Tag Archives: Betyársereg

The first stop in the European Union: Refugees keep arriving in Hungary

The refugees keep coming despite the fact that the Hungarian parliament passed amendments to the law on refugees, making it a great deal more stringent. The government is so eager to have this piece of legislation in place that it asked János Áder to sign it as soon as possible. It can’t, of course, solve the refugee crisis either in Hungary or elsewhere in Europe.

A headline in one of the Hungarian papers proclaimed: Leaders of the Catholic Church offer their help to the government in solving the refugee problem. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But then I read the whole article. It was the Czech Catholic Church, not the Hungarian. The latter, as far as I know, has done nothing. The same holds true for the Calvinists. The only exception is the small Hungarian Lutheran Church, which gave a modest amount of money to one of the few charitable organizations involved. And, as usual, Gábor Iványi, head of the Methodist Magyarorszáagi Evangéliumi Testvérközösség, not officially recognized as a church in Hungary, became involved.

There are charitable and kind-hearted Hungarians

Concerned citizens who find Viktor Orbán’s hate campaign against the refugees unacceptable have organized and begun collecting food and clothing for the “unfortunate people” (szerencsétlenek), as volunteers usually refer to them. The first such group was formed in Szeged, close to the Serbian border, where the refugees usually start their journey either to Debrecen or more often toward the West by train. MÁV, the Hungarian State Railways, made the refugees’ stay in Szeged difficult by locking up the waiting rooms for the night. That meant that the refugees, often with small children, had to spend the night outside, trying to sleep on the pavement. It was at this point that concerned citizens, many of them from the university with English-language skills, came to the rescue. At first there were no more than a handful of people, including a professor of medicine who is of Syrian origin, but by now hundreds are at work who have given food and clothing to those in need. The babies received diapers and the children toys.

What the refugees also need, and what the Hungarian authorities don’t provide them with, is information. After they are registered, they receive a document written only in Hungarian that allows them to board a train to one of the refugee camps. But how to get there is sometimes unclear even to the natives. For example, in Szeged the volunteers who call themselves Migráns Szolidaritás, or MigSzol, didn’t know that in order to travel from Szeged to Debrecen one has to change trains in Cegléd. Or, I heard about lost refugees who were supposed to travel to the Western Station in Budapest, but no one told them that because of renovations the station is closed and the train stops elsewhere. The result was that a group of refugees wandered around the station, not knowing where they were and how to get to their destination.

A group similar to MigSzol was formed in Cegléd. The Szeged and Cegléd groups are in constant communication. The Szeged activists phone ahead to Cegléd, telling them when the refugees will arrive, and the Cegléd group waits for them at the railroad station. These groups already have more than 2,800 members on Facebook. They have helped at least 700 people in Cegléd alone.

Amnesty International just released a report titled Europe’s borderlands: Violations against refugees and migrants in Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary which states that “refugees who make the perilous journey [via the Balkan route] are met with both violence and indifference by the authorities.” The refugees, greeted with such kindness on the part of Hungarian volunteers, are extremely grateful.

Neo-Nazis’ hate campaign against the refugees

This is the laudatory side of Hungary but, unfortunately, there are many who loathe the refugees, especially since the prime minister has for months been inciting hatred and fear of the refugees and has repeated time and again that he will defend the country from these intruders.

On Sunday night Jobbik organized a demonstration near the Debrecen refugee camp where Gergely Kulcsár, a Jobbik MP, spoke. As a reminder, it was Gergely Kulcsár who spat on the shoes placed on the bank of the Danube in memory of those Hungarian Jews who were shot and thrown into the Danube in late 1944. Although the demonstration was peaceful, according to one journalist who was present, right after the singing of the national anthem a few people complained loudly about the “black apes” inside the camp.

In Szeged 50 or 60 members of another neo-Nazi organization called the Army of Outlaws (Betyársereg) decided to put the fear of God into those civilians and refugees who are staying around the railroad station. I wrote about this group in 2011. Fortunately, in Szeged, unlike in Cegléd, the policemen guard both the refugees and the activists 24/7. Since there were about as many policemen as outlaws, nothing serious happened although, according to the report, the situation was tense for a while. The Szeged group has been in existence only for eight days, but there have already been three incidents around the railroad station.

Members of the Army of Outlaws arrived in Szeged

Members of the Army of Outlaws arrived in Szeged

The policemen cannot be everywhere, and in one of the villages along the border there is a young mayor, László Toroczkai, who is doing his best to stir up sentiment against the refugees. Toroczkai’s career began in MIÉP, an anti-Semitic far-right group, in 1998, but on the side he also organized a paramilitary organization, Special Unit of the Sons of the Crown, and later the Hatvannégy Vármegye Ifjúsági Mozgalom (HIVM/Youth Movement of the Sixty-four Counties), a reference to Greater Hungary’s counties. Because of the irredentist propaganda he conducted in Serbia and Romania he has been banned by both countries. In 2013 he was elected mayor of Ásotthalma in a by-election. I wrote a post about Toroczkai’s career, from the siege of the television station where he was one of the leaders of the football hooligans to the mayoralty.

Toroczkai is now in his element. He seems to know English because I’ve encountered him in several foreign-language articles as someone who informs journalists about the situation along the border. He is also busy on Facebook, where he writes not always truthful stories about the alleged atrocities committed by the refugees. One of his posts on Facebook described a situation in which a group of migrants sat down under a tree on the property of a farmer. According to Toroczkai, the mother who was alone in the house with two small children asked them to leave but they refused. An incredible number of hateful comments appeared immediately after Toroczkai’s short description of the alleged encounter. A reporter for a local paper visited the farmer’s wife, and it turned out that the family actually gave the refugees food and water who then peacefully settled in the shade of the tree and waited peacefully for the police to arrive.

