Directors of the Simon Weisenthal Centre – an international Jewish human rights organisation – have written to the Czech Interior Ministry regarding riots recently held by neo-Nazis in north Bohemia. The organisation’s head of international relations, Shimon Samuels, wrote in a letter that when all Czechs are ‘children or grandchildren of the victims of totalitarian regimes’ it is ‘incomprehensible’ that a minority, this time the Romany, are being attacked in such a way on Czech soil. Mr Samuels added that the way the government now deals with the riots will prove a ‘litmus test’ which will set the tone for the country’s upcoming EU presidency. Mr Samuels voiced his concern that members of the Czech Republic’s military and police force were reported to have been involved in the riots.
The government is seeking the banning of the Workers’ Party, the far-right grouping who made international headlines after trying to attack a largely Romany estate in a north Bohemian town last week. At the same time, the party’s leader has already said that if they are banned they will simply come back under a different name.
Just a week ago Czech neo-Nazis fought a pitched battle with police who prevented them from marching through a Romany neighbourhood of a north Bohemian town. With the extremists threatening more of the same, one Romany group has issued a stark warning to the government – if far-right extremism is not addressed, there could be mass emigration among the country’s Romany population.
Members of the Romany minority from northern Moravia have warned that mass Romany emigration might occur if the government does not deal with right-wing extremism in the country. In a letter addressed to PM Minister Mirek Topolánek on Friday, they said the many Romany families were already seriously considering leaving the country. Last week, a march of some 500 right-wing extremists took place in the northern Bohemian town of Litvínov, with a large Romany community. 16 people were injured in clashes with the police. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek told the local authorities in Litvínov on Friday that the government was going to address the problem at its next session.
The Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek added his support this week to calls to ban the far-right Workers Party, following the worst violence in the country for eight years. The clashes erupted in the town of Litvínov on Monday, when some 600 neo-Nazi skinheads tried to march on a housing estate inhabited by members of the Roma minority. But the sight of local people cheering on the skinheads and urging the police to let them attack their Romani neighbours has led some to warn of a looming ethnic conflict.
The Czech government has suspended the issuing of long-term visas for Vietnamese nationals. The reason? The application process in Hanoi seems to be controlled by criminal gangs. What’s more, this move comes just days after a new report suggested Vietnamese citizens here in the Czech Republic were increasingly involved in organised crime.
On Monday the Czech Republic witnessed some of its worst street violence in recent memory when hundreds of right-wing extremists in the north Bohemian town of Litvínov clashed with Czech police. In the incident, Neo-Nazis veered away from a planned march and attempted to attack a nearby Roma suburb, highlighting long-growing tensions between the local Roma and non-Roma community. The battle lasted some three hours and led to several arrests and more than a dozen injuries.
Neo-Nazis clashed with police in the town of Litvínov on Monday as officers moved in to prevent a 500-strong protest march from reaching Janov, a part of town that is home to a strong Romany minority. Cobblestones, bottles and other objects flew through the air as the police fought to get the situation under control with water canon, tear gas and the sheer number of 1,000 men. Several people are reported injured and a police car was set on fire. The event was organized by the ultra-right Workers Party and the strong gathering was clearly intended as show of strength aimed against the Romany minority. In the Romany quarter some three hundred men gathered to defend their turf, many of them armed with sticks and knives. The police had received strict orders to prevent the two sides from coming into contact.
The Czech government has ordered the Czech embassy in Hanoi to suspend the process of issuing visas to all Vietnamese applicants until further notice. The move comes in reaction to the rise in organized crime among the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic. Interior Minister Ivan Langer told Czech public television that concrete measures must be taken in order to protect the Czech Republic from mafia practices and criminal activities. The Czech-Vietnamese Society has protested against the blanket measure, saying that only a fraction of the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic is involved in organized crime.
The Czech Republic has dropped down the World Economic Forum’s rankings for gender equality. This year, the Czech Republic was ranked 69th in the list of 130 countries assessed. In 2007, Czechs ranked 64th. It was Nordic countries which this year topped the list, with Norway ranking first in terms of gender equality, Finland coming second, followed by Sweden and Iceland. A spokesperson from the Czech Women’s Lobby said that she did not see the situation in this country getting worse, but nor did she see it getting better. Countries were assessed on four criteria: women in the workplace, education, politics and the health care system.
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