Gypsies Protest Attacks in Hungary’s ‘Skinhead Capital’
EGER, Hungary (AP) _ About 1,000 Gypsies demonstrated under the protection of riot police Sunday to protest skinhead attacks against them in this eastern Hungarian town.
″We want to draw the attention of the public to Eger,″ said Aladar Horvath, 32, a Hungarian legislator and president of the Roma Parliament, an umbrella organization for dozens of Gypsy groups.
Eger has become a center of skinhead violence since Sept. 14, 1990, when rampaging neo-Nazi skinheads attacked businesses frequented by Gypsies and clubbed patrons.
Since then, there have been 25 violent assaults against Gypsies, Horvath said. The most recent attack was June 16, when a Gypsy youth was severely beaten. He is still in a coma.
″My teen-age children are afraid to go out in the evening,″ said Bela Horvat, a 38-year-old truck driver.
Gypsies make up about 10 percent of Eger’s population of 70,000. But there are no Gypsies serving in local government or on the police force.
Sunday’s rally began in a Gypsy neighborhood and continued toward the city center. The heavy police presence appeared to keep skinheads away, and there were no signs of disturbances.
Gypsies, who make up an estimated half-million of Hungary’s 10.5 million people, are the country’s largest minority.
Police estimate there are about 4,000 active skinheads in Hungary. Although there were no estimates of how many skinheads live in Eger, the town has become a frequent gathering place for the neo-Nazis.
Last year, Tibor Furzessy, the minister in charge of security services, termed Eger the country’s ″skinhead capital.″
During World War II, Gypsies were rounded up and exterminated along with Jews in eastern Europe. Gypsies have complained of renewed discrimination since the collapse of Communist rule in 1989.
″A beer parlor put up a sign, ‘Whites Only,’ not long ago, but they had to take it down,″ Horvat said.
Violence against Gypsies is embarrassing to Hungary’s government, which has expressed concern about the way neighboring countries treat minorities, especially ethnic Hungarians.
Last week, Hungary’s parliament passed a law designed to protect the country’s minority groups.