OPEN YOUR MIND, SPEAK OUT AGAINST RACISM
48 countries joined in for a UNITED Europe!
European-wide Action Week Against Racism 2012
Open your mind
Europe has entered a recessionary period, and this recession is not only economical. This is a recession of our rights, liberties, and ability to resist nationalist logics. Fear and suspicion are increasingly tearing our communities apart. All over Europe racist and xenophobic prejudices are more and more observable.
Europe is at a turning point: either we keep heading in the direction of intolerance and racial hatred, or we seize our chance to resist and fight for respect, solidarity and diversity. Let us refuse to be blind, deaf and silent in the face of racism! This year’s motto expresses this urgency: “Open Your Mind - Speak out against racism”.
Becoming conscious of racism, opening our minds to be able to see it is the first step in resisting racism, that is why raising public and political awareness about racist trends is still crucial.
…Speak out against racism!
Openly speaking out against racism is the second step. Violent and daily racism can, and do, make people voiceless. Being aware of racial discrimination and knowing the damages it does is not enough; being loud against racism is the best way to counteract it.
Because resistance cannot be quiet, this year’s UNITED campaign wanted to promote and encourage those who do not stay silent, those who have the courage and strength to speak up for equality, multiculturalism and solidarity.
These people share an inclusive vision of Europe, and stand up for it; they shape Europe as a land of equal rights and opportunities for all. The campaign drew attention to their voices, to their progressive views and ideas; it celebrated the European antiracist movement, more lively and loud every year.
The European antiracist movement: visible and audible
The European-Wide Action Week Against Racism, which took place between 17 and 25 March 2012 was joined by hundreds of grassroots organisations campaigning in favour of respect, solidarity and diversity and against the poison of intolerance, segregation and exclusion. Many were inspired by the importance of opening up and making their antiracist voices audible to everyone. A great effort of creativity and innovation has been made to find activities that explore this theme; concerts, debates, “screaming flashmobs”, theatre workshops, public readings, sharing life stories and street interviews were organised in the hope that these anti-racist voices would attract, surprise and question the audience.
The European antiracist movement really seized this year’s motto as a chance to introduce antiracist initiatives to a wider public. Youth organisations, NGOs, and grassroots groups rallied and succeeded in catching attention, making their united voice stronger against racism.
More than 250 organisations joined the European-Wide Action Week Against Racism, and 35.000 copies of UNITED's campaign poster were sent across Europe. To involve as many members of civil society as possible, this poster was even translated into Russian, and 15.000 of copies were widely distributed across the country. Activists as far as Grozniy were able to join in and lend their voices to create a stronger, louder call to fight racism.
Why this campaign?
March 21st was declared International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by the General Assembly of the United Nations as a reaction to the murder of 69 anti-apartheid demonstrators in Sharpeville, South-Africa in 1960. These people died standing up against a regime that systematically enforced racial inequality and segregation.
Yet both these inequities and violence do not belong to the past. According to the OSCE - Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, approximately 4,000 hate-based incidents were reported by over 80 NGOs throughout the OSCE region last year. In the face of this rise of hate crime in Europe, NGOs need to take greater initiative to fill gaps left by the absence of reaction and action from European governments.
Every year since 1992, around the 21 March the UNITED network coordinates the European-Wide Action Week Against Racism in order to enhance NGOs’ capacity to deal with the threats that minority groups face in Europe. This campaign aims to highlight issues of racism from a non-governmental perspective on all levels - local, national and European. It enables UNITED to connect a broad range of antiracist efforts together, and bring greater visibility to each individual act in the ongoing struggle against racial discrimination.
In action UNITED
This year, Barbara Lochbihler, chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee of the European Parliament, has congratulated and thanked UNITED for organising and supporting the European-Wide Action Week Against Racism, and for taking such a strong and united stance against racism. However, the European Action Week Against Racism could only have been so successful with the energy and commitment of all participating organisations.
We are a diverse and dynamic network and we are much more than the sum of our parts; youth activists, expert speakers, sports personalities, educators, musicians, bloggers, UNITED volunteers and staff - each play an essential role that helps the others to play theirs. Each participating organisation ran their own activity and could depend on the UNITED secretariat to provide tools and support to help them.
For each UNITED campaign, the secretariat creates and prepares material; freely distributes it throughout Europe; contacts and motivates NGOs to take part; provides contacts, resources, information and ideas; writes a press release; collects and publishes campaign information such as the “List of Activities” and shares good practice amongst the network through this report. On behalf of the whole network, we send a big thank you to all organisations that took part and made this campaign as strong and successful as it was!
We Call Upon You!
We call upon you - those who may be scared, but who are willing to look deeper and think along the following questions:
• Can you see prejudice and racism within yourselves?
• How to be able to control it?
• How to help and teach other people to manage their internal hatred?
… and other equally difficult questions come to us during the campaign
This year’s campaign “Stop Racism” took place just after the Russian presidential elections so the tense political situation formed the backdrop to the campaign. Away from the political stage but looking straight at it, protest movements occupied both the streets and people’s minds.
The Russian extreme right tried to form their own parties and involve sympathising young people. Strong populist nationalistic rhetoric was also a tool for many politicians to appeal to them. Conservative attitudes continue to rise among youth as political propaganda has successfully incorporated unrelated topics such as healthy lifestyles, religion and persecution of those who oppose religious practices into its rhetoric.
These developments indicate two key growing tendencies in the Russian social arena, cultivating xenophobic and totalitarian attitudes. One distinguishes “a real patriot and nationalist” from the rest of the society, and is characterised by a healthy lifestyle, migrant-phobia and discriminatory attitudes towards people from the Caucasus region. The other develops totalitarian ideas it oversimplifies complex problems and finds a common enemy.
Against this, there have been a number of positive changes. Firstly, those candidates holding extreme right views gained little support in the presidential and municipal elections. Moreover democratic protest movements proactively distanced themselves from nationalists and their more radical supporters. Street activists and NGOs have been engaging and cooperating with each other more; many antifascists have started supporting NGOs, at times even becoming coordinators of their projects. An important government initiative developing educational programmes on tolerance also inspired optimism, most of these will be launched this year.
The 2012 “Stop Racism” campaign, coordinated by the Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM) was the biggest campaign of its kind: 48 events took place and more than 32 local groups added a loud voice to the thousands of others active against racism all over Europe.
This was possible thanks to the many active organisations and their cooperation with other civil society actors such as schools and libraries that gave their support to local ideas and projects on tolerance.
One of the most important and positive outcomes is that antifascists, human rights activists and public figures encouraged social debate, openly discussing what it means to be a “non-nationalist” and what values should form the base of our society. Such discussions in particular can help us unite and fight hate together.
FACE YOUR PREJUDICES
Several “Human Libraries” were organised all over the country, thanks to their simplicity and positive approach in promoting dialogue, reducing prejudice and encouraging understanding.
