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AfD #wingnut dw.com

Germany: Conflict in AfD pulling party to the right
In at least three German states, extremist elements of the far-right Alternative for Germany are threatening to take over the party. The nationalist wing led by Björn Höcke is becoming increasingly powerful.

Regional factions of Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) are threatening to shift the party even further to the right as extremists gain more control.

A power struggle at a conference in the AfD's largest regional group, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, ended with the resignation of nine of the group's 12 leadership board members on Saturday.

This left the rump leadership under the control of deputy chairman Thomas Röckemann, considered a supporter of the AfD's hard-nationalist wing that looks to Björn Höcke for its leadership. The conference in the small town of Warburg, meant to last two days, was broken off after a day following the resignations.

The event played out amid bitter recriminations from Helmut Seifen, one of the resigning AfD state co-chairmen. Considered a moderate in the party, Seifen accused members of the AfD's Höcke wing of undermining the party across the country and acting against the party's interests.

"Their loyalty is first and foremost to the 'wing,'" Seifen said in his speech. He added that it had become impossible to run the party "pragmatically" with Röckemann on the board. Röckemann responded defiantly, rejecting calls to resign. "I, for my part, have the balls to follow through on what I started," he said.

Röckemann added that he would campaign to ensure that the vacant spaces on the board were "occupied by good people," and that his supporters represented the last line of defense against a "green dawn" of "eco-socialists" in Germany.

Trouble in Bavaria

Meanwhile, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday that an internal party tribunal in the AfD's Bavarian group determined that the Höcke wing of the party represented an autonomous organization that was in competition with the rest of the AfD.

The decision was made in connection with a motion to exclude Bavarian AfD official Benjamin Nolte from the party. According to the newspaper, Nolte had broken party regulations by working in the interests of the Höcke wing and had attempted to undo party resolutions meant to separate the party from extremist political groups.

This marks the first time that an official AfD document makes a distinction between the party and Höcke's group within it.

A similar internal struggle is splitting the AfD in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, where the local party group has just elected a leader, Doris von Sayn-Wittgenstein, whom the federal party leadership wants excluded from the party.

The party leadership insists that von Sayn-Wittgenstein supported a right-wing revisionist group considered to deny the Holocaust. The AfD's federal leadership believes that her election as a state leader would "send a wrong signal."

Höcke remains powerful

Meanwhile, Höcke himself spoke to around 800 of his supporters at a meeting in the small town of Leinefelde, in his native Thuringia, on Saturday. According to a report in Stern magazine, Höcke used his speech at the annual "Kyffhäuser" meeting to deny that immigrants had ever been economically beneficial to Germany.

"What is also clear is that the policy of open borders practiced for decades, ever since 1955, this irrational migration policy for which the old parties are responsible, has bled us financially, as if we had lost another war," Höcke told his supporters.

Brandenburg AfD leader Andreas Kalbitz also spoke at the meeting, as did AfD federal leader Alexander Gauland.

But Gauland avoided the internal strife and addressed another setback for the far-right party in the state of Saxony, where two-thirds of the AfD's list candidates were excluded from the election in the fall after failing to register properly. Gauland accused Saxony's election committee of trying to rob the AfD of its electoral success with "tricks."

Three eastern German states, Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia, are due to elect new parliaments in the fall. The AfD is currently polling in first or second place in all three states.

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Combat 18 #racist #wingnut #psycho dw.com

Combat 18: The neo-Nazi network facing a ban in Germany
Germany may soon ban the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 as a terrorist organization. Given Germany's history, and a recent killing allegedly tied to neo-Nazi circles, the main mystery may be why it hasn't been banned yet.

Last Thursday, Germany's branch of Combat 18 let its mask slip: the neo-Nazi group took the very rare step of releasing a video. Despite a balaclava, black gloves, zipped-up anorak, and an artificially distorted voice, it didn't take long for antifascist research organization Exif to identify the man they believed was standing in some greenery in the video: Robin Schmiemann.

The disguised man believed to be Schmiemann, a leading figure of the group, read out a declaration saying that Combat 18 felt obliged to go public "due to recent incidents and the media's cannibalizing of our name for the sole purpose of increasing circulation."

"Germany has arrived at the point where every citizen is forced to protect himself and his family alone," he says. "The citizens' trust in politicians, judiciary, and the media has been completely destroyed."

Schmiemann spent eight years in jail for shooting a Tunisian-born man during an armed robbery in Dortmund, and while behind bars exchanged letters with Beate Zschäpe, a convicted member of the neo-Nazi terrorist cell the National Socialist Underground (NSU).

For some researchers, the fact that the video appeared at all shows that Combat 18 has been rattled by the attention created by the killing of politician Walter Lübcke. Since it emerged that the main suspect, Stephan E., had ties to the group, Germany's Interior Ministry has been under new pressure to outlaw what is considered a terrorist organization. In June, for example, Canada revised its list of terrorist organizations to include Combat 18.

Out of sight, but not quite

"The video is new. This group doesn't really communicate in this form," said Hendrik Puls, researcher of the far-right scene and an academic advisor to the NSU investigative committee established by the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia. "That shows they feel they're under pressure at the moment because of the new information about the Lübcke case."

For Puls, there is more evidence that Combat 18 is worried about state attention in the fact that one avowed neo-Nazi, Karsten H., came to police of his own accord to identify himself in a photo of a Combat 18 meeting taken in March in the town of Mücka, Saxony. German public broadcaster ARD had previously identified one individual in the photo as Stephan E. The fact that Karsten H. came forward to clear up the misidentification suggests that Combat 18 are keen to disassociate itself from Stephan E.

But there is plenty of other evidence indicating that Stephan E. had contact with the group. A photo taken in 2002, also uncovered by Exif, shows the suspect with Stanley Röske, a man known to Germany's domestic security agency as a leading member of Combat 18. Exif has also published what it says are the statements of a bank account run by Röske, which show the monthly C18 membership fees.

An international network

Despite its long history, it is hard to establish facts about Combat 18. It doesn't appear to be a large group. Exif has identified around 50 members, though the power structures among them largely remain a mystery. "They are certainly armed, and they boast about it," said Axel Salheiser, of the center for far-right research at the University of Jena. "It's a conspiratorial circle, but it's more of a network than a single organization."

The genesis of the group is well-known to observers of Europe's far-right scene. Founded in the UK in the early 1990s ("18" is code for AH, or Adolf Hitler), Combat 18 took over control of another neo-Nazi network, Blood & Honour, in the mid-1990s. The latter group was then already an international network, with branches in Germany, the US, and elsewhere.

Combat 18 spread with the help of this pre-existing network, and according to Exif, there are now at least 21 Combat 18 branches around the world, including in Brazil, Chile, Russia, the US, as well as throughout Europe, all identified by a common "coat of arms": a white dragon on the countries' respective national colors.

There is much to suggest that the group is careful about its membership. "It's certainly an elite circle; you can't easily become a member," Puls told DW, adding that what distinguishes Combat 18 from other neo-Nazi organizations is that it has always been associated with propagating armed struggle.

A list of internal "directives," also unearthed by Exif, suggests that potential members must undergo a six-month trial period to enter the group. Once approved by their neo-Nazi peers, they must pay a monthly membership fee of €15 ($17) "as emergency money (e.g. for the arrest of a brother)," wear specific clothes at meetings (a C18 t-shirt or jacket, black trousers, black shoes), and swear "absolute silence" on the group's internal affairs.

But all these details must be treated with caution. For his part, Salheiser wonders whether some of the information uncovered by Exif and other research organizations might not be propaganda "to confuse opponents and investigative authorities." "It's very difficult to tell," he said. "We have very little knowledge."

'Leaderless resistance'

But the general activities of the group are relatively clear. As Puls explains, Combat 18 pursues two main activities: on the one hand, it administers what could be described as the neo-Nazi "music business," (mainly organizing rock concerts which double as mass gatherings) while on the other it propagates "leaderless resistance."

The concept of leaderless resistance is desribed in a number of neo-Nazi documents, many freely available online. "The strategy of leaderless resistance is that you don't create a hierarchical terror organization, where there is a command structure that passes down orders to people that carry out attacks," said Puls. "Instead, the concept is that you found very small cells that are detached from one another, and they activate without coordinating with each other, and without waiting for orders."

These cells are also not supposed to claim responsibility for these attacks. "They don't say: 'we did it,' they just kill migrants. That is Combat 18 ideology, and they set it down in writing, in the form of instructions for guerilla warfare, and distribute it," said Salheiser.

A 'honeypot' to attract the like-minded?

Given all these insights, it's a puzzle why Combat 18 remained legal in Germany, while Blood & Honour was outlawed in 2000. Combat 18 was considered by many the more militant arm of B&H, with countless videos of members brandishing guns in circulation. "It's basically an absurd story, the question of the ban [not being applied to Combat 18 as well]," said Puls. "It's absurd because since its foundation, Combat 18 has described itself as the armed wing of Blood & Honour."

Exif suspects that Combat 18 has been kept legal to act as a "honeypot" to attract other neo-Nazis, and that the entire organization, perhaps including its leadership level, is riddled with state-paid informants.

But Salheiser is skeptical about this idea, and believes that the informant network kept by Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, is simply not very effective. "They could neither prevent crimes being committed by people in these circles, or get us exact knowledge of who we are dealing with or, for example, how big the membership is," he said. Either way, the German government is now apparently preparing to outlaw the group, something many say it should have done decades ago.

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Stephan E. #racist #psycho dw.com

Walter Lübcke murder raises specter of neo-Nazi terrorism
A suspected neo-Nazi's arrest in the German politician's murder case has focused concerns on far-right terrorism. A member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party, he supported her pro-migration stance.

Germany's federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation into the murder of Walter Lübcke, indicating that the killing of the Kassel district president on June 2 is being treated as a politically motivated terrorist act.

