Out Fiefs in Eastern Germany
Angermuende, Germany -- The football-sized rocks crashed through the window of Holger Zschoge's ground-floor apartment on the night of Jan. 30 while he was sleeping.
Not surprisingly, Zschoge, a 35-year-old schoolteacher, has come to conclude that right-wing extremists from this small, bleak town in eastern Germany are mobilizing for an onslaught on people like him from what Germans call the "alternative scene" -- a loose and ill-defined coalition of leftists, foreigners and others who view themselves as apart from German norms.
Increasingly, though, Zschoge is not alone in his analysis. Across the former East Germany, sociologists, politicians and local residents say, a neo-Nazi wave is building on the spoiled hopes of Germany's unification, drawing as much on nostalgia for the clear-cut conformism of Communist dictatorship as on the equally unambiguous nationalism and racial exclusivism of Nazism.
Styling themselves, moreover, as freedom fighters -- paradoxically in the tradition of leftist guerrilla warfare -- young neo-Nazis are seeking to establish what they call "national liberated zones," drawing their tactics from a five-page manifesto that circulates on the neo-Nazi Thule Net computer site.
"We must create the space in which we exercise real power, in which we are capable of imposing sanctions -- that is, we punish deviants and enemies, we support comrades in the struggle, we help fellow citizens who are oppressed, marginalized and persecuted," the manifesto declares.
Of 6,400 violence-prone neo-Nazis estimated to be in Germany, according to Interior Ministry statistics, 3,700 -- more than half -- live in eastern Germany. In the first six months of 1997, moreover, the police recorded 4,829 crimes committed by neo-Nazis -- 353 of them involving violent attacks. Just over half the attacks on foreigners were in the former East Germany, according to these figures, despite the much smaller eastern population of 17 million and the much smaller proportion of foreigners there.
Predominantly in their teens, though some are even younger, these jobless or school-age skinheads boast their own emblems like shaven heads and paratroop boots, and even their own heavy rock music. Drawn largely from the huge, anonymous housing projects of the old East Germany, many espouse the anti- American views expressed in songs like that of one rightist rock-band called Tonstoerung, meaning "sound-jamming": "USA, we don't want you/USA, we don't need you here."
After 65 years of dictatorship -- first under Hitler, then under the Communists -- and after more than seven years of widespread disillusion with the fruits of reunification, social workers say, extremist, right-wing ideology offers young people a nationalistic vision of superiority that translates frequently into violence.
And, they say, at a time when teen-age violence is rising in many parts of Europe, this new ground swell of neo-Nazism is markedly different from the wave of extremist arson attacks on foreigners that marked the first three years of unification. Then, rightist rage was directed primarily against the Turks and other foreigners who make up 9 percent of Germany's 82 million population.
Now, the drive for so-called liberated zones divides towns like this into rival fiefs of left and right.
The railroad station here, for instance, is considered off-limits by many of those who frequent the Alternative Literature and Info Cafe -- the youth club Zschoge set up four years ago in a low building adorned with Che Guevara and anti-Nazi murals. Intended as refuge from neo-Nazism, it is now virtually a bunker with boarded-up windows covered in steel mesh to shield against firebombs and with an iron grille over the door.
"There are situations to avoid," said Nicole, an 18-year-old high-school student who declined to give her full name. Even among her school classmates, she said, "The right is in the majority." Some young leftists and local journalists say they believe tacit support for the rightists spreads into more official strata. When the cafe was firebombed, the police did not even open a docket to investigate the incident.
"We certainly avoid the railroad station," said another 18-year-old, willing to be identified only as Stefan. The reasons are clear: last November, for instance, a 16-year-old girl was beaten to the ground by five other young women who ended their attack by stubbing a lighted cigarette in her face, residents said.
"What is happening here is unfortunately nothing unusual," said Annegret Klatt, a police spokeswoman. Another police official said this town was like many others in the surrounding state of Brandenburg. "There is not a single town that doesn't have swastikas turning up or a banner being seized." the official said.
With a national election looming in September, it might be thought the neo- Nazi wave in eastern Germany should be causing some concern to the politicians in Bonn. In some eastern states, notably Saxony and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, the right-wing National Democratic Party says it is recording its fastest growth. And in towns like this, where a Soviet war memorial offers a reminder of the old socialist days of artificial full employment before unification in 1990 wrought 25 percent joblessness -- twice the national average of 12.6 -- the seeds of discontent are all too visible.