In Voronezh, the “Human Library” was organised by YHRM in cooperation with the Central Library System and Youth Network Against Racism and Intolerance; “nevertheless there are many open-minded people in Russia who are not afraid of facing their own stereotypes and talking to them. Everyone made such a positive contribution considering the diversity and differences between “Readers” and “Books”. Some participants asked for advice as we discussed problems that are concealed in the society”, said one of the organisers. Another “Human Library” took place in Yekaterinburg, also organised by a partnership between the Central Library and the Initiative Group of Russian Project “Human Library”. The action made a profound effect on participants as the “Readers” could finally face their prejudices without fear of being labelled “prejudiced”.
AN OPEN DIALOGUE
Many activities aimed to create a platform for open dialogue and understanding of diversity. The American Councils for International Education held a workshop on tolerance in Barnaul, where students from Nigeria, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Switzerland, Mexico and USA talked about their cultural background and their experiences in Russia.
In St. Petersburg, the need to draw the attention of youth to inter-ethnic conflicts led the Turan - newspaper for Central Asian Migrants to run the festival “You are not alone”. The festival included a youth contest for the best tolerance symbol and an exhibition of the competition entries. Participants and visitors alike felt part of a more inclusive, diverse and tolerant society.
CARTOONS AGAINST HATE
The language of comics is perfect for discussing complex problems with young people. It is especially among youth that social tensions most often erupt in violence; but it is also this group who are most likely to hear our voice: this is what the authors of the project “Respect - International comics for respect and against intolerance” believe. In the frame of the Action Week they planned a series of lessons on respect at a school in the capital of Russia, Moscow. These were not lessons in a traditional sense but rather masterclasses followed by discussions. Respect project also held an exhibition in the city of Tyumen in Siberia. Visitors could see the comics of 19 artists from different countries and participate in discussions on tolerance, xenophobia, respect and disrespect.
Inspired by the power of art, German-Russian Exchange together with Smolny Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences held cartoon screenings for school students in St. Petersburg. The cartoons opened space for students to think about diversity in our society and respect for minorities. “Colours can live together. If the world was painted only one colour it would not be as exciting. It is fun to realise there are a myriad of colours that make our world so interesting. And the same is with diversity in our communities”, said one of the students.
Art can also be a medium (mis)used by those who want to spread hate, and it is our task to keep our eyes open and take action. In the city of Sochi, YHRM together with local activists organised a “wipe out hate” action and searched for “hate graffiti” in the streets. The aim was not only to clean the walls of the city that will host 2014 Winter Olympics, but also to draw the attention of the local authorities to this problem and ask for their intervention.
Educational events in schools took place in many cities. In Voronezh, the City Library organised a lesson for high school children. It was a great way to create cohesion among young people and promote antiracist values. “We try to make these lessons more interactive. It is interesting for us to know what school students think about racism and tolerance, whether they are aware of antiracist actions and whether they take part in them”, the organisers commented on the activity.
A number of activities were organised in Samara where the Youth Centre of Intercultural Cooperation prepared “Tolerance in multicultural society” training for medical students. At the end of the training they watched and discussed the film “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days” about a 21 year old member of the anti-nazi non-violent student resistance group in the nazi Germany.
ARTEFACT- Samara Society for Cultural Studies organised a panel discussion with students from Samara Business School. The friendly and informal atmosphere encouraged participants to share their opinions and talk about minority rights and civic diplomacy. UNITED materials inspired participants and helped them think of how they can get active at local level. Also in Samara, Federation of Youth Organisations organised a round table “Different-Equal” for high school students with representatives of ethnic minorities, the Russian Orthodox Church and Muslim community. Young people expressed their views on youth right-wing extremism, discussed the importance of respecting other people’s traditions and way of living. On 21 March activists of Federation of Youth Organisations prepared a game “Racism is the Dead End” for secondary school students. Children learnt in an interactive way about terms such as racism, fascism, antisemitism and what these phenomena can lead to.
Thanks to the translation of UNITED campaign materials into the Russian language, it was very easy to organise low budget activities. Stavropol Volunteers’ Movement planned a large-scale action placing UNITED posters and stickers on bus stops and bulletin boards; in doing so, they spread the message in busy streets and shopping centres. They also used the “chain letter” strategy: by sending a UNITED poster via email to their family and friends and asking them to pass it to their own relatives and friends, the campaign message could eventually reach a large number of people.
YHRM together with the Institute of Social Education launched a discussion board for young people in Saratov. The activists spread campaign material among students and talked about racism in football stadiums and institutional racism. The organisers together with the participants tried to find ways to address discrimination and injustice that may occur in our society.
The southernmost parts of Russia also joined the Action Week. YHRM together with Women’s Dignity organisation prepared a workshop for school students in Chechnya. They discussed issues such as women’s rights, discrimination and intolerance in society. “Only when students are aware of the discrimination around them can they learn from it”, said one of the organisers.
The sheer number of people who joined the action this year in Russia; the scale of the action across Russia from Tyumen to Sochi is an indicator of how significant the problem of intolerance is for Russian activists. We hope that such actions help people from different countries join together and speak out against racism.
Results of the campaign are available at:
www.unitedagainstracism.org & www.stopracism.yhrm.org
Roads to Racial Justice
The antiracist struggle has seen many ups and downs this year in the UK. In January, justice was finally won for the family of Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager who was racially murdered in South London in 1993, when two of his killers were found guilty - a high-profile case which brought to light institutional racism within the police force. This year however, renewed concerns of racism have emerged both in policing and football, two domains where determined efforts have been made to tackle it at every level.
This warns us that society can never rest on its laurels; we need to constantly challenge racial prejudice and inequality wherever it is found, and educate our communities on the damage that apathy can cause. For the Action Week, Lampoon Apathy managed this in a light-hearted way. They organised “ROFL Against Racism” a comedy night blending political conversation with comedy acts, drawing attention to the impact of austerity on social democracy and the rise of nationalism, proving in good humour that antiracist action comes in many faces and can be ignited with laughter.
Britain has a long multicultural tradition, but human rights will always unite us across our differences. Using film to reflect on this, GRAMNet in Scotland marked 21 March by showing “She, a Chinese” about the migrant experience in England, and Foyle Film Festival Anti-Racism and Intercultural Programme promoted inclusion, tolerance and diversity through 9 days of screenings. Their additional educational programme brought different landscapes, beliefs, languages and cultures into the classroom and raised awareness of issues closer to home, such as racist bullying. The programme was launched by Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen, who continues to campaign for victims of racist violence, which connected art and educational concepts to undeniable reality.
Concerned that most hate crime occurs within the 16-30 age group, Race Equality Council for Gloucestershire took a practical approach to helping victims through “Being Different is Not a Crime, Victimisation is...”. The seminar brought together different actors such as the local police and council whose role it is to respond to such crimes, with civil society groups with the hope of addressing the roots of hate among youth at an early stage.
It is tough but valuable work making every corner of our societies a racism-free zone. Whether it is through underlining the antiracist commitment of football clubs that Show Racism the Red Card visited up and down the country, or at London Occupy, where Jewish Socialist Group challenged emerging antisemitic attitudes in relation to the global financial crisis, activists sent a clear sign that wherever racism dares to creep, we will reach too.