If indeed the murder is shown to have been politically motivated, it would be the first such assassination on a sitting German politician since the 1970s.

Trail included death threats, weapons

A number of German outlets have reported details of the alleged far-right ties of the suspect arrested in the central city of Kassel in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday that the 45-year-old man, named only as Stephan E., had a long criminal record, had already issued death threats via his YouTube channel, and that weapons were found during the search of his home.

According to the paper, Stephan E. had written a comment on YouTube in 2018 under his alias Game Over that read "Either this government abdicates soon or there will be deaths."

Investigators tight-lipped

Citing sources within security forces, the paper, along with public broadcasters NDR and WDR, said the suspect had been active in extreme-right groups, including the domestic neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) and a group known as the Autonomen Nationalisten (Autonomous Nationalists), a pan-European neo-Nazi group that has adopted some Antifa and far-left tactics.

Stephan E. is also believed to have been sentenced to six years in prison for an attempted bomb attack on a refugee home in 1995. He was also reported to have taken part in an attack on a trade union demonstration in 2009.

Officially, however, the federal prosecutors were giving little away about the investigation surrounding the suspect. Press spokesman Markus Schmitt appeared briefly before the cameras in Karlsruhe on Monday afternoon to confirm that the murder was being treated as a far-right extremist crime. He added that there was no indication yet that the suspect indeed belonged to a particular neo-Nazi terrorist cell, but that police were investigating whether others may have been involved.

Neo-Nazis active in region where murder occurred

The implication of Sunday's arrest, coincidentally made on the third anniversary of the killing of British MP Jo Cox by a far-right extremist in the UK, is that the Lübcke case would mark the first time in decades that an active politician was killed by a terrorist in Germany.

The manner of the killing — a close-range shot to the head — also recalled the series of killings by the only neo-Nazi terrorist group that has so far been discovered and investigated by German security forces: the National Socialist Underground (NSU).

Over a seven-year period, the NSU carried out nine murders of people with immigrant backgrounds, using a single Ceska handgun. The last two murders happened over a three-day period in Dortmund and Kassel in April 2006.

Hendrik Puls, researcher of the far-right scene and an academic advisor to the NSU investigative committee established by the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia, sees Lübcke's murder in the context of the neo-Nazi scene that sprang up in the cities of Dortmund and Kassel in the mid-1990s, inspired by the British neo-Nazi group Combat 18.

"That's the first thing I thought of [when I heard of Lübcke's case]," Puls told DW. "This is a region that is tightly connected to the activities of Combat 18, both currently and historically."

In the mid- to late 1990s, Puls explained, Combat 18 and its associated groups began "propagating armed struggle," for instance by publishing magazines that included bomb-making instructions as well as sharing strategies for armed struggle.

After the NSU was finally uncovered in 2011, Puls' research with the NRW parliament led him to Kassel. "After the discovery of the NSU, the big question arose: were there supporters on the ground who might have helped? We found out that exactly at this time there were clear attempts to create a Combat 18 cell in Dortmund, and that parts of the Dortmund scene was massively armed," he said.

"The members of this Combat 18 cell all came from a group named 'Oidoxie Streetfighting Crew.' This crew included four or five people from Kassel," he added.

Xenophobia stokes extreme-right activism

Puls has also noticed that neo-Nazis became more and more vocal in the last few years, following the influx of refugees who arrived in Germany in 2015 and 2016, which led to more anti-immigrant sentiment in the mainstream political debate and hate speech on social media. As a supporter of Chancellor Angela Merkel's policy, Walter Lübke himself was on the sharp end of much of this.

"One can certainly say that the propensity for violence has certainly risen following the right-wing debates around immigration," he said. "The case of Lübcke is certainly very revealing here. Walter Lübcke faced an enormous amount of hatred in 2015. That does raise the question: how much does it take before one person says 'I'll reach for a weapon?' In certain circumstances, not much."

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German Neonazis #racist dw.com

German government reveals scope of real estate linked to neo-Nazis

The Interior Ministry says buildings, homes and venues across the country are being used by neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists. The Left party has warned that some of these places amount to a neo-Nazi "theme park."

It's illegal to display Nazi symbols or spread Nazi propaganda in Germany, at least in public. But what is done on private property is harder for authorities to crack down on — making real estate the ideal thing for neo-Nazis to buy.

At least 136 holdings across Germany are linked to or owned by far-right extremists, according to the German Interior Ministry. The list was published on Friday in response to a parliamentary inquiry submitted by the Left Party.

According to the ministry, the states of Saxony and Bavaria had the highest numbers.

This marks the first time that an official list has detailed areas where right-wing extremists have "unrestricted access" to buildings, homes, restaurants and other venues. The criteria include ownership, leasing, renting or regular contact with the owner.

Another decisive factor for the Interior Ministry was whether the property was being used for political activity. Few details about the locations were released out of precaution for undercover agents and other domestic security operations, according to Günter Krings, who serves as the parliamentary state secretary for the Interior Ministry.

Neo-Nazi 'theme parks'

The Left party's Martina Renner, who submitted the inquiry, likened the properties to "theme parks" for extremists, pointing out that the remote locations allowed them to promote their ideology away from the authorities.
image

An example published by German media group Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, which was given a copy of the list, detailed how a pub in Thuringia served up a "Führerschnitzel" on April 20, Hitler's birthday. The price of one birthday special was €8.88, a reference to the code 88. "H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet, thus 88 stands for "HH," or "Heil Hitler."

Even more problematic was the ministry's refusal to release more information — or list even well-known sites run by extremists, Renner told DW.

Given previous reports of higher numbers by journalists, Renner wonders about the Ministry's number: "How can this be? What were the basis and criteria that the government used in the first place?"

The Left isn't the only party that's worried, she said, considering "that we've seen again and again that right-wing and racist acts of violence have an immediate correlation to these houses."

'Slap in the face' for local communities

Indeed one infamous example occurred in the town of Ballstädt, just 30 kilometers (18 miles) outside of Erfurt in 2014. A group of Neo-Nazis wearing masks, hoodies and motorcycle gloves ambushed members of a local club during a weeknight meeting. Several were severely injured and photos of spilled blood circulated through the press. The attackers had their own meeting house nearby, known as the "the yellow house."

One of the defendants later said he had assaulted the club members believing they had information about who had broken a window at his home.

The Left Party's Renner says theirs growing concern in all parties about 'free zones' for extremism in Germany

Unless municipalities can buy up property before extremists get to it, there's not much that can be done if the group is not considered a terrorist organization, Thuringia state parliamentarian Katharina König-Preuss (Left Party) told DW.

The Interior Ministry's decision to withhold more information from communities was a "slap in the face," Renner told German media on Friday, and König-Preuss agrees.

People on the outside don't see the effect these extremists have on locals and those locals need "their sense of security restored," she said.

Both politicians agree more needs to be done to help municipalities. For König-Preuss, greater awareness would be an important first step. For Renner, the federal government needs to extend a hand.

There are many efforts in civil society to combat extremism, says Renner, "but it isn't just society's job. It's also the job of the state."

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Daniel K. #fundie dw.com

Media report German KSK special forces commando suspended for right-wing extremism

German media report a lieutenant colonel in the KSK special forces unit has been suspended for right-wing social media posts. His opinions reflected the ideas of the "Reichsbürger" extremist movement.

Germany's Bundeswehr has suspended a lieutenant colonel in the elite Special Forces Command (KSK) commando unit on suspicion of right-wing extremism, according to the military's counterintelligence service MAD.

"The person is already known by the MAD," a spokesperson said. "The responsible authorities have already taken disciplinary measures."

The commando, named Daniel K., has received a service and uniform ban. The suspension was first reported by Bild newspaper, which said the lieutenant colonel was being investigated by the MAD for the spread of right-wing extremism on social media."

According to German news magazine Der Spiegel, Daniel K. posted opinions in a closed Facebook group that reflected the ideas of the so-called "Reichsbürger" (Citizens of the Reich), a extremist movement in Germany that rejects the Federal Republic as a state and does not recognize the government. He allegedly demanded in a post that the Federal Presidential Office be abolished.

Der Spiegel said that Daniel K. was flagged by the MAD in 2007 as a KSK captain after he sent a hate letter to a comrade, for which he received disciplinary sanctions.

Extremism in the Bundeswehr

The KSK, a unit of about 70 soldiers, made headlines last year after a farewell party for a company commander featured a soldier demonstrating the Hitler salute and right-wing rock music.

In January, the accused soldier, Patrick D., accepted a fine amounting to 40 days' pay, or €4,000 ($4,500), after a lengthy trial. He had also been suspended in November 2018.

The MAD said a few weeks ago that it would be screening the Bundeswehr more closely for supporters of the Reichsbürger movement and the doomsday prepper scene. According to MAD, the number of right-wing extremist cases in 2018 was 270, down from 379 the year before. However, suspected cases of references to Islam in the Bundeswehr increased from 46 to 50 last year, and references to foreign extremism rose from 22 to 35.

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German neonazis #racist dw.com

German police arrest neo-Nazis after occupation of Dortmund church

Several have been arrested after a group of neo-Nazis illegally occupied a church tower in Dortmund, shouting anti-foreigner slogans. Church leaders have slammed the group, saying "there is no room for racism here."

Protestant church leaders strongly criticized the actions of a right-wing extremist group on Saturday after they occupied a church tower in the western German city of Dortmund.

"We feel it is disrespectful to abuse our church for right-wing propaganda purposes," Ulf Schlüter, the superintendent of Dortmund's Church of St. Reinold where the occupation took place, told German news agency DPA.

"There is no place for racism here," Schlüter emphasized.

The neo-Nazi group barricaded themselves in the steeple of the Lutheran church on Friday at 6:40 p.m. (1740 UTC), Dortmund police said in a statement.