"People have discovered an identity as nationalists because there's nothing left of their old identity except that they are Germans," said Anetta Kahane, from a state-financed organization that seeks to help foreigners cope with racism. Thus, while rightists regard themselves as repositories of those same values claimed by Hitler -- industriousness, cleanliness and racial superiority -- the left and foreigners are called parasites who feed on the Aryan Volk: "Zecke Verrecke" -- death to the ticks -- has become the rightist battle cry.
Unlike young people in western Germany, whose education drums home an anti- Nazi message, moreover, young easterners are more conditioned by the old East German propaganda that denied historical responsibility for the Third Reich. "That means there are fewer inhibitions" about espousing the neo-Nazi cause, Ms. Kahane said. Not only that, Germany's prohibition of Nazi emblems and propaganda make the extreme right a natural focus of revolt. Even in the former East Germany, said Ms. Kahane, herself an easterner from the small population of Jews there, rebellious teen-agers adopted neo-Nazi totems.
The mass unemployment that followed the dismantling of the East German economy means that some young people have come to associate the arrival of Western values with disgruntled, jobless parents and a society that is going nowhere. And 40 years of Communist dictatorship created a conformist society ill-equipped to deal with new challenges.
"In the West there is an important layer of society who would say they were against this," said Zschoge, referring to neo-Nazism. "That layer is missing here."
Indeed, said Stefan Graubner, a social worker in Eberswalde, 12 miles west of here: "There is no parental image of how to succeed. People know at 18 that they won't make it."
Goetz Aly, a prominent historian of the Nazi era, wrote recently in the Berliner Zeitung that opinion surveys indicated that 80 percent of eastern Germans opposed the presence of foreigners in their land -- even though the proportion of non-Germans in eastern Germany is around 1.8 percent, far lower than the national average of 9 percent. Echoing Maoist theory of guerrilla warfare, he wrote that, "The radicalized right-wing fish frolic in the warm waters of open or shamefully hidden broad public approval."
Such assessments do not, however, seem to have intruded onto the agenda of the politicians in Bonn, where the euphoria of German unification that once won Chancellor Helmut Kohl vigorous support has dissolved into a long-haul, unwelcome slog through impenetrable difficulties that few in the West anticipated, neo-Nazism included. Neither government nor the opposition has made neo-Nazism an issue for the September election.
"They think that if they deny it for long enough, it will go away," Ms. Kahane said.
The Egyptian Police
The fragile situation in Luxor and the general depression which set in after the massacre, should have given Luxor officials some idea of what to do and what to avoid doing in the future.
... a few days ago in Gourna, on the western bank of the Nile near Luxor, Several villagers were killed and scores more injured by the security forces which opened fire and sprayed tear gas into a crowd at random, thus placing Luxor once more on the map of horrific violence.
... A presidential decree calling for demolition of " informal" housing near archaeological sites was issued before this most recent massacre. The decree was justified by the fact that drainage water seeps into the tombs, and activity around the sites represents a constant threat to the antiquities. The state drafted a plan for the evacuation of the villagers with no land titles, providing for their resettlement in new villages built for flood victims in 1993.
... While houses were being demolished, certain government bodies obtained permits from the town council to build headquarters for themselves, using cement instead of the raw brick traditionally used by the villagers in the construction of their dwellings. The new buildings included a rest house for the SCA [Supreme Council for Antiquities]. a premises for the police, and headquarters for foreign archaeologists. Worse still, permits were granted to extend a network of pipes to carry potable water to the new government buildings, a privilege that had never been granted to the local inhabitants. They had to carry their own drinking water in barrels on donkey-drawn carts. The truth dawned on the inhabitants: they were being driven away and their homes demolished -- for other houses to be constructed in their place.
The state, and primarily the town council, failed to convince the inhabitants of the validity of the plan. It also failed to involve the inhabitants in discussing the problem and proposing alternative solutions to safeguard the tourist sites, which are the villagers' main livelihood.
Instead of waiting for respite from the stifling economic crisis created in the aftermath of the Luxor massacre, which would have showed a modicum of good judgment and respect for the population's needs, the town council turned into the bear which killed its friend to shoo off the fly. The council, along with antiquities inspectors, promptly mobilised the police, thus creating a full-scale catastrophe.
This event must not pass unheeded. It is one more example of the foolish bureaucratic mentality, distorted by ignorance or malice, which creates so many disasters. Those responsible must be punished.
