Monday, May 3, 2010
FROM THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Monday, May 3, 2010
Hungary's Gypsies fear violence after election
Pablo Gorondi and George Jahn ASSOCIATED PRESS
TATARSZENTGYORGY, Hungary |
Robert Csorba and his son were killed a year ago for being Gypsies. Now his relatives are using the bricks from his burned-out house to wall off their home as they brace for what they fear is more violence ahead.
The Csorba slayings were part of an unprecedented string of serial killings of Gypsies that stopped after claiming six victims with arrests in August. But Gypsies fear that big gains made by an extreme-right party in national elections last month could further feed the climate of hatred that spawned the slayings.
The Jobbik party exploited anti-Semitic and anti-Gypsy sentiment to surge from almost nowhere to 16.7 percent of the voting. That makes Jobbik — which is linked to combat-booted paramilitaries that staged an anti-Gypsy march in this village three years ago — the third strongest party in parliament.
Compounding Gypsy fears is the fact that Fidesz, the center-right party that won the election, has linked its "law and order" pledge to keeping a closer eye on Hungary's estimated 500,000 to 800,000 Gypsies or Roma.
In postelection comments, Fidesz leader Viktor Orban, who is set to be the country's next prime minister, promised a crackdown on petty crime in language clearly alluding to the Roma.
"The new government will have a new way of thinking about public security," he told reporters in Budapest, the capital 31 miles northwest of Tatarszentgyorgy. "Small crimes are also crimes."
"It's not possible that thefts of chickens are not even investigated anymore," Mr. Orban told reporters in comments — evoking the widespread Hungarian stereotype of the Gypsy as a chicken thief.
Roma representatives do not deny that some of their community are often guilty of petty crime but said the phenomenon is linked to chronic poverty rooted in age-old discrimination against Gypsies.
"Thefts of firewood, of chickens, are quite frequent," said Angela Zsigar, head of the local Roma self-government, which is struggling to improve the fate of the town's roughly 700 Roma. "There are many poor here."
While unemployment in Hungary stood at a record 11.4 percent in March, it was more than 20 percent in some parts of northeastern Hungary, where many Roma live. Additionally, Ms. Zsigar said, many Roma have never had an official job so they aren't included in the labor figures.
Mr. Orban also acknowledged that creating more jobs is also essential for reducing crime.
While state-owned industries — shut down as communism collapsed — once supplied plentiful low-skilled jobs, many Roma have since depended on welfare payments to survive.
Mr. Csorba, 27, and his 5-year-old son were fatally shot just after midnight on Feb. 23, 2009, part of a series of slayings carried out mainly in small countryside villages predominantly settled by Roma.
His village already had gained notoriety 15 months before that, when several hundred black uniformed members of the Hungarian Guard, founded by Jobbik, held their first march there against "Gypsy criminality."
The Guard came back shortly before the elections to participate in a Jobbik election rally leading to heated exchanges between Roma attending the town hall meeting and Jobbik politicians.
Erzsebet Csorba, Mr. Csorba's mother, still feels aggrieved.
"They came here, they upset the Gypsies and had the gall to come in their uniforms," she said indignantly.
The Guard still operates despite a court order to disband last year, and Mr. Orban pledged to "do away" with such organizations.
Fidesz has described the Guard as the "wrong answer to existing problems." Still, Mr. Orban indicated that the Guard's existence had some legitimacy, suggesting that they were filling a security vacuum left by the lack of adequate police forces.
Reflecting the strength of anti-Gypsy sentiment in Tatarszentgyorgy, Jobbik got more than twice as many votes here as the second-place Socialists — but half as many as Fidesz.
Incoming Fidesz government leaders downplay Jobbik's significance.
Janos Martony, Hungary's next foreign minister, told the Associated Press that the focus of the outside world on that party is "slightly surprising," adding that if the Hungarian Guard continues defying the order to disband, "the rule of law will be fully implemented."
For the village's Gypsies, however, the return of the Guard just before the election has raised trepidation of the times ahead.
"They could have showed some respect and not hold the meeting in uniform," Erzsebet Csorba said of the Guard's recent pre-election appearance. "What kind of Gypsy crimes are they talking about if it is the Gypsies who are being murdered?"
Posted by Morgan at 5:08 PM