They hung a banner from the tower parapet, lit flares and shouted right-wing slogans down at the bustling Christmas market crowd below using a megaphone. The neo-Nazi group also appeared to light fireworks from the steeple in a picture circulating on social media.

Police used force to break through the barricade with the help of Dortmund's fire department and ended the illegal occupation, a police statement said.

Authorities also took action against other far-right extremists who were gathered around the outside of the church, some of whom were passing out flyers.

Eight of the right-wing extremists in the church tower, who were already known to police, were arrested but later let go from police detention.

Suspects released from custody

Seven men from the German cities of Dortmund, Chemnitz, Wuppertal, and Düsseldorf were detained along with one woman from Dortmund, police said in a second statement. An additional three right-wing extremists outside the church were also detained on suspicion of being connected to the church tower occupation.

All were released later that night as there were no grounds for detention, police said after consulting with the Dortmund prosecutor's office. They added that grounds for detention include the danger of re-offending, flight or the suppression of evidence.

Authorities added that the investigation into the group is still ongoing, but they are being probed for property damage and disturbance of a religious practice.

"We stand for a peaceful togetherness in Dortmund," said local pastor and speaker of the Dortmund working group against right-wing extremism Friedrich Stiller in comments cited by the German protestant news agency EPD.

The group's Islamophobic stances are incompatible with the positions of the protestant church, Stiller emphasized.

The church tower occupation took place as people gathered at the city center for Dortmund's Christmas market - billed as one of the largest in Germany.

Since the 1970s and 80s, neo-Nazi groups in the Ruhr valley, where Dortmund is located, have managed to spread their messages and recruit new members by feeding off of discontent over a lack of once-plentiful factory jobs.

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AfD politicians #fundie dw.com

AfD leaders and their most offensive remarks

Leading members of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party have often made provocative, if not outright offensive, remarks - targeting refugees or evoking Nazi terminology.

Alexander Gauland

Co-chairman Alexander Gauland said the German national soccer team's defender Jerome Boateng (Submitter's note: Boateng is half-Ghanaian) might be appreciated for his performance on the pitch - but people would not want "someone like Boateng as a neighbor." He also argued Germany should close its borders and said of an image showing a drowned refugee child: "We can't be blackmailed by children's eyes."

Alice Weidel

Alice Weidel generally plays the role of "voice of reason" for the far-right populists, but she, too, is hardly immune to verbal miscues. Welt newspaper, for instance, published a 2013 memo allegedly from Weidel in which she called German politicians "pigs" and "puppets of the victorious powers in World War II. Weidel initially claimed the mail was fake, but now admits its authenticity.

Frauke Petry

German border police should shoot at refugees entering the country illegally, the former co-chair of the AfD told a regional newspaper in 2016. Officers must "use firearms if necessary" to "prevent illegal border crossings." Communist East German leader Erich Honecker was the last German politician who condoned shooting at the border.

Björn Höcke

The head of the AfD in the state of Thuringia made headlines for referring to Berlin's Holocaust memorial as a "monument of shame" and calling on the country to stop atoning for its Nazi past. The comments came just as Germany enters an important election year - leading AfD members moved to expel Höcke for his remarks.

Beatrix von Storch

Initially, the AfD campaigned against the euro and bailouts - but that quickly turned into anti-immigrant rhetoric. "People who won't accept STOP at our borders are attackers," the European lawmaker said. "And we have to defend ourselves against attackers."

Marcus Pretzell

Pretzell, former chairman of the AfD in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and husband to Frauke Petry, wrote "These are Merkel's dead," shortly after news broke of the deadly attack on the Berlin Christmas market in December 2016.

Andre Wendt

The member of parliament in Germany's eastern state of Saxony made waves in early 2016 with an inquiry into how far the state covers the cost of sterilizing unaccompanied refugee minors. Thousands of unaccompanied minors have sought asylum in Germany, according to the Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (BumF) - the vast majority of them young men.

Andre Poggenburg

Poggenburg, head of the AfD in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, has also raised eyebrows with extreme remarks. In February 2017, he urged other lawmakers in the state parliament to join measures against the extreme left-wing in order to "get rid of, once and for all, this rank growth on the German racial corpus" - the latter term clearly derived from Nazi terminology.

Alexander Gauland - again ...

During a campaign speech in Eichsfeld in August 2017, AfD election co-candidate Alexander Gauland said that Social Democrat parliamentarian Aydan Özoguz should be "disposed of" back to Anatolia. The German term, "entsorgen," raised obvious parallels to the imprisonment and killings of Jews and prisoners of war under the Nazis.

... and again

Gauland was roundly criticized for a speech he made to the AfD's youth wing in June 2018. Acknowledging Germany's responsibility for the crimes of the Nazi era, he went on to say Germany had a "glorious history and one that lasted a lot longer than those damned 12 years. Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history."

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AfD #racist dw.com

Far-right AfD lawmakers walk out of Holocaust commemoration in Bavaria

AfD lawmakers in Bavaria's state parliament were sharply criticized for leaving during a speech by Jewish community leader Charlotte Knobloch. The Holocaust survivor had accused the party for downplaying Nazi atrocities.

Lawmakers with Bavaria's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) staged a walkout on Wednesday during a memorial service honoring the victims of the Holocaust.

Only four of the AfD's 22 lawmakers in Bavaria's state parliament remained in the plenary hall after Charlotte Knobloch, the President of the Jewish Community in Munich, said the party trivializes Nazi crimes.

"A party is represented here today that disparages these [democratic] values and downplays the crimes of the National Socialists and who maintains close ties with the far-right extremist scene," she said in her speech.

"This so-called Alternative for Germany bases its policies on hate and exclusion ... and is not based on our democratic constitution," Knobloch added.

In a video of the speech posted by local public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, several AfD lawmakers are seen exiting the plenary hall while lawmakers from the remaining parties give Knobloch a standing ovation.

Knobloch, who was narrowly saved from deportation to a concentration camp as a child and survived the Holocaust by hiding in the Bavarian countryside, previously served as the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

AfD defends act as 'appropriate response'

Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder sharply condemned the actions of the AfD lawmakers during the Holocaust memorial, saying they were "disrespectful."

Katrin Ebner-Steiner, the co-leader of the AfD's parliamentary group in Bavaria, defended the protest as "an appropriate response."

In a statement posted to her Facebook page, Ebner-Steiner accused Knobloch of "abusing a memorial service for the victims of Nazism to defame the entirety of the AfD and its democratically-legitimate faction by using awful general insinuations."

Katharina Schulze, co-leader of the Greens in Bavaria, came to Knobloch's defense, thanking her on Twitter for her "clear and true words."

AfD lawmakers in Bavaria's state parliament were sharply criticized for leaving during a speech by Jewish community leader Charlotte Knobloch. The Holocaust survivor had accused the party for downplaying Nazi atrocities.

Flags bearing the logo of the Alternative for Germany party sit on a table during a regional party conference for the AFD in Bavaria (picture-alliance/dpa/D. Karmann)

Lawmakers with Bavaria's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) staged a walkout on Wednesday during a memorial service honoring the victims of the Holocaust.

Only four of the AfD's 22 lawmakers in Bavaria's state parliament remained in the plenary hall after Charlotte Knobloch, the President of the Jewish Community in Munich, said the party trivializes Nazi crimes.

"A party is represented here today that disparages these [democratic] values and downplays the crimes of the National Socialists and who maintains close ties with the far-right extremist scene," she said in her speech.

"This so-called Alternative for Germany bases its policies on hate and exclusion ... and is not based on our democratic constitution," Knobloch added.

In a video of the speech posted by local public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, several AfD lawmakers are seen exiting the plenary hall while lawmakers from the remaining parties give Knobloch a standing ovation.

Knobloch, who was narrowly saved from deportation to a concentration camp as a child and survived the Holocaust by hiding in the Bavarian countryside, previously served as the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Nearly all of the AfD's 22 lawmakers in Bavaria left the hall during Knobloch's speech

AfD defends act as 'appropriate response'

Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder sharply condemned the actions of the AfD lawmakers during the Holocaust memorial, saying they were "disrespectful."

Katrin Ebner-Steiner, the co-leader of the AfD's parliamentary group in Bavaria, defended the protest as "an appropriate response."

In a statement posted to her Facebook page, Ebner-Steiner accused Knobloch of "abusing a memorial service for the victims of Nazism to defame the entirety of the AfD and its democratically-legitimate faction by using awful general insinuations."

Katharina Schulze, co-leader of the Greens in Bavaria, came to Knobloch's defense, thanking her on Twitter for her "clear and true words."

Backlash over Holocaust comments

The AfD, which frequently denies accusations of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, entered Bavaria's state parliament for the first time last October and is currently represented in all of Germany's 16 state parliaments as well as the Bundestag, the lower house of the federal parliament.

The party has faced backlash for a series of controversial statements by its members, including a remark last June by AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland who said Adolf Hitler and the Nazis "are just bird shit in 1,000 years of successful German history."

In 2017, the head of the AfD in the eastern German state of Thuringia, Björn Höcke, sparked controversy by describing Berlin's Holocaust memorial as a "memorial of shame" and questioned Germany's culture of remembrance regarding the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Germany's domestic intelligence agency (BfV) said it was putting the AfD under increased observation over concerns about public comments made by party members and its possible links to extremist groups.

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Jair Bolsonaro and Hamilton Mourao #conspiracy dw.com

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's firebrand right-wing presidential candidate, said on Friday that he would not accept the outcome of next month's election if he loses, as polls suggest he will.

"From what I see in the streets, I won't accept any result that is not my election," the populist politician told Brazilian broadcaster TV Band.