+++ "Better not ask a policeman" The Economist, Jan. 31,1998 p.46
Egyptians would like their police to be more disciplined, and the state less repressive.
... On Police Day, January 25th, speeches by President Hosni Mubarak and his new interior minister, Habib al-Adli, praised the security forces' hard discipline and respect for human rights. But these are not traits that come to the average Egyptian's mind when he thinks of the police.
A better echo of popular impressions comes from an opposition newspaper that is reprinting articles written centuries ago by an Egyptian nationalist, Abdallah Nadim. "Suppose I agree that ... it is fine to torture criminals. But why do the police do what they do to ordinary citizens? Why all this violence towards students or workers or farmers or women? People nowadays are terrified to enter a police station." The implication is that nothing has changed.
Nor is there any sign of the government allowing more political space. The promulgation last week of a new law gives a clue to its thinking. Like a slew of recent legislation, the law is aimed at dismantling obstacles to freer markets, in this case by making it easier to form companies. Well and good, but tacked on to the bill is an item that requires permission from the prime minister (appointed by the president) for anyone who hopes to establish a newspaper. There is no right of appeal against the prime minister's decision.
Even before the new rule, it was virtually impossible to license a newspaper. If the press looks lively (the airwaves remain a dreary state monopoly),it is because many publishers exploit a loophole that allows them to register their companies abroad while printing in Egypt. Journalists and others believe that the new rule presages measures to end this small freedom. It is only a matter of time, wrote AL-AHRAM's columnist Salama Ahmed Salama, before there is an attempt to close "the door that is letting in the draught so that the government can feel completely cozy and comfy, even if the draught does bring in fresh air."
The discrepancy between widening economic freedom and tightening civil liberties has become a common topic in Cairo. But it is in places such as Taraf that the two trends clash. Many of the village's houses stand on land claimed by the state as archaeological sites. The government has long wanted to remove villagers to make way for tourists. Residents note with bitter irony that while their houses are being torn down, other buildings are going up - including, recently, a police station.
There is a sense of growing danger. Not from Islamist extremists -- most Egyptians believe that the Luxor attack was a bloody anomaly in a trend of declining violence. Rather, the danger comes from more general frustration, faced with an unresponsive government.
Long History of Deceptions from Avneri
Washington -- One of the reasons the real Israeli left is so demoralized and confused -- and has so tragically abdicated to the deceptive left of the Israeli Labor Party better known as "Peace Now" -- is the untrustworthiness of many of its key personalities.
Uri Avneri is one of these persons. And as amazing as it might seem in view of the realities of the Arafat regime, the quotes above are translated from a Hebrew column Avneri recently published.
After a start in the Israeli terrorist right-wing underground, Avneri, now in his mid-70s, was one of the first Israelis to begin meeting with the PLO. During the Israeli invasion of Beirut in 1982, Avneri was one of the first Israeli journalists to interview Yasser Arafat.
The basic problem for Avneri has been that the more people have come to know him over the years, the more they have realized how little he could be trusted or believed.
For years Avneri made his money publishing an Israeli equivalent of the National Inquirer -- a tabloid, gossip, sex publication that was the first and only of its kind in Israel and sold well. Then when he had had enough of scandal-mongering journalism, the supposedly committed leftist sold his publication to Israeli right- wingers considerably enriching himself in the process. Some even began to wonder if Avneri hadn't been a kind of mole all along.
Whatever the reasons and motivations for Avneri's dealings, with this kind of personal background it certainly becomes easier to understand why Avneri gets along so well with Arafat and with the corrupt, self-aggrandizing officials of the "Palestinian Authority".
Avneri has tried to organize a number of what he has said were pro-Palestinian movements. But non of these have ever had any substantial following in Israel. And his latest ploy, rumored to be funded by Arafat, to boycott products produced by Israeli settlers in the territories, is said to have instead given Israeli right-wingers the very list they need to purchase more of those products.
In recent years Avneri's efforts have deteriorated to the point where he now seems to border on being little more than a propagandist for Arafat and what in the end is Israel's armed and funded PA, a puppet regime primarily responsible for policing the "autonomous" Palestinian areas with ever-growing CIA and Shin bet "assistance".