Don't Mind the Gap, Please!
Instead take it as a challenge to discover ways to bridge them: finding routes through the urban landscape that are normally not taken because the distances between one point and another are considered too dangerous to jump over, the walls too high to surmount… this is the attraction of the urban sport parkour. This joy of breaking through borders was used in D’Avent Association’s first time participating in the Action Week Against Racism.
On 24 March D’Avent Association together with the Romanian parkour community Traceurs.RO organised a special parkour workshop on the topic of racism and discrimination in Romanian society. While the 45 participants were practicing parkour, they experienced the feeling of getting weird looks from passers-by or having their actions forbidden by police. Given this situation, the members of D’Avent Association were able to make a connection between the feelings of being discriminated when doing something different from others and the discrimination that minorities face on a daily basis in Romania. As a second step of this workshop, participants, marked with a badge saying “Diferiti Dar Egali” (Different But Equal) approached passers-by, attracted by their parkour movements and talked with them about the impact of discrimination and racism and what we can do about it.
This workshop raised awareness regarding the negative effects of racism and discrimination in Romanian society. Anti-Romanism in particular, considered as something normal in the daily life of many people living in Romania, can be counteracted by breaking through old borders that were taken for granted for much too long.
Although the workshop focused on a very sensitive subject, participants were very open to the discussion thanks the positive approach of the project. Raising awareness among youth while having fun - this is what D’Avent Association gave a very motivating example of!
No Place for Racism!
“When you experience racism, you feel alone” Miss Switzerland stated in support of the Action Week Against Racism in Bern. Her statement did not end with those words: “We are many and we can and have to resist” she added. Alongside other celebrities, she raised her voice against racism. Leading up to 28 March, a huge variety of activities took place, coordinated by the city of Bern and project GGGFON - Together Against Violence and Racism as part of the European City Coalition Against Racism.
The city walls were covered with posters depicting people with scars on their faces. The scars had the shape of words like “club”, “college” or “park”, naming different places in which racism can and does take place. These injuries on the surface make visible the harm racism causes to people, which often stays unseen.
Part of the program was also African Mirror who conducted video interviews with passers-by, asking the question “what is your position towards the Others?” Chinderchübu organised a free workshop for kids on how to make their own antiracist buttons. Secondos Plus initiated a discussion with pupils on the question of how fair the school system really is. To what extent does a migrant background even if this is sometimes only a label given to someone, rather than a chosen identity decrease someone’s chances at reaching higher education from an early stage?
NCBI held a workshop to counteract fairy tales about Muslims spread by the media. In a safe space, Muslims and non-Muslims could pose questions and talk openly about fears and prejudices. The action week aimed to provide a platform for everybody to stand up against exclusion and xenophobia - not only during that week but also for the rest of the year.
Another activity was initiated by Kidswest: youngsters approached people on their way through the city asking questions about their experience of racism. Some told their story of being affected by racism themselves, others remembered watching racist behaviour or actions, too often without interfering. The young interviewers made notes about the stories, placed their written summaries as traces on different places in the city and then inscribed them on a big map. With this very simple action they showed that we all have something to say about racism. Racism can only be counteracted after we begin to speak about it, stop covering our eyes and ears and acknowledging together that this is an existing problem. Such broad recognition is the foundation we need to develop joint strategies of counteraction!
You Will Not Be Able to Avoid Us
Roma are the group most vulnerable to racism and discrimination in the Czech Republic, according to the ENAR shadow report, which was presented by the Czech Helsinki Committee at a press conference on 21 March. A sociological survey, carried out in 2010 by the Ministry of Interior, found that 83% of respondents see Roma as inadaptable, 90% see them as a “source of criminal acts” and believe they “destroy and litter the environment”. Only 20% perceived Roma as victims of discrimination.
To highlight the massive discrimination that minority communities face, during the “Lucerna Against Racism” event, designed by OPONA, an “Exhibition against Racism” was held, linking past and present through the history of Jewish and Romani minorities on Czech territory, and investigating the media image of Romani people in detail. The day ended with a concert against racism followed by a live show by Jam Sound System. “You will not be able to avoid the topic of racism at the Lucerna on Wednesday” said one of the organisers.
The Museum of Romani, dedicated to preserving Romani cultural history, organised a varied programme, ranging from lectures to workshops. The many activities included an exposition about the rich and diverse culture of the Roma at different historical moments.
Move Forward - Love People
From 18 to 21 March the Youth Council of Kovacica organised a workshop for human rights in an elementary school in the town Kovacica. Under the title "Move Forward", strategies for fighting racism, fascism and antisemitism were discussed by the young workshop participants. Also initiated by the Youth Council of Kovacica was a painting workshop and multicultural literary competition called "Love People". Using creativity and cultural activities, the initiators introduced participants to the topic of antiracism showing them that coming together to engage against discrimination and suppression can be a very motivating activity. Facing racism always involves confronting frustrating issues, which is one reason that so many people choose not to deal with it. That is why the question of how we can "recharge" our energies and stay motivated is as important for activists as remaining alert to the atrocities that may be happening around us.
To reach out to more people than just the 80 participants of the workshop and their friends, the European-wide Action Week Against Racism was also promoted via television and radio. As a result, according to the initiators, practically all residents of the Kovacica region have somehow heard about the campaign and the struggle against racism during March!
Walking Silent to Be Loud
The European Action Week Against Racism took place in a very specific context this year in France. Firstly, the campaign for the presidential elections during the past months saw an escalation in racist discourse from politicians reaching out to far-right voters. Secondly, a series of racially motivated murders in Toulouse and Montauban in March put racial and religious tensions in the foreground.
Condemning both the racist drift of the government and the racist murders, many organisations rallied for the Action Week. Two marches were organised in Paris, for example. The march “No Spring for Racism” took place on March 21, in Montreuil. It was organised by the Trade Union Confédération Générale du Travail and SOS Racisme. On March 25, MRAP, SOS Racisme, UEJF, LICRA, and AFVT organised a silent march to express their disgust at racial hatred and their commitment to the values of the Republic, which include respect for the dignity of everyone. Their motto was “A United Republic Against Racism, Antisemitism and Terrorism!”.
Racism is Wrong
The question of securing rights to minority language groups still remains deeply divisive in Georgia. The government fears that awarding a formal status to languages and dialects might promote separatist tendencies in the country. This year Union of Kurdish Youth of Georgia organised the first festival of minority languages. This fascinating open-air event took place on 24 March at the beautiful Deda Ena Gardens in Tbilisi. Over 20 languages were presented at the festival and participants were able to study often-used phrases in different languages, participate in competitions, interesting performances and games. This event helped guests to consider the linguistic diversity of our world, and Georgia in particular, as a cultural asset and promoted the idea that there should be no “major” or “minor” languages.
