflict that can potentially bring down not only the Spanish but the EU edifice down? Whatever the future holds, let us hope that any violence could be contained, or better still averted.

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 4:12 pm on April 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Crying “wolf” and Arab revolutions 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    In recent popular uprisings sweeping through the Arab countries, the Western (read: US) support has been muted at best. Whatever has happened to “supporting freedom around the world”?

    Let´s recap the recent events in North Africa/Arab Middle East.

    Tunisia: people revolted against the corrupt and authoritarian ruler. Initial Western reaction was … zero. Just a bit nervous about prospective refugees and a bit embarrassed when certain facts about cozy affairs between European politicians and the autocrat started coming to light. Kudos for the Tunisians who managed on their own, without foreign intervention.

    Egypt: people revolted against the corrupt and authoritarian ruler. The Western reaction was … calling for a “stable change.” (What a convoluted mind one must have to even coin a phrase like that?!) At least, the US did not rush to prop Mubarak, even though he was in essence their man in Cairo. Again, luckily for Egyptians, they managed by themselves.

    Libya: people revolted against the authoritarian and corrupt ruler. Resolved to hold onto power at all cost — literally! — Gaddafi is becoming increasingly entangled in civil war and allegedly crimes against humanity are being committed. The Western reaction, after prolonged hesitation, resulted in the UN resolution endorsing humanitarian action. But the US is pretty much just reluctantly tagging along, this time raising indignation in some quarters for failing to act in face of human rights abuses.

    Unrest is boiling in Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrein… no comment.

    Finally, people started to protest in Syria, whose regime is regarded as less than favorite in Washington. However, protesters are being murdered, without as much as a peep from the Pentagon.

    What a contrast to the previous US activism in favor of intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. Back then, the US administration was going out of its way diplomatically, deploying sticks and carrots and even plain lies, to get international support for military action, and failing to obtain that went in anyway. Were the stakes perhaps higher? Hardly. Stability in Egypt is no less important for the US security than stability in Afghanistan (for a number of reasons). A friendly regime in Syria would also come in just as handy as a friendly regime in Iraq. So, what is different now?

    The answer is not just the change of administration. Judging by a number of other facts, the Obama administration´s policies are pretty consistent with those of the Bush administration (except for the Healthcare Law, perhaps, which has yet to survive). The Guantanamo is still there and will continue for the years to come. Big businesses still do their own thing. And not only hasn´t the US withdrawn from Afghanistan but on the contrary the US military presence has considerably increased under the Obama presidency.

    The most obvious difference is a total lack of domestic public support for another expensive military adventure abroad. The public, already fed up with fabrications that justified the previous campaigns, now refuse to believe or sympathise with even undeniable, unequivocal facts of gross human rights violations and alleged war crimes, and do not buy any arguments in favor of exporting democracy at tax-payers´ expense.

    Come to think of it, the previous US military interventions essentially tantamount to the proverbial crying “wolf” when there was none. We know what that means: nobody believes you after that even when there is a genuine emergency. Unfortunately, this shortsightedness and lack of integrity on the other side of the world means that people of several Arab countries who momentarily saw a phantom of liberty but do not have strength to reach it will be the ultimate losers.

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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 2:58 pm on December 31, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Biggest assaults on fundamental rights in Europe in 2010 

    It seems like a tradition in the end of each year to have countdowns of the top/most memorable events or objects of the finishing year. Here is our Top 5: the list of most memorable breaches of fundamental rights that occurred in 2010 in Europe. The selection is based mostly on the media coverage and social reactions, and is open to discussion.

    5. Ban on burqas in France.

    Even though invisible rights violations, such as discrimination in various areas of life, may be a much greater problem, media provided rather extensive coverage of the legislative ban on full veil (burqa) in France.

    4. Ban on burqas in Belgium.

    They are higher on the list simply because they were a few days ahead of France and the media coverage was more or less equivalent with that of the French ban.

    3. Spanish secret police circular on roundup and detention of undocumented migrants.

    The event got a considerable resonance in Spain although was hardly mentioned in the non-Spanish media.

    2. Swiss referendum on expulsions of foreigners committing a crime.

    Again, this received major media resonance and is likely to face legal challenges before international human rights tribunals.

    1. Roma expulsions from France.

    This was definitely the biggest — in our view — affront to human rights in Western Europe happening in 2010. It was also a historic chance for European institutions (particularly the Commission) to take a decisive stand for human rights. An opportunity, unfortunately, waisted.

    What will 2011 bring for human rights in Europe? Let´s hope more freedom and fewer human rights violations. Happy New Year!

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 4:53 pm on November 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Serial hatred 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    The Swedish police recently managed to capture the so-called “lone gunman” who terrorized the immigrant community of the city of Malmö over the past year. Allegedly, in separate incidents, he shot to death one and wounded half a dozen other persons, all of whom were ethnically not Swedish. With the “lone gunman” off the streets, can immigrants be now safe in Malmö?

    Regardless of whether or not the court finds any mitigating circumstances, on their face the gunman´s actions constitute a hate crime, by far not a new phenomenon in most societies. In hate crimes, victims are selected on the basis of their real or perceived membership in a certain (racial, ethnic or religious) group.

    Judging by ever more intolerant rhetoric of even mainstream politicians, in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, judging by the recent election success of the right-wing Democratic party in Sweden, it appears that the conditions for intolerance and hatred of others, especially against people perceived as alien to the society, are ripe. And with the capture of the alleged perpetrator, the phenomenon of hate crime is still on the loose. And so the question should be asked: can the immigrants still be safe, and very importantly welcome in Sweden? And the answer to that, unfortunately, is not so straightforward.

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