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Hungary bars under-18s from photo exhibit over LGBT+ content

Hungary bars under-18s from photo exhibit over LGBT+ content

Euronews (01.11.2023) – Five photos by Filipino photojournalist Hannah Reyes Morales led a far-right Hungarian lawmaker to file a complaint with the country’s cultural ministry, which found that they violate a Hungarian law that prohibits the display of LGBTQ+ content to minors.

Youngsters under the age of 18 have been barred from visiting this year’s World Press Photo exhibition in Budapest after Hungary’s right-wing populist government determined that some of its photos violate a contentious law restricting LGBTQ+ content.

The prestigious global photo exhibition, on display in Hungary’s National Museum in Budapest, receives more than 4 million visitors from over 80 cities around the world every year.

Showcasing outstanding photojournalism, its mission is to bring visual coverage of a range of important events to a global audience.

But a set of five photos by Filipino photojournalist Hannah Reyes Morales led a far-right Hungarian lawmaker to file a complaint with the country’s cultural ministry, which found that they violate a Hungarian law that prohibits the display of LGBTQ+ content to minors.

Now, even with parental consent, those under 18 are no longer allowed to visit the exhibition.

The photographs, which document a community of elderly LGBTQ+ people in the Philippines who have shared a home for decades and cared for each other as they age, depict some community members dressed in drag and wearing make-up.

Joumana El Zein Khoury, executive director of World Press Photo, called it worrisome that the photo series had been targeted by Hungary’s government.

“This is the first time that we face censorship for a certain type or a closing for a certain type of audience in Europe,” Khoury told The Associated Press.

“(It) was really something new for us and I found it very sad, actually, and very worrisome,” she added.

The move to bar young people from the exhibition was the latest by Hungary’s government, led by nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, to restrict the availability of materials that promote — or depict — homosexuality to minors in media, including television, films, advertisements and literature.

While the government insists that the 2021 “child protection” law is designed to insulate children from what it calls sexual propaganda, it has prompted legal action from 15 countries in the European Union, with the bloc’s Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calling it “a disgrace.”

Dora Duro, the far-right lawmaker who filed the complaint over the photos, said she was outraged when she visited the exhibition and rejected claims that the government’s decision limited freedom of the press or free expression.

“How the LGBTQ minority lives is not the biggest problem in the world,” Duro told the AP.

“What we see as normal, what we depict and what we convey to (children) as valuable influences them, and this exhibition is clearly harmful to minors and, I think, to adults too.”

Reyes Morales, the photographer, said in an emailed statement that the subjects in her photographs serve as “icons and role models” to the LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines and that they are “not dangerous or harmful.”

“What is harmful is limiting visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community, and their right to exist and to be seen,” Reyes Morales wrote. “I am beyond saddened that their story might not reach people who need it most, saddened that their story is being kept in a shadow.”

Hungary’s cultural ministry did not respond to an interview request.

Tamas Revesz, a former World Press Photo jury member who has been the organizer of Hungary’s exhibitions for over three decades, said many of the photographs in the exhibition — such as coverage of the war in Ukraine — are “a thousand times more serious and shocking” than Morales’ series.

But given that around half of the 50,000 or so people who visit the exhibition in Hungary each year are students, he said, thousands of Hungarian youth will now be unable to view the World Press Photo collection — even those images that are free of LGBTQ+ content.

“I consider the decision to be a misguided and unprecedented move,” Revesz said.

“The World Press Photo Foundation’s credo is freedom of thought. Everyone is free to think what they want about the images on display. These pictures were taken without prejudice and we should take what we see here without prejudice,” he added.

Photo credits : Wikimedia (Public Domain)





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IRAQ: Iraqi minorities in need don’t receive much international aid

IRAQ: Iraqi minorities in need don’t receive much international aid

Iraqi Christians only have a future if the country will be a safe place for its diverse minorities — A Discussion with Jeremy P. Barker

Hungarian Conservative (24.08.2023) – For the past two years, Jeremy P. Barker has been on fieldwork in Iraq, working on a project a summary of which was published as a report titled ‘Engaging with Religious Inequality in Humanitarian Response: A Case Study from Iraq 2014–2019’. In the report, he explores how religious diversity dynamics shaped humanitarian assistance efforts in the context of large-scale displacement due to conflict in Iraq and what actions were taken to engage with religious inequalities through programmatic responses. In the discussion, Barker raised attention to the concerning results, which show that much of the huge amount of aid directed to the Iraqi minority communities disappears, and just a small amount of money is actually received by them.