Analytical Centre Interethnic Cooperation and Consultations launched a successful Facebook campaign named “Racism is Wrong”. Social media is indeed a powerful tool to spread the word against racism and promote the antiracist initiative. Activists from Analytical Center Interethnic Cooperation and Consultations were able to raise awareness of the dangers of racism among the online community and get their family, colleagues, friends and friends of friends to join the campaign.
Another action was planned by Youth Association DRONI. They organised an “International Public Reading of Poems against Discrimination” in Tbilisi. Anyone could bring a poem in their native language and read it aloud in a cosy atmosphere, accompanied by music. During the event 4 schoolchildren received a diploma as winners of a Poem Contest about Discrimination organised by DRONI at Tbilisi Sea School.
No, We Don't Have Anything Better to Do!
Tradition is never free from racism. This fact is still hard for some people to acknowledge. For those activists that are fighting against the use of racist names which are justified “because it’s always been like that,” this is nothing new. SOS Mitmensch launched a series of online articles to trigger broader discussion about the traditional Viennese chocolate cake with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, which is still widely sold and consumed as “Mo** im Hemd” (“Mo** in Shirt”). The name of the cake references an old racist name for Black people, mostly used in the German speaking context. It reproduces stereotypes by linking Black people to chocolate and to nudeness suggesting an opposition to the white whipped cream, the “shirt”, a symbol of “civilisation”. But some restaurants have already changed the name: the owner of the “Hawidere”, for example, realised already in 2007 that the chocolate cake is even tastier without such a racist name!
Dealing with this topic is not only important for those who have “nothing better to do” - as if antiracism is a luxury not a necessity - and SOS Mitmensch proved this, in cooperation with M-Media, by publishing a list of questions and answers on colonial history, racist narratives and possibilities of resistance. In one of their articles SOS Mitmensch stated that fighting racism means first understanding it. Hence they continue the history of resistance, in which the Research Group for Black Austrian History is one other important example.
Collecting knowledge on racism and thereby helping to counteract it more effectively in the future was also the goal of ZARA’s racism report, traditionally launched on 21 March. Every year ZARA collects information about racist incidents in Austria, making a clear sign about why it is so important and urgent to get active against racism!
On the same day as the report launch in Vienna, Action Critical Pupils Carinthia/Koroska’s activists lay in the old square of Klagenfurt while screaming and carrying signs like “No Tolerance for Intolerance” or “International Day Against Racism”. The flashmob was supported by more than 50 young people and very effectively interrupted the afternoon strolls of people taking a walk through the city that day. The action was followed by a workshop to discuss practical arguments against racism, and then a concert. If we have problems with understanding each other via spoken language, we can still try out by dancing together!
“Protiv Rasizma-irkçiliga karsi-Gegen Rassismus” was written on the central banner at the march of the transnational migrant strike in Vienna on beginning of March, declaring “Against Racism!” in three different languages. This year’s strike focused on acknowledging that people with different mother tongues are all living together in Vienna. Participants were striking against unfair working conditions but also striking against the “racist normality” in Austria. A samba band and several freight bikes with loudspeakers joined the rally to further motivate participants and draw people’s attention away from their daily tasks and encourage them to join the march. Banners were installed beforehand all over the city, with slogans such as “No One is Illegal!”. Also in Innsbruck a migrants’ strike was initiated under the motto “Without us, nothing works”, where people from different backgrounds demanded an end to the separation between “migrants” and “natives”.
“We all breathe the same air!” is one of the slogans of Afrique-Europe-Interact, a network of refugee and migrant rights organisations in Africa and Europe. With the statement “Oury Jalloh - This was Murder” the network initiated a manifestation in front of the German embassy in Vienna commemorating the killing of the Sierra Leonean refugee Oury Jalloh and raising awareness about the ongoing trial against the police officers responsible. Jalloh died in a German prison cell with his hand tied to a burning mattress. The demonstration in Vienna also aimed to keep alive the memory of racist incidents in Austria which had deadly consequences: Marcus Omufuma died in 1999, Richard Ibekwe died in 2000, Seibane Wague died in 2003, Yankuba Ceesay died in 2005 and Gagenpret Singh died in 2009.
We Are in All This Together
A low level of human rights awareness exists among civil society in Lithuania, and so the legal framework to protect human rights is insufficient. The law protecting national minorities in Lithuania was recently abolished, making them even more vulnerable, and a number of discriminative initiatives restricting LGBTQ rights have appeared.
It is against this backdrop that several NGOs in Lithuania have taken the step to tackle these concerning developments head on, using different strategies to take a stand in support of racial equality and diversity. Human Rights Monitoring Institute, in response to a nationalist march scheduled on the same day in Vilnius, mobilised over 800 people onto the streets to combat their racist message under the slogan “We Celebrate the Freedom”.
The newly brought in Education Act endangers the rights of national minorities, potentially leading to the closure of their schools. In an unmistakable act of solidarity, over 7000 people marched in support of their right to education, led by the Strike Committees of the Polish Schools of Lithuania and European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR).
EFHR also organised the lecture “Does the Law Allow Discrimination?” using examples such as the Lukasz and Malgozata Runevic-Vardyn case, involving a refused request to change their differently spelled surnames on the marriage certificate; one was spelled in the Lithuanian alphabet and the other Polish. Participants were given a chance to speak with lawyers and get to grip with the complex legal system. This NGO also made a symbolic move to engage with the wider public by translating the UNITED campaign poster into Lithuanian, Polish and Russian distributing the poster at all of their events. As the campaign aims for our shared message to reach as many as possible, this simple act is in fact of great importance to our mission.
National Institute for Social Integration put inclusion and integration at the heart of their activities, with the inspirational message “Positive Alarm for Action”, stimulating intercultural dialogue through human libraries, workshops, flashmobs and film screenings across the country. When discrimination comes from the top down, these energetic NGOs knew that the only option is to fortify the grassroots, look up and push right back!
Racism is Not Normal!
How can we help children to understand antiracism in an easy and fun way? This was the question that led Omlandinska Organizacija Svitac - Firefly Bosnia to choose a face-painting workshop as their activity for the Action Week, to show that a superficial look is never enough: instead, we all have to look deeper to get to know the real person. As children from diverse backgrounds come regularly to their centre Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks and Romas all together it was the perfect place to hold a workshop fostering interaction and exchange despite - or in appreciation of! - the many differences between us. The volunteers from Svitac organised the paint and coloured the children according to their chosen “identity”: zombies, fantasy characters, flowers, butterflies, ghosts and angels were suddenly appearing between the UNITED posters that decorated the centre’s garden. Then volunteers joined the crowd and in the end everyone began working together on a collage entitled “I can see something you can’t see…”
On 23 March Svitac held another workshop: in the Youth Centre in Brčko Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Dutch, French and German people aged from 14 to 35 came together to discuss the definition of “racism” and “fascism”. Afterwards the German short film “Schwarzfahrer” was screened. The title literally means “Black Rider”, but also “fare dodger” (someone using public transport without paying). Even with the title, the movie points out that “black” is still understood as something bad, stressing the necessity for critical reflection on certain expressions and images that have been around for decades or centuries. The plot is about a woman who insults a black passenger on the tram while nobody intervenes. Workshop participants discussed their experiences of racism in daily life, talking about in which situations they did and did not intervene. In the end they created a big poster with prints of their hands next to which everybody wrote a personal message against racism.
