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Are Blacks Safe in Germany?
African group makes list of 'no-go' areas before World Cup
Amin George Forji (amingeorge)     Print Article 
Published 2006-05-25 04:52 (KST)   
The FIFA World Cup is often considered an occasion to ignore differences and make friends. But ahead of Germany 2006, which kicks off on June 9, there have been several concerns that black fans and other non-white people may be subjected to serious racial attacks.

The debate started when the former government spokesman under chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Uwe-Karsten Heye, warned that black visitors coming to Germany for the World Cup should avoid certain parts of the host cities. His comment drew mixed criticism and support.

"There are small and medium-sized towns in Brandenburg, as well as elsewhere, which I would advise a visitor of another skin color to avoid going to It is possible he wouldn't get out alive," Heye warned.

Heye, who now heads an increasingly popular anti-racism organization called "Show Your Color," made the warning during an interview with Deutschlandradio Kultur. The comments came as an answer to the question whether tourists from Togo or the Ivory Coast could feel comfortable traveling anywhere in Germany.

Substantiating his claims, Heye later wrote to Vorwarts, a Social Democrat Party publication that, "We cannot make it the responsibility of the victims to decide how to defend themselves from racism and anti-Semitism... This is the responsibility of the pluralistic society. Unfortunately, the tendency to look away has increased."

Heye's worries have raised a new series of debates across the country amongst the political elites. Before the remarks, an Ethiopian-German was seriously beaten up by skinheads in the Brandenburg state capital of Potsdam, not far from Berlin.

The chairman of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation - a Berlin-based civil rights group - Anetta Kahane corroborated Heye's statement, adding that many government leaders and other German citizens are very reluctant to confront racism and anti-Semitism. As a result, this has added fuel to, rather than fighting, the plague.

She noted that in the eastern parts of Germany particularly, "You find this atmosphere of aggression against people who are not blond-haired or blue-eyed In Germany, many people don't want to hear about it, and that's part of the problem."

A coalition of African community groups in Germany operating under the umbrella of the "African Council" have on their part compiled a list of what they call "no-go" areas for foreigners.

However, many have frowned at Heye's comments. German Interior Minister Jorg Schonbohm qualified the comments as irresponsible, and even called for the resignation of Heye from Show Your Color. Brandenburg Governor Matthias Platzeck said Heye's statements were an "unjustifiable slandering of entire regions within Brandenburg."

The issue is now raising new dust. Neo-Nazi sympathizers have welcomed the warning to meet their own political ends, and in a show of strength, and with the support of the far-right National Democratic Party, they have scheduled a grand rally on June 21 in the city of Leipzig before a match between Iran and Angola, in what they say is to show support for the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has denied Israel's right to exist and also publicly denied that the Holocaust occurred.

The number of right-wing extremists ready to use violence was estimated by the Ministry of Interior to have increased from 400 in 2004 to 10,400 last year (see article).

Stephan Kramer with the Central Council of Jews in Germany was furious that German politicians are downplaying Heye's warning.

"It is shocking to see that politicians are more concerned about the image of Germany during the World Cup than about protecting foreigners," he lamented.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Amin George Forji

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