 

After speaking with a country director for an international assistance programme, he discovered that cash assistance programmes take $50 for organisational overhead costs, international staff security, and logistics for every $100 donated. This means that only $50 will actually reach the communities; and an even larger proportion is subtracted in the case of donations of physical items due to additional costs.

 

Hungary Helps’ Direct Approach to Iraqi Christian Communities More Effective

 

Barker emphasised that by contrast, Hungary Helps’ direct approach to Iraqi Christian communities was more effective, visible, faster, and broader than the assistance provided by more well-known international NGOs. He highlighted that although the traditional aid world may criticise Hungary for its direct approach and partnerships with local Iraqi Christian churches, it proved effective in reaching communities and aiding in post-ISIS rebuilding efforts. To give an example, Barker praised the effectiveness of Hungary’s two-million-euro assistance to a town inhabited by a Christian community in the Nineveh Plain, which was destroyed by the Islamic State terrorist organisation in 2014 and could be rebuilt in 2018 with Hungary’s help. In recognition of the gesture, the town was renamed Tel Askouf, which means ‘Hungary’s daughter’. Barker pointed out that although Christians were forced out of Tel Askouf during the ISIS era, Hungary’s aid has resulted in the single highest rate of Christian return in the Nineveh Plain.

 

He also explained that Hungary assisted in more than just providing material needs such as shelters and economic aid: it also helped rebuild homes and renovate churches, which revived communal life for the Christian community.

 

Hungary’s assistance was also praised by activists like Juliana Taimoorazy, the founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, who expressed her gratitude to Hungary in speeches and interviews. She said Hungary ‘responds to the suffering of Christians in the Middle East not with indifference, but with love and help’. Since 2019, Hungary has also assisted the settlement and return of Yazidi refugees in the Iraqi Sinjar region and the Dahuk Governorate through five reconstruction, rehabilitation, educational, and health projects within the framework of the Hungary Helps Programme.

 

Barker noted that some aid practitioners would argue that the US government can’t have this direct approach to Christian communities in need because the First Amendment prohibits state support of any particular religion. Because of that, they say it would violate the constitution if American government agencies partnered with religious entities in their aid programmes, despite clarifications by USAID and others that this is not an accurate application of the first amendment.

 

The Iraqi Christian Community Has Been Marginalised for Decades

 

In a previous episode of our podcast, Juliana Taimoorazy explained that the Assyrian Christian community had been marginalised for many decades. In 1914, under the Ottoman Empire, Assyrian Christians were persecuted and then expelled from southeast Turkey; as a result, they had to flee to Northern Iraq, where the newly formed Iraqi government also harassed them. Under the presidency of Saddam Hussein, Christians were only tolerated in the country if they didn’t speak about their ethnicity and professed to be Arabs. Those Assyrian Christians who bravely endorsed their ethnicity and language were subject to persecution. Ms Taimoorazy also reminded that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, which led to the destruction of the lives of one and a half million Assyrians, Chaldean and Syriac Christians. In 2014, ISIS took control of Mosul and quickly learned where Christians lived (it was usually their very neighbours who gave them up), and ISIS militants marked their homes with the Arabic letter ‘nun’ (ن), which stands for Nazarenes, as Christians follow Jesus of Nazareth. In larger cities like Qaraqosh, Christians who didn’t have time to escape were killed, women were raped, and believers were even crucified on their own doorsteps. After ISIS destroyed the infrastructure of Qaraqosh and other cities, they gave Christians three options: convert to Islam; pay a tribute, a jizya, to ISIS; or leave their town with nothing more than the clothes on their back, or else they would be killed.

 

Most Young Christians Don’t See a Future in Iraqi Kurdistan

 

The three largest communal groups in Iraq account for approximately 95 per cent of the population: Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds; in addition to these largest groups, there are many other religious, ethnic and linguistic groups, including Christians, Kakai, Shabak, Turkmen, Yazidis and others, such as the Bahai and Sabean-Mandaeans.