The Youth Group of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina also made use of the UNITED campaign material. With the slogan of this year’s campaign, volunteers went into the streets of Bugojno and Sarajevo to make people uncover their eyes and ears. When we experience racism in public or private life, it is obvious that we must show clear and strong disagreement with what is too often seen as normal or “not-meant-like-that”.
Even when an insult or attack is not directed towards us, we should “take it personally”, overcome our first hesitation and intervene! For the person actually suffering from the aggression, performing counteraction can be more difficult!
United We Are
Kyrgyzstan is a multi-ethnic country and home to Russians, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Uyghur, Korean, Dungan and many other minorities. Kyrgyzstan continues to grapple with the consequences of the June 2010 violence that erupted between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the country’s south, killing more than 400 people. A number of initiatives were taken in this year’s Action Week Against Racism to prevent a recurrence of this tragic conflict and promote multicultural values and respect of minority rights. Golos Svobody - Voice of Freedom prepared a range of activities for youth, starting with a conference for law students and professors of the Kyrgyz National University. The conference served as a social learning platform where understanding and knowledge of human rights and antiracist practices were developed. Some of the students were so interested in the events; they decided to set up a programme for the campaign next year.
The activists of Golos Svobody also organised an open-air benefit concert under the name of “Kyrgyz youth against racism, nationalism and inter-regional division: United We Are” in the capital, Bishkek. The organisers made 40 posters and invited university stand-up comedy clubs and music bands to take part in the concert to promote their antiracist message. The concert united people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds was a living testimony to the fact that cultures can and do mix.
Another action took place at a secondary school in Bishkek. Children shared stories of their lives when they witnessed incidents of nationalism, racism or any kind of inter-ethnic division. It turned out that very often their parents would not let them play with the children belonging to a different ethnic group. One of the secondary school students said “You can imagine the society in the form of concrete. Concrete is not made from a single thing. There was also water, sand and other things added to it. Just like that, the society can’t consist of a single group.
“Racism is seen and felt by many people. Unfortunately, hurtful name-calling, apparently innocent jokes and ostracism are everyday occurrences for a large number of people, even though most of us disapprove of such behaviour. The Finnish Red Cross Week Against Racism, March 19-25, reminds us that there are situations where speaking out is better than staying silent.” This was the call for action that the Finish Red Cross sent out.
In a rap contest Red Cross and 15 young musicians from all over the country substantiated the idea of speaking out against racism. All of the performances showed how words can be used as a tool to combat racism. During a final battle in Joensuu on 21 March the winner was found out of the three best songs.
The Red Cross Finland organised much more than just the rap contest; their programme for the Action Week was colourful and creative, characterised by many activities for, with and from young people. Young Red Cross Volunteers organised flash mobs and street actions like a bin for prejudices, where passers-by were encouraged to write their prejudices down on paper and literally throw them away.
Red Cross Finland activities were part of the nation-wide campaign in Finland coordinated by Rasmus Network Against Racism and Xenophobia. All over the country organisations held discussions, lectures, living libraries, concerts, exhibitions and much more.
Also the final conference of the two year project “Creating a Level Playing Field” was held in Helsinki during the Action Week. Both conference and project were organised by European Non-Governmental Sports Organisation ENGSO. The project aimed to encourage social inclusion of migrants and ethnic minorities in sports. More than 40 participants from European, national, regional and local levels discussed the findings of the project during this final event.
We Want Equal Rights For All…
The situation of asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants living in Greece has been a burning issue ever since the Minister of Citizen Protection decided to build 30 Immigrant Detention Centres, designed to “clean Athens of all illegal immigrants, who represent a major threat to the public health”. To raise public awareness against these political developments, the Greek Council for Refugees, decided to organise a web buzz. Limited financial resources inspired them to make use of creativity and already existing tools: their website, social media (Facebook, Twitter), and UNITED material. Thanks to the help of many volunteers, they released a press release on many different media channels in a synchronized way, creating a “butterfly effect”. In this way, they reached out to a broad audience and exposed the asylum situation in Greece.
Migrants are also among the most frequent targets of racist attacks in Greece. A press conference organised by the Racist Violence Recording Network on 21 March presented the results of their pilot programme for monitoring and recording racially motivated acts of violence. The Network was set up as an initiative of the National Commission for Human Rights and UNHCR in Greece, with the participation of 18 NGOs and other bodies. 63 incidents of racist violence were recorded between 1.10.2011 and 31.12.2011. Of these victims, 27 were undocumented migrants, 23 asylum seekers.
The Racist Violence Recording Network’s monitoring results are extremely worrying, especially considering that these incidents are only the tip of the iceberg; they reveal that racist violence is spreading at a terrifying speed and threatening an already strained social cohesion.
The topic of discrimination and racism was also at the heart of the actions organised by the Youth Center Corinthia in Kiato. Among the activities were free hugs, questionnaires and graffiti. The organisers faced some scepticism as they approached passers-by and soon discovered that, beyond the common rejection of racism, many Greek citizens manifest fears and concern about living together with people from a different background. It is for this reason that this year’s campaign slogan, “Open Your Mind” was particularly relevant: We must recognize different forms of racism and the many ways they can poison our minds and societies.
No One is Illegal
In the Netherlands there is growing bigotry against Muslim and other minority groups, fuelled by Parliament member Geert Wilder and his party PVV. Undocumented migrants are also a target of discriminatory policies, since increasing criminalisation, as introduced in a proposed law, makes it difficult for them to realise their rights. Once the law is implemented, a quota has been set to arrest 4.800 “sans papiers”.
Such criminalisation means that undocumented migrants are now afraid to ask organisations and institutions for help. Notwithstanding this growing intolerance, many activities were organised during the Action Week.
In seven cities, for example, activists focused on rising awareness about the rights of migrants and asylum seekers in The Netherlands. In Amsterdam Het Wereldhuis, Info Centre for Undocumented Migrants and ASKV/ Solidarity Committee for Asylum-Seekers presented “The Passport of Amsterdam” to the mayor of the city. In this manual, the rights of people without a residence permit (right to health, education, legal assistance, housing and work) are laid out. The presentation of the passport took place at City Hall, where the mayor spoke out against the above-mentioned quota. As well as in Amsterdam, in The Hague, Utrecht, Rotterdam and elsewhere, similar activities took place simultaneously.
Platform Stop Racism and Exclusion organised a torch light manifestation in Amsterdam, to draw attention to the growing numbers of victims of racist violence in Europe. Participants read aloud a list of all the victims of hate crimes.
In Tilburg, Het Huis van de Wereld organised a performance called “As I left My Fathers House”. This performance tells three heart-wrenching stories of refugees from different cultural and religious backgrounds. A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim speak about their world: a world of people forced to live in hostility, violence and extremism. After the performance, there was an opportunity to discuss and listen to each other’s experiences and life stories.
