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Switzerland: Double racism, double standards

Last week we read two seperate news items on racism from Switzerland... Oprah and asylum seekers
Oprah and asylum seekers

Last week we read two seperate news items on racism from Switzerland...

The first one was about asylum seekers: “The town of Bremgarten in the Swiss canton of Aargau has banned asylum seekers from public swimming pools and sports facilities. The decision is symptomatic of Switzerland's increasingly restrictive asylum policy.... In a move described by the Swiss Refugee Council as "indefensible in both legal and humanitarian terms," the town of Bremgarten in the Swiss canton of Aargau has introduced several "exclusion zones" for asylum seekers, including public swimming pools, sports facilities, church and school grounds.”


The second news was about the famous TV host Oprah: “US television host Oprah Winfrey said she encountered racism in Switzerland last month when a sales assistant refused to show her a handbag because it was “too expensive... Winfrey, who is one of the richest women in the world, said she asked the sales assistant at the Trois Pommes store in Zurich to see a 35,000 Swiss franc (€28,500) crocodile handbag but was told that she would not be able to afford it.”


The first item was reported briefly in some of the media and disappeared into the news archives without further debate or follow-up on this.


As expected, the second news item created a huge response in the media and it was reported widely around the world. There were numerous articles and commentaries about it. There is no end in sight yet of the media reporting of this issue.


Irish media was not an exception in any of these cases. It followed a similar trend in reporting these two separate events from Switzerland.


One of the most important political and social problems in Europe is the existence of racisms. 60 years ago, after the horrors of Nazi fascism, Europe supposed to have said “never again”. But racism has not been eliminated at all and European establishments do not give much hope for the future in terms of this problem.


There are, of course, many social-political initiatives against racism in Europe, but this problem is not a simple or a single dimensional issue. There are organized fascist-racist street gangs, sinister and random 'street' racism and institutionalised racism of the states and governments.


Sometimes, the racism of organized street gangs is easier to see. They do it openly and with their racist flags in their hands. But the sinister, random 'street' racism and the institutionalised state racism is not always very evident.


You could easily fire the shop assistance that was racist against Oprah, but what are supposed to do against our work colleague or our boss or indeed the state?


No state in Europe openly supports racism. But when you look at the policies, laws introduced, statements of political leaders and practical applications of regulations etc., it clear that states and governments are littered with racism in many ways. Although all of these forms of racism are met with progressive, broad and strong anti-racist and anti-fascist campaings, all of these racist elements feed off each other and gain confidence from each others actions. In Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and all other countries, depending on political, social and economic circumstances, we see different forms and shapes of racism at various levels... The re-ignited islamophobia as the legacy of the “war on terror”, and the rising racism against migrants, refuges, especially fuelling itself from the current economic crisis, go hand in hand with each other.


Therefore the fight against fascist elements and racism is not a single formula and approach that fits to each and every case. It is not enough to expect the laws introduced by the state and anti-racist statements from political figures to eliminate racism. The fight against racism is too important and critical to leave it just in the hands of political establishment and state bodies. Racism must be fought against by broad progressive, mass campaigns wherever it needs to be fought against and whatever the circumstances are. The fight against racism is not confined just to the streets, it must also be fought in political terms. Anti-racism is not just a humanitarian and moral fight, but also a fight against the economic, social system and is about exposing the inherent racism in the establishment. Fighting the symptoms of racism is extremely important but we also need to fight the conditions that give rise to racism. None of these conditions are random and just happen. They are the results of a highly motivated and organized economic-political system. Therefore we should not be shy in producing politics against racism.


This fight is not always easy. As a matter of fact, it is quite difficult and complicated. It is also not the duty of some specific political groups. It needs to involve all progressive, pro-freedom and equality sections of the society. And it is an urgent problem for these progressive forces.


The backbone of anti-racist struggle is to create a humane and just society but robust methods and actions need to be developed to succeeds in this fight.


Switzerland was always presented as a 'model' country with its laws, democracy, social life and prosperity.

As expected, Swiss state responded to racism against Oprah, immediately after it hit the airwaves and newspapers. The Tourism Office formally and openly apologized to Oprah and blamed this incident to a 'misunderstanding'. They even shared their formal apology on social media.

How could someone like Oprah ever be exposed to racism? Someone who is so famous and powerful, earning 77 million Dollars last year, should never have had to deal with such racism.

Oprah supported this shock and confusion of the media and Swiss state. In a televised interview she said: “Obviously they don't watch my show in Switzerland. No one in the right mindset would even dream of being a racist to my face.”

Rich-famous-powerful, therefore racism should not have been a reality of her life...

This seems to be the summary of main stream media...


The second news from Switzerland was a lot more sickening and stomach turning.


The UN and the international agreements recognize the right of people to seek refuge and to be protected from torture and persecutions. Seeking refuge and being an asylum seeker is not a crime but a human right. A right that arises from horrific conditions. Host countries have the duty to accept the asylum seekers, process their case and look after their well-being during this process. As we see more and more (Australia, Greece, Switzerland etc...), the holding of asylum seekers against their will, in prison-like detention centres, conveniently named as 'hospitality centres', was not supposed to be part of this process.