And the “experts” in service of the government

But there are more dangerous propagandists who can influence public opinion through the media. One is György Nógrádi, a university professor and an expert on national security matters. He is a great supporter of a fence or a wall. He gives dozens of interviews and is the favorite man of the state radio and television stations. Even the liberal ATV made the mistake of inviting this windbag for a so-called conversation with another expert on national security.

Then there is László Földi, a former intelligence officer, who poses as an “expert on the secret service.” He is certain that the present refugee crisis is actually part of a war between the Islamic State and civilized Europe. In his opinion the leaders of IS want to conquer and convert the entire world. Their first move is to invade Europe. “This is war,” which can be handled only by warlike methods. This nonsense was uttered on, of all places, Olga Kálmán’s “Egyenes beszéd” (Straight Talk). Kálmán, looking grave, kept nodding. Mind you, Földi was also certain that last fall’s demonstrations were organized by the CIA to overthrow Viktor Orbán’s government.

People like Nógrádi and Földi are more dangerous by virtue of being “experts” in their chosen fields. I’m greatly disappointed in ATV, which gave a platform to these hatemongers.

Campaign strategies against Jobbik: Tapolca-Ajka

Now that the by-election in Tapolca-Ajka is approaching, it is time to think about how the candidate of MSZP-DK, Ferenc Pad, could defeat his two opponents. Just the other day he announced that he will not conduct a negative campaign. As I indicated earlier, Fidesz has already mounted a two-pronged attack. It called attention to Pad’s alleged wealth, accumulated when he was a trade union leader who acted as if he truly cared about the well-being of hard-working people. At the same time the Fidesz publication, pestisrácok.hu, began an attack on the Jobbik candidate, Lajos Rig, by calling attention to his alleged tattoo depicting the Nazi SS’s slogan “My Honor Is Loyalty.” Should the MSZP-DK candidate remain quiet or should he try to undermine the credibility of his opponents?

Admittedly, it is not an easy task to devise an effective campaign in a three-way race, but I still think that a totally defensive campaign from Ferenc Pad would be a mistake, especially since in the past two weeks Jobbik’s newly created and carefully nurtured reputation has suffered several setbacks. The party’s strategists decided that if Jobbik wants to become a force that could one day gain the confidence of the majority of the voters, it must conceal its true nature. After all, all experts say that one can win an election only from the middle. If Jobbik brands itself as an extremist racist party, it will always remain on the fringe. So came what Hungarians call the “cuki” campaign. A charm offensive. Sweetness and light. Instead of spewing anti-Roma and anti-Semitic remarks, Gábor Vona, the party chairman, posed with vizsla puppies to promote the humane treatment of animals.

The problem with these phony metamorphoses is that sooner or later the truth usually emerges. This is what has been happening lately to Jobbik.

On March 5 vigyazo.blog.hu released an audio tape on which Tamás Sneider, the Jobbik deputy president of parliament, can be heard telling his audience that the “cuki campaign” isn’t real. The party hasn’t changed, but they had to temper their message because they don’t want to frighten away the more moderate voters, especially the large crowd of pensioners. However, the Betyársereg (The Army of Outlaws), a group of extremists, since they are not a parliamentary party, can deliver the real message of Jobbik. The two groups complement each other well and have developed a working relationship based on a division of labor. The Betyársereg is an outright Nazi party, which I wrote about in an earlier post. In addition, Sneider talked at some length about “Islam being the last hope of mankind.” He described Islamic extremism as “anti-Western feelings for which the West is responsible.” Sneider has a personal secretary who became a Muslim which, according to his boss, “is much better than if he had converted to Judaism.” The personal secretary is a full-fledged member of Betyársereg, an organization Sneider claimed to know nothing about in a later interview with Olga Kálmán on ATV.

Party chief Gábor Vona with members of Betyársereg / http://betyarsereg.hu/

Party chief Gábor Vona with members of Betyársereg / betyarsereg.hu

Surely, given these embarrassing revelations, those who oppose Lajos Rig, the Jobbik candidate in the Tapolca-Ajka by-election, should concentrate on the duplicity of the “cuki campaign” instead of wasting their time on the man’s tattoos. And yes, even the MSZP-DK candidate should call attention to the real nature of Jobbik, as former MSZP chairman Ildikó Lendvai suggests in an opinion piece that appeared in Népszava. But instead of giving history lessons about events that took place more than 80 years ago in Germany, about which ordinary folks know darned little, she argues that MSZP-DK should talk about those Islamic extremists who burn people alive. After all, people see atrocities committed by these people practically every day on their television screens and they’re horrified. In her opinion, that would bring home the danger of Jobbik’s racist, extremist message much more effectively than anything else.

But if the MSZP-DK candidate confronts Jobbik openly and discredits its candidate, wouldn’t such a strategy only strengthen the other opponent, Fidesz? Let’s assume that large numbers of would-be Jobbik voters see the light and decide that after all they don’t want to vote for such an extremist party. Wouldn’t they embrace Fidesz as the lesser evil? Perhaps not–if a sophisticated strategy could be devised that would, on the one hand, emphasize the incompetence and corruption of the present government and, on the other, stress that Fidesz and Jobbik are kindred ideological souls.

I doubt that any serious strategy has been worked out so far. And yet this is an important election. If Jobbik wins, it will give an incredible boost to this extremist party that has been steadily gaining adherents. Moreover, until now Jobbik was not strong enough in any electoral district to win a seat outright. If this barely literate Lajos Rig manages to gain a seat on his own, it would be a first. I do hope that the MSZP-DK candidate and the people around him realize the importance of this election and act accordingly.