Holding Together Against Racism
This slogan captures the aim of the project organised by Mus-e Kosova and Twelve in Prishtine on the 21 March. They organised a meeting in the European Information and Cultural Centre with civil society representatives and young people interested in intercultural dialogue, human rights and the struggle against racism and discrimination. As this was their first time taking part in the Action Week, they prepared a PowerPoint presentation about UNITED. Then a psychologist and a sociologist made short contributions on the topics of discrimination, prejudices, stereotypes and racism to trigger discussions among the approximately 100 participants. Many people voiced the need for joint action and expressed their motivation to launch future seminars and conferences on the topic of networking in Prishtine. One outcome of the debates was the idea to start a research project about the level of discrimination and racism in Kosovo, with the focus on young people aged from 12 to 30. The research would be the starting-point for future projects aiming to deal with specific local problems and engage young people.
The national coordinator of Mus-e Kosova was a guest on the national TV station, discussing this year’s antiracist activities on both the morning and evening shows. Twelve and Mus-e Kosova produced fun, colourful posters boasting slogans such as “We All Fit Together” or “Holding Together Against Racism”. A Facebook page was launched to guarantee that people would know about the initiative in advance (and not only by reading this report ;-)). All the efforts made by those involved from Twelve and Mus-e Kosova resulted in stimulating great motivation in Kosovo, both among people already active in antiracist work and, through the television broadcast, also people who had never before taken a strong interest.
Something Must be Done
Almost every person from a minority in Ireland, whether they are a minority by background or belief, experiences racism almost on a daily basis. Following the release of the ENAR report against racism, on 21 March the coordinator of the Irish Network Against Racism (INAR) points out that “only one in six people report racist incidents to the police, often due to fear or the fact they feel that nothing can be done (…). There is some acceptance in Ireland that racism is serious issue across Europe, but many consider it less of an issue here”. Against this background, politicians, activists, models, designers and people from all walks of life spoke out against racism.
Normally the fashion industry is not seen as a champion of social inclusion, interculturalism or a celebrator of differences. There are people though, who understand that the fashion industry’s influence can be used for good. Fashion Against Racism for example, is a social awareness initiative by ordinary people with a simple message: Together we can tackle Racism. It is for that reason that Fashion Against Racism created a platform for local and national fashion designers, models, hair & make-up artists, photographers and media to use their unique talents and celebrate the rich cultural diversity that exists in Ireland’s social and fashion scene. Several extraordinary and multicultural fashion designers showed their collections and the proceeds of a silent auction & raffle draw were donated to two charities: The National Breast Cancer Research Institute (since cancer does not discriminate; it does not look at age, colour, religion or beliefs) and Show Racism the Red Card.
Show Racism the Red Card itself, a campaign that uses top footballers to educate against racism, organised a football event where members of the Irish parliament from all political parties put aside their differences and worked together with staff members of several embassies to mark 21 March.
The Centre for Global Education, a non-governmental development organisation that aims to raise awareness of global issues and encourage action towards social change, organised a one-day workshop exploring the Roma community. This workshop, called "The Roma: Between Myth and Reality" enabled participants to recognise and challenge general and individual assumptions about the Roma they have, and also raise awareness of Roma culture, history and traditions. The workshop also aimed to establish links between Roma and other members of society.
All Irish events were coordinated by INAR, a national network of antiracist NGOs that aims to work collectively to address racism in Ireland through antiracist initiatives.
A Chain to Be Free
A kaleidoscopic community occupied streets and squares of 35 cities creating human chains to say “No to any form of racism”. The National Office Against Racial Discrimination called on civil society to go on the streets on 21 March 2012 at 10:30 and reclaim strong antiracist values. This call was necessary after the racist attacks of December 2011 in Florence, at the hand of a right-wing extremist who killed two Senegalese street vendors and injured another three.
New cooperation between NGOs, bookshops, musicians and schools helped to spread the message to various groups. APS-YARD with the bookshop Don Durito held together a theatrical performance based on ironic readings of poetry “Leghisti, Fascists, Racists ... A laugh will bury you”. What is the best way to show how ridiculous racism is if not by laughing at it? Irony can be a powerful tool to open up deeper discussions such as how racist propaganda is sadly becoming an accepted part of Italian politics.
A.Ra.Xè Agency Against Racism & Xenophobia and APS-YARD worked with 15 classes of primary and secondary schools in Milan. The activities used non-formal education to show how differences are a precious quality in our communities. Starting from presentations of images, videos, stories and games coming from different parts of the world, students were encouraged to deepen their understanding of diversity and discuss antiracism and xenophobia. As a conclusion of these “alternative school lessons” students realised video-messages, collages and a radio-spot against racism.
Our commitment against racism is serious work, but it can also be enjoyable and great fun; it is for this reason that parties, concerts and music contests were organised in several cities: the annual concert with Fast and Furious, NoMama Hip-Hop projects, Reggae parties and many more.
Italy needs to wake up and open its eyes to the worrying spread of intolerance and xenophobia, and luckily many courageous activists are working hard to this aim.
Together Against Racism
Poland and Ukraine will be hosts of one of the biggest football events: the Euro2012. Unfortunately football, the most famous sport in the world, is affected by incidents of racism and discrimination. Be it from fans, players, clubs or other football bodies.
Against this background, Polish NGOs got active under the UNITED campaign to support the preparation of Euro2012 with antidiscrimination activities. “Racism in Soccer” was the topic of the exhibition organised by Never Again (NA), and Edith Stein House in Wroclaw. It took place in the cellar of the Edith Stein House and depicted the history of ethnic minorities, both local and national, in football, as well as pointing out the problem of racism in the stadiums. During the opening, the president of Fundacja Centrum Tolerancjj and a member of NA gave a lecture about the problem of racism in football. They started with a short introduction into racist symbols used in sports and described the “Let’s Kick Racism out of the Stadiums” campaign. The opening speech was followed by a drum concert and workshop, aiming to make together music against racism. Inspired by traditional African and Indian methods participants experienced rhythm through singing, dancing and drumming.
The city of Wrocław was also the theatre of many more activities; EVS volunteers of the Edith Stein House organised a flashmob to set a symbolic sign for their motto “Together Against Racism”. Their call for action travelled via Facebook and wall postings and as a result, a “country exchange market” was organised, where each would bring something from their home country and exchange it at a public space at a defined time. Further the EVS volunteers made also use of the “good old” UNITED campaign material, spreading it to advertise their upcoming event.
In other Polish cities, NA used the symbolic date of 21 March to kick off the campaign “Say Stop to Racism”. Students prepared a broadcast about the campaign, transmitted through their school speakers. They also spread UNITED’s antiracist posters, in and outside school property, as well as issuing pamphlets and stickers informing about NA’s activities.