The situation for asylum seekers in Switzerland is far from the 'on the on paper agreements'.

If you are an asylum seeker in Switzerland, or a refugee, you better be careful, very careful indeed.

Because you are now a threat to the society and to local Swiss people.

You are now a potential criminal... A dangerous person...

Therefore you cannot enter the 'sensitive' public places.

If you have a child, who by default also is an asylum seeker, you cannot bring your child to a swimming pool.

Healthy living is nothing to do with you as an asylum seeker. You cannot enter the sport facilities.

Maybe you are a Christian. By birth or by choice. Because you are an asylum seeker, the houses of God, the churches, are not open to you.

You have a school attending child? Well lucky your child goes to school with the local kids, but you cannot go on school grounds to pick-up your child from the school.

And, as an asylum seeker you need to understand this: Your look, hair-skin colour, you beard, how you stand etc. will all make you very noticeable on the streets. If a local Swiss person sees you in one of these places and informs the police, even worse, if a gang of people attack you, you should not complain about this.

If you are there illegaly, you have broken the law. You should never go to such sensitive places...

Even if you have acquired Swiss citizenship, with a Swiss passport, because it is very difficult to distinguish 'you lot' from each other, the concerned citizens would have only assumed that you are an asylum seeker. A misunderstanding... To avoid misunderstandings, and not to provoke people, given that you cannot change your look, you should avoid such sensitive places anyway...

These are things that the Swiss state is telling the asylum seekers with this new ban on enterin public areas.

This new rule is not moral, is not humane and is not legal. This brings into minds the Nazi Germany, that first banned Jews from certain areas, then imprisoned them before finally sending them into gas chambers.

The Swiss state that rushed into publicly apologising to Oprah, is defending this new law imposed on asylum seekers.

If we see in future Neo-Nazi attacks on migrants, anyone who look different, on asylum seekers (like we see in Greece), the Swiss state is directly responsible for these attacks and cannot be excused.

The Swiss state must understand how this institutionalised, 'legal' state racism will give confidence to neo-nazis and racist street gangs.

And hey, if the state acts racist to asylum seekers, why are they so upset and surprised that a shop assistance acted racist to Oprah. Maybe she listened to official state news and just did in her shop, what the state is doing in the country.

The apology to Oprah, the concerned statements for the treatment of a rich-powerful and famous person, and at the same time the inhumane approach to asylum seekers is a double-racism and a double-standard by Switzerland.

Hey, wait. Let's not rush to conclusions.

Switzerland does not always act this way against people who are dressed differently, speak a different language, have a different skin colour than Swiss-white, and come from a far away country.

There may be racism against black TV hosts and black asylum seekers but, if your black money arrives to a Swiss bank it may well be looked after very well. That money will sit in bank vaults like kings. It will be protected, it won't be arrested or banned from further investment.

For example, if the money of Ben Ali of Tunisia, or Mubarak of Egypt or Gaddafi of Libya seek refuge in Switzerland, they may well be granted that. No questions asked. Not only they may be granted refuge, they will also be white-washed, pure and clean. And then set free to travel from one stock market of Europe to the other, in true free-market economy fashion.

But sometimes, it may be discovered that these monies actually killed more people than one likes to think. A little too much than the accepted levels. Then, may be as a last resort, these monies may be arrested, in many cases long after it is too late.

Thanks to Wikileaks, we are aware of up to 2000 doggy bank accounts, full with tax avoided money, in just one Swiss bank.

So is Switzerland a country that shuts the door to people running from war, torture and corruption while opening the door widely for monies made by war, torture and corruption.

That's up to the Swiss people to decide. And change if they don't like what they see.


Racism must be fought before it's too late. Anti-racism is of interest to all of us...

On a weekly basis I read the stories of drowned refugees in the beautiful see of Aegean between Turkey and Greece.The very same sea that I spend my childhood in, is now becoming a mass grave to 3 year old Iraqi, Afghani children. Those blue Turquoise waters are turning dark, rotten flesh of children, women, elderly sit at the bottom of Aegean. Each week there are some numbers reported in short news bulletins. 15, 30, 27, 13... No names, no faces, no short life stories of these little children. Some are never found... Fish feeds on them.... And if you listen to the see, the mermaids cry silently from the bottom of the sea.

They say: No one, running from wars and torture is illegal. No one's 3 year of child is less important than some others. No one deserves to die in search of a humane life.

They continue: “Torture at birthplace, death during the escape journey, and if you are lucky to reach where you are going, racism at your destination is nobodies destiny”

Down with this destiny and down with systems that forces it upon desperate people, in each and every step of their journey of hope...

Yes, journey of hope...


Let's join an anti-racist campaing whereever you are.

Oprah this goes for you as well. Don't accept apology, fight their system.

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