Racist Attacks on Roma in Hungary

07 May 2002

On February 4, 2002, the Roma Press Center (RSK), reported that on January 29, 2002, unknown perpetrators attempted to burn down the office of the Pécsvárad Gypsy Self-Government in Baranya County. "Gyspy Self-Governments" are advisory bodies to the local government. A flammable liquid was reportedly poured on the office door and set on fire. Fortunately, the fire went out on its own and did not spread, causing only minor damages. RSK reports that county police have offered a reward for information on the arsonists. To date, the perpetrators have not been identified although as of March 22, 2002, according to RSK, investigation was open into the case.

Will the real Mr Varga please stand up? Hungary went to the polls in national elections on April 7 and 21, 2002. The election campaign was marked by coded and explicit racist rhetoric, particularly by supporters and/or members of the extreme right Hungarian Justice and Life Party, and the centre-right coalition led by the Alliance of Young Democrats. Above are three posters for the candidacy of Mr Zoltán Kristóf Varga, standing on the party list of the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats party. The posters have been defaced to the effect that Mr Varga is a "Gypsy", a "Jew" and a "traitor".
Photo: ERRC

In other news, according to an RSK report of December 10, 2001, on October 7, 2001, approximately three hundred football fans travelling to Nyíregyháza in eastern Hungary by train, attacked Roma at the train station in Taktaharkány, northeastern Hungary, shouting racial slurs and physically assaulting them. According to RSK, when the train carrying the football fans entered the train station in Taktaharkány, the fans began shouting "White Hungary!" and "Get out of here!" at five Roma in the station. Some of the football fans reportedly got off the train and began throwing stones at the Roma, hitting one of them in the head. As more of the fans descended from the train, and additional local Roma showed up, the train whistle blew, and the football fans allegedly re-boarded the train. However, three of the fans did not catch the train, so one of the people on the train then allegedly pulled the emergency brake. According to RSK, approximately fifty of the fans got off the train again, grabbed stones from the train track and chased the Roma into a nearby pub, where they were given refuge by the bartender. After the fans got back on the train, the train left for Tarcal, northeastern Hungary. Upon arrival in Tarcal, the football fans reportedly shouted "Gypsies" at persons standing along the tracks. Roma living in the vicinity reportedly yelled insults back at them. According to RSK, several football fans exited the train and began to throw stones at Romani houses next to the train station, breaking one window. Once the football fans were back on the train, RSK reports Roma from a local settlement approached the station with hoes and spades, and someone on the train again pulled the emergency brake. Approximately one hundred football fans got off the train and again threw stones at Romani houses, mildly injuring one Romani man, according to RSK. After the attackers returned to the train, while the train was pulling out of the station, they shouted that they would be back and that they would kill the Roma. RSK reports that the Prosecutor's Office opened investigation into the case, and was considering the possibility of racial motives in the attack. As of December 7, 2001, the police suspected one person of collective disorderly conduct, and several others were to be interrogated by police.

RSK also reported that a Molotov cocktail had been thrown at a house owned by a Romani family in Hatvan, in Heves County, on November 10, 2001, setting the house's shutters on fire. The owners of the house were away at the time, but relatives from Romania, including two adults and four children, were staying in the house. No one was injured in the attack. Local fire-fighters were called to the scene and were able to put the fire out quickly. On November 16, 2001, RSK further reported that three minors had been taken into custody by the Heves County Police in connection with the incident. Also as of that date, police were reportedly searching for a fourth youth suspected of involvement in the incident. RSK reported that, as of March 22, 2002, the fourth suspect had not been found and the investigation into the case was cancelled due to a lack of evidence. The ERRC has received no reports as to whether the three minors initially detained have been charged in connection with the incident. Further information on racist attacks on Roma in Hungary can be found on the ERRC's Internet website at: www.errc.org

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