Also in prevision of the Euro2012, NA presented the activities organised in the frame of the FARE “Respect Diversity” project to a group of 20 Ukrainian school head teachers and principals from Kiev and Kharkiv. The project’s objective is to promote diversity and the power of football to unite across differences, while monitoring and addressing the social and political undercurrents of discrimination, racism and intolerance. This meeting also roused great interest in spreading the concept of the “Inclusive Zone” in Ukraine. This idea aims to contribute to the creation of a friendly multicultural atmosphere at Euro2012. Schools, NGOs, local authorities, cultural institutions, community centres, sports clubs as well as businesses, shops and pubs have all been invited to join the initiative. The principle that underpins the “Inclusive Zone” idea is simple - the creation of hundreds of public buildings and spaces that are designated as being open, accessible and welcoming to people regardless of their ethnic or national background, gender, disability or sexual orientation. The “Inclusive Zones” are visible and marked through posters and stickers.
Sharing Personal Stories
In the framework of the Action Week, the NGO Youth for Exchange and Cooperation organised a street action in Yerevan. About 30 young people gathered in the city centre, holding UNITED material and interviewed passers-by about what they think about racism and what can be done to eliminate it. The activity was a success as it stimulated critical thought about how to counteract racism among people who might not normally consider the issue, motivating them to take part in future actions. The activity received good media coverage and some activists were interviewed on the radio. The article “Young People Against Racism” was published on the website of Public Radio of Armenia, reaching out to those who were not present on the day, and informing them about the action of Youth for Exchange and Cooperation. Because, as the article says, education is one of the most important elements for getting rid of racist ideas!
The Youth Centre for Democratic Initiatives also knew this: under the motto “Raise your voice against Racism”, they organised a seminar and movie screening of the film “Racism: A History”. The documentary depicts the development of racism and its connection to western philosophy and to the dark history of slavery. Throughout the event, UNITED campaign posters, leaflets and postcards were available, so that participants could also take material home to continue discussions outside the youth centre.
Participants discussed the topics illustrated in the documentary as well as other forms of discrimination. They also shared their personal stories of being affected by racism themselves or witnessing others being exposed to racism. Many said that this helped a lot in reflecting on their own stereotypes and that this event allowed them to reconsider their ideas about races and racism in general.
Antiracist education means confronting the long and infamous tradition of racism, but it also means learning about racism by just listening to each other and sharing different life stories.
Multiculturalism is Everywhere
More than 1200 events all over Germany
As diverse as the European-wide Action Week in general is, so diverse are activities during the German International Week Against Racism coordinated by the Interkultureller Rat. With more than 1200 events in over 300 cities and municipalities, the Interkulturelle Rat said the Action Week 2012 was the most extensive and diverse campaign in history.
Civil society institutions in particular such as schools, sport clubs, trade unions, firms and local initiatives contributed to the Action Week’s success with their engagement and creativity. Many events were organised dealing with everyday racism, racism in mainstream society, refugee rights, migration and integration. One of those events was a city tour through the Berlin district Neukölln. Neukölln is the Turkish neighbourhood of Berlin with high migrant population. The tour showed interested participants places significant to Turkish life.
As part of the Action Week some cities developed their own programmes, such as Hamburg, Erlangen, Munich and Leipzig. The initiative Laut gegen Nazis coordinated the Action Week in Hamburg, where lectures, concerts, workshops, exhibitions and much more took place under the slogan “Hamburg Stands Up”. Supported by famous musicians like Jan Delay or Udo Lindenberg and Bundesliga football clubs FC St. Pauli and Hamburger Sportverein (HSV) Laut gegen Nazis delivered a varied and creative campaign.
The Stadt Leipzig - Referat für Migration und Integration coordinated the campaign for the 9th time, this year with more than 60 events and special activities for children and youngsters. The programme was an expression of diversity and a multicultural society, with many events dealing with topics like migration, inclusion or interculturalism.
Alongside the huge campaign were also smaller events organised by local NGOs. One of them is the STUBE Berlin-Brandenburg, who offered international students a breakfast. With a lot of time for chatting, young people got to know different cultures in a relaxed atmosphere.
There were not only events done by grassroots organisations but also for them. The Fraport Skyliners invited migrant support organisations to take part in “Cup Without Borders” a multicultural basketball tournament and professional training with Fraport Skyline, followed by a match between Fraport Skyliners and Ratiopharm Ulm. One reason for such strong participation in the Action Week was the widespread shock over the recently uncovered Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund (National Socialist Underground), a right-wing extremist terror group responsible for several racist murders during 2000 and 2007, and the resulting will to combat right-wing tendencies, concluded the Interkultureller Rat.
We Can't Stay Silent
While the President of Belarus who has been ruling the country with an iron fist for almost 18 years made a homophobic statement that it is “better to be a dictator than gay” when responding to European criticism of the country’s democratic record, Human Rights Project Gay Belarus organised a public campaign starting from 17 March in the city of Minsk. Activists of the LGBTQ movement distributed posters and postcards to encourage people to condemn racism and other forms of irrational intolerance. “The purpose of the event is to demonstrate and promote tolerant attitude to minorities. It has no political overtones”, said the chairman of Human Rights Project Gay Belarus.
In fact, activists of Project Gay Belarus organised a range of activities in the frame of the Action Week Against Racism. Movie screenings were used as another powerful medium to raise awareness. Films open our eyes to the world around us, touch and inspire audiences. Project Gay Belarus activists also showed short clips and feature films on human rights and diversity issues. By presenting documentaries on various topics they encouraged public debate and created a free space for topics and discussions.
Belarus is Europe’s only country to have the death penalty. Activists claim that around 400 people have been executed in Belarus since the 1991 Soviet collapse. At the end of the campaign Gay Belarus activists left toys in the streets with stickers against the death penalty and racism, attracting attention from passers-by and offering a new positive view about what the future would be like if there was no violation to the right to life.
Clean Up Your Mind From Prejudices
Recent surveys show that xenophobic attitudes have risen in Spanish society by a significant percentage since the economic crisis developed. Racist arguments feed off the public discourses of many politicians and the current financial cuts, encouraging, for example, discriminatory policies considering foreigners as second-class people with fewer rights than citizens. In this context racism finds many ways to pollute Spanish minds and society. However, scores of organisations organised lots of activities in the frame of the UNITED campaign in different cities across the country to speak out against discrimination and cleanse minds of racial prejudice.
One of the most active regions was Andalusia where the Human Rights Association of Andalusia (APDHA), supported by dozens of organisations, prepared a range of different events aimed at raising awareness about the “International Day Against Racism and Xenophobia” and denounced the increase of racist actions and behaviour against the migrant population, such as continuous police raids and ID controls. From a TV programme to a press conference, from street actions and public manifestations to musical performances and leaflet distribution, hundreds of people of Huelva, Cádiz, Córdoba, Sevilla, Granada and more were mobilised and stood together for a plural and open province. APHDA also looked for creative ways to involve civil society, for instance, by distributing a “Discrimination Calendar” that encouraged people to participate in an antidiscrimination event every month, or ingenious leaflets that imitate CD´s, to raise awareness of the vulnerability of undocumented migrants working as CD salesmen on the streets.