 

In his publication, Barker quoted Iraqi researcher Saad Salloum who wrote the following just before the ISIS period in 2013: ‘This rich cultural diversity (ethnic, religious, sectarian and linguistic) is threatened by emigration and assimilation into the majority culture. Minorities risk becoming helplessly crushed beneath a complicated legacy of demographic manipulation and being ultimately lost in the conflict between major forces competing for space, power and fortune. Some religious minorities are endangered and may soon be consigned to memory, especially since the challenges they face target not just their freedoms and rights but their very existence and sustainability in a land they have lived on for dozens of centuries and who have become so rooted in Iraq that no one can imagine an Iraq without them. This is not an imaginary perception or an abstract warning; rather, it is a fact.’

 

As mentioned in a previous Hungarian Conservative article, while 20–30 years ago, the number of Iraqi Christians was around three million, now, according to most sources, that has dropped to only around 250,000 and is declining rapidly, primarily due to emigration as a result of economic hardship and violence. However, even this number is likely an exaggeration, and it is closer to 164,000–125,000.

Regarding the future of Iraqi Christians, Professor Jeffrey Kaplan, a distinguished fellow at the Danube Institute, highlighted in the discussion that one of the most important findings of their fieldwork in Iraqi Kurdistan was the impact of emigration on the Christian community. He emphasised that almost all young people the research team talked to want to leave, not because of security issues, but for economic reasons and more broadly because they see no future for themselves and their families in the country.

 

Jeremy P. Barker stated that although many Christians and Yazidis sought refuge in safe havens controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government when Daesh attacked, and the Kurdish government gave  a representation of eight different religious communities within the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the challenges faced by religious communities persist. He added that the fact that if one is not allied with one of the main political parties or families, one’s prospects are limited, led to the isolation of the Christian community.

 

Most Women Who Were Tortured By ISIS Still Haven’t Received Justice

 

As the Danube Institute’s researchers explained in a previous podcast episode, in which they shared the findings of their two-week fieldwork in Iraqi Kurdistan, women within the Christian and Yazidi communities were even more vulnerable during the ISIS period as they were often kidnapped, raped and sold as slaves. They noted that the main reason why perpetrators remain unpunished is that Christian families didn’t take revenge and talk publicly about the attacks, as most families didn’t want others to know how they had been dishonoured. According to their interviews, this is also why tracking how many Christian women were affected by the torture of ISIS is very difficult. In one of the interviews, where they were asked not to record the discussion but were allowed to take notes, a Christian woman shared how the shame of being raped determined her life. She explained that during the ISIS era, the community arranged somehow to get her and her family visas and flee from the country to the US; however, as the US authorities wanted the woman’s story to be shared publicly, the family chose to stay rather than have their shame publicly broadcast around the world.

 

When asked about the situation of Iraqi Christian and Yazidi women, Jeremy P. Barker explained that survivors of the ISIS period who were tortured haven’t received help or compensation partly because the governmental ​​programmes which should give financial and other support are extremely underfunded.

 

He added that social pressure and policy changes would be crucial for achieving justice.

 

The Detrimental Effects of the Ban on the Conversion to Christianity 

 

The Iraqi personal status law is one of the country’s most significant forms of discrimination against Christians. The law makes the entire family, including children, officially Muslim if one of the parents chooses to convert to Islam, which means if someone with a Muslim parent wants to convert to Christianity, they cannot change their religion from ‘Muslim’ to ‘Christian’ on their ID cards. Because of the severity of the ban by Islam on conversion to Christianity, the issue of proselytising has become one of controversy and debate among the Christian denominations in the country. According to the Danube Institute research team’s findings, while evangelical Christians, aware of the consequences, still choose to share the gospel publicly and accept Muslim converts, most historical denominations do not share the view of evangelicals, and for fear of being attacked and killed for it, they forbid conversion and only accept it in special cases.

 

Responding to the question about the issues regarding converts, Jeremy P.  Barker highlighted that their concerns increase complexities around marriage, inheritance, ownership of property, and other practical matters. He added that 16 churches are formally recognised by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Kurdistan, with a dozen evangelical and other Protestant churches lacking legal recognition. Barker emphasised that greater clarity of the registration of churches and rights of religious exercise would be to the benefit of addressing some of these underlying tensions between both Protestant, evangelical and historic Christian communities, as well as the broader Muslim denominations. To the claim that most converts to evangelical Christianity do so only to get a visa to a Western country, Barker answered that it is infrequent, and that he personally only met with converts who are genuine in their faith.