Bolsonaro, a retired army captain, has led an ill-tempered campaign in what has been Brazil's most polarizing election since the country's return to democracy in 1985. He has previously said he doesn't trust Brazil's top electoral court and accused the rival left-wing Workers' Party of resorting to fraud as its plan B in the upcoming vote.

His right-wing running mate, retired General Hamilton Mourao, has also said that Brazil's armed forces should launch a coup if the judiciary is not ridded of political corruption.

The Bolsonaro campaign has so far not provided any evidence of potential voter fraud.

Brazil's electoral court and the Organization of American States, which is overseeing the elections, have flatly denied the right-wing lawmaker's accusations.

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AfD #fundie dw.com

Bundestag slams far-right AfD, reaffirms Holocaust remembrance
Parliamentarians minced no words about the right-wing populists' increasingly radical statements about Germany's dark past. The discussion was sparked by AfD calls to ban the Stumbling Stones remembrance initiative.

Bundestag slams far-right AfD, reaffirms Holocaust remembrance

Parliamentarians minced no words about the right-wing populists' increasingly radical statements about Germany's dark past. The discussion was sparked by AfD calls to ban the Stumbling Stones remembrance initiative.
Jewish people take part in a rally against anti-Semitism in front of the Berlin Cathedral (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen)

In a special discussion in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, MPs underscored the country's commitment to remembering the Holocaust and the other crimes of Germany's Nazi past. The session was called by the Greens after increasing agitation from within the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to end Germany's culture of remembrances.

Members of Germany's other political parties excoriated the AfD for insulting the memory of history's victims and using racist terms and ideas.

"You from AfD employ Nazi vocabulary on a daily basis and try to divide our society," said Green MP Konstantin von Notz. "These statements express contempt for humanity and are incompatible with the values of this house. You are growing more radical by the minute. You are in the tradition of the worst sort of people who brought death and shame upon this country."

AfD MPs tried to interrupt Notz's brief speech with catcalls and insults and were officially called to order. Speaking for the conservative CDU/CSU, Marian Wendt didn't mince words either in condemning the far-right populists.

"Democracy is impossible without a culture of remembrance because responsibility grows from memory," Wendt said. "The AfD treads upon the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. That's the lowest of the low. You should be ashamed of yourself."

Members of the Social Democrats, the center-right Free Democratic Party and the Left Party echoed those sentiments. The unenviable task of responding fell to AfD MP Marc Jongen.

"It was obvious that criticism of extremist incitement would turn into incitement against the AfD," Jongen said. "We are fighting against the elimination of the West. Sometimes in the heat of battle, individual voices have gone too far and strayed into the red area of distortion. We need to remember the crimes of the past but we shouldn't have a cult of guilt."

A pattern of increasing radicalism

The open session was sparked by a growing number of incidents in which AfD politicians, particularly on the local level, have attacked Germany's culture of remembrance and have flirted with racist and Nazi vocabulary.

In early January, the AfD leader in the eastern state of Saxony, Björn Höcke, derogatorily referred to the Holocaust memorial in Berlin as a "monument of shame." That and other statements by Höcke led moderates to try to ban him from the party - without success.

Saxony-Anhalt AfD head André Poggenburg has repeatedly used Nazi jargon and last week referred to Turks living in Germany as "caraway seed dealers and camel drivers." An official complaint against him for "incitement to violence" has been filed with the police.

And last week, AfD member of the regional parliament of Baden-Württemberg Wolfgang Gedeon called upon a local mayor to ban the laying of a so-called Stolperstein, or "stumbling stone," memorializing an individual victim killed by the Nazis. In a statement on his website, Gedeon dismissed Germany's culture of remembrance as a "dictatorship of memory." Late last year, twelve of the stones were stolen from a Berlin street in what police regard as an example of right-wing extremism

'Anti-Semitic, right-wing extremist politics'

Jewish groups have followed with concern the increasing expressions of hostility toward remembering the past.

"The attacks show that more and more people think they can now say out loud what they previously only thought for themselves," the vice-president of the International Auschwitz Committee, Christoph Heubner, told DW. "The right-wing populism represented in local parliaments and the Bundestag is behind this. Ennobled by (their success in a) democracy, people now think they can attack, discredit and ridicule sites of remembrance."

Stumbling stones continue despite AfD

The latest attack on the stumbling stones has caused particular outrage because of the special nature of the project. Since 1993, German artist Gunter Demnig has been laying small brass cobblestones with the names and dates of birth and death of killed under the Nazi dictatorship on sidewalks in front of the houses where they once lived.

As of April 2017, 61,000 stumbling stones had been installed at more than 1100 locations throughout Europe. The project keeps history alive in two senses. The stones remind people in their everyday lives and routines about the extent of Nazi genocide. And because private citizens, in particular school pupils, research the histories of the victims and play an active role in laying the stones, the project encourages people to learn more about the past.

Demnig is defiant about the right-wing populist attacks on his project in particular and the culture of remembrance in general. He says his initiative has more momentum than ever before.

"I always thought that interest would diminish, but it's increasing," Demnig told DW. "Attacks from the AfD were only to be expected, but I know that (the project) will continue."

Demnig was invited to Berlin for Friday's parliamentary debate but chose not to attend. Instead, he remained in the southern part of the country, where he was laying further stumbling stones. They are part of a lifelong effort to prevent people forgetting the millions of people butchered in the name of German nationalism and illusions of racial superiority.

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Various depraved aid workers #sexist dw.com

Oxfam sex scandal is not an isolated case
Oxfam is not the only charitable organization fighting to maintain its credibility after a sex scandal. Crisis relief workers abusing their power isn't a new phenomenon.

One would expect that humanitarian workers take care of the people urgently in need of assistance during and following a crisis. But the image of the altruistic aid worker is too often a myth because anyone who is in the position to help others is the one wielding the power - and some take advantage of it.

Staff members of Britain's non-governmental organization Oxfam allegedly organized orgies with prostitutes in the organization's villa after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010. But the scandal doesn't stop there. Sex parties were reportedly also held during relief missions in Chad in 2006. Oxfam staff members apparently even raped women in South Sudan.

It is not the first sex scandal that has shaken the world of international aid, according to Burkhard Wilke, managing director of the German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI).

"Employees or partners of aid organizations in aid regions have repeatedly made themselves complicit in the sexual exploitation of the local population," he told DW.

The medical aid organizationMedicines [sic] sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) recently reported 24 cases of abuse or sexual harassment in the past year. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) admits that there have been three cases of sexual abuse during operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Brothel in the Balkans

Cases of aid worker misconduct reach back to the Yugoslavian wars in the 1990s. International aid workers were involved in the sexual exploitation of girls and women during the wars in the Balkans. UN blue helmet soldiers and humanitarian workers were all said to have visited prostitutes on a regular basis.

The German women's rights organization Medica Mondiale helped traumatized women in Bosnia during the Balkan conflict, and the Cologne-based NGO still helps girls and women in war and crisis regions.

Ara Stielau, Medica Mondiale's director of the international programs, said the aid worker scene regarded visits to prostitutes during missions as a "trivial offense and private pleasure." Stielau said she still remembers the words of a German aid organization's executive when he was confronted with the sexual misconduct of some of his employees. He apparently replied, "I can't watch what my men are doing between the sheets."

Inhibitions are lower

Economic hardship is among the reasons why women in crisis regions work as prostitutes. Women often suffer so much that they lose their inhibitions and are willing to accept food or money for sex, Stielau said. That is how local women in need of help can become dependent on male aid workers from abroad who ultimately have resources and the power to distribute relief supplies.

"Employees of an organization have money and thus the power to help one person and not another - and that creates temptation," Wilke added.
Uk Oxfam-Sex-Skandal | Logo (picture alliance/AP Photo/N. Ansell)

Oxfam was caught most recently, but it's not the only aid group with ethical lapses

Most international aid organizations are aware of these dangers and have put in place special codes of conduct for all employees.

"However, the Oxfam case reveals that the necessary consequences are not always drawn when it comes to sexual misconduct," Wilke said.

A trust crisis

"Using the services of prostitutes may not necessarily be against national laws, but it violates all codes of conduct issued by relief organizations," Wilke said, adding that organizations risk losing their reputation if their employees are caught acting immorally.

That loss of trust can be a huge problem as credibility is key in the world of international charity. NGO aid organizations depend on donations — and on the trust of donors who want to know that their money is going to the people who need it.

For this reason, Wilke said misconduct should be reported "unsparingly" to the public. Transparency is the top priority. In Germany, Wilke's institute awards a seal of approval to organizations for ethical and transparent work. In the event of misconduct, NGOs may lose the seal of approval.

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IS sympathisers in Germany #fundie dw.com

'Islamic State' sympathizers go on trial in Berlin
The four alleged 'IS' supporters are believed to have known Berlin Christmas market attacker Anis Amri. The trial is expected to offer insights into the Islamist scene in the German capital.

The Berlin Court of Appeals on Thursday began hearing the case involving four suspected "Islamic State" sympathizers who wanted to go to Syria to fight alongside the jihadis.

German law, amended in 2015, outlaws any attempts — successful or not — to leave the country to join a terrorist organization and considers it a "serious act of violence endangering the state."

The men — two Turks, a German Moroccan and a German citizen — are said to have regularly visited the infamous "Fussilet" Mosque in the German capital, suspected of being a meeting point for radical Islamists, including Berlin Christmas market attacker Anis Amri.

Amri, a Tunisian national who killed 12 people and injured dozens more, frequented the mosque, according to authorities. The mosque, which has been under surveillance since 2015 for its suspected links in recruitment activities, was sealed by the law-enforcement authorities last year.

Unsuccessful bid to reach Syria

The men facing trial in Berlin — identified only as Soufiane A, Emrah C., Resul K. and Feysel H., in accordance with German privacy laws — are said to have had no direct links to Amri.

