One of the many impostors in the service of the Orbán government

A couple of days ago The Budapest Beacon published an incredible story about a woman in her sixties who accused NGOs who are defending the rights of refugees of “subversive activities.” She charged that they have compelled interpreters to lie on behalf of the asylum-seekers. As a result, several interpreters have been dismissed. The story took a really bizarre turn when a few days ago we learned that it was the accuser herself who had falsified a Syrian refugee’s plea, from innocent to guilty.

This is not the first time that Magda Nasrin Katona has run into trouble with the law. In 2012 she received an eight-month suspended sentence for perjury. She attacked a woman walking her dog with a cane, after which she accused the victim of attacking her. Two years earlier, when she represented her foundation as an observer of the November 2010 presidential election in Afghanistan, she got into quite a bit of trouble. She was caught on camera demanding money in return for votes. A journalist from The Washington Post ran the story, including the video, which naturally got to Hungary in no time.

Magda Nasrin Katona in Afghanistan in 2010

I decided to look into Magda Nasrin Katona’s career in Hungary. My aim was to learn how questionable characters like Katona manage to make careers for themselves in Hungary.

First of all, I would like to emphasize that it wasn’t only the Orbán government and Fidesz that considered Katona an asset. Over the years she managed to get grants here and there from the foreign ministry and to pass herself off to serious scholars as someone whose experience made her a true expert. The truth is that most of the Hungarians Katona came into contact with were too provincial to realize that she was for all intents and purposes a fraud. And those who did discover that Katona was not what she claimed to be remained quiet instead of unmasking her. I’m afraid it sounds like a typical Hungarian story to me.

We don’t know much about her life and activities before the early 1990s. I assume that she has a degree in Arabic studies, most likely from ELTE. She signed one of her articles Dr. Magda Nasrin Katona, but since later she had problems writing a real Ph.D. dissertation, her doctorate was the kind that is called the “kisdoktori” in Hungary, a title that no longer exists. We know that she was married to Mohammad Yar, most likely an Afghan. Given her age (she was born in 1953), they might have met in Hungary, where Yar might have been a student. People who know her told inquiring reporters that she had lived for many years in Afghanistan and that she actually owns property there. According to at least one source, the marriage ended some time ago and Yar moved to the United States.

Katona’s published works that are available online appeared in three or four publications. One was a quarterly published by the Pro Minoritate Foundation, which was close to Fidesz. The periodical is still in existence, although the foundation doesn’t seem to be active anymore. From the table of contents it seems to be a publication that may receive subsidies from Fidesz. Another periodical that carried several of her articles was Hadtudomány (Military Science), which is the publication of the Magyar Hadtudományi Társaság (Hungarian Association of Military Science).

By 2002 some people started noticing that Katona’s knowledge of Afghanistan left something to be desired. In Külügyi Szemle, the publication of the Külügyi Intézet under the aegis of the foreign ministry, a fairly lengthy article tore her article on Afghanistan apart.

In 2003 she became a frequent contributor to Magyar Nemzet, which was then a publication that toed the Fidesz line, but at the same time she also kept in touch with the socialist-liberal governments. Her foundation, which may not actually have existed, received small grants from the foreign ministry in three consecutive years between 2004 and 2006, during the tenure of Ferenc Somogyi and Kinga Göncz.

What was the opinion of her expertise at the time? In 2010, after The Washington Post scandal broke, Index asked around to ascertain what “national security experts” thought of Magda Nasrin Katona. Somewhat surprisingly, university professors, authors of books, and experts on national security praised her to the sky. Péter Tálasi, whom I consider one of the smarter people in the field, thought that “Magda Katona is the best informed analyst of the domestic affairs of Afghanistan. Few people know the country as well as she does. Her knowledge of the language plays an important role here.” Ferenc Gazdag, a historian and national security expert, also spoke highly of her. “She has a wide knowledge of the country,” he said. Peter Wagner, a member of the Magyar Külügyi Intézet in whose publication her article was panned, made it clear that she doesn’t work for the ministry but still she is a real expert on Afghanistan. But Index talked to some other people, who didn’t want to disclose their names, who told the paper that Katona’s Ph.D. dissertation had been rejected several times because “very serious mistakes, contradictory statements, and unverifiable sources” were found throughout. Moreover, a good portion of the dissertation was merely a Hungarian translation of English-language sources. Soon after Index dropped the word about the alleged plagiarism, she gave up the idea of obtaining a Ph.D.

All through these years Katona worked for the Bevándorlási Hivatal (Immigration Office) as a translator and interpreter. Ferenc Kőszeg, founder of the Hungarian Helsinki Commission, wrote an article in Népszabadság in which he complained that “in the Nyírbátor refugee camp where the Afghan communist national security officers and the mujahedeen fighters were placed together, Magda Nasrin Katona showed partiality toward the former and did a lot to see that these Afghan supporters of Soviet aggression—political officers, party secretaries, government officials—would receive asylum in Hungary.”

Of course, people like Katona can be found everywhere, but it would help if more businesses and institutions required confidential recommendations when hiring. In my experience, recommendations for Hungarians go straight to the applicant instead of to the person who is supposed to decide on the applicant’s fate. Then there is the very bad habit of not releasing information that would raise doubts about the person’s abilities. Why were professors quiet when it was discovered that Katona’s Ph.D. dissertation was largely plagiarized? One could ask dozens of questions, but the final result is that there are just too many cases in which totally unqualified people parade as experts to the detriment of scholarship.