 

Is There a Hope for a Future for Iraqi Christians?

 

Whenever the Danube Institute’s research team asked Iraqi Christians whether there is hope for a future for them, the answer was always the same: ‘We’ll only have a future with God’s help and if the international community won’t forget about us and will help.’ Jeremy P. Barker highlighted the historical resilience of Christian communities facing persecution, which may be reason for optimism. He added that during his fieldwork in Iraq, he spoke with many Christians who invest in the community, have a vision for a thriving future and work to preserve their religion’s psychical heritage. In his view, there definitely is hope, but it requires a lot of work to secure a future in which in Iraq and Kurdistan there is space for all communities, including Christians.

You can listen to the the first part of the Reflections from Budapest podcast series episode with Jeremy P. Barker here, and to the second part here.

 

Sáron Sugár is a research fellow at the Budapest-based think tank, the Danube Institute. She studied International Relations at Eötvös Loránd University. Her main research fields include events of the Middle East, especially the changes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the worldwide persecution of Christians.

 

Photo: President Katalin Novák visiting the kindergarden in Tel Askouf renovated with the assistance of the Hungary Helps Programme on 9 December 2022.

Noémi Bruzák/MTI

Further reading about FORB in Iraq on HRWF website





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HUNGARY : Hungarian nationalist party calls for a ban on ritual slaughter

Hungarian nationalist party calls for a ban on ritual slaughter

Hungary Today (08.11.2022) – https://bit.ly/3EbNian – Referring to European legal practice and animal rights, the Our Homeland party calls for a ban on ritual kosher and halal slaughter.

The nationalist Our Homeland (Mi Hazánk) party calls for a ban on the ritual slaughter of animals. István Szabadi, an MP of the party told a press conference on Monday that animals are not sedated before either kosher or halal slaughter, which causes them unnecessary suffering.

Szabadi pointed out that his forthcoming initiative was in line with European legislation and practice, as similar restrictions are in place in several countries, including Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, and Slovenia. According to European legal precedents, the prohibition of ritual slaughter does not constitute a violation of the right to freedom of religion, he added.

Károly Csott, chairman of the party’s animal protection cabinet, stressed that Our Homeland has been working for the protection of the environment and animals since its foundation, condemning animal cruelty and demanding prison sentences for those who commit it.

The slaughter of farm animals must be done in a dignified and humane way, causing the animal as little pain and suffering as possible, the politician said.

Photo: European Court of Justice – hospitality-on.com





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HUNGARY’s government further tightens abortion law by decree

Hungary tightens abortion law by decree

In a sign of the extreme-right flexing its muscles, Hungary’s government amended the law to now require women requesting an abortion to prove they have seen the foetus’s vital signs.

 

Reporting Democracy (13.09.2022) – https://bit.ly/3QOUrBP – Hungary’s nationalist-populist government amended the country’s abortion law following the lead of the extreme right, with women now needing to prove to doctors they have listened to the “heartbeat of their foetus” before gaining access to abortion services.

 

With this decree issued on Monday, Hungary joins a regional trend of conservative and religious forces trying to restrict women’s rights. In October 2020, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal – stuffed with judges appointed by the populist right – tightened the existing legislation to virtually ban abortion. That same month, a group of ultra-conservative MPs in Slovakia tried, but narrowly failed, to impose new delays on women’s access to abortion by extending the current 48-hour mandatory waiting period to 96 hours.

 

In Hungary, the arrival of the extreme-right Mi Hazank (Our Homeland) party in parliament following the April general election appears to be pushing Viktor Orban’s government to further align itself with ultra-conservative forces, say experts.

 

Mi Hazank’s deputy president, Dora Duro, has long campaigned for the introduction of a “heartbeat” law ostensibly as a way reduce the number of abortions performed in the country.

 

In the government decree published in the National Gazette on Monday, it reads: “Foetal vital functions have to be presented to patients in a clearly identifiable manner”.