Three of the four suspects were arrested in an anti-terror raid in Berlin in January last year.

22-year-old Soufiane A. was said to have been sent back to Germany by Italian authorities because his identity card showed a ban on leaving the country.

Feysel H. (25), Emrah C. (32) and Resul K. (46) left for Syria in a car belonging to the taxi service owned by C. and K..

Feysel H. was sent back from Croatia also because of a travel restriction on his passport.

Emrah C. (32) and Resul K. (46) carried on and claim to have returned from Turkey after hearing discouraging stories from an 'IS' returnee.

Soufiane A. and Feysel H. are believed to have organized the funds for the trip by using false documents to buy expensive smartphones and then reselling them.

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Andre Poggenburg #fundie dw.com

AfD censures firebrand Andre Poggenburg over anti-Turkish remarks
Anti-Turkish remarks by a far-right German politician have resulted a warning from his party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Andre Poggenburg also faces at least one potential hate speech prosecution.

Poggenburg's depiction of people of Turkish origin in Germany as "camel drivers" and "caraway seed traders" resulted Friday is a formal admonishment from the AfD's federal executive.

Its spokesman, Christian Luth, said the AfD warning was adopted unanimously by executive members.

Poggenburg, who chairs the AfD's Saxony-Anhalt state branch, delivered his latest tirade during an end-of-Carnival event in Nentmannsdorf, a township south of Dresden in the neighboring state of Saxony. Known as political Ash Wednesday, each of Germany's political parties gather for a day of drinking and banter.

Video footage showing some 1,200 AfD adherents cheering his speech, with another AfD firebrand Björn Höcke and far-right publicist Jürgen Elsässer also on the stage, prompted widespread disgust nationwide.

Prosecutors in Dresden, already looking into a complaint lodged by a private person, have indicated that a prosecution foreshadowed by the Turkish Community in Germany,TGD, has not yet arrived.

Poggenburg, who labeled his address as "political satire," was responding to objections by the Turkish Community to plans by Chancellor Angela Merkel's next intended coalition to add the expression "Heimat" to the federal interior ministry's designation.

'Undisguised hatred'

German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, visiting Saxony-Anhalt on Thursday, spoke of politicians who sought to turn hateful behavior into strategy.

Sachsen-Anhalt's Protestant bishop, Ilse Junkermann, on Friday said Poggenburg's speech exhibited once again how the AfD used "undisguised hatred" to defame people.

"Our society needs responsible persons with prudence and farsightedness and not parliamentarians blinded by hate and contempt of others," she said.

The deputy chairman of Saxony-Anhalt's center-left Social Democrats, Andreas Steppuhn, on Friday described Poggenburg's speech as "far-right extremist, racist and inhumanely contemptuous" that amounted to an "open attack on the foundations of democracy."

TGD Turkish community chairman, Gökay Sofuoglu, told the Essen-based Funke Media Group on Thursday that Poppeburg's demeanor reminded him of "a speech from Joseph Goebbels" – Adolf Hitler's propaganda minister.

Insufficient grounds

Germany's VfS federal domestic intelligence agency based in Cologne said Friday in the wake of Poggenburg's utterances it saw no sufficient evidence to placed the AfD under surveillance for far-right extremism.

German law on intelligence gathering sets procedures for surveillance of persons or parties deemed as risks to the nation's free democratic order, requiring the VfS to report to a special parliamentary committee.

Professor Hajo Funke, a researcher on extremism in Germany, told German ZDF public television that Poggenburg's speech amounted to "racist rabble-rousing against the largest minority in Germany, the Turks."

"What Poggenburg said reminds me - and I say this for the first time - of what the Gauleiter in Berlin in the 1920s, Joseph Goebbels, unleashed in the way of agitation," said Funke.

In last September's federal election, the AfD entered the Bundestag parliament, becoming a 92-member opposition group. It had already garnered opposition seats in 14 regional state assemblies across Germany.

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Antisemitism in Germany #racist dw.com

Germany averaged four anti-Semitic crimes per day in 2017, report says
Police logged over 1,400 crimes targeting Jews in Germany last year, according to a newspaper report. The vast majority of the crimes were carried out by right-wing extremists or people with far-right tendencies.

The rising trend of anti-Semitic crimes in Germany shows no signs of abating, according to a newspaper report on last year's crime statistics that was published on Sunday.

In 2017, German police registered a total of 1,453 crimes that targeted Jews or Jewish institutions, reported German newspaper Tagesspiegel, citing figures from the German government. The data was compiled in response to an inquiry from Bundestag vice president and Left party lawmaker Petra Pau.

Last year's crimes included 32 acts of violence, 160 instances of property damage, and 898 cases of incitement.

The German government expects the figures to rise even further since the data provided by the states is not yet final, the paper said.

Far-right motives in a majority of cases

In 1,377 of the cases — 95 percent of the total — police determined that a right-wing motive had driven the crimes.

Police attributed 33 of the offenses to foreign-born anti-Semites, not including Islamists.

Another 25 of the cases were "religiously motivated," including those involving either foreign-born or German Muslims with extremist beliefs, according to the Tagesspiegel report.

In 17 of the cases, authorities were unable to determine a political motive behind the crime. Police determined a left-wing motive in one case of incitement.

Pau, who initiated the anti-Semitic crime inquiry, said she was deeply concerned about last year's figures. Speaking with Tagesspiegel, Pau noted that "the number of unreported cases could be considerably higher" since many of those affected are reluctant to report the crime.

Last month, German lawmakers passed a bill to implement tougher laws to tackle anti-Semitism, including the creation of a commissioner post to develop and carry out a strategy for rooting out anti-Semitic sentiment and crime.

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Antisemitism in Germany #racist dw.com

Germany pays too little attention to current anti-Semitism, report says

An independent report, supported by politicians across the spectrum, has concluded that more needs to be done to fight modern forms of anti-Semitism in Germany. But it doesn't answer the question of precisely what.

At the official presentation in Berlin on Monday, politicians and researchers associated with the Independent Expert Group on Anti-Semitism repeatedly invoked a highly publicized story of anti-Semitism against a 14-year-old Jewish youth who was forced to change schools.

"The most recent case of anti-Semitic taunts and attacks against a Jewish boy here in Berlin's Friedenau district give our report a particular currency and relevance," Patrick Siegele, the director of the Anne Frank Center, said. "It illustrates the difficulties German society has dealing with anti-Semitism."

Six hundred and forty-four anti-Semitic crimes were reported in Germany last year, although the actual number was probably dramatically higher. After reviewing a substantial number of studies on the topic, the Expert Group said that while traditional forms of anti-Semitism had declined somewhat, modern anti-Semitism, for example, criticism of Israel being extended to Jews in general, remained alarmingly popular.

"Forty percent agree with Israeli-centered anti-Semitism," Green Party member of the Bundestag Volker Beck said. "That's almost half of the society. It says a lot about the intellectual environment in which Jews have to live."

"New forms of anti-Semitism have arisen, and unfortunately the end of the Holocaust and the Second World War didn't mean the end of anti-Semitism," conservative MP Barbara Woltmann said. "It does worry me that around 20 percent latent anti-Semitism still exists within the populace."

The experts issued five "key demands" to improve that situation. They include appointing an anti-Semitism ombudsman, establishing a national data base for anti-Semitic crimes and providing long-term support for groups researching and trying to combat anti-Semitism.

But the 311-page report, whose presentation coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, is a basis for parliamentary discussions in the future, not actual proposals for legislation. On closer examination the report actually reveals that much has yet to be determined about modern-day forms anti-Semitism in Germany - most prominently anti-Semitism among Muslims.

Anti-Semitism among Muslims

The report concludes that anti-Semitism exists on the extreme right and (less prevalently) extreme left of the political spectrum in German society as well as among Muslim communities. It pointed out that right-wing anti-Semites committed the greatest number of actual anti-Semitic crimes. And the experts were at pains to emphasize that anti-Semitism among people with Arab or Turkish backgrounds had less to do with their religion than with their socialization.

"A pilot study commissioned by the expert group about the attitudes of imams in Germany was unable to identify any radical anti-Semitism," researcher and group co-coordinator Juliane Wetzel said.

The partial study in question, however, included only 18 imams who voluntarily participated and thus is hardly representative. The nine-member group of experts acknowledged that far more research needs to be carried out to determine the extent to which certain committees and migrants to Germany in general maintain anti-Semitic attitudes.

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Anti-Semitic vandalism remains a problem

Without doubt opposition to Israel, which often shades over into anti-Semitism, is a constitutive element of some young Muslims' identity. However, such anti-Semitism is cultural, not religious.
DW recommends

"There are a lot of other factors connected with being Muslim that lead to anti-Semitism being more prevalent among this group, above all people's migration background," researcher Beate Küpper said. "Young people from Muslim social contexts, be they Turkish or Arab, are on average more anti-Semitic than other young people. But they're not more anti-Semitic than other young people with other migration backgrounds, for instance the Soviet Union."

A lack of practical results

It is no secret that the word "Jew" is often bandied about as an insult among young people in schools in heavily migrant districts of Berlin. The tormenters in the case of the 14-year-old Berlin boy came from Turkish and Arab backgrounds. The question is what can be done to combat these and other manifestations of anti-Semitism in everyday life in Germany.

The findings and recommendations in the expert group's studies will be presented for debate in the Bundestag. But with only a handful of weeks remaining in this legislative period, the group admits that political action probably won't be forthcoming.

This is the second such expert group with the second such report. The results obtained by the first one, formed in 2009, weren't good.

"I asked the members of my parliamentary group what became of the recommendations and demands of the first report," Green MP Beck said. "And you could say: practically nothing."