In Catalonia, many organisations prepared events showing the many faces of racism. The Pan African Movement (Federation of Black Communities) held an international congress in Barcelona about victims of racism and the General Union of Workers sent out a press release plus extensive research explaining the dangerous impact the last labour reform has for migrant workers. The Human Rights Institute of Catalonia advocated for the defence of human rights in their annual training course while spreading UNITED material. The Network Acoge and the Catalonian Commission for Refugees also distributed our shared campaign material during their meetings.
In other regions, SOS Racism initiated a well thought-out and original antiracist campaign involving youth to spread the message; students of a design school planned the whole campaign, including posters, the slogan and videos distributed in street action and among mass media. “Sound the alarm against Racism”, supported by 54 organisations, gathered hundreds of people on the street making noise with cans and sirens. “Noise is like a drink that we drink every day, it spreads like a virus, infecting the population” to stop the racist “noise” or propaganda that makes people “deaf” and isolates them, participants went out with loud flashmobs to be even more audible with their messages.
An important action took place in Madrid by Movimiento contra la Intolerancia. Conscious of the increase in xenophobic attacks, the international conference “Stop Hate Crimes” brought experts from different parts of Spain along with international ones to discuss the recognition of hate crimes and their victims at European level. At the same time, three youngsters suffered a nazi attack during an antiracist concert in Manresa. Quickly, antifascist committees organised demonstrations all over the country to expre
We Say No to Racism
When a nationalist politician made a racist remark about the singer who will represent Ukraine at this year’s Eurovision song contest just because of her skin colour, European Choice started a campaign and collected 500 signatures in support of the pop star. The European Choice activists not only stood up for the singer’s rights, but also raised awareness about the importance of human dignity and respect in our society.
From 21 till 30 March, Congress of National Minorities of Ukraine organised an exhibition about the rights and history of refugees and ethnic minorities in Ukraine. Young people from different ethnic backgrounds had the chance to speak about how ethnic minorities can claim their rights in Ukraine, their identity, reactions from the society they live in and how they cope with it. Over 600 visitors attended the exhibition, which will travel to other cities in Ukraine, making use of the concept of peer-education pioneered by the Anne Frank exhibition.
Another series of activities was prepared by the Council of National Societies of the Mykolaiv Region. On 20 March they organised a round table with regional authorities, representatives of NGOs and institutions of culture. One of the outcomes of the meeting was the establishment of a working group that will develop a round table resolution on the protection of rights and interests of ethnic minorities in the Mykolaiv region.
On the following day, activists from Council of National Societies organised a “Human Library”, while another “Human Library” was organised by Source of Hope on 23 March in the city of Vinnitsa. Both activities succeeded in challenging common attitudes and stereotypes, thus helping the region’s local communities become more inclusive and cohesive. The “Human Books” shared personal stories about times when they were subject to discrimination, and told visitors about their cultural background.
Another Ukrainian city, Artemovsk, joined the European Action Week Against Racism, as volunteers from SVIT-Ukraine and Wake Up initiative group organised an interactive workshop, “We Say No to Racism” for school students. A movie screening followed by discussion and games aimed to draw young people’s attention to the social challenges around them. Students had a chance to put themselves in the shoes of a refugee, foreigner, pensioner and other social roles and share their feelings with participants of the game.
Alternative Points of Reference
Both in Budapest and the provinces, more and more young people identify with the extreme right-wing party Jobbik, worrying about “Israeli Banks” taking over Hungarians economy, about “Roma criminality” or about “too many people becoming gay”.
In order to create different points of reference, this year the Federation of Resistance Fighters and Antifascists awarded the antiracist Miklós Radnóti prize, named after a Jewish poet murdered by the Nazis in 1944. This year the head of the Foundation of Subjective Values (FSV) won the award, recognising the great work done by the Budapest-based NGO. On the same day, the FSV initiated a concert of Romano Trajo and Dresch Quartet and a poetry slam, especially aimed at reaching younger people. Under the motto “Zene a Rasszizmus Ellen” (Music Against Racism) an enthusiastic atmosphere was created and many people expressed their interest in the campaign and the ongoing fight against racism.
Human Rights Students’ Initiative at the Central European University also took 21 March as an opportunity to spread their message. They started the day with an info table providing UNITED and other campaign material for curious passers-by to have a look at. Aiming to make people more aware of what it means to be discriminated against, the initiative published written stories by Roma talking about their experiences of racism. To give the readers an opportunity to express their feelings about the text, there was also a comments book. Under the title “Right to Exist: Hungarian Muslim Community in XXI Century” the new Hungarian law on religious “freedom”, abolishing all mosques, was discussed by an Imam from the Islamic Cultural Foundation. At the end of this very active day, the book “Muslims in Poland and Eastern Europe Widening the European Discourse on Islam” was presented, strengthening the ties between Hungarian and Polish authors.
Despite the growing strength of right-wing ideas in Hungary, an impressive number of people took action on 21 March to suggest alternatives to the viewpoint of groups such as the Jobbik party. Their activities give hope that in the future more people will identify with fairness, equality and freedom and as a consequence take a clear stance against anti-Roma attitude, antisemitism, homophobia, Islamophobia and nationalism.
You are Not Alone!
Racism is a daily reality for many ethnic and religious minorities in the EU. However, the extent and manifestations of this reality are often unknown and undocumented, especially in official data sources, meaning that it can be difficult to analyse the situation and to establish solutions. To fill those gaps, the European Network against Racism in Brussels (ENAR) launched the key findings of their annual shadow report on racism in Europe and organised a round table on the rise of the far right. The discussions were about the challenges that right-wing parties bring to European society and the role of NGOs in addressing the rise of populism, as well as the role of the European Commission and the European Parliament.
According to the Flemish Service for Employment a quarter of unemployed job seekers are of immigrant origin. They are also four times less likely to find a job. And if finally they do find an occupation, the work is almost often their level of education. Discrimination and prejudices play an important role in this phenomenon. So, on 21 March, Hand in Hand Tegen Racisme started a campaign called “Discrimination does not work in our company”. Hand in Hand and other cooperating organisations asked the authorities to make a plan that would lead to a more effective policy for putting an end to the exclusion of ethnic and cultural minorities in the employment sector. To achieve this goal, Belgian citizens were called upon to contact their local political parties.
In Gent, people of more than 150 different nationalities give the city a multicultural flavour. Although this is a time of economic difficulties, it is too easy to blame others. The city council therefore decided to show that there is no place for racism and discrimination in Gent, by organising a mega photo shoot in a large public square, where anyone who chose to spread the message of diversity could take part.
Another major event took place in Gent where Meldpunt Discriminatie Genk, dance group Brand New Style and some trade unions also grew tired of being passive, and therefore organised a flashmob called “Dance Against Discrimination”.
Order the printed version of the report at:
for Intercultural Action
European network against nationalism, racism, fascism
and in support of migrants and refugees
413, NL-1000 AK Amsterdam, Netherlands
phone +31-20-6834778, fax +31-20-6834582