 

“I find it striking that the government introduces a measure which has a direct effect on women’s lives without any public consultation,” Reka Safrany, president of the Hungarian Women’s Lobby, told BIRN, saying it is a clear tightening of the current abortion legislation that, she fears, will further humiliate women.

 

“The government is sending the message to women that we have no control over our own bodies,” she added.

 

This is not the first time Fidesz has turned for inspiration to the far-right opposition. The government’s anti-LGBT campaign also began with Dura publicly shredding an LGBT-friendly children’s book in 2020, which was followed by legal restrictions on same-sex couples adopting.

 

Yet abortion has not traditionally been a particularly contentious issue in Hungary. Hungarian society is mostly pro-choice and the number of abortions has been steadily declining, from 56,000 in 2010 to 23,900 in 2020, due mostly to education but perhaps also to generous government policies supporting childbearing.

 

Current legislation allows women to request an abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy if they feel “they are in a critical situation”. Even so, they need to take part in two compulsory consultations prior to abortion with childcare services, where they are often humiliated, women’s rights organisations allege.

 

Even though members of Hungary’s conservative government have repeatedly promised not to touch the country’s abortion laws, several steps taken over the last few years have raised fears among those campaigning for women’s rights.

 

The Hungarian constitution – written in 2012 by the current government – states that “a foetus has to be protected from conception”.

 

And in 2012, medical abortion (i.e., through use of an abortion pill) was banned by the Fidesz government, leaving women with no alternative to the much more traumatic surgical abortion.

 

The Fidesz government, along with a number of autocratic and oppressive regimes, is a co-sponsor of the Geneva Consensus Declaration, which campaigns against abortion and promotes the traditional family model.

 

President Katalin Novak said in a recent speech that she would support “protecting life from the moment of conception” and predicting that there might be steps taken towards tightening abortion rights.

 

Photo credits: EPA-EFE/SZILARD KOSZTICSAK





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EUROPEAN COURT/ HUNGARY: ‘Stop Soros’ bill ruled illegal by top EU court

Hungary’s ‘Stop Soros’ bill ruled illegal by top EU court

It’s the latest loss for Budapest before the European Court of Justice, which has issued a series of rulings in recent years against the country’s anti-democratic shift.

By Molly Quell

 

Courthouse New Service (16.11.2021) – https://bit.ly/3DQOhvf – The EU’s top court struck out at Hungary on Tuesday for passing a law dubbed the Stop Soros bill to criminalize refugee aid. 

 

Enacted in 2018, the law prescribed one year in prison to anyone convicted of providing assistance to asylum seekers and helping them apply for legal status. It is only a component of the ever-more stringent anti-immigration and anti-democratic agenda that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been implementing in Hungary, leading to repeated clashes with the European Union.

 

After Budapest refuse to repeal the law at the request of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, the latter referred the matter to the Luxembourg-based court in 2019. On Tuesday, the 11-judge panel ruled that the legislation violates EU law protecting asylum seekers. The decision aligns with an opinion from a court magistrate earlier this year. 

 

“Criminalizing such activities impinges on the exercise of the rights safeguarded by the EU legislature in respect of the assistance of applicants for international protection,” the court said in a statement.

 

The legislation got its name from one of its provisions targeting the Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, who funds pro-democracy activism across the globe. It requires NGOs operating in Hungary who receive international donations to register with the government and identify themselves as foreign-funded in any publicity materials. Hungary lost a case before the court over that part of the legislation last year. 

Hungary argued during a 2020 hearing that it hadn’t actually charged anyone under the bill, but the court found that that the threat of criminal charges was sufficient. “It is in the very nature of the deterrent effect of criminal offences to discourage anyone from undertaking the activity considered to be illegal which may lead to a criminal sentence,” the court wrote. 

 

“Today’s court ruling sends an unequivocal message that the Hungarian government’s campaign of intimidation, targeting those who stand up for the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers cannot, and will not be tolerated,” David Vig, director of Amnesty International Hungary, said in a statement. The human rights group had challenged the legislation in Hungarian court but their complaint was dismissed. 

 

The court ordered Hungary to repeal the incompatible provisions of the law without delay but the country has a track record of ignoring ECJ rulings. The country has continued to force migrants into neighboring Serbia — which is not an EU member state — despite a 2020 order to stop such pushbacks. 

 

Photo credits: AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda


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