Germany's federalist structure is one reason progress on dealing with everyday anti-Semitism can be sluggish. The members of the expert group agree that anti-Semitism is too often taught in schools exclusively in conjunction with Germany's National Socialist past and that instruction about modern-day anti-Semitism is needed. But school curricula are the responsibility of Germany's 16 individual federal states. All the federal government can do in that area is issue recommendations and provide money for worthwhile projects.

Concrete action is very unlikely before Germany's national election in September and the constitution of a new Bundestag, which will almost certain include the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany, some of whose members have been accused of harboring Nazi sympathies.

Thus, sadly, there is little chance any time soon for any measures to prevent incidents like the one at the Berlin school.

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Antisemitic bullies #racist dw.com

Anti-Semitic bullying forces Jewish teen from Berlin high school
The story of a 14-year-old who had to change schools to escape anti-Semitism is making headlines in Germany. The boy's tormentors were of Arab and Turkish descent - making the news even more explosive.

The story about the teenager, which originally ran in the UK newspaper "The Jewish Chronicle," featured in the weekend editions of many German newspapers as well as the online edition of respected news magazine "Der Spiegel."

The "Chronicle" reported that 14-year-old "Phillip" (not his real name) transferred from the Gemeinschaftschule in the Friedenau district of Berlin to another school after suffering anti-Semitic abuse. The teenager was subjected to verbal harassment after revealing he was Jewish. He was also grabbed and threatened with a realistic-looking pistol that later turned out to be fake.

"Listen, you are a cool dude but I can't be friends with you," the newspaper quoted one of his former classmates as saying. "Jews are all murderers."

The mother of "Phillip" decided to send him to another high school. The teenager himself is shocked by what happened to him.

"It was terrible, but I didn't have time to think what's happening at the time," "Phillip" told "The Jewish Chronicle." "Now when I look back, I think, oh my God."

The newspaper wrote that the case "illustrates long history of antisemitic (sic) harassment of Jewish pupils, particularly by Arab and Turkish children."

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Berlin schools are melting pots, but not always tolerant ones

The first incidence of anti-Semitism

Ironically, the school in question participates in the pro-tolerance initiative "Schools Without Racism - Schools With Courage." Members pledge to abide by principles of multicultural and interfaith respect, a message that seems not to have gotten through to some of "Phillip's" classmates.

In a written statement on the school's website, the school directorship said it was distressed by the incident.

"Firstly we'd like to express our regret and horror that a student was forced to experience anti-Semitism in his everyday school life," the statement read. "We are losing an especially active and high-achieving student who chose our school with joy and saw it as an opportunity to further his development."

The school said that after the first incident was reported, it had invited "Phillip's" grandparents, who witnessed the Holocaust, to talk to his class. The statement added that the school was seeking help from the pro-tolerance Salaam-Shalom initiative and the city government.

The school said that it was reporting the students who tormented "Phillip" to the police and that this was the first time it had been confronted with anti-Semitism.

School principal Uwe Runkel said he was sorry that "Phillip" had left.

"After the first incident, we addressed it," Runkel told Berlin's "Tagesspiegel" newspaper. "Now, unfortunately, we no longer have the chance to convince the boy that he's safe here. But we'll continue to address this issue, and the perpetrators will face consequences."

So is this an isolated incident of bullying carried out by historically ignorant youths? Or is anti-Semitism a widespread problem in Berlin schools with a high percentage of students from Muslim backgrounds?

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Many anti-Semitic incidents are the work of the extreme right

'I'd beat up a Jew'

The story opened the floodgates for social media posts attacking Muslims and excoriating Chancellor Angela Merkel's welcoming stance toward refugees. In fact, there was no indication that any of the tormentors came from refugee families, and anti-Semitic attacks on Jews in Germany are carried out not just by Muslims, but by right-wing extremists as well. Nor is the problem in general restricted to Germany.

On the other hand, there is no denying that anti-Semitic thought and speech is common among some Muslim students in some German schools. Activists have been drawing attention to the problem for years.

"Because of concrete cases of mobbing and a general climate of anti-Semitic expressions of hostility, some students prefer to go to non-public, Jewish schools," the director of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin, Deidre Berger, told the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper in March 2015.

In May of that year, the Deutschlandfunk radio station recorded students from Muslim backgrounds at one Berlin school saying things like: "If a Jew enters our school, he'll get beaten up - I'd beat him up too."

"The Jewish Chronicle" quoted Aaron Eckstaedt, principal of the Moses Mendelssohn Jewish High School in Berlin, saying that "six to 10" parents a year tried to move their children there to escape anti-Semitic harassment.

And the problem is by no means confined to the German capital.

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Experts say one-sided views on the Middle East conflict are one problem

Jewish teachers afraid

The Deutschlandfunk report also featured Jewish teachers from Berlin and elsewhere in Germany saying that they were afraid to reveal their religion to their students.

"There was a student who told me: 'If I saw a Jew, I'd immediately kill him,'" one teacher from northern Germany told the radio station on the condition of anonymity. "And he meant it."

The abuse caused one teacher in Berlin to address an angry public letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders complaining about anti-Semitism in Berlin's schools. Berlin authorities say they are aware of the problem and acknowledge that the word "Jew" is frequently used as an insult in some of the German capital's schools.

There was a flurry of interest in the topic in 2015, when the German-Israel Youth Congress was held in Berlin, but the public attention quickly dissipated. Other incidents of anti-Semitism in Berlin schools were reported last year. According to the website report-antisemitism.de, members of the Jewish Forum for Democracy and against Anti-Semitism (JFDA) were called "child murderers" when they visited a school in the heavily Muslim district of Neukölln in May 2016. The JFDA said they had never before experienced such crass anti-Semitism among students.

There are no official statistics on anti-Semitic incidents specifically in Berlin schools, although the Research and Information Office on Anti-Semitism in Berlin recorded 470 such incidents generally in Berlin last year. Experts say the problem of anti-Semitism in schools stems partly from the conflicts in the Middle East and young people's susceptibility to conspiracy theories.

"The Middle East conflict is a big concern of these young people, but their knowledge of the issues is very one-sided," Islamism expert Ahmad Monsour told the "Tagesspiegel" in 2015. "It quickly turns into anti-Semitism. It's easy to say the Jews are to blame for everything."

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German Neonazis #racist dw.com

Report: Number of neo-Nazi rock concerts on the rise in Germany

The first half of 2016 has already seen some 98 far-right musical events in Germany, with some concerts drawing thousands of fans, reported "Die Welt." Authorities have warned that such events serve as recruitment tools.

Right-wing rock concerts, far-right party meetings with musical acts, and so-called "Liederabende" (song recitals) are on the rise across Germany, "Die Welt" newspaper reported on Saturday.

In the first six months of 2016, a total of 98 such events have already taken place, the newspaper said, citing an Interior Ministry response to an information request from the Left Party.

Of that total, around 40 were rock concerts and 49 "Liederabende" - where right-wing extremist singers and songwriters perform to small audiences.

'Safe haven' for the far-right scene

Although the events take place all over Germany, the central state of Thuringia was the uncomfortable home to 14 events so far this year, according to data from the Interior Ministry.

In fact, a right-wing music festival called "Rock gegen Überfremdung" - which roughly translates to "Rock against foreign infiltration" - is set to take place in the small Thuringian village of Kirchheim on Saturday.

The migrant crisis-themed rock festival is expected to draw around 800 neo-Nazis - more than the number of inhabitants in Kirchheim, "Die Welt" reported.

"There is a risk that Thuringia will become a safe haven for all types of extremists, since they must feel less exposed to persecution here," Thuringia state parliament member Andreas Bühl told the newspaper. He criticized a lack of security personnel for the rise in right-wing extremism in the state.

Right-wing rock concerts have been especially picking up on fears surrounding an influx of refugees in 2015

A troubling trend

Compared to the first half of 2015, the number of right-wing musical events has risen sharply in the first half of this year.

Between January and June in 2015, a total of 63 right-wing musical events took place. With this year's figures already up to 98 events, 2016 is possibly on track to surpass last year's record.

The number of right-wing extremist musical events taking place in Germany has hit a four-year high, Germany's domestic intelligence agency (BfV) reported. Last year, the agency clocked 199 musical events.

However, 2016 has already surpassed last year's records. In May of this year, the largest far-right musical event in recent years took place in the Thuringian town of Hildburghausen, the BfV reported on its website. Around 3,500 visitors from Germany and some neighboring European countries traveled to the festival "Rock for Identity - Music and Speeches Against the Abolition of Germany."

In comparison, the largest right-wing rock concert last year drew 650 visitors.

Authorities are concerned about youth recruitment during right-wing rock concerts

Rock concerts as 'gateway drug'

The data on right-wing musical activities goes back years, which begs the question: Why keep tabs on right-wing musical activities?

In its government information request, the Left Party cited "numerous studies" which prove the importance of music to right-wing extremists. They said right-wing rock music and concerts served as a "gateway drug" for newcomers and especially teenagers.

The Left is not alone. On their website, the BfV says the "right-wing extremist music scene" has been under strict surveillance since the 1990s.

Recent crime statistics released by the BfV show a spike in far-right violence in Germany last year, as well. The agency also noted the importance of musical events for establishing first contacts with possible new recruits and for maintaining party relationships.

According to the BfV, live concerts for right-wing extremists are "a means of self-expression," a place of belonging. They are spaces to communicate not only about values, but enemies as well.

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IS recruiters in Chechnya #fundie dw.com

Chechnya: Islamic State's fertile Russian recruiting ground

Of all the countries from which the Islamic State recruits its fighters, Russia tops the list. Most come from the republic of Chechnya, DW's Juri Rescheto reports.
Missing Chechen youths on a mobile phone display

The walls are high in this suburb of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Yet, residents keep no secrets. People know each other and help each other the way they have for generations. Nevertheless, there is one thing that neighbors don't like to talk about: missing youths.

