The growing fascist movement in Hungary is a threat to many, but is of particular concern to the nation's Roma community.
The extreme right Jobbik party's paramilitary Magyar Garda or Hungarian Guard (pictured here) is leading the assault on the Roma. The Guard was formed last year and has about 700 members. Its uniform has elements which resemble those used by the Arrow Cross, a pro-Nazi, World War II militia. The Hungarian Guard has staged regular demonstrations against "Gypsy crime," including a uniformed march through a Roma-majority village. Last month they rallied in the Hungarian capital of Budapest to protest what it said was a rising crime rate, but which critics said was a veiled attack on the country's Gypsies. State President László Sólyom called the Hungarian Guard's (Magyar Gárda) demonstration "anti-Gypsy" and rejected the "Nazi ideology" expressed by a speaker from Jobbik, the far-right party behind the guard, which formed at the end of this past summer.
In the past few days, the chief prosecutor in Budapest made a court application for the banning of the Magyar Garda. One of the reasons such an application has just now been made is a recent statement from Csanad Szegedi, the group's founder and vice-president of the Movement for a Better Hungary, who said, "The Magyar Garda will be the gendarmerie of the 21st century." This was seen as a challenge to the functioning of a state based on the rule of law. The prosecutor also points out that the Garda's open anti-gypsy sentiment is in violation of the Constitution and numerous international agreements.
Prosecutors Office spokesman Attila Morvai told Magyar Hírlap that the Magyar Gárda had originally been registered as a society to preserve culture and tradition and in the opinion of the Prosecutors Office, Magyar Gárda's activity violates the Association Act, which states that the exercise of rights must not curtail the rights and civil liberties of others. Speakers at the rally at Tatárszentgyörgy violated the ban on racial discrimination, human dignity and elicited fear, according to the Office.
Another, perhaps related group, calling itself the Hungarian Arrows National Liberation Army takes a more militant bent yet. For example, on Sunday they claimed responsibility for several petrol bomb attacks on the homes of MPs of the ruling Hungarian Socialist Party. In an e-mail message sent to Hír TV, the group said "Let the early Friday morning flames remind all traitors of where the No button lies." The group first became known in December, when it said it had brutally beaten Hir TV anchor Sandor Csintalan for supposedly being a "Jewish hireling."
There are an estimated 600,000-800,000 Roma among Hungary's population of 10 million. They are among the poorest and least educated citizens. While there are no official statistics, U.N. Habitat, a humanitarian agency, estimated that up to 60 percent of male inmates in Hungarian prisons are Roma.
The anti-Roma fascist movement is on the rise again in Hungary.
The following is from AXcess news.
Hungary's anti-Roma militia grows
By Colin Woodard
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
Budapest, Hungary - The far right is on the march in Hungary, literally.
In recent months, hardly a week has gone by without a rally being held by the Magyar Garda or "Hungarian Guard," their members decked out in black boots and uniforms bearing nationalist symbols last employed by Hungarian fascists during World War II.
Their target: Romani (gypsy) criminals and those who want to integrate Romani children into the country's schools. Their rallies usually take place in communities with a large Roma population, where they style themselves as protectors of ethnic Hungarians.
"Roma criminality is a huge problem in Hungary that's been swept under the carpet," says Zoltan Fuzessy, a spokesman for Jobbik, a far-right political party whose leader, Gabor Vona, is also the leader of Magyar Garda. "The number of our supporters is growing day by day."
Their opponents are growing as well. Budapest's public prosecutor has called for the group to be banned, while Mayor Gabor Demszky has called on municipal officials across the country not to attend its events. Hungary's president, Laszlo Solyom, has described its rallies as "immensely damaging," while Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany calls it "the shame of Hungary."
"It is really Nazism and it is serious and becoming more and more so," says Viktoria Mohacsi, a Roma leader and a Hungarian representative in the European Parliament. "Many [Romani] organizations are calling on me to join secret meetings to organize ourselves the way the Hungarian Guard has. If this happens, there will be killing; there could be civil war."
Istvan Rev, a historian at Central European University, agrees. "The Roma are the open target and they have a basis to be frightened," he says. "If they have no other choice than to react, then everybody has a firm basis for being concerned."
Others take Hungary's center-left government to task for failing to address the root cause of the tensions Magyar Garda exploits: the appalling social and economic situation of the Roma, who account for between 8 and 10 percent of Hungary's 10 million people.
Although Hungary is part of the European Union, many of its Roma live in conditions comparable to Sub-Saharan Africa. Romani activists estimate adult unemployment at 70 percent, and official figures show that fewer than 5 percent of Romani children complete high school.
"After [the end of Communism], Roma were the first who lost their jobs," says Roma activist Agnes Daroczi, a sociologist at the Hungarian Institute for Culture and Art. "To be frank, there are many of us who are stealing. But when you deeply analyze the situation you see that there aren't any jobs, any possibilities for these people."
"The gypsies are living worse than 10 or 20 years ago because of unemployment and lack of education," adds Janos Simon of the Hungarian Institute of Political Science. As a result, crime increases - and with it, support for Magyar Garda, with their promise to defend Hungarians. "The government doesn't want to resolve these social problems; they'd rather wait for Magyar Garda to march and then say, 'Look at the primitive antigypsy chauvinists,' and try to use it to their political advantage. It's a dirty game."
Magyar Garda was founded last August with a ceremony at the gates of Buda Castle which was attended by Lajos Fur, who was defense minister in Hungary's first post-Communist government. Fifty-six uniformed members were inducted in that ceremony, and another 600 at a gathering at Budapest's Heroes' Square in October.
The group has held dozens of rallies to "defend Hungary," most in villages with large Roma populations. Its members wear shields and carry flags with the red-and-white Arpad stripes, a symbol of medieval Hungary used by the notorious Arrow Cross Party, which deported or executed a half million Jews and over 50,000 Roma during World War II.
Its political agenda isn't limited to confronting Roma crime. The group's declared aims include revising the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, which stripped Hungary of two-thirds of its pre-World War I territory and set its current borders. Any effort to do so is anathema to Hungary's neighbors, particularly Slovakia, whose entire territory was ruled from Budapest prior to Trianon.
Magyar Garda also seeks to build itself into a military force, an army outside the control of the government. "Basically there is no army in Hungary at the moment," explains Mr. Fuzessy, who says force reductions have left it impotent. "If the worst happens and there was no one to defend Hungary, it is the aim of the Hungarian Guard to be the foundation of our national defense."
For her part, Ms. Mohacsi says that if the courts banned Magyar Garda, it would send a constructive signal. "There are many people who ... felt that maybe it wasn't good to say publicly that they don't like gypsies, but now with Magyar Garda maybe they feel it's OK for them to do it," she says."
"An official decision would show to the public that this is not acceptable," she adds. "Such decisions always make people change their minds. If they like or don't like Romani people, maybe they'll keep their opinion to themselves."