November 18, 2017
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Guest

Money makes the world go ’round!

Rather OT but illustrating:
Many British politicians, from UKIP’s Farage to Labour members of parliament were paid by Russia Today to appear on its tv shows – ain’t that cute?
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/18/mps-kremlin-propaganda-channel-rt
I can’t eat as much as I want to throw up!
PS:
Of couse the same happens with politicians in Germany and other countries, many (most?) of them are corrupt as hell!

Ferenc
Guest

The interpreter, Magda Nasrin Katona, came prominently in the press through her interview with Figyelo, Frau Schmidt’s magazine, it was the ‘coverstory’ of their 2017.Nov.09 issue (#2017/45).
Reactions on facebook by two concerned NGO’s:
https://www.facebook.com/helsinkibizottsag/photos/a.148536888500904.23887.122159141138679/1619667978054447/ (‘Guard’: “Frau Schmidt is paid from our tax money”)
https://www.facebook.com/migrationaid.org/posts/839439936258254 (Migrationaid: should we start legal actions?)

Member

“Why were professors quiet when it was discovered that Katona’s Ph.D. dissertation was largely plagiarized?”

I have a theory, totally unproven, that the real reason professors and state officials are quiet about plagiarism is because they don’t want anybody examining their own theses for plagiarism.

I have had questions about Katona ever since I saw her doing an interview on Afghanistan on the TV2 morning show in 2001. When the interviewer, Andrea Panczel, asked Katona how many years she had spent in Afghanistan, she went ballistic and shouted that she was not going to talk about her private life on TV.

Istvan
Guest
Well as I commented the other day the Kadar regime played a role in the support of the communist forces in Vietnam that has led to the current lets say state capitalist society there run politically by a party bureaucracy, but economically by oligarchs. Similarly Hungarians played a role in the Russian Afghan War. Soviet Spetsnaz carried out the immediate seizure of power, but they were aided by many agents in the Afghan army some who had been trained in Hungary. The best book about this is The Bear went over the Mountain written by a former Russian Army Officer. The USSR long had an interest in Afghanistan going back to Czarist times and the Russians recruited Afghan’s for in future puppet government using the cover aid to develop that country going back to the 1950s. Hungary played its role in providing free University educations for promising Afghans and training for some Afghan military officers during the years 1960-68. The Communist Hungarian intelligence services helped convert Afghan college students to the Soviet project. My guess from reading what Eva has written is that Magda Nasrin Katona was part of that process somehow. By 1973, a quarter to a third of… Read more »
Observer
Guest

This woman is just another example.

The Orban regime is now run/served by a motley crowd of disgusting, immoral characters, all of them shameless liars, many with communist past, record of frauds and/or felony verdicts.
E.g. Jòzsef Pàlinkàs, Sàndor Pintèr, György Matolcsy, Pàl Schmitt, ZOLTÀN Kovacs, Guyla Budai, etc. Not to mention those corrupt cohorts that would have been serving prison sentences in any rule of law country, but protected by Peter Polt.
Nothing extraordinary here – this is how such regimes operate.

wrfree
Guest

Katona and those like her can stand as a symbol of our ‘unauthentic’ age……..

‘Opinion’s but a fool that makes us scan
The outward habit for the inward man ‘…

The Bard… Pericles

Ironic that in the tremendous amounts of information being spewed out in communication venues we still cannot come to grips with who people really are. No wonder people would rather hang out with their dogs. What you see is what you get.

Guest

A bit OT again:
An interesting piece on the Russian secret services influencing the US elections and Brexit – with the result:
Putin is overextending himself …
http://cicerossongs.blogspot.hu/2017/11/
Hungary is also named! 🙂
In Chinese eyes the model is not the Second World War, but the First, with Russia playing the role of Austria Hungary.

Putin will not survive a determined push back from the West. He has drastically overplayed the hand of a weak, corrupt, poor and divided country: Nigeria with nuclear weapons.

Rántotthús
Guest

EU Council president Donald Tusk is criticizing his native Poland thusly:

“Strident dispute with Ukraine, isolation in the European Union, walking away from rule of law and judicial independence, attack on non-governmental sector and free media,” Tusk wrote on his personal Twitter account on Sunday. “Law & Justice strategy or Kremlin plan? Too similar to sleep well.”

Pathetic. Of course Hungary and Fidesz were first, many many years ago, but Tusk and his pals in the EU bureaucracy said and did nothing (in fact they helped Orban with Paks 2 and in other matters) because appeasement is the first instinct for Western European politicians. As usual, instead of preparing for the dangerous future, these clueless morons only cared about sipping their lattes.

Now it’s too late. Russia is winning on every front and Fidesz hasn’t been stronger in its 30-year history. Neither Fidesz nor Law and Justice are going away anytime soon. To the contrary they will be still here long after Tusk, Juncker and Merkel disappear from the scene.

petofi
Guest

I’m afraid that what the world is discovering is that a mad, KGB operative,
with the finances of a country of 150 million at his disposal can literally buy the world. A bribe of 100 million is a far cry from a bribe of 5 million.

The US and Britain (Brexit) have already discovered this.
Germany is to learn the lesson soon, too.

Guest

You should read the article I linked above by “Cicero” for an alternate view!
To me it seems that Hungarians generally still don’t understand what democracy is all about – too much talk about “being strong” and “appeasement”.
Do you all favour dictators in your heart?