Avneri writes, among so many other out and out deceptions, that much open debate and democracy has been fostered by the PA! It seems not to matter to him that the best journalists in the world, David Hirst and Robert Fisk among them, have been reporting in detail, story after story, precisely the opposite. It seems not to matter to him that professors and journalists have been arrested and literally tortured by Avneri's new friends. It seems not to matter to him that one of the leading Palestinian human rights organizations issued a report -- ironically about the same time Avneri's article was published -- specifically condemning Arafat for creating the infrastructure of a "Police State" and that Palestinians are looking on in horror and fear.
And yet Avneri continues: "What is most instructive is the fact of the debate itself (among the Palestinians); even high- ranking (PA) officials are not afraid to loudly voice their sharp criticism."
Whether it is old age, lack of information, nostalgia for the days of his old salacious tabloid, or something more sinister, who can know for sure. Whatever, Avneri's long history of scandal-mongering and personal aggrandizement seem to be playing themselves out in new ways. And in the end he seems to have done more to discredit the badly confused, divided, and demoralized Israeli left than to lead it.
Slave Trade Fed by Sudan's Civil War
Madhol, Sudan (February 8, 1998 00:19 a.m. EST) -- Stacks of money pass from the Christian foreigner to the Muslim trader, an exchange anxiously watched by a 13-year-old girl with diamonds of sweat on her brow.
The Sudanese trader, his lap buried by currency worth $13,200, waves carelessly to free his merchandise -- 132 slaves.
Akuac Malong, the young Dinka girl, is among them. She has spent seven years -- more than half her life -- enslaved by an Arab in northern Sudan.
Her brilliant smile belies the beatings, near-starvation, mutilation and attempted brainwashing she endured. "I thought it would be better to die than to remain a slave," Akuac says.
Trafficking in humans has resurged with civil war in Africa's largest and poorest country, said John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International, a humanitarian group that bought Akuac's freedom.
For all but a decade since Sudan's independence in 1956, southern rebels, mainly black Christians and followers of tribal religions, have fought for autonomy from the national government in Khartoum, which is dominated by northern Arabs. The southerners believe the north is trying to impose Islam and the Arabic language and to monopolize Sudan's wealth.
Since the rebellion resumed 14 years ago, fighting, famine and disease have killed an estimated 1.5 million Sudanese -- more than died in the genocides and civil wars in Rwanda or Bosnia. More than 3 million people have fled or been forced from their homes.
Much of the fighting on the government side is done by local militias. Unpaid, their bounty is as old as war itself -- slaves.
Sudan's radical Islamic leaders encourage soldiers to take slaves as their compensation, according United Nations investigators and the U.S. State Department.
Young women and children are the most valuable war booty. Eibner said old people are beaten and robbed while young men are killed because they cannot be trained into useful, harmless slaves.
"According to the Khartoum's regime ideology of jihad, members of this resistant black African community -- be they men, women or children -- are infidels, and may be arbitrarily killed, enslaved, looted or otherwise abused," Eibner said.
The Sudanese government denies condoning slavery, insisting the practice persists because holding prisoners for ransom is a tradition rooted in tribal disputes.
No side has a claim on morality in this war. The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army has been accused of forcibly inducting teen-age boys into its ragtag army. But the southern blacks do not take Arab prisoners for slaves.
Paul Malong Awan, a regional rebel commander, said enslavement is a government tactic to weaken the morale and military might of the south.
Many of the blacks taken away are Dinkas, a million-member tribe that is the biggest ethnic group in southern Sudan. Dinkas are vulnerable because they predominate in northern Bahr el Ghazal, a region that is close to the front between north and south.
Christian Solidarity International estimates tens of thousands of black slaves are owned by Arabs in northern Sudan. The Swiss-based charity has made more than a dozen risky, clandestine bush flights to southern Sudan to redeem 800 slaves since 1995, most recently in Madhol, 720 miles southwest of Khartoum.
Some criticize its work.
Alex de Waal, of the London-based group African Rights, said that by paying large sums to free slaves, the Swiss charity undercuts Dinkas living in the north who do the same secretive work for a fraction of the cost.
Eibner countered: "There is no evidence to suggest that our work has undermined efforts to redeem abducted women and children. In fact, Dinka elders encourage us to press ahead with our activities."
Gaspar Biro, a researcher for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights for Sudan, has cited "an alarming increase" in "cases of slavery, servitude, slave trade and forced labor" since February 1994.
"The total passivity of the government can only be regarded as tacit political approval and support of the institution of slavery," he said.
