Gyöngyöspata: not just another post about the Roma

(It started that way, admittedly.) I have already written about tensions between the Roma and Hungarian militias in Gyöngyöspata.  There seems to have been some further intensification of the problem, although different news sites and blogs offer conflicting reports of events which took place on Friday.   According to Lolo Diklo: Rromani against Racism the Hungarian Red Cross intervened in order to evacuate 276 Roma women and children from the village in response to the actions of a group called ‘Vedero’,  (‘Defence Force’). This militia had invited supporters to enrol for a weekend of paramilitary training at a camp on the outskirts of Gyöngyöspata, and asked them to bring military-style uniforms and replica guns.

In the version of events given on Lolo Diklo it is asserted categorically that the Red Cross was acting in direct response to intimidation when it removed the women and children:

‘This is the first time the Hungarian Red Cross has organized the evacuation of Hungarian civilians threatened by paramilitary activities since the Second World War,’ the organization said.

But another site, Roma Buzz Aggregator, offers a slightly different perspective on these events:

Vedero commander Tamas Eszes said his group was not racist, had not taken part in anti-Roma village patrols and had no connection to any political party.

“This is unnecessary scaremongering and they want to put the ‘extremist’ tag on us,” Eszes said of the Roma evacuation. “We met earlier with Gypsy leaders and reassured them about our activities.” …

Eszes said his group wanted to improve the physical condition of Hungarian youths, blaming its decline partly on the elimination of the military draft, abolished by lawmakers in 2004.

“Hungary’s youth are in bad physical shape, sitting in front of a computer all day,” Eszes said. “We are continuing the old Hungarian tradition of military-style training.”

Eszes said that recent verbal confrontations in the village were started by the Roma, and that Vedero has called for police protection. “Why would three or four of us want to take on 70 Gypsies?”

The BBC report goes further, and offers what seems to be a denial by the Hungarian Red Cross that this was an ‘evacuation’ at all:

But Red Cross spokesman Erik Selymes said there was no connection between what he called a “pre-planned holiday” organised for the Roma and the paramilitary training exercise.

Hungarianambiance (I don’t feel like linking to it) are delighted to publicise this (apparent) example of misreporting or exaggeration:

But there could be much more to this false flag operation than one can read from the superficial signs. It is not impossible that the entire campaign targeting Jobbik, the party that creative ideas thwarting the plans of those dark forces that are manipulating Hungarian society from the shadow by creating ethnic tension in the country.

But even if (and of course I’d welcome more information) accounts of Friday’s events have been somewhat sensationalised, it seems clear that the Hungarian authorities had their own worries about Vedero’s activities:

Nearly four hundred police arrived in Gyongyospata and cordoned off the campsite belonging to Vedero (meaning defence force) earlier on Friday.

The police are also to prevent participants in Vedero’s “military training” held between Friday and Sunday from approaching the campsite through an adjacent Roma neighbourhood.

Sarah adds: Karl Pfeifer has linked to this very interesting piece from Hungarian Spectrum in the comments. Here’s a key passage:

As usual, in Hungary there are two versions that circulate about this flight of over two hundred people from the village where the Defense Force set up camp. The non-governmental version is that Richard Field, an American businessman living in Hungary, realizing the plight of the local Gypsies, turned to the Hungarian Red Cross on April 19 and asked them to find accommodations for the women and children for the Easter weekend. The government version is that the “weekend camping” had been organized much earlier and had absolutely nothing to do with the presence of the Defense Force or the fright of the Roma in Gyöngyöspata. I leave it to my readers to decide which explanation is more plausible.

There are still uncertainties here.  Eight members of Vedero have been arrested, including their leader Tamás Eszes – someone commenting on the Hungarian Spectrum piece suggests this represents an over-reaction although even Eszes’ own rather bland account of his group’s aims doesn’t inspire one with great confidence.  The writer of the Hungarian Spectrum article clearly wants readers to believe the non-government version of events – and I suppose I do, but that’s partly because it fits more easily into my world view.  But even if, on this occasion, the government’s version is correct, there still seem to be plenty of causes for concern in Hungary at the moment.

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