No one knows exactly how many young people have left. Each one is one too many.

Petimat Salamova remained silent behind the walls of her home for four whole years after the disappearance of her daughter. Now she has broken her silence about Salina, who left home to follow her husband, Ruslan.

He went to Syria to fight for the "Islamic State" (IS). Salamova doesn't know why he left. "But he was a good boy," she said. "He always helped around the house. He was religious. I don't know what he was looking for in Syria. I think he was tricked. Those evil recruiters tricked him. It's their fault."

"He took my daughter and their three children," Salamova said. "I know that Ruslan isn't coming back because he was killed last March."

According to official numbers, up to 800 adult Chechens are fighting for the terror organization; the real total is likely much higher. Some of the youths who have left are listed as missing, but authorities don't even know that many of them are gone. That is what Said Mashaev told me. He returned and officials never even knew he had left.

Why do so many young Chechens join IS? The terror researcher Elena Suponina, of Moscow's Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, gave a number of reasons: "High unemployment, social dissatisfaction and unfulfilled hopes drive many in the region to one of the most perverse forms of Islam in existence — into the hands of jihadis."
Petimat Salamova and the clothes of her missing grandchildren

Salamova says her daughter and her husband took their children when they left

'A vacuum cleaner'

The Moscow-based independent military commentator Pavel Felgenhauer said a coordinated effort by Russian intelligence services ahead of the 2014 Sochi Olympics could have something to do with the exodus. He said security measures at the time forced "massive numbers of extremists out of the country, and they were sucked up by IS like a vacuum cleaner." But, he said, now that the group has lost almost all of its territory, "that vacuum cleaner is blowing in the other direction and threatens to spit out terrorists."

It seems that recruiters have an easy time enlisting fighters from Chechnya and neighboring republics in the Caucasus despite the fact that the state monitors citizens through the intelligence services — and despite the demonstrative loyalty that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has shown to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Chechnya, which was rebuilt with Russian cash after the bloody wars of the 1990s finally ended, has become a hotbed of religious fanaticism. The republic's leadership refuses to acknowledge that fact. Kadyrov even went so far as to claim that there are no Chechens fighting in Syria, saying the terrorists had simply forged Russian passports.

The former fighter Mashaev had a different take: "We Chechens are very popular in the IS. We have a lot of fighting experience."

Gadshiev said IS appreciates Chechens' fighting capabilities

800-member support group

Mashaev said he had no idea that he was joining a terrorist group. He claims that he wanted to defend the honor of Syrian Sunni Muslims in the name of Islam. Chechens are largely Sunni. Asked if he carried a weapon in Syria and if he killed anyone, the thin young man from Grozny said no. After a short pause, he added: "At least not that I know of."

He said he decided that he had to get out of Syria after being forced to watch as his comrades beheaded a group of Shiite men one morning. However, Mashaev wasn't able to escape for months. Following an injury that required medical attention, he was allowed to travel to Turkey. From there he fled to Grozny. At first, he was able to go undetected. But at some point authorities learned where he had been. He then turned himself in and spent eight months in prison.

Now Mashaev is sitting with the distraught mother Salamova in a small office in Grozny. This is where a support group for relatives of missing children, siblings and grandchildren meets. The group now has about 800 members: people from Chechnya, Dagestan, Russia and elsewhere. Here people can talk openly about their missing relatives.

Asked if she is angry at men who go to Syria and take people like her daughter and her now-dead son-in-law with them, Petimat Salamova said no: "Everything happens according to Allah's will."

For now, she cries and hopes that Allah will let her daughter live.

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Indian Hindu fundies #fundie dw.com

Padmaavat row: Hindu groups rally ahead of India's Bollywood epic release

Supporters of fringe Hindu groups have rampaged through several Indian cities against the release of the controversial film about a legendary Hindu queen. India's Supreme Court has refused to allow bans on the movie.

Hundreds of supporters of fringe right-wing Hindu groups, like the Rajput Karni Sena, ran amok across several Indian states on Wednesday in a bid to stall the release of Bollywood film 'Padmaavat,' slated for Thursday.

Demonstrators, yet to watch the movie, accuse its director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, of distorting history by depicting a romance between queen Padmaavati and 14th century Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji.

The filmmakers deny the accusation and have offered to hold a special screening of the movie for the leaders of at least one of the right-wing groups.

In Gurgaon, just outside the Indian capital New Delhi, protesters attacked a school bus. They threw stones at the bus as petrified students crouched on the floor of the bus in fear, Indian broadcaster NDTV reported. No one was injured in the attack.


India
Padmaavat row: Hindu groups rally ahead of India's Bollywood epic release

Supporters of fringe Hindu groups have rampaged through several Indian cities against the release of the controversial film about a legendary Hindu queen. India's Supreme Court has refused to allow bans on the movie.
Indian protesters shout slogans against Padmaavati director

Hundreds of supporters of fringe right-wing Hindu groups, like the Rajput Karni Sena, ran amok across several Indian states on Wednesday in a bid to stall the release of Bollywood film 'Padmaavat,' slated for Thursday.

Demonstrators, yet to watch the movie, accuse its director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, of distorting history by depicting a romance between queen Padmaavati and 14th century Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji.

Read more: Why are actors so successful in South Indian politics?

The filmmakers deny the accusation and have offered to hold a special screening of the movie for the leaders of at least one of the right-wing groups.

In Gurgaon, just outside the Indian capital New Delhi, protesters attacked a school bus. They threw stones at the bus as petrified students crouched on the floor of the bus in fear, Indian broadcaster NDTV reported. No one was injured in the attack.

'We will not tolerate any violence'

In a separate incident in the city, a bus was torched by a mob, blocking a major highway.

The protesters carried sticks and caused minor injuries to 14 people, said B.S. Sandhu, a senior police official, adding that police had detained 15 protesters.

"We will not tolerate any violence in the name of protests against a movie," Sandhu added. "Sporadic rioting did take place but no one will be allowed to protest now."

Similar riots unfolded in other cities, with baton-wielding police charging protesters in Etawah in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh state as they marched through the streets. Demonstrators also blocked a passenger train in the city of Mathura in the state.

Security stepped up

In Mumbai, home to some of the country's biggest film production houses, police have boosted security at all theaters screening the film, and detained more than 100 members of protest groups as a precaution, a senior police official said.

In the western state of Gujarat, police arrested 20 rioters following widespread vandalism and arson on Tuesday night. Extra forces have been deployed near malls and cinema halls in the industrial city of Ahmedabad following the incident, which saw 50 motorbikes torched and cars and malls vandalized.

With the protests expected to continue, Inox multiplexes, India's second largest theater chain, has decided not to play the movie at its theaters in Gujarat and Rajasthan, the two states hit by the worst protests.

"Our primary concern is the security of our employees and audiences. I think this is a decision that almost every theater owner in these two states has taken," said Deepak Asher of Inox.

Self immolation

A group of about 150 women belonging to the Rajput community have threatened to burn themselves alive if the film was released.

"The government should either ban the film, or give us the permission to kill ourselves," one of the women told Indian broadcaster Times Now.

The film was cleared for release earlier this month by the country's censor board with five changes, including tweaking the title to 'Padmaavat,' from 'Padmavati.' Despite the clearance, some Indian states banned the screening of the movie, citing law and order concerns. The ban was overturned by the country's top court last week.

Several hardliners, including a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have offered bounties of up to 50 million rupees (€635,000, $769,000) to anyone who "beheaded" lead actress Deepika Padukone or the film's director Bhansali.

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Sri Lankan government #sexist dw.com

Sri Lanka lifts alcohol ban for women - and then quickly restores it

Women in Sri Lanka have long been banned from buying alcohol and working in bars and liquor stores. The government lifted the ban, only to reverse its decision less than a week later.

Sri Lanka woman holding up a tea cocktail

Sri Lanka reimposed a nearly four-decade old ban on women buying alcohol on Sunday, only days after Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the ban was over.

"I spoke with the finance minister... prime minister, and several other ministers and asked them to cancel [the lifting of the ban] immediately," President Maithripala Sirisena said at an election rally.

The dominantly Buddhist nation of 21 million is preparing for local elections in February.

Women have been banned from purchasing alcohol and working in places that produce or sell it, such as bars and liquor stores, since 1979.

Harming 'Buddhist values'?

The nation's finance ministry announced the lifting of the ban last week, apparently responding to the pressure from the Sri Lankan tourist industry, who requested the change in order to allow female foreign tourists to buy alcohol. The finance ministry also extended bar hours.

At the same time, the authorities kept the legal restriction from selling alcohol to police and security forces members in uniform.

"The idea was to restore gender neutrality," ministry spokesman Ali Hassen said on Wednesday.

Opposition politicians criticized the move, however, saying it would threaten the nation's Buddhist values. The National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection also accused the finance minister of encouraging drinking, and urged President Sirisena to restore the restrictions.

The Sunday order to keep the ban said that Sirisena was committed to values such as freedom, morality and democracy.

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Udo Landbauer #racist dw.com

Austria: Nazi songbook lands far-right FPÖ candidate in hot water

A fraternity songbook has sparked outrage in Austria after it was found to contain lyrics praising the Holocaust. The fraternity's deputy chair and far-right candidate Udo Landbauer is now facing heavy criticism.

A report about a Nazi-praising fraternity songbook prompted swift condemnation across Austria's political spectrum on Tuesday and put populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) candidate and fraternity member Udo Landbauer on the defense.

According to a report from Austrian weekly magazine Falter, a songbook used by the fraternity "Germania zu Wiener Neustadt" contains several songs that celebrate Nazi atrocities and use anti-Semitic, racist language.

Landbauer is the deputy co-chair of the fraternity that published and used the songbook, reported Falter. He is also one of the FPÖ's top candidates running in this Sunday's state election in Lower Austria.