A U.S. State Department report said accounts it received on the taking of slaves in the south "indicates the direct and general involvement" of Sudan's army and militias "backed by the government."
The centuries-old tensions between Arabs and blacks in Sudan are linked to slaving expeditions by Arabs to the upper Nile, a trade that the 19th century explorer David Livingstone called "an open sore on the world."
Akuac's mother, Abuong Malong, sobs when she sees her daughter for the first time in seven years. "It's like she's been born again."
She recognizes her only from her straight, square teeth. "She was very small when she was taken, her features have changed, but she came back with the same spirit."
Recalling that traumatic day, Mrs. Malong says they were fetching water when Arab militiamen on camels and horses thundered into their village, Rumalong. The raiders began shooting at the clusters of mud and wattle huts and rounding up cows and goats.
"I was running with Akuac for the trees when a horseman grabbed her," Mrs. Malong says. "I was afraid that if I chased the horseman, he would kill me."
Akuac and her older brother were tied to horsebacks and taken north with more than a dozen others from their village, a short walk southeast of Madhol. The women and older children had to carry the booty of their captors.
In Kordofan, Akuac was sold to an Arab who made her wash clothes, haul water, gather firewood and help with cooking.
She survived on table scraps, and slept in the kitchen. "I was badly treated," Akuac says.
Her master also tried to make her a Muslim -- taking her to mosque and giving her the Arabic name of Fatima.
But Akuac says she maintained her Christian faith, praying and singing hymns in secret and never forgetting her true name. "My name is my name and nobody can change that."
She does bear scars -- in the local Muslim tradition, she was forcibly circumcised with her master's daughters when she was 11.
"It was very brutal. It is strange to our culture," Akuac says. "The master told me, 'If I don't circumcise you, I will have to kill you because you will still hold the ideas of your people, and you will try to escape."'
Her heart is scarred, too. Her older brother, Makol, was killed two years ago at age 13 while trying to escape.
Another returnee, Akec Kwol Kiir, who is in her 40s, says she was repeatedly raped by four soldiers who took her north. She ended up in a camp where slaves were bought and sold. "They treated us like cattle," she says.
Her Arab master insisted that she, too, be circumcised. She refused, and was brutally slashed. Her ear is notched and her chin and neck scarred.
Kwol finally submitted. "Otherwise, they would have killed me. Because I was a slave, they had the right to do whatever they wanted to me," she says.
Slaves in Sudan
1st Add, 0387 Madhol.
Akuac and Kwol have been brought back to Madhol along with 130 other former slaves by a trader who calls himself Ahmed el-Noor Bashir.
Slipping into a cowhide-strung chair beneath a shade tree, the 27-year-old dressed in a fine white cotton robe and a close-fitting embroidered cap denies he rescues slaves for the money.
"To others it may seem 6.6 million Sudanese pounds ($13,200) is a lot of money. But how can you put a price on human life? I do it for humanitarian reasons, not for the money," he says.
"My father is Arab but my mother is Dinka. When I see my mother's people are suffering, I must do something."
But many families among the Dinka, particularly those who also lose cattle and crops to raiders, cannot afford Bashir's price -- five cows or the equivalent of $100 in cash for each slave returned.
He says he rescues slaves by buying some from owners, takes others from wives jealous of their husbands' concubines, and protects escapees who seek him out.
Though Bashir insists he loses money, he flaunts the Sudanese signs of wealth -- on his feet are tasseled, leather loafers, on his wrist a Casio watch, in his hand a shortwave radio.
Eibner says he doesn't begrudge the trader his money. "If this man is caught, he's a dead man."
For that reason, the slave caravan traveled only by the light of a melon slice of moon to reach Madhol.
The three-night walk wearied the 132 freed women and children. Infants of Arab fathers were carried on their raped mother's backs.
Years of abuse are written in bruises and scars on their long, dust-caked limbs. Some wear tattered rags; others are naked.
Yet Akuac's joy at freedom beams from her animated face and chocolately eyes. She sings a song of praise for the Sudan People's Liberation Army and dances with family and friends to the twangs of a homemade, stringed rababa.
The first Sunday after her release, Akuac worships beneath a tree with a crucifix nailed to the trunk. Roman Catholic hymns are sung to the beat of drums and the mewling of infants.
On Monday, she goes to school -- but is clearly bewildered as other children practice writing letters in the dirt with sticks and add up four-digit figures.
"I'll have to catch up," she says.
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