Nazi-themed songs

According to the magazine, one of the songs in the book contains the lyrics: "In their midst comes the Jew Ben-Gurion: 'Step on the gas, you ancient Germanic peoples, we'll manage the seventh million."

An estimated six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, many of whom died in gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps. David Ben-Gurion was the first prime minister of Israel.

The song continues with the lyrics: "Then a slanted-eyed Chinese entered their midst: 'We too are Indo-Germans and we want to join the Waffen-SS.'"

Falter reported that other songs in the book praise the Condor Legion, which was responsible for the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Nazi paratroopers who carried out atrocities on the island of Crete in 1941 were also celebrated.

Landbauer 'shocked' by lyrics

A spokesman for Landbauer confirmed to Falter that the FPÖ politician has been a member of the fraternity of the past 18 years but that he only used the songbook "only with torn-out pages and blacked out passages."

Landbauer said in a statement that he was "shocked" by the texts of the songs and said he froze his membership with the fraternity.

"When this book was printed [in 1997] I was 11 years old," he said, adding that "neither I nor the FPÖ have anything to do with anti-Semitism, xenophobia or totalitarianism."

Kurz condemns songbook

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned the songbook, writing on Twitter that the lyrics were "racist, anti-Semitic and absolutely repugnant" and that "there cannot be a place for that in our country."

He added that there should be an investigation into the matter and that "those responsible must be brought to justice."

Bernhard Ebner, the head of Kurz's center-right People's Party (ÖVP) in Lower Austria said the allegations in the report were "unbelievably serious."

Politicians with the center-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) urged Landbauer to resign immediately should the claims about the songs' lyrics prove to be true.

The ÖVP entered a governing coalition with the FPÖ in December, who were granted the foreign, interior and defense ministries.

The FPÖ was formed by former Nazis in the 1950s, but the party has sought to distance itself from anti-Semitism. In the past, Kurz has defended his governing coalition with the FPÖ, saying that the party should be judged on its current actions, not its past actions.

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Islamic State #fundie dw.com

'IS' claims deadly attack on Save the Children office in Afghanistan

An attack on the Save the Children's office in Afghanistan has ended killing two and wounding 20, in the latest violence to strike a foreign aid group in the country. So-called 'Islamic State' has claimed responsibility.

An attack on Save the Children's office in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad has ended with at least two people killed and 20 wounded, an official said on Wednesday.

"The fighting has ended. The security forces are clearing the building now," Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, told the French news agency AFP.

The four assailants — reportedly dressed as police — fired a rocket propelled grenade from a car outside the British charity's compound in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

They then clashed with security forces for about three hours, a provincial government spokesman said. Afghan TV news channels showed a plume of black smoke coming out of the compound and a vehicle on fire outside the office.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) group later on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the attack. "A martyrdom-seeking operation with an explosive-laden vehicle and three immersing attacks targeted British and Swedish foundations and Afghan government institutes in the city of Jalalabad," IS said via its propaganda arm Amaq.

Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar province, on the border with Pakistan. The province has become a stronghold for the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) terror group.

The attack comes days after Taliban militants attacked the Hotel Intercontinental in the capital, Kabul, which killed at least 20 people, including 13 foreigners.

Red Cross 'drastically' reducing presence

The violence against Save the Children, which has been working in Afghanistan since 1976, is the latest in a number of assaults on foreign aid groups in the country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent announced in October it would "drastically" reduce its presence in the country after seven workers were killed last year.

The decision by the charity highlighted the growing dangers for aid employees, who have increasingly become casualties of a surge in militant violence in recent years.

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Reichsbürger movement #fundie dw.com

A broken oath: Reichsbürger in the police force
There are Reichsbürger members in the German police force, despite the fact they actually reject the state they work for. The revelation comes after a member of the right-wing movement shot and killed a policeman.

The sad occasion of a colleague's funeral reminded German police officers of the dangers posed by Reichsbürger members. Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said in his eulogy that the shooting of a policeman was an "attack on our values, the constitutional state and us all." He said it was the reason "why the police had to crack down on all the so-called Reichsbürger and seize all their weapons."

Police officers across Germany have begun investigating. They are searching for Reichsbürger members among their own ranks, meaning police officers who are against the state they are supposed to be protecting. The number of disciplinary procedures for police officers who are under suspicion of being connected to the Reichsbürger scene has increased several fold in a short period of time, according to the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" newspaper. At the moment, disciplinary action is being taken against 15 police force members across Germany.

Believing in the German Reich

Who are the Reichsbürger? They do not actually exist as an organization as such. They are instead a very fragmented and somewhat contradictory scene without a leader or hierarchy. The only things that unite the movement are the belief that the German Empire still exists and the refusal to acknowledge the Federal Republic of Germany as a state. In the opinion of the Reichsbürger, the German Reich still exists, as do the country's 1937 borders. They consider the Federal Republic of Germany to instead be a limited liability company.

Some of the Reichsbürger have their own "substitute documents" like the Reichs-ID, which they carry with them as though it were an official identity card. They have even founded states like the "Exile Government of the German Reich" or the "Free State of Prussia". The "imperial citizens" deny the legitimacy of state institutions such as courts or police and do not accept state decisions. They often do not pay taxes or fines and frequently annoy authorities with their formal complaints or long, written statements.

The movement is made up of informal, but sometimes cult-like conspiracy theorists, right-wing extremists and trolls. The heterogeneous nature of the group makes it hard for authorities to estimate how many people are in the movement. According to a survey conducted by the DPA news agency in the interior ministries and security agencies of the German states, there are at least 1,100 members of the Reichsbürger movement across the country, however, seven of the 16 states could not provide concrete responses.

Either you are for or against it

Civil servants, who include police officers, swear an oath to the constitution. Reichsbürger reject the constitution because they do not recognize the state on which it is based. Is it a broken oath? If Reichsbürger work for the criminal police and security forces, does it make sense for them to work as guardians of the constitution and as those with the state monopoly on force? Marcus da Gloria Martins, spokesman for the Munich police force, which just suspended a Reichsbürger police officer, said it is impossible.

"The views of the Reichsbürger clash 100 percent with the free democratic order that the police is based on," he told DW. "They do not go together. Either you are for it or you are against it. The Reichsbürger would then be financed by the state that they reject or want to dismantle."

Joachim Widera, an active Reichsbürger member, told DW in an interview that Reichsbürger actually enriched state services.

"If these people admit their loyalty to the German Reich, then they can act like any other citizen, and they should," he said. He feels it is legitimate to work in the public sector while expressing one's beliefs as a Reichsbürger, saying the German constitution protects freedom of opinion.

Police officers known to be part of the Reichsbürger movement have been suspended. One officer in Munich made very obvious comments about his leanings and he was immediately removed. Other police forces have found Reichsbürger in their own ranks. Their discoveries were more or less coincidental, but the search continues.

"I think that special measures are hardly necessary because every colleague has been very vigilant when dealing with this phenomenon," said Sebastian Fiedler from the Federation of German Police Officers. "Suspicious cases are immediately investigated and disciplinary responses have been very strict in my opinion."

Police unions are also of the opinion that people who subscribe to this ideology do not belong in state law enforcement agencies.

The threats posed by the Reichsbürger are still open for debate. The shooting in the Bavarian town of Georgensgmünd shows that many of them own weapons. So what can be done about Reichsbürger who have legal access to firearms in their jobs as policemen?

"The extent and individual willingness to use violence was certainly underestimated," said Fiedler. "It won't happen again after these awful events. It is always sad that sacrifices must be made before something changes."

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Hasan Caliskan and Kamil Saracoglu #sexist dw.com

Turkish authorities in some cities have come under criticism for handing out "marriage guides" that advocate mistreatment of women as being beneficial to conjugal bliss.

A 394-page book entitled "Marriage and Family Life" says that wife beatings are a legitimate and recommended means for conflict resolution if a woman refuses to wear makeup for her husband, and recommends that "a wife has to remain quiet and apologize if her husband is angry with her."

Other pieces of advice in the book include the notion that women should not talk during sex "as this will lead to the child developing a stutter" and that they should stay away from public parks and sports facilities. Polygamy is suggested as a way to keep a "wayward" woman in check, as it apparently creates competition among wives.

The book also allows for children as young as 10 years of age to be married.

[...]

But the mayor of Kütahya, Kamil Saracoglu, a member of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), defended the writings in an interview, saying there had never been any complaints and that the advice given in the document was based on Islamic principles.

Copies of the same book published under a slightly different title, "Marriage and Privacy," were meanwhile also found in the resort town of Pamukkale. Issued by Pamukkale's city council, those copies have reportedly even made their way to the parliamentary library in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Parliamentarian Fatma Kaplan-Hürriyet picked up one of those copies and said in parliament the writings were in breach of the Turkish constitution, adding that they were reminiscent of Sharia law. Kaplan-Hürriyet, who is also a member of the opposition CHP, said that she sent a request to the municipal prosecution services in Kütahya and Pamukkale, which are both run by the AKP, to start legal proceedings against the book. If they failed to take action, Hürriyet warned, she would take matters into her own hands, seeking to make sure that taxpayers' money wasn't spent on hate speech.

"Each time the AKP mentions the issue of violence against women I will throw this book at them. Whenever they mention child marriage I will stick this book into their eyes," she said, adding she might bring a lawsuit against the municipalities distributing the book to newlyweds. Kaplan's outspoken activism against the publication has drawn a lot of attention in Turkish media.

[...]

The "marriage guide" was penned by Hasan Caliskan, a former employee of Turkey's powerful Ministry of Religious Affairs, known as "Diyanet," which under successive AKP governments has seen a major increase in funding and support. In reaction to the controversy, Diyanet has reportedly announced that municipalities should ask the ministry before deciding to distribute the book.